Ronnie had dragged me into Victoria’s Secret. I had pointed out that no one would see my underwear or my nightclothes except other women in the gym locker room. Ronnie had replied, “You’ll see them.” The logic escaped me but she had talked me into the robe.
What? Has the story just leaped forwards for no reason? And why are you wearing your pyjamas to the gym?
It was burgundy, the colour of wine-dark peonies. It glowed against my pale skin and matched some of the bruises blossoming on my back. Nothing like getting thrown into a wall to give you a little color. The bite mark on my back wasn’t very deep. Hard for humanoid fangs to sink in from that angle. The fang marks on my wrist were deeper. They were two neat little holes, almost dainty. It didn’t hurt as much as it should have. Maybe vampires did have painkillers in their saliva, or maybe it was the fangs.
Ah, I see. Well, I don’t. I don’t know why the robe needed a back story. I’m also confused as to why the ‘dainty’ fang marks (which should not be dainty, because teeth do not work like that) have managed to magically overshadow the massive gushing cut she made by slitting her wrist open.
I pulled the robe closer around me. The material was heavy enough to be cozy on a winter evening, and had wide silky cuffs, and more silk lining the edges. It looked vaguely Victorian, a little masculine. I looked delicate in it, like a Victorian doll that hadn’t gotten completely dressed yet.
You mean you don’t look dressed when you are wearing a dressing gown? How extraordinary!
When are you going to deal with your wrist?
JC comes in to talk about how lovely she is and provide exposition services – Lawrence and Jason have gone out for food. Anita worries about them going around places without her permission. JC takes all his clothes off and walks into the bathroom. He calls out that there are no clean towels so Anita must get him some and thereby see him naked AHAHAAHA.
wow, so wild, having to see a naked guy in the bath. Truly, LKH is a writer without limits to her fiendish imagination.
Jean-Claude lay back against the edge of the tub. His black hair was wet and had obviously been cleaned. Strands of it clung to his bare shoulders. His arms lay propped on the edge of the bathtub, his head resting against the dark tile of the wall. One pale hand was suspended in midair as if reaching for something, but the hand was utterly limp. His eyes were closed, making black half-moons against his pale cheeks. Beads of water clung to his face and what I could see of his body. He looked almost asleep.
His knee came up through the mound of bubbles, a surprising glimpse of bare wet skin.
SEEING BARE SKIN ON A NUDE MAN? OH, THE HUMANITY OF IT ALL. HOW INDECENT.
“Could you place them here, please?” He gestured with that one half-suspended hand.
“Here” was the closed top of the toilet, which was close enough to the tub for grabbing. “I’ll put them on the edge of the sink.”
“I’ll drip water all over the floor getting them from there,” he said.
So what? It’s a bathroom. You can drip water wherever you want to. It’s designed for that. It’s not like some klaxon will blare out and a team of masked men will burst out from under the sink to beat you in the head for daring to splash water on the floor.
Anita puts the towels on the toilet and JC offers to answer her questions. She stares at his nipples (OH GOD WHAT IS IT WITH NIPPLES) and wants to stroke him all over. Not have sex, just pat him a lot. Anita wants to know why the two rotting vampire ladies were rotten and JC is only rotten on the inside. It all boils down to there just being different types of vampires. JC says that Anita stinks of lust, why can’t they just have sex?
“Sex is about trust. I’d have to trust someone implicitly to have sex with them. I don’t trust you.”
This is spot on, in all honesty. Taking Anita as a character who feels very personally betrayed by the world, however right or wrong that is, her biggest issue is always going to be with trust.
JC sighs about how challenging she is. Dude, she’s not challenging. She’s saying that she can’t trust someone who spends all his time manipulating everyone around him which is a fair thing to say. But that’s just why he loves her. And not for her huge… tracts of land.
Anita notices that JC’s back is covered in whip scars. And oh look more backstory. Let me sharpen my history spork for this one.
“Who whipped you?”
“I was the whipping boy for an aristocrat’s son.”
Whipping boys were used for princes. You know, royalty. If they were even used, because most kings didn’t see a problem in having their son beaten. Now, France had a surfeit of princes and princesses way back when, and they may have used whipping boys for their sons, but surely JC would have mentioned this. So, yeah, nope.
“You weren’t born into the aristocracy?”
“I was born in a house with a dirt floor, ma petite.”
I looked at him. “Yeah, right.”
He raised his head. “If I was going to make something up, ma petite, it would be more romantic, more entertaining than being a French peasant.”
Yeah, because French peasants never did anything interesting at all. *coughcoughFrenchRevolutioncoughcough*
“So you were a servant in the castle?”
A whipping boy would not be just some random servant, just picked up and brought into the estate. The whole point of a whipping boy is that a prince will feel bad for having a friend punished. His friends are sons of members of the nobility and children of royal aunts and uncles; children who are high in society are sent away from home at the age of seven to learn manners and status in the homes of other families of equal rank by serving as gentle companions. While relationships between masters and servants in this period are very close due to the close proximities of early modern life, a royal prince, an heir to the throne, is not going to care about the pain of a servant. The chain of being, the hierarchy of society ordained by God and to which all are given a place and expected to be damn well happy with it, dictates that the prince is just below the Pope and God. Masters are allowed to beat their servants with impunity and can kill them if they later claim they did not intend to do so. A royal prince will see the punishment of a servant as being part of God’s holy order, the order which gives him and his father power, and which prevents society from falling into chaos. The punishment of a servant is natural and to be expected. He would, quite frankly, not care.
