Story: When the Smoke Clears (chapter 2)

Authors: SDasher

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Chapter 2

Title: New beginnings

[Author's notes: Introduction of the first main character! As always I hope everyone that reads likes it. But if not, that's okay :)]

The morning began. For most, it started a half-hour earlier, with the crack of orange-yellow sunlight above the tree-tops in the East, and the sky turning blue. Clouds lingered and passed, ever-shifting and ever-changing, and the golden wheat fields down below swaying to the breeze. Somewhere over those fields, the signs of civilization began to make themselves known. First with fences, short and white, and the red tractors and threshers dotted amongst the wheat. Next went the barns, big and red, closed for the day, and past those, the squat houses of the farmers that tended to the fields, worn grey and brown through time. Past those, the fields turned from gold to green, animals sprinkled across their breadth. Dirt roads gave way to asphalt, and the ground gave birth to trees. Among these trees, houses pockmarked the landscape - some small, some large, all numbered and white.

The houses grew tighter and neighbourhoods formed rows of them perched along the hillsides and sweeping down into the basin of Mount Narlassus. The mountain itself stretched to the sky and scraped the clouds, mighty and tall. Within the basin, communities had formed, full of families, strangers and friends.


Tucked into one of those neighbourhoods, there stood a small house of no particular distinction from the others, and in one of its top floor bedrooms, an alarm clock kicked into action.

~ On an evening such as this
It\'s hard to tell if I exist
Pack the car and leave this town
You\'ll notice that I\'m not around
I could hide out under there
I just made you say underwear
I could leave but I\'ll just stay
All my stuff\'s here anyway ~

The sheets ruffled and an annoyed deep breath drew in from beneath them. It really was much too early for her to be expected to rise. She kicked the sheets away with a pout, slowly rising to pull up against the headboard. Her hands rose and rubbed the sleep from her eyes, and she glanced about at the blurry space she called her room, before leaning to the left and plucking her glasses from the edge of her bedside dresser to put them on. The room instantly came into focus, and she glanced to the alarm clock spouting what she recognized to be the Barenaked Ladies’ cheerfully optimistic tunes. A small grimace crept onto her delicate features, and the girl crept to the edge of the bed, swinging off to feel the carpet between her toes. The room was icily cold, despite the deceptively sunny morning view from her window.

The girl took another deep breath and sighed, running a hand through her crimson-red hair, which had (at one point, at least) been styled shoulder-length and thick, so that her fringe swept across her forehead, while the rest hung attentively in its proper place. Now, she had a righteous case of bed-hair, and it pointed towards the ceiling erratically. Attempting to neaten it as she crossed the room to her desk, she fell into her chair, slapping one of the keys on her laptop to get it to wake up.

She tapped in her password, hearing the speakers chime in approval.

‘Good Morning, Lisa.’ The screen read, and she frowned, grumbling “Not really,” As her desktop loaded itself. Her morning routine consisted of rolling out of bed and checking the internet; most of the time it was useless, but she smiled when her e-mail client informed her she’d gotten a few. Bringing it up, she fumbled through the usual spam-bot messages (and several different African princes wanting to put money into her bank account), and replied to several that she’d received from her friends back in Ireland who’d bothered to keep in touch since she moved. Why exactly they’d moved to a large town in the United States was ill-defined; her mother insisted they both needed a change of pace after the father figure in their family decided he’d rather spend time in jail than with them. Lisa supposed it was a mid-life crisis; somewhat drastic, she judged, but at least it wasn’t a Porsche.

E-mail checked and calendar breezed over, Lisa extracted herself from the confines of her chair and traipsed across the room to open up her wardrobe. One of the things she couldn’t complain about in the US was that there wasn’t a uniform for school, just a general dress code: Casual. She utterly hated having to don an ugly plaid skirt, white button-up shirt and blazer back home. Thumbing through the brightly-coloured shirts in her wardrobe, she settled on her usual white undershirt, black vest and blue jeans, and set off for the shower with a spring in her step.


