soy melt

I had a fun morning searching charity shops. Just when I thought that I would find absolutely nothing in my small town, I came away with this little box (I have no idea if my Tarot will fit in there but other little bits will; I was immediately drawn to it for some reason and couldn’t not buy it), a new candle burner, and some soy wax Fairy Dust melts – just because.

And they smell super pretty.

I’m so glad that I’ve found that I can tolerate liquid fats ok. I know most people with gastroparesis can tolerate things like whole milk and coconut milk but those are both no go’s for me so finding high calorie liquids has been hard.

BUT!!!! I found that I can tolerate things like hot chocolate with added earth balance (and made with soy milk) or with melted chocolate in it! Also, MELTED dairy free ice cream. BAM, I now have high calorie drinks that I can tolerate and thanks to them I’ve gained some weight and I’m almost 76lb!!!!

Put a small bit of butter into a fryng pan, about ½ tablespoon.

Add ½ teaspoon of garlic paste, and 1 tsp ginger paste, and one dash of soy sauce.

Let melt, and mix

add meat strips, cut inch long and thick to preference, and diced onion and cherry tomato.

add1 teaspoon curry powder, and ¼th cumin, nutmeg, and chili powder. Add 1tsp tomato paste and 4 tbsp coconut milk. Stir gently. Add more spices to taste,, coconut milk for quantity, or tomato paste of thickness. 

Serve over rice

Food Fight

“Ah, Vitya, we’re out of almond milk.”

Viktor looks up from his freshly poured bowl of cornflakes and shrugs. “That’s fine,” he opens the fridge and takes out a bottle of Frost® Arctic Blitz™ Gatorade.

“You’re not serious.” Yuuri looks up from his own breakfast, upper lip curled in disgust.

Viktor finishes pouring sports drink into his cereal and caps off the bottle. “I’ve eaten worse, honey,” he says, spooning up a huge mouthful. And, yeah, so has Yuuri. He was once a broke college student living in a dorm, after all. But as a married, adult(ish), 28-year-old person with a mortgage and a steady income, he feels as though he has graduated past the days of moderately inedible concoctions.

“I would sometimes have strawberry Jell-O with honey for breakfast during the off season,” Viktor reminisces, slurping noisily around his spoon.

“That’s gross,” Yuuri grimaces, but then—because he can’t help but be competitive—follows it up with, “I ate rice and mayonnaise every morning for two months once.”

“Hmm.” Viktor polishes off his bowl and sets it in the sink. “Mayonnaise is better with noodles.”

It should’ve ended there—with Yuuri scolding Viktor for not putting his dish in the dishwasher and both of them making a huge fuss out of waving salutations to Makkachin on their way to practice—but Yuuri can’t stop mulling over past strange and lazy food creations in his head. He can win this…whatever it is.

“I wasn’t allowed sugary drinks when I was a kid,” Yuuri announces when he leans on the boards to catch his breath. “I used to buy hard candies with my allowance and melt them in water bottles.”

Viktor laughs, wiping at Yuuri’s sweaty forehead with a towel. “That’s so cute, solnyshko. Reminds me of the time I tried to make homemade V8 by blending Spaghetti O’s and broccoli.”

Yuuri scowls and pushes himself back on the ice.

“During finals week, I kept myself going by blending ice with Mountain Dew, Monster, and a 5-Hour Energy,” Yuuri tells Viktor over lunch.   

Viktor purses his lips in concern and smooths back Yuuri’s hair from his forehead. “How are you still alive?”

Yuuri doesn’t have an answer that isn’t overly sentimental so he settles for leaning forward and pecking Viktor on the lips. They both ignore Yurio’s loud gagging in the background.

“And I thought it was bad when I ate a whole jar of peanuts and had to go to the hospital,” Viktor laughs. Yuuri is properly sympathetic, but he can’t help but feel betrayed.

“Yakov, which sounds grosser,” Viktor corners his coach on their way to the lockers, “cold tomato soup concentrate eaten out of the can-”

“Or a tortilla with butter pickles and mustard,” Yuuri jumps in excitedly.

Yakov grimaces and they both feel a surge of pride. “I expect this from Vitya, but you,” Yakov shakes his head at Yuuri. They consider this round a tie.

They’re still stuck in a stalemate by the end of practice, Yuuri countering uncooked ramen sprinkled with soy sauce to Viktor’s melted cheese sticks on bread. They both know there’s only one real way to settle the matter.

“What the shit is this?” Yurio scowls at the meals in front of him. “I thought you invited me over for dinner.”

“This is dinner,” Viktor smiles, and Yuuri nods his agreement.

“Okay, Yurio—” Yuuri slides into the seat next to him, making a show of leaning his chin on his hand and fluttering his eyelashes. He’s knows it’s not right to exploit Yurio’s misguided crush on him, but at the same time…Viktor’s going down. “We just need you to tell us which meal is grosser.”

Grosser!?”

“This lovely bowl of chicken noodle soup, garnished with a spoonful of chunky peanut butter.” Viktor shows off the food with a hand flourish and toothy smile like those glittery ladies on the Price is Right.

“Or—” Yuuri slides the steaming bowl away—“this chicken and broccoli hot pocket, resting in a bed of buttered noodles.”

“Like I’m eating this shit!” Yurio pushes both dishes away. Soup and greasy noodles slop over the kitchen table and Makkachin skitters around underneath, ready to devour anything that falls to the floor. “You’re both fucking disgusting.”

They end up ordering pizza. Yurio’s grumpy about it but still eats half the pie on his own. They agree to let it end with a tie later that night—Viktor’s head pillowed against Yuuri’s soft stomach and Yuur’s fingers combing mindlessly through Viktor’s hair. Neither of them is ready to admit defeat, but in the end, they did get to troll Yurio. And really, that’s reward enough.

5

Recently I’ve been testing a bunch of new fragrances to add to my shop, and now they’re up, so you can try them out too! 

A few of the new fragrances are in some of my newer fandom candles (like Moana, ASOUE, and Fantastic Beasts,) but now there are even more new fragrances available in my completely custom candles! 

New fragrances include: Birthday Cake, Coconut Hibiscus, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Icicles, Leather, Lemon Verbena, Ocean Waves, Pina Colada, Sweet Snow, and Very Vanilla!

You can see the full list of fragrances available in the cupcake candles, tealights, pill bottle pillars, teacup candles (only one pair left!,) and wax melts.

Save Me - Chapter 107

I was torn. My body was desperate to cum but I also wanted him to continue on his promises of pleasure.

Jared gently trickled his fingertips up and down the center of my body, avoiding my aching core as I tried to calm myself down. Taking a deep breath and exhaling it slowly seemed to help.

“Good girl…” Jared murmured as he brought his open palm to the center of my chest. “What color are we?”

At this point I was getting much better at being able to back myself down from the edge. I still didn’t like it but I could do it. At least, I thought I could. It helped that Jared always made my reward better than my sacrifice.

“Green, Sir.” I replied with confidence.

“Very well.” He said as he took my right wrist in his hand and attached the chain to the table.

Quickly walking to the other side he secured my left wrist, restricting my arms against the table completely. My breathing hitched as the realization struck me. It was a mix of anticipation, excitement and even a little fear of the unknown, all mixed together.

I didn’t start to internally panic until I felt Jared’s hands around my ankles, separating them to each corner of the table. One hand remained on my left ankle as he reached for something on the dining room table behind him.

I felt as he placed something heavy on the cushioned table between my ankles. As if reading my mind, he began answering my questions without me even needing to ask them out loud.

“This is called a spreader bar.” He said, taking my right ankle and buckling a strap securely around it, “I want you to keep your legs spread wide so the bar will rest on the table and your feet will hang just off it. Do you understand?”

