So, I really didn't expect much of a turnout, to be honest. And although I didn't receive as good a response as I wish I would have, I'm going to upload the second chapter anyways. The second chapter is probably my third or second favorite, simply because of the subject matter. So, if you enjoy really dark scenes, this one is for you. And, please, don't worry, there is a very vivid transformation scene, and more awesome furry stuff, later on in the serial. But I'm not sure if I'll upload this thing that far along, so, thanks for your time anyways. Enjoy.
"Jackie, you can't keep fighting with Richard." Mom chastises as she bangs a plate down onto the tabletop. "I know you don't enjoy being around him, but, we can't be turning down his kind of help. Especially in this situation . . ."
"His kind of help," I angrily repeat, "it's the help of his kind of person that's the cause of us being here!"
Immediately I throw my arms up to indicate the apartment in which we live. Due to the prices of the inner city, our meager, middle-class income can only afford warped and discolored floorboards and carpeting well-stained by twenty years of seeping food and disrepair, faded, sun-baked and peeling seventies-style wall paper, creaking, improperly maintained fixtures and half-broken, filthy furniture older than I am. Without lifting her chin, Mom gives me a hard glance and then slowly turns away.
She doesn't rather appreciate it when I point out the state of our apartment, as she is quite aware to its disrepair. But even though I regret saying what has been repeated ad nauseam, I feel I must point it out yet again. It's the thing that gnaws at the back of my brain when I wake at midnight, surfacing from a nightmare.
Mom, once again, just snaps her eyes at me over her shoulder and retrieves the stack of brand new glass and silverware, which I recently purchased for her contentment, from the countertop and begins distributing them over the table. Just two plates and matching silverware tonight, for Richard has fortunately opted out of dining with us tonight. At least my altercation with him has accomplished something.
Slowly I lean back onto the wall and cross my arms to try to restrain my outbursts. Then I relax my boot against the wallpaper as Mom pours milk out into the new glass cups. After she returns the plastic jug of milk to the buzzing refrigerator, she wipes clean some dust which has clung to her dress from work.
Even though it's well after eight o'clock in the evening, Mom is still dressed from work: a venerable and well-used blue dress with a pair of black faux-leather heels and a string of saltwater pearls around her neck, an old gift from her college-days. She works as the executive secretary to the regional manager of the American Telephone and Telegraph, AT&T for short, managerial and technical office. It was here that she unfortunately met Richard Lewis, an extremely wealthy, and equally shrewd, landlord who was seeking to set up the internet and telephone lines for several high rises he was letting out.
Despite just arriving home recently, the same as I, she already knows about the interesting and entertaining, if I do say so myself, argument that I had with Dick. I'm not entirely sure how she always seems to know when I've had a fight. Either it's a woman's intuition, or Dick just telephoned her with his fancy, five-hundred dollar Blackberry or iPhone. Ah, the absolute wonders and annoyances of modern technology.
Despite fights like this being a regular thing, something both I and Dick strive to preserve, Mom isn't very pleased with the both of us, or more specifically, me. As she slips on oven mitts and reaches in for a bake from within the body of the overworked conduction oven, I hear her sigh and return the glass pan.
In the silence which follows, I listen as the ceiling fan hanging above the aluminum table buzzes away to make the four wooden blades rotate. The side-by-side tan refrigerator gurgles away, no doubt near to failing due to age. Hot air rushes from the back of the microwave and light from the front, which dims momentarily as the old building's air conditioning kicks on.
Throwing the mitts down onto the counter, Mom places her hands on her hips and I immediately know she is upset. But she continues to stare at the microwave, waiting for a bag of green beans to cook. Finally, when she is unable to stare at the appliance for ten minutes straight, she sighs audibly and crosses her arms.
"Jackie, you don't seem to understand." Mom says without turning her eyes towards me. "I don't want to spend the rest of my life cramped into this tiny apartment, working a dead-end job for a man who mistreats me daily." She pauses for a few solid moments. "Mr. Lewis is able to transport us out of this place and into one where we'll both be able to succeed and make something of ourselves."
"That sounds like something Richard told you to say." I immediately and unintentionally retort. "He has no respect for me or you. The only thing he wants is to have us put on our costumes so we can act the parts in a disturbed version of an 'All in the Family' episode."
