Short Story: First step

“Look at that fat fuck,” my employee Deborah said with a laugh.

I turned towards the front of the gym I owned, and at the counter sat one of the fattest women I have ever seen. I had, of course, seen her around town and was disgusted by her. She was infamous at the local fast food joints, places I rarely ventured into, but when I did I usually saw her sitting alone at a booth, devouring several large burgers and fries, washed down by several large sodas.

I marveled for a moment, wondering why she had wandered into my gym. Maybe she was lost. I doubted she had come in to join. She was not just fat, she was morbidly obese. The kind of woman you saw at the store riding one of the electric carts, the motor straining to move her enormous mass. She had a greasy, unkempt look to her, and I involuntarily crinkled my nose as if I could smell her from across the room.

“Shit, this is going to be a cluster fuck,” one of my trainers, Todd, guffawed as he joined us. “What the hell does she think she’s doing here?”

“Looks like she’s signing up,” I say quietly, unable to process the sight before me.

“I bet she doesn’t last a week,” Todd laughed.

“We won’t see her after today,” Deborah insisted.

“Twenty bucks?”

“Deal,” Deborah agreed.

“That’s enough,” I said. “If she’s a member, treat her as such. I don’t care how large she is.”

“She’s not going to fit in any of the equipment,” quipped Todd.

“Not another word,” I said with a finality I rarely invoked.

“Whatever you say, boss,” he smirked before walking away.

Deborah left soon after, having a class to teach in one of the side rooms. I stayed and watched as the woman heaved her bulk out of the chair, wheezing as she did so, and labored to follow one of the receptionists as she took our newest member on a tour of the gym.

It would take at least twice as long to show her everything we had to offer, so I took the opportunity to walk to the counter to see who the client was. I looked at the paperwork and read her name, Melba Gomez. The name seemed familiar, but I couldn’t place it. I was taken aback at the fact that she signed up for our top package, though she declined signing up for a personal trainer. Most did. Trainers weren’t cheap.

I kept track of Melba as she struggled to keep up, and I have to hand it to my receptionist, she was patient and kind, merrily waving away every apology Melba uttered. The more she walked, the more she was aware of the stares she was attracting. Everyone was focused on her, some openly mocking the fat chick who was obviously out of place. It was one of the saddest sights I had ever seen, but she tried to ignore the hostility thrown her way. In spite of myself, I was left amazed at her tenacity.

After over an hour, my receptionist left Melba at the exercise bikes, who then struggled to get on a bike, and somehow managed to get one. How she did it, I don’t know, but she did. By this point she was already in some distress, the stress of walking the gym must have gotten to her. I had never seen her off her motorized scooter before, but she was making every effort to walk, even if she had to stop often, but yet she was determined to get on a bike and exercise. I was afraid she would have a heart attack and die of the spot.

She lasted less than three minutes on the bike. She was sweating profusely and her breathing was labored. Melba looked faint, and I think the attention she had attracted was starting to get to her. Some of my own employees looked as though they were openly joking with some of my other clients after her.

Defeated, Melba got off the exercise bike, stumbled a bit, but somehow managed to stay upright. Then, with great difficulty, she walked towards the front door, and I caught a glimpse of tears in her eyes. She got back on her scooter, which she had left by the door, and she left my gym.

As soon as the door had closed, I heard a massive roar of laughter from several of people in the gym. It seemed everyone had found the sight amusing, all except for the receptionist who had shown her around, She look distressed about the situation and looked at me with tears in her own eyes.

“I know,” I told her. “I know. Keep an eye on things, okay?”

“Sure,” she croaked.

I hurried after Melba, who was sitting on the curb, probably waiting for the bus.

“Hey,” I said, “thanks for stopping by.”

“Don’t worry,” she said, “I won’t be back.”

“I don’t understand,” I replied, confused. “Didn’t you signed up for a full year?”

“I have a month to cancel, at least that’s what the receptionist told me.”

“That’s true, but why quit now?”

“Are you kidding me?” She said, her voice hollow, “I’m a laughingstock. I heard them all muttering under their breath. I heard the place bust out in laughter the moment the door closed behind me. I mean, the neighborhood fatty out of her element. Who am I kidding? I don’t belong.”

