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PARADISE A Miserable Love Short Story By Claudia D. Christian

PARADISE Home. Home? It’s where I belong. But it’s so ugly there. Was it really? Was it really so ugly? Maybe. Maybe not. But can you leave this behind? Can you really leave? Yes…no. I don’t know. You are the only thing I’d want. I’d want you with me. But that’s not how things work. You know that. I know. So what will you do? Die. The conflicting, acidic thoughts did not dare reflect in her dark eyes. They did not presume to make their presence known as she peered with adulating consideration into the seated man’s comely face. But they lived and grew. They bred furiously in dank fear, unstable adoration, and hopeless craving. “Isa.” She froze as her mind crashed into predictable chaos. Isa knew what was going to happen next. Poisoned exhilaration uncoiled within her limbs while joyous fright sank its needle-sharp teeth into her traitorous veins. “Yes, Jaleen?” Her voice barely rose above a reedy whisper, but her hunger arched its back and screamed. I belong to you. No matter what happens, I belong to you. Jaleen didn’t answer Isa. His pale hand snaked out to grasp her neck, but his bloodless touch was careful and purposeful. The small room’s shadowed corners shifted, coming alive with serpentine grace. Touch me more. Save me. Save me from myself. Isa’s fingers curled into their palms, digging slightly against the tender flesh. Her breathing quickened and the need to tear away from his embrace became a vile thing. Don’t see me. Don’t know me. Not now. I won’t be so weak anymore. I swear. Fearing Jaleen’s scrutiny, Isa turned away. However, his spoken command easily overruled her small defiance. “Look at me.” She was powerless beneath his consuming will. Isa lifted her troubled gaze and braced herself for what was coming. Stronger. I have to be stronger this time. Please. As always, Isa’s pleas disintegrated beneath liquid fire.

With a pained whimper, she fell into Jaleen. Drowning beneath a tragic torrent of excruciating desire and mortal wonder, Isa panted for precious air as his elusive power consumed her. A little more. Please. I just want a little more. A pitying smile curved his perfect mouth. “It hurts, doesn’t it?” “Yes,” she gasped. “But you still crave me.” “Yes!” The word burst forth from Isa’s dry lips, wetting them in unnatural splendor. For one long moment, she could feel her life slip and stagger. I should care more. I do. I do care. Suddenly, her limbs sagged against his hold. The world disappeared beneath the deafening rhythm of her raging heartbeat—leaving carmine behind. Isa’s dilated pupils focused on the glittering orbs staring back. I do care…but then I look at him and it doesn’t matter so much. Jaleen’s exotic beauty never failed to dazzle the drugged girl and this time was hardly an exception. Straddling the precipice between two distinct worlds, Isa saw it clearly. She realized how his unholy allure was just one of many fetters against freedom. This is no way to live. Needing you, living for you, dying a little more because of you…it’s wrong. WRONG. Isa’s heart pumped furiously. Swaying across the line, she allowed her clear knowledge to become contaminated with perfection. Whatever I suffer is worth it. I can forget everything dirty because of Jaleen. His beauty is my peace. And it was true. If love was said to ensnare with one glance, then Isa relived her enslavement each time she gazed at him. Shadows slithered coyly on the edge of Isa’s vision, enhancing her lover’s charms. Pretty. So pretty. Striking crimson eyes continued to peer into hers, waiting and watching—always watching. “Go on,” he instructed kindly. “Don’t hold back.” Isa’s mouth turned upwards with ephemeral happiness. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Like a child given the cookie jar, her perusal dived hungrily down Jaleen’s graceful form. The excitement of staring at him NEVER faded. Isa told herself to take time, to nurture the rare freedom awaiting her. She engorged herself. Long and lean, his body wore its stark black suit perfectly. A white beacon in the guise of linen flashed amidst the teasing darkness, lying beautifully against porcelain skin. Jaleen always wore the same suit when he came to her. Isa had come to rely on its familiarity. She needed the anticipation of black and white as much as she needed to see it lying, discarded like trash, on the floor.

