CHAPTER 18: VEEVEE WUVS BWOO
Evelyn stood by the door to the club when Camille and I returned with Sister Mary Edith between us.
“Is Jesse inside?” Camille asked her as she ejected a valet from his folding chair and settled the elderly nun onto it. “One of his sisters is loose.”
“I think so? I haven’t seen him leave, but …” Evelyn frowned as she tried to figure out what she was looking at.
Camille stubbed out her cigarette in the bucket beside the door and bent down to speak to the old woman at eye level. “I’m going to go get someone to bring you home, Sister, okay? Wait here.” She straightened and glanced from me to Evelyn and back again. “I can’t take her inside; she’ll have a heart attack.”
“I’ll stay with her,” I told her.
Camille nodded and disappeared inside.
“Who’s your friend?” Evelyn asked.
“Found her wandering along the property line. Apparently, there’s a convent next door?”
“So I’ve heard. What were you doing along the property line?” Evelyn asked, then thought better of it. “Actually, no, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.”
Sister Mary Edith took my hand and beamed up at me toothlessly. She pressed the back of my hand to her cheek fondly and began to croon something in a language I didn’t understand.
“She likes you.”
“Of course she likes me; I’m extraordinary,” I said, although in truth I was surprised that the sight of my piercings and tattoos hadn’t sent her running for the hills.
“Oh you’re something else alright,” Evelyn said. “I heard about your fight. You okay?”
“I’m fine,” I assured her. “Just band drama—”
“Sister Edith!” The Mohawk Dude emerged from the club in a rush and took a knee at the nun’s feet. He smoothed her hair and gently straightened her nightgown. “It’s me, sister. It’s Jesse—you know me?” Sister Mary Edith took his face between her hands and smiled beatifically and utterly without recognition.
She might not have known him, but Mohawk Dude seemed to know her. He dabbed at her cheek with his thumb and untied a hoodie from around his waist to drape it over her shoulders. I realized there was a clerical collar safety pinned to the collar of his t-shirt, partly covering a neck tattoo of a flaming skull. The crest of his hair stood out from his head in tall, aggressive spikes that seemed utterly at odds with the gentle, one-sided conversation he was carrying on for her benefit.
“Decided to go for a nighttime stroll, huh? Nice night for it, isn’t it. Late now, though—we oughtta get you back. Right? Yeah—” Realizing that her feet were bare, he untied his sneakers and pried them off one by one to slide them over the old woman’s muddy feet.
“That’s better, isn’t it? Yeah, that’s much better. C’mon sister, let’s get you home.” He helped the old woman to her feet and cast a shy half-grin in my direction. “Thanks for the help.”
“…bless,” he said, pressing his palms together and ducked his head before turning taking Sister Mary Edith’s elbow and heading out into the waning night.
“What just happened?” I asked, watching him go.
“Apparently, he’s a priest? Everyone calls him Father.”
“What the hell is a priest doing in a strip club?”
Evelyn shrugged. “This is the first time I’ve seen him, but I guess he’s a regular. Judge just lets him do his thing.”
Evelyn held up her hands. “I just work here.”
The valet finally managed to extract the Goat from whatever alternate dimension he’d parked it in and pulled up in front of where we stood. He climbed out and held the door open for me, but I didn’t get in right away. “Hey, you hungry? Let’s get breakfast,” I said to Evelyn.
“Breakfast. You know: pancakes, bacon, coffee.”
“It’s two in the morning!”
“So? The Pancake House is open twenty-four seven. C’mon, Evil. I haven’t seen you in forever—it’ll be fun.”
“Judge’ll let you go. You’ll be doing him a favor; making it so he doesn’t have to kick me out. C’mon, please?” I wheedled. “Tell him you gotta hang with your big brother.”
Evelyn looked back toward the club and weighed her options. “Fine,” she said at last. “You go on ahead. I’ll go ask Judge, and if he says I can go, I’ll meet you there. Deal?”
“Deal,” I said. “Be there or be a fucking polygon.”
* * * *
Evelyn arrived at the Pancake House twenty minutes later wearing a pair of yoga pants and an oversized Northwestern t-shirt. The last time I’d seen her was at her college graduation when she still looked like a kid. She looked like a grown-up now.
The waitress, a dead-eyed woman in her fifties who smelled like cigarettes and cats, came and took our orders: bacon and eggs for me, fruit with cottage cheese for Evelyn. Coffee all around. The waitress poured the coffee and disappeared into the kitchen to put in our order.
“I can’t stay long. Markos’s going to worry if I’m late,” Evelyn said, pulling her mug toward her and inhaling the steam. Under the half-watt lights dangling over the table, she looked as exhausted as I felt.
“Tell him you’re with me.”
“That won’t help much. He’s heard enough stories about you.”
“So, you’re living with Markos now?”
“I stay with him when I work nights,” she said. “He is my fiancé.”
“That’s a sin, you know.”
Evelyn made a face.
