TITLE: Taking the Easy Way
AUTHOR: Jos Mous
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own any characters and I’m not making a profit.
RATING: PG-13 to R
NOTE: There really was a kind of back-story to “The Easy Way”, but it was a very rough back-story that had hardly been developed. This is that back-story in a slightly more refined version. Although, I do wonder if this makes “The Easy Way” even more disturbing instead of less.
Brooke sat on the edge of her bed. At the other end of the room, Sam was leaning against the door, arms crossed in front of her chest. The only sound that could be heard were the muffled shouts coming from the floor below.
“Why?” said Sam, eventually.
“Was it the Prom? Graduation? College, perhaps?”
“No,” said Brooke.
“Ah, so you can talk,” said Sam. “So maybe you can tell me why then.”
Brooke shook her head.
“Brooke, we really do need to know,” said Sam, her voice softening only a little.
Brooke shrugged again. Then, “They’re fighting because of me, aren’t they?”
“Yeah, they are,” said Sam.
Brooke looked up.
“Oh what, you expected me to say it’s not your fault?” said Sam. “That this is just a symptom, not a cause? Sorry Brooke, I don’t work that way.”
Brooke nodded and looked down again.
Sam sighed. “Mike wants to send you back to the clinic, mom thinks it won’t do much good.”
“Going to the clinic does help,” said Brooke.
Sam didn’t say, “For a while. You’ll relapse again eventually.”
Brooke didn’t respond, “Yeah, I know.”
Sam did say, “But I don’t think the clinic thing is what they’re really fighting about.”
And then didn’t add, “They’re scared they’re going to lose you.”
And Brooke didn’t reply, “I think they might be right.”
Downstairs, doors were slammed. Not long after, the girls could hear Mac starting to cry.
“Damn,” Sam muttered and left the room.
When she got back, she had Mac in her arms, cooing comforting to the girl.
“You know, it should be mom or Mike doing this,” said Sam, managing to keep sounding gentle and soothing.
“So, how about it? Are you going to start eating again?” said Sam.
“Sam. . . I- I-,”
“Can’t,” Sam finished. “I know. But you see, right now I’m pretty much the only one here managing to keep it all together. And if you start looking like a skeleton even more I’m going to break down as well. And then we might as well order your headstone. Or maybe a very small urn since there won’t be much to burn anyway.”
Mac smiled. She liked the sound of Sam’s words.
“Of course, I have no intention of breaking down even more,” said Sam, still sounding chirpy. “So maybe I should just leave before that happens.”
“Leave?” said Brooke.
“Well sure,” said Sam. “A girl with my intellect could probably find a minimum wage job somewhere.”
“But. . . don’t you care what would happen if you left?” said Brooke, sounding nowhere near as happy as Sam.
“Should I?” said Sam. “Caring about you seems to drive everybody insane right now, so it’d be smarter if I didn’t, right?”
“You can’t just stop caring,” said Brooke.
Sam tickled Mac’s chin. “Watch me.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Fair?” said Sam. “We tried fair, remember? We tried lots of things, in fact and see where it brought us. So now I’m going to try threatening. First, you’re going to start eating again. Then, when Mike and mom are back to sanity, they’re going to put you in a whole lot of very long term therapy and I can go back to being a teenager again.”
“And if I don’t?” said Brooke, a hint of terrified defiance creeping into her voice.
“Then there’ll be nobody left in this house to take care of Mac.”
Mac laughed and clapped her hands.
It was three weeks later and the most recent two of them had been filled with a big absence of fighting in the Palace. Mike and Jane had been too astonished to see Brooke eating and then not throwing it up again to notice that Sam had been constantly looking over Brooke’s shoulder. Eventually, Brooke had started to see a very expensive therapist and Jane had started taking care of Mac again. Sam still helped out a lot with that, but only because she wanted to, not because there was nobody else to do it.
All in all, Sam was pretty happy with everything.
Apart, that is, from the fact that she’d been called in for a private chat with Brooke’s very expensive therapist.
“Sam, glad you could make it,” said Daphne the therapist.
“Well, college won’t be starting for a while longer, so I had the time,” said Sam.
Sam looked around the woman’s office for a bit and was pleasantly surprised. The building was pretty new and exuded a kind of cold sterility that was so fashionable nowadays. Apparently, Daphne had tried to make her office a bit more human without trying to go for “cosy”. Sam appreciated the effort.
