This is the latest in TMN staff writer Allison Maschoff’s collection of short fiction stories.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” he asked her. She still hadn’t let him into the house, and he was starting to get rather annoyed. It was cold and dark and it smelled like a storm was coming, and he was not about to do the whole standing-outside-a-girl’s-house-in-the-rain thing. He supposed he just wasn’t the romantic type when it came to things like that.
Her glare only intensified. “I’m hoping you’ll spontaneously combust.”
He smirked and said, “That’s not how that works, darling,” but she didn’t laugh. He frowned. Okay, he thought. Let’s try something else. Silently, he reached out to her mind and said, Okay, so on a scale of one to ten, how bad would it be if I—
“At least a twenty,” she said out loud, cutting him off. “And stop that.”
“What? You usually like it.”
“Yeah, well, usually I haven’t spent the day hearing from every girl at school about your romantic exploits.”
He did not say, “What are you talking about?” because he knew she would simply take that as an insult to her intelligence. Instead, he said, “What did you hear?”
“You’ve been cheating on me with Ines since August. Before that, it was Betty. Who knows about before that.” She stamped her foot in frustration. “You’ve been lying to me basically since we met, haven’t you?”
He shrugged. “Only about the inconsequential things.”
“Sleeping around with other girls isn’t what I would call ‘inconsequential.’”
“Look, you know I care about you. I would take a bullet for you, but when you’ve been around as long as I have . . . what can I say? You get bored.”
“It doesn’t mean anything when someone immortal offers to take a bullet for you,” she told him. “That’s like me telling someone I’d take a punch for them. I mean, it probably wouldn’t even hurt you that badly, would it? More like saying you’d allow yourself to get a papercut for me.”
“Just because I’m immortal doesn’t mean I don’t feel pain. And don’t try to deny the anguish caused by papercuts.”
She groaned and almost slammed the door in his face. But instead, she clenched her fists, closed her eyes, and whispered, “I trusted you.”
“Don’t blame me for your mistake,” he whispered back. But there wasn’t any malice in it. Well, there was as little malice as there can be in a snarky remark from a demon. Believe it or not, he really was trying. “You knew who I was.”
She sighed, leaning against the doorframe and looking at him one last time. “I know. I did.” And she hadn’t been the type of girl to think she could reform him. She hadn’t seen him as a challenge or even as a rebellion. She had simply seen that even someone as lost as a demon could have a hint of good in them. She’d used to see it when he looked at her. Now, she only saw the evil.
“Lie to me one more time,” she whispered, voice shaking.
“Dorothea . . .”
“Do it.” Her voice was firmer now.
He sighed and there was genuine pain in his eyes. He couldn’t remember what it felt like to have a heartbeat, but he felt like this might be the closest he would ever come to finding out. Completely deadpan, he told her, “I love you.”
She swallowed her pain, her relief, her screaming broken heart— her wishes that it could be true. She shoved all of it down into the pit of her stomach, looked him in the eyes and said, “Thank you.” Then lightning split the sky in two and thunder rumbled over their heads as the heavens acknowledged her backing away from the brink of condemnation. She closed the door in his expressionless face just as the rain began to pour.