Chapter 7: Elijah’s Demons

Elijah was sitting in his reserved booth at Jardin.

Elijah hadn’t expected the evening off. When Lucia had first sent him to Jardin, Elijah had a job. He wasn’t overly excited by the prospect of spending his whole evening tracking down some street dealer that couldn’t keep his hands out of the wrong fairy’s cookie jar, but Lucia had given Elijah worse jobs over the years.

Elijah had a booth that Arsene kept for him near the easternmost stairwell to Jardin‘s spiderweb of balconies. It provided Elijah with a comprehensive view of Jardin‘s dance floor. Elijah was wearing his sunglasses, and although he wasn’t blind as so many folks assumed, the sunglasses were for more than just show. White folks tended to react poorly to a black man with no eyes… just smoking, smoldering craters where his eyes used to be.

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Promises Made

Virgil walked behind Arsene as they navigated a narrow set of stairs deep in the bowels of Jardin. Arsene had Robin slung over their shoulders, who had passed out seconds after returning from the veil.

Virgil wasn’t entirely sure how she and Arsene were still inside of Jardin. The building took up a corner of a dockside block on the Strip and was only three stories tall, but Virgil felt like she and Arsene had walked enough corridors to be Downtown by now and that was without wondering how exactly these stairs seemed to still be going up.

Virgil was pretty sure she saw a door and lights off in the distance. Virgil couldn’t figure out what were the color of the lights that were peeking out of the cracks of the unreachable portal. The lights always seemed to change just when Virgil thought she caught a glint of red or purple or orange.

Virgil hadn’t had a clear idea of where exactly she planned on taking Robin after she broke Todd’s wrist, but Virgil wanted to be well clear of the Strip before cops showed up. Arsene had assured her the pigs wouldn’t be a problem.

“Don’t you worry your head, little ghost. You and your friend are in no danger here.” Virgil could not place Arsene’s accent although she was fairly certain it wasn’t French or Laotian.

Arsene had walked towards Robin and Virgil slowly and with their hands up and then picked Robin up like she was a sleeping kitten and gently laid her over their shoulders. Arsene was still in their mod girl outfit. Arsene’s face was lined and their hair was starting to gray, but their tan, muscular shoulders carried Robin without noticeable burden.

Arsene didn’t even wrinkle their dress.

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June 20th, 2009

[Author’s Note: This chapter of Orchid was initially scheduled to go up on October 28th. Nic and I decided to delay publication of this part of our story after the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh out of respect to the victims and family of that horrific tragedy.

If you’ve been reading Orchid from the beginning, you may remember that one of our heroines, Robin Goldberg, is a young Jewish woman living in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh’s historically Jewish neighborhood. This chapter was going to be our first return to Robin’s part of the story since the second chapter. Like myself, Robin is a secular, non-practicing Jew who still takes great pride in her cultural heritage. However, as this chapter deals with contemporary anti-Semitism and how white nationalists use the internet as a platform to intimidate Jews and queer folks and people of color, Nic and I felt it was appropriate to let ourselves and others continue to grieve over the loss in Pittsburgh before we told a story about our own experiences with modern anti-Semitic violence.]


Robin brushed her hair as she got ready for her fourth date with Virgil.

A relationship had not been in Robin’s day planner for that summer. She was done with school. Robin had a summer to herself before she started teaching full time. She had thought maybe she’d make another movie. Robin had an idea for this low-budget home invasion thriller. Robin still wanted to talk to some friends about financing, but the only part of her life she seemed to be able to  actually think or talk about anymore was Virgil.

Relationship… Jesus. You’ve hung out three times.

Robin stopped brushing her hair. Her futile attempts to straighten her mane only seemed to be making it curlier.

Virgil and Robin had danced their second night at Jardin. Virgil ran her hands through Robin’s hair, lavishing attention on seemingly every curl as they danced and leaned against each other on the dance floor. Virgil had signed to Robin how beautiful her hair was. Virgil massaged Robin’s scalp as Robin danced with her back to Virgil’s chest and Virgil’s other hand traced endless, icy circles on Robin’s exposed midriff.

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You Know What You Did

Why the fuck didn’t I drive?

Sabine was furious with themself. Their Jetta was sitting at home. It was their college graduation present from their mother and the only car they knew they’d be able to afford for a very long time. The car they only used when public transportation wasn’t an option.

Sabine and Melika were a couple blocks out from Terre, and Melika hadn’t said a word since they’d left the gallery. Melika was breathing again at least, and Sabine counted their blessings that they weren’t going to have to give Dr. Zhi an emergency late night call. Sabine wasn’t sure how “there” Melika was when they grabbed her hand and led her up the steps to the bus from Downtown to Lawrenceville.

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January 10th, 2018

Melika hadn’t used Dr. Zhi’s couch since her first session.

It was a comfortable couch. Melika had no complaints about the couch’s aesthetics. It was a textured, floral cotton print. Cream. Dr. Zhi said it had been her mother’s. Melika would have loved to have had a couch just like that in her apartment with Sabine.

Melika and Dr. Zhi had settled on an alternative to the couch. Dr. Zhi bought an inflatable mattress and pillows. Melika supplied sheets and a throw blanket for when it was cold. Melika stared up at Dr. Zhi’s plaster ceiling as her head rested on three firm pillows. Dr. Zhi didn’t usually administer her treatment with such a Freudian visual framing, but Melika wasn’t one for eye contact to begin with so they made their system work.

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Twenty Minutes Later

Sabine had gone to the restroom after Tracy’s lecture.

They didn’t run away to cry. Sabine was almost 30. They could handle criticism although Sabine knew they couldn’t afford for Tracy and Severin to get bored with their work.

Sabine had gone to the bathroom because they didn’t want Tracy to know that her words had cut so deep.

Sabine had only painted Home in the first place because they had to get a piece placed in the Art Crawl. Sabine knew that Severin operated on far more patriotic nostalgia than they would ever let on. Home was guaranteed money, and Sabine had helped make a sale with Tracy’s help.

Sabine did resent the implication that they didn’t care about Home.

Sabine hadn’t been back to the home their painting captured since they were in high school. Home wasn’t a surrealist commentary on the bewildering, incomprehensible beauty of nature. Sabine hadn’t painted a landscape as literal as this since their art school days. Home was Fae.

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How It Will Always Be

Melika was on Tumblr.

Melika reminded herself that she hadn’t been dragged out to Terre. She was happy to be at the gallery. Melika was celebrating Sabine’s big night. She wanted to be present for Sabine, and Melika was… sort of.

Melika had been fine when Sabine was with her. A close friend was the only emotional support system Melika still needed to function in crowded, public spaces.

Melika had been fine when Severin had stopped by and asked how she was doing. Severin did have a habit of studying Melika intently and not apologizing for the stares. Melika could handle Severin’s looks though. She knew why they stared.

Yet, Melika still felt like she would rather cease to be or to have ever even been than be left by herself at shows like this.

This is how it will always be.

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