Victoria must have been asleep when Alessandra left later that night, because she did not hear her go. When she awakened she realized immediately, of course, that she could not hear her heartbeat or breathing and that Alessandra must not be in the building. Victoria was hardly alarmed; if anything, she was amused at her success. For Alessandra to leave the building in the middle of the night, waiting around for her to go to sleep first, must mean that she realized the seriousness of her transgressions, and that she was frightened now to cross Victoria.
It was exactly as it should be, and the voice from within her assured her that this was the case, that she had done exactly as was required. Alessandra had more than deserved such treatment. Alessandra was learning now.
Victoria now had nowhere to go and nothing in particular to fill up her days, and so she luxuriated that morning in lingering in bed, then getting up and preparing herself a large and elaborate breakfast. She had not purchased food in almost a month, as was the agreement between her and Alessandra that they alternate doing so, but she felt no qualms about taking anything she saw and using it as much as she wanted. Alessandra owed her, and she would receive her payment in whatever manner necessary.
She was just finishing her breakfast and piling her dishes in the sink rather than wash them or put them in the dishwasher when the front door opened, and Alessandra's face peered in, eyes darting warily before she stepped all the way inside. Victoria, still dressed in a skimpy lingerie-style gown that she had swiped without qualm from Alessandra's drawer, came forward to meet her, already smiling, anticipating how this interaction would play out. Would Alessandra flee to her bedroom, unable to meet her eyes? Would she try to tell Victoria that she had changed? Would she apologize?
But then from behind Alessandra a man stepped forward, his hands raising to protectively rest on both her shoulders, and Victoria's smile flattened, her eyes narrowing behind the frames of her glasses. Chase. Always it was Chase between them, Chase interfering, butting in where he wasn't wanted or needed…always it would be Chase that distracted Aless, turned her back to look at him.
"You left," Victoria stated to Alessandra, looking not at her, but at Chase behind her, a soft but sharp undertone to her voice that was an accusation she did not quite spell out.
Alessandra bit her lower lip, her eyes focused past Victoria rather than at her, and her shoulders sagged beneath Chase's hand. She was toying with her own hands, twisting them to the degree that it looked painful to her knuckles, and it was not she, but Chase, who spoke up, looking Victoria straight in the eye.
"Yeah, she did, and she's not coming back. Ever."
Victoria took this in, turning the thought and all its possibilities of meaning over in her mind, and only came to one conclusion- Chase had put her up to this. There was an understanding between herself and Aless, and with this understanding, Aless had to know that her leaving was simply not an option. So she ignored Chase, focusing all her attention on Alessandra as she replied.
"What is he talking about, Aless?"
Alessandra did not reply, looking back at Chase as though expecting him to be her voice, and Chase took up the mantle gladly, his voice hardening as he addressed Victoria again.
"What I just said, Tori. She's not coming back. She doesn't want to and she won't. She's getting her things today and then she's gone. She'll pay for her part of the rent until the lease wears off, which is more than I think she should have to do, but she's not going to be here. You go find someone else to fuck with because Aly isn't the one."
Aly… Victoria had always hated that he called Alessandra Aly, when she was so clearly an Aless, when Victoria felt herself to be the only one with the right to nickname Alessandra as anything. Aly was a name for a stray cat in heat, not for someone like Alessandra…but then again, she could see where the nickname was appropriate, if that much more infuriating for the fact.
Again she ignored Chase, though his comment made the blood rise slowly up her neck and throat and through her face, and she could feel heat beginning to flow beneath her skin, her pulse quickening with growing anger. But if this were true, she wanted to hear it from Alessandra. If this were true…
"Aless?" she prodded, and she took a step forward, noticing that Alessandra shrank back further against Chase even as she did so. As if she would hurt her…as if she couldn't stand to be anywhere near her, not anymore. "Aless, you're not leaving."
And after a pause, Alessandra nodded slowly, still refusing to meet Victoria's eyes as she nearly whispered, "Yes I am, Tori."