A spreader bar?! Maybe if I could see it and I wasn’t totally in the dark, I wouldn’t be so nervous. But as I felt him reach for my left ankle, securing that one as well, I felt my nerves getting the better of me.

Unchartered territory would always be scary, I suppose.

“Yes. Sir.” I said, my voice sounding every bit as shaky as my body suddenly felt.

The ankle cuffs seemed to match my wrist ones. I could feel the soft fur and even smell the leather as he wrapped and buckled them around me. When I know he was done, I tried moving to see just how secure my restraints were and quickly realized I could barely move.

Jared placed his palm on my tummy, sliding it up to the center of my chest. Him doing that was becoming like a warm hug. I’m not sure if I could really explain it. But when his open hand was on my chest over my heart, it was instantly calming to me.

“Deep breath, baby. Relax.” He calmly instructed.

I nodded my head and tried to relax myself. Taking that deep breath Jared wanted me to take, I inhaled then exhaled slowly.

“That’s my good girl.” He praised, making me feel so proud I was pleasing him.

As I felt him reach again for the dining room table behind him, I took another deep breath trying to brace myself for what was coming next.

I heard what sounded like the striking of a match. I knew I was right when I smelt the sulfur in the air and it brought back memories of seeing candles in the shop at the club. As he blew it out across my body, my skin broke out in goosebumps despite the warm air surrounding me.

“Generally, I enjoy using beeswax but because it is melts at a higher temperature, I didn’t want chance burning you. So, tonight I’ll be using soy wax. Soy wax melts at a very low temperature so it cools much faster.” Jared explained.

Again, I was so thankful he was taking the time to explain everything he was doing before he did it, knowing it made me more comfortable. And let me tell you, I was getting quite an education. Despite his explanation about the different types of wax, the thought of melted wax being poured on my skin wasn’t something I would think would be very sensual. I would think it would just be uncomfortable.

“Baby girl, what color are we?”

“Green, Sir.” I immediately answered.

As soon as the words fell from my lips, I felt wax drip onto the sensitive skin between my breasts and trail all the way to my belly button. My back arched off the table as the heat registered in my brain.

This wax still felt very hot! I couldn’t imagine what beeswax felt like!!

I moaned as Jared poured another bit of wax across my chest, letting it pool at the base of my neck at the dip in my collarbone. Then, without pause, vanilla scented wax hit the skin on my right hip and began to run dangerously close to my core.

The insides of each of my thighs were his next target and as the wax traveled down in hot streaks, I tried to close my legs but the bar between them prevented me for doing that. The thought of hot wax that close to my pussy scared me but as he most certainly intended, it stopped at the very apex of my thighs.

Although the wax was hot when it made contact with my skin, it wasn’t scorching and began to cool and harden almost immediately. By the time Jared was done, I felt like I had wax from my neck to my knees and everywhere in between.

“I’m enjoying watching you move to try and escape the wax. How’s the wax feel, baby girl?” Jared asked as he poured wax directly on my nipple sending shock waves through my body.

The wax ended up running down my breast in all directions just like warm, sticky caramel that poured on a sundae.

“Ohhh myy godddd!” I exclaimed doing my best to curve my chest inward.

“Maybe I’ll just check myself, you seem to be struggling…” Jared taunted before I could formulate an answer.

Suddenly, I felt him reach down and easily slide two of his fingers into my tight, wet pussy. Pumping his fingers a few times wasn’t enough. I wanted far more.

“So good, Sir. Pleeaase, keep going!!” I begged, thrusting my pussy against his fingers.

“That’s good, baby….that’s good. So wet for me. But not quite yet.”

Not again!! I wanted to shout ‘NOOO!’ but I didn’t. However, I couldn’t hold the whimper that escaped as he pulled them away again leaving me wretched for his attention.

Before I knew what was happening, Jared distracted my attention from my aching pussy by pouring wax onto my other nipple. He no doubt watched with excitement as I tried to escape the heat. Just as it did on the other breast, it ran in every direction over my skin.

“You look like a work of art..” He purred, bending to whisper in my ear, “Just a little longer….” He told me, rubbing his nose softly against my cheek.

“Yes, Sir.” I responded, turning into him.

I wasn’t sure how much longer I could hold back though, I honestly wasn’t. I was so close, the mere thought of him inside me made my pussy throb. I loved to play but I wanted and was ready for more. The big question was, was he ready….

“I’m going to remove the wax now. The oil that I rubbed into your skin will prevent the wax from sticking so it’ll peel right off. You need to be very still for this though. I don’t want to cut you.”

“Cut me??” I quickly questioned, swallowing hard as a sudden surge of fear flooded my senses.

“Yes, I’m going to use a blade to peel the wax from your skin.” Jared calmly said.

A blade. He was going to use a blade against my skin while I’m completely tied down to this table, unable to move. My breath hitched causing an ache in my chest, fear raging through me. I had no way to defend myself, I was completely at his mercy. For an independent, strong woman, knowing this regardless of how much I trusted him, was difficult to swallow.

“I can see this is hard for you, baby girl. I would never hurt you, Vivie.” Jared stated, placing his open hand in the middle of my chest.

That was usually instantly calming to me…except for this moment. I know he could feel my racing heart but he didn’t move to release me from my binds. He silently allowed me time to decide what happens next.

He was waiting to see if I used my safe word or if I trusted him enough to continue. I knew that was what he was doing.

My heart was battling my brain. I did trust him. I knew he wouldn’t hurt me, he has proven that already. But still, using a blade of any kind was just unexpected and with my emotions running high, fear was overtaking me.

I was desperately trying to pull myself together when I heard his voice.

“What color are we, baby girl?”

I needed to do this. I knew in my heart I’d be fine. Jared wouldn’t hurt me.

Taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly, with it, I let go of my fear and doubt. And most importantly, my control.

“I trust you. We’re green, Sir.”

“Very good,” Jared began as he stood by my head, bending down, he cupped my face in his hands, “if you want me to stop, use your safe word. Okay, baby?”

“Yes, Sir.”

Jared kissed my lips, pausing a moment with his soft bearded cheek resting against mine.

“I’m going to start at your thighs. You’ll see, there’s noting to fear. I promise.” He whispered in my ear, kissing my cheek before standing upright again.

I nodded my head and relaxed my body, trying my best not to jump as I felt the cool blade slide against my inner thigh.

How to make candles.

Making candles is a lot easier than you might think! Here are instructions on how to make your own all natural, safe, and magickal candles.

Supplies:

Anything to hold your candles in. (Moulds, tea cups, sea shells, mason jars…)
Wicks or Wood Wicks
Soy Wax  
Dye Chips
Any herbs of your choice (Recommended: Any mints, lavender, sage, or small cuttings of fruit skins.)
Essential oil(s)

Make sure that your essential oils and the herbs you use smell similarly.

Instructions:

First you will need to gather all of your ingredients and lay them out neatly.

Take your candle holders and fill them with soy wax and as many colour tablets as you desire. The more you add, the darker your candles will be.

Put them in the mircowave (as long as they are not metal - if your holders are metal, melt the wax in a pot over boiling water double broiler style) and melt everything together. You will need to add more and more wax as you go along because melted soy wax yields much less than the flakes. Stir until mixed.

Add your herbs/fruit peel pieces and your oils. Mix again.

Add your essential oils, as much as you feel is necessary. Mix again.

Drop in your wick, making sure to place it in the centre of your holder. You can balance it and hold it in place as the wax hardens by laying a butter knife over the top of your candle holder and balancing the wick against it. (If it is a bit off centre, though, no one will be able to tell.)

(Optional) You can line up whole herbs against the edges of the mould and they will dry along the edges and make lovely decorations.

Let the wax harden. 

Trim the wick.

