The Sweet Life
Sharon K. Gilbert ©2003
"Pass the sugar, please."
Violet Green smiled coolly at the gangly boy her daughter had brought home for supper. Rebecca's obvious fascination with Howie Swift reminded the well-heeled mother of her own romantic illusions as a teenager back at Tropic Heights Finishing School.
"Four teaspoons?" she asked the pimply faced boy. "Too many sweets can be bad for you, Howard."
Howie grinned, and Violet thought she caught a glimpse of gold in the youth's back teeth. "Yeah. Our health teacher, she keeps telling us that, but I've always had a sweet tooth. Guess that's why I'm so sweet on Becky." At this the younger Green blushed appropriately and emitted a soft giggle.
Violet straightened her broad shoulders and nodded. "I'm glad you brought that up, Howard. You two will be graduating in a few months, and, well, since Rebecca's father is no longer here to discuss these matters with you, then I must. What exactly are your intentions regarding my daughter?"
Swift gulped the last swig of his coffee and winked toward Becky. "Gee, Mrs. Green, I guess we've not - I mean, Becky and I haven't talked about that."
"It's time you did," the stern mother insisted. Above their heads, a crystal chandelier swayed slightly as a southerly breeze warmed the room with the sweet scent of necter. "Becky, perhaps Howard and I should chat for a bit. Why don't you take Mr. Peepers into the cutting garden for a nice walk?"
Rising obediently, the slender eighteen-year-old bit her lower lip and brushed a hand across Howie's buzz cut. "Thanks for coming, Howie. I guess Mom's going to have that talk. You know."
The boy kissed the girl's hand, lingering over its sweetness, and his mouth widened into a jack-o-lantern grin. "It's ok, Sweetie. I'll meet you in the garden in a few minutes."
Becky's clear, blue eyes lowered, and she left the room, calling for the small, white dog she'd had since birth.
"Close the door, Rebecca," the mother called as girl and dog headed toward the source of the wonderful scent. "There," she continued as the back door clicked shut. "We're alone. Now, Howard, it's clear that you're quite smitten with my daughter. You find her, uh, attractive?"
Howie nodded, his black eyes darting toward the southern windows for a glimpse of Becky. "She's like honey," he said as he reached for one of the cookies Mrs. Green had served with after-dinner coffee. "Mmm. These sure are good, Mrs. Green. What's in 'em?"
Violet Green folded her white linen napkin and placed it on the table. "Family secret," she answered, apparently enjoying the boy's interest. "You're a man of appetite, aren't you, Howard?"
Howie gulped the cookie in one bite. "Oh, yeah. You could say that," he said, wiping crumbs from his mouth. Violet couldn't help noticing the unusual sharpness of the boy's incisors. "My mom and dad loved sweets, too," he added, his black eyes fixed on Becky's delicate form in the back yard. "Becky is so sweet, I could just eat her up."
Violet's eyes opened wide, and she stood suddenly. "I thought as much."
Howie took another cookie and jammed it into his mouth.
Violet ignored the poor manners and came 'round the table to Howie's chair. "You know, Howard, I knew your parents. Alice and Gerry Swift were - well, dear acquaintances, you might say. You must miss them."
Swift, who was munching vigorously on a third cookie, shrugged. "I guess so. A lot of my friends are in the same boat. Divorce or death. Parents don't seem to last very long, do they? I do okay."
Violet stood behind Howard now, and she could see Rebecca in the garden, playing catch with Mr. Peepers. "Oh, but life is a struggle, isn't it Howard? I can see that you understand this. You have the clear, cold eyes of a predator. And you want to sip life's honey until you're full to bursting, don't you?"
Howie blinked. Why did he feel sleepy? "Mom and Dad weren't smart. They didn't know how to plan. You have to be ready to go where life takes you, Mrs. Green. And, as you say - you, uh, you gotta slip life's hummy." His cold, compound eyes fluttered, and Howie struggled to clear his vision. "My fead heels fummy."
Violet took her crisp, white napkin from its place near the fine bone china she'd inherited from her grandmother, and tied the wide cloth around her long, regal neck. "I guess the drug's starting to take effect, Howard. Have another cookie."
Howie tried to get up, but his legs failed him. He knew he should expand his silvery wings and try to escape, but that would mean revealing his unusual nature to Becky's mother. He'd promised his father he'd be careful about letting strangers see his true form too quickly. Gerry Swift had done his best to prepare his half-human son for the trials of being part fly, but he'd died knowing his son would never truly fit in.
"I - I gotta go," Howie managed to say. His proboscis had risen into his throat, and his head swam. The chandelier danced before his glittering eyes, and he reached out for Becky's image on the other side of the glass.
"Vecky," he muttered thickly as the drug numbed his body. "She'll find out mot you thid. She'll hade thoo."
Violet sharpened the Paul Revere silver knife against the tines of her heirloom fork. "Oh, my dear, boy. Can you really be so dense? My sweet daughter brought you to me. She'll have a bit of you later on, but not before I satisfy myself." Violet's eyes stormed into famished orbs, and her small mouth stretched into a cavernous hole.
"Buth - why?" he mushed, as she began carving at the wings beneath his t-shirt. He felt no pain, thanks to the quick-acting potion Violet had baked into the cookies.
"Is it because I'm a freak? A man-fly?" he pleaded, his head clearing for a second.
Violet laughed as Howie's blood trickled from her lips. "Nonsense, silly boy! It's because I'm a Venus Fly-Trap!"
His wings fluttered for a moment, but he could gain no altitude. The knife had done its work, and Howard had no option but to submit to being consumed.
Outside, Becky waved to a passing youth, her blue eyes shining in the evening sun. Mr. Peepers barked approvingly, and Becky threw the dog a piece of dried meat. "You're right, boy. He looks delicious. Shall we invite him in?"
The dog's tail wagged, and Becky, thinking no
more of the boy she'd called Howie, called out to the new boy - the plump
young man with the golden hair.