Author Topic: Trine  (Read 427 times)

Offline Meliran

Trine
« on: October 14, 2017, 01:13:44 pm »
So, I have written a lot about Trine Sorensen for Crux of Cessation. Like... a real lot. 44k words of canon, a 9k idea abandoned midway, and a 19k story that I eventually decided to can because of numerous issues.

However, the 19k story is a complete story, so I decided to at least publish it for anyone who wants to read it. The issues in it include - misrepresentation of Odense, similarity to Orbit, and a few internal issues. It is not canon for Trine currently, but may be entertaining to get an idea about her personality and thought process.

I'll be publishing future Trine related works in this thread. Thinking of having all titles following the format of "SOS".

This story takes place 15 years before the events of the real prologue, called "Song of Sea" and 16 years before the events of CoC.

Source of Shame
Source of Shame

“Let x-7=2y, and let x+1=y. What are x and y?” The math questions lar out in an organized row on the paper, nowhere near halfway done.

I stared at the paper, unable to understand what to do. Did we ever learn this in class? I thought back, but all I could remember about math class was the nice tight butt of the boy in front of me.

I pulled on my long crisp blond twintails. “Argh, what do I need this crap for?!” What could math ever be used for on a ship? All I needed to know were the right ways to hoist a sail, how to maneuver a wheel, and how to seduce sailors to follow my will.

I needed some way to procrastinate. Spying the unturned calendar, I decided that might be a good idea. It had been May for three days already. On May the 3rd, there was a big red circle, reminding me of something I had dreaded at the beginning of the year, but could care less about now.

Two years ago, on this day, I had my first period. Of course, to me it was simply another inconvenience in life. But when I learned in health class that the majority of a girl’s changes occur through the two years after it, and I had still been pretty flat, I had dreaded I’d never be able to match Laerke. I would always be flat-chested Trine.

Even at the start of the year, I hadn’t had much in the way of volume. But that all changed in February and March when I went up three cup sizes. My breasts are soft to the touch, but something to be proud of now.

I placed down my pencil and dashed into the bathroom. The full body mirror on the door showed off all my assets. Guys in school had already been hitting on me and telling me how sexy I looked. One even offered to take care of my virginity for me, but 13 is a little young for that so I had to refuse.

When I returned to my desk, the math problems hadn’t completed themselves like I had hoped. They sat there, a gauntlet of terror and struggle. I supposed I’d need a little help to get through these problems after all.

I pulled open my desk drawer and pushed aside some papers. Underneath were a bunch of ridges to slide my long fingernails through until I found the perfect bump. Upon pulling it open, it revealed its precious innards to me – the 4-oz bottle of vodka I kept for my worst moments.

The liquid burned as it went down my throat, but I didn’t care. I’d be feeling really happy in a few moments.

“Trine!”

I dropped the bottle to the floor, where it shattered into hundreds of tiny pieces. Crap! Standing in the doorway, with her arms crossed, was my mother.

She held a spatula in one hand – the same spatula she would use to slap my rear as recently as three years ago when I disobeyed her. But this was much worse than that.

“I’ll be waiting for you in the kitchen.”

Of course, it wasn’t just her waiting downstairs. My father sat, stirring his coffee vigorously. “So you still aren’t laying off the liquor, Trine? After all we’ve done for you, you’re still trying to sneak it in?”

“What do you mean, all you’ve done for me?” I sneered. “All you’ve done is lectured me not to take a few moments out of my day to relax!”

He slammed his hand on the table. “Don’t you dare speak like that to me! I’m your father, and I know just how much I’ve done for you around this house! Do you think I want to go to the shipyards every day to put food on this table and pay your tuition? Do you think I wanted to throw out all the alcohol in the house to stop you from taking swigs out of it? How did you manage to sneak that bottle past me? Who gave it to you?”

I twirled a long lock of hair in my fingers.

My mother was a bit more sympathetic, of course. “Trine, dear, it really hurts us to see you like this. If you keep this up, you’re really going to have a problem.”

They really know nothing. A problem is having five drinks a day. I only have one every couple of days when I’m feeling down.

“Why can’t you be a bit more like Laerke?” asked my father.

My time froze. A bit more like Laerke? Again with that? “Oh, just shut the hell up!” I sprung out of my chair and slammed my hand on the table. “Why are you always like that? Why do you dream of me being like that perfect other daughter you’ve got? I’m Trine, not Laerke II! I have my own wants and needs, and I’m not going to deal with you trying to impose everything about her onto me!”

My father crossed his arms. “So you don’t want to join the royal navy, then?”

“And that’s always your reply! Yes, I want to join the royal navy like her, but there’s more than one type of person in there! I’m not going to become someone else I’m not because of you!”

My mother stared me hard in the eye. “We’re not asking you to become anyone else. You can be as loud and rambunctious up there as you want doing whatever you want. We’re only asking for you to stop doing adult activities until you’re actually an adult.”

I lifted up my boobs. “Guess what? I am an adult now! So leave me alone!” I charged up the stairs with them screaming at me and slammed the door shut. The door lock clicked, and I laid back on my bed.

An adult at 13? I supposed I could be one if I wanted to. I knew enough about how this world worked to make a living out there should I need to.

My parents pounded on my door and shouted until their voice was hoarse, but my discussing with them was over. I put on some headphones to drown them out and pulled out my magazine on the latest motorcycles.

The pictures of the beauties themselves were enough to get my blood going. The sleek streamline designs with the wonderful airbrushed trims were sexier than any man I’d ever seen, and the huge numbers for horsepower, steering, and handling were almost an orgasm in and of themselves. But, unfortunately there was the biggest number of all – the cost.

My savings had practically disappeared in middle school as I tried all sorts of different things out. Once my parents cut off my allowance when they discovered I’d be buying adult magazines and alcohol, it had pretty much stagnated around the 0 line. I had to get old enough to join the navy. They paid really well, and I’d have a motorcycle of my own before I could even lie in bed with my first sailor.

The next page were all stories about people and their bikes. “I worked an extra shift every week to pay for my baby for a year, and I don’t regret it one bit! She was totally worth it!”

The typical stories of how easy it was for people to get their bikes. His bike honestly wasn’t that great – a rather simple structure with two wheels, a motor, and a seat. I wanted mine to be something grander. I wanted flairs and pipes and the whole nine yards.

The next was from a girl. “When I ran away from home, I hitched a ride on my boyfriend’s bike, and I was hooked immediately. The thrill of wind blowing through my hair was more than enough to lure me in, and like sex, I didn’t want to stop! I needed one of my own, so I took a good part of the money I brought with me to buy one for myself.”

Running away from home? The thought had crossed my mind before. If I was really an adult, I should be able to leave this house and strike out on my own. Maybe I could even find a forger to give me all the documents I needed to join the navy. My body could certainly pass for sixteen.

The pounding on my door eased. I supposed my parents gave up. They’d be ready to scream at me tomorrow morning, but for now I would be safe.

But maybe I could avoid having to listen to them tomorrow morning. I’d only need to follow that girl’s footsteps and run away. I’d have to wait until they started fucking in bed like they do every night (I supposed nymphomania runs in the family) so as to cover the sounds of my leap out of the window. If I managed to land without injuring myself, I could probably make it to Odense’s outskirts by dawn. Good luck for anyone trying able to find me in that decrepit part of town!

My piggybank, however, told me otherwise. If I ran, it’d only be a matter of days before I would be too hungry to continue. I’d either have to crawl back here and face their wrath, or have to start selling my body to fat slobs and pigs.

A soft hand knocked on my door twice, then once, and finally three times. At first I didn’t want to speak with anyone. But when I thought about running away again, I decided it might be best to have a little bit of a chat with her.

Laerke and I had a special sort of relationship. We wouldn’t fight over petty squabbles like other sisters, despite her being close enough in age for it. And even though I envied everything about her, I never let it turn into hatred. Her perfectly kept blond locks cascading down her back, her blue eyes, her curvy body… they were all to die for. Beyond that, she had amazing grades in school, was hardly ever single, and was well on her way to enter the royal navy next year.

“Wearing one of those dresses again?” I asked when she walked in. I don’t think I could remember a particular moment when she wasn’t in some sort of knee-length dress, save maybe gym class or something.

“It looks pretty,” she said. “Though you don’t see me questioning you always wearing those skimpy bike shorts.”

I crossed my legs. “My legs need to breathe, you know.”

She sat on my bed. “Listen, Trine. I know you need an ally in this family, and you know I’m always here for you if you need anything. I won’t yell, I won’t judge, and I won’t advise unless you ask for it. But are you sure you want me to be your only ally? Sparring with them isn’t going to get anywhere.”

I grabbed a hold of a teddy bear lying on the bed. “I only have three more years under this roof. I don’t need an ally against them for too long.”

She held my hand. “But I’m going to be gone after next year. I can only help you for so long.”

She was right. It wasn’t going to be long until she was gone and I would be alone. I squeeze the bear harder, trying to think about what I could do in the meantime. I could always load up on after-school activities to avoid coming home. Or, I could always run away.

My thoughts turned back to the life in the streets. “Can I ask a question?”

“Shoot,” she smiled.

“Are you a virgin?”

She blushed a little. “Where did this come from?”

“Just curiosity. You’ve had a bunch of boyfriends already.”

She leaned back on my bed. “Well, if you must know, yes.”

“Waiting for marriage?”

“Oh, heck no! I just want to be prepared in case something goes wrong, you know. I want to be well in the royal navy and earning a salary good enough to support both myself and a baby before I do something like that.”

She really was a responsible girl. “Would you lose it if you really needed the money and somebody was offering to pay you?”

I thought she’d get mad at me for suggesting prostitution to her. But rather, she thought about it for a bit. “I suppose it’d depend on how they looked.”

“What do you mean?”

She pushed up on her breasts. “Listen, we’ve been blessed to be born into a family of beauties. We have to carry around these burdens all day long, so we should cash in on our hard work. You can love whoever you want – hot or not. But for me, at least, I’d want my first time to be with a total hottie. I mean, this type of body deserves it.”

I have to laugh. “Quite modest there, aren’t you?”

She winked. “Don’t have to be modest in private. You know how it is. A lady in the streets, and a freak in the sheets. As long as I am prim and proper out in the open, they’d never question what I do or think when I’m alone.”

