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Dead & Living

By Artie Gallezi

Action / Romance

She's A Maneater

Since I graduated from high School in 1986, like the countless unfortunate youths around the world, I worked to help support my family. While my test scores, both school and government exams, were exemplary, they were not deemed exemplary enough to merit the reward of higher education. Namely colleges and universities required monetary compensation in addition to proof of my intelligence to be permitted in their marble halls.

So while my peers attended everything from the most prestigious educational establishments to community colleges, often drinking and squandering the opportunities that fate and their upper class guardians had provided, I scrambled and struggled to find employment so I could aid my father in providing for my sick mother and younger brother.

While I loved my father, Jorge Valentino, he continued to vex and aggravate me. He did not beat me as a child, unless I was particularly insolent which was extremely rare, nor did he do the same with my brother and mother. What irritated me was his dependence on alcohol. He was not, what I would have referred to as, an all out drunk, but he was a functioning one. He rose every morning, no matter how weary or hungover from the previous day's events, and arrived on time to his job.

Because my father had been working with automobiles all his life, he often boasted how at he practically ran and owned his own repair shop at age fourteen , he had no trouble both finding and holding onto employment. But his mechanic's salary, no matter where he found employment, would not support a family of four. So while he paid the rent and utilities on our modest home, I would cover the rest of financial needs. However, more often than not, he found himself short and I would put up the difference. A difference I learned early on that I would not see again.

I paid a trifling amount, trifling to me now but at the time was not, each month to keep our television from showing nothing but static and two cars my father and I used. What little money that I did not spend went to the small luxuries. For me, it was the occasional glass of high class whiskey. This is where my father vexed most deeply. A single bottle would last me just over two and half months. Since I had seen what alcohol could do, both to my father and what the educational system had informed, if consumed too often. But my father would dispose of it in half that time and several bottles of beer along with it. At first I took to hiding the expensive amber liquid, but after several failed attempts I stopped purchasing the luxury altogether and devoted my meager funds to comic books.

One might ask where my mother, Marilyn Valentino, was in all this. After all, it was the expected norm in America for both parents to work and provide for their children. It was not here choice, but her body's. While my mother had barely caught the common cold as a child, she paid dearly for that in adulthood. She had developed an irregular heartbeat and a pacemaker was installed to remedy that. Combined with the fact she had developed diabetes during my brother's pregnancy, high blood pressure, and was taking nearly twenty different medications daily, it was a medical miracle she did recover at all.

I often found it strange that my mother had to take steps to make sure her body did not fail her, injecting insulin and going to the local hospital for weekly blood tests, while my father constantly battered his with cigarettes, alcohol, and hard labor and looked to be in the best shape since he was my age.

My brother, Sergio Valentino, was simply too young to enter the world of low pay and hard work that my father and I had come to accept as our lot in life. While I never made an effort to learn the truth, I believed he had a slight mental defect. I learned, years later from my father, that his pregnancy was incredibly high risk. So much so, that the doctors were actually considering aborting after five months. I thought perhaps he suffered from attention deficit disorder, but my parent refused to even accept the possibility. No doubt they did not wish to pay for an an examination that would result in something they could little next to nothing about.

In the end, it could simply be we were polar opposites. In everything I excelled at, he did not. The same was also true for me. While my mind was sharper he was much more physically adept. In layman's terms, I was the quiet contemplative nerd while he was loud negligent jock. But he was my brother and I cared for him, when he did not aggravate me beyond reason.

I was driving down the long island expressway at three in morning as I returned from a long hard night of pouring various kinds of hangover inducing mixtures that would knock even the most seasoned drinker, like my father, onto their rear ends. One might find it strange that with my father's problem with alcohol that I found work pouring the same liquid for others just like him, but I found it strangely enjoyable. Though my father thought I simply washed dishes in the kitchen, if by some unfortunate event he discovered my true job, it would only be a matter time before he asked to bring my work home with me.

My friends, the few close one I had, took care of that for him, though they had the courtesy to ask nicely of me and invite me along to a gathering. So whether it was late into the dark night surrounded my drunk bar patrons or on a hot summer day near a friend's pool, you could always find me with a shaker in my hand and bartender's guide in my back pocket.

As I drove home along the empty highway, I thought back to the brief conversation I had during a short break on the bar's phone. "Look, Eric, I'm just about to get off an eighteen hour shift pouring booze for a bunch of people who's liver has to be a lump of asphalt at this point. I'm in no mood to keep that up for you guys. Especially since I'm not getting paid for it."

Eric, my of my closest friends, said . "You're the only one who knows what you're doing."

I rolled my eyes, "If you can't figure out what goes in a rum and coke then maybe should lay off the hooch."

"Christine's gonna be there dude." he responded calmly if a little smug.

