'Otherwise Engaged' A darkly gothic tale by Zoe Davis
He looked so handsome, even where she'd hung him, rotating gracefully like one of those plastic jewellery box ballerinas.
It had been a perfect night, and everything was going according to plan. He’d arrived at seven. On the dot. Punctual. She’d always appreciated those who understood the importance of impeccable timing. There’d been red wine as soon as he’d entered the boudoir, as she liked to call it- not champagne- it gave him a headache. That was fine.
Tonight was, after all, all about him.
Once he was comfortable, they’d engaged in some idle chit chat, the kind she usually found intolerable, but nevertheless set about preparing dinner. Last week, she’d considered ordering take out, as it was less mess to worry about, but she’d wanted to make the evening truly unforgettable, so effort had to be made, even after an hour of spinning.
The remains of a three-course meal littered the dining table, its crisp white tablecloth now in need of a good dry-clean. Wanting to keep it classic, she’d gone for oysters to start. They'd fed each other- chills as she'd watched his throat bob, then lick flecks of salty ocean from his lips… and then her fingers, his eyebrow raised suggestively. She’d almost ruined the surprise there and then, but just about refrained, knowing patience was its own reward.
Lobster was next. Fresh boiled; cracked open and spread for them to share, breaking off legs and chunks of soft buttered flesh. He ate vigorously, saying it was the best he’d ever had. It was a sincere compliment. She could always spot a liar.
Then there was dessert. Devil’s food cake. A little cliché, but with a hidden chilli twist, his eyes widening as he got to it. She’d clapped in delight while he gasped, waving his hands and begging, begging for it to stop, before going back for another wicked spoonful. It was exactly as she’d imagined.
Mother had told her to find a partner with a good appetite.
‘He's a keeper’, she'd said, the first time they visited, pinching his cheek. ‘Need to make sure this one doesn't get away!’
And she always listened to Mother.
She stood back, admiring him from a different angle, but he still looked flawless. Backlit in candle-flame, his form appeared so deliciously bold, she was seized by a wave of frenzied creativity and ran to get a pen, de-capping it with a thumb, before carving his silhouette into the grey flocked wallpaper behind. His eyes bulged slightly, pupils dilating. He probably wanted to ask her what she was doing. But wasn't it obvious? She was immortalising him- a grand gesture. She couldn't write poems, and matching tattoos were out of the question, but she could draw him. She’d capture him right there and then, so they could relive the moment forever. Well, for as long as possible. He looked choked up, a tear rolling down his stubbled cheek. Maybe no one had ever done something nice for him before? Not that it mattered. She’d look after him now.
With a final flourish, she threw the pen to the ground and dropped to one knee, ripping a wooden box from her skirt pocket. Her heart was racing, yet he seemed so calm, so composed. Oh, he was definitely the one. With shaking hands, she opened the box, revealing a ring of buzzing flies, already on a finger. She'd wanted to show him it was fresh.
Taking his silence as consent, she coxed them onto a twitching digit, wiping a little grated flesh from beneath his fingernails. He really should have used a napkin. They didn’t want to settle there, so she tried the next finger down. Ah. That was better. She could adjust it later, or maybe he would shrink to fit.
Silence followed, with only a brief creak from the multipurposed table runner.
Her phone had been recording on the sideboard, propped up against the bottle of wine he’d brought as a gift- so thoughtful! She hadn’t told him he was live, as she’d wanted to capture the moment in all its purity, his honest reaction.
A message appeared.
Promising she’d be right back, she scurried off to check the comments, a smile immediately crossing her cracking lips to reveal lipstick smeared chelicerae.
Congratulations on your engagement. Love, Mother x
“Aww, thanks Mum. I’m so happy right now!” she clicked back, skittering up the wall so they could both be in shot when she wrapped him in silk, and they finished their meal together.
Still paralysed, her new fiancé said nothing.
All Rights. Zoe Davis.
Zoe Davis is an emerging writer and artist from Sheffield, England. She studied English Literature at Lancaster University and writes in a number of styles and genres, but especially enjoys exploring the interaction between the fantastical and the mundane. When she is not writing, Zoe can be found drawing, baking, and playing para ice hockey. You can follow her on Twitter @MeanerHarker where she is always happy to have a virtual coffee and a chat.