Here is the conclusion of “She.” I apologize for the length. This section wasn’t conducive to breaking in two, as it’s one scene. Thanks for reading!
She, (part 6)
It was Sunday morning when she finally made her way to Dallas’s brightly painted, spired-roofed row house. She should have come the day before, she knew, as he’d touched her skin, and his longing would be growing unbearable. Within her sweat, even with that brief touch, was enough addictive toxin to “fix” him to her. Throughout the previous day, she paced and fretted at home. His suffering was not her fault. She tried to keep her distance, attempted to ignore and dissuade, but to no avail. She could leave him to his own devices, allow the toxin to work itself through his system; however, his suffering would be like nothing he’d ever known. And worse, Riley would have to watch her father unravel and then perish.
The men she took were enough to satisfy the hunger; she’d long ago abandoned hope of anything more than survival. It was enough for her to find the occasional would-be predator and feed on his life’s essence. Four at once was feast enough to last her decades. All of her needs were met. Mr. Dallas Squarejaw could suffer in silence; perhaps he was strong enough that he’d survive his ordeal. She went to bed Saturday night, convinced his plight was not her concern.
Most of Bobbi’s kind had long been killed off due to their penchant for seducing and preying on innocent travelers. But she was different, as children of mixed parentage often are. She never sought victims, instead allowing rogues and criminals to hunt her. While her Scottish neighbors did not condone her acts, neither did they intervene, effective as she was at clearing out lawbreakers.
They thought her family the last remaining of the Baobhan Siths, pronounced “BAA-van Shees,” the Highlands’s White Women, hunters of men. But the Baobhan was a myth. Bobbi was quite real and entirely something else. Still, she made no attempt to correct the old stories; they were good for frightening away nosy neighbors and bad little children. She learned that much from her own mother, who named her Baobhan Sìleas in order to continue the legend. It worked; Bobbi grew up safely, though miserably alone. She lived a long, moderately peaceful, though unsatisfying life. Then, as few of her ilk had, she met a man, a human male, and fell in love. They lived a happy life together, but he died, as humans must. Bobbi moved westward, to America, living in solitude ever since.
However, all who live have needs. Her mind, that lonely Friday night, pleaded with her to remain solitary and celibate. She knew that a single touch would doom a suitor to a life of coerced devotion. After being loved, however briefly, drugged devotion was an affection she could no longer tolerate. But then there was the sound, ringing in her mind, of little Riley’s laughter. There were remembrances of the looks she and her dad exchanged, and the tender way he held her as she slept. And there was one other issue: try as she might, she couldn’t get the man off her mind. Perhaps he infected her with a toxin of his own.
Whatever the case, she awoke this Sunday morning with a great longing – one she’d not felt for years. She stood at his front step for fifteen minutes, panting in the morning rain before gathering her composure enough to walk to his doorway, press the bell, listen for his steps … smell his intoxicating scent … she turned, meaning to run away. This was madness.
“H-hello?” His voice was soft and deep, as if he’d awakened from a slumber, though it was nearing noon. He cracked open the door. “Bobbi?”
She did not enter, or speak, but stood there, searching his eyes for the mark of the fixing. To her disappointment, it was there, though she knew it must be. He pulled her to him, squeezing her, melting her form into his. This time, she did not resist. He was shivering, his sweat-soaked body wracked in deep shudders. “I’ve been dreaming about you,” he said.
“I know. It’s part of the process.” She stepped back onto the porch and looked at him. His eyes were green, like hers. She loved green. “I’m sorry this happened to you.”
“Just a fever or something,” he said, unconvincingly.
She shook her head. “If you’ve had the dreams, you know what I am, and you’ve seen what I do.” For only the second time in her life, she began to feel ashamed. “For what it’s worth, I only hunt about once every five years. You caught me on a bad night.” She laughed, a hollow, rattly, ironic sound that grated against her own ears.
Dallas stepped out onto the porch; she matched his steps, going backward, keeping her distance. “I didn’t think I’d see you again,” he said. There was the thinnest trace of a smile beneath the cloud of his furrowed brow.
“I came back for Riley. How bad is it?” she asked, indicating his home with a nod of her head. She could see a jumble of upended furniture through the window.