Christine Willis, the love of my of life or so I thought. She was one of the few girls in our small group that wasn't already committed to a man or woman. She had maintained a relationship with Eric for a paltry sum of months, but they had remained close friends. I was not well versed in the complicated world of courting and wooing like I would be. In the coming years, I would be able to have any woman, or man, that caught my eye. And that would be without using of gifts I would soon be given.

She was the cliched girl next door. Beautiful and practical, but not unapproachable. Confident, but not arrogant. I had a small infatuation for her or could be I was, like most would assume at that age, thinking with my lower half. I tried several attempts to win her heart, and by extension, and her loins. I took part in several school musicals she participated in, most of them god awful and tasteless, and learned to play both the guitar and piano to catch her eye. But she rejected at my advances with the misunderstanding I was simply jesting. Still despite all the rejection, I did not relent.

God, I was an idiot.

"I'm busy right now." I said quickly before I hung up."I'll call you back."

As I drove, something came into view on the side of the road..

At first I thought her car had broken down and she was simply waiting for assistance to arrive in the form of a tow truck and a rude trucker, but there was no car in sight. She was simply walking down the road like I would to a friend's home. I wonder to this day what might have occurred if I simply continued on way home, but my mother had raised to me to helpful to a damsel in distress. I would learn the hard way this was the farthest thing from a damsel.

I lowered the window on the passenger side and drove alongside her. "Need a lift?"

She stopped and looked at me, "Excuse me?"

"Its dangerous to be out alone this late." I said, I should have heeded my own words. "I'm heading to Westbury. I could drop you off somewhere if you want."

She gazed around as if to anticipate an ambush before she slid into the passenger seat. "Thank you."

I resumed driving once I saw she had donned her seat belt. Out of the corner of my eye, I got a better view of my passenger. She reminded me of an elegant piece of art with her beautiful emerald green eyes and her luxurious red hair that ended just above the small of her back. She was of middling height, perhaps a couple of inches taller than myself. Though I did not give it much thought at the moment, I would soon share the trait, she had very pale skin. She had a narrow build and her clothes seemed accentuate it in the most alluring way. She had worn a simple green blouse with the top buttons left unfasten so men, and some women, could admire and appreciate her cleavage.

The blouse also did not cover her navel which was perfectly flat and free of any unsightly scars or blemishes. Her beautiful strong legs were covered by simple, yet alluring, black jeans that had leather cords lacing up the sides of each leg. On her small delicate feet, toe nails painted to match her bright red fingernails, were expensive looking stilettos that probably had cost more than the car I drove. Granted, I've heard people paying well more than five hundred dollars on a single pair of footwear, but I trust you understand my point.

"I'm Dominick." I smiled politely. "Dominick Valentino."

"I knew a Dominick once." she said plainly.

"Really?"

She gave a curt nod "Though his true name was actually Dominicus."

"That's the Latin root." I told her.

She turned to look at me with an expressionless stare. "You speak Latin?"

"I took a class for four years in high school." I explained. "It means 'of the lord', if my translation is not too rusty."

"Yes. We did not part on good terms." She stared out into the distance. "It has many years since I last spoke with him."

"Well, its his loss." I chuckled at my boldness.

"His loss?"

I nodded. "I bet he staring up at the sky cursing his luck for letting someone like you get away."

"I could have been the unreasonable one for all you know." she said flatly. "I could be a, he called me countless times, a crazy bitch."

I dismissed her with a wave, "I doubt it."

"Why?"

"No girl who's smart and cute as you could ever be crazy." I smiled. "Operor vos non reputo sic?"

She gave me the barest hint of a smile, "Forsitan vos es rectus."

Though the rest of the drive was almost two hours, I found it short. We did not speak the language of the Romans for the entirety of drive, but we spoke freely. I gathered she was studying to be a historian, she spoke of historical events like she was there experience them first hand. She also shared my taste of music from the 1960's, telling me she grew to admire the voices of the Ratpack and the Beatles from a friend who played records every night as she read. From the sound of her voice, I concluded she was mildly impressed that I had taught myself to play the piano and the guitar.

Although I did not say it was to catch the eye of Christine Willis, I would have to be the biggest dullard for that to leave my mouth. She also admitted a fondness for old silent era films, like Buster Keaton's The General and Charlie Chaplain's Goldrush. I had come to appreciate them as well when I took a film appreciation class as an elective in high school and I shared her enthusiasm. Perhaps enthusiasm was exaggerating a bit, as she spoke quietly and without much emotion. We continued conversing as I merged onto Jericho Turnpike heading east.

Like the expressway I had just left, the road and streets were empty. I could see traffic lights for miles changing from green to yellow to red. There were several fast food restaurants every mile or so with their bright lights and colors to catch the eyes of hungry patrons. I passed several plazas with spacious empty parking lots, except for the cinema and the rare plaza that housed the occasional bar.

We fell back into a comfortable silence and it was only I paused in front of a red light did she speak, "Why dose that police officer not have his lights on?"

I had yet to acquire the excellent night vision that she possessed, so I squinted my eyes and made the vague silhouette of another car, "Oh, he's hiding."

