Saturday, June 9, 2012
"I just can't help that I feel like it's my fault, Alesha."
There was a hesitant pause--a cautious breath and a glance sent in the opposite direction. The wrong direction. "I know, but this is Korva, Brad. She simply is... who she is. You being here hasn't made her any more or less rebellious. She's not doing it for the attention--she's just being herself. Things would be no different if you were at home."
Alesha immediately regretted making eye-contact again with her husband. "How do you know that?" he asked in a low, flat tone. "How can you honestly say that?"
The other noises of the hospital suddenly became apparent. A collected voice from a nurse spoke over an intercom in the hall. A gurney passed in front of the door. A doctor dropped his pen on the ground, and quickly apologized to a patient who he'd bumped into. They all filled the room, illuminating the silence, the sudden expanse of space between them that had grown every day despite every attempt to tame it.
A knot tightened in Alesha's throat. Honest. If there was anything in her life she had always been, it was honest. Secrets she had kept, but lies? Never lies. Yet, here she was, painting white lie after white lie to do what she could to keep her husband's self-hatred at a minimum--and she failed at doing anything but making it worse.
"I'm sorry," she finally spoke, weakly. "I just don't know what else to say."
"Don't be sorry. You're doing the best you can--it's my fault." Alesha cringed when she saw him say the word 'fault'. He'd said it so many times, lately, you would think the poverty of 3rd world countries and the war in the middle east were all his doing. It annoyed her. He was no savior taking all their sins to the cross, when he died--there was no use in taking all the blame.
After a moment of fidgeting in her chair, she caught his gaze out of the corner of her eye. "What?" she asked timidly.
"I just love you," he said a broken voice.
For the first time in an hour, Alesha smiled.
Her next words were lost in her throat when the blinds on the door began to rattle, sending both their heads turning in that direction. Moments later, Margo's tall, boney frame wisped into the room alongside her sister, who walked like a girl with the world on her shoulders.
"Hi, Dad!" Margo chirped softly. "How are you feeling?"
"Like a pin-cushion in a tailor's shop," he responded with a dark smile. "They're incredibly fascinated with poking me full of holes. Your aunt must be positively jealous at how much blood I've gotten from these guys."
"Brad," Alesha remarked scoldingly from across the room.
"Oh," Margo whispered, her face falling. "That sucks."
"Enough about me, though--how was school today, kids?"
"O-k," the eldest responded quietly, then looked at Kory, hoping for her to fill in her own two cents. Unfortunately, Korva said nothing to fill the void.
"Kory?" Brad asked, trying to catch her gaze. "What about you, dear--I see you decided to cut your hair. I have to say, it's not nearly as bad as your mother thinks it is."
"Yeah, whatever," Kory groaned, rolling her eyes back as she shook her head and turned her gaze towards the window, as if hoping for something to appear and gobble her up rather than deal with this drivel.
"I'm serious," Brad added, his smile slightly diminished.
"No, you're not," came her response hastily. "You're full of shit."
"KORY!" Alesha gasped.
"What? He is! He's just saying that because he wants to get on my good side, because he's oh-so-sorry he can't be home, and that he's sick, and pathetic, and can't tell the truth because fuckin' forbid he poop anything but flowers and candy before he bites it."
"KORY, that is no way to speak to--"
"YES IT IS! I'm just saying what you're all feeling! You're just all COWARDS! No one wants to tell the truth, so I am! This SUCKS!" Kory's ice blue eyes floating from her mother to her father, than to Margo's horrified face, which was slowly becoming more and more covered by her hands. "I hate Dad! I hate you! I HATE ALL OF YOU!"
"Kory, please don't--"
But it was too late. SLAM. Even the blinds on the window across the room rattled with her departure; it was a lonely, but fitting applause.
A gravity well seemed to have sucked all happiness from the room. Their lungs were left empty and wordless, until the clatter of a tipped cleaning cart down the hall suddenly awoke them from their stupor.
Finally, a voice cut through. "Brad, she didn't--"
"Alesha, it's alright." He offered a weary smile. "I'm glad she was honest. I didn't want her here to make me feel better. I wanted... to make her feel better. If letting it out helps her--I don't want you to stop it."
