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DamnGlitch

Glitched - Second Story

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This post is intended to serve as a "update as I write" deal. Basically I will add and revise and replace this post as I add, revise, and what not. The main purpose of posting this in it's incomplete form is to get feedback as I write, but in particular to receive assistance with editing and proofreading. Any revisions you believe would add or benefit the story are welcome too.

 

For those that care, if forced I would categorize the story as 'MA' or 'R', for violence, sexuality and drug use.

 

NOTE: most of the story is UNEDITED and in FIRST DRAFT form. As such there are many changes and edits I'd like to put in as I go. If it seems apparent that a section is particularly poorly typed or littered with typos don't fret too much, chances are I will track down those parts first. I'm much more partial to hearing isolated incidences of error, and more than that places where I can add, or there are inconsistencies, or things need clarification. Any help you can give, however, will be appreciated, as well as suggestions (though I assure you, not all will be honored)

 

Thanks for reading!

 

---

 

In the summer of 2038 I met my first boyfriend. At the time I was attending a small school in a small district in what was once Canada. As long as I can recall, this is where my father, mother and I had lived. The school was closed for break, but extracurriculars still met for practice and whatever suited them. In the remote area we lived I used it as a way to entertain myself through the warm, middling months. There was little else to do in all honesty. Working and staying at home had limited appeal to a girl my age, after all.

 

My parents wouldn't allow me to play organized sports. They felt it would be unfair to the other children and would single me out in some way, and in turn bring undo attention to our family. I was upset at them for a long time, but eventually I found something else to occupy myself. I became interested in and wanted to join the sword play club. My father was hesitant at first but it seems as though my mother convinced him somehow. I believe it had something to do with how it had no competitive awards and how it finally would get me off the computer and involved with school. And so in my junior year, with his permission, I began attending meetings.

 

Jerry was the president of the club. He was handsome, and fit; a young man who seemed just a bit out of touch with what was in fashion but who managed to dress appealingly anyway. He had got his position, the story went, because the previous president had become so upset with him over their skill discrepancy that he had left the club in a rage.

 

"If you want to be a prick and keep showing me up in front of everyone then why don't you just go ahead and run the stupid thing yourself!" He said. Jerry did exactly that, and became president.

 

This was all before my time. Initially, I had my heart set on joining volleyball or basketball but when my father refused I sulked all through my freshman and sophomore years. Finally in my junior year I ended up giving in and leaving my grievances behind, eventually joining sword play in the spring semester. It had come to the point where I was trying to find any excuse to keep from going straight home and enduring my parents making faces at each other for the entire evening.

 

By and large I wanted to meet people, and forge some sort of friendship. I had for many years felt fundamentally alone. This I'm sure is not a unique sentiment for girls my age but that didn't make it any easier to deal with. My father seemed to have no problem convincing people to like him. He was naturally charismatic. I seem to lack that particular trait. In social situations I find myself withdrawn, on the outer edge of everyone's consciousness while they interact with one another. I spent my time in school observing.

 

What I first noticed was that boys, particularly high-school boys, have no idea what to do with a quiet girl.

 

When I joined the club, at the request of one of my few acquaintances, Jerry caught my eye. Despite the claims of the previous president, he was not boastful but actually very kind. He became high strung sometimes, over excited perhaps, but he was always composed when it came to club activities.

 

I would sit in the back of the class room, watching as the students pushed the desks to the walls to clear room for practice. The other members would pull out their homemade weapons. The school wouldn't allow real swords for obvious reasons, and it's not as if these kids could afford anything but fantasy crap from the Internet anyway, so Jerry would show new members how to make a sword from steel and lumber and a bit of borrowing the shop class.

 

It always struck me how much he enjoyed himself. He had a wonderful smile, and I rarely saw it falter, even from my spot in the back of the class. I found myself looking for his eyes when his shaggy brown hair would fall over them when he looked down.

 

Several months later in the same class room he asked me to be his girlfriend and I said yes.

 

----

 

I sat in the cafeteria tapping a pencil to a piece of paper with little intent on placing any marks on it. School work for me was a simple matter. I believe that, honestly, if not for my occasional delinquency and that I didn't speak up in class, I would be the top student in the school. I'm not particularly arrogant, so I don't think I'm being arrogant-- it just seems to be a simple fact. What little effort I did put into school hurled me to the top of each class. Like a shooting star I'd burn brightly for a moment, enough to get noticed, before fading away until my next show was required.

 

I never got top grades but I knew I had the capability to. I hovered around a "b" all throughout school. My father never complained. He even seemed proud that I didn't go out of my way to be a show boat. He seemed proud, even. A word he seemed to be overly fond of was "Discretion"

 

In school, but not out of it, I spent my time with a girl named Jane. She was slight and dressed weird and still wore glasses out of some misguided sense of fashion. She obsessed over grades and even though our friendship wasn't terribly deep, the only thing we'd fight over were academics.

 

"It's important! You can't just ignore this stuff otherwise you'll end up uneducated and pregnant in a trailer." Jane said.

 

Jane could be way too dramatic about this stuff. Most of the time I would just block her out. Other times I would tease her.

 

"I really doubt it would knock me up. You're being too dramatic. I don't even think bad grades are that fertile. Weak seed. Just a splat, a dud. I bet it would have a limp dick anyway." I said.

 

Jane's nose wrinkled with distaste.

 

"That's sick. Why do you think about stuff like that, Ire?" She said.

 

I found much more pleasure spewing obscenities at Jane than keeping my grades in line. Jane often prove an easy target for my wild imagination. In spit of my urge to be more popular my natural urge to lash out took over. I justified this to myself by saying that Jane was already my friend. There was no need to disguise my true self anymore.

 

I don't think anyone in the school revealed their true selves. They wandered through the halls, through their lives, with thick masks on their faces. I felt as though I had been the only one the throw my mask down and scream that I was I. As I hide myself more effectively from the general population, I had the feeling my dad would be disappointed. "Discretion," he would say, "Doesn't mean lying about who you are."

 

Of course, I was selfish and, more than that, lonely. Hard to get those two feelings to play nice with each other.

 

"I didn't mean to gross you out," I said to Jane. Even though I had.

 

---

 

I knew I couldn't stay in the back of the room watching over meetings like a voyeur forever. I asked Jerry if he could help me make my sword.

 

That sort of thing felt way outside my experience. I had never done much with my hands, so it was a good thing Jerry made himself available to new members like me. I spent most of my free time reading and sleeping and thinking about men late at night. I lacked hobbies in any tangible sense. My aspirations for athletics had fallen flat at my parent's refusal, so I had spent the next few years drifting without a cause to rally behind. My life was incomplete. I wasn't a real person.

 

Of course, I had no idea what kind of sword I wanted.

 

Jerry showed me all sorts of styles and options.

 

"There's one handed or two handed grips," He lifted an example with a long hilt for two hands for me to see, "There are long and short blades, single or double edge, heavy or light, and any design and combination to the above you can think of. It's really totally up to you. We don't teach any real style or art, just whatever works best for the person. The type of sword you want should be the type of sword you always use, and you'll adapt what you learn to that." He said.

 

Jerry didn't look at me while he talked. He was intent on the parts he was showing me. It was as if he were an impartial judge, laying out all the fact before me to make my decision. He was unaffected, but not cold. His presence was warm and comforting. It made me feel good. I could feel my mind getting away from me: I saw myself closing the door behind us and seducing him. There's no way that would ever happen.

 

"Any clue?" He offered.

 

I smiled and shook my head, "No clue."

 

He put his hand on my shoulder and my eyes locked onto it like a mousetrap. Snap!

 

"Go home and give it some thought. How heavy you want it, how you want to hold it, how you want it to look, and we'll figure it out together. And if you don't like what we come up with we can just make another one."

 

---

 

At home I dropped heavily onto the bed. My books lay scattered on the floor.

 

The small room my parents had provided served as my sanctuary. I had one major appliance to myself and that was my computer. Most of my life was contained on that little sphere on my desk. It was by far the most sophisticated and expensive thing my family owned, besides the house. It was all mine.

 

I languished on the bed for a moment before standing and locking my door. My dad hated it when I locked the door but after a few years of practice I became quick enough to avoid worrying about getting caught for it. Either way, it would be better to be caught with the door locked than the alternative.

 

Jerry's hand was still warm on my shoulder when I laid back. I spent a quick moment cuing up pornography and then I masturbated. After I had finished, I unlocked the door and composed myself, and shortly after I was called down for dinner.

 

---

 

I came down the stairs to see my father and mother carrying on as usual. He was teasing her, she was mostly ignoring it. I passed the front door and my father, who was sitting in he usual chair at the kitchen / dinning room table. I took my seat next to him, and waited for my mother to finish up what she was doing at the stove. I wore slippers since the tile floor was cold no matter what season it was.

 

 

My father didn't have a steady job. When he felt the need he would do consultation work for large technology firms in the area, though occasionally he had to travel further, but those jobs often lasted less than the local ones. He was talented enough and in high enough demand that we never hurt for money, but we lived frugally regardless. I'm sure we could have a mansion if he worked 9 - 5, but then again he wouldn't be my father if he did. If he could be at home he was, so if I dated that would be something of a problem. It was already a little awkward. I like my privacy and he likes not being shut out, so we butted heads about him being around all the time. It was nothing against him, but considering some of my habits it was better for him that my door was closed anyway.

 

 

As for the house though, I wasn't materialistic enough to care that we could have had better. Our house wasn't huge, and my computer was the most sophisticated thing we owned. My father, for the most part, avoided corporate products. He wasn't unrealistic about it, but he didn't buy them when he could make do with something homemade. There was a massive machine that he had built himself in the garage. He would spend lots of time with it, as would my mother. He offered to build my computer for me, but I made him buy one. I was worried he would try and track my computer use. I know he was capable of it. There was nothing stopping him if he wanted to, really. Even still, there were lots of things I didn't want my father of all people to know about, and I did my best to keep them concealed as well as I can.

 

"What are we having?" I asked.

 

My dad was sipping some tea. Mom was still at the stove scooping whatever it was we were eating onto a plate.

 

"I dunno sweetie. What is that, Spam?" my father asked.

 

My mother looked at him with her dead eyes.

 

"Eggs and bacon," She said simply.

 

I frowned and took my seat. My mother and I often did not get along. My father was certainly the disciplinarian in the family but it was my mom that I resented most of the time. I broke a lamp when I was 8 and she just threw it away and told me to go to my room. When my dad came home he made me pull it out of the garbage and then I had to come to the garage with him and help him put it back together. I actually appreciated the gesture... I liked to be by my dad, to see him work with his hands. Whenever I was by him I'd learn something. Not so with mom. She was always cold to my father and I. I think I hated her, but if I did it was a quiet hate. I had trouble recalling her smile.

 

I took my portion and ate quickly as usual. As cold as my mother seemed, my father was anything but, teasing her by waggling his eyebrows, and playing footsie under the table. She remained mostly unresponsive, though her face flushed and she wouldn't meet our eyes. She focused on the well prepared bacon.

 

"I'm done." I said unceremoniously, pushing my plate away

 

"Please wash the dishes, Iris." She said.

 

I frowned and rolled my eyes, walking to the staircase.

 

"Call me when you're done then." I said.

 

"Iris!" My father yelled at me. I stopped instantly; my father's voice, especially his loud voice, commanded obedience. I turned to look at him. His face was serious.

 

"Thank your mother for dinner."

 

His frown didn't waver, so I looked back at my mother who, to my surprise, was watching my father. She then looked at me. I noticed something on her face I hadn't before. It wasn't merely cold, but tense. There was a tension in her face that I couldn't explain. A stray thought drifted through my head and suddenly I was worried that I had actually managed to offend her. My mother, the woman without any emotion, offended over dinner.

