“Mind if I sit?”
Wednesday looks up at the girl blocking the sun, squints at her dark outline, and replies with an automatic, “Yes.” Even if she doesn't mind the temporary relief from the bright September sunlight, there are plenty of other open seats on the bleachers beside the track and football field. She'd much rather finish reading her copy of Dante's Inferno in peace before the bell rings to dismiss her from gym class.
But the girl sits anyway, sticking out her hand. “Violet Flores. You're Wednesday, right?”
Despite herself, Wednesday shakes the girl's hand, noting the ornate silver rings on each of her fingers and thinking they're a bit much. “Yes. Your parents named you after a flower?”
Laughing, Violet shakes her head and leans down to prop her chin on her hand with her elbow on her knee. “Nah. But wouldn't it be cool if they did? My real name makes me sound like an old lady, so I don't use it,” she explains with a look of amused disgust. “Did your parents really name you after a day of the week?”
Wednesday blinks. “Yes. Twice, actually. My middle name is Friday.”
“Cool,” Violet grins, before turning to gaze out at the rest of their class running laps.
Giving up on her book for the moment, Wednesday studies the girl with a small scowl. Violet doesn't look at all like the other girls who have tried to befriend to her since she started high school the previous year, and there have been a lot of attempts, most ending in bloodshed when the girl in question tried to remake her in their image. Instead of the Barbie look-alike that Wednesday's become accustomed to defending herself against, Violet has short black hair with several deep purple locks, five piercings on one ear, including a bar through the cartilage, two rings in her left eyebrow, and is nearly olive-skinned beneath sweeping purple eye shadow and blood-red lipstick. Her clothes are dark, mostly black, with extraneous buckles and clasps, purple and black striped tights beneath a black frilled skirt, and tall boots with red laces and thick soles.
She seems... complicated. High-maintenance. Wednesday can't understand wanting to waste so much time on her looks when a simple high-collared black dress, ankle boots, and twin braids suffice just fine. Simplicity works for her mother, after all.
“So glad I don't have to be down there running with the other lemmings,” Violet says, turning a quirky smile on Wednesday and catching her gaze with soft brown eyes. “Doctors' notes are the best thing ever invented.”
The unexpected eye contact breaks Wednesday out of her close scrutiny, and she looks down at their classmates quickly. “They are,” she agrees. “I haven't had to participate since summer camp after sixth grade. Too much risk.”
“Pretty morbid,” Violet says, sounding intrigued. “What is it, severe asthma? Chance your heart might explode?”
Raising an eyebrow, Wednesday looks her in the eye again. “Homicidal tendencies.”
The grin she gets in return is almost manic. “We should definitely hang out sometime. You like the Screeching Ghouls?”
“I don't like her, Mother.” Crossing her arms over her chest as she sinks back into the tall arm-chair, Wednesday sulks. “She keeps talking to me in gym and between classes. And at lunch, when I just want to eat and read in peace. Why won't she leave me alone? She should've gotten bored weeks ago.”
Her mother only raises a slick black eyebrow and continues knitting while the antique Victrola in the corner of the drawing room plays a tinny, dark melody.
“We have nothing in common. She's happy. And she laughs. And wears too much jewelry. And has piercings in her face. And likes... purple,” she chews out.
“Ah, the color of royalty,” Morticia sighs, looking wistful for a moment.
“I don't trust her. I want to kill her.”
“Of course you do, darling. The best relationships always end in murder. Just look at Caesar and Brutus. Antony and Cleopatra.”
Wednesday scowls. “That was suicide.”
Another raised brow. “Was it?”
Her expression falling blank, Wednesday resigns their conversation to failure. How could her mother ever understand, being so adored by everyone that she's never known the brutal itch of paranoia, the deep suspicion that her acquaintances might harbor an ulterior motive for their supposed friendship? With a sigh, she stands to leave, possibly to seek out Pugsley and attempt to find comfort in his nine hundred and seventy-fifth electrocution, but her mother's voice stops her.
“Why don't you invite her over, dear? She already sounds like one of us, and I'd love to meet her—introduce her to the family.”
