"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough."
— Mae West (1893–1980)
Zoe Adele Parker was born passionate. She was also born pissed off.
Zoe was angry when she was born because her twin brother—who’d been her intimate companion in their mother's womb for 36 weeks—had died a week earlier. His smaller placenta had started to shrink and separate from the wall of Heather Parker’s uterus too soon. The blood flow in his smaller umbilical cord had withered away to nothing, and he’d died in Zoe’s arms.
The straw that’d broken the camel’s back for Zoe’s twin had been a toxic wave of alcohol that had surged through Heather’s bloodstream and across his already shrinking placenta one evening; the price paid for a few glasses of Champagne at a glamorous celebrity cocktail event.
It can’t possibly hurt at this stage, can it? thought Heather, as she reached for her third glass. Later that night, Zoe had kicked and punched with all the strength her yet-to-experience-gravity-and-the-outside-world baby body could muster, but Heather had ignored Zoe’s efforts, and she’d drifted off to sleep in an alcoholic haze, ably assisted by two Valium tablets. Just over a week later—in early November of 1975—Zoe had pushed her dead brother out of their confinement ahead of her just to spite Heather, and to ensure that any joy at the birth of her eagerly anticipated twins was well and truly annihilated.
Zoe followed a few minutes later, and was greeted by Heather's ear-piercing wail of grief. Zoe proceeded to scream, loudly and continuously, for a week without seeming to even need to draw breath; Zoe was pissed off, and the whole world was going to hear about it.
News of Zoe’s brother’s existence was suppressed, and rumors were circulated about how the relatively new technology of prenatal ultrasound—that had correctly predicted twins—had been mistaken in Heather's case. Zoe’s dead twin, unnamed and rejected by his parents and family, was buried by the family’s gardener, Hector Duarte, in a plastic garbage bag behind a row of Alder trees towards the rear of the Parker family estate on the outskirts of Boston. Throughout Zoe’s life she never forgave her mother or her family for this gross act of cruelty and injustice. She also never forgave herself for not being strong enough to save her little brother’s life.
As an infant, Zoe fed voraciously. She would drain Heather’s milk in no time at all, then demand more. Heather found breastfeeding Zoe to be so overwhelmingly stressful that within a fortnight she’d abandoned it all together. The Parker’s nanny, Cecile, was put in charge of Zoe’s nutrition, and Zoe was fully weaned onto solids by the time she was just six months of age. Zoe would eat anything and everything she could get her hands on. The result of her extreme appetite was that Zoe quickly transformed from an average-sized newborn twin into a hefty infant. Heather Parker’s mother, Phyllis Clybourne, who had a kind heart, liked to call Zoe her little cherub. Heather, however, preferred Pudgy Fudgy. Zoe’s large physical body—which she maintained consistently from infancy onwards—always felt appropriately sized for her personality and temperament, however; very few people ever thought of Zoe as overweight, she was simply a big human. In fact, as it turned out pretty much everything about Zoe was big, not least her personality.
From a very young age Zoe liked to keep active. The main reason for this activity was that Zoe just couldn’t stand being sedentary; she had way too much energy for that. As a result, Zoe was not only physically large, but she was fit and strong as well. Unlike many other big girls as they neared puberty, Zoe was never inclined to try and slim down, or go on a diet. Zoe had no desire to look the anorexic airhead models that she saw on billboards and in fashion magazines. No, Zoe Parker was very happy being the biggest and strongest person she knew, and she was openly proud of the fact.
By the time she turned seven, Zoe had gathered around herself a gang of neighborhood kids—all but one of whom were boys—who were all simultaneously excited and terrified when they were in Zoe’s presence. The age range of the group—which Zoe had named the Arlington Willows Agitators, or AWA (pronounced /ei-wá/), for short—was five to eight years. Zoe would convene meetings of AWA some afternoons after school, as well as at least once on most weekends. There she would propose her latest plan to create fear and mayhem in the gentrified community of Arlington Willows: the security-gated enclave that Zoe and her band of followers all called home. What in the planning stages loomed as Zoe’s most daring—and potentially most destructive—plan to date, after-the-fact turned out to be one of the most irresponsible moments in Zoe’s entire life. For a variety of reasons, which I’ll tell you about in a moment, it also turned out to be one of her most remarkable life moments.
April meant spring in Boston, and the colorful tulips and daffodils that had brightened the garden beds of Arlington Willows throughout March were starting to fade and drop as the rhododendrons, azaleas, climbing wisteria, and tree magnolias began to burst into bloom. The general atmosphere was optimistic, especially as the Easter holiday weekend—not to mention the looming prospect of summer—approached.
