On Sunday at sunset, when the world turned a kind of deep orange, Lana Creed felt pretty damn good about herself.
It had taken all day long but it was well worth it because it was the end of one of the more annoying times in all her life. Her friends had been so disobedient since Ethan Bartlett had attacked her at the Anglecliff Country Club and it was only then, finally, that she had gotten them back in line. Lucy was the very worst, changed almost irrevocably by her proximity to him, and that Lana did not tolerate. No one was to change unless she gave her express permission.
She had very specific ideas about how her friends were to behave and those ideas were never to be contradicted.
Lana knew all their weaknesses and secrets, some of which she personally planted into their lives, and now, at long last, they were back to where they belonged. It seemed so very depressing that such a little embarrassment at one time should empower the weakest of bitches to stand up against their rightful leader.
It was of little consequence now however because it was finally over.
She had a wide, smug smile as she tossed her bags of clothes down onto her bed in her giant white bedroom in her beautiful white house in Edwards Grove and she hugged her mother tightly. She was a beautiful tall woman, elegant and model-like in her expensive dresses and suits, and was just about the only person on Earth who looked enough like Lana to be nearly as attractive. “Why are you so happy?” her mother asked her.
Lana looked ecstatic but internally she sensed something was off in the way her mother had asked her that. It was almost as if her mother herself had been somehow infected by whatever Bartlett had done to Lana. Was it the expensive blue dress that she almost never wore casually or was it the narrow look of her bright blue eyes? Maybe it was the way her hair was tied conservatively behind her head. What was it? “Everything is perfect—” Lana’s smile slipped “—for now.”
Lana walked over to the window and looked out at the sun setting in the distance. It had turned the many clouds in the bright blue sky vibrant shades of orange that matched the shade of the trees below and it was at that time and place when she realized that all the people in her life were starting to look at her like that bitch fifth-grade teacher had. Everyone else had always been so easy to put in line, a simple snap of her elegant fingers, a casual wave of her perfect hand and they danced to her tune like proper, right puppets. Not her. Not that nigger bitch.
Narcissistic, Mrs. Taylor called her. Narcissistic along with sociopathic and megalomania and all that in addition to the typical problems of being disobedient, arrogant, cruel, abusive, self-centered, spoiled and manipulative. She seemed worried for her but if that was true, she should have kept her nigger mouth shut and let things work themselves out properly. It wasn’t like Lana didn’t know what she was doing.
It seemed to come as some great surprise when her mother, one of the best lawyers in Connecticut, threatened her job if she dared opened her mouth to the school authorities on such wild and unfounded ideas. She was clearly no Fuller and kept her mouth shut but even though that was a great victory for Lana and all was right in the world; the bitch still looked at Lana as if she pitied her.
It was clear that Mrs. Taylor, probably because she was black, was just too damn stupid to know how perfect Lana was but she wasn’t the only female that had crossed her path and gone too far although she was one of the few who got off easy. There were only three girls who truly knew what lengths Lana would go to stay in her rightful place above them and the only one of those living and not in a coma couldn’t prove that she was the one who shoved her down that flight of stone stairs.
Lana decided she would go out that night and she went over to the full-length mirror to look at herself. Her mother put her hands on her shoulders, kissed her on the cheek, and said, “You’re so beautiful,” before leaving the room. Lana watched her shut the door behind herself and then eagerly turned back to her reflection, took off all her clothes except for her white lingerie and examined her body in awe in the full-length mirror.
She marveled at how physically perfect she was, at how every angle was in no doubt, the absolute greatest of curvatures ever seen on the female form, especially in regards to her unparalleled C sized breasts. She spun around, examining herself front and back, up and down, and was once again overwhelmed by how amazingly perfect every inch of her body truly was. She had made sure that, in addition to the natural perfection she had been gifted in, that she kept herself the correct weight and was so perfectly sculpted as to be as awe-inspiring in a bikini as she was in a dress.
If a man did not instantly love her based on her body alone, he was either a homosexual or terrified of the unquestioned power of her beauty and or inner strength. It was exactly how she viewed herself since the day she turned fourteen and men had started to look at her differently.
“I am the perfect woman,” she told herself and she put her hands on her hips, her heart beating quicker, and smiled with deep satisfaction. “I am perfect and everyone envies me for it.”
