[I had no intention of this first one being anything other than a stand-alone, but it seems now that Rob and Marci go way back.]
Late in his senior year, Bob's high school buddies took him to a place where women traded love for cash.
"But," he protested, I have a girlfriend, Marci."
"Marci is an amateur; find out what a pro can do," they said.
Bob climbed the back steps, resolute in his new purpose.
Then he made eye contact with the man coming down the steps, Marci's father.
Something unseen had drawn me there; I was feeling strung-out and more than a little lonely as I wandered through the deserted park at dusk.
Off the path, in a cluster of trees to the right, I saw a glowing cloud - maybe an unlikely gathering of fireflies.
Curious, I approached, and as I passed between a pair of soldier pines it suddenly fell full dark, the world seemed to turn on an unseen axis, and she appeared there in their midst.
A queen in her court, surrounded by legions of fireflies, maybe, or tiny glowing winged women - I really couldn't tell; and the eutre beauty of her other-worldly face was hauntingly familiar, like something from a half-remembered dream.
Then she turned to look majestically upon me, and in the piercing gaze of those moss-green eyes I knew with a sudden certainty that she had selected me, out of all the thousands of men in this city for some fell purpose of her own dark design, and that my only choice was to comply.
But everything important is there, in the right place, and wonderfully functional; it's the extra things that make her so - not just different, but special.
Her wings flutter as she hovers so close above me, her slender hips undulating in an exquisite defiance of gravity.
Yes, now I am so close, as her face leans into mine; eyes the green of spring grass, long narrow nose, delicate elven ears, thin lips in a conquering smile - and her teeth, glistening white, pointed, sharp.
Oh, sweet Jesus, so very, very sharp . . .
Not often - once in two or three months - I'll encounter a man who has the mark.
As our eyes meet, his hand goes up to his cheek, and I find myself mimicking the motion; then, knowing, he turns and hurries off.
Some of these men must be married - what stories do they tell their wives?
[I don't have that problem - Marci is just an occasional girl friend, with her own dark, unexplained secrets.]
Two or three months - that's how long the mark lasts from those pointy, piercing teeth, and as it fades the yearning gets stronger, deeper, more urgent for another tryst with my inhuman paramour.
I haven't seen Marci in over a month, but when she greets me at the door with a warm kiss and a cold glass of Chardonnay I know it's going to be a good night.
Then, in her living room, I see the picture over her couch, and yes, I also see that it is where that enigmatic half-memory came from - I had seen it unfinished, in her studio several months earlier.
Her use of light and shadow is masterful, the scene and setting excitingly familiar: those are indeed tiny glowing winged female creatures, and the diaphanous wings and the haunting beauty of that other-worldly face are evocative of, but not quite identical to the one I know so well.
Marci is rightfully very proud of her handiwork; she leans against me and asks, "Do you like it?"
"Oh, yes," I tell her, slipping my arm around her narrow waist, "I like it very much, indeed."
“Yes,” Rob cautiously admits when the bottle of wine was drained and he again stands with Marci gazing on her painting, “I’ve seen visions like this.”
Marci turns him toward her.
"That must hurt!" she says, lightly brushing over the mark on his cheek with her fingers, then her lips.
Then she draws back, eyes wide, as if shocked, and smiles knowingly.
"Rob," she says, leading him into the bedroom, “there are things we need to tell each other.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~