Ta da! Your candles are ready! Make sure to make them with good intentions and feel free to carve sigils into the top.


The Wiccan’s Glossary

satisfing my craving for sweet with apple dipped in soy vanilla cream and melted dark chocolate, topped with coconut (yes it’s coconut not cocaine), raisin, almonds and goji berries, nomnom ♡

Mixed Berry Donuts with Chocolate Sauce!

Makes 12

Donut Ingredients:

Dry:

1 cup sorghum flour (Or buckwheat, brown rice, plain GF flour)

½ cup almond meal

½ cup coconut sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

Wet:

2 flax ‘eggs’ (1 flax egg = 1 tbsp of flax meal mixed with 3 tbsp water left to set for 5 minutes)

¾ cup soy milk (Or any other plant based milk)

2 tbsp melted coconut oil

1 cup frozen mixed berries

Chocolate sauce ingredients:

2 tbsp raw cacao powder

3 tbsp melted coconut oil

3-4 tbsp maple syrup (Depending how sweet you prefer your chocolate)

Simply whisk together the three ingredients, followed by spreading over the baked donuts with a knife.

Method:

1.      Preheat the oven to 170 degrees c (fan forced) and grease a donut tray.

2.      In a bowl, combine together all of the dry ingredients.

3.      Whisk the soy milk and melted coconut oil into the dry ingredients.

4.      Next, add in the flax ‘eggs’.

5.      Lastly, fold in the mixed berries until combined.

6.      Transfer the mixture into the prepared donut pan. Makes approx 12 donuts.

7.      Put the donuts into the oven and bake for 30 minutes until golden.

8.      Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before icing with the chocolate sauce.

9.      Add coconut, goji berries and nuts onto of the donuts if desired. ENJOY!

027. 5SOS: Too Soon

WARNING: Ashton’s part is particularly heavy. Read at your own discretion. I am very cautious about writing things that are sensitive. I would never romanticize anything that is serious and I think I’ve done so properly. Also, I’ll never write about something that I don’t have some grasp on. A lot of what I write is based on things I’ve experienced or people close to me have. TOMORROW I AM GOING TO WRITE SMUT OR SOMETHING SWEET OR ROMANTIC OR ABOUT YOU AND THEM BECAUSE THIS WAS NOT WISE FOR MY HEART.  I have never been this tired. I’m sorry. Work has been insane. I hope SOMEONE enjoys this.

LUKE

Sunglasses on, Luke was enjoying the sunshine with all the people he loved. It had been his wife’s idea to invite all their friends and family over for a backyard barbecue.  It was a last hoorah before the boys headed out on the North American part of their tour. A nice way for everyone to have the chance to say goodbye. He was engrossed in conversation with a bunch of his buddies while Leila sat slouched on his lap, her body lathered in sunscreen while she wore her plastic Minnie Mouse glasses as if they were tortoise Prada’s. He kept one arm around her loosely while the other was over the table, keeping his beer near for nursing. 

“Hold on.” Luke interrupted his friend quickly, looking past Ashton’s tanning shoulders to watch his two year old boy running around the yard, trying to keep up with some of the older kids.  “Dev!” Luke’s teeth ran over his bottom lip as he called for his son’s attention, earning two confused orbs back at him. “Stay away from the gate.” Even if he was far too short to operate the wooden gate that led to the front, Luke scolded him away anyway. The other kids were going in and out and he didn’t want Devon to mistakenly follow. Luke had been the king of baby proofing the house for both children, always keenly aware of what was going on. Once Devon wandered away, picking up a small bouncy ball from the dewy grass, Luke gave his attention back to his buddy. He glanced down at Leila on his lap, asking his brother Jack, quietly, overhead if she was asleep or not. They were under a patio umbrella, trying to keep away from the chance of heatstroke, but the day of excitement had been too much for Leila on top of being out in the sunshine for the greater part of the afternoon.

Chuckling, Ben nodded ‘yes’ while Ashton took a picture with his camera, his little goddaughter the purest picture of perfection.

“I’ll be right back.” Luke carefully sat up from his wooden chair, leaving the beer behind as he carefully maneuvered Leila. He led himself into the house through the back door, finding his wife in the kitchen having a cooler with her girlfriends. “Sorry to interrupt,” He began, running a hand instinctively down his daughter’s head, her body warm as melted soy wax. “I have a sleepy lady here.” Luke grinned across the kitchen at his beautiful wife, knowing full well that if his daughter was lucky she would look just like her as she grew up.

His wife came right over and carefully took Leila from him, barely earning a groan from their exhausted toddler.

“I’m going to put her in our room.” After all, they were using Leila’s princess themed bedroom for keeping people’s pool things and presents. “Can you get everybody out of the pool? I think your dad’s just about done on the BBQ and we’re ready to go in here.” She asked him before reaching up for the smallest of kisses on her lips, carrying her daughter away and up the stairs.

As he was told to, Luke made everyone aware that the food was ready now, clapping his hands to earn the attention of anyone and everyone who was using the pool. He was walking back to the patio table where he had left his brew and friends when he heard his dad call out for him. Luke stopped dead  in his tracks and turned slightly to try and spot his Dad behind him, but instead he saw Devon at the edge of the deep end, his little feet half off the ground and reaching for his colorful bouncy ball. It almost happened in his head first and Luke was rushing over, screaming his son’s name out, before Devon actually tumbled into the water. He looked up at his Papa shouting his name and lost all focus, falling backwards into the huge backyard pool. He had his brand new sneakers on, jeans with his keys, wallet, and cell phone in the pockets, and a ratty old band t-shirt on, but Luke jumped right in after his son without so much as a second thought. By the time, he emerged in the water, Ashton was also in, covered in clothes, and swimming for the little boy who was blue in the face, crying as he gasped for air. Devon had been in the pool before loads of times, but always held in someone’s two hands. He had never been alone.

“I got you, I got you, I got you.” Ashton had grabbed the little boy first, reaching out and patting his back as he held him over his shoulder and stroked over to the edge, a group of adults crouching in anticipation and horror. Liz had set down a towel to lie her youngest grandson down on and as soon as Ashton had him flat on his back, she went straight to child appropriate CPR. Luke felt helpless, staying in the water, as Ashton climbed out. He just watched everyone around him tending to his baby boy, feeling as if too much water was in his own lungs.

Ashton’s hand reached out for him and used all his strength to pull Luke from the water. Luke didn’t feel himself moving, but he thanked Ashton before gathering beside his mother and holding his son’s hand as he crept down. Devon had stopped crying. He hadn’t been making any noise once he was laid down, the tears had ceased completely except for Luke’s and most of the women around.

“The ambulance is on it’s way.” Rushing over, cell phone in hand, Jack informed everyone. Luke hadn’t realized that while in the water he was shouting for somebody to dial 911 over and over. As the sirens began to blaze down the street.

Luke’s wife burst out of the back doors, rushing over in tears. She pushed people out of the way and dropped to her knees by Liz who had almost given up. Since Devon was pulled from the pool, she had been operating on his chest, giving him mouth to mouth, but nothing had happened. No water was coming out, no breaths being attempted, and most importantly no pulse. Luke couldn’t understand how not even three minutes ago he was the father of two children and now he wasn’t. He couldn’t even reach over and console his wife, he was too inconsolable and lost himself. Two paramedics burst in through the gate being led in by Jack Hemmings. While everyone seemed to move to make room for the professionals, Luke stayed still. He wouldn’t let go of his son’s tiny fist.

“You’re okay, buddy. You’re okay.” He said when all he wanted to blurb out was how sorry he was. He hadn’t meant to not be paying closer attention. He thought everyone was looking out for everyone. He had stepped away for just a minute.

