“I made a mistake. I don’t know how to fix it.”
Sunday evening, 13 March 2016
Celia: When the shower is over and Roderick is finally out the door and on his way (with the promise to fill her in on what she misses and keep an eye on Elyse), Celia pulls her phone from her pocket to call her favorite mobster. She wasn’t going to tell Roderick that she had him in mind, and she supposes he’ll see the cowboy soon enough if he’s down to deliver a message for her, but that’s altogether different than admitting she’s got the boy on speed dial.
She listens to it ring while she peruses her closet for an outfit for the evening.
GM: Being friendly with a mobster is a small deceit next to this latest one, anyway.
Gui picks up after a couple rings.
He’s probably getting ready for Elysium himself.
Celia: His voice always makes her smile. It takes the sting from what she’s just done.
“Hello, darling. Do you have a free minute? I was hoping to beg a favor from you, with reciprocity if you think it’s warranted.”
GM: “I’d say I hate to listen to a beautiful woman beg, but I’d be lying if I did.”
Celia: “I’d offer to get on my knees,” she purrs, “but I don’t think that does it for either one of us anymore.”
GM: “Only if you don’t take a nip too.”
Celia: “Well if you’re offering…”
GM: “We’ll let that be the reciprocity then, if I think it’s… warranted.”
Celia: Low, throaty laughter floats down the line. She sounds delighted
“I won’t be able to make it to the party tonight, but I thought that if you’re going anyway you might be willing to bring a gift from me.”
GM: “I’ll have one of my people swing by to pick it up. Who for?”
Celia: “The little Benson girl.”
It almost sounds like they’re talking about an actual birthday party for a child.
GM: “Let me guess. It’s a doll.”
Celia: “It is,” she admits. “Handle with care and all that, don’t need her getting upset.”
GM: “All right. Where should I tell my girl to pick it up from?”
Celia: Celia tells him where his girl can meet hers in about 30 minutes. Celia’s house, the one Dani had been staying at; it’s compromised anyway.
“Thanks, darling. I appreciate you.”
GM: “I’m sure you’ll show me just how much.”
Celia: She doesn’t have long to get ready if she’s to meet the messenger in thirty minutes.
Celia pulls the dolls from their assorted positions around her haven, running through a mental comparison on who she can send. Lucy and Lotus are out, obviously. Blossom is finally happy with her new beau, and the nameless one wouldn’t deign to be used in such a fashion even if she were to be so presumptuous as to ask.
Princess will make a good messenger. Princess isn’t as formidable as Lotus, but Princess is sweet in the way Elyse likes her dolls. She’ll be able to broker peace if anyone is. And all she has to do is deliver a message.
Celia disappears because Celia is a human and this is a message to dolls and their maker. Mother Elyse. The dolls’ father.
It makes sense somehow.
Lotus smiles across the bedspread at Princess and tells her about what she needs to say to Elyse: she’s sorry. She lost control and didn’t mean to. She wants to make it right and offers a boon for the inconvenience and insult, a second if Elyse will meet with her to speak of it and hear her out face to face. Perhaps in Marigny.
It’s flowery prose that Lotus tells to Princess to pass on, contrite and remorseful.
GM: Princess listens, sadly and silently, with her wide eyes and heart-shaped little face.
Can the doll pass a message on? Elyse seems to think so. Elyse says that all dolls talk to her.
Celia: Celia plans to send a letter as well. Nothing by half measures.
But Lotus waits to be sure that Princess knows what she’s to do.
GM: Princess stares back at Lotus with her wide, so-trusting eyes. She looks so sad. Surely if any of Jade’s dolls can, it’s Princess. Princess hates fighting.
Celia: Lotus tells Princess that she will see her again soon. She’s going on a trip. A big adventure back to Elyse. And then they’ll be back together.
It’s just for a little while.
And when Lotus is sure the message has been received she says goodbye to her sister.
Celia writes a letter with the same sentiments. She addresses it to the lady interpreter rather than Elyse; she thinks that Elyse might not want Jade to call her Elyse anymore, which is sad. But she powers through the letter, writing out the same message she’d given to Princess just in case Princess gets suddenly shy.
When it’s done she packs the two of them away in a little box for their trip through the city and goes to meet the messenger.
GM: The woman Gui sends smells like a breather and looks like a moll or higher-end prostitute. She’s pretty. “I’ll get this to the boss man,” she says as she takes the box.
Celia: She is pretty. But Celia is prettier, and she knows she’s Gui’s type. This breather has nothing on her. Celia thanks her with a smile and a few words before she’s on her way with the box.
Celia watches them go, hoping that this will pan out and that everything she’s done and offered and sacrificed is worth it. Two letters and a doll with a message ought to be enough to get the word to Elyse, and two boons should be enough to even the scales. More than even the scales; it puts power firmly in Elyse’s corner.
It’s enough, isn’t it?
It has to be.
Sunday evening, 13 March 2016
Celia: There’s a list of small errands to run tonight that she’d like to accomplish before she can meet with Roderick again, most of which she’ll need to be Jade for. It’s not ideal; she expects to be picked up at any given moment for something, but what other option does she have? Twiddle her thumbs until her boyfriend calls? Stay inside all night, afraid of leaving her own haven? Burn through blood with the constant face changing?
She’d done what she could to smooth things over. Time will tell if it’s enough.
In the mean time, she has shit to do.
She dresses for the night in a dress that’s the sort of thing Jade or Celia might wear, black and clingy, casual enough to be worn to a party or a club or even a decent dinner. Too risqué for a first date, but maybe it would be at home for a third date.
She heads to the Cat’s Meow to hunt; Dani had said she wasn’t hungry so Celia doesn’t feel too bad about leaving her behind. And, as someone with furry feet once said, there’s always second breakfast if the other girl later changes her mind.
