Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!)

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Post  Michael Courtenay on Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:03 pm

For as long as he could remember, he was staring out the window.

A hand gripped onto the collar of his shirt, his chin burrowed under it slightly. He was curled up against a window on the ledge, barely noticeable because of how small he was, the side of his face pressed up against the glass. At times, he would count how long it would take for the heat of his breath to evaporate, but mostly, his mind and body were blank and tired from crying.

This wasn’t a new behavior- Michael had done this in the other children’s homes he was in too, before he met Talon. The other kids in the home would sometimes poke fun at this, and sing an alteration to the children’s rhyme about a puppy who longed to be adopted. ‘How much is the Michael in the window? The one with the squeaky voice~’ The boy didn’t pay much attention to them, certainly because he was used to being bullied and thought he deserved it, but also because he was too focused on the driveway. He’d jump excitedly when he’d see a car pull up, and then wilt once he realized it was just another kid being dropped off. He did this for years- nearly every day. Sometimes the residential counselors would have to pry him off of the glass. He did this because he hoped. The only family he had was in his imagination.

That is, up until he met Talon. Within less than an hour of meeting, they called themselves brothers… and with the feeling in their hearts and the signing of paperwork, that’s what they became. Both of them had healed each other with their unconditional love, and offered each other a small light in the often terrifying Rogers household. Talon taught him what ‘family’ truly was. Michael wished he was brave like his older brother- maybe then, he wouldn’t have cried ceaselessly in the car ride to Highgrove out of fear that he’d never see him again. He wouldn’t have cried when Talon hugged him goodbye either- he finally let go when Talon promised him they’d see each other again, and that they’d always have each other wherever they were. He wondered if Talon cried when Jackson left, because he was strong and rarely ever cried.

During the familiar reception procedure, it only solidified Michael’s fear- what if he stayed here long enough and Talon forgot about him? Granted, he’d never forget about Talon in five years, but he couldn’t read minds, (Like Talon seemed to be able to do…when really it was just a matter of reading Michael’s ever-obvious facial expressions.) so he didn’t know if Talon would eventually.

It was during free time at the home, and this was what Michael was reduced to- staring out the window, hoping Talon would show up when he knew that wouldn’t happen. His eyes were puffy and slightly pink from crying so much, but now he didn’t really have the energy to cry anymore. He didn’t have the energy to think either. He looked lifeless, which was a change from his usually optimistic demeanor. His eyes may have been green, but they held no true color.

The fourteen-year-old finally brought the side of his face off of the window when he heard footsteps coming toward him. Knowing it would have been rude if he ignored his company, he mentally forced his legs off of the ledge and hopped off. He faced whoever was walking.

“Hi,” Michael offered gently and sadly, cursing himself for not being able to hide his feelings. His gaze fell to his shoes, the right one turned slightly inward because he was pigeon-toed.

He smiled up at them- this too was soft and genuine. Whoever they were, they were taking him away from his numbness. A few words or phrases came to mind, (What’s your name? How long have you been here? Why are you here?) but when he tried to talk, it got caught between his teeth and ended up being swallowed, to join the gigantic lump in his throat.

“S-Sorry,” He said finally as he touched the back of his neck, smiling because he found it silly that he couldn’t talk properly. “I’m usually not like this. It’s just… I just came here and I kind of want to forget about why. I don’t want to cry anymore.”

The boy held out his hand. “My name’s Michael. What’s yours?”

And with that, he was distracted for a few seconds. He was unchained from the realization that he might have been abandoned for a third time, and came up for air.
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Post  Dilwen Vaughan on Fri Feb 10, 2012 11:39 pm

It had been twelve days and eleven nights since Dilwen Vaughan had arrived at Highgrove Home. Twelve days spent getting to know--sort of--her teachers and fellow students, patients, whatever they were (no one had quite explained to her satisfaction). Twelve days of ending up in odd corners and wrong corridors. Twelve days of doing nothing but the cleanest tasks on the farm allotment (she had no idea what other chores were expected of students, but had she known, she would have been thankful that she didn't have to deal with the dust and grime in the household or the kitchen). Eleven nights of lying closer to the ceiling than she had ever been. Eleven nights of looking at the moon--th'inconstant moon, as she often thought of it--and wondering if it were actually possible to become "moon-blinked" like in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series she had read. Thirty-four cafeteria-style meals, because she had arrived after lunch on the first day. And as she had looked at the moon that first night, she had wondered--even though she already had a friend, Tara Anne--if she would ever get used to this place.

But gradually, she had begun to become accustomed. By the third day, she had stopped wondering--aloud or otherwise--what she had done wrong that she was assigned to farm allotment chores. By the fifth day, she had stopped sleeping rigid on her back, gripping the sides of her mattress in fear that she might fall out in the middle of the night, and by the time she had been there a week, the moon no longer bothered her--she could simply roll over, pull the covers over her head, and be asleep in no time. She still stuck to the cleanest tasks she could, still wore her gloves, still wore the face mask when she could get away with it--fortunately it was winter, so she could wrap a scarf over her face and not look out of place, especially since her chores were mostly outside--and still carried at least one clean handkerchief around everywhere she went, but she was as accustomed now to Highgrove Home as she had been to her detached house in Tywyn. She was finally at home.

So now, having finished her evening chores, she hurried back up to the castle, her breath puffing before her, and went straight to her dormitory. She changed into her favorite outfit--a baggy purple sweatshirt with a white ribbon pattern on the left breast, a pair of matching purple jeans that fit her snugly, her sturdy boots, the clean ones, and her purple gloves--then dug through her book collection to find something to read. The collection was an eclectic one, as Anwen had bought her books--and, since Anwen could not see, she often selected books by making her way to what she was pretty sure was the correct section of the bookstore, finding a book of a certain thickness, and purchasing it. She was not always right, and there were a number of books Dilly hadn't read yet. But now, she missed her sister, so she seized one of the books with a shiny cover. It was an Eva Ibbotson book, but not the sort Dilly usually read--she preferred the juvenile books, the ones about witches and ghosts. This was historical fiction, about a ballerina going to the Amazon. But Dilly had read Journey to the River Sea, which also took place in the Amazon, so this couldn't be so bad.

She would need access to a dictionary and an encyclopaedia, though, and she had brought neither. There was a library in the school, but she'd never been there. Still, she reasoned, it couldn't be too hard to find. Thus cheered, she headed out to make the most of her free time. After several twists and turns, she ended up in one of the hallways that she was pretty sure might lead to a library. She saw a recessed part of the wall and thought it might conceal a door, so she hurried towards it.

It was not a door. Instead, it was a window, one with a broad sill, and Dilly brightened--it looked like the perfect place to sit and read. One could enjoy the outside without having to get dirty. If only she had her dictionary...

However, there was someone else in the window, jumping off the ledge to stand before her. A boy. A boy only a little taller than her, with the same colour hair and the same colour eyes. He at least no longer had his "puppy fat", while Dilly still had the slightly rounded features of childhood, but still, she guessed that he was not much older than she was, and probably the youngest in his family. But on his face was a look of such sadness that she almost wanted to cry.

Then he looked up at her, and he smiled--only a little, but it was a real smile. Dilly felt better immediately. She smiled back. Hers was her usual sunny smile, the kind that Anwen had always said was so bright she could almost see it. There was nothing false in Dilly's smile, either; she had always worn her emotions on her sleeve, and now was no exception. "Hi!" she said brightly.

The boy tried to say something, but he seemed sort of stuck. Dilly tilted her head slightly. She was about to ask if he was all right when he apologized and explained that he was trying to get used to being there, then introduced himself as Michael.

"It's nice to meet you, Michael," Dilly said sincerely. She didn't take off her gloves--both because she didn't know what he had been doing, other than crying, and because she didn't want to drop them--but she accepted his outstretched hand and shook it. "I'm Dilwen, but you can call me Dilly." She smiled again. "Don't worry--it's okay. I was horribly homesick the first day I was here. But I've been here twelve days now, so I can promise, it does get better."

Noting the traces of tears, Dilly reached into her pocket and extracted one of the handkerchiefs she had brought with her, a plain white one. "Here--would you like to use my handkerchief? I often find I need one when I've been upset." She didn't add "and you can keep it", but she sincerely hoped Michael wouldn't use it and then try to give it back to her. The thought of the germs made her shiver slightly. Even once it had been washed, one could never be certain.

Dilly moved a little closer to Michael and leaned against the window ledge, after first checking to make sure that there was no dust or dirt on the sill. She studied her companion with some degree of curiosity. "Where are you from, Michael? Did you have to come a long way?" It was the same question Tara Anne had asked her, but she wondered if Michael was from Wales as well. Maybe they were related somehow.
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Post  Michael Courtenay on Sat Feb 11, 2012 11:14 pm

Although it didn’t find its way to his face yet, Michael was secretly overjoyed at the girl’s presence, and it wasn’t just because she was a welcome distraction from missing Talon: It was because he was taller than her! Only by a few inches (Three, more specifically), but it still counted. And she was most likely his age too, as the home only accepted those aged fourteen and over. He was the size of the average eleven-year-old, so he embraced the surprise and covered it with gold star stickers.

Michael wasn’t only thinking about that, though- he was also trying to get as much information about her as he could by just looking at her, as his larynx didn’t seem to be working properly. He thought she was quite pretty, though he wasn’t measuring it by the imaginary and usually unattainable scale used by the media. She was pretty because everything about her seemed delicate, reminding him of flowers or paisley designs, although he didn’t know exactly why. He visibly blushed once he realized how poetically he was thinking, (‘Get a hold of yourself! No one would ever like [i]you[/i.]) and was immediately embarrassed about getting tongue-tied. But then, he felt comforted when she smiled. The sunny response was starting to make him feel better already.

He hadn’t really been thinking about what he was doing after that- autopilot took over, and he happened to outstretch his hand and tell her his commonly-used first name. This was what he usually did when he met someone new. He definitely wanted to do it, but he wasn’t actively processing it. In the split second that his new friend reached for his hand, he suddenly wasn’t in the hallways of Highgrove Home for Children with a nice, harmless girl anymore. Within an instant, her gloved hand became Timothy Roger’s cane, and he visibly flinched before her hand squeezed his. It felt soft and warm, reminding him of his brother’s hand, which made him exhale deeply. He gently grasped her gloved hand with his other hand, as a way to apologize and for an excuse to hold on a little longer.

“Sorry about that, Dilly,” He laughed distantly, sort of embarrassed and sort of guilty. “Sometimes, I think people will hit me when they won’t. I’m trying to work on that- is purple your favorite color?”

Michael intentionally deviated the conversation from his abuse to the color of most of Dilly’s clothing. He hoped she wasn’t bothered by his odd behavior, or the subject that he talked about. Making her feel uncomfortable within a minute of knowing her would be the definition of stupid and unfortunate. Besides, Talon wouldn’t have flinched with just a handshake… and he’d been beaten for far longer than Michael.

“Oh, don’t worry about me,” Michael up his right hand in a ‘scout’s honor’ gesture at Dilly’s words. “I know I’ll get used to it eventually. I’ve been to children’s homes before- this is my fourth time staying at one. Although, ‘homesickness’ by itself will be harder. I miss my brother. A lot.”

The boy bit his quivering lip hard as his eyes began to well with tears again. Before he could beat himself up about it, Dilly offered him her handkerchief. This surprised him as well, as he stared at it for a second and blinked a tear or two down his cheek. He took it gingerly, but used the sleeve of his jumper to wipe away his tears, like a boy. Instead, he held the white piece of cloth to his nose and breathed in the scent.

