supermoon Giorgia Hofer (Italy) / reflection Beate Behnke (Germany)
see more of these lovely images here
supermoon Giorgia Hofer (Italy) / reflection Beate Behnke (Germany)
see more of these lovely images here
In contrast to his gently-domiciled legal representation, Edward's bankers inhabited an elephantine tower of blackly gleaming, gneiss-like plate, a single legend etched into a stainless plaque beside its entrance. Susan looked from the sinister quarters to its client, allowing her seat belt to retract slowly through both hands as her smile widened.
“Oh go on... I took you into my bank.” She stripped off her coat and fell in behind him as he crossed the pavement with the slender black case.
An aegis-like desk formed both a greeting and a barrier across the midst of a vast reception shaded by dark glass walls that soared away into the waist of the tower, the sound of their feet on the stone floor echoing back at them in soft, delayed confusion. Behind the sweep of granite and veneer two brunettes stood like a matched pair of horses in their Prussian blue livery; they treated Edward to a fulsome greeting, smiles expanding and decaying in unison. The ambience that had always flagged the thought of wealth in Susan’s estimation was freshly embodied in the smell of polished metal, computer terminals and a simple bass note of exclusivity itself, the green tang of a dollar bill rolled into the ghost of wood smoke. Her companion completed the required codes and exchanges at the scrupulously polite behest of the fractionally taller woman, who led them to the end of the counter.
“This way please, Mr Alton.” she suggested. Susan’s frown flew to his profile; he ignored it, glancing at the guards who nodded in deference and allowing their guide to discharge her brief spiel while she admitted them to a narrow, glass-walled antechamber, then stepped back from the sliding door beyond. They were left to enter the spacious vault alone. It was faced entirely with rows of numbered silver partitions, their monotony extending to the two low desks fabricated of the same brushed metal; they occupied the middle of the alcove, like altars to the mysteries entombed around them. Susan gazed in a circle until it began to affect her balance.
"I can't believe I'm actually standing inside one of these things."
“We're phasing them out."
"Why?" He held up one of his irregular hands. "Oh, right... biometrics." She frowned in sympathy with his predicament. “Having this much money seems more trouble than it’s worth.”
Edward stood staring at the wall before him.
“I gave up a black tent in the Empty Quarter to come here, and I don’t remember why.”
"Why do you bother?”
“This is the West. Being poor is too expensive.”
“I know. You were only paying me two fifty a week.” Susan folded her arms against the chill of the vault and watched him unlock the first cache, drawing out the smooth compartment and bearing it toward her. “It's got to be well strange, choosing your own name.” she added as he sorted through the enclosed documentation.
“Sachiin asks a woman to guess.”
“Really? How long have you been Edward?”
“Drunk heiress, house party in the Loire. First half of the fifteenth century.”
"It doesn't suit you."
"I am aware of that."
"Who were you before?"
"I don't remember."
“So... I only think of him as William because of some trolleyed French tart, five hundred years ago?” Edward left the table for the other wall. “How do they say it? Guillaume?” She laughed to herself at the dubious sound of the word, and regretted the lack of nerve preventing her extending her enquiries; as if to underscore the inadvisability of doing so, Edward stood looking into the second deposit box for a moment before slamming it back into the wall and turning in the midst of a suddenly-visible state, for once so poorly contained that she slid carefully from the desk and retreated behind its furthest end. He watched her without explaining himself, a thick, white piece of paper grasped in his hand. Unwilling to goad him further with timidity, Susan came forward, watching his face all the while, and slid the note carefully from between his fingers, only to find that she could not understand its printed Latin maxim.
“Where now does the sun shine?” he muttered, translating for her.
“Was it imp...”
“Four deeds, sixty eight carats, six hundred and twenty seven thousand, five hundred and sixty six dollars US.” He stood with his arms by his sides, re-imposing moderation, however extrinsic, while consequences and implications rolled out and concatenated of their own accord. She reached down into her bag, offering him the money he had gifted her. Though he refused it with a look the spirit behind the gesture was accepted and seemed slowly to relieve his most unsettling elements, winding back the stunning, whiplash process that had rendered him a stranger.
“I don’t think Opal leaves fuck you notes in Latin.” she concluded, hands on hips. Edward brought the first box to the table and cleared its contents into his black case.
"Old World undead standard operating procedure. Incorporate the willing, strip and pillory dissenters. We fall into the second category, and now, so do you. Félicitations."
"Well, I could have ended up one of them." She groaned into her hands. "Oh god... why does anyone care about this bollocks? Why can't they just suck blood and mind their own fucking business?"
"They're human before anything else. It's an intrinsically totalitarian condition."
"Don't call me intrinsically totalitarian, and you're partly human... I suppose we're just lucky whatever else you are doesn't like politics. If your brother was here he'd ask who we have to fuck to get out of this, so I'll just go with that."
"The Bailiss." Her blank look prompted him to expatiate. "Vampyres are a nation, a nation needs a figurehead. They appointed a notary, an administrator, stationed in Praha. The current one burnt his predecessor in the sixteenth century, recruited a praetorian guard and has been extending tentacles ever since." He fastened the catches. "Who could have predicted something like that?”
"Is it hard, being right all the time?"
"Marginally less so than the alternative." Edward consulted his phone once again, studying the appliance in apparent resignation.
"Shall we... I don't know... just go and have a cup of tea or something?
“I am going to meet Nyāti. Wait in the car”
He walked from the foot of the black tower some time later; Susan stood on the footpath, arms akimbo, glaring at their blurred and impoverished reflections in the side of the SUV that had blocked in his sedan. She looked over her shoulder at his approach.
