Chapter summary: Why is it that some people just cruise through life, given every privilege, and some people, ... well: they try and try and try, but everything always goes to shit? ... Why does that always happen for some people? Some people like me: Lauren Mallory.


It was a slow night at the bar. It always was a slow night at the bar, but this one was particularly slow, with only Ted, the old barnacle, here, because he had nowhere else to go, I assumed, as I was either way too young for him to be hitting on me, or he was way too old.

He was a friend of my dad's. When my dad was still alive. And now the bar that my dad opened, his pride and joy, was filled with more memories than people, and I tended bar, my inheritance, to honor dad's memory, I guess. And I guess Ted'd kill me if I shut down the fire hazard posing as a rat trap.

The only change I made, that I could make, to the bar was just one concession to modernity: an HDTV that played ESPN-8, the Ocho: all sports, all the time.

And what sports they played! Australian football? (which was actually a pull with so many 'Stralians here in Hawaii) Cricket? Is that even a sport? Rugby? (is that even a sport, or is it actually just a free-for-all mêlée?) Dodgeball?

"If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!" "What?" WHACK!

I love that movie!

Especially the scene where the guy goes and visits the girl, and her house was filled with rainbows and unicorns. I'd love to have a house like that. I'd love to decorate the bar like that, but ...

... Yup, you guessed it: Ted would kill me.

I think Dad and Ted served in one of the wars, or 'police actions' like Vietnam, when they were in the Navy together, and I swear they were joined at the hip. I never understood how Mom put up with the constancy of Ted's presence, but we're Filipinos, and we put up with a lot of shit that everybody else won't stand for. That's why they created the 'steward' rating in the Navy: for Filipinos, like my dad, and for the blacks, like the world-famous author Alex Haley, who wrote the book Roots. He was a Navy steward. Just because he was black. I bet you didn't know that.

Just like my dad. Just because he was Filipino. But my dad didn't become this world-famous author like Alex Haley. No, the Navy parked him in Hawaii, gave him his precious American citizenship (that was the deal), and he opened up a bar here in Hawaii in this, at the time, nowhere town of Mililani, and here he married a Filipina from the plantation (yup, they had plantations here: where do you think Dole pineapples come from? The can?), and settled in for the good life in America with his 1.3 kids.

That's me, by the way: his daughter, the apple of his eye.

You think he'd have more kids. For Filipinos, you're not done until you have a son, but owning and operating a bar is a double-full-time job, and Dad had time to work the bar and to sleep, and his social life was in the bar, and home was the apartment above it.

So that's where I live now. I have to say: I can't complain about the commute.

But the bar may have been more happening when Dad opened it, but even after they paved H2, we've never seen much traffic. Mililani is a family-town, and you don't take the family to a bar that doesn't serve meals. And H2 exists for one reason: to get you to Pearl Harbor. It doesn't take you to Honolulu because if you're a tourist, you're already there.

So why stop off here for a drink when you can get one on base or when you're sunning yourself on the white, sandy beaches of Waikiki?

Dad didn't have a great nose for business when it came for choosing the location of his bar, but ... it was what he could afford to buy and to open, its pace was just about right for him, retiring from the Navy, and he loved the place and pretty much tended bar until the day he died.

So, lots of memories for me here, and it paid for my college education, at UH Manoa, so I tend bar here now, to honor my Dad's memory, at least for now. At least until Ted dies.

Old coot just seems to be going on forever, just as my luck would have it.

I felt I was stuck here, bored to death, in the 'island paradise.'

I wanted to go see the world. Go somewhere cold, for God's sake. Like Alaska! Or Iceland! (there's a name!) or ... Antarctica!

Don't laugh. How many people in the world have been to Antarctica, huh? I'd be, like, the two-hundredth person, ever, to have been to Antarctica.

And I'd be o-so-popular with the boyz when they found out I was from Hawaii.

I hear there's lots to do in Antarctica, like counting penguin eggs, and afterwards you have to warm up, and they like more than just hot cocoa, if you know what I mean. I mean: a cocoa-colored girl in the sack is just what those mad scientists need!

And it has been a long time since I've had me some mad scientist dick. Or any dick for that matter. It's been like a vagillion years, more or less, and I'm afraid it was getting to be 'more' than 'less.'

And Ted was always so liquored up the only dick he had was a limp one, and fucking my dad's friend?

Ew. Okay? Just ew.

"Get you another one, Ted?" I asked him.

He looked away from the TV listlessly to me, then checked his glass. "Nah," he said, "I'm still nursing this one."

It's only a slight exaggeration to say that he'd been nursing that same beer for the last three years.

"'Kay," I said, and let him get back to watching the flat screen.

