we never change do we

oh and i don't have a soul to save

yes and i sin every single day

Charlie Crews lives in a mansion with no furniture at the edge of town. It looks new, there's a ton of natural light, and it's surrounded by other new mansions all arranged at the outskirts of LA. It's exactly the kind of place a man who just got a lot of money would buy, and exactly the sort of place that her father used to tell her were gateways to Hell.

Of course, that man wasn't her father. That man was the man who killed her father. Every time she thinks of that, her stomach turns.

The house is very empty. Charlie Crews tells her to pick a room, and she does, one room out of many, just down the hall from where he sleeps. It's far enough so she won't ever have to hear him if she wants to pretend he's dead, and near enough so that if she needs to know he's still alive, he's only a short walk away.

A bed is put in almost immediately, and sheets for the bed, and towels, and toiletries that looked like they were purchased from a man with only a desperate, haphazard grasp of the bodily functions of a teenage girl (Ted).

But even so, the house is very empty. She supposes that's what Charlie likes about it.

He hands her a credit card in the morning, and tells her to go buy what she wants. She hates him, then, because he does it with no self consciousness, and this event, that should have been awkward, is instead made mundane by his serenity. He hands her the card and goes to work, all without looking her in the eye, and she wants to break a lamp or something, smash something to break the calm, but of course, there are no lamps to smash.

The doctor and Aunt Jen told her to take things slowly, one day at a time. The doctor told her that no one is judging you. Aunt Jen told her that your Uncle Charlie and I care about you very much. Standing in the empty foyer, she thinks bitterly that the weight of his concern was the same as the weight of the card.

She bums a ride with Ted into town and goes shopping. She buys clothes that she needs to have, like jeans, and T-shirts and socks, and runners, then clothes that she wants to have, like strappy sundresses and shorts, and a two piece swimsuit, then clothes that the man who was not her father would have never let her have, like five inch heels and short shorts and low cut tops and make up and lots and lots of lingerie. She calls Ted from a pay phone when she is done, then buys a cell phone to round out her sin.

Later in her room, she sits on her bed amidst a sea of bags and boxes and realizes with a start that she forgot to get hangars. This provokes a laugh, her first in this house, that echoes cruelly right back at her. Charlie Crews is not home.

She goes out again.

Charlie Crews, as it turns out, is rarely at home. Being a police detective means long hours. And when he is at home, he's holed up in his room, or down in the kitchen, regaling Ted with yet another story about Zen, or fruit.

She starts to think that he was avoiding her, until she realizes that she might have been avoiding him.

Ted cooks, an oddly domesticated thing for him to do, and they eat together, sometimes. But Charlie has a habit of being very silent, or very talkative when he is on the case, and Rachel has no idea how to handle that.

And then he comes home with a woman. She hears her giggling from below, all the way up in her room, and when she comes out into the hall, startled, she can see the two of them in the lobby. The woman seems to be pretty drunk, and Charlie iss certainly acting pretty drunk around her, but Rachel can tell that he is still in control.

He murmurs something into her ear and the woman squeals loudly, "No way, there's a pool in this place?"

She is very pretty, and blonde, which Rachel should have expected, and is wearing quite a bit of make up, which Rachel doesn't expect.

Charlie leads her by the elbow towards the kitchen and the woman puts her hand on his chest. Rachel has a feeling that he knows she's there and doesn't want to disturb her, but the entire time, neither of them looks up. He says something to her that Rachel can't catch through the sound of the woman laughing, and the last thing that drifts up to her is, "Why don't you have any furniture in here?"

Rachel heads back into her room and digs out her brand new iPod from a pile of clothes at the foot of her bed and turns it on as loud as she can stand it. She falls asleep like that, trying to drown out any sounds she might hear and trying not to watch the crack of light under her door for movements.

The next morning the woman is gone. Rachel knows it as soon as she wakes up, as if some heavy force is gone from the house. Charlie is in the kitchen, cutting up a mango, already dressed. He seems no different than he was the night before, and she busies herself with getting juice out of the fridge stonily.

Ted meanders in less than ten minutes later to their silence and clears his throat uncomfortably. "Charlie," he begins, "did you know that there's a pair of woman's underwear floating in our pool?"

