Bitter, Part 1

(by, 01 March 1999)

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Bitter (Part 1 of 2)

   Molly got up from the couch and walked over to the window. As she did, she
saw the pack of cigarettes sitting unopened by her new iMac. She'd bought
them this morning. Bought them, but not yet smoked any of them. No, she
couldn't actually bring herself to smoke yet. Not by herself. She would need
help. If she wanted help. If she wanted to start smoking again.
   She pulled her black leather jacket down. It was a waist length jacket and
what she'd just done her sister called `The Picard Maneuover'. She'd put the
jacket on because she had this silly idea that she was going to slip the
cigarettes into her pocket, walk outside, and light up. But she knew better.
She was no more going to light up unaided than she had when she'd started
smoking the first time.
   Instead she walked over to the cd player, boosted the volume of Schubert's
Mass #6, and started to look for the phone.
   Why am I going to do this to myself ?
   She asked the question, but of course, there was no answer. The apartment was
empty except for her, after all.
   It was going to be that way for a while.
   Next, the visions would start to come back, and then she would feel really
   It had been bad enough at work today.
   Of course, it wasn't work, not in the normal sense that people looked at it.
Really, she should be working now, logging on to the internet and downloading
the images of the crime scene that she'd emailed herself from murder site.
   But she didn't need them, not at all. She could see them in her mind, as
clearly as if she were looking into the view finder of her digital camera.
   And that was only the lesser part of what she could see. The rest-
   Well, the rest, that was part of the reason that they took a twenty-three
year old girl straight out of college and gave her something you usually had
to work years to get- a gold shield. She'd heard it all- it was because she
was a woman, it was because she'd laid the watch captain and the lieutenant of
detectives during her internship junior year (she had been attracted to the
lieutenant, but nothing had happened).
   No, she had an avowed and proven talent. She was also, if you discounted her
private life- currently in shambles- an excellent judge of character. Still,
she knew she should be in graduate school or at the police academy, not
walking the streets. The other detectives, even her own partner, hated that
about her. That had been easy enough to deal with when Fred was here.
   But Fred was not here. Fred was not going to be here. Ever again.
   Fred was a more of a flaming asshole than Eric Cartman, but she'd only caught
on a few days ago.
   Molly felt like crying. But that was weak people did. They broke up, they
cried, they ate gallons of ice cream. They wallowed in their pain and their
self-pity and then remarkably, they began to feel better. They got over it.
They- they went on. Molly looked at the pack of cigarettes, mocking her with
their promise of release and relaxation.
   What she wanted was pain. Some sort of pain so great that it would make what
she was feeling now fade away. The problem was that the sort of pain she was
hoping to find, well, it would have to be physical. There was no emotional
well to delve into, no place inside her which had ever felt any personal loss
worse than this. She'd invested three years of her life in the asshole, and he
walked out on her.
   No one close to her had ever died.
   But this had to be somewhat similar. If Fred wasn't dead, the Fred she had
known was at the very least.
   Had he actually seemed sweet ?
   Caring ?
   "I must be fucking nuts," Molly said to herself. What had she wanted with
someone like that in the first place, someone who made her-
   Had she actually wanted to feel good ?
   Yes, and that was the problem. She had wanted to feel good, and the flip side
of that was that was now, when she felt like shit.
   The phone was under the latest quarterly of La Société Canadienne des
Sciences Judiciares. Dry reading, but informative. She snatched it up and
dialed her sister's number.
   "Maddy ?"
   "Molly ? Is that you ?"
   "Yeah," she said, sounding a little miffed.
   "Well, it's been three weeks since you had the time to pick up the phone and
call me, little sister. You can forgive me for being surprised."
   "Are we going to just fight ?" Molly asked. She hadn't actually been looking
for the pain here in this phone conversation, but she was getting it and that
was making it easier not to think about Fred. "Or are you going to listen to
what I have to say."
   She heard the sound of a lighter. Good old Maddy. You could always count on
two things. Good stock tips and plenty of cigarettes. 
   "I'm listening," Maddy said, doing an eerily perfect Kelsey Grammer.
   "I need you to come over, right now."
   "What'd you do ? Shoot that boyfriend of yours with your fancy gun ?"
   That was the sort of sympathetic cast you had to expect from Maddy, who had a
strange ability to hit your dilemmas on the head with a sledgehammer.
   "No. You know I don't even keep the gun loaded, Maddy. It's something they
kind of insist on you having when you're a cop."