Mom sighs again, loudly, but reserved and then gently begins, "Oh, come on, Jackie, you don't want to stay here, do you? You don't to work your entire life away just to be trapped here and neither do I. What Mr. Lewis is offering is a much better alternative."
Slowly, Mom turns and looks back at me for a second when I don't immediately say something. But the silence isn't due to me agreeing with her. Turning my eyes down towards the floor, I lean away from the wall and put my boot back onto the ground. The permanently sullied linoleum floor creaks and whines under my weight.
I cross my arms tightly against my chest and begin to tread forward. After each heavy boot step, a loud knock fills the room ominously, but my eyes and my head never move away from when I have planted them. As I approach the kitchen table at the center of the room, I loose my arms and place my palms down onto its surface.
With a loud sigh, I lift my head and relax my body, watching as Mom turns back towards the microwave, her long fingernails clicking against the countertop as she touches them. Despite long, brunette hair between my eyes and hers, I know she is able to see all that is going on behind her, but she continues to pretend to be staring at heating vegetables in the microwave.
"I would rather," I state low and slow, "work my entire life and live in poverty than live in affluence and have to be grateful to the likes of Richard Lewis."
"Enough, Jack!" My mother finally commands her boiling point finally reached. "I don't want you fighting with him anymore! You're going to have to get used to being around that man because I'm not going to let you make this decision for me! It'd be better if you begin to like him now because I'm going to marry him and that's final!"
My head rears back and I sneer slightly. Then, taking my hands away from the table, I stand up slowly and stare at the back of her head, my hands dropping limply to my sides.
"You would rather--"
"--I don't want to hear it, Jackie!" Mom finally yells, her hands going enthusiastically into the air. "I'm sick and tired of you fighting with him just like I was sick and tired of you fighting with all the other kids in school! I'm tired of the whole thing, Jackie, and I don't want to hear it anymore!"
The microwave dings loudly twice and she immediately and gracelessly whips open the door and snatches the black plastic bowel of green beans from within. As she drops the package onto the counter, she leans over and jerkily seizes the glass salt shaker and begins coating the vegetables. When she does so, I can nearly see the blood in her lips from her tenseness and rage.
"I'm sending you out West for a while, the rest of the month maybe." Mom slowly states as she dumps the side dish onto a nearby bowl. "You're going to be spending the time with my brothers, your uncles, Daniel and David. Now I know you haven't met them and I don't talk about them much, but they're good men, awkward and strange men, but good nonetheless."
With those words my body begins to go cold, my heartbeat climbing steadily upwards until it resides in the deeps of my ears. My shoulders go painfully limp and I begin to feel as if I'll collapse. In my mouth, my tongue goes dry as my lips part and air rushes in. Even my face begins to totally relax at the shock, to the point where my head lowers to the side.
Mom takes little to no notice of my reaction and simply steps back to finally take the finished bake from within the heated walls of the oven. She distributes all the food onto its proper serving dishes, her arms and legs moving around furiously while her manner and face remain as solid as metal. When the oven is open, it seems as if her shadow is casting strange shapes throughout the room. My mind, with lack of oxygen, buzzes around what she has just proposed, or imposed.
"You're--you're doing what?" I question, my voice barely above a whisper.
"I'm not going to let you stay here during the wedding, Jackie, that wouldn't be a good idea." Mom replies gently.
"You--you can't do this to me." I then say, just slightly louder than before. "You can't just send me away. You know damn well what you're doing is a bad idea. This man, this monster, he's just taking advantage of the situation, of you! What the hell will happen when I'm not here to stand between you and him?"
"Hopefully something positive comes, Jackie." Mom finally says.
"Don't call me Jackie!" I assail her. "I'm not a little kid anymore and I'm definitely not the stupid, immature idiot you think I am! You're so worried about getting out of here; you're willing to let anybody in here! Do you remember that cop you dated? What do you think would have happened if I wasn't here when he got wasted and tried to force himself on you? I wouldn't have been there to beat him to a pulp and throw him down the stairs, that's what! I don't want to even want to think about what would have happened!"