“You’re even—” Lana shrieked and spun around to see Ethan Bartlett leaning up against the back wall with his arms crossed, wearing jeans, a striped black and orange t-shirt, black boots and a black leather jacket “—sicker than I thought.” He shook his head with an unhappy smile. “You were so consumed with your own reflection that you didn’t even see me standing here.” He casually locked the door.
“You sick fucking pervert!” she hissed. “You have—”
“Save it,” Ethan told her. “Just fucking—” he rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed “—save it.” He walked up to her and suddenly she found herself powerfully aroused. She did not find attraction to men or women easy unless they looked or acted like her in some significant way but with him, it was somehow completely different. She found herself breathing quickly and becoming lost in his icy blue eyes. “Lana,” he said as he stopped right front to her, “Have you ever seen one of those TV shows where there’s some bitch that always does horrible things and yet, contrary to what everyone wants or expects, she always gets away with whatever it is she is doing?”
“Yeah.” She was confused by that question but didn’t really care. She reached her hands up to feel his muscular shoulders and found all she wanted at that moment was to melt into him.
He took a hold of her hands they made contact with his belt and gently pushed them away. “So you’ve noticed how these stupid little bitches get away with everything with little or no consequences? Almost like their lives are blessed.”
“Being bad is fun,” said Lana with a wide smile and she put her arms around his neck. “Let’s be bad together.”
Ethan pulled her arms down from around his neck. “That bitch only survives because of ratings,” he told her. “I’ve come here to give you one serious warning before I let you go off and fuck yourself.” He looked deep into her eyes and that made butterflies fly around in her stomach. “You get out of whatever it is you’re in and fast. You are way out of your league.”
“There is nothing out of my league,” she replied as she put her hands on her hips. She thought about the stupid comment she made to Ethan as he and Darcy Hamilton were eating at Mandy’s Diner last week. She went up to them, smiled, and asked, “Did you have fun cave diving, kids?” Darcy had looked pricelessly angry, not worried or guilty as she had hoped, but anger was still good. Ethan however looked infuriatingly calm and unimpressed, just as he was at that very moment only a foot away from her.
“You should be careful with who you mock and what games you play,” he told her in a hard voice. “Not everyone you fuck with is going to be some insecure high school girl who’ll let you walk all over her.”
“Oh really,” she replied sarcastically, her lips curled into an amused smile.
“I am not fucking around, little girl,” Ethan replied. “In some circles, people would murder you just for that comment alone.”
“You want me,” she whispered and stood up taller, thrusting her favorite attribute, her breasts, almost against his chest. He looked her over but it seemed to be more analytical than sexual. It instantly offended her and deeply injured her pride “You do want to ravage every single inch of me, don’t you?” she tried to say like an invitation in the form of a question but it came out more like a genuine question.
“You’re not listening—”
“Who remembers every little—” she shrieked as he grabbed her hair, pulled her head back, and shoved her up against the nearby closet door. She wanted to get angry, expected it fully, but instead found herself just more aroused. She realized at that moment Ethan Bartlett was the first man she had ever truly wanted that didn’t have something to do with her schemes or other women and she hoped to God he was going to take her against that door like an animal but he didn’t.
Ethan looked down at her in the coldest, hardest manner she had ever seen from a man and she half-wished he was gay just so that she could justify his lack of interest. “I want you to understand this and I want you to understand it well,” he told her. “You are not a warrior and you are not a magician and you are not smart and you are not sneaky. The things I have seen around this city and woods will eat you alive.” He let go of her and took a step back. “This is a warning, Lana, and it is the only one anyone will ever give you.”
Lana put her hands against her chest feeling the contours of his muscular hard torso. “I have heard such stories about you, Mr. Bartlett,” she told him softly. “What were you doing down there in the dark? Did you do something awful down there and did you perhaps do it to Darcy?” Ethan laughed and pushed her hands away.
She was instantly filled with an inconceivable amount of hate because he was clearly uninterested, clearly had the opposite idea of Lana than what she knew herself to be true, and he was even daring to take amusement in her proposal. To Lana, these were crimes: most especially the last.
Who the fuck did he think he was? She was the world’s most perfect woman and a proposal from her would be more valuable than one from Marilyn Monroe, Queen Elizabeth I and Cleopatra combined.
