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Who? (Part 1)




You lay there, playing dead within the darkness, smothered in the pixie dust and dried leaves of the Halloween's leftovers.

 

The night had ended for everybody else, and for you, you wore the exhaustion of the night’s end. But you still lay there, unable to sleep, wired to your own awareness, watching your mom’s face-down body rock back and forth with the skeleton’s surprisingly robust thrusting.

 

Your mom’s face, not just obscured by darkness, but also obscured by the butt cheeks of the girl it was planted within. You recognized the girl whose butt cheeks cradled your mom’s face from church. She was always scary to you, not because of any flaw in character, but because of her wild extroversion, her voice which carried, projected well and to be heard, and her dark hair, which swung over her shoulders carelessly as she spoke to you, the lights of the church like a halo rimming her head as she would smile down at you from above.

 

Lying next to you, her stillness accentuated by the sounds of one thrusting body into an inert one, lay an angel, her grandiose wings in tatters. You couldn’t make out her face, as it was covered entirely by shadow, but you looked at her ass, and at the halo, golden and perfectly-shaped, which was clamped, half-engulfed, between her buttcheeks so deep and firm that you didn’t even know it was a halo until after full minutes of staring at it.

 

You wondered for a moment if you were now in the bad place. The place where bad people went, as your mommy and daddy once told it to you, never using the word as they did.

 

You looked back at your mom, her body being pummelled by the thrusts of the skull-faced demon, his body apparently all flesh below the waist, and wondered how if this was the bad place, as all appearance would say it was, why did it all feel so good?

 

 


 

If you haven't read Creatures of the Night, this is a sequel to it, and much of it hinges on the knowledge of what happened in that story, and the taste left in our mouths by its end. You can read that one by clicking here.


 

 

Your dad sat in the chair, his thousand yard stare illuminated into oblivion by the florescent light above. To his right, two young girls shrouded in blankets (they were nude underneath, as their assailant had run off with their clothes as souvenirs) sat, one of them with her makeup running down her face with her tears, the other silent, as if not believing.

 

You looked up at your dad. He only looked ahead.

 

He was motionless for so long, it startled you when you saw him fidget.

 

He adjusted his wrists, turning them within the steel embrace of his handcuffs. He sat a few inches off the back rest, giving room for his hands.

 

“No!”

 

You turned your head.

 

It was your mom’s voice. It was coming from the room behind you, where she had been lead by Mr. Harrison a while earlier. You leaned against the wall separating you from her.

 

 


Detective Harrison sat across from your mom, his partner beside him. He reached over, his fingers on you’re the back of your mom’s wrist. He said her first name yet again, knowing it since she was a child. “We know your husband didn’t do it. That’s not what he’s under suspicion for. He wasn’t at the scene of the…” he took in a breath. “…crime. He was at home during the time when it happened. He couldn’t have done it.”

 

“Then why is he in handcuffs?” Her face, its expression formless, tears drying, not looking at the men. Her body aching.

 

Detective Harrison leaned forward. “Because when Hazel’s dad gets here, he’s going to want to know why (your dad’s name) was at the scene of the crime less than an hour earlier.”

 

Your mom was silent, unable to look him in the eyes. Within that silence was a stack of papers and files, ones which she wanted to know the jyst of, but which she didn’t have the strength to thumb through just yet.

 

“And it was a back alley, ma’am,” his partner said. “It wasn’t exactly a common place for a late-night stroll.”

 

Harrison looked back at his partner, shutting him up without a single change in his expression.

 

Your mom looked at the desk’s edge, her expression, faded, somewhere between a strange humor, sadness, and horror. Her body was aching all over, especially in places which made her feel ill to think about, and she had an awful taste in her mouth, one which she wanted to scrub away with such force that not even the memory of it could survive.

 

Instead she sat there, speaking through that awful taste, in the midst of another indignity assaulting her from without.

 

“What did he tell you?” she asked with a distant voice.

 

“He said he was giving the girls a ride.”

 

Your mom’s brow twitched. They both noticed.

 

Your mom sat there, staring at white surface and the shadows which accompanied it, now carrying a new bad taste in her mouth.

 

Detective Harrison adjusted awkwardly, conscientiously. “Um,” he probed, saying your mom’s name again to build camaraderie. “How often does (your dad’s name) talk with Emily and Hazel?”

 

Your mom didn’t look at them.

 

There was a silence in the room for a bit. Then your mom, without looking up, said “Never out of church. At least I don’t think…” Not only did she stop there, but that final word: “think” dragged, trembling at the end for what felt like an eternity for the two experienced detectives.

 

Harrison leaned forward, placing his weathered palm against your mom’s shoulder. She could feel its goodwill through the thick fleece of the blanket she held to her nude body. “Okay, _________. Just… if anything more from tonight comes back to you, please give us a call. Every bit counts, I don’t care how small you think it is. Just call.”

 

The other detective spoke: “And if your son remembers more than what he told us at any point…”

 

Detective Harrison looked up at his partner. His partner closed his mouth.

 

Your mom left the room, guided by a grandfatherly hand. As she did, she looked up, seeing Emily looking back at her. They moved past each other, not being able to meet the other’s eye. The two girls, draped just as your mother was, equal in their lot, passed her by through the doorway, guided into the interrogation room by the detectives. The door closed behind your mom. She stood there for a moment, standing in the silent hallway. You looked up at her. Your dad sat there, on your opposite end, staring straight ahead, his face red with tears.

 

You were expecting your mom to pass you, to sit on your dad’s right, in the free seat, to clilng to him for comfort.

 

Instead, she stopped. She leaned down next to you, finding her seat on the floor. She then leaned her head against your thigh.

 

You could feel its full weight, even through the thick wool of your blanket. For some reason, it took the sensation of her body against yours to stop your naked body from shivering.

 

 

 

“Suck it! Suck your son’s…” You could hear him saying it, it coming muffled through his skeletal face. You could still feel the warmth of your mom’s breath and saliva.

 

You knew she didn’t remember, otherwise she’d find somewhere else to rest her head.

 

You felt at ease.

 

Then your dad’s face fell into his palms next to you. Your mom had to see it, the gesture was so broad. But she didn’t look over. She just rested her head against you, staring ahead at the wall.

 

 

 

 

When the girls came out, the two detectives rounded your father, guiding him to his feet. “I’m sorry, ________,” Harrison said, putting his keys to your dad’s cuffs. “It’s just procedure.”

 

Your dad didn’t say anything. He only looked ahead, into nothing.

