Buy the Book

"I had wrestled with myself about the advisability of moving forward with my plans when there wasn’t an emergency or any real reason to do it, other than to satisfy my curiosity and my desire to mess with them…just a little."

Do you like what you've read here?

If so, please make a comment in the box at the end of this chapter.

09 – Goth

I was inordinately pleased with myself.  I had devised a plan to flush out a number of them—perhaps all of them—in the same week.  I’d be taking a big risk, of course.  As a result of this little series of maneuvers I was certain that security would become far tighter, and that it would be exponentially more difficult to pull something of this nature off in the future, if it were to become necessary, that is.

I had wrestled with myself about the advisability of moving forward with my plans when there wasn’t an emergency or any real reason to do it, other than to satisfy my curiosity and my desire to mess with them…just a little. 

Because I was convinced that there was a fairly large team, which must be organized into shifts, I thought it would be most advantageous to perpetrate a double or even a triple header:  back to back incidents to expose the various personnel assigned to my detail over the course of several consecutive days.  Of paramount importance, though, was the necessity to insure that my actions did not appear to be the result of pre-meditation or planning of any sort.  They had to think the breaches were unrelated, and completely their fault.  It would ruin everything for all of us if they knew the fault was mine.

My plan had taken form slowly over the course of several weeks as I became acquainted with the most ridiculous looking person I had ever known in real life.  Her name was Samantha Sun.  She was into the Goth look:  a style that suggests horror and mystery.  To some it is simply a mode of fashion, to others an entire lifestyle. Either way, a gothic look involves very black clothing and very white makeup with edgy, tough accessories.  Samantha also drew upon punk influences, incorporating a little of both to create her own hideously ugly personal style that evoked a frustrating but undeniable morbid fascination on my part.

Sitting next to her in our shared Advanced Program Senior English class provided a much closer view than would have presented itself to me in the natural order of things.  People who looked like her frightened and repulsed me.  Well, now that I was older, what they really did was irritate me with such backwards attempts to gain attention—something that offended me on multiple levels. 

Upon very close scrutiny, it was clear that somewhere deep beneath the layers of densely over done black makeup and jet black hair highlighted with random strings of white and neon pink was a perfectly pretty girl.  She had great bone structure.  Her eyes made me think she might have some Asian heritage.  She was tall and thin, willowy and graceful.  Her bulky black clothes (and platform shoes that made her nearly seven feet tall) combined with her heavy, painful looking jewelry all but obscured her true self.  I imagined that was the point, though I couldn’t guess why.

I was ashamed of my mental bigotry, assuming that she was stupid, or insecure, or mistakenly vain.  I would never, ever say such unkind things aloud, but the fact that nobody around me knew what I was thinking didn’t change the ugly truth that I was being prejudiced and unfair.  Who was I to judge this book by her cover?  Vowing to amend my ways, I decided to see what it would be like to be friends with a person like Samantha.  The upside was that it didn’t seem like I would be in anybody’s way trying.

It turned out that Sam was surprisingly smart for someone who looked so stupid. Of course, she was in Advanced English with me, but I didn’t think of that until later.  I had framed my introduction by informing her that my middle name was also Samantha, not Velleity, as perhaps it should have been. 

When we conversed before and after class, I found her to be engaging and fun with a quick wit and a rather dark sense of humor, which I enjoyed immensely.  I think she understood how hard I was trying and seemed pleased to be the object of such effort.  She was the only girl my own age that I had ever felt so at ease around, which was ironic considering the normal effect Goth looking people had on me.  When I quizzed her on her likes and tastes, she directed me to a whole new world of books, music and movies I never knew I liked.  I’d been avoiding entertainment of every sort for a while and it was enjoyable to re-engage that part of myself again, especially with the assistance of a knowledgeable guide. 

We only had one class together, and it quickly turned into the highlight of my day.  Before long I was invited to join her for lunch, which was a huge thrill for me.  The joy was dampened, somewhat, though, when I followed her to our table and realized we would not be eating alone.  The dampening had to do with the realization that she was part of a clan, and not my exclusive property.  I was sliding helplessly back into reticent mode even before I sat down with them.  But Samantha, who must have anticipated such a reaction, was determined to keep me engaged, and interviewed me like a talk show hostess, while the three other Goth girls acted as the studio audience, keenly interested in hearing what I had to say, and laughing at comments I hadn’t intended to be received as funny.  Much to my surprise and relief, they all seemed to accept me with a degree of pleasantness and cordiality I would not have expected.  Once again, I was very happy to be wrong about things.

One day, a few weeks into our friendship, while we were waiting for class to start, I hinted that I was curious how the Goth look would wear on me, and Sam nearly blasted out of her seat with enthusiasm. 

“Oh my God, Ellery!  You have to let me do you up!  You don’t have to buy anything. You can wear some of my stuff!” 