“So far you’re not denying anything!” she hissed.
“Denying what, Lana?” he asked with a half-smile.
“You know what I’m talking about?”
“Oh, who remembers every little thing?”
Lana grabbed his jacket, her eyes on fire and yanked him close. “You were there!” she hissed. “You were there in the cave. In the dark. With Darcy.” She said Darcy’s name with incredible loathing.
“What cave is this, Lana?”
“You know goddamn motherfucking well what cave I mean!” she cried and then when he laughed and looked into her eyes she felt vulnerable in her underwear for the single first time since she had come into womanhood. She wanted to believe the reasoning behind that was Ethan’s disinterest in her but she sensed that it might have been something more primal and elusive than that. “You fucking faggot!” she hissed.
Ethan grinned, pulled her hands off his jacket, walked over to the window, and looked out at the setting orange world beyond which gave Lana the opportunity to examine his nearly perfect backside. “Lana,” he told her, “You suffer from narcissism and a shitload of other negative problems I don’t even know the names of. I find myself overwhelmed with pity for you and that’s really something coming from a messed up guy like me.”
Her temper was seriously starting to rise with the use of that hateful word: pity. “You sound just like my old teacher,” she said bitterly.
“These problems cloud your judgment. They pull you into situations you wouldn’t dare walk into sane.” He looked back over his shoulder at her and shrugged. “I can’t help you.”
“What do you really think of me?” she asked. “You look at this and you can’t have it and that really bothers you.”
“Can’t have it?” He laughed. “Lana, you were practically firing it at me.”
“Fuck you, you fucking queer.”
“Did you take something I said as code for being gay?” he asked. “I was saying you’re so utterly self-absorbed and arrogant that when it comes down to survival you’re basically retarded. Now, if you were smart, you would back out and possibly give the name whoever made up that terrible, awful story about me and Darcy and some, uh, cave was it?”
“Really? You believe that, do you?”
“Uh, yeah,” Ethan replied with a laugh. “Why else would I say it, Einstein?” Lana wanted to slap him but she wanted to have him even more so she walked up to him by the window and pulled him gently closer by his jacket. “Someday,” he told her with a shrug. “Someday, you’re going to walk out into those woods or a ‘cave’ somewhere and you’re not going to come out again. In the end, no one can save someone from themselves.”
“Oh I can handle myself,” she told him.
“Sure you can,” he replied with a bitter smile.
“Why do you even care?”
“Well maybe I just have a whole lot of pity in my heart,” he replied.
“You have WHAT?” Her temper broke and she wanted to smash her fist into his nose. It was the single most preposterous thing anyone had ever told her and she had enough. “No one pities me?”
“No one will ever raise you to any position of power even though they may have been promised to. You’re too stupid and reckless for that, evident by your comment to me alone. They’re going to use you and kill you when you become a liability. You’re—” he shrugged again “—really small time. Really high school. And they know it.”
“You don’t know me!”
“You don’t know yourself and have been living in a very small world. It would be a very easy thing to make your ass someone else’s.”
“Is that—what?” The idea filled with abject horror: her most prized possession worn by someone else, someone inferior using her beauty and power for their own schemes and pleasure. The concept had horrified her since she saw a movie involving it as a child with a pretty, blond protagonist. “Are you saying someone will—will steal my body?”
“I’m saying someone will rape you, genius.”
That did not frighten her. “Someday,” she whispered and she moved her hands up against his abs and upper chest to find that he was so solidly built he was like a carved statue. “Someday you’re going to regret crossing me like this.”
“No, I won’t,” he replied coldly and took her hands off him. “You won’t be around long enough for that kind of thing.”
“What do you want from me?” asked Lana and expected him to say something about her body.
“I want a name. I want to know who told you that.”
That made her smile and she reached for him. “Maybe I’ll give it to you—” He grabbed her hand and pushed it gently away.
Somehow his refusal was making her more and more sexually excited which by then she was finding it genuinely disturbing and it was coupled with the fact no heterosexual male had ever before refused her without at least showing deep regret. Ethan was looking at her perfect body in her underwear as if she was another boy and was refusing her just as easily as if she really was one.
“Ethan—I—” Suddenly she couldn’t come up with words, another thing that never happened, and she instantly wanted suddenly to scream and claw his eyes out. Instead, she took his left hand in hers and took a step toward her bed. “Come with me,” she whispered softly.
