Previously, you woke up to find yourself at Antonio’s home, are brought your belongings over by Ivan, Arthur, and Alfred, and were invited to move into their new dorm with them- all in time for the graduation party.
You took a shaky breath as you fiddled with the shirt you were wearing, pulling at it and straightening wrinkles, then running a brush through your hair again, for good measure. ‘That’s as good as it’s going to get,’ you think to yourself, regarding your appearance in the mirror. You were currently standing in your bathroom, getting ready for the graduation party you all were invited to- in a few minutes you were all to leave.
And you were nervous.
It hadn’t completely clicked in your mind earlier that it was to be a beach party. Not that you had anything against parties- or the beach really for that matter, but it was the ocean that left you feeling a bit uneasy. Ever since the... situation with your dad, you hadn’t been too fond of large bodies of water. They made you edgy. But you had already told Ivan that you would be there, and the trio was expecting the same of you as well- and you didn’t want to be rude or seem suspicious.
The three boys had gifted you a swimsuit, after you mentioning that you had never really been interested in swimming before when you lived with your mom so you never thought to buy one, finding it ridiculous that you didn’t like to swim- stating that everyone loves the water. But you had uncomfortably shrugged and given them a smile, you wanted to tell them why you weren’t fond of the water, but then hadn’t seemed like the time.
So now you were wearing the swimsuit, not sure how you felt about the boys knowing your size, but you had to admit you were relieved that, despite what those from school would expect from them, they hadn’t bought too skimpy of an outfit. Sure, it was a bikini, but they had included swim shorts and a swim shirt; saying they didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable at the party just because of what you were wearing. The simple gesture shot a warm feeling throughout you, and you felt cared for. It was then that it had really struck you that ’Wow. I have friends. Friends who care.’
And that became the biggest reason for you wanting to go with them today.
“Come on, ________, stop being such a girl and hurry up!” you heard Gilbert shout at you from outside of your door.
Giving yourself a quick smile in the mirror, you quickly turned to leave, “Fine, fine- you all should be glad that I don’t take as long as some of those others at school do!”
You were now on your way to the beach, all of you easily fitting into Gilbert’s car with Gilbert himself driving, Antonio claiming passenger seat, and Francis sitting next to you. Their outfits were as basic as yours, swim shorts and a casual t-shirt they could easily pull off whenever they decided to jump in the water. There had been excited chatter at the beginning of the ride, mostly shared by the three of them with you listening in and adding a comment or two when you felt it appropriate, but it had eventually died down into a content silence as you gazed outside. The sun was quickly setting, and the more you approached the beach, the more you could see the flickers of torches already lit up in preparation for the after dark bit of the party.
“_________?” you turned to face Francis, looking at him in reply of him calling your name. He was resting on his hand while his arm was placed on the open window- he looked very relaxed.
“Yeah, Francis? What is it?” you gave him a simple smile and he responded with a similar one.
He shook his head, still smiling admirably at you, “Oh, it’s nothing really. It’s just...” He seemed to pause in thought, pulling the words in his head together before saying, “Thank you for being with us.”
You stared at him, puzzled as to what he was talking about- you’d say it was his accent that was confusing you, but it definitely wasn’t that. You had no idea what brought this on.
Antonio chuckled, “Oh, don’t mind him. He’s just being all sentimental right now.”
Gilbert laughed along with Antonio, “Yeah, we really are just glad you’re with us. Life would be a lot... different-?”
“Unexciting,” helped Francis, leaning forwards with a finger in the air, sitting straight up again excitedly.
And Gilbert nodded, “Yeah, life would be a lot more unexciting without you here.” They all grinned at you, with the exception of Gilbert who kept his gaze on the road, and you couldn’t help but feel your cheeks lighten slightly- you weren’t very used to this much appreciation.
“Thank you so much guys, honestly, my life wouldn’t be the same without you all either,” you mumbled shyly- and you were grateful. You thought about this often, every night when you lie your head down in bed- the bed that was now in your room in your own apartment, about how fortunate you were to have met them, to have befriended them, to have moved in with them!
