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The Wolf House - This will probably be uncomfortable for all of us
July 2012
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Sun, Jul. 26th, 2009 10:17 pm
The Wolf House

MARY WROTE A BOOK. and that book is on the internets! i just finished it, and can say with honesty and authority YOU SHOULD TOO. we all like vampires, right? if not, we've all been teenagers? or fuck-ups? then read this.

Bette

Somehow, after summer, spring shows up again. In Rose and Tommy’s front garden the roses bloom a second time, lush and heavy on their branches, and out behind Bette’s house sour little oranges fall. Bette and Rose gobble all the mulberries they can reach with half-hearted climbing and their hands are stained dark with sticky too-sweet fruit pulp. For the first time, Tommy doesn’t pick squirming silkworms off the mulberry leaves to keep comfortably in an ice-cream box until they’re ready to spin their small sleeping bags and grow into white-winged moths.

Bette assumes he’s grown out of it, though she doesn’t want to ask and know for certain. It seems sad that such a predictable routine can just stop and not exist ever again.

They’re sixteen but Bette feels like she’s a million and like she’s a kid all at once, and it’s completely absurd that she and Rose are juniors and that in less than a year they’ll be seniors, because in Bette’s head they’re still a pair of five-year-olds in plastic sandals who’re scraping their elbows when they fall off their bikes. To be fair, Bette still has scraped elbows most of the time, but still.

Tommy’s a sophomore, even though he and Rose are twins. When they were eight he got really sick and missed so much school that they made him do third grade again. Rose pitched a whole lot of fits to get them to keep her back, too, but the teachers and her parents and everyone said she was too smart. Which is total bullshit, because she counts it as a victory if she gets a D in Chemistry. Her other marks are pretty okay, except for gym, but it’s the principle of the thing. Bette has heard her rant on the subject on many occasions.

Tommy’s health has never been all that great, even though it’s half his life ago now that he got sick. Sometimes Rose and Bette remember to open the window in the basement if they’ve been smoking and Tommy’s coming down to watch movies, and if they forget he makes a show of keeping his inhaler ready, which makes Bette feel like the shittiest friend ever.

Bette lives around the corner from Tommy and Rose, same as she has since forever. When Rose finally got permission to turn the basement into an art studio last year, they thought having movie nights during the school week would get easier, because Bette wouldn’t have to climb the oak that reaches up to the second level of the house out the back anymore, but Rose’s mom planted a whole bunch of new rose bushes along the side where the basement windows are, and Bette swears kind of loudly when she gets stabbed by thorns. So from a getting-grounded perspective, it’s not any safer, and Bette’s always getting injured one way or another so it’s not like falling out of a tree would be some major disaster out of the ordinary. These days she goes with whichever method of breaking and entering appeals more at the time.

Tonight’s Thursday and they’ve got that gross old couch Rose and Tommy’s dad won’t let Rose and Tommy’s mom throw out folded down into a bed. Bette and Tommy are lying on it and eating handfuls out of this giant box of raisins Tommy stole from the cafeteria when he had detention there. Rose is down on the floor in front of them, futzing around with her markers and a copy of last year’s yearbook. She’s turning a photo of the soccer team into a collection of creatures with kettles and teacups and sugar bowls for heads.

“Did you know Audrey Hepburn was a ballerina when World War Two happened?” Rose asks, watching the screen of the tiny TV. Bette knows that Rose keeps meaning to save up for a better one, but her money always ends up going on art stuff or comics or horror magazines. “She used to do fundraising for the resistance in basements, and nobody could applaud her because the Nazis would hear.”

“You are so gay for Audrey Hepburn,” Bette says around a mouthful of raisins. “This is at least the third time we’ve seen ‘Breakfast at Tiffanys’ this year. I think it’s only fair we watch ‘Frankenstein’ next, or whatever Tommy’s favorite is this week.”

“Rec. The Spanish zombie one,” Tommy answers at the same time that Rose says “No, no, there’s a theme, see, it’s movies that made a significant impact on sunglasses fashion. We’ve got this one, then ‘The Lost Boys’, then ‘Terminator’.”

Bette snorts. “You’re so full of shit. Hey, that looks awesome.” She leans over the edge of the fold-out, looking at the teacup-people. “Do me next.”

“‘kay.” Rose leafs through the pages until she finds one with Bette on it. “What do you want to be? Wait, stupid question.” She starts sketching stitched-up scars across Bette’s olive-skinned arms and legs.

