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03 January 2013 @ 11:59 pm
Fairy Tale Fic: Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot  
Written for yuletide 2012
Crossposted to told_tales


Title: Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot
Tale: The Little Match Girl
Pairing/Characters: Little Match Girl, Father, Grandmother, OCs
Rating: PG13
Spoilers: Tale
Summary: Miranda gets thrown out of the Bronx tenement her late mother's husband lives in on New Year's Eve and is left in the snow with no money, nowhere to go and just a book of matches to keep her warm
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ

Other comments are housed at Yuletide/AO3.


"You stupid bitch!"

Oscar let fly the back of his hand across the idiot girl's face. All she was supposed to do was make a simple drop to his bookie by 5 o'clock and she'd been late - again.

The girl let out a small cry at the impact then fell still; at least she'd been reasonably well trained not to offer any lame ass excuses like her mother used to.

"You know how much your little stunt is gonna cost me? Do you?"

As she trembled on the floor he grabbed the little backpack she used as a purse and ripped it open, letting the contents fall all over the floor despite her protests. She scrambled to try to pick everything up, but he managed to grab her wallet first and empty it of cash.

"A measly eight bucks? That's not gonna cut it. It costs me fifty to be late on a vig!" He threw the empty backpack at her as she scrambled over the stained wood floor frantically gathering up her meager possessions. "You got another 42 bucks socked away somewhere?" When she shook her head no, he grabbed her by the arm - stomping his heavy boots on top of the last few possessions on the floor - and dragged her to the front door of the tenement building, just outside the apartment's front door.

"No!" she yelled, but he threw her out onto the snow covered front stoop anyway, grunting with satisfaction as she slid on her back all the way down the unshoveled steps, coming to a rest splayed out on the sidewalk.

"There! That's where you belong - out on the street like garbage, just like your mother! That fucking whore..." He turned back to the still open doorway, the waft of warm air from inside combating the December chill. "Don't come back unless you can cough up the 42 bucks you cost me."

Oscar slammed the front door behind him and for good measure slammed the apartment door, making Mrs. Hartwell's two little yorkies bark next door at the noise.

"Fucking rodents," he cursed them as he turned on the television set, tuning it into the first station he found focusing on the soon to be lowered New Years ball in Times Square. Grabbing a fresh beer from the refrigerator, he settled into his favorite armchair, barely noticing the beginnings of a light snowfall outside his window.

-

Miranda had grown up with two stories of her mother.

One of them was from the lout of a husband who'd married Mona when she was pregnant and desperate to get off the streets - literally signing on to be his household slave in exchange for a roof over her and her daughter's head. He'd been all set to buy a Russian mail order bride to do his cleaning, but figured he'd get two for less than the price of one plus save on the air fare if he took Mona in instead.

The other came from her grandmother. After Mona died Miranda's grandmother Vera found her using a P.I. She wasn't rich, just boring middle class. Mona had been simple, pretty, yet too naïve to hold her own against the college boys her friends sought out, but who found her reticence more appealing instead. She'd been a good girl, turning them all down, but one finally caught her eye. He was rich, one of the Manhattan Craytons and heir to the company fortune. He wooed her with expensive gifts, tons of flowers and even snippets of poetry. Mona was helpless, sure she was the luckiest girl on the planet for him to even notice her. He swore his undying love to her just to get her into his bed, then dumped her unceremoniously. Vera's late husband Walter threw Mona out when she came home one day crying and pregnant at seventeen despite Vera's begging and pleading on her behalf. Vera never forgave Walter and always regretted not being strong enough herself to stand up to him.

So to Oscar - and Walter - Mona was a dirty whore who slept around and got what was coming to her. But to Vera, her daughter was just a lost soul, thrown to the wolves for the petty crime of being weak when it came to manipulative men.

After Mona died young of untreated breast cancer, Vera had tried then to get custody of eleven year old Miranda, only to find out Oscar had finagled payments from the government for raising her. Since she wasn't his blood kin he'd gotten a crooked government worker to give him credit for being her actual father so he could get her mother's death benefits from Social Security. Between Mona's meager life insurance – a leftover policy from her better days in the middle class – and the checks from SSI, Oscar managed to keep his crappy little apartment without a job. This was good since he'd been fired from so many of them due to his irascible temper. When Vera threatened to take him to court for custody a thug, clearly under Oscar's hire, shoved her down a flight of concrete steps. The last Miranda had heard was that Vera moved away to Florida to recover from a broken hip and a punctured lung.

Oscar had become even more abusive after that; nothing stood in his way. He'd beat Miranda for being late with dinner, for not cleaning the apartment well enough or really any reason that gave him even a hint of justification. She'd go to school with a black eye or holding her bruised ribs in one hand and her school books in the other. That is, when she felt well enough to even go to school. A lot of days it was just easier to ditch. No one saw, no one asked, no one did anything.

This though, was different; he'd never actually thrown her out before.

