Country: United States
August 12, 2016
05/15/2018 08:09 PM
fanatic (part two)
a waking nightmare
Light eyes, hooded in strawberry lashes, sat above round freckled cheeks; ginger brows knit together in a cocktail of confusion and mild alarm as she stared down at the contraption of fabric in her hands. At twelve, she was abnormally tall for her age, and the rapid growth showed. Lanky limbs that had yet to find their grace continued to outgrow the sleeves and pants that her mother bought her. Dresses had become the norm, simply to keep her in them longer though she fretted painfully over the knobbiness of her knees and asked again and again for some pants. Even overalls would do. Anything to cover up the scrapes from playing outside.
An athletic young thing, Patsy Walker was. Even at her young age the shadows of musculature could be plainly seen in the paleness of her skin. It was a byproduct of her involvement in gymnastics and her fanatical love of the ocean.
"Do I have to wear it?" Her voice had yet to settle into something more adult, and her words were colored in the sweetness and folly of youth.
"Of course you do, Patsy. All women do"
Tears were brimming in the well of her gaze, though if she were pressed she wouldn't be able to say why she was so upset. It was nothing, just like her mother had said. All women wore one.
But Patsy didn't want to be a woman yet.
"Do you not like the color? We can get you a different one."
"No." Murmured the girl thickly, emitting a sad sniffle and trying to hide the tears as best she could. Trying to be the grown up she so desperately wanted to avoid. "The color is good."
"I just don't know why you're so upset, honey, it's just a training bra."
The bow of her mouth pursed, bottom lip puffing and quivering alongside her chin as she defied the heaviness of the droplets that threatened to roll off her lashes. Narrow chin tilted upwards towards the immaculately made-up face of Dorothy Walker. There was so much of her own face in her mother. The same slope to their noses, the same full lips and light eyes. The freckles and fiery shade of her hair was the main difference, otherwise young Patricia was the spitting image of Dorothy.
"Will it hurt?" The question was used as a placeholder for so many things that she wanted to ask instead. Like; What comes next? What if a boy sees it under my dress? What if I hate it, and want to take it off? and so many less delicate things that she couldn't even muster the strength to allow herself to think, let alone physically inquire.
There was a cluck of her mother's tongue, and one warm hand descended to pinch her daughters chin between her index finger and thumb.
"You'll be fine. You always are, my sweet girl." Behind her, the phone could be heard ringing, beckoning the elder Walker away. "Besides, what would Patsy do?" It was meant to be said warmly, but the phrase landed on hurt ears. As Dorothy made her exit she plucked up one of the thin paper comics that was set errantly on her daughters desk and tossed it her way. On the cover, in figures inked by Dorothy's hand and words pulled from her own mind was the likeliness of Patricia Walker. In a dress. Smiling. She always seemed to be smiling when she was drawn.
"But I'm Patsy." Mumbled the pre-teen, her fingers curling the edge of the comic just a bit too harshly, enough to make a minuscule tear at the center of the cover.
"You know what I mean, honey." Was all the response she got, and Dorothy Walker was gone.
Unknown location.Somewhere in the New York Tri-State area.
It smelled like lavender. Heat soaked into every joint on her body, soothing the creaks and aches that had settled into her bones for lack of movement. Consciousness was foggy, but her mind was still sharp enough to flood her every nerve with contempt. There was soft music emanating from a waterproof speaker somewhere - the kind of little trinket that you’d get at a bed & bath store on an impulse while waiting in line. Something about it bothered her. Bothered her beyond the inherent wrongness of being the captive of a deranged man; beyond the way he’d roused her with gentle words and informed her she needed to bathe -- even beyond the way he’d cast his eyes downwards and turned his back when he asked her to disrobe for her bath.
“I’d leave the room, but…” He’d said, earnest and almost sheepish. “You know.”
You know. You know. So casual a statement, as if they were sharing some secret between them to be nudged at delicately; the unpleasantness of reality that he chose to leave unexamined yet both understood.
No, there was something else about the cheery turquoise silicone speaker that bothered her. It was such a small touch. Such a minute, and wholly unnecessary luxury. There was an intimacy to such a thought. A concern for another person's enjoyment that was rarely showed by someone outside of a deep, private relationship. It took c a r e. And for some reason, the notion that this man might feel some semblance of care was far more disturbing than the alternative.
Insanity was an easy explanation; a comforting notion. Mindless destruction had a certain sense of fairness to it. There’s nothing to be done with a person pushed past the limits of the human psyche, reduced to their own basest and most vile instincts. That sort of directionless malevolence had a solace to it. It rid the unfortunate recipient of any burden. An innocent, caught in the crossfire. There was blamelessness in that.
