“Baby Chicks.” Collected in Angel of Manslaughter by Cindy Rosmus. Copyright 2006 © Fossil Publications. First appeared in Hardboiled, # 34, Summer 2005.
All her life it haunted her. She’d only been eight, but told it over and over to silhouetted priests in confessionals. For years. Like it’d just happened that day.
That warm, quivering ball of fluff. So trusting. As her chubby hands began crushing, it panicked. Peered around at the others, who hopped around, peeping, carefree. Wildly tried to peck its way out, but her grip was merciless. Its little heart popped. And she smiled.
Her name was Libra. “And no,” she told Donny wearily, the night they met at the bar, “I’m not. I’m Scorpio.” The worst kind, too: obsessive, jealous. And, secretly, sadistic. “Definitely not balanced.” A real sexpot, and fuck you, I’m forty.
He lit a cigarette. “So,” he said, smugly. “Your folks were astro-freaks?”
“No.” She picked up her drink. Then, without looking at him, “Just freaks.”
She missed the gleam in his eye. “Aren’t we all?”
Lonely, horny. But one hot babe! She knew that, all right. The older she got, the better she looked: firm breasts, and legs. Smooth, creamy skin, with no crow’s feet beneath those hungry dark eyes. Wild black hair that shouldn’t’ve worked, but man, did it! Came off as cool, but like in that Billy Joel song, “was a mark for every shyster.” Just be nice to her. Tell her how young she looks… (Snicker): Tell her you love her.
No one, her Mom had told her, will ever love you but us. Pop was like Norman Bates’ Mom, just alive. A withered Granny Smith, cock in hand, who’d given up, way back. Mom liked to lock her in the closet. It was fun to picture her suffocating. That’s why you did it, one shrink had assured her. To get back at her. That’s why you killed.
The drinks had relaxed her. Donny, she thought, woozily, was so nice! Great to talk to. Better than any shrink. And gorgeous. With hair! She was sick of bald, needy fucks. Donny’s hair was shiny, and dark, real long, like some warrior prince. Hypnotic eyes, he had, too. He just oozed sex, and God, she needed it!
“When I was eight,” Libra said carefully, “I…” She sat there, trembling.
“Wha’ja do?” Donny asked. “Something bad?” He held her icy hand. “Something…” She missed his smile. “Dirty?”
Her brain felt stuffed with yellow fluff. Had he drugged her? Love Is A Drug! Grace Jones had sung. Why did she feel this way? And why did she trust him? “I…” She still couldn’t look at him. “Strangled a baby chick.”
“That’s it?” he said, lightly. Almost disappointed.
“Yeah,” Libra said. In amazement, she stared. He was smiling!
“Some people,” he said, squeezing her hand, tighter, “get pleasure from pain.”
The stiffest penance she’d ever got was Ten Our Fathers, and Five Hail Marys. For taking a life. For crushing a ball of helpless fluff!
Donny’s shit-eating grin should’ve scared her. But it didn’t. And this “priest” rewarded her.
By fucking her.
Then marrying her. And the real penance began.
Their wedding night… Velvety petals covered the sheets. Nude, she’d slunk across them. She sweated so hard, they stuck to her. “Get off the phone!” she begged, finally. “It’s been hours!” He just smirked. Like Emperor Caligula slouched on four satin pillows. In one hand, his cell, in the other, his cock. Breathing heavily, he choked it. “Who is that?” she screamed.
“My…slave!” he gasped. “Says…congra…tu…lations!”
She grabbed the phone. “Fuck you!” she told the phone sex slave.
“Fuck you!” The voice was prissy, male. “And your little dog, too!”
She’d slimmed down, grew tits, but like that kid in FREAKY FRIDAY, Libra felt trapped in a grown-up’s body. In that mean, grown-ups’ world. As a teen, her best friends were books. WUTHERING HEIGHTS was her favorite. She was Heathcliff. The wild child, searching for its soul mate in all the wrong places: the rain-soaked moors, sleazy bars.
And, then years later…a tree.
“Who’re you?” she demanded. “What’re you doing up there? In my yard?”
He just smiled. Peter Pan, she thought of. No, Tommy, from The Who’s rock opera. It was the hair. Long, golden-brown curls that went on forever. He had on a thick, gold “Guido” chain that gleamed in the sun. A tight t-shirt and cut-offs. A teen girl’s dream.
“Well?” she said.
Smirking, he held up a book. “Reading!” He tossed it down to her.
In the grass, it fell, flew open. It looked old, with crumbly, yellowed pages. Not the type of book a kid his age would be reading. In a tree, yet! “Why, s’the light better up there?” she said sarcastically.
“Sure!” He looked right at home up there. “ ’Cept…” This smile was a challenge. “Now I’ve got nothing to read.”
