“You have to bring her into you, Mom.”
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, AM
Celia: Roderick drops her at her car. She tells him she loves him again before she gets out, and if he lets her she kisses him. She says she’ll see him tonight. She says that she’s grateful he helped her cut the knot. She says that she trusts him.
She watches him go in the rear view mirror after she turns the key in her ignition. For a moment she swears that her eyes are blue.
Whoever she is doesn’t think too hard about what that means. She pulls out of her spot and makes the trek to LegalWings to meet with Reggie and Rusty, if he’s there. She texts Dani on the way. She hasn’t heard from her and wants to make sure that she’s safe.
When she arrives at LegalWings she asks Rusty how it’s possible to track a phone, and if you need local access to it or if it’s something you can do with an app or other method. It was a new phone, but the user might have logged into their Sunfire account on it to transfer things from the old phone, and she supposes she answered her own question. She asks if he’d be able to find out who was tracking it and how they were tracking it and offers to bring him the phone. She’s paying, of course.
Then she meets with Reggie. She makes a comment about Randy never coming by, then asks how it went with the hunters.
GM: Is there anything she can to do help out right now? He’s asleep and won’t notice if she leaves.
Celia: Celia lets her know to sit tight. She says she found him. He’s safe. He’s okay. She mentions she wants to talk to her, but in person. Tomorrow, maybe. She does text over the badge numbers for Henry. She tells Dani to stay inside tonight, and to come back to the Quarter during the day.
She doesn’t explicitly say it, but there’s less chance of her being picked up that way. Celia will never forgive herself if something happens to Dani.
GM: Dani says she’ll pass along the badge numbers. She’s happy to come back over. Should they meet up at Flawless?
Celia: Yes, Celia responds.
She texts an approximate time that she’ll be there and tells her to enjoy the evening. They’ll make plans for the museum another day.
GM: Rusty isn’t present at LegalWings, but is available to talk over the phone. She has indeed answered her own question. There are many avenues by which to track phones.
Like all things, time and money indeed make possible to find out who was tracking the phone.
Celia: She’ll make sure he has both.
GM: Reggie, meanwhile, reports the following:
First, the handoff with ’Jade’s’ body was successful.
Unless the hunters later see through the ruse, as they seemed to buy it at the handoff, they now believe Jade Kalani tagged and bagged.
The hunters gave their names as Mr. Brown and Mr. Jones, but Reggie is not sure if those names are real. They said they worked for the federal government, though they were vague about what specific agency. They did, however, say that if the two ‘hunters’ brought them one more incapacitated vampire, they would be eligible to join their organization and receive training at a place called Glynco. Reggie wasn’t sure exactly where that was, but it seemed like the hunters he was pretending to be already knew, so he nodded along.
The hunters were extremely tight-lipped about… well, everything. However, there was one fact Reggie deduced… this offer did not feel unique to ‘Brooke’ and her partner. Mr. Jones and Mr. Brown had a very standoffish and dismissive attitude. Like there was ‘more where they came from.’ Reggie concluded the two were not only making this same offer to a large number of hunters, but getting rid of vampires does not actually seem to be their primary objective. Mr. Jones and Mr. Brown are sending hunters after comparative small fries. The goal seems to be to test their competence and dedication… and to recruit the most promising such hunters into their own organization.
They left Reggie and Randy with another time and meet spot to deliver their next vampire.
Celia: She asks if it sounded like vampires is all they hunt, or if they’re aware of the rest of the things out there.
GM: Reggie did not ask about other things.
Celia: She wants to know how long they have before the next meeting.
GM: About a week.
Celia: Were they given locations and targets or do they need to find their own?
GM: The latter.
The help from Savoy’s ghoul, Reggie grouses, was not very helpful. Reggie heard a voice in his ear whisper that’d it would be present during the handoff, and then absolutely no one was there except him and Randy.
Celia: Irritation at that news. Now everything she knows, he knows. She won’t get credit for any of it. Worse, she’ll tell Lebeaux this evening and he’ll say he already knows.
She explains that he was probably right there with them. He’s a shadow dancer. He’d have interceded if things went south.
Celia thanks him for a job well done and lets him know she’ll bring him in to consult on their next move within the next few days. She asks if he thinks Brown and Jones would be willing to provide backup if Reggie finds a “bigger score.”
GM: He thought they seemed like assholes.
“So they’d probably do the asshole thing.”
He grunts at the explanation on the shadow dancer.
Assholes are always the order of the day.
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, AM
GM: It’s a short ride back to the Hotel Monteleone after Celia is finished with her business. Her mom said she could stop by anytime, though the hour is rather later than she is accustomed to, and it takes several knocks and texts before the door to Diana’s room swings open. Her mother greets her in a fluffy hotel bathrobe, messy bed hair, and still somewhat flushed-looking cheeks.
“Hel-lo, sweetie!” she exclaims with a slight giggle as she pulls Celia into a hug.
“How’s my lil’ bunny, huh?”
Celia: “Hi, Momma,” Celia greets the woman with a bemused smile. She lets herself be pulled in, using it as an opportunity to see if her eyes are glassy. “Get into the wine?”
GM: Her mother’s eyes do look glazed. She closes the door behind Celia. They’re in a one-bed room.