 

 

A door inside me opened and I fell through, like it was a trap door. What else had I barely missed in the past? How many times had I not seen what was hidden in my mother's face?

 

 

I recalled a million terrible things I had said to her and I wished them away-- prayed that she didn't recall them.

 

I thanked her and ran up the stairs, slamming the door to my room.

 

---

 

Into my still warm pillow I cried the first tears I had since I was a child. For some reason I had never in my life seen my mother for the woman she might possibly be. How could I hate what I never knew?

 

"She doesn't hate me," I thought, "She's unhappy."

 

I was sure I was the cause of her unhappiness.

 

"Hey dad," I thought, "How can you this to mom? How can you force her to live this unhappy life with you and I? Why doesn't she go out and leave us and be happy?"

 

No answer was forthcoming so I rolled over and stared at the ceiling. There was a poster for "Jack & the Bloodhound Boys" that I had got a couple years ago. I had stopped listening to them when I was 14. Dad had bought the poster for me, when he noticed I was listening to them on a loop for nearly a week. He was too observant for his own good.

 

 

When I was busy hating dad, I hated the band too. I appreciated the gesture but my feelings for the band were tainted-- fallout from dad's decision about my freshman athletics career.

 

I realized unhappily that I had spent almost a quarter of my life angry at my dad over a something as silly as throwing balls across a court.

 

My father called up about the dishes, so I went back downstairs.

 

---

 

"Hey sweet thing why the dour look?" my dad asked.

 

My mother was no longer anywhere to be seen. Our living room connected to our kitchen / dinning room so if she wasn't there that meant she was either upstairs or she had gone out.

 

"Where's mom?" I asked.

 

Dad smirked, a glimmer of tension in his face.

 

"She's having a dive," he said.

 

 

Or, she was in the garage. Silly me.

 

 

Whenever someone used that machine in the garage, they called it "diving." Supposedly its like the Internet but you interact directly or something. Maybe it was some kind of video game, or some virtual MMO. They were the only people I had ever heard anything about it from, so who knows what the truth was. I had absolutely zero interest in the stupid thing.

 

"Oh," I said. I went over to the sink and started the water. My mother was a very precise and thorough woman. After just rinsing the plates they were nearly clean enough to eat off of again. My "chores" were actually a sort of dance of dominance we had. It would allow her to take on her role as mother and I the role as daughter and we would play them accordingly.

 

"Whatever," I thought.

 

My dad say silently at the table watching my back, with the hint of a smile on his face. I was still unsure of what exactly was going through my mothers head, but the experience at dinner had left me shaken. I knew at least that my dad loved me. I never doubted that. I had at times doubted my love for him, but rationally I knew it would and should never falter.

 

Such is the heart of a teenaged girl.

 

"Why does mom stay with us?" I thought. I was worried. I didn't know anything about her I realized and the less I realized I knew the more frightened I became. There wasn't enough information available to me.

 

"Why does mom stay with us?" I asked. My father remained silent and I didn't turn to face him for a moment. When I finally did I found him smiling warmly.

 

"Your mother loves us very much, more than even her own happiness." He said.

 

This took me off guard. More than her happiness? Didn't love make you happy?

 

"She loves us but isn't happy, is that what you're saying?" I repeated.

 

My father stood. He was very tall, much taller than me even after I had my growth spurt. He was the tallest man I'd ever seen outside of the Internet or television. If I didn't love him so much I'd think he was silly looking. So tall, and with some much hair. He was kind of creepily pretty too. He would wear slacks every now and then but usually around the house he'd been in beaten up jeans that had to have been at least 30 years out of style, not to mention production. Right then he was wearing jeans and a t-shirt with some jellyfish looking thing on it, and his hair swept back in a ponytail. He was barefoot, unlike me.

 

"She wasn't built to be a mother, or a house wife," He said, smiling earnestly, "She isn't really cut out to work 9-5 either. This life isn't what she was destined for," He rubbed the stubble on his jaw, glancing at the garage, "In a very real way her life is over, in the sense that she once knew it. For her, this is what comes after life."

 

Seeing my blank and uncomprehending face, he laughed, a soft but deep sound that I had grown up with.

 

"Maybe I can paint a picture for you, darling. Christians live a hard life with lots of ups and downs and when they die they go to heaven and there aren't any downs anymore."

 

He shook his head.

 

"When the ups are only ups they become the norm, even in heaven. There's no where to go. you can't go up cuz you're already up, and after life there's no such thing as an actual down anymore. Basically your mom is in heaven and she doesn't have a way out." he finished.

 

I leaned back against the kitchen counter, which soaked the back of my pants in a straight line with dish water.

 

"She should just leave us then..." I said.

 

"If you fought your whole life to get into heaven would you throw it away to feel pain? Especially if you could never come back? No, she leaves for hours at a time and then comes back to us. I do it too. Someday you'll discover that after a certain point you've done all the living you can for yourself and it's time to start doing it for someone else. I do it for you and your mother, she for you and I. We could live forever like this."

 

I glanced at the door that led to the garage. I could only hope my parents weren't spicing their lives up with some sort of virtual spouse swapping or something gross like that.

 

"I guess I understand," I said, turning back to the dishes.

 

My father laughed again.

 

 

"No, you don't," he said, "but you might someday. Just try and remember this conversation."

 

 

 

My father sat back down and continued reading whatever it was he had been reading. I finished the dishes, but hesitated as I got ready to leave. I needed to ask him something else.

 

 

 

"Hey dad... do you know anything about swords?" I asked.

 

 

 

---

 

 

 

My father had smirked like he had gotten a call from an old friend.

 

 

 

"Swords, do I know about swords? Yeah, I've held a sword or two when I was younger. What do you need, hon?" he said.

 

 

 

I shifted a bit uncomfortably.

 

 

 

"Well, I need to figure out what kind of practice sword to make for my club."

 

 

 

Dad rested his chin in his hand.

 

 

 

"Oh, is that so," he said, "Why would you ask me?" His eyes were a bit glazed and unfocused.

 

 

 

My lips formed a tight line as I realize my dad was trying to tease information out of me. I slumped, my natural childhood desire to withhold information from my parents falling victim to my need to figure out this sword stuff.

 

 

 

"Well... I remember hearing uncle Bill mention something about the war last time he was here. I thought," I paused, "I thought maybe you might have fought in it. I know swords became popular during it so..." I trailed off.

 

 

 

I sounded stupid in my own head. I was ready to give it all up and pick something at random, anything to escape the situation I had put myself in, but my father spoke up again.

 

 

 

"I did fight in the war. We... your mother and I, didn't want to tell you. War isn't something we think you should be proud of. But I fought. I even fought with your Uncle Bill." he said.

 

 

 

I looked at him, not sure of how to feel. I wasn't politicized, so I didn't really have an opinion on war in general, but I knew that fighting in the Great War was something to be proud of. He looked young now, so I can't imagine how young he must have been when the war was. Dad was silent, thinking for a moment, before rising to his feet.

 

 

 

"I've got something I think you might like to see."

 

 

 

---

 

 

 

Dad took me up to the room he shared with mom. I hadn't been in there since I was little, long past were the days when a child could roam free and when individualism meant all sorts of boundaries becoming apparent. Truthfully, I had actually been in there once since those day-- I was miraculously at home, by myself. My parents were both out, my mother with a friend and my father was working. I was 13, and terribly curious, and more realistically I was very very... nosey. I had already discovered porn on the Internet, but had been talked to about that stuff with my father and was afraid I would be found out if I went back. My father's drawers were relatively uninteresting, no DVDs or thumb drives or anything that might yield secrets with further investigation. Even then I was a bit wary of my mother but her drawers offered more interesting results. She had several photos of my father (nothing racy), and had some very interesting pieces of underwear.

 

 

I... well, I took an outfit to my room. They were things buried under the other things, somewhere in the middle of all her lacy thongs and bras and camisoles and such, so I figured she wouldn't miss them much. At least, until I could get them back there. I was halfway out of my clothes by the time I got to my room, and my hearts was racing as I fully disrobed in front of a mirror. I had regular brief panties on... white with red trim and little red hearts. I pulled those off my narrow hips and stepped out of them. I looked at my body.

 

 

Nothing special, I thought. Nothing wrong with it, but it wasn't like I was stacked or had nice curves. I had the body of a 13 year old, and only god knew when or if that was gonna change.

 

 

I put on what I had made off with-- a high riding purple thong with black lace trim and semitransparent fabric, stockings, a garter belt, and a bra. The thong fit, and snugly too, though I guess that sort of what it's designed for. I rolled the purple thigh high stocking up my legs and then pinned them to the matching garter belt. I put on the bra last. It tied around the neck, and had more tiny strings in the back that one could undo if one wanted. It was designed to pool whatever breasts you had together and make them look plump and inviting. All it did for me was billow out, holding up nothing, as there was nothing to hold.

 

 

The mirror showed me that I could look good though. I mean, I was kinda sad-- I looked ridiculous, and I think my dad would have a heart attack if he ever saw...

 

 

Oh right.

 

 

Dad opened the door and took a big step onto the bed, standing up above me and fiddling with a painting the hung over the headboard. He pulled it off the nail it hung from and handed it back to me. Behind it was a long safe that the painting just barely covered. He unlocked the panel and slide it open. Dad must have hid all his real goodies in there; I mean, I would too if I owned a safe. And it was too tall for me anyway, at least at 13. Good move, old man. I scolded my younger self for not being more thorough.

 

 

 

It must have been deep, as my dad stuck both of his long arms all the way in before finding whatever it was he was seeking. He took it from its place of rest, huge and dusty. A Polaroid fluttered out of the dark hole onto the bed, which he didn't seem to notice. As he held his find lovingly in his arms, dusty as it was I noticed it was made of thick leather and was actually a scabbard.

 

 

He popped a snap at the throat that was holding the sword in place and drew it out. It was surprisingly massive, even taking the size of the scabbard into account. In all honesty it might have been over a meter long and at least a half foot wide. He dropped the scabbard and held the blade in front of him with one hand.

 

 

"This is the sword I used in the war. I called it Last Prayer." He said.

 

 

If he weren't barefoot and in tattered bluejeans he might almost have looked cool. As it was, I couldn't believe that anyone could use such a big, unwieldy looking weapon. It honestly looked like someone had bolted a slab of iron to a hilt.

 

 

"How much does that thing weigh...?" I asked.

 

 

Dad hopped off the bed and made a short swing with the sword. It passed through the air in front of him with a thick, deep whooshing noise.

 

 

"It's somewhere in the range of 20 pounds. I never took the time to actually weigh it, I don't think. Someone knows, somewhere." He said.

 

 

He flicked his wrist and up flew the sword. He caught the dull edge with in his hand and grasped it, offering the handle to me. With a little bit of expectant hesitation slowing me, I wrapped my hand around the flat and strange grip. My father let go and immediately the blade sagged in the air. It was very heavy. I strained to hold it straight and steady, and was surprised when I managed with a bit of effort.

 

 

"How the heck did you ever do anything with this?" I asked, the blade wavering slightly in the air as I struggled to keep it straight.

 

Dad took a seat on the edge of the bed, his hand rubbing the scabbard absently, lovingly.

 

 

"It was my right hand. I can't say that it was the most versatile or precise sword ever made but it was a part of me, became a part of me. I wouldn't be alive without that sword. Even now keeping it locked up hurts me a little. But the truth is that it's a relic of the past. Part of a different era. Its safely out of the way now, but when I die I expect to be buried with that sword." He said.

 

 

I let the tip of the sword rest on the floor so I wouldn't need to hold its whole weight anymore.

 

 

"Were you really that strong dad?" I asked.