"Hiding?"

"He's waiting to see if anyone runs the light or speeds so he can give them a ticket." I sneered.

"You sound as if you speak from experience."

"The day my license arrived in the mail, he gave me a ticket for failing to signal a turn early enough." The light became green and I mentally held my middle finger up as I turned. "There's not a single person around that he hasn't given a ticket."

"He thinks himself above others because he has been granted a title." she observed.

I nodded. "I guess you could say its plain case of he let the power go to his head."

"Power, no matter how little or large, tends to corrupt." she remarked. "It is rare the one who can wield tremendous power without allowing it to corrupt one's mind."

I was confused by her words. "You sound like someone who's seen it happen a lot."

Then she smiled, the first genuine smile I would come to know all too well, "Once or twice." She gazed past me. "Here is fine."

I entered the parking lot and pulled up next to the staircase that lead to the train platform. She exited the car and I watched as she looked up that platform and back at me. "Forget something?"

"I am having a party at my home." she told me.

"You don't say," I remarked, knowing what she planning or so I thought.

She gave a slight nod to confirm. "I have enjoyed our conversation and would like to continue it."

"You're making me blush." I teased.

Oh, the irony of it all.

I was rewarded for my jest with another ghost of a smile, "Can you be at this address at twenty-one hundred?" she retrieved a pen from her cleavage and wrote on my forearm.

It required a moment to comprehend she meant nine in the afternoon, approximately one hour after the sun had sunk below the horizon, "I wouldn't miss it for the world."

She leaned in and lightly brushed her lips against mine. She did not allow the contact to linger. I assume she did not wish for me to notice her lack of body heat. "I will be looking for you."

"You still haven't told me your name."

She raised an eyebrow, "Wilhelmina Wallace."

With that she turned and walked up the stairs just as the train arrived at the station and passengers. I drove the remaining three blocks to my home with a proud smile on my face and a song in my heart. I was so mirthful that I barely saw my home as I parked in the graveled filled driveway. Nor did I truly see my home's interior as I waked to my room. Of course I heard the faint hum of my air conditioner mixed with my rotating fan circulating the cold air, but all my mind was focused on was the party I had been invited to. And, since I was a healthy young man, the possibilities of what might occur with Wilhelmina. I removed my clothes and crawled into my small, but comfortable, bed and sleep overtook me.

I often find myself wondering, when I relived the events of the coming night, if anyone else had been so eager to die.

I awoke with a start at the old radio alarm clock sounded loudly in my ear. For the longest time, I enjoyed waking up to the sound of Elvis Duran Morning Show. I found, and continue to do so, them amusing as they spoke and joked about seemingly pointless topics such as the subtleties of relationships and sex, celebrity gossip, and the many goings on of the entertainment industry and current events. Granted, that would the final time I would ever listen to the program live, but it was only a smartphone and a two minute download away in the coming decade. I also enjoyed the variety of music they played and often joked and teased whenever a request was made, especially if the request was strange to them. I gazed at my white ceiling as I listened to a particular song that I had not heard since I was fourteen.

Well I heard there was a secret chord

that David played and it pleased the Lord

But you don't really care for music, do you?

Well it goes like this:

The fourth, the fifth,

The minor fall and the major lift

The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah...

Your faith was strong but you needed proof

You saw her bathing on the roof

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you

She tied you to her kitchen chair

She broke your throne and she cut your hair

And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

If there is a God overseeing the events of the world and the creatures that roam it, he has sickest sense of humor I've known, even among my kind

"That was Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah." said Elvis as the mocking song faded. "I understand everyone likes different kinds of music, but what the hell?"

"It sounds like something you'd listen if trying to off yourself." observed Danielle, one of the co stars. "Really depressing."

"As long they don't back up traffic by jumping off a bridge." said Greg T, another co star. "I say go for it. We had a guy just last week back up traffic on the Washington for two hours as they tried to talk him down."

"Two hours?" asked Elvis.

"Yeah, and I wanted to scream JUST JUMP ALREADY!"

"There you have it folks, if you've had enough try the Verrazano so Greg T doesn't have wait two hours to get home."

"A little courtesy is all I ask." said Greg T.

"All this talk of bridges and delays makes me wonder about how the traffic is doing." Elvis asked cheerfully. "What's the traffic report, Julie Moore?"

You can see why I continue to enjoy the radio in this day and age.

I turned off the radio and walked to an old wooden dresser that held my clothes. I acquired fresh clothes and walked to the bathroom. From there it was a series of routines. I enjoyed a hot a shower as I gratified myself, though Wilhelmina was more promptly featured in my fantasies, as I always did. I brushed my teeth and flossed, as I always did. And then I shaved my face, as always did every other day or so. I suppose I should count myself fortunate I did not keep any kind of facial hair as they tend to go through trends, for after that night I would never have to again. I quickly dried and groomed my hair in a presentable manner that pleased me and sank into a chair in the kitchen.

