10:22 a.m. | Kimberly’s Room
“I see, so that’s what happened.” Kim says with a small nod after Aislyn recounts her run in with the Perelli brothers’ past victims and the subsequent confession she’d sent to the police. “I wanted to ask, but didn’t think it would be wise to text or have that conversation over the phone.” She adds. “Good call.” Aislyn says. “After seeing those girls… I don’t know, I’ve been feeling–” “Guilty?” Kim guesses. Aislyn nods. “Well you shouldn’t, it’s not your fault or your job to get involved. If you did try to tell the police, I doubt they would’ve believed you anyway.”
Even though Kim hadn’t said anything she didn’t already know, just talking to her made Aislyn feel comforted. “Do you normally feel guilty when you encounter other people who’ve passed away?” Aislyn pauses to mull over Kim’s words, after a moment she shrugs. “Guilt isn’t the word I’d use, but it does make me feel bad.”
“And your family, they don’t know?”
“Nope, you are the only one.”
“And you don’t plan on telling them?” Kim asks and Aislyn shrugs. “It must’ve been lonely.” “I got used to it.” Aislyn says dismissively. “Do you regret telling me?” Kim asks, and the question throws Aislyn off guard. “Honestly, no. I probably wouldn’t have, had the situation not called for it, but I don’t regret it. It’s nice, having someone to talk to about these things… Well, someone living.”
“Good, don’t forget that you can, whenever you need to.”
“I won’t. Thanks.” Aislyn says with a smile.
“So, I never really got around to asking before, but what exactly does your family do? This place is quite spectacular.” Aislyn asks, Kim grins. “I don’t do anything too fancy; I’m an assistant designer downtown at the brand La Rue. My mother is the editor in chief of the fashion editorial magazine Simply Complex. She inspired me to pursue the world of fashion, I hope to one day branch out and make my own line, but for now I’m content working under others and building my skills.”
“That’s neat. What about your dad?”
“He’s out of the picture.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
“It’s fine. He left when I was a kid. Lost a hefty amount in the divorce settlement, though; like this house. I haven’t seen him in years. Not that it bothers me, I could care less about him after the hurt he put my mother through.”
“I know the feeling.” Aislyn says.
“Well, Nicole isn’t my actual mother.”
“No kidding.” Kim says with a smirk. “Why does that seem so implausible?” Aislyn asks slightly defensively. “Because, your step-mother is a well known figure in the world of fashion. I only saw her briefly back at the police station, but it was enough to recognize her.”
“I mean, Nicole did mention she was a model back in the day.” Aislyn says aloud, recalling the brief conversation they’d had during their shopping trip when Nicole had mentioned it. “She was not just a model. I’m guessing you aren’t too familiar with these.” Kim says with a scoff as she pats the magazines sprawled on the floor beside her.
“If you’d asked me that ten years ago, my answer would’ve been different, but nowadays, I don’t keep tabs on the latest trends or celebrity gossip in my spare time.” Aislyn says with a slight eye-roll.
“Well you should.” Kim says as she rises from the floor. “Hold on a second, I know I’ve kept some around here somewhere.”
“You’ll see. Go on with what you were saying.” Kim replies as she opens the drawers of her nightstand in search of something. “Alright… Well, my actual mother kind of abandoned us too. I’ve hardly thought about her for years now.” Aislyn says.
“So we are on the same boat then.”
“I guess so. Anyways, instead of discussing my mother, want to tell me why yours hates my guts?”
“She doesn’t hate you.” Kim says, turning back to look at Aislyn who had raised an eyebrow. “Alright. I admit, she could be a bit warmer.” Kim adds with a grin as she returns to filtering through the contents of the drawer. “She read the statement we gave to Cailean’s mom and she kind of, sort of, thinks what happened was your fault, even though I told her she’s dead wrong.”
“Is she?” Aislyn challenges. “Oh, stop it, will you? I found it!” Kim says as she pulls out a small stack of magazines. She hands them over to Aislyn as she rejoins her on the floor. “Flip through them.” Kim says when Aislyn looks at her questioningly. Aislyn skims the headlines on the covers, they all appeared old, with folded pages and worn out spines; there was a glaring repetition on each one, the name Nikki Lake written in bold.
Nikki Lake: How a small-town girl became one of the world’s highest paid models.
Nikki Lake Exclusive Inside.
The third magazine Aislyn looked at had a woman on the cover that she had to take a moment to recognize as Nicole. She was younger, with hair much longer than she currently sported, but there was no mistaking it was her.
“Nikki Lake?” She says aloud.
“I’m guessing that’s her nickname and maiden name.”
