26: The Best Twenty-Sixth Chapter Ever
During the wintertime, Kiki would spend as much time as possible in her greenhouse, preferring its constant warmth over the frightful chill of the outside. Today she was lecturing at her college, though, and since someone still needed to look after the place, Feb and Lucinda generously volunteered. The difference between the extremes of the greenhouse and the snow-capped late January world they had abandoned was startling, and soon they were discarding their heavy coats, gloves, scarves, even their outer shirts. Both women were working up a decent sweat and had made some respectable headway into their labors, so they decided to take a break.
As they relaxed and mopped the perspiration off their skin, they each regarded the other with a good dose of curiosity. Although it was clear they both liked and respected one another, they could not wrap their minds around certain aspects of each other's personality—or their relationship. Feb wondered what had been going through Lucinda's mind that one passionate night when they made love, and whether there was any regret, or wish to repeat it. She also wondered why someone as smart as Lucinda was not employed by more respectable facilities, and why she chose to dole out her talents to numerous smaller businesses, such as Wesley Mansion and that restaurant. Feb might have asked if she were more inclined to pry, but Lucinda seemed to be the type who enjoyed her privacy.
She was—but she was also the type to give people their own, which might have accounted for her fallible social graces. Outside of the mansion, Lucinda had very few friends, and had only been in one serious relationship. She didn't like getting into other people's affairs and didn't show much interest in her contemporaries. She was not without compassion, though: she certainly liked Feb enough, and Virginia, as well. Lucinda just couldn't relate to the majority of humankind. Her aloof behavior caused her to be isolated, and so she kept to her business and left other people to theirs. She and Feb had disparate personalities—truly two opposites who, clichéd as it was, were nevertheless attracted to one another.
"Feb, I was wondering," she said. "If you were born in January, why did your parents name you February?"
"I asked them myself when I was just a child. They just told me they thought it was a pretty name."
"Thank you. And now I get to ask you a question."
"Yes, those are the rules. Why did you want to have sex with me? Was it really just to fool around?" Lucinda took a few moments to contemplate the question.
"No, I really care about you. I've been curious about being intimate with other women for awhile, but I've never been able to care about one enough to actually try it."
"You slept with Zephyr."
"That was just lust," she sighed irritably. "Lust and insanity. Now I'm nothing more than a notch on her bedpost, and it wasn't even that good."
"I dunno, I'd kinda like to have a roll in the hay with her."
"Good luck," she smiled sadly. "I hear she's found 'the one'."
"This time it's real, she claims. I'd sooner give Devon the benefit of the doubt."
"That's mean, Lucy. Zephyr's a good person. She's just…"
"Immature. Anyway, to answer your question, I slept with you because I care about you—very deeply."
"But you act like such a stiff-assed prude." Lucinda smiled petulantly.
"I wouldn't be such a stickler if I didn't care. I think you and I were meant to work together. You need me to keep you in line, and I need you to keep me out of it."
"Right, so we're getting married when? If you want to have sex with a girl you care about, why didn't you jump Ginny's bones?"
"That would never work out," Lucinda gestured. "She and Devon are joined at the hip, and I wouldn't ruin that for anything. I'm happy enough being her first kiss…and her best friend."
"That's certainly nothing to complain about. Still, you might have found something special there."
"As one door closes, another opens," she shrugs. "I've let go of a lover before; I don't like reflecting on the 'what ifs'."
"That's good. I don't suppose you'd want to be a couple with me or anything?"
"I wouldn't mind, but it would be ethically wrong. You are still technically my boss."
"And yet you seduced me."
"I don't have any excuse for that," she retorted quietly. Feb raised her eyebrow in surprise. Normally it took a lot more than this to burrow under Lucinda's thick skin. This whole matter was clearly causing her great discomfort and confusion. Although Feb didn't have any means of clarifying things, she did have her salves, and approached the younger woman, placing gentle lips on her cheek.
"You don't need any. I'm not sorry for what happened. I'm actually glad for it."
"I know. You made that clear in no uncertain terms." Feb blushed very hotly and laughed softly.
