She dreamt about the same things most of the time. Her sisters, her mother, her dead, dead father. Her bed was recently empty but she could still feel Champ’s sweaty warmth radiating from her sheets. She kicked him out most nights he tried to stay over, not ever wanting to eat breakfast where they’d be forced to converse about real things; things unrelated to Waverly’s ass and how fuckable she looked in any given outfit.
She was naked and twitchy. She stood slowly, reaching for a pair of shorts. Her phone was lit up, an alarm displaying her annual reminder that Wynonna wasn’t coming home. She rattled off a quick but cutesy 'happy birthday sis! <3 <3' (She’d once flirted with a guy on Tinder who’d apparently clocked her because she ‘typed like a dude’). Waverly picked at a scab on her ankle. Her nipples were sore, bruising from Champ’s desperate mouth. He was still a sweet kid after all these years, and he certainly was into her, but Waverly couldn't ignore the little things he whispered things in bed that made her want to put him through a meat grinder. Champ was low grade, and most people saw it.
Waverly felt a little sick and a little sad as she opened her Revenant Box and shifted through the same files again. Curtis had died and, as usual in this town, it was under mysterious circumstances. Waverly wasn’t the type to go professing her beliefs to any stranger who could get her sent away (like Wynonna), but she couldn't go about her life like the first 21 years hadn’t occurred; that would be crazy. And Waverly was almost positive that she wasn’t, in six years, who knows what she could do.
W***** was six and reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, a stolen book from the school library. A little girl stuck out in the middle of these badlands; brave pioneers fighting off the harsh snows and Indians; strange occurrences and terror that always led the family to love each other even more. She caught a glance of Willa and Wynonna out of the corner of her eye and tightened her shoulders, making herself smaller.
“Where did you get that?” Willa asked loudly, the girl quickly exhaled, exposed.
W***** was six and reading books intended for kids twice her age, this was embarrassing, her sisters let her know that daily. Willa was walking towards her, down the stairs and grabbing the spine of the chapter book.
“Where did you get that from?”
“I got him the book, Willa.” Wynonna piped up; the middle child still on the stairway.
“Didn’t Daddy tell you not to?” Willa didn’t turn her accusatory glance from her younger brother, her fingers crinkling the paper.
“Yeah.” Wynonna shrugged and rolled her eyes, smiling a little, a smile that crept onto W*****’s face contagiously.
“What?” Willa’s glare brought her back to the ground.
“I just- I just wanted to finish the story! It’s a series.” Her voice was small and soft, uniquely androgynous. Willa knew the power she had over her sibling, even Wynonna to a degree and she relished in it. It was that same power that would strike fear into revenants when she turned 27, and her Daddy never let her forget it. Ward encouraged Willa to do what she did, every moment of their lives a training session.
“I’m gonna tell Daddy.”
“He’s gotta learn, Wynonna!” Willa stomped her foot on the ground, turning away. “If all he does is read and ignore his training, what good is he gonna be against the revenants?” Wynonna looked like she had more to say but conceded with deep apologies in her eyes. "This is a girl's book anyways."
“They’re NOT girl's books!” W***** snapped and immediately covered her lips. Yelling at Willa was never the best way out of any situation. Wynonna cringed, Willa smiled.
“You’re dead when Daddy gets home.”
Her fingers were grinding into each other like bison ramming their horns, all that needless aggression coming to nothing.
The girls’ room was like a special hideaway, one of several places in the homestead that W***** was obviously never allowed; deep cuts on the wooden doorway marked out; ‘No Boys Allowed’. Wynonna had done it a year ago and they’d snickered, knowing their brother could read well enough to understand.
W***** could feel the cuts burning every time she walked by the secret place and felt like a germ.
When Ward Earp got home later that day, Willa was so loud in proclaiming her brother’s guilt that she shook the house and emptied a few more dirty secrets that Wynonna had pressed her not to let slip. W***** was lying on her bed (a couch) and plugging her ears but the sound came through just as bright and dismal. Ward came into her room and sat down next to her shaking form, (she hadn’t even realised how hard she was crying). A blessed period of sobriety probably indicated no hitting, but she knew that the drink could make him easier to outwit; he was sharp and focused tonight.
“Are you trying to get her angry with you?” He said after a minute.