“Don’t say that,” I pleaded earnestly, wondering why I even cared. I usually didn’t. People came and went all the time. Not everyone was meant to be physically fit. Most didn’t have the determination to be in shape, and that was fine by me. “You came in, you signed up. That means you are a member, Melba. That is your name, right? That’s what you put on the application.”

“Oh my God, you don’t remember me, do you?” She asked before turning away and mumbling to herself, “why would you remember me?”

“Do I know you?”

“I guess not, but we went to school together. Sat in front of you for a full year in English class, and you used to torment me, the class fatty, you called me. You made my life a living hell.”

“Chicken wing?” I gasped as the memories came flooding back. “Is that you?”

“Please don’t call me that,” she said as her eyes glistened with renewed tears, “but yes.”

“I’m so sorry about that,” I apologized lamely. “I was a total bitch. I shouldn’t have, I mean I – I was a very unhappy, I – I’m sorry.”

“Unhappy? You were the most popular girl in school! You were beautiful and funny, and smart. All the guys loved you. You were athletic and a cheerleader. All I was was a punching bag for you to make fun of. You and everyone else.”

“I can’t take it back,” I said, looking at myself for the first time through one of my victim’s eyes. I was a bully, and I tormented her. Was I responsible for her present state? Maybe not completely, as I never discount a person’s own responsibility, but maybe I played a part in her misery. Maybe I had helped push her to the years of self-abuse.

“No, you can’t.”

“No, but I’m not the same person I was twenty years ago. I changed.”

“So have I.”

“I can see that.”

“Why? Because I’m such a slob now, even more so than I was in school? Don’t you think I already know that? Lord, I can’t even look at myself anymore without being disgusted at what I’ve become, what I let myself turn into. I always knew I was fat, but why this?”

“Please, stop crying. You’re not doing yourself any favors by feeling bad about yourself. I did and became an alcoholic and took did some risky things. I know it’s not the same, but I opened up my eyes and realized I was going down the wrong path, just like you have. You came in to my gym for a reason. Why did you come in? You don’t owe me that, but I still want to know.”

She broke down in front of me. It was a noise beyond despair. It was inhumane, like the sound of a mortally wounded animal, but it came from the woman in front of me, a woman struggling to talk to me, the energy she spent just walking around the gym had completely drained her.

Finally after several minutes, she wiped her nose and dabbed her eyes, looking away from me, she answered. “My mom died last month. Her heart gave out. My dad died the week after I graduated high school from a massive heart attack. I’m almost the same age he was when he died. Both my parent’s are gone, both due to being so over weight that the stress on their heart was too much.”

“Oh my God,” I croaked, “I didn’t know. I’m so sorry.”

“I – I’m scared,” she intoned pleadingly, “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to live either, but I don’t want to die like that. I don’t want to die alone. I have no brothers or sisters. My family is gone. I have a couple of cousins, but they’re disgusted by me. Haven’t seen them in years, so I’m it. No family, no friends, just pathetic old Melba, just like I was in school.”

“Don’t say that. You took a chance and made your first step. Don’t quit now. I won’t let you.”

“I can quit at any time. Says so in the contract, and I’m not paying.”

“I’m not asking you to,” I argued angrily, not caring that I was offering membership for free.

“What? You feeling guilty? This isn’t your fault. You’re not responsible for me.”

“I don’t care. You came in and damn it, you want to make a change, so for fuck sake make it.”

“Come on, everyone was laughing at me.”

“Let them laugh. Come back and we’ll be the one’s laughing at them. What do you say?”

“I’m scared,” she said with an apologetic laugh. “I can barely walk around the place, and everything’s so hard.”

“It’ll be tough, I’m not going to lie. It’s hard for me and I’ve been lucky genetically, and I’m already in shape. For you, it’s going to be some of the most demanding and strenuous months of your life, but if you see it through, it’ll get better and easier, and you will start to feel better, I promise you.

“You think so?”

“I believe it, and you should too. What do you say?”

“Okay, I’ll try, but why do you care?”

“Because, I saw a woman with more courage and determination today come in to my gym and worked so hard just to take the tour of the facility. I saw you struggle quietly to get on the bike, and then manage to walk back unassisted to your scooter.”