"Give them the finger." she urged, lifting her own to do so then letting it fall as she watched him reach almost into his coat, a motion of intent that sent the vehicle on its way.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
Another dig through this and last year's pics reveals a wee trove of half-forgotten images so here they are. Some of these are flowering for the first time in our garden: great success.
above: Aloe cameronii (although some peeps are calling this variant something else now, saying it was mis-ID'd in cultivation. This is the less waxy, greener form, anyway).
below: Aloe mawii in full swing. One of my faves- my plant is heading up like a freak and will soon have about 4 new points.
above: Aloe conifera
below: Aloe andongensis. A really superb non-drama species that deserves a lot more attention
above: Aloe dawei
below: Aloe speciosa detail
above: Aloe aristata (proper) just budding up. I have the straight species and not the one usually labelled as such in trade and I find it harder to grow than the latter more common plant. It loves to lose its roots for no apparent reason.
below: Aloe hemmingii. Spectacular little fellow.
above + below: Aloe Burhii, details from the amazing UFO-style flower truss that appeared last year. Another of my favourite species with its fat, spineless dinosaur leaves and delightful flowers. Undemanding and delicious.
Another couple of firsts this year: above Aloe succotrina and below Aloe pulcherrima,
an Ethiopian plant. Last image is Aloe rupicola, flowering for the second time.
I'm using other peoples' photos to illustrate what I mean because we leave taking photos in heavy rain situations to basics with shitty cameras. There's been a pretty big slip down the road at Back Beach beneath some houses and at times like this I'm glad we live in an old quarry on exposed stone and not on punk-arse loess. Just saying.
*braces for karmic rock to back of head as cosmic retribution for even mentioning that shit*
I don't usually comment on the end-of-life choices of people I don't particularly admire and nor do I pretend to have any insight into his private circumstances, but the Chester Bennington suicide prompts me to pass on a warning about something I've learned for myself. Depressives need to look after themselves extra-hard as they enter their forties.
Like me, you might have thought you were getting your mood disorders/mental health issues somewhat under control in your late 30s. You found a decent partner. Got sober. Came to terms with your sexuality. Put down roots. Maybe had kids. Got your shit together. And then... it all falls away from under you.
Midlife troubles are more than just a perceptual glitch that runs you into an existential culvert. It is an actual, material, physiological thing. If you thought you knew irrationality, buckle up bitches because your hormones can take you to parts of nuttytown you never knew existed.
It is almost impossible to convey to the uninitiated just how hard the endocrine fluctuations that manifest at this juncture- for both women and men- can hit you. Nobody talks about it, especially in relation to the male experience, but I'm here to tell you it's real and it can fuck. you. up. I hadn't had explicitly suicidal thoughts for about 15 years... until I hit 41-42. Suddenly I was all the way back to a late teens-level of depressive ideation and hideous mood instability. I'm only barely perimenopausal (the nebulous stage before menopause, typically 35-50) and I wanted to walk off a fucking cliff.
Testosterone and oestrogen are present in and vital to all genders. They respond to all sorts of bodily travails and seasonal cues. Levels start to change and can swing out of relative balance in middle age, surging and dropping in response to each other. That unaccustomed state can be devastatingly disruptive to anyone who is already struggling with depression, bipolar, schizoid disorders etc. etc. It's a natural process, but this is me begging anyone reading this - especially men, who are often totally oblivious to their own hormonal fortunes- to prepare themselves psychologically and emotionally for the mental fallout. Pay extra attention. Get extra help. Just suck it up and tell your friends and family you're having trouble as soon you notice the needle pointing down.
None of this might have had any relevance whatsoever to Bennington's action. But I'm seeing a worrying pattern emerging in midlife depressives and fuck-all attention being paid to the physiological changes that are more than likely exacerbating it.
Aphex Twin. Best conceptual subversion ever. Click right for the complete, long arse, super N-word version if your sensibilities can tolerate said epithet. I'm just going to pour Twitter petrol over my head right now and say that I personally prefer to differentiate between nigger and nigga. To me, one is obviously offensive and the other affectionate/inclusive, but then I'm not black and don't get to decide how it is perceived by people who are. In the same way as only I get to decide who can say bitch or cunt to my face with impunity. In my experience as someone who's probably been called almost everything under the sun except nigger (stupid fag-loving slut was probably my all-time favourite WTF high-water mark) it's best to back the truck up and repossess that shit so that racists and misogynists aren't the ones in charge of terminology. Not everyone agrees and that's their prerogative. But R is my bitch and we have learned, after 5 binged seasons of The Wire, that we are both off-brand niggas. I just wish I'd known before now.
They're about twenty dollars a fucking kilo but we love them long time and are reminded every winter of their glorious idiosyncrasy. Their flavour is almost impossible to characterise; cool, wet, vaguest suggestion of umami, a hint of tomato, a touch of one of the whackier melons, maybe the tiniest suggestion of passionfruit with a sprinkle of the blander strains of durian. They are neither sweet nor sour and yet somehow both. There is a narrow band of optimal ripeness in between unpleasantly vegetable and soppy blandness which might account for their niche appeal but definitely try one.
