Avoidance Of Doubt

Entry by: Briergate

20th May 2016
The worry was quietly, systematically consuming her.

It gnawed at her insides like a starving parasite, causing bile to surge up inside every time she allowed her thoughts to still, and her mind to calm enough to let the doubts take hold. Sick with it, she resolved that this was enough, now. She needed to know, to confirm all that she had heard, and confront the swirling, bitter mass of fear face to face.

And, of course, that meant facing Charlotte.

Her daughter was more fearsome in many ways than an animal, trapped and primal. The way Charlie let each unanswered question slide from her impassive face, the tension and irritation only visible to a mother's trained gaze. A subtle pulse in her jaw signified that Maria was pushing too hard. Charlie would allow one or two enquiries, and then close up on herself like a trinket box, her shine carefully concealed within.

It had been happening for so long, Maria couldn’t remember the last time when her daughter had looked at her fully, and opened up in the easy, unguarded way she had when she was young. She couldn’t think of that, these days. Warm soft chubby arms held up, opening to enfold her. No. Now, and for months, Charlie was all spikes and piercings, inked messages which spoke of inner feelings that Maria couldn’t decipher. All she had was the town's rumour mill, spilling insinuations in to her ear at every turn. Charlie was taking drugs. Charlie was hanging out with a group of freaks, intent on causing damage. Charlie was sexually active. Charlie was prostituting herself. Charlie was. Charlie was.

Maria had tried so hard to ignore the whispering and barbed remarks, but in truth, she was afraid there was substance behind each one. Why else would her daughter, always so shy and wary of large groups, suddenly be out every night until late, refusing to let Maria know where she was going, or when she would be back? Her body, too. From being mildly plump it had become an angular and sharp case hiding sharper words. The clothes. From slightly quirky, Charlie had gone all-out bizarre, choosing black leggings, black t-shirts, black hoods over her usual brighter styles. Maria had seen her, hanging around near the local shops with a group of kids clad in exactly the same way, and it had terrified her. Her gentle, quiet daughter, part of some weird outcast clan? It was unthinkable, but shockingly believable.

Enough, then. It was time to face the beast full on, because as a mother, Maria had a responsibility to protect her daughter from as much as possible, even if that meant confronting the group of kids and destroying Charlie's trust.

Maria ran upstairs to change, checking the time. In just a few minutes Charlie would be back, and she needed to act swiftly and maintain her courage and resolve. With her husband gone, doting on his new family, it was all down to Maria to sort this out for her only child. She pulled on black jeans and a black top, figuring that whatever Charlie was up to, Maria needed to blend in and try and be as inconspicuous as possible. Downstairs, she heard her daughter enter the kitchen, and she paused, wondering whether to shout a greeting. She shrugged, carried on dressing, as Charlie ran to her room, slammed the door, and then almost immediately ran out again. The front door slammed, and Maria ran now too, following her daughter at a discreet distance.

Charlie was predictable in her secrecy. Within a few minutes of walking, she arrived at the town centre and hopped up on to a wall, her rucksack slung across one shoulder. Maria lurked behind a shop doorway, watching furtively. Her heart beat out a rhythm which caused her hands to tremble in response, as a large group of six or seven teenagers, all dressed in black, turned the corner and met Charlie. They laughed, and hugged, doing fist-bumps, before walking in a loose but familiar group down the road.

Maria frowned apprehensively, as she followed. Where were they going?

Feeling nervous and a little silly, Maria tailed the group at a distance until they slipped inside one of the disused warehouses on the outskirts of an industrial estate. She paused, then startled as loud music started the throb from within the cavernous space. Thinking quickly, she ran to the side of the warehouse, dragging a rotten wooden crate to the low window caked in greasy dust, and stepped up. She used a corner of her pullover to rub a small square of vision in to the glass, and peered through, dreading what she may view.

