(Author's note: The first two thirds of this story was published on Writebuzz 2006. This complete version was rejected by Dark Tales last year essentially for being too bland. Dark fantasy. Swearing: None. Sex: References. Violence: None. Character names entirely fictitious. Feedback very much appreciated!)
The July heat was intense. Close, heavy aired, thunderstorm weather. It bore oppressively down upon young Tom's fragily marshalled thoughts. For the umpteenth time since she'd given it to him just five days ago Tom read and re-read the hastily scribbled address. Nurse Lucy Taylor, she of the jet black hair and the stunning good looks, had surreptitiously slipped the scrap of paper into his hand at the nursing station as he was being discharged from the hospital the Thursday afternoon of the previous week. “Come and visit me Tuesday afternoon,” she'd instructed him. “I'm on a middle rest day then.” And she'd immediately followed up with a deft little kiss to his cheek. It had been a most unexpected turn of events, and Tom was still wondering upon it. Nurse Brooker hadn't done any such thing, and neither certainly had Sister Adams!
Lucy Lastic. That was the name the five middle aged men he'd latterly been sharing the out-ward with had christened her. Privately Tom had thought the nickname both predictable and more than a shade juvenile: And then the fella who'd started it - a Sunday League cricket playing solicitor as boastful of his womanizing as of his well heeled lifestyle - had sustained a sudden relapse and been rushed back to theatre again.
Staff Nurse Lucy Taylor. Quite tall. About five-nine. Great legs. Seriously attractive features. And dark, dark eyes, as though to match her hair. There was a hypnotic quality, bewitching almost, about those eyes Tom thought. Yet when it had been her turn in taking evening patient's round her phrase was: “Been good today?” And she'd wink and smile upon the affirmative answer. And her immaculately applied makeup, Tom hadn't failed to notice too, was always matt rather than shiny. A 'Goth' look which complimented her colouring perfectly. And out of all the people to whom she might have, it had been to him she'd given her address to, along with the invitation to make a visit ...
“If yer'd learned to drive yer could 'ave borrowed the car.” Tom's relationship with his father had been in steady decline ever since his mother's death six years previously. He'd visited only once and hadn't even been there to drive him home from the hospital, so Tom had been obliged to catch a bus. Tom knew that the address he was now headed for was a good hour's walk away across town. He didn't know at quite what time he should turn up, but thought that around three o'clock would be reasonable. He didn't want to wear a jacket over his open necked shirt, it was simply too hot for that, but he'd taken with him a collapsible umbrella in case the weather broke.
By the time he arrived at Nurse Lucy Taylor's road - it was more of a very broad copper beech tree lined avenue with large brick and tile Victorian houses converted into multiple flats on either side - Tom was footsore, hot, sweaty, and thirsty. He walked slowly up the opposite side scanning the house numbers until he found the right one. Self consciously crossing the wide, deserted road he discovered four bell buttons by the big front door simply marked Flats 1, 2, 3 and 4, together with the rather crudely installed speaker of a house intercom. Tom pressed the bell for Flat 4, the address he'd been given. After an anxious pause the intercom speaker crackled into life:
Tom identified himself.
“Come on up!” With a loud 'clunk' - perhaps it was some sort of electro-magnetic locking device - the paint peeled Brunswick green door came ajar. “Be sure to push it tight shut again behind you!”
Tom made his way up the two flights of dark marbled stairs to the topmost of the three floors. On the tiny enclosed landing at the head of the second flight he knocked on the solid wood door he found there. It swung open almost immediately, and there stood Nurse Lucy Taylor. Only now she was wearing a plain black knee length skirt below a high collar cream blouse, her luxuriant black hair hanging straight down behind her. “Hi there! Come on through.”
Well, she appeared genuinely pleased to see him. Tom had many times questioned over the past few days if he was really meant to take her up upon her invitation. But if not why then would she have made it? She was five or six years older than him at least. And ... well ... a very long way out of his league! Maybe she'd just sussed that he didn't have a girlfriend and felt sorry for him? Tom found himself ushered into a small sitting room which appeared to overlook the road below. He sat down on an aged fawn coloured sofa set at right angles to the window, facing an old fashioned grey-white marble fireplace. She sat at ninety degrees to him in a matching armchair before the window. “So, still on the road to recovery? And eating well I hope? Patients who've been on Special Diet generally need feeding up a bit once they're discharged!”
Her clear pronunciation bore no trace of any identifiable accent.
Tom put his collapsible umbrella that he'd been carrying down beside him, and realized his palms were sweating. God, but she looked even more gorgeous than she had in her nurse's uniform on the ward! She'd angled her legs together in the way women do when sitting too. All the better to show them off, no doubt. To his embarrassment Tom found himself momentarily lost for words.
