Of course, within half an hour of a bemused Fed Ex guy dropping off a pouch with plane tickets in it, Lexi suddenly found herself wishing that she hadn’t agreed to go to Ile du Soleil. She couldn’t be away from her house, from her projects, from her comfortable cocoon in Arcadia. Surrounded by Dobie’s world, she’d turn into one of his bimbo girlfriends, lose her mind out on the massive salt flats and forget who she was entirely. He was going to eat her up and there was nothing she could do about it.
She couldn’t remember having had anxiety attacks before Ren had died. That bothered her, in the same way that feeling a little squiggle in the steering wheel did: it wasn’t a big thing of itself, but it was indicative of something damaged deep within.
“What I need,” she told Malice and Teague, who were on the bed with her, “is a soul alignment. Have you such a machine?”
Malice said, “mau,” and walked across Lexi’s stomach.
“That’s what I thought you’d say.” Malice was going to travel with her, this time. Her neighbor Sir William had volunteered to take care of the other five cats, but Malice would be happier near her, she suspected. The silly black cat would stop eating if she wasn’t around. “You’ll feel differently after an eighteen-hour plane ride, my pretty,” Lexi told the cat. She bounced up off of the bed to go to her closet; she hadn’t even packed yet. Not knowing how long she’d be gone hadn’t helped to keep her from procrastinating. Probably she could get away with taking only the clothes on her back and a penknife, and Dobie would buy her whatever she needed, but there was something completely abhorrent in being dependent on him like that. She had a feeling that he expected her to depend on him, and so she would do so as little as possible. Lexi began flinging her favorite clothes into a pile on the bed, causing the cats to scatter indignantly.
She’d need fun jewelry, too, or at least antisocial jewelry. If Dobie expected to ambush her with a posh party full of posh people, she’d be happy to let them know that they were not the same.
Why am I so defensive? she wondered.
While she was wondering about that, the phone rang, and she answered it. “Hello. Why am I so defensive?” she asked whoever it was.
“‘Cuz you’re guilty?” It was Cygnet, who would certainly know if she was guilty or not. “How’s it going, Lexicon?”
“It’s okay. I’m just throwing clothes around. Shouldn’t you be on the radio now?”
“I have Fridays off, ditz. I stayed home instead of finding a one-night stand, and we’re watching both The Crow movies in a row and having popcorn. Dee is taking a potty break.”
Dee was Cygnet’s sister; the two women lived together. “I’m sorry I’m missing that,” Lexi said (even though the rape scene in The Crow made her uncomfortable in a way that few things did). “I’m packing to go on vacation tomorrow, though.”
“Ooh, vacation? Where ya going?”
“Ile du Soleil. I feel strange. Some part of me feels like I’m discreetly fleeing from the Nazis, and I can’t figure out why.”
“You’re going with Dobie and Victor, I presume.” Cygnet was cheerfully jealous.
“Yes, I’m sure you’d go in a minute.” Lexi sighed with mock exasperation. “I can’t believe your nerve. I haven’t even had sex in this house yet.”
“You have no proof.”
“The squeaking bed and giggles left little doubt, Twinkie. And believe me, hearing Victor giggle is a disturbing thing.”
“Ehh, well, it’s your loss. You had access to both of ’em way longer than I did.”
Lexi laughed. “Okay, you’re right. I haven’t felt moved to try, I guess.”
“No surprise there. You ought to, though. It’s been long enough.”
That set Lexi to wondering. Was it too soon after Ren had died? Was sex on the menu if she went to Dobie’s? She wasn’t sure of the protocol, if there was any protocol. It had been almost a year after all, but she just wasn’t interested, and it didn’t seem like there should be anything wrong with that.
“Just remember to make it someone disposable,” Cygnet continued, blithely unaware of the thought-train she’d set in motion.
“Disposable. Like an insulin syringe–‘use once and destroy.’ Just they way I like ’em.” She laughed. “But seriously. You lost Ren, the most wonderfullest guy ever. The first person you’re with after him, you’re going to hate.”
“You are. You might not want to. He might not even be that bad a person, but no matter how much fun you have, you’re going to hate yourself in the morning and you’re going to transfer that onto him. You’re going to hate his guts and never want to see him again.”
“So, I should want to get laid, why?”
“To get that seal broken. Get it over with. Just grab the poolboy and fuck the beejeezus out of him. And use protection, for God’s sake! Poolboys are cute, but they can be total plague monkeys. But seriously, I think…” Cygnet paused, sighed. “I think it’s an important step in you getting better. I know I’m being glib and shit, but it’s true, I don’t think you’re going to start living again until this happens. And it’s going to suck, and I wish I could be there, but I’m not sitting outside the door listening to you squeak, ‘fuck me harder! Harder!’ ever again, not even to provide necessary consolation afterward. Once was enough.”
Lexi laughed at Cygnet’s made-up memory. “Someday someone’s going to kick your ass,” she said, quoting the movie Tremors.
