He’d brought his own portfolio along to the coffee shop, like he did every night there was a poetry reading, and he’d hoped his mystery girl would be there to hear some of his original work. When she wasn’t, his heart fell, and he almost turned down his chance to read altogether. There had been members of his literature classes there, though, who urged him on, and Winnie, too—taking to heart what he’d said about being best friends, obviously, as she gently nudged him up towards the stage.
“Fine,” he muttered at her, shoving his portfolio into her hands and picking up his anthology of British Literature instead. He’d read William Blake: the Romantic writer was the current subject of study in his English course and the poems he was analyzing for that were short and sweet.
Of course, the moment he read the title of the first piece he meant to read, she entered the room. He caught sight of her just as she slipped in the door, not even tinkling the little bell above it, and he fumbled over the title. Her pretty eyes flickered up to him—shy and plaintive, just as they were in the dreams he’d been having of her—and she slipped unnoticed into the corner, quietly taking a seat to listen.
Winnie had noticed his sudden hesitation as well, and she followed his gaze across the room to look at the little doll herself. Tonight, his mystery girl wore a delicate blouse that covered her throat and cleavage with an overlay like a spiderweb. There were no sleeves—the black, interweaving patterns tied up behind her neck, like a choker. Her flesh beneath the lacy weave was pale as a delicate champagne rose; beneath the webwork there was an opaque black length covering the front of her body from her collarbone to her navel. When she had turned to inch past a few of the café stools, Darry had seen the opaque material only covered her front; her graceful back was bare except for more of the dancing woven overlay, and she had another tattoo right on the small of her back: two small, winged dragons facing away from each other and some kind of hieroglyphic character between their opposing wings. All around the hem of the blouse were more black threads, dangling down like tassels.
A smile came to his face and he glanced down at Winnie for confirmation—the look on her face, though, was decidedly suspicious, and when she looked up at him, she had an eyebrow quirked in troubled doubt.
The strange girl across from him, though, waited for his voice like a patient devotee.
He read three of Blake’s poems, the ones he had been studying for his project, and descended the stage to the subdued but appreciative applause of the other poets in the crowd. He quickly returned to the table he and Winnie had claimed, eager to dump his textbook and rush to get the girl’s name before she disappeared. Winnie snatched at his sleeve, though, demanding his attention.
“That’s your dream girl?” she muttered. “She’s… she’s not much, Darry.”
He frowned. “Are you kidding? She’s gorgeous!”
Already he could feel the low murmur of arousal in his loins. The girl was much more beautiful than he had remembered—she was so beautiful he thought he might lose it if he had to go one more night knowing only the wispy dream version of her.
“I didn’t think you were into tattoos, piercings and black makeup,” Winnie scoffed. “You’ve never ogled a single Suicide Girl: you’re strictly a Playboy Playmates man. I mean, come on… she’s kind of scary.”
He flushed. “Get off it, she’s pretty.”
“Face it… she’s not your type.”
“I might be his type. You never know.”
Winnie spun and Darry felt his face go instantly warm. His little gothic doll had drifted right up beside them, silent and unheard.
Her voice was quiet and silkily gray, without a hint of offense of affront; she offered it as one might offer a favor to a friend.
“I mean, I assume you’re talking about me.”
The scent of roses was all around her. For a moment he was dizzy from it.
“I’m Genesis,” she said to him, extending her pretty, delicate hand. Somehow he managed to take it, though he remained speechless as she gave it a single, gentle, almost too familiar squeeze, and let it drop.
“That’s a beautiful name,” he said.
Winnie stared at the both of them, glancing from one to the other, her face a startled mask of confusion.
“I enjoyed your reading of The Tiger,” Genesis said. “You spoke so well of it… I could tell you felt the tiger was not a symbol of evil, but of great and awesome power. I like that.”
She dropped her eyes from his for a moment, as if she were embarrassed.
“So many people assume the tiger is wicked just because it is dangerous.”
She had no accent, but her words had an attentive, exotic quality to them. The poem—it was alive to her, breathing and moving.
“You like that one?” he muttered hopefully. Genesis nodded once, bringing her long, slender fingers up to play with the charm hanging from her silver ear cuff—it was a dragon, just as he’d suspected.
“I love Blake,” she said. “And The Tiger is one of his best. I also like The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, do you?”
His face fell. “I… haven’t read it.”
She smiled. “We should get together sometime and discuss it.”
Then, something very strange happened—Genesis leaned forward, laying a hand tenderly on his shoulder and brushing her lips against his ear as if they’d been intimate friends forever. The air around them seemed to grow thick and shimmery, like the mirages that danced on the horizon on hot days.
Next to him, Winnie cringed and shrugged down into her jacket, as if something insectile had crawled across her neck. Genesis’ voice—though she only whispered—seemed meant as much for her as it was for him.
“I can give you what you’re looking for,” she said. “Passion… pleasure… pain. I can give you everything your silly little sorority girls and dorm-room buddies can’t.”
Her tongue, tiny and perfect and pink, slowly slid across her white little teeth—distractedly, Darry realized the girl’s canine teeth were pointed, like fangs.
Winnie made a strangled sound of fear beside him, and Genesis turned her attention there. Darry caught the strange sparkle in her eyes, like the sun glinting off tinted glass.
“You, too,” the girl whispered to Winnie. “I can make you cry from pure bliss, drown you in your deepest desires until you never want to resurface. I can teach you what it is to hurt, and to love…”
Winnie shook her head—all around them, the entire university café seemed to buzz on, nobody noticing the strange little spell that was going on between them. Darry saw his best friend flinch; a sudden look of fear crossed her face and she brought her hand to her mouth.
“Oh, god,” she gagged, and spun, searching for the bathrooms. As she rushed off towards the back, he reached out after her, but Genesis put her own hand on his arm and gently brought it down again.
“Darren,” she said quietly; it didn’t occur to him to wonder how she had learned his name. “I would very much like for you to walk me home.”
He found himself nodding. The smell of roses was like heaven.