She got up off the bed and dusted off her dress. “Well, just know that if you need anything, I’m always here for you. Mom and dad are too, if you’d let them. They’re quite sensible if you stop arguing and screaming at them all the time.”

“I thought you said you’d never give me advice unless I asked for it.”

She opened my door, clicking the lock back open. “And so I didn’t. I only stated a fact.” She shut the door behind her, leaving me alone to go back to my magazines.

This time, however, it wasn’t my magazine about motorcycles. It was one filled with naked men. I let my hands drift down my body and into my panties, falling into a state of insatiable lust and ecstasy.

The same noises which came from my mouth that night came soon from a few doors down, where my parents were romping each other and shaking the bed. My mom, as I learned, really was into bondage, so it wouldn’t be a rarity to find ropes all over the place in their bedroom the following morning.

I turned back to the magazine to try and drown them out. But my fingers somehow managed to turn to the page with the stories again.

The girl who ran away stood next to her bike with a huge smile on her face. She held one hand on the bike seat, and the other in her leather shorts. I wondered what kind of a life she lived outside of her bike. But I could tell her smile wasn’t faked. This was as real as it got. All the others looked as fake as the “steak” my parents sometimes buy from the grocery store.

Was she really so happy just because she ran away? Were my parents holding me back from living?

I made my decision and threw open the window. I took one last look back into my room, and passed my eyes over the poster for the royal navy. “I’ll be in you as soon as I find a forger,” I promised myself. I grabbed on the ledge of my window, and with all the strength I could muster, threw myself out of it.

For just a moment, I was airborne, and thrilled to be alive. But everything which flies in the air must fall sometime. I crashed to the ground with a thud, and sharp pains coursed up my legs. “Shit!” I yelled a bit too loud. I covered my mouth, half expecting the door to open up with my parents running out to wonder what I’m doing. But the moaning from their bedroom – and Laerke’s for that matter – doesn’t stop.

I tested my legs. They seemed stable enough. A few bruises and cuts, but nothing really seemed to be broken or anything. I took a couple of steps in walk, and then in jog. It’d probably feel like crap come morning if I put pressure on it, but I don’t really have that luxury. I have to run.

And run I certainly did. I ran down the street, down the main road, and all along the cobblestones. There are no vehicles on the road to dodge, so it was pretty easy going to run from one place to another. My legs cried out to me to give them a break, but my days of running in gym class taught me the importance of ignoring my body to get what I want.

Odense’s slate buildings passed me by – most of them boarded up and closed for the night. Every so often I’d pass a person, but they didn’t really pay much attention to me. In my shirt which stopped a few centimeters above the navel, and these short shorts – even if they are jeans shorts – I looked like a civilian out for an early morning, or in this case, late night jog.

I passed by the school and some stores in the commercial district. “Things have to get worse before they get better,” I told myself. But in this case it was the exact opposite – the commercial district was the best kept place in town, and I wanted to head to the outskirts: the slums and the trash of the town. But better and worse was nothing more than a subjective matter. What was better for people like my parents was worse for me.

The commercial district passed me by, and with it I came to the junkyard. It was here that I finally had to give into the pain from my legs. I was still far too close to the center of the city to feel at ease, but if I could just get inside the junkyard somehow, I could hide myself from any suspecting eyes.

They junkyard itself was a set of close to a hundred mounds at least five times taller than me, filled with all sorts of scrap nobody wants to deal with anymore. As a kid, I used to dream of finding something like a gold bar or a rare artifact under one on the heaps. But now I knew the most I was going to find were used syringes and broken chairs.

I felt along the edges of the fence for some sort of a hint of an opening. I didn’t even need to feel – for some idiot had left the gate open. I tucked my hair in my shirt so as to avoid identification in case they had a camera, and then dashed in so they had the smallest possible number of frames with me in the view. The night shift guard would probably not even notice it on his monitor.

My legs are really screaming when I manage to find a nice patch of dirt between two piles of rubble. It really was warm between these two piles, since the wind seemed to bounce off them and go around. The metal absorbed all the light’s energy and radiated it, creating a sort of nice ground to sleep on. If not only for the food problem, I could live here for the rest of my life.

But food was my best friend and my worst enemy now. For any sort of food in here was going to smell until they compacted it – the only thing they would compact in this entire yard.

I woke the next morning to a soft rain dripping on my exposed skin. It took a moment to remember where I was, and for that matter, why I was there. “I am Trine, I am in a junkyard, I am here because I ran away from home over alcohol.” I said to myself.

It all seemed so silly in retrospect. It was too late to change my mind or have regrets in any case. With runaways, I knew parents go through a few stages of desire. If I returned now, they’d flip out and lock me in my room for an eternity. If I returned in a week, they would be loving and happy I came back. If I returned in a year, they’d be shocked, but assume me independent in any case and probably not take me back for good. I wondered if I’d even survive a year out of the streets like this.

The mounds of junk called out to me to explore like a little kid. This was a little kid’s dream, after all. All kids want to leave school and engage in a hobby or play around. At age thirteen, I really shouldn’t be doing such childish activities. But maybe there was a real prize in here.

I ignored the rain which fell with increasing intensity, and climbed up the mound of trash. Each step pained my leg, but I knew that pain would be temporary. I was just from jumping out the window, and it should heal soon in any case.

Something sparkled inside the mound of trash and caught my eye. A diamond? Curious, I pushed aside and oversized television and a tricycle pounded into all sorts of strange shapes, hoping it was the real deal.

But it wasn’t a diamond. It was rather a stainless steel trigger of a revolver.

I pulled out the gun and examined it. When I unlatched the chamber of the revolver, it revealed something even more frightening – three bullets still left inside.

“Well, it probably doesn’t work anyways,” I said. I pushed it back together and aimed it at the middle of the pile. My finger fit so wonderfully on the trigger, it was like this thing had been made for me. I imagined a target and pulled on it, shouting “bang.”

My shout was completely drowned out by the actual sound of the gun firing. The shock of it actually firing made me lose my balance, and on a hill of junk, this was a really dangerous thing. I didn’t just fall – I rolled down the sharp corners and edges, feeling some of them cut my skin open and bite inside. I hated it at the time, but I’m really grateful for that tetanus shot I got back in March right now.

I landed on the cold hard ground, my leg crying out more than ever. But this time, I had more injuries than just that. My entire body was a bloody mess.

But the gun was still at my side. I supposed it was a gift to me from some sort of a guardian angel. I could protect myself now – at least two more times. But I wasn’t sure if things like angels existed. Which meant somebody had thrown away a perfectly good and loaded gun.

But who would do such a thing?

A murderer.

I was holding a murder weapon. That was the only reasonable explanation. But since these things were registered, there wouldn’t be a need for me to fear about being caught. At minimum I would only have to explain how I found it in the junkyard, and I would be in the clear.

I shoved the gun in my pocket. It wasn’t much of a holster, but it would have to do for now.

When I had the strength to get up and walk around the yard again, the rain had begun to flood the ground. Mud caked on my skin, and with no shower to clean myself off, I was going to be stuck feeling disgusting all day long.

Every step was agony. My leg pain were starting to centralize in my knee, and it certainly did hurt. Worse still, my stomach was crying out for food. With no supper the night before, a skipped breakfast, and probably a skipped lunch by now, I was utterly starving. Even something rotten sounded good to me.

By the time I reached the back corner of the junk yard and decided there was nothing worth staying there for, I had started to lose my balance. Between the pain and the hunger, there was absolutely nothing I cared about.

I looked back north, to around where I thought my home had been. It would be so easy to call a taxi to bring me back up there and drop me off. I would apologize to my parents, take my punishment, and that would be the end of this awful experiment of mine. But I would at least have food in my stomach, warmth, dry clothes, and an ice pack on my bad leg. It seemed so tempting.

Was this the extent of my adult life? I couldn’t even last a single day out on the streets? No, I wouldn’t accept that answer. I hobbled down the streets, inching away from the richer parts of towns and into the slumps. Maybe the garbage had some food in it.

There were all sorts of lowlifes on the streets out here. There were a few guys sitting around with a jar begging for money, a few with decrepit musical instruments playing horribly out of tune with their cases open and collecting bills, and a couple of girls with twenty-centimeter heels and not much more than a bikini and a thong on, some talking with some rather ugly and desperate men.

God gave me the body of a girl, so I always would have the option of using it like them. But at the same time, Laerke’s words resounded in my head. We were blessed with beautiful bodies, so our first times should be with beautiful men. If I sold my body away for a couple of meatballs and a cup of ramen noodles, I would always regret it.

I wandered deeper into the alleyways, not really sure where I was going or what I was hoping for. Pain emanated from both my stomach and my knee, forcing me to finally collapse in what seemed the dirtiest and loneliest alleyway of them all.

This was going to be my end. I would die here, and nobody would ever know until some unfortunate soul would identify my rotting corpse.

“Well, best take the bite off the pain.” I pulled my shorts and panties down, exposing the thing which made me a woman, and circled the pleasure center of my body.

It didn’t do too much to make the pain go away, but at least it got me to stop thinking about it for a little bit. Of course, my body didn’t have the energy to go for too long, so after a quick climax, I collapse in defeat.

“Well, that was quite a show,” clapped someone.

I looked through blurry eyes. A male figure walked out of the shadows, his hand continuing to clap. Realizing his sex and my danger, I pulled my shorts back over to cover.

“Oh, you don’t have to worry,” he said. “I’m not going to do anything to you. The name’s Kristoffer.”

“Trine,” I weakly let out, still wary of him.

He surveyed my body. “Pretty young to be out here by yourself. By my guess, you’re either an orphan, a runaway, or a castaway.”

“The second.” I pulled out my gun. “And if you tell anyone, it’ll be the last thing you’ll ever do.”

“Whoa, whoa!” He hopped back and held his hands up. “I’m not going to do anything to you, so chill out! Rather, I’m trying to help you.”

“How’s watching me touch myself helping me?”

He pulled out a fresh pair of bills and threw them at my feet. Like a rabid dog, I leapt on them. These were bills I had never seen before – 1000 kroner notes. Any girl would recognize this as a lot of money.

“What’s this for?” I asked.

He shrugged. “You put on a better show than any of the whores frequenting these corners, so you can have the money I was going to pay them. At least I feel a little better knowing it’s going to food – and maybe a raincoat and better clothes – instead of drugs.”

