1.9: Scatter

VALENCE
SEASON 1, EPISODE 9
“SCATTER”
RELEASE DATE: 06/20/2020

The team pays respects.

VALENCE is a serialized fiction podcast meant for adult listeners. You can find more information, including our full cast list and transcripts, at VALENCEpod.com. You can support us on Patreon and get access to inspo images, bonus audio, and more.

This episode of VALENCE is brought to you by Less is Morgue. You can find Less is Morgue right here on your podcatcher, or at https://lessismorgue.com/.

Content warnings:

  • Depictions of grief and mourning throughout
  • Depictions of alcoholism from the beginning of the episode – 10:18
  • Discussions of struggles with mental health throughout

Credits:

Performances by, in order of appearance:

Sorry, Podtales pals.

Special thanks to:

  • Adriana Alarcon
  • Alice Tobin
  • Alyna Gorman
  • Damien Valencia-Hidenfelter
  • Miranda Milovich
  • Sebastian Chong

TRANSCRIPT

WIL: This episode of VALENCE is brought to you by Less is Morgue, a typical chatcast between friends. Except one of the friends is a Nickelback-loving ghost and one is a nonbinary human-eating ghoul. This goofy fiction sitcom has everything you need in a podcast: a buddy cop dynamic duo who would never be cops, spoopy hijinks, and 

[distorted effect] GENDER. 

[a beat] 

We here in Hug House love Less is Morgue and highly recommend. You can find a link in our show notes for this episode.

VALENCE is a serialized fiction podcast with discussions and depictions of struggles with mental health. You can check our show notes, or the transcripts on VALENCEpod.com for a full list of content warnings and their timestamps. It’s important to take care of yourself — especially here in New Candler.

[[theme music]]

SCENE ONE

Inside LIAM’s bedroom. The blinds are closed, the lights are off, and LIAM is buried under the duvet with a bottle of wine in hand. LIAM lays in bed, his eyes shut against the light that does make it through his blinds. The bottle dangling from his fingertips is empty, but he doesn’t realize until he tries to take another swig from it. He whines pitifully and drops it on the floor. It is not the first bottle to fall there.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Real healthy coping mechanisms you’ve got here. Go ahead, drink yourself to death, do Reilley’s job for her. You’ve already failed Luis–why not fail everyone else too? Go on and throw yourself into the bottom of a bottle and see if you can’t find a little peace and quiet there. Is it even really letting people down if they always knew you’d wind up here? If you always knew you’d wind up here? Or is it just living up to expectations?

LIAM: Shut up.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: For a while there, you’d been doing so well, too. You talked to people. You paid attention when people talked to you. You were bordering on functional. It’s a very low bar, but for once, you didn’t dig a tunnel under it. And you very nearly–

FLYNN opens the door with a soft creak, comes in quietly, sits on the edge of LIAM’s bed, avoiding the bottles. LIAM throws an arm across his face and sucks in a ragged, stuttering breath.

LIAM: G’way. Flynn g’way. Don’t wanna talk now.

FLYNN: No.

LIAM: No?

FLYNN: You’re not the only one hurting, and I don’t really want to be alone right now.

LIAM: Please Flynn, I can’t . . .

FLYNN: I know. We don’t have to talk if you don’t want to. I just . . . please don’t ask me to be alone right now?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Well, shit. Maybe there’s someone you haven’t let down yet. Matter of time, I suspect.

LIAM: . . . ok.

LIAM reaches for another bottle of wine, only to knock over one of his empties. He makes a pitiful sound and flops back down on the bed.

LIAM: Stupid.

FLYNN: You’re not stupid, Liam–you’re grieving. There’s a difference. It’s ok if it-

LIAM: No. Not me. This whole…all of it. Everything. Nothing changed. Except for what did, which is worse now, and we’re left here to find a way to fix it alone and it was stupid! This is why I hate caring about people.

