Road Trip - 2013
South of Hudson Bay
The van rolled to a stop after a few hours on a coastal road edging the South end of Hudson Bay. Angel - plugged into the mess of a custom console - went into hibernation immediately, trying to diagnose what had actually gone wrong.
Even in March, it was too cold this late at night for Eleanor to swim without risking a return to the GhostZone. The temperature, however, did not stop Ratty from tackling her screaming wife into the freezing water, all while the rabbit watched from the roof of the van.
The goat humoured her for exactly three seconds, using one of those to shove their wife, and the other two to trudge grumpily out of the lake. They stripped off their soaked sweater - too far in the middle of nowhere for anyone to care - and started a small fire close enough to intervene if Ratty stopped floating. Wrapped in a blanket, they sat and dripped dry.
Ratty spent another half-hour soaking, staring up at the sky. Every few minutes she would put her arms at her sides and sink just deep enough to cover her snout. Sett would anxiously watch the bubbles for a little over 45 seconds, and then Ratty would bob back up as though nothing had happened.
She got out, either too bored or too cold to continue, and slogged her way up the beach to stand shivering by her partner. It was weird seeing them from this far away. Ratty wasn’t good with contact: she had this way of tensely hovering whenever she had to talk to someone she didn’t like. There was usually some unique softness in her posture when she talked to Sett, like she was ready to collapse into a hug at any point. Tonight, even a few feet away, despite being good at hiding it, the same facade that became obvious around strangers radiated from the possum. There was something wrong between them.
She kissed Sett, trying and failing not to drip on them, and trekked the rest of the way back to the motorhome. Stomping through the brush, her mostly untied boots hung loose around her ankles as they stopped on the gravel curb.
“Hey El.” She smiled, all tuckered out as she gazed up at the sloth-bunny’s rooftop perch.
“Hey Ratty.” Eleanor nodded. “Sorry for making you swim in like, negative degrees.”
“You didn’t make me do anything, dummy.” She teased, pulling a towel from a little compartment inside the door and wrapping herself in it. “Mind if I come up?”
“Be my guest.” Eleanor shrugged. Ratty took a half-step back and jumped, rocking the van as she dug the toe of her boot into the corrugated metal siding.
“There’s a- there’s a ladder.” Eleanor watched the possum shake as she pushed herself the rest of the way up.
"If you ever see me use a ladder, you have my full permission to shoot me.” There was less irony in her voice than Eleanor would have hoped for. “What’re we listening to?" Ratty scooched in closer and held out her hand for an earbud. Eleanor handed over her spare, turning the music down slightly so they could talk. It wasn’t something she listened to regularly, just some random combination of simple piano and simple beats. Not complex, just filler.
Still, Ratty rocked to the tempo, very gently air-drumming along.
“Are they okay?” Eleanor asked, nodding to Sett after a few quiet moments.
“They’re just mad cus’ I got them wet.”
Ratty stopped in place at this. Not so much frozen as distant. "I shouldn’t have done that." She said, blankly, evidently forgetting the rabbit sitting next to her. She caught Eleanor’s eye, faltering as she noticed a legitimate twinge of concern. “Only joking.” It was far from her usual comedic deadpan.
Eleanor watched as Ratty’s eyes refocused on the distant goat, her blank expression softening into some kind of melancholy. The pair let the next few songs pass, Ratty now too focused on Sett to care about keeping the beat. She closed her eyes during a particularly interesting little melody, as though the music had convinced her to meditate.
“So…” She broke the silence. “You nervous?”
"To meet your mom, I mean."
"I dunno, I mean-" The rabbit took a deep breath. "She moved away and changed her number, and all I have of her are some fucking texts like ‘can you get milk on your way home’ or ‘happy birthday’ or whatever, and I’m obsessed with those.” Eleanor stared down at the gravel below, stuck between not wanting to make everything all about her and having already opened her mouth. Ratty - by way of encouragement - pulled in closer a little closer. There was tension in this little show of intimacy, but it was better than being alone right now.