I was barely able to get up, so the man helped me back to my feet as I pocketed the cash. I didn’t even have the energy to say thank you as he led me to a pub.

I couldn’t order any alcohol here, of course, but the food filled my stomach like nothing I ever thought would. After dealing with my mom’s no-salt cooking for so many years, the extra salt coursing through the meals not only made it taste better – but actually made me feel better.

The man didn’t stay for long. All he asked was, “Where will you be tomorrow night?”

I knew exactly what he wanted – another show. It was one step away from being a harlot, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take that step or not.

I took another bite into my meal. It’s sweet taste answered every question I had. “Same place, same time.”

I had a lot of money to spare, so after hiding my gun inside my shirt, I took a stop at the department store to buy a few things I would need. A raincoat, a change of clothes, some new waterproof shoes, and the two things I never thought I would need – a holster for my gun, and a knee brace, sat in my shopping cart at checkout.

The cashier sorted through the items. “I’m going to need to see some identification,” she said.

“For what?”

She held the gun holster up. “Minors are not allowed to own guns.”

I had to smile. “Who said it was for a gun?”

The cashier scowled. “What else would it be for?”

“Why, my makeup, of course. It’s just the perfect size for my lipstick.” I smacked my lips, but any makeup I would have had on would have washed away ages ago.

I could tell she doubted me, but she didn’t have any option but to check it out. The illegality was the gun hidden in my shirt – not the holster. The holster is only a piece of leather, after all.

After handing over what remained of my cash and getting a few hundred kroner in change, I returned to the streets. There weren’t really changing stations littering the streets, so instead I squeezed into a telephone booth and made the best to preserve my modesty in there.

The rain had slowed to a drizzle by now, but the raincoat did feel a lot better just to cover a lot of the cuts and bruises from my fall earlier. Most importantly, the knee brace really managed to ease a lot of the pain which had been accumulating in my leg. It seemed to massage the parts which hurt, and more than that, provide a bit of stability. But at the same time, I wouldn’t be able to run in this like I did the night before.

I stood in the drizzle, watching the double rainbow form over Odense. Somewhere on the other side would be a pot of gold with some extra luck for me. But for now, I would have to continue living life on the edge.

The next morning, I awoke under yesterday’s evening newspaper and some cardboard. I folded the paper up and tossed it. A gust of wind tore it open, revealing a rather familiar face to mine.

“Trine Sørensen went missing from her bedroom sometime between 10 PM on May 3rd and 6 AM on May 4th. Her parents are offering a reward of 2,000 Kroner for information which leads to her return to them.”

2,000 Kroner. That was really all I was worth to them? What I got from relieving my sexual urges last night was the same as my life in general? I spat on the ground, frustrated at everything.

While I sat in the streets, the sun rose only gradually. It wasn’t long until finally, I was simply too bored to care anymore. I had always dreamed of running away to be some glorious and soul-enlightening experience. Yet all I had to do was sit here and wait for my next “paycheck” – if I was even willing to do it in front of that man in the first place. Maybe I just didn’t want to do something so deceitful for him. I could survive on my change for another week in terms of food.

By ten in the morning, at least, I assumed that was the time, I couldn’t take it anymore. I took the steps back to the junkyard, intrigued as to what other treasures I might find in it with good sunlight and better health – although my knee was absolutely killing me by now.

As I found out, the junkyard’s fence was really well maintained near the street, but on the back side there were holes and cuts all over the place. I slipped into a hole, nearly tearing my raincoat in the process, and walked across the muddy stream which had started to flow down the river.

The junkyard was mostly the same as yesterday – filled with old auto parts, machines, and other pieces of trash. The gun really was a one-in-a-million find. There may have been several million items of trash in here, but I didn’t feel  like searching through them to find the other couple gems.

For I didn’t need to. It lay on a heap of trash, completely bent out of shape and ugly. But it was something I had always dreamed of. I was looking at a bonafide motorcycle.

I pulled it up and felt its handlebars in the palms of my hand. They were all worn and cruddy, and some of the frame had a bit of rust on it. But that was nothing I wouldn’t be able to scrape off and repaint, should it be necessary.

I swung my leg over the seat and tested out my position. This bike was made for me. It was calling for me to ride it. Its key was still in the ignition, so I turned it and waited for the obvious roar of the engine calling to me that it was ready for takeoff.

But there was no such roar. There wasn’t even a pitter patter. I should’ve known. They always kept the good parts of a bike for refurbishing, and throw the junk out when they don’t want it anymore. All I had here is a frame and a couple of pipes.

So much for my great plans of finally having a bike to call my own.

I laid the bike back down on the pile of junk, but when I did, another thought entered my head. There were a lot of old auto body parts here. Maybe I could find a piston or a crank shaft or a fender somewhere on here to make it work. But first I needed tools to get these parts in, and I was sure there had to be tools somewhere in these heaps of junk and scrap metal.

By the time the sun set, I had found a few basic tools like a wrench, a hammer, and both types of screwdrivers. There were a few parts which seemed to go to a motorcycle, but I had no way of telling for sure. Magazines and my memory really don’t give assembly much justice at all.

I laid my finds together in their own pile. Nobody seemed to ever check back here, so they should be good for tomorrow, when I could continue my futile attempts. But at least these attempts kept me busy all day instead of sitting bored on the streets. But anything would be better than returning to my parents and deal with their crap all over again.

I found my legs walking themselves to the dark and lonely alleyway again. The man, Kristoffer, leaned against a deserted warehouse, flipping a coin. “I suppose runaways are not known for their timeliness.”

It was hard enough to come here. Facing this man again was even worse. “It’s not like I have a watch or anything. I only know when the sun goes down.”

He tore off his watch and threw it at me. “Here, take it. I wanted to get rid of the old thing anyways.”

I wasn’t about to offer to give it back in the first place. If I really was living the life of a runaway and a borderline whore, I didn’t need to be polite. I strapped it on my wrist and adjusted it to my preferences.

“Well?” he asked.

“Well?”

“I came here for a show. Are you going to deliver or what?”

He was pretty demanding for a man pretending to be a friend. But on the other hand, I could see the fresh 2,000 kroner between his fingers.

“All I have to do is pretend he’s not there,” I told myself. “That’s all I have to do.”

I closed my eyes and sunk down to the ground. And before I knew it, my pants were at my ankles, and my fingers explored deep underneath. Not once did I think of the man watching me. Not once did I worry about anyone seeing me. I only worried about how to make myself feel even better than ever before.

The man tossed his money down at me. “Shame you’re only thirteen. I’d be totally up for banging you now, but I don’t want to go to jail over some bait.”

“I’ll take that as a good thing.” I stuffed the money in my pocket, both appalled at the line I had crossed, and happy to have some pocket change.

“I’ll be out here every night you feel like coming. Same deal every time. You don’t come, I’ll find myself a whore for the night. But if you don’t show up for a week, don’t come crying back to me when you need money.”

I fingered the money in my pocket. “I understand, sir.”

I didn’t go for any fancy meals that night – instead going for a basic precooked meal from the local grocery store. There were pictures of my face as a missing child everywhere, so I took to hiding my hair in my raincoat and keeping my eyes down on the ground. Last thing I needed was a discovery and an end to all the freedoms I had earned myself.

In the end, I didn’t even dig into my newfound funds. They burned a hole in my pocket, begging me to spend them somewhere. I saw a drug dealer on the side of the road. It would be so easy to get a couple of hits off him with this money, of course. But that would be a bad idea. Running away from home was of course the first down a long steep spiraling slope, but I didn’t want to run down it any faster than I had to.

The next day, I woke eager to get to work on the bike. But, despite that, I had no idea where to start. I didn’t know what needed replacement, what needed to be repaired, and what needed to only be cleaned – save, of course, my body. But there was one place which would know that answers to all those things.

I entered the bookstore and browsed through the automotive section to try and find the best guide for what I was trying to do. Of course, there wouldn’t be any literature on how to repair a busted up motorcycle, but maybe I could find something on the parts of a bike, or how to improve a bike.

The book was way in the back corner. It was more a book on proper maintenance of a bike – both inside and out – intended to have the biggest Do-It-Yourselfers avoid ever having to stop by a repair shop. But it broke down every part and gear so exquisitely, I should be able to identify exactly what I needed and where to find it.

There was an auto repair shop one door over. The man sitting behind the counter couldn’t care one bit about a teenager entering his shop. He kicked his feet up on the counter and smoked his cigar, sending a noxious smoke into the room.

The parts were all labelled according to size and weight. I wasn’t exactly sure what size I should be looking for, so instead of buying something expensive which might not work, I grabbed a couple of tools for measuring, adjusting, and repairing.

The bike and parts were right where I left them. I flipped through the book, checking through each part I had found, trying to see if I could find a match.

Of all the items I found, only one part seemed to be usable – the charge pipe. But that needed other parts to connect to it, and I didn’t have ten thousand kroner to buy all the parts for that just yet. But, I did know a place where I would be able to earn that money. And best of all, I wouldn’t have to do anything tiring or boring to get it. I only had to have a little bit of fun, let Kristoffer watch, and then return to here to build the bike.

I did some work in scraping off the rust and covering it with a cloth in case the threatening clouds actually did pour rain. It was hard and deliberate work, but bit by bit I was able to free up the metallic finish under the bike. I would probably have to reinforce it if I could ever get a blowtorch, but for now it was good enough to pass for me.

By the end of the day, I was sweaty and tired. But I felt alive – something I hadn’t felt for many years now. I had never felt better in my life.

And so, my life turned into a weird sort of routine. Every morning I would head out to the junkyard and work on some small part of the bike, learning more about both mechanics and myself in the process. And then in the evenings, I would have to let myself go in front of Kristoffer. It was a sense of stability, even if the stability was only balancing on the edge of a knife.

This all changed the tenth day since I ran away.

“Come on, come on,” I urged the bike as I put in the key. This was going to be a bit dangerous, since the engine had never had power supplied directly to it before. There was always the chance it would catch fire or explode. But I was fully prepared to run should something go wrong – well, as close to a run as I could do on my worsening knee.

The key turned in the ignition, and with it came a roar. The engine fired up, and the gentle hum of it was the sweetest music my ears had ever heard. I jumped in excitement, happy to have my work finally pay off.