The Bette in the photo has shoulder-length white-blonde hair, with an inch of dark brown regrowth at the root of the paleness. The school kept getting nasty because the uniform regulations have this whole big thing about hair not being obviously dyed or unkempt. So Bette chopped most of it off and put black through it, and now it curls around her face like a flapper’s and the school is getting crappy at her for the cut instead of the color. Turns out the uniform regulations say girls have to have their hair a certain minimum length as well.

Rose sometimes tells her that it looks gorgeous, but when she tries to say that Bette always just rolls her eyes and makes a face, because Bette wants to be a badass punk and badass punks aren’t meant to be gorgeous. She even pierced her nose with a thumbtack and put a ring through it, which is either the coolest thing she’s ever done or the grossest, depending on how squeamish she’s feeling about herself is feeling on a given day.

“I want to get a tattoo just like that,” Bette says, nodding at the lacework of sewn lines now decorating her arm in the photo. “That’s amazing.”

Rose shudders. Bette knows how much Rose hates pain. Rose even hates having to tug a brush through the knots in her hair because it hurts when she pulls, so mostly she doesn’t bother and lets it knot.

Bette grabs another fistful of raisins and walks on her knees to the backrest at the head of the pullout, which she then sits on, wriggling her bare toes against the rumpled sheet covering the mattress. Her toenails are painted black, as always, and there’s sticky residue of a lost bandaid bracketing an old scab on the inside of one shin.

“I want Frankenstein patchwork all over my arms, just like that,” she repeats, gesturing to the currently ink-bare skin from her shoulders to wrists. “I wish people still gave a shit about Frankenstein.” Her longsuffering sigh hopefully makes it plain that the lack of interest exhibited by the general population is a personal affront against her. “But there’s nothing scary anymore about sewing a dead person’s hand on your arm, or putting a new heart in a chest, or new eyes or lungs or anything. That Australian scientist lady invented those spray-on skin graft things and won tons of awards. Oscar Wilde was right when he said science is the record of dead religions. Frankenstein’s not scary anymore because he came true.”

Tommy rolls his eyes. “You can’t quote Oscar Wilde to prove your point. The guy made a career out of saying things that sounded good and were totally meaningless once you thought too hard about them.”

Rose swaps the DVDs over. “I really dig ‘The Lost Boys’,” she says, ignoring the argument going on behind her. “If I wore skirts and dresses I’d absolutely get one just like the floaty, silver-threaded one that the girl in this movie has.”

“See, now, vampires,” Bette says, interrupting her argument with Tommy to gesture at Kiefer Sutherland on the DVD menu screen. “They’re still scary, because blood’s scary or dirty or whatever now. AIDS turned being queer into this giant freaky thing where you were in danger because the people you slept with might have this deadly infection in their blood, and if you got it then you’re not properly alive anymore.”

“You sound like a psych 101 student from 1987,” retorts Rose, reopening the yearbook and beginning work on a picture of herself. “Anyway, I don’t get it. Frankenstein’s not scary because now we’re all Frankenstein, but Dracula still is because only queer people turned into him?” She darkens her gray-hazel eyes to black in the photo, and neatens her straggly hair into soft black waves. “Should I dye my hair darker, you think? Anyway, vampires aren’t scary, they’re sexy, duh. This one -” Rose gestures to the TV. “- is basically an undead John Hughes movie.”

With a few strokes of her pen she adds tiny sharp fangs peeping over the plump skin of her lower lip in the photo.

“Neck-sucking is sexier than transplants, it’s true,” Tommy agrees. Bette throws raisins at them both.

“What’re we doing tomorrow night? There’s a new club opening downtown, but we’ve got a Chem exam on Monday that we should at least try to avoid fucking up on.”

Rose squints at her self-portrait critically. “The vampire embellishments look pretty cool, but underneath I can still see boring old me staring up.”

The Rose in the photo is dressed in the gray slacks, white shirt, black-and-white tie and red blazer of the boys’ winter uniform. Bette knows that Rose hates wearing red; it makes her fair skin look ruddy. Now Rose colors over it with her black marker. “That’s a small improvement, at least.”

According to Rose, Bette looks great in red, because according to Rose Bette looks great in anything Rose has ever seen her wear. Bette’s still in most of her uniform now, the red polo and black skirt of the girls’ summer outfit, her white knee-socks under the foldout somewhere. Rose and Tommy usually change as soon as they get home, and are both in jeans and cruddy old band t-shirts now — Blondie for Rose, Misfits for Tommy.

