“I’ll miss you, Cici.”
Tuesday night, 7 April 2009, AM
GM: It’s not like feeling spent after sex. It’s more like feeling full after a big meal. A big meal that she fought tooth and claw against another predator to claim for her own. There’s bloody rips and tears all over skin. Some on his, but fewer. He didn’t take off his clothes and there’s not even blood on them. She’d see it in the dark if there was, with her sharp new senses, and definitely smell it too. He didn’t rip and shred her clothes like Veronica: his cold was relentlessly focused, deliberate, destroying exactly what parts of her he meant to. Her dress is intact, but it’s soiled with coppery-smelling red streaks and stains. She looks like a mess, next to him. He looks pristine. Immaculate.
He turns away from her. Stares out over the midnight city. The teeming streets. The glowing lights. The soaring skyline. The high wind blows against his unblinking, expressionless face.
Then he speaks. It sounds like a crack across a glacier.
“This will all be mine.”
His voice is powerful and low. It’s the first time she’s heard it. Actually heard it.
Celia: She does not presume to touch him. She wants to. To reach out, to tuck herself against his side, to stare out over the city with him. She remains half a step behind, off to one side. Comfortably close. Her wounds do not bleed, though they are bloody. She aches. For him, she aches, beyond the mere inconvenience of her bodily senses. It’s deeper than all that.
It’s a terrible, terrible thing he has done to her, to give her these words, this secret.
She takes a moment to find her voice once it settles inside of her.
Her expression will never be as flat as his. She will never be that cold. But the single word, unpacked, asks everything she needs to know: has she been stolen from him by an enemy, or has he delivered her to a friend?
Was she given or taken?
GM: His head does not turn away from the prize below. The city lights glitter like distant jewels. So far and yet so close.
“There is a place for you in my new order.”
“Tell me what he is planning.”
Celia: “To cover for you. Me. My Embrace. The harpy. They told her August.”
There’s a pause. Her eyes shut briefly. A place is vague. It could mean at his side. On his lap. At his feet. He did not answer her question.
“Did you tell me to kill him?”
Celia: Who was in her house? Who touched her? Who replayed the scene from so long ago that the idea it could be anyone but him is… unfathomable?
“He said it wasn’t him,” she offers.
GM: “Inform him I believed you to be Alsten-Pirrie’s childe, Embraced illicitly. She is to feign that I possess blackmail over her until such time as she and my sire are ready to use the knowledge of your existence against me. My demands of Alsten-Pirrie will be a source of intelligence to my sire.”
“Do not trust him. He is a serpent in the grass. His concern for you is but meant to cultivate your loyalty.”
The words are cool, intoned without inflection.
Celia: “And yours?” she dares to ask. Her voice is carefully neutral.
GM: He turns from the city. He faces her. He does not step closer, but his frigid gaze seems all too close, all too intense. She knows what lurks within its depths.
“Have you shared with him what you have shared with me?”
Celia: Sex? Blood? Obsession?
GM: He does not move. He does not look away.
“Could you share with him what you have shared with me?”
Celia: There’s no hesitation.
GM: “Earn his trust. Rise in his favor. Assist his intrigues against the Baron and Prince Vidal. Do so genuinely. The prince’s rule must be broken before the new era may come.”
Celia: Celia nods her head in acknowledgement and deference. “Yes, of course.”
GM: “Maxen Flores’ continued position is useful to me. Tell me how they will move against him.”
Celia: “They’ll know that I told you.” But she does so anyway: the tapes, the media connection, the political scandal. It’s enough to ruin him, they said.
GM: Donovan questions her as to exact specifics and particulars. Then he says,
“I am forewarned.”
Celia: “He doesn’t need his children to serve you. Or his ex.”
GM: “His usefulness is impaired without his offspring.”
There is no hate or passion to the words. Just simple, clinical assessment.
Celia: “His ex. My trust.”
GM: “He will surrender both and share custody of his children.”
There is no kindness in her sire’s achromatic eyes. There is no concern for their welfare. Or for his prize pawn’s. He might as well be switching to a different brand of drain cleaner.
Celia: “Thank you.”
Her eyes move past him, to the city. The city that will belong to him, the change that she will help bring about. His city. Hers no longer, for she is his, and if it were hers she would offer it up to him. She has fallen, and he has caught her. Her gaze moves back to his face, the eyes that she does not shy away from looking into.
“And my disappearance?”
GM: The city looks quieter, now. Still. Dawn is coming soon. A new dawn.
That’s always the quietest time of night. After the real crazies have finally worn themselves out, but before the sun’s rays yet tinge the horizon. It’s a subdued time. A time for waiting.
“Do as you will.”
Celia: She has more questions. More things she wants to know about him, about his plans, about everything. Would you have come back for me? echoes inside her mind. She wants to speak with him until her curiosity is sated. But she doesn’t ask. It’s better this way, safer not to know his secrets. If she doesn’t know she can’t tell, can’t ever be used against him.
She tells him that she understands. That she will do as he said.
GM: “Maxen Flores’ former wife will retract all politically damaging allegations. She will blame the Roberts and Cherry campaigns for any that become public.”
Celia: “She is owed. For what he did to her that night.”
