Chapter 26:

Book 2, Ch. 1: Cinnamon

ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~


***THANKS FOR READING!***

I feel like it's been forever, fellow Honeyfeed users! I have to apologize for the hiatus, but it was necessary to disappear for a while...my badge rank even dropped all the way down to bronze... To be brief, I've been busy with work and going through a transition in life. Also, I'm very meticulous about this story, so I needed to make sure everything in this second volume is in order before I started sharing it.

Finally, I'm ready to share the first chapters of Book 2. This is a whole new arc and picks up shortly after the end of Book 1.

On a side note, I have awesome artwork for this story done by Rusembell. You can check it out on DeviantArt, such as this illustration of Chris, Robbie, Bret, and Lavi here:

https://www.deviantart.com/rusembell/art/Book-Cover-Anno-Domini-Allium-747049459

As always, if you like the story, then a "Like" will be much appreciated. I also love comments, so feel free to babble away and I'll do my best to reply!

*******

BOOK 2, CHAPTER 1: CINNAMON

Ophelia Collins was a skinny woman in her early forties with brown tied-back hair and sharp cheekbones. Her pursed lips seemed to tug at the lines around her eyes as she stared angrily at her stepdaughter, Marilyn Collins. She was tightly clutching a piece of paper…a piece of paper that Marilyn recognized immediately.

It was early in the morning before school, and Marilyn, who was still in her sleepwear of a cartoon-print T-shirt and baggy, silk shorts immediately knew she was in trouble. These sorts of confrontations often took place in the hallway of her home, so Marilyn was not at all surprised by the situation she had just found herself in.

“I found this in your room yesterday.” Ophelia gave the paper in her a hand a couple shakes, not breaking her solid gaze away from Marilyn. “I meant to talk to you about it last night, but I had somewhere to be.”

Marilyn didn’t dare look at Ophelia, keeping her eyes directed toward the new expensive, dark brown wooden baseboards lining the bottom of the hallway walls. She was afraid to say anything, and was unsure of how to defend herself, let alone know if she had the right to defend herself at all.

“Care to explain, Marilyn?” Ophelia asked, her tone upfront and demanding.

Reluctantly, Marilyn replied quietly, “It’s for a submission form to an art magazine for a contest.”

“Hmph.” The sharp-featured stepmother gave a quick nod of disapproval. “And, by looking at it, it seems like a portion of it was cut away.”

Again, Marilyn was hesitant to say anything.

“You’re holding the instructions. I…removed the submission form and sent it in with a picture.” She made eye contact with her stepmother, receiving the chills of a scornful glower. “I entered a photography contest.”

Ophelia rolled her eyes. Her suspicions had been confirmed. She looked over the paper in her hands again.

Les Fauves?” Ophelia said, wrinkling her nose. “Is that the name of this magazine?”

“…Yeah.”

“This is what you’re doing with that expensive camera you’re always lugging around?” she asked sternly.

“It’s my camera,” Marilyn said, finding her boldness. “I bought it with my money from when I worked at that deli over the summer.”

“Oh, so never mind about saving any of that money for college, then?”

“That was the most expensive thing I bought.” Marilyn took great care in not letting her tone become too “rebellious,” or there’d be consequences. “I saved more than half of the money I made. I still have it.”

Ophelia rolled her eyes again and exhaled impatiently.

“I don’t see the point in this art crap,” she muttered, shifting her weight onto one leg as she crossed her arms, “but your father is all about letting you do what you want.” Her glare and voice intensified together. “This social parasite…this coveted and overinflated idea of modern entrepreneurship and following your dreams…it bugs the hell out of me.”

She looked at the paper in her hand with a grimace before turning that disgusted gaze toward Marilyn.

“That’s a big reason why your generation is full of lazy dreamers like you. The hardworking adults like me have broken our backs to build a better world for you…all just for us to say, ‘Hey, look at my kid who doesn’t return the favor of hard work to us, because she wants to bask in the wonders of the world that we made real, and follow her heart.’ Selfish, that’s what you are. I thought the Millennials were a worthless bunch, but you kids are the ass-ended entrails of the blighted path paved by those Millennials.”

Tears were begging to form in Marilyn’s eyes, but she fought them back, as they’d be one more weakness for Ophelia to exploit. She gripped her cartoon-print T-shirt with both hands and dug her toes into the new carpet Ophelia had recently purchased when the house was remodeled—the house was now gorgeous.

“What were you doing in my room to begin with?” Marilyn asked as loudly as she could without her voice cracking.

At first, Ophelia was offended by that question, but her face stretched into a sneer.

“I was placing a new candle on your dresser,” she said, now finding amusement somewhere in the conversation. “It was one of those cinnamon-scented ones you have an attachment to, so I was showing you a kind gesture for being such a good kid by buying you another one. I was willing to overlook the fact that they stink up your clothes.”

Marilyn knew the game that Ophelia was playing, trying to use guilt as a weapon. Unfortunately, Ophelia was a good player, and Marilyn was not.

