It seemed that Beatrice was letting him win the entire time. That had to be it. She must have, also, taught him wrong- that he thought wrong- that he, in general, was wrong. After all, there could have been no other explanation for the raping he just endured –yes, raping. There was nothing gentle about that onslaught. He had no say in how it affected him, only that it tore in and raked at his body, mind, and soul. He was completely and utterly decimated and ravaged under that drider’s skill… Well, it was either that or beginner’s luck but there was no such thing!
“And that’s another win,” Scarlette said, driving it home deeper how much of a failure he was. She tittered as she gathered her cards, shuffling them back in… and pointed at him. “As kind as the gesture was, you didn’t need to let me win that many times.”
“I didn’t,” he uttered, broken, defeated, simply looking at the pile in his grave. He went full circle nine times over, and ended on black. All the while she stayed on white. “I feel so… so… violated.”
“I see. And I suppose being beaten so masterfully by your least favorite color must have ruined the experience for you. For that, I must apologize. I know you offered me the other colors to use, but this one feels right to me.”
“No no. It’s fine… How you feel with white is how I felt with black-”
“Please do not make the ‘once you go black’ joke. It is quite dated.” She sighed, putting the cards in his box, and rested her hands upon the table, palms opened to him. “Well, I did promise you Chinese after this, but what time is it? Perchance have we exhausted all time we had.”
“I doubt it. Most of those were quick games after you got on on the ball. We might have, like, three hours left.”
“Just enough to make the trip and turn back.”
“I mean, if you’re against it, we can always go to the cafe-”
“Oh, good heavens no. I will never be caught in that establishment again.”
“Hey! Mom’s nice-”
“And I wasn’t complaining. I do not mind, but I’m worried if you might.”
“I get food either way. Not only that, it keeps me from Francine’s ire for that much longer.”
“Yes. About her… What happened to your other housekeeper?”
“Nicole? She’s still around. Just not as often. Francine is her granddaughter… or was it great granddaughter- nah. Granddaughter. No way in Hell Nicole is old enough to have three generations under her. Not in that sense; bet she would love to have a son, a father, and grandfather all running train on her.”
“Okay. I walked down at the exact wrong time,” Beatrice said, closing the door behind her. She had three bottles in hand, one of which was water, given to Scarlette as she sat beside Francis. “I didn’t know what kind you liked or if you drank soda, so I went with the safe bet.”
“I would have been fine with anything. Thank you, though,” Scarlette untwisting the top of her water. She took a deep drink as Francis ripped the top off his caramel fizzy beverage and gulped it down. They set them down at the same time, though, hers only a fraction missing from the top while Francis’s was empty. “Oh dear. Are you about to belch?”
“Thought about it, but it depends on your feelings on it.”
“To be blunt, you always struck me as the type to be proud of loud, prolonged bodily sounds.”
“You would be correct, but that would be because I have a Y-chromosome –which has anyone else found it ironic that they call it ‘dining at the Y’ when it’s the men who have the legit, biological Y. I get why they call it that, but still.”
“People call what where now?” Beatrice said, while Scarlette simply tittered.
“You would have caught me off-guard with that, but there was a certain mermaid when I went to Vereor Nox that mentioned it,” she said. “She was shameless. Sucked on the penis of a male anatomy doll trying to ‘flirt’ with Johnny.”
“You went to Vereor Nox? When?”
“It was a couple years back. Let’s say I had issues with how it was governed so I made a decision to leave… Then again, if someone else took control of the establishment, I wouldn’t be against the idea of returning. Until Lilith is gone, though, I refuse to step foot in that place.”
“Can’t blame you,” Francis said, snapping his suitcase shut. He slid it over to Beatrice, whom accepted it without hesitation, and stood, groaning as his back popped. But his legs held. “Yeah, we’ve been at it only for a couple hours. I can still tell my pinkie toe from the floor… Really, I’m surprised Des hasn’t stopped by yet. She would know I’m here.”
