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by Northlight

Title: FP: Control (1/1)

Author: Northlight


Summary: In which Brin isn't at her best.

Characters: Brin, mild Zack.

Rating: R for language, sex, violence.

Distribution: If you want, take it.

Disclaimer: Cameron and Eglee.

Date: Oct. 14-31, 2001.

The door of the stall on the right hung crooked, loosened from its top hinge. The toilet on the left had overflowed, water pooling to grey tiles and making soggy lumps out of the wads of toilet paper left to fall to the floor. The water was soaking through the knees of Brin's jeans. She wrapped her arms around her jumping stomach and leaned over the toilet. Spiky locks of hair had been tucked behind the curve of her ear. Her bangs clung to her sweat-slicked forehead. Sour heat climbed the back of Brin's throat and she shuddered and heaved.

She could hear the scrape of the bathroom door against the tiles. High heels clacked and that ever-aware analytical part of Brin's mind determined height and weight by the impact of each of the woman's steps and the length of her stride. "Fucking pigsty," Brin heard around the force of her own retches and the broken door to her right was forced open. Material rustled and there was a pause before the scent of fresh blood joined that of old blood and new sickness.

Brin scrambled to latch onto the trailing remains of her self-control. She rocked back until her butt rested on the heels of her sneakers and brought the back of her hand across her mouth. Her lips left a damp trail across her hand and Brin's skin itched at the sensation. Brin rose, one hand flying out to steady herself against the wall of her stall as her head swam. She flushed the toilet and fumbled for a moment with the lock.

Water stuttered as Brin twisted at the sink's taps. Cool water tumbled into her palms and trickled through her fingers. Curling her hands, Brin caught at the water and brought it to her mouth. She grimaced at the metallic taste of the stuff but swished the water thoroughly before spitting it into the stained sink. She ran her tongue over slick teeth and longed for toothbrush and paste.

Brin rolled her shoulders and lifted her head. She met her eyes in the mirror.

". . . demons in her eyes, Pearl," she remembered Bill saying. Her room had been at the other end of the hall. His voice had been clear at night, even through two closed doors and a stretch of carpeted hallway.

"Bill. She's just a little girl," Pearl had answered. The bed had squeaked as Pearl settled down on the mattress. "She's young and scared and all alone."

"She's not right," Bill had insisted. Brin had lain beneath her covers, hands folded on her stomach, tracking Bill's motion as his feet slapped against the floor of his room. "Christ, Pearl. How can you not see it? She fucking scares the other kids around here."

"Hey. Okay. Shh. Calm down," Pearl had soothed. "She's a good girl."

"She has more problems that I can--than I want to deal with," Bill said. He sighed and clicked at the lamp. Covers rustled as Bill slid into bed. "The kid's never even smiled."

"Just give her time. You'll see. She'll turn out just fine, Bill. Just fine," Pearl had said.

Brin's lips twisted and turned. She tracked the shift of expression in the mirror. She had smiled for Bill and Pearl, for teachers and social workers and schoolmates. Bill never had warmed to her. Smiling at the mirror, her dark eyes still looked hard. Dangerous. Wild. Brin blinked and shed her smile.

The dryer was broken. Brin swiped her damp hands against the thighs of her jeans. She stilled her movement towards the door when the toilet flushed and the broken stall door was forced open. Brin's hands moved to her hair, easing mussed strands into place. The mirror showed the other woman emerge from her stall, smoothing her skirt over rounded hips. Her purse slapped against her thigh as she walked. Brin gave her hair one last pat as the woman stopped at the sink.

Water from the broken toilet had flooded outwards. Brin skirted the pool, brushing against the older woman. "Sorry," she muttered as she slid her small hand into the woman's purse. The woman shot an irritated glance at Brin in the mirror but didn't reply. Brin shrugged and thrust her hands into her jeans' pockets, stolen money crinkling in her fists.

