The dark summer clouds devour the sun’s rays, bringing an early nightfall to the city of Chicago. Leaves on the trees dance in the wind, swaying like lovers on the dance floor. Mother Earth rumbles as thunder rolls through. Lightning streaks across the sky, causing the city lights to turn off. Not a second later, the cold stinging rain pelts down, causing people to scurry about to find shelter.
The rain is coming down hard, and Drake must find a place to pull over before an accident happens. Up ahead on the right, he sees a flickering sign, “All-Night Diner.” He flips on his right turn-signal and turns into the diner’s parking lot. He turns off the engine of his rustic blue Chevrolet Malibu. The wind and the rain break through his makeshift plastic window, giving him a cold shower.
Drake kicks the rusted door open, gets out, and slams it shut. He runs inside, every step he takes lands him in a puddle of water. He swings the diner door open and steps inside and wipes his boots on the wet rug. While scanning the room, a waitress walks up to him and asks, “May I help you?”
He takes a deep breath and looks down at himself. He looks up and peers deep into the waitress’s eyes. “Yeah, I’m wet. Can I use your bathroom?”
The waitress adverts her eyes and points to the public bathrooms. “The bathrooms are over there, by the kitchen.”
Drake bows his head. “Thank you, ma’am.”
The waitress giggles. “You’re welcome.”
Drake walks to the bathroom, his boots pounding on the diner tile floor. He knocks on the men’s bathroom door. No one responds, and then opens it. The bathroom is small and dimly lit. He turns and locks the door. He walks over to the sink and stares at the mirror; everything goes dark.
Drake opens his eyes and finds himself lying on a paved road. No. Not this again. Not another blackout. Flashes of red and blue lights, appearing between the bolts of lightning, blur his vision. Rain hits the road. The thunder pounding echoes in his head. A faint voice comes from the side of the road, through the trees. “Are you okay, mister?” Another thunderous pounding and with it another faint voice, “Mister, are you okay?”
Drake opens his eyes, and the light from the ceiling blinds him. The pounding comes once more. Turning his head towards the door, he hears the waitress. “Are you okay in there?”
Drake places his left hand on the bathroom sink, using it to help him stand. He waves at the door with his other hand. “Yeah, I’m okay. I just slipped on the floor.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes… yes, I am. Thank you.”
He hears the waitress walk away, and he breathes a sigh of relief.
Looking at himself in the mirror; his deep brown eyes see a middle-aged man. He places his hands on his head. The pain. He reaches into his jeans pocket and pulls out a bottle of Imitrex medication. These damn migraines. Popping the lid off the medicine bottle, he looks down and shakes his head. One pill, damn it. Smacking the faucet handle on, he scoops a handful of cold water. He pops his last pill into his mouth and washes it down with the water in his hand.
Drake looks back at the mirror and runs his hands through his short hair. The graying hair is fighting for dominance over the brown hair, who will become king of my hair. Laughing to himself, he reaches for the paper towels. Ripping a few sheets from the roll, he dries his face, hands, and what he could on his shirt and jeans. He pitches the wet towels into the trashcan by the toilet.
Taking a deep breath and letting it out, he opens the bathroom door and walks out. Looking around, he spots a corner booth, walks over to it and slides in. The waitress walks over to him and places a glass of water on the table and hands him a menu. “Do you want to hear the specials?”
“No. Just burger and fries.”
“What you want on the burger?”
The waitress, in her blue jeans and a red t-shirt with the words “All-Night Diner” plastered on the front, smiles while writing out his order. She looks up at him, cheeks red. “Anything else?”
“No, thank you.”
She turns towards the kitchen when he says, “Ma’am? I do have a question.”
She turns around and faces him, a smile growing on her face. He asks, “Where’s everyone?”
She stiffens and blinks her eyes.
“You okay, ma’am?”
“Yes… yes, I’m okay.” She looks down at her order pad and doodles. “People, they don’t come this way much anymore.”
The waitress shifts her weight from her right foot to the left. She taps her order form with her pencil. “People think it’s not safe here. With all the disappearances.”
Drake picks his glass of water up and takes a drink. He returns the glass to the table and looks up at the waitress. “What disappearances?”
The waitress’ hazel eyes widen.
“Listen, mister. My advice to you is to eat and get. The longer you stay, the worse it may get.”
Guess I hit a nerve. “Yes, ma’am.”
The waitress returns to the kitchen to place the order.
Drake watches the rain pour down harder. The wind picks up, blowing the dancing leaves off their dancefloor. Thunder shakes the restaurant windows. The lightning illuminates the sky, revealing a woman standing in the parking lot.
Drake’s body stiffens. Ti… No, it can’t be. Impossible.