“I’ve worked on him for three consecutive minutes,” Tears finally burning her eyes, Liz reported to the male paramedic who ripped open Devon’s tiny shirt. “There’s been no pulse.” She scooted over to her own baby and ran her two hands over and over through Luke’s wet hair, holding him into her chest.

“It’s DOA.” The paramedic held down the button on his radio, calling into the static. “DOA.”

“No, it’s not.” Luke’s wife panted. “It’s not! It’s not a DOA!” She kept screaming as people were backing up. Luke felt like he was a child again, crying his eyes red as his mother held him.

“I’m sorry, love. I’m so sorry.” He licked his lips and squinted at his wife, stammering out his words with perfect sincereity. “I ran over and I tried and I and Ashton and I’m so…” Luke lost his breath for a second and dropped to his knees on the ground as the paramedic picked up Devon’s lifeless little body with ease. “I’m sorry, Devon. I’m so fucking sorry.” Sharply, he inhaled before barrelling over and sobbing into the ground. Across from him, his wife was screaming and Luke knew it was all his fault.

ASHTON

Circling the rings of Saturn that had been tattooed on her wrist with the tip of her pinkie, Ruby Irwin sat pensively in the passenger seat of her father’s newest sports car, an impromptu gift to himself after being put through the ringer over the summer. She couldn’t remember the last time her father had both dropped her off and picked her up from school. Ashton Irwin was a busy international man after all, but also Ruby had stopped taking rides from her parents to and from school as soon as she turned fourteen. She wanted freedom and to feel cool by riding her bike to her private high-end education with her friends, usually going to someone’s house and watching the SciFi network after. For as long as she could remember, she was fascinated with the galaxy. She would lay down on any beach or field of grass at night and stare up into space, hunting for constellations and naming different stars. It was one of her favorite things to do. Ashton insisted on being her chauffer now, when his wife couldn’t be. After the summer Ruby had put her family through, Ashton had the seventeen year old under his radar gaze. He had gone as far as to loosen up the hinges of her bedroom door so he could hear it squeak if she got up in the middle of the night.

“Was school better today?” Ashton asked, drumming one palm against his steering wheel at the first red light they hit. He knew her first day back had been a negative six on a scale of one to ten. Ruby hadn’t opened up and told him, but his wife had spoken to her teachers who were candid with their details, explaining to her that Ruby was always hot on everyone’s minds due to who her father was, but considering how she spent her summer, everyone had something to say when she walked, usually by herself now, through the halls.

“It was fine.” Giving him no answer at all, she replied, her voice more akin to a ghost than anything else.

There had been a time where all Ruby was was static and noise. She could spin around in circles, talking a mile a minute, without ever losing her breath. She was born with the exact same energy her father had been. She would gather herself up on the arm of their leather living room couch and excitedly explain different theories about life on Mars and her curiosities pertaining the black holes to her father and little brother while they tried to watch TV. Ashton was lucky now if she would even bother talking about the weather with him.

“How do you feel?” Looking away from the road, Ashton checked in. He never noticed, but he had taken to asking her that same question half a dozen a times a day. He would poke his head into the washroom when she was brushing her teeth, still in her pajamas, in the morning and then periodically as the day went on. He just cared. He just wanted to prevent another “episode” as doctor’s had taken to calling it.

“Fine.” Again, she murmured, her finger picking up its pace as it ran around her tattoo. Ashton despised that his daughter had gone and branded herself last year, but it was now a much a part of her as as his dimples were. He had taken his time to grow to love it as a feature.

Ashton gave up with his questions, casting a side towards his window before rolling it down some, the traffic outside playing as a soundtrack over the faint radio. When Ruby was in the car, he kept the volume down. She used to talk so much that it was pointless to try to listen to music and now he kept it low just in case she wanted to share her thoughts.

“I’m going to take you to the meeting tonight. Your mum has to do something for your aunt.” Turning off the main road, trying his hand at a shortcut, Ashton explained. He was eager to get home after all, but he also felt anxious any time he was around a kamikaze car. Paparazzi were a real concern for him especially now with Ruby out in public again.

“I’m not going…” She mused, her head dipped back and moving back and forth slowly on the car seat.

“There’s not open for negotiation.” Ashton didn’t even wait a beat before laying down his law. Ruby’s privileges over making her own decisions had been depleted and Ashton’s hands were firmly griped around her reigns. If he was taking her to a meeting, that was the end of the conversation. She didn’t need to talk, he made the rules.

“It doesn’t help.” She griped, her eyes refusing to find her father in the car even if he was right beside her. Lazily, she stared ahead at the letters on the licence plate in front of them, trying to come up with as many different acronyms as she could in her head. “It’s a waste of time. I could be doing something else.”

“Is there something you’re interested in? Any extra circulars?” Everything went through Ashton first now.

In fast defeat, Ruby knocked her head against the window, her ash blond squished against it like honey spread across a cracker. She used to think that the world on her like a microscope was difficult, but it was a wide open space compared to being beneath the thumb of her father. He used to trust her. He used to be unconcerned if she didn’t come home until eight the next morning, but now Ashton was trying to overcome the guilt he felt for being so laidback with her. He was overcompensating and felt very stern about that approach.

Ashton was smiling again by the time he pulled into the driveway of his Sydney house. He was always happy when he arrived home after any day, long or short. He watched as Ruby lazily unbuckled her seatbelt from over her uniformed body, grabbing her ripped up and old backpack that she never asked to replace from the ground. His eyes were eager and waiting to connect with hers, hoping they could have a real heart to hear, but she stood up outside and shut the door behind her with a hip chuck before heading straight into the house through the garage, Jazz, their golden lab greeting her on her hinds legs as soon as Ruby was in. She tossed her bag to the floor and put her hands onto her beloved puppy right away, scratching at her neck and giving her wet nose a few string of kisses.

“Let’s go get a treat.” To the dog, she whispered.

Ashton entered in right behind her, the garage door gurgling as it closed outside. He caught wind of Ruby right as she turned the corner, Jazz coming back to welcome him home.

“Hi squirt.” Ruby’s hand, chronically dry, slid over her little brother’s shoulder as she passed behind him on the couch, his favorite show on through their PVR.

“Hey. Come watch. This is the weird episode with the chainsaw guy I was telling you about.” Enthusiastic, a shining light in his otherwise tense house, Connor called at his sister as soon as she headed into the kitchen.

Ruby was on her tip toes in front of the closed fridge as soon as she circled into the kitchen, a mess of dishes and paper work taking over like low end décor. Ashton watched her out of the corner of his eyes, his head down as he shuffled through a contract that had been delivered for him by a courier that afternoon. He could hear her palms frantically feeling around on top of the fridge, groaning as she kept slamming nothing, but a stainless steel surface. She sighed loudly through her nostrils and slipped down to the balls of her feet, turning to face Ashton impatiently.

“Here.” He put down the stack of crisp white paper in order to fish her cell phone out of the pocket of his well-worn jeans and hand it over to her.

“Thanks.” Her fingers were scrolling through it immediately as she went to flee the kitchen and join Connor, but Ruby whipped around before the kitchen was out of her peripheral vision. Her hair followed her in a whirlwind as she showed more movement in that nanosecond than she did the entire ride home from her school. “All my texts are open.” She stated.

“I know.” Ashton nodded affirmatively, studying the contract over again.  

“You can’t go through my messages. Who do you think you are!?” As if Ashton had committed the ultimate offense, his teenage daughter hissed, shaking her gripped phone in his general direction.

Right away, Ashton put down his paper work to face her, his hand at his side, “Your father and the person who owns that phone…”

“It’s still my phone.”

“I told you until I can trust you again, it’s in my custody.”

“How am I supposed to trust you if you go through all my stuff!?” Raising her voice, Ruby fought back. She felt like she had been punished since the middle of August, since returning to her home and finding everything in her room had been rifled through like a fascinated burglar had broken in and taken their time.

