The New Boyfriend, story by Jim Bates at Spillwords.com

The New Boyfriend

The New Boyfriend

written by: Jim Bates

 

It was the afternoon of Halloween and the streets of the small college town were already starting to fill with revelers out to celebrate All Saints’ Eve. Stephanie dodged people dressed as witches and princesses and vampires and wizards on her way to get caught up with her best friend, Mia, at Crusty’s, their favorite meeting place. She was dressed as Cat Woman. Her boss at Remer’s, the restaurant where she was a waitperson, liked the staff to get in costume for holidays and in this case, she didn’t mind. She liked Halloween and planned to head over to her job when she and Mia were done talking.
When she arrived at Crusty’s, Stephanie skipped down a short flight of steps and in through the entrance door propped open by a cement cinder block. It was a dingey place, located in the cellar of a brownstone apartment building just off campus. But what it lacked in cleanliness it made up for in ambiance, with old-time blues and jazz quietly playing in the background and mismatched chairs crowded around tables decked out in ancient oil cloth coverings. It was kind of homey if you didn’t mind the occasional cockroach skittering over your feet.
Stephanie ordered two pumpkin muffins at the counter and brought them to the table where Mia was already waiting with their coffees. “Here you go.” She slid Mia’s plate to her, sat down, took a sip of coffee, and said, “So, tell me about this guy of yours. What’s he like? They hadn’t had a chance to talk, really talk, since Mia had mentioned her new boyfriend a few days earlier.
Mia grinned the widest grin Stephanie had seen on her in months, maybe even years. “Oh, Steph, he’s amazing.” She took a big bite of her muffin and chewed enthusiastically.
Stephanie watched her closely. They’d been friends for over twenty years, all the way back to pre-school, and people still wondered how two such opposites could be friends. But they were. Stephanie was tall and thin, with auburn hair and green eyes. She was good-looking and popular. Mia was chunky, with stringy blond hair and one brown and one blue eye. She was of average height and average looking. She was also painfully shy. In fact, this new guy was her first serious boyfriend and Stephanie was happy but anxious for her and wanted to know all about him.
“So…tell me everything.”
Stephanie watched as Mia nervously played with a long tread on her shirt. Without comment, she took out her pocketknife, flipped it open, severed the thread, flipped the blade closed, and put it away without even thinking. Mia smiled, admiring her friend’s take-charge attitude.
“We met last Tuesday while I was out in Nyrstrand Woods,” Mia said. “You know I like to go there to write my poetry.” Mia was beaming, her face lit up like a bonfire.
“And…”
“Well, I was sitting on a log by the stream, listening to the birds and getting my muse on and…”
Stephanie interrupted, “God, Mia! Get to the good part.”
Mia giggled, “You mean where he swept me off my feet and we made ravenous love in the ferns?”
Stephanie laughed, “Seriously, what happened?”
Mia furrowed her brow, “Well, it was a little weird. He came up to me and introduced himself.” Mia lowered her voice, mimicking her new boyfriend, “‘Hi. I’m Lance. Beautiful day, isn’t it?’”
“So how was that weird?”
“Well, I didn’t hear him at all. I mean I could hear birds singing. I could hear a squirrel running up a tree nearby. Even leaves falling. But I didn’t hear him. It was like…like he just appeared out of nowhere.”
“That is kind of strange,” Stephanie agreed but decided not to pursue it. Instead, she asked, “Then what?”
“And I said, ‘It sure is a beautiful day.’ And he smiled. Oh, Steph, he had the most gorgeous smile. And I felt so good and comfortable with him. Natural. He was so polite. I asked, ‘Would you care to join me?’ And he said, ’Sure.’ And he sat down next to me on the log and we started talking.” Mia got a faraway look in her eyes before adding. “He was wonderful.”
Stephanie listened carefully to her friend, who was obviously smitten. “What’s he look like?”