GM: Jade thought it would be hard to find a flavor of blood that tops Celia’s mother’s. Perhaps it’s not so hard, though. The good-looking Toreador has no trouble at all finding an eager sexual partner, and in short order his car is bucking back and forth from their coital motions. He’s black, buff, handsome, and feels like he does this a lot, but doing it in his car (when Jade hears how far away he lives) really turns him on. There’s the thrill of transgression, getting caught, putting on a show for bystanders. When one man walks by and pulls out his phone to snap a picture, Jade’s partner just laughs and pumps harder. She’s reminded, too, of the time that Celia and Stephen did this, literally another life ago.
And possibly conceived a new life.
Perhaps the memory makes her feel alive. Perhaps it makes her sad for what she’s lost. Perhaps it’s bittersweet. But something of the moment feels as if it lives on in her. The way she fucked Stephen silly to silence the voices in her head, how flabbergasted he initially was, and then how into it he got, yelling for that bystander to “come get some.” Jade feels electric. She feels some of that same manic, irresistible energy in her skin, coursing through it with a low hum. All she has to do is touch someone to pass it on. To make them do something crazy too.
Celia: It would have been easy to take him into a bathroom to feed on him there. Easy but dirty, and it reminds her too much of picking up Dani and the sad, sorry tale she’d had to listen to afterward.
Jade isn’t the type of girl that fucks in public bathrooms. She deserves to be seen, to be admired, so when the boy mentions that his place is far Jade has no problem taking him right there in the car. He’s big but she’s small, and they make it work; her dress hikes up around her hips to let her move over him, and once he’s gotten close to that edge of climax she shoves him over with two points of fire in his neck.
Electricity floods her veins.
She’s on top of the world.
In such a delicious, delicious way that she doesn’t want to stop. She wants to keep this big, buff black man as her pet. She wants to take him again, to bottle his essence, to make him hers so she can have him on tap and drink down this euphoria whenever she wants it. She takes enough to whet her appetite without being a glutton, still in control; even her Beast enjoys the fare.
When it’s done she nuzzles his neck, murmurs that she hopes it was as good for him as it was for her—he’d heard how much she enjoyed it when he found the right spot—and that maybe she’ll see him again sometime.
She leaves him with a long, lingering kiss before she’s gone, disappearing into the night with a swagger in her step.
Sunday night, 13 March 2016, PM
Celia: After her hunt, Celia calls Randy to let him know that Jade is on her way.
Dani will be there, she knows. It’s a risk to let the thin-blood know who she is, but she’s trusted Randy and Alana for years with the secret; what’s one more person? And if not, she can’t take Dani around to meet with anyone, which means they really will just be sitting at home waiting for Roderick to call. Sidra, after all, has no reason to speak to Celia Flores.
GM: Randy drives back to meet Jade at his house.
“Yeah, babe?” he asks. “Was helping Reggie find some guns to pick up.”
Celia: “Then who is watching Mom?”
GM: “Alana. She finished up at the spa.”
Celia: Alana isn’t much of a fighter, but it’s better than nothing.
“I’ll make it quick so you can get back with Reggie, then. You wanted a hit, and I need an introduction to Dani with this face so she doesn’t think I’m coming to kidnap her.”
GM: Randy’s face lights up at the offered hit.
“You gonna drop all this different face around different people stuff? I already had to tell Reggie and Rusty how you could change how you look.”
The Toreador recalls them not being surprised to see someone besides Jade.
Celia: She’d wondered about that.
“I don’t know,” Celia admits. “A few people like me know, but I thought it was safer for my family if it didn’t get out. Probably don’t tell them I can change my actual face though. I usually pretend it’s shadow dancing or that I see a night doc.”
GM: “You got it, babe. Secret’s safe.”
He introduces her to Dani, who’s still where Celia left her last on the borrowed laptop. The thin-blood is surprised by the new face, but accepts Randy’s explanation after asking Celia several questions only her brother’s girlfriend would know. (“What did you wear when we first met?”)
Celia: She even tells her about the dropped side dish and how Celia had offered to pretend she hadn’t seen.
“I have a friend who can do this kind of work,” she explains to Dani, but otherwise says she’s just borrowing Randy for a moment before they head out.
GM: “Can I learn to do that? It’s so… it could be so useful!” Dani exclaims.
Celia: Celia offers to teach Dani shadow dancing. She’s going to teach her mom, too, so she might as well do both. She says it’s similar, but that the night docs are pretty secretive and generally don’t teach it to others.
GM: “Great, I’d love to learn,” smiles Dani.
Celia: She takes Randy upstairs with her into his bedroom and asks if her mother is already asleep.
GM: His bedroom is a mess.
“Ah, she kinda has the munchies,” says the ghoul. “She’s been staying up hoping you’ll come back tonight. She’s been doing a lot of cleaning.”
Celia: Diana is cleaning everywhere but here, it seems, but Celia doesn’t seem to mind. She has eyes only for Randy.
“Can I ask you something?”
As if she wouldn’t ask anyway. But what she means is: can you be honest with me for a minute?
GM: Randy says that he asked her mom not to tidy his room.
“Anything, babe,” he nods at her question.
Celia: Even with Jade’s face, some of Celia shines through. She lets him see her vulnerability, her uncertainty, and the trust that she’s always placed in him. Even though she’s never slept with him, even though she’s never let him have her like that, he has the rest of her. He’s been around her family the most, has been her sounding board on more than one occasion; before Roderick re-entered the picture he was, and sometimes still is, her source of emotional support when the nights get too dark. She needs it from him now.
“D’you think I’m doing the right thing with my mom?”
GM: “Sure, babe,” he nods. “I mean, it was the right thing for my brothers and me, right?”
“We get stronger and faster and we get to live forever.”
