A WILD BUTTERFLY - JACK BATES
For a luxury suite, the room filled up quickly. Laura laid on her stomach across the king bed, her left leg bent up and kicking back and forth as she leafed through the what-to-do-in-our-city magazine under the Gideon bible she found in the drawer. Melanie sat in the low-back curved chair, mindlessly channel surfing. Kate paced around the tiled area in front of the large glass window, looking down on Minneapolis.
Melanie let out a frustrated sigh. “You yanks have hundreds of channels available to you and none of it is worth watching. In Britain, we have our BBC1 and BBC2 and we’re quite pleased, thank you very much.” The other women paid little attention to her rant. “Laura. What is that you’re humming?”
“Hmm? Oh. That Animotion song.” Laura flipped a page.
Laura shook her head. Her long, fine blonde hair tips slipped over the glossy pages. “Butterfly.”
Melanie smirked. Her thumb pressed the Up arrow on the remote. “I never got that song.”
“It’s about obsessions,” Kate said. She spread her hands out on the marble window sill. She spoke without looking at the other two women in the room with her. She looked past their reflections and into the city’s night. “How they consume you.”
“I know that,” Melanie said. She sank lower in the chair and surfed over news channels, cooking channels, comedy channels. She lingered on a pay-for-porn channel. “How do you ‘have’ a butterfly? You can’t sleep with a butterfly.”
“It’s not a sexual reference, Mel,” Laura said looking up. “It’s about adding a butterfly to a collection so that you can have it. You know. Possess it.”
“You mean like when someone puts a stickpin in its back and mounts it in a shadow box?”
“Maybe we should do that to old Robbie, eh, girls?” Mel cocked her head towards Laura. Laura smiled back. Kate dropped her face before the window.
“Maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all,” Kate said. Her voice was barely audible over the grunts on the screen.
“Did you say something, luv?” Melanie asked.
Kate spun around. “Could you turn that off?”
“You mean the skin flick?”
“It hardly seems appropriate right now.”
“I don’t know about that, Kate,” Laura said. She rolled over on her back and rose up on her elbows. Her perky young breasts popped up beneath her tight red tee shirt. “That movie is pretty much how your husband lives his life.”
Kate looked at the screen. A man knelt behind a cheerleader. Her short skirt was flipped up over her ass. He moved like a piston and the girl shook and moaned. Kate pulled out the desk chair and sat in it. She folded her hands in her lap.
“Well, girls, how do I look?”
The three women in the room looked over to the bathroom door. Stephanie stood there, one of her arms extended out against the door frame, the other bent with a hand on her hip. She wore a silky cream teddy, dark lace riding over the upper slopes of her breasts. The hem of the negligee barely covered her belly. A matching thong practically glowed between her tanned legs. Her streaked blonde hair was done up in a sort of French twist, a few curls dangling down along her cheeks and framing her face. Her make-up was impeccable: alluring without being sluttish.
“You’re beautiful,” Kate said. Tears welled up in the bottoms of her eyes. “Maybe if I looked as good as you, maybe none of this would be happening right now.”
“Little late for second thoughts, luv,” Melanie said. Kate didn’t like it. To her, it seemed sinister.
“I’m just not sure about this,” Kate said. She stared at her hands in her lap.
Stephanie leaned over the purse she set on the sink counter. She fished out her cigarettes and lit one. “Honey, you’re the one who organized this little surprise party.” Stephanie exhaled towards the ceiling.
“I don’t think you’re supposed to smoke in here,” Kate said. Her voice was flat.
“What we’re about to do and you’re worried about smoke in the room?”
Stephanie took another drag and let the smoke out of the corner of her mouth. She held up the pack and her lighter. Both Laura and Melanie raised their hands. Stephanie tossed the pack to Melanie, who then handed it off to Laura. Laura held it out to Kate.