“Er, maybe just a bit, baby.”
“I don’t normally do this sort of thing!”
Celia: “No,” Celia muses, following her further into the room. She looks for her sisters—both of them. “How long’s it been since you’ve had a drink, Ma?”
GM: She doesn’t see either.
“Oh, goodness… maybe since that party?” thinks her mom, plopping down on the bed.
“A very long time! I feel so rebellious!”
“C’mere, sweetie, I wanna cuddle with my baby.”
Celia: After the night she’s had, Celia needs it. She leans into her mom, cuddling up against her as if she’s not a bloodsucking monster.
GM: Celia’s mom wraps an arm around her shoulders and leans a head against her daughter’s. The woman’s movements are… less restrained, she supposes.
“Oh, I love you so much, you know that? Just… lots!” she exclaims, giving a little giggle.
“I’m sorry, that isn’t very, ah, what’s the word…?”
“I love you lots either way,” she smiles again, giving Celia a tighter squeeze.
Celia: Grammatically correct? Celia doesn’t rebuke her mother for it. Not like Roderick had. There will be no “corrections” between this lick and her ghoul.
GM: There were, once.
But they walked back from that.
Celia: “I love you lots too, Momma. Thanks for bearing with me tonight while everything went down. I know it’s been a lot lately.”
GM: “It’s okay, sweetie! I want to do things for you!” she exclaims, giving Celia another emphatic squeeze.
“I love doin’ things for you. I just wish I could do more, sometimes.”
Celia: “You do plenty, Mom. You found all that stuff about the training center. And I was able to confirm it tonight. That’s something. You feed me. That’s something too.”
“You love me even though I’m… you know.”
GM: “That’s up to God, baby, between you and God, what that means. My job’s to be your mom. I’ll always be your mom.” Diana gives a sniff that turns into a snort as she shakes her head and touches a hand to her nose. “Oh, sorry! I know you don’t like when I cry!”
Celia: “Mom…” Celia touches a hand to Diana’s cheek. “You’re allowed to cry, Mom. It’s okay.”
GM: Her mom gives another half-sniff she tries to turn into a snort. “I am, but, but I cry a lot! And I know you don’t like it!”
“And Emi thinks I do it too much, sometimes, too, she doesn’t say, but I just really think she does.”
Celia: It reminds her all too much of her conversation with Roderick.
“Feel what you feel, Mom. Let it out. It’s okay to cry. That… that wasn’t me who said that to you.”
“You can’t control your feelings. Just let them out, okay?” Celia pulls her close, running a hand up and down her back.
GM: Her mother holds it in for several moments later, and then the water works start to freely flow.
“Celia, I, I hate it when I cry too, I really do, I hate it how I cry, I hate how weak I am, how much I cry, I know you say I’m not, but I am, ever…”
Celia: “Mom…” Celia doesn’t know where this is coming from. She’d never had that much experience drinking herself before her death, though she supposes she’d seen Emily get weepy a few times. “Mom, it’s okay. We’re working on it, right?”
GM: “Are you?” her mom sniffs, looking at her with wetly imploring eyes. “What… what’s new? What’ve you worked on?”
Celia: Well, she meant her mom is working on it through fencing and learning more about her daughter’s real world, but this works too.
What has she been working on? Getting people killed. Turning into a doormat for her boyfriend. Stupid, he whispers, and she sees the resentment in his eyes.
“I found someone who could talk to Lucy,” she offers.
GM: Her mother’s breath comes shallower as her drunken eyes slightly widen. She hugs Celia closer.
“Talk about… what, sweetie?”
Celia: No. This was a bad idea. Her mom is already crying.
“We got her a library card. Some books. She’s… she likes the same books as you. And I spoke to someone else tonight who knows more about it, and he’s…”
How does she describe Harlequin? His crazy speaks to her crazy.
“It’s all a process, Mom. Baby steps.”
GM: Her mom breathes rapidly and just holds on tight to Celia.
“What. What do you want to do, with… with…”
She doesn’t say the doll’s name.
Celia: “She’s at my place now, Mom. She can’t hurt you. It’s up to you.”
GM: She swallows.
“What’s. What’s up, to me.”
Celia: “What to do with her.”
GM: Diana breathes rapidly and clings to her daughter.
“What… what do you think?”
Celia: “I love you the way you are. I want you to do what’s best for you. If you want to reunite, we can. If you want to stay separate, we can.”
GM: Her mother cries into her shoulder.
“I’m so weak, Celia. I’m so weak. I didn’t help you, I didn’t help your brothers, your sisters, I wasn’t there, I didn’t do, do anything, I was weak, so weak…”
Celia: Celia continues to rub her hand up and down Diana’s back, holding her mother close to her.
“There wasn’t a lot you could do at the time. And you did when it mattered. You stepped up. That’s love. That’s what we needed. What I need.”
GM: Her mom’s voice is small in her ear.
“I, I’d have done more… once…”
Celia: “When she was part of you, you mean?”
GM: Her mom says nothing, then nods once.
Celia: “Mom… is that… hereditary? Did you get it from your dad? Or your mom?”
GM: Her mother looks away, cheeks faintly red.
