This is my entry for October in the Monthly Short Story Challenge on the Sims Forums. This month’s theme is “Spooky. Word count: 1667 (thank goodness for the extra allowance this month) and 14 screencaps (again, gotta love that extra leeway).
I was an ordinary woman. I was single, worked reasonably hard at my job, and was trying to make my way in the world. I’d done some traveling from time to time but can’t claim to have ever had a true adventure. I had never even been in love before.
I was exhausted by the time my work shift ended Friday night. I wanted only a light supper, brew a pot of tea, and drink it while curled up in bed with a steamy romance. It’s such a cheesy thing, but romance novels are my vice. Hey, if I can’t get any action in real life, I might as well live it vicariously through beautiful, passionate characters. The newest Lenora Landgraab book was out and I was dying to devour it.
Things seldom work out as planned. Instead, my co-worker and friend, Jennifer, dragged me off to this festival thingy that opened earlier in the day. I started to protest, but I can never resist the hound-dog eyes Jennifer gives when she really wants something. Instead of sinking into a world of medieval castles, ladies with long, flowing hair and impossibly full dresses, and handsome, rugged men, it would be loud music, kids screaming with joyous abandon, and smells of burnt funnel cakes. Ugh, it was going to be a long night.
If I had known what the night held for me, would I do it differently? Never!
Jennifer wrangled me into taking a shot at some karaoke. I’ve always loved to sing but I get so nervous doing it in front of anyone. Before it was my turn, I downed a couple beers to fortify myself. I’d chosen Frozen by Madonna, which was one of my go-to selections. Surprisingly, the butterflies disappeared fairly quickly and I really got into the song. When it was over, I got a good amount of applause, which made me blush to the roots of my hair.
When I stepped off the stage, he stepped in front of me. My heart gave a lurch and I felt my knees turn to butter as I looked into his handsome face. “Uh, hello,” I said, offering him a weak smile.
“You sing beautifully.” His voice sent shivers down my spine that were far from unpleasant.
“Thank you.” I blushed again and glanced down at my feet.
“May I buy you a drink?” His dark gaze met mine, and I felt an unmistakable pull toward him.
“I never accept drinks from someone unless I know his name.” God help me! I was flirting with a total stranger.
“Cedric Collier.” A hint of an English accent lined the mesmerizing tones of his voice.
“Alicia Maxwell.” I extended my hand to him and when he shook it, I noticed how cold his figers felt.
“Poor circulation. Sorry. My hands are always cold.” The left corner of his mouth raised slightly in a crooked smile.
“Cold hands, warm heart,” I said softly. Seemingly of it’s own accord, my left hand came atop his. His large hand was sandwiched between my much smaller ones, and I found myself chafing it in an attempt to warm it. Surprisingly, he didn’t pull away. His eyes continued to bore into mine and I was completely lost.
“So, how about that drink.” His voice broke the spell and I quickly dropped my hands, mortified at my own forward reaction.
I recovered myself quickly enough while we enjoyed our cocktails. Cedric and I soon began talking like old friends and I found myself falling for the first time in my life. I’d barely met this man, yet I was drawn to him in a way that both thrilled and frightened me.
We went for a walk along the beach. The sound of crashing waves accompanied my racing heart as Cedric lowered his head and brought his lips to mine in a kiss that rivaled any I’d read about in my beloved romance novels. I knew I should pull away but I just couldn’t. I wanted him to hold me. Cedric seemed to sense this, for he wrapped his arms tightly around me.
“You are so cold,” I said after a moment. I caressed his cheek and studied him, concerned “Are you feeling sick?”
Cedric took my hand and brought it to his lips for a kiss. “I’m not sick. Just the opposite, in fact. Don’t worry.” He tucked a lock of hair behind my ear and smiled. “Today is my birthday and I want to thank you for sharing some of it with me.”
He artfully changed the subject but I didn’t mind, really. I knew I should be alarmed at the unnatural coldness of his body, but I pushed those thoughts aside. I simply wanted to be near him; nothing else mattered.
