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Poem: "Rainy Day People" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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Poem: "Rainy Day People"

This poem is from the September 2, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from ng_moonmoth, laffingkat, ellenmillion, siliconshaman, DW users Dialecticdreamer, and Lynnoconnacht. It also fills the "difficult / unplanned pregnancy" square in my 7-31-14 card for the fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

WARNING: This poem deals with difficult and controversial topics. The warnings include spoilers; highlight to read. Damask finds out what the hell has been going on with Farce. Issues include emotional distress, negative coping methods, alcohol abuse, hanging out with a bad crowd, rape, unplanned pregnancy, and having nobody to turn to for help except your best enemy. WARN ALL THE THINGS.


Rainy Day People

Maze

I'm studying in my bedroom,
listening to the spring storm outside,
when Paige knocks on my door and says,
"Maisie?  Can you come downstairs?
There's a girl on the porch asking for you,
and she seems kind of upset."

I shut the book and get up.
Out of all our housemates,
Paige is the least good at
dealing with any kind of crisis,
but the most willing to ask for help.

She gives me a little smile,
one finger twisting her long red hair.
"I hope I'm not bothering you," she says.

"It's fine, whatever it is, I'll deal with it,"
I say, patting her on the shoulder.
"You can go back to your project."
She's had some kind of Textile Arts thing
spread all over the living room for three days.

I head downstairs and to my shock,
standing on the porch is Farce.


Ham

I shove my way to the front,
because this just can't be good.

I don't see any weapons,
but Farce has a coat on and
her arms crossed over her chest
with hands on her shoulders, so she
could be hiding anything under there --

maronna mia, what a pain.

Rain and wind blow in
when I open the door.

"What do you want?" I ask.

"I don't have anywhere else to go!"
The patz' throws herself on me,
and I try to shove her off,
but she's not attacking ...

... she's hugging me

... and crying.

Well, fuck.


Clement

I yank Ham out of the way
before he can start a fight.
He tries to resist, but
Keane helps me, and Ham
can't hold off both of us.

"Hey, Mallory?" I say softly,
but she doesn't answer.

She feels cold and wet,
shivering against me,
and she's trying not to cry
but I can feel her body
jerk as she chokes down the sobs.

Rain drips from the ends of her hair
and the door rattles in the wind.

"Okay," I say, wrapping an arm around Mallory.
"Let's take this inside, where it's warm and dry."
I lead her upstairs to my room, and she lets me.

"It sounds like you're pretty upset," I say
as I sit us on the bed.  "Can you tell me why?"

It's like opening a floodgate;
she sags against my shoulder
and just bawls.

For the storm to be this rough,
there must be something serious behind it,
and from my student responder training
I know a short list of things that
are the most common reasons for
a college girl to melt down like this,
all of them pretty awful.

I reach for the blanket at the foot of my bed
and drag it up to wrap around Mallory.
There are tissues on the nightstand,
but she's using my sweater for a hankie,
and I don't want to disturb her by moving.

I rub circles on her back with my hand,
trying to ease my power around her in case
the tears lead to an asthma attack,
but her energy is such a mess
that I'm not sure it will even help.

Behind me I can feel Keane
attempting to fit his gift alongside mine,
and it's not as good as when he takes over
but it lifts the emotional pain a little.

It still takes a long time
for Mallory to cry herself out.

When the sobs finally dwindle
to an occasional sniff,
I try again to get some details,
because I can't help much
when I have no idea what's wrong.

"If there's anything you can tell me about
what's bothering you, I'm listening," I say.

"I'm pregnant."

"Thank you for telling me," I say,
because it's been drilled in as
a safe reply to bombshells, something
to buy a few moments to think.

"I've been couchsurfing since
the end of last semester.
There was this party, at New Year,"
Mallory says, sniffling again.

"You went to a holiday party," I echo
as I pass her the box of tissues.

"We had a pretty wild time --
there were a bunch of other supervillains,
and some guys from a motorcycle gang," she says.

"That does sound wild," I say.

"I got drunk, really drunk," she says.
Her hand clenches around a tissue.
"Guess I must've passed out or something,
and when I woke up a while later ...
there were these boys in bed with me."

"Boys that you didn't invite?" I prompt.

"God, no, I didn't even know all of them,"
she says, and starts crying again.

I hold her, rocking a little,
and let her cry.  This time
it doesn't last as long.

"It's stupid, I know,
it was all my fault,"
Mallory says bitterly.

