Guys I present to a little reading material whilst we wait for the next chapter. A story that I think you will quite be interested in, but please be warned. This tale is sad and you should read at your own risk. It is very much a part of Splash though, so it fits right in here. New chapter is on the horizon! ♥ And if you read this on Tumblr just ignore me, or read again and break your heart again 😐 oh and the insignia is a tumblr thing lol…
“Come on. Everyone could use a friend.”
“I don’t…” He said gravely.
Clutching tightly to the orphanage issued teddy bear he continued to look out the window. His gaze never faltered from the distant horizon. I don’t think I had ever met anyone so lonely in my whole life. Well other than me of course…perhaps that was my heart went out to him so deeply. Dozens of children had come through the home over the years, so why did this one stand out? Why did I feel this need to take him under my wing?
I stayed with him a few more silent minutes before I returned to my room and readied myself for bed. I knew it would be no easy task, but I also knew that even if it killed me, I would prove to him that a friend was probably the thing he needed most.
It almost seemed comical that I would be the one person in the home, to offer a hand of friendship. I was pretty much the anti-definition of friendship. The antonym if you will. In all the years of my pathetic existence, I could have counted on one hand my entire circle of friends. A whopping number of one. Now I don’t know friendship protocol, and I am not a hundred percent sure someone your father has taken prisoner and locked in his dungeon counts. So for the sake of argument, we will leave her out. That brings my total down to zero.
It was the third day after his arrival when I decided to set my little operation friendship into action. The home had gone through a fairly sizable surge of adoptions just before Berrymas the year prior, so other than myself there were only three other children, four total if you counted me.
I wasn’t much of a child anymore though, I had been in the home for close to seven years by that point. My fourteenth birthday, extremely uneventful as it had been, passed by, leaving me a good two years past my expiration date. In adoption terms, if you aren’t adopted by twelve, well it probably isn’t going to happen. And if you are the daughter of a mad scientist, your shelf life is cut even shorter. I would have had to have been two or three with giant brown eyes for anyone to even consider me. I was none of those things, so the home was my home. Grandmother Mallow was a good caretaker, one of the best, but no caretaker, no matter how sweet or wonderful, could ever take the place of a mother.
I missed my mother…
Man I must sound like the biggest sob story you have ever heard! We can come back to her later. For now, let’s get back to the story at hand. How I tried to befriend Merlot Pinot Noir.
At that time in his life, he was just Merlot. It was all he could remember. He was young. Very young when he entered the system. Due to a stack of clerical errors, he was sent to almost every home in the berry pages. Perhaps back luck, or maybe something more, had kept him one step away from adoption, before he was packaged up and sent somewhere else. Incredibly withdrawn, he in a lot of ways reminded me of myself when I was that age.
“Mind if I sit here?”
“I guess not.”
I had already knelt down onto the warm plastic, when his solemn reply floated past the giant sand cloud. He never looked up from his half built castle, and I had no clue what I was going to say next. I clutched up a small hand full of sand, allowing the grains to slowly slip through my fingers.
“My name is Victoria by the way. It’s nice to meet you.”
“So what’s your name?”
“You know my name.” He snapped haughtily.
“Maybe, but I was hoping we could have a proper introduction.”
“I don’t want to. I told you already. I don’t want to be friends.”
By this point, I had used all of my friendship knowledge. And even though I had told myself repeatedly it probably wasn’t something that happened overnight, it still stung. I don’t want to be friends….
I snorted in indignation. “Of course you don’t.”
My patience were already wearing thin, and I found myself incredibly annoyed that I was unable to properly handle a ten year old boys rejection. He was unfazed by my outburst and continued to work on his ridiculously shoddy sand lump.
“Well maybe we can try again later. It’s not like either of us are going anywhere any time soon.” I smoothed my voice a bit, trying my best to remind myself to stay civil. We weren’t going to get anywhere if I caved to my baser instincts and called him a little brat, or something worse… Getting to my feet, I dusted the bits of sand on my skirt before heading back inside.
“See you at dinner.” I called over my shoulder, before closing the door behind me.
Dinner was probably one of the most pleasant times around our humble little homestead. Grandmother Mallow had first started life as an academy of cooking instructor. In fact the home was her academy, which she later had converted to the orphanage. Apparently something one day switched in her mind, and from that moment on, she was convinced she had found her higher calling from the great Berry above. Not that any of us were complaining, she was the best cook, this side of the Sugar Valley belt.
