Violet knew the House was different the minute she saw it. It felt like an angry sore on the face of the Earth, violent, full of bad feeling, abandoned, broken and remade wrong. She liked it. It seemed more like family then her myopic parents: the psychologist who couldn’t see past his own dick he was busy shoving into his 20 year old blonde student’s pussy and the earth mother who couldn’t even make a baby correctly. They hadn’t looked at her and actually seen her for years. She was a failed experiment. The only purpose she brought as far as they were concerned was as a way for Vivian or Ben to occasionally try to feel better about themselves by “bonding” with her, which really just meant trying to fix her for a while before giving up. Bullshit.
This house though, standing alone among the other homes on the street, fenced in and entangled in trees and vines: isolated, proud and strong… Ignoring the realtors babbling on about the house having real Tiffany fixtures, Violet just drinks in the House.
Hallie starts barking at the basement door and glad for an escape from the emotional vacuums, Violet put up only a token resistance before following the baby-substitute, finding it barking at a set of glass doors, stuck at first but eventually opening under her hands with a jerk, as though the House was making sure she really wanted to enter the basement. The lower basement was dank, labyrinthine and grey, but despite the time it had spent uninhabited she heard no life, no skuttle of cockroaches, no click click click of mice running or nibbling.
‘Like a tomb.’ She thought, amused at her own macabre imagination. Then feeling watched, and unwanted, she frowned and left, retracing her steps to find the genetic donors and the realtor, in time to hear:
“Oh god, they didn’t die in here or anything did they?” Vivian asked
“Yes actually both of them, murder suicide. I sold them the house too. They were just the sweetest couple.” She sighed, “You never know I guess.”
“That explains why it’s half the price of every other house in the neighborhood I guess.” Ben opinioned, fidgeting with his fedora nervously.
“I do have a very nice midcentury ranch, but it’s in the valley, and you’re not going to get a third of the house for twice the price.” She warned, obviously hoping to get rid of the House but wanting a sale either way.
“Where did it happen?” Violet asked, holding Hallie; there was no way her mother would buy the House if it ate the dog before they even finished moving in.
“The basement.” She replied, glancing hopefully at Violet for backup.
“We’ll take it.” There was no way in hell she was going to leave some place like this, that made the blood in her veins sing, for some split level ranch shit hole in the middle of smogsville. She poisoned her lungs her way. She smirked as Ben and Vivian turned and stared at her in shock, they probably hadn’t remembered she would have an opinion on this, or maybe had gone back to Perfect-Violet in their heads and she’d burst the bubble again. It wouldn’t be the first time.
They moved in the next day. And Violet was exiled to teenage hell, otherwise known as high school. ‘If these are the best years of your life you’re either a fucking loser or being murdered during graduation.’ She decided, lifting her cigarette to her mouth, enjoying the hot smoke curling through her lungs and blowing out through her nose like a dragon. She felt no urge to fit in, California was lame, the only thing of value she had found thus far was the House, and she had to wait until 3 o’clock before she could return to its questionable sanctuary. Her goal was mainly to go entirely unnoticed and unbothered and graduate without anyone the wiser or any teacher being able to remember her other than ‘that quiet girl in the third row’. Sadly this goal was destroyed utterly within her first 10 minutes on school grounds.
“Hey!” a loud whiny yelp burst into her thoughts. Violet glanced up and saw three beauty queen types striding toward her, the one in front (in a white leopard skin jacket of all things) was doing the yelling. “Student council passed a rule against smoking in public places!”
“Second hand smoke kills.” nodded backup singer number 1.
Hoping to avoid them remembering her, or catching anyone else’ attention, Violet replied “I’m new, I didn’t know.” She dropped the cigarette and went to stamp it out with her boot, only for Leopard-girl to screech and snap up the cigarette “What the hell is wrong with you!? People SIT here, they EAT here!”
“You don’t know me, why are you doing this?” ‘and who the hell eats off the ground? California is full of crack heads.’
Back singer 1 replied “Leah’s grandmother died of lung cancer; she takes this stuff pretty seriously.”
Leah thrust the still smoking butt into Violets face “Eat it.”
Violet blinked in shock. “No.”
“Eat it. Or I’m going to kick the SHIT out of you!”
Backup singer 2 finally spoke up and said “Come on Leah, it’s enough.”