I wish I could say I got back to doing something, but the brass at the bar shone like it was gold, and you could eat off the floor. And study? Impossible with the TV on, even though it was mindless nothing. I suppose I could take up crocheting, or stamp collecting or something ...

But this was a listless place, and so that's how my life passed. The regulars came, the regulars went, and I'd kick Ted out every night and close up, sleep until it was time to get ready to open up again, and there'd Ted be, just waiting.

He had no life, the old fart Navy retiree, but who was I to talk?

People go crazy, they get 'Island Fever.' You can only drive so far. There's no escape, so you either adjust to the 'Aloha' pace, or you go stir crazy.

Most people adjust, and that was my life, just ... tending bar, and that was it.

Tingle.

I looked to the door to see who braved the wild outdoor weather of Hawaii ... it was 75°F outside, because it was always 75°F outside ... and nearly dropped my jaw, my bra, and my panties.

In walked a ... girl ... woman, and she was ...

Okay: she was sex on legs. Shoulder-length cornsilk, almost platinum, blond hair, sea-green eyes, and a paleness that screamed Mainlander, and a build on the thin side, like those stupid supermodels these days, but she had a solidity to her that didn't say 'wispy-thin' nor 'wiry-thin,' it said...

It said ... Okay, it said 'wow.'

She cased the joint, which a laser-sharp focus, checking the location of the back exit and the layout of the bar. She scanned Ted, who didn't even take his eyes off the TV to notice her, and she checked me out.

It was like a threat assessment, and her eyes, taking us both in, said: no threat.

Then she strode to the bar. She didn't walk like a girl walks. She walked like a guy.

No, guys slouch or shamble, she, on the other hand, walked with power and purpose. She knew exactly where she was going, and she carried herself like she owned the place.

She walked like: "you touch me, I'll rip off your arm and beat you to death with it."

In-fucking-timidating.

And, instead of going right up the to bar and sitting, she took the short side of the 'L,' put her back against the wall so she had a full view of the entire bar, with nearly nobody in it, and the front door.

Also, if she just did a slight turn, she'd be around the corner and out the back door in less than a second.

I saw one other person do that, years ago.

He was a professional assassin. He showed me his suitcase that contained the 'tools' of his trade.

That's the only night I ever remember praying for realsies to God.

"God, please get him out of here, and don't let him come back, ever."

And that's the only time God answered my prayer for realsies, because the guy left, he didn't come back, and nobody died that night.

That I know of, anyway.

This girl was more obvious than that guy. It was like she didn't care if you knew she was dangerous, or ... something. She just projected mean and angry.

Two other things: she'd be a real beauty, except for the fact that she didn't smile, her eyes, her face, her expression, it was cold, ... not listless, like Ted's.

She was ice.

Not that I was a slouch in the 'beauty' department. Filipinos won Miss World and Miss Universe how many times compared to every other country? Filipino women are the most beautiful women in the world, and I wasn't a knock-out, by Filipino standards, after all: we all looked the same, right? (Not really) But for everybody else?

I got appreciative looks. I know it. I am fine, damn fine, but ... warm, friendly, sweet ... soft, like my skin: a soft brown. Not like the ice princess-assassin sitting at the short end of the 'L,' here.

The other thing about her? Blue jeans and a blue sweatshirt? In Hawaiian weather?

I have a question, by the way: why is it that sailors wear blue uniforms all day, and as soon as they're granted liberty wear blue jeans and a blue shirt, or a white tee shirt, that is: exactly like the uniform they've been wearing?

Because this girl? Obviously Navy: they all walk the same, talk the same, and all hang out with the same buddies from the barracks.

Except that she was alone.

Broke up with her boyfriend today?

I found myself alive with curiosity, not that I particularly cared about this person, just that she was something strange and different, and that rarely happened in our sleepy town of Mililani and much so less here at the bar that had seen its glory days more than a decade ago.

I approached her to ask what she'd be having, but she just said, curtly, "Beer."

And that was that from her.

"Any particular one?" I asked.

She did glance at me on that.

She grimaced. "A Bella." she said.

"Uh, ..."

I didn't know that that was. Or, more correctly: I knew there was no such beer, but it didn't look like she wanted to be corrected. At any rate, not tonight, for some reason.

Tension just ran through her stiff posture.

It was like she just got off the plane from Wall Street and was still in Mainland mode.

I wanted to tell her to chill the fuck out.

She smirked at me with a superior air. "How about a Milwaukee's finest, you know? Just like Bella: Milwaukee's finest."

She settled her back back into the wall and returned to her vacant, sullen look.

She didn't explain further, and I didn't get the joke.

I decided I didn't like this girl. She had 'bitch' written all over her.

