Arc 2 · Between Two Worlds

10.4 One step forward, two steps back

My eyes hurt. My throat’s parched. It’s probably late morning or noon but I really don’t want to get out of bed. If I could just stay here forever in the dark, I’d do it.

But this is Curtis’s home. And I’m in his bed.

… I should get up.

Curtis apologised to me last night. I can’t remember why, but I think he blames himself for what happened to me.

I should be the one to apologize. He got hurt because of me. He warned me never to set foot in Mirage Park but I went anyway. Curtis was right. The Grim was right. I was ignorant. I’m such an idiot. It’s my fault what happened to me…


Ugh…! His books are a nightmare! They’re all related to understanding crime systems or law or self-improvement and building mental skills! Same goes for his CD collection. And everything’s way too complex for me.

There are no photos anywhere. Doesn’t he have family? Now that I think about it there doesn’t seem to be a second bedroom in this huge place.

Oh, I almost missed a door right in the back. Could this be his parent’s room? What an odd place for a master bedroom.

Before Athena could open it, she heard a rustling at the front door. Not wanting to look like a snoop, she quickly turned and headed towards it. Curtis flipped the light switch as she came into view.

“You’re still here,” Curtis breathed a sigh of relief. “Sorry I’m late.”

He looked so relieved to see her that she couldn’t help but smile softly. “What were you expecting?”

“My errands took longer than usual. So I thought maybe you woke up and left.”

“Did you go out for very long?”

“Only the whole morning.”

“What time is it?”

“Half past two. You just got up?”

“No….”

He gave her a slight smile.

“I had time to browse your book and disc collection. So I didn’t wake up just!”

His cautious smile became warm as he gave a hearty chuckle. “Well, I’ll get you something to eat on my way back. I’ve got one more errand to run.”

“No… that’s okay! You’ve done so much for me!”

“It’s all good. You’re my guest.”

“Tell you what, I’ll make lunch for us while you complete your errand. I’m a pretty good cook. My food’s much better than any takeaway. What would you like?”

“Oh. That… sure.”

Athena thought Curtis’s cheeks flushed pink for a second. “Uhm.. what’s wrong?”

“N.. nothing.”

He hadn’t eaten a home-cooked meal in a long time, and now he was going to eat one personally made for him by the girl he likes, in his own kitchen, looking extremely cute in his jumper. Curtis tried not to picture it. Athena just went through a terrible ordeal. He shouldn’t be thinking about stuff like that. But the image was hard-stuck to his brain.

“Uh, lunch. Yeah. I’d like that. Make anything you want. I’m not picky.”

“What? Don’t leave the choosing to me! What if I make something you don’t like?”

“I’ll like anything you make. Let me know if you need ingredients from the store.”

“Pssh! If you don’t choose, I’ll make you a bowl of curry chocolate!” Athena warned.

Curtis laughed. “Flying llamas, no! That was weird! One time is enough.” Athena laughed too at his reaction.

The front door opened. “Hey Cal. I thought this is just a stopover- Oh.”

**********

Jules rang the doorbell a second time, but no one was coming to the door. It might be broken, he thought as he rapped the door with his knuckles.

That seemed to do the trick. He heard footsteps thumping towards his direction. The door opened.

“Hey there! How can I help you?”

“Good afternoon Mrs Michael. I’m detective Ellis,” Jules flashed his badge. “How are you?”

The middle-aged woman blinked and looked at him curiously.

“I’d like to see your son Curtis Michael. Is he home?”

“Is he in trouble?” She furrowed her brow looking concerned.

“No trouble at all ma’am, we’re investigating a missing girl and we believe your son might have some information about her. They’re friends.”

“Curtis! Get down here, someone’s here to see you.” The woman yelled up the stairs. Someone yelled back.

“He’ll be down in a moment. He’s a good boy. Doesn’t cause trouble. Just plays a little too much games.”

“I see,” Jules replied.

“Also, its Curtis Walken. After we adopted Curtis, he agreed to take after our name. He’s such a sweet boy.”

