TITLE: Playboy Mommy
SUMMARY: Ex-hooker Laura's in hot water with a baby depending on her when she receives an enticing invitation the join the Xavier institute. Can she trust them? And can she forgive dead-beat daddy (aka 'Poo Head')? AU.
A/N: Check out my new website, http : / helix23 . webs . com (old one has disappeared without explanation from website hosting service)
"Jesus, stop screaming, will you?" Laura mumbles, her fingers deftly working on the diaper fastener. Little hands wave aimlessly in the air and settle around her finger. "Baby, stop it. Mummy's
almost done, and then it's supper time. Apple sauce and bananas, MMMMM!" Laura is less enthusiastic at this idea than she makes out to be; she puts on a front for the little face in front of
her, its features contorted in a momentarily-withheld howl of displeasure.
"K," she says, the diaper snugly fastened. Quickly she picks the infant up, presenting it with a new perspective: height. The baby stops fussing, suddenly curious at the surroundings.
Walking to the fridge, she opens it, one-handed, and looks glumly at the last two jars of baby food on the shelves. They were left over from a few weeks ago, when she'd come back to the
shoddy apartment to find an envelope under the door. Opening it, she had found rent money—and a little extra—in cash.
She'd known who it was from. The clever bastard hadn't put his name anywhere on the envelope, and had carefully avoided a check so she couldn't trace him through the bank. It was definitely
from 'Daddy', or 'Poo head', as she now referred to him as in front of the baby.
About three months previous, he had stormed out in a huff after the biggest argument they'd ever had. They'd had many issues—to begin with, the baby had been a complete and total
accident—some of which involved connection, concealment and suspected trust problems. She has no way of contacting him, and to be frank she hasn't actively pursued it.
They were just not working out.
Although she does miss the extra hand helping out with the baby (which, in tired moments, she'd nicknamed Misery). The baby's real name is Kennedy, a little girl with a bright smile and enormous
temper tantrums. Laura suspects that Kenny's tantrums have evolved from hearing her parents communicate with each other in screams and hurled dinnerware.
"Kenny, let's go to the park," Laura says suddenly. A little fresh air might pep her up; also the smaller girl loves the park. She can sit her on the bouncy animals—she really
enjoys the elephant—and see the big smile that at times is all that keeps her going.
Laura is tired.
She's always had to work really, really hard. Too hard. Not only was she raised in a terrible place—something that was an utter secret to everyone else—but she'd become a
prostitute in order to make ends meet, and gain some semblance of her former life of being controlled and abused. Which was all she had known. Without it, she went crazy.
Of course this was how she'd gotten knocked up. It had mostly been a misunderstanding; she'd met the guy on a night with heavy rain. He'd been sitting on a rooftop, of all
places; more particularly, Laura's rooftop, where she went after a night of hard work, for a little peace.
He'd been crying, too. Quite upset; some good friends of his had just died, 'in an accident', he'd said, his eyes betraying hatred that suggested they were murdered.
Laura had been tired from a day of cutting, fondling and dirty talking; but she'd taken pity on him, had placed a hand on his shoulder and asked if he'd had any money.
He'd stayed quiet, a sign she took to mean yes; then she'd suggested they go somewhere else. He'd nodded and followed her.
Two weeks later she'd realized her mistake. She'd been in some deep shit; her pimp had beat her up to the point of death and cast her out for good. She'd healed—she
always did—and stolen, and begged, and squatted in abandoned buildings—as she scrambled with the thought of what to do now.
Five months later she'd had a stroke of luck. She'd been pan-handling on Main street, her head bowed low. She hated looking at people giving her money. Then she'd
caught a whiff of a familiar scent, and had looked up, seeing him about to pass by. In a fit of excitement, she'd leapt to her feet—right in front of him—and had unwittingly
screamed "IT'S YOURS!" while pointing at her bulging stomach.
The guy had gone pale, and practically the whole street had stopped to stare. "Shit," he'd mumbled under his breath, recognizing her. She was quite unique. Embarrassed
at the commotion, he'd made her come with him for lunch, and there had been a discussion on what to do.
Laura had told him she'd chickened out on an abortion, although this wasn't true. She'd tried—realizing this was no life to bring something else in to—but her damn healing
factor insisted that she was going to keep it. Of course, she'd had to turn her back on her only means of support.
She didn't qualify for any sort of government help, seeing as officially she didn't exist. She couldn't even get a Social insurance number to work. And even trying would get
her re-captured by those that had created her, and given her a tortured childhood. Laura had simply told him she was an illegal alien.
In his defense, he hadn't been a bad guy. He'd made her come with him, had rented a place, and then had taken care of them well into the birth of the baby, and partway
into raising it. Laura knew that the split was partially her fault, as the hormones had made her unbearable, and she'd had to conceal the fact that she was a mutant—thus
the secrecy on her part. Then she'd gotten paranoid that he was seeing someone else; she'd always kind of been sweet on him, but neither had made an effort to clarify
if they actually liked the other. There had been nothing official either. And the fact that he'd had an accident with a prostitute didn't really strengthen her trust in him.
Kenny is giggling like crazy as Laura makes the elephant move while holding her tightly in place.
"Eee-font," the girl squeaks. She's an early bloomer; she started saying 'mum-aa' around four months, and at six months now, she was developing a
vocabulary. No sentences, just names. Laura had to watch herself around the baby. When she stopped by a phone booth to call some of her old girlfriends
she'd met through her ex-pimp, she felt the urge to fall back to her old language of profanities—and she'd stopped herself when Kenny began repeating them.
She wants her daughter to, somehow, have the chance she hasn't had. She is still figuring out how she will manage that.
