Queen of the Wolves
Shelley put her arm around Stephen’s waist as they stood leaning against the car in the driveway. He felt her grab onto his back belt loop and they both gazed up at the house. She rested her head against his arm and sighed.
Stephen smiled and kissed the top of her head. “You sure you wouldn’t have preferred a nice, doublewide trailer? Thirty-grand and we could drive it anywhere we wanted.”
She tapped his chest affectionately. “Please don’t ruin this moment.”
He squeezed her tightly and nodded. They watched the sun set behind the newly built home. Golden light flared around the peaked roof like a halo and cast the front yard into a cool, comforting pool of shadow. It felt like a dream. With his wife beside him and a warm, almost-summer breeze blowing against his face, Stephen thought he might never stop smiling. Then he heard a brittle voice call out from behind them and his smile vanished.
“Hello? Hey there.”
A small woman in a tank top and capris was scurrying up the sidewalk towards them. Her eyes were hidden behind giant, round-framed sunglasses. She may have been thirty, or forty, it was hard to say, but she was well built with pretty chestnut colored hair and smooth white skin. Gliding along beside her was a little girl. Like the woman whose hand she clung to, the girl’s age was hard to pinpoint. She was tall enough to be a third or fourth grader, but something in her eyes made her seem younger. Maybe it was the way she searched the clouds as they walked, oblivious to everything else around her. They stepped into the yard, facing Stephen and Shelley and the woman pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head.
“Howdy neighbors!” Her voice was low but still managed to be strident somehow. Stephen was immediately put off but he smiled anyway as she introduced herself. “ I’m Alicia Schilling and this is my daughter Rita. We live three houses down.” As soon as she was mentioned, Rita dropped her mother’s hand and sat down in the cool grass, tugging at a dandelion between her splayed feet.
“Hey, how you doing? I’m Stephen and this is my wife, Lachelle.”
Shelley reached out her hand to the woman. “Hi, you can call me Shelley.”
Alicia shook Shelley’s hand and examined her face. “Lachelle. That sounds like a black name.”
Stephen didn’t look at Shelley, but he knew that the smile had frozen hard on her face as it had his. Alicia sensed their discomfort and went on cheerfully.
“Oh, it’s okay, there’s a couple of ‘em living on the street. Fine people. Really well spoken. I think he’s a teacher or something.”
Shelley coughed into her hand and tugged hard at Stephen’s belt loop and he looked down at the little girl on his lawn as a means of escape.
“So Rita. Did you know there’s a song named after you?”
The girl looked up at him and smiled sweetly. She had her mother’s hair, though longer and less processed, and icy blue eyes. “There is?”
“Yep, ‘Lovely Rita, Meter Maid.’ It’s by an old group called the Beatles.”
The little girl rolled her eyes amiably. “I know who the Beatles are silly. They sing, ‘Yellow Submarine.’ I don’t know the my-name song though.”
Stephen chuckled. “Well, I’ve got it on a record somewhere in a box in the house. When I find it, you’ll have to come by and listen to it with us.”
Alicia nodded, her sunglasses swaying atop her head. “Oh yeah, that sounds great. Rita loves music.” She looked down at her child with mock exasperation. “I’ve tried to get her to listen to the girly dance songs I like. You know, whatever’s popular, but she only likes that old stuff.” She sighed. “She’s my little fuddy-duddy.”
“Funny-dunny!” Rita called out in a high, nasally voice before melting into a fit of giggles.
There was a pause then, and several seconds of silence spun out between the adults while Rita chattered away to herself on the ground. Finally, Shelley stretched and gestured towards the house. “Well, it was great meeting you guys. We’ve got a lot of unpacking to do though, so. . .”
Stephen jumped in. “Yeah, thanks for coming over to welcome us. Feels good knowing we’ve got such nice neighbors.” He looked at the little girl and found her staring intently at their house. He followed her gaze, thinking she saw a bird or a squirrel up by the garage but there was nothing. “And Rita, you’re welcome to come and listen to the Beatles or the Rolling Stones or the Monkees any time you want. Me and Shelley like those old songs too.”
Rita popped up from the ground and stood beside her mother. “Mommy, can I?”
Alicia took the girl’s hand and smiled indulgently. “Definitely. So long as Stephen and Lachelle say you can.” She looked to Stephen and Shelley and winked. “Careful guys, I may just leave her with you and run away to Barbados with some hot young stud.”
Rita’s face went dark. “Mommy, no! With Daddy.”
Alicia’s grin dried up at the mention of Rita’s father. “Hush.” She dropped her glasses back down over her eyes (Stephen thought they made her look like The Fly) and stepped back onto the sidewalk. “Well, you two have a good night. Don’t work too hard unpacking, and feel free to stop by if you ever need anything.” She pointed to a large house with a tall hedge running along the property line a few hundred feet away. “Or if you just feel like visiting.”
“We will.” Shelley waved and smiled as Alicia and Rita turned and walked away. “See you guys later.” She favored Stephen with raised eyebrows. He knew she’d have a lot to say about Alicia Schilling once they were back inside the house. They had made it almost to their door when Alicia’s quiet, grating voice floated back at them from a ways up the street.
“Hey! Your house is a Wagner-Klein, isn’t it?” She was standing in front of her own house, her hand on one slim hip while Rita looked on with solemn eyes. “Most of the houses back here are theirs.”
