You had just entered the coffee shop, and it was not at all what you had assumed it to be. You had expected them to instantly make a place for you. You had expected to be worshiped, and you were, just…not by the staff.
And especially not by her.
When you looked at her, sitting with her friend, you were at least somewhat convinced that was attracted to women. How couldn’t she be, with the way she cackled at her unfunny jokes? Every day, she’d give a smile that didn’t reach her eyes and cackle. In the beginning, you’d thought that maybe she was playing with her friend, the way you play with men who think they could be comedians. But she wasn’t. And that made a strange emotion bubble up inside. Not anger, but you weren’t sure what else it could be.
Oh, well! If the waitress wants to die choking on a sandwich, that’s her own business. You have your own business to deal with. One particular thing that’s been bothering you is another member of the staff. Sometimes, you look at him, radiating in anger, and you think, it would take nothing at all to stamp that out. All day, He yells, groans, and grunts. When you step on fire, it can only hiss.
He walks past you, bumping your shoulder on the way out. It is through this that you know that He is not interested in you, and likely will not be–probably because He has a girlfriend. Why else? You’ve always taken pride in your beauty, and for you, it’s never been shallow. You know that when you take a long, lingering look at the mirror, you’re not being shallow because you’re only being honest.
“Excuse you,” you call, in a fashion so ladylike it can hardly be considered rude.
He grunts. You can just picture your heel hovering over him.
When He is not around, you find yourself chatting with the old man who runs the shop. He’s polite enough, and he’s not attracted to you. These are your only requirements for him at the moment.
He asks you a little about your background, but you skillfully deflect the question. He asks you about your family, and you ask him about his, and that ends the question. He asks you about your liking of the coffee shop, and you say it’s nice enough. He asks you about your troubles with Him, and you skillfully deflect the question. After going around in circles, he finally laughs defeatedly. He throws his hands up as if to say, what can you do? You think to yourself, what questions can I ask him? How can I make him less of a bother, and more of a meal?
“You’re an interesting girl,” he tells you. “I’d really like to get inside your head.”
You reply, “The feeling’s mutual.”
That night, you dream of gory sights. You dream of intestines wrapped around your torso. You dream of sucking on eyeballs. You dream of a young man, screaming, begging you to stop, telling you that he’s still in college, telling you that he has a best friend waiting to see how the date goes, telling you that he’s sad. Suddenly, he stops. A peaceful air settles over the two of you, and now you’re sitting together in a field of spider lilies. He takes out a few teeth, and hands them to you. Now you need to give him sometimes in return. You’re running through the flowers, searching for a gift, but you happen upon a snake. You fall into the field, screaming, and it coils around you. You look at his teeth in your last moments, pearly white, and you think that you should give them back, that you should–
Your eyes flutter open. You decide that you’re not going back to sleep, because you’re beautiful, and you don’t need rest to feel pretty.
There’s urgent business to attend to the next day. You need food. The reason you’ve been having dreams like that is because of the hunger. You need to be in control of something, anything, and you’ll be exactly who you were. You’re sure of it.
You ask The Girl where one would find a decent restaurant.
“I don’t know,” she snaps in the irritable tone that she uses to address you. “Do I look well-fed?”
“I was only wondering. A girl does get hungry, after all. Do I look well-fed?” You crack a smile, hoping that the countenance might soften her.
You were right to hope. Her eyebrows, scrunched together, return to their original places. “You don’t look unhealthy,” she offers.
You grimace. Is that really the best she can do?
“Well, find me a restaurant, or I’ll look worse.”
Her eyes widen. “I mean–you don’t look bad at all. Is what I meant.”
You wink. Every move of yours is calculated–you know that–but it feels strange all the same. You’ve done this with man after man, but never with a girl. Never with a cute waitress.
“Why not eat at the coffee shop?” she offers.
That’s when you give her a tight smile. Never in a million years.
Later that evening, He feels the pressing need to slam his shoulder into you yet again. This time, you raise your fist to slap him or punch him or anything, but he grabs your hand before you’re able. His fingers coil around your wrist like snakes.
You stare at each other for a few seconds. You stare for a while, and you’re thinking, are you going to let go? Your wrist is in his fingers, connected to his fingers is his hand, connected to his hand is his wrist, connected to his wrist is his arm, connected to the lower part of his arm is his elbow. It’s a joint. That’s where you’d sever his arm. He’s not loosening, or giving you any other sign that he plans to let go. Connected to his elbow is the upper part of his arm, connected to the upper part of his arm is his shoulder, connected to his shoulder is his shoulder blade, connected to his shoulder blade is his collarbone, and if you look just a littleways above the collarbone, you can see his neck. If you had the chance to snap it, you wouldn’t even hesitate. He raises his eyebrows at you. Connected to his neck is his skull, connected to his skull are those teeth. His mouth is snarling in such a way that you can see every one, and you think, are you letting go, or are you giving me your teeth?
You want to move, but you’re frozen. It’s so pitiful you want to laugh at yourself, but more than that, you want to snarl like he is snarling. Never mind stamping out a fire–you want to stamp him out as a person. You want to feel the bones crunch under your rose pink heels.
He lets go.
Now you know what you have to do. You’re already sure, but your plan is solidified when The Girl comes close and tells you, “He’s done that with almost every girl we’ve let stay here.”
