A Toast to Love (Horror Short)

A Toast to Love 
M.A. Kastle 

The air-conditioner clicked on, a whoosh sounding from the aged machine as it emitted poorly refrigerated air saturated with the musty scents of humanity in to the room. The motel room with its beige walls, green shag, fake famous art, and gloomy furniture wasn’t messy, wasn’t clean, it just- was. “Sad.” she mumbled. Raising her glass she sipped her white wine. Its bite slid down her throat creating a chill that invaded her insides and caused her to shiver.
Cold, she thought. She sat back in the chair, crossed her legs, and raised her glass to her lips. For control. Rachel sipped the dry herbs with hints of passion fruit and tasted the gentle change as crisp citrus faded. The tension in her muscles eased, and cradling the chilled glass in her warm palm, she held it close to her lips and stared at the black walnut handle sticking out of Tall Dark and Handsome. While the sight, crimson and bronze, eased her nerves, she felt there should have more. He should have been more, she thought
Lost in the events of the evening, the images took her to the depths of her mind, and she absently rolled the smooth glass stem between her fingers. Her cobalt eyes narrowed and watched the silky straw layers glimmer in the dim halo of the multicolored lamp. Her cherry red nails glared out from the flaxen liquid crawling up the bowl, slipping down, and retreating into itself. She inhaled, her mind dividing as she tasted the air and the mingled scents of male sweat, flesh, and iron that had been her entertainment. Taking another sip, she relished the feel of its satin ribbons of tangy liquid. It was always white, never red. She had rules. Red was hearty, intense, embraced you with its rich body, and begged you to stay. White was cold, sharp, and sat in her mouth causing her teeth to ache from its chill and reminded her of her responsibility. Yes, and it kept her focused.
“So, this is it?” she asked the room, as if the imitation painting staring at her from its perch on the wall was going to answer. Incapable of stopping her thoughts, she waited a full minute before sighing. “Another let down.”
Dammit, she knew it wasn’t going to get any better, who was she trying to kid. Myself, she argued. She didn’t deserve his rage, his silence, or abandonment. He deserved every cut, every burn, and every curse word she threw in his direction.
 A chill crawled down her spine, griped her body, and she trembled. This time, may be the last time, she thought with regret. Damn him. She had to focus and not let him get inside her head, more than he was. With her attention back on regret, Rachel turned from the wine to the white roses, and the black leather bag waiting silently for her to dig in to its insides. Her eyes, wet with unshed tears glanced at the discarded second glass sitting on the nightstand. Her blurred silhouette stared back through his smudged fingerprints and she watched the mirror image sashay as she raised her glass in a mock toast to the second and its remains. Half empty, she mused, or half full? She guessed the answer depended on the individual. A voice rose up and whispered, ‘The glass is half empty.’. Rachel agreed and her thoughts wandered beyond the bitter notes of oak teasing her nose.
It didn’t change how she felt. Lately, she wished it was more… Satisfying. Always thought it should have been as exciting as the first time. However, recently the anticipation had been a bigger high than the climax. But this time she had built her hopes up and convinced herself the motel and risk alone would have her blood pulsing, her heart pounding, and her nerves on their ends as if they were going to jump out of her skin. That had been dumb. It hadn’t, not the way she wanted. Needed. After all the planning, the careful attention to every detail, the motel and the time it took to find the perfect wine. And the man. She had to find one with a sliver of evil in his soul, and seduce him, and nurse his insanity to make him the perfect one. There was no doubt, it should’ve been more.
Her eyes skated over the room and the second glass, until they landed on Tall Dark and Handsome. Her patience had been put to the test trying to get him to approach her, but in the end, he had been a pleasing challenge.  An entertaining adventure- who should have added satisfaction to the release she obsessed over. She wanted fireworks and bells and whistles, and freedom. She craved freedom. Not the numbness eating her from the inside out. In frustration, as if it was going to take the edge off and change the night and her attitude, she took a drink. It wasn’t lady like, reserved, it was a swig, and she gulped it down.
“Obviously cutting him out of my life didn’t work,” she said grabbing the bottle and filling her glass.
She set the bottle back in its circle of condensation and the thick clink of it hitting the desk broke through the silence. Smeared over the bottle’s gold label were ruby fingerprints, and in the misty film they had started to gently slide down the clear glass. Rachel sat back in the computer chair, uncrossed and re-crossed her legs bringing a tired squeal from the metal. She suddenly wished, she would have gotten dressed when the cool plastic of the chair sent a chill racing across her bare back and hips.
“Why bother?” she mumbled. The negative feel lunged in and fed the building coldness and irritation.
There was always the risk of getting caught and then her friends finding out. She could see the headlines, serial killer found, dejected, and drunk. The danger loomed over her and sat on her shoulders like a physical weight. It threatened her future, but if she stopped, she knew its poison was going to taint the smallest of things. Still she needed to accept, she had a life. A very successful life. And he wasn’t worth it. Never was.
Rachel shifted in the chair, to see him better, and sipped her wine. She needed to end his presence. She laughed, a soft sound edged with bitterness because she knew deep down, if she got rid of him, she would miss him. Dear God, she would miss him. She loved to have him around. She hated the pain he inflicted and the suffering he forced her to live with. Yes, suffering was bad, but her real problem was the pain. Pain. It never left, it sat fat inside her, growing with every memory, like a cancer, clinging to her thoughts, and filling her days and nights with misery. His need to make her miserable was never stated, and adding insult to injury, the son of a bitch was there in everything she did. His eyes teeming with hate, found her in her dreams and turned them into nightmares. He invaded her life over and over again. And she loved it.