Did they make Goth mini skirts?  Anything else of hers would drag the floor on me.

 “I’ll do you up and then we’ll go out!”

Sam was elated.  I was too.  This promised to be hilarious and I could feel that it was going to work like a charm!  My watchers would never see this one coming.

It seemed like everyone and her mother (including my mother) was always trying to give me a makeover.  So it was ironic and hugely funny to me that the only person to get a shot at it would be my very own ‘Gothy Kay’ image consultant.

I was pleased how it all came together.  Samantha was very solicitous and understanding of my reluctance to be seen leaving home in Goth persona.   Letting her work out the cloak and dagger aspects of the operation was a stroke of genius.  It required neither effort nor explanation on my part.  Her motivation was to surprise her Goth girlfriends, while mine was to elude a well paid and highly sophisticated group of surveillance experts, so that I could conduct a little stakeout of my own.

She suggested that we meet her friends at Tinsel Town Cineplex on Friday afternoon after class.  That was perfect for me.  I wanted to get a good look at the chaos I was about to cause and that would have been harder to achieve from a distance at night.  The icing on the cake was that a Friday matinee was standard operating procedure for me.  The surveillance personnel would be on low alert, maybe even goofing off during the ninety plus minutes of free time.

Hoyt was always home early on Fridays.  My mom, on the other hand, usually had to work late at the library on Fridays.  I wondered if it was truly mandatory or if it was a ruse to facilitate stepfather and stepdaughter bonding time.  It wasn’t necessary.  I was as bonded to Hoyt as I was ever going to be.  I really liked him.  He was smart and soft spoken, calm and courteous.  He had no idea what to talk about with a teenage girl, though.  That was okay.  I felt his pain since I didn’t either. 

I think my mom had envisioned our time together as an exchange of communication and the pursuit of common interests.  Well, we did spend the time on our interests…just not together.  He would drop me off at the movies and then head over to the driving range.  This had become a familiar routine for us.   Then he would collect me after my movie and take me out to dinner and we would enjoy the illicit consumption of foods we couldn’t eat in front of Mom. For Hoyt it was red meat, and for me it was anything cooked in the deep fryer and Cherry Coke to go with it.  Then we’d show up at approximately the same time that she arrived home from work, and she would be happy to see us together and pleased that we had been working on our relationship.  And so our allied objectives to foil my mother’s wishes did build a certain sense of comradery between Hoyt and me, and though she would have objected to the means by which it was accomplished, she did ultimately get her way.  Though it had felt like work in the beginning, it eventually became a high point of my week, and I think it was for him as well.

I was running slightly late when Hoyt dropped me off at the box office.  As I entered the theater it was very dark, and I couldn’t see a thing.   Someone grabbed my arm and guided me to the center of the center row.   Samantha was already there with her other friends:  Splash, Corey and Rachel, by name.   I didn’t have classes with any of them. It was good I hadn’t known about them initially, or I might not have tried to make friends with Sam, thinking she already had buddies.  I was so grateful for my ignorance in this instance.  On account of my newfound friendship with Sam, I decided to extend each girl a measure of credit, despite the fact that they all appeared to be battling as perpetual finalists in some kind of ‘World’s Most Obnoxious and Unsightly Ensemble’ competition.

We watched a recently released action movie that drew a few more people than was normal for this time of day.  That was good because it would make it easier to hide in plain sight.

Just before the closing credits, Samantha and I made our way to the restroom, ostensibly to get ahead of the crowd, and hopefully to enter the handicap stall in the back together without being noticed.  From her cartoonishly large black bag (inside which I literally could have hidden) she pulled out a wig that had evidently been part of an Elvira costume in better days and the equivalent of a doctor’s lab coat in black.  She had also packed her thigh high platform boots, which took me from five feet even to something like five-eight or nine.  I should have built in some practice time with those; it was like walking on stilts. 

She wrapped a black belt with silver metal studs around my waist and cinched it to the very last hole.  It still hung a little loose.  Next she got to work on my makeup.  First was an expertly applied pale white foundation followed by tracings around my eyes with a kohl pencil that looked like the fat black crayons they use in kindergarten.  To this she added a number of heavy strokes of mascara and some insanely blue metallic-sheen lipstick.  Next came the clip-on version of Goth jewelry.  Good for trying out the look without committing to those pesky multiple body piercings, she explained.  It clipped onto my nose and was connected by a stainless steel link chain to a row of studs that extended all the way up the edge of my left ear.  Finally she positioned the wig and my new look was complete.  I timed the transformation.   She had done it in just under five minutes.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The line to the women’s room was winding out the door by now—another movie had let out.  Someone who had observed me enter, but who wasn’t paying close attention, might assume that I had been held up by the crowd, or that the six-dollar chilidog I had purchased from the concession stand on my way in this afternoon was now making me pay again on its way out.

