The first half of the walk back home‒ how he even knew the way was a mystery to Lydia‒ saw her pouting and kicking and squirming fruitlessly to be let down, only for a sharp swat to her behind to still her.
"That hurt," she pouted, but went limp and behaved all the way to the front door. Here, however, she would not be silenced.
"Put! Me! Down!" She whisper-yelled, kicking him firmly with each word as she felt his hand go for the knob. "Barb's awake! You can't just walk through the front door!"
Finally, she seemed to get through to him and was slid down his front until her boots touched the ground. Miffed, copious hair even more mussed than before she called him back, Lydia huffed and straightened out her appearance as best she could. Any improvement was minimal.
"Go through that window there," she pointed up, "that's my room. I'll meet you there in a minute."
As she could be found every morning, Barbara was in the kitchen brewing coffee and putting breakfast together for the household. Today was a muffin day.
"Lydia?" Barbara called, startled that someone would be coming through the front door this early in the morning. The rest of the Deetzes usually didn't crawl out of bed until just before noon. "Where did you go? I went to wake you up this morning and you weren't in bed and‒ your hair! Why are you still in your pajamas? Did something happen?!"
For almost too long, Lydia gaped for an explanation before a simple lie presented itself in the form of a skinny black cat.
"Percy!" She blurted out suddenly, struck with inspiration when the little beast came purring along her legs, then picked him up to cuddle. "There you are! I couldn't find you anywhere. I'm sorry to worry you, Barb. I thought maybe he got out, I've been looking for him for hours."
Mrs. Maitland frowned thoughtfully, reaching out to pet the cat in Lydia's arms.
"Poor thing. Probably just got locked in your darkroom again. You hungry? I'm making apple-cinnamon, your favorite."
"No, thank you. Maybe later."
The thought of trying to chew and swallow food with so much on her mind was distasteful. With that, Lydia made a hasty retreat up the stairs to the waiting poltergeist, nervous to have left him unsupervised for even that short period of time.
"How do you want to do this?" She cut right to the chase, releasing Percy from her arms and heading straight to her closet to pull out a clean school uniform.
"You can't come to school with me. You definitely can't stay here‒ and I have to go to school." Well aware of his disdain for the educational system, she thought it necessary to impart the importance of her education. "Am I supposed to live with you? I don't‒ I don't know what's expected of me here. I can't even say your name. What kind of wife can't even say her husband's name? And‒ and I have to go to school."
The stress of her late-night decision was clear and visible, making poor Lydia look so much older than the child she truly was.
Betelgeuse enjoyed carrying her around, squeezing her ass and thigh with a lecherous grin. She had enough fat that he could get a good grip, but it was a meager amount compared to what he liked in a lady. He wouold just have to see to it that she started eating like she meant it. He let his hand slide along her bare leg when she pushed off him, fingertips grazing against the lace edge of her panties. The orders she gave him had his hackles raising just so, huffing as he reluctantly obeyed.
Even as he went up into her room, he kept his mind on the little goth girl, his bride to be. Walking around the room, he ran grimy fingers on the black sheets, the curtains drawn around the bed. He spotted a tiny figurine of himself on the dresser resembling when he had appeared as a snake, unmistakeably sculpted by Delia. He didn't know why she would have kept a reminder of him in that state‒ especially as it traumatized her.
Betelgeuse grit his teeth at the little cat that hissed at him when he passed by, lip curling over his mossy teeth. He tossed the figurine between his hands as she spoke. Her frazzled appearance made him ache a bit and he hated the stress he could smell rolling off her. The poltergeist made his way to Lydia's side, making an effort to calm her with a light touch on her arm. He didn't like seeing her stressed, didn't like her hurting.
"Don't gotta say my name, baby girl. Gimme a nickname or somethin' t'make it easy, I'll be nice. Wanna stay here with you, can't go back to the Netherworld," he explained softly. His lips graced Lydia's face, fingers running up into the mess of her hair. Once she was dressed he pushed her into the chair at her vanity, his fingers curling around her brush to run it through her hair. She needed to look good for school and he wanted to help.