Isa’s gaze rose to meet his and once more fell in love with his unnatural hair. Without its customary tie, Jaleen’s straight lavender locks hung to just past his shoulders. They framed an exquisite, almost feminine, face composed of slender aristocratic features. If I saw you on the street I’d never think you were real. Especially with hair and eyes like that. Reality blossomed like ripe cancer. Isa plucked at her gauzy, rose-colored skirt, still uncomfortable with the proof of her fantastic circumstances. Nice clothes, nice life. How did I get here? Jaleen stared pointedly at Isa’s embroidered top for a brief moment before returning to her clouded gaze. “Are you unhappy with me?” Isa’s chest grew tight and her ripe body pulsed in pained awareness. Silk. Isa wished she knew a more eloquent comparison to apply to Jaleen’s voice. So soft, so infinitely wonderful. She imagined his words slid across her spine like the smoothest of silk, promising absolute gratification. “No, Jaleen,” Isa whispered in weak longing. “I’m happy. Here. With you.” “Are you sure?” “Absolutely.” “Good,” he murmured softly. “You know I live for your pleasure, Isa.” The shadows flickered. Instantly, they slithered up the bare walls like lifeless claws reaching out to extinguish all light. Her eyes darted nervously about the room. “Jaleen, what’s happening?” His hand tightened slightly around her neck. “You know what’s happening, sweetheart.” Jaleen’s voice chided her as he would an erring child. “But—” “Ssh. Don’t be scared. I’m here with you—like always.” Without further struggle, Isa surrendered the burden of fear. As reward, his elegant fingers crept up her body. Oh, yes! Touch me more. Take over my will. Do what you want with me. Please. She leaned into his touch, courting the mindlessness it wrought. Jaleen’s fingers pinched both nipples hard before sliding into her open mouth. “You’re so beautiful when you’re like this, Isa,” he whispered with a smile. “Hungry. Immoral. Shameless. Perfect.” Isa groaned loudly and her desire quickened under his praise. Closing her lips, she sucked his slender fingers with a wanton’s curse. “You are so perfect. You’re so perfect because you’re mine.” Her greedy tongue slid beneath Jaleen’s flawless nails, eager to take in his taste. Isa’s insubstantial world disappeared as the thriving shadows consumed everything but Jaleen.

“Perfect.” The thrill of addiction hit her veins and Isa was lost. Fire shot forth from her womb, scalding every part of her body with crazed ecstasy. Tremors possessed her limbs, twisting and tightening, before breaking them apart. She released his fingers and keened loudly. This can’t stop. This can’t ever stop. It has to keep going on forever. “Look at me,” Jaleen commanded from far away. “Look at me, Isa. Don’t ever turn away.” Isa fought against the fog fleeing her mind. No! No! No! Not yet! Pleasure vanished, leaving shameful craving behind. “I’ll always be here. Don’t fight what you want.” Despite Jaleen’s declaration, Isa wanted to weep. Terrible sadness enveloped her spirit. I’m so afraid to be alone. This is what I am now. Nothing. Just like then. Trapped beneath his unblinking stare, her thoughts wandered down the long corridors of memory. Once she had been a sweet child, eager to please and terrified to disobey. Her existence had consisted of perfection, violence, and misery. Parental warmth expressed itself with a fickle hand, teaching Isa to seek more through the sad art of agreeability. But it was never enough. Years passed. Girlhood melded into womanhood and while the abusive patterns had changed, they yielded the same sad results. Eventually Isa was discarded. Father gone, mother absent. She was alone. And then he came. Jaleen’s red orbs burned a hole into Isa’s mind, peeling away all her layers effortlessly. There was nothing she could hide from him, not ever. But this is my secret. Mine. Not Jaleen’s. The quixotic creature tightened the pressure of his hand. Isa leaned into it, eyes shut and mouth parted. My secret. Mine. Jaleen’s touch vanished. “Attend me.” He stood up instantly. Light returned to the room, shadows banished to unthreatening stillness. Shaken from her living dream, Isa’s limbs unfurled from their kneeling position. She rose obediently and waited by his side. Only coming to his chest, Isa basked in delicacy. Jaleen overwhelmed the small room, despite his slim build. Everything always seemed to shrink in comparison to him, including Isa. I find endless curiosity with your body and you know that. You let me play with you, touch you, take you within my heart. Even though you won’t kiss me on the mouth. But the end will come, won’t it? You’ll let me go. And I don’t want that. Not yet. Maybe never. But I do want... She reached out and placed her arm around his trim waist. Leaning into him, Isa buried her nose against his side. She drew in a deep breath but the weakness would not leave. “Jaleen.”