Celia: “And Rusty gets to walk again.”
GM: “Yeah. I mean, it’s great.”
“It’s… it is kinda… I don’t think you need to punish Alana and me for stuff, though.” Randy’s eyes flicker. “Like you did that one time she lied.”
“And it’d be really weird if you… punished your mom.”
“Like, I can’t even picture doing that to my mom. Punishing is what parents do to kids, you know?”
“Hell, my mom still grabs us by the ear when she’s pissed. Actually still hurts.” He rubs his ear.
“So yeah, I’d just not do that with her. It’s just not the way things are supposed to be, kids punishing parents.”
Celia: “I know.” Celia never really had punished him for what he’d done in the sewers anyway; she hadn’t had it in her. She doesn’t like being that person. She doesn’t want to be that person.
She’s not even supposed to be having these conversations with them. Like they’re people. But they are people. And she’s still young enough to want them to remain people. Mel said it would fade eventually, but she’s seven years deep and she’d like to think she’s not a monster.
She can’t imagine her sire having a conversation with his ghouls about their feelings.
“I don’t like doing that to you,” she says finally. “It’s just how… how it’s supposed to be, in public. If I don’t, they see me as weak, and then they push me around, and then it’s bad for everyone.”
She tells him about Micheal.
GM: “…that’s so fucked up, babe,” says Randy.
“How does he just… why doesn’t he just make a run for it?”
Celia: “Honestly? I don’t know. I think he might be mindfucked.”
GM: “I guess.” Randy shakes his head. “That’s so fucked up, though.”
“Is he just gonna be their bitch forever?”
Celia: “I don’t know. I’ve never really spoken to him.”
GM: He wears a gag pretty often anyway.
Veronica says he has nothing of value to say.
“Well, long as you don’t do anything like that, I’d say you’re good.”
“I mean, you’re gonna live forever, why not keep around your mom?”
Celia: Because she’ll always be someone that people can use against her. Because it’s not natural. Because she’s going to turn her mother into an addict. Because if she’s not serving a purpose then she’s a waste of blood.
She doesn’t share any of this with Randy.
She doesn’t have an answer for him.
GM: “Can I have the hit?” he asks, smiling.
Celia: “Thanks,” is all she says. She goes to bite her wrist but thinks better of it; she pulls him in instead, slicing a fang across her tongue and pressing her lips against his in a desperate attempt to feel something human again.
It’s just another lie, though.
She’s a monster and he’s an addict, and that’s all they’ll ever be.
Sunday night, 13 March 2016, PM
GM: Celia looks around and finds her mother doing a load of laundry. She looks up at Jade with some surprise.
“Oh—are you a friend of Randy’s or his brothers?” she asks.
“Ah, this is Celia, Mrs. Flores,” says Randy.
He and Jade briefly explain why she looks different.
“Well, ah… I suppose if I’ve seen you turn into a cat, another person isn’t too big a stretch…” Diana says with a mildly forced chuckle. But she sets down the boxers she was folding and moves to hug her daughter.
Celia: Once again, Celia is thrown by her mother’s calm acceptance of what she is and what she can do. It’s not normal.
“Mom, you’re… awfully calm about all of this. Even Randy screamed when I showed him my fangs the first time.”
“This isn’t the first time you’ve experienced this sort of thing, is it?”
GM: “Is it?” Diana asks, her face flickering.
“I… think it is, sweetie?”
“I did scream,” Randy admits somewhat sheepishly.
“I’ll leave you two together, anyways. Thanks for doin’ the laundry.”
“You’re welcome, Randy. You three really need a lady in this house!”
Celia: Celia gives Randy a peck on the cheek.
“It’s a lot to take in. I’ll see you in a bit.”
GM: Randy kisses her back. “Heh, we’ll see,” he says to Celia’s mom, then takes his leave.
Diana looks back towards her daughter.
“This is about when I’d offer to fix you up some food, but, well… are you hungry, sweetie?”
Celia: “No,” Celia tells her, “I just fed. And you can’t keep giving like that without any regard to your own self. You’ll get hurt.”
GM: “I’ll be fine, sweetie,” her mom smiles. “I just want you to be full and happy.”
Celia: “No, Mom. You need to trust me on this. One person isn’t enough to sustain what I need. I’d drain you dry.”
GM: “Okay, if you say so,” her mom agrees. “I’ll wait until I’ve had some eggs or fish to offer again. You know, Vitamin D.”
Celia: “You’ve definitely done this before.”
GM: “Are you sure? I don’t think I have. I have donated blood at hospitals before, though they usually give a cookie and some juice.”
Celia: “I could dig into your memories, if you want.”
“Since we’re being honest with each other, how did you end up getting together with Ron that night?”
GM: Diana blinks. “I’m sorry, sweetie?”
“I’d had a lot to drink, like I said. Altogether… altogether too much.”
She doesn’t look happy to revisit the subject.
Celia: “You wouldn’t have, though. Not after what you’d been through.”
GM: Celia’s mother just closes her eyes.
“Please, sweetie, I don’t… want to talk about that.”
Celia: Her lips flatten into a thin line.
“No, you just want to learn everything about me and tell everyone else, but not tell me why I exist.”
GM: Her mom is quiet for another moment. “Look, I’ll… I’ll tell you about that night,” she says defeatedly. “Just… let’s talk about happier things too, when we’re done?”
Celia: “Of course.”
GM: Her mom makes a limp motion for her to proceed as she returns to folding clothes.
Celia: “You said you met him at a party. But it was after everything happened to you. And you were fighting with your mom.”
GM: Diana looks down at the shirt in her hands. “Yes, that’s right. We’d been fighting, so I went out drinking.”
Celia: “Why were you fighting?”
