God, he was sexy.
And he knew how to dress, too, what with those tracksuit bottoms and all of the gold on him that he'd bought from Argos – ooh, I'm getting wet just thinking about him...
Right, I'm back now. Sorry about that, folks; got a little bit carried away. So, where were we? Oh yes: the night that Dwight waltzed back to the estate a good few years after fathering the twins Beyonce and Brooklyn. I wasn't too thrilled to see him, of course, since I hadn't heard once from the rat in all of those years. I walked over to voice my rage, wobbling drunkenly in the six-inch stiletto heels that I was very proud of and that would be paid off with the catalogue company in just three short months. I stood in front of him and waited for his lecherous gaze to drift up from my ample cleavage to my eyes. Then I hit him with a devastating verbal assault.
"Dwight! Lovely to see ya, honey!"
Well, I tried to.
Thing about Dwight, though, is that he can make your words come out wrong sometimes, and this was such an occasion. And maybe it was a combination of the alcohol and the loud thud of the music, or maybe it was just that the batteries in all of my vibrators were dead and I didn't have the money to buy any new ones, but I ended up spending the rest of the night where I'd fought so hard to escape from back in the old days: wrapped around his little finger. So much so that I invited him round for tea one night.
I'd tell the twins about it as soon as I could.
As soon as my hangover wore off.
"Daddy's coming round, kids!"
Little Brooklyn had a point. In the years that Dwight had been gone, all eight of them, the louse, I'd tried to fill his space, both in the family and in my big second-hand bed, with any number of temporary uncles that the kids had naturally come to regard as father figures. I had to drag them right back through their memory banks, past John, Peter, Keanu, Christian and Justin (those two being brothers who didn't speak now) to locate their true blood father. They seemed less enthusiastic than me, though, which I suppose was natural after such a long absence from him. But I still smiled at them both, and rushed them out of the house so they wouldn't be late for school again.
With no children, no job, and no pets to look after following that rather nasty animal cruelty charge, my day was kind of empty. So I watched talk shows for a few hours, spoke on the phone to Kylie for a few more, and then decided to doll myself up for Dwight's almighty return.
It never came. Plus, I'm ashamed to say, the kids had predicted his non-showing even though I hadn't. "Stood up again, eh?" little Beyonce said, touching my hand soothingly. "I'm glad that never happens to me."
Quite reflective for an eight-year-old.
I saw both kids off to bed in a right mopey state, and sat up all night wondering just how I'd let myself get suckered again.
And I didn't think things could get any worse, but then the next morning I was proven wrong, when I saw him exiting Brandi's house – with a kiss on her cheek, no less!
I wasn't angry with her, though, not even for a second. After all, she didn't know about Dwight and me, as our affair had been a secret. He'd told me, way back when, that it had to be that way because some very bad men were after him, and would hurt us all if they found him. So I'd always lied to the rest of the girls about the identity of my children's father, inventing names and personalities as the mood took me. I'd actually gotten quite good at the whole lying thing in the end, which came in handy when I had to conjure up an explanation to the kids about what I'd spent their dinner money on that week...
But back to Dwight, the creep. He knew, even if Brandi didn't. And since he'd seen me out with the rest of the girls on Saturday night, he also knew that he was messing around with a very good friend of mine. I just didn't know if he was doing it on purpose to hurt me or not.
Over the next week or so, he stayed nights at Chrissie and Candy's, too. I know this because I watched him, from a variety of hiding places. The kids, luckily, could fend for themselves, and my absence from the house during these occasionally lengthy stalk-a-thons was barely even noticed.