William reached across the mattress and yanked the shunga scroll from the hands of the lycanthrope absorbed in its graphic erotica and dumped it into a drawer of the blood-red chest, taking his place at one end and bending to reach beneath its carcass. Luc rolled from the bed and at the count of three they heaved the chest toward the doors, tripping on the curling edge of a tulu, both of them cursing Gideon’s consignment of his services. Squeezing out into the hallway with their burden, they were met by Étienne and the fat joint he had constructed while secluding himself in the kitchen. William confiscated it and administered a punitive flick to the latter’s new piercing, catching him off guard. From cradling his affronted nose the lycanthrope lifted his hands and ran them hastily over his hair, straightening up and brushing off his pale blue shirt, a process echoed with peculiar fidelity by Luc, who added a moody gaze to the rakish posture they had both adopted. The click of Lilian’s tall black pumps slowed as she was confronted with them.
“You fucking losers can die trying on your own time.” William remarked. “Get this shit down the stairs or I’ll tell Kala'amātya you were dogging his piece.” He squeezed past the door frame toward her, scowling at their soi-disant allure and walking back along the hall with her in the nominal hope of privacy, closing the door to Edward's suite behind them.
A pane of sunlight slid over the matte black of her suit as she walked past the window, the shadow of an elm bough lying on the floor around her feet. Her face was lightly powdered, a slim, dark line painted over her lashes; when she looked at him he could see the strange marriage of desperation and impassivity in the black circles fixed so tightly in the centre of her eyes. Toward the bathroom door her clothing rack stood emptied. William glanced down at the suitcase by the foot of the bed and then at the phone she held out to him.
“Call me a cab.” Lilian insisted. When he made no move to comply she lifted a hand to her brow as though something kicked against the inside of her skull.
He took the phone from her and sat down on the corner of the bed.
“I have dreams about him sometimes... he's always an animal in the hold of a plane that's breaking up at thirty thousand feet... I can't do anything, but I get to watch.” he told her. “I lost him when Helaine died, for four hundred years. If you go, I lose you both.” She stood looking down at the floor. "What does she say?" he asked quietly, looking up as she leant her head against the window.
"She came to say goodbye, because he needed that, but... the more she holds his hand... If you don’t help me leave, she'll fucking stay with him, and you’ll have to watch that too.”
William murmured to himself in his own language, pressing his hands to his face as she sat down beside him. The dry, powdery scent of the orris in her perfume reminded him again of her avatar, the smell of Helaine's fields swept up across the river to her house; he saw his brother sitting with her in the kitchen door of that ancient pile while she read from the creaking volume on her knees.
“Where are you going?” he sighed.
“I got a trick waiting... it’s fine. I’m good.”
"Fuck." William closed his eyes. He reached slowly into the pocket of his dirty jeans, pulling out a business card and handing it to her, then spoke carefully, conscious of the rote, suspended nature of her gaze. “This is Gideon... he’s in France. If you’re in trouble, if you ever need anything... he doesn’t ask questions, and he knows where to find us.” He looked down at the phone and turned it over in his hand.
Susan walked with Edward through the sliding doors into a branch of her domestic bank, feeling the immediate, gravitational assault of the attention he so unwillingly commanded. One by one, as though in response to an audible demand, the clerks and store assistants in the teller queues turned to satisfy their curiosity; security guards shifted in their shoes without knowing why, touching hands to the equipment on their belts and frowning. She was appraised for the first time of the manner in which William absorbed and diffused such unwelcome notice, sheltering her from its effect. Edward's person offered no such concession. He performed instead the discreet examination of the room that was his first act in any new situation, turning gazes from himself with a retaliatory sweep of his own. Perforated ceiling tiles floated overhead; the new carpet, printed with busy triangular motifs in scarlet and grey, smelt strongly of solvent-rich glue. Susan murmured her inquiries.
“Should I close my account? Won't that look like I'm planning to leave or something?”
"Withdraw two thirds of whatever you have." he replied.
The teller processed her demands with bored efficiency, her neat bleached hair crowned by a white halo of static-riven frizz, glancing past her repeatedly as she worked the keyboard. Susan looked back to her companion herself; his gaze was focussed squarely through the wide glass frontage and on something in the street outside. Rejoining him, she stood stiffly at his side, clutching a half-crushed printout.
"Someone's ripped me off!" she whispered. He perused the transactions briefly, and took out his wallet, discreetly handing her the sum in cash, which she initially refused, and then stuffed into her bag, shaking her head. "You owe me a month anyway." she muttered as they returned to the street, making a lightning dash through the traffic and coming back to the car with a plastic-wrapped bunch of pink chrysanthemums, a white paper bag that grease had already rendered half-translucent, a large milkshake and a sack of sugar-dusted donuts, handing him the flowers and pressing her face into the paper as she slumped down beside him. “How long has it been since I had a kebab?" Susan sighed, chewing busily. "What I could actually murder right now is a whole tandoori chicken dripping with ghee, and a great big bloody Kashmir naan..."
The frigid milkshake tingled in her sinuses as she drew on the thick blue straw, gaze wandering to the blooms with which he had been so unceremoniously presented. She plucked one of the slightly ragged flowers from its stalk and bit into it herself, pulling a face and spitting it out the window. He refused the donut she offered in compensation, watching cinnamon-tainted sugar drop into her lap as she stuffed it into her mouth. The sight of a huge oil-black SUV in her side mirror attracted her attention with its polished panels and darkly obscure windscreen, crawling two cars behind their own. Eating the rest of the donuts in a brown study, she watched the vehicle for three more blocks before fishing her sunglasses from her tote and sliding them onto her face.
“This sounds stupidly paranoid, but I think that great big thing back there is following us.”
“It’s not those... what are they? Something Investigation muppets?” He did not respond to her speculation and she blew a frustrated breath, scowling over her milk shake at him. “Well I don’t know... I didn’t join the secret bloody service in my gap year.”
