Her parole officer had all the hard zealotry of an ex smoker, made her pee into a cup every week, so the biggest problem she had was occupying her time, next to warding off the side effects of the state mandated medication that pinned her hypothalamus down, stopped her thoughts running free and heading out into the world.
She’d seen a comedian once, deliberately garish in a tan suit onstage, smoking because it was classed as ‘performance’ saying that boredom was a disease and drugs were the cure. That maxim had gained more truth as time went on.
Hailey was smart enough not to stop taking the medication entirely, doing that would have been a straight ticket to the Tower, the prison that was the nightmare made real of the ACLU crowd but she did figure out that cutting her dose meant that she could do things again.
She focused on the micro rather than the macro.
Hailey could tear a bank vault door from it’s housing with the concentration required to come from overenthusiastic oral sex, the kind where they were working your clit like a speedbag but her real skill, her art was rediscovered whilst idling around San Bernadino, trying to stay out of trouble.
An ink molecule moved across paper. She practiced everyday, getting up when the rest of the halfway house was lost to nightmare or quietly waiting for the day to start so they could get away from the damp walls and the constant steamy smell that the air carried. Writing her name down on a sheet of A4 paper and concentrating, seeing not the name but the ink, then thinking until she was in that place, shrouded by chemicals but not entirely lost to her where she could move things again.
Watching them move, changing the letters felt like a hallucination but Hailey surmised that Mary must have felt the same way when he sent his stud-surrogate down.
The next stage was her favourite. She would sit in chinese restaurants, never the same one more than twice and the higher end, the better and wait for couples. It never occurred to her consciously that the guy had to resemble her ex, Harry, and it definitely would have taken the Indiana fucking Jones of psychiatry that the woman had to resemble her older sister, Anna. They’d been married ten years now, three nephews that she loved but did not like.
They had his eyes.
She would sit close enough for the range, hidden behind a cheap paperback, and wait for the bowl of fortune cookies. Imagined the thin stream of paper curled up inside and then she would move the ink around.
SHE DID ALL THE STUFF YOU ASKED FOR WITH THE EX
IN THE NEXT ROUND OF LAY OFFS, YOU’RE TOP OF THE LIST
YOU’RE NOT THE FAVOURITE CHILD
YOUR PARENTS WILL LIKE HER MORE THAN YOU, EVEN IF YOU BREAK UP
The reactions were the best part, varying from an uneasy exit to food fights and once a slap that made a three hundred pound bodybuilder cry like a baby.
She was about to sit down when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Thinking she was fucked, she looked up into the face of someone she’d seen on television, older now, eyes that had seen things he wished he hadn’t. No badge to flash but he didn’t need one. He was the badge.