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Sonuachara Chapter 10

Brenna looked at Zoe's bruises nervously, but didn't say anything about them. Instead, she asked Zoe the one question she'd never wanted to hear.

"Zoe, will you still love me if I get adopted?"

Zoe froze, panic flooding her mind, as she looked down into Brenna's big eyes. "I— of course, honey," she managed, taking a deep breath. Shoving the panic aside, she forced herself to go on.

"I'm going to adopt you as soon as I can, but if you find someone you want to go with before that, I won't stop you," she said. "And I'll always stay near you, no matter what, just in case you need me."

"Promise?" Brenna asked.

"I promise," Zoe said, shaking. "Why are you asking? Don't you know I'd love you?"

"A man and a lady came in after you left last night," Brenna said. "They were really nice, and my leg didn't bother them at all! They said they had a really nice house, and they'd love for me to come live with them!"

Zoe managed a smile as she finished up Brenna's leg. "That's good," she said. "I've got to finish some stuff in the office that I didn't get done this week, okay?"

"Okay," Brenna said. "You'll really still love me?"

"Really," Zoe said. "I promise."


She made it halfway to the office before she had to run for the bathroom. It took almost fifteen minutes for the shaking to subside, and she managed to avoid throwing up only by sheer willpower. Why had they let them see Brenna? They didn't normally do that after five.

She'd expected it to be difficult to get the director to talk about it, since they weren't supposed to, but she was so excited that it wasn't difficult to get her to tell her more than she should have. When she mentioned that the couple was rich, Zoe's stomach tightened, and it was all she could do to ask a couple of leading questions that led the director to mention the couple's last name.

MacCeallich.

Zoe thanked her. Somehow, she even smiled as she did so, before turning and walking towards the door, her stomach churning with anger and betrayal. How could she? How could they?

As she reached the door, it opened, and Trina stepped in. "Hey, Zoe," she said.

Zoe ignored her, walking right past without stopping or looking at her, and Trina turned to follow her.

"Zoe? Is something wrong?"

"Don't," Zoe said.

"Don't what?" Trina asked.

"Don't talk to me right now," Zoe said tightly, vibrating with suppressed rage. "Just get away."

"What's wrong?" Trina asked. "Is Brenna okay?"

Zoe snarled and lunged for the door, slamming it behind her as she bolted down the steps.

Trina followed her, yanking the door open. "Dammit, talk to me! What's wrong?"

Zoe spun. "What's wrong? Do you really expect me to believe you don't know? How could you do this to me? WHY?"

"Do what? What are you talking about?" Trina stopped in front of her, looking bewildered. "Help me out here. At least tell me what's going on."

Zoe stared at her, the anger crumbling and giving way to agonized betrayal. "Why'd you do it?" she asked, softly. "Is that what it's all been about... to find the one thing that mattered to me and take it away? Why? What did I do to you?"

Trina's lips compressed to a thin white line. "I don't know what you're talking about, but I can tell you right now that I am not the kind of person who would do that. I'm not that kind of monster. Now will you calm the fuck down and tell me what the fuck is going on?"

Zoe's voice quivered. "If you really don't know, then ask your parents." She slumped, overwhelmed. "I'm going home," she whispered.

Trina reached out, placing one hand on her shoulder. "Zoe... please? Tell me what's going on here?"

Zoe stepped back, shaking her head. "No. I don't know what to think right now. And I can't deal with this." She closed her eyes. "I've got to get out of here, got to get away from this. Later, I'll let you tell your side... you've earned that much, at least. But not now. Now... just don't. I can't be rational right now, and I'm leaving. Don't follow. You wouldn't be safe, and I have nothing to say to you right now."

"Zoe... did my parents do something to hurt you? What's going on?"

Zoe clenched her hands tightly. "Ask them. I'm... I can't... I've got to get out of here!" She turned and ran for the nearest alleyway.

She ran until she couldn't run anymore, until she collapsed on her knees in front of a mass of rosebushes, panting. Looking up, she noticed a niche in the center, hidden, out of sight, and crawled into it, ignoring the thorns scratching her, and curled up in the center, knowing that no one could find her there. She was safe, there.


She wasn't sure how much later it was when she heard the bushes rustling, but she wasn't really surprised to hear Trina's voice.

"Zoe?"

"Go away," she said, on her side in the dirt with her knees tucked up under her chin.

"Zoe, I swear, I didn't know anything about this," Trina said. "I swear it."

"How can I know that?" Zoe asked, choking. "How can I know what to believe anymore?"

"Zoe.... I.... Come with me? Please?" Trina asked.

"No. I'm not going anywhere."

"Please?" Trina pleaded.

"You can't fix this, Trina," Zoe said. "Just go home."

"Zoe, please," Trina said. "I want to know what the hell is going on, and you deserve to know too. Don't you?"

"I know what's going on," Zoe said bitterly. "If you don't, it's because you don't want to."

"I know the director thinks Mom and Dad want to adopt Brenna," Trina said. "I never... look, if you'd asked me last night, I'd have said the idea was laughable. I still can't really conceive of it. To just... bam, off the top of their heads, just like that? That's not my parents. That's not the way they work. I don't understand what the fuck is going on here, but I want to. And... I think that at the least they ought to have to look you in the face and tell you what they're doing. They owe you that much, dammit! That much at least."