The water hit her warm and comforting, caressing her subtle and not-so-subtle curves gently. She enjoyed her showers hot, especially in frigid Mt. Narlassus weather. She shampooed her hair, rinsed it out, and applied conditioner before going on to soap down the rest of herself. Her mind fogged and her body took over out of routine, and in not too long, she found herself turning off the water to towel off. Stepping before the sink and mirror as she did this, she swept the hair out of her eyes to take a brief look at herself.

Lisa was and wasn’t shy about her body - she looked… Average, she supposed; skinny, a little shorter than the average girl of seventeen, coming in at 5’ 4”. Her body was smooth and without blemish, and she adhered well to dental and bodily hygiene. She was in good health, other than a slight iron deficiency, and she ate as well as she could. She glanced at her chest, neither smiling nor frowning, and tipped her head to the side. Everyone she’d ever known had always said that their chest needed to be bigger, but Lisa actually didn’t mind hers. Any bigger and they wouldn’t suit her body.

But that was enough staring in the mirror - even with her glasses off, there was only so much looking at oneself that a girl can take before she started finding things wrong - like the fact that she really could do with being a wee bit more defined in the stomach.

Grimacing, the teenager dried herself off and wiped off her glasses, before slipping them on and returning to her bedroom to dress, coming back to do her hair. It didn’t take too long to dry with the hairdryer, and styling didn’t take too much longer. A few quick twists of lip gloss, a spritz of perfume she considered nice, smelling much like sandalwood and vanilla, and she was done.


The Gallagher household was small, but it was nice. The floors were wooden and the furniture was much the same, floral prints spattered across the curtains and couch. Two bedrooms, two beds, lounge room, kitchen, and a bookcase on every wall that had room for one. Two bedrooms meant it was cheap to put a deposit on, ideal for a working woman with no other source of income. Lisa’s mother was a fanatic reader in her rare spare time, and often joked that if her daughter didn’t spend so much time on the internet, she’d have made some sort of a dent in the immense library, but as it stood, all she’d taken had been the odd sci-fi novel.

Lisa quickly took the stairs down to the lower floor, keys jingling in her pocket. The smell of burnt toast had filled the lower floors, a scent that caused her to smile; her mother wasn’t the most wonderful of cooks, and she wasn’t the tidiest person she knew, but she always seemed to try her best. The red-head glanced towards the front window, spotting the empty space in the driveway that her mother’s champagne Toyota usually occupied, and headed for the kitchen. The dishwasher was churning and knocking with an hour and thirty-seven minutes left, and the bench still had crumbs on it. Seemed her mother had been late again this morning. Sweeping the leftover crumbs into one hand, the teen disposed of them and poured a bowl of cereal, retiring to the couch with it in her lap.

The TV came to life soon enough. The only channels she could get with any regularity were the local ones; they covered high school football matches and local weather, as well as a few random news segments every now and then. She hungrily laid into her cereal as the programme turned on to a local field report. Photos flicked across the screen of several different local gas stations. Her eyes moved to the subject matter on the bottom of the screen and she raised an eyebrow.

-- Robberies hit local gas stations - Local Community shocked --

It was interesting - Crime wasn’t something someone experienced a lot in mountain towns like this. She watched quietly as the story flicked back and forth between dramatizations and pre-recorded interviews with nearby residents with interest; Robberies didn’t affect her so much, but it was scary to know something like that could happen, even out here. The red-head adjusted her glasses upon finishing her breakfast and took her dishes back to the kitchen, pausing as her phone chirped in her pocket. She pulled it from her pocket and unlocked it, smiling as she saw she’d received a message from Tyler.

Tyler Williams - Simply put, she was her best friend - her only friend.

There was a cadence to Tyler’s manner that always managed to surprise her; for an only child growing up in a mountain town like Narlassus, it was surprising that she didn’t have many other friends to spend her time with. Lisa was grateful; never was it a bad thing to get a late-night call from that girl. They were really close - but she’d never been able to work up the courage to ask her over. Not once. Eight months and the closest she’d gotten to Tyler’s house was the front gate. Flicking her fringe away, she opened the message and began reading.

Can’t make it to your house to pick you up this morning :( See you at lunch though!