“You look as if you've had a long, hot walk!” she continued for him. “I'll make us tea, yes?”
Left alone Tom looked about the room some more. The brown patterned carpet looked very old fashioned, but perhaps it had come with the flat? Her furniture seemed for the most part old too but polished and cared for. At the opposite ends of the grey-white marble mantle piece across the room stood a pair of large framed photographs, the one to the left a beaming Lucy looking good enough to stop traffic in her nurse's uniform, and that to the right a very handsome, late middle aged lady who rather resembled her. Her mother presumably. In between stood a small brass carriage clock. Tom thought such clocks were usually French. To the left of the sofa he was sitting upon stood a small open-shelved bookcase. Apart from the T.V. it appeared the only other modern piece of furniture in the entire room, but was of no particular quality being cheap self assembly 'flat-pack' construction only. It had a little hinged ledge let down in front of it upon which an open book was laid flat. Tom twisted his head round and discovered it to be an old D.H. Lawrence paperback, 'The Virgin and the Gypsy'.
What was it that Davy, the oldest of the guys in the out-ward whom he'd got on with the best had said? “An absolute cracker! No question about that! But a woman like that, always be trouble!” Tom smiled to himself at the old fashioned parlance.
Tom realised he needed the lavatory. He felt momentarily uncertain about asking. He stood up and went hesitantly to the door of the room. She was in the kitchen, her back to its wide open door, just across the other side of the narrow little hallway he'd come in by. He caught a fleeting view of a white electric kettle blowing steam from out its spout on an otherwise empty work top.
“Of course. It's just in there.”
The bathroom was utterly unremarkable. Brown linoleum floor, obviously old but spotlessly clean sanitary units, and a strange sloping sensation of the floor possibly due to building subsidence. When Tom came out he realized Lucy was no longer in her kitchen. The other wide open door off the hallway was that to the bedroom, and Tom just couldn't resist taking a voyeuristic peek inside. A new looking but old fashionedly styled brass framed double bed with an all black duvet cover and pillows; Modern flat-pack wardrobe and dressing table, the latter with a small portable T.V. stood upon it; On the wall above the bed a huge, black backgrounded poster showing a very attractive red-eyed demon girl rearing up from a fiery red pentacle; Whilst from the curtain rail there hung a satiny, plum red evening dress on a black plastic hanger. And the black bed Tom saw was casually strewn with other discarded garments plus at least one magazine, whilst on a chair beside it another untidy heap of clothing was piled up. And finally one odd fabric item, bright pink in colour, that he spied dropped onto the floor. A relatively normal single young woman's bedroom Tom assumed.
Tom came back into the sitting room and resumed his seat. She'd opened out a small gate-legged table, and was now pouring out tea from a silver teapot, no - correction - electro-plated, into delicate china cups that reminded Tom of his late mother's prized Rockingham service. They stood, along with a plate of assorted biscuits, on a metal tray. Tom cleared his throat. He really couldn't decide if this visit was going well or not. The fireplace opposite caught his attention once more.
“Is that your mother? In the photo up there?”
“No, no.” She smiled, and handed him a cup on a saucer. A broad leaved potted plant filled the central expanse of the window behind her. “It's China tea. Earl Grey. Hope that's okay?” Then she reached out to the farther end of the let down ledge at the front of the bookcase beside the sofa, and handed across another A4 sized framed photo. “But this is my boyfriend.”
The statement struck Tom's senses like a low velocity musket ball. “Oh ...” Tom glanced at the image, registering a rather geeky looking individual in glasses - a bit like himself in a way. Slipped into the two lower corners of the frame were two more snap sized prints, one showing the same guy smiling beside Lucy on what looked like a bridge in Venice - he appeared slightly shorter than her - and the other of the pair of them smiling into camera whilst holding hands across a restaurant table. On holiday, presumably? And wasn't she wearing the same plum coloured dress in that latter one that he'd seen hanging up in the bedroom? Tom remembered then that the black covered bed across the hall had been a double. “So your boyfriend lives here with you ...?”
She smiled reassuringly. Tom could feel her eyes on him, and felt himself dry swallowing again. Like the many times he'd done before whilst watching her going about her duties on the ward. “No! He's gone away. In fact, we've not seen each other for months. We were planning to get engaged.”
In his disappointment Tom could think of no suitable response. “I ... uh ... I was admiring your carriage clock up there too.”
She followed his glance over to the greyish-white marble fireplace. “It's really my boyfriend's. Keeps good time now, but I had to get it mended last year. A new balance staff, whatever that is? I think it had been in the family for ages.”
