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Blood & Bourbon

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Caroline VI, Chapter III

Turning Twenty-Six

“You don’t ‘ide secrets because they’re ‘armless. You ’ide them because they’re dark.”
Yvette Devillers

Saturday evening, 19 December 2015

Caroline: Caroline’s birthday has not occupied her thoughts with any regularity since her death, and it’s very easy for her to see why most Kindred stop celebrating the decidedly mortal-centric event. Few of them could care less that she’s turning 26. For most, the only number that really matters is the one since her death: zero.

It was just as easy for her to stop paying attention to it… right up until the Devillers started asking what her plans were. The timing almost couldn’t be worse, but the Devillers girls are good company, and Abélia might yet be a powerful ally. It also provides her with an opportunity to re-engage with her dwindling connections to the mortal world: good for more than just the Masquerade.

She invites the Devillers girls (and Sarah if so inclined) to join her for a show put on by The Vox and the Hound, a local talent of small renown at the House of Blues in the French Quarter. She notionally extends the offer to join her to Cécilia, Yvette, and Yvonne, but she’s clear that she’s got extra tickets if others want to join them for the show and the get-together she has planned afterwards.

GM: Sarah enthusiastically accepts, declaring she would be “so glad!” to do something with Caroline. She asks if she can bring her boyfriend, or if it’s “going to be a girls’ night?”

Caroline: The heiress raises no objection to bringing him, but suggests it might be better if everyone brought their significant others to the afterparty. That’d let the boys attend while still having a ‘girls’ night’.

GM: Sarah says that sounds great to her.

Cécilia, Yvette, and Yvonne are all equally thrilled (though the teenagers most vocally so) to attend Caroline.

All three agree that Adeline, who’s not seen much of Caroline, would also be thrilled to attend and get to better know the woman who saved her sister’s life. Yvette teases Adeline for being “a nerd” and says she’s normally not that into live music (she’s more of an introvert by temperament), but maybe Caroline will change her mind.

Caroline: Adeline is welcome to attend, and Caroline mentions that if she’s not typically a fan of live music, she might appreciate the more folky/western feel of the band they’re going to see.

GM: Yvonne says she’ll pass that along, and is hopeful they may change Adeline’s mind.

Noëlle is another story. Yvette and Yvonne both agree that inviting their second-youngest sister is a great idea. Cécilia frowns slightly and says that Noëlle “didn’t really enjoy herself” for most of the dinner party they had with the Whitneys. “It had absolutely nothing to do with you,” Cécilia assures Caroline—it’s just that she was 13 and didn’t have a lot to talk about with the adult attendees. She’s not sure that the middle schooler would enjoy herself much more at a party of 20-somethings.

Caroline: Caroline is not at all bothered about Noëlle’s non-attendance. She cites remembering that age and getting dragged along with older family members to events she didn’t particularly enjoy.

GM: Cécilia thanks Caroline for understanding about Noëlle.

Simmone, too, is another story from both her sisters. Cécilia initially hesitates, but then smiles that “we are going to be sisters-in-law,” and tells Caroline the same thing that Yvette does: Simmone was deeply traumatized by the events of the Eighth District Station Shooting and suffers from anxiety attacks and agoraphobia. She is terrified of being anywhere without their mother. Cécilia looks a little sad when she relays that, but says she can’t blame her sister: ultimately, their mother was the one who made things right.

Yvette adds that Cécilia is “really ’urt that Simmone no longer feels safe around ’er” just because she’s so accustomed to being the big sister her siblings rely on. “Ah mean, Maman’s always there for us, but we’re still a big family and she’s busy with so much stuff… Cécilia still comes over, all the time, to ‘elp us with ’omework, give us rides, play with us—well, when we were younger—go to our shows and sports and PTO meetings, and just… so much. ’Ell, she still ’as a room in the ’ouse, for when she’s over late. She even changed our diapers a couple times when we were young. And Ah think she’s really, really ‘urt that Simmone can’t even stand to be alone in a room with ‘er. Not without ’aving one of ’er attacks. Ah think she’s actually been to the therapist too, but she doesn’t talk about it.”

The teenager gives an empty laugh. “It feels like… the longer it’s been, since the shooting, the more ways it’s ruined everything. Sometimes Ah wonder if we’re ever going to get better…”

Cécilia, unawares as to her sister’s conversation with Caroline, continues that they’ve had to withdraw Simmone from McGehee because her anxiety “is just so bad.” She’s home-schooled by their mother now.

Yvette adds that Cécilia helps out a lot with this too—“It’s actually a lot of work to ’ome-school someone.” Their therapist Dr. Franklin has been treating Simmone with exposure therapy, via means of graduated increments of time and distance spent away from their mother. It’s been slow going. Simmone can handle being alone with Cécilia, for brief periods, but being away from a family member (or even alone with any of her siblings besides Cécilia) still brings on attacks.

Cécilia gives Caroline a rather briefer rundown of her sister’s psychological state before getting to her point: “some” of the birthday party may be “safe”. The oldest Devillers doesn’t think that taking Simmone to a loud and crowded space with dim lights is a good idea—”too many reminders of the shooting.” Cécilia does think Simmone might be able to handle the after-party, which she could pick up her youngest sister for. Spending several hours away from their mother “might be challenging,” but having four of her sisters (and Caroline, who she looks up to as a hero) present could help.

There are a few other considerations: Simmone is ten and doesn’t have much in common with adults, obviously, but she actually doesn’t mind being surrounded by older people as much as Noëlle does—so long as Caroline can make her the center of attention. “She’s a bit of a diva” and loves being doted on and paid attention to by everyone. It’s also possible she might cause a public scene and have to leave early. Cécilia can’t be sure.

“I completely understand if that’s more than you want to deal with, Caroline. It’s your birthday and your evening. I still figured I’d tell you all of that because, well,” she finishes with a wan smile, “family doesn’t hide what they are.”

Caroline: Caroline waves off Cécilia’s concerns about trouble on ‘her evening’, replying that, “Any night spent alone is just another night. It’s the people around you that make something special.” She’d be happy to try and find a ‘safe’ outing for Simmone within the night’s events. She proposes an outing earlier in the night, but ultimately comes over to the idea of having Simmone join them at her ‘afterparty’. The crowd will be heavily skewed towards younger women, many of whom are likely to dote on her. The setting will be open enough to not be oppressive either, and if worse comes to worst, they can bring her downstairs to try and calm down away from the group. Caroline is willing to take the ‘risk’ of having Simmone come as long as Cécilia is.

She empathizes that it’s difficult to feel helpless as those around you suffer. She reflects on how helpless she’s felt in the past. She didn’t have a sister shot in front of her and the rest traumatized, but she’s not a stranger to watching a sibling struggle. Especially when she was accustomed to being the ‘older sister’ with the answers.

“I felt so petty,” she admits. “Why should I feel bad for myself because of what my brother was going through? But it didn’t change how I felt, and that just made me feel worse.”

GM: Cécilia thanks Caroline again for understanding, and says that what she’s describing sounds like “a great environment to bring Simmone to.” Cécilia adds that her mother also thinks it’s a good idea.

She looks a bit sad at the Ventrue’s last words, but nods. “You don’t even want to feel bad for yourself, either, because they have it so much worse than you do. I suppose the only thing you can really do is try to be there for them as much as you can. Thank you again, Caroline, for doing this for Simmone.”

Caroline: The night of the party eventually rolls around. The band’s music is described as ‘spaghetti western’. Their sound is almost folky, but driven by shifting tempos and the climbing and crashing vocals. Despite a blistering 2011 and 2012 that saw two album releases the indie band has never managed to attract much attention outside of New Orleans—which suits Caroline just fine. Especially on nights like tonight, when Julie Odell-Jones joins them (once again) in a duet for several songs. She offers that she thinks the French girls will enjoy the distinctly American sound of the band.

Caroline: By way of agitation, less than secret admiration
Some might find my dedication to be unwise
They say, “Take your time.”
But your way of imagination
Such a passionate patience in your eyes
Medicating me on sight
I’m liquefied
So set this pool on fire before you say goodbye
Tell me it’s not time

Go, go, go, go
No, no, no, no
You’re so, so slow to decide
If you leave here, then I’ll be there
I’m not the lackluster kind
And I’ve made up my mind

Dig into the well
I’ve got my heart on my lapel
My pail is dry
Tears won’t turn themselves to wine
Yet in my pail I cry
Why my feet won’t carry me home

Go, go, go, go
No, no, no, no
You know no dose to prescribe
You will break and you will falter
A troubled snake in troubled water
I’ve been bitten blind
And I’ve made up my mind

Please don’t mind me when you find me
Frozen, cracked and alone
Let me go, let me go, ‘cause I can’t let go

Melt me down

The end of you, the end of me
But in the end, where will we be?
A string of pearls, a string of graves
Just sing to me and I’ll behave

The duet (almost unheard of now) captured Caroline’s attention first saw them play as a freshman at Tulane, what seems like a lifetime ago. Their set runs just under 70 minutes and closes out with one of their more poignet and slow tracks that lead vocalist Leo DeJesus dedicates to both his father and his son.

Caroline: I grow concerned about where I’ll be
Detached from love but far from free
I try to make this world OK
But will he know?
The push and pull, the give and take
To be a man but not be fake
I shove my heart into the light
But will it show?

’Cause nothing stays the same as it seems
Nothing stays the same as it seems
So just stay, just stay
Stay with me

All I ever want to be is something that he’d want to be
I want to see him want to be me
But will it be the same thing that it was for me?
End up growing much too soon
Pulling on that tattered string
Just to find there’s no balloon
No, I know what it’s like to be
Behind the man you thought was king
Blaze a path and I will follow
Give a pill and I will swallow
Not the king, you’re not the king, you’re not the king
Daddy did you know?
No, no, you’re not the king, you’re not the king
You’re not the king
Daddy did you know?

I’m the apple of his eye
To see him sparkle makes me cry
To fall from favor, I would die
I try and try and try and try
But if that apple of his eye goes rotten
Then will I know?

Nothings stays the same as it seems
Nothings stays the same as it seems
Nothings stays the same as it seems
Nothings stays the same as it seems
So don’t stay, don’t stay
Son, don’t stay like me

After the show Caroline confides that the band has been one of her quiet favorites for years. “Not exactly Top 40 material,” she admits to the other girls, “but very New Orleans.” Complete with their inability to escape the city’s music scene and move on to bigger things. She quietly admits their closing song has always resonated with her, perhaps even more so since her Embrace.

