“People rarely get the things they wish for.”
Thursday evening, 10 March 2016
GM: Celia falls asleep. One second later, it’s hours later. She’s starting to forget what that transition between wakefulness and sleep even felt like. She’s in bed by herself. Roderick’s left a note, along with some folded clothes.
Guess I’m an earlier riser than you. Text me when you’re up.
Celia: He was supposed to wake her. She’d told him that last night before they’d gone to bed to begin with. “Wake me so we can talk,” she had said, and he’d agreed.
Better this way, though. Maybe he’s done with the bodies already.
Celia glances at the time on her phone as she unlocks it to send him a text. She checks her messages while she unfolds the clothes he’d left for her, then glances at the door. Did he take his people with him? Is she alone in the house now? Did he leave the phones for her to try or did he back out of that and take them with him?
GM: Celia looks alone in the bedroom. She may or may not be alone in the rest of the house.
Roderick’s left behind three phones on the bedside table. This time, however, Celia does not appear so lucky. All three ask for a PIN.
She also has numerous texts. The first that catches her eye is from Logan:
Ugh Emily can be such a bitch. You try to do something nice
Celia: He’d left them. All of them. All three phones, waiting and ready for her. All she has to do is slide into the clothes, call a Ryde, and take them to Lebeaux like she’d planned. She’s meeting with him anyway to fix Tantal and find out what happened with the other hunters.
Only… she doesn’t know if she wants to take them to Lebeaux. He’d hidden things from her before—for your own good, kid—even when she had been the one to get the objects for him to test in the first place. She almost expects him to tell her the same thing about this meeting that she’d made possible by killing the hunters and by getting into the phone and by changing the ghoul’s face and by giving him the idea to bug the stake, which gives them more future information. She’s sure he’ll pat her head for it, then make some comment about it being need to know or above your paygrade or whatever other cliché bullshit he’ll use as an excuse not to tell her because he thinks she’s a stupid Toreador slut like everyone else does.
Just like she planned, right? Except somehow, when he says it, she’s still offended. He’s supposed to know her better than that.
Better this way, though. He’ll think she hasn’t put it all together yet.
Opening Logan’s text gives her a new idea, though. She quickly types in a response.
Think she was just surprised. You can do something nice for me, though. Got any nerdy tech-y friends?
She could try to get into the phones on her own. More difficult than just waving her hand at it like the warlock can do, and the fact that they’re all locked with a PIN makes it… unlikely. Ten thousand potential combinations, if her math is right. Possible lockout timer, which delays her from just punching in a bunch of numbers. The tech is out there to wipe the phone after too many tries, but she’d had a friend once who worked for a carrier and told her that most people don’t bother to do that. They’ll eventually be prompted for the PUK, her friend had said, which they get just by calling their provider and verifying the information on the account. Usually last name, phone number, address. Sometimes the last four of the social, or a birthday, or the PIN as well. Only problem is she doesn’t have that information, and she thinks Roderick might be over there disposing of the bodies right now, and unless the hunters brought their wallets and ID with them…
He’s smart enough to keep the IDs, though, if there are any.
Damnit, she should have gone with him. Even if she doesn’t want to simply hand the phones over to Lebeaux he could have done his witchy magic finger waving thing if she’d brought a blood sample. Could have found more ghouls to take on their identities. Infiltrate. Get rid of the threat before it gets any bigger.
She sends another quick text to Roderick: ETA?
Then her gaze lands on the provided clothes. Slacks, a blouse. Professional enough for her meeting with Lebeaux, she supposes, and she dresses quickly. She can change afterward. Bess’ clothing? Has to be. Unless Roderick has a harem of female renfields, and she doesn’t see why not. She tells herself the idea doesn’t bother her. That he’s probably not fucking all of them. That they’re probably not as horny as Alana is.
Feet bare, she pads toward the bedroom door. The place belongs to a human, he’d said. Stands to reason the kitchen is stocked. Garbage bags. Sandwich bags. Plastic bags. Tupperware. Her mom has piles of it in her house. Hell, even Celia’s haven has it. Ghouls gotta eat, after all. She opens the door and steps out to find something suitable.
GM: Lol I’m not friends with nerds, Logan texts back. But there’s a couple comp sci people I have classes with
Roderick replies after a moment: Pretty soon. Finished cleaning up my apartment. Want to go boating
Celia: To Roderick: Is that an invite?
To Logan: “Friend” is just a nice way of asking if you know any nerds lol
After a second, she sends another text to Logan. They around now or nah?
GM: The clothes are slightly large on Celia, but they fit well enough. The rest of the apartment looks like an older bachelor’s pad. It’s not as messy as a 20something’s, but her mother would probably find a lot of things to clean up from the pile of dirty dishes in the sink to the clutter left strewn over the the furniture. Most of the food looks like takeout, frozen, or canned, but she finds trash bags and plastic bags without issue. There’s even some tupperware, just not a Diana-level amount.
Roderick texts back, Was going to go with some friends, but could cancel for just us
Logan: I can try to hit them up, you need something?
Celia: She slips the phone into her pocket to search for the plastic bag in the kitchen. Gotta be around here somewhere, right? At last, in a drawer where they definitely don’t belong, she finds what she’s looking for. She pulls one free, shakes her head at the mess, and wonders what Diana would say if she could see this now.
Then it’s back to the bedroom to put the three phones into the bag. She makes sure they’re silenced—super awkward if they start ringing inside of her, right?—before she closes it. After half a second of consideration claws grow from the tips of her fingers, and she cuts into her own flesh, hissing as the skin splits beneath the nails. It’s fixable, of course, but it’s not pleasant to slice into herself like this. She needs to find a better way to smuggle things.
Maybe all those times Paul had taken advantage of her were—
No, she’s not going to let her brain go there.
She stuffs the phones inside and pinches shut her flesh.
Her attention returns to her own phone.
She texts Roderick back: nah it’s cool Idk where my bikini is anyway, call me after tho ;)
Then to Logan: Employee locked up salon phone, think they can help?
GM: She’s seen worse apartments, at least. Like Em’s. At least there’s canned vegetables instead of endless jugs of Nutella.
She remembers that. Ramen, booze, and Kraft mac and cheese. Cocaine in white plastic baggies next to the Nutella. That half-eaten white bread Nutella and butter sandwich. Stacks of Hot Pockets, bags of candy, Red Bull, and sugary soft drinks.
This man (it has to be a man) isn’t ever going to win a “best homemaker” award, but he isn’t living a 10-year-old’s dream diet either.
Celia: Celia is definitely going to tell her mom to bake this man some meals. Canned vegetables are not food.
She doesn’t wait for a response from either Logan or Roderick. She has a meeting to get to.
Thursday evening, 10 March 2016
Celia: Celia crosses the kitchen to the window and unlatches it, pulling down the screen. A moment of concentration and she’s not Celia anymore. The world around her shifts and changes as surely as her own form blurs. Things get bigger. Her bones hollow out. Feathers sprout in place of hair. The window that was within reach is suddenly feet above her head, and she’s left hopping across the floor on feet that don’t much like the smooth tile. Her arms—wings, now—spread to steady herself. She hops again, beating her wings against the still air in the kitchen, and after only a moment she has achieved flight. She soars toward the window, flits through the opening she’d made in the screen, and is free.
Paranoia makes her keep a sharp eye on the world around her as she soars through the sky, and she draws that predatory aura of hers inward just in case anyone happens to be looking. She’s nothing but a common nightjar now. Just another nocturnal bird going about its bird business.
The nightjar, or more commonly the nighthawk, is both nocturnal and native to New Orleans. So while it isn’t particularly pretty to look at—it’s actually rather dull, which serves them well in the wild when they sleep during the day—it’s the perfect thing she needs to get around the city unseen.
GM: Celia’s enormous new black eyes facilitate that sharp eye. The nightjar doesn’t have the best color discrimination, but it can see in the dark as well as any vampire. Her tapetum lucidum, that distinctive eye shine which night-blind humans lack, takes it all in.
But even her kind would still kill to have eyes like these, with each one positioned on different sides of her head. Her 300 degree vision sees in front her and across from her at the same time. Her peripheral vision is anything but peripheral, and the next-best thing to eyes in the back of her head. Sneaking up on a bird with with this vision is damn hard.
But none of that compares with flight.
Air rushes past her as she climbs the skies. She flaps her wings until she finds a thermal current, then just glides. Endless horizon stretches before her. Endless sky stretches above her. She flies.
Emily had gone skydiving once and been disappointed Celia couldn’t come with her: she said the experience was as exhilarating as it was terrifying, that it made you feel alive like nothing else and longing to be in the air again, once your pumping heart had calmed down. Perhaps this is like skydiving. She’s gone skydiving too, in a manner of speaking. But instead of falling like when her sire dropped, her dead frozen with terror as she fell and fell and fell, she’s in control. Her dead wings don’t get tired from flapping like a bird’s. If she soars high enough, the city becomes a speck in her vision, and all of its troubles and intrigues so small before her. She’s above it all. She has the freedom to go anywhere. To just fly away.
Celia: Nothing compares to flight.
No arms around her, no one holding her aloft. No thoughts of falling to the city far below. No wintry presence that steals the warmth from her, that steals her very life. No thoughts invading her mind. No terror. No hoping that someone doesn’t drop her.
She cannot fall, not like this.
She is in control now. She directs her body which way to go, which currents of air to ride. Wings outstretched, she rides the waves. There is little flapping in the flight of a nightjar; her wings are longer than they are wide, perfect for gliding through the air. And glide she does. More graceful in the sky as she is on two feet, the nightjar soars toward the French Quarter. A cry of jubilation leaves her recently narrowed throat, a bird-like trill rather than the exclamation of a girl.
This is what freedom tastes like.
GM: The Evergreen approaches soon. Much too soon.
But there has to be time for another few laps. She can go back. She can go anywhere. She can come back or leave forever.
Birds don’t know the freedom they have.
But maybe that’s because they don’t build cages.
Celia: Maybe she should leave forever. She’s thought about it plenty of times. Leaving the city behind. Living as an animal. A cat, to be adored, to be given the physical affection she so desperately craves. A bird, and she’ll never let her feet touch the ground again. Another step and she can be anything she wants. All she has to do is learn how.
All the time in the world up here for the bird, but the lick inside knows that’s not true. She has responsibilities to see to. A family to take care of. Up here, the problems seem so far away. Still, no matter how fast she flies, how far she goes, she’s always back by morning.
Jade casts her gaze toward the roof of the Evergreen, searching for the lord who holds his court there.
Better not to risk landing, even if it’s empty. She has no doubt that she will be delivered, staked, to her grandsire should she try it. She lands nearby instead, finds what cover she can, and shifts back. Once more humanoid feet touch upon the ground. The sudden mass of her body weighs heavily on her, as if it has thrown shackles around her heart and soul.
A prison, truly, this form of hers.
She does not dwell. She sees herself inside to find Lebeaux.
GM: The Evergreen’s rooftop garden sits empty to the nightjar’s sight. There’s the hot tub, the iron table, the cushioned chairs. It looks all-too easy to swoop down onto one of the many fruit trees. She could conceal herself amongst the thick canopy and the other birds and butterflies and beautiful things, and wait for her grandsire to show up. She could listen to whatever conversations the French Quarter lord might have in the heart of his court.
It looks so invitingly easy.
Celia: Her grandsire cages the other things. The songbirds in gilded cages, to be sure, but cages all the same. She is not a bird, and in this form not beautiful besides. She has no place atop this roof tonight.
GM: The same Louis Armstrong jazz merrily sounds throughout the Evergreen as Jade enters, though the main lounge has been cleaned up from the revels of earlier. Ordinary mortals talk, eat, and listen to music. Fabian greets Jade with the same smile as ever and directs her up the stairs to Lebeaux’s office when she asks whether the warden is present. She finds him typing into the computer at his desk.
Celia: She knocks on the frame of the door before she steps into his office.
“Good evening, Pete.”
GM: “Evening, Celia.” He looks her over. “I wouldn’t say you’re dressed down, but definitely sideways.”
Celia: “Careful Pete, I might think you’re paying attention to me.”
She slides into the seat across from him and crosses one leg over the other. The once-over she gives the detective is far less subtle than the one he’d given her. When she finally meets his eye again she winks at him.
GM: “I thought you were saving me for your mother,” he remarks dryly.
Celia: “Ah, see, I know you broke your own heart the other night when you told me it would never happen. I’m here to pick up the pieces.”
GM: “Of course. Offering me comfort in my time of loneliness and need.”
Celia: “What are friends for, right?”
“Should I close the door, warden?”
GM: “Always, please, though I’m afraid my reasons will always disappoint a Toreador.”
Celia: She heaves a sigh, forcing air through her body to make the sound long and drawn out as she rises again to close the door before resuming her seat. She mutters something that sounds suspiciously like “tease” as she re-crosses her legs, just loud enough for him to hear.
GM: “Both renfields made the drop-off,” he says without preamble. “They’re back and in one piece.”
