"What you say? Don't, unless we all can hear!” she warned shrewishly, voice leaping from her throat. "Po'shyol 'na hui... I know what you say... she eat alujha mudak and is drunk, like soldier. These wolves, they don’t like me now, because of you but I don't care..." Her eyes grew wider. "I dujju them, why not?” She shoved the bottle of spirit toward Susan and sagged on the bench, still clutching her flask in her small hand. “You are still here? Look at you, sitting like princess... drink, govno... get drunk." she told her. "You don't have much time, 'suka."
Sachiin's glance was pointed and she returned it in kind, sinking into the fur.
“How many?” he asked.
“One, darlink... two, maybe. I dujju two. I don’t think they miss. They weren't pretty, but... facile. Trés facile.”
She began a loose, divaricating monologue in three languages during which Susan turned slowly to him in search of reassurance; in reply he made a gnathic face, allowing his eyes to roll up into his head in imitation of the vampyre’s inebriety. She sucked in her lower lip to contain her reaction to his impression, while Kala'amātya partook of the făţată sparingly, privately ruing his own broad comprehension.
“But don’t you feel sorry for them... they were lucky... the deer dies with the wolf, but the wolf, he die alone, they say... these wolf don’t die alone.” the vampyre concluded, her observations meeting with a silence that spoke too plainly on the part of her companions. She gave vent to a brief, roaring spate of embittered laughter, its alien nature prompting Susan to flinch away from it; Petrouchka reached out and snatched her arm, drawing it into the dense pelt in her lap, stroking it slowly. “I forget... you are young and stupid.” she told her. “You know how old I was, before this happen to me? Fifteen year. My father, he marry me to a man of fifty... oslayob... who force himself on me, every day, and flog me like plough horse when he could not. What you do at fifteen? Live in pretty house with family who love you... like him.” She nodded at Sachiin. “You can see in their face, these ones who were loved. Look at this one...” she muttered, gesturing to Kala'amātya, her voice sinking into the thickly pleated vowels of her native tongue. “Nobody love him when he was young.”
Petrouchka slid her tongue over her teeth and used a second hand to encircle her guest's arm as though the first had called for reinforcement. It burned with the strain of resisting the vampyre’s grasp, though Susan bore it as stoically as she was able.
“I know you could not be happy, Sachiin, as I am... you can’t smile until every body love you. If I was Auberjonois, I would break her neck for you sending her to me. But he think to have you back.”
“How bad is that stuff?” Susan asked him, reaching for the bottle of spirit and swigging from it before he could warn her; her spluttering recoil prompted another round of barking laughter from the vampyre.
“Is bad!” Petrouchka roared, the sound percolating in her throat as though the blood itself were speaking. “Now we are friend, I think you tell me... you know of Sachiin, before he have you?”
"No, I fed her ketamine and chained her to an engine block." he assured her; Susan took another pull from the bottle, shaking her head as she replied.
“I knew there was something wrong with him before he opened his mouth.”
“Yes...” the vampyre cackled. “Of course he tell... he know you are not clever... your curious is poison, and it bite you for him...”
“She’s the biter.” said Sachiin morosely.
“Will you please stop telling people that?” Susan lost patience with the vampyre's grasp, twisting her arm then jerking it back toward herself. Petrouchka’s head snapped sideways, small face lit by the frozen glitter of her gaze; she lurched at her, but Kala'amātya's fist caught the collar of her coat while Sachiin vaulted the table and sat down between them. Planted in her seat, Petrouchka was held still until they were satisfied the impulse had passed, the brothers' dispassion lending the act a plangent surreality. Susan settled on the far end of the bench, clutching her parka about her neck; slowly, marking the vampyre closely, she reached around her companion and retrieved the bottle, lifting it over his arms.
Their hostess reeled as she was released and took some time to reclaim what she had lost, her gaze and then her hands falling to Sachiin's where it lay upon the table. He bore her wandering examination patiently until she addressed herself once more to Susan.
"You think I am a horror, but you love this..." she murmured, tracing his eccentricities with her fingers. "So much you don't know." Petrouchka took her guest's hand in her own and passed it through the torch flame, chuckling to herself while the sinuous plumes licked around his palm and between his fingers where they should have blackened them and conferred irresistible agony, turning cool velvet blue and remaining in an almost wistful association when he slid free of her grasp. "See, kotik? When you want to push him into fire, he won't burn. Eto prosto pizdets." She received no answer, and looked down at her coat, brushing small crystals of ice from its glossy nap. “Look... did I say? It snows. Is snowing now. I don’t like anymore... I think too much of de Marchand... it bring her back.” Pearls of cold rosé pink were born in the corners of her eyes and spread across them slowly, holding on her lids before breaking down her face. She slid toward Kala'amātya, staring up at him with a mouth bitterly downturned. "You think you were the only one to love her, but you don't know either. Before you, she go to sleep with my hands in her skirts. I give her pleasure, and she give to me..." His silence drew at her as surely as any audible solicitation. "Sometime, she speak words, over man... from village, sometime, from town... she bring, into her bed. I look while he serve her, and I lie with them and take his blood, taste everything they do. If I had life, you think she would choose you?" Whatever she had sought from him seemed to elude her, and she lapsed back from her study. "The snow always bring her back. How can you look at it? Sometimes, I cannot look, and I sleep, all through the winter, so I don’t see her. I am careful for so long..."
