“There’s nothing in the past but more nightmares.”
Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, PM
GM: Caroline lets Celia borrow her choice of clothes from any of her sisters. There’s plenty to pick from. By the time she’s dressed, the girls seem to have finished their dance lesson. They thank Celia for doing their faces and making them look so pretty. They all took lots of photos.
Simmone has to be reminded by Cécilia to say thanks. She’s starting to look anxious again. Her sister makes pleasantries before spiriting her upstairs.
The others head out to their cars. Diana closes the door behind Lucy as the six-year-old gets into the pink Beetle. She then turns, hugs Celia tightly, and gives a little sob into her daughter’s shoulder.
Celia: Celia explains away the wardrobe change as spilled wine and loose powder if anyone asks, and promises to get the clothes back to their rightful owner after a good wash. The clothes she’d left on the floor of the Devillers mansion are nothing but shredded tatters now; Caroline had said she’d take care of it, allowing Celia time to pack up and smile at the girls with their makeup and photos.
She’s a little taken aback by her mother’s sudden sob. She holds Diana close, rubbing a hand up and down her back.
“Everything okay, Momma?”
GM: Her mom hugs her tight.
“I… sweetie, I just had this… this just awful feeling…”
“Before the lesson… I don’t, I don’t know why, I love givin’ girls lessons…”
Celia: “An awful feeling?”
Does she mean the mind control bit Caroline had pulled? Had something else happened? Her gaze sharpens, sliding up and down her mother’s figure as if expecting to see some sort of physical marks.
GM: Celia’s eyes, all-too sharp despite the darkness, can make out nothing out of place.
“I did see…” Her mom’s voice lowers, “those girls Caroline and Autumn… I saw them being… affectionate. In a way like a man and a woman would be.”
“I guess that’s their choice… I’ll pray for them… the Devillers are a good family, they shouldn’t have to go through that…”
Celia: Oh. So it had been that. Celia is very, very grateful that Caroline had erased her from the memory; seeing her mother’s face crumple and listening to her now is like a shot to the gut. How bad would it have gotten between them if her mother hadn’t been made to forget her own transgressions?
“Well, Momma… it’s like with Landen, right? You don’t understand, but you don’t have to understand. It’s their life. I think it’s very thoughtful of you not to make a scene inside and to offer up your prayers, but we’re still in their driveway, and I know you love teaching Simmone. Let’s not do anything that will jeopardize that, hm? Caroline is old enough to make her own decisions.”
GM: Diana just shakes her head and hugs Celia tighter.
“I just felt so, so awful, sweetie… I… I can’t even…”
“I had to take a breather, before the lesson, and I just felt…”
Celia: “Maybe I can talk to her. It could have been a one-off. I’ll take her to church, she can… say some Hail Marys.” She’d said the same thing to Caroline when the lick had pinned her to the bed.
GM: “I think that I passed out, for a moment…” her mom shakily continues.
Celia: “Well, it’s all okay now. Your family is all fine. That’s something worth being happy about, right? And the lesson went well.”
GM: Celia’s mother bursts into tears and holds her for dear life.
“Sweetie… I saw… him! He was taking Lucy!”
Celia: “What.” The word comes hissing out from between tightly pursed lips.
GM: “I… I don’t know what it was… it was like I was… falling… and I saw him carrying her away, and she was screaming, and I couldn’t get to her…”
Celia: “That’s never going to happen. He will never touch her.”
What the fuck had Caroline done to her mom?
GM: Her mother steals a furtive glance at the car, as if to make sure Lucy is still there. The six-year-old looks like she’s nodding off.
“I hope you’re right…” she finally sniffs. “You, you have to be right. She’s the one, one child, who I haven’t…”
She doesn’t finish that thought.
Celia: “He doesn’t have any reason to come after her, Mom. She’s my daughter. There’s no contest there.” Celia holds her mom out at arm’s length to look into her eyes. “I promise you, Momma, she will not be taken away from you. I will never let that happen.”
She’ll kill him. That’s all there is to it. If he comes after Lucy she’ll kill him, consequences be damned.
GM: “I hope so, sweetie…” her mom answers.
“My leg’s actin’ up,” she sniffs, shifting her weight. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to drive right now. Would you mind givin’ me and Lucy a lift?”
“You and Emily could drive back here together, to pick up your car.”
Celia: “I can drive. That’s fine.” She doesn’t want to leave her car here and have to come back, but what choice does she have? Another trip into enemy territory.
GM: Celia’s mom finally pulls away after a last squeeze. She hands Celia the keys and takes several limping steps towards the Beetle, favoring her left leg.
Celia: Celia squeezes her mother’s hand on the way to the car. She’ll text Cécilia or Caroline to let them know she had to leave the car when she gets home, and… maybe one of them can drop it off. Maybe Randy can pick it up. Anyone but her. Coming back to this place… no. She’s had enough of the Garden District.
She starts the car to head back to her mother’s house.
GM: Her mom pulls out her Solaris and says she’s texting Cécilia about exactly that as her shorter-named daughter drives.
“She did give me a really big tip, for tonight, on top of the larger class fee… I guess there’s that,” Celia’s mom says with a shaky smile.
Cécilia had also insisted on paying Celia. She was here in a professional capacity, using her supplies and expertise.
Celia: “That’s wonderful, Momma. I’m glad we could make it work. The girls looked so pretty tonight.”
Celia had told Cécilia she’d put it towards the service for her wedding. She hadn’t felt right accepting the money when she’d ended up messing around with the woman’s sister.
Not that she had said the real reason.
GM: Cécilia had acquiesced to that. They could add it towards the bill.
“They did. You outdid yourself with Simmone, in particular,” her mom says with a less shaky smile. “You made her look just radiant. Like an angel.”
“You’re amazingly talented, sweetie. Beyond amazingly. You work magic with those hands of yours.”
Celia: Celia smiles at the compliment. She’s always happy to receive praise for her work; she only wishes she’d thought to take a photo of Caroline before they’d torn each other’s clothes off.
Next time, she promises herself.
“Simmone has wonderful coloring. I think Cécilia will end up in something similar for the wedding. She was very shy, just like you said. Clingy. They’re very protective of her.” Celia lifts a brow at her mother as they drive.
“I hope I didn’t scare her. I tried to keep her busy with something to do, all those people around…”
GM: “You were smart there,” her mom nods. “That’s always a good thing to do with the nervous kids. Give them something to be busy with. Better yet, feel important with.”
Celia: “Learned from the best.”
“Lesson go okay otherwise? The, ah… that vision you had, was it before you started?”
“When you walked in on them, I mean.”
GM: Her mom’s smile at Celia’s initial words dies.
“That was after, sweetie. After I walked in, that is. But before the lesson.”
Celia: Connected, maybe? But why? She hadn’t heard the blue bloods had that power to cause visions. More of a kook thing, isn’t it? A side effect from the memory lapse? Intentional? Unintentional? They’d talked about Maxen, hadn’t they? She and Caroline. Is it possible his name brought something up inside the house?
But, no, that doesn’t make any sense, and she hadn’t sensed any other licks there that could have messed with her mother like that. Who would want to mess with Diana, anyway? She’s… so sweet. So pure. Minus the fact that she doesn’t understand the gay spectrum, but she’d been married to Maxen for thirteen years, so Celia kind of gets it.
