He knew immediately the moment he looked at her. He also knew that she was totally unaware. His regret was tangible, a piercing ache encased his heart simply because he was aware of her kindness, her sense of decorum, and no such soul should suffer.
Such an old word, decorum. He felt old using it and scoffed at himself inwardly because when he was young he would only use that word in an exaggerated sense. “Let’s try some decorum, please.” if one of his frat brothers burst forth in an over dramatic way or in an uncaring manner when their then young, male bodies would sound in gastric relief after a night of debauchery.
His nights wasted in such matters were over, just as definitely as were all his frat brothers.
A movement caught his eye, she was moving forward, up the aisle, her brief eye contact with him forgotten by her just as certainly as the sun drops from the sky. He stood stock-still and only let her pass him with difficulty. Only when her genuine, though weary smile changed to a look of frowning hurt did he step back with an apology. Of course, he stepped back into the shelves, his elbows knocking down can goods and the noise brought drowsy looking stock clerks to their vicinity.
He watched her take over. “It was an accident, no harm done.” He had enough sense to kneel down with her and make a grab for the rolling canned peas and lima beans.
“I’m sorry. So sorry.” His voice was hoarse and raspy. He hated the sound of his own voice. He kept silent as much as possible, remembering that once upon a time he would sing to crowds of fawning young girls in intimately dark venues where music was as scrutinized and savored as that of the body of a lover.
She reached forward, her slender wrist exposed, placing the can goods back upon the shelf. His hands held more than hers did and he shoved the cans upon the shelf without looking at what he was doing. She smelled of lavender soap and a day’s work. Her fingers were ringless and her makeup smudged. He watched as she shivered and looked nervously at him.
“I’m sorry,” he said again.
She frowned and shook her head slightly. “You worry too much, it was an accident.” Her voice was soft but firm. She turned without another look at him and continued to shop. He glanced out the store window and saw the snow begin to fall. It would be a cold walk to her car. What was she doing here this late? Why wasn’t she home, in her bed, asleep with her cat at her feet, purring with contentment? Why wasn’t she with a husband, perhaps a candlelit supper waiting on her and arms, strong and warm to protect her or wrapped around her in thankfulness that she was home, safe and sound?
He could hear her in the next aisle. He felt strengthened, he felt as if he could breathe in and pull all the contents of the store toward him, including her. He felt as if he could walk through the aisle that separated them and capture her in his arms, rise above everything and whirl her about the ceiling with no effort at all. He could hear her breathe. He could feel her heart beat steady and serene. He could taste…
Darkness is easy to find when the living endeavor so hard to light the night. People, very few walking to their cars, late for their homes, did not see her struggle, did not see the blur of darkness he became as he took her into his arms.
It’s not beautiful the sound that indicates his search for her life force; the growl, the frigid feel of his lips upon her soft, warm and exposed neck. The agony for him was that brief moment of ecstasy every woman offers in opening herself up to a need, even as diabolical as his. Her shudder, her pity as fleeting and erratic as the flight of a butterfly and for a moment he wonders if this is the one he should keep, if this is the one who would…but no, her terror is too complete in her eyes and he finishes his hunt in the deepest, darkest part of the night.