There had been a time when she had been fearless, free from terror, but LA had changed her. LA had torn her family apart worse than her father's indiscretion ever had. Five years after LA and Violet Harmon is reluctant to enter the house that had changed her. Her father doesn't know that she's here. Instead he believes that she's staying at some hotel downtown for the night. However, Violet had needed to come back, to face the demon of her youth so that she can finally put that year to rest and move on with her life.
She's only in LA for roughly twenty-four hours for Leah's funeral. They had somehow managed to stay in touch, despite everything that had happened. And now Leah's dead and Violet can't help but feel somehow responsible for Leah's downfall almost six years earlier. Not that Leah had ever said anything to her but the knowledge had hung heavy between them. Violet's fingers caress the silver cross that Leah had sent her. She keeps it in her pocket, a touchstone of sorts, afraid to wear it because of what it means, of what it had meant to Leah. She won't wear it but she keeps it on her person at all times. She doesn't believe in God or the Devil but she knows that evil exists.
Violet sighs as she finally walks along the walk to the front door. Her father has rationally explained the events of that year. Most of his words make sense back home in Boston, but here in front of the house, Violet is filled with a nameless and faceless sense of dread. Logic has no hold over this house. It never has. And Violet knows that her father has refused to sell the infamous Murder House because deep down inside of himself he can't completely rationalize all of the events.
* * *
The key sticks in the lock. For a moment, Violet thinks that it's a sign. The fingers of her left hand tightly clutch the silver cross. She considers going back to the hotel room that her father's paying for. And then her right hand manages to turn the key. The soft click of the mechanism releasing causes her to laugh at herself. She's being foolish and she forces herself to let go of the cross. Ghosts don't exist. If she's not careful, she'll find herself in the nuthouse just like Vivian once had.
There's no creeping creaking sound as she pushes the door open. Instead she finds dust motes dancing in the beams of the late afternoon sunshine in the foyer. There's a faint hint of vinegar and beeswax lingering in the air. They're the scents of her sexual awakening in this very house. Violet wonders if Marcy still employs Moira to keep the house clean for the people that she brings through the house on the pretense of selling it. Violet's lost count of how many offers have been received from Marcy, each one of them rejected until Violet wonders why Marcy even tries to sell the house anymore. Violet shuts her eyes as she breathes in the scents of the house.
When they had first moved in, she'd been impressed by the gruesome tragedy of the house. Now she can smell the faint scent of decay, the bitter scent of rot and she knows that underneath the vinegar and beeswax, the house has always smelt of decay and rot. Violet decides that when she returns to Boston, she'll convince her father to tear down the house and to sell the land to a developer. It's the last thing that she can do for her mother.
She shuts the front door and moves further into the house. The furniture that they had left behind is shrouded in clean white sheets. The house feels like a mausoleum and maybe it is. Her mother had started dying in this house when she went into labour. A pair of stillborn babies this time, her womb cursed to bear nothing but dead children after her husband's sins. Violet remembers callously warning her mother against the third pregnancy. Even now she doesn't know what had driven her mother, what had made Vivian thinking that a baby would cure the ails of her marriage. Violet's father blames himself and uses a slew of terms that Violet understands but they don't really explain what had happened.
As she walks by her father's office, Violet feels a sense of unease, a sense of being watched. Her steps falter and she thinks that if she just turns her head, she'll see Tate sitting on the leather sofa dressed up in his Kurt Cobain sweater and his torn blue jeans. She bites down on her lower lip and moves past the room without looking in. It's nonsense yet she can't explain the prickling sensation on her skin, or the beads of sweat on her upper lip nor the glimpse of movement in her periphery vision. Her father had theorized that the Tate Langdon that they had known was either Constance's fourth child masquerading as his dead older brother or some scruple less actor that she had hired. Ben Harmon had refused to even entertain the idea of ghosts. Everything was a result of Constance's unhealthy obsession with the house.
