Title: Just A Girl
Archive: E-me for permission
Rating: PG
Summary: Jun's just a girl, all pretty and petite.
Notes: I was writing drabbles and thought to string them together. The title is from the No Doubt song of the same name. Thanks to Naa-Dei Nikoi, Hemlock Martini, and dragonofsilverthorne for the betas.
Comments and criticism can be directed to ebonbird [SQUIGGLY AT SIGN] gmail [DOT] com.
Disclaimer: None of the characters belong to me.


1. Not Quite

Jun squats and bends at the waist, tilting her sit-upon into the air as she peers into the space between the ground and the garbage bin. She sees the filthy bottoms of slippery little feet first; then a monkey-like face.

"Hi!" Jun says.

Something hard and stinky hurtles towards her face. She plants a hand on the trash strewn ground and hoists her body aloft, swinging out of the flying object's way. It hits the wall behind her with a fetid plop. It smells like rotten eggs.

"That's not nice!" Jun exclaims.

"I'm not nice," says the little boy under the bin.

The little girl replies, "I have food."

He throws another egg, fresher than the first. She cartwheels out of its way.

The boy says, "Me too! Jinpei the great doesn't need your food!"





2. Wired.

When Jun was still a little girl, the straw-limbed, thin-chested sort who strongly resembled a boy by virtue of accumulated cuts, scrapes, and bruises, she mastered cable stripping. What her narrow fingers lacked in strength, they possessed in sensitivity. She liked that moment between guess and certainty, right before she'd pierce the sheathe with knife point and tear; using the ground wire as a zipper, and cut off the sheath.

It wasn't always that white banding marked a live wire at its ends.





3. Beat

Breathing hard, Jun struggles in Ken's wake. Fat makes her slow. Growth spurts have made her awkward.

Limbs pumping, Jun notes that the way the sun catches Ken's dark hair is a distraction in itself. Unlike her, Ken is almost too good-looking to be useful. But targets don't seem to notice him until its too late. And when things go missing, those he's compromised fail to connect him with theft.

People tend to offer themselves, or anything else they can lay hold of, to him. She has done it, taken a half step toward him with with 'please' on her lips. She has reached for the rippled curves of the back of his upper arm to.

It doesn't really matter. Not only is he the commander, but, unlike her, he has a real name.

She bows her head, and picks up speed, gaining, gaining, and gaining until she's blown past him and crossed the finish line.





4. On Point

In this basement studio, a converted raquetball court, sweat competes with mildew for notice. Jun stands towards the rear of the line, near the air conditioning unit that drips into a metal bowl. The pocked mirror gleams.

In tights, leg-warmers, and floating skirt, she is one of many at the bar. Madame sets the pace by tapping the floor with her ribbon-wrapped cane. Her sweet voice carries them through plies, battements, and glissades.

Not unlike a fencer, Jun bends, points, jumps, leans. Her ribs knit together, while sweat creeps along her body and soaks into her clothes.

Jun will go on like this, sometimes smiling, sometimes frowning, through class after class after class. Of all the faces she looked upon when she first took her place at the bar, only Madame's will still be there.

She will glide, and groan, and balance, and pivot until she wears out her shoes and her toenails scrape past padding and click on the floor.





5. Gerbs

Jun smiles when she smells smoke and shakes the sauce pan. The sludge crisps at the edges, smoking. The beautiful mass bears little resemblance to the eggs she'd found poaching in water. And all she has to do was apply heat strategically. That, some toast and more oil. She doesn't know what to expect exactly, but if her calculations are correct, the results might be satisfactory.

She bounces on her toes and turns up the dial on the heat. The windows are open, and the industrial strength fan draws most of the greasy smoke out of the kitchen. Still, the hood over the range could be improved...

"What are you doing?" says Jinpei, entering the kitchen.

Jun turns to him with a happy smile. "Making lampblack! We're having fireworks tonight! Probably, big orange ones. What do you say? Dynamite, right?"

"With my lunch?!"

Oh! Jun grimaces. "Well...It was...Well, I got to thinking that..."

"You were supposed to watch it so it didn't burn!"

Apologetically, Jun says, "Well, I about that...I...Had an idea...And...Want some ramen?"





6. Careful

The client says, "How old did you say you were?"

Jun shakes her head at the interruption and lightly scores his photograph with the tip of her blade. "Twenty-two. Please, I must concentrate."

"Yeah. You don't look twenty-two."

Jun nods and with deft strokes, cuts around his face in miniature. "Twenty-two and a half."

"Yeah. You look fifteen to me. Young and sweet."

She glances at her watch. She has three quarters of hour until the next client. "Respectfully?" Their eyes meet. "It could be that the only fifteen you should be worrying about are the fifteen-to-twenty you could get if I do a bad job on your passport."

