And Other Stories


Rachel didn't say anything about therapy to her parents. She knew she should have. From a more neutral frame of mind, she figured she probably didn't need it after all, but... Keeping all the worry a secret between herself and Raven still wasn't a good idea. If she did need therapy later, the silence would just get in the way. Or if Raven needed it later, for that matter. But it didn't seem like the time. Why ruin Thanksgiving? Wouldn't the pandemic do that enough?

Thursday arrived, and wasn't anything special. It did snow, just a little, dusting the lawn. It didn't really matter. That it was Thanksgiving didn't matter either. They had ham and mashed potatoes, but that was it. Not a ham, just regular slices of it. It didn't feel like Thanksgiving. Nobody tried to start a round of 'What I'm thankful for', which was probably for the best.

And then November slipped into December, and it all felt basically the same. Rachel still hadn't said anything, which was seeming the better decision. Things were better. Well, 'better'. It was still a strange, aimless melange, days running together without much to do. But at least she wasn't seeing things anymore. And she hadn't had any more incidents of sleep paralysis. Some nightmares, maybe, but none about... that.

Rachel stared at the mirror, toothbrush in her mouth. Everything was better. She was fine. As far as she could tell, Raven was doing okay, too. So why was she still so worried? Was she just stuck waiting for a shoe to drop that never would? She spat out the toothpaste, bent down to get water to gargle and kept attention on her peripheral, and... nothing. She finished, turned around, and then just barely glanced back to check the mirror. Nothing in the reflection that shouldn't have been.

Why had she almost wanted there to be? What was wrong with her? Rachel shook her head, as if it might shake the thoughts loose. She wasn't crazy, she wasn't going to think about being crazy, and she definitely wasn't going to entertain the thought that she was going crazy because it turned out she wasn't crazy. She needed a distraction.

Nobody was in the living room. It was a bit weird to be first. Rachel hadn't thought she was up that early, but it was apparently only 6:36. She probably hadn't gotten enough sleep, but didn't feel like trying to lay down again. She took a seat on the couch, and... where was the remote? She looked around, but couldn't find it. But they had a TV remote. She knew that. So where was it?

It was under a couch cushion.

Rachel didn't have any idea if anything good was on TV this early, but what else was there? Now that the entertainment of hunting around the entire room for the runaway remote had dried up, anyways. But... She sighed, and decided to stop vainly thumbing through channels for something engaging and get out a movie instead. She had seen them all before, at least all the ones she wanted to, but a rewatch would be better than nothing. Maybe a comedy would be good.

As she was going through the little cabinet of discs under the TV, one movie caught her eye. She didn't want to watch it; that would have been a bad idea. It was a horror movie, and she hadn't watched any horror since all that started to happen. In fact, whatever it was that had happened with the hallucinations and the nightmares, it had all started after watching a horror movie with Raven, hadn't it? And that was the one. She took it out and looked at it. It had been a stupid film, with a lazy ending and subpar special effects and an inconsistent idea about how its own demonic possession worked. Was that really it? Had something that shitty thrown her for such a loop?

Well, it really wasn't anything like her nightmares, she didn't think. She didn't recall its monster that strongly, it barely showed the thing clearly, but it wasn't very similar. Maybe it had planted some kind of idea of insanity, that had kind of come up during the buildup? But, no, that wouldn't make sense. It was all just a coincidence. It didn't mean anything. Of course it didn't.

"Thinking of watching that again?"

Rachel all but jumped. She looked over to Raven, who must have crept into the room without a sound. She tried to return her sister's smile, and put the movie back. "Hahah, no. Just looking at it." She stood back up. "I was thinking of watching something, but didn't have a real idea."

"I've been there." Raven was eyeing the cabinet, still. Maybe she had something in mind.

"If you want to watch something, be my guest. Or you could try and find something on TV, but I didn't." The TV was still on, but she had just left it on the weather.