“Your. Your grandma’s always been… strong. Your grandpa was softer.”
She sniffs again.
“I wish he hadn’t… then I’d have… never…”
“Then you and the others… I wish she’d… I wish she’d died, instead,” Diana says, her features briefly hardening.
Celia: “…what did he do, Momma?”
GM: The look passes like an odd lump in half-formed, still-malleable clay. Her mother sniffs again. “Died, sweetie. He died. Too early for you to even know him.”
“And then everything fell… fell apart.”
Celia: Celia nods gently. “She and you started fighting, right? Dad told me.”
GM: Her mom silently nods.
Celia: “Do you want to tell me more about that?”
GM: Diana looks at the bed.
“I hate her,” she whispers.
Celia: “I know. I’m sorry I tried to force you to talk to her. What happened, Mom? Was it the… place?”
GM: “We… we already didn’t get along, already couldn’t stand the sight of… that was just…”
Celia: “Of… each other?”
GM: Her mother nods.
Celia: “But… why?”
GM: “I wish she could see,” Diana says suddenly, squeezing Celia as her inebriated eyes flash. “I wish. She could see. See what it’s like. Walk a mile in… in my shoes! See what she says then!”
“See what she thinks of me then!”
Celia: Celia’s eyes move from her mother’s face. For a moment her vision blurs. Then she blinks and it’s back, and she touches a hand to her mother’s cheek, curling up on her lap with her knees bent and her head on her shoulder. Like the child she used to be.
GM: “Sweetie?” her mom asks thickly, concern coloring over the look on her face. She hugs Celia close and gives her a squeeze, stroking the back of her daughter’s head with one hand. “What is it?”
Celia: “Daddy used to hurt us. Did Grammi do that too?”
GM: “N… no, sweetie. Not like he did.”
Celia: “But it hurt?”
GM: “She’s such a mean woman,” Diana mutters.
She sniffs and snuggles Celia closer.
Celia: “But why?”
GM: “I don’t know, why is anyone mean?”
Celia: “‘Cause they’re sad.”
GM: “I’m sad, and I’m not mean,” her mom sniffs.
Celia: “‘Cause you’re better.”
GM: Her mom smiles and squeezes her.
“You make me want to be. You and Lucy and Emi and all your brothers and sisters.”
Celia: “I could tell someone beat her up,” she offers. “Joshy said that’s what big sis is for.”
GM: “Sorry, Joshy?” her mom asks.
Celia: “We’re friends.”
GM: “Oh. I don’t know if I… well, I suppose I do… but I don’t think that’s what Jesus, what Jesus would say…”
“Do you and Jesus talk much, these days, sweetie?” her mom asks.
“It’s been so long, since you came to church.”
Celia: There’s not an easy answer to that. She just shrugs.
GM: Her mom squeezes her again.
“You’re His cute lil’ bunny too.”
Celia: Her giggle turns into a laugh. “That’s not what the Sanctified say, but I appreciate the sentiment.”
GM: Her mom smiles back at her.
“Do you think He loves you, still?” she asks, curiously.
Celia: No. She’s a bloodsucking monster from someone’s nightmare.
She doesn’t know her own mind, let alone some possibly imaginary figment of the collective conscious of people who lived thousands of years before her.
GM: “I guess only Him. But I think He does. He loves everyone, baby, everyone. No matter what they’ve done. It’s up to them if they want to love Him back. I think that’s the only reason anyone goes to Hell, if they refuse His love.”
Diana holds her close for a while.
“What do you think Jesus wants me to do?” she asks.
Celia: “In regards to Lucy? Or your mother?”
GM: “…both, sweetie,” she says after a moment.
Celia: “He probably has a better idea what all happened between the two of you. I still don’t, not really. You only give me pieces of it.”
GM: Her mother gives a hmph that turns into a hiccup.
She holds a hand to her mouth.
“Oh. Excuse me.”
Celia: Celia gently pats her back, waiting for the story.
GM: “You’re always asking me about the past, Celia.”
“I just don’t know what you’re looking for.”
“There’s not a lot to say,” her mom answers anyway. “She was always a bad, bad woman. Didn’t approve of ballet. Couldn’t accept it made me happy. Couldn’t accept I didn’t want to break a glass ceiling like her or Prudence. Couldn’t understand all the sweat and blood that went into it.”
“I started on the big stage at 15, you know. Young.”
“You have to be tough.”
“Everyone looks at us on the stage, sees how pretty and pink and sylph-like we are, floatin’ along en pointe, but they don’t see what goes on backstage.”
“They don’t see the way adults will tell you, to your face, blunt as a frying pan, you are too fat. You are too slow. You are too ugly. You are too stupid. You are not good enough.”
“In front of all the other girls, public as a stroll in the park.”
“Who are all older than you. Some lots older than you. Who all want the choice roles, that only so many dancers are gonna get. The competition can get really fierce.”
“And don’t even get me started on the physical training. Or the eating disorders.”
“To do that, at 15? You have to be TOUGH.”
Her mother gives an angry sigh. “I used to be tough, you know. That’s how I made it!”
“I wouldn’t have made it in that environment, if I wasn’t tough! Not at 15!”