Miranda sat in the wet snow, staring up at the closed and most certainly locked door. Her face still stung and the wind had been knocked out of her in the fall, but the greatest hurt was the hard truth. Oscar had always been an ass, but he'd never risked throwing her out before because of the money. Then it hit her: she was sixteen now, almost seventeen. Soon the money would end no matter what he did. They'd had a recent check-in with their SSI contact, which was mostly just to give him his annual cut, so the government wouldn't even know if she disappeared in the next year. He'd get his regular payments until her eighteenth birthday even if she wasn't there. She was finally completely expendable.

Miranda got up slowly, hissing, feeling the ache of the fall mix with recent bruising from her last beating. She looked around and found the streets of her neighborhood oddly deserted. Ten at night on New Year's Eve: everyone was home watching TV quietly or off partying in Times Square in Manhattan. She pulled her insufficient coat around her and cursed Oscar for not even letting her grab her scarf and gloves. Throwing her backpack over her shoulder, she set off to her friend Dixie's down the street. She hoped Dixie might be able to convince her parents to let Miranda crash there for at least a night or two until she could figure out what to do next.

Two blocks of trash strewn Bronx later, she was trotting up their nicely shoveled front steps, already rehearsing a smooth story of woe that hopefully wouldn't end in them calling the cops to try to bring her home.

She reluctantly withdrew her hand from her pocket to ring the buzzer for their apartment then shoved it back in, already feeling the bite of chill in that brief few seconds.

Nothing.

She rang again then stepped back to look up at their second floor front apartment windows.

Their windows were dark and no one responded to the buzzer.

"Damn," Miranda cursed, watching her frigid breath turn to frosty clouds in front of her face. A strong gust of wind buffeted her and she tried to shrink down into her coat against the chill. She slumped down in the scant cover of the entry doorway - big concrete pillars that were supposed to look regal, but just looked out of place. They did shelter her a little from the wind though and offered a not quite so frozen place to rethink her options.

Bus station? To where? She had no clue where in Florida Vera ended up. Besides, all the money she'd been saving up was now in Oscar's greasy little fist. Shelters were full this time of year even if there had been one in walking distance. She and Dixie always sat together on the bus to school so she didn't even know any of the few local kids she'd seen around when running errands for Oscar.

Crammed tightly into a corner, the coldness of the stone stoop seeping through her jeans, she opened up her backpack to see what had made back inside and what had not. No keys, no wallet, a little loose change, her hairbrush, a few pens, some squished partially empty packages of gum, a granola bar broken into crumbs inside its wrapper and a few packets of Tylenol pilfered from the school nurse's station. The final item that hit her searching fingers was foreign to her: a book of matches from a bar called, cheesily enough, Midnight Wishes.

Feeling the shivers come on, she opened up the pack and lit a match just to run her hands over the heat of the flame. The little match burned with a queer sort of light, more colorful than she expected and with a great deal more heat. It almost felt as if she were in front of a lovely fireplace until the tiny light went out.

Turning towards the wall to better shelter the next match from the wind, she struck it and held it close. The flickering light illuminated the stone wall in front of her and it oddly looked as if it became translucent! Miranda could see into the apartment there only there was no way that apartment looked that good on the inside. Fascinated, she quickly struck another and another, watching as a scene unfolded before her. A great room with cozy living room sofas and a dining table laden with a holiday feast greeted her eyes. She could swear she could smell the roasting turkey, the sage infused stuffing and fragrantly steaming apple pie, fresh from the oven. She started to salivate just at the idea, vaguely recalling she hadn't made dinner yet because of the ill-fated drop.

Another couple of matches and she could hear the musical lilt of joyous laughter from the kitchen area. With a gasp that almost blew the match out, she recognized her grandmother Vera appearing, carrying the same ornate porcelain coffee service she'd used to give Miranda hot chocolate when they first met.

Her grandmother saw her in the vision and smiled at her, a smile so full of love and welcoming the swell of longing Miranda felt inside made her almost burst into tears. She hasn't seen anyone look at her like that since her mother passed away and since Vera left her behind. She'd hardened herself to not need love, or so she thought, that now the memory of it was just so much more painful and bittersweet.

Miranda fixed that image of her beloved grandmother in her mind as the cold returned to envelop her again. The wind whipped in, surging around corners to seek out any warm spots and eradicate them. She closed her eyes against the bitter winter night, feeling her body begin to go numb. That vision.... Maybe it was of heaven. Maybe it was telling her that Vera never came back for her because she had died. Maybe this was their way to finally be together – all of them – in death.

For a long moment Miranda sat, letting the heat drain from her body until she no longer shivered.

Then she looked down. Two matches remained. They could provide her with a few more blissful seconds with her grandmother, but then the warmth would be gone forever.

Two matches. Then it would be over.

-

"This is Angela Underwood with KPIX News, live on the scene of a deadly tenement building fire in the Bronx that has been contained by both the cold weather and the quick thinking of a teenaged girl who saved the other residents yet tragically lost her father in the fire."

"He wasn't my father." The camera panned to include Miranda in the shot with the news reporter. "He was just my late mom's husband."

