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Jenny From the Block
Hazel stood for a moment looking at the two bodies they'd pulled out of the hallway. She didn't know why it took until now to strike her how creepy they were and she thought that she must have been crazy just a second ago to casually drag one of them out. Some kind of delayed reaction or maybe a coping mechanism. Either way, it was better that they weren't in the room they were waiting in anymore, so it was probably a good kind of temporary insanity.

Jordan was looking a little green after having to shuffle around their former classmates. Involuntarily, she smiled. Hazel suddenly thought about asking him if he believed in ghosts, but thankfully he kept talking about the nature of how people change.

Something about it hit her very deeply. "No, it makes perfect sense," she said quickly after he tried to retract it.

"If you change something a little bit every time then soon there's the original foundation at the bottom but it's way different from the thing that started."

Hazel looked down and privately wondered what effect every rotten brick the island was piling up on each of their personal towers was having.

"It's too bad we weren't better friends before," she said quietly, not looking up. "If there's anything good that came out of this complete garbage fire, it's that I got to get to know you better."

Hazel put a hand on his shoulder and tried to give her best cheerful smile, hoping it covered up how scared and worried she was.

V5 Epilogue: Desiderium
A young woman tapped a manicured finger against her mouth as she looked at a rack of sweaters. She chewed her lip, mulled over the decision and tapped her foot with her hand placed firmly on her waist. Eventually she selected four--nearly all the sweaters on display-- and headed to the register.

“Hi, did you find everything you were looking for?”

She smiled, raised her eyebrows and nodded. The cost of the outing appeared in luminescent green and she swiped a credit card.

“Receipt?”

The girl shook her head while her purchases were bagged.

“Have a great day and thanks for shopping!”

She smoothly exited from the store back into the stream of foot traffic going back and forth in front of the store.

Mara removed the delicate nametag pinned to her chest reading “Amy” and then swept a strand of hair over her ear.

“Hey Mel, I have to leave early today. I told you about it last week?” She was dressed in light grey leggings, camel ankle boots and an oversized, powder blue knit sweater. Mara tilted her head to sling her bag across her chest. Her pin-straight black hair was cut in an asymmetrical bob with the shorter side reaching her chin and the longer side, the left, reaching about two inches longer.

“I remember. You’re good. Go ahead and take off.”

Mara hustled out of the mall and down to the street just in time to catch the bus. She fished around for her student ID and then settled in the back, watching the streets streak by. She pulled out a book and read for awhile until her stop came up. Mara looked up and the person across from her, he looked to be maybe a few years younger, was staring at her. She narrowed her eyes and he looked away.


Mara crossed her legs, uncrossed them and crossed them again sitting in the waiting room. Most people didn’t recognize her just off the street, but sometimes someone did. Things had quieted down a little in the past three years, but it still struck her a bit when she got mentioned, particularly in pop culture. For awhile she was a popular name-drop in hip hop and rap songs. The character of a snobby, vicious, pretty girl resonated with some people like she was a B-movie heroine instead of a real person. People were fine to airbrush her high school self on a poster, but no one bothered her in person for the most part. She suspected that it was too awkward for all but those with the most tenuous hold on reality to deal with someone who had lived through things people hope to never live through.

She snapped out of her thoughts and uncrossed her arms and legs when her name was called. She stood with her small green purse that had once been an army satchel and walked to the office she was called from. After struggling slightly with a heavy, wooden door she slipped in and let it slam behind her.

Mara took a seat and likewise, the older gentleman took his place behind a very expensive looking wood desk. The inside of the office reminded her of a ship somewhat. There was a lot of dark wood that made the room feel small and kind of stuffy. Behind the desk was several wall-to-floor bookshelves holding heavy law tomes. To the sides the walls were cluttered with tastefully framed diplomas. The only part of the room that hinted to a sense of humor was a globe that had a hinge on the side-- no doubt containing a bit of alcohol.

“Thanks for coming down,” said Robert Rosen, attorney.

She smiled. “It’s usually best to do what lawyers say.”

He returned a grin and adjusted his light blue tie.

“Let me first offer my condolences, not just for your father now, but for your mother last year.”

Mara shrugged. “He never listened to anyone, least of all about cutting down on artery clogging foods. To be very honest,” she said, putting a hand up to her chest for emphasis, “I haven’t seen any of my family since three years ago. I feel like this is a waste of time, they clearly didn’t consider me part of the family anymore and haven’t given me anything since so I you can mail me whatever - I don’t know - bottle cap or stamp collection they left to me.” She stood up to leave.

