(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Artemis was written by Cora Moss.)
Artemis Blackbourne sat in the far corner of the coffee shop, her long fingers tapping impatiently against the table. Sighing, she took a sip from the giant coffee mug in other hand, and relished the taste.
She wasn’t sure what to expect from this interview, and she wasn’t sure she was going to like it. She hoped it wouldn’t be like another one of her endless therapy sessions, she was tired of people asking her delicate questions about how she felt about things, and looking at her with sympathy in their eyes.
Sighing once more, she looked up at the clock. Time to get this over with.
Kelly stepped into the coffee shop and looked around. She knew it would be polite to go to the counter and get something to drink, but she’d never been one to drink coffee, so she scanned the area and found Artemis Blackbourne sitting at a table in the corner.
Kelly approached her with a smile. “Hi, you must be Artemis. I’m Kelly Blanchard. Thanks for meeting with me. May I sit?” Kelly raised her brows as she motioned to the chair across from Artemis.
“Sure.” Artemis shrugged, sizing Kelly up. “Have a seat.” She’d always been good at reading people’s faces, and hoped maybe she could glean something about how this interview would go from the woman’s face.
Kelly gave her a kind smile as she gracefully settled in the chair. “Thank you.” She could sense Artemis reading her, but Kelly returned the favor. She saw how uptight she was and suspected Artemis trusted only a few people, which Kelly understood. However, to break the ice, Kelly reached into her bag and pulled out a plate of cookies and set them on the table. “Homemade chocolate chip cookies! I hope you like them.” She tilted her head to a side as she smiled at Artemis. “So, I hear you’ve recently returned to school. How are you doing with your studies?”
Hesitantly, Artemis took a cookie, nibbling on the edges. “Thanks. School’s fine, I guess. I’m swamped with work, but I missed several months of school, so it’s not like I wasn’t expecting it. And with me being the school freak at the moment, that leaves plenty of time for homework.” She rolled her eyes.
“Why would you be considered a freak at school?” Kelly furrowed her brows as she too took a cookie from the plate and broke off a piece and ate it.
“Oh, you know, the usual. Mother dies in a car accident, I drop out of school for five months…” she shook her head. “Primrose is tiny and very elite. The most scandalous thing which ever happens is someone failing a test.”
Kelly frowned. “I’m sorry to hear that. That can’t be easy at all.” She shook her head. “But are you handling it well?” Just by Artemis’ tone of voice and her body language, Kelly could tell Artemis was irritated by the label of being a freak in school, and Kelly could understand that, but she wanted to understand the girl better before saying much.
“Am I handling my mother’s death well?” Artemis gave a short, humorless laugh. “Depends on if you ask me or my therapist. I’m back in school. That counts for something.”
“Okay, well, I’m not your therapist, and you can be absolutely frank with me.” Kelly sat back in her chair. “What happened with your mom?”
“She died in a car accident.” Artemis flattened her mouth into a line. “Last November, completely out of the blue.”
“Were you in the car accident too?”
“Nah, I was at school, along with my sister.” She paused, taking another sip of her coffee. “Since Primrose is a boarding school, my dad had to drive four hours to come and tell us what had happened. We went back for the funeral.”
“Okay, I’m not going to focus on the aftermath and such like that because I’m sure you deal with that enough with your therapist. No need to repeat that stuff. However…” Kelly leaned forward, placing her forearms on the table as she clasped her hands together. “Tell me about your mother. What was she like? Were you two close?”
“Yes, we were very close.” Artemis paused for a moment to collect herself before continuing on. She was tired of the crying and the grieving, and the last thing she wanted to do was break down in front of a stranger. “She was a professor and scholar of Greek mythology. She was so passionate about it, I remember as a kid she would spend hours holed up in her study, poring over ancient texts and literature. But even though she was committed to her work, she was still the best mother anyone could have asked for.” She cut off abruptly, not wanting to let herself give in to all the grief and anger she felt.
“Hey,” Kelly waited until Artemis looked at her. “It’s okay. I lost a brother a while back. I know what it’s like to have someone you love leave the house one day and simply never come back. It’s not easy, but you have to remember her. What’s your favorite memory of your mom? Or you could have more than one.” Kelly gave her a fond smile, but there were tears in the back of her throat because how this reminded her of her brother. Still, she smiled and focused on Artemis.
“Yeah, whatever.” Artemis shrugged. Kelly was nice enough, but she didn’t trust her. She didn’t trust anyone. “Favorite memory…there are so many. Every October, Primrose has a parent’s weekend. Parents and siblings can come visit the school, see what classes their kids are taking, etc, etc. My parents would take me and Evie out to lunch, and then me, my mom and my sister would head off to the art museum. Art was her other passion, although it was just a hobby. But we’d wander around the museum for hours, making up stories about what was happening in all the various painting, and just laughing and gossiping and catching up on what was going on in each other’s lives.”
