Title: The Ballad of Brooke McQueen

Author: Megan

Disclaimer: Characters and other things `Popular' are not mine. Neither is the song `The Ballad of Lucy Jordan' by Marianne Faithfull. Nor the song "Living On A Thin Line' by The Kinks.

Email: shy_grrl@hotmail.com

Archiving: www.realmoftheshadow.com/megan.htm (Thanks, Kim.)

Summary: A short story inspired by the Marianne Faithfull song. About a future Brooke, whose life didn't turn out exactly how she would've wanted.

Author's Notes: God, how I love the song `The Ballad of Lucy Jordan.' It is so sad. And always makes me think of my mother. And, also, the moment in `Thelma and Louise', when they're driving in the desert at night and the songs picks up, is perhaps the greatest moment in cinematic history. So, there. That's only to explain a little why the story exists in the first place.

The bright sun awakened the woman to another day. Her eyes fluttered open as she reached inside herself for the strength to get herself going. There were so few things for her to do. And so little energy left. She glanced to her right at the empty spot in the bed. And sighed. She struggled to stand up and pulled on a bathrobe. Toddled to the window and stared out into the dawning day. A vision of a boy and a girl on the front porch below her brought a thin smile to her tired face. A glimpse at hope and love. She turned away before the glance evolved into a stare. Before the innocent kiss changed into something more. She headed out of the room even as her mind wandered back.

To a time when she had still had hope. When her dreams had still been a source of joy. Silver lined by optimism, even the worst. To when the dreams had seemed to be almost in her reach. Almost. To when the one particular dream had lived under the very same roof as her. And when she had honestly believed that the day would come when it would no longer be a dream. But reality.

She pushed open an ajar door across the hall from hers and clasped the rims of her robe tighter around her as a cool breeze greeted her from the room. She steered her way across the messy floor, littered with clothes, magazines and records. With books and plates. She closed a half open window and glanced at an unmade bed at her side. It was a disgusting room, but she found herself unable to order its occupant to clean it up. More than that, she found herself standing in the midst of it quite often when she was alone in the house. Above the bed there was a huge, black poster on the wall, urging her to `THINK about it' in large, white letters.

The dream had also been prone to sloppiness. It hadn't made it any less attractive, quite the opposite. Part of the dream's charm had been its fallibility. The simple fact that it wasn't perfect had made it seem like it might come true. She hadn't been wishing for the moon. She had only wanted a girl to share her life with.

She walked out of the room and let her bare feet carry her lightly along the corridor. To a flight of stairs. And down. She walked with slow steps, caressing the smooth railing at her side with her hand. The wooden stairs felt cold under her. The feeling reminded her of a similar sensation from long ago. Walking across the bathroom tiles in her childhood home. And she wondered where the soft strumming of a guitar was coming from. "Morning, Samuel," she said when she entered a kitchen from behind a twelve-year old boy, seated at a table. His brown hair was getting long. It needed a cut. But she liked it better this way. The boy replied in incomprehensible mumble and didn't look up from the paper he was reading.

The dream had also been interested in news. In a way she could never understand. But it had only made it more attractive. The passion it had had for the truth. She had been able to bask in its burning intensity and pretend it was meant for her. It was for some parts the passion she had been drawn to. She had lacked it herself. She had been like a parasite, wanting to attach herself to the dream. To feed of its passion. And feel alive.

She rounded the table to the fridge and poured herself a glass of juice. "They have aunt Sam's report from Iraq in the paper," her son told her in a quiet voice. "Really?" she replied with more enthusiasm than she had felt in days, "What's in Iraq?" Her question twisted the boy's expression into a mix of disbelief and loathing. Disbelief at her ignorance. And loathing for the same reason. "The war," he answered, squinting his eyes. She reached across the table and turned the paper around. There was a small picture next to a half page long article. And she found herself staring into her dream, "Oh, look. She cut her hair."