She could be a bit of a flake sometimes. Not that it was her fault; it was probably the she-devil mother she’d never met behind it all. She sent back a good-natured ‘okay’, stuffed the device back into her pocket, and whisked back up toward her room, picking her orange-to-grey patterned messenger bag up from the side of her desk to sit on her bed. With Tyler not coming to pick her up, and her mother gone already, it meant that she’d need to allow a little extra time to get to school.

She packed her laptop, her pencil case, several thin binders and a few essentials, before slinging the bag over her shoulder and descending to the first floor. Lisa adjusted herself briefly, then set the alarm and locked up on her way out onto the footpath.

She looked past the rolling rows of houses spread out across the sloping hill, toward the sun that hung in anticipation of its journey across the sky. Her eyes then moved to the green back yards and crystal-clear swimming pools littered across the neighbourhood. “Really is idyllic, isn’t it…?” She mumbled to herself, stuffing her hands into her vest pockets as she skittered down the porch-steps and across the silent road. They lived on the edge of society in this town - one of the reasons for the low asking price on their house, Lisa suspected. Forty minute walk to the school, fifty to the town centre, depending on walking speed.


Philosophy class really wasn’t meant to be first thing in the morning - everybody was tired and not up to arguing out the point put forward by the opposition - so often they simply retired to a period of reading material, which in some ways wasn’t much better. Once a student reads the same passage over eight times and is still having trouble understanding what the point of it was, there’s a limit to how long someone can pay attention for.

Her eyes wandered, as they were so prone to doing, from the page, to the back of the seat of the student in front of her, and up to the white board. The notes from a previous specialist math class were still on it, a subject she enjoyed for its applications in slightly more realistic situations than one would find in General or Math Methods. She began the pen-flicking game, spinning it around her slender fingers habitually.

Narlassus High was… Average, she supposed. Unlike how she had imagined the school to be, there were not many easily-discernable cliques hanging around. There were the jocks, of course, they’d even been present back home, but other than that, everyone she ran into seemed at least a little… Strange. No one was perfectly average - except perhaps the boy that sat in front of her in this class.

She eyed him curiously for a moment. Short hair, thick through the middle but not overweight, skin a neutral, fleshy Caucasian. She’d seen him from the front once - he’d asked for a pencil. He wasn’t… Bad-looking, she guessed, but not her cup of tea. Any other perfectly average girl would be happy to have him - he seemed nice enough. This, she concluded, was the kind of boy that grew up to be a perfectly normal, proud parent of 2.5 children. She glanced to the teen that sat beside her; he seemed to be immersed in something he was reading on his phone. She checked her other flank, just for the hell of it, and then suddenly realised that she was quite literally surrounded by boys.

‘That’s what you get for not looking where you sit, Lisa,’ She thought to herself, as her right-hand-man gave her a raise of the eyebrow and a nod. She gave an uncertain wave, raising her own eyebrow. He responded with a smile and then looked back to his work. Social customs between herself and the opposite sex were often awkward and left her feeling either confused or remarkably indifferent.

He was good-looking, she guessed - black hair, longish, trim of waist and athletic of build. His name was Skyler, if she remembered correctly, and several times this ritual had been repeated during Monday Philosophy. What purpose it served, exactly was beyond her, as they’d never actually talked beyond exchanging philosophical opinion. He was very much a utilitarian and had at times offered to read over her work before she submitted it.

Lost in thought, she stared at him, until he did something quite unexpected: Spoke.

Amongst the murmur of the class tossing about ideas and discussing last night’s football game, he was surprisingly clear. “What part of Ireland are you from?” He asked, and she blinked in response.



“What part of Ireland are you from?”

“Ehm…” She thought for a moment - no one had bothered to ask her before, “… Derry,”

“That up north?”

“Um, right up north,” She responded, maintaining that lovely conversational magic she’d never been gifted with.

He smiled again, “Heard it’s real green there.”

“It is, really… But, I mean, it’s not like you’re really tied down with grey city ‘ere…” In some ways Narlassus was similar to home. It was rather green here too.

He eased back in his seat and then forward again. “ So, you enjoying our quiet mountain life?” He asked.

“I am, it’s alright; Low crime rate an’ all. People are generally pretty nice.”
It really was quite remarkable that he’d carried on their conversation without once pausing to decipher her thick accent.

“Generally?” He didn’t sound offended, rather curious in fact.

