Piper's name became a curse word in the Vause household. Even though words like "fuck" or "shit" were used as commonly as "the" and "that", no one dared utter the forbidden name.
It was like Voldemort. Except he was a she and she was worse.
Amelia hadn't spoken to Piper. Not since she scared her out of her skin the day of conferences. She still inhabited her usual corner of First Period AP English, but whenever the teacher's pleading eyes would search for any glimpses of forgiveness in her's, she'd make sure Piper knew that there was nothing to find.
And Piper fucking knew.
They spoke only twice over the two weeks of tension. Both times made the teacher want to hide beneath her skin. The first time was when Amelia was in the faculty workroom copying papers for the bubbly guidance councilor standing next to her.
"Oh, Amelia! Have you met Miss Chapman? She's the new AP English teacher," the New York accent beamed. Amelia wasn't enthused. Her burnished eyes were lackluster and her face was like icy metal.
"No, no I haven't."
That made Piper sink into her shoes.
The second time was when she had spilled water all over the girl's shirt. Piper was apologizing profusely and offered her a jacket from her car.
"It's fine." She mumbled as she elbowed past. But Piper wasn't done, she caught the girl's tattooed arm before it could escape her reach.
"Amelia." Piper's hand slipped down to her wrist and she ran her thumb over the pulse point, almost as if she was writing an apology there.
But Amelia snatched her hand away and left, stuffing both of them into the depths of her pockets and stranding Piper in her ocean of regret.
Amelia fiddled with the stubborn zipper on her fleece as she hummed a catchy song about animals and a cage in between frustrated sighs. The girl made two good decisions that day. Her first was staying behind to study and get a few steps ahead of her classmates. Her second was calling a cab to avoid the frigid walk back to the apartment. So all there was left on her agenda was to wait. The school seemed empty. Only a few locker slams and footsteps served as a soundtrack for the eerie setting. But her senses perked up when she heard furious heeled footsteps inching closer to her. Then they ran wild when a firm hand clenched her ear, dragging her into a classroom.
The grip on her cartilage was tight as it almost crushed her barbell. Amelia whipped around to see her captor.
Piper Fucking Chapman.
She released the girl's ear and adjusted her stance, assuring that she dominated over her.
"The fuck?" Amelia massaged the pain as she tucked her hair behind her pounding ear.
"That was for slapping me." Piper's face was emotionless, chilling the room itself to the core. It almost scared Amelia how blasé she looked and how low her voice settled in her throat. Nothing scared Amelia Vause. And even the implication that she feared Robot Piper was a statement.
"Look, I know that the situation is complicated for you, but let's be adults about this. The Silent Treatment? Really? How juvenile can you be? You know, Alex didn't even tell me her last name or that you even existed. So what do you care? I don't see why you're so emotional over all of this." Almost immediately did Amelia's heart soar up to her throat, but she coaxed it back down to its place in her chest by swallowing down the words.
"You know, I can easily take off letter grades or even report you to Principle Healy for your unnecessary behavior and the way you've been treating your authoritative figures. After all, I am your teacher. I should be exacting that power over immaturity like the kind you've been displaying. You're acting like a baby. Get a grip, kid. Shit like this happens all the time."
Piper was cold. Her voice was frozen over by some blizzard of apathy and anger that made Amelia's breath feel visible. She looked as if someone would turn to ice at her touch and the sheer blueness of her eyes didn't help much. She epitomized the essence of cold then. But Amelia didn't freeze over.
She ground down on her cheek, just as her mother did, and swallowed down a bad taste in her mouth. She calmly swept up the disarray of thoughts and breathed.
If Piper can keep her cool, so can you.
"Piper, I know this happened to you too. Don't try and fake toughness you don't have. I can smell the alcohol from the back of the classroom."
Piper's cold front began to crack.
"I'm so sorry. I really am. And I'm also so sorry for lashing out the way I did. It was really immature and unfair of me. I shouldn't have treated you so badly and thrown all of that in your face. But you walked right into this. I hate to tell you, but I'm sure you know about that already.
Piper denied it. She pushed the accusation so far beneath the surface that it began to rot with the dead. But she knew it was true. She would always fucking know it was true.
"So what if you didn't know about me or what her last name was? That shouldn't matter and evidently, it didn't matter until now."
Amelia wasn't cold against Piper's chill. Her voice breathed warmth and light against the ice the blonde had built. But Piper resisted it with everything she had, sheeting her expression with another layer of frost.