Beauty had only been a part of it. Even the passion had played only a small part. A very important, but small part. It had been about so much more. It had been about everything. She wouldn't have changed one single thing in the dream. Not the body. Not the mind, which at times had been infuriatingly narrow. Not even the soul, which had sometimes guided the dream so very poorly.

"Morning, Mom," a voice pulled her eyes off the picture. She turned to look into the face of a teenage girl. And smiled in response. "Come on, Sam," the girl said to the boy, "Mike's giving us a ride." She was about to correct her daughter about the use of the nickname. But didn't. "Dad said he'd stay the night in the city," the girl went on. She nodded and smiled, "So it's just the three of us then," she said. "No, Mom," the boy talked in the same hostile voice as he stood up from the table, "I'm going on that hiking trip. And Lucy's got the away game in Hershey." She kept her smile fixed on place and pretended she had a clue what the boy was talking about, "Right," she said and nodded again as her children filed out of the room.

Most of her dreams had long since turned bitter. Twenty years of awkward family functions. Twenty years worth of dwindling phone conversations. Twenty years of trying to fit in where she didn't belong. Twenty wasted years. Thrown away chances. Twenty years had gone by before she realized she had ruined the life of a man. Raised two children she didn't even know. And who knew her even less. A lifetime had passed, and she still relived the two blissful years in her head again and again.

She folded the newspaper neatly. "Just the one of me then," she said to the empty room. She retrieved the paper and headed back upstairs. The sound of the guitar tuned on again from somewhere. It picked up tempo as she ascended the stairs one by one. A slow drumbeat came to join it when she reached the top. The music grew louder all the while as she walked down the hall. To the extent where it was almost deafening, when she pushed open the door to the messy room...

... "LIVING ON A THIN LINE!" a voice shouts through the loudspeakers. Accompanied by a screaming Sam in panties and a T-shirt, "Uuu-u-uuuh! Tell me now, what are we supposed to do?!"

Brooke enters the room striding purposefully onwards, fueled by her righteous anger. The scantily clad figure of her stepsister, spinning around in the middle of the floor, barely slows her down. She makes her way to the stereo and yanks the volume down, almost killing the song entirely, "I'm trying to study, you nitwit! Do you mind keeping it down?" she huffs irately.

"Sure thing, Mom," the brunette girl replies jovially. She stops the dance gradually and turns to face the blonde with a gleeful smirk, "Not that down, though," she says, reaches over and turns the volume up a bit.

Brooke glares at her stepsister a second. And then notices the faint odor in the air. And sees the open window, "Have you been smoking weed, Sam?" she asks in a scolding voice.

"Yes, Mom," Sam mumbles under her breath. She tries to hide a grin by bowing her head, but can't help glancing at the blonde.

"That is not cool, Sam," Brooke says distractedly. The close proximity of the brunette girl's half naked body is having its effect on her. She tires to cover her embarrassment by taking the moral high ground.

"Lighten up!" Sam laughs. She turns the volume knob again, raising the sound level even higher than it originally was, "You know, the world isn't gona end if you fail one test!" she shouts over the music.

Brooke counters the move by again turning the volume down. This time all the way down, "Bite me," she says flatly.

"I just might, if you don't keep your paws of my stereo!" Sam says in a threatening voice. She shoos away Brooke's hand and turns up the music to all new heights.

They glare at each other for a few moments. Mixed thoughts of violence and sexual advances run through Brooke's head. Finally she decides she has lost this battle and turns to rush out of the room. She gets into the bathroom and slams Sam's door shut hard. She takes a deep breath and leans her back against the door. Even as a smile comes over her face. "Living on a thin line!" Sam's voice penetrates through the music distantly. Brooke slides down the door to sit on the floor. Closes her eyes and starts to dream...

... She sat cross-legged on the messy floor. Read and reread the article. Time and again. Memorized the words. When the evening sun shone through the window and blinded her, she looked up. And smiled thinly.

< end >

Thank you for reading,

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