Title: Becoming of Age
Summary: Two little girls meet in a sandbox.
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine. They belong to other people. The song "Sally's Pigeons" belongs to Cyndi Lauper.
Author's Notes: A four part story. Maybe five. Not sure yet. The whole concept is kinda stolen from the Cyndi Lauper song Sally's Pigeons. Or not the whole concept, parts of it. Big chunky parts. Anyways, love that song, and I'm sure you would too, so go buy the cd. The story assumes that Brooke and Sam met as little kids, and that Mike is a monster. And some other things too.
Warning: Implications of awful things going on in the McQueen house. Quite vague implications at this point, but don't read if you don't think you can handle it.
The day is cloudy. Rain comes and goes in small showers. Only two diehard playgrounders dare challenge the weather. And even the two only because their parents slash baby-sitters don't know what else to do with them. The five-year-old girls are both dressed up in raincoats and hats.
The girl coming from the right, walking past the swings towards the sandbox, has long blonde hair, and yellow clothes. She's carrying the same colored bucket and a small plastic shovel. Her caretaker, a teenage girl heads for the other direction, towards the roof covered tables.
The other girl comes from the opposite direction. She's holding her father's hand as they make their way from the parking lot, also heading for the sandbox. This girl has brown hair, almost to the shoulders. It bursts out from under her hat to every direction. It is not nearly as attended as her blonde counterpart's. The brunette is wearing a dark blue outfit, and on her other hand she has a mould for making sand flowers. Or mould flowers, like she usually does on the backyard. When mom is planting real flowers.
The yellow girl gets to the box first and starts looking around for the best spot. She has serious trouble deciding, but when she sees the other girl heading her way with the big man, she decides for the smack center of the square. Yellow drops her bucket and sits down. She turns to look how the darker girl climbs over the sandbox fence. The girl's father circles around it and starts walking towards the same tables as the teen.
"Have fun Sam", he says.
The blue girl doesn't answer. She takes an unsure step towards the yellow one and then sits down herself. Both girls eye each other warily for a few moments and then set to work. The blonde starts by carefully smoothing the area around her. She works systematically, doesn't hurry. Takes her time. The brunette isn't as patient. She starts filling the box with little sand flowers immediately, soon running out of space. Some of the flowers are pretty and hold their form, but others don't. They crumble down. She isn't too upset and pretty soon starts destroying the defected ones and replacing them with new.
As interesting as making flowers is to the girl, she can't help being fascinated by the other girl's patience. Or her strive to make everything perfect.
After almost half an hour, the yellow girl has finally finished her groundwork and starts shovelling sand into the bucket. Out of the corner of her eye she sees that blue is watching her. She isn't too bothered, she likes being in the spotlight.
"Ssam is a boy'ss name", she says hissing her s's a little. She has just lost her first teeth and it makes talking a little harder.
The brunette is shocked at the broken silence. She gawks at the other girl with her mouth open, "Is not", she finally mumbles out. How dare the girl say something like that?!
"Ahhaa", yellow replies nodding, "I have a cousin-Ssam", she says still hissing, "And he's a boy", she never once even glances at the other girl so as to appear superior to her.
But the brunette has met her type before. Little white princesses who think they own the world, "Sssssssso what?", she says hissing so hard she's spitting out saliva at the same time.
The blonde's head swings around faster than seems humanly possible, and her expression is shear poison. Pointing out flaws in her is the worst thing anyone could do to her. No, making fun of them is even worse. Her blue eyes squint into tiny slits, "You're a boy", she states as a proven fact, and then flings her bucket around making her first sand cake. It is perfect, like always.
"Am not!", blue screams back. But she can't get the princess's attention anymore. The girl ignores her totally, "I'm telling my dad!", she jumps up. But in her agitated state, she loses her balance and falls back down on her side. Her right hand swings far ahead and knocks down the fresh made sand cake.
Yellow's mouth flies open and her eyes open up bigger and bigger. She turns to look at the brunette, who's still lying on the ground, "You broke it!", she yells when the other girl sits up, "You broke my cake!", she yells again and hits her in the head with the toy shovel.
"Ouch!", blue yelps and starts rubbing her head, "I fell! I didn't mean to", she says glowering evilly at the princess, "It was gonna crumble anyway", she lowers her hand back down. Of course she's sorry for breaking the girl's cake, but that's no reason to start beating her!
"Was not!", the blonde screams and hits her with the shovel again, "My cakes never crumble!"
"Stop hitting me!"
The brunette springs into action. She pushes the other girl hard, making her fall on her back. Then she jumps on top of her so she can't get up. The blonde starts furiously swinging her hands trying to hit anything and everything. A patch of blue's hair happens to fall into her fist and she starts pulling as hard as she can. The brunette is screaming from the top of her lungs and starts throwing sand on the blonde's face.
"Sam stop it!", shouts a male voice.
"Brooke!", comes a female voice right after it.
Strong hands grab the brunette from behind and pull her away. The blonde luckily releases her hold on the hair before this happens, thus preventing an incredibly painful haircut. She sits up once the weight has been lifted
Both girls get scolded with words they've heard hundreds of times before. They have little effect. When the sermon is over the blonde has had enough of sandboxes for a lifetime, "I wanna go home Emily", she says looking up at the teen with pleading eyes.
"Not yet, Brookie", the girl replies, "Why don't you go swing for a little while longer?"
The caretakers leave again, leaving the two girls alone. Once out of hearing distance the man talks, "I'm sorry. I don't know what got into Sam, she usually gets along so well with other kids."
"It's okay", the teenager answers, "Brooke is just adorable in ways, but she does have this nasty streak. Things...", she looks at the man and decides to finish the sentence, "Things are not easy for her at home."