The television in the other room went off and Connor rushed out of the living room with Jazz hot on his feet, both boy and dog sensing a tsunami coming from the mouths of Ashton and Ruby.

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t trust me, Ruby.” Ashton stepped closer and closer to her, both hands gripping the cold stone counter of the rectangular kitchen island, his eyes beating into hers like UVA rays, bleeding through his mafia boss stare and into her line of vision. “I’m your father. I’m trying to prevent another afternoon where I come home and find you lifeless on this fucking kitchen floor!” During her first week in rehab over in Melbourne, Ashton had had their custom tiles all ripped out. He didn’t care about the memories of late night romps with his wife on the cold floor or even Connor’s first steps. Every time his feet shuffled over the tiles after finding Ruby there in a plank position, vomit stuck in her mouth and powder along her nose, he turned into absolute pieces, a conflicted mess. “I’m not going to just to act like nothing has happened, Ruby. I’m not going to let you go about things again with blind faith.” He ranted, his face fuming as she began to feel younger and younger, the little onsie wearing planet obsessed toddler she had been before falling into a new group, becoming infatuated with the lead singer of a blues band her dad was mentoring. “Don’t think for a second that I’m about to apologize for how I go about keeping my kid on the right side of things!”

“How many times are you going to make me feel like a total screw up!?” Screaming back, Ruby released. Her bottom lip curled low as her cheeks tightened, the words coming out raspy as if they had been ground against sandpaper on their way out into the universe. “You don’t think I’m sorry for what I put you, and mom, and Connor through!? Were you not there all those visits to the centre where I apologized over and over again!?”

Sighing, Ashton tried to come down from his anger. The past still lingering through him and feeling as fresh as the scent of his laundry. He pushed himself off of the counter with ease and reached over, both his hands shaking, as they flattened against her face.

“My sweet Ruby, I’m not trying to punish you. I’m trying to help.

Her stare was a bullet, ready and pulled from the barrel of an over and under shotgun. He was squishing in her cheeks, sad as he looked at the little girl who was just a ghost of her bright self now, but Ruby only looked back at him with disdain. She lifted up one hand and smacked his away from her, rushing around the counter towards the door.

“I don’t want your help, I’m fine!” She shouted while rushing up the staircase, a reverse Cinderella at the stroke of midnight. “I haven’t touched anything in three and a half months!”

Ashton had a hundred things to shout angrily back, but he caught all of his words in his throat and turned them into saliva as soon as he heard her door slam, shaking the walls as well as his bones. He grounded his fist slowly into the countertop and wished that someone had sent him a parental guidebook over another album contract.

He remembered anticipating all the bumps that came with being a father. The moment he first held Ruby in a white blanket up to his chest, kissing her pebble nose, he knew the world would test them. He prepared for puberty and all the emotions it would bring. He considered that she would have her heartbroken along the way by someone or another despite his best efforts. He knew that she would need to consume vitamins and minerals. He even thought about how, due to his profession, privacy would be a constant battle in her life. School, friends, love, and manners, all of that, Ashton could cover. He had never considered what would happen if his daughter developed an addiction, if either of his children found themselves adoring the company of cocaine over their own wellbeing.

It took Ashton a little time to cool down. He sat behind his drum kit in his soundproof booth built in the basement, working out his aggression the same way he always had. Eventually, as sweat was running through his strands of messy hair, he crept up the stairs to try again with Ruby. His mind was practicing how he would approach her, the words he would use, and what position was least abrasive to sit in when he entered her bedroom.

As soon as he was up from the basement, he saw his daughter on the bottom step of the stairwell that led up to their hall of bedrooms. She was hunched over with the dog sniffing her hair, lacing up her old purple Chucks. She had retired her school uniform for the day and in a pair of jeans that hid just how rail thin cocaine had made her legs and a woven violet sweater that her grandmother made her while she was in treatment.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Ashton crossed his arms over his chest, speaking from behind her. He tried to sound stern, but he couldn’t help himself, but smile at the sight of her look up at him, surprised by his voice. It reminded him of the times he used to creep up behind her after a few days of being away for work, a large gasp escaping her tiny mouth before she bounced up into his arms, usually wearing her moon boots and a cheesy grin.

“You said you were taking me to the meeting.” As soon as she looked away, Ruby spoke, tightening a knot on her left foot.

“Oh, yeah, I lost track of time downstairs.” Rifling his fingers through his hair, he tried to be discreet as he gave his one pit a sniff. He supposed he was clean enough to simply drive her to the community center for the narcotics anonymous meeting was held twice a week. He had gone in the first time, but they insisted he leave in order for Ruby to feel more comfortable with her story. “I’ll just get my keys…” Internally, Ashton wanted to saunter like a gazelle into the kitchen. He was so proud of Ruby for taking the initiative of getting ready for her meeting despite having absolutely no desire to go. Ashton hurried with his keys and wallet, meeting her in the garage with extra pep in his step.

“This is really great, Ruby. I’m really happy you’re going.” He shared with her as he backed out of his driveway, the radio playing ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ as soon as he drove onto a main street. Ashton’s lips vibrated against one another as he hummed along, moving his head to the soulful sound.

“Well, you want me to.” She was frustrated with the new state of her life back home, the rules put in place that made her feel like a prisoner in her outfitted bedroom, but more than anything, Ruby wanted her father’s pride and approval again. She wanted him to forget about how she pale she was and cold she felt in his arms when he found her passed out. She hoped he would be able to sleep soon, close his eyes without remembering shaking his daughter in his arms and screaming at the 911 operator while on his knees. She hoped that he would be able to let her outside to walk their dog without watching from the window. Most of all, Ruby just prayed that, one day, her dad wouldn’t think about her as a junkie, as someone with a problem. She just wanted to be Ruby Irwin, NASA enthusiast, again.

Ashton’s tires screeched over the cement as he pulled up in front of the building that looked completely vacant from the outside. He turned down the volume of the radio and rested his hands between his knees.

“Your mom or I will pick you up in an hour and a bit.” He informed her of what she already knew and only earning himself a nod of acknowledgment in return. “Ruby?” As she was sliding out from behind the dashboard, he called for her to look back at him, blond hair running free down her back as she moved her chin to her shoulder. “You’re going to be okay, you know?” Sometimes, Ashton stayed up all night and thought about just how scared Ruby must have felt. He tried to remember what it was like to be a teenager and then tried to pretend he knew what it was like to struggle with something as overwhelming as an addiction. He used to hold her in the middle of the night, promising with a soft coo in her ear that everything would be alright when the thunder startled her awake, and all Ashton wanted to do since she returned home from rehab was just that.

“Thanks.” She grumbled and glanced down at her shoes on the dirty ground. Before heading into the building, she twisted around and pressed her lips to his cheek for just a moment, a blink and you’ll miss it peck before leaving the car completely. Ashton usually would have watched her to make sure she made it to the door, but he was so happy to have been kissed by his little angel again that he drove away, giving her the trust that she wanted.

“Hi Ruby.” One of the women who ran the meetings greeted the young girl at the door, grinning as she set up the table of refreshments. Ruby merely waved back, her discomfort setting in naturally. There were plenty of other people there, all of which she recognized from last time, but she stayed back and let them pick their fold out chairs first.

“Hey space girl.” Behind her, a voice slid like bonfire smoke behind her. The sound of a dealer as familiar as their own thoughts to a loyal customer. She was nervous to so much as check, but Ruby turned four steps and spotted the musician behind her, the frontman, her father’s ex grasshopper, grinning at her like she was meat and he was a famished street dog. They hadn’t seen one another since her parents admitted her to the rehab in Melbourne. Ashton had blocked the man’s number from his daughter’s phone and held him, by the neck, against a brick wall while cursing him out and making it plain that he would be destroyed if he ever so much as spoke to Ruby again.

