Sword of Lilith

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Summary

The 1920s-- a time where women hid in the shadows while men silenced them. But not Laverne. For her, wearing pants in public was only the beginning of a far greater destiny. Connected to the demoness Lilith-- the first woman-- Laverne must face demented angels and cults all while trapped on a cruise ship with a deceased captain.

Genre:
Thriller / Romance
Author:
MJ
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Chapter 1

It was the middle of June. A soft, summer-like breeze tickled the faces of outdoor children and rushed the smoke from chimneys on their path to nowhere. Sweetly scented bread and sugar-cakes wafted from bakeries to apartment rooms that reached even the very zenith of the building. Unlike the other days of the month, a cold chill slithered into the big city of New York. Nobody had expected the sudden shift in weather; especially not Laverne Owlson.

Body propped against a brick wall, Laverne fought against the discomforting winds. Expecting an elegant summer warmth, she did not dress for such weather- nor did she have time to change wardrobe. Her statuesque figure was far too slim to naturally protect against the cold, yet in some way, she didn’t mind it. That is, of course, when the wind would sporadically become dormant. Then, as the wind does, it blew again, and back she was huddling against brick structures and walls of department stores. But navigating through the city was merely a necessity for attending her desired location: The Yankee Skipper. Title alone, it sounded like a cheap sailboat a retired fisherman would enjoy on his years off. But instead of transporting fish that would gasp and wriggle once their slimy bodies hit the deck, it carried walking cash machines- the rich. With spare cash oozing from their wallets, why wouldn’t they spend it on a luxury cruise? Parties were, of course, a staple of the 1920s.

Laverne thought about the rich quite often. Leeching off the poor and lower-middle-class, frittering their money on useless things like booze and fancy perfumes and jewelry. She had, of course, considered her a hypocrite in some way. On the rare occasion when she did have spare cash, she, too, spent it on useless items. Her weakness was buying new, hardcover books. Being more brawn than brain, she never liked to read much. But there was something about the smell of a new book that comforted her and brought her back to something she couldn’t quite remember.

“May I see your ticket, sir?” a gentle-voiced boy asked. He was short, kind-eyed, and had the thickest dark hair Laverne had ever seen. He couldn’t be any older than twenty. A man donning a tight blue business suit stood with his wife’s hands wrapped firmly around his upper arm, his eyes taking in every inch of the boy.

“I see,” he hummed disappointedly, almost as if to himself, “they’re letting people like him handle our stuff.” His wife nodded somberly.

The boy, who must have been used to this sort of treatment, was stiffened with silence. “How can I be sure you aren’t going to steal my ticket?” the man guffawed, nudging his wife in amusement.

“S’okay, sir,” the boy forced a smile. “I have a name tag right here--” he pointed at his chest, “--that proves I work here.”

The man rubbed his chin, almost as if deep in thought, and considered the boy. “With the types of slimy tricks you negr--”

“Oh!” Laverne gasped when her body collided with the man. She fell to her feet, blinking away her shock from the fall. He stopped to look at her, smiled, then extended a hand.

“I’m so sorry!” she said. She took his hand and let him lift her up, knowing he was a bit surprised. She was heavier than she looked. “I wasn’t paying attention.”

“No worries, ma’am,” he said with a polite nod of the head.

Laverne nodded back and grabbed her luggage that had flung from her hands during the collision. She turned to the boy, whose head was bowed in shame, and searched through her bag. “Here you go, sir,” she said, extending a slim paper ticket to him.

“Have a nice voyage, ma’am,” he spoke with the gentle disposition he had yet to lose.

“Thank you--” she stared at his name tag, “--Raphael.”

He finally met her eyes. Hers, a limitless hazel shade that bore strength and compassion. His, a comforting brown- it reminded Laverne of chocolate fudge. She tried it once many years ago.

Laverne regarded the businessman and his wife politely before she started her journey onto the ship.

The businessman’s pockets were empty. Of course, that was aside from a heavy metal lighter and some loose change. His wallet was nowhere to be found. His large hand fished through the empty sea of his back pocket, suspicious eyes being drawn to Raphael.

“You,” he sneered. “You took my wallet.” Raphael’s brows furrowed, worry creased within the lines of his dark features.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he said, “but I’ve done nothing of the sort.”