The Arlington Willows Social Club organizers had decided that this year, 1983, they would host an Easter-themed fete on the Willows Green. Actually, the same Easter-themed fete had been hosted in the same location every year since Arlington Willows was first inaugurated in 1967, but no one was game to suggest changing the status quo in any way; changing the status quo was not something that was encouraged in this particular neighborhood.
Zoe, of course, saw the Easter fete as her next opportunity to make the most amount of trouble with the largest possible audience. Earlier in the year Zoe had discovered a book, squirreled away in a draw in Hector’s workshop, that gave detailed instructions on how to make a pipe bomb. At the time Zoe hadn’t given any thought as to why Hector Duarte might own such a book. When she was older, however, Zoe did reflect on whether Hector—who Zoe liked a lot, but whom the rest of the Parker family found to be moody and distant—may have been a member of an early terrorist cell.
Some of the words in the text of the bomb-making book were beyond Zoe’s elementary reading capabilities, but the detailed pictures filled in most of the gaps in her bomb-making knowledge, and she was confident she could create something that would ‘go off with a bang.’ Zoe’s whole body trembled with anticipation at the prospect of seeing the shocked expressions on the faces of the Arlington Willows’ residents as the prim-and-proper decorum of their Easter fete was loudly and rudely interrupted.
As Zoe was unable to find a clay pipe anywhere—the receptacle suggested in Hector's bomb-making book—she made the executive decision that using a half empty paint can was the next best option available for housing her bomb. Hector—who’d painted all the estate’s birdhouses red the previous year so as to make them easier to spot amongst the greenery—kept all the partly used paint cans stacked in the rear of his workshop. Knowing that Hector was to be away for the entire Easter long weekend, Zoe convened a meeting of AWA for the bomb-making ritual to take place in the gardener’s workshop.
After prying the lid of the paint can free, Zoe directed the five wide-eyed AWA members who were present at the bomb-making to pour various amounts of cement powder, lime, pot ash, as well as the contents of an ancient looking glass jar that had the words Silver Nitrate 2% w/v barely visible on the faded label, into the paint can. As Zoe stirred the blood-red mixture with a stick, it started to smoke and bubble menacingly. She quickly jammed the lid back on the can, hammering the edges firmly with a rubber mallet, just as she’d seen Hector do in the past. She then neatly punched a hole in the top of the lid with a large-bore nail and hammer. Zoe next wedged a thin firecracker that she’d kept in her bedroom for more than a year, awaiting the most opportune moment to put its destructive potential to best use, carefully into the hole. Finally, she teased the fuse of the firecracker up nice and straight with her strong, dexterous fingers. The other AWA members ooh’ed and aah’ed with each step, hardly daring to breath, aware of the enormity of the moment, both terrified and in awe of Zoe’s chutzpah.
Zoe’s bomb was then placed beside a maple tree on the edge of the village green, and the group disbanded to await the beginning of the Easter fete, scheduled for 1pm.
At precisely 3pm, Zoe judged that the crowd in attendance at the Arlington Willows Easter fete was at its maximum density. She signaled—with one of her distinctive high-pitched whistles—to her co-conspirators to be on the alert, lit the fuse of her bomb, then crouched behind the maple tree to ensure she was shielded from the blast.
A small pop came from the direction of the bomb, then . . . nothing.
Zoe was furious. How could her bomb fail to go off!! She slowly poked her head out from behind the maple tree and snuck a peek in the direction of the primed paint can. Nothing. As she pulled back behind the tree to think about what she should do next, however, the world erupted with a deafening blast of sound:
Terrified screams came from all over the village green. People started running in all directions, unsure what was happening, or what to do. Zoe watched wide-eyed as one middle-aged woman ran past her crying, looking around herself hysterically, completely overwhelmed by what was happening to her, and with the distinct prospect of a severe and prolonged case of PTSD already becoming a reality in her limbic brain. The woman’s white dress was dotted with red spots and blotches. Her face was also covered in similar red spots. She looked ghastly, like someone escaping a war zone.
Next, something completely unexpected happened. Time appeared to slow down for Zoe, and then . . . it stopped altogether.
The woman with the red-spattered face and dress froze in mid-stride, her face distorted into a grotesque spotted mask. The screams that a moment before had been all around Zoe were suddenly absent. Even the music that was previously coming from the cotton candy machine was now eerily silent. In fact, there was no sound at all.
Zoe, who magically seemed to be the only person in the whole of Arlington Willows who wasn’t frozen in place, made her way tentatively out from behind the maple tree. The scene of carnage on the village green was much more extreme than Zoe could have imagined in her wildest dreams, and the part of Zoe that was unconsciously driven to be the troublemaker celebrated internally: Yeeeeeeeehhaaaaaaa!! Every person and surface in sight was covered in red spots and blotches, all over their clothing, shoes, faces, arms, and legs. Bushes and trees were now red-polka-dotted, as were all the street signs, adjacent cars, everything. And the common expression on everyone’s frozen face: sheer terror and panic.