It was so very unexpected, and definitely something that had pulled your life from its downhill spiral up into a more positive outlook. When people said things got better, you hadn’t believed them- were there many out there that did believe it wholeheartedly? The saying was all just lies and whispers of comfort others told to one another to keep the hope of the future brightening, of things getting better- or so it had seemed. But those thoughts were long gone, forgotten, and all there was now was the fact that things did get better, and you were glad that you had hung on this long. That you had held the hope of ’Things get will get better.’
It was a frightening thought that you could have never met them. If you had gone through with the thoughts that used to plague your mind- well, let’s just say you weren’t sure how they’d react if you told them that they had saved your life.
The car pulled to a halt as Gilbert parked it, merely a walking distance from the beach and the already hectic partying happening down there. They eagerly jumped out of the car and you all started on your way there, running and sliding and playfully pushing one another down a little sand dune- then pulling off sandals that filled with loose sand anyways and tossing them aside near a group of sandals and flip flops discarded by other party goers.
You recognized most of the people at the party, being that you all did go to the same school- and as expected from any other senior finally graduating from high school, everyone had smiles on their faces; If not simply because of having fun at a party, then because of celebrating the end of the year. But there wasn’t really anyone you’d feel comfortable going up to and initiating a conversation with, so you decided that you’d stay with the infamous trio until someone else decided to come speak with you. That is, that had been the plan until...
A girl seemed to have caught the boys eyes and quickly walked over- a girl with shoulder length blond hair, curls that bobbed up and down indicating that she hadn’t taken advantage of the ocean yet, and a very fitting pink bikini that flattered her body- you recognized her from a class of yours, you weren’t sure which one, possibly science or history, but in all honestly people’s faces and classes tended to blend a bit.
She gave you all a polite smile, “Hi guys!” And you didn’t miss that she didn’t mention you, probably because she didn’t know your name, and you couldn’t say you blamed her, considering you didn’t remember hers either, “I’m so glad you guys made it, everyone’s been waiting!”
The boys replied with an equally kind greeting, and they had a short conversation with her- but it didn’t really concern you so you easily got bored and your attention wandered to the crowd, eyes sifting and looking through the people here. A thought in the back of your mind wondered if you’d find Al here- and you’d wonder if you’d ever see him again. It wasn’t very common to run into people after graduating, you assumed, and you silently wished you had gotten your friends number in order to stay in contact.
Your attention was brought back when the girl latched onto Gilbert’s arm and, giggling, pulled him away, running towards the ocean. “Where are they off to?” you asked, puzzled at the sudden leave of a person in your group.
Francis snickered, “Were you not paying attention, ________? She invited us all along as well...-”
Antonio butt in, “She said she needed a surfing partner, and our friend there is pretty good at it, so they’re off to ride the waves now.” He slid a hand in a motion that mimicked the waves and he grinned at you.
“Psh, who needs him anyway?” Francis stated playfully, “We don’t need Gilly to have fun, non?” And Antonio and you nodded, amused, and you all continued to mingle amongst the others. You all waltzed through the dance section, chattered with a few people that came and went, and were going to head off to grab a drink.
Though, you three were intercepted when a girl stopped in front of Francis, and she seemed very familiar to you- even more so than the one who took Gilbert away. You looked her over once more and it clicked- the dark orange, almost red hair pulled into two long side ponytails, the vivid sky blue eyes, and a brightly colored pink bikini accompanied by a bright blue skirt that flattered the pink of the swimsuit... it was Al’s girlfriend.
You both shared a smile, though you weren’t sure if she still recognized you and you eagerly looked around for Al- because surely he would be here if Olivia was? But he wasn’t anywhere in sight.
Bobbing lightly with the music, she swept straight over to Francis, pressing a hand to his ear in a dramatic I’ve-got-to-tell-you-a-secret motion and he leaned down slightly to accommodate her. Antonio shared a look with you, already knowing how this was going to end, and it wasn’t even a full minute later before Francis giggled at whatever she said and dismissed himself, saying that, “This lovely his naturally flirty tone and a wink lady has invited me to go with her and some friends on her boat-“he gestured to a boat sitting on the beachside, already crowded around by people looking forward to a ride, “but I will be back, no worries, mes amis!”
And what else was there for you both to do except wave him away and wish him the best?
He looked a bit guilty to leave, it was very hypocritical considering the conversation you all just had about Gilbert- but it was rude to reject his friends’ kind invite. And you had to admit, you were still concerned with Olivia’s being here without her boyfriend. You had a flashback of the first time you met her-
"Alfiee!~" Olivia giggled and squealed as Al brought her in for a kiss.