 

The cuffs clicked off. Detective Harrison put them back into his pocket, almost as if they were never there at all.

 

 

 

 

Your dad stood in the other room, standing over a cup, massaging himself, he didn’t know how, so he could give his accusers (that’s how he’d see them, no matter how much they apologized) the semen sample. He couldn’t believe this was being asked of him, given what had just happened to his wife, and more, he couldn't believe that he was able to give them what they were asking for. He watched, shocked with himself as his gushed out, filling their cup. The thoughts which occurred to him just before he let himself go circled the drain of his mind, he waited for them to fall down the little black hole, wanting them to disappear down there - forever.

 

 

 

You stood in the small clinical room, naked with the three girls, a nurse swabbing their bodies for semen, finding it without much trouble. Your mom’s bottom lip quivered, and she looked away as you were checked. When none was found, she looked as if her troubles had all faded, washed away by merciful relief. She then looked at the other girls, their young bodies being ran over with the soft probe of the q-tip, one by one, their curves more exaggerated, their skin smoother. The thought of those two bodies, clothed just hours earlier, as they sat in the same SUV your dad drove you to soccer games with, came to her, bringing lines back to her brow.

 

She looked down at Emily’s ass. The nurse finished up and continued probing Hazel’s body, positioning her stiff form like cattle. Emily turned around, catching your mom looking at the very ass she woke up with her face wedged inside of.

 

Your mom looked up. They gazed into each other’s eyes, their expressions blank.

 

 

 

At the station doors, as your dad stood over your mom, your mom leaning down to wrap the coat she was given around your body, her own body clothed with gifts from the police, you heard a running pair of feet.

 

You looked over to see Emily running at full speed at your father. Your mom saw her, then she looked back down at your coat, buttoning it, ignoring the girl.

 

Emily shot behind her, wrapping both her arms around your dad, shoving her face deep into his chest. “Thank you, Mr._________!” she said, crying into his torso. “…for trying to protect us.” She sobbed a few times as your mom, her expression unchanged except at its trembling fringes, stared at your coat. “You would have stopped it if you could. I know you would’ve.” She squeezed onto him tighter.

 

He squeezed back. Then he looked over the young girl’s shoulder, and at the back of his wife’s head. He padded the girl on her back, and slowly, delicately, pushed her away. “I should have made sure you were both inside before I left.”

 

She shot forward again, gripping him harder, wanting him to know it wasn’t his fault.

 

Your mom buttoned in the topmost button. Your face scrunched as you felt it pinch you. She didn’t notice.

 

Lights shone in through the glass door. Hazel saw her mom get out of the car. Hazel’s face lit up at the sight of her.

 

The last thing you remember hearing as you left the police station, its doors swinging shut behind you, was the screaming wail of a mother as she rushed past you in the vestibule.

 

 


 


 

Your mom held her box to her waist, weaving past her coworkers. Her foam antlers caught a streamer, nearly falling from her head. She lifted her knee, catching the box with a giggle, setting the antlers back in place on her golden head.

 

“Nice,” Anna said, grabbing the box from her. “Decoration. The spice of life.” She dipped her fingers in and grabbed for baubles.

 

Your mom reached over Anna’s shoulder aggressively, grabbing baubles for herself. “Make me bring ‘em in so you could have all the fun, hey? Not on my watch.”

 

Anna nudged her out of the way playfully. Your mom, laughing, moved around Bailey and Joel, working instead on the other side. She peeked around the tree at Anna playfully, as if working out a subterfuge.

 

“I don’t know what you’re planning back there, but I don’t like it.”

 

“It’s nothing,” your mom said, disappearing behind the green foliage. “Just mind your business.”

 

“Mmm,” Joel said, bringing his index finger to his lips. “Look at him go!”

 

Bailey looked over. “Oh, you’re barking up the wrong tree. You’re the one girl in the office he doesn’t have his eye on.”

 

“Count me in that bunch,” Anna said, picking through baubles with weather fingers.

 

“I think I could convert him,” Joel said.

 

“Sorry Joel,” Bailey said. “You’re cute. But not that cute.”

 

“Uh uh, sister,” Joel said. “Brad is more than meets the eye. I can see it in him.”

 

Your mom stopped when she heard the name.

 

Joel: “Look! Look! He’s looking over here.” 

 

Your mom leaned to look beyond the tree, seeing him stand there, looking back, directly into her eyes.

 

“I don’t think it’s you he’s looking at, Joel,” Bailey said.

 

Bailey and Joel looked at your mom, then at each other, their grins mischievous under their santa hats.

 

“Well, he’s barking up the wrong tree then,” said Anna, still placing baubles, not even caring to turn and look at the topic of conversation. “He should know better than to make a toss at a happily married woman. Right, ________?”

 

Your mom was still staring ahead.

 

Anna, leaning around the tree now, looked at her.

 

Your mom turned to see Anna’s inquiring face. “What? Oh, yeah. Yeah.” She laughed. “Morals haven’t fallen that much, not even in this age. Huh, Anna?”

 

“Your darn tootin’!” Anna said, disappearing again behind the tree.

 

Anna placed the empty box on the desk. She stood back. A sudden jolt shot through her. “Candy canes! That’s what we need. Candy canes.”

 

“Oh, no thanks, beautiful, they go straight to my hips.”

 

“For the tree, Joel.”

 

“Oh, yeah.” He nodded his head, admiring the branches. “Yeah, definitely needs some candy canes, Anna. Good eye. Let’s go grab some.”

 

Anna and Joel went off. Your mom stood, placing her final baubles. She stood empty handed, staring at her work. “How’s this look, Bay?”

 

There was no answer.

 

“Bay?”

 

She felt a sudden shadow loom over her.

 

“Bay, are you playing the silent game!?” She leaned out and froze.

 

Brad stood there, looking down at her with a grin.

 

“It looks amazing,” he said. “…beautiful.”

 

Your mom stared, blindsided and wordless.

 

His grin widened.

 

Your mom’s cheeks ran flush. “Oh, really, you like them?” she asked, looking down at the tree.

 

“I like every one on your side, that is.”

 

“Oh,” she said, tilting her head in the direction of his gesture. “I guess that settles it. I’m the better decorator.”

 

“Mmm, not so fast. I think it’s more that I can see your reflection in those ones.”

 

Your mom’s eyes went wide, she looked in the other direction, toward the wall, trying to escape the brazen edges of the moment. “Brad, what would Suzanne say at hearing you say stuff like this?”

 

He took a step closer, enough that she could feel it, but without any part of it intimidating her. “You know where Suzanne’s going to be this Christmas?”