Along with the shock and wonder she was experiencing in this frozen moment out of time, Zoe also now became aware of a sense of peace somewhere deep inside of her. She couldn’t explain it, or even begin to understand it, but it was there none-the-less. Surprisingly, it felt deeper and greater than the anger and hatred she constantly felt about the world and just about everybody in it. On some level Zoe knew that this was an extraordinary experience, but at seven years old her mind was unable to put it into any context, so it was filed away in her memory banks for a later date.
For a brief moment, the small part of Zoe that did truly feel compassion and empathy—a very well-hidden part of her—was mortified at what she was seeing all around her: the destruction, the chaos, the terror, the emotional trauma and pain. That she could have seriously injured literally hundreds of people was not only abhorrent to Zoe, it went against everything in her moral code. Making people afraid was OK, for sure, but actually hurting innocent people, absolutely not. Zoe felt a knot starting to form in the pit of her stomach, then . . . she started to laugh. These people weren’t injured, she suddenly remembered, they were simply covered in red paint.
At first glance, the scene looked horrific. On looking a little closer, it was completely hilarious. Zoe fell to the ground laughing. As she did so, the strange phenomenon of time standing still and the world freezing in place abruptly ended. The scene around her returned to its former chaos of running, screaming, terrified, paint-spattered people. Heather Parker, standing not far from where Zoe lay, her designer floral frock looking like something fresh from a visit to the local abattoir, spotted her troublesome daughter and scowled. She ran to Zoe, picked her up off the ground, and shook her rather more vigorously than was needed. “Are you responsible for this, Zoe Parker? You are, aren’t you? You hideous creature, how I loathe you sometimes!! How can my own flesh and blood be so cruel and hateful?”
At this Heather broke down, started sobbing, dropped the still laughing Zoe back onto the grass, and ran as fast as she could back to the safety of the Parker mansion enclosure. My reputation’s ruined, thought Heather; I can never show my face in Arlington Willows ever again. Oh, the shame of it all.
Heather ran to her bathroom cabinet and pulled out the bottle of Xanax that the thoughtful Dr Patrick had recently prescribed her to help deal with the stress of Zoe’s ever-increasing willfulness. She swallowed a handful of pills with a slug of vodka, and dived under the covers for the remainder of the holiday weekend.
After the Easter fete incident, Zoe’s gang shrank considerably in size as parents imposed bans on their children having anything to do with Zoe Parker, the neighborhood abomination. Zoe’s powerful drive to be the instigator of mischief continued to find a way, however, and it wasn’t long before she’d accumulated a new band of followers—children of newly arrived families to Arlington Willows—to take the place of those injured and discarded in her wake.
The core personality traits that Zoe had inherited—her charismatic ability to draw people together, her passion for chaos and destruction, her championing of the underdog, her drive for justice, her desire to see the rich and privileged humbled and brought to their knees—were features of Zoe’s character that continued unabated throughout her lifetime. As Zoe’s childhood progressed, however, so did her anger. Anger not only at her family, but increasingly anger at everyone else, and finally anger at the whole world. Correspondingly, Zoe’s passion for life’s many and varied sensual diversions also grew. Looking back, Zoe could see that her engagement in these activities was her way of being in control . . . by being out of control. These activities were also a way of numbing the irritation that she felt from just being in a body—the lump of flesh that Zoe felt she’d been burdened with, which continuously gave rise to a gnawing discomfort that irritated the hell out of her.
While Heather sought professional advice on how to deal with Zoe’s worsening moods, disruptive behavior, and growing willfulness, Zoe set her sights on having the most extreme experiences she could orchestrate, on becoming famous, and on revenge: “My family’s going to pay for their cold-hearted greed and cruelty, oh yes they are.”
Heather Parker’s birth family—the Clybournes of New Hampshire—were well-to-do, and, in marrying Reginald Parker, old money had married old money. Living the privileged life of a socialite was all Heather Parker had ever known, or ever aspired to. After her two healthy, well-behaved, sons were born and raised, Heather felt that a daughter was just what was needed to give her family, and her life, balance. She dreamed of dressing her little baby girl in satin and lace, plaiting her hair with silk ribbons, and having tea parties under the hundred-year-old oak tree on the front lawn of the Parker estate. From the day Zoe was born, however, Heather had absolutely no clue what to do with her.