Stephen answered. “Yeah, they drew it up, contracted it, everything. Even did some interior stuff. Carpet and what not.”
Alicia made her way back, stopping halfway between their homes. “Who designed it? The house I mean.”
“His name was Hari something. Hari Ka—na. . .Ka—ni. . .”
“Kaniyar.” Shelley finished for Stephen as he kept trying to pronounce their architect’s name.
Alicia made a sour face. “The Indian boy?”
Shelley’s voice was clipped. “Yeah, he was Indian.”
“We met with him three years ago when we thought about building a place over in Delhi. I didn’t like him, he was strange.” Alicia inclined her head towards Stephen and Shelley’s house. “That explains all the weird little designs along the top of your back porch.
There was a twitch at the corner of Stephen’s mouth. When had she been in the back yard? He felt Shelley’s elbow dig back into his gut and she called back in a bright, false voice.
“Yeah, well. We’ve gotta get back in there. Seeya!”
Alicia looked at them a moment longer, unsure, and then her face rearranged itself into a similarly false smile. She waved and headed back to her own house without another word.
Shelley leaned back against Stephen, her head resting on his chest. “Jesus, Steve.”
He nodded, squeezing her arm. “I know, come on, let’s get inside.” They slipped quietly into the silence of their new house and the sun, without anyone outside to watch it, decided to give up the ghost and set.
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Stephen dragged himself up the carpeted stairs, a heavy box marked, “misc” hugged to his chest. He was out of breath and sweating. He stopped at the top and set the box on the second floor landing. The set of pull down steps that led to the attic hung open in the middle of the hallway. He could hear the scraping of boxes being shoved around on the hardwood floor up there and then Shelley’s voice floated down to him.
“Yes.” He leaned against the banister. “I’ll be there in a sec. This box is just heavy.”
She laughed. “I got your records up here on my own. Don’t talk about heavy. I’m a teeny-tiny girl.”
“Yeah, a teeny-tiny girl with a black girl’s name. Probably makes you tougher.”
A moment later Shelley’s face peeked down at him from the trap door. “Oh my God! What was that all about?”
Stephen shrugged. “I don’t know. The brochure didn’t say anything about casual racists.” With a grunt he hefted his box and headed up into the attic.
The room was large with heavy beams crisscrossed below the angled ceiling. A small triangular window looked out the back and over the top of the covered porch. The whole space smelled of freshly oiled wood. A few large boxes had been stacked along the wall while still more were scattered throughout the middle. Shelley knelt beside an open box marked, “books,” idly flipping through its contents.
“Seriously, that was awful. She doesn’t even know us and she’s comfortable talking to us like that?” She looked up at Stephen. “Think about what she must be like when she’s with her like-minded, WASP’y book club or whatever it is she has.”
“Yeah.” Stephen set his box down and slid it across the floor to the wall. He turned and sat down on it. “It seemed like there might be something with her and the husband too.”
“Of course there was. They can’t be a stereotypical suburban family in a stereotypical, cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood like this without an impending divorce. Question is, which one of them is having the affair?”
Stephen made a face. “Hey! We live in this cookie-cutter neighborhood now. Should I start worrying?”
Shelley pushed the box of books against the wall and moved over to him on her knees. She wrapped her arms around his waist and looked into his eyes, smiling. “No. Because we’re better people than they are.” She laughed, delicious sound, and kissed him deeply. She sat back on her haunches, her cheeks flushed. “Don’t you agree?”
“Yeah, definitely we’re better. Obviously. I liked the kid though. She seemed sweet.”
Shelley nodded as she began pulling her sweaty T-shirt over her head. She dropped it to the floor and reached behind her back. “Yes, she was very nice.” She stripped away her bra, revealing plump breasts capped with hard, pink nipples. “But enough about the neighbors. I suddenly feel like christening the house.” She moved back into Stephen’s lap, her hands twining behind his neck. Stephen slid his fingers down along her bare back, sighing.
“We christened it the night we got the keys. Remember?”
Shelley undid his belt and nodded, licking her lips. “Yep, but not the attic.”
Stephen leaned back and let her unsnap his jeans and pull his zipper down. “You’re right. I forgot. Please proceed.” He hoisted himself up long enough to slide his pants down and then knelt on the floor beside her. He began kissing her neck, his warm lips and tongue exploring the hollow of her throat. He felt her hand slip up along his thigh and he moaned softly. “Oh yeah, that’s it hon, keep going. Keep doing. . .” His voice trailed off as he looked over her shoulder. His eyes widened with shock and his stiffening cock went limp in his wife’s hand. She looked at him, alarmed and spun around to see what had upset him. A startled gasp escaped her as she followed his gaze.
They were both gawking at the set of steps at the back of the room. At the top of the steps was a door, hanging slightly ajar.
“Stephen?” Shelley’s voice trembled and she covered her naked breasts with her left arm.
“I see it too, Shell, I see it too.”
Neither the steps, nor the door had been a part of the room thirty seconds before. They had just suddenly appeared, as if from nothing.
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©2013 by R.k.Kombrinck.
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R.k.Kombrinck is a writer and artist who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and two sons. He is a founding cast-member of the popular horror podcast “Night of the Living Podcast.” He enjoys iced-tea (unsweet) and genuinely believes in Sasquatch.
You can find his work online HERE