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/qst/ - Quests

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Prove you don't need luck

You play as Delilah, an unfortunate young girl going through tough times.

=Links and Information=


Thanks to an anon, here is the pastebin of just the text. With threads purposely being misarchived, this should be available and accessible instead:
Melancholic Quest Collection 1 (1-4): http://pastebin.com/hTK0fQmd
Melancholic Quest Collection 2: http://pastebin.com/cX4HC6Q9
Melancholic Quest Collection 3: http://pastebin.com/sTuR8xJv
Melancholic Quest Collection 4: http://pastebin.com/RPwa7nEt
Melancholic Quest Collection 5: http://pastebin.com/DJ71TtFc
Melancholic Quest Collection 6: http://pastebin.com/xxCdZfx6
Melancholic Quest Collection 7: http://pastebin.com/7skcyeX0 (embed)
Thread 29 (Misarchived as Gorgon Child) http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/700562/

Twitter; @Cowboy_Sue
Discord; https://discord.gg/8CCdcQ3 <--updated to be working
>Delilah managed to get past the jammed door and into one of the secret rooms below the floor
>she found pallets of packages and carried one up with her
>indirect questioning with Palmer let Delilah know that she's probably got a bag of coke hidden in her room now
>Crockett got absolutely pissed at Palmer for telling the story about how she got hurt during a job
“Ace…?” It doesn’t matter how many times you say it, addressing Crockett by first name feels too strange. And it catches his attention, making his glare on Palmer drop so he can look at you in disbelief instead. The attention makes you nervous but somehow you smile through it. “Do you remember the first time we met, when you gave me a ride?”

He’s hesitant to nod, looking uneasy at where your story might go. “I remember, of course.”

“You let me walk out of the car at the end,” you say. “You let me go out on my own back then.”

“Only because I didn’t know if I could keep you safe yet,” Crockett’s answer snaps out as he takes a step or two towards you. “If I knew that you would have been even a little better off with me then I would have taken you with, I swear.”

You wonder if Palmer also notices the desperation in his voice or if it’s your imagination at play. She allows you to speak, hopefully grateful that you’ve taken the heat off of her.

“I know that had to be hard and I’m not blaming you for anything.” Your thoughts ask you to back away from him, but your feet take you closer instead. If you’re going to get through this right, you’re going to have to ignore any feelings to run away. “But that meant you trusted me to take care of myself back then, didn’t it?”

“Only because I couldn’t promise you safety yet-”

With Crockett focusing on the wrong part of the conversation, you’re forced to speak blunter. “You let me go out on my own,” you interrupt him if only to keep him calm. Though he stops talking you can see the deep lines of worry down his face as he mulls over his past action. “You knew what I went through before the day we met and you knew what it took for me to get here. It’s been um, quite a bit, hasn’t it?”

His mustache hitches up with the dismal scowl below it, “That’s why I’m doing everything I can to help you now, to make up for those times I should have been there. Not knowing where you were having to sleep or the people you’d encounter, all of that tore me up inside.”

The smile on your face feels weak but manages to stay up anyways and you gesture to yourself. “And through all of the worst of it, I made it here.” As much as you’d like to believe that your words will be enough to sway him, you can still recognize this as an uphill battle. You bury any reluctance as you come closer to Crockett, telling yourself that it’ll be worth the bit of freedom you might earn.

You hug him despite his disheveled appearance from last night’s drinking and it takes everything you have to keep smiling as you speak to him. “You’re amazing for helping me so much, you really, really are. Please don’t scold her, she wasn’t telling me anything nearly as bad as what I’ve already been through.”
Crockett , still in shock by the actions, only manages to place a hand on your shoulder. And more importantly it's not enough force to make you stay. You count down the seconds in your head as you embrace him for as long as you can stand it. It’s not soon enough when you get precious distance between you two again, and you have to remind yourself to smile through it.

“Don’t worry,” you try to laugh, “ I don’t think Ms. Palmer was telling me anything worse than what I’ve already seen on TV anyways. If someone tries to tell me something really awful though, I’ll come tell you right away. And you have to promise to take care of it right away and no matter, okay?”

“Yeah Ace,” Palmer chuckles as she elbows him from behind, “She’s relying on you to be there when it matters, no need to go barking at every bird you hear outside.”

There’s a brief moment where he looks ready to turn back to berate her again, but a wavering smile creeps to Crockett’s face as he pats his chest. “Right, don’t be afraid to come to me if that happens. Of anything else, I’ve always got my door open for you sweetie--”

“Ease up a bit there pal,” Palmer yanks back on the scruff of his collar, shaking her head at him. “Don’t go trying to say stuff like that while you still smell like last night. What are you doing like this anyways, I thought we had a big job today. You want to be out working on that shed after the sun’s down and we’re freezing our asses off even worse?”

Palmer nods at you, a smile on her face as she gives a silent promise to handle things from here. As she takes her turn to scold him for not being ready yet, you give quick goodbyes to them before dashing out of the kitchen. Pacing around the couch, it takes some time for you to suppress the fear of finding a new lock on your bedroom door.

“-and he was really yelling at Palmer when he came in, I was scared they’d start fighting.” You stare up at the ceiling as you roll around on the bed, hugging a pillow to your chest. For the rest of the day you kept out of trouble, though you couldn’t help but check to make sure your little finding today was still hidden. When Lawrence came home a few hours after the sun had set, you finally had someone to talk to again.

For the past few minutes you’ve been listening to the squeak and release of the spring in Lawrence’s hand. He explained that the hand grip would help his arm heal, though it only took a minute or two for the hisses of pain to start.

It’s hard to listen with him struggle with it, but he already told you how important it was for him to finish the exercise. You’ve been trying to help the time pass by quicker as you tell him about parts of your day.

“I don’t know what I would do if they did start arguing bad,” you flip over to your side to watch as Lawrence’s speed slows even further than it had been before. His fingers have started to strain to pull the grip shut and the gaps between attempts grows wider. “I hope I did the right thing back there. I just tried to tell him I could handle some cop stories. She was telling me about the time she got shot on the job, they got her through a door. But Crockett got really, really mad by her talking about that for some reason. And then she said something about hiding ‘the juicy details’ from me…”

You stop talking when the timer goes off and Lawrence is able to quit with the grip. His arm goes lax and he falls back in the chair, stretching out his fingers and trying to relieve the ache. He hasn’t give you any real details about his day yet, not that that’s unusual. But it makes you wonder if his day has been as adventurous as yours. Knowing what’s hidden beneath the floorboards while no one else does makes your heart race, it’s both exciting and terrifying.

And now that you know what’s in those bound packages, now that you know it’s coke down there, you wonder if it can be useful. Maybe if you told Lawrence about it, he’d know what exactly to do with it. If you could get even a little bit of cash for it, wouldn’t that be helpful?

The best part is that even if Lawrence takes away the one that you brought up, you don’t have to tell him about the rest yet. The packages and packages of them hidden away are for your knowledge alone until you figure out what to do with them.

