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You were supposed to be a boy.

You know this, deep down in that way that children just know, even though your mother doesn’t speak the words. But still, your parents love you because you are a sign of good things. You are happiness, and purity, a light in the darkness of the Sons tenuous early reign. As a child they dote on you, your mother crooning out the lyrics playing in the jukebox at the bar, twisting your long hair into braids. Your host of uncles weaves around each other, laughing and shouting in dark leather jackets and the dirty boots that stomp heavily on the wood floor. Fuzzy beards scratch your face as they kiss the crown of your head when they pass and you giggle and smile beautifully. You love that you are loved. You are 5 years old and the smoky world of the clubhouse is your whole universe, until one day its not.

 


 

Thomas is born, and he is even more beautiful than you. At first, this hurts, and no matter how much your mother coaxes, you refuse to enter his crowded space. He has done what you could not, and for weeks you curdle your jealousy. Thomas is the boy you can’t be, and they love him for it, so one day you sneak behind the heavy doors of the forbidden room to escape the stink of their happiness. Its quite liberating, you think, to break the rules. You smile to yourself as the door closes behind you.

It is very dark.

You step silently across the floor towards the monstrous table holding court in the center of the room. Your small hands help you clamber up onto the chair at the head of the table, and when you settle in and cross your legs, your gaze sweeps over the Reaper carving in the center. The chair is large and cumbersome, and the room is stale with cigar smoke and cheap alcohol, but it sends a tingle through your fingers as you press them against the cool wood. The amber lighting streams in from the crack in the doorway, slicing cleaning across the skull insignia, and for a single breathless moment, you feel mighty.

The next night, you visit Thomas in his crib and lay a kiss against his forehead. Icy blue eyes, the same exact shade as yours, stare back at you blankly and chubby fingers wrap tightly around a stray lock of your hair. He grins his empty gums at you and gurgles in the dark, content. You feel the clammy sensation of love stretch its greedy fingers around the length of your throat, choking and heady, tightening suddenly like a noose. But nothing this perfect could ever hurt you, you think, so you smile back anyway.

You’re wrong. He dies. It hurts.

 


 

Your father dies in a fiery explosion, leaving you with no reason, no body, and nothing to scream at. Just another number on the long list of reasons you hate him, you think. Your mother makes you wear a dress to the funeral, but you refuse to make any more effort for a man who was more of a ghost when he was alive than dead. You lack the will to prove yourself to something so intangible. Opie holds your hand, his rough, callused palm engulfing your own. You don’t cry at the service.

He takes you to the garage and lets you sit with the remnants of John Teller’s shattered throne (the mint green detailing on his Harley is charred to a crisp). Opie's towering form slowly lowers onto the ground next to you and the silence is the most blissful thing you’ve ever felt. He puts a rag in your hand and you reach blindly into the wreckage to pull out something, anything, from the heart of this skeletal creature. You emerge with a blackened brake pad, and you scrub at the undamaged side until you can’t see your hands through the tears. You are engulfed in the smell of oil, and leather, and warmth, as your best friend rubs giant hands over your tangled hair as you sob uncontrollably in a stained black dress.

“Wanna talk about it?” Opie asks gruffly, obviously uncomfortable but trying anyway. You shake your head and smile slightly, lungs easing as you gulp for breath against his chest. If anyone understands absent parents, it’s Opie. He pressed his short scruffy beard (just starting to fill in) against your cheek in the impression of a kiss. Its good to know you're still loved.

This is the only moment you give yourself, and when you pull back without a word and reach for the rag again, Opie hands it to you easily. Neither of you feel the need to break the silence as you pick through the ruins. Your tears dry quickly.

 


 

You are 16, and your legs are long and graceful; your shirts grow tighter in the chest and your hair is a perfect golden blonde. Freckles splatter across your high cheekbones and your skin tans in the sunlight. You like the heavy gazes that follow you when you walk. Your mother purses her lips and frowns more and more, and one night she tries to explain to you why your beauty is dangerous. You hear her, but you don’t listen.