“But I was only on there for a couple of minutes,” Melba hung her head in shame.

“But you did it. Every other person takes that kind of mobility for granted, but not you. You worked for it. If you put in that kind of effort regularly, you’ll be amazed how much easier it’ll get for you. One thing, though, I want to know when you’re coming in so we can be ready for your sessions.”

“I’ll pay for my membership, but I can’t afford a trainer,” Melba protested.

“But I’m giving you one,” I offer. “I’ll be the one training you. I own the place, after all. I can spare an hour three times a week.”

“You don’t have to, you know.”

“I won’t be doing anything but guiding you. You’ll be doing all the work. I would suggest you get with a doctor before starting.”

“I already did last week,” she looked away again. Her voice was beyond despair. It broke my heart. “Said I was eating myself to death anyway, so exercise wouldn’t matter at this point.”

“Bastard,” I sneered. “We’re show him as well. I’m glad you came in. I promise you, we’ll be unstoppable.”

“Do you really think I can do it?”

I looked into her eyes, this woman I tormented decades before, a woman who saw her parents die due to their own unhealthy habits. I caught a glimpse in her eyes, a glimmer of hope beneath the tears and the despair, and I knew I could not let her down. This was literally a matter of life or death. “Alone, no, but you won’t be alone. I’ll be there, and so will my team. Every look, every laugh, every name you’ve ever been called will be your motivation. By this time next year, I promise you won’t recognize yourself.”

“Thank you,” she sniffed.

“No, thank you for letting me help.”

The bus arrived, and I stood there as the driver used the lift to load her onto the bus. She was embarrassed by it, but she hardened herself and smiled at me resolutely. Within two months she no longer used the scooter, six months she walked to and from the gym. After a year I recognized the girl I bullied in school.

She’ll never be thin like I am, but she didn’t need to be. She was beautiful and full of life. I caught a glimpse of the woman she was on the inside, beneath the layers of clothing, skin, and fat. I met the dreamer, the artist, the soul.

I met the woman I feel in love with. I met my joy.


Short Stories

Next story –
Previous story – The Confession

Short story: Madness

She wore her madness as lightly as the pale beams of the autumnal moon. What chance did I have? I had no defenses against her. I was a lowly mortal and she some heavenly creature, or forsaken demon from some unfathomable hell. All I knew was she was an otherworldly being, and I was besotted, feeding off her madness, sating some unquenchable thirst, some unknown longing in my soul.

I had lived a life devoid of passion, a life not worth living. I married an unimaginative woman whose only goal was to push out children with assembly line efficiency. One child, a second, and then a third. We started working on our fourth, our sex life as monotonous as our lives. No euphoric release, no joyous climax, only a feeble thrust, a perfunctory kiss, and an almost impotent issue. How we managed even one child, I’ll never know.

This was my life, and I lived it without complaint. I didn’t know better. I didn’t know about the thrill of schoolboy crushes, of the devastation of an unrequited love. I didn’t know that there was more to the human condition than blindly accepting your fate. I didn’t know I had had a choice. I spurned risk for the safety of a certain, easy life.

I wouldn’t know anything until I came home and found her in our bed with another man. Theirs was no feeble attempt of lovemaking. It was raw, it was passionate, it was intense. I could hear her scream as I stepped out from the car. I could smell them as I opened the door, my children listening in. Then again, maybe they were his.

I crossed the threshold into our room, and he looked frightened, but my bride looked back unabashed at being discovered. I sensed she relished making me into a cuckold, impotent and ineffectual, emasculating me so utterly. I confess I didn’t care too much. I didn’t love her. I never did. I left slightly aroused at the sight of such wild and carefree passion. That it was my wife made it even more exciting.

That was my first taste of madness. I left my house almost immediately, listening to the strains of the headboard hitting the wall percussively, listening to my wife moan excitedly, wondering what bastard her brood belonged to. I knew they couldn’t be mine. I was relieved. They didn’t care that I left.

I drove to the nearest bar, a strip club a few miles from the double-wide I had recently called home. I’d return later for my belongings. At the moment I needed to clear my head. I needed something for something had been roused in me, some latent potency that yearned for release. I had considered going back and forcing myself on my wife, maybe trying to join in, I didn’t know. I had no experience in the matter. I needed to sit and consider my options.