Do you to tell Lawrence about the package of coke you’ve got hidden in your room?
hehehehe. Sometimes I forget how damn cute Delilah is. Good to see you back Sue, how are things?

Bring it up as a hypothetical.
We don't really know how he'd react to the fact that he's sitting on a ton of drugs, so let's try to gauge his response via goofy hypothetical questions.
It would be a good time to talk about other more fun stuff too. Mushy silly stuff to lighten the mood.
Damn dude, I followed this quest when it was just starting out way back before I dropped off the grid. Good to hear you're still running.

I won't vote now until I'm all caught up but power to you.
This, pretty much.
Once more, you’re going to have to step through this delicately. You sit up and fiddle with the edge of the pillow as you prepare to get through this.

“It’s kinda funny that we’ve got two cops walking around here, isn’t it? Crockett’s even been sleeping here- at least I hope he’s been sleeping. I know he’s been going around trying to fix stuff or move it around, I wonder if he’s found anything c-...criminal yet.”

A smirk tugs on Lawrence’s face as his eyes flicker between you and the wrist he massages. You bite the inside of your cheek to keep from giggling out of nervousness.

“Like, imagine if they were digging around in that shed and moving stuff around. And like, Crockett looks inside a barrel and finds a package like uh, like this big,” you hold your hands out to mimic the bundle you found. “And he pulls it out and cuts it open and a whole bunch of um, what’s that stuff you sometimes see in movies? Heh like, that white powdery stuff? It kind of looks like sugar but it’s not.”

Lawrence’s face lights up at the description and he mouths out the word ‘coke’ to himself. What surprises you is how excited he looked at the mention of it. He at least doesn’t look ready to try and hush the topic yet.

“Or what if like, one of us found it instead?” your fake laugh follows after. “Maybe like uh, hidden in one of the walls or something. Heheh, what do you think I should do with it?”

He gives a slow nod but there's a distant look in his eyes. Lawrence is thinking something over, snapping out of the trance all at once and searching for his notepad. You come off the bed and stand beside him, resting a hang on his good shoulder as you pull back the hair around your ear.

“It might be better if you whisper it to me,” you smile. While you are concerned him using his arm now, you can make sure there’s no evidence left behind of whatever he might say. “It’s okay if you have to take your time, I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”
You hold your breath to listen as Lawrence speaks out each hoarse word.

“They’d toss it- better to sell it,” you repeat back and he nods, only to put up a doofy grin and explain he’s just kidding. You can’t help the smile when you ask, “Why not? Would it not be worth a lot?”

‘Whole lot’ he mouths to you, chest moving more as he laughs silently.

“It’d be worth a whole lot huh?” you try not to look too excited by the thought, “Then maybe it would be really great if something like that fell into my hands.”
Lawrence agrees so eagerly you have to question if he’s thinking only about the potential money. At least now you know it’s worth trying to keep around.

“But then that would mean something exciting happened here, and you know that doesn’t happen,” you grin wide. “But that just means I’ll have to keep poking around this place until I find something like that.”

Before he can try t0 warn you to not go around looking for trouble, you think about the letter you had also found down there.

“And I think I’m going to try and learn Italian,” you say. “At least a little more than what I already know. Which isn’t much at all, just little things I heard at my grandpa’s house.”

Trying to copy the grand stance you always remembered your grandfather in, you try to also lower your voice and mimic the thick accent his words carried.

Per favore, mi uh… mi scusi? And um, mi amor.” Your face is red hot when you finish the few words you know and give Lawrence a cheesy grin. “How did that sound? I’m a natural right?”

‘Might upset Cam or doc’ is the answer Lawrence signs out slow for you, first making you take the time to figure out each hand motion only to pout when you figured it out.

“Just you wait then, I’ll be great at it in no time!” You crinkle your nose at him, “I’ll get so good that I’ll be able to take you around Italy and then you’ll feel bad for saying I wasn’t ever good at it.”

‘You want to see?’ he signs next and you nod before another thought. But when you do think it over, the idea of Lawrence going with you all the way overseas makes your heart skip a beat.

“Maybe I could visit the place my grandpa was from,” you try to speak slowly as to not let all your wonderful new plans rush out in a jumbled word mess. “And then we can see all the best sights there, and not just Italy. If we’re over there anyways, why not see everything we can? We could backpack everywhere or stay in really nice hotels, it’d be like one long d-date heh…”

And you can’t help but keep talking about all the countries you might want to go, famous places in movies you’ve seen or vacations your friends had taken. As you talk you begin to wonder what it would take for you two to get there, what you could do to make it happen. A trip like that would be wonderful, not that you wouldn’t be happy going anywhere with him. It would be signs of better times though, just like any of the other plans you’ve made, and the thoughts of them almost make you too excited to fall asleep almost an hour later.

You wake to the heavy steps of pacing, steps that stop in place for a few moments before starting back again. As your hand reaches for the empty sheets next to you there’s only traces of warmth left, it seems Lawrence has been for a while now.

First you wait, hoping that he’s merely looking for the light switch or about to return to bed. But the longer you hear him walk back and forth the more you become nervous, and finally whisper out.

“Is something wrong?” you ask directionless, squinting at his shadow against the dark. Lawrence stops in place, maybe hoping that you would go right back to sleep, but you sit up instead. The frame squeaks as he comes to sit on the side, hand grabbing at his right arm.

“Do I need to get help?” you ask and he shakes his head, stretching out his injured arm. In the dark you can feel how stiff the motions are, how his fingers seem to have a hard time just curling and uncurling.

“Is your arm hurting?” you ask, wanting to touch it but refraining from doing so. “Do I need to go get something? Or someone?”

Once again Lawrence shakes his head but you can hear the grind of his teeth as he does. After a bit of time his hand unclenches and so does his jaw, though the shallow breathing seems to show that there’s still plenty of pain.

Word by word, he whispers what the problem is.

‘Worked it too hard today- is just sore. Not that bad’

“Not that bad?” you frown, “You can’t sleep cause of it. Can’t the doctor give you something?”

When Lawrence tells you that Rizzo still isn’t here there’s a drop in your stomach.

“What about Camilla, she’s a nurse. Can’t she give you anything for it?” you ask and receive the same question. You’ve still got no idea where the two are, though no one else seems concerned by it. Lawrence mentions that one of them should be back tomorrow, but you can’t focus on asking more about that right now.

As you feel more anxious Lawrence starts whispering to you again, making you lean an ear in really close to listen.
‘Use to handle the ache better- have more trouble with it lately’

That only makes you chew your lip trying to think about what you can do for him, and a breathy chuckle catches your attention. You barely make out what Lawrence says now and you’re not really sure if he actually meant to say it to you.

“I think… these hurt… less before. When you...took care… of them.” his laugh cuts off short when he gives a sharp gasp, his body doubling over. He tries to look up at you through the dark, shaking his head. “This… will pass.”

“You should tell Rizzo when he’s back,” you say sternly and he rejects the idea.

“Will get...scolded,” he tries to smiles. “Need to… let rest.”

Rizzo is fine with you being in his office when you need your ‘supply’, you wonder if he would get mad at you for rooting around in there for Lawrence instead. Surely you could find something to help him sleep through the night at least.

