Face Value
by Ms. Panther

Author's notes:  This short fic involves some heavy subject matter and may be upsetting to some.  Read at your own risk.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Mary P, for beta reading this for me. All her suggestions, corrections and encouragement have been a great help. Ah, there's nothing like a deep massage beta...<g> 

Standard disclaimer applies.

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Face Value 
by Ms. Panther

She stood in the shower, letting the scalding spray wash over her, trying to remove the scent of him, along with the dirt and the shame. But water wasn't enough, and neither was the wire scrub brush that tore at her skin until it bled.  The thought sent her sinking to the floor of the tub and curling up, while sobs shook her body.  It was hopeless! There was no way to make him stop, to get rid of him.  The only answer was to get rid of herself.


Hours later...

Emily sat herself down in front of the mirror of her bedroom vanity and stared at her reflection.  Her eyes darted back and forth, searching for some of what the man had seen in her.  Or, at least, a little bit of what he'd *said* he'd seen.  He'd said that she was valuable, that she could have a bright future, that someone needed her.  But then again, he'd just wanted to keep her from jumping.  But no, her heart and soul told her that he was sincere.  Anyone with eyes like that, eyes that crinkled at the corners when he smiled, eyes that looked as if they knew things--important things, wouldn't lie about something so....well, so important.

"I want to believe!" she whispered.  Still the doubt was everywhere, threatening to pull apart the fragile petals of her blossoming self-esteem.  So she clung to those that remained and watered them with her tears.

The man with the kind hazel eyes had gotten her to talk, to think about what she was doing just a little bit more.  He asked her why and she told him--she told him everything, that she was ugly and worthless and unlovable, that she couldn't get away from her father and the unspeakable things he did to her, that maybe she deserved those things or else they wouldn't be happening to her.  Maybe she deserved them because she made her mother die, just by being born.  The truth was shocking, even for a man who looked as if he'd seen just about everything.  And he looked angry about it.  His fists clenched and his eyes crinkled up in a different way.  It scared her, because at first she thought he was mad at her, and her decision was made.  She had to jump!  Just one tiny little step and it would all be over.  But first, a quick look over the edge.  One glance down and she grew dizzy, the miniature world below blurring before her eyes.  The man grabbed hold and drew her back to safety.  He quickly convinced her that he was not angry at her, but at her father.  Well, she had been angry too and maybe just a little relieved that he'd shown up when he did....and maybe just a little bit hopeful.

Wiping at her tears, she focused once again on the face in the mirror. "My name is Emily and I am *not* worthless," she whispered, but only half  convincingly.  She tried again to see what the man had seen.

Staring back at her was a pair of brown eyes--big and sad, but now determined too.  Straight, dark brown hair that fell to her middle back with a whispy fringe of bangs that stopped short just above her eyebrows, provided the frame for those sad and determined eyes.  Daddy wouldn't let her cut her hair.  He liked it long.  So, in a sudden burst of rebellion, she pulled out her scissors from the drawer and hacked away at it.  The result was choppy and uneven, but she liked it--she liked it a lot.  It was freeing.

Piles of glossy brown hair now littered the floor around her.  She looked down at it in fear for a moment, knowing what Daddy would do when he saw it.  But the impromptu haircut was just the first step for her, for a new life.  The next step wouldn't be quite as simple, but the man on the roof had assured her it was the right thing to do, and he made her promise.

With trembling hands, she picked up the phone and dialed her Aunt Ruby's number.

"Hi, Aunt Ruby!  It's me, Emily.  I..." she stumbled on the words for a moment, as new tears began to spill, and a lump formed in her throat.  "I need your help."  Those four words unleashed a torrent of sobs so severe that she was sure Aunt Ruby could barely interpret her ramblings.  But the message got through, and now Aunt Ruby was whispering words of reassurance and love, and promising she'd be right there.  As Emily hung up the phone, the face in the mirror caught her eye again, and there was hope there.  Full-blown hope.

Email the author:   papercat@optonline.net
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