“No, no no! I want to see her eat it!” and then she actually had the nerve to grab Violets face. ‘Fuck no.’ Violet recoiled from the crazy girl as number 1 yelps “Seriously Leah, she’s like, twelve!” and Leah brings the smoking cigarette close to her face. Half trying to put out the flame, half purely to piss Leah off, Violet spits in her direction, landing right on Leopard’s face, which is contorted in rage. “You are DEAD! YOU HEAR ME! DEAD!”
Violet just smirked and dashed off while Leah was comforted by her hangers on. ‘Well that was fun. Guess I’m gonna end up making an impression here whether I like it or not.’ She chuckled. She found the office easily enough, the biggest clue being the large sign above the building reading “ADMINISTRATION OFFICE” in four languages, and settled her schedule, the usual bullshit, she was repeating algebra again, having rarely bothered to show up for it at her old school. She doubted she’d show up for it here much either. English for sophomores, American History part 2, gym, drivers ed, which she’d already passed in Massachusetts, bio, given the options between Spanish, French, Chinese and Italian she’d gone with the French. Spanish was for the people who actually expected to work with Mexicans or who were too stupid to learn the other languages. Unmotivated she was, stupid she was not. And finally, given the choice between a free period and art, she’d chosen the free period at the end of the day, more time to go anywhere she wanted. Freedom was a limited commodity when you’re 16.
Then she skipped first period to go the library and asked the librarian if there were books on local history available. There were, but none were helpful when it came to her house.
Violet frowned, then turned to the online card catalogue and typed in her new address, and was pleased when several books came up “Murder Houses of Los Angeles”, “California Haunted Houses”, “Weird CA”, “Doctors for the Stars”, “The Westfield High Massacre”, “Diagnosing Tate Langdon”, “The Franklin Murders” and several articles. All were at different branches though. Violet cursed under her breath.
Getting back to the House was like being able to breathe again, like something was released that had been wound too tight, like a nicotine hit after being stuck with idiots all day. As she stepped into the house it creaked, and she had the feeling it was saying ‘Oh, you’re back are you?’ and she smirked to herself as she whispered “Yup, I’m home…” before trotting up the stairs into her bedroom, set up on the opposite side of the house from the Master bedroom, in an area almost entirely hers.
She had noticed an odd smell was filtered through the house, smoky and vaguely smelling like soup, when Violet heard her mother’s muffled scream. She raised her head off her pillow and propped herself on her elbows, listening for another noise, but heard nothing but Bens footsteps running up the attic stairs. She patted the wall fondly “I hope you didn’t eat Hallie, she’d make you puke from all that organic stuff Mom feeds her.” And made her way up through the hallway, up the creaky attic stairs to see what had scared Vivian so much.
Her first impression was that Anthony Stewart-Head’s Repo-Man had hung himself from the attic ceiling in complete costume. Then she realized she what she was seeing wasn’t far from the truth. “Holy shit.” She grinned. This place was just getting more and more awesome. It was some sort of gimp suit! Bondage to the extreme. All black – leather? Latex? With silver nipple chains. She was highly annoyed when Vivian swept her away, ordering Ben to throw out the suit. What a waste.
Violet had started cutting years ago. It wasn’t for any of those stupid emo reasons other kids did. She wasn’t trying to get her parents to pay attention to her – although she enjoyed leaving the door open in case they saw and had a heart attack, she wasn’t trying to get anyone’s attention, she wasn’t trying to find release exactly; her own blood fascinated her. The red liquid was all that kept her, Vivian, Ben, and everyone else alive. How weird was that? It could carry disease, plague, pestilence, or life. Blood could give life or take it away. Blood was power over life and death. And re-routing her own, when she wanted, how she wanted, that was power too.
The first time she took the razor blade, newly sanitized, and with a practiced motion cut through the delicate skin of her wrist, the House shuddered, and something, integral clicked inside, as her essence splashed onto the sink.
“You’re doing it wrong. If you’re trying to kill yourself, cut vertically, they can’t stitch that up.”
Violets head snapped up to look in the mirror, finding a boy, her age, maybe older. She whirled, making sure he wasn’t just in the mirror, summoned up by her blood sacrifice to the House. But no, he was there leaning against the door frame, dirty blonde hair masking dark eyes full of mischief, pain, fury, and predatory amusement. His clothes are similar to hers, grunge-esque looking, ratty jeans and sweater, dirty trainers. He smirked at her confusion and bravado as she snarled “How did you get in here?”