"It was not your fault,"
I say, shaking my head.
"They're the ones to blame.
Did you report it or anything?"

"No, I don't even know ... how many ...
I just wanted to put it behind me,"
she says.  Her fingers pick at the blanket.

"Were you injured?" I ask.
"Did you at least get yourself checked out?"

"Not until I started getting sick
in the mornings," Mallory says.
"I thought it was just the flu, you know?
I catch practically everything."

"The asthma weakens your lungs
and leaves a chink in your immune system,"
I say with a nod.  She got sick a lot
during the previous semester.

"So then I used some forged papers
to get into the Student Health Center,"
she says, "and they told me ..."
Her hand drifts down to her belly.

As if that's a trigger,
Mallory turns pale and
dashes for the bathroom.

The door is closed, but
I can hear her throwing up.

I think about following her into the bathroom,
but I don't want to get kicked, punched,
cursed, maced, stabbed, or otherwise injured.
Listening carefully, I decide that it doesn't sound
like she's having trouble in there, so I stay out.

Danielle peeks around the corner from
the big landing that we use as a study area,
her short brown hair all frizzy in the humidity.
"Is there a problem?" she asks.

"I'm taking care of it," I assure her.

"Okay," Danielle says, and disappears
back to whatever music she is
working on this week.

Mallory is still heaving in the bathroom.

I lean against the wall and wait.
In the back of my mind, I can feel
Ham being sorry as hell
that he was mean to her.

I hear the toilet flush,
but no footsteps.

"Maisie?" says Mallory,
her voice small and miserable
through the closed door.
"I'm too tired to move."

"Okay, I can give you a lift,"
I say, opening the door just a crack.
It doesn't blow up or hit me in the face,
so I step inside and scoop Mallory off the floor.

I drape her arm over my shoulders,
her damp clothes clammy against my skin,
and thank goodness she can walk that way.
She won't look at me, but at least
she isn't fighting with me.

I settle Mallory back on my bed.
"Would you like some dry clothes?" I offer.

"Yes, please," she says quietly.

It's Mira who directs me
to the drawstring track pants,
the cozy sweatshirt, and
the extra-soft underwear
because Mallory's boobs probably hurt.

I put the clothes on the bed.
"I'm going to grab a fresh sweater
and change in the bathroom," I say,
ducking out to give her some privacy.

When I come back, she's done changing
but she looks as limp as a rag,
her wet clothes piled on the floor.

"I'll go throw these in the dryer,"
I say.  "Do you want anything?
When was the last time you ate?"

"I don't know ... yesterday," she says.

"How about a cup of mint tea
and some toast?" I suggest.

"I can try," Mallory agrees.

So I go down to the basement
and start the dryer, then come
up to the kitchen for tea and toast.

Mallory samples both, but still
can't seem to look at me.

"Have you thought about what
you want to do?" I ask.

She shrugs.

"You've got options," I point out.
"You don't have to stay pregnant --"

"I could never do that,"
Mallory protests.  "It's wrong!"

"Okay," I say.  "It's your choice.
You could find parents to adopt the baby,
or you could raise it yourself."

"I'm a horrible person," she says.

Well, that's ... kind of hard to argue with,
after some of what she's done.

"It's still your choice," I say.

"I don't even know where
I'm going to spend the night,"
she says, hiding behind the teacup.

"This is a big house," I say.

"I couldn't ..." she says.
"I just, I thought,
I didn't have anyone else to ..."
Another helpless shrug.

"Okay," I say.  "Doesn't matter
to me though; I'm done with classes today.
If you need company, or privacy,
or whatever, just ask."

Mallory doesn't say anything,
but one hand brushes my knee.
I pull my desk chair around
to sit beside the bed.

As soon as she finishes
the tea and toast,
she falls asleep.
I take the dishes, then
cover her with a fresh blanket.

I'm tired, so I let go
and slip back inside my mind,
allowing Clarity to move forward
to take over from me.


Clarity

Slipping out of the bedroom,
I write on my whiteboard,
Guest sleeping: please be quiet.

I pass Danielle at the landing
and touch my finger to my lips.
She nods in reply.

Then I tiptoe downstairs.
I'm not sure what to do
about Mallory, but at least
it's not a crisis anymore.

We can deal with the rest
of this situation later.