Celia: Thank God for that.
“Glad to hear it. I’ll see to yours tonight before I head out, get him back to his normal face. How’d it go?”
GM: “So far so good. They met with a couple other breathers who paid them cash for ‘your’ body. Provided them with an address in Mid-City for their next target.”
“Said there’d be good things in their futures if they continued to deliver results.”
Celia: “I hope I was worth a pretty penny.”
“Easy way to take out some enemies.” It’s not quite a question, but there’s a lilt to the end of the statement, a lift of her brows.
GM: “It is a time-honored tactic, yes. But my gut tells me to be cautious here.”
GM: “I suppose it’s possible, but neither of those two’s handlers said anything to indicate they were especially religious.”
“They had more to say around the bugged stake. They seemed to hold those two in contempt. Had another target for them in the Quarter, if they pulled off the job in the Mid-City.”
“Three missions for them to get in with the real team.”
Celia: “Well, considering I talked them into letting me kill them, I would also hold them in contempt. What’s your gut telling you is wrong? Sneak in, find out who they are, take them all out. In theory, anyway.”
“Someone give them my name or did they find me by accident?”
GM: Pete slowly shakes his head.
“Those two’s lives, whether they succeeded or failed in killing more licks to join the team, meant nothing to them. I could hear it in their voices. Absolutely nothing. They might as well have been talking about how long a set of batteries would last.”
“Hunters normally want to work together, if they can get past their mutual distrust. This apparent lack of practical and not merely moral regard for potential allies’ lives is very strange.”
Celia: “I assume the meeting location isn’t set up to be a long term thing. Renfields get any weird vibe from them? Met in the outlands, all sorts of scary shit out there. Could explain their lack of regard for human life.”
“Heard plenty of our kind talk like that before. Like humans mean nothing to them. Could be working for someone like that, even. Said it’s par for the course to go after enemies with hunters.”
“We get an image of them at all?”
GM: “You’re mishearing me. Ruthlessness by itself isn’t an uncommon trait in this life. Or even among humans.”
Celia: “Then what do you think it is, if my theories are off?”
GM: “Again, I don’t find anything especially noteworthy about their lack of regard for human life. I’m concerned by their lack of apparent regard for additional assets and allies when hunters normally need all the help they can get.”
Celia: Oh. She nods, already working out the possibilities.
“Just gonna think out loud here for a second. Every cop movie where the hero doesn’t call for backup is because he thinks he’s got it on his own. Could suggest they have more help than we realize, so these ‘casuals’ are just kept busy on small targets. Like when you tell a kid to go hide and you never seek. Or like how the FBI never wants to work with local city cops. Could be their plan isn’t to actually kill anyone, like a fake group, while they do other stuff. Pursue some other goal. Could be they’re looking for someone specific.”
GM: “Could all be. I’m going to recommend to Lord Savoy that we listen and wait until we have a clearer picture of what we’re dealing with.”
“Tantal and Pierre have descriptions, though no images. They weren’t snapping pictures.”
“It also sounded to me as if you were a target of opportunity. They said, essentially, that those two finding a leech on their own was the prerequisite to receive specific assignments.”
Celia: “Oh. Good. I was concerned I’d gotten sloppy.” Or that someone had sent them after her. “We know if they shared my identity, or is ‘Celia’ still safe?”
GM: “No Kindred is safe.”
“Speaking of, though. It doesn’t really have anything to do with that.”
GM: “Then what were you wanting to speak with me about, as far as Celia?”
Celia: “That was unrelated.”
“I have more that might clear up the hunter thing, though.” Claws again, pretty claws for the pretty Toreador, though there’s nothing attractive about the way she lifts her shirt to sink them into her body, or how she peels back her own skin to stuff her hand inside and grab the edge of the plastic baggie with the phones inside. She sets the grisly package on his desk.
“I need the phones back. But I was hoping we could go through them real quick.”
GM: He raises an eyebrow. There’s the faintest hint of fang at the coppery smell.
“Charming delivery. Where are these from?”
Celia: “Sorry. I didn’t want to lose them.” She pulls her shirt back down. “If you know of anyone who can teach me that prison pocket trick I’m all ears.”
“Got jumped by some hunters. They’re dead now.”
“Seemed more professional than the last two.”
GM: The Tremere frowns. “How would you say?”
Celia: “Maybe I’m wrong. But they got into a pretty secure place. Found the hiding spot. Very thorough searching. The other ones at the spa, they left Roxanne behind. Not even sure if they searched the place after grabbing me. Masks. Etc.”
“Plus I tried to hit them with some charm and they shrugged it off.”
“And I am very charming, Pete.” She grins at him. “Cutest person I know. Even you said I’m gorgeous.” She doesn’t wiggle her brows at him, but she definitely thinks about it.
GM: The Tremere frowns even more deeply. “That isn’t good. That can’t be a coincidence for you to get hit by a more experienced team the day after you killed another one.”
“You have their bodies? Blood samples?”
Celia: “No. I mean. I have their blood inside of me, but that doesn’t do us any good. And if I call the person disposing of them and say ‘hey I need some samples,’ they’re going to know I came to you, which I definitely implied I wasn’t going to do. Which is, incidentally, why I need the phones back.”
There’s a brief pause, then, “I do remember kind of, um, laying in a pool of blood for a minute, so I could disrobe if you can take some dry samples.”
“Chances are good they were drained before disposal, so I can get it, just not until later this evening.”
GM: “I could take a sample from you, actually. Depending how much you drank.”
“We are what we eat.”
Celia: “I was pretty empty when I filled up. On only two of them, though.”
Her fingers dance across her forearm. Nerves, maybe, at the thought of giving her blood to a Tremere.
“Can you do it here? Like now?”
GM: “I can do a basic divination that might not tell me any more than the phones can. I’d need some time to set up a more advanced spell.”
A text buzzes from Celia’s phone. The sender is Emily. The time is past 8.
Hey we’re getting hungry are you still coming for dinner?
Celia: “Can you set it up and I can come back? I have, ah, something else for you to test if you’re offering as well.”
She sends a quick text back: start without me, stuck in meeting sry
GM: Mom spent half the day cooking and getting excited she could ‘feed her baby.’ How much longer?
Celia: Celia silences her phone.
GM: “I’m old enough to remember when that wasn’t considered rude, because it never happened,” Pete says dryly.
“I’m not going to be here all night, but if you leave me something I can get you the results when I next see you.”
Celia: Her gaze drops.
“My apologies, warden. I’m trying to handle a few things at once. There’s not enough of me to go around.”
GM: Pete grunts, opens the plastic bag, picks up a phone, and drags his finger across the screen. He taps into the old-fashioned keypad and frowns after a few more moments.
“Doesn’t seem to be a whole lot on this one.”
He sets it down, picks up the second phone, and repeats the process.
“This one’s got a search for an address in Mid-City. You have any backup havens there?”
GM: Pete looks through it for a few more minutes.
“Looks like your Anarch pal was the primary target, then.”
Celia: She nods. That makes her feel better, at least, about not dragging him into danger.
GM: He sets down the phone and picks up the third, repeating the process.
“Only real thing on these is calls made out to each other and a single number.”
“Guess what, though.”
“It’s the same one your other hunter pals were in contact with.”
Celia: “And the sample will tell you more?”
GM: “It potentially could.”
Celia: “What else are you going to do with it?”
GM: Pete raises his eyebrows.
Celia: Celia doesn’t say anything. She waits.
GM: “If you’re asking that you’ve already decided not to trust a Tremere. You can watch me do it if that’d make you more comfortable.”
Celia: “Pete,” her voice and eyes both soften, “I can’t think of anyone on the city that I trust more than you. I don’t think you’d go out of your way to hurt me, or even that you’d do it intentionally. So I’m happy to help if that’s what you need from me, but I don’t have time this very minute to do it. I can come back, if you can find time in your schedule for me.”
GM: “5 AM tonight. I’d say to tell your family I said hi, if that was them, but that’s probably a bad idea.”
Pete doesn’t actually look that much older than Celia, biologically.
But he looks worn. Tired.
Maybe even guilty.
Celia: “Actually… it might be a good idea. Maxen stopped by today, which is… why I was so rude earlier with my phone.”
GM: Pete looks up sharply.
“Fucking restraining orders,” he growls. “More useless than toilet paper.”
Celia: “My brother brought him over. Mom was sick, and I… it was day, so I couldn’t…” she trails off. She looks every bit the 19-year-old she died as, suddenly unsure of her footing.
“Emily stabbed him.”
GM: “Tell me everything.” The detective’s voice is deadly serious.
Celia: So she does.
Or at least she tells him most things.
She starts with the prior night, how Diana had confessed she was having nightmares about Maxen taking Lucy away. She doesn’t say where they were, doesn’t confess to trespassing in the Garden District. The summoning from her sire and the body he’d dropped at her feet. A loose end. How he’d thought to “teach her a lesson” by playing catch with her mother, though she doesn’t say why or anything else they discussed. The command he’d given her to remember it as a nightmare. Taking her mom back to her place, then the texts about being sick. Emily’s explanation on the phone, everything she had said about Maxen coming over, taking Lucy to school, Diana throwing out her meds, going at him with a knife. Celia calling Maxen, and him saying he “wouldn’t press charges.” She doesn’t mention their dinner plans, either.
GM: Pete listens intently the entire time, occasionally pausing to ask a clarifying question. His eyes harden and his knuckles tighten at the mention of Donovan’s ‘lesson.’ Finally, he says, “Okay.”
“Emily stabbing your father is bad. But I can’t think of anyone else who wouldn’t respond the same way, in her shoes, and it’s spilled milk anyway.”
Celia: “I set up a thing tonight so I could be with her in case the sheriff… in case he comes.”
As if she will be more than a mild inconvenience.
“I tried to get her to leave. To just… go away for the weekend, take Mom and Lucy, and they won’t listen to me.”
GM: “They don’t know the danger they’re in.”
Celia: “And what can I say? That the world is full of monsters and Maxen belongs to one? And he was weird about it, when I talked to him, he was all nice and smiling and it was… it was just off.”
GM: “I don’t know that you can say anything. They’ve set up their lives here and they hate the thought of running from your dad.”
Celia: “And I don’t know if that means that Donovan brainwashed him and it wore off or it’s a way to make me know my family isn’t safe or what.”
“But they have to. They have to go.”
“If they don’t leave then they all die because I don’t know what he wants, I don’t know what Maxen wants, or why he’s being weird, and I don’t know if it’s about Lucy or Diana or what he’s going to do to Emily now.”
“And he’s just going to kill them. They’re finally happy and they don’t know there’s a sword hanging over their heads, ready to drop.”
GM: Pete rubs his head.
“I’m thinking, Celia. But I don’t see a neat and clean solution to this.”
“Your father needs to go. Easiest way would be neutering his usefulness to your sire.”
Celia: “You think it’s him and not my sire pushing him into this?”
GM: “What does your sire possibly gain from Maxen playing nice guy to his ex-wife?”
Celia: “He knows that it’s the only thing that can hurt me. A long-range… manipulation or something.”
“I don’t know. But it’s more likely that than Maxen suddenly had a change of heart.”
GM: “You only use manipulation when you want to keep your hands clean, because you want to avoid the consequences of getting them dirty, or because you can’t win a direct fight.”
“Your sire threw your mom off a building. In front of you. He clearly does not feel the need to bother with manipulation.”
“I do find it very strange he would do that, though, while also being so kind as to deliver a loose end that threatened you onto your doorstep.”
Celia: “I have ideas for how to move against Maxen. I’ve been working on them. That’s part of why I needed to talk to Lord Savoy. I put a few things in motion already, and I have more in the works, and… I don’t know, maybe he doesn’t care, there’s other stuff too, I wouldn’t just bother him with my family drama…” she trails off, wringing her hands on her lap.
GM: Pete glowers at Celia. “Or maybe he remembers how that went down the last time you and him made a move against Maxen.”
Celia: “That, too,” she says quietly.
GM: “Don’t bother asking for his help.”
Celia: She doesn’t flinch, but only because she expected it.
“I wasn’t going to.”
GM: “Then why in the love of God would you want to talk to Lord Savoy about him?”
Celia: Celia leans forward, elbows on the desk. She cradles her face with her hands and shakes her head back and forth.
GM: Pete just effects a sigh.
“All of this has me thinking, though. Perhaps it’s time to take out the sheriff. Have to do it sooner or later. It’d be a near-knockout blow to Vidal at this point.”
“That idea’s above my pay grade, though. Savoy will have to give it the go-ahead. But it’d wrap up all your family’s troubles with a neat little bow.”
Celia: “And me?” she asks quietly. “What about me, when Savoy decides that keeping his childe’s childe around isn’t useful anymore because there’s no childe to use me against? What’s he going to do to me, when I’m just… just another loose end who messed up his plans once?”
GM: Pete glowers at her again. “I talked with Savoy about that. You got one pass.”
“Because no one was actually hurt.”
“Because his interests weren’t actually harmed.”
