I couldn't get ff.net to upload my fic, which annoyed me as I was going to post it there and link it here, but since that's obviously not going to happen, I'll simply post this here first.
Title: Strong Enough
Rating: R- NC17 (to be on the safe side)
Warnings inside the cut
Summary: When she was little it would be just a little extra pressure in her clenched fists, just enough to make tiny crescents appear on her palm. Karen just wants the pain to stop
Disclaimer: I don’t own the characters, sadly, I won’t be making any money, regretfully, and the song at the beginning and end of the story are from Cher’s Strong Enough.
Warning: This is not a happy fic (well it may be), and there is character death ultimately, as well as mentions of very mild self harm (light scratches with nails etc), but nothing extreme or graphic. Also very mild mention of Karen/Grace.
So after all that, sit back and hopefully enjoy yourself (especially good if you need a very angsty read)
~I don’t need your sympathy
There’s nothing you can say or do for me
And I don’t want a miracle
You’ll never change for no one~
When she was little it would be just a little extra pressure in her clenched fists, just enough to make tiny crescents appear on her palm. When her mum would yell that it was her fault the scam failed, and why the hell couldn’t she pretend properly that she was a 4 year old blind girl, she’d clench her fists in silence, the slight pain her nails keeping the tears from falling, giving her something other than the disappointment and anger in her mother’s rough voice to concentrate on.
By the time she reached Middle school, she didn’t need the pain to stop the tears; years of her mother’s constant rejections had taught her to control such weakness. When the other’s teased her for her cheap clothes, and her weird voice, she’d stand in stony silence as the words beat against her polished walls. They soon got bored, and she’d walk calmly to an empty classroom, fold herself beneath a desk and run her nails across her skin. The slight pain and lingering tingle kept her grounded, the sight of the red lines slowly fading back to ivory kept her mind off the other children’s harsh words, surely they didn’t know that they echoed her mother so perfectly.
High school opened more opportunities for her than she’d ever imagined. Everyone was different there, so she fit in fine. The fading red lines did nothing to dull the pain when her Mother’s scheme to con the Principle fell through and she was pulled away from the only acceptance she’d ever found. She’d seen enough by then to know that the only thing that would help would mean using something other than her nails, but the only thing her Mother had ever loved about her was her flawless skin, and she wasn’t ready to loose even that superficial love. She’d clench her fists until she could feel the bone beneath the muscle and she pushed just a little bit harder so the lines stayed longer, and when her pain still spilled over, she shoved her pillow to her mouth and screamed silently against it.
The next time she left a High school it didn’t feel as personal. It hadn’t taken long for news of her Mother’s reputation to reach the small town and an even less time for the few people she’d allowed close to her walls, to turn against her. Her mother told her that it didn’t matter, that they’d pack and be gone before anyone could hurt them, and that she better be more believable next time because they couldn’t afford another failure all because of her. She didn’t say anything about the fight as she’d left the school, and her mother never noticed the way she clenched her fists with every step she took, or the hidden grimace of pain in her otherwise blank eyes. She wouldn’t tell her Mother about the cut on her ankle or the matching one on her hip, she could still be useful as long as her mother believed her perfect, and unblemished. So she cleared the wounds to keep them uninfected, and when the pain in her chest wasn’t eased by her usual methods, she past the length of her room until the agony of her ankle left her feeling faint, and she collapsed onto the bed to sleep a last night before they moved again.
She thought she’d found the perfect way to avoid the pain her mother caused. And she really was perfect. Such life, such vitality ensconced in one person, that when the blonde leaned in for that first kiss, she’d barely given a second thought to allowing her behind the walls she’d so long ago built around herself. It hadn’t been passionate, but it’d been everything she’d needed, all the comfort she’d never found with her Mother, she found with her love’s family. She knew it’d be a mistake to say anything at ‘home’, knew her Mother would find a way to use it for her own purposes, but when she came home, the profession of love ringing in her ears, she couldn’t control the giddiness, the feeling of happiness which intoxicated her all the more because of the lack of it anytime before, and the words came spilling out. When she came back down, she missed the glint in her Mother’s eyes, missed the smirk that settled on her lips, all she heard was the pride in the usually flat voice; that she felt she’d been waiting for forever. No amount of clenching of her fists, or scratching of her nails could stop the pain when her love threw the glass of water in her face during lunch weeks later, nor when she stumbled home, tears closer to the surface then they had been in years, to find her Mother hurriedly packing, a sparkling new bracelet wrapped around her wrist. It all came together with the pain of a blade through her back. Betrayed by the one person she should have been able to trust fully, and more alone than ever before, she snuck a bottle of Vodka from the packed bag, and sitting in the back seat of the rented car, sure from her experience she wouldn’t be looked at until they reached the next destination, she lifted the bottle and drank away the pain. Her senses dulling more with every gulp of the sharp liquid. This would never betray her, would never leave her without waiting for an explanation. This was the perfect fix.
