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Blood and Bourbon

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Story Thirteen, Celia IV

“People have done things to me. Used me. Hurt me. I couldn’t be Celia around them.”
Celia Flores


Monday night, 14 March 2016, AM

GM: It’s a short trip back to Randy’s house to drop off Dani, who mentions that her mother and other ghouls are asleep there. After that, it’s another trip back to her haven. Roderick’s left a note saying he’d go “stir crazy” staying there after talking with Dani, but says he’ll be back by dawn.

He gets back earlier. He doesn’t seem to want to talk much, just fuck.

He’s enraptured by her. He loses himself in her. They fuck each other silly, again and again, before falling sleep in another’s arms.

Evening comes. Celia awakens to texts from her ghouls and Emily. Alana says she’s at Flawless, along with her mother, and asks if Celia’s going to come by. It’s been a while since she saw any clients.

The ghoul also says she’s “been in touch with one of your friends.”

Celia: Celia lets Alana know that she’ll be by shortly. She checks the text from Emily as well, assuming it’s also about her mother.

GM: It is. She mentions that Diana took a “mental health day” together with Lucy, and asks if Celia thinks things are all right and whether it has anything to do with Maxen.

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GM: There’s also a phone message from Diana about dates for dinner with Maxen. She wants Celia’s opinion.

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Celia: They’re all there. That’s convenient.

GM: Dani’s also sent a text thanking Celia for being there for her last night, and asking if they talked about getting her laptop + textbooks + clothes. She forgot all about that.

She mentions Alana also brought her to the spa.

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Logan’s sent Celia a MeVid video of a talk show host taking down an angry liberal professor.

oh yeah you wanna do anything with those evenings still?

Celia: There’s a lot to get back to. Celia handles it all relatively quickly.

She lets Dani know that she’s on her way in and will be speaking to her mother shortly about it to set things right.

Thanks for the heads up. Appreciate you. And happy to help.

Celia watches part of the video and texts Logan back that, he sure showed that guy lol.

Before she answers his question she looks to Roderick.

GM: He looks back at her as he finishes dressing.

“I’ll bet you $10 these clothes will be off again before I leave the door,” he smiles.

Celia: “Probably,” she agrees.

“My brother has a rage problem. You think boxing is a good outlet?”

GM: “Hm. I’m not a boxer, but my clan has fights to get our rage out. They can help. We’d probably be worse without them.”

Celia: “I just don’t want him to get kicked out of school. Or the ROTC.”

GM: “If he’s angry, he needs an outlet. Rage doesn’t go away on its own.”

Celia: “Maybe you can smack him around.” Celia grins at him.

GM: He smiles at her remark.

“I probably could, if you want me to.”

Celia: “Would your Beast try to get out?”

GM: “Only if he’s able to hurt me. But unless he’s a hunter or world-class badass, that’s hard for ordinary breathers to do.”

Celia: “Just an angry college kid.”

Have some ideas. When do you want to hang to chat? she texts back to Logan.

“What’re you up to tonight, then?” Celia asks Roderick.

She hasn’t bothered getting dressed yet, so when she rises from the bed she’s still naked from their coupling the night before.

GM: How’s tomorrow or the day after? he shoots back.

“It’s a Monday. Law work to start off with,” says Roderick. “My day job.”

“Moving more things to the new temporary haven I’ve set up. It’s another apartment until I finalize things with a house.”

Celia: Wed prob good. Looking forward to it.

“Did you find a house or you’re still looking? Remember: closet space.”

GM: “I’ve found a couple I like. Still deciding. Closet space in them all, though.”

k cool

His smile from surveying her naked form dims a bit. “How did things go last night with Dani after I left?”

Celia: “It… went well, I think. She asked that I not try to spare her feelings anymore.”

GM: “That sounds like her. Does she want to see me again?”

Celia: “She didn’t say no. But I think she needs some time to come to terms with everything. We’ve talked about some ideas for her on how to handle things.”

GM: “I feel like I really blew things.”

Celia: Celia is quiet for a moment.

“D’you want honesty?”

GM: “Always.”

Celia: “It could have been worse. You could have lost control and hurt one of us. But… yeah. It didn’t go well.”

GM: “I didn’t expect her to be so angry.”

Celia: “She’s been in your shadow her whole life. She thought she finally had something of her own.”

“And I… I could have prepared her better. I just… I didn’t know how.”

She finds the floor with her eyes.

“Are you mad at me?”

GM: He lifts her face up to meet his. “Of course not. I could never be mad at you for taking care of her.”

Celia: “I just wanted her to be happy with the hand she was dealt.” She presses her face against his chest. “Everyone is so awful about them, and she was so sad, and she’s been through so much.”

“I’m going to find who did this to her.”

GM: He hugs her. “Me too. I’m glad you were there for her.”

“I can’t do much to help look around the Quarter. But once you find them.” He gets a dark look. “Leave them to me.”

Celia: “I will.”

Then, “Is it wrong that the thought of you beating the shit out of someone is kind of a turn on?”

GM: “I think it’s something all girls like, on some level.”

Celia: “Mm. We’re all damsels, et cetera. Spank me harder, Daddy.” Celia rolls her eyes at him.

GM: “I’ll point out you’re the one who wanted me to spank you, too,” he smirks.

Celia: “You offered. I just confirmed I’m into it.”

GM: “Was I kidding when I offered? Spanking doesn’t really do it for me.”

Celia: “Oh.”

GM: “But if you’re into it, I do still owe you.”

Celia: “No, it’s okay. Asking you to do something you’re not into will kill my boner.”

“I have a whole fantasy around it, anyway. It’s silly.”

Libido sufficiently smothered, Celia asks if he’d like to meet back here at 10:30 to get ready.

GM: “Sure.” He looks rather less than thrilled. “What’s the fantasy, though?”

Celia: “Things you already told me you’re not into. Schoolgirl stuff. Rulers.” She tries not to think of Paul. He had liked her in plaid skirts and white knee-highs. “But I’ve got a bunch of them. We can list ‘em all out one of these nights, find something we both vibe with. Wouldn’t mind doing it in public again, though not needing to breathe means the whole ‘be quiet’ thing isn’t as much of an issue…”

Celia smiles up at him.

“We’ve got eternity to try it all. And, really, as long as it’s with you I’m happy.”

“I love you, Rod. Even though your nickname is Rod.”

GM: He smiles back at her.

“I love you too, Celia. You’re the one lick who’s honest with me. The one lick not working some kind of angle.”

“Fantasy list sounds like a great idea. We’ll find some that click for us both.”

Celia: There’s only one lick she’s ever been fully honest with and it’s not him. Too much rides on keeping her mouth shut. But she isn’t out to hurt him, and none of what she’s keeping deep inside has any bearing on them.

“I’d do anything for you.”

One night, maybe, she can tell him everything.

Just not tonight.


Monday evening, 14 March 2016

Celia: Celia waits until Roderick leaves to finish getting ready for the night. She takes a quick rinse in the shower, selects an outfit, and spends a bit of time in front of the mirror fixing her face to make her look like herself again. Her aged self, anyway, which to some extent is just another mask, but it’s the one that they’ll expect at the spa.

It doesn’t take long before she’s out the door and on her way to Flawless in the standard spa uniform: black yoga pants and a fitted shirt that has her business name scrawled across the front. A pair of pink sneakers that match the lettering completes the look.

She stops by Alana’s office first.

GM: Her ghoul meets her there. Lucy sits on Alana’s desk.

“Deacon Benson got back to us, mistress. She’s willing to meet you in Marigny at 2 AM tonight.”

Celia: “Excellent. Thank you. Any word from Carolla or Cambridge?”

She’s a little disconcerted to see the doll on her desk. Hadn’t she put her in a bag to find someone to speak for her?

A plan she’d abandoned with Dani in tow.

Tonight, then, before she meets Elyse.

GM: “Carolla says he can meet tonight at 4 or Thursday at 1.”

Celia: “Thursday.” Something to look forward to. They can take their time.

GM: “All right, mistress. Cambridge said he was thinking 8 or 9 on Wednesday, so you have some time on the casino floor.”

Celia: “I can make that work. Let’s do 9.”

“When is your audition for the show? Did they reach out about that yet?”

GM: “Yes, mistress. That’s on Wednesday at 1 PM.”

“I tried to get a night audition, in case you wanted to do it, but those seem to mostly be for independent films.”

Celia: “I’m sure you’ll knock it out of the park,” Celia smiles at her. “But I appreciate the effort.” She leans in, nuzzling Alana’s neck with one hand on her hip and the other cradling the back of her head.

“You’ve been so very amazing these past few nights with everything going on. You really stepped up. I have a seduction job tomorrow evening; would you like to come with me and we can share him? And afterward,” she whispers in her ear, “you and I can spend some alone time together.”

GM: “Yes, mistress,” the ghoul purrs under Celia’s touch, leaning into it as her breath catches in her throat. “I’d love that, so much. That sounds wonderful.”

“Can we sleep together, too? I hate the thought of you lying anywhere by yourself, during the day.”

“Someone should always be around to admire your perfect body…”

Celia: “Certainly, ‘Lana. I hope you’ll wake me the next night with your mouth, or maybe that toy…”

GM: “I’ll give you a wakeup you’ll never forget, mistress,” beams Alana. “I’ve missed sleeping with you.”

Celia: “I know, darling.” Celia trails kisses up her throat to her mouth. “But I’m here for you.”

GM: The ghoul kisses her rapturously back. “I’d still love to suck your cock, if you want to include that in our alone time…”

“I love the thought of getting on my knees for you…”

Celia: Celia nudges her backwards until the ghoul’s backside touches the desk. Her hands roam the perfect body she’s created.

“I do,” she murmurs, squeezing one of those shapely breasts in her hand. Her thumb traces the nipple. “I want to turn myself into a boy for you and take you like a man takes a woman. With everything that entails.”

GM: The nipple quickly stiffens under her touch. Alana whimpers and closes her eyes, smiling as Celia enjoys the body she designed.

“Just the thought is making me wet… master,” the ghoul purrs.

“I’ve never seen you make yourself a man…”

Celia: Celia slides a hand down Alana’s front and under the waistband of her skirt to check for herself. Two fingers come away slick.

“I’ve never wanted to be a man for anyone but you.” Celia brings the fingers to Alana’s lips. “Taste yourself,” she murmurs.

GM: The ghoul takes Celia’s wrist in her hands, gets down on her knees, and starts slowly sucking. She moves her head back and forth as her tongue plays between Celia’s fingers. A preview of the oral pleasures to come.

Celia: Celia watches the ghoul sink to her knees. Her fangs grow long in her mouth at the sight; she itches to hoist the girl back up and bend her over the desk, but she has nothing to fuck her with. She’s jealous of all the men in the world who can just take what they want. Tomorrow, though. Tomorrow she’ll have a cock. Tomorrow she’ll show Alana how much she appreciates her.


Monday evening, 14 March 2016

Celia: Celia leaves her ghoul quivering in delight with a final lingering kiss and a promise to show her a good time tomorrow, when they can finally be alone. She makes her way back down the stairs to get the room ready for her client this evening. Death hasn’t made it impossible to work on clients, only slowed her down; rather than a full day of bookings she contents herself to an evening schedule, which is more convenient for the men and women who work long hours and want to unwind before their trip home. The excuse is that she’s busy running the place and looking for a second location, and once that opens and she (or rather Alana) starts shooting the TV show and then movie she’s sure that she’ll be under less scrutiny to fit people into her schedule.

She stops off at the front desk to pass Naomi’s information to Natalie and asks her to reach out to set up an appointment, then swings by the Tranquility Room to pick up her client: Charity Pierce. Celia—or rather one of her alters—knows her as one of Robert’s girls. They’ve worked a few johns together when her sister was busy with school (Violet can’t pass for her sister, but it’s still two girls at a time and there’s no scoffing at that). She’s also a delightful snack, but this evening at least she won’t be fed from. Celia’s Beast is quite full.

“Good evening, Charity,” Celia says to her with a warm smile. She brings the girl into the treatment room to get started.

Charity and her sister usually come in on Mondays together to get waxed, primped, and primed for their dates during the upcoming week. They had told her it’s the one luxury that they allows themselves: waxing every four weeks, vajacials a week after the Brazilians to keep everything fresh downstairs, the occasional facial and lash lift. It’s an investment in themselves, the girls had said when they’d splurged on a handful of products. Their bodies are their money makers so they need to take care of them.

Celia understands perfectly.

She checks on her products for the vajacial while Charity settles herself on the table, naked from the waist down.

“Anyone fun lined up this week?” Celia asks as she slides on a pair of blue nitrile gloves. Ordinarily she doesn’t chat much during the treatments unless the clients want to, but there’s something vulnerable about being spread open on a massage table with a girl staring at your pussy that’s usually a little uncomfortable, so Celia chats during treatments like this to put them at ease. Charity had been very open with her about what she does, and the two often gossip about the clients that they both see: Charity while she’s on her back and Celia while they’re on theirs. Some of them overlap.

Charity had been waxed last week, leaving the skin between her legs smooth and silky. Celia starts with the cleanser, lathering a small amount of it between her fingers and then applying it with small, circular movements across her mons. Vajacials only work on the visible surface; the vagina itself is very temperamental and doesn’t like these sorts of products being shoved inside of it, so while Celia is thorough she’s also careful to keep the cleanser off of and out of anything sensitive.

GM: Like draws to like. Flawless makes people beautiful, and so draws beautiful people. Charity is a lovely 20-something young woman with full lips, excellent proportions, and smooth chocolate skin. She’s also casually dressed as she shows up for her session. The evening dresses and heels wait for her clients (most often on weekends), or when she’s arriving to get her face and nails done.

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Some of Celia’s clients are squeamish about spreading their legs for her. Her mother perhaps surprisingly wasn’t: “You’ve seen just about all there is to see with me already, sweetie,” she’d said.

Charity seems to fall in that camp too, if for different reasons. She spreads her legs for enough strangers.

“This week’s been awful, honestly,” she answers.

“Christina just found out her niece died.”

“She’s doing her best to stay professional, but it casts a cloud over everything.”

Celia: Once you get used to the discomfort of a Brazilian and bond over the first session it’s pretty much all water under the bridge with your tech from there on out. A lot comes out on the table, especially when you’re naked or getting hairs ripped out of you. Not that this is a waxing service, but that’s how they’d met years ago; what lies between Charity’s legs is a familiar sight.