And behind them the yellow girl is walking away from the sandbox. She's heading for the swings. And blue is still observing her with great interest.
Life consists of long periods of boredom and a few crucial moments, that define the direction for the next period. The day she met Sam was such a defining moment. It was written in the stars. If it hadn't rained she wouldn't have been there alone with the girl, if Emily hadn't insisted on taking a long walk to the faraway playground, she wouldn't have even been there. She would've been at her usual playground with her usual friends, who are her friends only because they're afraid of her. Afraid of her evil comments and eager shovel hand.
She doesn't go there anymore. She goes to the new playground, she insists on it every time she goes out with her mother or with Emily. Neither of them really care one way or the other.
For two weeks she's been coming to the new playground. She sees Sam sometimes but doesn't dare to approach her. The girl is always surrounded by lots of friends. They have fun, laugh and play together. She stays away, usually sits in the swings or in the sandbox. But she always keeps an eye on the brunette girl. And she knows the girl also keeps an eye on her. Sometimes their gazes meet. But the brunette never comes to talk to her either. And that makes her mad! She is the most perfect thing on this gosh darned playground and Sam doesn't even come talk to her!
Then one day she's had enough. Sam has had a haircut, her hair is short. Shorter than the ones the two boys she's playing with have. They are standing in a triangle kicking around a ball. She walks up from behind Sam and lets her look circle around everyone of them.
When it stops at Sam, she smirks, "Hello boyS", she stresses the s. It's not perfect yet, but it has gotten better. She's been practicing it endlessly for the past weeks. The two boys snicker a little and Sam glares at her, "Can I play?"
"Sam's not a boy", one of the goofy looking kids says, "Sam is a girl."
"Are you sure?", she says not moving her eyes from the girl in question for a second, "I think she looks like a boy."
"You do look like a boy Sam!", the other kid yells and starts laughing. Like it was the most hilarious thing in the world.
She sees the hurt in the brunette's eyes and for a second regrets her words. Then the second is gone and Sam takes a step closer to her, "I hate you", the girl says and scares her a little, "Go away."
"Or what?", she asks trying to sound cocky.
Sam looks at her up and down, then turns and leaves. The two boys get confused. They hesitate a second and then follow their leader away. Leaving her alone. She doesn't mind. She'll head for the swings again.
A few days later Sam returns to the playground. This time accompanied by her mother. She has done nothing but think of ways to hurt the blonde girl.
She wants to make her pay. It's not her fault her mother insisted on the short haircut! Okay, it was a little her fault to try to alter her style in the first place, but how was she to know hair wouldn't grow back in a day or two? Nobody told her! She had cut off a big chunk from the left side, trying to make her hairdo more like the blonde's, but it wasn't as easy as she had thought. First she took a little, and then a little more, and then pretty soon it was all gone. And mom said there was nothing else to do, but cut it short from all over.
So Sam has all these insults lined up when she walks to the ground with her mother. But they walk straight in the middle of a big screaming match. There's the blonde woman she has seen with Brooke a few times, and she's fighting with a big man.
"You stupid bitch! I told you we would be there at four! You made me look like a goddamn idiot!", the man bellows and raises his hand.
The two are standing some ten yards from the swings where Sam spots the blonde girl quietly sitting. Brooke has covered her ears with her hands and her eyes are tightly shut. The rest of the occupants of the park have already started to clear out. All the grownups are giving despising looks to the couple, and the kids are watching the fight with big eyes and open mouths.
"Go ahead!", the woman shouts back, "Hit me in front of your own daughter!"
And for a moment Sam think that's exactly what the man is going to do. But then he slowly lowers his fist, "You're not worth it", he says and walks away.
Sam is standing a distance away from the blonde. Her mother isn't letting go of her hand. But she can see the tears on the girl's cheeks and all her previous hatred has dissolved. Even the yellow princess doesn't deserve such pain.
Brooke opens her eyes again when the woman-fighter walks up to her. She kneels down and starts caressing the girl's blonde locks, trying to sooth her. But Sam sees she isn't doing much good. The princess only seems to get more agitated. The woman says something more to the girl and then leaves, she goes to sit down on a bench and proceeds to stare at the ground. Very much like Brooke on the swing, Sam realizes.
Her mother finally lets go of her hand with instructions to not to bother anyone. She stands there a while longer and ponders on what to do. The two mother daughter pairs are the only ones on the playground now. There's not much to do. So she heads for the swings.
She sits down on the one next to the princess. Brooke gives her a quick glance and nothing more. She is furiously thinking of ways to make the girl feel better. Happier.
Finally she leans real far ahead and tries to see the blonde's face, "You want me to push you?", she asks smiling. The girl shakes her head and refuses to look at her. Her gaze is pressed real low, and her hair is hanging on her face, "You have pretty hair", she says still smiling.
"I know", the girl answers and a tear escapes her eye, "It's perfect. Just like mommy and daddy want it."
Sam doesn't know what to make of it. The girl doesn't sound too happy about having perfect hair, "My mom was mad when I cut my own hair. That's why it's so short now."
This time the girl looks up. And there's that glimmer in the eyes again, the one that Sam finds so fascinating, "Why did you cut your own hair?"
She shrugs and smiles even more, "Don't know. I was bored. I wanted it to look more like yours."
The princess smiles back, "But it doesn't look ANYTHING like mine!", she says and starts to giggle. And attracts the blonde woman's attention.
"Brooke!", the woman shouts from the distance, "We gotta go."
"But m...", the girl starts to protest but stops quickly. Instead she stands up and smiles to Sam for goodbyes.