"Excuse me, ma'am," a voice behind her says. A bald man, in a wheelchair. He is holding Kenny's stuffed elephant, her favorite toy. "You dropped this."
"Ohh—thanks," Laura says. She picks Kenny up, then walks towards him for the toy.
"No problem." The man smiles at her. "Actually, that's not why I approached you."
Laura stiffens. He could be a previous client, for all she knows. "Look—I'm a mom now. That part of life is over."
"I'm glad to hear it," the man says. His eyes twinkle. "I have a different proposition for you. I am a professional therapist…my name is Charles Xavier."
"I don't have that kind of money," Laura says, bouncing Kenny slightly.
"You wouldn't pay a penny, Ms. Kinney. I am a wealthy humanitarian. I run a sort of shelter where I provide my services free of charge, to a group of others in
your situation. There is a place to stay…facilities…supplies…food…education…a much more suitable environment for your child than the one you inhabit now."
Laura's eyes squeeze into a squint. "How do you know my last name?"
"It was written on the tag of the elephant," the man says. Laura glances at the toy; sure enough it is. Her hackles lay down slowly. She's always afraid of
being caught again, and now with a daughter to protect…
"It sounds too good to be true," she says.
Xavier reaches into his coat and withdraws a business card, then hands it to her. "My interests lie in helping you become a functional, contributing member of
society. What I ask of my enrollments is that they will help someone else later. Volunteer work at the institute."
Laura raises an eyebrow. This sounds great, and really, it's not a bad idea. It sounds self-sustaining, and therefore plausible. Suddenly she stiffens.
"How do you know I'm poor?" she says.
Charles Xavier smiles. "I do have a PhD and a Doctorate in several different subjects, Ms. Kinney. I am schooled in body language and simple clues. I was taking a stroll
through the park when I noted that you arrived on foot, carrying your child. Most mothers arrive by bus or car, with a stroller. You are young and fit an age bracket of
this kind of misfortune. The state and quality of your clothes, as well as your answer to me when I first approached, also suggest at poverty and other conditions."
"So you're a detective, too," Laura says.
"I suppose you could say that," the man answers, smiling. "Please consider. You do not need answer me now. If you would like to give us a try, our phone number is on
the card. It is a toll-free number and if you ask the operator, you may call collect. Have a wonderful day, Ms. Kinney."
He leaves, and Laura watches him go, then examines the card.
"Kenny…what are we going to do?" Laura asks. She's staring at the card on the counter. It looks very professional, but she has trouble believing. And what
if it's a trap? It could be…her creators.
Her stomach rumbles, and she looks at the last jar of baby food on the counter. It's green beans, and it's empty. Tomorrow Kenny will be very hungry and
grumpy, and Laura won't be able to give her more until they panhandle. And that takes hours.
"Crud." Laura rubs her forehead. If only he would slip another envelope under the door, then she could ignore this and carry on.
What if it was real, though? What an amazing offer. Kenny would flourish, and have a chance at life. And so would Laura. She could study and get a real
job—the people at this institute could probably help her with papers and SIN cards and everything—and maybe full the two of them out of the poverty bracket.
Kenny pats her hand on the table and points at the card, smiling. "Mum!" she says. "Like! Like!"
Laura raises her head. "Really?" she asks. The little girl rarely says this about anything; she's inherited her father's often gloomy personality. When she does
like a thing, she really likes it, also like him.
Laura picks up the card. "Alright. We call tomorrow. I don't know how the heck we'd get there—they're out in Westchester county. That's almost out in the
country, and I'd have to sell you to get money for a cab."
"HAHAHA!" Kenny giggles, apparently liking the idea of being sold. Laura rolls her eyes.
"Please wait while you are connected to an Xavier Institute call center operator. Your call is important to us." Corny elevator music plays—is that Kenny G?—and Laura leans
against the wall of the phone booth, Kenny taking up her arms as she pins the phone to her ear with her shoulder.
God, she hates being on hold. She gets restless, and Kenny is getting heavy. The baby is playing with the telephone cord; Laura keeps untangling the little fingers.
"That's filthy!" she snaps when Kenny tries to gum it.
"Thank you for calling the Xavier Institute, Jean speaking, how may I help you?"
Laura shifts. The lady has a nice voice. "I met, uh, Xavier yesterday and he gave me a card," she says.
A pause. "Can I have your name please?"
"Laura. Laura Kinney. And, uh, my daughter is Kennedy Kinney."
Ruffling on the lady's end; papers being shuffled. There must be a file on Laura already.
"OHHHH! Yes, we've got you listed as awaiting a response. Thinking about giving us a try?"
"Kind of," Laura says. "I'm still a little suspicious." She pauses. "There are a lot of bad people out there."
"Too many," the lady agrees. "Why don't you at least come out and take a tour? No obligations…you can stay elsewhere if you like—we'll pay for hotel lodgings. Or you can stay here."
"That sounds OK," Laura says cautiously. "I can't afford a—"
"I'll call a cab for you. Where are you now?"
Laura hates this idea. "No, I'll get a cab myself and then you can pay when I get there. OK?"
"That's fine," Jean says warmly. "You have a baby, correct?"
"Yes, Kennedy," Laura says, shifting again and removing a small finger from the phone cord.
"Great. I'll put aside a parent's room for you. We have a play room and infant food, so you know. Any allergies or medical requirements that I should note?"
"No," Laura says, mildly impressed.
"Alright. Give the cab the address on the card. Ring the gate buzzer when you arrive, I'll let you in myself. Can't wait to meet you."
"See you soon," Laura says, then hangs up. She looks at Kenny, and swallows.