Here’s some fun for you! Nothing particularly creepy in this one, just sleazeball of the human variety. This is a look back into the past of Brenna Gallagher, my MC for Howl, Book III of the I&I series. Enjoy!
There were butterflies dancing in her stomach, but Brenna wasn’t about to let that stop her. Her dad had gone too far this time, yelling about how he’d never meant to raise a daughter who saw things nobody else did, calling her names no father should ever use in his daughter’s presence much less direct at her. It had gotten worse since Mick moved out, since he’d taken to wandering the country on his own. She knew that if she called him he’d come back–and probably deck their father for her–but he’d trusted her to be able to handle herself with the old bugger. She didn’t have long to go until she was old enough to head out on her own without the cops making a big deal of it. Sixteen was iffy, but she figured at seventeen she’d be in the clear, especially given the shit parenting her dad was doing.
Sixteen may have been iffy for living on her own, but it wasn’t too difficult to get herself into a tattoo and piercing parlour, ready to have her belly button pierced. She’d need a parental consent form, or at least she would’ve if she hadn’t gone in there making sure she didn’t look her age. Her body’s development helped in that area. Though still considered a girl, she was already curvy in all the right places for a woman. She left her hair down and tousled it until she looked like she had sex hair, applied some makeup, and traded her usual combat boots and jeans for a pair of black fuck me heels with red soles peeping out and a short black skirt. She’d swapped her usual plain cotton tank top for one made of red silk, with a plunging neckline, black straps, a close fit and a hem that stopped just above her belly button. She figured if anyone was going to peg her as age sixteen, it was probably someone’s doddering grandparent.
On the one hand, she felt ridiculous, because she didn’t wear this crap. For a grown woman, sure, but she was sixteen and felt like a slut wearing this stuff. On the other hand… the slack-jawed stares she got as she walked up the street amused the hell out of her. It kinda felt good to be noticed for something other than the bruises and cuts everyone assumed were from abuse—not that she could explain she hunted the Fae.
In early childhood she’d had her older brother as protector; now she had herself. Her sleazy father knew better than to lay a finger on her. He kept his abuse emotional, mental, psychological. The bastard.
Brenna sauntered into the parlour with her leather jacket slung over one shoulder and dangling from a crooked finger. She let her eyes wander around the place as if checking it out, and was pleased by the contrast of her light blue eyes against traces of dark eyeliner when she caught her reflection in the window. As she remembered it from her last visit to check the place out—though she hadn’t gone in then—it walked the thin line between classy and sketchy. Classy enough that her skin probably wouldn’t rot after getting a piercing done here, sketchy enough that they wouldn’t ask too many questions about her age.
Aware that she had the eyes of the guy working the entrance desk on her, she slowly pivoted on her heels, enjoying the moment when his eyes flickered down to catch the glint of steel lining her shoes’ heels. She smiled and strolled slowly towards the desk, stopping so that the guy could still get a good look.
She tossed her jacket onto the chair and stayed standing, tilting her head. “I want this pierced,” she purred, tapping one finger against her belly button.
The guy’s eyes darted down, then hurriedly back up. “Sorry?”
“I want this pierced,” she repeated, tapping her belly button til he looked down again at the bare skin. “I want a bar. Nothing fancy. Just a little stone hanging down. For now. Then when it’s healed… a chain, maybe, that wraps around here….” She trailed her finger in a slow, deliberate circle around her waist as she spoke and watched the guy’s eyes widen before he nodded—whether agreeing with her or in appreciation, she didn’t know or really care.
“You have an appointment?”
“No.” Who made appointments to come get their belly button pierced as a way of pissing their father off? Took the fun and pissed off rebelliousness right out of it. She dipped her head, flashed a coy smile. She’d seen enough dysfunctional relationships—and movies—to know it wasn’t hard to play a guy when you were dressed a bit like a skank. “Think you can… squeeze me in?”
“Let me see what I can do,” he promised. Brenna smiled in gratitude, watching him hurry behind the curtain that led to where the work of the place was done. The curtain stayed open a gap, and when the skinny tattooed chick who apparently ran the place peered through the curtains at Brenna, she waved. She saw the skinny woman’s head go back as she snorted; then she was beckoning her in.