At college, she left behind Lois Whitley, and all the pain of her past, and allowed herself to try to find a little happiness in the big city. She mixed with everyone Lois had warned her about, and when her grades began to slip, when the partying got hard, she used the body everyone had loved to persuade her Professor that she really did deserve a big A plus. And when at the end of the day, she lay in her bed and the pain came flooding back, she’d pull the bottle out from beneath the bed and drink her way into oblivion.
She met Lucas St. Croix-Popeil when she ran out of bottles and tired of drinking alone. She married him when after three months he still hadn’t left, and her Mother was nowhere to be seen. She left him when after 2 years the sound of his affair could no longer be drowned out with several bottles of the liqueur store’s finest. She moved up town with the money from the divorce, and looking for a new saviour now that even her drinks had abandoned her, was eagerly introduced to her first little pill.
Stanley Walker arrived in her life just when the money ran dry, and she no longer used the drugs and alcohol to stop a sudden pain, but to avoid anything hurting her again. He had more money than Lois had ever dreamed of and more than even she could spend on her fixes, and he was also interested in her, in a way her ex-husband had never been. When they married, she knew he was using her for a trophy as much as she was using him for his money, and she accepted it, for like everything else in her life, she knew it would end sooner if she truly had it all her way.
Slowly she began to love him, began to allow him to know her as a person and not just a warm body, and the evening talks started to replace the nights of unconsciousness. Stan was the one to suggest she hire her Rosie. Company, he had said, was what she needed, and when he wasn’t there, she did find that in her Salvadorian maid, the harsh words shared reminded her of her childhood, and the only attention she had ever received from her Mother, only this time she was allowed to shout back.
When she found the advertised job as assistant to an up and coming designer, in her morning newspaper, something inside her once again began to ache. That was what she’d wanted to do, when she was so young that she hadn’t even noticed that none of her friend’s had Mother’s who went by different names depending on the day of the week. When she’d imagine her room a different colour and style, and hope that the next time they moved her mummy would let her to decorate herself. So she’d gone to the office of Grace Adler Designs with no work experience she could safely lay claim to, and no qualification she felt truly entitled to, but with a chest filled with a hope too long overdue, and a head filled with names and connections that no designer could resist.
Jack McFarland bounced into her world with more pleasure than any of her previous fixes had ever achieved, and she instantly found herself attracted to his innocence and naivety. That was what she wished she could be, and she was, until the drugs wore off and the pain built up, so she stocked up her pills, refilled her liqueur cabinets, and ensured that the highs would never leave her.
Gradually she began to loose herself to the person she’d created, the person that was, if not loved, then accepted and tolerated. As she grew closer to those around her, began to tentatively call them friends, she found she no longer needed so many drugs to kill the pain, so much alcohol to numb the hurt, when she could talk mindlessly to her poodle, mercilessly tease Grace about her latest outfit, invent new ways to annoy Wilma, and trade insults with Rosario, and when her day was over, she could come back to her home and talk long into the night with her Husband.
She hadn’t thought back to her childhood for a long time, until Jack brought her Mother back into her life. It was true she’d been paying her off, but she’d just been a name on a cheque, not a face from her past shoved forcefully into her present. Still with a blood alcohol level higher than most, she’d fled from the apartment with her fists clenched tight. It hadn’t been till she was safely ensconced in the elevator, that she’d noticed the familiar sharp pain.
