Title: Where all the veins meet
Fandom: Lost/Cruel Intentions
Rating: R for language, drug use and sexual references
Word count: 10,824
Comments: A little while ago I posted my sole venture into Lost fandom, Girls On Film, which briefly mentioned the parallels between Cruel Intentions and Shannon and Boone's situation; dopplegl mentioned that he'd like to see a crossover between the two fandoms, and like an insane thing I obeyed, writing mostly during the hours of midnight and 2am and fuelled by many cups of tea. The result is this patchwork monster of a story; characters drawn and melded and shaped into a cohesive whole, set as ten situational vignettes in the same crazy universe.
I read episode summaries obsessively and rewatched Cruel Intentions with my finger hovering over the pause button and a notebook in my lap, so many of the references that I found so clever in my head probably pertain to actors and throwaway lines and characters that are mentioned once...that said, I was pleased with the way it pulled together, in the end.
The disclaimer is kinda long (I pulled shit from all over the place, y'all) and so is under the cut with the first half of the fic, which is too long to stick in one post. I will mention that here in Australia we're only up to Ep. 19, 'Deus Ex Machina', and I have been attempting to avoid spoilers as best I can. So there is a possibility that I am merrily trampling on canon for some people's backstory out of sheer ignorance.
I really don't know how many people know both fandoms well enough to appreciate it, but...I hope it entertains those who give it a try :)
Okay, that was a lot of comments.
On to the fic!
- Lost and Cruel Intentions aren’t mine, I’m just borrowing them for nefarious purposes, blah blah blah.
- The title and section headings are lyrics from Verve’s song Bittersweet Symphony, which featured on the Cruel Intentions soundtrack.
- Lines and lyrics in Hurley’s section are taken from various REM songs – namely Electron Blue, Leaving New York, It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, All The Way To Reno, and Bad Day.
- Sawyer’s section contains various quotes, mangled and intact, from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
- The quote about parents in Jack’s section is from the philosopher John Locke, because I am a huge dork.
Where all the veins meet
from one day to the next
Theresa Sanchez had never really thought much about the future. Growing up had been a continuous stream of improvisation and patience, making it to the next day and the day after that and holding on with hands and teeth and tenacity to everything she could. That was how one fared. How one survived.
So it was almost a shock when she finished high school, because suddenly she had a choice. A restricted choice; no chance of college, not for someone of her background, but a choice nonetheless. After some consideration she applied to an agency that employed nannies, because years of helping with a horde of children – both siblings and of no relation but the casual passing bonds of pride and race – had given her enough patience and confidence for the job.
The pay was bad, but it got better. The children were white and rich and spoiled, but she grew more adept at handling them. She built up a repertoire of voices, of all the things; but everything in life seemed weird until you were doing it, when it was just…life. A voice for every nuance of mischief and every time of day, a voice for absent fathers and surly maids and pediatricians and shopkeepers. A voice with no words, wistful and quiet, a midnight voice that used the shallow breath of the lungs and could span hours of walking up and down with a crying baby hiccupping into her shoulder.
By twenty-seven she had built up a solid reputation, enough to land her a position so good that it had her pinching her skinny brown arms in disbelief. The money was amazing for looking after a single seven-year-old boy, and working for the upper crust of New York’s society had given her a sense of the value of names. This was one that was dropped often at dinner parties, dropped into glasses of red wine that cost more than she earned in a month, dropped with mouths painted L’Oréal crimson and gossip’s gossamer gold.
“You’ve fallen on your feet, honey, and no mistake.” The agency secretary, an old friend, beamed at her, wisps of black hair falling out of her bun.
“Why do they need a new nanny?” Theresa fiddled with the strap of her handbag, frowning. You learned to ask that question first; no use rushing off into a house blindly only to be confronted with an abusive alcoholic employer or three colic-prone babies.
“Oh, it’s nothing suspect.” A shuffle of papers. “The last girl we had there had to move interstate; boyfriend in the army, or somesuch. The mother was impressed with your CV, picked you out particular.”
