Three times you tripped over your own feet. You knew it was such, after picking yourself up off the gravel for the third time, because you had been keeping count. Whether consciously or subconsciously, you weren’t about to complain at the offer of a distraction and this was as much as a distraction offered to you other than the pound pound pounding of your feet as they pushed you further and further away.
The first was when you had made it off the coarse sand of the beach and somehow found yourself doubled over in a bathroom stall. Somehow. This uncertain word choice drove the point that you weren’t sure how you managed to walk the distance to get there in the first place nor were you truly sure about what had just occurred back with who you thought of as friends. You tried not to think too hard about it, or too hard about whether it all happened at all. If it hadn’t been for the fact that you stumbled out of there in a rush, you might have forgotten about it. But you didn’t. ‘One,’ was whispered solemnly as you made your way down the road- a reminder etched into your mind. If it hadn’t been for that first trip, would you have tried to deny what happened?
The second was when the lights of the beach started to leave and your mind decided upon where to go to first. I say it was your mind that decided, because it wasn’t really your choice. The only thing you cared about was getting as far as possible from there and you left the rest to your mind to decide- and it seemed to have an idea as to where it was going as you turned corner after corner, eventually jumping off the sidewalk onto the gravel of the side of the road. You supposed it was then that the scenery of houses turned into long trees, and every instinctual thought inside of you screamed that this was how horror movies began. Running in the middle of the woods.
You hoped that being close to the road would counteract that possibility and not that you had simply jinxed yourself by thinking so.
It wasn’t until a crow dove by, startling you, that your legs remembered that they hadn’t stopped pumping since leaving the beach, and you fell off the road and onto the grass. It wasn’t quite hyperventilation, but you were breathing awfully quickly, and your breath felt heavy against your face compared to the cool night air. Your eyes squeezed shut before opening shortly after, believing that enough time was wasted for now, you placed two sweaty palms against the ground and pushed yourself up. It was as silent as a forest can be during the night and you found it very calming. Teachers always told you that breathing helped, so you inhaled in and out, in and out- and whispered ‘two’, etching the second fall in your memory before continuing on.
The third was here and now, where you tripped over your own feet onto the gravel before scrambling back up and veering to a sharp right. If that car hadn’t driven by and lit the forest a moment for you, you would have missed your destination. It was a decently busy road, with cars driving by from time to time even though it was getting pretty late- and you couldn’t help but wonder if some of them were people driving home from that party. You wondered if anyone had recognized you and thought about helping you, before driving by and forgetting about you once you were out of sight.
You sat down with a dull thunk on the grass, and were surprised to find it wasn’t wet despite you sitting so close to the lake. ’The lake,’ you thought to yourself, ‘not just any lake.’ Would there have been happier memories associated with this spot if your father hadn’t died here? If you didn’t come here as a last resort whenever you felt forlorn? These questions didn’t have definite answers, and you tried not to think about them too hard due to the strain they put on your brain.
“Three. One two three. Third time’s a charm,-“ you mumbled incoherently as your arms pulled your knees closer to your chest, jumping as the roar of a car’s engine startled you out of your thoughts. The engine eventually silenced so you sighed and inhaled deeply to calm your heart once more, before proceeding to contemplating what to do next.
And you realized there wasn’t much to do. Go home to your mother? She wouldn’t take you back. Go back to the trio? No... No you couldn’t face them. Or anyone else, for that matter? Surely one of the girls would take you in for a while? But you couldn’t bear to burden one of them. There wasn’t much for you to do. You were stuck.
Starting to feel confined again, one of your feet pulled back to push at your other foot, easily sliding your flip flop off. The feet switched position and eventually the other flip flop was off too. An arm unwrapped itself from your legs to grab them and place them next to you, as you inched closer to the water of the lake and dipped your feet in the cool water. This served to clear your mind for a while, and you realized that you would have to eventually go back to at least get your stuff packed. And then you’d see where things went from there.
Palms swiped at your eyes and when they pulled away, you weren’t sure about whether they were wet from being sweaty or wet from shed tears. You hadn’t noticed when you started crying, but now that you were aware, you realized you couldn’t exactly stop. This was all getting to be a bit too much.
Light from a car, again, but this time was different. It wasn’t fading away, and you could still hear the purr of an engine. You turned your head around to see what it was, only to find the shadowy outline of a person in front of a truck up ahead. A moment was spent wondering why the car wasn’t moving, but after putting aside your dazed nature you realized it was because someone had parked it there.
That someone had their hands cupped to their mouth and you soon realized that they were shouting. A name, was what you guessed they were calling out, but you couldn’t quite hear them to make sure of that- and you wondered how it was that you could hear the car but not their shouts. The outline was getting closer and closer, until eventually stopping before you. They were breathing heavily from the short jog it took to reach you and their hand reached down to place a firm grip on your shoulder.
