Hi, so it’s Thursday afternoon, but I’m bored, so guess I’ll write hahaha.
At breakfast Thursday morning Rook and I couldn’t even make eye contact without 🦋🦋🦋 so I just stared down at my hash browns and tried to pretend that I didn’t notice that his foot was touching mine under the table.
The grownups (lol grownups) were discussing the whole bird issue. Neal had a breakthrough with the bird friend yesterday — it flew out of a tree to land on his shoulder, had taken to following him around town. The whole town was beginning to take notice, too. They keep stopping to talk to him, and like… weirdly offer him things. He didn’t have to pay for his coffee the other day, and even yesterday at breakfast, people kept turning in their booths to stare and whisper.
“I’d really prefer to leave her here,” Neal was saying. He’s been absolutely in his element the last few days, totally nerding out over this bird friend. “If it’s at all possible. I talked to Paul last night, and he said it’s much better for the birds if they can stay with their flock.”
Knock snorted. “I don’t see how we’re going to make that happen.”
Neal shrugged. “I mean, all we’d really have to do is convince everyone that they can’t keep secretly thinking that sinners should face divine retribution —” he stopped. “Okay, yeah now I’m saying it out loud I can see our problem.”
“The fastest solution,” Julian said, over Knock and Daryl’s laughter, “would be —”
“A well-reasoned, evidence-based argument?” Knock suggested, still cackling. “Good luck.”
Julian quirked a smile at him. “We just have to disconnect the bird from God,” he said. “This problem started because the bird caught on to this town’s latent bigotry, right? But then once people started dying, that latent bigotry stopped being so latent.”
“And it became a self perpetuating cycle,” Daryl agreed. “But if you explain that the bird isn’t an agent of their vengeful God, and instead is just acting out what they’re thinking… it might actually shake them into confronting their nonsense.”
Knock smiled. “Trust a Hawthorne to come up with the longest, most labor intensive solution to the problem.”
“Hey, you called us,” Neal replied, but Knock was genuinely smiling, and we all took it as the compliment it was intended.
“You really think you could do it though?” Daryl asked. “Change the whole town’s mind? These are old, closely held beliefs.” And Daryl was a therapist, he knows shit hahaha.
Neal shrugged. “These people aren’t intentionally evil,” he said, mouth full of pancakes. “They’re just accidentally evil in their efforts to be good. And to be clear, there’s absolutely no difference if you happen to be on the receiving end of their behavior. But if you’re looking to change minds, it matters.”
“So that’s the plan?” Daryl asked. “Drag the entire town into the 21st century?”
“If the bird comes with us, it has maybe a 50/50 chance of surviving. They get sad without their flock,” Neal said, shrugging.
“Could take a while,” Knock pointed out.
Julian shrugged. “We’re in no hurry.”
I choked on my coffee. “What?”
“You don’t mind staying for a bit, do you?” Neal said, smiling sideways at me. “We haven’t bunked down somewhere long term since — well, since you.”
So… potentially we’re staying in town for a while?
Bizarre. Like for sure at first I was a little bit… not upset exactly, but my initial reaction was to resist change (which lol that doesn’t bode well for our mission to change hearts and minds) but now… idk I might sorta like have some time. Get to know a place a little bit. Maybe… study something. It’s been a chaotic few months.
Maybe Rook will stay for a while.
Anyways, Daryl and Julian are working on the preacher now. I mean they’ve got their job cut out for them trying to convince someone who genuinely thinks he’s helping people that his teachings are actually fear mongering lies that are getting people killed, but Neal’s pretty sure that it can be done, and as we know Neal actually does know these things.
And that’s why, it’s a Thursday afternoon, and I’m sitting in a motel room, writing a blog post I don’t actually need to post until tomorrow, trying to figure out how I’m going to go talk to Rook for fucks sake this is getting ridiculous we literally made out YESTERDAY and now I can’t make myself knock on his door???? Literal agony.