“There’s gotta be a catch.” She smiled, consciously stopping herself from chewing her lip. She had learned to repress little habits like that, especially when employed by the rich and eccentric. The smallest thing could grate against the wrong person’s nerves, and then you were out of a job. “There always is, with money that good.”
“Let’s hope it’s a small one.”
Small indeed, all of four and a half feet high, in sneakers.
But Theresa didn’t have any problems with the boy at the beginning; he was precocious in a subtle way, speaking beyond his years and spending a lot of time scribbling things in notebooks which he refused to show her, keeping them in a shoebox under his bed. Odd, but she could deal with odd. Most of her patience in the early days went towards dealing with the blonde bitch of a woman who signed her paycheck.
Yes, Mrs. Valmont, no, Mrs. Valmont, and it was an easy thing to cast her eyes down and take the unthinking rudeness and that uniquely, perfectly Manhattan brand of tactlessness that you could only afford if you were white and had more dollars than brain cells. Easy when she stored carefully away the things she noticed; the husband whose eyes wandered constantly from his perfect painted doll of a wife. Wandered to Theresa herself, once, but she was by then adept at the quick demurral and not attractive enough for him to bother trying again.
She was relieved, at the time. Like every nanny in the business she had lost a position because of complications with the employer, and did not want to leave the security of this one.
She was fairly certain he slept with his secretary, instead, and did not begrudge him the cliché. He was no worse than any other man, and she would have done the same if married to Elaine Valmont. While the father was forgetful and brief, he had moments of real affection for the boy that redeemed him in her child-loving eyes. Theresa bit the inside of her cheek and swore up and down that if she ever had children of her own she would never subject them to the same falseness and low-grade indifference that this mother seemed to consider an acceptable substitute for love.
Theresa could see the cracks appearing in the marriage already, and although she judged that it would take a long time for them to widen and split she found herself hoping that the father would be granted custody. She wondered if the mother would even notice.
It was a good living, she got by – until the day that Sebastian Valmont took a disliking to her, and then it all fell apart.
His precocity, she grew to realise, was in far more than his manner of speech and his propensity for writing. The first time she was reprimanded for neglect, the only sense of reality was in the eerie smirk on the boy’s young face, his eyes holding hers as his mother snapped and glared, resenting the time taken out of her schedule for such a domestic chore. He never misbehaved, but he was stubborn in the wrong ways and brittle in his rare enthusiasm, and insulted her in ways that left her fuming and speechless inside. Smiling on the outside. Still smiling.
She knew it was only a matter of time before he got her fired, so when a brand new client approached the agency she put in a discreet request for consideration, despite the marginally lower salary. Better to pre-empt and quit of her own accord than to have a dismissal for neglect on her record.
The day she left the Valmont household she heard the beginnings of an argument starting in the upstairs bedroom, and was surprised at the amount of vindictive satisfaction that she found in her mild soul. Let the boy have his foundations ripped down, then. See how he liked it.
She did not know that Sebastian was lying in his room as her taxi sped away outside, listening to his parents’ shouts and copying the words down with his slow, neat writing.
The new address was in a neighbourhood that did not reek of money so old it had stagnated; it was newer money, quieter and prettier, and she was glad of it.
The door opened and Theresa looked down at a serious little boy who was as dark as Sebastian had been bright. He was chewing on the end of one finger and regarding her thoughtfully.
He nodded, not removing his finger from his mouth. Theresa smiled at him and stepped inside, already certain that this job would be far better than the last.
After all, it could hardly be worse.
well I never pray
“Perhaps you’d like to talk about your childhood?”
“I…don’t think so.”
Regina Greenbaum set her lips in a firm line. “I can’t help you if you won’t let me help you, you know.”
“What? What does my childhood have to do with anything?” The man glared at her, and Regina pinched her fingers very tightly around her pen so that she wouldn’t lean back in her overplush leather chair. His glare was fierce and blue and frightening, and she was a woman who had a reputation for being a bitch with a heart of steel in even in the toughened Manhattan medical community. She did not scare easily.