“I tore it up pretty good in there. Had my mom come pick up Riley first though. She thinks I have the flu.”
“Rage is stage two. Stage one is dreaming and profuse sweating. I can see how some people might think it’s a disease. Sadly, the disease you’ve caught is me. It’s incurable.”
“Don’t want a cure.”
“That’s just the toxin speaking.” Even Dallas couldn’t know how he really felt about her. By the time she’d reached home Friday night, the chemicals had reached his brain. He would die believing he was in love with her.
“What exactly did you drug me with?”
Bobbi sat on the damp top step. The rain still thundered down, but the sun emerged, backlighting the sky as if it were raining diamonds. It was a good sign, she reckoned. Dallas sat next to her, his bare feet splashing in the small pools on the step.
“It was just me, Dallas. My body emits a chemical that … intoxicates adult males.”
“Intoxicates. That’s a good word.”
“I suppose. In any case, the toxin in my sweat makes men desire me. But only when I’m … you know.”
This time she cackled in real laughter, pushing him over. “No, you great pillock. When I’m in the hunt. It helps to draw men to me. Survival of the fittest – they come to me, intending to do me harm …”
“And then you …” He stopped. “Was the dream real? Did you really kill those four men?”
Bobbi avoided his gaze. “They weren’t the first, Dallas.” He said nothing in response, and she forced herself to look up. She needed to know what he felt.
His expression wasn’t a smile, but neither was it a frown. “My wife, Riley’s mom, was killed by a robber two years ago. The cops think the guy was trying to … anyway, Kathi fought him off, and he shot her. They still haven’t found the sonofabitch.” He inhaled, pulling in a gale of air, along with his sorrow. “He left her to bleed to death right there on the street. No one came by to help.” The wave took him and he shuddered again, this time from tears. She held him, cradling his head to her, caressing the back of his neck.
“Sorry,” he sniffed, when he’d regained his composure.
“It’s okay. The toxin can leave your emotions pretty raw.” He nodded his understanding. “Your wife’s death, is that why you became an EMT?”
“Yeah. I was a program manager and a volunteer firefighter. For weeks, I lay awake at night, picturing her bleeding to death in the street, no one to help. Maybe this is my way of atoning.”
“She’d probably be very proud of you. You’ve done well, especially with Riley.”
Dallas gave her a weak smile and shrugged. “We’re making it, mostly. It’s been hard.” They sat in silence for another few minutes, before he reached over and took her hand. This time, she didn’t jerk away. “You remind me of her a little. I think Riley noticed it too. Might be why she took to you right away.”
“Ah,” she answered. Not really what a girl wants to hear, but she did her best to hide her disappointment. “I look like her?”
“Not so much,” he answered. “Mostly, you’re really sweet, easy to talk to. That’s what I remember most about Kathi.”
She let out a sigh of relief. “That’s a nice thing to say.” It was certainly better than you’re a ringer for my dead wife.
“You said you came back for Riley. What did you mean by that?”
“If I hadn’t shown up, you would have died within days. The doctors would have called it some kind of drug withdrawal.”
“They know I don’t use drugs. I’m tested all the time for the job.”
“You do now. I’m all the drug you’ll ever want.” It was her turn to cry. “I am so sorry. I never would have involved you if I could’ve helped it. Riley needs you.”
“So what happens now?”
Bobbi looked out at the brightening sky. It was deceptively hopeful. “I can wean you slowly, touch you enough that the drug doesn’t hurt you. But when I’m finally gone …” She turned to him, her eyes fogged with tears, “It’ll feel a lot like it did when you lost your wife. Maybe even worse. I’m sorry,” she repeated.
“When you’re gone? Why would you leave? I love you, and I could tell on the bus you liked me back. At least I thought you did.”
“I did – do. But it doesn’t matter. What you feel isn’t real, Dallas. It’s just the toxin. I’m like a poisonous frog you only think is a princess.”
“Frog my butt, you look like Marilyn Monroe. Riley and I were looking at her pictures on the internet.” He laughed. “She’s all confused now. She told my mom I was dating a movie star and she was going to Hollywood to be an ‘actress slash lifeguard.’”