It smelled of old books, just like Talon. He breathed in what Talon’s hugs felt like- his arms were more of a home than the house they lived in, and could quell even the most awful of panic attacks. Michael found it funny that he was short enough to rest his head on Talon’s chest, and was small enough that his brother’s arms completely engulfed him. He relived it for a few seconds, and then came back with a smile emanating from his eyes and mouth at Dilly again.

“Thank you. That was all I needed.”

Michael saw Dilly move closer to the window ledge, and wondered why she examined it before leaning on it. He blushed again when he realized Dilly was a bit closer to him, and was flattered that he was interesting to her.

“Well, I’m actually from Suffolk County- it’s six hours southeast of here. I had to take a train some of the way because it would have been a long way to go in just a car. What about you? Your name is Welsh- are you from Wales?”

A small laugh escaped from him, which was a welcoming change from all the crying he did before. “You know, you sort of look like me- we have the same color eyes and hair, and we’re pretty small for our ages. Did your mother dump you at a children’s home before you could talk as well?”

Michael laughed despite the subject being sad, but he was just ecstatic that he made a friend.
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Post  Dilwen Vaughan on Mon Feb 13, 2012 12:42 am

Dilly noticed Michael flinch, but she assumed he was balking at the idea of shaking hands with a girl in gloves. She blushed slightly and wondered if she ought to--but no, he took her hand after all. And it was a relief; she really wasn't certain what she would do about the germs. Even though he seemed like a perfectly nice kid, nice kids could have germs, too. At least he wouldn't throw mud at her or call her a neat freak or any of the things her brothers and their friends had done, she could tell that at once, especially when he took her hand in both of his for an instant. What a gentleman, she thought, and she smiled.

"It's all right, honest," Dilly assured him when he apologized. "I thought--I mean, I had figured it was my gloves. That's something I need to work on, too." She was about to elaborate, but stopped herself. Somehow, she didn't want to tell him about her phobias just yet--she was afraid he might think worse of her, or not want to be her friend. Suddenly, Dilly found she wanted--needed--Michael's friendship, his good opinion of her. She didn't know why, exactly, but she wanted him to like her. "We all have to work on things, right? That's why we're here."

"Is purple your favorite color?"

Dilly beamed--he had noticed! Okay, she was dressed in purple from head to toe, but still, how many guys would take the time to pay attention to something like that? "It's one of them. Purple, yellow, and white. I like purple because it stands for good judgement and peace of mind and magic and mystery, so if I'm upset it helps me calm down. I like yellow because it's the color of daffodils--Mum used to call me Daffy-down-dilly. And I like white because it's clean." She blushed a little as she said that. It did sound kind of...crazy. Hurriedly, she added, "What about you? What's your favorite color?"

When Michael explained that he missed his brother, Dilly nodded in understanding. "I miss my sister, too. I don't miss my brothers so much--they were really mean to me--but Anwen is special." She looked up into Michael's eyes, an open, friendly expression on her face. "Is your brother older than you, or younger? What's his name? Anwen's older than I am--she just turned twenty a couple months ago."

When Michael wiped his eyes on his sleeve, Dilly couldn't stop herself from wincing. Her eyes fixed on the sleeve for a moment, memorizing which one it was and every detail of the shirt itself so she could be certain to never touch that sleeve, never ever ever. Even if he washed it, the stigma would still be there...then she shook herself and glanced up. Michael had buried his nose in her handkerchief, but it seemed to be calming him down.

“Thank you. That was all I needed.”

"You're welcome," Dilly said warmly, and meant it. "If you ever need a handkerchief, just let me know. I usually carry around one or two, and they're clean, so you don't have to worry about germs or anything. I mean, I don't mind letting you have one if I have a spare." She was rambling a little, but somehow, she hoped Michael wouldn't mind.

When Michael leaned on the windowsill as well and explained where he was from, Dilly had to smile. Six hours...that was about how far away she had been, or would have been if she'd taken a car. So what if it was somewhere different? They had both come the same distance, just about. Then he asked about where she was from, and her face lit up. "Oh, you noticed!" she cried, delighted. "Yes, I'm Welsh, born and bred. I'm from a little town called Tywyn. It's about six hours northwest of here, and I took the train most of the way, too! It's funny, if you think about it."

It seemed Michael had the same thoughts she had, however, because he commented on how much they looked alike. When he asked his question, even though he laughed, Dilly's eyes widened and her smile faded. Had Michael's mother really done that? "No," she said softly. "I lived at home with my mum and my da for my whole life until two weeks ago. I'm sure Da wishes sometimes that they had got rid of me sooner, and I know my brothers do--they didn't like how clean I was. But Mum and Anwen wouldn't let them. It was a fight to get Mum to let me come here. She didn't think anything was wrong with me."

Dilly blushed--she hadn't meant to say all that, and she suddenly wondered if she had upset Michael by talking about a mother who loved her. "Did--I mean, why would your mum put you in a children's home? What about your da?"

Despite her strained relationship with her father, who often came home caked with coal and grease from working the railway, Dilly loved both her parents. She couldn't imagine a world where she hadn't known either of them, let alone where she had grown up with the knowledge that they hadn't wanted her. She tried to console herself--maybe Michael's mother just hadn't been able to care for him properly. Maybe she wanted him, just couldn't go back for him. And after all, he had said he had a brother...
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Post  Michael Courtenay on Wed Feb 15, 2012 1:04 am

"I-It wasn't your gloves!" In response, Michael nervously waved his hands in front of him and blushed. "It wasn't you at all. You helped me- so don't blame yourself."

He looked reassuringly into Dilly's eyes, then chuckled distantly. "Actually, saying that makes me a hypocrite."

Dilly's next sentence however, caused him to nod with more emotion than he'd displayed previously. His new friend's presence and her words were restoring him bit by bit. He was now Michael Courtenay again, the one who looks at nearly everything with childish enthusiasm. By bringing in perspective that everyone was working on something at Highgrove, he felt loads better.

"Absolutely! I have to work on OCD and having anxiety attacks- although, I don't know how I'll be able to do that... I've never been without my disorders. If you don't mind me asking, why are you here?"

Michael was slightly taken aback by Dilly's (in his opinion, overly-) positive reaction to guessing her favorite color right. He didn't know why it mattered- it wasn't something he would have thought about. 'Gosh, girls sure are strange.' He gave a crooked, sheepish smile and listened to her talk about colors- he was surprised by how much she knew about colors as well. It wasn't as if he was listening to her drone on, either- he was genuinely interested. He had no idea colors had meanings until that point.

"Well, I haven't actually thought about it as much as you have," Michael answered, twiddling his thumbs. "I dunno. I like lots of colors- I don't really have a favorite, because I like to look at all of them. There's beautiful things for every color, I think."

He blushed furiously after he said that. That wasn't exactly the observation of a typical straight male, but then he reminded himself that Dilly probably wouldn't have cared. She wasn't the boys at his old school, who would frequently call him gay just for fun. It wouldn't have bothered him if it were true, because Talon was gay and that was completely fine. Michael made a mental note to find a purple, yellow and white flower, or a bunch of them. Perhaps he could give them to Dilly as a present if she was feeling anxious, as she said that the color purple helped her.

"Purple helps you calm down? What else does? Besides medication and sedatives, 'cause that's a given. Running water helps me calm down- taking a shower or sticking my head under a faucet or swimming is usually what I do. Hugs make me feel better too."

When Dilly told him about her sister, he felt a sense of connectedness- the beauty of that barely overpowered the guilt he felt for mentioning it. Dilly was going through exactly the same thing he was, and she wasn't being a crybaby about it. And her own brothers were mean to her? That was surely something to wrap his mind around- usually, the ones who hurt him or denied him love in his foster families were the parental figures, never the siblings. Talon especially, but Aggie too, were kind to him. His eyes conveyed that he was sorry, but then his expression brightened when Dilly asked about Talon. Suddenly, Michael didn't have control over his mouth- his filters had taken a temporary vacation. Excitement had made everything spill out, and it had taken him a few moments to realize that he was talking.

"Talon's older than me- two years, to be exact. But he actually looks his age unlike me, and people usually assume that the age gap between us is greater. He can sing and play piano, oh and trumpet too, and he's really, really good at it! I have weird talents that don't really make sense, but his do. And he..." A thoughtful pause. "...he's strong, in spirit. That's where it mostly counts, anyway. He's not afraid to say what he thinks or be himself, which is something I need to work on. He protects me as much as he can."

Michael smiled genuinely as he thought about Talon. Even though they were physically away from each other, they'd never be apart.

"I have another brother and sister too. Agnes is nineteen and she... well, she follows the rules. Jackson... I've never actually met. He got kicked out of the house before I was fostered into their family, so I never got to meet him. Talon tells me about him in secret, though."

He winked and stuck his tongue out- the punishment from Father would have been quite severe if he knew about that. Either Talon wasn't afraid of Father at all, or he secretly was and was very good at hiding it.

"Tell me more about Anwen," He offered. "And your brothers, if you want. If they were mean to you , they must've been pretty cruel."

He blushed as he put the handkerchief in one of his front pants pockets. "Thanks. And sorry- that was kind of weird, wasn't it? It wasn't exactly the handkerchief itself- it was the scent. It smelled like old books and that's what Talon smells like. Well, besides vanilla. When I sniffed it, it was like being in his arms again... sort of. And germs?"

He shrugged. "I do worry about germs, but only sometimes- when I'm really off the deep end. Like, when I'm about to have an anxiety attack. What about you?"

Michael wouldn't have known of the weight of his question, so he asked it anyway, thinking it was something on a whim to keep the conversation going. He was surprised again when Dilly was thrilled that he mentioned that she might have been Welsh, and smiled. 'So girls like it when guys are observant...' He thought about how coincidental it was- both of them came from opposite directions, but met in the same place. It was funny, now that she mentioned it.

When he joked about his mother, or lack thereof, he stopped laughing when he saw the expression on Dilly's face- he displayed the same deer-in-the-headlights face. She looked like she could have cried- he immediately felt guilty that he joked about something that made her slightly sad.

"I-It's okay," Michael reassured nervously. "I'm kind of over it... sort of. I mean, I don't even remember her."

He tried to get himself out of his thoughts- he spent most of his life thinking about who his mother was and why she had abandoned him, but he'd never get an answer and that was just the way it was. Besides, in recent years, he'd made Talon and the Rogers his 'real' family.

He winced when Dilly told him about her family. Her own father and brothers pushed to have her thrown out? "I'm sorry," He said finally, not knowing what else to say... then dropped his gaze to the floor. "Do you think... all of them love you... but brought you here because they didn't know what else to do? Because... if that's true, then it's not really abandonment, is it?"

Michael looked out the window purposely to avoid her gaze after that because it was a pretty emotional question on both ends, and at her next question, and tried to make his voice as free of emotion as he could... which was a challenging task for him. "Well, that's the thing. I don't know. And I never will. I was only two-years-old when she brought me there, and I lived there for most of my life- until I turned nine, and again when I was ten. And my father," He laughed after he said this. "I had no idea I had a father until I learned basic biology in school- I thought I was an asexual reproduction up until then!"

It was funny to him because of how stupid it was- how could he have not known he had a father? The only reason he could come up with was that they never told him, and his mother probably never told them.

