Chapter Three: Like Old Times
"You know, sitting up here ain't gonna bring the kid back."
The tall, frail woman at the window turned, casting her companion a ghost of a smile. Her blue eyes were sad, however, and Roxy grimaced, moving swiftly to the other girl's side and grabbing her by the arm.
"Listen to me, damn you...snap out of it! I don't know what that jerk Elliot's done to you, but this ain't the Stormer I remember! Get a grip, woman!"
"Get a grip?" The words were spoken softly, and tears touched the pale blue eyes. "Roxy, no amount of fake smiles or anger can bring my son back. He's gone...gone forever. He never even got a chance...and it's my fault."
"Yeah? How's that?" Roxy snorted. "Get real. He died because he was messed up inside. The doctors all said so. How's that your fault? He never would've survived, anyway. I don't see what the big deal is. He would have died, whatever. Don't you understand that?"
"Roxy, I was his mother." Stormer bit her lip. "A mother is supposed to guard...to protect. He was my responsibility. I...I allowed myself to be careless, I should have taken better care of myself. If I had never gotten sick, he...he might have stood a chance."
"Oh, for heaven's sake." Roxy groaned. "Right. That's it. You're going to listen to me."
"There's nothing you can say to change what's happened." Stormer shrugged, turning back to the window. "He shouldn't have died...they should have tried harder to save him, instead of worrying about saving me. Don't you see? It's my fault. I took his life...and he hadn't even the chance to begin it. I'd had a chance. He didn't."
"Joseph was dead before they even got him out, Stormer." Roxy swung her friend around, gripping her hard by the shoulders and meeting the sorrowful blue eyes with determined brown ones. Frustration bubbled through the older girl's tone, but Stormer was aware of a fleck of sympathy deep in those coffee coloured eyes, and despite herself, she found herself listening. "Letting you die would have done no good. Don't you understand, you moron? Joseph was never going to live...but who in hell else is there to raise those two noisy brats downstairs, huh? Who was going to tell Sylvina and Anna that Mommy was never gonna come home? Who was going to teach them to be damn fine little Misfits? Elliot? Gimme a break. The guy's useless! He'd bring them up to be executive clones! They deserve better than that, don't they?"
"Roxy, try to understand..."
"No, Stormer. You understand." The grip on her shoulders tightened.
"Look at it from their point of view. I won't say it again. I grew up on the flipside of that coin. I lost my mother. Dammit, I know what that can do to a kid. God only knows what would be in store for those girls if the doctors had wasted their energy saving a kid that couldn't be saved, instead of saving you, who could! Yeah, you lost a baby, and yeah, I'm sorry. I don't want to understand what that was like for you...there's a good reason I don't want kids, and all this emotional stress is it. But dammit, Stormer, you have two kids who are alive and who need you! Who do you think they ask for all the time? What am I supposed to tell them, when they ask me where Mommy's gone, or why she won't talk to them? Who's gonna tell them that no, it's not their fault their brother died, and no, Mommy doesn't hate them? Elliot spends all day in the office...and you spend all your time up here. You're turning your back on your surviving kids, and for what? A baby who was too gone to save?"
"I loved him...and wanted him so much."
Now Stormer's tears came and awkwardly, Roxy hugged her, glad that noone was there to see.
"Well, sure you did. You've always been soft that way." She agreed, though her tone belied the dismissiveness of her words. "But listen. I've seen it from the other side, and those girls need their Mom." She paused, eying her friend thoughtfully. "Dammit, I think you need them, too. You've spent too much time with ghosts...it's time you came downstairs and talked to your twins, put things right."
She rolled her eyes. "Besides, I'm done reading Dr Seuss and teaching them the best way to fingerpaint. Kids are not my thing, and I refuse to play Nanny any more! That wasn't why I came to DC, and you know it!"
Stormer raised her head, lifting a pale finger to wipe away her tears. "No, you didn't. You came to be a supportive friend...like you've always been. You're right, Roxy. Losing Joseph hurts...worse than I can ever put into words. But I can't let it stop me from keeping my real responsibilities. From raising my daughters. Joseph isn't here...but they are, and I've been neglecting them."
She moved to the bed, grabbing her dressing gown and slipping it over her shoulders, tying it at the waist. She cast her companion a wan smile.
"I'm going to go clean up, and then get dressed." she said softly. "Do me a favour, huh?"
"Favour?" Roxy raised an eyebrow. "Depends on what it is."
"I want you to go downstairs and talk to my children." Stormer gripped Roxy tightly by the hand. "Tell them...tell them that Mommy's coming to play."
"Bah, you have an awful memory. It was never like that!" Roxy protested,
an uncomfortable blush touching her cheeks. "I would never say anything
that messed up, and you know it!"
"Well, however it was, it meant a lot to me." She responded. "I've never forgotten Joseph, but I did my best by my girls, and that's the truth. Whatever else happened." She looked wistful. "I wish you'd move back to LA, actually. You always get me motivated better than anyone else I know."
"Well, what do you expect?" Roxy demanded. "I...hey! Someone's messing your car!"
"What?" Mary turned, glancing out of the window towards where a young boy was fiddling with the car handles. "Oh, damn kids, what now? Roxy..."
She turned back, but her companion was already gone. Frowning, Mary moved to the doorway, just in time to see a platinum whirlwind descend upon the unfortunate vandal.
"What in hell do you think you're doing?"
"Shift it, lady. You don't wanna mess with us."
A second and third youth came out of the shadows of the carpark at this, each of them clutching baseball bats. None of the trio were more than eighteen, and Roxy seemed to find this show of strength funny.
"I think you misheard me." She said sweetly, grabbing the nearest youth by the collar and pushing him back against his friends, sending all three tumbling to the ground. "I said, what do you think you're doing?"
"Getting out of here!" The youngest of the trio yelped, scrambling to his feet and fleeing down the nearest alleyway. The bigger thugs hesitated, eying Roxy warily. The former Misfit folded her arms, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, kids? What about you? Think you can take an older woman?" She demanded.
"We're armed. We could hurt you." The taller of the men seemed to find his courage.
"Big wow. I'm not armed, and I could probably hurt you more." Roxy narrowed her eyes. "You picked on the wrong car this time! Now beat it, else you'll be sucking soup through a straw."
"Who are you, anyway?" One of the youths demanded.
"Sheesh, who educates the kids today?" Roxy rolled her eyes. "Name's Roxy, wimp. Roxy Pelligrini. Never heard of the Misfits, kid?"
She clenched her fists, her brown eyes narrowing as she focused thoughtfully on her prey. It had been some time since she'd last unsheathed her streetfighting claws, but there was nothing she liked more than a good clash of fists.
"Where I grew up, you didn't live till your age if you didn't know how to fight your own corner." She smiled. "Well? Still want to play?"
With one accord, the youths lost the last of their courage, dropping their bats and fleeing. Roxy turned back towards the restaurant, registering as she did so that a small crowd had gathered and were applauding her effort. She laughed.
"Well, Roxy Pelligrini is back in town, and she's still got the moves!" She exclaimed. "But right now, I'm starving. Time to eat!"
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE
Chapter One: Back In Los Angeles
Chapter Two: Christmas Plans
Chapter Three: Like Old Times
Chapter Four: The Truth About Anna
Chapter Five: The Video Shoot
Chapter Six: Topaz's Sensation
Chapter Seven: Sadie's Tattoo
Chapter Eight: An Unlikely Team
Chapter Nine: Misfit vs Devil
Chapter Ten: An Old Flame
Chapter Eleven: Topaz Again
Chapter Twelve: A Christmas Present