He watches her take small steps, her hips wiggling. She moves closer to the door. The fry cook standing there holding the door open for her. She walks in, her blonde hair is dripping wet. She walks to the opposite side of the diner and slips off her red raincoat revealing her black mini bodycon dress. She hangs the coat on the coat rack by the bathroom and walks to a nearby booth, her black thigh-high heel boots clicking on the floor. Sliding into the booth, she looks over at him, her ruby-red lips smiling.
Drake turns his attention to his cell phone, avoiding all eye contact with the woman. He hears the waitress walk over to her. He peeks over his cell phone. The waitress brought the woman a glass of water and a menu. “Order when you’re ready.”
The ding of the cook’s bell signals his order is ready. The waitress turns, but the woman’s concupiscent voice stops her in her tracks. “I’m ready to order now.”
The waitress backs up and turns towards the woman and nods. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Hamburger, rare, plain,” she flicks her right wrist, “and no bun.”
The waitress nods and returns to the kitchen.
Drake returns to his phone and tries to get online. Damn it, no reception.
Drake’s eyes shot up over his phone. There she is, the woman in black, sitting across from me. Her fingers slither over his phone and push it down. “Sweetheart, no reception out here.” She sits back in the booth and flicks her hair. “Hell, the landlines don’t work half the time.”
“May I help you, ma’am?”
“How sweet, a gentleman. Don’t see many of your kind around these days.”
Drake takes a deep breath. What does she want?
“What I want is you, Drakey dear.”
Drake, caught off guard, drops his phone on the table. He tilts his head. “I didn’t tell you my name.”
Her blood-red lips smile at him. “Let’s just say… I’m gifted.”
Something is not right about this woman. “Okay…” He leans back and places his hands on his lap. “You know my name. What’s yours?”
The woman leans back in the booth, twisting a lock of her hair. “You can call me…” She leans forward and reaches for his glass of water with her free hand and takes a sip. Her lipstick stains the glass. “… Tina.”
Tina? That was my…. No… it’s just a coincidence.
The waitress brings the food to the table.
“Thank you, ma’am.”
“Yes, sweetie. Thank you.”
Drake watches the waitress nod at them both, turn, and walk back to the kitchen.
“What the hell is wrong with her?”
“What do you mean?”
“The waitress. She looks like she’s in a trance.”
Tina turns her head towards the kitchen and turns back to Drake, shrugging. “She’s must’ve been working all day. She could be tired.”
“Maybe.” He bites into his sandwich. His eyes, catching Tina taking her knife and fork and cutting into the blood-dripping hamburger like a piece of steak.
“How can you eat that rare?”
Tina giggles at Drake’s question. “Let’s just say… I have the stomach for it.” She places a bite-size piece into her mouth. Blood from the hamburger drips down her chin.
Drake’s jeans are getting tighter. Whatever she is doing, it is turning me on.
Tina takes a napkin from the napkin holder and dabs her chin.
Drake slides out of the booth. “I… I… got to go.”
Tina reaches for his arm; her claws wrap around his wrist. “So soon? We just met.”
Drake breaks her hold. “I just need to go.”
Drake heads to the counter and throws down a twenty-dollar bill, and sprints out the door. The rain is hitting him, bruising his arms. He climbs through his car window and sits down on his wet seat. He reaches over and opens the glove compartment. He takes out a flask and a prescription bottle for anti-depression medication. The pills are playing the jumping beans game in their bottle. The alcohol in the container swishes around. Get a grip, Drake. Deep breaths and calm down.
Drake places the flask on his lap and fights the medicine bottle’s cap. The cap breaks free. The pills spring from their entrapment and fall over the front seat and onto the floorboard. Shit! He feels around on the floorboard and finds two tablets and pops them into his mouth. He opens the flask and pours the whiskey into his mouth; it drags the pills down his throat and into his stomach. I’ll feel better soon.
Leaning back in his seat, he closes his eyes. Rain stinging his skin, sending him back, back to the night he lost everything. Tears fill his eyes, and he hits the steering wheel. Why? Why! WHY! His head droops, tears fall from his check. It should’ve been me.
He reaches into his jeans pocket and fumbles around, searching for his keys. Damn it, where are they? He slams the steering wheel with his free hand. There they are. Taking the keys out, he slips the key into the ignition. The car doesn’t turn on. He tries again… nothing. Fuck! Hell, maybe it’s flooded?
“Knock, knock, Drakey boy.” Drake jumps at the sweet sound of Tina’s voice.
“What do you want, Tina?”
“Looks like your car won’t start.”
“It’s flooded. I’ll give a bit and try again.”
The wind howls at the thunder and lightning while the rain drowns the fallen leaves.
“Listen, sweetie. The storm will not let up. Come home with me.”
She opens the car door and holds out her right hand. Her smile takes his breath away. “Come on, dear. I promise… I won’t bite.”
He stares into her eyes. Why can’t I resist her? What hold does she have on me? Is it because she looks like? No. Her name… it’s the same? No. Both? Maybe. He reaches for her hand and takes it. He slides out of the car and walks beside her. She slams the door shut and grabs his arm, guiding him to her black Mustang. She opens the door for him, and he slides in. He looks out the passenger window. What is she doing to me? Why can’t I stop her?
