**NOTE – Heavy trigger warnings apply. Contains content, images, themes and concepts that may distress, trigger or offend. Reader discretion is advised.
Part IV – The Unforgiven (2015)
Part V - Progeny (2016)
Part VI - Seven Devils (2017)
Part VII - Welcome to the Dollhouse (2018)
Part VIII - The Illusion of Class (2019)
Part IX - Wonderground (2020)
Jasper Black / Belladonna Black / Baelian Black (N. Ristovski)
Bella Jade Black / Betsy (‘Bella De Jac’)
Betty Dream-Black (‘Betty Blood’)
Bethany Belladonna Black (‘Pippy Scream’)
Jett Balthazar Black (‘Raven’)
Kerryx Black (K. Whittle)
‘Red’ Emily Gabrielle (‘Jasper Jewel’)
‘Violet’ (E. Lyall)
Dunstan Kreutz (R. Crockett)
Dorian Bond (I. Hutchinson)
Jack Lad / Joel Archibald Black (P. Moder)
May Bea Sunshine (N. Scarlet)
Grigori Katorga (A. Grant)
Claudia Lyra Monére ('Luna Madness')
Asinoe Hardcourt-Mirror ('Chastity De Vice')
Reinhard Wilhelm Steiner (M. Jones)
Scarlett Ophelia Michaels ('Ophelia Black')
‘Amaranth’ Kayla Katorga (J. Coath)
Guest performers and supporting cast
Peachey Dream (A. Lydon)
Dexter Black III (D.Black)
Mr Nick (N. Brocklehurst)
The Underground RPG Synopsis – Part II/I – Fifty Shades of Black (Jan 2013 to Sept 2013)
In the weeks following New Year’s Eve, the Black Family fell into perpetual silence. May Bea Sunshine’s gossip column was of course rife with leaked information about the end of year festivities and the fruits they yielded, but those within the Underground seemed rather shell-shocked by all that had happened and contented themselves with licking their wounds and keeping something of a low profile.
Bethany was restored to the family home, having gone missing after New Year’s Eve for over 48 hours. She’d been discovered covered in someone else’s blood and wandering the streets by Jack Lad, who’d rather ‘forcefully’ returned her to the family folds in the hopes that he could make amends for his part in the revelation of the young girl’s true paternity.
After the clandestine kiss they’d shared at sunrise, Jasper and Bella seemed to fall into an uneasy dance of sexual tension, which amused and annoyed their nearest and dearest to no end. Bickering like awkward teenagers, they continued to butt heads over everything from Jasper’s steady mental decline to the colours of the new napkins in the Underground. Bethany sullenly suggested that they ‘get a room,’ which of course only made things more uncomfortable for everyone…
Jett and Betty resumed their domestic wedded bliss, sweeping the debacle about their daughter’s origins under the same rug that hid the rest of their secrets. Bethany was told that it was all lies and that Jett Black was her true father, although when Jasper and Jett finally spoke about the matter, Jett revealed that he had known immediately that Bethany was not his biological daughter – “I never had sex with my wife after our wedding night Jasper. Where else would she have come from but you?”
Seven days into 2013, Jasper paid a visit to his lawyers, updating his will and naming Bethany Black, Bella Jade Black and Red’s as-yet unborn child as equal beneficiaries of his estate. He also gifted Betty and Jett with a one-time payment of $2.5million as ‘compensation for raising my daughter all these years.’ The scandalous changes were of course leaked to the press soon after, and May Bea Sunshine had a field day with the news.
Meanwhile, one of the Underground club’s best performers, a woman who called herself Kerryx, had approached Jasper and Bella to inform them that she had fallen in love with and was planning to marry their ‘cousin,’ Dexter Black III. Bewildered at first, the pair finally determined that Kerry was talking about the club’s portable air-conditioner, which ‘lived’ in the performer’s dressing room. Not being one to judge anybody for their sexual proclivities…Jasper naturally gave his blessing to the objectophilic ‘union’ and the date was set for Valentine’s Day.
Preparations for Kerry and Dexter’s ‘big day’ seemed to draw the family together and offer a blessed distraction from the mounting tensions surrounding Bella and Jasper’s relationship and Red’s pregnancy. The former seemed determined to avoid each other as much as possible, while the latter clung tighter to Jasper ever since the announcement had been made…bewildered by the billionaire’s seeming unease around her and their unborn child.
Jasper’s moods continued to be a source of stress and frustration for the family unit…Bethany and Bella forming a strange alliance in order to ‘watch over’ their ‘father.’ Dunstan visited often, offering to take Jasper out of the Underground and away from the madness for a while, but Bella and Jett flatly refused to let him go, claiming that Dunstan had ulterior motives in mind. When pressed, they made reference to the family fortune, which Dunstan laughed off, claiming that he had fortune enough of his own.
In the days before the wedding party, tragedy almost struck the family as Red went missing after a doctor’s appointment…a ransom note demanding $1 million being delivered to Jasper’s office in the wee hours of morning. It took only 2 days for the mother of the Black heir’s child to be returned, most of the family remaining tight lipped about the incident afterwards – except of course for Bethany who was quick to tell whomever would listen that her ‘Daddy Jett had fetched Red from the bad people and dealt with it.’ She also alluded to Betty assisting her father with some sort of ‘clean-up’ that kept them both absent from the Underground for a good few days. The local papers yielded little in the way of further explanation, though in seemingly unrelated news Red’s paediatrician disappeared not long afterwards. Red was placed under lock and key within the Black Family estate and was forbidden to attend any Underground events without Bella or Jett present until she gave birth.
After such dramas, Valentine’s Day was a much needed evening of revelry – for most. The Underground’s avid fans and hangers-on had taken it upon themselves to make love notes and cards for their favourite reprobates, presenting these to the Black Family throughout the night. A young man who called himself Dorian Bond caught Jasper’s attention by presenting him with a toy car and a particularly sparkly card, prompting the playboy to tell Bella that he would ‘have that boy in a collar on his knees in no more than 8 weeks.’
The night also heralded the arrival of a creature calling himself Raoul (“No surname…like Cher. Or Satan”), a former lover of Jasper’s from Berlin who claimed to have been invited to the Underground by Jasper after a weekend of sex and drugs that “you don’t remember!” Hurling his suitcase across the room and taking the stage with a flourish of garbage bags and feathers, Raoul insisted that Jasper had promised to marry him and that he had finally arrived to “seal the deal.” He then proceeded to consume an entire bottle of wine onstage, declaring that he liked the Black Family ‘digs’ and would stay a while no matter what Jasper said to the contrary.
The Wedding of Kerryx and Dexter Black was an intimate yet charming affair – the House Submissives Red and Amaranth appointed as bridesmaids, with Bethany holding the title of Maid of Honour and reprobate Jack Lad (who was apparently a registered marriage celebrant) conducting the ceremony. Bella spent much of the affair on the balcony sitting between Jasper and Raoul, protecting the former from the latter’s wandering hands by entwining them with her own. Raoul was less than impressed with her interference and called her a cock-blocker before flouncing off to mingle with the wedding guests.
Drinking to excess, Dunstan and Jasper retired to the Night Garden Pavilion and an indoor park bench flanked with foliage and candles to reminisce about the past. Dunstan told Jasper that he was “the only friend I ever had…I guess that makes you my best friend, you know you’re the only one I trust.” Jasper seemed touched by this, murmuring that he was grateful to Dunstan for trying to protect him from his father all those years ago. Kreutz laughed and replied that at least he knew his father, claiming that he’d never met his own as his mother had “left the bastard when I was one… and she never spoke about him.” Jasper fell silent for a long moment afterwards, before turning wide blue eyes on his friend and whispering “I knew him. Too well.” When pressed for more information the young playboy seemed to become confused, then agitated, muttering that he didn’t know what Dunstan was talking about and “Why should I know anything about the Professor?”
