"I am thinking its a sign that the freckles in our eyes our mirror images and when we kiss they reflected perfectly, I have to speculate that god made us into corresponding shapes purposely ... they will see us waving from such great heights, 'come down now', they'll say. But everything looks perfect from far away, 'come down now', but we'll stay." quote from the song Such Great Heights by the band The Postal Service
T H E M O R P H I S T
by Silva Noir
Chapter 21: prom
Sandalwood scented bath oil's shower steam lingered in the modest apartment. Decorated walls were now bare of tapestries, original signed-by-the-artist art, and other museum quality objects had been sold off. Essentials remained, such as the bed frame and mattress, but not much more. David had been part in obtaining her prizes, but not all. Who she'd sold them to he had little clue of, but the fact that she had paid nothing for them but turned an over one hundred percent profit due to the fact the collection was invaluable did not escape him.
As she was coiling her hair around a hot curling iron he remarked, "I feel like I'm dating a Bond Girl." Nudging her to the side he used mirror time to dry his own hair with a towel and comb it. They actually fought over such vain and petty things.
"Bond would have been better prepared," she painted her lips with a deep red liquid soft bristle brush instead of a cheap tube.
"What sort of spy are you if you reveal you are one?"
"I work for my own purposes," she smacked her lips to make sure the color was even. "Spy is not my official job description. I am more of one who brings in generous donations to the cause," she chose her words carefully. "More often than not, I'm eyecandy to the male workers when they grow weary of staring at screens and into microscopes and equipment ... a cheerleader of sorts."
"But you hate cheerleaders."
"And I hate being treated like a possession," she pulled the set curls into elastics at the bases so that the back of her mane gained more volume.
"I'm sorry," he backed off, realizing he must have been acting exactly as the men she despised. He watched her, enjoying her for her grace, wanting to keep her. He also had a job for her ... bringing him closer to the pieces of the puzzle of his past. "But how do I walk away? Knowing who you are, knowing what you do ... do I just hide away and never think anything more about it? I can't ... but why can't you?"
"Why can't I walk away?" She repeated the question, adding the final touches to her look in makeup and jewelry. "I am like you. I throw myself into the pits of the underworld for knowledge and gain. I would rather run into it, be aware of how it operates, than be the one running away. We are like ticks on the back of the beast."
"Lovely comparison," he retied his tie for the fourth time, "but I'd like to think I'm a little better looking than a bloodsucking parasite," he checked himself out in the mirror. "How do I look?" He'd played it simple: black shining shoes, black pressed slacks, white button shirt, black tie, and black overcoat. He would leave his glasses on the counter. It wasn't as if there was anything he needed to read, nor was it too bright as to blind him with the glare.
She nodded in approval. Rabbit's attire was made of layers upon layers of royal blue: from the big crushed velvet skirt, corset laced in the front that accentuated an already low neckline with a perfectly centered sapphire necklace on a diamond chain, to long evening gloves that reached an inch past her elbows. Her long hair landed on her back in telephone cord ringlets. So beautiful were the pair that they didn't look human, rather some fugitive from a romance novel's cover. "Shall we?" she slid her arm around his.
"Let's," he let her lock her apartment door behind them before mentioning "There's one stop I'd like to make before we go to The Holiday Inn, since its right on the way..."
Rabbit parked the rented car in his old driveway on Sarah Street. Ruth was home. Her car was also in the driveway. They were blocking her. He still had a copy of the house key, but rang the doorbell to announce their presence anyway. He didn't want it to be a total shock. Ruth stepped into the living room in a huff for being interrupted from her paperwork, fixing her hair back in a bow. She hadn't expected visitors since she had made a point not to socialize with any of the locals.
"Hi Mom!" David, in his tux, waved dorkilly, "Er... Ruth," he explained his appearance "Prom. This is my date." He pushed Rabbit in front of him, between them so that she could get a good view of the 'trophy' he felt he'd won without her help. "Rabbit: Ruth; Ruth: Rabbit," he introduced them.
"Rabbit?" her eye brows raised in criticism over his choice of a woman with a cutsey animal name.
"Be kind," he whispered to her privately. "You know, PROM, one of the most important days of my life? Please be the mother I want you to be for once?"
"Oh," Ruth did her best not to embarrass her son in front of the exotically beautiful young lady. She had been quite satisfied that he had disappeared from her life and perturbed that he'd walked back into it unannounced. She wanted to be free of her burden but played hostess all the same to her teenage guests. "I'll have to get my camera and capture a few memories. Look at you two, all grown up. The time goes by so fast," it sounded forced and as if there was a tacked on thought of 'not fast enough', but it would have to do.
Rabbit remarked as his mother exited to a back room, "I see the resemblance," she pinked his cheek playfully. "She's softened your features. Otherwise, you would be a carbon copy of your father."
"You've seen him?" he became hopeful. He'd stayed close to her hoping to find out more than she had given up... among other reasons.
Ruth stormed back, huffier than ever. "I heard that!" she jabbed a finger accusingly right at Rabbit's nose. "What is his name!" she demanded, eyes afire.
