“Look, you’re in a bad place right now.”
Sunday evening, 6 March 2016
GM: It’s around 8 the next night that Randy picks up Jade for dinner. She’s already ‘done up her face’ to be her old self tonight.
Celia: She’s hungry.
She paces, agitated. No clients this evening, no one for her to snack on. Alana had cleared her schedule for dinner and the meeting. She can’t even feed from the ghoul; she’d taken enough yesterday. Needs her to be hale and healthy to oversee the operations.
She texts it to Randy, too. That she’s hungry. With a smiley face. And a little pizza emoji. Hopefully, he brings dinner. If not, he gets to be dinner. She needs to eat prior to this meeting with her family.
Or maybe snack on Emily. The girl’s used to it by this point. All those feedings during college. Her Beast purrs its approval at the thought. She can feel it stretching inside of her. It wants out.
Support: There’s a girl in the passenger seat when he pulls up. She’s drunk, giggly, and according to Randy “knows a hot set of wheels when she sees one.”
Celia: Jade tells Randy to wait outside. She turns on the charm for the girl, flirts with her on their way back to Jade’s suite, tells her she’s pretty, funny, so insightful. All the things girls like to hear, the kind of stuff that would have worked on her if she were still a breather. She invites her into that specially designed room she has, the one that’s all steel and no escape. Puts her up against the wall.
GM: The girl giggles and laughs the whole time. She doesn’t object at all to being taken inside the reinforced “dungeon room,” as she laughingly calls it. “This is so, just so. This is a room!” she giggles. “This is the room!”
Jade can feel her inner monster tearing to get out as she sinks her teeth into the probable coed’s neck and drinks thirstily. The blood is hot and sweet with the girl’s lust. Jade’s clan does so love sweet things. Everything is sweet. So very sweet. This is just the sweetest girl. In the sweetest room. The room! Ha ha ha! Jade hears herself giggling when she pulls away from the needfully moaning coed.
“Just what a… room!” the girl giggles.
She’s fucking hilarious.
Celia: She is. She is hilarious. Jade’s drawn in by the giggles, drunk on the sweetness. She doesn’t even want to stop it’s so sweet. Someone’s purring. Is that her? Is that what she sounds like when she feeds? It’s cute! The girl is cute. Jade is cute. Everyone is cute, even this steel room, it’s all cute.
She likes cute things. She’d told Randy he was cute once and she’d decided to keep him. Maybe she’ll keep this girl, too. Inside of her, though. She doesn’t need another vessel vying for attention. So she keeps drinking. Keeps going as the girl’s giggles get lighter and lighter, until it’s just Jade holding her up against the wall. Purring. Sucking at her neck until nothing else comes out.
She makes a pretty corpse, she thinks as she lets the girl fall.
GM: She’s finally stopped smiling, too.
There’s just that same blank-featured look as the corpse’s eyes stare sightlessly upwards.
Celia: She’s still giggling as she cleans herself up. She wipes the blood from her chin, licks it from her fingers. Kneels down to lick it from the girl’s neck, too, to be thorough. It’s so silly how the holes close, even after death. Her tongue did that. Like magic.
She leaves the body in the room and locks the door behind her when she goes. Good thing this is a spa! She’s got a whole station where she can redo her lipstick. Pretty pink for a pretty corpse. She touches up her foundation, too.
“You’re so pretty,” she says to her reflection.
GM: Her reflection beams at the compliment.
Celia: She checks her clothes for blood. Nothing, not even a spot. Isn’t that funny? She’s so efficient! She’s going to drain the girl later. Her hair was so long and blonde, it’s going to make the best extensions. She can’t wait to cut it off.
She’s all smiles as she totters outside to find Randy. She takes his arm and lets him lead her to the car.
“You’re so chivalrous,” she says to him, batting her lashes.
Support: “Yeah, I’m like a knight,” he says. “Sir Randy of the track.”
He flushes despite himself at the eyelashes.
“Did you, um. Have a good drink?”
GM: The girl hasn’t come out.
Support: She’s probably resting.
Celia: “She was wonderful,” Jade tells him. She’s beaming. Her cheeks are even a little flushed. She looks more human than most of her kind, but there’s a little extra tonight. Maybe a sparkle in her eye. A looseness to her face that he hasn’t seen in a while. None of the anger from last night is there.
She leans over the center console as he drives, whispering in his ear. Her hand slides up his thigh. She tells him to take a detour, just a quick one, long enough for her to show him how grateful she is for his love and admiration. A flick of her fingers has his pants undone, then her hand is inside. It’s quick and dirty, and she finds a napkin to wipe off her hands when it’s over. She kisses his cheek, then reclaims her seat after tucking him back away and zipping his pants again.
So thoughtful. Really, she’s the best. She’s so good to her toys and her family.
She even points out a parking spot for Randy when they get close.
Support: Randy’s all too happy to take a detour. He’s even happier, if confused, about what follows. He fumbles a wipe for her out of the glove compartment. He uses them on Ruby.
He’s wary, but he’s happy she’s happy.
And she found a parking spot. He hates looking for parking.
God, Jade’s the best.
Celia: “You’re really cute,” she tells him as he parks. “Like. Really cute.” She thinks that girl might have been on something, but she wants to let Randy know what she thinks of him. It’s like that time she and Stephen had gotten that bottle of vodka and mixed it with… well, she doesn’t remember. But it had been a fun night. Maybe. She can’t really remember. She misses him, though. What they had. That had been real. Everything that came after is a cheap imitation. It’s kind of sad, really, but she’s trying not to think about it. She rests her head on his shoulder.
“We should race soon. Like. Real soon. I did some research,” she tells him, “about racing, and apparently you can add nitrous oxide to your engine and press a button on your wheel and go vroom vroom.” She mimes shifting gears. She’s never driven a stick before so it looks kind of silly. She giggles.
“I like you,” she tells him. “Even though you’re, like, a ghoul or whatever. I was supposed to be what you are. They killed me instead.” She’s not sure if she ever told him this story. “I hope Momma didn’t make tacos. I miss tacos. Crunchy.” Her teeth click together.
Support: “I’m sorry,” he says, awkwardly. “I like you too.”
Then he says, maybe less helpfully, “I like tacos.”
He doesn’t touch the nitrous oxide thing.
Celia: “I really want a taco. Like. Anything that’s not blood. I mean. Listen. It’s great, okay? Like it is. And everything else is awful. But also, like, there’s not… texture. No mouth feel.” She turns her head to look at him. “You know? Imagine drinking soup forever.”
Support: “Sounds kind of gross.”
“But you, uh. You like it?”
Celia: “I mean…” she draws out the word. “It’s all I got.”
“You know how you feel when I give you mine?”
“It’s like that.”
Support: So, perfect.
Even when you know it isn’t.
“Once,” he says, “my mom made me and my brother tacos. After we had been fighting, all week. I think I had broken his nose.”
Actually, Reggie had broken his.
“But she made tacos because we both loved them. And she was sick as hell of us fighting. That’s what she said, ‘sick as hell.’”
Celia: It just makes her want tacos more, really. She wonders if Savoy ever wants tacos.
“If you’re twins,” she asks, “how come you fight so much?”
Support: “So she made them, served us a plate full each. And then she dumped them out the window. And we both started sobbing. Just bawling.”
Support: “Because we’re twins,” he says, answering her other question.
Celia: “That’s… huh.” Effective.
Support: “We were so busy being mad at her we forgot to be angry at each other.”
Celia: “You still don’t like him,” she points out.
Support: “Yeah. But I forgot for a while.”
“And I love him. He’s just a pig. Fucking wannabe cop.”
Celia: “The difference between a cop and a criminal is one bad judgment call.”
Support: He begins to snort, but catches himself. “If you say so.”