As Dunstan stormed away, flustered and flummoxed by Jasper’s words and inability (or unwillingness) to elaborate on his history with ‘Professor Kreutz,’ Bella came looking for him, informing Jasper that his ‘friend’ Raoul had decided to shack up on the daybed in the Night Garden and suggesting that he “sleep with a lock on the door just in case Raoul is the sleepwalking type”. Her voice trailed off as she noticed how shaken Jasper seemed, concern overriding inhibition as she curled herself around him on the bench and drew him into her arms. He told her, with the wide and frightened stare of a child, that he was ‘starting to remember’ things, memories that weren’t supposed to be his. Bella once again asked him to see a psychiatrist…and Jasper once again refused, insisting that he didn’t want anyone poking around in his head because he was afraid of what they would find.
All hell broke loose when May Bea Sunshine released a ‘tell all interview’ with Jasper Baelian Black, whom she claimed had called her one night in March to ‘clear up a few misunderstandings and share a few new insights’ into the Black Family history.
More than a little put out, not only by Jasper’s audacity at having agreed to the interview at all, but the cavalier and almost cruel way he had spoken about the family skeletons (and angry that as PR manager she was going to have to clean up the mess) Bella responded initially by berating Jasper incessantly, declaring that he was unfit to be the patriarch of the Family and that she was tired of being the parent and not the child. When this didn’t work, the ‘Queen of the Barren Ice-fields’ (as May Bea called her), took to giving him the cold-shoulder, which of course annoyed Jasper to no end.
One night at the Underground, after a particularly long evening of sniping and baiting, Bella and Jasper got into a heated argument. Jasper declared that he didn’t need her bandying her superiority about, that she had forgotten where she had come from and that he knew full well that all her posturing and panty-twisting was because of what had happened between them on New Year’s Eve. Scoffing, Bella said that he was dreaming, stating that she had no desire to become yet another notch on his bedpost and that she had slightly higher standards. Unperturbed, Jasper paid the point, admitting that he had raised her better than to settle with someone like him…but the unfortunate reality was that despite it all he knew she was in love with him. Which was fine, he added, because he was in love with her.
As groupies and the family looked on, the two railed at each other throughout the Night Garden, Bella denying his words and claiming that he didn’t know what real love was…he was a child who liked to collect shiny new toys. Hurt, Jasper threw back that she wouldn’t think so if she actually possessed a heart, and lamented that perhaps he had raised her to be too soulless and cruel. Bella snapped that she’d merely followed his wonderful example and Jasper, now incensed, shouted back that he should have merely “paid your whore mother $10 to fuck you and left you there to die…” Not to be one-upped, Bella pointed out that dying in the streets would have been a better option than growing up as the protégé of Jasper Black, to which he retorted that she shouldn’t get too high and mighty…for she was only adopted and not a true Black anyway.
That hit home, and moments later Bella’s eyes filled with tears, a hand rising to her lips as further barbs died on Jasper’s lips. Blinking, he froze, realising that he had gone to far and starting to apologise when Bella drew back and slapped him, bidding a hasty retreat from the Night Garden as Jasper called after her. After a few moments of stunned silence, he turned and left the Underground, screeching away in his Jag and leaving the speechless groupies and family behind.
The next morning Jett brought Jasper a letter addressed to them all. Bella had left the Underground on a red eye flight that morning to an undisclosed location, requesting that her personal submissive (a young woman she called ‘Violet’) was to remain in the care of Jett Black until such a time as she decided to return. IF she decided to return. Declaring that he didn’t care and “good riddance,” Jasper locked himself in his room and started drinking.
In the weeks following Bella’s exit from within the family folds, Jasper fell into something of a self-destructive despair. Where once he was charming, fun-loving and debauched he was now increasingly brooding, sulking and determined to drink himself into oblivion every waking moment. His intake of narcotics increased and the various medications he had been prescribed by whatever doctor Red and Amaranth had summoned to the house that week were completely ignored…or mixed with a cocktail of other substances that rendered them useless, or more harmful. Under the influence of a myriad of drugs, Jasper began to have hallucinations and waking dreams, his perceptions of reality skewing further with each passing day.
Most of the family were greatly concerned about his steady decline, but of course there were those who sought to use it to their advantage. Bethany Black seized upon her father’s weakened state and drug induced delusions, playing the Devil’s advocate and encouraging him on his path down the rabbit hole. Bella had abandoned him, she whispered in his ear, why could he not see that no one else cared about him as much as Bethany did? She loved him, no matter what anyone else thought…she would always be there. Dejected, Jasper had only laughed at her bitterly, telling her that she was a damned liar and that he already knew he was meant to be alone. “It doesn’t matter,” he told her, “In the end, people like you and I only destroy everything we touch anyway…what does any of it matter?” Conceding that he was most likely right, Bethany joined Jasper in his downward spiral, locking herself alongside him in his bedroom with quite a bit of liquor and a large bottle of valium that she had stolen from Betty Black’s medicine cabinet.
She didn’t emerge from Jasper’s room til almost sunrise the next morning when, dishevelled and still excessively intoxicated, she staggered as far as the guest bathroom before passing out beneath a steady stream of warm water in the shower, her torn clothing still partially on. Jasper was discovered by Amaranth that afternoon with his knees drawn up, curled next to his bedroom window as he stared blankly out at the lightening sky, his bleary eyes puffy and bloodshot…as if he’d been crying for hours.
Neither Jasper nor Bethany spoke about anything that had happened the previous night, moving instead through the Underground like ghosts, dancing about each other with a strange and weary sadness. When pressed by Red, Jasper responded only with “It doesn’t matter…none of it matters…” and continued to sleepwalk through the evenings. Betty tried to console him with offers of valium and blueberry muffins, but he ignored them. Eventually, fed up with his brother’s behaviour, Jett Black pulled him aside, force-feeding him water and eying him in silence for a long moment before telling him “I received word from Bella. She’s coming back in a few days. I doubt she’s going to be happy, seeing you like this.” Jasper laughed, shaking his head and muttering that he didn’t care and that Bella was better off not coming back at all. “Jasper Black,” Jett had snapped at him sharply in response, “You can’t live without her and we both know it, so stop your sulking and act like a Black.”
Bella Jade’s return to the Underground was a bittersweet affair. Though the Family and groupies were clearly relieved to have her back, the dark and foreboding cloud that had fallen over them since she’d left still weighed heavily upon them all. Casting her anger at Jasper aside, Bella quickly assumed the role of nursemaid, gently trying to coax him out of his depression while fielding demons of her own. In whispered words she assured him that no matter what had happened between them they were still family and it was never too late to be redeemed. However, when Jasper bitterly countered that “some things taint your fucking soul and there’s no going back, Bella,” the young woman suddenly burst into tears, leaving a bewildered Jasper behind as she sought the comfort of Violet. Lurking in the shadows, Bethany had watched the exchange in silence before joining Jasper in the darkness and once again reiterating that she loved him and she was “the only one who understands.” Angrily, Jasper told her that her games were ‘over.’ “It stops now. This is done, this thing with you and me.” Pouting, Bethany told him that it would never be over and stalked away.