With the help of her psychiatrist—and more recently her occasional intimate companion—Dr Patrick Harrison, Heather scoured her past to see if she could find what she’d done to deserve such a troublesome daughter. Together they came to the conclusion that it must somehow be related to the secret abortion Heather had undergone after becoming pregnant when she was a freshman in college. Heather had been holding onto shame around the secret termination for decades, and before confiding in Dr Patrick she hadn’t told a single soul about it. Getting the weighty secret off her chest certainly felt good to Heather in the moment, but the exposé really didn’t help her cope any better with Zoe and the rampant contempt that Zoe possessed for Heather.
While Heather’s two sons excelled at school, and went on to become a lawyer and a doctor, Zoe refused to take her schooling seriously. What’s the point, thought Zoe? I know I’m going to be a star. The only question in Zoe’s mind was in which field her star would rise. Zoe had started singing at a very young age—initially seeing herself on stage as a singer, possibly the front man for a rock band—and Heather had happily paid for Zoe to take singing lessons. Later, Zoe also took up acting classes as her attention had turned more towards becoming a dramatic actress on the big screen. Having her wealthy family pay for this part of her education was really the only concession Zoe ever made towards them, and the only thing she ever willingly accepted from them her whole life.
As she grew into her teens, Zoe quickly matured into womanhood. Her hair was dark and thick—in the sunlight it shone like ebony—and it naturally formed into luxurious curls. Zoe liked her hair to be long, despite being a rampant tomboy, though she generally kept it pulled back into a rough ponytail. At 5’11”, Zoe was tall for a girl when she was in the later years of high school. While she was not as tall as her father, Reggie Parker, or either of her brothers, Derek and Peter, she was tall enough to stand well above the majority of people in a crowd. This, combined with her solid physical body and her larger-than-life personality, gave Zoe commanding presence.
Zoe’s complexion was fair, with rosy cheeks that flushed when she drank too much alcohol or got angry—both of which happened on a regular basis. With her bold, Valkyrie-like, facial features, and her already enormous breasts by the time she was in her mid-teens, Zoe was turning into an imposing young woman. Not classically pretty, but most definitely someone who stood out in a crowd.
As her 21st birthday approached, Zoe found her body starting to dictate her behavior in confounding and unfamiliar ways. She’d been living in Boston for a number of years by this time, engaging in as decadent a bohemian lifestyle as was humanly possible in Boston in the 1990s. Her days consisted of sitting in cafés smoking cigarettes and drinking wine. Her nights consisted of sitting in bars smoking cigarettes and drinking wine, with any number of other drugs added as her evenings unfolded, depending on her chosen company that night.
Zoe had never been attracted to boys when she was at school, mostly because she found them to be stupid and boring, but also because she’d never felt any physical or sexual attraction towards the male form generally. As she approached 21, you could have called Zoe a lesbian, and she might even have agreed with you . . . though knowing how much Zoe hated to be labelled and put in a box, if you had called Zoe a lesbian to her face you would most likely have lost a few teeth.
For as long as she could remember, Zoe had felt a deep, powerful, sexual force inside of her. It was something that when she was younger she’d kept suppressed and hidden. In her later teens, she’d started directing this energy into her other passions: attending rock 'n’ roll music festivals and dancing until dawn; drinking tequila until the world turned; smoking grass until the world turned upside down; popping and snorting uppers and downers until the world no longer had an up or a down.
Now, quite suddenly, Zoe found herself drawn magnetically to scrutinize every adult male who came into her vicinity. If she was a dog you’d say that she was ‘in heat’. Without any rational or intentional thought about it—or any conscious desire to do so—Zoe was looking for a mate; it made no sense to her at all.
Zoe scoured the footpaths, public spaces, bars, and nightclubs of Boston for months, but she could find nothing and no one who satisfied her seemingly very specific requirements. Next, she was drawn to the Harvard University campus at nearby Cambridge, and Zoe spent weeks walking the grounds and halls of the various faculties, but to no avail. It felt like she was following a scent of some kind, but she was having trouble finding her prey because she didn’t know what it was she was looking for.
Finally, Zoe found herself on the neighboring campus of MIT. Wandering past the computer science laboratory one afternoon she saw him. He was sitting quietly, deeply engrossed in his work: Bernard McCall. Zoe fleetingly thought to herself how unusually unattractive this small, prematurely balding, unimpressive looking man with a big head was physically, but the surge of energy that took hold of her body and literally threw her at Bernard indicated that, strange as it seemed, he was the one.
It took some serious seduction on Zoe’s part to distract Bernard from his work; she could hardly believe that a heterosexual male would need so much convincing to have sex with her. Really? I’m giving you everything I’ve got, she thought, and you’re still more interested in looking down that microscope than down my cleavage? Man, you are one asexual little weirdo.