“Because I said your father broke you like he broke your mother, and you couldn’t bear to ruin your dear daddy.”
“Because Savoy believes in second chances and nurturing potential, and is not a bloody-handed tyrant who executes subordinates for their failures like our good prince.”
“If you think he’ll throw you out when the sheriff is gone, you’ve misread him completely.”
Celia: She’d never realized that it was Pete who had spoken to Savoy about what happened. She’d thought… something else completely. Something else that, if she’d gone on thinking it, would have gotten her killed in the end.
All this time she’d believed a dangerous lie. Had thought she was so clever for putting it together.
Maybe she is just as stupid as they all say.
Her eyes find the ground again, the carpet where her feet rest. She’s quiet for a long moment. There’s a faint whiff of something coppery in the air, but she blinks it back before it can do more than accumulate in the corners of her eyes. When she finally lifts her face to look back to him there’s nothing to suggest that she was ever upset.
GM: “You’re welcome,” Pete grunts. “I need to think a lot of things over.”
“It’s getting late. You might as well go see your family before they go to bed.”
Celia: “If you see him…” she takes a breath she doesn’t need, lets it out slowly. “If you see him, can you tell him that I have something for him?”
Something useful for once, but she doesn’t think she needs to say that.
GM: “I may not tonight. But sure.”
Celia: “I’ll be back at five.”
Celia rises to her feet, reaching for the phones. She slides them into the various pockets of her ensemble—she should change before she visits her family, she thinks—and turns toward the door.
As always, the meeting with Lebeaux is both better and worse than she expected.
Thursday night, 10 March 2016, PM
GM: It’s closer to 9 than 8 by the time Celia pulls in at her mother’s house. (She finds her car parked by her haven.) Emily and Diana are both in the living room, the former reading over her medical textbooks while the latter scrolls through a tablet. When Celia lets herself in, Emily does what looks like her best impression of Pete’s glowers.
Diana beams. She looks wonderful. Celia couldn’t appreciate the full extent of her work with the woman stolen from her bed in the middle of the night, mad with fear, and soaked under rain. Anyone would look terrible under those circumstances. But a day later, bathed and dressed and with her hair and face tastefully done up, Celia can appreciate the fruits of her labors. Her mother already looked good for her age, thanks no doubt in part to weekly Flawless visits. The added buoyancy to her perkier breasts and the wrinkles smoothed away from her face make her looks even better. She could pass for halfway in between Celia’s age and her true 42 years. The ear-to-ear smile on her face provides the finishing touch to her daughter’s ever-flawless work.
“Hi, sweetie! Oh, I’m so happy you could make it!” she exclaims, getting up to hug Celia.
“Right on time, too,” says Emily, a little dryly.
Celia: Emily’s glowers, quite frankly, need a little bit of work. She’s got nothing on the Tremere detective.
She doesn’t tell her this, though, just gives her mom a hug and a sheepish smile, apologizes for being late.
“I’m sorry I’m late. I was caught in a meeting that ran later than expected.”
GM: “I’m just glad she’s here,” repeats Diana, giving Celia another squeeze. “I saved plenty of food for you, and I only had a little bit myself, so we can still have dinner, don’t you worry!”
“Oh, it’s more than okay, sweetie, we both want your business to do well!”
Celia: Celia just smiles in response.
“Lucy in bed already? What did you make, Momma? And how are you feeling?”
GM: Diana nods. “We read her Goodnight Moon. She’s said her prayers and is fast asleep now. And let me show you!” she says, making her way to the kitchen.
“I’m feeling so much better now, thanks. Logan came by to take care of me, and I’ve spent half the day in bed, so I’m…”
“She knows Maxen did too,” Emily says shortly. “I already told you I told her all of it.”
Their mother gives a fretful look. “Let’s talk about that after dinner, why don’t we?”
Celia: “Or during. Or now.”
Celia shrugs as if it doesn’t matter. The smile never leaves her face.
GM: “I already ate with Lucy. You’re the one who insisted on going hungry until Celia showed up, even when she couldn’t be bothered to say she’d be late.”
Celia: “I told you I’d be late. I literally texted you to start without me. I even said that I couldn’t give you an exact time because I had a meeting and I didn’t know how long it would go when we made plans earlier.”
GM: “After I texted you,” says Emily. “You could’ve at a reasonable-”
Diana clasps her hands. “Let’s please not fight, you two! Emily, would you like some seconds, maybe? Or another helping of dessert?”
“Damn it, Mom, will you never stand up for yourself?!”
Celia: Celia gives Emily her own glower.
“I was talking to a detective about the fact that my business was broken into the other night.”
GM: Diana gasps and pauses in mid-stride. “Oh, no! Is everything okay, sweetie?”
Emily looks a little humbled.
Celia: “It’s fine. Nothing was damaged.”
GM: “Was anything stolen?” Diana asks worriedly. “What does he think they were after?”
“Detectives can be ’she’s’ too, Mom.”
Celia: “He, actually. But no, everything is fine. I actually… kind of used it as an excuse to bring up what happened today with him.”
Celia eyes Emily, lifting her brows slightly, as if to ask if Mom knows. About the stabbing. She makes a stabby motion when Diana isn’t looking.
GM: Emily slowly shakes her head.
“Uh, sorry I got snappish. Glad the business is fine.”
Celia: “Me too. We still on with Robby tonight?”
GM: “It’s getting pretty late, honestly. He has work tomorrow.”
“But we could reschedule. He said he’d be happy to teach you to play WoS.”
Celia: “Looking forward to it.”
GM: “That isn’t that Satanic game, is it?” Diana asks worriedly.
Celia: “It is, actually. We summon a demon in the living room. But if you feed it snacks it goes away.”
GM: “Oh. That’s… that’s not too bad a demon, I suppose,” her mom says with a mildly forced chuckle.
Celia: “It likes cookies,” Celia says helpfully.
GM: “Oh, that’s good. That’s… that’s very good. Sounds more like the cookie monster than a demon,” Celia’s mom says with another chuckle as she twists the oven knob, re-heating whatever dinner must be inside, and sits down at the dining room table. There’s already places and water set out.
“You don’t actually try to summon demons, though, do you?” she asks, more concernedly.
Celia: “Just ghosts,” Celia assures her, taking a seat at the table. “Seances. Candles. Stiff as a board, light as a feather, all that.”
She lets that linger for a moment, then finally laughs and shakes her head.
“No, Mom, from what I understand it’s just a bunch of nerds that roll dice.”
GM: “Emi, sweetie, do you really-” their mom starts, then laughs along with her. “Okay, that sounds pretty harmless. Had me worried!”
Celia: “The internet said it’s basically just collaborative storytelling.”
GM: “Yeah, that’s basically it. Pretty harmless and nerdy,” says Emily. She gets up and sits down at the table with them, laying out her medical textbook over her place. She gives Celia a look as if to ask, ‘do you want to bring it up?’
Celia: Celia inclines her head.
GM: “Uh, okay. Mom, I stabbed Maxen. With a carving knife.”
Celia: “He’s okay.”
Celia: “I spoke to him.”
“He also said he’s not reporting it. No charges. Nothing like that.”
GM: Diana holds her hands to her mouth as she looks between her daughters.
“He’s fine,” repeats Emily. “I mean, God knows half of me wishes he wasn’t, but it sounds like he is.”
Celia: “He said it was just a scratch. That he cleaned it out and put a bandage on it and went to work.”
GM: “We’d better call him, tell him how sorry-”
Celia: “I already did, Mom.”
GM: “Fuck telling him sorry,” says Emily flatly. “Maybe when he apologizes for trying to saw off your leg. And the years of beatings. And the rapes.”
Celia: Celia snorts.
That will never happen.
GM: Diana holds her hands to her ears.
“It happened, Mom!” says Emily.
“Sweetie, language, please-”
“Fine. Screw telling him sorry.”
Celia: “She has a point, Mom. He abused you for years. He ruined your career. He raped you. One day of being a decent human being doesn’t make up for all of that. And, frankly, I’m concerned about his motivations.”
GM: “You have to start somewhere,” Diana starts quietly. “I just… you really had to have seen-”
“See this.” Emily yanks up the hem of her mother’s dress.
Diana startles in alarm and tries to re-cover her leg. Her bad leg.
“Emily!? What are you-!”
“Do you still not want to look at that, Mom? Because if you don’t, there is nowhere to start!”
Emily’s brow furrows. “Actually, that looks really g-”
Celia: “Emily,” Celia says tightly.
GM: “Stop it! Please, stop it!” their mom begs, her cheeks reddening as she averts her gaze.
Emily sighs and lets go.
“Sorry. I’ll stop when you ask me. Those are two things he will never do.”
Celia: It’s a solid point, really.
GM: Diana smooths the hem of her dress back down as long as she can.
Celia: “The point, Momma, Emily, is that he’s fine. He’s all right.”
GM: “You’re sure?” her mom asks worriedly. “He really is? He can push himself too hard, sometimes, wanting to look tough…”
“And Emily, she’s not in trouble? You’re really sure?”
Celia: “He’d have to report it to the police for her to be in trouble. He also violated the restraining order by being here.”
GM: “Huh,” says Emily slowly. “You’re right. I hadn’t thought about that.”
Celia: “There’s also a stand your ground law, which means anything Emily does if she thinks her life, or your life, is in danger is fine.”
GM: “Oh. That’s right. I’d better get that… lifted,” says Diana.
GM: “MOM!” glowers Emily.
Celia: “Are you planning on going back to him, Mom? So he can smack you around some more? Maybe abuse Lucy, too?”
GM: Her mom’s plaintive expression turns more guarded at Lucy’s name.
“He isn’t going to abuse Lucy.”
“He will if he’s in her life,” says Emily.
Celia: “I am, frankly, concerned that being alone with her means he took a hair or something for a DNA test.”
GM: “Oh, shit,” breathes Emily.
Diana’s face just goes stiller.
“Look, Mom, what do you want from him? Do you want go to back to him?” asks Emily.
“I… I just want to see where things might go,” says Diana. “Just talk, at this point.”
She gives a weak chuckle. “When I’m not sick as a dog, anyway.”
Celia: “Long term, Mom. What do you want?”
GM: “I just want to talk, sweetie. Take things one step at a time. I’ll have a better idea then, I think.”
“Maybe… if it goes well… just simple things. Easy things. Like dinner. I’m not in any rush.”
Emily just heaves a sigh and shakes her head.
Celia: Celia makes a noise that might be a sigh.
“I’m going to tell you something. And neither one of you are going to say anything about it.”
She looks pointedly at Emily.
GM: “I’ll do anything for the good of this family,” says Emily. “Including, yes. Keeping my mouth shut.”
“Of course, sweetie. We’ll be quiet as mice,” Diana nods.
Celia: “Maxen and I are having dinner on Saturday. I am going to find out what he wants, and why.”
GM: Emily frowns. “Okay. You tell us where you’re going and when. Maybe turn on an app on your phone that lets us track you. Just in case something happ-”
“Don’t be silly, sweetie, nothing’s going to happen!” says Diana. “I think that’s a great idea, for you and your dad to have dinner,” she smiles.
“He’s not actually her dad,” says Emily.
Celia: Ah, right, maybe she should confess she’s got a meeting with her mom’s other rapist tonight.
GM: “Well… I didn’t give birth to you, either,” their mom points out. “Family’s all about who you make a part of your life.”
“Maxen isn’t part of our lives,” Emily says flatly.
Celia: “Regardless, I’m having dinner with him. We’ll discuss what he wants by suddenly showing back up. Which is why, Mom, I need to know what you want.”
GM: “Yes. You say you want to talk, take things one step at a time. Okay. Why do you want that?” asks Emily. “What’s in it for you?”
Diana looks between her daughters for a moment. It’s hard for Celia to say exactly what that look is. Bittersweet. Sad.
“I miss him.”
Celia: Celia holds up a hand to forestall Emily from jumping in.
“Do you miss him, or do you miss being married?”
GM: Emily starts to open her mouth, then closes it and looks at her mom.
“I think… both,” Diana says slowly.
She closes her eyes for a moment.
“I need a… Celia, Emi. You both heard those messages I left. Read those texts. How I was screamin’ like it was the end of the world.”
Celia: “You want someone to take care of you,” Celia says softly. “Someone to be there for you.”
GM: Diana opens her mouth again, looks at Celia, then just nods.
“I miss…. having a man.”
“Someone… someone who I can wake up to, at 5 AM, with his arms around me… and know I’m not alone.”
Celia: “Okay.” She considers, nodding. “Okay. I understand wanting someone to share your life with. I do. I get it. But does it need to be… Maxen?”
GM: ""Look, Mom, we can b…" Emily starts, but Diana just holds up a finger to her lips, as if to say ‘sshh.’
“You’re both wonderful girls. Women. Brave and kind and smart and strong women and so much more than I am, in so many ways.” She gives a little smile that seems partly sad but mostly proud. “I couldn’t have asked God for better daughters. He answered all my prayers.”