The kitchen was relatively small, but it was sufficient for its purpose. My father was sipping his coffee as he read the morning paper. It would be something I would begin to mimic with the exception of the morning and coffee. Shame, I loved the taste of fresh brewed Brazilian coffee. My brother was quietly, which surprised mildly since he was usually so animated in the mornings, eating a bowl of cereal. I poured the last coffee I would ever drink as my mother placed the last breakfast I would ever eat.

In addition to the mug of coffee I always had in the mornings, she placed a small glass juice and toasted bread. She then accompanied them with marmalade and butter. If I still felt unsatisfied, I would consume several fresh peaches from the tree that my mother had nursed back to health from the brink of death. If there is one thing I yearn to taste again, if only once more, it would be those peaches, perfectly ripe and slightly warm from basking in the morning sun.

My father soon left for work and my brother to play with his friends. Since my mother was physically unable to maintain employment she did what all when did in times past, cleaned and otherwise maintained the household. I assisted where she would allow since she was far too full of pride to admit, to herself or even her son, that she required rest. She soon informed that she was not feeling well, as if I had any other indication to the contrary, and retired to the room she shared with my father for a small nap. I used the opportunity to prepare a small token to Wilhelmina's party.

I opened the refrigerator and removed the watermelon. I reasoned, for humans at any rate, the refreshing taste of cool fresh fruit would be perfect. I had taken several culinary lessons while during my tenure in school and dreamed of becoming a famous chef that cooked for the privileged few that would spend enough money to purchase a house on a single plate of food. What I did to the large fruit was one of the many things I had first learned and had a talent for.

I think this was the equivalent of treating one's murderer to five star meal for ending your life.

I began by slicing two large quarter with a thick piece in the middle left untouched so it resembled the handle to a basket. Then I carve a sawtooth border around the rim of the fruit using a sawing motion, taking care to get the points even and perfect. I then hollowed out the rest, setting aside what I removed, until I was left with a large bowl. I finished by adding various kinds of other fruits. Before long I had an appetizing fruit salad consisting of different kinds of grapes, berries, other melons, the watermelon itself, and slices of my mother's peaches, several of which I consumed as I worked.

I've come to understand people tend to eat with their eyes, heaven knows I do to an extent, but I continue to find it fascinating the amount of effort one will go to make something as simple as food into a masterpiece, often rivaling several paintings that would fetch a heft sum in any gallery around my city, only to have it appreciated for the briefest of moment before it was destroyed and devoured.

I placed the brightly colored edible fruit basket carefully in the refrigerator until I would retrieve it later. I had grown hungry during the process and enjoyed a large milanesa sandwich for my final lunch. A milanesa consists of a thin slice of beef, chicken, veal, or sometimes pork, and even eggplants or soy. Each slice is dipped into beaten eggs, seasoned with salt, and other condiments according to the cook's taste like parsley and garlic. Each slice is then dipped in bread crumbs and shallow-fried in oil, one at a time. It was one of the many recipes that my mother learned from my grandparents. My mother had prepared enough the previous night that provide the perfect amount to eat between two large piece of bread with cheese, lettuce, and tomato. I followed the main course with two more of my mother's peaches and a large glass of cola.

I passed the rest of the day without much excitement. I watched television for some time before I returned to my room and read a piece from my collection of vintage graphic novels. My father soon returned from work and my brother did as well shortly afterward. While I was secluded in my room, my mother had roused herself from bed and had prepared dinner. I was surprised to find she had prepared something I had not eaten since I saw my grandmother two years ago, humitas.

While there are variations depending on the country where one would consume the dish, I prefered the Chilean variant. Humitas in Chile are prepared with fresh corn, onion, basil, and butter with no meat of any kind. This did not sit well with my father, but he ate without complaint. They are then wrapped in corn husks and baked or boiled. They can be made savory, sweet, or sweet and sour, served with added sugar, chile pepper, salt, tomato, olive and paprika.

As we ate I informed my family my plans for the evening, not knowing that Wilhelmina had other plans for me. My mother and father asked the typical questions regarding the location, the duration of my stay, and the other attending. I answered truthfully and respectfully and was given permission, though that was merely a formality since I was an adult in the eyes of the law and completely capable of making my own decisions. I retrieved the fruit basket and I kissed my mother as I hugged my father and my brother for last and final time.

I had just set the basket down in the passenger seat when I heard gentle footsteps approaching me from behind. I turned and found myself face to face with Christine Willis. She had always had the strangest way of reminding my of a playful dolphin. She possessed wide blue eyes that were like two lagoons and her luxurious, wavy, chestnut hair reminded me of a comet's trail. Years of ballet and several hours spent strengthening her body in self defense classes had rewarded her with an amazonian build and a healthy tan that was two shades darker than my own. I assumed she had returned from a day at beach with a tight bikini top, which barely covered those perfect breasts I had spent hour visualizing bare, and a towel wrapped around her perfect waist.