"But that's okay," He said in his usual, 'brushing things off' voice. "I don't view them as my real parents. Mother and Father, Talon's parents, are my real parents... even though they were legally only my foster parents. They were the only ones who didn't give me away- the only reason I'm here is because Talon and I got taken out."
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Post  Dilwen Vaughan on Thu Feb 16, 2012 3:41 pm

Dilly blushed and grinned as Michael looked into her eyes. He really did have very nice eyes. Sex was something she wasn't comfortable with, but Anwen had spoken of a "special friend" she had made when she was away at the school for the blind--briefly--and Dilly kind of hoped Michael would be her "special friend". He was very nice, after all, and they had a lot in common, not the least of which was their smaller-than-average size. She guessed that Michael was about her age, if not a little older, since Highgrove only accepted students who were at least fourteen. (And threw them out when they were eighteen. Her mother had told her that when she had asked if Anwen couldn't come to live at Highgrove, too.)

"Oh!" She was a little surprised when he asked her why she was here, and for a moment she debated lying. But Michael had just said that he had OCD and anxiety attacks, so he wouldn't think less of her, surely? "Well, I have OCD, too, I think. I mean, I think that's what my doctor says. But I also have a lot of phobias. I have..." She paused for a moment, frowning, trying to remember the highly scientific terms her doctor had used. "I have automysophobia--that's a fear of getting dirty--and spermatophobia, that's a fear of germs. And I have nosemaphobia, which is a fear of getting sick, and ko--something that starts with a K, which is a fear of dust." She suddenly smiled. "Don't ask me to spell those, 'cause I can't. All I can remember is how to spell 'phobia', and what letter they all start with."

She didn't mention the newest diagnosis Dr. Priddy had given her, the erotophobia, because she didn't even like saying the word "sex" if she could help it. Also, it wasn't something she felt entirely comfortable discussing in the presence of a boy anyway--no matter how nice he was. There were some things, her mother had said, that should not be co-educational.

A genuine smile lit up her face as Michael talked about colors. Because he was right--beauty came in all sorts of colors. The green of a rolling hill, the blue of the sea, the white of a blanket of crisp, new-fallen snow...all of these things and more were so very beautiful. She couldn't imagine a world without color--which sometimes made talking to Anwen difficult, because she had to try and describe colors in ways that her sister would understand. It was this that had led her to learn so much about colors and what emotions they represented and brought about, so she could tell Anwen that purple was the color of a calm, relaxing afternoon or that green was the color of a day when everything was just perfect.

"Chamomile tea," she said in answer to Michael's question about what relaxed her besides purple. "And peppermint--anything with peppermint. When I'm really anxious, though--when one of my phobias kicks in--I have to clean something. Like washing my hands over and over, or scrubbing the floor, or polishing the silver. Something like that, something where I can see a result and know that germs and dirt are going away."

She shuddered at the thought, but her smile quickly returned when Michael began talking about his beloved big brother. Talon seemed like a really sweet guy, and Dilly almost wanted to meet him. It was no surprise to her, of course, that he was kind to Michael--anybody would have been. She couldn't help but giggle when Michael winked and stuck out his tongue after saying that his father had forbidden him to talk about his oldest brother. So he had been thrown out? Dilly wondered why. What had he done that was so bad? Had he thrown bleach on someone, too?

When Michael asked about Anwen, however, Dilly returned to the conversation at hand. "Anwen's wonderful. She sees the world differently--well," she amended with a slight giggle, "she doesn't exactly see the world at all. She's blind--she was born blind--and ever since I was little I've been her 'eyes'. I tell her what things look like and what I see in front of me. She taught me to write in Braille. I can't do that here, because we're not allowed to have sharp objects so I can't have a stylus, but I can still remember the whole alphabet. She promised to write to me while I'm here, so I'll have to write regular and get someone to read to her. I'm sure that won't be a problem, though. Even though my brothers tease me, they're always real nice to Anwen. Anyone would be. She's sweet and she's smart and she's..." Dilly paused, thinking. "Patient. She never complains and she always thinks twice before she does anything."

She blushed when Michael made his comments about her brothers being pretty cruel if they were mean to her. "No, no, I...I don't know," she confessed. "They just like to make fun of my phobias and my OCD and all. They throw mud at me when I go outside, and Sieffre--he's fifteen--he likes to dip his hands in mud and things like that and chase me around the house. Iago--he's sixteen--he rolled around in mud a few days before I came here and came into my room while I was cleaning to scare me and..." She stopped. Tara Anne had flinched when Dilly got to this part, and she wanted to be a little more careful with how she spoke. Finally, she said slowly, "I just saw the mud--I didn't know Iago was under it--so I screamed and threw the bucket of water I was cleaning with at him. It had bleach in it. I forgot."

That was the truth, but she sincerely hoped Michael wouldn't be scared away by it. He seemed okay, though, telling her that her handkerchief smelled like his big brother--like old books. Dilly's eyes brightened. "I understand. Anwen smells like vanilla and freshly-mown hay, and it's the most comforting smell in the world to me. I guess my handkerchief smells like old books because I have a lot of books in my trunks. I love to read." She broke off with a laugh, indicating the book in her hand. "In case you hadn't guessed."

When he asked about germs, however, she swallowed. "I don't like them," she said decisively. "I told you, I have spermatophobia. I usually carry around a hanky or two and a bottle of hand sanitizer--I had all different scents and colors, to match all my outfits--but they took my hand sanitizer away when I got here." She bit her lip nervously, remembering the scene. "It's because there was alcohol in them. I guess if they have people who are alcoholics, they don't want them getting desperate and drinking it...I dunno. But I'm lost without my hand sanitizer."

The talk switched to their families, and though Michael said he was "over" his mother leaving him, Dilly didn't see how anyone could ever get over something like that. Except maybe Talon had helped--Michael obviously thought the world of his big brother, and Dilly herself knew that she could handle anything with Anwen at her side. So maybe it wasn't so surprising after all. At his question about her father and brothers, however, Dilly frowned slightly.

"I suppose they do," she said finally. "And I do love them. Truly I do. I felt really bad when I threw the bleach water at Iago. So I guess maybe they did send me here because they love me and want me to get better." She sighed. "I just wish it wasn't so hard."

Her eyes radiated sorrow when Michael told her about his past. Without thinking about it, she reached out a gloved hand and rested it on top of his in a comforting gesture--as comforting as she could get without transferring germs or dirt from him to her, but for once she wasn't thinking about that. Well, not entirely.

"I'm sorry," she said softly. "That must have been awful for you. You're so lucky you found Talon and Aggie and your foster parents. It's not about what family you were born in. Anwen says your real family is the family that loves and takes care of you. So if your foster mum and da loved you enough to make you part of their family, well, that is your family. I'm so happy you had them."

She smiled warmly up at Michael. Suddenly, she became aware of her hand on his and drew it back quickly, blushing. "Sorry." To cover up her confusion, she latched onto the last part of Michael's statement. "Why did you and Talon get--taken away? If you don't mind my asking. I mean, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to." She was babbling a little--partly out of nerves--but she hoped Michael would understand what she was trying to say.
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Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!) Empty Re: Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!)

Post  Michael Courtenay on Sat Feb 18, 2012 9:30 pm

Michael couldn’t help but smile too when Dilly grinned at him. He realized then that she truly was amazing- everything about her. She was kind and understanding, and they seemed to be on the same general wavelength- they almost seemed to have the same thoughts at some points. He loved her eyes, her laugh, her smile… She wasn’t like most girls his age who thought he was weird or overly-childish. It was then that he noticed a funny feeling in his stomach, as if there was a butterfly farm and someone rang out a gunshot that made them all disperse at once. Or as if his stomach were a full washing machine on the highest cycle, spinning around so fast that it tickled. Did… he like Dilly? Like like?

Luckily for Dilly, sex was never really on the boy’s mind. When he was with the Rogers’, he was raised to believe that it never should have been until marriage, and he definitely didn’t want to get married yet. Like her, he couldn’t say the words ‘sex’, ‘masturbation’, ‘penis’, ‘vagina’ or other related words- it wasn’t because he was afraid, just horribly embarrassed. He was so innocent and sheltered that Talon had just recently told him what a dildo was. The conversation about sex would never come up unless Dilly said something about it, which was even less likely.

“You have OCD too?” He exclaimed excitedly, and then blushed sheepishly. “I-I mean, that’s terrible. Believe me, I know how hard it is sometimes. But it’s also nice because I’ve never met anyone else with it.”

Michael listened carefully to the names of her phobias, and sobered with the mentioning of each of them. A phobia was a disorder all on its own and Dilly had four. He wondered just how much she went through all her life- how much all of them had prevented her from doing things that ‘normal’ kids did. He knew full-well that he’d be perfectly ordinary if he wasn’t always tortured about all of his mistakes (and their exact dates) or worrying if he’ll fall into an anxiety attack at any given moment. He could never imagine how debilitating it must have been to have four phobias. Despite thinking this, he smiled gently and gave her gloved hand a comforting squeeze.

“Don’t worry too much about it. I mean, who likes accumulating dust or getting sick? And I have a theory- I think everyone who isn’t afraid of germs just doesn’t pay attention to them. ‘Ignorance is bliss’, as they say. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

Michael visibly blushed after he said that, only because he hadn’t planned on saying it- that didn’t make it any less true, however. He giggled once Dilly said she couldn’t spell out her fears.

“Believe me, I wouldn’t have been able to say them, so you can give yourself more credit than that.” He paused, then decided to tell her one of his ‘not-so secrets’… the kinds of things he tried to hide but were exposed whether he liked it or not. He trusted her. “I have a lot of speech impediments. I got over most of them, but some still linger. I can’t say fermometor or pasketti And I can’t even begin to say the name of the fat, man-eating beast that roams the Nile River. I’ll give you a hint- there’s a game called Hungry Hungry Hip…ip…mo…po……er…n-nevermind.”

He was definitely blushing after that one- he’d just attended a class in How to Embarrass Yourself in Front of the Girl You May Have a Crush on 101… and aced that too. He did what any typical boy would do in that situation and change the subject to the first thing that popped into his head, no filters.

“I’ve never met someone else with OCD, so I’ve never been able to ask this question: don’t you love the smell of Lysol?” He grinned playfully. “Or that feeling you get when you’re done scrubbing something and nothing is on it? Like, not even a fingerprint?”

He sighed dreamily. “Of course, I didn’t get to clean as much as I would have liked. Father beat me whenever he saw me cleaning. And it drove Granpa, my first foster father, absolutely bonkers.”

“Mmm,” He offered in response to the mentioning of Chamomile tea and peppermint. “I’m the same way though, with the cleaning. It’s like there’s some kind of animal scratching inside of your skull until all of the dirt or whatever is gone… or at least, until you think it’s gone. Usually, when I’m freaking out and cleaning something, I keep going even after I’ve realized that there’s nothing but shine. I just… have to.”

Michael brightened like a newly polished granite countertop when he started talking about Talon. Ironically, telling someone about his big brother made the pain go away- he still missed him, of course, but he felt like Talon was living inside of his heart… just like he said he would be. He then saw the confusion on her face after he told her about Jackson.

“Oh gosh,” He sighed. “The thing is… I don’t know why Jackson was thrown out, only that he was. Talon hasn’t told me why yet.”

Like his birth mother’s disappearance, it was another one of those unsolved mysteries in Michael’s life- Talon had been very vague with the subject of Jackson’s estrangement, and the only thing keeping Michael (the boy who asks a million questions at once) from asking why was the look on Talon’s face whenever he talked about him. It looked like he was lost in a bunch of painful thoughts or memories that he just wanted to forget about… and Michael didn’t want to cause him any more pain no matter how curious he was.