As you absentmindedly drag a thumb across your lip, you think about what he said. Did everything really hurt less were there to lick his wounds? It feels too strange, but that could describe a lot about you now.

Even if you don’t try to do anything, you’re sure Lawrence will do his best to ignore it and sleep if he can. You’d feel better about it if you knew when Camilla or Rizzo were coming back for sure, and you’re certain that Lawrence himself is going to have to leave rather early.

Do you want to try looking in Rizzo’s office for something to help Lawrence? Or ask if he really meant it when he said you mean the pain easier to handle in the past?
Trying to hang in despite the mid-90's heat, fucking wew save me from the sun

Always nice to see someone drop by like this, nice to see you around anon!
I want to ask him about the licking, but we have to resist the urge.
He'll fight through the pain and maybe heal better due to the lack of drugs or us.
If there is anything else we could do to make him comfortable we should ask.
“Is there something I can do to help?” you ask, guilty about how useless you feel. When you can’t stand to listen Lawrence huff in pain anymore you offer, “Ice? Do you think ice would help?”

Once he gives a nod in approval you slip out of bed, trying to look at him through the dark as you inch back towards the door.

“Okay, just stay put. I’ll grab something we can use as an icepack and we’ll be okay-”

You barely bother with trying to be sneaky as you rush out from the bedroom. All you can think about is how you want this to work and what you should do if it doesn’t. All of the thinking and planning only makes it scarier when you walk into the kitchen and find yourself not alone.

Palmer sits on one end of the table, a now empty plate in front of her. In the chair across from her Crockett has started to rise up, and both adults look at you also surprised.

“Oh, Delilah. I didn’t expect you to be up at this time,” he says with a look at his watch. “What’re you doing up? Did you get dinner?”

“Yeah, I ate earlier…” you make a beeline right for the fridge, trying not to feel too nervous when Crockett comes to stand closer to you. “I just needed to come grab these um, I guess we just have frozen peas and broccoli. Unless you know where a um, actual ice pack is.”

“What do you need that for?” he eyes you carefully and you stop reaching into the freezer.

“I was playing out in the snow earlier-” your words start to come out quicker than you can think but you let it happen anyways. It’d be better if Crockett didn’t know you were always hanging out in Lawrence's room after all. “And there was this patch of ice I couldn’t see and I fell right on my side!”

You give your ribs a solid pat and scrunch up your face in fake pain, pressing the frozen vegetables against your shirt. “Don’t tell Ms. Camilla, I promise to put them back in the morning.”

Crockett looks ready to question you further, but his own drawn out yawn stops him. “Please be careful out there, if it still hurts tomorrow then tell Rizzo about it.”

“I will!” you put up a huge grin and try to turn and leave. Crockett reaches out to you, stopping himself short but you turn back around anyways.

“We were talking outside earlier,” he says while looking back over at Palmer. You can see where sweat and melted snow still leaves his clothes damp, and you can’t imagine they’ve been inside for too long. “And there’s a few things I figured I should talk to you about.”

“Right now?”

“Maybe not at this moment no,” he stifles another yawn. “If it’s alright with you, I think I’d like a few hours of sleep first.”
You nod slowly, feeling the cold burn of the bags through the shirt.

“If you feel up for it, maybe you want to just tag along with me tomorrow.” His half-lidded eyes look off to the side, “Only if you want to. I have to go in town for one thing but then maybe I could teach you a bit about driving.”

“Driving? But I’m not old enough for that yet!” You try to imagine if your feet could reach the pedals and let you look over the steering wheel.

“Sure, but we figured that’s something you should learn just in case.” A sour expression pulls on Crockett’s face as he says, “If for some reason you’re here alone and something happened, there might be times when it’s safer for you to be in a car. There’s a few safe places we could go where the snow will be cleared away too. I don’t know when’s the next time I’ll have the chance to do it though.”

He must see that you’re conflicted about it as he quickly adds, “If you want to stay here you can. We can talk when I come home for dinner.”

“And you promise none of the stuff you wanna tell me is an emergency?” you ask and Crockett nods.

“Not an emergency” he says, “but stuff I should have told you earlier.”

Do you want to go out with Crockett tomorrow and have a driving lesson?
Well it could be my puny baby brain acting up again, but I can't remember having anything else planned for the day.
So why not?
It definitely couldn't hurt to learn the basics.
“Okay,” you nod, “I’ll go.”

Crockett’s face perks up with a sluggish effort, “Really? Great, that’s great. You should get to bed then, we’ll be going kind of early. Make sure to dress warm and- sorry, you know what to do. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Good night.” You give a polite smile at him and sneak a look over to Palmer as you head towards the door. She catches your eye and gives a nod with a tired smile. After giving her a quiet goodbye you sprint back to the bedroom as your fingers freeze around the bags.

Lawrence looks to be in better condition when you come back, stretching out each stiff finger one by one without jolting in pain. He has a thankful smile on his face as you hand over the frozen bags. A deep sigh of relief follows the placement of the bags, and he falls back into bed.

“So I guess I’m going out tomorrow,” you say as you climb onto the space around him. “When I went to the kitchen I ran into Crockett and he said there was stuff he needed to tell me. But he says we need to sit down and talk about it.”

He gives you a confused look and you’re surprised he doesn’t already know what it’s about.

“He didn’t say much about it, just that it’s not an emergency. He said there’s something he has to do in town, but that he’d also teach me a bit of driving too?” You give a short laugh while your hands rub together to warm up again. “That’s a weird trip, huh? But learning how to drive a car might be neat. If he’s no good of a teacher, then you have to make up for it.”

You keep quiet about how nervous you feel for tomorrow, there’s no need to share more of the burden when he already has so much.

“Remember to put those back in the freeze when you wake up,” you warn him as settle back down, “Ms. Camilla might scold us if we waste the vegetables.”

While Lawrence tells you that he’s fine now, you know that’s not completely true. If it was, then you wouldn’t have to wake up an hour later to the sound of him pacing again. It hard to be there while he’s in pain, but you manage not to say anything this time. It’s thankfully not long when he returns like nothing had happened, though you note the absence of snoring all night.


“Looks like we’ve got decent weather for this today!”

Crockett’s far more cheery than you’ve seen him as of late. It makes you wary, if only because the rest of him doesn’t match the enthusiasm. The dark rings under his eyes makes you think he didn’t follow his own advice about getting enough sleep for today. The wrinkled coat and shirt with the dark coffee ring stained to the front only adds to the idea that he received barely enough sleep to function right now.
“And the ice shouldn’t be a problem?” you look up to the gray sky, clouds thinning out in spots but never quite enough to let the sun peek through. When Lawrence got up to leave, you made sure to move to your own bedroom for when Crockett would come wake you. Despite thinking otherwise, you managed to fall back asleep in your own bed.

Crockett was in a good mood from the moment you greeted him at the door to let him know you were getting ready and all through this car ride. While the beginning of the drive was him listening to the weather forecast for the next few days, he’s now turned the volume down to a low murmur.