GM: The girls all love the show. Yvette comments on how they could’ve, and should’ve, gone on to bigger things. Sarah brightly replies that was “just our luck tonight” how they stayed in the city. Yvonne agrees and says the “apple of ‘is eye goes rotten” line really struck her. Cécilia asks Adeline if she’s changed her mind on live music. Adeline admits that she’s still not going to be buying tickets every weekend, but she enjoyed the band and “doing something new,” and thanks Caroline for inviting her. The girls all take photos of one another to post on social media, which the Ventrue well knows will be ruined if she doesn’t will her Beast to ‘stand still’.

Caroline: The heiress of course allows herself to be photographed. She agrees that the last song always hits home with her, and the insecurity that she thinks anyone from a privileged background experiences at some point. It’s not always easy to live up to their parents’ expectations.

After the show is over, she candidly brings up the conflicted feelings she’d had in trying to connect with her father with Yvette. ‘The Man You Thought Was King’ has always stirred those for her. She subtly inquiries as to the younger girl’s own relationship, if any, with her father on the way back to the Giani Building.

GM: “Oh, well… always ’ave some secrets, Caroline. You told Simmone that, remember?” Yvette initially smiles.

But there is a certain tightness to her jaw and wavering to her eyes… it’s evident that the teenager feels extremely conflicted about Caroline bringing up this topic, who’s done so much for her family then and now. When the Ventrue presses her, she finally pleads,

“Please… pilleurs.” (“Somewhere else.”)

Caroline: The heiress doesn’t grill her any further, and instead simply adds that not having someone to talk with about those feelings was always hard. Whenever, wherever, and if Yvette might want to share her own, she’ll be available. Caroline does, however, create several more private moments during the evening which give Yvette opportunities to open up. The first of those comes up only a few minutes later when the group leaves the show and Caroline invites the teenager to share a ride back to her apartment.

GM: Yvette wants to ride with her sister Yvonne, who she seems to go everywhere with. Caroline recalls the twins sharing Yvonne’s hospital room even after the other Devillers left to give her some space to recuperate. Outside of the concert hall’s crowded and noisy surroundings, however, where all that she says may be overheard, the still-emotional-looking teenager makes no immediate move to return to the topic.

Caroline: The heiress doesn’t press Yvette any further for now and is happy to give the twins a ride back together. She turns the topic to their thoughts on the show as a whole. She knows the music was probably distinctively American, and seems genuinely interested in a different set of opinions.

GM: “Oui, it was very American,” Yvonne starts,

“-but we lahked it,” Yvette finishes.

“Like you said, they could’ve gone on to bigger things, maybe-” Yvonne.

“-if other things ‘ad gone differently for them.” Yvette.

“That seemed fitting, though.” Yvonne.

“Oui. The second song’s lyrics were also…” Yvette.

“-also sad. About things that could’ve been, and weren’t.” Yvonne.

“We actually lahk early 2000s electropop. It’s got this, very bubbly energy.” Yvette.

“Very different from what this was. Sad. But moving.” Yvonne.

Caroline: “Maybe next time we can do a band of your choosing,” Caroline laughs.

GM: “Oh non, we liked it,” Yvette repeats, clearly not wanting to the two to sound as if they didn’t enjoy themselves.

“It was sad, but that didn’t make it worse.” Yvonne.

“Sometimes you want to listen to sad things.” Yvette.

Yvonne looks a little sad herself at that assertion. “Oui.”

Caroline: “Oh, no, I get that. I’m just saying that it seems like you two have some eclectic tastes of your own that you might enjoy sharing. And that might be a significant change from a lot of what I listen to.”

GM: “Well, ‘ow’s this,” says Yvette, pulling out her phone and swiping through apps.

“Maman, Cécilia, and Adeline aren’t really into it-” adds Yvonne.

“-but we like it,” Yvette finishes.

Caroline: “It’s very French,” Caroline offers wryly as the song finishes. “I could see it gaining some traction though in certain clubs, especially in the French Quarter. I think we’d have a hard time seeing them live though.”

GM: “The French Quarter isn’t really that French,” Yvonne laughs.

“They maht like the live version, though.” Yvette.

“Oui, those costumes.” Yvonne.

“The corn…” Yvette.

Both sisters giggle.

“We’d show it-” Yvette.

“-if you weren’t driving.” Yvonne.

Caroline: The heiress grins. “Sounds completely crazy.”

GM: The twins laugh and show her the full video on their phones when the car is parked.

Caroline: Caroline’s rich laughter soon fills the vehicle as the bizarre video plays, complete with giant and drill-mounted corn. For a few joyful minutes she can almost feel normal. Almost feel human. The moment isn’t even shattered by tragedy for once.

GM: The girls sing along with the video this time too, in lyrical and rolling French. Their low and soft voices are uncannily like their mother’s own singing voice.

“Je suis arrivé au sommet
tu n’as rien vue pendant ton sommeil
je n’ai pas attendu que tu m’y autorise
regarde la glace fondre quand moi je la brise
on a danser jusqu’a en pleurer de joie
pendant que toi tu dormais
je ne te ferais pas la bise quoi qu’il arrive
ce n’est pas un vent c’est la brise”

(“I reached the top
You didn’t see a thing while you were sleeping
I didn’t wait for your permission
Look at the ice melting when I break it
We danced until we cried tears of joy
While you were sleeping
No matter what, I wouldn’t kiss you on the cheek
It’s not a fart, it’s the breeze”

But where Abélia’s voice was poignant and haunting, the sisters’ are bubbly and energetic, true to their description of the song. Their timbre perfectly matches, with not a lyric sung too early or too late, and their heads bob and weave in synchrony with another as they shake their arms to the music. It almost sounds as if it isn’t two people singing, but one person through two different voices. Their eyes sparkle as they smile and laugh over the song:

“Complètement fou
Complètement fou
Complètement fou
Complètement fou
Complètement fouuuuu
Complètement fouuuuu
Complètement fouuuuu”

(“Totally crazy
Totally crazy
Totally crazy
Totally crazy
Totally crazyyyy
Admit it
Totally crazyyyy
Admit it
Totally crazyyyy

The two trail off after a moment, still giggling at the huge corn ear’s phallic overtones.

“Ah’m so grateful you saved ’er, Caroline,” Yvette abruptly says as she touches the Ventrue’s arm.

“And me too, that you saved ’er,” Yvonne adds, mirroring the contact with equally grateful eyes.

Caroline: “You sing so beautifully,” Caroline compliments, genuinely in awe as the two synergize their voices. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like it. It’s like you’re opposite sides of the same coin. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have one of you without the other in the world—and I’m glad I don’t have to.”

“Have you always been so close?”

GM: The two both nod.

“Maman always told us. You’ll outlive your parents, children grow up, and even ‘usbands aren’t blood-” Yvonne.

“-but sisters won’t, don’t, and are.” Yvette.

“We’ve taken lots of singing lessons, though.” Yvonne.

“So it did take us practice, to be able to do that.” Yvette.

“Ah can’t imagine what it would’ve been like either,” Yvonne shivers.

“Ah’d ‘ave lost it. Just gone completely insane.” Yvette.

“We’re glad you liked ‘earing us, though,” Yvonne smiles, clearly changing the conversation back to more pleasant matters.

Caroline: “I wanted a sister growing up,” Caroline smiles. “I think it’s one of those stupid little things I never quite forgave my mother for: coming home with boys every time. Not that I don’t love my brothers, but I like to think it would have been different. That we might have had more in common, and been closer.” The confession is lighthearted, almost wistful.

“There was a time when I tried to make my brothers fill that role, but she completely lost it when I put Luke in a dress and tried to braid his hair. I think I might have been six, he was five, or maybe about to turn five. Neither of us really understood why she was so upset, but I still remember. It’s one of the first times I can remember her yelling at me, one of my earliest memories. She was particularly mortified that I’d decided to have him do a fashion shoot complete with her polaroid camera.” She laughs. “Thank god the pictures never got out, though they might have made a great gag at the wedding if she hadn’t burned them. Not sure I would have lived long enough to be in the wedding though if she hadn’t.”

“Of course, you two had the opposite problem. I could always threaten kids with my little-big brother Luke, and you had a feast of sisters and famine of brothers. I’m sure that had its own challenges. It also always let me have a very clear identity—the oldest and only girl.”

GM: The twins both laugh at Caroline’s story of dressing up her brother.

“Ah’m sorry,” Yvonne finally manages more seriously, “Ah’m sure that must’ve been really sad-”

“-when you did just want a sister,” Yvette nods, then smirks faintly. “It’s too bad about those pictures, though.”

“Oui, Ah can’t imagine Luke in a dress,” Yvonne giggles.

“Ah’m sorry you didn’t get to ‘ave any sisters, though,” Yvette says somberly.

“But you will now,” Yvonne adds more hopefully. “At least in-law, with Cécilia-”

“-and if you ‘ave Cécilia, you’ll ‘ave us all,” Yvette continues brightly.

“Oui, we looked it up, what the brother or sister of someone’s in-law is. We won’t technically be related, but, you know-” Yvonne.

“-you saved our lives, and that counts so much more.” Yvette. “So Ah say that’s good enough.”

“Maman says there’s nothing more precious than a sister. They’re close in a way brothers aren’t.” Yvonne.

“That’s why she decided to ’ave so many of us, and no boys," Yvette finishes slyly.

Caroline: “I’m glad you’re excited for that. I certainly am.” The heiress arches an eyebrow in good humor. “But decided, eh? That’s a neat trick.”

GM: "She knew she didn’t want boys.” Yvonne.

“So she didn’t ’ave any," Yvonne declares matter-of-factly with a smirk.

Caroline: “That sounds… actually kind of dark,” Caroline answers with a frown.

GM: “You mea…” Yvette.

“Oh non! She didn’t…” Yvonne.

“-get rid of any boys, if that’s what you mean!” Yvette exclaims with a laugh.

“She just didn’t want any. So she didn’t ‘ave any,” Yvonne nods.

Caroline: The heiress’s expression shifts away from worry towards mischievousness. “Family trait, I take it? Is Luke in for a surprise?”

GM: “‘Is and Cécilia’s baby will be a girl,” declares Yvonne.

“We’ll bet money.” Yvette.

Lots of money.” Yvonne.

Caroline: The heiress arches another eyebrow. “No bet. But, why girls, it sounds almost as though you’re saying it’s already happened.”

