Fallout Of The Past
by Oro

The summer before you left, all the neighborhood kittens were poisoned. You could walk down the street and spot furry little dead bodies curling up against walls. It was like living in a ghost town for a week, until the summer rain came down and washed the streets clean, and maybe someone took care of the cadavers by then. Everything smelled fresh and no one remembered the kittens, no one but you and a few little girls who mourned the loss of friends but then got puppies to fill those amendable little holes in their lives. The rain didn't stop all summer and lasted into a cool autumn, and you still walked outside without an umbrella; your clothes, soaking wet.

It wasn't long until the wind dried your hair and your socks in the car you borrowed from your daddy, who wasn't your real father but just a guy who married your mom and never did get his car back. You poured beer down your throat and the desire to see what was on the other side of the black road kept your adrenaline running. The sky burned with red and purple as you drove into the maroon, a sixteen year old on a permit with a fake driver's license tucked into the back pocket of your blue jeans.

The road was dark and emptier than you remembered. It didn't take much for you to feel lonely, so you turned the music on and up and in full volume so that the whole world would hear and know and notice you. You shifted a gear and moved faster, car cutting through the air, and the world spun around you at a dazzling velocity.


You stared at the ceiling, embarrassed of the girl you used to be, frightened of the one growing inside of you. You put your hands over your belly (You'd already started showing, and he'd already started telling all of his friends; cocaine had already started to seem like a distant memory). He came into the room to fuck you and you spread your legs wide open. He wasn't like your first, and you really thought he would be your last.

There weren't words of affection with Eddie. He never said, "I love you" during sex, because maybe he didn't, so you never said it, either. You said everything in moans and harder, harder, harder baby, and that was all he needed to know about you. He pushed harder and sweat trickled from his forehead down to his nose and between your breasts. You just had to lay there and watch, your sex hurting and the need to vomit carefully quenched away.

Sometimes it helped to pretend that the pain belonged to someone else; his hands on another girl's breasts, his baby growing in somebody else's womb. When he came in you, it was painfully clear that the pain was your own. Half of his genes mixed with half of yours and the mysterious thing you've created danced inside of you. You wondered if she could hear it all, afraid she might pick up on something you refused to understand.


Like children solving puzzles; that was Gil's usual metaphor. He tried to piece you back together after Eddie died, tried to recover all of your missing pieces with the touch of his hand or the intense, focused way he looked at you. Grissom knew how to deal with things that were broken and needed to be glued together. He knew how to fill missing spots with his tongue and his teeth. You knew how to break him apart with your curse words and tear him down with your nails.

You made it work, somehow, caffeine-induced sex and emotional problems scattered all over the place, your own bad decisions buzzing in your ears like mosquitoes under the hot desert sun. He licked your wounds cold in the sticky Las Vegas nights. Sometimes, that just made everything better. It wasn't something you tried to take slowly because it was never a proper relationship, more like fucked up; desperate sex you both convinced yourself had more meaning than it should have. Sometimes, there was a certain way the light reflected in his eyes that made it seem like he did feel so much. Then again, it could've been just a sophisticated sort of desert illusion.

You cried salt into his bare chest, always a little maliciously happy if it burnt his skin where your teeth marked him yours.


You lay in your hospital bed, pumping your breast for milk. Your daughter drank powder. You couldn't take the risk, and you felt like the worst mother in the world, a former stripper with a cocaine habit. There were flowers and balloons and cards from colleagues in various parts of the room, and the light streamed from the window to shine on your sadness. You sang a lullaby to no one in particular.

The emptiness inside threatened to swallow you whole, and you wondered who would notice if you disappeared. You'd done it once. A phone call to your mother after you'd given birth was a sharp reminder of that, the tears in your mom's voice as she told you not to call this house anymore. You remembered vaguely as she said that how she used to say the same thing to telemarketers in a small, apologetic voice.

Her bruises had never healed and neither had yours. You looked at your arm. The blue was dimly changing to brown where Eddie had gripped you just the week before. You were everything you wanted to get away from, another dying kitten on the side of the road in the cold, cold rain. A million puppies already began to stretch in a long line for Eddie, long before you were really gone, young women who wore short skirts in spite of the cold weather.

You clung on by your fingers, blood and dirt underneath your nails.


There was a dead body on the strip and you were lactating all over your green sweater. "Shit," you muttered, hoping he won't notice. He sent a glance in your direction, but quickly averted it back, thankfully. (Silk, silk, silk, what does a cow drink? rang familiar in your mind as you were busy not looking directly at him.) "Grissom, I think you should go out without me," you said eventually, sighing. You shouldn't have come back to work so early; you shouldn't have left your baby with a sitter. You should have taken an extra shirt with you, that's for sure.

