SUGAR AND SPICE AND ALL THINGS NICE
Talulla Demetriou, you have been a Very (pause) Bad (pause) Girl.
My mother always said this with a glimmer of delight in her eyes. She was a Very Bad Girl herself. What she hated above all was weakness. Especially in women. She’d rather pure evil. She was pure evil, when she had to be. She acknowledged an elite: our family, a handful of friends, certain celebrities. The rest of the world was made up of idiots and mediocrities. The Humans, she called them.
(God being dead, irony still rollickingly alive...)
Later, courtesy of my psycho-terrorist Catholic Aunt Theresa, I discovered I was also a Dirty Little Girl. A Dirty, Filthy Little Girl, to be precise. When I was eight she caught me and Toby Greely in the basement examining each other’s private parts. One minute Toby and I were alone, watched by the room’s stunned miscellany – cardboard boxes and a broken ping-pong table and some rolled-up sunshades – the next the silence shifted and I knew someone else was there. Aunt Theresa stood on the bottom step. Her face was always moist from Pond’s Cold Cream but right then it shone with what looked like newly minted divinity. My face, when I turned it to her, was hot and overfull. I had a rich soft feeling because of my pants round my ankles and Toby on his knees and the silence that had cocooned us while he’d taken his long, careful – and indeed tender – look. I’d been close to some big revelation, I believed, and along with horror at being discovered was queenly annoyance at being interrupted. Even then I was thinking Toby and I would have to get back to this, soon.
‘Talulla Demetriou,’ Aunt Theresa said, ‘you are a dirty little girl.’ And then, since that didn’t quite cover it: ‘A dirty, filthy little girl.’
The Dirty Filthy Little Girl was pretty and liked bad things. In Tenth Grade she was friends with Lauren Miller, who was also pretty and also liked bad things. For example there was a drippy and permanently cold-sored girl they tormented and nicknamed NODOR (No Danger of Rape). One day the Dirty Filthy Little Girl was sitting on Jason Wells’s lap at recess and Lauren called out something awful to NODOR as she went by and you could see from NODOR’s face it really hurt her, hurt her in her heart, and at the same time Jason’s hard-on was pressing against the Dirty Filthy Little Girl’s ass and the Dirty Filthy Little Girl got the rich soft feeling again and knew there was a connection. It was like the Devil putting his arms around you from behind and you leaning back into it and enjoying the lovely surprising warmth.
At college the Very Bad Dirty Filthy Little Girl knew once and for all she was an agent for the forces of darkness. She was the worst kind of young woman: one who recognised the proactively politicised female she ought to become, then didn’t become it, but instead carried on being attracted to evil guys and having the wrong kind of sexual fantasies and making herself look as attractive as possible and ultimately accepting that she was too selfish and good-looking and lazy and perverted to ever live the kind of life she knew she ought to. By the end of her sophomore year she was openly reading the wrong authors and no longer going through Gethsemane every time she wore a sexy dress or a pair of politically bankrupt shoes or let a guy fuck her in the ass, which, to be fair to her, was a privilege she granted very (pause) very (pause) selectively, and often with mixed feelings or when completely hammered.
Finally, the Very Bad Dirty Filthy Little Girl capped her career of moral slippage by dropping out of her Masters in Literature and becoming a businesswoman. A servant of Mammon! With no great surprise – in fact with loose-limbed satisfaction – she discovered she had a penchant for what a later lover (the lover to end all lovers) would call ‘the smut and savvy of American Trade’. Her mother was both disappointed and sufficiently vain to be flattered by how much like her her daughter had turned out.
Given the Very Bad Dirty Filthy Little Girl’s record, it was astonishing that when her marriage collapsed it wasn’t because she was cheating on her husband, but because he was cheating on her. She enjoyed a brief sojourn on the moral high ground.
‘Brief’ being the operative word. No sooner had she got used to the toothsome satisfaction of being all sorts of lousy things but at least I’m not a fucking liar you miserable fuck than she got bitten by a werewolf one night in the Arizona desert, and was forced to say goodbye to the moral high ground for ever. She discovered that not only could she kill and eat people once a month, but she could kill and eat people once a month and love it.
Until she found out she was pregnant. Then a whole new species of trouble began.
‘Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother’s love is not.’
James Joyce – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
‘Oh, mon Dieu,’ Cloquet said, when he opened the lodge door and saw me on the floor. ‘Fuck.’
I was on my side, knees drawn up, face wet with sweat. Pregnancy and the hunger didn’t get along. Hated each other, in fact. I pictured the baby pressing werewolf fingernails against my womb, five bits of broken glass on the skin of a balloon. And only myself to blame: when I could’ve got rid of it I didn’t want to. Now that I wanted to it was too late. Conscience from the old life said: Serves you right. I’d fired conscience months back, but it was still hanging around, miserable, unshaven, nowhere else to go.
‘Did you get it?’ I gasped. Behind Cloquet the open door showed deep snow, the edge of the pine forest, frail constellations. Beauty mauled me even in this state. Aesthetic hypersensitivity was a by-product of slaughter. Life was full of these amoral relations, it turned out.
Cloquet rushed to my side, tugging off his thermal gloves. ‘Lie still,’ he said. ‘Don’t try to speak.’ He smelled of outdoors, dense evergreens and the far north air like something purified by the flight of angels. ‘You have a temperature. Did you drink enough water?’
For the umpteenth time I wished my mother were alive. For the umpteenth time I thought how unspeakably happy I’d be if she and Jake walked in the door right now, grinning, the pair of them. My mother would dump her purse on the table in a puff of Chanel and say, For God’s sake, Lulu, look at your hair – and the weight would lift and everything would be all right. Jake wouldn’t have to say anything. He’d look at me and it would be there in his eyes, that he was for me, always, always – and the nightmare would reduce to a handful of solvable problems. (I’d expected their ghosts, naturally. I’d demanded their ghosts. I got nothing. The universe, it also turned out, was no more interested in werewolf demands than it was in human ones.)