"That's true! Say, we can delay all this work a bit, can't we?" Lucinda's eyes twinkled.
"Procrastinating again? You're so two-dimensional."
"I prefer to think of myself as consistent. Come on, let's head back inside."
"Good idea. Let me just check the mail first." Feb came with her, and found a letter from her parents mixed in with the pile. She thought nothing of it as she went inside—after all, her birthday had passed a few days ago—but when she opened it, she found herself groping for someplace to sit. Lucinda noticed her losing balance, and watched her sharply. She walked over and handed Feb some hot tea to calm her nerves.
"What's the matter?" Feb's hands shook, nearly spilling the tea. She drained half the cup before she would divulge anything.
"It's from my mother and father. They finally found out I was working in pornography. They want to revoke my privileges to the mansion and cancel all the leases."
"I didn't think they could do that. You told us this place is entirely yours now."
"The property is in my name, but the deed to it is still tied with them. They can revoke all of my privileges if they ever believe I'm abusing my authority, and…apparently they do."
"Feb, you're not," Lucinda argued, kneeling down so they were on eye level, folding an arm over her shoulder. "Not in the least. You're a wonderful manager. A bit scatterbrained, maybe, and prone to too much partying, but still better than half the people I've worked for."
"Lucy, darling, it doesn't matter anymore," she groaned, sounding eerily unnatural as she wallowed in defeat. "By this time next week, maybe sooner, we'll all be evicted. The dream is done for—Wesley mansion is finished."
"Feb, they're your parents! Can't they show a little compassion—"
"And I'm in the adult entertainment industry, Lucy. I told you, sweetie, I grew up in a Catholic home. I couldn't even watch a PG-13 movie until I moved out. Frankly, I'm getting off with a light sentence."
"I don't believe you!" she snapped, jarring Feb out of her depression. "I hate people who go down without a fight. If you love this place so much, then defend it! Do whatever it takes to get it back. I know that's what you want, Feb, and we'll be behind you all the way. This isn't just your house anymore, it's ours. Did your parents tell you when they expected you to hand over the title? You said within the week."
"Yes—in six days. The first of the month."
"Then we have to confront them and plead our case. You have to confront them. I can only let go of so many things I love, Feb. I'm not letting go of this place."
Feb took a deep breath, swallowed the rest of her tea, and jumped to her feet. For the first time since they slept together, Feb took off her sunglasses, revealing eyes full of determination.
"You're right, Lucy. I'm sorry for sounding like such a wimp; that's not like me. I love this place and everyone who lives in it. I can't let it go just because my parents say so! It's time for me to rebel!" Even though Lucinda was proud of her landlady for taking a stand, she couldn't help but smirk.
"Rebel? Aren't you about twelve years too late for that?"
"Hey, my calendar might say I'm thirty, but I still have the heart of a teenager."
"Ain't that the truth," she smiled. "Let's go round up the troops, then."
"Right! This means war!"
"You look weird without your sunglasses." Everybody was thinking it, but Devon was the first to actually say it. She was right, though: Feb looked like an entirely different person now that her face was naked. She was still pretty, of course, but part of her charm and mystique was lost. Her eyes were unremarkably dark green, a fitting contrast to her curly ginger hair. The strange new direction she was taking made it very easy to grasp everyone's attention, but perhaps not in the way she intended.
"This is serious business we're entering into, Esther," Feb replied, surprising everyone even further. She almost never called Devon by her real name (or Bertie, Zephyr, and Winnie for that matter); this must've been more severe than they thought. "As I've explained before, my parents will be arriving today to revoke my ownership of the mansion. I need to show them that I'm competent and capable of handling the family investment, and wearing my sunglasses in front of them would be very disrespectful."
"So they're taking our homes away from us and you want to respect them?"
"They're my parents," she offered weakly. Devon just snorted and crossed her arms.
"Makes me glad I never knew mine… They probably would've disowned me like poor Ginny's did."
"You two were lucky," Kiki whispered. "Mine are boring. Try living with that for a few years."
