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Blood & Bourbon

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Celia IIS, Chapter IV

The Cleaning Woman

“You see me. Not clean lady, not foreign, me.”
Estrellado Ortzi

Tuesday evening, 1 March 2016

GM: The offices of Ware & Lebowski occupy a high floor in a CBD skyscraper. They look nice, though like a lot of businesses, they’d evidently rather not hire a full-time janitor. That’s where Partners in Grime comes in. The middle-aged, short-haired woman who greeted Estrellado without saying hello (or referring to her by name) leads her through the office, post-business hours, and explains where she’s supposed to clean and how. Estrellado isn’t sure who the woman is or what she does at the law firm. She hasn’t even given her name. She just says things like, “Don’t touch anything inside the fridge, we’ll know if you stole any food,” “Make sure the trash is empty, even if the bin isn’t full. And make sure you change out the bag, some of you get lazy or think you’re saving the environment by dumping trash from different bins into the same bag.” “Scrub the parts of the toilet underneath the rim sink, our last cleaner skimped on that and we fired her.” “Change your mop water often. This place needs to be spotless.”

It goes on for a little while. They pass a few attorneys who look like they’re working late.

“Do you understand all of that?” the woman finally asks Estrellado in a very slow and patient voice like she’s speaking to a four-year-old.

Estrellado: If Estrellado is bothered by the way the woman speaks to her, no hint of it appears on her face. She follows along behind her impromptu tour guide and nods her head at all the right moments, a vague, simple smile in place.

“Si, seniora,” she says once the question is asked. “La basura, el bano, no como la comida. Si, comprendo.”

Somewhere in her mid-40s, the maid wears her age just as well as the uniform her boss has provided her. Charcoal slacks, charcoal top, both made of material as durable as the woman to whom they adorn. Black, they have found, all too often shows the residue of their work, but the gray hides all sorts of stains. A golden crucifix hangs just below the neckline of her shirt, the only ornament she allows herself. Thick, black hair pulled back from a weather-lined face, and in her hands the equipment she needs for the job: a veritable treasure trove of cleaning supplies.

(“Yes, ma’am. The garbage, the bathroom, don’t eat the food. Yes, I understand.”)

GM: The woman looks irritated.

“You’ll speak English and only English while you’re in these offices. Am I understood?”

Estrellado: Her vague smile never falters. She dips her head.

“Yes, thank you.” An accent might be more noticeable if any of the words contained more than one syllable.

GM: The woman doesn’t stick around, or for that matter say goodbye. Estrellado is left to go about her assigned tasks. The firm looks mostly empty at this hour. There’s an overweight and tired-looking woman at the reception desk who’s sipping a Diet Coke with an unhappy expression as she pinches her nose. “All right. You know what. You’re grounded for a week. No more fights at school, Zach,” she declares before hanging up.

Meanwhile, two late-working lawyers walk past Estrellado as though she’s invisible. Or at least, they seem to, until she feels a hand caress her bottom. One of the men winks at her.

Her cleaning supplies await.

Estrellado: Estrellado must be used to such things. The casual dismissal without so much as a goodbye. The inattention from the men, then the quick hand that sneaks across her rear. Who could blame him? It’s a shapely rear, made for grabbing. A solid handful, as thick as the rest of her: not so thick as to be overweight, but certainly the body of a woman somewhere past her prime. Heavy breasts that have fed who knows how many children sway beneath her shirt, her stomach rife with stretch marks from multiple pregnancies despite how toned she has kept it with years of yoga and Pilates. For all that, though, Estrellado is a handsome woman.

Her cheeks redden at the bold touch regardless of how fitting it may be, and once the men have moved past her she crosses herself, murmuring a silent prayer to the Lord above for tempting one of His flock.

Still, she glances over her shoulder as if she can’t help herself, then quickly away again once he has seen her looking. Seed planted, the maid begins her task. She finds the janitorial closet to fill her bucket with water, slaps on a pair of yellow rubber gloves that end just shy of her elbows, and gets to work.

Start high, work low. Wipe the dust and debris from above onto the floor to be swept and mopped away. That’s how it goes and that’s how she does it.

GM: It’s repetitive work, but it smells less than cleaning the toilets, and it’s less intensive than vacuuming. She works for a while. Back and forth, back and forth, dunk, wring, back and forth. The water in the mop bucket turns darker. A few people pass by without looking at Estrellado.

Eventually, the lawyer from earlier passes by again.

He doesn’t say anything. He just looks at her while she works, as though observing an animal in a zoo.

Estrellado: She makes sure to change out the water frequently, as requested. She’s a professional, after all. She doesn’t even look upset about the work, though once or twice when no one’s looking she might give herself a little boost of speed, careful to stay out of the way of cameras or other prying eyes.

But the eyes find her eventually. They always do, even in this face, this body. Estrellado looks up to see the man staring. She looks away just as quickly, focusing on her task, confirming that any smell coming off of her is well and truly hidden, sucking it in like others bring in their breath.

She doubles down on her task. As if she cannot feel the eyes on her. Wary, like the sleeping animal who knows it’s being watched, who expects the zoo-goer to tell it to wake up and do something interesting.

GM: The zoo-goer’s stare lingers.

Looking wary or faking sleep just makes it worse.

“Come clean my office when you’re done there,” he says. “It’s carpeted, but don’t bring a vacuum. Use a broom and dustpan.”

Estrellado: “Yes, thank you.” She nods agreeably, the same words she had said to the woman earlier in the same deferential tone, accent hidden by the short clip of her statement. The response had been almost awkward before; now it is downright out of place, as if it is the only thing she knows to say in this tongue. She pauses, brows knitting together as she puzzles out further words with which to communicate.

Eventually she gives it up as a bad job altogether, simply nodding again and watching him walk toward whichever door it is so she knows where to find him.

She continues her work once he is gone, sweeping and mopping until the floor shines.

GM: The man gives Estrellado a look, but it’s partly amused. He turns and leaves. His office is a little ways off.

Some more time passes until she’s finished mopping. It’s a good job, not that anyone will ever tell her so.

Estrellado: Nothing by half measures. A wise man had once said that. A white man, probably. She’d heard it on the news, maybe seen it on TV; regardless of how it had come across her ears it had certainly stuck, and Estrellado beams at the floor that is now clean enough to eat off of.

She rinses the mop, wrings it dry with strong, sturdy hands, and rinses the bucket as well. Cleaning gear at her side, she moves across the wet floor with practiced ease, making sure to tidy along the way so she does not need to double back. Garbage bins emptied, bags replaced, tables and chairs wiped down, spare papers sorted into things that are useful and garbage, the latter disposed of, the former tucked away in their proper location after her eyes have scanned the page.

She does not leave her would-be suitor waiting overlong. She knocks on the open door just below his name plaque, taking it in at a glance, and pokes her head inside to seek him out. She hefts the dustpan, the broom, the other supplies.

“I clean?” Her tone lifts at the end. She gestures toward his desk, the assorted furniture, the walls, the floor.

GM: Eugene Lebowski, reads the name on the door.

The man who must be Eugene is sitting at his computer behind his desk. It’s a nice desk in a nice office, with full bookshelves and framed degrees and awards. There’s a good view over the rest of the CBD from the window.

Eugene looks Estrellado over. His eyes reach her face, then drift back down to her chest.

“You clean,” he responds with a faintly amused tone.

“Use a brush when you do the floor. Not a broom.”

“Do the floor first, too.”

Estrellado: Eugene Lebowski. And Lebowski is one of the names on the firm. A partner, then? Junior partner? Nice enough office, anyway; she doubts that they’d waste the view on someone who isn’t bringing in the big bucks. She thinks the other Lebowski might be older than this one, which would make him… a son? Nephew? Connected, anyway, that’s all that matters.

Estrellado dips her head in acquiescence, moving into the room with her supplies. She starts to lay down a small cloth to preserve the carpeting so she can set her things down when his words interrupt her. Floor first? Surprise flits across her face. She makes an abortive gesture to the walls, the bookshelves, his desk, and finally just nods her head, rolling the cloth and stuffing it back into her uniform pocket.

A brush on the floor. She has one, like all of the maids at Partners in Grime, and she gets to work. Hands and knees. She starts in one corner of the office, back to him, bent over to scrub at the floor with the tiny brush that she knows isn’t really doing anything to help clean the carpet fibers. Is it a show he wants? It’s a show she’ll give him, and a show she’ll get in turn. She turns it on, that inner charm, that thing that makes people see her how she wants them to: just a maid with admittedly poor English skills, the perfect person to whom he can speak with no fear of her repeating anything he says. The poor woman probably doesn’t understand him anyway.

GM: It’s not long before the turned-away maid feels a hand on her rear again.

It’s passive at first, like earlier, then starts to hungrily squeeze her glutes.

Estrellado: Estrellado falters in her movements at the touch before doubling down, scrubbing vigorously at the floor. Heat floods her cheeks.

GM: Another hand starts to squeeze and massage her breasts.

“You like that?” murmurs a voice in her ear.

The hand on her ass doesn’t let up.

Estrellado: She finally pauses. Wide eyes stare at the wall in front of her rather than risk a glance back at the hungry predator behind her. She wets her lips with her tongue, searching for her voice, for the English words. The woman’s speak English or else threat looms in her mind, but still the words don’t come. Mutely, she nods her head, fingers moving to the cross at her throat. She touches it for strength.

GM: “I thought you did,” murmurs the voice. His hands continue to fondle her.

“You used to be beautiful. I can tell. You’re still very pretty.”

Estrellado: Her lashes flutter at the compliment, not that he can see with her face turned away. Beneath her shirt her nipples stiffen at his touch. She’s just a woman, after all, she can hardly control herself around such an important man. Her neck turns, eyes flicking toward the door of his office. She murmurs a string of words that sound like, “yes, thank you.”

GM: “Aw, yeah, you like that…” the important man murmurs. He pulls her up from the floor and back against his chest. His hand continues to make steady kneading motions along her breasts. Estrellado can feel a bulge against her rear that isn’t coming from his other hand. He starts to kiss the side of her face.

“What’s your name, hm?”

Estrellado: She follows his lead, rising as he wishes, holding herself still in front of him. Her eyes dart again toward the door, nervous that anyone can walk by and see. His touch elicits soft noises from her, the kind he wants to hear.

“Es… Estrellado,” she tells him, tongue curling and tapping against the back of her teeth to roll her R, then flattening out for the double L / Y sound. Then, perhaps assuming he cannot make the same sounds, she says, “Star.”

GM: “Star,” he repeats as he kisses and caresses her. “What a pretty name. Just reflax, Star. Lean into me. I’ve got you.”