Children over the years had tons of complaints, not enough bathroom space, the beds were old and creaky, it was drafty and cold. No one however, had ever complained about the food. I would have dared someone to try. They would have been laughed out the front door. I guess what I am getting at here is, the food was exceptional, and hands down the highlight of my meager continuance.
I could smell the goopy carbonara all the way up in my room. My second favorite meal, next to her world famous hot dogs. I closed my book, set it on my pillow and headed to the bottom floor. The cheesy, creamy aroma leading my way.
When I got to the kitchen, the kids were already tucking into their plates and Grammy Mallow was still slaving away over the stove, still working on a little extra something she was cooking up.
“Dig in dear!” She grinned, flipping something, I wasn’t sure what, over her head and back into the pan.
There had been an empty place at the counter between the boys, and I did almost take it, but something caused me at the very last second, to veer off to the far end of the counter space. Not the right time to push the boundries, it would end up forcing him further a way. Leaving me with even more work to do.
Oh, the day and times of a bored orphan rat…
He was having a heated discussion with Indie over some sort of toy, which gave me a small twinge of jealousy. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be friends, he just didn’t want to be friends with me. I rolled up another heap of noodles on my fork, continuing to eat my dinner in silence. Maybe he didn’t need me after all. There was a big shocker, a revelation of epic proportions. Someone else who didn’t need the Bitters. *sigh*
After dinner, I washed up the dishes, it was my night, and then headed off to bed. Indie, Merlot, and Andromeda all bunked in the other wing, so I had the entire room to myself. Fully prepared to give up on my ill-conceived plan to cure my loneliness, I changed into my pajamas before collapsing into bed.
The room had an eerie echo that never seemed to leave me. Any slight movement I would make, felt and sounded like it was amplified ten times louder than it should have been. The mattress let a loud creak as adjusted myself, trying to get a bit more comfortable, before I snatched up my book, returning myself to the mysterious world bound within it’s pages. My one true escape. I had read and re-read so many books over the years, I could have made a hermit cry.
It was just getting to the good part, a part I had read three time already, when there was a loud crash outside my rooms door.
“Take it back!!” A voice cut through the air, a slicing edge to it’s tone.
I looked over the edge of my book, staring at the closed door. Another crash was quickly followed by a frightened yelp, which was undoubtedly poor little Andromeda, cowering in a corner somewhere. I closed my book and threw it on the bed, before taking off in a dead run, towards the commotion.
I came on the scene to find Merlot in a headlock. Indie doing his best to twist his head right off his neck. Everyone was screaming, yelling or crying. Andromeda was in the corner trying to cover her eyes from the chaos, as I tried to figure out the best way to break them up. I did the only thing I could think of, I jumped on them both, until I could get between them. All three of us swirling in an enormous dust cloud on the carpet.
After some doing, I was able to successfully wedge them apart, everyone instantly getting to their feet, well and ready to charge at each other once again.
“Whoa whoa!” I boomed, throwing out my arms. “Everyone just settle down!!”
The pair continued to spit insults at the other, right through my torso.
“Merlot! Indie! Stop! You’re going to wake-
“What is all that racket!!”
Gramma Mallow was up, dressed and looking none too pleased. How she was able to dress so quickly, I had yet to figure out. I was convinced she slept in her clothes for just such occasions. Her eyes narrowed as she looked Merlot and Indies direction. No need for explanation on my part, she already had it all figured out.
She first turned her attention to Merlot. An angry glimmer in her eye. “Merlot, there is absolutely no fighting under my roof. NO… FIGHTING.”
Merlot dropped his head. If he could have sunk into his boots, I do believe he would have. “Yes, Ma’am.”
“And Indie. What is the matter with you? You have been here long enough to know the rules.”
“But he started it!” Indie bellowed, tears beginning to form at the corners of his eyes. Neither I or Gramma Mallow were convinced.
“I did not! You did!” Merlot screeched back.
Gramma Mallow lifted her hands, closing her eyes. “I don’t care who started it. It ends right now. Indie go to bed. Merlot, go find a bed in the other room.”
“No arguments you hear?” Gramma Mallow was already comforting Andromeda the best she could, and the boys knew this conversation had ended.
“Come on.” I said placing my hands on Merlot’s shoulders, leading him out of the room. He never flinched or tried to pull away, but he did dog Indie with a death stare, all the way out of the room and half way down the hall.
To no surprise, he chose the bed on the far wall. As far away from me as possible. Nothing new really. I did the same to the previous inhabitant when I was introduced to the room. Of course not long after that, every bed was filled, both rooms, so my isolation had been pretty pointless. Still I understood it better than he would ever realize. He climbed to the top bunk. folded his legs together and brought them right up into his chest. I couldn’t see much from my angle, so I didn’t even attempt to crane my neck for a better view.