“Don’t be a child. “
“What would Mom say?”
“She doesn’t know,” Evelyn said. “She might guess but I haven’t told her. We’re kinda not speaking right now—we got into this huge fight about the wedding plans last week. Ever since her hysterectomy she’s been a nightmare—”
“Hang on, Mom had a hysterectomy?!” I froze, sugar packets half tipped toward the coffee and looked at her to see if she was serious. She was. “When the fuck did this happen?”
“A couple of weeks ago,” Evelyn said. “Sorry—I thought you knew. I didn’t mean to spring it on you.”
“No one tells me shit. What happened?”
“She had these growths—fibroids or something—and they kept bleeding…you know, like a really heavy period or whatever. She thought it was just because of The Change, but she got so anemic she fainted after Gaya’s wedding and Dad had to rush her to the emergency room. She decided to just have them take everything out.”
“Eew, Jesus. But she’s okay?”
Evelyn sipped her coffee. “Yeah, she’s fine. But it messed with her hormones so she’s unbearable now.”
The waitress brought our food. I wasn’t hungry, but I ate anyway.
“Eating like that’s going to kill you,” Evelyn said, watching me shove bacon in my mouth. I eyed her plate of melon cubes and cheese clots.
“You’re one to talk. You on some kind of cleanse?”
“I’m not eating sugar,” Evelyn said. “I’m a bride. I gotta fit into the dress.”
“And I’m a rockstar. I gotta fit into an early grave.”
Evelyn rolled her eyes and drank her coffee, bracing her elbows on the table and holding the mug in both hands. “What’s that like?”
“An early grave? Probably a lot like being thirty.”
“No, being a rockstar,” she said. “Happy birthday, by the way.”
“Thanks.” I thought about it for a while, chasing egg yolk around the plate with a crust of toast I knew I wouldn’t eat. “I dunno. I’m not really a rockstar, I just play one on TV.”
“Yes, you are,” Evelyn insisted. “You got albums. You tour—you’ve been all over the world, right? People recognize you. Heck, I see more of you in magazines than I do in real life.”
“I travel all the time and never get anywhere. I scream obscenities into an uncaring void and prance around on stage like I’m too stupid to know I look like an idiot. I live with lowlifes and I hang out with strippers. Welcome to the grand fucking illusion.”
As if the very mention of “lowlifes and strippers” could conjure them into existence, I heard a commotion at the door, and I looked up in time to see Tombstone and the guys enter, followed by a cohort of dancers from the club, now plain and drab with their street clothes on. Tombstone stopped short when he saw me but didn’t approach.
Evelyn glanced over her shoulder as the entourage laid claim to a corner booth on the far side of the restaurant. I could hear the hubbub of voices and laughter from across the wide swath of No Man’s Land between us, but I couldn’t make out any of the actual conversation.
“Hey. Focus.” Evelyn snapped her fingers in front of my face to get my attention. “I’m here for you and I’m gonna be a wreck in a few hours when I get to work, so pay attention.”
“Yeah—sorry.” I wrenched my attention back to the table in front of me
A thought occurred to me. “It’s Saturday.”
“You said you have to work in a few hours but it’s Saturday.”
“I have a weekend job.”
“Bullshit. Where? Doing what?”
Evelyn blushed. “It’s at the Renaissance Faire. I help lure people to Markos’ shows. Not that he needs the help. I think he just hired me so we could see each other.”
“What about the Botanical Gardens?”
“I do that during the week.”
“So, you work a full-time day job, a part-time night job, and a weekend job? Are you paying off a mob debt or something?”
“It’s just something I have to do,” she said with a finality that said none of your business. “Which reminds me, Camille said to give you this.” She reached into her purse and produced a business card that she handed to me. Neither the name nor the company meant anything to me.
“One of her regulars is in advertising. She says he’s keen to meet you.”
“Will I be required to fellate him?”
“Uhh,” Evelyn decided not to rise to the bait and soldiered on. “Something about licensing one of your songs for an ad. Sounds like it’s good money if you can get it.”
“I shall butter my anus accordingly.”
“Ohmigod you’re gross,” Evelyn muttered. Her phone buzzed against the sticky table and she reached for it, glad to have the excuse to avoid my gaze. “Markos is getting antsy,” she said, glancing at a text on the screen. “I oughtta get a move on.”
She retrieved her purse and dropped a handful of bills on the table, then cracked her jaw around a yawn. She got to her feet and folded me into a weary hug. “Be good to yourself,” she said with her ear pressed against my chest. “Veevee wuvs, Bwoo.”
Evie loves Blue.
It was how she used to wish me good night as a kid. I felt a pang of nostalgia for a time I’d almost forgotten had even existed.
“Demon loves Evil,” I replied. Evelyn held on for just a moment longer than she needed to, then she pushed away with a weary smile and walked out the door, leaving me once again alone.
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CHAPTER 19: MONEY, PEOPLE, DIRT will go live Monday, November 1st , 2021
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