The Millennium offices, Tuesday morning...
"You seem to forget how much we agree lately,” the girl said.
Lisbeth Salander sat on the tall couch, her legs dangling like some school girl, looking anything but, as her attire was decidedly on the darker side of Goth. The pants might have been called dungarees at one time, black denim with tarnished rivets and folded up cuffs. The jacket and shirt underneath almost seemed to melt together in a blend of black jersey and the same black denim of her pants.
The only change in her appearance seemed to be the red locks that slowly overtook her black dye job, leaving her looking prettier than she’d ever believe, much less acknowledge. Perhaps a long-entrenched habit of looking off-putting for safety’s sake, but life had taught her that even odd girls can be preyed upon.
“He’s so far under the radar, I’m surprised that even you were able to ferret out this,” Mikael pointed to the folder she had given him.
“More like weasel.” She stared at the folder as if she could see the photos it held.
“Not as bad as a lot of guys like him.” He glanced at the folder and shrugged,
“Fuck. It’s not what he does. It’s what he enables. He gets a lot of money and they…” She paused, once again visualizing the pictures. She’d never admit the eidetic talent since it left her feeling set apart in an almost pariah-like way. But her true curse was that just like the written word, images were never forgotten, and could all-too-easily be recalled. To categorize the pictures as gruesome would be a sadly decided understatement.
“He is repulsive, but he can be turned. I am thinking of ways…” Lizbeth shook a bit as a draft from the air conditioner almost swept through the office.
“You can be cruel at times.”
“Never so much as men like him,” she said with a glare.
“I’m sorry,” he said with a half frown.
“I didn’t mean to be judgmental.’ She nodded and waved him off.
“Kalle fucking Blomqvist judgmental?” She smiled at the mostly abandoned epithet.
“Fucking Justice never seems to keep up with injustice. I have no room for forgiveness on behalf of anyone else. And I… I just know that these girls are not ready to offer anything. If Lundquist dies a painful death in his sleep it still would not be fair, but I would be satisfied, so yes, Mikael. I can be cruel,”
She shed invisible tears whenever she thought of the pain the helpless endured. No longer helpless herself, she vowed almost daily to keep very short if still very vindictive accounts. The huge change internally was no longer only motivated by her commonality with the abused, but born more and more from empathy for their sake alone…
Pequannock, New Jersey, Tuesday morning...
Andy?” The offices faded away, replaced by a fairly mundane living room filled with mismatched furniture and piles of recently packed moving cartons.
“Yes?” The voice was anything but indifferent.
“Your father will be by in twenty minutes.”
“It’s not fair,” he sighed.
“No such thing as fair, Andy.”
“Even with the move tomorrow I have to spend today with HIM?”
“Your uncles will be here later to load the truck, and you’re coming to the new place right off the bus.” Gabriella smiled. He could not understand how his mother did not hate his father after the brutal treatment he inflicted upon her.
“I still say fuck him, Mom.” It was painful for so many reasons. Between feeling helpless to protect his mother and the frustrating way the judge treated her and him during the custody hearing, Andy was left almost powerless. He glanced at the worn cover of the graphic novel that lay open and face down on one of the packing cartons. The only thing he shared with the girl in the book was his slight body and decided preference for the color black.
“Hate will get us nowhere, sweetie.” He cringed at the endearment. Sweet had to mean weak, didn’t it? He had to be tough, didn’t he? Especially if his father learned everything about him before next Thursday. He would at least be free to avoid his father, since seventeen was destined to be a hallmark that went far beyond his third year in the accelerated program at NYU. He looked down, as if he could see through his black tee shirt to the changes underneath.
“We have to tell him.” She noticed his stance and held her hands apart and out in a gesture that confused him.
“No…. not yet.” He crossed his arms in front of him; an odd if understandable mixture of defiance and self-protection.
“The court ordered the meeting for Wednesday afternoon, Honey.” He shook his head slightly. What would family court look like if he showed up all in black with multiple piercings and the raccoon-like eyes. The girl in the book proved her case by being exactly what everyone expected.
“And lighten up a bit with the eyeliner. You can be exactly who you are without being provocative,” she teased. Gabriella walked to the carton where the book lay. Picking it up, she smiled and looked down at herself.
“I have no intention of letting you be pushed around, but I’m also in this for my sake. She laughed softly as she pushed her hand over the top of her hair, feeling the short nap that matched her son’s.
“I think all black but maybe only the nose thingy and maybe just three studs in each ear.”
“We tell him at the hearing, Andy. Everything.” She kissed his forehead.
“I don’t want you ever to fear anyone. He may be your father, and we don’t want to spend life hating him.” She blew out a breath.
“But you owe him nothing. And listen. This is very important. You have no reason to be ashamed for your feelings. He failed, but I know you still love him, even if he will never be respected or liked in our four walls. I still love the man I knew when we were your age. But I don’t feel I need to welcome someone who disrespects and hurts us. We feel how we feel, and that’s okay.” Her cell phone rang.
“Yes? What? Fine.” She forced a smile, since the call was infuriating and welcome at the same time. Andy nodded.
“He’s got to work this weekend? What a fucking surprise,” he said with his own forced smile. Disappointment always seemed to be the confusing part of his relationship with his Dad. His father made it a point to ignore commitments and Andy always remained a profound disappointment to him, regardless of his need to please. He put his hand to his face.
