“None of that… none of that even comes close to what else I’ve done. What I’m still afraid to say.”
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, AM
Celia: Celia waits until they’re back in the car to let the anger fade. She doesn’t say anything as she puts the keys into the ignition and starts the car.
“Wasn’t worth continued exposure to the Garden District. Hopefully that line in the elevator throws her off.”
GM: Diana settles Lucy into the Beetle’s back seat and sits next to her. The sleepy-faced six-year-old starts crying again and clings to her mother.
Celia: Celia is quiet for a moment. “I can blunt her emotions,” she finally offers.
GM: Celia’s mom doesn’t ask what’s wrong. She holds the girl close and murmurs words of comfort.
“I think that does more harm than good, Celia,” she answers. “But thank you for asking first.”
Celia: “I’m concerned she’s going to follow through on her threat,” Celia adds after a moment, “about calling the Krewe.”
GM: Diana’s eyes grow hard again.
“We will take care of this. Lucy does not need to know monsters are real. Not at six.”
Celia: Not ever, Celia hopes.
But perhaps that’s just wishful thinking.
GM: “You should make sure with her, after we do. That no more vampires will invade our lives. I just want them to leave us alone.”
Celia: “I will.”
Celia taps Pete’s number into her mother’s phone.
GM: Celia’s mother gives a weary sigh and picks up the phone.
She’s answered after a few rings with the detective’s grizzled, “Yeah, kid?”
Diana hits speaker mode and sets the phone down.
“Hi, Pete. It’s Celia’s mom, Diana. You helped us some years back, if you remember.”
Celia: He does. They’d just had a conversation about her.
“Hi, Pete,” Celia adds.
GM: “I do remember, Mrs. Flores,” he answers. “Hi, Celia.”
Celia: “Mom and I were hoping to borrow a moment of your time this evening, if you’re available.”
It’s not like she can ask over the phone.
GM: “I’m a little busy this evening.”
“We need your help,” Diana says, frankly. “It’s an emergency. I don’t know if there’s anyone else who can.”
There’s a pause from Pete.
“All right. Can this wait a few hours?”
Celia’s mom looks down at Lucy.
“Okay,” says Pete. “At your house?”
“Yes. Yes, please. At our house,” says Diana. “It’s 1110 Burgundy Street.”
“Okay,” repeats Pete. “Hang tight.”
“We will. Thank you.”
Celia: “Thanks, Pete. See you soon.”
GM: “Bet on it.”
The detective ends the call.
Celia: “I should eat soon,” Celia says to no one in particular once the call ends. “Do you want me to drop you off and come back, or… do you think we could… order pizza?”
“Or I can… one of the neighbors… I think we have a lot to talk about.”
GM: Her mother blinks slowly.
Celia: “And you need a hit,” Celia adds.
GM: “No,” Diana replies firmly.
Celia: “Mom, you look like hell.”
GM: “Heroin is not going to bring your sister back.”
“Heroin is not going to heal the hole in my heart.”
“Heroin is not going to make my problems better.”
Celia: “No,” she agrees, “but it will let you function at 100% instead of… this.”
“And you can better care for yourself and your daughter if you’re not jonesing for a fix.”
GM: “No,” her mother repeats. “Heroin is going to make my problems worse.”
“Do not offer again.”
“Do not tempt me.”
Celia: “Are you just not going to be a ghoul anymore?”
GM: Celia’s mother gives her a thousand yard stare. Rain patters against the car’s windows again as the wipers whisk back and forth.
“Celia, I am past exhausted,” she finally answers wearily. “I don’t want to decide anything right now. I want to protect Lucy. I want to go back to bed. I want to put Lucy back to bed. I want to take care of Abigail and figure out options for her. I want to talk to Jade about how things are going to be. I want to make it to work tomorrow. I want to stay home and mourn my daughter. I want to break the news to David, Logan, and Sophia, and even Maxen, because even he deserves the closure of finally knowing that our baby girl is never coming home.” Diana’s voice chokes a little. “I want to lay her body to rest. I want to arrange her funeral. I want to talk to you about how she died. I want to talk to you about how she lived. I want to weep for all the things left unsaid between us, and for never being able to tell her that I forgave her. I want to know if that would have made a difference in her life for the better. I want to know how God is going to judge her. I want to do something kind for someone in need, because I am so tired of there being so much darkness and misery in our world and the only way I know how to fight it is to be the light that I want to see. I want to collapse and cry into a man’s shoulders and let him take care of me. I want to stand tall and strong for the people who need me now, because maybe it was God’s will that I find the strength I’d lost during this time of need.”
“I want to talk to Natalie and make up for all the years I could have had a relationship with her. I want to help Dani land on both feet and figure her life out. I want to help Henry out of the well of grief I am drowning in. I want to stop Elyse from hurting more girls like me and destroying their lives. I want to punish the men who raped you. I want to take Alana to task for that time she kissed me. I want to talk with you about the things I remember being important and am too frazzled to even remember what they were right now. I want to learn to fight so that I can protect our family from anything that would threaten us. I want to get even for all the hurts our family has suffered. I want to forgive and move on. I want to fall to pieces. I want to be whole. I want to raise Lucy safe and happy and put the nightmares behind us. I want to go to bed and wake up to a better tomorrow. I want you to share that with us and see the sun. I want so many things. I do not expect I am going to get many of them.”
Diana lets out a long breath, closes her eyes, and leans back against the headrest.
“But since you have asked, yes. I am giving that serious thought, to not being a ghoul anymore.”
Celia: Celia and Jade had made an agreement: Celia would be the only one to cry. Celia would be the only one to show weakness. It would be easy to fall apart here. To let her mother’s words reduce her to a childish nature again, to give into the hurt that she has caused so many people and feel it for them like she has so many times before.
It hasn’t gotten her anywhere.
It hasn’t gotten her anywhere but here, sitting in the car while rain pelts against the windshield at three in the morning, driving her mother’s car with her sister in the back seat, listening to her mother’s woes. Lover lost. Friends dead. Family in mourning. Shattered. All of it broken.
All of it her fault.
No, maybe not all of it. Maybe by saying all of it’s her fault she’s becoming a martyr and not really letting the pain in. Maybe she’s just being a victim again.
So she keeps it in. She doesn’t start with excuses or lies. She doesn’t start blaming herself. She doesn’t start blaming everyone else, either. She just exists in the moment, listening to a mother’s grief, and letting it rock her to her core.