She was calling her Tori…that meant an ambiguity, that it was Chase's influence and not her own decision. And as Victoria stared at her, pushing her to reply without a word, she was suddenly aware that although she could hear Alessandra's heartbeat, could hear her breathing, she could no longer hear her thoughts. She did not know what Alessandra was thinking…it was Chase, Chase's presence, spending even a few hours with him had already shielded Alessandra from Victoria's understanding.
"No," Victoria said softly but with intensity, taking another step forward, and she saw the way Chase's chin jerked up, how he put a whole arm across Alessandra's chest, as though to protect her. "You are not. You belong here, Alessandra. You don't know what you want…and this is where you should be. You belong here."
Alessandra shook her head again, the gesture slightly broader than before, and with a deep intake of breath, she lifts her eyes to Victoria's. Hers are wet, glittering with emotion, but there is a firmness to them that has not been present in some time, and she speaks then with soft conviction.
"You need help. You need to call someone or somewhere to get yourself help, because you're losing it, Tori. You've been losing it for a while. I don't know if it's because of stress from working so hard, or if you're just sick, or if it's me…because you feel…like you do towards me…I don't know what it is, but you need help."
She breathed in again, her voice raising just slightly as she concluded. "I don't want to be here, Tori…Victoria. I'm leaving, and I'm not coming back."
Victoria stared at her, and she knew that the other woman was not bluffing. She might be reciting a script laid before her by Chase, but she meant every word of it. It was the shifting of what she called her, changing the name from Tori to Victoria mid sentence, that hammered this in…Alessandra was indeed leaving. Chase had managed to take her for himself, convince her, mold her…Chase had stolen her, and Alessandra was content to let herself be stolen.
Victoria heard herself talking and realized dimly that she was in fact yelling, but she could not track or understand her own words, washing over her like a roar. She heard the voice within her screaming too, instructing, knowing exactly what should happen, exactly what she should do, and it was so certain whereas she was not that she let it take over, let herself fade into the back of her mind, and even as she acted she had no idea or understanding of what she was doing at all.
It took her several moments of looking, puzzling, trying to interpret what she was seeing, for Victoria to understand what it was that was lying on the ground before her now. She was unsure of how much time had passed, what had happened, or even where she was, and there was a dull buzzing noise in the back of her school, not quite a headache, but persistent in its presence. She was breathing heavily without feeling excited in the least, and her limbs were trembling, weary…why? What had she been doing?
The object at her feet was long and large, irregular in shape and form, and looked rather like a pile of dirty laundry with other items worked into its mess. Victoria squinted her eyes, leaning slightly closer, and the smell invaded her nostrils, sharp and coppery…blood. She was smelling blood?
It began to click together to her then, and she realized that she was staring at the badly mutilated body of a human being, a male based solely upon the length of the body, a male who had been so badly stabbed or hacked by a sharp object of some kind that he was rendered almost unrecognizable as a human being, instead reduced to a mass of bloody clothing, hair, tissue, and bone. As her eyes slowly travelled the length of his form, she saw that the most ferocious slashing had occurred not just at his face, but at what appeared to be approximately the area of his groin.
Victoria felt no horror as she looked upon him, only a heavy curiosity, and she continued to stare, trying to piece together what may have happened, even as faint nausea rose in her throat and she swallowed hard, forcing it down. It wasn't until she heard the wet, shuddery breath behind her that she turned, looking into the eyes of a prone young woman lying on the floor on her back just behind her. The woman was also bloodied, though not nearly as much as the man, her eyes rolled upward, barely open. Her long dark hair was matted and crusted with darkening blood, her clothes were ripped and torn and hanging off her in pieces, not entirely covering her or the stab wounds that riddled her chest, all seeming to circle close about the area of her heart. As Victoria's eyes bulged, and she gasped aloud, the woman's eyes met hers, and one tear trickled down a bloody cheek, her chest rising and falling shallowly and with only sporadic breaths as she struggled to speak.
"Aless," Victoria breathed, for it was Alessandra lying behind her, Alessandra who had been so badly injured, who now appeared to be on the cusp of certain death. "Aless…no…"
She knew then, though she did not turn to make sure, that the man behind her was Chase…and as she looked down at herself with growing horror, with dawning understanding, she saw that her own clothes were also splattered with blood, though she felt no pain, saw no injuries upon herself. And in the clinched fist of her right hand was a large-bladed knife, bloodied to its hilt.
