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Between Here And Nowhere



Livian Grey










Published © 2017






Smashwords Edition




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The demolition party, like all of John’s parties, didn’t start at any particular time. Usually, he’d turn on the stereo sometime around 8 or 9 pm. The hordes would slowly arrive after brief pit stops for fuel, booze, smokes and chips.

Quinn hitched herself on the bonnet of Kyle’s car while he went to pay for his petrol. Kat and Donald sauntered up to her. Donald had a case of beer under his arm and was wearing a backpack fat with cans of spray paint. A lollypop stick jutted from Kat’s scarlet lips, and she was decked out in black. Donald was in a standard blue flannel shirt, that covered a battered Metallica tee. His jeans were missing both knees and his sneakers were on the verge of disintegrating. He had his messy black hair gathered up under a beaten baseball cap.

‘We need a ride,’ Donald announced. ‘Jeff and Will took off without us.’

Kat approached Quinn and kissed her cheek, taking out the red, saliva-glistened lollypop first.

Quinn smirked. ‘You’ll have to ask Kyle.’

‘C’mon,’ Donald whined. ‘It’s not like you have a pack of clowns in there already.’

‘Fine. I’ll take a beer then.’ Quinn hopped down.

‘Get one for me.’ Kyle popped the driver’s side door, appearing out of nowhere. He and Donald were more or less dressed the same. The only difference: Kyle wore an Iron Maiden tee.

Donald paid his toll and got in the back with Kat. Kyle cranked the knob on his stereo, which was worth more than his piece of shit car, and they pulled out onto the road.

‘What’s the deal, anyway?’ Donald shouted.

Kyle took a corner sharply. ‘The deal with what?’

‘John trashing his house?’

‘He said he’d get more money for it if he sold the whole block,’ Quinn explained. ‘The house is a wreck anyway. Some realtor told him he could fit a couple of units on it.’

‘Didn’t he inherit the house from his grandma or something?’ Donald went on.

‘Something like that.’

‘But where’s he gonna live now?’ Donald belched. Quinn caught Kat rolling her eyes in the rearview mirror while she took out her lollypop.

‘He’s leaving town, dumbarse. Something we all should’ve done by now.’ The lollypop regained its former position.

‘Well, no one tells me this shit anyway. I got about 8 cans of paint. Shame once the bulldozers come in, all my work will be destroyed.’

‘I got a camera,’ Quinn said over her beer. ‘Just make sure it doesn’t get busted.’

‘Yeah, I swiped my dad’s axe,’ Kyle grinned. ‘He had it sharpened. Been waiting all week to bust up some shit with it.’

‘Your mum wasn’t exactly pleased with that collage you pasted on your wall,’ Quinn laughed.

‘It was just a shitty plastic tea set my sister use to play with.’

‘I liked the phallic slant you had going with the teapot nozzle, by the way.’ Kat told him.

‘Well, it sure makes up for all those tea parties Rosie used to make me play with her.’

Quinn cracked his beer open for him and handed it over. ‘How’s ballet school going?’

‘How should I know?’ Kyle snorted. ‘Least it keeps the parentals from worrying what I do every night.’

Kyle shot through a round-a-bout without slowing down, tossing Donald and Kat around in the back. Donald hollered. Kat grimaced. Quinn felt a splash of beer hit her chest and the liquid ran down the crevice between her breasts. She rubbed the front of her red camisole shirt against her skin, irritably.

They had to park a street away and walk since the lawn and most of the curbs were taken up already. The axe swung casually by Kyle’s leg. Kat broke away from the guys and Quinn fell back with her.

‘What’s up with you?’

‘Nothing.’ She crunched the last of her lollypop and started gnawing on the plastic stick. ‘Just pissed at John’

‘Why?’

‘He came over last night and unceremoniously announced he was going as he pulled up his pants. Like nothing we did together mattered.’

‘It’s not like you love him.’

‘Not about love, Quinn. It’s about decency.’

‘And he’s not about grandiose gestures. He’s not here. Never has been. He’s just relocating his body to where his mind is right now. He’ll have the money.’

‘Yeah, I get it.’ Kat kicked a rock with a scuffed up Chuck Taylor. ‘But I feel like you’re about to disappear, too. You’re all gonna leave me here.’

Quinn took her hand. ‘I’m not leaving.’

‘Not yet.’

Kat spat out the stick and pulled Quinn closer. Quinn leaned in and kissed Kat hard on her plump little mouth.

Glass smashed up ahead. A discordant cheer went up. The bass booster on John’s stereo was vibrating the walls of his dilapidated house.

‘Let’s go fuck something up,’ Kat smiled, her green eyes sparkling with mischief.

The girls ran up to the house. Kyle was already inside showing off the blade on his dad’s axe. John had left a couple of couches around, but for the most part, there was no furniture. A couple of fridges in the kitchen and the sink in the laundry were stocked with beers and bottles of Jack Daniels and Coke. Kat took a spray can from Donald’s backpack and drew a black love heart on a wall in the living room, covering the floral wallpaper. There were at least fifty people in the house. Numerous windows were breaking in a badly timed orchestra of destruction. Plaster crumbled inside the crawl spaces.

Kyle raised the axe and landed it into the wooden mantle of the fireplace, splitting the panel. Quinn got out a black marker and started writing on the concrete floor.

Here I sit and here I die, coz of all the shit at Wakefield High.

That’s original.’

She glanced up at John, who was polishing off a beer. He pulled her to her feet, and her nose was square with his hard chest. John stood about six feet, had sandy, unwashed hair and dry tanned skin from his wasted hours at the beach, surfing.

Didn’t think you’d show,’ he smiled.

Kat’s pissed at you.’

Kat’s pissed at life. How am I supposed to fix that?’

She just wants to know she means something to someone.’

Well, she’s always expected too much out of people. C’mon. I want you to take some shots out back. Preserve the moment.’

His beefy hand dragged her out to the backyard. A fire ate some dry wood in a rusty barrel. Pieces of tiles were thrown in and sparks danced erratically up from the flames. Cans and bottles were strewn about the grass. Quinn stood with John down by the fence and she took a couple of shots of the busted doors and windows.

I told everyone they couldn’t bust up the bathroom until last. I have a plan for the toilet.’

Sledgehammer?’ Quinn asked.