The wipers move back and forth across the windshield and Celia wonders, not for the first time, if this is how the rest of her Requiem will pan out. If it’s only going to be grief and more grief. If her circle of friends will slowly get smaller and smaller until she’s left alone, another jaded elder sitting in a room by themselves cursing neonates for their ability to feel anything beyond an empty bitterness.
For the first time since her death she truly understands the fact that she is Damned.
This is her Hell, slowly tearing her family apart.
For long moments the only sound in the car is Lucy’s quiet breathing and the rain against the windows, the steady swish of wipers against glass. Street and brake lights blur red in her vision. A trick of the water on the ground, perhaps, or the unshed blood that swims across her eyes.
“We’ll get through tonight,” Celia finally whispers. “We’ll get through tonight, and then tomorrow, and we’ll make it work, and I will help you however I can. Anything you need, Momma.”
What’s the point?
She wants to know.
What’s the point in all of this? What’s the point in picking a side and pledging loyalty to various patrons only to put them on the throne so they can enjoy the fruits of their labor while the rest of them… exist. Hunt. Mock each other at Elysium. Rape people for their blood. Hurt people who don’t see things the same way. It’s no different than the white man hating the black man for the color of his skin, is it? Are there really any differences in the three powers-that-be? Vidal, Baron, Savoy, they’re all the same. All the elders are.
He’s a snake. Her sire had told her the truth of him that night on the roof. It was meant to sow distrust, yes, but it was the truth as well: Savoy is a snake. He doesn’t care about her. He cares about power.
He’d used her. He’d used her and he’d lied to her just like her sire uses her and lies to her, just like she uses and lies to Alana. It’s a cycle that won’t end, a nonstop pattern of the strong preying on the weak.
And what’s the point?
She climbs her way up, stepping on licks all the while, and perches precariously atop the pyramid knowing that everyone below her wants what she has? That any night some power-hungry neonate, ancilla, or elder she pissed off at some point is going to come marching into her throne room to take everything she’s worked for?
She hoards knowledge and secrets and collects favors and boons and territory and blood for what? What do any of them actually do with it? Eternal life and they spend it playing word games and humiliating anyone who shows weakness, wearing ice masks and venom masks and never forging actual real connections.
What’s the point?
The man on top shits on the man below him who shits on the man below him who shits on the man below him, and every night they all just eat the shit they’re dealt and thank their lucky stars that they’re not even lower and hold out their hands for seconds and thirds while they sharpen their knives.
What’s the point?
Really, she wants to know. Because this, whatever it is, whatever this is that she has, it isn’t worth all the lives she’s ripped apart. She makes people pretty. That’s it. She plays house and pretends she’s part of a fairy tale, like she’s some mildly endearing protagonist in a YA series about vampires that go through high school three dozen times and fall for humans and cry sparkly diamond tears about not wanting to hurt them and how they smell so good and it’s bullshit, it’s all bullshit, because none of that is real. Whoever had written those books and movies had no idea what it’s actually like, no idea how far they spiral from idealistic boy scout to soul-stealing, brutish savage. There’s not even a word for it because “beast” and “monster” don’t do this state of being justice.
She’d killed her sister. She’d made her father rape her sister because she was angry and then she’d killed her. She’d cut the head off of her ghoul. She’d beaten her mother. Bonded one of her best friends because she’d wanted to manipulate her into staying in town.
When had she decided that being someone’s pet neonate was all she wanted out of her Requiem?
Maybe that is their curse. Solitude. Humans are pack animals. They bond with anything. They’re social creatures. But by their very nature licks are unable or unwilling to form attachments, and when they do they’re so busy trying to hold onto it with one hand and pick up more with other that they let what they do have slip through their fingers.
To stand still is to lose.
So they grasp and claw their way to the top only to realize that the tide never stops and the licks behind them are eager to seize what they have, so the bright-eyed neonates turn into jaded ancilla turn into heartless elder. Life is cheap. Roderick had told her that once. Life is cheap to them.
He makes her think she matters but she doesn’t.
Not to her grandsire. Not to her krewe. Not to her lovers. Not to her sire or allies or friends, not to Draco or Donovan or Savoy or Pietro, not to Veronica or Josua or Pete or Benji. Probably not even to Camilla, despite the fact that she’s managed to retain some level of decency even as Donovan’s childe.
And that’s the cincher, isn’t it. Celia thinks that he had chosen her for her darkness, that something in her speaks to something in him, but then why Camilla? She’s his opposite, isn’t she? Isn’t Celia?
She’s glad for the turn onto Burgundy, glad for the three houses they pass before she pulls into her mother’s drive. Glad for the rain that pelts the windows when she turns the key to shut off the ignition.
The skies must weep for her because that, like everything else, leaves only a bloody mess behind when she does it.
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, AM
GM: Diana unbuckles a nodded-off Lucy from her seat and carries her inside. Victor and Shadow both look at Celia and give furious, low-throated hisses before darting out of the room. Celia’s mother just blinks dully as Lucy cries some more. She carries the girl into her bedroom, takes off her coat and shoes, and puts her to bed, quietly rocking her and singing to her until she drifts off to sleep.
She looks like she wants nothing more than to curl up alongside her daughter right then and there.
Celia: “I can wake you when he gets here,” Celia offers.
GM: Diana slowly shakes her head.
“We have some things to first take care of.”
“I can’t let Emily stay up all night looking after Abigail.”
“She has school tomorrow. Today.”
Celia: Celia rubs a hand across her face.
“Mom,” she says quietly, “I feel like all I’ve done is interrupt your life. Emily’s life. Lucy’s life. I don’t want to do that anymore.”
GM: “Yes, we need to set some boundaries. Come on.”
Her mom tiredly gets up, leaves Lucy’s room and closes the door, then leads Celia out of the house and into the car.
“No more vampire talk in the house.”
Celia: Celia nods. She can agree to that.
GM: “This is an older house. The walls are not soundproofed. Lucy’s door isn’t locked. If there are unusual noises, if there is anything that seems like a secret or makes her curious, she will get out of bed and listen in, because that is what kids do.”
Celia: “I was thinking about having Pete ward the house. His clan does magic. It would protect you from being spied on. Not from Lucy, but others.”
GM: “I wouldn’t say no to that, if you think it’d help.”
Her mother rubs her head.
“Please visit earlier in the evening.”
“We are not nocturnal. We need uninterrupted sleep. Lucy especially.”
Celia: “I… I will, Mom. I’m sorry about tonight. I won’t bore you with the details, I just… couldn’t.”
“So if it happens again, I’ll just wait until the next night.”