Maybe Caroline will know. She could ask. Not over the phone, though, when she sees her in person. Their next, ah, date. She hadn’t called it a date. But a scheduled time to get together is a date, isn’t it? Or a meeting. Who schedules a meeting during sex, though.
“Have you felt anything like that before while you were there? That’s just so… random, isn’t it?”
GM: “I… not that I can remember, sweetie… like I said, I might have fainted… and I have had bad dreams, every so often.” Her eyes briefly cut to the sleeping Lucy before she adds in a quiet voice, “Since the rape.”
Celia: Her brows pull together.
“Mom, are you seeing someone? For treating stress. Ah, PTSD, that kind of thing.”
“You’re supposed to see a therapist after… something like that.”
GM: “Oh, I just… never got around to it, I suppose. There was Lucy and the others and the lawsuit and buying the house, and all that.”
“It was seven years ago, anyway.”
Celia: “If you’re still having problems then you should see someone, Momma. I can look around for you if you like.”
GM: “Oh, I don’t have time to see a shrink, sweetie. I have Lucy to look after. I don’t trust anyone besides you and Emily to babysit, if I’m being honest, and you’re both so busy these days.”
Celia: “I’ll make time for it, Mom. This is important. You shouldn’t mess around with your mental health. We’ll find someone and if it doesn’t help then no problem, I won’t force you to go.”
GM: “Well, I don’t want you to cut back on your business for me, with it doing so well. I don’t have the bad dreams too often, these days, either. They were worse seven years ago.”
Celia: “You’re my mother,” Celia says shortly. “I will make time for you.”
She reaches out to take Diana’s hand in hers. “Did you have them… before? When you were with Dad?”
GM: Her mom gives her hand a squeeze back. “I… I suppose I did. I was just so scared, all the time, when we were together.”
Celia: “Mom,” Celia asks quietly, conscious of the girl sleeping in the back, “why didn’t you just leave him when it first got bad? The first time he hit you?”
GM: Her mom just gives her a sad smile.
“That never even occurred to me, sweetie. It just never even occurred.”
Celia: “You said he changed after he was elected. You never really went into detail… is that something you can talk about now?”
GM: Celia’s mother glances towards the sleeping Lucy in the back.
“Well, he… just got a lot colder. Less patient. Less kind. He didn’t really seem to care about all that much, except work. He got… testy.”
“I always thought it was maybe being Nathan Malveaux’s #2 man. Star quarterback, and all. He wasn’t really used to bein’ second-best.”
Celia: “He was young, though. He can’t just assume he’s going to get to the head of the pack that early in the game. That’s not how life works.”
GM: “I know. But I don’t think he liked it, still.”
Celia: “Did he ever give you a reason when he hit you? Like. When I was a kid it was over the makeup. Did he say anything..?”
GM: Celia’s mom falls quiet.
“Well… the first time was after his parents died.”
“That he hit me, that was.”
Celia: “…but why?”
“He was sad so he hit you?”
GM: “Honestly, things between them were… were very strained, after that birthday party.”
Celia: “I… sometimes feel like he was a different person, after that.”
“Like I think back to when we were young. He was happy. He played dress up with me. And then overnight… just changed.”
GM: “A lot in his life did change, sweetie. He became a legislator. His parents died. He inherited a lot of money. That’s a lot to deal with.”
Celia: “You ever feel like he used to just… suck all the warmth from the room? After his parents died?”
GM: “I don’t know about that, sweetie, just… there were some very, very bitter feelings, there. Between him and the rest of the family.”
“There’s a reason you never really saw all that much of your relatives, on his side.”
Celia: “Can you tell me what happened?”
GM: “His parents cut your uncles and aunt out of their will. They didn’t take it well. Inheritance is… it’s just so easy for bad blood to develop, when there’s disputes over money.”
“I have Emily written into my will, equal share of everything to what your brothers and sisters are getting, and I’m worried they might fight over it.”
Celia: “They might. People are strange about money. That’s why we set up the trust the way we did for Lucy. Sometimes it’s a timing thing, too… did they change it just before they died?”
GM: “I’m not completely sure there, sweetie. I don’t think they really talked about their estate plans, with your dad or his siblings, and it came as such a surprise.”
“Your uncle Jason in particular really wanted that money. He did not take it well.”
Celia: Celia can imagine. She’d also once really wanted money.
“You and Dad never really talked about it,” she prompts, waiting for the story.
GM: “So, I’m not 100% on what all the details were, myself. I’d only met your uncle a few times. He was pretty well off, I’d thought, like most of your dad’s family was. They weren’t the Malveauxes, but they were all pretty comfortable.”
“He’d moved out to Houston a while ago, I think to work for an energy company, or maybe it was a hospital. Or it might have been to start his own business. Like I said, I’m a lil’ fuzzy on the details.”
“But he was a bit of a spendthrift, or just never seemed to have that much luck with money, and had been counting on the inheritance to bail him out of a tight spot. Or I think he’d just planned to invest it in his business. Like I said, a lil’ fuzzy.”
“Learning your father was getting everything was a real burr in his saddle, anyway. They had some pretty heated conversations over the phone.”
Celia: “And then we just never saw any of them again. Because of money.”
“You and Dad didn’t tell us until way after they died… when did it actually happen?”
GM: “That was in… I think 1997? Your father used his inheritance to buy the house in Audubon. Plus some of the money from selling your grandparents’ home. That place did not come cheap.”
Celia: Hundreds of thousands of dollars… and two lives. The vague suspicion she’d had is cemented into place.
“Mom,” she asks after a moment, “what do you remember that night of the election?”
GM: Her mom is quiet for a moment.
“You mean… the Senate election?”
Celia: “Yes. 2003.”
GM: Her mom closes her eyes.
“More than I would like to.”
Celia: “Will you tell me?”
GM: “Sweetie, why… why do you want to know?” her mom quietly asks.
Celia: “I have dreams about it too, sometimes.”
GM: “There’s nothing I can tell you that will make those dreams go away, Celia. It was a dark night. Just such a… dark night.”
Celia: “I think I imagined parts of it. And… I’d like to know the truth. What you remember. What happened.”
GM: “Sweetie, why?” her mom asks uncomfortably. “You know the truth. What your… what your father did.”
She winces and reaches down to massage her leg.
Celia: “Because I wake up at night searching for a gun I do not have, that I do not remember holding. I have fragments of memories, a mix of truth and lies, the imagination and hurt of… of a teenager. Because I blame myself for not stopping him, Momma, and it’s almost thirteen years later. I want to know. So I can put it to rest.”
GM: Her mom looks up at her.
“Celia, you were fourteen. There was nothing you could have done against him. Absolutely nothing.”
Celia: “Then tell me.”
GM: “Sweetie, let’s… another night, please.”
She glances towards Lucy, then closes her eyes.
“Just… another night.”
Celia: “You said the same thing about Grandmother, you know. That you’d tell me. You never did.”
GM: “I’m sorry, about… your grandmother?”
Celia: “Why you’re fighting. That’s not my point. My point is you say you’re going to do things or tell me something and you don’t. I’m an adult, Mom. I don’t need to be protected anymore. I know what Dad is, I know he’s a terrible person. Not telling me just makes me ignorant, it doesn’t… save face, or whatever you think you’re doing.”
“You’re not the only one with nightmares about it. About both times. About what might have happened. I could have lost you. Forever.”
