“The Hissing Widow”

Posted: September 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

This week’s Chuck Wendig challenge. I feel like this is a decidedly slow burn of a story, but I’m pretty happy with how it came out. Way more of a burgeoning romance tale than I think I intended. 

“Seriously, man? You set me up for a blind date?” The glass holding my beer felt cool against my skin, but that didn’t stop the sweat from dripping down into my eyes. Harold and I were sitting outside on his deck, the summer air swampy around us. He’d placed a couple of steaks on the grill and we were waiting for it to finish cooking.

Harold held his hands up in defense. “It wasn’t my idea, I swear. You know how Janice gets.”

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, she likes to meddle.”

“Look, don’t be like that, okay? How long has it been since you’ve been on a date?” He sipped his beer.

“I don’t know. When was the last time you got laid?” It was a low blow. Harold and Janice’s new born daughter was born just three months ago. It had been a trying pregnancy, and from the little I heard from Harold, Janice was still recovering from her c-section. This weekend, Janice had gone to her mom’s house and she’d taken the baby with her. That left Harold and I out here on the deck, drinking beer and waiting for the steaks to cook.

“Fuck you, and none of your business.”

Guess it really had been a while. “So who is this person Janice set me up with and what’s wrong with her?” I took a long sip of my beer. I’d made sure to bring my own, because I didn’t trust Harold to buy anything other than cheap piss.

“Her name’s Echidna.”

“What kind of name is that? Isn’t that a video game character?” I finished my beer, stood up to get another. “You still haven’t told me what’s wrong with her.”

“I don’t know. Janice thinks she might be Greek, so maybe that’s where it’s from.  And there’s nothing wrong with her. She’s a friend of Janice’s from yoga class. She married young, but it ended tragically. Husband died in a motorcycle accident or something.”

“That’s terrible. Wait, and you want me to go on a date with her?”

Harold got up to check on the steaks, taking a swill from his bottle.  “Well, not me. Janice though, she wants to see her friend get out a bit more.”

“So how’d these two meet anyway? I didn’t think Janice was getting out of the house much what with being on bedrest and the new baby. How is Harold two-point-oh doing?”

“Just a little pooping and eating machine. I’ll be glad when he sleeps all the way through the night.” He flipped the steaks over, prodded them with a fork.  He scratched the back of his head. “I’m not sure how they met, honestly. Might have been at some new mother’s thing.”

“She’s got kids?” I raised an eyebrow. I didn’t have anything against dating single mothers, but it was nice to know just how deep the water was before wading into it.

Harold flipped the steaks onto a plate. “Maybe? That would make sense, wouldn’t it? Look, I really don’t know what her deal is. Janice asked me to ask you if you’d go on a date with her. That’s the end of my involvement in all this.”

“Yeah, yeah. Fine. Before I agree to anything though, I get to see a picture of her, okay? You do have a picture of her right?”

Harold smiled. “Thought you’d never ask. Come on in while the steaks rest. Janice sent me a couple of her.” He must have noticed my grin, because he added, “Nothing like that. Get your head out of the gutter.”

As we headed inside, I asked, “So when am I supposed to go on this date anyway?”

“Funny you should ask. Here, would you mind getting the door? Thanks. Janice made reservations for you two for next week.”

“Dude, your wife needs to get back to work.”

He laughed. “No need to tell me.”

#

A week later and I was sitting in a fairly posh restaurant waiting for my date to arrive. It was a cute little French-style bistro. Looking over the menu, none of the prices threatened to send me into cardiac arrest though I was going to have to be frugal with my beer budget for the week. The staff was attentive, but distant and I’d decided on a glass of wine to help calm my nerves before Echidna arrived. I’d picked a seat where I could watch the door, and so she would, hopefully, be able to see my face when she came in. I worried a bit that she might not look anything like her picture, that it had been subjected to magazine cover level of photoshopping. I needn’t have worried.

To say that she was a knockout would be doing her a gross disservice. She wore a snakeskin dress that fell to mid-thigh that hugged her curves in all the right places. Her hair was long and held in place by a simple band, and she glided into the restaurant on killer heels. She lowered her shades, peering over them through the restaurant. When she saw me, her smile was bright and warm. She had an olive complexion and the sort of dark Mediterranean eyes I could fall into forever.

I stood up as she walked over fumbling briefly with the napkin I’d placed on my lap and trying not to bump the table. “Hi there,” I said. Really? That was the best I could come up with?

“You must be Michael,” she purred. Her accent was as exotic as she was, but I had trouble placing it. Greek maybe? “Janice has told me so much about you.”

“God, I hope not,” I said as I pulled out her chair. “She’s never been my biggest fan, honestly. I’m a little surprised she set this up in the first place.”

Echidna smiled, and I couldn’t help but notice her eyeteeth were a bit longer than usual. In fact, they almost looked filed. I put it down to the fact that it had been a long time since I’d been on a date, and I was looking for something wrong with her.

“Oh, I have to admit I asked Janice to set this date up.”

“You did?”

“Mmm-hmm.” She opened her menu, made a pretense of studying it. “How is that wine? I prefer reds myself, but I could find myself tempted.” She tapped her finger on an item, smiled up at me. “You wouldn’t be offended if I got the rabbit would you? I find Americans can be put off what other cultures consider food.”

“Not at all,” I said. “I tend to be equal opportunity when it comes to food.”

