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Shane woke up to the sounds of someone walking around near her. Opening one eye as little as possible, she saw Kit setting up today’s version of whatever meal she’d brought along on what had once been Shane’s work table. Shane sighed silently, wondering yet again why she’d acquiesced and given Kit a key to the studio when she’d asked. At the time, it had seemed so much easier to just give her one and let her come in on her own. It meant Shane didn’t have to put the effort into waking up. Or moving, if she already happened to be awake when Kit came by. Which had started to become really rare.

Shane had found an old but decent futon on the side of the road on garbage day a couple of weeks before, and had dragged it into the back corner of the studio. She’d set up a small table next to it and an old TV set that someone else had been throwing out just across from it, and had finally gone out and spent a little money on a small dorm-sized refrigerator. It usually held nothing more than baking soda and the remnants of the meal Kit had brought her the day before. The furnishings were sparse, but it was better than nothing, and Shane didn’t feel quite as bad holing up in the studio for days anymore. At least she had a bed.

Not that she didn’t have one back at the house, but the thought of going into that bedroom where she’d spent so much time with Jenny was too much for her to handle. Even if it was just to tear the bed down and get the rest of her stuff out of there. She’d told Max that he could either get rid of it all and turn the room into a nursery, or rent is out as furnished until the baby was old enough to really need a separate room. Either way, she didn’t feel that she could set foot back into the house for more than a very quick trip to pick up some necessity or other. But she’d never had many of those to begin with, and her trips to the house had gotten further and further apart as the days went by.

Max was worried, she knew that. He told her that Helena and Alice asked about her when they came by to see the baby. Shane avoided them, and the situation, completely. It just seemed so much easier to sleep and keep to herself than it did to try and talk. She didn’t want to talk, that was the whole problem. She wanted people to leave her alone, and no one could seem to get that.

Kit was worried too. Shane could easily see that, although she avoided any meaningful contact or conversation as best she possibly could. She’d generally thank her for the food, and would merely shrug when Kit asked how she was. She had no answer, and hated the question to begin with. To Kit’s credit, she seemed painfully aware of how stupid it was to ask, but it was obvious that she needed to say something. Shane certainly never volunteered any conversation.

She never gave a real answer, either, and Kit had come to expect this. It was a relief to Shane that she didn’t really seem to try anymore, apparently having realized how futile the effort was. That didn’t make her stop bringing food by every day, and Shane was grateful for that even if she couldn’t figure out how to say it. She usually faked sleep the whole time Kit was present to avoid the awkwardness in the air, but she had a feeling Kit knew. She fully intended to speak to her soon, but right now it was just too hard.

Everything was. She’d been in the studio on her crappy futon for almost two weeks. She hadn’t been to the house in over a week now, and had spoken to no one. Not even the cashier at Costco when she’d finally gone to buy some more soap and shampoo. She still showered at the gym, but since the random Cherie sighting the locker room had been deserted in the mornings. When Shane let herself think about it, she had to admit that she was pretty disappointed in herself for being too scared to approach her. While she wasn’t hoping for anything, she felt horrible for not at least apologizing for the car.

She couldn’t think about it now, though. Kit was almost done setting up, and the aroma of freshly baked corn bread made Shane’s eyes water. She knew Kit must have had it baked especially for her, and the gesture made her feel awful for the way she’d been avoiding her. “Hi,” she said meekly, sitting up on the futon and rubbing her eyes. It had been another late night and she wasn’t exaggerating her sleepiness.

Kit looked up, obviously shocked, and Shane couldn’t blame her. It had been ages since she’d initiated contact with anyone, and she figured Kit had all but given up. She would have, had the shoe been on the other foot. But it wasn’t, and the smell of cornbread and mashed potatoes and gravy proved it.

“I was thinking what I could bring over today and then I remembered a certain someone telling me she loves cornbread and mashed potatoes, a long time ago. Brought you some turkey and dressing with it, and some sweet tea. Not Thanksgiving yet but it won’t hurt ya,” Kit rambled as she continued setting things up. When she stopped talking, Shane looked at her blearily and nodded her thanks.

“Okay, I won’t stay,” Kit said uncertainly. Shane could tell she didn’t want to push it, and while she wanted to reassure her, she didn’t have the energy. She could only give her a small, tired smile. Kit gave her a sad one in return.