 

 

He laughed, tiny wrinkles forming at the corner of his eyes, showing his otherwise youthful appearance to be a bit deceiving.

 

 

"I was as strong as I needed to be. We all were. Just enough to get by. We forced ourselves to carry the strength to keep the ones around us alive." He said.

 

 

He took the sword back and flipped it around, managing to put an embarrassing gash in the ceiling in the process. He sheathed it and then slid it back into its hiding place. I looked at the gash and then at my father with the hint of a smile on my face.

 

 

"Don't worry about it. Your mom could care less. It'll bother me way more and I'll be the one who ends up fixing it." He assured me. Walking out of the room, he messed up my hair.

 

 

"Some time I'll tell you about that war. It's a lot different than what they've told you in school, I'm sure. I think you're old enough though..." He said.

 

 

I turned and saw the Polaroid teetering on the edge of the bed. I snatched it up.

 

 

I remembered what I had been thinking about. I never managed to return the lingerie I had borrowed; The opportunity never presented itself. I ended up burying them in my closest so no one could find them (hopefully). My mom was frantic for a few days, going from the laundry room to her room looking for something. I was sure she was looking for her things but I had no proof. Dad sat me down a few weeks later to tell me to make sure I didn't go through my mother's things, but I was too busy feigning disgust at the idea to let him finish. He gave me a sad, embarrassed look but believed me.

 

 

"Thanks dad." I said.

 

 

---

 

 

The photo was of my father, my mother and my uncle.

 

 

My dad looked gorgeous, I mean, he looked very handsome. He must have been in his early 20s, by the look of him, but he's always looked very young so who knows. He was wearing some ridiculous green trench coat, and had his arm around my mother's shoulders. He had that massive sword slung over his shoulder. He wasn't kidding, he had used it in the war. I imagined the picture had been taken at a battlefield; the ground around them was all torn up and covered in what might very well have been blood.

 

 

My mother also looked very good. She had shorter hair than she did now, but it looked like it was in a similar style, short in the back longer in the front. She had slacks and a dress shirt on, with a tight belly shirt over it. She appeared just as disinterested as usual, but she had a sliver of a smile on her face.

 

 

My uncle though, he was a piece of work. He was wearing loose slacks with suspenders hanging down, and had on a shirt that had to have been custom made. The collar was way too stiff and tall to be found in a normal store. He had a funny looking sword too, long and broad with a hook on the end, like a fang. He was smirking, his hair disheveled. His face was bloody and he had a pair of sunglasses on.

 

 

They looked strangely happy for being in the middle of the war, but I supposed if they were taking a picture it was an important occasion.

 

 

Back in my room, I pulled a box out from under my bed. It had a tiny, ceremonial lock on it, the sort that says "Please don't go inside" because anyone that actually wanted to get in could easily crack the thing. I placed the photo in the box, on top of the lingerie I stole 4 years ago.

 

 

---

 

 

My father said one other thing to me that night. He said to ask my mother about the same things I had asked him. I wasn't sure if he had meant the swords, or maybe her happiness. I'm guessing that he kept it ambiguous on purpose, or maybe he was so busy thinking of his youth that he had plain out forgotten about the conversation we had in the kitchen. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he was just being crafty.

 

 

 

---

 

 

 

At school I built a sword just like my father's. It was big and heavy and way too hard to use. I loved it.

 

 

 

---

 

 

Jerry taught me the basics and the rest I did myself. It was mostly attaching wood securely together to form the hilt and the blade and make sure it wouldn't come apart when you used it, so reinforcing with bolts and braces and such. The rest was up to each person, really. I built that sword with my own hands. Most of the people in group had made katanas or medieval swords, but mine was utterly unique. People sometimes gave me trouble about it, but mostly just asked a bunch of stupid questions. I think they wanted to see what kind of idiotic girl would make such a useless weapon.

 

 

"That's ridiculous. We aren't cartoon characters you know."

 

 

"How the hell is a skinny girl like you supposed to use that?"

 

 

"You really haven't been paying attention, have you?"

 

 

It was terribly annoying, to tell the truth. I had spent years out of the public eye and truth be told I was very accustomed to my privacy. Even Jerry was skeptical of my design choice.

 

 

"It certainly is... interesting." he said.

 

 

Non-committal bastard.

 

 

---

 

 

The first time I fought, I was on my period. Honestly, I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. I had gotten angry with my mother over some comment she had made, and I thought that Jerry was being a big fat twat. Jane left in a huff at lunch after I compared the gravy on her food to semen. Basically, I was ready to punch a hole in a wall.

 

 

Unfortunately, my would be opponent was some freshman who obsessed over cartoons and picked his acne in class. A real pariah. The kind of nerd you see on television when they're looking to make the viewer feel comfortable when someone is ostracized. We had joined the club at around the same time so it would be the first fight for the both of us. What I knew I had basically picked up from watching the other kids for the first few weeks. I had no real reason to, but I felt ready. As gross as my opponent was, he looked pretty confident in his self as well.

 

 

Jerry stood off to the side, acting as the referee. Holding a clipboard and a stopwatch, he told us to begin.

 

 

I hefted my sword up with one hand, holding it high over my shoulder, pointing it at Acne. He held his sword in front of him with both hands like it was his pecker and he was afraid it would run off if he let go.

 

 

He charged me and and dodged to the side, dropping my sword low and to my front left. It was heavy. He spun and swung at me. Sword down, it hit me hard in the ribs. The air went out of me and from the corner of my eye I could see Jerry jump forward to stop the match,

 

 

"Haha I got her!" Acne said.

 

 

"Okay let's stop this..." Jerry said.

 

 

I didn't hear him over the sound of my coughing as I struggled to regain my breath. From where I had dropped my guard, I swung up and smashed the back of my blade against Acne's sword. Splinters exploded from the impact, and his weapon was torn from his hands. It landed loudly on a pile of desks of to the side.

 

 

I sneered and clutched my side, tossing myself down heavily on a desk muttering curses. Acne apologized for hitting me in the ribs and despite my actual feeling on the matter told him it was alright.

 

 

It took some time before I had calmed down. My blood was pumping like crazy and I was both angry and invigorated. I felt power in my actions, like I really could have done something. Of course, I most likely would have been cut in half if it had been for real but my mind chose not to both with such trifles. I only cared about how fun it had been to see his face when I knocked his sword out of his hands.

 

 

---

 

 

Later, I yelled at Jerry.

 

 

"I thought it was supposed to be sword strikes, you know? Blocks and parries." I spat.

 

 

Jerry looked apologetic, if only slightly.

 

 

"I'm sorry. He got confused by your style." He explained.

 

 

Though I had managed some fun in the end, I left the club in a huff, more to show Jerry that he should have felt concern for me than anything else.

 

 

"Iris wait!" He called after me.

 

 

I took pleasure knowing he wanted me to stay, but kept on.

 

 

Teenaged logic.

 

 

---

 

 

In class we were learning about technical advances of the 21st century.

 

 

"...Introduced in 2035 by the Seraph Corporation, Light Absorption Technology is quickly becoming the standard for clean, environmentally friendly energy within wealthy industrialized nations..."

 

 

All terribly interesting to me. I drew naked people in the margins of my notebook.

 

 

"...while expensive, LAT is becoming more popular in high quality vehicles as an alternative to constant refueling of of hydrogen cells, which as you know replaced gasoline after the oil reserves were destroyed in 2014..."

 

 

I wondered, did Adam and Eve fuck before or only after the fall? Did the serpent watch? Did GOD watch? I drew two stick figures humping with a snake in the corner and a pair of binoculars coming from a cloud.

 

 

"...in addition to technologies that came out of the war, many new laws were created to limit the use of technologies unscrupulously developed during that period. Artificial Intelligence in particular has been banned internationally out of fear if moral abuse and discrimination. Conscious beings should be born and not created, which implies ownership, giving rise to abuse. Most of the combatants in the war were artificially created and used as thinking weapons. New laws seek to end the possibility of such a cruelty from ever happening again..."

 

 

And suddenly the teacher had gotten stuck on weapons again and I began to tune out. I found it hard to think of nonnuclear weapons that could destroy and entire country as humane simply because there was no residual environmental impact. It's not like the old nukes were dangerous just because of the fallout.

 

 

Wholly unimpressed by the advancements of modern man, I put my head down and slept through the rest of class.

 

 

 

---

 

 

 

Now well into the semester, each meeting meant a fight for me. They went much better than the first. I didn't always win, but when I did the feeling was great. Regardless of win or lose I was having a good time.

 

 

During this, I made a new friend, Jackie, who was also a part of the club.

 

 

I was sitting off to the side, catching my breath after an enjoyable duel. After several back and forth striking and parrying, I had swung my blade like a club, smashing my opponent's sword out of their hand. As difficult as it was to use the oversized weapon I had crafted when I was able to use it effectively it made me very happy... it was amazing to fall into the moment and not realize how truly easy it was to simple swing my sword and see where it took me.

 

 

Jackie sat next to me, crossing the room to do so. She had short, fashionable hair dyed black and blue, with a mess of facial piercings; 2 lip rings, one on each side, a tongue piercing (that I noticed as she talked), a nose ring and two eyebrow piercings, on her left eyebrow. She was wearing tight black clothes, as was her usual style.

 

 

"Hi there. That was pretty cool. You seem a lot more into it that some of the people here." She said

 

 

"Oh? Haha well... I just kinda do what comes naturally, I suppose. I like to win but I have lots of fun just getting in there. "

 

 

"I never win. I hesitate because I don't want to hurt anyone."

 

 

I raised my eyebrows, but didn't say anything

 

 

"I think people are a bit intimidated by me, cuz of, well.." she looked around before continuing, "Either way I always end up losing. But it's kind of fun to have something you can call your own that you put together. And it keeps me out of trouble." She said.

 

 

I couldn't think of much to say.

 

 

"Ah." I said.

 

 

She shifted on the desk and then stuck out her hand, "Oh sorry, I'm Jackie, good to meet ya."

 

 

I looked at her hand for a second and then shook it. Her handshake was light and her hand was smaller than mine.

 

 

"I'm Iris."

 

 

"So what's the deal with that sword of yours. I know you get a bunch of trouble for it but where the heck did you come up with that?"

 

 

I lifted it up. Even after a few weeks the sword was holding up well. there were several dents and divits in the once pristeen wood but I never thought the sword was beautiful to begin with. It seemed better for such a thing to look used. To make it look like anything else, would give it a sort of ceremonial feel, which was nothing like waht I wanted for it.

 

 

"I... My father knew someone from the war. When I wanted to make a sword I had no idea where to start so I asked my dad, and he told me about his friend. He didn't say it was for me or wasn't for me but I fell in love with it." I lied.

 

 

She had no reason not to, so it seemed that she took my explanation at face value. I gestured towards her sword.

 

 

"What about you?"

 

 

She lifted her own sword easily and put it on my lap, "It's just something I thought was cool... I just wanted to be able to decorate something. I don't know anything about swords so I just wanted something cool."

 

 

I pursed my lips and nodded. She had painted upside-down crosses and skulls all over her 'blade'. All the wood had been painted glossy black, though there were several places that had lost it's shine from impacts while fighting. Even though she had been in the club before me, her's looked less used than mine, so I assumed she either fought less than I did or tryed to keep it up.

 

 

The next day she sat next to me at lunch, and me and her began to carry on as though we had been friends. This was a bit off putting to Jane, who despite being my friend for the last 2 years never got on nearly as well and Jackie and I were already. She pouted and left early, claiming to have to go speak with a teacher over a paper she had written.

 

 

I felt a bit bad about Jane but overal I was estatic about Jackie. It took less than a week before we were talking all the time, at school and then over the internet once I was at home. We didn't have any classes together but we would meet in the hall and of course at the club meetings. I was happy.