Her smile grew wider. “That is so refreshing to hear. What were you thinking of getting?”

We chatted for a time, about our jobs, what we liked to read, what we liked to watch. I’d previously decided not to bring up her husband unless she did, but she deftly avoided the subject.

“So you never said why you wanted to meet me,” I said as the waiter cleared away our plates and set the dessert menus in front of us.

“I didn’t? How odd. Would you like to split a dessert with me? The mousse sounds delicious, but I don’t know I could finish it on my own.”

“Okay,” I said. “So, about setting this up?”

“Fine, then, if you must be so persistent. Janice shared some pictures of her and her husband. It was some party, and you were there as well. You looked, well, so sad. I could not help but wonder why.”

The corner of my mouth slid up into a smirk. “Guessing she told you?”

She nodded, before waving the waiter over. “We’d like to get the mousse to share. Merci. Did you want coffee?”

“No thank you,” I replied. I felt a nice buzz from the two glasses of wine I’d had with dinner, and coffee would have ruined that. I thought of what photos Echidna might be referring too, and figured they must have been from the divorce party Janice and Harold had thrown for me. I didn’t remember much from that night, but from what I understand I drank way too much and passed out early. “I was a bit of a mess that night.”

“A bit? And only for the night?” Echidna’s tone was coy, but her smile was friendly.

I smiled back. “One day at a time, right?”

“Mmmm. Oh good, our dessert is here.”

We finished in silence, and when the check came she didn’t even give me a chance to pay for the whole thing. “Next time, maybe you can treat,” she said, flashing that smile again. It took me a moment to realize the implications of that statement.

“I don’t live far from here,” she said. “Walk me home?”

“Of course.”

The air outside was still warm, the last bit of summer before moving into the crispness of fall. As I walked next to her, she looped her arm in mind.

“You must think me terribly old fashioned,” she said.

“Not at all.” I tried to remember the last time I’d been on a real date, and I kept coming up with blanks.

“Here we are.” We were a few blocks from the restaurant, outside of a fairly nice apartment building, doorman and old. “Won’t you come upstairs for a cup of coffee?”

She’d tastefully decorated her apartment. I noticed a lot of Greek artwork, including a couple of pricy reproduction of Grecian urns. She’d gone into the backroom to slip into something more comfortable. She’d already set the coffee going, so maybe she really did want to have a cup of coffee. It would have been rude of me to decline.

As I waited, I heard a strange sort of hissing noise coming from the direction of the bedroom.

“Everything okay in there?” I called out.

“Give me… ahh… a moment. Everything’s fine,” she replied.

I was worried. She didn’t sound fine. In fact she sounded as if she was in a great deal of pain.

“Uhm, look, I can come back later if you want.” I edged closer to the bedroom.

“Noo… don’t go yet. Ahhh. I’ll be right, argh, out,” she moaned. Now I was getting seriously concerned, but wasn’t sure if she was in pain… or something else. “You haven’t had your coffee yet.”

“No, really, it’s okay. It’s getting late. I should go.” I started to make my way toward the front door.

“I really mussst insssist,” Echidna called out. Something came out of her bedroom, but it was too dark to make out clearly. Whatever it was, it was big. And it wasn’t exactly walking, more slithering out of the bedroom.

“E-echnida?” I grabbed a candlestick from a table, its heavy weight only a vague reassurance.

“Michael. Oh, Michael. I hoped you wouldn’t sssee me like this. It’s been ssso long since I’ve been with a man, ssso long since sssomeone looked at me without revulsion. I hoped the curssse would wait a bit.”

I stepped back a step as Echnida emerged into the light. Her upper body and face remained unchanged, though two jutting fangs now slid down past her bottom lip. Her hair was in disarray, and her makeup was smudged. More distressing to me was her lower body. Where before her shapely legs had climbed up and up and up some more, she now possessed a monstrous snake tail in the same pattern as the dress she’d worn on her date.

I took another step back before I noticed the tears in her eyes. “You’re not going to hurt me?” I looked dubiously from the candlestick to her. I noticed with some distress the venom dripping from her fangs.

“Why would I do that?” she asked me, her coils looping under her. She wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand.

“Your last husband didn’t die in a motorcycle accident did he?”

Echidna let out a sound halfway between a sob and a laugh. “What you think I killed him?” She shook her head. “No, he died of nothing more tragic than a heart attack. He wasn’t exactly a young man either. He was eighty when he died.” She sighed. “Mortal men pass so quickly.”

I put the candlestick down. “So, uhm, how about that cup of coffee then?”

She smiled at me, a look of hope and wonder. “Really? Okay.”

After she got me the coffee, I sat on the couch and talked to her for a while. We even made plans for a second date. Oh, don’t look at me like that. Yes, she might be a monster, but from the waist up she’s a fantastic looking woman, she’s intelligent, and she makes a helluva cup of coffee. As far as I’m concerned she’s leaps and bounds better than my ex. That reminds me, I really ought to send Janice a thank you note.

 

Author’s Note: A far cry from 

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Comments
  1. I’d be interested to see where you take this. Anymore you read filed teeth and vampire automatically comes to mind. It’s refreshing to read something with a different twist.

    • Heh. I guess there is that, isn’t there? As it was, I was 600 words over where I needed to be. I like to drop clues though about where the story is going near the beginning. Using the name Echidna I figured might be a slight giveaway, but you need a background in Greek myth to get it.

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