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Pink Ladies

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We had a silver VCR, the top-loading kind. It would whir and grind when you pressed eject, and the empty tray would rise up out of the flat top surface with a little chunk sound. I came home from school in the afternoons and I watched Scooby Doo and He-Man, sitting on the floor with the cats crawling all over me, and my mother fixed Ritz crackers with tuna and mayonnaise and sweet pickle relish mixed together. I remember Daphne's long white legs and her graceful curve of hip, Teela's golden snake bracelets; even then -- redheads. Always. And then when the cartoons were over, I would press eject, and the machine would whir and chunk, and I would watch Grease.

* * *

I like the railroad trains; I always did. We used to take the railroad all over England. I liked the great puffs of smoke and the clackery clacking. Daddy was always such a gentleman. I can still see his great black boots on the platform, and his dear, cold hands coming down to me from out of the sky. My hands looked so tiny fit into his palms, and when he lifted me up on the train, I flew. Like doves, we were. Little pink and grey doves, all sweet and chilly and dead. I flew up on skirts and petticoats like wings and eiderdown, up to nest in his great arms.

Daddy took us on trains. Civilized, it was, with velvet seats and cigarette smoke and cups of hot tea poured by men in white gloves. I liked to keep those gloves, but they were never really white again, not like on the trains. All brown and messy, but at least they smelled like trains and smoke.

I liked to sit by the window. The stars flew by so fast; I pressed my nose to the cold glass and watched them, and down in my secret places I would think, Like being alive again -- things sailing through the sky, days and nights, and how fast it all went by. I sat across from Grandmum; she liked the windows, too, but she looked down at the dark ground, not up at the shiny sky, and she always wore that pretty frown. Grandmum was always cross, but it wasn't ever with me. She sat right across from me, our knees just wings of frocks away from each other, and we were always looking out and away.

Only small things talk to me. Little dead birds and tiny, shiny stars and snakes and dollies. Little things love me, Princess in her tiny, cold dolly house. But Daddy's great arms for doves' nests and Grandmum's great velvety mind, clackery clacking noisy along its rails....

Those things were never mine. Oh, no. Too big for Drusilla. I would swing my feet along the floor and hum my little songs, all alone in the big, big world, and dreaming of turtledoves who coo in twos.

* * *

My mother could sing. She had the most beautiful voice in the world, buttery and soft, high but not shrill. She sang in the church choir. Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, how great Thou art.... I would cry, and my father would glare at me like he thought I was making a scene, but he couldn't really say anything, because the pastor was smiling warmly down at all of us.

She sang me to sleep at night. *Sing tura lura lura, sing tura lura lye, for tura lura lura is the Irish lullabye....* I would lie there with my eyes wide open to show her I wasn't asleep yet, keeping them open as long as I could so she wouldn't stop singing, even as her voice got deeper and paused every now and then for a yawn. She would take her hair down out of its bobby pins as she sang and comb her fingers through it, platinum blonde, the same color as Rizzo's wig in the "Sandra Dee" scene, but straight like mine, straight and silky.

She sang familiar music in the mornings, while she served us eggs and sausage and buttermilk biscuits with gravy, music like on the radio. Do you ever think back on old memories like that, or do I ever cross your mind.... When whoever's in New England's through with you, and Boston finds better things to do.... Sweet dreams are made of these, who am I to disagree.... These dreams go on when I close my eyes, every second of the night.... I've had the time of my life, and I owe it all to you....

I loved to listen to her sing. Anything at all. I sang with her, my voice frail and shivery and always just a little off-key. Belinda Carlisle, WHAM, Whitney Houston, Wilson Phillips. I liked the musicals that we kept on videotape, in stiff brown boxes whose plastic spines made noise when you snapped them open. West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, A Chorus Line, Little Shop of Horrors, Godspell, Gypsy, Grease. Suddenly Seymour is standing beside you; you don't need no makeup, wipe that lipstick away.... I have a love, and it's all that I have.... Look at me, there has to be something more than what they see....

She sang that one so beautifully, better than Olivia Newton-John, better than How Great Thou Art. Wholesome and pure, oh so scared and unsure....