“If you’re trying to kill yourself, you might also try locking the door.” He pulled the door closed behind him, leaving Violet to finger the already clotting cuts, and whisper to the House “I hope he’s one of yours House.” She felt pulled to him somehow. For some reason the boy she had just met, who was giving her unsolicited advice on killing herself, called to the part of her that was just waking up, the woman in her had stood up and taken an interest, leaving her aroused and confused.
“Shit.” She muttered.
His name was Tate. He was one of her father’s patients. That didn’t bother her particularly. She sometimes went through Ben's psychiatry books and searched for signs of different psychosis and decorated her room with the ideas. Right now she had a decapitated dolls head on her dresser in case Ben or Vivian got nosy. That would interest them before they could hunt down her cigarette stash. She wouldn’t have particularly minded being interested in a ghost or whatever, but it was much less Twilight more Hannibal Lector this way. Fucking Twilight.
“Are you taking your medications?” Ben asks Tate. They’re in a session in Ben’s office, which is one of the coolest rooms in the house. The doors to the office are all locked during Ben's work hours, but when she tries the knob it silently opens under her hand, and she’s able to hear.
“Yes.” Tate replies lazily, lounging on the couch opposite the psychiatrist.
“Any side effects?”
“I was taking them at night, but they kept me up.”
“So what did you do?”
“Started taking them in the morning.”
“Light sensitivity is pretty common.”
“Maybe. Yeah. I think so.” Tate’s eyes are focused on the ceiling, his hands fiddling with something Violet can’t make out. A knife? Or a coin?
“When I was in medical school they brought in this CIA interrogator to help us better identify who was lying. This guy was like six foot, fifty.” Ben raised his hand above his head to emphasize. “Crew cut, must have been one hell of an interrogator, because let me tell you something I’d be terrified to lie to him.”
This caught Tate's attention. Violet watched as he rose to his feet, an ugly look of hatred and anger on his beautiful face. “You think I’m lying to you?” he asked, his voice calm and unaffected despite the emotions marring his complexion.
“Light sensitivity is not a side effect of Lexapro Tate.” Ben chides from his seated position, as Tate switches to a rocking chair.
“So you lied to me.” Tate seems half delighted half annoyed at this deceit.
“Doesn’t matter. What matters if you’re telling the truth about doing these things to your classmates. If you’re actually a danger to society, the law says that I have to report you to the police.”
Tate rocked back and forth and asked curiously “Did you call them?”
Ben gave a wistful would-be wise expression, and stood. “Not yet. I’ve treated psychotics before, and people with the right combination of chemical imbalance and psychological damage can’t be reached.”
For the first time Violet saw Tate looking… vulnerable. It made her want to hit something. Preferably her father. Such a weak man shouldn’t be able to have any power over someone like Tate.
“You think that’s me? You think I can’t get better?” Tate asked
“You?” Ben snorted. Violet sneered. The man didn’t even realize what he was looking at, how rare a creature he was treating, and he chooses to respond to the one chance he has to get Tate to really open up, with sarcasm? Fucking idiot! She seethed. “You kidding me, you’re hopeless.” He laughed and Tate laughed too, but she could tell Tate had locked back up, and was laughing at Ben, not with him, and perhaps at himself for his moment of weakness.
“Everybody can get better Tate! Everyone!” Ben pontificated. “I just think you’re scared. Of what, I’m not sure yet, maybe rejection, certainly because of what your father did to you.”
Tate glanced down and looked up through his lashes, hiding a wicked glint. “I was afraid my big dick wouldn’t work.”
Ben laughed out “What?”
Tate snickered. “Yeah, that’s why I didn’t take the meds. I was afraid my big dick wouldn’t work. Because I met someone.” And then without warning, his eyes met hers over Ben's shoulder and it was better than all the clichés, he made her whole body quiver.
He had found her somehow, escaped Ben the therapist-warden and Vivian the truant officer, and made it to the castle beyond the goblin city. She had a feeling the House was helping him for some reason, but she wasn’t about to complain. They were comparing scars. His wrist was extended to her, pale and thin and riddled with white lines.
“This one I did when my dad first left. I was ten I think.” He points to another “This one a year later. New school. Got beat up.”
She offered her own arm, the lines mixed white, pink, and red, by levels of age. “Last week, first day at my new school which sucks.”
“Westfield?” he asked knowingly
“The worst. I got thrown out of there.”
“Good. You can give me lessons. I hate it here. I hate everyone. All their bourgie designer bullshit, the east coast was much cooler. At least we had weather.” Who the fuck needed a 500 dollar purse!? It showed stupidity and gullibility, not wealth and status in Violets view.
