Your name is Vriska Serket, and you wish you had been more careful.
It all started with you moving next door to one Equius Zahhak, a sweaty but decidedly tolerable 'friend' of yours that you've known since you were nine. All this time you've kept your personal problems just that: personal. Now all your secrets are open for the world to see and you don't know what to do.
For years and years, you kept your demons to yourself. You shared nothing. You knew no one. With your own safety in mind you shut your mouth and didn't hint at anything being wrong with your life.
Knowing this, anyone could see how opening up to your neighbor has won the award of 'the worst mistake of your life'.
"Do you remember when we were ten, and you came over to my house to accompany us to the pool?" Equius asks quietly, stretching and lying back on the grass hill. You stand over him with your arms crossed for a long moment, silent as you watch him get comfortable. When he's settled, you drop next to him with a sigh.
"Yeah, why?" You reply, watching the clouds above the trees drift across the darkening sky. You yawn and stretch, wiggling to get the itchy grass to flatten. Finally you rest the back of your head on your hands, in imitation of Equius' artfully sprawled position next to you (is that even possible? Of course it is, it's Equius and somehow he can do these things). It's surprisingly comfortable.
"You stripped in front of everyone," he answers, smiling at the memory. You yourself hold back an embarrassed grin. "The whole pool watched. And you didn't even know that you were supposed to wear the suit into the water."
"Shut up," you say snippily, rolling over to give him a look. You remember that day very clearly. Your mother had told you not to, but you put on the swim suit your father sent you from Italy and went next door. Of course Equius' family had allowed you to join them – they're unbelievably kind people – and you snuck away from the neighborhood with them to take the trip. You'd never seen so much water in one place, but it had vaguely resembled a bathtub. "In my defense, it was my first time seeing a body of water that large."
"But still," he chuckles. "It was quite the lewd display indeed."
"Uuuuuuuugh," you groan. "Can we drop it?"
He ignores you in favor of a trip down the memory ditch. "I remember being shocked and wishing to never see that much of you again, too."
You watch his expression change from amusement to nostalgia, lips pursed. Your eyes follow his profile from the long black hair stuck to his face to his jawline and further down, tracing every muscle and –
"But the next day you came to school in the longest clothing I've ever seen on you in my life." His easy smile scrunches into a frown and you stiffen, standing up abruptly and brushing the grass off you.
"Why are we even talking about this, it's stupid," you snap, shoving your hands in your pockets and turning away. You hear him sitting up behind you but refuse to turn back, setting your jaw and shuffling your shoes across the grass in the "most done with this shit" manner you can.
"Vriska, wait," he calls after you, but you're already around the side of his house, heading back to your own. His huge expanse of lawn makes the dramatic exit a bit awkward but you're used to it.
You remember what happened after the fun of that day, too.
You have a habit of tensing up and storming off every time he even hints at those times. They're horrible memories. Horrible. You like to think it's possible to forget about them but you know it's not. You like to think those times you spend with Equius are times you can use to help you forget your life at home. You're sure he must know of what your home life is like but usually he has the decency to not mention those times. But other days he mentions them. Those dark hours when you know nothing but your mother's hand leaving bruises on your body. He knows why, those days after, when you have to wear long clothing to cover up the damage. To keep it a secret. To hide yourself from the world. But you can't hide it from him.
It's panic. Every time he so much as alludes to that which you keep secret you clam up and leave before anything else can be said. You'd hate to admit it, but you get scared. You almost feel guilty for just up and leaving like that every time, but then you remember what your mother swears she'll do to you if anyone finds out about your life at home.
And then you're always glad you left.
Baby steps. Once out of Equius' line of view you take the smallest steps you can, knowing he won't follow but silently daring him to anyways. Your houses are stuck together: something called a duplex, you think and on top of being stuck together, your homes are identical: the same plain cream walls, the same brown trim, the same wood doors, the same half-dry front yard. Your houses have the same short driveway and the same shingled roof. They have the same dirty walkways, the same patch of brown that's supposed to be a garden. The only real difference is that the Zahhaks keep their house neat. It looks lived in and loved. Yours doesn't.
Once you cross his side yard it takes mere moments to arrive at the doorstep of your own home, even with the small steps. You make a point of taking as much time as humanly possible to return. This is pretty much the downside of your temper tantrums: you have nowhere else to go but home. The Zahhak family would invite you back into theirs without hesitation but you all know you're pretty much too stubborn to do it.
Stubborn isn't the word you'd use, though. Strong, more like. Or proud. You're not sure which but both sound better than stubborn. That word can be saved for the six year old little brats who won't share their crayons.