I would fall down to a mumbling hum, listening to her, sitting on the kitchen table with my Barbie doll in my lap, the one all in gold, watching my beautiful, moon-blonde mother sway as she dried the breakfast dishes, her voice dawning over the house until it blinded me with my own tears. The poor man's...Sandra Dee....

* * *

Salllllllvation.... Salvation. I put my arms up over my head and spin and spin on the corner of the street, singing the word in low, lullaby tones. I clasp my hands together as though I were praying, and then I laugh and laugh.

I was so frightened before Daddy came to me. Frightened of the Devil. Frightened of Hell, where the Devil would have me for his own child, and the screaming of the damned would be always with me. So frightened. Salva nos, salva nos, Christi Eleison. I cried out for mercy, I cried out for mercy, I cried out for mercy....

God sent his Angel to take away my fears. Salvation. Saaaalllllvaaation....

People walk past me and say wicked things about me. Freak. Lunatic. God will get you for that, he will. God loves all his good little girls, and I've been good. I did as Daddy asked me, even though he never did as I prayed I would.

It was wicked to pray such things. I would kneel down where they could not see me, but I could still hear them together, doing their wicked, pretty things, and I would close my eyes tight and pray to Mary, because it's Mary who loves little girls and understands the troubles of women. Mary, Mary, Stellamaris, make him love me. Make him fly away with me and leave her on the ground where she belongs. I want him to love me like God loved you, sweet Mary. I won't quarrel with him like she does, I'll always be good. Get rid of her somehow, Blessed Virgin. She doesn't love you like I do. Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed art thou among women....

It was wicked to plot with God against Grandmum. I'm very sorry for it now, and I've confessed everything, and I've been punished. I won't pray anymore, not even to save Angel.

But she did answer me, the Virgin did. She whispered it in my ear one night, told me all the secrets of the crying man, the knight of straw and ink. Deliver him, that's what she whispered to me. Give him the Devil's mercy, for he suffers so in this place. Into your hands I commend his spirit, Princess....

I sang to him, let the pictures out of my head for him, and he didn't laugh like the others most often did. He had such big, round eyes. Such lips. Oh, I took his soul into my hands and I snuffed it out like a weak little guttering flame, and when he woke in ashes and chill, I was there, bending over him, singing. Love me, I sang to him. I forswear all others, I wish on my stars for only you, my fine knight, my William. And he put his arms around my shoulders, crying again, and he kissed me so tender and whispered, Such a face. Oh, God, he whispered, all my life....

God provides. Darla hates Him, she says God never did nothing for the likes of her. But Darla wasn't a good girl like I've always been. That's why I got them both, my gentlemen, and she got sent to Hell.

Look at them now. Look at Drusilla's fine gentlemen now. It's enough to make the moon cry itself to sleep.

* * *

Willow can't sing any better than I can, which makes it easy to sing around her. Adia, I do believe I failed you, Adia, I know I let you down.... So come on, come on, and leave me breathless.... Don't speak, I know just what you're saying, so please stop explaining.... Even if you were broke, my love don't cost a thing....

Once when we watched Grease together, I said that we should all get jackets; Buffy and Xander and Mr. Giles and Willow would wear black leather, and Anya and Riley and I would wear pink satin, and instead of fighting, we'd just challenge the vampires to drag races. She hit me with a pillow and we laughed until our sides hurt, and sang very off-key choruses of "Initiative Dropout" and "There Are Worse Things I Could Do (Than Lay a Curse On a Boy Or Two)." I always suspected you secretly wanted me to be a butch, she said, and I said, no, I just secretly want to be a Pink Lady, I swear.

I always did. I can hardly remember a time I wouldn't have sold a kidney just to be invited to one sleep-over party, where girls in skin- tight pants and heavy eyeliner and noisy, nasal voices would pierce my ears and let me be one of them. Not that my father would have let me go if I were invited, probably. But it never mattered, because I was never invited. I kept my head down when I stood in line for a stall in the girls' bathroom at lunch, while girls in skin-tight jeans and square-tipped acrylic fingernails and noisy Ozark accents talked about trading clothes and sneaking out, and I pretended I couldn't hear them, couldn't see them, wasn't there, and didn't long for anything at all. I hid in the biography corner of the library where practically no one ever went, and I pored over Seventeen magazine like it was the Holy Bible, and wondered if there was a spell to make a person normal, just make her like these carefree, breezy, beautiful girls who had dates and best friends and scored in the comfortable middle on all the quizzes.