Sam looks as the girl walks away. She hopes the next time they meet will be better. She'd even settle for the fighting. Anything, just as long as the blonde doesn't hurt so much. Slowly she scans the rest of the playground. It is now totally deserted, only her mother is sitting at a table, reading a book. Sam decides to go bother her. Even the playground can be pretty boring place sometimes.
The next day, Thursday, Brooke comes back to the playground with Emily. She likes Emily the best, way better than her mother. Her mother is always too busy and too confused to do anything with her. But this trip is useless. Sam isn't here. And she wanted see Sam. Wanted to see how the girl would react to her now. Would it be as bad as before, or did yesterday change things?
She walks to the sandbox and tries to get in the mix of children. Tries to have fun. But some of the others remember her from yesterday, they remember how she was the reason for all the commotion, the reason they had to leave. And pretty soon the whole box is filled with whispers and pointing fingers. She is left alone in one corner while the others either go do something else, or move as far away from her as possible.
She can't take it for long and leaves. She goes up to Emily and says she wants to leave. The teenager smiles at her and says sure, they'll come back tomorrow, see if her friend is here then, okay? Emily is the only one who knows about Sam. Brooke told Emily how she met this girl who is her best friend now. Even if the girl doesn't know it herself yet.
They come back on Friday, and sure enough she finds Sam there. Chasing after some of the other kids. They're playing tag, Brooke can tell. She's played it herself a few times. Back in the old playground.
She wants to walk up to the kids and join the game. Actually she wants to walk up to Sam and smile at her. Sam is the nicest person she's ever met. But she's too shy, too scared to do it. She's afraid Sam might say something evil, and then she would something evil and they would probably end up fighting again.
So instead she walks to the swings again and sits down. The swings are always free and for the life of hers Brooke can't understand it. She thinks the swings are the greatest thing after... after ice-cream.
Slowly but surely her eyes seek out Sam again. It hasn't taken long for the brunette to catch someone. And she's now running away again. With the others, while a skimpy boy is trying to catch them.
It takes a while but soon Sam sees her too. The girl stops running and turns to shout at her, "Hey Brooke! You wanna come play?"
Brooke smiles while getting up and starts to walk closer. She's about to answer yes, when all the rest of the children stop too. They also turn to look at her. One of the girls opens her mouth, "I don't wanna play with her."
"Yeah she's weird!", someone shouts and Brooke's smile disappears.
"I could be `it'", she offers weakly.
The kids fall silent for a while and then one of the braver boys talks again, "You mean all the time?"
The others start to nod their heads and mumble in agreement. It's not what she meant, but hey, it's all the same. Running after them, running away from them, what's the difference? So she opens her mouth again to say yes, but again she's interrupted.
Sam jumps between Brooke and the other children, "That's not fair!", she shouts. Sam has a lot of authority among this group, but not enough. They start to grumble and turn away, "Come on Brooke", she goes on when she sees what's happening, "You don't wanna play this stupid game. It's just lots of running around, and never getting anywhere. What's the point in that?"
She smiles sadly when Sam offers a hand to her. She takes a hold of it and the two girls walk to the sandbox. It's empty now, when all the others resume with the tag game.
"You can go play if you want to Sam", Brooke says when they sit down on the edge of the sandbox, "I know you like it even though you said you don't."
Sam looks away, "It's a stupid game. They always make Robby `it' and he can't catch ANYONE."
"Oh", she answers and bows her head. She thought Sam liked the game.
"They are idiots Brooke", Sam says, "You are not weird."
She doesn't answer. She knows Sam means well. But the girl is only making her feel worse. Of course she's weird. She's the one with the parents who come and ruin everyone else's fun with the fighting. That's all it takes, when they know nothing else about her.
"Is your mother here", the brunette asks after a short silence.
"You wanna see something pretty?", Brooke turns to look at Sam and finds the brunette smiling at her again. She nods and smiles back, "Can you come to my home?"
"I don't know", she can barely contain her curiosity, "I have to ask Emily."
"Emily is my baby-sitter."
"I don't know Brooke...", the teenager puts up a fight. Sam isn't happy, she wants Brooke to come with, "How far is it?", ordinarily the girl wouldn't even consider about it, but she wants Brooke to have a nice time. She knows just how hard it sometimes gets for the girl.
Luckily Sam's mother is all for it, "It's not that far. Only ten minutes on foot."
The girl sighs, "And you wanna go see what? Birds?", Emily shakes her head and frowns at the blonde.
"They are pigeons!", Sam shouts. She told the girl twice already!, "And Sally lets them out only once a day! And they all spring into the air, and it's pretty."
Emily looks at her for a long time, "Okay", she finally agrees.
"Thanks Emily!", Brooke chirps and smiles.
The two girls start running leaving the caretakers behind, "Don't go too far Sam!", her mother calls after them. But she doesn't care. The sun is shining, she has a new friend, and they're going to go watch Sally's pigeons fly!
From the diary of Brooke McQueen:
Lately I've been thinking a lot about that first time. It's funny how well I remember it still. I remember every feeling, every emotion. Every smile on Sam's face. Some of the words I've lost, but that's nothing. Words mean so little at that age.
I can even remember Emily, that is the only thing I can remember about her anymore. So unfair. I cried endlessly when she left for the last time. In those few months she gave me more than my parents did in ten years, fifteen. Hell, we could live an eternity, and they still wouldn't ever be able to do as much for me. Some day, soon, I'm gona dig up her address and I'm gona go thank her.
But back to the pigeons... I don't know what it is about them. They are just the saddest thing I know. Beautiful thing for sure, but still so sad. They live their life in captivity, and get to be free for only a few hours a day. And I can remember thinking the very first time I saw them, that why on earth did they come back? Why didn't they just keep flying? That's what I thought they'd do. I thought that Sally sort of rescued them from somewhere, and then set them free when they were ready.
