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 Post subject: Re: PennyBassett Fanfiction
PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2019 8:58 am 
Fudge Marble
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Joined: Mon May 16, 2016 10:16 pm
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I can't read very well, so I can't promise anything, but I'll try. I don't know much about the Mario universe, so if I can read it, I don't know how much of it I'll understand. :lol:

_________________
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse


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 Post subject: Re: PennyBassett Fanfiction
PostPosted: Tue Oct 29, 2019 12:09 am 
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Don't get too excited, but I've got a quick scene I thought I'd publish now cuz I really didn't know where to put it in my upcoming chapter. So it's real short, but hopefully, I'll have a full chapter up soon!
I guess this is
Preface to Chapter 22
BUCK’S POV
We sat in the parking lot of Odyssey General Hospital. A haze hung over my brain. Everything hurt to think about.
“Can we revisit the adoption thing?” She asked before I could start the car.
“Now?”
“I guess. I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about it.”
“Okay.”
I set my keys in the cupholder between us.
“I’m trying to go over everything logically.”
I nodded.
“We have our college savings. We’ve got the money we think will fall into our hands from Smallpox. The idea is to buy an apartment and raise a child, while still going to school?”
“I guess we could drop out of high school.”
“No. No, we’ve got a year left that’s not happening.”
“You really wouldn’t? Even for your child? Your son?”
“Don’t call him that.”
“Why? He is.”
“Yeah but. Maybe I don’t want him to be.”
“Maybe?”
“I don’t see how it can work.”
I didn’t say anything for a minute. It was hard to collect my thoughts. I felt an urgency to convince her of my point of view, but I knew how weak it was. What was I thinking? I was acting on emotion. Making a decision based on some stupid dream of normality we’d never grasp if we were being honest.
“I don’t know what to do!” I spat, probably louder than I should have. “I love you, and I love our kid, and I want to be with both of you and protect you, but I feel like I can’t and frankly I don’t know how to emotionally deal with that, and I feel like there’s not a point to anything anymore, I mean where is this even heading?”
“Where’s what head-”
“Our- lives! Christianity. It’s not gonna simmer down. You know it won’t. We will never be seen as members of society again-”
“Don’t say that.”
“Why? You know it’s true! We can’t do this! I want to just leave! I want to die!”
“Buck!”
My next sentence was caught in my stomach. I closed my lips, realizing what’d come out of them.
“I’m sorry. That’s not true.”
“Okay. You’re sure?”
I hated how scared she sounded. I nodded and sniffed, pushing away a tear.
“I don’t usually cry.”
“I know.”
She took my hand.
“I think we should let him go.”
I took in a short breath.
“Jules he’s our child.”
“But he can’t be. We’re not that selfish, right? We wouldn’t- put him through what we have to go through.”
She said this between sobs. I got out of the car and walked around to the passenger side, opened the door, and pulled her into my lap. We sat there for ten minutes at least, silently sobbing. We were so young.

_________________
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse


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 Post subject: Re: PennyBassett Fanfiction
PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2019 12:00 pm 
Fudge Marble
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Okay, I'll be interested to see what you all think of this one. It's um. It's super long. Like- this shouldn't be this long at all what am I doing with my life? But it's the last chapter in Part 2 or Season 2 or whatever you want to call it, so things will be more put together when I start releasing chapters for the 3rd part. Hang in there with me. We finally have a chapter without an age limit... eh okay, we'll say 13+. To make up for the sort of stagnant flow of this chapter, I've made a playlist, which is actually Smallpox's album. (https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4KeuV ... nqgXZWXumc)
There's a thing where they talk about all the songs and stuff, so it might be fun to listen to it while you read if you wanna get kinda fancy. And, hopefully, this link will work, but you should be able to look at the album cover here: file:///C:/Users/gfcyt/Downloads/Covers.pdf
So enjoy this last one, and I'll be back asap with the first chapter of "Exspes"!

Chapter 22

CAMILLA’S POV
The inside of my hand hurt. I tried to loosen the grip on my fork, only to run into more emptiness that for some reason had to be compensated with tensity at the end of my arm: nails digging into my palm. Matthew swallowed a piece of bacon next to me. My mom sat across from him, my dad across from me. Eye-contact was minimum. Every second hurt to sit through. That table hurt to look at. My legs ached to run away from the denial-inhumed seating arrangement. I tried not to look to my left. That’s where the empty chair was. I was honestly surprised my mom hadn’t moved it yet.
“This is nice,” Mrs. Parker breathed, the bags under her eyes looking a bit darker today, her black hair beneath its usual standard of put togetherness, her black sweatshirt big enough to be her husband’s. Her words had made my brain hurt. “Nice”? What about this was nice? I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry at her. I wanted to scream that she hadn’t talked to her kids in three months. That she hadn’t been sleeping right. That she was unhealthy and overworked and a mess. But she wouldn’t listen. I know she wouldn’t have. I know my dad would have given me a dark look and told me to sit down. I know she would have left the table. Because it’s not her fault if she lets her grief disable her. No that’s on “That Man.” I was so sick of hearing about “That Man.” The nickname would be heard echoing through the house at ten at night. When my mother would yell at my father through the phone like he was the one who killed my sister, breaking her sentence up with unrecognizable Spanish curses.
But I couldn’t get mad at her for any of that, because her daughter had died. She could grieve however the mierda she wanted to. Never mind the other daughter. She’d lost the eldest.
Mr. Parker nodded. I think that’s what he’d learned to do in the past ten months. He wasn’t much better though. The man hardly noticed Matthew and me. We barely saw him anyway. He usually left for work before we got up and came home after midnight. I was usually up, but from his footsteps that moved straight from the garage door to his bedroom told me he was not to be disturbed.
“The eggs are really good, mom.”
Young Mr. Parker – the bravest of us all managed to slide six words across the table to his mother, who returned them with six of her own.
“I’m glad you like them, Matthew.”
My grip loosened a bit. At least the silence was gone. That bit of small communication almost felt like vulnerability. An airway had opened. My opportunity was at hand. I could say three words. Three small words I knew would change everything. Three words of honesty, of sadness. I opened my mouth, staring at the centerpiece between my dad and me, and then I closed it. No. I couldn’t be so bold. Welcome to the Parker household, the half Mexican, half Mideastern dung pile of small talk and emotional suppression. The mother who denied sadness by smothering it in anger. The father who denied anger by burring it under piles of blueprints. The oldest son who’d never met grief and never wanted to. I often wondered how he managed to never look at a monster in the same room as him. He probably learned from his father and kept his eyes on the pulled apart gadgets spread around his room, covering his bed. Did he ever sleep? And then there was me. The youngest. The innocent. The aware. The seeing. The crying. The avoiding of anything that had to do with the family I had never been proud to call my own. Through my homosexual “temptations,” my nightmares, my loneliness, I remained the healthiest person at the table. Because I let myself feel.

BUCK’S POV
“Alright, class. We’ve had a good discussion today. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I forced a toothless smile and exited the video call, replacing a smiling brunette with an Amazon cart full of items I knew I couldn’t afford. I shut my laptop to hear Katrina’s wheelchair move down the hall and stop in front of my door. I opened it for her without getting up from my seat. She wheeled herself in, laughing a little.
“I hate doors.”
I chuckled and shut it for her.
“How was class?” She asked.
“Fine.”
“That’s good. Did you get everything turned in?”
“Of course.”
“That’s good.”
“You said that.”
“Right,” she took a breath, “What are you and Jules gonna do?”
I shook my head.
“I honestly don’t know right now.”
“You know you have about a month.”
“I know, and I don’t need this pressure from you right now.”
“I’m sorry.”
“It’s- fine. It just feels a little hopeless.”
She nodded. We didn’t say anything for a minute. I tried to gather my thoughts.
“I love her.”
“I know.”
“I love my son.”
“Okay.”
“I- I don’t want him to feel like his parents abandoned him.”
“That’s it,” she whispered.
“I can’t do that to someone else.”
“Have you told Jules that?”
“No. I kind of just realized it myself.”
“So, what’re you going to do?”
“I still don’t really know. She seems unconvinced.”
“I’ve got one idea.”
“To pray?”
She nodded, and I took in a long breath. Putting her hand on mine, she closed her eyes.
“Jesus, we want to start by thanking you. Thank You for a new life. Thank You for Buck and Jules. Thank You for the love they have for one another. Thank You for bringing Buck into our family and the restoration you’ve brought him. You see where they are. You know their pain. Lord, please give them some answers in the next month. Help them to think clearly and have open communication. We’re going to trust You through this. Your will be done.”
It was interesting how our prayers changed after the shooting. We started listing thanks instead of listing requests. We prayed for his will. It was beautiful. That day brought peace. It didn’t last forever, but it was what we needed. Our daily bread.