Silence dawned again, but this time, it was not so empty. Through each of Brad's arms, a hand of support threaded. On his left, Alesha, her face morbid. On his right, Margo--mimicking her mother. She was unable to allow herself the openness of her sister; she would never be able to leave like that, even if she wanted to.
Suddenly, an unexpected rattling came again--and for a moment, the slight glimpse of blonde through the blinds worried Margo that Korva was back for another round of verbal punches.
But, it could not have been anyone further from being her sister.
"I'm here take another look at your bloodwork, Mr. Kane--oh, I'm sorry, am I interrupting?" were the words from the lips of Josh Seymour.
... Josh Seymour? When did he grow so tall... become a doctor...
... become even more dreamy than ever before?!
"Not at all, Doctor Seymour--come in, come in. Oh, have you met my daughter, Margo?"
"Yes, indeed I have," he responded in a suave, manly tenor. "And I have never seen something quite so lovely in my entire life."
"Yes, you--always you, Margo..."
"Yes, Josh... I always thought you were handsome, too..."
"Margo... Margo..." His voice--so handsome, so edible--suddenly began to warp and change, into something much more feminine--much more--what?!
"What, what?! I--oh." The sting of blood in her cheeks came quick but forgot to leave.
Margo's head dipped in shame while what felt like an audience of wolves stared into her back. Though they didn't laugh--not really--she could still feel the quiet amusement of their eyes, stinging her all around just as badly as actual jeers.
Why, why did Kenzie and Veronica insist on sitting up front, where everyone and their uncles got a front row seat to her embarrassment? Every day, it was the same thing. Someone said something to her, she choked, they laughed, she blushed. Soon enough, it would be a game--how fast can Margo's face turn red? How fast til she cries?
"Sorry," she finally muttered to Veronica, who had since bitten her lip and looked away, herself blushing for putting Margo on the spot. Kenzie shot a sour look over her shoulder at a giggling girl a few rows behind them, but neither of them believed today was a good day for making a scene, so she sent an apologetic look at Margo and turned back to her book.
"I was just gonna say--the teacher's gonna be here any sec, you probably want to wake up, yeah?" Veronica finally said with a worried smile, trying to ignore Wren making funny faces behind her.
"Yeah, thanks," Margo nodded--thankful, but still blushing.
A light clicking came from the corner of the room; a hush waved over the room as everyone sat up straight, their eyes glued on the door. But, when it finally opened, a sigh of annoyance exhaled from nearly the entire class.
Alas--it wasn't the teacher.
"What?" Ian spat, looking first at the class, then behind him, searching for the spectre that had caused everyone such grief. "Y'all miss me or something?" When no one responded, he growled, before slouching towards the empty chair between the red-haired Wren and smirking Thane. It was apparently the class' cue to begin talking again, because the moment he reached his seat and threw his notebook on his desk, the room bubbled back to life.
Margo tried to breathe, tried to forget that the room was crowded behind her, tried to forget that Ian was standing mere feet from her chair--but she failed. All she could do was keep her head straight and pretend that he wasn't there, glaring at the back of her skull. Soon enough, though, something came to distract her from that.
"You know, I really don't understand why some people come to school looking so unkempt and gross," came the unmistakable voice of Daisy de Wynter, at a volume clearly meant to be heard. "A little make-up goes a long way, you know?"
Margo slowly looked over her shoulder--but she didn't have to look to know. Daisy's cold eyes were trained right towards her, a delighted smirk growing the moment their gazes met. "Success", her lips said, without actually saying them--and with it, a pit stabbed its way into Margo's gut.
Before Margo could do anything--if she'd even had the courage to--Ian's drawl came to her rescue. "Not for you, apparently," he laughed, dumping cold water on Daisy's parade. "You took a bath in it this morning and you still look like a cow, Hot Lips."
It was Daisy's turn to blush as the class began giggling again, but she cowered back as next to her, her twin brother, Jackson, sneered in Ian's direction. "Why you little--"
"Easy, Frank! Didn't your girlfriend tell you your face would get stuck like that if you made it too much?" Ian rolled his eyes, a light smile growing on his face as he made eye-contact with Thane, his partner in crime.