“I read those texts over and over again for years, Ratty.” Eleanor sniffed. “And, it seems like I really loved her- or alive Eleanor loved her, or whatever. It’s crazy enough having your fucking-” Eleanor choked, trying to pull air into her non-existent lungs. She stopped as her voice, now bricked over with anxiety, refused to come out of her mouth. It took a second of frantic, amateurish sign-spelling to get the point across.
“I- oh shit El’, I’m so sorry, I don’t- I’m sorry, I don’t know sign language.” She said. That was fine. What Eleanor knew was not fit to replace this kind of conversation. She instead settled for pulling the possum closer, feeling the drops of water on her fur fizzle against her form.
She traced that feeling up Ratty’s arm slowly, before meeting her gaze. It was almost distracting enough, the way the possum’s eyes explored her own. Distracting too was the tip of Ratty’s tail resting gently against her opposite thigh as was - in spite of herself - the gentle slope of the front of Ratty’s swimsuit. She quietly hoped her eyes were dark enough not to be seen.
“S-s-sorry about t-t-.” Eleanor stammered.
“What? Today? What about it?”
“Oh El, don’t worry about it, okay?” Ratty smiled softly, her heart sinking into guilt. This particular non-incident was not worth forcing ones-self through a massive panic attack for.
They sat like that for a moment, a different kind of silence sitting between the two of them. Ratty was incredibly comfortable to sit with and for a moment, Eleanor imagined how much more comfortable they could get together.
“It’s going to go well.” Ratty said, her low-tone voice taking on a slight crackle as she hovered just above a whisper. “I know it will.”
Eleanor stared at Ratty’s lips, staying parted for just a half-second longer than usual as she finished speaking. Eleanor - secure in the knowledge that her heart was not going to stop racing - leant in slowly, watching Ratty’s eyes for any minute change.
Both of them jumped out of their skin as Angel poked her head up through the sun-roof. “Ratty. The spare battery doesn't have enough charge to finish the journey. I will walk to the nearest garage and find a replacement. You will have to sleep here.”
“Alright, sounds good.” Ratty said, the intimate softness suddenly gone from her voice. “Is there anything in the new one?”
“There is enough for you to be able to run the heater and the radio. You might be able to charge a cell phone, but it would interfere with everything else.”
“Cool.” Ratty dropped down off the roof. “I’m gonna dry off, fill Sett’ in for me?”
Eleanor nodded, too stunned by the sudden change to do anything else.
She let her eyes unfocus as Ratty went inside, listening to the heater thrum to life. Another few minutes to collect her thoughts and bring herself down from panic, then a hop down to the curb.
Sett had left an empty spot next to them on their driftwood bench. They smiled invitingly up at Eleanor, scooting over even further to make sure the rabbit was comfortable.
“Evening, Eleanor.” Sett said, their quiet voice all-consuming in the silence, contentedly watching steam rise from their sweater.
“Hey, Angel says we're gonna be stuck overnight.”
“I figured as much, have a seat.” Eleanor complied, trying her best to act like she had not recently tried to kiss their wife.
The goat’s fur puffed up in the process of drying, leaving them looking like a plush doll. They had tried and failed to slick their fur back down around their cheeks, leaving it frizzled in one uniform direction and giving them the appearance of mutton chops.
“We should talk more.” They said.
“Yeah. We should, I really appreciate all the, uh, like arcane-”
“We have something very important in common.” Sett cut her off, the hint of mischief creeping into their voice, their eyes twinkling under their usual glow.
“What uh, what’s that?” Eleanor asked.
“Similar taste in women.” Sett smirked.
“I-” Eleanor started, stunned for the second time in ten minutes. “Shut up, no way. No way, no way, no way.”
“It's fine Eleanor,” Sett said, trying to wave away their quiet laughter. “I’m only teasing.”
“How did you-”
“Oh don’t act coy. I know what it looks like when my wife flirts with another woman.” Sett teased, deflating Eleanor’s ego just a tad.
“I'm not- it was her- she started it.” The rabbit stammered.
“Calm down darling, Ratty and I have been married for sixty years. I can definitely understand the appeal.”
