A.N.: I just don't think Sean gets enough love. I was inspired by Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, Outnumbered and, oddly, Kingdom of Heaven, my History module 'American Popular Culture Since 1945', the blog Little Cotton Rabbits and, oddly, my brother's trip through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam last summer, and my own trips for my Classical Civilisation class through Greece and Italy for the ancient archaeological sites.


All Quiet on the East Coast

01


"STOP BARKING AT ME AS IF I WAS ONE OF YOUR RECRUITS!" Ruby screamed, bellowing her mother's anger; she saw it in the Lieutenant Commander's eyes, fathomless near-black ones that Ruby thankfully had not inherited.

"DON'T RAISE YOUR VOICE AT ME!"

"THEN STOP ISSUING ORDERS LIKE I'M ONE OF YOUR MINDLESS MARINES!"

"I TOLD YOU NOT TO SHOUT!"

"HARK WHO'S TALKING!"

"Ruby—Stop it!" Lieutenant Commander Kingsley shrieked, and Ruby felt her rage, white hot, just under her skin; she felt as if she were about to spontaneously combust in her passion; blood pounded past her ears and she knew her face was as red as her mother's—another trait she had inherited from her mother, the inability to hide her rage from her face; it always flooded with colour when she was angry and upset, and was completely undignified and unpleasant. She knew—her mother looked livid, her face completely red, her lips white and her nostrils flared.

"YOU'RE SO SELFISH! YOU PUT THE NAVY BEFORE YOUR FAMILY, AND THAT'S WHY DADDY LEFT YOU. IF YOU'D BOTHERED TO SPEND ANY TIME WHATSOEVER WITH ME, YOU'D KNOW I'VE BEEN HAVING SEX FOR YEARS. But you're too damn selfish to think about anyone but yourself!" She finished, her throat hoarse, chaffed and raw from screaming—the argument had been going on for ages and she was sure their neighbours could hear every word.

"You're sixteen years old!" Lieutenant Commander Kingsley screamed. "YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE SEX. You should never let yourself get into situations like this, like with that boy—"

"That boy's name is Garrett and we've been seeing each other for three months, ever since we moved here. If you ever stuck around this place long enough, you might know that, since he spends practically every night over here—because he knows you won't be here. And he's not even my first, not by a long-shot!"

The argument had begun, really, yesterday, when Ruby had been saying goodbye to Garrett—in their way: Hard and fast and selfish, the way their entire relationship had been. Garrett loved sex and Ruby knew better than to expect anything long-term while she was still hitched to her mother's career-Navy wagon; they were perfect for each other, both selfish when it came to their sexual needs, and almost insatiable in their appetite.

Lieutenant Commander Kingsley didn't know that, of course. If she ever gave pause to think about Ruby at all, she probably assumed that Ruby was some chaste-minded virgin.

If Ruby had learned anything from being a Navy brat, it was that things that appeared set in stone were nearly always transient, and people she knew one day were replaced by another set when she moved another thousand miles away. She had learned to grab the boys by the pants, or she would just sit out on her life while her mother pursued her career.

She was going to shock her mother.

"You had that boy over here, when I wasn't at the house?" Lieutenant Commander Kingsley stood before her, in her Navy whites, her fair hair swept into a severe bun, her makeup minimal; she looked irate that a man had snuck into the women's barracks.

She doesn't know the half of it, Ruby thought, with a mixture of contempt and amusement. Her mind raced with flashes of memories she had made in this house—one of several others she had made her mark in with the local high-school boys. Three months of perpetual sun, it hadn't been unusual for Ruby to spend days at a time at Garrett's house, or camping out with her friends, or passed out at the field where all the local parties were held outside the base.

"You don't give a shit what I do in this house, let alone outside it," Ruby remarked, smirking, "otherwise you would have caught me with Stacy when you were stationed at Pearl." They had lived in Pearl Harbour before spending three months at the Naval base in Greece; Greece had been their last stop before here, Charleston, South Carolina. "You don't even know who he is, do you?"

"You are not allowed to have boys over when I'm not here to supervise," Lt. Cdr. Kingsley said sternly, her eyes narrowing and her nostrils going white. Ruby crowed gleefully.

"Supervise? You're so goddamn clueless what I get up to I could be having an orgy in the backyard and you wouldn't even know, you'd still be at the base, working," she sneered. "It's way too late for you to try and exert some kind of paternal influence. You shot that privilege to hell years ago."

"That boy could be dangerous—for all I know, he is!" Lt. Cdr. Kingsley snarled, her flat black eyes narrowed.

"Please!" Ruby laughed. "Garrett has a huge cock and knows what to do with his tongue—and he's too stoned most of the time to do anyone any harm."

"Ruby!"

Ruby had never before spoken to her mother about anything. The truth of the matter was that, if Ruby ran away, Lieutenant Commander Kingsley wouldn't even notice. She spent so much time at the base that she didn't notice—she hadn't noticed—that for three months Ruby hadn't even been enrolled at school while they were living in Greece. Three months. The entire time they'd been living in Greece—and it hadn't been like now, in the middle of summer. The Lieutenant Commander was always working, testing aircrafts and training, being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan—this was to be her third tour.