GM: They both laugh.

“Oh non, not yet-” Yvette.

“-but when it does.” Yvonne.

“Count on it.” Yvette.

Caroline: Caroline laughs. “And here I thought you had inside knowledge I could lord over him.”

GM: “Well, we know all about ‘ow Cécilia wants to do the wedding,” Yvonne smiles.

“Oui, Ah can’t wait for it! We’ll be bridesmaids!” Yvette.

Caroline: “I’m glad you’re excited for that too—I certainly am. With Cécilia marrying Luke, it’s like getting an entirely new family.” She bites her lip. “And maybe just in time.”

GM: “Just in tahm?” Yvonne asks confusedly.

Caroline: Caroline waves a hand. “Just… family drama,” she finishes lamely. “My uncles and my father are used to being in control of everything in the family, and I haven’t exactly been playing entirely—or even mostly by the rules lately. It’ll probably blow over.” The heiress doesn’t sound completely convinced though.

GM: “Oh non!” Yvette exclaims, laying a hand on Caroline’s. “You were there for us-”

“-and that’s the first rule,” declares Yvonne.

Caroline: “It’ll work its way out,” Caroline answers, squeezing Yvette’s hand. “They’re just accustomed to controlling everything. And I don’t think I’m willing to let them control my life like that any longer. There’s things that I want. Things that I’m not sure fit into their vision for me and my future.”

GM: The sisters look at each other, then back to Caroline.

“Maybe Maman could ‘elp.” Yvette.

“Because if they want to control everything, they’re not going to.” Yvonne. “Not with Cécilia.”

“And not with you, if that’s not what you want!” flares Yvette.

“Your dad and uncles better get used to not getting their way with everything.” Yvonne.

“Because no one gets their way with Maman.” Yvette.

“No one.” Yvonne.

Caroline: “I do get the feeling she’s very accustomed to getting what she wants,” Caroline agrees. “It’ll be interesting, seeing an immovable object meet an irresistible force.”

“I’m not worried though,” she reassures the twins. “I’m not the scared teenager my cousin was when they forced their will on her. Nor am I helplessly dependent on the family.” She smiles and pats Yvette’s hand. “Nor am I alone.”

GM: “That’s raht.” Yvonne.

“You’re on the winning side.” Yvette.

“Your dad and uncles…” Yvonne.

“…don’t ‘ave any idea what they’re in for.” Yvette smiles widely.

“They’ll think they’re getting what they want, at first,” Yvonne continues airily.

“But it’ll just be over things that don’t really matter to ‘er.” Yvette.

“And when she does get what she wants, they’ll think she’s the one doing them a favor.” Yvonne.

“It’s ‘ow she does everything. Well-” Yvette.

“-almost everything.” Yvonne.

“Lahk with Mr. Whitney… Ah think she actually wanted that ‘ouse,” Yvette whispers slyly.

“‘E thought she was bending over for ‘im. But she wasn’t.” Yvonne.

“She just let ‘im think so. ‘E was doing exactly what she wanted.” Yvette.

“The ‘ole time.” Yvonne.

Caroline: That thought is deeply unsettling. She knows Abélia is influential, perceptive, powerful, and deeply wicked, but hearing about her talent for manipulation raises troubling questions about Caroline’s drive through a nightmare with her. About the gifts she bestowed. About the forbidden knowledge she so readily imparted. It’s one thing to know that you’re being manipulated on some level. It’s another to realize how deeply that game might be played.

“What would she want with the LaLaurie House?”

GM: The sisters look at each other again.

“She says that it’ll come in handy.” Yvette.

“For if we ever ‘ave too much company over at the Robinson ‘Ouse.” Yvonne. "That’s the main one, where we live."

“Lahk that’s likely,” Yvette laughs.

“She loves it, though. That ‘ouse. There’s no way she’s selling it to that… t-shirt czar.” Yvonne.

“We actually get the Robinson ‘Ouse to ourselves, a lot of these days.” Yvette.

“She just spends so much time there now. At the LaLaurie ‘Ouse.” Yvonne.

“She says it needs lots of cleaning up. And preparing.” Yvette.

Caroline: “Is she planning on throwing a party?” Caroline asks, bemused.

GM: “Ah wouldn’t be surprised,” Yvonne laughs.

“She loves parties.” Yvette.

“Ah was actually scared of it, for a while,” Yvonne admits uncomfortably. “After… all that ‘appened there. Ah thought she should just get rid of it.”

“Ah didn’t,” Yvette flares. “That’d be letting it… win.”

“It definitely asn’t done that. Even Simmone sleeps there now.” Yvonne.

“She beat it.” Yvette.

“Ah know. Ah thought that was such a bad idea at first… Simmone’s such a mess…" Yvonne frets.

“Maman doesn’t let anything beat ‘er,” Yvette smiles. She looks back to Caroline. “Ah did tell you. Your dad and uncles-”

“-ave no idea what they’re in for,” Yvonne repeats with a mirrored smile.

Caroline: The heiress bites her lip. “Good. They could use a little comeuppance.”

And so too could Father Malveaux, she thinks viciously. Something tells her that if it comes down to it, the dark-haired matron is more than a match for the albino priest. The thought of that conflict brings a smile to her face to match her declaration.

She tries not to think of the troubling implications of that house, and what she’s heard of it. She is quite certain that Abélia wouldn’t bring her youngest daughter into the house if she wasn’t certain she could cow whatever was in it. That alone has some scary implications. But then, so did her vision.

“It’ll give them something to focus on other than my social life.”

“Though I’m not sure if anything is going to keep them completely out when everything comes out.”

GM: “What’s it you’re in trouble for anyway?” Yvonne asks.

“Ah mean, we’ve ’eard sketchy stuff, lahk Ah said at the dinner-” Yvette.

“-but what is it really?” Yvonne.

Caroline: Caroline bites her lip in thought. “I don’t know that anyone has the full story yet.” A pause. “If I tell you, it can’t leave the car, all right?”

GM: Both teenagers nod avidly.

Caroline: “I didn’t sleep well after, well, that night.” She doesn’t have to identify what night they’re talking about. “What happened to you and Sarah,” she nods to Yvonne, “was one of the worst things I’d ever seen, and with her touch and go, I kept blaming myself, wondering if I could have done more, if there was something I could have done differently. If I could have done more if I’d made some different choices in my life.”

She bites her lip again. “I’d originally planned on being a doctor, and I just thought, maybe I’d horribly messed up by not doing so. It’s crazy, I know, I just…” she shakes her head. “It’s not your fault, or anyone’s fault really,” she declares firmly. “But… it was all seriously messing with my head.”

GM: “It is crazy! You did everything!” Yvette interjects.

“Oui, Ah, we, wouldn’t even be ’ere if not for you! You saved us!” Yvonne echoes.

“And Sarah,” Yvette adds.

“She doesn’t ’ave brain damage or anything like everyone was so scared,” Yvonne nods.

Caroline: “I know, I just… everyone was saying I was a hero, and congratulating me, and thanking me, and I didn’t feel like it. I don’t know, I’ve read it’s kind of a common reaction. Just a way of coping, I guess, with things that are out of your control. To think that you, maybe, could have controlled them.”

GM: Yvette looks down. “Well, Ah… Ah guess that’s true. Blaming yourself.”

“We did too. Wondering if we’d just done any one thing different…” Yvonne.

“Maybe Simmone wouldn’t be so much a mess.” Yvette looks angry. “She can’t even sleep in ’er own bed!”

“And maybe ‘Annah wouldn’t ’ave killed ’erself.” Yvonne.

“But our therapist says, over and over… it’s not our fault.” Yvette.

“It’s taking a while… forever, but… Ah think it’s sinking in.” Yvonne.

Caroline: Caroline nods. “It takes time. But in that time one of my best friends saw how I was acting, and suggested we go out for the weekend go blow off some steam. Something to take my mind off of it all."

GM: “That sounds like a good idea,” Yvette nods.

“Oui, we ‘ad a lot of fun at Decadence. And there’s Mardi Gras coming up…” Yvonne.

“Well, not technically ‘we’.” Yvette.

“Yvette went. And she ‘brought’ me on ’er phone. She filmed everything, and ’ad me on the ’ole time,” Yvonne smiles.

Caroline: Caroline smiles. “That’s sweet, a way you two could be together and still do things.”

GM: “We should go to Mardi Gras together, all of us!” Yvette adds excitedly.

Caroline: “I’d like that."

Another lip bite. “Anyway, you know then that weekend was Southern Decadence. Big gay lesbian Mardi Gras.” She laughs. “Because they have to have their own holiday. Mardi Gras isn’t gay enough. The family of course hates and denounces it every year. Catholic archbishop uncle and all. Normally I wouldn’t get caught dead out in it, but I just wanted to forget. To have a good time. And I did.”

GM: The girls look a little nonplussed at the mention of Orson’s denunciation, but don’t comment any further.

“Well, good for you, you deserved it.” Yvette.

“We actually texted you a few times about going to Decadence… did you never get them?” Yvonne.

“We don’t blame you, at all,” Yvette adds. “You ’ad so much on your mind…”

Caroline: “I was probably the drunkest I’ve ever been—my friend just kept handing me drinks—but I remember a lot of it. The crazy costumes, the contests. It was fun. And then on the last night things weren’t so fun anymore. It got completely out of hand. People were fucking passed out people in the gutter… I lost my phone…. and someone spiked my drink.”

GM: “Oh non…” the two gasp with simultaneous horror.

Caroline’s phone buzzes.

Caroline: She looks down at it, seemingly grateful for the break.

GM: It’s Widney saying she’s been keeping Adeline and Sarah entertained for a while. Cécilia has also just (and belatedly) arrived with Simmone.

Caroline: Caroline gives a wan smile. “They’re waiting for us upstairs.” She bites her lower lip again. “The rest of this will have to wait,” she says as she types out a quick response. Be right up.

She looks back to the twins. “And I’ll spare you the details of that night. A lot of them are a blur anyway. Suffice to say my friend went to my family when she lost track of me—probably the worst thing she could have done—and overnight I went from the diligent daughter and hero of the hour to the disobedient pariah and sinner of the day that endangered the family image, defied the ‘archbishop’, and made a mess of herself.”

GM: “What!?” Yvette exclaims in bewilderment.

“’Ow could they-” Yvonne.

“-that doesn’t make any sense!” Yvette.