“Who is Des?”
“Ah. Yeah. We were talking about her before you came in. Desiree. She’s the girl I have a date with tomorrow. A lamia.”
“Oh my. A lamia, a harpy; you are gathering quite the zoo.”
“Call me the beastmaster.”
Beatrice giggled, and waggled a finger at Scarlette.
“If you’re not careful there, oh mighty beastmaster, you might tame a spider along the way.”
“And that’s a problem how? I have wolves falling in line, bats bowing their heads. Centaurs are presenting, and pigs are ready to squeal at my beck and call. I don’t pick favorites, as they are all my faves.”
“So long as there are servicing you, no?” Scarlette said.
“No! So long as they are real with me. Sex can come after, but I don’t give a fuck how good a lay they are. I can always pound a dime-cent whore into a wall and be content. I need people to be honest with me, as open as they can, and you can always tell a fake ho from a real one.”
“I’m starting to understand your history. Without you ever mentioning it, and, I must say, if I were ever to foster feelings for you I could not blame myself for it. As it stands now, though, I’m not looking for a lover since I already have one… It’s only a matter before they remember.” She sighed, and rose from her side-long sit in her chair. All of her legs cracked and popped, as if she set off a line of fireworks, ending with a heavier sigh than the first. “Oh dear… If I do decide to indulge in this game, I must remember to purchase a proper pillow to sit upon.”
“You liked it I take it,” Beatrice said.
“She beat me. Every. Single. Time,” Francis said, growling at her, looming over her. But she wasn’t paying it any mind, looking to Scarlette.
“Truly?” She said, not even hiding her intrigue.
“I still believe he was going easy on me and allowed those wins-”
“I can assure you that Francis would never do such-”
“She was playing white,” Francis remarked.
“Oh. In that case, he most certainly did not. Was it the white starter deck in here?”
“Huh. I couldn’t get a single win with it. Then again, I was always one to try to set up before assaulting-”
“There’s why. The deck demands action, to push the opponent to the backfoot and keep him there.”
“And you picked that up? That quick? You’re quite the prodigy. Almost put Francis here to shame.” She laughed- which she would have guffawed even harder if she looked back at him. He was ready to strangle her, his hands wavering by her throat, while he had the strangest mixture of anger, admiration… and jealousy plastered on his face. But she didn’t… but Scarlette did. And she kept an amazing poker face, something that Francis knew ALL TOO WELL.
“I’m flattered, but it was only through his teaching that I learned so quick. He’s a bit boorish with his delivery, but his intention is transparent.”
“Yeah, and I was the one that taught him- which then he trounces me almost all the time… Huh… I’m starting to notice a trend.”
“Do not fret. I do not think I will be teaching anyone so the cycle will be broken.”
“Now why would you go and do that?” Francis said, leaning over Beatrice. “It was a perfectly fine bike. Didn’t do anything wrong.”
Beatrice tittered, reaching up and ruffling his hair.
“You were the first to give it a spin.”
“One helluva spin it was… mmm… one… helluva…”
He drooped with every caress, with each pull at his (STILL) shaggy hair. His knees gave, resting on the floor, as his head lulled on her shoulder, his eyes barely open. Scarlette tittered, but he didn’t care. He was having his head rubbed.
“We were about to adjourn for Chinese,” the drider remarked, reminding him why he was standing in the first place. “However, if you two would like some time alone-”
“Oh! No,” Beatrice said, removing her hand. Much to Francis’s disdain; he even whined. She eased him back onto his feet, needing to stand on their own again, and gave him a smirk and wink. “I need to get back upstairs. If you are going for Chinese, though, I’m tempted to give you twenty to bring me back some. I’ve been dying for some beef lo mein.”
“Do not worry. I’ll pay for it,” Scarlette said. “It’s the least I can do for allowing me to play in your place of business.”