Hot Lips. Frank. Although it amused Margo that Ian had assigned everyone in the class a pseudonym based on characters from the TV Show "M*A*S*H", it always lost its appeal the moment she remembered that her nickname had been derived from Maxwell Klinger, the cross-dressing corporal who, in the words of Ian, "reminded me of the way Margo traipses around in dresses, pretending to be a girl." Didn't get much worse than that.
"Oh by the way--" He added, while he still had Jackson's attention. "Tell your brother thanks for the eye. I finally have something that'll match the thong I gave your mother last--"
"Alright, that's enough!" Quicker than a flock of geese evading a predator, the heads of the class flashed in the direction of the front of the room, where apparently their teacher, Mr. Hobbs, had arrived unnoticed.
"Oh hey--morning Colonel Blake!"
"Good morning, Mr. Pesce." For a moment Mr. Hobbs looked rather timid, but after a stiff clear of his throat, he sent Ian a 'don't even think of starting trouble today' glare, and waved for him to take his seat so he could begin his over-prepared remarks.
"I won't waste time this morning, as we have a lot of important things to cover! First--your test on Greek root words has been moved to next week, to make some room for new plans on the agenda."
And the peasants rejoiced!
"Second--I've decided it's time for another group assignment. However, after the debacle with last quarter's projects, I'll be sorting you all into groups myself."
The peasants groaned.
While most of the class simply found it an annoyance, Margo was suddenly overcome with panic. In a group, with someone other than Kenzie and Veronica? Was he serious? Mental?! Or was this some sort of diabolical plan to finally push her over the edge?
Her body quivered, anxious and spewing sweat from every pore as he read, slowly, the list of names in each group. Three at a time, they were all grouped up until finally, there was only three names left--three names that left Margo both happy, and infinitely unhappy.
"Veronica Grant, Margo Kane, and Ian Pesce."
"No, you can't!" Margo yelped, at the same moment Ian's much louder "What--seriously?! You're sticking me with Brain and Noseface?" echoed around the snickering room.
"No, Mr. Pesce, I am assigning you to work with Ms. Grant and Ms. Kane--which you should be incredibly thankful for, judging by your performance on the last project." Mr. Hobbs sent Margo and Veronica a weary smile, before turning back to the blackboard to begin writing the specifics of the project down for the class to see.
Once his back was turned, Ian broke out into a sarcastic smile, turning to Margo to say, "Well, I guess it's you, me, and Winchester then, huh Klinger?"
"Good luck with the nerd squad, Hawkeye," Thane said in a cold, amused voice beside him.
"Thanks, Trapper. I'm gonna need it."
Margo whimpered--this was going to be a long, painful year.
Even when you factored the shadiest bars into the equation, the nightlife of Twinbrook was never quite as lively as anywhere else. The town was a sleepy place, and aside from those who were haunted by the worries of the day or plagued by the desires of the night, there was not much to find past midnight--even in the places where the lights were still on.
But if you look hard enough, you'll always find at least one place with the music still on--and tonight, that place was the Red Rendezvous.
It was dead, but Lilobot didn't mind. The Oil Coladas in her system were working their magic, and she simply didn't care anymore. She had a new body... new curves, new abilities, new kinds of attention thrown her way. Why couldn't she show herself off, anyways? It's not like what she was showing was real...
"WOO WOO!" cat-called one of the few patrons in the back of the room as she threw her shirt to the table, a difficult feat for a girl--even a robot girl--trying to balance on top of a counter that just wouldn't stop moving.
Someone cranked up the music, which only made Lil dance faster, wiggle her hips harder. She liked her body. They liked her body. It was fantastic.
An unexpected opening of the front door caught a few of the long-eyed drinkers off-guard--especially those recognizing Tanner Grey as Twinbrook's newly minted Captain of the Police Force--but it didn't stop Lilobot. She just thought it was more audience for her little evening wiggle-fest.
She was wrong.
"LILY! What the hell are you doing?!" Lilobot's eyes blinked fiercely a few times as she searched for the source of the loud voice--and oh, it was right at her feet. "Have you gone MAD?! Get down from there!"
"Why?" she giggled, shrugging and going back to her dancing. "I'm having fun, they're enjoying it--what's the harm in it?"
