NOTE: This is a short story written in August 2015. It was first published on the Taboo Magazine website before it was shut down. While this is not the first time this story has been published, it remains my original and one of my favourite pieces.
Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a lioness trapped in the body of a human? It's like having a burning ferocity, an untamable beast lurking under your skin, seeping into your inner most core. Your instincts heighten to a peak that overtakes your human mind. Some things just don't make sense. One of them is love.
The Lioness in her was something she never saw, like a cancerous mole on her back, it was to her detriment and plain for all others to see. That was, until he pointed out.
They'd met for the first time in a bussling city. She, a small town country girl and he a preppy boy born with a silver spoon in his mouth. They'd know each other for some time online but their first physical encounter changed everything they thought they knew about each other.
He was more than she'd imagined. His hair swept to the side, his olived skin reflected in the halogen lights, emphasizing his muscular physique and broad shoulders. His face was flawless, his smile almost sinister in its flirtatiousness. He was an enigma. He gave nothing away, yet she felt she had unraveled a part of him that belonged only to him. The attraction was overwhelming. His mind, oh his mind, she'd swoon. His sophistication, it was something unlike anything she'd seen in her small hometown. His philosophical inspirations inspired her bright mind to challenge all she knew about who she was and where she fit in the world.
It seemed odd, to say the least. They were from two different worlds. Although it was a tale as old as time, this wasn't a Disney movie and great love was destined to align with great pain.
They'd spent years tormenting each other with a tragic romance. The longing reverberated in her heartbeat, intensifying with each solid knock on her ribcage. They relished in the safety of a geographical distance. If not states, seas separated them. It protected them. It protected him from her and her persistence.
He loathed himself and she reminded him that he was loved, just by existing. Just by being so predictably easy to fall back on for an esteem pick-me-up. He had grown a dependence on her love to feed his self-worth. She relied on her love for her to remind her that tragedy exists. She used it to punish herself.
When the geographical distance fell apart, they were left to confront where they even stood in each other's lives. She burned with desire for him. She lusted for the commitment she had always sought. It seemed more realistic now. It was more viable. He, on the other hand, found every excuse not to give in. It was almost as if he simply wanted to defy every instinct, every passion that drove him to her arms in the first place.
For the first time in 5 years, they sat across from each other at a busy cafe. As if the public setting would protect them from themselves. She was stunned, to be in his presence again. To be near him, it was surreal. How their love had swayed over the years, yet here they were once again. She noted that his once chartreuse eyes had faded to an icy-blue. She wasn't sure why, but it made her unsettled. It almost felt like he was fading with his eyes.
In a predictably surprising move, he addressed the tension in the air without context.
"I will lead you into chaos," he said, intensifying his already solid eye contact. He desperately tried to have a constant handle of his emotions, but it always lead to them boiling over in outbursts of visible self-destruction. He was an utter masochist.
"I am chaos," she replied desperately.
"No," he cried out angrily, flicking his hand out of her grip and taking a step back, "you are perfection... And I keep poisoning that."
"How?" She replied, unable to contain the hint of viciousness in her voice.
"See? Do you see that? That passion, that persistence. That perfectly self-assured sense of... I don't even know. You have a fire in you. It's intense, almost intimidating. You are so sure of what you want that you never let it go. It's been comforting for all these years, but now... Now, it's just starting to burn me."
"How am I the one hurting you?" She screeched, anger resonating in the atmosphere around her. "You're the one telling me you want nothing to do with me. All I ever wanted was you."
"We should sell our story to Hollywood," he chuckled.
"Not the right time to make a joke," she said with a roll of her eyes.
They let a silence fill the place where their emotions should be. She sat, unable to look him the eye, her arms crossed as she exhaled in anger. She began to feel herself coming up with ways to hate him. It has worked before. She wondered what she was even doing here. Why did she feel this desperate, unforgettable attraction? Her need to hate him ricocheted off the walls of her mind. The hatred turning on herself. She began to cry.