Wednesday turns, glaring. “What?”
“Invite her over,” Morticia smiles, setting down her knitting. “It's been ages since you had a slumber party. Not since Joel, I think. Whatever happened to him? Kitty didn't make a snack of him, did he?”
The thought of the boy she once considered a friend—her boyfriend, even—rankles her, and through gritted teeth she spits angrily, “No. He just never came back.”
Misting her potted Venus fly traps in the solarium, Morticia sighs. The poor things haven't caught a morsel in weeks, and are starting to look a little yellow around the leaves. They must be positively starving by now.
“Perhaps it's time to release the Japanese beetles,” comes a voice behind her, and Morticia half-turns to smile darkly at her husband.
“You read my mind, Gomez,” she tells him, an idea occurring to her as he takes her left hand and lifts it to place a kiss on her wrist. “Perhaps a little divine intervention is just what the doctor ordered.”
Gomez raises an eyebrow in delight as he straightens. “You sound inspired, Tish. Something must be afoot.”
“Oui, mon cher, it's Wednesday. She has a new friend.”
“Our Wednesday? The girl voted 'most likely to die a spinster' by her eighth grade class?” he asks, looking surprised. “Sounds like she's slipping.”
“She wants to kill her.”
Gomez grins ear to ear. “Must be love, then.”
“Indeed. She's terribly resistant. Rampant paranoia, murder in her eyes, more so than usual. The girl seems her perfect match, from what I hear. Multiple piercings and a love for purple.”
“Ah, royalty and masochism. No wonder Wednesday likes her; our little torturer finally has a playmate. I'd better double-check that trap door.”
“Hold still. I can't get the edges straight if you keep twitching,” Violet says as she grips Wednesday's hand a little tighter, one finger pulled out and the nail halfway painted. Kneeling in dark purple pajamas next to Wednesday in her long black nightgown, with black and silver ribbons tied in her hair randomly, she inspects her work with intense focus. “If this was a different color, I'd add a glitter coat, too,” she adds absently.
Wednesday scowls and tries to keep still, not at all liking the warmth of Violet's hand or her intent to add such a thing as glitter to her nails. “I don't know why it has to be red, anyway. I like black,” she protests, trying in vain to ignore the gleam of the crimson polish in the low light of the candelabra in her bedroom. “And I can do it myself. Aunt Dementia taught me.”
Violet gives her a quirky smile as she moves onto the next finger. “Red suits you. The color of blood; the color of passion. I bet you'd look fantastic just swathed in red, like Isabella the First, in that painting in our history book.”
“My ancestors were slaughtered during the Spanish inquisition,” Wednesday bites out, the ghostly spirits of the generations of lost Addamses haunting her thoughts, restless and ephemeral. “They were outcasts, hated for being different.”
“All the better for revenge on the royal court, then,” Violet grins devilishly with a slight shrug. “Bathed in the blood of your enemies.”
Wednesday draws her hand back at that, anger bubbling up from the pit of her stomach at Violet's nonchalance and total ignorance, her blood turning to ice in her veins. “You don't know anything about revenge,” she says, getting up off the old, dusty sleeping bag they'd spread out over the floor, “or about my family. This was a mistake. I shouldn't have listened to my mother and invited you over in the first place. She was wrong; you could never be one of us.”
Turning on her heel, she stalks out of her bedroom and down the hall toward the stairs, but isn't quite fast enough to escape when Violet's hand lands on her arm just as she reaches the landing.
“Wait a minute! What do you mean, 'listened to your mother' and 'never be one of us'? Did you not want me to come over? Did I do something wrong?”
Wednesday doesn't dare look at her, frozen in place by that hand and the note of hurt in Violet's voice. It's just too much. “Never mind,” she says. “I didn't mean any—”
But the rest of her sentence falls away into a scream as the floor beneath them opens up and gravity drags them down.
Hearing the twin screams from their own bed, Morticia turns in Gomez's embrace and smiles at him fondly. “Ah, doux amour.”
“The screams of love are such beautiful music. They'll be bound together for life by dawn, I'm sure,” Gomez asserts, pulling his wife closer. “After all, she takes after you, my dear.”