“And if we don’t talk about it, if you don’t see someone to get help, then he won.”
GM: “I will, sweetie. I will. Just… not now, please.”
Her mom’s face looks tired. And pained.
“Just not right now.”
Celia: “Later,” she agrees.
Celia doesn’t push her further. She squeezes her mother’s hand in reassurance. They’ll get through this.
Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, PM
GM: Celia pulls in at the Flores home’s courtyard. Her mom opens the car door and hefts Lucy into her arms.
“Mommy…?” she yawns.
“Hey, little Goose,” Diana murmurs softly. “Let’s get you to bed.”
Celia: Celia offers to carry Lucy on the way into the house, asking if she should stick around to put the girl to bed.
GM: “Oh, we’d just love it if you did, sweetie,” her mom answers. Not quite beaming, after the unhappy words exchanged, but definitely with a brighter look. She passes off the child to Celia and looks a little relieved to be equally relieved of Lucy’s weight. She still favors her left leg as they head inside, letting the right one drag.
“Aw, fudge, Emily’s not here,” she ‘swears’ as she flips on the lights. “I forgot, she’s spending the night with Robby. I’ll text if she can come over for the car.”
Celia: Celia cradles her daughter against her hip, the girl’s legs around her waist, as she carries her inside. Her eyes scan the room immediately, reflexively, as she crosses the threshold.
“It’s okay, Mom. Let her spend her time with Robby. I can get home from here and get it in the morning.” She hefts Lucy higher on her hip. “Does she need a bath..?”
GM: “Okay, sweetie. If you’re sure. You’ll call a Ryde?” asks her mom.
“’M tired…” yawns Lucy.
“We’ll make it a quick bath, then, Goose,” says Diana, stroking the girl’s hair. “Can you do that for us? Your mommy Celia’s a real pro at this stuff. She’s the best bath-giver in the world!”
“Mmm. M’okay,” Lucy answers with another yawn.
Celia: Celia assures her mother that she will call a Ryde for the ride home. She takes Lucy into the bathroom to get the water running in the tub, setting the girl down on the sink so she can use a wipe to remove the makeup from her face while it fills.
“I heard you did wonderfully in class today, sweetie,” Celia says to her as she wipes away the colorful shadow around her eyes. “And you look so pretty. Did you have fun with your friends?”
GM: Diana excuses herself to the kitchen to “get somethin’ ready” while Celia takes Lucy to the bathroom. The close lights against the small room’s white ceramic seem so bright, and the night so vast and dark outside.
Lucy sits still on the sink as Celia wipes her face. She looks too sleepy to kick her feet.
“Mmm. Yeah. We did… positions.” Lucy holds out her arms like she’s holding a big bouquet of flowers. The five positions are the basic building blocks of all ballet moves. Celia’s mom has taught them to beginners countless times. The footwork is more important than the arms’ position, but that’s hard to do on a sink.
“I’d kinda done it all before, but Mommy says practice is good.”
Celia: “Mommy knows what she’s talking about,” Celia agrees. “She was very good when she was my age. Basics are important. Sometimes people want to jump into advanced moves because they look better, but that causes all sorts of problem down the line. I’ve seen a few athletes at work that injured themselves doing things like that.”
Celia touches a hand to Lucy’s cheek, tilting her face to get the smudge of color on her chin. How had it managed to get down there? Kids.
“How many bubbles tonight? Lots of bubbles? Fill the room with bubbles?”
GM: Lucy gives a short giggle and looks a bit more awake. “Yeah. Fill the room!”
Celia: Celia complies. She finds the bottle and pours it into the water as the tub fills. The bubbles begin to form over the surface of the water, thick and white, almost an opaque layer by the time Lucy is ready to get in. Celia helps remove the leotard and tights and sets the child in the tub.
It’s… weird, she thinks, giving Lucy a bath. She’d done it a fair few times when the girl was younger, but this is… something she should be doing with her own daughter, not her sister. She fills a cup with water and has Lucy tilt her head back so she can pour it over her head, using her hand to cover the girl’s eyes while she wets her hair.
“You gonna be a dancer like Momma when you grow up, Goose?”
GM: Then again, she probably didn’t expect to have a new sister when she was 19.
Or to pretend her sister is her daughter.
Or for her mom and best friend to be raising her sister.
The age of the nuclear family feels well and gone. It got cut apart with a hacksaw. Maybe it was always sick.
There’s also a pink tutu to take off. That’s Lucy’s favorite part of the costume.
“I wanna be a dancer an’ an astronaut!” says Lucy, closing her eyes under Celia’s hand. “So I can do dance moves in spaaaace.”
Celia: “Dance moves in space, huh? I bet we can get you a rocket ship and you can be the first person to dance on the moon. They’ll stream it for everyone on Earth to see. Think you could pull off a grand jeté up there?”
None of it is Lucy’s fault. She’s an innocent, like Celia had been before the day she’d wished for a pony. Lucy is getting to that age soon, too. Celia will make sure that her sister—daughter—doesn’t need to wish for anything. She can do that much for the family she broke.
Notes of papaya and almond milk hit her as she opens the bottle of shampoo. She lathers it between her fingers and works it into Lucy’s hair.
GM: “I hear someone bringin’ up ballet terms?” smiles Lucy’s and Celia’s mom as she steps in, closing the bathroom door behind her.
“Yeah! I wanna be an astronaut ballerina so I can do grand jetés in space,” declares Lucy. “Mommy asked me if I could do one and I could do an amaaaazing one.”
“I bet you could, Lucy-Goose!” Diana smiles back, rolling up her sleeves and kneeling down next to Celia as she helps rub shampoo in the girl’s blonde-brown hair.
“Why, you could leap across the whole spaceship, I bet!” she declares, waving her pointer and index fingers back and forth like a ballerina’s legs standing en pointe. She mimics them running across the surface of the bath, then leaping into the air as she raises her arm.
“Whooom! Look at her go! Lucy’s cleared the spaceship! Houston, we’ve got a ballerina entering orbit!”
The six-year-old giggles and claps her hands.
Celia: Despite the fact that she’s part of the family, Celia feels like some sort of intruder to this wholesome moment. She’s happy to let her mother help out, both by entertaining Lucy and with the actual bath. Celia laughs along with them as she rinses Lucy’s hair with a cup of clean water, then repeats the process with conditioner while her mother scrubs her back and belly and everything else.
GM: “Dancing in space would be an amazing thing, you know,” Diana explains to Lucy as they bathe her. She seems more than happy to have her beautician daughter around to help.
“That’s the whole point of en pointe, Lucy-Goose, to make the dancer look as light on her feet as possible. Like she’s floating through the air. But in space, everybody floats! You would have the most amazing ballet ever!”
They finish bathing Lucy relatively promptly despite all the bubbles. She’s up past her bedtime. Diana sings the ‘shimmy’ song as she wraps the towel around Lucy’s back, holds onto one end in each hand, and rapidly pulls it back and forth over the girl’s wet skin. Celia remembers it from her own childhood.
“Oh a shimmy-shimmy one and a shimmy-shimmy two! A shimmy-shimmy three and a shimmy-shimmy you! Who’s my little shimmy? Shoo, shoo, shimmy-shoo!”
Several encores follow. Celia is invited to give a rendition herself.
