"You should feel lucky. Things 've changed, Faithy," mom said. She was putting away dishes at super-speed.
"Really? Things 've changed? We moved thousands a' miles away. Not to mention twenty years in the future. I have the biggest tits of any ten-year-old in the universe because I'm the only one stuck in her adult body," Faith said, "Oh and Dad is back, and a vampire, and you're now a' couple of dry drunks. No shit, things have changed and you want to keep it the sa-"
"Faith!" Dad snapped, "Don't talk about your-Don't swear, and I'm not a dry drunk. What does she even mean by a dry drunk?"
Dad did this thing where he would ask another person what she meant.
"It means you haven't dealt with your issues," Connor said, "So, why don't we deal with some issues."
"I've dealt with it," mom said.
No she hadn't. She stopped wiping down the kitchen counter to glare at Connor in what Faith knew was her demon form. When Faith mouthed off her mother had turned to full-on ice queen for about five seconds, literally. She had this demon form that looked like a blue tinted scary elf. It was her demon face. Faith watched her mother turn back to herself, the small-boned beautiful Albanian woman. Now Faith watched her mother's mouth twist in guilt. It was the same look she had after nights, weeks, of drinking. Faith was turning bad and mean like she was before. There was something inside of Faith that liked to see her mom turn icy, and then guilty. No. It wasn't something inside Faith. It was Faith. Faith liked being the one that could make her mom do that.
"I used to be by myself all the time," Faith said, "I just want to go into town."
What else was there to do around here anyway, but guilt mom? Faith knew she shouldn't be thinking that. It was the middle of the day and raining as usual. She used to love the way the rain poured down the big bay window when they first moved in. Now the water streams looked like bars on a cell. Faith might as well fight a battle she couldn't win.
"Faith's a ten year-old girl," she said, "and just like she said: she has the biggest tits of any ten year-old in the universe. She can kill all the vampires she desires, but she's not going into hipster pervert town alone. They would eat her alive. This is not open for debate. The end."
She turned to Faith and continued her counter scrub that looked more like a sanding.
"Can we please just stop talking about—about her body," Dad said.
"With all you've done with women and their bodies—" Mom began.
"Look," Connor began, "I know what this is like and—"
"If Spike was here he'd let me go!" Faith yelled.
Faith wondered what that would bring. Would mom show her icy pointy face? Faith was beginning to know what it really looked like. It was like a pointy evil elfish face.
"Well, he's not here? Is he?" Mom demanded.
She just looked like normal mom. Same old mom. With that tight 90s tight tan blue rose print top and light blue jeans. She wore the same outfit all the time.
"Where is Spike?" dad asked softly.
It wasn't like she had twenty identical tops in her closet either. Faith's mom didn't have any clothes in her closet. Nothing to borrow or steal. This was a woman that used to fight for clothes. It wasn't like they were ever normal but what was up with that?
"Spike's getting my b-day present," Faith said, "The thing I really want, and he's coming back for my actual birthday."
Dad couldn't be here on Faith's actual birthday so that was supposed to be a dig on him. Dad didn't get it. Faith watched his big forehead wrinkle as the shadow of the rain went down his face. He looked at mom.
"So, where is he?" Dad asked.
"I don't know," she replied curtly.
Faith's mom looked like stiff and icy whenever she looked at dad. It was like she was wearing that other icy face she had through her own face.
"Can't you, you know, sense, where he is?" Dad asked her.
Dad got stiff around mom too. Even though he looked so big in the kitchen chair it wasn't hard to imagine him going all to dust if they didn't have the windows in the house that blocked out the sun.
"Can't you?" she shot back.
No one listened to Faith. Ever. Accept Spike, most of the time.
"I just told you guys where he is," Faith said, "He's getting my present in—"
"Why do I feel like your lying to me, Ill—Marishka?" Dad asked Mom.
He almost called her that name, the name Faith tried to look up and only got Illuminate. What pissed Faith off most was that no one thought she would notice any of this.
"Because all you people ever do is lie!" Faith yelled.
She stomped up the open string staircase and ran down the bright white hall and into her room and slammed the door. Not a minute later there was a knock.
"Go away, mom!" she said.
"Faith, it's just me," Connor said through the door.
Faith opened it slowly and said nothing. He smiled at her, but it wasn't a fake smile. It was sad and serious. There was something in Connor's face that always made Faith want to look at it. It wasn't just that he was boy-band cute with his big blue eyes and mouth that always smirked. It was something she couldn't explain.
"Don't worry," Connor said, "This isn't your mom's boyfriend coming to tell you to be nicer to your mom because you have no idea how much she does for you."
She let him walk through the door.