GM: There is only that same expressionless look. Celia’s mother means nothing to this man. This Kindred.
Celia: She looks away. At her side her fingers curl into a fist, then uncurl.
“Do you know,” she asks slowly, “what he’s done to his family? To her?” She looks back to him. “To me?”
GM: “He taught you strength.”
Celia: “Was that your plan?”
She sounds more curious than confrontational. Her tone has lost its edge, dropped back to polite respect. As if they aren’t discussing the beatings, the abuse, the trauma that she underwent.
GM: “An advantageous byproduct. Maxen Flores’ former wife will receive monetary compensation in return for her cooperation in clearing his name.”
Celia can tell, from the flatness to his voice.
The money means nothing. Her mother’s suffering means nothing. Her mother’s compensation means nothing.
Just another ‘advantageous byproduct.’
Celia: Her thoughts threaten to spiral downward. Was she, too, simply an advantageous byproduct? Had he meant to Embrace her, or is he now just taking advantage of his mistake? Why didn’t you come back for me?
But he is ice. He does not care for her feelings. She keeps them tucked away inside where he cannot see, where they will not threaten to spill over into her mouth and then the air.
He put her where he needs her. Trust him.
“A favor,” she says at last. There’s no malicious ill will in the request, no grander idea to pull one over on him. Just simple practicality.
GM: Suddenly, the city’s lights aren’t distant but within-reach prizes. The skyscrapers are the ants now, not the people, all spread out below Celia like a gold tapestry. One that’s steadily drawing closer.
Because she’s falling. Falling thousands and thousands of feet as the night wind races against her body.
Celia: She doesn’t scream. There’s just the wind whipping past her, the ground looming ever closer.
Like last time.
GM: Suddenly, her sire’s arms are beneath her back and knees. The wind dies. Her fall stops.
“Rendered,” he states coolly.
Celia: Only this time he’s there. This time he keeps her from splattering, his arms beneath her, and there’s some small, growing part inside of her that is incredibly aroused. Her arms go around his neck, but her eyes stare down at the city below them.
“Rendered,” she repeats, faintly. Then she laughs, because what else can she do, and tucks her face against the rock that is his chest.
She’s falling, and he’s got her.
Tuesday evening, 7 April 2009
GM: Celia breaks the news to her still-bedridden mother. She accepts it, meekly. Like always.
She asks in a small voice if her ex-husband is going to pay her alimony. But she does not press for it. Child support, the insurance lawsuit, and her wages no longer being garnished gives her “plenty of money.” She will not press for more. She will not rock the boat.
She will comfort her children, during their days with her. She will try not to upset him. She will be a good ex. She will not cause problems.
She will recant her statements to the police. To the custody judge. She will ask for the restraining order to be rescinded. She will make whatever public statements he needs, to protect his reputation.
And maybe she should forget about dating. So it doesn’t confuse the kids. She is grateful to have them again. “That’s all that matters. The kids.”
It’s hard not to think back to the fire she showed outside the apartment with Em and Stephen.
“…and I’ll tell anyone, anyone who asks, there wasn’t any abuse,” she nods.
Her still-bruised and still-swollen face looks relieved.
No, not just relieved.
Celia: Celia tells her Maxen probably won’t be paying alimony. But there’s more money coming in, the money that Donovan promised. She tells her about it without mentioning his name or the deal that she struck with him. She tells her mom, too, that if she hadn’t agreed—if Celia hadn’t agreed—her life was forfeit. She has no doubt that Donovan would have killed Diana. Chosen her father over her.
It stings, that thought. Even when she isn’t with him her mind is. She wants him. Hates him. Loves him.
I’ll be a good ex, her mother says, and inside Celia is thinking the same. I’ll be a good childe.
But there will be no lifting of the restraining order. Maxen will not be allowed to see her, to touch her, to speak to her. Even without crying “abuse” there is cause for a woman to have no wish to see her ex, and Celia is not heartless. Not yet.
She tells her mother that dating is her own business, but points out that if the kids grow up without any healthy relationship models they might end up more damaged. Food for thought, at least. Celia thinks she should find someone nice, someone that cares for her. Maybe someone older, who doesn’t have children of his own, or whose children have already left home. Older men can be attractive, too, and generally have more manners, more to offer, more stability. That’s what Diana needs. Stability. Love.
GM: “But… but sweetie, I have to see him… dropping off and picking up the kids…” her mom protests.
Celia: “Third party,” she says shortly. “You are not seeing him ever again.”
GM: “I… I don’t want him to think I’m being hostile.”
Celia: “Maxen can think what he wants.”
GM: The fear in her mom’s eyes looks as if she cares quite a bit what Maxen thinks.
“But, the kids shouldn’t think that. It isn’t a good example for them.”
Celia: “That you’re standing up for yourself and refusing to see him? You’re right. What would they think if they knew their mother had a backbone?”
“Teach Sophia to bow to the men who will abuse her. Teach Logan and David that they can be abusive and it’s okay.”
GM: Her mother hangs her head.
“It… it is, sweetie… we might not like it, but that’s how it is…”
Celia: “You do not get to be weak. You do not get to give up because of a setback. You are out from under him and you will not live your life afraid of him. You have given that man twenty years. It’s time you live for you now.”