GM: “We just never got along, sweetie, not since your grandfather’s death. And how she didn’t approve of ballet, and how strict she was… the teenage years never are that happy, even under the best of times.”
Celia: “You were fighting even after she sent you to that school?”
“How, um. How did he die, anyway? You and Dad never really talked about it.”
GM: “Your grandpa died of heart failure,” Diana says, not without a note of sadness. “Ironic, I suppose, for the man who was a heart surgeon.”
“He worked at Charity Hospital, back when it was open before Katrina. I really wish he and Emily could’ve known each other. Two doctors in the family and all.”
“I really wish he and you could’ve known each other, too. He was a very sweet man. Kind and gentle. I like to think I take more after him than your grandmother. The two of us were so close when I was growin’ up.”
Celia: “I’d have liked to meet him. But you said after he died you and your mom started fighting?”
GM: “We were never really had all that much in common, to be honest. But after he died, things got so much worse. His death was very hard on the family.”
“Very hard on your grandmother, too. She used to smile more, when your grandfather was alive.”
Celia: That’s hard to imagine.
“So you two got into fights. You went out a lot at night. Your grades were slipping. She sent you to the dollhouse. You were released early. Then what?”
GM: Diana closes her eyes and covers her ears when Celia says ‘dollhouse.’
Celia: She’s going to be a terrible ghoul.
“So after that?” she prompts.
GM: “What after that, sweetie?” Diana mumbles, staring intently at the pants she’s folding.
“I went to school, I got together with your dad, he stopped your grandmother from murdering you in the womb… that was that.”
Celia: “Ron. The party. My conception.”
GM: “Right, yes, that was when your grandmother and I were fighting.”
Celia: “I need details, Mom.”
GM: “Sweetie, why does this matter to you so much?” her mom asks glumly.
“You’re here. God obviously wanted you to be here.”
Celia: “Because it’s literally the reason I exist. Because you never told me. Because now you know what I am and I want to know how I came to be. Because I think someone set the whole thing up and I’d like to know who and why.”
GM: “What? Why would… why would somewhat set that up, sweetie? How would they even do that?” Her mother looks at her confusedly.
Celia: “We have powers. We can make people do things.”
GM: “All right, but… but why? I was just a teenage ballerina.”
Celia: “That’s what I’d like to find out.”
“And I have zero leads to follow if you don’t talk to me about it.”
GM: “I don’t see why someone would do that, sweetie. I was just a ballerina.”
Celia: This whole thing was a mistake.
GM: “Your biological father was just a Hollywood writer or director or… whatever he then was, who hadn’t made it big. I just don’t see why…”
Celia: Big mistake.
She’ll just have to find someone to edit the memories for the past night. Her and the ghouls. Fuck it.
“And. Again. I’m trying find out. I’d appreciate it if you could work with me here instead of making it more difficult.”
GM: Her mom hangs her head again as she moves on to a pair of socks. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to make things difficult for you. What… what do you want to know?”
“I just don’t know what you’re looking for, but I’ll answer what I can…”
Her mother looks up her, more plaintively. “Just tell me what to do, sweetie, I don’t want you to be mad. Just tell me what to do.”
Mel always said she’d be a great ghoul.
Celia: They can’t do this.
They can’t have this relationship.
She has turned her mother into a fucking addict. She’s not the same woman anymore. She’s just broken, a shell, soon she’ll do anything for a fix. Celia doesn’t trust her to keep her mouth shut. Randy has already proven he can’t keep his mouth shut. He’s not interested in the truth or being there for her, just the red stuff in her veins. Alana just wants to fuck. Reggie just wants to fuck. Rusty wants to walk again, and maybe he’s the only one with any genuine depth to him. And Roderick… she’s fucked so hard with his mind that she doesn’t even trust him anymore.
Utterly, completely alone.
She can’t even fix what she’s done. Doesn’t have the ability to mind wipe someone like that and extract what she doesn’t want them to know.
Elyse could. Reynaldo could. Pete could.
But not her.
“You went to the party,” she eventually says, “then what?”
GM: “Well, I had a lot to drink,” her mom falteringly starts. She folds some more socks. “I talked with some people, I danced with them… I remember complaining about my mother, about school, how much I didn’t care, I had more to drink… I met your biological father, he gave me more to drink… it’s very hazy, sweetie, I just remember waking up… waking up and feeling very, very dirty…”
Her mother hangs her head again, red coloring her cheeks, but she steals a glance at Celia’s wrist.
Celia: “Who did you talk to? Dance with? What did they look like? What part of town were you in?”
GM: “It… it was a house party, by some other girl at McGehee… her parents were gone for the weekend, it was a dodgy party, I can’t imagine they’d have…”
“I don’t really remember a lot, it was so long ago, I’d had so much to drink… they’d have been girls at McGehee, born around the same time as me, in a nice part of town…”
“I think… maybe St. Charles Avenue…?”
Celia: “Which part of St. Charles?”
Not that she expects Diana to remember.
But it’s worth a shot.
GM: “Like I said, sweetie, this was years ago… but I think the residential portion, outside the CBD?”
Celia: “And Ron was, what, some random adult that showed up to a high school party?”
GM: “I think he was, maybe there were others, but it was a kids’ party.”
Celia: She asks if her mom happens to remember anyone else of note.
GM: Her mom squeezes her eyes. “Sweetie, this… this is hard… I felt so good when I had some of your blood, it made my leg feel better, maybe if I have a little of that…?”
Celia: “Sure,” she says, “after you tell me what I need to know.”
GM: “Sweetie, please, this is hard!” her mom exclaims again. “It’d really help me think better, it made me feel just so good…”
GM: Her mom starts crying. “Celia, I’ve been thinking about it all day… it made me feel all better, no pain, just no pain, don’t you understand what that’s like…?”