JULES’ POV
My hand brushed my apron and picked up the cold wetness of ice cream. I bit back a groan and reached for a napkin. It was a Tuesday morning, so no one was really in the shop. A homeschool group had come in earlier, but they were all upstairs in the Imagination Station. Connie had instructed me to “watch the counter” while she went out to get more milk or something. I sat down slowly and wiped up the half-dried dessert. It was only nine, but I could already tell it was going to be a hormone trip of a day. I’d nearly cried on the way to work because Connie had hit a squirrel. I don’t even like squirrels. They’re kind of creepy.
I’m not sure why Connie was having me watch the counter. Like- since when did the counter need to be watched? It wasn’t going anywhere. It makes sense now, but to my stressed out, dehydrated, emotionally drained, hungry, pregnant self, it really didn’t. I guess I was thinking and wandered into the kitchen. I found Whit sitting in the corner on his phone. He looked up.
“Oh.”
“Sorry. Did I interrupt something?”
He shook his head, avoiding my eyes.
“No, no I’m just waiting for Connie.”
“Hm. Same.”
Those were the first words we’d spoken to each other in oh let’s see… yep, about eight months.
“So I get you don’t like that I’m pregnant, but this silent treatment is getting kinda old.”
This phrase held little emotion. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, I just expected the world-renowned Christian John Whittaker to be a little more compassionate, sociable, maybe basically nicer than he’d been treating me.
“I’m sorry.”
“That doesn’t make up for it.”
“Alright. Fair enough.”
“Are you really that disappointed in me?”
“I don’t know.”
Something I’d never heard that mustache say.
“I understand people make rash decisions when their grieving.”
I nodded, remember how this all started. I’d nearly forgotten.
“But this time it’s you. It’s someone close to me. I wanted better for you. For both of you.”
“You’re not making it easier on us.”
“I know. I am sorry, Jules.”
“Okay. I forgive you.”
“It’s a boy?”
I nodded.
“Have you picked out a name yet?”
“No. Um. No, we’re actually not sure if we’re going to put him up for adoption or not yet.”
“Oh. I hadn’t realized that was something you were considering.”
“Yeah. Well, it is.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Um. Yeah, actually that would be really good.”
“Okay.”
We walked up to his office. I sat across from him in a cushioned armchair that made the room feel like the LA counseling offices I once visited weekly.
“Why would you put him up for adoption?”
“We don’t have the money. I mean, hospital bills for the birth alone are going to be insane.”
“Hm,” he shook his head, “Not if I paid for it.”
“What?”
“Send me the bill, I’ll take care of it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course. I’ll be happy to.”
“Wow. Um. Thank you.”
“What else?”
“We’re still in school. Buck wants us to move in together, and maybe drop out.”
“Hm.”
“There’s also everyday costs. I’ve got this job, but no offense you don’t pay enough to provide for a small family.”
“Oh, I know. I would probably up your pay if you decided to keep him.”
“Okay.”
I sat there for a minute trying to find another reason.
“Jules, those sound like excuses. They’re very real concerns, they’re important things to think about. But what’s going on?”
I looked at my hands and watched them hold each other. A lump stung the back of my throat.
“I can’t be a mom.”
A small sob accompanied that last word. That terrifying word. I wiped a tear from my chin.
“Why not?”
“I- I don’t know how. You know, like my mom-” I couldn’t finish the sentence, so I just sat there trying to catch my breath through tears, feeling so hopeless.
“You wouldn’t be alone.”
“I’m not ready.”
He nodded, “When will you be?”
I couldn’t give him an answer. There wasn’t a logical argument for why I felt inadequate. I just did. I couldn’t put it into words, but I think he understood. That turned into a good day. It wasn’t perfect, but I let myself feel for once. I confronted my fears in a way I hadn’t before. That felt good.



PENNY’S POV
As the Beauty and the Beast credits started playing, I looked down to see Winnie asleep in my lap. Wooton clicked off the TV. I sighed and began stroking Winnie’s shoulder-length strawberry blonde hair. We didn’t say anything for a few minutes. I glanced at the clock. It was ten fifty-two.
“Can we talk about it again?” Wooton asked tensely.
“I suppose.”
“We don’t have to.”
“I want to.”
“Okay.”
I took a breath.
“I’m sorry I yelled earlier. I don’t like the idea of you giving up your art,” I tried to explain.
“I know. I don’t think I would be.”
“You wouldn’t be animating it.”
“I’d be helping. I’d be writing. They said I’d get to make a lot of the ads too. And ya know maybe this would give me the chance to start new creative projects. I could spend more time with you, with Winnie. You can’t keep carrying her everywhere,” his last sentence was said lower than the rest.
“I- don’t see what that has to do with this.”
“Hun, I can help you. I will have so much time on my hands if I take this offer.”
“But it scares me.”
“Why?”
“It feels so big. I know you’re talented and I don’t want you in such a- a large spotlight. And with the Christian thing on top of it…”
He took my hand from our daughter’s head.
“I’m gonna be okay.”
“You don’t know that.”
“They can protect us.”
“But no one even knows about Winnie, she can’t be in the spotlight like that, you know she can’t.”
“She won’t have to be. It’ll all be behind the scenes.”
“And what if you start getting interviewed and they ask about your family, what will you do then?”
“I don’t know. Do I need to figure that out now?”
“Maybe not.”
“Okay.”
“I’m tired.”
He nodded.
“We can talk about it later. They gave me a couple of weeks.”
“Alright.”
We carried Winnie to her new toddler bed, kissed her goodnight, then went to sleep, filled with anxiety. But it was almost normal for us. We would take care of our daughter, who needed constant attention, and we argued about what to do with our lives. We weren’t suffering financially, but there was always this fear. Wooton’s success was built on a dedicated fandom. If that fandom decided they were uninterested, or wanted to protest, or got uncomfortable because we were Christians, we could lose a lot of money or the whole business. And we couldn’t afford that. Winnie was nearly two. We’d been told a while ago that she would be walking by now. She could barely crawl. Wooton was right. I carried her everywhere. Looking back on it, I think I was just scared. I wanted to protect her. We spent a lot of time sitting. I would teach her new words. We would paint or draw. It was nice. It gave me time to think through things. Think over this TV show idea. Cosmic Comics had suggested creating an animated television series about PowerBoy. Wooton was excited, but I couldn’t bring myself to feel positively about the idea. I’m not sure why. Maybe I just didn’t want things to change.



CONNIE’S POV
“Slow down,” I said apathetically, glancing at the white speed limit sign up ahead.
“I’m going sixty.”
“The phone says sixty-five.”
“Okay. Sorry.”
Jeff took a long breath, then clicked on the turn signal.
“Um,” he started, “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine. Why?”
“You’ve been quiet. I thought we were supposed to spend time together today.”
“Yeah I’m just not feeling great,” I inhaled slowly, “I’m probably nervous.”
“Okay.”
“Did you talk to Jules today?”
“Not really.”
“She wasn’t feeling well this morning.”
“So, you’re worried about the baby?”
“Maybe.”
“I don’t want to invalidate your fears, but you have been reading a lot of articles lately.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“Hey,” he put his hand on my arm. “You can always call her if you’re worried, but I think she’ll be fine.”
“Yeah. You’re right.”
“I want you to enjoy tonight.”
“Me too.”
I sighed and looked out the window, bringing on a bit of silence. Jeff broke it.
“So, my old boss. I think I’ve told you about him.”
“That- Mr. Daniels?”
“Yeah. He’ll be here tonight. I’m excited to introduce you to him. He’s a really cool guy. Used to be a pilot and now he’s working full time in the Himalayas.”
“Wow. That sounds- cold.”
“Right? I don’t think I could do what he does.”
“Remind me. These will be all pilots?”
“Most of them. It’s anyone who’s connected with the transportation side of the mission field in the northeast. We’ll have people from Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia.”
“And you know all these people?”
“Not everyone, but we’re all connected in some way. This’ll be an interesting night because we haven’t had one of these banquets since most of us lost our jobs.”
“How do you know it’s happened to most of you?”
“Like I said, we’re all connected. There are forums, group chats, it’s happening to everyone. I wouldn’t be surprised if we discussed it openly. I mean, you’ve seen how antsy I’ve been.”
“Ya got that right.”
“But I’m glad you’re coming with me. I think it’ll be an awesome night.”
I nodded.