Before you even realize where you are your feet are suddenly light on the tile of your house, your ears straining for the smallest sound of your mother's presence. Your eyes adjust to the regular dimness as you slip out of your converse shoes and tiptoe upstairs. You pass the piles of books and papers around the doorway, the forgotten clothes and shoes by the stairwell. You maneuver around the trash and litter in the dark upstairs hallway with practiced ease, dipping into your room before anyone has a chance to even know you're home.
The light switch is somewhere near your head but you're too lazy to find it; instead you tiptoe around the random detritus littering your floor to your desk chair. The thing really is pitiful, worn and broken down as it is, but it's your chair. You acknowledge the fact that you may have ownership issues with just about everything. What's it matter?
You know the safety of your room is only a false comfort, but it's still your room. Perhaps the only place you can call sacred.
A space is cleared from the clutter of gaming dice and magic 8 balls to rest your head on the fake wood of the desk. You do so, groaning to yourself as your racing heart calms down and your eyes close. You made it this time. Sometimes you're not so lucky.
Sudden banging on your door as someone rudely barges in tells you this time you really weren't so lucky. Ugh. You force your aching head back up to glare at the intruder.
"Hey what the hell-"
"Get up," your mother snaps with her hands on her hips and a cold glare in her sunken eyes. You glare right on back, furious with her for her obnoxious entrance and demands. She's way taller than you, but somehow thinner although it looks like you couldn't get any thinner than you are. Her hair is platinum blonde, almost white: while yours is black, it's getting those telltale white strands that show you that one day you'll have her mop. You have the same icy blue eyes, the same pale skin, the same upturned nose, the same high cheekbones. You and she look almost exactly alike, actually: you share no traits with your father except for your rapidly fading hair color. She also never bothers dressing nicely, and why would she? All she does is sit at home and drink.
"I am up," you snap, irritated. "What do you want."
"Go to the store," she orders, gesturing at you with her bony hand to get out. You remain firmly planted in your seat.
"No," you say shortly, turning to turn on your laptop (a gift from your father: she never gets you anything). She slides up and smashes the computer closed. You withdraw your hands with a hiss just in time.
"What was that for?!" you demand, wheeling around in your chair to glare. She stiffens in that weird jerky way she gets when she's run out of alcohol. Suddenly you know what she wants.
"Go to the store," she says tightly, fists clenched at her sides. You open your mouth to snap back a retort but she slaps you before anything comes out. Your cheek burns and one of your own hands flies up to cradle it. "Now."
"Why the hell should I go for you?!" you manage, giving her your best evil look. Your mother narrows her eyes even further.
"You'll get my shit or I'll make you wish you'd never been born," she spits, sweeping an arm across your desk and knocking everything onto the floor before storming out as suddenly as she came in.
You mutter obscenities under your breath as you kneel down to pick all the dice, pencils, and papers up and drop them back on your desk. A couple of your 8 balls shattered, leaking blue dye onto your shitty grey carpeting. Those pieces you toss at your twin sized bed; they hit the thin sheets instead of the trash can next to them but you don't care. Maybe now you'll hate them less. White sheets are stupid.
You stall as long as you can before you imagine you can hear your mother coming back up the stairs to yell again, at which time you duck out of your room with your cheek still stinging. It turns out that old bitch is slouched into the worn couch, sagging along with the cushions in front of the small television. You roll your eyes and pull a fifty out of her wallet before slipping back into your converse and leaving before she can yell and maybe hit some more.
She knows it's not even legal for minors to purchase alcohol. Actually you're not allowed to until you're, like, twenty? You're only seventeen. Why are you doing this? And how have you not been caught yet?
You guess you're just that good.
Feeding your mother's alcoholic habits isn't exactly a point of pride for you. In fact you hate the job. You've been going to buy the nasty shit for at least four years now, and by now you know what each kind is by the shape of the bottle or color of the glass, and you know what kind she wants by the way she acts. Today she was a lot nicer than she usually is. By nicer, of course, you mean less violent, and that usually means she wants one of the round tinted bottles. You never remember what they're called, but you know what they smell like and look like. Traces of them are all over the house.
It sort of amazes you how you've been going to the same shop for so long and they haven't paid any attention to your growth. You suppose you've always looked older than your age: when you were thirteen you apparently looked old enough to buy the beer and vodka for your mother, and though you've grown notably taller and you definitely look older apparently the difference between four years ago and now isn't huge, you just look older. One of your father's friends saw you last year and thought the makeup you were wearing made you look more mature.
You don't wear makeup.
The shop is a little less than a mile away and you don't know how to ride a bike so you have to walk there every time your mother demands it. The walk takes like ten minutes but at least it's getting cooler as the sun begins to set. The crumpled bill in your pocket is suddenly heavy. You don't understand why you get nervous every time even though you've been doing this for how long? And the clerks don't even check for an ID. They never have. They never will. But there's still something forbidding about this place, like you shouldn't be here. Really you shouldn't, but when have the rules stopped you?