“I love it when the leaves change.”
“Yeah me too!” Fuck. That was just… girly. Damn teenage hormones.
Tate stood, wandering around her room. “Why did you move here?”
“My Dad had an affair. My Mom literally caught him in the act.”
“That’s horrible. If you love someone you should never cheat on them, or leave them. Never.” She couldn’t tell whether he was being sincere or mocking her. Possibly both.
“Right? I know. And the worst part is that six months earlier my mom had this brutal miscarriage. The baby was seven months old, we had to have this macabre funeral. Have you ever seen a baby coffin?”
He turned from her desk, kneeling before her and took her hands, looking her in the eye. “I’m sorry.” The emotions coming off him, the feelings he was producing in her were too intense. She stood and changed the subject. “Why are you seeing my Dad?”
“Don’t ask questions you already know the answer to. You’re smarter than that.” He remonstrated with a frown.
Violet laughed softly, turning off her ipod which had been playing a song by The Smiths. “Wanna listen to Morrisey? He’s cool. And he’s pissy and he hates everyone and everything.” They grinned conspiratorially.
“Got any Kurt Colbain on that thing?” he raised his eyebrows challengingly.
Before she could answer however they were interrupted. “What are you doing in here?” Ben.
“Just listening to music Dad.” Violet replied innocently.
“You need to leave Tate, I’m sorry. You shouldn’t be in here and I think you know that. Now please…” he gestured at the door. Tate stood and walked toward the door, pausing in front of Ben. “What’s that thing you think I’m afraid of? Fear of rejection?” he strode out not waiting for a reply, Ben seemed to be holding back a growl of frustration or anger, turning to her and commanded “Stay. Away from him!”
“Dad we didn’t do anything…” Violet replied, blinking in surprise at Ben’s sudden interest in, well anything other than himself.
“You heard me!” Ben snaps, a bang coming from the hall, the pounding of feet down the stairs, and Tate yelling something to himself on the way down.
Ben left after a final glare and Violet locked the door after him and whacked the wall with an open palmed hand. “You couldn’t have warned me he was coming?” she muttered to the House, which responded with a soft thump somewhere in the attic above her room. “I’d be happy to give you whatever it is you’re after if I knew what it was.” She told the ceiling, lying on her bed. “As long as it doesn’t involve giving up what I want.” She finished with a glance at the closed door. The House gave a predatory hum. Violet smiled.
There was something up with the maid. The House enjoyed mind fucking everyone else, with the exception of Violet – although she wondered occasionally if she was just already mentally fucked up – but it skipped Moira entirely. Or if it didn’t, Moira seemed resigned to it and didn’t mention anything, not even when blood stains appeared where they shouldn’t. She just patiently cleaned it up. And sometimes out of the corner of her eye Violet thought she saw her flicker, not in a disappearing kind of way, but like a hologram deactivating over something in the movies. When she went to look closer, it was just Moira in the same old and worn maid outfit, her ghost eye staring at her blankly.
And then she saw her coming onto Ben in his study, which Violet had been spying on to find out what was going on with Tate, and to see if he left the liquor cabinet unlocked. Moira was acting, really sexual for someone who must have been in her 60s or 70s, despite her bright red hair. And with Ben no less. Ew. She watched for a while in mixed horror and fascination, it was like watching a train wreck. Then the House decided to make a noise, catching Ben’s attention. He was up and pushing the old woman away yelling after Violet as she darted from the scene. That was one situation she did not want to analyze on any level.
“I didn’t want to see that either, but did you have to give me away?” she demanded sourly to a window. Great. Now she had to go to school. Fuuuuuck.
Fighting Leah and thing one and thing two was becoming as common place as homeroom, Violet thought idly, dodging a fist from Leah.
“What is wrong with you bitch?” Violet snarked, taking a slap from one of the fashion stooges.
“Did she just call me a bitch!?” Leah demanded, outraged, as though Violet’s spitting in her face on her first day hadn’t been proof enough that Violet wasn’t going to take her personal vendetta against her sitting down.
“Sounded like bitch?” thing two said
“Seriously!” Violet smirked, drawing on all the sessions she’d overhead in her 16 years. “Mommy drink too much? Daddy love your brother more? Your uncle play with your titties when you were a kid? I’m not scared of you!”
Leah snarls “You should be!”
It was a Mexican standoff. Until Leah twitches. Then Violet pulls a footballer move, charging her in the stomach and knocking her on her ass, where they continue to scrap, with the other two trying to help Leah but mostly getting in each other’s way.