“Caroline, you… you weren’t…” Yvonne looks at her, aghast.

“Oh-oh mah god, you weren’t…?” Yvette.

Caroline: The heiress holds up a hand. “I said I’d spare you the details. I don’t view myself as a victim. It took a long time to get to this point. Please don’t look at me like I am one.”

She sighs heavily and continues, “But that was the start of it all. I didn’t do myself any favors afterwards with them. I tried running away from it all. Missed classes and got dropped out of school. Drank more. Got my other uncle’s house trashed. Other stuff… I sort of fell apart. That’s a big part of why I didn’t respond to anyone.”

She shifts uncomfortably. “Anyway, the party is waiting on us. Sorry to end on a down note.”

GM: The teenagers listen to Caroline in stunned silence.

“Oh mah… oh mah god…” Yvonne starts crying. “Ah can’t… Ah can’t bel… that’s… that’s so… unfair… oh, Carol… Ah’m so… Ah’m so sorry…”

Yvette’s face heats. “Who did it, Caroline! We’ll… we’ll destroy ‘im! We’ll RUIN ’is life!”

Caroline: Caroline lays a hand on Yvonne’s hand. “Look, bad things happen to us. But you’re still standing, and so am I. In some ways, even taller than before. I’m not going to pretend it was a good thing,” she shivers, “but some good things came out of it. I’d rather focus on that.”

GM: “What… good things?” Yvonne sniffs disbelievingly.

“We can tell Maman. She’ll destroy ‘im, Caroline. She’ll make ’im suffer,” Yvette seethes.

Caroline: “We talked about it,” Caroline tells Yvette, turning her attention from the crying twin to the raging one. “And you and I can talk more about it later.”

She turns back to Yvonne. “As for good things… it gave me a reason to finally stand up to my family. Let me find my way on my own.” She gives a tight smile. “I found strengths I didn’t know I had and discovered what mattered to me. Met some people I never would have.”

GM: “Well, that’s… Ah guess that’s good,” Yvonne sniffs again as Yvette pulls out a tissue to dab at her eyes. “But Ah’m so sorry that ’ad to ’appen, Caroline… is there anything, anything we can do?”

“Oui,” Yvette replies, looking back to. “We will talk, after the party. We aren’t going to let ’im get away with this!”

Caroline: “Honestly,” Caroline begins, focusing in Yvonne, “watching you and Sarah bounce back means a lot to me. It’s a constant reminder that no matter what unfairness life throws at you, you can come back stronger. I walked away from what happened. Didn’t spend days and weeks in a hospital. How can I do any less? It’s heartening to see how resilient people can be.”

She opens her car door and looks back with a smile. “Ready for some happier thoughts?”

GM: Yvonne looks at Caroline for a moment and nods. “Oui, for sure. But Ah ’ave to ask, ’ave you seen-”

“-a therapist? It’s been really ’elpful, for our family,” Yvette finishes as she climbs out of the car.

Caroline: Caroline purses her lips as she locks the car up with her remote. “I’ve thought about it. But I’m not sure I could be really honest with one. And I feel like they’d try to shove a bunch of victim and survivor stuff down my throat. I don’t think that’s entirely wrong for a lot of people, but I’m dealing with it. In my own way,” she defends.

GM: “Your makeup’s messed,” Yvette remarks to Yvonne. She fishes some out of her purse and starts re-applying it to her sister’s face.

Yvonne stands still as she replies to Caroline, “Oh, that’s definitely not them all. They don’t want you to stay a victim, they want to ’elp you move on.”

“We’ve just found it really ’elpful,” Yvette continues. “If you don’t like it, you can always not come back.”

“And if you do get something out of it, then that’s great,” Yvonne says, though she keeps her face still instead of nodding as Yvette runs a mascara brush over her eyelashes.

Caroline: Caroline can’t help but admire the skill with which Yvette works over her sister, but purses her lips in thought again.

“I’ll think about some more. I just have trouble picturing myself explain it all to a stranger.”

GM: “It’s all totally safe and between you,” Yvette assures.

“You ‘ave what’s basically like attorney-client privilege with them-” Yvonne adds.

“-to put it a way you maybe know better.” Yvette.

Caroline: “I just don’t like opening up to people,” Caroline answers.

GM: The two exchange glances with one another. Obvious conflict is written on their faces between Caroline’s adamant insistence that she’s fine—and their equally adamant belief that being raped does not leave anyone fine.

“Well, we’re late for the party anyway,” Yvonne finally says with a shaky smile.

“Oui. Your face looks good,” Yvette says, tucking the Siren Cosmetics bottle back into her purse.

Caroline: “Yeah.” Caroline studies Yvonne’s makeup. “You did a great job with that,” she compliments Yvette.

She pushes the call button on the elevator and gestures grandly into it when the doors open. “Shall we?”

Saturday evening, 19 December 2015, PM

Caroline: It’s only been about a week since the shooting at the Giani Building, but a visitor might never know the apartment complex saw such violence without speaking to residents. Caroline’s guests have little opportunity.

As is her habit, she’s taken over the roof where an array of her ‘friends’ and associates join the girls for a subdued get-together to close out the night. Rebecca Flynn, Neil Flynn (no relation), Emily Rosure, Evelyn Jameson (née Anders, now wife to former governor Jim Jameson), Krista Lynch (one of Caroline’s few friends since high school, formerly on the debate team and now a PR consultant), Erika Kelly (her VP at College Republicans), and an array of others receive invites. It’s enough for several groups, even if some decline the invitations, but not a real crowd. She also hires a bartender and assistant to serve drinks in the deck house as desired. All told, something on the order of thirty invites go out for a ‘mellow’ get-together with drinks, music, and shared company. Many of the invitees know each other, but a fair number don’t.

It’s a chilly night, and number of standing electric heaters are brought out to keep most of the deck warm. They also serve as areas for groups to congregate. The roof’s sound system plays Broken Bells, Thom Yorke, and Dawes in low tones in the deck house, creating a pleasant ambiance that’s easily escaped out on the deck proper by those preferring an even quieter atmosphere.

We’re bound to wait all night.
She’s bound to run amok.
Invested enough in it anyhow,
To each his own

The Garden needs sorting out.
She curls her lips on the bow,
And I don’t know if I’m dead or not,
To anyone

Come on and get the minimum,
Before you open up your eyes.
This army has so many heads,
To analyze

Come on and get your overdose.
Collect it at the borderline,
And they want to get up in your head

Cause they know and so do I.
The high road is hard to find.
A detour to your new life.
Tell all of your friends goodbye

The dawn to end all nights,
That’s all we hoped it was.
A break from the warfare in your house,
To each his own

A soldier is bailing out.
He curled his lips on the barrel.
And I don’t know if the dead can talk,
To anyone

Come on and get the minimum.
Before you open up your eyes.
This army has so many hands,
Are you one of us?

Come on and get your overdose.
Collect it at the borderline,
And they want to get up in your head

Cause they know and so do I.
The high road is hard to find.
A detour to your new life.
Tell all of your friends goodbye

It’s too late to change your mind,
You let loss be your guide

It’s too late to change your mind,
You let loss be your guide

It’s too late to change your mind,
You let loss be your guide

It’s too late to change your mind,
You let loss be your guide

GM: It’s with some oddness that Caroline supposes this is the first large and real social gathering she’s participated in since her Embrace, at least with the living. She supposes that staying in touch with people and hanging out is just one of those things that’s simply fallen by the wayside. The people who show up (some invitations, true to her expectation, don’t get RSVPs) remark how it’s “been forever” since they’ve seen or heard from Caroline. A fair number bring presents, along with Sarah and the Devillers.

Rebecca is still studying law at Tulane and bartending at the Corner Club. “Same old, same old, until I graduate.” Neil Flynn is likewise still plugging away at his residency until he “gets to be a real doctor.” He brings his girlfriend Angela Greer as his +1. Krista remarks to him that, “You seem like the kind of guy who’s at home around girls. Not in the player sense, just the kind of guy who has a lot of female friends.” Neil gives a faint smile. Emily Rosure remarks what a far-off goal wanting to be a “real doctor” can seem like after how much schooling there is. She brings a book for a present. Erika brings a more expensive-looking set of earrings. Evelyn is heavily pregnant and shares she’s expecting her first (a girl, who they’ll name Zoe) in two months. Everyone congratulates her; a few people remark she “must not have been expecting that surprise” given her husband’s advanced age. She smiles nonchalantly and says if there’s one thing he’s taught her, it’s never too late to do anything you set your mind to.

Evelyn also causes a stir when she shows up with her husband Jim, who’s around 60 years older than most of the attendees. He does not seem to mind this fact in the least, and salaciously declares he’s always glad to “spend time in the fairer sex’s company.” The more (and the younger!), the better. He pats Caroline’s hand affectionately and assures her that he bears no ill will over the “bygones” with her father. Caroline remembers him dragging the former governor’s name through the mud in some of the most vitriolic and hyper-partisan campaigns the Pelican State had yet seen in his years-long effort to flip Louisiana red.

“Bygones are bygones, dear. Taking things personally in politics is like getting upset when another man knocks up your wife. Better to just move on.” He grins. “That’s what I always told the husbands after the deed, anyway.”

Most of the attendees think Jim is hilarious and can’t get enough of his ribald stories, which include such antics as having sex on the governor’s desk and hiding his still-naked lover inside the folds of the state flag when he remembered he had a meeting in several minutes.

“I think it was with some ministers about promoting family values in schools. Or it might have been with my wife. Or was it my other mistress. All I remember is how Cindy kept giggling, I kept coughing to cover up the sound, and whoever it was I had over kept asking if I wanted to get some water. I was getting absolutely red in the face, you know, because I was starting to think she was doing it on purpose. I just about lost it when the flag kept moving and I realized: Cindy was playing with herself! That little piece of tail could be such a minx…”

It soon becomes plain why the 80-something former governor has come to a birthday party of 20-something women: he’s here to get laid. He repeatedly hits on Caroline, Sarah, all the Devillers girls except Simmone (Cécilia’s engagement ring doesn’t seem to bother him), and anyone else who laughs at his stories and isn’t male or a prepubescent child. The increasingly liquored octogenarian dismisses any concerns of propriety with, “I’m out of office. Not that it stopped me while I was in office. Who the hell cares?”

Evelyn seems unbothered by her husband’s philandering ways, and it soon becomes plain why when Jameson invites Caroline to come have a threesome with him and his heavily pregnant wife. Evelyn salaciously adds that his age “doesn’t slow him down at all” and he has “so much experience.”