“Oh, honey.” Gabriella pulled him closer.
“No, Mom.” Andy pulled away and walked to his room. She pushed the urge to swear aside and spoke in an almost ashamed whisper.
“If you’re real? Please? Help us.”
You can’t forget, I know,” Mikael said as he stared at the folder.
But you of all people need no extra incentive to help these girls. Maybe don’t read the whole file?”
“Fuck.” She stubbed her cigarette out and downed the last of her now tepid coffee. She hated when he focused on her talents. Just give her the job and either help or get out of the way. Any recognition of strength seemed to have the opposite effect of what he intended, leaving her to doubt and even worse, self-reflection.
“Okay, Lisbeth. Indifference it is. Let me know if there’s anything you need?” He shook his head. She had resources he could only imagine,and she pushed away emotional support as well.
“I…. I know you care. Let’s just leave it at that?” He nodded at her request and stood up.
“I can at least get you some fresh coffee?” The brush against humor was lost as she nodded without looking up from the folder...
Luck or providence or just his father’s predictability? Whichever, the court hearing came and went with his father’s lawyer requesting a new date. Andy didn’t matter or at the very least, turning seventeen rendered the protracted custody issue moot. Gabriella made enough in her free-lancing that support had been a non-issue, and the extra schooling was free courtesy of a federal grant.
The boy held the girl, kissing her neck. She smiled and grabbed his left hand. A squeeze without comment left him perplexed and her frustrated. Quiet and detached didn’t quite work for her like her hero and she relented, stepping back into her own world.
“Do you really care for me, Jackie?” The boy redoubled his efforts, almost ignoring her clasp as he moved down her neck. She realized his demonstration not only confirmed that he cared but defined finally what his care meant to them both.
“We can kiss all you want,” Jackie, but we’re not getting anywhere. Did her expectations dovetail with the stereotypes? She had to be a girl since girls want more than sex, right? But her on-again/off-again relationship with Jackie’s cousin Ellen kicked that notion to the curb.
Andy was a girl simply because that how things were wired. She was left-handed, with bi-color eyes, red hair, and had an almost savant-like understanding of nearly everything except computers, which ruined her connection with Lizbeth Salander until she realized that her identification was with THE GIRL’S strength and sense of justice. Almost her anti-anti-hero in a way, since her passion and compassion drove her ideas of self, and not what she did or didn’t do.
“I got a paper I have to finish before Friday,” he said as he stood up abruptly. She was seventeen and he was eighteen and on his way for the summer to Stockholm, ironically. He WAS a good fuck, almost like Kalle ‘fucking’ Blomqvist. And it was almost legal in their state, depending upon how a judge might rule. But unlike her literary doppelganger, Andy did not have feelings for Jackie. The extent of her attachment was that she liked the sex and didn’t mind that they never would get beyond that.
“Let me know how that turns out?” She stood and kissed him full on the lips. He smiled and turned, almost stumbling awkwardly. If she didn’t mind being used, who was he to argue?
“Sure thing,” he said as he got into his Wrangler. A moment later he was gone. She tried to be like THE GIRL, but it doesn’t really say in the books that Lizbeth NEVER cried.
“Fuck…” She muttered. It wasn’t heartbreaking that Jackie didn’t love her. She began to cry because she didn’t love herself. The cinematographers, especially from the Swedish version, seemed to show the HINT of tears almost sparingly like an emotional ration. Was Andy anything like THE GIRL in the books and shows? Or was that just one more thing to pretend. Was she even a girl? She wiped her face with her hand, smearing the running black around her eyes. She walked up the porch steps and into the house.
“….No fucking strings,” the girls almost said it together as they nestled. Lisbeth seemed to be more comfortable with caresses that led to nowhere rather than the sex that was occasionally distant if still warm. A friendship that didn’t quite get all the way out of the bedroom but did go beyond fucking like rabbits.
“Thank you,” the girl said as Lisbeth played with a dark shock of hair that fell across the girl’s eyes.
“You’re welcome,” Lisbeth simply said before settling back. A few minutes later they both were asleep…
Andy walked slowly down the hall, hoping to avoid her mother. Her efforts failed as Gabriella walked up from behind. She wrapped her arms around Andy.
“It’s okay, Baby.” Andy felt lost. And scared.
“He…” Andy stammered.
Gabriella had not been comfortable with Jackie, but she wasn’t angry. With so much going on in Andy’s life, any relationship was bound to get complicated, but a non-committal one, especially with an older boy, did not help at all. And neither Jackie nor Andy had begun with any idea that things wouldn’t work. They just expected it would end. Andy began to cry.
“We’re gonna be okay. Just not today.” While Andy was on the verge of actually envisioning the reality of the someday aspects of her mother’s words, the cold truth of the immediate hit her hard, and she sobbed. Not a girl friend. Not a girl? Not THE GIRL. Just what was Andy?
But really, it wasn’t all about what Andy was. It was all about who Andy was. And the next few days would help Andy discover the answer that would forge a lifetime of definition...
To be Continued...
Lisbeth Salander and other characters created by Stieg Larsson
Performed by the Compoesr
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