And that ‘castle’ bit annoys me. There are many impressive French castles, but by the early sixteenth century fashion had moved onto a more classically inspired renaissance palace rather than a fortified defensive structure (why yes, I did study the history of landscapes for a while). That ‘castle’ makes me think that all LKH knows of the early modern period is fancy eighteenth century clothing and women in tall towers.
“I was their only son’s constant companion. When he had clothes made, so did I. His tutor was my tutor. His riding instructor, mine. I learned swordplay and dancing and the proper way to eat at table.”
This is the role of a noble companion, a boy sent to live with a political or financial ally of his father to learn better manners and to make valuable connections. Why would a aristocratic family invest so much time and money into the development of a peasant child? It’s better spent on sending their son away to the royal court, or to the home of another nobleman. What’s the peasant going to do with all fine skills when he’s thrown back onto the dungheap? France was not a very socially mobile country and without a good heritage or university degree – which was about the only way a commoner could rise up – JC can’t really do much, aside from return to the farm. And then starve, because he doesn’t know how to live independently.
“And when he was bad I was punished, because he was the only heir to an old family name. People speak of child abuse now.” He leaned back in the tub, cuddling down into the warm water. “They complain of spanking. They have no idea what true abuse is. When I was a boy, parents thought nothing of taking a horse whip to a misbehaving child, or beating them bloody. Even the aristocrats beat their children. It was normal.”
Brushing aside the complete logical fallacy in your statements – if the aristocracy were so ok with beating their children, why did they need you? – I will concede that it was acceptable and encouraged for parents to beat their children. However, they really would be using a horsewhip. Horsehwhips, those long and impressive stretches of cured leather that make that wonderful snapping sound, are used for that exact purpose. To make the snapping sound. The sound encourages the horse to go faster, from fear and from knowing what you mean when you whip the damn whip. They’re also used to communicate between huntsmen and between coach drivers. Do you know why you don’t use them on horses? Because the force generated by them can cut straight through flesh and down to the bone. They are NOT safe to use on horses, and they are certainly not used on someone who you want to live for very long. People in early modern France would know to not use them on horses. They would not use them on their children or their whipping boy, despite what the name is.
Unless LKH means a riding crop, which is not the same thing. Really not the same thing.
“But he was the only heir, the only child. So they paid money to my parents and took me. The lady of the manor chose me because I was fair of face. When the vampire who made me sought me out, she said my beauty called to her.”
Now that the ‘history’ (and I use that term loosely, and with extreme reluctance) is over, we get to the ‘why’ of JC’s existence – his looks. Apparently, that’s all that anyone ever considered about him. The aristocratic lady went out amongst the peasants of her estate and personally found the most attractive child because… that’s a great quality in a child you want to buy for the purposes of having the shit beaten out of them on a daily basis? I mean, you’re aiming to permanently disfigure him, but you want him absolutely gorgeous beforehand. And yeah, JC was bought. The aristocracy actually bothered to pay his family to take him away and educate, clothe, and feed him at their own expense until he reached his majority, instead of just taking him which would have been accepted.
And it bugs me that he was turned into a vampire based just on his beauty. Now, in the blahdeblah century (when he’s actually from hasn’t been said), out of all the philosophers, scientists, conversationalists, great thinkers, great minds, from one of the most culturally sophisticated and intellectual countries of Europe, this woman just thought ‘fuck keeping their minds for posterity, I just want someone really beautiful’. Why. Why turn someone just because they look good? If they’re dumb, annoying, or have bad habits, it’s a pretty bad investment. Especially considering this woman made JC, manipulator, rapist, and dumb fuck. Out of everyone possible, she made this asshole immortal!
Look, having a vampire turn someone because of their looks is not in itself a bad thing. It could be used for great personal conflict – always feeling that your looks are all you have, the only thing of worth that you possess, and feeling both pride and resentment in your appearance. But JC is just ‘I’m gorgeous ahahahaha can I fuck you? I think I’m going to trick you into fucking me!’ and has no other side to his personality. At all. And everyone else only thinks ‘wow, what a hot guy!’ and the concept of deep thought is lost on everyone.
“Serephina said you were a catamont for any vampire that would have you. What did she mean?”
I really don’t remember her saying that. It basically means that when JC was a baby vamp, he was passed around as lunch to anyone that would have him. And his penis.
I nodded. “Yeah. Serephina was old. I thought vampires weren’t supposed to age.”
Can you literally not believe that someone would turn someone who was mature of years? Are you so immature that your actual response was ‘EWWWWWW WHY IS SHE OLD?’
Fuck you Anita! And fuck you LKH!
JC confirms that Serephina was indeed made a vampire when she was old and that he slept with her. Serephina has the ability to grant wishes, and she gave him power to escape and be a master vampire. She is a genie, because it is ridiculous that a vampire has the magical ability to grant fucking wishes.
Anita tells JC ‘but you had the ability in you the whole time!’ as if she’s Glinda and JC’s Dorothy. She then says how his hair has grown since they’ve met and JC tells her that she likes long hair on men. She wonders how his hair grows since he’s dead – a valid question – and JC answers it by proclaiming he shall not get dressed, jumping up to flash her.
She runs out, scared by the thought of undead wang.
And, much to my consternation, SHE STILL HAS NOT ADDRESSED THE FACT THAT HER WRIST IS STILL SLIT OPEN AND GUSHING BLOOD.