W***** shook her head and let out a light, wet sound.
“I- I- wanted to finish the story.”
Ward put his hand on his youngest’s shoulder, she flinched in response.
“You’re coming with us to training tomorrow.” He said, no excitement in his voice, just a sad, low truth. Ward’s voice couldn’t really calm, he often sounded too nervous or drunk to put anyone at ease, but W***** did, for this night anyway, feel her heart surge. She’d never been to Willa's training before, always on the consideration that she was too young and it was too dangerous.
Ward stood up to leave and his weight shifted W***** out of her comfortable position. Bravery on her tongue, she called after him.
“Can I have the book back?”
Ward barely stopped to answer,
“Willa burned it.”
The range was self-made and tenderly ruined. Willa looked older than she was with her gun in hand, Ward had Peacemaker strapped to his thigh.
The shots were hot and fierce and it took all of W*****’s straining to stop herself from covering her ears. She was six and guns still sounded like the end of the world. Willa noticed her struggle and smirked.
Ward brought her up closer, little targets and empty beer cans stood on hay bales and fence posts.
“Do you remember what you need to do? To kill a revenant?” She nodded.
“Shoot ‘em with Peacemaker.”
“Close.” Willa said, “but you have to remember, you can’t just shoot them any old place.” Ward nodded, “It’s gotta be between the eyes.”
“That’s why we do target practice. Your sister has to be able to hit a revenant, or anyone else, square in the face, any day of the week. That’s a kill nobody’s waking up from.”
Willa fired off another round and shattered a bottle into hundreds of tiny shards, the wind blew the sparkling dust over beyond the next hill. Thunderclouds were rolling in and sounded through the ground.
“Daddy?” Ward didn’t look at his her but W***** felt pressed to go on. “Are there any girl revenants?” Willa stuck her eyes on W*****, face tilted in barely visible confusion.
“Sure are. And they’re just as mean as any of the men. Maybe even more so.”
W***** had no sense of what to do with that confirmation, but she felt a bubbling in her stomach as the first drop of water touched her shaved head.
“Daddy says I’m a lot like Peacemaker.” Willa shocked her brother out of what she was drawing. It was later in the evening, Ward was out at Shorty’s and the three kids were all lounging around the house, it was a hot day and W***** had her shirt off, scribbling on the ground. The rain hadn’t stopped the dreadful humidity and there were four fans running as fast as they could, all pointed at the children.
“Why?” W***** responded, Wynonna’s face was smushed into the couch cushion and Willa grinned.
“Cause I’m older than I look and the most important.” The answer seemed rehearsed and W***** wondered how many times her sister had repeated those words to herself. She didn’t doubt her Daddy had said them, maybe several times, and shameful jealousy ran hot through her.
“What kind am I like?” She pressed, and Willa squinted at her brother. She made little humming sounds to demonstrate how hard she was thinking before coming to a response.
“Like... a shotgun.”
W***** glowed and grinned at Willa. She waited for an explanation, but was already inventing reasons in her mind.
a force to be reckoned with, unexpected but useful.
Her patience gave way in the face of curiosity and W***** moved towards the couch Willa was resting on, stopping inches away from her face.
“You’re messy... and unfocused.”
Oh. She shrunk back.
“When you go off, you take everyone else down with you. You put everyone else in danger.”
Her eyes hit the floor and she burned. For just a moment it had almost seemed like Willa had something kind to say. Throwing down the pencil in her hand, she started to march away.
Wynonna seemed to have woken up and let out a small yawn.
“Where’s he going?”
Willa laughed softly. “He’s just being a weirdo.”
Willa’s words made W***** scratch the skin of her arms, Wynonna tried to catch her eye but she was gone, tears sticking to her eyelashes, she stepped out the back door, into the pounding rain. There was silence even with the gallons of water falling from the sky, silence that broke a moment later.
“She shouldn’t talk to you like that.”
The voice was familiar.
“She can do whatever she wants.” W***** shot back, unwilling to accept any kindness into her ears.
“You don’t think that. That’s not fair.”
W***** felt a hand on her shoulder, she grabbed it, invisible and rough. She was breathing heavy as the rain poured down her back and through her shorts, shivering.
