by Jennifer-Oksana

Once upon a time, in the days before Jasmine brought her love to the earth, and long before Jasmine's father broke her head and caused us all to ache near to dyin' for pain of losing Jasmine--the only good woman that ever there was--and love and beauty, there was a man. I've been told he was a good man, but what's good mean? The photographs show him to be a handsome man, the records say he was a smart man, but whether he was good or evil, I couldn't say.

Yes, I know it's my job to know. Is it your job to be so curious, girl? Take after Jasmine's mother. There's a woman who knew how to hold her tongue as befit her. And mind your manners. Nothin' worse than a curious woman who can't even manage to be polite.

Now, as I've said, there was a man, and his name was the very mundane name of Wesley. Now that reminds me of a movie I once remember seein'. The Princess Bride, about a pirate named Wesley. Or was it Westley? They say it the same way, and besides, I know there was a movie. Another woman causing trouble by not knowing her place and getting everything in the end any-damn-way. So maybe Wesley is a romantic name, and maybe that's a good thing, because Wesley fell in love with a beautiful girl. The same way all men fall, tempted by open arms, open legs, and empty promises murmured in the heat of the moment.

And this one was the very devil herself, and I've seen her, seen her as she never was in flesh, presented to me as a warning. She was the Pride of the World, the queen of the days before Jasmine and the great changes. Legs up to her neck, that one. Eyes as bright as candles sparklin' wickedly, leading men into dark marshes of unrighteousness. A common sort of pretty, but less boyish than those Slayers playin' with things that were never their right as to been played with.

Lord preserve us all from the kind of girl Wesley fell in love with.

Now, in the Great Day of Jasmine's Loss, she came back to Wesley, all flippy hair and fancy clothes and love promised in her eye. It's kind of a pretty picture, come to think of it. You'd think he'd learn what beauty truly was from Our Jasmine, but those hearts of men, they're easy corrupted, and once you've tasted a woman whose heart is all deceit and filth, you're hard-pressed to pull your ox from that mire.

You're awful impatient. You told me you wanted to hear something true, and there's nothin' truer than what I done just told you, girl. I'm tellin' you this story here to warn you of the dangers of a woman, and what happens to girls who don't have anything but deceit and desire in their hearts. To make you glad that your hair's cut plain and your clothes hide that lust-makin' figure of you.

Yes, a man might be good or a man might be bad, but all women are dirty. It's not your fault; it's just nature, and you'd best know that going in.

As I was sayin', Wesley and this Whore of Babylon, they made themselves right comfortable. In my day, they would have married decent-like, but she just fell into the habit of being the lady in his parlor and the whore in his bed. Like a woman. And things were good, I've been told, the way they are for people in love. One thing, though, got Wesley's head to itchin', night and day, day and night. No matter what else she did for him, and she did her fair bit, she'd always have something on her neck. A scarf, a choker, fancy jewelry to show her status, high necked gowns, but most often, it was a black velvet ribbon wrapped around her pretty neck.

I told you, girl. Be quiet. It's just rudeness, interrupting your better in the midst of a story. Now we'll just have to--now, you keep your tears off my hands, they won't do a thing to save you and I won't be dirtied that way. Quiet now. That's right. That's a good girl.

You know, don't you, if I have to take your tongue, you'll choke to death on your own blood? Tongue's a living organ. And I'd have to keep your mouth shut so as not to get the blood everywhere.

Good girl. Let me wipe away the tears. Don't tremble so.

Now, as a matter of fact, this is a very famous story, but it never was a bit true until a year ago, right before the Great Changes finished changing and the world became a very different place. This here's a true story, with a happy ending, and mind you remember that.

Wesley, he was a curious one. Man couldn't leave a question alone. It was him as gave that man Angel the idea to take Jasmine from us, told him the way. Probably because he'd been thoroughly corrupted by his woman, who was so bright-eyed curious she'd give the very Slayer a run for her money. It's a hateful man who takes after a woman, and he took after her again by asking day and night, everywhere they went, curious:

"Why do you always wear that ribbon?" he'd ask. "Why the scarves, why the necklaces, why the high neck tops? Let me see it. I'll love you anyway."

