“Leland is my cousin. He was also my lover for a long time, twelve years to be exact. He was the one my family used to put me in Oak Haven, and he let them. We were engaged to be married” Her eyes were welling up with tears and pent up rage, but she continued her story
“We know each other since we were toddlers and we were brought up together. The family disapproved of my mother’s heathen lifestyle and her heathen husband, but since my stepfather was filthy rich and my mother held a powerful position in my stepfather’s corporation, there wasn’t a lot they could do to her. Since I was old enough to know that I wanted to be like my mother, it did not bother me that my aunts and uncles tried to convert me. They thought that Leland would help me turn out differently from what my mother was, what they did not count on was that Leland loved what my mother did and he had also made up his mind to become one of us. That’s what really brought us together – it was our filthy little secret, so to speak. We grew up and we started having sex, going to parties, going to concerts, drinking, doing absurd amounts of drugs, having more sex, we attended and performed black masses, we took part in all sorts of rituals, we practiced spells from my mother’s books, you name it, we did it. We were wild and young; we had each other and lots of money to buy lots of booze, hookers and drugs. That was all we needed”
“That’s pretty wild, how did you keep it up for so long?” Dani asked
“It was easy. We behaved during family outings, worked and went to church. They simply did not believe all the rumors about us and our activities. And that suited us just fine.
Eventually, the shit hit the fan and shortly afterwards, I found myself locked up, watching the years pass me by and crying over Leland.” Dani observed Rowan, clutching the tablecloth like her life depended upon it.
“How did they find out?” Dani asked yet another question. Dani was hooked on her story and he wanted to know all of it. It made him think about his own troubles and he was starting to realize Rowan and him were not so different after all.
“We were caught red handed at a party. Rita hired a private detective to follow us around and he filmed us at our wildest. There were at least five strippers and twenty guests. Some people were doing lines off a stripper’s body, or sitting on the floor tripping on acid. I was making out with Leland while one of the strippers shot heroin into my arm, Leland drank absinthe and watched me nail one of the strippers. All of that was caught on tape, even the huge black mass I performed with animal sacrifice included. Rita and Clay almost died when they saw it and we freaked out when we saw it. Leland’s parents threatened to disown him and they immediately called my mother. She stuck with me, but agreed with them that we should go into rehab. We refused but we were coerced into going to religious counseling and exorcism. Instead of giving in, we played with their minds even more, pretending to have changed. We stopped going to parties, we toned down on the coke, the booze and the smack, we also got engaged and moved in together, but we never stopped practicing magic or bringing strippers into our flat. Toward the end, Leland and I lost interest in hookers and he became strangely romantic, for lack of a better word. He would stare at me for hours and tell me how much he loved me and cared for me, that no matter what happened he would always love me…ha, I should have known there was something going on, but I was too stupid and too in love with him. I thought he was just being sweet…” Rowan’s voice wavered and became bitterer with every word.
“And you’re thinking ‘why the fuck didn’t she read his thoughts?’ well, I truly did think he meant it and that he would never do anything to harm me. I had no reason to believe he would, nor was there any indication of it besides his sudden sweetness. And that was my downfall.” Rowan took a swig of wine and stopped to breathe deeply and control all those emotions stirring inside her. Dani moved closer to her and took her hand. Looking into her tear filled eyes, he asked in a whisper
“Then what happened?”
“One day, he called me at work and told me to meet him at home during my lunch hour. He said he had something to tell me; although there was something in his voice that was aloof. It was as if he was afraid, but I put it aside and told him I would meet him at home. When I got home, he was sitting on the couch. He stood up, said ‘I love you’ and kissed me. He stepped back and three men wearing white outfits grabbed me by the arms and sedated me. The last thing I remember is seeing Rita’s face sneering, while Leland and Clay yelled at each other. When I woke up, I didn’t know where I was, why I was tied up or why I was there. Until that son of a bitch Clay came by some days later to tell me I would remain locked up until I renounced to that life. The rest you heard it outside my mother’s room.” Rowan looked down at her lap, fighting all emotions. She knew how painful it was to be let down and that same pain was what motivated her to help Dani; it was not too late for him, she hoped because as far as she knew she could never piece her life back together, not with Leland, not after what he did. It wasn’t about not having a choice, but it quickly becoming about help someone get their life back. It all came down to simple human need. So simple and yet so unattainable, so complicated…her, of all people helping him, of all people. The difference between her and Dani was that his life could be fixed, he did not seek vengeance and he wouldn’t lose his life and his soul to get that vengeance.
