“So I heard you and Noelle didn’t work out.”
“Motherfuck,” I whispered to myself, leaning back into the office chair as far as it would allow me. I wasn’t sure how to respond yet. Kris hadn’t been in town for at least a year, and not even a full twenty-four hours had passed since Noelle sprung the news on me. Hell, it had barely been a few hours. Noelle was too much of a pussy to post anything about it, and I was still processing how I felt.
So who spilled?
“How did you find that out?” I typed back to Kris, threatening to break the keys of my poor keyboard as I typed. I really didn’t have enough money to replace it, so I gritted my teeth and tried to keep my hands steady.
“The town is full of practically twenty people. Word gets around. Besides, you’re the only lesbian couple in town. People keep up on you.” There was a pause, then their typing continued. “Or, is she not a lesbian? Heard she got pregnant.”
Oh, may the gods bless my patience and my ability to not break my keyboard. “It’s called bisexuality, Kris. You of all people should know that.” Noelle may have been a lying bitch and a coward, but I wouldn’t insult her orientation. That just wouldn’t be fair.
“I know. That’s just what the posts I’ve been seeing were speculating.”
“How come I can’t see these posts?”
“Private accounts. You think the town would have you seeing people’s darkest, deepest secrets? They’re all still afraid of you, even after graduation.”
It was a miracle that I had graduated at all, with my straight-D report card and being on first-name basis with the principal, but much to everyone’s surprise, I did, along with Kris and Noelle. Kris went off to go to their brother’s college, while Noelle stayed behind with me for the last two years to work and save money.
Of course, that meant having a secret affair with another monster, who apparently stayed in town for Noelle’s sake, which led to Noelle being pregnant and having to break the news that she cheated and didn’t love me anymore.
A town full of pussies.
“You really should try college out,” Kris said finally. “Get out of town for a bit. Maybe you’ll make some friends. And you can always hang out with me.”
“Nah. I barely graduated. Besides, I don’t even know what I’d major in. It’s not like Gratuitous Violence and Drinking is a major.”
“You could just take classes until you figure something out.”
I snorted. “Nah. I’d rather figure myself out before I dump money into it. Besides, I’m making it through. Catti’s a good roommate. She’s quiet and minds her own damn business.” I sighed and cracked my knuckles. “Not to make this weird, but I totally miss you, dude. Wish we could have a few rounds together right now. I could use a friend.”
Kris was quiet for a bit, which they normally were, but in this case, it was deafening, even though this conversation was online. Eventually, they said, “Same.”
“In fact, I’m gonna run to QC’s for a bit. I’m probably gonna break my keyboard if I don’t blow off some steam.”
I signed off then, grabbed a coat, and headed out.
It was early winter, with frost on the ground and fallen leaves. My breath caught a bit as it smelled the beginning scent of snow in the air. I stuck my hands in my pockets as I fumbled for a cigarette on the walk in effort to keep warm. A passing thought whirred through my mind for a second: I wonder if I can summon cigarettes like my axe in the Dark World. I’d have to explore this thought with Kris when they come back for the holidays.
Even though it was dark out, the town’s streets were bustling, putting up lights and decorating their yards. Occasionally, they’d make eye contact with me, only to turn away and pretend not to see me.
I was used to this.
I blew smoke at them.
Only one person, Monster Kid, who still wasn’t old enough to graduate, yelled from their tree, “You’re gonna get lung cancer!”
“Good,” I said, tossing my cigarette in their garbage can.
I ignored them and continued on my way to QC’s. Snow began to fall as soon as I kicked the door open.
Catti greeted me as much as she possibly could from her phone. “Susie,” she said without looking up.
“What, you recognize the sound of my steps or something?”
I sat at the bar and asked for a Jack and Coke, mostly because it was free due to living with Catti, but also because Jack Daniels was one of my only friends, the only person who could heal a broken heart. But then, QC’s door opened again.
Noelle and her new boyfriend.
Noelle was wearing his sports jacket.
“Can you add a shot?” I begged the bartender, who stopped measuring the Jack and instead upended the bottle into the glass.
“I’m on your side,” he whispered to me. “I won’t charge you for the extra.”
