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Blood and Bourbon

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Story Eleven, Celia VIII

“I guess no one has it all.”
—Piper McCreedy


Wednesday night, 2 September 2015, PM

GM: The shooting at the Eight District police station is all over the news. Former homicide detective Richard Gettis gunned down two teenage heiresses in completely cold blood, all for no apparent reason at all. Caroline Malveaux, news outlets crow, heroically saved the girls’ lives even as Gettis singlehandedly fought his way out of the police station, leaving an attorney named Mitchell Lowenstein dead in the process. A city-wide manhunt now seeks to bring in the murderous ex-cop in, but they haven’t caught him yet.

Celia’s heard all about it. Everyone’s heard all about it.

It’s not too long after she does that Jade finds herself summoned to the Evergreen’s rooftop garden by Antoine Savoy. Preston is there like always. After complimenting the younger Toreador’s always gorgeous appearance and making pleasant chatter for a few minutes, Savoy continues,

“I presume you’ve heard of the recent shooting at the Eighth, my dear. I’ve been in touch with an individual who wants to contract Dr. Dicentra’s services. They want Yvonne Devillers’ scar removed. I’m to understand laser surgery has come a ways, but it still leaves a faint trace, and they want the scar completely gone.”

Celia: She has heard the whispers at Elysium, even, about the shooting. “One of the spares,” the harpies had tittered, “who needs a family with that many daughters.”

Jade had no reason to be bothered by the news. It was Celia who knew the Devillers on a personal level. Celia who remembered the friend from high school with the longer name, the girls several years her junior but so alike in appearance that they could be triplets rather than twins.

For all their technological advances, the use of laser treatments still leaves remnants of scars and blemishes behind. Not like Jade’s work, which always leaves the skin free and clear. Her eyes settle upon her grandsire, considering the request.

“I’m certain I’ll give them no cause to complain, grandsire. The Devillers girl is a breather; does your contact wish for it to be done over a series of ‘treatments,’ or just the once?” The Masquerade, she means. “Lasers take multiple treatments and months to see results.”

GM: Who needs so many indeed? You can afford to lose a few kids when you have six.

Rather like Celia’s own mother and father. Plenty of spares.

Savoy inclines his head.

“They mentioned that very fact. The girl actually is going to receive laser treatment surgery. My contact simply wishes you to come in at the end and ensure it’s a flawless job.”

Celia: Not something she needs to worry about then. She asks after the details: the timeline, the location, and, eventually, the fee.

“I assume your contact is familiar with my pricing.” The barest lilt in her voice at the end of the sentence turns it into a question. She has done work for kine before—plenty of them come to her spa—but they wouldn’t be asking for a night doctor if they were ignorant of the way their society works. Somehow she had always imagined that the people in the upper echelons of society—the Devillers of the world—were above being managed by Kindred.

How silly. She knows the truth of the world.

GM: “They’re amenable to you performing the alterations at Tulane Medical Center after Yvonne’s final treatment there, and compensating you for the inconvenience of getting in. They’re also amenable to Yvonne coming in to your spa and having the scar removed there. They don’t care what explanation you give the girl for how you do it, so long as the Masquerade is maintained and her suspicion isn’t aroused.”

“My contact wishes to remain anonymous, which makes the collection of any boon rather more difficult.” Savoy smiles ruefully. “They would thus prefer you to ask for a specific service up front. They’re willing to trade the equivalent of two boons rather than one in compensation for the loss of, shall we say, flexibility.”

Celia: Getting in has never been a problem. Pietro had seen to that; it’s the first thing he taught her how to do. It’s also just over the border, and a new face, a pair of scrubs, and the ability to mask her predatory nature has made the Second Tradition all that much more easy to violate.

“I’ve been lying about scar removal for years,” she says with a smile. Cross fiber friction. Beta keratin. Injections. Fillers. Collagen. That last one has been a big one; who knew that it was such a miracle substance, and from the body itself.

The smile threatens to fade at his next words, but she keeps it in place.

“Hard to pre-collect on a favor when I don’t know what sort of person they are, grandsire, or what they’d be able to do for me.”

GM: “Splendid,” her grandsire smiles back at her first reply.