"Isn't it obvious?" Zoe curled up tighter. "They're saving her," she said bitterly. "No one else would take her, so eventually I'd get her, and what the hell could I offer her, huh? A scrungy efficiency apartment, lots of ramen noodles, and school clothes from Goodwill.... What kind of life is that for a kid?"

"Zoe?"

"Just go," Zoe whispered. "They're right, anyway, and we both know it."

"If... If that's what they're doing...."

"She'll be better off," Zoe said. "Once she sees the difference between what real people can give her, and all I've ever been able to do, she'll be glad. I'm not so selfish that I can't see that." Her voice was shaking and cracking. "She'll be happy, and safe, and that's all that matters. It always has been."

Trina bit her lip, and hesitantly reached out for Zoe. "If that's what they're doing, do you think... could I maybe stay with you for a few days until I can get something sorted out?"

"What?" Zoe asked, confused.

Trina looked at her, a fierce expression on her face. "If you think I'm going to let them do that to you and then stay there... no fucking way."

Zoe rolled onto her back, looking up at her. "You haven't been listening," she said quietly.

"I have," Trina said, laying her hand on Zoe's cheek and giving her a sad smile. "I've been listening to what you really feel, not what you're saying."

"It doesn't matter what I feel," Zoe said, closing her eyes. "It's not important. You can't love someone and want them to lose that kind of opportunity. That's not love, that's petty selfishness."

Trina looked at Zoe, her eyes filling up with tears, and Zoe swallowed. "You really didn't know, did you?" she asked.

Trina shook her head, the tears spilling over onto her cheeks, and Zoe patted her hand gently. "I'm sorry. I was too mad to think. Don't cry."

"It's not fair," Trina said.

"Nothing is," Zoe said, smiling sadly. "Haven't I been telling you that all along?"

Trina swallowed, her face hardening. "Come on. They still need to tell you. They owe you that much."

"No," Zoe said, shaking her head. "I can admit that it's the right thing to do. But don't ask me to face them, because I can't. I don't know what you want to... to accomplish, but... I can't. Not now."

"Maybe...." Trina sighed. "Maybe we've jumped to conclusions."

"No," Zoe said, shaking her head again. "It's perfectly logical. Something anyone who thinks they have an ethical obligation to help people would do."

"They might be looking at being a foster home, not adopting her," Trina said. "Honestly, I could believe that a lot easier. I'm not saying they'd never adopt, but... not this fast. I just... I just can't get my head around that idea. They'd never do something big on the spur of the moment."

"It wouldn't matter," Zoe said. "Do you really think she could be happy with me after spending a couple of years like that? No...." She shook her head sadly. "It wouldn't be fair to show her that kind of life, then take it away. It'd be cruel."

Trina looked her in the eye for a long moment, and Zoe didn't fight her. She didn't care anymore. She didn't care if Trina knew that she was lost, that she'd given up, that she had nothing to fight with or for anymore. She'd put up with everything, the beatings, the yelling, everything, to fight for this one thing, and now she'd never have it. Worse, she knew that it was better that she didn't.

"You mean it, don't you," Trina asked softly.

"Of course," Zoe said. "How could I not?"

"Then we'll fix it so that you can still give her that kind of life," Trina said. "Let's see, I've got the Microsoft shares I can cash in, I don't really like Microsoft anyway, and I was smart enough to buy a ton of MCI when they went bankrupt, so.... Yeah, I think I can do it without too much trouble. I won't have to touch the trust at all."

Zoe stared at her a moment, not understanding, then shook her head as understanding dawned. "No. Thank you. I mean that... I understand what you're trying to offer, and I know you're not doing it to get something from me. But... no. Even if it were possible, there's probably a million reasons why it would be a bad idea. But even if it weren't... honey, it's not just the money. It's all the other things I can't ever give her; two parents who aren't fucked up. Security. A normal life. The kind of power to get the best doctors, the best surgeons. You think you'd have turned out like you are if you'd had one, massively screwed up, anti-social parent?" She shook her head. "No way. And I'm not arrogant enough to think she won't love them, either, and I know they'll love her if they give her a chance. What would give me the right to take her away then? Just because I want her? She's not a puppy, not a possession. I love her. That means doing what's best for her, even if it takes away every reason for living."

"What gives them the right to take her away from you?" Trina demanded. "Dammit... no. I won't let this happen like this. No."

"Because it's better for her," Zoe said. "That's glaringly obvious, once I calmed down enough to think about it. Fucking this up for her would be the most selfish, evil thing I could possibly do."

Trina looked at her for a second, then pulled her close, holding her tightly. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry...."

Zoe shuddered and tried to pull away, but the last of her strength crumbled, and she collapsed in Trina's arms, shaking in hard, painful spasms, her hands clenched in Trina's shirt.

Trina held her close, crying herself, repeating, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," over and over again.