No, I hate it.
‘No, you don’t.’
She exhaled and forced herself to face the facts, she needed him gone. For real. Not the empty lies she told people, as she tried to convince herself… But for real. Needing him wasn’t real. It was the dark side of loneliness trying to weaken her resolve. Maybe. Doesn’t matter, she thought. This kill- all her work will have been for naught and it was driving her crazy. Despite the chaos living inside her mind, she smiled, her lips curving, any emotion never reaching her eyes, because she knew the truth. She wanted him with her. All she had to do was wait and he would find a way to come back. He always did, and he would continue his malicious rampage through her life. That’s what he did.
Every. Damn. Time.
“How long will you be silent this time, my love?” she asked the staring smoky eyes. “A day? A week? A month?”
Fire hadn’t worked, she mused, and saw red, orange, flames for a second, but neither had water. Scarlet peppered his tan flesh, its softness marred by the white bone blazing through the slices in his skin. She thought by taking a drastic, even radical step it would make her believe, he was really and truly gone. That it would take the sane side and the not-so-sane side, she laughed, of her mind and merge them.
With glass in hand, Rachel stood and walked over to the bed and stared down on him. All the while memories drifted around her and then through the fractures of her sanity. Slowly she knelt down, her knees on the shag carpet, the thick strands tickling her shins, and met his empty dead eyes. You should have let me go, she thought, before it came to this.
She touched his cheek with the back of her hand and watched his eyes fade. “He isn’t my love,” she whispered as if shocked. To prove to herself, that in fact, he wasn’t, Rachel raised the glass to his naked body and silently wished Tall Dark and Handsome, ‘Godspeed’ into the next world. She sipped the chilled wine while her eyes narrowed on the scattered scarlet splashes. They glared back, the thick, fat, and thin shapes as if trying to tell her something. Once glistening, they began to dull as they dried under the scrutiny of her cobalt stare. The thicker lines shimmered in the lamplight as they slipped around the silver blade and over the contours of his hips to the crumpled sheet beneath.
The look in his eyes while they teased each other, had her believing, their intimacy combined with the knife was going to do the trick. With her right hand, she reached out and gripped the handle. Its smooth feel fit easily in her palm but didn’t give under her touch. She twisted the handle, the blade grated against bone, and brought crimson to the surface. It oozed up only to slip down and settle in the small of his back. She stood, and watched the new liquid push through the cooling pool. Rachel dipped one finger into the lukewarm jelly and with cautious moves, began to draw in the center of his spine.
With a perfect forever heart, she stuck her finger in her mouth, and chased the sultry iron with wine. The silence in the room took away his pleading and whimpers, and stealing his weak voice, it moved through bringing a sadness, she couldn’t stop from weaving around her heart and filling her eyes with tears. No, she told herself. She wouldn’t give in to self-pity. The emotions, like the process of grieving, were the same every time, and each stage moved in and began turning her mind on itself. In the end, she would convince herself, he was going to come back. He always did, and already she could hear his whispers and feel his presence strengthen.
Rachel touched the knife, turned away from him, and dropping in the chair, stared at him. Maybe she needed to change things up. She took a slow sip and considered the idea, she had been doing it wrong the entire time. You can never relive the first time. It needs to be reinvented. What if white was a bad choice?
What if red is the answer?
Red like blood. Like the crimson staining his skin.
Her mind raced through the wines she had tasted and loved. Quickly the memory of a smooth velvet laced with chocolate brought a smile to her face. An old vine Zinfandel. Red invited you to crawl into the glass and spend the evening cuddled inside its dark coffee notes and hints of cocoa. It might be the change she needed to put her mind at ease. She would give herself one more chance to make things right. With renewed passion, her body fought the chill creeping over her, and her bare skin warmed, and her heartbeat fluttered with anticipation.
“One more time.” she whispered to the dated and forgotten room.
Rachel stood and surveyed her surroundings. Her mind cleared, her emotions eased, and she saw the reality of her fury and bent up disappointment. The worse being the cavity in his chest. “Left me with a broken heart.” Rachel drank the rest of the wine in one gulp and set the glass on the desk. After wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, and her hand on her bare thigh, she looked at herself in the mirror screwed to the wall. Smears of blood stained her stomach, breasts, and hands. And now her thighs. It was better than her clothes.
Rachel watched herself stretch, and the way her skin pulled where blood had dried. “Dirty girl,” she said as she grabbed the bag and walked over to the couch. There were rules to her process and she considered them as she mentally went through the stages in which she would clean the room and then discard of Tall Dark and Handsome. With a plan in place, she unzipped the bag, grabbed a pink towel from its depths, and approached the bed. Rachel wrapped her hand around the handle and yanked as hard she could, the blade held for a breath then slipped free. While she cleaned the blade with the pink towel, she walked to the head of the bed and knelt down.
“This isn’t the end.” she gushed.
‘No,’ he whispered, his voice rough from his absence.
“Have I told you, just how much I love you?” She felt him come alive and his ghost moved over her as a soft caress. It was a new beginning and the future was bright once more.
Rachel giggled, an honest, happy sound and felt the delight from her fingertips to her toes and raised the knife. As she went to work, his smoky eyes gleamed as if he too was being swept up in the excitement.

                        THE END