Of course, this was only the engine. I still had to connect the actual locomotive elements to get it to move, and there was a lot of prettying up I had to do on it, but it was a step in the right direction. I imagined the front of it, one day being mine. I definitely needed to airbrush something on it which represented me. Lots of people went with things like lightning bolts and comets, but I wouldn’t consider myself a sudden force of lightning like them. I was more a caged animal which had been liberated. A bird, maybe?

“Wow, Trine, did you do that all by yourself?”

Speaking of birds… I spun around to see somebody with her arms folded, and a small smile on her face.

“Laerke!” I realized. She was definitely my sister. After ten days without her, I couldn’t hold myself back and ran up to her, throwing my arms around her. “I missed you so much!”

She ran her fingers through my hair. “You’re absolutely filthy.”

I sighed. “Yeah, it’s not like there’s a bath out here or something like at home.” My heart thumped against my chest. Home? That’s right – Laerke still lived at home. I let go of her and backed away slowly, keeping my hands raised. “Are you here to bring me back? Because I’m not going to come.”

“Even if I was, it isn’t like I could make you. Considering you’re still alive after ten days is testament enough as to how much you want to stay out here. Only you can decide to come back home.”

I cocked my head. “Then why are you here?”

“Because sometimes, misery needs company. I’ve decided that as long as you’re running away, I might as well run away too.”

My heart thumped. “But you’re the bright shining star with a wonderful future ahead of you in the navy. Why would you need to run away?”

“Because you’re out here, and I can’t let my poor sister expose herself to the elements alone.” She walked over to my bike and examined the still churning motor. “Though where did you get all the money for this? These are some pretty new parts.”

I bit my tongue. I surely couldn’t tell her about Kristoffer and the things I had to do for him. Speaking of which, I didn’t have much time to spend with her either. He would be waiting for me back in the alley.

“Well, performances,” I half-lied.

“Performances? What kind of performances?”

I gripped the fabric on the inside of my raincoat. “Well, that is…”

Laerke lowered her eyes. “I kind of expected it. Why would you ask me about my virginity the night you left otherwise?”

“No, that isn’t it!” I look at the sun on the horizon, gently dipping beyond the canyon of buildings beyond.

“You have to go to work now, don’t you?” she asked. “Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here when you get back.”

I clench my fist where she couldn’t see. I had completely lost her respect. “I’ll be back as soon as I can!” With that, I turned and walked away without looking back at her.

Every bit of my walk was agony. On one end was the physical agony. My knee had only gotten worse by the day, and the brace had changed over time from a comfort to a replacement for my entire knee. To make matter worse, my period had started earlier in the day, giving me the cramps. But when I added in the mental agony of never having my sister look at me the same way again, I couldn’t help but weep.

Despite all my best efforts to wipe away my tears before entering my usual alleyway, Kristoffer noticed. “Something got you down, my dear Trine?”

I unfastened my raincoat and placed it neatly on a bench. When I stripped all the way down, he would give me an extra 500 kroner, so I always made sure to please him as best I could.

“It’s my sister.”

“You have a sister?”

I supposed I never told him anything about my life. “She’s two years my senior, and she’s like the perfect version of me. She has the grades, the respect, and the looks.”

“You have the looks too, you know.” He fingered a couple of bills in his hand. “If you weren’t so young, I’d be on top of you in an instant.”

The sexy talk again. I forced a blush on my face as part of the performance, as he liked. “Thank you, sir. But in any case, she’s the better version of me. Despite that, she loves me more than any other girl has a right to do. We never really fight, and she loves to call herself my ally in this cruel world.”

“I see,” he said. “So you miss her.”

“I wish I could. She came to meet me in the junkyard, and declared she was going to run away with me as long as I want.”

The man let his smirk disappear for a half second. He obviously wasn’t expecting to hear something like this tonight. “Will she be joining you here?” he asked.

I shook my head. “That’s what’s upsetting me. She figured out, at least sort of, what I’m doing to stay alive. She thinks it’s full on prostitution, but even so, she’s not too far off. And without her respect, I don’t know what to do.”

He sat down on the ground across from me, not caring about the dirt getting on his suit jacket. I wondered what he did for a living to make so much money to continue paying me like this every day. He must have been someone high up in the government with a dirty little secret.

“You have my respect, little Trine,” he said. “And that’s not me saying that just because you’re hot as hell. That’s me admiring everything you’ve done. You seized your life into your own hands instead of relying on your parents for everything, and have found your own hopes and dreams. Why don’t you tell me a little bit more about that motorcycle you’re building?”

I grabbed my bared thigh. “It’s not the same. Laerke is my sister. I don’t get to choose her. I can either be blessed with her as my sister for the rest of my life, or stuck with her. If I had the choice, I’d always choose the first option. I want to make her happy.”

“You ran away from home knowing she’d be upset, didn’t you? That doesn’t sound like a particularly loving sister to me.” He chuckled a bit. “You know, screw the law. If you want to take me to court over it, fine. I’ve bribed them out of worse convictions before. But I can’t hold back anymore. I want your body too much.”

He unzipped his pants and started to descend on me.

“No,” I said.

He pulled out twenty 1,000 kroner notes. My eyes transfixed on them. With that sort of money, I could probably get my own flat or something. Or more importantly – find somebody to forge me false identification papers to join the royal navy.

Laerke’s voice echoed in my head. “I’d want my first time to be with a total hottie. I mean, this type of body deserves it.”

This man wasn’t a hottie. He didn’t deserve my first time. No, that was meant for somebody much more special. I wouldn’t accept his advances.

Like a flash, I grabbed the handgun out of its holster in my dropped skirt, and aimed it square at the center of his chest. He held his hands up and backed up, but didn’t wipe that smirk off his face.

“Are you really going to shoot me? Or would you, if I actually went through with it?”

“Don’t try me.” I held my hand stiff. “I have enough money to last me as long as I want now. My virginity is more precious than a stupid bike.”

He chuckled. “There are plenty of things more important that money, and I wasn’t asking you about the money. First off, are you really satisfied living the rest of your life knowing you killed a man? It’s a slippery slope to live on.”

“What do you mean? This is self-defense.”

“That’s what it always starts off as.” He zippered up his pants and leaned on the building on the opposite side of the alley. “You’re afraid and want to keep yourself from getting hurt. And then when you see the first person die, there is nothing to stop you from doing it again. You break the barrier, and whenever you’re threatened, you’ll kill the assaulter. Threats will become delusions, and soon you’ll kill anyone you please for the smallest slight against you. Death is not something to take lightly, Miss Trine, even in defense of yourself.”

I didn’t lower my hand. “You said there were two reasons.”

He reached in his suit jacket and pulled out something which shouldn’t have fit in a concealed manner in there – a gun of his own. It was far too large to fit in the jacket in any case, in the form more of a rifle or shotgun more than a handgun. “Don’t think your assaulter can’t fire back either.” He didn’t aim it at me, but instead kept it well positioned so I could see it clearly in the moonlight.

“What is that?”

He twisted it around. “It’s a Sjogren 12. I think it’s a bit of a better fit for a girl like you than a murderer’s weapon.”

“I’m no murderer. This is my defense.”

“Not yet. But you know your weapon doesn’t have a good past to it. You know it was used in a murder – specifically the North Endlebrook shootings last year, if you’re so inclined to know. But you picked it up out of the trash yard and used it in any case.”

I steadied my gaze. “How do you know all that? Who are you?”

He slipped the gun back into his suit jacket. “I told you already, my name is Kristoffer. But names really make no difference in this world. The only exist to identify one person to the next so we have an easier time ascribing our judgments on them.”

“My head hurts.”

He put away most of his cash, leaving out the 2500 kroner. “Then do the usual, and you will receive what you care about.”

As much as I wanted to spite him over tonight, I had a hard time figuring out what a difference it made. It was hardly embarrassing to do this in front of him anymore, and it wasn’t like I would be skipping it if I didn’t show him. So, as usual, I lost myself to my lust and forgot where I was for a few minutes.

When I recovered, he had already left, and the money lay by my feet. I licked the juices off my hand and sighed. Was this really all right? Did I really have nothing better to do with my life other than make him happy?

Laerke sat on a pile of televisions when I returned to the junkyard. “Do you sleep in here too? It kind of smells.”

If she worried about the smell, then she really had a long way to go in learning how to live on the street. It had been hard enough to live with my own smell the past couple of days. I really needed a rainstorm to at least wash some of the grime away.

Or, I had a better idea. “Let’s go to a motel tonight. My treat.”

We had to choose the seediest motel in the district – the one least likely to ask for identification or use a credit card instead of cash. After getting our keys, I headed straight into the room and into the shower. I didn’t even bother to change out of my clothes until the fresh water poured over my skin. They could use a wash too, after all.

I hung them up on the rail and walked out in nothing more than a towel. Laerke had a book open and turned through the pages – some small romance novel which could fit in her pocketbook. It was yet another way the two of us were difference. Laerke loved her books, yet I could barely get through a newspaper article. Unless it was loaded full of pictures of bikes or sexy men, I had no interest in it.

It was then I realized her intention. “I’m not going home.”

She closed the book and put it on the nightstand. “What do you mean? I never asked you to go home.”

I tugged on her dress. “Not verbally. But just look at you! You’re still in one of your normal dresses, you brought your pocketbook, and you even had a book for the downtime. You weren’t intending to stay out here with me for an extended period of time. You were intending to dig into my soul and make me feel guilty for putting you through this sort of life.”

Her silence was the only thing I needed for confirmation of my theory.

“Laerke, how could you?”

She folded her hands. “I need a drink. Where do you keep you liquor on you? Your pockets? Or do we have to go back to the junkyard?”

“Liquor?” I patted my hips, but towels don’t have pockets in them. “What do you mean? I haven’t bought a single bottle since I ran away.”

Laerke’s jaw dropped. “What?”

“I haven’t had anything I want to forget or get through out here. Why would I need it?”

“Didn’t you run away over alcohol?”

“No, I ran away over our parents manipulating every little thing in my life. Tell me, have you ever seen me drunk?”

Laerke held up one hand and showed four fingers. “Each of the last four Christmases.”

“Those were different. I mean, from times when I wasn’t allowed to drink.”

She thought for a few seconds. “Well, I suppose not. But you were hiding it, so couldn’t you have hid that from me too?”

