Sample Saturday: Around the World in 80 Pages
Happy Saturday, everyone! Today, I’m sharing one of the short stories that appears in Around the World in 80 Pages (always free on Smashwords). Enjoy!
Betrayed by a Kiss
Originally published in Sui Generis, 2010
He came to me in my dreams.
At first, there was only a fog … a cool mist … and yet, in my dreams, it seemed almost sentient. I would awake with a surprising melancholy, as though I had been abandoned. And yet, I had dreamt only of fog … a fog whose tendrils caressed my skin with a lover’s touch. A fog that whispered my name, even though I knew it to be impossible. On the nights that the fog did not come, I dreamed of the distant, mournful howling of a wolf. Again, I could hear my name borne on the wind, discernible in the animal’s cry.
The first night I dreamed of his face will be with me always. Pale skin, green eyes, cascading black curls: his was the face of an angel. How I longed to kiss his full, red lips, entangle my fingers in his raven locks … to feel him at my very depths. I awoke in a tangle of bed sheets, awash with disappointment that my dream was quashed by the light of day. I went about my morning routine, haunted by the memory of my dream lover’s eyes.
To me, this entire sequence of nighttime phenomena was best ignored. I shook my head, hoping to physically cancel the reverie that I entered yet again. A stranger’s face could not possibly have meaning, any more than my name could be whispered by a teasing curl of mist outside the window.
I turned my attention once more to the scientific journal in front of me. This was my weekly time set aside for catching up on anthropological literature; my assistants knew I was to remain unmolested absent dire emergency. I suspected that they departed early on Friday afternoons whilst I was thus occupied, and I did not begrudge them. I, on the other hand, sometimes found myself looking up at the clock to find that it was after dark. The museum’s guard had walked me to my car more than once; he thought it unsafe and unseemly for a woman to venture out into the lonely lot after dark. That I had distinguished myself both academically and in anthropological fieldwork made no difference to him. To him, Elena Pritchard, Ph.D., was just another woman in need of protection.
I gave up on the journals, unable to focus my attention. I had a stack of correspondence to review as well; that ought to suit my poor concentration, I thought.
I signed several letters and placed them in my “out” box to be sent on Monday; they were all routine letters of appreciation for donations to the museum’s collection. Many of the items in question would be consigned to storage rooms, but the donors would have our thanks … and a tax deduction.
What a cynical creature you’re becoming, I thought. Where on earth had that come from?
I checked my e-mail and made the appropriate responses. Yes, I could attend that meeting, speak at this luncheon, participate in a panel. Sometimes I wondered what motivated me to stay so busy. I denied to myself that it was because of a lonely apartment. I had no need of companionship; anyone could see that I was occupied by my work and had no time for such frivolities as dating or romance.
At least, that was what I told myself.
What had Percy Shelley written about that broken statue? “I am Ozymandias, king of kings”? Who was fooling whom, I laughed wryly to myself.
Again, time had passed and it was later than I thought. I had found a good parking spot near the museum’s back door, so I did not call the guard.
I slipped into my jacket and stepped outside into the foggy San Francisco night. Mist twined around my ankles and limned the parking lot’s lamps in a dull, golden twilight.
Someone was lounging against my car; he was tall, dressed in snug-fitting jeans and a black leather motorcycle jacket. His back was to me, and I saw raven-black hair curl around the coat collar.
I called out as I approached. “May I help you? That’s my car you’re draped on.”
He turned to face me and I looked into a stranger’s green eyes … a stranger of whom I had dreamed.
“I know,” he responded, standing away from the vehicle. “I’ve been waiting for you for a very long time.”
“Have you?” I whispered, unable to tear my eyes from his gaze.
“Oh, yes. I have.” He extended a pale, graceful hand to me and then drew me into his arms. His hands were cool as they caressed my cheeks, cupping my chin and tipping my gaze upward to meet his eyes.
I caressed his silken curls as I whispered, “Who are you?”
As his lips touched my throat, I could have sworn he said “Judas.”