by s.a.

Oxnard, California was a dusty little asscrack of a town.

It was just far enough from Angel and just close enough to Buffy to make Faith miserable. But they were hiring strippers at Lucky Joe's off the highway, and if Faith could do one thing it was take off her clothes. She needed the cash, and for some damn reason she couldn't get her ass out of Southern California, so Oxnard was her best choice.

She walked in with attitude, perfectly honed from twenty years of street living, saying to any and all who saw her that she was not one to be fucked with. The daytime drunks barely gave her a passing glance, despite the take a look clothes and the sharp beauty she pretended to ignore. Faith figured it was the beer. She was mostly right.

Sitting down with Frank -- the owner of the bar -- got her a gig on Thursday nights and an agreement for a hundred bucks a show. It wasn't bad, considering she was new as far as he was concerned. Faith knew she'd get the big money come Thursday when she fucked that metal pole for all it was worth.

Faith hauled her duffel bag into another grimy motel room, paid for with a wad of cash she had no intention of talking about. Ever. She flipped on the TV, and fell back onto the bed, ripping open a bag of gummy bears in the process. Life sucked, but there were always gummy bears.

Thursday came, and Faith had the five-drunk crowd wrapped around her finger with every fucking move she made. She knew she had them hooked when she saw one of them head back to the pay phone to call up his friends, and tell them to get their asses down here. New stripper, she's a fucking gorgeous broad with an ass like nothing in the fucking world and tits like melons.

She just smiled that slow, fuck-you smile and bent over backwards around the pole. Oxnard, California. Asscrack of SoCal.

When she left the stage, she had four hundred dollars, a bottle of Jack, thirty phone numbers, and an offer to come back Saturday night. She slid back into her jeans, shoved the money in her pocket, threw the numbers in the trash without so much as a look, and swigged an audible gulp from the bottle. Then she gave Frank her fuck-you smile and said she'd think about it.

Saturday night she showed up at ten and left at one, walking out with seven hundred bucks and more scraps of paper than she could count. She went back to her room, finished the Jack, and played football with the pieces of paper.

Rummaging through her bag on Monday night, Faith felt something hard and pulled it out. Her hand shook as she held it in front of her face. Fuck her, man, fuck her. Get out of fucking Sunnydale, out of LA, but the bitch and her boy toy still followed her wherever she fucking went. Even to fucking Oxnard.

She gripped the cross till she saw blood.

Faith stripped Friday and Saturday, every weekend for two months till there was five thousand dollars in loose bills in her bag. She counted it one night, down to the last fucking dollar. She threw her stuff in her bag, pausing at the bloodstained gold that lay on her dresser. Without looking she swiped it into her duffel, before zipping it up and hauling it over her shoulder.

She went to the car dealership, some rickety-ass joint with a faded sign and one guy in the office. She told him she wanted a car. He asked her what kind. She said she didn't fucking care. A convertible. The guy's eyes sort of lit up, then dimmed, and he took her around back to an old blue car. The paint was a little faded. A '57 Bel Aire, the guy said. Some kid broke down out here, sold it to me to get home. Faith wanted to know how much. He looked her up and down. She almost posed, but looked at the car instead. One more second, and he said twenty five hundred bucks. She nodded, dug in her bag, and handed him the cash. He handed her the keys.

As she was pulling out, he asked her where she was going.

Faith said she was getting the fuck out of Oxnard and heading for Boston. The guy nodded gravely, said about damn time. She turned back to the road, heard him say to check the glove compartment.

Out on the highway, well on her way to leaving the asscrack of SoCal, to leaving California, Faith popped open the glove compartment and messed around till her hand grasped a -- book?

Who the fuck was Jack Kerouac?


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