Libra felt this wild urge to yell for his mother. Whoever she was. Or Donny. Who was…gone. Tears burned her eyes. Over in the grass, the book blurred. Like a kid, she stamped her foot. “I am not climbing this tree!” she cried. He looked alarmed.
Then he was down, beside her. “You won’t have to,” he said.
They almost touched. There was something…magical about him. He had warm brown eyes. You got the feeling, if you did touch him, he’d have skin soft as a baby’s. But he was no baby. His body was lean, with dangerous, sculpted arms. Libra’s cheeks were wet, and the hand that brushed away her tears could’ve been a man’s her age. But not Donny’s. Never again! Inside her, something tightened.
He stared, then bent and retrieved his book, handing it to her. Inside the front cover was, “Vincent Vitale.” Class of next year. Its title: WUTHERING HEIGHTS.
“’S’ a real good read,” he said.
“So what happened?” Vince asked, Saturday afternoon, in Libra’s kitchen. “With your husband, I mean.”
She froze up. From outside, you smelled heavy rain battering the roses. In the dark, they sat, close, but not touching. “He left,” she said.
“Who could leave you?” he said, so innocently, she beamed.
“He…thought we were…perfect…for each other.” A lie. She’d thought so. “But I was somebody else.” And female.
Lightning pulsed. Any second, it would thunder. Vince leaned closer. “We’re all somebody else,” he said, “Deep down.”
Libra’s heart raced. She held out her hand, but he didn’t take it, peering around the room, instead. “You know,” he said. “We’ve all got…” He twisted his rope chain. “Secrets.”
She could taste fear. Hers and his. Almost in slow motion, she got up. Vince’s jaw trembled. He leaned back, eyes wide, as she slid over, onto his lap. He let go of his chain. Shut his eyes, as she smoothed back his hair, stroked his cheek, the fuzz along his chin. His one acne scar she touched, like she could heal it.
Thunder came, and they jumped. When his head jerked back, she saw purple splotches that circled his throat. Hickeys, she thought, seized with jealousy. He swallowed hard, waiting. Shivering.
When they kissed, her heart swelled, like it would burst. His tongue waited for hers, then fought back, roughly. Soft moans, when she pressed on his bruised throat. That’ll teach you! she thought. She sucked on his tongue and lips, till hers were numb. He squeezed her so tight, she could hardly breathe. She loved it, loved all of this.
Suddenly, she stopped kissing. On his lap, she rocked back and forth, till he seemed ready to explode. “Oh, man!” he gasped. She’d never felt like this, not even with Donny. Between her carnal rawness, and this boy’s emotion, she felt power.
Secrets, they both had. “Let’s keep them,” she whispered.
And got down on her knees.
I want to know! his eyes said, stubbornly. Sprawled in her bed, his whole body was waiting. And I want to tell.
Smiling, she looked away. A week later, it was. They’d fucked so much, her own body was constantly flushed.
That first time had been a disaster. For him. As his shorts came down, he’d shot too fast, made a big mess. His legs shook. “I’m…sorry!” he said. Any second, she feared he’d bolt out the door. Be gone forever.
But he’d stayed. For hours. On the couch, they lay close. It didn’t take him long to get hard again. Outside, the rain beat down like machine gun pellets, as he fucked her hard. He knew a lot, for a kid. Knew that special spot, enjoyed licking it till she screamed. She trapped him, choking him with her thighs. But he didn’t seem to mind…
And he came back. Every day. Well, school’s out, said the voice of reason. In September, he’ll probably disappear. Between school work, and chicks… She stiffened. Those…bruises hadn’t faded. In fact, there might’ve been more. “So,” she said, trying to make a joke of it, “how’s Vampira?”
Without taking his eyes off her, he sat up, fluffed the pillow. “Huh?”
Irked, she tried again. “Elvira. Buffy. Whoever the fuck she is!” When he still looked confused, she yelled, “Who chewed up your neck?”
Instantly, he covered it, then let go. His smile was hopeful. “Nobody.”
Libra felt like she had, weeks ago, when he’d teased her from the tree. “Keep your secret!” she hissed. As she turned away, he was out of bed, at her side.
He seized her face, made her look at him. His eyes were bright, like an alien’s. She was almost scared of him. “I don’t want to keep it,” he said. “Not any more.”
Libra watched as he knotted the sheet. “There’s a name for it,” he said, “A long one. Kinda hard to pronounce.” He was getting turned on, tying those knots, even just talking about it. “ ‘A…E…A.’ ”
Autoerotic asphyxiation. Talk to Donny. He knew all that shit. Way back, he’d mentioned something about it. When you strangle yourself during sex. Or somebody else. Sometimes you died.
Vince’s eyes made her queasy. “It’s safer,” he said, twisting the rope around his hand, “if somebody helps.” She turned away, but he kept talking, in this hypnotic voice. “I almost died, once. But my Dad cut me down.”
Her eyes filled with tears. “No,” she said, “I can’t.”
