Harsh Little Girl By Jaina Class: PG-13 VA Vague Spoilers: Becoming II Summary: call it what you will. Post-BII Joyce-musings. Campanion piece (not sequel) to Exit 75. Disclaimer: Joss and the WB do. I don't. Thanks to Tori Amos for the song lyric and the inspiration.

--------------------- In my platform shoes, I trip over to the bar. My feet are slowly going numb, pinched by the tight leather, but hey, my feet look great. Maybe the rest of me does, too-I'm picking up some looks from other patrons. Not bad for a full-time mother of one turned gallery manager. Maybe it's the makeup I found in my daughter's room during my frantic search through her things. Maybe it's the shoes I borrowed from her closet. Hell, it might just be because these things are damned hard to walk in and I look slightly inebriated. I must be a puzzle for them. Drunks usually stumble *out* of bars, not into them. It's gonna be a grand old show when I leave in several hours' time.

I sit down at the bar and order a screwdriver. The bartender gives me a worried look, but makes the drink. I guess he's afraid he'll have to escort a respectable woman-a respectably drunk woman-home at the end of the night. I ignore him. I feel drunk already. I've felt drunk since she left. She. I amaze myself sometimes; I can't even bring myself to say her name. Product of my loins, Mom's best friend...total stranger. You know, before I found the gallery, I thought about buying a larger house and taking on boarders. I changed my mind when I thought about all the dangers involved. Any type of dangerous person could be in our house. And my daughter, she was so trusting. I couldn't take that kind of risk, no matter how paranoid it seemed.

Well, paranoia it wasn't. There *was* a dangerous person living with me. But the danger wasn't to my child-it *was* my child. She had a whole life, a whole world I never suspected even existed. When I got her note I was terrified. It was the final proof of all I didn't know about her. My wonderful little girl would never have run away. The young woman my daughter has become did. And I have no idea how or where to look for her, because I just don't know her. I don't carry any insights into her mind that will tell me where she's gone. I didn't do the responsible thing by calling her father and the police, not necessarily in that order. Neither would be able to offer any help, anyway. I did the panicky thing, the crazy thing. I tore through her room, her possessions. I was searching for...I don't know. Searching for *her*, in a way. I was looking for some clue, no matter how small, that would lead me to the knowledge of who my daughter really was. I didn't find much, yet I found everything. Wooden stakes and vials of holy water; tools of the stranger in my house. I was way past the point of being fazed by them. And then I succeeded in my quest-I found my daughter's diary. Her words. I read it and I'm not ashamed of it. She'd hate it, but if we're such strangers, why should it matter what she thinks? Written in her hand, I found the truth. And the truth is, she just didn't trust me. She's never trusted me. Damn her!

I snatch my drink from the bartender's hand and take a gulp. The alcohol burns its way down my throat. Good, now it matches the inferno of my heart, my mind. I'm filled with a sudden bitterness. If she was to walk in here right now, tearful and apologetic, I really don't know if I could find it in me to forgive her. I'm not saying I wouldn't, or couldn't; I just don't know. For over a decade now she's been my world. I've done my best, tried to be a good parent, especially when her father and I split and my workload doubled. Have I been a perfect mother? No. Of course not. As far as I know, only Mary was, and I'm no sinless virgin. But I *did* do my best, and what do I get in return? Hidden secrets. Lies. She never even tried telling me the truth. That's what tears me up inside. I can't say I would have accepted it without qualms, but I would have *tried* to understand. I'd have endeavored to find some meaning to it all and lived with what I found. But she robbed me of that. She hid the truth until it was too late for calm talks and eventual acceptance. She threw it all on me and then had the guts to resent my anger. My world was imploding and she was playing the self-righteous martyr, as if she'd surveyed the available paths and chosen this course as the best to travel upon. If some not-so-divine intervention hadn't prompted me to witness the actions of her true self, I'd still never know. How dare she. How dare she.

I notice that my drink is empty. I'm suddenly tired and I wonder--where is she now? Is my child alive and well, or has she become the victim of one of the illusory monsters I always feared? I feel a pang in my heart. What am I doing here? Spilling out my sorrows to the bottom of a cheap shot glass? Maybe I'm trying to run away from the fact that I'm scared to death. Stranger or not, she's always been my world...and if I'm being honest with myself, she still is. Every moment I'm here is another moment she's gone. It occurs to me-is this what it's like for her? Not knowing what nightmare may come, just knowing that the sky is falling, the sky is falling....and never being able to tell a soul.

I don't know. Maybe I'll never know. All I know is that I'm sitting alone in a noisy bar while my child is somewhere far away...and I am as blind as I have ever been.


You know you wanna feed me. (blue_moose@juno.com)