It was her last words that had constrained Declan from speaking any further. Surely it was possible that the girl sitting before him had the same back story as he - deceased loved one, that loved one being a clone - though the idea caused a short laugh to escape his lips, his lightly colored eyes focussed on the carpeted ground beneath his feet as he joggled his head back and forth for a moment at the mindless consideration. And as he held his fourth shot glass full in between his fingers, it had been clear to say that it was the alcohol speaking. “Heidi,” he told her. “And she’s gone as well,” Declan finished, effortlessly brushing the thought of his now-lifeless love to the side, something that wasn’t entirely difficult while tipsy.
He had been sincerely amazed to see the girl holding herself together so nicely. The majority of the women he had been around while inebriated were powerless when it came to whimpering about their feelings; one mentioning of an ex would have clearly triggered uncontrollable wails in all other cases, and he couldn’t help but feel enthralled by Andrea’s unusual ability to keep her cool.
His thoughts stopped as her last attribute was acknowledged - as if she hadn’t been alluring enough. “I find it quite peculiar you say that, actually.” Declan’s strayed thoughts had come to a halt as his previous musings were now purely wiped from his attention; suddenly, this attention was exclusively focussed on her. He had, of course, considered the possibility of things going further between the two of them that night - then again, the contemplation was inevitable for any male - but it wasn’t something that seemed at all likely.
His eyes were now concentrated on Andrea, their contact strangely relaxing to him. Naturally, Declan’s teasing smile had returned to his once expressionless face, a tempting look replacing the blank appearance. “Because I’m an excellent kisser as well.” His words were futile - Declan had absolutely no facts to back up his claim. Though, it was fair to assume that she wouldn’t oppose the statement, right? And it seemed as though she had the same, nonexistent back up facts to support her claim.
Without a second thought, Declan dropped the shot glass brimming with untouched liquid to the table beneath them. The entirety of his weight was now being shifted toward the girl before him, his fingers on both hands uncontrollably lingering up the nape of her neck as his lips pushed fervently against her own. Needless to say, it wasn’t wholly out of the question that he would push her away within seconds - but it was certainly worth the shot.
Then again, they were there to have fun, weren’t they?
She nearly scoffed. Of course it would be easy to claim the same redeeming quality when she’d slid it across that conversational table to start, but she wasn’t going to let him ride on her coattails. True, such a statement on her part was already absurd without a little proof, but she hadn’t been utterly convinced he’d have the boldness to demand she substantiate the claim.
Oh, how wrong she was.
Maybe it was the alcohol. That pleasant warming in her bones and the way it could blur all that heartbreak over until it was nothing but a dull ache was not the only effect liquor had, after all. There had been love stories written about it, songs sung, sonnets spun. Plenty of people had succumbed to the sweet intoxication of something else that floated within reach on the ripples off a spirits-soaked shore; they certainly would not be the first pair to have a haphazard run-in with each other that went far past propriety.
What even was proper anymore? Her parents argued that it wasn’t proper for a lady to drink, her best friend argued that it wasn’t proper to mourn. She was supposed to be bubbly and bright and vibrant and living—and frankly, if letting him claim that kiss wasn’t living, she really didn’t know what was. She’d lost her grip on the reality of what should be and what could be when she crossed the line and fell in love with someone everyone else in society seemed to deem less than.
That was part of what fueled this, now. Hands on his collar, her lips warm and yielding beneath his. A sudden fervor that wasn’t just sparked by the shots they’d done or even those ‘secrets’ they’d shared. It was solely because this was something tangible and real even if it wasn’t real at all, even if it was simply another diversion found by chance on that one night of her one life. And yes, more than anything else, she was so very well aware of how even they - humans - couldn’t cheat death.
All of that reasoning was drowned by the simple realization that he wasn’t Samuel. Declan had his own taste, his own touch, his own way of moving his mouth to stir something akin to weak knees and flutters in her stomach. Maybe that was still all the alcohol, but he could take credit and the blame; she allotted him both before everything was pushed out of her mind and she set to the straightforward task of proving her earlier fib a veritable truth. She was a good kisser. A damn good kisser.
Better than him, or she’d try her hardest to be. Her tongue stole across his lower lip and a quick breath stolen precipitated that gesture deepening just a little, unreserved, reckless. She’d regret this later, she was sure, but she’d swallowed enough poison to let this one thing - this one kiss - serve as a temporary antidote, at least.
“Oh, by God,” he shook his head back and forth lightly, an almost-defeated smile spread slyly across his lips. “Indeed I’ve got my good qualities,” he began, the smile turning something just short of a smirk, stopping just before he did reveal the qualities to her. “But first I’d fancy hearing yours.” A pause. “Beside your tantalizing eyes,” his eyebrows raised teasingly. It had certainly seemed as if she were flirting with him, though it could have very likely been the alcohol talking. And even if it were, he wouldn’t mind a few coquettish comments back and forth with the girl. In fact, it had been something he was now looking forward to. Perhaps at the end, it’d turn into one of those nights where he’d get lucky. He could dream, right?