“No. I hid it from our parents. You know everything about me, including things they don’t. I wouldn’t run away over a drink. I ran away over an entire future.”

Laerke’s eyes watered. “Oh, Trine, I’m so sorry!” She threw her arms around me. “I shouldn’t have judged you like that! I should’ve understood you. Every time I see you, I keep seeing the little girl who liked to play with her dolls under an electric blanket, not the woman you’re developing into.”

I shifted my eyes aside. Well, maybe I could keep my thing with heat private for now.

“What are your long term plans?” asked Laerke. “I’m sure you’re not going to spend your entire life as a prostitute.”

“You’ve got the wrong idea about what I do.”

“Then what do you do?”

I admitted everything about the nights to her. She only sat and listened. “And this guy never touched you?”

“At least not in any sort of dirty way. He’s only watched. Said something about not wanting to go to jail.”

“I suppose that’s because you’re thirteen still. Age of consent is fifteen in Denmark.”

“So in two years—”

She shook her head. “If you don’t return home, are you sure you want to continue living like this forever? Don’t you have any other sort of future?”

I hugged my pillow to my chest. “I suppose I’d still like to join to royal navy. But I still have to wait three years unless I can find somebody to forge some documentation with my age a little bit higher.”

Laerke jumped up. “That’s it!”

“What’s it?”

She reached into her pocketbook and pulled out a couple of bills. “I have some money saved up, and you know I want to do the same thing as you. So how about I look around tomorrow to find someone good at forgery and have them make us twin sisters? Then we’ll join together and we could even get sorted on the same ship. Wouldn’t that be fun?”

“Aren’t you intending on returning home? You weren’t planning to stay out here for more than a day or two in the first place.”

She sat back on her bed, grabbed a pad and pen, and started to scribble down some notes. “Today’s May 14th, so if we were born on April 23rd, subtract 16 years and… boom! Our new birthdays are this!”

She flashed me the date. I took the opportunity to grab a pair of fresh hair ties to affix my twintails. “Great, but that doesn’t answer my question.”

She got off her bed again and shamelessly dropped her dress. The rest of her clothes went off in a matter of seconds, leaving her stark naked. Then she grabbed her purse and threw it against the wall. “I don’t care about them. I am Laerke Sørensen, not a clone of one of them. I need to be a bit more of a freak in the sheets and less of a lady in the streets. I need to get out and live my life with my goals. I’m going to join the navy a year young, and there’s nothing they can do to stop me. I’m never going to wear those dresses again!”

I giggled. “Good luck with that.”

“What do you mean? I’m serious!”

“And what are you going to wear in the meantime? I’m pretty sure the department store isn’t going to let you stroll in naked.”

As a result, she had to throw on the dress for one last time, but as if in her own way of rebellion, she refused to wear the bra. It was more stubbornness than anything else. When a girl is as big as us, a bra is more of a necessity for support than a fashion statement.

It didn’t take her long to find something she liked – a pairing of ripped jean shorts and a crop top blue tee. I grabbed a matching pair in my size.

“You don’t need to do that,” she said. “You have your own clothes.”

“We’re going to be twins, right? Twins love to dress alike.”

By the time we were back at the motel room, there was no other thought in our head than sleep. “Good night, Laerke.” I shut off my light.

“Good night, Trine.”

I closed my eyes, willing the restful sleep I had been missing so much for the past almost two weeks to come. There was never really comfort lying under a set of newspapers, knowing at any moment a drunk guy could come to rape you – or even worse, a cop to bring you back home. I supposed it would have to be a month or two until Laerke and I could join the royal navy even with our fake papers, thanks to all the missing child notices our parents plastered over the papers.

Just when I thought I was making progress in falling asleep, the bed leaned down on one side and creaked. Bare skin pressed against my own.

“Laerke?”

She put her finger to my lips. “Please, just let me sleep here. It’s more comfortable like this.”

She leaned her head on my shoulder. I supposed it couldn’t hurt. I leaned on her shoulder my entire life, so when it comes to the street life, it’d be all right for her to lean on mine for the meantime. Besides, she was a lot better of a person to sleep with than a newspaper or a cardboard box.

The next day came, and we set off on our separate ways. “I’ll meet you in the junk yard after you’re done with Kristoffer,” she promised.

“Stay safe.”

“You too.” She turned down an alley, and then she was gone. But unlike when she left my room two weeks ago, I knew she’d be coming back. There would be a future between the two of us.

Now that the motor had been completed, the rest of the pieces fit in quickly and easily. They were mostly dealing with gears and coolant, along with actually turning the wheels with the energy from the motor. The wheels themselves could use a bit extra air, but they were in pretty good shape for how much crap they’d been through in the elements.

“Ready?” I asked nobody in particular as I sat on the seat. There was no applause, but that didn’t matter. I turned the key regardless, and embraced the rumble of the motor. I kicked up the stand and placed my feet down. I should probably wear a helmet, but there were a lot of inconvenient things I should did in this life which I chose not to. It wasn’t like I’d be taking it far – if I moved at all.

My heart race as I pumped the gas in. Like magic, the bike moved on its own.

I had been in cars and boats and all sorts of things which had moved before. I had even pumped my own bicycle, powered with my feet. But nothing felt quite as exhilarating as being in complete control of your motion in a motored piece of equipment. I barely hit 5 kilometers an hour on it, but even that small bit of motion pumped ecstasy in my blood. I couldn’t wait to show this to Laerke tonight.

The sun crept under the horizon, and I practically skipped to the alleyway. Kristoffer had stayed in his usual place, smoking a cigarette.

I didn’t need any prodding that night. I simply tore off my clothes and got to work. Kristoffer obviously enjoyed it, as he threw down an extra 1000 kroner note my way.

“What’s got you so happy?” he asked when I put my clothes back on.

“My bike moved! It’s a success!”

He clapped his hands twice to acknowledge my statement, but not put too much in the way of credence in it. “Now what are you going to do with your money?”

“Well, it needs a lot of cosmetic work, like new paint, replacing some covers, headlights, and an airbrush, though I can’t seem to figure out a good pattern.”

“Airbrush?” he asked. “Well, tell you what. You’ve been such a good girl, why don’t I take you to a friend of mine tomorrow. He’d be more than happy to show you some of his designs, and if you’re an especially good girl, I might be willing to get one for you.”

“Really?” I beamed. “That would be so nice!”

He stretched. “But you better make sure it’s one you really like. It’s very hard to get rid of them once you put them on.”

He was just about ready to leave when I tugged on his coat sleeve. “Yes?” he asked.

“Can I see the gun again?” Somehow, despite all the fun I’d had with Laerke and the bike, his gun kept drawing me in. The fact it came from such a small area was amazing enough, but there was something else calling me to it. It was like it wanted me to touch it and hold it, and learn all its intimate secrets. It wanted me to learn to use it, and toss away this small pistol I’d been carrying.

He slipped it out of his jacket. “Do you want it?”

I nodded.

“You can have it tomorrow night if you’re a good girl for me. But there will be no payment. Understood?”

“As long as you don’t do anything to me.”

He slipped it back into his jacket. “Smart girl there. You have yourself a deal.”

When I returned to the junkyard, at first I couldn’t find Laerke. “Did she get lost on the way back?”

Something bright shone through in the direction of my bike’s storage. I followed the light, and sure enough, there was Laerke with my blowtorch. “Oh, hey Trine. I thought I’d work on the bike a bit while you were gone.”

Part of me wanted to yell at her for working on it without my permission. But as my sister, I knew she only had my best interests in mind. “Safety stuff?”

She placed the blow torch down. “Of course. This is your bike, so I wouldn’t dare customize it beyond what you’ve done. But I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to you, so I had to fix a few loose nuts and bolts and readjust a connection.”

I threw my arms around her. “This is why I love you.”

We sat around eating a pre-cooked chicken from the grocer. “So Kristoffer is taking me to see some airbrush designs tomorrow. Said he’d pay for it.”

“Airbrush?” She took a bite of a leg, and like a proper lady didn’t speak again until she swallowed it. “Well, you’re old enough to make your own decisions, and after living out here for so long, who would I be to tell you otherwise?”

“Is there a problem? I mean, plenty of bikes have them.”

She laughed. “Oh, so that’s what you meant. A lot of people say airbrush to talk about a tattoo.”

“What? Since when?”

“Eh, ever since that comedian did. So, this Kristoffer person of yours is probably thinking you’re going to want a tattoo.”

I clutched at my chest. I had seen girls with designs on their bodies before, but that certainly wasn’t what I meant in the slightest. I only wanted something to decorate my bike. “I don’t want one.”

“Then tell him what you meant. I’m sure he’ll be all right with it.” She folded the cardboard box containing the scraps of her chicken a looked around. “Where’s the trash?”

“Seriously?”

“What? Even if we’re runaways, I can’t litter. I have to protect the environment!”

I point at the pile of broken parts and furniture. “We’re in a junkyard. You could say we’re living in trash.”

After a pregnant second, she cautiously got up and threw the Styrofoam container on the nearest pile. After dusting off her legs and settling back down, we got back to chatting.

“How did the meeting with the forger go?”

She pulled out a piece of paper from her shorts. I had to admit – as weird as it was to see her in these sorts of clothes instead of her usual dresses, they really made her legs shine. I knew not everyone wanted to show off their body, but she could easily be twice as popular with the guys if she knew how to dress.

“I found a couple of them, and they usually charge a lot more than I expected – closer to 30,000 kroner than 10,000.”

“How much did you bring?”

“5,000.” I tabulated it in my head. 30,000 kroner minus 5,000 was 25,000, and if I earned 2,500 a night that would be—

“Argh!” I screamed

“What’s wrong?”

“I wanted to get away from math, and it keeps following me!”

She chuckled. “There’s no escaping it. But no, I did it for you – it’d take about two weeks to hire one of them with you alone. We’d have our transportation to get out of town, but we’d probably need a bit more money for the application fees and living while they go through interviews and all, and they’d probably want us living in an apartment or something and…”

“How long?”

She gripped her knee. “It’d be more like half a year when you add up all the expenses and the hiring freeze in the summer.”

Half a year to get into the royal navy? There was a goal I could work toward. “Then let’s do it. I’m all for it.”

“But Trine, what about you?”

“What about me? Did he only agree to forge documents for you?”

She pointed at my leg. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed your brace. The Royal Navy would never let you in with that. What happened, and how bad is it?”