Brin shuffled from the bathroom and into the press of bodies beyond the door. She slid amongst them with ease. With her rounded shoulders, oversized t-shirt, jeans and dirt-streaked hiking boots, she wasn't anything worth noticing. She looked like a kid, and a great deal more proper than some of the teens who stood in ragged groupings in the mall.

There was a group of five--boys and girls--standing clustered in front of a music store. They were carefully posed defiance and disdain raucous laughter erupted from their direction. Their elders shot wary glances in their direction, others hurried their steps and brushed by without looking. Some people, Brin thought, had no clue about what constituted real predators. The teens wore leather and chains wound about wrists and waists, but Brin saw the softness of their hands, faces, bodies.

Brin's hands curled within her pockets. They looked small and slim, smooth and soft. Careful eyes and fingertip could find evidence of past pain--given and received. She could remember fingers snapping when Ben had brought the butt of his gun down upon her hand. She could remember the gash across her palm as she scrambled for purchase on a rough stretch of mountain wall. Her knuckles still ached faintly where they had torn as she caught them against a wall with mindless fury.

She had learned to pretend, after Bill and Pearl and children who never approached without accompanying fear-scent. Brin had smiled, laughed, cried and shrieked in non-existent surprise and she had been normal in the eyes of those around her. Normal was hard--harder than pain, harder than death and Brin had felt odd in her role.

Sarah had sat on her bed, toes curled over the binding of her closed book to rest on its front cover. She had wielded a brush, carefully smoothing metallic green polish over her toenails. "Mr. Ellis," Sarah said with a twist of her glossed lips, "is a friggin' dick."

Brin had flipped to the next page of her geography textbook. She took in the information with a quick sweep of her eyes and stared at the page in wait once she was done. "Mm hmm," Brin had said. "Right."

"Connie. Connie!" Sarah had said, annoyed. "You even listening to me?"

"Mr. Ellis is a friggin dick," Brin repeated. "I'm listening."

Sarah had nodded, black curls trembling around her pinched face. "Okay. So long as you're paying attention," she said. "I mean, God, I don't get what the big deal is. Detention! Man, that sucks."

Brin bit the inside of her lip. She would have been beaten or put into solitary or scheduled for psych evaluation if she'd acted out against an authority figure. "Yeah," Brin said. "Detention is the worst."

Sarah sank her brush back into its bottle. She carefully wiped off the excess polish as she withdrew it again. "Ellis hates me," Sarah had said, moaning. "He's had it in for me since the first day of class."

"I know. I know," Brin said.

"I just don't get it," Sarah said.

"Adults," Brin said, shrugging. She flipped to the next page.

Sarah sighed her agreement. "Right. He likes you, Connie."

"Well," Brin had said. "Sure. I'm not the one who embarrassed him in front of the entire class."

Sarah narrowed her eyes and huffed. "Who knew he'd be so freakin' sensitive about it? Geesh." She swiped at her big toe with her brush. "'S not just that. Connie. Damn. You're a poster child. Every adult's dream teen."

"You're smudging your nail polish," Brin said, even.

"Aw, fuck," Sarah had said.

It was too loud, too crowded, and Brin's stomach roiled at the inescapable smell of humans massed together--sweat, perfumes, deodorants, food and smoke. It was raining outside, hard and strong with chemicals. Fat droplets caught at Brin's hair, plastering it close to her skull. She pressed back her bangs and blinked rain from her lashes. Rain didn't bother her. Cold didn't bother her.

There was a bus shelter two blocks down from the shopping complex Brin had escaped from. It was damp, rain driven through the doorway by the wind. The cement and plastic enclosure smelt of urine, beer, sickness, despair. There was a jagged crack in one of the dirt encrusted plastic walls. Brin saw traces of blood there, dark strands of hair marking the place where someone's head had collided with tremendous force. Brin's nostrils flared, her stomach jumping. She released her breath and pressed her hands to her eyes.

