Olivia’s hands shook and her heart sped faster at the update on his Facebook page; ‘Henry Jacobson went from Being in a Relationship to Single. 1 minute ago.’
The timing could not have been more perfect, even if she’d somehow orchestrated it herself. It was a sign. Breathe, she reminded herself, and refreshed the page just to be sure. She’d heard the rumors, but refused to believe them until the cold, hard facts of social media confirmed the gossip. How embarrassing would it have been if she’d asked him out and they were still together? She shuddered at the mere thought of such an incident.
But there it was, plain as day; ‘Henry Jacobson went from Being in a Relationship to Single. 2 minutes ago.”
How should I play this out? Her fingers clicked on his icon in the messaging sidebar, eyes momentarily transfixed on his kind smile, wavy, hickory brown hair that was longer on top but short on the sides, and eyes bluer than a clear summer sky over the Appalachians.
It was so long ago that she’d followed him around the halls of their school, almost being late to class because she’d take his route instead of hers, and having to dash into her classroom before the bells would ring. She’d been able to keep up with him over Facebook, but it was never enough. Seven years, five months, three days, she intoned, the counter in her head that had slowly ticked each day off as a sad reminder of how long he’d been with his post-high school girlfriend, then fiancee. Now, after all this time, she could finally end that increasingly tragic number.
Fingers hovering over the keyboard, she took a deep breath and forged ahead…
Hours later, and desperately trying to keep her hands from wringing the hem of her only ‘nice’ shirt outside of the multitude of t-shirts that littered her closet, Olivia was waiting for him at a local cafe. The shirt was dark grey, had puffed sleeves, a weird sort of knotting over her humble bust, and gathered at the waist. Best of all, it matched with a nicer pair of jeans she’d dug out of the back of her closet, and she’d paired it off with some simple, black strap sandals that went well with the sultry dusk closing in around her.
Since it seemed a little brazen to ask for a full-on date mere minutes after breaking up with someone he’d been set to marry, she’d suggested coffee and a chat. When Henry agreed, she’d almost fallen out of her chair from shock and relief, but managed to keep her cool–through the messaging, anyway.
In her excitement she’d gotten there a little early–an hour or two–and staked a claim for the two-seater table closest to the walking trail that led through a local park. As the sun took its time to sink further and further toward the horizon, she tapped her toes to the wordless music piped through the speakers at the cafe.
Then, from down the street, she saw him walking her way, and once again had to remind herself to breathe. He gave her a small wave, and headed in to grab himself a drink before joining her, but even at this distance she could see the slump in his well-defined shoulders and bags beneath his eyes. A few minutes later he joined her at the table, a steaming cup of coffee in his hands, which he held with both of them, as though to take in its warmth despite the eighty-degree weather.
“Thanks for the invite, Olivia; I had to get out of the house for a while, you know?” He started as soon as he sat down, elbows on the table, head bowed and smile gone.
“Of course,” she replied, praying her sympathy didn’t ring false. It must have sounded okay, or he was only half-listening, because a small smile quirked the corner of his mouth.
“So, how have you been?” he asked, and that began a conversation that lasted till closing time for the cafe. When the manager came out and said they would have to leave so the staff could clean the area, the two reacquainted high school friends stood and made to leave.
Bugs buzzed around the streetlights, and Henry reached over and gave her a friendly hug, the scent of his aftershave and body wash leaving her dizzy with its intoxicating scent.
“Thanks for the talk, it was great catching up. Did you want me to walk you to your car?” Henry asked, and Olivia nearly melted.
Play it cool, she scolded herself.
“Well, when I got here all the parking was full, so I’m on the other side of the park. I don’t want to impose or anything,” she said lightly, but Henry just shook his head.
“And have you cut through the park by yourself? I’d never forgive myself,” he replied, and motioned toward the trail. “Lead the way.”
A few feet from the courtyard, the trail was covered by a canopy of tree branches, and the few stars that could be seen this close to the city were completely obscured. The trail provided them with periodic light from light poles, but they were at times overshadowed by the large, full moon that almost managed to pierce the thickest tangle of branches.
They’d been walking, leisurely, for about ten minutes when Olivia stopped, and looked to her left, where the park trail was backed against the biggest portion of forest found within city limits.
“What’s that?” she asked, breathless, and Henry halted and walked back a few steps to stand next to her.
He squinted into the darkness beneath the trees and shrugged. “I don’t see anything.”
“I swear I saw something moving out there, and it didn’t look like an animal,” she whispered, and stepped closer to the edge of the trail.
“Don’t–” he started, but she stepped into the forest and was quickly swallowed by the shadows of the now ominous trees. He couldn’t just leave her, so he followed and called her name, not able to hear any movements when he paused for an answer. A hundred feet into the treeline, he stopped in a small clearing, barely big enough for three grown adults to lay down side-by-side, and called out once again.
The attack was quick. Something with incredibly velocity hit him mid-back and took him down to the ground. His face was smashed into the leaves and twigs that littered the ground, and it cut his lower lip, making him curse and fight against the weight that sat on his lower back. He was no lightweight, but here he was outmatched. Strong fingers and nails almost too sharp to be human dug into his scalp, grabbed a handful of hair, and pulled his head up enough to bash it back down to the ground.
Dazed and disoriented after the third time of this happening, his struggles fell away to almost nothing in an effort to cease provoking the attack. There was a pause, but Henry could only hear the blood rushing in his ears. Like surfacing from a deep dive, the weight lifted from his back and he gasped, then he was rolled over to face whoever had attacked him. It took a moment for his eyes to regain focus, then confusion settled in.
“O-Olivia? Why?” he croaked, head spinning.
She straddled him and leaned forward, face mere inches from his. “I knew the first time I saw you,” she whispered, and closed the distance between them, taking his bleeding lip into her mouth to suck the blood away.
He gasped at the pain and tried to push her away, but she sat up and knocked his arm with her forearm, sending a shock of agony through his bone. It was like being hit by a baseball bat.
“Did you know, Henry, that lions mate for life?” she asked. He was squinting from the pain of multiple injuries, but his vision was almost back to normal. This time the full moon caught her eyes, and they were no longer a dark brown, but glowing and golden.
She caressed her hands down his arms, the sensation sending a shudder through his body, then her hands tensed as she sent her claws through the meat of his forearms, prompting him to scream. She covered his mouth with hers again, muffling the sound with the force of her kiss until it was nothing more than sobs.
She pulled back, her face rippling with the change that would soon overtake her.
“It’s time to join me, my love,” she sighed, and smiled, revealing fangs that were still too big for her mostly human face.
Olivia leaned down one last time and inhaled the scent of him, now mixed with the tang of his blood, and her shudder was not one of pain. With her larger, more powerful jaw she bit down into the meat of his shoulder and collar bone, only shaking him once when he tried to pull away.
As his blood drained to the rich soil below and his vision grew dim, she let go and turned her mouth against his ear to whisper, “Patience is the most successful hunter of all.”