Olivia Arieti lives in Torre del Lago Puccini, Italy, with her family. Besides being a published playwright, she loves writing fiction; her stories have appeared in several magazines and anthologies like Enchanted Conversations, Enchanted Tales Literary Magazine, Fantasia Divinity Magazine, Cliterature, Forgotten Tomb Press, Horrified Press, Thirteen O’Clock Press, Infective Ink, Pandemonium Press, Sirens Call Publications, Blood Song Books, Black Hare Press, Pussy Magic Magazine, Stormy Island Publishing.
It was raining heavily when Taylor let Chuck into her apartment. They were as wet and cold as stray cats caught in the midst of the most violent storm with no shelter whatever. Water was dripping from their hair, jackets, shoes, it even soaked Taylor’s scarf, which she hurriedly took off. Her guest seemed to ignore her uneasiness; although the two had been talking and drinking in the local bar all night long, they were nothing but casual acquaintances.
Chuck slumped onto the old armchair, “A cool place, you’ve got here,” he said and cast a glance at the sofa bed.
Taylor wasn’t pretty, the hair was too curly , the dimples too marked and her black eyes twinkled with an impish glance. The pendant earrings, the beads and the long flowery dress made her look like a nomadic girl in her early teens.
An intriguing little creature though, Chuck thought and pulled her in his arms, “Why don’t you unfold that couch so we can start the best part of the night?”
“Do you always get down to it so fast?” she replied coldly.
Perhaps, she should have let him out in the rain.
“Forgot it’s far past midnight, love?”
“No, but I don’t like it that way anymore,” she said and lit the few candles placed here and there on the shelves.
“All that stuff is not for me. My girls know it and have learnt not to be so fussy,” he said conceitedly.
Was it a provocation or a challenge? She enjoyed talking with him at the bar, even let him put his arm around her waist and his hand caress her thigh, but that didn’t imply she wanted to go further.
She gazed at him; although a bit weird, he didn’t have the aspect of a maniac. His excessive self-confidence more likely masked a good amount of insecurity. If it hadn’t been for the cheerful smile that brightened his face, he would have appeared pathetic.
“Useless trying to undress my soul, sweetie, for there are too many layers, but I might give you a few hints if you really want to know.”
Chuck was a writer and therefore broke as fame seemed to take its time. In the meanwhile, he gave a hand to a chap who owned a bar in order to make enough money for the rent, cigarettes and a few drinks. His expectations and lack of ties made him feel comfortable with himself. In one way or the other, he carried on as a stray cat, free and wild. His scratches were for his mistresses only, whom he loved teasing.
“Girls have always liked me though,” he bragged, “just like you do.”
Taylor listened half amused, half disturbed. His irony had a certain charm; he was right, she did like him.
“Let me scratch you too, and I swear you’ll love it, doll.”
The thought of sleeping with him was alluring. Temptation was pending on her like a rapturing doom.
By now he was sitting very close, his breath on her face, and their lips almost touched. Never had she felt more vulnerable. A passionate kiss with the blaze of true love followed, as the rain kept hitting the panes, so intrusively as to become a constant reminder of the vainness of the moment.
A genial performance supported by a long experience, thought Taylor on awakening from the Casanova spell and pushed him away abruptly.
Her resistance annoyed him, it hurt him. His consolidated artistry had been unmasked. Insisting would have been useless. Besides, did he really care?
He was getting nervous; coming up had been a mistake.
“I’ll go, but before I do, I want to have some fun, babe,” he whispered, then quickly snatched Taylor’s scarf and tightened it around her neck.
“What the hell are you doing?” she gasped.
“Have to do something if we aren’t going to bed,” he sneered, “What did you expect if you invite a stranger up in the middle of the night? Sex or murder is the only possible answer.”
A loud clap of thunder made the panes shutter. The light went off and for a few seconds Taylor struggled against her improvised enemy in the room illuminated only by the flickering candlelight.
She was almost cadaverous, when he loosened the scarf and laughed heartedly.
“Simply a nasty game, but don’t worry,” he assured, “I’m leaving, you’ll be alright now.”
Frightened and dismayed, she burst into tears.
Her unexpected reaction disturbed him; somehow, he felt compelled to stay.
“I had a French boyfriend once, I loved him deeply,” she uttered, “He, too, liked teasing me.”
“He dumped you, I bet.”
“He died,” she shouted, “committed suicide… I still miss him.”
And continued as if following a bygone dream, “He came to the cabaret where I used to sing… I was his chat noir… That’s how he called me.”
“I suppose he let you scratch him.”
“He did, because he loved me.”
The affairs that followed were so squalid that they ended up frustrating her. From then on, she was after affection only.
“I bet you’ve never really cared for anyone,” she cried angrily and fixed her impish eyes on his.
She was expecting to be contradicted, but he just lowered his glance.
Chuck was beginning to feel stuck, his most dreaded feeling. It was time to beat it. He got up and headed towards to the door.
“You’re going nowhere, man,” cried his hostess and pointed a gun against him.
A loud shot resounded in the little room and the fellow dropped to the floor.
Taylor stood paralysed with the toy weapon in her hand.
“Chuck, no, no, you can’t be dead, you can’t,” she shouted.
After a moment of deep silence and deadly stiffness, he grinned, “No worry, baby, I’m still here, but that was a truly nasty trick. I almost had a heart attack before detecting it was a fake.”
The good scare diverted him though; they were even. Never would he have imagined that the little lady could be so naughtily exciting. She did have guts, after all.
Chuck thought of her affair with the French boyfriend, certainly something passionate and overwhelming as he had never felt. Maybe, he was too insensitive, vain, a total creep; perhaps, that was the reason of his failure as an artist and as a man.
Had he been given the chance to change and didn’t spot it? The thought that he might be totally immune to feelings perplexed him.
It was still raining, but the room wasn’t cold; his glance fell on the blanket folded on the sofa; his straying around like a feral animal had suddenly lost its lure. He would have relished sitting beside her, simply hold her hand with the blanket on their knees and gaze at her sad face.
“You have to go, Chuck, no use staying longer.”
“Wait, Taylor, perhaps, you’re right, we could get to know each other a bit further. I’ve been too forwarded; it’s just that I wasn’t prepared for something that goes beyond a casual acquaintance,” and chuckled nervously, “I’m not too familiar with stories that have, let’s say, a beginning, a middle and even an end… Seems mine had only beginnings.”
Although neither of them had reached their goal that night, in one way or the other their feelings had been stirred; each had taken a first step even if the destination remained partially
unknown. Unfamiliar emotions followed and somehow affected them more than they could realise.
Taylor’s glance assured Chuck she believed him. He hoped she would let him stay.
Her words disappointed him, “No, it’s too late; you’ve missed your chance.”
“Is that a good reason for you to miss yours?
With a helpless look, she handed him his jacket. Probably, she would miss him, but the fear of suffering in one way or the other was too strong.
Chuck was about to take her in his arms and tell her how he would have wanted to see her again, but he simply looked out of the window. The rain kept falling merciless.
“Hey, you can’t send me away in such a storm.”
“Call a cab.”
“Can’t afford night fares, but I’ll go if you really want me to.”
Still hesitant, he headed towards the door, opened it and was about to walk out when he turned round and with his brightest smile asked, “Say, do you mind lending me an umbrella? It’s pouring cats and dogs out there.”