“You want to know what the children think? They think they want their mother to be happy. They want her to set a good example for them, so they learn what to do. Children learn from their parents. If Maxen isn’t going to show them how to be people then that falls to you. It’s all about the children, right? Then be the parent that they need.”
“They need your love. But you can’t love them if you don’t love yourself. Never seeing Maxen again? That’s an act of love.”
GM: “She’s right,” sounds a quiet voice from behind Celia.
It’s Emily. She still looks pretty pale. She sits down on the bed next to Diana.
Celia: Celia reaches out to put an arm around Emily. She gives a gentle squeeze, grateful for the support.
GM: Emily leans heavily against her. “My mom lost custody of me when I was 11, for a bunch of shit. I wrote to her, called her, a bunch of times, when she was in prison. She’d ask me to mail her things. Send her money. But she never really engaged with any of the things I tried to talk about, besides commissary, and when she got out she disappeared. Ignored all my calls and letters. I tried for years.”
“Oh, you poor, poor thing! I’m so s-” Celia’s mom starts.
Emily holds up a hand to cut her off. “I’m over it. Wasn’t trying to make this about me. My point is… you’re disrespecting yourself. When someone’s being shitty and you keep trying to be nice to them. ‘Turn the other cheek’ is dumb advice.”
“You’re disrespecting yourself when you keep trying and trying and trying and they don’t.”
Celia: Celia takes Diana’s hand in hers.
“He’ll get his, Momma. He will. Sometimes, the best revenge on a man like that is to just live your life. To not be afraid. To not cower at the mention of his name. He’ll know you’re happy, and that he lost. That he couldn’t break you. One day he will pay for every single thing that he has done. I promise you that. But now? Now you focus on you. Getting better. Rehabilitation. Happiness.”
Both of these women, they’re hers, and despite what Donovan wants, what Savoy wants, what Maxen wants, she will protect them. Keep them safe, even if she’s failed them in the past.
GM: Celia’s mother gives the two a weak smile as she squeezes her daughter’s hand. Maybe their impassioned and urgent words are getting through to her. Maybe they’re not. It has been hard, these past months.
But they have time.
Celia has an accord with her sire.
Perhaps that will be enough to heal.
“There’s… someone else I have to live for, too,” her mom finally says.
Emily shakes her head. “You should live for yourself right now. That’s the best thing for your kids. They’ll be able to tell, if you’re doing that.”
Celia: “Think she means you, Emmy. Welcome to the family.”
GM: Her mom looks confused. “Oh?”
Emily looks away, her cheeks immediately red.
“Oh!” Celia’s mom exclaims.
She wraps her arms around Emily, pulling the girl into a hug.
“I’m… my fault, I didn’t bring it up, say anything about my mom… I thought maybe Celia could bring it up…” Emily starts embarrassedly.
Celia: “I did,” Celia says pointedly. “I think the pain meds are messing with her memory.”
GM: Celia’s mother wilts under her daughter’s look.
“I’m sorry. You’re right. It’s my fault.”
Celia: “Mom,” Celia says, laughing, “it’s okay. You went through some stuff. Memory is bound to be spotty. But we talked about it, Em.”
GM: “I can have a bad memory,” her mom nods, smiling as Celia does. “The meds and all this stress don’t help.”
“But, forget that.” She squeezes Emily reassuringly. “The answer is yes. Of course you can live with us! Of course you can be part of our family! You’ve been here for us, like a rock. We’d love nothin’ more than to be here for you.”
Emily slowly looks up at her. Doesn’t quite make eye contact. “You… you mean that? You’ll…”
Her voice is small, like it’s a stupid, childish ‘I believe in Santa Claus’ fantasy she should know better than to say out loud.
“…be my mom…?”
Celia: Celia wipes at the dust debris that somehow got into her eyes. She looks over Emily’s back at Diana, nodding encouragingly, discretely.
GM: Celia’s mother seems to miss the look altogether. She has eyes only for Emily right now.
“Of course I will, sweetie! I’d love to be your mom!” she exclaims, squeezing the woman tighter. “Any girl as wonderful as you should get to have a mother. See, I even called you sweetie, just like Celia. It’s official.”
But she smiles, too.
Celia: Definitely dust. She looks away, wipes at her face, sniffs into the sleeve of her shirt.
Family isn’t who you’re born to. It’s who you choose. And this is who she chooses.
Wednesday evening, 8 April 2009
GM: It’s not until tomorrow when the three talk again that Celia’s mom says she has “an announcement.”
“We got a little distracted, yesterday,” she smiles, rubbing Emily’s cheek.
Celia: “Good news, Momma?”
GM: “Yeah… Mom, is it good news?” Emily smiles back. She’s leaning against Diana’s shoulder. She’s been like velcro, since yesterday.
Their mom happily looks between them. “Yes, you two. It’s very good news.”
“It’s a little scary. But it’s very good news.”
She lowers her voice, as though it’s a secret.
“I’ve got a bun in my oven.”
GM: Emily gives a faint frown. “It’s a little early to tell.”
Celia’s mom shakes her head. “I’ve baked a lot of buns. I just know. And I’ve missed my period.”