I walked into the bar, and it was still early. The afternoon shift was still there, the B and C squad. They were overweight, with visible stretch marks and cesarean scars. Their breasts drooped too much, or a few were too large and too perfect maybe for so ragged a troop of dancers.

Then I saw Diamond walk onto stage, and this beast in my chest roared with approval. Like the others, she was past her prime, pushing forty if not older, but she was feral on stage. A few men paid for her attention, but not enough. I could tell she demanded more in her younger days. Why she hadn’t quit yet, I didn’t know, but I was grateful.

She saw me and winked, but I sat rigid, not knowing what to do. I had never been to a regular bar, much less a strip club. A few of the house regulars laughed at me, a few yelling taunts at me and one gloated happily, but Diamond could sense my desire. She knew I needed her, perhaps before I knew it myself.

She walked off stage and a few minutes later returned and sat beside me, wearing a thin negligee. “I’ll have a drink, if you’re buying,” she winked. I nodded to the bartender who poured her a shot of something and handed it to her. “Salud,” she grinned.

“Cheers,” I stammered, holding up the bottle of beer I was nursing.

“Never seen you here before, Jacob, is that right?”

“How do you know my name?” I asked, shocked that she could possibly know me.

“Did you finally walk in on your wife?” She cocked her head, a sad smile on her aging face.

“You – you know about that?”

“Sugar, we all know. Your wife’s been fucking anyone and everyone for years. Hell, we all been placing bets as to when you would find out. Shit head over there,” she pointed to the guy with the gloating look about him, “just won the bet. Pity. You’re a good looking guy. What’s wrong? Does the plumbing not work?”

“Excuse me?” I stammered again, shocked as she racked her nails down my neck. I gasped as I had never felt such a thing. My nerves screamed and I tensed, not out of fear but out of desire. “Look at you,” she smiled approvingly as she glanced to my crotch. I covered myself clumsily, not wanting her to see my arousal, but ran her nails under my chin and forced me to look at her. “Sugar, it’s okay. You’ve never been properly introduced to a woman, have you?”

“I’ve been with my wife,” I said lamely.

“That bitch ain’t anything but an easy lay,” she laughed, then looked apologetically at my wounded pride. “No offense, but everyone in here has had a go. Even a couple of us girls, but not me. My baby sister went to school with her, and she was just as trashy then. You were just the poor sap she chose to take care of her while she fooled around behind your back.”

“Am I a joke?” I cried, ashamed as my eyes watered.

“Depends,” Diamond replied.

“On what?”

“On what you do now. Do you accept defeat or do you pay her back.”

“Pay her back? How?”

She took my hand and led me to a room in the back. She closed the door and pushed me roughly into the chair. Without warning she pulled off her top and took off her panties and then she danced for me. I shook with fear, but more with anticipation. It was not a sensation I had ever felt, and she knew it.

“Relax, Sugar,” she smiled. “This one’s on the house. You’re a good guy, a hard working guy. She didn’t deserve a man like you. You didn’t deserve a bitch like her.” She leaned in, her breasts pressed against my chest, she whispered into my ear, “Let me help you. I’ll show you what a real woman can do.”

“Uh – okay?”

And she danced for me, and the sight was more erotic and intoxicating than I could ever have imagined. It was sensual in a way that my wife never could have managed. My wife, not yet thirty, never looked as desirable as Diamond. There was something animalistic in the way she moved, a predator toying with her prey before the kill, and I longed to be devoured.

Before anything could happen a sudden knock on the door stopped everything cold. “That’s it for this now. If you want another, you’ll have to pay, but I’ll cut you a break, Sugar. Oh, and by the way, I get off in thirty minutes. I never tell clients when I’m getting off. Meet me at the diner off of 127 if you want to continue this.”

She didn’t say another word but strode out the door. Some guy held the door open for me as I walked out. He gave me an almost imperceptible nod and a wink and I paid for our drinks and left. Thirty minutes later, I waited at the diner Diamond had told me and sipped a cup of weak coffee. She walked in, looking remarkably normal. The cheap makeup was gone, as was the negligee. She looked like a suburban soccer mom wearing capris and a tank top. Only the feral look in her eyes remained.