As much as I held no blame against, Candy, Brandi and Chrissie, I still felt that the only real friend I had in the world, apart from my vibrator, of course, was Kylie. Now Kylie Oaks was the smartest and prettiest of the whole gang, and these were attributes that she had managed to pass onto her lovely daughter, Holly, who I cared for dearly. Kylie was always full of moneymaking schemes, and her latest one involved the giant trampoline in her garden. She was charging the local kids 50p a go... and if a child couldn't afford that, as so many couldn't around here, then Kylie brought their father into the house, closed the blinds to get some peace, and worked something out with them. I don't know what sort of bargains they made in private, but both father and the elder Oaks always came out of the house smiling!
Of course, my problems were a little greater than hers, what with Dwight still ignoring his family duties. But the more I watched him from afar, the greater my lust for him grew, in spite of his bad behavior towards us. What can I say? Those rotting teeth and that greasy hair really seemed to push the button on Sewerville Estate.
He finally showed up at my house on Thursday, somehow picking a night when I was alone in the house. "If you're expecting an easy time, Dwight D. Donaldson, you can forget it. I know what you've been doing and I – "
He cut me off. "I brought a present for my son." And with that, he pulled something into the room behind him.
A state-of-the-art laptop computer, I found when I opened the box. "D-Dwight," I said, shocked. "How on earth could you afford this?"
He hitched his dungarees up proudly. "I've moved on up in the world, Susie Sue. Only the best for me from now on."
"Does that mean me, then, does it?"
He smiled, revealing the green teeth that drove us all so wild. "You know it, babe."
The computer didn't come as that much of a surprise, really, as there had always been something special, something much classier than any other guy, about Dwight. Whereas all of my boyfriends before him had settled for having sex in the back of cars (stolen ones, normally) or in the back alley behind the bar that I'd just met them in, Dwight had insisted on taking me to a motel on the end of town before giving me a servicing. I hadn't thought about that in years, but it came back to my head without much effort, and I was surprised to find that I remembered every single little detail about that night, which had been our first. I blushed and coughed and tried to stay mad at him.
It didn't work, especially when he gazed out of the window and let a single tear roll down the unusual contours of his face. "I just wish that we could be a proper family, darlin'..."
I nodded, watching him lovingly. "Those really bad men still after you, huh?"
"What?" He seemed confused, his face snapping up sharply for a second, but then understanding dawned on him and he nodded right back. "Oh yeah, that's right. Bad men, yeah, of course."
"You're still a mystery to me, Dwight, after all this time." I rubbed my big gold hoop earring distractedly. "So, you going to spend the night or what?"
The next morning, when Brooklyn came in from wherever he'd been all night, he loved his new computer. And I, without hope of redemption, still loved his father.
Who had dropped a business card before leaving. I found it lying next to my high-heeled shoes, and picked it up to study it. Cheapskate Motel, it said. For all the indiscretions you want kept a secret. Below that bold title, it said in smaller letters, Special rates for politicians and cheating celebrities. Hmm, now that I came to think about it, I did recall seeing a couple of famous faces last time I was there. I decided to visit the place that my love still called home – a little for old times sake, but more because I wanted to catch the bastard doing something I didn't like and then force him to do something I liked very much.
I left immediately. The kids knew better than to ask when I'd be back.
The place was just as I remembered it – but then, not a great deal ever changes in Sewerville. Teenage mothers, like me, keep breeding teenage mothers, with barely a father in sight – although plenty of "uncles."
I wasn't normally so negative about the place I live in, but a few hours before heading out to Cheapskate Motel, I'd heard at the local shop that Chrissie's daughter Cassie was pregnant. Well, I'd rushed over like any good friend would, and asked the soon-to-be grandmother just how she was feeling, and, more importantly, what she'd said to the girl after being told the news.
"Told her she was seventeen," Chrissie had told me. "And at least she was two years older than I was when I got pregnant with her." Then she'd looked me in the eye and asked, "more coffee?"