   "You're not a cop. You're a detective. The youngest woman detective in the
history of the force." Maddy changed her voice again, and now she was doing
John Houseman. "You are an example for women everywhere, Ms. Sturm."
   "Get off it, Ms. youngest partner in the firm. Christ, you'd think you were
scrubbing floors, the way you talk sometimes."
   "Okay, so we're both massive overachievers, even if we got there different
   Maddy left the rest of that unfinished because-
   Well, Molly knew she had to sound hurt, and as little general compassion as
Maddy had, she wasn't going to start in on how she didn't believe in her
little sister's `talent.' Some fucking talent. The eyes she saw through. Well,
there was some pain there, all right. Maddy stopped short of saying her
fleshkin was insane, but she certainly seemed to think it sometimes.
   "What's up, little sister ? You sound like your feelings got run over by an
   "Try a school bus. Fred moved out."
   "Just like that ?"
   "Come on, Molly. It took him about fifteen minutes. You know that he's been
doing the starving artist gig this whole time, as though his parents didn't
give him a six figure bank account the day he turned twenty-one."
   "What happened ?"
   "You know he was taking that nude modeling class, right ?"
   "You had mentioned something about that. So let me guess- he misinterpreted
MFA to mean Master of the Fucking Arts, right ? Decided to bang one of the
nude models."
   Her voice was fairly dripping with scorn, which was about as close as she
would come to compassion about this.
   "Not one. Several. I think he was working his way through the female models
alphabetically. One of them called here the other night and as soon I heard
her voice-"
   "Please, Molly, don't say you could see it in your mind-"
   "I could. You don't have to believe me. She said she'd missed class and
needed to set up a `private session.' But I knew. He came home, I asked him if
he was fucking her, and he said, he said, he said-"
   I'm not going to cry. Assholes cry.
   "He couldn't stay with a stutterer ?" Maddy asked.
   "Fuck you, Maddy."
   "Sorry." The sound of her inhale against the phone was audible, like she was
in the room.
   "He said yes, she actually knew how to fuck, which was a nice change of pace.
I thought about all the times- I mean, if I was doing something wrong, it
wasn't a lack of practise. I told him to get the fuck out. He got pissed off,
said that it was just sex, that he loved me, not them. I said them ? He
admitted that he'd fucked four of them. I think that was his way of saying
they didn't mean anything to him. Then I made the cardinal mistake."
   "You asked him what was wrong with the sex, right ?"
   "You know I have to hear what he said-" Maddy trilled. She actually was
enjoying this.
   "He said- well, he said I was too aggressive. Asked why I couldn't just lie
back once in a while and let him take control. Then he said my breasts were
too big, that it was like trying to fuck the Tetons. I told him that him that
if his dick hadn't gotten caught in the pencil sharpener one too many times he
might actually have been able to reach my g-spot with it. It went downhill
from there."
   "You didn't hit him, did you, little sis ?"
   "God, no. He'd have had me up on charges, the little fuck-weasel."
   "You did change the locks, didn't you ?"
   "Yeah. It's department policy. I have a gun, after all."
   "So- how do I fit in her ?"
   "I want to start smoking again, sis."
   She could hear Maddy smile. See the nose exhale. She was smoking the last
cigarette from the pack she'd opened this morning and the conversation was
making the smoke sweeter than usual.
   "So, buy yourself some cigarettes."
   "I did."
   "Well then, the trick is to open the pack, put one of those cigarettes in
between those gorgeous lips of yours, and make your marvelous breasts dance
inhaling and exhaling. It's not as if you don't know how."
   "It's not that simple."
   "God, I know," Maddy said, her voice tired and annoyed. It had been so hard
getting her to start. Ironic in that Molly had been smoking from the time she
was fifteen, but that was with a year of constant effort which had left Maddy
weak from the struggle. And now it would have to been done again.
   "You want to feel the pain, right ? Want to think that you're doing something
a little bit evil and wrong ?"
   Molly smiled. That might seem absurd to most smokers, or most people in
general, but that exactly what she wanted. To feel a little devilish right
now. It was twisted, perhaps, but it was what she needed.
   "I'll be right over, sweet one."

   "Dana showed me a few new things the last session. Lie down-for christ's
sake, undress yourself- and let's get started."
   "I just want to smoke, Maddy."
   Molly looked at her sister. Her long black hair, so unlike her own blonde
locks, was slightly frizzled. Not hooker style, but rather like she was what
she was- a stylish young executive, sexually charged. Her breasts were just as
large as Molly's and they were straining the boundaries of a tight black
angora wool sweater. Her gray smoker's eyes were dancing merrily.