“Doubtlessly,” he nods at her second one. “I can say that my contact is powerful, and most any favor you could ask of an elder, you can ask of them.”

Celia: Powerful, anonymous figures.

Her favorite kind.

An elder, though. What would she ask of an elder? Why, it would depend on the elder of course. She much prefers to tailor the boon to the patron; there’s a certain detachment it will need to take on with this hurdle in place. Something tangible, perhaps, if the elder in question doesn’t wish to associate with a neonate like her. Her mind rips through the possibilities, idly wondering if the Devillers are claimed by Vidal himself (Garden District, she remembers from high school), and if that is the reason he wishes to remain anonymous.

Because he and her grandsire are such good friends, of course.

She avoids the snrk of amusement only because her body is not given to such human displays.

“I see,” she says at length.

GM: “You can take your time to consider what,” Savoy smiles. “The girl’s surgery is months away, after all.”

Celia: “I wasn’t expecting a mysterious benefactor,” Celia admits with a rueful smile.

GM: “They would seem less benefactor than trading partner,” Preston observes from her tablet.

“Ah, but that lacks the same dramatic air, doesn’t it, Nat?” smiles chuckles.

“Perhaps, sir,” the Malkavian agrees mildly.

Celia: “I’m a closet romantic, Madam Preston; unlife is much more thrilling this way. Rose tinted. Et cetera.” A wink lets her in on the joke.

What would she ask even of her grandsire if the boon were with him? The truth of her sire, perhaps. They’d had many talks over the years about his enigmatic childe, but none that had ever sated Celia’s curiosity about the monster who crawled out from under her bed.

But that’s so personal. And likely the only two people who can tell her what she seeks are the sheriff himself and the grandsire sitting across from her.

“Your contact,” she says after a moment, “is familiar enough with our city to obtain or offer information on certain covenants or members?” She assumes it’s a lick. Who else would know about the night docs?

It’s not as if she can have the contact teach her a skill.

Maybe it’s worth a shot. Someone had once said something about shooting and goals.

GM: Preston doesn’t smile.

But Jade’s never seen her do so.

Her grandsire, at least, chuckles again before answering, “They are. Who or which did you have in mind, my dear?”

Celia: Jade heard a funny joke about Preston and a night doc. She keeps it to herself.

“My sire.” Her lack of heartbeat keeps the color from her cheeks at the words; it feels very much like telling her new boyfriend that she’s still hung up on her ex. She stops herself before she can offer further explanation.

GM: Savoy only nods in understanding.

“What should I ask them?”

Celia: Everything you’ve refused to tell me over the years.

Too churlish.

Why he chose me.

Too desperate.

What the fuck the thing was in his head when he murdered me.

Too personal.

“Where to even begin. He’s a mystery no one ever discusses.” Celia keeps the accusation from creeping into her tone. “I don’t suppose you’d want to paint a broad picture for me so that your contact can color it in while we’re wheeling and dealing favors, grandsire?”

GM: “Oh, you can dispense with that, my dear. There’s no need for favors between us,” Savoy smiles indulgently. “Whatever my grandchilde wishes of me, she can ask. I know she’s equally ready to help me when I have need of her.”

Celia: She hasn’t turned him down yet. Nor can she imagine that she would; she owes much of what she is to his generosity those first nights.

“I only want to know what I come from. What sort of Kindred took me for his childe. Who he was, maybe, that caught your eye to bring him into this world.” A selfish question, she can’t help but admit; she wants to be what catches her grandsire’s eye now.

She spares a quick glance toward his steward. Perhaps this is a family matter.

GM: Preston does not look up from her tablet.

The French Quarter lord chuckles. “You don’t pick your questions small, do you, my dear? That’s a long story. And an important one, at that. Long and important enough it’s better told another time, under more befitting circumstances.”

“For tonight, what do you say we resolve or table the question of what my contact can do for you?”

Celia: It seems petty to wring a promise for a future tale out of him. Celia just dips her head in deferment.

“As you say, grandsire, another time and place. I’ll need some time to think on the contact’s offer. I wouldn’t want to drag others into our business unnecessarily.”