"We're like that yin and yao stuff, huh?"
Olivia giggled, a light sound filling the air, "Yang, Al. Yin and yang. Yao is the name of your Chinese friend, silly!"
"Yeah, nothing could break those two up." Matt added in nonchalantly, "At least, that's what Al always says. For a guy who seems like he couldn't give two shits about others, he's pretty in love with that girl."
And you didn’t know what to think about Olivia and the way she acted around Francis- maybe that was the way she was around most guys? That... sounded a bit dangerous for a solid relationship, though. You had at least expected Al to be here- considering how attached he seemed to be with her; but you decided not to worry about it. It wasn’t your place to butt in, so you let it be. If there was something wrong, you figured Al would come and tell you, it was what friends do after all, right?
So you didn’t let yourself get too discouraged that Francis had been dragged away, because Antonio was still with you, and it wasn’t like the other two had too much of a choice than to leave. Antonio and you had gone to walk alongside the beachside, falling into a comfortable silence again, kicking sand and sometimes stepping into the shallow bit of the water. You were slowly getting more and more okay with the water, feeling especially comforted with your friends company, and you were now fine with walking ankle deep along the shore. Not much, in anyone else’s opinion, but it was quite a feat to you.
A particularly large wave pushed water higher up your legs and you squealed, pattering swiftly back to the sand. Antonio chuckled at your antics and you looked up in time to see Francis wave at you from the fast moving boat- the cause of the small wave. He was laughing, a huge grin plastered on his face, holding tight to the railings and you waved at him, only a little shaken from the sudden surprise of water- and after the boat moved by, a flash of white caught your eye. You smiled at the view of Gilbert surfing, the other two weren’t joking when they said he could work a surf board.
You continued walking along the shore with Antonio though, if not a little further away from the water.
But yet again, it wasn’t long after another girl looked up from where she sat in the sand, this one with shorter brown hair, large sunglasses set atop her head, and a dark blue bikini that flattered her body as well- it wasn’t that she was supermodel skinny, it was just that what she wore went well with her. It also helped that self-confidence practically radiated off of her, even if she may not be the most beautiful lady here, she seemed like a very pleasant person to be around- simply because of how comfortable she was with herself, and you internally wished you had the same confidence. You hadn’t even taken off the shorts or swim shirt yet.
Waving you both over- or maybe she was just waving to Antonio, you couldn’t tell; nevertheless, you both made your way over to her. She patted the sandy ground, “Sit down and join me!” Antonio immediately agreed, surprisingly very excited to be building sand castles and sand figures. You looked over what she was working on, and decided that you were tempted enough to join them. So you knelt down and the three of you worked on building a sand castle.
It was getting darker now, leaving the torches to serve their purpose and lighting up the crowd of teenagers, including the three of you working- dedicated to making the sand castle, though you didn’t speak much- or at all really- as you listened to Antonio and the girl conversing. You were listening, but you weren’t really paying attention to what they were saying.
Eventually, you watched as Gilbert walked out of the water, wet and carrying a surfboard under one arm, the blond girl trailing next to him. You would have approached him, but it would have felt awkward to be under the other girls’ gaze- you would have felt like you were imposing on them- imposing on something. So you let them be.
Then you watched as the boat Francis was in pull in to shallow water with a low purr of the engine, and watched as Francis assisted Olivia and a few others pull the boat back, closer to shore. They were laughing and splashing and giggling and it didn’t feel right to go join them either. They were further out in the water than what you felt comfortable being in anyways.
It was now that you believed that you didn’t fit in here- the feeling starting as an unpleasant lump that formed in your chest and spread to create a familiar choking in your throat. Breathing heavily, you tried to remember that the others had wanted you to come, that they had invited you along with all of the other party-goers and that their leaving wasn’t done on purpose to make you feel uneasy. But despite reassuring words you tried to tell yourself- you still felt like you stuck out like a sore thumb.
You sighed and stood up, wiping sand off on your shorts and by patting your hands together to let the gritty particles fall to the ground. Antonio and the girl looked up at you questioningly and you stated that you were going to go get a drink and wander around- leaving off that you were feeling that you were just making things awkward for them as well.