“Oh, it’s nothing much. I landed funny jumping out of the window, and with all the running and work I’ve had to do since I left, it never really got a chance to heal. It’ll be fine by the time we get there. It doesn’t even hurt anymore.”

Laerke eyed my suspiciously. “Does it not hurt, or did you simply get used to the pain?”

“It’s fine. I’m totally fine.”

“Take it off and take a couple of steps then. Show me.”

My hands hesitated when they went down to the straps. It probably was nothing more than my own self-doubt – I really hadn’t felt pain in a couple of days.  But I unfastened it none the less.

My knee hardly looked human. It had swollen up badly, and the knee brace had bitten into it, leaving thick red marks.

“Trine!”

I ignored her. I would prove her wrong. This would go away when we got to the navy’s headquarters. I took one step forward with my bad foot. So far so good, even if I winced a little.

I picked up my good foot, putting all my body’s weight on my bad leg for an instant. This was the straw which broke the camel’s back, and it buckled under the pressure, with popping sensations coming from within.

“Trine!” She barely caught me before I crashed on top of my bike.

I did my best to keep the pain hidden, but it was no use. Laerke brushed a strand of hair off my face. “We have to get you to a hospital!”

“Don’t. They’ll alert our parents.”

“Are you still going on about them? Your health is more important than some score you have to settle with them. Stop being stupid.”

I grabbed her wrist. “You said you’d never give me advice I didn’t ask for. I know my body and its limitations. I can get better, I’m sure. Give me time.”

“But how are you even going to walk?”

I pointed down the yard. “I saw a pair of crutches down there when I first explored here. Go see if they’re still there.”

She left, and for a few tense moments, I questioned if she’d be coming back with crutches or an ambulance. Yet faith held out, and she came back with the pair. “You know you’re really stupid for doing this. And I’m really stupid for letting you, for that matter.”

I hobbled up on them, working to rebalance myself. “Thanks. Maybe once the swelling goes down I can put the brace back on and get more than two steps in.”

“Two is enough.”

“Why? We have a long journey ahead of us to reach the navy.”

She was visibly crying. “Remember, Trine, two steps ahead is always enough to win the race.”

We didn’t really feel like talking for the rest of the night after that incident, and when I woke up the following morning, she was gone. Where, I didn’t know, but she left me a note to say “back at night.”

It was hard to get up. My entire body ached, and my head was swimming. It must have been a miracle from God how I remembered to grab the crutches before attempting to walk.

My knee was still too swollen to fit the brace around, but it was a bit thinner than last night. The red from the brace had disappeared, so that was an improvement at least.

I didn’t have much time to waste in any case. I had my entire life to get this knee healed. I only had one chance to get an airbrush for my bike for free. And tonight, I’d get to touch that gun in my hand for real, and maybe take a practice shot or two. That was the part which really got my blood pumping.

It was a few minutes after we left the junkyard when I realized Kristoffer and I never arranged on a specific place to meet. I panicked at the possibility of the lost chance, but then I remembered there was only one place I had ever met him. Like clockwork, he situated himself there and leaned against the building.

“You look different,” I said.

“Speak for yourself. What’s with the crutches?”

I placed my bad foot on the ground. He didn’t need more that a second’s glance to understand. “I always wondered what that brace was for.”

It wasn’t until we were well on our way to the tattooist that I realized why he seemed different. I had never seen him during the daylight before. That was why his dark hair seemed so much lighter, and he seemed so much older. I could see every wrinkle in his care-worn face now.

“Surprised? I’m probably quadruple your age.” Somehow he knew my thoughts.

“Not really. At least, it doesn’t make a difference. Money is money.”

“Good answer. Now come on, let’s get you an airbrush.”

I gripped on the crutch’s handle. “Listen, when I said I wanted an airbrush, I meant a design for my bike. I didn’t mean a design for me.”

“I know.”

He did? But then what was all the talk about it being really hard to remove? If it didn’t come out how I wanted, I could always paint over it and try again.

The tattoo parlor was about as stereotypical of a place as one could imagine. Stencils and designs plastered the walls from floor to ceiling, and there were quite a few stands with rings for various parts of the body – everything from the ears to the vagina. The tattooist himself was a young man who had at least 90% of his body covered in ink, and enough rings to set off a metal detector. He held a cigarette in one hand, and a bottle of beer in the other.

“Ah, Jannick, it’s been a long time.”

The tattooist, Jannick, put down his cigarette and beer to greet us. “Nice to see you too. How can I help you, erm…”

Kristoffer stared him hard. “You remember me, don’t you Jannick? Kristoffer. We used to go to school together.”

Jannick’s eyes glazed over for a second. But it only lasted a second before they returned to the wild eyes of a man on drugs. “Oh, Kristoffer! Of course, of course! How could I forget you? Who is this lovely lady with you?”

“Trine.” I was as curt as possible. I doubted he read newspapers to see my missing child reports, but I couldn’t be too careful when dealing with someone outside of my close circle of trust.

“Lovely name. Coming in for your first airbrush? It’ll hurt, but you’ll get used to the pain soon enough.”

He reached for my hand, but Kristoffer grabbed his first. “She doesn’t want one. She’s only looking for a stencil to airbrush her bike.”

Jannick seemed disappointed, but I was sure he knew a sale was a sale. “Go ahead and look around. If it’s just a stencil I should be able to get it done in a matter of half an hour.”

So many of the designs on the wall were things I’d never want to see on my bike. Some were designs like skulls, blood, or tears. I wanted to have a bike, but I didn’t to be in a bike gang. Even some of the animal designs were a bit off. Snakes were disgusting, and I always had a bit of a fear of spiders – and that wasn’t including how creepy spider webs would look on my bike.

There were a few which really stood out among the rest, but none of them really seemed too special. A bird would be nice, but it wouldn’t really have much of a meaning to me. It had to show that I had broken free of my prison – and not all birds had been caged at one point.

I had just about seen every pattern in the place when my eyes settled on the perfect design.

“Butterfly,” I said.

There were two of them in the designs, touching at the corner of their wings. They had been freed from the prison of their cocoons, and now they were free to wander the world how they pleased for a time. Neither were better than the other. They were Laerke and me, freed to pursue our dreams.

“You like this one?” asked Kristoffer.

I nodded. I couldn’t see how there was anything else I could ever like better. That was until my nodding head caught sight of another drawing.

This one had no symbolism in it. It was a bundle of flowers growing in the wild. But the sheer beauty of it made my heart race. Maybe I could airbrush one in on one side of the bike, and one on the other?

No, that would never work. I had to choose between the two. I could go for symbolism, or I could go with beauty.

“Is there a problem?” Kristoffer seemed to know my lingering doubts.

“I’m between two patterns. They’re both calling to me, and I want to keep them both forever. But I don’t know which to choose.”

He pulled out several bills. “It’s up to you, but you’re trying to declare your independence permanently, right? We’re in a tattoo shop, and what would be a better way of doing it than actually making a permanent mark on your body?”

I leaned on a crutch. I had never thought of it in those terms. Tattoos always signified rebellion to me – rebellion against society, parents, or what have you. But they were also a permanent way to state that nobody could control you anymore. Nobody could ever remove them from your body unless you allowed them to.

I ran my hand up the side of my right thigh, taking a good look at the smooth skin. I imagined it with the floral pattern on it, caressing all the way up and under my shorts, stopping just below the hips. It seemed so tempting, so alluring, so, well, me.

“Will you pay for it?”

“Why else do you think I have the money out?”

I gulped. “Do it. I want this design here.”

Despite all the glorification of tattoos in my magazines, they never put in any information about what a horrible process getting one would be. Every time he drove his tool into my skin, I had to stifle a yelp. Even after he injected the ink, it still tingled for a long time after. But I did my best to stay still. After all, this would be a permanent change to my body. If I jumped and he messed up, there would be no changing it back.

Beyond that, I had promised Kristoffer I would be a good girl today. I wouldn’t complain or give him any hardship. So I sat there as best as I could as the hours ticked by and he moved ever so slightly higher up the side of my thighs, tracing in the flowers.

When he finally declared he was finished, it was a bit of a shock. I had expected it would’ve lasted for quite a bit longer than it did. He held up a mirror and let me look at it firsthand.

I didn’t regret what I did at all. It was so perfect right where I had put it. I was a flower, and I was growing with every day. But I had been cut off from the rest of the vine, living my life as I pleased. Maybe there was some symbolism in it after all, rather than just being a pretty picture.

The view was fleeting, as Jannick immediately covered it with a bandage and wrapped it with tape. “Don’t take the bandage off for at least six hours. This is a rather large area of skin, so it might itch for a bit, but don’t scratch it. Make sure to wash…”

And so he went into all the details of care and maintenance. Washing it was going to be the hardest challenge, but there was a water fountain near the junkyard I could always use to clean it for the first couple of weeks.

“And the stencil?” asked Kristoffer.

“Right away.”

I left the parlor with a lot more than I had gone in with. The sun had started to set, but I was in no rush to get to the alleyway. Kristoffer was with me, and he knew how slow I had to go on these crutches.

“You don’t want to get your knee checked out?”

Stubbornly, I drove the ends of the crutches into the ground. “I’m fine as I am. It’ll heal on its own.”

He didn’t argue the point with me any further.

At the alleyway, I went right to payment. It was a lot harder to get in position that night with a broken knee and a healing tattoo, but pleasure knows no limits. Yet when I finished, my vision took a lot longer to return, staying blurry and damp. My sweat didn’t feel the same either. It was a bit colder and damper than usual.

Kristoffer didn’t seem to notice, and pulled the gun out of his jacket. He held it out to me to grab. “This is yours now. But she needs a name.”

The name seemed to strike me like a bullet. “Rosalee.”

“That’s an interesting choice. Why?”

The gun felt like velvet between my fingers as I took a hold of it. “It was my grandmother’s name. She ran away from home too, so I suppose I have a connection to her.”

I turned my attention to the gun as he let go. It had the sleekest design, and my hands seemed to be a perfect fit for the trigger. It called for me just like the handgun hand, but this one seemed like one I would carry with me for the rest of my life.

He left a strap for me as well to fling it over my shoulder on the way back to the junkyard, but as for Kristoffer himself, he had disappeared while I had been examining the gun.