She gives a rueful chuckle. “But I can’t take you to bed with me. You have your own lives. You can’t be there every time for your old mom when she wakes up with a stomach bug, or over her bad leg… and you shouldn’t have to be, either.”
“The family we’ve built for Lucy, for ourselves, is a thing of warmth and love and beauty. It truly is. But there are some things only a man can do. Only a man should have to change the sheets for me at 5 AM when I’m throwin’ up over them. You know?”
“I miss that. I miss having a man with his arms around me. Who I can feel… safe with. Who can make me feel like everything is gonna be all right.”
Celia: “And I get that, Mom. I do. But, again, does it need to be Maxen? There are plenty of men in the world.”
GM: “And Lucy could use a… male role model. A father. To show her how the men in her life should behave.”
“Mom… do you hear yourself?” Emily whispers. “He is not an example of how men should behave.”
Celia: “Then we can find you one. But it doesn’t need to be him. He abused all of us, Mom. All of us.”
GM: “I don’t want… I don’t want just anyone, sweetie, picky as that might sound.” Her mom gives a self-effacing look. “I know you give me all those… erm, gifts to impress a man, for Christmas. But I don’t want to date or drink or go out to bars and parties, not really. I want to build a life with someone. I want to cook him dinner and snuggle in bed and… enjoy all those happy parts, of married life. I want to raise Lucy with him.”
“And I want him to love her, as much as he does me. I don’t want her to be just a stepchild, a +1 he has to accept if he wants to be with me. I want him to love her like she’s his own. I want her to grow her up surrounded with nothing but love.”
Celia: “I’m not telling you to go out and drink and party. But there are so many other people in the world, in the city, that you could be with.”
“Why would you go back to someone you know wants to hurt you? Why would you go back to someone who doesn’t care about you? Who just wants to use you for… for whatever purpose he has in mind?”
GM: “Sweetie, I woke up in his arms,” her mom says softly.
She closes her eyes again.
“He was gentle. He was so gentle. He was there, right when I needed him. When I was scared and sick and lonely and… he was there. He took care of everything. Me, the vomit on the bedsheets, gettin’ a substitute for work, breakfast for Lucy, her ride to school…”
“Just all of it. He was right there.”
“And he’s a very busy man, you know! He’s got to be up at the crack of dawn, for that commute up to the capitol. There are so many things he’s responsible for, so many people whose lives are basically in his hands.”
“But he was there. For me. For Lucy. I felt safe. I felt loved.”
Celia: She hates it.
Hates that she knows how her mom feels. Hates that she understands it, that she’s in the same position, that she wants someone to whom she means absolutely nothing, to whom she will never mean anything. A means to an end, maybe. Less than that. A happy little accident.
Celia holds her tongue. She can’t tell her mom that she gets it. She wants more for the woman who raised her, who kept her sane during the years of insanity living with her father.
GM: “Can you understand that, you two?” she asks, looking between Celia and Emily. “Just how… how whole that made me feel?”
“I know he’s… he’s hurt me, in the past…”
“But if that’s in the past… that’s where I’d like to leave it.”
Celia: “I’ll have dinner with him,” Celia says again, “and find out what he wants.”
GM: “Okay,” says her mom. “I think that’s a good idea—oh! Dinner!”
She quickly gets up and turns off the oven.
Celia: Celia takes the opportunity to glance at her phone.
GM: It’s past 9. There’s texts from some other people, including Roderick and Alana.
There’s a screek as Diana pulls open the oven and slips on some mitts.
“Okay! It was in there a little long, but not too burned!”
Celia: She scrolls through the texts while her mother pulls the (apparently burned) dinner out of the oven.
Not that she can taste it anyway.
GM: Celia’s mom sets down a large dish of creamy, cheesy, comforting-looking casserole. “So this has got white tuna, thin green beans, leeks, and mushrooms, and whole wheat ziti for the base,” she explains. “The cream is heavy cream, veggie broth, flour, white chedar, parmesan, and the topping is potato chips with panko breadcrumbs,” she explains as she serves up a very large helping for Celia. “Casserole’s got a lot of cream, so at least it’s hard to burn!”
Celia: Even when she was alive Celia had never much liked mushrooms (“they taste like dirt,” she’d used to complain), but she supposes now that it doesn’t matter. Everything is going to taste like dirt. Like ash. She nods along at her mother’s explanation anyway, plastering a smile on her face.
Her family will never understand the things she does for them.
“Looks delicious, Momma. Gonna let it cool for a second so I don’t burn my mouth.”
Randy had burned his mouth once. He’d complained for a few days that he couldn’t taste anything, and Celia had been glad that blood is pretty much always the perfect temperature.
GM: Except when it’s not. The cold stuff is awful.
Celia’s mom smiles and nods as she serves herself a plate. “And for the side we’ve got a garden salad. Homemade dressing! I know you can eat casserole as the whole meal, since it’s got meats and grains and veggies, but I always like to have a good side,” she says as gets up to remove a bowl from the fridge. “Something that’s a different temperature and texture, for some contrast.”
The salad looks like it has lettuce, cherry tomatoes, onion, carrot, radish, and cucumber, with croutons, shredded cheddar, and ranch dressing.
“Emily, are you still hungry? I know you ate earlier with Lucy, but you have to eat your greens if you want more dessert,” Diana teases.
“Okay, maybe a little salad,” Emily says as she scoops some onto a plate.
Celia: Celia remembers her own homemade dressing and the most awful dinner experience of her life, when Maxen had made her throw it out while insulting her in front of her boyfriend.
She preps her Beast for the experience by telling it to kindly shut the fuck up when it begins to pace inside her chest, already concerned at the toxic sludge the girl is about to imbibe. She serves herself a bit of salad and picks up her fork. She had just complained to Randy about missing the feel of food, she supposes; maybe it won’t be that bad.
Celia spears a tomato on the tines of her fork and raises it to her mouth. It’s red. Like blood. She can power through it if she thinks about that.
GM: It tastes like weeks-old garden compost.
Celia: And the texture is just… eugh.
Mushy insides. The skin of the tomato is… yuck.
GM: It’s completely wrong. It’s as wrong as eating hair.
Celia: It gets everywhere, too.
Fills her mouth with the rancid, foul taste.
GM: All over her throat. Down her tract. It’s as meant to go down the vampire’s throat as a big wad of matted hair soaked in castor oil is meant to go down a human’s.
Celia: She doesn’t gag. She’s been expecting this since her earlier call with Emily. But man, she wants to.
GM: Celia’s mother beams as she eats. She looks positively radiant. The very image of the happy homemaker.
Celia: It’s worth it, Celia tells herself, if it makes her mom happy.
She takes another bite of salad.
GM: “So you said the spa got broken into? What do you think they were after?” asks Emily, frowning.
“I mean, we normally take home our cash tips at the end of the day. There isn’t a whole lot to steal besides… lots of beauty products.”
Celia: Celia seizes the opportunity to put the damn fork down.
“I’m not sure, honestly. We don’t keep much in the register at the end of the night. Natalie counts it down and puts the rest in the safe.”
“I know the makeup is expensive,” Celia laughs, “but certainly not worth a break-in.”
GM: “If you want to steal makeup you lift it from the store, too.”
Celia: “What, you don’t want my half-used products? Worried about cooties, Em?”
GM: “Insanely worried. Catch enough girl cooties and you might turn into a girl.”
“That is so strange!” their mom frowns. “Did the alarm go off, is that how you knew?”
Celia: “There’s been some trolling on Insta lately, starting to wonder if it’s someone who took things a little too far.” Celia shrugs.
No, Mom, I was kidnapped and raped.
GM: “Huh, I could see that,” says Emily thoughtfully. “Haters gonna hate. Sometimes it crosses over to real life.”
Celia: “Little excessive, though. Maybe a brick through the window or something.”
GM: “People do some pretty crazy shit because of the internet. Swatting is a thing.”
Celia: “But the guy I spoke to said he’d look into it for me, and probably not to worry too much about it.”
GM: “Swatting?” asks their mom.
“When you call 911 and say there’s a hostage situation, gunfire, or whatever, so cops sic a SWAT team on someone. It can get them killed.”
“Oh, that’s awful,” Diana murmurs in between bites of casserole. “But at least things are okay at the spa, it sounds.”
“I don’t want people messing up your business,” she frowns. “You have put a lot of work into that place!”
Celia: “I think I’ll be okay. Like Emily said, all the cash tips are gone at the end of the night, and nothing was missing. The detective kind of shrugged at me when I told him that, said maybe someone forgot to lock up.”
Celia spears a noodle and a piece of tuna on the end of her fork.
“Might have just been a drunk tourist, who knows.”
GM: “Maybe. I guess they can wander off Bourbon Street…” Diana wonders. “Or maybe those gutter punks! Those people make me so nervous!”
Celia: “Maybe. I guess if I were homeless I’d rather be somewhere warm than up north. I’d probably hit up a beach somewhere, though.”
GM: “They’ve got to get food somewhere, though,” says Emily. “There’s a lot in the Quarter to draw them. Lot of food, booze, and crime.”
“I know.” Diana shakes her head. “That’s really what I like about the Garden District, it’s just such a pretty area and there’s no crime!”
“You still wish we’d gotten a house there?” asks Emily.
“A little, yes,” her mom admits. “It’d be so cute to walk to work every day with Lucy. To get to do that a whole 14 years with her.”
Celia: “I still prefer the Quarter. More to do.”
GM: “For you, I’m sure, you wild young thing,” her mom teases.
Celia: “Plus, the value here is only going up as the city rebuilds. If you ever want to sell you’ll get way more for your property.”
GM: “The city’s pretty much rebuilt at this point, honestly, except in the 9th Ward,” says Emily. “And I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.”
Celia: “Yeah, but people don’t come here to visit the Garden District. So if you ever do move in with someone you could rent out your house to vacationers.”
GM: “I’d say a lot more come for the Quarter, definitely,” Diana agrees, “but you can see tourists in the Garden District too. There’s a lot around Magazine Street or just taking pictures of all the pretty buildings. It really is so pretty there… just a picture-perfect little neighborhood,” she sighs wistfully. “But at least Lucy and I still get to see it every day.”
“That’s a good idea as far as the renting,” says Emily. “It’s in the Quarter, plenty people who come here for that, as you say.”
“And I think it’s a good idea to hold onto it. To have a place that’s always yours.”
Celia: “Now we just need to find you a man.” Celia wiggles her eyebrows at her mother.
GM: Her mom smiles back. “Like I said, sweetie, we’ll see how things go with your father…”
Emily silently eats her salad.
Celia: Celia gives her mother a vague smile and takes a bite of casserole.
GM: “So about the 9th Ward, didn’t a bunch of Hollywood stars all start a foundation to rebuild homes for the people there?” she asks. “I remember that from years ago, but not what happened to it.”
“Yeah, that’s basically you and most of the city,” says Emily. “The homes were substandard. They’ve all been falling apart. It was all basically a fundraising and PR exercise for said movie stars and local politicos.”
Celia: “Bit of a publicity stunt in the wake of a disaster.”
Celia: Celia favors Emily with a smile.
GM: “But no one cares anymore, since Katrina was 10+ years ago. It’s not making headlines. The movie stars built their substandard houses and got out.”
“That is so sad,” their mom frowns. “Havin’ a home is definitely something to be thankful for. I really am so grateful we have this place, own it in full without any mortgage, and don’t have to worry about money anymore.”
She chuckles. “I guess ballet really paid off, in a way. I definitely wouldn’t have made that much money just by puttin’ on a tutu for another ten years.”
Celia: Celia makes a motion that might be a nod. She wouldn’t have as much money, maybe, but she’d have full use of her leg. Though if her plans work out she’ll regain that soon enough.
She makes a vague noise as she chews her latest morsel. It, like all the others, is absolutely foul.
GM: “Say, sweetie… about that experimental treatment you mentioned…?” her mom asks. “Have you been able to look into it any more…?”
Celia: “Not quite yet. I’ll let you know as soon as I find out anything, though.”
GM: “Okay. I know you will,” Diana nods.
“I wouldn’t get your hopes up too much though, Mom,” says Emily. “I’ve definitely looked into things too, and…”
“I know,” their mom murmurs. “I’m okay if it doesn’t pan out. I think that God might’ve meant for things to happen this way.”
Celia: “It’s experimental,” Celia says, looking toward Emily, “so I’m not sure if it would even work, but I’m also not surprised that it hasn’t come up. I’ve been reaching… well, far outside the city for a solution.”
GM: “That’s probably a good idea,” says Emily. “Tulane’s great, but for years the city didn’t even have a Level I trauma center. You have to go outside for the really advanced… well, everything.”
“You’ve looked into some residency programs in Houston, haven’t you, where that giant medical center is?” asks Diana.
“Yeah. Biggest in the world. But I’m trying to stay here with you guys.”
Celia: “Maybe we could all go. See something new, you know?”
GM: “Oh, don’t be silly,” her mom chuckles. “This is home!”
Celia: She didn’t think it would be that easy.