 

 

Jackie was just an indicator of good things in general. I would see familiar faces in the hall and exchange greetings, something I never had to worry about only a year ago. It was strange and also enjoyable, but it meant I had to memorize the names of everyone in the club.

 

 

Though I was getting very integrated into the club (and in reality was one of the top members, coming to every meeting and such), a part of me was angry. With all the fun I was having I felt like I had wasted the last two years of my highschool career being sullen and grumpy. Even though I thought Jerry was really cool, I realized I would have had a blast if I had started my freshman year. I might even be running the club at this point. Overal it was sort of a whistful feeling and I just wish I had come upon the activity sooner.

 

 

---

 

 

Soon it was January, we had just finished out finals for the first semester.

 

 

The first day after clubs had resumed, I came home, parked my shitty Chevy out front, and walked inside to find the house empty. The lights were on, however, so I wasn't sure if Mom was maybe in the garage. I knew dad wasn't; he had complained loudly that he needed to be out of town for a night to do overnight optimizations for a company in the old United States. He would be flying back tomorrow. I knew we would have a little extra money in the house soon, as dad n ever ever left the house over night. He didn't work a 9 to 5 simply because he would rather be at home, so if it pulled him over the old border and away for a whole night they must be paying him obscene amounts of money.

 

 

I didn't think it would turn up, but it was always good to know that we weren't close to bankrupcy. Dad was very quiet about financial stuff so I was never really sure how we were doing.

 

 

I went upstairs to my room and noticed the lighton in there. A cold fear spread in my belly. I looked through the door and saw my mom sitting on my bed.

 

 

I dropped my bag on the floor, "What are you doing, mom." My voice wavered and the question came out more as an accusation.

 

 

"Iris... Sit down."

 

 

I stood in the doorway and stared at her. She stared back and it was apparent that she would win. She sat so still, eyes on me, that it looked as though she wasn't breathing. I gave up and sat in my computer chair. It was obvious that she hadn't intended that but her face barely even twitched.

 

 

"I've... been worried about you, Iris." She said. She paused, as though she expected to pick up, but I was feeling both angry and bewildered so I let the silence hang.

 

 

Her eyes flickered around the room, and then she continued, "You haven't been around much." She paused again, "When you are home and we talk, we fight."

 

 

I sat slumped in my chair, not moving a hair.

 

 

"Gabe, I mean, Your father worries about us. I do too. You and your father get on well but we do not. I would like to change that but I have some serious concerns."

 

 

I glanced at the posted dad had got me, not meeting her eyes anymore, "Yeah? Like what? I'm having fun at school. If you and dad hadn't kept me couped up for 3 years I'd maybe have friends that I could bring over. But no, there's no one that hangs out with me and even if there was I wouldn't want anyone to know my mom is a psycho."

 

 

Mom nodded, her face grey and her lips pursed.

 

 

"I want you to explain this."

 

 

In her hand, balled up, was the lingerie I had stolen several years ago. The color drained from my face and if I thought my stomach had fallen when I saw her it completely jumped ship now. The x colored lace stood vividly against her palid skin and I couldn't deny that it was the sa outfit. I had no good explanation, obviously.

 

 

"What the fuck mom. You went through my things? You broke my fucking lock" I jumped out of my chair and pushed it over, "God you are a psycho how the hell can you go through my stuff. Don't you trust me? What about my privicy?" I ran out of the room, and down the stairs. I grabbed my coat and at the same time reached for my phone, already calling Jackie.

 

 

On the phone, I slammed the front door to the house and sat in my car.

 

 

I was barely coherent but she understood enough to invite me over and give me directions. I drove off, trying my best not to think of what was waiting for me when I finally got home.

 

 

--

 

 

As I drove I realized sullenly that it was a good thing it was the weekend otherwise I owuld have to go to class without my books. I hadn't asked yet buut i intended to stay the night when I went over to Jackie's... I don't think I could deal with being home alone with mom. thinking about it, i was lucky jackie had gotten home alredy, considering the club meetign had only ended 45 minutes ago and being a friday she might have had plans to go somewhere.

 

 

I pulled in front of jackies house and parked on the slightly sloping gras.. They had a small driveway but I didn't want to block anyone in, and even with the the fading light I could see tire marks on the lamp illuminated lawn. I was a bit nervous, now, compounded with my twisting stomach. I kept swallowing, my mouth feeling particularly moist for some reason.

 

 

I walked up to the door but before I could ring the bell Jackie appeared, smiling in a sort of apologetic way, "Hey sorry hope I didn't startle you I've been watching from upstiar, "at this she pointed upwards "My dad is sleeping and I'd rather not wake him up."

 

 

I bit my lips and asked, "Is it okay if I stay here..."

 

 

"Overnight? Yeah no problem. With my dad it's better to ask forgiveness than permission, and he probably wont notice if we don't wake him up. Lets not stand around the door too long though, in case he has to get up and take a piss or something."

 

 

I nodded agreeably and followed her up the stairs. Their house seemed a bit smalled and tighter than mine, but it was certainly filled with more stuff. Many more pictures, a lot more plates and crap. I could barely see her dad in the other room, asleep in a recliner watching (or rather, not watching) a holo drama that was flickering on alarge, if cheap holoscreen. The upstairs hallway was unlit so I followed closely behind jackie and saw light peeking under a signle door. She led me inside.

 

 

Her room was lit but just barely more than the hall way. there was a small incondecent bulb above her cluttered desk in the corner, but no ceiling light. she also had a small candle burning. I suspect the room might be a bit brighter, but nearly everything in her room was dark colored. Her curtains were black, and the walls were covered completely, floor to ceiling, and the ceiling covered as well, with movie and band posters. The posters themselves were covered with protos pinned with thumbtakes of Jackie and her friends. Her room was small and very messy, with various piles of dark clothes laying all about, but I noticed there was no plates or glasses. In the very tiny patches of exposed wall, the paint was apparently dark burgundy.

 

 

Jackie navagated the clutte ron her floor and plopped herself onto her fullsized bed, which was itself unmade and covered with a few books. She had a laptop glowing idly on the bed as well, and I could tell that it was a few years old. She patted the bed nex tto her, which gave me a momentary jolt of recognition when I realized only minutes ago my own mother had asked the same thing. I sat next to jackie and leaned my head on her shoudler.

 

 

"Okay Iris tell me what's going on."

 

 

It took me a few moment to find the words, and though I was not a very emotional person, I was having problems not choking up. After a few false starts I said, "My mom found some lingerie that I had hidden away..."

 

 

Jackie stoped me short, "oooh lingerie, sexy. What was it hmmmm?"

 

 

I should have guessed I would get teased... especailly since Jackie was nearly as dirty and filled with love for finding innuendos as I was. I was already flushed, though I do not think I would have blushed form her comments.

 

 

"Stockings, a thong, garterbelt... old style stuff, 20s era stuff."

 

 

"20s era? You have twenty year old dirty panties? Hahaha" She laughed and I continued.

 

 

"...they were my mothers..."

 

 

She went silent and crinkled her nose.

 

 

"Eww you stole you mom's sexy gear? That's kinda fucked up even for you Iris."

 

 

I headbutted her shoulder, "Shut up, I took them like 4 years ago, I just never had a chance to put them back after I had taken them and by the time I did my mom already gave them up as lost. It would have been weird if they magically appeared."

 

 

"Yeah yeah... I guess. Still weird."

 

 

"Yea I know that not the point... so anyway I had them in this safe box I kept in my closet and i guess my mom got all nosey and started looking through my things and found the lingerie"

 

 

"Ahh...and then?"

 

 

"Well.... I kind of freaked out and left the house."

 

 

"Okay... so..... why didn't you tell her what happened?"

 

 

"I paniced, I don't know. I'm not on great termson my mom as is so the idea of her goingt hrough my things kind of set me off."

 

 

"Well, I mean, you had to go through her things to take it inthe first place."

 

 

I paused and sighed loudly.

 

 

"I know, I know, I just can't be there with her right now. My dad is out of town tonight, OF ALL NIGHTS, so it would just be me and here. I had to get out of there."

 

 

"Okay, okay, whatever you think will work. Just think of something to say before you go home tomorrow."

 

 

"I will, don't worry, I think I've already sort of figured things out..."

 

 

"Not that I'm big on the whole parentals things, but you should tell your mom what's going on... god knows if my dad got a call about me being missing he wouldn't give a shit, but if your's did I think it might be another story."

 

 

I agreed and hoped mom hadn't called dad yet. I sent her a text message giving her the bare bones, with the hopes it would stall any calls she would send her dad.

 

 

'At a friends house, staying the night, will talk to you about things in the morning."

 

 

"There." I said, sighing and turning off my phone.

 

 

"Sure you want to do that?"

 

 

"Not that I think she would, but I really don't want to have to explain myself over the phone. I think I would get fed up too quickly if she feels like lecturing me."

 

 

Jackie patted my back and laid back on the bed, "Yeah, I suppose."

 

 

I looked over my shoulder at her, "So.. sorry for springing this on you."

 

 

"She looked at the ceiling, things for a moment, but soon she was smiling again, "Don't worry about it, lord knows I've crashed at people houses when things were too hot around here. But I've got plans for tonight-"

 

 

"Oh god I'm sorry I'll go home later I didn't kn-" I interuppted.

 

 

"Oh shut up I'm just going to a party. All I'm saying is if you want to stay you have to come along with me. And besides it should be fun and it'll take you mind off of things." She interuppted back.

 

 

I thought about it for a second. I had never been to a party before, nor invited to one actually. Well, I suppose I had when I was younger, to birthday parties and such but for the most part, since none of my aunts or uncles had children, they would come to me when it was my brithday. I always hoped that I would get a cousin, but no such luck. We used to drive down to the badlands to visit Uncle Bill every once in a while, but as the kids got older they would leave the orphanage and soon no one I knew or liked was there anymore.

 

 

"Yeah that'd be great. Who's having it?"

 

 

"A friend of mine that i used to go to school with, before I transferred."

 

 

"You used to go to another school?"

 

 

"Yeah, I went to northside before."

 

 

"Northside? That place is kinda..."

 

 

"Yeah, it's filled with wannabe gansters and all sorts of other idiots. I got kicked out for bad grades and smoking all the time. My dad was pretty furious with me, considering I was only a freshman."

 

 

I made a face but didn't say anything.

 

 

"So I was moved to west point and now things are going alot better. For the most part I don't talk to any of the folks that I went to school with, but there are a few that are really cool, nice people, who know how to balance fun and not getting their asses in trouble.

 

 

"So wait, you used to smoke?"

 

 

"Yeah. It's super gross but I started in middleschool and quit when I switched schools. if I'm ever super stressed out I have one but that only happens like every couple months."

 

 

"Alrighty..."

 

 

I sat around and realized that I was quickly beginning to get very hungry. I sighed and held my stocmach, which made a loud and embarassing grumble. I looked at Jackie apologetically, "Sorry, do you have anything to eat?"

 

 

"No, we don't really have anything here. We should run out to a resturant. And preferences?"

 

 

"Uh, I don't really feel like fast food. Maybe something like diner or something?"

 

 

"Hmmm, okay, that's fine with me, I think I know a place. It's a litlte bit of a drive, but you've got a car right?"

 

 

"Yeah, otherwise I'd be at home still..."

 

 

"Okay cool." She got out of bed, "We'll eat, come back and get ready, and then hit the party."

 

 

"Alright, sounds like a plan."