I poured out a Pabst Blue Ribbon in a frosted glass and brought it to her.

"Thanks," she said dismissively and took a swig.

"Huh," she said, looking at her glass with surprise.

It was my turn to smirk. "Doesn't taste like your usual Bud light, right?" I said.

She looked up at me. "Yeah," she said, "how'd you know?"

"Don't all you sailors drink Bud?" I countered.

She frowned. "Ain't a squid. I'm Army."

"Oh," I said. "Sorry," I added quickly.

The various military service members were touchy about what branch they were in, and they actually got into fights with each other just because one was Navy and another was a Marine. It was stupid, from my view, after all, same side, right? But it was their ticking time bomb which I wanted no part of.

"Eh," she dismissed my apology uncaringly and took another swig from the glass.

She frowned appreciatively at the taste of the PBR, sharper, more defined, and sweeter than the run-of-the-mill standard taste of Bud.

Not that I'm knocking Bud: it's made me a lot of money over the years, even with my rather small and select clientele.

"Start a tab for you?" I prompted.

"Sure," she said.

I waited.

"Under what name, please?" I pushed slightly.

She drug her eyes from the TV to look at me with annoyance. "Lauren," she said, then went back to watching TV.

"'Kay," I said quietly and left her, taking the hint.

...

Lauren, unlike Ted, was a drinker. She didn't chug, but she went through three beers in the same amount of time Ted took three sips from his glass. And Lauren tended her drink, as soon as her glass was empty, she ordered another one, she just kept the flow going, lost in her reverie.

She got up to pee after the third, then signaled me for another.

"A bump this time, too," she said.

"Bourbon?" I asked.

"Sure," she said.

"Maker's Mark okay?" I asked.

"Is it good?" she asked back.

"Yes,"

This came from Ted.

Lauren looked over at him, surprised as I was that he had some life in him at all.

"Okay," she said, addressing me now, "a shot for me and one for the gentleman."

"'Kay," I said, and Ted tipped his head to her.

That was it. That was the extent of their communication, but in that millisecond connection, I could tell they knew each other: they both served, and they were family, just like that.

And I envied that in them, that they could just automatically do that, without a word being exchanged, and I was automatically an outsider, a civilian, and had no part in their world.

I poured the shots and brought them to them and got Lauren another PBR.

"Another beer, Ted?" I asked.

He surprised me by saying, "Yes." So I took his glass, dumped out the tepid beer and pulled him another Blue Moon.

"Cheers," Lauren said to Ted and raised her shot glass.

Ted nodded, raised his shot glass and just moistened his lips with the bourbon.

Lauren didn't. She dropped the shot glass into her beer and downed both fast and hard, slamming her glass on the bar.

"That was good," she declared. "Another?" she asked.

"You driving?" I asked.

Lauren shrugged. "That's my 'stang in the parking lot, yeah."

"Well, then," I said, "that'd be a 'no,' unless you're riding a cab back to base."

Lauren's face went sour. "It's just six miles to Schofield barracks!" she snapped back.

I laughed. "Yeah, six miles for you to get yourself into a car wreck, and for me to lose my license permanently. I am not spending time in the poke because of your 'six miles' gets you killed, sister!"

Lauren looked miffed. She measured my resolve for a second, and was further displeased to see I meant what I said.

"I can go back on base and get smashed there," she reasoned. "They won't cut me off there..." she wheedled.

Like I cared. "Yeah, and you can walk back to your rack after you do that. But you sure as hell are not driving off from my God-damn bar after you get smashed here."

She fumed. "Okay, whatever," she relented petulantly, "I'll take a cab. May I have another beer and a bump now, please?"

"After you hand over your keys," I said, not budging.

This surprised her. "Can't," she said.

"Well," I shrugged.

"I mean," she said, "I'm being deployed tomorrow. I leave my car here, it stays here for eighteen months on the outside."

"You're being deployed tomorrow?" I said surprised.

"Yeah," she said. "Afghanistan. Six months."

"Then why did you say 'eighteen months'?" I asked.

"The Army told me that last time I had a 'six month' deployment there."

She put the 'six months' in derisive quotes with her emphasis.

"Oh," I said. "You're being redeployed to Afghanistan?"

"Yeah," she said and shrugged.

"Ooh, bad luck!" I said, wincing.

"Why?" she asked. "I volunteered."

I blinked. I didn't know what to say to that.

You see pictures come out of Afghanistan. It looks hot and desolate, and the soldiers look haggard, worn down from the constant stress of waiting for an attack that never comes.

Except when it does, and then you see the pictures of what's left of the very few soldiers who manage to survive a suicide blitz.

She read all this in my face and shrugged, sighing, and pulled out her keys.

