I figured I’d have a play with this week’s prompt from Flash Fiction Friday, so here’s my offering:
The door bell rings at exactly 12:00. I’ve been expecting it for a while now, but I’m half-way through my yoga routine. Sweat’s glistening off the tattoos stabbed into my skin and I roll my eyes at the timing. The top of my head is pressing into my pristine white carpet while I’m taking the weight on my forearms. My feet point toward Heaven like I’m some kind of Otherworldly compass. I think about letting it go, ignoring it, but I left that kind of M.O behind when I moved up here.
The bell chimes again and I try not to swear as I fold my body in on itself. My toes sink into the deep, rich pile and I unhinge my waist until I’m on my feet, standing straight and shoulders squared. I swipe an equally white towel from the arm of my thematically-fitting leather sofa, swat perspiration from my face and head to the front door.
I let a smile tickle my mouth as she hits the buzzer again. I don’t need to open the door to know it’s her. The fact she’s matched my schedule for everything from hitting the shops to putting out the bins would give even the least aware resident a hint they’d made a new friend, but it’s not her kooky bad stalking that give her away; there’s so much light leaking through my solid-slab front door that the high-gloss finish is positively singing.
I wipe the towel around my face, around my chest, under my arms. I consider dashing upstairs for a shirt, but another ding tells me she’s as clued in to the fact there’s a couple inches of wood between as I am. I guess things must be a little shadier that side of the door.
I shake my head, hide as many of the tattoos as I can by draping the terry cloth over my shoulders and swing the door open.
“Hi,” she says, spidery fingers tugging at the hem of Judas Priest t-shirt with more curry stains than the India Restaurant’s table cloth.
She gives me a smile and I have to turn away. The light from those pearly gnashers would put any Hollywood A-lister to shame and I just can’t stand it.
“Are you okay?”
The concern in her voice is horrible. It actually washes over me in cool, soothing wave that, were I back home, would probably flay the flesh from my bones. It takes all I can muster not to vomit on her bare feet.
“You’d better come in,” I say, holding out the door and making an expansive gesture with my right arm.
“Straight through to the kitchen.”
It’s against the constraints of the ‘new me’, but I can’t help snickering when she crosses the threshold and shivers like she’s got an ice cube in her panties. My mirth quickly dies from the genuinely hurt expression on her stupidly pretty face and I almost reach out to touch her when she looks at the door.
“Devlin,” I say, holding out a hand that I hope to Home she doesn’t take.
“Angela.” She gives me a little curtsy along with the name.
She likes my pun as much as I like hers. The tension shifts from her shoulders and the thin lines of worry disappear from her brow. I can’t stop my breath catching when her pretty face turns drop-dead beautiful.
“You, uh, you want a drink?”
“Sure,” she says, nose wrinkling at the bridge.
“You have any Scotch?”
“Sure,” I say, shaking my head as I lead her to the kitchen.
“I’m a red wine guy, myself.”
Angela’s still grinning when I’m done rummaging through cupboards and pouring booze. She smiles wide enough to blind me momentarily when scoops the glass from my alabaster counter, swills the amber liquid around the glass and pours it, one hit, down her throat.
“Ah,” she says, smacking her lips noisily.
“You don’t get that back home.”
“I do,” I say with a wink.
“Or rather, did.”
A sliver of something tossed aside works its way through my chest at the thought of where I’m from. It lodges in my heart and sinks through my flesh. I guess Angela sees it happen because the room loses more than a few lux along with as many degrees Celsius.
“Hey,” Angela says, her hand sliding across alabaster, stopping a millimeter from my fingers.
“If this isn’t okay, I can go.”
Her mouth turns up at the corners but the lights stay dimmed. I level my eyes with hers and do my best to match the expression.
“No,” I say, cutting that millimeter in half with a push of wrist, not daring to risk a further half.
“It’s nice to have someone around who gets it.”
Her nod is so gentle it’s barely perceptible. What I do see is fatigue in her eyes. The war, the death, the constant conflict that eats away at your core. They’re etched across her face as clear as the tattoos cut into mine.
“How long have you been down here?”
“Uh, about a month… independently, I mean. When my last charge went to His arms, I decided I couldn’t go back. It was too ….”
Angela can’t help who she is, and I have to remember that as her sorry, her grief, roll from her core with the power of hurricane and threaten to smash me from my seat. I thank whatever ‘s left for a guy like me when she tries to surreptitiously wipe a tear from her eye and misses me grab the breakfast bar for support.
“It’s a lot better here,” I say, cutting that half to a quarter, desperate to find out what happens when it’s gone.
“Yeah,” she says, a little hint of hope in her pretty eyes.
“It’s so beautifully…”
I make a mental note to buy some sunglasses as she draws out the sentence to find the right word.
“Dull? Normal?” I cut in.
“I was going to say peaceful, but I was probably being too generous.”
The warmth of her smile starts to grow on me, and I take a moment to really look. I might have hinted that she’s as gorgeous as her people are supposed to be, and the stained shirt, threadbare jogging pants and cheap jewellery strike me as so incongruous as to bring the attention she’s trying to avoid.
“You know,” I say, taking a sip from the glass of red.
“There are better ways to dodge unwanted attention. I know what you’re doing but….”
I let the sentence hang because the look on her face breaks my misappropriated heart. The embarrassment and shame etched across her features chills the room so low it makes the dead guy I’m wearing prickle with frost.
“No, it’s okay. I made the same mistakes when I first got here.”
The words are an effort, but don’t take half as much concentration as shifting my hand away from hers. As I sweep the towel from my shoulders, exposing the sigils etched into my flesh, there’s a strange tingle in my finger tips that feels like longing.
“Oh wow,” she says, bringing a dainty hand to her perfect lips and breaking her spell on my corpse jacket.
“Basic,” I say.
“I got them when I first ran. I made one last deal with a boy in a graveyard. In my desperation, I let him convince me he knew more than he said.”
She leans in so close I can feel her breath against my chest. Her eyes drink in the marks from a thousand cultures and it’s all I can do to keep the response in my stolen hormones under check.
“Did they hurt?”
“Some,” I say.
“But I know someone better now. If you’d like…”
The words catch in my throat and I’m unsure what’s happening. She knows though, she knows because that longing in my fingertips is replaced with a fire so bright it’s almost too fierce, even for something like me.
“Would you take me?” She says, spreading those flames to the back of my hand.
“Would you help me be free?”
I can’t help but smile as I nod my head. A tear stings my eye, but it’s nothing to do with the searing heat in my flesh.