God, you wish you were capable of following the rules.
You wish you were capable of saying no to your mom.
You wish your dad wasn't in the Middle East right now, like he's been for three years.
You wish he would come back.
You wish you weren't about to cry.
A little bell chimes as you open the swinging door and step into the dirty shop. The lights are dim and most are broken, the shelves are cracked and stained, and the metal counters are covered in dents. The people, even, are old and crusty and nasty, trying to get your attention but you know to avoid them now. The only things not filthy and broken are the rows of shining glass bottles and metal cans lining the shelves. You avoid all the dull and accusing glares and slip into the correct isle. It takes a mere moment to find the right bottles and you stock up, knowing that the fifty you have will get you about three.
The dark bottles are heavy, and they only get heavier with each gaze turned upon you as you approach the register. This happens every time and you do your best to look nonchalant, flippant even, about buying this shit like you do every week. Everyone stares but no one cares.
You wish they would.
Three dollars and nineteen cents' change. The bottles are packed away into brown bags and you try not to make it look like a struggle to pick them back up without a cart but it seems you fail. A tall, fit man, unlike the more common gross old geezers, comes out of the isle and picks the one slipping from your grip out with one hand and waits for you to adjust the others before handing it back to you.
"Thanks," you say shortly, turning towards the door and avoiding eye contact.
"Hey wait." His hand is heavy on your shoulder and you freeze, heart pounding. Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit. You keep your mouth shut and remain a semblance of calm.
"What do you want?" Your voice comes out smaller than it should have and you curse yourself for the show of weakness. Never do it again. Never.
He looks at you carefully before shaking his head. "Nothing."
"Mind letting go?" You attempt to shrug his hand off but the bottles don't allow it. He drops his hand and lets you leave the store without any more trouble.
As you exit you glance behind you and see that creepy guy talking to the guy at the register you were just at. What a creep. You hope he doesn't try to follow you or anything or you'll have to kick his ass royally. After all these years you'd think nobody from that place would mess with you. They must all be stupid.
You must be stupid for getting all worked up about that guy bothering you. Nothing ever happens.
The walk home is slow. Night falls and the stars are beginning to appear above your head. When you were younger you'd take the time during these walks back from the store to count as many stars as you could before you got home. Now you don't bother because you know that ninety-one stars appear from sunset to the time when you get home. It bores you.
You're not so easily entertained anymore.
The weight of the bags in your arms gets heavier still as you contemplate your fate. Your dad is with the army in a different part of the world, likely to never come back. He doesn't call you. He doesn't know. Likely he doesn't care, either.
Equius probably doesn't know either. You know he knows a lot of things but doing errands for your mother is something you've kept very secret. You could get in ridiculous amounts of trouble for it. What would he think if he knew? You shiver a little at the thought. The look in his eyes…. Neither of you have said anything about your home life but you know his opinion would change. You just know it.
He wouldn't be able to stand you. What if he realized how much better he is than you? What if he suddenly understood that you're just that low? What if he wouldn't talk to you anymore? You bite your lip and stare at the ground, shuffling your feet on the sidewalk. You wouldn't be able to handle it.
"Excuse me, miss?" A deep voice behind you catches your attention and you turn, annoyed at all these people who want to talk to you today! What is their deal –
"I'd like to see your age identification," the police officer opens the door of his car and steps out, holding out a hand. "You see, minors aren't allowed to purchase any form of alcoholic substance… and that seems to be what you've got right there."
Shit. Oh FUCK what do you do?! You know you can't escape. You open your mouth but nothing comes out so you close it again, looking down the street. Goddammit, your house is RIGHT THERE –
"Miss?" The cop gives you a hard look. "If you don't have identification, you'll have to come with me."
You try to come up with a response. Nothing. Your house is like a hundred feet away and you know your mother won't come out. She's too lazy. Even if she did see, that old bitch would just let you get in trouble. Hell, you'll probably be in trouble with HER later. You bite your lip again, hard enough to draw blood, and say nothing.
"I'll hold your bags," he offers, "and you can look in your pockets?" He lifts two of the bags and sets them on the ground, then takes the other out too. You let your hands drop to your sides. Your heart is beating so loudly you're sure he can hear it too.
"Well, miss?" The officer folds his arms and waits. You shake your head.
"What if I'm not of age?" you demand as roughly as you can. "What're you gonna do about it? Arrest me?"
His jaw sets and he uncrosses his arms to grab yours. "I am going to have to do that, yes. In the car, please."
Fuck your life.