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Authors: Francesca Lia Block

Beyond the Pale Motel


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For b.c. and C.Y.




Title Page

Copyright Notice



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13


Also by Francesca Lia Block

About the Author




You can talk about all aspects of sex and death in this world, but love still remains a monster that scares people away. I don't know why. Maybe because we all secretly want it so much. Or, at least I do. For me, it's worth the devastation. It's the thing I most desire and I'll continue to seek it out no matter what, no matter how far gone I am. No matter that I am way, way beyond the pale.




At Head Hunter we massaged the scalps of our clients as if they were our lovers; we swept their snipped hair up off the shiny black floor (“A mirror for the Peeping Toms,” my best friend, Bree, joked); we sterilized the combs and brushes in blue liquid-poison Barbicide, in glass jars; we basked in the light of pale pink glass chandeliers and blasted nineties music. The Crystal Method, Marilyn Manson, Nirvana, the stuff we loved when we were young and fucked-up, going to raves and grunge shows. Our development had probably been arrested back then, which was why no other music affected us as much. They say addicts tend to get stuck at the age they started using.

Bree and I got sober with the help of the same AA sponsor, Shana, a hot lesbian documentary-film producer, and the black coffee that we drank all day like we used to guzzle Jack. Which was better than shooting Barbicide; we knew a boy who had killed himself with it and we both got clean the day after his funeral.

Another thing had changed for Bree and me in the last eleven years—the birth of her son, Skylar, whose school picture smiled at me from the corner of my mirror so I could look at him all day long. The green and darker-green-ringed eyes gazed up from under the thatch of brown hair, pouring energy into my arms and wrists when they tired, soothing the ache in my temples when the hairspray fumes got to me at the end of the day.

“Sky-Sky asked me if you could take him to his baseball tryouts in two weeks?” Bree said over the sound of the blow-dryer as I styled her hair.

I sometimes wondered why Skylar wanted me, not his mom, to take him to things like this. Maybe he was less worried about having to impress me. Bree wasn't demanding of Skylar, but she was such a perfectionist herself that he couldn't help but feel some pressure.

“That is, if you're still here after Dash eats you alive,” she added.

“I'd come back from the dead to take Skylar to baseball,” I told her. “But I hope I get eaten a little at least.” My husband, Dash, was arriving home from a gig in San Francisco that night.

“The way you look right now, I don't think it'll be a problem.”

My bob was freshly dyed jet-black, my foundation minimal enough to reveal the freckles on my pale skin, but my brown eyes were heavily lined. I wore high-heeled suede boots and a red silk kimono wrap dress printed with pink peonies and white cherry blossoms. Even though the fabric was soft, it made my skin itch; I was most comfortable in dark vintage dresses, or dark denim jeans, but I was trying to get my husband to devour me again. Like when we met. Back then, when he wasn't touching me, he was staring at me with eyes hotter than his hands. Six feet two inches with a shaved head and tatted biceps, he convulsed on the stage at Outer Space. I'd never been with anyone like that. My nipples tingled, I was always wet, a permanent state of arousal. “Please let me have your baby,” I would beg, the words orgasming out of my mouth before I could stop them. He would kiss me shut. Over a decade later I was thirty-six and the clock was ticking so loudly it would keep me awake all night while he snored next to me.

I wanted Dash's baby, I told myself, because of how much I loved Dash. Now I wonder if maybe I just wanted to hold on to him. And to make a child who would never leave me.

But I had left my own mother, ultimately, trying to get back at her for abandoning me so many times. At least I had Dash and Skylar and Bree. No matter what, I had them.

“So hot, Catt,” Bree promised, checking out my push-up-bra-enhanced cleavage in the mirror. Not me, but Bree is hot. Always. I had dyed her hair pale pink this time. Most people over the age of nineteen couldn't easily get away with pink hair unless they were rock stars, but Bree could, even at our age. And a bit of a rock star she was, at least at Head Hunter. She had on a white lace dress and pink slip she had designed and made, along with over-the-knee platform boots of black Spanish leather, her pale eyes always slightly askew as if she were looking through the air at something better than you will ever see.

“Thanks, baby blue. I tried to channel you today.”

She turned her head, reached up, and kissed me on the lips, hers like a MAC ad. Ample Pink gloss that costs $20 for a tiny tube. I bought some once but put it in the back pocket of my jeans and it slid out and into the toilet bowl. I will never be Bree. Sometimes her full-frontal kisses made me have to squeeze my thighs together even though I could never sleep with her again—not sober; I'd compare our bodies the whole time and it would ruin the experience. (She is tall and lithe, while I was shorter and curvy. “Voluptuous,” Bree said, but that wasn't always the word I thought of when I saw my reflection.) More important, Bree was family and I didn't want to risk losing her if something went wrong. She had pretty much expressed the same sentiment after the third time she and I slept together, in a threesome with Baby Daddy, and she conceived Skylar.