“Mr. Locke –”
“Dr. Greenbaum.” His voice was quiet, courteous. “I have traveled here to see you because I was assured that you are one of the best post-trauma counselors in the country, and my employer has requested that I seek some kind of therapy and the bills are covered by my medical insurance.” A pause. “I read your book.”
“Really?” She smiled, and then cursed her own ridiculously eager tone. She was used to selling – prescribing, she corrected herself absently – her own book to patients, but it was rare that she met someone at a first session who had already read it.
“Yes.” And now she wasn’t sure if eagerness had been the correct attitude at all; John Locke’s blue eyes regarded her coolly, but he offered no praise or admiration or even an intelligent comment on her theories. “And while I realise that parenting is your area of specialty, I did not think I had come here to discuss my own experiences of it with you.”
“Do you think you are adjusting?” she asked without missing a beat, gathering her composure, gesturing with her pen towards the wheelchair he was seated in.
“I’m a pragmatic person.” He shrugged, and she tapped her pen against her notepad and tried not to groan. This was the problem with people who were sent for therapy by their family or employers or well-meaning friends. They thought they could sit there for an hour and talk around the subject and then go home.
“That’s not an answer,” she said, more brusquely than she normally would. She had a feeling this man wouldn’t appreciate dancing words, and certainly wouldn’t respond to them.
He sighed. “Physically? Yes. I can manouevre myself and the chair by now, and these days everything has a ramp or a lift and a cadre of personnel falling over themselves to help the disabled.” There was something about the way his hand tightened on the arm of the wheelchair as he said the word – a tightening that she was sure she wasn’t meant to see, but one didn’t become good at a job like this without learning to read the little tensions and slips in a person’s body language – that spoke of Issues Yet To Come. Progress.
“Emotionally?” she pressed. “In my experience there’s more to adapt to than just the simple facts of altered lifestyle, and you can’t –”
“Don’t tell me,” he said quietly, so quietly that she was surprised at the effortlessness with which he had cut her off, “what I can’t do.”
Part of Regina Greenbaum laughed and laughed at such triteness, and wanted to slouch its shoulders and open a bottle of scotch and play at trading life stories like they were any two casual members of the middle-aged and unhappy. It wanted to tell this man that everyone had their limits, everyone, and the sooner they all woke up to that fact the happier they would be. It wanted to point out that he was in a fucking wheelchair, for Christ’s sake, and only people in advertisements and inspirational videos shown to wide-eyed preteens at leadership courses pretended that they could do everything they’d ever wanted to when they obviously couldn’t.
Another part of her sat up and beamed with complete insincerity and said what a positive attitude, my dear sir, because that was what one said to cripples who appeared to be making the best of their situation. This was the part that earned the money, but also the part that had driven her daughter to almost-estrangement and to work for the safe distance of Princeton. This was the part that had written the book, and the part that Sebastian Valmont could draw out with an irritating regularity.
What she said, in the end, was. “Fine,” and then, “Why don’t you tell me what you can do?”
“I can shoot,” he said, eventually, and not without humour.
“I meant –”
“I know what you meant.”
“Everything happens for a reason.” His voice was steady. “I can accept what has happened to me. I don’t have to like it, but I can accept it, because something wants me to learn from the change.”
And that was a surprise, really, because she’d placed him as a sensible man – pragmatic, as he had said – and not one to put much stock in fatalism theories and the idea of destiny. She frowned, and made some more notes, but didn’t know how to continue that line of questions. She moved onto the next.
“And how do you think this change has affected those around you? Are you noticing any changes of attitude that are difficult for you to deal with?”
“What you’d expect, I suppose. People at work are anxious to seem supportive, but they’re still uncomfortable, still treading carefully.” A wry twist of lips. “My mother came to the hospital, so I doubt she minds as per se, but I refused to see her.”
