By Annie Sewell-Jennings
Chapter Two: Savannah, Georgia
"If you are worried about where
I've been or who I saw
The club I went to with my homies
Baby, don't worry, you know that you got me"
--The Roots featuring Erykah Badu, "You Got Me"
In the land of hurricanes and wind, she feels at home, because she is a constant storm and she needs somewhere familiar to rage.
Glass houses are impractical in the destroyed lands of the South, silly in the face of a thousand tropical storms and covered by the dying arms of oak trees. Yet on Tybee Island, there is a luxurious spread of glass that she has fallen in love with. Maybe it’s because it’s delicate. It could break at any given moment, rattles whenever the wind slices through the coast with its invisible daggers, and yet she still loves it. It makes him nervous whenever the house shudders. It makes him wonder how much longer the house will survive.
Sadly, he knows that the house will probably outlive him.
Twilight settles in on the Southern coast, and there is a dark, agonizing storm brewing on the distance. Humidity skyrockets and coats everything with a thin layer of perspiration and moisture condensing. The heat is scorching, and he watches her body shimmer with sweat every time she moves. She is always sweating. Heat does something to her, makes the electricity inside of her sizzle, makes her restless and nervous. Always moving, always stalking, always talking. She will never calm down.
The wind blows through his hair without any obstacle; in the South, it is pointless to try and tame hair with gel or anything else. The wind is a constant presence, blowing endless damp heat onto everyone who wound up in its talons, squeezing the life out of all of its many victims. Sometimes, he remembers what the Old South was, with all of its women wearing magnolias and azaleas, sweat seeping through thin linen dresses that were invariably white, fanning themselves and speaking with drawling, elaborate language that only a Southerner could decode.
She is anything but Southern.
Circling her beloved glass house, he peers in through the walls to see her standing on the bed in the middle of the sprawling bedroom, her tattoos glaring cruelly at him, taunting him with the familiarity of their language. He prefers the tattoos that she has done in foreign tongues, because then they are not so dreadfully painful to read. But she is still beautiful and he still loves her, even though the very sight of her sometimes threatens to bring him to his knees.
Albino hair streams down her slender spine, covering the multitude of words that coat her back, teasing the edge of her red silk panties. He loves her in bright colors, and she always aims to please. The sound of her beloved hip-hop blares through glass, penetrates into the dark night with its throbbing bass lines and sugary sentiment. Why is all of the ink on her body black? Could she not use some color, spice herself up a bit, instead of making herself into something achromatic?
Why can’t he stop loving her so that he can be free?
Through the glass, she follows him with her eyes, grinning at him mischievously, begging him to come back to bed and make her scream again. Her maroon-painted fingernails claw nastily down her slender waist, touching the flare of her hips, smoothing out the red satin panties over her ripe, round butt. It’s too hot for her to breathe and so she simply stops breathing, reverting to the darker instincts, letting the violence and the demons overtake her with their hissing and writhing. They always claim her in the end, and it’s better when he is there to help with the claiming.
“Come to bed,” she murmurs, hoping that he can read her lips through the glass. All that she receives in return is a smirk, that nasty one that tells her that he has his own games to play, and she moans in frustration and disappointment. Without him, the bloodlust will steal away her sanity on gilded chariots, take away her mind and flush her of her memories. Her precious dreams will be overtaken by the darkness, and she looks out at the darkening skies, the lightning crackling over the crashing waves and tumultuous sea.
Hurricanes, always hurricanes. She wonders what the South was like before its unending destruction. Was it gentle and soothing, whispering things in soft, lulling languages and loose tongues? Did magnolia petals shed from the trees and drift away aimlessly down marshes and inlets? What was she like before the destruction? She could not possibly be anything less than she is now. A firebrand, a maelstrom, all sunburned skin and albino hair.
But she does wonder who he was before the world ended.
Constant rain and flooding has loosened the Georgian soil, and the grass is always unnervingly green and fresh. His white toes squish into the wet dirt as he walks barefoot around the house, pacing endlessly around the glass structure, searching for weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Must protect her, must keep her safe. It is his only duty on this planet -- keep her alive. Keep her from dying.
_”You have to keep her safe, Spike. It’s what she wanted. She’s your last gift.”_
What a horrible, wonderful present.
_”I know that it’s hard to understand… God, I can’t understand it, but she wants you to have her. She says that you earned it.”_
What the fuck did he earn? A lifetime of servitude and lies. An eternity of running and deception. What did he possibly do to deserve all of this?
_”Don’t ever tell her. That’s the only condition. You can’t ever tell her. It would… I think it would just break her.”_
It is breaking him.