The first time Bree and I slept together was the night we met—just teenagers at a party in the Hollywood Hills. I don't know how I got there. But I remember that it was the Fourth of July because you could see the Hollywood Bowl fireworks from the balcony, and I remember every detail about Bree. She was wearing a white satin 1920s nightgown with a big silver zipper inserted down the front and combat boots. Half of her head was shaved. Nine Inch Nails was playing and she was singing along.

I went up to her and said, “We're going to be friends forever.”

She said, “How do you know?”

I said, “I just do.” Then I said, “I like your hair.” I told her I wanted to be a stylist because you could make people feel good every day.

“And make ourselves feel good by partying every night,” Bree added.

We went out on the balcony under the fireworks and snorted some coke and drank some more. I marveled at her firework-illuminated beauty even in that high and drunken state. Somehow we were in bed together. She smelled like white roses and felt as satiny and fragile as her dress. A man Bree knew—a fairly well-known actor from a TV show—came into the room and got under the covers with us but I mostly ignored him. He touched her breasts and my ass and jerked off while we kissed and put our fingers inside each other, as if we were petting the shyest animals, until we fell asleep. She woke later, feeling sick, and I walked her to the bathroom and held her forehead and her tiny, heaving torso while we knelt on the black-and-white tile floor. Afterward I wiped her face with a wet washcloth and found a clean pack of toothbrushes in a drawer for her to use.

In the morning I saw that the room we'd slept in had dark wood furniture and very white curtains and sheets. The sun shone through cathedral-style windows, making my hangover worse, and in the distance I could see the palm-treed hills hazed with smog. Bree and the man and some other people and I went out to breakfast. We ate pancakes—Bree's stomach was better by then—and wore our sunglasses and smoked cigarettes on the patio. Bree had a black Mercedes SUV that her parents had bought her when she turned sixteen and she blasted the music so loud it rumbled in my chest.

“You're right,” she said, when she dropped me off at my house later that afternoon.

“About what?”

“We're going to love each other forever.”

It hadn't been forever yet, but it had been eighteen years.

“What did you do this weekend?” I asked grown-up, sober Bree, spritzing the last bit of hairspray on her bubble-gum-colored locks.

“Baby Daddy had Skylar so I went on another FU Cupid date.”

I scowled at her in the mirror.

“I know. I have no idea why I go.”

Bree told me she kept her profile up for the hell of it, an ego boost after pandering to female egos all day. That part I understood, although one of the female egos I pandered to was hers. I loved her enough to keep doing it no matter what, and it had gotten easier after I met Dash.

“This guy was fine, though,” she said. “A dermatologist, if you can believe it. Black Irish. Free Botox.” I didn't think she needed to get the botulinum toxin injected into her muscles to freeze them, but she said it was preventative. “And he wrote to me like one hundred and fifty times before I responded.”

Honestly, in spite of the fact that I knew a few people who had gotten married to someone they'd met on the Internet, I wasn't sure how safe it was. But Bree said that was part of the thrill and that she could take care of herself. At least she never invited them over when Skylar was around.

“Which monster?” I asked, though I could already guess.

She shrugged and eyed her reflection. “A bit of a Vampire.”

Since we were in our twenties, Bree and I had come up with names for all the guys we met. Vampires were elegant, refined, and sensual. Dash was a Zombie, which sounded like a bad thing but was actually hot according to our system. Zombies were big and brawny, a little clumsy, but ravenous sexually. They wanted to come back to life and you could give them that, which was empowering. Goblins were the businessmen we never dated. Ghouls were trouble—junkies and alcoholics, the ones that trickled in and out of my meetings but couldn't stay sober. Manticores, with their three rows of proverbial teeth, could look like anything but would devour you whole. Woman-eaters. We had taken to writing about all of them in our blog,
Love Monster,
in which we collected the things in life that made it tolerable after alcohol had been removed from the equation. Although I had become the main contributor, the idea for
Love Monster
had been Bree's. She thought it was important to keep track of our distractions and fascinations.

“What did you do?” I asked Bree. With Dr. Vampire.

Aloo gobi
at Lotus Eater, and then we went to Sound to see some Swedish band. My ears are still ringing. I'm too old for this. What's up with that sound system?”

“He's really a dermatologist?”

“Yes. But he should do porn. Serious. His dick is like James Deen's.”

She stopped as the door jingled open and our first customer came in, Stu, a TV producer who lived in the Valley but slummed in Silver Lake to have his cut buzzed weekly by Bree, probably just so he could stare at her in the mirror. So I didn't get to find out more about the Vampire's penis. I didn't mind; I was thinking about resurrecting Dash. How he would rip off the itchy red dress and pump me full of life.
Maybe I can get him to lose the condom tonight,
I thought.

“Check that out,” Stu said, nodding at the TV and flexing his hands as Bree tied the black nylon apron around his thick neck.

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