“So, are you excited to learn how to drive?” he asks, hardly able to contain his grin.

“I’m kind of nervous…”

“That’s normal,” he laughs, “but I’m not going to send you down any streets yet. We’re going to be practicing in a parking lot, so there’s nothing to worry about.”

Your fingers have been tracing over the strap keeping the gun in place, feeling every little stitch lining the leather, “Except for losing control of the car and like, crashing into a wall or something.”

“I have more faith in you than that,” he says. “A couple lessons and you’ll be just as good as me.”

“What else did you say we were doing today?” you turn towards him to ask.

“Hm? Oh, my errand.” Crockett scratches at the mustache that’s grown scuffy in the past few days, “I’m cashing in a favor from a friend, that’s all. The actual visit is going to be really quick, the problem is we don’t know for sure when he can meet me. He’ll send me a message on the pager when he’s available, anytime between now and the next few hours. ”

He talks about it like it really is just a normal errand and the fact that he brought you along in the first place might be the proof of that.

Do you want to ask Crockett anything? What his plans will be when you’re finally safe once and for all, or about his past in general? If he’s willing to bring you along in the first place, then he might be willing to tell you a bit about this friend he’s going to meet. This might be a good time to test how much freedom he’s willing to give you.

long wait for a short update, but this time I have hail and rain to blame for making it take so long to get home
>If he’s willing to bring you along in the first place, then he might be willing to tell you a bit about this friend he’s going to meet.
I'm willing to ask him that.
What he wants from us after we're safe is his problem since we already have plans with Law at the end of this mess.
“So, who’s your friend?” you ask, “It wouldn’t be anyone I know, would it?”

Crockett shakes his head, “I doubt it. Used to work together at a newspaper gig I had for a bit. Nothing fancy, I’d say it was more like local gossip printed twice a week. Turns out, my buddy had a knack for it though. If you gave him enough time and money he could dig up whatever dirt you needed on somebody.”

The last thing he said perks up your ears, “Does he still work there?”

“Oh lord no. Didn’t take long for him to figure out he could get way more money doing that for clients than one column articles.” A grin cracks across his face, “One day, our boss was really chewing him out. Over something stupid probably, I remember thinking it was just like any other time. But he got up, packed up his camera and typewriter, and walked right out the door. Has been doing his own thing ever since.”

“Did you leave too?”

“Not until a few weeks later. Really should have gone with him then, from what I’ve heard he’s crazy rich now.” A short chuckle leaves him, “It’s a bit blunt to say it like that, but he really struck gold. Never settled well with me though, felt like dirty money.”

Now he really has your attention, could he really be taking you to meet someone so shifty?

“Does he do bad things for people?” you ask in a meek voice.

“Well, I haven’t heard him doing anything too heinous yet,” Crockett's face begins to sulk, “But I can’t say I’m proud of everything he’s done either.”

Confused by how endearing he had said it before you ask, “You still call him your friend though?”

“Sure, even though I haven’t seen him in years. Met up with him a few times for drinks after he quit but that was it.” The car begins to drive into town, taking you through neighborhoods to avoid the busier streets. A pang of homesickness hits you as you look at the houses passing by. They were thinner and taller than your hometown, but the bright colors look the same. A small group of kids just a bit younger than you drive by on their bicycles, laughing and stopping to toss snow at one another. It’s been a while since you’ve missed the friends you had when everything was ‘normal’. It hurts enough that you pull yourself away from the window and fidget with the dashboard’s vents.

“It was really hard to find him too,” continues Crockett, ‘Once he started getting customers, he started getting a lot of other people really angry at him. Never meets clients at his office, never tells anyone where it is either. It was hard tracking down his number, but I finally managed it.”
You glance over, “And you’re sure that’s who will show up?”

“I’d recognize his voice anywhere, there’s not a lot of guys from Manhattan around here.”

While you trust Crockett on this, knowing you have your gun handy makes you feel better.

“...I don’t think I can do this.” You hold on to the steering wheel as you look down at your feet. “I thought cars were only supposed to have two pedals, how does anyone use the third one?!”

Crockett laughs with his head crooked, hand rubbing his neck. “Remember, that’s the clutch. Try easing up on it this time.”

Frustrated, you do as he says. One hand on the key and feet over the pedals, you turn the ignition. You take your foot off the pedal faster this time and feel the car lurch forward and die immediately.

“I did it again…!” you whine and hit the steering wheel.

“That’s okay-” Crockett tries to recover from his body jerking so suddenly again, “You’re getting the hang of it, I swear. That time you needed to give it more gas, give it another go.”

Once more you try, pushing the pedal to the floor. The engine revs to an angry volume and the car zooms forward quicker than you’ve gone before. While you’re far, far away from hitting the wall up ahead you slam on the brakes anyways. Once again you send Crockett flying forward and pinned back down by the seat belt.

“D-dammit!” Your forehead falls against the wheel as the rest of your body slouches forward. “I don’t get it! I keep doing what you’ve told me and I keep messing up… What if I break the car?”

“You won’t break it,” he gives an awkward smile. “But we can be kind to the engine and let it rest for a moment. Gives you a bit of a breather too.”

You peer up with a scowl, resisting the urge to kick at the pedals by your feet. “I didn’t think it would be this hard, is it my fault?”

“It takes some getting used to. But once you learn this then you can drive any manuals or automatics.”


“They’re the ones without the clutch. There’s only two pedals and the engine does all the shifting for you.” Crockett seems confused as to why you’ve started to glare at him now.

“Well why can’t I learn on that one?” you ask louder than you meant to, “That sounds so much easier.It’s going to take me so long to figure this out!”
“Better safe than sorry,” he gives a sympathetic smile. “If you’re only option is a stick shift, what would you do? If you learn here, then you know how to drive both kinds of cars.”

You want to say something mean and biting, but realizing that you’re only thinking that because you’re stressed by this. Somehow you manage to grab the key to try again but fail to do so after deliberating. Embarrassed about making a childish scene like that, you still fear failing again.

“What if I never get it…?” you sigh into your hands, “I don’t know how to do it better, I don’t get it…”

“Give it some more time,” he gently says, “you’ll figure it out Denise-”

Crockett bites his knuckles after calling you that, but for some reason it makes you laugh.

“It’s weird to hear people say I look like her,” you push the hair from your face, “There were girls at school who said they looked like their mom’s at that age, but no one said that about me. It was really just my hair that let people know we were related, heh…”

“This just reminded me of a time when we were younger,” he admits, voice still soft.

You dare a look over at him again, “Did you teach her how to drive too?”

“No, just how to play the guitar. Always talked about how she wanted to learn after I got mine,” he looks down at his hands. The tips of his fingers move down slowly, moving separately and together as he touched invisible frets. “When she could finally hold all the strings down then she couldn’t go fast enough. When she could play up to speed, she could never remember the order of the tabs.”

You imagine the two of them being alone together practicing and the idea makes you feel weird and confused again. It felt wrong hearing this stuff from someone who isn’t your father, as strained as his and your mother’s relationship was.

But whatever they had done before was in the past and your father is gone now.