“Happy birthday, Cedric.” I smiled softly. “You don’t look a day over twenty-three.”
“I’m twenty-seven. And you don’t look a day over eighteen.” That crooked smile of his returned and my heart fluttered.
“Lies! Just what I want to hear,” I said on a laugh. “I’m twenty-five but sometimes feel like I’m fifty.”
The evening ended all too soon and Cedric offered to walk me home. It was a long walk back to my place but I wanted to draw out our time together as much as I could. At my doorstep, he gathered me close and kissed me in such a way that my ears rang and my head spun. I clung to him in shameless desperation. I got the strangest feeling I might never see him again and it frightened me more than anything ever had in my life.
“I don’t want you to leave,” I whispered, running my fingers over his ice-cold cheek.
“I know, but I must. Think of me sometimes.” As he kissed me again, my eyes closed and remained so for a few moments after his lips released mine. When they slowly opened, Cedric was gone; I was alone…again.
All weekend long, I could think of nothing else but Cedric. I had to find him or go completely out of my mind. Thank goodness for the power of the internet. “Gotcha!” I said in triumph as I wrote down an address located across town.
Unfortunately, I would have to pay in order to get more detailed records and Cedric apparently didn’t have a landline. He’d never offered me his cell phone number, so there was nothing else for me but to hop in my car and drive to the address.
A tired older woman answered the door and eyed me suspiciously. “I-I’m looking for Cedric Collier. Does he live here?” I asked, curbing the urge to wipe my sweaty palms on my pants. “You see, I saw him last night and–”
Her eyes flashed furiously at me, but I sensed deep sorrow underneath the hostility. “Young woman, you are wrong,” she interrupted me. “You weren’t with my son. I lost my Cedric a year ago on his birthday. He died…” She choked on a sob. “He died after falling off a roof.”
“But…I don’t understand. I was with him…last night.” My insides turned as cold as Cedric’s hands had been.
“You are a cruel woman and I don’t appreciate such antics. Now go away before I call the police. Just…just go!” She clamped a hand over her trembling mouth but it didn’t stifle the horrible sobs that shook her tiny shoulders.
“I’m…sorry,” I whispered before turning on my heel and running. My own sobs escaped my lips and tears blinded me as I sped back to my house.
I curled up on my bed, crying brokenly for the remainder of the day. I didn’t understand any of this. How was it possible that I’d spent the most amazing night of my life with a dead man? I was an ordinary woman, after all. Nothing exciting ever happened to me…until now.
Nightfall came again and I felt utterly gutted. I couldn’t explain what had happened, but even more so, I couldn’t explain this overwhelming sense of loss that was weighing down my soul. That woman’s sorrow was genuine and part of me believed her story. Still, I had to see for myself. I needed to see his grave.
Upon arriving at the cemetery, a strange force seemed to take me over. I had no idea what section to look in to locate Cedric’s grave, but something pulled at me like a divining rod. I couldn’t resist, so I followed it as if in a trance. The next thing I knew, I was looking down at a tombstone. Cedric Collier, Beloved Son, it read. Listed were his date of birth and death. They were the same except for the year. Just as the woman had said, Cedric died on his birthday; he’d lived only twenty-six years.
The crushing grief overtook me again and I sank to my knees. I traced each letter of his name with my finger and felt my heart break. “That is why you were so cold, wasn’t it?” I asked aloud. “Now I am cold, too.”
I don’t know how long I sat there. Fatigue and chills settled in every bone of my body. I didn’t want to leave Cedric’s grave, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I lay down on the ground, facing the headstone and covered myself as best I could with the light jacket I’d brought. I slept.
My eyes popped open when I heard the sound of my name. “Who’s there?” I asked, quickly standing up. There was nothing there but the wind.
Come to me, Alicia. Be with me forever, for this is what you want. Cedric’s voice seemed to come to me on the wind. I blinked, but he wasn’t there.
“Where are you? I can’t see you,” I lamented.
Here I am, Alicia. Just reach out your hand.
Cedric’s icy fingers closed softly over mine as I yielded to his request.