Warning! This is a horror/dark fiction story so may be disturbing to some. There is strong language and sexual situations.
Rain and more rain.
He had been cruising the glistening streets for hours, prowling slowly along Sunset, all the way from downtown to Beverly Hills, cutting south to repeat the passage along Santa Monica, Melrose and Wilshire, the Accord’s low-profile Michelins singing against a hundred miles and more of wet pavement, the sad old songs creeping sweet and mellow from the speakers as Whitney and Barry and Barbra shared their heartaches and Coast FM’s soft-voiced deejay took requests from broken hearted lovers in San Pedro and Torrance and The Valley.
He slowed at every corner–lights or no lights, assholes with blaring horns or not–searching the shadowy spaces beneath awnings, the water-dripping windows of coffee shops and fast food joints, looking for her. From time to time he had caught glimpses of a shock of blond hair, a pair of pale legs beneath a dark skirt, and each time he had been certain it was her. Of course it was not.
Finally, depressed and full of despair, he had pulled into a blue-lit ARCO station on Ventura, gotten out into the rain to pass ten bucks to an Asian kid reading a garishly illustrated Mangajin comic behind the bulletproof glass of his kiosk, then ducked back under the scant shelter of the high metal canopy to fill the Accord’s tank.
As he stood waiting for the gasoline to flow, he noticed that the car seemed to be riding lower than usual in the rear; unusual because he had replaced the shocks with new Monroes just a few months earlier. The gas nozzle clicked off and he replaced it on the pump, screwed the cap into place on the Accord’s filler and stepped around to the trunk, intending to look inside to see if one of the shock absorber anchors behind the wheel wells might have worked their way loose. A sudden downpour of rain drove him back into the car and he made a mental note to check the shocks when he got home.
He was tired now and he started the engine, having already decided that he was not going to find her by driving around in the rain. He should probably go home and wait. Maybe she would come back to him, might already be there waiting. Shit! He needed to think. Make a plan. Guiding the car out to the edge of the street, he impulsively spun the wheel and turned north onto Ventura.
What to do?
Cold from the rain that had soaked through her light coat, turning the clothes below to a sodden mass of running colors, Summer huddled by the rain-streaked window of the warm place she had found, watching the endless stream of swift vehicles splash past on the wet street, considering the consequences of her hasty action.
After leaving the prince’s vehicle in the dark street, she had walked for a long while, finally stepping onto clean strip of concrete fronting a seemingly endless row of lighted places filled with scurrying humans. She wanted to find Bobby, but she did not know how.
She had stopped to shelter before a long building with glowing letters spaced across the outer wall, seen humans entering through wide glass doors to browse before racks and shelves of bottles and boxes. She had gone inside to escape the increasingly heavy rain, wandering aimlessly up and down the aisles, watching the humans. At one rectangle within the place she had seen a woman applying powders and colored paints to the face of another, stood near to listen as they chatted about bases and skin tones and other things she did not understand. She had stayed to watch anyway, her amazement growing as the woman with the paints and powders altered the appearance of the other. When she was finished, the second woman had examined her reflection in a small glass like the ones she had seen in bathrooms, smiled happily and gone away bearing several small boxes.
Noticing her evident interest, the first woman had turned to smile at Summer. “How about you, dear? Would you like a demonstration of our unique “Just For You” cosmetics? They’re hypo-allergenic and all natural….”
She had allowed herself to be seated in the tall chair beside the counter, shying away as the woman reached for the lenses covering her eyes. “Prescription,” she said, the magical word causing the woman’s hand to drop away.
“Well, dear, let me see….” The woman had placed a thoughtful finger to her lips, delving into her box of colors to produce a bottled liquid and beginning to brush her cheeks with a feather-soft implement tipped with animal hairs. “You have such fine lovely skin,” she had chatted as she worked. “You ought to consider modeling.”
A short time later, Summer had gazed into the round reflecting glass. Incredibly, her pale skin had been transformed into the rosy complexion of a human, her thin lips covered with soft paint that somehow made them appear fuller than they really were.
The woman had asked if she wished to purchase the cosmetics and she had agreed, holding out the thick handful of paper notes the prince had given her to carry in her pocket at the beginning of the evening. Removing some of the money from her hand and writing on a piece of paper, the human female had asked if there was anything else she needed. Summer had smiled her most human smile.
“Yes,” she said, pointing with a slender finger. “I would like some of that.”
The woman’s eyes followed her gaze to a shelf filled with bottles like the ones she had seen in the prince’s second closet. “Perfume?”
“Yes,” she smiled. “Perfume.”
“Well,” said the woman when she had paid for her purchases and received her change. “Now is there anything else I can help you with?”
She had hesitated, wondering if she dare ask the human the question that was burning in her mind. “Yes, she had finally said, “I am trying to find someone. A young hu… …a man.”
Summer clutched the cooling ceramic container in her hand, thinking about the advice the woman had given her and wondering if she had done the right thing. The prince was going to be furious with her for leaving. She closed her eyes, trying to imagine his fury, knowing he would attempt to seek her out and force her to return with him to his dark habitation.