GM: “I kinda went over all the different reasons with you yesterday, remember?” Emily asks pointedly. “Mom, if we moved, can you explain what would that mean for your job and school with Lucy?”
“To Houston, you mean?”
Celia: “It’s fine,” Celia says flatly, giving Emily a look. “I get it. We don’t need to rehash.”
“Considering I was mostly concerned about you stabbing Maxen, and that’s been swept under the rug.”
GM: Diana looks between them. “Oh. You think… to be safe…?”
Celia: “I do.”
GM: “If he’s going to the police, going across state lines won’t make me safer,” Emily sighs. “But, you know, I probably should talk with an attorney. Maybe Viv.”
Celia: Celia catches Emily’s eye, then flicks her gaze toward their mom.
“I agree. If he tries anything we could also push back about the restraining order.”
GM: Emily frowns in thought.
Diana nods adamantly. “Good idea, sweetie! I’ll give her a call, make really clear this is an emergency!”
Celia: “Maybe Grandma, too.”
Wednesday night, 2 September 2015, PM
GM: Celia’s heard it on the news. Everyone’s heard it on the news. Veteran cop shoots two wrongfully arrested socialites almost dead and then shoots his way out of the 8th District police station. Everyone’s talking about it—Kindred and kine alike. Wagging tongues in Elysium all suspect a move in the Jyhad, though none of those tongues have come to a consensus regarding who benefited from Gettis’ actions. Whose interests, indeed, benefit from two dead teenage heiresses? Celia hasn’t even heard of any Kindred who own the families. It’s a victimless crime, if one leaves out the kine girls.
“…besides, there’s how many other Devillers? It’s not as if they lack for heirs to spare,” Marguerite Defallier had quipped to most of her fellow harpies’ titters.
Celia: Jade had allowed herself a smirk at the joke despite its rather on-the-nose, low-hanging status. But Jade doesn’t know the Devillers. Jade doesn’t have kine connections, doesn’t care about them as anything more than her next meal.
Celia does, and Celia doesn’t think having a family member shot by a cop is especially hilarious, even if there are children to spare. Cécilia had already told her about it, personally. She wasn’t the girl’s first call, she has no doubt, but they’ve been friends for years. Of course she knows, had heard the whole grisly tale from her blonde-haired, blue-eyed friend. Again from Diana after she’d finished visiting the injured girl in the hospital.
Such a tragedy, Diana had said sadly to Celia and Emily after they’d put Lucy to bed, that poor family.
Poor cop, too. Celia had heard about the manhunt for him as well. Mad, to shoot two young girls in a police station. Has to be. The name is familiar, though, and she recalls the voice she’d heard on the other end of the line years ago when she’d reported her father’s assault, and her grandmother’s words about him: not a friendly man, but he isn’t afraid of anything. Afraid enough of something if he’d gunned down two victims. Or he’d just finally snapped. She’s heard that being a cop is a rough, thankless sort of job, especially in a city like this.
She makes it a point to visit her grandmother shortly after that. She brings Lucy with her; the old woman always enjoys seeing her (great-)grandchild.
GM: Girls, at least, Diana had amended sadly. But poor Sarah still hadn’t come out of her induced coma. There’s no telling if she’ll be a vegetable or what. Doctors think the former is more likely than a full recovery.
Celia’s grandmother lives within the Lower Garden District. Pearl Chastain’s domain. The Toreador can request entrance, which her elder clanmate (or just as often, Accou) usually grants to “the right sort” of Kindred after they explain what their business in the area is. The alternative is sneaking in.
Celia: The problem, of course, is that Underwood is Celia’s grandmother, not Jade’s. It’s a sticky situation, and she’s at a loss for how to explain it to her “grandsire.” She can hardly go to him to ask for permission for her “pawn” to enter the territory (why would she need it?) and if she goes herself, as Jade, people will wonder what she’s doing at the judge’s house. Not to mention the fact that Underwood won’t recognize her.
It’s a good thing she’s gotten so handy at passing as a breather, isn’t it?
She borrows her mother’s car, citing the fact that she doesn’t want to have to move Lucy’s car seat to her own (honestly, she doesn’t understand why the almost seven-year-old is still in a car seat, but her mother had said something about weight restrictions and the Goose still being too little to sit on her own), and makes sure that she isn’t wearing anything that Jade would be seen in: no sun ring, no star sapphires, no sky-high heels or risque gowns.
She dresses down, in a pleated skirt, sheer tights, and the sort of blouse she wears to work, then sets off to meet with her grandmother.
GM: Lucy yawns as Celia straps her into the booster seat. She supposes it’s fortunate Gettis picked the summer months to shoot a couple teenagers: 8 PM is rather late for Lucy to be going on car rides, in Diana’s view, but she was happy for Celia to spend some “private time” with her daughter. Sister. Whichever.
She didn’t comment on Celia taking Lucy to Payton’s house. But she didn’t say no to it. Or at least didn’t want to fight.
Celia: It’s hardly the first time Celia has brought her daughter to see her grandmother.
GM: Celia’s grandmother lives in a two-story Greek Revival house with that style’s trademark Corinthian supports, a wrought-iron fence around the property, and several palm trees and a neatly-maintained flower garden in the front yard. She greets the drowsy-looking six-year-old with a hug and serves an after-dinner snack of spinach cheese balls and milk and cookies. Lucy wakes up a little at the prospect of cookies and eats two before her (great-)grandmother instructs her to have at least as many spinach balls.
“Popeye is strong to the finish because he ate his spinach. You want to be as strong as Popeye, don’t you?”
“Who’s Popeye?” asks Lucy.
Celia: Celia sides with her grandmother on this one, telling Lucy that she needs to make sure she eats her greens if she’s going to stuff her face with sugar.
She gives her grandmother a rueful smile.
“He was a little guy, like you, Goose. But every time he needed to be strong he cracked open a can of spinach and swallowed it down. And his arms got real big.”
Celia flexes for the little girl. Her own arms are nowhere near as large as the cartoon’s. She pushes up her bicep with her other hand to exaggerate the muscle.
“And then he could take on all the bad guys.”
GM: “Could he take on Gaston?” Lucy asks.
Celia: “From Beauty and the Beast? I bet he could. Gaston ate raw eggs every day.” Celia wrinkles her nose at her daughter. “I think spinach might be better for you.”
GM: “Yeah! He ate five thousand eggs every morning, so he’s… roughly the size of… a barge!” Lucy says, half-singing the answer.
“You have a very good memory to recall a number that large, Lucy,” replies Payton. “What happens to Gaston in the end?”
“Uh… he falls off a cliff, when he’s fighting Beast.”
“Popeye never falls off a cliff. Your mother is right. Spinach was better for him than eggs.”
Celia: “And,” Celia adds, “Popeye does it to save his little lady friend, so he gets love in the end. Gaston gets nothing.”
GM: “So spinach makes people love you? Or like, little lady friends?”
Celia: “Spinach makes you strong, heart and body. And strength makes you love yourself, which makes people love you.”
GM: Payton slides the bowl of spinach balls closer.
“There’s egg in these too. So you can be a little like Gaston. But there’s more spinach.”
Lucy picks one up and takes a bite.
“What do you think?” her (great-)grandmother asks.
“Um, I like cookies more. But these are good.”
“I’m glad you like them, Lucy. Eat lots of spinach and you’ll be as strong as Popeye one day.”
Celia: “And,” Celia whispers in her daughter’s ear, “it’ll turn your tongue green, and you can make Emmy guess what you ate when we get home.”
GM: “Oooh! I know something she doesn’t know!”
Celia: “How many guesses do you think it will take her?”
“Two? Two hundred? A thousand?”
GM: Lucy nods along. “I bet it’ll take her a thousand! Cuz, like… what’d make your tongue green?”
“Definitely nothing that little girls like to eat on their own,” Payton answers wryly as she takes a bite of spinach ball.
“She may wonder forever. She may have no idea after even a million guesses.”
Lucy giggles and takes another bite of her own.
Celia: “If she never guesses right we’ll never tell her, then we can have all the spinach and cheese balls for ourselves.”
GM: “You should make your tongue green too! She’ll be really really confused!”
Celia: “I don’t know, Lucy-Goose, I might eat all those cookies instead.” Celia makes munching noises.
GM: “That’s not fair! Great-Gramma says I hafta eat spinach too!” Lucy protests.
“Then I’m saying it for Celia too,” answers Payton. “You’re right that it’s important to be fair. Celia, you must also eat at least as many spinach balls as cookies.”
Celia: “Maybe I’ll just eat… Goose!” She pulls the child onto her lap to press kisses against her cheek, then tickles her side.
GM: The six-year-old shrieks with laughter and flaps her arms as Celia pulls her over.
“You’re eating spinach! ‘Cuz I ate spinach! An’ you’re eating me!”
Celia: “Oh no! Now I’m gonna be super strong! Gramma, quick, run for your life before I turn into the incredible hulk!”
GM: “Or… I could just eat all the spinach balls myself to become even stronger,” Payton suggests, finishing off the one between her fingers.
“No! No! I’m gonna be strong!” Lucy grabs another ball and stuffs the whole thing into her mouth.
Celia: Celia laughs, ceasing her tickling so that Lucy can eat the spinach balls in peace. She reminds her daughter to chew, please.
GM: Lucy slows down. A bit. But she’s adamant that most of the balls are ‘hers.’
Celia: “Maybe if you ask nicely your great-gramma will give you the recipe, then you and Grammi can make them.”
“I bet,” she stage whispers, “that you can trade her a hug for it.”
GM: Lucy hops off Celia’s lap and approaches her great-grandmother’s chair, who picks the girl up onto her lap. Lucy hugs her.
“Can I have the recipe? Pleeeeease?”
Payton smiles and hugs her back. “Only because you’ve asked so nicely. I’ll give your mother a copy when she’s ready to leave with you.”
Celia: Celia smiles at the pair. It’s an adorable sight. She asks if they wouldn’t mind posing for a photo so she can share with her mother later, and just so that Lucy can have one with her (great-)grandmother.
She doesn’t say anything about Payton’s age—the woman is still young enough that Celia isn’t worried about her keeling over at any moment—but in the back of her head she knows that time will eventually get away from her, and she’d like the mementos when she can snag them.
GM: The pair don’t mind at all. Payton adjusts the child on her lap and says, “Say cheese, Lucy.”
“Cheeeese!” repeats the first grader as Celia’s phone gives its click.
“You should take another one of Lucy showing us how strong she is,” Celia’s grandmother suggests.
Lucy flexes her tiny arms as Payton pinches the muscle with an impressed expression.
Time waits for no one. Celia remembers her grandmother saying: I will also be 80 years old by the time Lucy is 18, assuming I am still alive then, so it would behoove you to find a second and younger co-trustee.
But they have a while yet.
Celia: Celia spends a few moments telling Lucy to do more and more absurd things for the camera, sharing a laugh with her daughter and grandmother.
It’s moments like these that she hates him for taking her from her family.
Still, she’s luckier than most; she can see them, at least, and will be able to long into her own “twilight years” if she has anything to say about it. Mel had commented once that she could keep up the charade so long as she was willing to look like a shriveled old prune, and though Celia had balked at the time—“I would never!”—she’s starting to come around to the idea.
These people are what keep her going.
It’s only after most of the spinach balls (and cookies) are gone and Lucy is somewhere between a sugar coma and sleep that Celia finally fixes her grandmother with a soft look.
“How are you doing, Gramma?”
GM: Payton sighs at that question, then turns on some cartoons for the half-asleep girl to watch. She moves over to the next sofa.
“You’ve read the headlines. This has been a nightmare for so many people. But I haven’t been hospitalized, killed, or had my husband’s death reduced to a journalistic footnote.”
Celia: “That doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you,” Celia says gently. “The whole city is up in arms over it. I imagine, as a judge, you might eventually have to preside over the case, if it comes to that.”
Celia glances at her daughter, then her grandmother.
GM: “I have preemptively recused myself,” Payton answers. “My personal relationship with Detective Gettis prejudices my impartiality, and Carson wishes to preside over the case himself in any event.”
She looks at the child, then back to Celia.
“What of her?”
Celia: Celia shakes her head.
“Not her. Just making sure she’s absorbed.” The child doesn’t appear to be listening to them; indeed, it looks as if she’s half-asleep. “I just remember that his was the number you gave me during our chat, and he was the one I called when Maxen laid hands on me.”
“It sounded as if you were close.”
GM: “I knew him for some years,” her grandmother answers heavily. “I would hesitate to describe him as a good man, but he was a needed man. He was one of their best detectives and one of the few whose convictions could not be bought. The department is lessened for the loss of his service and the example he set.”
“There was a reason I asked him to handle your father’s arrest.”
Celia: “I recall being… astounded, truly, when I found out that he had already taken my father into custody.”
GM: “There are few other police officers whom I believe would have had the courage or the integrity to make such an arrest.”
Celia: “I’m glad that you sent me to him. I only wish it had been enough.”
GM: “Gettis, like any police officer, could only enforce the law and the decisions of our courts.”