Do you want to ask Crockett to take care of your mother when this is all over? Do you simply want to tell him to stop talking about her so much? Or do you want to go back to practicing driving and pray you finally figure it out?
>Or do you want to go back to practicing driving and pray you finally figure it out?
Let the man have his memories, who are we to take that from him?
Let's just focus on the task at hand and hope we learn things faster than our mother.
“I’ll try to learn quicker than she did,” you mumble. The car remains quiet as you practice moving your feet against the pedals before reaching for the key again.

After many, many frustrating minutes pass you manage to get the car cruising around the parking lot. It’s not so bad once you get it going, but you fear stopping due to knowing you’ll mess up with the clutch again.

“Now try going up to second gear,” Crockett motions to the placement on the stick shift.

“While it’s moving?”

“Yeah, press down the clutch and give it gas after you shift.”

Gulping, you test the clutch beneath your foot. You almost don’t move it into the right position and the car shakes and jolts forward but somehow, you manage to keep it moving and the engine starts to run quieter.

“There you go!” Crockett grins, “Pretty easy, wasn’t it? We don’t be getting fast enough for those yet, but the higher gears are a bit easier to shift to.”

“Right, o-okay.” You’re still in awe that you were able to do that and now eye the street nervously. All the cars that pass by are only in a slow crawl but you can’t even imagine the pressure of driving with them. And when you start to think about how fast something like the highway goes-

“Wait, don’t forget the clutch-!” Crockett warns you a moment too late as you instinctively push down on the brake. The car jolts forward and dies again, leaving you with even more of a fear of trying this on the road.

“No no, I swear. You were really getting the hang of it at the end there.” Crockett sits in the driver’s seat and you’re right where you belong on the passenger's side. About twenty more minutes of practicing and you were finally saved by the pager going off. While you might not have been messing up every single time you tried by the end, it was still more failures than successes. It’s hard to not pout during the short drive. You want to whine and complain about how difficult this was and how you really don’t like it, but that wouldn’t be very mature of you. Instead you make faces in the window when you’re sure Crockett can’t see, your reflected scowl going as you realize how easy he makes it seem.

“Just you wait until we try parallel parking, “ he laughs and checks the double checks the time on his watch. “Once you get this and that down the rest will be a breeze. When you’re able to drive yourself places you won’t even remember how hard it was today.”

Under your breath where he can’t hear you mutter, “Unless I get Lawrence to drive me everywhere…”

You remain quiet most of the way, sulking to yourself as Crockett drives up to a small supermarket. He parks at the edge of the lot, a few spaces between you and the vehicles of customers inside.

“This will only take a minute,” he explains. Reaching across into the glove compartment, Crockett pulls out a thick white envelope, the kind you’ve seen people get from banks. “Hang in here for a bit and then I’ll take us to get some lunch, how’s that sound?”
“Okay,” you try to look at the envelope closer to guess how much is inside. Not that you have any idea, but you have no doubt it’s more than he usually carries.

When Crockett spots his friend he leaves the car and you behind, but not before he makes sure you lock the doors. He walks on ahead, just a car or two down, and waits.

Soon enough a man a few years older and a bit heavier than him comes up. A cigarette dangles out of his mouth as he squints up at Crockett, it looks like something’s pissed the guy off.

But a second later and you see the man’s face light up tremendously as he gives Crockett a hug.

“How’s you been?” the guy asks loudly enough for you to hear through the window. You ear presses up against it, the glass sending chills against your skin.

“Sal, how are you? It’s been a long time.”

“You’re sure as hell right ‘bout that!” he gives a deep laugh. “Lemme tells ya, this cold has had me flat on my ass this year. I swear, my fingers kept freezin’ up on me so much when I was gathering this up for ya. I thought the damn things were gunna break!”

You listen to Crockett laugh too and they take the time to small talk further. It doesn’t bother you any, especially if it’s really been so long since they’ve seen one another. But the longer you listen to them catch up on vague details of each other, that homesick feeling tugs in your chest again.

They might be two grown men talking, but the friendliness they show is nothing new to you. It feels like an eternity ago since you last spent time with girls your age, ones you went to school with and visited often. It reminds you of how much you used to look forward to sleepovers and how you’ll never get to experience something like that again.

It makes you think of the last one you had, and how you wish you could have made it gone better.


“Hmm… is it true that you like Tyler?”

“N-no, no way!”

“You chose truth Lila, you have to be honest!”

“I a-am!”

You giggled as the girls around you jeered at Lila. She hadn’t been discreet about the crush at school and all of you knew the answer as soon as it was asked.

After a bit more teasing and finally a confession, it was Lila’s turn. She looked around at the girls sitting in a circle on her bedroom floor, music playing from her radio as she decided on the next target.

When the two of you locked eyes neither of you could stop giggling and she made her decision.

“Okay, Delilah!” she announced. Your heart began to race as she grinned at you. “Truth or dare?”
You smiled wide as the choice became clear, “Dare!”

“Okay, I dare you to… Um…” Lila looked at the five other girls in the room, biting her nails as she tried to think.

“Come on Lila, just think of something!” One of the girls laughed from the side.

“I’m trying, I’m trying!” Her face turned red as her thoughts went blank, “You guys know I’m no good at this!”

The girl next to her, Amber, got an excited look on her face. The smirk grew more devious as she leaned in and whispered a suggestion to the girl.

“I can’t ask that!” Lila gasped as her darted from you to her.

“Well if you don’t have any other ideas-” Amber was prepared to wrestle Lila back as she prepared to announce the prompt. When her mouth was free from the other girl’s hand she looked to you and said, “Delilah, I double dog dare you to go steal one of your mom’s bottles of alcohol!”

There were a mix of gasps and giggles at the suggestion as your heart skipped a beat.

“You don’t have to do that-” Lila tried to say before Amber pinned her down and covered her mouth.

“You do! You picked dare and since Lila didn’t come up with anything-” The grin on her face reached her eyes as she looked at the other girls and their excited expressions. “And I double dog dared you, so you gotta!”

It wasn’t something you wanted to do, not at all. But the pressure of a room full of girls thinking how cool you’d be, or how they might have teased you for chickening out?

“I’ll… I’ll do it!” you announced and rose to your feet. The other girls looked up in awe, all except Lila who gave you a sad pout.

“And you’ll bring it back here?” one of the girls next to you asked and you gave a wary nod.

Another girl in the circle whispered, “Does that mean we get to try, heheh… liquor?” The others were quick to hush her, though each one giggled in excitement at the thought.

“I’ll go with to make sure you don’t wuss out.” Amber stood and Lila followed with a worried expression.

Lila shot the other girl a glare as she said, “I’ll go too, since it was my dare.”
The three of you took the bedroom window to go outside, the other girls huddled around it as they watched you sneak over to the sidewalk. Your house was only down a block and a walk in the brisk, October air made it a little easier to breathe. You led the way, walking ahead of the other two so they couldn’t see how nervous you really were.

“You two stay out here,” you told them at the front step. None of the lights looked to be on, but that didn’t mean it would be safe to walk right in. “I’ll be right back out.”