* * *

Notes:

Paige O'Keeffe -- She has long red hair, sherry-brown eyes, and heavily freckled skin.  Her body is curvy and plush.  Her earlobes are double-pierced.   She is the youngest of four sisters.  Paige is one of Damask's housemates.  She's majoring in Fiber Science, which spans manufacturing, home decoration, and fashion applications.  Although poor at handling problems herself, she excels at finding people who can address them.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Help-seeking, Good (+2) College Student, Good (+2) Looks, Good (+2) Party Girl
Poor (-2) Dealing with a Crisis

Danielle Yates -- She has fair skin, hazel eyes, and wavy brown hair.  She is the middle child between two brothers.  She lives in the same house with Damask.  Danielle plays organ and guitar, does a bit of composing, and loves music history.
Qualities: Good (+2) Friendly, Good (+2) Music Major, Good (+2) Stamina
Poor (-2) Nosy

* * *

"Rainy Day People" is a famous song about friends in need.  Listen to it on YouTube.

Defensive body language includes crossing the arms, which can mean a lot of different things.  Variations include crossing the arms over an object or crossing the hands to opposite shoulders.  (The coat isn't just for weather protection, but also a way to hide.)  This overlaps with self-hugging, which is a self-soothing gesture.  There are tips on hugging yourself for comfort.

maronna mia! – oh my God! (madonna mia!) [maa-ROAWN-aa-MEE-uh]
-- Italian-American slang
http://americanitalian.net/

oobatz’/patz’ – crazy person (un pazzo/u’ pazzu) [oo-BAATZ]
-- Italian-American slang

Dealing with enemies gets complicated when they are also friends or have potential romantic complications.  Damask and Farce have had a complex relationship all along, not just because of the multiple personalities on Damask's side but also because Farce doesn't really have any other stable connections in her life -- a fact which has just become painfully obvious to Damask.  Ironically, asking for a favor is an effective way to turn an enemy into a friend.  There are other ways to deal with enemies too.

Many men feel awkward, uncomfortable, or even panicky when a woman cries.  Poor Ham is clearly in this category.  There are tips for strangers and friends to comfort a crying woman.

There is a longstanding tradition of medical neutrality, which holds that health workers are impartial and they are a category of protected persons in case of conflict.  In our world this vital point of civilization is breaking down.  In Terramagne, even a majority of supervillains respect and defend it.  Ham may be suspicious -- with good reason, given Farce's erratic behavior in the past -- but Clement is serious about the importance of rendering aid and comfort to someone in distress.  Patch first, argue later.

"Cold stress" covers the whole range from chill to hypothermia to frostbite.  At the minor end of the scale, it can be remedied by getting the person out of the bad weather, then warm and dry, as soon as possible.

Common causes of meltdown for college students include rape, unwelcome pregnancy, parental death, failing a crucial class, or not getting accepted to the next level of school.  Here's a self-help guide for student crisis.

Unplanned pregnancy can throw college life into turmoil.  Work through what to do about it.

Mirroring is a communication technique of paraphrasing what someone just said, as a way to build rapport.  Listen to an example of mirroring on YouTube.

College parties can be fun but hazardous.  We may surmise that a supervillain party is even riskier than the most notorious fraternity house parties.  There are safety tips for female students and people in general.

Acquaintance rape and drunk rape are widespread college problems.  This can cause serious emotional trauma.  So that's why Farce has been more violent and hostile recently.  There are self-care tips for rape survivors, along with survivor support advice for men and for friends in general.  Sometimes rape results in pregnancy, which just makes everything worse.  This situation is complicated because the headmates have different genders underneath the female body, and while Farce may not recognize this consciously, she does subtly shift her behavior in response to it.

Rape survivors often blame themselvesRape is NEVER the victim's fault.  Know how to overcome self-blame.

Morning sickness is a prevailing symptom of pregnancy during the first trimester.  Mallory is having a difficult pregnancy; superpowers often make it harder.  Most people find home remedies sufficient to handle morning sickness, although different things work for different folks.

The ethics of abortion touch on many complex issues.  Interestingly, Mallory has strong feelings about the sanctity of life, although she doesn't go so far as trying to force her opinions on other people.  Here is a guide to thinking through pregnancy options.

Self-hate is often part of a pattern of self-destructive behavior.  There are ways to replace self-hate with self-compassion.