"Another?" she said.

"'Kay," I said weakly, taking her keys off the bar, and pulling another PBR for her. I brought the beer and a fresh shot.

"This one's on the house," I said, setting the drinks in front of her.

"Nah-uh," Lauren said, shaking her head.

"No," I said, "you ..."

"Girlie," she interrupted, "with my combat pay, I have more money than I know what to do with. Just let me pay for my drinks, okay? At least that's one thing I can do right by in my life, huh, and just leave it at that, okay?"

"Okay," I said weakly. It looked like she didn't want an argument here, so I just agreed.

That's what we Filipinos did. We just agree.

But let's see if she could figure out her bar tab when I stopped adding the drinks she ordered to it.

Or maybe I just wouldn't ask for her to settle up. She was getting pretty drunk. Maybe she wouldn't even notice.

That's something I could do for her.

I mean: going to Afghanistan tomorrow? Free drinks would be the least I could do.

I instantly disliked her less. Her sullenness made more sense now that she was headed toward a combat zone, 'demilitarized' or not.

"You've been in combat?" I asked.

Lauren gave me a surly look. "Yeah," she said. She downed the shot, quickly, sliding it back to me. "Don't wanna talk about it," she added curtly.

I took the shot glass. "Another?" I asked.

"Yeah," she said, sullen again. But then she added: "Please," making the effort.

I took the shot glass poured her another shot.

I thought women weren't allowed in combat. Wasn't that against the law, or something? But wasn't there news about women who were drivers or corpsmen getting shot, and the Army now issuing them guns, too, and ...

I didn't know what was what about it, except that the people who went to Afghanistan came back ... different. Quieter. Or angrier. Or both. Or non-functional with PTSD.

Or that one guy who came back and shot a bunch of people, including his best friend, and then killed himself.

I wondered what Lauren was like before she went to Afghanistan.

Younger, probably. Much younger. She was a kid, I bet, just a year or two out of high school, but she looked old-old-old with her bitter attitude, that put me 5-10 years older than her, but she's the one who looked world-weary, whereas I was really just starting with my life: bored to tears here, yeah, but wanting to go explore the world.

Lauren had already done that, and it looked like, for her, exploring the world involved being in the shit ... and she volunteered to go back into it?

I was like: why?

I brought her the shot, and she downed it quickly, grimacing as the alcohol hit her.

She slammed the shot glass down again, but she held her hand on the bar for a bit, steadying herself, and she held her beer glass with a death grip.

She wouldn't look at me, she just watched the Cricket game on ESPN-8, the Ocho, and nursed her beer.

I didn't ask if she wanted another. Not this time.

...

"Ted," I said. "Time." and I turned off the flat screen.

"Yeah," he said regretfully, and he put his unfinished beer, and his mostly unfinished shot of bourbon on the bar.

"Well," he said, looking at Lauren, then back to me. "G'nite."

I didn't ask him to settle up. Ted had a running tab. One day he'd pay up, and that'd be like winning the lottery ticket with the windfall I'd get from that payment.

And it be like winning a lottery ticket, because it'd never happen.

Not that I could ask him to pay. He's my dad's friend. And I'm Filipino. We don't ask. Not family, nor friends of family.

Ted hopped off his stool and hobbled toward the front door.

I escorted him to the exit, seeing him off.

He'd be fine. He lived less than a block from the bar. He didn't have a car. He didn't need one.

I returned to the bar.

"Miss," I said, "call you a cab?"

"Yeah," Lauren said lifelessly.

I picked up the bar phone and scanned through the rolodex for one of the cab company's numbers. As I was doing that, I glanced at Lauren.

Her head was on her arm on the bar.

I went up to her. "Miss?" I said.

No response. Her eyes were closed.

"Miss?" I prompted.

Still no response.

I sighed.

"Hey!" I shouted to her. "When do you have muster?"

She stirred, slightly, but didn't open her eyes. "Zero-seven-hundred hours," she mumbled thickly, but pronouncing each syllable with care.

"And you have to be in uniform by then?" I shouted.

"Uh," she assented.

I looked down at her, glowering.

"You can't go back to base now like this," I muttered.

I drummed my fingers on the bar. "Shit!" I cursed, then reached a decision. "Okay, soldier, let's get you to bed so you can sleep off the alcohol, huh?"

No response. Her face was both gaunt and pale: she looked pitiful, actually.

"Ah!" I growled and came around the bar and wrapped her arm around my shoulder, and lifted her up to walk-carry her upstairs to my bed.

"Holy crap, you weigh a ton!" I complained. You think a girl this thin would weigh a lot less, but no.

"Muscle mass," Lauren mumbled as she staggered with me upstairs, not even opening her eyes.