“I know you took it!” His anger took shape when he pointed an accusatory finger at Raphael. “Who else around here could have?” He gestured to the line behind him. All were visibly rich- and white.

“Check your bags, darling,” his wife suggested.

“You know I always keep my wallet in my pocket.”

“Well, you simply could have left it in the pocket of another pair of pants.”

“I’m not dense!”

“That wasn’t what I meant, dear.”

“Yes, it is!”

“Just calm down and-“

“That wallet was made with genuine leather, Janet!” he shouted. “And must I remind you that our ticket is in there, too?”

The woman, now identified as “Janet,” considered her husband. It didn’t take long for her to respond.

“Fine,” she gave in. “If you really think the negro took your wallet, then get it back.”

He faced Raphael again, grabbing his collar.

“Oh, I know it’s him,” he snarled. Raphael thrashed against the much taller man, barely landing a single hit. The people in line snickered and refused to intervene. Their voices were hushed yet excited.

But before the man could harm Raphael, Laverne appeared again. Her honey-blonde hair was draped past her narrow hips, swaying with her body as she walked with nothing but pure confidence. She held a suitcase with one hand, and in the other- a wallet.

“Excuse me, sir?” she gently called. The man spared her a glance. “I found this a few feet away from the docks. You said you lost a wallet?”

His face, flushed with both relief and embarrassment, contorted a smile that revealed deep laugh-lines.

“Yes, ma’am, thank you,” he said while accepting the brown wallet (which, by the way, was indeed made with genuine leather).

“Not a problem,” she said. “Seems like I defused a bad misunderstanding.” She winked at Raphael. He smiled.

“Wait.” The man looked into his wallet, one eye bulging like a vulture trying to find roadkill. “Where’s my money? And the ticket?”

Janet gasped softly and peered in. Laverne leaned in her head and took a curious peek.

“You wretched girl!” Janet cursed. “You took our ticket!”

Laverne took a solid step backward.

“My, what a thing to accuse someone of,” she clicked her tongue. “I paid just like everyone else. Seems to me like you two are the cheapskates.” She dismissively shrugged and slung her luggage over her broad shoulder.

“Sorry, folks,” Raphael sighed, “but I can’t let you on without a ticket.”

The couple stood there, pale and dumbfounded. Janet’s mouth gaped open.

“Unbelievable…” the man murmured. Laverne, who had finally started her departure onto the Yankee Skipper, stopped momentarily.

The city truly was full of dunces.

Laverne’s room was nothing special. Unfortunately, the couple she scammed weren’t as rich as they seemed. One bed, one chair, and a light that flickers whenever the boat shifts a little too much. Not that she should be putting up complaints, though. It’s not like she paid for the damned room.

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” she sighed, throwing herself back-first onto the bed. She stared at the eggshell-white ceiling, sprawling her body on the stiff sheets. At least the bed wasn’t as small or uncomfortable as the one she had at home. It was a single mattress without a frame, laying on the pathetic floor of her apartment. At least she had a home, though, which was an upgrade from her previous years.

Just as Laverne was about to wallow further into her self-pity, there was a knock at the door. A friend of the not-as-well-off-richies she stole from? Probably. Quite a few different excuses came into mind as she went for the door, things such as, “They had urgent business to tend to, so they gave me their ticket as to not let it go to waste!” or “They upgraded to a better room last-minute.” Yeah, those would work-- or so she thought, until she opened the door.

Raphael stood there, stiff-armed and tense. “Ma’am,” he said. “May I talk to you for a moment?”

Laverne looked down at him, their height difference definitely making him feel inferior. She opened the door more to invite him in.

“No need for that,” he said.

“I insist,” she smiled and clasped her hands together. “After all, you must’ve had a hard day at work.” His eyes widened slightly.

“O--Oh, that’s very kind of you, ma’am,” he stammered, “but I couldn’t be rude enough to enter a passenger’s quarters-- ’specially one that belongs to a lady.”

Laverne laughed, tilting her head back. “I’ll fix you up a snack.”

She left the door open and went inside, opening her luggage. She brought a few snacks just in case, but after passing the dining hall on the way in, she figured there was no need.

