“Mom. Fucking. Listen. Okay?”
Sunday night, 13 March 2016, AM
Celia: There’s no time to dither on what to do. No time to run downstairs to tell Roderick the problem. No time to even gather any supplies. Her hands blur across her face to set her features into the right visage—it’s painful, made worse by the broken bones that she can’t even set properly because she doesn’t have the blood to spare, her greedy Beast had stolen it from her after her sire had fed her as a petty act of revenge for standing there and letting him hit her—
But within a moment the process is over. Her entire body twists and shifts after that, and the nighthawk she has become sweeps off into the night on silent, feathered wings.
She flies for her mother’s house, everything else a distant concern to the thought of protecting the woman who has already known so much pain in her life.
GM: The nightjar’s flight takes tortuously long until Celia swoops down over her family’s home. She sees Diana outside, bundled up in a raincoat and leaving the house with a miserable but resigned expression.
She locks the front door, winces, then trudges through the rain on foot, heavily favoring her good leg.
Celia: That’s not what she expected. Where the hell is Diana going this time of night?
Celia tucks her wings into her body and dives, slowing her descent only when she’s leveled off a handful of feet above the ground. A fence provides the cover she needs to change back; she hurries forward after the woman.
GM: Diana almost jumps out of her skin at the exclamation.
“Oh, h-hi, sweetie.”
“What are you doing here, so early…?”
Celia: “Where are you going?”
GM: “Oh, I’m just out for a walk… I was already up, and to give myself a little time to rest before church.”
“Sweetie, what are you doing here so early? You’re soaked to the bone!” she exclaims, looking over Celia’s clothes.
Celia: She’s also bleeding from her face with a broken nose, but bless Diana for being worried about her daughter catching a cold with wet clothes.
“You’re lying to me,” Celia says baldly. “You were going somewhere. Where?”
GM: “Why don’t I get, get you in and make some hot cocoa, you can borrow some of my clothes… you can stay for breakfast, too, it’s been forever since we had breakfast…”
Celia: “Is Emily inside?”
GM: Celia’s mother shakes her head. “She’s with Robby, she spends a lot of her weekends with him,” she says, wincing as she limps closer.
Celia: Diana was going to leave Lucy by herself while she went to do… something?
Celia purses her lips.
GM: “Oh my god, sweetie, you’re bleeding!” Celia’s mom exclaims, her face a mask of shock.
Celia: That makes it easier, though.
GM: Diana takes off her hooded pink raincoat and fastens it around her daughter. She’s wearing a nice, semiformal dress underneath. Church clothes. “Oh my god, my poor baby… let’s get you inside, we’ll call Emily to come take a look…”
Celia: “No,” Celia shakes her head, “leave Emily, don’t bother her, I’ll get it looked at later. We need to talk. Get Lucy. We need to go. Now.”
GM: “My poor baby… you’ll catch cold…” sniffs Diana, only half-seeming to register Celia’s words. It’s as the kine woman gets close to her, fussing over the coat’s buttons, that Celia really breathes in her scent. She’s so warm. So loving. So weak. Exactly what her kind mean when they use the word kine.
And her Beast is so, so hungry…
Celia: It’s her mom, Celia all but snarls at her Beast. She beats it down, stuffing it deep inside of herself where it can’t cause any damage, where it can’t get out to ruin yet another thing for her. It’s the Beast’s fault she’s in this fucking mess; she’s not going to let the damn thing make it worse.
Celia yanks away from her mother. She’d rather be rude than a murderer.
“Stop,” she hisses through her teeth. “Listen. To. Me. I just beat the shit out of the girl who turned you into a doll and she is going to send someone for you so go get your daughter and let’s fucking move.”
GM: Diana stares at her for a moment, then starts crying.
“It’s… it’s okay… that won’t happen…”
“Lucy’s safe… she’s going to be safe…”
“Your coat’s not on… let me finish… you’ll catch cold…” she fumbles for the buttons with trembling fingers.
Celia: Celia, once more, yanks away. She takes a handful of steps away.
