Red Leather Mary Janes
By Tara Ann Stridh
9th November 1888
Miller’s Dorset Street
While Angelus taught the young and eager to learn William – Spike – Darla was practically abandoned and keeping company with Drusilla’s incoherent ramblings was beginning to wear her down; even Angelus snapped at his raven-haired child’s babbling on occasion. A walk alone would no doubt ease her swarming head. The way Angelus looked at little William, the way he sometimes spoke to him made Darla believe her boy wished he had sired the British poet. Still, no matter how Angelus tried to gain favor in Spike’s eyes the precious vamp belonged to Drusilla. The blood one sires always belongs to the parent.
Darla liked the prostitutes in London. Their little accents delighted her. Once in 1877 she had tasted a blue-eyed brunette waved beauty with the most beautiful teeth she had ever seen on a woman of the flesh; of course, the girl was sixteen at the time. Just two months ago Darla read in the papers that the girl was dead. The paper said the girl’s name was Annie Chapman, but Darla knew it was Eliza Anne Smith. A new name, but the same girl, old with age and as dead as a gutted cat with its tail snipped off. Darla wondered if Eliza’s teeth were still as magnificent; she couldn’t even remember why she had let the girl go, but she did mourn Eliza’s recent death.
As soon as Darla stepped foot outside upon the damp brown cobblestones she found a pretty little peach of prey. Actually she saw the girl sing a lovely little song in a pub and followed her out. The girl was tall with blonde waves and ginger lips; her boots were light upon the ground, the rim of her ruffled royal blue skirts soiled with dirt. Darla wondered how long it would take her to drink the charming young thing. Then, as if the girl could read her thoughts she turned and stared at Darla approaching.
Darla tilted her head to the side as the girl pulled her red shawl over her almost bare shoulders.
“I saw you singing,” said Darla, her voice a polite chime. “They told me your name is Marie Jeanette Kelly. Have you been in London long?”
The girl’s pale bosom swelled and shrank with every tiny breath she took, and Darla began to miss the way her own breasts used to feel when she was once human. The swelling - that’s what made catching trollip treats so much fun and more intoxicating than ever.
“Don’t you speak?” said Darla, arching an eyebrow.
“Yes,” smile the girl, “Forgive me. It’s just, did you follow me out all this way just to tell me you liked my singing? I’m deeply flattered. I don’t usually get kind words unless-“
“You’re paid for them?” Darla said. “I know. I used to be – yes, indeed, I came out all this way after you to taste that sweet voice all for myself.”
Marie Jeanette pulled her shawl tighter around her body.
“Oh, I see,” she said, “I’m not used to your sort.”
“That I refuse to believe. After all, why did God create women to bare life if he did not intend for them to seek comfort in one another after the fact?”
“I don’t understand,” she said, her British accent strong and meek.
“Such pretty lashes,” said Darla, moving closer to the girl whose skin smelt of wispery ginger.
The girl shuddered and stepped backwards, Darla realizing Marie Jeanette’s blue eyes gazing past her shoulder. With a gasp the girl turned and ran away, her red shawl falling to the wet ground.
Darla narrowed her violet eyes and turned only to let her own sharp choke escape as she was pushed against the brown-red brick wall. Cold metal was pressed against her throat. She looked into the gray eyes of a man in a black dressing cape and hat. In his hand was a gleaming new scalpel, and he held it at her throat.
“You made her go away,” whispered the man, his pronunciation harsh and elegant.
“No, you made her go away,” she said, daring to look deeper into his eyes.
“Why do you look at me in such a way?” he asked. “Are you not afraid?”
“The heart must beat for fear,” she said, “and I possess neither.”
Darla sighed, rolling her eyes at the tiny slice the blade was making in her flesh.
She licked her lips and said, “I know who you are? You’re the White Chapel murderer, are you not? Go find a whore, for I am not one or yours.”
Her soft voice was edged with acrid loathing as she pushed him away, slamming his small-framed body into the wall. He yelped as he held his shoulder, rubbing at it through the black satin of his cape.
She began to walk away, determined to get back the girl she so desperately wanted in the first place.
The man yelled out, “You are one. Never has the vile smell of one been so ripe than on you. I can smell the retching sickness of it in your golden hair, on your white bosom, and worst of all, from within your skirts!”
Darla stopped walking, held on to her pink silk skirts as she turned around, and gazed at him, her dark garnet lips slightly parted. She started to laugh.
“I beg your pardon most depraved sir,” she said, walking towards him, “but unlike you I don’t need the knife or the infamy of the police to draw blood.”
“Am I being challenged by a woman? By a strumpet that dresses like a queen?”
With one blonde eyebrow arched Darla said, “And what can you possibly do to me that could make you believe you are worthy of such notoriety?”
“What is your name?” he said, a glimmer in his eyes, his smile faint. He removed his hat and traced his gloved finger around the rim. “I’ve killed a Mary Ann, Dark Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine, and tonight, well, quite frankly tonight was going to be Mary Jane, but the little sparrow’s flown away. But not for long, I assure you.”
“Darla,” she said.
“Darla,” he said, his smiling growing. “Yes, a most prefect name for a whore. Sounds like a made-up name. A name to conceal disease-carrying trash. Poetic, isn’t it? How ‘trash’ and ‘flesh’ end in that ‘ish’ sound of filth.”
“You’d be wise to watch your tongue in my presence or I might just decide to rip it out,” she said, approaching him, “and believe me, that would be my soft side, if you would, my maternal instinct.”
“Whores have no desire for motherhood,” he said, his “S’s” tinted with an exquisite slithering wickedness and cruel seductiveness. “Yes, and perhaps on you I will split your reproductive organs into four parts to make up for the heart you tell me you lack.”
Her chin proudly up, Darla removed her purple satin hat and placed it on the gentleman’s blonde head.
“There,” she said, “now you can pretend you are as powerful as those you prey upon.”
His cheeks blushed and he screamed, tearing the hat off his head and tossing it into a gutter puddle. His hand reached out for Darla’s throat, and she was against the wall again, laughing.
Even as the scalpel cut up between her legs through her skirts her laugh echoed in his ears. Her laugh was equivalent to chimes at a hanging, specifically the hanging of the one she was laughing at. Then the laughter ceased abruptly, her hand squeezing his wrist so tight he yelled in silence. The scalpel remained in his hand, just below her cunt, and Darla knew it was a personal struggle for him.
“You pretend not to be what you are,” he whispered, his voice hypnotically brutal, “but I can see the whore you are and always will be. Women such as yourself were designed to be cut into again and again.”
“Such poison I’d taste if I had you,” said Darla, twisting his wrist. She changed into her vampire face, and the man tried to step backwards, but she held him in his place. “Look upon me and see what breathes beneath all women. When you die this will be the only hell you’ll know and swim in - for an eternity.”
He yelped as she slashed his right cheek with his own sharp tool and threw him across from her, his head hitting the cobblestones as he landed hard on his back.
As Darla walked towards him he attempted to push himself away, his shiny black shoes scuffing the ground in vain. Looking up at her he watched as she licked the innocent blade of the medical instrument. He flinched as Darla spit on him, his blood mixed in with her cold saliva.
“Happy cutting,” said Darla, tossing the scalpel at his face, its blade nicking him near his eye.
Darla’s human face returned; she turned and went after the ginger still lingering in the fogged atmosphere.
That night when Angelus questioned why she was weeping she only let him embrace her in his coveting arms, weakly asking if he could smell what she was before he met her. Then after Darla took a bath - alone - Drusilla whimpered in glee that a pretty blonde prostitute was dead. The moon told her, and it was quite bitter tonight.