After a small eternity, Jasper went looking for Bella in the Underground’s boudoir, demanding that she explain herself. “I know you weren’t crying over me…” he said, “What have you done, Bella?” In hushed tones, Bella told him that she had left the Underground to seek out her mother… “I found her Jasper…and I killed her.” For a long moment afterwards Jasper said nothing, leaning against the wall and gazing at her in silence. Then, he nodded. “I fucked my daughter,” he said flatly. Stunned, Bella could only laugh and shake her head, “Well then it looks like we’re both screwed,” she replied. Jasper had to agree. Sidling over to him, Bella took his face in her hands, brushing back his hair and frowning at him. “Will you let me take you to Oakleaf?” she asked. He started to shake his head no, but Bella hushed him with a finger to his lips. “If you love me, Jasper Black, like you say you do…then you will go with me tomorrow. You’ll do that for me…because I need you to.”
The next morning, they were off in the Bella’s Aston Martin, heading for the Oakleaf retreat to begin Jasper’s therapy and intense detox. Under heavily sedated regressive hypnosis it was confirmed that he had indeed spent two years within the Oakleaf facility between the ages of 14 and 16. It also came to light that Jasper had discovered his mother’s body the night of her suicide, on Christmas Eve in 1984, when he was just two years old…and had been a victim of sexual, psychological and physical abuse at the hands of his father Jerald Black ever since.
Naturally, the longer that the detox lasted and the deeper that the regressive therapy prodded, the more stressed and unstable Jasper became…until even Bella and the doctors began to question the wisdom of continued treatment. After a particularly bad night during which Jasper stabbed an orderly in the crotch and tried to strangle himself with a phone cord, Bella convinced him to sign power-of-attorney temporarily over to her, demanding that he be put on new medication and ordering a complete psychic evaluation. Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, dissociative identity disorder and schizophrenia, and now plagued by continual horrific nightmares, Jasper snapped and accused Bella of getting off on torturing him. He demanded to be taken home immediately and, despite doctors recommendations that he be institutionalised indefinitely, Bella arranged for his release the following day – under the proviso that she closely monitor his medication intake and behaviour.
On their final night at Oakleaf, both exhausted, emotionally drained and more than a little highly strung, Jasper and Bella once again began a heated argument about his behaviour and attitudes towards the Family and his past. More than a little traumatised herself after the murder of her mother, Bella accused him of being selfish and self-obsessed, claiming that he didn’t care about anyone’s wellbeing but his own and seemed determined to wallow in self-pity. She couldn’t help him if he didn’t at least try to help himself, she said…and if he wouldn’t try then she had no choice but to leave him again and never return. Horrified at this, Jasper broke down at her feet, begging her to stay and crying that he couldn’t live without her.
Of course, anger and despair quickly turned to desperate passion, the two unlikely lovers clinging to one another in the dark and crying for themselves and each other for hours. By sunrise they were tangled naked in each others arms. By 9am Bella had extricated herself and checked them out of Oakleaf, leaving Jasper a bedside note with breakfast, telling him that when he had showered and dressed she would be waiting in the car to take him home.
It was a very quiet and awkward drive back to the Underground.
It was a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire as Bella and Jasper returned to the Underground, just in time for the weekly family gathering and show. While most were relieved to have them back – Betty, particularly, fussed over her brother in law as if he were her own child – there were naturally a few disgruntled wolves amongst the pack.
Jack Lad pulled Jasper aside during the evening’s shenanigans to buy him a ‘welcome home drink,’ commenting that Jasper seemed rather ‘not himself’ and that he was concerned that Bella had drugged him into submission. Jasper assured him this wasn’t the case, saying that the medication he was on was helping him keep his mind clear, but Jack was insistent that something wasn’t quite right. “Something’s different with you. Stop taking that fucking medication and letting these cunts control you,” he told Jasper, “Trust me, you don’t need it. You gotta let whatever is in your head out.” Jasper coldly thanked him for the concern.
Bethany remained nowhere to be seen, despite Betty’s insistence that she was “sulking around somewhere.” Jett had sent word earlier in the evening that he had been detained in NYC but was glad that Jasper and Bella were home safe and would feel “a slight twinge of happiness when I see you all.”
Dorian Bond was the first of the groupies to welcome Jasper home, offering him ‘anything you need’ to be comfortable. Amused, Jasper told him about the promise he had made to himself 8 weeks earlier in regards to having Dorian collared and expressed his eagerness to follow through with said goal. “How about it, Mr Bond?” he teased Dorian from the stage, gifting him with a toy car as the groupies looked on in awe, “Are you ready to pledge yourself to my Family?” Jasper offered Dorian a choice, telling him that he could walk away that night with no hard feelings or choose to bind himself to Jasper and the family by kneeling on Red’s cushion beside the stage at any point before the end of the show. After some pondering, Dorian chose the latter, much to Jasper’s delight.
Bella and Jasper managed to avoid each other for most of the night, distracting themselves with various Underground duties as much as possible. However towards the end of the evening they were forced into close proximity to perform together on the stage. As she sashayed about her one-time adoptive father, Bella met his gaze for the first time since they had left Oakleaf that morning. Their eyes locked and for a long moment neither of them moved…and the room held its collective breath.
“Well…look who’s suddenly getting all cozy,” came a bitter and angry hiss from the doorway. Bethany Black stalked in, arms crossed and a defiant pout on her lips. Glaring at Jasper and Bella, she circled them, shaking her head in disgust. “So you stop fucking me and just move on to your next daughter…is that it?” she said to Jasper, who stared at her in bewilderment for a moment before attempting to respond. “I’m pregnant,” Bethany spat at him before he could speak, hurling a pregnancy test towards him, “And it’s YOURS.”
A stunned silence followed, Jasper’s eyes widening before he laughed and shook his head. “You’re a liar…” he told his daughter, who leapt onto the stage and threw herself at her father, shoving him backwards. Surprised, Jasper staggered a few steps before catching himself on a table, blue eyes narrowing as Bella took Bethany’s arm and tried to reason with her. Turning on her sister, Bethany began to shout at her, telling Bella that she was a slut and that Jasper belonged to HER. Recovering from his shock, Jasper lunged and Bethany and dragged her away from Bella, swatting at her flailing arms as she hit out at him and screamed that he was a traitor.
Swooping in to scoop Bethany up and away from Jasper and Bella, Jack Lad dragged her through the Underground and into the Night Garden as she hurled abuse back at the pair. Enraged, Jasper shouted after her, calling her a stupid whore and telling her that she was “no daughter of mine!” When Bella tried to calm him with a gentle hand he whirled on her and told her not to touch him, threatening to break her fingers if she tried. Turning on his heel, Jasper left the stage in search of a drink, leaving Bella alone in the spotlight.
Despite Jack Lad’s attempts to lighten the mood by finishing the show with a rather entertaining impersonation of Jasper, the family and guests fell into a maudlin state after midnight. Bethany joined her mother at the bar to drink tequila shots and snort lines of cocaine, throwing daggers at Jasper across the way. Bella sought the comfort of Violet and Amaranth, keeping watch on the scene from afar. Jasper threw himself into a bottle of bourbon, downing the entire contents within the space of 15 minutes before staggering into the Night Garden and calling for attention. He offered the guests thanks for their attendance at the Underground and welcomed them into the folds, proposing a toast to “my fucked up family.” Hurling the glass at the wall, he stormed away, followed by Amaranth, who caught him before he could collapse just outside the Night Garden. Ushering him onto a bench, she wrapped her arms around him and drew him close, crooning words of comfort as Jasper buried his face in her chest and cried.
