There once was a family that was happy, for the most part. There was the mother, the father, the sister, the brother. And then, as is customary of tales such as this, tragedy. The mother was gone ripping apart the family into sadness.
There was a replacement, but fie! She was not who she seemed. A doppelganger, a sprite, who distorted her true nature, she hounded them, hounded them every day. Her mind was vacant and her heart was frozen, except when heroin, that shining drug, was pumped into her veins. At last she would be silent, glazed eyes glimmering at imaginary friends.
The father cut lawns, cut trees, cut flowers. He cut and cut everything, including his wrists. But he did not die. His scars only made him more frightening to the people who employed him, staring through the windows and shooing away the children. And so to placate his heart, he filled it with garbage, watching the endless buzzing television, trying to forget. The sky turned crimson as the sun dipped low behind the mountains. Han was bent over in contemplation, his slender torso arcing gracefully. He watched the sunset with sadness and a familiar longing for the start of a new day. As it was, he would have to go home, back to the family that he loathed. As a red finger of light slowly drifted out of the picture, the wind began to blow, fierce and cutting with the absence of the sun. He sighed, hooking his fingers into the belt loops of his corduroy pants and began to rise, cold biting through his blond spiky hair and into his skull. His eyes welled up with the sharp pain like an ice-cream headache as it split through his skull, before wincing and pulling the black beanie over his head and tucking it down over his ears.
His sister, Greta, met him at the corner.
“Where were you?” she wanted to know, clutching her arms to her slight frame.
She was younger than he was by about a year and a half. Their mother, when she had been alive, had been quick to turn out children, and quick to die. Their house held stillness like a toothache in the back of his mouth. It throbbed and flared, arching occasional pangs down the circuitry of his nerves and into his chest. Pangs that reminded him of that night, of the clock ringing in the New Year, each stroke wringing the life from her limbs.
Greta looked as her mother did, serious eyes, large in her pale face. They were like laughing stones, lilting and heavy. Her body was tall, and slender, but that was mostly because she swam long laps each day in the community pool. She also refused to eat anything that was red or tasted like “blue raspberry.” Her hands were long and soft, and each night, she would help her brother with chores, folding each napkin and shirt so delicately, that it looked as though her fingers folded in with each crease. She would massage his tired shoulders and tell him stories of her all-girl school, about the frog fiasco in the teacher’s lounge and the delicate lingerie worn by the girls in the locker rooms.
But now, her hands were holding one another like she would fall over if she let go of herself. Han’s eyes were tired, dull blue, sullen. As he looked at his sister halfway, a few loose strands shook over his temples, peeking out of the black knit beanie and shining in the lamplight. Her heart leapt and she knew it was wrong, but still she felt the pull. Her brother, pale and fiery, was the one person to understand her, the one person to look at her as though she was not full of shit and give her a chance to feel. His lean body curved artistically like an ice sculpture; cold and graceful. He could feel her gaze covering him, full of hunger and caution. He felt a chill in that look, as though he could catch the feeling and wasn’t sure if he liked it, or wanted to shield himself.
There was no time to react, however, because the moment was shattered by the voice of their stepmother braying and cursing down the street at them.
“Han! Greta! What the FUCK do you think you’re doing?! Out late at night! Your grades are going to slip and you’re going to be just as useless as your father! Come in and do your nightly chores!”
Her face was strained, like a dog lolling its tongue out the window on the freeway. Her eyes slit backwards, suspicious and bloodshot. Tracks wound up and around her arms like pimples and red worms; the places where she had mainlined, the places where she had cut and bled. She wore an iridescent white top with see through sleeves, but no amount of innocent gauze could truly mask her distaste for her step-children, her lot in life. Her Habit sat on her shoulders like a giant black beast with glowing eyes. Even now, as the flowers of pleasure were budding in her veins, she could still feel that edge in the back of her throat; that cutting metallic taste that demanded that she feed her addiction.
