the fictions we manufacture
by ellen m. [firstname.lastname@example.org]
a missing scene from episode 6.19, 'intoxicated.'
this isn't a story, after all.
thanks to aj.
"Perhaps our only sickness is to desire a truth which we cannot bear rather than to rest content with the fictions we manufacture out of each other." [lawrence durrell]
Once upon a time, Olivia's drunk mother tried to kill her and Olivia fought back. Today, there's a little girl in prison who didn't stop fighting back until her own drunk mother was dead.
"Plead her out, Casey," a whimper. "It could've been me."
Olivia's always been a storyteller, rewriting her own history.
Casey gulps down the rest of her drink, alcohol stinging her throat and numbing her lips. She puts down the glass, rubs the condensation between her fingers. Breathes slowly through a wave of nausea that has nothing to do with the Tanqueray.
Says, finally, "Christ," then covers her mouth with her wet fingertips. Says again, from behind her hand, "Christ, Olivia."
Olivia's eyelashes glitter. She doesn't blink. She's sixteen again and her mother might kill her.
"I'll plead her out," Casey says, so softly she isn't sure if Olivia hears. "Of course I will. Of course."
Then Olivia's fingers are on Casey's thigh, not a question and not an answer, just a touch. Almost nothing except for the way Casey's leg tenses.
Thank you, Olivia mouths. Thank you.
Casey pays the tab, leads Olivia out of the bar with a hand pressed firmly to the small of Olivia's back. In stories, there's always heat radiating off of bodies like hot stars, burning through clothing. But Casey's not living in a story and all she feels is cold leather and an unyielding plane of taut muscles.
She hails a taxi, even though she can't afford it. Says, "Eighty-fifth and Amsterdam."
Olivia doesn't say, "That's not where I live." Olivia just slumps down and lets her head rest back against the seat and doesn't say a word, doesn't make a sound, almost doesn't seem to breathe.
Casey thinks to touch her hair, but doesn't.
This isn't a story, after all.
It's a third floor walk-up, the kind every New Yorker lives in. On television, New York apartments are sprawling, with doors and dining rooms and foyers. Casey's cheap, new apartment is one long hallway, front door opening into kitchen melting into living room giving way to bedroom. The bathroom doesn't even have a lock.
She announces, "I need a drink." Throws her jacket over the back of a chair, drops her briefcase in the middle of the floor. Reaches into a cabinet over the stove for glasses. "What's your pleasure?" she asks, looking over her shoulder at Olivia, who's standing unmoored near the television, staring at her shoes.
"Uh." Olivia looks up. "Whatever you're having." Awkwardly shrugs off her jacket, like her body's rigored. Her elbows hardly bend.
Casey ducks into the refrigerator for ice cubes and club soda and crouches to pull a bottle of the good scotch from the cabinet under the microwave. Twenty bottles of liquor she's got under there. She's been living here two months and she's yet to buy any real groceries. She would laugh but it just isn't funny.
Casey refills their drinks twice, ice rattling against glass and against teeth.
Takes a mouthful straight from the bottle, just for good measure.
Olivia unbuttons her cuffs but categorically refuses to take off her ugly, sturdy shoes.
Casey says, "I'm- I'm going to change, okay?" Wobbles a little as she stands.
"Sure," Olivia says, fingers laced in her lap. Still tense, despite everything, steel in her spine.
Olivia would only have to turn her head a little to watch Casey's reflection in the bedroom mirror. She doesn't turn, of course, but if she did, Casey would be there, sitting on her bed in mismatched bra and panties, stockings caught around one ankle, head in hands. Just pale skin and mascara smudged across palms.
Casey emerges from the bedroom in soft, formless pants and the first teeshirt she found strewn on the floor, lime green. Bare feet on the warped hardwood.
Olivia finally says, "You didn't have to bring me here. I would've been fine going home." It's the most she's said since they left the bar, and Casey's eyebrows rise as she sits.
"Oh, yeah?" Casey leans back into the sofa cushions.
"Of course," Olivia shrugs, crosses her legs.
Casey's seen Olivia's apartment, a new one that she got out in Brooklyn because it was cheaper than the bigger one she had in Manhattan. Too much furniture, too little space. A framed print leaning against a pile of unpacked boxes. Gardens at Giverny. Too pale for Olivia's dark looks.
"Train all the way out to Boerum Hill, this time of night? Would've taken you forever."
It would have taken her less than half an hour, a straight shot on the A from Chambers, and Casey knows it. But Olivia says, "Maybe."
Casey doesn't say, "I didn't want you to be alone," or anything at all. Chews a cuticle, instead.
But finally, she takes a deep breath, looks away. Says, "Olivia. Say something."