When I was fifteen, I rented Grease 2. I went to bed afterwards and cried, because of the terrible things that movie had done to my Pink Ladies, my breezy, beautiful, high-spirited imaginary girlfriends. They would never, I sobbed when my mother came in to check on me. They would never let anyone treat them so bad -- not the Pink Ladies. I felt foolish even at the time, much too old to believe there was any such thing as a Pink Lady in the first place. They were just stories, like Luke and Leia, like the Cat in the Hat.

But she didn't laugh. She bent over me, her nose in my hair, and breathed out a long sigh, and she said, Tara, Tara, Tara. Sometimes women do awfully funny things. Especially for love. It wasn't enough; it didn't make me feel any better. I think she knew it, because she didn't say anything else. She sang to me softly. I'm out of my head, hopelessly devoted to you....


I stared at the morning star, my shawl wrapped over my head so I wouldn't hear them fighting. But of course, I did hear. Never stop hearing such voices.

You -- you, always pushing him to behave like a fool, goading him on. Look what price he's had to pay for recklessness! If it didn't seem too small a punishment, I'd kill you right here.

Cor, come on, then, old woman. This I'd like to see.

I hope you do live forever. I hope you suffer two days for every day he suffers.

What about you? Squawking shrill harpy. Y'know, a man doesn't like to have his woman always nagging after him, giving him orders and that rot. Enough to drive a bloke crazy.

Come back, come back, come back! I cried out. The both jumped; I never shout, I'm never a bother like that. Angelus, it's almost morning. You have to come with us!

Shut *up,* Dru! She grabbed my arm and pulled on it. We're not waiting for him.


Hey, leggo of her!

Look at her, can't you see she's lost without him? She can't take care of herself.

She doesn't have to. I'll take care of her.

Saaaave me. Oh, Spike, something's so awfully wrong. Sun's coming -- snake's coming! Ah ah ah, hurts! Oh, I feel such fangs, like a viper biting holes through it's own pretty skin. He's poisoned, Spike, he's full of dirt and needles and *feelings.* Such terrible feelings. Is it coming for all of us, love? Will I be pricked and poked and bitten?

Then tell her to shut up and follow me!

You know something, Darla? *Sod off.*


Who needs you, anyway?

You ungrateful little shit. You take one step away from me and I'll make you so sorry you can't even imagine it.

*For to see Mad Tom of Bedlam, ten thousand miles I'd travel -- Mad Maudlin goes on dirty toes, for to save her shoes from gravel....*

Listen to her. Can you watch her all day and all night, every day, every night? Do you think I can't take her from you? Oho, you bully, you great, bragging tough. What's your unlife worth without your madwoman to pet you and tell you how fine you are?

Bitch. You bitch.

*Still I sing bonnie boys, bonnie mad boys, Bedlam boys are bonnie -- for they all go bare and they live by the air, and they want no drink nor money....*

Never forget it. Now follow me.

Is he coming? Is Angelus coming?

Not today, he said grimly, picking me up in his arms. We' up with him again later on.

*I went down to Satan's kitchen, for to get me food one morning -- and there I saw souls piping hot, all on the spit a'turning....*

* * *

After keeping so many secrets dammed up for so many years, Willow wants to tell me everything. She's like my Granddaddy Maclay, who was in the South Pacific during World War II -- any excuse, no matter how slim, to tell a war story. I never minded. She could have invited me over to change her pillowcases for her, and I wouldn't have minded.

Later, it started to seem really important, like it might save my life someday to know some minute detail of some years-past spell or ambush or conversation with a demon. We went over the stories again and again until I could tell them back to her in almost her exact words, until it was almost like I'd been there.

A lot of the time, those cram sessions ended with a kind of dark nightfall inside us, when we'd both stop breathing and think of nothing but how close she'd come to death, which always led to kissing, and Willow trembling silently in my arms, and I would surprise myself with the way I bit into her neck as she came. Hard, like if I did it right and deep then nothing and no one else would ever be able to get their teeth there again, because her skin, her blood, and her pain would belong to me.