 

 

---

 

 

The diner was small and clean, one of those 24 hour places that would be dead from dinner til bars let out, and the quiet again til morning. I always thought it would be a pretty easy job to keep, as long as the drunks at night weren't too much of a hassle. We got a booth next to the bar and I looked over the menu. A waitress, Tammy, came by to ask what we'd like to drink. I ordered a coke (and got a pepsi) and Jackie asked for coffee.

 

 

"Coffee?"

 

 

"Yeah, I plan to be up for a while. You might want one too."

 

 

"No, I'm okay, I think I'll stick with my coke."

 

 

"Well, at least it has caffiene in it."

 

 

I wasn't much of a coffee drinker... I never got over the bitter taste and I wasn't up early ever if I could help it so I never got into the habit. My parents didn't drink it either which meant there wasn't a coffee maker in the house to begin with.

 

 

The waitress returned with our drinks and took our order. I eventually decided on a cheeseburger and jackie ordered some breatfast food, eggs and bacon with orange slices. I noticed the waitress, a woman who looked about 40 or so, give Jackie a dirty look and then took our menus and walked away with our orders.

 

 

"Hey, that chick just gave you a shitty look... what's that about?"

 

 

Jackie had her back to the corner, sipping on her coffee, "Ah, I know her. Me and my friends used to come here after school all the time, make a bunch of noise and bother people, stiff on tips. I'm surprised she remembers me, since I dyed my hair."

 

 

I made a noncommital noise and sipped form my straw.

 

 

We didn't talk much while we waited. I was a bit tired after all that had happened and was thinking, and Jackie, while usually energetic, seemed content to drink her coffee.

 

 

Our waitress came before our food did, and asked for payment. I paid for both me and Jackie, who tried to refuse but I wouldn't let her. I told her it made us even for me staying the night, and she shrugged at let me do what I wanted.

 

 

The food came shortly after.

 

 

"This is so freaking greasy." I said.

 

 

Jackie shovled bits of eggs into her mouth, breaking half of bacon over the fluffy yellow eggs and mixing them together, "Aren't they? So good... well, not good for you. But it's good pre drinking food"

 

 

I sort of half mumbled out a reply, mouth full. I hadn't thought that we'd be drinking but it made sense if we were going to a party.

 

 

After a few minutes of relatively silent eating Jackie tried to strike up a conversation, "So how are your folks... I mean, I know you are fighting with your mom and whatever, but what about your dad. Got any other family, brother's, sisters...?"

 

 

I finished my bite and sucked downa little soda, before answering, "Well, me and my mother have never gotten along great. She's jsut kind of cold. I mean, maybe not cold but she's just weird, she's not like normal people. At least it doesn't seem like it. I guess I don't know many other moms. But she's definately nothing like my aunt. My aunt is super cool, buys me neat stuff, is really nice... but she lives up in greenland so I don't get to see her often. We've visited once or twice but she usually comes by us for holidays and things. It's warmer by us, and our house is bigger since she lives alone..."

 

 

"What about your dad? What side of the family is your aunt from?" She asked, helping me along.

 

 

"Well... my aunt is from dad's side, I'm pretty sure. Yeah, it's his sister. She and my mother are very close though so sometimes I forget. My dad.... well, my dad is kind of funny. He has a weird sense of humor and he likes to stick around the house a lot. He does a lot of contract work so he's usually around."

 

 

"What's he doing gone then?"

 

 

I shook my head, "Not sure, he never ever is gone overnight, so it must be a big job. I was a little weirded out by it too. But yeah, I like my dad, we get along a lot for the most part. He's just kind of over protective. He wouldn't let me join any sports teams, for instance."

 

 

"What about the club?"

 

 

"That took me a while to convince him to do, too, but since it wasn't competitive he figured it was fine. They are always worried about bringing attention to myself."

 

 

"Hmm, that's kind of fruity."

 

 

"Oh yes, I agree."

 

 

"Well, you have the once in a lifetime chance, it seems, to really let loose. We're gonnahave a great night tonight, Ire!"

 

 

I smiles and took another bite of my sandwich.

 

 

"Aside from that... no brothers or sisters, no cousins for that matter. I have two uncles though, Uncle Bill and Uncle Alex. Bill is a cool guy, though he's kind of creepy sometimes."

 

 

At this Jackie frowned deeply, "Creapy how? Like, take you into the forest kind of creapy?"

 

 

I shook my head vehemently, "Oh god, no, nothing like that. He's just like really intense. He's a preacher," Jackie raised her eyebrows accusingly, "Shut up no, and he runs an orphanage in the badlands. He just argues a lot with my dad. And he's always wearing these super dark sunglasses, even though her has an eyepatch."

 

 

Jackie cooed a bit, leaning forward, her interest piqued, "An eyepath, huh? How'd he get it?"

 

 

I sat back, done with my food and pulled out the straw of my soda so I could play with the ice, "Dad wouldn't ever let him tell me.." I realized that he had probably gotten it in the war, and reflecting on the picture might have even gotten it just a short time before the photo was taken. I couldn't tell Jackie this, not that I knew for sure anyway.

 

 

"Boring. Ask him when your dad isn't around some time, I bet he'd tell you."

 

 

I laughed, because that was probably true.

 

 

"So, you've got the eyepatch uncle. What about the other one?"

 

 

"He's a bit different... not so much creepy, well, creepy in his own way I guess. He's been handycapped since before I was born. His sits in a wheel chair and his girlfriend takes care of him. He just sits around with his eyes open all day and lets Cheryl do whatever she need to with him. She feeds him, stuff like that, wheels him around."

 

 

Jackie finished her coffee, "That's sad, what happened?"

 

 

I shruged, just as clueless as her.

 

 

Our food already paid for we left the resturant and got back in my car. Jackie pointed in a different didrection than we had came, "Come on, there's a gas station around the corner, we should pick up some snack while we're out."

 

 

"Why's that?"

 

 

"Just because, we'll be home for a while yet and we don't have anything at home."

 

 

I shruged and pull out into the street, turning the corner where she indicated and pulled into the gas station. Inside, we grabbed several bags of chips and some cookies, a bag of skittles and some soda. Jackie insisted on paying, saying that she would probably eat most of it anyway. I complained but this time she insisted and I couldn't refuse.

 

 

---

 

 

Jackie told me I had parked in the right place earlier since I was staying over, and I would probably still be here when her dad left in the morning. I parked on the grass again, instead of blocking the garage. When we entered the house, Jackie's dad was still snoring but seemed to have moved from his recliner to the couch. He looked content enough. Quietly we went up the stairs to her room, and she shut the door tightly behind up. I plopped the plastic bags onto a relatively stable looking pile of clothes.

 

 

"Well I feel better now that I have some food in me. Still a bit anxious about what'll happen when I get home..." I said, taking a seat on Jackie's bed again.

 

 

"Heh well I'm glad you're well fed. I think I might have a cure for that second part too..." She came to the bed but crouched before it, slaping my shin to get me to lift my feet.

 

 

"Hey, what are you doing?" I said while trying to scoot out of the way.

 

 

"You aren't the only one with a box of secrets..." She said, finding what she was tooking for and pulling out a battered cardboard shoebox.

 

 

I looked on curiously, as she put it ont he bed. She pulledof the top, setting it to the sid,e and I saw that there were three vibrators and dildos sitting inside.

 

 

"Jesus christ Jackie what the hell do you think we're going to do?!" I yelled, scooting away from her and her box. My heart raced and i was flushing.

 

 

Jackie, more shameless than I, laughed, "Oh calm down I'm not gonna rape you. I just keep all my private stuff in the same box. Like you haven't seen one before anyway."

 

 

I shook my head, emphatic, "Not that that's any of your BUSINESS. How the hell did you get those anyway... you can't order that stuff unless you're 18."

 

 

"Hah, that's the first thing you thought of? Little pervert. All you need is a credit card, which you aren't supposed to have til your 18, but we all know it's not that hard to borrow one."

 

 

I made a disgusted face, "good, you used your dad's credit card? That's so gross, he knows you--"

 

 

She laughed more, "Like he checks his statements. Even if he did they usually put something besides what the order is, like novelty corp or something."

 

 

I sagged in the bed, partially excited but knowing for sure that my dad was the sort that WOULD check his statement, and not wanting THAT of all things to be caught for. She could only imagine the fallout if her mom went through her stuff AGAIN.

 

 

"But, my little perv, that's not what I'm looking for..." She pulled out the phalluses and underneath was a piece of cardboard proped on top of something. She pulled the insert out and underneath was several pipes and a prescription bottle. She pulled out the bottle and one of the pipes. The pipe was small and glass, colored a swirling mix of pink and darker red. I looked; I had no idea what she was playing at.

 

 

She loosely tossed the other pieces into the box and set that on the floor. She searched around for a moment and apparently found what she was looking for; A trashy teen magazine. She opened the bottle pulled out a baggy with a bunch of green crumbs. A sweet,distinctive smell hit me and I kept my voice low on purpose, despite my exclamation.

 

 

"Is that weed?!" I said, voice squeaking.

 

 

Jackie grinned, opening the baggy and grabbing hold of a cluster, "It most certainly is. Alot harder to get than a dildo, too."

 

 

I kept quiet and watched with facination as she began crushing it into tiny pieces over the magazine, making a little pile. After it was crushed she picked little pieces of stem out and tiny brown seeds. Finally she folded the page and poured the weed into the pipe's bowl.

 

 

She picked up the pipe and held it to her, a little smile on her face as she looked at me. she glanced back at the door and then dug in her pocket. She pulled out a lighter and with practiced care lit the green crumbs until there was a bit of it glowing. She pulled the lighter away and I saw smoke fill the tiny glass device. She removed her finger from the side of it and inhaled, closing her eyes while she waited, breath held. I simply looked at her, entranced and not wuite sure what to do. A thin trail of smoke came from the bowl but the weed seemed to have gone out, not burning on like tobacco. At length she exhaled through her nose, lots of thin white smoke coming out. She smiled again, her face a bit flushed now, and looked back at me.

 

 

"I thought you said you didn't smoke anymore?" I asked, too dumbstruck to properly address the situation.

 

 

She took a moment to reply, inhaling a breath of fresh air, "I quit smoking cigarettes. This is totally different. You wont catch me smoking this at school between classes."

 

 

"I should hope not," I said, not really having an opinion but now quite wary.

 

 

She held the pipe and lighter out to me, "Care to try? It doesn't hurt, and if you don't like it you don't have to do anymore."

 

 

I was a bit afraid, my heart beating quickly and loudly, or at least it seemed so. I didn't take them, but said shyly, "I've never done it before. I don't know how to."

 

 

Jackie grinned and hopped up on the bed beside me. She held out her left hand palm up with the pipe in it, "You hold the pipe like this in your left hand, and place your thumb over this hole on the side like so, "she demonstrated, and the handed it to me, "Then you bring it up to your lips and hold it steady. If you're lighting yourself up you use your right hand and light the weed enough so you can pull smoke into the pipe, but not so much that you burn it all and waste it. oh, and when you are pulling make sure you don't suck too hard. Either you'll get to much smoke and start to couch, or you'll pull the weed through, and that tastes like shit.... not to mention it's waste of perfectly good weed."

 

 

I nodded and took the the pipe in my hand, holding it carefully, looking at it. I found the hole on the side and held it upto my lips, "Like this?"

 

 

She nodded, "Yup. Now I'm gonna light you. Just suck gently in, into you lung like you are take a slow breath. Then when I tell yuo, take you finger off and pull the rest in and hold it. Okay?"

 

 

I thought for a second to make sure I had it all and then nodded. I put the pipe back to my lips and she lit the lighter, placing it upside down about the weed. It started to sizzle a bit and i did what she said, pulling in the smoke slowly. I noticed not much entered my mouth.

 

 

"Okay now take your thumb off the hole."