She smiled warmly, "Going somewhere?"

I returned the smile, "I met a girl and she invited me to a party she's throwing."

I did not have much of a social life, or a life for that matter in a few short hours, so she seemed genuinely surprised. "Really? Where?"

"The city."

"Hoping for a little something?" she winked.

I laughed warmly, "More than hoping."

She pretend to pout, an act I that set my loins ablaze whenever she did, "And I thought I would finally have my way with you."

"What happened to dinner and a movie?"

"That's a date." she smiled seductively. "I just want a boy toy for a night or two."

"I know the feeling."

We laughed like merry idiots without a care in the world before she kissed my cheek, the last while we both lived. "Just make sure she knows your mine."

I raised an eyebrow. "Yours?"

She nodded proudly, "Until I get bored of you."

She turned and I watched her walk back to her home a couple houses down from mine. I drove my car to the train station where I left Wilhelmina early that morning while the sun had yet to rise. I purchased a ticket for the next train to Penn Station and arrived at Penn Station just as the sun began to set below the horizon.

I signaled a taxi and gave him the address that Wilhelmina had given me. Soon I was on my way to my death and watched the countless inhabitants of the greatest city in the world. Vendors hawked their wares to tourists and locals alike. Car horns and obscenities in a mixture of languages filled the air and mixed with the scent of food, smog, and fruit. As was the standard for a Saturday night, traffic was heavy and congested.

I managed to arrive at old looking apartment building only a few minutes late was buzzed in once I rang the doorbell. I rode the elevator to the twelft floor and stood in front of apartment 221B. I raised my hand to knock when the door seemed to open on its own accord. In the doorway stood a pale man.

The way he smiled at me brought the image of a prowling jackal. He had slitted eyes the color of dark chocolate. His fine, straight, black hair was short enough to resemble porcupine's quills. He was average height and was neither plump nor bony. He wore a white collared shirt with the sleeved rolled up to his elbows, as if he expected to something that might stain the white material, tucked into a pair of black trouser and matching loafers.

"Top of the morning to ya." he greeted with an Irish accent.

"Its nine at night." I informed him.

"Really?" He grinned. "Then top of the evening then."

Typical Doyle, always the joker.

"Does Wilhelmina live here?" I asked.

"Oh so yer the jammy bloke that ol' Willy's told us so much about." His eyes went up and down my body. "The name's Doyle."

I held out my hand, a habit I would soon lose, "Dominick."

Doyle quickly stood aside and motioned for me to enter. "Please come in, Dominick."

I entered was assaulted by the sound of soft music and conversation. The living room alone was larger than the entire floor of my home. The walls were plain white with copies of famous paintings, like the Mona Lisa and the Sistine Chapel, decorating them. There were several expensive leather couches and seat scattered about, some occupied while other sat their patiently. I saw that this party seemed relatively small to be called that. There couldn't have been more than fifteen people and I would learn that a four of them lived here, soon it would be five.

Doyle lead me to the kitchen where a man was mixing drinks for the guests. He shared the same pale white skin that Doyle and Wilhelmina had. He had wide brown eyes that were like two patches of dried blood. His silky, wavy, ebony hair was short cropped and neatly combed in an old fashion under a cabbie's hat. Like Doyle, he had the sleeves of his grey shirt rolled up. As he was standing behind the kitchen counter, I could not see what clothes he wore below the waist.

He poured liquid into a glass and noticed Doyle. "Doyle, stop taking the piss and help me."

"Oh sod off, Adrian." Doyle sneered, "I told ya we should have just gotten some brew and left it at that."

Adrian stared daggers, "An Irishman is satisfied with only beer? Why am I not surprised?"

Doyle returned the stare, "Careful with yer words and I might not serve ya right."

"Ya couldn't serve your mother tea and biscuits!"

I suddenly felt a presence behind Doyle and I, "Boys, we have guests."

I turned to see a pair of pale breasts directly in front me. I turned my gaze upward and saw her, noticing she wore a simple yet elegant black dress. This woman was beyond tall, just over seven feet, and had the same narrow build that Wilhelmina possessed. Her skin was same shade of bright white pale that both Doyle and Adrian shared. Her face was proud and majestic, like the many sculptures that could be found in museums, with nearly-nonexistent eyebrows. Her wide black eyes that were like two pieces of obsidian glass made me catch my breath, despite the death stare she was giving the bickering Irishman and Englishman. Her luxurious straight midnight black hair hung freely and tumbled to the small of her back, similar to Wilhelmina.

"I'm Regina." She looked down at me and smiled warmly, "You must be the young man that Wilhelmina mentioned. "

I ignorantly held out my hand again, "I'm Dominick."

"She failed to mentioned how much of a gentleman you were." Regina took the fruit basket. "You didn't have to bring anything."

"Seemed like the polite thing to do." I said.

"You must have conservative parents." remarked a familiar voice.

