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September 9, 2013

I Hraet You (90)

Beat 90: The Only Viable Response to Rejection

Lloyd sat on what remained of the den’s couch, scratching absentmindedly at his temple.  Thankfully, he’d gotten over his grogginess -- though he couldn’t deny a hidden desire to go to the hospital, or at least see a school nurse -- and at the moment had little more than a rumbling stomach.  If he wasn’t half-covered in bandages, wounds, and a forcibly-made pair of shorts, he might have looked as if he’d gained inner peace.

The same couldn’t be said for Sheila.  She might not have taken as much punishment as Lloyd, but as she sat across from Lloyd on the remnants of a coffee table, she looked about ready to pledge herself as a slave to the first person that walked past.  She kept her head hung low, and gripped her knees with the force of a vise.  Said knees wobbled and knocked together on occasion, and her uplifted shoulders trembled enough to dance out of their sockets.  The only thing she could get to come down normally were streams of snot dribbling down her nose -- and as always, she sucked them back up at perfectly-timed intervals.

Trixie leaned toward Lloyd’s ear from behind the couch.  “I got a real bad feelin’ ‘bout all this, pal.  Ya sure this is all gonna work out?”

“I should think so,” said Lloyd, still focused on Sheila -- and all too aware she still hadn’t changed out of her robe.  “I’ve explained all I can to Miss O’Leary, and I’m certain that she can do the same -- and more -- for her mother, especially since Lady Overdose has begun priming her for the upcoming conversation.  But whatever the case…”  He gestured toward her and smiled.  “You needn’t worry, ma’am.  I’m certain that from now on, things are going to go overwhelmingly in your favor…and by your own hand, no less.”

“I still got my doubts on that one,” said Trixie as her gaze hardened.

“Eh?  Why’s that?”

“Ain’t it obvious?”  She drew closer to Lloyd’s ear.  “J-just look at the way she’s sittin’!  The way she’s got her arms, she’s pushin’ her…her things together!  It ain’t right!  It’s indecent!  Indecent!”

“Um, I can still hear you,” said Sheila.

Trixie leapt back three feet -- and after realizing she’d stared at Sheila for more than two seconds, she spun around to face the kitchen.  “I-I-I didn’t mean nothin’ by it!  I swear!  It’s just…uh….”  She rubbed the back of her reddening neck.  “I got a real hard time dealin’ with girls that’re…that, uh…ya know…have been drinkin’ their milk.”

“I’m sorry.  I just can’t help it,” said Sheila.  And then her ear wiggled.  “Hey!  Don’t you DARE apologize for being who you are!  You should be proud!  I sure as hell am!”

Deirdre sat up straight -- but only for a half-second.  Before anyone could even process the torch-passing, Deirdre shifted into a sultry pose, making sure to give Trixie a come-hither look (something that might have worked better if not for several feet of lenses pinned to her face).  “You know, doll face, you’re pretty easy to read.  Maybe the reason you get so flustered by a body like mine is because you’re the one who’s really ‘indecent’.”

Trixie spun around.  “I-I ain’t even close to bein’ indecent, lady!  There ain’t nobody purer than me!  Ya can just go on down to Rockwood and ask anybody there!”

“Wh-why are you yelling at me?” Sheila asked, pulling her arms closer.

“What?  No, no, no -- I wasn’t tryin’ to yell at -- I was talkin’ to that other --”

Deirdre folded her arms and smirked.  “My eyes are up here, doll face.  Or maybe you just want a closer look…?”  She tugged on a flap of her robe.

“Lloyd!  Stop her!” Trixie yelled.

“Let’s see where this is going.”

“DAMMIT, LLOYD!  DON’T MAKE ME --!”  Trixie curled up in a ball behind the couch.  “I ain’t gonna look, I ain’t gonna look, I ain’t gonna look, I ain’t gonna look…”

“I kinda like being in the real world,” said Deirdre.  She rubbed her nose.  “Could do without this damn thing trying to drown me, though.”

“I-I’ve got a nasal spray if you need it,” said Sheila.

“Nasal spray?  What do you think I am -- some kind of nerd?!”

Sheila pointed at her face.  “You kind of are.”

There’s absolutely no way any of this can go wrong, Lloyd thought.  His smile started to quiver.  I hope. 