Samantha and I proceeded to the sinks.  She was gushing.  I was astounded.  Sam and some other scary looking person were standing there looking back at us.  No wonder I never wore makeup!  It was like having an out of body experience.  I was tall and dark and…weird! 

“Sam, you’re a genius.  A true artist.” 

I had to admit it.

“See?  It feels awesome, doesn’t it?” she replied. 

It really did.  I didn’t even need to be embarrassed because no one knew it was me.  It was totally liberating.  I needed to tone down the happiness because it was at odds with the style.

“Are you ready, gorgeous?” she asked.

“Who me?  Uh, yeah, you bet!” I replied, partly jazzed and partly horrified.

We exited the ladies room and made our way across the lobby to a bench where the others of our species were gathered.  They each exhibited an amusing yet predictable amount of surprise and curiosity as we approached.  Sam was triumphant as she announced, “Ladies, I’d like you to meet Kit, my cousin from Great Britain.”

The effect of this news was comical to watch as it sunk in.  For these girls, the UK was like the holy land of culture and fashion.  This revelation of my origin seemed to clear away the logical question I’m sure they had been preparing to ask, namely “Where did you come from?” and replaced it with “Is there a magical wormhole that links Tinsel Town and London in the bathroom, and which stall is that…exactly?”

They wanted to know important things like which concerts I had been to at Wembley Stadium and whether I ever saw anybody famous at Heathrow.  As if my life in London was spent exclusively hanging around at the airport or waiting for outdoor concerts to begin.

In my best BBC World Service accent I explained that most recently I’d spied Thom Yorke in the British Airways section of Terminal One and that the Future Sellouts concert was absolutely to die for.  They had no idea what I was talking about, but it sounded appropriately cool, and they nodded with enthusiasm.

When they asked if Kit was short for anything, Sam retorted “Kitten” and her tone added the “Duh” as punctuation.

While they interviewed me I was surreptitiously surveying the crowd for my mark, or marks.  I imagined he might take the form of a sinister looking man in a deep olive suit, complete with black shades and an earpiece, sentinel style ala Agent Smith from The Matrix.  But as I scanned the room I was disappointed to see no one looking perturbed.  About ten minutes passed and finally, there it was:  the look of agitated concern accompanied by quick movements that had no place here on this lazy afternoon at the movies. 

He wore a Dallas Cowboys ball cap and jersey, faded jeans and high top sneakers.  Without staring I couldn’t tell if he was American Indian or just Indian; but he wasn’t Latino, I was sure of that, even if his Texas affiliation might suggest otherwise.  He was about five ten, with a muscular but more or less medium build, and had black, sort of curly, medium length hair and tan skin, but surprisingly light, bloncket (bluish gray) colored eyes.  Eyes that were wide with anxiety and despair—maybe even panic.  

I felt a sickening wave of remorse.  He was absolutely beautiful and he was looking for me—worried that something terrible had happened when his back was turned—and stressed out that the bad guys that someone obviously thought were after me had somehow succeeded in abducting me from right under his nose.  As his eyes methodically searched the room, I averted mine just before they made their way to our corner.  I was certain that if our eyes locked the game would be over, with me being removed from the scene by my ear—the side without the studs.  

Then, to my absolute horror, he began moving forward in a straight line for us!  Now a wave of nausea was cresting over me.   He approached Sam and asked, “Excuse me.  I’m looking for the little blonde haired girl that just came out of the theater.   I thought I saw you talking to her on the way to the restroom.” 

He spoke with perfect diction and no discernable accent.  Now I didn’t think he was Indian, either.  I just couldn’t tell.  Perhaps he was from a previously unknown tribe of fabulously handsome people—it sure looked that way to me.

It took Sam slightly longer to respond than it should have.  She must have been deliberating whether the truth or a lie would go over better.  She opted for both.

 “Do you mean Ellery?  Long blonde hair, about three feet tall?”

The girls all laughed.  

“I know her from school.  I said ‘Hi’ to her after the movie, but we didn’t come together.  She’s probably gone by now.”

Good answer

“Do you want me to give her a message, when I see her?”

Even better. 

He thought for a second and then said, “Just tell her that Ash was asking about her,” he paused, looked around again then added, “I guess I’ll catch up to her later.  Thanks.” 

He turned on his heal and swiftly walked away.

Then I had an inspiration.  ‘Kit’ said to Sam in a tone he was sure to hear, “Do you think it could have been this Ellery who was retching in the last stall?” 

It worked.  His course veered immediately back toward the restrooms.  That meant he hadn’t recognized me after all.  Relief.  Then more inspiration. 

“Perhaps we should go and check on her, see if she needs a hand?” I suggested.

