Roxanne was fourteen years old, the ward of her
aunt and uncle ever since the day her parents had left, abandoning
their daughter in their wake. From then had begun a life that was a
game of cat and mouse, and Roxanne had never relished being the mouse.
When angered, both her aunt and uncle were fearsome creatures, and
though she had grown up to take care of herself, it was hard not to be
afraid of them.
Especially on the day report cards were handed out.
Roxanne had never been a huge fan of school. Frustrated from an early age by her failed attempts to learn to read, she had played truant for a long while and had narrowly avoided the humiliation of being kept down a grade the previous year when she had failed every subject with distinction.
Not that she was stupid. She just couldn’t do it.
And over the years, couldn’t had become wouldn’t.
At fourteen years old, Roxanne could not read more than a handful of words, and had given up trying. School had long since lost any meaning for her, it was simply something to get through till a better option came along.
If she was honest, though, hard work wasn’t her style, and never had been. With extra obstacles thrown in her way she had given up very easily. Reading had not come naturally to her the way it had come to her peers, for letters swapped themselves in her mind and teased her on the paper, but she had not made any further attempt to learn once she had begun to fall behind. She had a lot of pride, and she had no intention of making herself appear dumb to the other kids in her class.
Roxanne had a reputation at school for being something of a tough girl. She hung out with guys from older grades, fought with anyone who upset her, and always spoke her mind, whether her opinion was asked for or not. Over time, she had had it well drummed into her by her guardians that she was not a welcome houseguest, but a necessary nuisance, and it had sunk in. She had little confidence in human kindness and looked out for herself, though there was a companionship between her and the people she hung around with.
Her cause had not been helped when, three days earlier, the leader of this band had dropped out of school, followed over the next couple of days by a few of his associates. Roxanne was now more or less alone in an environment she hated, and it angered her. Why should she have to go to school when they didn’t? And why should she have to come home to her guardians’ temper when she didn’t get the grades they wanted?
“Roxanne, I know you’re in here.”
Her aunt’s voice broke through the darkness and Roxanne held her breath, wishing that her heart wouldn’t pound quite so loudly. Her report card had been worse than ever, and she knew that she faced a suspension for a fight that had, in all fairness, not been her fault. She had merely been defending herself, but her reputation was such that any kind of violent behaviour and full blame was heaped on her shoulders. Noone had tried to get to the bottom of Roxanne’s rough behaviour or insolent attitude. She was just another problem kid, and in the area she had grown up, problem kids were ten a penny.
The door of the wardrobe was shoved aside, and Roxanne swallowed hard, gazing up into the furious eyes of her aunt.
“Well, so here you are, cowering like a baby.” The woman’s voice was scornful and she grabbed her niece roughly by the wrist, pulling her to her feet. “Come on, young lady, you come with me. We need to have words.”
Roxanne struggled against the grip but it was no good, her aunt was stronger and was determined not to let her prey get away again. She dragged the unwilling teenager up the steps and into the poky room they called a lounge, pushing her down onto the worn settee and standing over her. She scooped something up from the table, tossing it down in front of her charge. Roxanne had become a pro at making her report cards disappear, but this one had slipped through the net, and she knew that it wasn’t good.
“What is the meaning of this?” Her aunt demanded. “I want an explanation, Roxanne. We’ve both had enough of your arrogance and your recklessness where school is concerned. You know full well that your uncle and I want to see you graduate so you can get yourself a job and get out of our hair. What kind of a future do you think you’ll get with a report like that?”
Roxanne glanced at it, but made no attempt to decipher its contents. She shrugged.
“I don’t like school.” She muttered sullenly.
“Now listen to me, young lady.” Her aunt was unmoved. “You’re going to go to school every single morning from now on, and come home at the proper time every evening. You are going to do your assignments where we can see them, and you are going to graduate this school if it’s the last thing you ever do, do you hear me?”