“Fudge, and Logan complains about the ROTC instructors sometimes! He’s gettin’ off light!”
“Your grandmother didn’t respect me. She didn’t respect all my hard work. All my blood and sweat. How tough I had to be.”
Celia: “That’s really it? She just didn’t respect your choice?”
GM: “‘Just’? I’ll tell you ‘just’! She was just awful! One time, she threw out my sewing kit. That I used to modify my ballet shoes. Just threw it out! Because I’d left it outside my room, so she chucked it out, told me to keep better track of my things.”
“Two days before a big show!”
“I had to run through the city, buy a new kit, buy new shoes, all my own money, and waste time on that, on re-fittin’ the shoes again, that I needed to spend practicing!”
“I was off my game, the next day! The show was worse! They gave me so much grief for it! ‘Dragging down the whole corps be ballet!’ I had to fight like hell just to stay on the troupe!”
“Thanks a lot, Momma, thanks a lot for all your love and support!”
Diana gives an angry half-strangled sob and wipes her eyes.
Celia: “I don’t understand. How could she be like that… and you be like this.”
GM: “Because I got it from your grandpa, that’s why. He had so much more love in his heart than she did.”
“He was always there! Every performance, even the kids’ ones! He found time!”
“Busy heart surgeon like him, he found time, and sent me cards and flowers with ‘thank you’s from the other hospital people when he couldn’t!”
“I always knew, when he couldn’t make it, who he was helping, how helpful the rest of the team all said he was being!”
Her mom sniffs again. “Oh, Daddy, I miss you so much. You cared, when she never did!”
“Such a mean, nasty, cruel woman!”
Celia: “Was she like that with your siblings?”
GM: “Oh no, she loved Prudence much more than me.”
“Stan too, though not as much.”
Celia: All parents have favorites, Roderick told her.
GM: “Because they were just more like her, I guess. I got all of Dad’s sweet, Stan got half, Prudence got zero.”
“Though I don’t feel very sweet right now,” her mother hmphs.
“Such a mean woman.”
Celia: “We don’t have to talk about her, Mom. I didn’t realize… well, I didn’t realize the depth of everything between you. We don’t need to rehash.”
GM: “She sent me to the… DOLLHOUSE!”
Her mother gives a sob and covers her eyes.
Celia: “You’re out now, Momma. You’re out.”
GM: “No I’m not, no I’m not, I’m still there!”
Celia: “With… Lucy?”
GM: Her mother shudders at the doll’s name.
“I never got out, only… only half of me did!”
Celia: “I’ve had her for a long time, Mom. She’s out, too.”
GM: “She’s evil.”
“I don’t know why, I don’t why you’d, you’d ever do that.”
Celia: Money. Connections. Power. Obsession. Madness.
All sorts of reasons. Celia doesn’t voice any of them, though. She just "hmm"s and holds her mom close.
GM: Her mom holds onto her for a while.
“She’s going to… she’s going to hurt you, baby.”
Celia: “The doll?”
GM: Her mom closes her eyes and nods.
Celia: “Why would she hurt me?”
GM: “Because she’s from that place! That awful, awful pla-”
Celia: “She… helped me, before. I hesitated. And she told me to run. She got me to safety.”
Her sire, too, but she doesn’t add him into this.
GM: Her mom cuts off with a befuddled expression.
GM: “She wouldn’t do that.”
“She wouldn’t help you.”
Celia: “But she… did.”
GM: “No. She’s from… why would she do that? Why would she ever do that?”
Celia: “I don’t… I don’t know. I was in trouble and she told me to run. So I did. And I got out. And all the other dolls were coming for me. They were going to turn me into one of them.”
GM: Diana doesn’t look sure of what to say.
Celia: “She’s from what? That place?”
GM: Her mom nods.
“What… happened, sweetie? That got you in trouble?”
“Are you still in trouble?”
Celia: “No. I’m okay. I saw what she did to you and I got angry. I let the Beast out. I came to and she was unconscious on the floor, and Lucy was staring up at me. I was going to help her, but Lucy… said to run.”
“And she said… she told the librarian that if I hadn’t undone what Jade did to you, she’d have left me forever.”
GM: “Oh. That’s what it was. Good. You were… you were a real hero to do that, baby.” Her mom hugs her. “A real hero. All those, those girls, in their… their hells. All of them, you gave… you gave hope…”
Diana sniffles some more and wipes at her eyes.
Celia: She didn’t.
She’d ruined them too.
Like her mother.
GM: “That’s my… my Celia, always… always doing the right thing, even when it’s hard…” her mom sniffs, running a hand up and down her back.
She kisses the side of Celia’s face.
“I’m so proud of you, baby. So, so proud.”
Celia: “…I wasn’t doing the right thing, Mom.”
GM: “She’s… she’s pure evil, Celia. Just. Pure evil. You did right.”
Celia: “I used to do their makeup.”
GM: Her mom looks confused.
Celia: “To make them prettier.”
GM: Diana doesn’t say anything.
Her face just goes very still as she looks at Celia.
Celia: “I didn’t do the right thing.”
GM: “All… all the guards, cooks, at Auschwitz, couldn’t have been bad people,” her mom says slowly.
“They weren’t… the masterminds. They didn’t send people to the gas chambers.”
