This story is rated 4 stars (3 ratings).

by Baggage


A Sliver of Life

It followed them back.
From the department store, on the train. Just a mouth shaped circle of condensation on the scratched and greasy window pane, yearning to be heard over the rumble of the train on it's tracks as trees and fences, houses and factories blurred into blackness and streaks of light. 'It's' wails in birth were whispers in the chug of the engine.
The Long Blonde girl, the leader, sat with her feet up across from the one with mousey hair. Mousey Brown stroked the hair straight, with nervous fingers because it wasn't shiny enough, giggled as the Long Blonde one laughed at a bent old man. Next to Long-and-Blonde, Dark-and-Shiny, with deep brown eyes and olive skin. She must be number two. Behind their seats sat the Boygirl, with frizzy blonde hair and achne, a tracksuit instead of jeans as tight as skin, listening to music and staring out of the window at the blurs that passed her by.

They had created it, breathed in the life, they would explain.

Under the railway bridge, 'it' was hot steam from their mouths, against the bite of the air. This place had warmth in the depths of cold.
Boygirl opened a plastic bag filled with make-up she would never dare use. The lions share went to the Long-and-Blonde one and Dark-and-Shiny, who sneared at Mousey Brown because she was scared; didn't want the stolen lipgloss or even the beaded bracelet Long-and-Blonde had specifically lifted for her. Boygirl secreted some lipstick when the others weren't looking into a side pocket and as a distraction jumped down onto the tracks.
"Which ones the live one?", she said, playing hopscotch, crossing feet over metal runners.
Mousey pleaded with her to come back, before a train mowed her down or she frazzled her brains and finally she did come back, finding it harder to haul herself onto the path.
The leaders laugh at her struggle, so she turns to Mousey:
"You're just like her".

In Mousey's bedroom 'it' felt itself sharpen. There were edges here, definite closeness to the heart of what 'it' was. It looked in Mousey's mirror, over her shoulder as she put on the lip gloss. A thought; as Mousey pressed her lips together, the smoothness, the feel of the the oily substance. 'It' felt what it was to have lips.
Mousey threw the lip gloss in the bin under her desk and stared at her reflection. 'It' stared too, a cloud of nothingness around her dull, brown locks waiting for a sign.
There was a photograph with smiling faces; Mousey placed it face down on the desk and went over to a set of drawers. 'It' watched her slip into a pair of spangly shorts, hot pants. 'It' knew. There had been spangles once.
But Mousey simply stood staring into the mirror at the white snail trail of scars at the tops of her thighs then, reached for the scissors in her desk.
'It' didn't like the feel of cool steel. This made it sharp and bloody, pain too hard to bare on the inside. These girls were precious gems, the most important thing. They were the creators.
But Mousey sat on the edge of the bed and cut the hotpants from her lean thighs and when she sat in only her underwear, ripped the spangly gold to shreads, with scissors and teeth and nails. There were tears.
'It' was salty and sharp now. It scraped its new talons down the glass of her bedroom window trying to escape. It had no voice, so it could not plead with her to stop.

'It' was all things when it followed Dark-and-Shiny to school; too many broken souls searching for what they were, shoving empty cans into hedgerows, some children smoking, some spitting gum in the hair of the one in front, some bemoaning their lot.
But it had found the creators, the barers of light, knowledge, belonging. The magic four after so long searching in emptiness.
Dark-and-Shiny made it pliable; bending away from the watchful eye of her older brothers, studious in Maths, creative in English, the best at netball. It was perfumed scent with scissor sharp talons; not razor sharp or it would cut itself just like Mousey.
'It' knows Dark-and-Shiny is number two, that she likes to be there, but secretly longs to be Long-and-Blonde surrounded by the phallic that flock to her side. But Dark-and-Shiny is beyond the school away to the future. 'It' has no future.

Dark-and-Shiny takes out a photograph while queuing for a snack, a burger is the food of dreams. She stares at the smiling faces, there in the black and white print, but two are missing. There is a mark over Mousey and another; another that 'it' can't find.
"Pig" says Long-and-Blonde, she is sneaky, quick as a fox, behind her friend with a prod in her back "I thought you weren't allowed to eat beef? Not this beef anyway".
Dark-and-Shiny pushes the photo to the back of her purse and steps out of the line with Long-and-Blonde, without a burger.

