A Love Story
Five year old Jeffrey is small, too small, and Mommy is very big.
When she clasps a meaty hand around his throat, her palm wedges in deep, but the appendage spans on, a dense block of flesh, forever and ever. Her fingers end up stifling against his nose and mouth; the longer ones even press into the arch of his cheekbones, into the soft skin beneath his eyes.
After a while, he blacks out. Her hand, her jiggling jello bowl body, it's all too much. Dark spots dance in his vision like inverted stars. She doesn't kill him, though. However naughty his transgression – “Whatcha steal from the fridge, Jeffrey? Where were ya after school? Who, what, when, where, why, Jeffrey, why?” – she always pulls away at the last moment.
Jeffrey misses the darkness, the stars. He misses the peace that accompanies forced sleep. Mommy flashing a light into his eyes to snap him out of his oxygen deprived daze, compares so very little to the beauty of those transient blackouts, of the novel world they gift to him.
The world is an oyster, after all, but people tend to forget, oysters are living organisms. If the world is to be his oyster, Jeffrey learns early on, he has to slice and dice it open like a butterfly's cocoon. He has to kill it to metamorphose into something beyond a caterpillar.
This, Jeffrey knows, yet doesn't act on. It's knowledge, but not applied knowledge. He works a paper route while in school, to save enough money to get away from her. It's his single-minded focus, so he has very few friends, and those that do persist in talking to the small, awkward child with the huge, haunted eyes are boys. Jeffrey hates girls. Chubby Cindy Oats cements that notion when she holds his head down in the water fountain till a teacher pulls her away, till he’s breathless. It's the first time a girl – a woman's – name traces itself into the fallen curtain behind Jeffrey’s eyelids. He mumbles Cindy Oats, Cindy Oats, Cindy Oats to himself at night, a lullaby, while curled in a hurt, fetal position on his sagging bed.
At sixteen years old, Jeffrey drops out of school. He has no choice. He's kept his grades up and he was looking forward – wanting like he'd never wanted anything else before – to going anywhere but Idaho for college, anywhere away from Mother and Cindy and them. They're still bigger than he is. Mother – never Mommy again, because mommies are supposed to nourish, to nurture – snaps both his arms like the chopsticks she uses for Chinese night, sits on them on his back until he cries and they crack, all because he forgot to take out the trash. She steals his ability to write and his hope.
The former, he gains back eventually. The state finally realizes, too late, Jeffrey shouldn't be with Mother, shouldn't have to suffer her hate for him, even if she never meant for him to exist. It's not his fault he was born. He's put into state care for two years, then booted out at eighteen. He takes his postal service qualification test that same day. Happy eighteenth birthday, Jeffrey.
The job puts him into constant contact with them. They stare down at him, high and mighty, from their cookie-cutter house porches, fat faces turned up to the heavens. They don't see him as a person. Why shouldn't he return the favor?
But for years it goes on. He allows it to. He's not strong enough yet to stand up and fight, may never be. And then, one day, like a gift from God but not, comes Jeffrey's savior – nothing save black smog at the corner of his vision, nothing but smoke from a bystander's cigarette, or so he tells himself because he's afraid of salvation.
He doesn't say yes the first time. Jeffrey sobs like he's back with Mother, being crushed under her bulk, and that's exactly what it's like. It's too much going in. It splits him open, apart, into a million molecules, though the casual observer would only see a manically screaming man swallowing a long, thick column of fume. As soon as it begins, the pain ends. Pleasure sets in.
Jeffrey, an ethereal voice warbles, all around him. It makes his heart thud, but Jeffrey can't bring his hand up to feel the organ’s thrum – can't do anything but listen to that sweet, smooth singsong as it, his very own disembodied pied-piper, inspires his blood to rush through his veins, his cheeks to flush the petal pink of romance.
“W-what's happening?” Jeffrey asks himself, but his lips have shaped into a smirk unfamiliar on his face and they don't give way to his fear. He watches through his own eyes – no terrified glint within them reflected by his cracked mirror, no Bambi brown, just black, black, black as fresh blood – how his arm rises to take his coat, to slip it on over his body and smooth the creases to naught, before he walks, fully dressed, out the door.