"No, I can wait," he said quietly, kindly, eyes still searching the purple skies for something nonexistent. You were grateful for the gesture. You hated your body for being a burden, for slowing you down when you wanted to go faster and faster, fast enough so that he couldn't see the tears running down your cheeks.

("Shit, Grissom, could you hand me some of that Kleenex?")

Maybe you needed to adjust.


The rain followed you to Seattle, the color of your stepfather's red car contrasting with your blue breath and cold fingers. Winter always got you down, and it was approaching in giant steps. You waited for Tom as the rain turned to snow. He never came, only called to say he broke up with you. "Fucking bastard," you muttered, hanging up the phone and counting loose change, your fingers already itching to reach into your bag and have a decent smoke in the cool air. It was a nervous habit you picked up halfway there, in between the wind and the angry chick rock that bled into your ears and trickled from your lips.

You found a cigarette and lit it, using four numb fingers to protect the blue flame from a windy, untimely death. Murder by wind; you wished it could happen to you, right there and then. You just weren't that lucky. Tom and his fucking promises, Tom and his fucking pretty lips, Tom and his fucking hot new girlfriend, Georgia. Tom and his fucking. Fucking Tom. You took a long drag that settled in your lungs for way too long before you remembered to breathe again. You exhaled grey smoke and the wind took it away.

You went back into the café and broke a glass. It shattered, spilling black coffee all over the floor, black liquid filling the cracks between the black and white tiles. It spattered on your shoes and your stockings and the hem of your skirt. For eight and a half seconds you just stood there, watching; the world's biggest loser in a stained skirt and nowhere to go.


Underneath your bruised fingers was the lab equipment. Smooth metal tools that made death something you could analyze, but never something you could deal with. You'd told Grissom and the others that you were clumsy and closed the car door on your fingers. They'd pretended to believe that story, or maybe they really did. You felt particularly close to the dead bodies that day, saw yourself in blue lips and slit throats.

It wasn't anything unusual for you, but sometimes longing replaced fear, with the bitter thoughts of everything-would-be-easier and everything-would-stop. You knew it was wrong; you bit your tongue and tasted blood. Careful what you wish for, Catherine Willows, you just might get it, danger whispered in your ear in a condescending tone of voice.

They may have pretended to believe you, but Grissom didn't even try. His look was the most disappointed one you had ever gotten from anyone, and you sunk inside yourself for still being a sucker for Eddie's lies. "What?" you asked defensively.

"Nothing," he answered.


They said that coke, like punk rock, was the "in" thing, so you made it a habit to listen to the Sex Pistols while snorting white crystalline up your nose; up, up, up and into your brain. There were times you weren't sure if it was the air that got clearer or your sinuses, like there was no effort in breathing. Oxygen moved cool and quick, in and out of your lungs as if it wasn't there at all. Breathe in, breathe out; if you didn't know there was so much of that air, you would've felt it was a waste to ever let it out. Your glazed eyes seemed to catch even the smallest detail. You could see dust shimmering in sunlight in full colors, and not just see the dust but smell it and taste it. You could entrance yourself with it for hours, but you often avoided that. There were always the other things that needed to get done.

There were always the other things.

Always the other things.

There were the other things, and then the inevitable fall. White gets dirty faster and easier than any of the other colors, and powder vanishes with a single blow. The air got your lungs tighter, heavier, air heavy and your entire body followed. Details seemed to escape you, and the world crashed on your bare body, crushing you into quarter-sized pieces. You needed more, more, so you took the straw and created one, two lines; inhaling, as hard as you could. Your eyes rolled back as you did, closing. Your nose never used to bleed, not any of the other times. Cylinders emptying, mind emptying, world black behind your eyelids and the floor, painful, under your head.

Foam on the carpet, blood on the carpet.


Your little girl, tiny, with soft little hands and five little child fingers holding your adult thumb; you cried together. You couldn't be a mother if you'd never been a child, couldn't take care of someone else if you still hadn't learned to take care of yourself. Her face was pale when she cried, eyes shut and eyelashes wet; little Lindsey between your palms, like you after a bad trip or a bad day. Your genes mixed with Eddie's into the smallest, saltiest tears you'd ever seen; salt on your hands and your wrists, burning your bruises.

He called you 'honey' whenever you fought, with an emphasis, as if that was supposed to make everything fucking better. The baby hasn't stopped crying since you brought her home, except when you held her or when she slept, and he blamed you. Blue bruises turned brown like leaves in late September, and it was starting to get colder. Bruises when you made love and when you fought, when you made up and when he'd had a lousy day, and you couldn't remember being this weak before. The money from your maternity leave stopped coming two weeks ago. You had to go back.