“Oh my goodness,” Celia murmurs as she rubs the cleanser onto her skin. “That’s awful. I can’t even imagine going through something like that. Is she okay?”

GM: “I don’t think so, to be honest,” Charity answers from her back.

“She’s been really angry about it too.”

Celia: “I can imagine,” Celia says. “Wasn’t she one of the girls caught up in that incident last August?”

GM: “Yeah, she was. She got some jail time for it. That’s where she died.”

Celia: “She died in jail?”

GM: “Yeah. Orleans Parish Prison is one of the worst jails in the country. It’s worse than a lot of federal prisons.”

Celia: “Isn’t that a men’s prison…?”

GM: Charity shakes her head. “I’ve been there. It’s the parish jail, not a prison, despite the name. It has separate areas for men and women. And it’s awful.”

“It’s comically easy to smuggle in contraband. There are inmates who go around with guns. The guards don’t care unless they actually shoot people.”

Celia: Celia makes a tsking sound with her tongue against the roof of her mouth.

“That’s awful. I’ll have to send her something. Nothing makes up for the death of family, but maybe I can… take her mind off of it for a while or something.” Celia pushes the air from her lungs in a sigh. “That’s heavy.”

GM: “It really is. Christina’s niece got stabbed to death.”

Celia: “Wow,” she breathes.

GM: “She also killed one of her attackers.”

Celia: “At least she went out swinging. Still. That’s terrible.”

GM: “I’ve seen lots of fights break out there. The infirmary is a joke. So people have to get sent to hospitals, but a lot of the time the guards just don’t care enough. So people just die there.”

“It also happened… something like a month ago, that Christina’s niece was murdered. The prison didn’t notify her until now.”

Celia: “What? How could they just not notify her?”

GM: “The place is a complete shit show. You have to see it to believe it. I’m honestly not surprised over something like that.”

Celia: “Is she having a service for her niece, do you know?”

GM: “I don’t think so. There isn’t a body left.”

Celia: “Christ.”

GM: “The jail already took care of it.”

Celia: Celia takes a moment to pull a warm towel out of the caddy and wrings it out, then wipes away the cleanser on Charity’s skin.

“And that’s normal for them? I just… I can’t even imagine how something like that slips through the cracks.”

GM: Charity smiles briefly at the feeling. “I don’t think it’s standard for them to wait a month, but there is a lot of stuff there that slips through the cracks.”

“Like I said. The place is a complete shit show.”

“Literally. A woman took a dump when I was in the holding cell, where you stay when you’re being processed.”

“She’d been there for most of the day, I think had diarrhea, and couldn’t hold it in anymore.”

“A bunch of the other inmates beat her half to death for it. The guards just didn’t care.”

Celia: “What, there’s no bathroom?”

Celia reaches for the mask. It’s the first of two and she applies it liberally, then pulls the steamer over to get the warm mist going across the area. She gets the extraction tools ready while the mask sits.

GM: “Nope,” says Charity. “Those are in the individual cells.”

Celia: “What were you picked up for?” Celia asks in wry amusement.

GM: “Oh I bet you can guess,” she smirks.

“It was a while ago, though. I was dumber. If I get sent to jail now I’ll deserve it for being that dumb again.”

“Christina is beyond livid, anyway. Her niece had been in the hospital before then. She had a head injury and fell into a coma. That was the better part of a year ago. She didn’t know Amelie had woken up from the coma, either.”

Celia: “So she woke up from the coma and was transferred to the jail and died and no one told her? What is wrong with people?”

GM: “Yep. She just got this call out of the blue that her niece was moved from the hospital to the parish jail after waking up, and also had died a month ago.”

Celia: “…wow.”

“What is she going to do?”

GM: “I don’t know, but she’s going to do something. She’s a former lawyer.”

“I’ve never heard her so angry. She’s going to find someone to blame.”

Celia: Celia just shakes her head.

“I hope she finds peace. It’s not easy, losing a family member like that. A friend of mine lost her brother and her dad was torn up about it for a long time. I wonder if there’s anything I can do.”

GM: “I don’t think there really is. ’I’m sorry for your loss’ only does so much.”

Celia: “Empty words,” Celia agrees.

GM: “It doesn’t bring them back.”

“But I guess life goes on. Still taking clients.”

Celia: “As awful as it is, the world doesn’t stop spinning for one person.”

“How are you holding up, though?

GM: “I’m okay. I mean, she wasn’t my niece. I didn’t lose anyone.”

Celia: “No, but it affects you. Work environment.”

GM: “I’m sad for Christina. She’s been a really good boss.”

“Like I said, she’s trying to keep things professional. I’m amazed she’s even still running the business. But I can tell how much it gets to her.”

“Her condo had a break-in before this, too. The burglar saw she was there and attacked her.”

Celia: “What?”

“Jesus,” she murmurs.

GM: “I know. She’s had a really awful past month.”

“She says she sleeps with a gun now.”

Celia: “I don’t blame her. I would too.”

GM: “And installed a whole bunch of new security around her place.”

“And get this, one of the girls in the building disappeared the same night.”

“Or, no, I think the burglar might have tried to get into her place too, and she moved away.”

“Something else happened.”

Celia: She can’t help but wonder who Defallier pissed off that someone is going after Roberts like this. Or if Roberts pissed someone off herself.

She’s quiet for a moment while she removes the mask, then warns Charity she’s starting the extractions. A metal tool presses against any closed comedones she finds to bring the sebaceous gunk to the surface, wiped away with a cotton round soaked in something similar to alcohol that sterilizes it when she’s done to prevent infection and kill anything left on her skin. She finds a handful of ingrown hairs that she pulls free as well.

“On top of all that, something else?”

GM: Charity nods and prepares herself, but doesn’t look too discomforted. Celia’s hands and well-practiced.

“No, something else just happened with the burglar in the building. And the other girl.”

“Isn’t my problem, though. I’m just glad Christina was okay.”

Celia: “Work still affects you, even if it’s not directly,” Celia says as she leans over to extract a particularly full pore. A spray of sebum comes out at her light touch. She wipes it away and keeps going. “The girls and Landen are affected when I’m not at my peak. Morale can sink. I hope she finds closure. Whatever that looks like.”

GM: “Probably making someone pay, knowing her.”

Celia: A second mask follows the first, this one focused on hydration. It’s a gelatinous texture that she spreads across Charity’s lower body with her fingers, making sure to cover every bit of exposed flesh.

“Good.”

GM: “I love how smooth this gets me.”

Celia: “Bet your clients love it too,” Celia says with a wink.

GM: “You bet they do.”

“This is my last semester at community college, I don’t think I mentioned. I’ll finally transfer to Loyola.”

Celia: “Oh, congratulations! What have you decided to major in?”

GM: “I still need to decide. I’ve just been so focused on work and Chastity, taking classes just became another regular thing rather than a long-term plan.”

Celia: “As long as you keep moving forward you’ve going in the right direction. It took me longer than usual to finish with everything I had going on. But I’m psyched for you. That’s awesome.”

Celia beams at her as she pulls another towel from the caddy to wipe away the second mask.

GM: “Agreed. And I can keep doing this until I get wrinkles if I need to. At least paying for things isn’t a problem.”

Celia: “You won’t get wrinkles if you keep coming to see me,” Celia assures her. “But I know what you mean. Feels like a slog after a while. But it’s a good feeling once you get your hands on that piece of paper.”

GM: “Ha. I bet. And I don’t mind doing it. It pays well. Christina’s a good boss. There just isn’t any future in it.”

Celia: “You’ve done it longer than most, haven’t you? Could take over for her if she’s ever looking to retire.”

GM: “That’s true,” Charity says thoughtfully. “I’ve been with her longer than any of the other girls.”

Celia: “It’s not something you do forever, right? Management is the next step.”

“You already know the business. And the clients. And the girls.”

GM: “Oh no. Once you get wrinkles, you’re out.”

“We’ll see, anyways. Christina’s only in her 40s. But who knows how she’s going to feel after all that’s happened.”

Celia: “I’m not telling you to take over,” Celia assures her, “just saying that if I were going to have someone manage the spa for me I’d choose one of the people already with me. They know the ins and outs.”

A brightening serum follows the second mask to lighten any dark spots, and she follows it with a general moisturizer once that has a moment to sink in.

GM: “I agree. Christina brings a lot of valuable experience to the business as a lawyer, but she hasn’t slept with clients herself.”

Celia: “Someone told me once that even during a recession escorts will always have work. It might be a luxury to some, but it’s a necessity to others. It doesn’t follow the same economic trends as the rest of the world, so it’s always a safe bet.”

GM: “I’d say it’s still affected, just less affected. The best clients are rich ones, but not everyone who sees an escort is rich.”

“One of my last clients was a not-rich guy turning 30 who wanted to lose his virginity. He’d probably saved up for it for a while.”

Celia: “If I’d waited that long I’d probably want something worth it, too. Sex kind of builds into this big thing in your mind if you don’t have it for a while, or ever, and it gets intimidating. I bet it was a good time for him.”

GM: “He said he was afraid of how he’d perform with other partners if he had no experience. But here he could be honest and get that.”

“I think it was, too. We did some pretty basic oral and missionary.”

Celia: “My first time was oral and missionary.” Celia grins at her. “It was still enjoyable. And now he gets to go into his next time with more confidence.”

“Guys have it hard sometimes, you know? They’re supposed to be these sex gods but they don’t even know what they’re doing any more than anyone else. And our stuff is all tucked up inside and everyone likes it differently.”

GM: “Yes. At least girls aren’t expected to be sex gods. You can get away with just lying there and taking it. You don’t have anything to prove.”

“I’m glad that guy saw a sex worker, anyways. He was awkward, because you don’t get to 30 and stay a virgin without something being wrong with you, but he tried to fix the problem.”

Celia: “I knew a guy like him once. Kind of a misogynist, to be honest. He was a client here for a while and kept talking about how women owed him for his friendship.”

GM: “Did he get off to how you did stuff around his junk?”

Celia: Celia snorts.

“Almost every guy pops a boner on the table. He never tried anything with me, though.”

“Well, that’s not true. He made some awkward happy ending jokes.”

GM: “There’s never sex in these places. Or at least there’s not supposed to be.”

Celia: “Mm, there is in some. But no, not worth the loss of my license. If I’m going to jack a guy off I’ll do it elsewhere and charge more.”

GM: “Smart.”

Celia: There’s not much left to do once the serums and moisturizers go on. The brightening spot treatment she’d applied earlier will rid Charity of any hyperpigmentation or unsightly dark spots—she only has very minor ones after coming to see Celia as often as she does—and the rest of her skin stays smooth and supple. Perfect for someone to bury their face in it.

Flawless.


Monday evening, 14 March 2016

Celia: Celia excuses herself from the room to let Charity dress and takes her up to the front desk to leave in Natalie’s capable hands.

Now there’s an idea.

She returns to the room to clean up for her next appointment, another long-time vessel and client that Celia does not drink from this evening: Evelyn Jameson. Technically her grandmother. Also technically not her grandmother. Also younger than her, which makes the whole thing feel very silly. But the two get on well enough despite most people’s assumptions that the woman is a vapid cow only after Jim’s money, such as it is, and they make idle chatter while Celia applies wax with wooden sticks and rips it off with linen cloth. If she’s bothered by the amount of sex that Jim still has at his age or his wife’s inclination to talk about it she doesn’t let it show.

Evelyn, too, is seen to the exit once she’s done with her, and after cleaning up the room Celia is done for the night. Mondays are often her busiest days, but with everything up in the air for her at the moment she’d asked Alana to keep her schedule lighter this week. Enough to feed, enough to gossip, but not so much that she gets bogged down by the kine world when things are moving so quickly in the Kindred one.

GM: Step-grandmother, in fact.

Evelyn is, annoyingly, pregnant, but Celia has experience with that, even if it’s a pain to have them on their sides and propped up by mounds of pillows.

Celia: Celia is less annoyed by the pregnancy and pillow forts now that she has new tables with an incline that she can set up for her pregnant clients. She’d gotten it after the Diana pregnancy to make it easier on herself and her clients. Solid investment. Evelyn’s hips needed a bit of realignment, but otherwise her pregnancy is going swimmningly and Celia is excited to spoil her… step-cousin? Step-mom? Step-aunt? She’s not quite sure what the little girl will be, only that they’re somehow related, even if not by blood.

She flips off the lights in her room and goes to find her mother and Emily, if the latter is still around.

GM: Celia finds Emily, their mother, and Lucy in one of the massage rooms. Diana’s lying down on the massage table as Emily works her back. Lucy’s sitting off the side and slowly reading aloud from one of several children’s books. Green Eggs and Ham.

“I do not like green eggs an’ ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am,” reads the six-year-old.

She looks like her nails have had a fresh coat of sparkly pink.

GM: “Hey, Celia,” smiles Emily as she walks in.

Her mom turns a little, though not enough to expose her breasts around the first grader. “Hi, sweetie.”

“Mommy, it’s been forever!” says Lucy, setting down the book to scamper up to her.

Celia: “Hello ladies,” Celia says to her mom and Emily. She doesn’t normally interrupt treatments, but Diana had never minded. “And hello little Goose,” she says to the girl, picking her up to put on her hip. “I like the new polish choice. You’re ahead of the trends with the sparkly pink, you know. I heard it’s going to be April’s color.”

GM: Lucy giggles. “Pink an’ sparkles should be all the months’ colors.”

“You wanna show your mommy what you have for her, Goose?” smiles Diana.

“Yeah, it’s in the book,” says Lucy, pointing at the Green Eggs copy.

Celia: “Oooh, what is it?” Celia carries the six-year-old over to where she left the book.

GM: “It’s this!” says Lucy, paging through it as she picks it up. She pulls out a crayon drawing held between its pages. It depicts a semi-stick figure Celia with red lipstick and sparkly nails, Emily in a doctor’s coat and stethoscope, and Diana in a ballerina’s tutu. A shorter Lucy stands in front of them. Their house is behind them. A bright yellow sun shines from above.

“I made it at school.”

Celia: Celia’s face brightens at the drawing.

“It’s beautiful, Luce! Good color choice on the lips. I love it.” She kisses her daughter on the cheek. “Where should we hang it?”

GM: Lucy beams at the praise. “How about… someplace here?”