“I've always found a shotgun to be quite the weapon.” The voice said plainly, “It doesn’t always look like it can break your heart and settle a storm, but when you hit that trigger;” He whistled, “Woah, baby.” W***** didn’t react. She knew what he was doing, it wasn’t helping. W***** wasn’t strong like her sisters at all, she wasn’t a storm, that was all Willa and Wynonna. She was... a sneeze.
“When you were alive...” The words slipped out of her easy, though she barely recognized them as her own. “Did you ever wanna be a girl?”
There wasn’t an answer at first.
A deep chuckle came from above.
“Please! Just... tell me.”
Bobo paused again, W***** hadn’t ever thought about his home or where he came from at all. Bobo said he was an imaginary friend, a ghost who found special, important people and whispered helpful secrets to them. She would sometimes ask him if she could see what he really looked like but he’d always just laughed and laughed.
She didn’t know if had ever had a life before this one.
“No. Back when I was alive, being a girl was nothing worth wanting.”
W***** cursed herself for asking.
“Do you?” Her eyes were glued to the ground, twisting her bare feet through the mud. Thunder sounded in the distance
“...I...” She didn’t have any sense of how to begin; how easily Willa could wound her by simply reminding how her name sounded; how she hated Daddy shaving her head bald once a month to keep the bugs away; how Wynonna’s little terms of affection made her brain feel like it was being shut down; how badly she wanted to ignore the words carved into the walls and walk right into her sister’s room with no consequences, no more lectures from Daddy; to have it all be gone.
“I don’t know.” Bobo held her hand tightly. “Is that bad?”
“We could do a test.” He said finally. She looked up at the sound, squinting through the drops.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, what would you think if I called you a princess?” The word sounded funny enough in his gruff voice, but applied to her, W***** burst out laughing. She felt a blushing warmth run through her body and land on her cheeks. The cold of the rain slipped away from her.
Bobo cleared his throat.
“You’re a princess.” It worked the second time too. A rush of something went up and down her spine and she giggled.
“Now presenting, W***** Earp, princess of all of Purgatory, fair ruler of the Ghost River Triangle.” W***** was convulsing with laughter, still holding onto the strong arm of her only friend. Her stomach was lit up with a thousand feelings, the primary one being righteousness. Lightning struck the Earth somewhere and W***** felt the fire of it run right up through her. She couldn’t see Bobo, but she imagined that if he had a mouth, it was smiling.
“ I am a princess.” W***** said, her ribs still shaking.
Bobo (surely) nodded. Let Willa be the heir, W***** had something better, something stronger.
“I don’t think I want my name to be W*****.” She said out loud for the first time
“What do you want it to be?”
W***** stopped, totally blissfully happy for the first time since before Momma left.
“I don’t know!” She laughed “But it’s gonna be the best name, better than Willa’s or Wynonna’s or Daddy’s.”
Bobo clapped his hands while she curtsied in her floppy basketball shorts and danced around the backyard, the sky occasionally lighting just one of them against the black of the Purgatory sky.
Two days before the attack on the homestead, she whispered “Waverly” to the backyard and prayed Bobo heard her.
Waverly was eleven and Wynonna was spiraling. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen her sister sober, and the delusions were mounting.
Waverly hadn’t been to school in over two years now, remaining dedicated to the clunky websites Gus had discovered, counting towards her middle school education. ‘It just isn’t safe,’ she’d explained to the protective services that occasionally showed up to check on the children, ‘these kids have been through so much and every child in that God-forsaken school knows it. They’re punching bags.’
Waverly hadn’t been paid any attention really, she was a ‘smart little kid’, but nothing worth clamoring over. She read at lunch and was nice to girls.
Wynonna hadn’t stopped fighting since Daddy and Willa died.
“Can’t you just try?” Gus’ voice was straining, the woman couldn't really yell but she pushed herself to the edge of tears. “Try and see what happens!”
Wynonna was laughing and Waverly wanted badly to cover her ears, she knew that would make Wynonna worry about her and it was the last thing the youngest wanted.
“No one wants me there Gus! If I show up, I promise you someone’s gonna get hurt,” Wynonna’s grin was toothy, gaps loud in their presence from fistfights and a lack dental care, “and it’s not gonna be me! They’re the same kids who got me kicked out in the first place!” Most kids in town whispered about Wynonna, she was a daddy-killer, a monster and a freak who saw demons where regular folk stood. She fought back, didn’t care for changing anybody’s mind, becoming exactly what they always thought she was. Waverly didn't know if Wynonna had a single friend her age; no one had ever come over, Wynonna only went out.
