After the dance, Kate and I began to kiss more frequently until it became our common greeting and farewell. I never minded the custom. In fact, I enjoyed it more than I ever admitted to anyone then. I was relishing in many things I had never thought I would. My passion returned to drive me mad.
I had earned acceptance from the town. My nineteenth birthday, Paul even organized a party for me at the church. My family was ecstatic that I was finding a place for myself; I felt more complete than I ever had.
That summer was bittersweet, entangled with too many realizations. A threshold is a wonderful descriptor, a threshold to a new stage of life. I suppose it began roughly a week after my nineteenth birthday, sometime after Kate returned home from vacation.
Sixteen now, Katelyn was more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. We had planned a picnic and I had chosen the location to be back behind the corn fields, for privacy. I requested that someone send her when she arrived, so I sat there waiting.
Propped up on my elbows, I watched greedily as Katelyn crossed the distance between the corn and the shady tree I had set up beneath. I could hardly believe that this was the tiny girl that had come to me five years ago. Her face was still gentle, but angled now in the most attractively exotic ways.
The yellow dress she wore fit her nicely, her curvaceous self filling the cloth in every right way. Even as the dress came to the knees of her long legs, I wished it shorter. I could see the smooth skin of her calves glittering faintly in the sun, and like an insatiable beast no amount of time to admire her could ever satisfy my hunger.
“You grew again, didn’t you!” she accused as she flopped down beside me with a grin.
I grinned. “Three inches.”
“That’s not fair,” she laughed, laying down beside me.
“Not fair? You were the one who left for two months on vacation. That, my dear, is not fair,” I countered firmly.
She looked down guiltily, pouting her full lips in a way that only made my craving grow fiercer. “Can you forgive me?”
I smiled gently and chuckled, “Of course, Kate. You know I only jest.”
Kate’s eyes flicked up to meet mine—to trap me—and she threw herself onto me playfully. I wrapped her in my arms, winding my tail around her as well. Relief washed through me and I sighed as an unknown tension left me.
“Oh, it’s wonderful to have you home,” I murmured happily. I stretched my wings out, resting them on the warm grass. The sun was being kind, granting the world a peaceful, lazy heat to bask in. Kate’s weight atop me was welcome and light. She was soft, resting against me and listening to my heartbeat.
“You know how to pick a picnic spot. It’s very quiet back here,” she commented, her tracing fingers on my arm sending shocks of pleasure through me.
“Mm. I wish you could be here at night. It is very much loud and alive then,” I told her, smiling contentedly.
Kate began shifting, and I stared up into her eyes just inches from mine. As always, my heart began to race and pound in my ears when we kissed. Two years of her kisses and hugs and they were just as new as the first time. Every time, my monstrous lust crushed my chest.
Ah, yes. We were alone, my gentlemanly ways overpowered by my passion-thrown body… Heh, well, a gentleman never speaks of anything as such, even to another man, and I am a gentleman now even if I was very ungentlemanly at that time. I will say that it happened quite some time later that we were both nude and allow any matured minds understand what I mean.
Kate was curled beside me on the sheet I had brought for the picnic. I held her close, heavy thoughts on my mind now that I was satisfied for the time being. Gazing at the foliage above me, I frowned deeply while I wondered what her parents might do when they discovered I was not as well-mannered as they had perceived. Even my own parents, when they found their son had been raised improperly somehow.
As an adult now, I know there is no “proper” way to raise a child. There are bundles of improper, unsuitable ways to be sure, but no completely proper way. Proper varies child to child, while improper remains roughly the same for every one. Looking back, I know that both Kate and I had incredibly open and accepting parents, particularly for the times. Which is why I am very grateful for the punishments we received, seeing how they were not near as horrific as they could have been.
We remained as we were for some time before dressing and partaking of the lunch I had prepared earlier that day. An incredibly fulfilling day, I had thought—until the time for Katelyn to go home. We carried the picnic supplies back to the house before I walked her back to her own home.
The trip was peaceful. Frogs and crickets had begun to sound their nightly melodies in the final hour of the day. We held hands, the small contact comforting to me. Relief was still with me then, as well as a new adoration for Kate, though I did not know how I could possibly come to love her more.
Her father was waiting for us when we arrived and thought nothing of it when we shared our evening kiss. I hoped we might be able to slip past our parents’ notice with this.
My hand slipped confidently and traitorously to Kate’s waist, as it never had, cuing to Jeff of the day’s happenings.
He said nothing until Kate was inside, keeping his voice low and avoiding looking at me. “I’ll let you know when you can come see Kate again. Have a good night.”
I was choking on guilt and terror, ashamed of my actions like I had never been. Mother noticed my dark mood when I returned home, but had no chance to question it. I ducked past any of her inquiries, eating swiftly before turning my exhausted mind to my evening chores.
It was not until eight days later that my parents became privy to all that happened and was weighing on me. Mother had woken me sometime around noon with a worried frown.