"William Richards," answering succinctly, Rabbit remained coldly calm as she nearly always did.
"Get out! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!" Ruth screamed like a banshee. he shoved the long haired girl out of the door and slammed it behind her. Grabbing her son by the crook of his arm, she asked in a gruff low tone, "What are you trying to do? Get us both killed?"
"All I want is the truth," He spoke to her in the same icy manner Rabbit would.
"You want the truth? Well, you're close enough to 18 to give it to you then. You'll regret it, every once of it," She moved to a corner of the room to a loose floorboard. From under it she pulled out a simple grocery bag full of cassettes. "Here you go. One truth, free delivery," she hoped this was enough to be rid of him. "She's right, you do look like him. One reason why I hate you."
He gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. He wouldn't hit his own mother. He couldn't. but he sure wanted to. He snatched the bag from her and left. Rabbit was waiting for him in the car. "I'm not going to let her ruin my night. I'm not."
"What are those?" Rabbit inquired.
"This?" he tucked the bag under the seat. The casettes slid over the others crinkling the thin plastic film until it settled. "Oh, just some old music tapes I forgot when I moved out. Most of them are old, from when I was a kid. Nothing you'd like ... just for my own nostalgia's sake." He lied. He still didn't trust his girlfriend one-hundred percent. Whatever was on those tapes was important enough to hide under the floor and he wanted to be the first to hear them through before he handed them over to anyone, if he allowed anyone else to listen in at all.
At the base of the enormous spiral staircase was a curved sitting area where a fountain bubbled and tropical plants grew year round thanks to the greenhouse effect provided by the half cylinder four story plate glass windows. Rabbit seated herself on the edge of the fountain's pond, slithering off her evening glove as a snake sheds skin. Her elegant finger didn't break the surface of the water as she made ripples across it. She tilted her head slightly, asking him, "A penny for your thoughts?"
David flicked the copper disc of thumbnail diameter into the fountain. It fell in with a tiny ker-plunk. "If you make a wish and tell it, it won't come true." But then he smiled, "I think I already have what I wished for anyway." Although, right now, it would be nice if I were a painter or a poet, so I could capture how absolutely perfect she looks in this pose, in this setting, at this moment.
Ascending that staircase whose steps were long and wide to accommodate women with large skirts walking in heels, he wished they'd spent the whole time at the fountain, exchanging idle chitchat. Showing their tickets to the chaperones at the rectangular table overseeing the entrance to the function hall at top. The teachers, awkward in formal clothes, handed them the form for pictures as well as a complimentary keepsake engraved frame. Stepping in where their classmates mingled, they saw they were far too sophisticated for the teenage crowd.
The clusters of people in their department store gowns and rented suits were organized as they always were. The high-spirited girls were snapping pictures with the cameras they'd been using all semester to capture the memory of the last days and big events of public school. The guys stood cross-armed talking about what girl they'd asked there and why and what their plans were for afterward. The wallflowers sat at the white clothed dining tables that dotted the perimeter of the unimpressive brown room. The center was a dance floor made of removable tiles ruled by the DJ at back the school always hired for everything, spinning reggae and hip-hop records because that's what the popular kids had requested.
"I've spat at better parties," Rabbit flung her beaded purse on their assigned table. David was equally disappointed.
Popular kids were the only ones having a good time. 'Popular' at Randolph High didn't depend on looks, nor did it the cliche of being brainless, callous youngsters. 'Popular' was comprised of brains, brawn, beauty or all three. What mattered most was how outgoing the person was. It was all politics. To be on with the masses you had to appeal to the masses. You had to hang out with the right people, see the right movies, like the right music, speak the right way, join the right clubs, take the right classes, date the right members of the opposite sex, and share the same basic opinions with little variation as the rest of the 'Popular' collective. It was a conspiracy of agreement on how to live. Once you were part of the ranks you were a shoe-in if you ran for student government so that you could make the same bland decisions for the whole student body. You couldn't afford to be too unique or you would compromise that position. It was a support group for the uncreative.
Neither David nor Rabbit were part of this inner circle despite their good grooming and grades because they couldn't afford to be under that much scrutiny. Their friendlessness and grouplessness was apparent at the table they were placed: strangers seated with strangers.
David wanted to put the skills he learned during the mandatory ballroom dancing class (which had been part of a week's worth of 'transition' one-day courses that had also included basic economics, self-defense, CPR, an anti drug/anti drunk driving talk with local police, and counseling on future college life) to use. No melody classy enough was played for a waltz. Beats you'd only find in a sweaty downtown club were all there were. He talked to the DJ about it who told him the slow dances, all measly four of them, were always saved for last which was hours from now. David changed his mind, wanting to put the skills from self-defense class to use to give the DJ a karate kick to the cranium ... but resisted.
"We got dressed up for it, we might as well find SOME way to enjoy it," David complained to Rabbit. He noticed she had the forms already filled out. They'd have to stick around town long enough to wait for them via snail-mail. "Let's get our pictures done now then make our own fun."