“Geez, he’s so handsome. He’s tall and he’s got lean features and deep dark eyes and bright shining teeth. A longish nose. Lots of facial hair that he keeps neatly trimmed.”
“Hm. Sounds interesting. So, when do I get to meet him?”
“Well, that’s just it. He told me he wants to keep our relationship secret. At least for a little while.”
“What?” A red-flag warning flashed in Stephanie’s brain. “He can’t make you do that!”
Mia laughed, “Oh, don’t worry. I’ll introduce him later. Maybe after the party.”
“What party?”
“The party he’s taking me to tonight. You know, because it’s Halloween.”
This was the first time Stephanie had heard of Mia going to any party. “Where is it?”
“Way out on the other side of Nyrstrand Woods. He told me there’s a hidden clearing and a bunch of his friends are going to be there.” She sighed a happy sigh. “He wants me to come so he can introduce me.”
“Oh, so he can introduce you to his friends, but you can’t introduce him to me?”
“Well, that’s what he said. Oh, please Steph, don’t ruin this for me. He’s the only boyfriend I’ve ever had.”
Mia was right, and Stephanie wanted to be happy for her friend. She didn’t say anything for a minute as she sipped her coffee and munched on her muffin. Finally, she said, “Okay, but on one condition: after that party is over, I want you to bring him to my place. I don’t care how late it is, I want to meet this Lance dude. Check him out.”
“I thought you had to work.”
“Yeah, I do, and I should get going. I work until ten tonight, but I’ll be home by ten-fifteen. Come any time after that.”
Mia smiled, relieved, and took her friend by the hand. “Okay, I will. You’re the best, Steph. I promise I’ll come by. I really want you to meet him.”
“Me, too,” Stephanie said, trying to cover her trepidation. She loved Mia and wanted the best for her, but she had a bad feeling about this Lance character. “Until then you just be safe, okay?”
“I will.”
The two friends stood and hugged.
“I am glad for you,” Stephanie said. “I just want this guy to be right for you.”
“Oh, he is, Steph. He’s made me so happy.”
In spite of her concerns, Stephanie smiled, “I’m happy for you, too.” Then she had a thought as they walked up the stairs to join the throng of Halloween partyers. “What are you going to wear to this party?”
Mia grinned. “Oh, I’m so excited. Lance told me that he loves my hair. He wants me to wear it down and have it nice and flowing. And he wants me to wear a white gown, like a princess or something. I went to the thrift store and found just the thing, an old wedding dress from the thirties.”
At that moment Stephanie glanced at her watch and noticed the time. “Damn. Sorry, I’ve got to get to work.” She hugged Mia once more. “Remember to stay safe and come by my place later tonight.”
“Okay. I will.”
Stephanie waved goodbye and Mia watched her run down the street, the tail of her Cat Woman costume bobbing through the crowd. She smiled, thinking how well their conversation had gone. Steph hadn’t pushed too hard on Lance, which was good because even Mia had lots of questions about him. He was very secretive. She’d only talked to him that one time in the woods. She had no idea what he did for a living, or where he lived, or even how old he was. All she knew was she was attracted to him. Overwhelmingly so. In fact, she hoped that tonight would be the night they finally would be able to sleep together; her first time ever with a guy.
After Stephanie disappeared down the street, Mia took a moment and looked at herself in the reflection of a nearby window. She smiled. She knew she was plain looking. She knew guys didn’t find her attractive. But Lance made her feel different. Ever since she’d met him, she’d felt beautiful. And, more to the point, she’d never been happier.
Off she ran to her efficiency apartment two blocks over. Her wedding gown was waiting. She’d take a soothing bubble bath and anoint her skin with oils and herbs, just like Lance had asked. Then she’d get dressed and take a cab to the entrance to Nyrstrand Woods and hike in and join him for a memorial night with his friends. She couldn’t wait.