FLYNN: (Sighs) Do you? Are you sure?

LIAM: …I want to. And I want to be angry with him. Angry would be so much easier. It’s just guilt there. I know it’s illogical but it–I–I can’t help feeling as though this is some sort of . . . cosmic justice for finally feeling like maybe I want to exist sometimes. As if my wanting was enough to throw things so off-balance that punishment had to be meted out somehow. The desire is there, so the existence has to be snuffed out in some way that’s–like–this–the second I have a spark, an entire sun is just . . . I know. I know. It’s ridiculous and self-centered and monstrous to think like that. I know.

FLYNN: (Small laugh) Y’know? I think he would be proud of you for acknowledging that and feeling it anyway.

LIAM: I–I know what you’re trying to do, but I can’t. I can’t think like that right now. I just–an entire sun–fuck.

FLYNN: What?

LIAM sobs quietly. 

LIAM: Sol.

LIAM digs through the covers to find his phone, but FLYNN cuts him off

FLYNN: Fuck. I can–no, Liam, Liam, I can do it.

LIAM: You sure?

FLYNN: . . . not really, but–not to be rude, you’re pretty drunk. And that’s not how this news should get delivered. Especially not to Sol.

LIAM: I’m sorry.

FLYNN: I know. Don’t worry. Just . . . give me a minute. I’ll be back.

FLYNN walks out to the living room, leaving the door ajar. 

LIAM: Thank you.

FLYNN: (From the other room) Hi, Sol? Are you home right now? “They” or “she” today?

LIAM curls into a ball.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You don’t deserve friends like Flynn. Look at him, taking on the weight that should be yours even while it’s taking all he’s got not to fall apart right now. You use people. You use them to shield yourself from uncomfortable things, and they either get used up or they wise up and leave. Which do you think it’ll be this time? Do you think you’ll use Flynn up or will he see past that big soft heart and leave like he should have done the day you met?

LIAM: (To himself) I’m sorry . . . I never wanted this. I–I didn’t want this.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: It doesn’t really matter what you wanted though, does it? What are you going to do next? Are you going to sit and wallow in your own self-pity while your friends light themselves on fire just to keep you warm? Or will you-

FLYNN: [shaky] Hey, I talked to Sol. They’re, um. They’re . . . not ok, but their sister is coming over, so that’s something.

LIAM: What do we–what do I do next?

FLYNN: [sigh] I don’t fuckin know, man. I wish I knew.

There’s a knock at the front door.

FLYNN: Fuck. Is that–

SARAH: [calling through the door]I know one of you is in there–someone better let me in!

LIAM: . . . was that Sarah?

FLYNN: Lemme go look–you stay put.

FLYNN hurries to the front door, pauses to look through the peep hole, undoes the chain and deadbolt, and opens the door. There is a thump as SARAH crushes him in a hug.

SARAH: [muffled through the hug]

Turns out I might not be able to power through this, and I didn’t want to sit around my place alone like this. And you two annoy me the least, so . . . hi.

FLYNN: Hi.

SARAH: [still muffled] You gonna close your door?

FLYNN: I would, but you’re holding me pretty tight at the moment?

SARAH: . . . yeah, legit.

SARAH steps back from the hug and FLYNN closes the door, locking and bolting it.

SARAH: How are you two doing?

FLYNN: I mean . . . not great? Pretty shitty so far. Liam–Liam’s a little drunk right now. I think he just wants to opt out of everything for a little while.

SARAH: . . . yeah, fuck that. Liam, we’re coming in.

SARAH opens the door.

LIAM: [alarmed noise of protest]

SARAH and FLYNN flop on the bed with LIAM and lay there in silence for a moment.

SARAH: So . . .

FLYNN: . . . so?

SARAH: Cops found his body. They haven’t identified it as him yet, but from the description and location where they . . . it’s him.

FLYNN: Fuck. Was it–no. No, I don’t want–I don’t want to think about that right now. I can’t . . . we can’t focus on them. Not right now.