Caroline: The Ventrue rolls her eyes at her once-classmate, looking between her and her husband before smiling and giving a light laugh. “I’m flattered, of course, but I must decline. Bad timing.”

She wishes she were surprised, but after Evelyn started ‘dating’ him, the truth is she knew what her classmate’s character was. Any college student willing to marry a man in his 80s likely had few boundaries to begin with. So long as none of the other girls are particularly offended, she watches with amusement as they carry on. She can’t deny he adds some color to the room.

GM: Neither of the two appear offended. Jameson pats Caroline’s hand again. “Timing is everything, my dear. In politics and in love. Well, or lust. You know, that reminds me of the time that…”

It’s not overlong before the couple find a guest to excuse themselves with.

Sarah laughs at the old man’s antics out of earshot. “I think it’s sweet. I mean, he’s completely inappropriate, but he seems really alive for his age. It sure beats wasting away in a nursing home.”

Yvette eyes the former governor and whispers to Caroline, “Je pourrais mentir que j’ai 16 ans … vous pensez que je pourrais faire quoi que ce soit avec ça, si je l’ai enregistré? Je veux dire, c’est seulement un ancien gouverneur, mais quand même, pensez-vous …?”

(“I could lie that I’m 16… you think I could do anything with that, if I recorded it? I mean, he’s only a former governor, but still, do you think…?”)

Caroline: The heiress smiles wickedly when Yvette proposes her idea and leans into conspiratorially.

“J’aime votre façon de penser, mais passons au travers. Vous partez avec eux. Il passe un bon moment,” another smile, “et peut-être que vous faites aussi de ce que j’ai entendu. Mais après quoi? Disons que vous le menacez avec la bande. Il ne se soucie pas de son image publique, sa femme ne s’en fiche apparemment pas, et il a 80 ans et risque de mourir avant d’être jugé.”

(”I like the way you think, but let’s play this through. You go off with them. He has a good time, and perhaps you do as well from what I’ve heard. But what after? Let’s say you threaten him with the tape. He cares not for his public image, his wife seemingly does not care, and he’s in his eighties and likely to die before he faces trial.”)

She continues, her eyes following the couple as they make their rounds propositioning young women. “Le pire avec lequel vous pourriez le menacer est une arrestation. À votre tour, votre nom sera divulgué en tant que victime—il s’agit de la Nouvelle-Orléans—et peut-être aussi de la vidéo. Et maintenant tu es l’adolescente qui a baisé le vieil homme et l’a filmé.”

(”The worst you might threaten him with is arrest. In turn, your name will leak as the victim—this being New Orleans—and perhaps the video as well. And now you’re the teen girl that fucked the old man and taped it.”)

She looks back to Yvette. “Alors, comment pourrions-nous améliorer ce plan—dans cette situation et dans une autre?”

(”So, how might we make this plan better—in this circumstance and in another?”)

GM: “Oh, eh bien, je n’aurais pas voulu que la bande sorte réellement, bien sûr,” Yvette quickly clarifiés.

(“Oh, well, I wouldn’t have wanted the tape to actually get out, of course.”)

“Ma mère a toujours dit que les scandales sexuels n’étaient pas… devenus. Surtout dans notre famille, toutes les filles. Il serait trop facile pour nous d’avoir une réputation.”

(“My mom’s always said sex scandals aren’t… becoming. Especially in our family, all girls. It’d be too easy for us to get a reputation.”)

“Mais je n’avais vraiment rien en tête. J’ai juste pensé que cela pourrait être utile. Une solution ‘juste au cas où’. Mais je suppose que vous avez raison de dire qu’il se moque de sa réputation et qu’il mourra bientôt de toute façon…”

(“But I didn’t really have anything in mind. I just thought it might be useful. A ‘just in case’ thing. But I guess you’re right that he doesn’t care about his reputation, and if he’s going to die soon anyways…”)

Caroline: Caroline nods along as Yvette talks, but asks again, “Je comprends et suis d’accord avec ta mère. Ma question tient. Comment changeriez-vous une telle idée pour la rendre plus agréable et utile?”

(”I understand, and agree with your mother. My question stands. How would you change such an idea to make it more palatable and useful?”)

The heiress arches an eyebrow, “Vous avez évidemment un esprit pour ce genre de chose—entre ceci, ce que vous avez fait aux autres filles de votre école avec le club et à l’autre fille. Alors réfléchissez bien.”

(”You obviously have a mind for this type of thing—between this, what you did to the other girls at your school with the club, and the other girl. So think it through.“)

GM: “Amélie n’est pas une fille. Juste… dégoûtante,” Yvette corrects with a dark smirk.

(”Amelie isn’t a girl. Just… gross.”)

Caroline: “Thing,” Caroline agrees. “Think on my questions though. If you’re going to keep doing this type of thing—and perhaps even make a career of it—it’s important to make sure you’re covering all the angles, and especially making sure you’re sheltering yourself and your family. Don’t ever put yourself in the spotlight directly unless the benefit dramatically outweighs the cost. There are usually better ways, even if they aren’t always easier.”

GM: Yvette nods. “Ah guess that’s true. It seemed like an easy chance. But Ah can’t really think of a good way to do it or much reason to do it, at least ‘ere, can you?”

Caroline: The heiress smiles. “The obvious play would be to use someone else. That opportunity might not present itself tonight—I wouldn’t throw any of you at it— but it’s worth keeping in mind.” She turns her gaze to the returned Angela across the deck with Neil engaged in conversation. “And sometimes worth keeping people around for.” She turns back to the French heiress. “If I had to throw someone at a problem tonight, I already know where I might start.”

She smiles as she tips back her drink before continuing in French, “Il y a plus d’une raison de garder vos amis proches et vos ennemis plus proches. No?”

(”There’s more than one reason to keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. No?”)

Saturday evening, 19 December 2015

GM: It’s not too much later before Cécilia arrives for the party with Simmone in tow. The ten-year-old clutches her sister’s hand tightly and is obviously ill at ease without their mother around. Cécilia reassuringly tells her how brave she’s being. She eventually loosens up, but engages in various inappropriate behaviors such as wanting to be carried by Caroline and to sit on her lap. She wants to be the center of everyone’s attention.

Caroline: Caroline takes Cécilia and Simmone by her side once they arrive and shows Simmone off to many of the (many) young would-be mothers in the gathering, especially those with younger siblings who have experience with young children. She mostly humors the bad behavior, confiding to Cécilia that she thinks getting Simmone more comfortable being away from her mother is more important for now than correcting some things that are (potentially) more easily corrected later than her crippling anxiety. She keeps the hour or two Simmone is there a whirlwind of activity. She has her cut into the cake that’s eventually brought out, though Caroline keeps her hand on top of the youngster’s. If she starts to grow uncomfortable (or people grow overly aggressive about Simmone’s behavior), Caroline draws on her supernal mien to calm the child down, distract from her inappropriate actions, and make her feel special by Caroline’s side.

She directs a scathing glare and subtle but sharp barbs at anyone that tries to reproach Simmone, and plays off her bad behavior lightly and jokingly. She also has Autumn standby in the crowd, keeping her presence cloaked, to cause a distraction should Simmone start to melt down so they can sneak her downstairs to Caroline’s apartment if needed.

GM: Simmone has a few moments where she looks ready to have a meltdown, but Caroline manages to distract her with cake-cutting, piggy-back rides, and similar activities. There’s a few comments from the crowd about how Caroline, but most of them seem willing to humor the child, and Simmone seems at ease around the mostly young and female audience.

It’s when Becca’s phone plays a video with an audible gunshot that Simmone falls apart like a house of cards and starts loudly crying.

Caroline: Caroline has Autumn fall into the pool when the meltdown starts to create a distraction as she whisks the girl away and tries to help her settle down. She distracts Cécilia with a phone call to her mother, meets Simmone’s eyes, and commands, “Sleep.

GM: True to Caroline’s expectation, Cécilia is unwilling to leave Simmone’s side, but calling their mother keeps her eyes away for a moment.

A bleary-eyed Simmone meets Caroline’s gaze. Splitting agony suddenly stabs through her head, throat, and sex. The Ventrue has an uncontrollable urge to void her orifices. She rushes to a bathroom and messily vomits foul-smelling black blood from her mouth, uterus, and assorted holes. The room’s shadows loom thick and dark as an icy chill runs through her veins.

Caroline: Caroline flushes away the evidence after wiping up what of it has spilled in the bathroom and across her pale skin. She takes several minutes to gather herself after the ‘attack.’ The entire thing begs many fearsome questions: just how powerful Abélia is, the nature of her connection to shadows and darkness, and what her ‘children’ are. Questions that will have to wait.

GM: The girls come knocking on Caroline’s bathroom door. Simmone is still sniffling, but loudly exclaims that, “Ah’ve brought some water, so you feel better!” It becomes plain that Cécilia (and their mother, who she called) are helping Simmone to forget her own anxiety through the belief that she can “save” Caroline.

But it’s not just humoring her. Cécilia, Yvette, and Yvonne all ask concernedly what got Caroline to run off.

Caroline: Caroline gives them an excuse about “something I ate” suddenly and violently not agreeing with her. She profusely thanks them (especially Simmone) for their concern. The water tastes like drain cleaner—but that’s still better than the taste of her own profaned blood. Small mercies.

“At least we made progress with Simmone, even if it fell apart in the end,” she whispers to Cécilia as they head back to the party.

GM: “Small mercies,” her brother’s fiancée repeats.

Saturday evening, 19 December 2015

GM: “…just something I’ve had too much experience with,” Angela Greer says, shaking her head as Caroline returns to the party. “I’m the den mother for the girls’ dorms, and this isn’t the first time someone’s disappeared.”

“Have you found many girls?” Emily Rosure asks.

“I have. Sometimes they were fine. And sometimes they weren’t.”

“’Ave you ’ad to do that for a lot of girls?” Yvonne asks. “Ah thought Tulane was supposed to be pretty safe.”

“Campuses can be insanely dangerous, actually, if you aren’t careful. 1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted.”

“Ah thought that statistic was a little ’igh?” Yvette remarks.

Angela shakes her head emphatically. “No. If anything, it’s low. And it leaves out the guys who are assaulted. It’s even more underreported with them.”