Literally, like twenty minutes after I was writing that, someone started banging on our motel door. I was the only one there, and I thought it was Rook. I had a moment of absolute panic, considered making a break for it out the window, and then went to answer.
It wasn’t Rook. It was the pastor’s kid Makayla, and her best friend Rachel.
“Hi,” she said breathless. “You guys are here because of the angel, right?”
“Uh… what?” I said.
“Please just tell me the truth,” Makayla said. “I know that the guy you’re with is seeking the angel’s blessing, I’ve seen him feeding it snacks all over town.”
I just blinked at her. First of all seeking the angels blessing is a dramatic way of putting what Neal’s up to, and second of all, she was looking a bit unhinged. Her lipstick was smeared, her mascara was partially cried-off, her shirt was inside out, and her big barrel curls were frazzled and everywhere.
“Tell me!” she shouted, and that’s when Rook poked his head out of his room.
“Everything okay out here?” he asked in his calm, even voice, and Makayla made a noise of frustration and shoved past me into my room.
“Listen,” she said, pacing. “I need you to kill it.”
I raised my eyebrows. “What?” I asked.
“I need you to kill the angel,” she said. “Or it’s coming for us.”
I glanced between her and Rachel, who had come in and sat down on the floor against one of the beds to hug her knees and cry.
“Gay?” I realized, out loud, at the exact moment that my brain understood what I was looking at.
A whole storm of expression crossed Makayla’s face: defiance, fear, rage, humiliation, and I realized that I have lived a wonderful, easy life, full of supportive people who understand me.
“Oh, no,” I said. “It’s cool, me too.” And then I remembered that Rook had followed me into the room and like… I hope after big making out the the night before he understood I meant bi, but just in case: “I mean, sometimes. I mean, all the time, but like — bi, I’m bi.”
God I’m so embarrassing.
“My dad just caught us in the church attic,” Makayla said, and she didn’t say what exactly they were doing in the church attic, but Rachel’s shirt was on backwards and Makayla’s was inside out so I pretty much got it.
“He was so pissed,” Makayla went on. “The angel is coming for us next.”
“It’s probably not,” Rook said. “It’ll only come for you if your father tells people.”
“He was with half the choir!” Makayla cried and Rook made a face.
“Okay, so you might be in trouble,” he admitted. Rachel let out one dry sob, and Rook shifted a little. “Look, we can protect you, okay, you’re gonna be fine.”
Makayla whirled on him. “Easy for you to fucking say!”
“Just stay here,” I said. “We’ll go find help.”
The Hawthornes didn’t pick up their phone at first, but Daryl did. Apparently the Hawthornes had finally found the bird’s roost, out in an old abandoned shack outside of town.
“We’ll come to the hotel and handle things if the dove ends up there,” Daryl said. “You two take the van and tell the Hawthorne’s what’s happening, alright?”
Rook drove, thank goodness, because I’m ok driving the rabbit, but their giant ass van? HA no.
The shack was maybe a twenty minute drive, but only because the road was gravel and overgrown. The service was also spotty, but eventually Neal picked up and I was able to explain what was happening.
“Is that why she’s so agitated?” Neal sighed. “Okay, just keep them in the motel room with the doors locked and the curtains drawn, we don’t need people knowing where they are. I’m gonna try and get the bird into the car.”
“Got a better idea?”
“And here I was, hoping we could safely keep this bird with it’s flock, but if they keep insisting on punishing sinners, they don’t get to have nice things,” Neal was saying, mostly to himself, when the earthquake hit.
I’ve been in a few earthquakes in my life, I’m sure, but I’ve never really felt it. Like, when people asked, did you feel the earthquake? I might say… oh yeahh, for sure, but I didn’t really feel it. This I felt. I reached frantically for the sides of the van, as if it was the car that was in motion, not the trees, waving like they were grass and I was a tiny, tiny ant.