Celia: “I heard it in a movie.”
Hopefully not the same one she got that nitrous oxide shit from.
Celia: It was.
“I had a cousin who wanted to make movies.”
Support: “Sounds like a cool dude.”
Celia: “He was. He was my favorite person for a while. Then he died.”
There’s a pause.
“I miss him.”
Support: “I’m sorry.”
He thinks about asking how he died.
But it’s probably a boring story.
“You remind me of him, sometimes. Not in a weird way.” Not that she’d ever fucked Randy.
Support: “Uh, not in what kind of weird way?”
Celia: “I just mean, like, that’s not why I took you.”
Support: “Oh. Yeah, I thought you thought I was cute. And also, I’m obviously pretty badass.”
Celia: “Obviously,” she agrees.
“We should go inside,” she says after a moment. “Don’t mention my cousin.”
“He showered with Emily once, it’ll be awkward.”
Support: “Oh. Um. Okay. Can I shower with Emily?”
Celia: “She’s still with Robby.”
“Anyway, don’t you have a girlfriend?”
Support: “Oh, yeah. You know. Technically.”
“Kind of like how Jim Jameson is still married? I think?”
Celia: She thinks about telling him that she was once in his position. It had caused problems for her, too. But he’s a boy. It’s different.
“I think, once you’re that old, everything is kind of forgiven.”
“Anyway, his new wife is like… my age.”
Support: “So, it’s a happy marriage.”
Celia: “For him.”
Support: “I mean, presumably she gets paid out the wazoo. For the wazoo. Whichever wazoo, she’s getting paid.”
“…so, we going inside?”
Celia: “We were discussing showering together, I thought.”
Support: “Oh. We were?”
Celia: “We were. You were telling me that I’m prettier than Emily. That you’d rather shower with me. Remember?”
Support: “That… sounds like something I would say.”
Celia: She looks at him. Crosses her arms. Waits.
Support: He looks confused. Poor boy.
Celia: It’s the first rule of psycho girlfriends: always tell them they’re the prettiest.
Support: “You’re gorgeous,” he says. “Flawless. I mean. Duh.”
Celia: “I was going to let you do things to me later,” she says with a heavy exhale that might be a sigh.
Support: “Oh, come on, babe. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me. I’d drive into traffic to see you naked. Come on.”
Celia: “You can’t just say it. You have to mean it.”
Support: He looks at her, hurt. “I mean it. I’d do anything for you.”
He leans forward, tries to kiss her.
Celia: She ducks her chin, lets him kiss her cheek.
“Remember that deal I made, when we met? Impress me tonight, Randy, and this?” she gestures to her body. “Yours.”
Support: “How high are your expectations?”
Celia: “With the sex?”
Support: “Um. With the dinner.”
Celia: “Don’t embarrass me. But you’re coming with me to the sewers tonight. That’s where the real magic happens. That’s where you call me Miss Kalani, or Mistress. Never ‘babe.’ Never ‘Cici.’ Never any of the other adorable pet names you have for me that I love so much.” She touches a hand to his cheek. “They’re like me down there. But worse. So much worse. And they can’t know who I am outside the mask I wear, so we both have to play our parts.”
Support: “Okay. I’ll… I’ll be smart. Smarter.”
“Should we go have dinner with your family?” Randy asks, touching her too-cool hand.
Celia: She’s not. The girl he brought her saw to that.
But she nods. Kisses his cheek for good measure.
Sunday evening, 6 March 2016
GM: The address of Celia’s mother on 1110 Burgundy Street, the lower residential end of the Quarter, is an 1880’s one-story house with blue doors and a small brick courtyard. The main house has two bedrooms, where Diana and Lucy sleep, while Emily stays in the adjacent one-bedroom carriage (at least when she isn’t over at Robby’s or the hospital).
Celia remembers how they had gotten the house. When the insurance lawsuit’s seven-figure settlement paid out, it was like winning the lottery. Celia’s still-pregnant mom had nervously laughed that, “I don’t even know how to spend this much money!”
If she wanted to, she could have splurged on an expensive and spacious property. The French Quarter doesn’t lack for high-end real estate. Celia’s mom thought about buying or renting a big house and then buying a smaller condo once the older kids were moved out. But Emily raised that maybe the privileged Flores kids could stand to live in a little less comfort, and there are so many taxes associated with selling a house, while renting is just money down the drain. Why not just get something you’ll be comfortable in once the nest is empty, but has room for guests?
“Or a guy,” Emily had brought up with Celia.
Celia: “Or a guy,” Celia had agreed.
GM: So Mom had agreed to that logic. She’d bought a house up front. It’d been harder to sway her into buying something in the Quarter. She’d been worried about crime reports and had really, really wanted to buy something in the Garden District, or at least the Lower Garden District. “It’s just so, so pretty there. It’d be in walking distance of work, school, and church for me and Lucy.”
Pete had said the Garden District was Vidal’s personal territory. Horrible idea if Celia wanted to regularly see her family. The Lower Garden District wasn’t much better, with a swath of the prince’s territory still between them and Celia.
So she’d pushed. And eventually Mom had folded on that too. Like everything. Quarter it was.
Celia: Celia didn’t feel bad about it. She got to see her family.
GM: She’d done much worse things to feel bad over too, even then.
Celia’s mom had been budget-conscious with the settlement money: her ~40k salary at McGehee is livable but not luxurious. Maxen is paying child support for their first five kids, while Lucy is not being paid for at all.
So Diana bought a smaller house up front, with a decent chunk of the settlement money. Smaller, but she’d wanted smaller, both for an emptier-nested future and “So there’ll be no mortgage. Own it full and in the clear.”
With that significant expense marked off, she budgeted out another quarter-million remaining settlement money to the expenses of raising Lucy from diapers to 18, which Maxen was obviously not helping to pay for.
Another chunk of the settlement was budgeted out for Lucy’s college fund. “I don’t ever want my baby to go into debt,” Celia’s mom declared resolutely. “Just never, not like I did.”
Another chunk was budgeted out to eventually buy Lucy her first car.
When Celia had briefly looked mortified at the possibility of this money being essentially stuck under a mattress, her mom had clarified that it was going into savings accounts and a variety of low-risk investments. “So that my money will go to work for me.” Diana was simply planning for how she was eventually going to spend it.
Another chunk was budgeted out for “my remaining lifetime’s worth of spa visits,” which Celia’s mom had declared with a happy smile. Assuming weekly visits, plus monthly hair styling, came out to 97k after tips (which Diana had insisted on despite Celia saying tips were optional for her momma). Habits add up, even with the substantial discount she was getting to only pay product fees rather than full service fees.
“What if I just pay you an even $100,000 right now, sweetie? Would you find it more helpful to have that right now, when you’re getting things of the ground, or to have a customer you can count on for maybe 40 years?” her mom had asked.
Celia: Celia had taken the $100,000. She’d found someone to invest for her, after spending part of it on that new room she’d needed once she realized her Kindred clients needed their own space. She’d told her mom it was a “free service for life” kind of thing.
GM: The bulk of the spa’s funding, after all, had already been taken care of. Savoy had provided that with a very large and interest-free loan. He’d laughed off the idea of anything like service for life. Mélissaire pays the full service fee and tips generously whenever she comes in. “All” Celia’s grandsire expected in return was that she would be “amenable” to any particular uses he had for the spa down the line.
The first use was when he asked her to administer slow-acting poison to a client who needed to die, slowly and without suspicion. That sort of thing.
Mélissaire recommends the place to all her girls.
Celia: She hadn’t had an issue with that. It had been administered without question. She doesn’t pry or ask needless questions; when Lord Savoy asks her to jump, she does so. Backwards and in heels, even.