“You can see them. Perhaps you studied logic in your gap year.”
“I couldn’t afford the fees and had to work for sarcastic people instead.” She spat out the straw. “Alright, so I can see them, which means... they’re not trying to hide... which means... they want us to see them because they’re trying to... intimidate us?”
“Are we intimidated?”
Edward planted his foot and cut over the sidewalk, in front of a car already occupying a parking building entry lane; they ducked the boom, skirted a reversing van and took six ramps in a smoking drift, climbing four more toward the roof at a slightly more leisurely pace while Susan squeezed between the front seats and knelt upon the rear, blowing bubbles into her lidded cup. She hung out of the window and peered down into the floors beneath them.
“Bastards! They're still there... what should we do?"
He chose a park in the midst of the floor, circled the car and caught her elbow, marching her swiftly across the tarmac toward the lift bay. She chuckled to herself inside the mirrored compartment as the purpose of their eccentric detour occurred to her, shuddering at the pungent yellow brass and faux marble mall scape revealed by their debouchment. They walked together through a flock of preening teenage girls, their dour, thickly-pencilled stares following Edward as the latter accompanied her toward an outdoor retailer. Glancing over her shoulder, she took some time to look both ways along the crowded aisle, then disappeared with him into the head-high racks of pastel puffer vests and stripy thermals.
"The House always wins." he mused.
“I know, alright, but if we have to come into a mall we should make it count. I need some gear for wherever we're headed anyway. And you can stand there with your death ray going but you shop for underpants like everybody else, so can we just get on with it?"
Tugging items from the displays on her way toward the changing rooms, she stuffed the overflow into his arms but Edward abandoned the pieces as fast as he was entrusted with them; he took the remaining clothing from her, dropped it onto the attending counter and walked away toward the men’s department. Susan strode after him, folding her arms against the lengthy, number-coloured parka that he handed her.
“It looks like it fell off a skip. Or a wino." Compounding her dismay, he chose a drab brace of thermal underwear and hiking pants, wholly unconcerned by her displeasure. "I'm not a fucking trainspotting troll!" she hissed, glancing around them. His patience shorted when she refused even to examine them for herself, eyes brightening like a glimpse of distant hazard lights. Susan stood in her defiant attitude for as long as she dared, then trailed him toward the counter.
“All you need worry about is how fast it will dry in the shade. And how you’ll look to twelve drunk paramilitaries while they’re still only joking about who goes first.” he informed her, looking toward the till girl's open-mouthed dismay. Susan's gaze rose, wide and vehement; from his height and with his stare he invited her to contradict him, and they suffered deadlock until she felt her pique subside, finding points of interest in his tactics.
“Does that work on Lilian?” she asked. Edward took money from his pocket and dropped it on the chair beside the clothes, leaving her to carry them herself.
Nursing an enormous soft-serve ice cream in her free hand as the elevator returned her to the car park, she performed a watchful traverse of the bays, both elbows weighed down with bags that she threw onto the back seat, cracking the stiffening chocolate at the top of the cup with a plastic spoon as she sat down.
“I know going on the lam probably isn't a picnic, and I know you’re trying to get that through my thick skull, but sometimes I just have to stick my fingers in my ears and go la la la first.” she confessed, dragging a bag into her lap to show him the items she had acceded to. “See? Neutrals. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to sew my name into them on the train to Crapistan. It's going to be bad, isn't it... where we're going?"
"Everything is relative." he said, looking pointedly at the handles of another, smaller bag beneath her thigh. Frowning, she hauled it out and discovered a forest-green presentation box, compressed by her unwitting weight; it contained a hunting blade with an antler hilt, its gift card left blank. She smiled at him and tossed the box over the seat, dropping the knife into her handbag.
The windscreen framed a view of the vehicle that had prompted their excursion as they reversed and swung past its position between two supply vans. It continued after them until Edward engaged the hand brake at the foot of the descending ramp; behind them, the pursuing vehicle was forced to a halt, boxed in by tail-gaters, and she whispered a furious caution as he pushed open his door and walked back up the ramp. He stood gazing in through the windscreen; Susan's disquiet gave way to appreciation of his unorthodox gambit as he returned.
“Who are our numpty stalkers?" she murmured, looking back between the seats.
“Nothing exotic. Low-ball contractors... geriatric Special Forces, dishonourable discharges."
"Judging by the taste level."
"Wouldn't you feel like a dick following someone around all day?" she wondered, scooping out the bottom of her ice cream.
"Viagra and hair plugs won't pay for themselves." She smirked into her cup at the ungenerous sentiment. “Were you not tempted to stay at the house and supervise? I wouldn’t advise leaving Sachiin with Auberjonois’s entourage for longer than it takes to source hash and pornography.”
"I don't care. They probably don’t accidentally touch you inappropriately twenty eight times before nine o’clock in the morning."
“I assume he and Gideon have resolved their glittering differences.”
“You're asking the wrong person.” she assured him. “Why? Is it just because he loses his pants in the woods, or is there something else I should know?”
“Auberjonois is not my field.”
They rode in silence until she muttered and began scratching at her neck.
“Are you going to sue Opal for being a horrible bloodsucking trout?” she asked, brightening.
“There are no applicable statutes.” Edward admitted, pulling up outside a manicured brownstone while their pursuers continued onward. “Keep your eye on the road. There’s a full clip under my seat if you don’t like the way things are going.” he told her. She scowled.
