Chapter 12 - November
Oh, November, thought White Rose, the most wretched month. No dawn, no dusk, no proper time of day... That was a poem about November her old Irish nanny used to rhyme to her before bed. Strange that she should remember it now.
Naked, White Rose carefully lay down on the cold plastic tanning bed, with her earphones blaring Britney Spears 'Toxic' and a pair of tiny sun goggles balanced on her nose. She hit the 'ON' button and the lamps sprang to fluorescent life. Her chilled body covered in goose bumps began to warm up and relax.
'...your toxic tongue slippin' under...
From a distance the squealing headphones sounded like a Bollywood film.
Honestly, what would she do without the tanning bed? The heat from the lamps began to work its magic and immediately White Rose felt her spirits lighten. Her skin, never without a golden glow, began to pink under the carcinogenic light.
No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
Yes, the poem was definitely on her mind. But it was understandable. If late summer was the most beautiful time of year on this campus then November was definitely the ugliest. It was bitterly cold but not snowing, the trees were bare and the leaves were gone from the relentlessly whistling wind that tangled her hair. The sky was always grey.
White Rose peered down at her body, her large fake breasts standing at attention on her chest. She remembered begging Mother for breast augmentation for her 18th birthday, but the old battle ax refused, citing her rhinoplasty, her Lasik surgery and the cost of her upcoming tuition as financial reasons. That was utter bullshit! Her father could definitely afford it. With his taste for whiskey and whores he had no right to judge. It was torture being the only one who was flat-chested at her private boarding school. These were her peers and they looked up to her. What her mother didn't understand was that her reputation was at stake, it was no longer a simple exercise in vanity.
White Rose, who by all accounts was a very resourceful person, had figured out an alternative source of revenue and applied for a student loan under an assumed name. No way would they have approve her if she had used her real name.
Anyway, it worked! She had booked an appointment as soon as she had moved on campus in her freshman year. It would be a least 6 weeks before she would see her parents again, even more if she was really deceptive, or rather resourceful in her reasons to stay away. Having no one to be there before and after the surgery had been a gut check for sure. At the last minute, after she couldn't argue or hiss or fight with the nurse anymore, she had eventually capitulated and called Audra to come and get her from the plastic surgeon's office. Audra had been a first year student like herself assigned to the dorm across the hall and had quickly become White Rose's first friend. Audra in her typical dry way and taken one look at the situation and sized up correctly that White Rose was probably hating life, being in a moment of need. She had taken upon herself and driven to the pharmacy for a series of cold packs, hot packs and pain medication, then to their dorm and put White Rose to bed. The pain had been literally excruciating for three days. In a moment of weakness, White Rose had gasped to Audra, "Do they look really fake?" Without missing a beat, Audra had responded "They're real once they're in, m' dear". In the tanning bed, White Rose smiled now at the memory.
But the pain had been worth it because it had landed her the biggest prize of all, Micah Ballantree. The uptown old money scion of the Ballantree fortune and foundation. After rushing her sorority, the best on campus, with the full intention of one day becoming its illustrious president she had cornered Micah outside a bathroom at one of his frat's wild keggers. He was pretty drunk which made it easy to convince him to lie down in his room. She was careful to give him a taste but not too much all at once, whetting his desire for her. Mostly she just talked, telling him every little thing he wanted to hear. Young men were so easy to manipulate. Her father had taught her that.
Micah had probably had sex all of four times by the time she met him. His family no doubt had kept him on a very tight leash. He had woken up with just a vision of her, and no one knew her name or claimed to have seen her. It drove him crazy. That kind of thing drove all men crazy, White Rose mused, and she worked it completely to her advantage. It was several weeks before he saw her again and this time it him pursuing her. Perfect for how she wanted to be seen among her sisters. And especially Audra. It was strange; as a woman she liked and respected Audra, she even trusted her, but nothing could stop her from hating her and wanting everything Audra had - everything every woman had - for her own. Except Sherrise. Sherrise was so different; so strong where others were weak and so smart where others were stupid. She loved talking to Sherrise because she felt so calm when she did. Even thinking about her made White Rose blush a little.
Slowly the air temperature around White Rose changed. The air that was warming up so nicely was beginning to cool. Had some fucking asshole left the outer door open? The place was cheaply constructed and the walls of each room containing one tanning bed did not go all the way up to the ceiling. Never one to hide her annoyance or miss an opportunity for vulgarity she plucked out her earphone and screamed "Shut the door assholes, I'm practically naked here." There! That should get their attention. That always got their attention.
The tanning bed hummed and Britney squealed through the rest of her song. The next track started up, something about being lonely despite huge fame and fortune. Figures the dumb southern belle wouldn't know a good thing when she saw it, thought White Rose, she isn't so much a dancer as a gymnast who can lip-sync. But that didn't stop wealthy Japanese businessmen from propositioning her. White Rose marvelled at the power of fame, it made people see what they wanted to see. Fame was really just an act. Anyone could do it.
The air was still chilly and it was seriously annoying. White Rose felt her frustration level rise and, of course, her rage kicked in shortly thereafter; one followed the next like night and day. Still stark naked, she kicked the clamshell of the tanning bed open with her long legs and opened the door to scream obscenities at whomever was out there. Her tiny goggles clattered to the floor as she was met with an icy blast of winter wind coming in from the outer door. It was practically off its hinges. Instinctively, she made a move to cover her breasts and crotch with both her arms to protect her from the teeth of the gale.
"What the fuck-", whispered White Rose. Was there a tornado? In November? She was momentarily taken aback and speechless, which was so rare. Despite the wind, there was no movement. The person at the front desk appeared to be absent. The calypso music they usually played over the speakers was silent.
White Rose heard a noise behind her, it was coming from the spa at the end of the hall. This tanning salon boasted a small but beautifully appointed Jacuzzi and shower as well as a massage table. For the all the underclassmen that want a rub and tug between classes, White Rose thought unkindly. Still naked and very cold, but inflamed by her desire rage against someone anyone, she march down the icy hall and into the spa.
The air was considerably warmer in here. White Rose scanned the room with her eyes. The counters were clad in fake marble and the ceiling sported subdued pot lights. The whole ambience was a study in post-modern airport lounge. Even so, it was very relaxing in here. White Rose felt her pulse slow and she exhaled slowly as her Pilates instructor had taught her. Feeling more herself, she began:
"Hey, asshole, your fucking door is broken"
"If you are busy shitting, you need to pinch it off!"
Still more silence.
This was stupid. Better to get her clothes and get out of her. Heaven forbid these jerks try to blame her for the damage. White Rose turned to go and came face to face with a beautiful brunette, with long shining hair. Who was also naked.
The woman was shorter than White Rose, and older, she noticed with disdain but everything about her was luminous and warm. There was a heat emanating off her tight little body unlike anything she had felt before. The woman took her wrist and delicately held it to her nose, inhaling deeply. White Rose was almost hypnotized by the sight and did not resist. In fact, she felt calmer than she had in years. This woman reminded her of something... something from her childhood?
White Rose was struck from her reverie by a sudden and urgent dripping sound. The woman had thrust a nail into her wrist and blood was dripping on the floor. But there was no pain. White Rose was magnetized by the sight of such rich redness spilling and dripping and oozing in every direction on the floor.
"Beautiful, is it not?"
White Rose snapped her head to the woman but her lips had not moved. In fact, her face was no longer beautiful but menacing, there was a flashing hunger in her eyes that White Rose recognized. It was a feeling she was very familiar with: rage. No, jealousy. Actually a combination of both.
It sparked a flurry of thoughts and images flooded her consciousness. All the years and all the people and all the conversations she had ever had in her young life. Twenty one years of acting lessons and the best shampoo and this is all she had to show for it. A few fake friends and a faithless boyfriend. From her perspective now, everything she had ever cared about was useless. She gasped as her lungs fought for breathe, her blood pressure dropping fatally, but it was more a gasp of realization that she had wasted so many precious resources on such selfish pursuits. Then she was sad. Utterly, dismally sad that no actual part of herself had ever been cultivated in all her years and with all her education. The sadness seemed to start in the her heart but then it flung itself down her arm, making it numb. She was mildly aware that her heart was gasping for oxygen, pumping irregularly in her delicate rib cage, beneath her gorgeous fake breasts. She was devastated to know that she was going to die never really knowing herself. It broke her heart and she felt dull ache echo through the right side of her chest and down her arm making the fingers in her right hand tingle.
The last thing White Rose thought about, as the blood draining from her brain released seemingly unrelated synaptic connections, was her father. White Rose flashed on her earliest memory: Her father swinging her in his arms as she walked along the sidewalk, one two three wheeee onetwothreewheeee
The thing that was Dr. Elzbeta Nadasdy watched as the girl began to swoon and caught her as she began to fall. She dropped her body into the empty jacuzzi and began to massage the girls arm under warm water, filling the tub with a crimson fluid. The blood flowed faster in this way and underneath the fake glow, White Rose took on a grotesque pallor. Then Elzbeta slipped into the tub next to the girl and sank down, willing her hungry body to absorb the blood directly into her pores. For a moment she was relaxed and all was still. White Rose sighed her last and slipped beneath the water.
But something was wrong.
Elzbeta dropped her head beneath the water and lifted it out again, hissing with pain and frustration. She was coated in bloody water, making her hair hard and it was steaming on her skin, burning and wrinkling it, but it wasn't because it was hot. She knew what the problem was. Moving quickly with superhuman strength she lifted White Rose up and out of the water dropped her lifeless body on the tiled floor. As her head hid the hard marble it made a vile sound of overripe fruit hitting the ground, and a lesser sound, one that only animals could hear, was the ring of a necklace striking the ceramic. Not just any necklace, it was a gold crucifix purchased for White Rose by a loving relative on a trip to
when she was a girl. It had the added benefit of being actually blessed in the
presence of the Pope. But Elzbeta heard it.
"Go to hell" she hissed again and the cross moved away from the sound of her voice, straining the filigreed chain of the necklace; it shook but did not break.
Having effectively created holy water, the bath was useless to Elzbeta. She sat placidly on the edge of the jacuzzi like a renaissance painting of a woman at her toilet. She should know since she had posed for more than one portrait in her life, but her mind racing was ferociously. Finally, she simply roared in frustration like a wounded lion.