 

Your mom looked up at him, nervously inquisitive.

 

“In Honolulu.”

 

“You’re going to Hawaii?”

 

“No. She is.”

 

Your mom stared at him.

 

He looked down at her, smiling.

 

“Are you…”

 

“Broken up? No?”

 

Your mom looked away, her hands clasped together. “I… Okay, explain yourself.”

 

He leaned in closer. She could smell his cologne. “You know when I was going around with Terra, she knew, right?”

 

Your mom didn’t answer, only staring up at him.

 

“You understand?”

 

Your mom’s lips were shut.

 

“Oh, come on, __________. It’s 2023. Don’t tell me you buy into all this monogamy shit.”

 

Your mom’s brows furrowed. “I think most of the civilized world does, thank you very much.”

 

Brad snorted, adjusting some of the baubles. “Civilized… They nail one guy to wood two thousand years ago, the whole world is celebrating – on his birthday, no less - and you want to talk about civilized.”

 

“Okay, okay,” your mom said, defensively. “This isn’t just about religion. You don’t think that tradition, like marriage and faithfulness plays any part in-“

 

“No, no I don’t,” he said firmly. “Maybe when I was a six-year old boy. Your son’s a six-year old boy, isn’t he? Ask him, I bet he’ll give you the same answer.”

 

Your mom leaned on her back heel for a second. She looked up at him, her head tilted. “You seem angry?”

 

He shrugged, replacing the last bauble. “No, I’m not angry,” he said. “I just get carried away is all.”

 

“Why? Aren’t you secure in your lifestyle choices?”

 

“I am,” he said, nodding, buidling in calm. Then he looked at her, dead into her eyes. “It just saddens me to know that others could have what I have, if they just got rid of their nonsense superstitions, that’s all.”

 

Your mom tilted her head in the opposite direction. “You have to have some standards,” she said, almost in a sing-song.

 

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, his hands in his pockets, leaning away to leave. “Just get in touch with me when yours evolve.”

 

Your mom smiled at him, warmly. No hard feelings, no malice. No place for it. It was hard to judge somebody with your own standards, internally or externally, when you knew they moved to the beat of their own drum. He may have been a scoundrel, a womanizer, a philanderer, an adrenaline junkie, an arrogant prick on wheels, an iconoclast, an atheist (or even worse), but the one thing she couldn’t peg him with, the one sin within the Christian model he knew no part of, was that of the hypocrite. And because of that, your mom could only watch him with astonishment, never with judgment.

 

She watched him until he left the room.

 

 

 

 

 

Your mom pulled down the street, its width thick with snow. The night purple and visible for miles to the naked eye, the way it always was with fresh powder on the ground.

 

She weaved past cars, nearly all the lights in the windows extinguished, the night advanced, the neighborhood dead and dreaming.

 

She pulled into the driveway. She sat in the car, her fingers begloved on the steering wheel, looking into the window of the house.

 

There was no light within, but she sat there, inside her car, waiting for any trace of movement. She leaned back in her seat, her hands still on the steering wheel.

 

She took a breath, leaning forward. She nodded to herself, grabbing the key.

 

She turned off the ignition.

 

The radio cut off.

 

She fingers for the handle, finding it, she tugs, the car door swings open.

 

She gets out. When she shuts the door, she shuts it slowly, allowing it to only make the faintest pup.

 

She walks up the steps of the house, snow crunching under her delicate weight, the only human sound for miles. She watches the window’s blackness with every step.

 

She opens the front door slowly, thankful her father had oiled it on a whim seconds before leaving for the airport when he last visited. When she gets inside, there’s no lights except for the reflective surfaces, which caught stray lights, Christmas or otherwise, from outside.

 

She removes her shoes as delicately as everything else, placing her keys on the counter.

 

She stands in the kitchen, looking down at the sink, a barely-visible line of water near-drips into her glass, until it’s half-full (she has no patience to wait longer). She lifts the glass to her mouth and takes it back. It’s as cold as ice.

 

After that she stands at the hallway’s end, seeing that the door to her bedroom is closed. She moves down the hallway, watching its knob, itself reflecting the lights of the Christmas tree, get close.

 

She looks down at it.

 

She then looks up, toward the door at the end of the hall. The one with the nightlight.

 

She moves there.

 

 

 

You were lying in your bed, still up, head still buoyant with thoughts.

 

You weren’t startled to hear her squeak into bed next to you. She had done it many times before within the last two months.

 

Her hands, cold, wrap around yours. Her body warm, behind you.

 

Her head rests on the back of your own.

 

You think about her breath. How good it felt. Her wet mouth.

 

She doesn’t remember.

 

You want her to do it again. But you don’t know how to ask. You don’t know if it’s even possible.

 

She has never said anything about that night. You knew she thought about it. You could see it in her face. The new face she made. She thought about that night often.

 

You did too. You couldn’t stop thinking about it.

 

Her lips met the back of your ear. You could feel her breath.

 

“You’re the best thing in this world,” she whispered.

 

You turned around in her arms. You looked into your mom’s eyes, knowing what she said to be a lie. She was the best thing in the world.

 

“Mommy,” you whispered.

 

“Yes, baby?” She looked at you with wonder. Her eyes reflecting bare traces of light.

 

“Do you still love daddy?”

 

She stared at you, her eyes becoming mirrors, her expression blank.

 

You said nothing, not even waiting. Just sitting in the silence.

 

Her head moved forward a little inch, as if to emphasize her point in place of raising her tone above a whisper. “Mommy and daddy will always be there for you, no matter what. You understand? We both love you very much.”

 

You nodded your head. Then you ducked it forward as she pulled you closer to her. As you lay there, feeling secure in her arms. You couldn’t help but ponder one thing there in the darkness. Why didn’t she answer your question?

 

 

 

 


 

You came into the kitchen in the morning, rubbing your eyes with the wrists of your pajamas, being hit with a wall of sound from the stereo. You lowered your hands to see your mom’s arms dancing before her to the rhythm of the novelty rock song coming from the speaker, before she neared up on the stove she recently separated herself from, grabbing the fork to flip bacon.

 

She placed the fork back down, looking at you. She danced toward you, her hips shaking from side to side as she leaned down toward you, her forearms extended toward you with her palms up. “Let’s jitterbug, sweety.”

 

She grabbed your hands with playful force. Before you knew it, you were being whisked up and down your kitchen.

 

She twirled you as she danced past you, her legs moving like a pelicans, orientating you where you couldn’t yourself, stabilizing you within her arms, which twitched at the elbows when catching you in place. “Horn solo,” She said. She let go of you bouncing back, clapping her hands. “Oh,” she said, her head still bobbing. “Do you smell that?”