“I'm not a bloody gangbanger.”
“They’ll be pleased to hear that.”
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
Supermarkets sell out of bread. The reality is we still have soggy daisies on the shortest day.
And good blues. Luminous and saturated at the same time. I think we have some of the best blue on the planet.
Our daily walk alongside the harbour isn't the worst thing that can happen to someone. I'll trade getting rained on for these clouds and their reflections.
The big Larus Kelp/Blackbacked Gulls are starting to pair up again, loitering idly together, running through random phrases of their courting routines and ducking for crabs in the sea lettuce. You can see one floating in the lower third of the image below. A lot of people dislike them, reviling their intelligence, persistence, resourcefulness and courage. It's because Blackbacks refuse to go quietly. They are a totem and consolation, reminding us implicitly that axial tilt is a real thing and that this internal drab is in remission; I will take their word for it.
Sometimes bands of rain out of the south are split by the snaking length of the harbour and will cling to the line of the peninsula rather than dumping their shit indiscriminately. The sun rides low toward the north, so we end up with these freakish split-frame meteorological vistas. This is the first time I've caught one with a camera.
R is always impressed by the sight of these boats at Back Beach and insists that I take this shot when there is any sort of light. It might be a male thing. So blame him for this same frame as last time bullshit. Boats are just cars on water to me- sort of ugly, barely fit for purpose and vaguely transgressive. But then I can swim really well and don't fancy a propellor slicing into my backfat.
The clinker dinghy.
Lilian opened her eyes to the sound of taps screwed tightly in the bathroom and found herself lying on her side with her head upon her arm, the morning raising gooseflesh on her shoulders. Edward pushed a towel back over his damp hair as he returned to the bedroom. Watching him, she stretched out beneath the black sheet slowly, then drew it from her breasts and the long, lazy curve of her hip, arranged by languor and renascent lust as she lay in an invitation that was not immediately accepted. While he stood fastening his shirt, her knee rose and described a narrow apex, her hand sliding down over her stomach and descending between her naked thighs. She closed her eyes; for a while, she heard nothing more from him and wondered if she were not alone, until the bedclothes creased beneath her and her ankle was encircled in a grasp that pulled her toward the end of the bed, his belt hissing faintly against the fabric of his trousers as he removed it. Lilian rose, her lips moving against the smooth span of skin beneath his navel, so faintly scored with the ghosts of misfortune, her hands closing on his hips. He was exclusively her own beneath his clothing, as constant as her reflection, a realm of landmarked flesh ruled by those obscure doctrines prevailing in hers; the art and warm, surpassing luxury of her mouth brought her name to his, and his hands into her pale, tangled hair, resisting for a moment the primary urge that had returned him to her. She looked up at him, and leant back slowly on her elbows, drawing up her legs.
“Always go to the bank smelling like the last whore you fucked.” she smiled, the final syllables sucked sharply inward as he spread her legs and applied himself to the suggestion. Her kiss began in his mouth and descended his neck, her breath hot between her teeth as she closed them hard upon his shoulder, raising the taste of his blood from the star-shaped scar still buried in his skin. He used his weight against her exigency, slowing her until she began to subvert the imposition, feet sliding on the sheets as she twisted beneath him. Catching her knee, he drew it over his shoulder, delivering the unsparing emphasis that she enjoyed in silence, until it returned a half-forgotten notion.
“I want people to look at you and know exactly how this feels."
“If anyone else knew how this felt I’d cut their throat.” he promised.
“You are this to me.” she whispered. “If not you, then no one.”
Susan looked up from her purse mirror, moving slowly to wipe away the lipstick she no longer favoured, aware her every movement was closely weighed by two pairs of watchful eyes and tall, attentive ears. A slender doe and her half-grown companion nosed acorns on the lawn before her, shadowed branches figuring their mouse-brown coats in the mid-morning sun. The pair had drifted closer during her patient vigil on the porch steps; guessing the hour, she blew a sigh that overrode the sound of Edward’s descent, starting when he walked past her in the darkness of a new suit. The deer did not lift their heads though he stood only a few metres distant, back to them as he knotted his tie. He wore an uncharacteristic pair of sunglasses and under their effacing influence looked so exactly like his brother that Susan was astounded that such iteration could arise from conceptive obscurity.
"Sis'thle bai'in." he said, passing the remark briefly over his shoulder to the cervine invaders, who gave over grazing and moved off through the gates toward the hillside. Touching a hand to the shape of the knot beneath his chin, he walked to the other side of the sedan while Susan scrambled to gather her accoutrement, standing to brush off her skirt.
“William said you were going into town...” she called. He sat down behind the wheel. “I was wondering if I could... go with you...”
“I don’t know when I'll be back.”
“I don’t mind... I just have to get my money out.” she assured him. If he debated the prospect privately he gave no further sign and Susan fashioned the silence into assent, though with her hand upon the passenger door she hesitated, sinking down into the seat only when he glanced up at her from behind the glasses. A slim black case stood in her leg well, and she set it aside carefully.
Edward drove with more circumspection than his brother, slowing at the corners rather than floating out across the last available inch of tarmac. After William's car, the sedan's interior seemed as bland and spotless as the features of a department store mannequin. He made two francophonic phone calls, discoursing with such uninhibited fluency that she turned to stare at his profile, startled by the softness and volubility of his voice outside the strictures of her own language. She reached across to engage the climate control and directed a blast of warm air toward herself; he looked at her pointedly, and she murmured, switching it off. Under any other circumstance she might have admired indifference to the tyrannous exactions of smalltalk, but his devotion to the road in the face of her difficulties extinguished all such considerations. In search of a tissue she began to explore the blank face of the glove compartment, gently pressing and tugging the panels in an unrewarding process of elimination. The small compliment of buttons beside it issued invitation to her thwarted fingers, but his glance deterred her, and she sat back. The heavy car rocked slowly with the contour of the road, invoking one of the rolling bouts of nausea that had troubled her recovery.
