He followed her into the little log cabin and out of the deep darkness beside the lake. Inside the half-lit rental, he groped his way to the couch and cleared a place to sit. She departed and entered the kitchenette, swaying widely.
He shoved aside an unusual amount clothes for just one short-term guest and stretched out as much as he could. The only sounds in the cabin were clinking ice, and glass swallowing rushing liquid.
He smiled. They’d found each other at the townie bar by the lake. Prettier than he expected to find here in this remote part of the state. She listened eagerly, prompting him with her calm, raspy voice. A few drinks later he found himself telling her the whole sordid story of his divorce, ugly details he hadn’t told anyone before. His pitched and fell, pitched and fell, in the awkward silence that followed. Then she grabbed his hands, stared him in the eyes, and smiled. And invited him back to her place. Right, he thought. Not her concern. Not what this is.
Now she finished mixing the drinks and sauntered over to him, using one foot to sweep the massive pile of clothes off the couch. He chuckled. He asked how many women lived here with her and she giggled but did not answer. That’s when he realized she’d shared precisely nothing about herself all night. At first he’d been relieved – less to untangle in the morning – but even after he’d revealed everything, she disclosed nothing. He felt disadvantaged.
She held two drinks: a bright yellow cocktail for herself, and something dark blue, almost black in the dim lights, for him. She handed it to him and he sniffed it, closing his eyes.
“Oh wow…what is this?”
“My signature,” she said. She held her pale yellow cocktail between both hands and he imagined the chill on her fingers. “I call it: Esse Quam Videri.”
He toasted her and took a hesitant sip. Ice clinked as she sipped, winking at him over the rim of her glass.
Bitter herbs crawled around his mouth; then the drink finished fruity and clean. He swallowed, and gasped.
A couple more gulps and he was finished. He placed the thick glass on the wooden coffee table. He suddenly wanted to know everything about her. Forget untangling. He turned to her, raised a finger, and his vision blurred into many streaks of color.
She began to speak, and he thought she was telling him the things he’d wanted to ask but suddenly couldn’t. And then they were standing, and they began to dance, and the room danced with them, and then against them, and they snickered, and before long there seemed to be other women too, laughing and smiling and bright like her, forgiving like her, and so he could feel tears falling, and more confessions coming, and they all laughed, heads thrown back, and he stopped confessing because it was as if they already knew what he would say, and he leaned into one beauty until she pushed him into the arms of another, and before long he was merely collapsing into one pair of long welcoming arms after another, one warm bosom after another, until nothing was warm any more, and a breeze cooled the sweat off his neck, absconding with it, and still they laughed, and they tossed him back and forth, and the air smelled of lake water, the air smelled of lake, and they pushed him and welcomed him and taunted him and he was so cold and so wet and his lungs filled with lake.
Clint White is an environmental lawyer who responds to what his job has taught him the only way he knows: writing weird fiction. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in anthologies from Ghost Orchid Press (The Deep) and Black Hare Press (666), as well as the journal Alluvian. He lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.