Better. You’ll see.’

So where are you going?’

Frankston. There’s a job waiting for me. I was waiting for someone to buy the place before I went, so I wouldn’t have a reason to come back.’

Good plan.’

Make sure you email me those pics. I’m grabbin’ another beer. You want one?’

Sure.’

She knew John would forget about her drink due to some hot chick suddenly showing up. Quinn didn’t much care what he did; it was Kat who seemed to need his adoration and acceptance more. Quinn had only fooled around with John once a year before, and neither of them had felt keen to take it any further.

Meanwhile, Kyle was peaking and brandishing his axe like a maniac all through the house. He came screaming out the back door, blade raised, before hurtling down the back veranda stairs. A couple of girls got out of his way as he took to a bannister with full force, gleefully hacking the wood. The chunks were gathered and thrown into the barrel fire. Quinn kept taking snaps, trying not to laugh too hard.

Donald bugged her for the camera, and she handed it to him.

I get a new one if you break it.’

Kat stepped out in a daze, smiling, as Quinn headed inside.

John hooked me up; said sorry. Doubt he meant it, but this will do. You want?’

Quinn put out her tongue and Kat planted a small pill on it, then gave Quinn a hit of vodka to wash it down. She took Quinn down onto the grass and they watched as someone finally broke through a wall with a hammer. More crashes and pounding and breaking sounded inside. The music was heavy; the bass pounded down in Quinn’s stomach as the pill was kicking in. She swallowed some more vodka.

You really should go trash something in there.’ Kat took the bottle from Quinn. ‘It’s very therapeutic. Plus, I’ve never seen you really break something before.’

Quinn giggled. ‘Hey, Kyle,’ she hollered. ‘Give me your axe. Kat wants to see me smash something.’

Kyle bounded up to them, sweating, and handed her the axe as she got up.

Grip it like a bat,’ Kyle instructed.

That’s not how you cut wood,’ Kat laughed.

No, but it’s funny belting shit that way.’

Quinn walked up to the side of the house, swung the axe away and slammed it has hard as she could against the drywall. It split and spewed powder down on the gravel.

Fuckin’ pussy,’ Kat shouted. ‘Hit it harder.’

Quinn lifted the axe again, swinging it back further behind her, then planted it deeper into the wall, grunting. On the third swing, she screamed as she brought the blade down as hard as her arms would allow. Picking up speed, she hit the wall repeatedly. Kat cackled behind her.

Some time around 3 am, John announced it was time for the obliteration of the bathroom. The toilet sat at the end of the main corridor. John produced an old bag from a closet that he plonked on the ground. The resultant thud was audible over the music. He knelt down, slowly opened the bag, and brought a bowling ball up with both hands. He developed a steely façade as he raised the ball up to his face, then took three steps down the corridor, launching the ball on the third step. It rolled neatly at high speed towards the bottom of the toilet, connecting with the porcelain. The bowl cracked open, spilling water over the floor.

Steeeerrriiiikkkke!’ John pelted towards the bathroom, picked up the ball, and smashed it into the bathtub. A mob filled the bathroom, breaking tiles and smashing mirrors. Pipes burst, spraying everyone. Kat and Quinn stayed in the doorway, doubled over in stitches.

Most families in the neighbourhood had left town for Christmas, and whoever had stayed were clearly too fearful of a riot to come and order them to shut up or threaten to call the cops. John’s only other rule was the destruction was not to filter out into the streets. Quinn sat on the front step, chewing gum and listening to the tinkling of glass and scuttling of debris as people shuffled out into the night. Kat lit up a smoke as John came outside. He pinched the cigarette from her.

All is forgiven,’ Kat sighed as she pulled out another smoke. John kissed her cheek and grinned inanely.

Kyle took one more chop at the door, yanked out the axe and stumbled drunkenly out onto the yard.

I am the axe-man,’ he declared.

You’re also not driving,’ Quinn announced.

I can do anything!’ Kyle screamed, shaking the axe over his head.

John confiscated the axe. ‘He can leave his car here.’

Kat yanked Quinn to her feet and they wandered away with Kyle. Halfway down the road, Kyle tried to tickle and kiss Quinn.

You’re drunk on power,’ she told him, shoving him off and laughing.

C’mon, let’s go.’ He pulled her towards the bushes by the road.

She slapped his chubby, pockmarked face. ‘Let me go, Kyle!’

God, you’re such a tease!’

Kat shoved him.

And you’re smashed, now fuck off.’

Slut!’

Kat put her arm around Quinn and led her away. Kyle stumbled off.

Why do you hang out with him? He’s such a douche.’ Kat flicked her cigarette stub across the pavement.

He’s ok when he’s not high.’

When is he not high?’

When he’s asleep.’

Kat still lived with her mother, Tess, but now they were out of school, she was paying rent and helping pay bills as a boarder. Her little sister, Evie, snuck out of her room, rubbing her eyes with her little hands.

Go back to bed, Evie.’

Quinn picked the girl up and they took her into her room, putting her in her bed. Quinn kissed Evie’s temple and stroked her hair. Once she was asleep, the girls went to Kat’s room and curled up into her bed, cuddling each other. Kat started to cry.

What is it?’

I don’t want you to go,’ she whispered. ‘I don’t know what’d I’d do if you left me here.’

Quinn caressed Kat’s face and kissed her.

I’m not going anywhere,’ Quinn murmured.

Not yet.’








Quinn snuck out of Kat’s room around 11 am, hoping she could make it out of the house without rousing Tess or Evie.

Not staying for coffee?’ Tess asked as Quinn stiffened. Tess was only slightly taller than Kat and Quinn and dyed her hair red instead of black — Kat’s choice of hair colour. Her face was worn considering how young she was, having only had Kat at 19.

I can’t. I really have to go.’

How was the party?’

Great.’

How’s your dad?’

Fine.’

Kat emerged, bleary-eyed, her matte black hair in tangles from the pillow.

Leave her alone, mum.’

Well, you should take better care of your guests. Least offer them something to eat.’

Kat made a face. Quinn’s stomach knotted and she vomited a little in her throat. Kat then frantically pulled a smoke from her mum’s pack and lit up as she went out the screen door to sit on the porch. Quinn followed suit, minus the cigarette.

Swear she loves mentioning food when I’m coming down.’