“What kind of example are you for your brother?” Gus whispered, her greyed hands were now flying in Waverly’s direction. Wynonna looked at her and Waverly quickly turned her eyes away, finding a particularly interesting moth circling the lamp next to her.
“No kind.” Waverly could still feel her sister's eyes on her.
She turned the page, Wynonna looked back to Gus.
“He’ll be okay.” She gritted her teeth, bottle shaking in her hands.
“He’s almost as old as you were then, you know? That night?”
“I’m right here, you guys.” Waverly’s voice wasn’t loud but it did pause the two older women, and they stared at the youngest Earp child, heavy sorrow lingering on their faces.
Waverly read the word ‘transexxual’ in a newspaper article in December of that year. She burst into tears and screamed and hid the paper under her bed when Gus came to check on her.
Waverly didn’t ever sneak into Wynonna’s closet while she was out murdering her liver. She never slipped into tight dresses and poorly applied makeup, gazing at dirty mirrors, feeling sick and embarrassed. She thought about it sometimes. She thought about asking Wynonna. But Waverly didn’t dress until she knew she’d be safe and she wasn't safe until Wynonna had already left.
The drugs were easy to order and easier to disguise.
Curtis brought the mail home and Gus had given Waverly some money to spend as she pleased, so it wasn’t odd that there were a few packages here and there. They assumed the unmarked white boxes must have been filled with books. Waverly was fascinated by history, language and American mythos, local history and stuff like that. They didn’t raise her but took partial credit for her being “a prodigy”, as Curtis would sometimes say watching his adopted nephew read on the porch until the sun had no light left to give and she was forced to come inside.
And Waverly did order books. Sometimes.
But her penchant for research led her elsewhere.
She was smart beyond her years, that Curtis was right about, and she knew how to sound like an adult writing an email. She attached Gus’ debit account with little issue and the boxes started to come in. She read about hormone levels and how to track them, pricking her finger with Wynonna's pocketknives. Waverly Earp started medicating at 12.
And of course, she knew that the changes wouldn't start manifesting for a good month or so, but that didn't stop the first pill from being a huge freaking letdown. Yes, regardless of her prior knowledge, Waverly still had those same shreds of idealism. She only wanted something big and wonderful to happen.
But nothing did. Waverly squinted her eyes in the dim light of mid afternoon and rubbed her chest.
Her heart was beating fast and Waverly though of Laura Ingalls Wilder, staring at a local Native chief,face to face.
And the first month and a half did go by, and it did start. It was just blockers at first, though blockers led her to more and more and Gus only sometimes commented on how strange it was that “W***** still looked like such a baby”
Waverly just smiled and shrugged and looked at herself in the mirror with some hope for the first time in a long time.
When Wynonna was put away for the first time, Waverly bit her arms to try and stop herself from crying.
The scariest thing was how relieved she felt.
Waverly was thirteen and finishing her online courses. She was feeling cocky and maybe a little too excited about going back to school. Gus had promised her that Purgatory high would definitely happen. She had high expectations for what real school would be like; real friends and real teachers and real studies. After a few years of roaming around Purgatory with Gus, going grocery shopping and selling tomatoes at the town farmer's market every other Saturday, Waverly could already recognize some of her future classmates.
Wynonna was coming back from the hospital and could maybe even get a job in town now that she wasn’t crazy (The therapists had assured Gus and Curtis their niece was ready for a return to the real world). Waverly had spent all day in Wynonna’s old room, clearing away cobwebs and putting up sparkly glow-in-the-dark stars. She worked her ass off on a card, folding it at just the right angle so that the two ends of the paper met each other seamlessly. Her stomach was full like the first time she’d said her name years ago.
Waverly stopped on her way to the front door, caught by her reflection in the mirror. Her hair was a sort of curly mess, coming just below her shoulders. Curtis had commented on her decision to grow it out after Daddy died once and Wynonna had quickly shut him down.
“Let him grieve. Jesus Christ.”
No one mentioned it again.
