Chapter 21 – Freedom Fight


Danni wiggled around in the chair in the corner of her room, trying to get comfortable. This used to be her favourite place to sit, but after two weeks of bedroom confinement, she was starting to hate every item in her room. The cushion felt like it was permanently imprinted with her butt, and not in a good way. She shifted to the other side of the chair and pulled her legs up under her. Still not working. Sighing, she ran her fingers through her hair before throwing her book across the room. Hercules bolted off the bed and out her perpetually open door.

Danni looked at the clock. 6:30. She’d only been home from school for an hour and a half and she was already bored. “Another fun-filled weekend of doing nothing to get through. Goodie” she mumbled to herself and pulled out her phone. She looked at the screen. It stared back at her blankly. Without her friends, her texting had taken a big decline. Even Robyn had stopped texting her that much. Danni couldn’t do anything fun, and Rob wasn’t one for sharing feelings.

“Danni.” Her mother’s voice called from down the stairs. Danni jumped from her chair, and hurried to the door. Any reason to leave her room was worth it at this point, even if it was taking out the garbage.

“Yeah Mom?” She looked over the banister.

“It’s supper time.”

“Okay…” Danni wasn’t sure how to respond. Her meals had been delivered to her room without fail for her entire grounding.

“Come down to the table.” Her mother stuck her head around the corner and looked up at her daughter.

“Come down?”

“Yes. Come down for supper.”

“Okay!” Danni bolted down the stairs and into the kitchen. She was so excited to be out of her room, she even grabbed the plates from the counter as she was rushing in and set the table. When she was done, she took a seat and waited. Her father wandered in from his study and smiled at his daughter.

“Hey Sweetie. How was school?”

“I’m so caught up on everything that I actually know what’s going on in class.” She smiled at him. “I guess that’s the upside to being grounded.” She shrugged and poured herself a glass of water. Caleb walked into the kitchen and inhaled deeply.

“Smells awesome, Mom. Chicken tacos are my fave.” He reached around her and grabbed a piece of chicken from the pan on the stove.

“I know.” She slapped his hand, laughing. Caleb grabbed a couple bowls from the counter and brought them to the table. He faltered when he saw his sister sitting in her chair.

“Oh, Danni… hey.” His smile dimmed a little.

“Hey Caleb.” Danni felt her insides twist. She still wasn’t used to this distance between them. She’d hoped that things would be back to normal by now, or at least to friendly. Even if she knew that her friends would never be her friends again, she and Caleb had to go back to normal.

“I’m surprised to see you down here.” Caleb took his regular seat across from her.

“Mom told me I could come down, so here I am.” She shrugged and picked a piece of tomato out of the bowl.

“Danni’s grounding is over.” Her mother announced as she took her seat.

“What?” Danni and Caleb turned to her in unison.

“Danni actions were horrible.” Their father looked at her, “But, we can only punish her so much. A falling out with her friends is no reason for a grounding. That’s part of life, you two. It sucks, but friends come and go, especially when you’re young. So, you need to figure out how to fix your relationship.”

“I know we do.” Caleb began piling food onto his plate. He folded the taco shell around a mound and took a giant bite. “Maybe, we can talk, after supper?” He mumbled around the mouthful of food.

“I’d like that.” Danni nodded and turned to her own food.

An hour later, supper was done, and Danni and Caleb were standing awkwardly on the front porch. Caleb jammed his hands into his pockets and shifted his feet. “So…”

“Want to walk and get some coffee?”

“You want to walk?”

“Well, that way, if you decide to abandon me again, at least we’re both stuck walking.” Danni looked up at her brother, a slight smile on her face.

“I never actually abandoned you.” He bumped her with his shoulder and started down the steps.

“That’s because Mom and Dad would have killed you.”

“I would have taken the punishment that day, Danni. I was this close to making you walk home.”

They fell into an uncomfortable silence as they each remembered the day that had ruined their relationship. They walked another block before Danni broke the silence.

“This isn’t fixable is it?” She stared at the ground.

“Us or everything else?”

“Both.” Danni jammed her hands into her pockets as they cut across the field of the school. Dusk was already falling as their feet crunched across the grass.

“The snow will probably come pretty early this year ‘eh?” Caleb changed the subject.

“Caleb.” She sighed. “The weather? Really?”

“I don’t know, Danni.” He kicked his feet against the grass, “You and I, we have to fix this. Or at least try. It’s not fair to Mom and Dad. You don’t understand how this is affecting them.”

“What do you mean?” Danni looked at her brother in confusion. “What do Mom and Dad have to do with this?”

“When we fight, they fight. They don’t understand what’s going on between us. They’re blaming themselves.”

“But they’ve got nothing to do with this.” Danni insisted.

“They want to be able to fix it anyway.”

“Well, they can’t. I don’t even know if we can.”