Rachel freezes.

Charlie brightens. "Oh yeah. She didn't bring a bathing suit."

"She didn't bring a bathing suit," Ted repeats, in that deadpan voice that meant not only did he not just believe what Charlie just said, but he wants to make sure the entire world knew Charlie had said something unbelievable.

"Yeah," Charlie says again, moving on to another mango. Rachel forces herself to keep eating her cereal. "You can't go into a pool without a bathing suit."

He offers Rachel a piece of mango. She takes it without a word, and he goes back to ignoring her. Ted clears his throat uncomfortably again.

Charlie brings home many more women, though not all the time. Just every couple of days. Sometimes Ted meets them in the lobby and Charlie would say something to him that Rachel can eavesdrop on, like oh, this is Brittany, I met her at the shooting range, or Nicole, she wanted to see the house, or even just, Stacy. She likes cherries. Do you want to see what she can do with a cherry stem Ted? Isn't that amazing.

Rachel is sick of hiding in the dark of her room while Charlie fucks other women, so she takes to bussing out of the house as soon as it gets dark.

She finds a couple bars that lets her in without ID because she gives them money, then a man who finds her a fake ID that says she's from North Carolina, and twenty two. No one looks too closely at her fake ID when she looks at them in a way that would have had the man who was not her father damning her to hell.

Buses stop running before she wants to go home, so Rachel Seyboldt starts to find guys who would take her home instead.

She starts to do little things to annoy Charlie. Stupid things like getting rid of all the bananas in the house, or leaving all the lights on all day, or making snide returns whenever he told Ted a fact about fruit in the general direction of her head. But Charlie would just buy more bananas, turn off the lights, and ignore the comments.

No matter what she does, he never seems to notice she's there in more than the vaguest sense of those terms.

She starts to stay out later and later, and is less subtle when coming home in the mornings. She take to banging doors open and clomping up the stairs, hoping that Charlie will come out of his room and say something about how she stunk like alcohol. He never does. Ted sometimes would come out though, and look at her, disappointed, and she would flush with shame. Ted could guilt anyone but Charlie, it seems.

She meets Billy the musician in a bar. He has a ratty kind of beard and wears clothes that aren't quite clean, and everything about him looks like it was calculated to be the optimal amount of grunge to get chicks to fall at his feet.

He buys her a drink and leans in and tells her about his music, his sound in a way that has her completely bored, but has him looking completely animated.

"Big label companies are all bullshit," he announces in a tone that brooks no argument, "all they ever think about is mass appeal. It's gotten to the point that they won't even recognize a new sound when they hear it. They've gotten so stale that they've forgotten the discovery part of the whole process."

He tells her that she should come hear them play, hands her a flyer. Rachel would be willing to pay money not to go, so she winds her ankle around his and asks what instrument he plays.

"Guitar," he gulps, "And lead vocals." He grins, suddenly mischievous, and slides his hand up her thigh. "It means I'm great with my hands."

Rachel fights the urge to roll her eyes, and knocks back her drink. "Show me," she says, very serious, and just like that they're off to the races.

True to his word, Billy is incredibly good with his hands. He makes her come three times before he's even inside of her, and every time he does, he grins at her in a way that makes her suspect somewhere, he's keeping a tally.

Afterwards, though, she can't sleep. Billy is snoring somewhere to her left, arm thrown casually across her stomach, and the window is open in his incredibly messy studio. There aren't any curtains on his window, which must be a bitch in the mornings, but lights up the details of the room in moonlight, and she should be feeling tired, and sated, but instead she's up, wired.

She throws his arm off of her and hops around the room, putting her clothes on as silently as possible. It's not easy, despite the moonlight, and she knocks over more than a few piles of crap.

She considers leaving a note, then decides against it and snags the bag of weed he had laying out in the open instead. She cabs back home and has no qualms about stomping up the stairs to her room. The house is silent.

She's still a bit drunk and when she notices that Charlie's door is open, the liquid courage is enough to have her peeking in. But he's not home, his bed is empty. She sits on the rumpled sheets for awhile, standard white, nothing quirky about his bed, and the night's exhaustion must have caught up with her then, because she falls asleep like that, on his bed, a bag of stolen weed tucked into her shorts. She wakes up in the morning to the glare of the sun (Charlie doesn't have curtains either) and notices immediately, that besides herself, the bed has not been slept in. It's still early. Maybe he didn't come home that night.