He then listened intently to Dilly talking about Anwen, and realized that Anwen must have been Dilly’s Talon. It made sense in his head, at least. He also displayed a look of slight curiosity when Dilly mentioned Anwen’s blindness. He’d never met a blind person, and his heart grew slightly warmer when he learned that Dilly helped her, and that Anwen taught her how to write in Braille. Dilly and Anwen needed each other as much as Talon and Michael.

“She sounds like a good person,” Michael smiled thoughtfully. “I bet that’s why you’re close with her- is Anwen that one person who understands when no on else will? She sounds like Talon… even though, they have differences personality-wise. Talon can be a bit bull-headed sometimes- and what’s funny is that I think he’s a different person with me than he is with other people. He’s definitely nice to everyone unless they give him a reason not to be- but I think he’s softer when he’s around me… if that makes any sense.”

Michael’s dormant temper flared underneath his skin when Dilly talked about her brothers. He already hated them and he didn’t even know them- he didn’t have to. How could her own family be so horrible to Dilly? Especially when they knew she had insecurities about germs? His eyes flickered in intrigue (only intrigue) when Dilly revealed that she threw bleach at Iago. He understood compassionately as to why Dilly did that, and he wasn’t afraid at all. Her brother was obviously alive- if he wasn’t, Dilly would be in jail right at that moment.

“And I’m sure you wouldn’t have thrown it if you’d remembered there was bleach in it,” He shrugged and smiled. “You didn’t mean to do it- it was an accident.”

He noted another similarity between the two of them- the scents of their older siblings calmed them. Now he knew he wasn’t a creepy weirdo for Talon’s scent being a natural sedative.

“I figured as much,” He laughed as he motioned to the book. “What’s the story about?”

He winced sympathetically to Dilly’s hand sanitizer tragedy. “Do they really have to take such a precaution? And do alcoholics really drink hand sanitizer?”

The subject about his birth mother would have made him break down crying if Dilly had met him three years ago, before he was fostered into the Rogers family. He was still pained by it, but it was only an annoying pinch as opposed to a beating with a wooden cross. The only reason for this… was that he truly still considered Joanna Rogers to be his mother. She was so kind to him during his time there, unless of course, Timothy was angry at him for something. Then she was angry too, only because she had to be. She was the one who taught him the warmth of a mother’s love. This was still intact even though Talon and him weren’t going to be in Timothy and Joanna’s care any longer… although, there was still a heap of confusion that was born before the exorcism.

When Michael was summoned to the Church, he gasped fearfully at the elders of the Church, one of them being his Father… each holding some kind of solid religious object. He burrowed his chin underneath the collar of his shirt in a futile attempt to hide himself. He stared at the large wooden cross and wouldn’t have taken his eyes off of it unless Joanna hadn’t held his hand and looked him in the eyes.

“Michael,” She said, unwavering. “Will you be a good boy for Mother?”

“Yes,” He whispered meekly, without really thinking.

“Then lie down for me and don’t move. We’re going to drive the demon out of you. It’s for your own good.”

He didn’t move- Joanna wouldn’t have needed to hold him down at all. Promising he’d be a good boy was enough to hold him completely stationary, no matter how much pain he was in or how much he screamed. Even after the elders had given him the worst beating of his life, the demon was still not out. Father had told him that it was because Talon had stopped the ceremony, but Michael didn’t really know what to believe. He didn’t know enough about the subject, only that something was definitely wrong with him.

Michael was brought out of his trance when Dilly put her hand on his. His shoulders sank as all of the hurtful emotions were exhaled with the carbon dioxide. He smiled warmly, his eyes smiling too, and nodded at Dilly’s words.

“I agree completely,” He said. “Thank you, Dilly.”

Her question caught him off-guard.

“O-Oh, well that’s…” He touched the back of his neck before sighing. “…a long story. But this is how it went: The Rogers were a part of this small Church called The Church of the True Light… and they told me I had a demon in me. That was the reason for my anxiety and why I grow slowly. The elders of the Church, one of them being my father, … beat me with a large wooden cross while my mother held me down.” He spoke the last part of that sentence fast in the hopes that Dilly wouldn’t understand it… which most likely would not work. “Talon showed up towards the tail end of it and… stopped them from hurting me. They did the same to Talon too, a year ago. And his was much worse.”

He winced after he said that, remembering Talon when his exorcism was over. “Talon didn’t want us living there anymore after that. So he wrote a letter to Child Protection Services and we were both placed in a children’s home together. And since… he doesn’t have any disorders, I got sent here and he stayed behind.”

Michael’s voice held a touch of pain to it, but only a small amount. Because despite the fact that he was beaten to the point where Talon had to carry him to their room… he believed he deserved all of it. Therefore, all of the anger that would have been towards his foster parents and the elders was not there as it should have been.
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Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!) Empty Re: Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!)

Post  Dilwen Vaughan on Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:32 pm

Dilly blushed a little. She hadn't expected that reaction out of Michael when she said she had OCD. helped that he was so excited about it. "No, it's okay. I've never met anyone else with OCD either. Maybe--" She swallowed, and the blush deepened. "Maybe...we could help each other? Since we understand what we're going through and all that," she added hurriedly. She didn't know how Michael's OCD manifested itself, but hers was in obsessive cleanliness. Maybe he would help her learn to relax a little. She doubted it, but she could always hope.

She wished she hadn't started renumerating her phobias as she watched the smile gradually drop from Michael's face. What was he thinking, behind those eyes? Somehow she knew--she knew he was thinking she was a waste of time, a worthless girl who just didn't like "icky things" and had to create complex psychological issues to make it seem legitimate. But then he spoke, and she found herself blushing again. He didn't think there was anything wrong with her?

"Thank you," she said softly. "That's the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me."

If Dilly wanted to giggle when Michael explained about his speech impediments, she didn't. And when he got embarrassed about his inability to say "hippopotamus", she patted his arm sympathetically. "I understand, really I do. I still say 'lellow' sometimes if I don't catch myself. And when I'm really, really emotional--like I'm upset or super-happy or nervous or something--I, well, I have a little bit of a lisp," she admitted. A wry smile crossed her face. "Whose mean idea was it to call a problem where you can't say your esses right a 'lisp'? That's like asking for trouble."

A smile, a genuine one, lit up her face, though, when her new friend asked if she liked the smell of Lysol. "Oh, yes!" she said happily. "It's so comforting, isn't it? And there's a real satisfaction to be had when you give one last swipe with the cloth, and there's not even a streak in the shine, isn't there? That's the best feeling in the world. My brothers don't understand, and Anwen can't, but Mum always understood. She let me clean as much as I liked." She giggled a little at the memory. "Da didn't like it, though."

She knitted her brows, but said nothing in response to Michael's revelation that his father had beaten him for cleaning. He sounded like a real loser, a really nasty man, the sort of man that even Iago would have hated, mean as he could be. But Michael obviously loved his family, so Dilly swallowed the hasty words that rose in her throat and kept her counsel. If he asked her opinion of his father, she would give it to him, but if he didn't, she would let him have the luxury of remembering a man he loved.

"I'm sorry," she said honestly when Michael explained that he didn't know why Jackson had been thrown out. "I hope it wasn't too bad. I mean, it can't have been too bad if he's your brother, but..." She stopped and blushed when she realized what she had said. Besides, Michael had already told her that Jackson and Talon were only his foster brothers, but...still. Talon had loved Michael, had been a good person, and Jackson was Talon's brother, so obviously he must have been just as good.

It was a while later before she could do more than just nod, smile, and blush in reply to Michael's comments. She was glad he seemed to understand, both about Anwen and Iago. Because he was right--Dilly had not meant to hurt her brother. Deep down, as mean as he could be to her sometimes, Dilly did love Iago, and she had been arguably more upset when she realized what she had done than he was. She was still young enough that she didn't realize the difference between her brothers. While Iago had always seemed the meaner because he would go farther than Sieffre--like the mud-baby incident--had she been aware enough to see it, she would have known that there was an affectionate undercurrent to his teasing. Not so with Sieffre. While he held himself back, he knew exactly which buttons to push and how hard, and his "jokes", though ostensibly smaller, were capable of producing far deeper scars than Iago's.

Dilly was not quite capable of explaining this to Michael, however, especially since she didn't know half of it herself. Not until he asked her what the book in her hand was about did she find her voice.

"Oh," she said, laughing a little in embarrassment as she looked down at the book. "It's about a girl who runs away from home to join a ballet company touring the Amazon. I'm not sure what it's about other than that--that was all the information on the back, and I haven't started reading it yet. Anwen picked it out for me by just kind of picking a book of the right thickness that she thought was in the right spot." She grinned a bit. "I was thinking of sitting in this windowsill to read, but then I saw you, and I'm so glad I did." This last bit came out in something of a rush.

She shrugged in response to his question about her hand sanitizer. "I don't know. I suppose if they got desperate enough, they might. Or maybe it's that if it gets in people's eyes, it could hurt them." Her eyes widened briefly at that thought. "I don't know. I'm sure they had a good reason for taking it and I wouldn't want to hurt anyone--even on accident--but...I wish they'd at least left me one bottle."

When Michael looked at her and smiled, Dilly smiled back, a smile of pure pleasure. She was glad her words had helped him, but more than that, she was so happy to see him smiling again. With no knowledge of the thoughts that had troubled him in his momentary trance, she could only wonder and worry. She didn't want to pry into his mind, but at the same time she didn't want him to be upset, not if there was anything she could do about it. "You're welcome," she said in reply to his thanks.

Her smile quickly disappeared, however, when Michael began talking about his exorcism. She knew what exorcisms were, of course--or she thought she did; she had read The Exorcist the previous Halloween even though her father (and, surprisingly, Iago) told her she was too young. She'd agreed with them after reading it--the book was horrifying, the movie even more so--but still, she remembered the details of the exorcisms performed in the book, and it struck her as a horrifying experience. And then to be taken away from the home and family he loved...even after they had done that to him...

"Oh, Michael, I'm so sorry," she whispered, gripping his hand tightly and--she hoped--comfortingly. "Thank goodness your brother was there to save you. You could have really been hurt. I don't think you have a demon in you--demons wouldn't stop at doing such little things as cleaning or making you short. And it wouldn't have been with you for your whole life, would it? Your father shouldn't have done that to you."

It was then that the last part of Michael's statement filtered into her mind. "You mean they made your brother go through an exorcism too, and he didn't complain until they did one to you? He must really have loved you, to go through that kind of pain for you."
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Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!) Empty Re: Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!)

Post  Michael Courtenay on Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:27 pm

Michael heard Dilly’s proposal and a warm smile crept its way to his eyes and the corners of his mouth. He was touched by such a gift- in addition to never having a friend with OCD, he’d never had anyone who willingly offered to have them help each other through it. Talon, of course being Superman, did all that he could to help and Michael didn’t know where he’d be without him- but he didn’t have OCD himself, so the sense of connectedness on the issue wasn’t there. He noticed Dilly was a bit nervous after saying that, so he moved closer and wrapped an arm around her shoulders in a snug embrace. (The opposite arm that he wiped his tears with!)

“I’d like that,” He smiled and blushed at the same time, his eyes emanating a sincere glow into hers. After realizing he had his arm around her for a considerable amount of moments and not knowing how she’d react to it, he blushed and let go, twiddling his thumbs immediately afterward.

“S-So, um,” He swallowed, mustering enough confidence to ask his next question. “What are your… obsessions and compulsions? Because…” His eyes wandered shyly.