Sarah and the Devillers twins look a little disturbed by Angela’s conviction, and it’s not overlong before she latches onto the three teenagers to the exclusion of almost all other guests. “I don’t want to scare you, and you should absolutely go to college. It can be dangerous, like anywhere, but there’s a lot you can do to keep yourself safe.”

Angela shares a number of tips that Caroline can tell would make hunting extremely inconvenient, especially for Kindred who lack her gifts for mental manipulation. Some of them include always going to parties in pairs, and linking your phones via a custom app (by a member of her sorority) that makes it possible to keep track of one another if they get separated. Another feature lets the other person’s phone record everything yours picks up. When Yvette says that sounds “maybe a little paranoid,” Angela adamantly repeats that it’s better safe than sorry. She also recommends never leaving home without a taser and pepper spray in your purse, and never drinking from anything that you don’t see the bartender pour from a bottle right in front of you. Your buddy should stay sober. Yvette thinks taking all of those tips together (Angela has many more) sound like buzzkills.

Caroline: The Ventrue interjects amid Angela’s flurry of advice with a smile to agree. “Honestly, she has a point, a lot of her advice actually mirrors the official position of the Republican Party: abstinence until marriage, don’t talk to anyone outside of your church group, and never, ever, be alone with a boy or you might end up doing something crazy like having sex.”

When any laughter fades she addresses the house runner more seriously, “More seriously, I’m sure that everything you’ve seen has given you ample reason to espouse caution at every turn: I know how terrible it is to see people get hurt and not be able to help them, but that advice makes it sounds like the big win every night is simply one in which something bad doesn’t happen. If your entire ambition is standing sentry to your innocence I think that’s setting a bar for life awfully low. Go out, be brave. Be smart, but don’t let fear of something bad that might happen prevent anything from happening at all.”

GM: The group all laughs at Caroline’s Republican Party joke.

Angela eventually replies, “All of that’s why I’d say to talk outside your church group, be alone with boys, and if you’re comfortable, have sex before marriage. If you want to be totally safe, you can just stay home. But that isn’t a fun way to live either. You should absolutely go out and have fun, but like I tell a lot of girls, just do it smart.”

Yvette looks at Caroline. “It’s not really that bad though, is it, for everyone?”

“It might not be,” Angela answers. “But that’s completely up to chance. For every girl who can just have fun without ever worrying, there’s a dozen more who I’ve held crying in their beds and had to talk out of taking showers so they don’t erase the evidence of what happened. I’ve seen girls drop out after they just couldn’t take it anymore and lose their futures. I’ve seen more just… disappear, and a few even turn up dead.”

“Oh my god, from what?” Sarah asks.

“Suicide is what it usually looks like.”

“Looks like?” asks Yvonne.

“Girls dying after taking too many sleeping pills.”

“It’s not possible to commit suicide through overdosing on those anymore,” Neil adds. “Manufacturers changed the ingredients, thankfully. Too many people knew about that method.”

“So pills are actually safe now?” Sarah asks.

Neil shakes his head. “Taking too many is still a bad idea. And they can still kill when they’re mixed with other medications, but not everyone knows that. So it’s helped cut down the suicide rate.”

“So when you say girls died from pills…” Yvette starts.

“Yeah. It was really something else, and a bad cover-up,” Angela finishes.

The teenagers look faintly horrified.

Caroline: The heiress’s good humor for the topic fades rapidly as Angela turns from the already questionable topic of women’s safety at college to ‘mystery dead coed conspiracy,’ especially with the already once-traumatized teens. Her voice drips with sarcasm as she replies, “It’s true, there’s a well known conspiracy to kill college girls in their dorms. It’s definitely way more well-known than that you can qeeqle what to mix together from what’s in your mother’s medicine cabinet.”

GM: “Why are you hostile to this?” Angela asks Caroline frankly. “It’s real, being investigated by cops, and something that could happen to other college girls. That’s why staying safe is so important.”

“Angela…” Neil starts, while also looking towards his ex entreatingly.

Caroline: “Because I recognize a difference between being careful and being afraid,” Caroline replies forcefully. Her tone softens as she continues, “I’m sorry, I really am, that you’ve seen so much awfulness in the world, but you’re not the only one that’s seen or experienced terrible things. You’re preaching like a lay minister about the crucifixion at an Easter Sunday mass without realizing that you’re in a room full of ministers at a wedding. We all know,” she gestures to the girls, “better than most that bad things can happen. We’re just not fixated on it to the exclusion of everything good.” She gestures out towards the deck at large. “Like a party, on a beautiful night, with amazing company.”

There’s a burst of laughter from a group nearby as Jameson finishes another ribald tale, and Caroline cracks a smile, amending, “and some passable company too.”

“You’ll get your chance to scare everyone at freshman orientation, don’t worry. It comes every year, just like Easter.”

GM: Angela stares at Caroline for a moment before asking, real pain in her voice, “My sister is missing. She could be another one of those girls. Do you seriously think I want to scare people for kicks right now?”

The teenagers look between Caroline and Angela uncomfortably.

Caroline: “No, I don’t,” Caroline interrupts, “and if you want help finding her, I’d be happy to give it. I’ll call my PI right now and put him on it. But telling them,” she gestures, “about five hundred things they can do to keep themselves safe because the world’s full of monsters isn’t helping her.” She continues more gently, “or you, or them. Because that entirely legitimate fear for your sister and your desire to do something doesn’t mean the world is a darkness out to get them. Which is a lot like what it sounded like you were saying.”

GM: “No! It’s exactly what I’m saying,” Angela answers, looking angry. “The world is full of monsters, and people like you who pretend that’s not a problem are part of the problem, because you make it easier for girls like my sister to disappear and have it all dismissed as a fluke!”

She continues more steadily, “I don’t want your help. I want your apology, for your part in that, and for saying I actually get off to scaring people the way I’m scared.”

The teenagers’ eyes cut back to Caroline. The three are starting to look discomfited by Angela. An increasingly hapless-looking Neil starts to say something.

Caroline: The heiress, in contrast, remains composed, her tone controlled. “Is that what you think? That I want innocent girls to go missing or get hurt because I don’t agree with you?” Caroline asks incredulously.

She continues more forcefully, “I don’t agree with you precisely because I think the disappearance of girls like your sister should be considered exceptional and worthy of attention, and not written of as how the world is.”

Her voice softens. “I’m sorry we don’t agree on how we view the world, but I won’t apologize for disagreeing. If you change your mind about wanting help, Neil has my number. Otherwise I hope you find her safe.”

GM: “Then you can apologize for accusing me of trying to scare those three,” Angela crossly says with a look towards the teens, “instead of trying to stop what happened to my sister from happening to them. But you won’t, because you don’t believe there’s really a problem. And from what I hear, that attitude isn’t a first in your family.”

She looks to Neil. “I came here to relax. I’ll see you back home.”

“Angela…” Neil starts again, but his girlfriend has already taken off. He sighs and runs a hand through his hair.

“You sure showed ’er,” Yvette smirks.

Neil gives the Devillers girl a nonplussed look before taking Caroline aside. He lays a hand on her shoulder as he leans in and says in a low voice,

“She’s been having it really rough this past week, Caroline. We don’t know where Summer is, or if she’s been hurt or… god only knows what. But Angela feels responsible and it’s tearing her up. It’d… really mean a lot to me if you could catch up with her and say sorry. Just to make something in her life a little less dark.”

Caroline: The heiress stares at Neil for a moment, unreadable, before responding, “She came to my party and started lecturing my guests—two of whom were shot by this year by a cop—about how bad the world is and how they should fear everything, Neil.” Her voice is hard and cold. “I get that she’s upset, but fuck.”

GM: “I know they were,” Neil says quietly. “All I can say is… Angela didn’t.”

Caroline: She stares at him for a moment, then bites her lip and follows after the departing sorority girl.

GM: She hears her ex sigh in relief. “Thanks, Caroline. A lot.”

Caroline: She times her arrival to slip into the elevator doors as they close, and the elevator starts down. She turns to square up with the hunter and pushes the emergency stop button.

She stares at Angela, meeting her eyes, and finally speaks. “I’m sorry I snapped at you. I think you were trying to help them, because you genuinely don’t want bad things to happen to them, and I got defensive about it.”

GM: Angela stares back at the Ventrue as she stops the elevator. Her initial gaze is more than a little frosty. Surprise overcomes her features at Caroline’s apology, but some of the tension in her frame seems to go slack as she answers, “Thanks. I’m just… this thing with my sister. It’s got me seeing a dark cloud over everything.”

Caroline: “We’re all wearing our own tinted shades,” Caroline replies. “I’m more protective of those girls than I would be normally. I wanted them to have a good time tonight, and to feel safe here. Especially after what happened to them.”

She puts on a tight smile, “And I’d like you to as well. Come back up. Spend some time with your boyfriend, I know he’s worried about you.”

GM: “Yeah, I bet he is. He’s really supportive.” Angela gives a somewhat wry and knowing smile. “I guess I lucked out.”

Caroline: The heiress rolls her eyes and responds lightheartedly with a grin. “Sometimes we all deserve to catch a break.”

GM: “We do,” Angela answers somewhat more seriously as she starts back up towards the party. “What happened with those girls?”

Caroline: “They all got picked up by the police on trumped up charges when a cop had an aneurysm in front of them. Then two of them were shot by a detective at the precinct—one of the twins in front of her entire family, Another man at the scene bleed out in front of them,” Caroline replies soberly. “They’d been working on a class assignment.”

GM: “I think I heard about that in the news,” Angela frowns. “Over… the LaLaurie House?”

Caroline: A nod. “Only some of the details actually made it out—thank god. That whole night was a nightmare. And it’s been hard for them to get used to coming back out after all that. Some understandable, I think, trust issues. To say nothing of physical recoveries.”

GM: “Oh, there were a ton of details in the stories I read. That one detective going completely insane… I didn’t know these were the same girls though.” Angela frowns. “I don’t want to scare them if they’re here to relax… it just sounded like they didn’t know how dangerous campuses can be. I mean, I wouldn’t want them to have to go through anything like that twice.”

Caroline: The heiress shrugs. “Maybe they don’t really, not the specific dangers, but they do know the world has plenty of monstrous people out there that’ll as soon hurt you and destroy your life for kicks and giggles as look at you. I just want to remind them that there’s plenty of people that won’t too.”

GM: Angela bites her lip. “Agree to disagree on when to bring that up. But if you still wanted to help look for Summer I wouldn’t say no.”