Of course questions hadn’t been a part of the drinking-game-deal, but he couldn’t help but want to delve deeper into her thoughts - not to take advantage of her intoxication, of course. But she had seemed to be flaring her inebriation quite noticeably. “Well then, you’ve got to tell me about that,” he gave her a near-consoling smile, hoping to get some facts out of her. Surely, she’d spitball inquiry back at him, but it what harm would it do spilling out your life story while downing shots with a complete stranger?
Her statement reminded Declan of himself - of her. Heidi. The name hadn’t been so taunting to him since he returned to Hailsham, the weight of her once soulful persona pressing down on him every time something had reminded him vaguely of her prior existence. It wasn’t something he’d cry over - needless to say, he was far past that stage, being the man he was. When the thought of her did happen to cross his mind, he couldn’t help but feel a tingling of nostalgia for past times with her; though he couldn’t exactly connect to those sorrowful sensations when all he could put his mind on was how desperately he wanted another shot.
And there it was: his turn, followed by an illegal question. Though he had already broken the rules, so her words weren’t wasn’t entirely preventable any longer.
His wish was fulfilled when he pressed the glassware up to his lips, keeping his eyes on the girl before him. He dropped the glass onto the table with a soft knock and drummed his fingers against the wooden table in angst, pursing his lips the slightest bit as the now-familiar sensation of liquor ran through his insides. “We’ve all tolerated feelings for someone special that we couldn’t, haven’t we?” He smiled to her and sat back against the seat beneath him once more. “Parents, yes. A girl,” he paused again. “Yes,” he shrugged modestly, his thoughts running back to the ones that had harbored his mind just moments earlier. “Must I go into details?” His pause was rhetorical and answering his own question, claimed, “No.”
Redeeming qualities were not something Andrea chose to dwell on often. When she looked in the mirror she saw frailty and tears, and when she met the eyes of her friends and family - the ones who really knew - she saw nothing but a shadow of herself reflected there. It wasn’t that she was any different, fundamentally, after losing Samuel, it was just that some piece of her was broken, a piece she didn’t even know she needed until it was gone. At times she felt it was the pin that hold it all together…
But at others, like this moment, she knew it was just the weight anchoring her down as she drowned.
All drinking did was ease the way that ball and chain chafed at her ankle, made her forget just when the last time she’d come up for air had been. Here, now, she suddenly felt her lungs burning with that almost unnatural want for oxygen, to want to finally not be swimming, or wading, or drifting. She saw in his smile, in his nonchalance, a chance for escape, for the sublime she’d been chasing down to the last drop of every wretched bottle.
And maybe, just maybe, she imagined she found understanding there, too. Love found, love lost. They had that in common. Perhaps they had a dozen things in common; she’d never know unless she gave just a little, pulled back the corner of that threadbare fabric of herself to reveal just a little more. The game had to keep going. It was the only thing saving herself from another night of empty and unsatisfying oblivion when the alcohol stopped going down so smoothly and came back up in bile. She didn’t even want to think about the after effects, and that was what was working in his favor.
Little did he know, as the teasing - the flirting - prompted only another smile, this one just a tad devilish to match the sparkle in her gaze over the crystal rim of that freshly-poured glass, now held aloft. “I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours,” held just the right amount of leverage before she supplied the real ammunition, “His name was Samuel. And he’s gone now.” Delving further would just churn her stomach too soon, ruin the potential of the rest of the night finding a certain new vacancy of thought and emotion in the company of this admittedly charming young man. She swallowed the rest of the story in that latest swig, wrist falling to the table to cushion the blow of her empty cup. “I guess my first redeeming quality to a handsome stranger I just met a pub would be that I came here alone.”
Inviting further intimacy almost rubbed her the wrong way—almost. Luckily for him, a few shots and what she’d imbibed before had already laid some of the groundwork in numbing those sensibilities to the point where she could ignore that niggling, vicious whisper that reminded her that even so much as entertaining the thought was treachery to her beloved’s memory. She stamped that voice out and instead leaned in, volume dropped to conspiracy and secrecy when she continued, “And I suppose redeeming quality number two is that I’m an excellent kisser.”
Not that she really had any expert testimony to prove it. But all was fair in a game with no rules. They’d both already tossed the unwritten and unspoken guidelines completely to the wind.
Walking through the various blurry faces and places, Sera’s mind was a muddle and the crowd were oblivious. Tourists, natives, business entrepreneurs; all were naive, entirely clueless to the people like Sera to an extent that they were comfortable with. But the clones couldn’t be hidden, not if they dared have the views that grew from under her skin. She wouldn’t be ignored, at least in the future. For now, her silver band’s cold skin caused goosebumps around her wrist, shrouded in a long sleeve white t-shirt with her hair uncontrolled and set free.
Maybe a person would give her a lingering look, she was pretty after all. The gazelle English rose grace she’d been told she had, and the slight spunk of her aura that made people question what they originally thought Seraphine would prevail. She smirked then, the underestimates. Always surprised, and always under-prepared. Her handbag tapped against her slim hips as she walked, catching the eyes of a few in her stride. Andy was nowhere to be seen, or Cole. What happened to companionship? It felt as though she was wearing thinner Armour, strong but not valiant enough. She savored her time with Andy, any chance to fall in love or play the role convincing enough. It was greedy, it was foolish.