This is the whiteboard on the door to Damask's bedroom in the house shared with other college students.  Whiteboard etiquette is one aspect of good communication between roommates.  The foyer has the household communication center, with a whiteboard and bulletin board.  The living room has a chore board similar to this, and housemates have an agreement about how much work each person is expected to do toward household upkeep.  It helps to make a roommate agreement before things go wrong.
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Comments
From: technoshaman Date: September 8th, 2014 04:36 am (UTC) (Link)
:cathartic sigh:

I trusted you to bring this to a good point. You did. Far from over, but at least the proximate crisis is handled, and tomorrow is another day.

Thank you.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 8th, 2014 04:53 am (UTC) (Link)

You're welcome!

>> I trusted you to bring this to a good point. You did. Far from over, but at least the proximate crisis is handled, and tomorrow is another day. <<

I'm glad it worked for you. I try to handle the difficult topics carefully. Yes, Damask will stick by Mallory so far as she is willing to go along with it.
starcat_jewel From: starcat_jewel Date: September 8th, 2014 05:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, poor kid. IIRC, she's not on terms with her parents any more, so this is really going to be rough on her.

Interesting to see Keane trying to work with Clement, apparently remembering what they learned in the club fight. This is going to be a really good spin-off trick for all of them if they ever get mastery of it!

Looking ahead, there's also the possibility that Farce's baby will be a soup, so that's something that needs to be considered while they're thinking about options.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 8th, 2014 06:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

>> Oh, poor kid. IIRC, she's not on terms with her parents any more, so this is really going to be rough on her. <<

Sooth. I don't think Mallory's family life was ever really great. Probably not major abuse, but I wouldn't be surprised by some amount of emotional abuse or neglect. I suspect her parents are the kind of people who just don't know what to do with a kid.

>> Interesting to see Keane trying to work with Clement, apparently remembering what they learned in the club fight. This is going to be a really good spin-off trick for all of them if they ever get mastery of it! <<

It takes a while for them to learn how to use their powers at the same time, or co-front, and then later still, how to blend powers. But the more they do, the easier it will get. Right now, they just got the concept, so it's hard to do and they get barely any result from the backup. It's enough to take the edge off, though. Also Clement managed to keep Mallory from having an asthma attack, which is a major success: it's easier to prevent one than stop it after it's already going.

>> Looking ahead, there's also the possibility that Farce's baby will be a soup, so that's something that needs to be considered while they're thinking about options. <<

Yep. And that goes straight to eugenics; there is no default-safe answer between "soups have a harder life so this could be considered a handicap and it makes a pregnancy considerably riskier, which makes abortion a good idea" and "people killing soups is a hate crime, which makes abortion a bad idea." Followed by, "nobody wants to adopt a baby that has or even might have superpowers." (Not 100% true, but prevailingly true and certainly what most people would think of.) It's just an awful mess. Since Mallory has superpowers and there were other supervillains at the party, it's a pretty high chance too.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 8th, 2014 06:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> It may seem like an odd description, but this is beautiful. <<

That is not a word I would have expected, but go with what works for you.

>> I'm so glad they've gotten to a point where Farce can start getting some real help. <<

Sooth. It's a real turning point.

>> Not just with this immediate crisis, but start building some real connections, some real stability, a real life. <<

Ironically, it was the mishap ending in superpowers that turned her life around, because that's what brought her into contact with Damask. From that point, Damask was always there for Farce -- pulling her back from the brink, challenging her crappy decisions, occasionally approving when she did something helpful, keeping her alive. Just being there, being a part of all these incredible things happening to her. It's the most significant relationship she has at this stage.

None of them really understand it yet, but it's something they'll talk about eventually.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 8th, 2014 09:21 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

>> Their relationship gets back to what's always been my favorite thing about super-heroes: Not the beating up bad guys, but the saving people. <<

Ah, that makes sense. I like writing that sort of thing.

>> My favorite sequence in any superhero movie so far was the bit in Iron Man 3 when he catches all the people falling out of the airplane, and this hits that same vibe. <<

*glee* I'm glad you enjoyed this so much.

I liked that part of the movie too.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: September 8th, 2014 07:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Beautiful". I think you got it just right.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 8th, 2014 08:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you liked this so much. I wasn't expecting it to be this popular!
pigshitpoet From: pigshitpoet Date: September 8th, 2014 11:26 am (UTC) (Link)

dor mant

I'm studying in my room,
for the spring prom
in the dorm
until morn
the full moon

mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: September 8th, 2014 02:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
The Damask/Farce relationship is one of my favorites in this series; this is really crappy for Mallory, but it's really likely to turn her life around in a good way.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 9th, 2014 12:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> The Damask/Farce relationship is one of my favorites in this series; <<

I'm happy to hear that.

