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The Dark History of the Van Burens

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"And now for your 40 minutes of commercial free music!"

Cameron sighed, a little relieved and a little frustrated. This drive was taking way longer than it was supposed to- fucking dicks getting into accidents and shit when she had places to be. Of course, the call should've come as no surprise. Meadowlane Elementary listed her as the primary emergency contact, as the school had been dealing with the Van Burens for years now. Dad was away on business, Mom was passed out drunk. Story never changed, in the past decade since she was in the 3rd grade.

So now, she sat in traffic, sipping on a water bottle and tapping her fingers mindlessly on the steering wheel to the beat of the pop songs. At least commercials were over. And she knew how far away the school was, so she knew whenever traffic fucking moved again, she'd be there in less than 20 minutes. As much as Cameron loved Mikayla, her sweet little sister, she couldn't help but curse the little gremlin, too.

She checked to make sure everything was at a standstill before pulling her phone out and shooting a quick text to Shay. If Cameron had to suffer with the kid at home, so did Shay, and she knew Shay wouldn't mind getting out of Brit Lit.

Maybe they could all get froyo together. Sister-bonding over lice (again). By this point in her life, Mikayla had heard the embarrassing stories and would probably ask to hear them again as she ignored the chocolate smeared on her face. "Mom cut Shay's hair off because she just forgot that lice-treatment shampoo existed. You know how she is when she's drunk! Shay's lucky Mom didn't clip her fucking ear off with how wasted she was that night." And Mikayla would laugh at their sister's misfortune while Shay just rolled her eyes. That was the funny part of the story they told over and over, but only Shay and Cameron knew the full truth about that week (no doubt their mom had long forgotten).

As traffic started moving again and Cameron merged closer to the exit lane, she thought back to 2003.

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Sunday brought Shay going up to their mother asking about the sermon she made the whole family attend earlier that day. Did Jesus really hate gay people, but then why did he hang around with prostitutes? Would all gay people go to hell, or just the ones who did gay things? Jayna grabbed her middle child by the shirt and throwing her into a chair. 'You had better choose your thoughts carefully, child, for the Good Lord knoweth all." Cameron stopped painting her nails long enough to see Shay's eyes filled with tears. No more words were spoken that night, but the alcohol cabinet was empty in the morning.

Monday brought a failed English test from, and a hard slap across the face to, Shay.

Tuesday brought a pair of scissors. Cameron was screaming to their mother that they had lice shampoos Shay could use, don't cut off her hair, she had Cheer Tryouts on Friday! What kid in their right mind wanted an ugly girl as a head cheerleader. And as Jayna snipped off every inch of Shay's gorgeous hair, she whispered "You're right. Nobody wants an ugly girl." Those words would be remembered as the last ones Jayna said while sober for the next few years.

Later in the evening, Cameron learned (through a much drunker mom) that Jayna had found Shay's diary. Cameron had to act surprised to find out her little sister was a lesbian.

Wednesday and Thursday were relatively uneventful considering their lead-up, but Jayna was heavily drunk. Cameron had to make dinner and bathe the newborn infant. Shay didn't speak, but seemed relaxed enough in that she didn't have to.

Friday brought Cameron to her sister's closet, with a drunk nine-year-old inside. A drunk, half-deaf, inconsolable lesbian nine-year-old. Mommy's gonna kill me when she wakes up, Shay sobbed. I can't hear anything! And I didn't cheerleader. Or... I didn't go to cheerleader. Fuck, I can't even... and she wiped her nose on her dress.

'Gross,' Cameron replied, but dragged her sister out of the closet. She made dinner again (grilled cheese because Shay liked it), and made her drink an extra glass of water with dinner. Shay vomited up her dinner and crawled into bed.

And Saturday brought Cameron going to the local library to get a recipe book. With their mom in a near-constant state of inebriation, Cameron as the eldest child would have to take it upon herself to keep her sisters fed.

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Cameron opened the door of her cute little sedan for her youngest sister. "Buckle up, bitch, we're having a girls day! After we smear some mayo on that nasty rat's nest."

"Ewwwww." Mikayla scrunched her nose. "The only thing mayo would do is make me all greasy, there's no guarantee that it'll be as effective as treatment shampoo."

"Yeah, but you're in my car getting lice all over my seats, so I think I have final say on how your hair gets treated."

"That's not-!" Cameron shut the door on her sister and hopped back into the driver's seat.

When they got to the high school, they found Shay by some lockers talking to a girl Cameron didn't recognize. "What??? That fiveheaded bitch!"

"What's your problem now, Shay?"

"Cameron, you're not gonna believe this! Mackenzie Zales is going around calling me a fucking liar."

"Ugh, that little skank! We'll show her- wait! Shay!" Shay had already taken off running toward the nearest bathroom, probably to confront Zales herself. "Come on, Mikayla. I'll be going into the bathroom to deal with this bullshit. I need you to wait outside the bathroom, okay? You're too young to get in this fued."

"But Cameron, I know I can help! My favorite thing to do besides coloring is war strategizing. I won't get in the way."

"Mikayla, I said no. Now you wait out here, and if you're good you can get sprinkles on your frozen yogurt." Mikayla opened her mouth to protest, but quickly reconsidered. War Strategies with family or Sprinkles? She'd have to do some serious pondering on that one, so Cameron took that as a yes. She pushed the bathroom door open and shouted, "Where the fuck is Mackenzie Zales."