   "First, I'm going to work the tension out of your body. You're like a steel
   Molly did as she was told.
   "And for Christ's sake, let's change the music. How do you listen to this
religious shit, anyway."
"It's not shit. It's Shubert. Let's not get into that argument now. It's not
the religious significance of the music-"
"Well, God, I hope not-"
Maddy went over to the cd player, pulled out the Shubert, put in an English
import. Nine Inch Nails' `Sin'. That was better music for this, more in touch
with what they were doing. Her sister was lying on a blanket on the floor,
wearing nothing but her bra (black), panties (black) and socks (black). She
had her blonde hair, so long and wonderful, in a tight pony tail. The small
tattoo she'd gotten in college, a black apple, complete with bite out of the
right side, sat under the hollow inside the back of her left shoulder blade.
She started with her elbows, using the technique Dana had showed her to loosen
up the really angry muscles.
There was nothing sensual about this part of the massage.
   Maddy paused to light a cigarette. She would work for thirty seconds or so,
pause to draw on the cigarette, put it back in the ashtray and go back to
work. In spite of herself, rather than simply spiting herself, Molly allowed
her sister to loosen her up. Once she had the worst of the tension worked out,
she began using her hands, and the massage turned from therapeutic to sensual.
Maddy was so good with her hands.
   They didn't talk.
   Maddy was mad, she realised.
   Why shouldn't she be ? When Molly had stopped smoking, she'd also stopped
hanging out with Maddy, slowly at first, and then entirely.
   Fred had never liked it, and as graduation loomed- hell, it had only been
nine months ago, but it seemed like forever- it started to seem like the right
thing to do. It made Fred happy, and it made her feel more grown up. Smoking
had been a thing that she'd done in high school, and she'd long ago left that
part of her life behind. Or most of it, anyway.
   As much as she could.
   She sighed, a weirdly heavy sigh.
   "You're thinking of Al again, aren't you ?" Maddy said, the derision in her
voice overwhelming.
   "What makes you say that ?" Molly asked. There would be no lying, but she
would lie anyway, if her sister gave her any room to pull it off.
   "That stupid fucking sigh of yours. It's unique to that little dorky nobody.
What would make you think about him at a time like this ?"
   Molly turned over, looked her sister hard in the eyes. She was in the act of
the sort of nose exhale Molly remembered so well.
   "Gee, I get dumped and I go back to thinking about the one guy I really
loved. Whoodda thunk it ?"
   "You were sixteen and you dated him for six weeks. Hell, you were with Fred
like three years."
   "But I'm not sure I ever really loved him. You know how college is- you fall
in with someone and there's so many other things to worry about that you just
want to be comfortable with. You want to have someone to get shit-faced with
on Saturday night, someone to eat with and fuck."
   "It was a little more than that."
   "No," Molly said. "I don't miss him specifically. But I feel like I have this
great big hole in my life. Like all the stuff I was letting him be in my life
so I wouldn't have to do it myself- now I have to construct all that-"
   Maddy drew deeply on her cigarette, exhaled. "No you don't. Live with it. If
you can't have everything, just have a taste."
   She put her cigarette down, hooked the straps on each side of Molly's
panties, and started working them off.
   "You don't have to do that, Maddy."
   "I want to," Maddy said, smiling.
   "It makes me feel weird. Like it's incestuous or something."
   Maddy laughed. 
   "If we were lesbians, it would be. Hell, our lives would be much easier if we
were lesbians, but we're not, so this is just one sister making another sister
feel better."
   "Yeah, but what about the guilt ?"
   "I don't feel it- and you could use some guilt right now. Take you mind off
of other things. Besides, once you get off, you'll be dying for a cigarette. I
bet you were still missing that."
   "Yeah. After I quit smoking, I started wondering if the best thing about
balling Fred wasn't the cigarette afterwards."
   Molly took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Tried not to think about the
fact that her sister's tongue was doing something very much like making love
to her. She tried, in fact, not to think about anything at all. Tableau Rosa.
Except that had its problems as well. As soon as she stopped thinking, she
started thinking- about what she'd seen this morning. What she'd spent hours
looking at.
