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CHAPTER FIFTY ; ANNIE, BILLY AND THE PLANalso known as;( the battle of starcourt; part two )

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also known as;
( the battle of starcourt; part two )


"You talk about Annie a lot," Billy reclined on the couch as Stella fiddled with her roller-skate laces. She'd just bought some new ones, they were neon yellow and the tag said they glowed in the dark, so she'd brought them around to the Hargrove-Mayfield household to test out. "Who is she?"

Stella paused where she sat, her fingers elevated in midair as she attempted to loop the laces through the shoes. "Annie? Um, she's just a kid that I used to know."

Billy noticed that he'd touched on a sore subject, and he shuffled awkwardly, reaching for his can of beer. "Sorry."

"It's okay," Stella forced a smile, shrugging it off. She placed the laces on the ground and pushed herself around so that she was facing the teenage boy. "Steve and I used to babysit her all the time, back when we were next door neighbours. We'd do everything together, she was pretty much my little sister."

Billy nodded, listening intently. Stella had come to be a good friend to him, her understanding and empathy like no one else's. He saw why Max adored her so much; she cared for everyone no matter what they had done. Hell, she'd forgiven him, so that must have been worth something.

"Steve and I, we were around thirteen or fourteen, when Annie's parents asked us to babysit," Stella's voice was slightly quieter, and she bowed her head so that she could stare at the carpet. It was better than making eye contact with the Hargrove kid, she'd decided. "Neither of us could, so they left her with her grandparents on the other side of town. She went climbing and she didn't stop. She fell out about an hour later cause her grandmother didn't hear her crying. She broke her back and thirteen other bones."

"Shit," Billy pushed himself onto the floor and hesitated, before reaching out and placing his hand on Stella's shoulder. She wasn't crying, but she was clearly still not over it. "That's fucked up. How old was she?"

"Nine," Stella responded quietly, scratching the back of her head. She sniffled a little and wiped at her damp eyes, proceeding to look up at her friend. "She was a great kid, really. Her parents moved out of town after the funeral, and they're doing really well. They're good people, they just caught a string of bad luck."

"Jesus," Billy hummed, allowing the girl to rest her head on his shoulder. "I'm guessing you blame yourself for it?"

Stella was silent.

Billy nodded a couple times. "Well, it's not your fault. I'm sure Steve's already tried to tell you that, and it's true. You blame yourself for too much."

"Yeah, well I guess that's just how I work," Stella dismissed him, and he punched her in the shoulder lightly. "Ow!"

"You're way too hard on yourself, Collins," Billy muttered, watching as she got to her feet. She was doing something he'd picked up on; busying herself instead of acknowledging a problem. "Hey, look, why don't we talk about something else? What about that bullshit you pulled that got you banned from the pool?"

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