Still Mousey is determined.
'It' finds her in the toilets circling her eyes over and over with charcoal. There are lessons to be missed, but Mousey does not care. It feels the hole in her heart, the stuttering beat, smells what she smells; 'it' is puddles of urine. 'It' is menstrual blood on hastily discarded towels, a sign of defiance and haste. 'It' is the fear of being discovered that leads young girls to do horrid things with their eminations. The toilets are a dangerous place; a place of punishment by young and old, teacher or friend, you must rush to the finish. But Mousey will go back to the lesson when she feels it is time.
'It' knows there will be comments with eyes as black as night, circled in such anger; 'it' fears for her fragile heart, but 'it' knows that this is what Mousey Brown wants and is silent as always.
In comes Long-and-Blonde, with Dark-and-Shiny. There is laughing and pointing at Mousey's new mask. Mousey opens the door to leave, but a teacher sees, demands she and Dark-and-Shiny go back to their lesson and the door swings shut.
'It' is left by the mirror and suddenly sees a part of itself, a dull slit of brightness, a sliver of life.
The silence of realization is broken by dull gasping wretches, a toilet flushes and out comes Long-and-Blonde wiping away the contents of her stomach, bleary eyed with no sparkle. It sees that here there is no breakfast, no past and there will be no lunch or dinner, no future. Just the now. Long-and-Blonde reapplies her lipstick and 'it' sees 'it' is her vomit.

Boygirl had a past. Once it had been OK to like football and ride her bike, but now there were rules. Now the boys were no longer her friends. She had been relegated, had to join the fight. 'It' waited with her behind the gym for the tall, Handsome Boy. When he came there was laughter, shared jokes and 'it' recognized; it remembered. Boygirl had been there, the handsome boy, 'it' too and between them an angry member with a purple head, gorged with blood and impatient semen. An opportunity, a refusal. 'It' had refused, but Boygirl, she had been compliant and 'it' had to wait outside the caravan for her; dirty, mouldy, tin house.
'It' did not have a past, so this could not be. 'It' could not reject or be rejected.
They were the centre of the world, the ones who could create and destroy, so 'it' must have been mistaken. The memory was wrong.
"Is Kelly about?" the handsome boy asked, and the Boygirl sagged, the laughter now gone and took him in hand leading him round the corner.
Long-and-Blonde sat smoking and drinking foul liquid, slim, bronzed legs stretched out in front, held in place by a tight, black school skirt.
The Handsome boy crouched down to Long-and-Blonde and they embraced and Boygirl watched what she publicly could not have. She had sworn. No matter what; never at school and never a word.
"Fuck off then you perve" spat Long-and-Blonde at her underling, so Boygirl folded herself away and left the scene of coitus.

'It' finds Mousey Brown outside an office in a corridor in school. 'It' doesn't know how it got there, but Mousey is crying and wiping away the charcoal she so adamantly applied in the toilets. She is wet and limp; 'it' is guilt and sorrow, shame and solitude.
But there is no help; only Dark-and-Shiny shaking with rage and denial, stalking towards Mousey with a snarl on her face.
"We said we wouldn't say anything. Why did you do that you stupid cunt?"
Dark-and-Shiny now shakes Mousey Brown by her arms, but stops in case one of her brother's hears her language and reports her behaviour to their father. The Patriarch is always watching.
"We made it worse" Mousey sobs.
"It wasn't right from the start, all the lies and the back stabbing. You can't give someone an identity. They have to make one!" Dark-and-Shiny screams.
Mousey doesn't listen, she can only cry.
"And anyway, you didn't offer her a razor blade".
'It' wants to comfort Mousey, tell her not to feel guilty, be strong like the other's, but she is broken. She will give way.
"You've got your horses, I've got my netball, Jody plays football..." Dark and Shiny explains.
"What's Kelly do?" Mousey asks in a trembling voice, as Dark-and-Shiny unhands her.
Dark-and-Shiny admits this begrudgingly and for a second 'it' can see below the Dark-and-Shiny surface, the longing and the pain. There is difference here; irreconcilable difference. If you are XY you can do as you please. If you are XX there is still a code even in moderation. This tears the one with dark and shiny hair apart into tiny peices of herself. Almost an insubstantial being. Almost an IT.
A lady with glasses and her hair in a bun, pokes her head around the office door.
"Yasmin, I'm so glad you came to chat. Come in and sit down, I've just got to pop out for an errand".
'It' tries to scream for the lady not to leave, but she has clicked down the infinite corridor in her high heels and turned the corner.
Dark-and-Shiny scruffs the neck of Mousey's polo shirt and screws up her eyes in hatred.
"We're sick of you following us around and we're waiting for you after school" she spits "Get ready for a beating".
Dark-and-Shiny goes into the office and slams the door behind her.