Celia: “Do you know,” she all but snarls at the crying woman, “what people like me do to people like you that beg for blood? Shall I get Alana for you to tell you about what happened to Clem when she got uppity with her domitor? Do you want to see what they do to juicebags at the parties, how no one bats an eye if you rip out their throat, how they use ghouls as playthings and fucktoys and do whatever they want with them and no one cares?”
“I have been patient. I have let you in on everything that has kept our family protected since I’ve died. I will not sit here and give you blood because it feels good. Of course it feels good. It’s a fucking drug. You’re an addict now. Congratu-fucking-lations.”
GM: Her mother sinks to her feet as she cries into her hands. “Sweetie, don’t call me that… please don’t call me that… I just want something, for the pain, that’s all…”
Celia: She doesn’t bother to hide the disgust that crosses her face.
This was a mistake.
This whole thing was a mistake.
GM: Her mother looks up at her face, then just cries more and looks away.
“Please… please don’t look at me like that, baby… please don’t… I’m sorry… I’m sorry…”
“Just tell me what to do…”
Celia: Celia just turns away.
“I’m leaving. Go to bed. You’ll feel better in the morning.”
GM: “Celia, wait!” her mother exclaims, hurrying after her daughter and wrapping her arms around her. “I’m sorry, baby, I’m sorry, just tell me what to do. I don’t want us to go to bed mad, just tell me what to do, okay?”
Celia: “I can’t do this, Mom. You can’t be like this. You need to be a mom, not an addict, not a servant, not a slave. I can’t do it. I can’t. I can’t watch you become like this.” At some point the tears start, red liquid that rolls down her cheeks. “You have other kids to take care of; you can’t spend all your time with me and ignore Emily or Lucy or any of the others. They need you, too.”
GM: Her mother sniffs along with her, though her stare lingers long on those heady-smelling tears. “I won’t, sweetie, I love them every bit as much as you, I always will, of course I’ll always be their mom.”
“I know this is hard, I know how scared you must have been, to tell me all these things. I want to be here for you. I don’t want you to look at me that way.”
“Just tell me what you need, okay? Just tell me how I can be a good mom for you, because I’ll always want to be that.”
Celia: No. She’ll just want blood. More blood. Constantly. She’ll beg for it. She’ll run her mouth. She’ll threaten Celia’s Requiem through her mere existence.
This is why they tell you not to keep a family.
GM: “I think…” Her mom closes her eyes and seems to desperately wrack her brain, “there was Fred Pavaghi, Warren Whitney, the junior one, and Lori Lancaster, Drouillard then, I think they were there, does that help you…?”
Celia: No. She’s grasping at straws anyway. None of it matters. She was just an accidental rape baby; there’s nothing poetic about how she came into the world. No one pulled strings. No one orchestrated this. The only person who gave a shit when she was still in the womb isn’t even her dad, and he’d hate her if he found out the truth. Accidental birth, accidental Embrace, useless fucking fuck-up.
Celia finds a cup. She sinks her teeth into her wrist and bleeds into it for her mom, thrusting it at her when she’s done.
GM: Her mother looks at it falteringly, then back up at Celia.
“Do… do you not want me to drink it, sweetie…?”
Celia: She doesn’t care anymore.
GM: Her mother gives her another faltering look, then obeys. She swallows, smiles, and closes her eyes.
“Oh… that really is better, sweetie…” she murmurs contently. Her smile spreads. “My leg doesn’t hurt at all…”
“Let’s dance!” she exclaims brightly, taking Celia’s hand.
Celia: Celia yanks away from her mom.
“Go to bed.”
GM: Her mom’s face sinks. “Please don’t shut me out, Celia. I just want you to be happy.”
“I dance with girls every day, every school day at least, I just thought that’d be fun.”
Celia: Okay, well, that’s not possible. You don’t fucking listen to me. You do whatever the fuck you want regardless of how it’s going to affect me.
“Let’s tell Emily about your real dad.” “Let’s keep secrets you want to know but blab everything else.” “Let’s tell Emily you’re a fucking vampire too, get the whole family killed, that seems real fucking swell.” “Oh, you worked hard at keeping everything separate and now in one night four separate people found out because I wouldn’t just listen to you when you showed up to save me and now you’re expending all your resources to keep me safe? You know what would make you feel better? Giving me blood. Wasting more resources on me.”
She bites back the words she wants to spit at her mother. Her Beast, at least, approves of this subservient kine who wants to keep her happy; it hadn’t even stirred when she’d cut herself open to feed the bitch. Just another thing they disagree on.
“The fact that you don’t feel pain doesn’t mean that the injury isn’t there. You’re still hurting yourself when you dance. Yeah, the symptoms are gone, but the source remains. So take it easy. Go to bed. I’ll see you later.”
GM: “Oh. Okay.” Her mom looks a little crestfallen at the news her leg isn’t better, but nods and manages a little smile at Celia’s next words. “All right. I’ll trust the MD.”
“If you want to stop by later as a kitty, by the way, I bet Lucy would love to play with you.”
Celia: “Maybe,” is all she says to that.
She walks away before she can implode the relationship any further.
GM: “I love you,” her mother calls softly after her.
Sunday night, 13 March 2016, PM
GM: The Evergreen is quiet when Jade swings around. Perhaps the most so at any point during the week. Many of the Kindred are at Elysium, while it’s a week night for the kine. (Fridays see the place similarly empty of Kindred, but are obviously busy nights for the kine.) Mélissaire is around, though, and says Lebeaux can be expected back when church services are over. She’d be happy to convey a message if Jade doesn’t want to stick around.
“You seem a little tense, Miss Kalani. Anything up?” the ghoul asks sympathetically.
Celia: She supposes she hadn’t really expected to see him here. Everyone who doesn’t have fifteen fires to put out gets to go to Elysium, while she’s running around like… like this.