GM: “When you’re afforded time, take your time,” the elder Toreador smiles.


Thursday evening, 3 December 2015

GM: Several months later, Natalie lets Celia know that Yvonne Devillers is scheduled for an appointment with her.

“I’m really glad you’ll be able to help her,” smiles her however-many-times-distant cousin. “I had classes with her sister Adeline at McGehee.”

“It’s so sad what happened to them…”

Celia: “Have her schedule it with Celia,” Jade had told her grandsire about the appointment with the girl, “it’s not as if Dicentra is on the list of employees.”

Risky, isn’t it, to bring her here where it’s tied so closely to the rest of her business, but one of the rabble had been picked up and dealt with just recently for thinking he could run amok through the city with no heed for boundaries, and Celia hadn’t been interested in pushing her luck with the city as on edge as it is. All that nonsense at the trials, the executions… she’ll stick to her side of the tracks, thank you very much.

Besides, it’s sort of like hiding in plain sight. Of course Celia isn’t Dicentra, and why would Jade use her own place of business for modifications like this? Double bluff and all that.

Now, dressed in the typical loose pants and shirt that proclaims the name of her business, Celia just offers Natalie a sad smile as she stands across the desk in the lobby.

“Devastating,” she agrees. “I can’t even imagine what she’s going through right now, what the whole family went through. I’m just glad I’m able to help in some small way; I was in the same class as the eldest myself.”

GM: There was a reason Savoy offered Tulane Medical Center as an option. But that carried its own inconveniences.

Natalie nods. Like many ballet dancers, she’s thin and willowy: “they make us with cookie cutters,” Diana had once joked, half-seriously. The receptionist’s face, though, has a round shape and lingering baby fat that makes many people assume she’s in her teens rather than 20s. According to Piper, it’s also made her cry in the bathroom more than once over how she wishes her face is thinner, because her instructors call her fat. Diana had just nodded grimly at that over the dinner table and said, “They do not spare your feelin’s in ballet, at all. I’d be concerned if she has any eating disorders too, sweetie. Those are also very, very common.”

The girl smiles a lot, though. She reminds Celia of her mom, in ways bad and good.

“I heard,” Natalie says. Cécilia comes in for her share of treatments, though Celia usually isn’t the one to see her. Day hours work better for her.

“She must feel glad her sister can come someplace familiar to get this all… just finished.”

“Hopefully.”

Celia: Of course Natalie has an eating disorder. Don’t all college girls? Still, Celia had shown her a few times how to contour her face with makeup—“not that low, it drags your face down”—and suggested a haircut that would help hide the worst of it, but short of Natalie going under the “knife” there is little Celia can do for her.

Still, she’s been tempted, even if she knows that people with plumper faces tend to wear their age better than those without, which she has also told Natalie plenty of times.

“Lasers got the worst of it,” Celia assures her. “She’ll be good as new once we’re done here.”

Unless she means everything else with the manhunt and shooting.

“No trial, at least. Those can be messy.”

GM: She’s nodded and said, “You’re right, I should be happy about that.”

Piper doesn’t think it makes her much happier, though, when she doesn’t have much age to wear.

“Oh. Yeah. I’m not celebrating what happened to that… cop or anything, but… a trial would’ve been so painful. I’m glad they don’t have to go through that.”

Celia: Piper has too many opinions that have nothing to do with her.

But that’s why Celia likes her. She gets all the best gossip.

Celia just nods and sighs her agreement.

“Hey, the thing I’m doing with her is a new technique out of Brazil,” she says after a moment, “they do all those butt lifts down there and they’ve got this procedure and topical to remove scars, but it’s supposed to help firm and tighten skin as well. If your teachers are still being rude, do you want me to try it with you? See if it helps?”

“It has a quick expiration once opened, so I figured why waste the product if we don’t use it all with Devillers.”

GM: Natalie’s eyes have barely widened before the response it out of her mouth.

“Oh my god, yes, please!” she nods, eagerly. “They all say my face is so fat…”

Celia: “Because there’s nothing else to critique. I’ve seen you dance; you’re better than the rest of them and they know it.”

