Rayne never had the luxury of recklessness. It wasn’t prudent of her to let her guard down not now not ever; not when she was a girl with scrapped ashy knees and especially not now. Her mother never let her forget that. Morbid warnings about turning on her charm to entice the neighborhood boys to buy her swizzle sticks from the candy stand stayed echoing in her mind every time she ran full speed out of the screen door to play with the lightness that only comes from being seven. She was forbidden from wearing short skirts and flashy makeup in high school just as her friends were but she knew her mother’s worry grew beyond having a bad reputation. Sixteen-year-old girls were constantly warned about the dangers of a bad reputation. Life always seemed so easy for those girls; what must it have been like to only fear the thoughts of others. Rayne envied them; her mother envied their parents; their worries seemed like fairy tales projected on a big screen just out of reach.
Mommy was gone now. She’d sheltered Rayne all through high school and tried her damnedest to protect her through college, but the cancer had other plans. As Rayne sat by her mother’s side as she wasted away, there were no tender moments, no last revelations only fervent warnings about what could happen if Rayne ever let go. If she ever lost control of herself. Mommy cried every second of her last day. She knew she wouldn’t be there with Rayne anymore with whispered warnings and reminders to remain aware. Rayne would be alone to be responsible for herself with a lifetime of teaching stored up to help her remember the dangers of inhibition.
Rayne had remembered. Every day she put more energy into minding herself that she did anything else. It was more important than her studies, more important than her friends. It was the difference between living and dying, and she never took that lightly, even on the day she finally lost control. Mommy had always warned her about why women like them couldn’t afford to fall in love. The all-consuming intoxication made it impossible to remain constrained. Rayne had heard the tragic story of her father’s death more times than she’d cared to remember but even still after all of that preparation she was powerless when she finally met the man who would test her strength.
Her sorrow for him would stretch centuries, and her guilt would never let her believe he’d come over to her that day in the supermarket on the steam of free will. He was drawn to her, and it had nothing to do with her smile or her eyes or the way she wore her clothes, but she let him believe it was. She sat across from him at dinner, something she’d never before allowed herself to do, and listened to him softly tell her she was the one. She could hear Mommy’s voice in her head so loud she could have been sitting at the next table, but Rayne managed to ignore it. She’d gone years avoiding men, but at that moment she just wanted him to keep smiling at her. She wanted to hold on the taste of what normal felt like.
Rayne sat on the edge of the strange bed, in the strange apartment wrapped tightly in the sheet she’d just finished feeling like a normal girl underneath. She could feel Mommy there with her again as she mourned knowing she’d have used her stern voice to comfort Rayne instead of chastising at a time like this. She would have said, “Everyone makes mistakes Rayne, our mistakes just cost a little more than others.” Rayne looked over her shoulder at the lovely boy who thought enough of her to pick her up and take her on a proper dinner date. The boy who smiled and laughed with her like she was just a regular girl. The boy who’d made a grave mistake getting involved with a girl like Rayne.
His skin was stretched tight over his skull looking rough and gray like stone in the harsh morning light. Beneath the covers, he’d shrunken down to a third of his normal weight, and the sharp curve of his bones pressed their way down the length of him. His legs and arms were twisted at odd angles, and the fingers on one hand were all broken and jutted out in a sickening formation. He’d tried in desperation to fight her off when he finally realized what was happening but at her full strength, he’d only managed to break a few of his bones as he tried to resist. Rayne had let herself want him as he kissed and caressed her. She’d let herself feel like she deserved to be touched by a man like him. She’d forgotten that there was no such thing as innocent love for a succubus. Most of all she was disgusted at the euphoria that still coursed through her. That electrifyingly satisfying feeling of breathing in his energy and swallowing his delicious life force. This feeling was what Mommy was most worried about. It wasn’t the killing that was the problem; the trouble lies in liking it. Rayne cursed the dopamine rebounding in her brain rewarding her for taking a man’s life but the excitement she felt when she thought of this happening again made a mockery of that.
Mommy always told her that she was only a monster if she allowed herself to be. Rayne gathered her things being careful to wipe away her fingerprints from everything she’d touched and took one last look at the sweet boy who’d been foolish enough to trust her. Mommy had been wrong. She was a monster, and she could only be normal if she allowed herself to be.