XX - Judgement
"Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different consequences."
"History is destined to repeat itself; and if you don't learn from it, you are going to re-experience the lesson, over and over, until you get it right," April replied, stirring the cup of coffee aimlessly. "In fact, if you pay attention to the details, I'll bet you can see the patterns emerge. Did you ever date one person, break up, and then find yourself back in the same situation with someone different?"
"What do you mean?"
"Maybe the same name, same sign, same anything?" April eyed Tara, looking for that instant of realization, which traced across her face in a smile. Tara found an example.
"My fiance` is an Aries . . . so is my dad," she revealed, even if she didn't see a connection, otherwise. "They are both in the entertainment industry. Is that what you mean?"
"Sure, there's two similarities. Do they act alike?"
"No . . ."
Tara sat, remembering what her childhood had been like . . . and then she thought of Chance.
"No, they are not that much alike."
April knew that something more was going on in Tara's head than she let on, but she tried to handle these situations with kid gloves.
"Aries are, stereotypical, a sign that has definite qualities that can be defined. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but stereotypes aren't there without reason. Unfortunately , , , but anyway, what was I saying?"
"About Aries . . ."
"Oh yeah, Aries! I love Aries . . . except when they pick fights. They love to argue and once it's over, they can't figure why everyone is still bent out of shape. For them, it over . . . move on! "
"Okay, I guess I can see that."
Tara recalled the beatings, and how it was 'over.' He just passed out afterward, and the next day, she'd get a new toy. Or worse . . .
Although, April knew not to judge her, lest she be judged, but it didn't mean she couldn't discern her spirit. Whatever Tara was remembering didn't look good. "Sometimes, you have to judge people, which doesn't mean to insult them, or label. Just be aware of what they are, and the rest will come naturally. For example, if you know someone steals from everyone, just remember that you are one of everyone."
"So, tell me more about Aries."
"I am . . ." April paused for a pregnant pause, causing Tara to respond.
"You are what?"
"That's what the Aries aspect states: I AM."
"It is the demand of the first personality. The child who cries, 'I am hungry! I am sleepy! I am going to cry until I get what I want."
"Now that I can see in them.:
"Aries rules the head . . . so, many Aries have either a prominent nose, shaped with the eyebrows like the sign of Aries. Let me show you. Where's a pen?"
She drew out the symbol: ^
". . .or maybe they have a scar on the head. The face. And because of the way male sheep like to fight, I like to think of them as buttheads. But I have to admit that I'm in love with one . . . more or less . . ."
"Really? I didn't know you had a boyfriend?"
"Well, . . . I wouldn't . . . I mean, not exactly . . . anyway!"
April tried to change the subject.
How am I supposed to answer that?
Tara watched as she stammered, knowing what April felt . . . she figured with a few more days like these, she'd have the answers she needed. She needed to know why Chance and April were . . . together? Not together?
The best way she could think of handling the situation was by infiltrating enemy territory. Her smile was the Trojan Horse, and her love would conquer all. Now that she put her mark on him, no other woman was going to occupy his thoughts!
Especially this one . . . Why her?
Tara worked late nights with April, who began to hear the horror stories of Tara's past. She listened as the years of rage spewed from Tara, more intense each night until, she began to feel like a therapist. It drained her, leaving April weary from the conversations. She began to look for reasons to leave.
I thought she would never leave!
Tara was anxious to get started. She had to find out who was on the guest list. She had to affect the outcome. But how? When midnight came, she sat alone in the office still rifling through the files. She had no better luck in the computers. There was no hard copy list anywhere.
I know she has to invite him! Doesn't she? I mean how can she be so obsessed and yet have absolutely nothing around her to show for it? What is his character? Who will he be?
Chance wondered where Tara had been lately. He never asked. Since she had an answering service which returned calls so quickly she didn't ever seem too far away. But where was she when he needed her . . . like now? He felt trapped by shadows right in his own home.
It was hard to believe, but from the window upstairs, he could see it. Flapping in the breeze, it waited for him under the wiper on his windshield. He didn't want to know, but he had to find out.
It isn't a parking citation!
He held the police detective's card in his hand, but he remembered how dumb they made him feel and didn't really want to call. But who should he call? Lou? Not!! So he ordered a pizza and waited for a painful forty-five minutes until the delivery guy arrived. The price of a tip, and his problem was solved.
It was just what he expected. Everyday, another letter showed, in the same sequence he had received them so many years earlier. He felt strange replacing the letters into a new box, strangely glad to get them back but sick at the way in which they were arriving.
But then something caught his attention. It was in her handwriting. He looked at the outside envelopes and sure enough, these new ones seemed different; but he couldn't quite put his finger on it.
Tara ended up asleep on the couch by three AM, no more successful than when she started. She set her watch alarm to go off in two hours, which would give her time to look again before anyone showed up to work. The office grew still as she drifted off to sleep.
Out of the corner of her eye, April spotted the entity in the room. This one was new. She crossed herself with a prayer, before lighting a candle. It glowed brighter and came toward the flame until it hovered two feet above the fire.
You need to get the guest list out . . .
April heard herself think. There wasn't anything that she needed to do, and yet, the thought still nagged at her. She tried to fight off the urge, especially since Chance had yet to respond. The whole thing seemed pointless.
Get the list!
"No! Damn it . . . I'm not going to get the list!"
Get the fucking list, you bitch!"
April couldn't believe she was arguing with herself over the stupid guest list. And the more she resisted, the harder she debated it. Finally, she got up. Under the rug, she kept her secrets in the crawl space under two boards. She pulled out the list and looked at it. The March Hare - Chance Lee was not circled.