I'm gona write this down exactly the way I remember it happening, in case I someday forget. I don't think I ever will, but I gotta make sure. After I leave, who knows what'll happen.
We stood in Sam's balcony, in the old house. The one where they lived before Joe died. Me and Sam and Emily. She came to watch too cause Sam made such a fuss about it. The nests were still on the roof of Sally's garage back then. When she got ready to release them Sam whispered to me. I think her exact words were, "Just watch them for a few seconds, and then close your eyes and picture them. They'll fly much farther that way."
The words sound so mature now. Maybe she said them years later on another occasion, and I've just misplaced them in my memory. Doesn't matter. I do remember climbing on the railing and leaning as far out as I could when the birds flew. They just exploded into action in one big sweep when the gates were opened. Like they had been waiting for it their whole lives. To be free.
I remember closing my eyes when they got too far, and I couldn't see them anymore. Whether Sam told me to do it or not doesn't matter, I did do it. I imagined them flying far above, and me flying with them.
Sam told me some years ago, that for a brief moment she had thought I'd jump into the air and either fly away, or fall down. When she told me, I smiled at her. But I didn't tell her, that for a brief moment I was about to do just that. But then she placed her hand into mine, and I knew I didn't have to escape. Not then, not ever, not as long as I had her.
Of Girls and Friendships
"God, I wish someone would just shoot her!", I exclaim loudly when we step into Sam's house.
She's walking ahead of me and throws her hands in the air, "I know! She's such a mega bitch!", Sam almost screams out the words. And she shouldn't have, Jane is walking into the hallway right that moment.
The expression on her face is something else, "Sam!", she uses that weird tone only adults know how to use. Actually, only parents. And not even all parents. Mine don't. But it's the one that at the same time scolds you and guilt trips you. `How can you place such shame on your own mother?' I hate that voice, luckily I never have to hear it. Almost never. Jane does use it on me too on a rare occasion, "Since when do you use such words?"
"Eh... mom?", Sam frowns and glances at me. She has this embarrassed look about her, "Hello? Almost a woman here."
And just when I thought Jane couldn't look any funnier she does! Her eyebrows start to twitch and she has some real comprehension problems, "What?"
"Yeah. I'm a teenager, that's almost a woman."
"You're TEN!", Jane doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. And neither do I. Sam's reasoning is a bit off the mark.
But she just keeps on going, digging the hole even deeper, "I'm almost eleven!"
"Eleven is not included in teenage. Try thirteen."
"Mooom", Sam is getting frustrated at her mother's ignorance. And I start to giggle, she's so funny sometimes. Sam doesn't even notice me laughing, she just goes on, "Those scales are all done for boys! Eveyone knows girls mature faster than boys", the brunette starts shaking her head, "It's common knowledge."
"Yeah that's kinda what `everyone knows' means Sam", I cut in before she manages to get herself grounded.
"What?", Sam asks. Both McPhersons turn to look at me. Jane is even more confused now.
"You used `everyone knows', and `it's common knowledge' to indicate the same thing. That's double jeopardy. A big no no."
Sam is just about to bite my head off when Jane has finally had enough, "Okay. Stop it. Both of you, stop talking", she says and takes a deep breath, "Sam... you're not a teenager, and you are not to use words like... that anymore, okay?"
She nods at her mother and then glances at me with this huge grin on her face, "Okay mom. I won't use words like `that' anymore", and I try to contain the laughter building inside me again.
Sam is cute when she's being devious. Sam is cute doing quite the many things, I've noticed. And lately she's been even cuter. And Jane is so out of line anyways. I mean Nicole Julian is SUCH a bitch, you cannot not call her that!
"Can you be-lieve my mother?", Sam groans the second we are safely in her room, with the door closed, "We are SO teenagers already."
I sit down on her bed, "Totally", I agree out loud. Though in my mind, I don't. And I know Sam doesn't really mean it either. It's just the rebellious girl in her trying to gain some ground, "What am I gonna do with this Sammy?", I ask pulling out an exam paper from my bag.
She comes and sits next to me, "It's just one C Brooke", Sam says and puts her hand on my shoulder.
"Nothing's just a C to him", I say sighing deep, "You know that."
Sam doesn't answer. She knows a lot about my father, and my mother. She's the one I use as a venting system. She and her mother. It's weird. I can talk about serious stuff with Sam, and I can talk about it with Jane. But I can't talk about it with Sam AND Jane, when it's the three of us. Cause then it starts to feel like we're ganging up on my parents. And I don't want that. I want to be fair to them, I want to be able to love them.
Sam grabs the exam and groans, "I can't believe miss Greene let Nicole see your grade! That's like SO irresponsible of her", she says and tilts her head to one side, "Maybe we could change the C to B with a red marker...", Sam says starting to scheme again, "And then back once your father has signed it."
"It's gona be one funny looking B. Besides, how are you gona erase it?", I say shaking my head. It's never going to work.
"Well, let's just forge his signature then", she says and walks to her table, "I'll do it."
"No Sam", I say and get up, "He knows we had a test, and he's gona want to know how I did."
"So what? You just tell him you did well and that you left the paper at school", she goes on and picks up a pen.
I rush quickly to her and grab the paper, "Stop it already. I screwed up and now I gotta face the consequences", it's no big deal. Nothing I haven't gone through before. I see Sam preparing for an argument, so I continue, "Your evil mind powers would be much better spent on plotting against Nicole."
Her face twists into mock hurt, "Hey! They are not evil powers. I only use them for good. Nicole is like this... this devil's high priestess or something. And your father...", she stops quickly before going too far.