“Brought together by torture, their resistance broken. What more could any pair want?” Eyes gleaming with dark mischief, Morticia kisses her husband deeply.
“Wha—where are we?” Violet says between coughs, trying to wave off the cloud of dust surrounding them.
Wednesday grimaces, coughing as well. They're in a small room. Well, more like a cell.
A padded cell.
Glancing up, she squints against the yellowed light of the lone, bare halogen bulb buzzing on the ceiling, and sees the seams of the trap door chute. No escape the way they came. There's a tiny, dirty window in the cell's door in front of them, and nothing else but gray padding on the walls and the floor.
“It's Cousin Femora's cell,” she finally answers as the dust settles down. “I thought Father was using it for storage.”
Violet looks at her with wide eyes. “Your cousin had a padded cell? And your dad used it for storage? Man, I knew your family was a little wacky, but this is... is—”
“What, insane?” Wednesday says hotly, turning a glare on her supposed 'friend', her hands curled into fists.
Standing straighter, Violet crosses her arms as she counters, “I was gonna say 'cool'. But since you're convinced all I want to do is insult you, maybe I should just leave.”
“Maybe you should.” But when Wednesday steps over the padding to push at the door so she can send Violet home, it doesn't budge.
A tiny flicker of panic begins to climb up from the recesses of Wednesday's gut, and she smacks the glass of the window with an open palm. “Father!” she calls out. “Mother!”
The sudden giggle behind her draws her attention away from the stuck door, and she turns to find Violet snickering into her palm. “Why are you laughing? We're stuck, and the door is probably locked from the outside.”
“Exactly! We're stuck in a padded cell, with no choice but to work together to get out, or survive until someone comes to get us. It's like... every bad movie ever made!” And with that she falls into outright laughter, clutching her sides as she collapses to the padded floor, stirring up the dust again.
Wednesday can only sink down to the floor beside her, drawing her knees up to her chest and resting her chin on them, keeping her gaze on the other girl. She just doesn't understand how Violet could go from mocking her family to indignation and back to mocking so quickly. The girl is a complete enigma.
Eventually Violet calms herself and settles back against the padded wall, returning Wednesday's gaze with a small smile. “So, tell me about this cousin. Serial killer? Tried to eat her own face? What's the story?”
The heat of homicidal rage flushes over Wednesday's face for a brief moment at that, but she squashes it down and forces a long breath out through her nostrils. If she has to be stuck here with... with the purple goth princess, she'll just have to make the best of it.
“Aunt Debbie was the serial killer,” she says after a while, lifting her chin from her knees and settling back against the opposite wall from Violet. “She tried to kill Uncle Fester, but wound up electrocuting herself instead. Cousin Femora was a ballerina. She toured with the Bolshoi Ballet until the stress and constant hunger drove her mad, and the family had to lock her up after she ate one of her rivals. That was before I was born.”
Letting out a low whistle, Violet shakes her head. “Always knew ballerinas were nuts. Worse than cheerleaders,” she finishes with a slight cringe.
Wednesday can't seem to help the tiny smile that pulls up at the corners of her mouth. “And Girl Scouts.”
“Right,” Violet agrees, nodding. “There's just something not normal about all that pink, prissy, stuck-up crap. It's like, the Stepford daughters, or something. Plastic people. They're all the same.”
It occurs to Wednesday that there's a connection in there. “Is that why you have purple in your hair?” she asks cautiously. “To be different?”
Violet raises an eyebrow and smiles crookedly. “Yeah, mostly, I guess.” But she shrugs, absently starting to pick at a loose thread in the padding on the floor, her own purple nails looking brown in the yellow light. “I dunno, I just don't want to be like all the little Barbie clones running around, all brain-dead and useless. Gotta be the same reasons you dress like you do, right? Be your own person, stand out from the crowd, screw the herd, and all that.”
Watching the way Violet's fingers pick at the loose thread, Wednesday mulls over Violet's words. She certainly doesn't want to be like those other girls at school. But she doesn't want to stand out, either, not with so much glitter and color, not like Violet.
