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The Rambler, The Gambler, The Back Biter

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The first time Emily sees Katie with her legs wrapped around Effy’s waist and her pretty pink mouth slicking desperate kisses across Effy’s neck and her wrist and her cheek, well. She doesn’t exactly react well.

 

She’s not exactly sure how it started, really. She knows that she hated Effy, hates, and she has no fucking clue how the bitch wormed her way into Katie’s veins. She knows that she’s not gay, no, she’s no lezza like her sister, but. But there’s something about Effy, something tiny and broken and fragmented that Katie just loves to poke at. Call it revenge, call it projection, but it all ends up with Effy on her knees and Katie with her hands hooked like claws in Effy’s hair.

 

When Effy and Cook and Freddie finally return from their roadtrip or whatever the hell it was that they did, Katie doesn’t really care. Oh, she cares in an abstract way, bitter as hell about Freddie and what it is that Effy has that she doesn’t, but most of her attention is wrapped around the vicious lovebite Emily’s sporting right in the hollow of her collarbones, and she’s too busy pushing her fingers against the tender places still tracing across her hairline.

She doesn’t really see any of the others. She doesn’t care. Emily, she has to, but the odd moments they catch together are full of this awkward tension that she can’t deal with, a taut sheet of guilt and anger that twangs like a guitar string when Katie opens her mouth. So she stays away as much as possible, avoiding Naomi’s laughter and Emily’s whispers when she thunders through and out of that shithole of a house, and. And then she has nowhere to go, no one to go to, and she sits in a café and smiles at all the boys and just writes lists and lists of people she hates, and vengeance she seeks, and how the hell she’s going to get away from all the pathetic people in her life.

She spends three weeks barely at home, only in and out of her tiny room, just enough time to grab clean clothes and a quick shower, avoiding her eyes in the mirror, and she spends her days sparking ideas and anger into a thin film over her skin and her nights in a club with music pounding in time to her racing heart with someone else’s hands sliding down and down, then up and up.

She doesn’t care about any of them, not even a little, and. It doesn’t matter. It’s good.

 

When she finally sees Effy again, she isn’t really surprised. The other girl kicks out the seat opposite to her in her café, and sinks down with fluidity, all long hair and lithe limbs and, yeah, Katie hates her. Hates her, sitting there so righteous and beautiful and indifferent when Katie still wakes up in strange places seeing leaves and flashing lights.

She doesn’t say anything. She hasn’t in a while, really, nothing of any importance. No one to say anything to, nothing of worth to say. It doesn’t really bother her, not when she only has another year of this shit to deal with before she can get out of this strange fucking limbo, escape from these pathetic remains of people and their co-dependent bullshit.

She sits there and takes her time, scribbling her notes and letting her coffee grow cold. She doesn’t watch Effy through her fringe, and she only leaves when the coffee dregs left at the bottom of her cup have settled into bitter sludge. When she leaves, she deliberately knocks over the cardboard cup of tea that Effy’s been sipping from, listening to it drip to the floor as she walks away.

Katie never sees the small smile quirking Effy’s lips.

 

Katie runs into Cook at a club one night. She’s already gone and swaying when he shows up, one black eye and faint traces of blood around his neck. It’s odd, but he looks how she feels.

He looks around the place, leans against the wall and wipes his hands across his mouth, hips tilted out and eyes half-slitted. When he sees Katie, he smiles slow and lascivious, slicking his tongue over his teeth and he isn’t her type, he’s not particularly fit and he has nothing to offer, and the way he smiles makes her shudder, but. But he’s also Effy’s, he’s Effy’s and Katie needs to take something away from her.

So she saunters over casually, shoving through stifling crowds to lean into him. “Where’s Effy, then?” she whispers, and without waiting for an answer, she bites his arm, letting her saliva dampen his ragged shirt.

Cook laughs, low and mocking, and her skin crawls. “No fucking clue, mate. Haven’t seen her in weeks. Haven’t seen anyone.”

“Yeah. Sounds about right. Always something better to do. Someone.” Katie nods, distracted, and tangles her fingers in his, leading him through the drunken tangles of people into the filthy girls’ bathroom.

She lets him fuck her up against the door to one of the stalls and closes her eyes.

 

It happens again. Effy just suddenly appears out of nowhere, falls in step with Katie, and doesn’t say a fucking word. Katie shoots her an annoyed look and huffs, tugging her coat more firmly around her. It’s cold out. “What, are you fucking stalking me?” She snaps, and even she’s surprised at the acidic bite to her words.

Effy doesn’t seem too bothered. She smiles, tiny and private, and says simply, “No.”

That’s it. Just ‘no’. Katie can feel her teeth grinding. “Don’t you have more people to screw over? Hearts to break, people to stone? Shouldn’t you be running away or killing someone or something?”