Maybe tomorrow night I could bring Laerke here to meet him. Maybe she’d be interested in what he had to do and say. Maybe she’d get a different opinion on my nights out, or possibly want to join in with me.

The road back to the junkyard was long and hard with difficulties on both legs. To top this off, my head really had started swimming. I was so lightheaded the world appeared double.

When I got into the junkyard and found Laerke, there was nothing I could do but collapse unconscious.

I woke in Laerke’s lap with the sun rising over the edge of town. She sung to me in her sweet voice a song with no words, no meaning, and no real ending. It was a song she had sung to me as a child, and one I had always cherished.

I tried to sit up, but my body wouldn’t answer me. Rather, it ached all over.

“Laerke?” I asked.

She ran through my hair with a brush she must have found in a trash pile. It seemed clean enough, for whatever cleanliness for two girls living in a junkyard mattered.

“Don’t worry about anything. It’s only a cold, nothing more. It’ll pass.”

I sneezed to confirm the diagnosis. “Why now? Why when everything’s blowing up in my face?”

“Blowing up?” she asked. “What’s gone wrong for you? You’re away from the home you hated so much, you have a future, you have a man you apparently liked enough to get coerced into a tattoo, you have your dream bike rearing to go, and you even go a special gun. A little cold is nothing. Even your knee should be good enough to put the brace back on again. And most of all, how could you say everything is blowing up in your face when I’m here with you?”

My weakness really kept me down. “Will you never leave?”

“Unless you ask me to, or decide to stop running away, you’ll always have me with you, as far as you want to go.”

I closed my eyes. “Thanks, Laerke.” There was very little else to say.

She let me lay there until I was strong enough to get up on my own. “So, let me see it.”

“See what?”

“What else? You got a tattoo, right? I didn’t want to remove the bandage, so I haven’t seen it yet.”

I placed my hand on the bandage. “I’m sorry. I just saw this, and I really had to have it.”

“What are you apologizing to me for? I’m your sister, not the keeper of your body! Come on and show me.”

I undid the tape carefully and pulled it off, revealing the intricate leafs, stems, and flowers of the design.

Laerke examined it with her nose only a few centimeters away from it. “That’s so you.”

“Thanks. He also gave me a stencil which is so you.”

“I’m not going to get a tattoo.”

I pulled out the paper. “Aren’t these butterflies us? Freed from our shells, and out together in the world? I was going to put it on the bike.”

Laerke’s expression softened. “You’re so sweet to think of it like that. But, wouldn’t I be the caterpillar more creeping along than a butterfly?”

“Didn’t you escape the shell of that home as well?”

She held onto the stencil. “If you could call it a shell for me in the first place.”

She left me alone in the junkyard to get some medicine, and by the time she returned, the sun had already begun to set.

I strapped the knee brace back on, happy to have it fit. But it didn’t provide the support I had hoped. It was big and bulky, and it certainly didn’t prevent my knee from buckling, much less hurting.

“We need to see a doctor about that,” said Laerke. “You’re going to do some permanent damage if you keep it up. It probably wouldn’t have even been this bad if you saw one in the first place.”

The more it hurt, the more temptation I had to follow her advice. It would be so easy to turn back home now and stay there until I turned sixteen. I’d have to return to my cage, but at least I’d be health, well fed, and sheltered. For the first time since the day I ran away, these thoughts ran through my head.

“I’ll be back in a bit.” I steadied myself on my crutches.

“Where are you going?”

I shook my head in attempt to clear out the lightheadedness. “I need to get my money for the day.”

“You can skip a day! We have plenty for food for tonight. We could even stay in a motel again if you want. You don’t have to go to him again.”

It seemed relaxing to think of that sort of freedom. I’d be free to do what I wanted, when I wanted, without having to answer to anyone.

A raindrop fell on my nose. With it, I realized my folly.

I hadn’t run away from my cage at all. I may have broken out of my shell, but all I had done was change my master. My parents didn’t control me anymore – Kristoff did. When he told me to do something, I did it. When he suggested something, I followed his lead. He had become a more sexualized version of my parents, and instead of a shelter, he gave me money.

I wanted to vomit. I wanted to die. I wanted to end it all here and now.

I touched my bike, and realized the only way to truly be free would be to leave Odense. “I’m going to tell him that it’s over. And then we’re going to leave for good. We’ll go to the Royal Navy as refugees, and if they don’t take us in, I’ll make them take us in.”

They would never listen to such a feeble request. But I couldn’t think of it like that. I had to think of everything as a positive and definitive future, or I’d never be able to keep myself going.

Laerke sat by the bike. “I’ll be waiting here for you when you’re ready.”

The rain only intensified with every “step” I took. By the time I reached my usual alley, it was a complete downpour.

Kristoffer wasn’t there. I checked up and down the alley a couple of times, but he hadn’t shown up at all. There was no sign of his smirk, and no sign of his suit jacket.

It had to be the rain. He was only gone because of the weather. But he had been there the first night after the downpour, so why would he not be her tonight? Did he have another date? Was it with another woman?

Did I love him?

The thought crossed my mind only briefly. But I quickly crumpled it up and threw it away. I didn’t love him. I loved his money. And he was not the right kind of person to love in the first place, even if he did give me gifts.

Defeated, I took the long road back to the junkyard. Maybe we would move out of Odense tomorrow instead, once I made sure he wasn’t going to come back. I prepared my heart to tell Laerke everything she needed to know about leaving the town of our birth, and setting off to a new and unexplored part of Denmark, at least in our lives.

But nothing could have prepared me for what I would see when I returned to the junkyard.

Laerke was screaming, and begging for mercy. I couldn’t see her from outside, but her cries were not falling on deaf ears. I pushed my way through the hole in the gate and pushed between the piles of trash toward the scream.

She lay on the ground with her clothes – the same wonderful clothes I had bought her on her first night her – in shreds. Her breasts were exposed to the world, and her shorts were at her ankles. Her hands were held in place by two brutish and masculine hands belonging to the man on top of her, forcing himself inside of her. She screamed, “Stop! I don’t want this! No!”

This man had no intention of stopping, and repeated his action over and over, grunting as he did it. Not matter what Laerke’s cry, he wouldn’t listen. A flash of lightning coursed through the sky and lit up his face.

This was Kristoffer.

Everything fell together. He had always talked about my age as the main reason he didn’t do anything to me. Laerke was 15. She was legal, despite looking almost exactly the same as me. He had done all those nice things for me yesterday to throw me off guard, so that today he could betray me and take Laerke for himself. He had tried to get me to love him, and he damn well succeeded!

I didn’t even need to think twice. I pulled the handgun out of its holster and took aim at his head. He only noticed me the instant I pulled the trigger.

The bullet flew out and struck its mark, lodging itself between his eyebrows. His eyes rolled into the back of his head, and like a bag filled with concrete he collapsed unmoving on the ground.

Laerke didn’t move. She stayed still on the ground taking slow breaths with her feminine juices still running down her leg. She had cuts and bruises all over her body from how rough Kristoffer had been with her.

“I’m sorry,” I told her. But she didn’t respond. She only stared into the sky with its continuously falling raindrops.

We couldn’t stay in the junkyard any longer. I threw the gun as high up on the pile of junk as I could. It still had one bullet left, but I doubted anyone would discover it until I needed it again. That last bullet was for my own temple when my time came.

I gathered my Sjogren 12, my tools, my stencil, and my book into a trashed duffel bag and slung it on the handlebar of the bike. The last part of the escape plan was Laerke herself.

She still lay on the ground, not having moved an inch. I would have tried to drag her or carry her, but with my knee as bad as it had gotten, I wasn’t about to try something so stupid.

“Come on, Laerke. It’s time for us to go.”

There was no emotion in her as she got up from the ground. Like a zombie, she followed me to my bike. Nominally, this bike was only meant for one person, but we always had a way of making things work.

I turned the key and kicked it in gear. We wouldn’t be going far tonight – just to a motel so she could take a shower and have a soft bed to cry in, should she choose to do so. But we couldn’t stay much longer than that.

The rain pounded harder as we rode, and every mile we travelled showed me ever more how little I knew about driving. It was only by some sort of miracle I managed to avoid crashing – dodging past a mailbox, a homeless man, and a car at one point.

We travelled as far as the gas left in the bike would take us, stopping finally in front of a motel with cracked windows and a roof with missing tiles. But from its flashing neon “Vacancy” sign, I knew it wasn’t completely abandoned.

Laerke didn’t speak when we dismounted. I grabbed the kroner out of my pocket and slammed it down on the front desk.

“Is this enough for a room?” It wasn’t too much – the leftovers from my parts purchase two days prior, minus our food expenses. I really needed Kristoffer’s money tonight, but I wouldn’t be getting any of that anymore.

The teenage desk clerk fingered through the bills and coins. “Room 203. You’re 5 kroner short, but I won’t make a fuss.”

I grabbed the key from him before he could second guess his decision.

The room matched the outside of the motel. The probably didn’t even have a cleaning staff here, given the amount of dust all over everything, and the unmade beds. Laerke moved ahead of me, stumbling into the bathroom. She didn’t bother closing the door and turned the shower faucet on.

I struggled back to my bed and lay down, propping my bad leg up with the comforter. My adrenaline calming down made the pain of all the rapid motions and misuses of it compile all at once. It would be nice if I could put an ice pack on it or something, but I seriously doubted the mini-fridge was running in the first place.

I nearly lay down on my gun. I took it off and examined the long barrel of the semi-automatic shotgun. “Sjogren 12,” I said to nobody in particular. It really was a beautiful gun. I really must have seemed strange carrying around such a visible gun in Denmark.

My eyes flared open. I really did seem strange, and threatening for that matter. I came into the motel lobby with my half-dressed sister and a gun. That was why the person at the front desk allowed us to skimp on the far. That was why he didn’t question us.

He was probably calling the police right now.

I opened the chamber and checked – there were a full array of bullets still loaded inside. The door was narrow enough, so I would probably be able to take care of them as they came in. I’d shoot them one at a time, and as long as there weren’t too many of them, they’d be a pile of corpses. And then maybe I’d take care of the squealer downstairs as well—

 “You break the barrier, and whenever you’re threatened, you’ll kill the assaulter. Threats will become delusions, and soon you’ll kill anyone you please for the smallest slight against you.” Kristoffer’s voice echoed in my head.