SARAH: That’s. Yeah, that’s about where I am too. But it makes all of this a lot more real than I want it to be. And . . . I miss him. That sounds too small, but . . . he’s who I want to go to right now, to talk about this and feel better.

FLYNN: I know what you mean.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You can’t help them they’re your friends and they’re right by you and you can’t do anything to make them feel any better you’ll only drag them down with you that’s all you’ve ever been good for you worthless, miserable anchor of a person. You’re just going to drag them down in a bottomless pit…

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: I can’t be in this bed right now I need something to do I have to get up I have to go do something.

LIAM: [cutting off his inner monologue abruptly] I’m making tea.

SARAH AND FLYNN: [surprised noises]

FLYNN: Do we own any tea?

LIAM: If not then I’ll go to the bodega.

LIAM scrambles gracelessly out of the bed and rushes out of the room, rummaging through the pantry and finding a tin of tea shoved behind other boxes/packages/etc. He pries the lid off and sniffs, decides it’s satisfactory, sets the tin down. He fills a pot with water and fiddles with the knob for the burner but it won’t light. He groans, lights the stove with magic, sets the pot on the burner.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Well . . . I guess you’re not entirely useless.

SCENE TWO

LIAM, FLYNN, and SARAH arrive at Luis and Sol’s apartment for the memorial service. There is already a small crowd milling about, speaking in hushed voices. Soft music plays in the background. SOL is greeting new arrivals and the gang hangs back for a moment. LIAM is shifting uncomfortably.

SOL: Thank you for coming. He loved to tell me stories of what you two would get up to at school.

ATTENDEE ONE: Of course, he meant the world to both of us.

SOL: I–I have to–promise me that we’ll talk later?

ATTENDEE ONE: I understand. Absolutely.

SOL notices them and waves them over. FLYNN gives them a hug.

FLYNN: Hi Sol.

SARAH: Is there anything we can help with?

SOL: No, no no, thank you, but our families have everything taken care of. Thank God, porque . . . well.

MAHIRA: Hey, you all made it! I was beginning to wonder if you’d gotten lost on the way.

SARAH: The Lyft driver who came had some opinions about muses and Flynn and I–we don’t really have great poker faces.

FLYNN: We had to walk the last fifteen minutes, but I’m fine with that if it means we don’t have to listen to him coughing back up every shitty shock jock’s talking points about–

MAHIRA: Oh! I’ve actually got something I need a hand with. Flynn, would you come help me? Over here?

FLYNN: I–yeah, sure.

FLYNN and MAHIRA walk away. SOL sighs.

SOL: I really appreciate you coming out and dealing with all of–wait. Liam, your tie. O sea– Are you . . . are you wearing a pattern? With–with colors? 

SARAH: [small laugh] Dapper, right? I was as surprised as you.

LIAM: Yes, well–I had thought–he had mentioned once, at that dinner? It seemed appropriate.

SOL: [laugh] It really is. He would love it. I love it.

LIAM: Ah, thank you . . .

SARAH: We’ll get out of your hair–I know you’ve got to keep making the rounds.

LIAM: And–and if you ever–um, what I mean to say is that–he’s very important to me. And I’m going to–we’re going to finish it. What he started.

SOL pulls LIAM into a hug, almost tight enough to hurt. They suck in a shaky breath. At first, LIAM has no idea what to do with himself or his hands. He settles for patting them on the back of the head.

SOL: Thank you. He was right about you, Liam. Please believe that. And I want to help–

ATTENDEE TWO standing off to the side clears their throat.

LIAM: Aah, we’ve monopolized you. Apologies.

LIAM and SARAH step into the kitchen, leaving SOL to greet ATTENDEE TWO. GRACE is in the kitchen, pouring a cup of tea. LIAM digs his phone out of his pocket and checks his notifications. Nothing. He opens the messaging app he and Nico use, and his last message is still left on Read. He doesn’t notice GRACE is even there.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Nothing. No word. Why has he still not responded?