“Mom. Fucking. Listen. Okay? I literally do not have time to argue with you. Either stop the half sentences or get a move on and get Lucy. And don’t come near me.”
GM: “B-but baby, your coat… you’ll catch cold… let me finish your coat, let me get you inside… oh, sweetie, I love you so much, you’ll look after her, you and Emily…” She advances forward and tries to embrace her daughter.
Celia: There’s no time for this. Maybe if she was just hungry and didn’t have the sun about to burn her to a crisp. Or maybe if she was just running out of time. But not both. She can’t fight both.
She dips around her mother’s arms once again and finally does it.
She snarls at her mother.
She pulls her lips back from her teeth to expose long, sharp fangs in her mouth.
GM: Diana’s face blanches. Her eyes go wide.
Oh, the fangs might be enough.
But the snarl emanating from Celia’s throat sounds like nothing out of a human throat. It sounds like nothing out of most vampire’s throats, not with Celia as ravenous and on edge as she is. There is no mistaking that hellish sound for anything even remotely human.
Diana stops trying to hug her daughter.
“C-Celia…?” she gets out. “What…”
For a moment, she just dumbly trails off.
Then she just points.
Celia: Once the woman has finally stopped trying to fucking touch her, Celia lets the fangs fade away.
“Yes. There’s a lot we need to talk about. And we have very, very little time to do it.” Not enough time to get to a hotel to talk. Not enough time to book a room, check in, put the card on file, not before the sun rises. She’ll send her mother with Lucy by themselves once they’ve had this talk.
And she’ll… risk being here today when and if Elyse or Harlequin send someone.
She’s dead. She’s dead, that’s pretty much all there is to it. She’s dead as fuck. All sorts of dead. Really dead this time, not just fake dead, not animated corpse dead, not vampire dead. Truly dead.
“Inside,” Celia says, pointing at the door. “Inside, Mom, so I can explain. Please. And stay… back. Ten feet. At least.”
GM: Her mother’s mouth hangs open for a bit.
Then, falteringly, she nods.
She limps forward and unlocks the door.
She walks in first, looks uncertainly back at her daughter, then leaves the door open and strides backwards.
Celia: Celia swallows the lump in her throat. She doesn’t know how everything had unraveled in one night, or what she’s going to do now. But she’ll figure it out. She always does.
She follows her mother into the house and closes the door behind her.
“We need a room without windows,” she says to Diana.
GM: A furious hiss immediately goes up. It’s Shadow. The calico, so named for her dark markings. Her tail is bushed as thick as a beaver’s as she bares her teeth and slowly backs away from the superior predator.
But Celia barely hears the sound. Barely sees the cat. All she feels is the torturous thirst. All she smells is blood. Poor blood, tofu-like blood, but still blood. Coursing through the feline’s tiny body with every pump of its heart.
“Shadow! Shhh!” her mom exclaims, scooping up the cat. Shadow yowls and claws Diana’s arms.
Celia: Celia can’t even be bothered to hide her contempt for the cat. She starts to snarl at it, too. The Beast starts to appear, rearing its ugly head again. Again. Again. It won’t leave her alone. It’s supposed to be gone. It’s supposed to be tamed.
Is this what she gets for even thinking that? Is this what she gets for sleeping around on Roderick, for killing that girl, for letting Josua fuck her, for letting down her grandsire, for beating the shit out of Elyse?
That a cat, a fucking cat, is going to make her lose her shit in front of her mom and kill the bitch?
Celia clamps down on the thought. She doesn’t move. She summons every single bit of herself that she can, forcing the Beast back into the cage in the middle of her chest where it can’t cause more problems for her. Its nails rake at her insides, snarling, itching to get out. There’s blood inside of it. Weak, shitty blood, but blood all the same. The stupid cat hissed at her, they should destroy it. Drink it.
But Celia wins.
Celia has to win.
Because if Celia doesn’t win then she’s going to destroy her mother, and everything she has ever sacrificed for her will have been in vain.
Tight-lipped, she orders the woman to get rid of the cat, to contain the other one, and to lock the door to Lucy’s room so there are no more surprises.