"So you have no family left?" Angela asked, clearly focusing on the human interest angle.

"Only a grandmother in Florida: Vera Marshall? She and my... not dad... They had a falling out. I really want to find her and go live with her, but..." She gestured to the smoldering apartment behind her. "Everything I had just went up in flames, including all my Christmas money." She turned, carefully showing her most forlorn face to the camera. "I've lost everything and now I just want to be with the only family I have left on this earth."

-

The bus trip, more than paid for by the funds from TV station viewers who contributed in support of the 'Little New Years Eve Fire Girl' as the network branded her, took hours. But when Miranda finally stepped off the bus, stretching and yawning after a good long nap en route, she was in Florida. Boca Raton was sunny, humid, weirdly pastel compared to New York's grimy gray and filled with deeply wrinkled blue-haired ladies with tiny yappy dogs hanging half out of their purses.

A taxi was a splurge, but thanks to the holiday generosity of her fellow New Yorkers she had at least enough money to hold her until she got settled and got her mother's SSI checks sent to her. Hopefully turning in the creep of a government employee who'd sold her out for a share would lead to some back payments coming her way as well. Florida didn't have the NYC subway; she'd need a car to get around here.

The taxi wound through a nice quiet middle class neighborhood and pulled over into a spacious cul de sac ringed with orange trees. An old neighbor who saw the coverage on TV had been able to find an address for Vera and Miranda prayed it was still good.

The building was a soft ivory with red tiles on the roof. A small garden filled the front yard and wind chimes floated in the tall archway over the front door – the tinkling sound floating out as welcome to the street.

Fighting down nerves threatening to churn her stomach, Miranda made herself knock on the front door. She squared her backpack over her shoulder with an attempt at an air of confidence, putting on a smile for good measure, and waited – heart a-flutter with anxious energy.

A middle-aged Latina opened the door. "Yes?"

"Um, hi. I'm looking for Vera Marshall," Miranda floundered, not really expecting anyone else to answer the door. When the woman didn't immediately respond, she added. "She's my grandmother."

"Dios mio!" the women mumbled under her breath. "Come in." She beckoned to Miranda to enter and to leave her backpack on the sofa. "Come! Come!"

Miranda followed, having to rush a little to keep up with the much older woman as she headed down a central hallway deeper into the house.

"Vera!" the woman cried out. "You'll never believe who's here!"

She opened up the door to a large bedroom then stood back, emphatically gesturing for Miranda to go in.

Miranda rounded the corner and entered the room where Vera lay in the bed, a nasal cannula connected to an oxygen tank beside her. She was propped up on pillows, but otherwise fully dressed and laying on top of the fully made bed. Tiny as she was against the voluminous bed, there was a strength there that Miranda recognized and remembered all at once. The frail woman in the bed was still every bit the grandmother of her memory and of her vision – the woman who'd fought for her even after she'd been threatened with bodily harm.

"Grandma?"

A smile filled with wonder and awe appeared on Vera's face as she opened her arms and Miranda went to her, letting her grandmother envelop her with her love.

"Oh, my darling girl! I was so scared! I thought I'd lost you for good," Vera whispered, holding her tight.

Miranda had had two matches left and had known there was only one way to use them that would truly bring her and her grandmother together forever.

"You almost did," she murmured, letting the warmth fill her entire being with a contented sigh. "But I'm here now... for real."

-------
 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on January 7th, 2013 09:39 pm (UTC)
Confession
This fic was written as a Yuletide pinch hit for recipient waldorph as part of the 2012 Yuletide challenge. Their assigned writer defaulted and then their pinch hitter wasn't able to write their fic so I was asked to step in. The request included: "I love: character studies - give me backstory and character insight and I am like putty in your hands/lead female characters (obviously this applies to some of my requests better than others)/gen, slash, het, femslash - I will read any of it and love it to bits." and "Fairy Tales: I love any kind of retelling - genderfuck, space opera, modern au, high fantasy, urban fantasy, historical fantasy -- I do ask, though, that you keep the magical element these stories involve - I have a fantasy kink, what can I say? I also love retellings that focus on the POV of the villain, but knock yourself out, whatever speaks to you. Side note - if you want to go a bestiality, angst, violence/gore, darkfic direction, I'll go there with you." So I kept the focus on the girl as heroine, gave her more backstory, added a prologue from the POV of the villain father and made the whole thing a modern AU.

Sadly, I feel compelled to offer this PSA to new Yuletiders, for reasons not too hard to figure out.

From the Yuletide FAQ:

After the Reveal: Recipients

Q: I think the story I got really sucks/doesn't do what I asked for, what do I do?

Smile and say thank you, and read the other stories! Just as we ask the authors not to complain publicly about the requests they receive, we ask recipients not to complain publicly about the stories they receive. Your author is bound solely by your fandom and character requests, and while we hope they'll take other comments into account, they aren't obligated to do so.


Very special thanks to beta melissima for her assistance with this fic.

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais

Edited at 2013-01-07 09:39 pm (UTC)