We rise and slip through the crowd towards the front door, where I see Angel following Kev out ahead of us. She and I linger in the porch, while I watch them get into the Cadillac; then we emerge and head swiftly away down the block. “I’m going to tune in to Angel while we walk,” I murmur. “I think we should keep an eye on the Abayomi-Deon household.” She nods and we lapse into quiet.
I zoom in on the figure in the Cadillac’s back seat … and there you are, Angel, exhausted and sleep-deprived, in need of rest from everything. You wail in yourself, I need to sleep! I need to sleep for a hundred years, and you close your eyes and rest your head on the open window frame. But Lucan sees you do this, having wandered out from the bar, and he leans his grinning head down close to your ear, so you jump when he murmurs in his sexy deep-brown voice, “Don’t go to sleep, little Angel!
At home you climb the front staircase, clutching the banisters. You stumble to the big double bed and flop down fully clothed, your mind churning luridly from horniness and hormones, and you picture her again, the Baby Doll: her long straight platinum-blonde hair writhes and sprays against the blackness as she strenuously swings on her trapeze, wrenching at the ropes to send herself back down with adequate swing to push her further up at the opposite end of the arc. Her smile is a grimace and her white flesh streams tepid moisture. Her motion for an instant seems to slow, so her white hair streaks through the hot black space with a lonely volition of its own—luscious, vain, exquisite, fake and stunning in its snaky-pale platinum perfection. The lukewarm moisture, you notice, is sweat mixed with tears from her hazel eyes. A flat dead voice giggles out through her grimace, as she speaks a thing you cannot hear. She’s telling you something, grinning, while she yanks at the rope in either hand, to keep swinging. You strain, till at last you hear her message, seeking wisdom—but it’s nothing more than numbers, one to ten in sequence, repeated and repeated ad nauseam. Harder at the ropes she yanks, and wetter do her eyes run, and more and more stunning is her blonde hair swinging through the hot black, locked in its own swishy dripping private silence … and you feel as if you’re looking back inside yourself, Angel, as if you once were her, the Baby Doll.
You twist around the bed beneath the surface of a half-sleep, and there I follow too, while you sneak into the Berkeley Carteret Hotel, to hide. You wander round the empty mezzanine, through the grand empty dark mirrored rooms and halls and terraces, with views of the deadness of this town all around you: a lushness all for you, flitting alone from mirror to window, peeping through the glass at wastes of concrete, empty grass, sand, ocean-hiss and blasted buildings’ silhouettes. I watch you, you little queen, dancing on the ballroom floor, beneath the chandeliers. From the shadows at the side, as you twirl in the middle, I conduct a string quintet you cannot see but can hear; and my face weeps pouring flesh that runs in red rivulets across the shiny wooden floor but sinks before it reaches you. I’d kill you if I wanted to, but suicide hurts, so I pull you towards me on invisible elastic that sweats as it stretches in the wine-red glow radiated from my face. I pull you up the stairs, past the mirror, past the paintings and the plush public couches where no one ever sits; around the corner, past the ice-machine and down the long corridor, nearly to the end on the right, to number 629, where you stand at the window of the darkened room and watch an empty bus hiss by, while here in the corridor I stand behind your locked door and stare at your neck—
You twitch awake, as Lucan grabs your wrist and pulls you upward, off the bed entirely. You screech, flail and dangle, shivering in shock and trickling with sweat beneath your slinky black clothes, with the delicate silver cross still hanging off your chest where Lucan fixed it gently onto you earlier today.
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