Alvin smiled at the information he had in front of him. His boys were good, that was for sure. He was close, so close.
“Remind me again why you wanted your room black?” Astrid asked with a laugh as she rolled the dark paint onto the light blue wall.
“I always wanted one.” Carstella said as she painted along the trim, “But my father never let me, he always said it wasn’t attractive.”
“I think that depends on how you decorate it.” Astrid said as she wiped sweat from her brow.
“I appreciate the help, Astrid.” Carstella told her friend.
“You’d do the same for me.”
The two friends continued with their work until all the walls were pitch black. When that was done they left the room and headed to the kitchen, where Carstella had iced tea prepared.
“So what are your plans for that room?” Astrid asked as she took a bite of one of the cookies Carstella had brought out.
“I got a bunch of posters I was going to plaster across the walls.” Carstella said as she refilled hers and Astrid’s glasses.
Carstella nodded, “My father never let me have them up either.”
“Strict.” Was Astrid’s reply.
Carstella just smiled and took a sip from her glass.
The comfortable silence between the two were interrupted by the ringing of Astrid’s cell phone. The blonde looked at the number calling before sliding the picture on her phone and pressing a button.
“Hey, Hiccup. Watch yourself, I’m at Carstella’s and you’re on speaker.” She warned her boyfriend.
“Saves some time.” He said from the other end of the line, “Fishlegs and I are done for the day and need some time to relax. You two want to meet us at the park?”
The girls looked at each other, Carstella shrugged to signify she’d go if Astrid would.
“We’ll be there in a bit.” Astrid told Hiccup.
“Great, we’ll meet you by the lake.”
“Kay, love you.”
“Love you too, bye Car.”
“Bye Hiccup.” Carstella replied.
Astrid ended the call and stood up.
“Should probably change before go out in public.” She suggested.
Carstella looked at the two of them splattered in black paint.
“Yes.” She agreed.
“I feel so sorry for you Fishlegs.” Astrid expressed her sympathy after the chubby blonde just finished his rant about the kids in his history classes.
“It’s like they don’t even care.” He sobbed.
“They don’t.” Carstella told him and took a sip of the coffee she had in her hand, “Durring the teenage years many of the population doesn’t care about their own future, and are much more concerned with finding a place for themselves. If that includes spit balls, cruel jokes, and goofing off both in and outside the class room to fit into a group that makes them feel appreciated they’ll go for it. But don’t worry, they’ll soon find the errors in their ways.”
“As much as I appreciate the attempt, Carstella.” Fishlegs started, “It’s not really helping.”
“Would it help if I told you that about 90% of those troublesome kids are going to end up with minimum wage jobs for the rest of their lives, wishing they paid attention in your class?”
“No, still no.”
Carstella nodded, “I’ll stop now.”
“Thank you.” Fishlegs said appreciatively.
Carstella politely listened to their conversation as she pulled little bits off her bread roll and threw them at the ducks by the water’s edge.
“I wonder where Carstella would have fit in, in high school.” Astrid said gaining the brunette’s attention.
“What?” Carstella asked trying to understand the situation.
“If you were here when we were in high school.” Astrid said, “We want to know where you might have fit in. We didn’t all get together until about tenth grade. Prior to that; Fishlegs was honour roll king, the twins were detention magnets, Snotlout was not only a jerky jock but a self-proclaimed babe magnet.”
“If you consider his reputation with the football and soccer teams, he would be to any girl who liked guys in sports.” Fishlegs cut in.
“Not helping, Fishlegs.” Hiccup told him.
“Anyway.” Astrid continued, “I was in the popular circle, and Hiccup was. . ” She trailed off not wanting to finish.
“The clumsy idiot in the corner everyone tried their hardest to stay away from.” Hiccup finished for her, “But there was no one who could beat me when it came to shop work.”
“True.” Fishlegs laughed.
“So, where would you have fit in?” Astrid asked Carstella.
The brunette thought a moment as she threw more bread to the ducks.
“I’d probably have to say an invisible out cast.” She said honestly.
“Invisible outcast?” Fishlegs asked, “But you’re really smart and nice and-
“Now.” Carstella told him, “Back when I was high school age, I was cold, quiet, a little mean, I wouldn’t have fitted in. Glad I didn’t.”
“Didn’t?” They all asked together.
Carstella started throwing bread again.