The world beckoned with wicked fingers. It tempted her to abandon Paradise and cavort in its filthy depths. Isa was finding it harder and harder to resist. She needed him more than ever. Jaleen allowed her affection for several moments. However, his beautiful countenance grew remote. More. I want more. Oblivious to her lover’s mood, Isa slipped his suit coat off. She let it fall to the ground before kicking it aside with her bare foot. I need more. I need more to forget. More. Isa’s fingers began unbuttoning his shirt with frantic grace when Jaleen stopped her. Hurt and anger flashed brightly in her earthy gaze. “What?!” Jaleen ignored her. Brushing back Isa’s mahogany bangs, he stated, “I have something to show you.” Without waiting for an answer, he walked away and disappeared through the door. Isa remained in place, his beguiling whisper hanging heavily in her drugged mind. Her feet shifted awkwardly. During the time she lived here, Isa had never left this room. She never needed to. Anything she had wanted, except for Jaleen, was always here. “I have something to show you.” Fear settled low in her gut, shoving aside the constant hunger. The dark doorway beckoned snidely. The menacing shadows twitched with life. Isa was afraid. “I have something to show you.” Even in her cowered thoughts, Jaleen had power over her. His silken voice dominated her instincts and forced obedience. Trudging forward, Isa remembered when she first saw him. I had no idea how much I would need you. How much I would be like THEM.  Women, thick as ants, swarmed over his table. Even to the casual observer, it was obvious they were hungry beyond pride for his favors. However, the rapt devotees were only allowed to beg. Not touch. Jaleen’s two guards had complete control over the crowd—much to their whining frustration. Strolling past, Isa was disgusted by the display. Where was their pride? How could anyone be so ridiculous, so weak, to promise to pay anything for a chance to have HIM? ‘What is wrong with these bitches?’ Even though Isa had put several yards between herself and the crowd, she heard one of the guards raise his voice. He promised bliss beyond compare to the lucky few chosen by Jaleen. This only riled the female crowd to a frenzied pitch.

‘Do those women really believe some pretty whore is going to bring them Eden?’ Apparently yes—if their screams were any indication. Isa was nearly out of view when a sly sensation tickled her mind. She whipped around in mid-step and nearly stumbled. ‘What the hell?’ Her bewildered gaze met crimson and it was over. She was lost.  Isa drew to a stop, memories shoved aside for the moment. She was inches away from crossing the threshold. Nausea made itself familiar within her stomach. “I have something to show you.” Jaleen never denied her himself. The more she wanted, she more she could have. So why now? “I have something to show you.” Does he know what I’ve been thinking? The thought condemned her to a dank hole of despair. Isa’s limbs trembled with cold, easing out the queasiness. Wrapping her bare arms around her waist, she recognized how her gauzy clothing provided little protection. What if he knows? Jaleen could not find out. He just could NOT. Everything she cared about, everything she needed, everything she lived for would blow away like a puff of dust. I shouldn’t be so ungrateful! What’s wrong with me? I shouldn’t have these thoughts! I don’t need home. I don’t need anything but Jaleen! I don’t need… Suddenly, something slithered past Isa’s ankles. Hopping up with a shriek, she scanned the floor in terror. An ebony swatch smudged the corner of her sight. Before Isa could fall into her panic, she felt a numbing sensation erase her hesitation. “I have something to show you.” Jaleen’s words pounded into her brain, forcing her fright into submission. They beckoned with unchallenged authority. Isa responded. Peering into the living darkness, she wondered what lay beyond. I have to listen to Jaleen. He controls me. Where he goes, I follow. That’s the way it’s been. That’s the way it’ll always be because that’s the way I want it.. Isa took a shaky breath and stepped forward. Crossing the threshold, she left her known sanctuary behind. A sharp hiss echoed in the darkness, filling her damaged heart with dread. Isa looked over her shoulder and saw the room disappear. One moment it was there, dimly lit and familiar—the next moment gone. “Isa.”