Again, dreams terrorize your sleep. This time, you’re a child. You’re sitting next to a boy, but not the boy from the previous dream. This one is disgustingly familiar, and he has a slimy feel to him. He keeps asking you if you want to play tag, but you’re so repulsed by him all you can do is shake your head. Again, he tries to convince you, and you think, why not? It will be fun to chase him. He’s fast, and you’ve never liked easy prey anyway. He runs through the fields, gaining speed with every step, but you’re faster. You tackle him into the grass. He’s laughing, but you can’t bring yourself to perform your own, fake, obligatory giggle. Your eyes trail over his stomach, to his legs, to his cheeks. You could take a bite out of him right now. What’s stopping you? He’s laughing so hard, and all you can think is, why don’t I eat him alive? In the end, the only thing that prevents this is the snake that slithers through the tall grass. It’s a long, scaly thing, and it slides up your leg. You scream, and you hate to show weakness in front of another, but it’s killing you. It’s killing you, it’s killing you and it opens its jaw, it shows off its teeth, it’s killing you and the boy lies in the grass, laughing…
This time around, you go out for coffee. It must be five in the morning, but you want the warmth of it. You need to devour something.
The Girl is hanging out in the kitchen. The bags under her eyes match yours, and you’re realizing for the first time that you might look less than pretty. For some reason, the thought is oddly comforting.
Neither of you say a word. The Girl makes two cups of coffee, and you sit together at a table and gulp them down. She crosses her arms and frowns at her empty cup. You slide yours across the table. She nods. You think to yourself, are you going to give me your teeth? You sit back, but she leans forward. Her elbows are on the table, her face is in her hands, and she leans forward. It’s interesting. You wander aimlessly from place to place, and mostly you’re so bored you could kill yourself, but now you’re interested. If you had something, something that made you feel free–
She sits back. Now you’re leaning forward, and you look like a fool. The Girl laughs, light and sweet, but she leans in and kisses you. It isn’t a kiss of love, or even want; it’s a little like what you think dying would feel like. Still. You could almost half-love her.
“He’s going to be angry if I stay here,” she states calmly, “but you have a few hours. It won’t cost you anything if, if…”
“Thank you,” You manage a tight smile. “You don’t know it, but I think you’ve given me just what I needed.”
Every move you make is calculated–you know that.
When you step out of the coffee shop, you’re surrounded by the night. Good, you think. A predator needs to be concealed. You feel your wrist, where he grabbed you. Then, his hands were steady. Now, you’ll make them tremble.
You reach the alley in which you agreed to meet him over text just two minutes ago. You give him a polite smile. It’s the first smile in weeks you’ve given because you felt like smiling. He growls, and takes an offensive stance, but it doesn’t matter. He can try to scare you all he wants, but it doesn’t matter.
He runs toward you, and you stand, ice cold. You tuck your right foot behind you, and when He comes close enough, you kick him in the stomach. Surprised by your strength, He falls. Your hair is in your face, your face is like the moon, and you are kicking him, viciously, in the ribs. The blind violence brings something to mind, but you banish it from your thoughts. This moment is between you and all the fire that’s hissing under your heel. You kick him mercilessly. You stomp on his legs. A boy from years back would sometimes ask if your favorite color was red, for obvious reasons, and you would say yes, but it was a lie. There is no color on earth that can compare to black and blue.
He struggles to rise, but when He does, he’s furious. “You!” he rasps, and it pleases you to know that’s all He can say. You’ve really taken his breath away! Out of the corner of your eye, you spot The Girl watching, horrified. Oh, well. If she came for a show, she’ll get one. He punches at empty air, and you capitalize on it. You pull a knife from your jacket and hold it high. You have plenty of your own fury, but it’s tucked away. If your anger is cold, you can use it. Since his anger is hot, it uses him. You take a bite out of his neck, and the blood drips down your chin. It’s so beautiful. You’re almost pulled away by your hunger. Almost.
He punches at you uselessly. You sink the knife into his chest, avoiding vital organs. He lets out a scream of frustration, but you can’t have him screaming. You need him to hiss. You push him lightly, and He collapses. It was silly to let him hold your wrist, or it seems silly, now that you know He’s so weak. Oh, well. Oh, well! He’s lying on the ground, and He shouts furiously, but you’re too strong. Too beautiful, and maybe that is the meaning of beauty. Maybe the beautiful aren’t always beautiful–maybe they’re just free. It’s so nice to think that you’re free. You dig your nails into his face, and rake them down his cheeks. They look like crimson tears. The Girl, above, looks worried for him. Oh, well! She’ll just have to worry, because you’re not even close to done.
You dig your knife into his abdomen, and He screams until He can’t. His scream becomes a shout, his shout becomes a yelp, his yelp becomes a whimper, and his whimper becomes a hiss. You turn him over and step into his back. There’s a satisfying crunch beneath your foot. It’s so good, and for all that He is bigger, and louder, and more muscular, you are meaner.
That’s when you let him go. After all, there’s no need to hurt him anymore (though you’d like to). Victory is yours. The Girl cries out, running to his side, staring at you in such a way that you could almost feel guilt. You could almost half-love her. But now she knows who you are, and more importantly, He knows who you really are. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even matter, because now you know you’ve given a boy his teeth back. Now, you know that you’re the snake.