Cooling light shines through the thin panes of glass encasing her, making her seem like an exotic jewel on display in a museum. The Hope Diamond with a sunburn, bleached out and covered in ink. That bewitching little smile is crawling across her face again, taunting him, tantalizing him, and he takes the only comfort that he can in the knowledge that she loves him. Every night, she breathes it to him as he falls into haunted slumber. “I love you,” she whispers. “I love you.” The words are his only solace, his only gift, and he takes it all with both hands open.
Teasing, taunting little hands cup her small, firm breasts, aloe lotion shimmering along with the sweat on her skin. Should he go to her now? Throw himself to the lion and let her consume him? Or should he bide his time a little more, pace around and remember, and then come inside to her when he can’t take the grief anymore? Fuck, he doesn’t know what to do nowadays. Everything has been turned upside down and thrown out of proportion. Slivers and rivulets of her stunning white hair twist over the top of her breast, playfully skimming across her erect nipple. The curve of her wrist is devastatingly delicate. He cannot resist her.
He wishes that he could.
The look on his face as he enters the house is strange, and she tilts her head at him, losing a little of her vitality. It reminds her of her dreams. Sleep is a bleak and barren wasteland of terrors, always twisted and never honest, deceiving her with the promise of lost memory. Last night, she dreamed of him, standing in a girl’s bedroom in the middle of the night, staring at her trying to cover up her nakedness like she was something he would never possess. How badly he wanted that sheet to slip down her body, revealing everything. It was written across his face.
“Bad dreams again, love?”
Blinking, she shakes off the memories and deals with the present, because it is the only time that she can control and hold. Mischievously, she winks her big green eyes at him and the chandelier over the bed flickers off and on like an elaborate strobe light, throwing the room between darkness and light. “Never,” she says. “Only good dreams count, right?”
It’s what he tells her every time she wakes up in the middle of the night with tears running down her peeling cheeks, the saline slipping into the sun-blistered skin and burning her flesh. Ignore the bad thoughts, the horrible images of death and demons. It’s the good dreams that matter. Only good dreams count. She tries so hard to believe this, but lately, the bad dreams have been outnumbering the good ones.
_Cotton candy sliding down her nose, clinging to her mouth, and she giggles a little while a young brunette girl skips happily through the carnival. “Think they’ll let me ride the big girl rides this year?” she asks, excitement evident in her voice. “I want to ride the big girl rides with you.”_
But every time she takes the little girl’s hand, she kills her.
They do not know quite what she is. She might be a demon of sorts, at least that is his theory, but her heart still beats (albeit faintly) and she still breathes (albeit unnecessarily). When she walks into a room, she can revive old electricity and turn on televisions that blare static or jukeboxes that play old Jethro Tull songs. The sun scorches her delicate skin but does not set her aflame. Electricity thrums through her veins as though she were made of copper rather than flesh and bone, and she has been known to set towns on fire. Infernos breathe underneath her reddened skin.
Arching one snowy eyebrow, she beckons him to her side, begging him with her flickering eyes (Are they yellow? Are they green?) to fuck her like only he can. But he’s preoccupied tonight. Something stirring underneath the shifting Southern soil has unsettled him, has made him worry. Time is changing. She is changing. He is beginning to fear that the end might be near, that the hellfires of the Midwest and the blinding blizzards of California are catching up with them.
“What’s wrong, Randy?”
It isn’t his fucking name, and he hates when she uses it. Only has himself to blame. He could have given himself a better moniker, something a little less silly sounding, something more dignified or dangerous. He could have at least given himself a name that would not break his heart. Irony is a cruel mistress, and he was forced to be its bitch once again when she told him that her name was Joan. Ah, well. Some things never change.
But some things change too much.
Dry, hot lips brush against his jaw, and she nuzzles his cheek with the tip of her nose. “Why are you so upset?” she murmurs, licking a little at the hollow of his jaw with the tip of her spicy tongue. “You’re all grouchy today.”
Defensively, he shrugs. “Am not,” he says, and she giggles a little.
“Are too,” she counters with an impish expression on her face. Turquoise jewelry dangles between her breasts, the aquamarine stones brushing against her bright vermilion skin, and her fingernails dig into his shoulder. She is being naughty today. Something has disturbed her; she only makes him bleed when she cannot bleed enough for herself. “Tell me what the South was like before the hurricanes.”
