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 See You At The Bitter End, tag: Lex Majors
Christine Wentwick
 Posted: Jul 28 2018, 06:03 PM
Quote
Townie
James


“Please, release me, let me go...” Matthews was singing, again. It took some doing to get every note wrong, but he had managed it.
“For God's sake, man, would you please shut up? We're never going to get these people on-side with you caterwauling your way through the countryside and upsetting goats.”
“Is that an order, Major?”
“Does it need to be?”
“For I don't love you anymore, to live a lie would be a sin...” Major Wentwick rolled her eyes and drove her foot down on the gas. She could probably order Private Matthews to shut up, but that wouldn't annoy him anywhere near as much as drowning him out with the rover's engine.

Stop! You have to stop! You're heading right for them!

Major Wentwick allowed herself a wry grin. She knew damn well what she was doing, and that it was probably conduct unbecoming of an officer – well, tough. This bloody country was awful enough that she could allow herself the occasional giggle. The road ahead was about to bend sharply, so she shifted down the gears and gritted her teeth as the engine noise was replaced by the mechanical groaning of the axles.

Stop! You can stop, just turn around! Get out!

The radio crackled. “This is Auntie, calling...” the second half of the sentence got cut off, presumably lost, bouncing about the mountain tops. “Bugger. Matthews, could you-”

No! Now! You have to stop!

Bang.

In an instant, the front end of the land rover was thrown a foot off the ground, and shards of metal pierced the vehicle's underside. Debris cut through Matthews from beneath, killing him instantly. A wave of heat ran from the bomb into the fuel tank, and the flame spread.

An instant later, the left side of the vehicle was burning. Christine was struck on the head by a part of the armoured casing thrown aside by the IED and went slack, her head leaning on her right shoulder as hell was unleashed outside the rover, gunfire cracking in the hills surrounding the road. Trapped, unable to move, Christine watched herself from the rear of the rover, as the flames spread, trying to escape, banging on the doors uselessly as the fires began to creep towards her, and beneath her skin the fat began to boil and-

She bolted upright, screaming. She sucked a hot lungful of air, and then another, before beginning to sob. Like a frightened little girl she wept, her frame shaking as she clung to the bedsheets wrapped close around her, sticky with her sweat. She was meant to be over this – she was meant to be past it. She had no right to behave like this, not after what happened to Matthews, or the poor bastards who were sent to rescue the team. It was selfish and stupid and weak.

She was selfish and stupid and weak. A good officer would have known something was wrong. A good officer would have gotten her men out of there. A good officer wouldn't have let Matthews die in such a shitty way.

A good officer would have died with her men.

Christine wrapped her hands around her shoulders, trying to hold herself down to stop the shaking, looking away from her left side, trying to will away the rough texture and the strange folds of her scars, running all the way down the left half of her body like some dreadful divine punishment, marking her as a failure. Christine had no intention of going back to sleep – back there in a hurry. The digital clock beside her bed blinked green letters as it turned the minutes, showing zero-three, zero-two. Too late to even get a good night's rest, even if she could. Well, she wasn't staying here – after a quick shower, she threw on some running gear, making sure everything was covered, and headed for her regular route.

Once again, she was sucking hot lungfuls of air, but the heat came from the chemical dance within her muscles, her nerves fraying as she drove herself onwards. She knew that her pace was not what it once was, and she knew she was going too fast to last – but she didn't care. Christine had to get something – anything – to keep her mind off what she had just gone through again. As long as she kept busy, it could be kept at bay.

Soon, though, she faltered, and began to slow. Though she willed herself onwards, eventually she was forced to stop, her body at it's limit, a bitter taste in her mouth and beads of sweat dripping from her forehead, climbing down ropes of her hair and creeping into the corners of her mouth. Breathing raggedly, she bent over, her hands on her knees, as the sound of footsteps around the corner grew. Running under a streetlight, she saw her face – Miss Majors (how ironic that she should have had a student with that name!) and her curiosity, and her urge to stay busy, forced her to call out.

“Hey. Hey, Lex!” she called, across the street. “What's got ye out this late?”
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Lex Majors
 Posted: Aug 1 2018, 08:29 PM
Quote
Locals
Yael


Max wasn’t the kind of guy who wanted to settle down, she’s known that from the beginning. Honestly, that’s why she’d started dating him. She’d wanted someone who would let her live her own life, and had a life of his own. Those had actually been his words but when she heard that she’d thought, yeah, I could get behind that. Her last boyfriend had called her every day, even though they went to school together, was jealous of her friends, and always wanted to know where she was going. She was done with that. She wanted freedom, not to be smothered. Max had been the perfect fit.