As he brushed through her hair and pulled it up into the style she told him, he spoke to his future wife.
"I'll go with ya t'school n' be good, promise. Don't want you to be upset, babes," he said softly. His lips pressed against her temple as he watched her in the mirror. "Be on my best behavior for you. Be a good guy for my wife, my girl."
And he meant it, too. She knew he did as well‒ she always saw through him to the core of who he was, past all the of bullshit. It was why he liked her to begin with.
He looked her over in the mirror, smiling. "I like the skirt. Wanna do anything else to pretty yourself up, doll?"
From the moment she stepped out from the walk-in closet in her uniform‒ that he was generous enough to allow her to dress in private was nothing short of miraculous‒ he had a hand on her, touching, pulling her this way and that and gently helping prepare her for school. Grooming. Despite his genial handling and hushed, affectionate words Lydia remained rigid, spine erect and ramrod straight as she watched her lonely, haunted reflection slowly come together.
This man was going to fuck her. They both knew it. They both knew that it would be better if she played nice and went along for the ride. Logically, she knew this, but the way she trembled beneath his touch, releasing nearly inaudible whimpers of fear when he purred close to her ear couldn't be helped. He talked to her like she was a spooked, hurt animal‒ and in a way, she was. Nevertheless, the threat he presented with his mere presence never lessened.
"This is okay," she gulped, barely recognizing the girl in the mirror. "Thank you."
Was she really that ghastly pale? Were the shadows under her eyes truly so deep? Unable to bear it a moment longer, she slipped gracefully under his arm, slung her bookbag over her shoulder, and was headed out the door‒ running away. If only for a moment.
"Have a good day at school, honey."
Adam was awake now, nursing a steaming cup of joe he didn't need. Uncharacteristically on Lydia's part, his well-wishes went unanswered. Betelgeuse was waiting on the porch for her when she emerged, just like she was expecting him to be. Single-mindedly, hoping he might catch the hint and lend her space, she charged on just as quickly as her short, skinny legs could carry her, wary of the very real possibility he might just sling her over his shoulder again at any moment.
"You promise you won't… do anything bad?"
This was a dangerous question, but Lydia was no stranger to flirting with death. None of the prior stress had left her, but it was more contained now. It was time for school. Her face had to be immaculate lest the wolves sensed weakness and honed in.
He didn't notice the whimpers, didn't notice a lot of her actions. All Betelgeuse cared about was the reflection of Lydia, how sweet she looked all dolled up. He let her lead him out, let her take control for a while. Maybe she would be sweeter to him if he allowed her some breathing room and control over her situation… But he was a sucker for her being flush against him, and he ached to touch her every she was near.
Betelgeuse followed after her at a distance, keeping his future bride in his sights at all times. His eyes strayed to the swish of her skirt most of the time, wishing it wasn't so stupidly long and he could maybe luck a flash of her panties. He was always hot for the ultra short schoolgirl skirts. When she spoke to him, Betelgeuse sped up enough to catch up to her and listen to her soft words. She was a ticking bomb, he felt, and wanted to keep her from exploding as best as he could.
"Promise, baby girl. Cross my heart n' everythin'," he hummed. Sure enough, he crossed an "X" over his left side, right over the quiet heart in his chest. Well… rather, the hole where his heart used to be, a long time ago. "I'll be good for you, Lyds, unless you want me to be bad."
Grinning madly, he pushed off the ground and floated beside her at the pace of her steps. He watched her blend into the hoard of school children, the uniforms making his head spin with how much plaid there was around him. Staying close to Lydia so he could focus on her, he hummed while he followed, an old unrecognizable tune. The other students didn't strike him as important, just regular little living kids that he didn't care about. One blonde in particular, though… He could smell the nasty in her bones, deep in her soul as well. She had him on edge, and the thought of her being near Lydia made that nasty thing inside of him rile up irrationally.
"I don't like this chick, Lyds," he breathed in her ear. No one could hear him, there wasn't any use in whispering, but he felt it necessary. "Seems like a class A bitch. Don't like her bein' near you, babes."