It’s one of her last guilty pleasures, I’m guessing.’

Least she stays off my case, otherwise.’ Kat shot a stream of smoke into the air and Quinn curled up on the battered couch.

Wonder what John’s place looks like now in the daylight,’ Quinn muttered.

Did you want to go back?’

I need my camera from Donald. Little shit’s probably trashed it.’

Bad move, lending it to him.’

I was in a good mood. I was feeling generous.’

A couple of younger kids rode by on bikes, screaming. Quinn flinched.

Shut up!’ she barked. The kids only got louder.

Kat gave them the finger. ‘God, I can’t bear this anymore. Why are we still here?’

We have shitty jobs. We can’t afford to leave. Will said he had a spare room I could rent, but I still can’t afford it.’

Chicken boner didn’t turn out to be the lucrative job he’d thought it would be?’ Kat smirked.

I know, plus he reeks. Video store’s fine for me… during the week, when the arseholes are working and not bothering me. It’s just the money…’

Kat cracked her knuckles. ‘Well, least you’re spared the early onset arthritis which comes with the illustrious position of check-out chick.’

Quinn rested her head on the arm of the couch.

Think John will let us go with him?’

Doubt it.’ The butt left Kat’s fingertips and sailed off into the grass. ‘When he severs ties, he severs them properly. I think that’s the real reason I hate him; he does that so easily.’

And you can’t?’

Kat shrugged. ‘Where the hell will I go without money? Should I just go in there and ask if mum’s made out a will yet? Left me a small fortune?’

Quinn took her tone to be nothing more than the edge brought on by a brutal comedown. Normally they would sip coffee and say nothing for a few hours first, but John’s leaving clearly was messing with a particular wavelength in Kat’s brain.

I better stop by the house,’ Quinn announced. ‘Double check mummy dearest has taken all her medicine.’

What she on now?’

Something starting with L and ending in pam. I’ve lost track. I’ll go home, then I might go to work.’

You’re insane.’

No, just practical.’ Quinn skipped off Kat’s front veranda and waved goodbye. Kat kissed the air in return.

Back at home, her mother was sitting at the table, smoking and staring off into the distance. A cup of coffee sat half drunk beside her, along with an assortment of pills. Quinn imagined she was staring into a mirror that showed her future self when she looked at her mum. Same narrow features, same dark brown hair. The wrinkles around her deep-set brown eyes and the flecks of grey were really the only major differences.

Mum, it’s just me, Quinn.’

Her mother stirred. ‘I was just about to take them,’ she chided, looking at the pills. ‘Don’t even start on me.’ Her fingers pinched up the smallest of the white pills and she popped it on her tongue. The next one was like a fat purple Smartie, and Quinn wondered if she bit into one she would taste chocolate. There was another slightly bigger white one left, and her mother placed it on her tongue. When the pills were gone, Quinn kissed her mother and sat down.

Did you have fun at your party last night?’ her mother asked, listlessly.

Kind of. John's leaving.’

Oh, that’s a good thing, It’s important you all leave here eventually. Don’t stick around like I did.’

Maybe we will stay,’ Quinn was getting edgy from all this talk of sticking around. Her skin was begging for a long hot shower so she indulged it as long as the water heater allowed it. Then she pulled on her uniform for the video store and made an appearance, thinking Philip would appreciate the afternoon off. Her comedowns were usually a day late, so she was sure she’d be hit by the after-effect bus later that night if not the following day.

Philip was contending with a couple of kids who were in the cartoon section and yelling at them to choose something or get out. Quinn appeared and his face didn’t change much, but she was hoping some sense of gratitude would come over him.

I take it you were at the party last night?’ he asked, scratching his head near the band of his ponytail.

Of course I was. You weren’t.’

Only for a little while. I missed the great toilet massacre. I heard it was epic.’

It was.’

The kids ran up with their selection and Philip ran it through the computer. ‘How many times do you want to rent this?’ Philip asked.

One of the kids shrugged while the other one tossed the money over. Philip passed the tape over the counter the kids scurried off.

I think I died a little inside when Charlie decided we should open Sundays.’

If you want to go, I think I can manage the rest of the day.’

Philip kissed Quinn’s cheek then leapt over the counter.

I owe you.’

You know it.’

Quinn’s remaining customers were just several more punks from the area after the Rob Zombie movie she couldn’t be bothered watching. Usually if she had the store on her own, she would slip on one of her favourites, rather than the latest new release. She’d even had an argument with Charlie about putting the new release amounts up to seven dollars for one night, telling him it was an egregious rip-off. Videos were her life; some kind of tether to the possibility their existence wasn’t all short-term highs and chicken boning.

Kat came by as she was closing at 9.

We should rent some porn,’ she suggested.

It’s all softcore. Charlie told me that’s the only kind they can legally rent out. No junk.’

Oh boo. I came to walk you home.’

My house is only five minutes away.’

Don’t care. Five minutes more with you. Actually, I was looking to stay longer. At your place.’

Mum isn’t too good.’

Is she ever? I thought she liked me.’

Fine, you can entertain her. Just no drinking. The docs told me to keep her off all alcohol from now on.’

OK.’ Kat marched behind Quinn over the wood-chip covered garden of the old cottage by the store. They stumbled through the brush and weaved through the paperbarks to Quinn’s house.

I should just move in with you and your mum.’

Quinn stopped and sighed. ‘Barry’s back, huh?’

God the last time I was sitting with them, he groped mum’s tit while looking at me. I could’ve puked and died, not necessarily in that order.’

You can stay until Barry leaves.’

That’s the issue. Barry got a local job. He’s not leaving.’

Oh shit,’ Quinn sighed. ‘Go home now and get some clothes. You can sleep in my room.’

Kat grabbed her neck and kissed Quinn’s cheek then skipped over the ground to her own place.

Quinn’s mother was asleep upstairs again, a consequence of her daily medication coupled with a lack of riveting daytime programming.

Quinn only found tinned spaghetti in the cupboard, but not enough to serve her new guest. She called Kat’s mobile.

There’s no food here. See if you can at least pinch something from your house.’

I’ll do what I can.’

What Kat could do was half a bag of stale bread and a box of biscuits. Quinn sighed and ordered pizza, and had to pay with mounds of spare change. Waking her mother up was also a pointless endeavour, so they spread themselves out on the floor in front of the TV and ate.

