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Part One, Claire: The Aftermath
We sleep together until the sun has risen high in the sky, cuddling peacefully until singing birds fill the silence from just outside my bedroom window. As consciousness floods my sleepy mind, so do strings of worried thoughts. There are so many things I want to ask Mydon. Is he safe in this town? Are more of his friends going to show up and cause trouble? Can our lives really resume as usual?
I want to ask him these things, but I don’t, because cuddled against his chest with the scent of his musk filling my lungs I feel treasured. Does anything else really matter?
Mydon’s chest grumbles, a mix between a purr and a growl, as he rubs small circles over my bare back. His lips press against the top of my forehead. “What are you thinking about?”
I sigh, my shoulders sagging. “Oh, nothing. Just realizing that reality as I knew it was a lie and now I’m living in the Twilight Zone.”
His chest rumbles again, quaking beneath my head as he quietly chuckles. “Since I’ve vowed to be honest from here on out, I’ll have to admit I have no fucking clue what the Twilight Zone is. It doesn’t sound enjoyable, though.” He pauses for a minute, continuing to stroke my back as he collects his thoughts. “Are you going to be okay with all this? I can still disappear if that’s what you want.”
I slap his chest, my head shooting upward to glare at him. Mydon’s hair is side swept, parts of it sticking in odd directions due to sleep. His eyes are still a little droopy, but that works to my advantage, because sleepy eyes make it harder to conceal emotion. “No.” I whisper, my gaze piercing through him. “You won’t leave me to deal with this alone. Yes, I’ve forgiven you, but that doesn’t mean you’ve left me unscathed. Your ass has to help me work through everything I’ve learned so I don’t drive myself crazy. If I talk to anyone else, they’d lock me into a psych ward.” I press my lips together, shaking my head. “No. You’re stuck with me now.”
Mydon’s hands lift to my cheeks, cupping them with a firm grasp. He leans forward, his expression one of severity. “I’ll never abandon you, Claire. Your wishes are my command.” His fingers twitch, and his lips form a tight line, mirroring my expression. “As the powerful monster in this relationship, I’ll need you to explain this scathing I’ve dealt you, this way I can make up for it.”
I pull away from him, rolling my eyes as I return my head to his chest. “The lies. The heartbreak over your betrayal. Being completely terrorized. Want me to list more?”
He’s silent for a second, but then he sighs. “Of course.” His knuckles scrape over the nape of my neck, rubbing up and down the tip of my spine. “We’ll start today. What’s the first wish you’d like to have granted, little goddess?”
Hm. I hadn’t really thought about it yet. I guess more than anything, I just want things to be normal again. I want to forget about monsters and shape shifting dogs. I want to forget about the pain I felt when I was lying mangled on the front lawn. But… forgetting isn’t possible.
When can certainly do some damage control, though.
“Now that you’ve dealt with your acquaintances.” I narrow my eyes, but with my cheek pressed against his chest, he can’t see my irritation. “What’s the most immediate problem you’re facing, in terms of blending in with society?” I want to have a normal future. An average career, a basic starter home, maybe children after I’ve settled. Now those dreams need to include Mydon, and he needs to be as human as possible.
He combs his hand through my hair, pulling the thick strands upward until they meet the light shining in from the window. The black locks glisten under the light, despite the tangle his fingers are stuck on. He thumbs the glistening hair, thinking. “Hutson’s parents suspect me. They’re the only threat I have now.”
I slide my hands up his chest, pressing against him as I push myself up. “You mean your parents.”
He frowns, his smoothed face wrinkling above his brow. “Right.”
“I mean it, Don. If you want to convince them, then you need to stay in character at all times.” I slide away from him and roll to the side, dropping to the floor with a soft thump. “We have work tonight. Before we go, I want you to bring me back to your house for another dinner.”
Mydon sits straight up in bed, his chest rumbling audibly. His eyes are narrowed into slits. “Why?”