Caleb pushed open the door to the coffee shop, holding it open for his sister. Danni went to grab them a seat while Caleb got drinks.

“Thanks.” She said when he put her hot chocolate down in front of her, “Since I haven’t been working, I have no money. I’m almost excited to get back to work.”

They sat in silence for a minute, sipping their drinks. People from school were scattered around the room. Only a couple glanced their way curiously. Everyone knew they weren’t speaking.

Caleb leaned back in his seat. “How do we fix us without fixing everything else?”

“I don’t know. You don’t think the other stuff can be fixed do you?”

“Danni,” he paused “Cordelia’s kind of told us she’s not willing to give you another chance.”

Danni felt her chest heave. She’d known that things were bad, really bad, but had also kind of expected them to get better. Eventually, Cordelia would forgive her, like she always did. She’d see that Danni was right and come back to her. That was how they worked. Even after a month, Danni still felt like things were going to get better if she just waited long enough.

“She’s really, really angry at you, Dan. That stunt you pulled at the club that night. That was her last straw.”

“What stunt? The dancing?”

“In the hallway.”

Danni didn’t know how any of them could know about that, unless Anson had told them. “He tell you something? Anson was probably just trying to make me look bad. His goal seems to be to ruin my life.”

“Danni, don’t even.” Caleb kept his voice low, but his eyes flashed. “It wasn’t Anson. Cordelia saw the whole thing. She videoed it and shows us. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

“What did I do that was so wrong?” Danni picked up her mug, wrapping her hands around the ceramic. “I saw what I wanted and went after it. You did the same thing with Rayne.”

“It’s different, Danni.” He rubbed his eyebrows. “You’ve changed your entire personality to try to get this guy.”

“I think you’re confusing me with Cordelia. She’s changed. She took him from me, Caleb!” Danni’s voice jumped, then lowered to a normal volume. “But, I don’t want him anymore. I just want him to leave my friend alone. I want him and his stupid family to go away. I wish they’d never moved here.”

“So that you can be queen bee? So you can still dictate what Cordi thinks and does? I never saw it before, Danni, but you were a lot of the reason that she was so reserved. She knew that you would always make the decisions for her, or would convince her to do what you wanted even if she didn’t want to, so she just let you. Now, well, I want to say that you would be proud of how far she’s come, but I don’t think that’s true.”

“I don’t know when things changed, Caleb. I don’t know when I started making the decisions, but it happened. I don’t know any other way to be friends with her.” She sighed. She wanted her friends back, but not like they were now, like they were before. She didn’t want the new Cordelia. The one that looked up to her and made her feel like she could do no wrong. She’d built her self-esteem on Cordelia.

“Things will never go back to the way they were before, Danni. There’s no way. Even if Anson left tomorrow, they’ll never be what they were. If you want your friends back, you’re going to have to figure out how you fit into the new picture.”

“And if I don’t want a new picture?”

“Then you find new friends. That’s just the way it is.” Caleb broke off a piece of the pretzel he’d bought himself. “You and Robyn seem friendly.” His tone dripped with disdain, unable to hide his disgust.

“Caleb, if you guys aren’t willing to accept that I haven’t changed, then you can’t judge my new friends.”

“Danni, I can definitely judge that friend, because I was judging her long before she was your friend. Way back when you recognized her for what she is. When you weren’t interested in being like her.”

“She’s not as bad as you guys think. She just knows what she wants and goes for it. There’s not really anything wrong with that. She’s got a soft side. Robyn’s showing me options I’ve never had before. She’s taken me under her wing.”

“Since when do you need anyone’s wing, Danni? You’ve always done fine on your own. And is this the wing you want? The wing that might just give you a healthy dose of gonorrhea?”

“She doesn’t have…” Danni started, then stopped herself, “You have to stop calling her a whore, Caleb. If not because I asked, then think about what Mom would say if she heard you saying that. God, I am so sick of fighting about everything.”

“You’re not the only one. This is exhausting.”

“Then can we just go back to normal and be brother and sister without worrying about who our friends are? The rest of it will happen outside the house.”

“I think that’s the only way we can make this work.” Caleb finished his drink and glanced at his watch. “I hate to do this, but I actually have plans. It is Friday. Rayne and I are going out. You want to head home?”

“Are you alright if I don’t? It’s not your plans with Rayne. I just cannot spend another night in the house.” She rolled her eyes. “I’d rather walk around alone than sit in my room again.”

Caleb laughed. Danni smiled at him. It finally felt a little bit like it used to. “I’m glad we talked, Danni. I’ve missed you.” He pulled his sister up from her chair and gave her a big hug. “I’ll see you later.”

“Later, Caleb.” She squeezes him back and sank back into her seat. As she watched her brother disappear out the entrance, she pulled her phone from her pocket and sent a text to Robyn. If she was giving up her plan to get back in with her friends, she needed to solidify her friendship with some new ones.


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