 

You stared at her, not sure what she meant.

 

“Bacon’s burning,” she said. She began dancing toward the pan, grabbing the fork and handle, flipping the bacon. “Might as well burn it evenly. Tit for tat,” she said. She reached to turn off the stove, her leg still bobbing. “Quid pro quo as the Latins used to say.” She looked over at you, then she placed the pan on a dead element. “Do you know who the Latins were, sweety?”

 

You only stared.

 

“Good. No good pagans anyway. Who needs ‘em, right?” She waved her hands, as if shooing off a spriit. “Right?”

 

You began laughing.

 

“Yeah, exactly. Who needs ‘em. Get out of here, pagans. What do you know? Like this. Shoo, shoo!”

 

You imitated her arm movements, feeling the fun in them just through watching, then feeling the fun doing it yourself.

 

She neared up on you, grabbing your arms. “I love rock and roll, almost as much as anything.” She danced with your arms, leaving you in place this time, maybe because she wanted to make sure you could hear her. “Rock… and Roll… love em both. But there’s two people I just so happen to love more. You know who they are?”

 

You shook your head, laughing.

 

She leaned in toward your face dramatically. “The first one is you.” She leaned back, giving distance, her shoulders jerking in time to the music. “And the second one… is your daddy.” She gave you a warm smile, her eyes bright. She then turned around to the stove. “Sit down, let’s eat.”

 

As you sat there, you looked over at your mom, seeing her move bacon and toast to a plate, the hair on her head bopping with the music. You turned around, facing the wall. You felt secure. You didn’t think you could ever feel more secure than you did in this moment.

 

Then a plate full of bacon and toast was slid before your hungry eyes.

 

 


 

Carol, the new girl, looked down nervously anytime someone passed her ladder. She was terrified of heights and only offered to put up the banner for the office Christmas party because she underestimated how high up she’d be.

 

“A little straighter, Care,” Bailey said. She leaned over and whispered to your mom. “She’s shaking like a leaf.”

 

“Is she?” your mom said, looking down at the card, running her sharpie over its surface delicately. She stopped. “Hey, how do you spell Joel?”

 

“J-O-E-L.”

 

“Thought so,” Your mom said, adding the E and the L. She slid the card to the side with the others and grabbed another blank.

 

“And Bailey, that’s B-A-I-“

 

“I already got your name. B-A-L-E- Bailey.”

 

“You bitch,” Bailey said, bumping your mom with her hip. Your mom’s marker went stray at the tail-end of an A.”

 

“Nice one,” your mom said.

 

Bailey turned around. B-R-A- was on the tag. “Oh.” She shrugged. “He could afford to be knocked down a peg or two. Don’t worry about it.”

 

Your mom shrugged knowingly, looking down at the name. “You’re not wrong.”

 

Bailey gasped.

 

Your mom looked up at her.

 

“Carol. No. It’s upside down.”

 

Carol, happy to be on the first step of the ladder, looked up. At seeing her mistake, her face twisted into disappointed horror. Her forehead was already moist with anxiety.

 

“I’ll do it, I’ll do it,” Bailey said, rushing forward.

 

Your mom looked back down at the card. B-R-A. Suddenly, a shadow crawled over it all.

 

“I’d hate to be that guy.”

 

She looked up. Brad stood there, staring into her eyes.

 

“That’s got to mean some sort of bad luck, doesn’t it?”

 

“I wouldn’t know,” your mom said.

 

“I thought you were one for superstitions.”

 

“Bad luck and hexes aren’t Christian beliefs,” she said, grabbing a new card, white and clean, to write his name.

 

“Oh forgive me. I forgot. Christians believe in serious things. Like sin and asses that talk.”

 

Your mom shot a glance at him.

 

“Asses,” he said. “Donkeys.”

 

“Oh, you’re one of those atheists,” she said, looking back down at her work.

 

“You mean the kind who know the things they’re criticizing before criticizing them? What a monster I must be.”

 

“The worst.”

 

“Must be why you’re not looking me in the eyes.”

 

She dropped her sharpie. She turned and looked up at him. “Why are you bothering me?”

 

“You know why I’m bothering you.”

 

“You’re barking up the wrong tree.”

 

“I’m not barking at a tree. I’m standing on a ladder trying to help you down from one.” He looked out at the office floor. “Like Carol there. Why aren’t you putting up the banner? He’s your messiah.”

 

“Because I don’t want you looking up my skirt as I do.”

 

“I would never do that.”

 

Your mom stopped writing. The thought of Carol, her shape, which was curvascious below the waist, came to her. For a moment she imagined Carol, nude, and, without realizing it, using a model in her place, a body she had seen before, to guess at what she must have looked like without her clothes on. A body that was, impossibly, young and fresh.

 

Your mom grabbed another card, sliding it over, not looking up at Brad. “Why wouldn’t you do it? You into girls with a little more shape?”

 

She felt his fingers on her elbow. She looked over at him.

 

He looked into her eyes with shocking earnestness. “You do this thing – and I don’t like it – where you subtly take jabs at yourself.”

 

She looked at him, wide-eyed, surprised.

 

“Stop it, okay.” He said this with a firmness, an authoritarian assertiveness, as if he were the caretaker for her soul and her self-worth.

 

Your mom slowly nodded her head.

 

He turned away, looking down at the card, his face red. “Faithfully married…” he said. “And your husband isn’t even letting you know how beautiful you are.”

 

The statement triggered something in her. “Oh, as if I’m some kind of unique gem in your eyes.”

 

He didn’t even look at her, instead separating the cards with his fingers, delicately pushing around the female names, your mom’s and carols among them. “I never said you were unique to me. But I’ll cop to calling you a gem. All beautiful women are.” He pushed your mom’s name off to the side. “And all of them in their unique little way.”

 

She watched her name slide across the table like a feather on water. Held to it for a moment too long. She looked up to see him looking at her.

 

“You don’t need to be anyone’s favorite to be unique. There’s too much beauty in this world to make it exclusive.”

 

She stared into his eyes, her bottom lips fallen open without her knowing it.

 

“And if you’d like to know, I know what Carol is like in the sheets. Me and Tod from sales both. Don’t get jealous when I’m choosing to talk to you now.” She watched his broad chest sink as he exhaled, his eyes back on the names, separating hers with his sole finger further. “Especially since you were one of the first ‘trees’ I barked up at when I was transferred here.” He looked back up at her again. “I only stopped for a bit because I’m not waiting all day for you. A clock only has twenty-four hours.” His finger found the edge. Her name fell below among the scrap.