Kate stared at the other three women. She hadn’t known them until a chance use of her husband’s laptop revealed them to her. It began with a saucy instant message from Melanie asking if he was up for some cyber-sexing. After egging on the woman from across the Atlantic, Kate showed her hand by turning on the laptop camera. Melanie had looked shocked, but then began laughing. She explained to Kate she hadn’t realized she had been so cliché, a stewardess involved with a married man. Absolute knee slapper, according to Melanie. Downright humiliating to Kate. She dug a little deeper into his ‘work’ files and found Laura, the grad student he’d been mentoring, and Stephanie, the professor in the same field of linguistics as he. It was all so cliché, Kate realized: the traveling lecturer with a pussy in every port.
She never let on to Rob, as she called her husband, that she knew any of this. What she did was notify the other women of one another. They formed a secret society online and kept in touch with one another. And it had been Kate, as Stephanie had said, that had suggested the evening’s event.
“What the hell,” Kate said. She took the pack form Laura. She lit a cigarette, dragged the smoke deep down into her lungs, held it there like she was sipping some fine wine. The smoke escaped in a slow, steady billow. “You can take a stop, but you can never quit, right?” A wicked smile spread over Kate’s face as the smoke left her mouth. “Just like men.” The other three women showed her their shocked faces before they let loose with a girls’ club squeal and started laughing. It seemed to break the uneasy tension in the room.
Stephanie put her cigarette between her lips and returned to the bathroom. She came out without the smoke but carried a bottle of perfume that she sprayed by the suite’s main door and through the air. “Robert’s going to think I smoked a whole pack in here.”
“My Robbie always insisted I smoke,” Melanie said. “Especially if I were on my knees and between his.”
“Bobby only wanted me to smoke if we were at a bar.” Laura dropped her stub into a tumbler with a trace of wine in it. The tip hissed. “He said something about it looking sexy but not being sexy.” Laura shook her head and rolled her eyes.
“Robert and I made it a point to have cigarettes whenever we were discussing books or theories.” Stephanie sprayed a little more perfume around the room then down along the bed. Laura rolled away from the sprits. “He said it reminded him of his undergraduate years and long philosophical discussions with his colleagues and professors.”
“Rob made me quit.” Kate took another drag. She relished the heavy burn in her mouth, throat, and lungs.
The conversation progressed, with each sharing a distinct personality of her husband. Kate drank in the conversations. It was as if she was taking tiny sips of a bitter poison. Robert. Robbie. Bobby. She only knew her husband as Rob, as in, ‘Oh, Rob!’, as in the man who promised all those words at their wedding fifteen years ago, words she now knew were sandwiched between layers of shit. Kate watched the women. In her mind, she drew a timeline of when each infidelity started.
She was certain that, before her, there had been Stephanie. Stephanie, who had played her cards to win the only man who understood her and what she understood about language. But, in the end, Rob had folded his hand and gone after Kate. They had shared a year of courtship before the proposal, then a year of arrangements before their big day. Fifteen years of marriage made it around seventeen years of relationship. Rob was already on his way to being a full professor when she met him so it would have to mean he’d known Stephanie for as long, if not longer. All those years, a woman as beautiful as Stephanie, waiting in the wings for a man who would never muck up a good thing he had going by marrying her. And she never married, not as far as Kate knew. There was no telltale ring on her finger, or any of theirs, for that matter. Only Kate sported the ring and that didn’t seem to count for anything.
Next up would have been Melanie. Two years ago was the international conference Rob attended in London. He hadn’t asked Kate to go on that one, not that he should have. She always felt out of place with all the talking heads, as she called them. She was uneasy being around them, fearful they would deconstruct what she said or how she said something or why she said it the way she did. New Orleans had been the last convention she attended with him. She had only gone to see what life in the Big Easy was like. It had scared her. She didn’t even bring it up when he said he had to go to London to present his paper. Kate now suspected Stephanie had been in attendance. They could spend ten days pretending to be the happy couple. It, of course, meant that Rob probably had met Melanie on the return flight which in turn explained the call saying his flight was delayed, there were problems with the car service, and he was just going to get a room at an airport hotel and he’d be home in the morning.