I don't think she even knew where she was now, or who she was with. Did she think she was home?

"Okay," I said, panting heavily now, and dropped her, maneuvered her onto my bed.

She hit the bed like a sack of potatoes.

"Let's get your sneakers off," I said.

"Nnn!" she complained blearily. "Wolf spiders."

"You're not in the desert yet, okay? You're inside," I explained, then added quickly, blushing: "In my bedroom, got it?"

She gave no response, being still, so I undid her shoelaces.

I looked at down at this soldier girl lying on my bed. She laid sprawled across it.

I frowned. "Okay," I said annoyed, "look. This is my bed I'm letting you sleep in, okay, but you're not gonna hog the whole God-damn thing, okay?"

No response, so I glowered down at her, pissed off at her drunken ingratitude.

"Hmmphf!" I huffed and stomped around and slammed drawers as I changed into my pajamas, both self-conscious that I was changing in front of a stranger, but too tired, myself, to care.

Bathroom. Sink. Splashed face. Brushed teeth. Examined myself critically in the mirror.

I'm pretty, I said to myself angrily. Maybe not as pretty as Miss Beauty Queen out there, but I'm pretty.

I don't know why I felt self-conscious, and I hated myself for feeling this way.

Bed.

I heaved a sigh and edged into my bed at the very, very edge of my bed, then proceeded to shove with all my might against her.

"Move over!" I snarled.

She ... kind of moved over.

I had room, finally, and thank you, in my own God-damn bed, and, bonus! my butt cheek wasn't hanging over the edge any more.

Thank God for small miracles.

I looked up at the ceiling. A gecko was ambling across it. It paused and click-click-clicked out a call, then continued it's trek across my ceiling.

"I'll wake you up at five-thirty am, okay?" I said.

"'Kay," Lauren answered indistinctly.

I glowered at her, and threw my arm over my eyes, not wanting to be touching her, but not being able not to, as she was hogging the whole God-damn bed, just sprawled over it, nearly spread-eagle across it.

I tried to sleep. I'd have to wake up really frikken early tomorrow, and I am not a morning person.

It was quiet.

Then, quietly, her voice. Sad. Forlorn. "Why is it," she asked, "that some people are, like, given ... everything at birth, and some people just ... just one thing, and the ... the rest of their lives ... I mean ... it just sucks. It's just like ... over, and there's nothing you can do, no matter how much you try. You just try and try and try, so hard, and everything just goes to shit, every single time, for the rest of your life. And that's it. Just sucks. Just sucks for you. Why is that?"

I thought about what she said, but I didn't have an answer. "I don't know," I said quietly.

"And then there's Bella," Lauren said sadly, angrily. "I mean: why! She was nothing! Okay? Nothing! But Rosalie chooses her! Bella! I mean, seriously? And I ... we were friends from kindergarden, and along comes Bella out of nowhere, and Rosalie ... I mean. We were friends! We were best friends! And who the fuck was Bella anyway? Trailer trash! But Rosalie sees her and ..."

"I don't ..." I said, confused. "I don't understand."

"You know what kills me?" Lauren continued as if she didn't hear me. Maybe she didn't. "You know what really fucking kills me? It's me. It's my own God-damn fault. Bella's like, 'Oh, can I get a ride?' to me, and I'm like, 'Uh, no.' Just no. Go fucking die, bitch, and Rosalie's there, just watching, and I'm laughing later, telling her how Bella keeps begging for rides from school every day because she lives out of town and'd be bussed to Hartford, and I'm like, that's where those people belong, not at THS, and Rosalie was like, 'Oh,' so I thought we were done with that, but then Rosalie puts out the word, 'Nobody give Bella a ride anymore,' and I was like: 'YES!'"

Lauren paused.

"I was like: 'yes!'" she repeated quietly. "That'll teach her. Problem solved. Kid can walk for, what, one day before she gives up and goes where she belongs, but then ..."

Her voice became hurt and angry. "But then I see it. I see Bella getting a ride in Rosalie's SUV? And I'm like, ... the fuck?"

"And then ..." Lauren was sad now. Quiet. "And then ..."

She was quiet for a long time. "How come," she asked in a small voice, "you never know what you wanted ... until you see her with somebody else?"

"Oh," I said, and it dawned on me. "You're gay...?"

I didn't really ask it. But I did. But I didn't.

"No," Lauren said. "Who? Me? The class slut? I fucked every dick there was to fuck at Tolland, and any boy I wanted, I got, and I got me some good ..." She was quiet. "Well, it was good."

"But ...?" I said the word she didn't.

"But ..." she said.

And was quiet again.