“Not a good way to start here bud.” I yawned, fluffling my pillow a bit.
“You just gotta let the stuff he says roll off your back.”
“It wasn’t my fault. He’s a jerk anyways. He desereved what he got.”
“From the looks of it, he had the upper hand.”
“You didn’t hear what he said to her.”
“Her? You mean Andy? Errr Andromeda?”
“Yeah. He was making fun of her. Saying her clothes didn’t match because she was too fat to fit in the other clothes. She started to cry.”
“And you decided to step in.”
“Now do you get it?”
“I do, but Gramma Mallows rules are pretty self explanatory. No fighting. No exceptions.”
“So I’m just supposed to stand by while he hurts her feelings?”
“I don’t understand.”
“You will.” I leaned over to flip off the lamp, but before my hand could turn the little knob.
“Could you leave the light on please?”
“Sure.” I pulled my hand back, and jumped under the covers, covering my head to block out the lights, allowing my eyes to flutter shut. “Good night.”
I felt the edge of my mattress dip, but I was too comatose to realize what it was. It wasn’t until I heard a creaaaaaak, that it dawned on me, someone had crawled up onto my bunk. I looked to the clock, three hours had passed.
Rubbing my eyes, I sat up to find Merlot at the edge of my bed, leaning up again the small ladder attached to the standard issue bunkbed frame.
“Merlot? What are you doing? It’s 2:30 in the morning.”
“I can’t sleep… Can… can I ask you something?”
“Why are you so nice to me?”
I blinked a few times, trying to let the words sink in. “Whu?”
“Indy said you were the meanest girl he had ever known, but all you ever are to me is nice. Why? Is he a liar?”
I wanted to tell him yes, but then I would have been the liar. I was incredibly nasty when I wanted to be, and I had a way of scaring others away that I didn’t want to deal with. It worked too well, which is why I always found myself alone.
“I don’t know. You kinda remind me of myself, a little bit.”
“It’s pretty late. Do you have any other pressing questions, or can I go back to sleep now?” I let out another big yawn.
“No. I’m good. Good night Victoria.”
“Good night Merlot.”
The last thing anyone wants to do is clean, but when you break one of Gramma Mallows rules, you better just expect it. Of course Merlot didn’t know that. He sure did afterwards though. Both boys spent the fleeting hours after school, cleaning every room, head to toe. I was put on Indy duty, since we were more likely to trust Merlot to keep working, and well, we knew Indy all too well to trust him on his own.
This left little or no time for chatting, for anyone. I buried my nose in a book, carefully gazing over it’s edge, surveying the scene peripherally.
“I’m tired.” Indy moaned, throwing the mop to the floor. It’s handle making a loud smack as it clattered to the floor.
I looked up, slipped a ridiculous excuse for a bookmark inside and slowly closed my book. “You’re almost done, but you can’t stop here. You still have half the floor to do.” I remarked, pointing out the half that was unfinished.
“Hey, this was your choice.”
“Fine!” He grumbled, picking up the mop, beginning to mop much faster and harder than before, his obvious irritation now fueling the motion.
Stone faced, I opened my book again. “That’s a good boy.”
By the time dinner was ready, all the chores had pretty much been completed, to the dismay of Indy. Hamburger night! Not quite my favorite, but still amazingly good. I grabbed my plate, and sat down in the same seat as before. I was more tired than I had realized, due to the early morning interruption, and was pretty much just going through the motions. Merlot and Andy were already nibbling away, as I set my plate down.
I was peacefully, enjoying my dinner, when I heard the sound of one of the far stools, scraping across the wooden floor. I looked up to find Merlot, getting up from his seat, grabbing his half eaten hamburger. Carrying his plate, he walked to the empty seat between me and Andy.
A small smirk grew across my face as I took another bite. “The upstairs looks good.” I complimented after fully chewing my mouthful of burger.
“Thanks.” He picked up his burger again, taking a rather large chomp. “Isf the foo always thisf goodf?” He asked, his mouth so full, he looked like a chipmunk.
“It gets even better.” I winked. “Just wait for hot dog night.”
“So how long have you lived here?” Merlot popped over the side of the top bunk, scaring me almost half to death. My eyes shot open wide. heart beating widly. “You mean the home?” I squeaked.
“A long time…” My mind started to wander to my time before the home. It wasn’t much better. A sad realization, if I did say so myself.
“Oh.” His feet could be heard drumming themselves on the mattress above. “Have you ever been in any other homes? I have been in tons!”