Bella, meanwhile, drew Bethany aside for a ‘talk.’ They sat together in the shadows, conversing in hushed whispers until all at once Bella threw up her hands and shoved past her sister, who was laughing at her. “He’ll throw you away just like your mother did…” Bethany called after her, to which Bella responded, “…why don’t you go and fuck your father again, Bethany…it’s obviously all you’re good for…” before calling for Violet and heading outside to her car. Jasper intercepted her on the way, demanding to know what she was doing and why she felt it necessary to make a bad situation worse. Shaking her head, Bella could only laugh at him and assure him that ‘you’ve already done that all on your own, Jasper Black,’ before getting in her car and driving away.
Back inside, an overly intoxicated Bethany began wandering about the room with a coat hanger telling anyone who would listen that she was going to abort her own baby…until a horrified Amaranth ran to wrestle the wire from her. Betty wandered over to Jasper and asked if he was okay, and Jasper responded by bawling her out for encouraging Bethany and ‘taking her side.’ “Oh…don’t you fret about that darling…that’s just what girls do…” Betty shushed him, brushing his hair back from his face, “You know my loyalty is with you. But I’m her mother. I’ve got to at least pretend to care.” Slapping Betty’s hand away, Jasper sneered and told her she was disgusting before staggering away to his bedroom.
Jasper collapsed on his bed, sleeping for a good few hours before he was tentatively awoken by Red. She was in pain, she said…something was wrong with their child. Alert in an instant, Jasper dragged her to his car, driving her straight to emergency room. That neither of them died on the drive over was more than a miracle, though when queried later Red insisted that she had ‘never seen him so focused’ and it was ‘almost as if it wasn’t him driving.’ Later, Jasper contacted the family and informed them that Red had gone into the first stages of premature labour, and would be required to remain in the hospital for monitoring.
Ten hours into Red’s hospital stay, Violet came to visit with a hand-written letter for Jasper from Bella. After reading the contents Jasper excused himself from Red’s room, telling Violet to wait for him as he drafted a response. Once he was done, he sent Violet on her way and returned to Red’s bedside. He informed her that he had to leave the country for a little while but she would remain in the care of Jett and the family. Naturally Red was upset by this, asking him to stay at least until their child was born. Unmoved, Jasper told her that the child was better off without him around and reiterated once again that he ‘didn’t do well with babies.’ She tried to press him for further explanation but Jasper silenced her with a kiss goodbye, promising to return as soon as possible and ignoring her pleas that he call Amaranth to see to him. ‘Something’s wrong…there’s something different about you, you’re not yourself,’ she insisted. Throwing her a charming yet somewhat cold smile, Jasper declared that he was fine.
Four hours later he was on a plane to Las Vegas with Bella at his side. Ten hours later, the pair were married in a chapel at the Bellaggio Towers…while back in Melbourne, Red gave premature birth to Jasper’s firstborn son…Julian Benjamin Black.
The plan had been simple enough – neither Bella nor Jasper were keen on sharing news of their ‘nuptials’ with their immediate family upon their return…the official story was that they had taken ‘business trips’ separately and flew back home on different airlines. To spare the feelings of the select few and perhaps save themselves some extra drama, they intended to remain mum about the entire situation until such a time as they agreed that it was appropriate to divulge their secret.
Of course within the Underground the best laid plans of mice and men tended to fall by the wayside, although this time it was the ‘happy couple’ who gave themselves away. Reverting once again to the jovial child, Jasper dragged Bella into his contagious mood of frivolity, sniggering with her in darkened corners and drawing her aside for stolen kisses that had her giggling like a schoolgirl in his arms.
Naturally, the family were more than suspicious…even Betty in her valium-induced haze commented that the two needed to ‘get a room,’ offering a sly wink at her brother-in-law that set he and Bella into fits of uncontrollable laughter. Bethany, who spent most of her time being ‘herded’ away from Jasper and Bella by the ever-dutiful Amaranth, looked on in sullen disapproval. By evening’s end, the two newlyweds had exhausted themselves and each other with their childish game-playing, deciding to retire early together for ‘some rest.’ Kissing Jasper on the cheek, Bella told him that she would return to fetch him after she saw to Violet, leaving him alone in the Night Garden as she went to speak to her submissive.
Betty Black took the moment to saunter over to Jasper, placing a hand on his shoulder and raising an eyebrow at him.
“So..?” she asked, waving a hand in Bella’s wake.
“So, what?” Jasper responded, playing dumb but unable to hide his coy smile. Chuckling, Betty had kissed his lips, wrapping her arms about his neck.
Blinking his baby blues at his sister-in-law, Jasper shrugged before offering her a smirk, “So I married her.”
Betty had been amused by this, laughing and shaking her head…leaning in to press her cheek against his.
“Sucker,” she’d whispered in his ear, shrieking when Jasper responded by slapping her on the ass. Kissing him again, she’d given him an approving nod before excusing herself.
Watching Betty go, Jasper leaned against the wall in half-shadow, taking a measured breath before perking a brow and half-glancing over his shoulder.
“Are you going to just lurk in the dark like a sexual predator, Bethany?” his blue eyes shifted as his daughter stepped into the light, her face a mask of suspicion.
“What happened with you and Bella at rehab? And where did you go all week?” she asked him. Jasper had just watched her, his expression hard, clearly communicating that he hadn’t quite forgiven her for her little ‘scene’ at the Underground the last time he’d seen her. Moving from toe to toe, Bethany had finally lowered her gaze and bit her lip.
“I didn’t lie…” she began, gasping as Jasper lunged forward and seized her, shoving her back against the wall, fingers digging tightly into her forearms.
“Try again,” he said coldly.
“But I didn’t lie…Daddy.”
Gazing at her for a long moment, Jasper had blinked all at once, his eyes moving to travel the length of her body before coming to rest on his hands. Splaying his fingers, he released her as bewilderment crept across his face, almost as if he were surprised to be touching her. When he met Bethany’s gaze again, she also seemed confused…though the longer their eyes held, the more the tension between them heightened. After another moment Jasper had taken a visible step back from her.
He asked her if she was okay and the young girl had shaken her head, her eyes filling with tears as she suddenly threw herself into her father’s arms. Jasper had held her in silence, allowing her to bury her face in his chest as he rocked her back and forth. “I got rid of it,” she said in a muffled voice, “you don’t have to worry any more. Our baby…” Jasper hushed her, kissing her hair and her face, brushing her tears away as she sniffled, both of them falling into silence as they held each other. Bethany had turned her face into his neck and breathed him in, whimpering slightly when Jasper shuddered. When she kissed his cheek, he’d planted a kiss on her nose in return…then pressed his forehead to hers, their mouths dancing inches apart. When their lips brushed, both of them had jumped, letting go and taking a surprised step back. For a long moment afterwards they’d just stared at one another, then Bethany blinked and shook her head, a hand rising to her lips as her eyes glazed.
“I think…I should go…” she’d murmured, to which Jasper could only nod in silence, his eyes sliding closed as she turned on her heel and ran away, her shoes clicking down the hall. When Bella returned to Jasper’s side a few minutes later, the hand on his arm almost made him jump out of his skin. Offering her a shaken smile and nodding away the inevitable ‘are you alright?’ that followed, he wrapped his arm about his wife and drew her out of the Underground.
Upon Jett’s return to Melbourne a week later, it fell to Bella to ‘inform’ him of the goings on within the family while he’d been away. Red was of course still in hospital with Julian, who was being kept in incubation in the premature babies ward and had been visited by everyone but Jasper. Betty had been admitted to hospital after a valium overdose that conveniently coincided with her husband’s return and was convalescing in Oakleaf for the week. Bethany had made herself scarce, spending much of her time ‘out’ with Amaranth to avoid Jett’s inevitable questions.