“I’m glad you’re here. I hope that means you’re ready to embrace the madness.”

“The madness?”

“Sugar, there’s more in you than what you’ve been led to believe. Come on. Let’s go to my place, and I’ll show you wonders your wife never could have imagined. We’ll dance on the grave of your marriage, resurrect your tattered manhood, and I’ll make you a proper man. That’s if you think you can handle me. What do you say?”

I felt as though I were making a pact with the devil. Then again, maybe she was my guardian angel sent to save me from despair. I didn’t know, but I took her proffered hand and she led me out. The next hours of my life were spent in a tangle of limbs, of sensations I had never felt, and a passion that had eclipsed everything I had ever felt.

And her madness fueled the newly kindled fire in my soul, and I became her devoted and willing slave. And when my wife’s eyes came to fall upon me again, she realized her folly. I was everything she had ever wanted, but she had squandered it on a series of cheap flings. Diamond had made me into a proper man. I could never go back to being in an unfeeling life, devoid of everything that made things worthwhile. I had embraced her madness, bathed in her light, and shunned the darkness in which I dwelt for a lifetime.

But nevermore.


Short Stories

Next story – The Confession
Previous story – The raging storm

Short story: The raging storm

He sat stoically as he read her text. He couldn’t fall to pieces in public. He had clients to deal with, coworkers to work with. No, his private hell would have to wait. He’d have plenty of time to fall apart when he got home. All the time in the world. Maybe all of eternity to piece himself together.

She had been his saving grace, his last hope at finding love. While he seemed uncaring, he was in fact an unrepentant romantic. He was the type to cry at the movies, to be moved whenever he saw a beautiful sunset. He appreciated art, and music, and he felt keen and deeply. He was a passionate man, a man of strong emotions. Often those emotions were like a tide, drowning the weak with it, leaving him alone on the banks of the shore.

But Toni was not like other women. She matched his passion. Their love was a tempest at sea, waves crashing upon the other, winds howling, the fury of the rain destroying everything in its path, but always they remained at the end, their lovemaking the more satisfying. No one doubted that they belonged together.

They had lived together for several years, planned on getting married some fine day, though neither was eager to disrupt the status quo. Nothing was amiss that morning when he went to work, nothing until he read the text.

“I’ll be gone by the time you get home.”

No explanation, no warning, it was just over. He tried several time in vain to text her, to call her, but her phone had been shut off. Calls to her mother we also ignored. All her friends claimed that they had no idea what was going on. He had been cut off, left in the dark. The storm had been replaced with a dangerous calm. He feared what the silence portended.

He went through the motions, and no one knew that something was amiss, except for a few that actually knew him. He went through the day, dealt with his clients expertly and professionally. He knew how to control the raging storm within. It would consume him at nightfall, but for now he had work to do.

Somehow he managed to survive the day. Already he could feel the veneer peeling back. He needed to be strong just a little longer. His goodbye to his coworkers was a little more curt than usual, his smile seemingly forced, but they were all professionals. They gave him his space. They knew he would come back in the morning, and whatever issue was bothering him would be dealt with.

But he had no plans on returning. Not tomorrow, not ever again. He drove to the nearest liquor store, bought a bottle of their most expensive whiskey, and drove home. He opened the bottle as soon as he shut off the car and downed as much as he could handle. Already the tears began falling, the first signs that presaged the impending storm.

He took a few more swigs, and stumbled out of the car. He could not handle his liquor, which was why he rarely drank. He was all about controlling his emotions, but he intended to lose control. He had no need of restraint. The full force of his fury would be unleashed.

He walked to their bedroom, ignoring everything else. In the room, her clothes were strewn about, as though she wanted to make a hasty exit and couldn’t decide what to take. That more than anything, even more than the one solitary line defeated him. She was obsessive about keeping her spaces clean. She had no intention of returning, of that he was certain.

He stumbled down the hall to his office and fell onto the sofa and continued to drink. Already a quarter of the amber liquid was gone. He drank some more and broke down, racked in rolling waves of sobs that seemed unyielding, so utterly despondent that he didn’t hear the alert notifying him that Toni was messaging him.