She smiled and shrugged, “Y’get the occasional off-centre bastard who thinks it’s both clever and accurate to shout ‘Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!’, in some ridiculously over-the-top accent. “

He chuckled. By the lord, she’d managed to say something funny?

“No! Really!” She insisted, turning on her seat to get to talking a little more comfortably, “I’m gonna deck the next joker who insists on saying that. Sixteen years living in that country, and not once did I ever hear someone actually say that.”

“I like the accent,” He responded, giving her one of those odd looks over that suggested he was thinking on continuing that train of thought.

What exactly does a person say to that? Thank you? She settled for a nervous smile instead. He decided that was his cue to continue. He shifted about a little and seemed to do a self-check, taking a calming breath.

“Lisa, why don’t we talk more often?” He didn’t wait for her to answer before continuing, “You’re always so quiet. I don’t… I don’t really see why.” He waited a moment, in case she felt the need to interject, but she was far too busy trying to decipher his fidgety behaviour. Was he going to ask to be friends? Because she wouldn’t mind that. The more friends the merrier, right?

“To be honest, I kinda keep chickening out of asking you out every Monday…” He said, and her eyes widened.


How did this happen? Did I give off some sort of vibe that I was interested?

“Oh.” She repeated out loud this time, looking quite cleverly dumbfounded.

“So… How ‘bout it?” He asked, leaning on an elbow.

She stalled. What exactly does one say to get situations like this to be laughed off and forgotten? Looking down to her lap, she felt the blood rush to her cheeks as she became unnaturally interested in a speck of dirt on her desk.

“Um… Lisa?” Skyler brought her attentions from her desk to him again, and she bit her lip. Why don’t you just want to be friends? She questioned, raising her hand to scratch nervously at the back of her neck.

What did she say? ‘Sorry, but I’m not interested in guys, but do you wanna be friends instead?’

The proverbial elephant in this room was her sexuality, and she didn’t have any illusions about being just partial to girls. They were her outright preference.

What good would it be to lead him on? Maybe that could be their next philosophical topic.

“Um…” She began, and he seemed to be on edge; like he could already read her mind, but wanted to believe against it. “I’m… Really flattered, but…” Seeing his shoulders and confidence simultaneously deflate was painful. “I’m…”

Good lord, she didn’t even know what to call it. Gay or lesbian felt like such awkward words to use in this context, despite their accuracy. “… I’m n-not interested in… Um… Guys,” She said very quietly, stumbling through her sentence.

His pale cerulean eyes stared at her for a few moments, and he experienced the same sort of awkward lull in conversation that she so consistently maintained. She bit her lip and smiled weakly. It was often like this when she came out to people. They didn’t know if she meant to say what she did, like maybe they were waiting for her to continue onward with ‘… Guys like you,’ or, ‘… At the moment.’

But Skyler was smarter than that - thankfully. “So,” he began, tilting his head to the side, as if to make the pieces fall into place better. “… You’re…”

“Gay.” She answered for him, quietly as she could.


“As a rainbow.”


“Sorry,” She apologized, adjusting her glasses. He actually looked less deflated than before. A little more reassured, were that possible, that it wasn’t his fault. He eased back into his seat and looked at her for a moment longer.

Is he taking notes on how to spot us for future reference?

“… You’re sure?”

“… Pretty sure,” She reassured the boy, and he gave her a disappointed-yet-peaceful smile.

“Can’t blame me for trying,” He said, finally, and shrugged off her rejection, turning the page of the text book he’d been flicking through. The compliment brought a thin shade of scarlet to her cheeks, and she concealed a small smile. She was not immune to flattery, even from the opposite sex.

He looked back to his work. So did she.

“If you ever change your mind…”

She giggled, “You’ll be my first call.”

“Brilliant!” He mused in good nature, taking out his pen to scribble a few notes into his exercise book.

Lisa ran a hand through her hair and breathed a gentle sigh of relief; that could have gone much worse than it did. Moving her attentions from the boy next to her to the book in front of her, she resumed her reading, barely making it to the end of the chapter before the bell rang for period’s end.


[End notes: If you feel the urge, I'd be interested in C&C, I'm always looking to get better.]

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