She had done this…she had hurt Chase, she had hurt Alessandra. In that space of time where the voice took over her head and she let herself fade back into nothing, she had taken a knife and attacked them both, attacked them until they could not fight her off or defend themselves, until they lay breathing their last on her own living room floor. She had done this…
She felt her breathing quicken, a slow pounding begin in her temples, and her hand loosened until the knife dropped to the floor, coming to a clattering stop beside Alessandra's hand. Alessandra's eyelids fluttered, her lips parted, but she could not seem to form words.
She should help her, immediately. She should grab something to slow the bleeding, she should tell her she was sorry, that she never meant to hurt her or Chase. Victoria knew this. She knew she should pick up the phone and call the police, turn herself in. She should call an ambulance, tell them to hurry, before it was too late. She could still help Alessandra, perhaps, if she did these things. She could save her life.
She should do these things. Alessandra was her friend, her best friend, the only real friend she had had in years. She had been wrong to hurt her…she had not meant to hurt her. She should help her now…right now.
But she couldn't bring herself to move. She couldn't even bring herself to speak. She knew it was wrong…she had been wrong, so very wrong, and she trembled with her knowledge of this, with her growing fear…but she could not move.
This is wrong…this is wrong, I was wrong…this couldn't have been me, I couldn't have done this. This wasn't me, this wasn't me, this is so wrong, this was not ME…
And then the voice came to her then, soft, soothing, reassuring in its words and tone, and the panicky guilt and dread that had risen within Victoria came to a slow, then began to dissipate entirely as she listened, again allowing it to have control. It was so much better, so much easier when it had control.
Was it really wrong, what she had done? When they had pushed so hard, provoked her, denied her…was it really so wrong for them to be punished, to get what they had been asking for…what they deserved? Does it matter whether this was her or something else acting, as long as what was just and fair got accomplished…did it really matter at all?
Tell me it doesn't feel good, Victoria…tell me you don't feel right and powerful, stronger and more capable...tell me you don't think they both deserved this, deep down. Tell me that Alessandra didn't.
And when it was put in this manner, Victoria couldn't…it was true. With their blood, their life force on her skin, their helpless bodies at her feet, it was clear that she was the one in power, that she had made them see and understand…Alessandra had become hers now, her property, to take and use, build and destroy as she pleased. Even Alessandra knew this now as she looked up at her, comprehending just what she had now been reduced to.
Only half-heartedly did Victoria try to think of the reasons of why she should have held back, why the voice could not be completely right. She tried to think of mercy and compassion, justice and love, of self control and restraint, faith and God, but even she knew that the words were empty clangings of sound with no meaning, and by the time her thoughts shifted to God, she could not even complete the word in her thoughts before the voice laughed harshly, dismissing, disbelieving.
Where did your god, your mercy, your SELF-CONTROL ever get you before, how did it ever help you? What did it give you but frustration and powerlessness…when did it ever give you what you wanted?
And the voice was right…it never had. Never, in all her struggling to be so good, had Victoria been acknowledged. Never had anyone cared or rewarded her for her efforts…not even God. What good were they, when she could have always simply taken what she wanted all along?
You can have what you want now, the voice promised, and Victoria knew it was true…it had never lied to her. Whatever you want, I can give you…I can tell you exactly how to get it. Whatever you want….
The voice was still speaking, promising, coaxing, as Victoria looked Alessandra in the eye, watching with patience as her eyes slowly lost every last spark of life, then remained unblinking, the pupils dilating. She watched Alessandra die, and felt nothing but a quiet sense of self-assurance.
She knew the voice was right. It didn't matter where it came from or what it was, whether it was a misfiring of brain cells or her own true self, revealed at last in full, no longer stifled…or something darker, something ancient and raw, moving within her from outside herself, taking over her piece by piece. Whether it was her brain or her soul, or even the devil himself, Victoria didn't care, it didn't matter at all. Because the voice was right. This was what she wanted…this was what she wanted, and what a fool she would be to back away.