 

They both looked down at it.

 

He kneeled down, and picked it up, he was speaking before he made it back upright. “But even when you’re off the table, I keep trying to pick you up and put you back on.” He looked her confidently in the eyes, her name now next to Carol’s. “I can’t be mad at someone who’s just sticking to their values.” The corner of his mouth turned into a grin. “See you at the party.”

 

She stood there, watching him go. He turned to look, not at her, but at his co-workers in the office, before leaving the room.

 

Your mom stood there, staring at the empty doorway.

 

“A-woof,” came a voice from behind her.

 

She jumped, startled.

 

She looked over to Joel, who looked at her with his characteristic mischieviousness. “You women,” he said, shaking his head. “You don’t know the good things you have ‘til they’re gone.”

 

 

 

 

 

Your dad looked at you in the passenger seat. “Cool, huh? It’s like a whole new world up here.”

 

You sat there, your church clothes beneath your parka, looking up at him. “Mommy’s not coming?”

 

“No,” he said, not meaning no. “She is. She’s going to meet us there.” He looked out of the windshield, glaring ahead confidently while still seeming uncomfortable.

 

You wondered if Daddy needed mom’s cuddling as much as you did, and if your blessing, being able to hog them every night, meant him being deprived in turn. You enjoyed falling asleep in your mother’s arms, but you felt guilty at the thought that your dad was missing the same thing for your sake.

 

He looked down at you, cutting your thought in half. “You ready?”

 

 

 

 

When you got to the church, your mom was waiting for you at the top of the steps in her winter coat, a beret, and smelling the way she always did during engagements like this.

 

“Watch out, the steps are slippery,” she said, shooting her arm toward you.

 

“Oh, now you tell us,” your dad said, holding tighter to your hand.

 

She grabbed your hand. “I’ll take him.” She lifted you up. Daddy watched you, a flicker in his brow for a moment. He looked at you, then the back of her head. You watched him get smaller at the bottom of the steps as your mom carried you upward.

 

It wasn’t until she set you down inside that your dad came up from behind. Your mom dipped her fingers in holy water, then she kneeled and crossed you with them.

 

You looked at her quizzically, knowing the gesture well, but getting to that age where you had questions.

 

Your dad saw it in you, watching your face from above. “It’s to protect you from bad luck, champ.”

 

“There’s no such thing as bad luck,” your mom said. “At least not in here.”

 

She stood up, grabbing your hand, and then she walked you down the aisle. On the way, you saw many familiar faces, including Mr. Harrison’s, who looked at the three of you and nodded warmly.

 

Timothy, standing at the front-most pew with his crazy grandmother (never knowing his mother, and with his father in prison for armed robbery). You scooted, with your mother and father on either side of you, into the pew behind him.

 

He turned, looking up into your mom’s face, a smile forming across his mouth, its shape made less distinct by his hare lip and his lazy eye. He lingered on her for a moment. Then he turned and looked down at you. He smiled directly at you. Your mom had told you not to judge people by how they looked, how that was the last thing in our control and therefore the least of our qualities worthy of judgment, but as you looked at him, his head halo’d by the red cloth lining the pulpit behind him, his grin menacing, sick, you couldn’t help but feel like you were looking into the face of something which had emerged from some evil place, a place where evil things come from, and where evil people return to after some time.

 

Timothy’s grandmother turned, tapping him on his arm with the back of her hand. She motioned him up toward the image of Christ, herding his attention to it, yet again.

 

You felt your mom’s body tense up. You looked up at her, seeing her looking across the aisle. You followed her gaze, and at its end, you saw Emily standing there, waiting with her family for the service to stop. She was clothed in black, the texture of which slimmed her, but never enough. You could imagine her, standing there, as nude as she was on that day in that little room. You had passed the nurse who had swabbed her body in an earlier pew. Your remembered the way the q-tip disappeared when placed in the crevice between the cheeks of her rear-end. You remembered her cheek twitching. You remembered her eyes, clutched shut as she felt it going in.

 

Your mom’s body was tense, even for a few sentences after the priest began speaking. Noticing you looking up at her, she looked down at you, smiled, as if, in seeing you, cured of whatever worried her, then up toward the priest.

 

“….is it?” the priest said, finishing his sentence. Voices in the congregation went “no,” in partial unison. Those that didn’t grumbled. “No, it’s not. But he went anyways, knowing he’d be crucified. Knowing he’d face death and hellfire.” The priest took in a deep breath, his hands on the ends of his podium. “God so beloved the world, he gave his only begotten son…” He lifted his hand, making circles with it before him. “You know the rest. John 3:16…” He cleared his throat. “And that’s the thing. We focus on the verse because what it’s supposed to articulate to us is what? Sacrifice, correct. And of course. That’s why we’re all here. Christ sacrificed himself because to do so meant conquering death where we couldn’t. It’s a strange thing, sacrifice. It used to be common. All cultures, most religions, had something of the sort. You sacrifice a life, or something good, so that a better reward comes from it. We have that too, us Christians I mean. But it’s just one life sacrificed though. One and that’s it. Because it was good enough.”

 

You looked down at your mom’s hands, seeing her fists tightening against the backrest of the pew before her.

 

“One last sacrifice in Christianity, and its effect is eternal. Its nature is eternal. No more lambs being lead to the altar. No more necessary. Which is great. I mean for me especially, I love animals.” There was laughter in the pews, soft and short, eager for the next word. “Its a covenant binding. And through that covenant, and through our faith towards it, we… uh… we gain life eternal. It’s a beautiful thing. It truly is.”

 

Your mom’s body was still, but it was through this stillness, the consistency of it, that your attention was drawn. You thought about looking up to see her face, but you were afraid.

