Red Riding

You smiled at me because I couldn’t fold a fitted sheet, and I laughed at you because your “whites” were grey. You read steampunk, and I read smut. We’d swap sentences under the flickering florescent lights. The change machine was broken, so you went out in the rain to get more quarters at the Gas-N-Sip. You’d always bring back a slushy for me. My lips would turn blue, and you’d steal my panties, put them on your head, and parade around the launderette. I lost you to the waxing moon, and now, sitting alone in the dark, I realize this … this the dishonest parting of my soul.

You accost me with chaos; eject your black death into me. You stink of the sewer, of the shadows and the rats. You’re a thrill seeker. A phantom. You say I am ugly when I cry. Then you make me cry. You were charming once … at the launderette. Now you’re just a beast. I dream you gnawing on my bones.

You say our love, it’s been more complicated than expected. Just short of an anagram, so I say, “Light the candles and make a list of what you need.”

You ask if it can be personal — of wood with a hint of silver.

I say yes.

I’ve called out to you from the cold, from snowdrifts and rotted trees, but you never answer. You just claw at my door and gut the neighbors’ cat.

We’ll meet again in the dark.

In the confusion of us.

I’ll bury you there. No one will know where.

It’s what’s expected.

I’d warned you before, but you’ll never see, the carnage that is you and the vengeance that is me.

By Cheryl Anne Gardner

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