JULES’ POV
I woke up drenched in sweat, my heart pounding, my head aching, my stomach-
“Connie!” I screamed, a sharp, squeezing pain running into my lower stomach. I bit back tears as I sat up- onto a soaked couch. I frantically looked over the pillows, cushions, wha- my water had broken. Shaking, now out of fear, I picked up my phone and found Buck’s contact.
“Hey, what’s up?”
Another contraction cut off my answer. I managed some sort of squeaking noise.
“Jules?”
“I need you to take me to the hospital,” I breathed.

BUCK’S POV
Hearing that at seventeen threw me into this responsibility, this protector role that I wasn’t prepared for. Eugene was at work, otherwise, I would have asked him to drive. We hadn’t sold the other car yet, so I took the one left and ignored every speed limit getting to Connie’s house.
“Jules!”
I banged on the front door, looking through the window next to it. She opened the door and I hugged her immediately. She started crying.
“I’m really scared.”
I nodded.
“I know. Hey, you’re gonna be alright.”
“It hurts so much.”
I wasn’t sure if she meant emotionally or physically.

JULES: Both.
BUCK: But I got her into the car before another contraction started. It was fifteen minutes to the hospital.
JULES: I cried the whole time. He was holding my hand.
BUCK: I could feel it. Every three minutes a contraction would start, and her hand would tighten around mine. I’m not gonna lie, it terrified me. I didn’t know where to go so I pulled up to the maternity ward and jumped out of the car without bothering to remove my keys. I just grabbed the nearest doctor I could.
Fifteen minutes later I was sitting in the waiting room, staring at the floor, my heart thundering in my ears. Wooton showed up after about five minutes of this.
“Hey.”
He put his hand on my shoulder.
“How’s she doing?”
“She was crying so much. I think something’s wrong.”
He shook his head.
“Buck, labor is painful. It’s very normal.”
“I feel like I’ve failed her though. I was so scared. I’m still scared.”
“Being scared isn’t a weakness.”
“It feels like it is.”
“She’ll be okay.”
“I-I’ve been doing a lot of research. Like- literally a teenager dies giving birth every twenty minutes.”
“Okay take a deep breath.”
I did, and my stomach hurt a little less, for about half a second.
“We’re gonna pray now.”
“Okay,” I nodded. We did, and I felt a little better, but I couldn’t help thinking God might punish us by letting Jules die.
“I need to call Eugene,” I swallowed, trying to see into the room down the hall from my seat.
“Okay.”
I did, and he got there ten minutes later. I called Jeff and Connie too. They said they’d be there soon. But I still didn’t know anything. When we’d gotten there, they’d put her in a room and no one had come out since. They’d asked me if I wanted to come in, but we’d decided before I wasn’t going to. It felt like I was invading her privacy in some way. But sitting there, I kept thinking how alone she was.

CONNIE’S POV
“She must be so lonely,” I groaned, tapping my finger on my seat’s armrest. “Can you please go faster?”
“Connie, she’s alright.”
“She might not be. You don’t know if she is.”
“If something was wrong, they would’ve called us.”
“Okay. Yeah, you’re right. Okay. Talk about something else. I need to be distracted.” I turned my phone over in my lap, avoiding the power button.
“Well,” he began with a breath, “What do you think about me finding a new job?”
“What?”
“You were there for that conversation, right? About the non-profit James wanted to start? I mean it sounded amazing.”
“Yeah but completely unreliable. James seemed like the kinda guy with money. Something we don’t have much of if I remember correctly. He can afford to try and start a risky business. You don’t.”
“I’d just be investing. Not starting anything.”
“I know. But still.”
“Alright. We can come back to it. But if it succeeded, I would be helping people. Helping people by flying. He said we’d have a private plane.”
“Believe me, I want that for you. You’ve been distracted lately. Like you’ve lost your purpose.”
“I have. Honestly, it’s been hard. Especially because I don’t know where my faith fits into it. Like- why would God call me into the ministry just to take it away from me?”
“Are we really going into that conversation? Because there was so much theologically wrong about that sentence. God didn’t cause this, and you influenced tons of people without a plane and before things fell apart. You know all of this.”
“I do. I just- being around it today! The people who think like me, who know what it’s like. We just want to get back in the air. To-to know we’re helping people.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Thanks.”
“It’s only been eight months…”
“I know.”
He strung his fingers through mine and gave me a tight smile. I tried to take a sturdy breath.


BUCK’S POV
“Mrs. Parker!” I stood up and went to her as soon as she left the room. “How is she?”
“Unconscious…” she mumbled, glancing through her papers, walking down the hall. I followed her, speeding up my pace to keep up.
“What? W-why?”
“I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. She’s very young. It happens with teen births sometimes. Women really should not be giving birth at her age, so it can be a very exhausting process.”
“Did she deliver the baby okay, though?”
She shook her head, stopping at the front desk.
“Not yet. Which is why… I need to call Connie.”
“Why?”
“We want to do a C-Section.”
“But that’s like- serious, right?”
“It’s safe, Buck. We do them all the time. The baby is in the right position, vaginal birth at this point would be much more dangerous. All we need is her guardian’s consent to perform the surgery and give her the medication to numb the area…” She handed the man behind the desk a clipboard and pulled out her phone. I steadied myself and went back to the waiting room. Wooton’s brow furrowed when he saw me. I explained the situation to him and Eugene, and then took a seat.



JEFF’S POV
We rushed into the waiting room to find Buck, Eugene, and Wooton finishing a prayer.
“Can I see her?” Connie asked Nurse Parker. She nodded, and they disappeared by a large metal door.
“How’re you doing, Buck?”
He shrugged.
“I’m okay. I think she’ll be alright.”
“I’m sure she will be. She’s strong.”
He nodded and sighed.
“Have um. Have you decided what you want to do with him?”
“Not really,” he sniffed, “Sorry. I’m not used to hearing, ‘him.’”
“Sorry.”
“No. It’s okay. What do you think we should do?”
“Oh. Um. I don’t have an answer for you. I don’t know what would be best for the baby at this point. If you and Jules aren’t committed to raising him though, I can guarantee you they’ll be another couple that is.”
He got quiet after that, and the rest of us sat just as silently. Whit and Penny arrived not long after I did. We prayed more. No one would tell us anything. About an hour after Connie left, Eva came back out with another nurse. We all sat up a little straighter.
“They’re both doing great.”
There was a unanimous sigh of relief. I thought Buck was going to cry.
“Can I see them?”
She smiled slightly and nodded.

BUCK’S POV
As she opened the door for me, it crossed my mind- her daughter died. I’d sort of forgotten about Olivia. I didn’t mean to- it was just- there were a lot of people not around anymore. I couldn’t remember anyone mentioning her though. Zoe was a mess for a while, but I didn’t know how she was either. I made a note to find out. She never liked Jay romantically, but she took his loss hard too. It’s just strange- the people I’d forget.
The nurse led me into Jules’ room. She looked exhausted. I could tell she’d been crying. In her arms was a tiny bundle. She barely noticed when I walked in. I sat on the bed. Her eyes slowly met mine. They blinked a couple of times, her lips opening, then closing again. I didn’t know what to say either. I was almost in shock. It was suddenly real. It wasn’t a pregnancy, it was a baby. I real, breathing, human being was biologically me and my girlfriend's. He was a person with a gender, and a future, and birth parents that had him unexpectedly. That was part of his story.
“Come here,” she whispered, her eyes still on the new life she was holding. I lied against the bed and she placed him into my arms, then nestled into me with her head on my shoulder. In my arms was a sleeping child with one hand out of his blankets. He opened his dark eyes and looked at me: his dad. He was so at peace. Like everything was how it was supposed to be. Like he was just content to be with his parents. It was like he knew something we didn’t.
“He’s ours,” Jules sniffed. I nodded.