Bottles had been broken on the shelter's cement floor. Jagged pieces of tinted brown and green glass lay scattered on the ground. The heavy soles of Brin's boots ground the glass into smaller pieces, dust, as she moved inwards. Brin pressed into the corner of the shelter furthest from the door and rain. She hunched over the money she drew from her pocket and thumbed through the crumpled bills. Her brows drew downwards as Brin rapidly calculated her monetary situation, distance, time. Brin's breath came out in a long hiss and she stuffed the money back into her jeans. She slid downwards, balanced on her toes, knees bent and apart, her butt resting on the heels of her boots.

Brin's dark eyes slid back towards the smear of blood on the wall. She flexed her hand against her knee, feeling the pull of newly healed skin over her knuckles. "Connie. Connie!" Brin could remember Joey saying, "we've gotta talk. I don't understand. I don't. Damn. Tell me. Please." Brin blinked and looked away from the violence echoed before her on the shelter wall. Mouth thinning, Brin cut off Joey in her memory--over and done with, past, unchangeable now.

He should have shut up when she told him to.

Pearl had made chicken noodle soup and because Bill hadn't been home, they'd sat on the threadbare couch in the living-room. It was more broth than noodles, and the chicken was a mere rumour. Brin had taken careful spoonfuls of the lukewarm soup and felt Pearl shift at the other end of the couch. The television was on. The main character's hand was fixed on the swell of a woman's ass. His lips were fixed upon hers. They'd met at the beginning of the hour.

"Liz," Pearl had said and flicked off the television.

Brin could see their reflections in the blank screen. Pearl looked earnest, a bit awkward. "Yes?" Brin had said and lowered her spoon into her emptied bowl.

Pearl cleared her throat. "There's something we should talk about."

"Okay," Brin had said and listened as Pearl flushed and choked over information Brin already knew. She had sat in a grey walled classroom in straight rows with her brothers and sisters. Dr. Carlson had been trim and neat in her white coat, blond hair pinned back from her face. Her voice had been crisp, clear, untouched by emotion. Sex--heterosexual, homosexual; reproduction; rape; disease; they had seen the videos, charts, texts. It had been a precise, scientific recitation of facts.

"I know that, well, that young people," Pearl said, paused, dragged her plump hands across her thighs. "You should wait," she said, abrupt. "Until you're older. Until you're in love."

"Love?" Brin said.

Pearl's face was suffused with cloying sympathy. She saw Brin: young, small, delicate. Brin suspected that Pearl had come to her own conclusions about Brin's unspoken past--abuse, neglect. "Lizzie," Pearl said. "Yes, love. Sex should be more than the physical. It should be about caring, about trust." Her hand had moved to Brin's shoulder.

"Um," Brin had said. "Sure." She had looked into Pearl's big, bright eyes. "I understand. I do."

"Good. Good. I'm glad that you do," Pearl had said, smiling. The redness was fading from her cheeks. She fumbled for the remote control. There was an old movie on, their show long since concluded. "What do you think?"

Brin had shrugged. "I have homework."

The lines around Pearl's mouth had deepened as she laughed, softly. "You're a good girl."

On a bus out of town, hours later, and rain was drumming softly on the roof. It was crowded, hot despite being filled with bodies chilled by the rain. The bus smelt of wet hair, wet clothes and Brin's stomach twisted in protest at the crush of bodies around her. The man seated next to her was sucking on a breath mint. It clicked against his teeth and he sucked at it regularly, a constant, irritating noise. The mint melded unpleasantly with the scent of breath made sour by the day. He had a section of newspaper. It was folded to expose the wonder-word. Pencil scrapped across the paper as he picked e.n.g.i.n.e out from the mess of letters surrounding the word. Brin had solved the entire puzzle in a glance before turning towards the rain streaked window.

She held her hands clasped together before her belly. It took an effort not to unlock her fingers and drive her nails into the man's working throat. Brin rested her forehead against the window, welcoming its coolness against her heated skin. Though still raining, the sky was fading to a lighter shade of grey. The rain would slow to a drizzle and yellow light would spill through the cloud cover for a brief flicker of time before night fell. They would be driving for hours yet.