“Sorry Mrs Walken, I wasn’t aware. ” Jules thought it strange. Curtis’s driving license wasn’t expired and it confirmed ‘Michael’ as his last name. How isn’t his license updated?

“Yo mom. Whatsup?”

“Curtis, this officer’s here to see you. Wants to ask about a missing girl. Says you know something.”

“I do?”

Jules stared. “You’re Curtis?”

“Yeah.”

“Curtis Michael?”

“… Yeah?”

Jules stared at the boy indefinitely. The boy fidgeted under his gaze.

“Officer, is there a problem?”

“Ma’am do you have another son?”

“We only have Curtis. We dont have children of our own.”

Jules glared at both of them. Mrs Walken looks incredibly confused, but ‘Curtis’ looks… worried. He wouldn’t look back either. Something’s up. The woman may be clueless or a great actress, but the boy knows something.

“Great. I just need to have a word with your son,” Jules said. “Can we talk in private? Out here’s fine with me.” He pointed at their fenced-in yard.

“Sure…” mom was skeptical, but trusting because Jules was an officer. The boy looked terrified. Yeah, definitely suspicious.

Jules motioned the boy to follow as he thought of the wisest approach. If he played his cards right, the boy might tell him what was going on without too much resistance. He began planning his second interrogation for the day.

27 thoughts on “10.4 One step forward, two steps back

  1. I’m beginning to think that Athena could be safer if she moves to a different town or goes to a different school. I mean, she keeps getting hurt. Also, had the pink-haired lady been trying to get involved with Curtis? She better not take him from Athena.

    1. She’s living in the Pinnacles of Del Sol Valley, which funnily enough is the safest since its riddled with celebrities and security. But yes, she does carry a bag of misfortunes. (I want to say more, but I don’t want to spoil the story D: Sorry for being ambiguous!)

      The pink-haired lady’s (Dew) character will be sort of revealed next chapter πŸ™‚

  2. Was that the girl Curtis wanted to bring from the club? The young looking one? She wasn’t shown clearly before.

    Also this is getting intense (means better and better) !!
    Eeeek. I’m literally jumping on my chair ehehe

      1. I couldn’t see the face, but the hair color was something pastel unnatural, also Curtis wanted to save her, so I just assumed xD

  3. Oh interesting. Now we have an identity theft. πŸ˜‚
    What bothers me though is the fact that Athena prefers to stay in the house of a young man instead of trying to get home. Isn’t it their parents kids ask for first when something bad happens to them? And yet she isn’t bothered one bit about her mother missing her and looking for her. Neither of these kids seems to be. Instead she spends time with this guy who lied to her even about such basic thing as his name. Not the my idea of recovering from a serious trauma. Not at all.

    1. πŸ˜ƒ You’ll find out more about the identity theft.

      You are correct! Most children will want comfort from their parents immediately. But this situation is a bit unique.

      1. Athena will not have the mental capacity to think for others at this stage so the thought of her mom looking for her will not cross her mind. She has in her trauma regressed into her primal instincts which is a strong desire for her own safety.

      2. This strong desire for safety which usually mean parents, is absolved by Curtis. First, he removed her from danger, second he pacified her during her hysteria. He was there at both her most vulnerable moments, until she exhausted herself to sleep. She will subconsciously trust him because her mind at this stage will latch on to anything that can provide comfort.

      3. She wakes up in his house which is considered ‘safe’ and the owner is ‘safe’ too. This is when the basic safety instinct is placated, but the immediate acute reaction towards rape will surface: humiliation, guilt, shame, self-blame, etc. At this stage, Athena will have such a low opinion of herself that she will not be able to step foot out of the house on her own or look at herself in the mirror. She will want to hide in a safe place like staying in bed, and Curtis’s house already has the ‘safe’ label. She is still as most victims are at this stage, stuck in the mindset of thinking only of herself and her needs. Since her basic need is somewhat met, she has no need to think about her family.