“Be careful,” Lila gulped as Amber next to her started to get cold feet.

“Maybe this isn’t a good idea,” she said with a wavering smile, “We’ll just tell everyone that you couldn’t find any-”
“I can do it!” you snapped, looking over your shoulder at them. You couldn’t feel just how tightly your fists clenched together in that moment. “My mom isn’t that scary, I’m not scared.”

When your father was alive, it was easier to keep your mother under control. But once he was gone she couldn’t hold herself as stable in public anymore. The girls had little moments of it here and there, enough to understand why this was going to be so hard. But you had already sworn yourself to the peer pressure and stood ready at the door.

“Just don’t take too long…” said Amber, who stood there cross armed and with a guilty look twisting her face.

You considered sneaking inside through the window but took a chance with the front door anyways. All the lights being off didn’t bother you at all, you’d already had this whole house memorized by the time you could walk. What gave you goosebumps was not knowing where you mother was, and whether she’d been passed out or only on the verge of it.

Rather than poking around to look you hurry to the kitchen instead. At first you wondered if she would notice one of her bottles missing, but then you had to wonder if she had any unopened ones left.

Through the cabinets and shelves, you searched for anything that had more than a sip or two left at the bottom. You needed to find something that was worth the risk of coming here in the first place.

Eventually you stood on the counter, reaching past the rows of empties that sat atop the fridge. One managed to catch your eye though, a bottle of rum that was still about half full. You jumped from the counter once you had the prize in hand, a proud smile on your face as you examined it.

You had been so caught up in your discovery that it took time to notice you mother standing in the archway.

Her pallid face stared at you past the tangles and sweat clumped hair that hung in front of it. The only thing holding her body up was a slender hand on the wall, her legs shaking as they struggled to keep her up straight.

You froze in place, bottle right in your hands.

“...is that mind?” she slurred and stumbled forward. The counter had to catch her fall and the few steps forward left her breathless. You managed to move backwards some, only giving you another foot of distance.

“Delilah,” your mother huffed. She tried to stand as tall as possible, only making her frail body sway more. “I asked-, asked you a question. Is that mine?”
“Y-...yes,” you uttered beneath your breath.

“I asked y-”

“I said yes!” Your eyes squeezed tight together and you took further steps back.

“What’re you doing with… give that back.” She held her hand out, motioning for you to give it over. “What are you doing with that?”

You tried to think about how close the front door was. With how drunk she was, there was no way your mother could catch up if you decided to run. All it would take is a few seconds and you would be out and free with your friends. By morning your mother would be either too preoccupied with her hangover or drinking to get rid of it and forget all about this moment- hopefully.

“What the hell are you doing with that?” your mother asked, close to tears. There was still the hard bite of anger, enough to send waves of panic through you over and over. “Delilah, are you drinking? Have you been drinking? How long have you been, oh god how long have you been doing this?!”

Right then, all you could think about was how mad she sounded. There was more to it though, cracks in her voice and a whimper in her words. All you could feel towards her was fear and it’s not hard to wonder why. She was still shouting, still glaring at you and approaching ever closer step by step.

“You can’t be doing this already- no no nononono…!’ Her hand knocked over bottles that had been stacked on the counter. The hollow glass echoed against the floor so loud that you had to jump back.

“I can’t handle this!” your mother cried out, stopped to catch her shallow breath again. “I can’t handle you- you all by myself! Why d-did he have to leave me to deal with this all by m-myself..”

The way your mother spat out ‘he’, you knew right then and there that she was talking about your father. Now you hands shook with not just fear but anger too, you hated when she did that.

“Left me to d-deal with this mess all b-by my, all by my fucking self..”she looked up at you again and began to reach out for the bottle, inching forward along the counter edge. “He kn-knew this would h-happen, he fucking left me to deal with it. Selfish b-bastard, that fucking selfish bastard…!”

You looked between your mother and the door. Did you stay and say hurtful things to your mother or did you run out before she could grab you?
Stay and yell at her.
Awful, hurtful things.
She has no right to yell at anyone like she is even if you did something wrong.
And no right to blame your father for her incompetence.
It didn’t take long for the courage to speak out boiled up inside you. Rather, you didn’t just speak. Your heel stamped repeatedly against the tile and your teeth gash together. It was a loud enough show to make your mother stop, the window left her with only a thin outline of light.

“Stop it! Stop it stop it stop it stopit!!!” Your foot grew numb from how hard you hit the ground and the force left you panting. But you didn’t let her shocked silence go to waste and you snapped at her, “Don’t say that about me! I’m not a b-bad kid! My friend’s m-mom told me I was such a p-polite girl tonight, and w-well behaved…”

You had to stop when speaking became too difficult and tried to dry your cheeks. But it was just you she was talking about, she brought up your father too. And that made the angry embers in your heart glow red hot again.

“A-and so what if s-sometimes I fail a t-test, or stay out with my friends a little t-too long,” you sniffled before the words started to really spit from your mouth again. “I’m getting good grades and don’t know if my mom is going to be sober enough t-to make me dinner! Or take me to school in the morning, or p-pick me up early when I’m sick.”

“Delilah give me the fucking bottle-”

You held to it even tighter and shook your head violently. “No, cause you’ll just drink it and fall asleep and forget this even happened. And then you’ll get mad at me for stuff being knocked over or broken even though it’s your fault!”

At some point she must have slipped as you heard a short tumble. Your mother could barely hold on to the countertop as she hoisted herself back up, “Don’t start this. I always tell you I’m sorry-”

“No you don’t!” You were yelling far louder than she was, far more than you needed to be. “You tell me to clean it up and that’s it! You wouldn’t have even noticed if this was missing if you didn’t walk in!”

“Give it to me-” As difficult of a task as it was your mother managed t0 stand mostly on her own. “You can’t end up like this. I’m not going to let you go out and become a boozed up, dumb teenager-”
You remember hearing your father say that exact phrase before and quickly lashed out the rest of his words. “Daddy said I was a good girl too, and that I’d never end up bad like you!”

Your mother’s gasp was almost inaudible over your racing heart. Never had you dared to stand up to her and all the inhibition you had went flying away.

“He told me that I was too smart and nice for that to happen.” You were twisting the knife at that point and you wanted that. Your father was your idol and had done no wrong in your eyes. “He said you were the reason you two fought all the time! He said it was your fault that we couldn’t get along like other families! And that you were the reason grandma got sad when we would go visit! He said it was your fault he didn’t like coming home!”

It was getting harder to breathe, you were saying so much with little air in between. But still you felt the need to kick her while she was down, while your mother was already slumping to the ground in tears.

“It was all m-my fault?” her voice ran thin as she yelled. “It w-was my fault I could never get her to like me? O-or how your d-dad always left me behind, even when I needed him? And it’s my fault you w-were born in the first place, did he tell you that too? He loooved to tell me that it w-was my fault he didn’t want to use prote-”

Once again she was bad mouthing about him and you couldn’t stand to listen to any of it. Without thinking of it you shouted the most vicious words you could, ones that you felt were completely true in that second.