"You're making a fool of yourself, is what--Lily, I can't believe you," Tanner groaned, shaking his head as he tried to avoid staring at her... obvious womanliness. "I'm serious. Get down."
"And what if I don't? You gonna arrest me?" she cooed.
"I just might," Tanner snapped. "I have my cuffs, I wouldn't put it past me, right now."
"Ooooh, fiiinnnneeeee," Lilobot finally conceded, which caused the couple sleepy, scruffy men at the back of the men to sigh in remorse. "I'll get down... ... THINK FAST!"
As she fell forwards, flying through the air towards him, Tanner's life flashed before his eyes. Who knew how much a robot female weighed--and who knew if his skull would be crushed under the weight--so it took all his instincts to fight the urge to dodge out of the way... But to his surprise, as her arms looped around his head, she felt surprisingly light against him.
"You smell... like my car's engine," he remarked with a small chuckle as he eased her to the ground.
"Alright, I'm off the counteeerrrrrrr," Lil rolled in her old, heavily mechanical voice. "Do I really have to go though?"
"Lil--just stop arguing. We're leaving!" To more groans from her audience, Tanner grabbed her sweater from the chair it had landed on, and awkwardly tugged it over her head as he pushed her out the door.
They walked for five minutes before Tanner said anything. Lil finally found her footing--and with it, a sudden sense of guilt. Even if she didn't remember this man, he still knew her, and he'd seen her look ridiculous. She thought she'd experienced all emotions possible, already--but no, not this magnitude of shame.
When they reached the docks, she wearily plopped down on a bench, hoping it would finally get him to stop giving her the silent treatment. It worked.
"How could you do that, Lily? All that hard work you've put into becoming more human, becoming respected--and this is how you use it? Acting like a teenager with no future?"
"Why do you even care," Lil mumbled, rubbing her bare foot against the sidewalk. "I don't know you, anymore."
"Because I know you, Lil. Or at least, I thought I did. I don't know. You've changed."
"Yeah... I guess, I have."
Tanner sent a suspicious look in her direction. "Then why--"
"Because even after everything I've done--I'm still alone." Silence fell for a few moments; part of her hoped Tanner would speak up, prevent her from continuing, but she'd locked herself in the confession booth before she'd even realized she'd stepped inside. "I wanted to look human so I could feel human, Tagger--"
"Tanner," he corrected.
"--but I don't. No matter what--I'm still a simbot. Still so special that I'm one of a kind. So special I can't have kids, or grow old, or... or love someone the way people love each other. I thought this body would make me part of humanity--but now, I just feel more separate than ever."
"Lily--don't feel that way."
"Why? It's the truth."
"No. It isn't." Tanner stepped closer, and--seeing the way she almost seemed to shiver against the night breeze--he looped his arms around her and pulled her softly against him. "Even before you got your new body, you loved me. Really loved me. I was too blind to see it, and now... its gone, and I don't know if you'll ever get it back. But you did have it. And you will again, someday... even if its not for me."
"... I really did love you--didn't I," she whispered, her gaze turning up towards the flickering eyes of millions of galaxies above them.
"Yes," he replied.
"And... you loved me?"
"Still do," he ached with his heart.
Lilobot scowled, and turned her gaze over her shoulder towards his. "Then why can't I remember?"
I was born in the wagon of a travellin' show
My mama used to dance for the money they'd throw
Papa would do whatever he could
Preach a little gospel, sell a couple bottles of
Gypsies, tramps, and thieves
We'd hear it from the people of the town
They'd call us Gypsies, tramps, and thieves
But every night all the men would come around
And lay their money down
- Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves, Cher (Click to Listen ♫) -
This time, Margo was ready.
In her gut, she knew--this was probably a little evil. She'd spent weeks luring this dog in, constantly leaving him treats in the garbage, then treats on top of the garbage, and now--with what she believed was a stroke of brilliance--she had lured him to the front porch, leaving a large, rawhide bone right beneath her bedroom window.
She tried not to peek, but it was so hard, when the sound of his un-clipped nails trotted along the boards of the deck, when his body *flumped* down and the grinding of his teeth on the bone echoed in her silent room.
Today, though, there was a plan--and she wasn't going to mess it up, this time.