GM: “Oh, well, there are some other girls who are really good. But… thanks.” Natalie smiles.

Celia: Celia shakes her head.

“I lived with a ballerina for most of my childhood. I’ve seen good, and I’ve seen really good. Trust me, you’re the latter. But yeah, when I’m done with her just come on back and we’ll see how it goes. I’m sure they call it Vixen-ary for a reason.”

GM: “Most of your childhood?” Natalie asks, curiously, then smiles at the name. “Ha. That’s funny.”

Celia: “Divorce,” she says with a shrug.

GM: “Oh. I thought… I don’t really know what I thought,” she admits with a little shrug too.

Celia: “She thought Flores was a better name so she kept it,” Celia says with a laugh, waving a hand as if the rest of it—everything they’d been through—doesn’t matter. “We’ve been stealing better surnames since the beginning of time.”

GM: “Oh, she’s right, Flores is a really pretty name! Underwood sounds, um, pretty somber.”

“It’s good for Payton, though.”

Celia: “So is the name Payton. Very… her.”

GM: “Flores is very… you, too. It’s just a really light and lyrical and pretty name.”

Celia: Celia beams at her.

“Thank you.”

She always enjoys hearing she’s pretty.

Even if it’s just her name.

Her father’s name.

GM: Everything about her is pretty.

Whatever else it might be underneath.

The outside is unfailingly pretty.

Natalie smiles back, then slowly ventures, “I didn’t know your family was divorced…”

Celia: “Oh. Uh, yeah. A while ago. When I was a teen.”

GM: “Oh, wow. That is a while.”

“I never had any idea…”

Celia: “Really?”

It’s not like she hides it.

GM: “But, um, I guess that explains why Lucy and your mom always show up to church by themselves.”

Emily only goes on holidays and special occasions, these days. She prefers to study or sleep in.

And Celia, despite her mother’s wishes otherwise, can’t go at all, except for the odd night service. Diana has long since stopped asking.

“I guess I’m dumb, ha.”

Celia: And Celia hasn’t bothered to pretend to go to church since… well, not since she died, anyway.

“No,” Celia tells her, the word sharper than it’s meant to be. Old trigger, that. “My mom is just private about it, is all, and with Dad as a senator… y’know, not something they really broadcast. Was a quiet event.”

GM: At least it wasn’t ‘stupid.’

Natalie’s quiet for a moment at the sharp word, then says,

“Um, tell me if this isn’t my business… but can I ask why?”

“It’s just,” she adds, “we see Lucy and your mom at church every week, and we never talk with them.”

“It’s… weird.”

Celia: “My dad is an abusive piece of shit,” Celia says flatly.

“He was hurting her. She got out.”

GM: “Oh,” Natalie says slowly.

“I’m so sorry…”

Celia: “It was a long time ago.”

GM: “Is that why Payton and Prudence and my dad don’t talk with her, because they took your dad’s side…?”

Celia: “I… don’t know, actually. Payton offered shelter when I needed it, and told me how to get the restraining order, and gave me the number to call when I reported the abuse. I don’t think she was on his side.”

“I think it’s… I mean, mom and Prudence don’t really seem close, we never really saw much of her when we were growing up, and I had to kind of forge my own connection with Payton.”

“Mom isn’t close with Stan, either.”

“Honestly?” Celia sighs. “I think it was the dancing.”

GM: “The dancing?” Natalie asks curiously.

Celia: “And then mom got pregnant with me while she was still in school, and Payton told her… uh, she wanted her to terminate me, so that kind of… soured things.”

“Yeah, because they don’t think dancing is a real career.”

GM: Her eyes widen. “Oh my god, she wanted your mom to abort you?!”

Celia: “Yeah.”

“I mean, to be fair, I’d have probably told her the same. She was sixteen.”

GM: “Um. I’m… glad she didn’t.”

Celia: “Same.”

GM: Natalie gives a weak chuckle.

“I guess that explains why my dad’s not a big fan of my dancing, though…”

“Or the rest of them, I guess.”