Celia: “I’ll put it in my treatment room, how’s that? All my clients will be able to see it. Will you sign it for me? I want to be able to claim I have the first Lucy Flores original.”

GM: “Yeah!” nods Lucy. She looks around. “I need a pencil.”

“I’ll get one,” says Emily. She returns in a bit with a pen.

“Lucy told her teacher we were all her mommys, but that Mom was her grandma too, and that Celia and Emily were her mommy-mommys,” says Emily.

“I bet she had some interesting thoughts about us.”

“Yeah, ‘cuz you’re interesting!” says Lucy.

Celia: “I imagine so,” Celia says with a grin.

GM: “We sure are, Goose,” smirks Emily.

“Oh, I’d better explain things to her,” Diana says with a rueful chuckle.

Emily sets the drawing down on the table as Diana scoots to the side a little. Lucy signs with a flourish.

“Tah-daaah.”

Celia: “That is a beautiful signature, Luce. To go with the beautiful drawing. Thank you very much for it.”

GM: “Yes, what a stylish signature,” smiles Diana, tussling the child’s hair.

“You’re welcome!” says Lucy.

Celia: Celia smiles at the little girl and picks her back up, promising that once they’re done here they’ll hang the drawing in her own room.

“How’s the massage going, Mom? Leg okay?”

GM: Diana nods. “Emily’s a magician with her hands too. She’d been doin’ my back when you came in, as you can probably tell.”

“Can we get a frame?” asks Lucy.

“Sure thing, Goose. We’ll pick one up tomorrow,” smiles her mother.

Celia: “I mean in general,” Celia clarifies to her mom. “And of course we’ll get a frame for it, Goose.”

She sits to the side while Emily resumes her work. They’ve done four-handed massage on Diana before (and it’s one of their most frequently booked services), but tonight she lets Emily do her thing.

“I got your text, Mom. Did you want to talk about it now or later?”

GM: “Maybe now would be good,” says Diana. “Emily, can you watch Luce for a bit?”

“Sure thing. Why don’t you read to me some more?” Emily asks Lucy. She picks up the six-year-old from Celia, sits down on a chair, and sets Lucy on her lap.

“I do not like green eggs an’ ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am,” resumes Lucy.

“Can you hand me my clothes, please?” Diana asks, then turns away from the trio to re-dress. She follows Celia out to her office.

“Are you hungry, sweetie? I’d be happy to feed you,” she offers with a slightly nervous smile, clearly remembering the strained end to their last conversation.

Celia: Celia closes the door behind the pair of them and gestures toward a chair for her mother. She leans against her desk.

“I am not hungry, no. Thank you. I appreciate it, though.”

There’s a brief pause while she gathers her thoughts.

“First, I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for how things ended. I didn’t get a chance to tell you about everything that is going on with me, but the past week or so has been… stressful. There’s been a lot going on. And I felt like I was drowning, and I took it out on you. I’m sorry.”

GM: Her mom immediately looks relieved and pulls her into a hug.

“Oh, it’s okay, sweetie! I’m sure it is, I can’t imagine how many more things you must have to worry about, from all that Dani’s said… all we want to do is help you, okay?”

“I’m sorry if I made things more stressful for you, too. I just feel so out of my depth. But I don’t want to do that, I want you to be happy and successful, same as always.”

Celia: “I know, Mom,” Celia says as she returns the hug. “That’s what I’d like to talk to you about. Helping. I wasn’t sure how this would work, but I think I figured it out. There’s a lot to cover and I’m sure you’ll have questions as we go, so feel free to jump in, okay?”

“But first, did you want to talk about Maxen?”

GM: Her mom nods. “Let’s talk about you, sweetie, at least first. You’re in my life more than he is.”

“I’d love to help you, just tell me how.”

Celia: Celia nods.

“So. I guess I kind of want to start at the beginning, if that’s okay. There’s some stuff I won’t share, and if I don’t it’s for a valid reason, okay? So if I tell you I can’t answer something, don’t press the issue. How much of the vampire society stuff did Dani tell you? She’s new to it as well and I just explained it to her on Friday.”

GM: Diana nods. “Okay, I won’t press. Dani gave me the gist, about the Carmilla, clans, churches, and what have you. I admit I wasn’t really sure what to make of most of it.”

“I mainly asked her about… vampires themselves, so I could understand you better.”

“She said she wasn’t hurt by the sun, isn’t that funny?”

Celia: “Okay. So Dani is a little different than me. She’s what we called duskborn, so her abilities and my abilities are different. I’m what some people call a true-blooded vampire, and she’s… kind of a half blood, if that makes sense.”

Briefly, Celia explains the differences, and tells her about the Toreador.

“But she does get some benefits. Like the sun thing.”

“Over the next few nights I can get into more of it with you, but I guess the main thing you need to know right now is that there are three factions in the city. I work for the guy who runs the Quarter. It’s why we live here, and why I run my business here. And it causes a problem because of where you work. The factions… think of them like gangs, right? Turf wars. They don’t want people outside of their faction on their turf. And you are going to smell like a ghoul, which vampires like me can pick up on immediately, so I’m going to teach you how to hide that.”

“Since the alternative is to, you know, quit your job and find something here, and that messes up Lucy’s education plan and your finances.”

“And I’d like to interrupt your life as little as possible.”

GM: “Yes, please!” nods Diana. “I don’t want to get attacked by a gang, but if I leave McGehee that changes just so much. There aren’t any schools in the Quarter, anyway.”

“So, all right, that sounds like a good idea for you to teach me how to hide how I’m a, ghoul is it?”

Celia: “Right. Ghoul.”

GM: “Ah, why do they call it that? It sounds pretty…” she chuckles, “ghoulish.”

Celia: Celia smiles in wry amusement.

“So, traditionally right, ghouls are kind… human-like creatures. And you’re now a human-like creature. You’re not quite human but rather the next evolution. Sort of. You’re still you, but you drink blood in addition to the food you eat. My blood. It’s what will keep you young and give you the powers I’ll teach you.”

“Sometimes people call them other things. Renfields.”

GM: “Okay. I’m just curious why ‘ghouls,’” Diana says with another chuckle. “Really seems like a funny name.”

“But… is it permanent, sweetie?” she asks, concern creasing her face.

“I’d like to die and hopefully go to Heaven eventually. I’d like Emily and Lucy and the others to outlive me. Parents shouldn’t bury their children, you know?”

Celia: “It’s permanent so long as you drink my blood. You won’t age. You’ll be able to shrug off and heal things that would down most people.”

GM: “Okay. But I’ll get to pass on eventually?”

Celia: “Yes. We can arrange that. When you’re ready to go you can stop drinking my blood.”

GM: “All right,” nods Diana. “Drinking your blood like this… do you think it’s a sin? Will I go to Hell for it?”

Celia: “I don’t think so, no. It’s all in what you do with it.”

GM: “I know the Bible has a few lines about drinking blood, but this seems just so far beyond what’s in there… anyway, all right. Is there a priest I can talk to, about these things?”

“I know you don’t want me runnin’ my mouth about all this. So I just want to ask you if there’s anyone it’d be okay with.”

Celia: “I can find you one.”

GM: “Okay. Thank you, sweetie,” her mom smiles.

“If the, ah, turf war ever changes… could we move to the Garden District? It’s just such a pretty neighborhood.”

Celia: “Ah… I don’t know that it will ever change that much. So probably not, to be honest.”

GM: Stephen thought the Quarter could turn into a bloodbath.

Celia: “But maybe. If it does.”

GM: “Okay. Long-term thing, then.”

“I guess this does explain why you wanted to live in the Quarter so much, back then.”

“Were you… when did you become a vampire, sweetie?” Diana asks curiously. “The last time I can remember seeing you during the day was… oh, gosh, that was a while ago…”

“Around the time I was getting your brothers and sisters back? I remember making breakfast for you.”

Celia: Celia gives a small nod.

“Yes. That was one of my last days before my Embrace. I met my sire that evening.”

She considers the merits of telling her mother, then finally does.

“I was going through a bad time, mentally. I was with Stephen, but Dad was… it was bad at home. I wanted more for you, for the others. I had a friend I thought could help, so I went to him. We drank. Smoked. Planned. I left and stopped at a bar, and I met a vampire. I didn’t know what he was, of course. Not then. But he took me home with him. And he fed from me. His cousin was there, a very, very beautiful woman. I woke up to them arguing. I tried to go out the window, but they… they’re fast. She caught me, brought me back in.”

Celia glosses over the rape, the long nails, the sex. It doesn’t matter. Not now.

“Eventually they got distracted and I ran. The next night, when Maxen came for you, I called the bar to see if he was there. He’d told me he was a thief and I wanted you back. I thought he could steal you.”

“But they wanted me to prove myself first, so she made me a deal and gave me her blood, her power. I was fast. Strong. Alluring. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt, Mom. It was incredible.”

“I came for you. I got you out, took you to the hospital. I carried you in my arms. We were flying across the ground.”

This is where the story deviates. She doesn’t tell her mother Celia’s truth, just the events that she and Savoy and Veronica had decided on as Jade’s truth.

“She was pleased. She was amused by the tape that was leaked afterward. One of her sisters is politically active, Maxen was a client for a while. They don’t get along. It made their firm look bad. And she liked my skill with a makeup brush. She tested me that night, before she gave me her power. I don’t want to know what would have happen if I’d failed.” Celia shakes her head. “I don’t know if you saw the place after that, but it was destroyed. She did that.”

“So once she had permission she Embraced me. I’ve been dead since 2009.”

GM: Diana gasps and holds her hands to her mouth.

“You… you became this because of me, sweetie?”

She’s silent for a moment as she processes.

“Do you… do you regret it? Are you happier this way?”

Celia: “Sometimes it’s lonely. I didn’t like lying to you. A lot of people have petty reasons to hate each other. There’s not a lot of trust, and sometimes the people suck. But it’s… I mean, I get to do really amazing things. I have forever to learn new tricks, I meet really cool people, I’ve learned so many new things about the world and history and art. There’s a whole new culture to explore.”

“I don’t regret it. Not at all.”

“And I’m dating a pretty amazing guy, so that’s always a plus.”

“And, Mom… I don’t regret saving you. Not at all. I love you. I’d do it again.”

GM: Her mom hugs her again. “Okay. Good. You’re happy. That’s what matters to me, sweetie. That you’re happy.”

She smiles. “And at least you don’t have to lie to me anymore, now. That makes me happy too.”

“And… it might be seven years late… but thank you for saving my life.” She pulls away, but squeezes Celia’s hands. She looks a little misty-eyed. “These past seven years have been some of the happiest I’ve ever lived. Bringing Emily and Lucy into our family has just been such a blessing.”

“I already knew I owed them to you. So I guess this is another reason I do.”

Celia: “I love you, Mom. I’d do anything for you. I want you to know that. It’s why I lied, it wasn’t safe, but… I’m glad you know now.”

“You deserve to be happy.”

“And I was hesitant about Lucy, you know, but seeing how much joy she’s brought you… it’s been worth it.”

GM: Her mom nods. “I remember how Emily was too. But her name means born at dawn. I chose it for a reason. She was a new light at the end of a very dark time for us.”

Celia: “Was that why?”

GM: “Yes, sweetie. She was God’s way of showin’ us that good can come from bad. That bad doesn’t have to last forever.”

Celia: “You never named anyone Lucy before?”

GM: Diana falls silent.

Celia: “You don’t want to talk about it.”

GM: Celia’s mother mutely shakes her head.

Celia: “I will for a moment, then. I’ve had the other Lucy for years.”

GM: “Stop,” Diana whispers, holding her hands to her ears.

Celia: Celia looks like she might say something more, then just shakes her head.

“Okay.”

GM: Her mom removes her hands after a moment and plasters on a smile.

“You said you wanted to talk about me helping you, sweetie?”

Celia: “Yes. I spoke to a friend of mine. I have some ideas. And some other news, incidentally. I told you that Maxen wanted to take you to a place in Texas to fix your leg. And Emily was skeptical, remember?”

GM: Diana nods.

Celia: “It’s a real thing that exists. I know because I know of people who can do it. I took you to see someone shortly after my Embrace, after your toes came off. He reattached them. I don’t know that I can see him again, there’s a whole faction war going on and he’s on another side, but there are two others I can reach out to. I’ve held off because I didn’t know how I’d possibly explain it to you. But I’d like to do this for you.”

GM: “You… could fix my leg?” her mom asks. “Just… just like that?”

Celia: “Yes. Just like that.”

“I mean, it’s an involved process. But the blood can do pretty amazing things.”

GM: Her mom gives a little noise, not quite crying, and pulls her into another, even tighter embrace. “Oh, sweetie! That’d be… yes, oh please!”

“I thought you meant me helping you, when you brought up help… you just do so much for me… you’re such a good daughter…”

Celia: “You will be helping me,” Celia says into her shoulder. “But I’m helping you first. And I think what I’m going to ask you to do is something you’ll enjoy.”

GM: “Anything, sweetie,” her mom sniffs. “Anything.

Celia: “I told you that we’re a clan of artists. Dance is art. I’d like you to dance again. For me.”

GM: Her mom gives a little gasp, then starts crying again and squeezes her tighter.

But they sound like happy tears.

Celia: Celia holds her mother tightly in her embrace.

“I’d like to show you off to other people, too. And let them admire you. At parties. And shows. I want them to see how amazing you are.”

GM: “I’ll need a little time to practice, to get back in shape,” her mom smiles with another sniff. “It’s been so long, and all.”

Celia: “You’ll have plenty of time,” Celia assures her.

GM: “But I do still practice, every day, I just haven’t done any pirouettes or other moves that’d strain my leg.”

“But you didn’t even need to ask about that, sweetie.” Her mom sniffs again. “I’d love to dance for you. I’d love nothin’ more. What’s the point of dancing, if other people can’t watch?”

Celia: She smiles at that.

“There’s more, but I completely agree.”

GM: “Sometimes I dance a little by myself, when it’s just me in the bathroom, or my classroom’s empty and I’m in the mood, it’s a dance space and all, but you know what I mean…”

“It… might be a little tricky for me to rejoin a production company, though, they’ll probably think I don’t have many years left in me. I’m past 40 after all, so why bother…”

Celia: “Well, that’s the other thing. I’d like to get you a new identity. A new face. You’ll still be Diana Flores, but you’ll be someone else as a dancer. Around anyone like me you’ll wear a different face. It will keep people from looking too closely at you and wondering about our connection. It will keep Lucy and Emily safe as well.”