Celia: “This whole thing with those girls…” Celia shakes her head, forces the air from her lungs in a sigh. “They’re going to smear his name. I never met him, you know. He sent someone else to take my statement. But I guess I was just always glad there was someone out there who isn’t afraid to do the right thing, even when it’s difficult.”
GM: “His victims’ families will be right to smear his name. His actions were unconscionable. But the loss of the man he was, and had been for decades, is tragic.”
Celia: “I don’t know what happened between then and now. I can’t imagine it’s easy being a police officer. The stress of the job… that has to weigh on someone, watching people you know deserve to be behind bars get off because of their status or their money.” Her voice is bitter; probably thinking of her father. “I try to wrap my head around it and I just can’t.”
GM: “The job is extraordinarily hard. Police officers have higher rates of suicide, divorce, alcohol abuse, and innumerable other negative health indicators than the general public.”
“You may nevertheless be able to do so better than most.”
Celia: Celia adjusts a pillow beneath Lucy’s face, taking a moment to smile fondly at her sleeping child. She brushes the hair back from her cheek with a light, practiced touch.
Her eyes return to her grandmother, brows lifting.
GM: Payton follows Celia’s gaze, her expression momentarily softening before she turns back to her granddaughter.
“Because you have personally witnessed a miscarriage of justice and experienced its effects.”
Celia: “Ah.” Her smile turns brittle.
GM: Payton looks back towards Lucy. “I hope she does not, but one cannot shelter children forever.”
Celia: “That’s the trouble, isn’t it? We want to protect our children from the horror of the world so that their lives turn out better than our own, so that they can find happiness and peace, but we can hardly hold their hand all throughout it. It is no better to bury our—and thus their—heads in the sand than it is to expose them needlessly by throwing them into the den of a lion.”
Celia smooths her hands down her skirt, tucking it around her thighs.
“I suppose the advantage of being exposed as I was made me more self-reliant than someone who did not go through the same. Strength, and all that.”
GM: “It is a fine line to tread between adversity that builds character and adversity that does not worsen an individual’s quality of life. Circumstance, however, rarely allows us to choose what adversity our children face.”
Celia: “Still,” she says quietly, “I often wonder if I’m making the right choices with her, or if something that I decide to do or not do will cause her undue strife later on. I love my mother, but I will not deny that some of her choices had questionable effects on all her children. We follow the example set by our parents.”
GM: “Perhaps that is a matter you should speak with your mother over, given she is Lucy’s primary caretaker.”
Celia: She thinks to tell her grandmother about that night. The attack. The gun.
But it doesn’t really matter, does it?
“How did you meet him? Gettis, I mean.”
GM: “I met Gettis many years ago at court. I meet many police officers in my line of work.”
Celia: Celia gives her grandmother a wry smile.
“Of course. That makes sense. I dated a boy once who wanted to get into criminal law; I imagine he would have met a lot of officers as well. For what it’s worth, I’m glad you did. He was there when our family needed him, for all that he… well.” She lifts her arms in what is almost a shrug, as if to say ‘what can you do, right?’
GM: “Rarely enough,” her grandmother answers that unspoken question. “I remember that boy. Henry Garrison’s son. His passing was also a tragedy.”
Celia: She can’t help the spasm of pain that crosses her face, or the way her eyes dart toward Lucy.
GM: “He was also there for our family during their time of need. There is no truer measure of a friend.”
Celia: “Best friend I could have asked for. He was… well, I guess it doesn’t matter now.”
“I don’t imagine I’d be the same person I am today if I hadn’t met him.”
GM: “He would have made a fine husband for you.”
Celia: “I loved him,” Celia says quietly. She brushes a hand against her eyes. “I haven’t found anyone since who I can imagine the rest of my life with. Silly, perhaps, to cling to what I once had when there are others who can step into the role.”
GM: “You are still young. Other good men will come.”
Celia: “And for you? Will you spend your twilight years alone?” She looks around at the large, empty house. A gentle smile softens her words.
GM: “I gave my heart to your grandfather. Though God saw fit to take him from me early, we enjoyed many happy years together. It is enough for me to spend my remaining years with my children, grandchildren, and great-granddaughter.”
Celia: “Your daughter says the same. And yet I wonder if she is truly happy.”
Or you, that look says.
GM: “We require love to be happy. My husband loved me. Your mother’s husband did not love her.”
Celia: “Not even when I was little, you think? It seemed like they were happier then.”
GM: Her grandmother’s lips purse. “Perhaps he did, in his way. But that love did not last.”
Celia: “She kept saying the stress of the election got to him.” Celia forces out a sigh. She looks like she wants to bring her feet up onto the couch to wrap her arms around them, but thinks better of the motion.
“I wish he’d never ran.”
GM: “Stress does not ‘get to’ someone. Only get them to show who they are.”
Celia: “His complete and utter turnaround from someone who let his eight year old daughter put makeup and a dress on him to have a tea party with stuffed animals into the person that he became suggests more than it simply hiding inside of him.”
GM: “Perhaps you simply did not know your father as well as you believed. Politics can be a dirty business, but I can think of no political events that would cause a change as total as you describe.”
Celia: “Maybe it wasn’t a political event. His parents died right around then.” She lifts her shoulders in a shrug. “We didn’t see much of his family after that.”
GM: “Perhaps. In any event, it changes little. Your father did what he did and is who he now is.”
Celia: “Following that line of logic, do you think he was always like that underneath, that the stress of the job just uncovered what was already there? Your friend, I mean.”
GM: “Gettis’ motivations are difficult to know. I do know he has no family to speak of. Homicide is one of the most stressful units for a police officer to work in, and he lacked any sort of stabilizing influence in his life. He was known to frequently sleep at his desk. He had nothing except his job.”
Celia: “So, what, he just… cracked?”
GM: “He may have. Socially deviant personality traits among police officers is a topic of some academic research. This has also been, to my view, insufficient research. It is still uncertain to what extent deviant behavior is learned or innate among police. Psychological screening of potential officers is imperfect, police subculture provides a multitude of opportunities for cruel and corrupt behavior on the job, and many officers develop cynical ‘police personalities’ due to the nature of their work.”
Celia: “I read a study once about the type of people who go into law enforcement. How it draws a certain kind of person because of the nature of the job. But that’s the age old question, isn’t it? Are you who you are since birth, or do external environmental factors turn you into someone? But we can look at that in any regard, honestly, not just the career someone chooses.”
GM: “Yes. But whether Gettis was born this way, or made this way, I do not believe that things had to be this way. He should have retired when he became eligible to receive a pension and attempted to find purpose beyond police work.”
Celia: “Do something long enough and it becomes what you live for, though. Like Mom with her dancing.”
“I mean, could you imagine a job outside of being a judge?”
GM: “I am required to imagine that as part of my job. The Louisiana Constitution includes a mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges, with the exclusion of ones who turn 70 while serving their final terms.”
“I will likely do part-time private practice after I quit the bench. Work gives us a necessary sense of purpose.”
“As to your mother, dancing was a waste of her potential. I do not believe her temperament was suited to become a judge, but she could have followed in your grandfather’s footsteps to pursue a more socially contributive and personally and financially rewarding career as a doctor. Perhaps a pediatrician, given her fondness for children.”
Celia: “I can’t imagine Momma as a judge,” Celia says with a wry smile.
“But you’re right. Work, family, it’s what keeps us going.”
Her eyes slide once more toward her daughter, and she smiles again—a fond smile—at the sight of the girl passed out after her sugar rush.
GM: Her grandmother’s eyes follow hers. The smile is fainter, but it is there.
“She always took more after Timothy than me. He wanted to help people.”
“It was a mistake to introduce her to ballet, but what is done is long done.”
Celia: “I wish I had been able to know him. Grandfather, I mean.”
GM: “He was very doting to your mother, aunt, and uncle. Spoiled them rotten. Brought back lollipops from work and carried them on shoulder rides throughout the house.”
Celia: Celia can’t help her grin.
“He sounds lovely.”
GM: “He was. He was a gentle soul. His death was very hard on our children, especially the girls.”
Celia: “Grandma, can I ask you something… personal?”
Celia: “What happened with you and Mom?”
GM: “We were never as close. Your grandfather left being the disciplinarian to me. Your mother’s relationship with me grew increasingly strained following his death and the inherent rebelliousness of teenage years. I attempted to encourage your mother to explore career paths besides ballet, which she responded poorly to, and assorted other domestic squabbles I won’t bore you with. After I required her to abort you if she were to continue living with me, your father offered her another home, and that was the end of our relationship.”
Celia: “Oh.” Celia thinks that over for a long moment. “I guess I just… don’t understand. I’m the one that was supposed to be aborted and I harbor no ill will toward you. It just always felt like I was missing part of the picture. Didn’t have all the pieces, as it were.”
GM: “I think she may have also been jealous of her brother and sister, and felt unloved and unwanted next to them.”
Sibling rivalry. She can relate.
“Lucy doesn’t have a father. Or a grandfather. She has Mom, and she has you, and I just… wish sometimes that we could all be together.”
GM: "I think your mother may have also felt she could never measure up to them. They both went on to respectable careers. Your uncle was also the one to tell me about her pregnancy, which he had overheard your mother telling Prudence in confidence. "
“All of them were stupidly upset over that. It’s hardly as if I wouldn’t have noticed her belly getting larger when we lived together.”
“I agree with you, in any case, that it is so much the worse for Lucy. She would benefit from additional family in her life. And especially male role models.”
Celia: “What do you suggest, in regards to my mother? I’ve brought up mending this bridge multiple times and I’m just…” Celia leans back against the couch. “I’m tired. I’m tired of the fighting. I love you both. Lucy loves you both.”
GM: “What has your mother said, when you have spoken to her?”
Celia: “If I can be frank, that she wants you to apologize. That she could forgive you if you were to say that you were sorry. That she’s angry you didn’t come to see her as the sugar plum fairy, that she’s angry you told her, when her husband put her in the hospital, that it was a good thing, that she could ‘have a real career now.’”
GM: Celia’s grandmother sighs.
“I told your mother no such thing. I did not attend her performances when she made plain I was unwelcome.”
Celia: Celia’s lips flatten into a thin line.
“Can you tell me what happened, then?”
GM: “There is little to tell. She called for me. I came. I told her she could stay at my home and that I would help her find a new career so she could be financially self-sufficient.”
Celia: “Mmm,” Celia says, “it just feels like there’s more to the story that neither one of you will ever speak of.”
“And I guess if you don’t have or can’t trust family, what does that really leave you with?”
“And, frankly, Mom is a bit of a pushover. She gives in on everything… except this.”
GM: “Perhaps it is her sole remaining point of self-worth. Her husband dominated and abused her. Her job does not require her to be adversarial. I am the sole villain in her life she may stand up to. Perhaps she does not like being weak and this is a way she may feel strong.”
“I have been frank with you, in any case, that I believe your mother should have aborted you. I have been frank with your mother that I believe a career in ballet was a waste of her potential. I am also willing to have a relationship with my daughter despite the past conflicts between us. If there is more to the story, I suspect it may lie with your aunt or uncle. They, at least, maintained functional relationships with your mother until she left home.”
Celia: Celia doesn’t quite sigh. She makes a noise, though, that clearly conveys her discontent.
“You’re right, Grandma, and I appreciate your frankness and always have. I just… don’t understand, sometimes, why people do things. Mom with you. Your friend and those girls.” She shakes her head. “My family is fractured enough as it is. I wish Lucy’s didn’t need to be.”
GM: “You can take it from a judge, Celia, that people rarely get the things they wish for.”
Her grandmother glances back towards Lucy. “But I am thankful she has what family she does, and that you were able to bring her into the world without compromising your own professional aspirations.”
Celia: “Me too, Grandma. Me too.”
Thursday night, 10 March 2016, PM
GM: At the mention of her mother, Diana’s lips purse.
“I’d rather not involve her in… things with your father and I.”
Celia: Celia waits, expectant.
GM: “It just really isn’t any of her business.”
Celia: “She’s your mother.”
“You’re involved in my boy business.”
GM: “Well, you want me to be involved in your business, though. You’re here having dinner with us.”
Celia: “Should I invite Grandma next time?”
GM: Her mom glares.
The look reminds Celia of those pictures she’s seen of kittens posing next to lions. Trying to look like the big cats.
‘Trying’ probably sums it up better than ‘glares’ too.
Celia: She’s not so rude as to laugh.
She grins, though.
And hides it with a ducking of her head.
She wonders idly if this is how the elders feel.
GM: So does Emily. “You’re, uh. You might try that in the mirror a couple times, first.”
Celia: She snickers.
GM: Their mom gives a half-sigh, half-huff.
“Well, anyway,” says Emily. “Grandma would probably have to recuse herself, if this ever went to court, but I don’t see it hurting things by getting another legal opinion. You don’t want me to get in trouble for this, right, or kicked out of med school?”
“Oh, no. Of course not, sweetie, absolutely not…”
Celia: Damn, girl. Pride thrums through her at Emily’s words.