For all intents and purposes the younger Black heir took the news rather well, though he expressed his disgust at not being informed of Jasper’s intent to propose…and his lack of an invitation to the nuptials. Cornering Jasper in the boudoir of the Underground and slamming the door closed behind them, Jett toyed with a pair of scissors as he calmly told his brother that he was “not upset about Bethany…but I am VERY pissed off that you didn’t invite me to your wedding.” Jasper got the point, and promised to make amends by hosting a wedding party at the Underground in the coming month in order to celebrate properly with the family. And to ensure that Jett didn’t kill him.
Of course word of the latest Black Family shenanigans had not missed the attention of the ever-zealous May Bea Sunshine, who had returned from her own family dramas overseas just in time to harvest the proverbial gossip field. Publishing a rather scathing blog about the most recent melodramas and scandals, including a rumoured marriage between Jasper and Bella, she once again proved herself a thorn in the Family’s side. Surprisingly, it was Jasper who this time called the family together to meet and discuss the “May Bea Sunshine problem.” After deliberating over the repercussions of outright assassination – Jett and Amaranth were all for it but Jasper seemed loath to want to write in her stead to cover up her ‘disappearance’ – the family agreed that the best way forward was to allow May Bea to continue writing her little stories until after the wedding, at which point she would be invited as a guest into the Underground and ‘befriended’ by them all. Jett insisted that they would appear less suspicious as accessories to her murder if they were seen to be hospitable towards her for some time beforehand…and Bella and Jasper agreed. When it came to making people disappear, Jett Black was something of an expert. Or so they said.
In order to counteract any bad press, the Black Family released a statement announcing the marriage of Bella Jade and Jasper Black and refuting rumours of Bethany’s pregnancy, cleverly thanking their nearest and dearest for impending well-wishes and promising a memorable celebration to come. As preparations for the wedding party began, the Underground was graced with visits from many a familiar face…including distant relative Fanny Brown (the unfortunate bastard offspring of an unknown Black Family’s liason with Tasmanian senator Bob Brown), Betty’s younger wayward sister and some-time lover of Jasper Ms Peachey Dream, Amaranth’s twin brother Grigori Alec Katorga…and a young man the family called ‘Mr Nick,’ who had been Betsy and Bethany’s English teacher during their school years, and another recipient of Bethany’s psychotically dedicated ‘affections.’
Attempting to distance herself from Jasper, Bethany turned her attentions on to the hapless Mr Nick instead, tormenting the poor man with unwelcome innuendos and various ‘mementos’ from their past…including a ‘love letter’ Bethany had written for him when she was just 8 years old. Jasper, for his part, seemed to encourage Bethany’s interest in the man…perhaps appreciating the distraction it afforded her, for she barely saw either her father or Bella for most of June.
In the first week of July Julian Benjamin’s health took a turn for the worst, forcing Jasper to finally see his son and Red in the hospital. Details about the visit were sketchy, though nurses reportedly overheard a young woman crying half an hour after his arrival and witnessed Jasper storming from the room moments later. Royal watchers claimed to have seen the Black heir outside the nursery watching his son sleeping, his expression described as ‘frighteningly cold and blank, as if he wasn’t truly there.’ Following Jasper’s visit, Bella Jade contacted the hospital and secured Red and Julian’s release, hiring a private doctor and nurse to watch over the pair from the comfort of Red’s private apartments.
Betty Black returned from rehab at Oakleaf and joined her husband Jett on an impromptu ‘romantic getaway’ to Sydney for the weekend, leaving Bella and Jasper to their own devices as the wedding drew near. More guests began to arrive in the weeks that followed – Dunstan returned from business in Thailand for the occasion and the ever-dramatic Raoul flew in from Berlin days later, screeching jealously through the Underground and declaring Bella a ‘man-stealing-cunt’ to anyone who would listen.
Jasper and Bethany avoided each other like the plague, the latter finding solace in tormenting her ‘Mr Nick’ as much as possible. When fate (or happenstance) saw them thrust together, the tension between them was palpable. More than once they gave in to momentary delirious passion, one or the other inevitably putting an end to the liason before it could go too far. In the public eye, they treated each other with almost cruel disdain, Bethany in particular going out of her way to denounce her father every chance that she got…but in private the tormented and ill-fated pair continued their twisted little dance.
The night before the big celebration, Bethany placed a note in Jasper’s hands, telling him that she would not be attending the wedding party but wished him well in his future with Bella; and informing him once again that their ‘little problem’ had been taken care of. It was in the wee hours of the next morning that Jasper’s response came…in the form of an eloquent letter he slipped underneath Bethany’s door that changed the game completely from then on.
The Wedding Party was a grand affair – friends, family and business associates from the world over convened to wish the newlyweds all the best (and in some cases lament the loss). Kerryx proudly wheeled her ‘husband’ Dexter into the seat beside her, the groupies were out in full force…including a flame-haired young woman calling herself Scarlett and her ‘best friend’ Asinoe Mirror, Dorian Bond; and a tall man calling himself ‘General Steiner’ accompanying Jack Lad. Although she was invited May Bea Sunshine declined to attend, security being nonetheless put on high alert for any ‘spies’ who saw fit to infiltrate the gathering in her stead.
With Jasper and Bella deemed the guests of honour, the family insisted that they relax for the evening as they provided very personalised entertainment. Despite their misgivings the couple had acquiesced, though it did not take long for them to regret their decision. Jett Black saw fit to gift his brother with a pantomimed suicide onstage, his wife Betty drunkenly taking up the microphone to introduce him with a charming preamble that spoke volumes about their relationship…or lack thereof. “If I had 50c for every time my husband threw me down and ravished me I’d have…50c,” she tittered, toasting the happy couple and declaring that since she had taught Bella everything she knew she had no doubt that the young woman could ‘satisfy’ her brother in law. “And if she doesn’t…darling…you know where I am…” she winked at Jasper, before staggering away in search of more champagne.
The delectable Red graced the gathering with a song, singing pointedly to Bella and Jasper as she sashayed about the room… “Oh my man I love him so, he’ll never know…oh my life is just despair, but I don’t care…when he takes me in his arms, the world is bright…” To her credit, Bella said nothing until Jasper leant to whisper with a frown, “Is it just me, or is that a really inappropriate song for a wedding?” Offering her trademark ice-queen smile, Bella nodded and gave him an even stare, “It’s not just you dear,” she replied.
Despite the obvious attempts at passive aggressive sabotage by their loved ones, nothing seemed to be able to dampen the newlyweds spirits. They stayed close to one another for most of the evening, whispering and giggling like children as they watched the shenanigans of their guests. Raoul’s jealous sneers were met with amused chuckling and toasts across the room, Amaranth’s reading of ‘A Guide to Matrimony from the 1800’s’ brought appreciative laughter from all and Kerryx’s beau got more than a little attention.
Then Jack Lad took the stage.
Having fallen out of favour with the Family during the New Year’s Eve debacle, Jack was watched warily as he proposed a toast to both Jasper and Bella, summoning the former onto the stage and beckoning him onto a chair. “Since the groom was denied a buck’s party, we thought it only fair that we give him a little surprise tonight,” Jack grinned at the crowd, winking at Jasper and slapping him on the back good-naturedly. He called for the music as Jasper met his wife’s gaze, frowning in perplexion when a rather inappropriate version of ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ began to play. Moments later, Bethany Black sauntered onto the stage…dressed in white lace and a wedding veil. As the horrified crowd looked on, she proceeded to strip off pieces of her clothing and give Jasper a lap dance, laughing at him as he tried to push her away.