Except, it wasn’t perfect. He had a flip phone, that stupid flip phone, because he “didn’t believe texting was a true form of communication.” He didn’t like to say he loved her over the phone because it felt “inauthentic.” He didn’t believe in labels. They were exclusive, but he’d told her explicitly he thought monogamy was dumb, and as the world was likely to end soon anyway due to capitalism and human stupidity, having children was out of the question.

At first she found this all radical and enticing. But now...

They were supposed to meet up after his gig. They always went late and she’d stayed up just to see him. He’d called her, drunk, at 2:30am from his apartment. Told her he and his band were going on tour. That he thought it would probably be best if they broke up—maybe opened their relationship? but that was probably too complicated—while he was on tour. That he wouldn’t get to talk to her much anyway, and besides, he didn’t want to limit himself while he was having maybe some of the best times of his young life. Life’s short, he said, it’s about having fun.

She couldn’t help adding the without her part in her head. He fell asleep before she could wrap her head around what to say back.

So she ran. She ran because she was angry and hurt and so goddamn miserable she felt like her insides were turning to acid and ice and she just wanted to scream.

She came to a dead halt when she heard her name, her body so full of adrenaline and desperation that at first she thought it was Max that called her, conjured up like he could hear her thoughts.

But it’s not Max, and she feels relief and misery trickle down her spine. It’s Ms. Warwick, her old chem teacher.

She’d been crying since the end of the phone call and she tries to wipe her face now with her sleeve, she’s mortified but they won’t stop coming. “Nothing—I—nothing.” Her voice cracks, watery.

There’s a beat of silence. “Why are you?”
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Christine Wentwick
 Posted: Aug 2 2018, 02:55 AM
Quote
Townie
James


Now that she had stopped, Christine was starting to feel what her exertions were doing to her. Inside her muscle, hydrogen ions were accumulating, lactic acid was dissociating, and dehydrogenase enzymes were bouncing around frantically trying to keep everything under control as strands of muscle fibre strained and split, spraying their contents into the interstitial fluid. A few years ago, she wouldn't have noticed it. A few years ago, this pace would have been no challenge whatsoever. Christine thought that it was just that she'd let her training slip a little, she was too focused on her work, she needed to be able to take some time away to keep herself in good condition.

She also knew those were all lies. The only thing slowing down was her, and soon she would be an old, grey spinster with sagging skin and weak limbs, one fall away from being locked away to rot in a nursing home with no children to care for her in her autumn years. It didn't do to think too long about that.

Lex seemed to be having an even worse time of it. Even a blind man could have seen she was distraught about something or other, and despite herself Christine couldn't help her maternal instinct; she had to poke and find out what was wrong, even though there was probably no way she could do a damn thing about it. "I, er...couldn't sleep. Look, tell me to go f- I mean, get knotted, but...are you alright?"
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Lex Majors
 Posted: Aug 5 2018, 09:49 AM
Quote
Locals
Yael


Lex tries to smile, she tries really really hard.

Come on, keep it together, Lex, you’re being an idiot. You can’t do this, not here, not now.

But her face twitches, then crumples and to her complete horror she’s crying out loud. Big, heaving sobs rattle through the bones of her torso, making her shake. She covers her face with her hands and curls into herself, her body feels too heavy to hold on its own but she’s trying so hard.

“I—I don’t k-know what to d-do.”

She sobs harder and her knees give out. She sits down in the middle of the road, though she doesn’t seem to register that. It’s 3am and her life is falling apart around her.

Her throat has closed up all on its own. She can’t even start to explain the ripping, tearing those words are doing inside her now. She looks through her fingers up at Ms. Warwick’s face and feels all the more awful. She’s trying to help though it’s clear she’s got something on her mind, too.

“How do y-you—“ her voice catches and it takes a moment for her to restart as her throat constricts painfully and then releases. “h-how do you k-keep going?”

She doesn’t know how much she needs the answer to that until she says it, but there it is.
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Christine Wentwick
 Posted: Aug 5 2018, 02:32 PM
Quote
Townie
James


Oh crikey. If the poor girl was falling apart this quickly, something was definitely wrong. She certainly wasn't quite this weepy in her school days - imperfect as she was, even Christine would have noticed someone bursting into tears in the middle of her class. A bit lost for where to stand and what to do with her hands, Christine leaned forward and awkwardly tapped Lex's shoulder, not quite comfortable in holding her properly and giving the sort of reassurance she'd give a younger person.

A child.

If you had one.


"Come on, sit down, it's alright, it's alright," she mumbled, unsure. Clearly things weren't alright, but it seemed like the sort of thing one should say at times like this. She eased her into one of the metal benches and kept an arm around her shoulder, trying to think of something useful to say. Catching sight of the gleam of her crucifix gave her a thought, but it seemed unhelpful to just tell her to put faith in God. For all she knew, Lex was a card-carrying Hindu.