He drank until he could feel nothing, or maybe until he felt so much that he became numb to it all. He tried to stand, stumbled a bit and fell face first, grazing the side of the end table with the side of his face. He briefly registered the throbbing pain, but he pulled himself up, crawled to the safe, and managed to enter the combination on his forth attempt.

Once inside, he opened a small locker, the one where he kept his gun, and pulled it out. He laughed because he had always kept the gun loaded in spite of Toni’s protestations. Had he had needed to load it, it would have defeated him in his present state, but all he had to do was to release the safety, put the gun into his mouth, and press the trigger….

 

When Toni returned the next morning, worried as to why he hadn’t called her after her last text, she raced into the house. Her father was doing okay after his heart attack. Fortunately it was a minor thing, not requiring open heart surgery. He’d have to undergo a procedure soon to open up a couple of blockages, but he would be okay.

She walked into the office to drop off a couple of packages that were left on the front door when she saw his legs from behind the desk, and the walls behind him splattered with his blood and Toni screamed.

It took the investigators only minutes to deduce what had happened. He had only gotten the last line of Toni’s message, the one telling him of her father’s emergency, and that she needed to race the three hours to where he lived, that she we would be back as soon as she could, but that she would be gone by the time he got home.

And he never read her last message, telling him that her father was okay, and that the worst was over. “I love you,” she wrote him the last message, the one he would never see, “and I’ll see you in the morning.”


Short Stories

Next story – Madness
Previous story – Secrets

Short Story: Porcelain

“I’m getting wet!” The sound of the little boy’s whining set the Enzo Bousquet on edge. Why he agreed to look after the little brats, he didn’t know. Well, he mused as he opened his umbrella to shelter the boy, he knew quite well. The family’s fortune was in decline. Tastes in fashion were changing, and though his father was once renowned for his skill in dressing the elites in the city, fashion left him behind. The rich moved on to more fashionable tailors, while his father was left scrounging for business. Once, when Enzo was a child, his father commanded a hefty fee for his work. Now, well Enzo was reduced to babysitting.

“Under here, boy,” Enzo commanded with a strained smile. The girl followed her brother, but Enzo didn’t notice. She was a peculiar child, especially for a girl. She didn’t say much, but Enzo suspected there was more to her than just a shy disposition. She had a knowing look to her. She noticed everything, which made him feel uneasy.

“I thought you were taking us to the theater,” the boy growled. “Mama told us you were taking us to the theater.”

“And so I shall, young Rene” Enzo replied through gritted teeth, “but first we must get you settled in. You will be staying with me until your parents return from London. I have one room for each of you. You will find your lodging satisfactory.”

“Humph!” The boy stomped down the street, making sure to jump into every puddle, clearly enjoying the annoyance he was causing his temporary caretaker. The girl followed behind, almost a shadow to the man. She said nothing, did nothing, except clutch a porcelain doll with hollow eyes. The chill morning did nothing to dampen her spirits. She didn’t complain. There seemed to be no emotions from the girl.

“Come!” Enzo commanded the boy, who turned with a look of annoyance, but obeyed nonetheless. “First, we will put your things away, then have a quick bite to eat. Then we shall go to the theater. I have a friend who will act in the production this afternoon. He really is a sight to behold.”

“You have a friend who’s an actor?” Rene scoffed, thinking the association a bad recommendation on his caretaker’s reputation. He made a mental note to tell that to his father, that this man associates with the dregs of society.

“I consider many people to be my friend,” Enzo replied, knowing what the younger was thinking. In my line of work, I deal with many people, from the lowly servants to those in the highest echelons of power. What do I care so long as they can pay for my services?”

“And what is it that you do?” Rene asked in his sniveling tone.

“I do what I must,” he responded. “A jack of all trades, I suppose. My father was a tailor, formerly a soldier in the war. My mother came from nobility, though her family fell on hard times, and she took to tutoring the children of the president, until she married my father. I learned from the best, though I apprenticed with none. I joined the army, became a sous-lieutenant before an injury left me unable to continue. I’ve acted, cooked, become a banker. I worked for your father for a time, years before you were born. As much as there can be friendship between us, I consider him such.”

“I think you’re a buffoon,” Rene scorned. “A sad little clown without a circus. You’re almost as useless as a woman. Worse than that thing following us.”