“I hate you!” you cried out, “I wish you died instead!”

The kitchen fell deathly silent except for your heavy gasping. She had to hold on for support again and each second made it harder for her to stand. The weight of the words slowly began to hit as you stared at your mother’s shape.

Did you walk out of the kitchen without another word or stay to apologize for what you said?
We should probably stay. Even if you think she deserves it she's clearly not stable, and even if you'd rather her be dead, mother dearest getting hurt now will only put you in a worse spot.
As upsetting as it is we need to watch over her.
Don't apologize though, not unless she does first.
We're no stranger to emotions running high, so we should probably be the bigger person here. Letting regret fester makes apologising harder.
The adrenaline from the outburst died as quickly as it came. You were left standing over your mother, watching as she wept on the floor. She had cried plenty of times before but this was the first time you said something so painful on purpose. The sobbing had turned into hiccups and sharp gasps of air.

“Mom-” you bit your tongue, terrified to grab her attention. Despite the fear you had of upsetting her normally, you never felt the fear of being slapped. Grabbed and pulled away maybe, but being struck by your mother was never a secret you had to keep.

You came up to her huddled over form, watching her shoulders and back shake and tremble. While you had seen her like this before, it was always from another room, always from a distance. Never had you been the one standing over her like that, having to hold the weight of knowing you did that to her. It was a spot your father had always held instead and thinking of him standing where you were instead- it made you sick.

“I’ll be right back,” you spoke so much softer. Your mother didn’t say anything, didn’t look up at you or respond. It made you nervous enough to reach a shaking hand out to her. You didn’t touch her hair for long, just enough to get her to almost look over at you. “It’s okay, we’re going to bed soon.”

All you hear is her muttering about how ‘scared of you’ she is, or maybe it was ‘for you’. Either way you couldn’t go back to the slumber party and had to go alert the girls outside.

It was embarrassing having to go back out to Lila and Amber, both faces white as a sheet and wide eyed.

“A-are you okay?” Lila stammered after you came to the door.

Amber nodded, “We could hear like, a lot of yelling inside. Do we need to go back and tell Mrs. Pattson?”

“No,” you shook your head and handed over the bottle, “I have to stay here though. My mom is having a bad night…”

“Is that what all the yelling was?” Lila asked meekly and you just gave her a sad smile.

“Tell everyone I got busted trying to sneak that out,” you pointed to the rum now in Amber’s arms, “Make sure I sound really cool okay? And don’t tell them that we um, were screaming at each other. I’ll get my sleeping bag and stuff tomorrow.”[/i]
Neither girl looked ready to leave you but couldn’t stand out in the open with alcohol for long. They gave their quick goodbyes and apologies before scurrying back to the street, something you watched for a moment before going back inside.

Your mother hadn't moved from where she was before you left. Light blonde hair fell over her face made it even harder to see, but you could certainly hear her.

“We need to get you to bed,” you announced upon kneeling next to her. But she didn’t move an inch and you knew this was going to be the difficult way. It was a blessing that she didn’t fight when you put her arm around you, and began to help her off the ground.

“Walk forward and I’ll take you there.” It was a slow and difficult process. Several times you had to stop, either for your sake or your mother’s. There was certainly enough time to think about what you said earlier. Each time the words repeated in your head there was an awful twinge in your chest.

“...I’ll have to call him. I have to call that man…” she muttered to herself, repeating it over and over as to commit it to memory.

“Um, Mom…?” you squeaked out. She didn’t look over, but the iteration had stopped. “I haven’t been stealing your drinks, I promise. This was the only time. I got dared to at the slumber party-”

“You don’t have to lie,” she slurred the words almost incomprehensible. “I don’t want it to be my fault you’re a, a liar too. I know I already gave you all, you got all your bad parts from me. It’s my fault you did this.”

When she wasn’t yelling it, your mother actually did sound remorseful. But that didn’t completely settle with you at the time, after all it sounded like she thought you were a bad kid.

“I promise not to do it again-”

“I’ll make you you won’t have t’do it again,” she whimpered. “I’ll make sure you never have to go sneaking around like this. Make sure you don’t end up like a boozed up whore…”

After much longer than you’d like, you delivered your mother to her bedroom in one piece. But you didn’t leave as soon as she hit the bed like you’d usually do. Instead you hung around, watching where she fell upon the mattress.

Several times you attempted to apologize but could never find it in you. Part of you was still angry, that much was true. You didn’t want it to stay that way though, and fought the urge to just run away.

“...Delilah.” Your mother’s voice croaked across the room and your ears instantly perked up. When nothing followed you figured she had passed out right there, but instead she did her best to sit.
“I’m sorry we’re like this Delilah-” she panted after giving up. “I’m sorry it’s my fault we’re a fucking mess like this.”

There was still a sting to her words but it was something you’d have to ignore.

“Yeah I’m um…” you hesitated to bring it back up. But there was enough of a nagging voice in your head to make the words spit out on their own, “I’m sorry for what I said earlier. I shouldn’t have said that to someone.”

Silence followed that, all except for your mother sometimes mentioning a man she would have to contact later. It wouldn’t take long for her to fall into a deep sleep and allow you to get away, to sit in the solitude of your bedroom instead

“...we’ll have to get coffee at some point!”

The deep laugh Sal let out brought you back to their conversation. You had barely noticed when money switched hands or when Crockett was given a new envelope, it was almost seamless with their catching up. After only a few short minutes the men are already saying their goodbyes, scurrying back off into the direction they came in.

Crockett returns to the car and, with a rather large smile on his face, take his spot behind the wheel again.

“We’re all done here, how about we grab something to eat?”

“Okay,” you nod quietly. As he drives you face away from him, trying to hide your face until the brimming tears subside.

Catching your reflection in the window, you fear how safe it would be for a man like Sal to know what car you two came in.

When Crockett insisted you two go inside a rather cute looking dinner, it felt like he had gone crazy. But he promised that the place was busy enough that no one would try anything funny. He managed to get a private booth for you two, somewhere by itself enough for you two to talk freely. He, of course, sits where he can see the door and thus anyone coming or out. You’re also certain he’s got a hand itching by the gun at his belt but you don’t get the chance to worry about that for long.

“Hope you’re fine with a place like this,” he says as he watches the waitress leave your table with the orders. “But this was a place we had to stop at.”

You give me a quizzical look and he grins. “You’ll see later. It’s nothing you have to worry about.”

“But there is something I’ll have to worry about?” you question, watching his face fall into a frown.

“I wouldn’t say worry,” he fidgets with a package of sugar between his finger and thumb. “But I suppose we should get this out of the way, shouldn’t we?”

You give a silent nod and Crockett face twists and turns as he tries to figure out where to start. The packet in his hand tears and he’s forced to pour the sugar into his coffee. “Do you remember Julia?”

“Julia?” You start to shake your head, to tell him that the name doesn’t sound familiar. Then the answer hits you hard, “Oh, wait. Wait do you mean um, my mom’s sister? That Julia?”