Yes, my father is unfair, strict and at times I think he doesn't even love me. But he's still my father. And at other times I think he's that way because he loves me too much. And Sam knows this all. She knows how touchy my relationship with my father is. She knows it's off limits unless I bring it up.
"When you going home?", she asks instead. I shrug. Never, if it were up to me. I love Sam's house so much more. I love her room, it's the place where I feel the safest. I even sleep better here. No nightmares, just peaceful rest, "Can you stay till Buffy?"
"No", I shake my head and sit back down on the bed, "And your mother never let's us watch it anyway."
"Yeah, but mom isn't going to be home tonight. Dad is", she says and there's that evil grin again. I was starting to miss it, "And dad thinks it's just a show about a regular girl going to college."
I look at her frowning, "Your dad thinks that a show called `Buffy the vampire slayer' tells about a regular girl going to college?", I mean how stupid is he?
"Dad doesn't know it's called that. Dad thinks it's called just Buffy."
Oh, right. I start to laugh. But I also get nervous. Cause there's this question about Buffy I've been meaning to ask Sam, "By the way", I say trying to sound as casual as ever, "What do you think about that whole Willow Tara thing?", I swallow real hard.
She gets confused at first and then seems to have a revelation, "Oh, you mean that witch thing?", she says and smiles, "It's way cool! I mean, I wish I could do something like that."
"No, not the witch thing!", duh! You idiot! Of course you think THAT'S cool, everyone likes the witch thing!
Sam gets confused again. She shakes her head, "What then?"
Oh, come on!, "Didn't you see last week's episode?"
"Eh.. no? That's why I asked if you taped it, you dope! Remember?"
"Oh yeah... sorry", I say and smile apologetically.
"What happened in it then?", she starts bugging me.
Damn, why didn't I just keep my mouth shut? There's no way I'm gona start explaining the gay thing to her! She'll see right through me. I don't want her to know yet. She'd freak out. We're ten for crying out loud! What the hell is wrong with me anyway?
"Nothing much", I say and grab the book lying on the floor next to her bed, hoping she'll let it go.
But not my Sam. She doesn't let anything go and that's what is so special about her, "Well, what did you mean with the Willow Tara thing?"
"It's just... you know...", I start to mumble and flip through the pages of the biology book.
"No I don't. Tell me!"
I glance at her and she's sitting on the edge of her seat, ready to pounce up, "You'll see for yourself tonight", I answer when I turn back to the book.
"Brooke...", Sam says my name menacingly and stands up, "If you don't tell me right this second, I'm gona tickle you until you do! And then I'm gona tickle you even more for punishment."
Two quick knocks save me from the torture. Jane opens the door and steps in, "Brooke, your dad called. You have to go home", she says and smiles.
"What? Already?", Sam turns and starts to whine, "We just got here! She can't go home now!"
"Oh, yes she can", Jane looks real long at her daughter and grins, "It's real easy, she just takes her stuff, leaves the house and walks home."
"Oh, real nice mom!", Sam shouts. She throws her hands in the air and let's them fall down again, "You know what you are?", no! Don't say it Sam!, "You're that thing I'm not allowed..."
"I'll go!", I scream before she can finish. Sam turns to look at me and I glare at her. Why does she insist on getting into more trouble than is necessary? It's annoying, "Call you later."
I quickly escape the room, grabbing my bag on the way out. Hopefully Jane will let Sam's words pass. It would be my fault if she got punished for them. She would be punished because of me again. She so often takes the fall for me. She says she does it because she's stronger, and can take it better. But in my twisted little head, she does it because she loves me. And I love her. Even more because she does it.
The house is dark. There are no lights on. Usually there are lights on. Even when you don't need them. The house also has this weird feeling, like it's empty or something. But the door is open when I try it.
"Dad?", I shout from the front door, and close it behind me. No one answers, "Mom?", I try again. And nothing. It doesn't bother me too much. Often times they are too involved in their own things to respond me. But dad calling me home, that's weird. It happens so rarely, I thought he might have something important. Guess not.
I head for the kitchen to make myself something to eat. Once inside I flip on the lights and then startle when I see dad sitting at the table, "Whoa. Scared me dad", I say and smile a little, "Why didn't you answer me?", I go on. He slowly lifts his head from the paper he's been reading, "Dad?", I ask when he still doesn't answer.
Then when his eyes finally reach me, he seems to burst into life again. Anger flickers in those eyes, "Where the hell have you been Brooke?!", he shouts scaring me.
I take a step back, "At Sam's... you know that."
"Who gave you the permission?", what is he talking about? I always go to Sam's from school. Or she comes here. Always, "You should've been here!"
"Dad?", I ask with a scared voice. He's even more weird than usual, "What's the matter?"
"I tell you what's the matter!", he shouts and stands up, "Your mother is gone! And you should've been here to stop her from going!"
"Gone?", I whimper and take another step back, "Gone where?", to the shop maybe? That's not so bad, she goes to the shop sometimes. Only it's not the shop.
"Gone gone", he spits out the word twice and rounds the table onto my side, "And she ain't coming back", he growls the last words and throws the paper at me. It falls short and slowly glides to the floor. He looks at me for a while longer and then leaves the room.
I stand there silently for a minute. Two. I lose track of time. I just stand. Gone? How could she be gone? She was here just this morning. To see me off to school. She woke me up. Made me breakfast. Even smiled at me when I told her how good it was. How could she just leave like that? No way! She has to be here! I open my mouth to shout and then I remember my dad. And how scary he was. How mad he was. I can't shout, I can't even look for her, cause dad would get angrier.