Han shrugged, letting the cap slide over his eyes so he could not see the terrifying face, and Greta waited for him, following him like a shadow with shaking hands. As they walked in, Greta glanced up at the Beast, watched it lick her stepmother’s face with a black rotted tongue. It grinned with amusement at her quivering fingers, her delicate hands, as they fidgeted and sewed, apart, together, apart, together.
“What’re you lookin’ at?!” The stepmother glared.
“Nothin’” Greta mumbled, sinking into step with her brother.
That night, there was a fight. As Han was about to drift off to sleep, Greta sleeping on the top bunk, and shifting her weight around, the door slammed and he went rigid in his bed.
“You good for nothing!” her stepmother screamed, and the house screamed with her. The doors rattled, the hinges groaned, and the floorboards played a cacophonous tune.
They could hear a dark grumbling, a small moan of pain, and then a roaring cacophony as the television switched on.
“You couldn’t even keep ONE job?! How will I feed?!” the stepmother roared over the laugh track from some nameless comedy show, and then lowered her voice, mumbling with a steady rise and fall of tone, like someone debating.
Han had opened the door a crack, to hear what she was mumbling about, for when she spoke below a scream, both siblings knew that she was planning something diabolical. He heard a creak, the house warning him to pretend to sleep, and he could hear the stepmother pacing down the hallway, talking maniacally to herself, to the Beast on her shoulder.
“Yes…yes…” she said stroking the putrid darkness absently, “I will sell the children in the city this weekend, and get a fair price for their indentured servitude in the inner city gangs.”
Her feet shuffled and the house groaned over her immense, gluttonous weight. Han lay there, paralyzed in the visage of sleep, as she stuck in her nose, sniffing around for signs that someone might have heard. She came in, then, patting each of them and smoothing the blankets. But it was less of a caring gesture than the caress of a greedy heart.
That weekend, the stepmother piled Greta and Han into her rusting Cadillac, promising them a day of shopping at the Gigant-O-Mall. Han, black beanie pulled tight over his earphones, looked out the window with sour boredom on his face. Greta read a fantasy novel, stopping only to roll the window down from time to time so that she could breathe in the rushing air of the freeway and cleanse her carsick stomach.
When they arrived, the stepmother ushered them out with a smile plastered onto her face. The Habit Beast grinned in turn, it’s teeth bloody, it’s breath hissing out through the holes of decay in its canines. Greta winced at the sight of it, and the stepmother’s smile flinched a little, like a hologram being disrupted. She shook herself, and the Beast salivated, opening ravenous jaws.
“I…uh, need to go use the bathroom,” the stepmother grinned shakily, and handed them some money. She needed her fix, and the negotiator for the gang was not coming until around 4:30 PM, “Meet me back here at about four o’clock.”
Han clenched the money between his fingers, turning a bit red as the stepmother turned on her heels. He quickly explained to Greta what the diabolical woman meant to do.
“Fuck that,” Greta said, eyes looking at him, searching for approval, “I’m not going home again. She’ll just try it again, that sneaky witch.”
“Yeah, fuck that,” Han said, crumpling the money in his hand.
They walked out of the mall, hand in hand. Greta blushed, feeling her brother’s hand resting warmly in hers. They were like the most beautiful couple, she thought in a secret place in her mind. He was like ice, and she was like stone. Together, they raged down the avenues, absorbing themselves into a faceless crowd, losing themselves.
By the time the sun began to set, the two of them were completely lost. Greta was the first to snap out of her faceless daze, and her pulse began to quicken with fear. Han, feeling the tug of her hand, shook himself and his eyes finally cleared. They knew that the sun was not about to stay up for much longer, and neither had a definite plan of where to go.
Suddenly, Han’s eyes locked on a shining building that stood at the end of the street. The rays of the setting sun reflected off of the glass windows, blinding them. And suddenly, he could see, and the name of the business seemed to sear itself into his mind. “Candi’s Modeling Agency” it said, and Han pulled his sister towards the building.
