Social Adept with the magic of beauty
My momma used to tell me about the day I was born. She would go on out about heat shimmering the air, how the scent of the flowers in the air made her feel so ill, and, of course, the joys of labor. I was her first and only girl and she named me Mary Edith. She swore I was the most beautiful baby in the world, and well I believe it, as a mirror does not lie. Her other children were comprised of two boys, Seth and Reuben. Reuben was the oldest, and a more dull specimen of man cannot be imagined. A hard worker, certainly. Trustworthy – without fail. And the plainest, least romantic being you could exist. None too bright, either, but he did well enough if the subject was dirt.
Seth, on the other hand, defined ne’er-do-well. He was attractive, in that caddish sort of way and I am much mistaken if there are not a multitude of little Seths running about by this point, though I much doubt he has married. He never wanted to marry, nor work, nor do anything else save seek his pleasure. As his pleasure lay twixt the sheets or on the felt of a card table, his mother and father despaired of him ever becoming a proper gentleman. A good wife might settle him, they thought, but the women to whom he was attractive were not the steadying sort. A decent woman might have had him, but he was dead set against it when I left home.
Momma was a decent woman, as pretty as a southern lady ought to be, but papa was a wickedly handsome man. I got my looks from him. Momma believed that no man would marry a woman, be she ever so lovely, if she was smarter or better educated. I, therefore, learned the fine art of flirtation, to sing and dance, and to adore men. In my presence, a target feels like, needed, and wonderful.
Poppa was a canny man, and had wit to spare. Still, he was a rustic gentleman. I would never have known, but for a chance meeting with a traveling ‘suit.’ Charming, witty, educated, and couth. Together, we played the Game, and I learned the thrill of a real challenge. After him, home was dull, the locals – yokels. I stayed, flirted, saved any money that came my way and, after my debutant ball, I left.
In hindsight, I was very fortunate. I got into a find club, made my way to the stage, and left with a contract. The manager became a lover, and others would soon follow. I had my choice of men and women, fine garb, a splendid apartment, and my life was all I wanted.
I did not know it then, but meeting Aswad ended that time. He was a beautiful man, sleek, catty, and willing to worship in kind. We had a wonderful fling that lasted a sweet 3 months before coming to a gentle end. Two weeks after, I realized I was pregnant. I discussed it with Aswad and we agreed that I should carry the child. I took a vacation from the stage, paid for by Aswad, and the fun continued, though in a different way. During my term, he became engaged and talks were held of his adopting our child, along with his bride-to-be. 2 weeks before I came due, he was killed by random gunfire.
The money dried up, the adoption fell thru, and I found myself alone. I moved to a modest apartment, sold a few trinkets, and gave it some thought.
It was really too late for an abortion, so the baby arrived and I simply could not give her up. I took a few months – even alone I could afford it – and got back into shape, then re-entered the Scene, but with a secondary motive. Fun was dancing with practicality, so I seached for a suitable partner, to help me care for Nirana. It was not long before a man caught my eye. His name was Andrew Stane, and he reminded me of Seth.
I took it slow, but when Nirana was two, we married. I should have known better. He moved in, and we moved up. Where before I had money to burn, to save, I now had difficulty of making ends meet. My home went from tidy to terrible and my daughter began to display bruises.
I kicked him out, he came back. He seemed to know everyone in the city. The door man, the cops, everywhere I turned, he was in my way, in my wallet. I soon realized that, despite my time on the Scene, this was his home and I could not win. When I was invited to a yacht party to New Orleans and back, I saw my chance.
I arranged with my hosts for Nirana to come with us. She was three years old, and sweet as Spring. I brought my clothes, high resale, low mass possessions, and did not give my farewells to anyone. We were almost to NOLA when the bottom fell out.
We were enjoying a sunset dinner. Wine and spirits flowed freely, decadent dessert, exotic flaming dishes, and music for dancing. Nirana was allowed to stay up for the early part of the evening, but her bedtime came and I was taking her to her cabin, with a short detour to the mess for a cookie and glass of milk.
As the chef was warming her mild, I spotted ‘Drew oozing down the hall. I confronted him and we began to argue, the more so when he dropped a strand of pearls. My pearls. I grabbed it, and it escalated. He became angry, tried to leave, and was blocked. He kicked over the refreshment cart, spirits misted thru the air and drenched my little Nirana. Then, a few seconds later, a steno canister over balanced, fell, and ignited my little girl.
The world narrowed to the flames and my daughters screams. I attacked drew, and I am sure my nails left him with scars. The chef ducked behind the counter, and I tripped over the cart as I stumbled towards my daughter. I put out the fires with my hands, but she was wearing a synthetic tulle that melted into a viscous, burning mass. The fire went out, and so did her cries. She was dead before I could even hold her in my arms. I got up, leaving my baby behind, and ran after ‘Drew. I found him on the bridge, and threw myself at him. He tried to pull a pistol on me, but his shot went wild, killing the captain and owner of the ship – my friend and host, with the second shot shattering a port window. He threw me off, and I fell through the window and on to the deck. Winded, I tried to get up, but he did not waste his time with me. Instead, he found security, and told them I had killed the my host.
If Drew is anything, he is a persuasive liar. He had gotten on as security for the trip, and they had no reason to think him a liar. So, they came for me. I was on my feet as they closed the distance, and a shot grazed my head, knocking me back and stunning me as I fell into the water. It was now dark, and I was not easy to see. I did my best to swim, but am not skilled at that particular art and it was hard going. I finally stripped off my clothes, and went on in a undies and jewelry.
When I waded ashore, I was exhausted and finally felt the pain burning in my hands. I was terrified and focused all my will on leaving nothing behind to lead them to me. To my surprise, it worked…