GM: “If you could’ve made other temporary arrangements for Abigail, I think that would have been best. But I’m not about to categorically say no. Simply call me ahead of time. So I can get things ready.”
“Like moving the cats to another room.”
“It’s bad for them to get so upset after seeing you.”
Celia: “Sure. I can do that.”
GM: “I’d also like to visit you or come in to Flawless to talk about vampire things. Or we may be spending a lot of time in the car.”
Celia: “The, ah, the spa is bugged.”
“But I’ll have it swept.”
GM: “Who bugged it?”
Celia: Celia effects a snort.
“My grandsire. Some weird demon lady. Stephen, probably.”
GM: Her mom just takes that in with another dull look.
“Okay. Forget the spa. Your place, then, if it’s not bugged too.”
Celia: It probably is. But Celia only nods. She’ll have that swept, too.
GM: “The spa would be convenient. But if you remove the bugs, no reason they won’t just put more back, is there?”
Celia: “Why would anyone ever leave me alone,” Celia mutters bitterly.
“There’s something Stephen did tonight that swept for them in a pinch. And I might know someone who makes electronics not work. I’ll look into it.”
“That being said, only trust Pete so far, Mom. He works for my grandsire. And the Tremere.”
GM: “What shouldn’t I say around him?”
Celia: “Anything sensitive. Abigail. Emily knowing about all this.”
GM: “What is anything sensitive. Lucy hearing what she did is sensitive.”
Celia: “Everything is sensitive. Everything can be used against people.” Celia sighs, rubbing a hand across her face again. “My specific plans, I guess. Travel. Abigail. I’ll… tell you what not to repeat as it comes up, I guess. If you’re not part of Kindred society I guess you can’t really let things slip, but Pete is… I don’t know how I feel about him anymore.”
GM: Her mom mirrors the motion, rubbing her own head again.
“I’ll just let you talk.”
“About anything to do with vampires.”
Celia: “Do you want me to just have him wipe your memories, Mom?”
GM: “What memories?”
Celia: “All of them. All of this. We can go back to what we had before.”
GM: “I feel like that’s wishful thinking, Celia.”
Celia: “I’m tired of causing problems for the people I love.”
GM: “And I wish Isabel was still alive.”
“But we don’t always get what we want.”
Celia: “No? Because walking out of your life seems like it would solve a fuck ton of problems for you, Lucy, and Emily.”
GM: Her mom’s eyes are hard.
“I am not losing another daughter, Celia.”
“We will keep Lucy out of this. No more vampire talk in the house.”
“No more surprises in the middle of the night.”
Celia: “You don’t have a choice, Mom. I’m dead. Celia is dead. I’m dead and I’m fucking insane with seventeen personalities inside of me who all want different things, and all I do is ruin people, so why would you want me around?”
“Because I sure as fuck can’t handle watching you and Emily and Lucy lose everything because of me.”
GM: “Because you’re my daughter.”
“Because you’re the reason I have Lucy, Emily, this house, and my old self back.”
Celia: “Then I should walk now while you’re ahead.”
GM: “I am not having this debate, Celia,” her mother says tiredly.
“Stephen, Dani, Caroline, and soon Pete will all know about me anyway. It’s too late to walk back from this.”
Celia: “Pete already knows about you.”
“He erased some memories for me so no one else did.”
“And like an idiot I let Dani keep hers, and then I told Stephen.”
“So I fucked up your life, congratulations.”
GM: “You did not make a mistake with Dani.”
“Well. That time.”
“She needed us.”
“She also told me that you ‘bonded’ her twice.”
Celia: “Yeah. I fucked up. That’s the theme of these past few weeks. Celia fucked up.”
“I lied and cheated and am a whore, too. Welcome to the club of people who know.”
GM: Her mom wearily rubs her head again.
“I’m not getting into Dani. Not here. Not now.”
“She told me Dr. Dicentra was a lie.”
“I thought she was going to operate on me.”
Celia: “Dicentra exists. She’s just me.”
GM: “Yes. Dani said. I like to know who is going to cut me open, Celia.”
Celia: “That’s the point of a secret identity. It’s secret.”
“What I do isn’t something most licks do. Best case scenario they never leave me alone. Worst case they fry me for being a fiend or something stupid.”
“Why didn’t I tell Dani? Because she can’t keep her fucking mouth shut. Because Stephen can’t keep his fucking mouth shut. Oh no, what a lie, you wanted to preserve the anonymity of the night doctor, how fucking terrible of me.”
“As if that’s anything compared to what most of them lie about.”
GM: “I like to know who is going to cut me open, Celia,” her mom repeats.
“I am honest with you. I choose to trust you. Please return the favor.”
“I do not like feeling as if you are dishonest with me and do not trust me.”
Celia: “It’s not you, it’s everyone else.”
GM: “It is me, Celia. You lied to me about who I was going to trust with my body.”
Celia: “Didn’t Dani and Stephen tell you? I’m a liar, Mom. That’s what I do. Not an honest bone in my body. Black hole spinning through space ruining everything she touches. That’s me. Loved someone? Nah, let me fuck it up. Someone loved me? Nah, let me fuck that up too. Made a friend? Nah, bonding her is a great idea, let’s make sure neither one of them ever trust me again. Can keep Maxen away from the family? What? Why would I do that when I can invite him in because he told me what I wanted to hear at dinner, because I’m too fucking curious to leave well enough alone with him.”
“That’s what I do, Mom,” she says again. “I put everyone else in danger because I’m a selfish bitch. This is your daughter. I hope you’re happy knowing her.”
GM: Diana gives another long look at her daughter’s furious and despairing words. Part of her looks like she wants to snap back. Another part looks like she wants to just crash into exhausted sleep right here in the car and let all problems that aren’t Lucy sort themselves out.
She looks at Celia for a moment, then pulls her into an embrace. It feels like a childhood blanket, worn and threadbare from the years, and perhaps now more than ever. But still warm and familiar as it envelops her and holds the night’s chill at bay.
Her mother’s voice is soft when she speaks again.
“Celia, it’s your choice who you want to be. Every night when you wake up. From this night until whenever your time runs out. It’s your choice.”
“Some choices may make you happier than others. But I will always love you, and you will always be my baby, no matter who you decide to be.”
“Who do you want to be?”
Celia: Maybe she’d wanted her mother to snap back at her. Maybe being yelled at and told to suck it up would have jolted her out of this pity party of one where she looks at all the choices she has made in her Requiem and regrets every single one of them.