 

 

I did as she said and sucked in the smoke that had collected. Immediately I felt my throat burn a bit, but I held my breath like she said. My eyes started to water and, knowing more about what was going on than I did, grabbed the pipe from me and then watched with amusement as I began to cough.

 

 

"There you go, here drink this." She handed me a bottle of soda we had just picked up and I gulped the drink down.

 

 

She was already taking another hit, much more elegantly than I had, though I suppose she had a lot more practice.

 

 

"What to give it a shot yourself? Just make sure you don't cough into it... that's bad, big nono."

 

 

I nodded, my throat a bit sore, but my head was feeling light. I took the pipe back and mimicked Jackie's motions. I took a hit myself, fumbling a bit with the lighter for a moment, and then made sure to be extra conservative with the flame, not wanting to burn up the weed on accident and waste it.

 

 

I took the pipe away and despite my best efforts I began to cough again, holding the pipe out for Jackie while she laughed.

 

 

We continued to smoke the rest of the bowl over the course of the next hour, talking about random and overall meaningless things, cracking into the snacks the Jackie ahd bought and attacking them ravonously. I felt completely different... like I was a whole new person. It might make me sound like s stoner but it was almost as if I wasn't in my body... either someone else was inside me or I was inside someone else. I keep focusing on things really hard and became very quiet and intense while my mind worked to comprehend whatever it was I was worrying about.

 

 

"Hey Jackie? What about your parents... you askeda bout mine but what's the deal with your mom and dad?"

 

 

She exhaled her smoke in rings, her eyes drooping but witha smile affixed to her face, "My mom ran out on my dad a couple times. She's just crazy and it got so bad that I decided to live with my dad instead of her. He'll blow up on me once in a while, but for the most part he lets me do whatever I want."

 

 

I nodded, taking another hit, feeling quite comfortable with it now, even though my head felt completely submerged at this point.

 

 

She laughed, wrapping her arms around me, "Case and point!"

 

 

When it was 9 o'clock both of us, extremely high and somewhat tired, decided that if we didn't leave for the party, were weren't going to go. I was begining to wish that I had drank coffee with Jackie when we were at the restaurant. My eyes weren't heavy, though, and as long as I kept moving I felt like I would be okay for a few more hours. It was just sitting around, made laying down and falling asleep seem extremely inviting.

 

 

"Jakie.... where are we going? I don't think I should be driving like this. I don't think I could do it."

 

 

"It's close enough. I'd have to get there on my own, so I was planning on walking."

 

 

"You don't have a car?"

 

 

"I have my license but no don't have a car."

 

 

I nodded and shrugged, the motion feeling exaggerated, "Okay cool... should be get going...?"

 

 

Jackie told me no and stepped over her piles of clothes, making her way towards her closest, kept perpetually open by clothing. A number of shirts and skirts and pants hung inside.

 

 

"...We need to get ready." she said.

 

 

She dug through her closest, approving and and denying various combinations as she came across them. Eventually she came out with two outfits, and held them up for me to judge.

 

 

"Okay, opinion time. What looks best, band shirt and skirt or corset and pants?"

 

 

I sucked my teeth and thought of it a bit, my mind wandering around even as I tried to think. I thought the skirt look cute and it wasn't too cold out considering, "The skirt and the shirt look pretty good... I think you could get away with it..."

 

 

Jackie gave me a cocky look and tossed the skirt and shirt at me, "Good. The skirt'll fit even if you're taller than me and I felt like wearing the corset anyhow."

 

 

I lulled my head around, "Oh I see how it is. Okay, I'll play your little game. I wont give you the pleasure of seeing me squirm."

 

Jackie pounced on me, then twisted the bed so as to sit next to me. She began tugging at my pants, "Yeah okay so I don't get that but I dooooo get to see Iris without pants!"

 

We fought and laughed but ended up actually getting changed without much fuss. I stared intently at myself in Jackie's mirror. Wearing Jackie's gothic clothes with my funny haircut made me look like I was queen punk. I tilted my head, watching the one long part of my hair swing in the air. Jackie kept messing with my shorter hair, foofing and teasing it up.

 

She looked like she had been poured into her corset; her chest was nearly overflowing from the top and I found myself thinking I was lucky I hadn't gotten saddled with that one. It wasn't so much that I was worried about showing much skin, but rather that compared to Jackie I wouldn't have nearly as much to show. The poor corset would have hung there sadly, with nary a breast to lift and enhance.

 

Jackie finished putting on make-up, heavy eyeliner and shadow. I touched up my own face from my kit but declined to add anymore. I liked Jackie but we didn't need to show up in a house full of people I didn't know looking like nearly identical sisters.

 

I continued to watch myself in the mirror, my pallid face staring back at me, my eyes hovering around, taking in the tiny details that I often overlook while running out of the house in the morning. Small, faint freckles, a straight hairline, a thin but prominent nose, slightly upturned... my strange hair, still being played with, one section long from the left ear to the part in the middle of the forehead, the rest shorter, maybe an inch or so long; I take it all in, process it, and project the composite on my brain. I turn, my body seeming to continue turning even after I had stopped, like an echo.

 

"Come on jackie... lets go."

 

---

 

The walk was short, though it felt like quite a while, as if time had drastically slowed down. The weather was nice for the time of the year, about 40 degrees with the sun down being quite clement. Jacie's friend lived maybe 5 blocks away. The door opened easily to us and we entered without trouble. I could feel eyes on us immediately but nothing of the sort that was offensive, at least as far as I could tell. Jackie hugged several people as she came across them, obviously old friends. She introduced me to each but the names flew through my head and I shook hands and smiled and nodded and generally didn't worry about keeping a handle on the various designations.

 

We traveled through the house as if on a mission, and entered a kitchen primarily watched over by a grungy looking man with long shaggy black hair and full beard, who among other things was mananing a keg, filling drink after drink as people wandered and stumbled through.

 

"Heeeey Jackie, you made it. I didn't think you'd show up it's great to see you!" The man embraced my friend, leaving his arm halfway around her while continuing to hold the tap out to those who needed it.

 

"Of course. I missed the last couple so I owed it to you. Plus I needed something to do tonight so my friend here wouldn't be bored to death."

 

He looked at me intently, his eyes hanging for a moment at the hem of my skirt where it hung above my knees by several inches, before traveling up the rest of me. I wavered in place, my skin feeling hot.

 

"Well hi there, welcome." He said.

 

Jackie grins and grabbed my arm, pulling my close, "This is Jim, Iris. Jim, this is Iris."

 

I shook his hand, which was big and cold.

 

"Hi there Iris, I'm Jim like she said. This is my house, grab a cup and get a beer and have a good time."

 

I nodded, my voice not coming and no words appearing in my head. Jackie pulled me toward the counter and grabbed a red plastic cup for each of us, shoving one in my hand and had Jim fill us up.

 

I was barely paying attention... my mind was wandering and high as I was whatever I wandered to my attention was focused exclusively on that one thing. Off handedly I wondered how stoners could ever get anything done and then realized they often didn't and hoped my prior situation wouldn't have any long term effects. I sipped my bear and realized that I had really never done anything remotely like this. No parties, certainly no drinking, not to mention the drugs...

 

Waved at Jim as we exited the room, makingour way into the dining room in order to mingle with the rest of the party. Music was playing through a home theater system, with base shaking the floor. It was some sort of neometal band with indesipherable lyrics. I couldn't place who the band was but it was similar enough to what I listened to that I felt myself smiling as I listened, even over the uproarous sound of everyone talking. I couldn't count then but if I estimated I would have to guess there were at least 50 people in various parts of the house.

 

"God this beer tastes like shit." Jackie yelled to me over the music. She took another sip immediately after anyway.

 

The beer was cheep and watered down but tasted fine to me. JAckie laughed and said that was good and would pay off when I started to go to more house parties.

 

"These places always have the cheepest shit. You're lucky if there's liquor that wont burn a hole in your stomache too. Not being picky is super lucky."

 

I took a bigger drink from my cup and shrugged exaggeratedly.

 

The rest of the party began to swirl by. Jackie whisked me around to various friends she recognized. People struck up conversations with me that I had never met, and they ended erather quickly but I did not feel all that bad about it. It was nice to talk to new people, though I didn't have much to say. Iwasn't sure if it was the situation or the weed but I had a lot of trouble expressing my thoughts when we did talk. I wasn't put off by it. My face was stuck in a smile most of the time and I could feel an alternate buzz coming over me as I consumed more alcohol. I broke off from Jackie several time to refil my cup. She finally shut herself in a room with other people while I was away, apparently to smoke some more.

 

The music was still going and there were plenty of people around, all anonymous, so I felt no harm in dancing to pass the time. I swayed without much rhythm or timing, simply enjoying the feeling of moving to the music.

 

"Iris... Iris Mason is that you?"

 

My insides imploded and I jumped hard, spilling my drink but luckily managing to just miss Jackie's skirt. Beer dripped into my socks and I swung around to see who it was.

 

"Jerry... what the hell are you doing here?"

 

Jerry was standing there, looking very much out of place and not a small bit confused, dressed in a tshirt and jeans with a flannel button up left unbuttoned. He was holding a cup of his own, eyes wide but smiling. He held his hands up to avoid being splashed.

 

"Woah, oh shit you got some on yourself... you want me to go find you something to wipe up with?"

 

"Ah no... I'll go find a bathroom in a minute. What are you doing here?"

 

Jerry looked around a bit sheepishly, "Well, I could say the same to you, I guess, but you seem to be fitting in a lot better than me..."His eyes, which avoiding mine, seemed to pause on my face before looking at the rest of my mostly black, borrowed outfit. I felt a bit of color rise to my checks as I could only imagine how my eyes looked after spending and hour smoking with Jackie, "I know a guy from Northside who runs a club similar to ours, and he knew a guy who know the guys who's throwing this."

 

I nodded, sipping from my cup agian to forstall having to say something else. I swallowed, loudenough for him to hear (or so I imagined) though that is likely impossible over the sound of the music.

 

"Oh okay... there's other Sword clubs? We should have an exhibition some time..." I was amazed I managed to synthesize sucha coheriant thought.

 

"You look gre--" I apparently cut him off in the middle of a thought, "Oh yes, that exactly what i was thinking. We'll have to decide what teams should be like and who should be on them. We'll have to keep it on the downlow too since I'm sure niether school would be too keen on having kids running around between school with wood swords, but I think we might be able to work something out."

 

I nodded in agreement. Jerry looked good, despite not fitting in very well. Iwas really surprised to find him out here, I never would have pegged him as the type. I noticed though that his cup was mostly full so maybe he was more concerned with having something to do than drinking. Either way, I was happy I had managed to see him outside of school, and it was nice not to be fussing with him as was happening so often in club.

 

"That's right. That would be awesome... like, really fun. We should have try outs for that or something..." Jerry nodded along with my though, "But I'm gonna run to the bathroom and clean up a bit. Jackie is around so you might bump into her. See you again in a few."

 

Jerry smiles and nodded and moved to give me an awkward hug that I personally could have done without but it didn't bother me much. It was just a bit strange. Without saying anything I laughed sheepishly and began to push my way through the crowd. The bathroom had a long line in front of it and it seemed like a pain to wait that long just to wash up. I wandered into the kitchen and saw Jim again.

 

"Hey Jim do oyu have another bathroom I could use? Someone spilled on me."

 

Jim finished filling the glass he had been working on and jerked his thumb towards the ceiling "Yeah, there's one upstairs in my bedroom you can use. First door on the right, just turn out the lights and close the door when you come out. And keep that between you and me; I don't need anyone flooding my bathroom and having it leak through the ceiling before I notice."

