THE ART OF USING WHICH FACE
"You're a slut," he sneered down at her, eyeing her wrecked state.
She looked horrendous. Makeup was smudged all over her face. Her clothes were rumpled inappropriately on her body. Alcohol reeked from her ragged breaths. Even as a small child, the ten year old little girl watching them fearfully recognized the peculiar smell her mother emitted. Her mother smelled of rancid sex.
"Maybe if you'd stay around, I wouldn't have to be." The Asian woman glared bitterly at the man who towered over her. Her tone was a mixture of hurt and umbrage that was also reflected clearly in her eyes.
The American man's sneer widened and his eyes glinted menacingly. He laughed an unpleasant laugh the little girl always shuddered in response to.
"Who would want to stay around, Margarita? This house, this pigsty," he corrected himself as he looked around the empty house that seemed to sag under his thorough scrutiny. "Your pathetic behavior…your pathetic children…Who would want to stay?" His voice boomed and reverberated throughout the house like ominous thunder.
He turned around again and finally noticed the cowering girl beside the staircase. He leered at her, too. There was no warmth, no fatherly concern, only condescension and something akin to loathing.
"And you…" he goaded, his wife already forgotten. "You're a little whore aren't you? Just like your mother!"
He raised his hand and the little girl squeezed her eyes shut, bracing herself for the impact. But her father's intention to cause her physical harm was intercepted by a little boy jumping from the stairs and onto the man.
"Leave Rachel alone!" the boy shouted furiously, pushing at his father's imposing form without fear.
Again, the man's booming laugh rang within the house. With a dismissing hand, he swiped at the boy, throwing him easily against the wall.
"Nathan!" Rachel screamed, running to her brother. Her tears flowed freely as she helped him up.
"Pathetic," the man spat down on the young siblings.
With another revolted glance at his surroundings, he left. His daunting presence however refused to leave with him.
"This is Mark Tate." Their mother smiled at the thirteen-year-olds as she introduced a middle-aged man. Her makeup was in place. Her clothes were dry-cleaned to perfection. Instead of tears adorning her young face, she had a smile plastered on. She didn't reek this time; she smelled of jasmine.
Nathan settled for a stiff nod while Rachel let out a cold, monosyllabic greeting. They eyed the man curiously. Was he another man their mother picked up from her philandering? What was the point of introductions if he wasn't going to last a month? His smile was nice and warm. When they accepted his initiation of a handshake, both teens found it nice, warm, and firm. Who was he and what was his relevance with their lives if he wasn't one of the others?
"He's your new guardian." Both children watched their mother's smile widen delightedly. Nathan's hands were fisted. His face was hard and dark eyes ablaze with anger. Rachel's eyes widened for a split second before they returned to their original size. Her expression remained stoic. Neither child spoke a word. "It means—"
"We know what it means," Nathan interrupted caustically.
They watched their mother's smile abate. To the children's dismay however, it did not completely vanish. They stood there staring at their mother like they were above her until she broke.
"Well—" she started breathlessly only to be cut off once more. The two saw tears forming in her eyes and felt a trace of malicious triumph.
"Goodbye," Rachel said with definiteness ringing in her arctic tone.
Mark Tate. Who the fuck was he? Whatever he had in store for them, fuck it! They were more than capable of handling themselves without him.
Two teenagers stood before the front door of a house with a freshly-cut lawn and white fences. A little farther ahead of them, on the green, grassy lawn, a domineering man stood beside a new sports car.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" an older Nathan spat. Even at fifteen, children shouldn't be too comfortable saying 'bad, inappropriate words' in the company of adults, let alone in their parents' company. To him, the girl beside him knew it was uncomfortable not to say it.
He looked suspiciously his father who was leering at them under the sunlight, standing there like he own the world.
"Happy birthday, Nathan," the parent laughed, but there was no amusement in it.
The girl stiffened beside the boy in full knowledge her own father had deliberately ignored her. His children were twins after all.
"What the fuck do you want?" Nathan demanded, disregarding the greeting. But he was completely aware of his twin sister's situation – which was the general reason for the majority of the venom injected in his voice.
"This is yours, Nathan. It's all yours with no strings attached," the man announced.
It was Nathan's turn to leer. And Rachel almost laughed out loud.
No strings attached? Since when? She thought bitterly.
As if on cue, the man spoke again.
"It's all yours. But there's always more," their father intoned.
His emerald eyes met their exact copies when he at last glanced her way. It was for a brief moment, an instant hardly detectable. Nevertheless, its recipient felt the frost from the benefactor.