So I reach down and pick up the note. And I walk the few steps and sit down on a chair, "I'm a coward", it reads in her perfect longhand. I have spent an eternity trying to copy that style, never quite mastering it, "This is the only way I can leave. I'm sorry Brooke."
And that's it. I don't have a mother anymore.
From the diary of Brooke McQueen:
I didn't cry the night she left. I only felt this overwhelming confusion. She hadn't been a very good mother. She had provided me for the basic needs, fed me, clothed me. Kept me safe. She did actually guard me from harm. Even though I never saw it when she was around. Some things you only notice when they're gone. But she was never emotionally there. I never felt her love.
And yet she had filled the emptiness in our home. That night, I saw into my future, what it would be without her. I saw what it would be to live alone in this house. Alone with my father. And it scared me to death. I guess I knew even then what he was.
That night was the end of my childhood. Despite all it's flaws, it had been a happy one. I had had Sam. Strange how a single person, a single friend, can make up for all the other bullshit. How one girl can be so right for you. I think I was eight or nine when I realized I loved her. With all my heart. It felt a bit wrong, like I shouldn't feel so strongly about her, but at that age love is mostly just love. It doesn't matter what it's object is. It didn't freak me out then. And later when I fully understood the consequences, it didn't matter anymore. I had grown up with that love, so it was an integral part of me. And the short moments of disgust, and self loathing I experienced where always gone in a matter of minutes. The love hadn't become twisted, it was as pure as the day it was born. Pure love, in it's simplest of forms.
But Sam wasn't there that night. I guess looking back, I should've gone to her. Or at least called her. But I didn't. I tried to deal alone, and I wasn't nearly strong enough.
That was the first time after I'd met Sam, that I felt the need to escape. It was a feeling I recognized from my early years, from a time before Sam. She had taken it away for a while, but it never left for good. She has taken it away many times since, but it always returns. Stronger every time.
And if I had had the means that night, I would've left. But I didn't. In stead I watched Buffy, I ate, I took a shower and I went to sleep. Like it was any other night. I didn't know what else to do, so I stuck with the routine. Drawing strength from it. After all, it was quite common that I didn't see mom during an entire evening. I thought maybe this was one of those evenings, and in the morning she'd be there. She'd wake me up, and everything would be like before.
But she wasn't there to wake me. And for some reason dad didn't think it necessary to wake me up either. I slept till ten. I didn't have an alarm clock back then. Mom always woke me. It was her thing. That morning was the weirdest, all alone in the house. It felt like I was the only person in the whole world. It felt like I had been asleep my entire life, and had just woken up to find the world completely empty.
I fixed myself breakfast and went to school. And later that day, when I sat down at my table to do my homework, I found mom's alarm clock lying next to my books. On it, was a small sticker that read, "Use this", in perfect longhand.
And then I cried.
Brooke doesn't come to school this morning. She must be real sick. Brooke is always in school, "Beats staying home", she always says. I wouldn't mind too much, but she didn't even call last night like she promised. That worries me.
And I have so much to tell her! Like Buffy last night! Hello! I so get what she meant yesterday!
"Hello Spam", Nicole walks up to me when the first class is about to begin, "Where's your mathematically challenged friend?"
God I hate her! Who let's their daughter dye her hair so young anyway?! That's so wrong! I can't even use makeup. Or the word `bitch' for that matter. Despite how well it describes certain people.
Slowly I turn my head and smirk at the fake-blonde. I don't merit her remark with a response though. So Brooke got one C from math. That's like the first one... ever.
Nicole smiles and walks up to the next desk, where Josh is sitting. And I know exactly what she's gona do. Josh is only like the coolest guy in the whole school, and Nicole knows Brooke has the hugest crush on him. She doesn't admit it, but I can tell. So the MEGA BITCH is of course going to blabber Brooke's first and last lapse to him. I so wish my glare could kill her on the spot.
Nicole notices my glare and grins again, "Hey Josh", she says with the ickyest, most yuckiest voice I've ever heard!, "Did you hear that Brooke got a C from the math test?", the bitch glances at me again.
I turn my head trying to appear like I'm not even listening. But of course I am, "She did?", Josh sounds surprised, "Man, she's quite smart, isn't she? I only got a D", my head flings back and I'm grinning from ear to ear. Nicole doesn't look too happy though, "It was like the hardest exam ever!"
"God, how stupid are you?!", Nicole yells to him frowning and shaking her head. Her whole day is ruined, I can tell. And mine is saved! What a story to tell Brooke when I see her!
The entire morning drags on forever. Life is so boring without Brooke. I count first the hours, then the minutes, and then even the seconds. How I wish the day was over, and I could go see her!
Third period is math, and I've already glanced at the clock ten times. It's still not even eleven thirty! I'm so close to giving up all hope and resigning to live the entire rest of my life without her. And then just when I think I'm never gona see her again, she walks in through the open door.
I stare with my mouth open as she walks up to miss Greene. They exchange a few words and then the woman motions her to take her seat. Thank God she sits next to me!
When she turns and sees me, I smile. As happy a smile as I've ever smiled. She smiles back, but only weakly. It worries me some more. And so does the messy hair she has, it's like she hasn't even touched it. And she always brushes her hair! She's obsessed with the way she looks, everything has to be perfect.
"Hey...", I lean closer and whisper when she sits down.
"Sam", miss Greene notices it immediately, "Save it for the lunch break."
I smile and lean back to my own seat. Two seats in front of me and one to my left, the mega bitch has turned around and is grinning again. I hate her so much!
The class goes by much faster now that Brooke is here. Even when we can't talk. When the bell rings I'm standing next to her desk in a second. She looks at me with this empty stare that scares me.