Estrellado: Estrellado does not fight against him. She knows how it is with these rich, powerful men: submit or they make things worse. They complain. They get her fired and she has to start all over again at the bottom.

“La puerta,” she gets out, pointing at the door. Her heart thumps inside her chest, blood rushing through her body. It colors her cheeks, warms her skin where he touches her, stiffens her nipples and that other thing down below, that tiny little bundle of nerves between her legs. “La puerta,” she says again, “por favor.”

(“The door. The door, please.”)

GM: “Hm, what’s that, Star?” he asks, tilting her read to kiss the other side of her face. His hand pulls away from her breasts, but only long enough to snake its way up her shirt. He starts to pinch and tug her nipple from underneath the gray fabric.

“I’m afraid I never learned Spanish. It was high school French for me.”

Estrellado: Estrellado’s head drops back against his shoulder when his fingers slip beneath her shirt, leaning into him as he had previously requested. She bites her lip to keep quiet when he pinches and tugs, breath coming in short, uneven gasps. She struggles to find the word.

“Gate,” she says finally.

GM: “Gate?” he asks, his other hand leaving her ass to stroke her hips. It slowly draws closer to between her thighs.

“That’s a good girl, Star,” he smiles as her head rubs against him. “Lean into me. I’m here.”

Estrellado: “Si, si, la puerta.” She points again at the door, rifling through the vocabulary lessons she had taken as a child. Finally, it clicks. “Door? Por favor.”

GM: “Door. Oh, door.” The man chuckles and tussles her hair. He turns and takes a few steps backwards, half-pulling her along with him. Star feels his beard brush against the back of her head. His hand leaves her leg to close the door.

“That was smart of you to notice, Star. You’re very thoughtful.”

Estrellado: The tension leaves her body. He might catch the smile, the relieved sigh, before she falls right back into what he was doing a moment ago. Pliant, willing, like a good maid. She nods her head at his words.

GM: His hand makes its way back up her shirt.

“Aw, yeah, you’re really enjoying this,” he smiles. “I bet you’ve had a rough day, haven’t you, Star? Maybe we should sit down.”

He pulls her along with him to his leather swivel chair, back still against his chest. He sits down and pulls her onto his lap.

“You like that, being off your feet?”

Estrellado: He doesn’t need to do much tugging to get her to follow him. She traipses along behind him, then sits, thighs spread to the side to give room to his hand, head resting gently against his shoulder.

Another nod at his question, a murmur of those three English words she sticks to. Yes, thank you. She presses her lips together as he fondles her, fingers curling into her thighs.

GM: “It’s good for you to relax like this, Star. You’ve earned a break.” He pulls off her shoes, then her socks, and pulls her legs onto the chair so she’s sitting on his lap cross-legged. He starts to tickle her bare feet with one hand while his other kneads her breasts.

Estrellado: Thick thighs cross over his lap, body curled against his as she watches this man—this strange man—touch her in a way she must not have expected. The words wash over her, their message or tone setting her at ease. And then the onslaught of sensation, the tickling, the fondling. Estrellado giggles. It’s not the giggle of a schoolgirl but rather the giggle of an older woman, throaty and surprised all at once, cut through by a delicate exhale when his hand returns to her breasts. She shifts, hips wiggling as he tickles her, pressing and rubbing against the firm length beneath her as if she simply cannot help herself.

GM: His manhood is very stiff beneath her. She hears his smile in her ear. “Aw, yeah, that laugh. You’ve got beautiful laughter, Star. There’s a lot of life in your laugh.”

“Tell me about yourself. I’m very interested. You’re such a hard worker. I bet you’ve got a family you’re providing for, am I right? A little girl or boy who you’d do anything for. Maybe several. You work your fingers to the bone for them, don’t you, Star?”

He still tickles her feet, a little, though his touch lightens so she can more easily talk.

Estrellado: It’s difficult for her to speak with her attention divided as it is between his hands and the body beneath her. Her task is made all the worse by her limited grasp of the English language, though at least he does not keep her giggling away on his lap. But she nods her head, chewing over the words.

“Si. Mis hijos, estan mi familia, mi vida.” There’s a fondness in her voice, even if he doesn’t understand the words. “Dos.” She holds up two fingers, then counts aloud, hesitant. “Two. Boys. Estan en…” she trails off, then says, “Baton Rouge. La universidad.” That word, at least, is easy enough to understand: university.

GM: “University,” he repeats, hands still steadily kneading her breasts. “I bet you must be very proud of them, Star. I bet you’ve worked so hard to get them where they are now. Everyone says Mexicans are lazy, but they’re some of the hardest workers I know.”

“For that matter, are you Mexican? Or are you from somewhere south?”

Estrellado: Estrellado laughs. “Estoy de Guatemala.”

GM: “Guatemala. My tropical little Star,” smiles the man. He sniffs her hair.

Estrellado: It smells like coconut and something citrus. The scent might take him right to the beach, the tropical little paradise. Maybe he can even hear the waves crashing on the sand. Estrellado smiles at him, nodding her head. Yes, she is a hard worker, proud of her boys, his little tropical Star.

GM: “Mmm, you smell very nice, Star,” he murmurs, taking another moment to breathe in her scent. “I love a woman who smells good.” His hand actually pauses around her breast as he does. Then it leaves off as he reaches into his jacket pocket, removes a wallet, and presses her a handful of $20 bills into her palms.

Estrellado: She blinks down at the bills in her hands. On his lap as she is she cannot quite turn to face him, and it seems the words have been stolen from her throat because she does not ask. Her fingertips touch the bills as if marveling at their texture.

“¿Que es esto?” she finally gets out.

GM: “Sorry, Star?” he asks.

Estrellado: A moment of silence, then, “What this for?”

GM: “Because I like you, Star. You’re a hard worker with a pretty laugh who smells very nice.”

Estrellado: A hard worker with a nice ass whose feet he likes to tickle, who doesn’t complain too much when he pulls her onto his lap.

She blinks back what might be tears, nodding her head, murmuring a string of words in Spanish that convey her thanks and gratitude for his generosity. Her voice is thick with emotion.

GM: “Oh, it’s okay, Star. You’re very pretty. People should do nice things for you.”

Estrellado: The bills disappear into one of the many pockets of her uniform with another word of thanks, fingers touching the cross that hangs from her neck. A quiet moment passes, a moment where she doesn’t know what to say; this was not the turn that she expected. Silent, her back rests against his chest once more.

GM: His hand strokes her hair. “I want you to look pretty, Star. Open the bottom cabinet on my desk. There’s a surprise for you inside.”

Estrellado: Estrellado leans forward to open the cabinet door in question.

GM: Eugene strokes her back as she does. Inside she finds a French maid’s costume, black and lacy white with a low hem and high skirt. There’s also some stockings and black high heels. They smell faintly like the same cleaning supplies she uses.

“Very sexy, isn’t that, Star? I’d love to see you with it on.”

Estrellado: Color rises to her cheeks at the sight of what waits for her. She closes her eyes for a brief moment before nodding, understanding now that this is simply the second part of a transaction that she has already accepted from him.

She could give the money back. Leave. Let someone else take this account in the future.

Someone else who will be subjected to the same things, she thinks. She swallows, says a silent prayer to the Lord, and finally nods once more.

“¿Ahora?” A pause, then the question repeated in English. “Now?”

Now, she means, or later? His own home where they’d have assured privacy?

GM: “Now,” he says. “I want you to look sexy, Star. I bet you do too. When was the last time you felt really sexy?”

Estrellado: Before her husband died. The words clench in her throat.

Estrellado slips off of his lap and reaches for the garments and props, rising with a sweep of her eyes around the room as if searching for a place to change.

GM: Eugene just smiles and turns around in his swivel chair.

“I promise I’ll only peak a little,” he says teasingly.

Estrellado: She makes quick work of her uniform, stripping from her shirt and pants to stand in just the bra and panties she wore beneath. Neither one of them looks as if they belong with the uniform he provided. The panties, at least, will not show beneath the hem, and Estrellado keeps those on but removes her bra, tucking it beneath her uniform top and pulling the costume on over herself. She turns away from him at his comment, entire body flushing, and deftly pulls the stockings up her legs. The elastic band snaps tight around her thigh. Then the heels. Her size. Why is it all her size? Does he do this with every woman who comes to clean, or is this one of those Halloween one-size-fits-most getups?

After a brief moment of consideration she pulls her hair free from its tie, running her fingers through the top of it to tousle her locks and give it a little volume. Finally, she turns around, clearing her throat.

GM: Eugene swivels back around. He grins from ear to ear.

“Wow, Star. You can really knock ’em dead.”

Estrellado: She crosses an arm in front of her stomach, hand clutching her other arm, shoulders lifting as a shy smile crosses her face. Her lashes flutter.

She glances at her cleaning supplies, then him.

“I clean?”

GM: He laughs.

“Take off your panties, first. I can still see those.”

Estrellado: Estrellado glances down at herself. Flushing, knowing that he won’t turn away again, she reaches beneath the hem of her skirt to grasp her panties and slides them down her stocking-clad legs and to the floor, stepping out of them with her heeled feet. Her movements are slower than they strictly need to be.

GM: “Oooh, yeah,” Eugene grins. “You’re so sexy, Star. And bashful. It’s cute. You’re a real treasure, you know that? I feel like I’m the first man to discover you. I bet most men don’t see what I see, when they look at you. The bright, beautiful Star who’d do anything for her boys.”

Estrellado: For all that this has caused undue embarrassment, his words hit home. Another nod, a soft and earnest smile. Just for him. Because he discovered this beautiful Star beneath the drab outerwear and yellow gloves and scent of bleach. She gestures toward the walls, the desk, the bookshelves, taking a handful of tiny steps backwards to stand adjacent to her supplies. She doesn’t have the “feather duster” of the proverbial French maid, but she does have something similar. She bends at the waist, giving him a glimpse beneath the skirt, as she picks it up.

GM: Eugene gives an appreciative whistle.

“Good idea, Star. I suppose you should do some actual cleaning, now that you’re here.” He chuckles. “And in uniform.”

“Walk around a lot, please. I want to see the way those shoes makes your hips sway. There’s nothing to make a woman feel sexy like a good sashay of her hips, is there, Star?”

Estrellado: She does not disappoint. She toes the careful line between the bashful woman he has met at the sexy maid of his apparent dreams, never blatantly showing off any of her bits again as she had moments ago. Her hips sway as she walks around the office in her heels, cleaning while she goes. The areas she dusts and wipes are spotless in no time; even when playing this role for him she still does her job, listening to him speak, nodding her head in agreement with his words. When she catches him staring—which is often—she blushes and looks away, only to look back again when she thinks that he isn’t.

