She decided Moskovskaya didn't deserve her respect. She leaned out over the abyss, the arm with her cigarette hooked around the window frame, and spit a mouthful into the sky and lit it with her Sativah, producing an immense fireball over the dark city. Everybody inside jumped. Then they laughed. It was only Lavender's manager who thought to coax her in from the open window on the thirtieth floor. Lavender seemed surprised to see everyone.
Even at this, the release party for her own album, she was oblivious to everyone who was meant to be celebrating her. The assortment of humans she had gathered, her band, seemed better-equipped to respond to the various industry sleazes, hangers-on and groupies who populated the presidential suite, although they were in their own ways nearly as twisted as Lavender herself. Vulnavia was chattering with drugged rapidity at two star-bedazzled girl-toys seated on either arm of the overstuffed chair he occupied. Worm Turn was building strange little edifices out of matchsticks on the glass table and then setting them afire, pointedly ignoring those around him. The drummer and guitarist were in a limo somewhere in the city below and weren't expected back soon.
The album in question was a cube of noise grinding from the suite's sound system. For the benefit of the honored guests, of course; it was the last thing the band wanted to hear after eight months bringing it together.
i am strangely prescient
and oddly resilient
and i fit in my own carrying case
give me instructions
and dark intimations
and don't see what lurks on the turn of my face
But it was largely deadened by conversation.
The wrenching vocals of this track, and its diabolical instrumentals, seemed to have little in common with the smiling, slightly dotty individual swaying on platform soles beside her manager, candy-red hair in her eyes. Lavender placed the vodka bottle on a console table, regarding at it a moment as though it had betrayed her, before she was pulled along.
The suite was also filthy with representations large and small of the album cover. On it a pensive Lavender, displaying cleavage so electric-pale as to lack definition, standing to one side and eyeing the camera warily, holding a single white rose. Further back, the denizens of her band, all of them in some wretched monochrome desert landscape nowhere near anywhere. The back cover, undisplayed tonight, depicted the same scene from behind; in it the band were shown to be concealing weapons behind themselves, Lavender's a spiked mace, while in the foreground was a freshly-dug grave.
Clive Snake navigated a path among the scenesters and record execs, his thick arm lugging his client to a central position in the suite. Lavender's manager was hairy and fat and had a penchant for wearing silk shirts which would never, ever flatter him. His jewelry was cheap and plentiful. Like all good managers, he was happy to have people underestimate him, and cultivated his appearance accordingly; this quality was balanced with finely-honed paranoia. Lavender was never going to die in the crash of an overloaded plane. When she perished it would be in something more artistic.
Clive encouraged the biblical connotations suggested by his adopted surname. He was the one who could get you anything you wanted, for the right price. Thankfully Lavender was quite... manageable. She seemed to have few material desires, and was herself eager to please. She was like a little kid... many of his clients started out that way.
He pawed at the air. "Everybody..." His voice was scratchy and tried.
Conversation fell and heads turned. The album-Lavender wailed with painful emotion into a crash of Worm's mechanical orchestrations, and then somebody cut the volume down suddenly.
"Everybody," said her manager again, "I would like you to join me in congratulating Lavender and the band on their first release on a major label, and wish them some really extreme sales." Applause ensued, whistling, catcalls. "Advance orders have been absolutely enormous, and this is going to be an absolute monster." More applause.
Worm frowned at the tabletop and continued to play with fire. Lavender adored him for it, her small smile mistaken for sublime pride at the announcement. Clive grinned.
"You gonna say something?" said her manager, nudging her. "This is your night."
Inside Lavender's head was a hum of low static like radio interference from a servo motor. Weak visuals crossed her sight. The texture of the wallpaper segregated itself into little crystalline scales of color, pink and sky blue and yellow, transparent and slowly spiraling, blending.
"Our night," she hastened to reply. "I would be nothing without the guys." Clive's smile didn't falter but inwardly he winced; one of the first things he'd done was try to get Lavender to ditch her amateurish bandmates. She would not have it, and he had dropped the issue, knowing she would come around in time.
Vulnavia grinned at her foolishly, waving a drink in the face of one of his blondes, who didn't complain. Worm looked up, blinked, went back to what he was doing.
"Or without your help," she said, speaking to the room at large. "You've all been so wonderful to me. I hope never to disappoint you." Her heavy lashes flicked, her dark eyes making the features of her pale face vanish; it was as though she were permanently floodlit.
Her earnest vulnerability combined with the cold tracking of her eyes was alluring and yet quite creepy, a strange magnetism which had contributed in no small way to her being here now. When Clive had come across Lavender, he immediately sensed that her nascent talent didn't matter-- she could have been tone-deaf --because she put a glamour on people, drew them in. Not him, of course... he was too calloused to the business to be hooked. But others. It was what an 'artist representative' dreamed of. She was disarmingly gentle and kind, almost naïve, and while he'd never seen Lavender take advantage, she seemed to sense when someone was under her power. She was pretty and haunted and pulled people towards her. Clive was dreading the day when Lavender figured out what she possessed. But there were ways of addressing that, too.
The room, having hung on her words, missed a beat and then lauded her again. Lavender weathered this, blinking and smiling. "All right," said her manager, shooing everyone back to whatever they were doing before. He toddled off to get a drink. Lavender glanced about the room, and took a long drag from her neglected cigarette, before stubbing it out and strolling to the sofa. "Worm," she said as she leaped up onto it, sitting behind the keyboardist and grabbing his shoulders.
"Nnn?" He favored her with half a glance.
"How come nobody ever jumps me?" said Lavender into Worm's ear. She nodded towards Vul, who was being fed liquor by one of the blondes.
"'Cause you're built weird."
Lavender laughed and poked him in the ribs. "Yeah, I know that."
"Mostly they're afraid to," muttered Worm at his matches. "They don't think you'd wanna fuck them and they don't want to get rejected, so they don't try."
"Why wouldn't I want to?"
"It's that thing... you make 'em feel like you're too good for them. Like they'd bore you."
"But I'm not. They wouldn't."
"Yeah. I think you gotta jump them first," said Worm. "Dammit," he spat as his latest structure fell over.
"Sorry." Lavender slipped off the couch and into the crowd again. She navigated between groups, observing. A girl with black-dyed hair, black clothes, a lot of shiny silver bits, looking uncertain now that she had been admitted to the party. She froze, something like terror in her eyes as Lavender paused before her, gazed down at her. Lavender smiled warmly, gently took the girl's hand in hers, ready to release it at the first indication of reluctance. She was led easily towards the doors on the other side of the suite.