Violet thinks that now might be a good time to turn back, to admit defeat, to give into that nameless dread in the pit of her stomach. She's never been one hundred percent convinced of her father's very rational and logical explanations. Evidence that Constance had been drugging them aside, Violet had seen things that she had never told her father about. Things similar to what had gotten her mother locked up in an institution, things that had turned Leah's hair white and caused her to turn to religion in a futile attempt to save herself.
Her feet shuffle forward and Violet tries to remember what it felt like to feel fearless. She refuses to admit defeat and to give into that faceless and nameless dread. There's too much at stake for her to do that.
* * *
Her room is the exact same and she's certain that Moira (or someone else) still comes in and cleans the house. There might be a neglected air about the house but it's still clean, even if it feels like a time capsule. Violet sits down on the edge of her bed, the purple quilt is still as soft as she had remembered it to be. Her eyes move about the room, taking in familiar but forgotten items, all the while avoiding the chalkboard with Tate's three word message on it. She focuses on her life back in Boston: she's published a few short stories and is working on a novel, she has a sweet boyfriend (who's never needed to see a psychiatrist) who adores her, and she might feel fear but her life is a happy one. Yet the three words written in chalk make her ache.
She has to tell herself that the boy she knew as Tate didn't really exist, or at least that's what her father has told her. There's a part of Violet that wonders how those words have managed to remain. She vaguely remembers rubbing them out when things had begun to fall apart. Or at least she thinks she does. Now she's not so certain.
Violet's starting to doubt her father's reasonable explanations for everything that had happened in this house. Constance isn't here to drug her or fill her mind full of suggestions. As far as Violet knows, Constance is locked up either in prison or some institution, for murder (several murders in fact.) She desperately hangs onto her father's explanations, to do anything else will mean that she recklessly entered a house full of murderous intent with the sole purpose of proving to herself that she can still be fearless.
The truth is that her heart is hammering in her chest and Violet has never been this scared in her life. Her phone rings, the sound shrill and insistent, and it breaks the spell of her terror and of the house. She answers the phone and it serves as an anchor to the real world. Violet is able to push the flights of fancy and terror away as she talks to her father. She lies to him about her whereabouts but his voice is calm and rational. It allows her to strengthen her resolve and her beliefs.
* * *
Violet had never had sex with Tate. It wasn't for a lack of wanting on her part, but no matter how had she had pushed him, he had always backed away. In Boston, Violet had felt that Tate's refusal to have sex had given weight to her father's explanations that Tate was a fraud. But as she lays in the claw-footed bathtub with the water lapping against her skin, she's not so certain anymore. Despite how solid he was, maybe he was a ghost. Maybe as a ghost, he couldn't get it up. She thinks about all of the times that he had kissed her, all of the times he had touched her. She's certain that he had wanted her, even with her limited experience with the opposite sex (Tate and the boyfriend back in Boston), Violet could tell that Tate (or whoever he had been) had been just as affected as she had been.
The last time she had been so certain would lead to sex but then her mother went into labour and then they were fleeing from the house. Although Violet hadn't known that at the time. If she shuts her eyes tight enough, Violet can almost feel Tate's hands gliding up and down her body. She shivers despite the hot water. Despite her father's insistence that Tate was nothing more than another child of Constance's or an actor, the police had never found him and Constance had refused to answer any questions about him.
Her eyes snap open and she takes in the empty bathroom. For a brief second, she had been certain of a hand pressing down on her shoulder. Something that felt far more real and solid than the imagined and ghostly touches of her memory of Tate Langdon. Yet the bathroom is empty. Of course it's empty, there's no one in the house besides her and ghosts aren't real. Violet laughs and the nervous sound of it seems to bounce off of the tiled walls. It doesn't reassure her and instead it only seems to twist her stomach into more knots. She's letting the atmosphere of the house and it's reputation get to her. She unplugs the tub before standing up.