GM: Their mom gives another sigh. “Okay, bring it up with her. But I do not want to hear any judgments or ‘told you so’s from her, all right? Please keep those to yourselves.”
Celia: “Why do you think so little of her? I’ve never heard her say anything like that toward you.”
GM: “Oh I’m sure you have,” Diana huffs. “Saying ballet was stupid, all a giant waste…”
Celia: “She didn’t, though. She said she wanted more for you, but when you were accepted into school… she was happy for you, Mom. If you were going to do it she wanted you to do it.”
GM: “She had a funny way of showing it. She didn’t congratulate me, didn’t even smile.”
Celia: “She doesn’t smile at me, either. She’s just… gruff, Mom.”
GM: “Well, I don’t like gruffness. You should be sweet to people. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
“That actually isn’t scientifically true,” says Emily.
Celia: “She’s almost 70 years old, she’s hardly going to change now.”
“Have you seriously been fighting with her for almost thirty years because she doesn’t smile enough?”
GM: “Oh, I dunno,” says Emily. “If you believe Maxen can change from a wife-beating piece of shit into the gentle loving husband you’ve always wanted, it should be a pretty small order for Grandma to be nicer to you too, shouldn’t it?”
Celia: “Right? Like, that’s what I don’t get. You’ll give a second chance to the man who literally tried to saw your leg off, but you won’t give a second chance to your mom?”
GM: Diana opens her mouth, then closes her eyes and holds up her hands to her ears.
“Mom!” Emily exclaims angrily.
Celia: “Did you forget that he’s the reason you don’t have a career? That he’s the reason your daughter landed in the hospital? And your other daughter was raped?”
GM: Diana doesn’t say anything for a few moments.
“Can we please not fight. Can we please just have dinner,” she pleads. “There’s chocolate cake, if y’all are finished…”
Celia: “I’m tired, Mom. I’m tired of fighting about Maxen and grandma. Neither one of you will be honest about what happened. And I’m tired of trying to fix something that you apparently want to stay broken.”
GM: Several more moments pass.
“Ask her about your grandfather.”
Her mother’s voice is quiet. Her eyes look moist.
“Ask her about your grandfather. If you are so determined. To… please, sweetie. I hate fighting you. Please stop fighting every time you’re here. I just want to have a nice dinner with you. Please.”
She sniffs and massages her leg.
Celia: Celia doesn’t quite sigh.
It’s something to go on, at least. A direction to take things if she wants answers.
She’s not sure she does, though. She’s already thinking the worst.
Celia rises from her chair to move around the table, bringing her mother in for a hug. She doesn’t say anything, just holds her mom and rubs a hand down her back.
GM: Her mom squeezes her firmly back, seemingly all-too glad for the hug. Emily gets up after a moment to hug them both. Diana rubs her back too, wrapping one arm around her and Celia.
“How about some cake for my girls?” she smiles after a moment with a last sniff.
Celia: She might have been able to get out of cake if she hadn’t started a fight, but now… well, now that doesn’t look like an option. Unless she storms off in a huff, and it’s already a little late for that. Instead she braces herself for more garbage, smiles politely, and slides back into her seat.
GM: “Sure, I’d love some,” Emily says. She starts clearing away the dishes as Diana replies, “Comin’ right up!” and gets out a baking pan from the fridge, then slices off squares for everyone onto dessert plates. It looks like chocolate mayo cake, judging by the spongy crumb and lighter frosting.
“I think I really like to serve this kind of cake in 13×9 pans, since it’s easy to cut off itty bitty pieces for everyone, but without being cupcakes,” she says. “Plus, the whole cake is shorter, so extra frosting per serving.” She gives a conspiratorial wink.
“I’ve also got some squares frozen in the freezer, if you’d like to try those… it’s the weirdest idea of Lucy’s, but she was dead set on it.”
Celia: “Frozen cake? Is she going to blend it with milk?”
GM: Frozen or room temperature, it’ll taste like shit either way.
“Huh. I should suggest that,” Diana says thoughtfully. “She just really liked the idea of eating it frozen.”
Celia: “I used to eat frozen peanut butter, must be a Flores thing.”
GM: “Huh. Makes me want to try that,” says Emily. “Maybe it is.”
“Mmm. Great cake, Mom,” she says after the first bite. “Just the right amount of crumb to keep the sugar from completely taking over.”
Celia: There’s no way around it now. Celia looks down at the cake on her plate. She digs in.
GM: It tastes like shit.
Almost literal shit. Right down to the color.
Celia: She chews. Swallows. Takes another bite.
Literally shoveling shit into her mouth.
GM: It’s even brownish.
Celia: It’s as bad as the sewer water.
GM: Her mom beams as the two of them eat. “Oh I’m so glad you think so, Emi. I was a little worried, baking this in a pan with more frosting.”
Celia: “It’s got a great texture, Mom.”
That’s all she can honestly say about it. That it has texture.
GM: Solid or moist. There’s only one texture she’s set up to enjoy.
Celia: “Did you put coffee in this? I’ve heard it brings out the cocoa flavor.”
GM: Her mom smiles widely at the compliment before musing, “Oh, that’s an interesting thought. There isn’t, but I did add cinnamon, that also might be doing it.”
Celia: “Mmm,” Celia nods her head, “I was watching a cooking show once and the girl added cinnamon to lemon to enhance the flavor.”
Randy had been watching, anyway.
“And, um… almond.”
GM: “You can add cinnamon to just so many things. It’s healthy. Almond, though, I might try that! Maybe nutmeg.”
Celia: “She got real weird about how cinnamon we use here isn’t real cinnamon and you need to get a special kind. Vietnamese cinnamon, maybe. Very rant-y. Something about the part of the plant it’s from.”
GM: “Saigon cinnamon. It is healthy, but the coumarin means you shouldn’t be eating it by the spoonful either,” says Emily. “Like anything, it’s the dose that makes the poison.”
“I’ve heard of that,” says their mom. “I think it’s much stronger in flavor, but that also means you have to be careful. Too much cinnamon can taste bitter.”
Celia: Celia nods as if she has any idea what they’re talking about. She hasn’t cooked in seven years.
GM: It’s a shame, really.
Food tasted good.
Her mom’s cooking tasted good.
Celia: Just another reason to hate her sire, isn’t it?
GM: As if she would ever hate him.
Celia: It’s a very complicated relationship.
GM: She wants him in her unlife no matter what he does.
Just like Mom.
Celia: That’s hardly entirely true. If he’d hurt her mother she’d have gone after him. Luckily, she’s fast.
Fast enough, this time.
GM: “If you want more variety, so far as texture, I’ve got graham crackers,” says her mom. “With extra frosting, that you can spread along the inside. Lucy really liked that.” She gives a smirk. “So that frosting’s definitely gonna go fast!”
Celia: “Oh, ha, I can hardly finish this little bit, I think I’ll save them for Lucy.”
GM: “Oh, you sure? Like I said… that stuff is not gonna last, with a six-year-old in the house!”
Celia: “I will never be the one who denies a six-year-old her frosting.”
GM: “I’ll deny her just a little,” says Emily. “One cannot say no to more frosting.”
Celia: Celia shakes her head. “I’m telling her you stole some frosting, Em. She’s gonna come after you for that. Sleep with one eye open, that kind of thing.”
GM: “Pfffft, I’ll tell her she should learn to share. She isn’t growing up with a million brothers and sisters like you.”
Celia: “Should I not spoil her rotten? I can return the convertible.”
GM: “Do you think we spoil her?” Diana asks, thoughtfully. She’s finally started on her own cake slice. “I mean, we have set aside money to buy her a car, plus a trust…”
Celia: “Do you give in to her every demand? Is she a screaming banshee when she doesn’t get what she wants? Does she throw tantrums at the store?”
GM: Celia’s mom firmly shakes her head. “Oh, no, of course not! She’s very well-behaved. I mean, she cried a lot when she scraped her knee a little while ago, but all kids do that.”
Celia: “Then no.”
GM: “Though I suppose I do give her what she wants pretty often… I want her to have a happy life, the best I can give her.”
Celia: Celia has nothing nice to say to that, so she says nothing at all. She shoves another piece of cake in her mouth.
Actually eating food has that much going for it, at least. She can use the excuse of chewing to cover awkward silences when she’d otherwise say something snide or pointed or offensive.
Her Beast still doesn’t like it. It’s only moments later that Celia rises to excuse herself to the restroom. She turns the faucet on to cover the sound of her body expelling the contents of its stomach. Her stomach heaves, clenching, forcing the masticated pile of cake, casserole, and salad back up the way it came. It’s like sludge in her throat. She might not be able to taste food or appreciate textures on her tongue anymore, but she can certainly feel the grain against the lining of her esophagus, the back of her throat, her tongue, and finally her lips as it passes from her mouth.
It is, if anything, even worse coming up.
She doesn’t need Emily or her mother concerned about bulimia, either, so she flushes the toilet as soon as she makes the first gagging noise, depositing the regurgitated glop into the whirling water to be whisked away by the house’s plumbing.
She also finally takes a moment to check her phone.
GM: The room’s two other occupants, a printed unicorn and ballerina on the shower curtain, gaze serenely down on Celia as she heaves and vomits out the mushed-up semi-solid shit from a quavering, almost disgustingly alive-feeling stomach that can no longer abide the poison Celia forced down her esophagus. She looks up from the toilet rim, her mouth still tasting as if someone laced it with rat poison, to the caption ‘Believe in your dreams.’
Celia: The worst part is that she can’t even rinse her mouth out because that’ll just make it worse. She cuts her own lip with her fangs, though, and runs her tongue across it because maybe that might make things taste a little bit better, or at least tide her over until she can bite someone else.
Her eyes scan the shower curtain as she wipes off her mouth with a tissue, also tossed into the toilet to be flushed away. It’s… disgustingly, obscenely cute.
And also completely irrational and impractical. The only dream she has will never come true, so really what’s the point. Her lips curl back to expose her fangs, teeth bared in a silent snarl at the ballerina and unicorn as if it’s their fault.
She glances, again, at her phone.
GM: The disgustingly cute pinkish figures only continue to gaze down at her serenely.
There’s texts from a number of people. One is from Roderick, covertly referencing his sister and asking where and when she’d like to meet up again. As well as whether she feels like going back to her place to sleep.
Celia: She sends a coded message back to let him know she’s still working on it, she should be free soon but might stop for pizza and beer, and he’s definitely invited over for a sleepover.
GM: Usual place? Somewhere else?
Celia: She doesn’t respond immediately, moving on to the message from Alana.
GM: There’s a number, from recently and earlier. Some are updates on Celia’s family that she’s already found out by speaking with them. Another mentions how they didn’t need to pay the car towing fee (the Devillers called it). Several wantful-sounding ones ask when to expect her back at Flawless.
A text from Cécilia (also dated earlier, buried among the many others) says her family paid the car towing free, and that Celia only needed to ask if she needed a hand getting her car home earlier. It’s the least they could do after Celia made up the girls’ faces so beautifully.
Most of the earlier missed texts are between Emily, Logan, David, and her mom. There’s nothing new in those, though David says he’s going to stop by later, as does Logan. Diana says Lucy will be happy to see her uncles and invites them over for dinner. There’s vague plans for scheduling a family meal with all of the Flores siblings (who aren’t in Africa or Virginia) if they can fit that into everyone’s busy lives.
Celia has her own private text from Logan:
Hey long shot but Isabel hasn’t texted me in a while have u heard from her?
Celia: Celia is distinctly positive that she did text Cécilia about leaving her car there to pick up later. In fact, she’s sure that Diana did too. She scowls at her phone, typing a quick reply.
So sry! Thx for the assist. Got caught up with family drama. Mom got sick. Tell you later.
It’s even true. Still, now she’s positive she’s going to have to get rid of the car instead of just mostly certain. She’ll take care of it tonight, drop it off to Shep. Send Alana or Randy to get a new one. Or just trade it in, maybe. Newer model.
Maybe Daddy will pay for a new car, she thinks with a smirk. Doubtful. But maybe.
She sends a final message to Roderick, asking him to call her in ten minutes so she has an excuse to leave. The rest of it can wait.
Celia washes her hands in the sink, makes sure nothing is out of place, and moves to rejoin her family.
GM: The hand towel is printed with clusters of roses and dancing little ballerinas.
Celia: She likes the roses, at least.
It’s tough not not feel like even more of a monster surrounded by all this cute stuff, though.
How many people has she killed this week?
And another whose death she saw to, even if hers wasn’t the boot that crushed his throat. She dismembered him, though. Marked him for death.
Her family is the only thing letting her cling to any semblance of humanity and she knows, deep down, she shouldn’t be around them. She’ll just bring misery in the long run.
Can Kindred hearts get heavy? If so, hers does on her way out the door. “Celia’s” death might need to come sooner than she’d originally planned for. Too many loose ends. Too many questions on whether or not the whole persona is shot. Too many people to rely on either assisting or keeping their mouths shut if she introduces “Celia” to the All-Night Society.
