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Laurels
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Cause what you see isn't always the truth
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June 5, 2015, early evening

Kelly sighed as she set her glass down. She rubbed her hand on the bar counter, wiping the condensation off. She stared down at the glass of sangria in front of her. She stared at the grape floating near the top, and she pushed it down with her straw. She began to stir the drink, moving the fruit and ice around and making a clinking sound as the ice tapped the glass. She let out another sigh.

Since she ran away from the home, Kelly had been spending her time as lethargically as possible. She slept in late, ordered a large lunch for herself from room service, then spent the afternoon walking around the trails of the resort. She hadn't spoken to anyone else there since she arrived, but knew what to say if she did. She was Pina MacIntyre, a single businesswoman looking to take a long weekend to treat herself after finishing a big project with a major client. She could make up the details if she needed. Having spent the last sixteen years working in a bar, she knew the names of dozens of businesses in Kingman and the surrounding area and knew the jargon to give as well. She could probably be convincing.

It was dinner time, and Kelly was sitting at the bar in the resort's restaurant. All around, she could hear the sounds of people who were there for vacations or other events. From the way the staff was moving around, it looked like there would be a wedding there soon. Flowers were being hung from the walls, cloths were being laid on the tables. Kelly had to eat early before the restaurant would be closed for a rehearsal dinner. That was fine by her. She had eaten a salad, and could order more to her room if needed.

For now, she just sat at the bar and continued to drink. She was already on her second sangria, and could feel like having more. She stopped stirring the drink and took another sip. As she did, a man sat next to her. She glanced over at him, then away. She took another sip.

"I'll have a coke with lemon," the man said to the bartender.

The bartender poured the drink for the man, dropping a lemon wedge in. Kelly watched the man take his drink. She rubbed her hand against her forehead.

"Not in the mood for something strong?" she asked.

"I gave it up years ago," the man said in response. "It's not easy, but I'm learning to enjoy the flavor of the drink over how buzzed I can get."

Kelly smirked as the man took another sip.

"You are so full of shit," she said.

The man looked at her. "Maybe, but I know better than getting drunk around you."

Kelly's smirk vanished.

"How did you find me?"

"Hualapai Mountain Resort," the man said. "We didn't have a proper wedding ceremony, so your parents paid for us to have a honeymoon instead. Hualapai was where they sent us."

Christian turned to face Kelly.

"Even I remember that."

Kelly glanced downwards, then back to her drink.

"I thought I was careful."

"You were," Christian said. "You just forgot that I remembered this place when your parents didn't."

Kelly was silent. Christian took another sip of his drink.

"Are you going to make me go home?" she asked.

"No. Even if I brought you, I probably wouldn't be let back in the house anyways. I think it's best I stay out for a bit."

Kelly shook her head.

"Was it true? Did you cheat on Angie?" Kelly asked.

"Yes."

"I shouldn't be surprised," Kelly replied.

"I wouldn't expect you to," Christian said.

"Well, you never cheated on me," Kelly said.

"I did."

Kelly raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

Christian nodded. "Before we were seriously going out, I hooked up with an ex. It was a one time thing, but I was interested in you, so it felt like a betrayal."

"That doesn't count. If this was before we were officially dating, it's not cheating."

"Yeah, but it was cheating to me."

"Was there anyone else?"

"Tanya."

"Tanya? My co-worker?"

"At the lounge, yeah."

"When was this?"

"It was when you and your friends were away for a holiday a few months after Noah was born. Tanya came over to help me out, and we ended up in bed."

"That bitch..." Kelly muttered. "Wait, so you fucked her while watching Noah?"

"Well, he was asleep then, but regardless. Believe me, Tanya wanted it to be forgotten as soon as it was happened. She was going through a rough patch with Dalton and it spilled over and-"

"Okay, I got it."

Kelly tilted her head as she looked at Christian. "Who did you cheat on Angie with?"

"Her name was Rebecca. We were working together at the bank for a deal, and I invited her to my house to finish the deal. Then we started drinking, and we ended up in bed."

"Smooth."

"Shut up. Anyways, Angie caught us, and Rebecca ran off. We didn't see each other after that. It was a real dumb move. Angie was pregnant with Ella, we were both stressed and at each other's throats, and Rebecca was there when I was really losing it."

Christian rubbed his forehead.

"Believe me, I hate that I fall into the trap over and over again. I just don't know why it keeps happening."

"You're selfish," Kelly said.

"Excuse me?"

"You've always been," she explained. "You always wanted a lot of money, a lot of prestige, and a lot of fun. Whether it was poker or drinking, if it made you feel better, than it was worth it. I do believe you try your hardest to be more than that, but at the end of the day, you just want what you want."

"Hey, I kissed you because you wanted it."

"And how many times have you kissed Angie since Noah vanished? How many times have you two made love?"

Christian was silent. Kelly chuckled.

"Don't worry. I'm selfish too. I made this whole mess about me and acted like a total diva. I was the weeping mother who cared about her son so much she locked herself in her room like a madwoman and made everyone tread lightly around her because she was taking on such a dangerous task."

Kelly started to laugh a bit. "God, I'm so worried about our kids."

"Don't worry," he said. "Noah and Ella are so much better than we are."

"I guess so. I mean, how the hell did Ella record and publish that video?"

"I'm telling you, I can't sometimes with her. She once started a lemonade stand outside our house, but charged boys more for the lemonade than girls."

"What? Why?"

"She saw Angie watching a news report about the wage gap and decided to do the same."

"How old was she when she did this?"

"It was last year."

"So it's not too much of a stretch."