"Where were you?", I ask quickly. And smile.
She leans down and puts away her book. When she leans back, the eyes are a little less empty, "I overslept", she answers shrugging slightly.
"Overslept?", I ask incredulously, "But your mother always wakes you up."
Brooke doesn't answer immediately. She waits until the classroom is empty, "Sam", she says then, sounding tired. And something else, I can't place it, "I don't wanna talk about it."
Oh yeah, distant. Didn't recognize it at first, cause she never sounds distant, "Excuse me?"
"Don't. Want. To", she says with a glare, "Talk about it."
"Fine", I throw back, "So what's up with your hair then? Did `it' oversleep too?"
She opens her mouth for a moment and then closes it. Instead of talking, she grabs her bag and leaves. And I let her. It takes a total of five seconds for me to turn around and stop her, "Brooke wait!", I shout and she stops. But she's still standing her back to me, "What is wrong?", I ask and take the few steps necessary to stand next to her.
She shakes her head but doesn't look at me, "Nothing Sam. Everything is fine."
"No it's not!", I say loud, "Tell me, so I can help!"
"Please don't Sam. Not today", she whines quietly, "I'll tell you another time. Just pretend everything's fine for now. That everything's like before."
"But wh...", I start to ask and then stop. No questions. If she wants it that way, she has a reason for it. And she'll tell me later. She always tells me, "Okay", I finally agree and take her hand into mine.
She looks up and smiles happily this time.
We don't talk much that day. I fail her, everything is not like before. So not like before, you can't fake something like that. But she doesn't seem to mind too much. She's happy just walking around, or sitting. Holding hands.
"I saw Buffy by the way", I talk when the day is over. And we are walking home.
"You did?", Brooke turns to look at me, "So you saw... it too?"
"Uhhum", I nod and smile, "I think it's really cool. The gay thing."
"Yeah?", she sounds exited. More exited than during the whole day so far, "You didn't think it was... weird or... or wrong?"
"No", I answer right away, "Did you?"
"No!", she yells, scaring me a bit. I turn to look at her and she seems embarrassed, "I... I mean no. It's kinda cool...and... and...", she starts to stutter, "Interesting to see what happens and... you know?"
"Yeah", I agree nodding my head, "Maybe they could've done it with Faith and Buffy though", I throw in more as a way to continue the conversation than anything else, "Do you remember how they were, dancing and kissing?", I don't want her to stop talking now, when she seems so... normal. If a little jumpy.
"What?", Brooke asks frowning, "No! Buffy and Willow maybe..."
Buffy and Willow?!, "Huh?!", I utter in outrage, "They are best friends! That's like you and me!"
Brooke's expression changes into shear horror. Her mouth is gaping and her eyes are open wider than ever. She's as aghast by the idea as I am, "Oh... yeah...", she stumbles out finally, "And that's like... what...", Brooke is having trouble finishing her sentences again.
"Wrong?", I offer shaking my head a little.
She looks away and I don't see her eyes anymore, "So wrong", she whispers quietly.
I wait in silence for her to get over it. We've stopped in the intersection where we part ways when we're both going home, "Are you coming to my house?", I ask. It sounds almost like I'm begging.
Brooke shakes her head still not looking at me. I didn't expect her to freak THAT much, "No. I didn't ask my mother...", her voice trails off into nothingness.
"You can call her?", I offer hoping for the best.
She only gives me a quick smile, "No, I gotta go home. See you tomorrow?"
"Sure...", I answer surprised. Of course we'll see tomorrow. Like she needs to ask that.
I watch as she starts to walk away. She's walking real fast, and I'm wondering what the hell is going on with her. It has been the weirdest day ever.
When Brooke doesn't come to school the next morning either, I know something is so terribly wrong. I wanna leave the school immediately and go see her, but that's not an option. And maybe she'll turn up at some point, like yesterday. Only, I don't think she will. I know she won't.
"Hey Sam", Josh surprises me on lunch break. I'm sitting outside on a bench alone. I'm too gloomy to hang out with my other friends when Brooke isn't there, "So is Brooke like sick or something?", he asks and sits down next to me.
We talk sometimes, Josh and me. But only because of Brooke. Sometimes I'd want him to be interested in me because of me. Not because of Brooke. Those are the only times I'm jealous of my best friend, the only times I've ever wished anything bad to her, "I think so", I answer nodding, "She was really quiet yesterday, and went straight home."
Josh nods too, "Are you gona take her her homework after school?", he asks and starts to fidget around, "Cause I could come with."
What?, "I don't think so Josh", I say frowning, "Her parents don't like her having friends over."
"But you're going?"
"Sure", I nod and glance at him.
"Okay", he says and stands up, "Just tell her I said hi."
I nod again. Whatever. His behavior is a little disturbing. Sure he and Brooke are in good terms. They talk, a lot sometimes, and do stuff together. But I don't think he's ever been to her house. So why would he want to come now?
"Josh", I call after him. He turns, looks around and slowly walks back to me, "Do you know something?", he looks down trying to hide his face. He knows but doesn't want to tell, "What?", I demand to know. She's MY friend!
"Well...", he starts but doesn't look up, "I overheard my parents this morning. They said that Brooke's mother had left them."
"What?", I say again. This time in a confused voice. Her mother has left them? I don't understand.
Josh nods and keeps staring at his own feet, "Two days ago they said."
That's when Brooke's father called her home. He never does that. That's why she was late yesterday, cause her mother wasn't there to wake her up. And that's why she must hurt like hell. I have to go to her!, "Can you help me?", I plead to Josh all of a sudden.
Now he lifts his head and looks interested, "How?"