All throughout my tirade, I throw my arms around as if I were in some kind of boxing match and by the time I'm finished, I am breathless and clinging to the tabletop. Cold breath rushes into my burning lungs, my neck and chest muscles convulse uncontrollably and the horrid rage which resides within in begins to bubble back into its box. I then watch as my mother's head bobs downwards, her hands reaching out to steady herself on the countertop. Then she whimpers.
Like a vice grip, a pang of pain shoots into the bottom of my heart the instant I realize what it is I've done. My tongue wets my dry lips and I open my mouth, trying to explain, or take back as much as I can, of what I've just said. My eyes dart throughout the room and my face hardens, but despite long, heavy moments filled with silence, I cannot find a thing to stay that would do a thing.
"Just . . . Just go." Mom whimpers.
I lift my hands up, palms out, and commence stepping around the table, but Mom thrusts a hand behind her back and halts me.
"Just go!" She commands sorrowfully.
With that gesture, I lower my arms and allow my entire body to relax, my spirit to retreat. I raise my arms with what energy I have and sink them into the pockets of my black leather jacket. I rock back on my boots and then slowly turn on heel, clomping away from the table with my tail between my legs. My eyes avert themselves and lock onto the floor before me as I exit the kitchen, delving into the black living room beyond.
Without stopping to survey the old front room, I turn to the left and begin up the short, narrow hallway which leads to my bedroom at the very end. Passing by photographs filled with happy faces, school-made treasures from a brighter time and small tables covered with decorative ornament from vacations long past, I feel my eyes blink uncontrollably. Soon my face begins to feel as if weights hang from it and my pace unknowingly increases until I'm almost charging as if into a fistfight.
As I reach my room at the blackest end of the windowless hallway, I throw open the door and then slam it shut behind me. Quickly I heave my back against the surface of the door and throw my hands up to tear my hair nearly until I bleed. My knees buckle underneath my weight and I slide down into a pile on the floor and hide my face in my shoulders.
An angry, regretful gurgle emerges from the bottom of my throat, my teeth clench and grind and my eyes begin to sting. A thousand different emotions attack me at once, demanding and punishing, pushing and pulling, shaming and destroying. Finally I just bang my head against the door and let out one, loud, angry yelp. I listen to my heavy breathing in the ensuing silence.
"Well, good job, asswipe."
"I can't say I'm surprised, Jack, you dumbass. You've worked your magic, yet again, always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Hell, everything you say is wrong, everything you do is wrong. Congratulations on your rousing success out there, Jackie."
I throw my arms down onto the ground and grip the carpeting. Opening my moistened eyes, I stare through the piercing blackness of the room, but am unable to see anything. Within moments, my bed and nightstand begin to appear as hazy figures followed closely by my low dresser with the rotating looking glass mounted on top.
I focus on the blinking light of my alarm clock and listen to a low, hissing hum through the darkness. My eyes swing from side to side, searching, but I find nothing. I know he's here, hiding somewhere in the room, mocking me and insulting me! I can feel him somewhere nearby and always I can hear him, but I can hardly ever see him.
Finally I turn to my right and look at that dresser with the mirror. That's where he must be! Quickly, I scramble up onto my feet and begin to stumble across the tiny room to where the mirror is, pointing out towards the headboard of my bed opposite it in the room. I hear him chuckle mockingly, the noise getting louder and louder as I approach the mirror. He always seems to be amused by my own pathetic rants and raves, my own pain and frustration. And he's never one to miss out sharing in it.
"That's it, Jackie-boy, come and get me."
As I reach the dresser, I grab the corners of the old, discolored oak wood and throw my body before the glass. Immediately I see myself, eyes ringed purple by lack of sleep, long, scraggily hair whipping out in front of my face, five o'clock shadow ringing my entire face. And slowly, looking away from my form, I finally see him, leaning in the corner, in front of the swinging closet doors.
He's crossed one boot over the other while he stares down at his fingers, pricking at his nails in the darkness. Slowly he turns his eyes up to meet mine, his entire form exactly like my own, something he does to mock me eternally. Lowering his face, he smiles and then uncrosses his legs. Then he leans away from the wall and strolls forward, his boots pressing silently onto the graying carpeting silently.
"Hello, again, Jack. I love what you've done with yourself, Jack. The 'I-don't-give-a-shit-about-life' look is definitely in, especially when you're going to be homeless."