I turn my back to him, approaching my closet as I speak. “Because I’m going to make them believe you’re their real son.”
His chest continues to quake, vibrating through the air. “No. They suspect me, which means it could be dangerous to bring you back. What if they’re assembling a mob? It’s happened in the past.”
I snort, opening my closet tugging the pull string of the lightbulb simultaneously. My creatures all scramble at the sudden illuminance, coming alive in hopes of being fed again. I look over my shoulder, eying Mydon’s nude form as he throws the blankets aside. “Yes, it might have happened in the past, but this is the future. People don’t do shit like that anymore. If we can’t make them believe, then it’ll be them who gets punished. Imagine a couple claiming their child is a demon from Hell.” I shake my head at him. “They’d get locked up in a psych ward, and I don’t want that to happen.”
Mydon cocks his head. “Why don’t you want them to be institutionalized? Wouldn’t that be the best outcome?”
My lips purse as I study him, looking over his masculine form as it drapes over my messy sheets. If he weren’t so delicious looking, I might have scolded him. As it is, he’s just a muscular, intoxicating demon who’s way out of his element in this human world.
And now he has me on his side. I can help.
I shake my head slowly. “No, it wouldn’t. Despite their fanatical religious beliefs, they’re still decent people. We just need to give their minds a logical explanation to whatever they’ve seen. If they’re anything like most people,” Like me, I think. “Then they’ll use any excuse to rationalize the scary shit they’ve witnessed.”
I grab an outfit from its hanger without giving it much thought, not bothering to dress fancy now that I’m living in a demon infested reality. It’s a long, stretchy short sleeve dress with a turtleneck style hem. Simple and modest. Good enough for me.
Mydon stands, directing my attention toward him. He advances on me, his steps deliberate as his face hardens. “And you want to do this for me?”
He stops inches in front of my face, his naked form towering over me. His jaw is set, but his touch is gentle as he reaches up, stroking my cheek with the back of his fingers. “Such grace, my goddess.”
I smile, lifting myself on my tiptoes to plant a soft kiss on his lips. Together we can manage this.
Together, we can rise above this fuckery.
Part Two, Claire: The Supper
We arrive at Mydon’s home an hour before the sun is due to set, and only forty minutes before we clock in at the Haunt Maze.
Just enough time to swindle my way into the hearts of my mate’s new parents.
“Are you ready?” Don’s hand squeezes mine as we stand in front of the Victorian style mansion, worry lining his brows.
I grasp him tightly, my lips turning up as I press the glowing doorbell set between a golden, spiraling frame. Electricity buzzes over my body, originating from deep within my gut. I’m not sure whether the sensation stems from excitement… or panic.
My plan isn’t much of a plan. It’s a simple three-step method; convince the middle-aged couple their son is going through changes- normal changes, envelop them with a false sense of normality, and admit I’m to blame for the entire mess. I’ve liberated Don from his past self.
It isn’t a lie. Not entirely.
But I’m not sure I’m the brave woman I’m pretending to be. Doubt works its way over my spine just as the door opens.
Mrs. Williams stands tall, wrapping her thin arms around a silken robe. Her feet are bare, drawing my eyes down to her red toenails. My eyes rise to meet hers as I do my best to feign innocence.
Don nods his head in greeting. “Mother.”
She stares at him, her expression cold. She doesn’t open the door further to invite us inside, nor does she seem interested in my friendly features. Pure hatred-fear- permeates her eyes as they focus on her son.
Her son’s body.
For a minute, I feel guilt. Guilt for whatever role I played in Mydon’s possession of her son’s body. But the awful feeling fades when I remember what Don told me. She knew. She knew her son was a monster, and yet she had cherished him, anyway. Turning a blind eye to evil so easily only means one thing; she has something just as dark inside.
I clear my throat, snapping her gaze to me. Her chin tilts downward, but as if in fear of the consequences, she acknowledges me with a respectful smile. It’s forced, stretching over her thin lips, but a smile is something I can work with.