“One of the few things my father did when considering me, was home schooled me.” She told them, “He didn’t want an opponent taking me out while at school, and he didn’t want me corrupted by any of the other kids.”
“Completely isolation.” Hiccup muttered.
Carstella shrugged, “Probably better that way.” She said and threw the last of the bread, “I had a lot of anger issues growing up.”
“I can imagine. I mean not having any friends, having to stay home all day, being pushed around by your ass of a father, and all the shit he exposed his daughter too. Makes me sick! But it would be kinda cool to see you so pissed off that you ripped someone’s throat out.” Tuff laughed.
“That would be awesome!” Ruff exclaimed, “Here, do it to Tuff.” She pushed her brother forward.
“Hi guys.” Carstella called to get their attention before anything could escalate.
“Hi!” They both said together and took seats with the group.
Tuff sat on Carstella’s right and Ruff sat next to Fishlegs.
“I texted them to come here when they got off work.” Hiccup explained to Astrid who nodded.
“Must have been hard, not having any friends.” Astrid said sympathetically to Carstella.
Carstella shook her head slightly before saying, “It was safer that way.”
“You okay, Stell?” Tuff asked as placed a hand on her fore head only to have her push it away.
“I’m fine.” She assured him with a smile.
“So what were we talking about?” Ruff asked turning the attention back to the original conversation.
“Where Carstella would have been when we were in high school.” Fishlegs told her.
Ruff let out a laugh, “She’d be pulling pranks with us, that’s where!”
“Yeah right.” Astrid said, “She’d have been way too smart for that.”
“Exactly.” Fishlegs butted in, “She’d have been at the top of the class with yours truly.”
“Please, my cousin would be on the sports fields like me!” Snotlout claimed as he came over and sat down, “We are talking about our rolls in high school and what click Car would have belonged to if she was here then, right?”
“You actually got it right.” Astrid applauded.
“I think we can’t say where she’d have been.” Hiccup told them and placed a hand on his cousins’ shoulder, “She wasn’t here, raised like we were and had similar experiences to us. So we can’t say, any of us.”
Carstella smiled, someone understood.
“Still.” Snotlout grumbled.
“Hey,” Ruff cut in, “Can we grab something to eat? I’m starving.”
“Sure.” Hiccup said and stood up, the rest of the group followed suit.
They walked down the path to exit the park and down the street heading for Gobber’s.
Tuff and Carstella walked behind the group.
“You were thinking something back there.” He said to her quietly, “What was it.”
Something flashed in Carstella’s eyes that he noticed, her lips pressed into a thin line.
“Can I tell you later?” She asked in defeat, “It’s kinda a long story and I don’t want to say in public.”
“Sure.” Tuff said, “We’ll head back to your apartment after dinner, and you can tell me. I want to be here for you.”
Carstella smiled as they walked a little faster to keep up with the rest of the group.
Carstella unlocked her door and stepped in, followed closely by Tuff.
“Excuse the mess.” She said as she turned the lights on, “Astrid and I were painting earlier.”
“It’s fine.” Tuff said as he sat down on the sectional.
“Can I get you anything?” Carstella asked.
“You over here.” He told her and interlocked his fingers behind his head as he leaned back against the couch.
Carstella walked into the living room and sat on the far right of the couch as she undid her laces and pulled her boots off, before turning to face Tuff so she was sitting indian style with her back to the arm rest.
“It’s a long story.” She almost whispered.
“I got all night.” Tuff told her.
Carstella grabbed the pillow next to her and put it in her lap, she took a deep breath before beginning.
“It was my sixth birthday.” She started, “It was the first time my father actually acknowledged what day it was. He took me to a pet store and let me pick out any animal I wanted. I ran to the furries. I wanted a dog, that much I knew. I settled on a bull god pup. He was so cute, tan coloured fur with one black ear and one tan ear and a black tail. My dad let me get him, I called him Bones. He was a baby, he always slept at the foot of my bed, he would follow me everywhere. If I shut the door behind me and he was on the other side, he’d wait hours for me to come back out. He was loyal, he always listened to me. We were inseparable. I thought that my father got me the dog because he realized I was lonely and needed a friend, that’s what I thought. And I loved him for it.” Carstella sniffed and blinked back tears, “Then I turned twelve. Bones was fully grown, he was my best friend. Everyone knew that. My father called me to the training grounds with Bones.” Her lips quivered but she bit them for a second before continuing, “He handed me a loaded pistol and told me to shoot the dog.” Tuff’s jaw fell to the floor and his eyes bugged out of his head, “I asked him why he wanted me to do it, and he told me because he had to be sure I wasn’t going soft because of a dog. I tried to reason with him, but that only got me back handed with his ring hand.” Carstella wiped her nose with the back of her hand, “He told me that if I didn’t he would feed Bones to real dogs and make me watch before killing me. And like any scared child I pulled the trigger. And Bones fell to the ground moments before I did. Then my father beat for crying, told me if I didn’t want this to happen again I would stop crying, get on my feet, and carry out the assignment he had for me.”
