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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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July 29, 2008

As her grandfather's car pulled away, leaving Kimberly half a block from Felicia's house, she again found herself on the verge of reconsidering this meeting. Her grandparents didn't know exactly what her interest in Felicia was, or else they might not have been so willing to allow her to go. More than likely, had they known just what was going on, Kimberly would have landed in yet more therapy during this time instead. It was not too late to take that option, to back out, to dig her phone out and call and say she'd changed her mind.

What kept her from doing so, in the end, was her stubbornness and her desire to see the whole thing settled. She had heard that Felicia had been looking for her, had surmised that the girl had just maybe been hunting her, probably for what she'd done to Aislyn. That was not something to ignore, to turn away from.

It was time to face the music.

And so, Kimberly walked, slowly but evenly, down the block and then up the path to Felicia's font door. Ringing the doorbell, she hoped she wasn't making a terrible mistake.

A few soft footsteps jiggled the front porch, and the door to the Carmichael residence opened partially just a few short seconds later. Even given prior warning, Felicia still seemed somewhat surprised at seeing Kimberly, and paused for a short moment before opening the door the rest of the way.

"Uh... hey," Felicia sounded out in something of a dry and unworked voice, followed shortly by her clearing out her throat. The fellow survivor still looked to be dressed in pajamas; she wore a loose-fitting t-shirt with the Kiss logo on it and sweatpants with some sort of rabbit print on them, but no shoes or socks. With how messy her hair looked, she could easily have been woken up by the doorbell. "So, uh... what's... going on?"

For a moment, Kimberly was taken aback. This was almost too normal, like she'd come for a friendly visit instead of to deal with some very unpleasant unresolved business. Felicia didn't look like someone who was, at one point, holding a gun in some crazy death match. Maybe that was what was so jarring about this whole thing. Kimberly had not actually seen Felicia on the island, and so imagining her in that context was a stretch.

Didn't matter.

"I heard you were looking for me," Kimberly said. "Uh... before."

Felicia's mouth worked for a bit as she took in what Kimberly had said. There was another long, uncomfortable moment of silence where the girl's face betrayed little of her emotions before she stepped back and out of the doorway.

"Right. That. You want to come in, then?" Before there was much time to respond, there was a call from somewhere further inside the house.

"'Licia, hon, who's at the door?"

"Friend from school, mom," Felicia replied. Her voice fell a little flat as she talked. She didn't sound even remotely close to the girl who went to Bayview Secondary School, gossipping up a storm and generally exuding confidence and energy. The whole thing was a little bit disconcerting. The response, seemingly so simple and innocuous, possibly said a lot more, given the circumstances. How many friends from school did Felicia even have left?

One less than she should have, for sure. Kimberly was positive it had hurt the girl. She herself hadn't had all that many friends on the trip, not with how many in her social circle had managed to flunk out somewhere along the way, and she'd still been hurt by the deaths, by the loss of Reika and Hermione and everyone else.

"Thanks," Kimberly said, and she stepped inside, following after Felicia.

The door was shut following Kimberly's entrance, and Felicia led the two down a hallway that ran left from the door.

"That was my mom," Felicia explained, without turning to face Kimberly. "One or both of my parents are always around, these days; never a dull moment, right?"

She opened up another door, revealing a poorly-lit and somewhat untidy bedroom with the curtains drawn. Kimberly followed Felicia, not really commenting on her remark, though offering a nod to her mother. She tried to force a smile, but it didn't come off quite right, so she quickly abandoned the attempt. Once in Felicia's room, she felt herself relax a little. It was easier, in a way, dealing with someone else who had been on the island, even if Felicia was probably not feeling very positively towards her at the moment.

"Thanks," she said again.

"Light check," Felicia said quickly, flipping the switch near the door to bring some light into the room. "And thanks for what?" As the girl asked, she walked on over to the messy, unkempt bed in the corner of the room and fell into a sitting position on it.

"For seeing me, I guess," Kimberly replied, following after Felicia. She wasn't really sure if she was welcome to sit down next to the girl, but looming above her seemed like a worse idea, so she lowered herself down, leaving Felicia plenty of space. She didn't really want this to become any more uncomfortable than was necessary, than it already was.

"Oh, uh, one second. You can stay right there," Felicia said, getting up from the bed and going over to shut the door. On her way back, she pulled out a chair that was up against a computer desk of some sort, turned it to face Kimberly, and sat down in it. "So we can talk in relative peace, you know?"