Celia: Celia doesn’t pass up the opportunity to sing the shimmy song and do the shimmy dance. By the time the two are done with Lucy she’s already dry, and Celia lets Diana help her with her teeth while Celia heads out of the bathroom to turn down her bed and get her PJs ready.
GM: They’re Frozen-themed. Lucy heard the song and couldn’t ‘let it go.’ Diana comes along after the girl’s teeth are brushed and asks if she wants a bedtime story, but Lucy seems pretty tired. Diana helps her say the Lord’s prayer (“…I pray the Lord my soul to keep…”) and lifts her into bed.
“Who’s our little Goose? Huh? Huh?” she asks as she tucks her daughter under the covers, leaning in to nuzzle the six-year-old’s nose. “You’re our little Goose. You are. You are!”
Celia: Celia helps her mother tuck Lucy in, pulling the covers right up under her chin once she’s done with prayers and in bed. She says one silently for the girl and her mother as well, just in case He is listening and answers her kind. She touches a hand to Lucy’s cheek and kisses her brow.
“Sleep tight, little Luce.” Like loose. Rhymes with goose.
GM: If someone up above is listening, He gives no response.
But that, at least, is no worse an answer than He’d give the girl and her mother.
Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, PM
GM: “Did you have dinner before the dance lesson, sweetie? Are you hungry?” Celia’s mom asks after she kisses Lucy goodnight and closes her bedroom door.
Celia: Celia follows her mother down the hall.
“I did, yes. Randy and I had dinner together while I was getting ready, and after the lesson started Caroline and I had a quick snack. It was nice to catch up with her.”
The memory of her still lingers on her tongue. A mistake, maybe, but a pleasant one for all that. She’ll need to… let Savoy know that Celia’s identity is no longer as secure as it once was. Revealing herself to Roderick had been a calculated risk; this is possibly just asking for trouble. There’s something off about her. She’s not just a fledgling, her blood is too thick for that. She’d disarmed Celia too handily in the bedroom, and that gift… she shouldn’t want to see her again, but she does, both for her own sake and the intrigue. Celia tells herself it’s the mystery, but she can’t deny her attraction.
Maybe Savoy knows more. Or her sire. She’d like to speak with him anyway.
She’ll need to look into it. For all that, though, her trip to the Garden District had been less disastrous than she’d thought. She’d given every excuse she could think of to get out of going there in the first place. She’d almost called to say she was sick tonight, but… well. She thought she’d been playing it safe with the aura manipulation, but this just makes her see that she’s been reckless. This is why she shouldn’t still be hanging with her family. It’s dangerous. For her, for them.
She wonders idly if Caroline has a claim on the Devillers family—why wouldn’t she if she’s one of them?—and if she’ll be able to continue her friendship with Cécilia. Some licks are sensitive about that kind of thing. It’ll be a shame to give her up—Cécilia is one of the few good ones—but the rules are different on this side of the grave.
She pulls out her phone to send a text to Cécilia, letting her know that she might have to pick up her car tomorrow if that’s okay. Her ride is with her boyfriend and she doesn’t want to interrupt.
Celia’s eyes return to her mother.
“I saw Logan the other day.”
GM: “Oh, good! Tell me about it,” her mom says as they head back to the kitchen. “Say, how about some milk and cookies? I’ve got a plate of your snickerdoodles warming up in the oven. That’s always the best way to reheat cookies, in the oven at low temperature. It’s almost as good as fresh-baked.”
Celia: “Ah, Momma, cookies sound great, but you know I’m watching my calories. Have to look good on camera when I do my videos. Adds ten pounds and all that.”
Celia takes a seat at the kitchen table. Maybe one of these days she’ll swallow the garbage sludge to make her mother happy, but tonight is not that night.
“I went to his dorm, figured it was easier than trying to get him on the phone. He seemed pretty broken up about it. Wanted to know how to get her back, but I convinced him she needs time.”
“I… don’t think he should be with her if he’s going to treat her like that, honestly.”
Celia privately thinks her brother shouldn’t be with anyone. Too much of a ticking time bomb. Too similar to their father. Better to find an outlet for his pent-up aggression before he dips back into the dating pool.
GM: Celia’s mom looks a little hurt as she turns down the cookies.
“Sweetie, you’re perfectly thin. If you exercise regularly and eat a good diet, one with lots of plants, it’s okay for you to have some sweets.”
Celia: Of course she’s managed to hurt her mother’s feelings.
“I’ve been a little lax about going to the gym, Momma. And, you know, prevention is easier than treatment and all that. Harder to get rid of wrinkles once they’re there.”
GM: “Well, everyone gets wrinkles sooner or later. I just feel like you’re really denying yourself, when it comes to food,” her mom says concernedly. “You barely touched your dinner when we had you and Randy over.”
Celia: Celia lets out her breath in a sigh.
“Mom, I wasn’t going to say anything yet, but… I have an audition. And you know how tiny those actresses are.”
GM: “Oh? I’m so glad for you, where at?” her mom smiles.
Celia: “Ah, Zodiac actually.” She doesn’t know if her mother is aware of whose studio that is. “There was an ad online for an open call, and I thought, well, why not.”
GM: Her mother’s face grows very still.
Celia: Celia recognizes that look. She is quiet for a moment, then finally says, “I doubt he’ll be there, Mom. Everything I’ve heard of him suggests he’d leave it to the little people to cast.”
GM: “I don’t know, sweetie,” her mom says slowly. “A lot of movie directors… they do things with their stars, or girls who want to be stars, that let’s just say they shouldn’t do.”
“I do not feel safe about you doing this.”
Celia: “You think I can’t keep it in my pants?”
GM: “You know as well as me, Celia, then men don’t always give women a choice there,” her mom says quietly.
“I do not feel safe about you doing this,” she repeats.
Celia: “I understand.” She doesn’t say she won’t go, though.
GM: “You’ve got a thriving business. One you love and which keeps you plenty busy. You don’t need to start at the bottom in a totally different field.”
Celia: “Right. Well. It probably wouldn’t have worked out anyway.”
“Dad told me once I was too stupid to memorize lines.”
GM: “Sweetie, you are not stupid!” her mom exclaims, reaching across the table to squeeze Celia’s hand. “That was a load of baloney. He said plenty baloney.”
“By my count, he’s never tried to steal Lucy because he thinks she’s your daughter, and that was all your idea. So who’s the stupid one there? You’re the one who’s pulled the wool over his eyes.”
Celia: “Yeah, well, I quit listening to what he said about me years ago.”
Except when Logan had told her he was proud. That had gotten through.
GM: “Good. I had to too, you know, when he told me I’d wasted my life on dance. I knew it was baloney but I still just could not get it out of my head, for a while.”
Celia: “He’s a hateful, spiteful man who ruins everything he touches and can’t stand to see anyone else happy if he isn’t the cause of it. He pulls other people down to make himself feel big instead of fixing his own flaws.”
GM: “Ain’t that the truth,” her mom agrees. “But enough about him. You’d brought up Logan. You think your two’s talk went well?”
Celia: “Ah, yeah, I think so. We’re going to look into getting him an outlet for his anger. I was thinking boxing.”
She’s thinking Fight Club, really, but she doesn’t think her mother will approve. Nor is she supposed to talk about it. First rule and all that.
Of being dead, not because of the book.