“So if you want to be a younger dancer, you can be a younger dancer.”

GM: “It’d keep them safe?” Diana asks. “How’s that?”

Celia: “Because no one will know that you’re a ghoul.”

“There was a guy a while ago. Executed. His ghouls were executed. His ghoul’s families were executed.”

GM: “Executed?” Diana blinks.

Celia: “He broke the Masquerade, so they put him down for it.”

GM: “By… by who? The vampire king?”

Celia: “The prince, actually. We don’t have kings.”

GM: “Ah, right, that’s what Dani said it was. Prince.”

“I admit that’s pretty hard for me to wrap my head around, but if you think it’s for the best, then okay.”

“Ballet isn’t something you do if you want to get a lot of individual recognition. We all look the same in our makeup and tutus, after all. Or at least mostly the same.”

“I mean, there are famous ballerinas, but it’s a lot harder to earn recognition than it is for, say, a musical band. You go to a local Swan Lake performance, there probably won’t be anyone in the audience who remembers the dancers’ names and faces.”

Celia: “This is one of those things I just need you to trust me on.”

GM: “I will, sweetie. I trust you. I don’t need to get credit or be famous, ballerinas don’t expect to anyway. I’m happy just to dance.”

“It might still be tricky to get me into a company, though. You’ve done a great job taking care of my body, a lot of people are surprised to hear I’m past 40, but I don’t look 20 either.”

Celia: "Ah, well, I don’t know about joining the company. I’d have to talk to my sire, she’s more into the live action performances than I am so she’d have a better idea about what that would look like. “Or if it’s just a solo thing.”

“But, again, you’ll have a new face. We can make you look younger. Alana is actually your age, did you know that?”

GM: “You’re pullin’ my leg,” her mom says slowly.

Celia: “Not at all.”

“Alana isn’t even her real name. But when she joined me we got her a new face and body and identity. And that’s who she is now.”

GM: “Oh. Why did she want a new… all that?” Diana asks curiously.

Celia: “Alana was… very unhappy when I met her. She was on the verge of, ah, ending her own life. She was obese, bad skin, wasn’t doing well at work. She was a hairdresser but no one wanted her to work with them. She’s mixed race, you know, so she was too dark for the white salons and too light for the black salons. I ran into her one night and she kind of just confessed everything to me and we fixed it for her.”

“And she’s been a great manager.”

GM: “Oh, no, that poor woman! But I’m happy you were able to give her that fresh start. It’s no wonder she’s so happy to work for you.”

Celia: “She gets perks. A lot of the people who keep ghouls can be pretty mean to them. I try not to be like that. She has some leeway with me. She’s working in the industry she already wanted, she has a hot new body, and we’re probably much closer than most people are with their ghouls.”

And sex.

Lots of sex.

GM: “I hope we’re pretty close too, for…” her mom chuckles, “I’m sorry, it just sounds so strange to call myself ‘a ghoul.’ I don’t think I’m too ghoulish.”

Celia: Celia smiles at her.

“We have multiple terms for a lot of things. Maybe you’ll find one you like more.”

GM: “We’ll shop around, then. But as far as ballet, sweetie, I’m definitely happy to give solo performances, but understand that’s a bit like goin’ to a restaurant and only ever ordering drinks. Ballet is a troupe-wide endeavor and that’s where it’s most beautiful. That’s one of the reasons ballerinas don’t get as famous as musicians, because we’re just one piece of a bigger whole.”

Celia: “Sure,” Celia agrees, “but you’ll also be doing more solo work. And sometimes people do go to restaurants just to drink. That’s why bars exist.”

GM: Diana nods. “Solo work is what climbin’ the ballet hierarchy is all about. Getting a more individual role as, literally, a soloist, instead of being in the corps de ballet. Literally, ‘body of the ballet.’”

“I’m just lettin’ you know the full, best experience is with a troupe. Or another dancer or few.”

Celia: “Actually, I was about to tell you. There’s a group that performs a lot at the events. The Monster Dolls. I think they were the Maidens at some point but then they had a few gentlemen join their numbers and the name didn’t fit anymore. But they’re very, very strong dancers. It started with Middle Eastern dance and then branched out from there when the performers began to try new things and they added new blood to the mix. They do group performances but have soloists as well. Everything from ballet to hip hop, which is… less admired by the older members of my clan, but a big hit with everyone else.”

GM: Diana’s lips purse a bit when ‘hip hop’ comes up.

Celia: She’ll fit right in.

“You don’t want to pop, lock, and drop it?”

GM: “I’m not goin’ to say it’s not dance, so I’ll just say it’s not my kind of dance.”

Celia: “They do all sorts of things. I can probably find a contact and see if we can get you a partner, at least.”

“They’re not really owned by any one person, since there’s so many of them, but I have some threads I can pull on for you, at least.”

GM: “Ah. Okay.” Diana sounds relieved. “I thought you were going to ask that I join.”

“I just… I’ll admit I can’t quite take them seriously, from that description.”

Celia: Celia arches one brow at her mother. “I never figured you for that much of an elitist about dance. Art comes in all forms. So does dance.”

“You’d also have to see them to understand, really.”

GM: “Maybe, sweetie, but ballet is not a thing you do casually, as part of a mix and match! It takes about a decade of practice, starting at a very young age, to dance on a professional level.”

Celia: Definitely Toreador material.

“Well, I can hardly ghoul a whole troupe for you. And there’s another lick who runs most of the theater production companies anyway.”

“Not interested in getting into a pissing contest over taking a dancer or two.”

GM: “I just take a little offense at someone saying they ‘do ballet,’ like they can do hip hop. It isn’t something you can just do, even if you have years of practice in other forms of dance. Ballet takes a lot of work!”

Celia: “No one said that. I was just explaining that they incorporate a lot of things in some of their work.”

GM: “I just took a little offense, I guess. Ballet isn’t really something you can just pair with hip hop. It is a very specific type of performance dance. Take inspiration from, maybe?”

Celia: “That’s probably a better way to phrase it.”

GM: “Ah, okay. That does sound much nicer. I don’t try to make a big deal about things like that. There are girls who wear ballet-inspired fashions, and some ballerinas say it’s appropriation, but I don’t see what the fuss is. They aren’t claiming to be ballerinas, they just like what they’ve seen and want to emulate it.”

Celia: “Right. Well, that’s settled. It reflects back on me that I chose to give you my blood. So we’ll find you a partner and do some performances and you’ll bring honor to your family.” Celia might be quoting a movie.

“And there’s one more thing. I’d like you to learn how to fight. Fencing, specifically.”

GM: Diana blinks. “I’m sorry?”

Celia: “You always told me it got its start in ballet.”

GM: Her mom nods. “The other way around, but yep. Ballet originated in 15th century Italy as a dance interpretation of fencing. Some people ask if that’s a myth or not, but it’s true. Catherine de Medici brought it to France and Louis XIV made it a big thing.”

“Though it was a very different thing, back then! Heeled shoes didn’t completely disappear from dancers’ costumes until the French Revolution.”

“But, why do you want me to learn fencing, sweetie?”

Celia: “Multiple reasons. The first is that it’s another form of art and I’d like you to master it. The second is that I need to know you can defend yourself and Lucy. The third… the third is that I’d like to utilize your skills to serve as physical protection in places that my other ghouls can’t go. More importantly,” Celia says slowly, “it will give you something to work toward. It will give you an outlet for what I imagine is going to be an influx of energy. It gives you a goal. A source of pride for me as well as yourself. And I think, given your background, you’ll be great at it.”

“I’d like you to start with Robby. Emily trains with him on Sundays, or she’s going to start. After church. I’d like you to join them. Call it family bonding.”

“When you’ve become adequate… I’d like you to meet another trainer. Someone who served as a bodyguard to a prince. Someone who was damn good at what she did.”

Celia tells her about Miriam.

“You should have seen the way she moved, Mom. I couldn’t keep up.”

“And I think it might be good for Logan, too.”

GM: “Oh. I just don’t know that I’d be very good at it,” her mom hems. “I’d like to help you, but I mean… I am a woman.”

Celia: “Did you not hear what I said about Miriam?”

GM: “Well, you know, she is a woman too.” Her mom gives a self-deprecating little laugh. “Obviously.”

Celia: “Obviously. Then why, if she can do it, can’t you?”

GM: “Oh, well, are you sure she can do it, sweetie?”

Celia: “Yes, Mother. I saw her with my own eyes.”

GM: “Well, you know, it’s one thing to be fast, and another to…”

She hems a bit. “Emily wouldn’t like me saying this, but women aren’t really cut out for fighting.”

“I mean, the military doesn’t let them serve on the front lines. In combat roles, Logan told me about that.”

Celia: “Then think of it like ballet with a sword.”

GM: “The area we live is very safe, you know. I’ve never been afraid for Lucy’s safety. Or yours! You avoid the worse parts of the Quarter, right, and you stay away from the gutter punks?”

Celia: “Mom, the city is in the middle of a cold war. It might turn into a civil war. I’d like to not have to worry about you dead in a ditch somewhere.”

GM: “Oh. But why would someone do that? I’m harmless, aren’t I? I’m just a mom.”

Celia: “Because you’re mine.”

GM: “You’re not in danger yourself, are you, sweetie? You’ve talked about this whole gang war, but you stay out of it, don’t you?”

Celia: Celia gives that a tight smile. “Everyone is in danger. Every vampire in the city is in danger. Even if I didn’t work for who I do, anyone could use it as an excuse to settle an old score. Maybe they’ll take me out because my sire pissed them off fifty years ago and they think it’s funny to take the only childe she’s on good terms with. Maybe I stepped on someone’s toes once without realizing. Maybe they don’t like that I’m pretty. There are plenty of reasons someone could come after me.”

“And the Quarter might see the worst of it. There are a lot of us here.”

“No one wants it to come to that, but it’s a possibility.”

“If I stay at your house during the day I need to know you can keep my body from harm.”

GM: “So you’re really worried? That somebody might try to hurt you?”

Celia: “Yes.”

GM: “Okay. I can learn with Robby, if you think that’s best. Though I really think you’d be better off relying on a man. I can be your, ah, backup option.”

Celia: “Do you think I’m less capable because I was born with two X chromosomes?”

GM: “I wouldn’t say that, just that the sexes are each good at different things.”

Celia: “Sure. I’d agree with you to some extent. Humans, specifically.”

“But we’re not human anymore. I can be just as strong as a man. I can be faster than the world’s fastest sprinter. I can throw a punch that will shatter your spine.”

GM: “Don’t be silly, of course we’re still human. You’re just better at some things now.”

Celia: “That’s… all right, I’ll let Alana tell you about that.”

“Being born a woman doesn’t mean I’m not as good at something that a man can do. I’m not a woman anymore. I’m a vampire. It’s a different species.”

“And if you really don’t believe me, I’ll give my sire a call and you can watch her strut around in an evening gown and sky-high heels while she fends off five men at once.”

GM: “Would you like me to meet her, sweetie?” her mom asks, seriously. “She sounds like an important person to you, if she… made you.”

Celia: “Maybe eventually.”

Not her real sire, though. Definitely not him.

GM: She’s already met him anyway.

“Okay. But we’ll agree to disagree there, so far as you being a different species.” Celia’s mom smiles and cups her cheeks in her hands. “You’re still my little baby who I dressed in a bunny costume.”

Celia: Celia was the cutest bunny.

GM: “You know we have pictures to prove it!”

Celia: “That doesn’t surprise me. You can show my boyfriend when you meet him; I’m sure he’ll be amused.”

GM: “Ah. I meant in the sense that… we left your baby album with your dad,” Diana admits, her smile dimming a little.

“But maybe he’ll give it to you, now?”

Celia: “I can ask.”

“What do you want to do about him?”

GM: “I’d like to have dinner with him and see where things go.”

Celia: “I don’t know if anything long term is viable, I’ll be honest. It was before you took my blood. Now, though…”

GM: “Oh, why wouldn’t it be?”

Celia: “The person he belongs to hates the people I work for, and me by extension. He’s not like you. He’s ignorant about all of this. But he still belongs to someone.”

GM: “He’s my husband, though.”

Celia: “He’s your ex-husband.”

GM: “Well, yes.”

Celia: “And the person he belongs to doesn’t care.”

GM: “Oh. Maybe we could… ask them? Write a letter?”

“It seems a bit silly, he’s his own person, anyway. He doesn’t need permission to have dinner with his wife.”

Celia: “No. He doesn’t. But the fact that he’s seen having dinner with someone who is connected to me is suspect, and he won’t hesitate to come after me.”

GM: “Oh.”

Diana sounds a little crestfallen.

“What can we do, then? I’d like to have dinner with him. I think he’s changed.”

Celia: “I… don’t know, honestly. He’s not omniscient, but I’m concerned something will happen to you because of it. I was worried when Emily stabbed him not because of him or jail time, but because of the person he belongs to.”

GM: “Oh! Speaking of that, Emily talked with Viv.”

Celia: “Oh?”

GM: “Viv said she’s not in any danger, legally. At all.”

Celia: “Good. That doesn’t stop this person from taking off her head, but good.”

“Speaking of which. You told me years ago that someone threatened you with a letter about my paternity?”

GM: Diana blinks. “Emily’s head?!

Celia: “Mom, we operate outside the laws. He’s hardly going to have her arrested. I mean, we don’t go around killing people left and right, but I wouldn’t put it past him.”

GM: “He can’t kill Emily! No! What can we do?!”

Celia: “If he hasn’t yet I doubt he’s going to.”

GM: “But are you sure? Positive?

Celia: “About 90%.”

GM: Diana’s face plummets.

“We have to do something, Celia! Right away!”

Celia: “Right. So. That’s why I’m asking you about the paternity thing.”

GM: “How does… that help?”

Celia: “It’s a mess for his pawn. I clean it up. He leaves Emily alone.”

GM: “It’s 13 years old, sweetie… nothing ever came of it.”

Celia: “Maxen never ran for higher office. Not like this, anyway.”

GM: “But he did become majority leader. He moved up in the ranks. He’s now the party chair.”

Celia: “Mom, can you just trust me on this?”

GM: “Yes, of course! Whatever’s best for Emily!”

Celia: “So who sent you the letter?”

GM: “I… I wish I knew, baby.” Diana’s eyes start to rim. “I’d honestly forgotten about it… for years… but I don’t remember it saying.”