I would drink her blood. If someone was going to, I'd want it to be me and not some demon thing. Not that I want to, not that I want anyone to. But if.

* * *

I wander until I find her, with blood on her teeth, amid stacks of books. Stay away from me, she says, holding up her hands, frowning prettily.

I'm not cross with her. How could I be cross? He's so easy, so awfully, awfully easy to love. And she called me precious. Your precious....

So I smile and hold out my hands, empty, small. Here, birdie, I sing. Birdie, birdie, birdie. Don't be frightened of Drusilla. I like feathers so.

She whips her hair back and says, *Freak.*

Blonde, pretty frown, tossing her head like a pony, looking down on me. I fill up with love, and I open my arms and laugh. Stars race by, time comes and goes so quickly, even after you die. Such change in the world! And such change in my heart, when my fine men that I once loved as wide as heaven are small as nothings now, and Darla puts her head down on my breast. We'll be like nuns, we'll live together in the convent of the lost and pray to each other.

You belonged to him, I explain to her, and her lips quiver. Poor dolly. Miss Edith misses her plastic man. Imagine if she'd known the real one! But you see, I say quickly, quick to comfort her, he belonged to *me.* So I'm your grandmamma. I'll take good care of you. Come home with me, I'll take you to meet your Auntie. We play dress-up every night, and we eat the most delicious men. Do you like the circus? The picture shows? Do you like riding on railroad trains, playing hide-and-seek? It's like Heaven. What's your name?

Harmony, she says, and I clap my hands. I'll be Melody. We shall dance and dance.

* * *

All my life, I've had nightmares about what it would be like to become a demon. I used to dream that I would lose control and hurt my mother, that I would shut her up in the big freezer in the basement, or that I'd dig up bodies out of the churchyard and chew on their bones like a junkyard dog. Terrible nightmares of myself as a thing that made no sense, that ravaged and ate and lashed out, that no one could ever want near them.

Less than a week after my birthday, I had one of them again. I woke up sobbing, and Willow put her arms around me and didn't ask any questions until I was out of tears. She rubbed her dry cheek against my wet one and said, "Better now?"

"I'm not a demon," I said, trying to believe it, amazed at the vast, empty space it left inside me, a self undefined, a life without borders, frightening and beautiful. "I'm not a demon."

"You're an angel."

"I'm just a woman." Like my mother. Like Willow. Like Sandra Dee and Alanis Morissette and Marie Curie and every woman ever. Frightening. Beautiful.

"You're my woman."

* * *

She's too shy to take my hand, but I grab it and pull her along. So young, this one. Just a baby. I can't wait to bring her home.

We walk together down the curly staircase. It's late, and everyone around us is carrying books. I can see the door from here, and people are bringing books in. Silly people. There are millions of books here; why bring your own?

I'm looking down at the floor, the door, and so my shoulder brushes hers before I see her. I turn my head, and oh, the voices! She glows, she shines, and the stars babble in my head, telling me all her secrets.

Such wide, round eyes. Such lips. Such hair, like straw, and the smell of ink all over her fingers. Pretty maid, pretty maid, where are you going?

Where are we going? Harmony asks as I turn back, taking her back up the steps the way we came. *Hush, little baby, don't say a word,* I sing softly to her. *Mamma's going to buy you a mockingbird....* She huffs, but she doesn't pull her hand out of mine.



Tara sees her several times in the library, just out of the corner of her eye. She notices the skirt, which has roses on it, and wonders where it came from; she likes it. She notices the woman, older than the average student, with serious, intense eyes, and takes her for a graduate student. She's attractive; even the slight scarring on her face and throat, like old burns, just seems to make her, well, interesting. Tara notices, finally, that the woman is looking at her. Looking intensely, interested. She smiles, a night-blooming smile, and Tara smiles down at the floor, blushing. It's funny, how nobody ever noticed her at all until Tara wasn't available anymore. She tucks a lock of hair behind her ear, thinking bemusedly of those issues of Seventeen, promising that self-confidence would win you the attention you craved, leaving her puzzled as to how one could be self-confident before anyone wanted to pay any attention.

She doesn't see the other girl, the one who comes up behind her and grabs her around the throat. Tara screeches, but the sound is short and weak. She can't turn her head, but she glimpses fair hair, and the body she's pulled against is thin and female.