GM: Eugene mentions how much he appreciates Latina women. They’re hard workers, and they care so much about their families.

“One of my daughters is half-Latina, actually,” he mentions absently as he watches her work.

He is very hard by the time she’s done. He pats his lap invitingly.

Estrellado: Daughters. With an S. Multiple. The word might give her pause, but if it does it’s brief. She glances at his hands as she nears him, looking for a ring.

Once she reaches him, though, she doesn’t drape herself over his lap. She still has a desk to clean. She stands in front of him, back to him, bent slightly while she dusts and wipes down the assorted knickknacks and surfaces. Her eyes rove the assembled papers as she straightens and tidies and otherwise makes herself look busy, teasing him with her nearness and the round swell of her rear beneath the skirt, barely visible with her half-bend, without acknowledging what she does.

GM: Estrellado sees a ring. There’s also a picture on the desk she cleans, showing Eugene at the beach with a blonde-haired white woman around his age, a brown-haired older girl, and a darker-haired younger girl.

Eugene squeezes her ass with both of his hands, this time, then leans close and rubs his cheek against it.

“Such a firm, shapely rear…”

There’s a number of papers on the desk. Estrellado sees several references to a ‘Sleepless Investigations.’

Estrellado: This would hardly be the first married man to fool around. Men have needs, and if they’re unhappy at home… well, at least she knows that her womb will not quicken. Her child-bearing days are over with her boys in college. Less messy to do it here, with her, than it would be if he found a random girl on the street. She barely pays the photo any mind, and when he touches her again, when he presses his cheek against hers, she hardly pauses in her work. She giggles, the sound warm and inviting, and leans further across the desk to reach the other side, bent at the waist. She’s very thorough. The hem slides further up, exposing more of her tan skin.

Maybe her skin serves as enough of a distraction to get her a better read on those pages, too, to find out what the law office wants with a Kindred detective.

GM: It looks as if they’ve hired Sleepless to do investigative work for them. Gathering information clients and persons of interest to clients, by the looks of things. They’ve paid the detective agency very generously. Estrellado espies the names ‘Bernard Drouillard’ and ‘Thalia Ocampo.’ It looks like there might be even more, but Eugene runs his hand along her ass’ bare skin and pulls her onto his lap.

“Let’s play a game,” he smiles.

He removes a quarter from his wallet.

“For every quarter you can catch, I’ll order you something off Cadabra. Does that sound like a fun game, Star?”

He chuckles. “And you can keep the quarters, I suppose. Good for laundry.”

Estrellado: The name Drouillard is familiar to her, though she can’t place it off the top of her head. Cop, she thinks, but she’d have to look into that further. Ocampo… something in politics, city council? She commits the names to memory, letting go of the pretense of cleaning once Eugene has her back on his lap. The hem rides up her thighs, bare skin against his lap.

She listens to his proposal. He wants to play catch? She seems to consider it, then nods when he laughs, her smile lighting up her features. She likes games, that smile says.

“Catch,” she repeats the word. “Con mis manos?” She holds up her hands, brows lifted.

GM: He smiles and nods, running a hand through her hair. Estrellado feels his hard cock against her again. “Like that, Star. You catch the coin, and I’ll buy you something.”

“Let’s start you off pretty easy…”

He holds up the quarter, then flips it into the air above them.

Estrellado: Estrellado watches the coin shoot into the air, flipping over and over itself before it hits its peak and begins its descent. She positions her hands beneath it.

GM: She catches it cat-quick. “Well done, Star!” Eugene exclaims, giving her head a proud pat. He pulls open Cadabra’s app on his phone. “What’s something you could really use right now?”

Estrellado: Estrellado beams at him. She watches his fingers tap across the screen of his phone—thanks for the code—then watches him navigate to the shopping app. She taps on the screen if he lets her, scrolling to find the bottle of perfume she’d had her eye on for some time now. One of those old-fashioned glass bottles. Pretty. Vintage. Like her.

GM: He smiles back, lets her, then tells her to hit the ‘Buy with One Click.’ icon.

“That’s very pretty, Star. Just like you.”

He gets out another quarter, asks, “Ready?” and flips it after its predecessor.

This time it hits the carpet with a thump.

“Aw, good effort,” says Eugene as Estrellado’s hands clap after it. He gives her back a consoling rub. “Don’t worry, though. I’ve got at least another quarter left…”

He produces another one and flips it into the air.

This time Estrellado goes after it with a vengeance. It’s barely left his hands before it’s in hers, cat-quick.

“Very good, Star!” Eugene exclaims, giving her head another pat. “What should we get you this time?”

Estrellado: Estrellado considers the question, eyes darting between the coin in her hands and his open phone app. She scrolls, murmuring something under her breath in Spanish, and finally hits the electronics button at the top of the screen. For a long moment she stares wistfully at the selection of cameras before she navigates away. She hits the L key and lingerie auto-completes in the search function, bringing up a page of scantily clad models. Her cheeks flush. She starts to navigate away but pauses before she can complete the gesture, finally pointing at a burgundy set.

GM: “Naughty Star,” laughs Eugene. “Very naughty.”

“I think we can still get you this, but you’ll have to let me see you in it. Deal?”

Estrellado: She gives him a sly smile, then taps her chin as if she has to consider it for a long moment, before finally nodding.

“Deal,” she echoes.

GM: Eugene laughs again at her expression, then hits the ‘Buy with One Click’ button.

“Okay, Star, I’m running low on quarters, but let’s see how you can do when I up the ante. You can ask for something extra nice if you catch this one…”

Eugene produces another quarter and tosses it into the air. Just as Estrellado grabs for it, he gives her bottom a sharp pinch.

The surprise nearly makes Estrellado miss the coin, but she still snatches it out of the air.

“Bravo, Star!” Eugene remarks, clapping his hands appreciatively.

Estrellado: “Aie!” she exclaims at the sudden pinch, waiting until she has caught the coin to turn accusing eyes toward him. “Dios mio.” She looks more satisfied and pleased with herself than truly upset at his attempt to distract her.

GM: Eugene chuckles at the noise she makes. “Yes, you’ve earned something special for that catch. What should we get you, Star?” He pulls up his phone again.

Estrellado: She scrolls. She points at a pin, a butterfly with blue and purple wings. Shyly, she points at her own chest, as if showing him where she’d like to wear it. Perhaps he noticed her lack of jewelry, the simple cross she wears around her neck. Another tap on his phone has a new category pulled up. She considers her options and finally taps on a pair of heels. Red-bottomed Louboutins.

GM: “Very sweet, Star. And very sexy. You’ll look beautiful in both of these,” says Eugene as he places the order.

“Hmm. You’ve cleaned my office and caught my quarters. What do you think we should get up to next, pretty Star?”

Estrellado: The rest of the office is mostly clean, too. She only needs to take the trash with her on the way out the door to deposit in the dumpster and do a quick stop in the bathrooms to finish what that wretched woman had said earlier.

Now, though, she’s on the lap of a man that’s very happy to see her, and she’s pleased with her haul. Lingerie, heels, and a promise that he wants to see her again, plus the two other trinkets. She shifts on his lap, rubbing against him, the hem of her skirt not even pretending to hide what lurks beneath. She flicks a tongue across her lips, shyly turning to look at him over her shoulder. Her brows lift, eyes darting toward the desk. As if she cannot believe what she’d just “suggested” she glances away.

GM: And the money, too.

Eugene laughs. “You have a very naughty mind, Star. But you’re so bashful about it. I bet there was at least one man you made very happy, when you were young.”

“That’s still there. It just needs something to coax it out…”

Estrellado: Estrellado nods her head at his statement. She had been very happy once. Her husband had made her so happy. She reaches for a pocket that doesn’t exist in this new uniform he has put her in, searching for a photo that is halfway across the room in the pile of her clothing. Out of reach, and despite his kind words she does not think he’d like her to get off of him to retrieve it.

“Mi esposo,” she says in lieu of the photo. “Matteo.” She touches her heart, a fond smile on her lips. “Y usted? Esta feliz?”

She shifts, watching his face. Slowly, she reaches to touch his face, the question in her eyes that she cannot find the words to.


GM: “Matteo. I knew there was someone.” He smiles, but it dips a little at her question. “My younger daughter has run off. There’s a lot of stress in the family, over that.”

Estrellado: She glances again at the photo on his desk. The quick look she’d taken earlier had made her see them as children, but maybe she hadn’t wanted to really look into the life of the man who seems content to throw away his marriage on a fling with a maid.

GM: “They’re older now,” he says. “Both in college. Or at least one is.”

Estrellado: She nods at his explanation. That makes more sense. Is that why he’d brought in Monty? Maybe it’s a personal thing rather than a business thing. She studies the face in the photo and commits it to her memory, before finally turning her attention to the man beneath her.

Times like these she could curse herself for not learning the language fluently. She’s sure he doesn’t want some broken, half-formed words, but it’s all she has to offer. She murmurs them in Spanish, voice conveying what her vocabulary lacks: sorrow at the loss of his daughter, assurance that she is safe and will come home, a brief prayer to the Lord to watch over her. She touches a hand to his shoulder, expression earnest.

It’s less the words than it is the emotion behind them that she lets do the work for her, sending it out of her in a wave of solidarity. She knows what it’s like to lose someone. She’s a mother too. He can talk to her if he wants, unburden himself. She’s already listened to the rest of it, played his games, knew exactly what she was getting into when she came into his office earlier. Now here she sits, a friendly ear if he needs it.

GM: His cock isn’t hard anymore, but he nods gratefully at her words, even half-coherent as they are. The emotion probably shows on her face.

“She was always getting into trouble,” he says. “Intoxication, bad grades, you name it. We tried to keep her on the straight and narrow, had her room together with her older sister, but it wasn’t enough. She took off. My other daughter blames herself. She’s taken it worse than I have, it actually feels like.”

“My wife, her stepmother, was always very kind to her. She didn’t want for anything growing up. I’m not sure where we went wrong.”

Estrellado: It might not have been anything they’d done, she knows. It could just be something else. There are lots of reasons that people go missing, not always by their own free will.

She lets him talk, lets him unburden himself. Hesitant hands slide around him, prepared for him to push her off if he’d rather not be touched, but until that time she nestles against him. Pulls him close, lets him rest his head against her. I’ve got you, like he’d said to her earlier. The delicate touch of her fingers trail up and down his back, movements slow and soothing.

GM: It’s a little odd, with her dressed in the French maid costume, but Eugene doesn’t push her off and seems to enjoy appreciate touch. He mentions how he had his younger daughter during a not-quite affair with his housekeeper—“my wife and I separated, then decided we’d give things another shot. She happened in between then. Lisa always loved her like her own daughter, though. I just don’t understand why she was always acting out. Her sister turned out very successful.”