“I freak out over germs too, but only occasionally, and I fix everything that’s out of place- everything must be straight and symmetrical or… well, I fix it, I guess. Though most of it is…” He looked up and put a finger on his chin as he thought. “Gee, how do I explain it? I- well, I remember every single thing I’ve done wrong my entire life. I wore my pants inside out on April 12th, 2009. I accidently killed the class goldfish in primary school after feeding it too much on February 28th, 2004. I let the chickens loose which made Granpa give me back to the home on July 7th, 2007. I hit Talon with a baseball while we were playing catch on August 15th, 2011. I could go on and on and on, especially about all the tests that I’ve failed over the years, but how I remember them is…”

His gaze fell to the floor. “It’s not that I have a stellar memory or anything. But what I do and the date it happened repeat in my head over and over again- the day it happens, and whenever I’m reminded of it. I hear, ‘You stole a pack of gum on August 23rd, 2009. You stole a pack of gum on August 23rd, 2009.’ It was a dare, of course- I didn’t want to do it.”

He looked back at Dilly as he crossed one of his arms while bracing it with the other to stretch it out- this was an old habit from when he was a pitcher. Doing this kept the pain from coming to his face- instead, his words were very nonchalant. “The unwanted repetition part is what makes it OCD- that’s what Dr. Livanos told me, anyway. But it’s what I deserve. I’m a bad person.”

In the back of his mind, he knew that Dilly thought that too- she was just polite and kind and wouldn’t say so. She was probably wondering why she was wasting her time with a lunatic who was painfully lame and had a demon inside of him. Dilly deserved to be around someone better- even though they’d only just met, he cared about her a lot.

This showed through when he told Dilly there was nothing wrong with her- even though he didn’t mean to let it slip out just yet, he meant it. Every word. The color and warmth returned to his face again as he smiled at Dilly’s reaction- he wondered if anyone had told her that before. Likely, that wasn’t the case since she cherished the comment, but Michael was just ecstatic that his words meant a lot to her.

“You’re welcome,” He said just as tenderly. “It’s true.”

Michael’s eyes widened in much-welcomed wonder when he learned that Dilly hadn’t laughed at his confession, and actually had speech impediments of her own. He listened as his eyes sparkled and tried not to cry because of how happy he was.

She’s perfect!

He laughed wholly and unselfconsciously at the ‘lisp’ comment. “I know right? It’s so ironic and horrible. My old friend from the first children’s home I was in, Jorge, told me that the phobia of really long words is a really long word! What a terrible way to start a therapy session. Although, I could be wrong- a lot of the things he told me were lies. He told me Mr. Rogers from ‘Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood’ was a sniper in the Vietnam War, but Talon told me he wasn’t. I dunno- I need to work on being so gullible.”

His smile matched hers as they shared their love and need of cleanliness. “It is the best feeling in the world! Well, next to being loved, that is.” A pause. “Why didn’t your father like it?”

The subject of his father was virtually the only thing Talon and Michael had disagreed on. Though they hadn’t had a full-blown argument about it (yet), they were aware of each other’s views and silently agreed to disagree. Talon was convinced he was evil, but Michael saw the good in him- caning and paddling was probably the only way he knew to correct the behavior he didn’t want in his house, and it was probably the way he was raised. This sparked some sympathy for his father- he was probably beaten for a long time, definitely more than three years. Although, this could have been a product of Michael making up good qualities about Timothy, which happened often enough with other people.

“There are ballet companies in the Amazon?” At the end of her sentence, the look of shock was immediately replaced with a warm, loving expression. “I’m so glad you saw me too. I don’t know where I’d be if you hadn’t.”

There was a double meaning to what he had said- he would have been crying at the window for hours on end… and he would have also missed out on meeting a girl who sparked emotions he’d never felt before. Dilly made him experience anxiety, but a form of anxiety he enjoyed feeling- the washing machine in his abdomen tumbling around joyfully and frantically searching for what to say were two examples of this. She gave him a warmer heart and made him laugh, smile and blush at the same time… and she gave him the time of day- which most girls before her, namely Noreen, hadn’t except to tell him the specific details of how much she hated so-and-so or how such-and-such was cheating on her with so-and so. (Of course, she was referring to flirtation and not sex. The elders of the Church would have never stood for that.) Noreen was a perfect example of this- needless drama was part of her DNA. Not Dilly. She was genuine, and didn’t use him for a listening ear.

“Well, what would you have done once the hand sanitizer was all used up?” He shrugged. “Wouldn’t that create even more anxiety? You seem fine now.”

For the moment that he spoke about the exorcism, he relived it briefly. His screams were only matched by sound of the wood hitting against his bones, but he knew that if he stayed perfectly still, he’d be a good boy in his mother’s eyes… and he hoped, though it was unlikely, in his father’s. He remembered the door bursting open, and the shocking pause that befell the Church as Talon…

Just as Talon had rescued him that day, the warmth of Dilly’s hand had rescued him from remembering further. Talon hated seeing him hurt, and just the same, Michael hated seeing Talon hurt- and he was when he saw what they had done. The softness of her glove had pulled him out of this reminiscence, and he responded by gently stroking her glove that rested at the top of his hand with his thumb.

”You could have really been hurt,”

“I was,” He forced out. “I couldn’t move very well after that.”

Michael didn’t look into mirrors very often, but he wasn’t past doubting that he still had bruises from the exorcism. Sometimes, when one of his ribs were rubbed the wrong way, it stung.

”I don't think you have a demon in you--demons wouldn't stop at doing such little things as cleaning or making you short. And it wouldn't have been with you for your whole life, would it? Your father shouldn't have done that to you."

He fell silent after that- Talon had said the same thing in different wording. The two people who cared about him most in this world had come to the same conclusion. And yet…

“But… Father said there was.” He said softly and childishly.

It was a hard thing for the boy to wrap his mind around- he usually believed the first person who tells him the ‘truth’, but when someone else told him something different… it discombobulated him. It threw him off. Who was right and who was wrong? Father’s word was the law in the Rogers household… but Talon and Dilly… they…

Dilly’s last few sentences sent a shock wave pulsing through his central nervous system, then caused his shoulders to sink. He had always been aware of the part of Talon’s suffering that had to do with Father’s punishments, (He had no idea what his brother did when he was out of the house, though.) and Talon’s love for him could only be matched by what was reciprocated. And yet, a year had passed since Talon’s exorcism… and Michael never put two and two together.

“He did,” The boy croaked as he fought back tears. “And I know he still does. That makes missing him even harder. Because..."

He closed his eyes as he felt a tear or two fall down his cheek. Then another, and another.

"Granpa and Granma didn't want anything to do with me after I caused them so much trouble. And my birth mother obviously couldn't wait to get rid of me. But with Talon... there's no closure like that. This is the first time someone's given me back to a children's home and not wanted to do it."

Deflated, Michael reached into his back pocket and used Dilly's handkerchief to wipe away his tears. "Sorry."
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Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!) Empty Re: Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!)

Post  Dilwen Vaughan on Sat Feb 25, 2012 11:31 pm

Dilly stiffened slightly when Michael put his arm around her and hugged her. She had never been hugged much growing up, and it startled her, but she tried to remember that Michael meant it kindly. Hugs are terms of affection, she reminded herself. Anwen hugs you from time to time. It's just that she can't always find you to hug you. Remember that. Michael is a good person. The hug means he likes you. It's okay. As often as she chanted the words in her head, she was nevertheless relieved when he removed his arm from around her shoulders, even though he was blushing.

She was about to ask him to warn her before he hugged her again when he asked her what her compulsions were, and then explained his own. Instantly, she closed her mouth, swallowing the request--along with the urge to giggle at some of the things he said he tortured himself with. It wasn't funny, after all, any more than some of her compulsions (if that's what they were) were funny. But she was certainly not going to tell him she didn't like being hugged without warning. He didn't need anything else to beat himself up over. Instead, she smiled.

"Well...I'm not real sure what my compulsions are," she said slowly. "My therapist back home wasn't too sure that was what I had, but I think he put it on my application. Mostly it's with obsessive cleanliness. I wash my hands a lot, and I have a ritual when I do it--all about how long I scrub the soap in and how long I rinse. I'm kind of compulsive about how I sweep and scrub and things, and...well, I can't stand vacuuming the carpet if all the lines don't run parallel. And I have to match perfectly--in case you hadn't noticed," she added in a lighter tone, indicating her clothes. "I've got gloves and socks that match every outfit I have, just about, and I only wear the same colors if I can help it. Even my hand sanitizer--the colors of the sanitizer matched my outfits. Like, with this? I would normally carry my moonflower-scented sanitizer, 'cause it was just the right shade of purple." She blushed a little.

When Michael mentioned he had stolen the pack of gum on a dare, even though he hadn't wanted to, Dilly instantly thought of the titular character in Oliver Twist, being enticed into stealing Mr. Brownlow's pocket-handkerchief even though he didn't want to. She couldn't keep from smiling slightly at the idea of Michael being the thin, pathetic orphan who had thought himself unloved until he had found Mr. Brownlow and his aunt. Michael must have been much the same as Oliver before meeting Talon.

She didn't comment on that, but his next statement she could not and would not let pass. "You do not deserve it and you are not a bad person," she said firmly. "I've only just met you and I can see that. You're sweet and kind and funny and--" She stopped and blushed a deep, brilliant scarlet as she realized what she had just said.

Oh, goodness. Suddenly and fiercely, Dilly wanted to talk to Anwen. She wanted to tell her big sister all about Michael and ask what this fluttery feeling in the pit of her stomach meant. Anwen was twenty years old, and in Dilly's young, innocent, hero-worshiping eyes, she knew everything. She would know why Michael made her feel this way if anyone did.

She enjoyed the tenderness in his voice when he told her he believed it to be true that there was nothing wrong with her, and the sparkle in his eyes as he listened to her talk about her speech impediments, and his laugh when she made her comment about the word "lisp," and she nodded at what his friend Jorge had told him.

"It is," she affirmed. "I don't remember all of it, but I saw it once--and I do remember that the first part is almost like h--like that man-eating animal that lives in the Nile River." She had almost said the word "hippopotamus", the word tripping easily off of her tongue, but she remembered her friend's difficulty with the word and chose to avoid it. She didn't want to upset him or seem like she was showing off.

She tilted her head slightly to one side, a puzzled frown puckering her brow, when Michael mentioned one of the other rumors his friend had told him. "What's 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood'?" she asked, confused.

At his question, she instantly regretted her statement. " wasn't so much that he didn't like the house being cleaned as he didn't like Mum letting me clean all the time. He said she was just making me worse, not helping me to get better. I think he always knew there was something wrong with me," she said in a low tone, "he just wasn't sure what, and he thought Mum should be encouraging me to stop being so obsessive about being clean. I don't really know."

She smiled at his question about her book. "Not exactly. It was a Russian ballet company recruiting girls in England, and they were at the Amazon on tour. And I think the book takes place in 1912." When he added the second half of his statement, however, she blushed again.

How had she made it through two weeks at Highgrove without a friend like Michael? She had Tara Anne, but the other girl was more like a substitute big sister. Michael was different. Already she felt at ease with him. He made her smile, made her laugh, made her blush, and made her overall happy. Even things that normally would have upset her seemed not to matter so much, so long as he was standing next to her. And she liked that. A lot.

When he raised his point about her hand sanitizer, however, she shook her head. "Anwen would have sent me more. Anyway, it would have taken me a while to use them up. I told you, I had a lot, and they were mostly full."