“Hey, it’s what it is here for. Want to truly repay me? Bring this lug back in one piece… or at least three. No more than that.”
“Why not an even four, like that one chocolate bar,” Francis remarked. Which Scarlette laughed again.
“That would imply she is looking to break off a piece of you,” she said.
“Don’t give away my master plan,” Beatrice whined, and huffed, shaking her head. “Anyways, I’ll give you the twenty when you get back.”
“You don’t need to-”
“Oh, but I do. But I do…”
Just like before, it was a decent facsimile, a good mockery of Chinese food but still didn’t scratch the oriental itch in Francis’s soul. He would need to pay a visit to Connellsville at some point… Perhaps he could talk Bridget into it one of the long holidays. Since, apparently, everyone was leaving for the holidays- except him… maybe… hopefully. Or maybe even Scarlette.
After all, she wasn’t bad company.
He was… surprised by how much they got along. It was always small talks, barely “farts in the wind” before… but her interests, her hobbies, her favorites, Francis not only could see but some of them were even his. The one that struck him as odd, though, and even after she explained why, was her love for cheesy pornographic movies. As in the movies made in the late 80’s, early 90’s, that spoofed older movies or had such bad prop works that they became amazing movies in their own right.
“A certain somebody loved them to pieces,” she explained. “I used to… watch them with him all the time.”
“You watched porn together… as if it’s no big deal,” he said, holding up a whole breast of General Tso’s chicken. Yes, an entire breast… The lovely lady that night was a bit taken aback by the request, but didn’t question. Most likely because she couldn’t. Her eyes was glassed over, her face cracked, as if it were made of porcelain –TRUE porcelain, not the top layer of scale like Desiree had. He wished he could say more about her visage, but most of it was hidden behind a talisman, etched with red ink that wound and spelled out warning yet haven for those before it as it kept the monster inside in check. Simply… not human.
Scarlette finished winding a lo mein noodle around her fork before skewering a bit of beef and vegetable, popped it into her mouth at last. Her first taste of it… at first, it was delighted- but then the realization- and disappointment hit. She swallowed it, looking less bright after, less hopeful of the next bite into that bowl, and sighed.
“Yes. We did… He didn’t see them as simply pornography. Instead, he treated them like comedies. Things meant to be laughed at.”
“Well, yeah, you can still laugh during sex. It’s a journey not a destination… And, with Cass last week, that was one helluva journey.”
“I’ll take your word on it… though… How did an act of fornication result in a mall being razed?”
“It’s more like it was the lead up to the climax. It all started with a game of mini golf-”
She guffawed, starting to twirl another noodle, while shaking her head.
“Never a dull moment with you, is it? When a simple game of mini game ends with property destruction on a grand scale and sex worth noting.”
“Well, it was right outside it as it burned down. On the street… She wanted it bad.”
“I take it she was a virgin.”
“Ah… Yes… with men like yourself, when you tease a woman that long, string her along with the promise of a good time… and the competition is well-known… Well, there’s only so long before she explodes and takes initiative… I was very much the same way.”
“Yeah? I bet you rocked Johnny’s world.”
“Oh, I did. It was… immaculate. The bond between us, the true Bond not the festering one he has with Lilith. A bond forged out of current amicability instead of long-gone inheritance… I know, deep in my heart, that it was love. True, pure love.”
“And, as always, Lilith had to taint it. Begs the question, though, does Johnny truly love Lilith. Does he, or has she shifted his gray matter so much that he cannot think of anything else but… That didn’t make sense. Let me try that again: Does he know love, or think love.”
“I… I think I’m following what you are trying to say. Does he feel love, or does he simply acknowledge the word. It’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom, as in knowing a tomato is a fruit but not putting it in a fruit salad –which I have my own thought on the lovely little tomato.”
“The tomato is a berry of a plant from the nightshade family.”