"Then, that. And ..." she continued, disjointed. "Then I went off to the Army, and they went off to college, and I spent my first deployment in Afghanistan, and I was like ... 'This is it, Lauren, this is your fucking life,' and I ..."

She was quiet again.

"Rosalie knew," she whispered. "I was gonna ... I was so close to ..."

She gulped.

"And that's there if you want it. My unit was hit. Fucking mujahideen. And ... and Mike, he saw the kid, and he shoved me down, and he ..."

She sniffled. "Fucking hamburger. Mike and ..." she gasped, "and fucking half my unit, fucking meat paste, but stupid, fucking Mike ..."

Lauren was crying now. "He ... they call'm frag 'nades 'cause they fragment, and Mike ate that fucking 'nade with his body, the dumb fuck, so I just got cut up bad, but ..."

"But ..." she gasped, "Rosalie knew. Rosalie knew somehow I wanted ta ... ta off myself, and she ..."

Lauren swallowed. "She sent me pictures. She sent me pictures of ... Bella. Her fucking Bella's ass with a big-old purple strap-on, and she made Bella spread her cunt lips, and she said ... she said. 'C'mon home, Lauren. Come home in one piece, and you can have yourself the sweetest cunt in the world. You know you want her bad!'"

"Rosalie knew," Lauren whispered. "And I ... I ..."

Lauren was quiet. "And I came home, and God! Did I ever ..."

"Fucking Bella Swan," Lauren said sadly, "was the most incredible fuck that I ever had in my life, and God! did I ever fuck her, but ... but ... but ... it wasn't that. It wasn't enough. I ... I ... I'm not a slut, ... hahahaha."

She laughed in despair, and it was the saddest sound I ever heard.

"I guess I'm not, 'cause I found out I didn't wanna fuck her, the best fuck of my life ... I wanted to love her. Bella Swan! I wanted to love her, and I wanted her to love me."

Lauren was quiet.

"But she didn't. She doesn't. She loves Rosalie, and Rosalie loves her, and she only fucked me because Rosalie wanted her to. She fucked me out of love for Rosalie. I had her pussy, and it was fucking incredible, but her heart ... her heart belongs to Rosalie, and I couldn't touch it."

Now I was confused. I thought she said she loved Rosalie and hated Bella for stealing her friend away from her, but now she says she loves this Bella?

"And ... and ... and now I'm fucked," Lauren said bitterly. "'Cause fucking guys. Ugh. Ugh. Okay, we're done. And ... I went on craig's list, I ... went on message boards. But it's just so fucking weird. I'm not looking for a submissive. I mean, Bella is a fucking little fucking mousy submissive and a fucking amazing fuck! But submissives? Eh!" Lauren snorted. "They want sex, or they want to be dominated, but they're playing a game, too, and I don't want that. I want to love somebody, and I want to be loved back, and ... how can you ask that from somebody? 'Hey, I'm Lauren. I wanna fuck the shit out of you, and totally fucking own your ass, and oh, I want to love you, and I want you to love me, like, forever, okay? You up for that?'"

"Um," I put in quietly, but firmly, "I'm not gay."

Lauren was quiet for a moment.

"Thanks for the info," she said dryly.

"Just so you know," I added defensively.

"Yeah," she said, her voice empty, "got it. Thanks."

I was quiet. I felt shamed, like telling her I wasn't gay was an insult, or something.

But I didn't want this confession of hers to be a reason for her to maul me, and I did not want to have her all over me when I did not swing that way, thank you. It's not right nor natural.

I mean, in the Philippines, I hear, anyway, there are 'guy-girls' and 'girly-girls' and they ... whatever in college and when they go to work in the factories. It's like, really common, but not 'open' like in the States, it's just ignored, but ...

But I'm not like that. I'm a normal girl, not a ... whatever you want to think Filipinas are like: weak, submissive, and naïve.

I'm not like that.

Lauren sniffed sadly. "Bella and Rosalie. They're like ... they're like given this gift. They love each other, and ..."

"And ..." she said.

"And ... I want that. And I never had that. In my life. Ever."

Lauren was quiet.

"And I never will. Ever."

Then: "And ..."

She became quiet again.

Then her voice was resolved: "And ... this time, this deployment, ..."

I waited for her to finish.

Her even breath told me that she had finished.

Lauren was asleep.

I nudged against her. "This deployment ... what?" I asked.

No answer, just her even breaths.

I nudged again, harder. "This deployment, ... what?" I demanded.

Nothing from her, now her mouth was open and she started to snore, softly.

I was pissed, hating her, wanting to know the 'what,' but afraid I already knew what the 'what' was.

I fell asleep. Pissed and angry at this stranger who strode into my life, dumped on me her shit, and then ...

