Their new home had shutters all over the outside—louvered, broken shutters that banged in the wind and creaked in the night. But the tower had another set on the inside, strapped down with black metal, as if the tower had once held prisoners. But the armor of the shutters would not come free, and the moving men had been downstairs yelling where did Mr.
Fountain want the leather recliner, and he had said he would get to the shutters later. They had moved her bed into the tower. It was a romantic bed, with its sleigh back and lacy white ruffle, high mattress, and sheets with dark mysterious flowers. They had moved her chest of drawers into the tower.
The chest was narrow and had seven drawers; Devnee was not tall enough to see into the top one. She also had a chair, a computer, and a sound system, but they were still sitting in the downstairs hall. There had not been enough time to move them into the tower. Her parents and her brother, Luke, were starving and insisted on going into town for something to eat.
Devnee made her first serious mistake. She told them to go without her, and bring her back a hamburger and french fries. She would stay alone in the house, and get to know her new room, and the new smell, and the new feel of life in a different state. Luke and her mother and her father chattered steadily as they went to the car.
The doors of the car slammed, and the engine of the car growled, and Devnee Fountain was alone in a house with a tower. Devnee played the game she always played when she was alone. The beautiful game. Where the lovely funny terrific girl on the inside finally had a match on the outside; where Devnee's hair gleamed, and her smile sparkled, and her personality captivated.
She had left the kitchen. Kitchens were no place to play the beautiful game. Kitchens, like Devnee, were useful and stodgy. No one knew about the game. Devnee was so dull and plain that people would have laughed at the mere suggestion of beauty, and then smothered the laughter in pity.
She left the kitchen and walked into the large high-ceilinged center hallway, where the wallpaper was stained from the squares of long-gone portraits. She stood on the bottom step of the wide stairs that led to the second floor. She pretended to fling a mass of shining hair and to widen eyes that stopped boys in their tracks. I don't want beauty to be a game! I want it to be real. I want to be beautiful for real. A sort of reverse gravity began to pull at Devnee Fountain.
The backs of her eyes and the roots of her hair leaned toward the tower. Her fingers crawled up the banister and dragged her arms after them. The stairs disappeared behind her. Her hand stuck to the round glass knob of the door that opened to the tower stair. Her head went up ahead of her, but her feet argued and hung back and tried to turn around. Her eyes leaped forward. The stairwell breathed.
It filled its lungs like a runner after a race. Devnee's lungs did not fill at all. She caved in. She cried out. It was darker in the tower than anyplace Devnee had ever been. The dark had textures, some velvet, some satin. The dark shifted positions. The dark continued to breathe. The breath of the tower lifted her clothing like the flaps of a tent, and snuffled in her ears like falling snow. But how could wind come through? There were glass windows between the outside and inside shutters.
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What if there was no glass? What if things crawled through those open louvers, crept into the room, blew in with the cold that fingered her hair? What creatures of the night could slither through those slats? There must be glass, Devnee thought. Something has to stand between me and—and what? What do I think is out there, except the night air? In front of her face appeared some other hand.
A hand with long fingernails of silver, wrinkled like crushed foil. Fingernails poked toward her, eager and grasping. The hand shifted the dark as if stirring ingredients, and it crossed the room toward Devnee like a growing stalk. Devnee jerked her hands back, and tucked them under her arms for safekeeping, and staggered to the tower door.follow url
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Stumbling and sick, she half fell, half flew down the tower stairs, down the second-floor stairs, throwing herself into the kitchen just as her brother came in with her bag of food. As she caught the paper bag with its red and gold logo it seemed to her that a second pair of hands also closed around the food: hands with fingernails so yellow and tarnished they were like old teeth in need of brushing.
A good night's sleep is what we all need, and we'll worry about the rest of the furniture later on. Devnee managed to smile. Her parents did not approve of complaining. They called it "whining" and felt that high school girls like Devnee should not whine. So Devnee tried not to.
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Her mother frowned. I see it in peach and ivory. It cries out for soft pastel colors. That's our priority.
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Once we have sinks and cabinets and a shiny new floor, we can think about things like painting the bedrooms. Devnee's mother daydreamed of things like remodeling. She could hardly wait to go from store to store, studying samples of floor coverings. Her mother would actually say out loud, "Doesn't it shine? Devnee looked at her family: sturdy father, overgrown weed of a brother, domestic mother.
Her father loved television; her brother loved sports; her mother loved cooking. How she wished for something more special! People who did not fit into such suburban stereotypes. People with personality and pizzazz. But this was the right family for her; she was just as dull and predictable.
Plain brown hair, plain pale face, plain ordinary smile, plain acceptable clothing. Devnee crumpled the hamburger bag and dropped it in the garbage. She felt crumpled herself, exhausted from the silly beautiful game, the dumb tricks of her imagination, the nonsense of a tower that breathed.
Devnee cried out, and a hand clamped down over her mouth. Not her own hand—some other hand: cold and horny and soft like rotting fruit; as if it would burst and evil would spill out.