Eventually, however, Bernard’s tight protective armoring cracked just a little, and he allowed Zoe into his life, into his heart . . . and into his bed. The previously untapped fertility of the two young adults meant that within hours of their first sexual encounter Bernard’s fastest swimmers were burrowing into Zoe’s recently released egg, and a new life was conceived.
Zoe stayed on at MIT with Bernard for a month to ensure that the pregnancy was secure, and then, just as suddenly as she’d arrived, she disappeared once more. The apparently torrid love affair between Zoe and Bernard proving to be—as all witnesses of the brief romance had known from the very beginning—nothing more than the requisite acting performance necessary for Zoe to ensnare Bernard's biological potential.
Adam’s birth was uncomplicated, and after nursing him for a few more months she knew, in her heart-of-hearts, what she had to do. Zoe delivered little Adam to Bernard at MIT with no words, just a parting kiss on his balding forehead. She felt no sadness at all as she left the two of them to get acquainted because she knew that Bernard would provide a significantly more stable and loving home for their son than she ever could. Zoe’s heart, however, was uncharacteristically overflowing with love for both Bernard and Adam as she walked briskly away from the pair, and towards the rest of her soon-to-be-extraordinary life.
What was the reason behind the brief and apparently out-of-control romance with a complete stranger that had occurred with Bernard? Where did the pregnancy and Adam’s birth fit into the greater scheme of her life? Why was it so clear that Bernard was to raise their son in her absence? Zoe had no answers to any of these questions. She’d always lived her life following her gut, her intuition, and the whole affair had unfolded effortlessly. Therefore, it only made any sense at all if she didn’t try to rationalize it. Zoe had a strong feeling, however, that everything would become clearer at some point in the future.
Zoe’s final parting gift to Bernard—well, it was from the Parker family, really—was a small trust fund. Enough money was deposited into Bernard’s bank account each month for he and Adam to survive on. This was the payment from the Parker family in exchange for Zoe keeping quiet about the scandalous out-of-wedlock pregnancy that would have tarnished the precious Clybourne/Parker family names.
Like mother, like daughter.
Zoe moved to New Eden City and immersed herself in its competitive film and television scene. Zoe was naturally talented and aggressively ambitious, so she quickly thrived there. Her smoldering dark eyes, her thick brunette curls, and her voluptuous curvy body, along with her abundant charisma, enabled Zoe to easily secure a role in a buzzy new daytime television drama. But Zoe wasn’t interested in mainstream, sanitized, productions; she was drawn to more edgy, thought-provoking projects. Zoe was also hungry for more attention, for more fame, for more star power, so she insinuated herself into the circles of the powerful, famous, and influential of the New Eden film and television scene. Here Zoe utilized her abundant charm and her strong sexual presence to sleep her way into the favors of the men with the necessary connections to help her star to rise meteorically; Zoe had no conscience or morals when it came to her ambition for fame.
At a particularly swanky cocktail party of New Eden’s social elite, held at the oh-so-chic rooftop bar of the Hotel Dunbar in Soho, Zoe was introduced to Billy Dunn. Billy was tall, handsome, thirty-something, a snappy dresser, and a smooth talker. Zoe observed that he seemed to know everyone, and that people responded positively to him. A charismatic young film and TV producer and director, apparently successful, and seemingly wealthy; Billy was potentially Zoe’s passport to stardom.
The couple hit it off instantly, and they returned to Billy’s apartment after the party with passion flowing freely between them. Unknown to Zoe, however, Billy had a video camera hidden surreptitiously in his bedroom to record the night’s activities. Billy Dunn was also nursing a host of addictions—alcohol, drugs, sex, money, power; he had a full hand held close to his chest in the addiction department.
It proved to be a wild night in the bedroom, and Zoe found herself being coerced into more and more bizarre scenarios. Eventually it became too much even for Zoe, and she excused herself, thinking she might have made a bad judgment call in Billy Dunn after all. Within 24 hours Zoe started to receive nuisance emails referring to various unusual—some even quite unnatural—sexual activities. With only a minimal amount of effort she was able to find the video evidence of her night with Billy posted for all to see on the internet. Zoe was mortified . . . and enraged. “How dare he screw with my reputation and my career? Asshole!! You’re going to pay for this!!”
And so, another face was added to Zoe’s growing portrait gallery entitled: Vengeance Will Be Mine!!
Despite being young and relatively new in town, Zoe knew well enough how the game was played, and she was nothing if not street-wise. She made the immediate decision to move to the West Coast, to Los Angeles. That pond was where she really wanted to be playing in the long run anyway. Why not just jump straight in now? she rationalized.