Antonio said for you to do whatever you wanted, the point of being here was to have fun after all, and they both waved you goodbye happily.
You slowly walked towards the drink section, deciding to get something to wash down the feeling of constriction; despite knowing that sensations like that couldn’t be drowned away, your mother being model proof of that. Sighing, you admitted to yourself that maybe- maybe this party wasn’t as exciting as the last one. You thought that they were going to treat you the same way as they had at the first party, but instead they had been easily distracted by other people. Maybe this proved to you that they were more comfortable with you? That they were more okay with letting you go off and enjoy yourself on your own?
Comforting yourself never really was your forte.
You felt naïve that you had thought this party was to be like the last, and your first party experience was starting to look more and more like a distant occasion. It had been but a few weeks since you had befriended them, but a few weeks since the infamous project, and yet it felt like you had known the boys personally for years.
It was hard to remind yourself that they may not feel the same way.
It wasn’t until you took another another? sip of your lemonade that you realized you now had a drink in your hand- and you shook your head after realizing that you had zoned out and your body had gone into auto pilot mode, still knowing to head towards the drink table and get you something despite your thoughts drifting away from that task. You found yourself wandering along the outskirts of the party now, not too far away from everyone else, and you had to admit that it was almost calming.
“Hey, _________!” a voice shattered the silence and you turned to see a small group of five or so girls walking towards the beach. The one that you assumed called your name was lingering back, waving a hand in the air with a girly motion that was to call your attention, “Come over here and join us!”
You froze- suddenly feeling choked up at the memories of years before when your own friends would call out you, to memories that left a bittersweet taste in your mouth.
A few of the other girls had caught on and had started to wave you over as well, with shouts of “Come on!” “It’ll be fun!” and the more explanatory “A friend of the bad touch trio is a friend of ours!” led by a stream of giggles.
“I-I’m coming!” you shouted with a hand raised to your mouth, stuttering over your words and overwhelmed by the feeling of acceptance. Scrambling, you set your cup down and ran over to them, enthralled that maybe- maybe things were going to be okay again.
A few minutes were spent meandering along the beach, giggling and gossiping and playfully pushing one another. Though you didn’t really contribute to the conversation, finding the gossip interesting and at other times simply ridiculous, you didn’t stop yourself from laughing along with the rest of them, trying your hardest to fit in.
It wasn’t long until two of the girls seemed to spot something up ahead, running past everyone with excited gasps, “Check it out!”
You were pulled alongside the other girls as they ran to see what the commotion was about. Feet scrambling through the sand, slipping and stumbling as they tried to keep their balance on the unstable texture. Their excitement was intoxicating to you, a warm feeling that spread from your toes to the permanent smile plastered on your face.
Everyone slowed down, reaching the destination, and despite the fact that everyone was trying to catch their breath, ooh’s and ahh’s still echoed through the cold night air. And it wasn’t long until you noticed where you were now- or rather, what you were now standing on.
Something you, and apparently these girls as well, hadn’t noticed until this moment. You felt the adrenaline of the run wearing off, and your smile faltered. It was difficult to try to push away the fact that you were standing over water and the only reason you weren’t in the water (falling drowning dying stopping) was because of a thin, wooden barrier.
“Come on in! The water’s fine!” Your attention was brought back as you watched some of the girls cannonballed and dove into the water and- oh. The water was deep enough for them to dive into. And to you, that was deep. Very deep, and you were never more grateful for a plank of wood in your life. Feeling a little safer on the landing, you inched closer to the edge to peer down at your friends.
The last girl abruptly ran past you and jumped in, grinning wildly and accidentally splashing you with water- wetting the boards with a little wave and sending you scrambling back to the middle of the pier. You took slow, deep breaths in an attempt to calm your racing heart- why you were so hesitant about being around water astounded you; it wasn’t you who drowned. The only way this affected you was because of your father, and that fact made you feel weak.
You hoped that the children your father saved were faring better.
“Come on in, the water’s great _________!” one of the blondes called to you.
“No, I-I think I’m fine over here,” you shouted back, inching backwards towards the shore again.
Your behavior caught the attention of a few of the girls and they drifted towards you, some preferring to hold onto the pier rather than wasting energy wading in the water. The blonde pouted, “Aww, are you going already?” She seemed to have noticed your slow retreat to the shore.