“Is it like… a closed thing?” The words fell out of her mouth, suddenly more out of hopeful curiosity than damage control. Sett stifled a snort at this, raising a hand to hide their rumpled snout.
“What kind of prude do you take me for?” Sett managed between stifled giggles. “I couldn’t be an icon of love if I only spent time with one person.”
“Wait, okay so you’re the one that sleeps around?”
“Rude!” Sett gasped, rocking into the ghost and bumping her with their shoulder. “We both ‘sleep around’ you silly rabbit.”
“So- but, like, it’s not a closed thing then?” A weird light wormed its way into her heart.
“The two of us are very secure in our union, Eleanor.” Sett said. “As soon as you apologize for calling me a prude, you are absolutely free to try and ‘get in on this’.”
“Right, of course. Sorry for calling you a prude.”
“Apology accepted.” Sett said, their chin raised in mock triumph.
The moment passed as both women focused in on the last embers of the fire, still warm enough to force weight into Eleanor’s body. It occurred to her for a moment - if she was stabbed - a knife would actually stick into her.
“Do you guys vote?” She plucked a thought out of the air.
“Yes. It’s quite easy, actually.” The demon fished through a pocket in the folds of their skirt and produced a small gray wallet, their plastic banknotes blissfully un-soaked. From that, they fished out a reddish-pink ID card with the government of Ontario logo on it. Next to the image: the initials E.O.H. “You put in this-”
“The Canadian government knows about Hell!?” Eleanor snatched the card from their hand, scrutinizing it in the dying light.
“Yes, of course. We took a lot of pointers from them when we were setting it up. Could you not put that so close to the fire?”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry.” Eleanor handed the card back, content to quietly come to terms with this revelation.
Again, the next little while passed in relative silence, interrupted only by Eleanor’s phone buzzing to let her know she had 15% of her battery left. Sett stood silently once the fire had gone out, smiled sleepily at Eleanor, and made their way back to the motorhome without breaking the silence.
The rabbit watched smoke rise from the still-warm coals, taking their time to flicker and die as she cranked her music. It did very little to drown out her thoughts.
It was also hard to tell whether there was a legitimate attraction between her and Ratty, or her brain - devoid of the context from the rest of her life - just latched onto any pretty girl that was nice to her. Sett was pretty and nice, and there wasn’t really anything there.
She wondered if things between them were always kind of tense. Before she came back from the Ghostzone everything seemed pretty much fine. The limited time Eleanor had to observe the two had only dipped into the red whenever Ratty injured herself: Sett would get frustrated, Ratty would throw herself over her wife, apologize profusely - either sarcastically or genuinely depending on the situation - and things would be resolved. She hoped quietly that she wasn’t coming between them, they were like - what - a hundred and a million years old respectively? It was conceivable that she was the first new friend they had in a few decades.
All of this to distract from the real issue at hand: her mother, and the prospect of trying to have a family again. Memories had come to her in flashes; the feeling of being excited to sit in the front seat, forgetting about how aggressively she had been buckled in. A small apartment. Screaming next door. Rough carpet against her face as she listened to heavy bass tones in the room below.
Her conversation with Uncle A hadn’t helped either. The best it did was help to put a name to a song that some piracy program had mislabelled as “1syWDl7H013.mp3” in her phone. She remembered a few moments from her childhood scrubbing through the collection: learning to navigate an iPod with a non-functioning screen, getting an earful from her mother on more than one occasion, seeing her downstairs neighbour’s apartment was cordoned off with yellow tape.
She remembered too, a uniquely woeful note in her mother’s voice as junior fought back against going on vacation for all the responsibility she had. A swimming pool at a small New Zealand resort. A bartender with white fur and red eyes, having a sleepover with her kids while their mom had a sleepover with hers.
“My mom a lesbian.” Eleanor realized this out loud, solving the memory like a puzzle. Of course she was. There was a family structure in her head: Mom, the bartender, the bartender’s kids, and her. After spending so much time avoiding thinking about this, there was an exhilaration in finally confronting it.
