This is the short story I submitted and read for the Halloween contest on October 31st, 2019 at the International English Library in Düsseldorf. I hope you enjoy!
Wine and Dine
by Laura R. Matis
Stirring her latte, Sandra shifted anxiously in the tiny café chair. She couldn’t remember the last time she went on a date. Sure, her husband Jeffrey occasionally took her out during their sixteen years of marriage, but it seemed like years since that happened. It had been ages since he kissed her, aside from a quick peck on the lips when leaving for a business trip. But now, while giddy in naughty excitement, her hands shook with nerves. A few days ago, in the throes of her loneliness she downloaded Just Coffee, an app used by married people looking for an affair. It wasn’t long before a handsome physician’s assistant named Javier appeared in her message box. Ten years younger than her, his large dark eyes and bright white smile made her blush just looking at his photo. After only a few messages they agreed to meet.
She glanced at her phone to check the time.
A wave of nausea came over her. Just as she pondered running to the bathroom, Javier appeared in the door. He looked just like his photo, flashing a smile like the sun, which compelled her to let out a breath and smile right back. She held out her hand to introduce herself, which he took, then leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. Her face flushed crimson, but as they talked Sandra eventually relaxed. Javier had a calming air about him which made her feel as though she could tell him anything, and she almost did. She proceeded to go on about her life and being ignored by her husband and children.
“You seem very lonely,” Javier finally stated, not taking his eyes off her.
“Well,” she answered. “Yes! And just so…unappreciated.”
Javier took her hand.
“We can fix that,” he said, gently pulling her hand to his mouth and kissing it. His dark eyes looked deep into hers. The nausea came back, but she didn’t look away. She realized how long it had been since men, especially a man as beautiful as Javier, looked at her that way. It felt so good to be…seen. They gazed at each other in silence.
“How about you?” Sandra broke in. “Where is your…your…wife?” She felt an irrational pang of jealousy as that word left her lips. Anyone who would take this lovely man for granted had to be stupid.
“She died some time ago,” he answered in a solemn voice. She felt her heart lift, then instantly ashamed that it did.
“Oh, I’m so sorry…how did-“
“It was a long time ago,” he cut her off abruptly with a tight-lipped smile. “Right now, I’m here with you, and that’s what matters.”
She nodded and changed the subject, going on about her hobbies of cooking and scrapbooking. Javier listened with feigned interest. His wife did indeed pass away. She made the mistake of leaving her phone in Javier’s car one day in a hurry to catch her flight. He didn’t notice until the Just Coffee app erupted with several messages from her lover, complete with photos expressing just how much he wanted to see her again.
With the right drug and some careful planning, Javier made that the last time he ever would.
He and Sandra left the café many hours later, holding hands as they strolled into the night air.
“Let’s go somewhere quieter,” he suggested. “My place is only a few blocks from here. Or we could go to yours…”
Taken off guard, she pulled her hand away.
“We can’t!” she stammered. “I mean, my husband is leaving for another business trip tonight, and I have…to…help him pack.”
‘Help him pack’? she thought to herself. He’s not going to buy that!
“Sure,” Javier only tried to hide his disappointment a little. “I understand. Let me know when you’re free.” Giving her a quick peck on the cheek, he turned to leave.
Sandra panicked; she just couldn’t bear to let Javier walk away.
“We can see each other while he’s gone!” she blurted out after him. He smiled and turned to her.
“I’d like that,” he answered her with a wink that gave her butterflies.
Hunched over her phone, Sandra tapped a flirtatious reply to Javier’s latest message. It had been a few days since that afternoon in the café, and their nonstop texting went from friendly to racy. She felt like a teenager. The abrasive jangle of the kitchen timer shook Sandra out of her whimsical thoughts. Quickly silencing the alarm, she bent down and pulled a roast beef out of the oven. She admired it for a moment, then went back to her phone.
“What are you up to?” she wrote.
With the headlights off, Javier slowly rolled his car through the dark reservoir. The glowing screen displaying Sandra’s message disrupted his darkness. He shut it off, rolling his eyes. Stalking and pretending to court this woman was becoming less of a hobby and more like a full-time job. Enough already.
Satisfied that he was alone, he threw the car in park and picked up his phone.
“Not much. When can I see you again?” he typed before popping the trunk.