JULES’ POV
We made the decision then. We’d keep him. We’d be parents. How could we not? Such a stunning life was given to us. It was a gift. Not a burden. Not a consequence. Hope. Joy. We were poor as ever. I would have asked my dad to help out, but he hadn’t talked to me since I’d became a Christian. Whit increased my pay. He helped buy more supplies too. The biggest thing was we didn’t have to pay for any medical bills. He followed through and paid for all of it. A week after our son was born, Buck moved in with us.


JEFF’S POV
“Woah. Have you got everything, Buck?”
“Yeah. I think so.”
I opened the door for him and took one of the three suitcases he was trying to carry in with him at once.
“Thanks.”
We took everything down the hall to the second guest bedroom. Jules was sitting on the bed holding her baby, telling Connie where to hang her last shirt.
“Wow. Color-coordinated,” Buck nodded to the closet.
“We are staying organized! Or at least starting out that way,” she explained.
“How is he today?”
“Perfect as usual. He’s been awake most of the day, which means I’ll get to sleep tonight. And he ate when he was supposed to.”
“Great. Do you need a break? I can hold him for a while.”
“Sure. I need to take a shower.”
On her way out the door, I stopped her with a question.
“Have you guys picked out a name yet?”
“Oh, we didn’t tell you! We chose one yesterday before we left.”
“We kinda had to, for the birth certificate,” Buck chuckled.
“Well, what did you decide?” Connie asked, “I still haven’t heard.”
“Connie, Jeff,” Jules started, “Meet Mr. Levi Oliver.”
“Aw. That’s perfect.”
“More than you know. Levi means to attach or join.”
“I thought it was kind of fitting. Like- I was immediately attached to him, and he joined our family together.”
“Hm. That’s cool.”
“And it’s just a really cute name,” Jules giggled before heading to the bathroom.
“We’ll let you get settled in. He’s sleeping now, so you should be able to put him in his crib to put your stuff away,” I nodded to a small crib next to the bed.
“Cool. Thanks.”
I nodded, then followed Connie out and into the kitchen.
“You’re still thinking about James,” she sighed.
“Constantly.”
“Well, maybe that means God is calling you to this.”
“Maybe,” I sighed, finding a banana. “That’s a more positive attitude than you had a week ago.”
“Well, I want to see you motivated again. And maybe find some motivation of my own.”
“I was gonna say. There’s probably a space for you somewhere.”
“Well, you should just do it then, right? Let’s find some purpose.”
“Alright. Just for the sake of an argument. What if our purpose is here? Helping Buck and Jules? Serving people drinks and packets of peanuts?”
“And maybe it is. But there’ll always be things in life we’re unsure of, right?”
“I guess. I think I want to pray about it some more.”
“That’s fine. Just know you have the go-ahead from me.”
“Okay. Thanks. That’s helpful.”
She smiled, then started preparing dinner. We all felt something new that week. Something like light. Something like hope.











CAMILLA’S POV
I squinted, the May golden hour sending streams of light through a warm McAlister park. It was beautiful, all the new life. Dion ran up the sidewalk from the nearby pond.
“Hey.”
He gave me a hug. He could always tell when I needed one, which was usually.
“How are you today?”
I shrugged under a sweatshirt-style tank top
“I’m okay.”
“Falling into those stereotypes I see,” he joked, referring to my snapback. I laughed a little.
“Unintentionally, I promise. Bad hair day.”
“Gotcha. What path are we taking today?” He asked, glancing between the two roads we found ourselves at the beginning of.
“I want to go by the fountains.”
“Alright.”
We started walking, keeping our conversation minimal as we made our way down the hill and into a thicker patch of woods. It was a sort of habit. We weren’t the only ones in the park, and people would try to overhear if they saw our mennats. So, our natural action was to wait until we were out of sight.
“So how are you really doing?”
“Not great. I haven’t been sleeping well.”
“Me neither. Do you have nightmares when you do?”
“Not nightmares. They’re more like- just wrong dreams. Like she’ll be in a dream, and then I get angry because it feels like now, she’s not supposed to be there. Or I’ll have dreams where everything is going normally, but she’ll come back somehow. Or she’ll just be there. Then I have to wake up and realize she’s not there. I don’t like it.”
“Yeah. I get similar dreams. It’s like he’s always with me. Like a shadow.”
“Do you still carry around his phone?”
“Yeah,” he chuckled to himself. “It would feel disrespectful not to for some reason.”
“That’s how I feel about her room.”
“Her room?”
“I can’t go into it. She never wanted me going through her stuff or sometimes she would lock me out of there in general, so I just got used to it. I don’t think she’d want me looking at everything, even though I want to.”
“Death is stupid.”
“Yeah,” I sighed.
“So. Do you have a girlfriend, yet?”
“Ha. No. I wish. I’m young though.”
“That’s true.”
“How are you and Grady?”
“We’re fine. It’s weird. He’s a lot different than Jay. Honestly, I didn’t expect to date anyone after him. I just always saw my life going on with Jay Smouse right next to me. It’s so strange to watch that future and see someone different.”
“I’m sure. Is SmallPox doing well?”
“Our album is selling. We’re going to have a concert on June first. You should come.”
“Okay. I will.”
“How’s your family?”
“Still distant. Especially Matthew. He hasn’t talked to me. He didn’t cry at the funeral. I’m kind of afraid he’s in denial or something.”
“It’s been quite a while.”
“Well, I know. Sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s been nine months though, you know?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I know. Don’t pressure him.”
“Okay.”
“You’re going to a counselor, right?”
“Yeah. We both are.”
“Maybe bring it up there.”
“Okay. I will.”
We walked for a little longer, stopping at the fountains for a few minutes before heading up to Whit’s End.
“What can I get you two?” Mr. Whittaker asked, a shaky smile, similar to Jason’s smoothed out beneath a thick white mustache.
“Two root beer floats would be perfect.”
“We’ll do,” he chuckled, giving us a thumbs up.

MATTHEW’S POV
I didn’t know why I couldn’t feel anything about Olivia. I just couldn’t. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel real. I think I was probably in denial looking back on it. Just, complete, moving on without a second thought, sort of fearful denial. It was fearful because somewhere I thought there was no point in mourning. What good would crying do? She’d still be gone. I’d still have those haunting memories of finding out she was, of my parents’ faces when they found out. Of my sister’s voice at night screaming into her pillow. They were grieving enough without me adding to the sadness that had infected every inch of that household. So, I planned to hold on. Just wait until I could graduate, go to college, make a life for myself, do anything to escape from the daunting reality that was my past. I hated it. I hated everything about it, and it was everywhere. I buried myself in my inventions, in my gadgets, in my obsessive-compulsive habits that began to spread to every area of my daily living until even getting out of bed needed its own set of ridiculous traditions. I dug myself into an impossible hole of puzzles and alphabetical actions. I became like machines I spent so long trying to fix. It’s ironic, that I was the one who needed fixing.

