A sweet giggle echoed in the darkness. This place seemed so familiar, but it was too dark to see anything. I reached out my hands, hoping the sense of touch would guide me.
I was surprised at the texture of the walls. They were cold and damp and had a rough texture.
Where was I?
My eye browns furrowed in confusion, as I attempted to deduce where I was when it heard it again.
That familiar giggle.
"Fa-ng. Come on, come on, come onnn! You promised to teach me. I'm not getting any younger here," the voice trailed off and I felt my blood go cold.
"Emily?" I called out, my voice frantic, " EMILY!"
A small giggle bounced off the cave walls.
"Come on!" Her voice echoed along the walls. I frantically ran in the direction of her voice, calling out to her.
But something was off. My legs felt like jello and it seemed as if I were running in slow motion.
"Emily!" I called out as I ran faster, and pushed harder.
Her giggle pushing me forward, I had to get to her.
"Watch me Fang! Look no floaties!"
A small splash sent chills up my arm and I felt my heart stop.
"NO! Emily get out of the water right now!." I was nearly paralyzed with fear. I had to get to her. I had to save her.
"EMILY!" I called out to the darkness, running deeper into the abyss.
"Fang. Fang!" her voice quavering, she seemed so scared.
"Fang help! Help!" Her voice was so fragile.
"I'm coming. Emily! Call out to me. EMILY!"
Then I heard it, just as I had two years before and every day since.
A blood curdling scream.
"Emily!" I woke with a start, gasping for air as I took in my surroundings.
It was a dream.
I took in a calming breathe before a voice caught me by surprise.
"No actually it's just me. How you feeling?" Iggy asked as he came up by my bed side and sat on the edge, offering me some water and Advil.
"Like complete and total shit," I answered honestly, still shaken up from the nightmare I was trapped in.
Iggy gave me a sad smile as I sat up and took the medicine and water, chugging it down quickly.
"Thanks," I offered quickly as I avoided his penetrating gaze.
"I take it things didn't go so well last night with your mom," He started and I scoffed at him.
"No not exactly, what was your first guess?"
"Oh I don't know, maybe the fact that it's past three in the afternoon and you're just now getting up." He offered, giving me a knowing look, which I quickly and skillfully avoided.
"Yeah well, let's just say it wasn't a heartfelt family reunion by any means."
"Did she-" he started, but I cut him off as I began to climb out of bed.
"Igs, I really don't want to talk about it."
He rolled his lips inwardly as he gave me a short nod, dropping the subject.
"So, how'd you like to get out of here tonight? Sam's band has a gig at the Borcht Beach Bash tonight and two of his band members are sick. He asked if we'd fill in for the night. What do you say? You in?" He asked, throwing a pillow at me as I rummaged through my dresser.
Catching it swiftly before it hit me, I tossed it to the side before answering.
"I guess, anything to avoid spending quality time with mommy dearest." I spat.
I guess one could say I have Mommy issues.
"Great. I'll text him now. Want to invite the girls?" He asked, not looking up from his phone as his fingers flew across the screen.
I paused a moment to think before shrugging him off, "Nah. I'm pretty sure Max was spending time with Air and Angel today. You can invite Nudge though if you want."
Iggy eyed me suspiciously before moving from the bed and walking closer to me, "Bro if this is about last night I'm sure she's not taking it personally. But avoiding talking to her is going to make it worse and you know it."
"I'm not avoiding her," I snapped, before lowering my voice, "I know I need to talk to her but it doesn't have to be tonight. And I was being serious. She was having a family day."
He expelled a heavy sigh before shrugging, "Alright whatever. I'll see you tonight then, 9'o'clock. I'm going to see if Nudge wants to come."
"Alright, see you tonight." I bid him goodbye.
Sighing, I moved to sit on my bed, holding my head in my hands.
After composing myself, I reached for the picture I kept on my nightstand. I felt a sad smile spread across my face as I tapped the glass that held the picture of the little girl I was so fond of.
"Why does this have to be so hard Em? I don't know what to do anymore."
As I looked down at the picture, it seemed as if she were smiling at me, giving me the reassurance I needed.
I knew I had to tell Max, and soon.
I had had a restless night. All I could think about was Fang and thereappearance of his absentee mother.
I knew from the stories I had heard from both Edie and Fang that she wasn't a bad mother necessarily, just and uninvolved one. And I couldn't hold that against her, because my parents weren't always here, but when they came home it was always a warm welcome.