"What kind of fun would that be?" She rose, took all her belongings, and accompanied him back to the head of the stairs.
"Oh, the usual," he flashed a mischievous grin.
Loosely putting his arms around her, they smirked for the photographer. The chandelier, a monument of dripping glass and candles bigger than a construction truck dangling by its shovel, serving as a background was a key component to all formal pictures. The fixture was the Niagara Falls or Eiffel Tower of Randolph; every self-respecting couple had a picture of themselves standing on the balcony in front of it. This couple, with aims beyond the average lovebirds, looked like they were up to something ... and they were. Being in front of the landmark was not enough.
When the portrait studio employees left for the soup that was being served in the main room, David and Rabbit kicked off their footwear, climbed on the balcony railing, and jumped.
A voice below, pleasant as the sound of a flock of live seagulls passing through a meatgrinder, exclaimed when the accessories splashed down in the fountain, "ITS RAINING SHOES!" David and Rabbit, clinging to the swinging hoop of one of the chandelier's tiers couldn't see who it was but they knew just the same. "Great way to start the day!" She paused, presumably being corrected by someone too quiet to hear. "I'm not drunk! I only had..." she paused to count "THAT many bottles. That's nuthin'. I downed more last Saturday!" Raucous laughter was followed by another pause, then even louder slurring. "What d'ya mean yer not comin' with me? Yer gonna miss seein yer boyfriend making out with that chick. Ya dun wanna miss that d'ya? How ya ever gonna win him back if not now?" Slight pause. "Well, fine. Go then! Who needs your girlie ass! Fuck you!"
Sue Hardy stampeded up the steps, tripping several times. Luckily she didn't spot David and Rabbit hidden in the folds of golden light. She did see the prom queen returning from powdering her nose (literally) from the ladies room. Sue pounced on her.
"Dammit! Janet!" was her greeting. "Lookit You-oo! You look like someone puked pink frosting all ov'r ya! Is'n that some pink poofy princess dress from one of those 1980s movies?" Sue was not one who could criticize. She was practically popping out of her strapless miniskirt dress. She'd broken her left heel on one of her trips so she was terribly unbalanced. "Know what the difference between you an' me is? You got money and I'm shit broke. That's all." She slung her arms over Janet's shoulder. "Other than that we both ruined our reps screwin' with some pretty boy sports star. Me: football, 14. You: hockey, last month in the chorus bus. Only I knew better after that. Screw with them before they screw with you and spread rumors all OVER the place 'cause," she burped, "if ya dun do it to them they'll do it ta you." She poked the honey haired teen idol in the tummy.
"H-H-How do you know that?" stuttered the very uncomfortable girl.
"I know all, Poopie-Janet!" She laughed, slapping her knee. "Like how ya say to everyone how ugh-lee my hair is. Well I cut it just fer ya!" Sue primped her now short flip-style that stuck out half a foot at the ears. "Ya love it? Say you love it!"
"If I do, will you let me go?"
"Mebee. Heh. Oooh! Can I wear your tiara?" Before Janet could respond Sue plucked the plastic crown from the girl's head and placed it on her own. "Lookit me! I'm the prom queen!"
"I'm going now..." Janet tried to sneak away but Sue grappled with her.
"Uh, No! You gotta Tango with me. Tango with me, Janet! That'll really blow their minds." A sober Sue was forceful, a drunk and hyper Sue was impossible to avoid. She dragged the queen all the way to the ballroom's entrance and to the dance floor where you could hear her holler, "This music SUCKS! Play some good ol' rock n' roll so me an' Janet can boogie down!"
David, still balancing on the chandelier with his date, wondered if he could strangle himself with one of its wires after having to listen to that conversation. "What did the frames say? 'A Night to Remember'? This is one I'd rather forget. This whole high school experience is on my list of things to block out of my mind forever."
"On that we agree." She teetered but managed to move close enough to press those ruby red lips to his pale ones. "But you won't banish me from your thoughts, will you?" She held onto two lines of glass sweeping down at arm's length to keep herself upright.
"You're BURNED into my brain." he couldn't help but reach for her, sending them both tumbling down.
This was no Romeo and Juliet suicide pact. Lightning fast reactions spun Xilvrin about his agile body as gravity pulled his inner organs to ultimate stress. Twisting like a cat in free fall, he somehow was able to pull her so that before they hit the marble floor at bottom she was straddling his back. Xilvrin the consistency of thick gel cushioned the impact, bouncing back in a prancing silver Ki-Rin. The East Asian mystical legend was here in life, not representing any of the usually elements of fire or water or air, but still keeping that blended dragon and unicorn skin and backwards bending horn. From her pleased laughter David knew he'd salvaged the near waste of a soiree. With Rabbit on sidesaddle and two pairs of shoes pinched in his jaws, her faithful scaly steed galloped out of the lobby and off under the moonlight to deliver to his princess to a dance hall more to their elite tastes.
[ End of Part I: Identity ]
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