Brenna offered the front desk guy a sly smile as she passed him, flicking a finger over his arm. “Thanks so much,” she murmured, looking at him briefly from under her lashes. His dilated pupils—something she knew was a sign of arousal—made her want to laugh her head off at how easily she’d gotten in. And to think she’d considered getting a fake ID for this.
In a couple minutes, she was seated in the chair they used for these things, her tank top rucked up to just under where her bra would’ve been if she’d worn one in order to give the piercer room to work.
“You bring a piercing?”
“No. I’ll pay for one.”
The piercer nodded, turning to rifle through a selection. “This work?” she asked, holding up a small belly bar with a ruby red stone dangling from it.
The clamp part was weird, rolling her skin back and forth, pinching it til the piercer decided she was good to go. Then the pain, just a pinch of it, mild enough that she didn’t flinch, just hissed a little. She only smirked when the piercer commented that she was good to pain, all the while thinking Honey, you have no idea. And just like that, it was done, she was paying, she’d been provided with solution to clean it and instructions on how to do so—and instructions not to touch the damn thing til it healed.
She felt good. The old bastard was going to go through the roof, and she was going to enjoy it. Hell, why not push his buttons some more and come home dressed like this? Sure, she had clothes stashed a block from the house, plain stuff she changed into coming home from hunts, but where the hell was the fun in that? Feeling cocky now, eyeing the swelling that was already easing around the piercing. She figured by the time she got home it’d still look fresh, but not swollen. Just enough to drive the old man nuts.
By the time she strolled into the house, wearing the kiss-my-ass smirk she knew drove the old bastard nuts, it was just starting to go dark. He’d have had to make supper himself, and wouldn’t that piss him off? It was gonna be a battle royale in the Gallagher house—hovel, really—tonight. She eyed the place in disgust. It was filthy, the empty bottles and scattered leftover food indicating that Father Dear hadn’t been to work in a few days because he’d been busy drinking and work interfered with that. This was usually the way he lost his job and then they lost whatever shithole they were living in at the time, but Brenna didn’t care or bother to contribute to rent payments. The money she earned was hers and no one else’s. Likely the old drunk was lying somewhere in a pile of his own piss and puke, about to wake up hungover, or getting drunk again.
Brian Gallagher was a firm believer in the hair of the dog that bit him. Sometimes he even bit back.
Brenna made sure to slam the door on her way in.
“It’s about time!” roared the old man from somewhere in the dingy little duplex apartment. Lucky the other side of the place wasn’t occupied, Brenna mused, or else child services probably would’ve been called. She didn’t need their damn attention, not when she could look after herself. “Finally dragged yourself home, did you?”
She rolled her eyes and hung up her jacket—only because it was the cleanest place in sight. “I told you I was working.”
She heard him snort before he shambled up the hall. Though he was a big man who’d passed his size on to both his son and daughter, Brian Gallagher’s years of hard drinking in the decade since his wife’s death had taken their toll. He had a gut hanging just above the waist of his jeans, his cheeks and nose were permanently Rudolph-red, and his entire face seemed to sag. His eyes, though, were as beady and malicious as ever, and though his big voice still bore the lilt of Ireland, there was no pleasant music to be heard in it. “Waitressing,” he scoffed as he tripped over an empty whiskey bottle on his way into the living room. “The hell kinda job is that? Serve others. Fucking asshole people.” He was drunk enough that “fucking” sounded more like “fooking” with the Irish in his voice. Figured.
“I do better than you do,” she shot back, her voice brittle.
“You’ll watch how you speak to your father,” he retorted, his voice booming out in anger. When she’d been little, the first time he’d yelled like that, she’d flinched and been afraid enough to sleep in her brother’s bed that night. Now she stared the old man down, stubbornly, silently, daring him to say something. “And look at the way you’re dressed, some little tart off to be whoring herself out for money.”