Sighing, he reclines onto the pillows and closes his eyes, feeling her curl into his side with ease. Like a frozen sun, she is drawn to him, seeking his cool skin whenever her constantly heating body grows too much for her to handle. The smell of aloe lotion drifts to his nose, and he smiles a little. It is what she always smells like. Once upon a time, he remembers her smelling of limes and kiwi, exotic and tropical, like the island of Fiji. Now she smells like deserts and sunburn.
“Tell me,” she says insistently, pinching his arm a little until he swats her hand away and kisses her nose.
“Hot,” he says then, letting himself drift away on the memory of the world before the Fall. “Always hot, even in March. Spent a good five years or so in New Orleans, down in the bayou where everything’s underwater and all the people eat is seafood. Used to cause such a ruckus on Bourbon Street when the bars would close, completely pissed on rum.” The memory is a good one, of his darkest princess screaming and dancing in circles, showing off her lovely ivory breasts in the hopes of receiving plastic Mardi Gras beads and biting the bitches who already had them. The best part was when she allowed him to take them off.
Chuckling, the white-haired siren curled up in his arms trails her fingertips down his chest, the jagged edges of her bitten fingernails scraping across his skin in a sinful fashion. “What else?” she asks, trailing kisses from his neck to his shoulder, teasing the jugular where no blood pumps.
There are a thousand things about the South that he remembers. How good it smelled in June, when the flowers were in full bloom and his wicked little plum of a vampire would dress her hair in azaleas and go hunting in the marshes for thieves. It would be impossible to describe the jazz music that flooded the cobblestone streets in Charleston, reverberating throughout the marketplace with its string quartets and high-spirited piano. So instead, he talks about food.
“They fried anything and everything in the South,” he says, and she laughs her whiskey laugh, a little hoarse and ragged by the stale cigarettes that she often smokes. He can’t smoke anymore; the tobacco is shot all to hell, but she doesn’t know what a fresh cigarette tastes like. She just likes the way she looks when she smokes. “Fried turkey, fried shrimp, fried apples and fried green tomatoes.”
She wrinkles her nose. “Sounds gross,” she remarks, and he shakes his head, running his fingers through her mass of alabaster hair. It’s flawless, without a touch of gray to be found.
“It was wonderful.”
There is a silence then, and he relaxes into the sway of her music. Steel drums, the gentle swell of strings, the sound of hot summer nights and good times that died far, far too long ago. God, he used to love music, and now it only conjures up better days. Maybe he is getting old.
Turning his head to her, he looks down at that painfully familiar face, the smattering of freckles tossed haphazardly across her unusual nose, the round cheeks that never lost their childhood ripeness. “Yes, ducks?” he asks, and she strokes his bare chest, reaching for the belt of his jeans.
“Will I ever grow old?” she asks, and he frowns at her.
“Don’t know,” he says truthfully. “You’re not a vampire, but you’re not quite human, either. Maybe. Why?”
She shrugs a little carelessly, avoiding the answer, but she has her own reasons for asking him this question. When they were driving down from Minnesota, passing through the barren remains of West Virginia, she saw an old couple sitting on the side of the road drinking hot beer, the woman smoking a cigarette with her gray hair withering on the breeze. It was a lovely sight, how much in love they were, how gentle and sheltered they were from the horrors of the world. Maybe they saw their entire lives through together, and so when the world crumbled, it did not really matter. She likes this thought.
“Just curious, I guess.”
Thunder rumbles in the distance and a storm is approaching for certain. She wonders about the integrity of the house. Will the glass shatter in the middle of the night when the wind pounds bullets of rain against the fragile exterior? Will the steel moorings underneath the house buckle and send the dwelling into the Atlantic? What is it like to die? All of these questions… She wants answers and she never gets them.
Nipping lightly on the elegant curve of her long neck, he snaps a little at her ear and makes her giggle. Laughter from her is like uncorking a bottle of expensive champagne -- pricey and perfect. “How long do you want to stay here?” he asks, and she shrugs her shoulders, unbuttoning his fly and dipping her fingers inside. Warm little hands play with his delicates and it feels divine. She’s a tigress in bed.
“Forever,” she says, and when he rolls his eyes she swats at his face with the palm of her hand. “God, I’m so only kidding. I don’t know, until the storms start to get boring. But I think I want to go to New York again soon.” Manhattan calls to her, beckons with its promise of flooding and people. She thinks that the island calls her in her dreams.
“All right,” he says easily, a little choked when she starts to cradle his balls in her rough, callused hand. She’s so fucking hot to the touch. His little volcano. “We’ll go whenever you want, pet. Whenever you want.” After all, he can’t deny her anything.
Anything but California.
(end part two)
Continued in Chapter Three: New York City, New York