"All right, be quiet, please." Feb commanded their attention as a car drove through the driveway and slipped into a space. Out came two people in their early fifties, a stony-faced man with graying dark hair and woman with a heavy faux mink coat. Feb smiled cordially at them and reached to embrace them, but they flinched.
"Don't touch us. We're ashamed enough as it is. Who are all these people? Do they work with you in your filth?"
"No, mother, they're my tenants. Remember how I said I rented these rooms out to other people? I'm their landlady."
"And why weren't you happy with that?" Feb's father said. "Did you feel it was necessary to tarnish our reputation by…doing what you do? Did you even consider how we would feel?"
"Daddy, I'm a grown woman; I can live my life however I want. I'm not hurting anybody and—"
"I don't want to hear this. We didn't come to talk or to argue; we just want to take back what's ours."
"Wait—just hear me out, please. I know you two are mad at me for working in the pornography industry, and I can understand why. But I'm an adult now, and although it may not appear that way all the time, I take my responsibilities seriously. I never film sex simply for its own sake, or ask my actors to do things they're uncomfortable with, and I always try to put meaning, depth, and even beauty into what I do. I know that a lot of people out there might see what I do as perverse and disgusting, but sex is a part of life—probably the most important part of it—and I believe that I've been put on this earth to not only show its importance, but to prove that it can be beautiful, meaningful, and humorous. If I can change the way people approach sex and pornography, then I can say with pride that my time in this world was spent well…and you should be proud to have raised a daughter like that."
The eleven women gathered around Feb broke out into gentle applause, all of them genuinely touched by her speech. Her parents, on the other hand, were not so easily appeased, and glared at her even more harshly than before.
"You're not an artist, you're a purveyor of filth. Hand over the deed to this house immediately."
"Well, I tried," Feb shrugged. "I guess if I can't reason with you two, the only thing left for me to do is GET THEM!!!" The women all tackled Feb's parents and bound them tight. Feb approached each of them and glared so hotly that the snow at her feet actually receded.
"What is the meaning of this?! Have you lost your mind? Let go of us now, or we'll press charges against you!"
"Don't bother threatening me! You don't have any authority over me, mom and dad…or should I say…"
With a single jerk of her hand, Feb pulled at her parents' faces, revealing a rubber facsimile that had been covering something else. Beneath the cheesy disguise was none other than…
(insert dramatic sting music)
"Damn you, filthy devils, how'd you figure me out?!"
"It was easy, Mr. Newton! Aside from the fact that my mother never wears mink, my father walks with a cane, and they come from Vermont and NOT 'the state where Feb's parents live', as you so carelessly wrote on their letter, they KNOW about my incessant habit of wearing sunglasses, regardless of the time of day or my location! If I spoke with them looking the way I am now, they would've mentioned it, just as Miss Devonshire was so keen on doing. THE JIG IS UP, NEWTON!!!"
"I have no idea what's going on," Devon said.
"You're not the only one," Winnie muttered. Meanwhile, Sir Isaac wriggled and wrestled, but was unable to break away from their grip.
"Curses, my plan was foolproof! All I needed was a few more seconds and the mansion would've been mine! Curse you filthy devils! Curse you, I says!"
"Um, yeah, and what was your plan again?" Bertie said.
"HA! Like I'd tell any of you! I've seen enough James Bond movies to know I should never tell you my master plan! And if you think I'm going to surrender quietly, you're gravely mistaken! In fact, I've rounded up some of the world's most diabolical villains to make sure that Wesley Mansion belongs to me!"
"You don't mean…"
"YES!!" Newton screamed as he finally broke free: "The Holiday Special Legion of Doom! The Grinch! Ebenezer Scrooge! Professor Hinkle!"
"The evil magician that killed Frosty by trapping him in a greenhouse," Brooke said.
"Don't interrupt me!" Newton screamed. "Where was I? Ah, yes! Professor Hinkle! Mr. Potter! Boba Fett! Dan Dastardly and Muttley! Dracula!"
"And which 'holiday' are all these people from?" Winnie said.
"You fools, these are Christmas and Christmas-related villains! Can't you tell?"