“I wouldn’t know.” Aislyn says sheepishly, dropping the magazines to her side and lying back with an exaggerated sigh. “Well, she’s one of my style inspirations, well, she was back when she was in the spotlight. I haven’t seen her around for a few years now.” Kim continues.
“I haven’t really gotten the chance to know her, yet, but I’m hoping to work on that once I’m in Bayville.”
“Right… I nearly forgot you were leaving.”
“That’s why I’m here, I also wanted to drop off your Christmas present, it’s in my purse, which I’ve left downstairs in my haste to get away from your mother.” Kim raises an eyebrow, “So, are you making personal deliveries to everyone’s house before you go?” She asks, with an emphasis on the word everyone. “As of now that’s the plan… why?” Aislyn asks. “Oh, it’s nothing.” Kim says dismissively; she lies back, looks over her manicured nails, and attempts to suppress the grin forming on her face.
“What?” Aislyn asks, rising and turning over to look at her. “I’m just wondering what you got me.” Kim says unconvincingly. “I am not above beating you with this until you spill the truth.” Aislyn says, grabbing one of the corners of the pillows beside her head and raising it over Kimberly, who lets out a laugh. “Alright, alright.” Kim says, putting her arms out in defense. “It’s just that, we haven’t gotten around to discussing that… moment from yesterday.”
“Oh.” Aislyn says, promptly returning the pillow to its place as some heat rises to her face. “It took all I had to not ask sooner.” Kim giggles. “That… was nothing.” Aislyn says. “You sound disappointed.” Kim says matter-of-factly. Aislyn is unsure what to say to that so she just shrugs.
“What’s the deal? I mean you told me you and Gus had broken up before we were captured and whatnot–” “Kim.”
“I figured it was because you guys had issues or something since you didn’t really say anything about the reason why–” “Kim!”
“I never would’ve guessed that it was because you liked Cailean, wait, you do like him right?” “KIMBERLY!” Aislyn nearly yells, after several failed attempts to halt her flow of questions and speculations.
“Sorry, sorry. Okay spill!”
Aislyn lets out a sigh. “Yes, I do like Cailean, but that is not the reason why Gus and I broke up.” She pauses to lie back, unable to look Kim in the eye as she continues. “Part of the reason why I can’t even bring myself to tell him how I feel is because I’m afraid that that is the assumption everyone will jump to…” She says.
“Wait, you’re telling me, Cailean doesn’t know. That’s not what it looked like yesterday.” Kim says incredulously.
“I’m guessing my subtle attempt to gauge his feelings under the mistletoe weren’t so subtle?”
“Definitely not.” Kim pauses to laugh again, “But, I can also tell you that Cailean wouldn’t have joined you there if he didn’t have feelings for you as well.”
“You think so?” Aislyn asks. “I find him infuriatingly difficult to read.”
“Really? I think he’s somewhat of an open book, way easier to read than Gus that is.”
“Well if that’s true, it would make me feel a lot less embarrassed as to how yesterday went down.”
“What? Is it because I interrupted, you guys didn’t get another chance to talk?”
“It’s not that we didn’t get another chance, but more like I made sure we didn’t.” Aislyn admits with a slight flush.
“So that’s what it was, I felt like you were going out of your way to distance yourself from Cailean during the night. I thought you guys had secretly started dating and were trying to keep it on the down low.”
“That is definitely not the case. I wanted to ask him outright how he felt, but I was afraid he was just… being nice, so I backtracked.”
“So are you going to ask him how he feels when you drop off his present then?”
“I’m still debating it, but enough about me. Do you want to tell me about Gus, then? You were certainly avoiding him.” Aislyn asks, eager to drift away from the topic of Cailean. Kim now lets out an exaggerated sigh of her own, and returns to the floor. “Well, I wasn’t doing too hot before you intervened and helped the police catch those guys…” Aislyn recalls her observation that something had seemed off about Kimberly when they had met up for their mall date.
“Gus came over and insisted I tell him what was bothering me. Long story short, I ended up crying in his arms, which was a first for me, and now I don’t know how to face him without feeling embarrassed. I just want to forget the whole thing happened.” Kim says. “I’m not the best at expressing emotions in front of others so I can totally relate.” Aislyn says. “What should I do?” Kim asks, turning to look at Aislyn.
“I’d say be honest with him.”
“That’s funny.” Kim says. “Because, I was going to tell you to do the exact same thing.”
“But that’s easier said than done, isn’t it?” Aislyn says with a grin.
“It sure is.”
4:02 p.m. | Mai & Chad’s Apartment
After swinging by the gym Otto works at, and making a stop at the loft Lexi lives in downtown to drop off their presents and say her goodbyes – which were much quicker than her afternoon with Kimberly – Aislyn reaches out to ring the doorbell beside the familiar double doors of Mai and Chad’s apartment.