One night. How had everything turned to shit in one night?
Is she ever going to feel like she’s not drowning?
She’s being pulled in so many directions at all times that she can’t even think straight. She doesn’t know what’s next. She doesn’t know how to fix it. She doesn’t want to admit that the thought of killing her mom to get rid of the problem or giving her back to Elyse is really, really tempting.
She seizes the offer to talk to someone that isn’t obsessed with her.
“I made a mistake. I don’t know how to fix it.”
GM: “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” says Mélissaire. “Here, I have just the thing.”
She leads the Toreador to one of the Louis XIV-style sitting rooms, asks her to lie down on one of the couches, and starts massaging her back. “I admit I’m not a professional, like you, ma’am, so feel free to point out any errors in my technique,” the ghoul smiles as she begins.
Her touch isn’t professional, and speaks as to a lack of anatomical study. But it’s lights, sensuous, caring, and hits many of the right spots, likely gleaned from observing her partners’ reactions. Jade doubts any of the men she massages have complaints.
She leaves it to Jade whether she keeps her clothes on or off.
Celia: Celia stays silent while Mel works on her—clothes off, because who gets a massage with clothes on?—and listens to the ghoul speak.
GM: Her mom had actually wanted to keep her clothes on, the first time, until Celia explained how that was silly.
Another stupid thing the woman did.
“Most mistakes are fixable with a little creative thinking,” Mel remarks. “Sometimes they can even be turned into assets.”
“Lord Savoy thinks that’s the mark of a truly clever Kindred. Young licks see elders as all-knowing and able to anticipate everything through elaborate games of eight-dimensional chess, but it’s impossible to predict everything, or to never slip up. He believes what really counts is adaptability. Improvisation. Coming up with new plans on the spot when old ones fall apart.”
“It’s a sentiment we see in a lot of other places, too. I once watched a play where one actress ran into another actress and made her spill a full tea tray. She looked so angry as she picked all the broken china up. It was a good scene. I later found out the whole thing had happened by accident, the first actress was just clumsy. But the second one ran with it, incorporated it into the play, and the audience was none the wiser.”
The ghoul smiles as she works her way down Jade’s back.
“But I’m yammering. You made a mistake and you’re not sure how to turn it around.”
“Tell me about the mistake, ma’am. I’m sure there’s a way.”
Celia: She’d thought that she was adaptable. That she could turn mistakes into assets. She’s done it before, hasn’t she? She’s always so good at playing the room, knowing what to say, taking the best path before her even if it’s through shark infested waters. Hasn’t she shown she’s able to adapt? Hasn’t she thus far rolled with the punches and come out victorious on the other side? Isn’t that her whole deal, that she can change course, adapt as needed, be the chameleon?
Why, then, can’t she do it with her mom?
Maybe it’s too close to home.
Or maybe she’s not as clever as she thinks.
“I turned my mom into a ghoul.”
“I thought I was saving her life. Now she knows everything.”
Celia fills in the gaps of the story for her.
GM: Mélissaire listens attentively as she rubs the Toreador’s shoulders.
“I think you were under a lot of pressure, ma’am, and did the best thing you could have done at the time,” the ghoul says thoughtfully. “After all, the sun was about to come up, and the woman wasn’t otherwise in any state to listen.”
“You’re very strong not to have frenzied at her, given all that stress.”
“But you’re concerned that she’s useless now—a vitae sink with no appreciable skills, a weak spot for your enemies, a blabbermouth, and an addict and slave instead of your loving mother.”
“Worse than useless. Does that just about sum it up?”
Celia: “Yes. Exactly.”
She hadn’t felt strong at the time. She’d felt desperate. But maybe that’s what she’d needed to be to beat back the thing inside of her. She appreciates the sentiment, anyway.
GM: “My, that’s frustrating,” the ghoul says as she continues to work. “There’s a lot of licks who might just decide she’s more trouble than she’s worth, and get rid of her.”
“But your grandsire likes to look for the potential in everyone. I think that’s what he’d do here.”
“Obviously, there’d need to be some changes. If things continue with you and your mother as they now are, it’s probably going to end in tragedy.”
“You aren’t the first lick I’ve seen who’s ghouled a close family member, ma’am,” Mélissaire adds ruefully. “It can be very hard to be objective about those people.”
Celia: “I didn’t want this for her. I just wanted her to not be put into an early grave because of me. I want her to be… normal. Human. Not a ghoul.”
“Fifty years from now I’m not supposed to still have a mom.”
GM: Mélissaire nods. “I know you want the best for her. I remember how much trouble you went to, seven years ago.”
Celia: She’d died for her.
Maybe she should have stayed dead.
GM: “At this point, though, I think it may be too late to come back from that. She’s tasted your blood, she’s seen a great deal, and she’s felt a great deal too. A mindwipe is likely to be very patchy.”
“All mesmerism can alter is her memories. She’ll still hunger for your blood, and she’ll still feel however she feels about the past 24-ish hours.”
“Lord Savoy, Warden Lebeaux, and a couple other Kindred can all give her a mindwipe, but I think there will be just too many opportunities for it to unravel, and there could be further damage to her sanity if that happens.”
Celia: She doesn’t think she can ask Lord Savoy anyway. Not with this. Not when she’d failed to deliver Roderick in a timely manner.
“So I’m stuck with her like this.”
GM: “Stuck with her as a ghoul, maybe. But that doesn’t have to mean stuck with her as she now is.”
“That, like I’ve said, will probably end badly. Because right now she’s a vitae sink with no appreciable skills, a weak spot for your enemies, a blabbermouth, and an addict and slave instead of your loving mother.”
The ghoul smiles. “So, I’d think about how we can change those things. Let’s start with skills, since that’s the whole reason any Kindred wants a ghoul. Because they can do something useful.”