“Right yes, I should have specified. I also knew her a bit growing up too…” Crockett pulls himself out of whatever memories and keeps his focus on you, “But you’ve met her, right?”

“When I was younger I did,” you manage to drink some of your own coffee without a grimace this time. “Last time she was around her and mom fought over something and Julia left and I hadn’t seen her since then.”

He raises an eyebrow, “Really? No phone calls, anything like that?”

“Never to me and I never heard Mom mention it.”

Crockett seems to be mulling over your answers, peering at you past the steam of the cup as he ponders.

“Is there anything you really remember about her?” he asks after a bit, “I know it’s been years but anything you remember might be helpful.”

“Um…” You have no idea why he’s asking about your aunt all of a sudden like this, but you try your best to answer his question. Right away you remember she’s a bit older than your mother and that she didn’t get along very well with your father or his family either. She would come down a few times when you were smaller though, especially when your father would have to stay late at work.

Did you look forward to Aunt Julia coming for visits? Or were you always waiting for her to go back home?
Considering how much dear Delilah idolized her father, I'd think it would be more than unpleasant to be around someone that didn't get along with him or his side of the family.
Little of both, probably.
As much as she used to butt heads with dad, she was so much better at handling mom. Those times were almost like having a normal mom, as awful as that sounds.
You bite down hard on your lip as you think of how to answer him.

“I’m not really sure what to say,” you admit shortly. “Having her around was always kind of weird. “

“She was mean to you?”

“No no,” you’re quick to answer, “Not like that. I mean, sometimes she had this kind of uh… I think the nice word for it is attitude.”

“Right.” Crockett’s smile perks up as he must be thinking of better days. “That would be the nice way to describe Julia, yes.”

Realizing this conversation is about your family makes you feel stranger than usual talking to him. “Did you meet her a lot?”

“Quite a bit. Wasn’t friends with her like I was Denise,” he says with a funny smirk. “Wish I could say she loved me more than your dad, but…”

“I’m sure she didn’t hate you as much as Dad.” You try ignore the forlorn shadow over Crockett’s face, looming over from what he himself had said. “It could be a little scary having here around, cause she never got along with Dad or my grandparents.”

Your hands clench up around your drink at the distant memories you have from those times, “It’d happen every time she’d come visit. Either she would get chewed out for doing whatever or Dad would um, h-he’d say something a little too mean to Mom and she’d jump on his case.”

Crockett watches you with the same sort of sad look you have, “I guess it was loud over there a lot, huh?”

“Sometimes-” you look down from him and let the hair fall around your face further. “But when she could go a whole day without picking a fight over something, I think that was the happiest I’ve seen Mom. They’d usually be gone out of the house during those times, but when I did see them… I guess they really did act like sisters.”

“They didn’t fight?” he asks surprised.

“They did, but I think it was different. Like whatever it was, it didn’t really matter.” You mutter to yourself, “Unless it was about Dad…”

“I wish you had better memories of her,” he sighs, “but I’m glad they’re not worse. Julia has-” Crockett stops, looking down at himself unhappy. He repeats what he said about your aunt but comes up short again, grumbling as he scratches at his unkempt facial hair.

You watch the man struggle for words for another minute or so. The waitress coming to bring more coffee is the only reason he doesn’t continue on longer, though he does stare at the freshly steaming cup first.

“...I’m no good at this-” Crockett stops from saying your name aloud but that only makes him stumble over the words more. With head in his hands he whispers, “I have no idea how to do this.”

“This is about the stuff you said we had to talk about, didn’t you? I thought it wasn’t an emergency.”
“It’s not,” Crockett looks up at you proper again, “But it’s not exactly favorable either. It seems that Julia- well, she has Denise’s custody signed over to her”

It takes several seconds for you to find the words to speak again.

“Oh so- what? What does that mean? Is she not in the hospital any longer?”

“She is for the time being,” he gives a deep, stress filled sigh and falls into his hands again. “And I have no idea where Julia is. I’ve searched for any information on her, sent out messages to potential leads, but nothing. And apparently it’s been years since anyone has seen any sign of her. It’s like she vanished years ago and appeared out of nowhere again.”

Your eyes open wide, “Vanished- missing? Was she like, actually missing before?”

“I don’t think it was ever official,” groans Crockett, “No one wanted to put her down as a missing person case, for whatever reason. I was hoping you’d have known where she might be living now.”

“No, I have no idea.” You resist the urge to anxiously chew on your lip again, “Are you worried about her h-handing Mom over? Do you think she would do that to her own sister?”

“I know it’s been a few years since now and then,” Crockett manages to relax back somewhat in the booth. “But from how I remember her, and from what you were talking about, I think Julia is still a decent person under all that bite.”

This time you whisper, “But what about her going missing before? Or how you can’t find her now? How do you even know it’s her?”

“She’d been hanging around the hospital before apparently, from the way a nurse described all of this to me. Recognized the way she described her personality and talk, Denise mentioned it a few times when she was coming in and out of it. Julia wasn’t able to take her sister home yet because she was supposed to be there in police custody.” Looking off to the side with a sneer you hear Crockett mutter, “Somehow was pulling strings behind the scene without me knowing… I wish I could say this was the first time.”
“What about the ‘missing’ thing?” you ask more impatiently than you meant.

With a sad look Crockett tells you, “Sorry sweetie, I don’t have all the answers yet. I’m going to do everything I can to keep Denise with us. Or at least, make sure Julia doesn’t have something up her sleeve. I don’t know what the hell that woman could be doing. Her taking care of her sister doesn’t mean she’s going to be cooperative with us.”

“So now what?”

“Well after what you’ve told me, I feel better about saying that I feel she will be safe with Julia,” he answers with a scowl into the coffee. “Best case scenario is that Denise can come back with us or her sister is unnaturally cooperative with us. Worst case scenario is that Denise is safe with her sister and it’s going to take a lot of searching and haggling to get her back.”

“Okay-” you watch as the waitress starts heading over to the table with plates in her hands. “That’s not so bad I guess. What was the other thing?”

“That should wait until we’re done here,” Crockett says in a rather somber tone. “You did well driving today, I know it’s not much but try to enjoy this as a treat from me.”

Being here still feels strange, but you don’t feel uneasy like there’s any danger. It’s actually a very relaxed and comforting environment, the waitress being more than happy to greet you as she places hot biscuits and gravy in front of you.

“Enjoy,” Crockett smiles at you before covering his short stack of pancakes in syrup. “I don’t usually drown them like this, but I’ve had a bit of a sweet tooth lately.”

You can’t help but crack a grin as he says that. Crockett sounds just as cheerful as when you first met him, and it’s such a relief to see that part of him come back.

Do you want to try asking him more about your Aunt Julia? He knew her and your mother back when they still lived with their parents, a whole part of the family you haven’t met before.

Do you want to thank Crockett for being so open with you? It feels like he might have been listening to what you said yesterday, about not treating you so delicately on every little thing.

Or do you want to keep your guard up around him still, you don’t feel comfortable getting close with him?
Thank him for being open and ask him about Aunt Julia.
Crockett's been trying really hard today, we might as well try to reciprocate.

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