Along with the change in geographic location, Zoe decided it was also time for a change of name if she was to fully re-invent herself. Her new name would be Lucinda. Just Lucinda. The year was 2000, and a number of strong female performers and singers were using a single name with great success—Cher, Björk, Madonna, Pink—Zoe figured she could rock that angle too.
LA agreed with Lucinda. It was a place where confidence and ambition were necessary pre-requisites to achieving anything at all. This time around, however, she was more circumspect about where she distributed her sexual favors.
About six months following the Billy Dunn affair, Lucinda was back on her feet again, and she began dating an up-and-coming movie director named Glenn Niemovski. At 42 years of age, Glenn was seventeen years Lucinda’s senior, but he was both talented and good-looking. Glenn had established his name in Hollywood through some impressive documentaries he’d filmed during the Yugoslav War in the early '90s; Glenn's family were Bosnian Serbs.
Glenn was smart as well as talented and handsome, and he was the first man Lucinda had ever met whose combined intellect, personality, and joie-de-vivre was anywhere near on a par with her own. Before launching into the relationship, she did hesitate for a moment as she reminded herself that on the whole she really wasn’t interested in men, but fundamentally it wasn’t the men she was in relationship with, it was what they represented and could bring for her career.
Lucinda slotted perfectly into Glenn Niemovski’s life as the new glamorous-but-canny girlfriend of the moment. Lucinda would spend time on set with Glenn, and occasionally be given cameos and B-role in his films. She was learning the movie business quickly, and she felt that her life was truly moving in a positive direction again.
One day Lucinda arrived on set in a new, optimistic, black-with-white-polka-dotted jumpsuit, carrying with her a budding love for the new man in her life—something she’d thought impossible after the Billy Dunn affair until quite recently—as well as a plate of zucchini-bran muffins that she’d baked that morning. Lucinda wasn’t expected on set that day, but she wanted to surprise Glenn with the muffins; her first ever attempt at baking.
The movie lot was strangely quiet as Lucinda snooped around looking for her man. Opening the door to Glenn’s trailer she saw a sight that will be etched into her memory banks forever: Glen Niemovski and Billy Dunn, naked, sucking each other’s cocks. Hmmm, sixty-nine, my favorite number, thought Lucinda casually. Piles of cocaine littered the table and counter tops of the trailer. A video camera—not so hidden this time—was filming the scene.
Lucinda unleashed 25 years of pent-up fury on them both, wrecked the trailer, and left them bruised, bleeding, and pleading for mercy. Seething with rage, she stormed off—video camera in hand—to re-evaluate her life once more.
Fast-forward six years, and Lucinda has hit the heights in a short but dazzling career as a film actress, her success achieved without help from a single man. She’s played the most coveted leading female roles in Hollywood depicting strong women reveling in their power over men: the matriarch of a bronze-age culture holding court over her people; an Amazon warrior princess leading her army of powerful feminine beauties to victory over the marauding male invaders; a powerful Wall Street businesswoman beating men at their own power games; the benevolent leader of a futuristic deep-space colony; and on and on. Basically, Lucinda has single-handedly changed the face of women on film in Hollywood in less than a decade, and she’s been handsomely praised and awarded for her work.
The pinnacle of Lucinda’s Hollywood career came in 2006 when she was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actress in a film portraying the tumultuous life of Benazir Bhutto. Her moment of revenge finally came when she took to the stage to give her Oscar acceptance speech.
"I dedicate this award to my twin brother, who died in my arms before he was born, and whose little life was snuffed out even before it began by the mean spirit of my mother, Heather Parker, and my family. Shame on you.
“I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the two men who were most instrumental in getting my movie career off the ground. I don’t need to name them—you know who they are, don’t you boys . . . Billy Dunn and Glenn Niemovski—but they’re both here tonight. I sincerely thank you both from the bottom of my heart, and wish you all the very best in your lives together. Go easy on the blow, though, it's not good for the complexion. Oh, and yes, I still have the video footage. Thank you all, and goodbye.”
And just like that, Lucinda retired from her successful Hollywood career, and disappeared from the public eye.
Lucinda moved back to New Eden where the next phase of her life, free from the burning passion for fame and revenge that had driven her until now, became her opportunity to fully explore her previously repressed sexual nature . . . as a dominatrix.
Bondage and discipline were natural to Lucinda, as natural as walking and breathing. Over the preceding years—after the Billy Dunn and Glen Niemovski disasters—Lucinda had discovered that BDSM was her sexual calling. In the BDSM world there was no messy dating, and no pussyfooting around with the sexually inexperienced. Here men and women were intelligent, straight to the point, knew what they liked, knew what they wanted, and weren’t afraid to ask for it. This aspect of Lucinda’s life, which blossomed following her repeated failures with men, had been somewhat on the back burner during her acting career in LA due to her relative fame and notoriety. Now that she was retired and living back in New Eden, however, Lucinda no longer cared whether the world found out about this side of her life. She was finally able to fully embrace who she was in all of its exuberant, lustful, powerful glory.