“Tell me more about your mother,” she said, on autopilot. It took her a few seconds of the suddenly bottomless silence to realise that he had adamantly resisted any discussion of his childhood. She risked a peek at the blue eyes, steeling herself for icebergs, but the ship sailed clear; John Locke was smiling faintly. It was an odd sight. So many people looked younger when they smiled, but this man’s smile carved lines around his eyes and drew his true age out of him.
“My mother,” he said. “She looks a lot like you…”
trying to make ends meet
Kathryn was in a bad mood all throughout the concert because she was wearing her lowest shoes, a pair of dull blue mules that didn’t add anything to her height and, she was sure, made her calves look quite dreadful.
“Will you be long?” Sebastian pushed his glasses up his nose, treating her to his most fabricated smile. She could tell he had hated the concert; so had she, for that matter, but the music was largely irrelevant.
“I hope not.” She smoothed her skirt down, flashing him a look from under her lashes. “How do I look?”
He waved and set off for the car park, and Kathryn went and found the nice security guard who had accepted her money so readily and groaned so loudly when she blew him off during the intermission.
She made sure she was standing when he entered the room.
“Who…what are you doing here?”
“I’m…Kate. And I’m waiting for you, Mr. Pace.” Her hands linked around the back of his neck and she gazed up enticingly. She was willing to bet that he didn’t get many girls looking up at him, and bet even more that he would like it. And Kathryn Merteuil never bet unless the odds were highly in her favour.
“Oh. Well, that’s all right then.” His hands crept down to rest on her waist. He was quite cute when he smiled, she supposed.
Afterwards she dressed quickly and sat on the edge of the couch fiddling with her necklace, hearing the quick intake of breath as soon as the guy caught sight of the drugs.
“Nah,” he said, eyes darting from side to side. “Nah. I’m trying ta quit, actually.”
She laughed, low in her throat, because one hopeless junkie was just like another.
“Suit yourself, then.”
She sniffed and brushed away the residue expertly, watching out of the corner of her eye how his hands shook and his lower lip trembled in a weak echo.
His hands were still shaking as he pulled the tiny scoop from the crucifix, all his attention focused on the white powder, and some spilled down her velvet top. She kept smiling, murmuring meaningless dirty things, her hands dipping teasingly below the waistband of his boxers, but inside she seethed. That had been an expensive top. And he didn’t even seem to care that he had a gorgeous girl in front of him, seemed to only be registering the drugs, absorbed in the subtle rolling back of his too-bright eyes and the nervous clash of the metal as he replaced the scoop.
The chain dug into the back of her neck, scraping against the vein.
She pinched his hip, hard, still smiling like the angel she never was.
“Ow…” His eyes finally rested on her again, blurred and wondering. “Kate?”
“Can I ask a favour, Charlie Pace?” she purred, wondering if she’d have to give the guy another handjob before he’d snap out of it sufficiently to give her what she needed.
“Yeah, sure.” He grinned, fumbling with her breast, and she turned away quickly to hide her look of disgust. She fished her Polaroid out of her handbag and blinked at him, the pretty expression appearing with all the effort of flicking a switch.
“Could I have a picture of us? And could you sign it?”
“What…what, like this?” He brushed clumsily at his hair, looking around for a shirt, and Kathryn bit back a curse. “Why?”
“Because,” she said sweetly, quite certain that she could have announced herself the queen of the purple fairies at this point without him batting an eyelid, and feeling in dire need of a rant, “a certain girl of my acquaintance decided in the same day to spread some nasty rumours about me that took all my efforts to erase from the memories of the school population, and to announce herself the biggest Driveshaft fan in the world. She has a picture of you on her diary.” Kathryn smiled, mostly to herself. “I think mine is in need of…redecoration.”
“Oh.” He blinked feebly a few times. “Sure, right.”
She had to pose them, muss his hair again, wheedle a suitably just-laid smile out of him. She had to steer his hand towards the photo and tell him what to write – Kathryn, thanks for a wonderful night, Charlie XX, and the trademark signature that was so fucking affected and loopy that nobody would accuse her of forging it.