Celia: “Is it… Maxen’s?”
GM: She’s quiet at Celia’s question.
“I’ve never been with another man.”
She looks away.
“I’m sorry, that’s… not true. There will be no secrets in this family. I have been with Maxen and one-”
Celia: “I know,” Celia cuts her off, “you don’t need to explain. Are you keeping it?”
GM: She trails off at Celia’s question. “Of course, sweetie! What else would I do with it?”
Celia: “He can’t know. He can’t get his hands on this child, Mom.”
GM: “You could take a pill,” Emily suggests quietly. “It’s early enough you could still do that.”
Their mother shakes her head. “Oh, sweetie, I couldn’t ever. That’s murder.”
Celia: “He does not get to know,” Celia repeats, more firmly. “You can’t hide the fact that you’re pregnant or going to have a child, but you can hide whose it is if you’re dead set on keeping it.”
GM: Her mom’s face pales.
“Oh… oh my god, you’re right… he’ll know…”
“Isabel will definitely tell, from what you’ve said about her,” Emily agrees grimly.
Celia: “He’ll ruin it. And you.”
GM: Her mother puts her hands over her mouth.
“Maybe… if he knows… he’ll want me to take care of it, with diapers and feedings and all…”
Celia: “He won’t,” Celia says flatly. “He’ll want to keep it. Demand custody, if he knows that it’s his.”
Or will he? The fact that he got her pregnant means that they had intercourse, which is proof of the rape happening. It’s… something to keep in her back pocket, at least, in case things don’t work out.
“Do you want the child, Mom? Forget about him. Do you want to keep it? Last time this happened it resulted in your life being ruined. And if you want to keep it, I’m not going to fight you on it. Fighting ruined your relationship with your mother, I’m not going to let it ruin ours. So think about it, and tell me: do you want it?”
GM: “Yes, sweetie! With all my heart!” her mom exclaims. “You and your brothers and sisters have all been blessings, every one of you. This baby is God’s way of showing good can still come from bad, that wonderful things can come from tragedies. Just like you did.”
Celia: “Then you keep it. But Maxen does not get to know. Nobody gets to know. We will find you someone that you can pretend is the father, and the relationship can fail as it needs to, and he will never get his hands on this child.”
GM: “But… but sweetie, if he thinks I’ve been with another man…” her mom whispers. Her eyes are wide with fear.
Celia: “You are not married to him, Mom!”
GM: “It’s not his business who you’ve been with!” Emily exclaims, angrily.
Diana looks between them. “It… it doesn’t matter, you two, that’s not how he’ll see it…”
Celia: “He’s never going to see you.”
GM: “But he’ll know! I can’t hide this!”
Celia: “And if Isabel tells…” Celia trails off. If Isabel tells, she’ll rip out her tongue.
“You can and you will.”
GM: “Logan is 11,” says Emily slowly. “Kids aren’t always good at keeping secrets.”
“They can be, if they think it’s really important.”
Celia: “If you don’t make a big deal out of it, they won’t care.”
GM: “But this could get out. Guys like him… tend to pry into ex’s lives.”
Celia: “I will handle it.”
“This is your first step into doing something for yourself, Mom. If you want to keep it, it’s for you. Not him. And if you don’t want to… I know someone who can… who will help. Painlessly.”
“No one will ever know. You won’t have to raise another child of rape. You won’t have to worry about Maxen coming after you.”
GM: Her mother adamantly shakes her head.
“Life is life, Celia. Maybe this is even why God let… what happened to me, happen.”
Celia: “Then you keep it a fucking secret if you want to keep yours.”
“Or we say it’s mine.”
GM: Her mom blinks. “To the kids, you mean?”
Celia: “You have months of recovery ahead of you. We can draw it out. Once you give birth, you can see them again, and surprise, Celia had a baby.”
GM: “But what about you, sweetie?” her mom asks concernedly. “Your dad will want to see you, and you’re not pregnant…”
“He doesn’t get to see her either,” Emily says flatly.
Celia: “He won’t want to see me,” Celia says flatly.
GM: “Huh. Great minds,” remarks Emily.
“But I need to see the kids,” her mom says. “I can’t leave them with him, for nine months…”
“They’re staying with him half the time anyway,” says Emily.
Celia: “Then, what, you want to run back into his arms? Raise the baby with him?”
GM: Her mom doesn’t say no.
GM: “Maybe… that would be easiest…”
“He’s not going to smack you around again.”
GM: “Fuck. No,” says Emily.
Celia: “I will gut him if he touches you.”
She’d already promised to.
Tuesday night, 7 April 2009, AM
GM: There’s wind again, beneath Celia’s feet. Motion. They’re not thousands of feet up. They’re on the building’s roof again. Celia is standing to his side as he surveys the sprawling city below.
There is no pleasure on his face. No anticipation. His mask-like visage is as ice. There is no sign of what he is thinking.
Save for where he is looking.
Celia: Celia is quiet for a time. Her dead heart has finally ceased its gushing after another drop from thousands of feet in the air. She has finally set the giddiness aside. There’s danger here. She is all too aware of it, aware of the fact that she has pushed and pushed since she met with him this evening, skirted the line of insubordination when he just welcomed her into the fold. Custody. Her trust. Mom.
