Crazy For You – Excerpt



A Mephisto Covenant Book

Crazy For You

“I am part of the part that once was everything,

Part of the darkness which gave birth to light…”

Mephistopheles, from Goethe’s Faust


Chapter 1

 ~~ Euri ~~

I was expecting a delivery, a new laptop, a gift to Miles for his twentieth birthday, but the knock at the door on Friday afternoon was not a courier. Instead, my mother stood in the hallway outside of Miles’s flat, a tiny fourth floor walkup in the dodgy end of Brixton in southwest London. She was out of breath and her eyes had that wild, manic look to them. I decided she must be skipping her meds. Again.

“Hello, Mum.” I waved her inside. We didn’t go through the motions of a maternal embrace, or a typical greeting between a mother and daughter who haven’t seen one another in over a year. What was the point, after all? She was as apathetic about me as I was about her. I did wonder what she was up to, however. My mother never did anything without a specific reason, usually of benefit to herself. “What brings you to London? Have you been to visit Dad?” It was a loaded question, considering she spent most of her time with her lover in France.

“He won’t see me. The man is impossible, always buried in those damned dusty books. He should have married a book.”

I agreed. He’d have been happier married to a book. Or a wounded rhinoceros. Or shards of glass. My mother, for all her colorful life and lavish shows of affection, was at heart a spoiled child, prone to mean tricks and endless pouts and tantrums. My father was a serious man, steady and stalwart, a scholar of Greek tragedies, which is how I came to be named Euripides, and my twin sister named Sophocles. Mother allowed it because she wasn’t overjoyed at the prospect of motherhood. In short, she didn’t want children. So of course she had twins.

“Mum, why are you here?”

Her beautiful face lit up with a wide, happy smile. “Darling! I’ve come to take you on holiday. Sophie is waiting in the car. We will all go to Ink Lake and catch up. Miss Mildred is lending her cottage for the weekend. Do pack a bag, there’s a good girl. We’ve only a few hours of daylight left.”

Holiday? Sophie in the car? I was terrified already.

“Euri, I hear voices. Have you fixed the telly after all?” Miles walked out of the bedroom and saw my mum, his grey eyes widening in surprise. “Lady Longbourne, how extraordinary to see you here.”

Mum didn’t speak to him, but gave him a quelling look. “Euri, I haven’t the smallest notion why ever you want to live with him. You are an aristocrat, daughter of an earl, from one of the oldest families in England. You might have your pick of any young man, even a royal, yet here you are in a hovel with the chauffer’s son.”

“He is my best friend and has always been. I’m only here for the summer, until the start of fall session at Cambridge. And I resent your misguided pride, Mum. You are the daughter of a pig farmer.” I knew better than to provoke her, but the wounded look on Miles’s face had to be assuaged.

“Who became one of the richest men in the UK. I doubt Harold’s son will make much of himself, as my father did.”

“Lady Longbourne,” Miles said, coming to stand beside me, “I’m immune to your insults, but as it upsets Euri, I’ll have to ask you to stop. Or leave.”

“I intend to leave as soon as my daughter has packed a bag for our holiday.”

“What holiday?” he asked, looking at me.

“Mum wants to take Sophie and me to Ink Lake.”

Miles frowned. “Countess, did you get permission to take Lady Sophie from her home?”

Bless Miles for asking the logical questions. I was too blindsided to think straight.

Mum shrugged. “She is my child. I don’t need permission.”

Gathering myself back to sane rationality, I said, “She’s in need of constant care, and you and I are not competent to do that. Did you bring her medicines and her supplies? She wears a diaper, and must only eat certain foods because of her digestion issues. Mum, please, I will go with you and we’ll return Sophie to Hertfordshire, then you and I will go to Ink Lake.” It was a lie. As soon as we had Sophie settled back into her room at Hawthorn House, I would call Miles to come for me and tell my mother to go back to France. Then I’d call Dad and let him know. He needed to remind the assistants at Hawthorn House of my mother’s mental instability. Maybe he should hire security to ensure Mum couldn’t spirit Sophie away whenever she chose.

Mum argued with me. Of course. “We are perfectly able to take care of her. It’s only that you don’t wish to, which is cruel of you because she is, after all, your sister. I insist we go together to the lake.”

“I will go, but without Sophie.”

I could see the wheels turning in her head, the plots and plans only a loose cannon like my mother could make. She was up to something and my blood ran cold. This would not end well.

“Very well, we will take her home. Now do go and get your things. I will wait in the hall.” Her sudden acquiescence unnerved me. She gave Miles a look much like she’d give something stuck to the sole of her Jimmy Choos.

He nodded. “It was no pleasure seeing you, Lady Longbourne. I hope it will be a very long time before I’m forced to see you again.”

“Humph!” She turned and walked out, slamming the door behind her.

“I’m sorry,” he said immediately.

“Don’t apologize. She deserves your scorn.”

“I wasn’t apologizing. I am offering sympathy that your mother is completely selfish, narcissistic, and mean. I can’t fathom how a woman like that could have a daughter like you.”