"You didn't have to end it. You both knew you fucking needed each other. Alex still needs you. And you need her too. And yes, I know it's hard for the both of you because of bad luck and shit like that, but it's so clear. So clear, Piper. And on another note, did you have to mention drugs when you left? That reached back into stuff you didn't have a clue about. Yes, people have ridiculed her for the life she lives but Pipes, when I found out it was you, it hurt. I'm just disappointed that an intelligent person who I looked up to stooped so low. That was a letdown. That really. Fucking. Let me down."
They stood there silently, gazing at each other, having nothing to cut the silence. Piper's furrowed brow raised, just enough to soften her iron glare. Even if her eyes still held a blade to Amelia's neck.
"You looked up to me?" Amelia folded her jacketed arms across her chest and shifted her focus to her shoes.
"I hope that wasn't the only thing you heard. But yeah. I- I looked up to you." She brought her brown eyes back up to meet the blonde's. But this time they were filled with glass and they shimmered beneath her lashes.
It was Piper's turn to swallow down a bitter taste.
"You were my friend. My best friend. I knew that you never looked down on me for a second and I knew that you enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed your's.You treated me like an equal. And I know you're a lot older than me, but I know that I was your's too." Her voice had uneven tremors behind it and she visibly bit down on her cheek harder.
She was trying so hard. So fucking hard not to cry. Piper knew it too. And it made her body hurt like hell. Watching her try to resist the tides emotion in her glossy eyes was like watching a maimed fawn trying to stand against a lion. Excruciating. Heart wrenching.
"You're using the past tense." Piper's voice was still dull and her arms with still crossed, but her face was splintered a little. Just enough to show that she had feelings.
"You are. I'm just having a hard time finding her right now." Amelia gave in. She finally blinked down the tears she fought so hard against. The droplets caught in her lashes like dew in a web as more spilled down her gaunt cheeks.
And it took only those few tears to send the ice castle crashing down.
Piper forgot her own toughness or wrath when she saw Amelia cry. Even silently. She didn't see mature or scholarly Amelia standing in front of her. She didn't see normal seventeen-going-on-thirty Amelia either. She saw child-like Amelia. Not immature or weak, child-like. She saw the girl in her most innocent, pure, and meek form with her tear stained eyes and stripped guard. Seeing the sadness rain down from her deepened eyes made Piper understand why mothers never wanted to see their children cry. Ever.
Piper dropped her gated arms and rushed to her, without thinking for a moment about the hard exterior she put on before. She kissed the top of Amelia's head and held her lips there as the girl wrapped her arms around the blonde. Amelia's tears seeped into Piper's chest, making the woman instinctively pull her in closer.
She drew backward and tenderly swiped her thumb across the girl's cheek.
"Amelia, I am so fucking sorry. I'm sorry for screwing everything up. I shouldn't have been so reckless and scared and tossed around something so delicate without any knowledge. That was a really dick move. I fucked up a lot of things and you fucked up a lot of things and we both did a lot of shit that hurt each other. But I’m sorry for everything. None of this should’ve happened the way it did and I shouldn’t have been so selfish. You are my best friend. My fucking best friend who is 15 years younger than me and whose friendship I am not near worthy of. And we're gonna fix this and it's all going to be okay."
Piper's voice was determined and apologetic now. It had no trace of resentment in in whatsoever. Her hands were on Amelia's shoulders and moved to clean the makeup from underneath the girl's eyes. Then Piper smiled at her, earning a younger smile in return.
"That should be a movie line."
"Don't ruin the moment."
"Wait, does that mean I'm gonna have to call you Mom?"
And they were back.
Alex was sleeping in her room again. If it wasn't for Amelia catching a bad case of the flu, she would've spent the summer and the next year in her daughter's bed. She'd drift to sleep to the scratching of No 2 pencil against the white wall as if it was a lullaby and she'd instinctively pull her little spoon closer to her body when she'd wake up in the middle of the night. She would've stayed in the fond cocoon of percale sheets for forever.
But leaving had its perks.
From the outside looking in, it seemed like the notion of Piper's existence had been wiped clean from her memory. She was going out again. Moans reverberated against the walls of the penthouse at night again. Alex picked up her eyeliner and red lipstick and stepped into her dark noir heels again. It was like nothing ever happened.
But something did happen. And it was a memory wasn't ready to be forgotten.
