Hank Summers’ voice droned on as Buffy picked up a shoe and held it absentmindedly. She slipped it on mechanically. If she hadn’t been so lost in thought, she would’ve noticed it was two sizes too big for her. It slipped off.
She put the pair back. She thought Hank was still talking about his job - his pointless, meaningless, stupid job - until he repeated what he’d just said. A question about school.
"It’s great. Everything is… great."
She took down another box. Sandals. He said he’d take her to the beach. It would be nice to go before she died again. Not that it mattered. None of it mattered.
I died, she thought numbly. It wasn’t a revelation. Merely the constant thrum of the back of her mind, cold and dark like her watery grave. I died.
She slipped the sandals on. Perfect fit. She placed them in the buy pile. She had no idea how many shoes she had picked out, or how much they were worth. She wondered if he’d lecture her for splurging too much. She nearly hoped so.
Anything to break up the monotony and deadness around her, inside her.
Buffy felt her father’s gaze fall on her stack of shoe boxes. She glanced askance at him, measuring his reaction. He was frowning, but out of something bordering disbelief and something akin to amazement, though not quite so positive as that.
Disappointed, she pulled down another shoe. A part of her, the part that hadn’t been crushed under the weight of what she had experienced just a few weeks ago, realized she was angry at her father.
Angry that he had left them.
Angry that he hadn’t been there for her.
Angry that he would never know what she had done or what… who she was.
Buffy was angry… and yet she could hardly feel anything.
On a normal day, this was when she normally would want to scream and yell. But Buffy could feel hardly anything at all. Even her resentment of Angel and his immortality left her cold and empty. Angel would never die but linger on and on long after the worms had eaten her down to scraps of oozing flesh and bone.
A part of Buffy had been left in the grave to melt away to nothing, and so she went through the motions of being a normal girl. The normal girl she could never be. Not only because her idea of normal only existed as merely blissful denial of the horrors in the world. A normal girl didn’t have one foot in the grave.
Buffy was drenched in death. She brought it to the evil fiends of the night. She threatened everyone around her with it by her very existence. Death dogged her footsteps. She was a girl without a future to claim her own.
She remembered her first watcher, Merrick and how he had told her how short the life of a Slayer was. No kidding.
The shoes were too small. She silently boxed them up and put them back on the shelf.
Too soon after she had learned she had the life expectancy of a fruit fly, Merrick had committed suicide rather than be turned by the master vampire Lothos. Buffy couldn’t hear gunfire without remembering how the gunshot had thundered over the sound of Pike’s motorcycle as they fled the scene.
Only a year later, she had died. Of course, whoever was in control of the universe, had had a sick sense of humor and had allowed her to be brought back. Buffy didn’t know why. She suspected it was so she could remember that she’d died and suffer from knowing this.
From knowing it was only a matter of time.