Laura laughed and began telling another story about Bobby. Kate watched her but didn’t listen to this newest member of Rob’s litter, his latest addition to his collection. She was the easiest to understand. So young, so innocent, and so full of sexual energy that her pussy lips must have unfurled for Rob like the dewy wet wings of a butterfly slowly emerging from its chrysalis. And like the butterfly, she was eager to sail, to experience, to take its first sip of its newly transformed life. Rob had been there to nurture her.
The room had grown quiet. Kate realized all the women were looking at her. She gave them a smile. “I was just thinking of how and when Rob met each of you. I was thinking of how he must have been cheating on you, Stephanie, with me. And how he probably charmed you, Melanie, on the long flight back from London a couple of years ago. And how you, Laura, fell for this man who was like your father but not quite and so full of intellect that it was electrifying to be in his presence.”
“How did he meet you, Kate?” Stephanie asked. She sat down on the edge of the bed.
“I worked in the grad library at Michigan. I helped him find a book. He paid me back by screwing me in the storage rom. We were good together that way. At least in the beginning. There was an air of danger about Rob that excited me.” The other women stared at Kate, each lost in their own thoughts about their Robert, Robbie, Bobby. Kate went on. “I’m not sure why he married me.”
“Because I turned him down.” Stephanie said. “I don’t mean it to be a slam, Kate. But about the time I said no, he started up with you.”
“So he married me to get back at you?”
“Maybe if you had married him, you’d be in Kate’s seat.” Melanie said.
“Maybe.” Stephanie looked at each of the women. “But in a way, we are each in Kate’s seat. We have shared this man for far too long. We each suspected or knew there were others in his life. We all knew about Kate but we didn’t care because we knew he wasn’t ours to keep, only to have. Yet none of us stopped to think about what it was doing to her.”
“I know what it was doing to me.” Laura said.
“So if we knew all that,” Melanie said. “Why are we here?”
“You’re here for me.” Kate said. “For all of us. Vengeance. He lied to us all and he lied with his dick. Each time he used it on us or with us, he was cheating on the others. We aren’t his butterflies to be netted, ladies. We are his furies and he will have to feel our wrath.”
The room fell still. For a second she thought they would erupt in applause.
“That’s a bit more extreme sounding then your emails. I mean, are we going to do something more drastic than what we discussed?” Melanie asked.
“I still say we cut it off.” Stephanie said.
Laura groaned and fell back on the bed. “No violence. Remember? We agreed.”
“Look, we know it can be reattached.”
“We’re sticking to our plan.” Kate said. She went to her purse and pulled out a tube of extra strong glue. She showed it to the women. “I also brought some polish remover. If he’s lucky, maybe he can get the maid to use it on him.” Kate looked at her band of sisters.
One by one they nodded.
“I do have a question,” Stephanie said. “Full joint or frightened turtle?”
Kate shook her head. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“When we put the glue on him. Are we gluing it against his belly or along his thigh?”
“Once he sees all four of us, I doubt the turtle will slink back into its shell. It will have to be belly.”
Melanie said. “Oh! Maybe we could tuck it under and glue it behind.”
“What’s going to happen when it wears out?” Laura asked.
“I imagine he’ll have some interesting stretch marks to explain to the next Mrs. Rob.” Kate said. She giggled. The others joined her. They stopped like middle school teens caught smoking in the girls’ room when they heard the knock at the door. Stephanie stood, fluffing her hair as she went to the door. She waited for the other three to move into the suite’s separate bedroom until she opened the door. Kate waited behind the second bedroom’s door, her hand on the knob, ready to spring when Stephanie gave the signal.
Admittedly, it was difficult to listen as Stephanie gave herself over to Rob. There was some bawdy talk from Rob, talk that although foreign to Kate, appeared all too familiar to Laura and Melanie. After foreplay that seemed to take longer than the actual act ever would, Stephanie let go with the predetermined cue. “Oh, Robert. Yes!”