Celia: “It’s kind of like any liberal arts degree, isn’t it? People think it’s not sustainable. And yeah, it’s hard, I get it. A lot of people don’t make it. But if you’ve got the skill for it, go for it, you know? If you don’t at least try you’ll always wonder _what if?”_

“People said to me, ‘makeup isn’t a real skill, you can’t do anything with that.’” Celia waves a hand around the lobby of her very successful business.

GM: “Ha. I guess you showed them.” Natalie smiles as her eyes follow Celia’s hand.

“But I guess it’s not fair to say they aren’t fans, they are. They go to my performances and everything.”

Celia: The physical building doesn’t even represent everything she’s done, just the tangible results. YouTube, Instagram, special effects and prosthetics on movie sets, consults with people all across the country… not to mention the rest of it, the All Night Society she’s part of that she can’t even talk about, the experiments, all the medical training…

“That’s something, at least. Payton was always too busy for my mom.”

GM: “Oh. I didn’t hear that.”

“I’d feel really sad if my family didn’t go to my shows…”

Celia: “Family support is everything. My mom’s a gem. You should invite her to one of your shows, you know. I’m sure she’d love to go.”

GM: Natalie shrinks a bit. “Oh, um, I’d love to, but I don’t think my family would like that…”

Celia: Her smile dims.

“Right. They should probably work their stuff out.”

GM: “Yeah…” Natalie gives a hapless shrug.

“I hope they do, I won’t be doing dance a lot longer…”

Celia: “I’m just saying, if I did everything my family wanted me to do, I’d be a mother of seventeen by now with no career, no business, and probably some jerk, misogynist husband.”

“Well, maybe that’s not true. Even Maxen said I could major in dance.”

“What’re you doing afterwards? When you don’t want to dance anymore?”

GM: “Oh.” Natalie looks muted. “Did your dad want that…?”

“Um, I’m still making up my mind. Maybe go to grad school.”

Celia: “He told me college was my opportunity to meet a husband.” Celia rolls her eyes.

“Because this is the 1950s and that is all that matters.”

“Sorry,” she says after a moment, “talking about him… brings up all the old…” she waves a hand. Bullshit, she means.

GM: “He, um…” Natalie starts.

“Um, I’m sorry, never mind.”

Celia: “What?”

GM: “Oh, just… I had a rude question, that wasn’t my business.”

Celia: “You can ask.”

GM: “Did he… abuse you too…?”

Celia: “Yeah. He did.”

“Had him arrested for it, but that never made the papers.”

GM: Natalie’s silent for a moment.

“I’m so sorry…”

Celia: Celia just shrugs.

“Long time ago. I’m over it. He’s not part of my life anymore, and I got out. I won.”

GM: She just died, too.

Celia: But now she has a new family.

And her grandsire is… well. The grandfather she’d always wanted? Something like that.

GM: Her sire’s nothing like Maxen, of course.

Nothing at all.

“You’re right,” Natalie nods. “You have your business, and your family and a boyfriend, you have a lot.”

Celia: No, her sire would need to have a presence in her Requiem to be anything like Maxen. At least Maxen fought for her. Protected her. Kept her mother from vacuuming her out of her teenage womb and flushing her down the toilet, instead of abandoning—

She’s not bitter.

“And wonderful employees,” Celia adds with a wink.

GM: “Ha. Well, wonderful boss,” Natalie smiles.

Celia: “Treat them like you’d want to be, that’s the secret. You know, like actual people.”

GM: “It vorks, zough so does brrown nosing,” says Anoushka as she walks into the lobby with her bag slung over her shoulder. Most of the employees are getting off or have gotten off by now.

“Oh, I wasn’t…” says Natalie.

“Ov course, comrrade, yust teasing,” smiles Anoushka.

Celia knows ‘Anoushka’ gets a kick out of seeing how ham-fistedly she can play the Russian persona before Natalie gets suspicious.

So far, the college girl hasn’t.

Celia: Few people do. Anoushka, already cunning on her own, learned further from the best.

“Out for the night, ’Nou?” Celia asks the ‘Russian.’ “Hot date?” She wiggles her eyebrows.

GM: “Da und da,” Anoushka only smiles back. “Vorrking late?”

Celia: “Always,” Celia mock sighs. “Have fun on your date while I slave away.”