The last time she saw them was burned into her mind. Everything was white. She was in the hospital and she was alive, but they didn’t come to offer sympathies. They came to tell her she’d taken one step too far and it was a goodbye. It was difficult and she was sad and angry for a long time, but it was the best thing that had ever happened to her in the end. She had no obligationsto anyone or anything and become whatever she wanted with only herself in mind. She’d done everything from that moment on her own and she was incredibly proud of herself. She was proud of her grades and of her retail job. It was often difficult, but it was the closest to happy Mara had ever been in her life.

“Please, sit,” he said gently.

The clear empathy from this person, a lawyer even, made her hesitate. She sat back down. The attorney took a file from the corner of the desk and offered it to her, leaning over the desk a bit. Squinting her eyes and staring him down with suspicion, she snatched the file from him and opened it. Mara’s eyes widened and she threw the file back at him.

“Is this a joke?”

“We’re very professional,” he said, scrambling the papers back together and attempting once again to give it to her.

She began studying the paperwork, looking for some cruel trick or exception or stupid demand that would make her eligible to the money. Finding non, her mouth dropped open a little and her eyebrows knit together.

“What about my sister?”

“The instructions were clear. Everything goes to you.”

Mara began to speak, lost her words and then tried again.

“That’s- it’s not right.

What was he thinking?

Mara debated asking the lawyer to open up that bar globe to give her some of whatever was inside. She put her hand to her mouth and took a deep breath. She was still staring at the papers, but no longer reading them.

Split everything between us. Half and half.”

The lawyer nodded and made a note on a pad next to his elbow.

“We’ll draft up the paperwork—if you’re sure—and send it over.”

Mara nodded picked up her bag and left the office. Three seconds later she poked her head back in.

“Actually, 60/40. I’m the 60 of course.”

“Of course,” he said with a wry smile.








Mara flopped facedown on her bed on the bottom bunk. Her roommates weren’t home yet and she was frankly glad not to have to talk to anyone else. It wasn’t that she didn’t like the other girls, she did. Life in Hedrick Hall was pretty good, but it was hard to talk really deeply with anyone outside of the campus therapist.

In a matter of a day she was wealthy again.

Mara turned over onto her back. What was her father thinking? Was this his one last joke on everyone? Why leave her everything?

She wondered how Rebeca was taking the news. Rebeca had always been his favorite even though Mara was always more like him. Maybe in the end he thought Mara was strong like he’d always wanted her to be.

There was no real way to tell how he decided. Maybe he flipped a coin. Mara put a pillow over her face and sighed.

What would she do with her piles of money?

Obviously the first steps would be to pay her student loans and maybe get a place to live, definitely a car. Then what?

Mara stayed there wondering until she fell asleep, pillow still over her head. In the dark purple of the room she moved her head to the side and threw her arm so that her left hand landed face up. A few bandaged fingers touched the palm of her hand. Without opening her eyes she grabbed the fingers tightly and they warmly squeezed back. She felt like she’d been stabbed in the heart, but it was equal parts painful and happy. There was a feeling of wanting to stay in this warm, excruciating pain forever. Another hand touched her lips and swept up her cheek, tracing the scar on her face until it moved the hair off her face affectionately.

Suddenly she sat bolt upright, clutching her chest and sniffling. She swallowed and wiped her eyes. It was night now and the stars shone dimly out her window, held back from their true brilliance by the city lights.

Survival of the Fittest. It was bad-- the understatement of the century-- and a lame statement if there ever was one. However, she felt guilty to admit to herself that it shaped her tremendously into who she had become as a person in a way that wasn’t entirely negative. Without it, she might be completely different right now. There wasn’t a day where she didn’t think about it.

Mara scrambled over the edge of her bed and pulled out a box. It was her memory box. She opened the lid and began digging around. There were old pageant ribbons, newspaper clippings and a pile of birthday cards. Every year on her birthday she received a card with no return address on it that only said “Happy birthday, Miss Montalvo” in a familiar curly font. She only had three cards at the moment, but she would find an identical card every year and she would keep them all. Finally Mara pulled out a flimsy, laminated panoramic picture. It was the senior class photo. Everyone crammed into the gym on the bleachers and tried to get a spot near their friends for the picture. Some people even coordinated outfits. She held the photo above her with arms outstretched. She felt lonely at first, but after a moment of being able to pick out individual faces, she felt a painful, but slightly warm, sting of nostalgia.

Mara smiled as tears slowly traveled over the side of her face. She would set up something for them. A singing camp for girls who wanted to sing, a fashion scholarship for kids who wanted to study fashion, a prize to benefit high schoolers who wanted to work with farm animals. The money could be invested and continue to fund the programs and years from then she would visit and see her friends preserved forever in the hopes of other kids.