“That’s a horrible thing to say,” the girl spoke up. “Useless as a woman? You’re the one who’s useless. What a terrible thing to say to our friend.”

“Thank you,” Enzo said, startled at her quiet defense. Until now, he was unsure if she could even speak. She only murmured unintelligibly at the doll, stroking its silk hair. That she should speak up defiantly against her brother struck him as ominous, though he couldn’t figure out why.

“Oh, letting little girls defend you now? You’re pathetic.”

“In here,” Enzo ignored the jibe, instead opening an ornate iron door. The dwelling was small, at least to what the children were accustomed to. Rene looked around and sneered, but Mathilde looked around dreamily, her eyes alight with excitement and expectation.

“This place is smaller than our servant’s quarters.” Rene spat maliciously. “I demand you take us somewhere better. Take us home.”

“You’re father left you in my care,” Enzo sighed, regretting that he agreed to watch the brats for what amounted to nearly a years wage. “You are to remain here for the next two months, or until your parent’s return from London.”

“This place is wonderful,” Mathilde mused in a singsong tone. “Isn’t it Celia?”

“Celia?” Enzo asked

“That stupid doll,” Rene growled. “Give me that!” He made to tear the doll out of his sister’s arms, but Mathilde parried his attempt with a swipe of her arm. Rene tried again, but this time Mathilde grabbed her brother’s arm, twisted it, and shoved him into the wall. “Let go of me!”

“Not until you apologize to Celia,” Mathilde informed her brother harshly. “I won’t tolerate that kind of disrespect, and neither will Celia.”

Enzo looked on, unsure of whether he should intervene, but the look on the girl’s face had morphed into something else. She no longer looked like the innocent little girl that had walked quietly behind him. Her face looked bestial, feral, almost demonic. Her eyes looked almost as hollow as the dolls eyes had been.

“Let go of me!” Rene said, this time pleading, his eyes tearing up. “You’re going to break my arm! Please stop!”

“Let him go,” Enzo said calmly, gently touching Mathilde on her shoulder. “And Rene, apologize.”

“I’m sorry,” Rene cried. “Please, I’m sorry!”

“That wasn’t all that hard, was it?” Mathilde gave a tinkling laugh, her face returning to normal as she released Rene. “Where’s my room, Monsieur Bousquet?”

“What? Oh, it’s up the stairs. Follow me. You too, Rene.”

Enzo climbed the flight up to the next floor. “You will sleep here, Rene,” Enzo pointed to the room on the left. “Mathilde, you will have this room here,” he pointed to the door on the right.

“Where do you sleep?” Mathilde inquired.

“At the end of the corridor,” Enzo replied, unnerved by the seemingly innocent question. “You’re things are already in your room. Change and we will leave in an hour.”

Enzo waited for the children to walk into their room before retiring to his. He sat at a small desk he had tucked away in the corner and waited. He tried to push the memory from his mind, but the look on Mathilde’s face seemed to be burned into his mind. There was something inhuman to her, and he wondered if….

He stood up and strode to a cabinet where he stashed his personal correspondences, ruffled through several folders, until he found what he was looking for, a letter from Monsieur Astier, the children’s father. He returned to his desk, sat down, and began to read.

We must depart at once, and with all due haste. Faustine is having nightmares, insisting that my sweet Mathilde is possessed by the devil. I have no use for that nonsense. Why did our fathers fight for over a century ago, to rid ourselves of the oppression of the crown and the subjugation to the papacy? No! Devils indeed!

I shall take my dear Faustine to London, to a colleague of mine who has begun to dabble with the study of the human mind. He believes he can help her. Perhaps the stresses of raising children is too much for her, or perhaps losing her father in that horrific fire last year has taken its toll. We inherited everything in his inventory, sold what could be salvaged, except for a doll that Mathilde has grown fond of. Maybe….

Enzo set the letter down, his brows furrowed in concentration. Possessed by the devil. That’s what she believed. Could it be? Could such a thing be possible? He didn’t believe in such things, but all the same, he was haunted with the belief in Mother Church, forced to take the sacraments by his overbearing mother until he was old enough to refuse to take part in that superstition.