"More, huh?" Nathan echoed with a hollow laugh.
The man both teens reviled nodded and smiled as if things were going precisely as he wanted. "Always. You can have it, all you want. But only I can give it to you."
"And what do I have to give you in exchange, huh? My fucking soul?" Nate demanded.
"Just leave this all behind."
A vein in Nathan's neck throbbed dangerously while he watched his own father wave his hand at his own daughter like she was an object. His fingers itched to encircle the man's vulnerable neck. If he just had enough strength, if he could just, if only he was strong enough, he would…
Beside him, Rachel felt a dull stab of pain tied to obligation where as one was supposed to love their daughter, one was supposed to love their father. It was there. But it was dull. It was fading.
A man stood waiting in front of them. He sneered like he already knew the response.
However, Nathan only replied with a refusal. But it was a fierce rebuttal, a firm 'no', one made without an inkling of hesitation. A rejection that made Rachel's heart flutter in relief.
He wasn't going to leave her. Nathan…her brother…her twin… He was the one person in her life who would stay, who would fight for her, who would love her, who would never leave her.
The man's smile cracked and morphed into an ugly face of an angry, grotesque gargoyle. Then the face changed again to one of indifference.
"Your loss," he said.
Their father turned to the limo parked beside the sports car. But Nathan had something else to say.
"I pity you, you know," Nathan called. "All this and you still want fucking more. There's nothing in your life. You can gain the fucking world, hell, the fucking universe and you'll still want more. When there's nothing more, you have nothing.
"You're like a fucking cup with the fucking bottom taken off. No matter how much you fucking try to fill it to the brim, you're empty. And you'll fucking stay that way. Empty. Nothing. That's the only thing you can offer: the emptiness, the nothingness.
"I'm a lot of things. I'm not some things. Being a fool enough to take you up on that offer is one of those things."
Their father, the stranger, the tempter, the snake, looked back at the two teenagers who stood behind an empty house. They had nothing. They had nothing but each other. And to them, it was everything they needed. The eyes looking at them couldn't see this completion for it always wanted more.
There was no such thing as 'complete' in the old man's mind. So it was only proper for him to walk off saying what he said just as a familiar car rolled in.
"There's always more. Never forget." He tossed the keys to his son who did not make a move to catch the pieces of metal.
To Nathan, they were as they were: pieces of metal. Who would choose that to what he had?
"Nate? Rae?" the owner of a warm and firm handshake of not so long ago asked them in slight confusion and apprehension.
Mark Tate's eyes followed Arnold Thomson into his limo and then they sought the children's eyes. They only smiled and began laughing when the limo turned a corner and out of sight.
"A fucking cup? How poetic! I didn't know you knew what analogies were," the girl ridiculed her twin brother while she was bent over, laughing.
In response, the boy only grabbed his twin sister by the waist and rubbed his knuckles on the top of her head to make her squeal.
Their guardian smiled lightly at the sight.
Whatever those two were going to go through in the future, they would make it through.
"Are you going to leave me too?" Rachel screamed at her brother's retreating back. The girl watched her sibling's back stiffen. She watched his shoulders droop and heard him sigh.
"I'm sorry," he said carefully. "I sorry…"
His figure began to fade and Rachel choked on her own breath. This wasn't supposed to happen. It didn't go like this. No…no…No! Not him too.
"Nathan!" she shrieked at the growing darkness.
She watched helplessly as he was devoured by oblivion.
The seventeen year old sat up abruptly. Her long dark hair stuck to her face. Her breathing ragged like a pack of wolves had just chased her for miles. Her heart thumped against her ribcage, threatening to break through. Tears fell from bright green eyes almost glowing with emotion. It had just been a dream! It had just been a dream and nothing more.
She glanced at the digital clock beside her. Harsh red numbers stood out and hurt her eyes. Early, it was too early to be up. Even though she had the time to wait for sleep to come to her once more, she knew it wouldn't so she got up and headed for the bathroom.
A girl in the mirror stared at her. She saw the luminosity of her green eyes receding and their hardness advancing. She saw the set of a stubborn looking mouth, ready for any verbal combat. She saw a defiant jaw, challenging whoever. She felt her muscles relax, a fighter ready any given time. Finally, she lifted her chin and found the arrogance and menacing vibe she was looking for. There she was.
A bitter smile pulled at one corner of her lips. There she was, indeed.