She had to do everything, but she was used to that. And ten minutes later she walked out of there with revenge in her handbag and a tiger’s smile on her face.
“Productive evening?” Sebastian closed his journal and snapped the lid onto his fountain pen, stretching his legs out.
“Very. Let me into the car, jackass.”
“Manners, Miss Merteuil.” But he unlocked the door and she stepped in
“Good fuck?” he asked in the voice of one enquiring about the weather on vacation.
“Terrible.” Her fingers walked down his thigh. “Talented hands, though. Suppose it comes with playing guitar.”
“Bass, wasn’t it?”
“Same fucking difference.” She squeezed his leg and he sighed as he turned the ignition key.
“Stop it, Kathryn.”
“Poor baby, have you been waiting here all alone? Imagining what I’m doing…where my hands have been?” She slid one finger into her mouth, trying to catch his eye, and then grew abruptly bored of the game. “Let’s get out of here. I need a shower.”
His smile was bland and pleasant. “Feeling dirty?”
“Always.” Their laughs blended nicely.
The car spun around a corner and out of the empty parking lot.
I’m a million different people
James Ford knew when he had lost; it happened so rarely that he’d learned to look out for it and spot it instantly. And on this day his doom was the cheerful voice that floated across the fancy restaurant, across the steady buzz of businessmen doing lunch or shelling out for their girlfriends. Hah.
Mark, this time, not John not Julian and never James. But he used a handful of names, because Sawyer was too uncommon to be suitably recyclable for con after con after con. And hell, a ruse by any other name. He’d played his share of Romeos and could quote scripture for his purpose like any devil; never been to college but certainly done the high school thing. Drama was easier than French and more fun than physics, and he’d always had a knack for smooth talking and taking on someone else’s face. He didn’t regret it. With a suit on his body and the Bard in his mouth he could be anything and everything to the bored rich women that he took down one by one.
Things could go wrong, though, and they certainly had. This particular mark he’d been desperately trying to hold onto, but he’d misjudged her slightly from the beginning and so the whole con had been built on unstable ground. She wasn’t quite material enough, not quite jaded enough by love and marriage to be entirely happy with Sawyer’s brand of seduction, to forgo the romance and the Valentines Day dates for simple fucking excellent sex.
He knew she’d found someone else, and the phone conversation they’d had to arrange this meeting had held unpleasant dumping overtones. Sawyer was not used to being dumped, but it happened often enough when he was younger and he was a master at reading women’s voices. He was fucked, and he knew it.
What he hadn’t been expecting was that she would drag her new flame along to the date. But on reflection it was a fairly smart move, one that avoided unnecessary painful conversation and just gave off a pointed signal – ho boy, too many boyfriends in this relationship, yessirree - and by the way her arm was linked through the other guy’s it was pretty clear which of them was going to be expected to leave.
“Mark, this is Sebastian,” and holy fucking Christ, had the woman no shame? Introducing her illicit affair to…well, fuck, a younger illicit affair? He tried not to laugh.
“Hello.” The young man held out a hand for him to shake, and Sawyer was stupidly proud of the fact that he took it and didn’t punch the kid in the face for standing there smirking, when he had just rendered a good month of Sawyer’s time useless. And he was a kid, too; he was hiding behind sophisticated glasses and a very expensive suit, but he looked barely old enough to be out of school. What he was doing with someone as old and as married as this one…Jennifer? Julia? Yeah, one of those names, he’d just been calling her ‘J’ like it was some fucking cute joke they had, women loved that sort of sentimental shit…what this kid was doing sleeping with her was a mystery, when he could probably have had any brainless model under the age of twenty-five just by fluttering his lashes.
“Yeah, hey.” Sawyer conjured up a tight smile and a tighter handshake.