Alex had to make her own coffee that morning. Independence was a staple in her lifestyle, but it was a vast switch in gears to touch the unnecessarily complex coffee machine. Her bare feet were numb against the tile as she paced in aimless steps, her hands absorbing the generous warmth her mug gave off. She finished working early, shaking hands with accented men through a telephone line and transferring more loads of cash halfway across the world. The whole place was to herself. Amelia had gone out to take a test with an acronym that scared the shit out of the poor thing. She toured the place as she let the morning settle in her bones. She hummed through the kitchen, stealing an apple from the Italian glass bowl in the center. Then through the living room, where she set her mug down before starting on her food. She ignored her room and her unmade bed and then found herself breathing in the paint-scented air of Amelia's studio. She shuffled around and flipped through numerous sketchbooks. Portraits of unknown faces, geometric doodles (which looked far too sophisticated to be classified with doodles), buildings, and other abstract pieces.
They were beautiful. Exceptional. Amelia's. And it made Alex swell with motherly pride.
Her fingers turned over a page and her heart stopped.
It was a sketch of Piper.
She didn't shut the book or rip the page from its binding. Nor did she feel the sting of anger seethe in her chest. She found herself locking eyes with the No. 2 pencil version of the blonde. The sketch was simple. It was only made up of lines and cross-hatchings. But somehow, Amelia managed to capture the little details of her. Even though the only color used was gray, she saw her blonde hair and sapphire eyes glistening through the graphite. Alex couldn't help but picture actual Piper. How her laugh was like music to score a feel-good movie she'd actually watch and how her gleaming smile was something to behold. She remembered how her head felt on her chest as they nestled beneath the covers. How right it felt. How fucking perfect it felt. It sent pain shooting in her veins, but she still smiled down at Piper, encapsulating every remain the page held. She ghosted her thumb over her face, barely touching the page in fear of ruining it somehow.
"Having fun?" Amelia laughed as her startled mother turned to her, flustered.
"Oh. Hey. Uh, yeah."
Alex was tough, but god, was she a terrible actor.
"Which one?" She walked over to Alex and leaned her head again her mother's side, to which Alex responded by placing a kiss on her temple and a quick “I love you” in her ear. Seeing her hand caressing Piper's sketch, Amelia practically felt the nostalgia radiating off of Alex's chest. It made the girl's heart pick up it's pace.
"Oh. Yeah, she was helping me study one day and I sketched her during a break." The woman hummed in response. The heaviness of longing weighted the oxygen they breathed. Amelia nuzzled her nose into Alex's shoulder before speaking.
"How are you feeling by the way?"
"I'm okay I guess. I'm getting by."
"Mom, no you're not." Alex's thumb stopped its motion as she gave the girl a puzzled look.
"You've been bringing people home every night this week. 18 this month. You've been sleep walking into my room or the kitchen at night and I move you to the couch or your room. You know you sleep talk? You mumble all these sentences about how good you're gonna give it to Piper or you make these weird sex noises. Do you seriously dream that much about fucking my English teacher?" Alex's gaze fell in embarrassment first, but then it went back at Piper. She swallowed down a thick lump that was growing in her throat as she blinked at the portrait.
"Do you love her?" Alex was hesitant to look at Amelia, expecting her face to be creased with frustration or disappointment. But when Alex shyly brought her eyes to meet Amelia's they were far from harsh. They were awed. Spilling with sympathy and understanding like some middle aged mother with a lovesick daughter. Alex was silent.
Alex was scared.
There was a new color of fear that pigmented her eyes, along with all the other emotions that one feels when they're in love. It was a sort of fear that someone feels when they're fascinated with something. When there's a thunderstorm outside and they want nothing but to go outside and feel as one with the cracks of lighting. Feel the cold rain bullet down against their skin and scream along to the song of the storm. That's what their love was. A storm. A storm they would weather over and over again.
Amelia's knowing eyes smiled to compliment the shape of her lips. She pulled out her phone from her pocket and handed it to her mother after a few taps.
"Keep the picture." The girl walked away, sliding the large door shut and leaving Alex to herself. The light of Piper's contact glared back from the screen, waiting for her to do something with it. Her finger hovered over the bright black numbers as her blood flared in her veins. And without even thinking, she brought the phone to her ear and waited.
Straight to voicemail.
Alex cleared her throat just in time for her cue to speak.
Hi, Piper. It's- It's me. Alex. Uh. If you get this, meet me at the bar at 10. I think we should talk.