And the dark woman with the roses on her skirt is floating down the aisle, smiling with that dark serenity, pressing a finger to her lips to indicate silence. Now it's all too easy to see -- she's so pale, so predatory in her careful study of Tara. She should have known, she should have known. Her eyes flit to her backpack on the floor, with its hairspray bottle full of holy water inside.

These are her last moments, Tara knows. She should be terrified, but it seems so unreal to her, so impossible. How could it end like this, alone in the neurobiology section of the library, speechless, Willow- less, cut off so quickly from her rich, full life? She can only stare, quivering, at those dark eyes, coming closer and closer.

The vampire reaches out one finger and taps Tara's nose. "Hurts," she says, and her voice is slow, like she's turning each sound over and over on her tongue like butterscotch candy. She has an accent, British. It makes Tara think of Mr. Giles, and she wants to cry. She knows she's going to cry, if she doesn't die first. How can it be like this?

"I can feel his hand," she says, her voice lilting like a cradle rocking. She taps Tara's nose another time. "Right here. Did he hurt you, that mean boy? My pretty bully?"

The memory comes full-formed out of nowhere, doubling up, cupping her hands around her nose and feeling her whole face sting and throb. "I got punched," she rasps. "Almost...broke my nose...."

She clucks her tongue. "Naughty man. Mustn't hit a lady. Oh, the modern world. Wouldn't have happened when I was a girl, would it, Miss? Don't fuss, Miss, shhh, don't cry." Her finger trails down, and comes to rest on Tara's lips. "Mmmm," she says. Her eyes close and she sways slowly, side to side. "Kisses. Kisses...."

Tara tries to scream, but the vampire shushes her, and power falls across Tara's mind like a soft blanketing of freezing snow.

"Listen," says another voice, snide and cawing. It's the other woman, the one Tara had forgotten, even with her fingers around Tara's neck. "I keep telling you people, kissing, for me, is about boys. At least one boy has to be involved, or no kissing."

The vampire's eyes, half-lidded, don't move from Tara's. "Run away, little girl. Won't like it at home. No, no, you won't. No circuses for you. No railroad trains."

Tara can feel the blonde woman flounce away indignantly, hears dyke in her muttering, or possibly Spike. Tara isn't sure. The dark one is holding her by the shoulders now, fingers digging into her collarbone, but it's the eyes that are keeping Tara pinned. She struggles, but she knows how weak she is, and so she goes limp, her head falling forward.

The vampire tugs at her, and Tara flinches, waiting for the bite of teeth, but after a moment she realizes that she's only being held, the woman's pale, thin arms wrapped around her, cold cheek pressed to Tara's hair. "I'm very cross just now," she says, and her voice is tiny and it makes Tara ache with a reflexive sympathy that her conscious mind refuses to understand. "I'm very cross with my boy. He's not been faithful as he promised me."

She can't understand, can't think of a single reason this vampire would be talking to her. But it must be good; Tara remembers reading that if you were raped or carjacked, you should talk about yourself, to make yourself seem like more of a real person. Maybe he would be moved by guilt or pity. Vampire attacks could be the same way, couldn't they? So Tara clears her sore throat and says, "That's...awful. You''re so pretty. He shouldn't. Do. Whatever...he did. My...friend Willow, she had a boyfriend. Who cheated on her. I remember how much she cried."

"Willow," she sighs, and Tara regrets saying anything. She doesn't like Willow's name on this thing's lips. "Did you make it better? Did you kiss away her tears and make your Willow well again?"

"Yes," Tara admits.

"Was she angry? Did she want to strip the flesh from his bones and dry him out in the salty sea?"

"Y-yes. I guess so."

"I'm terribly angry. Terribly angry." It was horrible to hear the sob in her voice, even more horrible how her arms tightened around Tara until her bones ached. "I'm the face of his salvation. I'm his black beauty, and he was lucky. He was lucky to have -- he was lucky, lucky, lucky -- Oh, my shiny knight! Oh, my brave boy...."

Inanely, absurdly, Tara has that song stuck in her head now. Lucky, lucky, lucky -- She's so lucky, she's a star -- she cries, cries, cries in the lonely night.... It's undignified, and it's distracting, and she can't get rid of it.