GM: Unaware of such shadowy benefactors, Celia’s mom had been delighted to feel like she was an integral part of her daughter’s business getting off the ground.
What was left of the settlement money, after being budgeted out or actually spent on the house, raising Lucy, Lucy’s college fund, Lucy’s car, Flawless’ start-up funds, and a 100k retirement fund for the almost-40-year-old Diana came out to around 150k left.
“I’m honestly not sure what to budget out the rest on, sweetie,” Celia’s mom had said thoughtfully. “I’ve offered to pay for med school for Emily, but she just says she won’t be a freeloader—like she’s any such thing! Maybe a trust fund for Lucy, like you and your siblings had?”
Celia: “You could,” Celia had told her, “and if you go that route I’d recommend talking to someone who knows more about it than I do. But, if the worst were to happen, it would protect Lucy from being taken advantage of by creditors or probate court from her… aunts and uncles, or eventual cousins, who think it unfair that your ‘grandchild’ gets a payout when they do not.”
Celia doesn’t want to think about her mother dying, but there’s no doubt in her mind that, if she were to pass away, Maxen or her siblings would come sniffing after the money, house, retirement fund, everything.
The more she thought about it, the better of an idea it became. She even offered to help her mother find someone to speak to about it and serve the role of trustee. Someone that wasn’t Paul.
GM: “What about Viv?” Celia’s mom had asked. “She’s a lawyer, obviously, and why we have this money in the first place, so she’s certainly done right by us before.”
“What about your mom?” Emily had suggested instead, once the conversation came to include her. “She’s also a lawyer, obviously, and not the kind of lady who’s easily pushed around. And this might be a way of extending an olive branch, to show you trust her in that role.”
“Oh, that’s thoughtful, sweetie, but I really think Viv would be a better idea, unless Celia has somebody else in mind,” their mom had said.
Celia: “Honestly, Mom, if the whole point of it is to keep Lucy safe, then we already know Grandmother would go up against Maxen. You can also make them co-trustees, or have Viv be a successor trustee in case something happens to Grandmother.”
GM: Diana’s lips had drawn into a thin line. “She can be a co-trustee, but you can ask her to do it.”
“So much for that olive branch,” Emily had said.
Celia: “I figured you’d want to protect the child that Maxen can’t get to,” Celia had said with a shake of her head. “Can’t bully Judge Underwood.”
GM: Judge Underwood had looked fairly nonplussed at that request when Celia had passed it along. They were meeting, this time, in her home rather than courtroom office.
“Your mother is a small and petty woman.”
Celia: “She is,” Celia had agreed. “She made strides, and Maxen’s kidnapping put her right back to where the thinks she belongs. I’m hoping that, with time, she will find herself again.”
GM: “Your statement presupposes there is something further within herself to find.”
“For good or ill, adversity shows who we are.”
Celia: “She told me you pushed for my abortion, when I was just a clump of cells.” There had been no judgment in her voice, no hurt or pain or sadness. Just cool, even facts. “That it was Maxen who fought to prevent that. I think, on some level, she has never gotten over that, so when he reduced her to nothing, to someone not worth fighting for, that is who she became.”
GM: Celia’s grandmother had not said anything for several moments.
“Your mother had been accepted into the Royal Ballet School,” she finally replied. “Children can wait. Dreams cannot.”
Celia’s mom hadn’t told her that. Just that she’d been accepted into “some schools” and wanted to dance in New York or London.
“I did not approve of your mother’s dream, but nevertheless found it preferable to her becoming an incubator out of high school. Unborn children cannot miss lives they have not experienced.”
Celia: “You had the right idea, then. I would have told her to do the same.”
GM: “I am grateful you have the maturity and perspective to recognize that fact. My advice for your mother to abort her pregnancy is not in any way an indictment against your personal worth. You were, as you say, a clump of cells, endowed with personhood in only the most philosophical of senses.”
“It is also not your fault that your mother chose to give up a promising career in her field. Your father enabled that decision, but it was, in the end, hers alone.”
Celia: “I cannot be blamed for choices that people made before I was born,” Celia had agreed, remembering the words that Pete had said to her in the car that first night.
GM: “I also hope you have considered whether becoming a parent at 20 years of age is conductive to your own dreams and professional aspirations, or so very different a personal choice from your mother’s.”
Celia: “She spends more time with my mom than she does with me,” is all Celia said to that.
GM: Celia’s grandmother had not pressed the matter further. For good or ill, the child was born.
“I will serve as a trustee for your daughter’s trust, in any case. I will also be 80 years old by the time Lucy is 18, assuming I am still alive then, so it would behoove you to find a second and younger co-trustee.”
Celia: “Mom wants to use Viv.”
GM: Celia’s grandmother had to ask who that was before indicating her approval of the choice. Vivan Carney is an attorney they have a preexisting relationship with and who’s done good work for them.
“I also would not mind seeing my great-granddaughter occasionally,” Payton had dryly remarked as the pair concluded their business.
Celia: Celia had not needed to feign her smile. She’d said that she would be happy to bring the little one by.
“Your daughter is the one who keeps her schedule, though. Perhaps a reconciliation is in order.”
GM: “I have many objections to your mother’s personal decisions, but I have none to her personal company, especially when that goes hand in hand with your daughter’s.”
Celia: Celia had relayed the sentiments to her mother the next time they spoke.
“I would like for Lucy to know her grandmother, since she does not have a father. Your mother also asked me to pass along that she misses her daughter.” She hadn’t said so in as many words, but the meaning was clear.
GM: Celia’s mother had been nursing and cooing at Lucy. Her happy expression had turned immediately taciturn.
“The only thing she misses about me is not being able to tell me off for ‘how foolish’ ballet is. She’s happier spending time with your aunt.”
Celia: “She told me you were accepted into the Royal Ballet School. She was proud of you.”
GM: Celia’s mother had closed her eyes. “I wish she hadn’t told you that. You already blame yourself.”
Celia: Celia’s gaze had hardened. “You will not keep this child from the only family she knows. Emily is without. You are all I have. Maxen will never put his hands on her. That leaves your mother. Stop being selfish.”
GM: At Celia’s look, her mom had averted her gaze back to Lucy.
“She wouldn’t even attend my performances, you know,” she’d said quietly over the infant’s suckling. “Your dad and I invited her all the time. She always said she had ‘more important’ things to do, even though she’d have gotten to sit next to you and your brothers and sisters, and spend time with you there.”
“Even when I made principal dancer. Even when I was the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Christmas shows. She didn’t come to a single one.”
Celia: “She messed up. Are you going to hold that against her forever? Are you going to prevent your daughter from being in her life?” Celia touched a hand to Lucy’s head. “She was born for a terrible reason. Maybe she can be what mends that broken fence, Mom. One day it will be too late to make amends.”
“You’re not a little girl anymore. You don’t need her approval. You never did. So don’t let what she thought of you be what keeps you going. Don’t hold onto resentment. It just eats away at you until there’s nothing left.”
GM: “It is too late for some things, sweetie. I won’t ever be the Sugar Plum Fairy again. It’s what I’d always, always wanted, ever since I was a little girl, and those moments on the stage, with the celesta playing, that just divine little sound, were some of the happiest of my life.” Her mom’s face was pained.
“I wanted her to be a part of that. That was me, that was who I was. And she just treated it all with… contempt. Just total, complete contempt. She didn’t even say ‘sorry, can’t make it’ when your dad and I invited her. She just didn’t even reply. That was how little respect she had for me. How little love she had for me. Those shows were me. And it’s too late now if she wants to see any. We can’t even sit and look at pictures of them, of me and Naomi and all the cast in our costumes, from that scrapbook I’d kept for years, or listen to that beautiful music box Mr. Guarini got for me, or look at my awards, because your dad threw all of that away! Just all of it! It’s too late for even that!”