She rolled over, holding on to the picture and started falling back asleep. It was a good idea. It was a good thing to do. That’s why she’d do it.

It’s not like she missed them or anything.


End.




Thanks everyone. I wanted to say thanks to everyone who participated in v5 or read v5. Thank you to my two endgame and first part of the epilogue editors Burned Handler and Murder Weasel. Thanks to handler Kilmarnock for putting up with me generally in life. Thanks to Dan and Decoy for being in the endgame with me, working with me and generally being very cool. Lastly extra special thanks to handler NotAFlyingToy/ Brandon for editing the last part of the epilogue and being really cool, being awesome to work with as the final 2 and making stuff people like to read. I could say a lot more but v5 lasted long enough already. Thanks to everyone on the board.

Jenny From the Block
Hazel bit her thumbnail and gave an upside down smile at Jordon. Her eyes drifted down to the others sharing her space on the floor.

She rolled over until she was on her stomach and did half of a push-up to lift herself off the ground.

"We should probably clean up," she said, tilting her head to the dead girls shot in the face on the floor. "You know, if we're going to be here awhile."

Hazel grabbed one girl by the feet and started dragging her out of the control room. It was a little harder than she thought and she dug her heels in, pulling the corpse out of their space.

"Yeah, the tragedy is good people being against each other. I guess I understand a little better the idea of being so set against something that it's hard to look past whatever the crime is to consider context or if the person changed," she said as she dragged the body past the door.

"You're right, he's a total spoilsport because well, the plot wouldn't happen if he wasn't. Do you think people really ever change or do they just make different choices that more or less align with like, a core sense of self? I don't think Valjean was ever really a bad guy."


Jenny From the Block
((Hazel Jung continued from If You Had My Love ))

Hazel lay on the floor of the radio tower with her feet up against a wall. She picked at one of her food bars.

"You know, I think maybe people are often too hard on Inspector Javert. I mean, sure, he's a total jerk and I guess there needs to be a solid human antagonist for parts of the story but I think people sometimes don't consider the circumstances that make people think in such binary terms."

She looked upside down at Jordan.

"What do you think?"

If You Had My Love
Would you comfort me?

((Hazel Jung and Jordan Green continued from The Way the Sun Can Still Burn Down ))

Day five and they were set to meet Jeremy at night. Meanwhile, Hazel and Jordan went quietly on their way around the island, but for the most part did not encounter anyone. This may have been a disappointment, but could also be considered a blessing for them. Afterall, no surprises meant no risks.

There were some bodies along the way and the gym was no exception.

Now and then they had chatted quietly, but going indoors meant the chance for ambush. The pair were silent as a precaution. It wasn't true that there were no surprises though. Jordan's foot hit something and nearly tripped over it. He picked up the plastic case and Hazel looked over his shoulder at the treasure. A CD with "Jenny From the Block" scribbled in sharpie.

They were both at a loss, but there was also another message on the case.

RADIO TOWER

It was too weird to leave behind. Hazel stuffed it into her bag and they left the gym. Coincidentally, the radio tower was where they were supposed to meet Jeremy. Maybe this meant there would be another person waiting for them at the tower or maybe someone from ages ago who worked at the radio tower just really liked J. Lo.

(( Hazel Jung and Jordan Green continued elsewhere ))


The Way the Sun Can Still Burn Down
To Jordan's reassurances that they had made it this far and had to keep going, she nodded into his slightly soggy shirt.

Hazel straightened up after a moment and took a deep breath.

"That was probably gross. Sorry," she said, sniffling a bit and hastily mashing her hands into her eyes.

She moved her hair away from her face. It stuck to her cheeks a bit from due to the tears. Hazel looked up at the boy and half smiled, crossing her arms in front of her chest. She could tell he wasn't very hot on the idea, but the fact that he said they would do it despite being uncomfortable with it was sweet.

She'd picked a good ally, or rather, she'd stumbled into one due to blind, unbelievable luck. Hazel could drop it and not pursue Min which would likely make Jordan feel safer, or she could pretend she didn't notice that he wasn't crazy about the idea. She didn't know which she would do.

Hazel broke her gaze with Jordan to look around. No Jeremy.

"Oh jeez, did he leave because of me?" she wondered out loud, biting her lip.

There was a new piece of paper with writing that wasn't there when they'd entered. A note. Hazel approached it cautiously and picked it up. She stared at it a moment before turning back to Jordan.

"It says to meet him tomorrow."

((Hazel Jung continued in If You Had My Love))