"So…why is Dracula in there?"
"I think I saw him try to ruin Christmas in some old animated special," Courtney said.
"Quit interrupting me! As I was saying: Dracula! C. Montgomery Burns! Jadis, the White Witch! Composite Santa! Burgomaster Meisterburger! Multiple Santa! The Christmas Critters! Snow Miser! The Rat King! Michael Keaton!"
"Michael Keaton?! The actor?"
"You've never seen Jack Frost?" Darryl said.
"Stop doing that!" Newton screamed. "Moving on: Oogie Boogie! The Abominable Snowman! And the worst Christmas villain of all time ever…Bizarro Baby Jesus! You're outnumbered and outmatched! Surrender Wesley Mansion to us at once, or else Christmas is doomed!" Newton and the Holiday Special Legion of Doom laughed maniacally, and indeed, it seemed hopeless for the twelve brave heroines.
"Don't worry, I know what to do!" Winnie exclaimed. "Using the power of my Christian upbringing, I know the weaknesses of every religious holiday villain in the entire universe!"
"And I've seen every Christmas special ever made," Courtney chimed in.
"Even the god-awful Star Wars Holiday Special?" Bertie shuddered.
"Yup, even that!"
"Aw, nuts," said Boba Fett. Armed with this special knowledge, the two sides clashed in an epic battle that would be spoken about and admired for hours to come! First, Multiple Santa threatened to overwhelm the girls with his army of Santa clones! But then Courtney told everyone to generate static electricity and shock those evil Santas into submission! Next, the Rat King graciously danced towards them, threatening to spread the Bubonic Plague! But then Feb, who had dated a ballerina, chained together two toy nutcrackers to create the devastating nutcracker-chucks!
"Pirouette this, motherf—"
WHACK! WHAM! EXPLETIVE! ONOMATOPOEIA! BIFF!
The Snow Miser, Composite Santa, and the Abominable Snowman surrounded Lucinda, but she quickly whipped out a flame thrower! Quick, which bland, overused one-liner should she use?
A) "Say hello to my little friend!"
B) "Burn, baby, burn!"
C) "Hot enough for ya?"
D) "Keep out of reach of children!"
Whichever one you picked, guess what? They all melted anyway! But the battle wasn't over yet! Jadis the White Witch came after them next, atop a chariot driven by polar bears! Fortunately, Virginia always kept a spare god-lion in her utility belt, and hurled him at the evil witch! And then he bit her head off! Awesome!
"Bleh, bleh, those tricks vill never vork on me!" Dracula said. "I vill suck all your blood and add you to my ever-growing population of vampires! Bleh, bleh!"
"Count Dracula, please, stop and listen to me for a moment!" Virginia stood bravely before the Count, as pure and…well, virginal a maiden as you could ask for. Dracula studied her with great interest, and agreed to her terms.
"Very vell, my dear, but be quick about it! The night, she grows short, bleh."
"Thank you, Count. Although you may think of yourself as the devil incarnate and an arbiter of everything wicked and sinful in the world, I know that deep down inside, you're really just a very lonely soul who's struggling with pain and turmoil, and the one thing you want more than blood, power, and hot willing maidens is true, unconditional love, given to you by a person who can see past your insatiable cravings. The thing is, Christmas is the one time of year where you can get that, and if you destroy Christmas, you're only—"
THUNK!! A big wooden stake was jammed through Dracula's heart.
"Bleh, oh no, it vas a trick! How…could I have been…so foolish…bleh?"
"Thanks, Winnie!" Virginia gushed. "I don't know how much longer I could've stalled that fruitcake!" Winnie smiled and gave a thumbs up.
"You did good, kid. Now let's get the rest of them!"
"But there are still too many! Can we really defeat them all and save both Christmas AND Wesley Mansion?"
"Don't worry, I've got…wait, Christmas? It's February! Who cares about Christmas? I'm already writing my Valentine's Day cards."
"Then we'll save Valentine's Day! But you were saying?"
"Oh, right. Don't worry, Ginny, I've got a plan!"
"I sure hope so! I can't wait until Devon sees the Valentine I gave her!"
She's so cute, Winnie grinned. As she detailed her plan to save the day, Winnie continued to hold out the stubborn hope that her closest friend could finally find a stable relationship. After all, if she could do it…
Even though seven members of the Holiday Special Legion of Doom had been defeated, there were still plenty left over to give the girls of Wesley mansion more than their share of troubles. Feb regrouped them and began drawing up a strategy:
"Okay, everyone, we're doing good so far, but I'm afraid our normal level of wacky hijinks aren't going to cut it anymore. I propose we pool all our resources together and form a team whose sole purpose is crushing evil groups like this under their heel. We shall call ourselves the Society for the Advancement of Pearl-Polishing Hot Indie Chicks! Whaddya say?"
"Um, Feb? That stands for S.A.P.P.H.I.C. Did you…realize this?"
"I did now."
"But not all of us are lesbians," Darryl said.
"We can't let semantics like that get in our way! The only thing more powerful than wacky hijinks is cute lesbians having hot sex! So let's get to it, people!"
"So it's come to an orgy at last," Brooke sighed.
"No objections here," Kiki grinned.
"Um, can I suggest something that doesn't involve sex?" Winnie said.
"No," Kiki frowned.
"Quiet, dear," Feb hissed. She then gestured to Winnie: "Tell us what you have in mind, sweetie."
"Thanks, Feb. I only have two words for you, my friends: ROCKET LAUNCHERS."
"Awesome!" As Isaac Newton and the H.S.L.O.D. advanced, rocket launchers fell from heaven (because that's where they come from), and everybody got one! They began blasting away indiscriminately, blowing every single evil Christmas villain to bloody bits! When the dust and splatter finally settled, Boba Fett and Bizarro Baby Jesus were the only ones left. Fett immediately leveled a blaster at them, and Bizarro Baby Jesus drooled threateningly.
"Oh no! Our rocket launchers are no match for his gun! Everybody surrender!" Everybody dropped their weapon and held their hands up, but just as things seemed their darkest, Boba Fett was grabbed from behind and crushed by powerful arms. Bizarro Baby Jesus was so frightened that he crawled away crying, and for good reason. Their savior was none other than…
"Oh my God, it's Zombie Tchaikovsky, the undead form of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, famed Russian composer! And boy, does he look pissed!"
"I can't say I blame him," Feb said. "I hated The Nutcracker just as much as he did. I only saw it so I could get laid by a hot ballerina."
"We've all been there," Bertie muttered. "But what are we going to do now? Even with our combined might, we're no match for Tchaikovsky's zombie powers!"
"Maybe not," Zephyr said. She nodded at Brooke, and they raced up to the roof of Wesley mansion, where they activated the 11th Commandment signal. In no time at all, Skylar, Marcy, and Chaim raced to their side. Everything was quickly explained to them, and they set up their instruments. The other residents of the mansion acted as roadies and technicians, and together they pulled off one of the greatest concerts ever! Their rock was so powerful that it even destroyed Zombie Tchaikovsky, but Isaac Newton was so evil that he wasn't affected at all!
"Curses! My foul minions have been defeated! But this still isn't the end of me, filthy devils—not by a long shot! I'll use my evil genius to travel back in time and take possession of the mansion before your parents have a chance to hand it over to you!" He laughed maniacally again, but that didn't clarify things much.
"But why, Sir Isaac, WHY? Why are you so obsessed with our home?"
"Doubloons! Hundreds of Spanish Doubloons, worth a fortune! If I had ownership of your mansion, I could dig them up, travel back in time, put them into an account, travel into the future, and reap the benefits! Then I'd have enough money to build my own evil robot army and take down that filthy devil Gottfried Leibniz, ONCE AND FOR ALL!!!"
Pause. Newton wheezed heavily, but then realized his blunder.
"Oh, crap. I just told you my evil plans! And right after I said I wouldn't! Stupid, stupid, stupid!" He banged his head against the mansion's outer wall, leaving his antagonists speechless and very, very confused.