Lucy started crying as her mother’s voice reached a near-yell.
Diana immediately started rocking the child back and forth while quietly shushing her.
Celia: “That’s his fault, Mom. That’s his fault that he did that. That he took that from you. She didn’t show up. She messed up. You still have the memories, don’t you? Why would you deny that to Lucy, who will never get any of her own? Grandma is past sixty. She’ll be eighty by the time Lucy is eighteen. What do you think Lucy is going to say when she’s a young adult and she learns you kept her family from her?”
“Do you want her to be as hateful as you’re being? You’re hurt. I get it. She messed up. So be the bigger person.”
GM: “I’ll tell her I kept her away from someone who didn’t have any love in her heart,” Diana said as she switched Lucy to another nipple. “Just like I am with her father. That’s love, to shield her from that kind of person.”
Celia: “And yet when he raped you, beat you, and put you back into the hospital, she was there for your children.”
GM: “She couldn’t humiliate them like she wanted to humiliate me.”
“After that first time, when your dad put me in the hospital. After… after we weren’t talking. I asked for her to come. She did.”
“I was never lower, Celia, just never lower. I needed someone. I was just, just naked in a blizzard.”
“She didn’t hug me. She didn’t comfort me. She didn’t grieve with me. She just lectured. Said how she’d seen this coming. About how this was all my fault. How I’d made so many bad decisions.”
“But also how this was a good thing, because now I could finally move on to a real career, because I was only 30 and I was still young.”
Celia’s mom didn’t yell that time. She just cupped a hand over Lucy’s ears, as if to shield the infant from hearing something obscene.
“She told me it was good, how I couldn’t dance.”
Diana had let that hang, then finally sighed at her nonresponsive daughter’s increasingly tired look.
“But you know, if she could just say sorry for that and everything else, just apologize for once in her life, maybe, I don’t know, that would be a start to showing she won’t be a bad influence on Lucy.”
Celia: “I’m done playing mediary. You’re both adults. Figure it out.”
GM: And that had swiftly seemed like the end of that, at least for then.
The trust fund was set up. A use was found for the remaining settlement money. Payton and Viv were co-trustees.
Sometimes you can’t fix the past, but you can plan for the future.
Sunday evening, 6 March 2016
GM: Celia and Randy knock on the house’s front door together.
It’s answered by Emily. The Toreador’s onetime roommate looks good. A little tired, maybe, typically of med school. Or maybe more than a little. There are traces of bags under her eyes. But there isn’t that same feeling of despair, like a pit she was exhaustedly scaling while knowing her hands would give out before she reached the top. She feels like she’s where she wants to be and going where she wants to go. She feels at home.
She still has great hair. Better, even, with the kind of care that Flawless can take care of it. She’s casually dressed in blue jeans, sneakers, and a long-sleeved tee.
“Celia, hi!” she exclaims, wrapping her friend up in a hug.
Celia: “Hey, babe,” Celia throws her arms around the other girl. She doesn’t mean to sniff her hair, but she does. Covertly. Or at least she thinks she’s being covert.
It’s kind of obvious, honestly, and she doesn’t look the least bit sorry about it.
“Mmm, Em, you smell amazing. Is that the Shu Uemura?”
GM: Emily pretends she doesn’t use that $49-a-bottle volumizing stuff, but once Celia got her started on that habit it was hard to break.
“Uh, glad you like it,” she laughs at the sniffing.
She rubs Celia’s back, then removes herself before greeting Randy with another hug and some small talk.
Celia: “Where’s your boy?” Celia asks Emily while she pounces on Randy. “Mom told me y’all getting serious.” She wiggles her brows.
Support: “Don’t tease her, babe,” Randy smiles. Then frowns. “Wait, are we serious?”
Celia: “Are you planning on proposing?” Celia asks him, brow arched.
Support: “Um… am I?”
Celia: “I guess we’re not serious.” Celia pulls Emily away from her not-so-serious boyfriend. She drapes an arm around the girl’s shoulder, lets loose a long-suffering sigh. “Boys,” she says, “am I right?”
“Maybe you and I should run off together, Em. Watcha think?”
Support: Randy looks a little like a kicked puppy, but he seems to take it in stride pretty quickly.
GM: “I’ve heard worse ideas,” Emily says with some amusement. “Maybe if med school makes me take yet another exam with buzzwords I haven’t spent any time studying. We can elope.”
Celia: “Whaaaaat?” Celia whines. “Elope? Are you kidding? Do you know how good we’d look in a pair of white wedding dresses? Girl, I have been planning your wedding since I met you.”
She leans in, voice lowered in a stage whisper. “But seriously if you want to elope we can elope.”
GM: “Like I said,” Emily answers wryly. “Just one more bullshit exam.”
“Keep the dresses picked out.”
Celia: “Excellent.” Celia winks at her. “Did Mom make tacos? Randy was just telling me he wanted tacos.”
GM: “Sweetie? Are they here?” calls Diana’s voice.
Celia: “Also, Em, you know if you need me to sleep with your professor for a good grade I will one hundred percent put Randy in a dress.”
GM: “Yeah, Mom, they’re-” Emily calls back, then cuts off with an abrupt giggle.
“You would look adorable in a dress, Randy.”
Support: “Luckily, not the first time I’ve heard that.”
His mother used to put him in dresses, when he was a baby. She often liked to show him the pictures.
He manages a good-natured smile. He’s happy Celia’s happy.
Celia: “He’s adorable regardless.” Celia holds out her hand to him.
Support: “Probably not as adorable as Celia, anyways,” he adds. He feels very clever.
He takes her hand with that same confidence he has never had a right to.
GM: Emily smiles as Diana comes out with Lucy, the latter of whom is now dressed in a puff-shouldered pink dress and mary janes that look like they were picked out for “having company over” instead of a fluffy bathrobe. Emily, mindful of the fact that Diana prefers women to “dress like women,” has bought pants for the six-year-old to wear, but those never seem to get worn during days when their mom helps Lucy pick out clothes.
Diana hugs Celia and Randy in turn. “Hi, sweetie! Hi Randy! Oh, we’re all so glad you could make it! Lucy, you want to give these two a hug?”
“Hiiiii,” says Lucy, outstretching her arms.
Celia: “Hey babycakes.” Celia picks the girl up and swings her around. “How’s my favorite little Lucy-Goose doin’ tonight, hm?”
GM: Lucy giggles and holds out her arms like an airplane. “Vrrrrm! I’m an airplane!”
Celia: “Mom,” Celia says to Diana, very seriously, “did you make tacos?”
GM: “Tacos?” Celia’s mom looks a little surprised by the question’s seriousness. “Afraid not, sweetie, but I think you and Randy will both just love what we have tonight. Lucy helped! She’s a real chef!”
“I helped! Vrrrrrrrrmmm!”
Celia: “Vroom vroom,” Celia agrees. “What did you make, little chef?”
GM: “Biscuits with chocolate gravy!” Lucy exclaims.
“There’s a side entrée to go with the dessert,” Emily adds wryly.
Support: Randy chuckles, eying his ‘babe’ out of the corner of his eye after her little taco bit. “Probably came out real good, if she’s got you two’s genes.” Did that makes sense? He thinks that made sense. That’s sweet. “That’s a great engine noise, Lucy. Sounds like the real thing.”
It is too bad there aren’t tacos, though.
Celia: “I s’pose we should get inside and dig into those biscuits. And let Robby know we’re running away together,” Celia adds, winking at Em. She sets Lucy down, taking Randy’s hand once more in her own. She’d meant to kiss his cheek earlier. Had she done that yet? She does it now, anyway, and follows the others in.
GM: There’s a knock from outside the door.