I declined, and as I left, I found myself confused about how I should feel. Oh, don't get me wrong, I wasn't worried about how little Cassie would cope – after all, she had plenty of people to ask for advice, and it wasn't like getting pregnant at an early age had ever done any of us any harm. No, it was just that something seemed wrong here, with all these events – Dwight's return, his infidelity, and now this – coming all at once and knocking me right off balance. And at the heart of that wrongness seemed to be the object of my desire, whom I still couldn't quite work out. All the signs of familiarity, of him seeming, on the surface, perfect Sewerville material, were there, but they didn't add up right. Something about him niggled with me, from how he could disappear for eight years and just come back like nothing had changed, to how he could afford a computer like the one he'd left the other day when he was still living in a motel. I wanted answers.
I used the kids" pocket money to pay for a room, but that was obviously just a ruse so I could get into Dwight's room. Which I managed to do with relative ease, since the dozy bleeder had left the door open. I waltzed straight into number twenty, and it wasn't until the door was closed behind me that I felt the first bit of unease. Everything about tracking him here had been so simple, and yet he'd managed to evade me for so long beforehand. I needed time to think and –
I suddenly got the feeling that something was going to happen, and looked around the room to see where a surprise could possibly come from. Then I heard a scraping noise right in front of me, and snapped back to attention there.
The noise came from green fingertips caked in slime rapping against the glass of the window. As I watched, it slowly slid up.
And a hand reached in, one covered in scales as well as that oozing slime I mentioned before, and started pulling itself in. I caught a glimpse of a body equally vile, and heard a soft hissing voice say, "it feels so good to get out without all that skin for a change. Oh, this is the life." Then I ran, and because I couldn't make it back to the door without him seeing me and maybe also because I still wanted to know just what was going on here, I looked around for a hiding place, found one and dived into it; I lay under the bed, eyes peering out, and waited for the Dwight-thing to make his next move.
Dwight getting ready in the morning when we were a couple:
He gets up, wobbling a bit from drinking too much the night before. He checks the black eye he got from fighting when drunk. He pulls on first one Reebok sock, then the other. He cooks a full English breakfast, pulls out a fresh tracksuit, and spends a few hours deciding where to go first – the pub, or the job center.
Dwight getting ready in his motel room, as I hid watching him:
He swings open the bathroom door, and there is something hanging up on it. When the lizard thing steps into it, I realize that it is Dwight's body – or what I'd thought was Dwight's body. He speaks some weird words in a strange language, and the skin moulds itself to him, hiding the true creature beneath. Then he sits in front of the mirror, and picks up a facemask in one hand whilst applying low-grade glue to his real skin with the other. He sighs, says "this is the part I hate the most," and sticks the human face back on. He pulls on some fashionable socks and then slides his feet, now looking normal, into some cheap imitation of a designer brand pair of shoes. The transformation is complete, and so seamless is the result that I wonder if I've imagined the whole thing.
He put on a little aftershave and left the room. Where are you going tonight, you bastard? I wondered. And who with? Eh?
But the only answers forthcoming were the ones I would have to find for myself.
I'd been so stupid, believing that only I had given birth to little Dwight juniors; the table was covered in them, and the mirror was surrounded by them: photos of his children. And a lot of them I knew from Sewerville – especially the pictures of Brandi's two kids Cocoa and Strawberry.
"How long have you been doing this?" I said to the room, but really addressing a Dwight that was no longer there. "And how come all of your kids look so totally different?"
Thinking I was alone in the room, I didn't really expect a reply.
But I got one.
"I think I can answer that, miss."
I followed the voice to the cupboard, where earlier my love had pulled his mask from. I swung it open, and gasped. It was full of faces just like the one I knew of him, all totally different, all lying there full of a kind of life that I couldn't understand – and one of them was talking to me. Explaining to me. And when I finally understood, (which took a few explanations), I made a phone call to Kylie, and told her what had been going on as best I could. And then I wrote Dwight a little note, before leaving with a few of his possessions.
His call came a few hours later, and his voice was colder and meaner than I'd ever heard it. "Give me back my faces, Susie Sue. I'll only ask once."
