Vesela Amaker Hatch was a good kid gone terribly wrong.
She insisted this to everyone. They would stare at her when she shuffled around at two in the morning, ask her why she was out past curfew and she would have to produce her ID so many times because she was fucking nineteen and she could be out as late as she wanted, thank you very much. She didn't need permission from the fuzz please and thank you. Just because she was a girl, just because she didn't give a flying fuck when old men tried to corner them (just slammed their heads into the brick and walked away), just because she had scars she was proud of. She had survived the beatings and that made her better than all of them from their stupid suburban nuclear family with plasticine smiles and a nice golden retriever and maybe a cat. Probably a black and white one because they were just that perfect.
Vesela really was a good kid in the end. She didn't steal (much), she didn't drink (on weekdays), she didn't smoke (in front of adults), she didn't have sex (with jerks), she went to class (when she felt like it), and dammit, she wasn't a failure. Not anymore.
She would never again be a failure.
The cracked ribs and screamed insults and bruised arms and bloody fingers had taught her never to disappoint anyone. But she was done with her father, done with the stupid stares at her piercings and teeth, done with being a disappointment.
She was going to live for herself.
It got a little better once she met Harold and whatever-her-name-is. Vesela really did like them no matter how much she bared her teeth at them.
Connie was the best though. She was soft-spoken but prone to outbursts, self-conscious and neurotic, with a healthy dash of social anxiety. But she was also fiercely loyal, and no matter how many times she yelled at Vesela to take her feet down off the couch, she never kicked her out.
Connie let her stay up all night if she wanted and bought her Mountain Dew and Fritos. She smiled at her when she woke up and made them both cereal. And when Ves ended up crying herself to sleep she always awoke to the smell of pancakes.
On the day she left from there, she stared at the older woman for a minute, muttering something about food and apartment and thanks and dorms until she decided that maybe just this once she wasn't completely tough.
"Thank you, Connie," she said, hugging her closely. Connie smelled like vanilla and jasmine and fear.
"You're welcome, Ves," Connie stammered, patting the 19-year-old's head.
Still, there were lines as to how mushy Ves would get.
Vesela would never tell her how much she thought of Connie as her adoptive mother.