But who wasn’t allowed to be selfish when it came to their own life? Wouldn’t the originals be beggers, hanging on to the hope as childish as a fairytale had their vital organs be placed on a list to be snatched from their bodies until there wasn’t enough of them left to function?
Her thoughts were all velvet and deep, enough to keep her in a daydream. But then she saw her, glistening through a window. Andrea. That was her name, right? It had been months, and Sera had never prided herself well on her memory. So much of it had been blocked by her own self will, but now all she wanted to do was remember. Remember each second like the last she would have.
Andrea… what did she plead guilty to? Seraphine had asked herself before the answer came to mind. Samuel. The clone. The man like her. It was so clouded, but enough to forced Seraphine to keep walking, and push through the doors to greet the original in a relatively sweet manner, relatively;
“Andrea?” She was sure it was her from the moment she said it aloud, alarmed to see the pale face from where she remembered happiness and the eyes. “Where have you been?” Seraphine couldn’t figure out what was happening. Was she angry? Maybe, but she would have to hear the explanation from the original princess herself, she had to salvage what little she enjoyed from the past.
Part of her wanted to bolt. A very big part of her, the same part that always won the argument about whether she should have another drink, or whether she should swallow her conscience along with the alcohol. Those pesky feelings that had made what she shared with Samuel so wonderful also made life without him a hellish nightmare.
Most of the time, that part won—but not this time. This time, she found lips parting - gaping - for just a moment before they fashioned a faint but genuine smile. The young woman standing in front of her hadn’t done anything, after all, couldn’t have known how it felt, what it still felt like, the misery, the loneliness. No one knew that; even her best friend in all the world only snatched glimpses here and there when the guard was down and defenses torn asunder.
“Drowning,” she said without even thinking, the sincerity of that single word weighing down the tremble of her lower lip and the rest of what she might have said. It wouldn’t go tumbling out, oh no, the truth was a stone that sank right into the very core of her instead. Rather, she rallied just a split second later for a hopefully convincing, “Schoolwork, you know? It’s a total drag sometimes.”
It wasn’t a lie. That was the only comfort she had, that along with growing cold, distant, detached, despairing, she wasn’t also deceitful. There was no cunning artifice, no calculated ruse. Unfortunately, it was impossible to hide the shadow that had stolen the light from her eyes.
She still itched for a drink. More like burned for it, embers beneath her skin that desperately craved the fan to flame them to life. Words felt too slippery on her tongue without the poison of liquor to roughen the edges, without that sinking feeling as it pooled in her belly and in the cracks of her memory. She needed that sealant, lest everything bleed together and it all come crashing down, down off the edge of the cliff she’d grown so adept at tiptoeing along. That same part of her that usually won those battles for her soul - waging warfare that led to brimstone - reveled in feeling each and every clod of dirt crumble beneath her feet.
Someday, she’d fall.
Today was not that day. “What about you, Sera? How’s everything been treating you?” And for what it was worth, Andrea hoped she’d been well. Completely well, not just half well or nearly well or almost well. She’d seen too many of the clones living just slightly less than well to last her a lifetime.
Seriously… this place is getting too quiet!
I would say they must be dying of exams like I am but…
I don’t think anyone else is even in school anymore besides me and Olive.
Every town also needs a secretary. Up for the job? Maybe it will get your mind off worrying about Olive.
Alcohol has never really appealed to me. It doesn’t truly numb the pain.
Wow, that was strangely philosophical.
Nice try, but I’m never going to stop worrying about Olive.
Besides, I’m a fashion major. I’d do much better dressing you than typing your notes. Especially if they’re going to be full of such, ah, deep wisdom.
Mayor? Is that my new nickname? I’ll have to do the same for you.
Well, I don’t drink. Liquor has never touched my lips, nope.
Well, you said we’re in Andrew Town now. Every town needs a mayor, right?
God, I’m almost sorry for you. But if it helps, I only had my first drink six months ago.
What a fabulously important fact.
I’m actually becoming quite sassy. Your turn.
Here’s the thing about sharing secrets. It’s like drinking—always much better if you work your way up to the good stuff.
And on that note, I like to drink. A lot. Back to you, Mayor.
I have my reasons to not be forthcoming.
And I sense that you are keeping a few secrets as well, love. You share with me, I share with you. That’s how it works in Andrew Town.
Okay, I’ll play by the rules for now. My hair actually is naturally red. Go.
Quite welcome. And there is no doubt about that, or you wouldn’t have come into my room like a bat out of Hell.
Hm, you really are terribly curious about my feelings, aren’t you? Well unfortunately, dear, that is my business.
If we’re going to be warming up to each other at any point, you might consider being a little more forthcoming. Secrets don’t make friends, you know.
Well, well, well. You didn’t worry about my attraction to you. I assure you that it is non-existent.
I don’t really care about your opinion of me, anyway. You’re not the Original that matters to me.
But keep in mind we both care about her. …Are you attracted to her?