Tess was pouring a drink when Frankie finally came out, dressed in a tank top and gym shorts. The younger rat was seemingly the opposite of her sister in just about every way. Where Frankie liked leather jackets with safety pins, punk rock and conflict Tess preferred Versace, Mozart and talking it out. A middle-school dropout, Frankie had seen more of the insides of Juvenile Detentions and psyche wards than classrooms. At 23, Tess was planning on getting her Bachelor’s degree next year. Frankie lied and stole and fought dirty for money, and Tess worked for Joel Lexington, the most powerful contractor in the state as his personal assistant. Even now she looked the prim and proper version of the pair, dressed in a light white blouse and slacks. The angel to Frankie’s devil.
“Hey Fran,” Tess said casually, taking a sip of wine. She nearly choked when she turned and saw the damage to her sister's face.
“Hey Tess,” Frankie tried to keep it as nonchalant as possible while carefully pouring a glass for herself with hands she couldn’t get to stop trembling. Turning to her sister, she met her shocked gaze with a carefully measured look of her own.
“How was your day?” Frankie asked, leaning against the counter. In all honesty, she didn’t have any interest in her sister’s work. Pointless people doing pointless tasks for pointless reasons. That was how she often summed up normal working life, usually with more expletives added the more under the influence she became.
Tess had gotten her a job at her work's mailroom and she had been fired after 3 months when she cracked one of the guys making comments to her with a coffee mug. After that Frankie decided she would never work straight again, not that she likely could given her rap sheet but that was beside the point.
“My day was fine but what happened to your face?” She stepped forward and gently tilted Frankie’s face this way and that to look at the bruising and her split lip. She was clearly horrified by what she saw.
“Oh, Kallie and I just had a bit of an argument on the job, you know how it is. I gave her a slap, she gave me a slap, we sorted it out.” At one time in their life, Tess would have been starstruck listening to her big sister regale her many fights and conflicts as a teenage hobo, Frankie sneaking up to Tess’s window at night when her foster parents were asleep. Now all it did was fill the now-adult Tess with dread and concern.
“She slapped you? This looks like you took a punch to the face!”
“Well you know, she has big hands so it always looks worse than it really is. I just need some ice on it.”
“You need stitches, Fran, or it’s going to scar.”
She waved the statement off, nonplussed. “No thanks, ice and a bandage will do. You know how I feel about hospitals.” If she went to the hospital there would be more questions, calls; her secret would be found.
“It’s urgent care, not inpatient. I can be with you the whole time if you don’t feel safe.” Tess was practically pleading by this point. She reached forward to try and take her sister’s paw.
“No, goddammit I’m not going to the fucking hospital!” She shoved Tess, harder than she meant to and watched numbly as her sister toppled backwards against the countertop, sending the wine bottle and her glass flying and smashing to the ground.
Struggling to sit up, Tess looked up at her sister, dazed and bewildered. Frankie hadn’t had a reaction like this in months. “Something else happened today,” she said solemnly. “What is going on, Fran? Please just tell me, I won’t be angry I swear. Please.”
Frankie looked long and deep into her sister's bright blue eyes. Wishing she could just escape into the ocean of her irises, never to be seen again. All at once, she felt the resistance break. Her eyes filled with tears, staining her cheek fur. She collapsed into sobs on the floor, curling up and hugging her knees for support. Taking care to avoid the scattered glass, Tess crawled over and sat next to her sister, gently stroking her back and hair while she cried.
“The rings,” Frankie croaked.
“Mom and Dads. They’re gone.”
“Someone stole them?” Tess was concerned. Frankie shouldn’t be blaming herself for a break-in.
“I did.” Frankie stayed curled up with her arms over her head as she said it; she couldn’t bear to look at her sister.
“What do you mean, Frances?” She was getting anxious now.
“I sold them!” she yelled. “I sold Mom and Dad’s rings! For rent money!” Admission was supposed to make you feel better, but it just made Frankie feel even more worthless as she began sobbing anew.
‘This is what you wanted, right? No one else to care about you? Hate you, even? Well you did it, dumbass. Congratulations.’ The voice was smug.
Tess simply sat there, almost frozen as she processed what her sister just said. That she broke into her room. Went through her most private things. Stole and sold her most precious belongings, one of the only memories she still had of their parents.
Frankie heard her sister take a shaky breath and prepared for the coming onslaught.
“It’s ok, Fran.”
That wasn’t what she was expecting. “What?” whispered Frankie.
“It’s alright,” Tess repeated, placing her hand on her big sister’s shoulder. “They’re just things, right? They’re nothing compared to you. So I forgive you, let’s move on.”
Frankie honestly couldn’t believe it. Unconsciously she began to laugh, though there was no happiness in it. There was a maniacal edge to it that scared Tess.