Are you working tomorrow?’ Kat asked.

Yeah, morning shift.’

Think Charlie will let me do some hours? The store’s only called me in for two days this week. Ever since I hit eighteen suddenly I’m not worth the cash.’

I’ll ask. Charlie’s been weird lately. Whenever I ask for a day off he’s always knocking me back. He’s not as lenient as he used to be.’

The pizza was annihilated by both of them, then Kat took her things into Quinn’s room. Quinn had to drag an old mattress out of her mum’s room without waking her.

How much does she sleep?’

If she thinks there’s no reason to get up, she won’t. I try to talk to her but most days she’s off in her own head. Dad came by the other day just to check on her. Said it was like conversing with a dead cactus.’

What else can he do?’

He gives me money to look after her. That’s about it. Least she can still go to the toilet without any help. If she were that far gone, I don’t know what I’d do.’

Quinn took the empty pizza box and left it on a pile of rubbish she’d yet to take out. Now she was feeling the shit leave her system, her body was hit with a sudden weakness, and though it was only some time after 9pm, she wanted to go to bed then and there. She told Kat she couldn’t deal with being awake anymore so they set about looking for blankets, pillows and sheets before Quinn lost all cognisance and collapsed.

Kat stayed awake a while longer, flicking through magazines, until Quinn begged her to put the light out and go to sleep.







Quinn was awake hours before anyone else. Her mother woke early, and she sorted through her medications, confused. Quinn stopped her.

No, mum, you take those at night. This one’s for the morning.’

She popped out the right combination, then watched her mother take them with a glass of stale tap water.

Can you make me a coffee?’ Ina asked.

Sure, just sit down.’

Quinn was the only one who could make Ina’s coffee how she wanted it. Ina wasn’t incapable of doing it herself, but she would make a bigger mess due to her lack of hand-eye coordination. Everything was easier if Quinn did it; getting food, calling doctors, working. If her dad ever got involved, he only became a controlling nightmare, plus he had a new girlfriend who wasn’t interested in Quinn or Ina.

She was about to spill the sugar when someone knocked on her front door. She landed the spoon back in the jar and went to the door, harried.

Donald was standing there with her camera. ‘I didn’t bust it. And I got all the shots on my laptop now so you can trash everything.’

Quinn had a quick look instead. Most of the tags were typical Donald, but some other kids had thrown up some amazing designs, she thought it was a shame they would be torn down. There were jagged clown faces with real depth and incredible shading, and mutant sharks with massive silvery teeth. She knew if half of those kids were given a chance, they could design some incredible shit for some company. If only it didn’t feel like selling out.

Shouldn’t you two be at school?’ her mum yelled, and Quinn was astonished to hear her muster up the energy to even speak above a whisper.

We graduated a month ago, mum!’ Quinn reminded her. ‘I work now! Donald does too.’

No response. She wondered if her mum had even remembered talking.

Speaking of, my shift starts soon.’ Donald got on his push bike. ‘Drop around sometime when you’re free. I’m starting up a blog and I’m adding these pics to it.’

Cool.’ Quinn shrugged.

Quinn liked Donald mostly, even though Kat didn’t have any patience for him. Donald never tried to get in her pants, either, not like Kyle did, and that fact still had her pissed off over a day later. Running into him was only going to set her off again. Kat just thought Donald was too stupid to hit on anyone.

Kat emerged then as Donald disappeared up the street.

Wow, you got your camera back.’

Check out these shots,’ Quinn showed her the best ones.

Nice layout, and good depth too, not too overcrowded on the lettering.’

I know. Such a waste.’

We should go find John. See him before he leaves.’

Quinn checked the time. ‘I got an hour ‘til work. Don’t try and get a long goodbye out of him.’

They showed up at Charlie’s, where John was supposedly crashing now his house was inhospitable. Charlie opened the door in his shorts with an over-tired expression half hidden behind a curtain of dirty, greyish brown hair. He squinted at them.

Lose the key to the store?’ he asked.

Is John gone yet?’ Kat looked past Charlie down the darkened corridor.

Of course. He had to be in Frankston for that job today. Caught the six am train.’

Shit,’ Kat wandered off.

Hey, didn’t you want to beg for more work? Priorities at all functioning, Miss?’

Oh yeah,’ Kat came back. ‘I need more hours. The store only gave me two shifts this week.’

Fine, but no fucking around, ok? I know what you two are like.’

We’re like a firecracker ready to blow at any time. One day we’ll blow your mind, Charlie.’ Kat blew him a kiss and took Quinn’s hand, hauling her away,

If you rent porn to an underage kid, Kat…’ Charlie yelled after them.

He never did trust me.’ Kat smiled as they hurried off to open the store. ‘Promise me we’ll go to John’s place before they tear it down completely.’

We’ll go after work.’

That’s like six hours away.’

Six hours you said you desperately needed.’

Kat groaned. ‘Fine.’

Quinn coached the disinterested Kat through how to use the computer system; simple as it was, she knew Kat wasn’t paying attention. She was eyeing off a boy they knew from school, who was scoping out the horror section.

Hey Fletcher,’ Kat shouted. ‘What’s been happening?’

Whole lot of nothin’ other than that party. Trying to get the guys together for band practice.’

Why don’t you call them?’

They’re always stoned or asleep.’

So are you,’ Kat quipped. Fletcher got pissed.

Look, do you have Let the Right One In yet or not?’

New Release section,’ Quinn told him, staring at the popcorn machine.

Fletcher picked up a copy and tossed it on the counter.

It’s nothing like the book,’ Quinn warned.

Like I care. I’ve wanted to see this for months. Like they’d ever show it in town.’

Quinn was the resident brain on all things adapted from book to screen. Some people cared for her opinions, others not so much. Most of her opinions on any matter ended up falling on disinterested ears. If Kat was having one of her self-indulgent days, Quinn knew it was pointless to even voice how she was feeling. She didn’t hate Kat for that, and was past being annoyed.

An elderly couple came in and left with some British drama. Kat thought they were adorable fumbling with their bags looking for their member card, since one couldn’t remember if the other had it. Quinn decided it was just too unbearable and put the transaction through herself.

So you’re the bitchy cashier at the video store,’ Kat teased when the old couple were gone.