Artemis pursed her lips and started tapping her fingers against the table again. Talking about her mother always made her feel uncomfortable.
Kelly tilted her head, noting Artemis uncomfortableness and her distrust of her. In truth, that hurt a bit, but Kelly understood. She had to prove herself trustworthy to Artemis, and, to be honest, she wasn’t sure how to do that.
She took a breath and tried another angle. “What is the one thing your mother taught you that you’ll never forget?”
“One thing my mother taught me that I’ll never forget?” she thought for a moment, her fingers absentmindedly tapping out a rhythm against the table. “Hard to say. I guess just the value of being yourself, as cheesy as that sounds.” She rolled her eyes. “But my mother always made it clear that there wasn’t any competition between me and Evelina. It’s hard having a twin sometimes.” Especially when your twin is irritatingly perfect at everything, she thought, but didn’t add that. “Especially since Evie and I are so different. But my mom always valued that difference.”
“I get the sense that you’re not on best of terms with your sister.” Kelly let that hang to see where Artemis would take it.
“No shit,” Artemis said, snorting at Kelly’s comment. “Evelina is popular and outgoing, a model student, a brilliant artist in every sense of the word. I’m the problematic twin.”
“And how does she treat you?” Kelly raised her brows. “Does she shun you or accept you? Does she join the mockery at school against you or does she shield you?”
“Evie’s too sweet and perfect to shun me.” Her eyes narrowed. “Nah, she’s always trying to do the right thing, to be kind to her poor, fucked-up twin sister. I’d rather she just left me alone, she’d be happier that way.”
Now it was Kelly’s turn to roll her eyes and cross her arms. Then she gave Artemis a hard stare. “You know what? You’re right. She’d be better off without you, but guess what? You’re her family. You’re not the only one who lost your mom. She did too. She’s hurting too. Have you ever thought about that? Sure, she may be popular, may have everything going for her, but she’s hurting too, and I know for a fact that she’s hiding all her pain behind her smiles because no one cares to see her break. She has to appear strong all the time and seem like she has it altogether because you’re broken, and she would want nothing more than to break down too, but she can’t. Why? Because you won’t let her. You’re only thinking of yourself and how much pain you’re in. Have you ever even considered how much pain she’s in? Sure, she has her friends, but she needs her sister. Have you ever thought about that?”
Artemis glared at Kelly. “Do you think I don’t know that? That’s the whole problem! I’m selfish! Evie’s always been the strong one, ever since we were little kids. But you’re wrong about one thing, she doesn’t need me. It’s been almost a year since our mother died. Evie grieved in the proper way. She took a few weeks off from school, but then she went back, because she was strong enough to handle it, and her grades were oh so important to her. How did I react? I tried to kill myself! I’m the one who’s always been a selfish mess, and Evie doesn’t need that.” Realizing she’d stood up and was yelling, Artemis sat back down, breathing heavily.
“You’re right. You are selfish.” Kelly nodded. “That brother I told you about? He tried to kill himself too because he was selfish. Thankfully when he finally died, it wasn’t suicide, but do you have any idea what it’s like to watch someone you love do that to themselves? It hurts more than you think, and yes, you may think withdrawing is the best solution, but it isn’t.” Kelly had to force herself to remain seated and not tower over Artemis to make her point. She wasn’t here to isolate the girl, but she wasn’t going to cushion her with false securities.
Kelly took a deep breath then fixed her gaze on Artemis. “As you said, your sister doesn’t need your attitude, but you know what? She still needs you. She might not say it—likely won’t, because she doesn’t know if you can handle that since you have so much on your mind, but it’s true. What she needs is her sister, and she only has one. That’s you. If you killed yourself or walked away, guess what? She’ll grieve for a time and move on…and on and on and on, and then one day she’ll stop, look around, and suddenly shatter because she can’t be strong anymore, and she doesn’t know where the hurt is. She would have no one to turn to, no one who would understand. She’d take a deep breath, force herself to put herself back together, but she would forever be reluctant at ever loving anyone because those closest to her—her own twin with whom she shared the womb—hurt her terribly. Is that the future you want for your sister?”
“No.” Artemis leveled her gaze at Kelly. “Why do you think I stopped trying to kill myself?”
Sighing, she continued on. Her anger had simmered down, and as much as she wanted to yell and scream, Kelly did have a point. “And I am trying. Things were even going well with Evie, until…” she shook her head. “The point is, I am trying. Evelina would be better off with me, but I’ve realized I can’t push her away forever. Things are shit between us right now, but she’s still my sister.”