But then she thinks about her mother, so beloved, an enchantress next to which she could only ever hope to be a pale imitation.
The revelation makes her a little sick to her stomach. She's happy in the shadows. Really.
“Your nails are all smudged.”
Wednesday is only drawn out of her reverie when she realizes Violet has her hand again, turning it to get a better look at the ruined work. The red polish is nicked and smudged and has a fine layer of dust stuck to it from their fall. And it's her own fault. “I'm sorry,” she says honestly. “I... shouldn't have said what I said to you. And I shouldn't have run off.”
Violet shrugs again, catching her gaze with soft, dark eyes. “It's okay. And I'm sorry, too. I didn't mean to make fun of your family or anything. I mean, they're fascinating, way cooler than my family. You've got history. You're lucky.”
“Thank you.” Reminded then of what Violet said about the Spanish queen, she can't help adding, “I'd still rather be from my family than linked to Isabella, though.”
Sort of grimacing to herself for a moment, Violet says, “Yeah. I really didn't mean anything by that. I get that I'm hard to read sometimes; it's sort of a curse.”
“I guess... I can understand that,” Wednesday admits, hesitating briefly. “I'm not—” she pauses and takes a deep breath, “I'm not used to anyone wanting to be around me, and not trying to turn me into something else. Most people don't even try to get it.”
“You know, I really do like you, Wednesday,” Violet says quietly. “Everybody else is just crazy. And hey, we can fix these later. In black,” she finishes with a wink, holding up Wednesday's hand and ruined nails. “Get you ready to slay your true enemies: the Girl Scouts.”
The dark grin that spreads over Wednesday's features at that comes with the strangest thing she's ever felt, a warmth that might be friendship, caring, even... happiness.
It shouldn't feel so... good.
“I...” Wednesday swallows hard, and continues, “I like you, too.”
She wouldn't have thought Violet could actually blush, but there it is, spread across her cheeks in a deep rose flush as she bites her lower lip.
And then Violet's free hand is in Wednesday's hair, fingering one braid. “You'd look good with a purple streak.”
Smirking, she returns the gesture, briefly touching a soft spike of Violet's dark hair. “You'd look good in long braids.”
But the light chooses that moment to crackle and pop above them, and with a dying sizzle, leaves them in darkness.
Wednesday sighs. “We should try to sleep. Someone will find us in a few hours.”
“Yeah. Bet it gets pretty cold down here,” Violet says in the dark, still holding Wednesday's fingers lightly.
She doesn't expect Violet's sudden closeness as she scoots over the padding to settle right next to her, her warmth surprising, and the shiver that runs down Wednesday's spine can hardly be blamed on the cold.
“See? You're shivering already. C'mere.”
If she willingly moves to nestle in the circle of her—dare she even think it?—her friend's arms, she's certain Violet will never tell.
She won't tell about the light kiss that lands on her cheek then, either, as she closes her eyes in the dark and lets sleep and her favorite bloody nightmares come for her.
Carefully unlatching the door in the morning, Morticia smiles at the sight visible through the tiny window. She holds a slender finger up to her lips to signal Gomez to remain quiet. “Just as we'd hoped, mon amour,” she whispers, moving to let her husband peer through the window at the girls, the pair curled up together on the padded floor with their fingers twined together, looking as serene in their deep sleep as if Death himself had taken them.
“Tish, you're a genius,” Gomez whispers back, turning a mischievous grin on her.
“I know.” And with a twirl of the hem of her dress, Morticia leaves the girls to wake in their own time, her husband close on her heels.
Much later in the day, when Wednesday and Violet come down to lunch, chatting in hushed tones and coded expressions, Morticia notes the fresh coat of shining black nail polish on her daughter's nails and the streak of color threaded through one of her twin braids.
“Wednesday, is that purple in your hair?” she says with a raised brow, unable to resist teasing just a little as the girls sit down to join them, Grandmama serving the eel soup and Pugsley already digging in sloppily, like a good boy.
With just a hint of a glance at the other girl, her daughter levels an even look at her. “No, Mother. It's Violet.”