This, however was not the case with Fang and his mother last night.
He had seemed so cold towards her and more closed off than I had ever seen him.
You could easily tell there was no love in that relationship, and that made me uneasy.
I just couldn't understand why there was a broken relationship between the two, and that unnerved me.
But I knew better than to pry. He would tell me when he was ready.
At least that's what I'm telling myself.
To distract myself, I decided to throw myself into my family, the one I had been neglecting recently.
Humming to myself, I came bounding down the stairs, a smile on my face as I spotted Angel playing in the living room. Swiftly I scooped her up in my arms and swung her around as she squealed in delight.
"Ma-x! Put me down!" She squealed as I spun her around faster and plopped us both down on the couch.
Giggling, we both came crashing down into a sea of pillows.
She attempted to wiggle free of my grasp, moving to the farthest side of the couch opposite of me as she stuck her tongue out in retaliation.
Of course being the mature seventeen year old that I am, I stuck my tongue right back out at her, spitting for good measure.
"Ew, Max, you spit on me," she huffed as she hit me square in the face with a throw pillow.
I gaped at her before hurling myself towards her, trapping her in my grasp as I began to torture her with tickles until she surrendered.
I would not be outdone by a six year old.
"Max! No! Stop," she squealed as she squirmed in my grasp, tears welling in her eyes.
"Not until you say I'm the greatest and your favorite," I teased as my tickle torture continued.
"Fine! FINE! You're the greatest and my favorite. NOW STOP!" She ground out between laughs.
I smiled before releasing her, just as Ari came bounding in.
"What's going on here? What's with all the screaming?" He asked concerned, his hair still damp and tousled. He must have just gotten out of the shower.
"Oh nothing," I teased as I winked to Angel to keep quiet, "I was just telling Angel how you promised us Ice cream and dinner."
I smiled as Angel gasped eagerly, as she quickly made her way to my side and Ari just narrowed his eyes at me and shook his head.
"Of course you where," he teased as he rolled his eyes, "I thought you were busy though." He question, and I suddenly felt even guiltier than I had the day before.
"Nope, I'm all yours. You're stuck with me," I teased, but I couldn't miss the bright smile that found its way across his face when I said it.
I really had been neglecting them.
"Alright then, what do you guys want?" He asked, eyes bright.
"Air-bear?" Angel questioned, and all our eyes shifted to her, "Can we just stay here and have a movie day?" Her request was so innocent, and let's face it, no one could deny her.
"Of course Ange. What type of food do you want? I'll run out and get it."He answered her as she returned his smile with an even brighter one of her own.
"Um," She thought about it for a moment before answering enthusiastically, "Chinese!"
He gave a short chuckle at her enthusiasm before nodding, "Okay Ange. Max? Did you still want a burger from that place you were telling me about?"
"No. Chinese sounds good. We can go there another time."
"Alright, I'm going to head out. I'll be back soon. Do you guys want anything else?" He questioned.
"Ice cream!" Angel screamed, "Lots and lots of ice cream."
He chuckled before grabbing his keys, "Alright Ange. Chinese and ice cream. I'll be back in an hour or so. Max hold the fort down."
"Sir yes sir," I answered giving him a mock salute.
"And no boys!" He called over his shoulder as he walked out the door and shut it firmly behind him.
'Yeah, yeah," I mumbled, rolling my eyes.
"Max, come on. Let's go pick out some movies to watch." She grabbed my hand and led me to our entertainment studio.
"Sure thing Ange, just no Hocus Pocus, you remember what happened last time," I warned, giving her a knowing look.
Rumbling, she huffed and started sorting through the movies.
The next few hours went by in a blur, and I could help but feel like we needed this time- I needed this.
I couldn't remember the last time we all had this much fun just hanging out with each other.
The night was filled with laugher and love and I couldn't help but feel like it was something I was missing. I had missed this quality time with my siblings and most importantly, with my brother. I finally felt like we were headed back on the right track. That we were going to be okay.
After more than her fair share of the pint of cookie dough ice cream, Angel crashed about a third of a way through the fourth Harry Potter movie.
Smiling to myself, I scooped her up in my arms and went to carry her up the stairs.
"Hey, it's okay I've got her," Ari offered as he moved to get up from the couch.
"No, it's okay I've got her. I was going to take a shower anyways and then head off to bed."
"Are you sure?" He asked as he moved to take her.
"Yeah, I'm good."