Lucinda created a position for herself at an elite escort agency where she developed a persona of the exclusive high-end dominatrix/courtesan—a role she fell into with comfort and ease, like putting on a well-worn slipper. As part of this new, dramatic, career change, Lucinda decided that changing her name again was an important part of the process; it’d worked well for her last time, after all.
"My name from now on," she announced, "will be Lobida."
“Why Lobida, doll?” the escort agency head, Dolores Daniels, asked.
“Well babe, I’ve always felt that I was born into the wrong family, and that I should have been Latino. It’s sounds a little bit Latin, doesn’t it? Lobida. Also, sweetie, it’s an anagram of Diablo, and I am the devil incarnate, after all?”
Lobida took to her role as dominatrix at the escort agency like a duck to water. It felt like it was where she was always meant to have been: taking successful, powerful men and women—politicians, judges, business leaders, and the occasional clergy person—and having them beg her to bind them, gag them, blindfold them, scold them, spank them, whip them, and generally control and humiliate them. Lobida quickly became highly sought after amongst New Eden’s powerful, kinky elite.
It was just a matter of months later that Lobida met the man who would again dramatically alter the course of her life, and send it off in yet another unexpected direction.
Ken Abercrombie, a high-profile entrepreneur and up-and-coming politician, had chased Lobida down in Central Park one hot summer day in 2006, and literally thrown himself at her. Ken wanted Lobida, and he would not take no for an answer. Lobida liked what she saw, gave him her business card, and shooed him away.
Ken immediately booked an appointment with Lobida at Dolores Daniels Escorts, but when his time was up he refused to leave. He created an open account with Ms Daniels, and said she could charge him whatever she liked . . . he was staying. Ken was like a puppy, all wide-eyed and goofy for Lobida; unable, and indeed unwilling, to leave her alone. Luckily for Ken, Lobida felt something for him that she hadn’t ever experienced before, as if their destinies were mysteriously intertwined somehow, and that there was nothing either of them could do to change the fact.
Ken's burning desire to be dominated and humiliated by a powerful woman was more than adequately fulfilled by Lobida, and he didn't want to risk losing this holy grail that he’d sought after so feverishly his whole adult life. Throughout the remainder of 2006 and for most of 2007 Ken booked appointments to be dominated by Lobida two or three times every week. As 2007 was drawing to a close, Ken proposed a more permanent contract be established between them. Ken Abercrombie wanted to make Lobida his exclusive mistress; he no longer wanted to share Lobida with others, and—surprising even to Ken himself—he no longer wanted to be dominated by other women.
The money Lobida and Dolores Daniels demanded for this most unusual of arrangements was no problem for Ken, but money wasn’t Lobida’s primary motivation for becoming entwined with Ken—her childhood experience of wealth, and everything vile that went along with it had put her off any desire to be rich from a very young age. Power and fame, on the other hand, were quite different matters. Lobida would agree to be Ken’s exclusive mistress only if he created a club for her that she would own and be the star of. The club was to feature Lobida’s completely new and unique concept, BDSM cabaret, and it would be called The Dark Side.
The other important clause that Lobida insisted on before signing the contract, was that Ken publically admit to and announce the full truth of their relationship. By this time, it was abundantly clear that Ken was on a flaming trajectory towards becoming President of the United States, and Lobida wanted to be sure that she would have her fair share of the White House when the time came.
The location of the future cabaret—E 72nd St between Madison and Park—was chosen. The abandoned theatre/dancehall was gutted, extensively remodeled and renovated, and the club had its official launch in May of 2009. From the very first evening, despite no advertising or promotion, The Dark Side was a huge success; the gentrified neighborhood of the Upper East Side put no one off wanting to experience the hottest new underground attraction in New Eden City. Lobida’s BDSM cabaret, The Dark Side, was a huge hit.
By this time Lobida was a seasoned actor, singer, dancer, and performer. She was so comfortable in her own skin that whether she was on or off stage made little difference to the intensity and quality of Lobida’s performance. With multiple awards from both stage and screen, and now with a hit cabaret show under her belt, Lobida needed to prove nothing to no one. Being the confident high-achiever that she knew herself to be, however, when the Voice of the World singing competition was announced in early 2017, Lobida signed up to compete.
She sailed through the early rounds, beating stars from all over the globe, and was given high praise by the judges for her confident, powerful song delivery. Lobida became the firm favorite with audiences, judges, and the media to take out the coveted crown. Her fame and notoriety were ready to soar to new heights; she was excited.