After crossing the street, the two stood outside the revolving doors, looking up at the shining glass tower.
“Well,” said Han, “We might as well go inside and see if they have any openings for us.”
“What do you mean?” Greta said, “Like us? Models?”
“Why the hell not?” Han retorted, “We might have a bit of cash, but we’re going to need more if we want to make it on our own. You’re beautiful, you should know that this kind of work would be right for you!”
Greta blushed and nodded. They entered the building together, and talked to a woman at the kiosk about getting a preliminary modeling appointment.
She looked suspicious, “How old are you two?”
Han cleared his throat, “Don’t you know that we’re twins? We’re both 21! How rude of you to speak with us in that tone!”
The secretary looked at him over her glasses and began to argue with him, when suddenly, a velvety female voice silenced her.
“Regina, that’s quite enough, thank you.”
Han felt chills run up his arms. He turned to look at the owner of the voice, and his eyes locked on the full figure of a woman with red curling hair, full lips, and a burgundy dress suit. Her eyes were dark green, almost black, and they seemed to hypnotize Han even more than that voice. Greta, however, after getting over that initial thrill, began to grow red with a jealous blush. She saw how her brother looked at this woman, with heat, hunger, and lust. She wanted Han to look at her like that, not some bewitching new older woman.
Greta could see that the newcomer was about thirty years old, her body curved almost impossibly: from her ample cleavage, to the demure waist and the motherly, tender hips. Her legs were long and bronze from the pantyhose she wore, but they were not spindly legs. They were strong and well toned. She walked across the floor in her stiletto heels like she owned it.
“Hi, you two, my name is Candi. I own this company,” she said, winking at them, “And you two are just what I’m looking for! Let me show you to my room.”
They went inside her large office, and the door clicked shut, ringing metallic behind them.
“Sit down! Make yourself comfortable” Candi was grinning like an anticipatory predator, Greta though. She did not like this witch-woman at all.
Han was oblivious. He sat down without once breaking his gaze on the buxom woman who was now seated comfortably behind her desk.
“So, now, tell me all about yourselves,” she said, focusing on Han.
Han explained their plight, never missing a beat, or lying at all. Greta watched him, fuming. He would never be this open or truthful with even her. Greta seethed, and knitted her hands at a furious pace.
When Han was finished with his story, Candi leaned back in her chair and eyed them both. She rolled her curling hair between her fingers, and looked up at Han with a “come hither” kind of look.
“What would you two say to a contract with me?” Her voice was sticky like honey.
“Yes!” Han said, just as Greta said, “NO!”
“Greta, what’s wrong?” Han was angry, “We just got a great opportunity! We’ll show that heroin-crazed bitch who’s worthless!”
“Well, because Greta is younger than 18,” Candi said, “I can’t have her in as one of my models yet. But, I will be willing to have her do behind-the-scenes work, and pay her well for it.”
Greta sulked, knowing that the witch woman wanted to get her Han alone, and that Han wanted that too. She could feel the urgency between the two, like a tightly pulled wire and she yearned to pluck it. But as Han turned his pleading face to her, her heart tightened with sadness and regret. She wanted the best for her older brother. He was trying to help her…and she was being a total bitch. Finally, she nodded.
“Great!” Candi clapped her hands, “This is going to be so great! Now why don’t I go get that paperwork?”
Soon, the papers were signed, and Han was ushered away from Greta to get “fitted” for his new clothing line. Greta was taken to a small, janitorial closet, where she was given duties that included fixing Han’s clothes when they ripped. She also cleaned up after the shows. When she wasn’t working, however, she often would sneak peeks at Han up on stage, practicing his new walk and strutting in finery of all types. He was a natural. Greta would choke on her own lust, but knew that it would never be. Her heart ached with longing, but it was the kind of longing that would never be filled.
