|Six Suns in the Sunset
Author: Eriala PM
The six women who fell into the water at the end of the song "Across the Universe": who are they? And what do they have to do with an angsting, postVietnam Max?Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Angst - Words: 2,232 - Reviews: 16 - Favs: 18 - Published: 10-16-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3839797
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: Six Suns in the Sunset
Author: pinkeeyore/feta/eriala (i go by many names)
Disclaimer: I don't own this, nor am I making any money off of it.
Author's Notes/Warning: Name the Pink Floyd album I refer to and get a cookie. Find the Beatles refrences and you get even more cookies! Also, I'm sorry about how angsty this turned out. I don't think of Max as angsting, it just happened that way. Credit to the lovely Queen of Snape for Rose and Valarie's names.
Summary: The six women who fell into the water at the end of the song "Across the Universe" - who are they? And what do they have to do with an angsting, post-Vietnam Max?
Six Suns in the Sunset
(Or: The Pie in the Sky)
::The Hero's Return::
When Sadie finally lets go, Max takes a step back and asks, "Whatever's happened to Jude?" His tone is all-casual. He wears the clothing Lucy brought him on her last visit: brown button-down shirt, too-short jeans, shoes that remind him overly much of army boots. His blond hair is a mess.
"Oh, Lucy didn't tell you?" she asks, she his opposite in every way, perfect hair and teeth and skin and smile. "He's back in England. Deported. Damn government, you know?"
When he leaves a lapse of uncharacteristic silence, she smiles despondently, tilts her head back and shakes it a bit, letting her hair fly from side to side. The lights go out; she must not have paid her electrical bill on time. (He doesn't like the dark.) "'S gonna be all right, Honey," she assures him. "You've just gotta pick up where you left off."
"I've been trying…"
"Keep at it," she advises. "One month or however long it's been… it's not going to be enough…"
One. Number One was a mistake. Number One was older, almost wrinkled, and completely unafraid. Her hair was black and shoulder length like the rest of them, not yet grey. Her eyebrows were nonexistent and her lips thin. She murmured something like a prayer in her own language when she saw him, and he didn't mean to do it, he didn't mean to do it, he didn't mean to do it.
"Thanks, Sadie," he says, in a world seemingly devoid of fortune or glory, in a room lit only by the pie in the sky. In the darkness she smells of exotic perfume and taps her foot absentmindedly against the hardwood. "I'll see you around, then."
The payphone creates a layer of claustrophobia between him and the street. He enters the numbers, read off a small and metaphorically ancient piece of paper. Someone nearby is playing the guitar and singing, badly out of tune. "Hello?" he asks, when someone picks up. "Valerie? May I speak with Valerie?"
The other speaker answers in the affirmative; there is a clunk, and the sound of racing feet. She answers the phone, and her voice is sensual as ever. "Who is it, hmmm?"
"Max. It's Max. I don't know if you remember – "
"Oh." Her tone is disgusted. She hangs up, and he is alone in his little glass box once more.
"Yes, I'm fine, how are you?" he asks the blank receiver. "Yes, I'd love to see you later… at around two? That would be great."
Number Two was a mistake, as well, hidden in the flora and he hadn't known until it was too late. She had gasped: a horrible, rattling, breathy noise like that of a banshee. There was just time to meet her eyes, dark and horrified, before her back arched – her arms flailed – she fell – she fell –
He opens the payphone door, swaying a bit on his feet. It's been a long day.
"Where have you been?" Lucy is distraught.
He sharpens his smile and pretends not to notice her concern. "Oh, you know. Around. You can't expect me to stick here forever."
She kisses his cheek and strokes it with her long fingers, motioning for him to sit down in a nearby battered wooden chair. He does so. "Max, I know it's hard," she says, "but you're in my care now. You've gotta do as I say, at least for a while." Her voice is full of compassion and uncertainty. She is not used to this role.
(He is not used to it either.) In her care. It should be the other way around. He hates this. She sits beside him and takes his hands in hers. "I'm better now, Lucy," he insists, clutching her hands even more tightly than she holds his. "You don't have to worry about me."
"Oh, but I do. I nearly lost you. I'm not going to lose you again." She speaks as though he's been a naughty little boy (although of course she doesn't mean to). "You were gone three hours, Max. What could possibly have been so important? Max?"
There. She's said the magic word. Number Three had been watching, hidden, from the depths of the jungle, sweaty hair stuck to her forehead, as the one whom he could only assume was her husband fell into a pool of muck and blood, shot down by the soldier to Max's right. What could he say? The enemy shot first, and once shots were fired it was hard to stop.
It was not impossible. He tapped the still-firing man's shoulder and shouted: "Wait!" as she emerged from the trees at top speed, eyes only for her husband. He yelled, cried, "Stop!" and "Fuck!" to no avail, as she was gunned down, and it was all his fault.
"Max?" Lucy asks again.
"I just needed a break, that's all."
"Oh, by the way," says Lucy over a breakfast of dry Captain Crunch, "Mom and Dad are coming this afternoon. They want to make sure their baby boy's alright. You've got until four to make this place presentable."
