Verna Gardner's Good Behavior Chart
[For the Extra EXP Masquerade Challenge Thing!]

It's around three in the morning, and the smell of fresh paint lingers inside Verna's underground concrete cell.

Her sire has recently seen fit to grant her some small measure of self-determination, in the form of a redecorating budget. The shower in the corner has received a shower curtain with a picture of cherry blossoms on it, and the bare metal drain and fixtures have been scrubbed with a wire brush until the rust was gone. There is now a nice overstuffed leather chair and a nice table in the room and a clock on the wall to tell her when it's time to retire to the cot, which she has done up as best she can. It's a cot. There's not much one can do about that. But it has a crisply-folded quilt (useless as that is) atop it, and the pillow is down-filled. A rug sits on the spot on the floor just in front of the steps where her body, perforated and limp, had once left a stain.

It doesn't look like the same room anymore. And that was the point.

Part of the process, this. Cover over the real with a new coat of paint, hope nobody thinks to lift up the rug and ask questions. Hope you don't find yourself lifting up that rug one night, staring at it like some vacant Lady MacBeth obsessed with her own murder. (Oh, but that happens sometimes. She should nail it to the floor.)

She's making a list at the desk now, scratches of a pen on paper on that table on that rug on that stain. David didn't make her do this. David doesn't go far enough sometimes.

It goes like this:

Verna Gardner's
Good Behavior Chart

  1. Makeup. When outside, always wear (quality!) long-last lipcolor to cover up the grayish hue. Eye makeup a must to avoid comments about looking sick. Go for fresh-looking.
  2. Nails. Polish a must to cover the grey quicks. No chips.
  3. Heart Smile! Heart [The hearts drawn here have little curliques at the bottom and are decorated with radiant lines.]
  4. No touching allowed. If they get handsy, go away. Consider pocket hand warmers?
  5. Ask people questions about themselves. People love talking about themselves, and it will keep the topic of conversation off of you. Don't answer questions they have with anything specific.
  6. Breathe. Practice regular breathing habits when in public.
  7. Move. The stillness can be distracting.
  8. Don't stay out too late. Watch the time. [This entry she wrote slowly, forcing herself to write it.]
  9. Don't try to eat anything. Remember the incident with the cheese!
  10. If they don't look very appealing, don't. Remember the incident with that horrible-tasting woman.
  11. Costume fangs sewn into hidden pocket of purse. Can pretend to be LARPing? Or engaging in role play of another kind which will remain unmentioned?
  12. Don't go and see mom and dad. [There, a pause one can read in the indent of page where the period stabs its way through. She'll never see her parents again, with any luck. It sparks another memory...]
  13. Don't ever go back on campus.
  14. See a friend, walk away. If they spot you first, excuse yourself. [Again, a pause. She thinks of Marie. Of how she must have died. Of her son, a smiling face she can barely remember from photographs.]
  15. Don't cry. Wet naps for emergencies in purse.
  16. Stain remover. Must have for those little accidents. One in purse, one emergency stick in glove compartment.
  17. Stay away from animals.
  18. Dress weather-appropriate. No heavy coats in summer, no sandals in the snow.
  19. Don't hurt people.

After the list is a grid of straight lines, marked with days of the week, and numbered according to the list. She can give herself good marks every night, and if David ever sees it, he'll know how she works at keeping the laws he taught her -- laws that he's failed miserably at. Laws that say they both have to die.

That won't happen. She won't let it happen. She'll give them no reason, because she'll do everything right. She'll get solid good marks every night, and it won't happen. They'll see how good a choice she was, even if she wasn't chosen. They'll see there's no reason to kill anyone. It'll be okay.

She rises from the chair, takes her crisp sheet of paper over to her new cork board on the wall, and pins it up with shiny gold tacks on each corner. When she steps back to check the straightness, that heart-festooned reminder to smile looks her in the eye.

So, her chart gets a smile. It's a smile like pastel indigo-purple paint on the walls of a tomb. A smile like a rug over the bloodstain that will never come out.

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