Claire? Lydia nearly rolled her eyes, then designated a corner of her notebook to communicating with him incognito.
That's just Claire. She is a bitch, but she's harmless. Don't give her any attention. She likes it too much.
So far today, Claire hadn't bothered trying to bait her, but it was only a matter of time. It wasn't even lunchtime yet. With a pang of dread, Lydia realized that if Claire decided to seek her out as an emotional punching bag today of all days, that she might not be able to save her from Betelgeuse's more unsavory inclinations. With that realization, her gaze shifted uneasily between the poltergeist‒ invisible to the rest of the room‒ and Claire, too busy texting to bother with note-taking. A glacial gaze flickered up. Hot pink lips broke into a sneer. Lydia snapped her attention back to the sheet of paper.
Maybe she would eat lunch in the library again today.
Betelgeuse proceeded to loom over her shoulder all through the first four periods of the day, backing off just enough when he could sense that she might have been close to a fit. Maybe she was in shock. Maybe that's what this feeling was. So much had happened so fast, she felt like an imposter inhabiting her own body, calling up dead ex-fiance's in the middle of the night and lying to Barbara.
What would Mother think?
A heavy male hand fell on her shoulder abruptly and she was shaken so badly she had to stifle a cry, fumbling and dropping her pencil in the seconds that followed.
"Miss Deetz!" Mr. Robertson exclaimed jovially, amused by her abject terror for some reason. "Relax! It's Friday! You'll have all weekend to study for this quiz! Now let me see what you've got here…"
For the next several minutes, her chubby, balding History teacher with coffee breath loomed over her shoulder, checking over her work. She missed Betelgeuse. He wasn't far behind after Mr. Robertson moved along down the line of teenage girls to similarly assess their… assignments.
The moment the blonde‒ Claire‒ looked at Lydia, Betelgeuse knew she would be trouble. "Harmless" his ass. Bitch had a mean streak a mile long, he just knew it. Took a nasty fuck to know another. He wandered the room when he wasn't clinging to Lydia, watching the kids around her. It was weird to see them focused on their work, seeming to care about being in school and forced to fill out meaningless paperwork. The words in their books blurred into a sea of names he barely recognized and numbers that swirled in his head.
Lydia's horror at her teacher had him ready to murder. He zoomed back to her when he noticed, hovering behind her free shoulder. Instead of looming, the poltergeist manipulated his shape, laying his snake body on her shoulder. He slid down her upper arm, squeezing just so to keep himself on her sleeve. Her teacher shouldn't have been so close, so deep in Lydia's space. That was his territory, and the motherfucker needed to get away from her. Betelgeuse was tempted to sink his fangs into his fat fingers and fill him with venom.
Once the teacher left and he could reclaim his spot on Lydia's shoulder, Betelgeuse slithered his way up. Changing his mind halfway through, though, he laid himself around her neck. Enough pressure to stay but not enough to make her uncomfortable.
"You okay there, Lyds? Asshole was all up in yer space. Didn't like him lookin' at you the way he did‒ or how he looks at th' other gals too," he hissed. As he spoke to her, his tail shook and moved around- a show of his annoyance. His messy hair tickled under her ear, made her flinch, and he nuzzled in apology. He dropped to the floor behind her chair, standing on his two legs and resting his chin on top of her head.
"I can bite him if ya want. Poison his ass n' get him outta here for ya… Wouldn't take but a blink, baby."
He rubbed his cheek against her hair, in the same direction he'd pulled it that morning so he wouldn't ruin his craftsmanship. The poltergeist wanted to calm her down, get her happy… He just didn't know quite how to.
"Ya wanna go to the Netherworld after we get hitched? Got some spots I wanna show you… Nice honeymoon places, I know you'll love 'em."
Her demeanor hardly improved when Betelgeuse returned to conquering her personal space, hissing threats over her teacher this time rather than Claire. Anyone who paid her any attention was under harsh scrutiny by her striped shadow. Clearly, no one saw the snake, but she did. Felt its scales moving lovingly, possessively over clammy flesh. Sickeningly, it comforted her more to feel him like that than when he was large and male and human, eating up every inch of her space.