“There was just the test result. I don’t know why they wouldn’t have leaked it, around the election…”

Celia: Because he already knows.

“That’s what started the fight that night, isn’t it?”

GM: “Your father… your father wouldn’t have kept you, Celia, if he knew. I’m dead certain.”

“He’d have… I don’t even know what he’d have done to you.”

Celia: “Drowned me in the tub and blamed you for it, probably.”

GM: Her mom’s shoulders sag.

“I’ll be lying to him, if we get back together.”

Celia: “If that didn’t start the fight, what did?”

GM: “It just happened on the victory party. We’d been drinking, well, more like he was getting me drinking, and things just… your father was very dangerous then, Celia, and with the drink in our systems…”

Celia: “He said you said something about a man at the party. A black man. Is that true?”

GM: Her mom shakes her head. “Nothing happened at that party, sweetie.”

“I’d have never cheated on your father. He’d have… killed me for it.”

Celia: “Then what happened?”

GM: “I think we just got drunk, and one thing led to another. He was… he was a loaded gun, at the best of times.”

“It was such a big night. It’d been a really tough campaign. I might have just said something and he lost it. He was already beating me very badly. He was already so angry. All sober.”

“But, sweetie… can we help Emily with this?”

Celia: “I don’t remember him drinking much. He had all that alcohol in the house and never touched it.”

“And yes. That’s why I’m asking.”

GM: “He didn’t, but he drank at the party.”

“I mean, I never drink either, you know that, but I did there.”

Celia: “But why?”

GM: “It was a victory party. People were insisting, your dad was insisting. I couldn’t really say no.”

“Honestly, it’s probably the only time in my adult life that I’ve ever touched alcohol. I’m just not a drinker.”

Celia: No, Elyse had seen to that.

“But neither was he. I guess it just doesn’t make sense to me.”

“You mentioned a woman at the party. Do you remember her?”

GM: “I did? When did I?”

Celia: “I don’t know,” Celia admits, “it was a long time ago and I’m kind of fuzzy on the details. But when I came to see you in the hospital you said… said something about everything being fine until you talked to a woman, or maybe he talked to a woman, or something.”

“I just think if you remember her then maybe she’s someone who set up you and dad to fail, and if she’s an enemy of his then it’s enough to buy a break for Emily.”

GM: “Oh. Maybe… you could lie about it, sweetie? Or would anything else buy a break?”

Celia: “He’s not the type of person you can lie to.”

GM: “All right. I could help pay for it, if it’s a question of money. I don’t care how much.”

Celia: “Money means nothing to him.”

GM: “Oh. Why not?”

Celia: “When you’re that old, you have money. Anything we could give him is a drop in the bucket.”

GM: “Ah. That makes sense. Would anything else buy a break?”

Celia: Nothing Celia cares enough to pursue with her mother. If Donovan cared that Emily had stabbed Maxen he’d have already done something about it. He was in her head. He saw everything.

“I don’t know,” she finally sighs. “I’ll work on it. I admit to some personal curiosity over who destroyed our family as well. And… I mean, I was there that night. It shaped my childhood. It would have been nice to know who was responsible.”

GM: “But is Emily still in danger, when you do?” Diana asks gravely.

“You said 10%, but that might as well be 100% when you’re a mom.”

Celia: “I won’t let anything happen to Emily.”

GM: “Okay. You’re sure she’s safe? Positive?”

Celia: “Yes.”

“I’ve protected you both for seven years. I’ve got this.”

GM: “All right. You said to trust you, sweetie, and I do.”

Celia: “If you are interested in pursuing that further, there’s something I can try with you to see if the memory has been tampered with. I don’t know if it will work if it’s just that you don’t remember, but… it might be worth a try.”

“But there are a few other things to discuss. And I’d like to do that now rather than later. Mostly it’s about how our relationship is going to change.”

GM: “Oh. How so, sweetie? I like our relationship. I love our relationship!”

Celia: “I do too. But there are some changes that are inevitable.”

“Politely put, the vampire is the adult and the ghoul is the child. It’s a shift in power dynamics.”

GM: “Child how?”

Celia: “Subservient. People like me see people like you as less than. Most of them treat ghouls poorly. Very poorly. Expendable.”

GM: “Oh. But you don’t see me that way, I know.”

Celia: “No, I don’t. Which is why we’re having this talk.”

GM: “Okay. You said our relationship was going to change?” Her mom looks worried.

Celia: “It’s like this.”

Celia explains the power dynamics between vampires and ghouls. How some see the ghouls as little more than slaves to be snapped at to get what they want, but how Celia—and some others—treat theirs better. She doesn’t want anyone who works for her to be unhappy.

She explains, too, the masks that her ghouls wear.

“Ghouls like mine, those I have around my mortal identity, they treat me differently in front of you versus when we’re alone versus when we’re around other Kindred. Alana is very submissive around other Kindred. She calls me ‘mistress’ and other vampires ’ma’am.’ It’s a respect thing. Alone, she still calls me ‘mistress,’ but only because she likes to. Randy calls me ‘babe’ when we’re alone and in front of humans. In front of other vampires, it’s ‘mistress.’ I don’t really bring Rusty or Reggie around the others like me. Do you kind of see where this is going?”

GM: “Oh. So you want me to call you ma’am in public?”

“I guess that’ll feel a little funny, but if it’s part of pretending we aren’t Celia and her mom when we’re together, then sure.”

Celia: “If you’re going to be around them with me, there’s a way to speak with me and to them. Alana will run you through what’s expected. She’s mastered the etiquette.”

“So… yes, basically. When I’m Jade and when you’re my ghoul, the dancer or the bodyguard, it will be mistress or ma’am. It’ll probably be weird for a little bit. But when we’re alone, or when we’re with family, we can be like how it is now.”

GM: “Okay. But I’ll look different when I’m your ghoul, right?”

“I don’t really mind that, anyway, sweetie, it’s just acting.”

Celia: “Oh. Good. And yes, you’ll look different. We’re just playing a role.”

“You’re still my mom. I still love you like my mom.”

GM: Her mom smiles and gives her a squeeze. “Good. I love being your mom too. I was a lil’ worried you were going to say things had to be different.”

Celia: Celia smiles at her.

“No, not so different. Just sometimes. There’s also… the blood. My blood, specifically. I’d like to be very clear with you on when you will get it, when you’ll get extra, and when you won’t.”

GM: “Oh, speaking of, sweetie… I’ve felt great, since yesterday. Just wonderful, like I’m made of air. I feel so light. Would you mind if I had another sip?”

Her mom smiles again as she makes the request, but her eyes are hungry.

Celia: “Right. This is what we’re clarifying.”

Celia explains what she expects from her mother. And what she expects her not to do, as well. Diana is to make Celia’s life easier. She is to make Celia and Jade look good. She is to get along with the other ghouls versus not. Essentially, she is to be useful versus being a burden.

Which includes begging for blood.

GM: “Oh, you don’t even need to ask, sweetie, of course I want to get along with the others!” Diana nods. “Of course I want to help you and make your life easier and be useful. I’d like nothing more.”

“I’d just really like another drink, if you can spare one. It tastes so good, like how your massages feel.” She gives her daughter another smile.

Mélissaire said Jade would need a clear system of rewards and punishments. “When you punish them, it can’t feel arbitrary. They need to know ahead of time that breaking the rules has consequences. And they will break the rules if there are no consequences.”

Celia: “Right,” Celia says after a moment, “this is what I mean about being useful versus a burden. When you ask for blood, you’re asking vampire Celia, not your daughter Celia. We’ll call her Jade. You’re asking Jade for blood. Jade isn’t your daughter. Jade is a blood-sucking monster from someone’s nightmare. Giving out excess blood takes a toll on Jade and she doesn’t like it.”

“If you ask for extra blood, you will be punished accordingly, because this is a vampire transaction and not a family transaction. Being given my blood is a privilege. It is a reward. I don’t give it out because you ask. I actually won’t give it out because you ask. You’ll get it when I tell you that you get it, not before.”

“We have a whole system set up for punishments and rewards that you are now in on. Do you understand?”

GM: “I’m—I’m sorry, what?” Diana looks confused, and hurt too.

“I… I’m not sure if I do, sweetie, can you maybe explain for me?”

Celia: “I am not your blood vending machine. You do not put a dollar in and get blood out. You do not ask me to feed you extra. Asking for an extra hit is the surest way to arouse my ire. And right now, Diana, I am not your sweetie. I am your master and you will address me accordingly until this conversation is through.”

GM: “What? You’re my baby, of course you are! And please don’t call me by my name like that, it’s… it’s not what children do!" Her mother looks hurt. “I’m sorry, sweetie. If you don’t want me to ask you for blood, I’ll stop. I won’t ask again. I didn’t realize it was a big deal to you.”

Celia: Jade smiles at the kine woman. It’s not a nice smile. A hint of fang peeks from beneath her lip.

“I don’t think you heard me, Diana. I am your master and you will address me accordingly until this conversation is through. What did we say was the proper way to address me?”

GM: Diana holds up her hands. “All right! I don’t want blood! I won’t ask again! I just want to talk to Celia, please!”

Celia: “Certainly. When the conversation is over you can speak to your daughter as her mother. We were speaking about the system of rewards and punishments.” Her lips pull back from her teeth. “I asked you a question, Diana. I expect an answer.”

GM: Her mother starts crying. “Celia, please don’t be like this! You’re reminding me of, of your father!”

“I’m sorry I asked you for blood, I didn’t realize I was wrong, I swear I won’t again!”

Celia: “We can move on once you’ve answered my question.”

GM: Mélissaire had even advised, “It may help if you visually distinguish Jade the domitor from Celia the daughter. Maybe some quick alterations to your face you can change back.”

“What, what questio—oh, sweetie, there’s no need for that! I’m your mom, you don’t need to punish me! Just tell me you don’t want me to do something, and I’ll stop!”

Celia: Celia can see that her mother needs a firm lesson in this. It isn’t enough to simply ask, and she will not be moved by tears and begging. Her hands move across her face. They don’t blur, not quite, but she makes a few minor alterations: sharper chin, higher cheekbones, a brow that was made for easy scowls. She had done it once to Veronica, had sharpened her features to turn her into a deadly goddess of war rather than beautiful goddess of love, and she does it now to herself. A fingertip against her eyes and a long blink changes the color from brown to a bright green that smolders with intensity as she looks at this almost-blubbering juicebag.

Green, for Jade.

“Cease the waterworks. I explained the rules to you. I explained that I want you to be useful. I explained what you are to call me and how you are to address me when we are vampire and servant. Answer my question, Diana: how do you address me?”

GM: Diana’s already seen Celia—Jade?—turn into a cat. She doesn’t scream at the changes, but she holds her hand to her mouth as she takes several steps away.

“You said it was just pretend, around other vampires! Stop, stop calling me that! Please, sweetie!”

Celia: “I am not your sweetie, Grace.”

GM: Diana’s face whitens.

Celia: “I am its domitor, not its daughter. I asked it a question. I expect an answer.”

GM: The woman swallows. Her eyes glisten, but her tears stop flowing. Her voice is quiet when she speaks again.

“Grace is sorry. It doesn’t remember. Jade said that Alana called her mistress, and also that she was Grace’s master. Grace isn’t sure which name it should use.”

Celia: “Grace will call Jade mistress.”

GM: “Yes, mistress. Grace will call Jade mistress.”

Grace’s voice is distant and numb.

Celia: “I will explain the rules to it again.”

“I am Jade. I am Grace’s domitor. I can be a benevolent domitor, and rewards can and will be plenty if Grace follows the rules. There are two sides to me. When Grace speaks of blood, it speaks to Jade. Jade does not enjoy being asked for extra blood. Jade does not enjoy tears. Jade does not enjoy explaining things twice.”

“I told Grace earlier that the polite way to view the relationship is as adult and child. I tried to spare its feelings, as Grace is precious to Jade. I see now that this is wrong and Grace came away without a clear understanding. I will correct this. I am the master. Grace is the slave.”

“Does it understand?”

GM: “Yes. Grace… understands,” Grace repeats hollowly.

“Grace… wants to know how to earn the rewards. Grace wants to be good.”

Celia: “Grace is expected to obey. Grace will not ask for blood. Grace will learn shadow dancing from Alana and Rusty to mask its half-breed taste. Grace will learn to fence with Robby. Grace will impress the guilds for its domitor. Grace will answer its domitor’s questions when asked without protest. Grace will treat its domitor with respect. Grace will do as its domitor says. Grace will keep its domitor’s secrets. Grace will meld seamlessly into its new role as slave to Jade.”

“When these things have been completed, Grace will be rewarded. Grace will be rewarded when Jade is happy. Grace will be rewarded when it has learned to mask its half-breed taste. Grace will be rewarded when its teacher says that it is ready for new things. Grace will be rewarded when it makes its domitor look good in front of other Kindred.”

“Does it understand?”

GM: “Yes.” Grace’s face is still, its voice hollow. “Grace understands.”

Celia: “Things run smoothly when all of the pieces work together. Grace has a place at Jade’s side if it can follow directions. Grace can be rewarded beyond belief if it pleases its domitor.”

“But it will be punished when it doesn’t.”

“Grace will accept its punishment when rendered. Grace will explain to its domitor what it did wrong when it is punished. Grace will know that it is punished to correct its behavior. It will not be punished arbitrarily. If Grace follows the rules, it will not be punished.”

“Does it understand?”

GM: “Yes. Grace understands,” Grace recites numbly.

Celia: “I am pleased that Grace understands. I am less pleased that it sought to avoid punishment and that it took two explanations to accept its place. Grace will choose between the following punishments: physical chastisement or an evening with the doll Grace created.”

GM: The response comes immediately.

“Grace chooses physical chastisement, mistress.”

“Thank you for letting it choose.”

Celia: “Very well. Grace will remove its skirt and panties and bend over the desk.”

GM: Grace unzips its skirt, drops it, steps out, then removes its panties. It bends over.

Celia: “Grace will count out each smack as follows: one, thank you mistress. Two, thank you mistress. Does it understand?”

GM: “Yes. Grace understands,” says Grace. It doesn’t look up.

Celia: Jade takes a step forward. She rests a hand on Grace’s back for a long second. Then the first blow comes across her left cheek with a resounding THWACK.

GM: Grace cries out.