Raphael peered around him cautiously, stepped inside, then closed the door slowly. He took a seat in the chair far from Laverne-- but considering the size of the room, that wasn’t far enough.

“So,” Laverne said, rummaging through her things, “what is it that you wanted to talk about?” Raphael’s shoulders tensed, his eyes fixed onto the wooden floor.

“I…” he trailed off, trying to find the words. “I saw what you did earlier. With their wallet.” Laverne cocked an eyebrow.

“What I did?” she questioned. “What might that be?”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “You… stole from them,” he said.

“Did I?”

She peered at him through her long lashes. Her eyes were sharp like daggers. He gulped. Though he hadn’t seen the look on her face, he knew what look she was giving him.

“Well, I mean, you know… I saw you take the wallet when you ran into him,” he said.

The corners of her mouth turned upwards. Her smile was strange, but not meant to be malicious. “Are you going to report me?” she asked. “After all, you didn’t say anything when I cashed the ticket in. With that in mind, wouldn’t you be in more trouble than I?”

Raphael’s eyes widened. “N--No, I wasn’t going to report you! I swear!” he said, finally glancing at her. “I’m glad they aren’t on the ship… but that doesn’t mean I approve of theft.”

“So you’re thanking me?”

“I didn’t say that,” he chuckled, “but I’m happy it’s you instead of them here.”

************************

The ship itself, mostly on the inside, was rather impressive. The dining hall had floors like red velvet cake, crystal chandeliers hung low above the white tablecloths that blanketed the mahogany wood beneath, and the buffet was decked with vanilla cakes with whipped buttercream frosting and glasses of the clearest mountain water one had ever seen.

Yet as incredible as the scene was, it wasn’t anything new to Bernadette. The daughter of an oil mogul, she had seen her fair share of beautiful locations. She’d been to France, India, and New Zealand; all within the span of five years. She was never interested in luxury cruises or expensive getaways, however. All she wanted was to experience new cultures and observe various ways of life.

“Stop staring, ladies,” Harvey said, his plump and stocky frame standing ahead of the girls. There were about five of them in his little group; Bernadette, Elvira, Prudence, Ginnie, and Faye.

The girls tried averting their eyes away from a man and his wife who had just had their ticket supposedly stolen. Nobody saw any sign of theft- perhaps it was just a con to get a free cruise. Bernadette was never very observant, but she knew the tall blonde woman had to have done something. Needless to say, she was intrigued. And when she was intrigued, she stopped at nothing to fuel that inner desire to learn.

“Harvey,” Ginnie whined. “Birdie’s gross thing is showing!” Harvey took not even a moment to grab Bernadette by the shoulders.

“Bernadette!” he yelled, but not loud enough to attract any attention from onlookers. “How many times do we have to go over this? Cover that damn thing up or you’re outta the group.”

“Sorry, Harvey,” Bernadette mumbled. Her eyes never met his.

“You’d better be sorry, woman,” he grunted. “I don’t pay you to look like an eye-sore on my stage. Keep that thing under wraps.”

“Yes, Harvey.”

Bernadette took large strands of her curled hair, gently placing them in front of the right side of her face. He sighed, shook his head, mumbled something incoherent under his gruff breath, then moved up in the line. They weren’t too far back, but they probably had to wait a few minutes- maybe longer if the businessman and his wife kept throwing fits.

Ginnie and Prudence snickered to each other, casting glances at Bernadette. The rest of the group didn’t like Birdie. Not just because of the thing on her face, but because of her parents. After all, they were the only reason she was in the group. She didn’t have to work her way in.

“What a grump,” Elvira, the only one Berndatte ever had to confide in, said. “Don’t tell him I told you this, but it’s quite brave of you to show that burn. So… unique.”

Bernadette never knew if Elvira was throwing backhanded compliments or if she was being genuine. Sheltered from most social situations, she did her best to pick up on things and hope for the best.

“Thanks, Elvira,” she said despite being almost certain that was an insult. Regardless, Bernadette liked being unique. Even in generally bad ways. Insecure yet so confident, she was. Definitely a girl of contradictions.

Elvira looked Raphael over, taking in all the details. “Dear,” she hummed, “you have dirt-- or maybe grease-- all over your clothes.” Raphael looked himself over, chuckling and nodding.

