Thursday, December 21, 2006

Childhood's End - Chapter 11

It took all of five minutes for Rowena to clear her head and start thinking. By her own actions, she was proving this man - this monster - right; she felt frighteningly rational as she packed her stuff and began to consider her exit strategy. She bent her head around some notions that she thought should have come to a clear-thinking person right away, such as ratting out Mark to the police and getting into Witness Protection; heck, she was a model case for child endangerment, or even abuse. What kind of father would raise his daughter on a steady diet of combat training?


She couldn't do, she could do that, she could find a way, but she didn't want to. This was the family curse, it seemed: Having to choose. Speaking of which...Rowena grabbed the lockbox from under her bed and sorted through the small arsenal Mark had left her. It was pretty basic, but it would do to protect her from trouble for now. Her eyes focussed on the Ruger; almost absent-mindedly, she screwed the suppressor onto the gun, loaded it and chambered a round, then aimed the gun down at the window, imagining someone trying to hurt her. The sights swam slightly before her eyes. Look at the target, she thought, almost whispering to herself.

This was power.

The door creaked open; Rowena spun around on instinct, only stopping the reflex when she made out Trish's horrified face. For a second, she kept the gun up, not sure whether to get rid of the problem right there - Damn you, Simmons! -, but finally she forced the gun down.

"This really isn't a good time, Trish."
"I heard you shouting," Trish said by way of explanation for her presence, but her attention was obviously drawn to the open lockbox on the bed. Rowena had regained her bearings and walked over to the door, then closed it. Trish's head shot around, and there was that fear again - she was now in a closed room, and between her and the door there was a teenage girl with a suppressed firearm. "...I'm not gonna tell," Trish said, on the verge of panic.
"Huh? Oh, the gun. Not for you. Look," Rowena said, clicking the magazine free from the gun and pocketing it, "all safe."
"One in the chamber."

Rowena sheepishly cleared the chamber.

"I'm as nervous as you are, okay? I'm in a fucked-up situation here,'d you know that?"
"Daddy was a cop," Trish said, still monosyllabic and almost scared out of wits. "Caught me playing with his Colt once. Got the big talk."
"You're safe, Trish. I'm not a psychopath, I'm not suicidal, I'm just getting the fuck out of here and I need to be prepared."
"Who are you?"

Rowena dumped the .22 into the lockbox and turned to Trish.

"I'm just a lost little girl."
"Right, and your uncle is a manager?" Trish's right hand rose to her head, and she slicked back some errant hair while drawing in breath to calm her raging heart. "Who are you? What do you do?"
"I'm not a killer."
"I don't...Faye, I wasn't even asking that!" She sat down on the bed, brushing away one of the 1911s that inched closer to her. "But you've got a fake ID and a room full of guns! I think I have a right to know."
"I don't know, really, I don't know anymore. I'm sorry you got pulled into this."
"When you came back...there was...blood on your uncle's shirt."
" came in from the East."
"What are you getting at?"

Rowena noted with faint detachment that the entertainment center was now set up on the desk, which was a pity since she was about to leave; but it sufficed for Trish to flip it on and switch it to the local news. The scene was brightly lit, as filmed from a shaky chopper with a telephoto lens.

"...while firefighters are still trying to get the blaze under control as the New York Navy Yard continues to burn. The police have yet to issue a statement, but the entire area from the Yard to the Manhattan Bridge has been closed off for the night..."
"How's that?" Trish asked while she slowly regained her confidence. "Did he do this, Faye? Was he there?"
"...we were both there. I was driving."
"God. God! I...did you..."
"No! Just driving. And...he's not my uncle."
"Dammit! I should've...I should've known, I usually trust my creep alert. You have to get out. I'll, I guess I'll call you a taxi, okay?"
"I'm...thank you, Trish. For, like, everything. But no." Rowena walked over towards the bed and sat down next to Trish, then began to sort the guns back into the lockbox. "I'm not going to kill you."
"I think you said that already."
"Bears repeating," Rowena added. "I'm just trying to figure this out. I came here because I wanted to. I'm working with him because I wanted to. I don't think I'm insane, but then again, how would I know?"
"I'd know," Trish said. "I should know, anyway. '95, friend, she died. I checked myself in the week after. Still can't bear being near knives."

She rolled back the sleeve on her shirt, exposing a deep scar running over her left wrist.

"I called 911 right after I did it," Trish explained. "I wasn't cutting myself regularly or anything, I just wanted to make a salad and then I slipped a bit, and then...I just thought, This is going to take a deeper cut."
"I'm sorry."
"I'm officially too stupid to kill myself," she said, adding a nervous laugh. "So they had me on antidepressants for six weeks and I screamed myself hoarse because they wouldn't let me out. Therapy sucks. When I did get out, my Dad just gave me the deed on this block because he knew I'd never get a normal job. So I did the whole 'hippie latecomer' thing, weed, acid, mushrooms, all the good stuff. Dropped too much LSD, and went right back into the psych ward. And what was the first thing I did when Daddy sprung me? I bought a fucking bar."
"I'm sorry, I...I just babble when I'm scared. You see, sweetheart, you're the sanest person in this room. I'm just a stupid addict slash 'quitter' who likes to surround herself with temptation, and I'm all freaking out here while you sit there and are the eye of the fucking storm."
"Ataraxia. Part of the family curse."
"Ata-ra-xia. Old greek, from the stoics. It means 'freedom from worry'. I think I'm headed there. My Dad has it, nothing ever fazes him. Ever. I still get upset over a lot of stuff, but it doesn't last long. It's like I...I just freak out for a bit, and then I move on."
"Then you can stop worrying about being insane, or a psycho killer or anything, right?"
"I wish. What do you think the shouting match was about?"
"I...I don't know, really, but I think that's good. I mean, you're thinking about it, how far gone can you be?"
"True. I just wish I knew what the right thing was."
"That's on my wish list, too. But, you know, all things considered...rather you than your not-uncle."
"Thanks for the moral support."
"Any time. By the way...I'm firing you. Sorry."
"Fair enough."
"It's just, you're either leaving, or..."
"Getting into the business," Rowena said. The two of them got up, and Rowena escorted Trish to the door.

"So," Trish asked, "are you staying, Faye?" Rowena pondered that for a bit, then finally cocked her head to the side. "I'm not leaving," she said. Trish smiled, then turned to walk down the stairs. "Rowena," Brandon's daughter said, and Trish froze in her step. "My name is Rowena."

In reply, Trish merely nodded and walked away. Rowena closed the door and locked it, then went back to the bed and threw herself onto it. Time to sleep.

1 comment:

Valentina said...

Y'know, I've never actually held a civilian job.
How freaking weird is that?
I've never been fired either.
Talk about a life unlived...