Do I have a choice? She almost wrote in the corner in response to his silly honeymoon questions, but didn't. One shouldn't ask questions they already knew the answer to.
Sure. The prospect of seeing the land of the dead was at least intriguing, but the reasons for her visit soured any curious thrill. For a moment she hesitated, then wrote; Please turn back into a snake again? He was less threatening that way. Lydia liked snakes. Embarrassed by the request, feeling the need to explain herself, she continued to write; I can't think like this.
It wasn't a lie. Kindly, he returned her this small mercy and she could continue pretending to give a damn about the war of 1812. The bell rang and she was ready for it, books and papers already stashed away in the bag slung over her shoulders. She needed to circumvent Claire. All week she had managed to avoid her, but there was something static in the air that told Lydia to expect trouble.
Dutifully, the weight on her shoulders remained in place, continuing to hiss his thoughts and suggestions in her ear. She never responded. The last thing she needed was to let them see her talking to herself.
At her request, he was happy to shift himself again. Anything to indulge her, make her happy… God, he was getting soft. Stupid girl, making him turn into a snake just because she was flighty and weird. Maybe she was into it. Betelgeuse couldn't help his shudder of excitement at the thought of Lydia liking her thin neck squeezed by him. If she liked having his hand on her neck as much as she liked his scaled body… He could get behind that real quick. The snake curled loosely around her neck, his tail laying against her collarbone and tickling under her shirt purposefully flirtatiously.
Anyone that looked at her would just see the collar of her shirt rustling in the slight breeze of the air conditioning, and he loved the knowledge that no one would know better if he did something to her. In public, in the middle of her little school and all of her classmates. The thought was a rush to his head, making him sweet and compliant when she handled him on the rare occasion. He didn't notice too much when they entered the cafeteria until he smelled the food. Betelgeuse perked up, hissing to Lydia that he really wanted the ribs they were serving. Something heavy and meaty to fill his belly, and tastier than what the Netherworld often had on selection.
The line was quick and the ribs were the only thing she grabbed, a delicacy that Betelgeuse fell on almost immediately. He was voracious, digging into the soft meat happily. It didn't cross his mind that Lydia only grabbed the ribs because he asked for them, or that she hadn't eaten anything that morning and wasn't grabbing anything now while she had the chance. The only thought that did register was that the sauce was excellent and he needed to get some roaches and beetles to dip in it next time. Maybe Lydia would help him hunt some down.
He only realized he was being dislodged from her tray when he smacked into the poof of Claire's perfectly coiffed blonde hair, scales catching in the fine strands. He thrashed around, tangling himself up even more and hissing angrily. When he finally got himself up to yell out "LYDIAAAAAAA" in a furious hiss, he saw what had become of his future bride. She was sprawled on the ground, skirt tugged down to her ankles, showing off the dark lace of her panties. He felt bad for staring and letting his drool drip onto Claire's jacket but he couldn't help it, the sight of her cute pale cheeks framed by the black had him itching badly.
He wasn't the only one itching if Claire's angry shriek gave anything away. She was covered in his meal and had a ghostly snake tangled up in her hair, making her scrabble and claw at her own head. Her screams of "There's something on me!" had Betelgeuse cackling. He untangled himself to wrap himself around her neck, sliding down past the collar of her shirt. There was more screaming at that, Claire now hysterical as she clawed at her shirt and danced around. The movement dislodged him, tail only catching on the waistband of Claire's panties at the last second. They came with him when he dropped to the ground and stayed with him when he returned to his human form.
Lydia was dashing to the exit then, and he launched the strawberry patterned panties at the face of one of the other students. Claire let out a final scream when Betelgeuse went the extra step, yanking the plaid skirt down so she imitated his wife. After that, he was gone down the halls and sniffing out the gothic teen so he could comfort her.
It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. In trying to avoid Claire, looking around every corner anxiously, taking unfamiliar routes out of the way of heavy student traffic, Lydia all but ensured her demise. She was too busy scanning the tables for a head of platinum to see Claire right in front of her, the blonde minding her own damn business and chatting with friends.