GM: Diana quickly hurries away with the still-scratching cat. Celia hears several pained “ows!” before it hits the floor unceremoniously and bolts off down the hall. Diana’s mother turns around and rubs her leg, but doesn’t come any closer. Her face is pale and she’s looking straight at Celia’s.
“Ah… her door doesn’t have a lock, sweetie, I’m sorry…”
Celia: Celia uses the time to send a text to Alana. SOS. 911. Mom’s house Now. She sends a similar text to Randy.
Of course Lucy doesn’t have a lock on her door. Diana wouldn’t do that to her; she’d seen Celia, Isabel, and the others locked away often enough after annoying Maxen to not want to do it to Lucy.
“I don’t have a lot of time to explain,” she says to her mom once the woman turns again. “If you hear Lucy get up you need to keep her away from me.”
Her eyes study Diana’s face.
“You don’t seem surprised. Surprised it’s me, but not that people like me exist.”
GM: There is a buzz from Celia’s phone, but not from any of her ghouls. It’s from Roderick.
Getting late. We still on?
Celia: Fucking. Fuck.
No. Thing with fam. Let yourself in. Will explain later. Love you.
GM: K. Love you too.
Diana nods slowly at Celia’s first statement.
“The cats… they’re so sweet, normally… but never around you…”
Celia: “No. And I don’t eat. And you don’t see me during the day.”
GM: “I… I do see you eat, though…” her mom says.
“Do you want some… hot cocoa, sweetie?”
She gives a pale smile.
Celia: “It hurts to eat,” Celia says by way of explanation. “I can force it, but… Mom, I’m happy to explain all of that later. I really am. But we need to talk. I’m going to be a corpse in about twenty minutes.”
GM: “Wh… a corpse…?” she asks, concern clouding her eyes.
“Oh. The… the sun. The sun hurts?”
Celia: “The sun hurts,” Celia confirms. “I lose my… animation, or whatever it is that keeps me walking around.”
She doesn’t take a breath. They never do anything for her anyway. But she wants to. She wants to just be normal.
GM: Her mother swallows. “I’m… afraid the rooms all have windows, this isn’t a big house… but there’s my bedroom closet, or I could wrap you up in a lot of blankies, and cover the windows too…”
“You know, pull the shades, maybe duct tape some blankets or clothes over the windows…”
Celia: At her mother’s offer of protection her composure cracks. She blinks back bloody tears.
“How d’you… how d’you know about..?”
GM: “Oh… is that wrong?” her mom asks, her face flickering. “Would that not be enough…?”
“That’s just how it is in the movies, you know, when Peter Cushing pulls away the curtains, and Christopher Lee starts to burn up…”
Celia: “You just… you’re just… casually accepting that I’m a vampire.”
GM: “I… there’s just… there’s just a lot of things in the world, baby… strange things, that… I don’t know, you said with Max and a demon…. and… well… ah… your…”
She points at Celia’s mouth again.
There’s a pause.
“I thought maybe you might have had experience with us. You were named for the goddess of the hunt, and all. It wasn’t very subtle on Payton’s end.”
GM: “S… sorry…?” her mom asks confusedly.
“I think she just liked the name, sweetie…”
Celia: “Right. Okay. We’ll talk about that later. But… listen. The girl who did what she did to you. She’s like me. And she and her friends are very, very angry at me because I kicked the shit out of her. They’ve already tried to kill me.” Celia doesn’t gesture at her broken nose, but the evidence that she’d been in a fight resides on her face.
“I need you to book a room somewhere, or get out of town, or something. Just for a day or two. Call off work on Monday, tell them you’re still not feeling well.”
GM: Diana’s lip quavers.
“They… they called here, Celia… I have to go back… they said they’d take my granddaughter, take Lucy, if I didn’t come back…”
Celia: “They called you again?”
GM: A frown briefly downturns her mother’s face, as if wondering how Celia knew, but it barely has a chance to form before a renewed look of abject hopelessness washes it away.
Celia: “I was there when she called you,” Celia says quietly, “that’s why I kicked the shit out of her.”