"Yeah," Kimberly said. "Good idea."

She wasn't quite sure how peaceful everything was going to be. Felicia had kept herself under control remarkably well so far, but it could be no more than a matter of time before the anger came. Kimberly had plenty of experience with that sort of thing, with the slow burn before the storm. She wasn't sure she'd be able to recognize it in someone else, though. It wasn't important anyways.

"Where should we begin?" she asked.

Kimberly's host shifted in her seat, taking a few moments to get comfortable in a chair that seemed to be disagreeing with her. Eventually, she settled for tucking her legs underneath her and rested her chin on one hand, which was in turn supported by her other arm.

"You know," Felicia started, "I really don't know. A lot of shit happened, huh? It's like... where do we even start?"

That prompted a more genuine smile from Kimberly. She could relate to what Felicia said, could understand it perfectly.

"A lot of shit did happen," she said. "I think... I don't know."

"Of course you know," Felicia replied. "We both know, no matter how much pretending we want to do. No matter how much we wanna forget it. Right?" Felicia curled up a little tighter.

"I guess so." There wasn't much else to say. "I guess I do."

"Like... the fact that you and I, we both killed people?"

"Yeah." Kimberly had done a quick Google search on Felicia, soon after returning. She knew the girl had killed twice, knew that the first time had been in response to an attack, that the second was a little less conclusive. She wondered if Felicia knew what had happened after the rescue, what had happeend with Kris. She wondered if it mattered. It didn't stop her from speaking.

"We did," A pause. "No matter how much we wish we didn't."

"It's so alien, looking back on everything. Like... I don't know, I..." Felicia struggled with her words. "It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I've spent a lot of time trying to make sense of everything, Kimberly. You know, like... most of our classmates being dead. My mom and dad made me go to a whole bunch of counseling; shit, they still are. Don't know why I used past tense there. Had Eiko here the other day; remember her?"

"Kind of," Kimberly said. Eiko had been one of Bayview's transfer students, from Japan or something. Looking back, Kimberly couldn't even remember if Eiko had been in the game. If she had, she certainly hadn't killed anyone. That was a strange thought. Kimberly wondered just what those who had missed the trip and been left behind had thought, whether they were counting their blessings or wishing they'd had a chance to help their friends. She wondered if the uncertainty would always eat at them. She frowned for a moment, then asked, "How's she doing?"

"Okay, I guess," Felicia responded while shifting once more in her chair. "She says that she lost her path in life. Told her that she still had a lot left to live for because she never even killed anybody. I think I still have a lot left, and I killed twice." Her voice showed a few hints of wavering, but she managed to steel herself near the end of the sentence. Felicia kicked her legs out from under her and stretched in the chair, eating up a good ten seconds between then and the next time she looked Kimberly in the face. "And you? You 'won' the game." Bitterness at that word. "What now?"

Kimberly tried not to laugh. It would have been, at best, impolitic.

"Winning," she said. "I don't know why they call it that, why everyone keeps calling it that. It's just playing into their hands, you know? It's using their words, and I don't think anyone who wasn't there even gets that."

She paused, rolled her shoulders, winced just a bit.

"I don't know what happens now. I don't know at all. I still have some things to do, I guess, some things I wanted to do, and I don't know what comes after that. I mean, I guess this is what comes now. I guess I've been taking everything one thing at a time."

"Yeah, I hear you. We both fucking lost." Some more of Felicia's bitterness was showing. "And now, what you've decided to do is come visit me? Seems a bit random."

Kimberly smiled again, though it didn't feel quite right.

"It's a little more complicated. I heard you were looking for me, on the island. We weren't good friends, didn't meet up there, so, well, there aren't that many reasons to look for people there. I got shot, you know. I got shot on the first day, by Kris Hartmann, and then I spent over a week searching for her. I told myself I'd do all these horrible things to her, because she hurt me and she needed to pay."

Her voice had leveled out, flattened. "I heard that you were friends with Aislyn, and I'm thinking, you know,"—a quick swallow—"maybe I was your Kris."

Felicia fell silent, a dumbfounded expression locked on her face at the revelation offered to her. Then, as a break to the silence, she began to laugh just a little.

