I cut the car engine off. Creep through the front yard and carefully jiggle the front door to make sure it's locked so I have an excuse to come in the back through the patio doors. Then try to sneak around to the back of the house so Christy won’t see or hear me. I’ve got the pack of cigarettes hidden in my coat jacket. I told her I quit a few weeks back. She hated my smoking and it was driving us apart. I’m surprised she’s stayed with me for the past three years with all my idiosyncrasies. Between my tendency to not exercise and my ability to get lost playing video games for hours at a time I imagine I’d come off as less than perfect. But she stayed with me. She didn’t mind me and my habits, just the smoking. That’s the one thing. But I’d told her I’d stopped and we’ve grown closer these past few weeks. That’s why I feel so bad sneaking around behind her back. Telling her I was going up to the store only to get a chance to have a cigarette in the parking lot. Or doing what I’m doing now, sneaking around to the back of the house to have one right after work before I come in.
I take a cigarette out as I round the corner and put it between my lips flicking the lighter so I can take a drag. And there she is sitting shrouded in the dark on the patio chair staring at me with a wild look in her eyes. My heart immediately drops.
“I’m sorry Christy you know I didn’t mean to”
She sits staring at me her eyes almost pulsating. I’ve really screwed up. I reach to say something… anything.
“It was a really long day at work you know my boss was all over me. I was really really stressed and I sort of picked up a pack on the way home.”
She still doesn’t say anything. Just stares at me. I know I’m in huge trouble. I can feel a fight brewing. I feel sick inside knowing that I let her down.
“I’m so sorry… I know I’d said I’d quit.”
She doesn’t say anything. She reaches her hand out towards mine. I hand her the cigarette feeling defeated. She takes it and puts it to her mouth and takes a drag. I’m a little taken back. I’ve never seen her smoke in fact she’s always complained about my smoking ragging on it nonstop. It’s like she’s meeting me halfway. This wonderful girl who’s put up with all my idiosyncrasies is doing it again. I feel a rush of adrenaline. It’s like the moment is perfect for me to say what I’ve been wanting to say for the past year.
“Christy I’ve been thinking about something for a long time. We’ve been together for about three years and you’re my first girlfriend. You sort of drug me out of my mom’s basement where I’d been hiding playing video games. You believed in me. You helped me get my first job. Helped me get my driver’s license. Helped me find friends. And let me move into your house with you. And you know…”
I pause for a second trying to compose myself. And even though her face is shrouded by the night I can still catch half glimpses of it as she slowly takes a drag off the cigarette. Her eyes are wild but I can tell she’s nervous about what I am going to say next because she’s flicking the old dragon head knife she bought for me on my last birthday around in a circle on the patio table.
“I just want you to know I love you.”
I pause. It’s the first time I’ve said I loved her and I mean it.
“I want to marry you. I’ve been saving up for this…”
I reach into my pocket and pull out the diamond engagement ring I’ve been saving up for, for the past year. I get down onto one knee and hold the ring out. She sits silently looking at me her eyes growing even wilder. My stomach is turning over.
“Please I know I haven’t been the best and it’s been a struggle…”
We pause frozen like statues for what seems like an eternity. Finally she silently reaches out takes the ring and puts it on her finger and smiles crookedly through the darkness at me. I stand up exhilarated.
“Listen I’m going to run inside and get my other jacket. I want to take you out tonight. Just wait here.”
I slide open the glass patio doors and half walk half run to the kitchen. I can’t believe it I’m going to get married. I stop in the kitchen to fill a glass of water before I grab my jacket from upstairs. I begin to take a sip and that’s when I hear Christy call out from upstairs.
“Who were you talking to downstairs babe?”
My body goes cold and my arm hair stands up. I turn around and see the horror I proposed to in the naked light of the patio doorway holding the dragon head knife with a cigarette shoved in the crooked fixed smile of the mask it's wearing. I hoarsely scream upstairs:
“Christy you’ve got to get out of here now!”
But I know there won't be enough time. There's only one staircase and the front door is locked...
~The Red Ghoul