She found she kind of liked the feel of his thumb rubbing the back of her hand, even through the glove. Sympathy brimmed in her eyes when he told her that he had been hurt, but when he made his simple refutation of her statement--that his father had said he had a demon--tears rose in them as well.

"Maybe he was--mistaken," she suggested. She didn't want to say that his father was wrong, per se, but how could anyone have been so mistaken as to believe that this sweet, innocent boy had a demon inside him? An angel, maybe, but no demon.

When Michael's reaction to her last statements caused him to start crying, however, Dilly could no longer hold back her own tears. "Michael," she said softly, reaching for his hand again. "Michael, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought that up. Of course he loves you. And he didn't give you back. He went with you, didn't he? And I don't think he meant for you to come here without him." She had no idea why she made her next statement, but something compelled her to add, "He'll come for you, you'll see. Any day now."

She felt in her pocket for her second handkerchief and wiped her own face, trying to stop crying. Michael had. She took several deep breaths, dotting at her eyes and cheeks. "It's okay," she said in response to his apology. "I'm sorry, too. I didn't mean to..." She shrugged, shaking out the handkerchief and folding it carefully so that the driest parts were on the outside, and offered him a watery smile. "I'm glad you have Talon. Honest. As much as it hurts now, I think it's great that you love him enough that you can miss him this much."
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Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!) Empty Re: Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!)

Post  Michael Courtenay on Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:04 pm

Hugging Dilly wasn’t something that Michael actively thought about- if he’d known that she wasn’t comfortable with it before hand, he wouldn’t have done it. The idea that Dilly might not have liked being hugged (or just wasn’t used to it yet) didn’t really cross his mind either, just because he thought that they were brilliant and solved nearly everything. Like her, he hadn’t been hugged much growing up either- it wasn’t until the recent three years that he’d become quite affectionate, thanks to Talon and his brotherly love. He admitted to himself that he craved affection after he was exposed to it- he assumed Dilly was the same way, because of the hand-holding before. In short, he was a boy- he didn’t think, just did.

Michael didn’t have to pay much attention to her stiffening up because he let go rather quickly. Thus, he was oblivious to the discomfort that she felt. As he explained his OCD around his inflated, unreasonable guilt, he wondered what Dilly must have thought about- she probably thought it was lame and stupid. He realized a long time ago that if he truly thought about his obsession, it would seem pretty silly to him too. That alone, unfortunately, was not enough to combat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

He nodded sympathetically as he learned about each one of Dilly’s compulsions. “Have you ever hurt yourself while washing your hands like that? Rubbing them raw and all? Because I know that I do that too if I’m seriously falling apart- do you get under your fingernails too?”

The boy gave some thought to the vacuuming one. When he was with the Rogers, he couldn’t vacuum because it was too loud and he’d get caught too easily- but when he was with the Wallace’s, he knew that vacuuming would be much harder if all of the lines had to be perfectly straight. He wondered just how hard Dilly’s life was.

He smiled at the matching comment. “I did notice- I didn’t know you had color-coded outfits, though. I organize my clothes by color when I put them in the drawer, but that’s it. Do the color of your clothes match your moods? You know, do you wear red when you’re angry and blue when you’re sad? Or green when you’re jealous?”

Michael laughed and found her hazel eyes. “Although, there wouldn’t be much of a point to that- I can tell how you’re feeling just by looking at you. Don’t worry, though- I’m the same way. I couldn’t hide anything even if I wanted to.”

A pause. “Hand sanitizers have flavors? What were your other favorite flavors of hand sanitizer?”

He wouldn’t have known this, of course, because carrying flavored hand sanitizers was mostly a feminine activity- if he used hand sanitizer, it would have been the unscented kind one would find in a bathroom or a public building. And he was genuinely interested about Dilly’s favorite scents- it could give him ideas of what to make her. He was formulating a plan to make her one of his gifts that he made out of virtually nothing, like how he made Jesse the Duct Tape Octopus and gave him to Talon.

Michael noticed her small smile as she wandered in thought, and tilted his head to find her eyes again as he smiled too- smiling was definitely contagious. “What’s so funny?”

Dilly’s next barrage of words terrified him and made him flinch because they were so passionate and tenacious. But once he processed what they meant, all he could do was stare wide-eyed in wonder. Talon had said those ideas before, but usually not so fiercely- that showed that Dilly meant everything she was saying. Dilly was pumping words into his heart and bloodstream that he truly didn’t believe himself. He thought he was a lame, untalented/unintelligent loser with a demon inside of him… but Dilly obviously didn’t think that, and that meant the world to him.

When she blushed, he was blushing as well just because he had no idea what to say- how to convey how he felt. All he could to was gently hold both of her hands… and stammer.

“T-That, I mean… you-“ He paused as sincerity and compassion, but not tears, poured out of his eyes. “Thank you… so much. I-I’ll keep your words and treasure them forever. And you’re-… you’re…”

He paused and blushed more before saying, “You’re… amazing.”

He didn’t know what to say other than that- he couldn’t say any other words. He had a sudden urge to write to Talon- he had to tell his big brother all about Dilly, and how she was so sweet and kind and understanding. He had to tell him about all of these things that he felt when he was around her, and perhaps he could explain them too. Even though Michael didn’t know just how much more experienced that Talon was, he knew he was and could definitely give him advice even though Dilly wasn’t a boy. Although, he didn’t think it would matter that Talon would give advice about a girl- love was love, right?

A hearty laugh escaped his mouth when Dilly held back from saying the dreaded ‘h word’. He let go of both of her hands to hold onto his stomach. Something interesting that may have scared Talon from time to time was that when Michael laughed hard, it sounded nearly identical to his cry. The reverse was true when he was crying, which may have confused the people around him. Nevertheless, he smiled.

“You can say it- I’m sensitive about a lot of things, but certainly not that. Say whatever you want. I admire that you can say one more word than I can. And um… I think ‘Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood’ is some old American show on the tellie. Jorge was originally from Mexico, then he moved to America, and then he moved to England, so he told me all about American stuff. I think it’s about an old guy in a knitted jumper surrounded by puppets who talk to him and ride trains. It’s kind of creepy when you think about it.”

Dilly didn’t seem like she enjoyed talking about her father, and as he listened to her tale, his eyes conveyed thoughtful somberness. As he spoke further sentences, his voice grew more passionate. “Well… I think he had the right idea with how to treat your phobias- Dr. Livanos said that the treatment for OCD was to act opposite to it little by little… and that’s really hard to do. And… forgive me if this crosses a line, but telling your sweet, kindhearted daughter that there’s something wrong with her just because she cleans all the time isn’t going to help anything.”

He took her hand and felt the softness of her glove again and smiled shyly. “Again, there’s nothing wrong with you. You just have things you have to work on. Everyone here does.”

Two pairs of hazel eyes met when he said this- he wanted her to know that, above all else.

“O-O-Oh. Is it good so far?” Michael motioned to her book when she told him about it. “Is reading your favorite thing to do? What else do you do with your time? You know… hobbies.”

Gently stroking Dilly’s glove with his thumb was keeping him with her, and not with the thoughts surrounding his father and exorcism that plagued him. It wasn’t his father’s fault, of course- he was only doing what he thought he would help. It was his fault he was like this- and that he had a demon inside of him. Dilly thought he was mistaken though, which confused him, but also left a soft glow in his heart- Dilly’s compassion seemed to travel from her hand and her eyes and travel along his bloodstream. He appreciated and cherished her kindness.

He hadn’t meant to cry- that usually wasn’t how it went… it was just a response he couldn’t control. He realized he must’ve been quite the roller coaster…

“I-It’s just,” He hiccupped between sobs. “I don’t know how to deal with being separated from Talon. He’s really the only one who truly loves me, and wasn’t like everyone else who cut their ties as soon as they gave me up.” A sigh. “Even though… I know that it would be a lot more painful if Talon didn’t want anything to do with me after I got sent here, but at least I’d know how to handle it. I’ve done it twice before.”

He didn’t look up once since he said those words, but once he did, his eyes widened with shock to see that Dilly had been crying too. How stupid was he to not notice?!

“A-Are you okay?” He lifted his hand to wipe away her tears, and then put it in his lap once he remembered her phobias. “I-I’m sorry I made you cry, I really am.”

His voice conveyed nervousness because he didn’t know how to handle a situation like this. He wanted to cheer her up. He smiled gently.

“You’re right about Talon not meaning for the situation to happen though- we went in to St. Adrian’s together and it was Dr. Livanos’s decision to send me here, not his. In fact, before he left, he said, I’m always with you.

When Michael quoted other people, he had a habit of using their voices. In the last four words, his voice dropped considerably to Talon’s post-pubescent pitch, and recreated the emotion of somberness and anguish. Once he caught on that he’d done this, he started laughing.

“Oh right! I didn’t tell you about that. So… I don’t think I have any talents- not like Talon, anyway. But I have this… thing where I can imitate voices, apparently really well. I could probably do yours if you wanted.”

He flashed a playful grin, then deflated into thought.

“Do… do you really think he’ll come for me?”
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Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!) Empty Re: Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!)

Post  Dilwen Vaughan on Fri Mar 02, 2012 2:22 pm

Dilly's heart jumped around a couple of beats after Michael let go of her shoulders, but she tried not to let her nervousness or apprehension show on her face. She wasn't a very good actress, never had been--acting was kind of like lying and one was always supposed to tell the truth--but being polite was different, and she was going to be as polite to Michael as she could because she didn't want him to get upset. She liked his company. She liked him. He was just as nice as could be and she didn't want to lose him as a friend over something as silly as a hug.

When he asked his question, however, she shook her head and removed one of her gloves, showing him her hand--white and smooth and unblemished. "I use an antibacterial moisturizing soap, and I don't use loofahs or washcloths or anything like that if I can help it," she explained. "You never know what's getting left behind. I worry too much about the germs to use things like that. And I'm really careful about the water temperature, too. I used to try to just use hot, hot water because hot water gets things cleaner--that's how they sterilize metal, by boiling it--but it made my hands red, and then I read a study that actually it's much healthier if you use water that's warm but not hot." She was babbling a little, but didn't realize it. Michael had asked and she was explaining; that was all she saw. "And I scrub under my fingernails, but I keep them short, too, so things don't get caught under my nails very much." So saying, she drew the glove back onto her hand.

Dilly's bedroom at home had once been carpeted, in a rich dark green plush, but when Dilly had asked for a vacuum cleaner of her own for her fifth birthday--and cried when she received a toy one--her parents, in agreement for once, had had the carpet ripped up. Dilly could, and did, sweep the floor to her heart's content, and once a week she would give it the full treatment, first mopping with soapy water and then with clear water, and then scrubbing on her hands and knees with the bleach-water solution. The dining room parquet hadn't shone as brilliantly as Dilly's room. But even her mother didn't often let her vacuum the downstairs, precisely because of her insistence that the lines run parallel, and when Dilly had insisted on fixing it for the umpteenth time, her father in a fit of frustration had ripped all the carpeting in the communal parts of the house out.

She blushed when Michael asked about her clothing. "Not...exactly. More like I wear clothes that exude the energy I want to feel. Like if I need to feel confident, I wear red, or if I have a test and need to feel wise, I wear yellow or gold."

She blushed a little more deeply when Michael teased her about her emotions showing on her face. Oh, gosh. If he could see that clearly what she was thinking...would he know about the fluttery feeling in her stomach? Did he know her nervousness about being hugged? Did he feel rejected and hate her? Oh, she hoped not.

“Hand sanitizers have flavors? What were your other favorite flavors of hand sanitizer?”