It's only then she notices it, lying next to the indent on the pillow where her head was. There is a fig on the bed.

Over the next few days she smokes Billy's weed openly in the pool, in her two piece swim suit (You can't go into a pool without a swim suit) and wishes it was more skimpy. No one comes to say anything, and despite her earlier bravado, Rachel hides the butt of her joints from Charlie.

Aunt Jennifer comes to visit her, though Rachel isn't sure if it's because of the guilt or the fact that she genuinely wanted to see her, but Rachel is happy to see her regardless. She treats Rachel like she's a little girl still, and Rachel doesn't mind it. She's starting to feel old beyond her years. They go out for ice cream and sing along loudly to songs on the radio, and for an hour Rachel feels like she did when she was five years old, and thinks of Aunt Jennifer as a princess again.

They very carefully do not talk about boys.

When Aunt Jennifer is dropping her off, she stops her car for a moment at the end of Charlie's long driveway and looks at Rachel very seriously. "How are you doing, here?" she asks, and nods her head once towards the mansion.

Rachel is instantly defensive again. "It's fine," she mumbles.

Aunt Jennifer closes her fingers around her wrist and Rachel has to stop herself from jerking away. "I know this isn't easy for you," she begins, hesitantly, "And I know that Charlie is...difficult. But if there's anything that you ever want to talk about..."

Rachel nods once, jerkily, and yanks her wrist away. They finish the ride in silence.

Charlie is waiting for them in front of the house. She has no idea how long he's been standing there, with his arms crossed and his shades on, looking every inch the cop.

Aunt Jennifer makes a strangled noise in her throat. "For God's sake, Charlie..."

Rachel expects Charlie to make a crack about God and his existence, and peace, or something, but instead he just takes off his sunglasses. "Rachel? Why don't you head into the house?"

She opens her mouth to refuse, but something stops her. Maybe the fact that his eyes are focussed on Aunt Jennifer.

She gets out of the car without a word and storms past him into the house. She times her huff a little bit off and almost brushes past him, but turns away so they never touch. He never even looks at her. He's looking at Aunt Jennifer's mouth.

Rachel slams the door loud enough so they both know she doesn't care. She doesn't want to hear what they have to talk about. She licks her lips and tastes sugar from the ice cream cone.

The next day she shoplifts lipstick in the exact shade that Aunt Jennifer was wearing but doesn't wear it, not even once.

Charlie is bringing home more women now. Almost every night there are women in the foyer, in the kitchen, in the pool and in the hallway. There doesn't seem to be one type he's into, but it gets so that Rachel can't get out of her room at night without running into a blonde, brunette, or redhead.

Whatever. It's not like she's keeping a tally anyway.

So she starts to go out more. She tells herself it's because she doesn't want to have to sleep and think about what's happening in the other rooms, but she knows it's just so she can sleep.

Ted begins to wear a look on his face all the time, a hangdog one like he's trying to guilt her. Like he's trying to guilt them both. Rachel ignores this with the ease of long practice, even when he begins to work sighs into the routine, and meaningful looks. One of these days, he'll probably have to talk to her.

Charlie ignores him too.

Rachel meets an older guy at a bar. He's way too old for her. Charlie's age. Probably older. She doesn't even try to deny that it turns her on. But he's so nervous around her. She leans over, slides her bare leg down his clothed one, and orders him to buy her a drink. His hands shake where they grip his glass.

She can see the tan line from his wedding ring very clearly, and for a second she feels bad, but then he's making conversation so stilted and dated that she has to bite her lip to keep from laughing.

She bites it so hard she draws blood, and later that night, in a cheap rented motel room, he licks it away for her, and Rachel doesn't feel like laughing at all.

She brings the next one home with her, probably as a personal fuck you to Charlie, probably since Ted wasn't around anymore, and probably because she is too drunk to remember not to.

They stumble in, and she has just enough time to realize the lights are on in the house, before the guy is gasping out about how big and empty it is, and she has to shut him up with her mouth.