“Mrs. Williams, I’m afraid I’m here to set the record straight.”
For the first time since opening the door, the pit of loathing in her eyes wavers. Unease.
She glances back to Don just as Mr. Williams’ footsteps approach, his loafers squeaking over the hardwood floor. As he turns the corner, eyes widening at the sight before him, Mrs. Williams widens the door, allowing us entrance.
Suspicion flutters inside me, poking and prodding at my mind. Maybe she wants me to prove her wrong?
As I step inside the home, the suspicion grows.
Black lilies sit on a raised shelf inside the landing. Both Mrs. and Mr. Williams sport black clothing, her with her black silken robe and him with a button down. Their massive home feels more empty than it had the day before. It feels like it’s clouded with mourning.
And when Don takes the lead toward the dining room table, I glimpse pain within the couple’s eyes.
They don’t want their son to be a monster. They don’t want him to be dead.
With their theories of Mydon’s true nature, in their eyes, their son is dead. He’s rotting somewhere in a fiery pit, being devoured by demons who seek sinners who need to be punished.
Even if they are half right, they don’t have to lose their heart. Mydon lives inside their son, and he isn’t a monster. Hutson isn’t burning in a lake of fire. Good can come of this situation. Hutson won’t be able to hurt anyone ever again, his parents can pack up their grief, and I can have my inhuman protector.
I just have to bridge the gaps.
My flats slide over the hardwood behind Don as I follow him, his parent’s closely behind me. I cross into the dining room three moments before them, giving time for Mydon to lean against my side. His warmth permeates through my worries, drawing out my fear as his lips skirt over my earlobe.
His voice is a whisper. “You talk, I cook. Regardless of the outcome, we leave in forty minutes.”
I move away as if he never spoke, gliding to a table chair just as his parents enter the space. They stare nervously as Don exits through a swinging door into the conjoined kitchen.
“Come, have a seat.” I say, speaking slowly to ensure my voice doesn’t waver. Mr. Williams pats his wife’s shoulder, his eyes shifting from me to the swishing door in confusion.
“What’s going on here?” He asks, his tone gruff.
I smiled thinly, as if in apology. “I’m here to tell you both the truth about what’s happened with Hutson.”
At my words, both of their gazes widen. Mrs. Williams nearly trips over her feet as she leaps toward the table, sliding into a chair across from me. “The truth?” She whispers, eyes welling with tears.
Her husband follows, but his steps are slower, more forced. Something about his shocked features make me worry about his state of health. He clutches his chest, fingers bent over his heart as he collapses into a chair beside her.
My brows bunch as I watch him. “Are you alright?”
He nods. The motion is subtle, but it’s enough to dislodge a tear from his eye, sending it down and over his wrinkled cheek. How has their suspicion led to this so quickly?
I shake the worry from my head, focusing on the couple with a softened expression. I’ll need all of my acting skills for this next phase of the plan, and to be honest, those skills are next to none.
“Don and I started seeing each other a few weeks ago. It was playful at first.” I smile, remembering the first time Mydon took me to the bouldered overlook above Crescent Beach. “He helped me unravel pain I held inside, and in return, I unraveled his. He didn’t change his name or attitude in this house because of some demonic force.” I shake my head incredulously. “He did it because I showed him the truth of his pain. The truth that stemmed from here.” My finger juts downward, poking into the wooden table-top.
It was a stretch to assume Hutson had some sort of childhood trauma within this home, but what family didn’t? And what kind of man seeks the horrendous abuse of defenseless, drugged women the way Hutson did unless he was trying to take back the control he had lost.
Mrs. Williams closes her eyes, tears sticking to the lines around her mouth. Pain. Mr. Williams shudders, placing his hand on his forehead as he breathes through his hurt.
Something wounded their son, and they either played a part in its creation, or they covered it up with a pretty bow and pretended the destruction never happened.