As the number of competitor was whittled down to four, however, Lobida started to hear murmurings about a new star . . . and a possible threat. A mysterious unknown blonde, who apparently had no previous performing experience of any kind, was being touted as Lobida's main competition. Her name, my name, Angel O.
Lobida snuck into the wings of the broadcasting studio during my semi-final winning performance of “What I Did for Love” to see what all the hype was about.
She’s attractive, that’s for sure, thought Lobida, though perhaps a little more muscular and masculine looking than I’d expected. Her voice is certainly distinctive and unique—more like a man’s than a woman’s—though not especially powerful. She knows how to emote, though, and her stage presence is undeniable; she was concerned.
Secretly, Lobida had only entered the Voice of the World contest because she’d been assured by the producers that she would most definitely win. What else could they have said? They were all terrified of Lobida as a person, but more importantly they were all terrified of her capacity to blackmail them with her knowledge of the kinky addictions they all played out at The Dark Side on a regular basis.
On the night of the grand finale of the competition, Lobida and I officially meet for the first time. We’re in the wings backstage, waiting to be introduced and welcomed onstage by the compere.
“Well. Aren’t we looking virginal tonight, all in white. You can’t fool me though princess: you’re no virgin. Tell the truth now,” Lobida growled at me.
“Lobida. It’s so nice to finally meet you. You really are prettier in person. Your outfit’s gorgeous by the way; I love leopard-print Lycra. I’m so envious. Break a leg.”
“Oooo, girlfriend. You’re just so nice, aren’t you? Well you know what? I despise nice. In fact, I think I despise you. No, I take that back. I know I despise you. I’m going to take great pleasure in wiping the floor with you, sister, then throwing you back into the gutter where you belong.” Lobida turns and storms off to her dressing room; she is enraged.
Rather than waiting for the possibility of losing to actualize, Lobida takes matters into her own hands. She pays a visit to the head judge in his dressing room, and makes a phone call to the CEO of NEBC—the network responsible for broadcasting the Voice of the World—making it candidly clear to them both that if she doesn’t win tonight, their sordid little sexual secrets might no longer be safe with her.
Needless to say, Lobida is crowned the victor, and I’m gracious in defeat. The press give mixed reviews of the result, some accusing the judging process of being rigged, while others fawning over the sheer majesty and power of Lobida’s very existence.
It was less than a year later that Lobida learned of my plans to open a cabaret of my own—The Garden Cabaret—in the East Village. The theme of The Garden Cabaret was quite simply the exact opposite of The Dark Side. Everything was pure, white, light, and shiny. Lobida was under no illusions, however. “That bitch is spoiling for a fight. Well bring it on, you precious little princess. I’m going to enjoy running you and your prissy little virginal cabaret into the ground, out of business, and out of this town for good. New Eden isn’t big enough for the both of us.”
Lobida's threats failed to be realized, however, and The Garden Cabaret thrived. Sex, power, and debauchery remained firmly in favor uptown under Lobida's powerful guidance; purity, innocence, and joy were clearly in favor downtown under my purview.
And so, we arrive at the all-important point in time: July 4th, 2020.
Lobida has become more reflective on her life of late, especially during the weeks of enforced lockdown as the coronavirus pandemic had ravaged the city. Unfinished business has mysteriously begun to call for her attention. Lobida’s rivalry with me continues to grow, and what started as simmering animosity has now reached full-blown loathing and resentment; she longs to bring the en garde to a rousing, crushing, finale.
The other matter that’s resurfaced in recent times is the child Zoe gave birth to back in her youth. Where is this young man—now 22 years old—and what is he making of his life? Lobida vows to find him.
While COVID-19 had raged ruthlessly through New Eden City in the early months of 2020, and while in early July the pandemic is still entirely out of control in many parts of the country and the world, New Eden is starting to open up a little. The Dark Side will be open tonight for the first time in three months, and it’s impossible to make a reservation any time in the near future, especially now that social distancing has become the new normal, and the number of patrons allowed in TDS at any one time hs been correspondingly reduced.
Lobida is backstage waiting for her cue. She’s ready to put on her usual dazzling cabaret performance full of sensuality, sin, and seduction. Ken Abercrombie will be watching her performance from the privacy of her boudoir, and she can feel the excitement of knowing that very soon she’ll be dominating the President of the United State of America on a thrice weekly basis, and that before long the whole world will know and revere the name, Lobida.
Yantra is directing proceedings from her position in the elevated booth at the rear of the club. Lobida takes her position in the center of the tableau on stage. Curtain up, spotlight . . .