They're kissing loudly, and are stumbling up the stairs, and then Charlie is there. He's staring at them both, a foot from her bedroom, and he's probably been watching them since they came in. It takes Rachel a few minutes to notice he's there, and it turns the boy a minute longer.

He turns from kissing her motionless lips and does a double take. His hands slide out from where they had been previously engaged under her skirt. "Look man," he slurs, "I don't want any trouble, okay? She told me she was single at the bar," (Rachel hadn't) "and I didn't know how it was so—"

Rachel says, "We're not—"

"You may not want any trouble, but life is full of things you don't want. I want a life of peace and harmony. It's not always easy to reconcile the things you want with the things that you have. It's only when you learn to want what you have that you can truly be at peace."

The boy closes his jaw and says articulately, "Huh?"

"You don't want trouble," Charlie continues blithely, "But trouble is what you are going to get. That became your lot in life when you stepped into her house, because her uncle is a cop."

This the boy understood better. He stumbles down the stairs without even saying goodbye to her, and leaves Rachel and Charlie staring at each other by the stairs.

Rachel says, "You're not my uncle," and instantly feels like a little kid.

Charlie's eyes look her up and down and Rachel fights not to blush as he takes in her hair and skimpy clothing. His eyes look darker than usual.

"Maybe not," he says finally, "But I am a cop." And he goes to bed.

Next, Rachel fucks a cop. He's just a junior one, new on the force. Speed violations and parking tickets mostly.

He wears a uniform just like Bob does, like she can remember Charlie doing from when she was a kid. He'd come over before he changed, smelling like the street, and Aunt Jen would tangle her fingers in his hair, his shirt as she kissed him. All Rachel wanted was a prince like him.

The cop takes her to the shooting range, and lets her touch his gun. Standard issue, he tells her, and she doesn't even pretend that it doesn't make her wet. She fingers his nightstick, his badge, and fucks him with his uniform on.

She fucks him until Bob comes over one day, uncomfortable, and asks her stop, hesitantly, looking like he wishes he could be anywhere else. He doesn't say a word about Charlie, which is how Rachel knows he must have known all along.

She does stop, immediately. He was never anything special, and she hated to make Bob worry.

The man who was not her father would have been long past damning her to hell. He would be asking her if the fires were hot enough for her yet. The man who was not her uncle sends another man to do his dirty work, though, so all Rachel can do is think, not yet.

Rachel is thinking about grabbing ice coffee down the street when security's hand lands on her shoulder, and she's dragged back into the shop.

She's searched, sullenly, and doesn't say a word as they find a necklace in her pants pocket and nail polish in her purse. The only time she does talk is when they ask if she's eighteen.

"In a couple months," she admits.

She sits in silence as they lecture her, take her picture, ban her from the store, and then calls Charlie. He comes immediately. This shouldn't shock her, but somehow, it does.

She sees him stride over to make murmured apologies to the manager and when he says, "Say you're sorry, Rachel,", she only turns her head away and mumbles an apology.

They drive home in silence. He doesn't ask her questions like, Why? or How could you do this? or say things like, I'm disappointed in you, or You're grounded, so Rachel says them to herself, in her head.

They walk into the house, still silent. He won't say anything adults typically say in situations like this, so Rachel finally has to take matters into her own hands. "Well?" she says, hands on her hips, "Don't you have anything to say for yourself?"

Charlie turns to her, shocked, then relaxes into a smile. It's the first real one she's earned from him in awhile, and she supposes it's the openness of the moment that makes her reach out into the distance between them and pulls him down for a kiss.

He doesn't taste like anything. The kiss is urgent, and hot, and his tongue slides into her mouth. He tastes like Charlie Crews.

Later—when he's inside her she wraps her legs around him and wishes he didn't have to go. He's looking at her, finally looking at her, and she wishes he didn't have to stop.

She reaches a hand up and cups his cheek. To his credit, he doesn't flinch away from her. "Life is not a penance," she says, very seriously.

His cheek moves beneath her hand. He's still looking at her. He bends his head down to kiss her, and Rachel Seybodt does not think about after. He still tastes like Charlie Crews.

we never learn do we?

Title and lyrics taken from "We Never Change" by Coldplay.