Drake turns his head to the driver’s side. There she is. The car started. I didn’t even hear her open the car door.
Drake looks out the window and watches the trees, fighting against the wind, pass by. What the hell? He turns his attention to his left leg. Her hand squeezes his thigh. He turns back to the window. The tree limbs in the shape of a skeleton hand reach out to him. He jumps in his seat. What the… He blinks his eyes and shakes his head. I could’ve sworn I saw…
“Are you okay, sweetie?”
Drake turns to her, sweat pouring from his brow. “Yeah. I’m fine. The storm… it’s… it’s playing tricks with my mind.”
She smiles at him, nods, and returns her attention to the road.
Drake looks back out the window. What the fuck is going on here?
“Here we are. Home sweet home.”
“Yes, silly boy. You’ve stared out that window during the whole ride.”
Drake shakes his head as confusion sets in. How is this possible?
The passenger side door opens. Drake snaps back to reality and looks up at her. He turns his head to the driver’s seat and back to her. How did she get over here?
Tina reaches for his hand and guides him out of the car. They walk together, hand in hand, into her home.
Drake looks around the Victorian home. Shadows from the candles’ flames glide along the walls in every room.
“You have a lovely home.”
“Thank you, sweetie.”
“You live here by yourself?”
“No. I have a…” Tina smiles. “… handyman that keeps this old home in shape.”
“Where is he?”
“The old man is around somewhere.”
Walking down the hallway, he glances at the windows in the rooms they are passing by. “What’s up with the tinted windows?”
“I work nights. Trader, working in the stock market for overseas companies.” She tosses her hair. “And I don’t like the sun on my fair skin.”
Drakes nods. “Oh, I see.”
She guides him into the library and slips her raincoat off, letting it fall to the floor. She turns to Drake. “The bar is over there by the window. Why don’t you pour us some drinks?”
Drake walks to the bar and pours bourbon into two glasses. His eyes snap over to a wall. A shadow of a little girl dances across. He hears a faint voice in his head. “I miss you, daddy.” No, this isn’t happening. He turns from the dancing shadow and sees Tina on the couch unzipping her thigh-high boots. The top of her ample breasts popping through the top of her dress. She looks up and smiles. “Like what you see?”
Drake drops the glasses on the carpet. He looks down. “I’m sorry. I’ll clean it up.”
Tina stands and walks over to him. She places her index finger on his lips. “Don’t worry about it. Not now, anyway.”
She slides her finger down his chin, his neck, his chest, and grabs the top of his jeans and pulls him to her. “Let’s have a seat, shall we?”
Tina guides Drake to the couch, turns him around and pushes him down. She straddles him. Wrapping her arms around him. “Now, what is wrong with my little Drakey?”
“Now, now. Tell me.”
Tina purrs. “You live in the dark past. Living there makes your future bleak.”
Drake stares into Tina’s ocean blue eyes.
“I can tell you’re hurting. Your soul’s damaged beyond repair. You feel empty inside.”
Drake, tears in his eyes, nods at her every word.
“It’ll be okay, Drakey. Come to me.”
Drake pulls the shoulder of her black dress down and kisses her milky white skin. He feels her lips on his neck. Ecstasy about takes him when a sharp pain pierces his neck. The room is spinning; he pushes her away. “Stop!”
He looks at her. Her tongue laps up the blood dripping from her lips. “I can’t, sweetheart. I need you… so I can live.”
“Why? Why me?”
She places her index finger under his chin. “I saw into your soul, dark… lifeless.” Her eyes are turning crimson. “And I know why.”
Drake stands up fast. The room spins. He is out of breath and losing his strength. “You’ve no idea!”
“Oh, but I do. You told me.”
Drake falls to his knees. “How?”
Tina stands and walks around Drake, tapping her fingers on his head. “You told me. With your eyes… with your soul… with your blood.” She stops in front of him and lifts his head up. “You loved your wife, Tina, and your daughter, Rose. “
“Don’t… don’t do this! Please… don’t?”
“It’s your fault they’re dead, Drakey.” Tina kneels before him, shakes her head, and taps him on his forehead. “Drinking and driving. What a bad, bad boy you are.”
Drake falls to the floor and lies in a fetal position.
Tina straddles him. “I saw what you wanted. You want to die, and I am here to oblige you.”
Tina rolls him over onto his back. He looks up at her. “Who are you?”
“I am whoever you want me to be. And tonight, I am Tina…” She leans into him. “… your dead wife.” Her razor-sharp teeth sink into his neck, rupturing the Carotid Artery.
Drake, losing consciousness, whispers, “I’m sorry, my love.” The last image he sees is his wife and daughter, arms out, welcoming him home.
Read a longer version today in the Coffee House Writers Anthology.