Once she starts, Olivia can't stop. Olivia's life is story she can't stop telling, a train wreck she can't help stopping to admire. As if the black eyes and broken ribs and mouth washed out with soap were someone else's disaster.
Her voice is measured. "She'd get me to steal the liquor for her. In my baby carriage, under the dolls. Told me, 'Olivia, don't forget to smile as we leave.' Once, I got caught. I was six, maybe seven. Didn't smile big enough, she told me when she broke my lip. Backhanded me, wearing this big, doorknocker school ring she'd gotten at some pawn shop.
"It always was my fault when we got caught."
Sometimes, she even forgets herself and laughs.
Casey doesn't think. She just reaches over, puts one of her hands over one of Olivia's. And this isn't fiction, but a frisson passes between them and Olivia's head jerks up.
Casey starts to pull her hand away, twenty apologies wrestling for control of her tongue. This isn't the time. "Oh, Liv. I."
"Casey. Don't," Olivia says. Casey falters, wondering what she's not supposed to do now. Casey's hand stops in midair. Casey's mouth is half open. Olivia looks at her sideways, through her eyelashes, eyes too clear and too bright.
Casey understands. Then she breathes out, slowly. Lets her hand fall, one finger at a time.
Control leaves like helium from an open balloon. Olivia falls in on herself, and she's crying Casey thinks but can't quite tell. Casey raises her hand again, but this time she's touching the back of Olivia's neck, the ridge of Olivia's knee. Olivia's wet cheek, and Casey might be crying, too, because it's a train wreck and they've both bought popcorn for the show.
"Olivia, Olivia, Olivia," Casey says. "It's okay." The way everyone says when nothing's okay.
In a story, Casey would pull Olivia into her lap, whisper nothings into her ear, fall asleep like that, maybe. But the angles are too awkward, just like Casey, and all Casey can do is lift Olivia's hand to her mouth, whispering against Olivia's hard knuckles, "I'm so sorry, I'm so. So sorry."
Olivia is halfway to the door almost before Casey realizes she's stood. Olivia's saying, "Look, I have. I have to go. I shouldn't've." Olivia's defenses are ancient fortifications, castles in the desert.
Casey doesn't even get up, just shakes her head and closes her eyes. Says, loudly, "Typical."
Olivia stops but doesn't turn. Puts her hand against the wall. "What?"
"I said: Typical. I should've guessed you'd--" she doesn't bother to finish. Casey's used to dreams disappearing, used to people leaving, used to being alone. Olivia can leave and Casey will be just fine.
Olivia can leave and Casey can go to bed. Casey's got defenses of her own, because no one lives to thirty in New York City without learning how to get knocked around a little.
Casey says, "So go."
"Guessed I'd what?" Olivia says. Her fingers press against the wall until each one is as white as the paint.
Casey sighs. It's so obvious, but she says it anyway: "Run away."
Casey can see Olivia tense from across the room. "I'm not running away. I'm not." Olivia finally turns, arms crossed over her chest, eyes lit with firecrackers.
"Then where are you going, exactly?"
"Home," Olivia says.
Casey considers Olivia silently, bites the inside of her cheek. Finally, she shrugs. "Fine. Go ahead." Casey pushes herself up. "I'll lock you out."
Casey's never had a dream come true, and, besides, she has to be in court at nine AM.
"Casey," Olivia whines, and it isn't attractive. "Come on. Don't be--"
"Angry?" Casey shakes her head, purses her lips. "I'm not angry. In the morning, we'll forget. About all of this."
"For God's sake, Casey." Olivia closes her eyes. "You make everything so difficult."
"I'm just doing what you want me to do. I'm letting you leave," Casey says, but then the corner of her mouth twitches, a little shard of a smile. "Unless, of course, you wish I'd beg you to stay."
Olivia snorts. "Don't flatter yourself." Adds, "Counselor," like a four-letter word.
"Then go," Casey says, pushes past Olivia to get to the door. "Then just go."
Five minutes later, Casey's back is still against the inside of the door. Olivia's got one hand on Casey's shoulder, holding her still, one hip pressing against Casey's. Nuclear reactor kisses giving way to bites that Casey knows will leave marks.
It isn't the first time. Casey is Olivia's favorite place to hide.
Casey doesn't say, "Olivia, wait," or, "Olivia, no." It's easier to be in love with Olivia than to be alone, but only by a little.
Olivia pushes Casey back towards the bedroom, and they stumble over Casey's long forgotten briefcase. One of Olivia's hands pulls too hard at Casey's ponytail while the other grabs her hip. Desperate fingers leave their marks.