He blinks first. "You threatening me?"

"But that would be rude. Professional courtesy does not allow that sort thing." Her smile barely reaches her eyes.





7. Gifts of Self

Out of self-defense, Jinpei makes his own lunch.

He sautÚs vegetables in shining oil, sprinkles them with dried fish flake and crushed sesame seed. He cuts miniature sausages in half, then slits the bottoms lengthwise so they resemble octopi. He shapes rice balls by hand into nesting rabbits. For sweets, he pares kiwi slices into simple butterflies. He adds fat cherries that gleam, even against the lacquered insides of the lunch box compartment, and tangerine wedges picked clean of bitter string.

He hands her the box and says, "Sis? Wrap this for me?"

Jun tells him it's the least she can do.

With butcher paper and string she folds, wraps, and tucks. Eventually, she presents Jinpei with a rectangular packet. The pleats begin at opposing corners and meet in the middle like a boxy flower.

She says, "This paper was all I had."

"Looks good to me." He puts aside the decorated bento, pulls out another boxed lunch. "That's yours. Now do mine."





8. Necessary

Jun's thumb slides beneath the fold of her kerchief then down as she masks herself and enters the quiet nursery. Swaddled babies, smelling faintly of urine and soap, lay by twos in wheeled cribs. They neither kick nor cry.

Jun signs in, pushing the clip-board steady against the wall with her forearm. The nail from which it hangs wriggles in its flaking hole. The wall is painted with sunflowers. Neither primer nor sealant has been used. The sun-bright petals bubble in some spots. In wheeled carts, soiled diapers soak in buckets of green-gold slime; awaiting their turn in the laundry.

Jun turns toward the nearest crib. The baby to the right has no eyebrows, just the suggestion of thicker down above yellow-tinged eyes. Jun pulls down her mask, settles it around her neck. She undoes some swaddling, and rubs her fingers over the infant's soft breast.

"Hello, babies. Did you know how important you are?"

She takes him from the crib, cradling him to her chest. Then she reaches for the other. When they are both in hand she says, "Urine makes gunpowder the old-fashioned way."

She takes them around the room, introducing them to their brothers and sisters. She tells them other things too.





9. Blank

Ken turns to Jun; speaks. Her mouth opens but nothing exits, not even air.

Jun tries to make sense of it. She considers the messy, dark brown hair: the gentle, almost doughy features. She decides Ken might be better looking if he smiled more. His thick lashes stand out against his smooth skin when he does. Still, it's worse when he smirks. His striking teeth are so white, so even, they're overkill when combined with his electric stare.

"Jun?" Ken says.

She thinks, Are his eyes really that blue? She says, "Already done."





10. Wavelength

It is written, "Many different combinations of light wavelengths can produce the same perception of color." Jun thinks on this as she inspects the biggest purchase she's ever made.

Behind the DJ booth of her Snack Bar-Dance Club, Jun flips the switches that control the house and stage lights. First she flicks on the white, baring the age and dust, making the stage look dingier than it did when it was dark. Next, Jun tries the blue. This light is more forgiving -- it gentles curves and masks the shabbiness. The yellow has a similar effect as the blue. The microphone stand and crates look arty, like a colorized newsprint poster. When she combines the yelllow and blue, she gets green.

Wanting purple, she reaches for the third light.

She flips the switch.

A fuse blows, plunging the stage into darkness.

The outlines of the crates and microphone glow.

She blinks.





11. Trains of Thought

Fuel costs money. So when Nambu, or the International Science Organization, sends the team out on business, Jun keeps track of distance and time for all five. Jun suspects, but she won't complain, that Nambu sends them out to catalogue and map because he wants them to know the majesty and grandeur of nature. For the most part, it works. Savannahs and wetlands, deserts and marshes, jungles and forest are where she finds herself most connected to -- she's not exactly sure to what. If she were good at words she might tell herself she feels special.

The treads of her tires chew through mud and kick up rocks. She leaves a clear trail. Astride her motorcycle, sights and memories melt into each another. If she lets her mind drift, it can be hard to distinguish where she is from where she's been. Given the liberty, she'll ride so fast even her sense of smell can be confounded. The exhaust generated by her bike will whip away farther than she can sense; speeding as she is within corridors of naked light.





12. Presentation Matters

Jun can fry an edible egg, but best if she cuts out the center of a slice of bread and uses that hollowed frame as a guide. Shot glasses help but she manages to get by with tearing. This is much less messy than pulping a torso and also, this oddly, more satisfying. With a shot glass, she can cut overlapping rounds into the bread and make a pretty pattern. If her aim is good, and when cooking, her aim is typically unreliable, the result may resemble a white daisy.