Javier stepped out of the car and over to the rear bumper. Looking around cautiously, he grunted as he lifted the corpse over his shoulder. Hauling his recent kill over to the marsh, he smiled as he saw the alligators, barely visible in the dark, and stepped closer.
“You should have tried to save your marriage, Princess.” he whispered to the lifeless woman. “Now here you are, a dead whore just like my wife.”
His attention turned toward the alligators, busy with their nocturnal feeding.
“Dinnertime!” Javier whispered loudly before heaving the body into the water and hurrying away, glancing back to see the creatures eagerly float toward his latest offering.
Back in the car, Javier checked his phone.
“Why don’t we meet for coffee tonight?” Sandra wrote.
Tonight, sure, he thought. But I’m done with coffee.
The knife knocked hard on the cutting board shredding the herbs beneath it. Sandra’s worried mind drove her hand faster than usual. There was no response from Javier. Was she being too needy? Out of habit, she almost called her family to dinner, but the words caught on her tongue. She suddenly felt very alone.
The doorbell broke her thoughts as it echoed through the house. Sandra looked up, startled. “I’LL BE RIGHT THERE!”, she shouted loud enough for the intruder – visitor – to hear.
Perturbed, she cracked open the door just wide enough for her to peek out. Her eyes grew wide. “Wha…what are you doing here?”
“I’m tired of coffee,” said Javier, holding out a bottle of dark red wine. “It’s from my cellar. I picked it out just for you.”
“How did you – I didn’t want you to come HERE!” Sandra hissed, nervously looking over his shoulder to check for any nosey neighbors.
“Did anyone SEE you come here?”
“I was very careful,” he replied with a cocky smile. Sandra stared at him, unsure what to do. She quickly waved him inside and shut the door.
“Let’s open the wine now, I can’t wait for you to try it,” Javier pushed.
The sooner the better, he thought. One sip and she’ll be ready for the alligators.
Flustered, she took the bottle from him.
“Wait right here.” She insisted, and before he could say another word she rushed to the kitchen.
Javier stood in the foyer. An overbearing odor stung his nose, he couldn’t quite place it. It was an odd mixture of cooking, potpourri, and something…rotten. Sandra was back, holding small plate of apple cobbler.
“Forgive my manners,” she said. “You just surprised me, that’s all.”
“Well, thank you. How about that wine?”
“I’ll be right back with glasses.” She disappeared again. He shoveled a forkful of cobbler into his mouth and walked over to the kitchen door. He pushed it open, only to find the kitchen empty.
Wandering through the kitchen, he walked through another door leading into the dining room. He froze, almost dropping the small plate.
Sandra’s family was seated at an ornate dinner table. A stocky, bald older man wearing a blue cardigan was positioned at the head, flanked on either side by two teenagers, a girl in a white dress and a boy in a red sweater. The fluid from their decomposing skin seeped through their perfect clothing, their lifeless eyes looked on into a void.
The color drained from Javier’s face, processing the gruesome scene before him.
“Do you like the cobbler?” a voice rose behind him.
He turned to see Sandra smiling, holding two glasses of wine. His wine.
“Wha…” Javier began, feeling his legs weaken beneath him. He felt sick.
“What?” Sandra retorted and set the glasses down. “You don’t see what a lovely, UNGRATEFUL family I have?!” She stood behind the boy and gently put her hands on the back of his chair.
“This is my handsome son, Jeffrey, Jr.” she began, gesturing to the corpse. Javier coughed, attempting to walk, but falling to his knees instead, his eyes locked on Sandra in horror.
“We spent thousands of dollars on the most prestigious boarding school we could find. We could have traveled the world with all that money we funneled into his education, but we wanted to be sure he had every opportunity possible. One day, we got a call from the headmaster. It seems Jeffrey Jr. set fire to the library, and he was expelled. Oh, we begged the headmaster, offered to rebuild the library and make a sizable donation. He wouldn’t hear of it. All that money, gone. For nothing.”
Her pleasant face contorted in disgust.
“You hear that, son? $95K GONE! I could be living in Hawaii right now! Little SHIT!”
She whacked the corpse in the head, sending his torso forward and his nose right into the full dinner plate in front of him. The silverware clattered on the wooden table.