“You know what?” The tone in Marilyn’s voice, along with the way she moved her eyes up to look directly at Ophelia, were both crossing a frightening line that Marilyn was often too afraid to cross. “My real mother was from the same generation as you…but she would have loved me for following my heart and pursuing art.”

Again, Ophelia appeared to take offense. Her sharp cheek bones were like spiked frames for her piercing eyes. However, yet again, her expression segued into another sneer. She walked briskly up to Marilyn and shoved the paper from the submission form into Marilyn’s chest.

With a pearly-white grin of perfect teeth, Ophelia brought her face inches from Marilyn’s and said, “Your real mother slit her wrists in the guest bedroom right on the other side of the wall where you were sleeping. She’ll never praise you again, Princess.”

Ophelia walked away and headed downstairs. Marilyn let the paper fall to her feet; she had less than twenty minutes to get ready for school.

********

Joining the flow of students going to school, Katie Vickers passed through the main gate of Lyonbole Public High School. Through the crowd, she spotted Marilyn’s naturally-colored burnt orange hair and sunny yellow blouse, so she hurried over to greet her friend.

“Good morning, Mary!” Katie said with too much energy for the time of day. “Hey, I got a new hairband today. Isn’t it cute?” She patted the aquatic-themed hairband nestled into her strawberry-blonde hair.

“That’s nice,” Marilyn replied flatly, barely looking at the hairband.

Katie instantly caught onto Marilyn’s mood.

“What’s wrong?” she asked concernedly while the two of them approached the school building’s quadruple-door entrance. “You look upset, or something.”

“It’s fine.”

“No, no, no.” Katie shook her head. “There’s something wrong, isn’t there?”

Marilyn sighed and looked away. When they entered the beautiful, modern, stylish school building, Katie kept prying.

“Are you not feeling well?”

“No, I’m fine.” As she walked over the polished hallway floor, her flip-flop sandals lacked the typical staccato clapping sound that usually accompanied her every step.

“There were a lot of people getting sick,” Katie told her. “You should be careful of your health.”

“I know.”

Katie frowned.

“Is it something you can’t tell me?” Katie asked concernedly.

Marilyn was silent for a moment, then said, “I’ll tell you later. I…just don’t wanna talk about it right now.”

Out of nowhere, Katie wrapped her arms around Marilyn, halting them both in the middle of the hallway full of students. The sudden action caught Marilyn off guard, but there was no breaking free from Katie during one of her famous Hugs-O-Love.

“I respect your decision!” Katie said loudly, almost wailing. She was definitely being overly dramatic, which was a common trait for her as part of her natural behavior. “No matter what you choose to do, just know that you’ll always be in my heart, Mary!”

The embarrassment Marilyn felt continually grew as she noticed how many students had stopped to witness the spontaneous act of Katie-powered love. As the inescapable hug tightened around her, she could overhear what the other students were whispering among themselves.

“What are they doing?”

“I dunno, but I think one of them just rejected the other.”

“Rejected? You mean, like…a confession?”

“Well, Katie is kinda nuts, don’t ya know?”

“But I never suspected those two were…lesbians…”

“Uh…I don’t think they are. I think.”

Marilyn began to panic. The rumors were starting already, and they sounded particularly nasty. In high schools, rumors had express passes for the quickest routes, enabling them to travel very far very quickly.

“Katie,” Marilyn said, tapping her friend on the back. “You’d better let me go. People are saying weird things.”

Katie released Marilyn from her love hug.

“Promise you’ll tell me later,” Katie told her softly. “I’ll try to help, okay?”

Marilyn smiled, unable to turn down Katie’s big puppy dog eyes.

“It’s just…I thought about my mother this morning…”

“No!” Katie pointed a scolding finger at Marilyn. “You mustn’t think of such sad things!”

“I know…”

With another tight hug (and a rustle of rumor-laced whispers), Katie held her friend closely.

“I’m here for you, Mary,” she said softly before letting go of Marilyn. “Okay?”

“Okay,” Marilyn replied quietly. “Thank you, Katie.”

Marilyn straightened her yellow blouse. At the corner of her eye, she noticed another one of her good friends walking up to her. The tallness, mean-looking eyes, and T-shirt for the American post-hardcore, progressive metal band Two-Dimensional Tragedy suited the typical image for Chris Findale.

He smiled and held up his hand as a greeting gesture.

“Hey,” he said.

Instantly reconfiguring her body language, Marilyn gave Chris a bright smile.

“Hi, Chris!” she said happily, swallowing down the emotional overload she had received from Ophelia only an hour prior. “How are you?”

“I’m good,” he replied. “Just another day at school, ya know?”

Marilyn smiled a wide smile, feeling the strain from doing it so forcibly.

“Don’t be such a downer, Chris,” she joked.

Chris chuckled.

“Yeah, it’s hard to be when you’re so cheerful.”

As the three of them walked down the hallway and chatted, Chris caught a whiff of the trademark scent that always accompanied Marilyn: warm cinnamon.


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