One year later, as you scrub blankly at the blood under your nails and the bruises on your thighs in a bar bathroom, your mother's warning flutters through your mind. This warning becomes a foundation you use to balance the dark new shift of your world. Its structure is shaky at first, but three days later, as you roll the body of the man (whose thick fingerprints still stain your throat) into the shallow grave behind the Lodi turnpike, you feel something settle under your skin.  It feels righteous.

The next day you show up to work at the garage in clean, tight jeans and your long hair in a sloppy braid. The split in your bottom lip stings sharply and focuses the haze in you brain. You can’t help but think that murder should make you look different, hollowed or tainted, some giant visible bloodstain on you skin— but no one comments. Opie acknowledges you with a grunt and a wave from the depths on the Chevy he’s fixing, not really looking at you as you walk by the office, but you steel yourself for the inevitable. You know your mother can see it.

Gemma’s eyes follow you from behind the shade of the office and you feel the cool gaze slide over your shoulders. You’ve been in the shop for less than 5 minutes before she calls for you, leaning casually against the doorframe.

“Jax, sweetheart, c’mere for a minute.” You sigh and turn, half envying your mother’s uncanny ability to turn even ratty-layered flannel shirts into some weird sexual nightmare. Gemma Teller is not known for subtlety, in clothing or verbal manipulation.

Her gaze is calculating as she takes in the faint makeup coating the marks on your neck and the heavy bags under your eyes. She steps forward and you flinch slightly, before you can stop it, and she pauses. You can’t look her in the eye.

“Jackie, hon.” Her voice is soft as she leads you into the room and she lays gentle hands on yours clenched at your sides. “Look at me.”

You do. Then, ever so slowly, she wipes at the bruises on your neck and breathes in sharply. Your mother is quiet for a long time.

“You need Clay to take care of—“ you shake your head firmly. She starts to speak again, but pauses when she catches your eye. Your mother-daughter talks were always more productive through what was left unsaid.

“Jax, baby, they can help, they can—“

“No.” Your throat feels dry and worn. “It’s handled.”

She steps back and turns over your right wrist. The dark rings of blood under your nails are harshly contrasting with your white knuckles and she doesn’t speak for a long time. You hold your breath as she turns to her bag and emerges with a small black tube.

“You should cover that lip,” is all she says. She hands you the lipstick, a deep ruby red (that makes you think of the bloodstain on your torn shirt at home) and for a moment you want to be sick. You glance up and catch her stare, and for the first time you feel like someone’s really seeing you, sharp and clear and piercing. You feel naked and vulnerable, until she kisses you softly on the cheek and walks back out into the shop.

The lipstick feels smooth and dangerous on your mouth.

At your age, you know you won’t earn a Men of Mayhem patch, and the rotting carcass in the dirt off I-95 was put there for your own vengeful purposes, (he had no club attachments, which at first appealled to you) so you have no power to gain in SAMCRO.

But you killed a man, and you want them to know (without knowing the reason why) that you’re not weak, not little, not pure, anymore.

As you stare into the mirror on the office wall, lips bright red, you can’t help but think to yourself maybe this is the bloodstain I was looking for.

 


 

In another universe, you think you might be proud and strong and confident. You know if you had been born in another form, you might have been handed the gift of succession as a birthday present, earned simply because you are.

But here, in this reality, your existence is tangled with the insecure ramblings of a dead father and the missing piece of your soul that Thomas forgot to give back and took with him to the grave. You leave the festered piece to rot in the dirt. Here, in this reality, you are the perfect prince in every way, except you are no prince. This makes you desperate. Angry. You are a bloodied and broken woman, and you grow up aching and wanting and burning to prove, until the day you rip your stolen title from your stepfather’s chapped lips and leave him half dead in a hospital bed while your mother licks her wounds in the hallways of your (again) empty house. As you calmly stroll out of the building, the dirty baseball cap that graces your head feels as heavy as a crown.