“Jeff called, he said that they’re at Paul’s. He wants you to meet them,” she told me, giving me a shocking fright. I rushed from my room, down the stairs and out the front door without a word. Not six yards from the house, I was jumping into the sky and flying as fast as I could to the other end of town.
I recognized the Smiths’ automobile in front of Paul’s home, making me even more terrified. It was not a vengeful prank, it was real. I found myself wondering why I had never considered my actions more seriously before this, why I had been so youthful and ignorant. Ignorance can aid us to grow, however, so I cannot forsake it.
As soon as I landed, I was dashing into the home breathlessly. Paul looked up at me in shock. Jeff was sitting in a chair in the entrance hall, keeping his eyes on his feet and refusing to look at me. My panic forced my throat shut so that I could hardly speak.
“Jeff…You called?” I managed to croak.
He ignored me, Paul speaking in his stead, “Yes...He did. Now, please understand that we’re all men here, so we do understand how you’re feeling.”
His words only made my heart pound as—impossibly—I became more frightened. “What happened?! What’s wrong?!”
Paul sighed. “Jasmine insisted Kate be brought in when she complained about not sleeping well for the past several nights. She’s badly bruised and required four stitches between three separate and rather deep cuts on her back. Luckily, there are no infections. Jeff said you would know what happened.”
I flinched and stumbled back in shock, feeling as though I had been slapped. “Stitches…?”
“What happened that Kate needed stitches?” demanded Mother, behind me. I was in such turmoil that I had not heard her enter, though I should have known she would have come to Paul’s.
Jeff looked at me accusingly. “Ask your son.”
Mother came up beside me, worried. “Cory, what happened to Kate?”
“I…We…My hands…claws…” I sighed heavily, covering my eyes with one hand. Guilt was the only thing I could feel more clearly than my own...dislike of my naiveté.
Mother gasped in understanding after a moment to grasp my words. “You…? What?!”
“We don’t think she’s pregnant and nothing was broken,” consoled Paul. It was a small thing, but it still relieved me some. Oh, a curse that I should worry over breaking those I loved.
“Oh, Kate! Are you alright?” asked Mother concernedly. I pulled my hand away, looking over to see Jasmine and Kate entering the room. Jasmine gave me an icy glare. Kate smiled at me shyly.
“I am sorry, Katelyn,” I apologized formally, feeling that it was not my place to act familiar with her at the time.
“Don’t speak to my daughter,” ground out Jasmine, eyes narrowing.
“What you did was irresponsible,” my mother told me quietly. I nodded, feeling claustrophobic from the emotions pressing in on me.
Kate scowled defiantly. “It wasn’t just him, you know! It took the both of us!”
Her defending me only made my guilt worse. I thought that I was a horrid man, betraying the trust of our parents. Worse than a man, in fact. I was the demon I so resembled, enjoying the time spent while I had injured Kate. My guilt blinded me from seeing that I had no intention of hurting her, nor had I any knowledge of such. Oh, the woman had hidden it from me as well as her parents. I understand why she did.
“Katelyn, please, you need not defend me,” I barely ground out, eyes on the floor.
“I told you not to speak to my daughter!” snapped back Jasmine, stepping forward and slapping me. My skin stung, to my surprise. I began to cry silently, thinking I may never see nor speak to Kate again. The idea was brutal but realistic in my mind. A just reward for the monster I had somehow become, though I had no knowledge of how.
In retrospect, I know we did nothing wrong. At the time, however, we were evil. Myself in particular for taking advantage of her willingness, I do suppose. Now though, I half think that she was in fact the villain. Time and time again, I have learned that she may appear innocent, but…Well, she never has been the perfect lady, only the perfect woman. If you understand the differences between the two that I am referring.
It was a moment before I realized that I should do my best to keep my tears rather than shed them. “My apologies.”
“Please! Control yourselves in my home,” commanded Paul, stepping between Jasmine and I. He checked that I was alright before he continued, “There’s also no need to assault Cory. He behaved as—”
“A demon,” snapped Jeff.
“—a man,” finished Paul lamely, staring at Jeff incredulously.
Mother was silent, eyes averted from me.
“I would rather defend Cory as a man indulging in sin than stand by while he’s beaten unjustly and accused of being something he is not!” Paul tried again sternly, near shouting.
Everything was too much for me to bear. I snarled unintentionally, body wound to the point where I thought I might lash out. Whirling, I rushed from the home in a panic. Just as I was beginning to run to take flight, someone grabbed onto my hand and shouted my name. I threw them off of me, half-turning to see that it was my mother.
“Oh, no,” I groaned, guilt welling up inside me. I looked up at Paul pleadingly before continuing with my cowardly escape. Jeff shouted angrily after me and I felt that he was justified. First Katelyn, then Mother...
I flew. I do not know how long, just that when I finally landed the sun was arcing back toward the horizon. Beneath me, there was a forest. I saw a small clearing and landed. I stood for a moment in confusion before my anger, terror and guilt overwhelmed me again.