It's shocked almost completely out of her mind when the vampire pulls away enough to cage Tara's face between her hands, her eyes burning through Tara's until she was reduced to emptiness inside. "You must save me. You must come with me, come with me to Darla. You can kiss us well again."

Tara begins to cry when those cold fingers rake lightly at her, although she still doesn't understand why the damn thing hasn't killed her yet. She's spooked, her mind too full of fear and hope to know what the vampire is saying to her. "Salva nos, salva nos," she thinks she hears, like a mournful owl.

Cold fingers gather up Tara's broomstick skirt, and a stray nail cuts lightly along her thigh. Salva nos, she thinks. Latin. Catholic. In movies, she's seen the desperate victim pray, but she can't quite call the prayers to mind; not enough movies. All Tara can remember is "pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death," and she will not think of death, she can't. She just can't.

She closes her eyes, and the vampire's other hand pinches tighter along the bones of Tara's cheek and skull, fighting against the slickness of tears on her skin. It hurts, and the pain startles Tara into hard, concrete memory. Her mother's voice, whispering over her in the dark, the glow of stars circling half-visibly like a crown around her white-blonde head. Tara's lips begin to move, clumsily at first, and then faster and faster as nails rake up her leg and the dark woman coos obscenely at her ear. "H-h-hear now...the words, the, the words of the Star Goddess...." she says, hating the way her voice sounds in contrast to the memory of her mother's.

"Oooo," the vampire purrs into her ear. "Stars."

"...the dust of whose feet are the...h-h-hosts of heaven...whose body...encircles the universe...." Tara cries out, a wracking, mewling little sob, when finger sink into her like teeth, fingernails like fangs that draw no blood. "I who am the beauty of the green earth...." she says, pressing ahead, because there has to be something, something she can do. Tara wants her mother back. She wants nothing more in this world than her mother to wake her up from this.

She finds herself speaking faster and faster, even as the fingers drinking from her stay slow. "...all things proceed and unto Me they must return let My worship be in the heart that rejoices..." Tara's body jerks at the sound of something tearing, but she can't stop whispering her mother's prayer, faster and faster. "...Ihavebeenwithyoufromthebeginning and I amthatwhichisattained - - at the end -- of desire...."

"Shhhh, shhh," the vampire soothes, tugging at her hair in a rough caress, rubbing her ridged, demonic face against Tara's. "I don't know this song. Sing a different one. Sing one I know, and we'll sing together."

Tara has no earthly idea what kind of music this woman would want to sing. She tries to think. She seems...old. Old songs. All she knows is Greensleeves, and she can't remember the words right now.

There's something dry and uncomfortable about the way the woman's strong fingers are brushing flatly back and forth against Tara's half-damp clit, and right alongside it, the tremor of a solid, focused pleasure, like the one piano key striking firmly, the hammer against the wire. It's not music, but there's music there somewhere, or might be. She feels the mouth, not so cold, on her ear, and the shock has set in so deeply that Tara can only be a little surprised to realize that the wetness she feels is not just saliva. It's blood. She's bleeding from somewhere by her ear. Daaaaisy, Daaaaisy.... the vampire sings, a low thrum, almost a rustling. Give me your answer, do....

She does know the song. She had a cassette tape, with Mickey Mouse on the front. She remembers. "Sing sing sing. Sing." It's a plea, and a command, and suddenly pain wells up in Tara's ear; she's foggy with it, confused and desperate. She'll do anything, anything. It's the freefall surrender of the worst nightmares.

I-I'm...half...crazy.... Tara manages, hoarsely, and the vampire moans in delight. There's more tearing of cloth, and more hot branding of cuts and blood and tears burning backwards through Tara's eyeballs. ...all for you.... They're singing together, not quite on the same notes at the same time, but still unmistakably a duet.

* * *

Miss Daisy cries, and Drusilla clucks her tongue. When she was just a little girl, she cried the sea dry. She remembers. The shame. The beatings. The penance. The nightmares. The dead bodies. The Devil. Snake in the woodshed....

She can stop Miss Daisy's crying; she remembers how. Kisses. Scratches. Her hand isn't so huge and strong as Daddy's was, but Drusilla is a very clever girl, more clever than people think, because of the way she's lagging sometimes, and the way no one else can hear all her voices. She understands the principle. Pain and pleasure.