The towel that she wraps around her body seem softer than the towels back home in Boston. It makes her miss her mother and her obsession with reducing the number of chemicals in the daily lives of the Harmons. Violet sighs as she dries herself off and she remembers reading something about how fearlessness is the resource of a child. Adults always find something to fear because they recognize the true threat of death, something that children are incapable of doing. The day her mother died, Violet had grown up, the scales of innocence and fearlessness were scraped from her eyes. It was the day that fear had become a reality for her.
She carelessly drops the towel to the floor and slips on the over-large pajama pants that she had taken from her boyfriend. A soft and nearly worn out tank top is pulled on next. She wipes the steam away from the mirror and looks at the face of someone who is almost a stranger to her. Or would have been a stranger to the Violet Harmon who had lived in this house. She looks the same on the surface except for the eyes, they give away the changes that she's undergone.
Violet leaves the damp towels on the floor for Moira or whoever cleans the house now. By the time she gets back to Boston tomorrow, she decides that she'll tell her father the truth about where she stayed. After the fact, there's not much that he can do. In fact, even if she were to call him and tell him now, there's not much that Ben Harmon can do. She's an adult now, no longer a child that he can punish, even if she's rebelling against one of his parental edicts: stay away from that house.
* * *
Sleep seems impossible despite her fatigue. Violet lays in the dark thinking of Tate. She's still a virgin. She had been so certain that the last time she had seen him would be the time that he would change that. They had been laying on her bed in the semi-gloom of the falling dusk, too lazy and too wrapped up in one another to turn on a light. Tate's fingers had been caressing the thin scars that laddered her arms. Up and down, from left to right, he had dragged his fingers against each scar. It had been more of a release than when she had created those scars. Every so often, Tate would lean over her and press a chaste kiss against her lips. Violet had become so wet that she had squirmed when her panties had become unbearably damp with her arousal.
Tate had chuckled in her ear. It was a soft and mocking sound, as if he had known exactly what his gentle caresses were doing to her. She had whimpered his name and then he was leaning over her again, his eyes dark and unreadable before he claimed her lips in a demanding and bruising kiss. Violet hadn't been able to tell if this was another game or not, she had been too naive, too innocent, too pure to tell what Tate's intent was. She had just wanted him.
"Please," Violet had begged, her voice soft and breathy as she had shifted on the bed.
His lips had curved in the briefest of smiles before he had rearranged his body so that he was lying beside her, his body pressed against the curve of her own. She had thought that he was going to ignore what she wanted yet again when he had rested his hand on her stomach, just above the waistline of her black and purple skirt.
"Tell me what you want," Tate had whispered to her, his mouth pressed hotly against her ear.
He had laughed as she slipped his under her skirt, Violet had shivered at the contact and then again when Tate had moved his hand further.
"That's who you want, not what you want."
Tate had pressed his hand flat down on the curve of her belly, the tips of his fingers just grazing her pubic bone. Violet had breathed out a shaky sigh as she had trembled, desperate for more contact. She didn't dare move to try to force him to touch her there.
"Tell me what you want," Tate had command, his voice had been harsh and cold.
But Violet was too far gone at that point to stop it despite this change in him. When she had trembled it was now from a combination of desire and the stirring of fear. She had shut her eyes and bit her lower lop. It was too late to turn back when Tate had cupped her and she had arched up into his hand. His breathing was harsh in her ear as he touched her. She hadn't known how to answer his question so she had let her body attempt to answer it. If she was more aware, she's certain that would have been ashamed of the desperate mewling sounds that she had emitted. Yet they had seemed to spur Tate onwards.
"You're so fucking wet," Tate had growled into her ear.
A memory of an overheard conversation between Tate and her father had come to her but she didn't know if this was all a game to him and before she could stop him, Tate had her tumbling over a ledge. Her orgasm had taken her by surprise and afterwards as she laid entangled in his arms, trying collect the pieces of herself, the real world had come crashing down on her.
* * *
Violet wipes away the few tears from her face that the memory of that last afternoon with Tate had brought on. Even now that moment of pure bliss is tainted by her confusion over Tate and her mother's death. She's certain that if she had allowed her father to play psychiatrist (or at the very least one of his friends), he would tell her that her reluctance to have sex with her perfect boyfriend back home in Boston is tied up to that moment with Tate. She was damaged, tainted, by Tate and her mother's death.