When she cheats, melted butter burning on toaster coils gives her away.





13. Object Lessons

She decided thirty days was long enough for Jinpei to give away the bunnies but as he didn't show up for breakfast, she snoops. She goes into Jinpei's smelly closet and pulls on the light-bulb string. The light flares, flickers and dims. She squats, pushing Jinpei's dress shoes aside and pulls the rabbit box out from under the bottom shelf. She counts five extra furry lumps, frowns and says, "You both weren't boys after all."

She hears a polite cough behind her. She turns and sees Jinpei standing beyond arm-reach.

He says, "Can we keep them? Please?"

Jun says, "No way. Fractal geometry is much cuter in theory."

"Hunh?"

"Infinity?"

"What stupid thing are you talking about, sis?"

She tries to tell him, in a variety of ways. But he doesn't begin to see, until the passing of another thirty days.

He tells her, "...Lots and lots of bunny babies."

"And when they have babies? And the babies have babies?"

"Bunnies to infinity."





14. It Really Exists

Ken's place of birth, famous for its clean lakes, velvet skiing slopes, banking and chocolatiers, survived the third World War in style. Only the wealthy and their celebrity playthings litter the Europan vacation paradise. Otherwise, it is spotlessly clean.

It smells like ozone (sharp), pine (fresh), and money (old and new).

Jun skates on the outer edge of her skis, using them like blades to switch directions as she zigs back and forth across the steep slope. Further down slope, braked by a towering pine, a male figure waits. His hair is dark; his legs long. Wind has burned his cheeks. An athletic flush has made his lips red. Mirrored goggles hide his eyes, reflecting white, the cloudless sky, and a snow-laden pine bough above him.

A squirrel hops onto it, dislodging the snow; showering his head.

Against the air, the pine needles show dark and green.





15. Taut

Swan and Eagle fall over the railing and into the shaft. The walls of the shaft iris open and closed. That's an illusion. Stinking heat buffets them from below.

For the usual reasons, Ken falls farther faster. Jun's vision splits between the railing above and him. The yo-yo hurtles towards railing: she reaches for his hand. She tastes metal in her throat. Where glove meets rope, smoke rises but she holds onto the heat. Her finger's catch his wrist, pin, grasp. The big knob of his bone, the slickness of his glove, defy her. Then comes the shock at the bottom of the drop.

"AH!" That's her as, sweating, she absorbs it.

Temperature rising, blinking water like blood from her eyes, she stretches her muscles, increases the spaces in her joints. She creaks like some overburdened swing and like a swing that must bend when its passenger is too heavy and it flung at great height by greater force, she drops in on herself, looses density, and curves the string, flinging Ken and herself back the way they'd come.

Through their visors, Ken's blue eyes look black.





16. By The Hour

His breath frayed, Ken sits up, his back against the plush, scarlet-padded headboard. The red light overhead makes the sweat on his collarbones, along his shoulders and bent knees, gleam. He taps the back of his head against the headboard when his pulse takes too much time sorting itself out, and laughs.

Jun sits astride his lower legs. The small muscles of her lower back do too much work, holding her right there; her thighs and stomach tensed, to keep her in place. Her spread fingers span his knees. When he looks to the ceiling, he sees them: mirrored.

"What will you do if they declare peace tomorrow?"

Ken runs his slick fingers in half circles along her upper arms, into the air, and over her shoulders. "...mmmm....Get you out of Utoland."

But, "...I like Utoland."

"Okay. Take you somewhere. In my plane. High. Take you anywhere. Some other city. Newer. Best views. Up in the sky."

"What if I want to take you for a ride?"

Ken's laugh is dirty, though soft. "We don't need a bike for that."

Her hair hides her eyes.

His smile shows wide.

She says, "What will you do first, if peace is declared?"

He finds her other hand, the one not spanning his knees and tickles her palm. Like key in slot, their fingers and the spaces between find each other. Lightly, they push hands. "More of this." Their fingers tap. "That sound good to you?"

Dizzied, she can only hum in assent then ask, "What else?"

He screws up his mouth. "I'd detonate the minefield out by R City. Clear the area of all civilians first, and then, just set that thing off. Set them all off, if we can't clean them up. We'll fix all the blast zones and what's left, we'll make into good places. Green again..."

...And Joe will be chief gardner, and you will be in charge of fireworks, and I will test rides and Jinpei will design and organize the first penless zoo and Ryu will build fleets of green energy boats and our parents will be there and we won't have to be each other's only family anymore. At least, that's what Jun imagines Ken might be thinking if not saying.

The red light flickers in warning. He whispers, "We're out of time."

She mouths, "Just so."

-0-




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