“It's the blood loss.” Edward told her. "Put your head between your knees."
As she leant over he looked down at the gouges on her neck where the vampyre’s fingernails had torn her skin. They had healed well, the scars passing into the dark blue of her hair. With her eyes closed she reviewed the fragmentary memory of his presence at the exorcism, its visuals confused by intrusive notions of his fraternal resemblance, though Susan was struck most by the intangible deficits that distinguished him from William, all that had bloomed in one and failed in the other. She pondered them, addressing him again in her own time when she sat up.
“I thanked you, didn’t I? For helping me, after...”
“I’m so hungry, and tired, god..." Her scrutiny earned his attention where her inquiries had not. "I know you think I'm a gigantic idiot, but I didn't mean for the Siobhan thing to happen, if that's what you're worried about."
“I don’t believe you so unconscious of your own shortcomings that you would deliberately solicit more.” he said finally, though in her afflicted state his eschewal of the vernacular made him more difficult than ever to comprehend. She set her elbow on the door, winding a knot into her hair as she scowled again to herself, allowing the roadside properties to pass in an autumnal blur.
"Is it me, personally? That you don't like..."
"I don't entertain any particular sentiment toward you." he assured her. Susan nodded to herself slowly.
"So, almost blowing my head off wasn't personal? That Nyāti cow put you up to it, didn't she?"
"No... I'm sure it never crossed her mind." she muttered. "So... if it's not personal, it mu..."
"From a professional perspective I could say you're everything I need to make Sachiin do whatever I want. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
"And Lilian's not?"
"My brother labours under a number of difficulties. His trouble with no can prove catastrophic. There was a point when you should have said it for both of you."
She let four or five kilometres pass under the wheels before responding.
"Why help me, then?" The colour of her eyes underscored the solemn tone of the inquiry. "You could have just... let me go... blamed everything on Siobhan. Why did you bother?"
"What happens under my roof is my responsibility." he replied.
She let a similar distance elapse while she explored the rationale, accepting its sincerity.
"Edward... I hate this. I hate pretending that's your name, I hate sneaking round the house like a complete twat trying to avoid you, and I really hate you thinking I am one, so can we just... not be so... like that?" she proposed. "I don't entertain any sentiments toward you, either." His use of silence caused her a small, wry smile. “That can't be everything, surely...”
“What were you expecting?”
“More of a lecture.”
"I can't claim to have ever taken much advice myself."
She looked back at him from the window, tucking hair behind her ears.
"I wasn't lying about Caleb's... everyone really does think it was you."
"Aren't you bothered?"
"Never hand the truth to someone perfectly content with gossip." he murmured. Its occult logic abashed the judgements she had intended.
“I don't know how you keep everything so tidy."
“Repression. It's simple. Hygienic."
"So you... what? Repress everything?" The dismay that overtook her incredulity prompted them to look away from one another, Susan almost glad of the nausea that distracted her from the idea.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
This huge spatulate excrescence makes it almost impossible to apply straight onto my boofy, sharply defined and somewhat petite cupid's bow without all manner of awkward, unintuitive postural fuckery, which is bloody annoying. You might drive a large, flat lip shape and find the square end perfectly delightful, but small mouth-havers will probably need to dig their brushes out. That's the sum total of my hateration and it's a purely subjective gripe.
Hourglass Velvet Rouge Raven suffers from the kind of arse-about-face nomenclature that had me avoiding it for no good reason. Velvet Rouge sounds like a line of those cheap, housepainty liquid mattes that have been so ubiquitous until very recently and that had given me a case of the hell nos. But it's the opposite of that nasty shit in actuality and has slid into high rotation for me because of that rarest of lipstickish attributes; genuine red buildability. Where most reds just appear piss-weak at anything less than full strength, Raven really does work at many levels of opacity, morphing from a warm persimmon stain through to a mid-bright flattish marmalade, and finally into a big hot total red with robust yellow-tomato undertones. If this is characteristic of the Velvet Rouge line per se, I'm sold on them all.
You can see what I mean in the squiggle swatch below, where it appears at both smudge-strength and full opacity.
While these shades are obvious choices for golden-toned complexions, Raven's diverse undertones mean it can be a tasty contrast on a cool face, too. And while it might not be able to claim subtlety it is truly more striking than gaudy and that is the real test of a good orange red.
Raven doesn't move around too much or even really bleed on an old trout like myself. No matter how thickly you slap it on, it never feels too greasily built and settles into a supple, lasting satin that imparts a big whack of old-skool glamour. I find little to no staining after wiping it off, and a decent application will last through dinner; there's not much of a scent and I don't find it irritant in any way.
Not for shrinking violets but Raven gets my fuck yes seal of dramatic approval.
L2R MAC unless stated: Russian Red, Hourglass Raven, Nars Heat Wave, Lady Danger, UD F Bomb, Tenor Voice, Nars Iberico
Outdoor natural light. It's really important to turn your device screen to its optimal viewing angle to convey nuance between these sorts of hot reds because they push colour gamuts in direct light.
For effective comparison, Iberico is a pretty straight true orange.