 

“And that’s one thing to focus on, when it comes to the life and death of Christ, and its perhaps the most important. I would never deny it, and I know none of you would either. But there’s another part to it, one which is talked about much less, I- uh – think it might have something to do with it rubbing us the wrong way, or maybe putting the light inherent in the story somewhere out of immediate reach. But I think that’s the point, and I – uh – think that’s why it’s important for me – as your priest – to make sure it's addressed. Because Jesus, perhaps more than anybody else, experienced exactly this. And it’s not just him. A lot of you out there are going to experience this: this relationship in life, or the seeming lack thereof, where it feels as if you give more than the world gives back. Or you do what you know to be the right thing, what scripture tells you is the right thing, and the consequence for it is… well… no, no, actually. It’s not the consequences. Jesus said directly that those who followed him would face persecution. There’s solace in persecution. No, no. It’s beyond persecution. It’s the meaninglessness of it all. The random chance. The crossing a street on a quiet Sunday, and being hit by a car. The running through traffic, both lanes speeding by, and not a scratch on you. That, of all the things, may have been the worst part of Jesus’s suffering - at least I think so. It was the randomness of causes and effects, the evil that goes unpunished, the good deed which proves unfruitful. The planning which, rather than fail, leads to gains so minscule you wondered why you planned, and plotted, and strategized at all.” He exhaled sadly. “It’s that one person, being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and that making all the difference regarding whether or not they suffered for it. Suffering for the sins of humanity, in many ways, is easy, because its rewards are guaranteed. It’s the doubt, the doubt that any of this, these whips and lashes, and these crowns of thorns, have meant anything at all, which bothered Christ the most. ‘Father, father, why have you forsaken me,’ right?”

 

Your mom’s hands were no longer on the pew. You don’t know when they left. But they were gone now.

 

“I don’t mean to be bleak. I mean to be realistic. I think the beauty of our belief, the beauty of our faith, is that it can submerge us into the darkest depths, only to bring us out and up into the light all in one fell swoop. Faith has this power. And – uh- because of that, I want to invite two people up to the podium here. Hazel Tanner and Emily Thoureau.” He backed away from the podium, looking down at the front pew as the two girl scooted out, Hazel holding paper in her hands. He leaned toward the microphone as the two girls approached the pulpit steps. “Think of this as a sermon. I’ll…” he backed away from the podium without finishing.

 

You looked to your right to see your mom’s loose index finger hanging onto the pew, the rest of her fist pushed against it, her pinkie finger digging into her palm.

 

The two girls moved in front of the priest, who backed up until he was standing off to the side, trying to make himself look small. Hazel moved up to the podium. The congregation looked upon her, heavy with the weight of her tragedy. You felt your dad fidget next to you.

 

She put her papers before her, laying them on the podium. She stared down into them, as if staring down into a well, not daring to look up. Emily, behind her, her hands clutched, also looked down indistinctly, her eyes implying thought.

 

Hazel took in breath.

 

She exhaled.

 

Her lips parted.

 

There was no sound in the church, only the barest traces of breath, which themselves were slight.

 

“Hello,” she said. “Merry Christmas.” She fidgeted in place and then cleared her throat. She lifted her sheet slightly and spoke: “Me and my friend Emily both believe in Jesus.”

 

The room was silent.

 

“We both believe in goodness. We both believe… that most people are good.”

 

You looked in front of you, Timothy gawking up at the girls, his mouth open in strange unnerving mirth. His eyes bright. The side of his face scarred.

 

Hazel continued: “We have always treated people the way we wanted to be treated. We would never claim to be perfect at it. But we try… because we both know it’s right.” She cleared her throat nervously. “This way of going about things has proven, for much of our lives, to be good. Up until a few months ago, I think we’d both say it was the secret ingredient to a good life.” She adjusted her speech. “Then-“ Her bottom lips quivered as she turned to the next page. “–then, um, as I’m sure you all know…” She looked up at her audience for the first time, a surprising amount of poise in her expression. “…something bad happened to us… and to two other people.”

 

You heard your mom’s fingers gripping wood.

 

“Not just the four of us, but everybody who knows us. We were all affected. I guess that’s how bad things work. They hurt people, the people who care about them, and- uh- anybody who cares about goodness.”

 

There was a deafening silence in the building, everything quiet, except for Emily’s subtle sob behind her friend.

 

Hazel adjusted her sheet. “It’s very easy to look at what we went through as an example of why things aren’t fair. What happened wasn’t fair. It didn’t make sense. Nothing will ever make it make sense. We were drinking that night. But if that’s a crime –“ she shrugged, a humorous smile at the corner of her otherwise serious mouth. “-I guess it is – but if it is, the punishment didn’t fit it. On top of it, many our age have done much worse than that.  Their consequences for it were never as harsh.”

 

She again flipped to the next page, read over its start silently, making sure it was the right one. She then nodded her head and set the sheet back down. “If anything, our state at the time is cause for more kindness, despite our imperfections. And that’s why, when we showed up on the doorstep of someone we knew that night-“

 

You felt your dad’s body go still next to you. You couldn’t even look behind you at your mother, yourself somehow frozen.

 

“-he felt exactly that: kindness. He knew it wasn’t safe out there for us. He knew we needed protection. He knew we were naïve, even telling us so in the nicest way possible.” Emily, her chin almost against her torso, smiled behind her friend, her eyes watery. “So we all got in his SUV, and he drove us home. In his mind, he had nothing to worry about from then on. He assumed we were going to go inside where my mom was waiting. We thought we were too.” She took in a deep breath, her chest expanding. “We don’t remember much of anything after that. But the one thing we remember, after the shock of it all faded, was the one person who tried to help us on that nigh-“ Hazel’s eye dripped with a tear, her lip quivering. “-that night. He did the right thing, and though it didn’t work out, me and Emily just want him to know that it wasn’t his fault.”

 

You felt your dad’s body go tight next to you.

 

“And though nothing came of his goodness, we will always eternally be grateful for it. We know God was watching, and he’s saving a very special place in heaven for you.” Emily’s face was red, transformed by sobbing, with Hazel’s expression following, her voice breaking at her final words.

 

Your dad stood there. You looked up at him, seeing an expression in him quite unlike any you had ever seen. Hazel backed away from the podium. One hundred pairs of hands, like a choir of angels, lifted as one, and clapped in unison.

 

Hazel’s mom, and Emily’s parents next to her, looked back at your father with grateful eyes, clapping with the rest. Emily moved down the stairs, unable to contain herself, with Hazel following after. She walked to the center aisle, neared the end of your pew, her arms outstretched, unflinching, and she grabbed your father, pulling him in tightly against her body. Hazel came behind, hugging them both to loud applause.

 

As the girls backed up, their faces red with tears, with your father’s face the same, spilling his own, the parents of the victims came out of their pews, followed by many others, including detective Harrison and the nurse, and they all, one by one hugged or shook the hand of your father as soon as their opportunity to get near him came.

 

Timothy stood before you, looking on at the spectacle, looking lost in this sea of joy, maybe even, strangely, defeated. His grandmother clapped next to him dryly.

 

After the last of those who got up finished with their affection for him, you turned, expecting the moment to die. That’s when you felt it rush past you.

