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Ava, Chapter 38: Phoebe

Reply to Alsike

Posted to Fanfiction.net June 27, 2004


     Should I have turned them out of the house?  Am I too nice for my own good?  Probably not.  According to Piper I'm a self-absorbed bitch who wants to lay all her problems on somebody else.  Well at least I don't hold everything in and then explode at people for no good reason.  And she calls me self-absorbed.  She calls me sick, when she's the one who, well, I suppose she called herself more things than she called me.  That's one of the things I've learned from doing advice columning, it's really about them.

     Even what I write is about me.  Stop that!  I'm a good advice columnist.  And having an alter ego only helps.  Shut up.  Arrgh.  Do you have to surface now?  I'm the voice of reason, I know you rarely listen to me, especially when you're getting dressed, but I am here, if you ever bothered to pay attention.  Are you saying you're not reasonable.  I'm saying maybe you should think about what Piper said.  You're not the voice of reason, you're the voice of Piper is right, I learned not to listen to that on long ago.  Like when she told you not to shop lift, or maybe when she told you to think for yourself.  When did she tell me that?  It was a long time ago, and you were probably high, but I remember it, I remember a lot of things.  Piper was always more rational than you, and she always cared about you, and you always blew her off.  When I needed help Piper was involved in her own problems.  That's true, the only time you ever wanted to ask for help, and she locked herself in her room for a week.  She acted perfectly normal except when anyone wanted to talk, ask a question, or find her in between mealtimes or at school.  She cut school every day for that week.  But you never asked her what was wrong.  You were just mad at her because she wasn't there for you to run to when your best friend said she hated you and tried to kill herself after you slept with her boyfriend.  I didn't want to remember that.  I was a slut.  What's changed now?  Lots of things.  I give romantic advice I've got to know something.  You know your job's bullshit, stop hiding behind it.  You used to want to be a real reporter.  You used to want to do something worthwhile with your life.  But no, you got drunk, and high, and dumped Kylie for no good reason.  What did you do?  Allow so called "Destiny" to take your choices away.  You didn't want to be responsible for yourself, not after you made the worst decision in your life.  It always comes back to her, doesn't it?  it was a turning point, it made you what you are today.  A loser, who no one wants anymore.  You had a serious relationship with a demon, what do you think he wanted, besides your body, your love, your noble soul, or your power and the chance to crush your psyche.  He made me strong.  I fought him.  I don't want him anymore.  Then why are you still so scared?  Why can't you believe in your strength?  Idiot.  She called you that, and it was a perfect name.  She knew exactly what you were, and took you in spite of it.  Was she an idiot too?  Now she's smarter than you.  She knows what she wants, and it's not you.  It's not, and it's your fault.  It's not Cole's?  Cole's?  Cole started you on the road to recovery.  No, my dear self, it is your fault.

     How do I fix myself?  How do I make myself desirable?  Apparently clothes are not the factor needed to begin long-term relationships.  But Kylie, did Kylie look at your clothes and say, that's a girl I want to room with until our incessant screwing turns into something vaguely resembling a relationship.  Do you remember, or were you suffering from an alcoholic blackout?  You remember.  I remember.  I was trying to find myself after Grams died.  I wanted to do something to make her proud.  She wanted to have fun, but she was always on her way to where she is now, I was just a small detour.  I could have gotten her lost but she fought past me and survived.  She could have put me on the right track.  She gave me dreams and hope, but what did I do with it but get scared and throw everything away.  She only liked me because I was confident, I put my trust in my looks and my attitude, nothing that would hold up if I was ever in actual trouble.  She wasn't confident like me, I don't think she felt like people liked her for who she was, but everyone did.  She was so cute, and with a few drinks she was wild.  It was awful sometimes, the way she didn't know she was wonderful.  I really hope she doesn't remember this, but one night she had gone over the edge of the buzz and she approached me, a little quiet, a little worried.  She looked at me, clenching the shoulder of her dress.  "I-i-if you want, we could have sex, I mean, just if you want.  It's not like I really care," her eyes were painful here, "but I'm pretty good, and if you want to

