one hundred steps from here to there
by not jenny

Lungs burning, muscles on fire, she focuses on her reasons for doing this.

One: her mother.
Two: her father.

There is no three. Or, maybe there is, but she can't quite put her finger on it.

Three more miles to go. Three more miles and she can head back home, stretch the pavement out of her shins, and collapse into a hot bath. With bubbles. She's definitely earned bubbles today.

(Prepping for the entrance exam, she refused to even contemplate not being accepted into the academy. It just wasn't an option, rejection, and believing so helped her to ignore the sharp sting of self-doubt she's lived with all her life.)

Three: justice?

(It's the answer she gives, at any rate, when asked why she wants to be a cop.

The answer she gave to every disappointed high school teacher, to every professor who looked at her like she was throwing her life away. And when they suggested, subtly intimating that she was too smart for the NYPD, that she go to law school, she was ready with a quip and a lawyer joke and, should those fail, a sharp look.

So, yes, justice is a part of it.)

Four: retribution.

But she doesn't like to think about that.

Instead, she focuses on her stride; one leg in front of the other, she corrects her form. It's become sloppy, broken, and she chides herself for slipping into meaningless daydreaming. Her hair sticks to the back of her neck where it's fallen out of her ponytail and she contemplates, not for the first time, shaving it all off. She won't, of course, but. It's a thought.

She counts the steps it takes to run one block. Two. She concentrates on the feeling of cutting through the air, displacing the molecules and creating a wave of them in her wake. She slows as she nears her apartment building.

Five: safety.

The neighborhood's not the worst she's lived in, not by a long shot, but she knows enough not to let down her guard. "Grow eyes in the back of your head," she can hear her mother say, "and never, ever, let them see your fear." She never had to ask who "they" were.

It hurts to breathe, and she worries that someone will realize she's not cut out for this. That she's nothing but a fake. A scared little girl playing dress-up in leather and denim.

(In her cadet's greys, riding the subway to Third Ave before sunrise.)

A sudden stabbing in her side, and she reaches over her head, twisting her muscles into submission. Stretching out her abused limbs on the stoop of her building, she monitors her breathing (in, out, in, out) and studies the bodega across the street.

Three balding men stand on the corner, smoking and talking about (she imagines) days gone by. There's a gunshot in the distance, and they don't even flinch. Just continue their conversation as if nothing happened.

She really wants a cigarette.

Six: she quit smoking.

(Which isn't a valid reason for applying to the police academy at all.)


She's heard stories, filtered down through various friends of friends, about the way the academy treats its women cadets. Something about chewing and spitting and, really, she stopped listening after that.

She takes the stairs at a leisurely pace, stopping between the fourth and fifth floors to talk to Mrs. Hernandez from 6B. Her son just earned his shield and is, according to Sebora Hernandez, the best detective in vice; he is also, unsurprisingly, unmarried and "perfect for you, Senorita Benson." Olivia has perfected the art of smiling, nodding, and deftly avoiding any sort of answer.

"See you later, chica. Keep safe."

Eight: Senora Hernandez.

Her head is pounding. Her breath has finally evened out.

She is not afraid. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of her life.

Nine: the future.
Ten: the present.
Eleven: the past.

She does one hundred stomach crunches before bed.

Her muscles burn, and she dreams of fire.


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