I screamed and wept. I am unaware of when I stopped or if I stopped, only that I then began to destroy everything I saw, hoping to find some solace in it as my mythological brethren had. I only fell deeper into my pit of despair, eventually sitting on a tree I felled and staring at my bloody, splinter-filled arms. The black liquid was hot, so that it felt like it should have been acid.
Night fell, but still I stared at my hands. I am not certain I was even thinking, only ignoring the growing pains of hunger in my gut. Some time during the night, too, I recall a doe having come near me as she sniffed delicately for plants to feed upon. When she took in my appearance completely, she shrieked and bolted in the opposite direction from me. I began to cry again.
I slept through the next day, waking to again destroy what I could. My body felt worn as I pushed it to its farthest—that I had explored, in any case. It amazed me that I was still conscious when dawn broke again, the glittering rays of the sun blinding me painfully. I groaned and blinked against the light, deciding I should return home then.
I forget how much of the journey I walked and how much I flew, only that it was also blurred by my desire to be numb. When I arrived on the edge of the farm, I heard people shouting. Lisa came to my side with a relieved grin and I am somewhat guilty now for selfishly not considering how worried she must have been. I know that I walked past her—past everyone—going to my room to be alone. The worried faces only brought back the emotions I had spent days ridding myself of.
That night I cleaned my blood from my arms, ate and worked in the fields. When my chores were finished, I flew back to the clearing to destroy more trees before returning home around noon.
The next two weeks continued in that pattern so that I could keep myself from facing the reality I loathed to know existed. One day, I overheard Mother on the telephone with Paul.
“…coming home with his hands covered in his own blood…Yes, thank you, Paul…Thank you.”
I entered the kitchen to find Mother wiping away tears from her eyes. She tried to smile, turning away abruptly to the counters to continue preparing supper. I stood in the doorway, not knowing what to do with myself.
It had not occurred to me that anyone else would be feeling my suffering. To the contrary, I thought they would all be glad that I was paying the price for what I was, and their worried faces were only masks. I hoped it had made them happy, since it was causing so much pain to myself.
“Why were you crying?” I wondered aloud, startling Mother. She stayed still for a moment before smacking the counter.
“Damn it, Cory, what’s wrong?!” she demanded, shoulders stiff. She turned to face me, eyes glistening. It still causes me grief to think that I had worried her so much. “Why do you keep hurting yourself? Why won’t you let anyone help you?”
I was confounded. What did she wish to help me for? “Why are you crying?”
She sniffled, struggling to compose herself and failing. “You’re my baby, Cory. No matter what you are or how old you get, you’ll always be my baby and I will always love you.”
Her words threw me into confusion. I stared at my bruised and scabbing hands, feeling like the scared little child I had once been. “…Mom? I never meant to hurt anyone.”
I slid to the floor, still staring at my hands. Mother hurried over, sitting on her knees to hold my head and stroke my hair, to comfort me in ways only a mother can. It was the first time since I was a child that I had been consoled by her. I had been stumbling about blindly, foolishly thinking that my parents would not guide me when I was lost.
“I know, Cory, I know,” she told me, kissing my head. I hugged her back, caving to my fright, guilt and grief.
Mother…Oh, how I do miss her. I have not seen her in forty some years, as you well know. Just a couple of weeks ago, just before I was released, I called the farm to see how everyone was. The first call in a decade. Well…Lisa answered the phone, and she sounds so very wizened now. Her voice has become thin and frail. It is frightening. She told me that…Mother and Father had died seven years ago. It was not unexpected, to be sure. I merely wish I had been able to hug them one last time and tell them I was grateful to have them for my teachers. I apologize. Please, allow me a moment to collect myself before I continue...
“I don’t want to lose Kate. I love her,” I sobbed brokenly. It felt as though I had already lost her again, the world ripping her from my desperately grasping fingertips. That was when I had my crushing revelation.
Every man has this moment, I am sure, whether he be a boy or old and dying in his bed. The sudden, terrifying understanding that you have no power over your life's desire, the thing that gives your breath a purpose. The shattering second where you must cling to faith in yourself and your commitment, no matter where you come from or how you look. It is the mortifying, sharp moment of thought that makes you tremble as you know beyond any certainties that you cannot keep your desire close or capture and own it. You must set it free so that it may own itself and all you may do is be kind so that it may stay beside you.
When this occurred to me while being held by my mother, I wept like I had never wept before. I thought I had sacrificed enough of my life—my future—to the world for it to be satisfied for centuries to come. Now, it seemed as though I would have to relinquish my reason for a future, for my very life to continue and be worth anything. I know, you stare at me aghast like I am surely insane for tangling my life so heavily with another's. I think so, too, sometimes. I imagine my thoughts may be an alien concept for you, particularly from this cruel face with a supposedly wicked tongue. But, oh, onward with the story, I do suppose.