I stared at my hands, and despite them being clean, a red blood erupted out of them. It wasn’t my blood, it was Kristoffer’s, and it spilled out faster than I could contain it. It spilled over and crashed on the floor, staining my legs, the room, and everything around it. I screamed, feeling the weight of his life on me, his blood ready to drown me.

A pair of wet arms wrapped around me. “Shh, Trine, shh. It’s all right now. We’re all going to be all right.”

I wasn’t in a room filled with blood. I was in the motel room, and Laerke, dripping wet, was hugging me from the back. From the wet footprints on the ground, she must have heard me and run right out of the shower.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have screamed.”

She cooed in my ear. “No, you should’ve. This has been a hard night for all of us. Sometimes we just need to let it out.”

I clutched hard on my hand. “Just look at me. You’re the one who needs help, but I’m the one getting consolation.”

“I’m fine. I really am.”

“But what he did to you—”

She smiled. “I guess my first time wasn’t with a hot guy, then.” She forced a laugh out. “Now come on and tell me what’s bothering you.”

I clenched my hands. “Really, are you human? Don’t worry about me, and worry about yourself.”

“If you don’t tell me, I won’t let you go.” She gripped me even tighter. “Come on and tell your sister what’s wrong.”

“You’re strong. You’re really strong.”

“Oh, sorry.” She loosened her grip around me.

“I don’t mean physically.” I envied her. She was the victim and was able to recover this fast, yet I was the perpetrator and couldn’t recover. I closed my eyes. “I killed the man who attacked you. I killed Kristoffer.”

“I know.”

And so I went into the whole thing with her about my thoughts and how they’d changed. “I don’t know if I can trust myself anymore. What’s going to stop me from killing someone ever again? I did it once, so why wouldn’t I if the situation called for it?”

Laerke undid my twintails and brushed through my hair with her fingers. “Sometimes, people need to die. This man, Kristoffer, was one of them. But nothing is quite as important as understanding for yourself the importance of their life.”

“What do you mean?”

“Take a moment to decide whether they really deserve to die. Wish everyone to sleep before you kill them. It’ll calm your thoughts and make you rationalize whether that person truly deserves to die or not.”

I wrapped my fingers around hers. “Thanks. I will.”

She gave me one last squeeze. “If the police come, we’ll just have to be honest with them. Let’s get to sleep for now in any case. If we’re here in the morning, we ought to start planning out our next course of action, now that the junkyard is closed off to us.”

We split to our beds. When I closed my eyes, I kept seeing the bullet splitting Kristoffer’s skull over and over again. I probably would see it for the rest of my life. He and I were forever tied through the mark of blood. It was more than a mark – it was a command. I had to protect Laerke for the rest of my life, no matter what it took.

Sobs came from the other side of the room. I peeked over and saw the tears coming from Laerke’s eyes. They were closed and obviously asleep.

“Mom, dad, it hurts,” she cried. “Please take him off me. Save me.”

I turned my head to the other side so I didn’t have to see her tears. Of course she would lie to me. She was my big sister. She always lied to make me happy. She wasn’t strong at all. She needed help, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to give her the sort of help she needed.

My legs burned the next morning. On the left, my knee had swollen up like a grapefruit again – likely from all the agitation and problems from the past day. But on the other, my tattoo really burned. It hurt way more than it should have, and the skin was even redder than before.

Laerke touched it and frowned. “I think it’s infected.”

“How? I’ve been cleaning it as the guy told me to and all.”

“We haven’t been living in the most sanitary of conditions. It was bound to happen.” She pulled open the drawer and pulled out a map of Denmark. “Since the police didn’t bring us in yesterday, we need to make a plan for the future. There is a recruiting office for the royal navy in Carlisle, but I don’t think we’d want to go so close to Odense. So how about we go to Copenhagen instead? We’ll get you checked out at a doctor there as well – I should have just enough money for an appointment.”

“What about the recruiting papers? The apartment? The background checks?”

Laerke hugged me again. “We’ll be able to manage. As long as the two of us are together, we’ll be able to overcome anything.”

Her cries from the night before for our mom and dad echoed in my head. She had lost so much because of me. She may have been my ally, but she had never been afraid to confess her problems to our parents. She lost them, and she lost her future as well. Her grades would probably have gotten her into the officer’s academy when she applied to the royal navy, while now she’d have to go into enlisted service with me. She had lost her first time, having it stolen from her by Kristoffer. And more than all of that, she had lost her security. She could never feel safe again out here, nor could she ever feel I was safe.

I folded up the map.

“Trine?”

I pushed it back in the drawer. “I have another idea. Let’s go home.”

The trip home took a lot less time than I thought it would. With my bike coasting on fumes, carrying one person too many, I thought we would reach home by the end of the day. Yet it was still afternoon when we pulled up in our driveway.

Our parents didn’t run out of the door like I had seen in so many stories when the long missing children returned home. Those were only production pieces, made to add to the intensity of the moment. They were probably inside and working on some puzzle or watching television, too distracted to notice us.

Laerke walked up the sidewalk with a skip in her step. She really never wanted to run away. She only wanted to support me, and she was glad to be back. She rapped on the door with a smile on her face.

For me, I had no thrill returning to this home. I didn’t want to, but I knew I had to. I had no money, I was injured and infected, and I was tired. But I would have still been on the streets if those were my only reasons.

Laerke needed to be home, and I needed to be there to support her. That was the only reason I came back.

Laerke bounded into my parents’ arms when the opened the door. I was hardly the same warm response, but for the first time in a long time, they smiled at me and welcomed me home.

There were a lot of things to do – recounting our trip minus anything sexual which happened, apologizing (even if mine was forced), and explaining a lot of things like my tattoo, gun, and bike. My dad in particular was interested in the bike.

“You really built that entire thing yourself?”

“Well, I more bought the parts and welded them together than actually built it. It was in a book.”

“Let me see it. Give me a tour.”

My mom and Laerke stayed inside to discuss some things while I brought him outside. He stood on one side of the bike, and I stood on the other. “You didn’t come home because you wanted to, did you?” he asked.

“How could you tell?”

“Parents have their ways. Are you going to run away again when we turn our backs on you?”

I shook my head. “I’ll stay here as long as Laerke needs me. I’ll be leaving once she does.”

He closed his eyes. “Then you’ll have to make a choice. Do you wish to be a girl or a woman?”

“What difference does it make?”

“If you are a girl, you’ll live under our roof and do what you want without having to worry. We’ll feed you, shelter you, clothe you, and you can engage in hobbies we approve in. But you’ll be under our rules until you can join the navy.”

So it would be the same as before. Well, possibly worse, given my recent runaway. Instead of a cocoon I can break out of at any time I’m ready, I’d be a caged bird with clipped wings.

“And as a woman?”

“You’d be responsible for your own life. You can come and go as you please, and you could do what you want – so long as it is nothing illegal, and you don’t harm us or our property. But that includes an adult’s responsibilities. You’ll need to pay us rent – a thousand kroner a month.”

“A thousand? I can’t afford that!”

He held up his hand. “I know a mechanic downtown who is looking to hire somebody to work on motorcycles. If you’re interested, it should bring in plenty of cash for you to stay here as long as you choose.”

I clenched my hand. “I’ll take it.”

And that was how I wound up staying with my parents. They would not get in my way, and I would not get in theirs, save for a few conversations when we needed them. The job itself was fun, so I never complained – especially when I got to take my pick of the litter of shiny new parts to put on my bike.

Laerke left for the Royal Navy the day after her 16th birthday. She would send us home pictures and news all the time. And as much as I wanted to follow her and join the day after my 16th birthday, I realized I had destroyed that opportunity.

For while my infected tattoo was easily treated with some proper cleaning and penicillin, my knee was much worse than even Laerke thought. Apparently it started as a tiny tear, but the more pressure I put on it, the worse it got, until it finally snapped. The doctors put me under the knife, and I had a long recovery, but one surgery wasn’t enough. It wasn’t until I was 19 that they could fully medically clear me to join the royal navy.

Without my ability to walk for months on end, I began to pick up target practice with my Sjogren 12. It started with shooting it in the backyard at a target on the tree, but eventually I hired an instructor and joined a club in town of enthusiasts.

Before I knew it, the day came for me to leave. I polished off my bike, and pinned the stencil on its panel.

“What’s that?” asked my dad.

I patted my thigh. “When I got this, I also got a stencil for an airbrush. It was supposed to be a pair of butterflies to symbolize Laerke and my freedom, but since we returned to the cocoon, it never felt right to put it on.”

“So this home has felt like a cocoon to you?” he asked. “It never changed?”

I set up my tools to apply the airbrush. “Even cocoons can turn into homes with enough love and care. Now, back up. This stuff can be toxic.”

After applying it to both sides and admiring my work, I gave my dad a hug. “I hate to say it, but I’m going to miss you.”

He ruffled my hair. “And me too. You’ve become a fine woman. Keep in contact, and keep Laerke happy.”

“I will.”

After letting the paint dry, I grabbed my gun and hopped on the seat. “See you!” I called. I revved the bike up – its roar still exciting me as much as the first time I heard it in the junkyard. I kicked it in gear and took off, riding down the road and toward the outskirts of town.

When I passed by the junkyard, I gripped my gun one more time. I never forgot what I did to Kristoffer. But I know if I ever do kill again, I won’t do it without wishing them to sleep.

“Dormir.” I whispered to him, hoping it would reach the past.

---

The rain fell on the piles of junk and cascaded down in a brown slop to the ground below. In the middle of all of it was the corpse of a man with a gunshot wound through his skull. He had laid there for a few days at this point, but the maggots and worms were not interested in him. Besides the dried blood on his forehead, nothing signified how long he had been dead for.

A fox crawled between two piles of trash and stared at the man. Why had he fallen here? What brought about his end? Why did nobody seem to miss him?

It jumped back when flames engulfed the body. There was no spark and no trigger. It all happened so suddenly.

The flames consumed the body almost instantaneously, and from the ashes arose a girl. She couldn’t have been much older than ten, and kept her black hair tied back in two pigtails. Her eyes were pitch black to match. She stared at the fox and smiled. “It’s too late.”

She took no heed to her nakedness or the rain. Instead she only turned and hummed to herself, walking out into the darkness beyond.

The fox darted away, not wanting to see anything more.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2017, 01:17:15 pm by Meliran »