Image thanks to phnxprmnt021@deviantart (http://phnxprmnt021.deviantart.com/)
and model Alyssa Marie, (c) 2012
Daphne feared part of her was dangerously bored. She could feel its tail swishing from the pent-up energy, while the itch between her shoulder blades grew worse every day.
The anxiety had hit her at that first midnight pool party a few weeks back, when she fought off the desire to run naked around a stranger’s backyard. The Other Daphne wanted to mess around with some serious trouble just to see if she could. Rules and morals be damned.
In the weeks since, she’d let loose in small ways hoping it was enough. But Daphne hadn’t been ready for how fast those bloodthirsty hackles could rise up, like they did today. There had been no energy for calming down: it had taken all of her willpower to stay focused on remaining human.
Now the Saturday afternoon sun hid behind pale gray clouds, embarrassed to watch as Daphne and her mother exited the police station and marched across the parking lot.
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Daphne ducked around the car and past her mother’s chilly gaze. She slunk into the passenger seat, clipped her belt, and prayed to dissolve into the scratchy, stained upholstery.
Home was a gut twisting seventeen minutes away.
While Daphne had had her share of trouble making in the last two years, today was her first trip in handcuffs. On other days, the cheap rings she had cuffed from mall kiosks had earned her a one-year ban. And the drawings of grotesque disembodied eyeballs etched in almost every bathroom stall in her high school–girls and boys–had coughed up a mere two weeks in-school suspension.
Daphne had walked a particularly thin line over the first half of the summer, figuring out which classmates’ families had nice pools and when they were away on vacation. She’d discovered, during one of her nighttime swims with a few sort-of friends, a light taste for hard cider. Who knows, maybe her mother was on to something when she threatened her with a rehabilitation boot camp. It might have chilled her other side’s wild streak.
Today had been different from the pool times, reckless and public. The only reason Daphne wasn’t looking at a hearing date was because the parents of the girl she attacked were all into personal forgiveness and other earthy crunchy notions. They were not seeking to press charges.
The parents were not, however, into financial forgiveness. For the stitches on her tongue and the split lip, the Shanahans could expect to cover Candice’s hospital bill.
It had only been three hours since the officer wrenched Daphne off Candice and hauled her down to the town’s only station. The black ink the officer had dipped them in still faintly stained her fingertips. Daphne rubbed at the ink, anxious to be home so she could scrub away the marks that branded her a delinquent.
She stopped fussing when she saw the half-torn nail on her pointer finger. Flecks of dried blood lingered beneath the edges with blood she knew wasn’t her own.
Daphne tucked her hands out of sight to scrape away the remaining evidence of her midday melee.
At a stoplight, her mother broke the silence.
“Why are you punishing me?” Mrs. Shanahan’s voice was heavy with exasperation.
Daphne stopped picking at her nails. Her voice caught in her throat. When she put Candice in the hospital, What Will Mom Think hadn’t been the first thing on her mind.
“Haven’t I been good? You always have clothes that fit you. You’ve never gone hungry,” Mrs. Shanahan said. “I know I can’t give you everything you want. It’s been tough since your father…”
Mrs. Shanahan trailed off. Despite how the thoughts were plain in her furrowed brow and white lips, she didn’t speak aloud of the sacrifices made over the past four years.
Daphne squirmed in her seat. She was uncomfortable as much by the stiff chair as the conversation and the memories it stirred, of sixth grade and the longest hospital visit of her life, of watching her father’s casket lowered into the rich, dark earth because of a pizza parlor brawl. She could still remember the melancholy whine of the bagpipes as they laid another warrior to rest.
Her mother spoke, pulling Daphne from the miserable moments. “Is that the problem, Daph? Are you acting out because we don’t have things?”
Daphne’s gaze dropped to the car floor and the empty soda bottles and burger wrappers stuffed down there. She said, “That’s not it.”
“Then what?” Her mother shot her a look. “You want to act tough? You think starting fights, putting people in the hospital, you think that’s fun? You’re dangerous and cool, right?”
“Cool? Wouldn’t that mean I was trying to impress someone?” Daphne laughed, spiteful. “I think there’d have to be someone in the tri-state area worth impressing first.”
Out of frustration, Mrs. Shanahan sharply flicked Daphne’s leg.
Daphne glowered and clenched her teeth.
“I’m not taking your bullshit anymore, Daphne. I can only imagine what Candice’s hospital bill is going to be. And don’t forget, I just bailed you out of jail,” her mother snarled.
A separate part of Daphne snarled back silently.
At that moment, Daphne would rather her mother have left her in the holding cell. Beneath her skin, she could feel something else trying to take control of the situation. Just like it had earlier.
Another attack? So soon?
Daphne tried to breathe deeply and keep calm. There was no telling what might happen if she lost it in such a small space.
Just calm down. Don’t cause a fiery burning car crash, okay?
After a long, stiff silence that felt certain to last until they got home, Mrs. Shanahan said, “I called your father’s family.”
Daphne’s eyes went wide. She stared at her mother, body frozen to her seat. Those words were better than any steady breathing exercise she could think of to banish the slow-boiling rage of her other side.