"I, uh...look, let me tell you a story." Christine fiddled with the zipper on her jacket, shrugging her top off her shoulder as she spoke. "When I was in Afghanistan, I got blown up. Quite badly, actually. My left leg was broken in four places - look, it's still a little bit funny there," she said, pointing at a slight kink where her knee met her shin. "All of a sudden I went from being a big bad officer to having to learn how to walk again, plus...well, all of this," she added, gesturing to the unsightly burns from her shoulder down. She wasted no time in zipping her jacket back up tight once she was done. "That goes all the way down and most of the way across, by the way. Bloody well hurt," she added.

"The point is, Lex, you can handle anything you can decide to handle. Now I don't know what it is that's got you so upset, and if I thought I'd be useful I'd offer to help, but there's no big secret to carrying on with things. You've just got to look at yourself and ask, 'am I going to let myself be beat, or am I going to carry on with the rest of my life?' The way I saw it, if I just hit the bottle and got fat and depressed and blew my brains out or something, I'd be letting down the poor bastards who got more blown-up than I did-"

Letting them down.

"See, I owe it to them to carry on enjoying my life as best I can, while I can, since they can't anymore. You owe it to yourself and the people who care about you - and believe me, if I remember you talking in my class instead of paying attention properly, there's a lot of people who do care about you - so whatever's got you in your funk, look it square in the face and tell it to go and feck itself." She paused for a moment, and wordlessly apologised for the coarse language. She hesitated slightly, unsure if maybe she had been a little too harsh, not quite empathetic enough - but she'd started now, so she might as well finish. "Whatever's upset you, there's some way past it. It might be going around it, going over it, under it, or if it's really bad you might just have to march straight through it, but sound as a pound, there's something better on the other side. What's more, you'll be better, and stronger, for having gotten through it in one piece." She allowed herself a laugh, "Then you can be giving strange advice to people you barely know in a park at funny times o'night."
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Lex Majors
 Posted: Aug 8 2018, 09:18 PM
Quote
Locals
Yael


Lex allows herself to be led to the bench. Her legs feel like rubber, and so does her resolve. Her eyes widen as Christine unzips her jacket and she can't stop herself from staring at the scarring. This is certainly something she'd never seen in class. This wasn't something that would have ever really crossed her mind as a possibility, but here it was, staring her in the face, jolting her back into reality.

She realizes, then, that for the last few hours, the last few days, it feels like there's been like there's cotton in her ears, a pressure that's pushed her thoughts inwards, only focused on herself. Now it's like a popping feeling, like a change in elevation.

"Shit." It doesn't do Christine's life anywhere near justice, but it's all she can think of to say. She wipes her eyes on the forearm of her sleeve and tries to even out her breathing. "You're so... you're so strong." She laughs a little self consciously. "Here I am, crying about..." her mouth turns down, and she scrubs her knuckles into her eye, she's trying not to start crying again, "some... dumb boy. And there's so much else going on. I could--" her laugh is watery and harsh, "I--I'm so privileged. You've gone to war, you've seen real--real things, you almost died, and you're here... comforting me."
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Christine Wentwick
 Posted: Aug 9 2018, 02:20 AM
Quote
Townie
James


"Hey, hey, enough of that, Miss Majors," began Christine, "As far as I'm aware, all boys are dumb, and they smell, and they're loud pains in the backside, but whether we like it or not we can't live without them." She allowed herself a chuckle, hoping it might prove contagious. Lex already seemed a little better, even if she was rubbing her face and snorting.

"Don't ever let anyone make you feel guilty for being sad." Wearing a firm but friendly expression, Christine raised a finger to emphasise her point. "I've been blown up, but some people get blown up and lose their legs. Does that mean I shouldn't let myself feel a bit grumpy from time to time? You're upset about this boy, but some people are widows - does that mean you aren't allowed to be sad?" She shook her arm around Lex's far shoulder, putting her upright. "It doesn't matter how much worse or better off anyone else is. If you're sad, be sad. If you're happy, be happy. And if anyone tries to tell you that you don't deserve to feel the way you do, or that you're too 'privileged' or 'well-off' to be gloomy, you can tell them from me to go and eat a bag of d-" She caught herself, reminding herself that it didn't do to swear in front of students. Even two years after Lex had graduated, Christine couldn't help but think of her as one of her charges.

"Well, they can go swivel. That's what we told the infantry, anyway - always moaning about 'uhh, we carry a hundred kilos of kit into desert while being shot at, nurr nurr." Hopefully, if nothing else, the slightly cruel idiot-voice Christine gave the hypothetical infantryman would cheer Lex up a little. "Uphill both ways, a hundred miles a day, with only a thimble of water a week!" She couldn't help smirking herself. "I think they were just jealous of us in the artillery - we got all the really fun guns that made REALLY big bangs and they were stuck lumping about rifles. They certainly weren't moaning when they needed us to blow something up though, were they?"
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