There are a thousand hearts in my eyes right now because it's so stupidly hard to source the fancier variants in NZ. Hope I don't kill it.
Go down the whole hole head first. You're welcome.
In the torpid warmth of evening, the flagged court lying before the great slouching bulk of Helaine's farmhouse seemed unaccountably expanded as Edward slid down from his horse, so accustomed was he to the sight of it under snow. A blacksmith brought his fire-flushed face to the low door of the forge at the east of the yard, brushing the embers from his rawhide apron before emerging to take charge of the horse with all the wordless discretion required of him. The house itself offered no visual welcome, its tar-black timbers standing upright in the ancient manner, thickly-lapped and set with rows of tiny shuttered windows, squinting in unison from all three stories, the first seeming almost pressed into the ground by the weight of the others. The thatch had not survived the pretensions of its resident clan and had been replaced with lumpen brown tiles in the more prosperous manner, greening straw remaining only on the adjoining barn. The little central door, barely wider than the windows with its heavy chevron paneling had been pinned open to admit the breeze into the sunless apartments beyond. The sound of hooves in the yard summoned Agathé; murmuring, she patted down her hair and hurried back into the house.
Helaine came to the entrance in the midst of the half-frowning gravity that was her custom, clearly skeptical of the girl’s announcement. Her dress of fitted black wool was a sombre, widowed contrast to the scandalous flamboyance of her winter attire, her fair hair drawn up in a coronal braid. Her hands came together in an unconscious gesture of delight that was quickly dismissed, though her smile escaped the strictures of dignity, and she wore it down the steps toward him.
“Are we in September already?”
“I regret to trouble you out of season.” Edward admitted. Taking his arm, Helaine felt the stiff catch in his stride and released him, standing on tip toe to pull back the neck of his tunic, then letting it go with a frown.
“But of course.” she sighed, solemn once more.
The evening was briefly admitted to her darkly-paneled chamber by the final rays of sunset, its soft gilt settling on the crimson of the counterpane. Outside, the rose-crowded garden was barely familiar to him, the swaying green and the staring, luminous blooms dimming slowly through the open window. When she cut his tunic from his shoulders and eased it free of him his skin glowed in answer to the fading sky, the brightest element beside the mirrored lantern that she lifted from the sill. Helaine murmured at the sight of the misfortune that had returned him to her. In grotesque opposition stood the broken stubs of two smooth yew bolts shot from siege bows into his left shoulder from high overhead; as thick as two fingers, they seemed curiously inert for all the force that had driven their quatrefoil heads, shafts snapped by the leg of his horse as it had shed him, forming a stubborn nexus where they crossed each other deep in his flesh. She dried her hands, perfumed by the sharp herbs floating in the basin at her feet, and then leant over him, reckoning the intersecting passage of the wood. Her fingers tapped at his back, seeking the peculiar, flattened sound of buried iron.
“Your corps are in Lombardy?" she asked quietly. He nodded. "Were there not wolves amongst them to draw these? Where is your brother?”
“Sachiin bade me bring them to you.” he admitted. She concluded her exam and sat down on a stool, considering his condition gravely.
“Rest first. If I am to do this, you will feel it.” That he was weary from both his wounds and journey was only dimly apparent in the indifference with which he greeted the news; the sight of her doe-soft skin through her shift in the low, square neck of her dress, and the down on her arms where she had rolled back its sleeves added the darker ache of longing to the pain of his injuries.
“I cannot rest as I am.” he sighed.
Both novice girls hove through the door bearing the tools she had sent them after; the heavy smith’s tongs and butchering blades, and a basket of smaller appurtenance. Helaine dismissed them when they had lain the implements out on the bed and fallen to staring at his condition. Their disappointment at their exclusion lingered after their departure.
She found the slim junction between two plates of bone armouring his back and marked the place with a thin stroke of kohl, then sat back down on the stool, selecting a knife and trimming the ragged end of the lowest shaft, brushing away the splinters.
"Try to be still.” Helaine set a smooth, doweled length of chestnut to the end of the shaft and chose a heavy mallet, allowed him time to compose himself, and then struck quickly, driving the dowel deep into the wound after the retreating bolt. Rising to glance over his shoulder, she corrected her aim and struck the dowel three times more, directing the pointed head between the intervening bone and watching it break through the skin of his back, where she drew it out with forge tongs, their grip skidding along the buried wood.
“How are the fields?” he asked, closing his eyes and propping his elbow on his knee as he recovered, watching her drop the broken bolt into the basin.
“They were planted, but I can find no hands, and the swine root in the barley. More than that I cannot tell you.” The relief allowed him to settle a little more easily while she stood between his leg and the down-stuffed mattress, rehearsing a succession of holds upon the object remaining in his shoulder with the cumbersome tongs. “You will come north for the trouble in Vienna?”
“I fear so. We are poorly supplied.”
"Kneel.” she told him, giving him a cup of bitter liquor and waiting while he drank it. He let himself down onto the floorboards before her.
“I do not mean to grieve you by serving so long.”
“I do not believe you know how to live with another for the whole of a year.”
“No one has ever desired such a thing of me.”
“I have desired it.” she assured him, resignation dulling its reproach. “But I see now that you do not enjoy me as I do you, and such things will be, if I abide or do not abide them.” The knife blade cut down through his skin on either side of the embedded wood, creating an extra inch of purchase in the knowledge that he would not object to the expedient. She set the tongs, clamping their jaws into the yew with both fists.
“How did you come to this wisdom?”
Helaine glanced down at his inquiring gaze.