"No, but Angie certainly didn't tell her to do that. Seriously, she was charging the boys 50 cents for every 25 cents per girl."

Kelly started to laugh. "Noah never did anything like that. But oh man, did he ever tell you about Ernie in the ceiling?"

"Ernie?"

"It was from a book he found at the library. Ernie's some genie who lives in the ceiling and loves eggs. So it told you to throw eggs at the ceiling so Ernie would reach down and grab them."

"Oh no. I think I know what this means."

"No, it's not what you think," Kelly said. "Noah grabbed a whole carton of eggs and a stepladder and got up to the ceiling and started tapping it, asking if Ernie was there."

"How old was he?"

"Five."

"Oh my god."

"So yeah, he figured it'd be easy to go to the top and just hand Ernie the eggs instead of throwing them."

Christian laughed.

"Oh, man. That was so much better than I thought."

"Yeah, except my dad came up from behind and shouted 'What are you doing?!?' which startled Noah so much he dropped the whole carton on the floor."

"Nooooooo..."

"Yes."

Christian chuckled. "Oh, wow. I can't believe that."

"Yeah."

The two fell silent. They each took another sip from their drinks. Kelly's smile vanished.

"Chris, can we go back to my room? I'd like to talk in private."

"Sure."

The two paid their tabs and went back to Kelly's room. They ordered a bottle of wine and had it delivered. Christian poured a glass for Kelly and handed it to her. Kelly sat on the bed while Christian sat on a chair in the corner.

"What did you want to talk about?" Christian asked.

Kelly stared at Christian.

"Do they know I'm here?"

"Who?"

"Everyone. Did they send you?"

"No," he said. "I did find you on my own."

Kelly sighed. Christian took a look at her.

"Do you want to know about Noah?"

Kelly perked up. "What?"

"Noah. Do you want an update on him?"

Kelly's eyes widened and her breathing got sparse. "Chris, don't tell me-"

"No, no," he said. "He's still alive."

"Oh, thank god," she said. "I thought you were going to-"

"But he said something," Christian said.

"What?"

"He addressed the cameras," Christian said. "From what I've read, Noah's talked to the cameras quite a bit, mostly telling them dirty jokes I've shared with him. But he said something for everyone."

"Chris..."

Christian pulled out his phone and unlocked it. On screen was a text message to Angie. "Tell Edie and Arnold I found Kelly. I'll try to bring her home, so the police don't have to look for her." It was followed by a picture of Kelly at the bar, taken moments before he approached her. He clicked out of his text messaging app and clicked his web browser. The browser pulled up Noah's stream, frozen on a moment of him looking directly into a camera.

"I kept checking his stream today. He hasn't done much. He cried because a friend of his died, but spent the day alone in a room doing weird stuff. But he had something to say before he and his friend left to explore. I think you need to see this."

Christian handed the phone to Kelly after pressing play. Kelly held the phone and watched as her son spoke.

"Hey, Mom. I lasted five days here. That's longer than I did in little league, so I hope you're proud of me. Let me make this quick. Listen, I don't know what's gonna happen, but if I don't come back, please take care of everyone. I know Grandma and Grandpa will be sad, but could you try to be strong for them? You were always the badass matriarch our house needed, so I hope you can keep everyone going. Um, Dad. Angie. I hope you guys can be there for my mom if she needs help. Please also make sure Ella's okay. I can't imagine how she's processing this shit. But she's a trooper, so I hope you can explain it to her well. Oh, and as for my stuff, maybe you guys can auction it off to raise money for Ella's college. Wait, no, just give her my college fund. Odds are I won't need it any more. She's probably Harvard-bound anyways and could use the cash. I'll think of other things to say the next time I get a quiet moment with the cameras. Until then...um...peace, I guess. There isn't any here, but surely you guys have some."

Kelly remained stone faced as the video played. Once Noah walked away from the camera, she burst into tears. Christian moved over to the bed and took the phone from Kelly. As he did, Kelly wrapped her arms around him and began to sob into his chest.

"It's okay," Christian said. "He's doing fine, and he's taking it well."

"But he's still there. He's still there, and he doesn't think he'll come home."

Christian was silent. "We just have to believe in him. There's got to be some way for him to come home-"

Before Christian could say anything else, Kelly moved forward and kissed him. This time, Christian didn't resist, and kissed her back. After realizing what she did, Kelly pulled back.

"Shit, sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have-"

Before she could say anything, Christian pulled her back and kissed her.

"Fuck it," he said, breaking the kiss. "We're in grief. We're allowed to be stupid now."

"But Angie-"

"Fuck Angie," Christian said. "What do you want right now?"

Kelly paused, looking downward. "I..."

Kelly pushed Christian down on the bed and climbed on top of him. She continued to kiss him as she started to unbutton his shirt. Christian moved his hands under Kelly's blouse and began to raise it up, exposing her midsection. As the two continued to kiss, Christian grabbed his phone and turned it on silent. Kelly noticed this.

"Why did you do that?" she asked.

"I don't want any interruptions," he said, looking at the screen.

Christian set the phone upside down, the pulled Kelly closer. He held onto her and rolled her over. They continued to kiss and undress, ignoring everything else in the room.

On Christian's phone was a message from Angie.

"Okay. Do whatever you have to to get Kelly home. I don't care anymore."

As the sounds of Kelly and Christian's lovemaking filled the room, the phone vibrated on the nightstand. Neither Christian nor Kelly heard it. If they did, they would have seen another text from Angie.

"Where are you? Go to Kingman Regional Medical Center ASAP. Something's happened to Edie."
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