“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop; I just think that if we’re going to be in this together we should be open with each other and know these kinds of things. You were kind enough to put up with my shit and my crying like a fucking sissy; besides, our stories are similar in a way…maybe if we knew about each other’s situation we could find a motive and maybe get over this, I don’t know. It’s confusing and stupid, but it makes sense too. I don’t know, what do you think, Rowan?” Dani babbled. He did have a good point – by the way both their mates walked away from them, it seemed like they had thought about it long and hard. Rowan always wondered what had driven Leland besides the pressure from his parents. Maybe that way they could find some peace and come to terms with the circumstances. Her plans for revenge were still on, though. Those would not change. Those could not change.
Damn, Dani was saying some gay shit as of late, and who was she to judge? She was saying some pretty gay shit too.
“Sounds strange coming from whom I consider ought to rightfully have the title of antichrist, but it does make sense. I like the idea, which also sounds strange coming from me. Damn, we’re crazy.” Rowan joked.
“I don’t know, being cooped up for so long does funny things to your noodle, I should think” joked Dani, lightening up the mood; thus, going back to his usual persona.
“Shut up, Dani” giggled Rowan punching Dani in the shoulder playfully. Seeing Dani like that again made her feel better; ‘if he can laugh despite his misfortune, so can I. besides, I’ve never been one to mope like a gothy teenage girl over things.’ It was strange to be this positive especially when she wasn’t the perky, there’s-a-bright-side-to-everything type….and it was even stranger when Dani was acting like that. Well, he was human after all, no matter how otherworldly or supernatural he seemed. He was no god; he was only but a man.
“Well, Dani, I’m going to bed. If there’s anything I can get you, I’m down the hall. You know what? I’m tired and wound up as hell, but I’m going out. Wanna come with? Didn’t mother say something about a burlesque house down the street? ‘Cause I wanna check it out. Maybe I’ll find something amusing, if you know what I mean” Rowan asked Dani, who could see the gears turning in her head; he could only imagine what she was scheming. Whatever it was, it would be crazy and not a good idea. He went for it and accepted the invitation. What did he have to lose? He would most likely feel uncomfortable with so many women around and no Toni, but that mad glint in Rowan’s eye was so alluring; hell only knew what was going through her sick head, but whatever mischief she was up to could give him some ideas for a future video or something. Nothing to lose, right? Right.
“That’s it, me boy. You and I are going to have a fun time. No no, I know what you’re thinking and you won’t feel uncomfortable or feel like a cheater because I am going to teach you some nifty little things to help you loosen up a little. Believe me, you won’t be sorry.” Rowan raged on like a drunken sailor, it only made Dani wonder what she was like when she was fully shit faced.
“Well, we can’t go like this. We must look our best for all those pretty wenches waiting for us. Meet you down by the door in twenty minutes, boy. Don’t make come up there and frisk you” Rowan joked some more, laughing loudly.
Suzanne had mentioned earlier something about a friend of hers who had moved down the street and had set up a burlesque house; all Rowan heard was ‘down the street’ and ‘burlesque house’. Naturally, Rowan asked where it was and what the name of the woman who ran the place was, and naturally, Suzanne told her. Whomever Rowan slept with was not of Suzanne’s concern and she could sleep with whomever she pleased. The name of the woman was Madame Schachter and the place was the huge red house at the end of the block.