GRACE: Liam, Sarah, how are you doing?

LIAM: Oh. I’m . . . not good?

GRACE: Right. Of course, I’m sorry.

SARAH: Are you doing ok?

GRACE: I–I will be. But at the moment, no. But I am here to support Sol and to say goodbye to a very old friend, and I don’t imagine he would have wanted us to spend today being entirely miserable, so. 

SARAH: Yeah. Probably not. So . . . what do we do instead?

GRACE: [laugh] I’m not sure yet.

SARAH: Do you know when all the speeches are happening?

LIAM: Speeches?

GRACE: We were all invited to say a few words, but it’s not required, so you don’t have to worry if you didn’t prepare anything. That should be happening . . . in a few minutes, actually. We should take this to the living room.

They shuffle through the kitchen and into the living room. LIAM is uncomfortable being this close to so many people. He spaces out again, fiddling with his phone.

FLYNN: Still no word from Nico?

LIAM: [distracted, not really processing anything] Mmm . . .

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: If something happened to him, you’d never know. He doesn’t share anything of any real consequence with you.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: He’s also extremely competent and worrying over him like this makes it seem like you have no confidence in him. Stop it.

In the background, barely noticed by LIAM, SOL gets up to the front of the room to address everyone.

SOL: [sounding distant while Liam’s attention is divided] Bienvenidos a todos. I want to thank you all for coming out to remember Luis, and to share what he meant to you. He meant the world to me, and I know I’m not alone in that.

The crowd hushes. LIAM’s attention comes back to the real world and he pockets his phone.

SOL: When I first got the news, I was angry. I was furious. I couldn’t believe he would leave me here alone–leave all of us to try and go through our everyday lives without him. Cómo se nada. He should have done something different, shouldn’t have been in that part of town, should have told me where he’d be. Something. Because yes, I am strong enough to keep going without him–because we are strong enough to keep going. But none of us ever wanted to have to be that strong. Es demasiado dificil.

But he was out there, in that part of town, para una razon– and it must have been for a good reason–he must have been there working on something important to him. And I can’t stay angry about that. No con Luis. That strength that we all have, to keep going? I believe a lot of us learned that strength from Luis.

I’m going to tell you all a story, and I know some of you have this story before, but I’m going to tell it again, así que aguántese.

Luis and I met years ago, when we were both still young, idealistic, wide-eyed, naive students studying abroad. We were from different universities, in different fields of study, but somehow we were lucky enough that our programs landed us both in Morocco. I had rented a motorcycle to get around, and one night, it broke down miles from the nearest mechanic’s shop. I could hear my mother telling me that this was exactly what I should have expected to happen. And cursing “Esse motocicleta que te vai matar!”

There I was, on the side of the road, a very femme-presenting person alone at night. So when I saw headlights pulling up and slowing to a stop beside me, I should have been anxious. But I had a good feeling about whoever was in that car.

Luis had that effect on everyone he met. He had the gift of making you feel safe, at home, and understood. He achieved that through love. I have never known another person en mi vida entera who approaches life so ready and willing to offer up love. And with that love came strength, and courage, and a need to stand up for what was dear to him. What he did, he did for causes he believed in, and people he wanted to lift up.

Luis was quick to offer me help the night we met, and quick to ask me to coffee the next day. He was the first to say “Te amo,” and whenever we argued, he was the first to reach out to call a truce. “Paz, Sol. Paz,” he’d say. Yes, there were nights we went to bed still mad, but never once did I go to sleep unsure if he loved me.

No one in his life ever doubted his love. And no one doubted what he could achieve with it. Because he never doubted it either. I think we all believed he would achieve the impossible, no matter the odds, because he had done so already, over and over through sheer force of will and endless optimism.

