The ceiling fan spins overhead like a flat tire. Lights wink from brass wall-mounted plaques. An obsessive number of Polaroid photos hang from the walls like clusters of sleeping bats. An Apple computer blinks with lazy blue light, watching with fatherly tenderness.
Rebecca wakes from her dream, reaches, mumbles, gradually louder with almost practiced histrionics. She clutches the covers to her cupcake breasts, the tired butts of a hundred cruelly juvenile jokes at school. Steaming breaths roll from her chewing gum lips. When her marble eyes twitch over the closet door, she shrieks.
Three breaths pass. A father curses and passes gas, a mother sheathes her wrinkled feet into silk slippers, shuffles down the osteoporosis hardwood floors and leans her daughter’s door open.
“What’s the matter honey,” she says, scrubbing her eyes.
Rebecca looks at her, the closet, her, the closet. “I heard something,” she says.
I suppress a giggle.
“What?” Mother says. A Nyquil blink. “What?”
“There’s something in my closet.”
Wrong tone. Faltering conviction, doubts herself. Mothers sighs, sits on the bed. “You had a nightmare,” she recites.
“No,” Rebecca says, her head shakes in insistent spasms. “I heard something.”
Mother is waking. “Who’s in there then? Freddy? Jason?” She swipes her hand down her face. Too late, her mask is off. A petty, skeletal visage leers out under yellow-gold hair, dyed a hundred thousand times. “You had a dream. A dream.”
Rebecca rubs her arms, unable to wash herself of the memory. The nightlight illuminates her corded neck, dainty cleavage. I barely control myself.
Mother stands up. “Go to sleep.”
“Wait,” says Rebecca. “Wait.”
Mother stops and rakes her fingers through her hair like a junkie. “Honey, I’ve got work tomorrow.”
“Just check for me,” she pleads. “Can you do that? Just check.”
Her mother recognizes something in the tone. “Becca, you’re two floors up. Your brother and all his stupid friends are passed out in the living room. If someone broke in, they wouldn’t even be able to walk down there. There’s nobody in your closet.”
Rebecca starts to cry, the Maginot line of every girl with her mother. It works, she sits back down.
“I know what happened was hard,” says Mother. “We already had this talk. I went through the same thing. It’s. . .” She pauses, and a memory plays in her tired eyes like a rerun of Cheers. “It happens to one in every three women. Did you know that?”
Rebecca nods. Succulent tenderness, pummeled like a mewling calf.
“They caught Jake,” Mothers goes on. She grabs her daughter’s shoulders in her vampire hands. “They caught Jake. He’s in jail. You don’t have to be afraid any more.”
Rebecca nods dumbly, like a child scolded over an untouched mountain of peas. “I know all that.”
Mother lifts her chin and they hug, warmthl-ess. “I know you’re upset. Your dad just doesn’t understand. He. . . We both don’t understand what you were doing outside at that hour.”
Rebecca cries again, this time silent, and her mother doesn’t see.
“You walked out of Jeanine’s house at three AM for a reason,” Mother says, glancing at the hornet’s nest of pictures on the wall. “Look, maybe you two just got a little hot and heavy and he didn’t know when to stop. . .”
“He raped me,” Rebecca says. “He raped me.” Her voices revs up an octave.
“Oh-Okay,” Mother smiles, shushing her. “I’m not arguing with you. Let’s just go to sleep. You’ve got your meeting with Dr. Donovan tomorrow. You always feel so much better after your sessions with her.” She raises an imperious finger. “And you’ve got your PSAT to study for.”
A despairing smile. “Yes Mom.”
“Any of your brother’s friends try and get fresh tonight, you kick him in the balls.”
Rebecca doesn’t answer. Her mother leaves.
I turn the knob and the closet door trickles open. She sees me. Opens her mouth to scream. I cover her gummy bear lips with glacial fingers. The breath goes from her lungs. I slow myself down, lurch in beside her ear. Rashes of fear ripple across her freckled skin and I barely keep from losing it. “Do you want to talk?” I ask her, delighted at my bullfrog voice.
She screams into the eternity of my palm. I wait until she’s out of breath and I ask her again. She nods, whimpering like a whipped puppy.
I release her mouth, cinch my fingers around her windpipe. An excited little breath crawls from my throat. “Do you know who I am?” I whisper.
Rebecca’s eyes squint shut and her lips split into a grimace. “You were there,” she gasps. “At the soccer game. I saw you.”
“You’re good with faces, aren’t you?”
“Please,” she chokes. I tighten my grip and she says yes.
“Take off your clothes,” I mutter.
Her trembling fingers unclasp her flesh-colored Hanes bra. Her fingers skate down her sides and she shrugs out of a baggy pair of underwear.
“Do you know why I’m here?”
Her face rumples. She’s about to cry, but nods instead.
“Then you know how to save yourself,” I whisper.
Her hand reaches, fumbles against my body in the dark. It glides down my chest, grabs my member. She strokes it, rocks it, cries. I wait for her to notice.
She releases my cold, flaccid penis and looks at my face.
I bite her neck and drink. Oh, I drink, sloppy, gorging swallows that drool down my chin, bubble down her breasts onto her Ikea covers. Her arms flail, clearing her bedside table, sending lamps and earrings and cups of water and cell phones to the floor. I drink, reveling in the orgasmic flavor of her red nectar. I’d roll in her if I could, drink from her heart while the tap spurts all over my faces.
When I am done she is as cold as I am. I leap from the window and wait in the branches of the old oak, lick my fingers while waiting for Mom or Dad. They come, scream, run for the phone. Fingers fly from 9 to 1 to 1. Tears, hugs, sobs. Red and blue lights undulate on the lawn.
Don’t worry ma’am, we’ll find who did this. They won’t.
Kristen Lee Knapp is an author living in Jacksonville Florida. His stories have appeared at Silver Blade, Aphelion Webzine, Moon Drenched Fables, and other publications. You can follow him on twitter at twitter.com/kristenleeknapp