 

I said I'd make sure and climbed the stairs to the second floor. It was empty, the music palying dully through the floor, all the voices of the party muffled. I went where I was told and opened the door. There were a few coats on the bed. I could see a night light int he bathroom so I saved myself the trouble of looking for the room light and walked right in.

 

The bathroom was small and somewhat disheveled. There were male cosmetics all over the place; hair gel deodorant bar soap, razors. The toilet paper was not on the roll but sat unattended on top of the tank. I wrapped a bit onto my hand and gently moistened it, cleaning my legs. I looked at myself in the mirror again, my high fading but a solid buzz appearing in its place. I couldn't believe how much of my legs I was showing but a part of me jumped for inappropriate joy and a felt a tingle run through my body. I grinned at myself in the mirror; I was having a good time.

 

I poked my head out back into the bedroom, and noticed with the bathroom light on I could see the pile of coats onthe bed moving. KEeping perfectly quiet I heard a moan, and a distinct wet slurping noise. My heart began to race and I struggled to move myself to some action, be it to continue out of the room or retreat into the bathroom. My pulse crept higher and I heard another low moan, and more perscitant shuffling. I shook myself, literally, and speed throughthe bedroom without slowing, tuggingt he door closed and letting it slam with it's inertia. I let out a breath I hadn't realized I had been holding and let myself calm down for a moment before heading down.

 

Halfway down the stairs I looked over the crowd and saw Jerry, immediately after noticing Jackie standing next to him smiling stupidly, probably high as hell.

 

I parted the crowd and met up with them agai. Excited from what I had overheard and a little tipsy I guess I plowed between them, throwing my arms around both of them and laughing. Jerry looked embarrassed and Jackie looked like she hadn't a care in the world. We talked for some time about nothing, Jackie taking particular pains to continually remind us how bad the beer was, but how good the bud was.

 

Jackie and I danced for some time together, in a manner that I'm sure was inappropriate, drawing our fair share of attention, both of us too intoxicated to notice or care. Both sweating fiercely, we decided that we had been at the party long enough. Jerry had left an hour or so earlier, and not knowing anyone else and being properly soused at the time I had little reason to stick around. Jackie and I wandered into the kitchen, looking to find Jim before we left, but the keg had been emptied and he had been lost somewhere within the rest of the party.

 

"Don't worry baby I'll let him know we had a good time."

 

"Really... you promise?"

 

"Promise."

 

"Really?"

 

"Yes I promise comon baby lets get out of here."

 

"You really really promise?"

 

"Yes now lets go before the ops show up or something."

 

"Oh okay. If the cops show up tell Jim I'm sorry I didn't mean it!"

 

"Didn't mean what?"

 

"Didn't mean for the cops to show up!" I said, punctuated with an unladylike burp.

 

"Yeah well same for me so I bet he can figure that out if it happens. In the mean time lets get out of here!"

 

"Okay lead the way!"

 

We pushed our way through the slowly shrinking crowd; it was past midnight now and a large portion of the people who were driving had left earlier. I stumbled and giggled multiple times, before tripping for real, power sliding on my bare knees on the hardwood floor and ending up with my ass in the air and exposed.

 

"Oh god Iris get up. Are you okay?" Jackie rushed to help me up.

 

With my eyes closed the room was spinning around me in the darkness, and I had to fight myself to care about moving. I felt from the darkness a hand reach over and touch my ass. I realized I was wearing small underwear and someone was groping my mostly bare ass. My eyes snapped open and I wheeled around, seeing an excited looking teenager back off quickly. He had short, gelled hair and he held his hand away from his body like he didn't want to lose the sensation of grabbing me yet. Jackie jumpe dout of the way as I scrambled to my feet, getting in his face and realizing he was a few inches taller than me.

 

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?!" I screached

 

The guy who up close was obviously shit faced came closer, and grabbed my ass, pulling me close to him, "Sorry I wanted to help out but my hand slipped."

 

It was an unconvincing lie.

 

"Let me go!" I said, squirming, burning up now that I was sure most of my ass was being clutched in front of a throng of people.

 

"Shhh! Quiet down, it's okay this is fine. Want to go somewhere quiet to calm down? Upstairs...?"

 

I thought of the couple in the bedroom and my vision went red. I threw my face forward,forehead smashing into his nose, crushing itwith one blow. He grunted, falling backwards into the staircase. I threw a kick into his unprotected crotch and gnashed my teeth as I felt it sink in, her legs immediately wraping around my foot as he screamed in agony. I extracted myself, stumbling into Jackie as I fell backwards, and grabbed her hand, rushing out of the house.

 

---

 

We walked halfway back to Jackies before eitehr of us said anything.

 

"I'm sorry... I ruined everything."

 

Jackie hugged me tightly as we walked.

 

"Don't be sorry, that guy deserved it... but that was one hell of a headbutt! Where did you learn that?"

 

I rubbed my arm sullenly, before putting it around her, holding her close, "I didn't relaly learn it I guess. I panicked. He had my arms and was touching my ass and I just snapped. I din't know I could do anything like that..."

 

Jackie sighed, a ploom of foggy breath coming out because of the cold, "Well I wasn't that surprised, considering how much you like fighting at the club. If you hadn't have put him down for the count I certainly would have."

 

I wasn't sure if she could have, honestly, but I appreciated the sentiment.

 

When we got back to her house we creeped back in, but her father was sleeping soundly on the couch still, and the effort was probably meaningless. We made it upstairs and both heaved sighs of relief when we got intoher room, shut the door, and were officially safely back.

 

"All in all not to bad of an evening.. ass groping aside." Jackie said.

 

I nodded in agreement. I was exhausted, and honestly probably a bit drunk. Jackie pulled out her box of secrets and placed it back on the bed, fishing out her weed again.

 

"More?" I said.

 

Jackie smiled a bit tiredly, "Mmmhmm... I love smoking a little before bed. Makes me fall asleep super easy and helps me relax. Otherwise my head is going like a million miles and hour."

 

I didn't say anything as she went through her preparation rituals again.

 

"You have to smoke too. We have to debrief the party, afterall, then we can sleep."

 

I was too tired to argue and I wanted to talk a little bit anyway. A small part of me remembered what I would be going home to tomorrow and thrust that worry against my sternum. Falling asleep would just draw that conflict closer...

 

Jackie took a hit and passed it to me. While I was taking mine she began to strip. I watched her over the end of the bowl. She tossed her smokey, slightly beer stained clothes into a random pile on the floor and stretched, clad only in panties. I tried not to let my stomach sink as I saw how large her breasts actually were, and at the same time tried to simply not stare at her. She grabbed a bra fromt he floor and put that on, and came back to the bed, putting her box and toys on the floor and pulling a blanket around herself. I exhaled a puff of smoke and handed her pipe back.

 

"What are you a nudist?" I teased, as she lit up again.

 

"Oooh maybe I am. Does that... SCARRRRE you?" She returned, smoke coming out of her mouth with each word.

 

"No, as long as your don't DYKE out on me."

 

"Hmm," she scooted closer, "I can't promise...that!" She punctuated by licking my ear. I dove away and she began laughing hysterically, trying several times to stop and then failing.

 

"Heehee so easy!"

 

I stuck out my chin and refused to comment. I let Jackie take the initiative again.

 

"So what did you think? Hope you had a good time."

 

I sat thinking for a moment, feeling as though I was constantly swaying this way and that, but not actually moving.

 

"It was fun. Could have done without that FUCKER touching my ass but whatever...."

 

I smiled, my checks flushed.

 

"It was good to see JErry there thogh I never expected that."

 

Jackie giggled, "Yeah who would have thought he had those kind of connections I thought he was a super dork when I first met him."

 

I kept staring ahead, "Oh did you? I've always kind of liked him."

 

A lazy trail of smoke swirled through the air from Jackie's slightly parted lips, "Well to each their own. You should make a move next time."

 

I shook my head, immediately regretting it as the room continued to spin for several seconds afterwards, "I'm not gonna ever make a pass at someone in a skirt that short. That's definately a pants and belt activity."

 

"Pants and belt? What, don't you like creeps reaching up your... skirt!" With that she pinced my bare upper thigh, causing me to jump yet again.

 

"Oh yes of course I do isn't it obvious." I giggled but felt a little morose suddenly. It passed quickly.

 

We talked for a while and smoked the rest of the bowl. I was extremely high and could barely move. My insides felt like they were moving this way and that, but not really in a bad way, but I was spinning constantly when I closed my eyes. Without thinking too much I stood and removed my skirt and pulled off my shirt, unlike Jackie I still wore a bra so I hand't exposed myself compeltely to her. Jackie whistled sarcastically, "That's right, take it off baby!"

 

I turned, everything else turning much farther than I had, and stuck my tongue out. I could feel my eye squinting, barely open, and my mouth was terribly dry even after drinking some of the soda we bought earlier. Jackie, much more comfortable in this state than I was gave in and helped me find something to sleep in, which ended up being too short pajama pants and a slightly larger tshirt of hers.

 

Jackie put away her pipe and toys and hid them safely under the bed again. I crawled under the covers with Jackie, realizing distantly that this was the first time I had slept with someone, and in any other scenario would probably be much more uncomfortable. JAck had her back turned to me, and I could see the crack of her bottom about the waistband of her panties. She tapped her side with one hand and I gradually put my arm around her, spooning her. She sighed and snuggle dup to me and I did the same. Even with the potential of a million thought to run through my head I couldn't hope to stave off the effects of the evening and feel right to sleep, breathing in the scent of Jackies hair.

 

---

 

I couldn't tell immediately where I was when I woke up but luckily I recalled enough quickly enough to know why I was in bed with another woman. I sighed. My head was pounding and I felt like I was still spinning from the night before. Jackie was still deep asleep so I carefully extracted myself from her. My left arm was sore and throbbed from being pinned by her head all night.

 

I wasn't used to sleeping with people, after all.

 

I sat up and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the floor, not looking at anything in particular. My thoughts swirled in my head, first of all the crazy things that had happened the night before and then I realized what was laying ahead at home. I groaned and stood up, stretching my body and trying to get all the kinks out. I desperately wanted a shower and knew it was long in coming. I turned on my phone, and saw I had ten voicemails. I felt like crying; one was from my mother and nine were from my dad. I checked the time; it was 10 am. I changed into the clothes I had been wearing yesterday and hoped that they wouldmake the smell of the party from the day before. I knew my hair probably smelled the worst, so I spayed a bit of product I had in my purse and prayed it would mask it.

 

I poked Jackie away and told her I was leaving. She nodded but went back to sleep. I made sure I had everything and crept out of the house. Jackie's dad was no longer on the couch and didn't seem to be in the house. The televison was off and the house was eeriely quiet. I made my way outside and sat in my car silently for several minutes before keying the ignition and turning around the the street to start on my way home.

 

---

 

I pulled up to the house and sat idling while I fought with myself to park and go inside. I could tell dad was home, and that was exactly what I didn't want. The garage was sitting open and I could see his car and the Dive machine sitting inside. I was having a panic attack, or at least it felt like that. I began to cry, first bitter, dry sobs and then the waterworks started and it was another 10 minutes before I had dryed up and calmed down again.

 

Steeling myself for the worst, I took a deep breath and opened the car door, closing it and walking up the path to the front door. The white, normal friendly looking 2 story house felt suddenly foreboding and menacing. I wished there was a window on the front door so I could spy inside and see who was there, although it was probably for the best that there wasn't. Any excuse to run away is probably a bad one at that point.

 

With one final push on myself I entered the door and in an instant was at my fathers chest, who had been standing just inside. Her eyes were narrowed and her looked furious. I stared with fright up at him and took a half step back. His face filling my vision I didn't see his hand raise up.