***

The woods were dark and deep with the only light coming from the full moon peeking in and out of the scuttering clouds. Mia shivered in her wedding dress and grumbled, “Now where the hell is he?”
She had done her part: she’d bathed and anointed her skin with herbal oil and put on her special grown, just like Lance had asked her to do. She’d gotten to the right place, the log where they’d first met, and now she was a little angry if not a lot perplexed. She’d been waiting for over an hour. Where was he?
As if he could read her mind, Lance suddenly appeared, stepping out of the forest from behind her.
“Hello there, my lovely.” His deep, rumbling, voice startled her. “My, but don’t you look beautiful tonight?”
She turned to him, “Oh, Lance. You’re finally here.” Her anger vanished in an instant. She made a motion to stand to embrace him, but he pushed her back and joined her on the log.
“Of course, I’m here my precious one. I wouldn’t forsake you. I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life.”
All his life? Mia thought to herself. What did he mean by that? But she decided to let it pass. To Lance, she said, simply, “Me, too.”
She looked at him and he smiled at her. Mia tried to return his smile but pursed her lips instead. He looked different somehow. For one thing, his teeth were bigger. His nose was longer, too. Almost like a snout of a fox or something similar. His face was hairier, too, like he’d let his beard grow, which was weird because it’d only been a couple of days since she’d last seen him.
He stood up and took her by the hand, “Shall we go?” His hand was like a paw, his nails were long and sharp. As he pulled her to her feet, one of them scratched her in the fleshy part of her thumb causing it to bleed. “Oh, I’m so sorry.” He eagerly took her hand and with a long, rough tongue, hungrily licked the blood from her cut.
Mia tried to pull it back, but Lance held on tight. In spite of her joy at finally having a boyfriend, she was getting a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach as her better instincts started to take over.
“You know, I think maybe I should pass on the party. I’m really not feeling too well.”
Lance looked at her and bared his long sharp fangs. “I don’t think so, my dear. No, you are coming with me. I can’t wait to share you with my friends.”
“Share?” Mia looked around frantically for a way to escape.
Lance put his paw to her lips to silence her. It smelled putrid like something had died. Then he raised his head back and howled a blood-chilling howl, long and loud. In the distance, Mia heard more howls, as if wolves were calling back to him. She looked at Lance and his eyes twinkled with merriment, reflecting the light of the full moon.
The realization that something bad was going to happen suddenly hit her. “Oh, no!” Mia screamed. “Oh, my, god. No.”
Lance smiled and said, “Sorry, Mia. No one can help you now.”
As his words sunk in, Mia fainted and slumped to the ground. He watched and licked his jowls as she collapsed on the forest floor. Then picked her up and flipped her over his shoulder. He turned toward the chorus of howls and howled in return before he took off running, Mia’s head bouncing on his furry shoulders.

***

The thing about being best friends is that you can get a feeling where you just know something isn’t right. During her shift that night, the more Stephanie thought about Lance and his party, the more she knew something was off and she had to do something. She loved Mia and wanted nothing but her happiness and what was best for her, but his Lance guy…there was something weird about him. As soon as her shift ended, Stephanie ran back to her apartment and grabbed her bicycle, and raced to Nyrstrand Woods. She needed to make sure Mia was okay. She didn’t even bother to change.

