This being the release day for “Date Night”, I thought it would be appropriate to devote Fractured Fragment Friday to my latest ePublication. “Date Night” is a speculative fiction short story with a bit of paranormal romance for flavor. It’s also the third of my stories to earn an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest. Some day…
Here’s the blurb:
Sometimes our demons are all we have. A modern-day witch pins her hopes on an unusual dinner guest.
And here’s the excerpt:
I’m going to miss this floor.
Sarah stood in the middle of her dining room, felt the tile edges under her bare-stockinged feet and admired the tile-work. She had laid the pentagram mosaic by herself fifteen years ago – quite a chore, but she was younger and healthier back then, and she would have been a fool to trust some doubting contractor to do the work. They would never have understood why the pattern had to be drawn in salt first, and probably would have skipped that part, which would have defeated the whole purpose of the design.
The other Sisters preferred a dark, traditional goat’s head pattern, and many of them considered her choice of American Southwest colors too “pretty” for any serious business, but she liked it, and it had served her well over the years. Except for that one time, but that was more her fault than the pentagram’s. She hadn’t realized the risk she was taking back then, but Ginnie had come from that mistake; she wouldn’t change a thing if she could, even now…
Her reminiscence was interrupted by a metallic rattling, as vapors escaped from her sauce pot. She walked to the kitchen stove and raised the lid, and some of the herb sauce popped, but thankfully it only spattered her apron; she would have been upset if she’d had to change out of her little black number – it was Gregor’s favorite. She gave the sauce a couple of quick turns, and then put the wooden spoon to her lips. Almost there. The herbs were so pungent that tears came to her eyes, and she dabbed at them with the corner of a dish towel so the tears wouldn’t ruin her makeup. The last thing she needed was to look like she’d been crying. She stirred in a little more garlic and basil, turned the flame down low enough to keep it warm, and then returned to the dining room.
On most nights that she cooked for guests, she would have all the leaves in table so that it concealed most of the floor’s pattern. Those who recognized the design they were seated over were usually the type who were too educated to admit to their own superstitions. But tonight’s guest was special, and required a more intimate setting, so she had removed the leaves, making the table much smaller. Gregor couldn’t handle silver, so she had set the two places with some nice stainless that was a good match for her china and fine crystal. Ginnie was away at a friend’s house for a sleepover; it was Date Night, after all.
Sarah had positioned the table so that it straddled the circular track right over the point of one of the stars. She uncorked the heavily-plummed Dolcetto – his favorite – and set the bottle by his place setting to breath, then positioned a bud vase with a single red rose on the center of the table, along with one of the sandalwood-scented jar candles to create some additional separation between their places. There had to be proper boundaries.
The grandfather clock in the corner chimed the quarter hour. Almost midnight. She positioned the remaining four candles on the other star-points, lit them all, and then padded to her bedroom and slipped on her Christian Louboutin pump (the pair from when they first met, with the red sole), then into the bathroom to check her makeup. She refreshed her ruby lipstick and touched up her blush, and hoped it covered up how pale and washed-out she’d been feeling lately. Everything had to be perfect. She had to be perfect. Suddenly, she was hit with another dizzy spell; she caught hold of the sink and managed to collapse onto the toilet seat this time, instead of the floor. She was too anxious, but there was so much at stake. She took several slow, calming breaths.
Come on, Sarah – pull yourself together – you don’t have time for this. Put on your big-girl panties.
She gripped the marble counter and levered herself back to her high heels, and then she took one more look in the mirror. A wisp of auburn hair slightly gone to gray had wriggled itself free. She tucked it back under her black headscarf and then smiled at herself, but she couldn’t tell whether she looked strained or if it was just how she felt, so she stopped trying.
She returned to the kitchen and checked everything over once more, then hung her apron from a wall hook. She ran her hands down her hips to smooth her dress and paused again to slow her breathing. The grandfather clock chimed the witching-hour patiently, ponderously. She inhaled on one stroke, exhaled on the next. She was glad she had bewitched the old timepiece to facilitate the summoning years ago – she didn’t have enough breath for all that chanting anymore.
Calm yourself. Slow. Steady. In. Out. In. Out…
She walked into the dining room on the stroke of twelve, careful to stay outside the pentagram. A cloud of smoky liquid darkness swirled at eye-level above the center of the star, and then he unrolled from it, like a slow-motion acrobat doing a summersault dismount. He landed smoothly, artfully, and perfectly naked.
Gregor was extremely well-muscled, and would have been a whole head taller than her if she wasn’t in heels. He didn’t look a day older than when she had first summoned him fifteen years ago.
Of course, fifteen years is no more than a blink to him; if it were only that way for us all.
His large, pointed ears, the three-inch horns at his temples, and his vibrant blue skin were all that marked him as anything other than human. And the fact that no man could really look that good, although he had assured her that this was no tempting illusion, simply his natural appearance. She hadn’t known what to expect that first night and had lost out to his charms, but she was older and wiser now.
“You look as lovely as ever, my dear,” he purred in a sonorous baritone.
Surely, he doesn’t believe that – he can see how I’ve changed.
“You shameless old flatterer,” she said. She forgot her worries for the moment and smiled warmly at him. “You didn’t read the invitation, did you?”
“Ahh, formal tonight, are we? I should have paid attention,” he said nonplused.
And then he was wearing an ebony cape lined in red satin, over black-tie and tails. He removed his top hat in a sweeping bow.
“My lady, I am yours to command,” he said.
“There will be no commanding this evening, Gregor. It really was an invitation,” she said.
“Merely a figure of speech, my dear. I am, of course, here gladly, and of my own volition. Thank you for asking me.”
Gregor whipped his cloak off and folded it neatly, set the top hat on top of it, and then patted both into the space he had come from, until they vanished from view.
“Thank you for coming. Please make yourself comfortable while I attend to some things,” she said.
Sarah walked confidently into the kitchen; she didn’t break stride until she knew he couldn’t see her anymore. Then she sat rather than collapsed into a chair at her kitchen table. This was not good. She had known it would be hard, but she had thought she would at least have enough energy for a simple dinner.
So what does Sarah really need from Victor tonight? You’ll have to read the rest of the story to find out.
“Date Night” is a speculative fiction short story, and is available at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
As a special promotion for the release weeekend:
The FIRST TEN people to use code HK49S on the Smashwords site will get their copy of “Date Night” for free. ENJOY! (and please give it a review – thanx!)
William Mangieri’s writing – including his previous release “Reining Cats and Dogs” (#7 in the Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire series) – can be found in many places, including, but not limited to:
• Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/NoTimeToThink
• His Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008O8CBDY
• Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/william-mangieri?store=book&keyword=william+mangieri
To CONNECT WITH HIM (and LIKE and FOLLOW), go to
• His site on WordPress: https://williammangieri.wordpress.com
• “William Mangieri’s Writing Page” on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/NoTimeToThink
• His Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6893616.William_Mangieri
• Or on twitter: @WilliaMangieri