But the harsh words don’t come. Diana doesn’t yell at her daughter. Half on her lap, the snugness of her arms pushes the rest of the world away and leaves Celia alone at the center of the storm. Anger, grief, and fear—those mangy mutts—snap and snarl at her heels while insecurity and doubt whip through the air around her.
She’s enclosed in a whirlwind of her own making, brought to her knees by the force of her own failures on a desolate patch of rock that had once bloomed with light and love. Now it’s barren and empty and Celia sees what’s left on the ground: withered plants, fallen petals black with decay, bloody thorns where leaves once grew. Dead, all of them, ripped out root and stem. And beside them, carved into stone, the evidence of betrayal.
Her nails fit perfectly into the grooves left behind by razor sharp claws.
She weeps for what she had, what she’s lost, what she’s done. She tried so hard to protect this little garden of hers, tucked it away and out of sight and thought that would keep it safe, but the lack of light only hastened its annihilation. She weeps for the lives that she has taken and she weeps for the lives that she has ruined and she weeps for the lives that have been touched by her damnation. She weeps for what might have been, could have been, should have been. She weeps for every angry decision, every lie spun from fear, every venomous barb hurled in hatred.
She weeps for the dead girl and the woman she never was. She weeps for the beauty plucked in its prime, the bitch forced to play the villain, the innocent whose flame was snuffed before it ever had a chance to burn.
But she doesn’t weep alone.
There, sitting across from her, the blonde woman. The mother who lost a daughter. The dancer who lost a leg. The wife whose husband turned savage before her very eyes. Tired, those eyes. Tired and weary and wary, but still they shine. Not with tears, no, but with something else, something better.
“You’ll always be my baby,” the woman says, and so the girl is. The rock and thorns cut her palms and leave bloody trails behind her, but she crawls her way to her mother and curls herself on her lap where the mangy mutts can’t reach her because her mother snaps and snarls back at them and the whispers on the wind are eclipsed by the beat of the heart within her chest.
Who do you want to be?
“Better,” she says, eyes squeezed shut against the laughter that echoes in her ears from long-dead bodies that can’t understand. “I want to be better. I want to be safe. I want to be fearless. I want to go to sleep without worrying that someone will die while I’m out or that I’ll wake to another pair of hunters or stake. I want to make a schedule and be able to stick to it because I’m not abducted. I want to go a weekend without being staked and tortured every night. I want to be honest with you instead of twisting words around to avoid spilling the truth because I’m paranoid someone will rip it from your mind. I want to be honest with you because I’m not afraid of how you’ll react. I want to be honest with you because I accept that I have made mistakes and not search for excuses for my behavior. I want to stop trying to control everything and worrying about every little thing that could possibly go wrong to the point that I’m paralyzed from terror. I want to be whole again. I want to be sane, not broken into little pieces from trauma.”
“Who is that? Who is that person? Because I don’t know her. But I’d like to.”
“Do you want to know why I lie?” she asks. “It’s because I’m afraid. I’m afraid of telling the truth. I’m afraid of what you’ll say. How you’ll react. I’m afraid you’ll mention it to someone. I’m afraid it will be stolen from your mind and you’ll never know. I’m afraid that someone will torture you. I’m afraid that anyone who knows I’m a lick will use you against me. I’m afraid my sire will come for you in the middle of the night and execute you to punish me. I’m afraid Lucy and Emily will be used against me. I’m afraid David and Logan don’t understand why I’m never around and they think it’s because I don’t like them when the truth is that I’m just trying to limit the amount of people who will be hurt because of me. I’m afraid when Sophia comes home she’ll be another target. I’m afraid that even people I like and respect will use you against me. I’m afraid Pete will turn against me and threaten you. I’m afraid my grandsire already knows about you. I’m afraid he’ll use you to punish me. I’m afraid if I tell you something you’ll tell Dani and Dani will tell Stephen. I’m afraid Stephen is going to kill me. I’m afraid that he’s right, that I am stupid, that I am weak, that I haven’t done anything worthy with my Requiem.”
“I’m afraid,” she says bitterly, “that this entire existence doesn’t mean anything, that I was just an accident, that the best thing I could do tonight to help everyone I know is to walk into the sun.”
“I have been staked and tortured every night for the past three nights. Twice by someone who used to love me. I was staked again tonight. Not tortured, no, but the threat was there, and I was held inside an interrogation room, and my tormentor tried to get into my head and warp my emotions and the only thing that kept it from working is the fact that I’m intimately familiar with that same technique.”
“Randy is dead. His brothers are missing. Even if they haven’t turned against me they’re a Masquerade breach waiting to happen, and if they haven’t turned against me why would they not answer my calls? I’m neck deep in hunter plots that they were working with me on and one of the masks I made for someone in Houston just showed up at Elysium last night and the lick it belonged to, someone I deeply cared for, was killed by hunters. Instead of following up on it last night I got drunk with Emily and was ambushed at my spa when I met with my friend to solve a problem for someone else. I ran. I left him. I abandoned him. And I listened to them torture him while I hid in a closet with Emily, hoping they wouldn’t find us, too.”
“My spa is bugged. Emily and I discussed vampire stuff there. Openly. Whoever was listening will know she knows. I didn’t even get to show her what I wanted to before she passed out, but I said enough to get us both killed. I have the hunter’s ID from Elysium but I guarantee that he’s already left his house if he realized it’s missing, and I don’t have any backup to go after a hunter anyway because the only way I win a fight is if I resort to cheap tricks, have someone else with me, or turn into a tiger and go apeshit. Reggie is supposed to be my bodyguard and he’s missing.”
“Not to mention all the other things I’m working on that have been put on hold because I’m running around trying to put out fires that I started because I’m an idiot and I have no one anymore. I have no one. I’m not willing to risk you. Alana just wants sex. The others are dead or missing. Dani hates me. Stephen has turned into an abuser worse than Maxen. My grandsire and his secretary think I’m a traitorous idiot. And my sire is just waiting for me to fuck up again so he can kill someone else I love or break every single bone in my body and call it a lesson.”
“That’s what we’re up against, Mom. That’s why my life is so messy. That’s why I lie and cheat and steal and show up in the middle of the night, and that’s why, right now, I’m trying to understand that I’m not the only one drowning here but all I can think about is how badly I have fucked everything up and how much I’ve hurt you and our family and how do I come back from that? How do I come back from that, Mom? How do I undo a decade of mistakes that have lead to pain and misery for everyone around me?”