They rent trash, apart from Fletcher, and half the shit he wants Charlie refuses to order since he won’t shift it enough. Said an army of two cinema freaks in one minuscule town wasn’t motivation enough for him. I’m lucky he bothered to stock Twin Peaks.

I know he almost didn’t stock American Psycho. I would’ve kicked him in the balls if he didn’t. He only makes occasional grandiose gestures, it’s why I find him so insufferably boring.’

He’s not boring, he’s just mean.’

Did I ever tell you Charlie got drunk and hit on me?’

No! When?’

That party you missed when you went to the city with your dad. He said he loved my eyes. So I hit him.’

Do you have to be so hostile? Why can’t you just say how you feel?’

My hand says all it needs to do. You know that.’ She tickled Quinn’s rear and Quinn nudged her. The act was witnessed by two younger girls in the comedy section who stared and whispered. Since they were of the recently graduated, Quinn and Kat had made sure the younger students of their school knew they didn’t care where their preferences lay. Quinn was too comfortable around Kat, and they kept their dalliances between them, but they weren’t about to cover up anything in public. They loved that it made others uncomfortable.

At the end of their shift, when Philip showed, (asking them how it was necessary two people were required operate the cash register), Quinn and Kat stopped by John’s house. In the dull light of the afternoon, their damage appeared more dramatic. They picked through the rubble after stepping through the wide open door. Kat found a glass doorknob that had survived the fray and picked it up.

Perfect souvenir. I’m gonna miss screwing John.’

You’ll miss him, period. Face it, you hate he doesn’t love you.’

I love that he doesn’t love anyone. But yeah, I wanted to mean more to him than I did. Total paradox I know.’ She twisted the doorknob in her hand. ‘I’m gonna hang this from the ceiling then focus on it when I do myself.’

TMI, bitch.’

Kat giggled. They went through the house and found John’s empty room, where most the amazing artwork adorned his walls. Kat tramped through the pieces of rubble and picked something up.

Check it out! He left my mixed CD behind. It’s destroyed.’

You made him a mixed CD? You’re pathetic.’

It was in year nine. Everything I did that year was pathetic. What’s more pathetic is I assumed he’d take it with him.’

Why do you need him to love you so much?’

I’ve known him forever. Kindy forever, so, longer than everyone else. When we finally started doing it I thought it meant something to him. I was just another lay.’ She tossed the doorknob in her hand thoughtfully, then suddenly threw it at the wall opposite her and it got lodged behind the drywall.

What happened to it being a masturbatory aid?’ Quinn smirked.

Didn’t want him to have the satisfaction of knowing I’d be jerking off over him.’ She threw the CD like a frisbee at the same point the door handle had hit. It only bounced off to the side and rattled onto the floor.

Oh of course not.’

Let’s get the fuck out of here. I’m not getting the same vibes I was hoping for. Let’s go raid Donald’s.’

I can’t. Mum’s supposed to take her meds now.’

Fine, but I need some fucking pot, so I’ll go and meet you back there later.’

Whatever.’

Quinn was prone to getting tired of bending to Kat’s needs and wants and it was always easier to agree to her tangents than try and realign her focus. Kat wandered off to Donald’s and Quinn walked home. Her mother hadn’t moved, as far as she knew, from her position in the kitchen. Quinn set about popping all the blister packs and filling her little medicine cup. She knew the order. Two purples, one big one small, two little yellow wafers and one little white one. All served with a glass of water. Then Quinn would set about making her actual food, usually something out of a tin. She wasn’t prepared to wait for Kat this time so she served her mother heated tinned spaghetti, which neither of them touched.

When’s the last time your father called?’ Ina asked. ‘I haven’t heard the phone ring all day.’

I spoke to him on Tuesday, mum, like I always do.’

Did he say when he was coming home?’

Mum, he’s not. That’s the point.’

Has he changed his weeks? Remember he used to do six weeks on one week off?’

Yeah well now he spends his one week off with Kirsten and their baby, remember?’

Ina stubbed out her smoke. ‘I don’t have another baby,’ she sneered, and finally got up. She grabbed her empty coffee cup and dumped it in the sink then rubbed her head, staring at the plate of spaghetti.

I can’t afford anything nicer, mum. My wage is giving me nothing. What do you want, a fucking soufflé?’

Her mother grasped her head. ‘Leave me alone, Quinn. You’re such a nasty girl after everything I did for you.’

She let her mother shuffle off to the bathroom. Kat didn’t show up for another hour at least, leaving Quinn seething with no one to bitch to. Kat always knew when to be absent when Quinn needed to vent, and usually Kat was so wrapped up in her own garbage, whatever Quinn had to say never ended up vocalised. Her only means of weathering her internal storms was to stand sullenly at the kitchen sink and do the dishes, which usually piled up during the day when her mother decided to eat. She sang softly to herself while she did this chore, one of a few methods she knew to calm herself down.

Putting her mother in permanent care wasn’t an option, even though Kat had suggested it numerous times. There was no money to cover the costs. She’d been hospitalised in government-funded facilities that hardly cared for her, and discharged her when she seemed stable by their terms. Once she was home, she would sit in the kitchen beside a cold cup of coffee for the better part of the day, staring at nothing, or sleep. She only just met requirements for a disability pension, that was meagre and supplemented by Quinn’s less than modest salary from the video store.

Kat finally showed up, completely baked and silent. Just as Quinn took the plug out to drain the dirty water, Kat came up and threw herself over the sink. A heavy torrent of vomit poured out of her and Quinn backed up, disgusted.

I told you Donald’s weed was bad.’

Kat croaked. ‘I know. It was all he had.’

Well, I’d go get your money back.’

Later. I need to sit down.’ She fell on one of the kitchen chairs and rested her head on the table. Quinn rinsed out the sink then handed Kat a glass of water. Kat stared at it, groaning.

You’re probably dehydrated from the other night.’

Probably. How’s your mum?’

Not good.’

The toilet flushed in the bathroom and Ina emerged.

Keep it down, I’m going to bed.’

Night, Ina,’ Kat waved. Ina didn’t respond.

She still thinks dad’s coming home. I think I better call her doctors, see if those meds aren’t fucking with her memory.’

They can do that?’

I don’t know. She’s on enough shit to tranquillise a horse.’