You danced, hands slick on the metal pole and your body quick to wrap around it. They said it was sexy, but you didn't really believe that shit. It was an old rhythm you were well familiar with, something from the seventies about shaking and grooving and you pretended to lick the filthy silver to get the cash flowing. Vegas loved you and you loved Vegas, you told yourself, fucking liar in a two-dollar outfit that came off way more easily than it should have.

It slid from your body onto the floor where it landed, leaving you bare for everyone to see, eyes like hands touching and kneading, biting like teeth. Like sharks, like nails they dug into your flesh. After you came the next girl and the girl after that, and all you did was dance and get paid for it. But they were all still talking behind your back, even that prick who pretended to be your hero but still sat there night after night after night, sticking his cash in your panties.

On the sofa in the back room, you made out with Eddie, his fingers laced in your fingers, palms sweaty like those of teenagers. You felt warm and safe in his arms and you liked it, liked him. He would be a star someday and could make you one as well. His kisses made everything somehow better, and you gave him everything because you wanted to. Your money in his wallet was called an investment and he bought you fake jewelry because it shined to his inexpert eyes. He called you 'honey' and you felt like you could be on the verge of something really, really good.


A good day was all you needed, maybe, really. You drove past streets and lights and other people's homes, left crimes to someone else and the crack of dawn on the edge of night, one of those things you knew had to come eventually. You pulled into the driveway easily, and parked the car silently. You got out of the car and into the cool air, and stared at the silence of your street, kind of in awe of the vast changes and differences between day and night. You were still kind of thankful that there was silence to calm the mess in your head. You leaned against the car for a moment before you went into the house, your heels echoing on the concrete.

And the sleazy motherfucker was all over the babysitter, only nineteen, just bored enough to be tempted by his words and pretty eyes, and he wasn't expecting you to show up at all. "God, Cath, I didn't mean to," like you still had any kind thoughts of him, any kind of thoughts at all. You found yourself apathetic. No energy to be angry, Eddie, not tonight, so you got off easy. The babysitter put on her shirt apologetically before you even opened your mouth to say anything. No words for anger or disappointment, because there weren't expectations anymore.


When you first met Grissom, he examined you from head to toe, clavicle to femur in a quick, intrigued glance. He also dusted you for prints, his fingers pressuring yours onto the black powder that, grain by grain, clung to the thin biomorphic lines on your skin. He asked if he should call you Cathy and you said Cath, and closed your eyes for just a moment. He smiled when you opened them again<, and> you could tell he wanted to know more than you were able to tell him. You didn't ask what you should call him.

He kept coming back for the bad imported alcohol and your company; always observing, always absorbing. The lighting had a way of shading his face with the hard, dark circles that made men seem threatening and feel dangerous. There was nothing brave about drinking Becherovka in a nightclub, complaining about the aftertaste of digestif burning in his throat while you were well into your second cocktail. He must've had a certain amount of valor in him, however, for taking you out right in front of Eddie, or maybe he wasn't afraid of taking the shit for that.

Or maybe he didn't know you were already taking it.


The black skies broke violently into a pleasant morning. You breathed through your mouth, and you counted your breaths. You felt the air, cold and coarse over your throat as you inhaled it into your lungs, and warm as you exhaled.

You've made up your mind that you would leave him, but you couldn't bring yourself to get up on your feet and pack a bag. You couldn't even bring yourself to consider which bag you wanted to take with you, which clothes you wanted to bring and which to leave behind. You didn't even know where you were headed, so you just sat and picked up stray strings from the yellow cushions of your two-seat sofa. Your loveseat. Your hideously yellow loveseat you could rip, thread by thread, with your fingers.

It wasn't the first time you had made the decision to leave Eddie Willows. It wasn't the first time you told yourself that you didn't need him anymore. That you were a perfectly capable, independent woman, and that you had legs that went all the way down to the floor. That you had a better job than he did and made better pay and therefore deserved to be treated like more than a piece of shit, only he never treated you like that because of all of those reasons. Your inner voice spoke self-righteous shit about how you've sold yourself short by marrying him in the first place, though it wasn't true, though you weren't a saint and you never thought he would be one, either. Your mind spoke of mistakes while you broke inside because you couldn't have been good enough to make that marriage work.

You closed your eyes and counted one, two, three. By the time you opened them, all of your fears had vanished entirely.


The summer before you left home, you spent half an hour walking down the path that led from your home to the highway. It was five-thirty in the morning. The dark night sky was dawning into an unusual cloudless gold, and the sun began to spread its heat throughout your body. In the failing breeze, the treetops were only slightly skewed. You bent down and sat on the ground, sand sticking to your dry palms as you leaned on your hands for support. The air was anxious for rain that morning, tiptoeing towards long, thin summer drops but not quite there yet. At the age of fifteen, you stared at the trucks that began to pass you by. The relative quiet hummed in your ears.

You thought it was the start of what would turn out to be a really good day.


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