Lena curled up beneath the worn blanket that she took off the back of her couch. Work had been a nightmare of petty jealousies, negativity and backstabbing. She dreaded going back into the fray tomorrow and being left anxious and depressed all weekend. It was time to push all that toxic crap out of her brain and focus on the good, if that was possible.
She was startled by a knock on the door.
Untangling herself from the blanket with a flash of annoyance, Lena shuffled to the door and peered through the peephole. She saw the distorted face of a cherubic man grinning back at her, as if he had listened to every step she took between the couch and the door and knew she was now only inches from him.
“Who is it?” she asked. The sudden fear she heard in her own words displeased her.
“It’s Cupid, silly. I’ve come to mend your broken heart.”
She leaned back from the door. Something about his genial tone, his fleshy round face and that awful, leering smile. It repulsed her. His shoulders and chest were bare but for a thin red quiver strap over one shoulder. Lena was pretty sure he was nude.
“Please go away before I call the cops.”
Silence from the other side of the door. She steeled herself for another glance through the hole. The man now looked dejected, his lower lip protruding in a pout. But his eyes, which glowed with rage, told a different story.
“How about I tell your neighbors about what the FUCKING WHORE they live next to? Last Saturday night you let Jake in and then some. Now OPEN. THIS. DOOR!”
Jake was a sweet guy she met at a book club four months ago. Last week they had made love for the first time in his lavish apartment downtown, and in the afterglow, he had admitted that he was married with three kids.
Lena’s apartment door rattled as Cupid pounded away. She picked up her cell and dialed 911.
She heard the click of the dispatcher picking up.
“Hello? Hello? There’s a crazy man in my apartment building and–”
“Ma’am, calm down and open the door. It’s time you got what homewreckers deserve.”
“What? I-who is this?”
“It’s Cupid, silly. Take another look.”
Lena swallowed hard, the phone trembling in her hand, and leaned forward.
In the hallway, Cupid held a heart-shaped phone to his ear, a dark blue policeman’s cap now resting at a rakish slant on his head. Drool spilled down his wide chin. Behind him, she saw two massive crimson words painted on the opposite wall: Open Up.
When he spoke, his voice came from her cell.
“I know you, Lena. The promises you’ve broken, the shattered hearts you’ve left in your wake.”
Lena retreated from the hall and ran into the kitchen, pulling a stainless steel butcher knife from her magnetic wall rack.
“Leave me alone, you bastard!”
She hung up and immediately speed-dialed her brother Harlen, who lived only a few miles away.
As it rang, her text alert beeped and she hurriedly glimpsed the title of the message.
She clicked on it.
It was a crystal clear photo of Harlen’s bloody, eyeless face.
His mouth was slack.
Two thick cherry red arrows were embedded in his eye sockets.
Lena screamed in horror and rage.
Her apartment door exploded inward, striking the wall.
She gripped the knife’s black handle tight and stepped out of the kitchen.
Cupid grinned at her, his puffy cheeks blushing. He wore only a quiver of brilliant crimson arrows and a large soiled diaper fastened in the front with a comically over-sized safety pin. Saliva gleamed on his jaws and chest. In his right arm he carried an alabaster longbow.
She watched as he loaded a feathered arrow and took aim at her chest.
At her broken heart.
Lena charged the cherub, howling.
His deadly arrow pierced her left arm, missing her heart. She twisted in agony and buried the knife in his meaty neck. She felt the sharp exhalation of his breath as he dropped his bow. It hit the hardwood floor with a thunk.
He grabbed at the blade blocking his airway and she felt his damp flabby skin quiver.
The arrow was an inferno of pain, but she was afraid to tug it free. It could bleed out.
Her eyes met his, and she saw gold flecks in his irises, and something else that filled her with deep, tingling fear.
His eyes were smiling with a deranged, happy rage.
They weren’t wide with panic like those of a man on the threshold of death.
Cupid slid the knife from beneath his jowl with shocking ease. The blade dripped with sour smelling black fluid, hinting at the darkness within his corpulent form.
He tossed it away, grinning.
Something flickered between his teeth as he rammed his large fist through her sweater, breast, ribs and muscle walls. In her last moments she wasn’t spared the sensation of his stout fingers grasping her beating heart.