“I don’t want to go to school, so why do you make me?” Roxanne’s own temper flared indignantly under this treatment. “Maybe I don’t want the kind of job you seem to think I ought to have. Maybe…”
Her aunt brought a sharp hand across her niece’s cheek and bringing tears to the girl’s eyes.
“You don’t ever talk to me like that!” She said, her eyes narrowing. “You understand me? Your uncle and I are not going to support you sponging off us for years to come. We want you out of this house as soon as you can go, and that means a good diploma!”
“Maybe…maybe I don’t want to be here either!” Roxanne exclaimed, putting her hand gingerly to her cheek. “I hate you…I hate you both, and I don’t care what you want me to do! I’ll do things my way, you’ll see…I’m not going to be your puppet!”
She pushed past her aunt and up the stairs to the little bedroom that was her own, slamming the door hard behind her and pulling the chair across it, in case her guardian decided to pursue her. Throwing herself down on her bed she allowed the tears to fall, burying her head in her pillow. It wasn’t fair! Why did they treat her like this – did every kid have this kind of life at home? And why couldn’t they understand that she didn’t want that kind of job, anyway? She wanted a chance to show them that she wasn’t worthless, after all. She wanted to show them that she could survive, that she could make it without their help.
Determination replaced despair in her brown eyes, and she sat up, reaching for her schoolbag and tossing all of her class books across the room, enjoying the sound they made as they hit the wall and the door. Then she hopped off her bed, pulling open the drawer of her cabinet and pulling clothes out, haphazardly shoving them into her bag. She’d show them! She wouldn’t stay around here any longer and take their abuse.
“I’ll make it on my own, and they’ll see. I’ll be okay. Who needs them?” She muttered to herself as she rooted around in her drawers for the things she knew she’d need. She had little money, but that was not a problem in her eyes – if her aunt was distracted enough she knew where to swipe it from, and if not she would find something else. Anything had to be better than staying here.
Finally she lifted a brown envelope from her jewel box, putting it with decided reverence into her bag. Though she had never been able to read it, she knew that the envelope contained the only information she’d ever had as to who her parents really were. She knew names, that was all, for they were on her birth certificate and once she had duped her aunt into telling her that much.
She did not know how she felt about her parents, but she had always treated the tiny shred of her identity with a measure of respect, for it was her one opening, her only window out of the miserable dead-end life she was living. Her birth certificate, pictures, all sorts of records of who Roxanne Pelligrini might have become were safely stored in that envelope and she would not leave home without them.
She fastened up her bag, listening at the door for the sound of her aunt’s voice calling her back. She could hear nothing, however, so she carefully pushed the chair aside, opening the door silently and creeping down the corridor towards the master bedroom, where her guardians slept. She knew it was a risk, going in there, for the penalty was a good thrashing from her uncle, but she decided to take it anyway. She needed money, and she knew just where her aunt kept just that. Money which was meant to go on Roxanne and her needs that had been spirited away into frivolities…oh, but not this time. Roxanne’s eyes lit up in a smile as she found what she was looking for. Five ten dollar bills, crisp and new.
“That’ll keep me going for a while, till I find
something.” She mused to herself, then, “Oh no, she’s coming upstairs!”
Fear coursing through her veins, she darted out of the bigger bedroom and back into her own, closing the door and pushing the chair back hurriedly, before rummaging around in the bottom of her cupboard for the rope she always used when she needed to sneak out. She swallowed hard as she tossed the rope out of the window, attaching it firmly to the ledge. The way down was fairly safe and she’d done it before without problems, but she never relished it. Ever since she had been small, she had had a terror of heights. The family’s first home had been a tiny flat on the top floor of a thirteen storey building, and, aged only four, Roxanne’s punishment for angering her uncle had often been to be held out over the edge of the balcony, over the abyss below, with a threat that if she dared cross him in that way again, he would drop her.
There had been little beneath her but hard, unforgiving concrete, and it had developed such a terror inside the girl that often even the thought of being high up caused her to panic.