“Make sure you eat what you can, now. And we’d love to see you at the Planet or Hit! sometime when you’re ready. Everyone misses you,” Kit continued, seeming unsure how to finish. She appeared to be making her way to the futon, probably to give Shane a hug, but she stopped before she got too close. “I’ll get going. You call me if you need anything at all,” she said, taking the warming bag and heading for the door. They were the same words she’d been leaving with for weeks, and for as much as Shane wanted to reply in the affirmative, she just wasn’t able to do it. It had been enough of an effort to do as much as she already had.

The food was starting to get cold when Shane finally managed to get off the futon, but that didn’t make it any less good. It was the first time she could remember since Jenny had been gone that she could actually recall tasting anything, and it didn’t even comfort her. It might have, if cornbread hadn’t been one of the things Jenny had attempted to make for her several times with no success at all.

The memories hit harder than ever, and Shane had to push the food away and put her head down on the table while they came rushing back. Sleep was really the only thing that kept them at bay, and even that hadn’t been doing the trick lately. She knew she was probably falling deeper into depression, but she couldn’t make herself give a damn.

She just kept wondering, over and over again, if Jenny’s fall had been the accident they’d determined it to be. They’d asked her if Jenny had ever displayed any type of self destructive behavior, and Shane had been at a total loss as to how to answer. In the end, she’d just shaken her head. She had no idea if the others had been asked that question, but if they had, the police had obviously decided to call it an accident anyway. Shane couldn’t know, and that uncertainty was what made it so hard to go on breathing.

There just seemed to be nothing left anymore. She’d stopped caring about everything. Without Jenny there, it just didn’t seem worth it, and the suspicion that she could be a good part of the reason she wasn’t was too much to bear. Because it made sense. When she allowed herself to think about it, it made more sense than it should have, and she couldn’t shake it until the numbness came back again. Which it always did, thankfully.

The pain was never too far below the surface, though. Everyone had told her she needed to grieve, to get it out. Shane had laughed in their faces and walked away. No one understood, and she knew they never could, no matter how supportive they were trying to be. Maybe they didn’t need to understand. Maybe it was enough that Shane did, even when she hated herself for it. Which was anytime she allowed herself to feel something.

The memories played out like a movie in her head, as they always did. Jenny’s voice, her laughter, her tears, everything instantaneous and eternal at once. Shane sat through it as she always did, eyes down and heart hammering away in her chest as if it was going to stop at any second. Eventually, the images let up a little, and she tried to decide whether to just get back on the futon and go to sleep again or to take a shower.

The idea of a shower won out when she realized she’d skipped it yesterday, and she dragged herself to the gym tiredly. She was a lot later than she usually was, and there were plenty of post-workout girls who tried to talk her up. She blatantly ignored them, not even faking politeness, and left as soon as she possibly could.

On the way back to the studio, she decided to at least imitate a decent human being and thank Kit for the food. It had been a very sweet gesture, and even from deep inside her numbness Shane appreciated it. She parked rather haphazardly in front of the café and walked in quickly, hoping not to prolong things and praying that none of the others were there, and if they were, they’d ignore her.

She was lucky. The café was basically deserted, and she saw no trace of Helena, Alice, Tasha or anyone else she needed to worry about. Kit was standing behind the counter looking incredibly bored, but she brightened when she caught sight of Shane.

“Thanks for the food,” she managed to say before a wave of panic hit her and she turned for the door again.

“Stay a while! I got coffee I just brewed, we can sit in the back and talk!” Kit insisted, looking worried when Shane looked around desperately for an escape route.

“I don’t think I’m ready yet,” she said in a half-whisper, trying not to offend the one person who was doing her best to take care of her.

Kit looked like she wanted to protest, but seemed to understand Shane’s hesitation. “You just take your time. I’m glad you stopped by,” she said a bit sadly, but she gave Shane a smile. “I meant what I said about calling when you need anything.”

“Yeah,” was all Shane managed as she turned back to the door. Before she did, though, she noticed Kit shaking her head sadly toward someone in the far corner. Shane had to squint, but she saw the figure clearly, looking as sad as Kit did if not more so.

Cherie.

Unable to deal with the situation, she made no sign she’d seen anything and left as fast as she possibly could.

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