And this is it. The final thing.
“You don’t want to owe me,” Celia says after a time. She gets it. It scares her, the fact that she cannot just call on him if she is ever in deep trouble, but she gets it. “And you don’t care about my mother. You’ve made that clear. But I do. I care about her very deeply. I’ll play your game. I’m yours. But keep your dog on a leash. If Maxen goes after her. If he touches her.” She lets the words hang between them. “He doesn’t need a punching bag to be useful to you.”
GM: The dark man does not turn away from the building’s ledge.
“He will be supplied other amusements.”
The words are as bereft of significance as a single mote of light in the glittering sprawl below.
“I owe you nothing for noninterference with my property.”
His voice is cool.
“I will not show restraint towards you a second time.”
Celia’s still on that ledge with him.
But it’s a long, long, long drop down.
Celia: The night is not half so cold as him.
She puts the matter to rest. Diana is free. There will be no more monsters in her life.
None but Celia.
She steps closer to her sire. Her eyes trace the planes of his face, the hard lines of his body. The ledge calls her. Beckons. Danger, adrenaline, the heady rush of ecstasy. Like falling. Like him. She turns her eyes out across the city. She knows the truth of it now. Anything for him.
She wants to touch him but she’s afraid he’ll take her hand off at the wrist if she does.
She’s silent instead. She is thinking the same thing as him.
“This will be yours.”
Wednesday evening, 8 April 2009
GM: “Sweetie, please don’t… please don’t try something, if he gets mad,” her mom begs. “We don’t want to lose you.”
Celia: “I’m not afraid of Maxen.”
“Decide what you want to do, Mom. Keep it and pretend it isn’t his, or say that it’s mine.”
GM: “You should be!” Her mom looks even more scared at those words. “Please don’t do anything… anything that’d upset him!”
“And… he is your father, sweetie,” she reminds, almost gently, as Celia uses his name.
“I thought family was who we chose, not who we were related to,” says Emily. “He’s un-chosen himself in so many ways it’s not funny.”
Celia: “I will not entertain the thought of calling him ‘Dad,’” Celia says to her mother. “He is not a father. He is garbage. He is nothing to me.”
GM: “Celia… he saved your life,” her mom says quietly. “He stood for you, when no one else would.”
Celia: “And then he summarily beat me and verbally abused me and tried to kill you. Twice.”
“Tell me why I should waste one more moment of my time on him.”
GM: “I’m not saying you should do that, sweetie, I’m just saying… he raised you. He was good to you, when it counted. You can call him your dad, even if he isn’t a very good one now.”
“Make a decision about what you’re doing with the child. I’m not wasting my time debating what to call him.”
GM: Celia’s mom gives a fretful look, but doesn’t press her daughter further. She’s always hated arguments.
“Well, I… I suppose we should…”
She trails off. She looks more anxious the more she thinks.
“We don’t need to decide right now,” Emily interjects. She rubs Diana’s shoulder. “You’ve been under a lot of stress, and we have time. Mom. We’ll figure it out.”
They always do.
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.
Celia: 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.
Celia: Cici. The familiar nickname makes her smile. But like all things, 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 with hands that she belatedly realizes are as cold and dead as the rest of her. Pale. 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.
Celia: 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.
Celia: 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.”
Celia: If there had been any color to fade from her cheeks it would have done so. 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.
The implication catches up with her a moment later. Her eyes close. Breathing doesn’t help, it never does anymore, but she tries it anyway. 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.
Celia: 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. She’s glad she wasn’t waiting for him sans clothing; she’d thought about it.
Somehow the memory of waking him up with a handjob is worse than the other.
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.”
Celia: How the fuck would Emil know? She never told him. She can barely recall that long ago conversation in the basement she’d had with him.
“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.
He’s been drunk. Not on something, but by somebody.
Somebody like her.
Celia: Her lips press together in a thin line. Hers. He is hers and someone fed from him. Like everyone else in her life that she has let down, failed, couldn’t be there for. Patch one hole and another tear opens. She never thought she’d have to worry about Em.
“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 can’t even tell him everything, she has to be vague, even though she’s pretty sure he already knows.
Unless she brings him into it.
No, no, terrible idea.
She eyes him where he sits across the couch from her. It’d be easy.
And yet she came here to say goodbye, not tap open a vein.
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?”
Celia: Is it weird if she hugs him now? She moves anyway, scooches across the couch until she’s next to him and rubs a hand up and down his back. Nothing weird here. He’s so frail. It almost breaks her heart.
“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 probably shouldn’t touch him. 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.”
Celia: “Oh, no, Em. Em, no.”
The words come out low, crooning, and she dismisses the voice in the back of her head telling her not to touch the frail humans like him. She gathers him into her arms. It’s no easier than it would have been a few weeks ago, but 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.”
Except he did.
He’d said the same thing to her that night, too.
Emmett: “Will I… will I see you again?”
He’s fading fast. The monster in her can tell. Tired prey.
Celia: “Of course you will.”
It’s a blatant lie. She has no idea, but she can’t do this now. She has to get him to bed before he turns into a midnight snack.