GM: “Chase tvo rrabbits und you von’t ketch either vone,” the ‘Russian’ answers somberly, then smirks and bumps Natalie’s shoulder with her fist.

“Keep up ze fight, Comrrade Natalie.”

“Um, I’ll try.”

“I still don’t know what to say when she calls me comrade…” Natalie remarks after Anoushka’s left.

“It feels weird to call her comrade back, but weird not to call her anything.”

Celia: “I amuse myself by shortening her name into various forms every time we chat,” Celia offers.

GM: “Oh, maybe I’ll try that. ‘Oush?’”

Celia: “There you go.”

“Make jokes about vodka and bears, maybe.”

GM: “I’ll try that, then.” Natalie smiles and glances up at the clock. “I should be getting off soon, too… comrade.” She gives a faint giggle.

Celia: Celia grins.

“Da, comrade, iz time for you to go.” Her accent falls apart halfway through the sentence. “You can head out now if you’d like. I’ll wait for the girl and tomorrow we can try it out, that way you’re not standing around idly.”

GM: Natalie giggles some more at Celia’s accent. “Cool, thanks.”

“That’s a perk of working here, not much idly standing around,” smiles Piper as she walks into the lobby, also with her bag over her shoulder. She’s traditionally pretty. Long blonde hair, blue eyes, nice complexion. Thin from a history of eating disorders, with a penchant for working out that keeps her butt firm and her stomach flat now. Celia knows she likes to order kids meals, too, and claims that she can never finish what she orders, though that doesn’t keep her from slamming back margaritas like they’re going out of style.

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Her work at Flawless has kept her skin clean and clear, and Celia’s removed more than one blemish she’d developed through masking and extractions. Tattoos cover most of her, though nothing Celia can see above the neck. She wears her typical full face of makeup, along with spa-appropriate yoga pants, t-shirt, and tennis shoes.

“Oh, do you do that at other places?” asks Natalie.

“Yep,” answers Piper. “I worked at one with this points system where you had to pay points to leave early if you didn’t have a client.”

Natalie frowns faintly. “But why would they want you to stay if you don’t have clients…?”

Celia: “Last minute calls. Makes walk-ins easier on the desk. A lot of places use them to do side work, too. Laundry, sweeping, garbage. Technically if you’re an employee they can control your hours like that, but if you’re only making commission instead of hourly it’s a pretty awful system for the workers.”

“Plus, like, hire a service for all that.”

Celia expects her employees to clean up their own areas, but not the spa in general.

GM: Partners in Grime covers the rest.

Besides, there’s value in contracting with them even beyond the cleanliness.

“Yep,” says Piper. “Just more convenient for them. But kinda shows they don’t really care about you or your time.”

“That seems like a kinda depressing place to work,” says Natalie.

“Yeah, we might be cleaning the bathrooms there too,” says Piper, then smiles. “But hey! That isn’t where we work.”

Natalie looks more than a little nonplussed at the idea of cleaning bathrooms.

Celia: It’s not a very glamorous job. Not that Celia knows. She’s never been bent over on hands and knees to scrub at grime. That’s what the help is for.

GM: “We’ve had a couple clients who left the bathrooms really messy…”

Celia: “Everyone always says it’s boys who are gross, but if you’ve ever been to a bar you know girls are just as disgusting in bathrooms.” Celia wrinkles her nose.

GM: “Oh my god, they are!” agrees Piper. “I know a guy who worked at a coffee shop and cleaned the women’s bathrooms, and he said he once found a soiled diaper in the bin for tampons. He called it a ‘poop explosion.’”

“Instead of the trash.”

“The bin was metal and he had to clean the poop all out.”

Celia: “Ugh. That’s disgusting.”

GM: “Ewww!” says Natalie.

“He also said the women’s stall was once locked from the inside and he had to crawl underneath to unlock it.”

“He said he thought guys would do that, but not girls.”

Celia: “Assholes are an equal opportunity thing.”

GM: “He also said the only clogged toilet he had to deal with was the women’s.”

“Okay, I guess we are just as gross,” says Natalie.

Celia: “Randy complains I leave my hair in the drain in the shower,” Celia admits.