Number Four came out of nowhere, dirt-streaked face and hardened glare. He watched as someone (a friend, of sorts) fell in slow motion beside him, and he turned to retaliate, to strike back, to avenge, and there she was, before he could stop himself. No horror danced in her gleaming eyes, only pure fortitude, as her weapon slipped from her slack fingers. And as she slipped to the ground like a marionette whose strings had been dropped, her figure was Lucy's; the structure of her delicate features and prone form mirrored his sister's exactly; she was the Lucy of the Jungle with her tame hair and smooth skin. She was so young – impossibly young.
And now, in the present, the Lucy of New York says she's got to go to work; she'll see him later; good luck with the cleaning. He makes some quick remark about isn't he supposed to be resting and she slaps him lightly on the shoulder.
"Good luck," she says again, and then she is gone.
When his parents arrive that afternoon, they exclaim over how much better he looks, because last time they saw him he was on so much morphine he thought they were Santa and Mrs. Claus. Lucy smiles like he is her handiwork and he wants to melt. The apartment is sparkling clean, but for a strawberry creation enveloping one wall.
Ever since the day he snuck away, Sadie has been his babysitter. He grins his trademark grin and pretends not to mind. "Let's go for a walk," he suggests, taking her hand and tugging her toward the door. She is not a bad caretaker. She brings him clothing to wear; she knows how much he loves her wardrobe. He has, after all, proclaimed himself a "cross-dressing pacifist."
He has learned that when a gun is pointed his way pacifism will not save him, but Sadie's cool silk shirts still feel good against his bare skin. He lets her baby him. "Gonna sing me a lullaby next?" he asks, laughing. (He doesn't laugh as much as he used to.)
"Oh, you wish."
Still clutching her hand, he leads her from the apartment like a young and eager child. Outside is a whirlwind of people and color and the never-ending bustle of a city street. Her belly shirt accentuates his thin, muscled stomach and he thinks he catches a few passersby noticing.
There is a disheveled man with dirty hair and a paper cup by the side of the road. He still carries the stench of the jungle, so Max knows his plight without having to read the messy cardboard sign: back from the war, no food, no money, no home. (He wonders if the man's family kicked him out. He wonders why his own have not done the same.) Max turns to Sadie. "Got any change?"
She checks her pockets, her bag. "None I can spare."
"Please…" His famous puppy face.
"Five cents. That's all." She presses the money into his palm.
He came upon Number Five in a jungle clearing. Her back was to him and her black hair fell like a waterfall over her shoulders. She spun around upon the sound of his presence and suddenly was middle-aged and afraid. Her lips were full and thick and her eyebrows bushy above eyes like cavernous black holes. She ran backwards, watching him, navigating uneasily through the trees. He wasn't sure why he followed. He meant to tell her he meant her no harm, but she wouldn't understand anyways; and that was when she fell. A hole gaped open at her feet, and she stumbled, tumbled inside.
He didn't have time to cover his ears before the explosion.
Now, he takes the gleaming coin and drops it into the man's cup. He wants to tell the man that he understands completely, he wants his words to mean more than money and to pour like rain into that paper cup, but he chokes and cannot bring himself to speak.
When they return home from their walk, Sadie seems tired. She flips on the television, but every station is a war broadcast. Max turns it off again. "I can see that just by closing my eyes," he says.
Max has been left alone, for once, and he is getting bored. He never thought it would come to this. He was never bored in the jungle. There is nothing boring about staying alive. He gets off the couch and changes out of his navy blue bathrobe – same brown shirt again, today. He stretches even though he is not tired.
To the payphone, once more. The world flurries and buzzes around his little glass box where he stands, oddly stiff, like a rat caught in a mousetrap. This time he enters the second number from the tiny slip of paper. There is a ring, and then someone picks up. "Rose," he inquires, "Can I talk with Rose, please?"
"Yes, of course," replies the drawling female on the other end of the line.
And then she is there. She speaks like honey. He tells her who he is and for a moment he is sure she won't remember. And then, timidly: "Oh, God, Max. Is this for real?"
"I'm pretty sure."
"You're alive?" Her voice is alight with something like joy. (He is surprised that she still knows his name.)
"Last time I checked."
She is all of elation and bliss and he of hopeful bewilderment. He remembers her only faintly as hair like a wave of darkness and curves that fit perfectly with his thin frame and flashing lights like fireworks on the bus ride that led to nowhere.
They talk for a while (about everything except the jungle) and arrange to meet at six. At six. Six. Once he has said his goodbyes and hung up, he sinks to the phone booth floor; Number Six was not an accident.
Her stomach was small, considering; the child was hardly visible. There was blood dripping from the corners of her closed mouth, and yet more crimson staining her traditional clothing, and it wasn't quite enough: she would die but not for an hour or two or six. She made a gesture and a gurgling, choking noise and it didn't take a genius to know what she was silently screaming: kill me, kill me.
"Hey you," comes a voice, and someone is hammering on the phone booth door. "What the hell are you doing? There're people waiting out here, you know."
He stands and returns to Lucy's apartment, where she scolds him lightly for wandering off again. In his mind they hover above the ocean, the Six, toes to the water, arms outstretched; dancing, beautiful in their shapely nudity, far from the land where bombs fell like strawberries.