GM: “Oh, really? That is a good idea!” her mom exclaims. “He had to give up football, to keep up in the ROTC, but I don’t think they do anything that’s competitive in the way that he’s used to. Boxing sounds like a good idea. College football athletes are really under so much pressure and he just needs to, like you say, maybe have an outlet for his anger.”
“And oh, say—if you don’t want to go into acting, how about some cookies after all?” Celia’s mom smiles.
Celia: Celia shakes her head at the offer of cookies, glancing meaningfully at the clock.
“Not supposed to eat this late, anyhow. Bad for digestion and all that. I can take some home to Randy, though. He’s a bit of a fiend for them.”
“Anyway, yeah, I figured… y’know, if he’s gonna hit people, might as well be productive about it.”
And maybe getting knocked around by people who are bigger, stronger, and faster than him will make him realize it’s not an adequate way of dealing with his pent up frustration.
Christ, maybe the kid just needs to get laid.
Rough sex always gets rid of her pent up frustration. She smirks at the thought.
GM: Celia’s mom looks hurt by the twice-rejected offer of cookies.
“Would it be better if I made healthier recipes, sweetie? I get the feeling that Randy winds up eating most of the things I make you, these days. That’s perfectly okay for him to be a cookie fiend, but I want to cook for you, too!”
“There are low-fat, low-sugar desserts out there, it’s not any trouble.”
Celia: “Mom. I’m eating enough, I promise. Please stop making me feel guilty for my diet. It’s like reverse fat-shaming or something, and it’s… really starting to mess with my head. Health at every size and all that.”
GM: “Oh. I’m sorry, sweetie. I didn’t mean to mess with your head,” her mom apologizes, looking a little shame-faced.
“I took some pain meds for my leg, while Lucy was in the bath. They can mess with mine a little, too.”
Celia: “Do you want me to work on it for you for a bit?”
GM: “Oh, could you? The meds have kicked in, but I won’t ever say no to those magic hands of yours.”
Celia: “Of course, Momma.” This much, at least, Celia can do for her. She retrieves the lotion from the bathroom and settles herself on the floor of the kitchen before her mother’s chair, pulling her skirt up over her leg so she can see the leg in question.
The scar tissue looks better. As if she’d ever doubted that it would. She wants to fix the whole thing so that her mother never has pain again, though. So that she doesn’t have to favor one of her legs or limp or take pain meds at night.
Celia’s hands are warm against her mother’s skin. She starts near the ankle, thumbs moving in the small divot of muscle available up front. She has her mother’s records from the hospital somewhere, she knows, but not from the first time. Maybe she should look into acquiring them, find out just how much damage her father had done to the woman. There’s a lot of tendons down here… but it’s higher, isn’t it, when it starts. Just spirals down her leg like a lot of injuries do.
Every time her mother tells her that her leg hurts Celia hates him all over again.
Her fingers glide up the muscles of the calf, gliding first to warm the tissue, then kneading and stretching as needed. Her whole leg will be seen to before she’s done, but Celia starts with the calf. Always work towards the heart.
“Mom,” she says after a minute, “what, exactly, did he cut through? I know you don’t like talking about it, but it will help with the treatment.”
GM: Celia’s mom suggests they go out to the living room. More comfortable to do this on the couch, or the carpeted floor. She leans back and sighs as Celia starts her work. The Toreador might not be a dedicated massage therapist like Emily, but she knows what she’s doing, and certainly knows a lot more than most estheticians.
“He… got through to the bone, sweetie,” her mom says uncomfortably. “Quads, hamstrings, adductors, TBD, and the shaft of the femur.”
“It’s funny. We always got told how big a deal hamstring injuries were. What a… female dog they could be to heal, on account of the poor blood supply, and all that. I always did so many exercises to strengthen my hamstrings at the end of range. Kept the glutes workin’ too. ‘If they’re lazy, something else will have to pick up the slack,’ I once had an instructor who said. I suppose it didn’t really matter in the end, did it?”
Celia: Just like her mom to neuter her language in front of her grown daughter. Celia almost laughs at the expression, but she’s focused on her work, on the way the muscles move beneath the skin.
She could fix this, she thinks. Or someone could. Maybe Jon, if he was still in town. It’s too bad she couldn’t persuade him to part with some of his knowledge before he left. Better if she gets a medical report. Maybe Emily can sneak her into an X-Ray or something.
“Of course it mattered, Mom. I loved seeing you perform when I was a kid. And you’ve been able to teach that same lesson to young students; isn’t that what life is all about? Passing on knowledge?”
GM: “You’re right, of course, sweetie,” her mom says as she works. “It did matter. I loved knowin’ you and your brothers and sisters were out there in the audience. Those were some of the happiest moments of my life, getting to see and think of you the whole time I was on the stage.”
“It felt like I was dancing just for you, sometimes.”
Celia’s mother smiles at the memory, though the look isn’t without sadness too.
Celia: Celia doesn’t know how they treated her mother in the hospital. She can only assume that they were wise enough to suture the muscle back together to fix the laceration; it had to have been deep to cut all the way to the femur itself. Strongest bone in the body, but apparently unable to stand up to Maxen Flores. She wonders if he’s proud of that.
At least, she thinks, he didn’t cut through the entirety of the bone itself. Just shredded everything around it to make sure that his then-wife would never dance again.
What kind of monster does that to a person?
She has no doubt that he would have cut all the way through if Celia hadn’t been home, that her mother would be wearing some sort of prosthetic instead of compression tights and longer skirts. Soon she won’t have to do that; she’ll be able to show off her clean, scar-free legs. They’ll be as beautiful as the rest of her. And if Jon doesn’t get back in time to help, well, she has other places she can go to learn how to fix the bones.
She isn’t sure she needs to, though. She might be able to help her mother with what she already does know. Tendons, ligaments, muscle: it’s all the same to her.
Her hands glide over her mother’s knee to the site of the injury, using the flat of her hand to spread the pressure out over a larger surface. Even healthy quads are prone to sensitivity. There’s no digging with her thumbs here, though she uses the heel of her hand to feel her way through the layers of tissue to find what lies beneath.
Scar tissue. Lots and lots of scar tissue. It extends deeper than the dermal surface that she’d treated, all the way through the tracks the hacksaw had made on its way into her body. Monster, she thinks again, fingers and palm working cross-fiber to begin to break it up.
“Dancing was my favorite part of childhood, Momma. Wouldn’t have been the same without you there, showing me how.”
GM: Celia’s mom sighs again and closes her eyes as her daughter works up and down the muscle. They both know she’s in a pro’s hands.
Any brute can destroy. It takes an artist to heal.
“You were such a great student to show, sweetie. I know Isabel always teased you with that ‘robot dancer’ nickname, but you put your heart and soul into it. Just all your heart and soul. I’ve taught a lot of graceful girls, but very few who gave their all to it like you did.”
“It’s teaching you and your sisters that made me decide that’s what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, actually. Teach. Seein’ how much fun you had, and how much joy I felt getting to witness that.”
She gives a faint chuckle. “It’s not like former dancers have too many other careers, anyway… I didn’t tell you about Naomi, did I, and how her job search went?”
Celia: Celia doesn’t feel like a robot dancer right now. Her legs are long and lean and limber; she could dance circles around any prima.
“You didn’t. Where has she ended up?”
She works while her mother talks, kneading and stretching the muscles beneath her fingers. Did it not risk breaking the Masquerade she would test her theory about fixing it now, but the pain… no, better to have her mother come into the spa where she can use a local anesthetic. Fix it slowly, rather than all at once.