Tara woke, refreshed, from a dream about the country. She had seen a rabbit, and the woman. Under the floor . . . She knew it was an omen.
April watched the formless apparition follow her, still unconvinced that what she was seeing was real. She waited and watched but it disappeared into the corner. Hmmm . . . what did it want with the list?
April shuddered at the idea.
The next day she woke up refreshed, the memory distant and fading as her busy schedule demanded her attention. She had to concentrate on the Party for now. Today was the day when she could reveal a new piece of the puzzle to the press, which were hungry and long overdue for news.
"This is all I can give to you right now, you understand."
April unveiled the giant display hidden behind a curtain she had constructed that morning from a trunk she had brought over from her house only hours before this press conference. Stunned office workers were mesmerized as she pulled piece after piece from the treasure chest. Little by little, the image became clear.
"So . . . Who is going to be first?"
As Tara watched intensely from the dark recesses of the room, April motioned to a brunette woman, reporting for one of the networks.
"I'll give you the numbers, you fill in the blanks."
April reached into a box of felt tip pens and pulled one out.
"Here, this one is for yellow journalism."
Before the crowd, a huge puzzle was drawn in a thick black outline where each piece had a number.
"Each of these pieces represents a person or group that is on the guest list, and today, we're going to start putting the puzzle together. This is our guide to who has responded. And let me tell you, now, . . ." April couldn't stop herself,
" . . . our special guest hasn't RSVP'd yet. We're still waiting!"
Tara gasped louder than anyone. But no one noticed, as the news of 'the special guest' sank into their minds.
"I know I've denied it until now, but to answer your next question, yes, there is someone I want to attend that hasn't said 'Yes.' Yet . . ."
"Who?" Several reporters shouted.
April just laughed, "It's a secret."
"Okay, are you ready?"
April led the woman to the exhibit, and the coloring of the map began. This path was leading April to her destiny. She watched in awe as the next man chose red, and filled the second blank. It wasn't long before everyone had a turn.
She observed one by one each of a thousand pens appear, be used once and be put into a barrel for donation to the charity. Each pen had to be different, and it had taken a long time to get all the companies to send one of each from their styles. April had positioned three volunteers at the barrel to record who used which pen on what number puzzle piece. Each participant that day immortalized themselves by signing the official Mad Hatter Register. Most of these people were not on the guest list, therefore this would be as close as they would get to The Tea Party.
"All I'll tell you is this," April tried to appease them, "keep the faith, keep asking questions and who knows, maybe you'll get the answers you want."
She left the platform, resisting the urge to point out which piece was his.
Maybe he'll see the news or something.
Tara's mind raced with poisonous notions. She would have to stop this soon. The next letter she mailed that night, with one pair of gloves covered with blood, the other pair was clean for the outside envelope. She put a note in this one, scrawled in her perfect forgery smeared with blood from her steak.
You WILL MAKE THE PERFECT SACRIFICE
COME TO ME YOU DEMON SEED
IT IS TIME TO DIE
Be led into the slaughter, you.
If that doesn't scare him away, nothing will!
Tara sealed the envelope with a touch more of the bloody juice, and dropped it into the mailbox outside the Yes Oui` Si` office.
Back at her hotel room, Tara looked through the rest of the envelopes. She laughed at her perfect crime. She packed her bags and checked out. With a quick call to April to say she was too sick to come in the next few days, which would lead into the weekend, therefore she would see her on Monday.
At the airport, she stored the rest of the letters in a locker, except for the next few. These had been postmarked from California, so Tara went home for the next phase.
On the airplane, she fantasized how it would be to see the look on his face when this next little gem showed up in the mail. With her right there by his side, she created the perfect alibi. Los Angeles greeted her with open arms, and her driver waited in the bar by the terminal. She called her man from the car.
"Hey, Chance, I'm going to come over tonight. Okay?"
She tried to picture where he might be hiding the letters this time.
An hour and a half later, Tara and Chance were together again. Even as they kissed, each felt the distance between them. No one said a word. They fell into the bed where Chance removed her blouse one button at a time. He slid her underwear off, pushing her mini skirt up over her hips, She tried to get up to take it off but her pushed her onto the bed, this time holding both of her hands over her head with one of his hands locked through her fingers. With his other hand, he touched her between the thighs.
April felt a warm sensation spread through her body, tingling. She wanted to believe that he was thinking about her. Her eyes darted around the room, hoping to glimpse a shimmer of him anywhere. She saw nothing. When she went to check on her sleeping child, she paused in the doorway. Holding her breath, the young mother waited for the rise and fall of another whisper before she relaxed.
Just as she turned to leave, something caught her eye in the mirror.
A H S A T A N
April gasped for air, crumbling backward into the hall. The wall behind her broke her fall, but still she slid it down until she was on the floor. Blackness swallowed her world.
The dragon moved in the shadows where she traveled, until the spirit of April could see that the game was nearing its final stage. She had to move a pawn until it became a queen, which was unlikely since the serpent waited there to devour it. Since when does chess have snakes?
When April came to, she rubbed her head tenderly, wondering how long she lay unconscious. With one swift move, she tore down the banner.
That night, Tara waited in the doorway, hoping that Chance would ask her about her quiet sadness, but he said nothing as he watched TV. She paced back and forth through his bedroom, trying to arouse his attention, but with no success. Finally, she couldn't help it,
"Chance, I'm pregnant."
At first she thought he hadn't heard her, so she swallowed hard and repeated herself. He still didn't respond.
What was he supposed to say?
Finally, he turned to look at her,
"Are you happy?"