I turned back the counter and there stood Wilhelmina, wearing a lavender crop top with the same jeans I had first met her. She had the barest hint of a smile before she looked to Adrian, but asked me, "What kind of a drink would you like?"

"Any chance you can make a mojito?" I asked politely

Adrian looked at me quizzically, "I haven't heard of that particular drink."

I held out a hand for the shaker and muddler. "May I?"

Adrian stood aside. "Be my guest."

Luckily for me, Adrian had nearly every tool and ingredient that one would find in any well stocked bar. I muddled together mint leaves and pure sugar before filling a glass with crushed ice and adding the mixture. I added a hefty amount of rum, tequila, and freshly squeezed lime juice. I swiveled the glass in my right hand as I added a splash of club soda and lime soda. Finally, so I could impress Wilhelmina, I garnished the glass with a mint spring and a thin slice of fresh lime.

I held up the glass to examine the final drink I would ever have. "A CEM Mojito."

Doyle stared at the glass, "CEM?"

"Cuban English Mexican." I explained. "There's a lot of variations and I combined three of them."

"Impressive." admitted Adrian. "You must have been doing this for quite some time."

I shrugged my shoulders, still coy and without confidence. "A couple of years." I set down the glass. "I can make another if you wanna try it."

"Sorry, mate." Adrian held up his hand, "Fifty years of sobriety and counting."

"Fifty?"

"Did I say fifty? I meant fifteen." He gave me an apologetic smile and looked to Doyle. "You?"

Doyle was not amused, which was rare. "Sorry, apparently this Irishman only drinks beer."

"I'm fine." said Regina, knowing I would ask.

"As am I." Wilhelmina motioned for me to drink. "Please, follow me."

Regina excused herself and went to speak with a coy looking girl with glasses and blonde hair like bleach wheat. Doyle left to, as he said, to chat a little bird he had his eye on. Adrian returned to mixing drinks, trying to duplicate my invention as others looked eager to taste, for the other guest. Wilhelmina lead me to the middle of the room as I sipped my mojito to a baby grand piano that I failed to notice when Doyle had first allowed me inside. There was a red leather bench in front the instrument for the player to sit.

Wilhelmina motioned for me to sit, "Please."

I placed my mojito on the edge with a napkin so the condensation would not leave a ring on the delicate wood. I sat and looked up at her. "Any requests?"

She considered it for a moment. "Are you familiar with Beethoven's fifth symphony?"

I was confused by her request, not that did not know the song, but because it seemed old and depressing for such a lively gathering. "Are you sure? Wouldn't you want some a little more playful?"

"Fur Elise?" she suggested.

That should have given me suspicions since she looked to be no older than myself and only middle aged couples tended to listen to classical music, but I ignored it and it would cost me, "I was thinking something from this century." I thought for a moment. "I got it."

"Yes?"

I smiled and began to play a gentle melody. My fingers danced across the keys with practiced ease as did my feet with the pedals below. It was a modern version of a classic that had been modified for a Broadway production. The rest of the guests paused in their conversations to listen. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that the rest of Wilhelmina's friends seemed to be mildly amused as I added my voice to the sound of instrument, serenading Wilhelmina with smouldering eyes and smiles.

The night is young, the skies are clear

So if you want to go walking, dear,

It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely.

I understand the reason why

You're sentimental, 'cause so am I,

It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely.

You can tell at a glance

What a swell night this is for romance,

You can hear dear Mother Nature

Murmuring low,

"Let yourself go!"

My pace quickened slightly as the melody grew more sensual and teasing. Everyone watched and listened without comment, though I only saw Wilhelmina's pleasantly amused smiling face.

So please be sweet, my chickadee,

And when I kiss you, just say to me,

"It's delightful, it's delicious,

It's delectable, it's delirious,

It's dilemma, it's delimit, it's deluxe,

It's de-lovely".

I spent the rest of the night as the unplanned entertainment. At Wilhelmina request I continued demonstrating my musical ability. I did play some of Mozart's more uplifting creations as well as those of Chopin and Beethoven, but it was songs from the early days of rock and roll that most seemed to enjoy. Regina particularly enjoyed my rendition of Jerry Lee Louis's Great Balls Of Fire as well as Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On. Wilhelmina spoke very little, as was her habit, but smiled as I serenaded her and made slight advances on her beauty.

I thought that perhaps she had no interest in me and only had invited me as a reward for saving her the long walk to the train station, but when guests began to leave, Wilhelmina asked me to stay along with a handful of others. I noticed that Doyle had an arm around a young brunette who was smiling mischievously and had a hand on his chest while Adrian was occupied with his own adventure with a shy looking girl that he lead down the hall, presumably to his bedroom. Only Regina seemed out of the ordinary, if only slightly, as was smiling triumphantly at the blonde she had been conversing with most of the night. All of this I would only put together later when I had time to collect my thoughts.