And in a way, he did achieve the impossible. He brought us all together, here, safe and surrounded by love in the home he and I made.

We’re here to pay respect to his memory. But I think the only way to do that properly . . . is to keep it with us. And to try and live a little more like him. For those who you love, never let them doubt your feelings, or your support. Tell them, show them, make sure they know that you are thinking of them, that you want the best for them, that you are ready to stand beside them and to fight for them. Not just today, while the memory is fresh and the wound is raw. Every day. Do it every day. Keep the memory of him with you every day.

Para Luis.

For Luis.

SEVERAL: For Luis.

SCENE THREE

Inside FIRECREEK, in a back room (that totally exists now even if it might not irl) with the door closed. Soft guitar music plays in the background. General coffeeshop chatter and the clinking of cups can be heard faintly through the door.

MAHIRA: Did I ever tell you all the story of how Luis got me to join the TEA?

GRACE: I know some, but only because I had to sign off on your paperwork.

SARAH: Just what I found when I hacked you.

FLYNN: Wait, what?

SARAH: [shrug noise] I hack everybody. It’s nothing personal.

MAHIRA: [laugh] I figured. Yeah, this was a while back–maybe eight years?–when I was with the DOJ, and Luis was working with a counseling group the feds called after shootings, trauma, whatever. Mostly to make sure we hadn’t gotten a little too broken to keep being useful, y’know? And . . . there was a pretty significant risk of that with me. I’d gone from thinking being a muse was what was wrong with me to having it be the reason I got that job to . . . 

GRACE: An all-muse ops team. The missions can’t have been easy.

MAHIRA: No. They definitely weren’t. Normally we’d see the trauma counselors a couple of times, get a stamp of approval, and go back to field work. But after that mission . . . I was on desk duty and seeing Luis as a patient for the better  part of a year. He was the one who talked me into leaving that team. And when the TEA happened, he was the one who gave me a call, got me in the door to meet with Grace. I’m . . I’m pretty sure he saved my life with that.

SARAH: He was the one who convinced Grace to take a chance on me.

GRACE: I think we all owe him a great deal. 

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You should have gone with him. It should have been you instead.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: No. You going would have meant you both got killed, and then everyone would be even worse off.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Then you should have tried harder to stop him. We still need him and he’s gone and you did nothing to prevent it.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE (fading into . . .): He told us he wouldn’t do anything rash. He was a grown man . . .

(. . . fading into) LUIS:  who could make my own choices, and I told you one thing, and then I did another. You can’t take responsibility for that onto your own shoulders. It’s alright to grieve, but do not use this as an excuse to throw out the progress you’ve made, Liam. The rest of the team still needs you. I need you to try for them, and for yourself.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: . . . well fuck.

LIAM: I . . . I need to go.

MAHIRA: Oh–you sure? I’m parked about a block away, I can give you a ride somewhere.

LIAM: No, that’s alright. I need to do. Something else.

SARAH: You gonna be ok?

LIAM: I’m not sure yet. Most likely, yes. But I have to go.

MAHIRA: If you’re sure . . .

LIAM: Yes. I. I need to take a walk. Clear my head. I’ll see you all later.

LIAM stands, pushing out his chair and moving to leave. The group gives a chorus of goodbyes as he leaves the back room and the hubbub of the main room of the coffeeshop spills in through the opened door. LIAM walks through the coffeeshop very quickly and out the front door onto the street.

SCENE FOUR

Interior of A BAR. It’s still early in the day, so the bar is mostly empty. Faint piano plays in the background. LIAM is seated at the bar on a stool, hunched over a glass of wine. There are several empty glasses in front of him already. 

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: This is the second time you’ve tried to drown yourself in wine this week–if you’re not careful it’ll become a habit.

BARTENDER: Are you doing alright over here?

LIAM: [pointedly over-enunciating] I’m fine. I’d like another when you have a moment.