“Because I don’t want this for you or Lucy or Emily. I want Lucy to grow up and be happy and have no idea there are monsters in the world or that she’s known one since birth. I want Emily to marry Robby and work at Delta and do amazing things in healthcare. I want to apologize to Isabel for all the fucked up shit that happened between us, for not being her sister when she needed me, for leaving her alone with Dad all those years when I should have protected her, for failing to keep her alive. And I want you to find someone who makes you happy and treats you well and takes care of you. Not because you need it. Because you want it.”
“I just want all of you to be happy and healthy and safe.”
“So who do I have to be for that? Who do I need to be for the world to leave the lot of you alone? That’s what I want. That’s who I want to be.”
GM: Diana cradles Celia in her arms as her daughter crawls onto her lap, seeking comfort and assurance. Far from Caroline’s haven, and perhaps not even there, they are not Kindred and kine, not ghoul and domitor. Here together on the car seat, with the rain pattering against their tiny sanctuary’s windows, they can simply be mother and daughter.
Celia’s mother holds her and listens her. To all of her fears and insecurities and regrets and self-recriminations as they come tumbling out.
She has never given Celia much advice. Or at least not much good advice. They both know that. But she was not the woman then that she is now. So she listens, eyes not moving from Celia’s, then tries her best to answer her daughter’s question.
“Celia, I don’t think there’s anybody you can be, to guarantee that. We could get hit by cars crossing the street, or crash a car we’re in, or slip and break our necks in the shower, or get attacked by hungry vampires in a dark alleyway, or have a fatal reaction to eating unpasteurized dairy—I had a friend’s husband who passed that way—or ten million and one other tragedies. Yes, we can all do our best to reduce the odds of bad things happening, and we should. But in the end, you can’t guarantee it, not 100%. We can’t control what other people think and feel and do. The only thing that’s 100% in your hands is who you, Celia Adelaide Flores, choose to be for yourself.”
“But you asked me who a better you would be.”
“I think you do know who that person,” says her mom. “Maybe not the full details. But I think that’s the point, too. You don’t know how it’s going to pan out. Whether it’s going to be smooth sailing or stormy waters or what. But you know where she lives, and where to find her, and at this point it’s just a matter of openin’ the door, and taking a leap of faith.”
“Because I think you’re right, Celia… it does feel to me like you’re scared.”
“I know a thing or two about being scared.”
“I spent my marriage to your father being scared. I spent so much of my life being scared. I’m not proud of the things I did. I failed you and your brothers and sisters in so many ways. I let your father beat and belittle and abuse us all, and ruin your lives in so many ways, and I always justified it. It will hurt less this way than the other way. I will just make things worse by standing up. I am making the best of a bad situation for our family. I lied to myself, and I turned myself into a martyr, and I threw an endless pity party, for poor lil’ old me. But I never took ownership for the wrong thing I was doin’, and what it was doing to you and your brothers and sisters.”
“Cowardice is a sin. Up there with pride and wrath and greed and all the others. And I think that’s how all sin works. Whether it’s being cowardly or lying or whatever else. We justify it. Find reasons it’s okay.”
“But it catches up with us. Being a coward just hurt you and the others, and made me miserable. Even after your father divorced me and you were visiting again, and I couldn’t hide behind the excuse that ‘oh your father will beat us’. I saw myself for what I was and I hated it. And, yes, maybe it was… Benson’s fault, that I was as weak as I was. But was it? I remember, after I got you and your brothers and sisters back, how I was starting to stand tall again. And then your father cut me back down. That was… too great a test for my strength, that soon, and I failed it. I became the person I didn’t want to be again, and for years I justified it. That was easy to do, with Lucy and Emily and our life so much better.”
“But sooner or later, I had to face the music. Sin caught up with me. Jade… you… beat me and abused me and I was prepared to take it, like a coward. And it would have destroyed our family, because I was a coward.”
Her mom smiles.
“But you were my strength. You didn’t just stand up for me, you believed in me, and helped me stand up for me. There’s a lot I don’t understand about vampires, but I do understand how things are between them and ‘ghouls’—that still feels like such a silly word. They’re the cowardly Dianas and the vampires are the Maxens, and that’s the way things are. You took a leap of faith, that we could defy the odds and be something different. Because someone who beat her mom wasn’t the person you wanted to be.”
“Then you took a second leap of faith, with Lucy. The doll Lucy. I was finding all sorts of reasons to doubt and be scared, but you were patient with me and gave me the strength, again, to be the person I want to be. You were scared too, of what would happen. But that good thing wouldn’t have happened, unless we chose to open that door, not knowin’ what was on the other side.”
Celia’s mother shakes her head.
“Maybe I’m not makin’ sense. My point is… I think you, me, we all know, who we want to be, and we’re just scared it’s not going to work out. That we’re going to get hurt, or get others hurt, and that’s how we justify sin and not being the person we want to be.”
“But I think when we do that, all we do is hurt ourselves more. Hurt others more.”
“Dani said, when we talked, that truth always comes out. But I think that’s maybe a little oversimplified. I don’t think God sweats the details of who knows what truths. He thinks bigger than that. I think, instead, that our decisions eventually catch up with us. Good and ill. Which it sounds like maybe they did for you with the Garrisons. Dani said telling the truth was your white whale, but I wonder if it’s actually trusting people.”
“I think back to that time in your old loft spa, when we talked about sharing the truth of your dad with Emi, and you didn’t want to. But I insisted, which was pretty darn rare comin’ from me, and six years later, she’s not let us down. Because she feels like she can trust you. Stephen and Dani didn’t feel like they could trust you anymore, so they spilled Dr. Dicentra’s secret. In my experience, if people feel they can’t trust you, they will be untrustworthy. And if they feel they can trust you, they will be trustworthy. Just the golden rule. Unless they’re saints or devils, people treat us the way we treat them. There’s no coupon or secret handshake to get around that. Eventually, it catches up.”
“I mean, even if you hadn’t told Stephen you’d ‘bonded’ Dani and he’d told her, she could have found out anyway. It could’ve come up between them in another conversation, or she could’ve found out from another vampire, or, heck, even I could have mentioned it to her, we talk pretty often. I feel like the cat was eventually going to claw out of the bag, and if you had a whole… what’s that word for a group of cats… a clowder?” Diana manages a smile. “Yes, it’s a very silly word. Well, a clowder’s just gonna scratch and bite and hiss even worse when it finally gets out.”
