Witch

By Laura Schiller

Based on: the Weetzie Bat books

Copyright: Francesa Lia Block

Two hundred years ago, they would have burned her at the stake. Now they put her behind glass – the mysterious, glamorous creature with tilted purple eyes and a smile that says she knows all your darkest secrets. Sometimes Vixanne honestly wonders which is worse.

The people on the streets stare at her, but do not see her. Her so-called 'friends' in the Jayne Mansfield club – mindless clones, really – chatter at her endlessly, but do not listen to her. That's not what they are there for, anyway.

The Jaynes huddle in a dark basement, all the more alone because they are together, wrapped in blonde wigs and sticky webs of spun-sugar candy. They are like their leader; all they want is to lose themselves in comoforting Technicolor, to blind their eyes with that flickering screen until they no longer see the darkness of their own hearts.

It's about a man, of course. No matter how unique she thinks herself, in this she is no different from the rest. She is haunted by a man in a scruffy black trenchcoat, with eyes like the fragments of a broken Perrier bottle. A man who once, many years ago, clung to her in her dusty attic bedroom like she was his last lifeline, and fell asleep with his arms around her, all without ever giving her his real name. Max – that's what he called himself. The only man who had ever treated her with kindnes and respect.

They were the same; she could see it in his broken-glass eyes. The evil, the senseless brutality of the world becomes too much sometimes for people like them, and all you want to do is be numb. She was his sweet release, his one-night escape. And the next morning, he was gone – and she was pregnant.

Vixanne painted his portrait and asked everyone she knew if they recognized it. She talked to her acquaintances in the movie business. She lost sleep until her eyes and the shadows under them were almost the same color. She lost her pride and her self-respect, the only things that had kept her spine straight and her head high through years of unshared thoughts and unappreciated beauty.

And the more she searched, the more she hated, and the less she knew whom it was she hated. Was it Max, the baby or herself?

When she found him, what hopes she had blew away like autumn leaves on the wind. She found him living in a little cottage by the canyon, with a glittery roof, a stained-glass window, pink and yellow roses in the garden and a vintage Thunderbird parked in the driveway.

A tiny blonde woman with dreamcatcher earrings, wearing black combat boots and a tattered lavender dress from the 1950's with illegible words written in blue glitter, opened the door and blinked up at Vixanne with the usual nervousness people showed when meeting a witch. Her eyes behind the pink Harlequin sunglasses were wide and innocent, and her face was glowing with health. Anyone more different than Max could not be imagined, yet Vixanne knew without asking that this little punk pixie was his lover. The hate choked her so she could barely speak.

"Is Max here?" she finally asked. "I know he lives here. I've tracked him down."

"There is no one by that name here," said the stranger. "I'm sorry I can't help you." Even her high clear voice was nicer than Vixanne's nicotine rasp.

Vixanne put her hand on the woman's chest, trying for intimidation. It had always worked.

"I insist on seing Max."

The fairy girl pushed Vixanne away with surprising force – and shut the door.

Vixanne's hate exploded out of her like a pot boiling over. She could not stop it; it clamped around Max, wherever he was, like a red-hot iron fist. She could feel him beginning to shiver with fever, and she was at once painfully sorry and savagely glad.

Maybe now he would talk to her at least.

The next day, he came out before his lover could shut the door. It was amazing what a few graphic threats about voodoo dolls could do. He was wearing his trenchcoat over striped pyjamas and leaning on the wall to stand, but in spite of the fever, his eyes did not look broken anymore. They looked like the Pacific on a brilliant summer day – but when he saw her, he dropped his eyelids.

"I'm sorry," he said, making the vitriolic speech she had planned stick in her throat. "I know what I did was unfair, to you and Weetzie both. I was just so...messed up...not that that's any excuse. You see, Weetzie – my girlfriend – and I were having trouble. She wanted a baby and I didn't." (The irony made her sick.) "And then you came and...you're a very attractive woman, Vixanne. But what we did was wrong. I'm really sorry."

"It's all right," said Vixanne, lying through her teeth. At least she had that much pride left. "No hard feelings. All I wanted was..."

What did she want? An apology? Well, she had it now. For him to leave his enchanted cottage and his fairy-like lover and go live with her and the Jaynes? No way. Not even Vixanne was that selfish.

"I need money for an abortion," she finally said. It was not true – she had no intention of murdering Max's baby – but after coming here, disrupting his beautiful world, she felt she had to have a reasonable excuse.

"You're pregnant?!" he exclaimed – and cursed.

()

Vixanne did not name the baby, for fear of becoming too attached to it. That was ridiculous, she realized, looking down at the sleepy little bundle on the doorstep of the cottage. I've been literally attached to it – to her – for nine months.

Vixanne's heart, tired of breaking, is encasd in a smooth, unbreakable shell like a diamond. That shell is the only thing keeping her sane, but she knows it would not let her be the mother this child deserves. Letting Max and Weetzie raise her in the fairy-tale cottage, with a big sister and two lovable gay godfathers, is the kindest thing Vixanne could possibly do for her daughter.

Her eyes are bone-dry as she walks away; her stilettos make a lonely clicking sound on the pavement

Goodbye, my little stranger. May you be better, wiser and above all, happier than your mother.