Rook slammed on the brakes as a tree crashed across the road right in front of us, blocking our path. Branches banged into the roof of the van, cracking the windshield and denting the metal. The whole world felt weirdly weightless, like we were standing on the ocean, and literally everything else was just falling trees.
And then stillness.
And then, just a breath later, rain, sudden and torrential.
“What the fuck,” Rook said. “Are you okay?”
I nodded, and then put my phone back to my ear. “Neal?”
“We’re okay, are you okay?”
I said we were, and then realized that it was a little more complicated than that on account of being totally surrounded by fallen trees.
“Okay,” Neal said. “This bird is throwing a fit, I need to handle this. You two just stay put, alright? Just stay put. We’ll come get you as soon as we can.”
And then he hung up. And it was just Rook and I. Alone.
We sat there silently for a long moment, listening to the rain on the roof. Then Rook cut the engine.
“I’ll check to see if there’s any way to get out,” he said.
“Neal said to stay put,” I said and Rook gave me a look like, yeah, right and got out of the car. So I followed him.
We were only out there for a few minutes — that was all it took to see that we were well and truly boxed in by fallen trees. And even if we did manage to get one tree out of the way, there was a second a hundred yards back, and who knows how many after that.
We ran back to the car in the rain. I was already soaked to the skin. Rook dragged open a side door and climbed into the back.
“Who knows how long we’ll be out here,” he said. “We might as well get comfortable.”
He was half way through folding down the seats to make a flat bed in the back before he realized what I had OBVIOUSLY already thought of.
“Oh, uh…” he looked around at me, hair dripping into his eyes. “Do you um… do you want a seat, or…?”
“No the flat’s fine,” I managed.
“We usually keep the back of the van flat so we have space to sleep on the road,” Rook explained, fully uncomfortable. “I didn’t mean — I uh…” he swiped his wet hair off his face anxiously. “Shit, I didn’t mean to make it weird.”
I laughed. Like, my guy, I WANT to roll around in the back of the van with you. PLEASE make it flat. But also, I am a COWARD. This is a guy I’d made out with LITERALLY the DAY BEFORE. It should have been so easy but instead my brain was going 🥵🤠🙃🥴 His t-shirt was sticking to his shoulders and I could see the color of his skin through it faintly.
I said, “you’re soaked.”
And he looked up at me with bright, dark eyes.
“So are you.” And then after a long, moment: “I have spare clothes in the back.” And he turned away from me to dig through a duffel bag and I twisted to give myself the briefest silent peptalk in rear view mirror.
I looked like a drowned rat that was half possessed by a demon, but it would have to do.
“Here,” Rook said, offering me a bundled up wad of wrinkled clothes. They smelled like him.
“Thanks,” I said. We looked at each other for a moment too long, before Rook turned away to face the window. I peeled out of my shirt, and into his, and then into his sweats. They were much too long for me.
“Aren’t you gonna change?” I asked trying to wring out my hair with the driest corner of my t-shirt.
“That’s the only set in here. Knock and Daryl must have taken their go-bags with them,” Rook replied.
There were two articles of dry clothes in this car and this boy gave me both of them.
“Aren’t you cold?”
He shook his head, and water dripped onto his shirt so I took his sweats back off and handed them to him. But the thing is, Rook’s jeans were sort of tight, and soaking wet, and they weren’t coming off without a fight. And if you know anything about the back of vans, you know it’s pretty cramped. So he’s like hunched over, bumping his head on dented roof, struggling to get his pants off, and he’s just as awkward as I am btw so he must have been in like absolute agony, but the nice thing about him being super embarrassed is that one of us had to be the bold one. So I reached to help him pull his pant leg straight, at which point we were both laughing, and he sorta toppled over, still all tangled up in his jeans — and at that point, the weirdness evaporated, and he was bracing himself sort of half over me, so I leaned up and kissed him.
AND THEN I BANGED HIM BANGED HIM LIKE A CARTOON GUN SHOT
How could I not dudes, we were trapped in a van in the forest and it was pouring rain. Sry bird you can have me.