I blink away my own tears as I stare at them. Bringing heartache to life was harder than I imagined. “After rediscovering his pain and then mending it,” I bite out the last words, looking them both in the eyes before continuing. “He tried to reinvent himself. He became strong again. Instead of mimicking his pain and sending it into others, he let go of it and placed a liquid bandage over the wound. And then,” I narrow my eyes, trying to stay strong despite the guilt clawing up my throat as I stare into their anguish. “You shunned him. He didn’t care, because we had each other and he was free of his shame. But you can’t continue to put the blame on him. I want you to see Don. See the good inside, the part you always wish existed before. Now it’s here, and you’ve given it the label of evil.” I splay my hands on the table, exhaling loudly. “I’m asking you to look again.”
Mrs. Williams closes her eyes, shaking her head slowly. When her lids lift again, there’s only sadness in her gaze. “But we saw him. The demon.”
Just then, the door swings open. Mydon struts inside, four plates expertly balanced on both of his arms.
I expected him to take longer.
My eyes dart to the plates and then narrow.
Sandwiches. And not even tasty ones, either.
On the plates rest two slices of loafed bread with tomato and white cream. Mayonnaise, I assume. I glare at him, sending him a warning. He was supposed to make them something tasty. Food Hutson would have eaten. Instead, he slapped together ingredients like a… like a creature not from this world. Tomato and mayo? My stomach churns.
Mydon ignores my look, placing two of the dishes in front of his parents.
To my surprise, his parents both gasp. They stare at the simple sandwiches like they hold all the answers they seek.
Mrs. Williams’ eyes slowly lift to meet my stare, and she smiles. A gasp of something between relief and joy escapes her lips, and she nods at me.
Both of Hutson’s parents pick up the bread and vegetable, taking their first bites with reverence on their features.
Mydon sits beside me, grasping my hand beneath the table. He speaks then, his voice softening. “What you saw was your mind’s vision of the new me. I spiked your food as payback for the past.” His eyes narrow. Something about his words makes my skin crawl, as if he knows things about the couple before us that would break this entire town. “An eye for an eye, and all that. Whatever demon you saw was in here,” he taps his temple. “I’m your son, and my new name is Don. Take the truth or leave it.” He squeezes my fingers.
The sandwich falls from his father’s hand, and he reaches forward, palm outstretched toward Mydon. To my surprise, Mydon extends his hand as well, grasping the man.
A nod between father and son is all it takes to right the wrongs of Hutson Williams.
The car revs as Don steers us down the curved driveway, speeding onto the main road as we head toward the Haunt Maze.
We’ve solved one of our problems. Communication truly is the law of the land when it comes to family ties. And I was right. All Hutson’s parents needed was an easy leap to their restored happiness.
“Tomato sandwiches?” My tone is higher pitched than I expect, ringing through the cars silence.
Don’s hand slides into my lap, rising to my knee before rubbing down again. He tucks his fingers between my thighs, lodging them there for safekeeping. “Hutson’s parents served them for a year straight after they found out about the sick things his uncle did to him during the summer trips he spent at the man’s cabin.” My heart clenches, and Don shoots me a sad smile. “They were his favorite.”
Something inside of me hurts. I can’t help but imagine Hutson as a child trapped with an adult who was meant to protect him; an adult his parents trusted. And for some reason, they had kept it a secret. They forced Hutson to keep it a secret.
I lick my dry lips as we speed over the black roads. The sun fell ten minutes ago, earlier than expected, and our shift starts fifteen minutes from now. I want to drop this conversation, to forget it happened, but a question burns my lips until I speak it. “His memories… Do they hurt you?”
Don’s chest rumbles and his hand squeezes my thigh, muscles tensing. “No, my goddess. I’ve fed from creatures with memories much darker than these.”
His eyes shine as they dart from the road to me. “This body treats me well, and until death ends us, it will treat you even better.”