Caroline: “Of course. If you have a couple semi-recent pictures of her and where she was last seen I’ll kick them on to some PIs I’ve worked with in the past, start tearing things up on that angle.” Caroline replies. It’s easy to make promises about things she was going to do anyway.

GM: Angela supplies several from her sister’s Facebook album. She doesn’t have quite as many as other girls her age, due to the prohibition on attending parties without Angela (which just as often results in her not wanting to attend any). She was last seen at their dorm room about a week ago, on Monday night after an argument.

“We get into those all the time, though,” Angela admits. “I don’t think she took off because she was pissed. I’ve seen her angrier.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “Siblings fight—it’s part of the deal. What have the police said, if anything?” she asks without particular hope.

GM: “They haven’t told me to screw off like most people, so that’s something. But they don’t see any evidence of foul play or that Summer didn’t just decide to take off.” Angela adds, “I’ve thought of that too. Thought it’s what she might be doing at first. But I checked with her bio—her mom, and she hasn’t even shown up there like she usually does when she wants to get away.”

Caroline: She frowns at the mention of ‘bio-mom’, but lets it go.

GM: “Her biological mother. We’re half-sisters and she was raised by my mom,” Angela states at the frown. She gives a shrug. “I don’t mind mentioning it, especially right now. The smallest details can sometimes end up being important when someone’s missing.”

Caroline: “I don’t imagine that made things any easier,” Caroline observes quietly.

“Not a lot to go on right now. With all the missing persons in New Orleans I’m not surprised they’re not interested.” She pages through several of the photos. “I’ll get these out first thing in the morning. If I hear anything I’ll let you know.”

GM: “Awesome. Thanks for the help.” Angela pauses. “I mean it. God knows I’ve looked, and every bit of help counts.”

Caroline: The heiress shrugs. “It’s just the decent thing to do. Maybe a couple extra bodies poking around areas you might not will find something.”

Saturday night, 19 December 2015, PM

GM: Yvette and Yvonne approach Caroline to talk further after the party winds down. Yvette wants to know who raped Caroline so that her mother can go after him. “She’ll destroy ‘im, Caroline. She’ll make ’im just wish ’e was dead.” The teenager’s anger seems to run more cold than hot now, but is no less pronounced.

Caroline: Caroline is reluctant to share that level of detail. She admits that she’s not told anyone the whole story of what happened that night. Even those who think they have the entire story only have pieces of it. It’s intensely private.

At least, the truth is. Caroline endeavors to subtly manipulate the twins into concluding that sharing a deeply personal secret of their own will lead her to open up. She soberly tells them that the details here “are the kind of thing that could ruin my life and put me in jail.” Still, even if she doesn’t convince them, she eventually caves and shares her story.

She doesn’t remember exactly who assaulted her. A lot of the night is a blur of booze and drugs—GHB, she reminds the girls, basically makes you black out. She did, however, track down the person who gave her the drugged drinks. He was an acquaintance she and her friend made the mistake of trusting. He seemed to have done it because he thought it would be amusing. They’re a little late in ruining his life, as she’s already framed him for murder—among other things. He’s on death row.

GM: The two sisters are mortified to hear what happened to Caroline. Yvonne can’t hold back the tears a second time about “‘ow this is… so unfair” and how the Ventrue “just… you just wanted to… to ‘ave some fun… Caroline, you wouldn’t ‘ave… if we’d never played that stupid prank… Ah’m so… Ah’m so sorry… it’s all because… of us, that…"

Yvette initially seethes about trying to find that man, whoever raped Caroline, and putting him on death row too. When the Ventrue ‘can’t’ offer any further details, she finally breaks down in tears as well. The twins clearly blame themselves for setting off the domino chain of events that led to Caroline’s rape. “You… you wouldn’t ‘ave gone to… Decadence, if we ’adn’t…”

Caroline: The heiress consoles and chides them that she is “a grown woman very much capable of making my own decisions.” Holding themselves responsible for things that happened a week later is a little grandiose, to say nothing of demeaning of her decisions. “You can’t blame yourselves for me going out, and you certainly can’t blame yourselves for someone else deciding to do wicked things. Not for what happened to you, and certainly not for what happened to me.”

The ‘butterfly effect’ forgets that there are billions of humans (and butterflies, for that matter). There are over a hundred thousand in the city alone, all influencing the world at every moment. All they can control is what they themselves do directly. “I know where to place the blame,” she continues levelly, “and those actually responsible I’ve made pay as best I can. I’d never blame either of you for it.” Her face softens as she rests a hand on their shoulders. “You have enough grief, and enough burdens to carry.”

GM: The sisters sniff and dry their tears. They also hug Caroline—it’s impossible to avoid, but that doesn’t mean her Beast likes it any more.

“You’re… you’re right, of course…" Yvonne says as Yvette dabs her eyes.

“It’s a similar thing…" Yvette.

“…same thing, really,” Yvonne.

“…to ‘ow Dr. Franklin says, it’s not our fault what happened to each other, or to Simmone, or Sarah, or ‘Annah, or…" Yvette.

“…to you,” Yvonne finishes. Both teenagers look towards Caroline hesitantly, and are relieved when she reiterates that it wasn’t their fault. Or her fault. Or anyone’s fault, except the people who hurt them. The two nod slowly, Yvette with a somewhat darker look. Yvonne looks back at Caroline, then finally says,

“Ah guess it’s… just a little sore for us. For our family.”

Yvette nods slowly, then whispers, “She… she ‘asn’t really… but we think…"

“…that… Maman was also raped, once…” Yvonne.

“…a long time ago,” Yvette echoes.

Caroline: Caroline bites her lip. “She doesn’t talk about it?”

GM: Both twins adamantly shake their heads.

“We…” Yvonne starts.

“We aren’t… supposed to know that.”

Yvette’s words are still a whisper.

Caroline: Caroline looks down, then back up at them. “Then how’d you find out? If you weren’t supposed to?”

GM: The twins’ gazes follow Caroline’s, then slowly drift up to the ceiling, and to the window. It’s like watching two side by side GIFs of the same image. Their same-hued eyes are… fearful.

Caroline: “I understand,” Caroline says at last. “It’s private.”

GM: The sisters finally look back towards her.

“Non… not…” Yvonne.

“Not that part.” Yvette.

“It was Cécilia.” Yvonne.

“Maman told ’er.” Yvette.

“We read it… we read it in ’er diary.” Yvonne.

“It was a stupid thing.” Yvette.

“We were mad over some stupid thing.” Yvonne.

“So we read it. To get back.” Yvette.

“It was… it was stupid of us.” Yvonne.

Both sisters look ashamed.

“She thought she ’id it. Really well.” Yvette.

“And she did.” Yvonne.

Caroline: Caroline puts her hand on Yvette’s. “Siblings fight. It happens. And we do things we regret.”

GM: “She even… ’ad that bit in code,” Yvonne continues.

“But we all know ‘ow… ’ow we all think. What we’d all do. We can’t really keep secrets…”

Caroline: “Sisters can be close,” the heiress agrees, almost wistfully.

GM: Yvette nods slowly to Caroline, seemingly reassured by the contact. But there’s… dissent in her eyes too.

“Maman… always wants us to get along. And we do. Ah, we, love them all, so much. But… we ’ave to fight, at least… at least sometimes…”

“We’re only ’uman.” Yvonne.

Caroline: A nod of agreement. “Why would she keep something like that so secret though that Cecillia would put it in code in her secret, hidden diary?” She bites her lip again.

GM: The sisters look at each other uncomfortably.

“Well, it’s…” Yvonne.

“…going back to what we were saying, kind of…” Yvette.

“Ah don’t know, maybe it’s not.” Yvonne.

“Maybe it is.” Yvette.

They look at each other for a moment longer, then back to Caroline.

“Like Ah said… we don’t really fight.” Yvonne.

“Anyone in our family.” Yvette.

“We just don’t.” Yvonne.

“It’s not that Maman gets mad or anything…” Yvette.

“She never gets mad.” Yvonne.

Caroline: Caroline nods, enviously.

GM: The sisters’ faces are still for a moment. They look back towards each other.

“We’re… jealous.” Yvette.

Yvonne gives a faintly disbelieving laugh. “Ah can’t believe Ah’m saying this.”

“That our family could be…”

“…too perfect.” Yvette finishes.

“Ah know, Ah know-”

“-that sounds nuts.” Yvonne.

Caroline: “You wanted to know what it was like to fight?” Caroline asks softly.

GM: The two’s mouths don’t fall open, but it looks like by only just.

“…’ow did you guess?” they both ask.

Caroline: “Because not fighting made you feel weird. Maybe even a little wrong. Like there was something that wasn’t right. And you wanted to see how everyone else lived. What it was like to argue, and yell, and maybe even scream. You wanted an outlet for it,” she continues.

GM: The sisters look into each others’ eyes again, then slowly nod.

Caroline: “And you couldn’t do it in public, or with other people.”

GM: Another two nods.

“It’s… it’s not that we don’t ever get mad.” Yvonne.

“We’re not robots,” Yvette says with a forced-sounding chuckle.

“We do, ’ave, gotten mad at each other.” Yvonne.

“And done stupid things.” Yvette.

“It’s just…” Yvonne.

“It never really lasts.” Yvette.

“Like Ah said, Maman… always gets ’er way.” Yvonne.

“But even that doesn’t… that isn’t ’ow it is… well, mostly.” Yvette.

“Maman… always finds a way.” Yvonne.

“Oui, that’s it. And that way is ’er way.” Yvette.

“And everyone’s way.” Yvonne.

“Ah don’t know if we’re making much sense.” Yvette.

Caroline: “Everyone wants to get along, and she makes sure it happens,” Caroline answers.

GM: The two are quiet for another moment, then simultaneously nod.

“She always finds a way.” Yvette.

“To make everyone get along.” Yvonne.

“It doesn’t matter what it is, what it’s over…” Yvette.

“She always does.” Yvonne.

“She always finds a way everyone can be… ’appy.” Yvette.

“Like we said, your uncles…” Yvonne.

“…don’t ‘ave any idea what they’re in for.” Yvette.

Caroline: Caroline nods in understanding.

GM: “Because she only, always, wants to make everyone ‘appy… if it’s us.” Yvonne.

Caroline: “She only cares about her daughters,” she fills in. “The rest is all… secondary.”

GM: They look at each other again.

“Well, when you say it like that, it sounds…” Yvonne. “Well, ruthless.”