By the time Olivia pushes her back onto the bed, Casey's shins are pressed too hard against the mattress, it hurts. Olivia's nails are too sharp and Casey's hair is twined tightly through Olivia's long fingers.
Casey says, "That hurts." Olivia never means to hurt, after all, she's just too strong for her own good. And whenever Casey asks, she always lets go, always covers Casey in mewling little kisses, apologies for mistakes she can't stop making.
But this time, Olivia doesn't answer, like she doesn't hear or won't. Casey's sitting on the edge of the bed, one of Olivia's knees pressed against her hip and Olivia's tilting her head back for a kiss Casey knows will only burn. Olivia's sixteen again and her mother's coming at her with broken glass and, oh, Olivia wants to make it hurt.
"Olivia," Casey says, voice deep, "Not like this."
Olivia ducks for the kiss anyway.
She makes a noise of surprise when Casey's nails bite into her ankle. "What the-?"
It's enough to knock her off balance, enough to give Casey the upper hand and Casey's pulling Olivia down by the wrists. Casey swallows against a stomachful of anger and pity like rotten candy melting in her mouth. Because it's pathetic, the stricken look in Olivia's eyes, the begging not to know what crime she's committed.
Casey's voice is low, nothing more than a throaty whisper. She's got a knee to either side of Olivia's hips and her eyes are closed and she's shaking her head and she wonders whatever happened to red roses and expensive champagne. She could have had a millionaire husband, a corporate job, an apartment with a separate dining room.
But she gave those things up a long time ago, and now she's got Olivia instead. Olivia's a sun with no light, Olivia's got her own kind of gravity, and Casey's long since learned not to struggle.
"Olivia," she says again. "Just don't tell me you're sorry."
Casey's mouth at Olivia's carotid, Casey's teeth in Olivia's shoulder, Casey's hands on Olivia's hips. Every time Casey makes it hurt, Olivia's hips are off the bed, Olivia's hands are clutching the sheets. "Yes," she says, again and again, a glutton for punishment.
The skin under Olivia's shirt is damp with sweat, already flushed with exertion. Her bra is a practical black racer-back, and it's hideous on her perfect flesh. Casey's looking down at Olivia, down at Olivia's naked stomach and elegant clavicles, down at Olivia's closed eyes. It's love and it's hate, and if this were a story, they'd be edited out, an unforgivable cliché.
Her mouth leaves a shiny little trail down Olivia's belly. Casey's unbuttoning Olivia's pants, pulling them off, Casey's whispering obscenities against Olivia's skin, Casey gets wet just seeing that swath of flesh just below Olivia's bellybutton. Casey gasps and doesn't mean to.
Olivia reaches down, touches the back of Casey's head, tries to direct her. Olivia yelps when Casey twists her hand away, wrist bent too far in the wrong direction. Casey doesn't say, "It's my turn to hurt you," doesn't say anything like poetry.
Touches her tongue to Olivia's clit through her panties.
Says, instead, "Fuck you."
Casey's done this enough times that her tongue doesn't even have a chance to get tired.
Olivia's a crier. It's the endorphins, she swears, that make her do it, that make her weep every time she comes. So she's weeping, sniffling, sitting up, her shirt falling off her shoulders, hair a mess.
Casey's still on her knees. She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, licks her lips.
She stands, slowly. Says, "I'm gonna go clean up."
Olivia's curled up on the edge of the bed, completely naked and fast asleep. Casey wants to wake her. To send her home. Wants to be angry.
But it's too hard, because Olivia's body seems too fragile when she sleeps. Because Olivia fell asleep without her gun on the nightstand, and that means she feels safe.
So instead, Casey folds Olivia's clothes carefully, silently sets them on the dresser, badge and holstered Glock on top. Bites her lip, but then slips off her pants, her panties, pulls off her shirt. Turns off the lamp. Slides into bed.
There's a streetlamp outside Casey's window, and in the yellow light, Olivia's skin gleams. Casey kisses her shoulder, rests a careful hand on Olivia's bare hip. Olivia makes a noise in her sleep but doesn't wake.
Casey closes her eyes.
If it were a story, they'd wake up late, eat pancakes, have sex in the shower.
Olivia will storm around because she hates mornings and because none of Casey's clothes fit her and because Casey always has the wrong kind of coffee. Casey will sit on the couch, eating Raisin Bran and watching the beginning of Good Morning America, and Olivia will leave without her.
When the sun's coming up, Casey leans over, kisses just behind Olivia's ear and says, "Wake up, Liv. It's morning." Olivia's eyes flutter open, and before she's got a chance to get angry, she smiles.
Says, "Hey, you."
And it may not be a fairytale, Casey thinks, but it's love either way.