Her stiff body crumples at last, crashing back against the shelf, knocking books everywhere. "Please," she begs. "Why are you doing this?"

"I'll bite," Drusilla promises, smoothing at Miss Daisy's fine hair. "Tea on the trains. I like daisies, but they always die when I plant them. You make three, Miss. Third time's a charm. My lucky charm, you are, Miss Daisy. I'll have you right as rain -- not long now. And if that diamond ring turns brass...Mamma's going to buy you a looking-glass...."

Drusilla holds her lucky dolly tightly in her arms, so she doesn't wriggle and fall down. She does it the way Angel liked to, with teeth and hands, so that the girl's face is a scape like the sunset of red blood and red blush and twilight bruising in the shape of Drusilla's fingertips, glistening with salt water and mucous. She remembers the sweet ache of his claws, and much more recently, the sweet ache of Darla's fists and hard words and her arms draped like a fragile chain around Drusilla's neck -- like a daisy chain.

She likes daisies. But they wither and die whenever she plants them in the ground. Living things become cross when they're planted, Drusilla has discovered. That's why she carried Grandmum up toward the stars, up where she could bloom.

They'll blossom like the moon, the three of them. The girl's head lolls back, her eyes glassy and her breathing quick and choking. Drusilla sees the yielding there, the place past terror, and she sees the wickedness, the black delight. Oh, Drusilla remembers. She was young once, just a small thing like this one. She remembers how it should feel. Miss Daisy must love her now, just as Drusilla loves her Daddy, when he isn't beastly and warm like souls fresh out of the oven.

Drusilla kneels on the library carpet and puts her arms around the girl's hips, feeling her wobbly knees batter like butterfly wings against her chest. "We're having a party," she coaxes. "Do you like to play dress-up? Would you like to be the Queen of the World? Don't you think you'd like to sit next to me on the train? The boys have gone and left me and Grandmum behind in the night, but I like you better, anyway. He was never any fun at tea parties. You'll be my dolly, won't you, Miss? I see such dreams in your mind, sweet things and flowers and pink, kissing things. We'll have such a party."

She bites the wide vein inside the girl's leg, the one that runs like a river.

* * *

Tara, Tara, Tara. Sometimes women do awfully funny things.

They shop together, walking at night down Rodeo Drive. One is like a slim white candle, though her eyes are cold and ancient. She wears modern things, hot pink denim and baby-doll shirts that show off the flash of her navel, and she tosses her hair back when anyone's eyes linger on her too long, dismissing them from her sight. She's the oldest. She began the game. She hides their secrets, and she tastes like death and old pleasures. They call her Darling, the dear one, and they fear the sickle of her smile. They love her, too.

You're my woman. I am, you know. Yours. You have to be with.... I am. Tara chants her lover's name over and over in her head, even as she lets her lips nuzzle at this stranger's breasts, which are sweet- tasting with the cloying thickness of blood.

One moves like silk and clouds across the full moon. She likes to wrap herself in veils and the suggestion of roses, which remind her of the Queen of Heaven. She walks between the others, humming forgotten songs, one arm around each of their waists. For all that divides her ladies, her dolly darling doves, from one another, one thing unites them: her blood. She has fed them from her pale breast. She has carried them up to the sky and made white gloves to fit them. She's always been a good mummy. Even her Miss Edith was always safe with her, always rosy and happy, except when Edith was bad.

For I have been with you from the beginning. And I am that which is attained at the end of desire.

The third is young, very young indeed. She has a sweet smile, and hair that she likes to finger and nibble and twist up around her pinky. It's bright red; she dyes it. She likes to wear platform shoes, and her favorite thing in the world, other than the doll that her mother gave her, is the shiny pink jacket that she won't take off, not even when they all sleep piled up together in their daylight hiding place. She likes flowers in her hair, especially white chrysanthemums. Her name is Daisy. She can't carry a tune, but she likes singing as the three of them stalk the city. Songs from the radio, mostly, but sometimes she'll sing the old ones that Drusilla likes best. *Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme...Remember me to the one who lives there -- for she was once a true love of mine....*