"Alright, night Max. Thanks for tonight," he winked and I smiled back in return.
"No need to thank me. Night Air-Bear," I smiled as he kissed Angel goodnight and then moved to kiss my cheek as well.
Smiling, I made my way up the stairs and tucked Ange into bed before heading to take a shower.
I finally feel like things were heading in the right direction and that my relationship with Ari was mended.
Of course, you should never count your chickens before the hatch.
I made it to the beach about ten minutes till nine, Guitar in hand.
It hadn't been easy leaving the house, my mother was smothering me. She wanted to know where I was going, who I was going to be with and most of all, she demanded that we talk.
Ha. Fat chance.
I made my way over to the make shift stage where I spotted Iggy and Nudge setting up his drum set.
"Hey guys, what's up?" I greeted as I set my case down and began plugging in cords to the amp.
"Hey man." Iggy greeted, not looking up from the task at hand.
"Hey Fang! How are you? Last night was crazy. I mean with your mom and everything. The tension was so thick I swear you could have-" she rambled, but Iggy quickly cut her off.
"Nudge." He whispered harshly, giving her a hard glare to shut her up.
"Oh, hehe, sorry. Shutting up now."
I smirked in return, before strumming a few chords to tune.
"So um, Max isn't coming?" She questioned, eyeing me curiously.
I spared a glance over to Iggy, who just shrugged in return before answering, "No, she was busy."
"Oh, well, that's her house down there, and her light just came on. There's still time to go get her," She offered, smiling encouragingly.
I glanced up to Iggy for advice, "Well we don't go on for another thirty minutes. It's worth a shot."
Signing, I decided it was better to give in than listen to both Nudge and Iggy lecturing me all night.
"Fine, I'll be back in a few. Iggy do not touch my Les Paul. I don't want a repeat of last year," I warned, eyeing him accusingly.
He gapped at me, in mock offense, "Oh my God it was an accident and you're never going to let me forget it are you?"
"Yeah, well your little accident cost me over a thousand dollars to fix," I reminded him as he grumbled.
I left him with Nudge probing him to elaborate as I made my way over to Max's house. I had never actually been in Max's room, which I'm sure Ari would be pleased with, so I wasn't quite sure which window was hers, but I took my best guess.
Picking up a few shells, I threw them at the second story window, and prayed for the best.
I had just finished my shower when I heard something hitting my window. At first I didn't pay it any mind, but it kept happening, the little pecking.
Confused, I made my way over to the window and opened it, only to be hit right between the eyes with a seashell.
"Ow," I grumbled, rubbing the sore spot between my eyes before moving to see what the hell just happened.
"Sorry Max," a voice whispered.
I knew that voice.
"Fang?" I whisper-yelled as I hung my head out the window for a better look, only to find darkness.
"Yeah, it's me. Sorry about the shell. I wasn't expecting you to open the window," he answered as he turned his phone flashlight on, allowing me to see him.
"What are you doing here? Ari's going to kill me and you both if he catches us," I warned, but I couldn't help but feel excited and dangerous by the thrill of knowing we could be caught at any moment.
"So we won't get caught," He teased, a playful smirk playing on his lips.
"Cute," I mused, "But you didn't answer my question, what are you doing here?"
"Oh right, ahem," He cleared his throat, and I knew this was bound to be good, "Juliet, Juliet, so beautiful and tall, take a chance on some adventure, and climb down the wall."
Snickering I responded to his cheesy request, "What are you on? Whatever it is you've either taken too much or not enough because you are insane if you think I'm going to scale down this wall."
"Oh come on Max, be daring for once in your life. Don't be such a chicken," He provoked, and he knew he had me.
Maximum Ride would not be accused of being a coward.
Huffing, I gave in.
"Alright, give me a second," I called down to him as I quickly made my way to change.
After changing, I decided it would be best to take a few safety precautions. Thinking quickly, I stuffed a few pillows under the covers to make it look like I was asleep.
What? It was worth a shot, it works on television shows- sometimes.
Taking one more quick look around, I shut off my light, and moved to climb out the window.
Fang obviously was one step ahead of me, because he had found a landscaping ladder and propped it against the house for me.
Taking a calming deep breath, I began climbing down the ladder to meet him. As I reached the bottom, I missed a step, and lost my gripping, sending me falling to my death- okay it was only about a foot but it would have been bad had Fang not caught me.
Just as I was about to fall flat on my ass, Fang reached out and caught me in his arms, smirking.