“I’m sure you don’t blame me for being so captivated by Jen here,” and his hand ran lightly down her side, smoothing down her blouse, a possessive action that matched the innocent and completely insincere smile on his face. Jen, was it? The bastard, the fucking bastard, Sawyer raged inwardly. He knew another con when he saw one. And he wasn’t going to risk standing around much longer in case this Sebastian fellow had instincts to match his pretty face and threatened to blow his cover.
He’d lost. Fuck it. Time to cut and run.
“Well, J. Have a great life, darlin’.” He tilted his head and smirked, showing her what she was missing; not because it was going to help at this stage, but out of a perverse kind of pride. He had no doubt that her life was going to be messy and boring and eventually ruinous. It helped, somewhat.
“No hard feelings?”
“Of course not.” Smile, smile. He could act this part as easily as the rest, though he hated the fact that it was even a necessary part of his repertoire.
“My dear Mark,” she sighed, wrapping her arms around him, and he fought down the urge to laugh and say sorry, sweetheart, I’m nobody’s mark. But you were mine.
“It was lovely to meet you, Mark,” the fucking kid smarmed once Jen had stepped back and taken his hand again. He tilted his chin and smiled again, looking golden and perfect under the restaurant’s lamps.
More light and light it grows; more dark and dark our woes, Sawyer thought sourly.
Time to find an alternate light source, then.
It didn’t take long. By now he knew what to look for, and he found it in a restaurant two doors down from the one where Jen and Sebastian were no doubt holding hands and simpering at each other over the wine list. She was rich – dressed badly but in brand name clothes – and was seated at a small table across from an empty chair, tapping her fingers and occasionally looking at her tiny gold watch. She looked bored. Bored and unhappy and ripe for the picking.
Sawyer pulled out the chair and sat down.
“Please! My husband…” But she trailed off under his amused gaze, a gaze that had taken in her wedding ring before he even touched the seat.
“He wouldn’t begrudge me a drink, now, would he, sweetheart? What’s your name?” he said, winking outrageously and stealing a sip of her wine.
“I…Jess.” Her eyes were unsettled, very wide. Oh, this was going to be easy.
“Jess.” He replaced her glass, brushing the back of his knuckles against her fingers. “The all-seeing sun ne’er saw your match since first the world began.”
“Oh.” A flutter of a smile. “That’s beautiful.”
“Mmm.” Best not to tell her that the quote described a girl that the hero forgot after the first act, and was probably never in love with in the first place. Neat, though. Appropriate.
So he poured her wine from her own bottle and pressed his card into her hand and a kiss onto her cheek. And then walked away, a redneck Romeo with a smile to die for and star-cross’d fucking everything.
the airways are clean
“It’s a…koala bear, right?”
Cecile frowned at the shirt as she held it up. Three weeks in this country, and she still couldn’t get all of the animals straight. They were all ridiculous-looking things, anyway, with limbs that were too long or too short and those names that made no sense at all and slipped from the mind as soon as they were heard. She’d watched a boring video about them on the plane to Sydney.
And in her defense, she thought, with an edge of sullenness that had been ground into her by the open spaces and the musty-gummy smell of this silly country, it wasn’t a particularly realistic picture. Simple lines and curves. It was kinda cute, she admitted grudgingly.
The blonde girl behind the stall dimpled at her, and if Cecile was the type of person to notice this kind of thing she would have realised that this was a familiar question and an even more familiar answer. The dimples were patient and cheery under the girl’s wide-brimmed hat.
“They’re just called koalas. Not koala bears.”
“Oh. Right.” She looked at the shirt for a while longer. “Is this gonna rub off in the wash?”
“Nope.” The girl stepped around the edge of the stall and ran her finger down one side of the design. “My boyfriend prints these, and he uses special fabric paints. Professional ones. It won’t rub off.”
“Your boyfriend, huh?” Cecile pulled a packet of chewing gum out of her pocket. “Do you get, like, a commission? To sell them?”
“Nah.” Another bright smile. “He can’t spare the time away from his studio just now – got a show coming up. He just started making these on the side, for a bit of extra money. I don’t mind helping out by running this stall. The markets are only two days a week.”