I was anxious to get back to the incarnation of myself that would set his mind at ease.  I couldn’t bear the thought of driving away with Sam now, letting him suffer through thinking the worst, only to realize later that he’d been punked.

Sam’s simple reply, emulating my accent, was “Indeed.” 

We excused ourselves and were on our way back to the restroom.  Ash hesitated by the exit. He was talking on his phone now.  It didn’t look like a pleasant conversation.  We strode purposefully past him through the Ladies Room entrance and past ten people standing in line.  Once inside we stalled briefly, and then I said, somewhat loudly, “Pardon me there, are you quite all right?” 

After the stall’s bewildered occupant vacated, I stepped inside.  Then, at my suggestion, Sam doubled back to where Ash was standing and informed him that it was Ellery all right, and that we would see to her.  Meanwhile I had begun removing my disguise.  Next I set to work on my face using several special makeup removing cloths that I had purchased with this in mind.  Sam slipped her crazy big purse under the door and I shoved everything back in.  Then I said in a loud voice for listening ears, “I’ll catch up later, love.  I need to clean off my boots.  No worries.” 

Before I exited the stall, I handed out the bag and she put her arm around my waist to ‘assist’ me out of the facility.  I was disappointed when I realized he was no longer in sight.  He was still watching, I knew, but I wasn’t going to get to see the relief erase the anxiety from his unbelievably handsome face, and I was unhappy about that.  Those negative emotions playing over my own face probably added to the illusion of my illness.  I took deep breaths and bent slightly forward with my arm wrapped in front of my stomach as Sam guided me to her car.   She helped me into the passenger’s seat and then got in on the driver’s side.  Her face was alight with mischief and pleasure. 

She smiled hugely and said “Capital!”  She was still being British with me and asked, “So now Love, let’s hear all about this Ash fellow, shall we?”

I was back to being me. 

“I’ve never met him before,” I admitted, though considering his extreme handsomeness, I was already thinking about how to remedy that situation. 

As we pulled out of the Tinsel Town lot, I kept stealing glances in the side mirror, trying to look for a trailing car.  There was too much traffic to be sure, though.  I gave up and let my mind wander over what had just happened, focusing especially on the face of the most appealing thug imaginable.  There was no way he was a thug, I corrected myself.  He didn’t look mad when I disappeared—he looked scared.  He was scared for me, about what had happened to me, and that had been instantly endearing.  All my plans of perpetration instantly vaporized.

Sam let me mull over my reflections in peace for several minutes, but she wasn’t done with the subject just yet. 

“So, he was really cute, El.  Are you sure you don’t know him from anywhere?” 

I was a little hurt.  I had never lied to her before, and what I just said was true.

“I wonder what he wanted,” I asked, more to myself than to get a response.

“Probably to ask you out, blondie,” she said with a pleased sounding giggle.  

She had a wicked grin shining across her face as she glanced over to catch my reaction.

“So you think he’s a pedophile?” 

That burned on the way out.  I wished I could retract it.  It was a mean thing to say about him, even if it was just a self-deprecating joke.

She laughed out loud though, and said, “Hey, you’re eighteen now.  You better get used to it gorgeous.  There’s going to be a line of boys waiting for you.” 

Whatever.  There was no point arguing over it.

“But seriously, he didn’t seem like a boy to me.  He looked a little older.  Well, maybe not looked older, but seemed older, you know?” 

“Yeah, that’s what I thought too.  And I agree, he was totally handsome.  Maybe he was in my grandpa’s class at U of L.   One time I visited campus to hear Grandpa give a lecture.  Maybe he remembered me from there.” 

I was trying to flesh out a reason for Ash’s interest in me for Sam’s sake.  It was plausible.  At the funeral quite a few Chemistry students, exclusively male, had paid their respects, some even trying to hit on me in the process with ‘sympathy’ hugs, most of which I’d been able to dodge.

“Or maybe he’s just a stalker…a totally handsome stalker.”

She laughed at herself, but she had no idea how right she was.

Curious about Ash’s take on Ellery’s Gothic best friend?  Click on “Perspective Passport” below and find out…

Perspective Passport

Are you enjoying this chapter? What do you like about it? Enter your comment below. Thank you!

Chapter Index | 3 Comments

3 Comments (Leave a comment »)

  1. I love how simple Ash’s love is for Ellery. He loves her to the point that he is happy that she is happy even though he isn’t the reason for it. Keep it up the great writing Ann!!

    Comment by rebeckah — February 23, 2013 at 7:41 pm

  2. My heart is happy that Ash sees Ellery’s persona instead of just her person. Her joy is his…that’s love!

    Comment by Marilyn — March 23, 2012 at 10:27 pm

  3. I’ve actually bought the book off Amazon, but just wanted to say this is definitely my favorite chapter so far! I am -really- loving the book!


    Comment by Persy — July 14, 2010 at 3:45 am

Leave a comment