Maybe she needs to go back in.’

Yeah, maybe.’

I feel like hell.’ Kat complained. ‘Got any Panadol?’

Quinn rummaged through the kitchen drawers and dug out an expired packet of painkillers. Kat took the risk and downed two with some water.

Later the two of them curled up on the couch to watch a movie. They fell asleep together, Kat’s head resting in Quinn’s lap.








Kat was dry-heaving in the bathroom when Quinn finally woke. She got up and knocked on the bathroom door.

What’s going on?’

Kat came out, her skin blanched, clutching her stomach.

I don’t think it was the weed,’ she groaned.

Did you eat something weird?’

We better go to the chemist.’

Let me get my shoes on.’

Normally Kat would have made herself more presentable for the outside world, but this morning she was clearly too distracted to bother. They walked in silence to the chemist.

Louisa was working the register when they arrived.

Shit, why does she always have to be around when I’m in trouble?’

What do you mean? You’ve probably just got a virus or something.’

No, it’s not that.’ Kat stopped in front of the pregnancy tests.

You’re shitting me,’ Quinn said.

I wish I were. I remembered last night it’s been a month since my last period. I’ve been puking a lot lately.’

Kat picked up one of the tests. ‘This will do. We’ll have to do it at your house, my mum will only hassle me. I don’t need that.’

She handed the box to Quinn.

Can you buy it for me? I’m out of cash.’

Plus it’ll throw Louisa off, right? Make her think it’s me and not you?’

That’d be a bonus. I love you, Quinn.’

Oh, I bet you do,’ Quinn smiled, sarcastically. Kat went outside while Quinn took the test to the till. Louisa smirked as she ran the package through the scanner on the counter.

Who’s the dad?’

Fuck you, Louisa,’ Quinn answered as she passed over a twenty.

What happened? Did the condom break or were you too drunk to bother?’

Like you’re so responsible.’

Louisa dropped the packet into a paper bag and handed it to Quinn.

I’ll cross my fingers for you.’ Louisa smiled. As Quinn was turning around, she almost bumped into Deborah Cunningham, the resident church freak. She was held in high stead at the local Catholic group that met every Sunday in the rec hall.

Hello, Quinn,’ she beamed. For someone who was so keen on holy rhetoric, Quinn thought Deborah wore more makeup than a prostitute. ‘How’s your mother? We’ve been praying for her.’

Quinn’s own stomach was churning just being around that much piety.

She’s been better. I’ll tell her you asked.’

I was hoping she would come back to us. I’m sure she needs the Lord more than ever now. I know they didn’t exactly provide His good word to her in the hospital.’

Quinn only wanted to punch the woman then.

Well, she needs her medicine,’ she said, holding up the bag. ‘I better go.’

Of course. God bless.’

Quinn ducked out of the main door and found Kat outside, smoking.

What the hell happened in there? Louisa give you a grilling or something?’

Worse. Mrs Cunningham cornered me with her church BS.’

She didn’t see you buying the test, did she?’

I hope not. Last thing I need is for her telling everyone I’m pregnant.’

They got home without any more hindrances. Kat took the test into the bathroom and Quinn waited outside. Ina came down then, ignoring Quinn and going straight for the bathroom door.

Kat’s in there, mum. She’ll be out soon.’

I need the toilet. They locked mine when I was in hospital. You know I hate waiting.’

I know, mum.’

Fuck!’ Kat called. ‘I knew it.’

Quinn covered her face.

Mum’s out here, Kat.’

The door opened and Kat quickly put the test behind her back. Ina didn’t care for Kat’s new problem and shoved her aside, slamming the door behind herself. Kat handed Quinn the plastic strip and Quinn sighed at the sight of the two blue lines.

We better get out of here.’

Don’t you have work?’ Kat asked.

Nah, today’s my day off. C’mon.’

What the hell is all this?’ Ina re-emerged with the empty packaging and instructions in her hand.

Shit,’ Kat whispered.

It’s OK, mum. It was negative.’

Good. I don’t need a goddamn baby right now. From either of you.’

Ina shuffled off to the kitchen, tying her battered robe around her waist. The girls went outside and walked to the river.

What the fuck am I going to do?’ Kat said at last.

I don’t know. You can’t afford to have a kid.’

Can’t afford to get rid of it. Jodie had an abortion a couple of years ago. Said it cost her 700 bucks.’

Who do you think the dad is?’

John. It has to be.’

They both sat on the riverbank and Kat stared out at the water. Quinn pulled on the end of her frayed jeans.

Fuck. I can’t be a mum. I’ll have to talk to John. See if he’ll give me the money.’

Do you know where he is?’

Charlie should have his address, right? We can drive up there, get the money, I’ll get the procedure and we’ll be back the next day.’

I may not have enough for fuel.’

Can Charlie give you more pay this week?’

I can only ask.’

Kat rested her head on her arms. ‘I feel like such a fucking idiot.’

It could’ve happened to anyone, even Louisa.’

I wish it happened to her. I don’t know how you dealt with her smug, self-satisfied grin.’

She didn’t terrorise me half as much in school as she did you.’

All because I fucked her boyfriend, who was about to dump her arse anyway. He couldn’t stand the bitch.’

We better go talk to Charlie. I take it you want this thing over with, quick.’

The quicker the better.’

Quinn got up and hauled Kat to her feet. Still holding hands, they walked up the slope to the road. Charlie’s place was a couple of streets away, and Quinn had no idea what to say while they walked. She tried to put herself in Kat’s shoes, but it seemed pointless. She knew at least she would have come to the same conclusion. A baby would’ve kept her in Wakefield for far longer than she wanted to stay. She wouldn’t be able to give up working. Her mother was enough of a child as it was.

Charlie wasn’t out of bed when they arrived. Kat pelted on the door. When he finally emerged, he leaned on the doorframe, disgruntled and dishevelled.

What do you want?’

I need an advance on my pay,’ Quinn said, ‘and a couple of days off.’

We also need John’s address.’

What did he do?’

Nothing,’ Kat snapped. ‘We just really need to see him.’

He’s barely been gone two days.’

Look, will you just give in?’ Kat said, nearly stamping her foot.

Fine, I can give you another week upfront. But you have to be back by Tuesday or you’re both fired.’

Kat calmed down. ‘What about the address?’