He also mentions that his name is Stan, not Eugene, actually. “Lebowski just retired. I got his office. They still need to put in the new lettering.”

Estrellado: She doesn’t comment on the fact that she would be the second woman he’d be seeing behind his wife’s back. Though she supposes that a child from a housekeeper isn’t necessarily “behind her back.” Does he have a thing for women in uniform? She keeps it to herself. Her fingers work down his spine while he talks, gently gliding over the muscles, down, then back up, until one hand cradles the back of his head where it rests against her bosom, nails lightly scratching at his scalp. The other continues down his back.

She makes the right noises at the right time in lieu of words, soft, crooning things that let him know she’s listening, that she feels for him, that she understands his pain. She thinks she might understand where the girl is coming from, why she’s acting out, but she keeps that to herself too rather than try to explain in broken English.

When he’s done, or when she thinks he’s done, she finally speaks. “You okay. Family okay. Hija, daughter, she okay.” Estrellado taps his chest. “Strong heart. Latina? Strong. Como se llama?” A pause. “Nom… ah, name, her name.”

GM: “Strong heart.” He smiles. “I guess you’re right. She has that. Gets it from her mom, like you say.”

“Her name’s Summer.”

Estrellado: Summer. She nods. Smiles back at him. Her hand moves from the back of his head to her chest, fingers closing around the golden cross. She whispers something in rapid Spanish that sounds like it might be a prayer, Summer’s name among the blessing she asks for from the Lord. When it’s done she bows her head for just a second. That coconut and citrus smell drifts towards him again, the suggestion of better times.

GM: Stan is quiet for the prayer, bowing his head in tune with Estrellado’s words. He strokes her hair when she’s finished.

“You’re so kind, Star. And so pretty. And such a hard worker. You’re a real treasure, you know that?”

Estrellado: Estrellado smiles at the words. She leans into his touch. If this is what he needs to forget his missing daughter, to feel better for an evening, she won’t be the one to tell him he’s wrong. Lord knows she’s made enough poor choices in her lifetime. Her eyes close at the gentle caress, then reopen to glance towards his lips. She flushes, dropping her gaze.

GM: His lips meet hers as he pulls her close, arms encircling her. His hands stroke up and down her back.

“Oh, my kind, pretty Star… you need a man who’ll treat you right…” he murmurs between kisses.

Estrellado: Heat meets his words. Her prior shyness bleeds away once their lips meet, taken over by the latin fire he had been searching for. She might not have words for him, but this? This she can do.

“Si,” she murmurs, “por favor. Muestrame.” Does he understand her? Does it matter? This language is universal. Her hands start at the top of his shirt to loosen his tie, then the buttons on his shirt. One by one she pops them free.

GM: The shirt comes off as he unbuckles his pants. He doesn’t pull off her clothes, just hitches her skirt above her thighs. He sweeps back the assorted objects on his desk, helps her onto it, and takes her there. There isn’t a ton of room: Estrellado hugs herself against him as he thrusts into her, still standing. His balls steadily smack against her thighs.

“That’s it… that’s my shining Star…” he breathes, still running one hand through her hair.

He pulls down the front of her costume to get a good look at her tits. He rubs his face against them, tongue flecking out to lick and suck her nipples.

Estrellado: Her thighs spread around him, hem hiking up to expose the wet, glistening sex waiting for him. As soon as he’s inside her back arches, arms holding herself tightly against him, mouth at his lips, his cheek, his neck. Her breath is warm against his ear when she repeats a handful of exclamations in her native tongue, urging him on. She isn’t shy about sharing her enjoyment. She wants to rake her nails down his back, wants to sink her teeth into the pulse point that jumps out at her, but the thought of where she is, whose name had been on the papers that were just shoved aside so casually, keep her from taking him into herself in another way. So she writhes and she gasps and she grinds against him until she finds release, a shuddering, needful thing that brings on a fresh round of Spanish cries as it flows through her body.

GM: It doesn’t take Stan much longer to find his own release. He pumps faster and then comes inside her, hugging her tight against his body. His cum starts to leak out as he pulls her back onto the chair with him, still holding her close as he breathes in the scent of her hair.

“Oh, Star…”

Estrellado: Thighs already sticky with the fluids leaking out of her, Estrellado curls atop his lap with her arms around his back, face pressing against the hollow between neck and shoulder. His repetition of her name receives another string of breathy, murmured words against his skin, lips soft where they brush against him. His name passes from her lips amid the rest of them, a breathy sigh that conveys her satisfaction.

GM: “Star, Star, Star. What are we to do with you?” he smiles as he holds her. “I’ve ruined your workday. The rest of it is going to seem so boring after this.”

Estrellado: That’s certainly true. She hardly imagines snooping through another office or planting a device will give her the same sort of enjoyment that this did. If only she weren’t worried about getting caught by one of the licks who apparently has dealings with him, she’d make it even better for both of them.

She giggles at the words, nodding her head in agreement, and finally asks, “What are you want to do with me?” Her brows lift.

GM: “Mmm, I wouldn’t mind doing this again, but I’m not as young as I used to be,” he smiles.

“You were so wet. We didn’t even need lube.”

Estrellado: Another giggle, a string of words that might give him credit for making her that way if her tone is anything to go by. She runs a hand down his chest, then leans in to nibble at his ear.

“Next time, go again?” A gesture with her hands that shows him what she’d like to try next time, though her eyes quickly dart away and pink splashes across her cheeks.

“Meantime… you,” she points at him, as if there is any doubt who she is speaking of, “need relaxing.” Her fingers brush against his shoulders, the top of his back. “Here, tight.” They slide lower, down his traps. “Here, tight.”

GM: He laughs. “Again, next time.”

“You want to do something about that tightness, Star?”

Estrellado: “I? Oh, no, no…” she trails off, looking around the office as if a table will magically appear. She shakes her head, glancing back at Stan. “Necessita un masaje de profesion. Pues… tel vaz en mi casa… no, no, no…” Casa, at least, is an easy one that even non-Spanish speakers recognize as “home” or “house.”

GM: “A house might be tricky. My wife lives there,” he chuckles. “Maybe a hotel room.”

“We could do this in an actual bed. Order room service. Would you like that, Star, someone else to do the cooking for once?”

Estrellado: Estrellado would, anyway. She considers the question, hesitation evident in the way her gaze shifts, shoulders lifting… and finally, finally, she gives a tiny nod, as if he’s presenting her with some shiny toy that she fears he’ll snatch away as soon as she reaches out to touch it. Still, there’s an earnest sort of hope and desire in her eyes when she finally looks back at him, a shy smile giving lift to the corners of her mouth.

GM: “See? That’s my shining Star,” he says, stroking her lower cheek with his fingertip as if to feel her smile. “You really are a treasure…”

Estrellado: A glance at the clock on his wall tells her that she needs to finish the rest of this job. She’s already spent quite a bit of time in here with him. She says as much, interspersed between tiny little kisses across his cheek and lips, murmured Spanish phrases about what she’d like to do to him next time when they have more room to play. Deft fingers re-button his shirt and straighten his tie, and finally, not yet moving from his lap, she asks when he’d like to see her again.

GM: Stan doesn’t look as if he wants her to go, not after her teasing touch and teasing words, or the taste of her tongue in his mouth when he leans in for a deeper kiss. But his own glance at the clock seems to resign him as to that fact.

“Hmm. How about when your presents arrive, Star?” He gives her the date, a few days away.

Estrellado: Another nod at the date, readily agreeing to the meeting. A final kiss, fingers sliding through the back of his hair, wordlessly letting him know that she’s looking forward to seeing him again. At last she slides off of him, moving around the desk to pick up the items their tryst had displaced and setting them back in their rightful place. She changes back to her uniform and sees herself out with a parting smile, moving on to the rest of the law offices.

GM: He’s right about one thing.

The rest of her cleaning won’t be anywhere nearly as fun.

Wednesday evening, 2 March 2016

Celia: The office where Jade meets the pair of brothers is cramped, a space leftover from their days of not having enough. She’d offered once to get them something bigger, to give them more room to stretch out for their things, but the oldest had just given her a look and said something about “knowing where everything is” and “less room for bugs.” She doesn’t know who would bug them. For all anyone else knows, they’re simply a pair of brothers that work for their mom at her bail bond office. No one knows that they work for her, that she has a second pair of ghouls beyond the first two that accompany her around the city. Lucky for her she found triplets, she supposes; lucky for her that they don’t seem to mind passing for their youngest brother whenever she needs them to accompany her. The middle one even seems to get off on it, playing up the “dumb lovestruck fool” that his little brother becomes around her. He might have been just as star struck if it weren’t for their regular meetings.

She wears Jade’s face instead of Celia’s when she visits, takes a seat on the leather couch against the wall and crosses one leg over the other. The middle brother closes and locks the door, the older one swivels to face her, his back to the wall of monitors where he does most of his work. The blue glow of the screen lights him from behind, throws a sort of halo around his body that shrouds his face in darkness. It might be unnerving if she couldn’t see perfectly well in the dark. She thinks he’s more at home with computers than he has ever been with people. Reminds her of an old friend that way, though she’s never said as much. She thinks the pair might get along.

Jade fixes them with a smile.

“Good evening, boys.”

GM: It also probably doesn’t help that like his brother, he’s only a shadow of the other, better thing.

Well, maybe that’s not fair.

Ghouling seems to bring out the worst in people. Or at least make it easier to see the worst in them. After all, if they were something really special, they’d have gotten the Embrace.

As long as they sup from her wrists, they can never be her equals.

But they can be such useful servants.

Reggie looks a lot like his brother. One can debate whether he’s older or younger or co-equal when they’re all triplets, but there’s no doubt that this is the man to Randy’s boy. The first of Randy’s fraternal siblings is a young man with the same black hair and rectangular face, though that’s where similarities end. He’s taller than his brother, with a broad chest and powerful slabs of muscle visible beneath the tight shirt that he wears—and no doubt that’s why he wears it, and why he makes a show of flexing whenever the pretty Toreador appears. Tattoos disappear beneath the sleeves and neckline of his shirt, swirls and whorls of dark ink across his dark skin. His brother might be able to pass as white, but there’s no doubt as to Reggie’s black heritage. Some might say that’s why she prefers his brother; he, at least, can walk beside her in public.


Rusty’s less of a looker. He’s shorter and rounder than his brothers, though not so far gone that anyone would call him “fat.” Comfortably plump, maybe, with the sort of physique that speaks to long hours in a chair and yellow-tinted glasses perched on his nose that he says “filter out the worst of the blue light.” A smattering of stubble covers his lower jaw. For all that, though, he doesn’t look like he’d meet girls in wet basements, whatever one might say about his other flaws next to Celia’s old teacher. He’s also the only one of his siblings who Jade has ever seen wear a necktie.