Tuff just stared at the girl who was now wiping tears away for a moment, then he pulled her close to him and held her. He rubbed her back as she sobbed quietly.
It was the first time in years that she had allowed herself to cry, or rather, the first time in years she had been allowed to cry. Her father would beat her until she stopped.
With the mafia around her 24/7, the lack of compassion she received from her father, and no friend in sight Carstella hardened her heart so that no one could enter. But it all changed when she moved here.
Carstella’s heart softened meeting Hiccup and the others, little by little both parties worked on breaking through her ever thick walls until they made it in. And now she was soft hearted and venerable. But she was safe. She was so safe, especially in Tuff’s arms like this. There was nothing that could hurt her, it was like she was in a bullet proof bubble where she could be a child. And Carstella took advantage of it, she let it all out despite herself. She couldn’t stop it from coming out.
It wasn’t for a long while before she calmed down and pulled away from the blonde who was holding her.
Carstella immediately felt ashamed of herself seeing how soaked Tuff’s t-shirt was.
She wiped away the last stray tear with the back of her hand and said, “Sorry.”
“Don’t be.” Tuff said as he cupped her cheek and rubbed under her eye with his thumb, “You’ve been through hell and back repeatedly. How you’ve managed to make it this far is beyond me. But if you ever need a friend, I told you, I like you and I want to be here for you when you need me. And when you don’t need me. I just want to be here for you at all times so you don’t feel alone.”
Carstella smiled and leaned into his touch, “I’m not alone. I’ll never be alone again, because I have you and the others. What more could a girl ask for?”
Tuff just smiled as he stared into her blood shot eyes. He couldn’t stop himself.
Tuff leaned forward towards the girl, slowly as not to scare her away. Carstella sat and stared in wonder at what he was doing, but she didn’t flinch.
Tuff gently placed his lips on hers. There was something between them that neither could explain. But they liked it.
Carstella reached up and put her hands on Tuff’s shoulders, Tuff’s right hand moved from Carstella’s cheek to the back of her head, while his left moved to wrap around her waist. They just stayed like that a moment, before pulling back.
Tuff stared at the brunette, for the first time since they met she was flushed. He had to smirk at that, before it disappeared from his face and he pulled completely away.
Carstella looked worried, “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah.” Tuff started and looked at his hands, “Maybe. No.”
Carstella moved forward and placed a hand on his shoulder silently letting him know she was there to listen.
“You’re uncles are going to kill me.” He blurted out without hesitation.
“No they’re not.” She said with a smile.
“Yes they are.” He said and stood up and started pacing around the room, “Stoik said that if I touched you he would make me regret it, and Spitelout’s in on it too.”
“We could always tell them that I was the one courting you.” Carstella suggested.
Tuff stopped and looked at her, “Courting?”
“Wooing, attracting, getting, making the first move, asking out.” She explained.
“Oh.” Tuff paused another moment, “Then what do we tell the guys?”
Carstella shrugged, “If you want to be with me, instead we could say it was a mutual decision on both parts.”
“Of course I want to be with you!” Tuff exclaimed, “Do you think it’ll work?”
“If I am choosing to be with you of my own free will, no one can say anything about it.” Carstella told him, “We’re both technically adults and are free to make our own decisions.”
Tuff just thought for a minute about what she said before all but jumping back onto the couch and flinging his arms around her.
“Then I, Tuff Thornston, here by take you, Carstella Jorgenson, to be my girlfriend!” He announced with glee, “Withe the power vested in me, by you, I now pronounce us a couple! You may kiss your boyfriend when ready.”
Carstella smiled and pecked him lightly on the nose.