Tom absently helped himself to a biscuit from the plate. She had replaced the photo. Tom felt an acute enviousness of the geeky guy in it. Presumably then he must know what it was like? What it was like to ... Tom closed his eyes and momentarily shook his head as though to clear his mind of the cloying heaviness that was invading it. There seemed to be a bank of static electricity within the room. Tom could sense the hairs on his arms and the backs of his hands reacting to it. Probably to do with the oppressively hot weather. And he could feel too a biliousness rising up in the pit of his stomach. Maybe this visit hadn't been such a good idea after all. He replaced his cup and saucer on the metal tray on the little gate-legged table. “I'm sorry, really, but I have to go now.”
She seemed quite okay about it, and stood up to lead him to the door. “I'll tell Sister Adams and the others how much better you seemed!”
The flat's door closed behind him. Tom made his way back down the stairs, out onto the road, and crossed over the wide expanse of sun scorched tarmac to the opposite side. Little runnels of melting black tar were trickling into the dusty gutters. He looked back up to the second floor front window, but could detect no movement of the curtains there. He turned to go and at once caught his face on an out-hanging branch of a ten foot tall shrub in the front garden of the house he was standing outside of. He'd no idea what it was, but its sickly sweet aroma struck him like a wave. At the same time a large black cat jumped off the house's low, crumbling brick garden wall beside him, briefly raised its tail in greeting, then made rapidly off across the road in the direction he'd just come from.
A sudden blue-white flash, then an ear splitting crash of thunder rent the air. Tom felt himself instinctively flinching. Looking beyond the red tiled roofs of the houses on Lucy's side of the road he saw a blackest of black skies looming up. The heavens would open in any second. And then he remembered he'd forgotten to pick up his umbrella.
He raced back across the wide, empty road as the larruping outriders of the storm came splashing and hissing onto the sweltering black tarmac. His back and shoulders were already soaking before he gained the scant shelter of the house front. “Lucy, sorry, it's me again ...”
The intercom crackled back immediately against the thunder of the breaking storm: “It's okay. I realised the minute you'd gone.” The remote controlled door lock went 'clunk'. “Come back up.”
Another massive peal of overhead thunder vibrated the building as Tom turned the corner of the intermediate landing. At once the light bulb there flashed then extinguished as the electricity went down. The enclosed upper flight was shadowy now, and a large drop of water hurtled down just ahead of Tom's face from the small, rain blattered skylight high above. Tom felt his ears pop. The very air itself seemed charged. Lucy's door came open just as he reached it, and she stood in the dark gap holding up a long slender candle at chest height.
Tom halted in his tracks: He'd never before in his life seen anything so utterly and entrancingly beautiful.
“Lucy, you look ...”
She reached out her free hand and took hold of his. “I know, Tom.” Her grip was not hard. He felt a pleasant coolness in her touch. Her eyes just as gently held him with their wonderful gaze.
Tom swallowed. “But I don't understand. You invited me to come here today. Why me?”
She smiled with an infinite compassion as the flickering candle light continued playing upon her incredible features. “A process of symbiosis, Tom. You're a virgin, yes? As was my last boyfriend till I extended him my invitation. We had lots of fun together. In fact, he spent the happiest year of his life with me.”
Tom's mind lurched back to the radiantly smiling geek in the framed photograph he had briefly glanced at. Then to the two smaller pictures of the pair of them together in the lower corners of the same frame. Outside the electrical storm raged on unnoticed.
She continued: “Untainted seed, Tom. Life sustenance for one such as I!”
The darkness of the doorway revealed a incandescent aura, like a miniature St. Elmo's fire, which sparkled and danced around her head and neck. It reflected occasionally in the two diamond and jet stone pendants dangling from her ear lobes. Tom's mouth had run completely dry. He swallowed for saliva. “What in the name of God are you ...?”
Her eyes regarded him steadily. “A succubus, Tom. A daughter of Lilith though my name means 'Light'. And I'm extending you my invitation now.”
Tom became conscious of the pounding of his heart. He remembered he needed to take a breath. Finally he regained his voice. “How long?”
“About a year, usually. A little longer maybe.”
A flash of lightening momentarily penetrated the skylight, bouncing its intense purple light off of the tall, narrow walls of the enclosed staircase.
“Just ... me?”
“Oh, yes. Absolute monogamy.”
“And you would ... love me?”
Her lovely voluptuous lips parted to show her sparklingly white incisors once more, and she gave a tinkling little laugh. “I would love you to death, Tom!”
Tom's drenched shirt and trousers clung wetly to his skin. There was water clogged hair hanging just above his eyes. Unthinkingly he smoothed it back. He felt chilled, yet at the same time could feel beads of hot perspiration standing out on his brow. After the briefest of hesitations he followed her inside. His unresisting hand was still clasping hers as she closed the flat's door behind them.
Copyright Terence Hugh Hazelton, 2007
Published on writebuzz®:
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