And I bow as I step onto the dance floor, and the strings strain, and the bodies around us move. Bodies of abusers and saviors. Rose dances with Olsen, Destiny with Tiger. The music plays, we all twirl, and I take each of the next stories out onto the floor. The waltz is the most proper. The waltz has the arms wide, the circle, the spinning. The waltz doesn’t pull in close and breathe in the ear like I do with my wife. The waltz doesn’t get “tangled up and tango on.” The waltz holds back. It looks into the eye, holds at a distance, and the waltz appraises. The waltz appreciates.
There’s a scream across the battlefield as a hundred thousand warriors of bullies and abusers roar hatred in my direction. The Round Table lines up behind me. They bang sword on shield. You are about to read about the women standing along my side. They form the front ranks now. And when the horns blow and I collide with my abusers, it will be The Shieldmaidens waltzing with my enemies and dancing beside me as the blood and the hate flies.
I introduce you now to the women of my life and my past. I introduce you now to The Shieldmaidens.
Gangster but never a thug.
Humble but always a Queen.
Here we are again at K, one of the most magical people I will ever meet, about to do the most impressive, most gangster thing I have ever seen. She is a bad bitch and you are going to see her flex her power one more time. Then I have to lovingly walk away from her until I put that skull ring back on my finger and she walks with me back into hell.
For now though, let’s back up and meet Camaro, see Less again and watch Rose make an ass out of herself. I will show you how K let my entire family know that at least in Waynesville, no one fucks with Jesse Teller.
Camaro was a friend of Less’s when we first moved to Waynesville. She was a beautiful blonde with a huge round face and wide eyes. She was kind and funny, and when she spent the night she always ended up hanging out with me a little bit.
Less would put on a show whenever she had friends spend the night. She would tell jokes and tell stories about herself. She would gossip with them, and they would listen to her favorite songs, and talk about her favorite movies, but soon they would grow bored. They would want to go out and do something, and Less would refuse. She would tell them they were staying in her room and they were going to read her journal or do some other thing that revolved around her, and usually the guest would walk out of her room. She would scream a while, then blast her music, and they would find me.
Camaro did this a few times. Once when my mother was away during one of Camaro’s visits, Less went on a rampage because I would not do some such shit and she stomped on the arch of my foot with a high heel boot. The pain was impossible. Those are fragile bones. Even if they only bend and don’t break, they’re still—she caught me without my shoes on, which never happened. She was yelling and screaming. She stomped across the room to come back in a charge, and Ronin stood up.
I don’t know what you know about Ronin. These stories, they’re so mixed. They flip flop back and forth like a fish searching for water air on a hot asphalt. In this book I am attempting to show you the experience of what it’s like to live in the mind of a person with DID. So as I sit here, I don’t know what chapters you’ve read. I don’t know what names have been spoken to you. But I’m gonna show you Ronin. We have seen him before.
If you’re here, it’s possible you’ve read Teardrop Road. If you’ve read Teardrop Road, then you know about the Beautiful Monster. You know about the college aged girl who was almost raped in a bar, and you know about a raging, screaming, crying thing that fought it. That’s when Ronin was born.
She has just stomped on our foot, on the top of the arch of our foot. It’s a miracle she hasn’t shattered those fragile bones. And as she walks away screaming, to prepare herself for another rage and another charge, and Camaro cowers in the kitchen, Rose is not there. Mumble is not there. But who is there, standing in the middle of the room, well balanced on a foot that is screaming, is Ronin with a knife.
It’s in his hands because it was always in his pocket. It’s in his hands and she heard it click open. He holds it in front of his face and looks at it, almost as if he doesn’t understand what it is. The entire house has quieted to a hush. Camaro’s whimpering has been silenced. There is no Grasp cowering, neglected in his room. The television is as if muted. It doesn’t matter what I’m watching, I can’t hear it now. None of us can. And Less is a frozen block of ice.
He looks at his knife, then past it, into her eyes. “You’re gonna go back to your room,” Ronin said. “You’re gonna play your music, not too loud. You’re not gonna scream.” And Ronin held out his palm, and with the tip of his knife, sliced his hand open just enough to cry tears of blood. “You’re gonna do these things because that door is hollow. And it cannot protect you from me when I want to get to you.”
She ran off.
Camaro bandaged my bleeding foot and hung out with me all night long.
So, Less can’t stay in Milwaukee. I would love to tell you why, but I can’t, so I will just say, it is not a safe place for her, and she runs to Springfield. But she is a couch cruiser. She stays with random people sleeping on their couch and eating their food until she gets kicked out.
She can usually tell when her time is running out, and she makes a new friend and moves in with them. This is how she has lived from 93 to 08 when she gets in touch with me and we start talking again. She has worn out her welcome and gotten a ride back to Waynesville, but was unable to get one back. She has lost most of her possessions and is homeless when she runs into Camaro.