"Well, shit, Kimberly. You're ruining my presentation", the girl chuckled. "Here, I was just about to ask you about Aislyn. About what happened." Felicia turned towards the computer desk and pulled on a drawer. She reached her hand in and, when it came back out, it was holding what was unmistakably a pistol.

Kimberly flinched, just a little, maybe just out of reflex. She stayed as still as she could, tried to keep her eyes on Felicia's face. Now was probably not the time for it, but she laughed a little too, just a nervous chuckle.

Felicia set the gun on the desk, but her hand never left the weapon. Her eyes set focus with Kimberly's for a second, as if daring her to take some aggressive action, but her words carried a different message entirely. "It's my father's. I snuck it out of their room when you first left me the notice about you coming. You're right, I was doing a lot of thinking. Ever since Aislyn died, I was looking for you."

Kimberly took a deep breath before replying.

"I'm not surprised."

She wasn't, either. She'd known there was a pretty good chance Felicia still hated her, and hated her strongly. That was, in large part, why she'd come. She'd known, even on the island, that actions had consequences, that hurting people carried with it a ripple effect, that she was hurting more than just those in her path. She'd just never expected to live to see the repercussions.

As for Felicia, she remained stone-faced as she continued to watch Kimberly, her hand resting on the pistol. "So... tell me what happened."

That made Kimberly wince, a bit. This was not what she'd wanted. Things were supposed to be easier than this, to not involve retreading the past, to not involve poking at the wounds that, unlike her shoulder, had not begun to heal all that well.

"I was at the docks," she said. "I'd just finished up with Polanski, and I went to docks for some fucking reason, and there was a body there, and then everyone showed up. Steven Hunt, and Will Hearst, and Aislyn."

Felicia made no remark at that, continuing to listen in silence.

"Aislyn was the one I got along with. Steven, he was talking too much, acting strangely. I think it was Aislyn who got him to say he'd turn over his weapons.

"Will, he'd killed. He'd killed, and I didn't trust him because he didn't seem like he cared, and he had a gun.

"We talked about making an alliance, but I didn't trust Will, not when he didn't react to a body at all." No need, she figured, to share all the details, the way she'd arranged that little incident. "So I figured I had to get the gun away from him. I grabbed Steven, and I said I'd gut him unless Will unloaded the gun and tossed it to me." Her lips twitched into a smile again. "I was going to throw it into the ocean, see what the fucker did then.

"The problem was, Steven called my bluff. He wouldn't shut up, and Will, he was crazy and he wouldn't budge, and everything was falling apart, so I lied. I told them that I was with Liz Polanski, and that that was why it was so important that the gun be put away, that getting everyone safe was most important, you know?"

"Not entirely, but go on." That time, Felicia's voice was almost a monotone.

"It doesn't matter." Kimberly blinked once, slowly, then continued. "I don't know why, but Aislyn tried to get the knife away from me. She came up behind me, and she hit me in the head with her elbow and grabbed for the knife, but she messed up somehow."

"... Finish. It's alright."

"I'm not going to say it was an accident," Kimberly said. "It wasn't. I don't think you can do something like that by accident. I was scared, and I wanted to get her away from me, and I stabbed her. She wasn't carrying her weapon. She'd left it behind her. I don't think I'll ever forget that she wasn't carrying her weapon."

Felicia shut her eyes for the last couple of sentences, but opened them once more when Kimberly had finished her story. "Alright, then," she said. "That's really all I wanted to know. I just... wanted to hear it from you, you know?" Felicia swallowed, then lifted the pistol and pointed it at Kimberly.

"That makes sense," Kimberly said. Her back was sweating. She could feel her shirt sticking to it, could feel the hairs on the back of her neck rising. She figured she might have a chance to dive and grab the gun, but decided it wasn't worth it. This wasn't like back on the island, not exactly, though staring down the barrel of a gun was almost sickly nostalgic. She wasn't sure what was about to happen, though she had a few guesses. She wasn't quite sure which to hope for. In the end, she just swallowed.

The moments passed in another lull of silence, made more uncomfortable by the gun's presence, not to mention the little fact that the weapon was pointed directly at Kimberly's face.

"Y-You know, I'm kind of brought back..." Felicia said with a slight stammer, breaking the silence once more. "This is only the... third time I've really pointed a gun at someone, and this was the only one that I had planned ahead." She sat up in her chair, both feet flat on the floor. "You don't know how long I've run this through in my... well, maybe you do. I've been thinking about this a lot, Kimberly. You really were... 'my Kris', you know? I promised I'd get revenge for Aislyn."

