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Author's Note: Written for Louisa for the Yuletide 2007 Challenge.

Rite of Passage
by LJC

For the first six months, every time Mathilda looks at someone, it's picturing two bullets, center mass.

Never the face. That much she learned and remembers and mouths silently in her bed before she goes to sleep.

She goes to the park every day, to check on the plant. Watches yuppie joggers in the park across the street, in their tracksuits that cost more than her rent, and imagines the screams if one of their heads burst like an over-ripe melon.

She recognizes that this is not healthy.

It is also very much not something Léon would approve of.

Léon would want her to wear frilly dresses, and drink milk every day.

Léon wants her to live.

But Léon is dead, and Mathilda is finding it harder every day to stay human.

When Mathilda is fifteen, she dances. It's a school recital, the audience full of proud and doting parents with expensive Rolex watches and bourgeois tastes. They clap and whistle.

Afterwards, she is approached by someone's perfumed grandmother, offering her a place at an exclusive school--more exclusive than the one she is already attending--where she would do nothing but study dance.

When Mathilda is sixteen, she drops out of school.

She doesn't get hooked on junk, she doesn't start doing tricks. She does take out $2000 from the bank account Tony opened for her (namely, his freezer at the restaurant) and she gets a really really good passport.

Sure, it's not her name. But that's the point.

First, she goes to Italy. She doesn't speak a word of the language, but that's okay. She doesn't have to. Older men buy her drinks, and younger men offer her sex.

They tell her she's very grown-up.

She replies that's no trick. All she ever does is get older.

She dances, and she takes their money, and she wishes you could take a gun through an airport.

She thinks she's in love, once.

He's an asshole, and she wastes way too much time with him. But she wears frilly dresses, and drinks plenty of milk, and thinks This is what Léon would want. I know it. This is what I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to fall in love.

She stops thinking the only way she'll ever be alive again is if she puts a bullet in someone.

She starts to think her life didn't end when the black clouds of smoke blossomed before her eyes, and the wave of solid sound knocked her halfway down the block and blew out every window on the street.

And she gives him and that life every chance, and then one more, before she finally walks away for good.

For as fucked up as the guy in the basement club in London is, Mathilda still likes him.

She thinks maybe it's because he reminds her of Léon. They don't look alike, or anything. Or talk the same, or have anything in common. But when he makes her come, she thinks, this is what it would have been like.

And when he asks her her name, she tells him the name on the passport, instead of Alice Ayres. Because this guy is not an asshole, and so he deserves better. He can have Jane Jones.

But Mathilda will always belong to Léon.

She goes back to New York, to check on the plant.

It's grown up.


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