Margo was careful. She knew her clumsiness would startle him if she used the front door, so like last time, she snuck out the side... then snuck around, and crept up the steps. One. Step. At a time. She grinned like a maniac after she cleared the last one--nope, no tripping today, Mr. Front Steps!
Her fingers quivered sweatily with her camera in an over-tight grip in between them. She paused to get a good look at him. He was dirty. Not just a little bit dirty... He was caked. Although he didn't look uncared for--though it was hard to say, with how much food she'd been leaving him--he certainly looked like a stray. Why, then, did he run to that Man in the Moon? Where was he from?
Before she could consider anything else,
The quiver of anticipation in her forefinger prematurely took a picture of her feet.
Lightning fast, the dog dropped his bait and whirled around, giving Margo the most wide-eyed, frightened look she'd ever seen.
For a moment--one of those moments that hung in the lungs for what felt like a short infinity--they simply stared at each other. Each had been completely caught off guard, and had no idea what to do.
It was their first meeting--their first true meeting--and this is what the dog of her dreams did:
This time, though, she was prepared. Camera strap firmly wrapped around her wrist, she dashed after him down the steps, the tread of her boots kicking up dirt as she flew, flew, flew after this dog.
She did not call him--she knew he would not come--but she did not want to, anyways. Margo wanted to see where he was going. Tonight, that was all that mattered.
Several minutes later, her lungs on fire and her feet crying for mercy, The Dog revealed why it looked like he hadn't seen a bath in months; he dived headlong into the muddy outcroppings of Twinbrook's swamp.
Margo had to tread carefully--it was easy to get stuck out here, especially in the dark--but lucky for her, The Dog seemed to know which paths were the safest. He wasn't the quickest devil, so she managed to stay at least 20 feet behind him, keeping up until he disappeared behind a massive tree.
She could already tell that he'd led her right to her goal. Voices, music, and the glow of a crackling fire resounded just beyond the tree--so, with a gulp and a few timid steps, she trudged through the mud and approached the trunk with her hands extended.
At once, her eyes widened--mystified. Every part of her body suddenly began to tremble, but at least this time, she managed to keep a check on her trigger-finger. Her camera was poised, but even though the moment was perfect, she couldn't pry her eyes away long enough to aim the lens at what she was seeing.
She had expected to find people, and certainly a clue about where her Man in the Moon had come from...
... but this? What she saw, she had certainly not expected.
A girl, who moved so gracefully even her cousin Gracie would have cause to be jealous.
Fire that danced nimbly on fingertips--music that sang just as sweet as her Aunt could play.
A man and a woman, full of so much character she wished desperately to hear what it was they spoke about so heatedly.
And a boy. The boy.
He could not have been much older than Margo--if he was even older at all. She knew instantly who he was the moment that The Dog laid down beside him--but part of her felt like she'd known him for much longer. He was young, but he looked old. Older than life, older than time. Eyes as dark as sin, a smile that put her heart aflame.
Margo's heart betrayed her; she was so overwhelmed, that though she was able to raise her camera to take a few awkward, blurry pictures, her excitement overcame her, and she giggled.
The dark depths of his eyes flickered towards her. She froze.
"Who's there?!" hollered a brogue voice from the boy's lips. "Aye?"
She didn't move.
"Oy Badger--go check it out."
A medley of emotions suddenly crashed in Margo's ears. Fear, surprise, adrenaline, excitement, curiosity--she could not make sense of it, and she didn't need to. She didn't have time to feel it; all she knew was she needed to get out of there, and fast, before she got to find out who this 'Badger' was.
... Too late.
"AAIIIEEEEEEE!" echoed over the vast waters of the murky swamp--and those who may have previously been unaware of her presence certainly were not anymore.
Hermes himself would have been impressed with her speed as she dashed, heels pounding and mud flinging, into depths of the swamp. She did not look behind her to see if 'Badger' followed--she didn't care, as long as he didn't catch her. All that mattered was that she get home, behind the security of her locked door, where curiosity would NEVER get the better of her, again.
Luck guided her in--she found her front-steps in what felt like one heartbeat. She ached from every bone, and tears streamed down her face from the wind that had whipped through her eyes. There was nothing that didn't hurt, but in a way, she was glad.
"I am... never... doing that... again," she whimpered amid her laughter.