Livin' on the Edge
Fall From Grace
“I am happy to report that we have space for your granddaughter at The Academy,” said the man, his lekku twitching nervously as he delivered the good news.
“Really?” replied Ivania Tatiana Calabria, not bothering to hide her skepticism.
“Oh, yes, Mistress Calabria. We see much of her sister’s, ah, grace and, uh, agility in young Xenia, though it may not be as … polished … as we might like.”
“Polished?” Her lekku positively dripped sarcasm as she extended those two syllables into a third, ending the word with a hard “sht.”
“I mean to say, ahem, that, uh, given her pedigree, of course, and, really, with the right coaching, and, well, what we've seen out of her older sister.”
At this point, he couldn’t even make eye contact with the taller woman. He just kept staring at her feet, his lekku limp with submission.
He continued – “The trials are almost over and I have complete authority over who does or does not attend the Obviously, the normal entry requirements don’t apply to a Calabria. On that I think we can both agree.”
“Oh yes, Mistress Calabria. Xenia is the most beautiful of all the girls seeking admission to the Academy this year. One can scarcely take one’s eyes off her.”
“And does your wife feel the same way?” she cooed. “Oh, I’m so sorry, rumor has it that you are recently estranged. How rude of me.”
“Wha..ah..no, not at all, I mean, yes, my wife and I are taking some time apart to, ah, evaluate our…but I really don’t see how that’s relevant to our current—“
She extended one of her long arms, still tightly corded with lean muscle despite her age, and used her index finger to lift his chin so that he was forced to look into her eyes. These were hard eyes. Cold eyes. Able to cast a dissecting gaze or a wither glance.
“You are lying to me,” she said, as the temperature in the room seemed to drop by 20 degrees.
“What?! No, Mistress…I would—“
“Lying…and afraid. You’re terrified. I can smell it on you, the stink of fear. I may have to open a window, it’s gotten so bad.”
“No, no. Mistress, Xenia is…”
“Xenia is too much like the fat slut that whelped her. My son should never have sullied himself, but men cannot be trusted when their lekku point one way and their dicks another. But I don’t have to tell you that, do I, Headmaster Csarek?”
His reaction was immediate. If he had been a Quarren, they would have been swimming in a cloud of ink.
“Don’t bother to deny it,” she snapped. “And honestly, I can’t even hold it against you. If a great man like my son could be seduced by … well, I'm not sure the board will understand, and I know your wife won’t … but let’s just say that you’re not the first to fall prey to her … charms. And you won’t be the last. That body. That … girl’s body is not meant for dancing or acrobatics. She is not a Calabria. One look at her is will tell you that much.”
“I’m so sorry, Mistress. I have never before been so weak. Can’t we reach an accommodation?!” sobbed the headmaster of one of the galaxy’s most pre-eminent dance and acrobatics academies.
Her eyes appeared to soften for just a moment of pity, but twin lekku radiated disgust behind her head. “Oh, I don’t blame you. I blame myself. She is her mother’s creature, after all. And it is clear as day that I have failed in my efforts to make more out of her, to make her one of us. I thought perhaps with her mother out of the picture, and if we started early enough, that I could mold her, transform her. But, what is that saying her mother as so fond of? Ah yes: 'You can’t sew a silk purse out of a nerf’s bollocks.'” So quaintly … parochial.
She turned away from the headmaster and walked towards the door.
“You know what to do,” she said as she left the room.
“I…what?” the headmaster replied.
“She wasn’t talking to you,” said a voice from the shadows, so softly that he thought he’d imagined it.
Turning in the direction of the voice, he saw Xenia’s eyes coming out of the shadows from the corner of the room. But her eyes were on the wrong face – as if her features had been pulled and stretched to cover a longer, thinner frame.
“She wasn’t talking to you, but I am,” said the shadowy figure. “You will resign your position. You will have no further contact…”
And then he recognized the long, lithe figure, the graceful saunter, as she glided past him toward the same door her grandmother had just taken.
“…with my sister. And I’ll try not to take it personally that you never showed such … interest … in me when I was your student.”
And just like that, Marina Calabria was gone from the room, taking with her whatever shred of self-respect or dignity he might have possessed. He stood there for a long time, wondering what would become of the girl who had ruined his marriage and ended his career. He knew he should be thinking about his own future, but all he could think about was what these horrible creatures would do to her, what these demons would do to his lovely angel. To the love of his life. To the only woman who could make him feel alive.