     I am sure that was not one of her most together pick-up lines.  She sounded like an insecure fourteen year old, giving herself up for the first time, when she really wanted to, but wasn't going to let anyone find out for anything.  There was no way I could bring myself to use that.  I just took her home.  And after that I never missed a chance to tell her that she was amazing.  I believed it too much.  Everyone did watch her though.  She was amazing; everyone wanted her.  The only thing I couldn't see was that I was the one she wanted.  But there was no reason for her to want me, all I told her was the truth.  I was hopeless.  I clung to the outside of her dreams, like a parasite.  Finally I gave up.  I was so weak.  I said she doesn't need me; she shouldn't want me.  All I'm doing is interfering in her dreams and wasting her time.  She could find someone better than me.  Everyone was better than me.  And I was entirely right.  I got out of her life and she survived.  She's fine without me.  She has her dreams, she has a life, maybe she doesn't have a lover, but that doesn't mean she needs me.  Why would she need me?  I have nothing to offer.  Am I angry at her for not wanting me back, when I am so hopeless at relationships that I give advice on them for a living.  No, it's not sarcasm, it's irony.  Fine, I hate my life, I hate not being with her, but the world doesn't revolve around me.  I don't care if I'm unhappy, I don't deserve to be happy.  Why don't I have any direction to my life?  I'm always looking for something, what will make it enough?  I want so desperately for being a witch to make life worthwhile, but there's always something missing.  I said I wanted to help people, that's why I'm a witch and why I write an advice column, but maybe that's not what I want to do.  Maybe I don't want to help people.  Paige has that covered, that's why she exists.  Piper runs a club, is that not selfish?  I want to be selfish too, but I don't know with what.  I'm happy giving advice, people like me when I'm confident, they listen to me when it sounds like I know what I'm talking about.  What do I want?  If I know what I want will I be worth taking back?

     The Liz girl is starting to wake up.  She rests a hand over her eyes.  "I should be getting used to the nightmares by now.

     She sounds almost normal.  I sit on the arm of the couch.  "You never get used to the nightmares.  She looks up at me and smiles.

     "I'm Liz, I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name.  I was a little strung out earlier; I hadn't slept or eaten in a while.

     "An hour nap isn't going to fix that.  I reached out my hand.  "I'm Phoebe.

     "You gave me food, I remember that.  Thanks.

     "No problem.

     "I think I'm beginning to understand why the necessities of life are necessities.

     "Food, shelter, clothing, cleanliness.  Would you like a bath?

     She looked up at me, smiling in wonder.  "Desperately.  I'm beginning to understand Ava a bit better now.  You think that there's always going to be someone there for you, just to provide a little bit of kindness.  You don't understand how amazing and uncommon it is, and how much you need it, just to survive.

     I lead her upstairs, helping her when she slips.  "We had better give you bubbles so I can check at intervals to make sure you haven't drowned.

     "I don't know how people live on the streets for their whole lives, I couldn't pull it off for three days.

     "How do you know Ava?

     "Now that you know I'm not a street kid you're wondering?  She caught me.

     "Yes, I mean we know her because Paige is a social worker and brought her home from whatever gutter she found her in.

     "Well, my reason for knowing her is a little complicated.  Liz paused.

     "I'll give you all the time you want to make it up.

     "I'm not making it up!  I just have to adapt it for an uninitiated audience.

     "Well, I never did make the National Honor Society.

     She looks at me incredulously, "you didn't, how… you didn't?

     Okay, apparently she doesn't understand about being a teenager and not working your but off or worrying about getting into college every minute of your life.

     "I take it you were a member?

     "I didn't do much, but I did make it.

     "I did a lot of playing hooky, breaking into the principal's office, exploring my sexual nature in high school, not so much of the studying.  I finished college after nine years.  Man, I'm a loser.

     "I got into Northwestern, but I couldn't go.

     "Why not?

     "Things happened.  I got married.  I had to run away from home.

     "Married?  No ring.

     "No, I just left, just three days ago I left him.  What am I going to do?  her eyes are hopeless, and the crazed look is threatening to come back.

     "You'll survive, I've survived a lot.

     "I want to go to college.

     "UCSF is a good school, I can vouch for it.

     "How are they in microbiology?

     Okay, she's a braniac.

     "I have got to know how you met Ava.