And then was going to take herself out of my life again, just like that, by taking herself out of the picture.

Another American hero. Another war stat that nobody knows nor cares about.

Nor loves.

Ever.

I slept.

...

"Lauren?" I said quietly, "wake up."

I reached over and touched her shoulder.

"FUCKING RAGHEAD FUCKING DIE!" she screamed.

And then something flashed and I felt ... nothing.

I felt a whisper against my neck, and it felt like ... air, like a breeze.

Lauren had mounted my chest, and a blade, sharp, wicked and deadly, was in her hand and poised to strike.

Oh, and blood was dripping off it. I wondered, idly, was that my blood?

Lauren's eyes were wild.

Then she looked down at me, utterly confused.

"Who the fuck are you?" she demanded.

"Uh..." I supplied helpfully, feeling light-headed.

Lauren looked down from my eyes, and then her eyes widened in shock.

"Holy ..." she said, then: "Oh, God. Fuck."

She quickly lifted my head, pulled my pillow out from under me and then pressed it to my shoulder.

"Ow," I said weakly.

"Constant pressure," she commanded, pressing my hand against the pillow. "You have to keep constant pressure against the wound so you don't go into shock, you hear me?"

I looked up at her and smiled lightly. "Too late for that," I whispered.

"Fuck," Lauren snarled angrily. "Fuck, fuck, FUCK! Fuck! We gotta get you to a hospital right away. They won't let you onto the barracks, fuck! Where's the nearest hospital?"

"Wahiawa," I said thickly, "I think."

She looked down at me. "Right," she said. "Hold on and keep pressure, you got me?"

She hoisted me up like I were a feather, and she was racing me down the stairs.

"You know where Wahiawa is, haole?" I asked.

Lauren hit the ground floor running. "Schofield barracks is in Wahiawa, you dumb shit!"

"Oh," I said. "There's that."

We got to her car.

It was a muscular gun-metal grey Mustang. The tires were wider than me.

"My keys," Lauren said desperately searching her pockets. "Where are my God-damn keys?"

"Upstairs in my bedroom," I said. "On my hope chest."

Lauren had deposited me on the dirt and was running when I said 'upstairs,' but she screeched to a stop when I said her keys were on my hope chest.

She regarded me coolly, then smirked. "I thought you said you weren't gay."

And then she turned and ran.

"Ha. Ha," I called after her. "Very funny."

Lauren was back in a flash, unlocked her car, scooped me up and shoved me in the passenger seat.

We left fifteen feet of rubber on the road as she pealed out of the parking lot of the bar, her mustang's engine roaring like it was the trump of doom.

I looked over at Lauren, her face was intense and she was actually leaning into her driving, as if the force of her will could actually make her car go even faster than what it was going already.

I think I heard the sonic boom a few seconds ago.

"You know, haole," I told her levelly, "cops here fine double for whites, triple for blonds, and quadruple for military. They hate you white people, you do know that."

Lauren didn't slow down at all. "If the cops chase us, they won't catch us 'til we get to the hospital anyway, and then I'll just flash them my tits and get you inside while they're still stunned."

"Huh," I said, a bit stunned myself at her self-confidence.

We sped along.

"You know," I said, "if this is the way you pick up girls, maybe that's why you're having problems in the love department. Maybe you could go with the more generic approach of asking the girl's name first. Her hobbies, maybe? If she wants to watch a movie, you know? That kind of stuff."

Lauren did glance from the road for a brief second.

"What is your name?" she said.

"Ha. Ha." I rolled my eyes. "Funny."

"No," she said, intensely, "I'm serious. What actually is your name?"

"You ever turn down the intensity to something below eleven?" I quipped.

"You ever tell anybody your name?" she retorted.

"Sophie," I said.

"'Sophie,'" she tasted the name, pondering it. "Huh," she said, "I li-..."

"Maria Josefina Gabriella Sophia Ocampo de Guzmán."

"Uh, okay," Lauren said, nonplussed. "Uh, wow!"

"Yeah," I said. "Papa called me 'Gabby' when I was little, but I hat-... but I didn't like that name, so it's just 'Sophie' now, nobody calls me by my full name, ... like: ever."

Lauren's face was intense.

I was blabbing. I do that when I'm nervous. Or becoming faint with blood-loss, it turns out.

"We're here," Lauren said, and screeched to a stop in front of the Wahiawa General Hospital.

She raced out of her seat around the car and lifted me bodily out of my seat.

"Corpsman!" she bellowed as she ran us to admission. "Corpsman, on the double! I have a severe neck injury that needs immediate treatment!"

I looked up at Lauren. Her head was limned in light. Like she were an angel, or something. A stupid, dumb-fuck, deadly, military angel.