GM: “Ick. Also, um, I think I have to go study,” she says, pulling on her backpack.

“Oh. Sorry if we grossed you out!” says Piper.

“It’s okay. I actually do,” says Natalie.

“Okay. See ya!”

Celia: “Have a good night, Natalie.”

GM: “You too! And thanks so much for the Vixenary, Celia.” She smiles and heads out the door.

Celia: “No problem!” A beat of silence, then, “All women leave hair in the drain,” she mumbles to Piper as the girl disappears.

GM: “They dooo!” says Piper. “We have hair too.”

“Longer hair, usually.”

“Also, lemme guess, the Vixenary’s for… her face?”

Celia: “Figured we’d give it a go. Supposed to firm skin, reduce scar tissue, blah blah blah.”

GM: “She thinks her face is fat. It’s so sad! She has a great facial shape.”

Celia: “That’s what I said. It suits her personality, and having a round face doesn’t mean the rest of you is fat. And she’ll keep the elasticity for ages longer than people without as much…”

She shrugs.

“I guess I get it, though. We’re all appearance obsessed, why not her too.”

GM: “It’s a shape-lier shape than mine, I’m so jealous! Like you say, it ages better.”

Celia: “Piper, you’re gorgeous, I’m gonna need you to chill.”

GM: “Oh of course I’m gorgeous, I put a lot of effort into it,” the esthetician beams. “I’m just saying she has a great facial shape! Mine’s more rectangular, it won’t age as well.”

“And it’s really sad how she feels about it, she’s cried in the bathroom over how fat she is.”

“She says she has one instructor who called her a pig in a leotard, I get that dance is competitive and instructors are mean, but that’s just so cruel to say to a kid!”

Celia: Celia arches a brow.

“She mention which instructor?”

GM: Piper taps her lower cheek. “Mmm, lemme think, what was her name…”A few seconds pass. “Oh, Kowalski!”

She smiles as she successfully recalls that bit of gossip.

“I mean, she says all of her instructors can be pretty harsh, but that was the one who called her a pig.”

Celia: Celia tucks the name away. She doesn’t recognize it from her time there.

“That’s a really fucked up thing to say to anyone, especially a kid. No wonder she has body issues, Christ.”

GM: “Oh, yeah, it’s so sad. She says all of them can be mean. But some more than others.”

“That one time I worked on your mom, when you couldn’t make it, we talked a bit about dance. And she said it’s endemic to the culture, that instructors have this whole idea that being mean pushes you to be a better dancer.”

“It was really eye-opening! They all look so dainty and pretty but I guess bitches be bitches behind the scenes, right?”

Celia: “Elitist culture. Bleed for your art. That sort of thing.”

GM: “Yes, she said that’s exactly what it was! There’s this belief that if you aren’t suffering, you aren’t a really committed dancer.”

“And Natalie’s said stuff like that too.”

“So coming from two dancers, I really believe it.”

Celia: “It’s that whole ‘weak people quit’ thing. ‘Pain is weakness leaving the body’ or whatever macho bullshit guys at the gym say to excuse working out after they’ve pulled a muscle and are too pig-headed to take a break so they injure themselves further, because god forbid you rest your body for a week.”

Celia cuts off.

“I guess I get it. Prove you’re the best, right? That you can handle it.”

GM: “Yeah, I guess that’s it! And the whole obsession with being thin, sometimes I catch Natalie skipping lunch or purging in the bathroom, making herself throw up. Not all the time, since, obviously, she has college and dance and isn’t with us every day, but I kinda think that’s the only reason why not all the time.”

“Your mom told me 50% of all dancers have an eating disorder, 50%!”

Celia: “Yikes.” As if Piper didn’t do the same thing at her age. “That’s… wow. You mentioned the purging, thought maybe it was a one time thing… Hope the Vixen stuff works, I guess, all that vomiting is bad for the teeth.”

And teeth, unfortunately, are something Celia cannot fix.

GM: “I hope so! I think she’ll probably always think she’s too fat, though, that just seems like part of the culture.”

Celia: “A girl could weigh a buck ten and someone will still tell her she’s fat.”

GM: “I know! I wish there was something we could do but there kinda isn’t.”

Celia: There is. Celia will see to it.

GM: “I mean, I did it high school, you kinda only get over it with time. Or if there’s a big crisis.”

“Natalie told me there’s a girl in her ballet company and who also went to Tulane with her who had anorexia, and weighed only 79 pounds. 5’0” or something, but still. Got hospitalized and dropped out of the program."

Celia: “They’re insane,” Celia says with a shake of her head.

“I guess I just didn’t like dance enough to torture my body for it.”

GM: “I know.” Piper shakes hers too. “I bet she and your mom have even more horror stories.”

“Don’t blame you, though! Much happier to make other people pretty than to go through all that.”

Celia: “Less back stabbing, people are happy to see me… can’t complain.”

“Plus all the juicy gossip people bring in.”

GM: “Ohhh, speaking of back stabbing, at least kind of, did Natalie tell you about her clever plan?”

Celia: “No. What is it?”

GM: Piper grins and lowers her voice. “Okay, so, her family wants her to stop dance after college, right?”

“So, she’s got this whole plan, had it for a while.”

“Took a gap year after high school, but stayed in the city, to do volunteer stuff.”

“While also, oh, still doing dance.”

“And in college, she’s double majoring, because that takes an extra year.”

“Aaannnd she wants to go to grad school, because that’ll also take a few more years.”

Celia: “And she dances the whole time.”

GM: “Yep!”

Celia: “Ha. Clever.”

“I wonder if I should ‘offer extra hours because we need the help,’ make it sound like she has to go part time at school…”

GM: “It is! She says it’ll only last until she’s… what, 22 college, 23 double major, 24 gap year, 26 grad school, and you can still dance a while after 30, so she still has to quit early, and she’s still really sad about that. But I think she’s happier just to do it longer.”

“Also, you should tell her that! “The extra hours idea.”

She frowns. “Hm, but I dunno if her family would go for it, they seem like they expect ‘better things.’ Quote unquote.”

Celia: “Mm, we’re distantly related. Her family can’t really say that without insulting me and my industry.”

Not that she doesn’t expect them to anyway.

GM: “She didn’t say it directly or anything, I just got that whole vibe, that they expect her to get a degree and do something ‘respectable.’”

“Since, obviously, they don’t want her to dance for her career.”

Celia: “Better your child be unhappy than not respectable,” Celia says with a firm nod.

GM: “Yeah, we all say how parents are supposed to care about their kids being happy before anything else, but some parents just don’t care about that at all. I guess you’d know too.” Piper looks at her sympathetically.

Celia: Celia arches a brow at that.

GM: “Your dad, and all. I hear.”

Celia: “Did you? Natalie was asking me about him earlier. She seemed kind of… ah, not very well informed about it.”

GM: “Welll, technically not hear. But your mom doesn’t have a wedding ring. She comes in all the time, with Lucy. And he never does. And you never talk about him. I haven’t heard your mom or Lucy talk about him either.”

“And Emily’s evasive about it.”

“Just feel like that’s what it is.”

Celia: “Observant.” She smiles. “Yeah. My dad’s not in the picture. He, ah…” how had she phrased it earlier? “He’s an asshole.” Close enough.

GM: “I’m sorry. Isn’t my business. But, the girls here notice how your dad’s never once come in for a massage or anything.”

Celia: “We haven’t spoken in a number of years.”

GM: As if it not being her business has ever stopped Piper, though.

Celia: Not once.

GM: “Won’t try to tell you that having a business and a family and a boyfriend makes up for that,” she says. “I’m really sorry.”

Celia: “It happens. Not everyone gets a winning family. I’ve made do. And I don’t miss him, not anymore, so at this point it’s pretty much whatever. I made my own family.”

“He can die in a hole somewhere.”

GM: “You did,” smiles Piper. “I guess no one has it all. But you can have a lot!”

Celia: Celia does have it all, though: a loving mother, a dad she calls Ron that feels more like an old “bro” than a dad, a string of boyfriends and lovers, an adoptive sire, an adopted sister, a child who calls her mom, a grandsire that spoils her…

What else does a girl need, really?


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