But you didn’t want to be rude, and the girls honestly looked disappointed that you were so willing to readily leave them. And you had to admit that you were slowly adjusting more and more to the pier, finding it almost as grounding as the shore. You still weren’t comfortable enough with the water to jump in, but maybe you could cope with sitting on the edge for now- not completely joining them, yet not completely leaving them either.
“I guess I can stay for a while,” you said, crawling towards the edge again and towards one of the corner posts you intended to lean against, “But I’d rather not swim right now, if that’s alright.” You mentally slapped yourself thinking, ‘What do you mean if that’s alright!? What if they insist?’
But before panic could settle, the girls had nodded and said you were fine where you were and thanks for staying when you could have left and the trio were right, you weren’t half bad. You weren’t sure what to say to that.
It was fun though, watching them swim around and play; diving under the water and coming back up shortly later, and it was entertaining to guess where they’d resurface next. Different games were played and they eventually calmed down- some treading water while others held on to the pier, sharing conversations among one another once more.
Before you knew it, your feet were dangling off of the side, kicking lightly and soaking your legs with water. It took a few minutes for your death grip on the pole to relax, your whitened knuckles turning back to their normal skin tone, and you understood why everyone loved to swim. Water was refreshing.
“He totally doesn’t know the difference... between...” you looked up at the person who was talking, and you wondered why they had stopped, why their words slowly died down- why everyone had suddenly stopped speaking. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but clamped them shut again after what looked like hesitation.
Now that you looked around, everyone seemed to be looking at you, and you felt your hair stand on edge, suddenly nervous. They weren’t threatening looks, no, not at all. Most of them seemed to be repressing giggles and laughter, some clamping hands over their mouths and others faces twitching and tight lipped. “Uh, guys?” you tried to chuckle at their antics, because surely they were just teasing you, but it sounded more like a winded outtake of air.
Then, in a rush of air, two people ran past you to jump into the water but before you could identify them you were swept up into a pair of arms. The person spoke, voice loud due to how close you were to them, “Oh no! Why is such a pretty lady sitting alone on the deck, when she looks perfect right here in my arms?”
And only one person you knew could speak to you with such flirty exuberance.
You blinked your eyes, still a bit disoriented at all that happened, “Francis?”
A low chuckle sounded from next to you and you tilted your head away from Francis to look at where Antonio and Gilbert rested their arms on the pier. “Who else would say such a lame joke?” you heard Gilbert snicker, trying to get a reaction out of his friend.
Francis paid him no mind, though it did lead to some high pitched giggling from the ladies.
You turned your attention back to the situation at hand- not being able to touch the floor frightened you, but you had to admit that you felt safe in Francis’s arms. You shifted slightly, afraid that if you moved too much, you’d accidentally slip from his grasp and fall into the water; but his hold was sturdy. You felt yourself relax into his chest, not paying mind to the conversation around you anymore and-
Your eyes widened.
Oh. You had almost forgotten that boys went swimming shirtless, Francis definitely being no exception. You froze, and for a moment you were unsure about whether he was feeling as uncomfortable as you were. Before remembering that, well, he’s Francis and after staying with him for a week or so at the same dorm you caught on that it took a lot to make him uneasy.
When he started to walk towards the edge where Gilbert and Antonio rested in the water, all other thoughts evaporated, leaving only the gnawing fear of the water beneath you.
“Ready!?” Francis hollered, and you scolded yourself for not paying attention to their conversation before, now at a complete loss as to what was occurring.
“Don’t worry, frau, we’ll make sure you don’t drown!” Gilberts words were meant to be funny, but they only served to throw you into a panic as you realized what the Trio intended to do.
Antonio waved his arms in the air towards him, “Throw her in now!”
You made an unpleasant sound as Francis waved you back and forth in his arms, as one would cradle a crying baby though the intentions now were clearly not the same, getting ready to throw you in the water. By the time you found your voice it was too late, “NonononoNO, Franci-!” and the water was approaching too quickly and there was no pier to separate you and no pole to hold onto and- silence.
All of the chattering and laughter drowned out by the water, just like what you expected to happen to yourself.
You’ve had dreams like this before, dreams where you watched your father drown or dreams where you died alongside him. Drowned by the water.