“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 stops breathing other than to speak. 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.”
Celia: Maybe, some day in the future, she won’t feel anything anymore. Maybe if she says enough goodbyes her heart will break for good.
“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.
Tuesday night, 21 April 2009, PM
Celia: The call she makes to Stephen is a long time coming. They’d been in touch, briefly, while she settled everything with her mother, Maxen, and her sire. Now there is no more putting it off.
She makes the call at 9:00 PM from her new phone. His number still isn’t saved, but there’s a call history that shows it’s her most frequent contact.
GM: He picks up immediately.
“Celia! What’s… what’s up?”
Celia: “Hey, Stephen. How’re you? Any word from your stalker?”
GM: “I don’t care about her right now. What’s happening with your dad? When can you be back?”
What happened with her dad?
Like most powerful men, he won.
Oh, the tapes came out. But he denied them. So did Diana, with a carefully made up face when the reporters came calling. Lots of concealer.
So did Isabel.
It’s hard to make allegations of domestic violence stick when the victims deny it happening.
It still broke the news. There was no way to put a lid on that.
There were calls for Senator Flores to resign.
He said the tapes were doctored. Fake.
There were other tapes, too. They were leaked to the press around the same time and showed assorted other politicos (Democrat and Republican) “raping” a very similar-looking teenage actress.
Isabel vehemently denied the rape allegations, too. She always stood by Daddy.
People aren’t idiots. Plenty, enough, seemed to think they were real. He’s probably the most publicly hated man in the legislature, now. There were even protests outside Audubon Place.
But there were high walls and armed guards to keep the riffraff out.
Celia: “He won,” she tells Stephen. There’s bitterness in her voice. She’d made it happen and she hates herself for it. She’d had him. Bent over. Dead to rights.
And she’d given it up.
She doesn’t have to tell him the story. He’s seen the news.
GM: “I know,” he says quietly. “I’ve followed the news. I’m… so sorry, Celia.”
“You must be so angry at your mom and sister.”
Celia: “We knew Isabel would lie. That’s all she does. Lies for him.”
GM: It came out soon, that actors were the ones in the tapes. Not the real Flores. Everything had been perfectly set up. The actors. Paper trails. Alleged ties to the Cherrys and Roberts. Maxen has filed a defamation lawsuit.
Everything prepared in advance of the media leak.
All thanks to Celia.
Celia: “I just feel like it’s all my fault.”
Because it is.
GM: Some silver lining. His rumored bid for governor is probably a long shot now. Safer candidates the party can turn to.
“It isn’t your fault. You did everything you could, Celia.”
Celia: She really did, didn’t she?
Everything she could to serve herself.
Her laugh lacks humor. There’s nothing funny about this. She broke two people and backed out when she finally had the chance to bring him down.
“I think I’m going away for a while,” she says at last. “Until the fire from my dad dies down.”
GM: “Where do you want to go?” Stephen asks.
“I’m graduating soon, from Tulane. I’ve been accepted to a fair number of law schools.”
“We could pick a city. You could finish cos school and do salon work there, while I learn to be a lawyer.”
Celia: He’s too good for her.
Much too good.
Any thought she had of bringing him into this goes out the window. He deserves more than slavery to evil monsters straight out of horror films.
She presses the phone against her cheek with both hands, ignoring the burning in her eyes. She doesn’t have to breathe so there’s no sniffle for him to hear.
“You shouldn’t be weighed down by me,” she finally says.
GM: “I’m not being weighed down by you.” She can hear the frown. “There’s plenty of law schools as good as Tulane. Better, even.”
“I’ve spent all my life here, anyway. I’d enjoy seeing more of the country.”
Celia: “Like where?”
GM: “You tell me. Where do you want to go?”
Celia: “How certain are you that this is what you want? To be with me?”
GM: “I’m totally certain, Celia. I can have a great legal career in lots of cities.”
“There’s also how I love you.”
Celia: “But without law school. If you had to be with me. Forever. Like literally forever. Would you do it?”
GM: There’s a pause.
“…this is a terrible way to ask me to propose, if that’s what you’re doing.”
Celia: She can’t help but think of Donovan. She’d flush, but there’s no one there to see, and she closes the page in her notebook that has his name scrawled a dozen times around a pair of dark and stormy eyes, a cape, an S.
Her answering laugh is weak, watery.
GM: “For real, though. Let’s talk in person.”
“This is a big conversation to have over the phone.”
Celia: “Tonique?” she suggests. “Twenty minutes.”
GM: “You’re back in town?” he asks with some surprise.
“Okay. Twenty minutes.”
Tuesday night, 21 April 2009, PM
GM: One third of an hour later, Stephen’s there at the cozy brick bar. His face lights up when he sees her, though it’s shadowed by concern too. Deep concern. But he sweeps Celia into an immediate hug.
She can hear the thum-thump of his heart. Smell the tang of his lifeblood, so sweet with concern for her.
Celia: “Stephen.” Her arms go around him automatically, but there’s warmth in her voice that isn’t in the rest of her. She holds him close to her, presses her face against his chest. “I’ve missed you.”
GM: Feeling like that doesn’t come along every night. He’d be a sumptuous vessel.