Brin stiffened as something struck the back of her seat. Her hands twisted against each other, nails dragging across the flesh at the back of her hands. "Molly," Brin heard, "stop that."

"'M booored, mommmmy," the little girl behind Brin whined.

"Shh," the woman said, sharp. "Not so loud. Close your eyes. Take a nap."

The suggestion hadn't worked the first three times the woman had made it. 'No,' Brin drew out in her mind even as Molly did aloud. "Not tired. Don't wanna!"

"Okay. Okay," the woman said, sighing.

Incredible, Brin thought. She had always gone to bed when she had been told to do so. They all had. She would close her eyes and lay on her back, arms loose at her sides. Brin would take long, deep breaths and stare at the darkness behind her eyelids.

"Be quiet and sit still. I'll tell you a story."

"Bored, mommy."

"Yeah. I know, Molly. I'll tell you a story, and you won't be bored. C'mere. Yes. Okay. Good. Once upon a time--"

Brin had thought she was going crazy.

Joey had been sprawled out on the bed on his back. His eyes had been round, surprised, as she had covered him with her own body. "Connie?" Joey had said--confused, excited, and his hands had been at her shoulders--pushing, pulling.

"God," Brin had said. "Joey. Joey," and his chest was thin and smooth beneath her palms. She had felt the wild beat of his heart. His breath had come out in short gasps--mint toothpaste, cola, peanuts--warm and fast against Brin's cheek. She kissed him then, hard and hungry and scared and she hated him when his mouth opened and he kissed her back.

"Connie," Joey said. He had figured things out, didn't have a clue, and his hands were moving. "Oh man. Oh man. Manohmanohman," Joey said, chanting and his hands had abandoned the heavy material of Brin's sweater in favour of the flesh at the small of her back. His eyes were wild, shocked. Hot, hot, beneath her, around her and heat had spiked when Brin rocked against him.

She hadn't ever imagined this--his body changing beneath hers, reacting, wanting. She had sat at his desk, felt that heated wrongness building inside of her. She had felt tight, loose, and her thighs had pressed and rubbed together beneath the desk. Boy-scent had filled her head, sparked along her nerves and her thoughts shattered.

Brin squeezed her eyes shut tightly against her faint reflection in the window. In those first days, she had thought of Ben and whispered stories in the darkness. She had been terrified at the loss of focus she was experiencing. Perfection. Perfection was a necessity. Those who lost control of themselves, their actions, their bodies were taken away. Ben had said. Ben knew. He'd told them.

It had been too close, too much. Joey had filled all of her senses and she had known him more than she wanted to, more than was right. She could have dealt. She could have set everything that happened into some sort of context--labelled it as immaterial, history. Joey had pushed and pushed and. She hadn't meant to. He was just a boy, a kid too dumb to realize he had wandered into dangerous territory. She'd told him--shut up, shut up--and he should have let it go.

". . .The end."

Yeah, Brin thought, almost. She rested her hand against her stomach. It didn't matter. She wouldn't let it.

She called Zack three days later. "Zack," Brin said, fingers tightening around the phone. She could hear the intake and release of his breath.

"You're late," Zack said, sharp--angry, worried.

"I know."

"I heard--"


"Brin," Zack exhaled. "You could have called," he said, softer.

"I. Yeah. I had some business I had to take care of," Brin said.

"Business?" Zack said.

"Nothing for you to worry about. It's over. It doesn't matter," Brin said.

There was silence at the other end of the line for a moment. "Brin," Zack said. "You okay?"

"Okay? Yeah. I am. I'm good, Zack," Brin said. "I want to go somewhere warm. Somewhere dry."

"We can do that," Zack said. "Stay there. I'll find you."

"Good. That's fine," Brin said. She hung up the phone and stepped back into the swell of people around her.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Northlight

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