“They, they might not have even known. Had any choice.”
Celia: “They did.”
GM: “But, but it’s not always that simple. There’s… there’s worse grades, of bad.”
Her mom rubs her back.
“I’m not… I’m not going to say you… didn’t do bad… but you didn’t do as bad as her.”
Celia: “Mom… I don’t know what you think it means to be what I am… but I’ve done… I’ve done awful things. Terrible things. Maybe not like her, but I’ve…” She looks down at her hands. “They’re not clean, Mom.”
GM: Her mother hugs her close.
“You said, baby, you said.”
“After… after what you did to me.”
Celia: “And if Lucy was part of you that was separated… she can’t be evil, Momma. You’re not.”
GM: “You walked back from it,” her mom presses. “What you did to me, as Jade. There is good in you. And maybe there’s bad too, okay, I guess there is, but we’ll… we’ll work through it, baby. We’ll talk sometime, about all the things you’ve done, and… what to do, goin’ forward. When I’m, ah, sober. Totally sober. But I am here for you and I love you and I’ll always love you, okay?” she says, giving Celia another squeeze.
Celia: One good deed can’t make up for everything she’s done, but she doesn’t argue.
“Why did you ask what you think I should do with her if she’s evil?”
GM: “Well, I… I was wondering what Jesus would do. Because she is evil.”
“Or, I… she really did help you?”
Celia: “She did.”
“Listen, Mom, there’s a… there are people who can talk to her. She wants out. A body.”
GM: Her mom takes that in slowly.
“What did you mean, she’d have left forever.”
Celia: “I don’t… really know. The people who can talk to her… they’re not…”
Enlightened, he’d said.
“…they’re not traditionally sane. But she said that Lucy would have left. And not come back.”
GM: “If you’d… if you’d made me stay…. Gr…”
Her mom doesn’t finish the name.
Celia: Celia just nods.
“I don’t… think she’s evil, Mom.”
“But I can bring her by, if you want..?”
GM: Celia’s mother gives a sharp intake of breath as she clutches her daughter.
“What… do you think will happen…?”
Celia: “She’ll talk to you. Maybe she’ll tell you what she wants. Maybe she’ll… I don’t know, Momma. All we can do is see. And if you want her back, we’ll find a way. If you want her separate, we’ll find a way.”
GM: Her mother’s face looks notably paler.
“Do… you think we should…?”
Celia: “I think we should let you talk to her. After that, we can make another decision.”
GM: Celia’s mom just holds on to her for a while.
Finally, she offers a mute nod.
Celia: “Tomorrow?” Celia asks. “To get it over with?”
GM: “Sweetie, I am going to be fully sober tomorrow.”
It seems like her mom is trying to smile. The expression mostly looks queasy.
Celia: “Do you… want to do it tonight?”
“I can go get her..?”
GM: “Let’s just get it over with,” her mom shudders.
Celia: “Do you want to come with me? I can show you my place.”
GM: “Yes. Yes, I’d love to see your place again, sweetie.” A smile starts to edge across her pale features.
“I’ll… I’ll get dressed, give me a minute.”
Celia: Celia nods. She’ll explain on the way.
GM: Her mom retrieves her clothes and steps inside the bathroom to change. She’s wearing the same dress from the family’s dinner with the Garrisons, but also slips on a pink coat and her new ballet flats from Emily. She takes a breath, then takes Celia’s hand and heads out with her, closing the hotel room door behind her.
“Lucy’s sleeping with Emily, she’ll be okay…”
Celia: “She’ll be okay,” Celia confirms.
GM: “Figured I’d get a separate room, for when you came by,” Celia’s mom says as they step into the elevator.
“You know. For dessert.” She manages a weak chuckle.
Celia: “I appreciate it. Hard to explain otherwise.” She smiles up at her mom, taking her hand. “You’re the best mom, you know that?”
GM: Her mom smiles back and hits the button. “I try to be, sweetie. I was really worried I wasn’t being a very good one, after… well, the truth came out.”
Celia: “It just took some adjusting. And we’re still working on it. Things don’t happen overnight.”
GM: “I guess not,” she says as the elevator descends. “But that’s all I want, to be a good mom to you.”
“And for you to be happy.”
Celia: “You’re a great mom. Always have been.”
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, AM
GM: It’s a short enough drive back to Celia’s haven. Her mom looks out the window curiously.
“Have you moved, sweetie?”
Celia: “No. I have… multiple places. This is one that no one knows about. Except Roderick. And my sire.” And Randy, but he’s dead now. “Celia’s place is too public. Too easy to find. It leaves me too vulnerable during the day.”
GM: “Oh. Vulnerable to what?”
Celia: “Hunters. Ghouls. Enemies. Spies.”
GM: “Oh,” her mom repeats, as if still not sure what to make of that.
She gives Celia’s hand a squeeze. “Thank you for trusting me, sweetie. I won’t let anyone know where it is without asking you first.”
Celia: “Roderick asked me to move in with him,” Celia says on their way up. She unlocks the door and opens it for her mother, following her inside.
GM: “That’s wonderful!” Diana smiles. “Are you going to leave this place, then?”