Jesus, will you settle down. Who lit a fire in your underwear?’

I got worse than a fire to put out, Charlie.’

Oh shit,’ he smirked. ‘John got you pregnant, didn’t he?’

That’s not it, Charlie,’ Quinn snapped. ‘He just owes Kat some money and he skipped out on her.’

Bullshit. He doesn’t owe anyone. If I remember rightly, you two got a lot of weed off him on tick that you never paid back.’

We had an arrangement,’ Kat retorted.

Yeah, and so do we. So be back by Tuesday. Wait here, I’ll get the address.’ Charlie disappeared and Quinn listened to him rummage around in the hallway. He returned with a box of CDs and a slip of paper.

If you’re going you may as well drop this off.’ He handed the box to Quinn and gave the slip of paper to Kat. ‘I was going to take it next time I went up, but I don’t know when that’ll be. Come by the store later today I’ll give you the money.’

He shut the door on them, not bothering with a goodbye.

That could’ve gone a lot worse,’ Quinn said, uselessly.

I need to talk to Jodie, get the number of that clinic in the city she went to.’

We better go back and get the car, I’m not walking all the way out there.’

Wakefield was a small town with a few suburbs that stretched out a fair distance. Most houses were on large blocks, which were bordered by asbestos fences. Jodie lived in Wakefield Heights. Back at Quinn’s house, they got into her mother’s car and drove the ten streets to Jodie’s place. Her dog barked at them through the gate as they pulled up. Jodie was on her veranda, smoking, a can of Beam and Coke beside her. Her bleached blonde hair was in a ponytail and she was only wearing a Soundgarden shirt and a tiny pair of cotton shorts. She was also sporting a sunburn. Quinn knew Jodie lived with a couple of other girls, who were a few years older. One of them worked at the chicken boning factory with Will.

What’s up?’ Jodie asked as she skipped down the path towards them. Kat got out.

I got some bad news this morning. I need to go to that clinic in the city.’

Shit, that is bad news.’

Do you still have the number?’ Quinn asked.

Yeah I have a card somewhere. Come in, I’ll find it.’

Quinn popped her door open, but didn’t bother locking up once she was out. Her mother’s car was a piece of junk no one would think of stealing.

Jodie’s place was dark and smelled of cigarettes, even though Jodie smoked outside, the other girls insisted on polluting the house with their bongs and cigarettes. Boxes lined the passageway. The living room had a few old couches and an ancient TV set. Kat perched herself on one of the couches and tapped her foot, incessantly.

If you want a Beam, help yourselves,’ Jodie hollered. Quinn didn’t sit down. She was eager to get the number and go.

I hope I can get an appointment for tomorrow.’

I heard they just run a production line. Think of it like being boned in the chicken factory.’ Quinn wasn’t proud of her statement, and Kat only smirked dryly. Jodie returned with the card.

You can use my phone if you want.’

Nah, that’s cool. We’ll just use a pay phone.’ Kat took the card.

Who’s the daddy?’ Jodie asked.

John. I’ll have to hit him up for the money.’

Jodie grunted, unsurprised. ‘He’ll give it to you. Last thing that guy needs is to be paying off a kid.’

They left Jodie with her drink after Kat gave her a hug. Quinn stood awkwardly by while they shared goodbyes.

There was one pay phone outside Wakefield Heights near the high school. Quinn parked beside it and stayed in the car while Kat got out.

Can you come with me?’

Sure, I guess. Don’t know what you need me for.’

In case they start asking stupid questions. And I need some change.’

Quinn sighed and got out, pulling out her purse, which was usually jammed with coins. They both squeezed into the doorless booth and Quinn fed the coins in the slot before Kat dialled the number off the card. After a couple of rings, someone picked up. Quinn strained to hear the voice.

Family Planning, this is Dora.’

Hi,’ Kat muttered. ‘I need to make an appointment.’

May I ask what for? We have a number of services here.’

Kat covered the receiver. ‘I don’t want to say abortion,’ she panicked.

Say termination,’ Quinn whispered.

Ah, termination,’ Kat said, removing her hand. ‘Do you have any appointments for tomorrow?’

I can book you in at two. You have the option of seeing a counsellor before the procedure.’

No, that’s fine. I’ll be OK.’

Do you have insurance?’

Kat stared blankly at Quinn, who shrugged. ‘No. I don’t think so.’ She said at last.

Then you’ll need to pay upfront when you arrive. We’ll see you at two tomorrow.’

Thanks.’ Kat hung up and sighed. ‘I hope Jodie was right about John.’

Maybe I can convince Charlie to give me two weeks up front.’

Kat suddenly hugged Quinn. ‘I don’t know what I’d do without you.’

Quinn drove them to the video store. Charlie was at the counter and Philip was stacking DVDs in the drama section. Some action movie Quinn had yet to see was blaring on the TV. Otherwise the store was empty. Kat hovered by the door while Quinn spoke to Charlie.

I’ll need two weeks.’

Why?’

It’s personal, Charlie. Jesus. I got a lot of shit going on right now.’

OK, fine. But you’re not asking me again. You know how slow business has been.’

It’s not my fault people download movies. Maybe if you didn’t jack up the prices all the time.’

Charlie handed her the cash from the register. Philip appeared from behind the shelves and caught them.

It’s not pay day.’

Extenuating circumstances. Some people are just irresponsible.’

Kat held up her middle finger. ‘Shut up, Charlie. You still owe me a day’s pay anyway.’

Charlie sighed and took out a fifty. Kat folded it and put it down her top. Quinn stuffed the money into her purse and led Kat out, already weary from the tension. Out in the parking lot, Louisa approached them. Quinn guessed she’d just finished her shift. She cornered Kat before they could get to the car.

How’d the test turn out, Quinn?’

None of your business, Louisa,’ Kat said flatly.

Louisa only laughed. ‘I knew it was for you, Kat. Quinn wouldn’t be stupid enough to get knocked up.’

Leave it alone, would you,’ Quinn warned.

Louisa leaned against one of the pillars by the entrance to the shopping centre and took out her phone, tucking back her curly ebony hair behind her ear. Her thumb quickly danced over the buttons. ‘Maybe you two can move in together and be the first lesbian couple in town to have a baby. That’d be cute.’

