Chapter 12: Flagrantly imperfect
Copyright © 2017 by Brian Bixby
“Perfect” Daphne (who is not) lives in an apartment building with a manned front desk and security. Figures she has richer tastes than me. I use my eyes and blow past them. Sixth floor, room number 66. My alter ego has an unoriginal sense of irony. I look at my watch. 6:31 PM. She’s in. I can tell. I unlock the door without knocking and march inside.
I intrude on a touching scene of my doppelganger naked from the waist up, kneeling on the floor, giving a blow job to some guy sitting on a couch in the living room. She’s preoccupied. He is, too, but he opens his eyes long enough to see me standing beside the couch just before I knock Miss Not-So-Perfect off balance and on to the floor.
I get two yells for that. Not bad. The guy’s yelling in panic. Fake Daphne is yelling first in amazement, and then in hatred as she sees who pushed her. I give her a smile as fake as she is. I joke, “What’s the matter? Couldn’t wait to get to the restaurant to eat?”
“Who the hell are you?” the guy shouts.
“I’m Daphne Vane,” I snap. “Now shut up and stay out of this if you don’t want me to bite it off.”
Pseudo-Daphne is standing up, rage on her face. “I would have thought you’d have the sense to just go away for good after seeing Mum reject you. The beating I gave you then is nothing compared to what I’m going to do now.”
“Where are the marks on my face, Daphne?” I ask her in a quiet voice. “Where are the bruises you gave me?” I see her look puzzled. What happens next is really going to surprise her. “You’re just a rogue part of me. So when you kicked me in the face, you kicked . . . yourself.”
It works as I expect it to. She cries out as her face splits open. And when she’s struck on the back. And punched in the stomach. And every other pain she inflicted on me. I watch her body get progressively damaged the same way mine was. I’m surprised by the bruises on her breasts. Hadn’t noticed the ones on mine. Wonder if they looked much different because mine are smaller.
While this is going on, Mr. Blow Job zips up his pants and looks like he’s going to make a run for it. Guess he’s not scared of me anymore. I don’t want him running off and causing an interruption to my take-down of Perfect Daphne. I look around the apartment in a hurry for a weapon and see a chain saw sitting on top of the liquor cabinet. Why Perfect Daphne has it there, I neither know nor care. I seize it and pull the power cord and as it starts up, I point it at Mr. BJ and shout, “Stay where you are, or else I’ll . . .”
My voice falters. I realize what this thing is that I’m holding. It’s not a chain saw. It’s the giant-sized gasoline-powered vibrator. I’m threatening Mr. BJ here with a vibrator.
On the other hand, he does look suitably frightened. So I try to sound evil as I say, “Stay where you are, or I’ll use this on you!”
It works. Why it works I don’t know, but Mr. BJ is round-eyed with fear and a stain is appearing on his pants. Maybe he had a really demanding girlfriend once.
I keep it pointed at him, but my attention’s now on my doppelganger. She’s not feeling well as the beating reaches its end. She’s on the floor. Hard to stand up after a beating like that. I would know. I put the vibrator down and turn it off, give Mr. BJ a warning glance to stay put, and then squat down beside her. She looks at me, hatred in her face. But she’s afraid, too. She knows she’s lost control here.
I look at her, and see what in some ways I wanted to be. (And that is wanted to be, not want to be. I can do better, having seen her.) I stroke her golden hair. Softly, I tell her, “I’m going to miss that. I always wanted to be more like Mum, no matter how little she thought of me. But I can’t let you run free. And I can’t fight you, either. You’re just going to have to rejoin me.”
For the first time, I see tears in her eyes. She knows she’s lost. “I don’t want to go back,” she tells me. “You’re so pathetic. I can’t stand being you.” It’s all she can do now.
I keep stroking her hair. “It won’t be the same, I promise. You showed me some things I needed to see. I’m going to have to change, too.” I give her a genuine smile, this time. And even a tear.
“Hold me.” One of us says it, I can’t tell which. But we hold each other, tightly, bitterly, and fondly. And then I am alone.
I stand up and look around. I am not in my old apartment. Or hers. I am in an apartment that’s a bit better than the one I used to have. Better furnishings, too: a mix of Scandinavian and Southwestern influences.
Oh, and Mr. Blow Job is still sitting on my couch. He’s wearing all of his clothes, and his pants are zipped up and unstained. Which makes sense, because in reality the way it is now I never unzipped them or threatened him with the vibrator. He is still terrified of me, but that’s because I’ve just cut him to pieces verbally for presuming way too much on a first date. At least that’s how I now remember it.
So I point to the door, and say to him, “That’s the way out. And when you get back home, tell the Council Daphne Vane says they can take their list and shove it up their collective asses.” I can feel the part of me that was the “Perfect Daphne” enthusiastically nodding in agreement. He scurries out of my apartment as if all the hounds of Hell are chasing him.
I go and get myself a drink. My tastes have changed, I guess, because my liquor cabinet here has scotch instead of bourbon. The vibrator is still on top of the cabinet, though; I put it there when I brought it home and just hadn’t got around to putting it away somewhere. Maybe it gave Mr. BJ some of those inappropriate ideas. I decide not to worry about that. I sit down on my couch, sip my drink, and then start sorting out the memories of what just happened to me since Friday evening.