"Why don't you want me? You've had every opportunity to have me. In any way you wanted. I always told you that. You lay down the rules and I'll play along, I don't care as long as I have you."
"It's not that simple, little Lioness and you know it." She felt her stomach churn with rage as he used his pet name for her at such a time.
"How DARE you," she cried out, "I know exactly what you're doing, here. I do." He sat calmly, reverting back to his sense of control. "This is all a game to you. And you've played it with me for long now that I can see every move you make before you make it. You want to reel me in and spit me back out but keep the hook intact just in case you get hungry for more later. To that, I say screw you! Honestly, screw you! You want to play a game? Let's play."
He still sat silently, not a hint of emotion to display. He had won this round. He had set a trap and she'd fallen straight into it. She gave herself a moment to collect her thoughts before continuing. If it was back to a calculated game, she figured she may as well play.
"If you ever loved me," she said sternly, ensuring her voice displayed logic rather than emotion, "then you wouldn't see my brain as a conquest. You wouldn't see my mind as a sick experiment. I am beginning to doubt you are even capable of human emotion."
He tried to remain motionless, but a flicker of pain ran across his face. It wasn't much and it lasted less than a second, but it was enough for her to know she'd won. He sat across from her as she analysed every moment he made. She noticed the almost unnoticeable twitch in his movements that prepared for her the outburst she knew he was about to have.
He errupted suddenly, flailing his arms in the air. "I love you too much, that's the bloody problem! I swear to myself time and time again that I'm done with you. I hate this feeling. I lose control when I'm around you, yet I have to be near you. I convince myself that I hate you - and I do! But yet I'm still here... Because you asked me to be. I'm your fucking lap dog. I control my own destiny, my own emotions, my own reactions. Then you come along and fuck it all up for me. I can't offer you what I know you deserve. A happy home, a loving partner for your children, stability, financial support, commitment. I don't know how to do any of that. Don't you think it kills me to see you with other men? To wish you happiness, knowing that I can't give that to you? Don't you think it drives me insane knowing that after all these years, we're still here doing the same damn thing?"
"You're right. It's been many years, don't you think that has to account for something?" She replied, taking her turn in the emotionless aspect of the game.
"Of course it fucking does. I just haven't figured out what or why. I can't figure it out. I want you, with every fibre of my being, with every sense of the word, I fucking want you. But I can't have you."
"Maybe we both had a part to play in this. Maybe I should have let you walk away. Maybe I should have left you alone. I don't know why I couldn't resist. Maybe I was just a dog chasing a car..."
“I guess intensity is just another word for insanity...” her words trailed off as she looked distracted. He squinted as he scanned her face for any traces of where her mind may have wandered off to. She gazed up into nothingness as her mind exploded in epiphany. Her body betrayed her by jumping up suddenly, her fingers trembling as they instinctively pointed at him.
“You... You lied about all of this,” she stuttered. His only response was to frown, tipping his head slightly to the left.
“Lied about what, exactly?”
“Oh, fuck off!” she scoffed. “Don't play dumb, it patronises both of us.”
“I have no idea what you're talking about.” His face struggled to stay straight. A dry grin snuck its way into a corner of his mouth.
“You're revelling in this, aren't you?” she shrieked. Her pain burning into that hatred she'd been longing for. “You wanted this all along. Why? What was I to you?”
“Either you’re strong and I want to destroy you or you’re submissive and I want to dominate you or you’re beautiful and I want to possess you.”
“None of those work, John. I'm too easy for you to destroy. But I destroy you in return. I'm only submissive to my emotions; I'm persistent to a fault... And if you want to possess me, why don't you have me? You could have had me...”
“You're a character in a story,” he said, wearing a wide smile. She sat back down, stunned. He had figured it out. He played the final blow.
“Check mate.” she muttered as she faded into a mist to join the other figments of his imagination.