She closed her eyes, conjuring up a vision of Bobby’s smiling face, longing to feel his warm hand in hers, to run her fingers over his beautiful skin paintings….
She looked up, expecting the dream to end. Bobby stood before her, a broad smile lighting his handsome features.
“Bobby!” She reached for his hand, pulling him into the booth beside her.
“Summer, where have you been? I’ve been half crazy looking for you….” He looked closely at her. “Jeez, what happened to your face?”
She raised her fingers to the paint on her lips. “A very nice woman fixed it,” she said. “Do you like it?
Bobby smiled. “If you like it then I like it…but your old face was beautiful enough for me. God, I’m glad to see you. I was afraid…” His face suddenly fell and he lowered his beautiful liquid eyes to the table. “I mean,” he stammered, “I’d pretty much figured out that you decided you didn’t want to see me anymore. But I had to find you anyway, to hear it from you.”
“Oh Bobby,” she took his face in her hands, gently raising his chin until she could see his eyes. “I didn’t want to leave… I only want to be with you.”
“You do?” He raised his fingers to touch her cheek. “Really, Summer?”
She nodded and the smile crept across her lips without her having to think about it. “Really.”
He looked down at the cold cup in her hand. “Hey, coffee. I turned you into a caffiene fiend like me, huh?”
She nodded again. “I like coffee.”
He waved down a passing waitress, signaling for another cup, then turned back to her. “What happened to you anyway?” He looked around the noisy coffee shop and creased his brow. “And how did you get way out here?”
“I got lost in the city,” she said, “and I couldn’t find your sleeping place again. Then the nice woman told me I should come here, because I remembered you said this was your favorite place.” She clutched his hand tightly, reveling in the warmth of him. “The woman called a man with a veh…. a car, and I got inside and I just said, take me to Squeaky’s in the Valley, and he did. Then I gave him some money.”
Bobby raised his eyebrows. “You took a cab all the way out here from L.A.?”
Her head bobbed up and down excitedly. “It was wonderful Bobby. He took me through the hills and showed me where all the famous TV people live. It took a very long time to get here.”
Bobby groaned. “Jeez, how much did this cab ride cost?”
She looked at him. She did not know the word cost.
“How much money did you give him?”
“Oh,” she smiled. “Just one hundred dollars.”
“A hundred bucks? Summer, where did you get a hundred bucks?”
She hesitated, wondering if she had done something wrong. Bobby seemed upset. “My… friend gave it to me,” she explained. She reached into the pocket of her coat and took out the rest of the money, laying the pile of crumpled bills on the table. “I have much more.”
Bobby stared down at the cash beside her coffee cup. “Summer, there must be three thousand bucks there,” he whispered, covering it with a napkin as the waitress arrived with his coffee.
“Who gave you this?” he demanded.
“My… friend,” she insisted.
“Why did he give you the money?”
“For an emergency,” she said.
Bobby sipped his coffee, lifting the napkin to peer at the money. “Well, who is this friend?”
She shook her head. “Nobody.”
“Summer,” he said patiently, “nobody does not go around handing out this kind of money for emergencies. Who is he?”
“I thought you would be glad to see me,” she said, looking into her coffee.
“I am glad. It’s just that….” He poked the money with his finger. “This is real weird. I mean, this is a whole lot of money…. Are you in some kind of trouble?”
She searched his face, wondering how he always managed to know such things. “Yes,” she confessed. “I am in very much trouble Bobby.”
“OK,” he said, squeezing her hand. “Don’t worry. The guy that owns the garage where I work has a brother who’s a lawyer. He’ll work it out. What did you do?”
“Do?” Again, she did not understand. Human language was so confusing.
“Yeah, do. Why are you in trouble?”
“Oh, that. I ran away from him.”
“The guy you got the money from?”
“He took me to his place…. He wanted me to….” She halted in mid-sentence. How could she tell Bobby about the prince’s insatiable desire to couple. She looked up to see his face growing dark with anger.
“Wait a minute. You trying to tell me this asshole tried to force you to have sex with him?”
“I didn’t want to. I was afraid of his… power…”
“Bastard!” He slammed his fist down onto the table, making the coffee leap from his cup.
“Bobby, it is all right now.” She stroked his arm, brushing her fingers across the smooth image of the snarling panther. “I ran away from him and then I found you again. It is all right.”
“OK,” he reluctantly agreed. “If you say so, but this guy bothers you again and I’m gonna pound the living shit out of him.”
She snuggled close to Bobby, feeling the comforting warmth of his body through her damp garments. “He is a real asshole,” she said.
Bobby kissed the top of her head and rubbed his hands together. “OK, forget him. How about we grab a burger then head back to my place to watch a little TV?”
Summer straightened and stared at him. “We cannot go back there, Bobby,” she said seriously. “Not ever. We must find a new place.”
“What, are you kidding me? Why?”
“He would kill you if he knew I was with you?”
“Not if I kick the shit out of him first!”
Summer shook her head sadly. “You do not understand,” she said.
“Then explain it to me.”
Bobby took her hands in his. “Summer, I love you. I want you to be with me forever. You have to tell me everything right now.”
She looked into his warm trusting eyes, then took a deep breath, knowing she was about to cross a line from which she could never retreat.