One-Gilled Girl (with apologies to the Thickets)

Here’s another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction challenge, 1500 words of Twisted Love. It’s a little disconnected, and leaves a lot of loose ends and unanswered questions, but I guess that’s why it’s flash fiction. It was fun to write anyway.

The first time I saw her she was buying mangoes in the organic section at Donald’s Market. She had picked one up in each hand, and was gently squeezing them to test for ripeness. I reached across the bin to grab one and our eyes locked as we each dandled the ripe fruit. Her eyes were huge, a light blue verging on grey, and her skin was so pale that she probably bought SPF 60 sunscreen in bulk Costco buckets. It worked for her. I’m an outdoors, environmentally conscious kind of guy. I don’t usually go for pale urbanites, but there was something about her that drew me in, and until she grinned shyly and looked away I’m not sure I would have been able to stop looking at her.

I may have fallen in love right there.

I ran into her again outside the WISE Hall late on a Saturday night. I’d been shooting stick and having a few pints with Tim and Phil, but I needed to get outside and be somewhere I couldn’t touch the ceiling with my hand. Even with the separate smoking section it gets pretty close in there, and I couldn’t sink a called shot to save my life anyway. There were a few of us out there, just chatting. You kind of have to keep it down or the neighbours complain. Anyway, I was talking to this dude Keith I used to know back in the day from anarchist stuff, he works on a tugboat now, and she walked up. She didn’t stop, but caught my eye as she pulled open the door. I stopped talking, but my mouth didn’t stop moving, and the door had closed, quieting the bar sounds before buddy poked me in the ribs.

“Who the hell was that?” he asked. “It looked like she cast a spell on you or something.” I shook my head.

“No. Um…I’ve seen her around,” I said. “I just think she’s really hot,” I also said. “I think this is who I’m going to marry,” I didn’t say. I kept that one to myself.

“Do you think maybe you should quit bullshitting with me and go talk to her?” The guy might work on a tugboat, but he apparently had two brain cells to knock together. I nodded and reached for the door handle, but it opened before I could grab it, she came out, and I almost got smacked in the head.

“Oh my gods! I’m so sorry!” She put her hand on my arm. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” I said. I didn’t even know her, and but I felt like I was back in high school, talking to that girl I liked. All those girls I liked, really.

“I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?” I asked, then snapped my fingers.

“Mangoes, right?” Oh crap. “I mean, you were at Donald’s Market the other day.” I blushed. She laughed.

“Yeah, I guess I was,” she said. She smelled like vanilla. I love women who smell like vanilla.

“That was a pretty quick trip inside,” I said. “Forget your card?”

“No,” she said. “I was just looking for someone, but he isn’t here. Must have left already. What are you guys up to? Having your own little party?” Keith chuckled, then waved and went inside. It was just the two of us.  Just me and this beautiful, vanilla-smelling woman wearing…holy shit, was that a BPRD t-shirt? She likes Hellboy, I thought. I love Hellboy. Wait, I thought. Was I just staring at her tits?

“We were just talking. I was thinking of heading down to Pizza Garden for a couple of slices.” Inside I was shuffling my feet and guffawing but outside I said “Did you want to join me?”

“Sure,” she said. “What’s your name?”

“Oh yeah,” I grinned. “I’m Howard.” She reached out and took my hand. Her hand was cold. Cold hands, warm heart, right?

“Pleased to meet you, Howard,” she said. “I’m Asenath.”

We did get pizza, but then we spent the night walking around the Drive and talking about ourselves and about life. After a few circuits of Grandview Park, we sat spinning on the tire swing holding hands and telling our life stories, or at least as much of them as you tell people you’ve just met. She was new to Vancouver, but had lived up and down the coast all her life. She loved seafood, did something in arts management, and her father had died tragically when she was young. She tried to gloss over that, like it was all in her childhood, but she sounded pretty raw.

It started to rain, so we went to an all night coffee place until the sun rose. We made plans to meet again, then she leaned in, pressed her soft lips to mine quickly, and ran off into the rain.

I couldn’t stop thinking about her.

We’ve spent a few evenings together, casual, not much in the way of fooling around, but I think of nothing else. It’s like she has a hook in my soul. We made plans to meet for tapas at Bierkraft tonight. If things worked well and I felt confident enough I thought I would tell her that I was falling in love with her. I could be misreading her, but I don’t think so. I’m confident dinner won’t end with my heart discarded on the sidewalk.

Either way, this will be a memorable night.

************

The first time he noticed me was a fluke. I had been following him for weeks, and should have paid more attention, but I’d grabbed these mangoes and was imagining I was holding the swarthy balls of Nyarlathotep, and was squeezing the eldritch horrors until they burst. His frenzied screams would echo through four realms and my revenge would be partially complete, but then crap, there he was. I thought I’d sneak past the spelt bread, and out the side door, but then our eyes locked. This wasn’t really a hardship. His eyes were deep green, and worked nicely with his red hair and beard. He was built solidly, in a way that suggested organic bison, lots of local microbrew and weekend hikes up the Lions. I’m a white wine and ceviche kind of girl. I don’t usually go for the grizzled hipsters, but in my weeks of watching him I saw something I’d be able to use.

He would suit my purposes. He would definitely do.

The next time we met I was prepared. I’d checked out his social networking profiles, casually chatted up a couple of former classmates, that kind of thing. He was a comic book geek drawn to women who smelled like cookies, and he spent virtually every Saturday night at this basement bar in a residential neighbourhood. Some eye makeup and a quick visit to Thinkgeek would make this as easy as poking a Shoggoth in the eye.

I strategically timed my entrance to the WISE so that it was just him and one other guy outside. I walked past and squeezed out the tiniest bit of pheromones as I caught his eye and went inside. There was a line-up to sign in, so I didn’t even have to pretend to look for somebody. I just stood there for a few moments, then rushed through the door. I thought I’d bump into him, but he hadn’t even moved so the door whacked him in the shoulder and I was able to get a hand on his arm as I apologized. That was lucky, as my body chemistry works better skin-to-skin than just wafting through the air.

We walked, and I started gaining his trust and interest. I was able to get around the park enough times to create a protective circle so we weren’t bothered, and was able to hold his hand and work my chemical magic on his system. I thought about my plans for him and felt a little bad. He was actually an interesting guy. Under other, drastically changed, circumstances, we might have clicked.

We planned to meet tonight for tapas and Belgian beer. I suspected that, over a glass of fermented balsamic vinegar, he will profess his love for me, and I will return the favour. A girl needs to look good, so I took up my hand mirror and painted my face, making me look once more like something I am not. It wouldn’t have to last long. Once I had his love I would squeeze the sanity out of him like juice and feed him to the Old Ones, but until that time I needed to play my part. Foundation and concealer masked my beautiful green complexion, liquid eyeliner turned me into a Sailor Moon fan’s wet dream, and the look was completed with rockabilly scarlet lipstick. Once finished I realized that I had some lipstick on my teeth, so I popped a slender tentacle out of my v-neck shirt and flicked it off.

This would be a memorable night.

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