“Belyaev...” Sachiin murmured. “No one can change what’s done.”
“Be quiet!” she cried suddenly. “What you do for her? You are like him, you do nothing…”
“Belyaev.” he interjected, shaking his head at her gravely. Cognizance of his caution slid across her red-stained eyes as though she had blinked, but it was not enough to stop her. Her murmur recommenced, turned with her gaze toward Kala'amātya.
“Do you know she did not trust you? One night, before winter, she undress and look at me, and she say Trouchka... I am with child." The vampyre met with lithic disbelief, which she disregarded. "How can it be, I ask... have you known only this creature? She ask spirit, and they tell her... Walpurgis, on the Brocken altar, when everything is too close... it open her to you. Was she happy? No... she weep, because she know... you only want what does not need, and have nothing to give. She drink the cup of roots, and was happy to be rid of it, and we promise together, never to tell you..." She looked up at the ceiling rendered so faintly overhead. "When I see her in your house, I thought I die again, of joy, but she come for you... I cannot bare! You are more dead than I, you poison thing...”
Sachiin stood and stooped to slide his hands beneath the arms of their intoxicated hostess, lifting her from the bench and setting her on her feet, walking her toward the black shape of the doorway. Susan sat with Kala'amātya, the flame settling once more into strict verticality. The dread spirit of Petrouchka’s revelations hung about them in the air, neither undone nor redacted by her departure; she felt them keenly even in her innocence, and how they fared amid the agonizing context borne by her companion was something she did not care to contemplate. Returning alone, Sachiin used his gaze to suggest an exit, to which she assented. His brother lifted the burning pine from the table and handed it to her as she passed him, remaining alone in the spreading umbra that closed around him.
Powder white swept in through the arch and lay in a shallow little pile on the floor of their chamber, a token of the snow descending in the darkness outside. Sachiin lay down on the sill with his hands upon his face, greeting the flakes that settled on him as a blessing so gratefully received that she could not begrudge the cold. She shuffled down beneath the sleeping bag with her back against the wall, conscious that their companion saint might not have sanctioned the long draughts of the liquor she awarded herself. Its influence delayed her reaction to the flurry under the quilt until it came in contact with her leg, and she threw it back in dismay to discover Fyodor, no more appreciative of her presence than she was of his.
“What did you do with Petrouchka?” she asked, reinstating the cover.
“I put her to bed.”
"Was any of that true?"
He could not reply directly, and she waited without further insistence.
"If it's Helaine and Kala'amātya, you don't need to make it up." Sachiin sighed. "I never knew... but... I just can't, cloudcheeks... it's too much. Talk to me, about something else."
“She’s going to hate us even more when she finds out Fyodor's defected.” He lay with his eyes closed. "Are you alright?"
"Snow makes it better."
“I had no idea you were this attached to winter.”
"I am the white witch. It's always home."
“Do you ever miss it? Where you come from?"
“No... and yes... every day.”
“You haven’t told me why you left.”
His eyes slid open at the softly reproachful tone of the remark.
“Honestly, I’m not sure it’s something you want to hear after half a pint of mystery schnapps.”
“Is that what this stuff is?" Susan allowed herself to smile. "Remember the mystery jam? I was up late, and you came in and I made you help... I think that was when I fell in love with your shoulders. And your neck.” The intelligence restored something of his ease; he glanced along his nose at her.
“You with my what now?”
“You were looming, and I was thinking god, you’re such a giant shambolic monstrosity, then I saw that actually, you did have lovely shoulders, especially that bit there, that comes down from your neck..." She stroked her own in demonstration. "It made me think hmm, you’re quite fit really, even if you do eat buckets of pills and drink from the tap like a Bromley fox. Tell me, though.”
He sat up slowly.
“I’ve completely forgotten what I was going to say.”
“Why you left where you came from...”
“It’s complicated.” he murmured.
“Oh well, cut it short then because I’ve got a hundred other fucking things to do, obviously.” she reminded him aridly.
“Oh Christabel... it’s not a happy story.”
“Yes it is. If you hadn’t left, you wouldn't be here with me.” He looked into the darkness overhead, then back at her, deeply thoughtful. "It's strange to tell me, isn't it? And don't say yes and no."
C O N T I N U E D N E X T W E E K
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce