Winter

by Lani Lane


Characters: Dru, Darla, Angelus, Spike
Rating: PG-13
Summary: A Catholic upbringing and Drusilla's demon merge.


Sometimes I miss the cold winters of Europe, the bittersweet chill that swept up my skirts naughtily in the Romanian snow. The people who would look me right in my eye and know exactly what I was, faces stern when I'd tear into their necks. And curses muttered between clinched teeth mixed with prayers to the Holy Mother, such soothing words to Our Virgin. Our Virgin. Tasted and tempted by the devil himself, following him through snow-filled paths and cobblestone streets and puddles full with rain, I knew the Holy Mother hadn't forgotten me though I sinned, though I reveled as a demon, the Holy Mother still loved me. I knew she did.

I died in a church, was surrounded by the worst of mortal sins imaginable. My almost sisters, habits soiled in red, lay dead and dying around me, crucifixes gripped tightly, rosaries tangled around fingers like rings, beads dulled and wet in crimson color.

He had a crooked smile and a drunken swagger, the bad, bad man, though no whiskey marred his smell. He stalked towards me, kicking a crucifix from his path, a terrible and thick Irish brogue coming from his mouth speaking words I could not hear. The Mother was speaking louder and I ticked off my beads, concentrating in prayer before the dulled accent of a woman bored with her surroundings drowned out the Virgin's whisper, forcing me to look up at the new stranger. She smiled, her lips painted red like a harlot, her hair curled in perfect spiral curls, a corset too tight-fitting to be proper. She tsked at him and then at me before the two stumbled to the ground not a foot away from the Holy Altar and myself. My prayers left me for that minute amid the blood and death and the Devil; all I could fathom was childhood nursery rhymes as the two rutted like swines right in front of me, in front of Her. Oh what madness—I'd felt it all—when the Virgin glimpsed back at me, her eyes burned like the brightest sun and I never felt my own death across the holy altar, as hot candle wax pressed against my skin while the church lit up in glorious flames.

I asked the Father to forgive me my sins as I tasted the Devil's blood against my tongue, so sweet it was, far more divine than the wafers of confirmation. Their bland taste had been heaven to me, taking part of the Lord within me. But he turned away from me; the bright liquid flames dulled and snow kissed my cheeks as I rested in the bad man's arms.

Waking later in a suite far lusher than any I'd ever seen before, the Lord still shunned me, but the Mother watched me through the eyes of the paintings that hung on the walls. She'd not left me.

I miss Old European winters and people dressed in crude clothes, faces cracked and weathered from harsh cold winds, forever carrying crucifixes and rosaries that would sear my skin when they forced them upon my flesh as they died, their muttered curses and sweet, sweet prayers letting me know the Virgin still thought of me.

Grand-ma-ma would roll her eyes at me when I told her that the Holy Mother was captured in the porcelain eyes of the dolls Angel would buy me.

Grand-ma-ma was not a believer. She said there was no God, save for herself. But she had always been full of sin. The Virgin would never look upon those blue eyes of hers in kindness in life or death.

She cackled too. She said I was the mad one, but at least I never cackled, mummy always said it was unladylike and a disappointment to the Baby Jesus.

I was also never the favored, the adored, or the revered. I was given presents and fine clothes and lovely dinners and even pet names, but his eyes didn't sparkle at me, nor did his lip turn up sardonically upon my word.

I was the third. The child. The one Grand-ma-ma let him keep.

"If she amuses you so." Darla would say, an eyebrow arched, she'd watch me across the room, a doll in my lap and Daddy with a pipe lit, his reply would always be, "Ah but nothing amuses me like you."

"And if it ever does," she'd smirk back, "I'll kill it."

And she meant it too. She had nothing to fear for a good twenty years yet to come, and by then she'd have her whole world to fear, and even Darla wouldn't be able to kill what took Angel away.

And we played, the three of us did; the world in the frightening darkness was a sweet wonder to me. The Virgin followed me about all this while, her presence a little weaker as the snow thawed and spring flowers blossomed, and snow fell again.

It wasn't long before my dolls became their own persons, the Mother gone from their glassy eyes. I thought I'd lost her; Darla had told me I would, told me she wasn't real anyways and never had been. Grand-ma-ma wouldn't lie to me. No, she never would, I'd tell myself in small whispers as I'd pass a church, its windows sparkling in colored glass, the heavy scent of holy incense drifting out from the cracks underneath the doors.

"She's in there," Miss Edith would whisper. "Beg her return." Her voice would hiss, her eyes staring at me coldly. I began to wrap her eyes in bandages after that. The Virgin had left me and in her place she gave me Angel and Darla, devils in their own right.

There was nothing else, I'd whisper, my hands reaching for a cross around the neck of a victim, Angel pulling me away just as the pendant began its sweet indentation.

"She's completely mad."

"Leave her be, Darla." Angel would whisper into her ear, his hands circling her tiny, tiny waist.

"If I don't?" She'd leer back, eyes closed, leaning into his brocade vest.

"Sweet promises. That's what." Father would answer back, his eyes filled with a decisive twinkle, nuzzling her neck.

"Oh I dare you." She'd snap back, forgetting me entirely as his fingers undid the small buttons along the back of her gown.

The Mother was surely gone, I decided that night as the two fell to the floor in front of me again.

"Miss Edith, turn your head." I whispered to the doll watching the two of them on the floor, looking away for a second myself until the short heated breath of my sire broke through the sounds of the wind outside and the crinkle of Darla's skirts being tossed away.

"Darla?" He asked, his eyes cutting right through me.

"You've got to be kidding." Her voice was thick with disdain as her eyes swept across me before looking back at Angel, letting out a surprise squeal as his hand disappeared underneath her chemise.

"You know me better than that, I don't kid. What do you say?" He asked again, eyes buried deep into hers.

"I'd say if my Lord does that again," she gestured to the hand lost beneath the silk, "He shall get what he pleases."

"You mean this?"

And she squealed again, as my Angel called me to the ground beside them both. And it wasn't too long after that dear Grand-ma-ma loved me almost as she did daddy.

The Mother surely was absent, forgetting all about me amid cotton and silk. Rough and smooth hands and piercing teeth, blood across my pale flesh, fingers pinching my skin, I was forgotten. Forgotten with voices that howled and screamed and cried out. I wallowed and danced in sin again that night, for the millionth time and loved it almost as much as I used to love the sweet purity of the confessional.

Later that night we walked down the familiar cobblestone paths of my childhood, the excitement of Darla's fingers still danced across my skin as the welts they both left were fading. They were me and I them, until their arms linked and they became two, clearly defining my role. I'd always distrusted odd numbers and wanted a fourth.

Darla looked at me in bored annoyance, Angel shrugged in amusement and that is when I saw him. Dashing down the busy path, nearly crashing into our party as he tore at papers held tightly in white knuckled hands.

He was perfect, I decided, following him into a stable. He cried tears unlike any man I had seen in my life; even my own papa held his eyes steady and bloodshot when he found the slaughtered body of my baby sister in her crib.

Perfect.

"And I wonder… what possible catastrophe came crashing down from Heaven and brought this dashing stranger to tears?"

"Nothing. I wish to be alone." He sniffled, alarmed and stood quickly and even nervously upon the sight of me.

Two months later he asked me never to call him William again. He breathed in deep unneeded gasps, untangling his body from my limbs.

"I hate that name. Don't like it at all. Hated that man." He told me, lighting up a cigarette.

"Grand-ma-ma won't be pleased." I motioned to the fiery-tipped paper hanging from his lip, "She says rolled cigarettes are common."

"Won't she then?" He asked, his lip snarling, "Then I think I'll smoke another after this, then another, and maybe ten more. Besides, there's nothing more common than Darla."

"My stubborn William, you wouldn't want her wrath, it can sting and burn and make bees seem like sweet butterflies."

"Think I haven't felt it, when you're across the way with him?" He gestured angrily towards the door, "And don't call me William."

"If you'd felt it, you'd be ash across my toes, pretty and glittering, like the fallout from the Church's incense after Christmas mass."

"Christmas mass?" He laughed, stubbing his cigarette out on the expensive Persian rug that Angel had given to Darla fifty years before.

"Christmas mass was always the best. The joy of the Virgin and Our Lord on that Holy day…"

"Drusilla." My angry man sighed, lazily stretching out across the bed, his hand caressing my stomach.

"There'd always be a dinner beforehand," I began reaching for my dressing gown draped over the tall post of the bed. "A goose and lots of bread and delectable butter, my baby sister sat in her highchair next to mum, messing her gown up with Christmas pudding, always putting Mummy into a state."

"Drusilla, must we—"

Ignoring him, I continued, my hand searching through the loose pockets of the gown, finding the old worn beads, Jesus nailed to his cross. I avoided the gold and counted off the beads. "We'd thank the Father, Mother and Son for our dinner and lives and we'd head to church, the pathways cluttered with our neighbors, everyone chattering even at such an hour. The Priest stood at the altar, smoke billowing about as he blessed us all and asked forgiveness for our sins. I'd take my communion, like a good girl and bow to the Mother before finding my seat again."

The shiny gold cross skirted against my skin. I bit my tongue as my flesh turned red.

"I always loved Christmas mass." I finished, my palm wrapping around Our Lord, my skin popping and sizzling as William jerked away at the smell, his demon mask beautifying his sharp human features. He growled like a hurt animal before prying my fingers open and snatching away my rosary. He flung it across the room, his face full with fear and disgust before turning his attention back at me.

"Want Darla to see that thing?" he hissed, bending down next to me, hands grabbing my scarred one, lips kissing away the blistering flesh. "The last time you played with crosses she swore up and down she'd have your heart."

"I could be her mummy one day, she'd not have my heart lest she never gets her own. I thought you weren't frightened of Grand-ma-ma, William." I smiled quietly, looking past him at the painting of a couple strolling a boulevard on the wall.

"I'm not William anymore."

"Then who are you?"

"Don't know that yet, but not him."

I barely heard his words as the painting transformed itself and the glowing light was across my skin, making me feel blessed. "Look." I pointed at the painting.

"It's horrid, isn't it? Darla has the worst taste."

"She's in there."

"She?" His forehead crinkled as he looked back at the luminous painting.

"The Virgin."

"Drusilla…"

"Am I your Princess?'

"My only one."

The heat in southern California makes me wince and remember colder weather full of heavy skirts and crackling fires and of family. I miss the winters of my past, the days when people died in my arms, their hands full of rosaries and beautiful prayers to Our Holy Mother.

- fin -


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