Waverly liked putting her hair up in high buns and funny little pigtails. When she was out shopping she would occasionally get called ‘Miss’, ‘she’, ‘honey’, ‘sweetheart’. This made Gus scoff and roll her eyes but Waverly’s heart started beating so fast that she’d sometimes forget to stammer a correction.
Waverly wondered what Wynonna would think now that her hair was longer than ever. Her palms pushed the mess up into a ponytail and tied it delicately. She wondered that if for a few seconds, Wynonna might think she was some random ‘Miss’ too.
Wynonna looked nervous as she walked from the building, she felt shaky as Waverly wrapped her arms around her sister and they both stood together, Waverly gaining on Wynonna’s height advantage.
Wynonna pulled back and looked at her brother, a painful smile on her face.
“Good to see you, kid.”
They all drove home in silence, Waverly leaning hard on Wynonna’s shoulder, her breath not stinking of bad liquor, the sun still hot as it dipped below the landscape.
They fell asleep in the restored bedroom on night one. There hadn’t been much talking, just fingers wrapped around each other and the occasional bad joke and laughter that followed. Waverly couldn’t find it in herself to ask what the hospital had been like.
The next morning, Wynonna was shaking Waverly awake and holding a baggie full of little blue pills in her right hand.
“What are these?”
Waverly was grumbling and wiping her eyes clear of sand, but the minute she got a clear glimpse of what her sister was holding, she lunged for it, wide awake.
Wynonna twisted her hand away and let Waverly fall on her face.
“You can’t be serious.”
“It’s nothing.” Waverly felt a trickle of warm fall from her nose and hit the carpet red. She groaned and reached for the tissue box she had smartly placed on Wynonna’s bedside table yesterday.
“I’m supposed to be the junkie failure. Not you.” Wynonna had no humor in her eyes, and the words may have sounded harsher than she intended them to be.
“I’m NOT a junkie!” Waverly stood up, not looking very assertive with a sticky red napkin to her face. “They’re for... headaches.” Wynonna laughed. “I’m serious! They’re prescribed.”
“Oh yeah, and doctor’s always hand out their medical prescriptions in a plastic baggy.” She shook the bag twice, the pills twitching around, Waverly's eyes following them tightly “Very medically sound.”
“They’re not... I’m not taking anything illegal!” Waverly’s voice was wavering and muddled, “They’re not... recreational or anything.”
Wynonna carefully walked towards her brother, eyes squinted and mouth slightly open. She took Waverly in, from her pupils to her fingernails, and Waverly held her breath and the tissue to her still bleeding nose.
“Does Gus know?”
“You cannot tell her, Wynonna.”
“Then what are they?” Waverly looked down.
Waverly ran through a list of similar looking pills she’d seen in studying. Unfortunately there was only one stuck in her mind and Wynonna was growing impatient. Suddenly, she was already saying her worst possible answer.
“It’s... uh, Viagra?”
Wynonna shoved her, only laughing a little bit.
“Fucking gross, dude.”
Wynonna tossed the bag to Waverly who just barely caught it.
Waverly took a deep breath and watched her sister walk away. She couldn’t tell if Wynonna was still humoring her, or if she had really bought it. Either way, the blood coming out of her nose was nothing compared to bright red of her cheeks and the nervous huff she let out, placing the pills in her pocket.
Wynonna was around, actually around for the first time in awhile. She wasn’t perfect, she was shaky and always flinched in the dark, her eyes big and rapid. However, she wasn’t drunk. She was working at Shorty’s and ordering Waverly pizza on her own dime.
It was very much too good to be true.
“Have you looked at any of the schools?”
Wynonna rolled her eyes.
“That’s not an answer.” Curtis was never unkind to Wynonna but he could be firm. Everyone knew he could eventually run out of support to keep Wynonna from crumbling, that’s why she got sent away in the first place.
“I’m not going to some community college so I can become a better McDonald’s middle manager someday.” Wynonna didn’t mince her words.
Waverly almost said something about there being no shame in it, but she didn’t.
When Waverly found the bundle of cash Wynonna had saved up, she was initially ecstatic.
“There’s no way you made that all at the bar!” Waverly said, keeping a tight leash on the volume of her voice. Wynonna didn’t look at her. Curtis and Gus were out for the whole week. Something about picking up specially modified artichokes and them only being available in Wisconsin.