With tragic acceptance, she turned away from oblivion. I won’t ever be able to go back, will I? “Isa.” Her head jerked back. What did Jaleen say to me once? Oh, yeah. I remember now. You must turn your back on sin if you want perfection. Haunted eyes slid shut. Sin has dirtied my perfect world. I have no one to blame but myself. “Isa.” Jaleen’s voice soothed her pain. She had no choice but to follow the echo of her name through twisting corridors. “Isa.” Muted cries of suffering washed over her soul. “Isa.” Crazed laughter crashed into the wretched gloom like a bullet. “Isa.” Her eyes welled with tears. “Isa.” Pure unhappiness poisoned the air. “Isa, my love. Don’t be afraid.” She had never heard such divine misery in all her life. “Come to me. Come to me now.” Isa obediently put one foot in front of the other—even though she had no real idea of where she was going. Time vanished. Hours, days, years might have passed with the rhythm of her heartbeat. “Isa…Isaaaa…” The beacon of Jaleen’s voice faded. A fissure split the fabric of fanatical trust. Isa’s frightened gaze jumped about. She began quaking, as if waking from a nightmare…or entering one. What am I doing? Why am I here? Where’s Jaleen? Did he abandon me? What she saw made her weep. The black walls crawled with sickness. Broken cries invaded her hearing while phantom hands reached out to grab her body. Oh, Jesus! What is this place? Her steady walk broke. Soon she was running full-tilt into the unknown. Isa feared she was heading into the bowels of Hell but knew she couldn’t stop. I don’t want to be here! Someone…anyone…please save me! Suddenly, Isa crashed into something solid. She screamed, terrified some vicious monster had seized her. She quickly realized she was wrong. Instead of colliding into a supernatural beast, Isa had run into the hallway’s bleak end. The horrendous pain exploding in her head shattered her relief. With a strangled curse, she gritted her teeth and hunched over. The hellish orchestra stopped. Indistinct shadows faded away, leaving the murky hallway as before.

Warily, she risked looking down before yanking her attention back. Nothing. There wasn’t even a hint to anything or anyone occupying the unnatural corridor. Barely satisfied, she turned her focus on the throbbing pain centered in her face. Isa’s fingers gingerly examined the skin. Her forehead and nose felt hot and swollen to the touch. “Fuck! Oh, shit…” she groaned. She screwed her eyes shut as another agonizing wave pounded into her. She slid to the floor. Isa’s mouth cracked open. A trail of spit slithered down to her chest. The hammering in her skull increased in tandem to the frenetic blood flow coursing in her veins. I’m going to die. I know it. I’m going to die but I’m not ready. As soon as the piteous prediction crossed her heart, the pain stopped. Isa remained crouched, waiting for it to attack her with even more cruel passion. The crimson gallop slowed and Isa’s pulse returned to normal. Letting out a relieved sigh, she leaned her head back. However, her reprieve was short-lived. Isa saw a flash of movement out the corner of her eye. She swallowed once and faced the encroaching darkness with as much courage as she could summon. Despite the inky cover stretching on before her, scarlet scales glinted eerily. What the hell is that? Isa’s hands slammed flat on the ground and pushed her body up. The air thinned, becoming colder. Wisps of breath floated in front of her face before fading away. She ignored the goosebumps peppering her skin and waited tensely. Twin slivers of fire lit up the creature’s end. With fascinated caution, she stared it down. It’s a snake. What is a snake doing there? A low hiss was Isa’s only warning before a reptilian arrow streaked towards her. Disembodied wailings erupted with deafening pitch and human-like shadows fought their way out of the walls. Horror twisted her face. Oh, my God! Isa spun around and her nails scratched at the door’s raised panels. Isa searched frantically for the knob as the horrendous sounds of suffering grew louder. Where is it?! Where is it?! Where is it?! Scales shooting across the floor demanded her rising terror. Isa’s fingers closed on metal. She gave the knob a hard twist and the door swung open. With a strangled cry, she fell through before slamming it shut. Unfortunately for Isa, Sanctuary held her in its embrace one damned second too late. Fire scorched her veins, starting from her heel and spreading throughout her body. Collapsing on the ground, she writhed as the biting pain consumed her. She opened her mouth wide in a silent scream.