Wilhelmina lead me to the first room as I saw Doyle, Adrian, and Regina lead the others into the remaining rooms down the small corridor. I stepped and examined the room. There was an elegant queen size canopy bed with velvet red silk sheets that I knew some would attest to sleeping upon a cloud. On either side of the bed were two finely crafted wooden nightstands that shined as if freshly waxed, each with an alarm clock radio and vintage looking lamps.

On the walls were mounted weapons which I found curious. I saw, what I would later learn was known as a claymore, a two handed sword that possessed a wheel pommel capped by a crescent-shaped nut and a guard with straight forward-sloping arms and langets running down the center of the blade from the guard itself. On the opposite wall hung a medieval war hammer that merely looked like a large carpenter's hammer with curved spike for impaling.

These weapons fascinated me so greatly, I did not hear Wilhelmina close the door behind me and lock it. I ripped from my examination of the rest of her room when Wilhelmina grabbed me by my shirt, nearly ripping the cheap fabric, and shoved my mouth against her it would have snapped the precious vertebrae in my neck had she applied more force. I recovered from the initial shock when I felt her tongue caress mine with a master's skill. I reciprocated as best I could as she pushed me toward the bed, with strength I did think possible from such small girl, while her nimble fingers undid the buttons of my shirt with hardly any effort at all. My lack of experience became apparent she directed my hands from her waist to her firm yet supple buttocks.

I began to rub and massage, my fingers squeezing like I was kneading bread, when she ripped the shirt from my body and shoved me hard onto the softest bed I had ever felt. She pounced on me like a wild tiger and we continued just as quickly as we had parted, passionately moaning as our tongues danced like two long parted lovers. I slipped my hand under her crop and she paused long enough for me to remove it and reveal the most perfectly visually intoxicating breast that I had ever seen. I sat up briefly to buried my face between her bounty, kissing sweetly with passion, and suckled like an infant before she pushed my back down. She began kissing and lightly biting my neck and continued down my chest and paused only to unbuckled my belt and pants. She slipped them off and did not pause to do the same with my boxers.

She felt cold as she lightly brushed my loins and laid her bare chest against mine and our tongues resumed their lusty dance. We both began to moan with passion as I slipped my hands between our bodies and undid the button to her jeans. She wiggled out of them not pausing in the slightest as she began kissing and sucking my neck. Our loins touched and we both gasped at the sudden contact. Wilhelmina took the initiative and I stared with lust in her beautiful eyes as she guided me with her a cool hand and I entered her.

We both gasped and paused, enjoying the slight release of tension. Then she began to move her beautiful hips, slowly to make the experience last and more meaningful. She leaned forward, her nails digging into my chest, as she began to lose herself in the moment and I mixed my own moans of ecstasy with hers. I began to rub and massage her rear end again when she took my hands and placed them on her bouncing bosom, not only maintaining her hips in constant motion but began to quicken her pace in both speed and force.

I rubbed and played with her generous bounty as she increased her pace with so much speed and force, the little part of my mind still capable of thought was certain she would snap my spine like dry leaves in autumn. It was too much for either of us and we reached that golden moment together, devoid of everything but pure bliss, throwing our heads back in ecstasy and the words of our native tongues on our lips, Spanish for myself while Wilhelmina cried in what I could best describe in that moment as an ancient form of french.

As I floated upon the cloud of pure undiluted bliss, Wilhelmina collapsed on top of me and I felt the slightest pinch on my neck. I remembered thinking that, as much as I was capable of coherent thought, this girl was insatiable. She had just climaxed, quite strongly as well as I could gather, and she was rearing for more as she kissed and chewed my neck, moaning and making slight suckling noises that I found cute. I came back from knocking on heaven's door and noticed my neck was beginning to ache, bordering on unpleasant.

"Wilhelmina?" I whispered sweetly.

She did not pause, but acknowledged me, "Hmm?

"Wanna try the left side?" I asked.

Without giving me a verbal answer she drifted down and across my throat, continued to kiss and lightly biting the soft flesh of my neck. She was occupied sucking the base of my neck when I felt something creeping along where she had been just moments before. I reached and my hand felt wet with a warm thick liquid. I brought my hand before my face and saw it was stained a dark crimson, I brought a finger to my lips and carefully tasted the strange liquid.

It was blood.

My blood.

I was about to ask Wilhelmina when I heard the crunch echo below my left ear, a sound that would soon be sweet music to me, and an incredibly painful piercing sensation at the base of my neck. I did not scream so much as yelp at the pain and felt a trickle of liquid run down neck and stain the expensive silk sheets we laid upon. Out of the corner of my eye, Wilhelmina removed her lips from my neck. My blood stained her mouth and lower chin. Running down from the corners of her mouth were delicate little streaks that she failed to consume and dripped onto her naked chest.

She closed her eyes as she sat up, her tongue expertly swirled around her delicate lips. "Mmm . . . I had forgotten the taste of peaches." She smiled menacingly, revealing white bloodstained fangs protruding from the top of her mouth. "Thank you."