"Even though you do have no idea how much your mom does for you. That's not your fault. This isn't coming out right. Shit, I'm getting old. I just wanted to say I know how you—"
"I know I'm being a piece of shit," Faith said, "Connor, there's something wrong with me. I'm bad."
She sat on her bed and looked at her Harry Potter poster. Faith hugged her pillow hard.
"No," Faith said, "Don't tell me. I remember. I remember everything."
Thunder clapped and more rain came down and Faith felt like she was in a movie.
"Okay. Since when? How much?" he said, "You can tell me. I know it feels like no one can possibly know how you feel, but I do."
She had never seen Connor look so worried before, but she believed she could tell him.
"I remember everything," Faith said, "even though it was a long time ago it wasn't long ago for me. I remember how hard it was for mom before our powers. When mom an' me were in Boston I just wanted toys and a dog. I wanted something to love. I was wicked scared all the time. Now, I have everything I ever wanted, more really, except the dog. But, I never wanted to be special. I want to be normal. I want friends. Maybe, I even want school. School! Wow, I must really be going crazy! Aren't I bad to not feel wicked grateful? To want-"
"No," he said before she finished.
"Faith," he said, "I know you. I know you really well. Everything you've been through, and you are good, so good. But, before you go thinking your special you should hear my life story."
He pulled back from his hug and stroked her arms. Faith smiled.
"Yeah? What's your deal anyway, Connor? You're not a vampire, but you have powers. I've never seen you fight—but-I just-I know you have them. And, you have a vacillating relationship with dad like Spike does, but not as volatile."
"Vacillating and volatile," he said, "Those were some very good words."
"You like em'?" Faith smiled more, "I'm working on Vs. Gotta do it for the S.A.T.s. Not that I really want to go to college. By the time I get there I'll look like everyone's mom but I won't be. I'll be like them and nothing like them."
"I know what that's like too," he said, "Faith, you know when you said you remembered stuff and you were getting these weird feelings? I really want you to know that if you ever get any weird memories of doing something bad, or of something bad happening to you…If there's anything like that you can tell me."
"You mean like how I remember that dream I have where there's this guy and he looks like Spike, but he's not Spike because he has totally different hair and clothes and he beats up this girl," Faith said.
"Yeah," Connor said, "I wasn't really talking about that, but that's totally normal and natural. That's a Slayer dream. Spike wasn't always a good guy. It must have been really scary to see him like that."
She sniffed back all her pain and let it all go when she breathed out. That was something she never could do in Boston. All she breathed in now was good air as it rained outside.
"Not really," Faith said, "It's not really him. Besides, he told me he killed two Slayers and that he used to be evil. What was weird was the other part of the dream where the long-time-ago Spike starts telling this girl he's going to taste her like poems and he does stuff to her. Like, late night movie stuff, but I can't really see. What does it mean to taste someone like poems? Is that like a sex thing?"
"Um," Connor said, "Not one I know about, but—but that's all totally normal and natural too. You're going to have new feelings."
"Yeah," Faith said, "That's what I'm sayin'. I have these new feelings and I want some normal stuff, Connor. I don't want to be alone."
Mom walked through the door as if she was invited. Dad was behind her. He gave them an apologetic shrug, at least.
"You're not alone," mom said, "I'm with you. I've done nothing but be here for you."
"Yeah, no kidding," Faith muttered and sat-up, "That's the problem. I need some me time, mom. You can't even let me have a two-minute private with Connor. I know he's your boyfriend now and have the body of a smoking-hot-woman but I'm-"
"You've become so freakin' impossible. You say you don't want to be alone and yet you want me to leave you alone. I am destined to fail."
"That's what it's like with teenagers," Dad said.
"She's only 10," Mom said and her voice was thin, "And now these dreams. Dreams of Slayers and—"
"Well, Faith's not really ten. She's—" Connor began.
"They say the teenage years begin sooner and last longer," Dad said, "They can go up to 25."
Mom and Connor stared at him like he said something crazy.
"What?" he shrugged, "I read it on Salon. I can read things on-line…if someone prints them out because I ask."
"Connor's right though," Faith said.
She tossed her pillow down and stood up.
"I'm not really ten," she said, "I was born in 1980, so if I do the math that would make me… I suck at math, but, like, really old. Old enough to drive, and go places by myself, and have on-line friends, and real friends. I'm not gonna do any drinkin' or drugin' or screwing. Not like you guys did when you were young. I just want real friends that aren't my mom, or my mom's boyfriend. or my Watcher Vampire. I just want real friends like me."
"I fear that there aren't any people like you," Mom said, "Your special, Faithy. It is part of the burden of being a-"
"There are a thousand of Slayers like me now. It's something that happened a few years back," Faith said.