And right on cue, Mrs. Overdose and Jane emerged from the hall, sparing not a word between them.  Lloyd leapt off the couch and offered his seat to Jane, and retreated behind Sheila as fast as he could -- judging by the look on the mother’s face (and the previous battles she’d had with the daughter), he didn’t want to get between them.  Mrs. Overdose followed right behind him, one hand in her pocket, another on her shotgun, and reed swishing through her mouth.

“Milady,” Lloyd whispered.  “How’d it go?”

Mrs. Overdose looked up at the ceiling for a moment.  “Somewhere along the line, the conversation switched to guns.”

“That could mean any number of things.”

“Yeah.  Too bad most of ‘em end with you blown to pieces.”

Jane cleared her throat loudly, drawing attention back to her (and hopefully not her murderous rage).  She crossed her legs and folded her arms, with her right eyebrow twitching every once in a while -- likely not a good sign, Lloyd reasoned.  “So let me see if I’ve got this right,” she began.  “I let in a nice -- if stupid -- boy to try and help my daughter, and he invites a train wreck of a southern belle and a gun-toting grandma to stage a kidnapping and torture session with my daughter --”

“To be fair, madam, it was only a matter of tactical application,” said Lloyd -- but since Jane’s knife-edged stare nearly made his intestines rupture, he decided not to interrupt again.

“I would have been okay with it if you had just given her a nice pep talk or something -- I would have loved it.  But instead, you go ahead and do some kind of mind-meld with my daughter that gives her a personality disorder.  And now you’re trying to tell me that she’s better off this way.  Do I have that right?”

“Well, if you want to put a negative spin on things, then yes.”

Jane’s eyes shifted back to Sheila.  “So how is this supposed to work?  Every time your ear wiggles, you switch from one personality to the next?  Or are we just overhearing a private conversation between the…the two of you?”

“It’s probably closer to the first one,” said Sheila.  “Probably.”

“Probably?”

Her ear wiggled.  “I’d be happy with ‘probably’ if I were you, mommy dearest,” said Deirdre.

Jane massaged her forehead, and then let loose a weighty sigh.  “All right.  So you’ve managed to fix my daughter.  So how are you going to ACTUALLY fix her?  Are you just going to leave well enough alone?  Is this what you consider ‘well enough’ in the first place?  Because if you ask me, your definition isn’t exactly the one I had in mind.”

Lloyd opened his mouth and held up a finger -- and a nanosecond later he jerked his head towar Mrs. Overdose.  “Milady.  Some counsel?” he whispered.

“What are you askin’ me for?  This was your plan, wasn’t it?”

“This discussion is not progressing as I would have hoped.  I suspect I need some immediate course correction if I’m to escape with my limbs intact.”  He smiled wistfully.  “Ah, what I would give to be in the company of the same madam who once offered me the finest baked goods in all of Porbeagle…”

“Counsel, huh?  Hmmm.”  She swiveled her reed about.  “I think you should grovel.”

“Will that help?”

“Got any better ideas?”

Lloyd shook his head, and prepared to throw himself before Jane’s feet.  But before he could, Sheila held up a hand to stop him.  “It’s okay, Lloyd.  I…I think I can handle this one.”  She set her hand back down, but lifted her head -- and with only the slightest of snorts she looked dead ahead at Jane.  “I know that things don’t look very bright right now, and it sounds like this is actually the worst thing that could ever happen to me, but…but I think that this is the best thing I could have ever wished for.”

Jane raised an eyebrow.  “And why’s that?”

“I don’t really get what happened, but Lloyd…he forced me to change.  He did something that I never would have done on my own.  And now, I have to return the favor.”  She shook her head.  “No.  I want to keep changing.  On my own.  I want to become something more than what I’ve been, and go as far as he thinks I can.  If it means that I’m different now, then -- th-then I guess that’s fine.  It’s just something I have to handle so I can follow my dream…and become someone that’ll make you proud.”

Jane’s eyes widened.  And little by little, the tension she’d nursed dissipated; everyone in the room nearly breathed a sigh of relief as Jane came closer to the cookie-peddling persona Lloyd had held so dear.  “Someone that’ll make me proud, huh?”

“Uh-huh.  And…y-you know, I’m sorry for being so much trouble all the time.  I was…I was just really confused, that’s all.”

“Heh.  Makes no difference to me.  A troublemaker of a daughter sure makes my life more interesting,” Jane said, now capable of forming a smile.  “So you say you’ve got a dream?  What is it?”