Coughing uncontrollably, Javier struggled to get to his feet but failed, catching himself on his hands and knees.
Unfazed, Sandra gestured to the decaying young girl across the table.
“Our darling Rebecca! Prom Queen, Homecoming Queen, isn’t she lovely?” Sandra smiled sweetly at Javier. “Admit it, you like her, right? Well, it seems every other boy did, too. And she thought she’d drop out of school and raise a baby having no idea who fathered the thing! WHORE!”
Sandra grabbed Jeffrey, Jr.’s dinner plate and launched it at the young woman’s corpse. It landed on her jaw, the force swiveling her neck to the side with a chilling crack. Roast beef and mashed potatoes clung to her long blonde hair. Her lifeless, decomposing eyeballs looked down at Javier as he writhed in a fetal position on the floor.
Sandra continued. “Then,” she sauntered to the head of the table beside her husband. “there’s my Jeffrey. My dear Jeffrey. We met in college, fell in love, you know that story already. He insisted that I stay home while he worked. Oh, and he worked hard, with all those long, lonely nights at the office. But then it turned out those long nights at the office weren’t so lonely after all, with his young intern keeping him company.”
Javier, attempting to form words, instead made unintelligible sounds over his swollen tongue.
“Andah, peehs! Douhh!”
“Oh, don’t you defend him. He knows what a two-faced liar he was. You hear that, Jeffrey? YOU ARE A LIAR!”
With that, Sandra grasped the carving knife from the meat platter.
She brought the knife down into Jeffrey’s chest and continued to repeatedly stab him with each syllable that left her mouth.
“LIAR! BASTARD! YOU! FILTHY! BASTARD! I! HATE! YOU!”
Now slumped over her husband’s corpse, Sandra’s torso heaved with exhausted breaths, her head hung with her hair obscuring her face. Javier clawed at the thick threads of the carpet, trying to pull himself away from this demented tableau. If he could just get to the door, he might be able to signal for help.
“You won’t make it.” Sandra’s voice softly stated after him. In his desperation, he kept moving regardless. Sandra followed behind him with a relaxed pace, wiping Jeffrey’s congealed body fluids off her hands with a dinner napkin.
“Your apple cobbler had the same poison that killed them. It didn’t take long. The last one to go was my Jeffrey. I suppose it was his size, he did like his beer.”
Javier continued to drag himself along the floor, growing weaker by the minute.
“But you, I didn’t want to kill you, I actually liked you. Still do.”
She stopped behind him and stiffened.
“But I had no choice. If you saw what I did to my family, you’d turn me in. Then where would I be?”
Javier slid his chest into the hallway, spreading his palms on the marble tile and pulling himself forward.
“Look, I feel bad about this, and you don’t have very long. Why don’t we have a toast with that lovely wine you brought for me?”
He managed to stiffly move his head toward Sandra and give her a weak nod.
If this bitch kills me, I’m taking her with me.
Sandra retrieved the two wine glasses from the table and offered one to him. Raising his arm, his fingers managed to wrap around the stem of the glass. But his fragile grip caused the glass to topple over, shattering on the marble and making a pool of the dark red wine.
“Oh damn,” Sandra shook her head and set her glass down. “Wait right there, I’ll grab the mop.”
“Nn…NNNUUUHHHH!!!!!!!!” Javier cried after her. White foam spilled out of his mouth. His eyes rolled back into their sockets as his vision slowly faded. His body shook violently before finally going limp, the last breath hissing from his lips.
Moments later, Sandra’s heels clacked toward him and stopped.
“Oh no, did you die already?” she said woefully. “Shoot.”
She shrugged and took her glass into the dining room, sat down at the table on her usual chair opposite Jeffrey and calmly made herself a dinner plate. Picking up the glass and raising it in the air, she let out a heavy sigh.
“Well, here’s to poor Javier,” she toasted and turned to her family. “We should all say a little prayer for him.”
Sandra touched the glass to her lips, paused, then glared across the table at Jeffrey’s grey corpse.
“What? Jealous? Ha!” She let out a chuckle.
She greedily gulped the wine from the glass, gave Jeffrey one last dirty look, and calmly chewed a piece of the meat.
“You know, Jeffrey, this wine goes really well with my roast beef.”
And just like that, she fell face first into her mashed potatoes.