The lesson in patience has held up.
GM: Naomi is one of Diana’s friends from her days at the production company, Celia knows. After Diana retired, she took over as principal dancer. That was back in 2003.
“Oh, actually, I don’t think I even told you she retired, did I? Finally happened.”
“Well, she was 31 then and she’s 44 now. Ballet is a young woman’s game.”
“Or at least one who’s taken really good care of her body. And no matter how much you try, it just puts so much stress on your body.”
Celia: “What happened to Naomi?” Celia prompts.
GM: “Well, at practice, she was doing the usual warm up, tendu, demi-plié, no problem. But when she started on pirouettes, she slipped and pulled her hamstring.”
“She kept dancing anyway.”
“Isn’t her fault, that’s just what dancers are encouraged to do.”
Celia: “That… why? You should always listen to your body.”
GM: “The ballet goes on, sweetie. All dancers hurt. There is enormous pressure just to suck it up and keep dancing.”
“If they stopped practice for every ache and boo-boo, there wouldn’t be any more shows.”
Celia: “If the dancers don’t take care of their bodies there’ll be no more dancers.”
Maybe that’s not true. Always someone to replace them, isn’t there?
“I hope you’re not pushing that nonsense on your students.”
GM: “Oh, of course not, sweetie!” her mom exclaims, almost startled. “It is a completely different world at a production company than it is in a kids’ classroom.”
“But that’s the way it’s been for 400 years, at those. It’s like football. All the ladies there get hurt and soldier on. If you fall behind, there’s always someone else to take your place. It can be very competitive. Not in the same way as football, but… there’s a bit of a masochist in every ballerina.”
“You’re goin’ to hurt for your art. There’s just no way around it.”
Celia: Celia doesn’t hurt for her art. Other people do. She doesn’t think this is something she can share, though, so she just nods as her mother talks, continuing to work the scar tissue.
No wonder the world is so fucked. Everyone thinks they should bleed for their art. Art isn’t pain; it’s the source, maybe, but once you find that source you just tap into it when you need the inspiration. You don’t cut deeper with every stroke of your brush or pen or twirl because it makes you somehow better.
“Where did she end up after retirement?”
GM: “Well, let me get to that. Like I said, I don’t blame her for still dancing. It’s ballet’s fault, not hers, that she was expected to soldier on.”
“But, later, she discovered she had a labral tear in her hip. So, surgery for that. And she had to take a while off. So she fell behind and got out of practice.”
“When she finally came back to dance, Mr. Guarini let her for a bit, then took her aside and said, his words, ‘I want you to look your best on stage, and I don’t think this makes you look your best.’”
“You would not believe how devastated she was. She cried to me for hours.”
“I can imagine.”
GM: “They have a saying that every dancer dies twice. Once when they put her in the ground, once when she leaves the stage.”
“Anyway, she went to a workshop for former dancers findin’ new careers—I wish I could’ve gone with her, but I had Lucy to look after. And they had suggestions for things like gardener or dog walker or interior decorator, and general advice for startin’ a career after 40, and she just felt like the whole thing was so useless she wanted to cry again.”
“I mean, dog walker! Can you imagine that?”
Celia: “I imagine they pitched real estate agent, too, among the other useless things.”
GM: “You know, I think she did mention that.”
Celia: Celia smirks.
GM: “Anyway, I… called up Mr. Guarini and gave him a bit of an earful.”
Celia: “Oh?” Now there’s a surprise, mousy Diana giving a piece of her mind to someone. “How’d that go over?”
GM: “He gave her a little more time to stay on, at the company. But he said he couldn’t turn back the clock. Her time was simply up.”
“I did put her in touch with the studio I teach during summers, though. They’re giving her an interview and I’m sure she’ll get a job. You don’t need any degrees or teaching certificates, like I needed at McGehee, all you need at a dance studio is experience.”
Celia: “That’s amazing, Momma. That you called him and that you helped her out like that. I’m sure she’s real happy to have a friend like you lookin’ out for her.”
GM: “It was the least I could do, sweetie. I stayed at her place, after… after I got out of the hospital. The first time. When I didn’t have money or a job or clothes or anything.”
Celia: “Well, you’re lucky to have each other. Like me and Em.”
“And I’m proud of you, you know. For calling Mr. Guarini.”
“Natalie, you know my receptionist? She’s having some trouble with her family over being a dancer. Sometimes I think about callin’ them up, too.”
GM: “Oh, yes, of course I know Natalie! Her grandfather is your grandmother’s brother, whatever that makes her. Your… third cousin? Second cousin three times removed?”
“But oh, is she? You should! Being a dancer is a wonderful thing, if your heart is set on it, and a family’s support… just really makes all the difference.”
“Shame on them if they’re givin’ her a hard time for it.”
Celia: “I think she feels like there’s an employee/boss line she can’t cross, but I let her know I’d be happy to help out how I could. She’s got a video posted, you know, and it’s… pretty amazing, honestly.”
“Family pressure makes sense, knowing where she came from.”
GM: “You’ll have to send me a link to it. She should follow her dreams, if that’s what her heart’s set on, she really should.”
Celia: “You could always talk to her, you know. She’s your relative, too.”
GM: “I could,” her mom says in a hedging tone. “But she was always pretty close to Prudence, I don’t want to intrude.”
Celia: “It’s not intruding to tell someone to go after what their heart wants.” Celia’s eyes stay on her mother’s leg. The muscles relax beneath her touch, but none of the work is as deep as she needs it to be to see any lasting changes. “Maybe it’s time we mend that fence, though.”
“Anyway, Aunt Prudence wouldn’t know a good thing if it bit her in the ass, so.”
“She was, ah, aptly named.”
GM: “Eh heh. Well. Natalie never did have a mother, I’m just glad some people were there for her.”
Celia: Celia hums her assent. She’s finished doing the work that she can on her mother’s leg to make it feel better for the moment, stripped what muscles she could and eased what sore spots she found with the soft touch of well-practiced hands. She tells her mother that the IT band is a little tight and asks if she’d mind if she unrolls it next time she’s in the spa.
“Sometimes,” she explains, “the pain comes from the point of origin of the, ah, injury, and sometimes it’s muscles compensating. I have a… colleague in town who might know more about your injury and if there’s anything we can do for a more long term solution. I don’t want to get your hopes up, but you’d be amenable, yes?”
GM: “Oh of course you can unroll it, sweetie, you’re the pro. Whatever you think best.”
Celia: Celia smiles at her mom.
“We’ll get you back to how it was, Momma. Promise.”
GM: Her mom blinks as if just comprehending the words.
“You mean… all the way, sweetie? That could… that could happen?”
Celia: “Maybe,” Celia hedges. “Maybe. It’s… It would take a few treatments, I think, and might be painful, but it’s a new… he kind of combined the Feldenkrais Method with myofascial release, and I guess there’s a little shiatsu thrown in.”
GM: Celia’s mother starts crying.
Celia: Celia pauses what she’s doing to scoot closer to her mother, bringing her into her arms.
