Erik slammed down the empty glass, the bitters of wormwood still dancing across his tongue. “Another,” he said to the bartender.
The bartender said nothing as he picked up the bottle of absinthe and poured more of the green shimmering liquid into the empty glass.
“Not real, none of it,” Erik said, taking the glass and knocking down its contents. He glanced over his shoulder at the beautiful woman who stood behind him. The curly locks of her bobbed hair, glinting green in the dim lights of the bar, framed her delicate face. Her eyes, sultry and blue-green, blinked slowly at him with that knowing come-hither look. Her pale green skin shimmered as if dusted with pearls, and her deep green satin dress folded around her in highlights and shadows.
“More,” her vivid lips whispered, as she twisted a curl around her finger. “Don’t leave me empty. Don’t leave me alone.”
“Not real,” Erik muttered, shaking his head. He slid the glass back to the bartender. “Another.”
“I think you’ve maybe had enough,” the bartender said.
The woman behind him gently caressed Erik’s throat with her hands. “More. I can’t be alone.”
“I said, another one,” Erik said.
The bartender shook his head. “No. I’m cutting you off, buddy.”
The woman let out a hiss and dug her nails into Erik’s throat, drawing long scratches over his Adam’s apple. “Give me more.”
Erik let out a vile curse and jumped to his feet. “Give me another one!”
“Get outta my bar.”
“Don’t you know I’ll die?” the woman cooed into Erik’s ear. “Don’t you love me? I love you…so much, so much.”
Erik threw money down on the counter, put on his fedora, and shrugged into his trench coat. He turned away from the bar and staggered toward the door. The woman collapsed to the floor and grabbed his ankles, forcing him to drag her every step of the way.
“You can’t do this to me!” she wailed.
“Not real,” Erik said. “None of it. Not real.”
“But you love me.”
Erik paused, looking up and down at her slender, alluring curves. He reached down and offered a hand to her. “When we get home. I hid a bottle in the basement. But I can’t drink it ‘til my wife’s gone to bed.”
“I said, get outta my bar!” the bartender shouted from across the room. A large bouncer came over to the door and seized Erik by the collar of his trench coat.
“I’m going!” Erik said, pushing the bouncer away.
“Then get going,” the bouncer said.
The woman climbed up from the floor. “Let’s get out of here, Erik. Take me home. Love me there, like you promised.”
Together, they stepped through the doors and walked out into the bitter cold air. The woman shivered, pulling her green mink shawl tighter around her shoulders.
“Not real,” Erik said again, brushing a finger across her cheek. “But so beautiful. So, so beautiful.”
“I’m as real as you want me to be.”
“You’re shivering. Here, take my coat.” Erik slipped out of his coat and helped the woman slide her arms into it.
“So much better.”
Erik blinked, and for a moment spotted his trench coat lying rumpled on the ground as new snowfall dotted it. He shook his head and saw the woman again, warm and beautiful in his coat. He offered her an arm and they stumbled down the streets, slipping and sliding in the snow and laughing like new lovers.
It was past midnight by the time Erik and the woman made it to his house. His wife had given up on him and lay in bed, breathing softly. In the moonlight, Erik thought he glimpsed tear stains smeared across her cheeks. A pang of guilt surged through him.
“The basement,” the woman insisted. “Love me like you promised.”
Erik stared at his wife, knowing how much he had hurt her, knowing how fragile the thread of their marriage was. Every day that thread crept further between the scissors of the Fates, waiting to be snipped in two, sundering their marriage like death.
The woman’s silky lips brushed across his. “Why won’t you love me? Don’t you know I’ll die?”
Heart pounding, Erik stumbled toward the stairs. At the top, he paused, thinking of the stains on his wife’s beautiful soft pink cheeks. “Maybe you should die. Leave me alone. You’re not real.”
The woman laughed a deep cruel laugh. “If I die, you die.” She gave him a fierce shove and he tumbled down the stairs headfirst. As he lay at the bottom of the stairs, dazed and in pain, he watched her descend the steps, every move graceful and terrifying. Soon, she loomed over him, dragging her nails across his face and laughing. “You might be rid of me for now, but you’ll come back to me, love. You always come back. I am the heart of you. The taste of my lips fills your every waking moment.”
“Erik? Oh, no…Erik!”
Erik looked up through fluttering eyelids to see his wife running down the stairs toward him.
“You’ll come back to me,” the green woman whispered.
“Not real,” Erik said.
“Of course I’m real,” Erik’s wife said.
Erik reached up a hand and brushed it across her pink tear-stained cheek. “Yes. Yes, you are.”
“Let’s get you up the stairs, you drunken old fool,” his wife said, her voice a mixture of anger and concern. “I swear, Erik, if you come home like this one more time…”
But Erik couldn’t hear her anymore. As they struggled up the stairs, his green mistress sang softly to him with siren voice:
“She’s the one who isn’t real…”
And for one moment, Erik spied his trench coat lying on the basement floor.
“The Green Mistress” copyright 2017 by A.L.S. Vossler.
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