She still looks around the place, her mother’s eyes happily curious to see what kind of home her daughter has made for herself.
Celia: Celia is happy to show her around. Letting Randy in on the secret had one benefit: he’d been able to meet the furniture people when they’d delivered her new things. The mess her sire had seen after Roderick took out his anger on her apartment is cleaned and gone, with a new couch, new rug, new shelves… everything the raging Brujah had destroyed is replaced, even the dented door of her closet.
“I don’t use the kitchen much,” Celia says when her mother stops as if to open the refrigerator. There’s only enough inside to look like an extremely busy bachelor(ette) lives here.
“I’m not sure. I like having my own place for things that I don’t want shared. And I have a lot of clothes…” Celia trails off, glancing at her closet.
He might expect her to get rid of it.
But he doesn’t have to know, right?
It’s not like she can invite her sire to his place.
GM: “I love it, sweetie!” her mom declares as she walks around, inspecting the decor and furnishings. “The brick walls give it a very cozy feel!”
“If you can afford it, then I’d say why not. Doesn’t hurt, if things are… dangerous.”
“Plus, can’t have too much space for clothes,” she winks.
Celia: “A friend of mine likes to give me jewelry,” Celia confides in a stage whisper, “so I have to have dresses to match. Wanna see?”
She doesn’t wait for an answer, taking her mother’s hand and tugging her towards the closet door. She opens it with a flourish, revealing the treasure trove of things inside: gowns, shoes, bags, accessories, purses, boots, skirts, lingerie, necklaces, earrings, bracelets… there’s a little bit of everything waiting for her mother to see.
“I, ah, ruined your dress earlier. The one you let me borrow. You can have one of mine, if you want..?”
GM: Her mom gives a squeal of delight at the horde of fashionable clothing and accessories. She takes out a number of different items, hanging them over herself or Celia to inspect in the mirror, and nodding her approval or saying how well this would pair with that.
“Oh, it’s okay! I’ve got plenty of dresses like those, got to live up to my last name,” she smiles. “But I would love to borrow some things from here! I just love how we’re the same size!”
“My goodness, I had no idea you owned so many clothes!”
Celia: It’s what she’s good at.
Clothes and makeup.
She hides the hurt in her eyes with a smile and laugh. “Hard to wear things like this at work. Licks are much more, ah, fashion savvy.”
GM: “Well maybe you could buck the trend, show off all those girls in their yoga pants that the boss dresses to impress,” her mom smiles.
Celia: “Don’t think doing a massage in haute couture would go over very well.”
“Maybe if Daddy wins the race for governor I’ll have an excuse to wear them. Parties and the like.” Or when she goes out to LA. Red carpet.
GM: “I guess not, but I admit it still seems a little strange to me, how girls like Piper can wear a face full of glam makeup and pair it with something mundane like yoga pants.”
“But there you go! Plenty reason to let the world see how fabulous Celia Flores can look,” her mom smiles.
“I’ll need to think of something to wear too, for when he wins…” she says thoughtfully.
Celia: “We’ll have to go shopping, I think.”
She sounds as if she can’t wait.
GM: “I guess we will,” her mom beams. “Dresses, shoes, jewelry, you name it! Can’t get caught in the same thing twice!”
Celia: “What would people say? The horror.”
GM: “I hope Lucy grows up to be the same size as us. It’d be so fun if we three could all share clothes.”
Celia: “You should keep that one,” Celia says, nodding toward the necklace her mother’s eye keeps drifting towards. “I don’t know if you could dress it down for work, but maybe a fancy dinner.”
GM: “Hmm,” her mom says thoughtfully as she picks it up, “maybe paired with the ballet flats, and one of my more casual dresses? Maybe somethin’ without too much neckline, so it draws the eye less?”
“This will definitely look nice at a fancy dinner, though. You think it’d be too fancy for another with the Garrisons?”
Celia: “Invitin’ Henry over again?” Celia asks with a wiggle of her brows.
GM: “I think so, that poor man was just so sad,” her mom answers, more seriously.
Celia: “I think you should definitely wear it to dinner. Dani and I were thinking we could all go to the history museum together, or the WWII one..?”
GM: “Oh, that’s a fun idea! Yes, I’ve gone there with Logan before, he just loves all of the World War II stuff.”
Celia: “He doesn’t get out much. Maybe he’ll… smile more.”
“I wish I could do something about Stephen and his dad, but… it’s different, there, he doesn’t want him to know.” Celia sighs.
GM: Her mom looks at her gravely.
“Celia… that man has got to know.”
Celia: “He can’t know.”
“That breaks the rules.”
“It’s Stephen’s choice, Mom.”
GM: “Celia, I know you saw how much pain he was in. All I can say is that you did not see it all. There is no loss, sweetie. Just no loss, that… you cannot even imagine what pain that man is going through. Not unless you are a parent.” Her mother’s voice starts to break a bit.
Celia: “It’s not our choice to make. I can’t take him on as a ghoul, and I wouldn’t… do that to Stephen.”
“What if another vampire took Emily or Logan as a ghoul? That’s what it would be like.”
GM: “Then don’t. Just tell him the truth.”
“Doesn’t matter how.”
“Just so long as he stops believing his baby boy is dead and in the ground.”