...

Well, that was exciting. I kept trying to tell people I was all right, and people kept running around like they were the chickens with their heads cut off.

Maybe I could ask Lauren to do just that: cut off everybody's head who was running around or leaning over me, checking up on me, poking me, prodding me, wheeling me every which way they could.

If she did that, there's be a lot more quiet in the hospital today, I tell you what.

...

Lauren.

"I have to go," she said.

"I know." I answered.

"No, you don't understand. I miss formation, it's a missed movement, and I get court martialled. I have to go," she insisted.

"I know," I said, and pointed to my chest. "Navy brat."

My hand felt very, very heavy. It was hard to control.

"Ah," Lauren said.

She looked down. She held up a piece of paper to my face.

It was her id: SPC Lauren Mallory. She has also written in below the photocopy of her id the following: 1st squadron, 91st Calvary Regiment.

Well, I thought, now I know her last name, too.

"This is my military id," she said.

Great, I thought. She thinks I'm a three-year-old.

"I wrote my unit and my commanding officer here. I left my insurance information with the hospital, too, but ..."

She looked away.

"If you wish to press charges, simply contact the Department of the Army and provide this information, and they'll get the relevant information from you and the hospital here, and ..." She scowled.

"Fucking court martialled in Kabul. Fucking great," she muttered.

"Press charges?" I asked, confused.

Lauren sighed and tsked. "Sophie, I have to go now."

"I know," I said.

I wondered if she were stupid. I told her I knew, like, three times, already.

"Okay," she said brusquely. "Look, you're in shock. You're confused. When you get your head straight again, here's my info, then do what you have to. Okay? Okay. 'Bye."

She turned to go.

"Lauren." I called.

"What?" she snapped, turning back.

"Don't do anything stupid, or brave, or, you know, whatever to get yourself killed, okay?"

"What are you talking about?" she snapped angrily.

I ignored her pretend-ignorance. She knew what I was saying.

"I'll be pissed," I said. "And you'll never know if you asked my name, and asked me if I wanted to see a movie with you, if I would say 'yes' or 'no,' would you? If you killed yourself, you'd never know."

Lauren glared at me, furiously. "Do not toy with me, okay, Sophie? Besides, you said it. 'I'm not gay,' you said, so don't play me like this. Don't say it if you don't mean it, 'cause I won't ..."

"You said you weren't gay before, either, right?" I insisted. "So what do I know? And if you don't come back, you'll never know what might've happened, right?"

Lauren shut her eyes for a second, tightly, then stamped her foot in fury. "Okay. Whatever. Gotta go. 'Bye!"

She stormed out. Her back tight. Furious.

"'Kay," I whispered, sadly. "'Bye."

The doctor came in. The name on her tag was 'Lam.' She was an older, beautiful Chinese woman with long, silky-black hair all the way down her back. She glanced after Lauren with wise eyes.

"What's her problem?" she asked.

I rolled my eyes: "Haoles," I explained.

Dr. Lam smiled warmly and chuckled.


A/N: See, ...

No, wait. First things first.

This is a side story to my story Ridden. It's about Lauren after she goes off to join the Army after High School graduation.

Okay. Now.

See, this is why I didn't want to write about Lauren in Ridden, see? I write about Lauren, I think about Lauren, then she stands up and says, 'you know, I'm not a bitch. I mean, I am, but ... but you just can't sh!t on me like everybody else does, ... like Steph did, 'cause there's what everybody thinks about me, and then there's me, and you gave Rosalie a fair shake when nobody else would, and you're just gonna play to the stereotype with me?'

See?

And how come is it that Lauren never got a chance? She was just a first-class, one-dimensional bitch in Twilight. I mean, even Rosalie got her Eclipse, chapter 7, but Lauren? Nothing.

Well, Lauren isn't going take the bitch-slapping she's gotten sitting down, and she let me know, in no uncertain terms, of just that.

Joy. A Lauren Mallory fanfic.

What next, `phfina? Ya gonna write an ExB "Oh, Edward!" "Oh, Bella!" fic, too?

Shudders. Okay, I don't see myself sinking that low.

Oh, and watch this video: armytimes-dot-com-slash-VideoNetwork/2973148502001/US-Troops-Celebrate-Christmas-in-Afghanistan&odyssey=mod|video

That's our service men and women having Christmas in Afghanistan.

p.s. "Haole" is the Hawaiian term to describe white people from the 'Mainland.' Yes, it's derogatory, but, depending on usage, not necessarily vicious, it's more like, 'oh, well, those crazy white people, always rushing about and always getting themselves into trouble; they need to get into "Aloha"-time.' Like that. Sometimes.