The fall was hard, cold linoleum aggravating her already ravaged knees and slapping sharp on her pale cheek. Cruel laughter fell on her ears for long seconds while she struggled to catch her breath after such a hard fall, the entire side of her face aching. It took far too long for her to realize exactly what had happened, why they were laughing so hard at her misery. The ugly sound was soon drowned out by blood rushing her ears, static white noise protecting her from it.
Without a thought to Claire or Betelgeuse or the scandalized Miss Shannon heading her way to berate her for such an unladylike scene, Lydia tore through the cafeteria and headed straight for the nearest ladies' room. Luckily, it was empty. The largest stall at the end became her temporary sanctuary from the outside world, though she wasn't so naive as to think social boundaries would be enough to keep Betelgeuse out.
She was so pathetic. Part of her wished he'd just killed her out in that clearing, taken his vengeance the cold and easy way. He probably thought she was so weak. Of course he did. She was. He would never let people treat him the way she let people treat her.
The temperature dropped sharply. He was here.
"Please leave me alone," she whimpered inbetween her knees, the small painful sound echoing clear as day around the tiled room. "Just for a minute. I just need a minute. Please."
He ignored her pleas, sliding his snake body around her neck once again. He laid heavy around her collarbone, head rubbing soft against the skin under her jaw. It tickled her, he knew. His long tongue flicked out against her jaw and left a trail of cold spit on her ivory skin. Lydia was still warm against him‒ maybe even warmer thanks to the high flush of embarrassment on her cheeks. She was cute when flustered but this made him angry.
Betelgeuse didn't say anything for a while, only taking the cue to speak when she uncurled and ran thin fingers over his scales.
"I got her back… Made her flash that little blonde pussssy to the whole cafeteria. Dessserved it," he whispered in her ear, his voice a rasping hiss. He dragged out his letters when pissed, even more so when his tongue was forked. He stretched up to look her in the eyes, grinning a bit.
"She got worssse than you. I made sssure of it."
Sure, Lydia may not have liked him getting at Claire, but in his eyes, she needed the cruelty and even more for hurting his Lyds. His fangs showed when he smiled at her, curling back around her neck and rubbing his cheek against hers.
"C'mon, babesss, let'sss blow thisss joint. Wanna get you out on the town n' have sssome fun. Fuckin' shmucks here don't appreciate you... Don't need you either. Bet the Netherworld would be more fun. Don't gotta be there. Can be anywhere," he offered. Anything but here, where they didn't care for his girl.
Additionally, he wanted her to himself. Wanted to get her hitched to him, take her to Scarama to visit the beach. Maybe even get her a few drinks to loosen up and become sweeter to him.
"Let'sss goooo, babesss. Wanna ssspoil my girl before we get hitched, give her a good time to make up for thessse shitheadsss."
His musings were accurate. Lydia didn't garner any kind of sick pleasure from listening to how he humiliated Claire cruelly in her name. Claire hadn't even done anything, didn't deserve it no matter what he thought. Again, this was all her fault.
Never in her life had Lydia ever missed school on purpose. If she got good enough grades she could be whoever she wanted, do whatever she wanted, put in a respectable effort at escaping the mundanity of life. Additionally, she genuinely enjoyed soaking up information, curious about the world around her despite its rejection of her.
But… he made a convincing argument. She wasn't sure she could bear facing her classmates after a display like that, and Claire was surely out for blood by now if what Betelgeuse said was true. The cheek he rubbed against was hot to the touch and slightly swollen from her fall, but not enough to diminish her beauty.
"Okay," she finally caved in, shoulders slumped low. What was the point in delaying the inevitable? Ever since she'd offered up that apology in the deep, dark of the woods, he'd been nothing but sweet on her. Pushy, and obnoxious, and far too entitled, sure, but nothing that gave her any indication he meant her real harm. A part of her still feared the side of him he may have been hiding away that still wanted his vengeance.
It didn't matter. Whether the monster was there lurking or not, this was happening. She was so tired. Her head hurt so bad. Maybe letting him take charge was a bad idea, but she was running on fumes and worn down, unable to find a good enough reason to say no.