“What does your mother do for a living, ma’am? What is she good at?”
Celia: “She’s a dancer. She used to be a ballerina, but my dad tried to take her leg off with a hacksaw and she never got to go further than where she was. She was good, though. She teaches dance now. At McGehee.”
Another problem: the Garden District.
GM: “Oh, that’s promising,” Mélissaire says thoughtfully. “You might laugh at this, but here’s one idea… bodyguard.”
GM: “I see someone knows her ballet history,” the ghoul smiles. “Lord Savoy knows a few things about ballet. Louis XIV adored it as an art form—he introduced it to France, I think from Italy. Where, yes, I believe it had its origins in fencing.”
“There was also another Kindred who came to the city a few years ago, for Mardi Gras. She was a dancer. But she was also a… I’m not sure quite what I’d call her. I wouldn’t use the term martial artist.”
“But she enjoyed the similarities between dance and unarmed combat. She turned murder into a dance form. She was riveting to watch. I hear she made nasty work of some Sabbat.”
“I think her name was Miriam. Miriam Caravaggio. She was the bodyguard to, who was it, I think the prince of Atlanta or San Francisco. A Toreador dancer like her, instead of some hulking Brujah or Gangrel.”
“Did you meet her, ma’am? She was really something.”
Celia: “I remember her.”
That was the Mardi Gras she’d met Kirsten, the lick from Bolivia (apparently not her real name, just what she uses in the US). She’d been enraptured by the Hispanic beauty and spent most of her time tangled up with her, but they’d both been present at the party and vied for Miriam’s attention there. Jade had won a dance with her.
GM: Jade had thought she was fast, since dying. But it was impossible to keep up.
“Excellent,” smiles Mélissaire. “I bet she or someone like her would be the perfect teacher for your mother. Though anyone who’s good at fighting could probably also serve in a pinch.”
Celia: “My sister is dating a fencer.”
GM: “Perfect,” beams the ghoul. “That’s some quality time he could spend with his girlfriend’s mom.”
“It might take a little time to train your mother, in either fencing or unarmed combat, but I think there could be significant cross-transfer of skill. She already has years—decades?—of experience honing her body at a very physically demanding art.”
“And, it’s hard to think of a bodyguard who could be more devoted than one’s own mother.”
Celia: “I can fix her leg,” Celia adds after a moment of silence. “I didn’t before, because how would I explain it, but… I could now.”
GM: “There we go,” smiles the ghoul. “There’s obviously no Masquerade to worry about anymore.”
“This may also channel her energy in a positive direction. I’m sure she worries a lot. I’m sure she just wants to feel useful and like she’s helping you. People get depressed and do foolish things when they feel like they’re burdens.”
“So this would be for her as much as you. I think it would be good for her to develop her skills at something she can take pride in, and that she knows her domitor values.”
Celia: Maybe Lebeaux will finally take her out, too. No Masquerade to worry about.
She can already hear his sigh.
“Thank you, Mélissaire. I was really floundering for something to do with her. This is really helpful.”
GM: “Oh, I’m so happy to have helped, ma’am,” Mélissaire beams. “There’s a second thing you might be able to do with her, too.”
“You know how en vogue it is for your clan to ghoul artists and show them off. I know feelings among the elders are a little mixed, regarding makeup, but ballet is a very respected form of art.”
“I’m sure your mother could be a smash hit at parties and impress your clanmates with her skills. It would reflect well on you to have a talented artist under your wing.”
“I’m sure you don’t want them all to know she’s Celia Flores’ mother, of course, much less Jade’s too. You could bring her in disguise.”
Celia: Since Celia can’t impress them herself with her own chosen form of art, since she’s lying about that too.
“Good thing I have that skill, then.”
GM: “Indeed. You could even give your mother separate faces in her roles as your bodyguard and your dancer.”
“Who needs to know your pet artist can fight, after all?”
Celia: “Alana is going to be jealous that I’m taking my mom to the parties and not her,” Celia says with some wry amusement. “I suppose I’ll need to see what I can do with her. My mom almost had a heart attack when she saw her sitting on my lap.”
Not to mention her reaction to walking in on her kissing Caroline.
“She reacted well, though. My mom, I mean. To everything. So that’s good, right?”
GM: “Yes. I said your mother had a good temperament for a ghoul, too. Very submissive.”
“Being a prude is problematic, but the Blood tends to increase our libidos. You can probably train the prudishness out of her. Or at least inure her to Kindred society being what it is.”
Celia: Maybe see how well she can recondition her mom to enjoying sex after Elyse trained it out of her. Train it back into her.
That’s not weird at all.
But Mel has a point about it, anyway.
GM: It’s no weirder than ghouling her.
Celia: She bets Reggie would be up for the task.
She’s seen Elyse train women to like men.
It’ll be like that. Only with pleasure.
GM: “As for being a weak spot,” Mélissaire continues, “that’s easy. Disguise her when she’s around you as Jade. You’re very good at that, ma’am.”
Celia: “You don’t think that McGehee is going to cause too much of a problem?”
GM: “I don’t think so, as long as she keeps her head down. I doubt the prince stations any ghouls in a girls’ school, much less ones who are also capable of detecting other ghouls.”
“She shouldn’t have anyone capable of anima visus trying to taste her blood unless something has already gone very wrong.”
Celia: “And she’s going to know shadow dancing, too, in case of that.”
GM: “Even more safe,” Mélissaire smiles.
“I also wouldn’t overlook what her job could do for you. It’s one of the city’s best schools. She might be able to put you in touch with the families of her students, if she’s popular with them.”
Celia: “Everyone tells me she’s the favorite teacher.”
GM: “There you go. I guess that’s no surprise, either. Dance must be easy to get good grades in.”