Rowan opened the closet in her room and, to her delight; she found a decent amount of her old clothes and accessories; she wondered how her mother got those back. She showered quickly and slipped into a long black skirt, skintight stiletto boots, a black satin bra with a black shirt and a coat; she hoped she wasn’t too démodé. She combed her hair with her fingers, put on eyeliner and dark red lipstick. Since she was ready with a couple of minutes to spare, she made her way down and met Dani in the hallway making his way down also. They looked at each other, approving of their attire. Dani wore black dress pants and dress shirt, hair was tied back tastefully and he also sported a coat. He had even put on some eyeliner. Why her mother had men’s clothes in her house she did not know but she was damned glad they were there. Dani looked good. Not just good, great.
“My, don’t you look spiffy. I think I feel a tad jealous…you might even steal my girls” Rowan chuckled sensually.
“Queer” Dani mumbled, feeling good thanks to Rowan’s compliment.
“Anal” Rowan fired back. “Aren’t you going to tell me I look great too?” that was Rowan’s way of fishing for a compliment.
“Need I tell you? You know you look great, you don’t need me to tell you so” Dani talked while Rowan linked arms with him and they went out.
“It’s not nice to ignore a lady like that. Us girls, we need compliments to keep our egos in check” she replied with mock indignation.
“Love, your ego is bigger than all the egos of all the girls in the world put together, besides, you’re far from ladylike”
“That is exactly why I need more compliments.” Rowan concluded triumphantly and let the ladylike slide.
“Okay, you win. You look stunning. Gorgeous. Dashing. Great.” He had nothing better to say so he went along with her.
“Am I a vision in black?” she made the question more dramatic and mocking by putting the back of her hand to her forehead. A very Shakespearean move, which amused Dani immensely.
“More than a vision, a hallucination” he also made absurd gestures with his hands making Rowan laugh.
“Oh, that’s good too”
“Not very picky with your compliments, eh?” Dani continued with the childish game making merry all the way out the door and down the street.
“When you’re a freak like me, anything is a compliment. Believe me, I’ve heard worse” she shook her finger in the air, lecturing no one in particular.
“I don’t think you’re a freak” said Dani, half serious.
“Honey, that’s because you’re a freak too” Rowan answered, half serious.
“Well, that’s not nice at all, Rowan” Dani rebutted feigning hurt.
“I did not say anything about me being nice, ever” Rowan commented failing to feign seriousness.
“True to that” what else could Dani say?
“Is that the house? The one over there?” Dani pointed over to a red mastodon of a house. ‘That must be it’ thought Rowan; she was going to finally have a good time since Oak Haven happened. Cheers to a new beginning and to that succulent cold dish that was revenge; that same dish that Rita, Clay and Leland were about to taste. Just the thought of it got her all ‘pumped up’ in every sense of the expression.
“We’re here, Dani” Rowan stated.
“Gee, Rowan, I would have never been able to figure it out by myself, oh Mighty One” Dani mocked Rowan’s obvious statement.
“Look, by being obvious, you can’t be wrong, thus rendering the method valid for an argument. There is no way you can pick apart what I said if it’s obvious”
“You are crazy”
“There we go! Obviousness is key”
“Shut up and ring the bell” Dani mumbled. Why he bothered arguing about nothing in particular with a crazy, he didn’t know….but it sure as hell was entertaining. Rowan made him feel better, more relaxed, even if it was in the form of mockery aimed at him.
Rowan rang the bell situated next to the imposing wrought iron gate that seemed to tickle the darkened sky with sharp fingers. A deep male voice resonated from somewhere nearby, saying
“Good evening, lady and gentleman, how may I help you?”
Rowan spoke clearly and slowly into the intercom
“Good evening, we are here to see Madame Schachter”
“Your name, my lady?” the disembodied male voice asked
“Tell her we have come in behalf of Suzanne Cromwell” Rowan, obviously, used her mother’s name to gain entrance, knowing that they would have a better chance to be allowed in due to her mother’s knowledge of Madame Schachter.
The voice over the intercom ceased for a few moments. Dani and Rowan looked around and at each other, wondering if they would be let in. Dani thought he heard some sort of discussion coming from the intercom, but that was short lived by that same smooth male voice welcoming them in.
“Welcome to the House, Daniel and Rowan. Come in. you will be escorted to Madame Schachter shortly.”
The gates parted for them like the Red Sea, and Dani and Rowan stepped forward and into the property.