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June Bug

Chapter 1

I was a sucker for tears. And my mother knew it. Every time I would head off enough steam to finally confront her, make her see how she was destroying herself and ruining everything, she would cry and I would feel about two inches tall as well as four years old. When I was young we had lived in a ratty old apartment on Hastings, where sirens could be heard throughout the whole night, non-stop and occasionally gunshots. My mother would come home with her angluar face tear stained from all of the stress and pressure, and even then I was a sucker.

I would sidle up next to her, quietly pull off her shoes, take down her hair, drag a blanket over her and give her a hug, rocking her back and forth, as if she was the child and I was the parent. But that was my mother and me, her plying for my sympathy and I being the sucker I am, giving in.
"Delly, please...I know," my mother paused and let out a tortured sob, then buried her face in her hands. I was helpless. I was a monster. I immediately walked towards her and sat beside her, then, enfolded her into my arms.

"Shhh...," I soothed, rubbing her back in a comforting gesture. "It's alright, Jenny." I brushed her hair back from her forehead and we sat like that for a few moments, until she finally pulled away and gave me a weak smile.

"I'm sorry, honeybug," she said, using her nickname for me and wiping her tears away with the back of her hand, sniffling all the while. "It's just's the stress..." I nodded and she stood. "Get some sleep, alright?" She patted my shoulder companiably and left the room, leaving me in the darkness and my thoughts.
I hated myself. I hated that I was weak. "She's faking it, you know," I told myself, although I already knew.

 "Why do you believe her then?" That was a question I couldn't answer, because I just plainly did not know. I sighed and slowly got up off the couch. Jenny was probably asleep by now. I knew her night ritual by heart. She fell asleep in her clothes, on top of the covers. I would usually come in and tuck her in. This time I didn't. I instead trudged down the narrow hallway to my room and fell onto the bed staring up at the ceiling.

And I found myself wondering about where the man who sired me was. The man I was supposed to call my father. Jenny never liked to talk about him, and whenever I brought him up, she would quickly change the subject. I knew it hurt her to talk about him, but I knew that I needed to know, needed to know why he wasn't here at home with us, why he wasn't sitting on the armchair in front of the TV and chugging down beer, and watching Monday Night Football like all the other old guys I knew. Or maybe he was the quiet bookish type, sort of like me, his nose encased in the dusty pages of Edgar Allan Poe's musings. Whatever he was, I didn't know and I kept thinking of how it might have turned out if things were different.

The door creaked open, but I wasn't afraid; I knew who it was. "Come up, Callie," I said, thumping my hand on the bed and minutes later I was joined by a furry, feisty feline. She licked my fingers, and I knew she wanted my attention. I didn't know why I had even taken Callie in or how I had convinced Jenny that I was responsible enough to take care of her. Callie was a scruffy thing, mostly ugly, but the minute I had laid my eyes on her I had thought the word : beautiful. I scratched that place behind her ears and she purred softly, then curled up at my side. I could hear her still purring as she fell into a deep kitty sleep. I smiled, stroking her fur, finding comfort in the familiarity.

"'Night," I whispered sleepily, my hand falling still, and my body becoming lax. I was finally asleep.

"Jenny, Jenny...wake up," I shook the form lying on the bed. She didn't move. I sighed, rolling my eyes and flipping my hair out of my face. I moved to the other side of the bed and tried again. Jenny was being uncooperative this morning, but it wasn't unusual for her to sleep like the dead. "Dammit, Jenny. You're going to be late for work." She still didn't seem to care, but turned away, mumbling something that sounded suspiciously like "honeybug". I smiled at her. It was hard to be mad at her, and the fact that I was a sucker for tears didn't help much either.

I walked into the adjoining bathroom, grabbing a bucket from yesterday's use and filling it up with water. It was the only way. When it was completely filled, I carried it to the bed, smiling lovingly at Jenny's sleeping form. Then I heaved the bucket forward, watching in sickeningly good humour, at the point where the cold water had excited a reaction out of her.

"What the...?!" She sat erect and started looking blindly around her, her eyes unfocused, until they landed on me. "That was a dirty trick, Delly," she said angrily, wiping water almost brutally from her face. "Don't ever do it again."

"I snorted, "Yeah right. How else was I supposed to wake you up?"
Jenny was glaring at me, "How about continued persistence? Ever heard of that?" I shrugged.
"It wouldn't have turned out to be as fun as this," I grinned at her, pulling a tiny smile from her, even though she tried to hide it.

"Still," Jenny said, getting out of bed and walking towards the bathroom. "It wasn't a very nice thing to do, Delly. I hope you don't treat your friends like this, too." Jenny was always more perkier and smarter in the mornings, but she slowed down in the afternoons and evenings until she was a crying puddle of hopelessness. I hated that about her. I rolled my eyes and left the room without answering.

Fifteen minutes later, Jenny was ready to go to her waitressing job at the Diner. I didn't look at her, but stared at the frootloops turning soggy in my milk. She gave my shoulder a squeeze and I felt the courage seep back into me. I knew that the dreaded task ahead of me wasn't something I would enjoy doing.

"Jenny," I started, waiting for her attention to turn back to me. When it did, I continued, "I'm not going to agree with the drugs thing. If I catch you smoking pot, I'm going to have to report you." I cringed, hating how I sounded, like one of those TV moms. "I'm going to have to report you"? Where did I come up with this stuff? Jenny's face went pale and I knew she was going to try to cry her way out of this one as she had last night.

"I'm serious. You could get fired. Then where would we be? I mean, you can't depend on your slimy boyfriend to provide for us after. He'll leave as soon as the cash stops flowing. We haven't even payed the rent money yet." Jenny said nothing, but her lower lip quivered in a warning I should have heeded. I didn't. I raked my fingers through my brown hair, scowling. "Dammit, Jenny. Don't you care that we might end up on the streets again? We've worked so hard to get where we are. Do you want to throw it all away just like that?" I was yelling by now, so worked up, I could feel my eyes burning in tears I wouldn't shed. I had never gotten this frustrated before.

I didn't want to live under a tarp on Hastings again. We had just narrowly escaped that fate before we died out there. I didn't want to have to deal with it again. Jenny turned on the water works then. She fell onto a kitchen chair, weeping. "I'm sorry, Delly....I'm s-so s-s-sorry..." she blubbered, but this time, the first time in all of my sixteen years of life, I didn't give in. I stood there, emotionless.

"If you were really sorry," I said quietly, wanting to despise Jenny for such an underhanded trick, but unable to find the hate. "You would stop." I stalked out of the house then, slamming the door behind me, but hearing it swing open.

"Where are you going, Delly?" I heard Jenny's panicked cry. I almost laughed. Served her right for thinking I was running away. I should, but no matter what, I knew I couldn't leave Jenny alone like that. It would be like leaving a baby on the railway tracks. Helpless, ignorant, afraid. It would be a cruel punishment.

"I'm going to school!" I called over my shoulder. "Do anything for all I care! Go see your slimy boyfriend! Go snort something! Just leave me alone!" And I strode down the hall, never once looking back. The last time I ever saw Jenny, before she was hit by the bus that comes by the diner, after crossing the street without looking. Bang. Dead. Just like that.

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