gladdecease: (reading is gr9)
gladdecease ([personal profile] gladdecease) wrote2011-10-31 07:15 pm

thing the twentieth [sam i am, tatiana]

The thing is. Well, the thing is.

I know how it begins.

It begins with a girl, Tatiana, eldest daughter of too many, idly hoping to sleep in for the first time in weeks. It's summer, so there's no school or homework or studying, her mother's not working today so there's no cooking or laundry or sibling-sitting (a subset of babysitting, in which one does not actually get paid for one's time), and her half-asleep mind can't think of anything else there might be.

Then her mother's voice pierces the daze of near-slumber to remind her that she has work at ten. Groaning, she gets up, finds her uniform, cleans herself up, eats, and leaves.

Work is boring - mid-week morning shift, there's nobody at the mall, there's nothing for her to do. Nobody wants coffee in this weather, and she found a note in the register this morning that says they ran out of the base for sixty percent of their cold drinks yesterday and won't be getting more sent out until Friday. So for the most part she reads a trashy novel hidden behind a false cover and ignores the guy behind the ice cream stand attached to hers.

Bryant is a few years older than her, kind of obnoxious and a bit of a genius and well aware of both. He's always tying everything he talks about back to one class or another he took at college, about how much he learned there and interesting the teachers (sorry, professors) were and how different a big city is from here, how he can't wait to go back come August.

Tatiana hates him a little, and not just because he calls her Ti when everyone else in her life uses Ana or her full name.

She wants to go to college, badly. But, like I said, she's the oldest of too many, and they're not all so much younger than her. If she goes, they'll want to go, and her mother can't afford that. Her mother can't afford one college student. No amount of in-state discounts or student loans or (if she's lucky) scholarships will prevent any school from being exorbitant and out of reach, except the community college an hour away by car.

The way Bryant talks just rubs in her face all that she can't have, because her mother isn't a neurosurgeon like his, because she works here for money her family needs, not to while away hours in the dull summer months.

Today, between groups of kids pooling pocket change to buy soft serve, Bryant has been talking about literature. Apparently the course on modern British literature he took two semesters ago means he's an expert on novels, and is capable of criticizing a book without having ever read it. Not that Tatiana has read the book he's talking about either, as it's the name on the false cover she's using to hide a romance novel, but it's clear he doesn't know what he's talking about. He contradicts himself every other sentence, using vague terms like "purple prose" and "flat characters" to get around the fact that he doesn't even know the main character's name. She only knows it because it's on the back cover, but come on.

And then the dust jacket slips a little and something of the real cover shows through, and his eyes literally light up. Without taking a moment to breathe he's changed tracks, discussing Greek mythology, which the novel she's reading has tilted on its head in order to produce a romance that actually ends happily. He compares the representation of Apollo in the book to the accepted version from the old myths, and that's about when Tatiana realizes he must have actually read this one to know it so completely.

She's about to turn the tables on him and mock him thoroughly, because she's yet to meet someone over the age of fifteen who wasn't ashamed of reading this book, when a short man with the gangly limbs of a teenager, growing faster than he can adjust for and not used to his own body, steps up to the stand.

And that's when it really begins.

And I know how it ends.

It ends with tears in her eyes, tears in everybody's eyes, but especially her own, because there Ti is, on the ground, unable to feel her legs and one of her arms, tears falling oddly because she's lying down, trailing from the corners of her eyes down to her ears, collecting there and cooling, making her want to squirm despite the pain it would cause. And there's Sam, staring at her with her own face, crying with her eyes, tears dripping on her shirt, mingling with blood.

They're completely identical, each hair the same length, their skin the exact same dusky tone, each freckle a perfect match. All of it matches, except their clothes, Sam's stupid pin, and the hole in Ti's side.

Bryant called for an ambulance forever ago, and apparently he never learned first aid in any of his innumerable college classes, because he's just standing there, a hand shoved hard over his mouth. She says something to that effect, and he laughs, a wet choked thing. Says all his college courses were online.

You liar, Ti says fondly. I always knew you were full of crap.

Meanwhile, Sam's dumb little hat has been soaked through, and she's decided to try using her jacket to stem the blood. She's been muttering nonsense under her breath ever since Ti got hit, things that almost sound like prayers when said in Ti's voice, except there's no request being made, no deity being called on.

No no no no, anyone but them and I could have handled it, I could've - shit, I don't know, moved on, dealt with it or not like always, but no, no it had to be her, didn't it. But why, why her? Why is it always - oh, Ti, Ti, Tatiana, I'm so sorry, this is all my fault -

Hey, Ti manages, only wincing slightly when Sam shoves at her a little harder with her jacket. Hey, no it's not. It's not, Sam. We've all gotta go sometime.

Ti's never seen her own face look so wrecked before. What'd she say?

There's another wet, choked sound above them, and Ti looks up to see Bryant clutching his stomach, being kicked to his knees. Sam looks up too, swears, but her pressure on the jacket stays steady. Ti can almost pretend it's keeping the blood in. It's not like she can feel most of it now anyway.

Please, Sam says to the man holding a knife on Bryant. Please, don't do this, not now. Something happens at an angle Ti can't see that leaves Bryant gasping. Please, Sam begs, don't!

But there's another man coming up behind Sam, and she's distracted by Bryant in pain, she can't see - but Ti is so cold, so tired, she doesn't know if she can manage to -

Sam...

It's a bare croak, but it's enough to grab her attention. Sam turns just in time to get hit in the face with the butt of a gun. She falls back across Ti, and is hit again, again. Again. She's bleeding heavily, but still conscious when she looks at Ti for the last time and mouths "I'm sorry." Then she passes out, and Ti is gone.

It's the middle that troubles me.