Celia: “I can… I can talk to Stephen about it.”
“See what he says.”
GM: “Okay. Okay, that sounds good, sweetie. This involves him too.”
Her mom also looks relieved they’re not going to fight over this issue.
Celia: “Let me find Lucy, though, before the night gets away from us.”
GM: Diana’s face grows very still again.
But she nods.
Celia: Celia takes her mother back into the other room, letting her have a seat on the couch while she locates the doll. Lucy is tucked away with Princess on one corner of Celia’s bed in a new blue dress, the pile of books on the nightstand beside her. She picks her up, Princess too, and brings the pair of them over to her mother to take a seat on the other edge of the couch.
GM: Lucy’s wide, glassy eyes are raptly focused on hers.
Princess looks demure and cute as ever in her ballet shoes.
Celia’s mother clutches her hands to her face and draws up her knees like a little girl. Her face is white and her breath comes fast as her daughter approaches with the dolls. But she does not run from the couch.
Her eyes rest on the second doll with equal parts dread and confusion.
Celia: “This is Princess,” Celia says by way of introduction. “She’s just here for moral support. She has a lot of love to share.” Nothing bad has ever happened to Princess. She’s Daddy’s little girl.
GM: The long-haired, large-eyed doll stares lovingly up at her mother as he holds her teddy bear.
“She’s… a doll…” Diana gets out in a high, trembling voice.
Celia: “She is.”
GM: Lucy’s eyes rest unerringly on her counterpart.
That’s when Celia hears it again, thick and heavy as porcelain:
Celia: Celia sets Princess down on the couch beside her, Lucy next to her. She looks between Lucy and her mother for just a moment, as if wondering how she can possibly explain this.
“Um… Mom, you know how I can… turn into a cat?”
GM: Her mother gives a faltering nod.
Celia: “So… I have another form too. And I don’t want to scare you. But Lucy wants me to join them as my… other self.”
“She’s… like them.”
“Her name is Lotus.”
Celia: “So… don’t be alarmed Mom, okay? I’m still me. I’m going to bring Lotus out now, though. Okay?”
GM: Her mother is still white in the face. Still has her knees and hands raised up.
She doesn’t say anything.
Just gives another faltering nod.
Celia: It’s as much of a blessing she’s going to get. Celia tells her mom not to be afraid, that she’s still Celia…
Until she’s not.
Celia disappears into the porcelain embrace of Lotus, with her hand-stitched dress made of memories and long, curling hair. Her smile remains fixed, like all dolls, but it’s warm despite the cool, smooth ivory that makes up the rest of her. Like her counterpart, Lotus is fully made up.
She sits against the cushion, gazing up at Diana.
GM: Celia’s mother stares at the doll like it’s a smiling tiger. Grateful for the smile, over a snarl.
Lucy stares ahead at the woman too. She does not look at Lotus.
Lotus hears it again. Heavy as porcelain:
Celia: Lotus doesn’t think that the woman knows how to join them like this. But she waits. Maybe Lucy knows something she doesn’t.
GM: The doll’s eyes rest unerringly on Diana’s.
Celia: Well that’s certainly not how Lotus expected this to go. Lucy doesn’t appear to need Lotus, doesn’t seem to want to speak to Lotus. Just Diana.
There’s a girl who promised her mother nothing bad would happen to her. A girl who’d once died for her mother to make sure nothing bad would happen to her. Just talking, she’d said. Promised. Just talking.
This isn’t talking. This is another demand on Diana. Another demand from the woman who has given so much of herself to everyone else.
Lotus fades away.
“Can you hear her, Momma?”
GM: There’s a look of some relief when Celia appears. Like one of three tigers has backed off, even if it’s a smiling one, and her daughter is now here instead.
She gives a faltering nod.
Celia: “She wants to merge. But we’re not ready for that, are we, Momma? Lucy, we’re not ready for that. Momma wants to talk.”
GM: The doll just stares ahead, her glassy eyes wide and unblinking.
“M-merge…?” Diana gets out, her throat dry.
Celia: “Put you back together, I think.”
GM: Her mom doesn’t blink either. Her eyes look equally big.
Celia: As if she knows. She can barely hold herself together, let alone try to keep someone else from falling further apart.
“You still haven’t decided if it’s something you want. That’s what we’re here to figure out, Lucy. If you and Diana can get along.”
GM: “I… wa… want…” her mother swallows, not once looking away from the doll, then gets out, “I want it back… who I… who I used to be…”
MERGE, repeats Lucy.
Princess stares ahead sweetly and hugs her teddy.
Celia: Silently, Celia picks up Lucy and hands her to her mother.
“When I learned how to become a doll, I sat in a room with them. A lot of them. And I had to focus on clearing my mind, being still, being quiet. You’re not becoming a doll, but letting a doll become you. So instead of clearing your mind… open it. Let her in. Connect to her. Here.” Celia touches a hand to her own heart, then gestures toward the same spot on Princess. “And here.” She touches her temple, then Princess’ temple.
“There’s… energy that connects everyone. Find that. And instead of pushing yourself along it—you know how I told you I do that?—you pull her to you.”
GM: Diana looks at the doll like it’s a scorpion preparing to sting her.