Was it weird doing the thing with a dude?
A. I have not ahem done that with a dude involved since like sophomore year of high school and let’s all be honest about that situation: I dated Travis for like 3 months and it was mostly because he lived in the apartment upstairs and we were both bored and like… curious. You can tell he didn’t leave a particularly lasting impression because in the 100+ blog posts I have written on this site, he’s come up two entire times. We had sex like four times and it was weird so we broke up hahahaha. I’m pretty sure he’s only dating dudes now
B. You have worry about shit? Like?? Condoms??? And when they break you have to???? Buy????? Plan B??????
C. Didn’t love that our very existence wasn’t an act of defiance against a hetero social standard that must be torn down. Ugh how basic
The Hawthornes found us hours later. We were asleep, and like it was pretty obvious what we’d been up to in there, but at least we’d managed to sort out our clothes by that point hahaha.
It was still raining. Neal was covered in scratches, evidently from the dove, and pretty clearly not in a good mood.
“We’re pulling the plug on this one,” he said, tactfully ignoring the fact that we were both using blankets for half our clothes. “I called the emporium, April’s sending an intern to collect the bird. I really wanted him to get to stay, but this is the top of a young lesbian dies and teaches her father an important lesson about tolerance path, and that’s gonna be a big nope from me.”
Knock and Daryl had to rent a chainsaw, call an uber to get come dig us out of the woods. It took us the whole rest of the day, punctuated by Neal constantly having to go back to check on the poor bird. She was hooded and leashed by her ankle, but even still kept beating her wings restlessly against the windows of the car and needed just a little bit more supervision than we were able to give her while also trying to clear the road.
We didn’t get back to the motel until like 10 o’clock. I rode home with Rook in the van because I wasn’t allowed to be near the bird now that I’m a dirty harlot, and then when we finally got home Makayla and Rachel were still there, waiting in the motel room.
Rachel was asleep, but Makayla was awake, watching Golden Girls reruns. She sat up when we came in.
“Hey,” I said without preamble because I was fucking tired and soaked and just wanted a shower and to go to bed. “You’re safe. We’re taking the bird, it can’t hurt you. You can go home.”
She just stared at us blankly. “I can go home?”
“You need a ride?” Julian asked.
“I can’t go home,” she said. “My dad’s gonna freak out.”
“Your dad’s already freaking out,” Neal replied, dropping his backpack on the floor on his way towards the bathroom for a towel. “Have you checked in with him since the earthquake?”
Makayla hesitated. “No.”
“Call him,” Neal said. “We’re leaving here tomorrow, we’ll pay out a room for you for a couple weeks, but after that you’re on your own, alright?”
“Neal,” Julian said.
“You wanna drive them home to their homophobic parents?” Neal snapped.
Julian held up his hands in surrender.
“Shiloh,” Neal said. “Go get them a room.” And I was about to make a face at him, but then he said, “If you don’t come back I’m just gonna assume you’re having a slumber party, but text me that you’re okay.” And then he closed the bathroom door and I got to texting Rook.
On the way to the office, Makayla said, “so it’s not really an angel, then?”
“Nope,” I said. “It’s just a bird.”
She nodded grimly. “Thought so.”
I think Neal’s out with the bird now, trying to sooth it, but it’s really losing it’s mind, being this close to us sin-ny sin-ny sinners. I guess this means we’re not staying in town anymore. I can’t say I’m disappointed exactly — watching the bird be tormented by how much the town thinks Makayla and Rachel deserve divine punishment for the terrible sin of being in love dries up any desire to stay and help them keep their angel.
And I don’t know I don’t want to oversimplify this issue. Madelyn’s church was a loving environment, that supported her through everything — I mean fuck, when she was first developing her psychic abilities, she went to her church instead of me, her best friend. This isn’t any god’s fault. But also, if we weren’t here to intervene, these people would continue using god to validate their prejudice, and people would keep dying.
I won’t be sad to see this town in the rear view, is what I’m saying I guess.