WOOTON’S POV
It felt like part of my innocence had been stolen. I clasped my hands behind my back. I could hear Penny’s breath get harsher in the chair next to me. Winnie sat in her lap, looking at a wooden book, making noises that made sense every once and a while but were mostly comprised of meaningless garble.
“You’re sure?” I clarified, searching Doctor Graham’s eyes for a promise of procrastination.
“We can’t put it off anymore. I know it seems like a big change.”
“It is one,” Penny interrupted.
The doctor nodded, “But it will be for the better. It’ll make your lives so much easier. If money is an issue, I’m sure-”
“It’s not yet,” I shook my head, glancing at my wife.
“Alright. Well, we should be able to do all of the measurements and get this thing ordered today if you’re free for a few more hours.”
“That’s fine.”
I suddenly wanted to get this over with.
She tried to explain that this could be a fun thing. Kids usually like picking out their chair colors and features. I had no doubt she would enjoy that, but I didn’t. It meant my daughter was growing up. I didn’t want her to in some ways, and maybe some of it was I hadn’t let myself realize that day had been coming. But it was suddenly here, and it hurt so much. We’d be okay. I knew we were fortunate. I mean, we had such a beautiful, smart, already artistically inclined child. I didn’t want to restrict her. I said this.
“Wooton, look at me. You’re not restricting her. You’re giving her as much of the world as you can. Once she knows how to get around on her own, your life and hers will be so much easier, it will be amazing. I want you to be able to focus on building a relationship with your daughter, not her Spina Bifida. From your parenting, I think that’s what you want as well.”
We nodded, eyes on the ground.
“Okay.”
A week later Winnie had a chair she could learn to navigate on her own and that would adjust as she grew, and we had installed an elevator into our house. I had also signed with Cosmic Comics. For the foreseeable future, Powerboy would be animated. In the end, Penny was the one who made the decision. She still wasn’t used to our wealth. Spending money in her mind needed to be a stressful thing, something stepped into with caution. She wanted to be as prepared as possible. I think it still felt like a loss to her though.



BUCK’S POV
A couple of weeks after I moved in with Jules, we had my eighteenth birthday party at Whit’s End. I didn’t necessarily want the attention or to spend the money, but Eugene and Katrina insisted. Everyone showed up. It was fun. Everyone wanted to hold Levi, which was a refreshing change of pace from the many guests who used to get uncomfortable around Jules when she was pregnant. I guess it was easier to realize something was alive when you could see it. I know it was for me. He was just so real. So at peace. That’s what surprised both of us. He was a calm infant. We still weren’t getting a ton of sleep, but Connie and Jeff helped out when they could. Any free time was spent working or sleeping. That was another reason the party was a good thing. It was the first time in about three weeks that we were able to relax and enjoy ourselves. Winona, Wooton and Penny’s daughter was in a wheelchair when they showed up. I’d thought of her as a baby until Levi was born, but she was almost two.
Wooton announced that he was starting a PowerBoy television show at the party, and then Jeff stood up.
“I guess this is a good time to tell all of you that Connie and I have decided to invest in a ministry a missionary friend of mine is starting. It would specialize in taking food and medical supplies to overseas towns who are in need. Any donations toward this cause would be greatly appreciated.”
This announcement was met with more excited applause. During those times, when it felt like we were all just waiting for things to get worse, new projects brought a lot of hope.



JULES’ POV
I didn’t have a lot of time to think about the state of the country or the social situation we were in. Being out of school and only having to do classes online kept me isolated enough to forget how bad things were. Buck and I made a promise to avoid the news and excessive device usage. It was hard to admit, but given how bad our mental health had become in the past, we knew if things started to look hopeless, or we tried numbing our feelings with TV, we would neglect to take care of our son, and he was the priority.
Now we get asked a lot if it felt like we had to be adults too soon. In a way, yes. We had responsibilities and life similar to that of adults, but we also had a lot of support. And frankly, our brains were caught up with what was happening around us. There were times when we would yell at each other and make ridiculous threats. We would talk about other people like all teenagers do. We made poor financial decisions and have to suffer the consequences. I’m a mentally stagnant person sometimes, so it wasn’t uncommon that I would forget things like packing diapers in the car, cleaning our room, or missing meals. Buck helped out though. I knew he was tired. Maybe even more so than I was. He started working for Dale Jacobs at The Odyssey Times after he turned eighteen, and sometimes wouldn’t get home until midnight. But he’d always be there at six in the morning, ready to make breakfast, or take a class, or just take care of the baby so I could get an extra hour of sleep. He never complained. Even during our worst arguments, he never mentioned how much work he was putting in, and I never thanked him enough.





JASON’S POV
From the time I tapped my knuckles against the wooden blue front door in front of me to when my father opened it was about five and a half minutes.
“Well hello, son!” he chuckled, bringing me into a hug.
“Hi, Dad.” I tried to smile.
“Where’s Dion? You usually bring him.”
“Yeah, he’s with Grady, I think they went out for dinner or something.”
“Hm.”
I followed him into the kitchen, where a pile of dirty plates sat in the sink and black filth lined the faded white dust boards. A framed black and white picture of him and Jenny on their wedding day was hung next to the small table. A pang hit my heart. This wasn’t how a millionaire should be living.
“Why um- why don’t you hire someone to clean up around here?”
I took down the glass he’d been reaching for from the top cabinet.
“Thanks,” he whispered, “Um. I’m not sure. It’s just- my house, you know. I should be taking care of it.”
“Well sure, but part of that is asking for help. When was the last time you did the dishes?”
“Well it’s just been difficult to bend over, and I’m out of soap.”
His expression became dazed for a moment like he’d forgotten where he was. Then he shook his head and filled his glass with tap water.
It didn’t make sense to me. He was able to function pretty well outside of the house. He still went to work. Not as much as he used to, but he was at the shop once or twice a week at least. He could still serve ice cream, and tinker in the basement, and have long discussions about fatherhood and quantum mechanics with Eugene. Maybe that old house just held too many memories. That confirmed it for me. I was making the right decision.
“Can we sit down for a minute?” I asked, palms collecting perspiration.
His brow furrowed.
“Sure.”
We found our usual places in the living room. Him in his thirty-year-old recliner, me on the couch across from it. I leaned forward, my elbows resting on my knees. I watched my hands slide together and apart for a minute before building up the courage to start speaking.
“So, Connie and I have been talking.”
I sort of expected him to say something. He didn’t so I continued.
“We think it might be time for you to sell the house.”
He made a noise that sounded sort of like a laugh but turned into a cough. I grabbed his water from the kitchen and helped him take a drink. My anxiety settling some, I set the cup on the coffee table and found my seat again trying to regain a steady heart rate.
“I need to know that you’re safe,” I breathed.
“Jason…”
“I’ve been talking to Wendy Philips at The Orchid Retirement Home-”
“Son.”
“It’s a fantastic facility. I mean you can find friends there and there a ton of clubs, it’s completely in our price range. There’s a courtyard with a waterfall and the nurses seem so, so nice.”
“Nurses. Because I need help.”
“Maybe you don’t need it, but I want it for you. You need to rest for once. Have some fun. Write! Dad, when was the last time you wrote anything? I want you to enjoy your retirement without worrying us.”
“I can’t give up my independence, Jason.”
“You know you wouldn’t be.”
This brought on a few minutes of silence.
“Dad,” I put my hands in a praying clasp, “Please. Just take a tour of the place. For me. I need you to know you have options.”
He studied the dark brown carpet beneath our feet, his bottom lip quivering. He sniffed and pushed back a tear.
I walked over to him, then knelt on the floor next to him, and brought his hand into mine.
“You know I love you, right?”
“I know, son,” he nodded, shaking, then mumbled, “I’ll visit the place.”

I got home an hour later to find Grady and Dion on the couch watching a movie.
“Pause that for a second and come help unload the groceries!” I called from the garage.
They followed me out and picked up a couple of bags each.
“Did you get ice cream this time?”
“Ah- yeah. Mint. Is that alright?”
“Perfect.”
Dion set a bag on the counter and began putting its contents into the fridge. I sighed, louder than I wanted to.
“Something wrong?” Grady asked, throwing away a Walmart sack.
“Sorry. Long day.” I briefly rubbed my forehead. “I um. I got a call today, Dion.”
“From who?”
“Your ah- your parents, actually.”
He stared at me, completely dazed for a minute, before lowering his brow.
“Oh?” His voice shook. “What did- why were they calling you?”
“They want to see you again.”
“What?”
Grady took his hand.
“They said they wanted to come to your concert on Friday and then see you afterward.”
“What if I don’t want to see them?” He blinked.
“You don’t have to. Just think about it.”
“Okay.”