“Evening, Jade,” says Reggie, plopping down next to her on the couch. He wraps an arm around her shoulder like it has every right to be there. Perhaps he’d be less bold if it wasn’t so dark. Perhaps he wouldn’t be.

“So what can we do you for tonight?”

“Evening,” Rusty just says instead. He looks like he’s resisting the urge to roll his eyes at his brother.

Celia: Jade, he calls her. Not mistress. Not the simpering from Alana, the cute nicknames from his younger brother. She doesn’t swat his arm away. Leans into it, even. Not a giggle, no, just a smile at this bold, bold man who positions an arm around her shoulders as if she couldn’t put him on his knees with a look.

“I’ve a need for your particular skill sets.” Her eyes flick between the two of them, though it’s Rusty that she addresses more than Randy. “Intel. And a missing person.” She doesn’t know why she cares about the man’s missing daughter. Not for the girl herself, surely, but the fact that he’d been… decent enough. A cheater, to be sure, but aren’t they all? Easy to picture her mom in that role, baring her soul to some maid in want of anyone else to speak to about a missing child. Easy, too, to earn his affection and let it lead her to bigger things if she’s so inclined.

“Sleepless Investigations is looking into Drouillard and Ocampo, possibly at the behest of Ware & Lebowski. I want to know why. Don’t tip off Monty or his people.” Possibly easier said than done, but she’d prefer the Kook not know that she’s shadowing him. It’s not like she hasn’t had them do it before. And if someone else is interfering with the police… well, she can think of a few people who would like to know.

“Missing girl, college-aged. Summer Greer.” She’d had to pull Stan’s last name from the law firm’s website earlier this evening. It wasn’t as if he’d offered it. “And these.”

She pulls two items from her purse: a golden name plate, the kind in all the fancy offices, with Stan’s name across the front of it. A second, smaller bauble appears with it. A paperweight maybe, or just some generic kitschy piece of decor that’s meant to be placed on a desk or bookshelf.

GM: “I sure bet you need my particular skill sets,” says Reggie. One of his hands starts to play with Jade’s hair.

Rusty refrains from rolling his eyes.

“Sleepless is interesting,” he says. “They’re the best in the city. Their guys don’t come cheap.”

“They get the best rep,” says Reggie. “There’s another guy supposed to be at least as good as them. I’ve heard about him from some cops.”


Reggie thinks. “It’s on the tip of my tongue.”

Rusty snorts. “Yes. Sounds like some guy.”

Reggie shrugs. “Missing college girl. Probably as easy to find her as get in her pants.”

Celia: Amusement curls her lips at Reggie’s statement.

“Still bang a lot of co-eds, do you?

GM: “Not really,” says Reggie. “Just a fact that the easiest place on earth to get laid outside a brothel is an American college campus.”

Celia: “I might argue it’s easier. You don’t generally have to pay for it at college.”

GM: Rusty looks at the two items. “You want those bugged?”

Celia: “Yes. Video and audio on this one,” she taps the nameplate, “and audio by itself is fine on the other.”

GM: Rusty nods.

Celia: “How soon?”

GM: “Installing bugs doesn’t take long,” he says. “It’s getting the target to accept the bugged object that takes more time. In the old days, you usually had to plan a break-in. These days, it’s more common to mail them something as an accidental delivery, a free promo offer, or what have you, and get the target to place it where you need it.”

Celia: “Placement is handled.” She thinks, anyway. Maybe it’s a longer shot than she anticipates.

GM: “Okay. We can have these bugged by tomorrow.”

Celia: “Perfect. I’ll be by to collect them tomorrow evening. Let me know what you find about the rest of it. Low profile, gentlemen.”

GM: “Always,” smirks Reggie.

Thursday evening, 3 March 2016

Estrellado: It had taken some time for her to decide what to wear. What Star would wear, given the circumstances. Not her uniform. Not something that could be seen as too sexual. Star is 40-something maid, not a debutante. No gowns, no spiked heels, no flouncy dresses. Something elegant. Classy. Not above her means, but not so brazen as to suggest poverty. No one likes the idea of poverty. No one gets off to that. Power, certainly, but there’s a delicate balance to be struck, and when she had looked at herself in the mirror before leaving to meet with him she thinks she had found it.

Long sleeves that end at her wrist, chest and shoulders bared by the neckline that begins just above the gentle swell of her breasts. It falls almost to her ankles but hugs every delicious curve of her body, accenting the parts that he had been so enraptured by during their last meeting. A gentle flare to the skirt once it passes her knees that she hopes to show off if they ever get to twirling. Light makeup that gives lift to her eyes, a spot of color on her cheeks and lips, lashes darkened by a coat of mascara. All of it applied with a deft hand that merely suggests the presence of cosmetics rather than announces it. The golden cross sits just below the hollow of her throat, two small studs in her ears. Heels and a purse complete the look. And underneath… well, that’s for him to discover later. The dress looks new. Like maybe she’d bought it for him because she hasn’t had anyone else to dress up for. She leaves her hair down, long and thick and black tresses falling in a wave halfway down her back.

Uncertainty. That’s the word that she channels when she looks for him in the French Quarter’s hotel lobby. He’d decided on this spot because of the crowds, she thinks, because the two of them could lose themselves among the sheer amount of tourists that come and go. If they are seen together—and why would they be, when she thinks that he will confine them to a room?—then no one will have any idea who they are. Just another rich man with a mistress on vacation.

Is that what she is? Is that what she has become, a mistress? Some amusement crinkles the corners of her eyes at the thought of jumping from maid to mistress. She’d thought it before and there it goes again in her mind: he has a type. First the housekeeper, then the maid. How many of them does he keep sequestered in different hotels, how many women warm his bed and let him slake his lust before he goes back to his wife?

She lets the thoughts run through her, lets them show on her face as she slips into the mask she’ll wear tonight, steps into the headspace of Estrellado Ortzi. Uncertainty and hesitance, overdressed, undeserving. Forty-something maid, this week’s passing amusement for the rich, white lawyer. For all his kind words he will use and throw her away.

Maybe she shouldn’t have come.

The woman who would be Estrellado swims to the surface. She steps into the role as if she were made for it, dark eyes searching the lobby for Stan, her recently retrieved gifts heavy in her bag.

GM: Estrellado gets more than one appreciative look and occasional whistle on her way over to the hotel. The clothes clearly make the man, and the woman too.

It’s been said that the French Quarter begins in the lobby of Hotel Monteleone. This venerable New Orleans hotel sits majestically at the foot of Royal Street and proffers a point of departure for all things New Orleans, including Jackson Square, Bourbon Street, the French Market, and the Riverwalk, where steamboats still glide along the Mississippi River. The only high-rise building in the interior of the French Quarter, the hotel boasts the eclectic flair of Beaux-Arts architecture that has made it a historic landmark, acknowledged by the Historic Hotels of America as well as the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“Shine ya shoes, pretty lady?” calls a towering, bull-shouldered shoe-shiner from a stand just outside the hotel.

“Guarantee you can see ya face in da buffed point, or ya money back.”

Estrellado: The looks and whistles make her flush, but at least no one here is grabbing her ass or making a pass at her. Not that she’s unhappy with how things worked out with Stan; she might have been a little more irritated if he’d turned out to be some sort of sleazeball, but he’d been… kind. Unexpectedly. There’s little enough of that in the world.

She stops when the man hails her about her shoes, looking down at the heels she’s click-clacking along in. There isn’t much to shine. She says as much to the man, gesturing with her free hand, a question in her eyes as she lets out a string of rapid-fire Spanish.

“¿Hay suficiente para brillar?” She makes a rubbing motion with her hand, pointing at the thin band of her shoe.

(“Is there enough to shine?”)

GM: The shoe-shiner is built like a haystack, with a neck like a fire hydrant, and upper arms like chunks of sewer pipes. His small eyes are an electric blue set in a coffee-colored face, crowned with oiled canerow braids and a occasional porkpie hat. He wears an oversized gray smock over a Hawaiian sirt, its pockets stuffed with brushes and buffing rags, ribbed with black and oxblood stains. The drawers under the two elevated chairs on the stand are loaded with bottles of liquid polish, cans of wax, and saddle soap, toothbrushes and steel dental.

The man gives a simple nod at Estrellado’s words. She isn’t sure if he understands Spanish. At her motion, though, he nods again and says,

“Dere ain’ as much, ma’am, but I’ll buff it clean ’nuff ta see half ya face in.”

Estrellado: Estrellado smiles prettily for the man. She glances at the time, pleased that she’d arrived early enough to give herself this small treat. It’s not often she has other people cleaning for her. She finally nods, accepting his hand up onto one of the seats.

“Yes, thank you.” Back to that old phrase.

GM: Estrellado thinks she recognizes the man’s face as he helps her up. It was over the news, once, the bloodthirsty ex-cop who savagely mauled Vera Malveaux’s (wife of billionaire Matthew Malveaux’s) face and did 15 years in Angola for it, all for no particular reason.

Estrellado: Estrellado is a firm believer that once someone does their time they should be forgiven for their past sins. He’d served his years. She doesn’t say anything about his brutal history when he takes her hand, doesn’t shy away from him or clutch her purse for all that he might make a woman like her a little nervous. She sits back on the chair, watching him work.

GM: The man retrieves several rags, brushes, and wax containers from his stand. He starts the shine by brushing Estrellado’s in clockwise motions to get rid of any dirt and crud, then wipes it clean with a dry rag. He applies some polish, using a toothbrush to get it along her shoe’s thinner heel, then works his buffing brush with an impressive speed and rhythm. He wipes the excess polish off with a rag, then finally applies a drop of water to the shoe with his finger. He uses the polishing cloth to rub a tiny amount of polish into the water droplet, then robs it along the shoe in fast, small circles to get that signature ‘spit shine’ look.

“$7, ma’am,” he smiles when he’s done.

Estrellado: Estrellado beams down at the shoes when he’s done with them. They, unlike her dress, hadn’t looked new when she’d put them on, but now that they’ve been cleaned and shined they might as well be. Indeed, when she holds her foot just right she can see the reflection of her face in it, as promised.

She laughs at the sight, pointing down at it, chittering something in Spanish at him.

“Mira! Mi cara.” She circles a finger around her face, pointing again, clearly delighted. After a moment she picks up her purse and pulls free a ten dollar bill to hand over.

Estrellado: Payment rendered, Estrellado takes his offered hand once more to climb down from the elevated chair. Once her feet are firmly on the ground again she rises to the tips of her toes and kisses both sides of his face. Her lipstick leaves not a single mark behind.