"Wow." Lucinda barely managed to speak, she was at such a loss for words. "That has got to be the stupidest evil plan in the history of everything."
"It's not stupid, it's brilliant! Brilliant, I tell you!"
"Yeah," Feb said, "except that I already dug up those doubloons and spent them on that vespa of mine."
"What." Suddenly, a figure swooped down from the sky, standing between the women and their enemy. Isaac Newton shrieked when he saw him: it was his mortal foe, Gottfried Leibniz, in the flesh!
"Haha, worry not, fair maidens, for I am here to save the day!"
"NOOOO!!! Cursed, wretched devil! Foul hellspawn! Why do you darken my steps so much? I swear I'll have my revenge on you yet, Leibniz! JUST YOU WAIT—FILTHY DEVIL!!!" As the two archenemies fought, Feb finally decided that she had had enough, and wisely stepped away.
"You know what? I'm not going to stand here and listen to this nonsense. This is silly even for us. We should just go back inside and drink hot chocolate or something."
"I agree," Kiki said as she shivered. "Even I have my weirdness limits." And so the heroines left the battle and went inside to reap the spoils of their…erm, victory. And lo, Isaac Newton was defeated again, and both Christmas and Valentine's Day were saved. Later, Feb's real parents found out about her occupation, and although they did not exactly approve of her work, she was still their only child, and had made a success of herself—not only as an adult film director, but as a landlady and a good friend, so they were proud of her. Wesley Mansion would safely remain in her care.
Several days later…
On the morning of February 14th, Darryl Christina Holland woke up to the sound of two people caught in the lustful throws of passion. Even though she knew it was Zephyr and Courtney, she thought nothing of it, and hopped into the shower. The two sisters were still going at it as she got dressed and headed out, and only paused when she knocked on their door and slipped two cards inside. As she headed to the kitchen for breakfast, she spotted Bertie trying to rig a cake to explode (which was apparently an annual Valentine's tradition). Lucinda was cleaning her guns while she ran through several tax forms, and Winnie was studying the finer points of Islam, Voodoo, and Zoroastrianism. Devon trotted down and gave her a quick peck on the lips before investing much more time with Virginia; they gathered around Feb as she detailed her next pornographic feature. Darryl handed them all Valentine's cards before stepping outside.
Brooke was just coming down the driveway, now in a fully-upgraded motorcycle. She smiled and waved at Darryl as another card was exchanged; Yoshino soon came outside and hopped on the motorcycle, dressed in a revealing and somewhat humiliating wrestling costume. Darryl gave Yoshino her card and waved at them, then headed for the last stop on her trip, the greenhouse. Inside, Kiki was entrenched in her studies as always—and as always, was walking around completely nude. Darryl took a moment to politely scoff at her, and secluded her final Valentine's day card behind her back.
"Oh, hello, I didn't see you come in. Welcome to my humble abode."
"You certainly look like you're at home in here," she grinned. Kiki smiled warmly at her.
"I am. Say, would you like to help me out?"
"I would love to," she replied. "But I don't have to take off my clothes for this, do I?"
"Only if you want to. Say, what's that behind your back?" Kiki tried peering around Darryl, but she kept her secret hidden well.
"Oh, nothing." She smiled mysteriously and took hold of Kiki's hand, minding the termites.
Thank goodness; everything was back to abnormal.
February Velma Wesley, 30: porno director/landlady
Kiki Malakamaki, 28: creepy entomologist
Yoshino Shinrai, 26: sumo wrestler
Lucinda Varuna Nehru, 25: accountant
Jessica "Zephyr" Raye Sumeira, 24: eclectic rocker
Bertha "Bertie" Teodora Windamier, 23: police officer/bomb disposal
Winifred "Winnie" Burton, 22: theologist
Esther "Devon" Devonshire, 22: architect/carpenter
Courtney Adeline Sumeira, 21: model
Virginia Cynddylan ap Hywel, 20: naive rich girl/artist
Brooke Madison, 19: tennis player/vocalist
Darryl Christina Holland, 18: tomboy/track star