"Eh." Raven shrugged, and looked back up to the TV. And then her brow creased. "Oh, guess we're going to get a lot of snow tonight."

"About time, honestly."

"Heh, yeah. It hasn't been that wintry, has it? Still, not looking forward to a big storm. It's not like we're going to go outside and throw snowballs." Raven went over to take a seat on the couch.

"Yeah. Though, you know, we could. Probably wouldn't be anyone else being that stupid, so we'd be safe. Well, no." Rachel shrugged, and then followed to the couch. "Kids exist. I almost forgot."

Raven sighed. "Yeah. I wonder what the neighborhood is going to be like when this all finally blows over."

"Yeah, now that you mention it. Though... Are we going to stick around that long when things do? Or... I dunno what I'm saying." Rachel screwed up her face. She knew what she was saying, and what she wanted to say. But did she really want to say it, and make the words real? Whatever. "You know, I was thinking maybe I should go somewhere else, when I can. For college, I guess."

"Oh." An awkward silence stretched out, and Raven broke it first. "Where are you thinking of going?"

"I don't know. It's not a real idea. That's why I haven't brought it up. I should look more into it but... Well, planning for the future right now feels dumb. I know it isn't, but." She trailed off and shrugged.

Raven nodded. "I get it. About like, when is this going to blow over? What if it never does?"

"Yeah. I mean... I'm not really worried about that. It's got to end. They'll make a vaccine, we'll stamp it out, and go back to normal. It's just... I've got no idea when, you know?"

"No, yeah. Well, anyways, if you don't have a place in mind, why do you want to go somewhere else? Do we not have a good school for whatever you're thinking of doing? I mean, I'd sure believe it."

"Heh. I don't know." Rachel looked away for a few moments. She could at least tell Raven the actual answer. The dumb little reason she was thinking about this, all of a sudden. "I just think I need a change of scenery. Maybe everything opening up will be enough of one, but... I don't know. I guess it helps a little to think about this, even though it's not enough of a reason to actually do that."

"Oh, I get it." Another silence followed, not as awkward. Raven put a hand on her shoulder, for a second. "I'm sure you'll feel better when things get back to normal. But if you don't, then yeah, go out and get that change of scenery. There's probably a good way to get one, maybe without a college. Though..." Raven sighed. "We're both going to have to go somewhere eventually. For college, for work, just to get out of mom and dad's hair. Honestly, can't say I'm excited."

"So..." Rachel canted her head. "Do you just want to stay here for a while, still? Or is it just that the thought of leaving is scary? Because it's scary to me too, if that helps. And, feel free to tell me off if I'm talking like an ass."

"You're not talking like an ass, Rachel. But yeah, it's not really that I'm scared. Not that I'm not scared by the thought. It's not that I want to live with my parents forever, either. Not like that, anyways. I just..." She trailed off, and looked like she was thinking. Rachel decided to give her time to find whatever words she was after. "I just want things to stay like this, you know? All of us together. I don't want that to change. Well, not like this, but you know. Like before. Actually, I would even take like this. That's pretty sad, isn't it?"

"That's not the word I would use. Sad, I mean." Rachel put her hand on Raven's shoulder, trying to echo the gesture. "I think that's normal. Honestly, I'd probably be in the same boat if I didn't... well if I didn't think I was still a little too close to stir-crazy, being totally honest. Whenever I go off I'll probably cry like a little baby because I underestimated how hard I'd miss everyone. Let's be honest, we would absolutely call each other way too much. But we'll stick the landing, yeah?"

"...Yeah." Raven nodded. "You're right. Love you, Rachel."

"Oh, yeah." She laughed a little, not sure why she felt embarrassed. "I love you too, Raven. Okay, hey. Maybe let's get off our asses and do something together? Might help us both stay in a better mood. You aren't going to find me in a more willing mood to teach me real stretches, if you still care about that."

Raven laughed. "Okay, sure. You're going to regret offering that up, just so you know. But it'll be worth it."

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