“Son encantadores,” she says again of her shoes, delight in her eyes at the simple transaction. “Muchas gracias. Dios lo bendiga.”

GM: The man might not understand Estrellado’s exact words, but their emotion more than shines through. So does the cash she presses into his hand.

And the kisses against his cheeks.

The man actually blushes and touches the spot.

“Ah, de nada, ma’am, if dat’s how ya say it? Ya welcome, ma’am, ya mighty welcome,” he beams. “Anytime ya want ya shoes shined, I be right here. Hippo Broussard. Big Mon Broussard.” He points at himself as he says the name.

Estrellado: She nods at him, at the Spanish words he gets out. De nada indeed. She repeats the name he’d given her, the syllables rolling off her tongue, lightly accented as they come from her lips in a way they hadn’t from his.

“’Ippo Broussard.” She tries it out, the H dropped, a long E sound at the front, the R’s rolled with a tap of her tongue against her teeth, savors the sound of it as she might a fine meal. She touches a hand to her chest, “Estrellado Ortzi. Star. Mucho gusto, Senior Broussard.” And offers the same hand to him, the one she’d given him twice now—on her way up and on her way back down—though this time to shake. She mulls over her words as she takes his hand, finally, haltingly, offering a shy smile as she stumbles over the English.

“I see you next time, Senior Broussard.” A dip of her head and she’s gone, smiling broadly at the ground where her heels click click click. When, mere steps later, someone asks why she’s smiling—as if she needs a reason—she points down at her shoes and says, “Mis zapatos son brillantes gracias a Senior Broussard. Mira, lo ves?” At their blank look, she says simply, “shoe shine,” and points the way she had come to send Broussard his next customer.

GM: Hippo’s hands are large, thick, and callused, and the way he shakes it as he nods and smiles reminds Estrellado of how someone might handle a newborn kitten. She doesn’t doubt he could crush someone’s hands, though, if inclined to.

The passerby looks down at Estellado’s shoes, says, “Uh, gracias,” and heads towards the shoe-shiner.

“You should speak English when you’re in America, lady,” says another passerby.

“’Ey. Watch what you say ’bout da lady,” calls Hippo.

At the very large man’s very confrontational tone, the guy quickly walks off.

Estrellado: For all that he’s supposedly a hardened criminal who attacked a woman with no provocation, Estrellado thinks she might like the ex-cop turned shoe-shiner. She winks over her shoulder at him and gives a little finger-wave as she turns into the hotel proper, stepping at last into the lobby where Stan had said he’d meet her. Some color rises to her cheeks at the thought of it, wondering if people know that’s why she’s here, if they see through the nice clothes, the shiny shoes, to the middle-aged maid beneath. If they look at her and see someone who doesn’t belong in a place as nice as this. But, no, how could they? She looks like any other denizen of the Quarter, dressed up for a night on the town. She hardly wears a sign around her neck that screams “mistress.” Estrellado doesn’t even know if that’s what this is. Meeting someone twice hardly counts as being a mistress.

Still, the word is better than the alternative.

She pushes the thought from her mind, the bland smile that comes with it, and lets her eyes roam the lobby for her date.

GM: Stan had said the lobby at first, then corrected himself that they should “definitely go to the bar” instead. The city’s only revolving bar, the twenty-five seat, bright circus-clad Merry-Go-Round turns on 2,000 large steel rollers, pulled by a chain powered by a one-quarter horsepower motor at a constant rate of one revolution every 15 minutes. Originally installed in 1949 and renovated in 1992, the current carousel top features fiber optics that create the appearance of stars in the night sky, complete with a regular shooting star that races across the ceiling. One shooting star crosses the room at regular intervals. Notably, the Carousel’s bartenders created the Vieux Carré and Goody cocktails. The sum of all these features has made the ironic bar, and its hotel, a favorite spot in the Big Easy for both its locals and tourists alike.

Esprellado espies her date at one of the rotating bar’s seats.

That word is also better than the alternative.

Estrellado: Her eyes dart to a clock on the wall as she moves into the bar, wondering if she’d spent too long lingering outside at the shoe shine. But, no, she isn’t late; he’s just early. Like minds in that regard, then.

Her heels herald her approach, hips swaying with every step that she takes in that clinging black fabric. It’s a small step up onto the rotating floor of the carousel proper, moving slowly enough that even in a skintight dress and heels she has no trouble navigating the ascent. It puts her off to one side of him. Her date. She tries it out, lingering over the idea of dating. When she’d lost Matteo she’d thought that she would never date again. She’s barely had flings. With the boys out of the house though… Well, who could blame her?

It’s a fond smile that finally spreads across her lips as she moves along the back of the seats to reach his side, running a hand along the back of his shoulders as she passes him to take the chair just past him. She slides smoothly into place, one ankle crossing over the other.

“Buenas noches.” A brief pause as she tries the phrase again in accented English, the words more clipped than they’d be with a native speaker. “Good evening.”

GM: Stan turns from his seat at her touch.

His eyebrows shoot up when he sees her.

“Wow. Star, you look… lovely. Just lovely.”

He raises her hand to his lips and kisses it.

“Buy a lady a drink?”

Estrellado: She’s not immune to the compliment. Two spots of color appear high on her cheeks, smile spreading across her face as he raises her hand to his lips. She flushes and looks away, lashes fluttering as she takes a shaky breath in before she looks back.

She nods at his question, her eyes scanning the bottles behind the bar. The green one with the skull on the front catches her eye. It takes her back to another time, another man. Memories that aren’t hers. She brushes them aside, no more than cobwebs in her mind.

“Sazerac?” It’s a question, but she’s heard that the Carousel Bar makes a mean one.

GM: He nods. “You eaten yet? They’ve got some good entrees, too.”

Estrellado: Estrellado shakes her head. She hasn’t eaten yet. She should, though, no matter that it might not go down the right way.

She considers for a moment, as if chewing over the words, and finally takes the plunge into the unfamiliar language. Hard to be on a date if she refuses to speak the language.

“We eat. What do you, ah…” a pause, searching for the word, “recommend?”

GM: He asks for their ‘bar bites’ menu.

After a moment he asks, “Would it help if I read it?”

Estrellado: One neatly manicured nail—that’s new, she hadn’t had them done at the office—slides down the menu, lips moving soundlessly at the words. Her nose wrinkles at something. She nods at his question, relief in her eyes.

“Yes, thank you.”

GM: He does so.

Though he asks first if she wants to hear the small plates or entrées, to narrow it down.

Estrellado: Small plates, she tells him, but once he gets going she makes a motion for him to continue all the way down, her eyes on his face, watching his lips form the words.

GM: The couple sitting behind Stan make sneering expressions at the Latina woman who needs her date to read the menu.

Stan, unseeing, works his way down from the Shrimp Pot Stickers to the White Truffle Fries.

Estrellado: Any flutters that had begun in her stomach die at the sight of their curled lips. Her gaze drops.

GM: Stan pauses.

“Would it be better if I picked?”

Estrellado: She starts to make a motion with her hand, then finally nods her head. Her eyes find his face again, pulling a smile from somewhere despite the mockery behind his back.

“Yes, thank you.” A brief pause, then she touches her fingers to where he holds the menu in his hand. “Trust you, pick well.”

GM: The well-dressed man behind Stan opens his mouth and moves his middle finger back and forth towards it, pantomiming sucking a dick. As if to say that’s the only reason Estrellado is here. His date laughs like he’s the funniest guy on earth.

“Okay, I’m a fan of the Crawfish Pie,” says Stan. He places the order.

Estrellado: Her eyes flick past Stan to the man and his woman. The expression on her face doesn’t change, but she sends it out of her in a wave: the crushing despair and guilt, the gut-clenching, sweat-inducing dread of having someone find out your secrets. Maybe it’s the reason he mocks the Latina woman with her white date, the need to feel superior, like he’s never done anything wrong. But this is a cold, cruel world, and she knows more than anyone that they’ve all sinned, knows that his mockery is a desperate attempt to put the attention on anyone else that isn’t him. She hits him with it, pushing her emotions into him, making it resonate through his body until he just can’t take it anymore, until he has no choice but to open his mouth and confess his dirty, filthy sins. Right here in the bar.

GM: Sweat suddenly beads on the man’s forehead. His eyes dart to and fro before he blurts out,

“I did it. Okay? I stuck the pillow over your grandma’s face, because I was just so fucking sick of throwing money after her when she was gonna die anyway.”

His date’s mouth falls open. So does Stan’s.

Estrellado: Estrellado clutches at Stan’s hand, eyes widening at the display behind him.

GM: “W-what!?” gasps the woman he’s with.

Estrellado: She’d thought it would be something… less. Cheating, maybe. Knocking someone up. Not this delicious little tidbit. She hides her amusement behind a mask of shock, as if she can’t believe what he’d just said.

GM: The man blanches. His mouth works several times before he gets out,

“I was kidding. Bad joke.”

Estrellado: “Asesinato,” Estrellado whispers to Stan, voice just loud enough to carry. He doesn’t need to speak Spanish to understand what that means.

“La mató.”

(“Murder. He killed her.”)

GM: His eyes cut to her. A few other people do too.

Then he looks back at the couple. Several other people are watching.

The woman doesn’t say anything. Just stares at her date.

“Look, I’m sorry. It was a really bad joke,” he says, laying a hand on her shoulder.

She slaps it away.

“Don’t touch me,” she hisses.

“Look, I said it was a joke, all right? Just… lighten up! I was only kidding!”

Estrellado: And because Estrellado is apparently a vindictive bitch, she hits the woman with something similar. Another wave of emotion, a suggestion to get mad. She can almost see the red, swirling rage inside her chest, the wounded betrayal, and she strokes a mental hand along it as if feeding a fire. She makes it burn so brightly.

GM: The woman slaps him full across the face.

Even more people turn to watch.

Estrellado: Estrellado covers her mouth with her hand.

GM: The man touches his cheek. “He-”

The woman throws her drink over his face.

Then she grabs someone else’s drink and throws it over his chest.

“Carrie, what the fuck!?”

“You did it!” the woman shrieks. “I always knew! You, fucking, _bastard!”_

“I didn’t! I swear! Can’t you take a fucking joke!?”

Estrellado: She wonders if someone should call the police on the confessed murderer. Maybe security to get the raging woman out of here. She doesn’t say anything though, just watches with barely concealed horror as the scene plays out in front of her. She clutches at Stan’s hands.

GM: “Take this!” she grabs someone else’s plate of food and chucks it at his face. The man gives an alarmed cry and tries to dodge, but it clips him over the head and sends food spilling everywhere. People are gawking. Some get out their phones. The bartender tries to verbally defuse things.