Until her music died. A curtain of black fog dropped just feet from her as she felt her chest tighten. The fire had gone out, it’s blackened logs visible only in the light from the barely waning moon. She stood, panicked, and turned in the direction she assumed the motorhome to be. There was nothing there but black. Ratty and Sett had probably gone to sleep, they probably also turned the lights out.
Eleanor walked, focusing on keeping where she thought the motorhome might be ahead of her. The walk turned into a jog, which turned into a run, which turned into a painful bang as she ran headlong into a corrugated metal wall. She braced herself against it, felt the cabin’s radiator just on the other side, took a moment to recognize how lucky she was to have buzzed herself off of the only part of the van that she wouldn’t just go right through.
Sett was lying on the couch, just barely awake as Eleanor floated up through the door.
“Everything okay Eleanor?” They asked, their glowing eyes squinting through the dark.
“My- my music died.” Eleanor admitted, feeling stupid once she said it out loud.
“Oh, I'm sorry. Is the radio loud enough?” Eleanor took a moment to focus in on what was already playing, it was hard to decipher, not necessarily complex, but alien. She shook her head.
“I need my music.”
“Of course.” Sett reached up above the couch and clicked the radio off. They motioned Eleanor over, ducking so she had room to plug her phone into the cigarette lighter. The heater dimmed slightly as the screen lit up and in a second, the cabin was filled with the same slow, soft hip-hop as before.
“I’m sorry.” Eleanor said, taking stock of her actions in her newfound calm.
“It's okay. We all have our things.” Sett said, turning back over and snuggling into the couch.
“Wait, why are you on the couch?” She whispered, realizing Ratty was still asleep on the bed at the back of the trailer. The goat mumbled inaudibly into their cushions before falling back asleep.
A new, calm kind of panic set in at the back of her mind as she took stock of her options: She could sit in the navigator's seat, or she could take up the extra room in Ratty’s bed. Her body made the decision before she did, trying its best not to creep as she prepared to climb into bed with a sleeping woman.
From the first step up to the bunk, Ratty came up to just about eye level with Eleanor, chewing holes into the collar of a worn-out t-shirt. It was only for one night. If Ratty got mad she could just say she didn't want to wake Sett up. It was a big bed too, she could just take the other side.
Eleanor focused on the beat as she very carefully hoisted herself onto the little loft, hovering slightly as she tried to climb over Ratty without touching her, and nestled under the blankets. The bed creaked loudly as Ratty rolled over, her snout settling just inches from Eleanor’s. This was such a bad idea. The possum opened one eye and jumped, banging her head on the roof of the cabin.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry, I-”
"It’s okay. It’s okay." Ratty pulled her breathing back under control, rubbing some of the soreness out of the base of her horn and staring curiously at the dent it had left in the metal.
"Just, Sett was on the couch, and I-"
"I promise, it’s okay Eleanor." She slouched back down under the sheets, rolling over once more to slot herself neatly into the taller woman. A chill went up Eleanor's spine as Ratty wove her tail between their legs, wrapping it neatly around her ankles. It took an awkward moment to settle in, Eleanor’s hands hovering - afraid to trigger the possum’s PTSD - until Ratty took them and held them close to her heart. She felt the rise and fall of the smaller woman’s lungs through her own chest, and for a moment, it almost felt like she was breathing again.
Sett was gone when Eleanor woke up. They left a note on the couch: a simple “went for coffee, back soon.”
It was permission, if anything, to relax. Ratty had barely moved when Eleanor got out of bed, she was a heavy enough sleeper just to be watched for a few minutes while the rabbit waited for the goat. Angel was completely nowhere to be found, though probably still looking for a compatible battery.
When Sett returned, it was so quietly that Eleanor didn’t notice until they sat down on the adjacent wheel well.
“I didn’t know what you like,” they whispered. “So I got-” they opened their purse, revealing what must’ve been an entire Starbucks’ worth of cream and sugar packets. Eleanor also didn’t know what she liked, and so took the cheap, bitter, basically-water plain, adding to it as she got a feel for the flavor.
“Should we move?” Eleanor asked, tilting their head towards the sleeping possum.
