“You didn’t ruin me.”
Thursday evening, 9 April 2009
GM: Em’s been in and out Orleans Parish Prison like Sami’s vagina at this point.
But he has to say, that was one of his best and worst stays.
He vaguely remembers being swarmed with police attention, after the detective arrested him and brought him in. (“Just tell the truth, kid. You don’t have what they want anymore.”) Beyond the usual strip search and coughing while he spread his naked legs so they could look for contraband up his posterior, there was a lot of time in the interrogation rooms with menacing figures in dark suits. He doesn’t remember a whole lot. He was so tired and they had so many questions. He repeated his story over and over and over, past recitation, past exhaustion, until the words were just sounds devoid of meaning, and even he can barely recall what he said.
He dimly remembers feeling terrified beyond all reason, beyond all sense, his usual snark dying in his throat like a bad joke even a giddy drunk wouldn’t giggle at. But that maybe Maman would, if she could see him there.
But now he feels calm. All of his worries have been assuaged. The past week wasn’t as strange as he he thought. He was high. He was imagining a lot of details. What even were those? It was just regular, run of the mill rapes and murders like he always finds himself so involved in, and he really is better off not thinking too deeply about these things. Bert Villars got him off scot free. It was a case of mistaken identity. Who cares what this was about. He was lucky not to take a drug test and get charged with a felony for those lines of coke he did and all those bags he did in fact have intent to distribute. (Well, maybe, if he didn’t just get high on his own supply.)
He can go home now. He can forget.
It is so much better to forget.
Support: She is waiting for him when he arrives home. The door is still locked, and he hadn’t given her a key, but she is waiting for him all the same, sitting on the couch with a Webflix movie playing in the background and a bottle of absinthe on the table in front of her. Just one glass, so it’s not quite an echo of last time, but it’s close.
His house is cleaner. Tidied. There’s a meal waiting for him in the refrigerator from next door with today’s date on it. The Shrimp and Eggplant Pierre he’d ordered the night they’d gone out together. How long ago was that? It feels like a lifetime. So much has changed.
She’s dressed in her own clothing this time. Leggings, dance skirt, some sort of gauzy blouse that hangs open over the tank top beneath it. She looks… different. Like she’s trying to recreate who she was from memory. A mirror image, just off. Her makeup is flawless, though, as ever, and there are no bags to be seen beneath her eyes. Her hair hangs loose around her shoulders.
But she’s still. So very still. And she’s waiting for him.
Emmett: When he opens the door he looks tired. There are bags under his eyes heavy enough for both of them, and his hair hasn’t been cleaned or combed. He doesn’t look like he did, either. If she’s a mirror image of herself, he’s what stares back from a scum-covered pond. He’s wearing clothes he got back upon release. They are not good clothes. A duffel bag hangs off one shoulder. It looks heavy.
Emmett blinks when he sees her. Emotions vie for prominence on his face. Surprise. Relief. Excitement. And then chagrin. Regret.
Weariness. The same as it was before.
“Hi, Cici,” he croaks, after a long moment, and sits down on the couch, dropping the duffel bag along the way. “Whatcha watching?”
He’s distant from her. Not very far, close enough to touch—but he doesn’t. Not yet.
Support: She smiles. But it’s fleeting. It dies at the sight of him, wilts right off her face. She’s on her feet in an instant, reaching toward him.
She stops herself before she can complete the movement, folds her limbs back beneath her to reclaim the seat on the couch next to him. The TV continues in the background, but it’s easy for her to drown it out.
“When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here…”
“Hey, Em.” Her voice is soft. Then a little more sure as her lip curls when she looks him over. “You look like Hell.”
“…I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.”
“Drink?” she gestures vaguely toward the bottle of liquor. There’s already a sugar cube inside the glass for him.
Emmett: He tries to smile. It makes him look a little better, like a devil instead of a skeleton. He pours for himself, watching the sugar cube try to bear up under the tide of expensive, quality poison. He doesn’t offer her one. It tastes like a nice memory. Like her.
“Thanks,” he says, and the question comes out before he can tell it not to. “Who’s your real dad?”
He knows. Or thinks he does. They seemed nothing alike the first time he met her, and honestly, he half-wonders if Emil is just fucking with him. But Emil doesn’t have nearly the sense of humor he does.
So he needs to hear it, before he tells her.
Support: That was not what she had expected if her confused, slow blink is any indication. Her head tilts minutely to one side.
“Maxen Flores,” she tells him. Her eyebrows lift. “We had a whole conversation about him. Are you okay?” Concern colors her voice.
Emmett: He shakes his head. “No. I mean, I’m okay. I mean, I’m not, but what I mean is, your real father. The one you probably don’t tell anybody you know about, which is why you didn’t mind the idea of forcing Maxen to fuck you. Because it isn’t him.”
He doesn’t sound angry, or bitter. But he does sound certain.
Support: The amusement fades from her face. She appraises him in quiet contemplation. After a moment her eyes shift to his drink, then back to his face.
“Are we playing a game again, Emmett?”
Emmett: He closes his eyes. “Did I ever tell you about my uncle? My mom’s brother. She can’t stand him, which meant I thought he was the coolest uncle ever. He taught me every dirty trick I know, or at least, most of the important ones. We used to be close, until I killed his son. Jermaine. The guy I told you about. My other cousin.” He lets that sink in for a moment. “Jermaine Landreneau.”