Cygnet missed it. “Promises, promises. So how long are you going away for?”
“I don’t know, exactly. A couple of weeks, maybe. As long as it takes for Dobie to get sick of me and throw me out,” she added with a grin.
“Like that’ll happen.”
“Why does everyone say that?”
“It’s a rich guy thing. He wants to feel like he could have you, too. They were all jealous of you and Ren, you know. He won’t be happy until he knows that he could’ve gotten you, too.”
“But he couldn’t have.”
“Well, I know that, and I’d tell him if he had the guts to call my show. But he won’t ask. It’s an ego thing. He’s got to know that he could have all of the best toys.”
“In other words, the best way to get rid of him would be to sleep with him?”
“Mmmm–probably. Could be fun, too. He looks kind of like a young Cary Grant.”
“Ugh, I know.”
“What’s wrong with that? You could pass for a big-boned Audrey Hepburn. It’d be downright cute.”
“Okay, the first thing I’m going to have Dobie do is hire someone to come down to Westland and break your legs, if you don’t stop right there.”
“Ooh! Have him send Victor!” Cygnet squealed, and both of them laughed.
While Lexi talked, she folded the clothes on the bed, stacked them, added several pairs of shoes (multi-colored Converse All-Stars and her faithful clunky boots) to the pile. Oh, and a swimsuit would be good, too. Not the white one, though, it was transparent. On second thought…no, on third thought, it stayed behind. “Oh, hell, I need to take music, don’t I?”
“Yeah, there won’t be much bouncy stuff out on the ish-tay-tah,” Cygnet said. “Unless someone has a precocious teenager, of course.”
“Children with the propensity to become ‘precocious’ are drowned at birth in these families,” Lexi said absently. “It’s actually legal.”
“Do me a favor and take some Rancid with you. Please.”
Lexi was already on her way downstairs to the ballroom, where all of the CDs lived. “Will do. My suitcase is getting kind of ridiculous, you know.”
“Remember to check your vibrator,” Cygnet advised. It was an old joke–high school vintage, in fact. “Don’t put it in your carryon. Otherwise, customs will want to know what it is.”
“How did I ever travel without you?” Lexi said. “Anyway, mine doesn’t require a car battery, like some people’s machinery. Okay, CD shelf, let’s see, we need Boingo, we need HuG, we need KMFDM.”
“You need PWEI,” Cygnet added. She was mentally creating a soundtrack for Lexi’s trip, and began rattling off music for her friend to take. It wasn’t hard. Lexi didn’t even question the suggestions, just grabbed them.
“Okay, two slots left. Let’s see, I want to take Dear Diary, for sure.”
Dear Diary…This Shit Hurts was the name of Cygnet’s band’s as-yet-unreleased album. Lexi had a demo copy. “Aw, such flattery,” she said with false sarcasm. “I’m getting all squooshy inside.”
“And I want Peepshow. More Siouxsie.” Lexi opened the jewel case, but the CD was gone. That made no sense; she had carefully organized the whole shelf when she’d unboxed everything. And it was unlikely that Dobie or Eddie had taken it. “Hey, what gives?” she whined.
“What’s the matter?”
“Peepshow is missing. I thought it–ohh, you know what? Ren had it. In his car. Guess I won’t be listening to that one this week!” Lexi uttered a screamy, hysterical laugh and started to cry.
The mood swing took Cygnet completely by surprise. “Hey,” she said, too far away to do anything else. “Hey, Lexi, I know, I know,” she said, aware that she really didn’t. She fell uncomfortably silent.
Lexi moaned and knelt on the floor, feeling it all over again and ready for it to stop. She bumped her forehead lightly against the ballroom’s hardwood floor. That felt good, so she did it again.
Cygnet had an idea of what she was doing. “Stop it, Lexi. Quit hitting your head.”
“I can’t,” she sobbed.
“Then come down here, so I can do it for you. I’ll know when to stop.”
“I can’t come down there. I have to go on vacation. It’s good for me.”
“Well, shit, I can’t argue with that. You’re gonna be okay. Maybe it doesn’t feel like it right now, but you’ll be okay.”
Lexi’s tears were subsiding, on the outside at least. “I know,” she said, and sniffed. “It’d be easier to just take a nap until I am, though.”
“Go on vacation, babe. Stop thinking about shit. Just be for a while.”
“Didn’t I say that to you once?”
“Yes, after that wedding thing.” Five years earlier, Cygnet’s fiancee had decided to break it off with her–on their wedding day. He’d made his point by not showing up for the ceremony. Lexi had been instrumental in keeping her hot-tempered Texan friend from ending the day with a murder-suicide. “It’s good advice. You should take it once in a while.”
“We are all immune to our own advice,” Lexi said. She sniffled again, and the brief explosion was momentarily subdued. She’d cry some more after Cygnet was off the phone; it was too awkward this way. One way or another, she had to have it all out by morning, of course. She was leaving the country, after all.