All eyes turned to Bella as Bethany danced, the newly appointed Queen of the Underground rising to her feet and slowly moving towards her husband and his daughter, stepping onto the stage just as Bethany whirled to face her. The two women eyed each other in cold silence for a long moment, then Bella’s hand swung out to slap Bethany’s surprised face. The young girl staggered, falling at Jasper’s feet as Bella’s icy eyes turned to her husband. “Get off the stage Jasper,” she told him sharply. Utterly bewildered, Jasper moved just in time for Bethany to rise and throw herself at Bella, the two women wrestling to the floor in a shrieking mess of flailing limbs and designer clothing as he looked on in shock. When Bella rolled onto Bethany and began to strangle her Jasper finally approached the fray, placing his hands over his wife’s and gently coaxing her to stop. Oblivious to him, Bella squeezed harder, Bethany’s scrabbling hands clawing at her arms as the life was slowly choked out of her. Jasper became more agitated, tightening his hold on Bella and shouting at her to let go, finally managing to wrench her grip from his daughter’s neck, snarling at her to ‘stop touching my fucking child or I’ll break your fingers!’
Jack Lad swooped in to drag a shocked Bella away from the stage as Jasper scooped a coughing and spluttering Bethany into his arms, the young girl bursting into tears as she let her father take her outside for some fresh air. Bella threw Jack off, retreating to the bar and the comfort of Violet as Raoul strode onto the stage, dissipating the tension in his own inimitable way with a charming rendition of ‘A Land Down Under’ and many an inappropriate jest about family.
Outside, Jasper had slammed Bethany up against the wall, demanding that she give him ‘one reason not to fucking strangle you myself!’ Bethany continued to sob, insisting that she was only doing what he had challenged her to do in his letter. For a long moment Jasper just stared at her, then shook his head and replied that he had no idea what she was talking about…he hadn’t written her any letter. Biting her lip, Bethany frowned, “But you DID…I swear…” she stammered, before bringing a hand to her mouth. “I lied…” she blurted after a moment, “About our babies…they’re alive.”
Jasper blinked, lips parting then pressing together again, his hand moving to close about Bethany’s throat as she stared at him with wide terrified eyes. “I’m telling the truth,” she whined, “Just ask Red…she went to the doctor with me. I’m sorry…I didn’t want to tell you…like this. I…wasn’t going to tell you.” Pushing away from her, Jasper merely gaped at her in silence, the word ‘babies?’ finally falling from his lips in a choked whisper. Bethany nodded, lips quivering. “Babies,” she echoed, “Twins.”
Turning away, Jasper closed his eyes, a pained expression dancing across his features as Bethany moved tentatively over and wrapped her arms around him. He barely moved as she buried her face in his shoulder. “I’m sorry Daddy…I’m so sorry…I couldn’t do it…I couldn’t kill our babies…” Jasper visibly shuddered, a sob escaping his lips as he tried to shrug her off…but Bethany tightened her grasp. And then suddenly he was whirling on his daughter, hands clamping about her wrists as cold blue eyes fixed her in place.
“We have a situation then, don’t we Bethany Black?” he said flatly, his entire demeanour changing in the space of a breath. Gazing at him in silence, Bethany nodded, wincing at his grip. He told her that he was going to have Red corroborate her story, and he was going to take Bethany to the doctor himself the following morning. He warned her not to say a word to anyone in the meantime lest he be ‘very, very disappointed’ in her. Biting her lip, Bethany whispered that she understood, allowing herself to be led back inside, nodding as Jasper hissed that she was to find Bella and apologise to her immediately.
The guests looked on in discomfort as the evening’s entertainment wound down with a rather drunken Dunstan taking the stage to sing a song to his ‘best friend and colleague Jasper Baelian Black,’ citing the groom’s one-time attempted suicide in Vegas as inspiration for the piece. Jasper stepped onto the stage moments after he was done, following with a speech of his own and declaring to those gathered that he had never claimed to be perfect, or even good…and that they would do well to distance themselves from his family. “Unless of course you’re addicted to drama, which we have in spades…” he sniggered. Staring them all down with icy blue eyes, Jasper flatly informed them that he knew he was supposed to apologise for the events of the evening, that ‘my father used to say the illusion of class was everything’ and propriety dictated it to be a requirement.
“But I’m a Black,” he finished, squaring his shoulders and daring anyone to challenge him, “I do what I want, when I want…and I’m not fucking sorry. Deep down, you all envy me that.”
Bella Jade Black met her husband as he descended from the stage, their hands entwining as they eyed each other in silence. No matter what the next morning would bring, it was clear to all gathered that – at least in the public eye – the King and Queen of the Underground were united as one.
The morning after the wedding party dawned dark and foreboding. Before the sun had risen Jasper had, true to his word, taken Bethany to see a private physician and confirmed that the young girl was indeed pregnant with twins. By sunset that evening he had met with Bella and ‘informed’ her of the situation, handing her a letter written by Bethany and giving his wife carte blanche to ‘deal with the matter’ as she saw fit. Whether this was by Jasper’s choice or Bella’s demand remained unknown, though no one could ignore the tension that existed between the three in the days and weeks that followed.
In the meantime, the family had once again been thrust into the spotlight after an incognito visit to the Underground by May Bea Sunshine, who had somehow managed to sneak into the dark sanctuary unbeknownst to the Black’s; and the subsequent publishing of a scathing manifesto that family lawyers had pulled from print almost immediately. Galled by her audacity, yet painfully aware of the tenuous nature of their reputation, Bella suggested that they send Ms Sunshine a formal invitation to Jasper’s upcoming 31st birthday celebrations to see if they might sway the rabid journalist into an alliance. More than a little curious about his long-time nemesis, Jasper obliged.
Following the wedding and the onset of post-natal depression, young Red was dismissed from service as Jasper’s submissive, the family gifting her with a penthouse apartment and a generous stipend to support her care of little Julian Black. When asked about her absence, Jasper nonchalantly stated that Red had taken a holiday to regain her health. Rumours began to circulate that she had begun an affair with one Dorian Bond, some even claiming that he’d been appointed her ‘official submissive,’ yet the gossip remained unsubstantiated. Dorian, for his part, seemed to be never too far from Jasper’s side…the two young men striking up an unlikely friendship that incited further scandal within the Underground.
Despite her seemingly heartfelt apology to Bella, Bethany Black’s behaviour within the adult playground became increasingly erratic, her moods swinging from joviality to bleak depression in the space of an hour. She tormented anyone unfortunate enough to cross her path, particularly the hapless ‘Mr Nick,’ who had been retained within the Underground by Jasper for various unspecified ‘services.’ She would frequently turn up heavily intoxicated to family gatherings, babbling about past indiscretions and calling Bella all manner of hurtful names, spreading rumours that her relationship with Jasper had been going on since she was 14 years old and claiming that it had been her father that had taken her virginity (a fact that Jasper vehemently denied). Nothing seemed to be able to placate her, and as the weeks went by a rift began to grow between the two ‘sisters’ that finally resulted in Bella writing Bethany a stern and emotional letter, informing her of the decisions that the Queen of the Underground had made about her pregnancy and their relationship moving forward.
By the night of Jasper’s 31st birthday celebrations most of the family were on tenterhooks, May Bea Sunshine had graciously accepted their invitation for the evening and the pressure of presenting a united front weighed heavily on them all. Claiming an inability to restrain himself from violent outburst, Jett Black declined to attend, sending his regards to his brother in absentia. Even the jovial ‘Neverland’ theme could not seem to lift their spirits, though it certainly won the favour of royal watchers and undergroupies alike.