Dead silence. Then, “Please?”
She shook her head.
The room felt cold, suddenly. Like summer was over. Like outside, golden-brown leaves had died, and needed to be raked. Too soon, she thought miserably, it would snow.
“I gotta go,” he muttered.
She couldn’t eat. Even bread got stuck in her throat. She couldn’t get warm. That delicious, after-sex glow she’d had all last week, was gone. And forget sleep.
All week, it had rained. Gray, gloomy skies. Vince’s tree was drenched. No chance of running into him there. Or anywhere. She would’ve called, but what could she say? To them, anyway? “Hey, Pops! I fucked your son. Vincent ‘Hang ‘Em High’ Vitale’. Have him call me.” And why would he? She would never do what he asked.
Or would she?
Finally, the phone rang. Libra’s heart lurched, then sank. “Miss me?” It was Donny!
“Mm-hmm,” was all she could say.
“Let’s get together!” he suggested. “I need a change.” No, his latest boytoy was sick of him.
The bar where they’d met hadn’t changed much. Same lazy barmaid, same tunes on the CD player. But now, for a buck, you got two songs instead of three. And, as always, Libra’s dollar bill slid back out.
Donny looked awful. Bony cheeks, bloodshot eyes. His dark hair had lost its sheen. He might’ve stopped washing it. Drugs, Libra thought. Or…worse. “It gets old, fast,” he said. Virginia Slims 120’s, he smoked now. His hand shook as he lit one. “Then you’re bored. You look around, and realize…” He took a long drag. “You’re alone.”
No kidding, she thought. But didn’t say a word.
He looked hard at her. Her hand, when he took it, was as icy as that first time. She wondered if she’d ever feel better. “I’d like to come home,” he said.
A warm body, even his, might save her from this horrible chill. Or, maybe she was as sick as he looked. A poisonous seed, he would’ve planted, deep inside of her. Still without speaking, she took a sip of her drink. That seed was in Vince, she thought. Tears stung her eyes, but she fought them back. But he had a death wish.
Donny stabbed out the cigarette. His smirk vanished, when she slid her hand out of his. “No, thanks,” she said.
And hurried out, into the rain.
At home, a loud sob burst out of her. Then another. She cried, shamelessly, like a baby, who’d fallen flat on its face. Buried in the bedclothes, she kicked and screamed, for so long, she wore herself out. She just laid there. And the hiccup-y sobs stopped on their own.
She didn’t know how long she slept. In her dream, Vince was sprawled next to her, watching her. Nude, with his white tee balled up in his hand, he looked like a boy, yet as close to a grown-up as he’d ever be. In her dream-heart, Libra knew that was true.
She didn’t want to wake up. This dream was too real. But no matter how hard she blinked, Vince was still there. She could even smell him, as clearly as that rain that had never let up. His curls were drenched. He was wet, all over. And damn, she was thirsty.
As she sat up, he grabbed her. “I’m…sorry,” he whispered. She kissed him, like she’d never stop. Like if she did, he would die.
He handed her the tee. “Just this once,” he said, without smiling. Then lifted his hair.
Around his neck she tied the shirt, too loosely. But she couldn’t fool him. His eyes narrowed. “Bitch!” he said. “You old fart!” Her heart ached. Tears filled her eyes. She pulled tighter. He smiled. His erection was growing.
Down came her panties. As she straddled him, he pulled the shirt even tighter around his throat. She gasped, as he speared her. They fucked, slowly. His smile was ecstatic, as she tied the knot tighter. Her heart raced, with horrible excitement. She’d never felt so good. This was beyond sex. It was…
She squeezed so tight, his eyes flew open. Searched hers wildly, then…shut. “No!” she screamed. She loosened the knot. His breathing was slow, eyes barely open. As she slid off of him, he groped for her. “No!” she said again, and got up.
He could hardly speak, but his eyes pleaded. He pulled himself, weakly, but he was losing his erection. That she could help with.
But as she lowered her mouth, he smacked her. She gasped. His strength was back. “You…fuck!” she said, rubbing her jaw. “How dare you?”
She jumped back on top of him. “I’ve got jeans…” she yelled, “older than you!” He smiled, as she tied the knot fresh, tight. Tighter. As…tight…as she…could… Then rode him, harder.
Something was different, this time. She didn’t want to stop choking him. Donny, she thought suddenly, You fuck!
But this was Vince. It was Vince she loved now, in that savage way.
His eyes peered around, like he was suddenly scared. When they shut, she pulled even harder. She’d stopped fucking him. But she hadn’t felt this good, this way, in so long! She pulled tighter, and longer, than she believed was possible.
When his head rolled slightly, she felt all wet inside. He’d shot his load. And too soon.
Smirking, she dropped the reins. Slid off, onto her side of the bed. She felt relaxed, delicious. “Next time…” she began, then looked over at him.
The closest to grown-up he’d ever get.