I nodded my thanks and downed my drink, clearing my throat as the burn hit me. It was definitely more Jack than Coke. I didn’t have the highest alcohol tolerance in the world, so it’d hit me fast, and that was exactly what I fucking needed.
The boyfriend slid into the seat next to me. “Evening.”
“Hmm,” I said, avoiding eye contact. “Isn’t Noelle pregnant?”
“I’m just here for the fries,” she said quietly.
“Don’t you wish you could still be the one to hold her hair back when she pukes? Morning sickness is rough,” he said to me.
I grit my teeth and waved at the bartender for a refill.
“I’ve already done that,” I said, still turning away from him. “We used to live together. We were together for over three years.”
“Yeah, I bet your foster ass loved that. Living in a nice house for once instead of whatever hole you crawled out of.”
“Please--” I heard Noelle start. She sounded like she was about to cry. I didn’t want to see it.
“It wasn’t for her house. I just wanted to support her.”
“But you didn’t, did you.” I felt him touch my shoulder with fake-reassurance, and my blood boiled.
“Don’t. Fucking. Touch. Me,” I hissed.
The bartender slid me my drink then, and I chugged it down. My vision was starting to blur, and so was my judgement (or lack thereof).
“Or what, Susie? Will you prove to the diner how abusive you were to her?”
“I never hurt her,” I said behind my teeth. I tried to remember what my therapist had told me: Just take a deep breath and count to ten…
“Are you sure? I remember seeing bruises.”
“Th-that’s not for what you think…” Noelle whimpered.
“Are you sure about that, Ellie?”
I could feel her tense from my seat. She hated being called Ellie.
“They always seemed to hurt you, y’know. When you’d come to me after you were done with her.”
Fuck the counting .
“Listen, you piece of shit,” I slurred, throwing back my stool and grabbing the boyfriend by the stupid collar of his stupid jersey. “If you don’t shut your fucking mouth, I’ll shut it for you. I’ll break your jaw clean off so you can never speak again.”
I heard Noelle start to hiccup. “Susie--”
I looked over his shoulder. “Don’t ‘Susie’ me, you fucking traitor!”
It came out a lot louder than I intended. The music in the diner stopped. Everyone turned.
I didn’t give a shit.
I punched him straight in the jaw, as promised.
There was a sickening crack, a familiar, adrenaline-rushing pain in my knuckles, and the splatter of blood on the bar and in his fur.
I heard someone dialing something.
I didn’t let up.
No matter how much Noelle cried (but didn’t bother to get involved).
No matter how loud the crowd gathering around us got.
No matter how loud the sirens got.
“I thought you were a fucking athlete, like Noelle. High school fucking varsity, right?” I spat. “What, you ain’t fighting back? Just gonna steal girlfriends instead?”
He tried to talk, but ended up gurgling blood instead.
I kicked him sharp in the ribs, thankful for my platforms and steel toed boots keeping my feet protected from the impact.
I didn’t like to fight unfair fights.
But nothing was fair in love and war.
“YOU’RE PLAYING THE COWARD’S WAR!” I couldn’t help myself from shouting, “NOT EVEN FINISHING A FIGHT YOU START!”
He looked like he was about to speak, until I felt myself suddenly flung to the ground, knocking the wind out of me. A knee held me in place between my shoulderblades. I heard the click of a walky-talky and a woman listing off a few numbers.
At a certain point in my career as a juvenile delinquent (to graduating to just a regular criminal), I had tried to memorize the cop codes in order to know if I was in trouble or not (and usually, I was). Eventually, I just decided they just made up the digits to sound important.
I fucking hated cops.
I felt the all-too familiar feeling of handcuffs on my wrists, then the woman pulling me up.
I turned slightly.
I had seen her a few times before, and she was definitely someone I went out of my way to avoid.
Officer Undyne. The Chief of Police.
I felt heat rush to my cheeks, though I wasn’t sure why. I hated cops, and I hated being handcuffed more, but for some reason, Undyne’s grip on me made my heart do something strange.
Nah. Probably just the Jack.
“C’mon, kid, let’s get outta here,” she said, and escorted me out, tossing me in the back of her car.