"Awe, my hero," I teased in a bad southern accent, swooning over him, only adding to his large ego.
"Gees Max, I think you just fell for me, hard."
Laughing at his own bad joke, I have him a shove, signaling him to put me down as I rolled my eyes and shook my head.
"Alright, you've had your fun, now where are we going?" I question as he removed the ladder from the side of the house and hid it.
Coming up to my side, he took my hand and led to towards the beach.
"Beach Bash," He answered cryptically, "You once mentioned that you wanted to hear me play. Here's your chance."
I was just about to respond, and knock his ego down a few notches when I felt something, or more specifically someone crash into me.
"OMG MAX! You came! Yay! Isn't this so fun? And the boys are playing. We have hot boyfriends in a band how cool is that?" Nudge rambled on before stopping. She looked as though she had just remembered something.
"Oh, Fang there you are. Iggy says you're on in five. He said something about if Max was with you, the first song was GGGB. Whatever that means," she finished offhandedly.
However, I didn't miss the eye roll on Fang's part when she mentioned the song.
"Of course that's what they chose. Alright, guess that's my cue. You guys have fun."
He gave me a quick peck on the cheek before moving towards the stage and taking his place.
"Any guess as to what that GGGB stands for?" I questioned, but Nudge just shrugged.
"Nope, but we'll find out, come on let's get a good spot so we can look at our men."
We made our way over to the stage and got a prime spot right before the boys took the stage.
"Hello Beach Bass goers! How's everyone doing tonight?"
Sam was greeted with a chorus of cheers.
"Alright, we're going to start this thing off right. This one's for all you Good Girl who are bad at heart, for all the girls who snuck out to be here tonight, and for all the girls breaking the rules. We know you can't keep a bad girl down." Iggy tease the crowd, throwing a not so discreet wink in my direction.
I'm going to kill him.
"Here's to Good Girls Gone Bad." And on cue, they started playing Cobra Starship's Good Girls Go Bad.
Iggy took the lead, with Fang and the rest of the band singing background, but I knew who they were singing to.
I make them good girls go badI make them good girls goGood girls go badGood girls go bad
I know your typeYeah daddy's lil' girlJust take a biteLet me shake up your worldCause just one night couldn't be so wrongI'm gonna make you lose control
Mid song, I caught Fang's eye, shaking my head as he smirked and threw a wink in my direction.
He was dead and he knew it.
After a few more sets, the band announced they would be taking a short break and would be back in fifteen minutes.
Nudge and I made our way over to the side exit of the stage to wait for them. Iggy and Fang descended from the stairs with smirks playing on their lips.
Smirking back as they came up to my side, I swiftly smack Iggy in the back of the head, whipping his smug smirk right from his face.
"Ow," Iggy groaned, holding his head, "What was that for?"
"That was for suggesting that song and hinting to why it was played," I informed him before turning to Fang and smacking his as well, "And that was for going along with it. Beavis, haven't you learned by now not to go along with Butthead's dumb ideas?"
"Apparently not," Fang grumbled as he held is head.
Rolling her eyes, Nudge decided to change the subject, "So, what do you guys want to do during your break?"
It looked as though Fang was going to speak, but Iggy cut him off, giving him a hard stare.
"Um, Fang actually told me he wanted to go for a private walk with Max. They have things to talk about," Iggy hinted, as Fang glared harshly back at him.
Before he could object, Iggy moved to whisper something in his ear. I couldn't be certain, but it sounded an awful lot like, "You need to tell her," but I wasn't sure.
"Nudge, care to accompany me to the refreshment table?" Iggy didn't leave room for argument as he grabbed her hand and lead her far away from us.
"Soo," I started, feeling a bit uneasy by the awkward silence.
"So, how about that walk."
Smiling, we linked hands and walked farther down the beach, far away from the party.
"So,"I cleared my throat, avoiding his stare as I continued, "Um, you never did say how things with your mom went last night."
He sighed heavily as he plopped himself down in the sand and I took it as my cue to join him.
"Yeah, well that's because I'm trying my hardest to forget it," he confessed as he rubbed at his eyes.
"Why though?" I pried, wanting, no, needing a little more of an answer from him, "I mean I guess I just don't really understand what happened."
Sighing again, waited a moment before answering.
"My mom and I don't necessarily have the best relationship. We haven't for a while."
I waited for a moment for him to continue, but when he didn't I decided to fish for more answers.