His legs don't crook at the knee or step at his whim, but Jeffrey intrinsically knows where he's going, feels it in the bones he's not sure he still possesses, and he wants to close his eyes forever. “N-no, please, whoever you are, not there.”
Shh, Jeffrey, the voice says, Hush, sweet boy. It starts to hum in time with every new footfall that brings him – them – closer to their destination. Mother hasn't moved away. Jeffrey doesn't know why he didn't leave. Two trashy apartments not half an hour apart. An apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Mother still keeps poorly potted, half-dead plants at her doorstep and her key is still under the rug. Jeffrey's legs crouch to pick it up. It's cool in the cradle of his palm. A faint mix of dust and rust tickles his nostrils, but he doesn't sneeze. He doesn't think Mother would have noticed, regardless.
She sits on an ugly, paisley couch in their – her – foyer, wearing a floral print dress that makes her look, from behind, like a colorful blimp with a hairy flag on the fleshiest mast you could imagine. With her head turned away from him, she says, “That's you, ain't it, Jeffrey? Always knew you'd come back, tail between your legs like a pup at the pound.” A shrill whistle plays background to her words.
He doesn't know how she knows. Motherly instinct, maybe, but that's laughable. He neither laughs nor protests, useless though it would have been, when the creature inside him walks the gauntlet till he's tall – yet, if she's sitting, can really he be taller? – at her rear. The remains of a TV dinner sits atop a table parallel to her. There's a knife stuck in it, waiting, waiting for him.
When Jeffrey picks it up, the voice sighs warmth throughout his cold body and recedes. Jeffrey is the one who lodges his fingers in Mother's scalp, in her oily, dirty hair, to draw the many layers of her throat back. He's the one who brings the knife – dull, for all the more deserved pain – down, ignoring her shrieked, “Jeffrey, whatcha doing, Jeffrey?”
He's the one who descends into a sitting position on the dirty carpet afterward, her decapitated digits and a pudgy piece of her palm clutched in his bloody hands. He's the one who whispers, “Who are you? Who are you?” his first prayer in years. God never listened once upon a time.
Unlike God, however, to the voice he seems to matter. Baalberith, it croons, a sweet nothing in Jeffrey's ear.
Jeffrey has never loved before Baal. He hasn't even liked much. No one else ever protected him from Mother, no one saved him the way Baal ultimately did. Jeffrey is so grateful, he's glad Baal is in his head, can hear his every thought the way he hears Baal's pacifying murmurs, because Jeffrey doesn't think he can put into words the way his heart skips a beat when Baal hums to him.
All he can say is, “I-I'm glad you're here, Baal, with me. I want it to be us, just us, forever.” He lets the words tumble out while Baal paints gentle fingertips over the stripped skin of Jeffrey's form. It's a weird blend, what they have. They're neither Jeffrey nor Baal, but both. It's Jeffrey who throws his head back once the butterfly touches stroke lower and scratch light on his bare thighs. He's not sure who exclaims so loud, that final orgasmic moment, but it hardly matters, anyway.
Jeffrey loves Baal. That's part of the reason why he knows the demon is unhappy. That, and Baal's wistful queries. You can't have had enough already, my Jeffrey. Only one of them is gone. What about the others? What about...? Baal recites the list of names Jeffrey's long memorized by heart. One rings loud as a clap of thunder. What about mean Cindy Oats, stout as a sacrificial goat? What about her, Jeffrey?
Jeffrey breathes deep through his nose, then releases the pent up air from lips bruised by Baal's curious touch. “Okay,” he agrees. It's just his luck that Cindy is an instructor at a dance studio now. He wants to stalk her home and carve her up there, but Baal whines in his mind until Jeffrey acquiesces again. He always does.
The studio is brighter than Jeffrey's apartment and incites him to wince. Cindy is bright, as well, blond, blue-eyed and perpetually robust. Even if she didn't teach a couple's tango and waltz class, even if he'd been her classmate for more than two semesters, Jeffrey would remember her.
As it is, she doesn't seem to recall him, at first. Jeffrey shuffles alone in one corner of the studio and stares down at his beat up sneakers, while lovers twirl on the floor. Baal's phantom grip on his hand prevents him from retreating. It takes only a few minutes for Cindy to appear, a clipboard hugged to her buxom chest.