“And that just sounds like such a stressful and miserable way to live, balancing a thousand lies and hoping they don’t come tumbling down like a house of cards. Kind of like being a coward and hoping your husband will beat you and your kids less if you don’t stand up to him is a miserable way to live. Because, in the end… that’s what happened, isn’t it? The lies still came out and your father still beat us.”
Celia’s mom gives her a squeeze.
“I’m not saying this to blame you, sweetie. I’m on your side. I’ll always be on your side against the world. I just want to help you realize where things went wrong with Dani—Stephen’s his own can of worms—so you don’t have to go through that again with other people. Because that’s the beautiful thing, about life. Every day, or night I guess in your case, you wake up and can be whatever person you want to be. It’s never too late to change. You can turn over a new leaf, with people who’ll give you another chance, and you can even meet new friends and new loves and new family, with people who’ll know the new you.”
“I waited… your entire lifetime, almost 30 years, to turn over a new leaf and be the person I wanted to be. And I can rue all the hurts and pains I caused our family by waiting that long, and say that everything which happened to you is partly my fault because you never had a mom to protect you and fight for you. And I am sorry for that. More sorry than I can ever say. But in the end, ‘sorry’ doesn’t do much. All I can do is start being the mom I want you to have… and you can give me a chance to be that mom.”
“So, that’s where it is with you, too. I think it starts with you trusting people more, and being open with them about things you’re scared to be open about. And I think that starts here in this car, with me.”
Celia’s mom gives her a long and thoughtful look.
“You said, in the spa, as Jade, that you’ve done terrible things. You said you’ve hurt people. You said you did the makeup for Benson’s… victims, is the only word I can call them. Maybe you’ve done things like Caroline said, cut off little girls’ fingers to prove some cruel point. Or killed some people, or killed a lot of people, Dani told me about how people were murdered at that vampire church. And maybe you think I’d reject you, and you’re scared, because you don’t want to ruin things between us, just like you were scared of telling the truth to Dani and Stephen. Sweetie, I can only imagine how you feel to have lost Stephen right now, like someone has ripped your heart out of your chest and stomped all over it. I’m so sorry I didn’t talk to you about that and give you a shoulder to cry on, there’s just been… so much else. If you want to cry right now, go ahead. If you want to tell me things, because it’s hurting you to keep them bottled up inside but you’re scared of what I might think of you, scared that it might destroy our relationship, go ahead. I will be your strength right now, like you were mine. I will be your bridge across that leap of faith. I will always love you, unconditionally, no matter what you’ve done or who you’ve been. Even if you abused me again like Jade, even if you abused your brothers and sisters, even if you abused Lucy. I’d try to keep us safe from you, but I would never stop loving you. Even if you were Hitler and killed millions of people, even if you didn’t love me back, I would love you. You don’t get to turn that instinct off, when you’re a mom. You just don’t. God will judge your sins, but He made me to be your mom. That is the person I want to be. Your mom.”
Celia: “I’m insane,” Celia whispers to her mom while the rain patters against the windshield.
The words aren’t new. She’d said them only moments ago. But she’d said them angrily, said them because she doesn’t want to believe them, said them because they’re a convenient excuse for her behavior. Blame Jade. Blame Jade for being a bitch. Blame Jade for all the bad behavior. Blame Jade for every lie, every lay, every act.
Jade is the villain so Celia can be the princess.
“I blame everyone else for my problems,” she continues, wiping at the red that hasn’t ceased streaming from her eyes, “because it’s easier than accepting I’ve been an awful person. I have a whole different identity I try to hide behind. But it’s me. Even if she’s real, she came from me. She’s what I’m capable of. I’m what she’s capable of.”
“I don’t trust,” she admits, nodding to the words that her mother said. “I don’t trust. I don’t trust people to keep secrets. I don’t trust people to not hurt me. I don’t trust people to not take advantage of me. Even… even people I love.” Eyes the color of a storm swim in her vision. “Absence of abuse doesn’t denote affection. That’s what you said.”
She falls silent, turning her eyes to the dark sky. Thoughts tumble through her head as thunder rumbles above.
Who hasn’t she lied to? Who hasn’t she hurt? Who does she trust?
She trusts no one.
She has kept things even from her sire for all that she has given him her heart.
How could Stephen compare to that? How could he compete against the dark man that has been with her her whole life, the cool hands that held her aloft, the strong arms that have cradled her so gently? He set the world on fire and never let the flames touch her.
But he’d abused her as well. Beaten her when she failed him. Broken her when she’d disappointed him. Saved her, yes, spared her, yes… but punished her for her failings. Meticulously. Coldly. Even their sex three nights ago had been methodical rather than passionate. He has been in control of their relationship since the night he murdered her. Even before then. He has always been in control. Has never shared with her the way she shares with him.
And now Draco does the same. No sharing. In control. Because he doesn’t trust her. Because she’d broken his trust. Does her sire…?
She can’t bring herself to say the words. That he’s a monster. That she loves him anyway.
Celia finds her mother’s eyes.
“I broke them,” Celia says hollowly. “The other dolls. I did their makeup, yes, but I broke them. Until I beat her into torpor for what she did to you, I considered Elyse one of my closest friends. I watched her train them. Countless dolls. Countless victims. I never asked who they were before, only wanted to know who they became after. How I could make use of them. I inflicted physical, emotional, and mental anguish on them because she asked me to. Because I was happy that someone admired my skills. Because it was nice to be wanted. So I watched, I learned, and I helped.”
“I met Lucy there. The first time. I made dolls of my own. The porcelain kind… and the human kind. When Elyse wouldn’t take a client, I would instead. The training was different. But just as terrible.”
“I broke into your mind once. You wouldn’t tell me what I wanted so I used my gifts on you and made you open up. After that you stopped taking your pain meds. I promised myself I would never do it again.”
“I’ve killed. Multiple times. People who have hurt me. People who haven’t hurt me. I’ve set up people to take the fall for my crimes. I meant to do the same last night, but I… didn’t have a convenient moment to do so.”
“I betrayed Stephen. Utterly. I lied to him. I cheated on him. I used him.” Red rims her eyes. She doesn’t try to blink it back again. “And now he’s gone. He’ll never be Stephen again. He’ll never trust me again. He’ll never love me again. Because I ruined it. Me. Not him. Just me. Because it’s what someone else wanted. I bonded Dani so she wouldn’t leave. So she’d stay here instead of flee the city to be safe like he wanted. I thought I could take care of her.”
“But none of that… none of that even comes close to what else I’ve done. What I’m still afraid to say.”