Celia: “Plus the dress down days on Fridays. Big hit.”
“I always regretted not being able to take her class there.”
GM: “Oh, you weren’t? That’s very sad, I’m sure it would have been fun to learn dance from your mom.”
Celia: “She taught me privately, and when we were kids, but once they split my dad didn’t want me to see her. We didn’t really reconnect until I went to college.”
GM: “Ah, yes. I suppose that’s no surprise either.”
“You care about her a lot. I’m sure this past night must have left you on the verge of crazy.”
Celia: “It’s been a lot.” Celia finally releases a long exhale as Mel’s hands find a spot on her shoulders that want to make her melt into the couch. “I had a meeting with my grandsire last night that I was looking forward to and it didn’t go as planned. And then I lost a friend. And then my mom. It’s just… lonely sometimes. I know a lot of people but no one I can talk to about it, you know? Randy just wanted a hit, Alana is jealous, the other two aren’t really involved in all of this… everyone has an agenda.”
There’s a slight pause when Mel hits that spot again.
“Thank you for listening. And giving advice. I really, really needed it.”
GM: “It’s my pleasure, Miss Kalani,” the ghoul smiles, at both Jade’s words and reaction. Seeing the latter, she kneads away.
“It’s hard being Kindred. It’s hard being a ghoul. But there’s a lot to make it worth it.”
Celia: “Is there anything I can do for you?”
GM: With her face turned away, Jade can’t see the look on Mélissaire’s.
But she feels the ghoul absently brush her wrist, as though it’s part of the massage.
Celia: Celia can handle that much, at least.
She waits until the massage is over to rise, still naked, and cut into her flesh with her fangs to offer it to the ghoul that has been with her since the beginning of her Requiem.
Not hers, but part of her story all the same.
GM: Mélissaire receives the hit rapturously. She doesn’t moan and all but hump the wrist like Randy does. She closes her eyes and sips from it slowly, quietly, savoring the taste, letting it spread to every part of her.
She opens her eyes when Jade’s given enough and slowly licks her lips.
Celia: “No, Mélissaire. Thank you.”
GM: The ghoul smiles back. “If I may… some further, perhaps timely advice.”
Celia: “Please do.”
GM: “Your mother is an addict now. I’m afraid there’s no way around that.”
“All of us, and all of you, are addicts.”
Celia: Celia nods.
She’s already experienced her mother begging for blood.
GM: “But we can at least be functioning addicts.”
“Lord Savoy is very clear with me about when and under what circumstances I receive his vitae. I know when and why I receive extra, and when and why I receive less.”
“Your mother would likely also benefit from clear expectations. She probably expects to get blood whenever she wants, because she’s your mother. And then when you say no, she feels hurt.”
Celia: The rest of them, as well. She has been too soft with them, too willing to share blood that she needs for herself.
“That’s… very wise, yes. I’ll have that talk with her. Thank you.”
GM: “You’re welcome,” smiles the ghoul. “If she’s new to the Blood, she’s likely going through a lot of very conflicting feelings. She may be ashamed of them. She may take some time to come to terms with the fact she is an addict.”
Celia: “And I need to be more patient than I have been with her.”
GM: “This is where clear structure and expectations help. They’re for you as well as her.”
Celia: “You warned me about this. Those early evenings of my Requiem.”
GM: “Oh, did I? About handling ghouls?”
Celia: “About not getting too close. I asked you not to call me ma’am. And you told me that young Kindred always go through this.”
GM: “Ah, yes,” Mélissaire smiles. “Your mother can still be your mother. Ma’am. But when it comes to vitae, she is not and cannot be your mother.”
Celia: “Is there a good way to explain that? Shifting the dynamic after years?”
GM: “Is it such a shift? From what you tell me, this is a woman who’s been used to obeying other people for all her life. If she were more independent, more domineering, I’d say ghouling her is probably more trouble than it’s worth. Just because the notion of a child being in charge of their parent is likely to offend someone like that. But that isn’t her.”
“I think you should make clear to her what your relationship now is, and that it’s one where you are in charge and she must obey you. That also doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You can be a benevolent master. Obeying you can actually make her life better.”
“I don’t know what ways she likes to express being your mother, but I’d still let her do those if they don’t undermine your authority. I’d also perhaps carve out moments where a more traditional parent-child dynamic can still exist.”
Celia: Mel had told her years ago, and now as well, that Diana would make a good ghoul. Subservient. Already used to listening. Loves her fiercely. If Celia can direct that energy toward something useful, can turn her into a showpiece and a bodyguard, then this can work. It’s just going to be a difficult transition, maybe, but as long as Celia is clear on the rules…
“I think she’d like that. I can think of a few things. And… it’ll be easier, you know, now that she knows. She’ll stop trying to give me food or ask why I don’t come over during the day.”
She doesn’t have to be a useless waste of vitae. She doesn’t have to kill her own mother, or give her back to the dollmaker.
GM: “Exactly,” smiles the ghoul. “This can be a good thing for you both. I’d emphasize that. I’d make clear how much you love and accept her. You just want the best for both of you.”
“She’s probably very confused, ashamed, and uncertain right now, and looking for comfort and assurance. A good domitor provides that.”
“A firm hand, but a comfortable one. A guiding one.”
Celia: She can do that. Firm but comfortable. She’s done it with the others, right? Or has she been too weak there?
It’s something to think about, anyway. Maybe she’s gotten too comfortable with them.
But this doesn’t need to be the end of her relationship with her mother. It can be a good thing, like Mel said. And Celia can teach her mom shadow dancing. Can show her how it’s done so they can be completely safe. Maybe Alana will want to learn how to dance so she can be shown off at parties, too. It’ll be a bonding experience for them both. And if she can get ahold of Miriam…
It’ll work out.
It will all work out.