Now Drusilla sees ashes and blood and honey, and oh, so much dancing, the people dance for Drusilla, all puppets on a string, and the air always smells of jasmine and lilies, the flowers of caskets and hearses, to clean the air of death.
“Dru!” Grandmummy calls her sharply, calling her back to this world of dirt and squirming, the scared nasty people screaming and crying because the Angel-Beast wouldn’t save their filthy hides. Clinging and crying and there’s the boy again.
Drusilla can see his future, and he’s nothing. Darla likes him because he worships her yellow hair the way the poets did, the way Spike worshipped the soles of Drusilla’s slim white feet, his fingers tracing them ticklishly. But Spike is no more; his heartfire tastes of ashes, his lips of other girls and other dreams. He does not love her any more, and she cannot weep a tear.
“Yes?” Drusilla asks, hissing at the boy. Foolish boy. Half a year, half a year, half a year onward, and he will run, tired and afraid of this world and this ripe, unyielding wickedness. Darla will never kiss him the way he wishes to be kissed, her mouth hard against his the way Angel’s was, once. The boy wants Angel, but does not dare try his luck.
“Come now, sweetness-heart,” Darla coos, offering her the doublespeaking man, a smell of wine and meat on him. “You’re hungry. Look at all the lovely people, and all of them worth a taste.”
Drusilla laughs and twirls, landing in Darla’s arms. All of them for her! To dance, to drink, to make quite cold and beautiful, like dolls. And oh. Oh. Oh.
The girl. Soft skin, green eyes, and so much sweet fear, it makes Drusilla dizzy. As rich as Turkish delight and brandy, the smell of Uncle’s tobacco-box, the fineness and rareness of silver hairbrushes with filigree. The girl with her fine bones and neck as long as a swan’s, all vanity and shallow desire.
“I want her,” Drusilla whispers in Darla’s ear. “Isn’t she luscious?”
Darla looks, but doesn’t see. Darla, twice-born Darla, precious daughter, grandmother, beloved thing of Drusilla’s heart, and she’s all glass and ice and wrought iron steel, twisting away from Drusilla and rolling her eyes.
“Her? Oh, God, Dru,” Darla says. Grandmummy is disappointed, but Dru knows why. “Fine. Do what you want with her, but there are so many better prizes than that.”
Drusilla smiles. Hers. All hers, and Darla doesn’t see what Dru can see, more than the fear as sweet as rose petals scattered before a bride, as delicate as vines of grapes.
“Come here, dear,” Drusilla says, gliding across the floor. The girl looks around for help. She wants to scream but no one will hear; she wants to hide, but most of the guests at the party are dead and gone and cannot help her. They’d been so nice and warm, and now there are only a few of them crawling toward corners and cringing in pain. “Come and play with me, pretty bird.”
The girl can’t move, she’s shivering so hard, looking back and forth and forth and back and the pearls around her neck are about to snap because she’s got them wrapped around her fingers.
Dru looks at her and suddenly her head aches. Suddenly…
“Oh, what will you be?” she asks.
“What?” the girl whimpers, looking at the boy, who shrugs. Nasty, wicked boy. All good boys should protect girls; offer their own hearts up in place of woman. Fair and proper. Mummy always said it was duty, that gentlemen protected ladies and one day, if Drusilla was a lady, she’d have her own knight.
The knights are all gone to war and gone away, and Drusilla can only see the blood.
“Oh, my hearts and stars,” Drusilla says, her head aching at the sight of this girl, this wicked, wicked girl who has fallen to her knees in fear. “You…”
The girl is wearing suspenders and black lace underthings. A grey felt hat tilted over one eye. A crisp white blouse that smells of perfume and cigarettes and whiskey, revealing only a hint of the clean white skin beneath. Her dark hair is cut short, slicked back, and curled, and her eyes are as dark as the midnight. Dru is painting her lips darker than blood.
Beneath the perfume and tobacco, she smells like clean linen and soap.
“You must learn German,” Dru says to her songbird in the white leather chair. She is biting on her fingernails, a habit that Dru cannot break her darling of. “We will take you to Berlin. All the best singers go to Berlin to sing in the jazz clubs.”
“Oh?” the girl asks, her thighs white silk and inviting. But Dru will wait ’til later to taste the sweetness of honey and the girl’s skin. Milk and clover and satin, she is. A rich and melting Oriental delight.