But no dream could have prepared you for the real thing. It was one thing to imagine it, and yet another to experience it. The adrenaline was blinding- or was it the fact that you were drowning that was blinding? You couldn’t tell anymore.
Not weren’t sure which way was up and which was down, your stiff limbs carrying you where you would have expected was down, further from the surface, but it could just as well have been up. Whichever way you were going, it didn’t matter to you, as long as you were still under. Your limbs kicked and flailed and you felt like you weren’t achieving anything and you hadn’t expected your movements to be slowed down so much in the ocean.
You missed the easiness of motion you had back on shore, and your lungs burned with longing.
It must have been just a few seconds before you were suddenly pulled up and you could breathe again onto the pier. Rolling onto your hands and knees, you coughed and threw up water, dry heaving and crying when you could breathe normal again. You felt a hand rubbing along your back in a comforting motion, and you were grateful for it. It kept you connected to what was happening now.
Embarrassed, you wiped your tears away before looking up and facing everyone. They were all crowded around you, girls huddling around with concerned looks on your face and the trio kneeling down. Antonio retracted his hand from your back when you had turned to face them. Mixed emotions flitted across the boy’s faces, ranging from confusion to concern to anger and back again.
Gilbert was the first to speak up, teeth clenched in what could have almost been an angry growl, “Why didn’t you tell us? Why didn’t you say anything? We wouldn’t have thrown you in if we knew you couldn’t swim!?”
You shook your head, “I can swim.”
“Could have fooled me,” he scoffed.
Antonio butt in before it could blow into a larger argument, “Are you okay, chica?”
You stood up, still shaken up from the ordeal but feeling well enough to stand on your own. All you wanted was to get off the pier. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine,” you whispered.
“What happened back there?” one of the girls questioned, lightly placing a hand on your shoulder. You recognized her as the one who had called you over to join them in the first place, and now you weren’t sure whether you regretted that decision or not. Heck, maybe it would have been better if you had just decided to stay at the dorm.
You shook your head again, unsure of how to explain without telling the whole story: and that was out of the question. You knew how to swim, it’s not like your parents didn’t teach you or anything before... before your father died. It was just a little hard to maneuver in the water or remember anything about swimming when you were in full out panic.
“Please, you can talk with us,” she nodded and looked at the other girls to back her up, and they nodded in agreement as well, “It’s okay-“ the girl started before you furiously cut her off.
You didn’t like all of the attention, and you hated how they seemed so sure of themselves in their ‘We can help you’ state of mind. “I said nothing!” Your arm shot to the side, intending to push her hand away from your shoulder but instead, a sharp noise echoed through the air. Everyone fell silent- and it almost reminded you of being encased by the water. It was almost as silent as drowning.
You hadn’t meant to hit her. Your mind had been elsewhere.
The trio grew furious, stepping closer to you Gilbert questioned, “What is wrong with you? What do you think you’re doing?”
“Stop overreacting,” Francis stated blandly, his tone low and dangerous.
Antonio inspected the girl’s reddened, shocked face before turning to you and giving you a disapproving frown. Not something you had ever hoped to be on the receiving end of. The trio didn’t take well to any of their friends getting hurt.
“I- I didn’t mean to-“ you stuttered.
“You didn’t have to,” Started Antonio, “You don’t have to be mean.”
Your arms were folded across your chest, trying to cover your heavy breathing. “What happened is no one’s business,” you said through clenched teeth.
“They were just trying to get along,” uttered Francis, “And you repay them by being rude?”
“I said,” you glared at the boys, enunciating each syllable, "That it’s none of your business.” You then turned to leave, ready to go back home and hoping that the boys weren’t intending to do the same thing.
You didn’t really want to be around others at the moment.
“You’re as bad as your mom.”
The words were uttered in a low voice, almost a whisper that carried straight to your ears and resonated deep inside of you. It caused you to halt, standing on the edge of the deck and almost onto the sand, the words repeated over in your head. What were you supposed to say to say to that?
‘Surely the saying ‘like father, like son’ didn’t just apply to males, it applied to mothers and daughters too?’ You thought to yourself, ‘I shouldn’t have come here. I need to go back- they won’t want me staying with them at their dorm. This was all a mistake and I need to pack up and disappear and you’re as bad as your mom.’
Shoving hands in wet pockets you carried on forward, and without another word, you were gone.