“You are an excellent tutor. Once I begin I should not stop... if you cannot bear it you must tell me.” she advised.
With all the strength in both arms she dragged the buried shaft backward through his flesh against the direction of its barbed head, expressing her disgust as it caught on the bone spanning his shoulder and refused her. She changed her grasp and made another attempt, twisting it sideways until he stayed her and leant against the wall with his eyes closed. Her hand found his forehead and stroked it slowly, and his own closed on the fabric of her skirt, finding obscure solace. When she had amended the angle of extraction the bolt tore quickly free, its departure leaving a star-shaped hollow in his skin that closed with the movement of his arm.
The peace that returned was felt by them both, lying as cool as melt water in the darkness, the candle burning low inside the silvered glass, the sound of her black silk slippers on the boards as she cleared the tools from the quilt as much comfort to him as any articulate consolation. A tall ewer of painted tin stood on the far side of the bed, filled with a great sheaf of cloud-white roses.
“Lie quietly." she sighed, drawing back the bedclothes for him. "You will be well enough to vanish in the morning.” Emptying the basin from the window, she left him alone.
An hour of her absence passed unmarked into another, her chamber standing around him in implacable witness. A clean shift hung airing by the door, the thin garment moved now and then by the breeze that encircled the room. The bed held the scent of her skin, and he lay a hand on the side that she favoured, the memory of her slow breathing, her body lying by his own tormenting his injury with the unfailing desire that arose from any such thought of her. He rolled slowly onto his side, found no relief, and sat back again, staring at the dour oak and cursing the house's thickly-partitioned scale for keeping all sound and knowledge of her private, as though in active conspiracy. The suggestion of darkness was replaced by its reality with the approach of midnight, the proud basso calls of the owls that quartered the woods drifting in over the sill with the lingering smell of the forge, a thin ribbon of steam still ghosting from its doused furnace. In the rooms below his own, Adelle and Agathé offered chanted prayers to the deities and elements invoked in the course of the vernal cycle, striking bells, lighting little pressed cakes of cedar dust and rose oil, and offering blood from holes stabbed into the heels of their palms.
Edward set his feet upon the boards at the side of the bed, looking down to see the small Melas rug that he had given her laid out beneath them. Behind the bedside cabinet he glimpsed the toes of a pair of boots, and lifted the cloth laid over them against the dust; they had been commissioned to satisfy the eccentric requirements of his own physiology and executed with the exquisite, almost pitiful care demanded by Helaine’s patronage.
He found her seated at the table in the midst of the dining hall occupying the rear third of the ground floor, her face and neck overpainted by the colours of the candle lamp beside her book. Her lonely station and the dullness of the text had worked together, as she had hoped, to tire her. Edward sat slowly and set the boots on the table between them. Still nursing his shoulder, he reached across for the slender pipe that she had left at her elbow amid the soigné lacquer suite to which it belonged. The act brought her gaze to him; she took it back and tipped its brittle ash into the bowl beside the lamp, tempering a new bead of tar before returning the loaded implement.
“The time we lose is lost to us both.” she told him, resting her chin on her hand. “I have no thousand years to wait for you, nor have I words to slow or speed the days. They bleed from me when you are gone... one evening, sooner than you imagine, you shall come here from Lombardy, or Paris or Navarre, and find no one to meet you.” The sight of the boots drew her hand to them, and she slid them toward herself, blowing off the dust they had collected in awaiting him. “I thought if you were to wear these, the christians would believe you were saved, and not guess that they were meant to tread them under.”
He smiled at her saturnine rationale.
“A week in them and I will be too lame to leave in any case.”
“Stay with me, Kala'amātya. I will not ask again. What do you say?”
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
Well, about the most exciting thing that happened this week was meeting this incredibly hairy dog whilst walking locally. Felix didn't try to savagely x him out, which was a bonus; as he gets older I think he's slowly getting better with his more presumptuous compatriots.
He was fine with other dogs as a puppy until a local arsehole let his much larger beast go violently batshit at him in passing. Poor Foof was indelibly terrorised, becoming regrettably super-anxious and aggressive around a certain type of larger, dominant dog ever since. It's such a shame because he lives to play and there aren't any smaller, 'safe' dogs who can keep up with his insane athleticism; they get sick of puffing along in his wake and lose interest.
And here beginneth my rant about this kind of dog-related bullshit. Felix may be a mouthy arsehole on occasion but he's too small to be dangerous and is leashed in public 98% of the time- 100% around other dogs. We try really hard to keep a foot on him because we, you know, recognise that his behaviour can be problematic.
They're looking to put a bit of lateral, smart-casual scruff on their too-catalogue presentation, hence the dog. Their ambient bougie cluelessness extends through barely looking up from their phones into abhorring the idea of constraining their retarded, utterly unsocialised retrievers/exotic breed flanker pieces with something as off-brand as a leash. It's the weekend. Their weekend.
Most of them don't know or care that their oblivious, self-regarding fuckery can inflict hassle and even danger on unsuspecting strangers, but here's a clue for the curious: if strangers are having to fend off your bossy-arse, uncontrolled accessories because you won't even call them back to you (the guy at the leadership retreat said raising your voice was beta-signalling), you're being a selfish, stunted cunt. You're as shit at walking your dog as you are at managing everything else (see: tech industry). Everybody hates you. Leash the fucking things.
see more re this mm project here
I don't love the video or the song, to be perfectly honest; it feels a little bit... self-indulgent. Wallowy. Like this all biological allegory has been played out. But the rendering and individual constructions are lovely and well-executed.