It’d just been wishful thinking, anyway. No reason for her sire to actually claim her when she’d covered up her illicit Embrace for him.
She moves through the house to the kitchen, doing what she can to help Diana and Emily clean up from dinner.
GM: Celia walks out to the sight of Emily massaging their mother’s leg.
“…you know those pain meds don’t actually make you say different things.”
Diana winces a bit as Emily steadily kneads her thigh muscle.
“I really feel like they do. Medication’s as much an art as science, after all, isn’t it?”
“Sure, but you can still expect a range of consistency from them. Like you said yourself, Celia and I can’t be around 24/7 to give you massages. That’s what the meds are for.”
“You’re here now. Oh, that really does feel better, sweetie. You and Celia are so good with your hands.”
Celia: Celia scrapes the rest of the cake from her plate into the garbage and runs the water over the plate in the sink. She turns to watch Emily and her mother.
“They can make you drowsy, sometimes, or more relaxed, but they’re not going to change you on a fundamental level. That’s not what medication does.” Not pain meds, anyway. “I think you should call your doctor and get your refill, though.”
GM: “Compost’s under the sink,” Emily helpfully corrects.
Celia: “You compost cake?”
GM: “Sure. It’s biodegradable organic matter.”
Celia: “Huh. I thought you could only do plant matter. What if you guys have, like, pork or something?”
GM: Emily frowns. “Hm, Mom, you want to look that up?”
Diana taps into her phone and frowns. “Oh, it looks like Celia might be right, I’m getting some results that you can’t. Bread products are a no, too. And meat.” She looks curious. “I thought you could just throw anything in, that’s edible…?”
Celia: “It’s why you can’t use omnivore or carnivore manure for fertilizer. Something about pathogens, that kind of thing.”
GM: “It says it attracts pests.”
Celia: “Like that movie that came out last year about the guy on Mars, how he used human waste to grow his potatoes? There’s all sorts of problems that would cause.”
GM: “Oh, lord, that must!” Celia’s mom exclaims.
“Dung’s a pretty traditional fertilizer base,” says Emily. “I think I’ve heard of China using human waste. Also some Amish. They’ve had problems, though.”
Celia: “Viruses, bacteria, all sorts of issues. It can be done, sure, but only if it’s properly treated, and at that point… I mean, we have plumbing.”
GM: “Essentially, they weren’t getting treat… yeah. China’s ‘night soil’ a hundred years ago was notoriously untreated. Eating raw produce was a good way to get yourself sick.”
“Bleh,” says Diana. “Animal dung is one thing, but using human waste just rubs me the wrong way.”
“Using human biological products squicks a lot of people out,” remarks Emily. “I think it reminds them that humans are just another species of animal.”
“I’m not sure I’d describe us quite that way, sweetie. We are made in God’s image.”
Celia: She’d known it was coming.
She turns away to set the dishes in the dishwasher, hiding an amused smirk.
GM: “Well, we’re animals in all the ways that materially count. You know that you can buy cheese made from human breastmilk?”
“Oh my lord, you’re pullin’ my leg!” Diana exclaims.
Celia: She makes a gagging sound.
“I thought that was just a joke in that one show.”
GM: “It’s a real thing. It’s supposed to have a very rich taste. Human breastmilk has lots of nutrients. Everything a baby needs.”
Celia: “I mean, there are all sorts of reason why women should breastfeed, but it doesn’t mean I want to buy someone else’s milk.”
GM: “Would you buy it if the cheese tasted good?”
Celia: Nothing tastes good anymore.
“Probably not. It’s kind of the same reason I’m not into, uh… what’s it called, tripe? The idea is a bit… squick-y.”
GM: Her mom nods emphatically. “Cheese. I just cannot believe that.”
“There’s butter, too,” says Emily. “And I even heard of something called… lactation cookies.”
Celia: “How do you even get that much milk for cheese? There’s a whole process.” She’s picturing women lined up like cattle.
GM: It’s what her kind call them already.
Women and men.
Celia: It’s different for licks to do it.
She can’t imagine someone like her being behind breastmilk butter.
GM: “That’s why it’s pretty expensive,” says Emily. “Obviously, only so much to go around.”
“Cookies! You can’t be serious,” says Diana.
Celia: “Don’t some companies force cows to like get constantly pregnant so they produce enough milk?” Is that what they do with the human women, too?
GM: “I might not be. I think it was just a cookie recipe with a risque name.”
Celia: “Hold on, though. Listen.”
“Do you think they can make whipped cream from it? Or ice cream?”
GM: “I think they could make any dairy product. It’s just a question of supply and demand.”
“Where do they even get that breastmilk,” Diana mutters.
Celia: “Well, Mom, when a man and woman love each other very much…”
GM: Emily laughs.
“From women who’ve recently given birth, I presume.”
Celia: “Not everyone breastfeeds. It makes sense if they could sell the extra.”
GM: “Har har har, you two.”
Celia: “We’re hilarious.”
GM: “Breastmilk pizza,” Emily speculates aloud. “Made from breastmilk cheese. Real artisanal shit.”
“Bleugh!” exclaims Diana.
Celia: “Do you think people with dairy allergies are also allergic to human breastmilk? Also, does it count as cruelty-free or organic if they’re willing to provide it? Just slap a bunch of buzzword labels on it and drive up the price.”
“Listen, Em, I know you wanna be a doctor, but I think we should just open a restaurant.”
GM: “You’re right. Mom can supply our milk.”
“In your dreams, you two!”
Celia: “I think we’d need more than just Mom, to be honest. But she’s a start.”
GM: “Plus, we could use that in the advertising campaign. Don’t you think that gives the place a wholesome vibe?”
“‘From our own mother’s breasts to your table.’”
Celia: “Ooh, you know how other companies do it with the cow face or whatever on the milk bottle? Or the ‘packaged by’ sticker? We’ll put the woman’s face on ours. Get a little bio in there.”
GM: “Bleurgh, blerugh, bleurgh!” exclaims Diana. “I don’t know where you girls get these thoughts!”
Celia: “Mom, you’d be famous. Think of all the hungry children you’d feed. We’ll call it Mother Diana’s.”
GM: “And by hungry children we mean, like, a bunch of overpaid tech bros who go gaga for overpriced organic shit.”
Celia: “They’re somebody’s children.”
GM: “Exactly. And they’re hungry. We gotta feed them, Mom.”
Celia: “Plus we can do a behind-the-scenes tour, pay extra if they want to go right to the source.” Celia wiggles her brows at her mom.
GM: “Lord in heaven, where do you two get these thoughts!” she exclaims again. “They couldn’t have been from me, do you get them online?”
Celia: “Mostly. Lotta weirdos online, you know.”
GM: “Yes, like… well, rather like you!”
“Ooh, someone’s hitting back,” Emily grins.
Celia: “Excuse me, Mother, I only post pretty photos of myself online. That’s hardly weird.”
GM: “You know, I wonder what your audience would say if you posted some of those… strange ideas you were just spouting.”
“Good question,” says Emily. “Probably a lot of likes, and some people calling you sick?”
Celia: “They’d probably think I’m crazy. That’s why I have to filter my ideas through you two first.”
“Unless I was selling my breastmilk. Bet I could get a good price for it.”
GM: “Oh, sweetie, I would pay you not to sell your breastmilk!”
GM: “Bidding war?” speculates Emily.
Celia: “How much, Mom? I gotta let my followers know.”
GM: “Hmph. Get a goin’ rate from your prospective buyers, at least, so I can match it.”
“Cha-ching,” repeats Emily.
Celia: “Might as well close the spa and milk this cash cow.”
GM: “Cash mammary?”
Celia: “We’ve got time, we’ll figure out what to call it.”
GM: “I still cannot believe there are people who actually commodify this,” says Diana. “What kind of mother sells her milk…”
“Actually, more than you might think,” answers Emily. “It isn’t just ones who want to make cheese. Some hospitals will buy breastmilk.”
“Oh, really? Why do they do that?”
Celia: “Not all women produce an adequate amount.”
GM: “Believe me, sweetie, I know that, but there is formula.”
Celia: “Also probably in cases of adoption, when the mother’s body doesn’t produce any. Formula has come a long way, but a lot of people still think breastmilk is better.”
GM: “Human milk is vital for pre-term babies, too,” says Emily. “Preemies who are not fed human milk have a much higher incidence of illness and death. Like from necrotizing enterocolitis. NEC. 50% of the babies who get NEC die. They drink real milk, they’re less likely to get it.”
Celia: “See, Mom, it’s not all weird.”
GM: “Some hospitals pay as much as $15,000 for a one-month supply of milk per baby in the NICU. So a lot of hospitals don’t have any choice but to restrict access to donor milk to only the smallest, weakest babies.”
Diana’s face falls. “Oh, no. That’s horrible. Those poor babies.”
“That really makes me wish I’d donated, I always produced plenty…”
Celia: “Can’t be upset about it if you didn’t know, Mom.”
GM: “I suppose not… maybe I could start again, if there’s really so little to go around?”
Celia: “Start… what, getting pregnant?”
GM: “Oh, lord no, sweetie, I’ve had all the kids I could want. Just lacating. I’ve heard some women can start again?” She looks thoughtful. “I like to think I know a fair bit about breastfeeding, after six babies, but I’m not sure about doing it without any.”
Celia: “I think you’ve got plenty of other things you can do to help, Mom. Didn’t you tell me you visit the hospital all the time to visit sick and injured people?”
“I mean, far be it from me to tell you what to do with your own body, though.”
“Not to change the subject, but Em—did Alana stop by with a key earlier?”
GM: Emily’s expression sours a little. “Oh, yeah, she did. Can’t say I was thrilled to see her.”
“She can be kind of a cunt about you.”
Celia: Funny, she says the same thing about you.
Celia gives her a vague smile. “Yeah, she’s pretty intense sometimes. I think she was irritated I asked her to drop it off. It’s her friend’s place, so she was doing me a pretty big favor. I just told her I’d get the key back.”
GM: Emily retrieves the key after a moment.
“Well, there she goes.”
“I always feel like she’s a little… cold around me, too,” Celia’s mom says uncomfortably. “I’ve tried to bring her food, a few times when I’ve come to the spa, and she just says to give it to Natalie or Piper or Landen because she’s watching her figure. Always with this very… there’s just something to her eyes when she looks at me. Is there something either of us could do to get on her good side, you think?”
Celia: Celia sighs. She pinches the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger.
“I didn’t know she was being weird around you. Her intensity is good for the business, less good if she’s alienating people. I’ll talk to her. As far as the food… she, uh, she used to be really overweight, Mom. I think she’s just obsessive about counting calories or something.”
Which is dumb since if she does gain weight Celia will just siphon it back off of her again if she needs to. She doesn’t want Alana to be fat any more than Alana wants to be fat.
GM: Celia’s ghouls are always a convenient place to get rid of her mom’s food. Or at least one of them is. Alana doesn’t touch the stuff, even if getting fat is no longer a risk for her.
Randy makes up for it, though. He’s always happy to chow down whatever Celia brings him. His mom doesn’t really like to cook.
“Ah, I guess that makes sense. I could try cooking her something with fewer calories.”
“Or maybe she just doesn’t like you, Mom. You can’t please everyone.”
Celia: “I’ll tell her to be less of a bitch.”
GM: “Okay. Just be gentle with her, sweetie. I don’t want her to feel like she’s getting in trouble because of us.”
Celia: “Of course, Momma.”
GM: “All right. Well, the hour’s getting a lil’ late, unless you want to spend the night. So how about I pack you up some food,” she smiles.
Celia: “I’d like that.” Celia smiles back at her mom. No reason to hurt her feelings now about not eating the food. She’s sure she can find someone to pawn it off on.
GM: Celia’s mom gets up. She limps a bit as she makes her way up to the fridge, but soon fills up numerous tupperware containers with food and stacks them inside a grocery bag.
“The dressing’s in a separate container from the salad, now, so that won’t get too soggy,” she says as she hands the bag off to Celia. “I’ve also given you just a little frosting to go with some graham crackers.” There’s a wink. “Emi is right that Lucy should learn to share. We can always make more frosting together.”
Celia: Celia takes the offered bag and pulls her mom in for a hug.
“Thanks, Mom. I appreciate it. Thanks for making dinner for me, and having me over. I love you.”
GM: “I love you too, sweetie,” her mother smiles as she hugs Celia back. “And I’m always, always happy to do both those things. I’ll see you later, at the spa.”
“Or sooner, depending how things with Maxen go,” Emily adds more grimly.
She gives Celia a second hug. “Love you too. Text me when you and your guy want to hang out with Robby.”
“Guy…?” asks Diana.
“I’ll tell you about it, Mom. What little I know,” smiles Emily.
Celia: “Love you too, Emi. And will do.”
She leaves the pair of them with a final smile and a wave over her shoulder as she heads toward the door, food in hand. She doesn’t know what game Maxen is playing, but she’ll be damned if she lets him take this little slice of happiness away from her.