***

Lance loped into the clearing and called out to the pack, “Hey everyone, look what I brought.”
He slung Mia off his shoulder onto the sacrificial altar, and the ten or so werewolves howled in joy and rushed forward to gather around in frenzied anticipation.
The growling of the pack woke Mia and she opened her eyes to the ravenous werewolves pushing around her, drooling and licking their lips, snarling and baring their fangs. “Lance, help me,” she begged. “Please, help me.” She tried to sit up.
Lance shoved her down. “Never.” Then he barked an order, “Secure her.”
Within seconds a big tawny wolf wrapped her in rope and tied her to the altar. Panic set in as Mia thought, I’m doomed. I’m going to die.
The tawny wolf spoke, “It is time to begin.” He handed Lance a long dagger with a jeweled handle.
Mia’s eyes widened in terror. “No!”
Lance took a dagger in his hands. “Hold her, tight,” he commanded. Two werewolves stepped forward and held her while he made a shallow cut. Mia screamed as a trickle of blood ran down her arm and dripped to the ground. Lance put his paw under it out to catch the drips. When his palm was full, he drank the blood. “Mm. Good,” he said, turning to the pack. “She’s perfect.”
They responded by howling in ecstasy. “Cut her. Cut her. Cut her.” The werewolves chanted in unison.
Lance looked Mia in the eye and said, “I liked you, I really did. But…” And he raised the dagger over her heart to make the fatal cut.
But he never made it.
Preoccupied, none of the werewolves saw Stephanie burst into the clearing and run at Lance. “Take that,” she yelled as she grabbed him from behind and plunged her knife deep into his neck. Stunned, Lance dropped the dagger and grabbed at the wound, blood from his severed jugular vein gushing through his claws. The rest of the stunned pack stood frozen in place. Stephanie took those few seconds to cut the bindings from Mia and pull her off the altar. Then they took off running, faster than they’d ever run before. Stephanie turned and fearfully looked over her shoulder, expecting the pack to follow, but she was mistaken. Their blood lust had overtaken them and they had hungrily fallen upon Lance and were devouring him. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
Stephanie doubled her speed, pulling Mia along. “Hurry up, let’s get out of here.”
Mia was weak from loss of blood but filled with adrenalin. She held onto her friend’s hand and ran. “God, I thought I was dead for sure, Steph. You saved me.”
“No time for that now,” Stephanie panted. “Let’s keep going.”
And they ran full speed through the woods, lit by the light of the full moon, to the entrance to the park where Stephanie had parked her bicycle. She got on first and had Mia climb on and sit behind her, and that’s how they rode all the way back to town, just like they used to buck each other when they were kids.
It was nearly midnight when they got back, and the Halloween revelers were still out in full force. Mia in her old dress and Stephanie dressed as Cat Woman fit right in. Stephanie parked the bike in front of Crusty’s and they went inside, ordered coffee and two pumpkin spice muffins, and sat down, breathless after their ordeal.
Stephanie spoke first. “So, are you really okay?”
“I am Steph, thanks to you. I don’t know what I was thinking going out there in the woods with a guy I barely even knew.”
“Well, you were in love. It does strange things sometimes.” Stephanie watched as a tear formed in her friend’s eye. “Oh, Mia, don’t cry. It’ll be okay.” She reached over and caressed her arm and noticed the cut had stopped bleeding.
“I’m not sad, Steph. I’m actually happy.”
“Really?”
“Yeah. Remember. They almost killed me. You saved my life.”
Stephanie joked and said, “Well, that’s what friends are for.” After a moment she added, “We should probably tell the cops or something.”
“Think they’ll believe us?”
Stephanie thought about it for a minute and then shrugged her shoulders, “No. Probably not.” She smiled and reached over and hugged her friend. “At least you’re safe.”
Mia hugged her back. “Yep. You got that right, and I’m making you a promise right now.”
“What’s that?” Stephanie asked, and took a bite of her muffin, chewing thoughtfully.
Mia grinned, “I’m swearing off guys that look like Lance forever.”
Stephanie smiled back at her. “That, my friend, is a really good idea.”

Jim Bates

Jim Bates

DECEMBER 2019 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH at Spillwords.com
Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have appeared online in CafeLit, The Writers' Cafe Magazine, Cabinet of Heed, Paragraph Planet, Nailpolish Stories, Ariel Chart, Potato Soup Journal, Literary Yard, Spillwords, The Drabble and World of Myth Magazine, and in print publications: A Million Ways, Mused Literary Journal, Gleam Flash Fiction Anthology #2, The Best of CafeLit8, Nativity Anthology by Bridge House Publishing and Gold Dust Magazine. You can also check out his blog to see more: THE VIEW FROM LONG LAKE.
Jim Bates

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