He followed me into the bedroom and sat on the bed while I packed a few things for appearances sake, because I intended to be back in the flat by later tonight.

I was shaky and scared, and before I could stop myself, I went into a dream. I was in the back seat of a car, staring at the window, watching cars go past, seeing a guy on a bicycle, hearing kids shouting. I was uncomfortable and so tired. I wanted to be home, watching Denny’s Neighborhood on television. I wanted my soft bear, the one Euri gave me last Christmas. I wanted to never see Mum again. I knew why she came for me. She would finish what she’d started when I was little. I lived in this body because of her. I was a burden, but I was alive, a soul, one who could still love, and I did love my sister and my dad, more than they would ever know.

“Euri, stop it. You’ve got to stay in the here and now, do you understand?” Miles shook me, hard.

My head wobbled and I blinked, refocusing on the room, on the clothes I’d laid out to fold into my bag. “She’s afraid. I have to get her back home. As soon as I leave, call my dad and tell him what’s happened. Maybe he can meet us there. Can you beg off working at the restaurant tonight and come for me?”

He hugged me and held my head against his shoulder. “I will call your dad, and of course I’ll come for you.”

“Since I’m making you lose money, I’ll help with the rent.”

He chuckled against my hair. “This month, I may let you.”

Ten minutes later, Mum and I clattered down five flights of stairs and out to the curb where she had parked the car, a vanilla rental of some kind. A nondescript sedan. I thought it odd. My mother was all about showing off, and why wasn’t she in her own car, the one she kept at the car park at the airport?

I tossed my bag in the boot, on top of my sister’s wheelchair, then got in the back seat with Sophie. I took her hand and she flopped her head toward me, drooling a bit on my sleeve, looking at me with a smile of happiness in her eyes. “Hello, Sophie, love.” I kissed her cheek and she made a guttural grunting sound that meant she was glad. I had seen her just this Wednesday when I went for my weekly visit, but this was different. Unusual. She knew Mum was up to something, and she was afraid. I leaned close to her ear and whispered, “I won’t let her hurt you. I’m here for you. Don’t be scared.”

Mum had taken off almost as soon as I closed the door, and was on her cell while she drove, speaking in French. She was angry. I gathered from her conversation that Stefan, her lover, had broken off with her.

As soon as she ended the call, she started to cry and said with heavy bitterness, “Everything is wrong, and it’s your fault.”

I sighed and made no response. This would get so bad, and there was nothing I could do about it. I had to stay for Sophie, had to make sure she got back home safe and well.

“My father has cut me off, and because I no longer have money, Stefan has tossed me aside. Your father is divorcing me because he’s found a fresh young thing who he’s certain will give him his blasted heir. I’ve lost everything.” She looked at me in the rearview mirror. “Except my children. No one can take my babies away from me, no matter what lies you’ve told. My father loved me until you came along, lying and turning him against me.”

I didn’t point out the ridiculous contradictions in her passionate speech. I didn’t respond at all. She wouldn’t hear me anyway.

She drove north, out of the city toward Hertfordshire. We would be at Hawthorn House within the hour. I tried not to let Sophie see my fear, but as much as I was able to know what she experienced in times of high emotion, she knew what was within me.

A tear rolled down her soft cheek. I wiped it away and kissed her and pulled her into my arms.

We were passing through a tiny village and Mum had to slow the car. She scowled into the rearview mirror, watching me hold Sophie. I did it all the time, but she didn’t know it. As far as I knew, she hadn’t seen Sophie in at least five years. “You always blamed me, but I am not responsible for what happened to Sophie. You weren’t there. No one was there but her and me.”

I didn’t argue. I’d come to believe that Mum had long ago convinced herself that Sophie really had fallen and hit her head. She would never own up to what actually happened. How could she? If she drowned her own child, what kind of monster must she be?

Riding in the back seat of that sedan with my mentally, physically challenged twin, the memory came to me as it always did, in startling, horrifying clarity. Sophie finding the Indian headdress in the attic of the London house. Sophie putting it on, taking off all her clothes, decorating her naked body with ‘war paint’ which was Mum’s lipstick. Sophie running through the roomful of London society ladies during the luncheon Mum was hosting, whooping and hollering as if she were an Indian. I tried to stop her, told her Mum would be furious. But Sophie was always one for a lark, and the Sioux war bonnet with all its feathers, a gift to our great grandfather in a previous century, was entirely too tempting to her joyful six year old heart. Maybe if she hadn’t been naked, Mum would not have been quite so angry.

As it was, she marched Sophie upstairs, sacked Nanny Green, and hauled Sophie to the bathroom where she ran a bath and made her get in and scrubbed until my sister’s skin was raw. She shouted at her and Sophie only laughed. Mum was in a rage, and that’s when she held my twin beneath the water until she stopped breathing.