At night, Greta would lie awake in her little room, trying to read her latest fantasy novel (she got entire bookcases of them as a holiday bonus), and listen to the moaning coming from the master bedroom of Candi’s house. Because (supposedly) they wanted to save on money, Candi was giving them a place to stay at her large estate, yet another one of Greta’s big grievances. But she couldn’t really complain because they had especially accommodated her by finding her a nice small room that she could feel comfortable in. The only problem was that she could hear a lot of what Candi was doing with Han…her Han. Greta gritted her teeth as she heard the muffled sound of flesh on flesh, and the gasps and moans of her brother as he entered and left Candi’s body over and over again. She tried not to think of the look of orgiastic pleasure on his face or that cat-swallowing-the-canary look that Candi always gave her when she led Han into her bedchamber.
But Greta was happy because she was now making more money than her father ever had. She was saving, month by month, as much as she could, saving for a day when she could have her own place, that cusp of womanhood when she turned 18.
Han, on the other hand, was subject to intense fame and fortune. His icy blue eyes and tender yet tough body got him into clothing magazines, commercials, and runway show after runway show. And each night, there was Candi: Candi of the curling red hair, so fiery that it almost burned his heart to touch it; Candi with her full-lipped smile and voluptuous body. She truly savored each time she fucked him, and she did so with such delight; crying out and squirming around him. He was delirious with how quickly things were moving: his head spun, and a week, month, year had passed. Days were a blur, and there always seemed to be reporters in his face; people flashing cameras in his direction.
He would see Greta from time to time, her nose buried in a book, with a bagel in one hand, but she was so far away; no one paid attention to her. But each time he saw her, she had changed; one year, and she was developing, that boyish figure that she used to have was a memory of the past. By 18, she was finally what one could call a “real” woman. Her hair was straight like a satin curtain, and she wore flawless makeup that accentuated all of her good points and covered up any bad ones (one learns a lot when working with models for years upon years).
She was grown up, there was no question about it, but from time to time, Han ached for those chats, and those days of folding laundry side by side. He would turn over, look at Candi’s sleeping face, and know that she was the one woman for him, but know that he also needed a sister to love as well.
That next morning, Han knocked softly on the little door to Greta’s room.
“Come in,” said the soft, tired voice.
He entered the room and found that Greta was lying in bed, having just woken up. She had a look of confusion and surprise that was so marked on her face that he had to chuckle.
“Long time, no see,” he joked, and gave her a hug, feeling those firm, supple breasts against him.
For a second, he forgot who he was thinking of and felt himself get warm inside, a precursor to the fire of lust. He quickly composed himself, though, and set out to make peace with his sister.
“Greta, I know-” he began.
“Don’t even worry, bro,” she said, nonchalantly, “I have had a good time here, and I was actually going to see if I could talk to you today. You see, I’m pretty sure that this Candi woman is some kind of witch. I mean, I’ve been studying her for the past two years. You know all that coffee she gives you? I see her grind something into it, and it’s not nutmeg, I can tell you that. I think she’s manipulating you.”
Han was confused. He hadn’t expected this. His sister was mad, that had to be it. He excused himself and went to Candi. She patted him on the head, comforted him, and let him know that it was ok, mental illness runs in the family, and it’s not your fault…shhh…
The next morning, they sent Greta away to a nice, expensive insane asylum. And as she screamed, “WITCH! WITCH!” out the back of the van, no one really minded. After all, everyone knows that there are no such things as witches. After all, there were many more things to think about. After all, Candi and Han were going to get married and there were so many preparations to be made.
“Han, dear,” Candi said, holding her abdomen as they were putting together the wedding invitations, “I believe we’re going to have a baby too.”
Han looked at her curiously.
“Shh, it’s ok, Han. Why don’t I get you some coffee?” Candi said with a big grin, “I’m sure that once you’re done, you’ll feel all better.”