“Good.” Kelly let out a sigh of relief. “I have five sisters—and had five brothers—so trust me when I say, siblings can be a pain sometimes!” She laughed but then shook her head and got back on topic. “So, other than the obvious of what we’ve already discuss, what’s the current strain between your sister and you?” Then she locked eyes with Artemis. “You can trust me. I’m not going to tell Evie or anyone anything. Who knows? Maybe I can help—bouncing ideas off someone can help sometimes.”
“My father decided to fuck things up.” Her voice was laced with bitterness, and she didn’t even try to hide it. “Of course, Evie took his side, because she’s perfect, understand Evelina. I’m the selfish one, who can’t possibly understand what other people are going through.”
Kelly hesitated. When fathers decided to make a mess of things, sometimes it could be terrible, so she knew to proceed with caution. She quieted her voice but asked, “What did he do?”
“He was going to come up for parent’s weekend. It would have been the first time since our mother’s death. He promised.” Artemis’ voice shook, and she paused, taking another sip of coffee to steady herself. “But then, five minutes before he’s supposed to be here, he sends a fucking two-sentence email about how it’s just ‘a bad time to leave’ and how things at the restaurant he owns are going well. I mean, I shouldn’t have been surprised, this isn’t the first time he’s been like this.” Her voice started to rise, and she took a breath to calm herself. “Right after I tried to kill myself, he barely acknowledged my presence. We shared the same house, but that was it. He’d cart me off to therapy appointments without a word, he’d work long nights at the restaurant. On the rare occasions he ate dinner at the house, he’d barely say a word to me. It was like living with a stranger. But of course, despite his promise, despite our expectations and high hopes, when he sends this email saying he can’t come right before he’s supposed to be here, Evie takes his side. She goes on about how he’s still grieving, and how we need to let him, and we can’t hold it against him. But you know what? I don’t care. I need my fucking father, not a guy who doesn’t even care that his daughters are hurting.”
“Okay, in this situation, everyone is right..and everyone is wrong.” When Artemis gave her a perplexed look, Kelly explained. “He should have been there for you, but he broke his word, and that was wrong. You’re right in that you should be upset in him breaking his word, but you’re wrong in how you’re going about it. Yes, he’s grieving, you’re grieving, and I’m guessing your sister is just stuck in the middle. He’s a guy, and guys can be pretty dense when it comes to women, and both of his children are girls. Now, I don’t know what kind of guy he is or anything like that, so I won’t come to his defense, but your father needs you as much as you need him, but he doesn’t know how to express that, so he’s a lot like you in the fact that he pushes away and stays away because he likely thinks that you girls don’t need his hurt. It’s his way of shielding you two.” Kelly shook her head. “What’s the solution?” She shrugged. “I wish there was one, but there is no magical solution. But maybe, seeing it from his point of view, you can be a bit more understanding?” Then she added as a second thought, “And I should probably talk to him to get him to see it from your point of view too.” She shrugged then looked back at Artemis. “Do you see what i’m saying?”
“Maybe, I guess,” Artemis sighed, pushing a wispy lock of auburn hair out of her eyes. “I’m tired of talking about my father.” The whole subject still made her too angry. She supposed Kelly had a point, but that didn’t change the fact that she needed her father, and he refused to be there for her or Evelina.
Kelly nodded. “That’s understandable. Let’s move on to a brighter subject. What are your plans for the future? If your wildest dreams would come true, where will you be in ten years or so?”
“I used to want to be a concert pianist. But I haven’t played much since…since my mom died. She always loved listening to me play.” Artemis shrugged. “I don’t really know what my plans for the future are. Cam keeps pushing me to audition for music schools like I originally wanted to, but I don’t know.”
“Oh you should! At least start playing again. Music has a way of being healing. Plus, when you’re furious, you can pound out your anger on the piano” Kelly spoke from personal experience and then smiled. “So have you ever composed any songs?”
“I guess. But piano just isn’t the same any more. Every time I sit down, I just think about how everything used to be…” she shook her head. She was worn out from all the discussion of her mother. “No, I’m more interested in playing than composing. There are so many amazing pieces out there.”
Kelly nodded. “It’s understandable that it’s not the same, and to be honest, it likely won’t ever be the same…but it’ll be something new, something different, and still lovely if you play. What pieces are your favorite pieces to play?” She tilted her head to a side as she listened.
“Maybe.” She attempted a small smile. It was hard to imagine a time where she could enjoy the piano again. She missed it terribly, but it was so painful every time she sat down to play. But Cam always said something similar, so maybe he and Kelly were right.
“There are so many…Clair de Lune was always my mother’s favorite. I love Beethoven, his Appassionata sonata is one of my favorites.”
