Cup to lips, tea spilled over my tongue. Yanking back, I grimaced, seething noisily in the dark of my living room while pouring bits of blackened water over my book. "Hot!"
"You should be more careful," my wife chastised me from the corner of the living room, sitting along the length of the sofa.
"I thought I let it set long enough. I'm fine." I answered ruminatively, though I could hear her chuckling much to my light annoyance. Still, I smiled, knowing she was there with me. In the dark of the hour as I read through my latest author's work. A work I was editing tastefully in hopes to release his manuscript in the coming weeks.
"Well, either way or not. I only hope your author-friend isn't going to be too upset the manuscript is brown," she chuckled, standing up from the couch to finally cross the robe over herself. I only know because I was ogling her the moment I heard her get up.
My eyes wandered over the cast of her frame, watching her saunter up to me as her gleaming brown eyes glowed with that bright cyan hue about them. Then, when her fingers stretched out across the space between us, the light caught them, making her fingers translucent. "I love you," I whispered.
"I know you do," she whispered back.
I waited, waited for the tender feeling of her hand to brush my cheek which never came. No, only the shadow of coldness pressed in where her palm should have been against my cheek. Then it slid up to my ear and as she leaned in, the gaping hole in her chest beneath her white nightgown was revealed.
"Go to bed, Cheshire," she whispered.
"When I lay under the Earth beside you," I whispered back. Opening my eyes, I noticed her visage was gone. I knew she could only hold form for small moments at a time, but my mind liked to replay the bits as if she were still here. Still mine, nestled warmly in my arms. Putting the manuscript aside, along with my tea to the other small table to my left, I rose up from my recliner.
My footsteps were heavy as I tried to drag my legs up so as not to scrape my feet across the floor. It was only once I got to the front door that I fingered the strap of my shotgun, pulling it up from the propped position I had beside my old leather mudding boots. "Bespot the monster, forget the dream. Bespot the monster, forget the dream." And I opened the front door into the black of the night, staring into the darkness that only crept and lapped at the edge of my tiny house in the woods. The only thing keeping it from coming at me was the light from my windows and the smell of citrus peels littered from one end of the property up to the front door. A common ritual that I had done once a week to keep myself from being jumped at while unawares.
"Come out, Alice! I know you're out there!"
"Fucking bitch, I know how psychotic you are!" Stepping out of my front door, I let my boots crunch over drying citric peels and dead leaves, crossing up to the boundary where I started to see her visible form lurking. She was massive tonight, towing a towering figure with golden strings of hair that draped across the floor like sinew. If it weren't for the fact that I knew what they were, I would have thought it was spun gold, but that was a trick.
"Chester," a voice beckoned. "Chester, I am sorry."
"You are not sorry, you old witch," I answered defiantly. In an instant, she was upon me at the barrier of the property, hair forward, flying crazily around her as she stopped just a breath from me. I only had to stick my nose right outside of it and it would have been lost. Devoured and cleaved from me in that breath. "You do not scare me," I told her stiffly, standing my ground.
"And you do not bore me," she answered back, stretching her lips over her teeth until they peeled back, revealing the foul stench that assaulted my senses.
I rose my hand up under the forcarm, pointing at her chest. "It's a shame Lily was kind enough to let you in," I breathed.
"I was cold," she answered me, pressing her hands up along the barrier. I could see her arms stretching along the length it, seemingly endlessly trying to find a way in. A way in that she could peel back even the tiniest tear so she could get at me.
"And you stole her heart and ate it."
"The Queen stole her heart."
"That's a lie," I answered back, aiming straight for the scar that ribboned across her chest. Terror gripped me. It long assaulted me that the last tie to my wife would wither away in an instant if I shot her, if I shot that heart, but I had to let Lily go in peace or I'd be trapping her forever with me and Alice would continue to worry Lily each night, visiting me.
"I would not come back if I did not feel the tug," Alice groaned. "Let me hug you Cheshire."
"Let me hold you," she wept.
"Let me touch the flesh I yearn for, oh I need you. I need to. I crave it so terribly," she moaned.
"Fuck. You." My hand shook, holding the barrel at her chest. I noticed I was testing my limits, knowing that her white apron was nearly pressed to the muzzle while the light blue line of fabric seemed to obscure anything behind her.
BANG! The sound of the shotgun going off rang in my ears, and her plaintive pleas turned to screams as she jerked back. I heard her yank to the trees, tangling in them as the limbs snapped and groaned from her thrashing. My ears were burning, ringing quickly after the noise settled and echoed out in my head and into the dark of the forest. I know I missed. I purposely missed and tonight would be another night in which I only wounded her, but she would return again. Tomorrow night and we would dance pretty words again until I could let Lily go. There was only one thing keeping me from jumping out into the night with her. Little Louise, our daughter, and what would I have to say for myself in death if I left her alone?
"Nooo!" she screamed. I could hear the hollow cry of pain and anger as it grew more distant, as it rang out into the night filtering in sharply with my deadening hearing. I knew I should get ear plugs, it would reduce my anxiety and keep me from second guessing it all, but hearing her plea with me was like poison on the throat, but fuck it was delicious. It was hard to believe I wanted it as bad as she did. I wanted her heart too. I wanted Lily's heart, because if I had it against my chest again, I'd feel whole once more, and it was hard to live with a half empty heart. I couldn't even smile for it, not unless we were close again.