BARTENDER: Mmm, I’m not sure. You got a way home after all this?

LIAM: I’m perfectly capable of walking.

BARTENDER: Yeah, no. I’m guessing by the all black suit and the red eyes that today was a pretty bad day for you. That’s not how you want to be when walking home alone.

LIAM: I don’t need this. I don’t–

The front door opens with a jingle of the bell. In walks MAHIRA.

MAHIRA: Oh, Liam. Liam, there you are.

BARTENDER: You a friend of his?

MAHIRA: Yeah.

LIAM: How did you fi–Sarah.

MAHIRA: Yup. Normally I wouldn’t ask it of her, and I’m pretty sure normally she wouldn’t do it, but . . . extenuating circumstances today.

LIAM: [noncommittal noise]

MAHIRA: C’mon, I’ll give you a ride home.

LIAM: I’d rather stay.

MAHIRA: Liam, I’m driving you home. I’m not going to stand on the side while you slowly self-destruct.

LIAM: Well it’d be less a waste of both of our time if you did. It’s an inevitability anyway.

MAHIRA: [to the bartender] Has my friend closed out his tab?

BARTENDER: Oh, uh. Not yet, no.

MAHIRA walks over and slaps some money on the counter.

MAHIRA: Does this cover it?

BARTENDER: It–it does. Thanks.

MAHIRA: [to Liam] You get today. You get this one day to be pissy with me. But I’m getting you home so that you have days after. We’re not done, and you don’t get to just opt out and drink to avoid the guilt of doing nothing.

LIAM: You don’t get to make decisions for me. I deserve to have agency even d–even if it doesn’t manifest in a way that’s convenient for you.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Oh yeah, definitely, because using that agency to be a monster to a friend is a great plan.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: She’s not a friend, she wouldn’t give a shit if this didn’t just impact her work. You’re just a means to an end and you’re even bad at that.

MAHIRA: Is this you having agency or is it you drinking to avoid having to take responsibility and make choices? I thought you got it–I thought you understood what we’re trying to do.

LIAM: If you think this is me avoiding responsibility or–or not understanding what we’re doing, clearly you’re the one who doesn’t understand. Don’t act like you fucking know me.

MAHIRA: Maybe I don’t know you. And that’s fine. But Luis thought you had something good inside you, and I trusted–I trust his judgement. 

MAHIRA sucks in a shaky breath, working very hard to avoid crying because being the first to cry feels like losing the argument and that’s not even an option at the moment 

MAHIRA: Bringing you in was the last thing he really pushed for, and I need for him to have been right about you. Please.

LIAM: Why do you get to decide that drinking after a good friend’s death means I–no, you know what? I didn’t ever sign up to–I don’t know why he’d say that about me. I don’t. I–it’s–no, it’s not fair of you to act like doing something a normal person would in mourning makes me a bad person.

MAHIRA: It doesn’t make you a bad person — it makes you a person with a pattern, and as someone who has already lived that pattern, let me tell you, it doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t make this bullshit situation any better and it doesn’t make you feel any better and all it accomplishes is fucking up your life and fucking over everyone who cares whether you live or die.

LIAM: Well then maybe people should stop caring. It isn’t my problem if they do despite my best efforts to make sure they don’t.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Who are you? Look at her. Is this who you are? Is this who you’re going to let yourself be?

A beat.

LIAM: I’m sorry. I don’t know. I’m so scared of caring about people. There’s so little left in me. It just feels so much easier to break. Easier on everyone. Wouldn’t it just be easier to let me break? I’m sorry. I’m sorry for saying that all to you. I didn’t mean it–I did, but not at you. I don’t want to care about you and I don’t want you to care about me and I don’t know why you would, but I do care about you, and I fucking hate that, and I’m sorry for being such a monster to you right now. I don’t want to be what they want me to be.

MAHIRA: You’re ok–I told you, didn’t I? You get a free pass today to be as nasty as you need to be.