“Oh, perfect timing,” Celia’s mom says as Emily moves to open it.
Celia: “Oh, was he not here yet? I just assumed he was being rude.”
GM: “Oh no, just a lil’ later than you two,” Diana says, smiling to mask the briefly uncomfortable feeling in the air at Celia’s statement.
Celia: Is it uncomfortable? She thought she’d been doing the whole snarky joke thing. Oh well.
People are so touchy these days.
GM: “Hey, babe,” Emily says at the door.
“Hey, Emi,” comes Robby’s voice.
Emily’s boyfriend is tall. He’s closer to 7’0" than 6’0", but thin and lanky, with unruly black hair, larger glasses, and a very short beard that looks more like a week’s worth of stubble. He’s dressed up a little nicer than her with a button-down instead a tee to go with his jeans, but hasn’t gone so far as to put on a jacket or tie.
His girlfriend giggles as he picks her up mid-huge and swings her around not altogether unlike Celia with Lucy.
Celia: Celia shares a look with Randy.
GM: Robby gives Emily a peck and sets her down before saying hi to everyone else. Diana gets a hug, then Lucy, who giggles that he’s “Tall as an airplane!”
“Hey, Celia. Randy,” he nods to them both in turn. Celia gets a hug back if she initiates one. The two guys likely don’t.
Celia: Of course Celia wants a hug. She’s so human right now it’s painful. She wonders if Robby will take her for a spin, too.
GM: She just gets a normal hug. A tall hug he has to stoop down for.
Support: Ugh, he’s never sure whether to shake their hands or go for a fist bump.
He goes for the former with Robby. Seems like the kind of prick who sets store by that kind of thing.
“Nice to see you, Robby.”
GM: Robby actually looks somewhat unsure what to do either, having settled for just a nod, that then gets invalidated when they shake.
“Yeah, you two,” he nods again. “You still, uh. Sorry, what do you do again?”
“Robby, gimme an airplane ride!” Lucy exclaims.
“Say please, Lucy,” her mom smiles.
Support: He lets Celia describe it. Safer that way.
GM: “Plllllease?” asks Lucy.
Celia: Celia pecks his cheek, too, and smiles at him. Then she returns to her ‘boyfriend.’
“He races,” Celia supplies. The duh is left unsaid, but still heard.
GM: “Oh, like NASCAR?” asks Robby. He picks up Lucy and spins her around, well above any of the others.
Support: “Professionally, for a living,” he adds. “And less professionally, for fun.”
Celia: “I’m actually thinking about buying him a Ducati if he wins his next one. Isn’t that right, babe?”
Support: “Kind of. Not that famous yet. Grew up watching it, though.”
GM: “Oh, wow. That must be so exciting. Really exciting. I’m just a boring accountant,” says Robby.
Lucy shrieks and flaps her arms. “Vrrrm vrrrm vrrrrrrrm!”
“Robby isn’t boring. He fences with HEMA,” Emily adds helpfully.
Support: “Oh, you don’t have to do that, really. Ruby’s more than enough for what I do,” he says, while his eyes signal the exact opposite.
“And, you know, it has its problems, but boredom isn’t one of them.”
“Oh, for reals? Always wanted to learn to fence.”
Along with Kung Fu. And Krav Maga. And jet-skiing.
Celia: Good thing he has forever to learn.
Support: Yeah. Good.
GM: “It technically isn’t fencing. That involves the foil, epee, or saber,” says Robby. “What I do is historical European martial arts. That’s what HEMA is an acronym for.”
Celia: “Sounds super,” Celia says dryly. “You must be good at handling swords, hm?”
That actually does make it sound boring.
GM: “They’re a bunch of nerds who dress up like knights and go around swinging swords and axes,” says Emily.
Celia: “Did he show you his preferred technique, Em?”
GM: “Yeah, he practices techniques with me all the time.”
Celia: “I bet.”
GM: Diana gives a faintly disapproving frown.
Celia: “Maybe we can, like, double up sometime?”
GM: “Faster! Faster!” says Lucy.
Celia: “Show me something new, hey Robby?”
Support: Randy coughs. “What were you making, Mrs. Flores? Need any help in the kitchen?”
Celia: “Randy is real good at stick.”
Support: “Okay,” he murmurs.
GM: “Mind the kid please, y’all,” Diana chides. “And that’s so kind of you to ask, Randy, yes we could! We were in the middle of setting the table when y’all showed up. Dinner’s already cooked, so all we gotta do now is tuck in.”
Celia: Celia just smiles.
Support: “No problem, ma’am.”
GM: Lucy makes more noises and flaps her arms.
Support: He goes to do so, but looks over his shoulder at Celia and mouths ‘need talk.’
Celia: Celia is busy watching Robby.
You know what they say about tall guys.
GM: “Okay, Lucy, end of your ride,” says Robby.
“Airplane comin’ in for landing! Towers on alert!” exclaims Diana, holding out her arms for Robby to deposit Lucy into.
The six-year-old makes touchdown noises.
Support: Randy finishes the placemats, makes eye contact with Celia, then flicks his eyes to a nearby hallway.
Celia: Oh. She excuses herself.
GM: “Oh, y’all want to wash up? Bathroom’s thataways, Randy,” Diana points out.
Somewhat superfluously. There’s only one hallway. The house isn’t big.
Celia: The walls are probably thin, too.
Support: “Thanks,” he says, and heads that way. Hoping she follows.
Celia: She does! She doesn’t even giggle to give herself away.
Maybe a little giggle.
Support: He waits to wash his hands and let the sink slightly drown out his words as he whispers to her, “If I told you there was something in that girl you drank, would you be, um, calm about it?”
Celia: Celia locks the door behind them. She stares at him. Her eyes are a little bigger than usual. Maybe she’s just widening them at him.
“Randy,” she whispers back, “you could just put something in me, you know. We don’t have to pretend this is about her.”
“But are you saying,” she says after a second, “that you drugged me?”
Support: “Maybe. Accidentally. Which, I uh, I realize might have been avoided by not finding the highest girl I could find so I wasn’t late.”
Celia: She should maybe be angry about this. But, honestly, everything feels pretty swell right now. Her Beast is snoozing, drunk on that sweet girl it had gorged itself on earlier.
“She was so cute,” Celia tells him instead. “You’re cute, too. Did you not bring me in here to fuck? Because, like, I might not be wearing panties right now.”
Her skirt is kind of short, too.
Support: Maybe the right thing to do here is to just—
No. Probably not.
“We might be able to do more than that, if we, um, got out of here,” he says. “For longer, even. More vigorously. Since you’re distracted, I mean.”
Celia: “Yeah, but.” Her eyes are a little wider than normal. “But listen. Last time I left one of Mom’s dinners she was kidnapped and raped, and that’s awkward. So if you didn’t bring me in here to bang—like if you’re just being a tease right now—then we just gotta… gotta play it cool.” She makes a motion with her hand. One of those ’let’s be chill’ motions.
Support: “…hard to argue with that,” Randy says, because it is. “Okay, well, if you just… can try to avoid saying anything you would be mad at me for saying, this might not be so bad. I can get us out, if I have to. Just… chill, right?”
Celia: Chill. She can be chill. She nods, showing him how chill she can be. So chill. So chill, leaning against the sink. So chill when she touches his chest, the fabric of his shirt, the scruff of a fresh beard on his face.
Then she’s in his arms. Or he’s in hers. It doesn’t matter, really, because her hands are on him and she’s leaning in, cheek pressed against his chest. She rubs her face against him, like a cat marking its human. She can hear his heart thud. There’s no hint of fang, just a small purr. It’s an entirely human sound. Everything is alive for her. Electric.
Her touch doesn’t last long. A few seconds.