      That’s my perspective! πŸ˜„ I’m not an expert so feel free to share yours too!

      1. I don’t think he can substitute a parent in this situation and his place Athena’s proper home.
        For some reason I couldn’t stop thinking about dying soldiers calling for their mothers. Don’t ask me why.
        But if Athena isn’t asking for her mother, then something is terribly wrong with her relationship with her mother and it didn’t look that way in the latest chapters they were together. On the contrary, it looked as though their mutual bond got even stronger. So I really can’t get it why she acts like her family doesn’t exist and prefers to stay with Curtis who is actually the cause of all her problems. Part of her should actually blame him not not just herself.
        I simply don’t buy the ‘she has no need to think about her family’. Wouldn’t you? Who is the first person you think about when something bad happens to you? A stranger? A friend? Or your family?

    2. I know that this is a while ago, but I have some thought on this so here you go (even though you haven’t asked!)

      I did wonder why she hadn’t thought of going home too, but then I figured it makes sense. Firstly, we’ve seen that since she was very young, the relationship Athena has with her mother has been revolving around her wanting to protect her mother – from being written about in a negative light in the tabloids, from having a “disappointment” of a daughter who has been expelled from school and so on – and that was just the beginning. It seems very in character to want to shield her mother from this too. She probably doesn’t realise it, but on some level she might be thinking her mother has been through enough, with losing Athena’s father. Not saying that Athena realises she does all of this, mind! Perhaps I get it because I too have a tendency not to let my parents know when something bad happens to them, because I know it would be hurtful. (And again, of course in this scenario, logically, we know it would be much less hurtful for Avery to know her daughter is safe, but I don’t think any of this is something Athena is consciously aware of).

      Secondly, Athena’s not dying, she feels ashamed. Generally, in such circumstances the less people you see, the better. Like I said above, she’ll probably feel she’s disappointed/let her mother down too, once she actually sees her.

      Most importantly, she’s currently in a bubble – away from the scene of the trauma, but somewhere that doesn’t necessarily make her think of her actual life. It’s very natural to try to prolong an artificial situation like that. The moment she leaves, she’ll have to face her real life, and confront what actually happened. But facing reality is the most difficult thing for her right now.

      At least that’s my take on it! I find it pretty relatable personally!

    1. You totally should read comments. 😁 It made you bring up some valid points and I bet Mercuryfoam enjoys the discussion as well. I agree that we tend to shield our parents from bad news. The truth eventually come to light anyway in most cases.

    2. Im not sure how to reply this so that both of you get my notification.

      @Maladi777 I did enjoy this discussion! This issue is multi-faceted and will require an entire journal collection to dissect the effects of trauma so everyone giving their take is really the best way forward.

      @theplumbob I can’t say anything more. So much insight in your words. I completely agree.

  4. Hm. So I wonder when Curtis is gonna give Athena the boot. Boss dude told him 3 days right? I wonder if Athena is in shock about what happened to her because, sorry, she’s just entirely too happy. :/ Not saying she’s happy, but… yeah. I think she’s trying her hardest to distract herself. I wonder why she’s not demanding that Curtis take her home or wondering where her phone is.

    Poor Curtis. He doesn’t want to let her go. It’s unhealthy.

    1. You’re right. She’s using escapism as a coping mechanism now. These span of chapters actually equal an entire day. Athena feels an overwhelming sense of shame. She blames herself for what happened and cant bring herself to face the world or have them find out what happened to her. She completely wants to disappear from the world. That would be the initial reaction. If she didn’t have such crippling self confidence issues or shame she would reach out to her mom straight away, but she does. So the phone being lost is not something she’ll focus on since she knows she probably lost it ‘then’.

      And im so happy that you pointed out the unhealthiness arising! Not that im happy about it being present. But I wanted it to be pointed out. πŸ™‚

  5. Athena seems to be doing pretty okay, considering. I don’t think the recovery process has started yet and the whole ordeal has to sink in first. I get that Athena might feel ashamed and doesn’t want to go home, but I do feel bad for Avery who has no clue what’s going on and must be sick with worry.