     "Unwelcome relative of a friend of a sister of my boyfriend.  She was ditched by her fellow homeless community and I found her sleeping in an alley and brought her home.  Apparently she's my fast friend for life.  I understand now, how much kindness is worth.

     I start the bath.

     "You can borrow some of my sister's clothes.  She's more your size.  They'll still be a bit big, Kylie's would fit better, but her clothes are no longer scattered around my life.

     She didn't ask.  She's either tired or polite.  We get her a bathrobe, jeans, a t-shirt and a bra.  She changes into the robe and I take her clothes to throw in the wash.  When I come back up it appears she has found one of the few books we have in this house and is reading among the bubbles.

     She has dreams, and she's giving up a lot to follow them.  I'm jealous.

     I hear the door open and go out to see who it is.  Piper enters first, followed by a sheepish looking Paige and Ava.  Piper is a lot more together than I'd expect someone who went storming out in a rage at three in the morning to be.  What did she do?  She's not the slightest bit hung-over or even tired.  Paige and Ava have their hands clenched together.  They made up.  They're so cute even if they clash horribly; I mean pink and orange?  It's not that my taste in clothes has ever been stellar though, and it's not like you can choose your girlfriend's hair color.  Well, in their case they could probably discuss it, but I don't know, pink and orange, a perfect combination for the innocents.  The right mix of exuberance and not caring about anything but each other.  I'm going to change.  I really have the most awful clothes, I'm so involved with having people look at me I don't care if they give me a second glance for something I've done or said.  Probably most people take one look at me and cringe in horror.  It's not about what I wear, it's about how I wear it, and I'm afraid I haven't been wearing it with the confidence that I need to.  I look like a whore, more of a whore than that runaway downstairs.  And I have been whoring myself out, to anyone who looks at me twice, dammit.  I go into my room and start ransacking it.  When did I start buying this stuff?  Did this stuff actually look good to me?  I'm supposed to be pretty, people say I'm pretty, but you can't be vying with your clothes, because the clothes has the shiny tassels that will win over the gleam in your eyes, and it has the soft material that is smoother and softer than your hair, especially my hair.  Hair on drugs, that's what they should call it, too many dye jobs, too many attempts at making myself special because I'm not satisfied with who I am.  I have no clothes!  I run into Piper's room and pull open a drawer, and stare.  Leo's clothes.  He hasn't worn this stuff since he was pretending to be a carpenter.  The jeans are loose and slide low on my hips.  I run up the stairs in my bra into the attic.  I find a box.  Grams never threw anything away.  My favorite t-shirt is still in the top of the box.  The material is still soft but it's tighter on me now, my darling Cowboy Junkies' t-shirt.  I love this shirt.  I breathe deep and hug myself, then parade down the stairs.  Piper gives me the wry evil look that expresses, ‘what has happened to you?  But it's a little less harsh than usual.  Maybe she thinks I listened to her, maybe I did, uh oh.

     I sashay down the stairs; I can't stop smiling.  It's the shirt.  Paige is staring in some sort of horror.  She doesn't understand the mellow pot induced haze of the early nineties; she's trapped in her self-aware punk rock iconography.

     "So," Piper drawls, "we have a new house guest?

     "She's in the bath.  I leant her some of your clothes." She stiffens up.

     "You did what?

     "She'd fit yours best.  Bigger than that one.  I indicated Ava, "but smaller than anyone else.  She also has more your style.

     "Speaking of style, where did you get those jeans.

     "What, it isn't like he ever wears them.

     "You're wearing Leo's jeans.

     I am not embarrassed.  I am not going to blush.

     "Did you get a phone call or something while I was away?  She's smiling at me with evil eyebrows.

     "No I didn't.  I have to make myself worthy of, things, before I expect them.  Now she's grinning like a cat.  Evil sister, eeevil sister.  "I'm going to become a mechanic.

     Her smile dropped.  Oh yeah, I'm one up, I win.  I used to be good at that sort of thing.  Fixing things, breaking into things, I liked it, I liked knowing how things worked.  Maybe it's a stupid idea, but it's the only one I have, so I'm going to do it.

     "I'm going to the library.  Make sure Liz doesn't fall asleep in the bath and drown.

     As I walk out the door I can feel Piper's eyes on my neck, but Paige is the one who said it.

     "Phoebe is going to the library?

Continue to Chapter 39

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