He takes a long, long sip of absinthe.
“He’s the reason I’m into films, too. Good old Uncle Ron.”
Support: She’s quiet. She lets him talk. At the mention of the word film her facade cracks, and she’s just a teenager again. She swallows, and her eyes move away from him.
Her eyes close. She breathes. In through the nose, out through the mouth.
“We’re cousins.” There’s a brief exhale that might have been a laugh. “We’re cousins,” she repeats, and then she can’t stop it, the laughing. It’s too funny not to laugh. It has to be.
Emmett: He looks at her for a moment, sipping his drink.
Then he starts laughing too. Mad, uproarious laughter, the kind that only comes at a funeral or a pregnancy reveal. “Cousins! Because of course, we are.”
Em’s eyes water. He drinks more absinthe, starts snorting it up halfway through. “Holy fuck, Celia. My cousin. You’re my cousin.”
They must look like cousins, now.
Sharing a family joke.
GM: Half-cousins, anyway. Or is that even a thing?
Ron was definitely a half-brother, to Em’s mom. Her worse half. Maybe that made it better.
Support: Once she starts laughing she can’t stop. Then he’s laughing, and that just makes the whole thing even funnier, because of course they’re cousins. Of course they are.
What else is there to say, really?
GM: Maybe how awful she looks. Sick, or something.
Has to be.
Well, not awful.
Good, to be honest.
Good in all the wrong ways, like an overlarge china doll.
Flawless. But aren’t flaws what make people human?
Emmett: He laughs along with her until it peters out. “Yeah. Yeah, fuck.” He wipes tears from his eyes. “Emil told me, by the way. Don’t know how he knew.”
He clears his throat, eyes the screen. Oh, it’s that movie.
The one where everything that happens happens again. And again. And again.
“You don’t look so good yourself, cousin.”
“Well,” he amends, “different.” He coughs. “I thought about you, inside.”
Support: “Pete told me you came through. I didn’t realize, until after, where you ended up.” She inhales, shakes her head. “I tried to get to you. He told me he took you in. Said you were too hot to approach, though.”
She doesn’t respond to his comment on her appearance.
“I’m sorry. For you getting put away for that. That… it shouldn’t have happened.”
Emmett: “It wasn’t so bad,” he tells her without feeling. “And it wasn’t anything to do with you.”
They watch the movie in silence for a while. It’s a good one.
“Things are different now,” he says. It’s not a question. “Emil said we probably wouldn’t be seeing much of each other. Is… is that true?”
She can see it, now that he’s closer. The pallid skin. The anemic exhaustion. The way his eyes droop as they try to follow the screen.
Support: Her lips press together in a thin line.
“He’s probably right,” she says after a moment. “I have some… new friends now. Dangerous people. You know the other night? When you came to get me, the couple I told you about, who… killed the guy?”
“People like that. Who just take what they want. After everything we did, it still wasn’t enough, because he wanted it to go a different way.”
She sounds bitter. Her arms cross.
She eyes him where he sits across the couch from her.
Emmett: His eyes look curiously blank as she talks about the couple. He shakes his head.
“Bad trip,” he mutters. “Thought I knew things… but I didn’t. Don’t know anything.”
He slumps a little in the sofa. She must have interrupted him on his way to bed, judging by the exhaustion in his eyes.
“You’re gonna be okay?” he murmurs. “I didn’t fuck you up?”
Support: She scooches across the couch until she’s next to him and rubs a hand up and down his back.
“You didn’t fuck up anything, Em. Best cousin slash friend I could ask for, really. We’ll just keep the, y’know, real dad stuff on the down low, tell Emil to mind his own business. Who shows up like that anyway?”
She pulls her hand back.
Emmett: She pulls her hand back, but he’s already drooping into her, not like a lover but like a child, like a scared little boy who’s seen the monsters under his bed and just wants to sleep a dreamless, quiet sleep.
“I’m not very good,” he whispers, and he’s crying softly. “I’m not very good. But you’re the best cousin I’ve ever had, too.”
“Ron said so. I’m… bad seed. Everything I touch… ruined.”
Support: “Oh, no, Em. Em, no.”
The words come out low, crooning. She gathers him into her arms. He’s exhausted and weak and she’s got his tear-streaked face pressed against her shoulder and her hand rubbing his back in seconds.
“That’s not true. I’m fine, see? Everything is fine. It’s all okay. I’m just going away for a while, you didn’t ruin me.”
Emmett: “Will I… will I see you again?”
He’s fading fast. She can tell.
Support: “Of course you will.”
“Tell you what,” she says brightly, “why don’t you go rinse off your jail time, I’ll heat up dinner for you, then you can go to bed.”
She starts moving him off of her.
“We can figure it out in the morning.”
Emmett: “Bed,” he repeats. “I might just… bed. Yeah. Morning.” He slouches off of her and heads softly to his bedroom.
He stops, though, at the door, and looks over her shoulder. Maybe some part of him knows she’s lying. Or maybe he’s just delirious.
But he says, “I’ll miss you, Cici.”
Support: “Me too, Em. Me too.”
She waits until he turns away again. Then she’s gone, as quietly as she had come.
Emmett: Gone, before he hits his bed.
Gone, before he groans and tosses his way onto his back.
Gone, before he closes his eyes and dreams of monsters and the things they do to each other.