    Interesting how Curtis has some sort of replacement! Sadly, Jules has already seen him and knows what he looks like. πŸ™„

  6. Ah, plum. OF COURSE Athena had to be there when the young roofied girl from that seedy club shows up. Queen of bad timing.

    And what’s this whole thing with the other Curtis? This is really intriguing! I’m not sure where this is going but I’m so ready to continue on this ride.

    1. πŸ˜… i hope the timing makes sense to you and this doesnt seem like a cheap attempt at drama now that you’ve read on haha! But you have pointed out something. Athena does have very bad timing.

  7. Whoa. I realized immediately that Jules was in the wrong place, but I did not see that coming. Another Curtis. So strange. Did he steal an identity? Is this more of Masato’s thorough magic? And the girl at his apartment called him Cal?

  8. Oh, oh, oh, oh! I wanna know Curtis’s real name! I’m hoping it’s something even dorkier. Clarence? Percival? Goodwin? Please, oh please oh please. And bring back the pink!

    AAAH your pics are always so well-staged. I’m jelly. I’m also not one for smut, but love a good fluffy romance where the characters get all misty-eyed about domestic stuff, such as when they see the person they like cooking or interacting with a kid, and their arc ends not with a bang but with them doing silly couple things like reciting the production company names at the end of their favorite TV show together. Or one is wearing headphones, then puts the headphones on the other and they start dancing. Or they try to feed the other person yogurt while wearing a blindfold. NO APPENDAGES MORE OF THAT PLEASE.

    Throwing my 1/50 of a dollar into the comments discussion: I didn’t register Athena not contacting her mom as something that didn’t make sense. People aren’t a monolith. I get the sense (as everyone said) she’s not ready to return to normality just yet, and is fine just abstractly chilling in Curtis’s apartment. And may I add that women’s loved ones aren’t always supportive, as I’m certain you know already but others without the requisite experience may not, and Athena doesn’t know whether her mom is going to back her up or instead ask what she was doing there in the first place, why she was wearing that, why didn’t she do x to prevent it, etc. Sometimes the aftermath is worse than the assault itself. I don’t blame her for hiding out.

    1. lol Curtis’s name is plenty questionable already. I wanted to name him Kurt at the beginning of the story, then went β€˜Meh’ let me at least laugh a bit when I write about him. Omg Goodwin.. no.. I won’t get any words out on paper. πŸ˜‚

      Oops.. Pink is gone for now. I copped flak for dressing him pink that’s why I changed his wardrobe in the first place. πŸ˜…

      I think the examples you listed are sweet! Not silly at all! I personally would like the headphones and music one! I’m not a smut person. But just a heads up that there are chapters where I myself get goosebumps/cringe at my own writing, even without appendages. πŸ™‚

      Ah yeah, I’m not a wordsmith when it comes to explaining things objectively so I’m glad you gave your 2 cents which is really 50 cents. I agree with you and I’ll just point to your comment if anyone else asks me about this chapter xD

      1. Who gave you flak for dressing him pink? I’ll fight them. MCPA=MAKE CURTIS PINK AGAIN. And I’ll skim over smut in other people’s stories, I just don’t like writing it for my own sims. They’re like my kids.

        Aw, you deserve more credit. I only stuck to concepts you and others didn’t already point out. It’s a joint effort.

  9. Alrighty then. So much going on. First – Athena does her best to put what happened out of her head so Curtis won’t be sad. She wants to cook for him and he’s all for it, then he gets an unexpected visitor calling him Cal – short for Calypso I’m assuming – which may be his ‘real’ name since we now know that Curtis Michael isn’t his real name. Hmmm and the real Curtis Michael seems to know something too. So he didn’t just steal his identity, maybe he bought it.

    1. Ah yeah, too much going on here. yup yup, that final bit there seems consensual and this chapter is just one big ‘What in the flying potatoes is going on’ for readers. πŸ˜† At least the rest will clear this part up. hehe

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