"How do you know that?" Mom demanded, "Spike?"
"No," Faith said, "But, I bet you told him not to tell me. I know from Bing, Instagram, and Tumblr."
"Are those demons?" Dad asked.
"Dad, you're so old," Faith said and laughed.
"I kept it from you because you are not like any of them, Faith," mom said, "You are far superior."
Faith noticed mom was getting icy-looking in her eyes.
"There actually is a Slayer like me," Faith said, "or there was. I don't know her real name, but—"
Faith felt something smack her face and grip her arms and start to shake her. She was being shaken so hard that her head bounced. Her arms hurt, and even when she tried to pull them away from the grip with all her superpowers she couldn't.
"You are not to go near her!" her mother had turned into the ice-lady and was screaming, "You are not to speak her name. You are to forget she ever existed, that vile Slayer miscreant abomination is nothing like you. Nothing! You are—"
Faith's mother was screaming at her and shaking her like she used to because Faith had said something she didn't like. Faith knew she had been pushing and testing mom for a while now, and in the end what set her off was nothing that Faith expected. It was Faith's father that pulled her mother off of her by saying that name- Illyria.
"You're not my mother!" Faith yelled, "You promise that you'll change over and over again, that you'll be my mother, and this time you really had me going ,but you're still not!"
Faith wiped tears from her eyes.
"What? I—" her mom gasped.
Her eyes were doe-like and round, but then they shifted to those icy marble-shaped elf eyes and face. She became taller and thinner and was in some cheesy leather get-up.
"When you turn to ice, that's what you really are! I always think you are going to really change and be my mother and for a while you do," Faith said, "But then you always go back to being some crazy bitch that—that hurts me, and dad leaves me."
"Faith—" Dad began.
He stepped towards her but she moved away.
"You're not wrong, Faith Lehane," Mom said, "There was a time when I—I was something more than your mother, or less. I wasn't human, but you made me- I've acquired, your mother's, Marishka Diemers's memories, all of them. I've made myself live them infinite times. Memories are what create human identity. Memories and emotions. "
"I know that," Faith said.
"What?" Dad said.
"I'm not stupid, you guys," Faith scoffed, "I know mom died when I was asleep. I goggled it. I get what happened, sorta. Dad died and came back a vampire. Mom died and came back an ice-demon. Not such big changes. Am I right? Here's the thing though: I thought demons were all soulless got to do whatever they wanted. So, I don't get what you want from me?"
"Faith, we are here for you but," dad said quietly, "as far as being your mom and dad it's complicated. You—"
"I love you!" Mom yelled, "I don't want anything from you. I just want to keep you safe. I may not have your mother's soul. But, I have my love, my feelings…but I'm failing. You are correct. I am not worthy of being your mother."
"Marishka-Illyria," Dad hissed, "Keep it together."
"Mom," Faith said, "Don't cry."
When mom started to cry she was fully back to old Mom accept for that blue streak in her hair. Her brown eyes and long lashes dripped. She brushed her long dark-brown hair back after she wiped her tears. Mom didn't cry. Not ever. She said crying was for kids.
"Crying is for children. I accepted that you will cry, that you will feel pain, but I told myself I would never cause you that pain. These—these emotions have destroyed me. My feelings about you—" she said, "You wish me to stop being your mother, I—I can't. I can't fuckin' stop being your mother. It's going to be who I am for the rest of my existence now. But, if you wish me to leave-"
"Mom," Faith went to her "It's okay."
She put her arm on her mom's slender shoulder and around her tight blue-flower top. Her mom hugged her.
"No, it's not," she said, "I'm supposed to take care of you. Unless you no longer desire it, but then who will take care of you? And don't say 'Spike,' that half breed can't even take care of himself and if he touches you while you are living this life I will rip of his-"
Mom made a ripping gesture with her fists.
"Mom, don't be gross," Faith said, "Those dreams are healthy and normal, and it's not even really Spike, and totally want you to take care of me. You're literally a super mom. I just want to have some friends and stuff."
"I feel like I'm losing you," mom said, "after I did everything to get you back."
Faith kept her arms around her mom but leaned back to look at her.
"How about this?" Faith said, "You let me have some on-line friends and let me go to some stuff in town by myself."
"What would the harm be?" Dad said, "Can't you sense when she's in trouble?"
"She has super powers too," Connor said.
"It would give you more time to bone Connor," she said, "You won't have to wait until I'm asleep."
"We'd have to set some ground rules," mom said.
She had now completely stopped crying.
"Okay. Great. Ground rules. First one no more talk about 'boning' and 'healthy' 'normal' not-Spike dreams, while I'm here. Second, no more crying," Dad said.