Tommy wears glasses, and Rose probably should as well, but she’s managed to bluff her way through eye tests so far. Bette’s got excellent eyesight and probably won’t need glasses until she’s super-old, which is probably for the best. She gets beat up enough at school as it is.

“Let’s go to the new club,” Tommy answers. “I told Michelle I’d see her there.”

Rose and Bette learned long ago not to bother keeping track of whether or not Tommy and Michelle are a couple at a given moment, so they don’t press for details. Bette shrugs. “Okay. New club it is. The Chem stuff will all just be acids and bases anyway. Boring.” Bette is revoltingly good at Chemistry, which she’s perfectly aware is not fair at all. She’s just as slack at studying for it as Rose is. She just gets it, that’s all. It’s one of the only things she can rely on to always make total sense to her.

“You’d need the full-on Jekyll and Hyde to keep you interested, right?” Rose teases. Bette nods.

“Yeah. But, see, science has ruined that one too, because altering your personality with drugs is normal now.”

Tommy smacks Bette with a cushion. “Shut up, metaphor girl, I just want to see some monsters. Is that so much to ask?”

The next day, Bette gets a detention in Math for sleeping, but the detention’s in the library so it’s no big drama. She knows the fucking alphabet, so she can shelve books fine, and finds the monotony of it relaxing.

Rose and Tommy are eating cornflakes in the kitchen when Bette gets to their place. Tommy’s shirt is wrinkled and Rose has got a long purple bruise blooming like camouflage along the line of one cheekbone.

“They might not’ve jumped us if you’d been there,” Rose grouses. “Safety in numbers.”

Bette makes a face of disagreement and turns on the coffee percolator. “Nah. They’d've taken us all on. Who was it this time?”

“Jerrod and Bill and those football douches. I can’t believe they still hit girls. They’re such classy dudes.”

“Did you guys use all the milk?” Bette grumbles. “Damn. Black coffee makes me crazy.”

“You’re crazy anyway,” Rose answers mildly.

“And you’re a fucking sexist. I don’t want any different treatment just because I’m female,” snarls Bette. “I can handle myself fine. Your mom’s gonna lose it when she sees your face.”

“I’ll put concealer on it.”

“Oh, like you own concealer.” Bette gulps her coffee, ignoring the burn in her throat. “How you doing, Tommy?”

Tommy shrugs. “Fine, I guess.” He turns to Rose. “I borrowed your Batman.”

“The new issue?” Rose asks. Tommy nods. “Okay. Lemme know what it’s like. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. Who’s playing tonight? Is anyone playing tonight? I hate it when it’s just a DJ. They turn it up too loud and it’s boring and shitty.”

Bette giggles. “You’re such a stereotype. Batman comics in the basement and you hate going anywhere fun.”

“No, no, I hate it when it sucks. Seeing bands is fine,” Rose protests, shaking her head. “I need a cigarette. Come with me?”

Tommy sighs pointedly. “I guess I’ll go up to my room. Alone. Shunned. Abandoned.”

Bette pats him on the shoulder. “Buck up, little camper. You’ll be able to laugh over our graves when we die before you.”

“But that’s still so far away.” Tommy sighs again. “Come get me before you go?”

“Of course, dork,” Rose promises. Tommy walks to the door through to the entryway and staircases, then pauses and digs a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket.

“Ms Rush told me to give you this.” He hands it to Rose. “Have fun murdering your lungs.”

The basement smells a little funky after being shut up all day, but Rose is used to the smell and Bette loves having an excuse to whine and bitch. They have matching lighters, cheap black plastic ones that Rose has drawn tiny winged skeletons on with silvery paint. Rose lets her cigarette droop indolently between her lips when she’s not inhaling, but Bette likes the feel of her own held secure by the knuckles of her outstretched fingers. It makes her feel worldly and effortlessly elegant, instead of the awkward way she usually feels, which is more like she’s ill-fitted inside her own skin.

“What’s the flier?” she asks Rose, blowing out a thin stream of smoke.

“Huh?”

“The paper that your brother gave you ten seconds ago. Jesus, Rose, what’s your deal? You’re even vaguer than usual.”

Rose opens the paper as she answers. “I dunno. General ennui, I guess. I’m bored. So who’s playing tonight?”

The paper is one of the photocopied ads for school musical tryouts, same as the ones that’ve been stuck in the halls all week. Below the date and time for auditions Ms Rush has written ‘Rose - give it a try!’.