The celebrations themselves were everything one would expect of the Black Family – Jack Lad regaled them all with swashbuckling sea shanties while all and sundry got decimated on rum and gin, in flashback we saw Jasper’s first meeting with the orphan Betsy (whom he adopted at 7 years old and married as Bella Jade years later)…Jasper paraded about in pirate finery as Peter Pan, his ever-faithful and scantily clad wife ‘Wendy’ by his side. Bethany flitted through the Underground as Tinkerbell, carting a glass of champagne wherever she went. Betty Dream Black’s younger sister Peachey playfully gave the birthday boy a pearl necklace during a mermaid inspired burlesque performance in his honour; and a young woman dressed as Tigerlily who called herself Velvette and claimed to have been a neighbour and friend of Jasper when he was only 5 years old haunted his shadow.
As the night wore on and the alcohol continued to flow, the flimsy illusion of class that the family had tried so hard to maintain began to unravel. A drunken Jasper took the stage and declared that he had wonderful news for them all, beckoning for Bethany to join him and wrapping an arm around her as they faced the crowd. He informed the guests that his ‘darling daughter Bethany is expecting Mr Nick’s twin babies…and they’re engaged!’ There were gasps and cheers from the guests, Nick himself perhaps the most bewildered and perplexed of them all. Summoning his new ‘son in law’ onto the stage, Jasper congratulated the couple on their impending nuptials, his cold eyes fixing them both in place as he wished them every happiness in the world. From beside the bar, Bella sternly looked on in silence.
Cake and further celebration followed, though Jasper’s jovial mood seemed to wane as he watched Bethany and Nick parade about gathering well-wishes. Retreating outside for some fresh air, he was joined by Betty, who did her best to lighten her brother-in-law’s maudlin state as Jasper lamented the fact that everyone he loved seemed destined to leave him. :And I know it’s my fault…” he muttered. Kissing his cheek, Betty told him that she would return with some bourbon for him and that he should try to stop thinking so much in the meantime.
Moments after she left, May Bea Sunshine stepped from the shadows, staring at Jasper as he sulked silently. She watched him until he turned wide blue eyes on her, pointedly asking if she was going to sit down or “just stand gaping at me like an idiot for the rest of the evening?” Taken aback, Ms Sunshine offered some petty retort before shaking her head and moving to sit at arms length.
“Why are you here?” Jasper asked her bluntly. May Bea blinked at him and replied that she was there for the truth about his family, for her readers. “And what about your truth, Maybelle?” Jasper responded coldly, his expression suddenly sharper, his tone deeper as he narrowed his gaze, “When do we get to hear that?” Startled, May Bea stared at him for a moment before insisting that she didn’t know what he was talking about. Tilting his head as his lips twisted into a smirk, Jasper nodded. “Yes you do…you know damn well what I’m talking about.” When she didn’t respond, he added that he was no fool, no one obsessed so much about his family without good cause. “At first I thought it was vicarious living, the pious virgin getting her kicks through her immoral betters,” the young man sneered, “But that’s not the case with you, is it Maybelle? No…with you I think it’s more. You’re not the innocent and pious waif that you’d have everyone believe you to be…someone made you dirty. You’re here because like attracts like, no matter how in denial it is.”
Rising from her seat suddenly, May Bea Sunshine shook her head, offering Jasper a tight smile as she wished him a happy birthday “but it’s time for me to take my leave.” Nodding, Jasper eyed her intently and offered a wan smile.
“Who was it?” he asked softy as May Bea moved towards the gate. The woman’s body stiffened as she paused, her hands tightening on her handbag.
“My father,” she murmured finally, not looking back, “Good evening, Mr Black.”
“Good evening, Ms Sunshine,” Jasper replied, watching her go in silence.
By the time he returned to the party, Bella had retired for the evening, leaving word for her husband to join her when he was tired of celebrating. Staggering over to sprawl unceremoniously on the stage, Jasper was immediately accosted by Bethany; who’d left a thoroughly intoxicated Mr Nick by the bar muttering ‘but I never even had sex with her’ to the bemused bartender. Straddling her father, Bethany wished him a happy birthday, giggling as she asked him if he’d enjoyed his evening. Jasper shrugged, nonchalantly asking if she had enjoyed hers. Bethany mirrored his shrug, murmuring that it had been a decent enough affair ‘”but I missed my Daddy.” Her eyes misted over, her brows furrowing as she stared at Jasper.
“Why are you making me go away?” she asked softly, referring to the terms of Bella’s letter. Jasper closed his eyes and shook his head, replying that it had been his wife’s decision and they ‘owed her that much.’ Biting her lip, Bethany cupped Jasper’s face in her hands. “But I love you,” she said, “Why can’t we just take our babies and run away?”
Jasper laughed, asking her where they could possibly go.
“Spain,” Bethany replied, “No one knows us there…we could go and…and have a family together.” When Jasper asked her what they were supposed to tell the rest of the family, Bethany replied that she didn’t care. “How much did you pay him…to marry me?” she gestured to Nick. Jasper frowned replied that it didn’t matter, she would be well looked after and that was the important thing. “But I won’t be happy…” his daughter whispered, liquid brown eyes widening, “I’ll never be happy without you.”
An hour later, Jasper’s black Jag was seen careening towards the airport with Bethany slumped in the seat beside him in brooding silence. The solemn pair had purchased one way tickets on a redeye flight to Spain, but three hours after they were due to depart, they were spotted sitting together in the departures lounge, holding hands and looking forlornly at the lightening sky. By sunrise, both had returned to the Underground, a bleary eyed Bethany staggering into her mother’s arms as Betty wrapped her daughter in a blanket and drew her away, throwing Jasper a sad smile as they left. When Jasper crawled wearily into bed ten minutes later, Bella opened her eyes and gazed at him through the darkness.
“So, no Spain I presume?” she said flatly as he flopped onto his back beside her. “No Spain,” her husband replied, staring at the ceiling. Quirking her lips, Bella reached out a hand to brush back Jasper’s hair, watching him in silence until he fell asleep before she turned her crumpled face into the pillow. By the time May Bea Sunshine’s latest condemnation saw print that morning, none of the family had the capacity left to care.
The aftermath of May Bea Sunshine’s visit and her subsequent revelations sent shockwaves through the Underground fanbase and the wider community. Questions about the safety of association with the Black Family saw a handful of business associates severing their connections, with further answers about Jasper Black’s state of mind and his suitability as the head of the family being demanded of Bella Jade almost daily by partners and peers alike. To add injury to insult, someone close to the family had allegedly leaked damning correspondence between Jasper’s doctors at Oakleaf and Bella, along with unpublished transcripts of ‘a family member’s’ regression therapy sessions. Locked in a PR nightmare, Bella began to spend increasingly long hours at the office as a result, leaving Jasper to his own devices at the Underground while she tried to drag his reputation back from the brink of hell.
Jett had returned from his business abroad, flying in to sweep Bethany up for some ‘quality time’ interstate and away from the rest of the family (“meaning me, right?” Jasper had accused him bitterly, though Jett knew better than to indulge his brother’s tantrums with a reply). With far too much time on his hands, Jasper began to spend his evenings with Dorian Bond, taking his young friend on adventures usually involving excessive drinking, drugs and a lot of memory loss. On one such escapade within the Underground, Jasper gifted Dorian with a silver ring etched in cobalt blue, offering only a wink and a smile when the young man demanded to know what the Black heir wanted from him. The following night, Amaranth delivered a rather enchanting note to Dorian in delayed response and the weeks that followed saw the two young men becoming inseparable, Dorian eventually confiding in Jasper that he was an orphan and had given himself the name ‘Dorian Bond’ as a child…and that he had no idea what his real name was, or if he even had one.