“You’re going through my stuff now?”
“Guess I’m taking after you after all.” Waverly shot back. That one stung, Wynonna marched towards her brother, one hand out, and shoved her into the wall. Waverly felt stinging run through her chest, she had just upped her dosage and the effects were coming through loud and clear. It was getting harder and harder to hide what was obvious. Waverly didn’t want to have to bind but she couldn’t wear half her t-shirts anymore and the summer was too miserably for sweaters.
The money was wrapped up in a carry-on suitcase under her bed, filled with a few dozen assorted shirts and jean shorts Wynonna had never finished unpacking.
“Tell me you didn’t, Wynonna.” Waverly felt the tears overflow her eyelids. “They’re family.”
“That didn’t stop you, Mr. Viagra.” Waverly bit her lip hard and Wynonna grinned at the victory. “Besides, I need it more than they do!”
“What do you mean?” Waverly stopped herself and looked at the empty closet.
A sick feeling hit the bottom of her stomach.
Wynonna didn’t react.
Waverly let out a shaky breath, thick with tears.
“Where are you going to go?!”
Wynonna walked out the door, grabbing the bag and jumping down the stairs, her boots making the house shake. “Don’t you have a plan?” Waverly followed her down the stairs and into Gus’ kitchen. Her fingers were grasping at walls, looking for ways to steady herself. Wynonna had her face in the pantry, filling her bag with whatever Gus had bought to last them the week.
“Nope. I have a plane ticket.” She was shoving a box Ritz crackers in the bag. Waverly tried to grab her, get her attention somehow.
“You have a life here, Wynonna!” Her sister set a jar of peanut butter down hard on the counter, Waverly let out a small yelp.
“What the fuck do you care, W*****?”
Waverly steeled herself.
“It’s not your life.” Wynonna continued, they were looking at each other now.
“Don’t call me that.”
The words weren’t real as she was saying them. This was a dream she’d had many times before; telling Wynonna. Wynonna’s eyes were lost in confusion only for a second before refocusing.
Waverly’s dreams had never lasted this long.
“What do you mean?”
The air was hot even with so many air conditioners blowing. When Waverly thought hard about telling people, she imagined a couple of scenarios. She could see Curtis and Gus being horrified at first, but mainly just worried. They’d want her to see a doctor or a therapist or something and let him (it was always a man) sort it out. Waverly wouldn’t blame them, whatever their reaction was. They didn’t sign up for this, any of it, and she wouldn’t want them to be kept up at night with one extra worry. If their minds could rest easy about Waverly, she felt that she was doing an okay job. She could even imagine Daddy laughing and untangling her hair, making some comment like, 'I always knew I was surrounded by girls'. With Wynonna though, she never really knew. Waverly knew she missed Willa, and sometimes Daddy. Maybe she wouldn’t mind having a sister again. Waverly had a fantasy where Wynonna scooped her up and held her close and bought her a dress and a knife to keep safe, whispering secrets about guys and nail polish.
But her fantasies hardly ever came true.
“I’m a girl.”
The two remaining Earp sisters looked at each other with varying degrees of pity and regret. Wynonna's eyes were stones. Waverly’s arms itched to be touched and she felt herself reach out for Wynonna’s hand.
Wynonna dodged her, grabbing the food items still on the counter and walking towards the front door. She stopped before taking another look at Waverly with far too much going on in her eyes to decipher easily.
“Good luck with that.”
The door shut and Waverly hit her head with balled fists and howled.
It was brief with Curtis actually. He sat on the bed as she wept and wept, pushing her head into the space between his shoulder and collarbone. Occasionally, he would say little things like, ‘I love you so’ and ‘It’ll be alright’.
“I still wanna go to school.” She felt him freeze up, his hands no longer running through the tangle of her hair. “Please.”
He sighed and Waverly wondered what his face looked like.
“They’ll be cruel to you.”
“Not if they don’t know.”
Curtis wasn’t a progressive man by any great means. He kept up with the news on the radio and scoffed at politicians far too out of touch to help his little farm. However, he remembered the time two men had come through Purgatory, looking for a home, a stretch of land not too far from the Earp land. Must have been ten or fifteen years ago now. The taller was in real estate and the shorter a farmer, like Curtis. He had been kind to them, given them fresh veggies as a welcoming gift and turned his ears away as the talk spread in Shorty’s. The men shouting and the ladies whispering.