He was working up to a pretty good rant, the kind that sent him off on a zealous spiel about whores of Babylon and the day Satan would behead them all, when he noticed the gem stone winking at her navel. His eyes bulged, spit gathered at the corners of his mouth as he sputtered in rage. His cheeks grew so red she thought he might actually have a heart attack, something that kind of amused her.
Oh yeah. No matter that she’d been contemplating getting a belly button ring anyways when she was older—no matter what he threw at her, this was going to be worth it. Just when she was starting to think he was going to pass out if he didn’t breathe, he let out a whistle of a breath, like a kettle boiling over, and tore into her.
“You’ve defiled yourself! Put a goddamned hoop through your skin with no regard towards the way you were built! Have you no shame? Is it truly a whore you wish to be, you stupid little girleen? For it’s well on your way you are!” He was storming around, throwing bottles, making things crash. A fist to the wall put another hole beside the one from last week. Brenna stayed calm, hip cocked, hand fisted on one hip.
Still smirking, she let her fingers hover near the stone. “It looked pretty. And I figured it’d tick you off.” She flashed a sunny smile. “I was right.”
An incoherent growl rumbled in his throat; his hands came up, twitched as if they wanted to curl into fists. In an instant, the derisive amusement dropped from her expression, replaced with icy anger. “Try it,” she said softly. “I fucking dare you.”
He fought the battle some more, the urge to wring his daughter’s neck fighting with the knowledge that she could put him on his ass, but his hands dropped. “You’ll watch your language,” he settled for snapping. “And if the flesh on you rots off as a result of some damned infection, it won’t be me you cry to.”
She snorted. “I haven’t cried to you since I was a baby. I’m here because lawyers are assholes and you know it.”
“You’re my daughter,” he whispered, his eyes watching her through a glaze of some kind of madness she never wanted to experience firsthand. “My daughter, and it’s your duty to stay with me. You’ve no mother and I’ve no wife, it’s for you to be the woman of the house. You’re duty bound to stay here and provide your father. In fact—” his eyes sharpened, going to the piercing again. “How much did that little bauble cost you? I believe you owe it to me. Likely you stole the money from me to begin with.”
“Get bent,” she suggested instead. “You don’t have anything worth stealing, you fat, old, lazy, useless drunk.” She was shouting by the end of it, throwing it in his face, standing toe to toe as she did so.
But this time he was drunk enough, mad enough, that his hand came up, curled in a fist, to hit across her cheekbone. Her head went back with the blow; already she could feel pain radiating, stinging in the place where his fancy assed class ring had hit her cheek.
Something in her snapped. She knew, looking at him, she couldn’t stay. No way in hell. Sixteen or not, she wasn’t putting up with this. She stepped back, moving to the coat hook so that she could slip the knife she kept hidden in her coat’s inside pocket into her hand. Coolly, calmly, she raised it as she stepped forwards again.
“Move,” she said, her voice flat even to her own ears. She tasted blood in her mouth, realized the blow had made her bite down on the inside of her own cheek. Son of a bitch.
“A knife,” he sneered. “You’re not fit to keep such a thing on you. You’ll go mad and die, just as your witch of a mother you are. One fine day that knife will turn and you’ll be drowning in your own blood. You’ll join your mother in hell, the pair of you there to gossip. Impartials. Fae.” He snorted. “Bloody nonsense.”
“Move,” she repeated, stepping forwards. “Or so help me I’ll stick this in you and I won’t feel bad. At all.”
He stayed there, stupid and taunting. So she danced forward, light on her feet even in heels, and jabbed the knife towards him in a faint. The idiot jumped and shuffled aside; it was the only opportunity Brenna needed to shove past him and stride to her room.
She didn’t have much. Clothes, her hunting gear—knives and a couple guns her uncle had gotten for her when she’d finished what he deemed her training. A little good luck talisman, a silver charm, from her brother. She had it thrown into a duffel bag and was booking it for the door by the time Brian thought to chase her. “And where is it you think you’re going?”
“Away,” she fired back. “Go to hell.”
She didn’t go back after that. Never looked back, either.