 

It was your mom, her red coat flashing before you, grabbing your father, pulling him tightly against herself.

 

As the congregation clapped in celebration, marvelling at the beauty of the moment and its Christian redemption, you heard your mom above you. “I love you!” she said, weeping against him. “I love you!”

 

 

 

 

“It’s two more days ‘til Christmas, killer. Are you excited for what Santa’s getting you?”

 

Your mom stood at the front door, putting on her coat, her face pristine like it was before church or parties. “He told me he’s happy with whatever he gets.” She smiled at your dad, putting on her beret. “He said ‘it’s the thought that counts.’”

 

Your dad looked at her over the backrest of the couch, his head tilted, his lower lip hanging open. He looked back down at you. “Is that so?”

 

You smiled and tried to scrunch your shoulders toward one another, trying to hold in the painful sensation of pride.

 

Your dad looked to your mom. “Quite the boy we raised,” he said, his eyes warm.

 

Your mom’s smile was warmer. “One in a million.”

 

They stared at each other, the only thing in each other’s worlds except you, the center of both.

 

“Bye, sweety,” he said. “Have a good time.”

 

“I’ll try,” she said, shrugging. “But it’ll be hard knowing you two are here having fun without me.”

 

“You’re here with us in spirit,” he said.

 

Your mom looked at him, her eyes shining in the light, her hand on the door. She stood there for an extended second, as if not wanting to leave. As if there was something she feared out there. Something she wished she could just stay in and avoid.

 

Your dad said nothing, only staring into her eyes.

 

Then it happened. She twisted her wrist. The door clicked open. She kept her eyes on your dad, even as she floated toward the open doorway. And then she turned and stepped outside. She pulled the door closed behind her. She was gone.

 

Your dad looked at the empty space for a moment, his expression both of gratitude and loss.

 

Then he looked down at you. His eyes were bright as if taking you in. He smirked at the corner of his mouth. “So what do you really want from Santa?”

 

 


 

Your mom’s coat came off, finding the only bare post on the rack.

 

She could smell it in the air, her co-workers were having fun without her, and were operating on quite the head start, getting there with various plastic shot glasses and red solo cups.

 

When she felt a hand against her lower back, she looked up over her right shoulder, startled.

 

Joel stood there, looking down at her. “I look that bad, huh?”

 

“Look bad? No,” she said. “But you smell like you’ve been naughty.”

 

“I’m going to assume that was a joke about liquor, and it-“

 

“It was.”

 

“- wasn’t you saying you can smell my date’s cum on my breath.”

 

“Joel!” your mom said, clicking her tongue in disgust. “You have to stop with the-“

 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

 

“Nobody wants to hear stuff like that.”

 

“What’s the matter?” Baily asked. She sipped from her cup as she approached. “Joel talking about sucking cocks again?”

 

“When is he not?”

 

“Look,” Bailey said. She let one hand fall from her drink and she clutched at Joel’s dick. “Look, not even a little stiff.” Her cup spilled a steady stream onto the floor, one she was oblivious to.

 

“Ugh,” your mom said, throwing up her chin in revulsion. “You guys are disgusting.”

 

Bailey, with one hand still on Joel’s crotch, her fingers wrapped around his flaccid penis through his khakis, took another careful sip, looking at your mom, and said: “I never seen you complain with such a big smile on your face. You in the Christmas spirit or what?”

 

Your mom looked at her, then she looked at Joel, one eyebrow raised.

 

“Don’t look at me,” he said. “I think she’s right.” Then his gaze was stolen away to something over your mom’s left shoulder.

 

Your mom almost would have missed it, had not Bailey looked down at Joel’s crotch, her cup to her lips, her brows narrowing. “Eww!” she shrieked, tugging her clutching hand away, losing what was left of her drink on the carpet below.

 

Before your mom could turn around, a shadow was cast over her left side, where she also picked up, within the final moment, a whiff of something sweetly corrosive, billowing toward her like sulphur.

 

She looked up.

 

Brad stood there, looking down at her.

 

“Jesus Christ!” His hand shot to his mouth. “Whoops. I didn’t mean….” He looked toward the Santa Claus doll sitting by the punch bowl and crossed himself. He turned back to look down at your mom. “I just meant… Vishnu bless us, you’re looking absolutely beautiful today.”

 

“She is, isn’t she?” Bailey added. “Even more than usual.”

 

Your mom blushed and looked away.

 

“Don’t be this modest,” he said, pointing at her, his remaining fingers on his solo cup.

 

“I think you can afford to be a lot more modest myself,” she said.

 

“If my lack of modesty bothers you, I think I’ll just continue.” He took a big swig of his drink. “You look even cuter when you’re bothered. You should get it checked out. It throws off the usual incentives.” He looked to the others. “Right?”

 

Bailey tilted her head, nodding with the corners of her mouth low.

 

“She’s the only woman I’d ever sleep with,” Joel offered.

 

“Joel!” your mom said, turning to him with such disappointment.

 

“I wish I could narrow it down to just one,” Brad said. He smiled, looking down at the back of her head. “Instead, she’ll have to make due with being the top out of many.”

 

Your mom turned quickly, looking up at him.

 

He smiled down at her, confidently, without reserve. His eyes stayed locked to hers, even as he took a sip of his drink.

 

“What’s even in there?” Joel said, stumbling as he spoke. “I’m damn near alcoholic, and I feel like I’m going to keel over just smelling it.”

 

“It’s my own special blend,” he said. He took another sip. “And that’s good you don’t want any, it’s not for you.”

 

“Oh,” Bailey said. “Not in the Christmas mood I see…”

 

“How do you mean?”

 

“It’s not very charitable to keep all of it to yourself.”

 

“It’s not all for me,” he said, looking at her, his eyes devilishly handsome. “It’s for one more person.” He lifted the cup to his lip, taking in more, turning to look at your mom as he did. Their eyes were locked. He lowered the cup, not a grimace or a single reason to wipe his lips. “…if she ever wants to try it.”

 

Your mom looked into his eyes. They both stood there, staring at each other in that silent moment.

 

He went to go lift it to his mouth again, and was shocked when he felt his empty hand reach his lips.

 

Your mom had it, lifting it to her mouth, taking it in, her eyes locked on his as she did.

 

Her look was stoic, direct, strong.

 

Then she lowered the cup.

 

She stared at him as she handed it back.

 

He felt it, secure in his hand, their fingers touching for only a moment, and then pulling away.

 

He stared down at her.

 

For a moment, she stared back up at him, calm and direct.

 

And then the façade broke.