“Just this one. One’s enough.”
“Yeah… Hey! Has Gramma Mallow always been a Gramma?”
I laughed. “Well, she has always seemed like one, she doesn’t actually have any children of her own.”
“I like her. She is tough, but we totally deserved it.”
“Hah! Well Indy did, definitely.”
“Did you ever know your parents?”
My body froze. I had been dreading this question would eventually pop up. It had always been one of the reasons, I didn’t like getting close to people. Remembering, even after all the years, was still… painful.
My expression dropped. “I did.” I answered gravely, staring off to the far corner of the room. My mind filled with a dozen memories all at once. I winced, trying to block them out.
“Oh I’m sorry.” Merlot hopped down, his eyes, filled with worry. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I was just wondering. I don’t remember my mother at all. Only that she called me Merlot.”
“It’s alright. It just brings back a lot to think about is all.”
“It’s a pretty long story. You sure you want to hear it?”
He nodded slowly.
“Alright.” I let out a low sigh. “I knew both my parents. My father more than my mother, but only because she died when I was just a few years old.”
Merlot, intrigued with the story settled on the edge of my bed. I continued. “My father was a horrible awful man, and I am not over-exaggerating. He was violent, cruel, and just a down right bad person. My mother was usually the brunt of his attacks. That is, until she couldn’t take it anymore…”
Giant purple eyes, opened wide. “What happened?”
“Well.” I didn’t even want the words to escape my lips. It was like opening an old wound, only to find it just as fresh as it had always been. I choked back a sob. “We found her in the bathroom. So many pill bottles around her, it looked like a scene from a horrible movie.”
I nodded. “They couldn’t revive her, she did an excellent job. After her death, my father turned his attention to me. When he wasn’t busy in his lab, trying to figure out some ridiculous way to take over the universe, he was blaming ME for her death. I was too young to understand otherwise. So I spent my childhood believing I killed my mother.”
“What happened to your dad?”
“Heh, he finally took things too far, when he kidnapped a girl he was convinced came from a different plane of existence. A non berry.”
“Whoa. Was she?”
“Oddly enough. She was. Eventually though he got caught. Thanks to me…”
“You turned your own father in?”
“I didn’t really have a choice. Her friends cornered me. I felt guilty. I knew what he had planned for her…”
“Scary. Is he still out there?”
“No. He was finally captured, rotting in a cell somewhere. With no other relatives, I was placed here, till I turn eighteen. Then I can go home… not that I consider it much of one.”
“Whatcha readin? It must be good. You read it a lot.”
Slightly embarrassed, I thumbed to the next page. “Just a book with a bunch of fairy tales. You know, princesses, princes, dragons, the standard fairy tale stuff.”
“I like to think so.”
“Which one is your favorite?”
“Hmm let’s see.” I fanned the pages till I was at the table of contents. Using my index finger, I dropped through the different stories, till I found the perfect one. “This one.” I poked the paper with my fingernail.
“The princess of dreams.”
“Oooooo! What is it about?! Would you read it to me?”
“It’s about a princess, who lives two different lives. One when she is awake, and another when she is asleep.” I closed the book and got up from my bed. “I guess I could do that.”
“Victoria! Victoria! Wake up Victoria!!”
“Wuhhhh.” My vision was blurred, but I could see a whole lot of purple, bouncing in and out of my line of sight.
“Guess what!? Guess what?! Guess what happened?!”
I sat up a bit. “I don’t know what?” I asked concealed inside of a giant yawn.
“I met the princess!!!”
“I met the princess from the story! She was pink and beautiful! It was amazing!”
“Wow. That is amazing.” My tone was less than impressed, probably due to the fact I was still half asleep.
“There was this huge field of flowers! And there was this swing! It was soooo cool! Do you think I will see her again?”
“Probably not. It was just a dream.”
“Oh. But the princess had dreams like that all the time.”
“True but that is just a story.”
His face dropped, the disappointment, riddled in his brow. I bit my lip. “You never know though. Maybe. Anything is possible. Right?”
His face brightened. “Right!” Leaving no hesitation he bounded out the door and downstairs for breakfast. I rolled over and tried to get a few more minutes sleep.
So to my dismay, and Merlot’s delight, she did come back. Every night, she came back… Which meant every morning, I got to hear about his cotton candy princess. It didn’t take too long till I had my fill of the pink little girl with pink hair and freckles, but it was a small sacrifice to pay for our blooming friendship. I for once, had learned a little bit of patience. So even though, I had come to despise everything that was this girl, I smiled and nodded and listened to every last detail he felt I needed to know, which was pretty much everything.