“She won’t wake up.” Sett raised the cup to where their lips ought to be and drank absorbing it through their fur like a sponge. “You play music, right Eleanor?” They asked.
“I uh- kind of. I do like...” She pushed at the edges of her memory. “I think I do piano? And like, remixes, I think?
“Your memory is getting better too, it seems. That’s exciting.” Sett confirmed. “You should play with me and Ratty some time.”
“Do you perform?”
“Mmhmm. We treat it more like theatre, really. I tear the mouth open and all of a sudden it becomes art.” Sett smiled down into their coffee as though the whole thing felt a little bit silly. “Small venues only, of course. Friends and parties and all that.”
“What was that about your mouth?” Eleanor asked.
“Oh, have I never shown you this before?” Sett asked, a quiet excitement in their eyes. They took Eleanor’s moment of silence as an invitation to explain, shifted their jaw with their hands as though rubbing some soreness out of it and, with one eye jammed shut in concentration, opened their mouth wide and tore the skin that covered it like a zipper. Behind it was a row of normal-looking teeth, an upper gum, tongue, throat, and all the other fixings of a regular mouth.
“This is what my real voice sounds like.” The words hissed from their throat, barely audible.
“Okay. That’s sickening.” Eleanor said, trying her best to convey ‘no offence’ with tone. “Please put it back.”
“Does it make you uncomfortable?” They asked, their telepathy taking over as they produced a glowing needle and thread from the air. They went to work patching up the hole, keeping their eyes on Eleanor as they effortlessly put it back together.
“It just looks really painful.”
“I promise it’s not.” The goat smiled. The wound had already just about healed over, the only evidence of its existence a few flecks of blood on their pristine white fur. They turned ever so slightly, noticing for the first time that Ratty had been watching them.
“You’re really beautiful.” The possum murmured, not a trace of irony in her voice. Too tired to help it, her eyes dipped into a distant sorrow, pushed into outer-space. It was clear from this close up that Sett had noticed too, that Ratty’s tension had not gone unnoticed by her partner.
“Hey, Ratty.” Eleanor prodded, bringing her back.
“Hi El.” She turned to look at the rabbit.
“Are we good on uh, last night?” She asked.
“So good,” Ratty replied, her eyes lulling closed. “Good as Gandhi, silly rabbit.”
“Oh, hun, Gandhi sucked.” Sett stepped in.
“I kinda know, I just thought maybe I could say that and get away with it. Indiana Jones my way under the slowly descending stone door of my wife telling me which historical figures secretly suck.” She explained, sliding her hand along the top of the mattress to illustrate.
“Dude, Gandhi did not secretly suck. It was like, in books and stuff.”
“Eleanor is right, and I simply can't stay married to a woman who refuses to append a historical callout to her riffs.”
“Yeah Ratty, that was kind of fucked up of you.” Eleanor piled on.
“Oh fuck, I’m being exiled.” The possum buried her head under the duvet in an effort to amp up the drama. “I just woke up and I'm getting Romeo'd out of Stratford on Avon.” She said, her voice was muffled by the down.
“Romeo wasn't-” Sett started.
“Fuck! You’re right!!! That was Shakespeare!!!” Ratty interrupted, tossing the blanket at the ceiling.
“Shakespeare?” Sett said, the corner of a fit of giggles poking into their voice. Ratty locked down immediately, turning to her wife with an open-mouth grin. “I barely-” They cut themselves off as they caught Ratty’s eye.
“I need this from you.”
“I need you to finish this.”
“I barely-” They stopped again, waving away a fit of giggles.
“Please.I need this from you, you sweet beautiful shining star of my life.” Her melancholy had completely melted, now entirely focused on Sett. Sett cleared their throat and straightened their back, putting on a very convincing ‘serious face’.
“Shake spear?” Their voice shook with the effort of keeping it together. “I barely know her.”
Alright, this was it.
Eleanor wove her fingers through a length glowing gold thread. Burning bright against her knuckles, it kept her grounded and corporeal, belligerent refusing the morning sun’s threats to shatter her. Despite the long leash, she felt Sett’s presence behind her, the excited encouragement bubbling up in her friends.