Wesley wasn't none too bright. See, his girl, the one whose name, I don't think I told you, was Lilah, after the very first wife of Adam, Lilith, though it could also be from Delilah--but in either case, she was named for a deceiver, and a deceiver she was--now Lilah, she'd been away because she'd been murdered. Our Jasmine's mother had put her down, because no woman like Lilah wouldn't take kindly to Jasmine's peace and love, so the blessed mother sacrificed the bitch to her baby. Right and proper.

Course, what's a woman like that gonna do? She's gonna rise, because she's disobedient even to the rules of life and death. And Wesley couldn't let it alone. He thought she was hiding a scar and her vanity kept her in scarves and ribbons.

And Lilah, she just smiled one of her smiles--and there was a woman for wicked smiles, the kind that turns a man into a servant of lust and corruption in a second flat--and told him with a kiss, "I love you anyway."

At last, Wes was tired of being given the runaround by his whore, by all her smirking smiles and coy comments, one night he took her by the shoulders and threw her against a wall, shouting at her, "Take that ribbon off, Lilah! I'm tired of looking at it! You don't have to hide anything from me!"

What kind of sissy-man he was, I suppose you can tell by now. The kind sure that it was some sort of trust issue keeping that black velvet ribbon around the pretty neck, the kind of neck that everyone wants to squeeze until it snaps. But Wesley, he'd hurt his woman in the past, I've been told, and he was trying to be a good man to a bad woman.

"You'll be sorry if I do," she told him defiantly, because she wasn't the kind who was real forthcoming with vital information. Proud. Mind you learn. When a man asks you a question, you answer. "So I won't."

It got to be a battle, a game I suppose. Every day, breakfast and dinner, he'd tell Lilah to take the ribbon off. He brought her low-necked tops. He brought her fancy necklaces. He promised her things so dirty I won't blacken your ears with it. He threatened to leave her; he told her it was destroying their relationship.

And do you know what that faithless, teasing woman said--all she said--every time he asked?

"You'll be sorry if I do. So I won't."

Nothing worse than a curious woman who's also proud and a liar. Makes me wish I'd been the one to slide that blade sweet and deep into her neck. Watched the blood wash the floor of her taint.

Weeks went by, and Wesley stopped looking in her eyes. All he could see was that damnable ribbon, or a scarf, or another high-necked collar, and all that love that mattered so much, that made a damn fool out of him, well that? That was lost somewhere on the path of finding the answer about that ribbon on his woman's long white neck.

One night, our Wes realized he was being played like a fiddle by a goddamn whore of a woman who liked tormentin' him, body and soul, just for the sake of the torment. And Wes, he got himself nice and drunk and angry. He was tired of being covered in filth by a woman who couldn't even take off a simple black ribbon when he'd asked and pleaded and ordered and begged. So he come home middle of the night, and she's up waiting, white with fear that maybe some demon or other's eaten his brain. Just like every proud woman, needing her man when it came down to it.

And they got to fighting, as they had been ever since Wesley'd realized she was never going to take off the ribbon, and he was quite a bit stronger than his ladylove, so he knocks her against the couch, holding her down just the way I've got you now, and he takes out a knife.

Don't cry again. It wasn't near so big as this knife. And she was the kind who got a sick thrill out of feeling the blade against her skin, sweet and sharp. But for once, Lilah didn't get a word in edgewise and SNIP! There went that pretty little black velvet ribbon.

Oh, are you still crying? Girl, we're just to the happy ending and you're spoiling it with your tears. Get yourself together.

Because snap.

There went her head, falling to the floor. Now I remember something I didn't tell you before, and this makes it even funnier. Come to find out, Wesley had himself, long before Jasmine brought her love, but after Lilah died the first time, had to take an axe to that pretty long neck. Thought she mighta been turned to a vampire, and that turned his stomach long enough to chop off her head. So I guess you could call this all poetic justice. Cut off your girl's head and do it again because you can't stand one tiny black ribbon on her neck.

And snap, there it went again, falling to his floor and oh, how she wailed, cuz the spell was broken now, and she'd have to go back to hell where she deserved, but she did wail. Oh my blessed, how Lilah did wail, because she was a proud and stubborn woman, believing she shouldn't have to go nowhere and certainly not hell.

"I told you!" she screamed as her body slumped down and Wesley sprang back, sick in his stomach at having lost his woman again, all because she was proud and he was prouder. "I told you you'd be sorry!"

And ain't that just like a woman? Always having the last word no matter what. But the story's done, and so are we.

Mind you keep the tale in mind and tell your friends.


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