GM: Diana cannot stop her eyes from flicking to the red streaming from Celia’s. Just for a moment.
So she does not reach to brush away Celia’s tears. She looks back into her daughter’s eyes and listens to her confession.
Her gaze turns hollow too, when she hears about the dolls. For a moment, she does not look there, but back in the Dollhouse. Back in the video, accepting her new name. Perhaps she thinks to what names Celia has given other dolls.
“Those are terrible, terrible things, Celia,” she answers slowly. “I condemn them. I hope you will never do them again. I hope you will do what you can to make up for them. I will push you to make up for them.”
Then she embraces her daughter again, holding her close in the car’s tiny confines, and softly strokes her hair.
“But I love you. I love you whatever you decide and whatever else you’ve done. My love for you has no conditions. Thank you for trusting me. I think you need, more than anything else, someone you know you can trust. I cannot imagine what it must have been like, to not have that. How lonely and scared you must have felt. So I will be that person for you. That is who I want to be.”
“What are you afraid to say?”
Celia: The words should mean something to her. She should believe her mother.
But she doesn’t. She’s had too much experience with people asking her to trust them.
“Stephen told me once,” she whispers, “that if I told him the truth he’d forgive me. That we would get through it. That he’d always love me. He said what you said.”
She blinks. She touches a hand to her chest where her heart used to function. It’s dead now, just like the rest of her.
“Then he beat me. He tortured me. He used my body as an outlet for his anger.”
Celia shakes her head.
“You won’t love me if I tell you. You won’t forgive me.”
GM: “I’m so sorry, sweetie,” her mom murmurs, hand still stroking her hair. “I can’t imagine what that must have been like, after you bared your soul to him. It’s no wonder trusting people is so hard for you. I don’t know if I could’ve come back from that, either.”
“There’s something I want to tell you. Maybe it’ll help.”
“Do you wonder why I named Lucy, what I named her? After the doll?”
“I’m sure that must have seemed pretty disturbed, when you found out.”
Celia: Silently, Celia nods her head. It has never made sense to her why her mother would name her daughter after a nightmare.
GM: “So, there’s a bit of history to it. Lucy was a name I always really liked. I got it from your grandfather. Who was a man with a gentle, lovely soul I’ll always wish you’d known. He’d wanted to name me Lucy, but your grandmother didn’t approve. She wanted ‘stronger names’, for me and your aunt. So I decided, if I had a baby girl, I was going to name her Lucy. To stick it to my mom.”
She smiles ruefully. “That isn’t why I picked it, by the way. That’s just the initial history.”
Diana’s smile is already a weak one, a dim candle against the night. After a moment, it’s gone.
“Well, when I was in the Dollhouse. Benson found out, what the name meant to me. She finds out all of those little things, about us. And she uses them to get to us.”
Celia’s mother doesn’t bring up that she probably knows that.
“So, she made me use the name for my doll. She thought it was fitting. Turning something I wanted to defy my mom with into… another way I was submitting. Finding something else in me to ruin, to grind down.”
“After I was pregnant with you, I mentioned the name to your father. And its history. I didn’t say we should use it. He immediately said we shouldn’t, anyway. He liked Celia more and I liked it a lot too.”
“Then we had Isabel and Sophia, between David and Logan, and it just didn’t seem fitting for them.”
“And I doubt your father would’ve wanted to use it anyway.”
Celia: “Why?” Celia asks quietly. “I thought he was a decent man back then.”
GM: “Because I’d have been naming our daughter a nightmare, Celia, like you said,” her mother answers, just as quietly. “Your father knew about the Dollhouse. He didn’t want any of our little girls’ names to be a reminder of that.”
“And I don’t blame him. It’s how most people would have felt.”
Celia: “Then why give it to Lucy?”
GM: Her mother rubs her back. “Well, that’s what we’re getting to. Then I got pregnant again, many years later, after your father raped me. After he kidnapped and humiliated and tortured and mutilated me, on one of the most terrible nights of my life. And you and Emily both thought I shouldn’t carry a rape baby to term.”
“I could have ended her life and murdered her in the womb. I know you and Emily didn’t see it that way, and thought she was just a clump of cells, but that wasn’t how I saw it. To me, she was alive.”
“And I knew she was innocent and blameless and just needed a mother’s love, and I thought about how much joy my other children had brought me. About how much joy I gave Emily, by being her mother.”
“So that’s why I picked Lucy. I decided to take something wonderful, that had been made terrible, and make it wonderful again. Because I thought your grandfather would smile, knowing we’d finally used the name. Because I wasn’t going to let Benson ruin that. Because it showed my love was stronger than what she and your father did to me. Lucy would be my reminder, every time I heard and spoke her name, that I could answer hate with love. That I could turn one of the worst things to ever happen to me into one of the best things to ever happen to me.”
Celia’s mother gives a sniff and wipes at her eye.
“And, yes, also because it means ‘born at dawn’ and all of the meaning there.”
She brushes her daughter’s hair again.
“I can’t undo whatever you’ve done, Celia. Whatever blood and whatever evil you have on your hands. All I can do is decide whether I am going to answer it, whether I am going to answer you, with hate or with love. Because that is the person I have always wanted to be, and not Benson or your father or anyone else has ever managed to take that away.”
Celia: “What if I do?” Celia whispers desperately. “What if I’m finally the one to make you respond with hate instead of love? What if I’m the one to finally break you?”
GM: “Oh, Celia, baby,” her mom murmurs, pulling her close again. Diana’s hand continues to stroke along her daughter’s hair.
“You’re scared. You’re so scared.”
“I don’t want you to be scared anymore.”
“I want you to know there’s one place on God’s earth you will always be loved, safe, and accepted, no matter who you decide to be. I want you to know my love for you isn’t conditional, you don’t have to earn it, and under no circumstance is it goin’ away. The love I have for you comes from God, it defies all other reason and explanation, and is truly unconditional.”
“Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful thing to know you have?”
Celia: Of course it does. Which is why she won’t get it.
“Isabel and I never got along after the divorce,” Celia says hollowly. “The day after you left she eagerly said how much she hated you. She took his side on everything. We fought all the time and it never really got better.”
“She hit me once. When I brought someone over from school who trashed the place to get me into trouble, she saw me getting rid of it. She screamed at me for being a liar. And she slapped me. So I told Dad. And he beat her for it while I… I watched.”
“The night he hit me, she was… pleased. And the next night when he came for you… when I came back from Tulane to find the house empty… I saw her phone beneath her bed. The text she’d sent him. That my friends and I were gone. That it was just you and the kids. To come get them. The address.”