 

He came down hard on me. My head swung around under the impact of his open hand and it knocked me to the floor. My face stung and I nursed it, laying in a heap. I looked up at him through my hair. Dad was standing, fists clentched at his side, face red and eyes burning.

 

It took me a moment to collect myself enough to begin to speak again. Without raising my head I began to speak in a rush, "What the hell is that why did you do that..."

 

"If you ever run out on your mother or I like that again you wont ever run anywhere again." He interrupted me.

 

He was serious, I could tell. I was shaking with fear and anger and addrenilin. Niether dad nor mom had ever hit me before, never spanked me nor threatened me like dad was now. He was deadly serious, and I had no doubt that he meant his threat. I noticed mom in the background, holding her hand to her chest. She looked worried and a bit guilty. She most likely had told dad what happened.

 

Dad extended his hand to me. I noticed a tattoo creeping up his arm that I had never seen before, "Is that a deal?"

 

I couldn't say I felt it was fair; quite frankly I was being abused and was at least partically a victim. But I had never seen dad act like this and I love him, and I was too shocked right now to be properly angry. Honestly, too, I had nowhere else to go. I reached and grabbed his hand. His tattoo had gone away, so I wasn't sure if i had imagined it.

 

"It's a deal da--" I was interrupted as he pulle dme into a tight embrace.

 

"Seriously never do that again. We were both so worried..." I could feel tears landing on my neck and I realized how intensely dad had felt. I felt my lip quiver but I pushed down those feelings...

 

"I'm sorry I took those things. I took it a long time ago and never got around to putting it back and I didn't want to get caught and I trusted that you wouldn't look through it and i'm so sorry i didn't mean it I jsut thought you respected my privacy and--"

 

Mom interrupted. Her voice sounded stronger and more vivid than usual, "But you violated our privacy and that is what I was worried about you. I wanted to make sure you were not used those things for the wrong reasons. You are too young for those thin--"

 

"I took those when I was thirteen I'm sorry I was curious I never meant to keep them and I haven't been wearing them for boys or at all I just was hiding them" I got my piece in quickly. I noticed dad sighing with relief, saging as an aparently large burden lifted from his shoulders.

 

"I want to know where you got that picture. I was not looking for the clothes, but found them while looking for our picture."

 

I blanked, not sure what she was talking about, "What picture?" I asked dumbly.

 

Mom narrowed her eyes and unfolded an old picture from her pocket and handed it to Dad. Dad took a look and smiled at me, then showed me.

 

It was the picture I had taken after dad had shown me Last Prayer, with Dad, Mom, and Uncle Bill.

 

"Oh!" I said, suprised. I had forgotten about it, "That's the picture that fell out when dad showed me his sword."

 

Dad rubbed his head awkwardly. Mom pursed her lips, "So you took it?"

 

"Yeah, I didn't mean to, it just kind of happened. It was cool." I blushed, eyes on the floor.

 

Dad put his hand on my shoudler and faced my mom.

 

"Don't worry about it too much Spam, everything will be fine. It was just a bit of confusion."

 

Mom made a bit of a dismissive noise, something out of character for her, and went upstairs. Dad turned back to me, "Well hon, that's that. It's a bit too late to to give you trouble over the," he stumbled for a moment, "The lingerie, and I wish you had just told me you wanted to see pictures. But that's not so big a deal honestly."

 

I began to smile but he held up his hand to forestal a comment, "Don't get too happy. You're still grounded for a week for handling that so badly. Your mom might not have handled that the best way she could have but she still did a better job of it than you did."

 

My face fell, mouth twitching try to come up with something to say, but in the end I gave up and submitted. I nodded and dad patted me on the back.

 

"That means no computer and no clubs for this week, but you'll be back to normal soon."

 

"And you have to spend sometime with me." Mom called, coming down the stairs with a shoebox in her hand.

 

I was puzzled, since my mother and I never did much together.

 

"Doing what?" I asked, quietly but not without a hint of icyness.

 

"Learning a bit about our family." Mom sat the box on the kitchen table, and I could see there were numerous photos sticking out of it.

 

I began to smile, despite myself, but I was still nervous about spending that much time with my mom.

 

I looked at dad, remembering something, "Oh, so how was the business trip?" I asked.

 

Dad's expression soured a bit, "Well it was a bit of a pain in the ass to begin with. The flight in was pretty bad considering I knew what you had done and had 4 hours to think about it..." Mom looked at dad with a half quirked eyebrow but said nothing.

 

I bit my lip and nodded. Dad shook his head and clapped his hands, "Well, as much as I am happy we are more or less back to normal, I have to finish up a few things. Paperwork, that sort of stuff. I'll be in the garage if you need me." Dad gave me a squeeze on my shoulder, and then kissed my mom before heading into the garage, closing the door tightly behind himself.

 

I walked, unsure, over to my mom, taking a seat across from her. She shook her head and pointed to the seat directly next to her so I got up with a bit of a grumble and sat there. She pulled out a small packet of photos and opened it, spreading them on the table.

 

"Why do we have all these photographs? Why not digital pictures?" I asked. By that time you either printed pictures yourself via a home printer or had to send away to specialty shops. It had been like that for several decades and it was rare to see physical photos that had not been enlarged for picture frames. Even those were often digital.

 

"These memories, these precious things, are too important to trust to mere computers. No matter what we backed up or did, there was always the risk of losing them, or worse someone finding them. We felt it better to have physical copies." Moms voice came out quickly and softly, each word with purpose and meaning. I rarely heard my mom string so many words together and for all the tension between us I listened to her with rapt attention.

 

"Why would you not want people to find them? They aren't... dirty are they?" I said after she had paused for long enough. I made a face when I came to the end of my question and my mom looked at me blankly.

 

She did not address my latter concern, "These are pictures taken mostly during the war. We were not always on the good side and some of the things that we did would be considered war crimes. We hide the pictures to protect ourselves, and protect the pictures to protect our memories."

 

I gaped at her, glancing at the piles of photos, "War criminals? What did you do?"

 

Mom shook her head and tilted it, thumbing through pictures, "Your father will tell you someday. It is not something we like to dwell on. The pictures here have little to do with that."

 

She handed me one. It was a picture of my father and my aunt Sara. Sara was always so very beautiful, nearly impossibly so, and I always found it hard to imagine that she was single. She was older than my father but didn't look a day over 25. In the picture she looked much that same as she did today. My father was sitting in a chair with a sheepish look on his face, and my aunt was standing behind him with her arms draped over his neck. She looked very comfortable, and I could see the curve of her ample breast propped up on the back of the chair. The picture was in color but had faded even in the darkness of the safe; I knew for certain that Aunt Sara's hair was much more vividly red in real life than in the photo. Dad's hair was much shorter, though, in the picture. it lookslike he had only just started growing out.

 

"Wow, auntie sara hasn't grown a day since then. She must work out like a fiend." Mom said nothing.

 

She flipped the photograph around and looked at the date on the back, "This photo was taken in 2011.."

 

I reeled, "2011? That's almost 30 years ago!"

 

Mom nodded, and went to find the next picture she wanted to show me. I couldn't believe they looked so young considering they were nearly... my god, they were nearly 50!

 

"I hope I look that good when I'm 50" I said. Mom turned to me and blinked, "Your father and aunt were not 50 in the picture."

 

I laughed and waved my hands "Oh no, I meant now, you guys are almost 50 right?"

 

Mom thought that over for a moment and then nodded, "Yes I think that is about right.."

 

I threw my arms up in my head. No wonder me and mom fought so much. She's so weird!

 

She gave me another picture. It was a man with extremely long hair standing in the middle of a vast meadow, with a forest touching the outside. You could only see his back, and he was hunched over something outside of the frame. This picture was in black and white.

 

"Is that dad?"

 

"Yes, that is your father. This was taken by your aunt when he went to visit you Aunt Elle's grave."

 

"Autie Elle? You mean the one I'm named after?"

 

Mom nodded solomnly.

 

I looked at the picture closely. We had visited her grave a few times when I was a child but these days day would go by himself, once a year, making the drive in his car and swinging way down to visit Uncle Bill at the church before driving up. It was the only time dad would stay away from the house on an extended trip and mom always made extra sure to be around when that happened.

 

"When was this?"

 

"I believe it was around 2020."

 

She pulled out a picture and I grabbed it right away, "Uncle Alex! And he's walking. Wow, when was this taken? Oh my god I bet Auntie Cheryl looked so young back then!"

 

Uncle Alex was standing with his arm in a cast, looking up at the ceiling, his mouth parted just slightly so you could see a little bit of his teeth. he looked deep in thought, much different than he looked these days. Poor uncle Alex had been in a wheel chair for years, never speaking, staring into nothing with a blank expression on his face. Poor aunt Cheryl did everything for him. He was very handsome back then, and still looked handsome today, though drained of life, and his hair someone disheveled on occasions. He hadn't much say in the matter anymore.

 

"That was taken at the end of 2014, right before some of the last big campaigns. I do not want to say for sure, but I think this is the last picture of him when he was healthy."

 

I bit my lip and nodded.

 

She grabbed one last photo, very deliberately, "Your father did not tell me that he had shown you his sword, and at the same time did not tell me that you had asked about swords. That is why I was confused as to why our photo was missing. Had I know I would not have done what I did," She did not look at me when she said this, but the slight inflection of her voice told me she was making a sort of apology for digging through my things on flimsy evidence, "This is a picture of me, from when I was younger. Your father took it, which would explain why it is such a poor shot."

 

I took the picture and studied it greedily. My mother was dressed in the same strange outfit I had seen in the picture I took earlier. She was holding a long katana with a flat tip. the closer I looked however, I could tell that it wasn't flat but just nearly so, with an almost inperceptible incline.She was standing on top of aperson fallen over, with a scowl on her face as she looked at the camera. Her sword was covered in blood, and much of it had gotten on her clothing. From the bottom of the frame I could see my father giving a thumbs up from under the camera.

 

I grew pale, "Is that.... a dead person?"

 

Mom nodded once more, "That is an enemy. This was taken in 2015, the worst days of the war, for us anyway. We had already returned from the europeon front in order to consolidate our family. We had reason to beleive that our friends were in danger."

 

2015. That was an important number for some reason. I tried to think of why. History class flooded into my head, vivid and sharp.

 

"The war culminated in 2015. Major hostilities had ended by early 2015 but multiple strange occurences happened in the following months. Of chief concern is the collapse of the Underground forces in Europe, and the unexplained destruction of NeoSeattlein august. Though there were numerous freedom fighters responsible for bombings across the former Uniter States, the complete destruction of NeoSeattle remains a mystery. The current govenment reports that it is likely that a major BioSuit production facility was secretly housed underneath the city, and a fluke caused it to explode, taking much of the city with it. While there is no residual radiation on the site, due to the catatrophic destruction of the United States during the war, it, like many areas including the unincorporated badland, remains untouched, unpopulated, and undeveloped."

 

"Mom," I said, "Were you in the UNE, I mean, the US when NeoSeattle was destroyed?"

 

"Yes, your father and I were, as was you Aunt Elle. She was in the city when it fell, as was your father." Her voice had taken a steely coldness.

 

What was left unsaid was where mom was... but as much as I wanted to know I was exhausted and hung over and seeing my mother hanging over a dead person was more than enough for me.

 

"Mom... thank you... for showing me some of this stuff. I wnat to hear more about it... but I'm feeling really worn out. Is it okay if I take a shower and sleep for a little bit?"

 

Mom inclined her head and began to place the photos back in the box, "That's fine. Whenever you would like to talk, or see them, or hear about the war let me know. I may not tell you everything you want to know but I will do my best to answer you questions. These are going back where they came from." She took the box and without looking back went upstairs.

 

I sagged, exhausted mind and body, and wondered just how strange my family really was.

 

---

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