The teenagers were milling about, pulling off hoodies and reaching in to their backpacks to retrieve an array of bottles. Maria sighed, feeling both relief and irritation with her daughter. Alcohol. Of course. Not ideal, but still better than some of the things she had feared. The music pulsed, making the flimsy sides of the building ebb and fall as if the notes were pushing the structure in to steady breath. Maria watched, unconsciously crossing the fingers on each hand, willing her daughter to be safe.

The group seemed close. Too close, in fact. They were laughing and talking in an animated way which Maria had not witnessed for a while, from her increasingly morose daughter. She managed to pick our Charlotte finally, the most petite of the group, when she pulled off her hoodie and stepped from the corner in to a more central position. Her frame seemed swamped by the older kids, as she stood alone in the centre, her now-slim arms exposed in a skimpy and tight-fitting black vest. Maria was suddenly panting in apprehension. Group sex? Please, God, no. Satanic ritual? Her mouth dropped in horror, tears blurring her view, as the group of taller youths encircled her daughter like predators sizing up carrion for consumption.

Maria imagined the sound of her pulse was eclipsing the rhythmic, hypnotic pounding of the music. She gripped more tightly to the ledge of the window, and squeezed the tears from her eyes. No matter how much she was dreading what was about to unfold before her gaze, she was a mother. She needed to see. She needed to be the one to reach out across the abyss of teenage
misunderstandings and loneliness and grasp her daughter’s hand, pulling her from whatever evil was about to happen.

In flashes of fear, Maria considered her options. She scanned the warehouse floor quickly, picking out old planks, metal bars; anything she may brandish as a weapon. The fear fuelled her resolve, pumping adrenalin in to each limb, making her shake with the fierce will of maternal anger.

The group stilled, watching each other, and Maria sensed that each individual was suddenly part of a linked unit, perhaps impenetrable. She bit down hard on her lip, tasting the metallic salt as her skin punctured. She breathed, and watched, and the fear surged and fuelled rage which was mounting so swiftly Maria felt suddenly omnipotent.

She watched. She braced herself for the raging hurricane of anger which she would whirl inside, twisting until it erupted to wreak vengeance upon these older kids, circling her daughter.

Charlotte seemed to flex and grow in stature, in the centre. She held her arms rigidly above her suddenly and her lithe body, so recently diminished, seemed to be jolted by an invisible current. And then.

The group surged. With each beat of the music, they moved together in a perfect pack of harmony, each body responding to the bass in a way which made Maria move closer, entranced. They flowed together, and then the circle expanded, leaving Charlie exposed again in the centre. And she danced.

Glory of God, though, how Charlie danced.

She moved with the grace and precision of an automaton, as if some geeky programmer in a basement had wired in to her corporeality and was controlling it to robotic perfection. She leaped, and the group surged forward once more, limbs unified and liquid, catching her, placing her briefly upon her feet only to flip as she spun in rapid backspins across the centre of the space. Behind her, the rest of the group moved in a controlled frenzy, cartwheels, lifts, and finally an unspoken signal and they were fully aligned, dancing as a single being, each limb pulsing in indefatigable choreographed perfection.

Maria stared. The group were devastating; a primal instinctive whole working with control which shouted out proudly, of months and months of collaboration. And, in the centre, her Charlotte was shining. Her smaller stature lent herself to the group as the focal point, and her ballet-like gracefulness drew the eye as surely as the solitaire winking within a faded gold setting. Marie gazed in awe to see her daughter transformed, with lithe muscles flexing when she reached out to the group supporting her, or using taut abdominals to spin backwards, forwards, leaping up in to the air, gliding back down.

“Well, then. Well. Right. OK, then,” Maria mumbled to herself, as the music stopped and the teenagers high-fived, laughing, Charlotte throwing her hair back in delight, and they retrieved water bottles and drank, or bent over, regaining the breath expended in the sheer exhilaration of their obvious precision and talent.

“Right, then. OK,” Maria said again, stepping from the crate, rubbing life back in to her hands which had seized like talons to the ledge.

She stood for a moment, smiling broadly at the wall before her, and then shook her head, adjusted her hair, and walked shakily away to enable Charlie to preserve her guarded secret until such time as she felt ready to unleash it upon the unsuspecting world.
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