The threat had been there before. But Daphne hadn’t thought her mom would actually go through with it.
Her mother’s words were precise; they sounded practiced. “They’ve agreed to take you in until you finish high school. Assuming you cause them no other trouble.”
Oh, no. Daphne bent forward, her head suddenly light. No, no, no.
Her father had been the youngest of his three brothers. They were all dead now… senseless, brutal deaths each of them. Tempers ran deep in the Shanahan blood. Daphne had caught her mother muttering before, about not wanting her to be like her father in that way. It was a fear which Daphne felt certain was much more of a reality.
Who then, she wondered, was still standing on that side of the family? A distant cousin, perhaps? A married-into-the-family aunt? Daphne hadn’t heard from her Aunt Lorraine, her father’s only sister, since elementary school. Not much family had attended her father’s funeral and a lot could happen in four years.
“Mom, I’m sorry.” Her voice broke as she said, “I don’t mean to be this way.”
“Then why do you do it, Daph?”
Daphne’s chest tightened. She knew she needed to tell the truth. But, oh god, she didn’t want to think about how much of it all might be in her head.
She took a calming breath, sat up straight, and then slouched down to stare at her hands.
“It’s like there are two of me,” she started, voice small. “There’s the one Daphne I am most of the time. I sit through class, keep out of the way, get okay grades and I’m happy. You know?”
Her mother’s pursed lips and stare told Daphne that no, she did not. But she hadn’t said to stop talking yet, so Daphne continued.
“And then there’s the other Daphne, the one that waits. Like, ready to pounce on anything that moves wrong. This Other Daphne, she can’t let anyone insult her or even look at her funny. She won’t let things be misunderstandings. Or accidents. Everything feels like some kind of challenge.”
Daphne’s eyes stung. She wiped at them with the backs of her hands, taking the moment to weigh her mother’s reaction to her last words.
There was nothing from her mom but a guarded stillness as she drove into their neighborhood.
“I don’t know what to do,” Daphne said. “Because that’s the part of me I can’t control and–”
“Daphne,” Mrs. Shanahan interrupted, “everyone feels like that at some point or another.”
Daphne slammed an elbow into her seat. “It is not the same! Will you just listen?”
“Oh, now you want someone to listen? Maybe if you hadn’t thrown a fit after every therapist I took you to, you could have worked through some of this already. You didn’t give a single one more than three weeks.”
“I told you I didn’t trust them.” Daphne turned to look at her mother as she drove. “I thought that was the point? Find someone I felt comfortable with? Work through my behavioral issues?”
Her mother’s jaw tightened. She shook her head. “You don’t even appreciate what I’ve had to do so you could have a normal life. What about the meds? You better be taking them. I don’t need to watch you swallow them, do I?”
“No, Mom, I’m still medicated.” Daphne’s tone was harsher than she had intended. “The pills aren’t working. Like I told you, what, ten times already?”
Mrs. Shanahan glanced at Daphne. “Is that what this is all about then? Making a scene so I’ll take you off the meds?”
“Why should I be on something if it’s not doing a damn thing?” Daphne snapped, “You complain about how much everything costs. Why not cut out what isn’t working?”
“I don’t know what to do with you, Daph,” Mrs. Shanahan said. “I just don’t.”
She shouted, “I’m trying to tell you!”
“You’re fifteen now, Daphne. You need to be an adult and get control of this other side of yours.”
Daphne folded her arms tight against her stomach and slouched back against her seat, wondering what the use was in trying to explain further. Her mom’s mind seemed made up.
“You can leave tomorrow,” her mother said. “When we get home, you’ll pack. And I swear, if I hear so much as one grumble out of you, I will make sure that the Chaissons press charges. Then juvie can take you off my hands instead. Do I make myself clear?”
Daphne whispered, “Yes, ma’am.”
* * *
Daphne trudged through the barren station, up the steps to the waiting area. A shoulder bag and two suitcases held all the possessions she could stuff into them. She focused on the hollow echo of her shoes, clacking against the cement floor, to avoid feeling how truly alone she was.
What Daphne couldn’t ignore was how her mother’s last words haunted her steps. They had been an exasperated excuse for this forced flight from the nest.
“I love you, Daphne, but I can’t deal with this right now,” Mrs. Shanahan had said. “I… I need some time to myself. I know it’s too much to ask but, as this is your last chance, try to be good?”
Her mother hadn’t even offered to stay with her until the bus came. Instead there had been a rigid hug and rough goodbyes before Daphne watched her mother clear out of her life for god only knew how long.
Until I graduate, she reminded herself. Thirty-four grueling months.
Daphne collapsed with her pile of luggage at the waiting area. It wouldn’t be long before the bus arrived. Another ten minutes maybe. Then a five-hour ride up to Boston and a forty-five minute train out to meet with whatever was left of her father’s family.
For their sake, Daphne silently prayed that no passengers would attempt idle conversation with her in those next hours. If the regular Daphne felt defeated then certainly the Other Daphne, the one with the teeth that bite and the claws that scratch, was in no mood to be polite.