Ethan pulled his hand free and said, “Can’t you just give me a fucking name—”
She slapped him across the face as hard as she could. Then she slapped him again with her other hand just so the redness would match either side of his beautiful face. “React!” she shrieked suddenly when didn’t even blink. “You’re not gay so FUCKING react!”
Ethan just stared at her with eyes as cold and unforgiving as two icebergs sailing out of an ocean at night aiming for a ship that was her self-confidence. From behind, there was a worried knock on the door, her mother running to her rescue, but neither of them reacted to it.
“I’m not going to talk, Ethan, and you can’t make me,” she told him and he just continued to stare at her. “You know you are all such great assholes, you Bartletts, and I personally marvel at how you have the gall to point out my shortcomings when your own cousin murdered Linus Coughlin for fun at a fucking frat party!”
Ethan’s lips curled up into an unpleasant smile. “Do I look or sound or act anything like Julian Bartlett II?” he asked.
She had slept with Julian a few times, the sole reason being too upset his bitch girlfriend, Priscilla Pennington, but she had never once been remotely attracted to him although he believed and bragged to the contrary. “You look and sound and act just like him,” she replied.
“If you think that you’re even stupider than I thought.”
“Oh so now you’re insulting me,” she replied.
“Sure, why not,” Ethan said with a shrug. “You are one of the few people around stupid enough to earn being insulted.” He shook his head, still infuriatingly unimpressed, and then laughed. “God, I’m truly wasting my time. Darcy was so right about you.”
“Fuck Darcy Hamilton!” she hissed. If there was a single woman that Lana hated more than any other in all the days of her life, even more than Angela Anderson who was her chief social competitor, it was Darcy Henrietta Hamilton. There was a woman capable of playing the game as good as any other but, like all great traitors to her gender, she would always open her mouth and spew out a dead honest truth so simple that even the men around them understood the play of the game. Lana had no respect for any woman who was ever stupid or mean enough to be honest with men.
Also, the bitch looked at Lana like she was the biggest slut in town and would even say so to her face. The idea that Darcy was not even slightly intimidated by her was a thought she didn’t like to have and was something she chose not to believe.
Ethan smiled at her as if he could read her mind and said, “Fearless women without secrets are just sooooo hard to push around, aren’t they?”
“Where is the bitch anyway?” asked Lana.
“She told me this was a waste of time and she was right.” He shrugged. “What can you do?”
“You honestly thought I’d be so arrogant that I would just tell you who told me about your little adventure just because you asked, didn’t you?”
“It’s good to know your brain isn’t the reason you’re an idiot,” he replied.
Lana looked into his eyes, trying to shift the axis of power in them over to herself but found it impossible. “Listen,” she said softly, “I know we’ve had our—”
“Lana!” cried her mom. “What is going on in there?”
“—differences,” she concluded after a moment. As she became calm she found herself aroused again which was a new level of upsetting, her rage usually strong enough to kill her attraction to anyone for a long time. What is wrong with me? she screamed in her mind but what she said was, “I’m sorry for what I said. Let me make it up to you.”
Ethan laughed and said, “I’ve gotta go.” He pushed her back and she felt her pride mortally wounded by his denial because at that moment she became certain it was really happening. He was going to leave completely uninterested in her despite her personal interest while she was in her strongest element. She would like to think of him simply a homosexual, which she knew wasn’t a choice because a homosexual had easily refused her once, and then easily shrug him off but she had seen his clear sexual interest in Darcy and that Louisiana hick bitch Claire Winters, who she despised contemptuously in all ways. Not for even a single instant could she imagine that stupid Louisiana hick could remotely compete her in the issue of sexuality let alone actually surpass her in it.
“You come back here right now and you fuck me, Ethan Bartlett!” she cried as he turned toward the door.
“What?” he and her mother said at the same time.
“You heard me!” she yelled.
“Okay?” he replied confusedly and then he opened the door. Her mother glared at him as he stood there, her hands on her hips.
“What the hell do you think you are doing in my house?”
“Do you have any idea what your daughter has been up to?”
“I don’t care if my daughter has been smoking crack while working in a whore house!” she hissed. “You don’t ever talk to my daughter like that in her underwear in her room and where the hell do you think you are going?”