Celia’s hand clenches.
“Then I saw the tape. Security footage. His car, her in the back watching you. Heard what she said when he parked. Her offer to torture you with him to show you your place.”
“I watched what he did to you. Making you cook for him. Eating off the floor. The plate on your head. Raping you on the couch, then making you clean it. And the bedroom. My bed. The saw.”
“So when I got there… after I made the trade for those powers… I wanted to make him suffer. And I wanted to make her suffer. So I… I made him do to her what he did to you. He took her toe. And then he raped her.”
Silence. But only for a moment.
“I never went back for her,” she whispers. “I never checked on her. I thought about it. I thought about it many times. But I never did. And then I saw her when I was released as a vampire. She was there too. And I hated her all over again for taking this one thing from me. I never told her who I was. I already had the other face. She didn’t know. And she was… she was the enemy. Opposite factions. I mostly ignored her.”
“Then one night she showed up at my spa.”
“She’d been in a fight. Torn to pieces. Shredded by claws. The scourge, I later learned. She came to my spa because her krewe was butchered and she wanted to Embrace me. She attacked me. I staked her.”
“I was hunting for her when the hunters found me. I brought someone back to feed her and I was attacked. I was… I don’t know. I was going to question her. I thought about giving her a new identity. Making her leave the city. Fixing what was between us.”
“Then I was given the option. And when I met with her she was just… full of hatred for me. Mocking. Derisive. She repeated things Dad said. And I hated her all over again.”
“It wasn’t the scourge who killed her. It was me.”
GM: Celia’s mother does not talk throughout her daughter’s tale.
Yet, at that confession, it feels as if she falls silent.
Her face becomes a blank slate. Tabula rasa. Everything else slides off. For a moment, it feels as if Celia’s mother is not even there any more. Just a body bereft of animation, with empty eyes that stare endlessly past her child’s killer.
Celia: She waits for it. The anger. The grief. The tears. The rage. The fire. The beating.
She’s gotten so used to being hurt that maybe this time she welcomes it. Maybe she thinks she deserves it.
Instead there’s nothing.
Nothing at all.
The need to break the silence overwhelms her, building inside her chest until she finally opens her mouth.
“I’ll wait outside for Pete. Once he’s done you won’t have to see me again.”
GM: Diana’s head bows forward, as though of its own violation.
She clasps her hands.
Like she is praying.
Her lips move. No words sound. Her eyes are closed as she bares her soul to whatever God, if any, now hears her. Celia has never seen a look of concentration so total upon a living or unliving soul.
Then, at Celia’s voice, Diana finally looks up. Her face remains utterly still. But something dawns within her eyes, as though her prayer has been answered, and she knows now what to do.
She throws her arms around her daughter’s shoulders.
Then she weeps, voice ragged as hot tears flow down her cheeks:
“I l-love y-you… I w-will al-w-ways l-ove-ve y-you…”
Celia: Her mother’s loss of control, the words that she finally utters, are enough to break what’s left of Celia’s resolve. She clings to Diana as she weeps, not even bothering to try to stem the flood of bloody tears that leak from her eyes and stain her cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” she says, over and over and over again, “I’m so sorry, I’m sorry I took her, I’m so sorry…”
Eventually, Celia runs out of apologies. She just holds her mother while she cries, wondering if she’ll ever not hurt the people around her.
One night at a time. That’s all she can do. One night at a time.
GM: Mother and daughter hold one another as they weep. Perhaps there won’t ever be enough apologies, for what Celia has done, but perhaps she does not need that many. Perhaps she did not even need one. My love for you is not conditional, her mother said. And at this moment, as she embraces and weeps and declares her love for her child’s killer, it feels impossible to deny the truth of those words.
Celia: “She has a child,” Celia finally whispers, wiping at her face. “A son.”
GM: “A… son?” her mom asks.
She pulls away enough to look Celia in the eye, but still clings to her with both arms, as though Celia is her rock in a furious tempest.
“Wh… where? Your father’s…?”
Celia: A look of distaste crosses her face, but she nods.
“Ethan,” she says quietly. “Maxen’s son. He’s… the same age as Lucy. Aunt Mary adopted him. I don’t… I don’t know if Dad remembers what he did. If he knows that it’s his child.”
GM: Celia’s mother stares into her eyes at that look.
“He did not ask for the parents he got.”
“Whatever they did. Whatever you did. He is innocent. Blameless.”
“Just like Lucy.”
Celia: “That wasn’t for him,” Celia says, eyes averted. “It was for what I did. What I created in anger.”
GM: “Celia, you have a new responsibility. Maybe the most important one of your life.”
“You created him. In hate.”
“Now is your moment to take something terrible and make of it something wonderful.”
“Protect him. Provide for him. Ensure he wants for nothing. Teach him, what is good and what is bad. Love him. Help him grow up to become a kind, decent, honest, brave, loving man who is everything you wished Isabel was. Give him the love you wish you had given Isabel. That is your atonement. Everything you did wrong with your sister. Do it right with her son.”
“I will help you in this, however I can.”
Celia: “How,” she asks bleakly, “how can I do that for him if I don’t know him, if I’ve never met him, if I’m never around during the day?”
GM: “You meet him.”
“You get to know him.”
“And you do it during the night.”
“You do everything you can for him.”
Celia: Slowly, Celia nods. She can do that. She will do that. For herself. For her mother. For Ethan.
And for Isabel.
GM: “I don’t think it’s practical to expect you to raise him. We will look into his living situation. What kind of a caretaker, what kind of a mom, your Aunt Mary has been to him. If there is love between them, they should stay together. If there isn’t, I will take him into our home.”
“And you will be the best aunt, godmother, whatever you want to call it, that that little boy could ask for. You will take something terrible and make it something wonderful.”
“That is your cross to bear.”
Celia: “I will,” she promises. “Anything he needs. Everything he needs. I’ll do that. I will. I swear it.”
GM: Celia’s mom takes her hand in hers.
“You’re not as bad a person as you think, Celia.”
“A bad person would not promise that.”
“God will judge you for all the bad things you have done, when you stand before His throne.”
“And He will judge you for this, too.”
Celia: “A good person wouldn’t have murdered her sister.”
GM: “We all make mistakes, Celia. Some more terrible than others. God judges our hearts for what we do about them. Whether we do our best to fix them or whether we don’t. Who do you want to be?”
Celia: “Better,” Celia says again. “I want to be better.”
GM: “Then it starts with Ethan.”