Real kindness stems from the purest form of love, but that doesn’t mean temptation and desire don’t have their effect. Stephanie finds her relationship with her partner complicating in more ways than one as her wound from the beast flares up in an unexpected and terrifying way.
Stephanie felt so much better than in the morning that she didn’t even remember being sick. She arrived home with the setting sun at her back to find her husband in his usual seat on the couch watching TV. There was a simple meal on table and a chilled bottle of wine in a bowl of ice. She was sure that was his way of adding a touch of elegance to an otherwise bland meal, and she appreciated even that small effort. Stephanie was also glad that she didn’t smell that strange scent of flowers coming from him. For some reason that had been grating on her.
Stephanie tossed aside her coat and purse, and forsook the dinner to go over to the back of the couch. She was feeling so good she felt frisky, and she leaned over to snake her arms around his neck.
“Hi, honey,” she softly cooed into his ear.
“Hey, you’re strangling me here,” he gruffly complained. He shrugged off her arms and returned to watching the weather channel.
A storm front was coming up that would last for at least a week and leave the nights wet and cloudy.
Stephanie was disappointed with his brushoff but not deterred. Instead she walked to the front of couch and plopped herself right beside him. One of her hands rubbed over his leg, and when that didn’t seem to get his attention she wrapped one of her legs over both of his. Now she was starting to get his notice as he glanced down at her limb as she pressed her breasts against his side. Her lips nuzzled into his neck.
“Come on, honey, let’s have some fun,” she encouraged. She was already hot with need, all she needed was a little encouragement.
Unfortunately she wasn’t going to find it here.
“I’m watching something here,” he complained. He shifted to the last cushion on the couch and continued to look at the TV. “Besides, shouldn’t you be resting or something after that attack?”
Stephanie’s playful smile slid off her face and anger replaced it. She swiftly stood to her feet and moved to block his view of the TV. Her hands were balled into fists and her body shook with fury.
“What’s your problem?” he angrily asked. He leaned forward to push her out of the way, but she slapped his hand away. “What the hell?” he asked as he held the injured hand. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Is this the thanks I get for giving you all the money you could want while I slave all day?” she accused. He looked at her sullenly for a moment before an apologetic smile spread across his face. She was starting to believe he took a Jekyll formula to switch between these personalities.
“I’m sorry, honey,” he apologized. He stood up and wrapped her in a warm hug. She didn’t return the embrace, but he didn’t seem too bothered with that. Then he held her back at arms length and looked into her face. “I’ve just been so worried about you lately. You’re not yourself.” He glanced into her eyes and shook his head. “You just don’t look well.”
“I feel fine,” she lightly argued back. It was true, she felt a lot better than that morning. “I just…I just don’t know what’s wrong with me. I think I’ll go to bed early.”
“That might be best,” he agreed. He checked his watch and sighed. “And it looks like I’ve got to go. I’ve got a card game with the guys tonight, and they’ll give me hell if they have to wait for the big bank.”
“A card game at a time like this?” she asked. She couldn’t believe he was ditching her for his friends. Maybe she was surprised he even had enough friends to make a card game.
“A guy’s gotta have his distractions,” he replied. He leaned forward and gently kissed her forehead. “You get some food in you and get some sleep, okay?”
“Yeah, I will,” Stephanie agreed, but she didn’t put much emotion into her response. Followed him to the door and outside, and waved goodbye as he left in the car.
Stephanie felt so alone as she stood out there in the cool night air. She hugged herself as a breeze whipped by, and she was a little jealous of the wind. It could go anywhere it wanted, and most especially it could get away from here. Then she glanced up at moon in the clear sky. She couldn’t deny it was another beautiful night.
Maybe she’d go for a walk.
A few minutes later found Stephanie a block down and increasing the distance from her house. The waning moon above was bright enough she could see into the corners of alleys and dark places around the houses and businesses she passed. It was a nice, refreshing bit of exercise, especially after being cooped up all day in the backroom. A few stray cats trotted along her path as she passed beneath the cool trees which lined the streets. Here and there a car passed and another pedestrian walked their animals, but otherwise she was left alone.
The quiet around her gave Stephanie a chance to think over the day’s work and all the excitement she’d experienced since that fateful night a few days back. It all seemed like a dream, or a nightmare, when she’d walked her way into that alley and gotten herself in way over her head with that trouble. She just wished she could explain it, because even now the young woman found the images were confusing and the echoes of the emotions were terrifying.
Remembering all that fear in that dark alley ruined her walk, as did a chance stroll passed an different alley near the business district. It was a normal enough side street, with the required number of trash cans, litter and alley cats, but there was something about it that really caught her off guard. She actually stopped walking and peered into the shadowed depths. She thought she saw something flash across her side vision. Her body quaked and her muscles tensed. She felt herself reliving that horrible experience. Her instincts told her to flee just as her sensibilities told her to keep calm.
Much as she strained her ears, though, she didn’t hear anything. Maybe it was all just her imagination, but she finally heeded the tiny voice in her head that told her to obey her instincts. She quickly stepped away from the alley and turned to take the most direct route back home. She couldn’t enjoy the return trip. Every few steps she’d look over her shoulder. She had the feeling of being watched and even though she didn’t see anything else, she quickened her strides.
That meant she made it back home in record time, and just in time to find the neighbor’s dog on her lawn. The mutt was assuming the position to once again ruin the green grass.
“Shoo! Shoo!” she tried to wave him off as she moved toward him.
The dog turned around and stared at her and Stephanie tried to make herself look as big and menacing as possible. He wasn’t at all impressed with her waving arms, though, and in a few short second she was left with another gift to have Bob clean up. The dog scampered off with a stupid grin on his face, and, horribly defeated, she shuffled to the front door. It was a depressing realization that she couldn’t even keep a dumb dog from crapping in the yard.
“I guess I’m just a pushover,” she sighed as she glanced over to the table. The meal was still there and the ice had melted in the bucket. It no longer held the same romantic atmosphere as when she’d gotten home from work, tired and just glad to have some waiting for her. She gave a short, bitter laugh. “Even my husband tries to bribe me off his back.”