"She's not abusive is she?" I asked, slightly worried. I mean not that Fang couldn't hold his own, but it was still a possibility.
He laughed a little at this, "You'd have to be present to abuse someone. No, she's not abusive. Not physically at least."
His word choice had me worried, so I had to pry further, "Is she mentally abusive then? Fang it's okay you can tell me."
"No Max, she's not abusive. She just," he stopped for a moment, choosing his words wisely, "She just good at holding grudges. She's had one against me for, a while now."
"A grudge? For what?" I questioned, a bit flabbergasted. What find of a person has that hostile of a relationship with their son over a grudge?
"What'd you do?" I joked, trying to lighten the mood, "Miss curfew? Fail a class? Secretly go out with someone when she forbid it?"
He forced a chuckle, but his smile didn't quite meet his eyes.
"Um,no," he started, his voice going quite, as if he said it too loud something bad would happen, "No, she blames me for something that happened a few years ago. She claims it's my fault she lost something important to her."
I knew that I was pushing now, but I had to know.
"What was it?"
My question lingered in the air, as silence engulfed us, nothing but the sound of our breathing and the waves breaking against the sand.
When I realized he wasn't going to answer, I decided to ask what I had been dying to since I found the picture of the little girl in his wallet.
"Hey Fang," I asked, drawing him out of his thoughts as he turned to look at me, "Can I ask you something?"
He eyed me curiously for a second before answering, "Sure."
"And you have to promise to not get mad and answer honestly," I added quickly as an afterthought.
He blew air upward, moving his hair out of his eyes before agreeing, "I'll try my best."
Good enough guess. Okay, it's now or never.
"I, um," I started, suddenly feeling like this was the worst idea ever, "I want to know about the girl in the photos."
My words were quite, barely above a whisper, and I wondered if I had said them loud enough for Fang to hear, because he hadn't made an attempt to answer.
I was about to ask again when he spoke.
"What girl?" He seemed genuinely confused.
"You know," I began, swallowing hard before whispering, "Your little angel."
I watched as Fang visibly tensed. I had hit a nerve, and I desperately wished I could take it back.
He fixed his gaze forward, shoulders still tense when he asked harshly, "How do you know about that?"
"I um, saw the picture in your wallet awhile ago, I just didn't want to say anything," I confessed, hoping he'd fill me in on the missing links.
Fang looked down, a sad look glossing over his eyes. He started the run sand through the sand, avoiding my gaze as he took a deep breath.
"I knew I was going to have to tell you eventually, I just." He started but faltered, shaking his head as if he was shaking out all the jumble thoughts, " I didn't know how to tell you, what to say."
I gave his hand a tight squeeze reassuring him, urging him to continue. He gave my hand a quick squeeze back before starting intently off into the shoreline.
"That girl, the one from the photo," He clarified, his voice becoming raspy, "is Emily."
He paused, rubbing harshly at his eyes and I waited patiently for him to continue.
He cleared his throat a few times before continuing.
"She was the most important person in my entire life. God she was perfect. Our little ray of sunshine, our angle."
I caught his familiar use of words, the same phrase scribbled on the back of the first photo I'd found.
He took in a shuttering breath before turning to face me, his eyes locking with my own. I nearly gasped at emotions clearly written all over his face. For once he was not his passive self, he was vulnerable, leaving his eyes an open book, and it was a sad one.
My heart gave a painful clench as I took in his appearance. Pain, betrayal and guilt clearly displayed for all to see.
Unshed tears began to well in his eyes before he spoke again, his voice broken.
"Emily was my sister."
I gave a short gasp as his confession sunk in.
Fang had a sister.
But suddenly, I realize his choice of words and my heart sunk to the bottom of my stomach.
Careful not to push, I gently prompted him with a quiet insinuation, "Was?"
He choked back a sob as a single tear escaped from his eyes.
"She died two years ago." He whispered barely audible.
"Oh,Fang" I choked, reaching for him and clinging tightly to him, "I'm so sorry."
He bit his lip, preventing the sob to escape his throat as he harshly wiped his tears from his face.
"No," he laughed bitterly, scaring me a bit, "You don't get it. That's why my mother hates me. It's why my father left."
I felt my heart break as I saw the hurt and inner turmoil Fang was going through.
"Fang, you're not making any sense," I tried to gently encourage him to elaborate, but I wasn't prepared for what he was going to say next.
He choked back another heart wrenching sob, tears now falling freely.
"I'm the reason why she's dead. I killed her."