Camaro is on hard times but there are few manipulators as deft as Less, so she manages to get Camaro to take her in and give her a room.
Camaro had a great love. That great love got stomach cancer and died a painful death. Losing him has broken her and she is lonely. She brings Less into her house and tries to recapture the friendship they had.
But Less is in the running for the most selfish person ever born and she will fuck this woman over pretty bad. Then she will demonize her and walk away.
Camaro works during the day and afternoon then comes home to Less’s drama. Every night ends with Less vowing to kill herself and Camaro having to hold her and tell her it is going to be okay. Every night is about Less.
Until it is not.
The anniversary of Camaro’s husband’s death comes around and she tells Less, “I cannot help you tonight. I am going to take just this one night and go in my room and lock the door. Don’t interrupt me. Don’t ask for anything. Just leave me be. I can’t help you tonight. Please let me have one night.”
But this is impossible for Less, and after a few hours of being ignored, she bangs on the door. Camaro is in there with a bottle of whiskey and she will not answer. Less walks away steaming. All nights are supposed to be about Less. Camaro should see that. It’s just a dead husband, compared to Less’s bullshit, so why is Camaro ignoring her? Less won’t have it.
She is back at the door promising to kill herself, but way too narcissistic to do it. She screams for Camaro to get out there and coddle her and serve her needs. But this woman has asked for one night. Her great love is gone and she needs one night to mourn.
Less screams more. She bangs on the door, mercilessly pounding and raging until finally in her anger and selfishness, she steps out into the middle of the living room and screams. She continues to scream for ten to twenty minutes until she is almost hoarse and Camaro comes out of her room, where she is mourning her life, and tells Less to shut the fuck up.
Less tells her she needs Camaro to get out of her room because she is going to kill herself.
Camaro tells her to do it.
Less rushes her with a knife. Camaro overpowers her and throws Less and all her shit out into the November snow, in an area without cell service, closes the door and hopefully never thinks about Less again.
Through quick and through trick, Less gets to Rose’s house and that is where she lives for a few months, almost a year, but everyone reading this book knows how bad an idea that is. Soon they are raging against each other. Soon Less is homeless again and she asks for help.
Guardian is living in Milwaukee at the time and he throws everyone in the minivan and rushes off to save his sister.
Rose tries to tell him not to and he comes to Less’s defense, telling her that she never forgave Less for Char’s manipulation decades ago and she should be ashamed of herself. He shows up with Less to get all her things from Rose’s lonely house out in the woods.
Well, not all. Rose does have to steal a few very nice things, but most of Less’s things are on the porch. Not all of Less’s things are on the porch.
Uncle Ball was standing near and a cop car was in the driveway.
See Rose is being as dramatic as possible and she doesn’t feel safe with her two children on their way to her house. Ball meets me at the porch and Guardian is looking at him for the first time in almost a decade.
“What are you doing here, and why the cop?” Guardian said.
“Well you know your mother. She is trying to say she is scared of you and Less together, and so she asked me to come by. I called the cop.”
Guardian has no patience for Ball’s dramatic pause, but he stands there anyway until Ball continues.
“Rose found a few things when she was packing up Less. A few books that she says are witchcraft books and she threw them away because she doesn’t want Less to have them.”
Guardian feels that place in his gut. That raging, boiling, flaming place that lights up any time anyone wrongs his sister. He shouldn’t feel it anymore. It has been years since he has been forced to defend Less. She was not even a part of his life for so long, but here he is, all his old emotions, all his old fires rekindled.
“I took them out of the trash and I called the cop to take them so that they were not thrown away,” Ball said.
“Why not give them to me now?” Guardian said.
Less was going through her things and tossing them in the van, unable to do anything about the items Rose has stolen. Items like the quilt that I gave her for Christmas, the warm one, soft. Items like, well I could sit here and itemize them. Let’s just say this. Every truly beautiful thing that I gave to Less, everything like that quilt, that soft one that makes you feel loved when you pull it up to your chin, everything like that Rose has stolen from Less. No case can be made that her mother is stealing from her and with the objects in Rose’s house and a cop on standby to take us all away, Rose can keep anything she wants and throw away all that she deems fit to.
As we are leaving, Rose sticks her head out the door and hands Guardian a piece of paper. “You tell me that she is blameless,” she snapped, and she was gone. Guardian stuffs the paper in his pocket and off they go.
We have nowhere to put her things except Patron and K’s and when we get there and we are unpacked, Guardian pulls out the paper. This is a page ripped out of Less’s journal.
He is such a fucking moron. He knows I live here and still he sends Rose a letter. I read it and it was pretty brutal. I really should have let her have it just to hear her sob about it but fuck him. I tore it into pieces then I took it outside and set it on fire. Fuck that bastard. If he wants me to come to Milwaukee again for Christmas I will, but fuck him. He buys great presents but he is not getting his note through to Rose on my watch. Fuck that!