“Chill,” she repeats in a whisper. Then she’s gone, back out the door and down the hall to find her breather family.
They can all be human together tonight.
Support: “O… okay,” he whispers.
Then he has to make sure his erection isn’t visible.
Then he follows her.
GM: Dinner is chicken pot pie. It’s baked in a large dish with flaky golden crust and little slits for steam to rise out from. There are also sides of roasted green beans with a contrasting chewier texture and sweet-tasting fruit salad: strawberries, bananas, oranges, grapes, bluberries, and kiwis, with a dressing of vanilla, honey, and poppy seeds.
“Y’all washed up? Oh, good,” Celia’s mom smiles, then folds her hands in prayer. She’s joined by Emily and Lucy. Robby sort of awkwardly just holds his hands together on the table.
“Bless us, Oh Lord, and these Thy gifts we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ Our Lord.”
There are several “amens.” Robby just nods.
Support: Randy joins. He’s not a barbarian.
Celia: Celia pays lip service to the God that her mother worships. It’s no different than what she does with the Sanctified, really.
But she grins at Robby when everyone else has their eyes closed.
GM: Robby smiles back and looks a little relieved. Celia’s mom starts carving up the pie. It’s got chicken, carrots, peas, celery, yellow onion, and a creamy white milk sauce with garlic and thyme.
“I’m so glad we still get to have moments like these,” she says as she serves. “Between med school for Emily and runnin’ a business for Celia, getting everyone’s schedules to work out is like herding cats.”
“Herding cats?” asks Lucy.
Celia: “Pussy cats,” Celia says, popping the P.
GM: “That means something really hard, sweetie. Pussy cats are pussy cats. You can’t make ‘em do anything they don’t feel like.”
Celia: “You know what else is hard?” Celia asks the table at large.
GM: “What’s that?” asks Robby.
Support: “Mmm,” Randy says as he swallows a mouthful of cream-and-bread smothered chicken. “Probably getting cats to walk away from a dinner like this. Everything’s delicious, ma’am.”
Don’t say what you’re about to say don’t say it…
Celia: Celia points her empty fork at Randy.
Support: He lets out an audibly relieved sigh.
GM: “Why thank you, Randy, I’m so glad you like it,” Celia’s mom beams. “Lucy helped! She made the pastry dough, all by herself.”
“Huh?” Lucy asks at the ‘hard’ question.
Celia: “Pastry dough,” Celia says to her. “Real hard. Good job, champ. All that kneading.”
“Speaking of kneading. Robby, are you coming in for a massage sometime soon? All that… athletic action with the swords and all?”
GM: “Oh. Yeah. It was lots of kneading!” Lucy makes the attendant hand gestures.
Celia: Celia makes her own hand gestures.
Support: “You should,” Randy says, blitzing over the innuendo. “She’s great at what she does, Celia.”
GM: “Yes, you definitely should!” Celia’s mom echoes. “I go in at least every week, and they are just some of the most relaxing hours you will ever spend, anywhere. Celia will turn you into jello in her hands.”
“Emi’s mentioned,” says Robby. “I have been in, a few times. Celia wasn’t there. It definitely felt great. I’d thought spas were just for women.”
Support: “Me too, but then you try it.”
Celia: “Misconception,” Celia tells him. Hadn’t Gui said that too, years ago? She’s sure he did. That’s how it had taken off among the Kindred.
Support: “Like daiquiris. Or… something else women do that men can also enjoy. Fruit salad, maybe. Could you pass the fruit?”
GM: “Help yourself!” Celia’s mom declares as she passes over the dish.
“We should set you up with a session with Celia,” says Emily. “She doesn’t do the same massage work as a massage therapist, but honestly, she’s better at it than any of the other girls.”
Celia: “Emily’s is more medical based,” Celia agrees. “Mine is more focused on… relaxing. Feeling good. Unwinding. That kind of thing.”
GM: “Sign me up then. The massage I had was already great,” says Robby in between a forkful of pie. “It’d feel just heavenly, I bet, after a really long sparring session.”
GM: Everyone is tucking in to the food by now, except for her. Pushing it around on her plate.
“I say something funny?” asks Robby, a little puzzled.
Celia: “Just thinking about you dancing around with a big sword in your hand.”
GM: “Yeah, that’s HEMA,” says Emily. “Basically a bunch of D&D nerds who actually know how to fight.”
Celia: “Do you two roleplay?” Celia asks Em, looking between the pair of them.
Support: Randy coughs. “Like, Dungeons & Dragons.”
GM: “I’ve run a few World of Shadow games for her,” says Robby.
“Yeah, I liked that more than D&D,” says Emily.
Celia: “World of Shadow?”
GM: “Oh, I thought D&D was satanic?” Diana asks, covering Lucy’s ears.
Celia: “No, Mom, Satan is satanic. No one has thought that since the ’80s. Did you let her read that book about the wizard kid yet?”
GM: “Oh, I thought that it was. That’s a relief,” her mom says, uncovering Lucy’s ears.
Robby looks about to start ranting, but holds off when Celia seems to clear the matter up.
“Sorry, Wizard kid?” Diana then asks. “Oh, you mean that series. I don’t know, I’ve heard some concerning things about it. I figure better safe than sorry, when there’s so many other books. Like Narnia. Lucy loves Narnia, don’t you, Lucy-Goose?”
Lucy nods. “Yeah! The girl’s named after me.”
Celia: “Didn’t that author, like, sell out his comrades in the First World War or something? And then start banging his friend’s mom?”
GM: Diana covers Lucy’s ears again with an admonishing look.
Celia: “Are you two…?” Celia gestures between Emily and her mom.
GM: Diana looks confused.
Emily doesn’t. She gives Celia a ‘hey adult humor around the kid?’ look.
Support: “I liked the movies,” Randy says lamely. “With the, uh. Lion.”
GM: “Aslan! Mommy, stop covering my ears!” says Lucy.
Support: “Aslan, that’s right.”
He kisses Celia on the cheek suddenly.
Celia: Celia is momentarily stunned into silence.
GM: Lucy giggles.
“Yeah, he’s basically Lion Jesus,” says Emily. She looks at Celia as she eats.
Celia’s mom smiles at the apparent affection between the lovebirds.
Celia: Celia gestures toward Robby.
“You were saying earlier?”
GM: “Well, World of Shadow is sort of like D&D,” says Robby. “Except the setting is more horror and urban fantasy than it is high fantasy.”
“Yeah, it was interesting,” says Emily. “Darker stuff more reflective of real world issues. Less escapist.”
Support: Man. That sounds so, so boring. Nerds.
He’s lucky the strangest thing about him is his vampire girlfriend.
Celia: “Like what? Politics? Ghosts?”
GM: “Yeah, that sort of stuff,” says Robby. “Classic horror monsters. You know, vampires, werewolves, wizards, demons, that sort of thing.”
Diana looks alarmed at ‘demons.’
“You’re sure that’s not satanic?” she asks. “I heard some really concerning things about that company, what was it, Black Dog, back in the day.”
“Yes, Mom, we are sure,” says Emily.
Support: “I mean, demons are in the Bible,” Randy says, maybe less helpfully than he thinks.
GM: Diana has covered Lucy’s ears again.
The six-year-old looks a little annoyed.
Celia: “So are wizards. Jesus walked on water, that’s kind of wizardy.”
“Didn’t he turn blood into wine, too? You think Jesus was a vampire?” She’s looking between Diana and Robby.
GM: “Ah, maybe we can save this subject for after dinner, y’all,” Celia’s mom says.
Celia: “Didn’t people eat his flesh? So like a cannibal, too.”
GM: “Okay, let’s definitely, please!” says Diana.
Support: Randy laughs and kisses her cheek again. Chill, his eyes say.