I had returned to the attic, was nosing through old trunks, pulling out hats and gloves and opera glasses. I looked through the glasses and went into one of my dreams. It was me beneath the water, me thrashing and trying to save myself, me that my mother was determined to kill. I was still dreaming, couldn’t see where I was going, but I managed to get down the attic stairs, and down to the ground floor of the house, screaming for Jenson, the old man who’d been the butler at the London Longbourne house since forever. He went with me upstairs where my mother was running in circles in her bedroom, hysterically screaming her grief and horror, wailing, “My baby! Oh, God, my baby! She hit her head! She fell and hit her head!”

Jenson was able to resuscitate Sophie. She lived, but she was forever altered. Her body grew as mine did, but housed a child-woman with limited motor skills and an inability to speak.

No one believed me. They all passed it off as the hysteria of a twin whose sister had been compromised. But I knew the truth. And later, I knew when Sophie was being mistreated at the sanatorium in Yorkshire, the first place my father took her. She was examined and a doctor verified that her injuries were due to abuse. Dad took her to another place, where she was also hurt. I was nine by then. I rang up my grandfather, Mum’s dad, and told him he should make sure Sophie was safe. He bought Hawthorn House, hired the very best nurses and assistants and household help and that was where Sophie had been the past nine years. Safe and comfortable, away from our mother who never visited. She was taken in her wheelchair for walks in the lovely park surrounding the old house. Sophie loved it there and I went to visit and spend the night once every week, usually on Wednesday. I was friendly with all the staff, because I wanted to know them, and I wanted them to know I was on top of things. If anyone had any ideas about mistreating my sister, they’d have to answer to me.

My mother continued to rant and rave and go on about what a horrible person I was to tell tales and lie about what happened. “You’re the reason my own papa has cut me off. How will I live? I have nothing and no one, all because of you.”

She’d turned off of the thruway onto a narrow wooded unpaved road. “Where are you going? This isn’t the way to Hawthorn House.” I sat up, extremely concerned. “Mum, I’m sorry about all of it. Don’t fret, all right? I will take care of you. I have money from Grandfather, from the trust he gave me. I have money from my concerts. I will share all of it with you, and when I’m twenty-one and the trust goes away and I get all the money, you can have it. You can live just as you always have. Now please, can we turn round and go back to the thruway? Sophie needs to get home.”

“It won’t be the same, don’t you see? I can’t live off of you. It must be mine. I must be the daughter he loves, and so long as you are here, a reminder to him of my failings, he will not love me. He is cruel to me. How can you know what that’s like? Your own father hating you! Your father adores you, so you don’t know.”

I knew what it was to have a soulless mother who tried to murder my twin. She had become more worked up and angry, and nothing I said could bring her back to earth. If she stopped, even for a moment, I planned to open the door and get out and take Sophie with me. If I had to carry her back to the thruway, I would.

I never got the chance.

Mum continued her tirade, louder and louder, more and more angry. She sped faster and faster, low hanging branches beating against the car, making a terrible racket. We bounced and jolted when she hit ruts and dips in the road. I held Sophie, her mouth open in a silent scream while tears cascaded down her cheeks.

And then, suddenly, we broke free of the trees and seconds later, the car was airborne. We landed with a sharp jolt in water, which instantly began to fill the car. We were sinking into a lake.

So this was her goal all along. She would drown the both of us, and then her papa would love her again. I saw her struggling with the door, trying to get it open, but all my effort was for Sophie. It was amazing how quickly the car flooded. I had cracked my window, which contributed to the swiftness of flooding, and because of that, because the pressure was quickly equalizing, I was able to break it by kicking with the heel of my boot. I turned for Sophie, but she looked at me in the green gloom and shook her head, her blond hair swaying in the water. She pushed me away and moved her eyes toward the front seat, to my mother, who was desperately trying to open her door.

My sister wanted me to choose our mother over her. The look in her eyes broke me. Changed me. Altered my soul. She wanted me to save the woman who’d stolen her life in a fit of pique, because she’d been embarrassed. Sophie was meant to be a happy soul, a light in the world, someone who would have made a difference. Instead, she lived in a diaper and drooled because of our mother’s total disregard for anyone beyond herself.

It wasn’t a choice. Not really.

I grabbed Sophie and pulled her with me out the window. I left my mother to drown.

In the end, it didn’t matter. By the time I broke the surface, my sister was dead.

She was eighteen years old. She was the other half of me, and she was gone, and I didn’t know how I’d go on without her.

The water dragged me down, back into its murky depths, but I wouldn’t let go of my twin. I clutched her to me and knew I would die, too, and we would be together in Heaven, whole and healthy and sisters for all time.

But it wasn’t meant to be. Strong hands grasped my arms and pulled me up, forcing me to let go of Sophie. As I rose higher, her beloved face disappeared into the deep shadows and I knew what it was to be alone. Completely, utterly alone. The hands dragged me through the water, up and out and onto the bank, lying me down in soft summer grass. I blinked up at a man with dark hair and a handsome face and a solemn look in his black eyes.

“Euri,” he whispered, “it’s not your time. Not yet.”

He knew my name. And I realized that I knew him, just as all of humanity knows him.

Ironically, incredibly, inconceivably, my savior was Death.