I look around the yard and see Mr. Ross pacing around in the middle of it. He's on guard duty. Perfect, he's the gym teacher for boys, and Josh is a future football star, "Go distract Mr. Ross", they should have plenty to talk about. Like... sport stuff.
He looks at me for a moment but does finally nod his head. I smile at him and grab my bag from the ground. It's easy enough to escape the school grounds, there are no fences or walls circling it. I only wait till Josh begins his diversion operation, and then start running. I gather a few looks from the other children but none of them say or do anything. Thank God Nicole isn't out here. She'd rat me out in a heartbeat.
I run all the way to Brooke's house. An amazing feat with my stamina, but I manage to pull it off. Through the entire journey all I can think about is, why didn't she tell me? Why didn't she just say something, anything? I could've helped her, made it better. Like always. Whenever her parents hurt her, I always make it better.
The front door is locked and I start ringing the doorbell. Again and again. And nothing happens. I walk along the wall until I get to the kitchen window. There's a small nail under it, near the ground, behind a bush. And on it hangs their spare key. Brooke showed it to me once, just in case she said. I take the key and head back to the door.
Once inside I get scared. The McQueen house is not a comforting place. It's like this huge palace, filled with beautiful things. But it's not a home. I can't stand it without Brooke. And I don't know who she can stand living here at all.
"Brooke!", I shout out many times as I check the rooms one by one. The downstairs is empty, so she has to be up in her room. She has to, "BROOKE!", I scream for the last time from the top of the stairs and run to her open door.
And there she is, on her bed. Huddled into a fetal position, puffy eyes keenly fixed on me, "Oh Brooke", I sigh out her name and fly to be with her. I kneel down on the floor, placing a hand on her cheek. She tries to smile, I see how she really fights to smile. But she only manages to free some more tears. They slide down her face and make me wanna cry too. But I have to be strong for her. Like so many times before. Even more so than many times before.
"M... my... mo... my mom... she...", Brooke starts to mumble with a faltering voice. She can't form enough words to make a coherent sentence.
"Shush", I say and start stroking her hair. I climb onto the bed and lie next to her, not ending the contact for a second, "I know."
"No but...", she tries again.
"I know Brooke", I cut her off and lean closer to hug her, "You don't have to tell me anything. Cause I already know", I say and press my cheek against hers. I hear how she starts sobbing. And I feel how her arms circle me when she hugs me back. I feel how she slowly starts to relax, and finally, after minutes, drifts of to sleep.
From the diary of Brooke McQueen:
Sam made it all better. Just by being there she reminded me that I really hadn't lost anything important. Only my mother, and what was she compared to what I still had in Sam? Nothing. I still had someone to love, and someone who loved me. Someone who cared.
Of course there are no quick fixes, no short cuts. I was still hurting, and I would still hurt for a long time. But she gave me hope of better. It wasn't the end of the world. Just a small bump along the road.
Crying in her arms, I knew it wouldn't be too long till I'd laugh again. Till I'd be fighting back the urge to tell her how much I love her. Again. She said I didn't have to tell her anything, that she already knew. But she didn't. I still had my most closely guarded secret. The one that I didn't even dare to write down in my childhood journals. Cause I sometimes let her read them.
There would be small indications that always made her suspicious. Like short poems or something. They were plenty stupid, and always ambiguous. She never guessed it, even though I think I wanted her to. That's why I let her read them, that's why I wrote them. I wanted her to guess, cause I didn't have the guts to tell her. But she always thought I had a crush on Josh. How stupid was that. I told her as much quite a many times.
She took me away that night. I practically lived the next two weeks in Sam's house. Dad didn't mind, he practically lived them at work. And Jane was great. She had been like a stepmother to me before, and now she was even more. Sam kept saying that this was great, that we were like sisters, the way it was always meant to be. I kept smiling and agreeing. Though I didn't feel the same. But I would've settled for it. Life would've been easier that way. It would've been safer.
After fifteen days dad called me home.
I wake up from the restless sleep. Immediately my head swings to face the door. I know he's there. It's not the first time.
The first time was when he told me to come back home. He came in and sat down on my bed. He told me how we had to be nice to each other, now that it was just the two of us. He apologized for being so harsh the night mom left. He was sweet. He was smiling. His touch was soft. He was a loving father trying to comfort his daughter. And I didn't know for sure.
He's been back many times. Every time I've felt something wrong. But I can't be sure. It's like when you have the stomach flu. Or you think you do. You keep looking for these signs, symptoms that would tell you for sure. But even when you feel these symptoms, you start thinking that maybe you're making them up cause you think you're sick. You can't be sure until you notice a sign that can't be mistaken. The sign that tells you you're gona vomit any moment now.
That's tonight. His dark form is hovering in the doorway. The light is coming from behind him, from the hallway, and I can't see his face. It's black. It's scary.
"Dad?", I call out with a shaky voice and lean over to turn on my night lamp.
For a few seconds I don't see my father, I see this beast his become. His eyes burn with lust and his hands are clenched into fists. He's not a man, he's something more. Or less.
Then he lowers his head and his shoulders slump down. The beast leaves and my father returns. When he lifts his head again, it's the man I've known my entire life. He doesn't say anything. Only looks embarrassed and walks out. Closing the door behind him.
I wait quietly for a while. Then lean back down onto the bed and slowly pull up my legs, placing my arms around them. Trying to fit into the smallest space possible. He'll be back another night. This time I know it for sure. And I have nothing to fight him with. I can't do anything but wait.
The fear nearly paralyzes me. I shut my eyes as tight as I can and try to dream of better things. Better times, better places. I dream of Sam. I dream of the pigeons. I dream of flying away.
I can't wait till it's my turn to fly.
I leave the light on for the night.
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