But this was an emergency and she had to swallow her fear. Unlike the flat, this was a simple two storey building and the ground beneath her was softer grass. It was safe enough, she knew that, and she set her teeth, putting her bag onto her back and swinging herself out of the window and refusing to look down until she felt her toe safely touch the ground. Then she was off, haring down the alleyways and side-streets she knew so well, determined that nothing would ever make her return.
Once well away from the house, she paused. So what now? Where was she going to go?
“I’ll think of something.” She told herself with a shrug. “I got money, anyway, so I’ll be okay. I can take care of myself.” She stretched, a delighted smile touching her face as she realised what her new freedom meant.
“No more school! Hey, rad!” she exclaimed to noone in particular. “I’m a free agent now! Watch out, world, here I come!”
“Hey, Rox, what brings you here?”
Startled, Roxanne swung around, meeting the gaze of one of her high school allies, a recent dropout himself. She cast him a smile.
“I’m doing whatever I want to, Link.” She said with a casual shrug. “I left home.”
“You ran away?” Link stared at her. At sixteen and
a half, he had been kept down two grades and had still failed to keep
up, so had decided to give up and fend for himself. But Roxanne was a
kid still, and a girl, also. Not that he underestimated her – he knew
how strong his friend was.
But still, fourteen was awfully young…
“Yep.” Roxanne nodded proudly. “Best choice I ever made. I am not going back, not even if they paid me.” She grinned at him. “I’m a free girl now, Link. Aren’t you happy for me?”
“Sure, Rox.” Link returned the smile. He had a great admiration for the young Roxanne. Even though she was younger than him, she had leadership qualities that belied her years and he rarely thought of her as his junior. If anything else, he and most of his associates, known as the ‘Red Aces’, looked upon Roxanne as something of a leader. “Hey, what you doin’ tonight?”
“Tonight? No plans. Why? What you got in mind?” Roxanne eyed him curiously.
“Well, I wondered where you’re gonna stay, now that you left home an’ all.” Link shrugged. “You got any place lined up?”
“Not yet.” Roxanne admitted. “But I’ll find someplace, that’s no problem.”
“How about you come with me, huh?” Link suggested. “The guys and I found this place the other night – its abandoned, and we broke the chain. There’s plenty of room for one more, if you’re game to join in the fun.”
“Hey, sounds like an idea to me.” Roxanne laughed. “Count me in. Where is this place?”
“Come on, I’ll show ya.” Link responded. “It ain’t no stylish joint or nothing, but it’ll do. We got a roof, even if we don’t got electricity or that stuff.”
“I don’t care.” Roxanne shrugged, obediently following her companion down the winding streets. “So long as I don’t have to speak to that aunt and uncle of mine ever again, I don’t care if I have to sleep in the gutter. I’m doing things by my rules now, Link!”
Link sent his companion a glance. He was fond of her, if not perceptive enough to realise the motivation for her departure from home, and he knew that the other Red Aces would not object to her company. Roxanne was a fighter with a determination like few he’d ever known before. She’d fit right in. And if they had to do a bit of law-breaking to survive, well, he was sure that she’d care little for the moralistic ins and outs of that.
We’ll do okay.” He mused to himself. “And it might be kinda cool to have Roxanne stay with us. She sure can liven things up!”
For her part, Roxanne was inwardly rejoicing. She had a place to stay and a new freedom, which in her eyes was worth all the gambles she was taking. She could be herself without fear of scorn or retribution…she wouldn’t need to take the hassle from her teachers or guardians ever again.
She was looking out for number one.
“And I’m going to make it.” She told herself
determinedly. “And then they’ll see just what kind of a person is
(The Misfits and Holograms and other animated Jem characters are
copyrighted to Hasbro Inc. All characters who do not appear in Jem
episodes are my own creation. This story is copyrighted to E.A Woolley
(2001). Background image was drawn and edited by me and therefore is
copyrighted to me (E.A Woolley). Roxy is copyright of Hasbro Inc.