It was hard to know what she herself was feeling.
No use putting it off. She raised her hand, the thread making it just physical enough to hit the wooden door, took a deep breath, and knocked.
Energy built in the soles of her shoes as she waited, listening to something on the other side of the door as it shuffled closer. The something then stopped, leaving a few seconds of silence and a final moment to run before the lock clicked and the door thunked open against its chain.
“You had better have a damn good reason for-” Something wooden and hollow-sounding clattered to the floor on the other side as the woman recognized her daughter’s face.
There she was; Eleanor Sloth-Bunny Sr., her namesake. She was shorter than expected, the strands of grey in her dark purple-brown fur and tight black curls highlighted in the subtle glow of Eleanor Jr. Though on complete opposites of the brightness spectrum, they had almost the same face.
"Junie?" The older woman’s voice shook.
“Hey mama.” Eleanor responded, not missing a beat. It felt like she had just come home from work, like her mother had put the chain across without realizing she was still out. She raised a trembling hand to her lips, tears welling up in her eyes.
“Hey baby.” The door shut for just a moment before swinging wide and crashing into the metal fence that edged the small landing. Eleanor Sr. stood, stunned as her daughter pulled her in. She was still for just a moment before throwing her arms up around Eleanor Jr., her thin frame trying to crush the life back into her daughter.
“Missed you.” Eleanor murmured into the top of her mother’s head.
“I missed you too, baby.”
There was something weird about not remembering her own car, something about it being the second most valuable thing most people ever own and simultaneously just not existing in her memory. All of this felt so distant. The moment Eleanor Sr. realized that her daughter was, and was going to keep being dead, something changed.
It was a nice car though: A thoroughly gutted second-generation Pontiac Firebird. There were memories in this car, picking out its boxy silhouette against the orange light of a scrapyard at night, sprinting home and begging Uncle A to beg a friend to beg another friend who owned a towing business to pick it up for her, the summer afternoons spent with her nose in repair guides, sneaking back into the scrapyard for parts.
It was really a wonder her mom had dragged it all the way here from Oakland. It was a compromise in return for not being able to keep her daughter’s collection of rare plants alive.
The engine staunchly refused to turn over, the undercarriage had started to rust out, and weirdest of all, the passenger seat was just gone - not like it had been removed, the entire structure that would indicate there ever having been a passenger seat was non-existent.
Apparently, this was her baby. Stranger still was the sensation of wandering out to the garage, taking a chest of tools from the trunk, and setting to work on instinct as though she had never put it down.
She couldn’t sleep, not like this: the disappointed look in her mother’s eyes, the barely hidden tone as though she was in trouble for dying, taking turns on playback over and over again in her mind, as though having come back from the dead in any form was somehow not good enough for her.
This particular anxiety, Suffice to say, was not conducive to sleep.
She smacked her head off of the underside of the hood of the car as the sound of the garage opening behind her overpowered her headphones. She spun with her wrench in her hand, ready to surprise her intruder with it.
It was Ratty, groggy, holding a steel baton, dressed in her usual sleep clothes: bright red boxer shorts and a baggy band t-shirt.
“...scared the shit out of me, El’.” She finished as the rabbit slipped off her headphones, her soft morning grumble tinged with annoyance. “Saw the garage light and…” She trailed off, setting her baton on the nearest shelf.
“Nice undies.” Eleanor turned back to her work as her heart settled.
Ratty pulled up a stool and watched, occasionally handing her tools and becoming tiredly fascinated with a smudge of grease that somehow found its way onto the back of her hand.
“So, you do cars?” She asked once the stain had gotten boring.
“Mind if I sit in it?”
"You gonna spin the wheel and make driving noises?" Eleanor teased.
“Only if you want me to.” Ratty teased back, in a more flirty tone than sitting in a car and pretending to drive warranted.
“Alright, nerd.” Eleanor wiped her brow, satisfied with her work, and slowly slipping back into a non-distracted state. “I think I need a break now anyway.” She followed Ratty into the bench back-seat, stretching out in the extra legroom afforded by the missing passenger seat and cornering the possum in.