They hadn’t been run out of town, but the tension grew too great. Curtis remembered seeing them load box after box into the back of a truck. He waved a sad smile as he drove by.
They stared back at him, not angry or spiteful, maybe tired.
He hadn’t done anything. And then they were gone.
Now, his... little girl. This poor child who had lost her family, who had no right to smile as wide as she did at another round of school supplies showing up in their mailbox, who had to be told to stop reading historical nonfiction at 3am. That sweet thing was asking her a favor. And Curtis may not have been a great fighter, but for... for Waverly, he could pick up his shield.
“I’ll talk to the school distract tonight," He felt her tighten in his arms, "but you have to talk to Gus before tomorrow."
She nodded and scrambled away, looking happier than he had seen her since Ward died.
Curtis satisfied an itch on his arm, the mosquitos taking great advantage of his short sleeves and tangled beard.
When he came into their room later that evening, Gus was sitting up, staring at the wall opposite her. She knew.
“I’m scared for him.”
“But he seems insistent.”
Curtis pulled his jeans down and pulled off the Grateful Dead tee. He’d had the shirt for almost thirty years now. It felt heavy even as the fabric dissolved between his fingers.
“I can take him shopping tomorrow.”
“She.” Curtis stated.
Gus shot him a look and Curtis sighed.
“Well, we might as well get used to it.”
She touched his arm and rubbed her eyes, tears falling intermittently.
The lights didn't go off but they both drifted in and out of sleep, like they were keeping watch against some mysterious predator in the heat of a jungle.
Waverly Earp was fourteen and Gus braided her hair for her first day at Purgatory high. She had stayed up all night choosing the clothes that had to make a perfect impression.
A cute pair of jean shorts and flowy top, touches of makeup here and there.
No one cried but Gus’ hug lasted long and Curtis was careful not to disturb the elegant handiwork of his wife. Both were firmly less nervous as they saw Waverly’s broad smile return. She looked good.
Waverly was dancing inside herself, nerves and freedom washing through her fingertips as they got in Curtis’ pickup. It wasn’t like she didn’t have cause to be anxious, but she had done her part; passed all placement exams; passed in front teachers (everyone remarking on how they only recalled there being two Earp girls before being cooly corrected by Curtis); and promised her aunt and uncle to come straight home if anything went south.
But now, the real test was here.
“You’re an Earp.”
Waverly looked up from her book (she had been sneaking glances of the people around her, establishing relationships and rules), there was a pretty blonde girl in front of her. She was taller than Waverly and looked at her with grave and curious eyes. Waverly nodded.
“People are talking about you.”
Waverly’s fingers dug into the paper.
Waverly took a deep breath, her pariah of a sister saving her ass once again, even whilst she was living God knows where.
The girl sat down next to Waverly, looking at the spine of her book. She turned back to Waverly with her eyebrows raised. Waverly shrugged.
“I’m Chrissy Nedley.”
“Oh,” Waverly connected the dots in her head, “as in Sheriff Nedley?” Chrissy nodded and gestured to Waverly’s pile of grapes, Waverly nodded and her friend (?) took the biggest one and placed it on her tongue.
“You a freshmen?” Waverly nodded, “You wanna come sit with me?” Chrissy gestured to a pod of girls sitting at the furthest table. Someone had just told a really funny joke as everyone was laughing their prettiest laugh.
Waverly smiled at the invitation, her heart beating fast again, and stood up.
When they arrived, Chrissy quieted the table with her presence and Waverly took the chance to look at everyone. Most of the girls were wearing a lot of makeup, thick eyeliner and sticky lipgloss. It made Waverly wonder if she should have been wearing more, (she’d try some stuff tonight) now worrying if anyone was questioning her place at the table.
“This is Waverly Earp.” Some gasps broke across the table. A girl grabbed Waverly by the arm.
“I’m so sorry about your sister.”
The other girls nodded, Waverly didn’t know what to say.
“It’s... thank you”
“Are you still living in that murder house?”
Waverly shook her head and tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
“I live with my aunt and uncle.” Everyone had questions on their tongue, is it true what Wynonna did?; Is she locked away in some insane asylum?; Do you believe in demons too? Waverly’s head was aching and there were still thirty minutes left in the lunch period.