With herself found, she pulled on some clothes, sneakers and pulled her hair back. She headed for the door with experience-gained stealth so as not to wake up her brother. She breathed in the early morning air and began to run.
Rachel felt her twin brother glance at her every once in a while as he drove her to school. She knew he sensed something was bothering her. She hadn't woken him up when she went running, so he wouldn't know about her dreams, her memories. But, they had this connection they have shared throughout their life even within their mother's womb. They had this sixth sense for each other. Using that sixth sense, Nathan could tell there was something wrong when others could never.
"What is it?" the seventeen year old male asked the silent female beside him.
"Nothing," she responded automatically. The answer was neither too quick nor slow. It wasn't hesitant, neither defiant. The tone, the sped, the diction…they were all perfected through years of practice.
"Liar," he responded automatically.
Then there was a moment of silence. Nathan sighed when he realized she wasn't going to talk…as usual.
"How are you?" he asked instead as he stopped the car in front of the school. He looked at her but she refused to meet his eyes.
"Hanging in there," she answered truthfully.
"I'm here," he offered.
With a rueful smile, Rachel hugged her brother and got out of the car. He was going to work while she was going to school. After one last look at her thoughtful bother, Rachel disappeared into the crowd of teenagers.
As soon as she got through the door, a hard body connected with hers. It made both people stagger a few steps, but she regained her balance first. Upon contact, she immediately knew which type of person it belonged to.
"Bitch, what the fuck?" The jock with his buddies turned to glower at her.
Instead of cowering like any sane person would be faced with a horde of all too physically capable athletes, Rachel glared daggers right back at them. She angled her head down so that she glared up at them. That slant, she knew, magnified the power of her feral expression and made her even more threatening despite her miniscule size.
"Shit," the jock swore, recognizing her. "Sorry, Rae. I wasn't—"
She raised mocking brow and tilted her head in pretentious curiosity. They – all eight of them – fled.
"Hitler was an idiot. Germans were much more idiotic to have followed him! The whole lot of them I tell you—" Rachel watched as their racist History teacher was cut off by a brave, but incredibly shy girl who's waving hand had finally gotten tired of being ignored for the past half hour.
"Excuse me, sir," she intercepted politely, "It wasn't all the Germans. Hitler made the minority the roaring majority through media. Not all of Germany was supportive of his anti-Semitic and imperialistic views. They didn't even know his true intentio—"
"Who are you? Speaking out of turn and disrupting me like that!" The senile old man waved a finger eccentrically. Spit flew from his mouth and landed on the first row of repulsed students. His face was red and his voice shook with unwavering conviction. "I'm the teacher here and what I say goes. And I say the bloody Germans are fascists! They're the worse kind of humans there are! They—"
"If I were you, I wouldn't be too quick to condemn the Germans, Mr. Whitmore," Rachel yawned, surprisingly taking part in class.
The whole class held their breath. It was the first day back to school. Throughout the first two years in high school, her peers had learned that Rachel never willingly participated unless she was about to pull off a stunt or two. This would be her first stunt in her third year.
"Germans being the worse kinds of humans there are, hm?" she drawled leisurely. A small predatory smile graced her face. "That didn't stop you from fucking your German student in your office last year though, did it? No? So, what does that make you, Mr. Whitmore? A consort? A fascist? An…" Rachel paused dramatically, biting her lip hesitantly as she feigned searching her memory. Then, to add to the theatrics, she gasped like she had just discovered the reversal to brain damage. "An idiot?"
Rachel was grinning wolfishly now as she watched the teacher sputter helplessly in fury. The class, after satisfying amount of collective gasps, had gone silent. She felt all eyes trained on the back of her head from where she was in the first row. Wonder, shock, admiration, resentment…who cared? Before the old man could relearn articulate speech, with a wink, Rachel made a graceful exit.
Fuck you, racist bitch.
And on her way out, she nearly collided with a person inbound.
"History?" the stranger asked.
"Was made?" she suggested. She gave him a smile that would have been innocent had it not been for her eyes, lustrous with malevolent glee.
"Why don't you just accept that you've lost?" Rachel heard a homosexual guy whine as he and the tomboy beside him headed towards an old tree on the school court yard during their lunch period. Squinting against the sun, she saw that they knew she was already there.
"Baka, Madonna is not gay! Chris, I swear your brain is worth a loonie," the half-Japanese, half-Canadian tomboy argued. With her hand, she tried to fan herself under the California sun blazing down on her. The tomboy fingered her hair and Rachel knew she was grateful for being persuaded into getting it cut closer to her scalp. What the tomboy evidently wasn't grateful for was her usual black attire frying her.