“Oh, fuck you all!” the woman spits. She turns on her heel and storms out of the bar.

Estrellado: Estrellado watches her go. Seeing the phones makes her release Stan’s hands immediately, her eyes turning back to the man once the woman is gone, as if waiting for him to murder someone here, too.

GM: The man looks unsure whether to pursue her or not, then gives a forced-sounding laugh and says, “Bitch can’t take a joke.”

He gets up and leaves. The bartender is talking into the phone in a low voice.

Stan looks back at Estrellado once the couple are gone.

“Wow. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Estrellado: She nods her head in agreement, clearly at a loss for words.

GM: The loudly gossiping patrons around them express similar sentiments. It’s clear no one will be talking about anything else this evening.

Estrellado: Estrellado makes the sign of the cross over her chest, quietly sending a prayer to the Lord for the poor, murdered woman.

Only when things have calmed somewhat does she turn to Stan, pointing at his empty drink. An unfortunate casualty in the incident, its contents splashed across the man’s chest.

“Okay?” she asks.

GM: “I guess it’s the viewing price,” he jokes. “I’m almost tempted to go after her and offer the firm’s services. She might be more likely to face a sentence.”

Estrellado: Her brows lift. She taps a finger on the bar, looking out the door where the woman left.

“¿Por que? Why? He confess murder, no?”

GM: “Well, I said might. If there wasn’t an investigation into the grandma’s death, all he did was make a bad joke. But slapping him and throwing that plate was battery, if he chooses to go to the cops about it.”

“If she goes to the cops, he’ll probably just deny it and they’ll be out of luck if there’s no other evidence. That might even be what it was. Just a really bad joke.”

Estrellado: Bad guys usually win. Someone else had told her that a long time ago. No, not her. That’s someone else’s memory, too.

She frowns, finally turning her eyes back to his face. She opens her mouth as if to say something, then closes it again. She swallows, then nods at his words.

“Bad joke, maybe,” she finally says.

A beat of silence, as if she isn’t sure where to take it from here. She thinks to change the subject, maybe make her own bad joke, but neither of those seem right.

“You take cases like that?” A vague gesture toward where it had gone down. “Criminal?”

GM: “I don’t personally, but there are people at my firm who do. If those two want to be careful they’ll speak to lawyers.”

Estrellado: “What do you take?”

Before he has a chance to answer her question, Estrellado shakes her head. She glances again at the door where the woman had left from, then back to Stan.

“You want find her? I help.” A question, though. She’ll leave it up to him if he’d rather track down a potential client than spend his time here with her.

GM: He shakes his head. “She’s probably long gone by now. I’m here to relax, anyway.”

Estrellado: She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t pleased with that answer, both for her own vanity and to deny the woman competent legal counsel. Not that she can’t find it elsewhere if she’s so inclined. Not her problem anymore, though.

The chair, she realizes, is bolted to the ground. Probably to prevent people from toppling off the edge of the rotating platform. Since she can’t scooch it closer to him as she might want to she settles for swiveling in her seat, rearranging her body to cross one knee over the other. The material clings to her thighs. A murmur of something beneath her breath, a string of Spanish words that convey she might be sounding something out, before she speaks again.

“Then we relax.” Her eyes slide down his form, settle back on his face. She offers a tiny smile, as if she knows exactly how she’ll help him relax, and immediately drops her gaze after the brazenly suggestive look.

GM: Stan’s gaze doesn’t drop. His eyes roam her shapely form, perhaps wondering how the cleaning lady he met previously could be so… transformed.

“You know, we could just get room service…”

Estrellado: Her head tilts to one side, tongue slowly running across her lower lip before she bites down on it. A tiny gesture. Her eyes dip to the floor. When she lifts them again she’s looking up at him from beneath long lashes, a spark of something in her dark eyes.

She gives a slow nod.

GM: He chuckles and takes her upstairs. It’s a standard hotel room, clean and neat, with a king bed and nice view of the French Quarter. He pulls the blinds shut and starts kissing her, his hands hungrily cupping her breasts and squeezing her rear.

“God, you look hot tonight…”

Estrellado: He certainly wastes no time jumping right into things. Estrellado pulls him close, fingers already working at the buttons on his shirt, the buckle of his belt. Her lips part beneath his, the tips of her nails scratching gently across his back, his chest, his stomach. Whatever part of him she can reach. She’s careful not to leave marks behind that his wife might find. Desire curls in her lower abdomen, sets her nerves alight as some other part of her mind considers the locale: the wall? the bed? the floor? Were he a decade younger she’d have them try all three.

“Espera,” she murmurs against his lips once her fingers have made short work of his belt and the zipper at his fly. She stretches a hand behind her back, reaching for the zipper of her dress. She tugs. The suddenly loose material spills across her shoulders, sliding down her chest and arms. She shimmies out of it, left in nothing but the heels, bra, and panties.

GM: Stan’s breath comes hot and heavy as Estrellado pulls off his clothes. He waits long enough for her to pull off hers. His eyebrows shoot up.

“Wow. I swear you got even sexier than when I last saw you.”

He pulls her to the bed, exploring her mouth with his tongue as his hands appreciatively trace her tan skin. Her stretch marks aren’t that visible, there’s still a youthful bounce to her breasts, and there’s definitely less pudge than when he saw her last.

He unhooks her bra and kneads, squeezes, and sucks her breasts. He marvels at how much “having a man” does for her.

Estrellado: Smoother skin, a tighter body, firm where she needs to be with nice handfuls of flesh everywhere else. Her thighs are still thick, her ass still round, but now they’re paired with a flatter stomach, perkier breasts. Everything tucked and tight and trim, in its place. She looks like the “after” to her body’s “before” in some miracle infomercial that promises results in less than a week.

Her panties slide down her legs with a deft flick of her wrist, landing on the floor beside her discarded bra. She flips the pair of them so she’s on top this time, thighs spread to either side of his waist, head tilted back as he pulls a nipple into his mouth. A string of Spanish words leave her mouth, their meaning lost in translation but their message clear: more.

GM: Stan gives more, sucking and squeezing her breasts until her pink little nubs feel ready to burst with pleasure. He gropes the bedside table for the condom he’s evidently thought to bring this time, and looks like he hates every millisecond that it takes to slip the thing on. He fills her thighs and lets her ride him like a stallion until he blows his load and her juices get all over them both. He doesn’t last as long as Matteo did, but Matteo was a lot younger than them both.

“…wow,” he pants.

Estrellado: It could have been the sex. The way she rode him and took exactly what she wanted from him, grinding down on him to hit that spot inside of her over and over again, no thought given to how loud she gets inside the room of his hotel. She doesn’t need to mind the secretary or the other late-night workers, doesn’t need to worry that she’s in someone’s office. Half-formed phrases and expletives pass from her lips, a mixture of English and Spanish, and by the time they’re both done she’s a panting, quivering mess above him.

Or it could have been the fangs. The quick nip at his throat, the heady red liquid drawn into her mouth in the guise of a lingering kiss. She doesn’t take much. A mouthful. A second. A third. Enough to leave him hard without that vacant head-rush he’d get if she took too much, a flick of her tongue against the holes in his neck to seal them shut before her mouth returns to his, swallowing his cries.

Her chest rises and falls in time with his, heart thudding against her ribcage. Only once she feels him begin to soften does she shift, claiming the spot on the bed beside him, an arm across his chest, a leg across his thigh. She nuzzles his neck, trailing soft kisses down his skin. If he were to look over and catch her eye he’d see the self-satisfied smirk.

GM: Stan looks over, but he might not catch the expression on her face. He looks pretty tired between the hour, the sex, and the blood she’s taken. He kisses her back, more sweetly than passionately, and holds her close as he buries his face in her hair. He mumbles something about having brought her “presents.”

Estrellado: Estrellado strokes a hand down his chest, curls her fingers through his hair. Even after the mention of presents she’s content to simply lie with him, exploring his skin with her mouth. The taste of him still dances across her tongue, sweet with affection, none of the false, fake taste so many others like her are forced to endure for this same thing. She keeps her touch light now that he’s spent.

“I, too,” she says after a moment, once they’ve both caught their breath. “Bring you present.”

GM: He gives a soft laugh as he strokes the back of her head.

“Mmm… seeing how good you looked with your clothes all off was my present…”

Estrellado: A giggle meets his words, that same deep-throated sound he’d mentioned he admires at their first meeting.

“You see that anytime,” she tells him.

GM: “Still a present…” he chuckles. “But okay, what’s the other one?”

Estrellado: A final kiss on his cheek before she rolls from the bed, rising to her feet to cross the room to where her purse had been discarded as soon as he’d begun touching her. As if she can’t stand to be apart from him she brings it back with her, sitting on the edge of the bed with one leg curled beneath her as she sifts through it. She presents them with a flourish, one box that has been neatly gift-wrapped in silver paper, a second that looks… well, it looks oblong, less neatly wrapped, but the bow on top turns it into a pretty package all the same.

GM: “What’s this? More than one present,” Stan murmurs. Something briefly passes in his eyes: perhaps concern for whether Star can afford such purchases on her cleaning lady’s salary. Still, he smiles as he unwraps the box from its silver paper.

Estrellado: The box within the silver wrapping is black, and once he opens it he’ll find a nameplate that’s meant to sit on his desk. Heavy in his hand, the base of it is the same wooden hue of the desk on which he’d taken her their first night together, the letters etched in gold and outlined in black upon its surface. His name across the front: Stanley Greer.

She smiles uncertainly at him as he opens it, tucking her hair behind her ear to give her hands something to do other than wring uselessly on her lap.

“For office. New office.”

GM: “Oh, Star,” he smiles, turning it over in his eyes. “It’s beautiful. You’re just in time, too. Someone was going to come over tomorrow to install some new letters.” His brow furrows. “But was it expensive for you…?”

Estrellado: Estrellado makes a motion with her hand, a sort of back and forth that might mean yes or no. She follows it with a shrug, a shaking of her head.

“You…” she struggles for a moment, searching for the words. “Worth. For you, worth. You see me. Not clean lady, not foreign, me.” She taps a hand to her chest to emphasize the point.

“Put on desk,” she suggests, a sly smile in place, “remember fun.”

GM: Stan laughs. “That’d be pretty hard to forget either way. But the reminder will help. Thank you, Star. It’ll look lovely on my desk.” He pulls her close and kisses her head.

“There’s a lot in you to see.”

Estrellado: Her eyes dart down her body, taking in her own nude form. She wiggles her brows at Stan once her gaze returns to his face. A lot to see indeed.

“Un mas,” she says, nudging the other toward him.