“You dyed your hair.” Aislyn says when she lays eyes on Mai’s locks of brown and green, before reaching out for a hug. “Well it is a new year, and when I start working as a nurse officially, my bright blue hair won’t be considered professional so I figured I’d revert to my natural brunette and have a bit of fun with the ends that I can hide when I put my hair up.” Mai says with a wink as she leads Aislyn inside.
“Aww, I wish you would’ve told us you were leaving sooner. We could’ve turned our party yesterday into a goodbye one.” Mai says with a pout after they chat for a bit and Aislyn breaks the news. “That’s precisely why I didn’t.” Aislyn says with a smirk.
“You must feel excited.”
“I guess…” When Mai raises an eyebrow at her tone, Aislyn sighs, “Well, a part of me is also worried that I’ll end up just as unsure as I’ve been here, over there.”
“You can’t go in with that kind of attitude, you get what you put out into the world.”
“You’re right.” Aislyn says. “Don’t I know it? Alright, enough worrying, let’s talk about something more positive. Have you gotten used to your hair? You gave yourself quite the chop.” Mai presses on with a grin.
“Believe it or not, I’m actually thinking of going shorter.” Aislyn says as she runs a hand through her shoulder length locks. “I don’t want to push my luck and risk messing it up though, so I’ll probably get it done professionally when I’m in Bayville.”
“Really? If you’re actually serious, you could have Chad do it. Why waste $50 when you could get it done for free? One of the perks of dating a stylist is free hair care. I’ve saved thousands in hair experimentation.” Mai says excitedly. “Well, I have to make a few more stops before the day is done, so I don’t know if I’ll have time to swing by the salon.” Aislyn says, returning the enthusiastic smile Mai had on with one of her own. “Nonsense, he can do it here, he should be back any minute now.”
“I can do what here?” Aislyn and Mai turn to see Chad entering as if on cue. “I didn’t hear you come in.” Mai says as she rises to greet her boyfriend. “Hey, Aislyn.” Chad says when he breaks apart from Mai. “Hi.”
“I was telling Aislyn that you could give her a haircut here since she was thinking of getting another one.” Mai says.
“Of course, I can; follow me.”
Chad leads Aislyn into the rather large master bathroom; he gestures to the salon chair inside after dragging it away from the mirror. “You have one of these at home?” Aislyn asks as she takes a seat. “Since Mai lets me play around with her hair every few weeks, by cutting or dying it, I figured it was a wise investment.” Chad says with a grin.
“So, you sure you want to go even shorter?” He asks as he steps on the lever beneath the seat to raise it; Aislyn nods. “You’re experiencing what we call short-hair-syndrome; once you get your hair cut after a long period of time of wearing it long, you’ll want to keep cutting it.”
“I didn’t know that was a thing.”
“Oh it is; if you aren’t careful, you’ll end up looking like me.”
“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.” Aislyn says with a smile. Chad carefully undoes the braid Aislyn had worked into her hair as a makeshift headband, and her locks gently spill over her shoulders. Chad reaches back to the sink and pulls out a spray bottle and gives it a few squeezes to dampen her hair. He then reaches for some scissors. “So, how short are you thinking?” “Chin-length.” Aislyn says. “I’m on it.”
Aislyn hears the snip of the blades on her hair as Chad works his way around, cutting with one hand and grabbing the falling locks with his other. “Ooh, very nice.” Mai says as she enters. “How about some bangs? I’d think they’d really suit you.” She adds.
“I used to have them when I was a kid. I’m not too fond of wearing them out all the time though, especially when my hair tends to frizz in the heat.” Aislyn says. “I can make them long enough for you to sweep to the side when you don’t want to wear them.” Chad suggests. “Sure, why not, might as well go all out while I can.” Aislyn says with a shrug. “That’s the spirit.” Mai says.
“Keep your eyes closed.” Chad says, Aislyn feels the cold metal on her forehead as he begins to cut beside her face.
“Thanks for doing this.”
“It’s my pleasure.”
6:42 p.m. | Gus’s House
Aislyn hops up the familiar steps that she hadn’t seen since back when she and Gus were still together and rings the doorbell. After a few moments, the door swings open, and Gus appears, looking slightly surprised. “Aislyn.” He says with a smile, “What’s up?”
“I come bearing gifts.” She says, gesturing to the bag she was carrying. “Come on in.” Gus steps aside to let her enter.
“Did you change your hair again?”
“Once again, you are quite observant.”
“Oh, shut up.” Gus says giving Aislyn a nudge as they walk to the living room. “I’m glad you came because I was thinking of when to give you this.” Gus grabs a thin black box from the coffee table, and hands it to Aislyn. When she reaches for the lid to open it, Gus places his hand over hers to stop her. “You… um, can open it later.” He says with a slight flush. “Okay.” Aislyn says curiously. She slips the box into her bag and takes a seat on the couch, without asking any questions, and Gus joins her.