Kate tugged the door open but stepped back behind it. She watched from the crack along the hinges. Laura and Melanie ran past her. As Stephanie swung her leg off of Rob’s body, Laura and Melanie grabbed each of his wrists. Each woman put a handcuff over it then attached the other end of the cuffs to the ends of a chain they had earlier run under the bed. Before he could sit up, they attached leather collars around each of his ankles, also at the ends of a chain looped under the bed. Rob looked around at the faces of the four women, his interested smile fading from one of pleasure to a frown of concern.
“Hey, what is this about?” Rob asked. He smiled as if he thought it was a joke.Melanie leaned over top of him. She put a finger to her lips. Laura pulled a roll of duct tape out of the drawer next to the bed. She undid a length of it and wrapped it around his mouth.
Kate emerged from her hiding spot. Stephanie stood against the marble window sill, her long, thin arms folded over her chest. Laura and Melanie stood at attention on either side of the bed. Kate stared at her naked and bound husband. Fifteen years of lies and infidelity boiled inside her like angry seas during a hurricane. If she could have, she would have zapped him with the lightning bolts she imagined she shot out of her eyes.
“This is about retribution, Rob.” Kate said. “This is about time.” Kate nodded her head at Stephanie. Stephanie smiled and crossed back to the bed. She sat on the edge of the bed, wrapping her fingers around his softening erection. She worked it until he was, as she had put it earlier, full joint.
It was Kate’s turn next. She went to the bed and held the tube of heavy duty glue over his lower belly, beneath the last row on the washboard abs he loved to show off. Kate squeezed it. Several drops fell out. Rob jerked his hips out of the way. Laura and Melanie moved and held him in place. Kate squeezed harder and a large glob fell just below his button. She looked at Stephanie.
Stephanie smiled. She pressed Rob’s penis down into the glue. Laura handed her the Gideon from the drawer. Stephanie laid it down over top of the sticky appendage and pressed. Rob grunted and howled behind the duct tape. He tried to rock his hips but Melanie and Laura held him still.
Kate stood at the foot of the bed. “No matter how much pain this might cause you, Rob,” she said. “It will never hurt as much as what you have done to me.”
She saw it then, saw the will go out of Rob’s eyes as he capitulated.
Stephanie stood up. She left the Gideon on top of him.
“Who’s up for a drink?” Melanie asked. The three other women raised their hands triumphantly.
Kate lifted Rob’s pants. “Rob’s treat, ladies.”
“In that case, I’ll change.” Stephanie said. She went into the bathroom. The others stared down at Rob. His eyes were closed. He lay still.
“What do we do with him now?” Laura asked. “He’ll be all right.” Kate said. “Housekeeping will be by in the morning.”
Rob’s head snapped up. He stared wide-eyed at Kate.
“What if he calls the police?” Melanie asked.
“What if he does?” Kate said. “I really don’t care. I’ll tell them it was all my idea. It won’t be a lie. And then I’ll be all over the news and in blogs and on television. Cheated on women will worship me. I’ll be famous. And so will he.”
Rob’s head sank back against the pillows.
Stephanie came out. The women looked at one another. They joined hands over the bed and over Rob.
They left him alone in the room, shackled to the bed with duct tape over his mouth and a Gideon bible over his crotch. They left him for the maid to find like that in the morning.
But that wasn’t how the maid found him in the morning. He was still shackled, his mouth was still duct taped, and the Gideon was still there. In addition to the scene was a knife sticking out of his belly; and, someone had used his blood to paint the outlines of what looked like the curving wings of a butterfly between the edge of his outstretched hands and the tips of his spread apart feet.
The plan had been to stick it to the man. Someone had changed her mind to stick it in the man, pinning him to the bed as if he were being displayed like a butterfly, a wild butterfly, in someone’s personal collection.
BIO: Jack Bates is the author of the Harry Landers, PI series with Mind Wings Audio (mindwingsaudio.com). He was also the head writer for Zeke's on the Levee, a web series with Duke Fire and CFCC Productions. In 2007, he optioned a horror screenplay co-written with his friend Tony Lucchi to Triboro Pictures in New York. Look for his stories in Thug Lit Issue #32 and an upcoming anthology of dark and twisted tales about Oz.
There Must Be Balance
3 hours ago