Ashton had only just pulled up into his driveway as his cell phone began to buzz in the pocket of his jeans. He suspected it would be his wife since they hadn’t touched base as they usually did on days like today when their lives were running in opposite directions. He frowned at the series of numbers on his screen, not sure who on Earth they belonged to. They weren’t even his area code.

“Hello?” Knit together, his eyebrows fell over his eyes as he answered, shutting off his car.

“Is this Mr. Irwin? Ruby Irwin’s father?” On the other end, a woman who sounded more like wind chimes than human checked.

“This is he.” He loved being called Ruby Irwin’s father. He wished he could have it printed on a bumper sticker, but he was sure that his daughter would be absolutely mortified if he did.

“I’m Becky from NA. I’m going to need you to meet me at St. Jude’s…” Carefully, she told him. In all her years as a sponsor, this hadn’t happened before. She thought she had seen it all, but this was as new as an undiscovered animal in the wild.

“St Jude’s!?” It was the hospital he had rushed Ruby to only months before.

“One of the girls here found Ruby having a seizure in the washroom. She’s on her way to St Jude’s now…” Slowly, the woman kept talking, trying to keep Ashton from completely losing his mind on the other end.

It was useless though. Pain had replaced oxygen in his body and Ashton felt his mouth and throat turn into cotton. He couldn’t hear words coming out of his mouth, but his gums were flapping as sweat began to surface through his skin. He didn’t even notice himself turn the ignition of the car back on, backing out of the driveway without looking in either mirror.

“I don’t know, sir.” Becky answered a question that had already left his mind. “She was talking to someone no one claimed to recognize before we started. He was in a leather jacket.”

That was enough of a description because while vague, Ashton would never forget the mental sketch he had of the boy he mistakenly trusted with his daughter, the same chiseled musician who had wasted so much time with trying to help his band find footing and fame.

Ashton couldn’t feel his legs as he entered the hospital, but they brought him up three flights of stairs, unprepared to wait for the lift, and through the floor he knew too well for his liking. His hands, dry and shaking, slapped against the nurse’s desk as his breathed raced loudly. He couldn’t form any words even though a thousand were lodged at the bottom of his throat.

“Roo….Roobee…” He managed to muster out, one hand lifting from the counter top to clutch his stomach as he felt it turn into wet cement slabs under his shoulders. The nurse went from squinting at him with struggle to sitting up straight. Her tongue poked out between her lips as she registered who he was. He was Ashton Irwin, drummer of Australia’s darlings, father of the newly admitted patient, Ruby D. Irwin.

“Have a seat, Mr. Irwin, I need you to…” Her hands reached for the clipboard in front of her, but Ashton cut her off, leaving her mouth open as he began to shout.

“I don’t want to sit!” His words had found their way out now. “I don’t want to fucking sit. Where is Ruby? I’ll fill out whatever the fuck I have to fill out after I see my kid!” He fumed, shaking his head and reaching up to pull at the sides of his hair. The nurse was about to try again, the clipboard in both her hands, but Ashton had gathered enough attention that a doctor, tall and elderly, stepped out of Room 311 to intervene.

 “Leanne, I’m going to need you to open the family room.” In a hushed tone, the doctor nodded at the nurse before nodding for Ashton to follow him. He led Ashton over to the door that he had just come out of, but stood in his way, refusing to let him inside. He held up both his hands, first forward as a sign of caution and surrender, and then he put them together in a motion for prayer before he apologized over and over to Ashton.

He could hear the doctor, but the words weren’t registering. All that could he feel was bile rising up his throat and back down as he swallowed. There was absolutely no chance that this was happening to him. Without any consent of his own, Ashton dropped to his knees. He couldn’t even feel himself as he was on all floors, his face on fire and soaking all at once. He was screaming, but he couldn’t hear himself. The doctor bent at the knees to help Ashton up, trying to reach under his arms, but it was no use. Ashton was a helpless mess on the ground.

“She’s not! She’s not! She’s not! She’s not!” Shaking his head feverishly, he just kept screaming at the doctor as two nurses came over to try and tend to him, help him onto his feet. “She’s not! She’s fucking not!” His voice cracked as he began to feel lightheaded.

Throwing his limbs around, demanding to see his Ruby, Ashton was ushered into ‘the family room’, the quiet space at the end of the hall with a bed and a couch as well as array of overused board games. They brought him a bottle of water along with Ruby’s things that had been on her when she arrived via ambulance. Ashton was quiet, squinting at the wall, and out of feeling. He swore he could hear the four walls talking, going back and forth about what a horrible father he was. The hospital had tried to contact his wife, but only had luck reaching his mother and asked her to come instead. As he yawned, exhaustion filling his broken body, Ashton spied a small spiral bound notebook coming out of his daughter’s knapsack. Reaching down with the little energy he had, he picked it up from the ground and opened it at the back, flipping through until he found ink.

When I’m high, I swear I can touch the moon.

I love the moon.

Dad used to call me his little moon.

Now he wishes to send me there.

He hates me.

I love him so.

He hates me.

Her tiny cursive, lowercase I’s all left undotted, sang to him and brought hiccups and tears through his face. He had been so wrapped up in his anger and worry these days that Ashton had completely forgotten he once called his beloved Ruby, his little moon. It was a nickname he made up for her when she a child, an easy way to make her smile. The broken pieces of his heart individually ached all over again s the only thing harder than losing his baby was that she went away thinking he hated her when he had never loved anyone more.

MICHAEL

For charity, the boys, now men, were putting on a reunion show after a long five year break from touring together or putting out any new music. Respectively, all four of the members had been busy with their own musical projects and budding families, but they were eager to be in the studio with one another again. In fact, all four of them were antsy to perform again with one another, just as they had been the first time they ever played for an audience.

Backstage, fixing his hair in the mirror, and laughing over memories of how he used to wear it, Michael waited for the buzz of his cell phone to let him know that his family had arrived. It was getting closer and closer to nine o’clock and, so far, he hadn’t heard so much as a peep. He was surprised to hear his phone singing on the counter, over the sound of Luke and Ashton making up funny songs on guitar behind him. Michael picked up and immediately plugged his bare ear with an index finger.

“Hi Sweetheart.” He was grinning already. Mimi, his eldest, didn’t have to say a word to cause him to beam. She had been his little light since birth, even when she was throwing temper tantrums or breaking curfew. “Are you here?”

“Not yet. We got a late start, so we’re about ten minutes from Melbourne. We might miss a song or two….” While she was disappointed about her tardiness, Mimi sounded happy on the other end. She had always loved watching her dad up on stage when she was a little girl, large bun in her hair and candy necklace wrapped twice over both wrists. As soon as he mentioned to his family that Five Seconds of Summer were heading back to the studio, she been elated. Unlike a lot of children of rock stars, Mimi encouraged her father in his career. She knew it made him happy and she had grown up to realize that she liked him best when he was in a good place. All the times she kicked and screamed or tried to sneak out of her bedroom window seemed without point to her now.

“I’ll tell Dennis at the back. Are you driving?” Michael began to walk out of the dressing room in order to hear his daughter’s voice, sugary as the contents of a Pixie Stix. He thought of himself as a pretty laidback dad, but he made it abundantly clear to both his little girls that texting and driving or talking while driving or doing anything that wasn’t driving while driving was strictly prohibited. He had just about gone into cardiac arrest when Mimi earned her beginners. She was sixteen now, but he still worried every time she was behind the wheel.

“No, Cody is. Mom and Deanie left ahead of us.”