But this wasn’t that. This was not mindless. This was not directionless. It was a focused brand of evil. The insidious sort that weaseled it’s way into a person and allowed a small voice among the din to whisper maybe she likes listening to music while she bathes.
“You should eat something tonight.” The voice from the man in the corner was calm, evenly toned and teetering on the verge of sounding gentle, though there was a matter-of-factness about it that told Patsy that this was less of a suggestion and more of a warning of what was to come.
His back was still to her, and his deceptively slight frame was perched comfortably on a chair while he examined the avocado colored tiling that met white paint halfway up the bathroom walls. Her privacy was still of the utmost importance it seemed, he hadn’t even attempted to take a glance her way.
“Okay.” The word was sand in her mouth, cracking against a parched lips and prompting a subtle clearing of her throat. This did gain a reaction from the man - the first word that she’d spoken voluntarily. She could see the ripple of surprise as it registered with him, reverberating through his entire body and urging him to turn his ear towards the source but seeming to catch himself before turning around to look at her. Even from where she sat, she could see that his hands shook as he soothed them down his jean clad legs.
“Okay.” Repeated the figure, his tone light with what sounded like a tinge of nervous laughter carrying out the monosyllabic word.
Dorothy Walker stood with her back to her daughter, her hands too preoccupied with the sudsing of dishes to turn her gaze. The tone of the kitchen was tense as the young Patricia Walker pieced her way through Eighth Grade Algebra homework. A thick packet of sheets that had been stapled together and handed over for her to complete to make up for days of school missed when she’d instead made appearances at local events to promote Patsy Walker, the comic books. It was becoming a steadily more common occurrence. One day the young woman would attend school as usual, the next she was having lipstick dabbed onto her mouth and her mother was forcing her hair into curlers. It’s the price we must pay, her mother had said more than once and always with the same airy sort of resignation. As if normality were an insignificant bargaining chip to be cashed in for a handful of glossy photographs and an increase in sales.
The topic of the night, amidst pythagorean theorem-related quandaries, was the party that was bound to surround Patsy’s impending fourteenth year of life. Mother and daughter had locked horns more than once on the subject matter. Dorothy encouraged something small; the notion of a slumber party with all of her best gal pals complete with movies containing Jennifer Garner and too much popcorn. Something that would be fun to draw in a later issue of the comic; an issue awash in pink and frills. A gaggle of young, impressionable girls giggling the night away and tittering about boys in their year.
Patsy, on the other hand, had different ideas.
“Millie’s brother said that the new Family Fun Zone has laser tag and two air hockey tables.” This was her third attempt at selling her mother on the idea, and judging by the roll of her shoulders as she stood there, Dorothy remained unimpressed.
“I just don’t know why you’re stuck on the idea, Patsy. Those places are always so dirty, and the food isn’t any good, and your girlfriends won’t be able to have any fun either.” Patsy wanted to protest - wanted to explain to her mother that her friends would have fun. And that Hedy Wolfe’s parents had rented out an entire cinema for her last birthday and everyone was still talking about it.
“It’s not just my girl friends…” The words were muttered before she realized what she was doing. In the fraction of a second that it took for Dorothy to shut off the water to the sink and turn around, regret was already flooding the teen.
“Is this about a boy, Pats?” The redheaded girl wanted nothing more than to sink back into her required mathematics, but the damage was done and Dorothy was settling herself next to her daughter with a smile made of knowing patience. “Is that why you want this other party? So that you can invite some boys?” Excitement gleamed in the Walker matriarchs eyes, and before Patsy could dodge it her chin was being pinched between her mother's immaculately manicured fingers. “Is this about Buzz Baxter?”
The blush that followed was as infuriating as it was embarrassing. Buzz Baxter, the cute, confident dark-haired jock who had recently taken notice of Patsy. It was a silly infatuation. Childs play.
“Oh, honey... Why didn’t you say so?”
“It’s not about Buzz…” Replied the girl hotly, trying and failing to redirect her attention to her homework. “I just want my friends to have fun.” A sigh, and a slump of her narrow shoulders. “I just want them to like me.”
“Well, step one.” Quipped her mother, a sudden shift in her voice from matronly to managerial. “People like people who are happy. So stop pouting.” It was expected that she would immediately plaster a grin to her face, and who was she to not oblige the sage advice of her mother. “And boys like girls who are always smiling. And always sweet.” Pale eyes scrutinized the freckled features of Patsy’s young face. “We can do the party you want.” It was apparent from the excitement in Patsy’s expression that her entire year had just been improved by the news.
Never one to linger too long, Dorothy was already rising from her spot with a self-congratulatory smile for being such an understanding and benevolent force. Ever the prim woman, always smiling, always sweet.
