Rabbit Ears in the Laundry

Holly Barratt

Wyld FLASH February 19th 2021

The rabbit ears in the laundry seemed like such a little thing, after months of trying to look shocked at the local news, of burying corpses and the early morning drives into the country.

I’ve always prided myself on being open-minded. Everyone deserves love, whatever their little quirks or inclinations. We are all human after all.

Well, that’s the first thing – we’re not all human are we? I know some women claim men are a different species, but I never knew I was supposed to take it literally. By the time I found out what it was that made Tim so different, I was already hooked. He said he left it ‘til then on purpose. He was a bit nervous of course, but mainly he wanted me to know him and love him as a man.

He was an amazingly intelligent and kind. He loved art galleries and fine wines. He had a day job as a teacher and donated more of his salary to charity than anyone else I knew. His daylight self seemed tailored to compensate for his other side. He really was the ultimate in middle class refinement, cultured to the point of parody. I loved that he quoted Shelley at me on our first date; I loved that he ate vegan food and used words like “verisimilitude”.

And despite any concepts of gender roles we might have been deconstructing during dinner, he would always help me into my coat, drive me home and kiss me on the cheek before very pointedly not pressurising me to invite him in.

I couldn’t help but feel a little insulted after a while. He never suggested spending the night together, never invited me back to his place, never let his hands venture far below my neck. I knew he wasn’t religious – quite the opposite in fact. After three months I was frustrated; at six I was starting to wonder if I had the wrong end of the stick. Were we just good friends after all? Were the kisses and dinner dates just part of an affectionate, generous nature? It crossed my mind more than once that there was someone else: a wife, another girlfriend; a boyfriend – although it seemed ludicrous that I wouldn’t have caught wind of something like that.

My concerns about our physical relationship started to seep into the once-valued conversations. He’d be talking about the destructive nature of love, how we’re often drawn into ruin by our biological instincts and all I could do was to think how soft his lips looked. I’d enjoy the momentary flicker of his distraction as I ran the side of my foot across his ankle and drove myself a little crazy with the silky texture of the hairs there. I was aching to get past the intellectual, to discover even the slightest hint of longing.       

I asked eventually. When he refused my offer of a nightcap I pursued it for once.

“I don’t bite,” I told him.

“I know,” he said.

“Do you have a problem with intimacy Tim?” I meant to sound concerned, but it came out like an accusation.

He cracked a smile but carried on gripping the steering wheel, looking out into the night

“Oh for God’s sake just come up and have a coffee,” I said, and unbuckled his seatbelt.

I didn’t notice any change at the time. The lights were dimmed and to be frank I was a bit preoccupied. When I look back I guess I can picture something heavier in his features, a creasing of the brows and a widening of the irises so they seemed to fill the eye sockets much more. I definitely wasn’t alarmed by it anyway – even when I felt his nails, strangely long for a man, digging into the small of my back. His kisses were wet and badly aimed, but that only re-enforced my ideas that it was lack of experience bothering him. I was still disappointed when he broke away and staggered like a drunk into the kitchen.

After a few hurt and confused moments I followed, and found him reading the arts section of the previous day’s paper.  Verging on anger I snatched it away.

“What?” I demanded “If you don’t want me for god’s sake just bloody say so.”

“I do,” he said “But sometimes I have a bit of a problem.”

“I can be patient” I said “It’d help a lot if you’d relax.”

“It’s not the problem you’re thinking of.”

And that was where it started really. After he came out with it and I believed him. I wish he’d said something earlier – but I guess I was the only woman who really gave him any kind of support after finding out. There’d been the odd Goth girl when he was younger who thought it was cool and sexily dangerous, but no-one who accepted him as someone with their own place in nature, someone with needs and weaknesses like anyone else.

We were able to control things pretty well between us for a long time. We drew up a calendar of the lunar cycles, and bar a few minor disasters when he changed unexpectedly, we were able to predict high danger points and I’d arrange to sleep away from home to avoid impulsive mauling.

I did tours of the pet shops across three counties to keep us stocked with small furry prey and keep attacks on neighbours’ dogs and children to a minimum. Stories of an unidentified “beast” were rife. Someone even caught him on video once, from a distance. But no link with the newly-wed couple in the two bedroom semi was made.

Our need to take such meticulous care for each others’ needs brought us closer.  Our passion was all the greater for the constraint of the rigid monthly schedule and the sense of danger. We knew beyond a doubt that our love was unique. We were the only couple I knew of who kept a loaded tranquiliser gun beside the bed.

But every adorable little quirk becomes an irritant eventually. I just looked down at the little bloody ears this morning and it struck me how normal the whole thing had become. I was pissed off about my ruined white undies, about having to scrape the mess into the bin again. My life was a pattern of mopping up entrails, sympathising with distraught neighbours, and fearing for my life in the most indifferent way one possibly can.

He’s still sleeping and it’s 2pm. Dried blood around his mouth and under his nails but still dark and gorgeous. I’ll always think that no matter what.

But tomorrow I have to sleep away from home again, then come back and wash more remains of dead mammals off my smalls and wonder if the kids next door will be crying over the demise of another much-loved pet. It’s just too much now. And I’m sorry, but at my time of life I just want a husband who doesn’t turn into a monster every time the moon is full.

Author bio: Holly Barratt is a writer living in Wales who primarily writes short stories in the science fiction, horror and magic realism genres. She is currently working on a novel.

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