“So then I pushed her on the swing! And we just hung out together, talking and other stuff. I still don’t know her name, but maybe one day I will. Do you think she will tell me? Maybe I should tell her my name. That would be a start.”
Now lisen carefully my friends. Anger is powerful, hurtful and incredibly unforgiving. It can flare sometimes at a moments notice, leaving every thing else to burn around you. Like a spark that gets out of control. One should never speak out of anger. It should be left for another time and place. A lesson I should have followed, but even as much as I refused to admit it, there was a part of my father, hidden deep inside me, just waiting for a chance to break out. Ruining everything I had worked so hard to accomplish in its wake.
The day seriously had been the worst day ever. Well, worst day in a really long time. Nothing would ever surpass the time with my father, but never the less, the day sucked blue berries. It started off wrong, which is never a good sign. My alarms batteries had gone flat, which left me with no wake up call. I ended up missing my favorite class, and barging in on the one I hated most. Of course my teacher made sure everyone was aware I was late, and I was getting marked for it. Added a detention when I rolled my eyes. Nice going Vic.
The day only got worse from there. Nilla and her cronies thought it would be funny to trip over my backpack, fall face first into the table, flipping my entire tray into my lap. She swears it was an accident, but I seriously doubt it. I got up to clean myself off, and ended up slipping on some the spilled orange juice that was now on the floor.
So I spent detention, drenched in juice and spaghetti, which even the security officer at the front of the room could smell. All I wanted to do was get home, but since I was held after, I had to walk. So I did. All the way up the hill.
When I got back I collapsed in my bed. Wishing the world would just go away.
“Hey!! You’re home! I didn’t even think you were here. You have been super quiet!” Merlot bounced through the door, like most days, but I was just not in the mood. Everything was irritating me, and his bright, bubbly, excited usual self was no exception.
“Go away Merlot. I’m not feeling well. I just want to be alone right now.” I groaned, rolling myself into an even smaller ball.
“But I had this great idea! You have to hear it! It’s so cool! I think it might just work!”
“Not right now. Maybe later okay?”
“It will just take a second. I promise. Okay so what if I were to-
I should have just ignored him. I should have bit my tongue. Fight the burning anger raging in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t… I shot off from the bed, glaring right down into his face. My expression alone was enough to cause him to stop mid sentence.
“I don’t care about your stupid plan OKAY!!!! Just get out of my face! I don’t want to hear about your stupid princess any more!! JUST GET OUT!!!”
His face fell the moment the words left my lips, and I felt my heart squeeze. What had I done. I squeezed my eyes shut. No…. “Merlot, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
It was too late. He was already heading out the door. *slam*
It was less than a second before I was running down the stairs to chase after him. “Merlot wait!!” I clambered down the stairs, but slowed my pace when I heard two unfamiliar voices in the foyer. Soon the two women and Gramma Mallow came into sight.
“Oh Victoria! Come here dear! We have the most wonderful news!!”
“Oh what’s that?” I asked, taking my first step onto the floor.
“Victoria this is Clarette. It would seem that we have located a family member of Merlot! And she has come to adopt him! Isn’t that wonderful?!”
There was no chance for me to reply, because behind me came a loud gasp. “NO!”
We all turned to find Merlot running through the kitchen to the back yard.
“I don’t want to go!” He whimpered. “I want to stay here!”
I could feel my heart continuing to twist, deeper and deeper. I knelt down, my knee hitting the ground a lot harder than I wanted. “Merlot, this is a good thing. You have family. Family that wants to adopt you. This is what all children here want.”
“I don’t! I want to stay here! With you! I’m sorry I bothered you before! I promise I won’t ever again! Please just let me stay here. This is my home. You are my family!”
He wrapped his arms around my shoulders, and I couldn’t even bring myself to look at him. It hurt too much. The guilt was stabbing right through the center of my chest. “I’m sorry Merlot. There is nothing I can do. You have to go.”
“Please. I promise we will still be friends. You can write me any time that you want and I will try and see you when I can.”
“Please Victoria! Tell them! Tell them I am happy here! Please!?” His pleading sobs were too much to take. I could feel the tears threatening to fall, and my fathers voice, reminding Bitters don’t cry. I got back to my feet. Goodbye Merlot. You will be happy I promise.”
I couldn’t watch any longer. The social worker and Clarette guided in through the house to the front door. Crying the whole way, but he did allow them to take him where he needed to go.
I watched from the window as they put him in the car and drove away.
There went my only friend.