   She intertwined her hands with her sister's who-
   It was a shame she wasn't a lesbian. Fred never learned how to do this right,
and the more Molly tried to enjoy it, the longer it took and the more he
bitched after it was over. Her breathing became more ragged as she began to
really convulse. She tried to focus on that, but the image in her mind-
   The blood was the first thing that struck you because not only could you see
it, but you could smell it. As if the victim had been drained dry. The body
had been strangely composed considering that. A few small lacerations on the
breasts and lower neck. No defensive wounds on the hands or arms- you assumed
that a blade had been used at first but there were no knife marks.
   There was considerable blood in the mouth though, and Molly had told the ME
to look for deep internal trauma. Both because it was the only explanation for
the blood and-
   What kind of a woman could do that ?
   She could see her face, staring back out of the eyes of the dead woman. It
made Fred and his free love attitude towards fucking seem like the most normal
thing in the world. The injuries she'd inflicted spoke of tremendous power
because she'd done it with her bare hands yet was careful to leave no bruises,
not because it mattered but because she wanted them to know she could.
   Why the cuts, then ?
   She thought about the placement, and then it hit her. Cross the arms across
the body so that the breasts were tight to one another and the random lines- 
   They became a cross.
   Maddy paused what she was doing and nipped Molly just outside. It was only a
warning nip, but Molly understood what her sister wanted.
   "Sorry, Maddy."
   "You need a different job," Maddy said, her voice muffled. "One where they
let you keep your sanity."
   The second part came out so muffled it sounded like `Where do you keep your
vanity ?' but Molly knew what she was saying.
   "Oh, that feels so fucking good, Maddy."
   Her sister squeezed her hands tightly and Molly understood. When she broke up
with Dirk, it would be her time to return the favour. That was the one good
thing about Maddy-she was never so churlish as to refuse you an opportunity to
repay a favour.
   "Ah, ah, oooo-"
   She sat up, eyes open, lips parted, and screamed.
   And screamed.
   And screamed.
   "You got that from Mom," Maddy said with a smile. Her face was wet but her
smile was electric and Molly could have kissed her. In fact, she leaned
forward and their lips met, parted. They shared a deep kiss, Maddy's mouth
smoky and Molly's hungry.
   "Do the other thing."
   "No, Maddy said, half-serious.
   Maddy lowered her head, let her tongue paint trails where shoulder met neck,
and then she bit her sister as hard as she could using just her incisors.
   "Harder," Molly said, and Maddy obliged, even as her mouth filled with blood.
   "You're so damn Goth."
   "That's it !" Molly said.
   "What's it ?"
   "In a minute. But first, light me a cigarette."
   Maddy sighed. "Good. I was beginning to think you'd never come `round."
   Getting up, she went over to Molly's pack, pulled two cigarettes out, and lit
them. She handed one to her sister, who took it and pulled deeply, her breasts
swelling as she arched her back and allowed herself the unfettered joy of
feeling smoke in her lungs again. She started with a nose exhale.
   "God, that's good," she said.
   "Damn right. Now what association did the word Goth bring up ?"
   Molly didn't speak right away. She drew on the cigarette three more times,
exhaling slowly after each hit, until she felt as though there was so much
smoke in her hungry lungs that simple exhalation would never clear it all.
   "You never should have quit, little sister. You stopped calling me, stopped
hanging out. That pissed me off."
   "I was wrong," Molly said, treating her to a smoky hug. Then she started
getting dressed.
   "Are you going to tell me what you're thinking or am I supposed to just guess
   Molly pushed back the single full strand of hair she allowed to hang down to
the left side of her face back and slipped her glasses on.
   "There was a matchbook on the table in the woman's apartment. Asmodeus."
   "That goth club at the corner of Styx and Lethe."
   "Yeah. Funny, the odd sense of humour our street planners had, isn't it ? The
ME said there was alcohol in her system. Heavy beer, she said. She was out
clubbing, I bet, although none of her friends knew about it. She was the floor
manager at Wells Clothier's- everyone said that she was really straight-laced.
But I didn't make the connection until you said it."
   "That kind of job, those kind of people, you wouldn't tell them you were into
the Goth scene. No way. I mean, Mom shops at Wells."
   "I gotta call my partner and then split. Sorry, Maddy."
   "Well, you owe me dinner. But the important thing is that you're smoking
   Molly smiled and exhaled through her nose- which reminded her. If she was
going goth, she'd better put her nose ring in.
   Maddy grabbed her hand.
   "Be careful, little sis."
   "I'll call you later, Maddy." She held the cigarette. "Thanks. I needed
   Maddy smiled again. "Don't waste time preaching to the choir. Your partner's
going to be pissed though."
   Molly hadn't thought of that.

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