She tells her, “You are the Universe, baby. The perfect galaxy. The reason I love the way love feels on me.” She watches. She stares. She loves the way love feels on her too but not everyone is eager to see them flaunting their version of love outside the closet.
“Alice and the rabbit hole, baby. A neverending journey. A hunt for sustenance. Blazing moonlight over cherry trees. I’d never chop you down.” She’s still professing her undying love for her. The charm that lifts itself from her skin and lands on her lips is a ten. A twenty if anyone’s counting. She’s tipping the scales tonight.
“Blue envy. Gray passion. Red all over and yellow inside. I bleed you.” She smiles. She fidgets with her jean jacket, twirls her bossy curls around her index finger, and sets a giggle free. “I would tip a mountain over, my love, if you were on the other side of it.”
Her eyes widen. She steadies her ears on every word leaving her lover’s lips and finally speaks . . .
“If I am all of this you claim, why are we still hiding? Does your mother know my name? Are your sisters aware that roommates is a loose term for what we really are? Did you tell your brother what we do when you’re “on a business trip?”
Silence is thick in the room. She slices it with her words. “The Universe never hides, baby. The Universe doesn’t have to.” She walks away.
Her lover follows her to the kitchen. She watches her hips as they sway. She’s in a trance. Her eyes log her every step. She pulls a thought from the air and shares it with her . . .
“But the Universe knows that living in harmony with everyone takes many sacrifices. It understands that offering itself up on a platter is not how one gets full. Please, let me take small bites until I am ready for more.”
A few pots clang in the kitchen. She’s rummaging through old utensils, searching for a spatula. Her lover’s voice lingers in her ears — on her lips. She stands back on bowed legs and reminds herself . . . reminds her lover . . .
Watch the hands wave them in, suitors and scavengers alike, waiting for their piece of American pie. They come in droves — lips coated in silver-spooned tongues raising their hands, bidding at all costs for the missing links of home. What they cannot get from the one they married, they will gladly pay the one they do not love. The wanting . . . The yearning . . . The overwhelming beasting of burly men stands at attention.
She can only be a symbol of strength — moving through the vicissitudes of life without fear, she gathers their names. She will remember them; their grunts and groans, the sounds of the room, and the premature orgasms logged in the memory bank of her mind. Three hundred seventy-five dollars will get you two hours and two positions. If you want more, add sixty dollars for an additional thirty minutes. Her time is theirs to have but at a cost.
This is a business. She is professional. Each transaction is documented. She prefers cash but will not decline plastic. Wear your words carefully and choose your tour wisely. The ins and outs of her will not be extended. Your personal escort awaits . . . Sign off and hand your ticket to Duane at the front desk.
You have been served.
The cars on the street honk their horns, their owners smile happily — satisfied . . . satiated. Their disheveled clothes are replaced by the clean items waiting in their bags. A new attitude is ordered. It arrives right before their feet meet the doors of their homes. Frequent flyers look forward to their weekend adventures — their secret life tucked neatly behind their backs. They’ll never tell. She’ll never tell.
The perfect exchange.
*Professional escorts provide their clients with undivided time and attention in return for payment. Their work can range from companionship to sexual services. — wikiHow (2019)
Wendy agreed to join Ryan and a few of his jockey friends for a night of gallivanting through the “Haunted Forest.” Halloween was right around the corner — the last thing she wanted to hear was her boyfriend’s whiny voice if she chose not to meet them in the forest with three of her buddies from the dance squad.
“Whose brilliant idea was this anyway?” She found herself talking to the reflection in the mirror as she propped and defiled her cheery face with black makeup, red lipstick, and white eye-shadow. She gently placed the novelty fangs in her mouth and practiced a pronounced lisp while donning a witch’s wig atop her brunette waves.
The plan was to meet up at the forest, pay the $10.00 fee, and enjoy the haunting put on by a few of their classmates. Wendy was sure many of the props used were older than her parents, including Dracula who was appropriately placed in his coffin on the creaky porch of the haunted house.
Moss hung from the old oak trees, fog hovered over the grass for half-a-mile into the forest, and a rank odor filled her nostrils as she worked her way to their meet-up spot. Streaks of bloody handprints lined the outside of each shed. “They’re really playing it up this year. I bet Ryan and the boys are enjoying this.”