“Yeah, so you can’t leave. The end.”
“Dallas, even if it were real, even if things worked out, I’ll probably outlive you by a long time. Assuming I never do the hunt again, I’ll still outlast you by maybe fifty years.”
He took her cheek in one hand. “You cannot begin to imagine how silly that warning sounds to me.”
“Oh, bloody hell. I’m sorry. Kathi.”
“Yeah, Kathi. So if you can guarantee you’ll be around my whole life, I’m ready to commit right now.”
Bobbi looked away. She wanted to stay, needed to try. But whether descended from mythical creatures or no, she was also a woman. A woman needs to know she’s loved. With Dallas, now under the influence of her toxin, she may as well be loved by a trained puppy. “I can’t,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
“Woman, if you say ‘I’m sorry’ one more time I swear I’ll choke you. Then you’ll probably end up killing me or something, so please don’t.”
“Shut up!” she said. “You’re not supposed to joke about something like that.” She punctuated her sentence with a punch to his shoulder. “I’m a mass murdering fiend, remember?”
“For all we know, one of those creeps is the guy that killed Kathi. I don’t feel sorry for the bastards one bit.”
“Good to know,” she said.
“Look, I’ll make this easy on you. If I’m addicted, it didn’t happen when I touched you. It happened when Riley took to you as though she’d known you her whole life. Since her mother died, Riles has talked to maybe ten people: me, her counselor, her grandparents, her teacher, a couple of her friends. Then she took one look at you, and it was love at first sight.”
“So you love me because your daughter loves me?” Bobbi laughed. “Give me a bloody break.”
“Didn’t you say you were a mother, Bobbi?” She did. Could she fall for a man because he was the perfect stepdad for her own daughter? Damn right she could. “Riley picked you, and I’m keeping you,” he said.
“Just like that?”
“Exactly like that. Why do you think I took your hand on the bus?” She shrugged. “Those guys were making me nervous. I was going to make you walk home with us so I could drive you to your place. Plus, I figured it’d buy me more time with you.”
Bobbi’s eyes were tracking his as if he were the night sky and she the Earth’s last searchlight. “But I pulled away.”
“I thought you didn’t like me after all. I got the hell outta there. It was pretty embarrassing.”
“I’m sor- …” He gave her a stern look. “I was being stupid,” she said.
Dallas stood, pulling her up with him. “Are you hungry? I haven’t eaten since Friday. I make a killer omelet.”
“I’m starved,” she agreed. Bobbi followed him to the doorway and stood there staring at the wreckage of upturned green furniture and children’s toys and his entire wall dedicated to family photos. “I’m keeping you too,” she said, suddenly.
“You heard me. I’m keeping you, puppy or no. Gonna have your babies.”
He stepped back and bent his head to her as if to read her face for signs of teasing. He found none. “You sure about this? I mean I’m ecstatic, but aren’t you worried that ‘it’s not real’ anymore?”
“You’re gorgeous, a great dad, sweet, and permanently in love with me. I suddenly realized I don’t give a damn if it’s real or not.” She was feeling misty inside, the first anything she felt inside in a very long while.
Dallas considered her as though she were the most confusing thing he’d ever seen, which she likely was. “Okay, babies,” he finally said, scratching his head, “but can we have brunch first?”
Bobbi grinned and pushed her way past him through the door. “Food’s always a good idea.” As he closed the door, she added, “Then sex.”
Dallas’s eyes widened. “Then sex,” he agreed. “Wait. You want a kid right away?”
“Nope.” She grinned and began to undress. “You better get busy cooking Mr. Fireman. It’s starting to get a little warm in here. We may need your services soon.”
Dallas took two steps toward the kitchen, stopped, turned, and lifted her from her feet. “Hell, I waited two days. I can wait another thirty minutes to eat.”
“Thirty minutes? Oh, it’s gonna be a bigger fire than that.”
Dallas set her down at the foot of the steps, opened a closet, and pulled out his firefighter helmet. She took it from him and put it on herself.
“Gotta love a man with the proper equipment,” she said, giggling as he lifted her again and bolted up the stairs with her in his arms, taking them two at a time.