“No fair.” Ratty said.
“I’m taller, this is what makes sense.”
“I am also tall! Here...” She shimmied over, close enough to make Eleanor self conscious of her work-stench, and crossed over her legs in the void. She smelled too: lake water, sweat, and a little bit of weed.
"So… Why did you come sleep with me last night?" The possum nudged.
"Oh god, I'm sorry. Was that crossing a line?"
"Nope. I just wanna know." Eleanor’s brain whirred, trying to remember why she actually did it.
“Sett was on the-"
"Eleanor." The mischievous little marsupial drawled, the low baritone of her voice metaphorically rattling the windows. "Is that the only reason?"
Eleanor turned it over in her mind, opening her mouth as soon as cohesive thoughts started forming: "I'm really, like, kind of lonely right now, and I think Sett like, figured that out. And you’ve been really nice to me- you and them both- and-”
“I getcha.” Ratty interrupted. “You’ve spent the past couple years cooped up in your apartment, and like- living forever still feels like a long time ‘cause you’ve just started doing it, so… uh… yeah.” She trailed off again. “Sorry, your mom has good shit and I’m like, struggling to keep a train of thought, lol.” She explained, actually saying ‘lol’ out loud like a big dork.
“What’s it like to be alive passing?” Eleanor asked, struggling not to be jealous.
“What’s it like to be cis passing?” Ratty shot back.
Ratty spent the next few minutes getting increasingly comfortable against her ghost friend, wiggling and burrowing a few inches into her body. Her fur seemed to glow in places where it touched Eleanor; a florescent pink afterimage of her nocturnal ancestors.
“El’, listen.” She started suddenly.
“If you wanna-” Ratty rolled over, straddling Eleanor and groggily playing with her shirt-collar. “If you want to fuck me, all you have to do is ask.”
“Uh-” Eleanor’s voice caught in her throat.
“I mean- okay, wait.” She pulled back, dropping out of her sex persona in an instant. “If, that is what you want. I don’t- I need you to understand that like, I’m not going to kick you out or stop buying you stuff if you say no.”
“R- r-” Eleanor stuttered.
“And I'm also not going to stop being your friend."
"Ratty." She spat the word out, more firm than she had intended.
“I’m f-flattered, and like- absolutely yes at some point, but right now I have a lot on my mind, feel me?” Eleanor explained.
"Yeah for sure- I'm sorry, I realized as soon as I saw your face that I misread that, I just didn't like-”
“You’re good. I just- actually, do you mind if I talk at you for a minute?”
“Go ahead.” Ratty rolled back off, lying across Eleanor’s lap. “This good?”
“Yeah.” Eleanor absentmindedly wove her fingers through Ratty’s hair. “So, was your mom scared of you when she saw you?”
“Yeah, I think at first that came with the territory of like, having been almost killed again and meeting her in the middle of the woods, covered in blood, when she was searching for a spree killer, but I think it got worse when I told her about… uh, like... being undead.”
“I think my mom is feeling that.” Eleanor glossed over the rest of whatever that was.
“I noticed that.” Ratty nodded, her eyes lulling closed. “I- the thing that I learned, is that- people want you to always be the way that you always were. Even if she’s cool about trans stuff, everybody- everybody has their breaking point, y’know?”
“No one wants anyone to like- have a character arc. It’s unfortunate, ‘cause a lot of the time, the times when we change are the times when we need the most help.”
“Weed makes you smart, huh?” Eleanor said, trying to push some light into the conversation.
“I’m always smart, you skank.” Ratty snapped back. “It’ll probably go back to normal eventually, but it’s not something you can force. In the meantime, you got me, you got Sett, we’re gonna start doing community nights at the, uh, place, again, so there’s that too. Plus! You’ve got siblings you ain’t even met yet. It’s all- it’s all gonna be good buddy, I promise.”
“Thanks, buddy.” Eleanor let her eyes lull closed, trying to focus on how close she felt with Ratty, and trying to put out of her mind how distant she felt from her own family.