“A new band. I haven’t heard anything about them yet. Then Remember the Stars.”

“A band you don’t know about? I’m shocked, and a little alarmed.” Rose grins crookedly. Bette punches her on the shoulder.

“I said ‘yet’, bitch. And just because you’re a shut-in freak doesn’t mean there’s anything weird about how many bands I see. Is that one of those dorkass things about the musical?”

“Yeah.” Rose shoves the paper into the pocket of her slacks. “It might be okay. Maybe I’ll try out.”

“You hate being the centre of attention. Being onstage generally necessitates that.” Bette taps her cigarette it into the chipped mug Rose uses as an ashtray. “You know what we should do? We should start a band. You sing, and Tommy can drum, and I’ll do bass. We’ll find someone to be guitar and we’ll be set.”

“I don’t know if Tommy’s ever held a pair of drumsticks, so I’m at least a little bit concerned that you haven’t thought this through.”

“Please, it’s drumming, how hard can it be?”

Rose rolls her eyes. “You know you’re a cartoon character, right?”

“Yeah, but you’re the one who’s friends with me, so joke’s on you.” Bette plants a gloss-sticky smooch on Rose’s cheek. “Let’s go breathe on your brother and make sure he gets to his skinny hipster playdate.”


Jay

As these things go, Jay is having a really good night. The band in the corner looks conservative and boring in their expensive dark suits, same as everyone else here, but they’re playing jazz and it’s actually good for a change. The usual quotient of assholes has been rude to him, the kitchen staff snapping and harried and harsh because they’re overworked, the guests out on the ballroom floor alternating between ordering him around and acting like he’s invisible.

Daughters and sons sometimes get dragged to these things with their parents, and sometimes they give Jay small skewed smiles as they take portions of finger-food off his serving tray, as if to have a moment of connection and shared boredom with him. As if he has anything in common with them.

Tonight he’s had that moment with two of the guests, early in the evening. With a pair of skinny, pretty sisters, who hung out on the balcony of the ballroom with him for a few minutes in their pale, petal-like party dresses. They offered him some pills but Jay doesn’t like chemicals, he prefers pot but none of them could risk going back in smelling like smoke. Later the elder of the two sisters, the blonde one, found him again and they went to the cloak room and among the coats and wraps that smelled of Chanel and Yves St Laurent and Ralph Lauren and other rich dull perfumes named for rich dull people she said quietly “I’m Jenna,” and he said “I’m Jay,” and they kissed for a while. The taffeta of her dress rustled like crumpling paper when he touched it, and she had a tiny rebellious tattoo of a fairy on one shoulder.

Jenna gave him her card as they went back to the party, clothes carefully straightened and cheeks still flushed. It had her name and number, email and screen-name listed, and a picture of a fairy in one corner.

“Drop me a line,” she said, and went to find her sister, and Jay went to the kitchen to get another serving tray.

They’d left hours ago, though, the sisters, and now Jay’s mostly just waiting for the night to be over so he can go home and get some sleep. It’s been a really good night, but it’s had its best and he’s getting a headache. He wishes he’d taken the pills when they were offered.

Glancing around to make sure he won’t be caught at it, Jay escapes back out to the balcony for a breath of air. The park the next block over is a lightless blotch, and most of the office buildings are dark now. The hotel ballroom is on the tenth floor, just high enough for Jay to consider what he’d think about in the airborne seconds on the way down.

“Don’t jump,” a voice behind Jay suggests. Jay damps down irritation at having his moment of quiet interrupted, and turns.

The vampire is taller than Jay, and if he was human Jay would think he was about twenty-three or twenty-four. If he’s a guest at this party he’s probably much older than that, because vampires with influence and power are almost always old vampires. That much, at least, Jay hasn’t forgotten.

“Climbing over the handrail would be too much trouble,” Jay replies, leaning his back against said handrail. “Is there something you need my help with?”

“You’re the food, are you?” The vampire gestures to the serving tray which Jay has put down on one of the small wrought-iron tables scattered along the balcony’s length, a fraction too late after the words. Jay snorts.

“Only if you buy me dinner and a movie first,” he says dryly. The vampire tilts his head a little in surprise, giving Jay a second and more searching look.

“You’re welcome to try the appetizer if you want, though,” Jay goes on, picking the plate up and holding it out. “It’s quail wrapped in bacon. I’ve been told it just tastes like dark chicken meat.”

“You haven’t tried it yourself?” The vampire makes no move to pick up any of the food. Jay would have been very surprised if he had.