GM: Once again, she’s not sure if he understands the literal meaning, but the sentiment seems apparent enough. Stan smiles and unwraps the less neatly-wrapped present.

Estrellado: The oblong shape and messy wrapping makes sense once he opens the second gift. Unlike the first, this is clearly not something that’s new, and there’s no box to contain it. Rather it looks like something that has seen a lot of care over the past however many years. It, too, has a flat base, but it’s egg-shaped at the top. A clear coat of glass or maybe resin holds an entire landscape within: a dark blue sky with stars and a crescent moon, a field of green, a gray mountain across the backdrop with the suggestion of white, fluffy clouds.

She watches his face as he opens it, hands twisting together on her lap.

Estrellado pulls a piece of paper from her purse once the gift is open. It’s been folded many times over, its texture soft and well-worn, and there’s a flush to her cheeks that isn’t from the sex when she hands it over to him.

“En mi familia, tenemos un dicho: el observador de la luna te guiara,” she says as he unfolds it. She gestures toward the paper. Words are scrawled across the page in a looping, feminine hand, the letters carefully crafted and evenly spaced upon the lines.

In my family, we have a saying: the moonwatcher will guide you. When I came to America I was young. I missed my family fiercely, and though I found happiness here I could not forget the land where I was born or the people to whom I belonged. I felt lost. But at night, when I could see the sky, when the moon hung over the clouds and cast its light upon me, I knew that they were with me, in my heart, that they could look upon the same night sky and see the same sliver of moon that I did. And I knew, no matter how far from them I went, that they would always be with me, and I would always be with them.

“Para su hija,” Estrellado tells him once his eyes have stopped moving across the page. She touches a finger against the side of the orb and the moon lights up, casting its glow upon the mountainscape within. “La luna se guiara. Esta aqui.” Her hand moves to his heart.

GM: “Oh, Star…” Stan murmurs, turning over the glowing orb in his hands. Once again, Estrellado doubts he can understand her (spoken) words, but the sentiment behind the gift does not appear lost. Especially after the folded paper’s words on how one is never truly parted from one’s family. Stan’s eyes linger on the crescent moon, as if wondering when his daughter last looked upon the same celestial object whose likeness he now gazes upon. His eyes start to look moist. He sniffs and rubs his nose before looking back to her.

“This is your family’s? How long have you had it?”

Estrellado: Her eyes do not shy away from his face. Not this time. No, this time she holds his gaze, watches the moisture gather in the corners of his eyes. When he sniffs she only moves closer to him in answer, the pads of her thumbs soft as they wipe away the tears that have escaped his control.

“Muchos años,” she tells him, voice soft. “Long time. Since I come here. For you now.”

GM: “Oh, Star,” he repeats, turning the orb over in his hands again. “I can’t… I can’t accept these, when all I did was fool around with you on my desk…” he protests.

Estrellado: A dozen excuses come to mind. A dozen things she could say to him to make him keep it, all of them as persuasive as the next regardless of her broken English. But she’s silent, watching him, watching his face as he stares down at the gift she has given him. She draws in a breath, as if to speak, but moves instead. She’s on his lap within seconds, her body curled between his legs, her lips brushing against his neck, his cheek, and finally his mouth.

“For you now,” she says again, the words just a murmur between kisses. She puts her emotion into the touch rather than the words, the fondness she feels for him, the gratitude that he turned out like he did rather than how she expected. Her sorrow at his loss and hope that he’ll recover his daughter. She lays it out for him in soft, sensual touches and kisses, in the quiet tenderness of her fingertips and lips upon him.

She’s a maid. She knows that. Knows that she’s nothing but a distraction to him, a one or two time thing before he returns to his wife. She’s not asking for forever, just giving him right now. This moment. This peace.

GM: That, at least, he is willing to take.


Emily Feedback Repost

Some general thoughts before I start reading: I was excited to be able to play this series of scenes. We talked about all the different identities that Celia has and the cleaning company and I was glad that it finally came up in game. I’d still like to actually meet Raquel (I think), just to cement her as Pawn/Ally and solidify that relationship, but it doesn’t need to be a Speed 1 type of thing. It was a fun break from the socially intensive Elysium scene and gave me a chance to explore more sides of Celia, and to be honest her portrayal here felt really “oh Celia got really into character, she actually thinks she’s this person.” Also enjoyed using the Spanish. I haven’t spoken Spanish since like high school, but I took about 4 years of it and was happy that I remembered so much. Had to look up a few vocabulary words that I couldn’t remember but I think it felt a little more natural than someone of the google translate things I’ve read in the past, just because I remember things that teachers have told me about dropped words / various conjugations / etc. Sometimes it’s hard to write a character with limited fluency so I hope I pulled that off okay here.

Anyway, on to the log.


The woman in the beginning does a good job showing exactly the attitude that a lot of people have about cleaners and why Celia thinks it’s the perfect position to use to spy on people. She’s very condescending and dismissive. I know back (forward?) in the Savoy/Preston conversation Preston is really dismissive of the idea of “gamblers being honest,” but dude I have overheard some serious shit. And a maid is actually in your shit cleaning your shit. Like. Maybe other Kindred wouldn’t stoop to this, but damn did it already pay out dividends. Also like the fact that she “doesn’t speak English” means people freely speak about things in front of her.

Celia very clearly comes out in Star when she casts that look at the guy who touched her. “Seed planted” indeed, like damn.

Nothing by half measures. A wise man had once said that. A white man, probably. She’d heard it on the news, maybe seen it on TV; regardless of how it had come across her ears it had certainly stuck  Oh hey that’s Maxen. This is what I mean though about it feeling like a totally different character; Celia doesn’t even think his name. 

I think this is one of like two “Impression” (pre-change) uses that wasn’t “trustworthy.” I don’t know if it actually did anything, I actually don’t even remember using it here or if it netted me anything (is that something you can share?), but y’know. Sometimes it be like that.

Definitely thought that Stanley would be way creepier here than you played him. I know you mentioned that you had intended that as well, but I kind of really like him now to be honest so I’m glad it went this direction instead. Though the “pulling her onto his lap to tickle her feet” thing threw me for a loop, not gonna lie. Curious if you had intended for him to be Stanley the whole time or if you meant him to be Eugene and it switched because Eugene was supposed to be the creepy one.

Did you change her to be from Guatemala? I thought she was from Puerto Rico. Did I change it? I don’t remember. Probably I was going to pull an immigration story out of thin air to make it sound like she needed him. People like being needed. We’ll see.

They have a cute moment here in the office. The french maid thing was amusing, but I’m glad he seemed into it anyway. And they got to fuck on the desk, whoo! 

The Boys

Ah, so I see that I did put in here that the triplets pass as each other so it only looks like Jade has one ghoul at the bail bond place rather than three. Excellent. Even though the scene was brief I think we got a pretty good feel for Reggie as a character, and since we see Rusty later we didn’t need to build him out too much in this one. 


Enjoyed meeting Hippo. I’d like to do more with him, too, but I’m not really sure what. He seems like an interesting kind of guy. She had already accepted the shoe shine at that point so turning away from him after recognizing him would have been rude. Star isn’t rude, so of course she didn’t shy away. He’s cute. :)

Hotel Scene

Glad they met at a hotel. I was already wondering if Celia has yet another haven that she uses for her mortal identities and just swaps out props as needed to be who she needs to be. I had a whole thing planned with photos of the boys and LSU posters etc if Stan had wanted to come back to her place. Good thing they met at the hotel instead.

Man, people in game are really mean about the Spanish thing. First with the woman at the office, then after Hippo, and then with Stan reading her the menu. Like damn dude get over it.

Celia was petty as all fuck here with the Confess thing on the couple. Personally I had a blast with it. Definitely did not expect him to confess to murderring the girl’s grandma, but that was great. Then making her get even more mad with Passion to really give everyone a show. Don’t be a dick to the girl who doesn’t speak English because she might be a vampire, that’s the lesson here. And then she’s like, “oh my goodness what is going on stanley hold my hand this is crazy I didn’t do anything at all nope I’m definitely not laughing.” Lol.

I think that giving Stan the nameplate and the sentimental orb resin thing was a pretty clever way of getting a bug into his office, and I’m glad I went with that. I had a few photos picked out for it but then I saw the moon and was like, “Yeah that will have a cute story I can come up with.” Obviously someone else wrote the letter since Star wouldn’t be able to write it that well. Also had something about making the nameplate if he had pushed back because of the cost, but he didn’t. Plus it’s not like she can really return a personally engraved item like that. 

But yeah, I had a lot of fun with Stan. Would love to see him again to continue their relationship. Not just because he’s a connection but he seems like a cool dude, even if he can’t fuck three times in a single night

Celia IIS, Chapter IV

Calder Feedback Repost

Calder: I was glad to play out an alternate identity scene too
Or multiple scenes, as it turned out
Celia gets really in-character
(Because she’s going crazy and her psyche is splintering)
That’s cool you actually spoke Spanish
I’m sure all the Google Translate stuff I post is riddled with errors
I do think you pulled off Star’s limited fluency pretty well
“Yes, thank you” could’ve been the log’s quote

Emily: I was gonna make it all she knew but that seemed like it would limit things too much

Calder: Yes, very likely
Many Kindred probably would not stoop to doing what Celia did
The Nosferatu definitely would, though
I also liked the Maxen as nobody she knew touch
Did you use Impression here? I’m not sure I could tell from the logs
Or maybe I just missed it

Emily: I thought I did. Idk.
Don’t think it mattered either way

Calder: Likely not. Star won him over handily enough
The Stan/Eugene switchup was always a thing. Stan had just moved into the guy’s old office
You also told me you wanted Star to be from Guatemala instead, which made more sense, as Puerto Ricans are US citizens

Emily: Ah
I do recall talking about that now

Calder: As far as Hippo, what’d you like about him that you might want to do more with?

Emily: He seems nice. And he’s scary looking.

Calder: I’m sure you’ll think of something, anyways
But even if not, he seems happy to have a well-paying customer
The Confess scene was pretty amusing
Celia going to show how easily vampires can ruin mortals’ lives
The nameplate + orb was also a clever way of getting the bug into Stan’s office
The story behind the orb was great
Pretty sure I didn’t ask you for a roll to get him to accept it

Emily: You didn’t
Because it made him almost cry

Calder: no doubt Star will be seeing him again, either way

Emily: Excellent
He’s the reason Celia doesn’t want to be monogamous
“What am I gonna do without my old man?”

Calder: Or her young man… or her other young man… or her other other young man…
But yes, we’ve discussed this
Strict monogamy closes off a lot of options for her

Emily: Star and Stan have something special.
She’s gonna run off with him, just you wait.

Celia IIS, Chapter IV
False_Epiphany False_Epiphany