“Though I don’t know how you’ll play laser tag in your dress.” A sudden dampening of the mood. Dress? Of course she couldn’t play laser tag in a dress -- it was a dress!. “Oh don’t look at me like that - I’m not about to draw a birthday issue where you’re wearing pants.”Oh. “Besides, boys like girls who act like girls, Patsy.”
The young woman ducked her head towards her page again, hiding the tremble of her chin. People like people who are happy, afterall.
Unknown location.Somewhere in the New York Tri-State area.
Night Five, continued .
“I’m sorry,” Came the voice across the table, and reluctantly the cobalt of Patsy’s eyes followed the source. She sat, untethered, against the bare back of a wooden chair; one of the only two that met at the small table in the equally small kitchen of this humble, nameless abode. There was no decoration here, not so much as a pad of Post-Its, and from where she sat she could spy the locks that adorned the cupboards and drawers. It was enough to tell her that there were sharp objects nearby. Objects that neither of them wanted in the hands of the other. “You just look so much like the books, I can’t get over it.”
Not another word had been spoken since the bathroom. He’d kept his back turned while she’d dried off, and he’d plainly explained that he’d bought her some new clothes after peeking at the label sizes of what she’d been wearing. A cotton dress in a shade of green she’d never voluntarily wear was her garb for the night. Pinned in waist, A-line, more retro than it was cool and far too familiar to the prim outfits her mother used to set out for her.
Her knees were together, bare feet propping onto her tiptoes as she sat perpetually poised to make a sudden movement if she needed to be reactive. Palms sat flat on the table, a move she’d been taught by an ex-boyfriend who told her the proper way to behave if she was ever arrested and interrogated. Rings of abrasions marred the porcelain of her wrists and ankles, and even sitting upright felt taxing to her after refusing food for the better part of a week. Before her now was the second attempt he’d made to beg her compliance with her favorites - favorites which she didn’t have the stomach to question how he knew. The less she was aware at that moment, the easier it was to stay composed.
“I know the art is of you. I just… wow. The likeness is so -- I’m sorry. I’m --” There it was, that same unassuming congenial awkwardness that had almost been charming when they’d met at the bar. The same man that had quietly bought her a drink and struck up small-talk, and so graciously taken her rejection. At least she’d thought. “You should eat.”
The pale of her gaze leveled with his before falling to the slice of New York pizza before her. Calories, he’d told her when he’d opened the box. Had to make up for some lost calories. There was a promise for better, more nutritious food in the future. For now, they would relax with a classic.
She hated the taste. Not for the fact that it was bad by any means, but for the way her mouth watered the moment a bite hit her lips. She wanted to hate it. Wanted it to be vile, stale -- a n y t h i n g that would align the man in front of her with the monstrous act of snatching her away from her life. Instead she was met with those wide doe eyes of his, and the demure offer of her favorite fattening food as he looked over her features as if she were something sacred to be seen.
He chewed a bite, the brown of his eyes rich with curiosity and light.
“It must be so crazy that your comics are becoming popular again, right?” Like this were some blase interview for a second rate podcast. “You lived it the first time around. All those great stories... I know, you know all of them.” The more he talked, the more anxious he seemed to become. Fingers fidgeted, gaze never lingering on her for too long.
She should say something, instinct urged her to step in and diffuse his nerves and help keep him level but her mind had entered a void of uncertainty, and she lacked the ability to grip to anything long enough to speak. So she played the part - hooked herself onto the words he murmured, and slipped herself as best she could into her role.
“It was a lot of adventures.” Was the best she could do, coupled with a weak smile. “Hard to grow up in front of a nation.”
The grin that she received for her meager contribution turned her stomach, but her eyes held firm with his.
“I can’t even imagine. That had to have been -- I mean it was hard enough to grow up without it. I bet it was tough to try to just be a person, and to let your mom put out all of those details about you? That was so brave.” Sourness mixed her gut, a long-laid to rest irritation unfurling after a long sleep. “I could never deal with that. I just remember - I mean I grew up reading your comics. I thought it was so cool a girl had her own comic, a girl my age.” Then, somewhat embarrassed he added. “I think you were my first crush.” She tried not to wince.
“Yeah?” Please, stop.
“Yeah. I mean, I bet you were a lot of guys first crushes back then. You always seemed so… just so. So funny, and sweet. I just remember, you know, trying to talk to girls my own age and I couldn’t. I never could. I just was this stuttering mess so I’d come home and every month - every month there was a new issue of Patsy Walker, and it was like I could always rely on it. I always got another little piece, and it made me feel less alone.”
Any thought of consuming more food was gone. Her head dipped towards her plate to hide the tremble of her chin, to collect herself again before trying to make it through this night without incident. Just a moment to seal herself away in her mind so that she could pretend.
People like people who are happy.
“You were everything to me, Patsy.”
"the girl who could be you."
View All Posts
View All Posts