Lloyd stepped past Sheila.  “Ah.  That’s something that might require a bit more introspection.  But in time, she --”

“Lloyd.  I can handle this,” said Sheila, waving him away.  She turned back to Jane and nodded slowly.  “I’ve decided.  I want to be a stripper.”

Twelve Seconds Later

“GET OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUT!”

The front door blasted open -- and not long after, Lloyd went flying through it.  He sailed halfway through the lawn before his crown bounced against some concrete; after that, he tumbled drunkenly until he came to a stop in the middle of the street.  “Okay, I deserved that.”

And by his guess, the others did too.  Sheila rolled towards him shortly afterward, moaning and rubbing her forehead as she sat up.  Trixie outright belly-flopped against the ground -- and if not for the surge of pain, she would have stayed in place like dried-out roadkill.  Mrs. Overdose…just walked out of the house, swishing her reed and lugging her shotgun over her shoulder.

“What the hell?  How’d ya not get thrown out?!” Trixie yelled.

Mrs. Overdose shrugged.  “Respect for elders?”

“How old are ya?”

“Not that old.”

Sheila stood up and turned toward the house.  “Mom?  We can talk this out, right?  I thought we’d be able to bond over this!  You know, a mother-daughter thing!”

Jane poked her head out of the doorway.  “I don’t ever want to see your face here again!  EVER!  I have no daughter!”  And with that, she slammed the door shut -- with enough force to make a few neighborhood darks break into a fit of barking.

“…Well, that could have gone better,” said Lloyd as he dusted himself off.  “I must say, though, your mother has a phenomenal throwing arm, Miss O’Leary.”

Trixie stood up and nursed her stomach.  “Are ya kiddin’ me, lady?  A stripper?  That’s your big dream?  Bein’ a STRIPPER?”

“I-I don’t know!  It was the first thing that popped into my head!”  Sheila shoved her fingers together and stared at the ground (or at least an approximation of where it would be under her chest).  “It was a spur of the moment thing!  I -- I-I-I just didn’t want my mom to think I was gonna come up empty-handed!”

“So ya jumped straight past doctor, or cook, or pilot and went straight to stripper?”

“Now, now, Miss Walters.  Let’s not get too overworked here -- you’re missing the important thing here.”  Lloyd stepped in front of Sheila.  “You just said something on impulse, yes?  The first thing that popped into your mind?”

Sheila nodded rapidly, although she looked as if she wanted to cry.

“Miss O’Leary!  Could it be that you’ve already begun to change yourself?  You acted spontaneously without any input from Deirdre!  Surely that has to count for something!  It’s proof that you have the potential to do something great -- no matter where or when you land!”

“Y-you think so?”  Sheila looked at her hands.  “Maybe I can.  Maybe I really can do…wait, hold on a minute.”  She took a dozen steps backward and turned her back on Lloyd.  “So what does that mean for us?” she asked herself, turning to her left.

Sheila -- or rather Deirdre -- turned to her right.  “Who knows?  It’s not like I’ve had full control over you beforehand.  So maybe it was just a fluke.”

Sheila turned to her left.  “You think so?”

Deirdre turned to her right.  “Hard to say.  But I guess the important thing is that things are changing for us, whether we like it or not.”

“So what should we do?”

“For once, I’m at a loss.  Normally I’m on top of things, but it seems like every time I take control of the body I can’t really focus.  All I can think about is how much my back hurts…”

“W-well, that’ll happen.  But once you get in the right mindset, you kinda just start dealing with it.”

“How?  I just want to lie down and sleep it off…and is there ANYTHING we can do about this damn nose?!”

Sheila peeked over her shoulder.  “Ummmm…I have an idea, if you’re up for it.  Maybe it’ll take your mind off of things.”

“Does it involve a back brace?  Because if it does, I’m all for it.”

“Nuh-uh.  It’s…”  Sheila peeked over her shoulder once more, and then started whispering to herself.

“I’m pretty sure I said this already,” said Trixie, “but I really don’t think this is gonna work out too well.”

Mrs. Overdose nodded.  “The kid sure knows how to pick ‘em.”

Lloyd would have made an objection if Sheila hadn’t trotted back toward him.  “L-Lloyd?  Um, I’ve been wondering if…if it’s all right with you…s-since we’ve pretty much got the rest of the day to ourselves, what with being expelled and all…ummmmm…”

She took a deep breath -- and practically bellowed her question. 

“WOULD YOU GO OUT WITH ME?”

TO BE HEARTINUED…

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