And it had felt great.
She might feel bad for it, but Elyse had certainly deserved it.
GM: “I… I have to go back…”
“You’ll look after Lucy, please, you and Emily…”
Celia: “You don’t. If you go back, they’ll kill you, and Lucy, and me.”
“That’s what this is. They’re mad at me. I need you to not give in to this. I will keep you safe. I promise you that. I have done it for years. Please, Mom, please trust me.”
GM: Celia’s mom hangs her head, sniffs, and wipes at her eyes.
“I’m such a bad mother… I’ve never, never kept you safe… that’s supposed to be me…”
Celia: “You just offered to wrap your vampire daughter in blankets to keep her safe from the sun.”
“That’s a great mom.”
GM: In spite of herself, Diana gives a low laugh. It’s half-sobbed, and more than a little desperate, but the laugh is there.
Celia: Celia answers that with a weak smile of her own.
“I’m sorry that I don’t have time to tell you everything. I will. Once this day is over, I’ll tell you what I can. Okay? Tonight. I promise.”
GM: “Okay… just… tell me what to do, sweetie.” Her mother closes her eyes for a moment and slumps her shoulders.
“Just tell me what to do.”
Her voice is calmer at those words. They’re comforting words.
Celia: So she does.
Sunday morning, 13 March 2016
Celia: There isn’t much to explain, in the end.
Despite Celia’s penchant for overly-complicated plans, and despite the fact that she really, really wants to see Roderick today, her family has to come first.
She tells her mom, very casually, that she is going to smuggle Celia in a blanket-covered cat carrier to Randy’s house. She explains that Randy knows what she is, but that she can’t let them know that she also knows, and Lucy definitely can’t find out because there are rules and they will all be killed for it. Lucy can watch TV today and hang out with Rusty and Reggie and Randy while Celia sleeps the day away in one of their beds (or closet, literally whatever), cuffed.
She sends another text to Alana to tell her to meet with Randy today, to avoid the usual hangouts, that it’s urgent. She cancels the call to go to her mom’s place. And then a text to Dani with the new address (Randy’s house) and that shit hit the fan and she needs to get there now. And a final text to Mel to alert her that Dani is moving locations, and the new place.
Coded, of course.
She thinks she has all of her bases covered.
Emily, she tells her mom, needs to stay with Robby today.
GM: “All right, so… you want me to stay with Lucy, Randy, and his brothers?” Celia’s mom asks.
Celia: “Yes. They will protect you.”
“They’re uh… they’re kind of like… you read Dracula, right?”
GM: “Ah… sorry, sweetie, only seen the movies. Should I, now?”
Celia: “Some of it is wrong. I’ll explain. But basically Randy and his brothers work for me. Like, uh, butlers.”
That’s a really nice way of putting it.
GM: “Oh, I thought they worked for the bail bond company…?”
Celia: “Yeah. But me on the side. I’ll explain tonight.”
GM: “Okay. When can we come back here, sweetie? I need a while to make dinner for the Garrisons.”
Celia: “Right. So. We’re going to reschedule.” She lets Dani know to tell her dad, too. “Because I don’t think it’s going to be safe tonight, and I’m not putting you in danger.”
“Unless you want to do it at their house.”
“Honestly, Mom, if you want something to do today, I’m pretty sure that Reggie and Randy would love you to cook for them.”
GM: Diana looks apprehensive. “Stephen’s dad is an important man, Celia! We should give at least a couple days’ notice, for something like that.”
“I don’t know that Randy would be a good guest, to be honest. He didn’t know Stephen, I don’t think, and this is probably better if it’s an intimate affair…”
“And, well… he’s a nice young man… but I feel like he might, I guess we could say, care about housekeeping a mite less than I do…”
Celia: “So. Dani is going to come meet us there. Why don’t you discuss it with her? See if her dad can move the date. I just really don’t want to risk them finding you.”
GM: “Oh. What’s she doing there, sweetie?” Diana asks.
Celia: This is very quickly spiraling out of control. She’s not sure she has enough fingers to plug all of these holes.