But slowly, falteringly, she spreads her arms to take Lucy. In the same position she used to hold the ‘real’ Lucy. The second Lucy.
The skin-to-porcelain contact makes her give an immediate hiss. The effect is like a spray of bleach over flowers. The woman’s skin seems to turn paler, sicklier, even as Lucy stares up at her with wide and glassy eyes. Celia is not sure if she can feed on her mother in this state tonight… it’s likely to take even more out of her.
Diana removes one hand, holding the doll against her stomach, and clutches Celia’s hand in her free one.
“I’ll try, sweetie… to pull her to me… but… help me, please… I need your help…”
The doll’s porcelain-hard little voice only repeats:
Celia: She doesn’t like the way the doll seems to be leeching the very life from her mother. It’s not… normal, is it? If they’re merging, shouldn’t Diana be getting stronger? More healthy now that her whole self is returning to her?
Diana had said multiple times that the doll is evil. But that she wanted her back. What happens if she interrupts? Nothing good, she bets. Nothing good at all.
Celia squeezes her mother’s hand.
“What does it feel like, Momma? Does it hurt?”
GM: Her mother nods rapidly, blinking back tears.
“My, my feet, sweetie… when she… she made me dance…”
Celia knows all about how ‘she’ made her mother dance.
Celia: Celia kneels in front of her mother, gently easing her shoes off her feet. She touches light fingertips to the arches of her feet, offering what comfort she can through touch.
“Physically? Or like you’re back in chains?”
GM: The ballet flats with their extra arch support come off easily. Diana’s toenails are painted pink. At Flawless, like always. Celia’s mother takes a breath and nods at the familiar touch.
“B… both, sweetie…”
Celia: “Do you want to stop?”
GM: Her mother scrunches her eyes but shakes her head.
“I want… my… back…”
The glassy-eyed doll just stares silently upwards.
“Please, sweetie… help me…”
Celia: “You have to bring her into you, Mom. You can hear her, right? In your head? Imagine there’s a line between your mind and hers. A phone line. She’s talking to you, you’re talking to her, but you’re separated by something. An obstacle. Glass, or a brick wall. Close your eyes. See it in your mind, the wall. Then find your way to her. Over, under, around. Put a door in the wall. Or a window. Let her see you. Call her home. She’s part of you, just far away, but she’s still you and you’re her. Like magnets, you’ll always be drawn to each other. Feel for that. Listen for it.”
GM: Diana closes her eyes.
“She’s… it’s a wall, and it’s so thick, it’s so tall, I don’t even know how to get through to her, but I’m dancing… I don’t know how that’ll help, but it feels right… dancing, en pointe, like I did before the accident… you think that’s right, sweetie, you think that’s helping…?”
Celia: “If you used to share dance with her, yes. What else did you used to share together? What else can you do to call her to you?”
GM: “I… I stole your grandmother’s car, once…”
“And ran off away… that’s why she sent me there…”
Celia: That seems like a poor reason to ruin a child.
“Was that the last time you and Lucy were together?”
GM: “When I… when I cleaned and put her away, the day I got out… and had to ask if I could be Diana again…”
Celia: “No, before that. When she was part of you.”
GM: “I danced… the… the way you saw…?”
“But it wasn’t dance, it wasn’t…!”
“I was mad with her… I was… a spitfire, like your granddaddy always said…”
Celia: “Maybe you could dance with Lucy. Remind her what it feels like to be part of you. Remind yourself what it feels like to be free. Whole.”
GM: “I can’t dance like that anymore, sweetie, but… maybe a waltz, or some easier positions…?”
Celia: “Maybe we wait,” Celia suggests gently, “until your leg is better.”
GM: “Okay, sweetie, if you think that’s best…” her mom breathes, nodding in relief.
Lucy’s porcelain gaze bores unerringly ahead.
Celia: Celia reaches for the doll.
GM: Her mother surrenders Lucy to her.
Celia: “Sorry, Luce. She isn’t ready.”
GM: The porcelain figure’s glassy eyes stare endlessly into hers.
Celia: “And what then?” Celia demands. “I put you in her and what then? You steal a car? Run away? Leave your family? Leave me?”
Call her stupid, like Roderick had, for trusting a doll?
GM: Lucy’s still expression does not change.
“Ah, maybe we better get me back to my hotel, sweetie,” ventures Diana, rubbing her head.
Celia: “I’ll take you to talk to him tomorrow,” Celia says to Lucy. “He’ll be at the party. Then we’ll get her leg fixed, and you can merge. You’ll be whole again. Both of you.”
“That, ah, that sounds better,” nods her mom. “I don’t feel too good, anyways… you mind if we pass, tonight, on… dessert?”
Celia: Celia strokes a hand down Lucy’s hair, continuing to address the doll.
“Because I don’t know how, Lucy, and I don’t want to hurt you. What if I do it wrong? What if I break you? What if I break her? I’m not willing to take that chance with you. Trust me, okay? He’ll have a better method that doesn’t involve going back to… to her.”
“I’ll take good care of you, Lucy. We’ll get you sorted.”
Celia kisses the doll’s cheek before setting her down next to Princess.
“Come on, Mom, let’s get you back to your room.”