I was in the kitchen at Kylie's house, trying to keep calm by focusing on the well-used trampoline outside. "I've got you sussed, Dwight," I replied to him. "Can't function with just one face, can you, eh? With just one identity? Well, you're going to play my game now, honey. That's right. By my rules." I hung up.
The face he was using to seduce the top computer programmer was, predictably, the smartest. He'd told me about the bizarre relationship between the face and the thing that wore it; how the creature on the inside molded itself to match the skin it was in. What the skin was made of, how it lived and thought and where they all came from weren't things I needed or wanted to know; in fact, I'd only had two questions. Number one: "But why was he using the same face for all of us in Sewerville?"
A spiky-haired face with a heavy-metal look to him coughed up my answer. "He seems to like that one most for your area. Something about the zits and buck teeth, I think."
And number two: "How come my kids, and Brandi's, and Chrissie's, are all normal, and not like him?"
The smartest face of all, the saleswoman-seducing one, answered this one. "His genes are very recessive. And if he wanted to have children that looked just like him, he'd go with the female of his species, not you. He wants his children to look like you."
Even Kylie had to admit, it made a certain amount of sense – have kids with green skin and claws, or have beautiful bouncing children like Cocoa, Brooklyn, Beyonce and Strawberry? It was a no-brainer, even if he didn't exactly go out of his way to see them. I looked over to the older, wiser woman, and she said simply, "phone the rest of them. It's time."
Dwight arrived like a true Sewerville boy – not because he blazed into town way over the speed limit, but because he emerged from the car holding a crowbar and looking like he was ready to use it. He'd changed out of his body suit on the way, and it felt strange seeing him in his true persona, scampering up the path to the house on green, scaled feet, but each of us knew just who he was. He walked through the late night rain, tapping the bar against his open palm, and gently pushed Kylie's front door, which opened just as easily as his motel room door had before. He came through the hall without turning the lights on. "Just hand over my stuff, Susie Sue, and no one will get hurt." He was too arrogant not to add, "but you might still, anyway." We heard him come a little closer. "What if I've grabbed the kids, Susie? Maybe they're in the back of my car now, all tied up and waiting for Mommy to come and save them."
"Please," I couldn't resist replying. "If I don't know where they are, how could you?"
That must have enraged him, as he came crashing into the living room with a roar – and that was when Candy flicked on the light, letting Dwight see what we had in store for him.
It was a cacophony of noise, carrying with it the threat of pain.
A lot of the living faces cried and screamed, knowing what could happen to them if their owner didn't play ball, and if I'm honest, I'll admit that I felt a little sorry for them. But what else could we do? We had to force some responsibility from the man-thing that had fooled us all, and this was the only way.
Each of us held a lighter (borrowed from our kids) in one hand and a face in the other, and we were ready to use the former on the latter. We stood around a chair and lots of rope. "Give it up, Dwight," Kylie warned him. "Or you know what happens."
He dropped the bar immediately, panic falling over his face. Chrissie and Brandi pushed him towards the chair, and Kylie, our leader and the only woman here not to have been duped by the creature, tied him up.
His cockiness was boringly predictable, and as I checked the knots, I wondered how I'd ever been charmed by it in the first place. "You can't hurt me, girls. I'm more than you. I'll be out banging and impregnating in hours, and there's nothing any of you can do to stop me."
"Yes, Susie Sue, really. And may I just say you were a lousy fuck."
"You may." I leant in close to his face. "Now listen. We did a check on you, Dwight. Brandi over there tried to track you down years ago. You know what she found out?"
"That you have a police record. Seems you are only human, after all."
"So?" The talk was big, but I could see the panic in his dark eyes. Time to tighten the noose.
"So a man with a record can't ever disappear from us again. Not totally. And we're going to make you pay."
I leant even closer to his face. "We're going to make you pay child support."
"For all of your kids."
He didn't stop screaming for a full twenty minutes.