“Hi Mr. Clifford!” Vaguely, Michael could hear Mimi’s boyfriend through the phone. It had taken a little getting used to for Michael, but he had accepted that his daughter had a boyfriend by now. The two of them had been inseparable since they met through rugby clubs when she was twelve. Michael was really the only one who was surprised when on Mimi’s sixteenth birthday, the eighteen year old asked her to go out with him. Michael had decided, since then, that on paper, Cody O’Rourke was all you could ask for. He was always looking out for Mimi and everyone could tell he only wanted what was best for. In fact, Michael credited Cody as to his daughter improving in attitude. She was going through a bratty phase when she and Cody became close and since then, Mimi had softened into a much kinder form.

“Hi Cody.” Leaning against the cold white wall, feeling a chill snake up his spine, Michael chuckled. “You’re going to miss your favorite song.” He warned her, knowing full well that his daughter had always favored Voodoo Doll even though it was a song they played less and less of as it was about as old as they were now.

“No!” Mimi exaggerated her disappointment, laughing as soon as she was finishing calling out. “Tell Uncle Luke to play that in an encore. Tell him I’ll never talk to him again if you guys play it first.”

“I’ll pass the message along. Look, I got to go, but I’ll see you after the show, alright?” He caught a glimpse of the time on the wall, the clock slow by a few minutes and started to say goodbye. He heard the words leaving Mimi’s mouth out of reflex and hung up before catching the sound of her sweet, ‘I love you, Daddy’.

He was high once he emerged from the show, dripping in his own perspiration and some of Luke’s. The smile on his face felt it couldn’t be removed without the serious help of acetone. It felt just as it used to, performing with his three best friends again. He turned the corner into the dressing room, whipping the white towel from around his shoulders into the corner before rushing over to his wife and fourteen year old for a hug and ‘congratulations’. He held them both tightly, groaning above their heads, and pushing Deanie’s face into his armpit just to live up to his annoying Dad title that he was quite proud of.

“That was great.” From one earring to the other, his wife beamed up at him as he leaned down to give her a long kiss. They were one of those couples everyone seemed to adore, but envy at the same time. Even after sixteen years and two children, they were still as in love with one another as they had been when they met outside an arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

“You liked?” He smirked down at her, both girls under a different arm as he took a moment to be with his family while the room began to fill with friends and brownnosers.

“Oh yeah, I fell for you all over again. I think I embarrassed Deanie with my fan-girlng.”  Earning an almost effortless eye roll from their youngest, Michael and his wife laughed.

“She used to not be able to control herself around me, kiddo.” Michael explained as Deanie shudder, just thinking of what her dad was trying to imply.

“Yeah and now she just wishes you wouldn’t leave your dishes all over the place.” Deanie stuffed her elbow into her Dad’s gut before freeing herself from his arm to find someone in the room that wouldn’t talk about how in love they were with one another. Sure enough, Luke’s ten year old son was playing video games with his cousin in the corner.

Michael moved away from his wife to roll on a layer of deodorant, bending down into his open duffle bag to rifle through it.

“Where’s Mimi? Did you see her out there?” Michael checked, expecting his eldest to literally bounce in with her boyfriend’s hand tightly attached to her’s. “She said she would be a bit late.”

“No, I couldn’t find her. We texted her, but she never answered. She was probably busy dancing away.” Mimi had learned how to dance through the music her father and uncles came up with. They all had plenty of video footage of her bouncing off tempo on her knees to their music. Mimi had been an exceptionally cute baby, the kind that you weren’t sure how they were real and not drawn by the hand of a cartoonist.

“People always want to take more pictures of her than they do any of us.” Michael commented. Mimi has her own fans, people who didn’t even know her showing up at her rugby matches and cheering her on. She always loved the attention, too, never turning anyone away.

As the room began to fill with static and drinks started to pour, Michael rested on the couch with good friends, laughing at old stories as people recalled the days when 5 Seconds of Summer were just starting out as opening acts. He wondered where Mimi was and sent her two messages, but assumed something had come up. She was, maybe, busy having something to eat with her boyfriend. He remembered what being sixteen and obsessed with your significant other was like.

“Ah, it’s Cody’s mom.” Underneath Michael’s arm, a cold beer pressed into her bare arm, Michael’s wife excused herself from the loud circle of shouting men, picking up the phone with a confused expression as she migrated to a quiet corner of the large dressing room.

Luke’s son and nephew were teaching Deanie how to play their new army game when they dropped the controller loudly, the sound of Mrs. Clifford hypervenitalting capturing their attention and freaking them all out.

“Mom, are you okay?!” Deanie jumped up onto her feet from the carpet and rushed to her mother’s side, completely concerned. Mrs. Clifford had both hands cupping her mouth as she started to shudder. “Dad!” Deanie didn’t know what was going on, but she shouted for her father anyway, freaked out by her mother’s unusual reaction. “Dad!” She shouted again, this time earning most of the room’s attention.

Calum’s on-again/off-again girlfriend came running, putting an arm over her good friend as Michael put down his beer and headed over to his wife who looked like she was about to turn into a gray statue in the corner of the room.

“Okay. Okay. Okay…” Nodding, Michael’s wife’s words were muffled behind her clasped hands. “I will. Okay.”

“What’s going on?” She wasn’t giving him anything to go off of and Michael couldn’t remember a time he had ever seen her act this way, so startled and anxious. She was breathing louder than she was speaking.

She almost dropped the phone as she closed it, beginning to rush away and search for her purse.

“There was a bad accident on the Eastern Freeway, they’ve identified Cody’s car, we have to go to the hospital.” She panicked, racing around the room, as Michael’s heart sped up a thousand paces over time. Deanie gasped, but began to follow her mother like a shadow as everyone watched, unsure of what to say, but calling out different suggestions anyway. Michael headed to the mirror, bending down to find his keys before remembering he hadn’t actually driven to the venue.

“Here, here, here…” Ashton leaned over the couch’s back, dangling his wife’s keys loudly for Michael to take. Michael didn’t even thank him, he just spun around and swiped them greedily from the drummer’s hand before grabbing his jacket off the floor. He put it on as he walked to the door, stopping to reach his hand out for his wife’s as she made her way over, rummaging through her purse.

“Think positive!” A woman, someone from hair and makeup, called out. For all they knew, everything could be fine. Maybe, Cody was just taken to the hospital to be checked out. Maybe, Mimi didn’t even have a scratch on her. She was a tough girl after all.

“Call us, okay?” Calum’s girlfriend shouted with her thumb nail nervously between her teeth.

“Wait, wait for me!” Deanie hollered from the corner, stepping into her leather slip-ons while trying to walk over to her parents all at once.

“No, you stay here.” Michael demanded, waving the keys in the air as he held out on arm, his signal to stop Deanie in her tracks. The littlest Clifford continued anyway before her Uncle Luke stood up and caught her by the wrist gently holding her in the dressing room.

“Just hang out with us.” He whispered in a voice that he hoped was soothing, moving his hand away from her wrist and over her shoulder to begin rubbing at her back.

The hospital was a mess when Michael finally arrived after sitting in slow traffic frustrated for two hours. Michael felt like he was having a panic attack the whole time. Neither he nor his wife spoke, the radio stayed off, and they tuned out the sound of noisy cars honking as they sat unable to move, unable to know the state of their baby. Maybe, she was fine and all the freaking out was for nothing. Maybe, she had a couple broken bones. Or, maybe…maybe they couldn’t think about what was going. They didn’t know and it felt worse than any concrete answer.

He tried to remain composed, but his voice was the sound of nails against a chalkboard as he found a free nurse and jumped right in front of her fast feed. The scrub clad nurses behind the counter were too busy to attend to new people coming in.

“Mimi Clifford and Cody O'Rourke.” Not sure what else to say, he shouted out the names of the two missing children right in the woman’s face as if she could possibly remember any patient by their name.

