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Story Endings O. Henry Didn't Use

by Jennifer-Oksana

[Story Headers]

I was not always the kind of girl who cut. Cutting was for the socially maladjusted middle-class psychological basket case who had a perpetually trembly lip and tears always about to spill down cheeks with eternal red traces that mimicked the scars hidden by scarves and long sleeves and pants that fell all the way to the floor.

Not that "cutting" was even a blip on anyone's agenda radar when I was fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen and in danger of self-mutilation. My mom, back when she was still my mom and not the faint echo of a bad mom dream, always warned me not to smoke cigarettes in the bathroom and to avoid cocaine and drunk drivers. My English teacher fretted about date rape; my French teacher worried about AIDS. My history teacher, Mr. Wallace, was particularly upset that none of us cared enough about the plight of the Ethiopians.

None of them warned me that it was possible to fall in love with knives and high heels at the age of seventeen, and that loving sharp shoes and sharp edges could lead to a life of crime that was equally accepted by socialites and scumbags, because the woman who loves the razor's edge is the woman who knows how to use it against anyone at any time.

To be fair, none of those concerned teachers who helped me achieve high SATs and eloquent application essays ever saw me in a situation where that gleam sparkled in my eye. They couldn't know there was more to me than good grades, a big smile, and the desire to be perfection embodied in an eighteen-year-old body if I didn't know. I had a 4.0 GPA, 1320 on the SAT back before "re-centering," volunteered twice a week at the local cat shelter, jumped hurdles for the girls' varsity team, and was the president of my local Catholic youth group. In short, I was the wet dream of parents, guidance counselors, and admission officers alike.

Maybe that was the problem. The universe was a truly fair and just place when I was seventeen. I worked hard and earned my deserved reward. No one ever suggested that bad things could happen. Bad things happened to other people -- never me. I was Prom Court Honors Princess with a cute basketball-playing boyfriend and a ticket to Harvard and the expected happy ending, the kind reserved for fairy tales and celebrities.

Nobody told me the knife could fall, slice my pretty dreams in half, and leave my broken heart exposed to wither and sicken and grow back wrong.

I suppose I never told you this because I hated you, but I was in the car that killed my dad, along with my sister and brother. The same car that left my mom brain-damaged and empty. The whole thing became a huge MADD PSA in the early 90s, but the names were changed and no one ever mentions that I was the sober girl in the backseat of the car begging her boyfriend not to drive so fast...

Killed him, too, and my best friend. I was the only survivor of the accident, the way I see it. I woke up two days later in a cold sweat, still hearing the metal scream and the glass crunch.

Nobody was waiting for me. The nurse had to tell me what happened, and she couldn't stay to comfort me when I started to cry. ICU, like Hell, is not a place where people can stay.

None of this is meant to be an excuse for what I've done. I want you to understand that. It could have been worse. My dad had insurance that meant I didn't starve. People were there within a half an hour of me waking up. I moved in with my uncle two towns over to recover and all my other friends were there for me. Nobody blamed me, and it's true that other people have lost as much and not become what I became.

I'm trying to explain how I found that need for the stiletto blade and the stiletto heel, the weapons I always knew how to use...

So you're in pain, right? Never thought you could bleed so much and remain conscious, did you?

Welcome to Hell, Angel.

So my family was dead or worse, my boyfriend killed them along with my best friend, and like most people who lose everything, I wandered around in a state of shock for a good nine months before waking up and realizing I didn't need to pop two valiums just to function. My body was back to normal; I thought that meant my heart should be okay, too.

You know how eighteen-year-olds are. I bet you anything that Connor felt the same way I did. Before you lobotomized him.

Careful there, Sparky. You don't want me to start blessing those crosses, do you?

Hey, maybe it was for the best. If someone could have magicked away my guilt and pain back then, I would have taken the deal. But my dad was in a box; he couldn't save me. So instead, I got obsessed with why. Why me? Why had I let my boyfriend drive? Why had he hit my parents? Why had they been driving that cheap Japanese piece of shit on graduation night? What had I done that was so much worse than anyone else?

I spent the next three years at State trying to figure out what went wrong. I asked priests, I asked ministers, I asked the guy wearing a sign that told me God was coming and that He was pissed at me. I found out that people had done stupider things than me and gotten away without a scratch. My friends had driven drunker without even a ticket to prove it. My roommate Hannah had once worn a thong bikini to Mardi Gras and went home with nothing worse than some beer-drenched beads. I got in one drunk-driven car once and everyone I loved died in a bloody car wreck worthy of an After-School fucking Special.

I started wearing high heels around then. I used to be terrible at walking in high heels, you know? I twisted my ankle at Homecoming trying to do it. By senior year, I wore four-inch stiletto heel boots in December, the snow sloshing up to my ankles and I didn't fall. I was taller and thinner and more beautiful than any girl at that school and when you asked someone my name, they couldn't tell you.