>> this is really crappy for Mallory, but it's really likely to turn her life around in a good way. <<

Sooth. In that regard, it's much the same as the original incident that left her with superpowers.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: September 8th, 2014 07:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Westrider is right: beautiful.

Mallory is Farce's "civilian" name, then?

• Work thorugh what to do about it.
→ through
siege From: siege Date: September 8th, 2014 11:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Firefly reference?

Mal always did think of life as a farce. You get set up for something good, and then the bigger bad guy comes along and makes you save everyone's life. Every time you win a battle, make a friend, whatever, the stakes get a little bigger. When you've always been fighting for something, winning just makes you feel old. But at least if you've got your mind, you've got something no-one can take away: your dreams, and the truth.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: September 9th, 2014 01:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Firefly reference?

“Take my love, take my land

Take me where I cannot stand

I don’t care, I’m still free

You can’t take the sky from me


Take me out to the black

Tell them I ain’t comin’ back

Burn the land and boil the sea

You can’t take the sky from me


There’s no place I can be

Since I found Serenity

But you can’t take the sky from me…”

No, I've never seen the show.
As a matter of fact, I am a filker, why do you ask? :-)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 9th, 2014 06:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Firefly reference?

It's not actually meant as a Firefly reference, but now that you mention it, I can see the similarity. Same rotten luck in larger matters, but then falling into family without quite realizing it. Damask is kind of a whole crew-in-one.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 14th, 2014 08:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Westrider is right: beautiful. <<

I'm glad you like it so much.

>> Mallory is Farce's "civilian" name, then? <<

Yes. That introduction was made in "'Tis the Season."

>> • Work thorugh what to do about it.
→ through <<

Fixed, thanks.
kestrels_nest From: kestrels_nest Date: September 9th, 2014 07:36 am (UTC) (Link)
When Keane noticed that Farce had a meaner edge, and then she attacked Clement essentially for just touching her, my first thought was that she'd been raped. :( Poor child!

Yes, this is beautiful. Not what happened to Mallory, but that Damask doesn't throw her away as a bad apple, even knowing the rotten things she's done. Damask can't. They're trying to help.

The immediate crisis is handled, but oh, there is a whole case of worm-cans awaiting opening. And oh, but I wish I could adopt Mallory and her baby! You've made them real enough to me that it feels as if I could, if only I could find them. (And yes, I do that a lot IRL - I have for years.)

Now to see What Happens Next.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 9th, 2014 08:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

>> When Keane noticed that Farce had a meaner edge, and then she attacked Clement essentially for just touching her, my first thought was that she'd been raped. <<

I wondered if anyone would figure it out just from the clues in her behavior.

That night really messed her up. So first it was the damage from being abused like that, then the shifting hormones, that twisted her emotions and behavior to put such a sharp edge on everything after she'd spent weeks circling closer to Damask. Then finding out about the pregnancy just made everything go *smash* all at once.

>> :( Poor child! <<

Too true.

>> Yes, this is beautiful. Not what happened to Mallory, but that Damask doesn't throw her away as a bad apple, even knowing the rotten things she's done. <<

Point, about not throwing her away.

>> Damask can't. They're trying to help. <<

That's true. Some kind of heroes, they just can't give up on people, even when it's dangerous to keep handing out the chances. Clement and Keane are firmly in that camp. Ham has far more sense of self-preservation and suspicion, but he feels like a dick right now. Hasn't really thought through the fact that he couldn't have seen what they saw, because of how Maisie's original personality and skills got divided up amongst them. They're starting to grow back more individual complexity -- and ironically, this will help -- but it's not there yet.

>> The immediate crisis is handled, but oh, there is a whole case of worm-cans awaiting opening. <<

Yes, this storyline has all the worms. It will be interesting to see what comes crawling out of the woodwork.

>> And oh, but I wish I could adopt Mallory and her baby! You've made them real enough to me that it feels as if I could, if only I could find them. <<

Aww! I am touched that I managed to make them so real for you too.

>> (And yes, I do that a lot IRL - I have for years.) <<

I've done it myself.

>> Now to see What Happens Next. <<

It will be interesting to find out. Feel free to ask for developments in later prompt calls. Next up is the Crowdfunding Creative Jam on Sept. 20-21 with a theme of "new ideas in old problems."
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