Swifter than I thought possible and she returned to my neck and I heard another sicking crunch. She clamped a hand over my mouth to muffle the howl of pain, her grip like iron, and I heard the suckling and moaning once again. My eyes darted around looking a weapon of some kind to stop this she monster from feeding upon me like I would my mother's peaches. The sword and hammer would have been perfect for my predicament, but they hung on the wall so far out of reach they might as well had not existed for the good they would be to me.

I caught sight of the clock radio that sat innocently on the nightstand. It was not a weapon one wield in an epic, but it might give the opening to acquire one. And I had act soon as I had began to feel cold and light headed. It was then I realized this creature was not simply planning on feeding and allow me to return to my life.

I fumbled and struggled, a few simple inches feeling as if they were oceans away. My hand desperately clamped on the small device of plastic and wires like it was the holy grail. As I adjusted my weakening grip, one of my fingers brushed over a button and the radio began to play a song that, to this day, irritates me beyond comprehension.

I wouldn't if I were you

I know what she can do

She's deadly man, and she could really rip your world apart

Mind over matter

The beauty is there but a beast is in the heart

Oh here she comes

Watch out boy she'll chew you up

Oh here she comes

She's a maneater

I'm aware I've said this before, but it warrants repeating.

God has one sick sense of humor

I brought down my weapon of plastic and wire, with all the strength I could muster in my dehydrated condition, upon the monster's head. I was rewarded with an amused giggle for my effort and she continued draining me like one would drain oil from a car. I continued striking, the plastic begging to crack and chip with each strike, each and every movement costing precious stamina and energy. And it was all for naught, as my assault didn't seem to even register.

She sat up and eyed me curiously as if I was a small insect she had never seen before. My arm laid outstretched refusing to carry out my will, the clock still clutched desperately in my grip. At this point, my body felt cold and numb, yet my arm trembled as I struggled to lift the clock, which suddenly felt like it had gained tremendous weight. She took the impromptu weapon from my now weakened grip and snapped the device like it was a mere twig.

"Why do you struggle?" She loomed like a goddess of death over me, "Don't resist, it's so gentle, like slipping into a warm bath."

"Fuck you!" I managed to spat out.

"Curious." She leaned closer, her noes a hairsbreadth from my own. She tilted her head as she examined me critically. "Even now so close, you still try to fight me."

I did not answer and stared defiantly into her eyes. If I was going to die, I would not give her the pleasure of begging for mercy. I was beyond fear and only anger filled me. I had been kind to this creature. Complimented her and treated her with respect and fondness. And had now, even after I had fed her at the cost of my life, she wanted more of me. I was finished with her. After all, a person only has so much to give before they reach their breaking point and I had reached mine with this creature.

My vision began to blur when she spoke again "Just like William."

I continued started daggers as she plucked a small shard of plastic from when she relieved me of my weapon. I thought she would begin to torture me, poking and prodding so my resolve would waver and I'd begin to beg, but she leaned over me once more and slit her own throat. Dark crimson drops began to rain on my face and I turned my head away.

"Drink." she whispered to me, the words slithering out like a serpent

"No." I croaked.

"You will die sure as I am speaking to you now." She pulled away and held a hand to her bleeding wound. "Unless you drink."

She did not allow me to refuse a second time, not that I had the strength to do so, and brought my mouth to her neck. I futility tried to escape her iron grip but I found myself drinking deeply once she clutched my lower jaw and forced my mouth open. I coughed and sputtered the moment I felt her blood on my tongue, but I quickly found myself unable to stop. Her blood did not taste metallic like mine had, but mildly salty. I felt strength grow with every drop, but Wilhelmina laid me back down before I fully recover.

At this point, as the saying goes, I was running on fumes. I was aware that Wilhelmina had removed herself from on top of me and I registered the sound of doors opening. Then I felt two small, but powerful, arms lift my limp body and carry me like groom with her bride at a wedding. I fought to lift my head but I could not as Wilhelmina gently laid me down in what took me a moment to comprehend was a closet. I thought she was laying me down on the floor of small space, but floor seemed to be far lower than it should be. My bare skin touched the softest and silkiest fabric as my head laid rested against a soft cloud. I wondered what sinister plans she had planned for me when I looked up, just in time for her to close a lid and seal me in darkness.

I did not suffer from claustrophobia, but for those brief moments as my heart struggled to pump what little remained of my blood and my breathing slowed, I did. I began to feel euphoric, almost relaxed and content, as I began to drift off into sleep. And my last thought was that of Christine and the words she had spoken before I walked right into my death, and with a fruit basket no less.

"Just make sure she knows your mine." Her words echoed in my ear and I swear for one brief moment, she was in that dark box with me.

And my last words were to her, "I guess I should have told her."

Then I lost the fight to stay awake as my heart ceased to beat and my lungs failed to continue draw breath, and darkness overtook me.

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