My priest, Father Tom, told me I should read Job once or twice during those years when I was trying to find an answer. I'll assume you're familiar with the story and the lesson contained in it, but I tend to think Father Tom wanted me to learn a different lesson than the one I did. He had some nonsense about accepting that the universe is sometimes arbitrary and that eventually, it all comes out right in the end.

This is the lesson I learned, and come to think of it, Angel, the lesson you learned: God and Satan are capricious, hateful sons-of-bitches and the only way to escape their megalomania is to take that power into your own hands. Funny how you used to think you were a tool of God and I was a tool of Satan, isn't it?

I think it's funny.

The rest of the story is self-evident. I had an answer that shaped the rest of my life. I went to law school looking for a way to control my life, to have power like in Job to make a person's life wonderful or terrible just because I felt like it. Told God and the Catholic Church to fuck off not because I didn't believe, but because by that time, John Paul II had made it very certain I'd never be Pope in my lifetime. Wolfram and Hart seemed like a viable alternative. Evil, sure, but God did a lot of things when Satan called him chicken. Wolfram and Hart had the power I needed, and it shared -- for a price.

That was when I discovered stiletto blades. Isn't mine pretty? It flicks in and out and it never gets dull no matter how much skin and bone it cuts into. Look and see. Oh, that's right. You can't see until your eyes grow back from the last time I cut them out.

What? Of course I'm crazy. I went crazy years ago, Angel. This is Hell, not a church picnic. If it were a church picnic, we'd have Kool-Aid and the priest over there would have a guitar so he could play "This Land Is Your Land."

We could do that sometime, if you wanted. But you're not allowed to sing.

I don't blame the accident for who I am. Well, not exactly. I blame my life up until then for making the accident impossible to endure. I suppose we have it in common, though: killing everyone we loved and then blaming them for ruining our lives.

Of course, I think it's unfair that you got to kill Wesley. I learned down here that it was good he forgot me. At least, that's what the nuns told me twenty-four hours a day for six weeks straight. He loved Fred so much that it was okay that she never came when he fucked her. After all, the only good reason to have sex is for the conception of a child, according to the Pope. Maybe God was punishing him for enjoying fucking me so much. Of course, God's arbitrary about this -- maybe he was rewarding Wesley for forgetting me by letting him earn Fred's love, period. Or maybe it had nothing to do with God. Maybe Fred didn't get off on straight sex and never told anyone.

Hell is not the place to find answers.

So, yeah, the stiletto blade. I never would have thought of cutting myself with it until I first touched Wesley's scar. I wanted one like his, though not anywhere people could see. I bought myself a new knife and I'd look at the palm of my hand, the collarbone, anywhere I could leave a discreet scar I could touch. There was never anywhere to scar that Wesley wouldn't eventually find, so I stayed off the knife during our relationship. I just thought about it. I even thought about asking him if he wanted to give me one, but that was something I couldn't manage to ask.

Then the Beast gave me a septic gut wound, but it never had time to become a scar...sorry about that. I think it turns into holy water when it hits your skin. Hurts like a son of a bitch for me, too, Angel. Would you like me to kiss it better?

It's all the same really; high heels and short knives, God and Satan, good and evil, you and me. What you are doesn't matter; I was the sweetest little muffin set down on this earth, but one bad decision and I'm straddling a souled vampire champion who was ultimately rewarded for eating someone's favorite daughter, bleeding holy water onto his naked torso. All the differences seem to fade away.

I'll tell you a secret, Angel. Let me whisper it in your ear -- after I do this.

What? Don't whine so much. I'm just doing my job.

We were both always damned because in our heart of hearts, in those silences at three in the morning that wake you up and keep you awake, we knew that we were damned. Don't believe me? Think about it, Angel. That idiot Spike's not in Hell, and he was barely better than he could be. Anyanka, the vengeance demon turned human turned demon turned human turned cannon fodder? She's not here -- and she had more blood and death and evil on her hands than both of us combined. Julian was right. Sin is behoovely, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

But that's only after you give up the sin and forgive the sinner. Which in your case is you.

I don't know what you never forgave yourself for, Angel. Was it Cordelia? Darla? Connor? There are so many things you have to feel guilty about; I only have two. And until I can find the answer and really believe that I don't deserve to wail until the end of days for what I've done, it's you and me and the edge of the razor blade.

And maybe if I bleed enough, I'll earn the mercy you forgot to show both of us.

End

Jennifer
Into the 21st Century: http://www.imjustsayin.net

"Your son brought you into the 21st century. It's a lot like the 20th century, except people are afraid and the stock market is much lower." --The Simpsons

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Fandom:  Angel
Title:  Story Endings O. Henry Didn't Use
Author:  Jennifer-Oksana   [email]   [website]
Details:  Standalone  |  R  |  11k  |  04/17/04
Summary:  Nobody else is slipping the blade in easy.
Notes:  There is a flippant remark about cutting that the author does not believe, and some theological sophistry. Read at own risk.
Spoilers: Angel 5.2
Rating: R for violence, darkness, and moderate blasphemy.
Disclaimer/Other:  Joss, not me.
Distribution: list archives, standing orders, others by permission.

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