“Clair de Lune is lovely and so difficult to play—at least for me. I hope you continue to play it—for your mother if nothing else.” Kelly smiled. “Okay then, Cam is your best friend, I’m assuming, right? Tell me about her. When did you two meet?”
“Maybe some day.” Artemis tipped the mug back, drinking the last of her coffee. “Cam is a him, actually. We met during orientation day, 9th grade at Primrose. Evelina had found a group of girls she immediately became friends with, and I was left standing alone off to the side. Cam came right up to me, and said hello. And something just…clicked. Maybe it was because he was the first person who didn’t smirk at my name, or maybe it was just because for the first time, someone came to me, instead of me having to go to them. Whatever the reason, we became fast friends.” She broke off abruptly, swallowing the lump in her throat that came up whenever she thought of Cam these days.
Kelly observed Artemis and tilted her head to a side. “And are you interested in him?” She observed Artemis’ body language to see what Artemis might not say verbally.
Artemis fought to keep the blush out of her cheeks. What was wrong with her? Things with Cam used to be so easy, so simple. “He’s my best friend. That’s it.”
Kelly had to smile. “Oh, there’s nothing wrong with being best friends with a guy, but…” She saw the blush. “C’mon, be honest with me. It’s okay. Remember, I said I”m not going to tell anyone, and the good news is you’ll likely not see me again, so…are you interested in him?”
Artemis’ eyes flashed, and she clenched her jaw. She didn’t like prying questions. “Like I said, he’s my best friend. That’s it.”
She stared Kelly down for a moment, but then her resolve crack a little. “Although… he did admit that he’s interested in me.”
“Uhhum.” Kelly gave a nod of her head. She recognized Artemis’ resolve and could respect it, and unfortunately she didn’t have that much time left to pry.
She leaned forward, resting her forearms on the table. “Listen, I know you’re going through a lot, and you don’t know who to trust or who to turn to at this time. You’re even uncertain about trusting yourself. That is okay. Cam—he sounds like a great guy. Yes, I don’t know him, but…if you’re at all interested in him, it is okay. You don’t have to tell me. You don’t have to tell him, but it is okay to like him.” She looked at her watch and then frowned. “Unfortunately, it is time for me to leave.” She rose to her feet but pushed the plate of cookies toward Artemis. “Keep the cookies. A peace offering on my part.” She smiled at her.
Artemis shook her head. “Cam is a great guy, that’s why I can’t like him. I’m a shitty best friend, I’d be an even shittier girlfriend. And besides, I fucked things up too much already, Cam hates me now.”
She sighed, thinking about the night a few weeks ago when Cam had confessed that he was in love with her, and she’d ran off and kissed another guy right in front of him. She was too self-destructive, and Cam deserved better than that, because he was the best person she knew.
“But anyways, thanks for the cookies.”
Kelly stared at the girl for a long moment then finally took a deep breath. “Can I be honest with you for a moment? You may be a horrible person, but he could be your light that pulls you out of your own darkness. You’ve made mistakes, but, trust me when I say this, if he truly loves you, he’ll forgive you. You simply have to humble yourself, admit you were wrong, and ask for his forgiveness. You may be ready to bolt, but he likely won’t let you go. I don’t know what happened between the two of you, but if you caused it, and if you don’t want to lose him, then you need to swallow your pride (and don’t take offense to that), and go to him, okay? It’s hard—it really stings, and it’s terrifying because you’re afraid you might be wrong and that he might use this against you and blame you, but…if he is a great guy, you have nothing to worry about. He’ll forgive you. If he doesn’t forgive you, then honestly, you’re better off with someone else.” With that, Kelly shrugged. “Anyway, I need to go. You have a lot to think about. Thanks for chatting, and I hope you the best.” She gifted her with another smile and then left.
Artemis bit her lip, thinking over Kelly’s words. She so desperately wanted to believe her, to apologize to Cam and give a relationship a try. She hated to admit it, but she liked him so much that it hurt, and the thought of him being forever mad at her was unbearable.
But was it really that simple? Could she really just go up to Cam and apologize and see what happened? She shuddered, thinking of the episode in the library the other day when she’d tried to give some sort of explanation for what she’d done, and he’d just ignored her.
Throughout all of the mistakes and crappy decisions she’d made, Cam always been there for her. The whole reason she hadn’t wanted to be in a relationship in the first place was because she was terrified of losing him. Romantic relationships were too complicated. But what if by not doing anything, by pushing him away, she’d already lost him?
She shook her head. It was something she’d need to carefully mull over.
Cora Moss’ story ‘Aftershock’ has no release date set yet, but be sure to follow her on Twitter for any updates of her work: