Author's Notes: This has more grammatical issues than a monkey. And my head is exploding as I type. Forgive the incoherency and stupidity. And I cheated. It's a retelling of a fairy tale. So…blah. And Nanner.
Her name was Rotka Pen, and she didn't like her name and her hands were always coated in soot. She was the jumble of her mother and father when they forgot their age and the time they were living in. She was Rotka Pen and she was the carrier of her mother's things and the reminder of her father who was too long gone. Her hair matched her hands, tangles of blonde and peach and perpetually dipped in black and dirt when she forgot to wash. She was a skinny girl, all sticks and stones and an odd word or two. She was built like a boy, too straight and too tall with a mouth that was too honest.
The morning of it, since time could be told in thens and nows and the possibles, but Rotka preferred the thises and thens and its, her mother baked a cake. Her mother pressed a walnut in the center and wrapped it all up in cloth and told her it was a surprise. Rotka understood that surprises were not to be opened before the appointed time and gravely set it in her bag next to a bottle of joy. She slung the bag over her shoulder and bid her mother goodbye, the trip to the mother of her mother would not take very long.
Rotka Pen was a girl who was in love with black powder and the smell of sulfur. She knew to wipe her charcoal stained fingers on her pants before lighting a fire and knew to keep a fire with her when she walked through the subway with piping that reached over her head. She knew by listening to the tracks which way was left and which was wrong.
"…Heya Penchen," Her old landlord met her across the tracks, catching her hand that cupped around the flame. Her fire went out, and Rotka blinked at him with overly large eyes and a stubborn chin.
"Missir, Imma headin' out," She bobbed her head, respectful as a girl should be and spun the metal wheel to bring back her fire. The lighter jumped to life and illuminated the drawn angles of Mr. Wolffe's face. His eyes were deep set, forehead hanging over his expression, his lips were always set in darkness.
"Penchen, I jus' wanna talk," His fingers closed on her wrist, a cigarette held over her flame, "…'bout why you left."
His breath stank.
"…Imma headin' out," She said again, "An yer breath smells." Then he let go of her hand and she hurried down the tracks, listening. One train went by, then another, then a third, with a pause. It was quarter after, and then a whistle blew, quarter after four. She was running late.
The house was set in stone, jutting out of the side of a building. Rotka walked up to the door and knocked, three times, and then kicked the bottom of the door. "Gamma, lemme in,"
"…I'm so very tired, child, you can open the door yourself," Her grandmother's voice sounded so very tired, so Rotka jiggled the door until the latch came loose. She swept the door open and pulled her bag over her head, letting the cake and bottle clink on the table.
"…Sick 'gain, Gamma?" Her grandmother sat in the shadows, a blanket drawn up to her chin, her arms were lumps under patchwork and thread.
"…very, child. Come into the light where I can see you," Rotka shuffled, shoes sliding across the dirty floor. She stood in the light provided by a small window, hands looped behind her back, lighter curled against her palm, her palm curled against the small of her back.
"…my, you've gotten yer ears mighty big," She observed, clicking the flint in an absent flick.
"…the better to hear you with."
"An' what big teeth ya've gotten," Rotka continued, "…and ya hands, they've gotten mighty big too."
Her grandmother smiled, and her breath stank.
"All the better to eat you with, Penchen."
Her name was Rotka Pen and she was a tangle of her father and mother. The blanket was cast aside and hands grabbed her shoulders, a mouth full of rotten teeth descended on her shoulder. She cupped her fingers around her lighter behind her back and gave the flint another spin.
"…'sa gun," She murmured, placing the cold button of her lighter behind his neck, arms arching up behind his head, "…'ll shoot'ya." He could feel the steel at the base of his skull, smooth and ready.
"…Penchen…" His voice was never smooth, raggedly edges catching on her ears, his breath staining her skin.
"…bang," She hit him, and ran. The door slammed, twice, banging against the wall when she shoved past it, and once again when he pursued her. She clicked the lighter three times, trying to coax a flame even as she ran. The train tracks were ahead, and then darkness and noise and she needed to hear her way out. Three trains went by, and then a silence.
She held her breath and ran across the tracks, and then a whistle blew.