“One… thank you, mistress.”

Celia: A second blow follows the first.

Then a third.

All the way to ten.

Jade waits for Grace to count out each one before she delivers the next. She does not hit hard enough to bruise. She does not leave marks behind, though Grace’s pale skin turns a bright red.

GM: Grace bites its lip and clenches its eyes. It cries a bit, but quietly.

But it counts out and says thank you after each one.

Celia: Jade keeps a hand on Grace’s back after it’s done. She does not let her up yet, leaving the doll bent over the desk with its bottom exposed.

“What has Grace learned?”

GM: “Grace… has learned not to avoid punishment. Grace… has learned not to make its mistress explain things twice.” A few more tears roll down Grace’s face, but it doesn’t sob.

Celia: “Jade understands that Grace is new to this life. Jade is certain that Grace will succeed with time and make her proud. Jade will not let the lines between their relationship blur further.”

“Grace is bright. Grace is strong. Grace is beautiful. Grace is everything that Jade could want in a servant.”

GM: “Yes, mistress. Grace understands,” Grace says meekly.

Celia: “Grace was good just now accepting its place. Good behavior is rewarded.” Jade touches a hand to Grace’s reddened cheeks. She feels the heat coming off the flesh and onto her palm. “Grace will get dressed. After it dresses, it may take the name Diana again. It will thank its mistress once more for the lesson and it will be given a reward as Diana. When that has been accepted, Celia will return. Does it understand?”

GM: “Yes. Mistress. Grace understands.” Grace takes a breath, but doesn’t move from its position. “Grace… would like to make a request.”

Celia: “Ask.”

GM: “Grace would like to thank its mistress for the lesson as Grace and be rewarded as Grace. If that pleases its mistress.”

Celia: “Very well.”

Jade removes her hand from Grace’s back.

GM: Grace rises, wincing, and pulls on its clothes.

Celia: Jade watches her movements, a cat with a mouse. There’s a stillness to her that isn’t present when she wears Celia’s face, a predatory cast to her features and expression altogether missing from Diana’s daughter.

She waits, expectant.

GM: “Thank you for the lesson, mistress,” Grace says slowly. “Thank you for the reward. Thank you for fulfilling Grace’s request. Grace will be good.”

Celia: Jade sinks her fangs into her wrist and lets the blood bead at the puncture wounds, little red droplets that every addict hungers for.

“There is one last directive,” Jade says at the blood cools. “Grace will unlearn its belief that women are inferior to men.”

GM: There’s a blank, noncomprehending look.

But Grace’s eyes fix on the blood.

Celia: It begins to drip down her arm.

Jade waits.

GM: “Grace… will unlearn,” Diana says thickly.

Celia: Jade offers Grace her arm. She is careful not to let it drink from the source. She has no wish to bind the doll further.

GM: Perhaps Celia wonders if that’s kinder than bringing out Grace.

Jade likely does not.

Grace sinks to its knees and drinks needfully, rapturously, shivering as it imbibes. Its tongue desperately runs along Jade’s wrist to get it all. As if the taste alone can make this worth it.

Celia: Nothing will make this worth it.

Diana is broken, no matter what Roderick said about people breaking. She’s a shell of a person. Maybe someone else would like this sort of broken toy, maybe they would think that Diana is subservient and broken in rather than simply broken, but Jade takes after her sire in that manner: she doesn’t like broken things.

There is no gluing her back together and hoping for the best. She has a shelf life. That’s all there is to it.

Celia surfaces as Diana’s tongue nears her wrist. She pulls away, disgusted by herself and what she has just done. Her Beast snarls inside her chest at the sudden shift in emotion, sensing weakness. It strikes while her guard is down. It takes like the greedy monster that it is, punishing her for her momentary weakness.

She fixes her face and licks the wound closed on her arm.

GM: Her mom doesn’t get up from the floor.

But she stares up at Celia with glistening eyes.

“I love you,” she whispers.

Celia: “I love you too, Mom.”

What’s another lie after all that?


Monday evening, 14 March 2016

GM: Moments pass.

Celia’s mother crawls up to her feet, like a whipped dog returning to its master’s side, and hugs her legs. Diana hugs the rest of her daughter, but only if she chooses to kneel down. It takes Celia’s mom a little while to say anything, but she smiles when Celia calls her ‘mom.’ She smiles like she has nothing else left.

“Is… is it pretend, sweetie,” she gets out. “In public. Around other vampires. You’re still… you’re still Celia, to me, just… pretending to be Jade, around them?”

Celia: Some time after Jade’s disappearance, Celia sinks to the ground with her mother and draws the woman into her arms. Warmth floods through her at the proximity to the so-willing vessel; she remembers the taste, the way it felt as if she were drinking bottled love, the way it filled her. Her heart beats beneath the surface of the skin.

thump-thump.

It calls to her.

What does mangled love taste like?

“The world I navigate is dark,” Celia tells her mother. “Anyone who isn’t strong enough to withstand that will be cut to pieces. When I was a child, you taught me how to bend. You taught me that there is good in the world despite the darkness if only you know where to look. You taught me how to survive.”

“There are people like me who do not know how to bend. They break beneath the pressures of our society. They lose. I do not lose. I will not lose. Maxen could have broken me, but you were always there to hold me together, and I have loved you for your quiet strength.”

“But I am also now your domitor. This is me now. This is us. There are things I will not bend on for you. There are things I will not tolerate, that I cannot tolerate, that show weakness. I can’t be weak or they will take everything I love away from me. They’ll take you, Mom. I’m not willing to lose you. Not again.”

Celia pulls back, cupping her mother’s face in her hands.

“You are my mother. I am your daughter. I will always be your daughter. I will fight for you. I will never let them hurt you. I will shelter you from the worst of it. And I will love you. Fiercely. Always.”

GM: Celia’s mother clings to her as though Celia is the parent and she the child.

She listens, gratefully, to her daughter’s words. So gratefully.

It’s as Celia learned with Paul. With Butterfly.

A little comfort makes all the difference.

She stares up into Celia’s eyes as her daughter cups her face.

“Celia… that hurt,” she whispers.

“I… I understand. I can’t ask you for blood. I won’t. I won’t, ever again.”

“But that… that hurt, sweetie…”

Celia: The lesson has sunk in. Celia relents.

“I know, Mom. I’m sorry.”

GM: “I’m… I’m scared.” She swallows. “I’m scared I’m going to mess up and… she’ll come back, and hurt me again…”

She’ll.

Not you’ll.

Her eyes squeeze shut for a moment, and when she speaks again, her voice trembles. “C-Celia, baby, I’m so scared…”

Celia: At least she understands.

“It’s an adjustment period. You’ll learn. She can be patient while you learn. I know you’ll find your stride in this, Mom. I believe in you.”

GM: “I don’t… I don’t ever want to see her again, Celia, she was…” Diana shudders. “She was horrible…”

“She was like your father, used to be…”

Celia: “We all have to face things we’re afraid of.”

GM: Her mother’s eyes are full of terror at the thought. “But I… I’ll… I can’t face her, I couldn’t face your father, I’m too weak…”

Celia: “There are different types of strength. Find yours.”

GM: Her mother’s shoulders hang. There is no strength in her posture, only submission.

“I’ll obey, Celia. I’ll be good, I’ll do whatever you want. Just don’t let her… don’t let her hurt me again…”

Celia: “She won’t, Mom.”

GM: “Will you, will you warn me if she’s about to come back? If I mess up again, so I can know to stop?”

Celia: “Yes. I can do that.”

GM: Her mom gives her a trembling, grateful smile. “And it’ll be… it’ll be pretend, in public? Even if I call you mistress there, I’m still your mom?”

Celia: I’m still your mom?

Inside her chest her heart cracks.

She stares at the woman that gave birth to her. The woman that raised her. The woman that has given and given and given of herself.

And she knows that she fucked up.

She’s already on her knees. She can’t sink any lower. But the hug that engulfs her mother changes. She clings to her like the liferaft that she is, that she had always been when Daddy got mad and came after her, one of the few solitary beacons of light in Celia’s world of darkness.

She doesn’t want a doormat.

She doesn’t want Grace.

She wants her mother.

Tears leak from her eyes. The red runs down her cheeks. It stains her mother’s shirt where Celia presses her face against the fabric. Her shoulders shake; it’s an effected movement, one she doesn’t need to make. Her body doesn’t move outside her will. But the gesture will be familiar to her mother. Human. Safe.

“I—I’m sorry, Mom, I’m so sorry.” Quiet, desperately whispered words to the woman in front of her. “You’re my mom, of course you’re my mom, I’m sorry I hit you, I shouldn’t have done that, it was wrong, so wrong of me.”

GM: Celia can feel her mother’s sudden stiffness of limbs, her elevated heart rate, and her increased perspiration at Celia’s equally sudden change in affect. There’s an instinctive wariness, like a struck dog shying away from the hand trying to pet it.

It only lasts, though, until the tears.

At the sight of those, at that maternal instinct to comfort and make them cease to flow, Diana cradles Celia’s head against her chest and runs her fingers across her daughter’s hair. Blood stains through her blouse as she murmurs assurances.

“It’s… it’s okay, sweetie,” she says, hoarsely at first, “Your new life is hard, and difficult, and scary… I hadn’t learned, I hadn’t understood, but I understand now…”

Celia: “It’s not okay,” Celia says back to her, voice cracking in the middle. “It’s not okay. I became another Maxen, another Elyse, another Payton. Another abuser. It’s not okay. You’re my mother. You’re a ghoul, my ghoul, but you’re my mom. I need my mom. I need you as my mom, not as a ghoul, not as a slave.”

Celia doesn’t want her on her knees like that, no matter what Mel had said about her being perfectly suited for it.

GM: “I’ll… I’ll always be your mom, sweetie, don’t worry, I’ll always be your mom…” Diana gets out her, voice breaking too. “It wasn’t really you, anyway, she wouldn’t cry, she wouldn’t want your mom…”

Celia: “She is me. She’s me. I’m her. They’re just two sides to me. We’re the same person.”

GM: Celia’s mom just hugs her head tighter. Her hands continue to stroke.

“Oh, baby, she wasn’t anything like you, anything at all, you’re so much better than that…”

Celia: “No,” Celia sniffs. She doesn’t need to sniff, but she does it anyway. Another wasted human gesture meant to comfort her mother, to put them on the same level. “She’s me. I’m not better than her. I’ve done awful things. Terrible things.”

GM: “But you’ve done wonderful things too, baby,” her mom assures her, dabbing at Celia’s eyes with a dryer corner of her blouse, “you saved me from your dad, you gave Emily a loving family, you hid Lucy… you haven’t been perfect, none of us are, but whatever else you’ve done, I know you’ve also done amazing good… what’s that Emily said, how you never stop trying to push people to be better…”

Celia: “It doesn’t balance out the negative. I just hit you. I turned you into her again.”

GM: Her mom falls quiet for a moment, as if trying to think of a way to excuse that.

Celia: There’s no excuse.

GM: “I forgive you, baby,” her mom finally says, giving her another squeeze.

Celia: “No.” Celia shakes her head. “No. Don’t. Not yet.”

“Don’t just accept an apology. Don’t forgive and forget. Don’t go back to being nothing. Don’t let me turn you into that.”

“It was unacceptable. Completely, utterly unacceptable. You are not a doormat. You are not nothing. You are my mother and I need you to be my mother. You are the only thing that kept me together, that kept me from turning into Maxen, and I need you to be that woman for me or I’ll turn into someone just as terrible as he was.”

GM: Celia’s mother sniffs and squeezes her tighter. “You won’t, sweetie, I won’t let you… I’ll always be your mom, and you’ll always be my baby… always… you’re so much better than him, you really are… Emily says all the girls at your salon say what a great boss you are, too, paying them well, havin’ them as real employees, not contractors, not askin’ them to show up to work if they don’t have clients…”

Celia: “That’s not the same. That’s not the same, Mom. That’s just work. This is us. I just hit you. I turned you into Grace again. I hurt you. I don’t want to be that person. I won’t be that person. I refuse to be that person. I don’t want you like that. I don’t want to do that to you. You don’t deserve that. You’re so much better than that.”

GM: “Okay… this is us…” her mom nods, several times, “maybe you have somethin’ for my bum, then? It still smarts a little, but this is a spa we’re in…”

Celia: It’s an absurd idea, but it seizes her anyway.

“Do it to me,” she says. “To Jade. To me. We’ll get rid of her, kick that part of me from our relationship so we can be Celia and her mother, not Jade and her ghoul.”

GM: “W… what?” Diana asks confusedly.

Celia: “We’ll get rid of her, right? This… this shadow that she’s casting over both of us. We’ll force her out. Show her that you’re not afraid of her. Tell her off. Fight her. Spank her.”

“We’ll tell her that she’s not welcome in this relationship. She has no place here.”

GM: “Well… I, ah, I guess that’s one way… but I don’t want to hurt you, sweetie!”

Celia: “You won’t. Or rather, I heal very quickly.”

GM: “But I don’t want you to go through that, too! It’s…” her mother’s cheeks turn faintly red, “it’s humiliating, too, there’s more than one kind of hurt…”

“I don’t want to humiliate you, baby…”

Celia: “It’s just us. We’re the only two here. You can see me like that. You can remind yourself that I’m still your little girl, no matter what else I might have become.”

GM: “But even just us… it still was…” her mother takes a moment to repeat the word, “humiliating, for me… are you sure, sweetie? I’m okay if we hurt Jade, if we tell her she’s not welcome, but I don’t want to hurt you, also!”

Celia: “We’re the same person,” Celia tells her again. “You need to understand that. She’s just a mask I wear, but we’re the same. I need you to do this so I don’t slip into her around you. That part of me has no place with you.”

“I know you want to help me. You said you would. You want to be in on this. I need this.”

And Diana needs this, too.

GM: “All… all right, if you really think it’ll help you, I’ll do my best…” her mom says with a slow nod.

Celia: Celia pulls back. She changes her face so that her mother can see the physical manifestation of the monster she might become if she’s allowed to continue down this path. She turns into Jade.

But it’s still Celia’s voice that comes out of her mouth, still Celia’s warmth when she tells her mother to do it.

GM: Her mother’s eyes widen with fear as Celia’s brown turn into Jade’s green. She takes several steps backwards and holds a hand to her mouth. Perhaps she thinks back to the words they shared.

I am its domitor, not its daughter.