Happy to be back on safer ground, Dilly seized the topic and answered quickly. "I think my favorite was either the orange-jasmine one or the vanilla brown sugar. I also had one--it smelled like the ocean--I loved that one. There's just something so calming and clean about the smell of the sea, don't you think?" Dilly's house in Tywyn had only been a few blocks from the Irish Sea, and though she rarely saw it because she didn't often like going down that way, she had been able to smell it when the wind blew off the sea. And sometimes Anwen had coaxed her into going for a walk along the stone boardwalk, asking her to be her "eyes" and help her to see the beautiful things on the beach. Dilly had been able to handle it if she focused on the sea and not the sand, which was often streaked with silt and debris. The smell was a comforting one, and Dilly had a feeling that smell was her absolute favorite in the world.

He caught her smile and asked what was so funny, and she blushed again. "Nothing! I's not that it's funny, exactly. It's just...have you ever read Oliver Twist? Or seen the movie, or the musical? Because you remind me a lot of Oliver. He was small for his age, too, and he never knew his father, and his mother dumped him at an orphanage when he was born practically, and people were miserable to him all through his childhood until he met some people who were kind to him and who turned out to be his family. His real family, I mean. Just like you and Talon, right?" She smiled at Michael, then gave a small sigh. "I wish I was like a character from a book sometimes. Everything always turns out right for them in the end."

It was a wistful little dream and one she'd often thought to herself, curled up in her bed or her armchair with one book or another, but she had never expressed it aloud before. The strong heroines of her childhood had filled her with a kind of envy, a desire to be "just like them." In the spunkiness of Anne Shirley, the toughness of Odge Gribble, the courage of Trisscar Swordmaid, Dilly had found her role models. She had sought eagerly for a character in a book that was just like her, but she hadn't found one yet, and it upset her a very little bit. Of course, she was beginning to identify with Victoria North from The Secret Language, just as she had hoped she would, but she had not yet found her Martha.

Suddenly the thought occurred to her--maybe Michael would be her Martha, her very best friend and confidante. She certainly hoped so.

She hadn't meant to frighten him with her emphatic words, but she realized she had when he just stared at her for a moment, looking a little shell-shocked. However, just as a blush began spreading across her face, one spread across his too, and he took her hands and thanked her.

“You’re… amazing.”

Dilly's whole face flushed crimson. Amazing? She never would have thought that of herself. She was nothing special, after all--just a little Welsh girl, emphasis on "little". No one had ever said she was amazing, and she had never believed it. But...when Michael said it, she found she could believe it, just a little. At least, she was amazing in his eyes--and maybe, in the end, that was all that mattered.

"Th-thank you," she said, her voice practically a whisper as she managed to look up at Michael and smile shyly. "You're amazing, too." If only for the way you make me feel, she added silently.

When they were able to continue speaking again and she shied away from using the "h word", Michael started to laugh. He let go of her hands and clutched his stomach, his grin splitting his face. Dilly began to smile, then to chuckle, and after a moment she was laughing, too. She couldn't help it--Michael's laughter was infectious. She really had meant to avoid embarrassing him, but if he could laugh at himself, she could laugh with him. Not at him--she would never do that, especially not after he called her amazing--but with him, like they were sharing a joke.

"Oh, that's why I've never heard of it, then," she said, still giggling a little as Michael described the show. "Not just that it was from America, but we didn't have a television. Mum said it bred sloth and laziness, and Da said it wasn't fair to Anwen to have something she couldn't enjoy with the rest of the family. We read books instead." She shrugged, smiling. "It was fun anyway. Did you watch a lot of television growing up?"

She blushed a little when Michael took her hand and repeated what she had said earlier--that there was nothing wrong with her, that everyone here had something to work on. But she did want to correct one piece of misinformation she had apparently given him. "I didn't mean to make you think my da ever said those things to me, Michael. He didn't. I overheard him grumbling to Mum once or twice, and Sieffre told me that he said that all the time." She didn't add the other things Sieffre had told her--that there was no help for her except to be sent to a mental hospital with other nut jobs, boys who had killed their parents and girls that set things on fire and grown men that did bad things to little girls. He had obviously been lying--Highgrove wasn't a mental hospital, after all, and she hadn't met any of the sorts of people he had cautioned her about--and they were going to help her, so there was no point in telling Michael.

In response to his question about her book, she said with a smile, "I don't know--I haven't started it yet. I only read the blurb on the back of the book. Anwen picked it out for me without knowing anything about it." She thought for a minute about her hobbies. "You know, I really don't have any hobbies except reading. Well, actually--" A thought occurred to her, and she brightened. "I like to play cards. We used to play at night sometimes, after dinner. Sieffre didn't play too much--Iago said he was a sore loser, because I won a lot--so usually it was Mum and Anwen and Iago and me. I know how to play bridge and canasta and rummy and...oh, all sorts of games." Giggling, she added, "And I can play forty-two different solitaire games. What about you? What are your hobbies?"

She liked the gentle motion of Michael's thumb stroking her hand, and if it helped him, she was willing to let him do it from now until the cows came home. Her eyes radiated sorrow when he tried to explain. No one should have to get used to something like that. She was about to say something when Michael looked up and apparently noticed she had been crying.

She couldn't help but flinch when Michael reached over, but he checked himself and didn't touch her face, which she appreciated. It was just...she had to be careful about germs, and especially from the hands of other people. For the first time, just for a moment, she actually wished she was over her phobias so Michael could touch her. But a phobia wasn't something you could just get over easily. You had to work at it, and a few minutes wasn't going to be enough. She took a deep breath, mustered her emotions, and managed a smile.

"It's okay, Michael, you didn't make me cry," she reassured him. "I just feel so bad for you. I don't want you to be upset, either, because that makes me upset. Does that make any sense?" Because it didn't to her, the way she had put it, but she knew what she meant and hoped Michael did, too.

When Michael's voice dropped down the register, however, she forgot tears and worry in an instant. Her jaw popped open in astonishment. "How did you do that?" she squeaked.

He explained about his talent, and Dilly smiled broadly. "That's so cool! I don't have any interesting talents like that, except that I know all sorts of funny things to say in other languages. I don't know how to say anything useful, but if you're talking to someone who doesn't know another language, you can say something random and it's still impressive." She smiled. "It's not as cool as sounding like someone else, though."

Her expression softened when Michael asked his plaintive question. She had spoken without thinking, but..."Of course he will," she said reassuringly. "How could he not? I know I would come from the ends of the earth to get you if we were separated...oh..." She put a hand to her mouth, blushing. She had done it again! She kept saying these things without really meaning to, and it was always so embarrassing. But she had meant it from the bottom of her warm heart, and so she did not apologize for saying it, merely looked incredibly sheepish and hoped she hadn't scared Michael away.
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Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!) Empty Re: Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!)

Post  Michael Courtenay on Thu Mar 15, 2012 3:26 pm

Dilly’s prediction about Michael’s reaction if he knew that he’d made her feel uncomfortable was downright exact. If he knew that he slightly upset Dilly, his OCD would repeat the event over and over and he would have walked off… no matter how much he wouldn’t have wanted to. At that point, he wouldn’t have thought that he was good enough for Dilly and that he would only cause her trouble and pain. Michael, unfortunately, was a very ‘black and white’ thinker: Things were either terrific or the world was unraveling into a chaotic, miserable whirlpool. He was either filled with childish optimism or spiraling into feelings of frantic doom. He was all bad and everyone else was all good. Luckily for the both of them, he didn’t notice the mistake, and the conversation did the calming for them as it went on.

When Dilly showed him her hand, he marveled at how beautiful it was- like the rest of her. Her creamy white, unblemished skin was unlike anything he’d ever seen. Of course, he didn’t look at girl’s hands very often, but he couldn’t help but stare. He nodded as she explained how she washed her hands- she sure was a pro at it. At the end of it, he smiled.

“You know a lot about that- I didn’t know there were techniques to washing hands. And I keep my fingernails short too.”

He held up his right hand, and sure enough, the part of the nail that grew out was nonexistent. Dilly may have enjoyed that his hands were clean as they could be. “I always keep my fingernails short. It’s an old habit from when I was a pitcher. Because if a pitcher grows out their fingernails for too long, they could grow inwardly and cause pain when throwing… and that would be a pretty lousy reason to sit out for a game.”

He turned that same hand with the palm facing towards Dilly to show her how marred it was- he had just as many callouses as an old man who’d been working on cars his whole life. There was no telling how many pitches he threw to earn each of them. “All these callouses are from throwing baseballs- but don’t worry. I’m kind of proud of them. It means that I’m working hard. When I was fostered, I wasn’t allowed to join the school team, but I still threw in secret.”

A wink. “And my left hand is completely soft because it was covered by the glove… and I don’t really use it for much, except batting, because I’m right handed. Talon’s left handed though- he’s so ace.”

Upon his arrival into the Rogers home, Michael shared a room with Talon- which he was praying for because he would have been afraid to sleep alone. At the Children’s Home of Bridlington, where he spent ten years of his life, he always had a roommate. Even when he was with the Wallace’s for a year, he didn’t exactly sleep in the room he had been given- he always either slept on the couch while Granpa was snoring away on a rocking chair in front of the television… or he would ask to sleep next to Granma, and she usually let him despite his age because she slept alone too. At the Rogers’, he had Talon in the room with him and sometimes he slept in his bed too, provided that he gave warning and they weren’t caught by Aggie. Michael wasn’t allowed to do all of the things that Dilly did to keep her room clean, but his side of the room was always spotless and well organized. The bed was always made, the desk they shared was always neat, and his clothes were all folded and color-coded in the drawers.

His head tilted slightly when Dilly corrected him about the significance of the colors, and asked: “I didn’t know colors had meanings. Do you know the meanings of all of them?”

Michael tried to imagine what Dilly’s hand sanitizers would smell like, and decided that they must’ve been pretty delightful if they were Dilly’s favorite scents. He nodded in response to the mentioning of the sea: “Definitely! Because it’s full of salt, I guess. Felixstowe, my… er, third hometown was right on the North Sea. Do you like the beach?”

Dilly’s comparison of Oliver Twist and Michael surprised him- he knew vaguely of Oliver… all he knew was that he was an orphan and a main character in a book by Charles Dickens and that was pretty much all he knew of the character. Now, he learned much more about him, and that perhaps there was a character in a book for everyone.

He laughed lightheartedly. “No, I’ve never actually read the book, or seen the musical, or the movie… but Talon sometimes sang songs from the musical. He sings everything, practically. But I’ll definitely try to see if I can read the book when I get out of here- I’d like to meet Oliver.” A smile. “I don’t read that much, only stuff for school really, but I think the reason why people read is because they connect to the characters and feel for their situations. One character doesn’t have to resemble a whole person- but bits and pieces of people, like their traits or their problems, are connect…able in themselves.”

He smiled sheepishly. “’Connectable’ isn’t a word, is it? I have a terrible vocabulary. Maybe I should read more. What do you recommend?”

”His real family, I mean. Just like you and Talon, right?"

Michael smiled sincerely, letting the gentleness emanate through his eyes. “Yeah. I think so.”

"I wish I was like a character from a book sometimes. Everything always turns out right for them in the end."

“Not all of them, I’m sure.” He shrugged. “Don’t some books have sad endings? I mean, I had to read “Lord of the Flies” for school, and even though they got saved… the ending wasn’t all that happy. I mean, the kids were probably pretty traumatized even after they left the island because they killed Piggy and turned into savages and that would probably be in their heads for their entire lives. Besides,”

He found Dilly’s eyes and smiled. “You don’t need to turn into a literary character. I like you just the way you are.”