The talking, the nervousness, it threw Kimberly off a little. Maybe it was too close to home. This all would have been a lot easier if she hadn't been able to empathize with Felicia. It would have been a lot easier if she hadn't been able to imagine herself in the girl's place.

"It's hard, wanting to do the right thing for people," Kimberly said. She tried not to think about her words too hard, tried not to think about everything she was probably doing wrong right now. Had this been the right choice, coming here to face Felicia? Gambling with the payoff of the sacrifices so many others had made during the game seemed irresponsible, somehow, but living her life for others was intolerable.

"... See, that's just the thing." Felicia's hand wavered for a few moments. "I don't want it anymore."

The gun was set back down on the desk, and her hand removed itself. "I guess I made that decision when I first opened the door, I just didn't know it yet. What's the saying.... 'killing you won't bring Aislyn back'? It's pointless, on that and many... many more levels, you know?" There was a bit of silence as Felicia slumped in her seat and used her hand as a visor for her eyes, shielding them from Kimberly's view. "Sorry for... scaring you. If it helps... the safety was on the whole time."

Kimberly let out her breath, chuckled nervously again, wiped her brow. For a while, she just sat silently. The room felt hot, almost stuffy. She didn't know quite what to say, until, finally, she did.

"I caught up with Kris," she said, "and by the end, I didn't want revenge anymore, either."

She waited a moment, took a couple breaths, then spoke again.

"Thanks, for, well, thanks. And... for what it's worth, I think maybe you decided even before then. After all, you got on the boats." Again, Kimberly had to choke back a laugh. "I was asleep. Fuck, the only reason I missed it was that I was... never mind. Thanks."

"You're awfully nice after I just pointed a gun at you..." Felicia mumbled, which led to another, somewhat nervous giggle. "N-No problem, I guess? I mean, shit, what am I supposed to say? 'It's cool, I let people live all the time. Ain't no thang.'"

It was getting harder for Kimberly to keep her laughter from getting completely out of control.

"I'm, uh, I'm used to... used to being on the wrong end of guns now," she said. "It's been, fuck, I don't know how many times. A lot. I'm just crossing my fingers that, that maybe this is the last time. I think maybe it will be."

That maybe wasn't quite true. No matter.

"I hope so," Felicia said. "Let me... tuck this away, alright?" She let out another laugh, this time almost reminiscent of the days before the "game" ruined her life, and she stuffed the gun back into the drawer it was removed from. "I hope it's the last time for both of us."

By now, it was okay for Kimberly to laugh. It was okay to let the tension flow out of this meeting, to let it all drain away, to pretend for just a minute that they were friends having a sleepover, that they had never been taken, had never killed. It was okay to pretend that everything would be alright again.

Kimberly nodded in Felicia's direction, then pantomimed rasing a glass.

"Here's to the last time," she said.

"... Kimberly." Felicia turned her chair away from the desk again. "Now what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to live, I guess," Kimberly said, shrugging. "And I'm going to... to try to be a better person."

She sighed.

"But first, I'm... I'm going to go and talk to one more person."

"May... I ask who?"

She hadn't been planning on mentioning this, hadn't been planning to tell anyone. At this point, she was counting on Felicia to keep it quiet, at least for a day. That would be all the time she needed.

"I'm going to apologize to Aislyn's dad," she said.

Felicia only gave a nod of affirmation. That was all that was really necessary. "A-Alright. And maybe if you stick around in the area, and it's not too painful, come around again. If... I didn't offend you with the whole 'sticking a gun in your face' thing." A slight smile. "But... really. Just keep living, Kimmy. Keep living and don't feel guilty about doing it. That's the best way we can stick it to'em, right?"

"Yeah," Kimberly said. "I will. I'll try. I'll be around. And... and you too. All that shit that happened, don't let it get to you. We'll beat them."

Felicia bit her lip and nodded. "S-See you around."

Kimberly nodded as well. "Yeah," she said, rising from the bed. "See you, uh, see you soon."

Felicia got up and stepped to the door, opening it and the front one as well to show Kimberly the way out.

Kimberly followed Felicia out, finally pausing when she'd stepped outside. Turning back, she smiled and, one more time, said, "Thanks."

Felicia nodded, uttering a simple, "You too." There was a smile, and then the door was closed.
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
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