"Invading the Lamb property again, in your endless quest for degredation. You really are determined to ruin the chance you might have had with any Sotherby-Curtis, aren't you?” Scrolling through the calls on Rachel's phone, Opal walked slowly around the plinth. "You thankless little bitch."
“Nicholas Sotherby-Curtis is gay." the former reminded her as the attendants shrank from her shoulders and began devoting themselves to her feet.
“Which is why he needs someone to marry, produce two viable offspring and smile until their face hurts while he runs for governor. I didn’t pay for those teeth so you could wear them down on deviant genitalia." Opal touched a hand to her immobile hair, inspecting a vial of white powder from amongst Rachel's belongings. "You are beyond pathetic. What's next? Snorting up this garbage until a frat boy wouldn't jerk off onto your face unless you paid him? If the columnists pick this up I'll make sure you spend the next three seasons in residential care. Stay away from that house.”
"Wil-liam is obsessed with me... he won't stop calling. What am I supposed to do? And who is that person they have over there? Some kind of crazy dwarf?"
Opal frowned at the lilies in their wall vase, each bloom plucked of its velvety anthers so that they seemed blinded.
“I sent over a housekeeper. I want the place cleaned up before I use it for the group show. And yes... she was petite... had a kind of... I think the word I’m looking for is milkmaid.” Opal turned her head as she swallowed down the flush of pink saliva in her mouth. “That love of your life is probably so exclusively obsessed with you he's bending her over something as we speak.” She shot a glance toward the masseuses as they stood with wide-eyed stares, hands stilled upon their subject's ankles; the smaller girl knocked a bottled candle from the corner of the credenza with a nervous elbow, though Opal's reaction was tempered by the appearance of a receptionist at the panel door.
“Ms La Rue, there’s someone here for you... a Mr Lamb. He’s uncomfortable about waiting any longer...”
Opal glanced back over her shoulder and addressed herself to Rachel.
“Go talk to him. I have calls to make.”
“I have an irrigation, and he hates me...” Rachel insisted, bare flesh shuddering like refrigerated consommé.
Edward’s sphinx-like features brought her worst anxieties into focus as she espied him from the doorway of the courtesy lounge; Rachel mouthed an affirmation and lifted the collar of her plush white robe, crossing the quiet bar toward him as if he had been waiting for her all along. He sat alone in a mood that stained the air around him like a halo in forboding reverse, a low glass in his hand.
“Opal’s taking care of something. Why don’t you get me a drink?” she smiled, lowering herself into the club chair before him. “She told me about the group show... kudos. Sounds like you're really building a name.” When he did not reply she repeated herself, to no apparent avail. “It's so weird... I mean, wherever I go, I hear somebody talking about your pieces, or about Wil-liam... it just feels like fate, you know. And with Opal getting behind your work, that's... I mean..." She tossed her golden ponytail back over a shoulder. "You don't know where Wil-liam is, do you? He's always wanting to hook up, and now I have some time for him I can't raise his damn phone... that thing is always broken...” Edward set down his single malt and stared through her face into the space beyond; she blinked tightly. “I knew it... he's with that hooker again... that son of a bitch...”
“That’s my mother you’re insulting.” he replied. The thought of the two sharing an origin was a notion that disturbed her deeply.
"What do you want me to say? You think, out of all the people in the fucking world that I actually chose him?" Rachel snapped, glaring at him over the vegetable juice that had been set down on the table. “You don't choose your soulmate, you fucking find each other..." Rage deranged the stiff, pursed poise she had maintained despite her dread of him, pushing her down in her chair and darkening the tone of her petulant utterances until she became once more aware of his scrutiny. Edward reviewed the length of thigh she extracted from her robe and draped over its twin, the two shallow creases that crossed her throat, and the lips that he had never seen naked; she offered them willingly, infusing the display with a languor that tightened the skin around her eyes and pointed her toes downward.
“Do you dream, Rachel?”
She laughed and looked up at the ceiling, the contents of her glass oozing over its lip.
“Of course I dream. I just... I don’t have the time to sit around remembering that crap.” Emboldened by the question's obscurity, she licked her glass and favoured him with her best side. “Ed-ward, how can you even be this messed up? You're scared, I can see it. You're scared of having to be your authentic self around another human being." His gaze remained with her as her smirk developed. "We all have to start somewhere. What are you thinking right now?"
His pupils were cinched into stationary shards of darkness.
“I'm wondering how you look when someone fucks you. When they're calling you Rebecca. Thinking of their stepdaughters.”
She glanced away, flashing toothy acknowledgement at a passing attendant, tugging nervously on an earring. Returning her blue eyes to his face Rachelle laughed, its pointless modulation an unwitting reprisal.
“No one talks ever talks that way while we're making love.”
“Do they ever say anything?”
She leant forward in her chair, grasping both its arms in a renascent fury.
"You really think you can run me off? You don't have a fucking hope in hell."
"Have you ever heard a tungsten blade passing through an adult femur? I get the first four notes of Ode to Joy." Rachel shrank back, glancing around herself as he rose. "Come to the house again and I'll put you in three holes."
In the privacy of his sedan Opal removed the cosmetic dentures from her mouth and slid them into her handbag; without them, her voice took on a lashing sibilance, hissing past the points of her remaining teeth.
“Where have you been? I had to tell the buyers you were at a treatment centre.”
"Whatever it was, I hope it bled euros." Opal remarked dryly, drawing the tips of her finger and thumb over the corners of her smirk to catch the lipstick in the creases.
“I was happy to correct a power imbalance for the good of the general community."
“Is there such a thing? Power is like Armani, darling... not everyone can wear it, but that's just nature in her wisdom.” She chuckled and picked someone else’s hair from the collar of her jacket.
“Nature’s wisdom informs my lack of enthusiasm for vampyre juntas.”
"One day you're going to say that in front of the wrong crowd. You of all people know that it's coming and it doesn’t care for your preferences. Why not make it easy? You may not be blood, but with your skill set I’m sure we can arrange to adopt you.”
A voice came to him as he slowed before an intersection, drifting over the shoulder of a woman remembered as she sat in sunlight on the steps of her house, braiding her own fair hair.
“To bow down is to die by your own hand.” he murmured. Opal rolled her eyes at his disembodied prose.
“Everyone talks that way while they’re alive. Crossing over brings clarity. The Europeans have their own death squads... domestic ones, committed to their program, and they won’t charge six figures to implement it.”
“Darling, I think the winged ones are different. Things like this should always look like a choice. It's lucky those stars on your knees are all in your head."
He pulled up outside her building and watched the doorman grimace to himself as he assisted Opal onto the footpath.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
BUY THE BOOK HERE