The Willow Society

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Chapter 41

Chapter 41

Taylor sat on sofa in the HQ his laptop open, singing along to the Rolling Stones' Beast of Burden playing on an Internet radio station He hadn't yet had the chance to fill his iPhone with MP3's, but the song was one of his mother's favorites. The kind of song she would sing on a balmy Saturday while she cleaned their old house in Channelview. Taylor knew every word. Winston came in, fully dressed, flicked his lapels, struck a pose and gave Taylor a roguish grin. Taylor was struck by - unwilling though the thought may be – how effortlessly good-looking his friend was. “How do I look, T, old boy?“ Winston asked spinning around and flicking his lapels again.

“Like a penguin.“ Taylor mumbled, but loud enough to be heard. He snickered. Winston mock-glared and said, “Well, thankfully, I'm not trying to dance with you! I look smokin'! Too bad Agent Alexander won't be there, she'd totes be mine!“ Taylor rolled his eyes over his grin, went back to his laptop. A sharp whistle from Winston drew Taylor's gaze from the computer screen. The remaining grin occupying Taylor's face slid into open-mouthed gape as his sight landed on the door to the HQ. Taylor's own tux suddenly felt too tight, too hot. He gasped.

A tall statuesque woman stood in the doorway, the lights of the foyer silhouetting her, backlighting her and refracting off the material of her dress; making her sparkle and glow like diamonds bouncing off obsidian. The woman's hair was swept up, pinned to the back of her head, the top puffed up into a Mohawk. Smokey lines of silver and dark red around her eyes. She had a shiny, red rosebud-of-a-mouth. His own went dry, until Taylor closed it, licking his lips as she laughed. Not really recognizing her, and having the obviously irrational thought Isabel or Sue-Ann had returned, caught Taylor's thought.

Youth radiated from her and it struck Taylor on a very deep level. Racing for some rational answer, his mind landed on Izzy, which only took his breath away further. The dress was skin-tight, accentuated every curve of her body and in the shadow of the doorway she was lush and full. His body could, and did, respond. Taylor shifted the laptop and blushed.

Izzy stepped out of the shadow of the doorway into the room and Taylor could finally make her out, fully. Winston's second gasp matched Taylor's first.

“Thanks.“ Lou said drily. “I appreciate that.“ She did something Taylor had never seen her do. She beamed at him and Winston, a smile which touched her eyes, so rare and unexpected Taylor couldn't help but beam back at her.

I can't believe that's Lou! She's beautiful!

Taylor saw now that Lou's short hair had been pushed up into a Mohawk on top and slicked backwards on the sides. Her face had been lightly covered in makeup which gave an effect of smolder radiating out from her deep, brown eyes. A thin, sparkling necklace clung tightly to her throat.

“you look fantastic, Lou.“ Taylor said finding his speech before Winston.

“If I didn't think you'd break my jaw for saying so... Lou, I would say you are smokin' hot...“ Winston said, itching his leg.

Lou stopped smiling, by the way she worked her jaw it was because it was not something she regularly did and dropping it was more natural. She just breezed into the room and nodded at the boys.

“It's the dress.“ she murmured.

Taylor agreed to a point, though he wasn't really attracted to Lou, not in that way - felt nothing but brotherly affection for her - he wondered how he would feel about her if she looked this way all the time. Does that make me a jerk? It was an odd thought and it disappeared quickly. Because another woman appeared in the doorway.

This time Taylor was prepared but being prepared wasn't enough.

His jaw dropped again.

It was clearly Izzy and she was everything Taylor had imagined, only more, because she was real now and standing before him. Her dress was not tight, not as tight as Lou's, except in the chest. From there it billowed out in a spray of deep, red gauzy fabric down to the floor. As she strode in Taylor just made out the ruby-encrusted shoes on her feet, underneath the fabric. The fabric itself became a paler red near the floor, ending in a deep pink. Izzy's wavy, blonde hair was not pulled and pinned behind her head, it was swept over one side into a gently swelling then descending wave of sleek curls. Looking like a 1940's Hollywood starlet. Her face was not as made-up at Lou's, just a touch here and there, an accent there, which somehow made her face alive with color regardless.

She was the most beautiful thing Taylor had ever seen.

“You broads are so lucky to be going with me.“ Winston murmured, “Because with outfits like that, you'd have been lucky to make it past the door of a motel lounge.“ He snickered.

Izzy's lips pursed and she became more beautiful to Taylor, her eyes went stormy with offense, but she snickered and everyone laughed. Taylor's eyes never left her, his blood raced and when he swallowed it was desert dry. The girls praised them both and Taylor went flush with pride. Winston grabbed Lou's arm. Taylor hesitantly, awkwardly did the same to Izzy. They left, none of them noticing Myth in the doorway of her lab, staring daggers at them.

Taylor didn't want to talk much on the ride to Gracie Mansion. They rode in a limo Izzy had procured, or maybe Isabel owned, Taylor didn't know. The whole evening began to feel overwhelming and he hadn't even gotten to the real part yet. His hands were clammy and wet with nervous sweat, his shirt too tight, his pants itched constantly behind the knee. But every time he felt it was hard to breathe, that he could not possibly carry forward and go through with the plan, he would look over and see Izzy. Tell himself: this is it, the only chance I'm going to get. Everything else began to seem incidental compared to this self-reinforcing desire of Izzy, to be something larger in her sight.

Winston didn't seem his usual self either. Since Lou was always solemn and quiet, it was left to Izzy to carry discussion, but she too seemed drawn into herself, alternately looking for long stretches out the windows of the limo, into the streets of Manhattan as they passed by or at the floor and the wispy image of her shoes through the film material of her dress. Taylor couldn't think of anything to say which would bring about a change in the mood so he kept quiet as well.

Without any sudden difference in speed the limo stopped in front of a brightly-lit mansion. The driver got out and with a flourish opened the door. Outside was a red carpet through a gauntlet of paparazzi, camera flashes, and shouts. A group of people just preceded Taylor and his friends, but all Taylor saw of them was the sway of dresses and a sliver of black from a jacket. They disappeared behind a set of huge French doors. Taylor swallowed hard, his throat still dry, wrung his sweaty hands one last time before wiping them discreetly on the limo's seat. He could see the steely expression on Lou's face, an eager vaguely excited one on Winston's and something unreadable on Izzy's.

Focus? Determination? No way to know without asking.

He stepped out of the limo and was momentarily blinded by the flash of cameras. He turned to offer his arm to Izzy, was shocked and almost stepped back, towards the curb once he saw the new expression on her face. She had come alight, her very face had transformed. Taylor saw fully now what Izzy could inspire. He had glimpsed whiffs, watching her on the Willow Prep newscast, seeing her schmooze in hallways at school. Now, it was dialed up, more intense, frighteningly bright. He recovered and she was on his arm. Lou on Winston's arm, they paraded down the carpet, ignoring the calls of some photographers, who knew Izzy's name. The doors opened and then they were inside.

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