Finally, Zoe hid her face against Trina's chest, her breathing ragged. "You... didn't know. You didn't know what they would do. I know you didn't mean any harm. There... there hasn't been any harm. She— she'll be better off."

"It's not fair," Trina said. "You don't deserve this. You don't deserve to hurt."

Zoe shuddered, taking deep breaths, trying to regain control. "No one ever promised fair. It's... okay. I... I'm h-happy for her. She'll b-be so happy. It's all that matters. It is."

Trina swallowed, straightening slightly so that Zoe could see her eyes. "It doesn't mean you can't still be in her life, you know. You can still come see her."

Zoe closed her eyes tightly, turning her head away. "Better to make a clean break. Easier on her."

"No," Trina said. "And if you're my friend, you'd be coming around anyway."

"Trina... there's no guarantee I'll be around much longer. Without her... there's no reason for me to play by the rules and take their crap."

"Zoe... even if my parents do adopt her, she'll still need you. You promised her you wouldn't leave," Trina said.

Zoe closed her eyes tightly again, fighting the tears. "I know, but... it's a different life. She doesn't need a reminder of what happened. It'd be better for her if I just... disappeared. I... I might head back to Dallas. Places there I can get a job, sixteen or not, even without ID that I wanna show. I know where to look, up there, got places I can crash, people who still owe me favors."

"I can't believe you'd be so cruel to her," Trina said. "Please... please don't. Stay here."

"Everytime she looks at me, it'll be a reminder of the kind of life I want her to forget. And I know her... she'll feel like she's betraying me if I'm around and she's happy with someone else, so she won't let herself be happy. But if I'm gone, she's free. Free from the nightmare memories, and free from guilt."

"Zoe... no. It won't be like that. I'm hoping—" Trina bit her lip and shook her head, as if stopping herself. "Please stay. If you're worried about money, don't be. She needs you, Zoe, and she's always going to need you." Her eyes widened for a moment. "I... I have an idea. If you're willing to go for it, I mean."

Zoe pulled away, looking at Trina with a mixture of amusement and hopelessness. "Trina... you can't fix this. You've got to face that."

"What if you could still be with Brenna?" Trina asked.

Zoe shook her head. "There's no way," she said.

"If there was? Would you take it?"

"It would depend on what it was, I guess," Zoe said. "If it wouldn't hurt her, and the price was something I could pay, yeah."

Trina gave her a crooked smile. "And if there wasn't a price?"

Zoe looked at her tolerantly. "You know I don't believe there's any such thing."

Trina sighed, rolling her eyes. "Look. If my parents are willing to adopt her, they'd probably be willing to be foster parents for you. They won't hit you or anything like that, and... well, Mom has her rules, but they really aren't that bad. Probably nowhere near as bad as some of the people you've had to live with."

Zoe sighed, shaking her head. "No. I wouldn't ask that, and I couldn't accept it. It'd be a bad idea."

"Why?" Trina asked.

"Because you are my friend," Zoe said, looking away. "And I'd like things to stay that way."

"Okay?"

Zoe sighed again. "I don't think they would. Not if we were living in the same house. And I don't want to hurt your feelings, but... even though I know what they're doing is the right thing, I don't think I could stand to live with your parents. Right now... I don't think I could even stand to look at them and not totally lose it."

"Why couldn't we stay friends if we were living together?" Trina asked.

"Not so much living together," Zoe said. "But... it'd put you in a position where you'd have to take sides between me and your parents. That wouldn't work."

Trina looked as if she was struggling with herself, but all she said was, "Why?"

"I'm not going to put you in that situation," Zoe said. "Right now, you actually get along with your parents. That's too fucking rare to mess with."

"Why do you think you wouldn't get along with them?"

"Because right now, no matter how much I know, logically, that they did the right thing, I...." She closed her eyes, shuddering. "I'm sorry. I couldn't stand to be around them, and I don't think I'd ever forgive them."

Trina sighed. "You're sure?"

Zoe looked away. "I don't know. It's hard to even think right now." Her voice tightened. "I didn't think I could still hurt like this."

"Zoe...." Trina bit her lip. "At least let them explain. They owe you that, and they deserve the chance to give it to you."

"Maybe someday. When I have a little... distance. Not now. I don't know what I might do."

Trina sagged, defeated. "You won't... do anything stupid, will you?"

"If I thought something was stupid, I wouldn't do it," Zoe said.

"You know what I mean," Trina said, giving her a sharp look.

Zoe looked away. "I won't make any promises, but I'm not suicidal, Trina. I don't give up that easy."

"At least promise me you'll stick around for a while. A few weeks, at least," Trina said.

Zoe hesitated, then shook her head. "I'll try, but I can't promise more than that."

Trina bit her lip. "I guess it will have to do."

"It's the best I can offer you," Zoe said. "I don't know how bad things'll get here."

Trina swallowed. "Call me if you need me."

Zoe nodded tiredly, and Trina swallowed again. "I— I've got to go."

"It's okay," Zoe said. "Don't worry."

Trina hugged her tightly. "I'm sorry."

Zoe hugged her back. "It's okay. It really is. I'm sorry I blamed you," she said.

"Thanks," Trina said softly, before leaving.