I am the master. Grace is the slave.

I am also your domitor. This is me now. This is us.

She can hear the kine woman’s heart hammering in her chest as she flashes back to the memory. Her whitening face looks almost sick.

It really took so little time to break her in.

It’s only at Celia’s voice that Diana points and falteringly says,

“Ben… bend over the desk…”

Celia: Jade makes no move toward the kine. She holds perfectly still, waiting for instruction. When it comes, she does as asked. Two steps take her toward the desk and she leans across it, bending at the waist.

“Tell her why,” she says before Diana can strike her.

GM: “Your, ah, your leggings…”

Diana might be pointing.

Celia: Jade slides her thumbs into the waistband of her leggings and pulls them down. The panties follow. She steps out of them and waits, silently, for Diana to tell her why this is happening.

GM: “You…” Celia’s mother starts, “you hurt me. You made me scared… you made me scared of Celia… and…” she takes a breath, “I was scared you’d come back, just so scared. I thought I’d make more mistakes and I told Celia how scared I was. She said she had faith in me and loved me and would even warn me, if Jade was about to come back, but…” her mother swallows, “but she said Jade would still be there, that this was us now, and I felt… I felt like Celia was slipping through my fingers, and I was trying to hold onto her, but she was already gone, and that it was just… that she didn’t mean it anymore, when she said she loved me…”

Diana’s voice breaks towards at the end.

Celia: “You want me to go away,” Jade says once she’s done, “so you can have your daughter back.”

GM: Diana gives a shaking, uneven gasp when she hears Jade’s voice.

“Y… yes…”

Celia: Jade considers the kine for a moment. Celia, too, watches from behind the mask. She knows what Diana needs right now.

“Make me.”

GM: Several moments pass until she approaches and delivers a light swat to the vampire’s backside.

“Go… go away. Please.”

Celia: The blow is a whisper against her skin.

Diana will need to do more than that if she wants to be in control of her own future again.

“No.”

GM: Diana waits again, as if for a response, then delivers a firmer but still fairly mild spank.

“You aren’t, you aren’t welcome here.”

Celia: Better. But they’re not there yet.

“I go where I please.”

GM: There’s another pause, and then another smack. Slightly firmer.

“This is, this is Celia’s space, with me. Go somewhere else!”

Celia: Getting there. She pushes slightly further, choosing her words with care. You can’t make me will only set her back.

“No one can make me do what I don’t want.”

GM: Another smack, at the same intensity, but without the pause.

“F… fine, just do it someplace else! Celia needs me! She says she needs her mom!”

Celia: “Celia is mine.”

GM: There’s a much swifter, angrier smack.

“Excuse me! I gave birth to her!”

Celia: “She’s mine,” Jade repeats, “I own her. No one can protect her.”

GM: Another sharp smack.

“Celia’s strong! She owns herself, and she wants her mom! There, there isn’t room for a domitor!”

Smack.

“It’s, it’s perverted, a ‘rewards and punishments system!’ That’s not what children do with parents!”

Smack.

“And she is my sweetie, she’s my sweetie all the time! We, we cuddle on the couch and watch movies, with Lucy and Emily!”

Celia: “Help me, Momma,” Celia’s voice pleads, “make her go away.”

GM: There’s a much harder smack, one that might actually hurt to receive.

“Go away! Celia doesn’t want you! She says you’re turning her into, into her father!”

Diana’s hand strikes flesh.

“She says she’s done horrible things! That’s not the Celia I know, the Celia I know helps people!”

“Did you make her, did you make my daughter do bad things?”

Celia: A giggle floats up from the bent-over Kindred.

“I made her do terrible things,” she says with glee.

GM: A hard, angry smack.

“Well go on, let’s hear them! I’ll tell her how they were all your fault!”

Celia: “I made her lie to you,” Jade giggles, “for years.”

GM: Smack.

“I forgive her. She had to.”

Celia: “I made her hurt people.”

GM: “That’s your fault.”

But the smack is angrier, harder.

Celia: “I made her dig into your painful history to sate my own curiosity.”

GM: Diana raises her hand high and brings it down hard. Smack.

“That’s your fault?! You didn’t have that right! It’s none of your business!”

“That’s nobody’s business! I don’t want to talk about it! I don’t ever want to talk about it!”

Celia: “I made her hit you.”

“You’re kine,” she adds. They’re close. She can tell. She pushes further, giving her mother one last little nudge. “You couldn’t stop her. You can’t stop me.”

GM: Smack.

“You’re evil!” Diana exclaims angrily. “You made me afraid of her, of my own flesh and blood!”

Smack.

Celia: She is.

But she’s trying to be good. She’s trying to be better.

“What are you going to do about it?”

GM: “Go AWAY!” Celia’s mom yells, bringing her open palm down on the dead flesh, again and again.

“I’m not talking to Jade anymore! I’m not! You’re not my ‘domitor,’ master, whatever, I’m not her ghoul, that’s a silly name anyway! Celia’s my sweetie! You don’t, you don’t decide when I talk to my daughter! I’ll keep talking to her! ‘System I’m now in on,’ what a, what a load of crock! We will talk this out as a family! What to do about my, my… addic—why didn’t we just talk about this!? I can’t believe this all started over, that she hurt me, because of… I want my baby! How could you, how could she, let that come between us, make her hit me, make me scared of her, because of… blood!?!

Diana doesn’t have Maxen’s cruelty, his physical strength, his desire to inflict pain and humiliation with each blow. Or Jade’s. She strikes the dead and pale flesh, manically, like it will exorcise this awful thing that passed between them.

“GO AWAY! And take Grace with you!”

Celia: It’s not the same as being bent over her father’s knee.

It’s not the same as when Paul did the same, holding her down while she kicked and struggled and flailed.

It’s not like when her sire took the sword to her skin, or when he broke every bone in her body the other night to teach her a lesson.

There’s nothing humiliating about this, not in the way Diana thinks it might be, and when tears finally spring to Celia’s eyes it’s because she’s proud that Diana has finally come out of her shell, that she’s rising up to become her own woman and won’t let someone else kick her around anymore.

“Fine!” Jade finally snarls. “Then you protect her!”

Just like that, she’s gone.

Her hands shift. Her face rights itself. And it’s Celia bent over the desk, bare-bottomed, crying into her arms now that Jade is gone. Celia who asks for her mother.

GM: “I will, tha-”

Diana pulls Celia into her arms and sinks down to the floor with her, cradling her daughter against her breast and stroking her hair.

“Celia, baby, I’m sorry, did I hurt you?”

Celia: Celia clings to her mother, shaking her head back and forth, back and forth. Like a child. A half-naked, adult child.

“N-no,” she tells her mom, “you didn’t hurt me. You stood up to her. You got rid of her.”

GM: Celia’s mom just holds her close, and at least for now, has no eyes for her daughter’s nudity.

“I… I did? She isn’t ever going to come back, or come between us…?”

Celia: “No, Momma. She’s gone.”

GM: “I love you, baby,” her mom repeats, squeezing her.

Celia: “I love you too, Mom,” Celia says back to her. She even means it this time.

GM: “I’m, ah—I’m sorry, you’re undressed…” Her mother studiously averts her gaze.

Celia: She laughs at the mention of her nudity.

“Yes. I suppose I am.”

GM: “Would you like to, ah, rectify that?”

“I know you’ve seen me without my undies, but that isn’t the same.”

Celia: Celia finds her clothing and starts to dress.

“Nudity isn’t a big thing to most of my kind,” she says to her mother. “You might see a lot of bodily parts in the future.”

GM: Her mom politely turns her back as she dresses.

“Oh, why is that?”

“Ah, never mind. We’ll deal with it then. There’s something else to talk about, sweetie.”

Her mom clears her throat.

“I’m an… addict. Aren’t I?”

Celia: She starts to open her mouth to explain, but the second question cuts her off.

“Yes,” Celia tells her. “The blood is addictive. It feels good to give and receive. That’s why you asked for more. That’s why you crave it. It’s a drug. Worse than a drug.”

GM: Her mom is silent for a moment.

“Do we… is it the only way we can be together? I can’t just quit, and keep your secret?”

“Or maybe pretend that I’m your ghoul, somehow?”

Celia: “I don’t think you could quit even if you wanted to, Mom. It’s… it’s worse than heroin, they say.”

GM: “But, but could we, sweetie. Could we still be together, if I did.”

“Or is it really the only option?”

Celia: “If someone finds out that you know, that you’re not blooded, they’d come for us. I know it’s easy for me to say that and hard for you to understand because it’s just words, but… it’s a risk. A really, really big risk. And if someone finds out you know, if someone looks into your head and sees that, they won’t give me a slap on the wrist. It’s the first rule of being a vampire.”

GM: “Okay,” her mom says. “You’re right, sweetie, this is really all just words, but… I’ll trust you. If you really think me being a ghoul is the only way.”

Celia: “If there’s another way,” Celia promises her mother, “I’ll find it.”

GM: “Okay,” nods her mom. “You’re smart, I know there’s nothin’ you can’t do when you put your mind to it. We’ll just think of this as… temporary, until then.”

“But, ah, as far as how to manage things.”

Her mom clears her throat. “Celia, it’s there in the back of my head. Even after all that happened, there’s this voice I’m listening to, this needful lil’ voice, that already wants to beg for more.”

“That… that’s gotten louder, too, and already wants to beg more, because you won’t let Jade hurt me.”

Diana swallows.

“We can’t, we can’t let this define our relationship, sweetie. Or come between us.”

“Maybe you should just… only give me a fixed amount. Rain or shine. However much you think I need, no rewards, no punishments. On a… on a fixed schedule, maybe, so I’m not constantly wonderin’, when there’ll be more.”

“And… and if I get weak, if I beg, if I try to get more, you just won’t budge.”

Celia: Celia is quiet for a moment.

It’s similar to the system she has with Rusty. His brothers and Alana are all on the same system of rewards and punishments, but she had struck a different bargain with Rusty. He does more for her, unseen though it is, and she had leveraged that by giving him back his ability to walk without a cane or crutches, to move without pain. He needs more because he uses more, and he has never once begged beyond that. He’s learned to ration what he has. It’s a transaction between them, like everything else.

“Okay,” she says at length. “We can do that. I think that will work.”

GM: Her mom looks into her eyes closely as she’s silent, then nods in agreement.

“And maybe you can… I don’t know, mix it with prune juice or something? So it’s less addictive? Does that work?”

Celia: “Ah… I’m not sure, no one has ever asked me that. We could try it?”

“I don’t think it would be less addictive, but… we can try.”

GM: “I’m just spitballin’, sweetie. I don’t… I don’t want to be an addict.”

Celia: “There’s also maybe someone I could talk to about it, now that I think of it. He can do a lot with blood.”

GM: “Oh, yes, please!”

“I see those people in the Quarter, or at least hear about them, I only really see the worse parts from the car, they’re just… if this is worse than heroin, sweetie… I’m scared. How it could impact Lucy, if her mom’s an add…”

Celia: “I know, Mom.” Celia pulls her close again, as if a hug can scare the bad thoughts away. “I know. I’m sorry this happened to you. That’s why… that’s why I wanted to give you something to work toward, with the dancing and the fencing. An outlet for your need.”

GM: Her mom hugs her tight. “Maybe that’ll, maybe that’ll do it, sweetie. They recommend exercise programs for recovering addicts, you know, and the only real exercise I do now is my daily walks around the Garden District.”

Celia: “Everyone else like you is the same. An addict. We can talk to them. See how they manage. For most of them it’s… they need something to do. Something to keep their focus.”

GM: “That does make sense. I don’t need to say how much I’d love to dance again, that takes plenty focus and exertion. More than plenty. And I’ll learn to fence, too, if it’d be helpful to you.”

“Though, ah, learnin’ to shoot might actually be more helpful, when it comes to keepin’ you safe. Knife fight vs. gun fight, and all.”

Celia: Celia shakes her head.

“You can learn to shoot, but it won’t stop someone like me. Bullets don’t do much to us.”

GM: “Oh. Well, I guess they never do use guns in the movies.”

“Anyway, sweetie, we’ve taken up enough time here, Lucy needs to go to bed soon. Do you have a spare shirt or dress…?” She gestures down at her blood-streaked blouse.

“Your, ah. Your tears are bloody.”

Celia: “I do, actually. That’s one of the first things I learned: blood is messy. I keep a spare change of clothes pretty much everywhere.”

Celia finally rises to her feet, moving behind the desk to pull out the bottom drawer. The shirt is less fancy than the one Diana is in now, a simple “Flawless” tee like the one she’s in, but it’s clean and will fit her mother.

GM: “Thanks, sweetie. Can we pick up some clothes from the house, by the way…?” she asks as she turns away, slips off the bloody blouse, and slips the tee on. “I forgot to pack much last morning, and these are actually the same clothes I wore yesterday, I did them in a laundry load with all of the boys’.”

Celia: “Yes. The situation with her should be resolved tonight.”

GM: “Okay. I’ll think up something to tell Emily, about why we’re not goin’ home.”

“And… if the only way to know, is to be an addict… maybe it’d be kinder not to tell her. About vampires, and all of that.”

Celia: “I’ve thought about telling you both multiple times,” Celia admits with a sigh, “and it always came back to that. Not wanting this life for you.”

GM: Her mom squeezes her shoulder. “You’ll find an answer, on what to do. I know you will.”

“But maybe it is for the best that one of us knows.”

“You said… you said Jade was you, too.” Her mother’s voice grows quiet.

Celia: “She… she is.”

GM: “What happened, Celia?” her mom whispers, giving her another squeeze.

“She was… she was as bad as your dad…”

Celia: “I…” Celia doesn’t know how to explain. “I’ve been through… a lot. A lot that you don’t know about. A lot that has made me… hard. Cold. Angry. People have done things to me. Used me. Hurt me. I couldn’t be Celia around them. I had to be someone else. Someone like her.”

“The nicest one among them once told me that they’re a society of raging dicks. He was right.”

GM: Her mom’s heart looks like it’s breaking for her.

Celia: “The guy I work for is kind of nice,” she adds, as if that helps.

GM: Diana just hugs her close again, as if a mother’s embrace could somehow lift away all those hurts and hates and coldness.

“I feel like this is maybe more than we can unpack here in your office, sweetie. We should… we need, to talk about it later.”