“Long story. Tell you later.”
GM: “Okay. She’s a sweet girl, by the way, I taught her in my dance classes.” Diana gives a brief smile at the normal-sounding topic.
Celia: “She really liked you,” Celia says with a smile.
GM: “Oh, that makes me happy. I’m sure we’ll be able to have a wonderful dinner together. Maybe she can ask her dad to reschedule, for us, and he’ll take it better from her.”
Celia: “That was my thought, too.”
GM: “How am I, ah, going to get you to Randy’s place in a cat carrier, sweetie?”
Celia: “So, uh, fun fact: I can turn into a cat.”
GM: Her mother blinks.
“Please don’t freak out. And please don’t let Lucy pet me. Not right now. Later, she can. But… not tonight.”
GM: It’s so easy to spend time just talking with her mother.
It’s so easy to just be honest.
To finally drop all the lies.
It’s so, so easy. It’s such a relief. A balm upon her ravenous Beast. A cool cloth against the terrible thirst burning her up inside.
But time and tide wait for no man.
Nor does the sun.
The curtains around the house’s windows are un-drawn. Faint rays of early dawn light kiss Celia’s skin, leaving it blackened and sizzling.
Celia: For two seconds, Celia lets herself get distracted.
For two seconds, Celia thinks of a future where she doesn’t have to lie to her mother, where she doesn’t have to force down dinner, where she can say things like, “Stephen is like me and we’re back together and I want to marry him,” and “my sire finally accepts me,” and “Mom can you rub my belly?” She can tell her mom everything she’s been through. She can fix her leg without lying about it. She can tell her why she thinks Maxen might be telling the truth about the demon. She imagines a future where her mom says, “Have you had enough to eat, sweetie?” and means blood instead of casserole.
And then reality rears its ugly head. Her flesh sizzles as soon as the morning sun streams through the windows. Immediately her skin turns black, epidermis seared beneath the hateful rays of dawn’s touch. Celia snarls, Beast rising to the surface, and for a moment girl and Beast are in alignment. For a moment they work together, diving out of the path of the light to sprawl, huddled, beneath the kitchen sink. She knocks aside cleaning supplies, rags and buckets and bottles, and curls her body tightly under the space. It’s a snug fit, but she’s a small girl, and here at least the sun cannot touch her.
The fantasy of the future fades away.
She’s a monster and she has brought trouble to her family.
“Mom,” she calls out from her hiding spot, voice pained, “we need to go. Now. No more questions.” She doesn’t have much longer before the daysleep of her kind claims her. Already she’s fading. “Get the carrier. Get me into the trunk. Pull into Randy’s garage to get me out. Make sure they cuff me before they wake me. Tell Dani to reschedule dinner. Go. Now. Go.”
GM: Diana gasps, “Sweetie! Are you okay!?” and drops to her knees in front of Celia’s hiding spot. She tries to reach inside until her daughter grits out instructions.
“Ah—would a suitcase or picnic basket be better? Something the sun can’t shine through? They’re a tighter fit, for a cat, but the carrier has holes in it…”
“I could get a blanket over it, it just seems a little less secure, since it’s a pretty big carrier, and we use one meant for dogs, since most kitties don’t actually like the normal carriers…”
Celia: “Anything without gaps. Suitcase is fine.”
Go, she urges the woman. Go. Now.
GM: “Okay! Sit tight!” Her mother scrambles off.
She returns with a pink backpack that has stars and a unicorn on it. “Ah, this is Lucy’s, I wasn’t sure where I’d left the suitcase, but this doesn’t have any gaps, so long as we keep it zipped up…”
Celia: It’ll do. Celia gives her mom a grateful smile and a word of warning before it happens—she changes. Her body twists, muscles and bones and organs reworking themselves within her to make her smaller, more compact, feline. She grows fur, a tail, ears that sit at the top of her head. She scoots into the backpack and settles uneasily amongst the pencil shavings and cough drop wrappers at the bottom of the bag.