“Jeffrey Dames?” she inquires. When he nods, wide-eyed, she breaks into a smile that dimples her cheeks. “I'll be. I used to have such a crush on you. I remember I made you cry.” Jeffrey's ears go red and he blinks at the slick marble flooring. Baal squeezes his hand again. Cindy mistakes his blush for guileless timidity, giggles and sets her board down at the reception desk. “It's all right. I can finally make it up to you and get a dance out of it, too. That okay?”
“Uh, yeah,” he says, but it's mumbled into her shoulder because she's already positioned him properly. Although it's Cindy his fingers are linked with, whose waist he hovers his free hand over, Jeffrey is silently thankful that every wall in the room is mirrored. He sees his face echoed back, but it's Baal who makes the fake him smile, Baal whose brown eyes are almost bronze, and it's Baal Jeffrey pretends to hold. “Do you, um, can I walk you home?” he asks Cindy afterward.
“Yes,” she squeals. A whistle blows again. They never make it that far. He extracts a large knife from his coat pocket before her last customers are a minute out the door. A heavy rain falls outside and Jeffrey lets it wash him clean.
Just us now, Baal says, with a delight Jeffrey never tires of. It's true. It's so wet that his hair slicks into his eyes and his well-worn coat fails to shelter him from the chill. No one else is stupid enough to be out with him. No one else is driven. Let me warm you up. Dance with me, my Jeffrey.
Baal never takes no for an answer, so Jeffrey merely cranes his face to the pouring sky. “Yeah. Yeah, okay, Baal.”
His body whirls round and round of its own accord. His arms sweep out like angel wings to catch raindrops. Baal's heat, as promised, courses through him, brimstone hot. Jeffrey tangos till he can't tango anymore – derecho, atrás, caida – then kneels near a puddle, laughing, laughing evermore.
He's never been so happy.
The Wiccan busybody and her hunter friends ruin everything. They think they know him. They think they can break Jeffrey's body and bones, take away his best thing, then expect him to say, “Thank you.”
He's in Hell long before death. His mind is a prison without Baal to open the bars. He wants to die. Jeffrey won't make the same mistake twice, won't make it ever again. That's why his breath stutters in his chest, something to be choked on, once he realizes, as much as he wanted Baal back and would always do so, Baal doesn't want him.
The witch's son's arms, Baal's arms, cage Jeffrey close. Lips that aren't his bend to whisper in his ear and lay a chaste kiss there. “Oh, sweet Jeffrey, my Jeffrey, why wouldn't I want you? You're my beautiful apprentice. We can go to Vegas, have each other a…different way, eh?”
Jeffrey shakes his head, but even he doesn't know to what – to Baal wanting someone beside him, to Baal wanting him in a manner he's not sure he can give yet. All Baal sees is, “No,” and he tosses Jeffrey aside like a broken porcelain doll. They're not supposed to do no.
In the end, that rejection hurts more than Dean's bullet piercing his ribcage. Baal, who'd promised to protect Jeffrey forever, bringing a hand up against him the way Mother and Cindy did, the way he felt all the others would if they could. Jeffrey dies of a broken heart. Literally.
For others, for even the truest of lovers, there's always the caveat, till death do you part. Death doesn't part Jeffrey from his demon, who is exorcised soon after his untimely demise, and when Jeffrey wakes again, wakes for the last time because there's no unconscious reprieve in Hell, it's to his Baal kneeling over him.
“Don't be frightened, Jeffrey,” Baal murmurs, as he runs crimson hands over the bonds Jeffrey struggles weakly against. “You'll be mine, under my tutelage again. Won't that be fun?”
Although it's agony when Baal drags a claw down his torso and splits his body apart, Jeffrey relaxes and nods. “Yours. I'm yours again.”
Baal smiles and palms Jeffrey's heart, which already beats for him, only him. “Yes, beautiful Jeffrey, my squishy, pliable Jeffrey. Then, when you're molded to perfection, more perfect than you already are, we'll have our own special place in Hell, won't we? Just the two of us?”
Jeffrey nods for the second, third, hundredth time. They don't do no. This is what he wanted.
And They Lived Creepily Ever After