“But for now, just know that I’m here for you, okay? I love you. Even with… even with Jade. I don’t think you’re all gone, if you were able to come back from what she did.”

“What you did. You came back, that’s what matters.”

Celia: She doesn’t let herself cry again, but the pressure builds at the corners of her eyes. She nods mutely, lips pressed together to keep the flood of emotion from pouring out of her.

“Thanks, Momma. I needed to hear that.”

GM: “It was your strength, sweetie. You’re still Celia. I don’t even…” her mom shudders, “I don’t even want to imagine what would’ve happened, if you hadn’t come to your senses. What our relationship would’ve turned into.”

Celia: A domitor and a doormat.

Veronica and Micheal.

GM: “You pushed that part of yourself back. Maybe… maybe you can, further, now that you’ve done it once.”

Celia: “Maybe,” she hedges, uncertain that such a thing is possible. “I can try. I… I keep mentioning my boyfriend, you know, but he’s… he makes me want to be a better person, too, and I keep… I keep thinking… what if he finds out how awful I’ve been? I want to be better. For you. For him. For Lucy and Emily and the rest of our family.”

GM: “I saw how awful Jade… you could be, and we still love each other, don’t we?” smiles her mom, giving her a squeeze. “You fessed up, you made it right… so right, sweetie. If your boyfriend is the good guy you think he is, I think he’ll forgive you.”

Celia: Celia doesn’t share her mother’s optimism.

GM: “And you’ll feel better, to have been honest with him.”

Celia: Ah, yes, but last time she was honest with him he’d beaten her for it.

GM: “Do you feel better, knowing that I have some idea now, and I’m still here?”

Celia: “Yes,” she admits. But it’s not the same.

GM: Her mom smiles again. “Confession’s good for the soul, sweetie. It’s a lil’ trite, but it’s true.”

“Anyway… I really need to put Lucy to bed. I love you and I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

Celia: “Okay, Mom. Have a good night. I’ll let you know how it goes. And… thanks. For loving me. And for being my mom.”

GM: Her mother gives her a last squeeze. “Thanks for loving me, too. And for wanting me to stay your mom.”

Perhaps that love is a small candle in the dark of Jade’s and Celia’s conjoined souls.

But perhaps it’s bright enough to illuminate whose is whose.


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Comments

Emily Feedback Repost

Dani/Roderick

Kind of feel bad for Roderick here about Dani when they just go back and fuck. Thought he might not be coming back for a second and I was like, “uhhh…” But then he did! All good. Sex makes everything better. Glad to see that the Logan thing is panning out. Boy needs an outlet for his rage, ya feel? Oh, they were supposed to meet on Wednesday. Awkward. Oh well!

Maaaaaan Celia like real manipulative here as well. “I set her up to hate you, are you mad at me?” “Nah babe you the best.” Ayy.

Also like still super confused by Roderick offering to spank Celia on Saturday before meeting her dad and then suddenly deciding he’s not into it. I don’t get it. Like I guess it’s fine but also he offered and then rescinded the offer so like… what? Don’t be a tease, bro. Not like that.

Later Scenes

Guess I could move Josua to 8 PM on Wednesday since Logan took Tuesday instead. Only did it to make sure I could do both. Someone reschedule the man for me.

Didn’t realize that Reggie does to Celia exactly what Celia does to Alana here in her office. Damn I’m good.

Had fun with the minor spa scene here. Nice to be able to see that side of the business without Diana. Didn’t expect Charity to be like “oh boy Roberts’ niece died, whaaaaa.” I was like “uh.” Didn’t know how to respond since I don’t think Celia knows much about Amelie / who she is. Figured it’d be some fun gossip about clients, but this was cool too.

Some of Celia’s clients are squeamish about spreading their legs for her. Her mother perhaps surprisingly wasn’t: “You’ve seen just about all there is to see with me already, sweetie,” she’d said.

Charity seems to fall in that camp too, if for different reasons. She spreads her legs for enough strangers.

What’s funny about this is that I had a stripper client that was real shy. I was like “damn girl do I need to give you a dollar to get you to move your leg for me or what?” But most people are pretty chill after the first time.

Fun chat with Charity, regardless. Pretty light and easy and probably what Celia needed between all the heavy things that have been going on lately.

Now there’s an idea. This is actually where I got the idea to say what Celia said to Elyse at their later meeting. Saw Natalie and was like “oh that will work. Hell yeah.” And it did. Whoo!

Initial Diana Scene

I’m not really sure how much I want to get into this Diana scene, to be honest. Things are still pretty raw for me on this end.

I guess I’m glad that she wants to die eventually. I can’t imagine a 100-year-old Celia with a mom still around. Still need to find a priest for her. Shame I killed Roxanne. Whoops. Maybe if she wasn’t such a cunt she would have lived.

Celia’s story here about her Embrace feels pretty fragmented. Not the story itself but the writing. I don’t think it felt like that when I was writing it but I’m not sure I love how it comes across on the page now. Decent cover, I guess, for Veronica Embracing her. “She was amused by the aftermath of the tape and wanted a way to stick it to her sister.” Makes sense to me.

Been working on this idea for the Monster Dolls for a while now. Should probably post them at some point.

Thought the conversation about the dance took me a little out of my depth. I’m not a dancer, not into ballet, etc. I agree with Navy that ballet can definitely be a solo thing as well, which Diana should know. Not really sure why she got so offended at the idea of someone combining multiple dance forms to perform. I still like the idea of finding a male partner for her for dance. Will need to look into it. Gimme a Toreador Ball or Guild stuff soon, ya feel?

I can clearly feel my impatience with Diana coming through in this scene when we get into the sexism talk.

The idea of Diana meeting Veronica is… interesting, to be honest. I kind of want to talk to her soon, but don’t really want to tell her about Diana. Think I’ll have Diana “audition” for her to show off her skill to see if she’s ready to be shown off further, I think.

This is also the second time that Diana has told Celia to write a letter to Donovan. Lol. “Why won’t you love me? Also can I have my dad back?” —Celia.

So there’s a little bit we get into here with what happened all that time ago. I still… don’t really know what the truth is. Like I know what Celia thinks / what I think, but now it kind of feels like Donovan definitely knows about Ron & Diana and took the memory from Maxen.

So. Celia is kind of grasping at straws here. “What about the woman at the party?” “Why were you drinking?” “Who sent the letter?” I know we have access to the logs, but I remember not looking it up in that moment because I was like “it makes sense that Celia might be a little fuzzy on the details when the conversation happened ~14 years ago.” Maybe that was the wrong call on my end? She still remembered a decent amount. I dunno. This conversation is kind of all over the place.

Celia offered to use Tabletop Confessions on her but I kind of feel like it’s my go-to skill sometimes and I’d rather not overuse it. There’s been a decent amount of it lately. I might eventually, I have two specific targets in mind, but we’ll see. I don’t want its use to get boring.

Breaking Diana

Celia botched things pretty hard here with her mom and the rewards and punishments talk. Better ways to explain it than having gone through all of this.

Honestly don’t really want to talk about it.

Objectively she broke her pretty well.

Not super interested in a broken ghoul, though.

Some echo of Donovan here with the offer of “physical chastisement.” Celia has used the “choose your punishment” thing before to good effect with Alana, but following the evening with him it feels pretty poignant.

After the spanking Celia gets pretty, uh… flat. Cold. I don’t know if that’s the right word. Intentional on my end, she was pretty over the conversation and didn’t really want to comfort her mom, but does it read weird?

The change from Jade to Celia is pretty jarring.

Could have been an emotional scene but honestly I was just so fucking annoyed with Diana at this point that I hated it.

“Excuse me! I gave birth to her!” This response to “Celia is mine” made me laugh.

Scene was real weird. Kind of had fun. Kind of was annoyed. I dunno. Conflicting feelings. Fucked up shit, like our friend later says to Jade. Glad that some of the fire came back to Diana, at least. Think the “make her fight off Jade” was a solid suggestion.

Solid quote choice.

Story Thirteen, Celia IV
 

Calder Feedback Repost

Calder: Answering feedback
Who knows, maybe Rod wouldn’t have come back
But you’ve bound him two steps
Celia’s also free to ask him if she’s curious why he flip-flopped over the spanking
I also liked how we finally got an overdue spa scene with Diana
I thought Celia’s reaction to Amelie was pretty spot-on
She didn’t know Amelie and had no reason to be invested in the girl’s fate

Emily: “Cool story.” —Celia

Calder: nah, she was a better listener than that

Emily: Also, wait, she did ask him
And he was like “I must have just been sarcastic about it”
Which is not really an answer
Since he seemed into it then and now suddenly isn’t
The game has enough spanking, but like

Calder: Sometimes NPCs give lame answers too

Emily: He’s fired.

[…]

Calder: Surprised to hear about that shy stripper
Did you ever get a sense for why, exactly?

Emily: No. She was kind of weird. Came in a few times, was the same every time.
Ask her to move her leg and she’d do this like limp movement
I dunno man

Calder: Weird
Maybe she just wasn’t expecting it there
And stripper was a mindset she got into at work
What idea did Natalie give you?

Emily: The one to say to Elyse that Diana is training a dancer
Instead of being like “She’s my mom”
Have more to say on the subject but will wait for that log.

Calder: Huh, how did she give you the idea?
She didn’t show up on-screen
Oh, wait
Louise talked about her in the next log

Emily: No
That was also played out after the meeting with Elyse.
She appeared briefly when Celia took Charity to check out
No lines, you didn’t mention her. I did.

Calder: Oh, so you did
Right before Charity
After Bentley
Roxanne was never a priest, as either a mortal or Kindred
So that at least was no loss when you killed her
I’d also enjoy seeing the Monster Dolls posted. They sound like they’d be a hit
I’m a little out of my depth too when it comes to ballet, and I’m usually pulling up some article or forum post when I have Diana talk about it
I tweaked some of her lines about the solo stuff to dial that back a little
As you guys were right and she’d have known about that
But she is also right that ballet can be a troupe-based as well as solo performance
And that people usually pay to come see big troupe-based shows

Emily: Sure, but there’s a big emphasis on being a soloist
Also Bentley was the next night
It was Evelyn

Calder: Oh, that’s right. Celia thought about how having a pregnant client was so much less of a pain now
And there is. The soloist dances are simply one component of the larger show
You can enjoy them by themselves
There are YouTube videos of ballerinas dancing on their own without any partners
Big troupe show is simply what most people pay to see

Emily: I’m not really into ballet, so
Probably someone more into it than I am would have made for a better dancer’s daughter

Calder: I think Celia worked okay. She wasn’t ever a dancer herself
Isabel teased her for it
And she didn’t pursue it outside of college
Which Diana was okay with. Celia had her own interests

Emily: Prob someone more into art would be a better Toreador though. Good thing Celia is a secret [redacted]

Calder: Ah, but what Celia does is art
According to her

Emily: Josua thinks so

Calder: And she’s also very pretty
Toreador don’t all have to be “real” artists
Indeed, the fact they don’t all fit the mold is what gives the clan much of its internal conflicts
What really makes a Toreador is being sexy and sensual

Emily: Celia’s medium is bodies. Her work is very exclusive. People who hate on it just haven’t experienced it yet and they’re jealous.

Calder: As I said to Navy last night, “Celia is the most Toreador Toreador in the history of Clan Toreador”

Emily: Fleshcrafting, massage, and sex is all bodies.
Therefore all art.
Therefore she’s an artist.

Calder: Being pretty is art

Emily: Celia is her own canvas

Calder: I liked her Embrace story
You’re usually a harsher critic of your writing than I am

Emily: It felt stilted.
Like it was supposed to, a little, but not that much.

Emily: But if no one else agrees then I’m chill with it.

Calder: I thought you were also right not to review the Celia Prelude logs, since they happened 10+ years ago and Celia doesn’t remember everything
But also that you were right to have her remember as much as she did
The topic is clearly important to her

Emily: I don’t know if she actually missed much, tbh.
Some of it was paraphrased
But I usually take decent notes and it’s been a big deal to her.
And what I mean by that is when I write shit down I remember it.

Calder: You clearly do. Celia’s been pretty on the ball WRT the circumstances of her birth

Emily: Maybe one day she’ll find out the truth.
(The truth is that nothing significant happened and she was a mistake)
(Her sire will tell her the same when he finally kills her. That she was a mistake)

Calder: Ooof
Poor Celia
All she really wanted was just for her dad to love her
Mortal and Kindred

Emily: And it never happened. :(

Calder: She found love in a lot of other places at least
Lot of casual sex to fill the emotional void

Emily: All girls with daddy issues are whores.
Jamal said that.
He was right.

Calder: Jamal said she loved their first time together
He was right about that too
He saw it in her eyes

Emily: I mean. She did later kiss him.
He prob right.

Calder: Jamal always right

Emily: Int 5

Calder: Ask him why and how Celia was really conceived

Emily: I’m about to text him in this scene rn.
He was around for it, already a ghoul

Calder: Oh my

Emily: Yoooo Jamal is her real dad

Calder: As far as the rewards/punishments convo went, like anything, I’d say it was relative to your objective. Celia did an amazing job breaking in her mom as a ghoul, and would’ve for any other Retainer with whom she wanted a traditional master/servant relationship
It also would’ve been good with Alana or Randy, who you want/have that relationship with
Alana also some built-in carrot there, as she enjoys the master/slave relationship and the idea of Celia owning her
At least in an erotic sense
She’s been less happy with “real” punishments, but she’s largely responded well to the master/servant relationship. Celia is also affectionate and she tries to earn her master’s approval, and knows she’ll also be punished if she slips up
So I’d say the convo you had with Diana could’ve worked great with Alana (or a similar ghoul)

Emily: It did work with Diana. It’s just not the dynamic that I want with her.

Calder: Yes. It worked very well with her too. It just also wasn’t, as you say, the relationship you wanted
But I’d say the spanking was a net positive, as banishing Jade gave Diana a confidence boost that we later see
And it gave her a real look at how mean Kindred/Celia could be and impressed the reality of this life upon her

Emily: That’s a positive way of looking at it.

Calder: Glass can be half full or empty. Think it gave Celia a net Stain reduction too

Emily: It did.

[…]

Calder: Though somewhat belatedly, I actually liked Celia’s initial post-spanking affect towards her mom
It was flatter, but that felt reflective of her frame of mind
She’d stopped seeing her mom as someone to comfort

Story Thirteen, Celia IV
False_Epiphany False_Epiphany

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