 

Her face contorted into one of overpowering bitterness, its surface flushed, the back of her wrist lifting to her lips. “Ugh,” she said. “How do you drink that stuff?”

 

“Where I come from, it’s the standard for a Saturday night.” He took another sip, subtly rotating the cup beforehand, drinking from her end of it. “We didn’t have anything important to do on Sunday anyways.”

 

Your mom shook her head, unable to speak through her contorting lips.

 

“Jesus,” Bailey said. “What’d it taste like.”

 

“It’s cinnamon,” your mom said with the little will to speak she could afford herself. She waved her hand, trying to continue the thought in between shakes of her head. “With… vodka… or something. I think…”

 

“The first sip is the hardest,” Brad said. “It gets easier every following sip.” He took another, the easiest in his life. “It’s like a lot of things. Once you break that seal.” Another. “There’s no going back.”

 

 

 

 

An empty red solo cup sat on its end, rotating with the party’s vibrations on its awkward axis. Shadows passed over it on their way to the punch bowl. It rotating against the overalls of the Santa doll and stopped dead.

 

“Yeah, at his age, they don’t even really divide into teams. They just run around the field, kicking the ball.” Anna stared back at your mother, her face existing as the only discernible thing within an otherwise smudged world. Your mom continued: “It’s kind of moving, now that I come to think of it. No sides, no wars, no rivalries. Just kicking that stupid ball around that big field. It’s how life should be.”

 

Anna scrunched up her face. “So that was your breath then?”

 

“My breath?”

 

“That smells like cinnamon.“

 

“Oh!” your mom said, her eyes narrowing with her smile. “It is, Anna. It sure is.”

 

Anna’s face was turned away, as if bearing freezing wind. “Cinnamon, plus a whole lot of something else.”

 

“A whole lot,” your mom said, burping slightly, bringing her fingers to her mouth in embarrassment. “It was strong at first. But, it gets easier every sip.”

 

“Maybe it shouldn’t be so easy,” Anna said, she grabbed a cup at her hip and placed it further along the table, next to your mom’s.

 

Your mom looked down into it, seeing clear liquid, filled to the brim with ice adorning its every free inch. “Vodka?” your mom pondered openly.

 

“Water,” Anna said. “Just what the doctor ordered. Nice, plain water.”

 

Your mom’s face tightened into a scowl. She shook her head, looking away with her eyes shut.

 

“I guess I could see how water might be a step too far for you…”

 

“No,” your mom said, her eyes still shut. “It’s not that. It’s just… 365 days a year… every day… water.” She opened her eyes, their surface glassy, and looked into Anna’s. “I think that’s what hell is.” Her expression was animated, as if it were  genuine revelation. “Water… Just… water…”

 

Suddenly, a blur, somehow distinct from all the other blurs, flashed in your mom’s peripheral. She looked over to see Brad, like a vision, lifting Carol by her slender waist so that she could place the fallen star at the top of the tree. The young girl’s ass floated there, angelically, supported by the strength of nothing except Brad’s arms, ‘til she was about at the height of Brad’s head.

 

Your mom could hear him over the jubilee. “….star….old hat…. an angel….”

 

He lifted the young girl higher, getting his hand underneath her bare thighs for leverage. Her face lit up with mirth and terror as he lifted her rear-end until it was nearly at the top of the tree, then he let her fall back down, gracefully, into his arms, laughing with her as he held her there.

 

Anna looked at the scene, then back at your mom, who watched the laughing man and woman intently. “You know, a man in the desert would disagree with you. I think there’s nothing he’d love more than water.”

 

Your mom stared on ahead, feeling relief when she saw Brad set Carol down. But not enough relief. “I’m not in the desert,” your mom said, not making eye-contact with Anna.

 

Anna stared at the side of her smooth face. “No,” she said. “You’re not. Not yet, at least.”

 

Your mom stared at Brad, the way he smiled arrogantly, as Carol, who knew his nudity and touch well, excused herself, moving her body and gaze away slowly, as if defying a magnetic pull. Brad seemed to catch your mom in his peripheral. He looked up.

 

Your mom’s lower-half vibrated.

 

She jerked. She looked down, feeling for her phone, it vibrating her all the while in a way that made her uncomfortable. She felt it in her fingers, tickling them, and she lifted it to her glassy eyes.

 

An image of your dad sat on the screen, sitting down with you sitting in his lap. The current time sat above the image. 11:02 PM. Your mom looked at the text.

 

“You have to see what your son just did.”

 

Your mom smiled. She opened up the text.

 

You stood there, looking back at her with the living room Christmas tree behind you, your video ready to be played, with antlers atop your head. She put her hand to her mouth, her eyes lighting up. She pressed play.

 

Your lips began moving, but she could hear nothing. She turned up the volume, and still, your quaint voice failed to compete with the collective voice of her inebriated office block.

 

“Excuse me,” she said to Anna, continuing past her.

 

Anna felt your mom’s palm run clumsily along her hip. “By all means…” she said.

 

Your mom disappeared around the corner, moving down the hallway, toward the office at its very end. She figured that would be the most private. As she moved there, your lips moved on the screen, your voice just coming into being “…mommy….”

 

She disappeared into the room.

 


 

Joel watched her, seeing her disappear and then the light within turning on.

 

“Little Nymph,” he called her, being lovingly jealous of her little body. Seeing in her every awkward third step a glimmer of promise. A hope, however wild and dastardly, that it was within that little step, its glorified stumble, that the key to unlocking that little body, to freeing it from its suburban cage, existed and could be pounced upon. Through that step, her essense, from the glimmer in her eyes to the curve of her smile, from the soles of her pink feet to the top of her pretty little head, could be made bare for another agent of wild sexuality. He stared at the light beyond that doorway in the distance, knowing that if there was anyone who could knock down his “little nymph,” it had to be one.

 

He turned to look over at Brad, who stood there, cup in hand, looking around, as if missing something.

 

Joel took his first step toward him.

 

Brad caught that effeminate body approaching, and, when he did, he smiled. Joel smiled back at him, getting closer, happy to share some nice little tidbit of information, some chink in the armor of respectable world which he lived in antagonism toward. That’s why Brad always made sure to make nice with every homosexual he knew. They reminded him of cats. Clever, dignified, clean, and, best of all, always with some interesting present to drag in for him, and eager to be patted on the head for the effort.

 

He could tell by the look on Joel’s approaching face that he was about to lay something at Brad’s feet, the biggest mouse he’s caught yet. And Brad, devil that he was, was eager to sink his teeth in.


 

 Continues in Part 2




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