"So, you think it will work?" Mona pulled the clove back to her lips, and glanced to Alyssa.
"For the third time in the last five minutes, yes."
Alyssa didn't elaborate beyond a shake of her head. She leaned back against the brick wall in the 'smoker's court', a small area behind the gym where a few motley furnishings had been assembled: a salvaged picnic table with a short leg that wobbled any time anyone sat down, a few giant empty wooden spools turned makeshift tables, a bench someone dragged in freshman year from the side of the road, cast-off from someone's garden. A few buckets collected cigarette butts in rainwater like murky sediment.
"I just-" Mona began.
"Stop. Just... stop. And give me that." Alyssa flicked a hand in the direction of the clove before stealing it for a quick drag. "The problem with only ever yanking yourself out of helper bunny introvert mode, Mona," she began through the quick exhale, "is that you're only used to standing up when somebody else has fucked up, or is fucking somebody else up. You just suck up the shit people sling at you and then use it as an excuse to keep hiding."
"Wow." The clove snatched back again, Mona took a long pull from it while aiming a reproachful look at the shorter brunette. "Tell me what you really think there, A."
"You know it's all bullshit. I know it's bullshit. Zane knows it's bullshit. Pretty sure Jade and Thea do, too, but they're too used to seeing you handle shit when it gets out of hand for it to likely occur to them that you're not doing it for yourself, too," Alyssa replied flatly. "People don't stick up for the people they think are handling their shit themselves. They know you can handle shit, because you do it for them."
Mona was silent for long moments, staring at the sky. It was better than looking at the cracked asphalt and waterlogged clutter. "He does, yeah." There was a pause long enough for another slow drag, and her eyes closed. "You know you're the only person who's said they're happy for us?" The words were quiet. "Pretty much everyone else ignores it, makes fun, or there's that look, like they just know I'm doing something terrible and I should be ashamed of myself or something."
"Which is some bullshit," Alyssa tossed back without hesitation. "And you know it's bullshit."
"Well, they apparently don't know that's bullsh-"
"You're right. They don't. And you're right that they won't, either. And you're right that it really fucking blows, and that it's heartbreaking, and that they've got it all wrong, and all the rest," Alyssa insisted, and for all her lack of height, she still managed to meet Mona's eyes as levelly as she could. "They don't know, and they won't know, because they don't care to find out."
"It was easier to ignore, before." Mona sank back into quiet words, her head shaking, clove ignored entirely. "It comes with this whole... " She plucked at the air for the right words, but came up short.
"...resentment of the girl who really has everything now?" Alyssa smirked, her chin tilting downward. She snorted. "Acting like you did something shady as fuckall to get there, and don't deserve to be happy about any of it."
"Shit, not even that. Not like that's even true, either."
"You know that. I know that. They don't know any better."
"Yeah." The quiet settled in again, and both girls stared up toward the clouds. "Still fucking hurts."
"And it makes it harder, yeah," Alyssa added more solemnly. "I get that." The smile was slow in coming, but it eventually got there. "I'm not going to tell you some 'ignore them' smoke-up-your-ass platitude, because it's not that easy, and people here will totally get up in your face or turn your day to shit without a shred of conscience about it."
"They're not shitty people, A."
"No, they're not. But they're selfish, and hypocritical enough to think you're never allowed to be, and that for some reason you, unlike everyone else, have to put everyone else first no matter what you think or feel-" Alyssa turned her head, looking at her companion with a deadpan expression. "-which you do enough to make it worse, you're doing yourself no favors there."
Mona groaned, and her eyes sank closed. "Yes, Mom."
"Don't you Mom me, woman. We're talking about hypocrites, and you Mo-"
And then, they were laughing again, unable to help it.