And Ruby knew she could do whatever she wanted, and nobody would care. Or even notice. Parents of the friends she made along the way, throughout her mother's many moves, often grew disconcerted that Ruby never mentioned her mother, or even called to ask permission to stay over when she ended up sleeping at her boyfriends' houses for nearly a week. Her friends wanted to go on a day-trip? Go camping, or go to a concert? She never asked permission, or even told the Lieutenant Commander where she was going. Because she never noticed that Ruby wasn't there. Before Greece, where she had spent the three months she should have been at school working in a tiny family-owned bakery, learning fluent Greek, the Lieutenant Commander didn't know that, in Pearl Harbour, Ruby had spent nearly every day ditching school, surfing and snorkelling with Stacy.

The Lieutenant Commander didn't know that Ruby had lost her virginity at the age of fifteen, on the hood of a Chevy Impala she'd helped her boy-friend of the time, Jake, completely rebuild. She didn't know that Ruby had been on the pill since that time. She didn't know that Ruby couldn't wait until she turned eighteen, when she could get the hell away from her.

She didn't know who the hell Ruby was. But Ruby did. And she loved being who she was. She was Ruby: ecstatic; irrepressible; fidgety; overenthusiastic; and a self-professed nymphomaniac. She loved sex. She loved boys.

She loved being Ruby Thorne: she loved laughing; loved chattering away with people, being bouncy all the time; she loved her hobbies—skateboarding, surfing, rollerblading, documenting everything she did with a camera and her beautifully illustrated and personalised journals—and she loved, loved, loved sex. And she'd had lots of it, ever since that first time with Jake on the hood of that gorgeous '68 Impala.

God, she had loved Jake; they had spent all their days working on his car, getting high in his room, having sex and just generally getting into trouble, to Gramity's amusement.

"What?" Ruby smirked, crossing her arms over her chest. "You're trying to act all motherly. Isn't this the part where we open up and pour our hearts out? I can tell you a lot more. If I knew you didn't actually give a shit, I would tell you a lot more."

"That is not fair!"

"Yes it is!" Ruby hissed. "Your baby is the Navy; it always has been. If you didn't want to be my mommy, you should've let me go with Daddy when he left you!"

Ruby's father had left on Christmas Eve when she was seven. She could still remember watching her dad, a shadow disappearing into the snow, after the argument had shaken the very foundations of their house. Her parents had officially divorced by the time she was eight, and Ruby hadn't seen her beloved Daddy since.

"He left us," her mother snarled, her shoulders whipping back straight in defence.

"He left you," Ruby said venomously, "because the only thing you ever cared about was yourself. And you didn't let him take me with him. After ten years of you neglecting me, you're going to try and start telling me how I live my life? You're going to try and play the Mom-card on me? You lost that privilege. Only Gramity and Regina have any kind of loyalty from me."

"I am still your mother."

"I'm working to disprove that," Ruby hissed. "You're Lieutenant Commander Kingsley. I'm just some luggage you cart around behind you whenever you get another position. Well, you know what, I'm glad I'll be old enough to ditch you for once, by the time this tour is over."

Lieutenant Commander Kingsley reached out and struck Ruby around the face.

Anger so virulent, Ruby wanted to kill her seared through her veins. The colour leached from the Lieutenant Commander's face, as she stared up at Ruby.

"You hit like a girl," Ruby said coldly, striding away without showing how much the slap had hurt—because the Lieutenant Commander had struck her hard. At the front-door, Ruby paused, fixing her mother with a look so venomous the smaller woman took several steps back. "You will never see me again."

She left the house, slamming the door behind her. A taxi waited outside the government-issue base house. She'd heard the horn just before the argument had started up again; Ruby hadn't bothered to say goodbye. One way or the other, she hadn't cared that the Lieutenant Commander was going off again; she always did. This was her third tour; the first, Ruby had stayed for eight months with the McGowan family, her oldest and best friends. The second tour had been cut short by Gramity's surprise, heartbreaking death. This time, Ruby was going to live with her daddy.

By the time this tour-of-duty was over, Ruby would be eighteen and so far gone even the Navy's state-of-the-art satellites wouldn't pick her up.

The cab-driver helped load the last few bags and things into the back of his taxi: most of Ruby's possessions had already been shipped to Massachusetts, to her daddy's house.

She was going to be living with him for the duration of her mother's tour; that was the rest of high-school. The prospect of living in one place for the next two years was astronomical. Three months in Charleston, three in Greece, a few in Pearl…

Ruby had been a Navy brat since birth; the Lieutenant Commander had given birth and gone back to flying, and their family had moved around the globe to accommodate her rising status in the Navy officer ranks.

Since her parents' divorce, Ruby had moved with the Lieutenant Commander every six months, like clockwork—unless they spent a few months here, a few months there, spent a little while at that place, and then spent a fixed term at such and such a Navy base.

The longest Ruby had ever lived anywhere since she was about seven was with the McGowans, during another of her mother's tours of duty, when she was twelve. She had lived, from June one year to August the next, in Massachusetts with the sprawling, rambunctious McGowan family, had completed her entire sixth-grade year in one place. It was the last year she had actually done well in school.

Two years with her daddy seemed astronomical.

And her giddiness over seeing him completely erased any lingering thoughts of the Lieutenant Commander. Her excitement over seeing her daddy for the first time in ten years was palpable—as was her eagerness to see the McGowans again.


A.N.: I recycled chapter one of Where the Wild Things Are because I was contemplating rewriting that story, and don't know whether to submit this as a different story entirely.