Cecile had tuned out already. “Gum?” she said, holding out the packet, and then, “I’m Cecile.”
“Thanks.” The girl took a stick, pushing her ponytail over her shoulder. “Claire. So you’re from America, then? Just here on holidays?”
Cecile chewed on her own gum, nodding, rolling her eyes. “My father is taking me on a trip before I go back home and start at my new school.”
“Where’s home?” Claire’s voice was quick and soft, her Australian accent suddenly sounding quite sweet. In general Cecile didn’t like accents, and she thought Australians sounded dreadful, but the words echoed between the curve of Claire’s lips and didn’t sound bad at all. Home.
“New York.” Cecile tried not to look at the other girl’s lips – she wasn’t a lesbian or anything, no, ew – but she wondered if they’d do it again.
“New York?” Claire’s blue eyes lit up in a wistful kind of way. “What’s it like, living there? What’s the city like?”
“I dunno.” Cecile shrugged, uncomfortable. “Big?” When it came to describing the familiar her vocabulary slipped away. New York was New York. But the look on the blonde girl’s face made her feel rude, so she made an effort. “It’s very…there are lots of straight lines,” she said awkwardly. “The streets. And the buildings.”
“I’d love to travel,” Claire said, still looking wistful “Maybe in a few years, when the baby’s old enough, if Thomas and I can save the money.”
“You’ve got a baby?” Cecile’s mouth fell open. “Whoa. Where is it? Do you have a nanny or something?”
“I wouldn’t be selling T-shirts if we could afford a nanny.” Claire laughed. “No. The baby’s still growing.” She brushed one hand over the front of her dress.
“You’re pregnant? Are you sure? You don’t look pregnant.”
Claire laughed. “This is a loose dress. There’s a little bump. Believe me, I’m definitely pregnant.”
Cecile made a face. “Ew. Is it totally gross? Do you throw up all the time, and want to eat really disgusting foods like…like toothpaste on icecream, and stuff?”
“I crave chocolate. And peanut butter sandwiches.” Claire grinned. “But that’s nothing new, really. Did you want to buy this?”
“What? Oh. Yeah, okay.” Cecile wasn’t even sure if she wanted the shirt any more, but she and Claire were practically friends now, weren’t they? And she couldn’t…not-buy from a pregnant lady. It’d be impolite or something.
“Great!” Claire took the shirt and folded it neatly, laying it onto a pile of tissue paper. “Fifteen dollars, thanks.”
“That’s the blue one and the pink one, right?” Cecile had got the hang of Australian money. Money was more important than furry creatures that looked as though they’d been shoved together by one of God’s drunk assistants, out of all the leftover parts. And then he’d vomited into a basin, and used the sound as the name. Kowaaaaaaaaaghla. Cecile giggled to herself.
“There we are.” Claire’s neat hands wrapped the shirt in paper and put it in a plastic bag. “Well, bye, Cecile. Hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday. Are you going to Brisbane? That’s where I was born.”
“I dunno, maybe?” Cecile said dubiously. She hadn’t been paying much attention when her father had shown her the itinerary. “But yeah. See you. And good luck with the, you know.” She tried to wave her hand expressively, but the bag was in the way. “The baby, and everything.”
“Thanks.” Another blinding smile – or at least the same one, upped a notch. Cecile didn’t think she’d ever met anyone who smiled quite as brilliantly as Claire. She was all sunshine and life, and looked as though she ought to be sitting on a beach drinking cocktails with names that contained words like sunrise and paradise, not stationed behind a tiny stall in an overlarge hat, shining at bored tourists and selling vaguely cute shirts. Her curving lips and her voice should be used to sing lullabies about suns and moons and stars.
Cecile could see that, in her mind; she could see more than people gave her credit for, but was often just too lazy or too ignorant to find the words. If she had been able to press a little further or move from her selfish frame of mind for a moment, she would have told Claire that she was sorry to be casting a shadow.