“Not allowed,” Jay explains. “I’m Jason. Jay.” He puts the tray down and holds out a hand. The vampire takes it, and shakes. Vampire skin is cool and soft, and Jay had forgotten how lovely it is to touch.

“Blake,” the vampire offers in return.

All vampires are beautiful, and Blake’s no exception. His hair is a deep brown and curls at the nape of his neck, and makes the dark of his eyes look less uncanny. Fair-haired vampires always stand out as strange more obviously, because of those dark, dark red irises. He’s tall and what a certain type of English teacher might call ‘imperially slim’, almost as thin as Jenna and her sister, but he died just old enough that his body had time to grow into its shape and so he wears it elegantly, not with the almost clumsy coltish charm of the girls.

His suit is charcoal and simple enough that Jay guesses it must be very expensive, and his shirt is a warm bone color which gives a little life to the whiteness of Blake’s throat and face. His eyebrows and nose are straight, his teeth slightly crooked when he smiles along with his handshake. His canines are just a fraction longer than a human’s, and taper to sharp points.

“You smell like a girl’s perfume.”

Jay laughs. He can’t help it. “You really suck at pick-up lines.”

Blake’s smile gets wider, and Jay can’t help glancing at his teeth again, either. He’s got poor impulse control at the best of times, and while it may not be the best of times, it’s still a pretty good night.

“I can’t tell if your hair is like that because you’ve been kissing someone, or because it’s meant to look like that,” Blake goes on, sounding genuinely perplexed. “There’s an awful lot of… stuff in it.” He steps in closer to Jay, into Jay’s personal space, on the pretense of getting a better look at Jay’s hair. “There’s some carpet lint here, you know. Cloak room?”

“Cloak room,” Jay agrees, mouth dry. Blake smells really, really good, like expensive shampoo and laundered clothing and warm dark.

“Pity.” Vampires breathe when they speak, because their voice boxes don’t suddenly change design when they stop being human, and Blake’s breath ghosts on Jay’s cheek with the word. “I rather fancied the mental image of your tryst taking place out here on the balcony, under the stars.”

Jay forces himself to break the intensity of Blake’s eye contact and looks up. “Under the cloud cover and smog, you mean. It’s a little too public with the party going on inside, anyway. Anybody could come out and see.”

Blake’s thumb presses lightly into the dip below Jay’s lower lip, tilting his face back down so they’re looking at each other again. Typically, vampire lips are pale, barely darker than the skin around them, but Blake’s are flushed and full and almost red, and his eyes catch the light like a cat’s.

“What about a private room? This is a hotel, after all. There are balconies with no interruptions on many of the suites.”

Jay feels drunk and giddy, almost dizzy, lightheaded. He forces himself to blink, and the tiny movement takes supreme effort. The giddy feeling fades, a little. His heartbeat feels fast and heavy in his wrists and throat.

“I have to go,” Jay makes himself say, stepping away from Blake before he can change his mind. If he’s getting eaten by a vampire tonight then that’s seriously shitty luck, but Jay’s not going to fall swooning into the arms of death like a Hammer Horror starlet.

He tells the head waiter that he feels sick. He’s not sure if the lie is convincing, but he doesn’t really care. If the worst thing that happens tonight is that they dock his pay, he’ll call that a victory. He changes out of the mandatory outfit the wait staff is forced to wear and back into his own clothes, jeans and a fraying t-shirt from some underground band. Jay thinks the shirt might’ve belonged to Michelle originally, but he stole it long ago. Jay knows better than to think that he can throw a vampire like Blake off a hunt this easily, but he’s. Well. He’s not dying in an ugly uniform for a job he doesn’t like, at least. That’s something.

AND IT GETS BETTER. we haven't even got to the biting, and the kitten called Bikini Kill. want it? yes you do. go buy it. it's five dollars of boykissing and brilliant bands who are sometimes vampire hunters and lust and love and movies and tattoos and shoplifting and perfect perfect perfect dialogue.

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sharpest_rose
sharpest_rose
Isn't moral anarchy kind of the point?
Sun, Jul. 26th, 2009 12:34 pm (UTC)

ALL THE HEARTS IN THE WORLD FOR YOOOOOOOOOOOU.


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theonlytwin
theonlytwin
Superintendent Harry 'Snapper' Organs
Sun, Jul. 26th, 2009 12:43 pm (UTC)

NO, FOR YOOOOOOOOUUUUUUU.


ReplyThread Parent