GM: “Oh… sweetie,” her mom gets out, “that’d be just… just…”
“This thing with Naomi… seein’ her finally retire, at two years older than me…”
“I still practice, every day,” she sniffs, dabbing her eyes. “I eat well, I stay in shape, I haven’t put anywhere near as much strain on my body as… as someone my age, still doin’ shows. I had another friend who was still doing grand jetés with fractures in seven bones, God knows I’ve not done anything like that in… years. And it… it’s felt like I could still dance, if it weren’t for the stupid leg, and now seeing Naomi retire, like I’m reaching my second expiration date…”
Celia: Celia had once had a conversation with Mel that involved the idea of her mother as a ghoul. And despite Mel’s insistence that Diana would be a perfect candidate—already used to serving—Celia had only been tempted when she’d seen her mother lain out in the hospital bed.
Now, though, she thinks on it again. She could give her mother a second chance at her dream. Not have to hide who she is around her. No longer hurt her feelings about the cooking. Give her an unrealistically aged body, like she’d given Alana. Her mother’s age but she looks twenty.
But no. That’s crossing a line, isn’t it? The same line she won’t cross to turn on the charm, even when her mom is being obstinate.
“I’ll find out for you, Momma,” Celia says to her, running a hand up and down her back, “and if it’s within my power, of course I’ll make it happen.”
Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, PM
GM: Celia’s mom asks if she’d like to stay the night. She can sleep in Emily’s room and borrow clothes, and they and Lucy can have breakfast as a family before Celia goes off to work. Diana is disappointed when her daughter turns her down, but still sends her off with several tupperware containers of snickerdoodles and apple kale lemon dressing salad (“that last should be pretty healthy, at least?”).
“By the way, sweetie,” she asks as Celia gets ready to leave, “did your brother have any news about Isabel?”
“I know she talks to him, sometimes… and I worry for her, off in Sudan.”
Celia: Celia stills at the name, though perhaps not noticeably so.
“He said she’s been busy lately, that she might have met someone at their camp. But nothing concrete, no. I told him of our stilted letters and he suggested an alternative, but it’s only been a night.”
“I can find out more for you, Momma.”
GM: “I’d like that.” Her mom looks sad. “I’ve tried so many times to get in touch with her, but… you know how that’s gone.”
“I’m glad she’s met somebody. I hope they’re happy.”
Celia: “She still hasn’t gotten back to you?”
GM: “It’s been seven years, sweetie.” Her mom just gives that same sad look. “I don’t think it’s goin’ to be anytime soon.”
Celia: “Isabel never was the same, after… that night.”
GM: “She wasn’t. Those just… just unspeakable things, being said about her and your father.”
Celia: Celia eyes her mother. Does she truly believe that Maxen hadn’t touched their daughter?
GM: “Your father hurt us all. But there was never, ever, any abuse of that kind.”
“In his way, he was, is, fairly principled.”
Celia: “…Mom… you… you know that’s not true, right?”
“What do you mean, principled? He… hurt all of us.”
GM: “I know, sweetie,” her mom says heavily. “Lord knows that I… that I know.”
“But there was never sexual abuse, with you and your brothers and sisters. Ever.”
Celia: Celia isn’t quite sure what to say to that.
“What, ah… what do you remember from that night, Mom?”
It rolls off of her, then. The thing she said she’d never do: she charms her mother. The mention of the vision, the lack of memory… it nags at Celia. Just this one time, she tells herself. Just this one time, to see if Diana is only telling a rehearsed lie, or if someone saw to it that she truly doesn’t remember what happened. She sends the impression of a confidant.
I’ll keep your secrets, that feeling says, you can trust me.
GM: Her mother’s eyes swim for a moment, then quaver.
“Hit me, Celia,” she whispers. “I deserve it.”
Celia: What the fuck.
“Mom?” she asks.
GM: “I deserve it,” she gushes, the unspoken words tumbling out under the Toreador’s spell. She starts to cry again. “I was such a bad mother to your sister.”
Celia: Celia does not move to strike her mother. She gathers Diana into her arms instead, stroking her hands up and down her back.
“Tell me, Momma. What’s going on inside your head?”
GM: “It was… her name! Her name that got dragged through, through the mud, instead of mine! She can’t ever come back here, have a life here! Oh, Celia, just hit me!” the freshly-weeping kine begs.
Celia: “Mom. Stop it. It’s not your fault. Pull yourself together.”
“Did you beg Daddy to hit you too?”
GM: “Yes,” her mother nods and gushes on, “yes I did, I was a bad wife, so many times.”
Celia: “You asked him to hit you?” Celia clarifies.
GM: “Ye… yes. He liked when I did that, he said it… gave him hope, showed him much how I wanted to fix things, too.”
Her mother sniffs and dabs her eyes. “Oh, he was horrible to you, to us, but I… I miss him so much, sometimes…”
Celia: Her stomach turns over. If her Beast weren’t such a selfish, hoarding bastard she might spew her last meal all over this poor woman. This poor, fucked in the head woman.
“Tell me everything,” she says instead. “Tell me how it started.”
GM: “Sometimes I pick up the phone, and I dial his number,” the enspelled kine gushes on, “all but the last digit, and the only thing that stops me is… is Lucy…”
“Oh, Celia, it’s wrong, to keep a daughter from her daddy… it’s all my fault, we can’t be a family…”
Celia: “He’d hurt her, Mom. Like he hurt us. That would be your fault, if you told him.”
She will not let him get his hands on Lucy.
GM: “I know, sweetie! Damned if I do, damned if I don’t… we have to stay away… it’s my fault…”
Celia: “Why do you keep saying it’s your fault? What did you do, Momma?”
GM: “I was unfaithful! You’re not his child! And I lied, I lied you were! He was a good man and I built our family off a lie!” her mom cries.
“I took advantage of him, and I wasn’t ever grateful, all he sacrificed, all he gave up, so I could have you, so I could still dance, so I…”
Celia: “You were raped, Mom. Before you and Dad were ever together.”
“What happened when he found out?”
GM: “He… oh, Celia… when he found out, that I’d been… been with a black man…. he lost it… just lost it…”
She sweeps a hand over her leg. Her bad leg.
Celia: “Tell me the whole story,” Celia presses, “everything you remember, and I’ll give you what you’re asking for.”
GM: “It… I don’t know how it…” her mom gestures. “It was after the party, the victory party, we went home early…”
“He just asked me, if I’d, if I’d ‘lain with a nigger,’ and I…. I was so happy for him… I couldn’t lie to him, direct like that, I just couldn’t…”
Celia: There’s a stone in her gut, she’s sure of it. The weight of it presses on her.
“Does he know I’m not his?” she asks.
GM: The enthralled woman shakes her head over and over. “He’d, he’d have killed me… killed you…”
Celia: He tried.
“After you told him, what happened then?”
GM: “He called me a…” her mom sniffs, “a… lady of the evening…”
Celia: “He attacked you,” Celia prompts. “Tell me about that.”
GM: “He’s, he’s right, when we last saw each other, he called me a… used up old… lady of the evening, said no one would want me, he’s right… I was an awful wife, a worse mother, and I’m not even good enough for my daughter to eat my own food! I can’t even do that right!” Celia’s mom cries.
“Oh, sweetie, just tell me what’s wrong with it! You have to eat somewhere, just tell me what I need to do right!”
Celia: “We’re talking about Daddy right now, Mom. Focus on that.”
GM: “Sweetie, please tell me! I just want to feed my baby!” the enspelled kine sniffles.
Celia: “Less carbs,” she lies. “I’m doing a combination of intermittent fasting and keto.”