Kat walked up to Louisa and shoved her against the pillar.

Get over yourself.’

Louisa balked. ‘Hormonal much?’

Quinn dragged Kat to the car. ‘You think you’re so fucking special!’ Kat yelled.

Least I’m going to uni in the city next year. I’ll be out of here and you’ll just rot with the rest of the trash.’

Once they were in the car, Quinn finally spoke. ‘Why do you let her get to you? You know she’s just a little self-righteous bitch.’

That’s the whole point. If she just kept her damn mouth shut.’ Kat took out a cigarette and rolled down the passenger side window. She puffed away indignantly while Quinn drove in silence. Quinn hadn’t made as many enemies in school as Kat had, and she wondered if Kat got a thrill out of being antagonised. She’d pulled Kat out of a dozen cat-fights at least.

Back at Quinn’s place, Ina was in the living room, crying into her hands. Quinn wondered when the drama was finally going to end. Kat hovered in the living room doorway while Quinn sat next to her mother and cradled her.

What happened, mum?’

Ina didn’t speak. Her face was wet and her unkempt hair fell about her eyes.

I miss your dad,’ she said at last.

I know, mum, but you know he’s not coming home. He left us.’

Ina sniffed. ‘I know that. Those damn pills. I can’t remember what day it is half the time.’

You have to keep talking them, or you’ll only get worse.’

Can you make me a coffee?’

Sure.’

Quinn got up and went to the kitchen. Kat followed behind her.

Maybe you should call her doctor,’ Kat suggested while Quinn flicked on the kettle. She got out three mugs and started spooning coffee into each of them in turn. Kat got out the milk.

We have to get out of this place, Quinn. I can’t spend the rest of my life here. Kid or no kid.’

Well we’re not going to uni.’

Who gives a fuck about uni? We can get jobs somewhere else. John did.’

Let’s just deal with your problem first.’

The kettle clicked off and Quinn poured the water into the mugs. Kat took a cup to Ina, who was now staring at the wall. She didn’t look at Kat as she took the mug from her hands.

Mum,’ Quinn said as she returned. ‘Kat and I need to go to the city for a couple of days’

Why?’ Ina croaked.

We’re going to look for work,’ Kat lied. Quinn shot her a look.

So you’re leaving me, too?’ Ina wiped her eyes and stared at Quinn.

We don’t know yet,’ Kat said. ‘We just want to see what our chances are.’

No, that’s fine,’ Ina sneered as she got up. ‘I’m obviously too much of a burden.’

Quinn sighed. ‘It’s not like that, mum.’

Ina ignored Quinn and went to her room.

Why did you tell her that?’ Quinn snapped at Kat.

Well, I wasn’t going to tell her the truth, was I? Besides, when we get back we can just say we didn’t find anything.’

Quinn slumped on the couch and sipped her coffee. ‘I don’t think I’ll ever be able to leave her alone.’

You’ll have to. She’ll get better eventually.’

Sometimes I wonder if she will. Nothing makes her happy.’

You can’t feel responsible for her forever, Quinn. You’re not her mother.’

I know that. But I’m all she has now. Dad couldn’t take her mood swings.’

Kat sat next to her and put her coffee cup on the floor before putting her arm around Quinn.

You do everything for her. And me. You deserve to be happy, too.’

Quinn rested her head on Kat’s shoulder.

I don’t even know what I want. I just wish she’d get better so I can make up my mind.’

She should get a job. Get out of the house.’

There’s no way she’d cope. She can seem ok for days then she just falls apart. If she has another manic episode, they would probably fire her. It’s too hard to make people understand how sick she really is.’

Kat kissed Quinn’s hair.

That idiot Mrs. Cunningham thinks her God will fix anything,’ Quinn said.

Don’t even mention her to me. She’s been trying to shove a bible down my throat for years.’ Kat went quiet for a while then said, ‘We’ll have to leave early so we can get to John’s before two.’

I know. Try not to worry. We’ll make it in time.’

Thank you for this. I owe you big.’

It’s OK. You’d do the same for me. I know that.’

True, but you’re not as stupid as I am.’







Quinn knew it would take at least an hour and a half to get the city on the new highway. John’s address was just outside the city, but the clinic was further out. They stopped off at Kat’s to get her things, hoping they could sneak out before Tess caught them. They weren’t so lucky. Tess stopped them at the front door.

Where have you been, Kat?’

Just at Quinn’s.’

And where the hell are you going now?’

We’re going to the city to look for work.’

What about your job here?’

They haven’t called me for nearly a week.’ Kat opened the door. ‘We’re running late, mum. We have to go.’

I’ll talk to you when you get back, alright?’

Sure, fine. We’ll talk.’ Kat got in and Quinn waved weakly at Tess, who was leaning on the doorframe, her arms folded, unimpressed.

Once they were on the road, Kat let out her breath.

She’d fucking kill me if she knew the truth.’

Quinn took out a tape from the glove box and shoved it in the deck.

I think she would have understood if you’d given her a chance.’

No way. She wouldn’t be able to let it go. God, I can’t wait for this to be over.’

Little else was exchanged on the rest of the trip. Kat quietly sang along with the tape, which was a mix of grunge bands they’d loved in high school. Quinn was grateful nothing this awful had happened in school. They’d both managed to get graduate certificates, since uni wasn’t an option, even with her dad’s income. She didn’t envy Louisa going to school in the city, just the fact she was getting out of Wakefield.

The city eventually appeared over the horizon. Kat rubbed her hands on her skirt and stared ahead.

How close are we to John's?’ she asked as the tape ran out and ejected itself from the deck.

Not far. What’s the time?’

Nearly twelve.’

Don’t worry, we’ll make it.’

Quinn pulled off the freeway at last. Finding John’s place was easy enough. Quinn parked outside the small townhouse and Kat all but raced to the front door. After she knocked for almost a minute, John emerged.

What the fuck, Kat?’

I need a favour. Can we come in?’

Quinn followed Kat inside. The living room was small and a flight of stairs was close by. She could see the kitchen from where she stood. John plonked himself down on the couch and picked up his Xbox controller, unpausing Call of Duty.

I need some cash, like, now.’ Kat blurted.

Look, I was happy to let your little debts slide, but that’s it. I’m not forking out anymore.’

I’m pregnant, you arsehole.’


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