She reached the spot where they were to meet. Her shoes were damp from the sudden wetness of the ground beneath her. The incessant echo of a drip, drip, drip filled the forest. She felt those drips land on her shoulder. She touched the cape of her costume and rubbed her index finger and thumb together. “Raspberry sauce or ketchup.” She placed her fingers to her nose and sniffed. The smell of copper and dead skin was strong on them.
She looked up . . . Ryan, David, Josh, Sonja, Hallie, and Beth were hanging above her in the trees. Pieces of them were cut off and tied to the person to their left. Wendy felt her throat lock up. The slow roar of a scream escaped. As soon as she heard it, she covered her mouth. But that one scream was all it took. The shadow of her late boyfriend appeared before her. Its hand waving a bloody knife.
Wendy tried to run but her body began to sink into the ground. Ryan’s shadow cut off her left arm and right ear. Wendy howled before a lustful moon. One more flick of the knife to take her lower lip and she screamed with a might that could wake the dead.
Her once pretty frame had been dismembered. Her beautiful hair laid limp on her head. Her incomparable scream echoed throughout the forest. To her left was Beth, still flinching — her eyes stuck in an astonished look. Wendy screamed once more and Ryan’s shadow was there to catch it.
Dracula studied the menu for tonight’s dinner. He looked at Ryan’s Shadow and placed his order: “I’ll have your best scream of the night.” Ryan’s Shadow disappeared then reappeared with Wendy’s severed head. Her face was permanently distorted — her eyes popped out of their sockets. They opened the jar and the sound of her scream pierced their eardrums.
Dracula was satisfied. “Yes . . . Yes! I’ll take two.”
Originally published in The Weekly Knob for the Halloween Trope Challenge via Medium. The friend link is shared as this is a piece behind Medium’s paywall.
What does this picture say? I have an imagination that would bring itself back to life if it died, so instantly, I drum up a story. Who is this man? What is his story? What is his struggle? He stands, contemplating his next move, deep in thought, and utterly focused. What’s his background? I study him. I plant my eyes on an amazing creature and I think . . .
“What type of life can I create for him?”
He just received the crippling news from his wife — the small business loan they applied for through his local credit union two days ago was denied. For the last three years, they have prepped, devised a gameplan, created flyers, and reached out to local residents and business owners for sponsorship and the one thing that would help launch their small business was denied.
He thinks about their credit score, although not excellent, was in overall good standing — can’t be that. He thinks about their presence in their local neighborhood and both of them are upstanding citizens, well-known at their jobs and within their community — can’t be that. He stops to think about where they want to plant their small business and why and stays there with this thought for hours. For him and his wife, to have a recreational center in their urban neighborhood that also operates as an after-school tutorial location would be essential for many of the children who are struggling with their grades in school and who also need somewhere safe to be until their parents return home from work.
He stops to think about where they want to plant their small business and why and stays there with this thought for hours.
This was their dream. How could they deny it?
He huffs out a huge sigh and decides to cut work short and drive home early enough to beat the evening traffic. When he reaches home, his wife sits staring at the letter — a look of exhaustion is slapped on her face. She looks up to him and begins to sob. He gently takes the letter from her, glances over the first few lines, and then the beginning of the “rejection” paragraph . . .
He sits down, defeated. The word “other” never looked so incriminating, so . . . distorted. He read over the rejection letter three times before putting it back into its envelope and placing it in their important documents file cabinet. He made one phone call. His uncle mentioned three weeks ago that if, “there is anything I can do to help steer y’all in the right direction Roman, just let me know” — his memory picked up on that conversation and his pride was swiftly pushed to the side. If anyone understood the all-too-exhausting plight of entrepreneurship, it was his uncle.
One phone call, twenty-five minutes, and some joy-filled tears later, the dream that seemed as though it was crushed was instantly thrown back into manifestation. They would have their recreational center/after-school tutorial program after all. When he heard his uncle say, “Roman, that ain’t nothing, youngblood. I was rejected three times before I was approved and now, I am blessed beyond measure. You name your number and I’ll write that check.”
If anyone understood the all-too-exhausting plight of entrepreneurship, it was his uncle.
Six months later, he and his wife host twenty-two children, employ a staff of twelve and have garnered a profit instead of a loss. The rec center has provided their community with togetherness, a sense of belonging, and a positive atmosphere for the children. The work they do is fulfilling as well as substantial for not just them, but for everyone connected to them. When he looks at his wife now, her face glows — happiness lives in her eyes.
This was their dream.
It lived because it had to.
Originally published via Medium. The link shared is a friend link as this is a piece behind Medium’s paywall. Thank you for reading.