But Guardian has been hit over and over again by this woman. He has been taking body blow after body blow from her all his life. Less is sitting in the back office of K and Patron’s house, moping about her lost books and Guardian comes to her and sits the floor before her.
“Listen, this is not uh, um, that big a deal. I see it as Rose trying to manipulate me and try to turn us against each other. So I am letting it go, but she gave me this, and I read it before I knew where it had come from.” He hands her the torn-out piece of journal and she reads it.
Less scoffs and tosses it aside like garbage. “I don’t even give a shit,” she says.
Broken Guardian walks back out in the kitchen where Bekah is talking to K.
This conversation is why we are here. We already knew Rose was shit. We already knew that Less was trash. We didn’t need Camaro and a torn piece of journal, but since I am telling it all and this is the last of the Reality of an Unreal Mind books, I stopped here just to get one more display. The real reason we are here is this drama playing out in the kitchen. Let’s leave this waste of human skin moping in the back office and see K at her most gangster.
“How did it go?” K asked.
“We were fine,” Bekah said. “We got there and the cops were there.”
“What cop? I want a name,” K said with deadly calm. Now K is Waynesville royalty, remember? This is her town, and no one fucks with Jesse and Bekah in her town.
“He was there to make sure that Rose was safe,” Guardian said. “I guess she raised two kids that she is terrified of.”
He rubbed Bekah’s back just to get a bit of reality back in his bones and try to heal the bleeding wound that Less just gave him.
“We didn’t get it all,” Bekah said. “Rose saw some books she didn’t like and tried to throw them away. But Jesse’s uncle gave them to the cop. So now we have to find out how to get them. We called, but they said that they will need identification in order to hand them over and Less doesn’t have any ID since she just changed her name, so we are kind of stuck.”
K silently steamed for a moment before she said, “What kind of books are these?”
“Mythology books mainly,” Guardian said. “Rose thinks they are not Christian so she didn’t want Less to have them.”
Both K’s hands slap over her mouth. I look into her eyes. Me and Bekah freeze, and I see that she wants to speak. K wants to say something. I see it in her eyes and she is pleading for me. The Queen of Waynesville wants to say something. And oh my God, does Shadow want to hear it. And I say, “What? What do you want to say? I’m dying.”
She curls one hand in a fist as she unleashes her mouth and says, “That woman talks about Christianity and my blood starts to boil.” She sighs. Takes a deep breath and looks at Bekah. “What are you going to do about the books?”
Bekah looks at me. I look at her and we shrug. We are all played out. With no ID we have nothing.
“Don’t know really,” Guardian said.
K smiled. This is my favorite smile I have ever seen on this woman. I witnessed it this one time and I never did again, but I still feel the wings of her badass wrap around me when I picture the look on her face. “Do you want help?” she asked.
Bekah looked at me and grinned. “Yes, please,” she said.
K nodded and picked up the phone.
“This is going to be awesome,” Bekah whispered to me.
“Can I talk to the sheriff please?” K said when the other end was picked up.
“I’m sorry ma’am, but the sheriff is out of the office right now. Can I take a message?” the officer on the other line said.
“I know that you can patch me through to his car. Please put him on the phone. I would like to talk to him.”
“Sorry ma’am, I just can’t right now. He is really busy.”
“This is K Lynch. Put Billy on the phone.”
“Ma’am, this is William. How can I help you today?” the sheriff said.
“Well it is not what you can do for me today, William. It is what I can do for you,” K said.
“Well then ma’am, how can you help me?”
“There was a set of books given to you by a woman named Rose today. What are you going to do with those books?”
“Well ma’am, I am going to try to get them back to the young lady they belong to.”
“Would you like my help?” K said. She did not smile. There was nothing smug about this conversation. This is not a woman flaunting power. This is the Queen of Waynesville and a wrong has been committed in her town. She is a force for justice today and she knows it. This sort of thing is handled differently in her town and if she gets involved, it will be done her way. This is not a power play K is involved in right now. This is justice. This is power as true as any small town can possess.
“I would appreciate any aid you could give me, to be honest. I am kind of stuck to be sure,” William said. I can’t call him Billy. That is not my place. I did not earn it. I am not K Lynch.
“That girl is the sister of my granddaughter’s husband. You know, Vigil’s girl Bekah. If you will let me, I will send them down there right now to collect those books and get them out of your way,” K said.
“That sure would be great Mrs. Lynch. Thank you,” the man said.
K hung up the phone and crossed her wrinkled hands on the kitchen island and smiled. “You’re welcome.”
“God damn that was badass!” Shadow crows. He throws his head back and howls. “You are the original OG, K!”
“I have no idea what that is, but if it makes you happy, I’ll take it.”
This is K. This is the bloodline my wife comes from. This sort of power is my wife’s birthright. And Bekah wears it well.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.