“Hey! Hey! Jesus, ladies, you’re gonna make her head explode.” Some voice came from behind her. She turned and was face to face with a smiling set of white, white teeth. “And blowing this pretty little head up would be a true tragedy for the first day a’ school.”
Every girl in the vicinty giggled. Waverly was bright red.
“It’s Champ.” He put his hand out, “Sorry, but we don’t get many newcomers in Purgatory, ‘specially not ones as pretty as you.” Waverly nearly choked on her own embarrassment and felt a different kind of nerves then the ones she’d had all day. She took Champ’s hand in her own and shook, gingerly.
“Good to meet you, Waverly.” He started away, clutching a bagged lunch and a football under his shoulder, “I’ll be seeing you.”
Waverly trailed him with her eyes until he’d smacked his hand on the top of the door frame, exiting the cafeteria. She turned back to the table and every girl was staring at her with newfound respect and disbelief.
“Holy shit.” One girl said, others nodding in agreement.
Waverly took a seat and shrugged, “I have no clue.” Her smile saying otherwise.
That weekend, Waverly was invited to a sleepover with Chrissy and a few other girls. Waverly was a little surprised but Chrissy quickly brushed away her insecurities.
“I like you. You’re pretty and mysterious.” Chrissy was always blunt and emotionally absent. She was ‘cool without trying’ but always trying very hard, red lips clinging onto cigarettes. Waverly found the whole thing hard to explain. “Plus you have the whole Champ thing going.”
Ah, the Champ thing.
He hadn’t left Waverly alone since that first lunch, not that she was complaining. He was dumb and flirty and continually shocked by Waverly.
“I’ve never met any girl as smart as you.” He whispered as she claimed her third correct conjugation of the day in the Spanish 1 course they shared.
“But plenty of boys.” She teased back.
Champ grinned, “Nah. You could take Einstein down a peg I’m pretty sure.”
“Señor Hardy, Señorita Earp?” Waverly flushed and Champ rolled his eyes. A peal of laughter rolled through the class, everyone in Purgatory had heard about the two by now.
So Waverly Earp had some non-murder related fame on campus, she didn’t mind people’s whispers quite as much now that she knew what they were whispering about. And she even found herself relishing in the jealous glances girls gave her as she walked through the halls, tall blonde boy beside her.
“I bet you do this with all the new girls.” She was becoming more and more comfortable flirting right back to him, and he loved it.
Champ shook his head, grinning wildly.
“Only you, Waverly Earp, only you.”
Waverly was funny. The girls around her were laughing. Chrissy was laughing.
Wynonna being a smartass was good for something after all.
No one thought it was strange when she wanted to change alone. No one gave it a second thought. Waverly couldn’t stop smiling even as she brushed her teeth and the spit leaked onto the floor.
They teased her about Champ and did her makeup (she could do better). They passed around Mike’s Hard and barely got buzzed. Waverly had grown up with a drink or two, Wynonna was her sister after all, so watching the bouncy group of freshmen girls pretend to get wasted was perhaps the funniest thing she’d ever seen.
Waverly didn’t smoke ‘cause it made her voice gravely, but she could taste the acid in the air.
Champ asked her to Homecoming and she pouted for a minute.
“What no flowers?”
He laughed and kissed her.
When Champ stuck his tongue in her mouth, she was careful. She made it out as ‘playing hard to get’, but she was nervous. Champ made her feel incredible, but never safe.
At Homecoming, his football friends (junior varsity) laughed at them and he shot them funny faces. They danced a little and got very drunk and Waverly could feel the situation spinning away from her as they sat in his car.
“This is a bad idea...” Her arms historically weak as he laid kiss after kiss on her neck and shoulders.
“Babe... this is the best idea.” He looked up at her and then down at his straining pants, “You can’t leave me hanging.”
Part of her just wanted to do it, but the other half was worried that if she did, he might want more and more; way more than she could feasibly supply.
But he begged and moaned and she gave in, easy.
They were pressed awkwardly against each other as she unbuttoned and unzipped. She had obviously seen porn before, she wasn’t a child. She was fourteen damnit.
It didn’t feel great, but it wasn’t really supposed to, right?