Celia: Cannibals, Celia mouths at Robby.
GM: Robby looks sympathetic, but nods at Lucy.
“So, Randy, what’s going on in your life?” asks Emily. Clearly changing the subject.
Support: He’s all too happy to talk about the current circuit of races he’s leading in. A lot of it is specific car talk, though, which he looks to Robby (as the other man at the table) to help explain.
He does make sound effects for Lucy, though.
“It’s a good season, when I’m not spending time with Cici,” he laughs, touching Celia’s arm lightly.
Celia: Celia smiles back at him. She rubs his hand where it touches her arm. She hadn’t known much about cars and racing when they’d gotten together, but apparently there’s more to it than the movies or NASCAR make it out to be.
“He just got a new sponsorship with one of those energy drink companies.”
It’s a little more legit than running around Europe with guns taped to the front of his car or drifting around back roads in Tokyo with kilos of coke in the trunk.
Though there’s some of that, too.
Support: If Tokyo was Tremè and Europe was the Quarter.
And the coke was actually a biker’s old lady, for a variety of awkward reasons.
“Yeah, energy drinks,” he agrees. “Stuff’s called Blue Milk. I think it’s a Star Trek thing?”
GM: “Star Wars,” corrects Robby. “That’s what Luke drinks in the first movie. Blue milk.”
“Well congratulations to you, Randy,” smiles Diana. The smile looks largely blank at the ‘blue milk’ explanation. “I’m sure that must be very good for raising your profile.”
“Yeah, congrats,” Emily echoes.
“That’s strange an energy drink can call their product blue milk,” says Robby thoughtfully. “The term is copyrighted.”
Support: Randy shrugs, happy to hide the lie behind all-too-real ignorance.
Celia: Celia leans in close to her boyfriend, whispering the word nerd into the shell of his ear.
Support: “I’m not so attached to the product, but its nice to be noticed by a company lime that. Reputation and brand is kind of everything, in my circles.”
GM: “What are you whispering about!” ‘asks’ Lucy.
Celia: “Secret adult things,” Celia tells her.
GM: “What secret things?”
Support: “Very secret,” Randy agrees. “But if you want us to include you,” he leans down and whispers into her ear, “There’s chicken pot pie on your nose.”
Celia: Celia nods her agreement.
GM: Lucy touches her napkin to her nose.
Support: “All better!”
GM: Lucy looks at her napkin confusedly. “But where’s the chicken..?”
Celia: “Randy probably ate it. He’s a growing boy.”
Celia dumps her plate onto his, at that.
GM: “On my nose…?”
Celia: “He’s very quick.”
Support: “Oh,” he says glancing down at the sudden abundance of food. “Maybe not that quick, but I’ll do my best.”
Celia: “Everyone in the racing industry knows him as Speedy Gonzales.”
Support: “Also copyrighted, sadly.”
Celia: “Randy, don’t make me take you outside.”
GM: Lucy touches her nose again.
“There wasn’t any chicken on your nose, sweetie. They’re pullin’ your leg,” Diana explains. “And oh please, you two, there’s plenty still left to go around! You’ve barely touched your plate, Celia.”
Celia: “Dieting,” Celia tells her mother. “Randy is going to pop the question soon, I can feel it. Have to fit into a wedding dress.”
She looks pointedly at Robby as she says this.
GM: Diana’s look at her daughter’s boyfriend is positively glowing.
Robby just gives a sort of awkward smile.
“She normally put this much pressure on you?” Emily asks Randy.
“Would you like me to make you something lighter, sweetie, like a salad?” Celia’s mom asks her.
Celia: “It’s okay, Momma,” Celia tells her. “I had a protein shake earlier.”
GM: “You sure you wouldn’t like some apple slices to munch on, at least? They’re one of the lowest-calorie foods out there, and I feel bad with you just sittin’ there not touching anything while we all eat.”
Celia: “I’m saving my calories for later,” Celia tells her. She winks at Randy.
That’s what she’s implying.
To him, at least. The rest of them probably think dessert.
GM: “Hey,” says Emily, “I think there’s a jar of that fat-free, sugar-free hot fudge spread in the kitchen somewhere. You want to help me find it, Celia?”
Diana thinks. “I honestly don’t think we have any of that, sweetie.”
“I’m pretty sure we do,” says Emily. “I just can’t remember where it is.”
Celia: “Sure,” Celia says, rising from her chair.
GM: “Oh, let me!” her mom starts.
Emily not-so-subtly puts her hands on Diana’s shoulders to sit her back down.
“Mom, you cooked all of this. Enjoy it. We’ll be right back.”
“I helped!” says Lucy.
Celia: “You sure did, Goose.” Celia retreats to the kitchen.
GM: Emily follows her. She gets very close to Celia and inspects her eyes.
Celia: Celia tugs her even closer.
“Hi,” she murmurs against her neck. “You’re very cute.”
GM: Emily disengages herself. “Your pupils aren’t dilated, but you’re on something. What is it?”
Celia: “Emmy,” Celia whispers, loudly, “I think he gave me something. It’s been a while since we’ve banged. Am I being weird?”
GM: “Yeah. You’ve been totally inappropriate this entire dinner. You’ve flirted with everyone who isn’t a six-year-old.”
She studies the ground.
“Are you mad at me?”
GM: “I’m mad at your boyfriend. He seriously fucking gave you something?”
Celia: “I don’t know. He brought the shake to me.”
“Em, Emmy. Listen though.”
GM: “When was this?”
Celia: Celia pulls her close again.
“You’re still very cute.”
GM: Emily disentangles herself. “When did he give you that shake?”
“But listen, Em. Do you remember that friend I had? Also named Em? Doesn’t he kinda look like him sometimes? Like when you’re on his lap.”
GM: "Sure, I guess. Did you have the shake a few hours ago, maybe? Or was it before lunch?
Celia: “Emily.” Celia’s lower lip quivers. “Emily. They killed him. He died. And every time I look at Randy I think about him. And it hurts.”
GM: Emily frowns. “They killed him? What are you talking about?”
Celia: “I’m talking about Em.”
GM: “Wha—who killed Em, Celia? How did that happen?”
Celia: “The state! My dad! I don’t know, whoever signed the execution orders. So Randy is all, ‘why do you care about this guy so much,’ and how am I supposed to tell him when no one knows, Emi?”
GM: “Wait, Em was executed? What the fuck?”
She hugs Celia. “Jesus. I’m so sorry.”
Celia: “I didn’t even get to know him.” Celia clings to Emily. Rubs her back. She feels really good. Being wrapped up in her arms is like wearing her favorite sweater. Are breathers always this warm?
“They stole him, Emi.”
GM: “He seemed like a good dude,” says Emily.
She leaves the ‘why did they execute him’ unspoken.
Celia: “I can’t talk to anyone about it. Everything hurts. Everyone I love dies.” Stephen’s public death had been an ordeal, too.
GM: Emily squeezes her. “We’re still kicking. Me, your mom, Lucy. We all love you so much, Celia.”
Celia: “But you’re all going to die at some point.”
GM: “Sure. So will you. Everyone dies.”
Celia: Celia doesn’t tell her what she’s thinking. That she already did. Years ago.
GM: “Chances are Lucy will outlive you, though.”
“We love you,” she repeats with another squeeze. “And it makes me mad as fucking hell that your boyfriend might be a scumbag rapist who’s drugged you.”
“So, here’s what I want us to do.”
Celia: “He didn’t rape me, he turned me down in the bathroom.”
GM: “Wait, what?”
GM: “What do you mean, he turned you down in the… oh, Jesus.”
Celia: Celia giggles.
GM: “Jesus,” Emily repeats.
“Did he just forget about this family dinner or what, and figure he’d have you all to himself?”