Halfway through September, the leaked hypnotherapy transcripts surfaced in May Bea Sunshine’s column, this time eliciting a far different response from the Black Family, their friends and fans alike. Whatever May Bea’s motives had been, the horrifying piece brought the Black Family witch hunt to a sudden grinding halt, a new wave of solidarity and sympathy for Jasper and his loved one’s bringing all manner of supporters to the Underground. The first of these was Amaranth’s twin brother Grigori Alec Katorga, who’d been a long-time business associate and friend of the Family since his sister had begun serving Jasper and caring for Betsy and Bethany as young girls. Grigori declared fealty to the Black’s, telling them that he and the Russian Katorga clan were on-hand no matter what they needed. While flattered by his sudden emotional declaration of loyalty, both Jasper and Bella agreed that there seemed to be more to Grigori’s intentions than met the eye. When they questioned Amaranth about it, she claimed ignorance of any ulterior motives but promised to investigate further. Bella allowed this, but naturally began her own digging behind the scenes.
Also joining the ranks of Black Family sympathisers were infrequent Underground attendees Scarlett Ophelia Michaels and her best friend Asinoe Mirror, the latter striking up an accord with Jasper over a bottle of bourbon and political intercourse, following the most recent federal election. Sprawled on the floorboards of the Night Garden, with Bella perched delicately on his right and Dorian curled up against his left, the rich playboy verbally jousted with Ms Mirror, blue eyes glimmering as he chuckled appreciatively at her intellectual wit and no-bullshit attitude. Finally, slapping his thigh, Jasper announced “I like you, you can stay…” to the bewildered but pleased young woman, declaring that she would be his “new PA.” Blinking, Bella placed a hand on Jasper’s shoulder and informed him that he already HAD a PA, a fact that saw her husband scoff and shake his head, claiming that he had no idea what she was talking about.
“His name is George,” Bella continued, flicking Asinoe a polite smile, “He’s probably collecting dust in a corner of your office.” Jasper widened his eyes at her, incredulous. “I have an office?” he replied, brows furrowing in suspicion as he studied his wife. Trying not to laugh, Bella nodded at him and told him yes, he had an unused office in the main building of Black Family Inc. “We have a BUILDING!?” Jasper gaped, smirking as those gathered about him burst into laughter. Throwing Asinoe a wink, he eyed Bella with an even stare. “I don’t care about this George fellow, you can have him…I want HER,” and then, turning back to Asinoe “you can follow me around and write down all the awesome things that I say.” Blinking and glancing at Bella, Asinoe nodded at Jasper and told him that she would be happy to assist him, “And what will I be paid?” Bella snorted, offering Ms Mirror a cold smile and assuring the young woman that she would be well compensated for her time and services then, glancing at Jasper, she murmured that she had ‘business matters to attend to’ and excused herself.
Watching her go, Jasper said nothing until Asinoe mused aloud that she didn’t think Bella appreciated her new position. Shrugging, Jasper turned to the woman and perked a brow, “She thinks I only want to fuck you,” he told her solemnly, “Red is gone and she figures I want you as my new toy.” Amused, Asinoe replied that she was no submissive and they certainly weren’t going to have anything but a professional relationship. Eyeing her for a long moment, Jasper smirked and nodded in agreement. “Sure,” he countered, “Of course.” Dismissing Asinoe with instructions to acquire herself a notepad and a ‘flashy pen,’ Jasper moved to sprawl on the day-bed with Dorian, the young men drinking and bantering good-naturedly until they passed out. Not long before sunrise, Dorian shook Jasper awake, telling him that he had been shuddering and whimpering in his sleep. When Jasper confided that he sometimes ‘heard voices’ in his dreams that frightened him, Dorian pressed his forehead to Jasper’s and sighed. “I wish I could hear them too, so you weren’t so alone,” he muttered, wrapping his arms around his friend and laying beside him in silence until the sun came up.
Meanwhile, Amaranth set about the task of grilling her brother for information about his sudden resurged interest in the Black Family’s affairs. After much prodding, Grigori confided that he had read the Oakleaf transcripts and he ‘knew what they meant’. Confused (or perhaps just very good at pretending), Amaranth asked what he was talking about. “She’s back, Kayla,” Grigori told his sister, “Belladonna is back.” Horrified, Amaranth shook her head, stammering that Grigori would do well to stay silent about such matters and never mention ‘that name’ again. Annoyed at his sister’s chiding, Grigori retorted that he would do as he pleased.
In the final weeks of September, Bella took Jasper on a trip to Vegas in an attempt to escape the madness of their very public lives and reconnect with her husband. They were not gone more than three days before an emergency call in the middle of the night summoned Violet to fetch them once again from the airport. She was met at the gates by a distraught Bella and an angry and confused Jasper, the latter being unceremoniously deposited at the Underground before his wife retreated to her private quarters, making a phone call to Jett and telling him that there was something seriously wrong with his brother. “I need you and Bethany home immediately,” Bella insisted. After much prodding, she revealed to Jett that Jasper had gone into some sort of psychosis while in Vegas, seizing Bella by the throat and threatening to strangle her if she did not take him back to the Underground. “But it wasn’t him, Jett…” Bella stammered to her brother-in-law, “The voice coming from his mouth…it was…she said her name was Belladonna…”
While Bella licked her wounds and awaited Jett’s return, Jasper continued to unravel…he’d gotten hold of May Bea Sunshine’s transcripts, their content bewildering and frightening him. Insisting that he was ‘fine’ and refusing the medication that Bella had charged Amaranth and his PA Ms Mirror with providing him in her absence, his mood became increasingly insufferable. In a few short hours he began hurling drunken insults and cruel barbs at any who dared get too close to him. Dorian suffered the worst of it, Jasper’s constant push and pull of emotions driving him to exasperation. He demanded to know why Jasper had gifted him with the ring if he was going to keep behaving in such a manner. “Oh I don’t know, maybe I’m in love with you and wanted to give you something nice…?” the young man mused, though his treatment of Dorian from that moment on spoke of anything but. Berating Dorian for everything from his clothing choices to the way he spoke and the “feederish way you follow me about every fucking place I go,” Jasper called him a pathetic orphan and “beneath me.” Hurt and enraged, Dorian withdrew from the Black heir’s barbs, pulling his ring off and tossing it into Jasper’s glass of bourbon as he stalked out of the Underground.
“I think I upset him,” Jasper smirked to Asinoe, who had watched the scene play out in emotionless silence. Asinoe agreed and asked Jasper if he was okay, to which he replied “Fine…why wouldn’t I be?” as he stumbled to his feet and staggered away. Asinoe watched him go in silence, fishing Dorian’s ring out of the abandoned glass of bourbon and putting it away for safekeeping.
On his way out of the Underground, Jasper noticed Grigori watching him intently from the shadows. When the overly intoxicated and obviously upset playboy asked him what he was doing lurking in the dark “like a fucking thug”, the Russian merely shrugged nonchalantly, moving to Jasper’s side and patting him on the back.
“Looks like Sleeping Beauty is awake…tell her I’ll see her soon…” Grigori chuckled, grinning at Jasper’s confusion as he sauntered away. Jasper barely made it into his Jag before passing out in the front seat.
Summary/synopsis of LARP experience The Underground. All characters and story lines remain the property of N.Ristovski and the Underground. All character writings within the Underground are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.**
Copyright © 2015. Natalie Ristovski.