But witnessing what he saw, what if it wasn’t superstition? What if the devil was real? Satan, Lucifer, the Morningstar? What if he was real? What if he could possess the body of mortals? What if Mathilde was being influenced by the Prince of Darkness?

He shook his head and laughed. Certainly it was a trick of the light, or else he was tired, or hungry. He had missed his morning respite in his haste to pick up the children. His mind was playing tricks on him. Perhaps he needed to see this colleague of Monsieur Astier.

There was a bloodcurdling scream out in the corridor. Enzo jumped from his chair, raced to the door, and threw it open. Rene was pinned to the wall again, his feet dangling a foot from the ground, Mathilde grabbing him with one hand by the neck. Again, her face was demonic, and a power radiated from her being, and it hit Enzo in waves, like heat from the furnace, except many times more powerful.

“What’s this?” Enzo demanded, terror clutching at his heart.

“He insulted Celia again,” Mathilde replied, her voice harsh, lower than it should be. “There shall be no forgiveness this time.”

“No! Wait!” Enzo cried, not daring to get closer, but inching forward all the same. “Please, you don’t have to do this. Let’s talk this through. Can you put him down? Will you at least look at me?”

Mathilde turned her head, and her eye sockets were empty causing Enzo to screech in terror. “Mon Dieu!”

Mathilde laughed as she threw Rene to the ground like a ragdoll, a cold, mirthless laugh. Enzo looked around, wishing he had a Crucifix or Holy Water, or anything. He caught sight of the porcelain doll on the ground, and what he saw made his heart falter for a moment.

Enzo fell back, unable to speak, mortally afraid for the first time in all his life, pleading to a God he didn’t believe in until now. Mathilde’s eyes were staring back at him from Celia’s porcelain face, pleading to him, begging to be released from her imprisonment.

“I know you’re heart’s desire, Enzo Bousquet. You fancy yourself a lady’s man? You love to bed with wives of those you call friends and patrons. Why don’t you show me what you can do!”


Short Stories

Next story – The price of love
Previous story – Roadtrip

Hours to go

Nanowrimo starts in a little less than five hours. Unfortunately for me, I’ll be in bed asleep. I have to be up at four so I can be at work by six. Luckily, I’ll be out early in the afternoon, and I’ll have plenty of time to write. A group of writers will be meeting tomorrow at Roasters for a write in, if you can call a three people a group. Hopefully we all show up. It’s be better if more do.

I was having trouble coming up with something to write this year. I wrote a few short stories this past week, trying to spark something, but neither inspired anything. It was more an exercise in working through some negative emotions that had been bringing me down for a while. What it did was bring me back to one of my favorite short stories, Harvest Moon, which I wrote back in 2013.

The story follows a woman who is visited by the spirit of her teenaged love, who died when they were both attacked after sneaking out late one night. On the anniversary of his death, her spirit leaves her body and she walks to the secluded field, the scene of his death, to endures his pleading for her to leave her life behind and join him, he being unable to move on, his destiny tied to hers.

I’m not one to write supernatural stories, but this one struck a chord with me, and I’ve shared the link on my Facebook and Twitter several times since I wrote it. For me, it’s a story about being stuck in the past, unable to move on, enduring the torture of reliving the same heartbreak time and again. She haunted by the memory, haunted by his ghost, unable to live in the present, unable to change the past.

I have no idea how the story will actually play out. Well, that’s probably not true. I have a few ideas. I will have to flesh out the characters more, especially her husband and children. I’ll probably also come up with new names since I hate the original names I came up with, Evie and Bryce.

What kills me is that I have to wait a few more hours, really almost a whole other day before I can start to write. I want to write now. I have a clear vision of how I would like to start. I don’t want to lose it! I wish I didn’t have to go in so early. Even an hour would be better than nothing.

But at least I have something to write about, a story to tell. As I write, I’ll figure out what questions I need to answer, what problems need to be solved. What is it that keeps my protagonist attached to her life? Who is the antagonist? What role does her family play in keeping her in this life?

I have a whole month to discover it. I’ll continue to write until I’m done. I have thirty days to write fifty-thousand words, a little less than two-thousand words per day. I’ve done it before, no sweat. Okay, I’ll be sweating a little. November is a horrible month for me. Let’s see where it takes me.