Of course, Michael did this too: a lot of the time, he wished he were strong like his big brother. Maybe then he wouldn’t cry so much or started to hyperventilate at the sight of a non-symmetrical chair or be scared of practically everything, including zombies… which didn’t exist. He didn’t think there was anything about his personality that was actually likeable, but somehow, Talon and Dilly thought otherwise.

When he called Dilly amazing, he absolutely meant it. No one in the world had sparked so many unfamiliar emotions like she had. No girl actually gave him the time of day for something other than her problems. No girl had ever made him smile, giggle and blush so much. Dilly was so special, and ‘amazing’ was the only word Michael could have gotten out at the moment because he wasn’t exactly the best with words.

He blushed when Dilly returned the compliment. “T-Thanks.”

Laughing with Dilly felt wonderful- it felt like sunlight glowing inside. “Wow! That’s so interesting,” He exclaimed at the television comment. “You must be really smart if you read that much. And in answer to your question, not really. I spent most of my life in a children’s home and they had a common area with a television, but I never really watched much unless I was pressured to by Jorge. The Wallace’s had a television- Granpa was practically glued to it, but I didn’t watch it. At night when I was too afraid to be in my room alone, I’d sleep on the couch while Granpa was snoring at it and listen to the sounds until I fell asleep. But that’s not really watching. And the Rogers didn’t have a television for the same reasons why your mum didn’t want it. Basically, here and there. But I never followed a story or anything. I just watched sometimes to hear the voices of different characters so I could imitate them. That’s one of the only reasons my friends actually kept me around.”

“Oh, sorry,” He said in response to the correction. “I was just going off implications. From what you told me of him, and all. I’m sure he’s a good person. Why did Sieffre tell you that he said that all the time when he didn’t?”

He listened excitedly to hear what Dilly was good at, and exclaimed: “Wow! That’s great! You must be really good! I didn’t know there was more than one kind of solitaire! I actually have trouble playing card games because, with games where you have to keep track of a deck, I always have to straighten the deck and that both slows me down and annoys everyone around me. I’m especially bad at Slaps because I’m too busy straightening the deck than to slap the pile.”

”What about you? What are your hobbies?"

“Uhh… hobbies… hm. I played baseball for years, and I like making things out of nothing- I made Talon an octopus made out of orange duct tape. His name is Jesse. And… I enjoy putting things together, like puzzles. I like to exercise… and figuring things out- I’ve always dreamed about tinkering with machinery, but I don’t think Father would appreciate that. It’s general academics for me. But basically, anything that involves hard work, physical strain and… inventing.”

When Dilly flinched, he put his hand down. He didn’t want to make her have an anxiety attack- he knew how hard those were. He offered a gentle smile:

“I’m glad I didn’t make you cry,” He reassured her. “And that absolutely makes sense- I do the same thing. I always have- it’s like, when someone else cries, you feel it, you know? An orderly at the first home I was in told me that when I was really little and a kid was crying next to me, I’d start crying too, and when they got over it and started to put a block in their mouth or something, I’d still be crying. It’s really embarrassing.”

He blushed furiously after that- what a thing to tell a girl you had a crush on. But he giggled when Dilly was fascinated with his… ability.

“I don’t really know,” He said, laughing. “I’ve just always been able to do it. I can do any voice you want as long as I’ve heard it before and it’s not a low man’s voice.”

He started laughing harder after Dilly said something else. “It’s not a talent… it’s a… well, I don’t know what it is. But it’s definitely not as cool as singing or card-sharking.”

The mentioning of other languages caught his attention. “Say something then! Talon can do that too- he calls me nice things in other languages sometimes, even though I don’t know what they mean until he tells me. What phrases do you know?”

He nodded somberly at the mentioning of Talon returning. “I hope so-“

He stopped at Dilly’s last sentence. His eyes were wide and his face conveyed a look of gentle shock. Dilly… cared that much about him that she would go to the ends of the Earth to find him? He was sure he’d found a friend that would last him a lifetime in Dilly. He didn’t want to let her go either.

“You know,” He said, compassion pouring out of his eyes. “If I were on the South Pole and you were on the North, I’d follow Polaris and walk all the way up there if that meant I could see you again.”

He smiled. “I wouldn’t let you be alone in the North Pole if my life depended on it.”
Michael Courtenay
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Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!) Empty Re: Don't Lose Hope, and Don't Let Go (Dilly!)

Post  Dilwen Vaughan on Mon Apr 02, 2012 7:55 pm

Dilly blushed when Michael complimented her on her "knowledge" of hand-washing. "I don't know that much, honest," she protested. "I'm just really thorough. I think even Anwen used to get impatient with me sometimes, but she never said anything. I just...I like to be clean, you know?"

She studied Michael's hand with interest. Among the things she had read about while sitting in her sterile room was palmistry, and though she would never pretend to be an expert, she knew some things about it. One she remembered was that in girls, the right hand was what they were born with while the left hand was what life had done to them, and vice versa in boys. The callouses that marred his palm in no way made it ugly or made her worry about him. A skilled palmister, she knew, could read in those callouses his whole past, present, and future. For a fleeting moment, she wished she had that kind of gift, for she would love to know things about Michael without having to ask. She was going, she knew, to have to see if there was a book on palmistry in the library.

"I've heard of baseball, but I've never seen it or played it myself." She smiled, knowing that he would understand why the world of sports was not one she had ever indulged in, and added, "I usually read about it in books from America, though. Are there a lot of people in England who play baseball?"

Dilly, unlike Michael, had never had to share a room in her life. The house in Tywyn was small, but there were four bedrooms counting the master suite, and the smallest of these had been given over to Dilly. Anwen also had a room of her own; the boys, who were closer in age, shared a room that was, thankfully, on the other side of the house from Dilly's room. She hadn't exactly been prepared for sharing a room with five other girls, but she had become accustomed rapidly. If she missed her solitude, she kept it to herself. It had certainly been easier to keep her room clean when it was only hers, but she was willing to put forth the effort anyway. Not that she could help it.

She blushed at Michael's question. "I know most of them. I guess I just know a lot of trivia. Like, did you know that the first purple dye was made from the shells of mollusks? It was worth its weight in silver, which is why only kings and royalty wore them. That's why one of the meanings of purple is regality and nobility." Her blush deepened at that. She certainly didn't consider herself regal or noble, yet here she was wearing purple. Maybe Michael would understand what she meant. She sincerely hoped he would.

At his question about the beach, however, she winced. "No," she said firmly and instantly. Her expression softened as she realized how harsh that sounded. "I mean...I like the smell of the sea, and I like the sea itself, but...beaches are dirty. I went once and got sand stuck in my toenails and almost had a panic attack. Da had to carry me home while Mum stayed on the beach with Iago and Sieffre and Anwen." She brightened at a memory. "There was a boardwalk, long as I wore shoes and gloves, I loved walking there. It smelled so wonderful. And the was so clean. Does that make sense?" She looked up at him uncertainly.

A warm smile lit up her face when Michael suggested that people read to find themselves in literature. She'd never thought of it that way before. Really, he was so smart. She felt really naive next to him, but he was so gentle and kind about everything that she couldn't feel bad about it for long. Anyway, he was probably a couple months older than her at least--he would know more than she did anyway.

She patted him on the shoulder comfortingly. "I don't think your vocabulary is all that bad. Anyway, 'connectable' is a word. I've read it dozens of times in books and things." She puzzled for a moment over his question about whether or not she had any suggestions, then finally said, "Well, classics are always good. Like Treasure Island or The Adventures of Robin Hood and His Merry Men or Peter Pan. Those are three of my favorites." And, she added silently, the ones most likely to appeal to him. Most of her other favorite classics were targeted at young girls.

Literary theory was not Dilly's strong suit, but she had to concede that Michael had a point. "I suppose not. I've never read Lord of the Flies, but we were about to when I got pulled out of school. I had a panic attack," she admitted in a low tone, "and Mum started homeschooling me. She mostly followed the school's curriculum, but I heard Iago telling her not to let me read Lord of the Flies. Said it would be too much for me. If kids die in it, I think he was right."

“You don’t need to turn into a literary character. I like you just the way you are.”

Dilly blushed brilliant scarlet and smiled shyly at Michael. "Thank you," she said softly. "That means a lot to me."

She listened to his explanation of his television habits and nodded thoughtfully. When he responded to her correction with a question, however, a puzzled frown puckered her forehead. "I don't know, really," she admitted. "S'ppose it was just because he didn't much like me. Iago mainly pulled pranks on me, like the mud-baby incident, but Sieffre liked being mean to me by...telling me things, making me believe them." She shuddered slightly as a memory struck her. "Once he told me that Anwen wasn't born blind--that she'd gone blind because I used so much bleach to clean my room--and I believed him for a whole month until Anwen got Mum to show me her medical records."

Sieffre hadn't bothered her for a while after that. She'd thought it was because both her mum and her da had shouted at him and told him that was a cruel thing to do, but she'd been puzzled by the fact that he wouldn't look her in the face for a month. No one had ever told her that he had avoided her gaze because he had two black eyes and a broken nose, courtesy of Iago, and if they had she would never have guessed that the brother who pranked her constantly had physically defended her against their own brother. Of course, when he had started up again he had been even more malicious, even more cruel, but told her things less easy to verify.

She listened with interest to Michael describe his hobbies. "Those sound like fun! A duct-tape octopus? I would love to see that sometime." She giggled. "And I think you'd be a wonderful inventor. You're smart and creative and you like working with your hands--your da ought to be proud of you no matter what you become. If he loves you he'll want what's best for you, and what's best for you is what you're best at. Right?"

Another smile softened her face when Michael described his embarrassment, but she didn't comment on it. She didn't often cry just because other people were crying, but if it was someone she cared about, she got more upset than she did when she was upset about herself. She wasn't like that with just anyone--you had to be pretty special to make Dilly cry because you were crying--but it was already clear that Michael belonged very firmly in that category.

“Say something then!”

"Mitt huvud trillar av och det är fullt av godis," Dilly said quickly, the syllables tripping easily off of her tongue. It was one of her favorite phrases and she had practiced it over and over to ensure she was getting it right. "It means, 'My head falls off and it is full of candy.'" With a mischievous grin, she added, "Your turn. Could you do one of your voices for me? I'd love to hear you."

When he asked what phrases she knew, she giggled. "Really, really random ones. I can say 'I am not a conference delegate, nevertheless I would like a penguin' in German and 'Help! I need a refrigerator!' in Russian. I can even say 'Please give me your trousers' in Turkish. I cannot think of a single practical application for any of them, but they're fun to say. And nobody will believe you can't speak fluent French when you excuse yourself from a conversation with 'I am sorry I have to leave you, but I must buy a hat.'"

Dilly's blush deepened when Michael responded to her accidental statement with the same sort of sentiments. She smiled even more shyly than she had done earlier and looked up at him bashfully. She probably looked like a tomato with hair, but somehow, she didn't care if Michael saw her looking like that. He'd said he liked her the way she was, and that probably meant blush and all.

"If you were at the South Pole and I were at the North Pole, we'd probably meet up at the equator, because I wouldn't let you be alone down there either," she said firmly. "More than that..." She swallowed twice before she was able to get the words out. "Now that I've met you, I don't think I'll ever be alone again, as long as I know you're out there somewhere. Does that sound silly?"
Dilwen Vaughan
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