Effy slides Katie a sidelong look and slips her hands into her pockets. “No,” she says again.

“Whatever.” Irritated, Katie swipes the hair out of her eyes and starts walking faster. “Bitch.”

She walks away to the sound of Effy’s knowing laugh.

 

The next time Effy shows up in dead fucking silence, Katie isn’t caught off guard. She just kicks dirt up onto Effy’s shoes and keeps walking, and doesn’t complain when Effy matches her step for step. They end up at the lake and sit at the end of the pier, legs dangling off the side and they stare out into the water even though it’s fucking freezing and the wind whips at their hair and tangles it into knots.

“I didn’t mean to,” Effy says, looking away.

“Excuse me?”

“I didn’t meant to. I didn’t mean to hurt you,”

“Is this some sort of sick joke? You hit me in the head with a rock, what, accidentally? You psychotic bitch, what the fuck is wrong with you?”

“I don’t know. I don’t-- nothing. Nothing.” Effy looks away and lets her hair fall down to form a curtain between them. “Nothing.”

Katie sighs and bites down on her lip. “Yeah. Me too.”

 

It’s a few days later when Emily and Katie actually see each other for more than a few seconds at a time. It’s inevitable, Katie supposes, when they technically live in the same house, but she’s still caught off-balance, faintly coloured milk dripping from her spoon into her bowl with a wet plink when Emily and Naomi come tripping in, laughing and holding hands like a couple from an American teen romance.

She looks down and slides her spoon between her lips, letting a curtain of red fall between them as she hears their steps come to a stuttering stop. She glances at her mobile and notes that it’s 2PM and she has no messages.

“Oh, hi,” Emily says, pushing her hair behind her ear and trying out a tentative smile, like Katie is going to eat her or something. Behind her, Naomi wraps a proprietary arm around her waist, chin tilted up aggressively.

Katie lets the corner of her mouth tilt up in amusement and smirks at them. “Hey,” she says, and some part of her thinks this is hilarious, the three of them in some bullshit standoff or something, no one wanting to give. So she stands up, throws her bag over her shoulder and her bowl in the sink, and sashays out the door, twisting her hips and winking at her sister as Emily frowns, just a little.

 

Katie’s eyes are closed for just a second, her head tilted back against a tree, hair catching in the roughness of the bark, and when she opens them again, she’s looking straight at Effy, eyes lined in purple and blue like a bruise.

“Hey,” Effy says, and moves to sit next to Katie, her eyelashes casting shadows over her cheeks. Too much mascara, Katie thinks absently, and twitches the material of her skirt aside so that Effy isn’t trapping her in. Effy’s leg is pressed up all along hers, a solid line of warmth, and Katie thinks about moving but doesn’t, just matches her breathing to Effy’s, and lets the tension from her body seep into the ground.

 

After that, she stops struggling, stops questioning how she’ll look to her side and see Effy there. It’s not exactly healthy, not with that undercurrent of unease and the bright firefly flickers of hatred every time she touches Effy’s skin, but it’s easy being with her, not having to hide her emotions and stop her fingers from curling into taloned fists. It’s a thought that makes her laugh, that after everything, after all her ambitions, only now are they friends.

Friends.

The word leaves a bitter, powdery taste on her tongue, like taking too many pain-killers. Apt, she supposed.

Sometimes when they walk side by side, their fingers catch and they pull apart slowly, torn nails snaring with matching colour. One day, they both forget to pull away and they walk with five points of heat along the back of their hands, burning.

 

When it happens, it’s back in the woods where it all started. Effy showed up at Katie’s house just as she was stepping out the door, and she tilted her head with invitation, smiling wordlessly as Katie shrugged and slipped into the front passenger seat, taking Effy’s cigarette and inhaling deeply, breathing out to let polluted air cradle her face. She falls asleep there, cigarette held loosely between her fingers, embers landing to burn tiny holes in her tights before Effy rescues it, watching her sleep. Katie’s face is turned away from her, pressed to the slick surface of the glass, and her breath fogs the window until Effy leans over to draw in it with one long fingertip.

Katie only wakes up when the car rolls to a stop, and she startles to see where she is, fright and panic beginning to cloud her throat, suffocating, until Effy steps out and stands there hopefully, head cocked to one side like a fucking bird, hollow bones and wings.

She sighs and unfolds herself from the car, her knifepoint heels slicking over loose dirt and sticks, and she swears in irritation, eyebrows coming together in a thick rope. Effy steps around her, careful not to touch, and ducks into the car to pull out a picnic basket, rattan and checked material, like she’s a Stepford wife or something.

They settle on the ground, dirt smearing into their skin and clothes, but there’s something strange in Effy’s face, like desperation and want leaking into the tiny cracks in her skin, so Katie grits her teeth and deals with it, eats mechanically, her pulse loud in her ears to match Effy’s silence.