Another beat. Then, MAHIRA’s phone chimes. She’s got a text.

MAHIRA: It’s Flynn. He wants to know if I found you ok and how you’re doing. How much do you want me to tell him?

LIAM: [sigh] You can just tell him everything. He’ll know the second he sees me anyway.

MAHIRA: [while typing] Fair enough.  He’s already on his way back to your apartment with Sarah. I’m planning on heading over there too–are you sure I can’t give you a ride?

LIAM: Being alone would be a bad idea right now, yes?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Perfect–go ahead and volunteer more people to be dragged down along with you while you self-destruct just like she sai–

MAHIRA: Probably, yeah. I’m betting you’ve got an internal monologue that paints things in the worst light possible.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: . . . oh shit.

MAHIRA: [laugh] I don’t think his should be the only voice around for you to hear for a little while.

LIAM: Okay. Yeah. Okay.

MAHIRA gets up and moves towards the door. LIAM gets up and follows suit. She opens the door and the bell jangles. Sounds of the street spill in.

MAHIRA: Over here–I’ve got this big orange monster.

She unlocks the car and they both climb in. She starts the engine, pulls out of the spot (parallel street parking, though I don’t know how much that’ll impact the sound design) and drives. There’s a moment of uneasy silence.

MAHIRA: I think I owe you an explanation . . . and also an apology.

LIAM: For your carbon footprint?

MAHIRA: No. Don’t be a jerk. So I may have been projecting on you back there. About . . . the drinking.

Another uncomfortable silence. 

MAHIRA: I’ve danced around the topic a little bit, but my family . . . they weren’t great. My brother and I were the only muses, kind of like you and Noel. I was just a kid when we found out I had magic–my brother didn’t show until . . . maybe middle school? Just before I-

A beat as a siren passes them on the street.

MAHIRA: I couldn’t stay. I couldn’t stay there. I couldn’t stay with them. In a way, I might have been lucky, because I was able to go through the emancipation process pretty smoothly. But I. I just. I really hate that I couldn’t take my brother with me.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Just like you and Noel, isn’t it? But of course, unlike her, you didn’t even try. You don’t even care what happened to Noel, do you?

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Stop making this about yourself.

MAHIRA: And guilt sits with you, y’know? Guilt over what you wish you had done when you had the chance . . . or even if you didn’t have the chance, guilt over not doing something you wouldn’t have been able to do in the first place. It’s so easy to beat yourself up, and somehow satisfying to hate yourself for things you couldn’t change no matter what.

LIAM: That . . . does sound familiar.

MAHIRA: Yeah, I had a feeling you’d get that. I’ve seen your face when anyone brings up your sister. But it’s real easy to transition from hating yourself to destroying yourself. And I–I got pretty good at that. And it scared me, seeing you remind me of myself in that way. I’m not good at being scared.

LIAM: I–I hadn’t known.

MAHIRA: I wasn’t expecting you to! Liam, I’m not trying to put any of the blame for this on you. I’m-

She laughs, turns on her turn signal, and goes to park the car. They’ve made it back to LIAM and FLYNN’s apartment building.

MAHIRA: I mostly just wanted to apologize for treating you the way I treated myself during some of my worst years. I don’t think either of us deserve that from each other.

LIAM: Or ourselves?

MAHIRA: [laugh] That one’s harder, but yeah. Or ourselves.

MAHIRA turns off the car, takes the keys out of the ignition.

MAHIRA: You ready?

LIAM: . . . I believe so.

END OF EPISODE 9

[ending theme]


WIL: VALENCE is a Hug House production. You can find more of our work at HugHouse.Productions.

Sorry, Podtales pals.

Special thanks to:

  • Adriana Alarcon
  • Alice Tobin
  • Alyna Gorman
  • Damien Valencia-Hidenfelter
  • Miranda Milovich
  • Sebastian Chong

Until next time: protect your magic.

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