“We shall darken your eyes and paint your lips and curl your hair and you shall sing for the queen at tea.”
“And what do I get?” she asks, biting on her thumbnail and looking at Dru with wicked hopes in her eyes that makes the heart almost beat.
“Cakes and candy and flowers and lovely boys laid at your feet, diamonds and flasks of wicked, wicked drink. They’ll love you.”
The girl claps her hands in delight. “I love diamonds,” she purrs.
“Sing for us? Sing for Mummy,” Dru orders.
“Isn’t that what I always do?” the girl asks, her smile sparkling and crackling. “We all sing for Mummy. All the birds and trees and stars and girls, awash in a river of blood.”
Drusilla looks behind the chair where the girl is smiling and singing that she can’t give her anything but love, pour la vie en rose, des nuits d’amour a plus finir…
There are dolls on the floor, their porcelain faces all shattered, their hair matted with blood, and Drusilla looks up to see her Spike, held to the ceiling with red hot pokers, dripping with blood and pus and hate.
“Sing for Mummy, Spike,” the girl says with a laugh. “Sing for your best-beloved girl, if you can.”
Spike opens his mouth and blood falls out. The girl has taken his tongue to use as a pocket-handkerchief.
“What the hell is she saying?” Darla yells. “Damn it, what did you say to her?”
The wicked girl is trembling, her arm hanging broken at her side. “I didn’t,” she wails, and Dru’s head is beating like the militia drums at dawn. She danced once with a naval lieutenant, the quadrille and waltz and polonaise. Daddy took her to a grand ball in Paris and the wars in the Balkans. The pounding of a heartbeat is a drum.
“You will be the devil’s daughter and twice as grand,” Drusilla says, moving quite precisely as the little stars explode in her heads like gunpowder. “You’ll love an Englishman and he’ll take your head.”
Her skin is quite soft and smells of the finest French harlotries. And her lips are oh-so-slightly open, bruised from all the biting she’s done to keep them closed, and Dru can almost taste her blood at the tip of her tongue.
“I’ll do anything,” the girl promises in a high whisper, eyes sliding to Darla. “Please.”
“Lovely girl,” Drusilla coos, grasping her around the waist and baring her neck. “I should kill you. The world would be quite a bit safer.”
The boy looks confused. Stupid boy. The girl will destroy him for this, if she has to wait a half-dozen years. Her heartbeat is telling her passionate hatred for the boy, lying boy, boy who spread her legs and called her whore. Drunk on wine and power. Darla’s in the box! Darla! Too drunk, too quick, falling together on a summer night and hating each other for it later.
“I don’t understand,” she claims, but Drusilla knows. She can hear the secrets beneath the beating drums. The mouse who trembles is a snake hiding beneath the shade. The girl is feverish, so warm that she might burn Drusilla’s fingers, which are greedily opening that black dress, squeezing the flesh beneath. “What did I do?”
“You’ll see yourself,” Drusilla whispers, her lips trembling against the girl’s seashell ear. “Would you like to see the world I see? It’s lace and cakes and high tea. When you die, love will blossom like a wormy rose, and your return heralds a moon drenched in blood and a world of lies. They should be careful not to let you die. Tell them.”
The girl squeaks and Drusilla can’t resist the smell of the sweetest skin and blood that lies so near to her waiting mouth. She breaks the girl’s skin, savoring the gush of warm, wet blood welling into her mouth, flavored by fear and curiosity.
“Spike!” the Slayer cries. She treads over Angel’s dust and Darla’s dust, and Drusilla understands at last the girl’s hate, what has been locked inside this creature, a secret. The last secret. “Why…”
“I couldn’t have him warning you, now, could I?”
Blood flows again and the world changes. Key. A Key, a way to open the door to all worlds.
Drusilla can see the end of the days and nights. And the end to tea, the end to crumpets, the end to lace and fast horses and dancing to Chopin.
Not this world. Not yet. Drusilla’s Mummy is coming, and she cannot come, smelling of night-blooming jasmine and love, if Drusilla takes the girl, the night-girl, the girl who doesn’t know.
“You’ll have to live,” Dru says regretfully, dropping the girl to the floor like a wilted bouquet of roses not meant for her. “It’s a pity. It would have been a lovely end of the world…”