Ethan was walking down the stairs casually with Lana and her mother already out of his mind and Lana found she wanted him so badly she could just shriek.
He walked by her father, a weak and timid but very beautiful man with dark gold hair and green eyes wearing a casual blue polo shirt and khaki pants with a black golf bag over his shoulders. He had just come back from Anglecliff where he spent every Sunday afternoon golfing with his good friend Paul Pennington. He looked at Ethan nervously and then up at his wife even more nervously.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” asked her mother.
Ethan stopped and looked up at her from the bottom of the stairs. “Does it matter?” he replied. “Why don’t you make up a story like you do every time your daughter does something criminal at her school?”
“What are you implying, Mr. Bartlett?”
“I’m not implying anything,” he replied. “I’m saying straight out that you, as a lawyer, threaten the school with a bullshit lawsuit every time a teacher or a student complains about your daughter’s atrocious and sometimes violent behavior. It’s spoiled her and brought her down to a very self-destructive level.”
“I should call the police.”
“You should,” he replied. “I can file a sexual harassment against your daughter.” Her father looked nervously at him and then up at her wife again.
“That’s not necessary,” said Lana but her response had absolutely nothing to do with what he said. The police did not like or trust her because of a female detective named Caitlin Christopherson who came to believe, without proof, that Lana was guilty of pushing that bitch dancer down those stairs. The men had been so easy to fool at the time, other than Ethan all men were like that, but not that woman detective. Christopherson, who had turned most of the police force against her over the years, male and female alike, and though there was no real fear with her lawyer mother around there was definitely a certain real kind of worry in allowing Christopherson to come in contact with Ethan Bartlett.
“Why not?” asked her mother.
“It’s because she’s way attracted to me,” said Ethan with a smile as he opened the front door. “I’ll see you at the wake, Mrs. Creed.”
“Is that a threat?” her mother cried.
Ethan stopped halfway out the doorway and looked up at her. “How stupid are you?”
“Your daughter is out of control and damn near insane. All the horrible things that she has done and will do are your fault. I want to know, seriously, how stupid are you to raise a child like this?”
“Get out!” she hissed.
“Gladly,” he replied and he threw open the door the rest of the way and disappeared. Her father finally made eye contact with his most naked daughter but said nothing.
Lana’s mother frowned at the open doorway, her lips tightly pressed together, but Lana knew she wouldn’t do anything. The Bartletts, along with the Hamiltons, were one of the few families she was scared of.
She moved over to the rail, still in her underwear, and felt her rage grow unabated now that Ethan was gone. He believed what he said about her and that, she felt, was just plain wrong. It was a sin against reality.
For a man of supposed prestige and magic, he did not know real power when he saw it.
Lana stomped down the hall past the open door of her younger sister, who stared in utter shock at seeing her sister in her underwear and looked out of the large window overlooking the street. At the sight of the first man she had ever been truly attracted to walking away outside of her control, tears suddenly and uncontrollably slipped down her face. She had not cried since she was a child and that made her even angrier.
She threw open the window hard enough to break it as Ethan walked around his junky car wearing a pair of slick black sunglasses. He looked up at the sound, saw her, shrugged and opened his driver’s side door.
It was a look of disregarding that seemed to state, “You don’t matter so fuck off.”
“No one pities me, asshole! I have no fear of anything or anyone! I can take of myself, you fucking fag!”
Ethan shrugged again, got into his car and drove off casually. When he was gone, she went into her room, ignoring her mother and father, and locked the door behind her. She wept and screamed in sheer rage for hours, her pride feeling mortally wounded, and she vowed vengeance.
She went out that night just like she had planned and though she feared greatly that Ethan Bartlett had made a rather powerful effect on her and her life, she found to her immense relief that he did not. Men still reacted the same, her group of bitches did exactly as she told, and women still looked in that jealous, hateful way of theirs. By the end of the night, she realized what must have happened.
He must have enchanted her to feel that way which sensibly accounted for her errors in judgment when confronting him that she, of course, never would have made on her own. The alternative of that was simply too insane to believe. After all, what could ever possibly go wrong with a perfect woman?
Time passed and soon she was back on about her life as if Ethan Bartlett had never come into it.
That, however, did not mean she had forgotten or forgiven him.