“So, how are you?” asked Daphne.
“Fine, all things considered,” said Sam.
“Brooke’s doing pretty well too,” said Daphne.
“That’s nice to hear,” said Sam.
The therapist smiled. “So I understand you were pivotal in Brooke’s decision to stray from the path of self-destruction.”
“I guess,” said Sam, who couldn’t help but feel flattered.
“Mind telling me how you accomplished this?”
“Oh. . . err. . .” Sam quickly tried to come up with a good lie, but in the face of Daphne’s gentle smile couldn’t think of anything but the truth. “I threatened her, technically.”
Daphne kept smiling. “Threatened her how, exactly?”
“I said I would leave if she didn’t start eating again,” said Sam.
“Well it worked, didn’t it?” said Daphne. “It didn’t solve anything, naturally, but I suppose that’s where I come in, isn’t that right?”
“Basically,” said Sam, not sure where this was going and pretty sure she wasn’t going to like it anyway.
“You do realise, of course, that Brooke is a troubled young woman who has some very serious self-image problems.”
“Yes,” said Sam.
“And that these self-image problems lie at the very heart of her eating disorder.”
“Again, yes,” said Sam.
“And do you have any idea what your threats did to those problems?” Daphne asked with cheerful sarcasm.
“I screwed her up even more didn’t I?” said Sam evenly.
“Oh I wouldn’t say that,” said Daphne. “Not as such. I might even go so far as to say that it was completely justified, considering the circumstances.”
“Really?” said Sam.
“I said I might.”
“So I understand Brooke was captain of the cheerleading team,” said Daphne.
Sam blinked, trying to switch her mental gears in a hurry. “Err. . . yes.”
“Straight A student?”
“Yes,” said Sam.
“Born from rich parents?”
“Obviously since she’s visiting you twice weekly.”
Daphne ignored the implication and merrily continued. “Great big golden future ahead of her?”
“It seems that way,” said Sam.
“Quite a lot of expectations to live up to, in short?”
“Yes, but she can. . .” Sam paused. “She can’t handle all that is that what you’re saying?”
“Well it seems obvious to me,” said Daphne. “Did anyone ever ask her if she wanted all that?”
“Who wouldn’t that?” said Sam.
“Well, I’m sure she’s glad that she’s rich and I’m fairly confident she enjoys her intellect. But people are always telling her what a great future she’ll have, pressuring her onwards in her own life, never pausing to consider alternatives.”
“You’re saying she felt out of control?”
“Yes,” said Daphne. “So she tried to take control of her wonderfully golden future. She did her very best to be that straight A cheerleading captain homecoming queen school president future Ivy League student everybody expected her to be. Well, we both know where that led her, don’t we?”
“Several times, in fact,” said Sam.
“Hmm. Yes. And then with one simple threat you took that control away from Brooke again and told her that her future contained food and therapy.”
Sam looked confused. “So. . . are you saying that was a good thing or what?”
“For now, perhaps. But you must realise that once Brooke takes hold of her future again, she must be taking hold of her own future, not somebody else’s version of her future.”
“Sounds logical,” said Sam.
“Well I would hope so,” said Daphne. “Now then, the reason you’re here. I want you to go and ask Brooke what kind of future she wants.”
“Why?” said Sam. “Didn’t she tell you?”
“Oh yes, she did,” said Daphne. “Which is why I want you to ask her as well. And I’d appreciate it if you don’t freak out over it.”
Sam stepped into the Palace living room and noticed Brooke, who didn’t notice her. The blonde was catching up on some quality time with Mac. She was smiling, laughing even, and although her bones were still visible through her skin she didn’t look like a mild breeze would blow her away like a leaf.
“Hey Brooke,” said Sam.
Brooke looked up, smiling. “Hey Sam. How was your chat with Daphne?”
“Err. . . a bit weird,” said Sam.
“Yes, well, that’s her.”
Sam sat down on a couch opposite of Brooke. “And she wanted me to have a talk with you.”
“Oh?” said Brooke and Sam noticed the sudden tension in her voice.
“About the future,” said Sam.
Brooke very carefully put Mac back in her playpen.
“So, how do you see your future?” Sam asked.
“Oh, you know. College, career, husband, 2.5 children,” said Brooke airily.