He holds her close. “God, I’ve missed you too.”
“I’m so sorry how this all panned out.”
“I really thought we had him dead to rights.”
Celia: She can’t be this close to him. The temptation to sink her teeth in is… too much. She pulls back as soon as is socially acceptable, pats the stool he’d been sitting on.
“We did,” she sighs. “We did. He… must have more people in his corner than we realized.”
GM: “You get used to the bad guys winning as a lawyer, and things not getting wrapped up with a neat little bow.”
“But the arc of the universe is long and bends towards justice.”
“And until it does, this is a good place to be.” He glances around sardonically at the bar. “Buy you a drink?”
Celia: “Did you forget I’m underage?” she smiles a sheepish smile. But she’d picked this bar because they card, and she… no longer drinks. Nothing that’s on the menu, anyway.
“Coke is fine.”
GM: “Oh. Right.” He chuckles and orders two Cokes from the bartender.
“Do you want to go somewhere to eat, too?” He looks at her concernedly. “You look like… things have been rough. Really rough.”
Celia: That offer is too tempting. But she shakes her head, waves off his concern.
“Rude,” she says with a smile, “but I know what you mean. I’ve… seen better days.”
GM: “I think that’s a good idea,” Stephen says. “To just get away for a while.”
He sips the Coke.
Celia: “I agree. Oh, God, do I agree. But Stephen… I…” she trails off, helplessly. “I love you. I do. But I’m broken. You know that, right? That I’m a broken person, that I come from a broken home, that everything I touch… it breaks too, Stephen. Everything. I ruin people.”
She can’t help but think of the very same conversation Em had with her that night her life went to shit.
“I don’t want to ruin you. And I will. A day, a month, a year, it’ll happen. I can’t do that to you.”
GM: “What?” Stephen frowns.
“Look, Celia, no one’s perfect. We’re all broken, to varying extents. Everyone’s got issues.”
“But we get by. And maybe we make the people we love a little less broken.”
Celia: “That’s the problem, Stephen. I don’t want you to get by. I want you to do amazing things. I want you to go off and… and break up the mob, and put bad people away. Bad people like my dad. And you can’t do that if you’re stuck with me. You can’t.”
GM: Stephen looks at her.
“…are you breaking up with me?”
“Because that’s bullshit.”
Celia: She opens her mouth. Closes it. Looks away from him.
GM: “That’s bullshit!” he repeats, angrily. “I can do that, if I’m with you! We’re the people who got your dad’s name in the newspapers, all the talking heads saying he can’t run for governor, and those protesters outside Audubon! Tell me that’s not something worthwhile!”
Celia: Her eyes find his face again.
“That was you?”
GM: “Yes! We pushed your mom, remember? Got her to talk to a lawyer and report the abuse to the cops? That’s what kicked all of this off.”
“Yeah, he’s still a senator, because your mom decided she’d rather stick by her abuser. But we still made a difference. This isn’t the end.”
“I told you that I don’t expect I’m going to take down the Mob, when we first met. It’s not going to happen overnight.”
“But it is going to happen. That’s how the law works. It’s slow, and it’s frustrating, and there are so many roadblocks and half-victories and stupid technicalities that sometimes you want to throw up your hands and call it quits. But eventually, we or our kids or our kids’ kids finally get it right. Justice wins out.”
“That’s worth it. And if it isn’t, what the hell is?”
Celia: She hates herself for what she’s about to do. But he deserves better than this. Better than her, who threw it all away, who had Maxen in the palm of her hand and then tossed it aside when her sire came calling.
Too good for her. That’s what she tells herself.
“I cheated on you,” she finally says. “I went out, and I got drunk, and I went home with some guy I didn’t know. And I woke up in his bed, naked. I cheated on you. And then I lied about it when you asked. Em? The guy you saw me with? I called him to come get me instead of you because I couldn’t look at you after what I’d done. So there you go, Stephen, that’s why we can’t be together. Because I cheated on you. Like a… like a whore.”
He deserves better.
GM: Stephen stares.
He looks like Celia just punched him.
“Wow,” is all he says.
Celia: She wouldn’t know. She can’t look at him now. She wishes the floor would swallow her.
GM: Her (former?) boyfriend doesn’t say anything. She can feel his stare. It’s not a knife, like Donovan’s. Like Veronica’s. Like any of the other Kindred’s. She’s weathered worse.
But it hits right where it hurts most.
“So this was before you said you loved me?” he finally asks.
“Yeah. It was.”
“You called Em to get you. Because you couldn’t look at me.”
“So that whole moment. In the car. It was all just… a lie.”
Celia: She closes her eyes. Takes a breath. It doesn’t do anything. She doesn’t feel any more calm, any more level.
It’s easier to lie here. To tell him that it was a lie. That she never felt anything.
But that’s the lie, isn’t it? Because she did feel something. Does feel something. Still feels something, despite everything.
Let him hate her and it’ll be easier, won’t it?
He’ll move on. Find a nice girl. Settle down. Do great things.
And she’ll play with monsters.
It’s all she can give him now. An apology. For doing what she did. For not doing what she wants to do.
It’s the right thing. It has to be.
