Under The Anvil Of The Sun
by cheebs!

Tru picks one foot up, puts it down in front of the other. Repeats with the opposite until she can't feel it anymore; can't feel anything anymore.

But she does. Feel, that is. Seems like that's all she does, like she's a scraped knuckle that won't heal, constantly trying but cracking under the stress of everyday use and raw - so raw that she wants to scream.

Sense prevails. Screaming would attract attention, and that's the last thing she wants.

So she runs faster. Tries to lose herself in the rhythmic slapslapslapping of rubber on asphalt.

In the hottest part of summer afternoons, The City is almost a different world, inhabited mainly by deliverymen and the occasional tourist cursing the high humidity. No one watches her. No one cares as she runs past, sweat and the occasional tear streaming down her face.

Passing a deli, she crashes into a man-shaped blur and something cold splashes on her, drenching her torso and arm: a welcome distraction. He looks at her for a moment - heaven forfend that anyone in The City should notice a stranger for longer - and decides to let it pass, going back into the store, presumably for another cup.

She laughs, a breathless, hollow bark that sums up the inanity of the situation. She doesn't know if he's still looking at her, nor does she care. She's out here to run. To escape. Something she thinks she heard in an 80's song flashes through her head, about leaving the pain and sadness behind.

She wonders how fast she'll have to run to manage that.

She's pushing just a little harder than usual today and her legs are starting to let her know, the muscles twinging in time with her stride. She knows that once she stops, they'll cramp up so painfully she'll never make it home.

Just a few more blocks, she tells herself. A few more and she'll be home.

Except it hasn't been home since she died. Not really.

Maybe she'll keep going, she thinks. Another block to the subway, and her unlimited MetroCard is tucked into her Discman case. Easy enough to head up to one of the busier stations and sell rides until someone narcs, then dash and go on to the next station. She could easily make enough to disappear before Daddy (whose name she sneers in her thoughts) even notices she's gone, much less reports it to the police. And once she's gone...well, there are ways for a fifteen-almost-sixteen-year-old girl to make money, even if they're not optimal. Not like home is much better right now, with Mer away at school and Harri's constant grabbiness. If he wasn't her brother, she'd think he was looking to get into her pants.

If he wasn't her brother, she'd probably let him in spite of his being a scrawny runt; that's the fucked-up part of it.

She flashes back to a trashy novel Candace lent her about Appalachian incest, and briefly wonders what he'd be like. He certainly couldn't be any worse than her last boyfriend, who was done so fast she barely had time to register pain, and who never spoke to her again but told his boys in great detail how good it was, how tight she was and how she cried a little but didn't scream or bleed and how much she liked it.

(Almost all lies, of course. She cried a lot, for too many reasons to even sort out. She did bleed, though not like a freshly-deflowered virgin in a smutty romance novel; just a little trickle where she'd torn, which stung for days every time she showered or peed. And she screamed for weeks, inside her head, every time she saw his smirking, knowing face.)

(Liked it? Ha.)

Her thoughts elsewhere, the next few blocks fly by without incident and she's at the subway now, slowing for the stairs. Her chest burns, in fierce competition with her calf muscles to see which can bring her more pain. She pauses, alternately gulping air and panting, knowing she'll be one giant cramp in no time flat but needing the respite before attempting the descent. She's far too hot and the subway in summer is sweltering.

As if sensing her need, the sky unleashes a sunshower that feels like ice on her fevered flesh. She shivers and turns her face up. After a moment her mouth falls open to catch the large drops as she did as a child. She muses silently about how much simpler life was then.

The storm is over as quickly as it began, but there's still water trickling down her face. She shakes her hands once, twice, then wipes her cheeks and pushes her hair back. It still comes.

It takes her a moment to realise she's crying. Soon enough it turns to an all-out fit, complete with dropping to her knees in what she once would've called a melodramatic moment...before her world fell apart with an earsplitting pop and a spray of blood, that is. It flashes through her mind myriad times in a split second, unbidden; unwanted but there all the same. She shatters, screaming without sound.

Later she'll be glad no one was around to see. Now, though, all she can think about is how hard the last four years have been without her. She curls in on herself, the scream finally finding voice and turning into a high-pitched wail that echoes wildly in the subway enclosure, becoming something terribly lost and lonely, almost otherworldly.

It's the first chance she's had to cry since it happened. Shock, they called it; they didn't know she was being strong because it's what she always did.

She wasn't there anymore.

Someone had to take her place.

Like the sunshower, the internal storm passes quickly. She turns onto her back and lies there a minute longer, letting the pavement's warmth seep into her and relax her aching, abused muscles. She wills her mind to do the same and glances about almost-frantically for something - anything -

- there: sparrows, perching on the fire escape above and to the right a bit. They'll do. She'll watch them for a while, zone out, then go back to the family she's desperately trying to hold together.

Just for a little while....


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