art by Melissa Mead
Venus at the Streetlight Lounge
by Cheryl Wood Ruggiero
Stalker feels the leers of wall-leaning pool-players slide along her spandex dress--she's worth gazes, even though she gilds her hair to hide sneaking gray.
She breathes alcohol-and-hormone haze. Ah--her prey are at the bar, his buzz-cut gray head nuzzling her sleek neck, her young face bored, as on most nights.
Stalker laughs at hunting such pitiful creatures--but hunt she does.
Pretty Neck goes to the Ladies', so Stalker slides onto the abandoned barstool, feeling warmth from that other body under her thighs.
"True Love," she murmurs.
"What?" Buzz-cut growls.
"True Love. You can have it. But only one. Pretty Neck or Wife." She lays an inch-long golden arrow on his palm.
"You Cupid or something?"
She looks down at her hands, twists her tapered fingers. No one has asked this in centuries.
"Cupid... was... my son."
"Was? He's dead? Ain't you gods?"
"Gods die. Forgotten. Valentine cupids… they're… not him. Me--well, men still dream."
"Yeah. I guess." He looks at the tiny arrow. He looks at her bare, vulnerable hand, now toying with his empty whiskey glass on the bar. She is watching the red and blue of the neon Budweiser sign reflecting around the rim as she turns it.
The arrow pierces the fleshy base of her thumb. Her eyes widen, dark irises opening like black poppies. "You fool! You--"
"My wife left me this morning for my boss. The girl? She just likes my money. You… you're for real?"
Fear squeezes the blood from her face--for a moment, only a moment. Then soft rose flushes her lips and cheeks. "I'm real. For your short lifetime, Mortal. Yes."
Pretty Neck arrives, peers at them both, laughs, and leaves on the leather-jacketed arm of a guy waiting nearby.
Stalker looks into Buzz-cut's eyes--inviting pools of pale, pale blue.
This story was first published on Thursday, November 24th, 2011