"Madonna is gay, gay, gay, gay, gay…GAY!"
Rachel watched him, Chris, sing then dance out of the tomboy's reach when she made a grab for him. Green pupils rolled and returned their gaze on the book in her hands. A few seconds later, she heard a squeal followed by a thud when two bodies crashed into the ground. Grunts and shrieks came soon after. It wasn't until the Belgian homosexual called that she looked up again.
"Rae, stop pretending to read that book and help! Hogan's long lost daughter is killing me," Chris complained, beating his hands on the grass where he currently lying, pinned down by a headlock the tomboy had got him in.
The girl in question just glared at him from under her shady tree.
"Rachel!" he screamed.
The glare was unpredictably replaced by a roguish grin.
This time, the query was apprehensive. The girl stood up and headed towards them, her eyes shining unusually bright.
The guy squirmed as the tomboy laughed while both watched in horror and hilarity as Rachel undid his belt buckle quickly and proceeded to yank his pants off.
"Fuck. Rachel, what the fuck are you fucking doing!" the guys flailed his legs in attempt to discourage her actions. Nonetheless, she effortlessly pinned both legs down after pulling off his shoes. Jocks didn't fear her for nothing.
Holding the guy's pants in her hands like a holy flag, she ran across the court yard laughing. "You told me to help. You never said who."
"RACHEL JOANNE THOMSON, I'M GOING TO FUCKING SIC ALL THE FUCKING HOMOS ON YOU!" the gay guy ran after her fanatically in fuchsia pink boxers with yellow bunnies and rainbow colored socks.
They left the tomboy almost dying in her own raucous laughter in the grass.
After that episode with her friends, a soft smile wanted to linger on her face. She forced the weightless feeling away and scowled. She glared at anybody who looked her way but otherwise stared straight ahead, her strides filled with purpose.
"Hang on, guys," she heard not too far off and dismissed it. It had nothing to do with her. It was nothing worth her attention. Soon, however, she was proved wrong when the same voice called after her, quick footsteps escorting it.
"Rachel," the masculine voice called. Labeling it as a ridiculous mistake, she walked on until the voice called once more and the footsteps did not fade away. It called again.
Sighing impatiently, she turned around and cast the speaker an annoyed glance. Blue eyes caught her green ones. "What?"
Jock, she immediately labeled when she saw his basketball jersey. Her defenses automatically went up, her stance more relaxed as if she was readying herself for an attack. The jock, who she recognized as a senior, only smiled at her and Rachel barely resisted the urge to snarl and lunge.
"This morning, with Whitmore…I just wanted to tell you – this is going to sound so stupid but um…" the senior drifted off in uncertainty. Rachel's glare intensified. He noticed and began to carry on. "That was really – fuck it – I thought that was really brave of you…" he ended sheepishly.
"You sure took your time spitting that out," she snapped. After watching him make a fool out of himself, she recognized him as Ashton Blake, one of the more popular athletes.
The jock acted like he didn't hear her. He raked his blond hair back as he spoke casually. "Not a lot of people can stand up to people that—"
"You would realize after so many years in the same school I'm not the kind of person to take shit sitting down." Green eyes narrowed in slits. Rachel wondered inwardly what the guy wanted from her.
"I know," the jock grinned in reply, unshaken by her hostility. "A lot of people here admire you for that."
"What do you want?" Rachel demanded, unable to take anymore of the bullshit. Where was all this leading to?
"I'm just telling you…I admire you," he shrugged.
Taken aback for a split second, her eyes grew wide, a brow rose up, and her mouth lowered slightly. It was only for a split second, but the jock caught it and chuckled.
"You're cute," he proclaimed still chuckling lightly. He turned and walked away without another glance back.
Bewildered, the green-eyed, raven-haired girl blinked her thoughts clear before anyone could see her expression. That jock just called her cute. She should beat him up.
For some unknown reason…she just didn't feel like it.
"Cute" he had said.
Here it is, the first chapter of the revised edition of TGME! I just find the original really amateur. This is a little more grown up.
Readers who have read the first version: If you're going to be reading this version, Ashton (Ash) is the Ken (Remember Kenneth Jones?) in this story.
I didn't delete this story and reposted the revised version because there were many reviews that were of great significance to me.
March 08, 2007
One flashback scene rewritten on April 16, 2007 thanks to pointers from K.B. Hanna.