It’s weird because I now have three sets of memories of what happened in the days since then: the ones I just lived through, the ones “Perfect Daphne” had, and a third set, in which we were never separated. And those are now the real one, as this apartment proves: the old me would never have moved here, and the “perfect” me wouldn’t have decorated it this way. How I have memories of things that never happened? That’s a problem for another day.
But in this world, the real world, I still work for Linda. I confronted her and got a promotion from her, not replaced her. I did go on some of the dates my alter ego lined up, but I had sex with only one of them, just for my own amusement and because he was hot. I visited my sister, as I had planned before this whole “Perfect Daphne” business began, but not my mother. And so on.
The one anomaly carried over from my last few days as me is that my meeting with the fortune teller still happened, although it doesn’t make sense in my recombined life. I’m sure that means something, but that’s another problem to be considered at a later date.
Speaking of problems, I didn’t really need to add to them by spitting in the Council’s eye as I just did. But I know, now, I was going to have to do it eventually. Vesta Fox will no doubt be annoyed. Too bad. The question is whether I can find a way to get away with it.
It’s only after I’ve finished my drink and am halfway to bed that I have a brainstorm. Larz, Larz, Larz, you have no idea what a gift you bestowed on me when you told me I’m partly inhuman. I had no idea, either. But it’s a weapon, a weapon I can use against the Council. In fact, it’s a weapon only I can use; Perfect Daphne couldn’t have used it! I don’t have to worry about Vesta Fox, or my mother. They’ll cooperate. I will go see my mother tomorrow night, and she will have to tell me just who my father is.
I wake up next morning to find an Enforcer in my apartment, demanding I come with him to talk to Vesta Fox. I still don’t have a lock to keep the likes of these out. I use my eyes to make him leave, telling him that if Vesta Fox wants to see me, I have lunchtime free.
So I find myself having lunch with Vesta in a secluded booth in an Italian restaurant. I suspect we both suspect we’ll be yelling at each other. Vesta is out of uniform and out of sorts at the same time. “I thought you understood you shouldn’t cause more trouble. What do you have, the I.Q. of a can of tuna fish?” is her opening line.
I wave off her concern. “Let’s stick to what’s important. You need to find out who my father is, to keep the Council from blowing up when All-Father announces his plans for Agatha. Well, I’m going to get that information from my mother, tonight. If you cooperate with me, you get the information in time to deal with it. Otherwise, I guarantee you won’t.” I say all this politely. No need to sound threatening; my words contain all the threat I need.
Vesta doesn’t immediately reply. She’s looking at me curiously, as if I’m not what I seem. Guess what, Vesta? That’s true. I’m tougher now, thanks to Perfect Daphne’s influence.
She comes to a decision. “What’s your price?” She really is good at judging people; she must have radically changed her opinion of me just on what she’s seeing today.
I smile. I know Vesta is going to hate this, but I’m setting my price high: everything I want from the Council. “A seat on the Council for Agatha, on top of preventing All-Father from marrying her. The Council to stop arranging a marriage for me.”
“Are you mad?” Vesta can’t believe what I’m asking. “You’re asking me to cut my own throat. I can’t stop All-Father without the Council behind me, and they aren’t going to back me if I try to meddle in their decisions without a damn good explanation.”
“Oh, but you’ll have an explanation, Vesta. Here’s the thing: although I still don’t know who he is, I know my father isn’t human. Not regular human, not god, not even demigod. Inhuman.” I emphasize the point. I figure Vesta will get it, but I want to make sure.
I can almost see the gears in Vesta’s head turning. She knows how this would destroy almost any chance of a marriage between All-Father and Agatha. All-Father could never align himself with a family that includes non-humans. The disgrace would be too much. So she asks, “Are you sure?”
I shake my head. “Of course not. But the troll I talked to, he’s sure.”
Vesta sits back in her chair, thinking. She smiles, a crafty smile. “It’ll work.” She then focuses on me. “Still, we have a problem, thanks to your stunt last night. The Council wants you hauled before them tomorrow morning, preferably humbled and penitent.”
“Well, they’re not going to get that,” I reply. And before Vesta can blow up at me, I continue, “I’ll unleash my mother on them. Once she tells me who my father is, she’s going to have to support me all the way. Think that will keep them busy long enough?”
Vesta makes a face. “Maybe. I don’t underestimate your mother’s ability to obfuscate a situation. Gods know she’s done it often enough in past. But if she can’t keep the Council from issuing me a catch-or-kill order for you, I’m going to have to carry it out, Daphne.”
I realize that what Vesta’s telling me is that she might have to kill me if this doesn’t work out. Oh, well. “Thanks for the warning. I’ll take my chances. We have a deal, then?”
Vesta sits up and reaches across the table. “We have a deal.” We shake. Once she lets go, Vesta adds, “I hope you know what you’re doing, Daphne.”
That surprises me. Vesta sounds as if she really cares. All I can think is that she must like Agatha a lot, because she doesn’t really know me at all. So all I say in reply is, “So do I, Vesta, so do I.”
So after work tonight, I’m going to have to go see my Mum and get her to ’fess up. And then hope the answer is good enough to help me stay alive.