“Fight fight fight!” students surround them in a circle.
Violet, noticing that the trio of idiots has finally managed to make sense of their limbs, and as a result of out numbering her, is beating her, searches for a quick solution. A soft pop hiss near her ear makes her glance sideways. Her cigarette. The cause of yet another brawl. ‘Let’s see how SHE likes eating it.’ Violet grabs it and stabs the lit end into the nearest limb, Leah’s arm.
Leah screams “She freaking burnt me!”
Violet grinned at the smell of burnt flesh as she darts away as she notices the crowd dissipating and teachers arriving. ‘Never around when you need them of course.’ Comes the caustic thought. Still, for three against one, she kicked some fashion drone ass. It lifted a bit of the hollow feeling being out of the House left behind. The tug was constant now, like a sirens call singing sailors to their deaths on the rocks. Although she’s not particularly afraid of death. She has a feeling she’d end up just staying in the House even if she died. And since that’s what she’d prefer anyway… but she refuses to be a stupid statistic of teenage suicide. Lame.
She manages to get home without further incident, only to be caught by her mother in the kitchen. She thinks the House tried to warn her, but she hasn’t quite figured out its language of bumps, thumps, bangs, whines, groans, creaks and sighs. Not when she’s got a major headache going anyway.
“What happened to your face?” Vivian asks, staring horrified at the blood coming down from the fedora.
“It fell down some stairs.” Violet replies with a grin and tries to leave it at that. Nope. Seems Mom’s in a good mood.
“Sit down.” She pats the bar stool and gets a paper towel wet.
“I’m fine!” Violet mutters, but sits anyway, because she’s feeling a bit dizzy, and staggering about like a drunk won’t convince her mother to leave her alone. Besides, it’s nice to be pampered after winning a fight.
“If you don’t clean those up properly they’ll get infected.” Vivian warns her in a mothering fashion, dabbing at the cut. Violet holds back an eye roll. She’s got the hand of disinfecting cuts by now, but Vivian doesn’t know that. “Was it a girl or boy?”
“Girls. Three of them.” Violet grinned slightly
“Hope they look worse. You know their names?” Vivian asks lightly
“I’m not narking.”
“You want Dad and I to look into switching schools? There are some good private schools in the area.”
“I’m NOT running away. I’m not scared of them.” The idea makes her snort. A shadow darts past the window and the House sighs hungrily.
“You’re not scared of anything. When you were in kindergarten you had me pick you up from a sleepover party because the other girls insisted on keeping a nightlight on.”
Violet hid a grin. In that tiny circle of light the dark outside becomes impenetrable, menacing and vicious. But if you kept the light out, accepted and realized that as long as you were in the dark, anything that was hiding there couldn’t see you anymore than you could see them, you were fine. That was the rational of six year old Violet.
Vivian continued. “You got the short end of the stick with this one, kiddo. The move. Dad and I have been pretty hard to live with for a while now.”
Violet, thinking back to the freaky scene that morning with Moira, murmurs, “I just don’t get why you guys won’t get divorced if you’re so miserable.”
“We still love each other.” Vivian said firmly.
“Really?” Violet asked incredulously. “Could have fooled me. I thought you hated each other, well, at least you hated him. I don’t blame you. He was a shithead.”
Vivian gave her a look.
“ … sorry.” One of Vivian’s pet peeve words was shit, ironic, since it was so organic and all.
Vivian smiles “It’s alright. He was a shithead.”
Violet grins. Vivian’s not so bad as Ben. She’s just a wimp, afraid of… “What are you scared of? You said I’m not scared of anything. But what scares you?”
“Lately? Everything.” She sighs. “That’s why we’re not getting a divorce. Your Dad’s the only one who keeps me from feeling afraid all the time.”
Violet nods, and leaves the kitchen.
“I hate her. I want to kill her!” Violet growls, pacing the room angrily.
“Then do it. One less high school bitch in the world making the lives of the less fortunate more tolerable is, in my opinion, a public service.” Tate is sitting in her arm chair like it’s a throne, a king overseeing the disputes in his court. “Look, you want her to leave you alone? Stop making your life a living hell? Short of killing her, there’s only one solution: scare her. Make her afraid of you, that’s the only thing bullies react to.”
“It’s simple. You simply walk up to her and say –“
She grinned. “No way. Seriously.”
Tate smirked, his eyes twinkling devilishly. “Cross my heart and hope to die.”
To be continued, maybe.