“Right,” said Sam. “And how do you want to see your future?”
Brooke looked away. “A little differently.”
“Thought so,” said Sam gently. “Mind telling me what it looks like?”
“I do, actually,” said Brooke.
“OK,” said Sam. “I’ll venture a guess and say you don’t really want the big career, that the college doesn’t have to be Ivy League and that the husband doesn’t have to be a charming businessman. Am I getting close?”
“A little,” said Brooke.
“Alright then,” said Sam. “Now to figure out what you do want.”
“Do you know why I’m still eating?” said Brooke.
“Because I make sure you do.”
“That’s what you think. I mean, if I stopped eating again, what would you do then? I know that you’re not going to leave. Things are good again for now. So I really could fall back until everything goes to pieces again.”
Sam was quiet for a moment. “Are you actually warning me about an imminent relapse?”
“No!” Brooke yelled. “No, not at all. I’m just saying that I’m eating because I know you want me to. Not because I’ve seen sense, because I haven’t. Every time I look in the mirror I can see the pounds adding up and I have to remind myself that’s OK because that’s what you want.”
Brooke was silent and so was Sam. A suspicion had dawned on Sam’s mind and she wanted to work it out before saying anything again.
“So you stopped eating because you thought that was what I wanted.”
Brooke nodded. “I wanted to be thin and beautiful again.”
“Huh,” said Sam. “Definitely not the husband then.”
“Now do you want me to drop the bomb?”
“There’s an even bigger one?”
“Oh yes,” said Brooke. “Did you notice I’m a lot happier lately? Do you wonder how that came about?”
“Because the therapy’s working?” said Sam.
“In a sense,” said Brooke. “You see, right now, I know what tomorrow holds. And the day after that and the day after that. They’re predictable and pretty carefree and I’ll be doing what you want me to do like I’ve already been doing for the past few weeks.” Brooke looked down, a soft smile playing on her lips. “That’s what I want my future to look like. I want it to be safe and predictable. I want to know what you want me to do and then do it because that’s how I can tell you care about me and that’s how I can show I care about you. And right now there’s nothing more important to me than that.”
Sam sat in the quiet waiting room and reflected on the past few weeks. They had been pretty freaky, even after Sam had stopped being freaked out. There had been some more talking and, eventually, an Understanding. What Brooke wanted, really wanted, was that tomorrow should be pretty much like today and she wanted Sam to take care of that.
Sam had been reluctant, but Brooke’s last relapse was still fresh in her mind and she never wanted to go back there again. So Sam had drawn up a schedule pointing out what Brooke had to do and when she had to do it every hour of every day. Sam had intentionally made it entirely rigid, adding several completely ridiculous punishments should Brooke fail to follow the schedule.
She’d handed over the paper, telling the blonde that it was either this or nothing at all, fully expecting Brooke to come to her senses, or at least make some kind of comment. Instead Brooke had read it once and then hugged Sam tightly and whispered “thank you” into her ear.
So that was how it was now. Brooke followed the strict schedule and gladly accepted her punishments whenever she strayed from it even if it hadn’t been her fault.
Brooke still went to therapy, of course - once every two weeks, but she seemed so happy that Sam sincerely doubted Brooke would ever want to go back to not having a schedule.
As for Sam, she wasn’t quite sure if she actually loved Brooke.
Oh who was she kidding, she hadn’t been sure if she actually loved Brooke. But now her whole life revolved around organising Brooke’s and nothing gave her more joy than seeing Brooke be so content with doing whatever Sam wanted her to do. In fact, Sam had lately found herself contemplating some changes in Brooke’s rewards and punishments, wanting to include a lot more nudity in both.
Oh yes, it was a screwed-up relationship all right. But, then again, Sam had always felt that normality was overrated anyway.
The door to the waiting room opened and Brooke stepped inside, smiling. She’d pleaded for this, although Sam couldn’t see the attraction. But Brooke never pleaded for anything, so Sam had indulged Brooke.
Brooke stood in front of Sam and proudly raised her shirt. There was a lot of metal there, rings and chains, one of which going down towards a ring that would be even more inappropriate to reveal in public. But the latest addition, an addition Brooke repeatedly begged Sam to have, was a small chain connecting two rings at chest height.
And on the chain was a small plaque that said, in elegant lettering, “Samantha’s”.
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