Things have changed now. 'It' is holding the knowledge, stretching from a sliver of life to a streak. 'It' knows it has a will now because it doesn't want to be here, pacing the edge of the playing fields with Long-and-Blonde until the end of school. 'It' has been wrenched away from Mousey's side and planted here to witness the wrath.
But there is more to learn from the magic four.
With Long-and-Blonde it is unsure. One so glorious can never quake in the face of a challenge, but shaky steps betray the leader. 'It' is every bad haircut mocked by the one with perfect hair, every fake valentines card sent to a hopeless loner, every probing hand too close to the soft parts. Every secret told in desperation, spread to many.
Long-and-Blonde bites her fingernails and does another circuit of the perimeter fence, stamping the grass in determined strides.
There is mutiny in the ranks and the IDEAL is tottering on her pedestal. There are questions being asked, but no voice to be heard. It must be rectified. Things must be right again. She must have domain where all is predictable.
'It' had never been this close to Long-and-Blonde, never seen the dismay in counting the conquests; in 'being' the now. This was a dark place.
A shower of rain flattens Long-and-Blonde's hair to her scull as she hears the bell and waits for the first.
'It' watches Dark-and-Shiny run out to join Long-and-Blonde.
"I told her we'd have her" Dark-and-Shiny explains.
"I'm not going to a fucking therapist" Long-and-Blonde answers from behind a cloud of cigarette smoke.
There are too many bodies to see Mousey and 'it' hopes against hope she escapes unscathed.
But then there's a shout and Mousey shoots through the gates of school prison, chased by Boygirl into the streets. The leader and her second follow, stumbling on high heels that sink into the grass.

Under cover of rain 'it' follows as Mousey leads them down high streets and shortcuts, past blank faced adults and scattered children, some places it knows, others are alien.
'It' prays for the indifference of age and takes back all that 'it' ascertained. There were no answers here, only more questions.
They turn into the graveyard and 'it' tries not to follow, but the connection will not be severed. 'It' sees Boygirl punch Mousey in the face, up ahead by a grave and it tries not to see, but the senses will allow no ignorance.
The group is reunited. Attached to Long-and-Blonde 'it' sees her take off her shoe, ready to pierce Mousey's brow with the heel, but she pauses.
"Why the fuck have you brought us here you freak?"
Mousey stops cowering and gets to her feet. She looks Long-and-Blonde in the eye, and 'it' sees she isn't so long and blonde anymore. She is Kelly. She is miserable. She is alone.
"Was she really that bad?" Mousey asks.
Boygirl laughs and pushes Mousey.
"You were scared shitless of her, you said" Boygirl sneers, but 'it' sees the sneer is a front, a face, a facade. She is Jody. She is a girl.
"Yes I was" Mousey admits, but she is no longer Mousey and 'it' sees she is beautiful in her bravery and her name is Gemma.
"She was a bit creepy, but nobody's normal" Gemma says again.
"Oh shut your face".
Dark-and-Shiny still glistens, refuses to argue, steps away from the grave.
"Yeah we've all got our stuff. You just deal with it, don't you?" Kelly tries, but her hair is wet and her pedestal discarded.
"All IT did all day was follow us about like you. I hate IT" Dark-and-Shiny growls "IT tried to split us up remember. IT was two-faced".
"Don't call her that" Mousey shouts "We were horrible to her. We made it worse and you know she was telling the truth".
The mere implication of duality is too much for Dark-and-Shiny. She huffs and growls. Identity is singular through time; dedication is key. 'It' knows she invests for a future without the magic four.
"Why don't you go and cut a little deeper for once. Do us all a favour you sap" Dark-and-Shiny spits.
The words hit Gemma harder than a punch from Jody. 'It' sees the slice they cut from Gemma clearer than the red mark on her cheek, another bruise to flower.
Dark-and-Shiny has gone too far. She lunges for Gemma. 
"No Yaz that's not on" Jody says, holding her back and 'it' sees she is Yasmin. Torn and angry. The divided, the halved. She is matte black.
They stand in silence and stare at the urn.
"Fair enough. What do you want us to do?" Yasmin asks finally.
"She was just like us, but less and more. That's what the therapist said" Gemma says quietly "Just call her by her name".
"Sara?" they ask in unison.
 'It' knows it is Sara, 'it' has the answer, and Sara is dead.

© Baggage 2011


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