“Sorry ’bout that, ma’am,” he said with a goofy smile. “Wiley had me clean some harder to reach areas on the ship a few hours back.”

Elvira scrunched her nose in disgust, along with Ginnie and Prudence. Faye merely frowned and tugged on her white glove.

Bernadette did not react. She didn’t feel pity for him, nor disgust. To her, he was another hard-working man mistreated by the big city. It happened too often.

The girls unpacked once in their shared room. Ginnie and Elvira argued about who stole each others’ makeup, while Faye pulled out a book bigger than her torso. The cover had suffered slight dilapidation, but aside from a few dark streaks staining the cover, it could have passed as fairly new.

“A book?” Bernadette said. Faye hugged it tightly to her small chest, her tightly wound curls bouncing when she nodded her head.

“It has a lot of different languages,” she explained. “I’m trying to learn French and Spanish-- oh, and Italian.” Ginnie and Elvira’s quarrel came to an abrupt short.

“Why?” Elvira said. “It’s not like our little group will have enough money to travel abroad.”

Faye awkwardly turned her head at that. She wanted to say something, Bernadette could vaguely tell, but she didn’t. Faye normally kept to herself but stuck around Ginnie when she could. Just like Bernadette, however, she was another black-sheep in the world.

“Wait,” Ginnie said, “are you planning on leaving us?” Faye’s entire face flushed with a deep crimson.

“You can’t be serious,” Elvira scoffed. “You’ve been in the group for almost ten years. You can’t seriously think you’ll make it to France or Italy, right?”

Faye frowned. “I mean... I’ve been saving up money, and--”

“That’s not enough, Faye!” Ginnie said. “Why do you want to leave America, anyway? What’s so much better there?”

“My... my distant relatives live in Italy, and I figured if I could get there then they’d let me stay with them. I hate dancing. I hate being on stage and having men touching my hips all the time-- it’s gross.”

Nobody could really argue with that. Not even Ginnie, who felt as if she were losing one of her only friends.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Bernadette said. “Are you learning French and Spanish for any particular reason?”

“No,” said Faye, “I just want to be a more well-rounded person.” Bernadette nodded. She was the same way, but languages didn’t interest her as much as it did Faye. She was more inclined to research historical events and poetry.

“I think that’s admirable,” she said. “Personally, I don’t care if you stay or go. But you have a goal, and I admire that.”

Faye’s face began to glow. “I’ve known you for five years, you know,” she said with a newly formed smile, “and that’s the first time you’ve complimented me.”

“Or any of us for that matter,” Elvira added with a laugh.

It’s not like Bernadette wanted to give people the cold shoulder. Unfortunately, life kicked her around far too much for her to have an optimistic view of the human race. Not very many people were worthy of praise, she thought. To be fair, it’s not like people complimented her like they used to, either. Not since she had gotten that damned burn on her face. The skin was splotchy and uneven, her eye drooping slightly. It wasn’t only on her face, of course, but that was the most noticeable part. Her arm and torso suffered the same fate.

“Thinking about it again?” Elvira hummed. Bernadette snapped her head up.

“About what?”

Elvira walked over and flipped Bernadette’s hair out of her face. “Your scars,” she said. “You always have the same look on your face when you think about them. Kinda sad, ya know?”

Bernadette’s face flushed. Was she that pitiful?

“They really don’t bother me,” she said. “The only problem I have is how people treat me.”

“Don’t be so dishonest,” Elvira frowned. “It’s hard not to pity you. Every time you look in the mirror you must be horrified!”

This time, Bernadette knew that was an insult. But she was unsure if it was intentional or not. The other girls in the room nodded in agreement. Except for Faye, who simply minded her own business. She still bore a half-smile from Bernadette’s earlier comment.

“I’m gonna take a walk,” Bernadette said. She’d rather avoid conflict whenever possible. “I’ll be back an hour before showtime.”

“Stay safe!” Elvira chirped, giving her a big hug. Her grip practically squeezed the life out of Bernadette, who wriggled out of the physical contact as quickly as possible. “Never a touchy person, huh?” Elvira giggled.

“Guess not,” Bernadette flashed a small, fake smile before leaving the room.

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