GM: “Did you use a condom with him?” Stephen asks, his voice sharp. “Was that his baby you took a pill over?”
“His baby, and not mine? That I beat myself up over you getting an abortion over?”
Celia: She looks as if he just hit her. She reels backwards. Slides off of the stool.
“I’m sorry,” she says again. “I am. I would… I’d do anything to take back the last few weeks. And I can’t. I have to go.”
She moves past him toward the door.
GM: Stephen grabs her arm.
Celia: The presumption. The gall. How dare he.
It comes up, snarling and snapping inside of her. For a moment she’s afraid it has won, afraid that she’s about to tear him to pieces.
But instead of the Beast it’s the Beauty. Jade. Hard. Cold. And very, very angry.
She jerks her arm out of his grip.
“It was my mistake to bring you here,” she says, “and it will be your mistake if you make a scene. Are you another Maxen Flores, to put your hands on a woman?”
GM: There’s apprehension on Stephen’s face, for a moment.
But not enough to drown out the furious red.
“Are you another Maxen Flores, to treat the people you say you love like shit?” he shoots back.
Celia: “I could have lied to you for years, is that what you’d prefer? Ignorance? At least you know, now.”
GM: “Why the fuck would you do that!?” Stephen fairly explodes.
“Hey, you kids, ease up,” a bystander interrupts. People in the bar are starting to stare.
“Oh, fuck you too!” snarls Stephen.
“Right. Time for you guys to fi…”
Celia: Celia grabs Stephen by the arm this time.
GM: No one stops them on their way out.
“Why the fuck would you cheat on me!?” Stephen repeats, his face livid.
Celia: “Because my daddy beat me and your love will never be enough to undo nineteen years of emotional abuse.”
GM: “That doesn’t even make any… no! You don’t get to hide behind that!”
Celia: “He raped my sister. Do you think he did any less to me? Do you think he treated me well when he wasn’t calling me names, that stupid was the worst of it? I told you that you’re better off. I cheated on you to prove it. So walk away, Stephen.”
GM: Stephen looks like Celia just hit him again.
But the red starts to drain from his face.
“Celia…” he starts. His voice is shaky. He plants his hands on her shoulders.
“You need help.”
Celia: “I know.”
GM: “Tell me you’re…”
He suddenly pulls her close against his chest. His voice is a tremble in her ear.
“Tell me you’re getting help. You need… you need help.”
He sounds like he’s starting to cry.
Celia: This is bad.
This is bad, bad, bad.
She doesn’t pull away. She nods, the movement small against his chest. She closes her eyes to keep the flood down. Even cheated on, lied to, he still cares.
Moments like these, she hates them for what they did to her.
GM: He holds her. For a while, he just cries.
He smells delicious. He does care. You can’t fake taste like that, in the blood. You can’t fake real sorrow. Vulnerability. He’s so open. She has taken so much from him already.
She could make him, them, feel so good…
His hands stroke her hair before he manages,
“Tell… tell me how. Where. When. You’re getting help.”
Celia: It’s a struggle to keep herself in line.
She can’t. She can’t. She can’t.
She hasn’t fed like this, not out in the wild, not on her own, not without someone watching in case she loses it. She can’t do it to him. It’s wrong.
But it’d be fitting, wouldn’t it? First time.
She can feel them in her mouth. Fangs.
“I saw a… therapist. Her name is Mel. She helps. Explains. Listens when I talk to her.”
He’s so close.
“She mentioned relegating. Medication.”
She can hear his heartbeat. Smell his tears. Feel his warmth.
GM: She feels his warmth. His pain. His desperation. His love.
Against her arms.
Against her breasts.
In her mouth.
In her mouth.
Celia: He’s right there. It’s so easy. Shift him slightly, open her mouth, let the fangs come out. Pierce his skin, like had been done to her, like she has done so many times before. She bites. Sucks. Drinks.
He’s sweet. Figuratively. Literally.
She swallows it down. A second, two, she doesn’t know. She wants more. There’s never enough. She could bite again. Deeper. Tear his throat open. Isn’t the carotid right here somewhere? How quickly it’d come out then, pour all over her, drench her in it, leave her full and sated.
But this is Stephen. She came here to end things, not to end him.
She keeps a lid on it. Pulls back, licks the wound as she goes. Her lips find his.
Then she’s gone.
GM: “Celia…!” he calls after her.
Like those blood dolls at the Evergreen do.
She could take him, as one of them. He’d enjoy it. She knows he would. He’d make fewer crying noises.
More happy noises.
Her own little toy.
Celia: Her own.
She almost stops. Almost turns back to him. He’d love her. Forever.
Isn’t that what she wants?
Then she remembers what is was like. The fear. Not knowing if she’d live or die. Bargaining for her life because she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Never knowing if this word would be her last. Balancing on the edge of a knife, and neither side is a win.
No. No, no, no.
Not Stephen. He’s too decent for that. Too good. Too pure. She’d been pure, too, when she met him, and he’d been gentle and soft and nice. There’s no niceness where she’s going. His body might live, but his soul would die.
She runs. She runs as far and as fast as she can. She doesn’t look back.
But she knows.
She can never outrun what she is.