“Yo...You forgive me?” She asked between fits of terrifying giggles. She lunged at her sister, knocking her over and wrapping her paws tight around Tess’s thoat. “You forgive me!?” She said again through clenched teeth, wild eyed. Tess tried to say something but she squeezed harder, cutting her off.
“Fuck you!” She screamed at her gasping sister, bashing her head against the hardwood floor. Angry tears streamed down her face as she pinned Tess’s right arm with her knee to prevent any real resistance. “Fuck You!”
‘That’s it, keep squeezing,’ the voice purred. ‘Just a few more minutes and you’re all finished. After that it’s just a quick call and then you can go down in a blaze of glory.’
Too wrapped up in her thoughts, Frankie didn’t think to pin Tess’s other arm. Vision darkening, Tess’s arm scrambled across the floor, trying to reach for her back pocket. With what felt like Herculean effort in her oxygen-deprived brian, Tess plunged her paw into her pocket withdrawing a black rectangle with metal prongs. Jamming the stun gun into Frankie’s neck, she depressed the button and held it.
Muscles seizing up, Frankie’s paws left her sister’s throat, jerking wildly as electricity coursed through her body. Finally tearing it away, she fell back, gasping for air just as much as Tess was. Tess staggered to her feet, breathing shakily and feeling her throat. Already a ring of bruising was developing around her neck.
“When did you get a stun gun?” groaned Frankie. She still couldn’t get up off the floor, her muscles burning.
“Joel got me one,” Tess rasped. “In case of you.” She began crying in earnest.
“After the mailroom?” Frankie knew that was it, and sure enough her sister nodded silently. “Of course it was. When a woman defends her right not to be called a filthy vermin dyke she’s immediately a psycho.”
“You cracked his skull, Fran. You’re lucky he didn’t have brain damage.”
“Any more than he already had…”
“Stop!” Yelled Tess. “Stop making yourself the fucking victim! Do you know how many of Joel’s colleagues look at me in disgust every day? Call me vermin, whore, ask me how many pred dicks I sucked to get to where I am!? I just brush it off, you don’t see me stab the head of accounting with a letter opener!”
“Yeah well, that’s one of our differences I guess.”
Exasperated, Tess held her head in her paws. “I can’t do this anymore, Fran. I love you, but I can’t do it anymore. I’m going to Joel’s. I’ll pay the rent, but that’s the last I can do. I’m sorry.”
Laying there in silence looking at the ceiling and crying, Frankie finally spoke up again. “Why?” she asked thickly. “Why? Why can’t you just hate me!?” She shouted.
“Because you’re all I have left, you idiot!” Tess yelled back. “I’ve tried to keep us together but you keep trying to fuck it up!” Grabbing her bag, she practically sprinted to the door. “I’ll come back for my stuff later,” she said quietly before slipping out into the night. The faint sounds of a car starting up and fading away. Dead silence. The voice was speechless.
Shakily getting up, Frankie walked over to the counter, running a finger over the handles in the knife block. She wanted pain. Harsh, thick, unrelenting pain. But not from herself anymore, she wanted someone else to hurt her, make her scream like her fantasy Mistress did. Running up to her room, she pulled out a shoebox filled with old band flyers, photos and most importantly to Frankie right now, cards for professional dominants.
Sifting through the various advertisements, one in particular caught her eye. Pitch black with red lettering, a quite simple piece compared to the other flashy, neon-colored affairs she had passed up. In large lettering the title “Hidden Virtues” stretched across the front above an address, a telephone number and hours that extended well into the AM, with the back consisting of their various specialties (Frankie paid no mind to this outside of making sure they offered F/F sessions which they did, being at the top of the list to her surprise.)
Pulling out her phone and dialing the number found her chatting with a rather chipper woman asking if she would like to schedule a session. Awkwardly answering the basic questions, she hung up after setting up a play session in an hour and a half with a ‘Mistress Katherine.’ Freshening up in the bathroom, she stared at her reflection, specifically at her hair. Feeling like an outside in her body, she watched herself reach for her electric clippers that she used to style her Mohawk. Flipping it on, then running it over the middle of her head, the red strands falling down around her shoulders. A couple more swipes, and her hair was no more. She began to cry again.
“I deserve this,” she sobbed to her reflection. Brushing the loose strands off herself, she stripped and changed into a pair of jeans, a tee shirt with her boots and jacket then grabbed her wallet phone and house keys before storming out, towards downtown, and her meeting with ‘Mistress Katherine.’ She felt a whisper of the thoughts before they fell silent completely.
‘Maybe you can convince her to carve ‘traitor’ into your stomach…” and despite herself, the idea made her wet.