TRENT’S POV
I hadn’t been in a limo in about a month. The last time we played for an audience was a little after we recorded and announced our album. Mandy and I were picked up first. We were testing the background sounds and instruments before loading them into the back of the truck that followed us to the stadium. That’s right, stadium. We were playing at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The venue was sold out and based on the response from social media, we’d have a lot of people coming in from out-of-state. It was an hour-long drive over there, which didn’t do wonders for my nerves. It helped that the rest of the group was there with me. It gave me a distraction. Another distraction was our manager, Lucy Davis, who answered questions, set up interviews, spoke to fans on our behave. Basically, she handled anything adult. Once we’d picked up Buck and Jules and gotten past the crowds of people who’d surrounded their house after the limo had pulled up, she started going over the day. It was nine in the morning.


LUCY’S POV
“Alright, kids. This is it. How’s everyone feeling?”
My question wasn’t immediately answered. Dion perked up first.
“Terrified.”
The rest nodded in agreement.
“Excited,” Mandy shrugged.
“Alright, so mixed feelings.”
“It’s like an excited nervousness,” Vance was said, reclining in his seat.
“What would make you feel more comfortable?”
“Um… could you go over the schedule again?”
“Of course.”
I did, beginning with the setting up of the venue, and ending with where they would go to sign autographs.
“What’s the interview gonna be like?”
“Honestly, I would be prepared for anything. They’re probably going to want to know about your faith, your family lives, your upcoming music. You don’t have to answer any questions you don’t want to of course, but I wouldn’t recommend exiting the building altogether.” I eyed Jules, “It was fine, even good, once, but you don’t want that as your reputation.”
She gave me a “yeah duh” look.
“Just- be good. Be yourselves. People like genuine people.”
They nodded, and then began the pre-show day ritual we’d started at their first performance. We did a session of “popcorn prayer,” then sang Veggietale’s Silly Songs, harmonies included of course. There was a period of silence where they gathered their thoughts, and then someone presented a bible verse to discuss. The ended with a worship song. By the time we’d finished these traditions, we were at the arena.

MARVIN’S POV
The space was huge, it took my breath away. It was hard to believe all of it was real. I wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that’d I’d be where I was then. I was a dreamer to the core, and this was the fulfillment of one of my greatest. As we walked around the stage, taking it all in, Trent looked between Tamika and I. We burst out laughing, and a few tears slipped. This was what being humbled felt like. We knew we didn’t deserve it. That was the feeling the entire day. We don’t deserve any of this, so we’ll be sure to enjoy every second of it. After setting up our instruments, we were driven to a breakfast restaurant, where they had reserved the back patio for us and had all the food waiting over a silk tablecloth. People gathered and snapped pictures through the windows the whole time, but none of us cared. I think Tamika welcomed it. The food was delicious, and we thanked our waiters profusely before getting back in that shiny black limousine.

_________________
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse


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 Post subject: Re: PennyBassett Fanfiction
PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2019 12:00 pm 
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And I have to post it in two separate posts, because oh boy this chapter is huge.

MANDY’S POV
We were driven to this really cool looking recording studio, where we were thoroughly inspected for weapons before entering the building. Someone… oh, I think it was a reporter who was going to sit in on the interview, who was not wearing a mennat got past the front desk without being touched. I’d be lying to say that didn’t sting a little. We were taken into the studio where we met the two DJs, Matt and Cori. They seemed pretty nice; I think Cori was a bit star-struck. The nine of us were given chairs, mics, water, and headphones, and then the recording light came on.