GM: Diana still gives a start and little gasp of alarm. Actually, more like a big gasp. She drops the backpack at first, then picks it up and holds it open. She zips it up once the cat’s inside.
“Ah—are you okay, sweetie?” she gets out.
Celia: A meow comes from inside the bag.
GM: “Okay, I’ll—take that as a yes,” Diana says with a weak chuckle.
“But… you really are? One meow for yes, two for no, you are okay?”
Celia: Celia the cat meows once to let her mother know that she’s okay.
She’s been through worse. Way worse.
GM: “Okay, that’s… good. I’ll pack some clothes to bring with us, yours are… ah, they sort of…” Transformed with her. “…well, they were soaked anyway.”
“Should I still really hurry, now that you’re safe from the sun? One meow for yes, two for no?”
Celia: A single meow comes up from the bag.
GM: “Okay, I’ll just, just grab what we really need. Sit tight, I’m going to lift you up.”
Celia feels herself getting lifted into the air, then her mother’s back pressing against her.
There’s movement as the woman starts off through the house. Uneven, with her still favoring one leg. Celia hears a door opening, then a closet, and the sound of her mom going through clothes and picking some out.
“I just love how we’re about the same size, you know, sharin’ clothes is something every girl and her mother should get to do.”
Celia: Within the confines of the bag, the cat—does the cat have a name? Cats should have names—curls in on herself, head beneath her paws. Her tail flicks. There’s not much for her to do but wait while her mother gathers what she needs. She doesn’t breathe if she can help it; like all kids, Lucy just tends to stuff things into the bottom of her backpack and forget about them.
Silently, she tells her mother to hurry the fuck up like they’d literally just talked about.
GM: “Oh, here’s the suitcase, silly me.” Celia hears her mother gathering up assorted things, tossing them inside, then making her way to Lucy’s room. Celia hears her opening the girl’s dresser and throwing clothes in.
“Hey, little Goose. We need to go,” her mom says.
The cat feels its position shift.
“Come on, sweetie, let’s get you in your shoes. Your glasses, too. I’ll tell you more in the car, okay? We’re taking a little trip.”
“Mmm… I’m sleepy…”
“Okay, I’ll carry you.” Celia feels Diana bend again, then a sudden weight fill her mother’s arms. “We’re gonna spend the day at Randy’s, won’t that be fun?” she says as they walk out.
They make their way down the hall, the luggage case rolling along behind them. Diana bends again, then tells Lucy, “Hold on to your shoes for me, okay Goose?” as she opens the door. Celia doesn’t feel the dawn’s burning rays from within the backpack, but it’s still like getting into a car that’s had its doors and windows closed for hours on a hot summer day.
The car door opens, followed by the sounds of Diana helping Lucy into her booster seat. The backpack comes off next. Diana gently places it on one of the car’s seats. More doors open and close, then Celia hears the engine’s ignition, followed by movement underneath her.
“Why’re we goin’ to Randy’s…” mumbles Lucy. “I wanna go back to bed…”
“We’re a lil’ sleepyhead, huh?” smiles Diana. “Okay, sweetie, you can sleep when we’re there. That’ll be fun, won’t it, to sleep someplace new?”
“I wonder, how many places have you gone to sleep outside our house? Isn’t that an interesting lil’ question? Can you count how many?”
“Uh… not a lot…” yawns Lucy. “We sleep at home…”
“Oh, that makes this an adventure then, Lucy Goose!” exclaims Diana. “Lucy the explorer, fallin’ asleep someplace brand new!”
The six-year-old yawns again. She’s far from the only one to feel tired. The sun can’t be fully up, because the cat isn’t a corpse yet. Its eyelids just feel heavy.
“Brand new adventure for us all…” their mom murmurs.
Celia: Almost halfway up is enough to keep the cat in the bag. Any other day, if she weren’t hungry and maybe if the windows were tinted, the cat would loose a string of meows to alert the little girl in the front seat to its position in the bag and let the six-year-old cuddle with her. They could fall asleep together, child and cat, and wake up in a new place.
But her hunger and the sun keep her alone in the dark.
Her daydreams will have to wait.