“But it’s… not wrong.” Yvette. “Ah mean, family does come first.”

“Ah mean, what else does, could?” Yvonne.

Caroline: “There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of ruthlessness,” Caroline agrees.

GM: That statement finally seems to bring a more genuine smile to Yvette’s face.


“Anyways…” Yvonne.

“It’s like you said.” Yvette.

“We wanted to be angry.” Yvonne.

“But it’s… it’s not even like we said.” Yvette.

“We weren’t really angry, at Cécilia.” Yvonne.

“Maman… found a way, like always.” Yvette.

“For everyone to be ’appy.” Yvonne.

“We just… wondered what we’d do.” Yvette.

“If we were really angry.” Yvonne.

“We weren’t angry.” Yvette.

“But we did it anyway. Just to…” Yvonne.

“It sounds insane.” Yvette.

Caroline: “It doesn’t,” Caroline reassures them.

GM: “So we did it. We read ’er diary.” Yvonne.

“And we read… ’ow Maman was raped.” Yvette.

“That’s what ‘appens when you’re mad at family,” they both say, almost concurrently. Their eyes start to look misty.

Yvette shakes her head, then dabs at hers and Yvonne’s. “We’ve cried enough for one night.”

“But that’s ’ow it felt. We wanted something to be mad over. To be… ’urt over.” Yvonne.

“So that’s… that’s what we got,” Yvette lamely finishes.

“She only told Cécilia.” Yvonne.

“And… Ah think that was right.” Yvette.

“She’s the oldest, the smartest…” Yvonne.

“Adeline’s smart.” Yvette.

“Oui, in a different way.” Yvonne.

“But Maman was right, just telling ’er.” Yvette.

Caroline: “And you felt bad, because you’d done something you felt was genuinely hurtful, by invading their relationship. But also hurt because she hadn’t told you. And you never told anyone about it?”

GM: The twins shake their heads.

“Non… Cécilia was right not to tell us.” Yvonne.

“There was…” Yvette.

Yvonne looks at her sister, but doesn’t say anything.

“…more in there,” Yvette continues slowly.

Her eyes drift across the room again.

“More, and… and worse.”

Caroline: “What’s worse than rape?” Caroline asks.

GM: “Oh god…” Yvonne whispers.

“Caroline, you’d… you’d never look at us, the same…” Yvette says in a small voice.

Caroline: “I don’t think any of us are looking at each other in quite the same way after tonight,” Caroline replies softly. “But that’s not always a bad thing.”

GM: “Non, non, it’s…” Yvonne nervously starts, only to be cut off as her sister cries, “You’d ’ATE us!”

“Yv-” Yvonne starts.

“You’d ’ATE us!” Yvette cries again, her eyes wet and feverish. “You’d think, you’d think… you’d think we were filthy…”

Caroline: “Yvette.” Caroline reaches out and pulls the weeping girl close to her breast. “I’d never look at you like that,” she soothes, lightly stroking her hair.

“You don’t have to share anything you don’t want to. We all have our secrets.”

GM: Yvette doesn’t, or perhaps can’t, say anything for a few moments. Yvonne scoots over on the couch too to hug her sister.

Caroline: Caroline extends her arm around both sisters.

GM: They lean their heads against each other. The twins sniff a few times. They close their eyes and take slow, steadying breaths. Caroline can feels their chests rising and falling against hers.

Her Beast licks its chops.

Two warm, vulnerable vessels. Literally draped over it. Their blood would be poor fare… but it’s available fare. Tauntingly, tantalizingly, available. It would be so easy. To whisper sweet nothings. To nuzzle their necks. To lick their skin as they cried and sought meaningless assurances. Meaningless against the taste of their hot blood filling her mouth. The girls are so beautiful. So young. So soft.

They could be hers.

Caroline: She focuses on human elements of it. On making her own chest rise and fall alongside theirs. On the mask she wears. Caroline Malveaux, heiress. Not Caroline Malveaux, monster. Not even Caroline Malveaux, Ventrue.

She snarls back at her Beast. These aren’t vessels.

It’s a joke. A masquerade, a lie to herself. Pretending to be human. Pretending that to her dead body they aren’t just another walking meal. Pretending she can care about anyone but herself.

But it’s a lie she has to tell for this existence to have any purpose. And not the first. It’s easier to swallow than many of the others.

GM: The three don’t snuggle so much as lie together, tired from the night’s revelations—and those that may be yet to come. Or that cannot come. Those that linger unsaid. Better to not say such things. Better to just rest in one another’s arms, and be accepted for the mask one presents.

It’s a comfortable enough moment. A fragile moment. No one seems to want to break it.

“You’d… you’re not filthy, Caroline…” Yvette finally murmurs. “Not like us…”

Caroline: They’re right of course. She’s not filthy like them. They might still someday get clean. She’s stained through and through. All the way to her core.

GM: “You can’t… know what that’s like… it being part of you…”

Caroline: “What being a part of you?” she whispers.

GM: “Being… being tainted.” It’s Yvonne who finally speaks this time. Her voice is a faint tremble. “Being something… your uncle would throw ’oly water at…”

Caroline: “There’s nothing wrong with you,” she reassures the girls again, gently squeezing them.

GM: Yvette re-closes her eyes. “Yes… yes there is… it’d destroy us, our lives… our family’s lives… if people knew…”

Caroline: “I know something about life-destroying secrets,” Caroline replies. “What could possibly be that bad?”

GM: “’Ave you?” Yvonne sniffs. “What… do you ’ave one?”

She gives an empty laugh like she’s asked ‘oh, do you have one too?’ to the question of the latest Solaris or Sunpad model.

Caroline: “My whole life is secrets,” Caroline replies hollowly. “One on top of the other.”

GM: “They can’t be that… your family isn’t, not like ours…” Yvette.

Caroline: “It can’t be that bad,” Caroline says again.

“I’ve hurt people. Ruined people’s lives. Tortured people,” she continues. “By any measure I’m the monster here.”

GM: “Only someone ’oo really deserved it,” Yvette asserts before her sister can say anything. She squeezes Caroline’s shoulder. “That Emmett person… ’e deserves to die.”

Caroline: “He will,” Caroline murmurs. “But it hasn’t just been him,” she admits.

GM: “You said it was someone ’else…” Yvonne starts.

“’Oo actually did it.” Yvette.

“Or do you mean… ’ose lives you ruined?” Yvonne.

“Ah’m sure, Ah’m sure they deserved it!” Yvette declares.

Caroline: “You remember that guy that stalked Cécilia?” Caroline states as much as asks.

GM: Both sisters nod.

“Good riddance,” Yvette adds.

Caroline: She bites her lower lip, hesitating.

“I visited him the night before he got arrested,” she admits.

GM: “Oh, did you do that too? Get ’im arrested?” Yvette asks admiringly. “Good riddance, like Ah said…”

“Cécilia really didn’t need to see ‘im at the ’earing, if that’s what you call it, to get the restraining order,” Yvonne adds. “We thought ’e might go after ’er when ’e got out… ah mean, Maman ’as been getting bodyguards and all, but… ’oo wants to deal with that. It was just such a relief.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “I was so angry at the time. A lot of things hadn’t been going… well. You have some idea. I thought it was something I could do that would be objectively good. And honestly, I wanted to hurt someone.”

“So I caught him sleeping, drugged him, and… I hurt him. I hurt him because he hurt Cécilia. I hurt him because I was angry.” She pauses before continuing more shamefully, “And I hurt him because I enjoyed it at the time.”

GM: “You were just doing what you thought was rah-” Yvonne starts.

Good,” Yvette interrupts. “’E deserved it, Caroline.”

Caroline: Caroline gives a short, bitter laugh. “Maybe he did, but what kind of person wakes up and decides to go hurt someone. To literally torture them?”

GM: “What kind of person makes mah big sister afraid in ’er own apartment? Feeling like she needs a bodyguard, just to be safe?” Yvette retorts. “’E deserved it,” she repeats.

Caroline: “You’re probably the only two teenagers in the city that would think that.”

GM: “Noëlle’s a teenager, technically,” Yvonne adds.

“Oui, she is 13.” Yvette.

Caroline: “I guess that means we’re all cut from the same cloth then.”

GM: The sisters’ faces plummet once more at Caroline’s declaration. The pain—and disagreement—in their eyes is all-too plain.

Caroline: Caroline bites her lip again before probing, “You two weren’t… you aren’t the product of what happened to her, are you?”

GM: The sisters meet one another’s eyes, then start crying.

Caroline: Caroline continues to hold them as they do. “God, why would you be ashamed of that,” she asks sympathetically. “Do you really think that I’d look at you two differently because of something you had no control over?”

GM: More tears flow as the twins jerkingly shake their heads.

“It’s n-not…” Yvonne sobs.

“Just… that…” Yvette.

Caroline: Caroline is silent, calmly letting them say what they need to.

GM: The two only continue to shake their heads.

“Ah’m… Ah’m sorr, Carol… we can’t…” Yvette.

“It’s not… not our secret…” Yvonne.

Caroline: She reaches out to stroke Yvette’s hair again. “It’s okay. I understand. We’ve talked a lot tonight, and not about very happy subjects. Enough is enough.”

GM: The two sniff and gratefully nod their heads.

Caroline: “You should talk to your mother about it though, if you haven’t,” she continues. “Keeping secrets bottled up isn’t good. And if down the line you still feel like you can’t talk to her for whatever reason, and need to talk to someone, I’ll still be here.”

GM: The sisters are silent for a long moment.

“Ah… Ah guess you’re right…” Yvette finally says.

“Maman… at least doesn’t ever get mad.” Yvonne.

“She’ll… she should know. That we… know.” Yvette.

Caroline: Caroline nods. “And maybe there’s something about this dark secret that you don’t know.”

GM: “Maybe…” Yvonne trails off. Her eyes aren’t hopeful, so much as hoping to have hope. “Maybe… there is something we don’t know-”

Yvette shakes her head. “Maman should know, that we know. But most of the time… you don’t ‘ide secrets because they’re ‘armless. You ’ide them because they’re dark.”

She gives a faint shudder.

“Ah ‘ope there isn’t more we don’t know. Ah think there’s enough dark in us already…”

Caroline: You hide them because they’re dark.

Caroline reflects on the secret of her own Requiem. The nature of her Embrace, and the way it’s been hidden. The Devillers girl’s comment stays with her long after they’ve left for the night.


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