She shifts on the bed so that she's laying on her side and Violet pushes away all of the thoughts, all of the memories, and everything else. She uses the breathing technique that se had learned in a yoga class to empty her mind, to clear it of the past. Tomorrow, she will sever all ties with LA that she has and when she gets home she intends on seducing her very patient and loveable boyfriend.
She's practically asleep when the bed shifts, as if someone else is laying down beside her. It's nothing more than a flight of fancy, she fuzzily thinks. Nothing more than her sleeping mind playing tricks on her. It's a dream of the past inspired by her conviction about the future, still she moves until she's pressed against a familiar chest. Strong arms encased in a soft sweater wrap around her and Violet is certain that she's dreaming. Ghosts don't exists. Especially solid ghosts that can breathe soft breaths against the curve of her shoulder.
"Tate," Violet murmurs in the dark, her voice softened by sleep.
His voice is unchanged and it just reinforces the idea that she's dreaming this. He presses a kiss on her shoulder and Violet forgets that she's dreaming. She can feel the evidence of his desire for her against her bottom and she presses back against him. One of his hands slip underneath her tank top and cups her breast, while the other presses down on her stomach just like all those years ago.
"Tell me who you want," Tate demands against her ear.
She shivers at the sound of his voice. No matter who or what he was, Violet had desperately wanted him. There's a part of her that obviously still wants him. Whether he's a ghost or a fraud.
"You," Violet pants out.
She tries to shift on the bed, to move so that she can take what she desperately wants from him. She might be a virgin still but she knows things now that she didn't five years ago. Tate stops her, he holds her down, he's still heavier than she is.
"Please," Violet begs.
"You left me," Tate accuses her even as he pulls off her tank top and throws it to the floor. She doesn't struggle but allows him the access he wants. "You left me alone when you had promised."
"I didn't want to," Violet weakly tells him. Her eyes are still tightly shut, afraid that if she opens them, Tate will melt away.
(Even though she's no longer certain that this is a dream.)
Tate moves them on the bed so that Violet is flat on her back and he's straddling her hips. She opens her eyes and she finds him unchanged, still seventeen years old while she's almost twenty-one. His eyes are black and unreadable, like always, his lips curved into a cruel smirk as he captures her wrists and pins her down. His fingers bite into her wrists but she doesn't care.
"You broke your promise."
(Her father's theories are thrown out the window. If this isn't a dream, then this isn't Tate's younger brother masquerading as his older brother or some actor hired by Constance. This is Tate. Unchanged, unaged, and still unreadable as ever.)
"I didn't have a choice."
He holds both of her wrists in one hand as he slides the other down her torso. She shivers at the feather light touches, a complete contrast to the painful tightness of the hand holding her wrists. He smirks at her when he captures a nipple between his fingers. His touch soft and gentle at first but his smirk becomes wider and wider as he twists the sensitive bud. The pain makes her gasps, it hurts but it only makes her wetter for him.
"You left and you didn't even say goodbye."
There's a faint ripple of hurt in his voice. She doesn't tell him that after the hospital, after the ten hours spent in the sterile mint-green waiting room, her father had driven her to the airport with her tears damp on her face. He had packed her on a plane that had flown her to her Aunt's house in Florida, while she was still trying to process the fact that Vivian Harmon was dead. Violet had never had the chance or the choice to come back to say goodbye. Until Leah's death and funeral, there had been no reason for her to come back to LA. She doesn't tell him any of this. There's no point.
"I'm sorry," Violet apologizes. The words ring hollow to her and she wonders if Tate believes them.
"How pathetic," Tate sneers down at her.
(She remembers what Tate had done while living. What he had done to Leah and what she thinks that he might have done to the living while he haunted this house. She shivers, that nameless and faceless dread grips her again and she feels fear building with the desire in the pit of her stomach. This is real, this isn't a dream.)