“Indeed. The plant, itself, is dangerous… but the berry, for the most part, is safe to eat. In fact, a good few of our vegetables are from plants that fall in the nightshade family. My question is, though, for centuries humanity had ancestral knowledge passed down, as well as observational deductions to follow. They would have known the plant was dangerous. They would have avoided it… so… who was the one brave enough to pluck and eat it for the first time?”
“That… is a fair point, and a good quest-”
“Following that, there’s also onions and garlic. Onions are a ‘blood purifier’, but animals, specifically canines, would avoid it since it can kill them.”
“Onions can kill dogs?”
“Damages their red blood cells, leading to anemia. Garlic is in a similar vein, but humanity has basically bred out most of the more dangerous varieties to extinction. That being said, there was a time when garlic toxicity was a real danger- which, again, leads one to wonder when did humanity grow the balls to constantly endanger themselves. What drove them to try new foods, even if they knew, deep down, there was a very likely chance it would kill them. There had to be one person, after all, that decided to try to make the foxgloves appetizing. I know there would be some people today who would attempt to partake in English brooms since they look like candy bananas.”
“Never heard of either one, but I can say that humans are as bold as they are dumb. Hell, we spent most of our lives trying to find new ways to kill each other. I’ll take it both of those are flowers, right? How many poisons were made just to watch people die?”
“Were? Still. New poisons are being distilled every day, some under the guise of human ‘progress’. Remember: Even doctors need to make poison.”
“That’s… sobering… Good thing I don’t go to the doctors.”
“You mean you don’t have to. As most himans don’t… Really, I never gave it much thought before, back when I was going to Vereor Nox, but… why must we try to fit into human’s society? From an evolutionary perspective, they are becoming... outdated. I’m not saying to eradicate them or to purge them, but shouldn’t himanity, as a whole, learn to advance society without them? If we continue to push to simply integrate into their society, we aren’t changing the status quo. Instead, we are stagnating alongside, becoming part of the poison of the world.”
“You think like this a lot?”
“I don’t have many other people to talk to.”
“Well, now you have me.”
“For the most part. When you have your phone… Anyways, I’ve had enough of this swill. The sun’s starting to peek over the horizon; let’s get you home and rested for your next date.”
“Don’t remind me… I have no idea what to expect. The way Desiree talks, her actions… It could be as simple as a night in playing Mahjong-”
“My brain’s on Chinese right now, but it could be that… or a wild ride. Both of us on a jet-engine motorcycle, fucking at speeds of mach two, while a rolling musical convoy plays the greatest metal hits of the 80’s.”
“… Again, never a dull moment. We need to do this more often.”
They laughed, and Francis quite agreed. Just… no more cards- okay, more cards- definitely more cards! He longed for a challenge, and now he had one in his apprentice. His stomach was at least as content as him as he plopped once more into her passenger seat, and that land yacht hummed away onto the interstate. They were both silent for the journey, lost to those hits from ages past, keeping the dread safely in the back of his mind for what tomorrow held.
Slammed to the front as she was forced to hit the brakes.
They were about a block away from the apartment complex, the road blocked by traffic, leading to Vereor Nox.
“What the hell?” Francis said, getting out of the vehicle… before popping his head in. “You go on. I’ll walk the rest. Thanks for the g- oh. Thank you!”
She chuckled as she handed him Beatrice’s Chinese food, and he closed the door, skipping down the road, passing the irritated drivers… No. That would mean there were drivers in them. The cars were empty, and, given the layer of frost on their windows, had been empty for a while. They weren’t there when they initially left, so it must have been around lunch.
Regardless, he needed to get this food to Beatrice before it was completely cold. He trotted through the apartment’s parking lot and to The Chalice, pulling on the door.
Finding it locked.
He cocked his head, and looked back, back at the traffic, at Vereor Nox. A crowd was gathered in its parking lot, all looking up, up at the castle… and, in the soft light of morning, the top of the Academy was painted red, with Desiree hanging off its peak.