[Wk4] Callista and the Beau
Callista liked to spend her mornings in the library. She’d been loud her entire life, and the library was a place where she didn’t have to be loud just to stay her. She would sit by a window, and read in the baby sunlight of each morning. When her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she’d moved into his estate without a second thought. The library in his house had windows that covered the entire eastern wall. Callista would sit on the blue cushioned bench beneath the glass and let fiction fill her world till reality rang with her responsibilities.
Callista’s sisters, Abby and Audry, had each gone into private practice on opposite ends of the country and could not be torn from their careers. They left Callista snarky voicemails that made her laugh, and promised to visit as soon as they could spare a long weekend. Callista often wondered if she missed her life of relative independence; a schedule all her own fraught with losing auditions because her hair was too thin or her thighs too broad or her voice too shrill, layered with the practiced perpetual sneer for people who used their power to make sure she understood she had none, and rife with the necessity of her refusal to succumb.
It was hard to remember if she missed it after the twelfth or twentieth time explaining who she was to her dad.
Callista met Connor at her father’s doctor’s office. Connor arrived early to pick up his mother. He entered the waiting room in fluid strides that made her ears go deaf, his creased worn face covered in a brick red beard that left her unprepared for the slickness between her legs when he looked at her. She’d never met a man that threw her; who was this creature that took her so quickly? He sat next to her and smiled deep into her hidden places before flipping open a magazine and gazing steadfastly at an article on a nearby ski resort.
Callista nudged him and guessed, “Dementia?” She nodded at him sympathetically.
Connor laughed, and the roundness of his chuckle filled her cheeks with blood. He introduced himself.
Connor was fourteen years her senior and wanted to take her out that night. He was only visiting to help his mother through hospice and he thought Callista’s dimples were refreshing. He owned the ski resort in the article and every time his hand touched her arm, Callista had to remind herself to breathe. Callista remembered being infuriated by men like him, but every time he spoke, the jagged edges of her indignant memories smoothed like sand in rain.
Callista told Abby about their first date when she called the next morning. Abby was unimpressed.
“I’ve never heard you talk about any of your dates like this,” She said.
“I know!” Callista was all giggles, sidestepping Abby’s hesitation. “I’ve just never been with anyone where it’s felt so real, right away, like this before. I feel perfect when I’m around him, like whatever is happening is exactly right.”
“Are you giggling?” Abby paused in her disbelief. Then she said, “You used to yell at me all the time for wanting to be perfect. You used to tell me that perfect is an illusion. You…who is this guy? What happened on this date? It was just dinner, right?”
Callista hung up miffed about her older sister’s opinion. Sure, the word ‘perfect’ had slipped from her mouth and left a cloying residue around her lips. But she knew she’d said what she meant, just as she was meant to say it. Audry told her Abby was cranky because someone was finally getting good sex and it wasn’t her.
When Connor showed up to her house for their second date with an evening gown miraculously in her size, Callista felt her stomach turn. She wrote it off as excitement. The gown was, after all, gorgeous. And it slid around her curves in one fluid motion.
She floated downstairs and fell into the lilt of Connor’s voice as he brushed aside her concerns over the caretaker she’d hired for her father. His husky voice fondled her ears and neck as he drove her to the restaurant. She listened to him compliment her figure and her hair, flushing despite the cold quiet in her chest. She nodded sheepishly as he teased her for her worries over her father, as he reminded her that nothing bad had happened during their first date. She stepped out of the car, gown swishing around her ankles, and tried to remember why she felt so suddenly wilted. She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
He turned to her, hand out, and smiled, “Everything ok?”
She smiled in relief, but her voice was still gone.
Abby was adamant the next day. She threatened to come visit just to drag Callista from the clutches of Connor.
“What are you talking about?” Callista asked, her voice loud and clear and perfectly fine. “He’s wonderful, everything is perfect!” And she heard it this time, too, the timbre in the turn of that last phrase, the clang of that word.
“Why aren’t you worried about dad? Did you refill his medicine? You said he ran out yesterday and were worried you wouldn’t have time to get more before your date.”
Callista waited for chagrin to take her, and was filled with a roiling defensiveness instead. “Well, why don’t you come down here for five minutes and help out rather than criticizing all my work from hundreds of miles away?”
Abby took Callista’s belligerence as an opening, and the conversation ended with more harsh words. Callista waited for Audry to have her back, but Audry wanted to know what she had to do to get shoes with a dress.
“For serious, Callie, who gives you a dress with no shoes? That’s just lazy.”
Connor proposed over lobster dinner, a handful of lavish dates later. He asked immediately following a conversation about Callista’s overbearing sisters, where he insisted she set firmer boundaries for herself. The ring was a little snug, but when Callista struggled to slip it on, Connor blew her a kiss and pinched her cheek, and she forgot she was hungry. She smiled while he ate, nodding yeses to his lilting queries. The sky was clear, glittering perfect twinkles across the glass on the table.
She stepped across the threshold of his house, her satin slippered foot hitting the Calacatta Gold with a solitary click. Connor watched his tapestried walls wrap around her, a sideways smile playing at the corner of his mouth. He kissed her cheek and disappeared down an unlit hallway.
She wandered the halls of the mansion, looking for a phone or a door that led to the world instead of yet another room or hallway in the house. She sat alone in the kitchen, eating food that appeared whenever she wanted it. She tried to call out for Connor, but her throat choked on the stale air. She wandered through the library, far outshining her father’s with its arching ceiling and endless rows of rare volumes and antique chandeliers. She tried to sit by the window and read, but the books spoke nonsense to her; the pages were splotched with odd symbols and smudges. She grew frantic between the pages of the books and the locked perfection of the house.
When Connor finally appeared, he was tall, lithe, and younger. His beard was fire red and his eyes shone. His grin was toothy and so shiny, she couldn’t hear the impenetrable silence of the estate. He handed her a note from Abby that said her father had passed away. Her heart fought her ribcage and she cast pleading eyes at the window, as though the world beyond it would pull her free.
Connor placed the back of his hand against her neck. She felt that heat slide its way across her thighs, into her gut. His lilt was chiding, telling her to let go. She nodded as her insides screamed, and turned to gaze into his forever-lidded hold.
Her husband’s shadow surrounded her. Warm wetness trickled down her legs as she gazed at his face of scales, matted fur tufting eagerly from his jawline and ears, his sclera the color of summer sun. He opened his mouth to show her his long reaching fangs, and she rasped,
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