She allowed everyone, her Mother included, to believe that all was forgiven, she had learnt to lie early in life and had a lifetime of practice after all. But all wasn’t forgiven, and most certainly not forgotten, and after one sleepless night of loosing herself in her memories, she went back to the drugs and the alcohol that she’d almost kicked, and resumed at a rate she hadn’t had since her second year of marriage to Stan.
She didn’t think anyone had noticed, and when the others would taunt her for her consumption, she’d once again clench her fists, and simply swallow something stronger, this was what her life had always been, she had been foolish to expect any more now than she’d ever received before. So when Stan was taken to prison, she closed her eyes, draw her manicured nails lightly across her skin, threw back another bottle of tequila, and imagined she could still see those fading lines.
When Stan came back to her, changed but back, she didn’t allow herself to get too attached. It would be only a matter of time before it all went wrong again, and she wouldn’t let herself go through the pain again.
Catching Stan with his Mistress would have been more painful had she not been so well prepared, would have hurt much more had she not already taken more of her pain relief already that day. She was used to the blinding pain of the knife in her back, and maybe it was her own fault anyway, she was the common denominator in every scene of her life after all.
She fussed about the money, because it was expected, and she didn’t want to lose the friends that liked her as the drunken money grabbing socialite, not yet. And then she went home, wherever that was tonight, and drank and clenched and popped and scratched until the pain lessened and the world spun, and she was far enough gone that in her dreams she was actually happy.
The day she knew that she wanted Grace as more than a friend, was when she knew that her life was destined to take her through every level of Hell until she finally broke. She would hint, she would kiss, but it was all met with the same look of incredulous amusement, she was drunk anyway right, so of course she didn’t know what she was doing. This was the one happiness she would never go after, the one end to which she would take no means to achieve. She still had acceptance within her small group of friends, still had tolerance, and she knew she couldn’t afford to lose that on a dream that if achieved would become a nightmare soon after.
So she held her head up high and watched Grace get married, get divorced and not once come to her voluntarily for help or advice. She told herself it should hurt, but she couldn’t feel it, and she realised that she had finally achieved what she had been looking to do since she was four years old. She had become so numb, so cold, that nothing could hurt her any longer. Nothing would ever hurt her again, for nothing could get past her now frozen walls, not even herself.
It was only a few months after the end of her own third sham marriage that Grace had thrown their friendship back in her face. That she’d left Grace Adler Designs, and Grace Alder behind. Nothing she had ever done in that office had been just business and whilst her body had displayed the hurt the words should have caused, her mind and her heart had long ago caved under the pressure of her life, and she felt nothing.
That scared her more than anything before ever had, for it meant that even love was beyond her grasp now, the last of her emotions to leave her, and she had nothing left. Only the perfect body remained. The one everyone loved, no matter that the life inside had long ago slipped away.
She knew that she couldn’t go on much longer this way, that the pills and the alcohol would only work for a little longer, but the small part of her that was leaving with her ability to love, clung on just enough to remind her that she could not allow others to feel blame over what her life had become. Grace was smart, but if she didn’t get it eventually, Will certainly would, and that small part of her couldn’t allow her Gracie to blame herself. So she waited, and she went back to her job, smoothed everything over with her friends, and waited for a day when no one’s words could be thought to be the catalyst, when no one’s actions could have pushed her too far. If she’d still been able to feel, she’d have been hurt by just how long she had to wait.
There would be no blood, and no cuts, nothing to mar the perfection of her skin, that was, after all, all she’d ever had that was said to be perfect. She said goodnight to her Rosie, left a goodnight to her Poodle on his answering machine, like so many nights before, for him to find when he returned from his date, and said a silent goodnight to Will and her Grace. There were no tears in her eyes as she swallowed the pills, no sobs racking her body as she followed them up with glasses of her favourite martini, and though the faint red lines were present on her skin once again, and her hands were clenched tight enough to feel bone, as her last breath left her, the first genuine smile since her fourth year graced her face.
After all, all she’d ever wanted was something permanent to stop the pain.
~Come Hell or waters high
You’ll never see me cry
This is our last Goodbye it’s true
Now I’m telling you~
So it was a little longer than I had intended, and maybe a tad darker than I first planned, but it kind of ran away with me.
Please tell me what you think, but no flaming, because that doesn’t help anyone to improve and just results in a lot of budding writers abandoning writing altogether.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you liked.