Surprisingly, she connected with him, her eyes surging into his from behind her thick prescription.

“Are you the parent?” First, she checked.

“Yeah, Mimi Clifford’s.” He nodded, breathing out his daughter’s name again as his wife came up behind her, eyes eager for answers as she wrapped her hands around Michael’s arm.

“You’re going to need to go to the coroner’s office.” Picking up her pace where she left it, the nurse weaved by the worried couple. She said the word ‘coroner’ so casually that Michael assumed he heard her incorrectly.

“The corner office?” With his wife, he turned to ask.

“No, coroner’s.” Above all the voices of the emergency waiting room, the nurse called back, her hand waving in the air like a baton twirler at the head of an Easter parade.

At the sound of the word spoken with so much clarity this time, Michael reached over at the sound of his wife’s hitched breath. He reached around her and pulled her near, comforting himself by poking his chin into the top of her head.

All they wanted the whole way over was to know what was going on, but now that they were steps away from answers, they didn’t want to move. Discreetly, Michael kept gripping his sides and pulling at them, checking if he was asleep and in the middle of the worst nightmare he had ever conjured up. Unfortunately, he was wide awake and had the nail marks in his stomach to prove it.

Holding hands, Michael led his wife into the room, following a mousy male doctor, years too young to be wearing a lab coat so comfortably, into a cold room. White clothes draped over the shape of bodies with blank tags peeking out.

“I’ve got to warn you, this is graphic…” The doctor began, his gloved hands sliding underneath the top end of the sheet. “He came in quite disheveled and dead on arrival…” As the doctor kept talking, all Mrs. Clifford did was keep whispering: It might not be them, it might not be them…

Slowly, the doctor removed the sheet just to the pale body’s broad clavicle. Michael gagged without meaning to, his wife turning into a weak waterfall of tears, tripping over her knees on spot. He didn’t look like the handsome rugby player anymore, but he was very much Cody O'Rourke, the boy who had become something of a son to them.

Michael instantly began to cry as he tried to hold his wife up. He felt as if he knew what was coming next. The table next would hold a cold version of his sweet little girl, his baby, his biggest fan, and reason for being.

“I can’t, I can’t do this…” Blubbering, his wife managed to gasp out. Michael tried to keep her standing, but she broke free from his hands and fled the room beside herself. He didn’t even know how she was managing to move. Michael felt as if he wasn’t there. His feet were on the floor, but he wasn’t actually in the room.

“Our understanding is the point of impact was on the driver’s side, so while the passenger was not initially struck, when the car spun out there was multiple collisions.” The doctor explained though Michael wasn’t absorbing anything due to how numb his body had gone in order to keep himself breathing. “Are you ready?” The doctor asked with the second sheet above his fingers. Michael waited, standing there, for two whole minutes before nodding ever so slightly. As soon as the sheet was at the forehead he knew it was Mimi. While she was bruised and broken, there was a barrette still keeping her bangs back, three rhinestone red circles, which she always wore as good luck for her rugby games or anything that she was excited for. He closed his eyes after just a glimpse of his daughter. He didn’t want to remember her that way. He wanted his last image of her to be when she was alive and laughing, running around their backyard with him and playing make believe.

Michael felt like he had been hit by oncoming traffic as he stood there dizzy, seeing stars before he hit the ground, passed out cold.

CALUM

Cantaloupe. Carnivore. Cattle.

Cancer had become such a normal part of their daily life that the word had absolutely no effect on Calum anymore. His youngest son, Keaton, was diagnosed with AML days after his third birthday and they had celebrated the following four birthdays in the hospital in Sydney and most other holidays. Calum would always hold last Christmas when Keaton was allowed out for a week as one of the best in their family’s history. They had driven down to his sister’s place and celebrated with the entire family. It was the most he had ever seen his son smile in one day. He imagined it had something to do with the lack of tubes and needles being poked into him and not so much the fact that he was surrounded by doting family members.

There had been frequent moments that were led by hope. Weeks and months where it really seemed as if Keaton was going to beat the blood cells that just weren’t properly contributing to his little body. Of course, those weeks and months were closely followed by horrible bouts. The doctors could barely look Calum in the eye when they read numbers and notes off their daily sheets. Today was like neither of those days, though. Today was the one that you only watched other family’s go through, that people tried to re-enact poorly in music videos, the one that you could never understand or plan for even after going through it.

Calum was sitting stoic by Keaton’s bed side, reading the book, ‘Brown Bear, What Do You See?’, to his young boy. On the other side of the bed, Calum’s longtime girlfriend was beside herself. A crunched up tissue was clutched in her hand as she held it to her wet eyes and runny nose. Their other son, nine year old Carter, was sat beside his mother, rubbing her knee and looking as ghostly as Halloween decorations outside of a department store display. He wanted to be tough and brave, the way he and Keaton defined those words, for his little brother, but it was much harder than he thought. 

While Calum’s family and his girlfriends were all waiting outside, praying for miracles to be something that were more than just sweet ideas for song lyrics, Calum and his girlfriend had decided to say goodbye to their son all by themselves, just their little family. It was said that sound was the last sense to go and they didn’t want their son to drift into the light hearing too many overwhelming sounds. They wanted him to be comfortable and ready. Calum had a hunch that crying grandmothers didn’t make drifting away easier. He imagined it actually would make the whole task quite frightening. Calum was trying not to cry, he didn’t want Keaton to hear him, so he just read hm his favorite book slowly and naturally. He hoped it was what his sweet truck and flamingo loving boy would want.

He had just boarded a plane when Keaton began to grow weak and crash. It was slightly over twenty hours to travel from Sydney to Manhattan. When Calum had kissed his son goodbye on the cheek, promising to only be gone a week, Keaton was fine. He was up in bed with a carton of apple juice, watching an animal show geared towards little kids. Once Calum landed he had over a dozen messages from the woman in his life, demanding he come home.

“It’s Keaton,” They all said. “Come home now.”

Calum didn’t even bother to call for details before booking a return flight home. He hadn’t picked up his luggage from his first flight or made either Luke, Ashton, or Michael aware. He just rolled his carry on by the pick-up point and went straight for the welcome desk, asking to be put on the next flight for Sydney which wasn’t for another four hours.

“Goldfish,” Calum began, licking his finger print before flipping the page. He had read the book so many times that he didn’t even need it there anymore. Even though Keaton had jaundice and his eyes were mostly closed, Calum was still holding the book open in front of him, pointing out the cartoon drawing and explaining them to his baby. “Goldfish, what do you – “

Screeching.

It was tires over a dirt race track, nails across the teacher’s board, girls overcompensating for the poor sex they were having, a small man hacking up his lunch in the bathroom. The sound of the heart monitor flat lining was unlike anything Calum had ever heard before and, as a musician, he prided himself on knowing all the sounds the world could come up with. His wife instantly squeezed Keaton’s hand with one of her own and then took held of their other son as she sobbed, almost louder than the beeping.

Calum choked back his tears as they began to burn like spark flames in his eyes and just kept reading the book, one hand wrapped over Keaton’s tiny mitt as nurses and doctor’s rushed in around them, dismantling the machine and removed cords from Keaton’s tiny stomach as they wept. He had been there so long and he meant so much to every one of them. It didn’t matter how many times they went through it. It was always heartbreaking to see a family fall apart by no choice of their won.

“I love you, buddy.” Calum leaned in and whispered once the book came to an end. He pressed his face into his boy’s side, kissing Keaton over and over on his dry cheek as he was being rolled away on the hospital bed. The further Keaton was taken, the closer to death Calum began to feel.  “Be good.” He whispered knowing that if Keaton’s mother could form any English words that was what she would say. She was always on the boys to behave as if they were at their grandmother’s house, no matter where they went.