“Well, before I give you your belated present, I wanted to tell you something.” Aislyn says. “I’m all ears.”
“I’ll be leaving Oldmerrow for a while.” “Are you going on a trip or something?” Gus asks. “Sort of, I’m going to be living in Bayville temporarily.”
“With your parents?” Aislyn nods. “Why?” “Well, while life around here has gotten interesting these past few months, largely due to you.” Aislyn says with a smile that Gus returns. “I still don’t feel fulfilled, and I don’t think I will until I set out and find something that makes me feel…” “Purposeful?” Gus guesses when Aislyn trails off at the end of her sentence, she nods. “I know the feeling.”
“There was a time in my life where I felt lost. I figured going into law just because my parents wanted me to would make me miserable. Which is why I tended to party a lot growing up. You’ll be surprised to know I’ve had quite the wild past.” “Oh really?” Aislyn says with a smirk, “I never would’ve guessed.”
“I know, with my excessive charm and calm demeanor, it would surprise most people.” Gus continues, and Aislyn laughs. “Anyways, I wracked my brain thinking about what I would do if I could and ironically I found out I actually enjoyed being a lawyer. Of course that was after months of looking into and trying out different things. I don’t know how my parents would take to me wanting to be a racing driver if that was what made me most happy, but it worked out in the end because that wasn’t the case.”
“Your mom is kind of scary, no offense.” Aislyn says. Gus laughs, “None taken. She is even more of a nightmare than you probably think she is, believe me.” Aislyn gives a small smile. Despite the fact that Gus appeared to be joking, she could sense the slight sadness in his voice beneath his words, but decides not to prod.
“Who knows, maybe racing will be my calling.” “Knowing you, I don’t doubt it could be. You’re capable of anything.” Gus says. “Thanks.” Aislyn feels some heat of rise to her face. There’s a moment in which neither of them speak, and like their chat in bed weeks ago, Aislyn doesn’t feel awkward in the silence. “I should get going.” She says.
Gus nods and begins walking her to the door. “Oh, right.” Aislyn says as she reaches into her bag, “I didn’t come here for life advice, I came to give you this.” She pulls out the scarf she’d bought him. “If I recall correctly, you gave your scarf to Kimberly when we went skating and it got lost in our predicament. It’s not as nice as the one you had, but I figured you needed a replacement.” Aislyn says. “I kind of forgot all about that. Thank you.” Gus says. “I figured you would.” Aislyn reaches up to tie it around his neck. “No problem.”
“I wish you the best, Aislyn.” Gus says once she’s done. “Thanks.” “And I hope you know you can talk to me if you ever feel like you need to. In case you hadn’t noticed, I can be pretty wise from time to time.”
“I know, same goes for you.”
Gus opens his arms and Aislyn steps in. She hadn’t gotten a chance to speak to Gus alone for a lengthy period of time since their break-up; a part of her was afraid things would be awkward or uncomfortable even though they parted as friends, and she was pleased to know that was far from being the case.
Months ago, leaving Oldmerrow wouldn’t have been something Aislyn would’ve ever considered, and now, she not only held a strong desire to do exactly that, but also had people that made it hard to do so, people that she’d miss, and that was entirely because of Gus. His persistence in pursuing her, regardless of his reasons at first, introduced her to new people and places she probably never would’ve gotten the chance to befriend or enjoy otherwise and she’d always be grateful.
“Goodbye.” Gus says quietly. “For now.” Aislyn adds, she feels Gus’s chest move beneath her as he laughs silently. “You’re right, that sounded kind of grim. Goodbye, for now, Aislyn.”
“Goodbye, for now, Gus.”
Eep, hold your stones; don’t throw! I know, I know, not only was this a long chapter, but it also lacked a lot of the promised eventfulness you were probably expecting and that’s because – in case it wasn’t obvious – the chapter got too long and I had to cut it. I feel kind of bad a certain someone was missing, but you’ll be pleased to know next week is his time to shine, lol. Since Aislyn is leaving, I kind of wanted to focus on her relationships/dynamic with her fellow Oldmerrow peeps… well most of them, I did have parts showing her talking Otto and Lexi as well, but scrapped them because it was mostly small talk and this was already eons long, lmao. And I also wanted to let you know a bit more about Kim’s background and family. There was a lot of text without screenshots and that was partially because there’s only so many ways you can angle a conversation before it gets repetitive… so my bad for the wordiness, but I hoped you enjoyed. Since there was no chapter last week I hope this kind of made up for that, hehe~ Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekends ❤