He pulls down her pajama pants and instead of fighting him, she helps him. She feels horribly exposed and vulnerable, yet when he releases her wrists, she doesn't try to fight him. She wants this too much to even try stopping him or to put up a symbolic fight.
"You're such a slut," Tate murmurs against her skin.
"No," Violet protests.
Yet she pushes away uncomfortable thoughts about her boyfriend back home in Boston and how he could never get a similar reaction out of her no matter how hard he tried. Tate leers down at her before biting her in the juncture where her neck becomes her left shoulder. She moans and spreads her legs when he presses his knee between them. Even now with the knowledge of what and who he is, she still craves him.
"Please," Violet begs him, as she tries to pull him closer to her.
Her hands pull of hiss sweater and then the shirt beneath it. He shudders against her when she leans up and presses her chest against his while wrapping her legs around his waist so that she press a kiss against his mouth.
"I know you won't stay this time either," Tate says. His voice is full of unspoken accusations. She can't stay. And she won't, not when staying means death.
He captures her lips in a harsh kiss that's all teeth and aggression. She won't lie to him and she's grateful when he silences her. Somehow they manage to push his jeans down just enough and then there's a sweet but painful piercing sensation for her. Violet tenses as he fills her. It hurts but Tate gently brushes her sweaty hair off of her face. She moans both in anguish and pleasure, stuck between the two sensations.
"It's okay, baby," Tate whispers. His voice gentle and sweet.
They lay frozen for what seems like an eternity before she thinks that she can handle him moving. She slowly shifts her body, before arching her hops upwards into him and Tate groans against her skin. It's all the invitation that he needs from her.
* * *
In the morning, he's gone. She's sore and bruised. Violet pulls her knees up to her chest and she wonders how she could have let what happened last night actually happen. She doesn't cry but she does let the regret wash over her. And then instead of indulging in self pity, she gets up and has a shower. She can feel the weight of Tate's eyes on her naked body but she doesn't call out for him. If she does, she thinks she might lose her courage to leave. Violet wonders if he'll make an appearance or if he'll let her leave in peace.
The house is deathly still as she pulls on the black suit that she had bought specifically for Leah's funeral. Long gone are the shapeless yet feminine clothing of her past. The suit is properly tailored to her form. The house sighs as she snaps the latches of her suitcase shut. She's leaving again, this time for good. She can feel the malevolence radiating from the walls as she carefully walks down the stairs, her high heels clicking against the wood floors.
She makes it out of the house without anyone or anything trying to stop her. She's not sure if it's relief or disappointment that she feels as she slides into the back seat of the taxi that's waiting for her at the curb. Violet sighs as her gaze is drawn to the window of her former bedroom. Tate is standing there, watching her leave. He's unchanged, frozen in the form of a teenager for all of eternity, forever alone and even now Violet wants to run to him.
Her cell phone rings and the moment is shattered. She looks away from the house as the taxi moves away, taking her away from the infamous Murder House. A strange reluctance fills her and she shifts in the seat so she's looking out of the rear window of the taxi but Tate is gone. Lost to her forever now.
* * *
Back home in Boston, Violet somehow manages to rationalize the whole night. She finds a suitable explanation for her boyfriend that explains the bruises that mark her pale skin. There's a doubt in his eyes that was absent before but he still accepts her words. And she's slowly convincing her father that selling the house would be a good idea. After twenty-four hours in LA, she tells him that she has no desire to go back. It's unspoken that her father also doesn't wants to go back. The house that was supposed to bring their family back together again, left them wounded and missing a member.
And she can almost believe that Tate's hold over her has been vanquished just like the hold of the house over her father has been destroyed. Yet when she finds herself lying awake in the middle of the night, unsatisfied in her boyfriend's bed while he sleeps, Violet's not too sure. Two offers have come in from Marcy and her father found a reason to reject both of them. And the few nights when she's at home in her solitary bed, Violet finds herself dreaming of Tate. And she thinks about getting on a plane and flying back to LA.