BUCK’S POV
“Hello everyone and welcome back to 81.5’s special Friday segment of OnKey. We have in the studio with us right now, the band which some are calling an “overnight sensation.” We’ll get to you guys in a second, but first, we need to introduce ourselves! I’m Matt and as usual we have Cori here in the studio,” the heavyset man turned to the Asian woman next to him, “How are you today, Cori?”
“Fantastic, and you know, I won’t lie, it’s mostly because of our guests.”
“Can’t argue with you there. After everything these kids have been through, and the fact that they still decide to make music, to continue living out their passions is so inspiring.”
“It is. Should we get started?”
“Sounds good to me.”
“Alright! Ladies and gentlemen, the entire band and editing crew of Smallpox is here with us in the studio, and you know I don’t think we’ve ever had this many people in the studio with us at once.”
Everyone laughed a little at this.
“So, from left to right we’ve got Buck Meltsner, Trent DeWhite, Mandy Straussberg? Am I pronouncing that correctly?”
“Yep! It’s weird, I know.”
“Oh, I love it. It’s original. Next, we have Marvin Washington, Vance King, Tamika Washington, Jules Kendall, and at the end of our table here we have Grady and Dion. Now we know Grady’s last name is McKay but is this true of you changing your last name, Dion?”
“Well, yeah. Last week I was officially made a Whitaker. My foster parent, Jason Whitaker, wanted it to be official, so he’s now my permanent guardian.”
“That’s fantastic, and I think I speak for a lot of the fans when I say, you and Grady make an adorable couple.”
“Thank you.”
“And you’re not the only one with a new family situation,” she said cheerfully, making eye-contact with me, and then Jules, “Jules. You look amazing for having given birth just over a month ago. I mean you really look stunning.”
“Oh, well, thanks.”
“Of course.”
“Let’s talk about this new album!” Matt suggested a bit more enthusiastically than what was needed.
“So, all of you are singing on this one?”
“Trent and I aren’t much,” Marvin explained, “Everyone else is though!”
“Now I got to listen to your fourteen-song album yesterday, and the opposing styles caught me off guard, but in a good way. Where did the idea to bring so many genes together come from?”
“I think it was just how things turned out,” Tamika started, we nodded in agreement, “We all wrote different songs, and those songs reflect who we are, and we’re all different. Honestly, I love it that way.”
We agreed again.
“When examining the sudden mood change, and even morality changes your songs go through, many fans have sensed a storyline. Is there truth to this?”
“You want to take this one?” Jules asked me.
“I’ll try to explain,” I sighed, “These songs were built over several years, and experiences, but basically what we managed to do, is exactly what fans think, which is, yeah it’s a story. We wanted this album to reflect what our emotional state was like over the last year.”
“Would you be willing to go over these songs, and maybe explain the meaning behind them?”
“Absolutely. Um, the first song was Buck’s.”
“Yeah. After Jay passed away, I went through a very long process of trying to get a song out, and Even When it Hurts is kind of the result of that. It was one of those projects that turned out better than I expected it to because I only worked on when I needed to vent or remind myself of God’s faithfulness.”
“To add to that, I think we put it at the beginning because it really held this heart-wrenching theme of always falling before God,” Mandy said, emotion clinging to her voice, “I thought it was important to sort of say from the get-go, this is a story, and it’s a tragic, difficult to listen to story, but we have and had this anchor through it. Want to add anything to that, Tamika?”
“Hm. That’s well said. Getting to record and get to know this song was a true honor. It was easily my favorite to record.”
“Yeah if you guys haven’t heard it, seriously, go listen right now because Tamika, and I’ve always thought this, she, first of all, is a stunning singer, but then the deep understanding and experience she brings to it is just gorgeous.”
Tamika put her hand on her heart and mouthed a thank you to the friend next to her.
“Our second song is defender,” Mandy sighed. “Honestly this has become an anthem for me personally. I wrote this one reflecting on my time in the hospital after the shooting. While my life was on the line, this phrase kept coming to mind. I would pray every night, just begging God for answers. It was so beyond what I could understand. I mean, why had He let me get shot, why were my friends killed, why didn’t I die instantly if I was going to die anyway. Once I was ‘out of the woods’ so to speak, I was able to write again, and as I did, I began to understand. I didn’t have answers, but I knew God’s character, and I knew I was supposed to praise him. So, I think my hope for anyone listening is that they would find rest in this idea of God’s way is better, all we have to do sometimes is worship.”
“Well said. What’s the one after that?” Dion looked over the table.
“Oh, it’s mine,” Vance laughed, “I wrote No Fear in Love while grieving our loss of Jay. It was a way to confess and realign my desires for true love. There’s a verse, First John four: eighteen, that says ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.’ While Jay and I were dating, I often told him I loved him. It wasn’t until I surrendered to Jesus that I realized how afraid he’d become of me, and rightfully so, and this verse convicted me. So, I wrote about it. I think it also helped me understand my loss.”
“So, it sounds like for most of you, songwriting is a therapy,” Matt said, his chin on his knuckles.
“Absolutely,” I nodded. “Demons is next, right?” I laughed a little, “Jules, you wanna explain?”
“Gladly. So, this is the first time our album takes a drastic turn, which is fitting because, for me, that’s how my life felt. I wanted Demons to have this deviant, rebellious, haunted, upbeat feeling. I was in a pit of depression, which led to bad decisions, as Buck will attest to. The lyrics ‘Please forgive me, I’ve got demons in my head,’ are honestly a plea for understanding. From God, from my sister, from Buck, whoever didn’t understand at the time. I needed a rhythm to almost justify my actions while keeping this awareness that I was in the wrong, if that makes sense.”
“Yeah it actually does, and I think a lot of your listeners can relate.”
I didn’t notice the fish on her forehead before she said that.
“Scared is the next song, again, a change in mood,” Vance began, “I wrote this as sort of a sequel to No Fear in Love, and it’s a love song to Tamika. I wrote this one when we got to come together as a band again. That’s actually when a lot of these were written. So, this song is a steady sort of promise. It’s saying, I know there’s fear around you, but I will never be the cause of it. And then I got to sing it, so that was cool.”
“I cried so much the first time I heard it,” Tamika giggled. “Is High on Humans next?”
“Yes!” Dion answered.
“Ugh, this is my favorite song in the entire album. It was so much fun to record and produce,” Mandy reflected.
Dion nodded, “This song came out of me in probably half an hour. For the first few weeks after the shooting, I was actually emotionally stable, and this song wrote itself. My pain killer infused mind found a lot of enjoyment in conversating with people, and High on Humans was the result of that. Buck, tell us about Youngblood.”
“Oof,” I cringed. “So, I like this song, because deep down I know it sounds good, but at the same time, it’s so overdramatic that I can never listen to it. I wrote it after Jules briefly broke up with me.”
“Well, that’s probably why it feels dramatic because at the time you thought you’d lost me forever, when we were back together in like three weeks.”
“Right. So, Vance does a fantastic job on the vocals, and I hate every second of the song.”
They laughed with me at this, and Jules picked up the conversation.
“Better Now!”
“I like this one,” Dion gushed.
“I wrote it while Dion was in the hospital. I didn’t know what to do for him. I don’t think any of us did, so I wrote out my feelings. This one is fun because originally I had it as a much slower ballad sort of song, and Mandy suggested picking up the tempo, giving it a hopeful twist, and as always, she was right. So thank you, dear!” My girlfriend blew our friend a kiss from across the table.
“Cry Today, Smile Tomorrow is next, right Dion?” I asked.
“Yeah. I really can’t take any credit for this one. Jay wrote the whole thing. After he died, his parents let me really go through any of his stuff. On his phone, and then what I found later in a notebook was this song that somehow perfectly defined not only the type of person my boyfriend was, but exactly how I was feeling at the time, and continue to often. It’s just such a good reminder, and a treasure to remember him by. My favorite line is ‘Don’t fill my mind with petty lies. Let that go.’ That was just such a raw, true statement. I needed it to be repeated. So just like everyone’s been saying, it was my therapy.”
“Maniac is next!” Vance laughed out loud, “I love this one so much. Another one written by Jay that Grady and I had the privilege of recording. Any comments, Grady?”
“It was a lot of fun. We kind of unanimously decided he wrote it about Vance, so I think for you, it was kind of a way to move on and face your damage. I don’t want to assume though-”
“No, you’re absolutely right. It made me need to recount my actions. Now it’s one of my favorites to sing.”
“So Come out of Hiding is Next. Performed and written by the incredible Tamika Washington,” Trent complimented.
“Thank you,” she laughed, “I love this one. Writing was such a God thing. I mean, the words just ran onto the page. I wrote it just recounting my journey of faith, how much I ran away from Jesus. It’s a reminder that we can always return to him. I needed to hear that, so I assumed other people did too.”
“From personal experience, you’re correct,” Jules nodded. “Jay wrote Alabaster Heart. I think this was the only worship song he composed?”
“Yeah,” Dion clarified, “He wrote quite a few pieces of worship songs and mentioned his faith in other songs, but this one is one of the few we can call complete and worship. I think he wrote this when he came back from the camp, he became a Christian at.”
“Yeah, the dates line up with that,” Grady confirmed. “I just really enjoy singing this one, knowing who it came from, knowing how true it is. I liked the word treasure. This is another one. Every complete song we have from him has become a dedication to him. It’s unifying and I think a good reminder.”
“I agree,” Dion said.
“Oh, can we talk about My Friends now?” Mandy begged.
“Yes! Such a good one. Jay was a genius.”
“I think that was my favorite song from your album,” Matt said, “Who sings it?”
“Jules and I,” Vance answered.
“Hm. Well, your voices sound beautiful together.”
“Thank you,” they said at once.
“Can we play a sample of that song for the air?”
“Of course.”
We sat and listened as the soft, simple tune filled the recording area. I was so proud to be apart of the project we called Smallpox. That family. Those beautiful people.
Cori pushed away a few tears as the song ended.
“Um. Sorry. That’s really beautiful,” she sniffed, “Why did you choose to put Hallelujah at the end of the album instead of ending it with My Friends?”
“I think I can answer that,” Mandy said, having finished a drink of water, “We wanted to leave our listener with hope, and promise of more to come. And Marvin wrote this one actually.”
“I did! It was a lot of fun, but very difficult at the same time, because I only know drums. I also never write songs, so this was a whole new ballpark for me.”
“Yet you fooled all of us. Well done. You’re teenagers, but I mean you’ve done things with your lives! Let’s talk about your album cover. You’ve got this amazing collage of the eight of you, with Jay in the middle. The cover has a green outline, and underneath reads, the album title, Israel. Where did this name come from?”
“Dion, Vance, and Mandy came up with it all,” Tamika said.
“Yeah, Dion chose the name,” Mandy nodded.
“Right, so this came from a couple of things. There’s a Bible story where Jacob wrestles with an angel. Yes, this is a real story, go look it up. It’s a strange one, but short story shorter, Jacob and this angel wrestle, and then Jacob asks the angel to bless him, so the angel does and I think the quote is, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have struggled with God and humans and have overcome.’ So there are three meanings hear, the first is that Jay’s name was Jacob. Secondly, the verse I just quoted really depicts how we’ve felt for the last year. We did struggle with God and the people around us, but we overcame. We got through that darkness. The third reason, um, the Hebrew nation is sometimes referred to as Israel, and honestly, as Christians, we often feel like we’re foreigners on earth, like we have another home, because we do.”
“Fascinating. What about the album art, who’s responsible for that?”
“That was Mandy and Vance.”
“Um, yeah. I honestly don’t remember where the picture idea came from,” she giggled, “I like the way it turned out though. If anyone can’t tell, it’s from left to right, Marvin, Buck, Jules, Me, Jay, Trent, Vance, Tamika, and Dion.”
“Wow, that’s exactly right from memory. Who thought of the color?”
“I think that was me,” Vance laughed, “I don’t have a heavy reason for making it that greenish color other than it looked good.”
“Well that’s good enough for me, this does look fantastic, guys. I had no idea members of the band designed it. Who was your photographer?”
“Vance.”
“Again, I’m shocked because they look amazing.”
“Thanks.”
“So go check out Smallpox album ‘Israel.’ It’s on… Spotify, Apple Music, all that good stuff?”
“Yep. Pretty much anywhere you listen to music.”
“Awesome. Cori, you wanna take this next piece?”
“Happy to. So, we get a good glimpse of what your lives became after the shooting through your album, what have they settled into?”
We didn’t answer right away. It wasn’t a question any of us had considered. What was our life like now? I figured I had a substantial answer but didn’t really want to talk about it on air. I tried anyway:
“I mean, Jules and I… we get up every morning, I usually go to work around nine, she stays home with Levi, and it’s honestly, it’s been hard. I’m exhausted.”
“Do you wish now that you would have given Levi up for adoption, or gotten an abortion?”
The fact that she could mention that possibility was sickening.
“No. Absolutely ot. I know what it’s like to be abandoned. No way in hell could I do that to my son. He makes it all worth it.”
“How’s it been for you, Jules?”
“Pretty much what he said. I adore my baby, more than I could have imagined, and the work we have to put in ends up irrelevant.”
We were both lying a little, but we couldn’t let on how worn out we were, how honestly, mentally unstable we were.
“Most of us are still in school,” Grady said, “Vance graduated early, but we’re in online school and I think that’s been going well for everyone.”
We nodded.
“That’s pretty much it,” Dion said, his voice low.
Cori picked up his cue.
“Alright, well thank you all for coming in to do this. Go listen to Israel, and I hope you got tickets to their concert tonight because it is completely sold out. Stunning work you guys. Thanks again.”
We thanked her and then the recording light clicked off.