Celia: “Are you gonna take me upstairs?” Celia trails a hand through Em’s hair.
GM: “There isn’t an upstairs, hon. There’s just one story.”
Celia: “Why doesn’t she have an upstairs? That’s so typical. Ruining my pickup lines.”
“Tell her,” Celia whispers, “tell her she’s fired.”
GM: “Yeah, you’re definitely on something. So, here’s what I want us to do. I want you to spend the night and sleep it off. I think you’re on ecstasy, from how you’re acting, but that’s often slipped in with other drugs. You might also be on rohypnol or who knows what, so it’s not safe for you to be alone where you might pass out.”
“And definitely not safe for you to go home with your possibly rapist boyfriend.”
Celia: “He’s not a rapist!” Celia repeats.
GM: “Possibly rapist. I also want you to pee into a cup so we can test a urine sample for whatever you’re on.”
Celia: “I didn’t know you were into that kind of thing.”
“Should we get in the shower first?”
GM: “A solo shower might not be a bad idea. Clear your head a bit.”
Celia: “Naked?” Celia wiggles her brows.
“Me and you? Yeah?”
GM: “Solo means just you, babe. I’ll wait outside the door in case you’re on roofies that make you pass out.”
Celia: “Mmmm, can’t. Got a thing to do later.”
“But if you were joining me I’d make time, babe.”
GM: “Celia, the only thing you need to do right now is go to bed. It is not safe for you to be on your own right now. We don’t know what other drugs you might be on, or even for 100% whether this is ecstasy.”
Celia: “Randy!” Celia calls, loudly. “Can you come in here?”
GM: “Randy’s going to say no whether he gave you the drugs or not. And whether he gave you anything or not, you’re still high as a kite. You’re gonna sleep it off here around people who love you and won’t let anything bad happen.”
Celia: “Yeah, but, I have a meeting. So I can’t.”
“Also, if you’re not gonna let me get in your pants then I’m not really interested.”
GM: “Uh huh. Who’s the meeting with?”
Celia: “Ramon.” Celia rolls the R for a much longer time than is necessary.
GM: Emily snaps her fingers. “Oh, Ramon, right.”
Celia: “You’re really pretty when you’re mad.”
GM: She pulls out her phone, taps the screen, holds it to her ear.
“Hey, Ramon. This is Emily. Look, Celia’s feeling pretty sick right now. She can’t make…”
Celia: Celia snatches the phone away.
“Don’t listen she’s been roofied byeeeee.”
GM: Emily snatches the phone back. “She can’t make the meeting. What? You understand? Oh, thanks so much.”
She hangs up.
“Okay, Ramon said the meeting’s off. You can sleep it off.”
Celia: “You don’t even know who Ramon is!”
GM: “I wouldn’t have his number on my phone if I didn’t know, now would I?”
Celia: “You know who we should call?”
“Tell him I got knocked up again. By a black guy. No, wait, by you. Tell him you’re a black man. Transitioning. And then we can go upstairs and do it.”
GM: “Yeah, let’s file that under ‘go bungee jumping without a bungee cord’ as far as good ideas. Hey, Mom!” she calls.
“Mom, we need to talk with you!”
Celia: Celia claps a hand over Emily’s mouth.
“Mom, she’s kidding.”
GM: Emily pulls the hand away as Diana arrives.
Celia: “Emily said she’s pregnant.”
GM: “I’m not pregnant,” Emily cuts off as Diana’s eyes widen. “Celia is on drugs that I think her boyfriend might have given her.”
Celia: “I’m not on drugs, I told you, it’s Klonopin because my friend died, Jesus Emily.”
GM: Diana looks mortified and swoops in to hold her daughter. “Oh my lord! Sweetie, how are you feeling!?”
Celia: “I have to go, Mom, Emily is—” oh.
GM: “She’s on ecstasy, I think,” says Emily. “Maybe roofies if he gave her something else. She said she’d not had sex with him in a while.”
“Should we take her to the hospital?” Diana asks.
Celia: “Fucking. Stop.” Celia yanks herself away from them.
GM: Emily shakes her head. “Good idea in principle, not so much in practice. We can have her sl…”
Celia: “I was drinking. Okay? I drank before I came over here because I had a terrible fucking day, I keep thinking he’s going to propose to me and he doesn’t, my friend died, my ex died, like why am I not allowed to have a goddamned fucking Tequila Sunrise without everyone getting their fucking panties in a bunch?”
“I’m leaving. Goodnight.”
GM: “Oh. I guess that explains the normal pupils,” says Emily.
Celia: Celia doesn’t say anything. She stalks off to find Randy.
GM: Emily lays a hand on her. “Celia, wait.”
Celia: “No. I’m not staying.”
GM: “Okay, you can go! I just-”
Celia’s mom abruptly hugs her tight. She doesn’t say anything. Just holds her close and strokes her hair.
“I’m sorry, sweetie. I’m so sorry those awful things all happened.”
Celia: “I have to go.” Celia wriggles free from her mom’s grip.
GM: “Celia, wait!” her mom calls.
Celia: “What, Mom?”
GM: Her mom wraps a hand around her shoulder. “We just want to be there for you. We love you. Let me make up your bed. Put you to sleep. Cook you breakfast in the morning.”
“I can talk to Randy. Ask how serious he is,” says Emily. “We can… wait to talk about the drinking. Right now we just wanna help you out. If Randy is part of why you’re drinking, then maybe a night apart is something you could use.”
Celia: “Oh my God.” Celia crosses her arms. “Look. It’s not a big thing. I am having an off night. I love you guys, but staying here is not conducive to me fixing my stuff. I’m sorry I ruined dinner. I’ll make it up to you guys. But I have to go.”
GM: “You didn’t ruin dinner, sweetie,” her mom says, “you just-”
“Can’t be around Lucy when you’re drunk,” Emily says, as much to their mom with a more critical look before turning back to Celia. “Look, you’re in a bad place right now. Okay. Let us help you fix that.”
Celia: Celia makes a noise that might be a snort and might be a huff.
“How dare I have one off night, you’re right, you didn’t drink yourself into a stupor in undergrad ever.” Remember that night, Emily, when Celia showed up to help you and let her mom get kidnapped, raped, and tortured because you were having an off night?
Oh, that’s right, Celia isn’t so much of a cunt that she throws it in her friend’s face.
“I love you. Goodnight.”
She doesn’t wait for them to respond. She turns and walks away, grabbing Randy on her way to the door.
Support: Randy, meanwhile, has been having a great time. The food’s great, Lucy’s pretty cute when she isn’t having her ears covered every five seconds, and he understands like half of what Robby’s talking about even if it’s pretty dull. All in all, best family dinner he’s had in a long time.
He’s so preoccupied explaining to an insistent Lucy what a V8 is that he doesn’t immediately come when Celia calls him, and it’s a few moments later when she’s suddenly dragging him out the door.
“Oh—nice seeing y’all have a good night—!”
As the door shuts behind them, he wipes some chicken pot pie off his nose (oh how the turntables) and says, “That wasn’t too bad,” with entirely too much earnestness.
GM: He didn’t even get dessert.
Celia’s mom calls after her. There’s a final, “I’ll see you later at the spa, sweetie, sometime soon! We love you!” before she’s gone.
Celia: He’s in trouble.
He’s in so much trouble.
She doesn’t tell him he’s in trouble because whatever drug he gave her is still in her system, and it’s very slowly working its way out, and there’s some tiny part of her that is still giddy. That part of her has the Beast locked up tight in a little cage inside her chest. It’s more like a kitten right now. One of those kittens in a teacup with a flower on its head. It’ll still bite a hand that tries to touch it, but ignore it long enough and it might ignore you, too.
“So much for chill.”
It is, hopefully, her final giggle of the night.