"Why the hell don't you ever leave me?" I demand.
Suddenly that sinister smile disappears from his face and his arms drop to his side. Then he quickly takes two steps forward and slams his hands down onto the surface of the dresser, his pearly white teeth showing in a scowl, his deep, blue eyes, just like mine, pierce the black which surrounds him. Then, seamlessly, that smile slowly returns and he chuckles, the strands of hair on his head bouncing around.
"Because you need me Jack . . . that's why I'll never leave you."
"I don't need you! I need you like I need malaria!" I reply through clenched teeth. "I don't need you to stand in every mirror and scream and mock me. Don't you think I know what I've done? I know what I've done! Why do I need you to tell me?"
"And yet you can't stop, now can you? You just can't help yourself, can you? Mommy's making a terrible mistake and Jackie's there to save her. You're such a pathetic waste of human skin."
"No, Jack, fuck you! I'm not the one out there fighting with every little shit who mocks you! I'm not stealing from your boss when he's too drunk to care! I'm not the one working his ass off at work just to perpetuate his own poverty because he's too focused on the hole he dug himself into to go to college, despite having an IQ higher than most lawyers! You are!"
He jabs an angry finger at me through the darkness and then thrusts himself up and away from the looking glass. Turning away, he grips his hands behind his back and slowly marches out of my sight. But even when he's out of my sight, I know he's still here. His heavy breath, his mocking chuckle, and his conspicuous boot steps tell me he's still here. He's never far away, ever.
"You know what, Jack; I bet getting away from this shithole will be good for you. Maybe you can actually gain something from going to see new places, other than some new bruises and scars. You could learn how to finally scare off Dick once and for all."
I listen as he chuckles loudly and lets it trail off into pure silence. I stare into the glass, looking around and fogging up its surface before I push back from the wood and listen. The only thing I hear is the rumble of the air conditioning and the creak of the walls. He's disappeared, but he'll be back.
"Come back here, you prick!" I yell at him, not done with arguing.
"Oh, I'm still here, Jack . . . I'll always be here."
Swinging my head around, I glance to every dark spot in the room, seeking him out. I bear my teeth and then just growl into the darkness, unable to find anymore words. I draw breath after breath in short, choppy waves. That's what he does, he disappears into a place where he can watch and listen to me, but I'll never know he's there. And the worst part is that he always seems to show himself when I'm closest to it, closest to the bottom. It's like he encourages me to do it, making every situation even worse. I don't understand why he's there and why he refuses to leave.
Finally, I just turn my eyes back to the mirror and slam my palms down onto the surface of the dresser. Swinging around, my muscles convulsing and my chest rising and falling uncontrollably, I march across the room to my bed. But instead of sitting down, I simply pace to and fro, my eyes searching around the room for him, wondering which surface, what wall, he's hiding in now.
"I know you're still there!" I announce to him. "You never leave me, you sadistic bastard! You're always there!"
My eyes shaking back and forth, my head tilted back to stare at the ceiling, I gasp for breath. Finally, when I am completely exhausted of energy, I turn my eyes down to towards the ground and lift my palms up for me to examine. Everything I see seems dark and hateful. Even the ridges and valleys of my own hands seem disdainful and ugly. Clenching my hands shut, I turn and walk to the edge of my bed.
I throw myself down onto its surface, my face falling onto a bunch of old, frigid pillows. Lifting my chin up, I look towards the headboard and wonder what's going to happen. Everything in my life feels like a plane in a tailspin, with the pilot half-drunk, but still able to avert disaster. The question still remains: what will happen next?
But my mind doesn't stay to answer it. My eyes begin to droop and close as my body begins to relax at last. Thrusting hot arms under the pillows, I push my face into them and close my eyes, my mind's engine finally running dry of gasoline. Beyond my closed eyes where my mind delves into a black pit of drowsiness, the world appears like a distant planet in an unknown galaxy.
But even in my troubling and strange dreams, there is no escaping everything, the world and its influences. Even there I am sometimes tortured by that doppelganger, that black figure in every reflective surface that shall never stay his sword and leave. I can still feel him there, watching, waiting, mocking, yelling, screaming . . . antagonizing. No matter how real he is, I can never force him to leave.