GM: “O-Okay, low carbs, lots of fat, I can do that for you,” her mom nods fervently.
Celia: “Tell me about that night, Mom, so we can heal together. What happened after the saw?”
GM: Her mom winces and starts rubbing her leg. “I… I don’t know, sweetie, I blacked out… from the pain….”
Celia: Something like shame shoots through her. She shouldn’t be doing this to her mother. She doesn’t remember anything; they’d seen to that, the licks responsible for it. His name flits through her mind too quickly for her to grasp onto, afraid that if she touches it he’ll somehow feel her anger.
He’d fucked with her mom.
The one thing she’d asked him not to do and he’d done it anyway, the bastard. How big is her own blooper reel? How many memories had he stolen from her through the years? How many times had he visited her and taken from her and left her none the wiser?
She holds her mother close, whispering that it’s okay, that she didn’t do anything wrong, that she loves her.
As soon as she leaves here she’s going to find him. Demand the answers he’s denied from her for so long.
GM: Celia’s mother looks mortified as the Toreador’s spell over recedes. As she realizes the things she just said aloud to her daughter.
Her face starts to glow red as she gets out, “Celia, you have to understand… the meds can make me say some very, very strange things…”
Celia: “Mom,” Celia says slowly, “why did he confront you, years later, about Ron?”
GM: “Sweetie, I am so—so—sorry,” her mom answers in an equally slow, shamefaced tone. “You should not have heard me say those things.”
“They aren’t true. Any of them.”
“I’ll stop taking meds when you’re over. Around Lucy. I’ll stop taking them altogether. I should not fill your ears with those things.”
Celia: “Goddamnit, Mom, stop lying to me! I was there!”
“You think I didn’t see what he did to you? Didn’t find the blood? You crashed into me falling down the stairs and now you’re lying to protect him.”
“What kind of message do you think that sends to Lucy? To me? To the rest of them?”
“Logan hit his girlfriend because he grew up in a household where abuse was normalized. Do you think that’s okay? Really?”
“Lying about it isn’t going to change what happened. Ron raped you years ago. Fourteen years prior to whatever set off Daddy that night. So tell me instead of lying to me.”
GM: Celia’s mom scrunches her eyes and holds up her hands.
“I don’t know, sweetie! I don’t know! Your dad… was having a fine time at the party, he just got in a funny mood after… he went and talked with that lady wh…”
Celia: “What lady?”
GM: “STOP IT, CELIA!” Diana suddenly yells, clamping her hands over her ears. “It HURTS! The past is the past, I just want to raise your sister in peace! It HURTS how you keep bringing this up! Please, just… STOP!”
Celia: Her jaw tightens, teeth clenching together.
Hadn’t her mother been through enough? Years of beatings, raped by two different men, memories… memories destroyed. She doesn’t deserve to suffer further.
And yet Celia’s been lied to her entire life. By these humans. By the licks. By everyone. She is so goddamned tired of being left in the dark and this woman has answers.
Is it worth it, though? Breaking her mother’s already damaged psyche for her own… curiosity?
The charm lays dormant inside of her. She doesn’t need something supernatural to sway her mother to her will; it’s a line she shouldn’t have crossed in the first place. Celia holds her mother close, rubbing her back, her shoulder, just holding her while she cries and twists and yells that it hurts.
“It’s okay, Mom,” she murmurs, “just let it out. You’ve been holding onto it for so long. Let it go. Scream if you have to. It’s okay.”
“You’re okay,” she continues, voice soft. “No one is going to hurt you anymore. I’m here for you. I hear you.”
GM: “I don’t want to scream!” Celia’s mom exclaims as her daughter holds her. The woman’s eyes are red and tired. “I just want to have you over without someone crying and feeling awful, is that too much to ask!? The drinking, the bringing up awful memories, just STOP! Stop bringing pain into my house, into Lucy’s house!”
Celia: Shame curls in her gut, sits there like a lead weight. She’d done this. Caused her momma this pain. Broken apart her family all those years ago; Daddy wouldn’t have shaken the monster’s hand if he hadn’t seen her disappointment that day. Every time she tries to fix it things just get worse.
Mel had warned her, hadn’t she? Told her there is no place for Kindred among the kine. They all have to fake their deaths eventually. They’re not healers; to pretend to be is an affront to their true nature. Despite the cute videos online of “unlikely animal couples,” a tigress cannot be friends with a hare. And her mother is a hare. A skittish, docile thing that loves with her whole broken heart.
Between the hunters and the (beautiful) fiasco in the Garden District, Celia’s time might be up. More pain for the woman to bury her child, but at least then it’s over.
“I’m sorry, Momma. You’re right. I was trying to help. I heard if you let yourself recall memories and release the emotions with them it is like a weight being lifted off, but of course you’re right.”
Celia pulls away from her mom.
“I’m going to head out. Let you get some rest. We’ll talk soon.”
Celia can let it go for tonight, at least.
GM: Diana swiftly gets up and trails after Celia, laying a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. There’s regret on her face, even if her previous words seem heartfelt.
“Celia, I love you. I’ll always love you. You know that, right?”
Celia’s mom hugs her.
“I love having you over. I loved having you help give Lucy her bath, and put her bed. You’re so good with her. Let’s just… let’s just do more of that, okay, and leave the past where it is?”
Celia: “I know, Mom. I know you love me, and I love you. I’m just… so tired of the lies and secrets between us. My whole life I thought I was Maxen’s child, only to find out I’m not. Then to hear that the fight wasn’t even about that…” Celia turns her face away, shoulders shaking as if holding in tears. Artificial movements, synthetic breaking of her voice when next she speaks. “Th-they say if you don’t learn from the past you’ll re-repeat it, Momma, and you had that vision and now I’m sc-scared that I d-don’t know enough to keep her safe.”
GM: Celia’s mom rubs her shoulders. “Sweetie, it wasn’t a vision. It was a nightmare.”
“There’s nothing in the past but more nightmares.”
“That’s why I named your sister Lucy. Because it means ‘born at dawn.’”
She gives a faint, somewhat forced chuckle. “Plus it was a really cute name.”
Celia: “It is a cute name, Momma.” Celia lets the woman think the words are a comfort. It had been worth a shot, at least. She wipes at nonexistent tears, smiling gently as she pulls back. “I love you. You know that, right? Even though it’s been… tough, recently, I love you. I’ll try to stop bringing in the drama.”
GM: “I know. I know.” Diana squeezes Celia again and rubs her cheek against her daughter’s. “I love you too, sweetie. You’re the light of my life. I’m so proud of everything you’ve done with the salon.”
“I’ll make something keto, too, for when you’re next over.”
Celia: Proud. Like Maxen is. For all the lies she’s built. Would that any of the licks she looks up to were proud, too. Proud of her for anything besides her face. Her pretty face. That can’t be all she’s good for, but it’s all they ever see. It chafes at her. Toreador. Barbie. I don’t think a Toreador like you would understand.
She pushes it down, lets it smolder in her gut. It’s not who she is. Just what they see. That’s what she wants, isn’t it?
“Thanks, Momma. I’d like that. I’ll get out of your hair. Get some rest. We’ll talk soon.”
Celia gives her mom a final squeeze. She’s done enough damage for one night. Time to retire, to cease the lies of being human. Back to the monsters she goes.