The food is good, Katie’s surprised to note, and she eats with abandon, uncaring as brownies leave chocolate smears across her fingertips and the corners of her mouth. She looks up to see Effy staring, eyes wide and dark, and she snaps, “What?” with violence.

Effy shakes her head, a cloud of hair around her shoulders, and looks away. “Nothing. Just…”

“What?” Katie says again, frowning, and then makes cries out in alarm when Effy moves in quickly, like a fucking raptor, and pins her against the ground, dirt creeping up under her skirt, in through her sleeves. “Jesus Christ!”

She’s panting, now, and Effy smiles at her slowly, says, “I really am sorry, you know,” before ducking down, pressing bruised lips to the white of Katie’s throat, sucking and biting.

Katie lies there, stunned, harsh wet heat at her throat. She blinks at the canopy of trees above her, fingers flexing uselessly where she’s flung them apart, like she’s being crucified. Her mind is curiously blank, and then Effy makes a sound, like a whimper pressed against her skin and feelings comes back, thought, like the rush of a tidal wave and she’s gasping, biting into her lips, and Jesus, fuck, she wants more.

“E-effy? What?” She stutters out, her breath pushing out of her when Effy’s hand comes up to cup her breast, massaging, fingers cool where they meet her bared clavicle.

“Mmm?” Effy hums out, vibrating against Katie, and shoves at Katie’s sleeves, pushing and pulling until the thin straps are pressing red marks into the insides of her elbows, until her bra is bared and then Effy tears through that, too, flimsy lace coming apart at the back when Effy hauls her up, mauls at the clasp at her back. She throws it away, Katie tracking the movement of purple through the air, and she seizes in shock at the warmth of Effy’s mouth on the curve of her breast, the rough catch of her thumb, her nail, over her nipple.

She could feel wetness sliding down her thigh, caught inside the thin cotton of her panties, and she lay back again with her eyes wide, just letting it happen to her, letting Effy mouth bruises across the fish-belly white of her stomach. Her hands come up to curl tightly in Effy’s hair, fisting so viciously that Effy grunts with something that sounds astonishingly like contentment.

Katie’s panting for breath, great heaves wracking her chest, and she gasps all the more when Effy runs delicate, dexterous fingers across the waist of her panties, down, her skirt rucked up around her waist and her thin stockings tugged violently down her legs. Effy’s fingers are pressed against her centre through cotton, and she shucks them to the side, the elastic tight against her, but Katie can’t think, can’t breathe, not with Effy’s fingers sliding straight up into the heart of her, sucking heat.

She clenches, automatically, and Effy gasps against her concave stomach, fingers curling and crooking. She leans up to mouth at her breasts again, biting gently, and she pulls her fingers out, pressing her palm against the curve of Katie’s mound, fingers flicking and stroking at her clit until Katie arches up off the ground for one perfect eternal moment, mouth gaping and eyes closed, flushed a dull, angry red.

She comes down, eyes blinking dazedly open, and Effy’s fingers are still tangled in her panties, her eyes are locked onto Katie’s, and she’s breathing heavily herself. They stare at each other, stunned, until Katie curls herself up and pushes at Effy, barely gets her hand into her panties and freezes at the foreign wetness, at the wrong angle, until Effy shapes her fingers into the right position from the outside and then just grinds, head thrown back until Katie manages to manipulate her fingers correctly until Effy keens.

 

They don’t speak for a week.

 

Effy shows up again on a Friday night, pushing Katie back into her house just as she’s stepping out to leave. She goes down on Katie in Emily’s bed and her eyeliner smears around her eyes with sweat. This time, Katie doesn’t need Effy’s help to get her off.

 

By the third time, it’s a pattern, and now when Katie sees Effy, her cheeks flush with pink and her breathing starts faster. There’s a slow, fluttering feeling in her stomach and she wakes up in the mornings with hickeys that Emily frowns at and bloody crescents in her palm from where she’s clenched them to keep them from Effy’s hair.

She kind of loves it. She hates it, too, it still disgusts her just a little, but it’s a sick thrill, adrenaline and hatred and lust licking like fire up her spine when Effy smiles her secret smile at her. It’s something just for them, neither of them want to advertise it, not like Emily or Naomi. They aren’t gay, it’s just. It’s just that they need this, something to cling to, something hot and red in a miasma of monotony.

Now, Katie doesn’t wake up with ghosts of leaves in her hair, she knows where she is before she opens her eyes, and she has bruises that she can press into when the ache becomes too much.

 

When Emily finds out, she punches Katie, and they leave each other with matching bloody streaks down their faces. Naomi is in a corner, glaring, her mouth pursed with that disgusted, holier than thou look, and Effy’s smirking, cigarette in her hand and looking out the window.