“Olivia! Where have you been-“ the face was close enough to see now, and you had the opportunity to watch the expression of relief die down to a disappointed frown, “Oh. It’s just you.”
-A few minutes earlier-
Gilbert kept telling himself that he really did have the full intention of shouting for you to come back, that he was sorry for his actions, that the things they said weren’t true, and that he had just overreacted- but why he didn’t, he wasn’t too sure. He supposed that he could blame it on pride, but a voice in the back of his mind kept telling him that there was nothing to blame but himself.
By the looks on the faces of his other two friends, he could tell that they were feeling the same way too. Despite the fact that they were angry at you for being rude to that girl while everyone had been trying to include you, they knew that they had went too far and crossed a line that shouldn’t have even been touched with their last comment.
Everyone was sulking now, the three of them avoiding each other’s gaze as they were too lost in thoughts of what had just happened. They were embarrassed and a bit ashamed that they had let such a trivial matter get the best of them, and that they had let you go. There was still the possibility of running after you, really; Gilbert was sure that he had just watched you stumble into the girl’s bathroom, but the underlying anger caused by your actions held him in place.
The same question thrummed through all three of the boy’s heads, ‘Why did she hit her?’
Gilbert wondered if it was just him who felt slightly furious that the party had gone on, that there was still music and laughter and dancing, and that the girls had dissipated to find something more enjoyable to do- even the girl who had gotten slapped had brushed the occasion off as nothing. Because for him, the party had stopped the moment you walked away.
It didn’t feel right that the world went on while his felt a bit... paused.
And that was when, from the corner of your eye, you watched as a girl latched onto Francis’s arm- jolting him from his thoughts (and away from the post he was leaning on) and bringing everyone back to the present. The girl wasn’t familiar to Gilbert, other than he remembered that he’d seen her around a lot as of late, and concluded that she was possibly a new addition to Francis’s little group of friends.
“Olivia?” questioned Francis as he regained his balance, pulling away just enough for the girl to bounce a step away and stand in front of him.
Her hands clasped behind her back as she leaned in back and forth, a motion that Gilbert guessed was supposed to look cute, “Hi France-y!” Antonio and Gilbert shared snickers at the sudden use of a nickname, before being shot quick glares by France-y himself, “I’ve been looking all over for you! Do you want to go for a quick swim with the girls and I before we have to go?”
He didn’t hesitate before shaking his head and apologizing, “Sorry, non,” He ignored her disappointed frown by looking at his friends and confirming that what he was doing was for the best. Gilbert couldn’t deny the monotone Francis spoke to her with was unlike the usual tone of the flamboyant man, “I think we’re going to turn in for today. A lot of things happened and... We’re just going to go home for now.”
He politely patted her head before shoving his hands in his pockets and making his way towards the parking lot, his two friends closely behind in tow. Francis didn’t turn around when Olivia almost hysterically shouted, “W-Well maybe another time then! Okay?” And he simply nodded, a hand raised up in a wave goodbye.
Gilbert slumped at seeing how effected his friend was, and hoped once more that you were faring okay.
It didn’t take long for the boys to arrive back home, and they were surprised to see that there were lights shining through their apartment windows. Starting to feel tense, they assumed that you had made your way back before them, but they weren’t sure whether they were ready to face you yet, nor if you were ready either.
They were currently standing outside of the apartment door in silence, as they had been, for a while, “What should we do?” asked Antonio.
“This is getting silly,” Francis muttered, a hand twirling with a strand of hair, “And we’ve already gotten this far. We might as well go in.”
“We live here anyways...” added Gilbert, he shrugged, “And, well, she probably already saw us park and walk in. I bet she’s already expecting us, right?”
The three of them nodded, convinced by one another’s claims and energized by another spurt of courage, they pushed the door open and stepped in and were met with...
Or, mostly silence at least, other than some mumbled chatter and stifled laughter, all coming from the kitchen. The three shared a confused look, all thinking the same thoughts that summed up into one, ‘Whose voice was that?’
“Pretty sure ________’s voice isn’t that deep,” mumbled Gilbert sarcastically, Francis and Antonio smirked and nodded along-. A clang of dishes sounded from the kitchen along with a high pitched giggle and the low complaints of that male voice again. They couldn’t hear the voices loud enough to categorize whose they belonged too- it was hard enough trying to tell the gender of them, so they wondered whether they should leave you with your friend or ruin whatever fun you seemed to be having.
The hard look shared amongst them spoke wonders though, and the three of them practically sprinted into the kitchen, almost falling over one another just to be met with the confused, deer-eyed gazes of...