JULES’ POV
We went back to the arena and took a nap in the green room. Sleeping was good. It was a good distraction. I needed to forget that my baby wasn’t within walking distance. We woke up it and it was time to get set up. We ate a quick meal. It was around four in the afternoon, so I guess we ate Linner? We changed and then did mic checks and went through our songs. Suddenly, it was time.

KATRINA: It was surreal. Completely dream-like. That was my son, performing for masses of people. I missed having him around during those days, but I understood why he couldn’t. He was making his own life. That was fine in theory, but it still hurt. And it’s not like he abandoned us or anything. I saw him all the time. It just wasn’t what I had envisioned.

EUGENE: I stood there weeping. These brave, stunning children that I had helped raise were making art and loving it. There could be nothing more powerful.

ELIZA: I remember a little of that night. Like, I know the arena was huge. I would listen to the songs they played later on and get nostalgia, so while I don’t remember the performance, I can envision it. I’ve found myself doing that a lot lately. Picturing beautiful things. I’m always hungry, so I try to imagine food. I usually want to hear music, so I’ll hum the songs my brother and his friends wrote all those years ago. It doesn’t fix all my problems, but I think it lightens them.

JASON: Dion. He’d risen so far. I miss him so much.

WOOTON: It was awesome. Hilarious, when I thought of the band Tamika, Trent, and Marvin once tried to start. We had a great time.

PENNY: We did. We had fun. We brought Winnie. I think that was one of the first times she and Katrina were able to connect. Obviously, it wasn’t preferred that they were in chairs, but I was really glad she had someone who understood.

JEFF: Connie stayed home with Levi and to watch the shop, but I facetimed her a lot of the event. We were both so proud.

UNKNOWN: I’m actually finding it hard to breathe right now. Seriously, I have been waiting for this day for months, and it’s amazing. They’re all such beautiful people. I just love Smallpox. I was kind of scared coming today because they were Christians. I kept thinking about the people on television. They did a lot of security stuff though when we came in, so that made me feel better. I know all their songs. I’ve been listening to them on repeat for the last few days. My parents don’t really like that I do, since their Christians. But I’m thirteen, I think I’m old enough to decide what music I listen to.

CAMILLA: I couldn’t smile. Everything hurt. Dion had gotten Matthew, his couple friends, and I great tickets, but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. Matthew swaggered into that ridiculous stadium with excitement as if nothing was wrong, but things were wrong. Why couldn’t he see that things were wrong?

MATTHEW: There was one song. Cry Today, Smile Tomorrow. Dion got up there, and by the first chorus, I was sobbing. I finally let myself release. It hurt, but I wasn’t the only one. Many people in the audience were deep in tears. It hit something we could understand. Jay understood. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.


DION’S POV
“Hi.”
I held my ground. I wouldn’t touch them. We were back in Odyssey, I was exhausted, and there they were, standing in Jason and I’s living room. I had questions. I had a lot of questions.
“We went to see Nahla today,” My dad said, his thick Korean accent speaking as if that was a rare occurrence. I hadn’t seen him in a year and a half. He looked older.
“Why are you here?”
“We wanted to see how you were doing.”
Missionary parents. That’s how they met. My mom was born in Egypt to missionary parents, who then traveled to South Korea where she met my dad. They moved to the states right after Nahla was born.
“I’m alright now. I’m dating Grady McKay. He’s awesome.”
My father’s eyes moved to the floor. My mom tried to smile.
“That’s- nice.”
“Yeah. Can you please leave now?” I sniffed back tears. These were people who forced me out of the house and out of my family overnight. The people who didn’t care that my boyfriend was dead. Who hated the very idea of me loving another male. They hated me. I couldn’t look at them for very long. My vision became blurry and several hot, heavy tears poured down my face. I tried to move to push them away but I couldn’t.
“Please just get out.”
“Dion, we want to help.”
“No, you don’t,” I snapped through sobs. “You want to change me into the person you want me to be. Never mind that that’s impossible and unnecessary and insulting, please get out of my home.”
“This isn’t your home, son! Your home is with us!”
“Since when? You made me leave overnight! You wouldn’t answer my calls for six months! You didn’t bring me home after I was shot and put in the hospital three separate times. I’m not your son. That was a choice that you made. Don’t expect me to run back into your arms, I’m not only a different person, I’m literally apart of a different family. Get. Out.”
I stared them down until they sighed and went out the front door.
I limped toward the hallway.
“Dion,” Jason spoke. I turned to him, and he put his hand on my shoulder. “You’re not alone.”
He got me there. I broke down and entered his embrace. Thank God for Jason Whittaker: the man who taught me I was worthy of protecting.










CONNIE’S POV
After the concert, the band and their relatives went to Whit’s End for a little celebration party. We were able to keep out photographers, and while a few of the kids went into the Imagination Station, I served drinks and sundaes. Jason had to help me.
“Hey,” he began, when there was a lull at the counter. “So, I took Dad to Orchid Retirement. He liked it.”
I nodded, relieved but saddened.
“We’ll move him next month.”
“Okay.”
We both took a long, deep breath.
“It’ll be good for him,” Jason comforted.
“I know.”
“It’s okay to grief though.”
“Okay.”

After we pushed away a few tears, I was approached by Katrina.
“Can we talk?”
“Sure,” I answered, still feeling unnatural looking down at her. We went into the library, and I locked the door. We went over by the chairs and I sat down.
“What’s up?”
“Eugene and I went back to our councilor a couple of months ago. Um, things aren’t going well.”
“Okay,” I swallowed.
“I can’t make him take care of me, Connie. I’m um. I’m going to leave him after Eliza graduates high school.”
“What?”
“Please don’t try to change my mind. He doesn’t love me. Things aren’t like they used to be, and that’s okay. I just- I can’t be a burden on anyone, especially him. I couldn’t live with myself.”
“Who will you live with?”
“I don’t know yet. Maybe I’ll hire someone.”
“You know you can’t afford that.”
“Well maybe I’ll function on my own, I am very capable, you know.”
“If you’re very capable why are you breaking apart your marriage?”
“It just hurts to watch. Please don’t try to convince me I’m wrong. I might be and I know that. It just seems like the best solution. I thought I would tell someone… I don’t know, I just needed someone to know.”
“Okay. Okay, I appreciate that. I think you’re wrong.”
“I know.”
“Eugene does love you.”
“I believe he used to.”


BUCK’S POV
We got home around one. Jules cried when she got to hold Levi again. We changed and curled up in bed, Jules’ head on my chest, our son nestled into hers.


And for a time, we were at peace.

_________________
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse


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 Post subject: Re: PennyBassett Fanfiction
PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2019 1:36 pm 
Chocolate Chip
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Joined: Sat Jul 13, 2019 8:05 am
Posts: 40
Location: How I Do Is Nothing Great
Gender: Female
You did such a beautiful job wrapping up this saga! Bravo!! I really enjoyed the playlist, too!

I can't wait to see what you do next!

_________________
Shiyanne Rylie Steele

Buck and Jules Shipper
Wooton is the best character on Odyssey ever. Fight me.


"It's not that we don't make sense, it's that we have a different way of looking at things that do make sense." ~Wooton Bassett


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 Post subject: Re: PennyBassett Fanfiction
PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2019 8:22 pm 
Caramel Crunch
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Quote:
And for a time, we were at peace.
But how many convictions did you sacrifice in worship of that peace?


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