 “Who are you? What are you?” His lavender locks swayed becomingly as he tilted his head. Long, feminine lashes drifted closed and his lips formed a beautiful smile. “I’m Jaleen. That’s all.” Isa’s head swam beneath exquisite desire. “No.” She kissed his neck. He tasted like candy. “No?” His gentle voice made her body feel tight. Overwhelmed, she rested her weight on her elbows and leaned back. The rich fabric on the bed’s ceiling made her vision swim dizzily. Their naked limbs coiled in a repose of intimacy. She wanted to sleep. “Isa?” “Hmm?” she yawned tiredly. “What?” Cool fingers stroked the back of her bare arm. “Why no?” The drugged sensation melted away. Sleep fled, leaving something else in its place. Isa turned towards Jaleen with a predatory gleam in her eye. Her hand reached up to play with his hair. “You’re not real, are you?” “I’m very real, Isa.” “Then why do you look the way you do?” Her slender fingers traced his brows. He dutifully closed his eyes so she could caress his lids. “Why are these red? And why do you have purple hair?” He turned his head and kissed her hand. “Because I’m Jaleen.” His soft lips made her giddy. It was hard to focus on what she was saying. “But—” “Are you scared of me, Isa?” A hand glided over her small breasts before delving down her stomach. “I was at first,” she answered with a hitch. Dropping her head back, she locked eyes with him. Isa immediately felt all strength seep out of her being. “And now?” She opened her legs widely. “Mmm…” Without tender consideration, Jaleen’s fingers penetrated deeply. His thumb teased Isa’s most sensitive jewel. “And now?” he prompted slyly. “Not anymore, Jaleen.” Her frantic words ended in a moan. Pleased with Isa’s answer, his hand worked her perfectly. She tilted her hips while rubbing her aching breasts against his chest. Jaleen kissed her damp neck once. “Why?” She arched her back. Desperate mewls clamored in her throat. His fingers slipped out and petted her swollen lips playfully. Isa knew Jaleen was waiting for her answer. She would give him anything to make

him keep going. “When I first saw you up close, I thought you were for fun,” she panted. “You know, pretty for play.” “And then?” Jaleen’s hand crept up. One slender finger slid inside her easily. “And then it didn’t matter.” Even though they had already made love twice, this was different. Jaleen was different. His sharp eyes stripped away her pride, exposing who and what she really was. ‘Please don’t look. Don’t see me.’ She lurched up in panic. Jaleen pushed her back down. Isa saw hunger tighten his face, making the pale skin taut and rapacious. Before she could push him away, his mouth latched onto her neck. Later, she would have sworn four pricks pierced her skin. But in the moment before Isa could bring coherent thought together, her body sank beneath the impenetrable waves of addiction. “Oh, yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!” Memories lit up like a flashbulb. Spanning her abusive childhood, torturous adolescence, and uncertain adulthood, they showcased an Isa she wanted to forget. Her dark pupils became pinpoints of color. The ceiling blurred and her ragged breathing dominated all sound. “Jaleen…” Life ended tonight when she looked into his eyes. Eternity began when he offered himself freely to her judicious hand. “I love you.” He kissed her temple with gentle care. She sighed in blessing. Jaleen nudged her limp thighs apart. The proof of his arousal pressed forward until he was completely sheathed. Isa whimpered. He burned her inside out. She felt as if she was losing her mind. She was delirious. Her arms snaked their way around his neck. Her legs lifted and claimed his slim waist. “Jaleen…please don’t stop.” “Why?” he hissed in her small ear. Her hips slammed up against his. “Because you feel good!” Isa groaned when he withdrew and shrieked when he roughly entered her again. “That’s all?” A frown knitted her brow. Jaleen had asked earlier if she was scared. She was now. Isa had never been more afraid in her life. Yet the harsh edges of fear cut cleanly, exposing hungers she never claimed or acknowledged. ‘Let me lose myself in you. I don’t want to be me anymore. I don’t want to be a failure. I don’t want to be worthless. I don’t want to be nothing. I want to be someone new.’

Claiming her thighs with a firm grip, he pushed them up higher. “I want you to stay here.” Jaleen hammered away at her small body while ducking his head to devour her breast. “What?” Her voice was high-pitched and needy. Isa’s release beckoned, hinting madly at another level of carnal passion. “I want you more than anything else,” Jaleen moaned. He licked her hard nipple once, twice. “Stay with me. I’ll make you happier than they could.” Isa pressed his head closer. “They?” “Those who hurt you.” Ugly memories threatened to banish her bliss. “You will?” Her frantic fingers became claws. They raked down his back. Jaleen shuddered with pained delight. “I’ll give you what you want.” His hips worked furiously as one hand wound into the hair at the nape of her neck. “What do I want?” Isa hovered at the edge. Just one more push and she would be freefalling. Instead of complying, he kept her stretched thin. After several minutes of beautifully cruel teasing, Jaleen wrapped his arms about Isa. He squeezed painfully until consciousness threatened to slip away. “What…do I…want?” she rasped. “Paradise.” With one exquisite thrust, he pushed Isa into the unknown. Her raw cries nearly deafened her ears, but Isa still managed to hear Jaleen’s vow. “I’ll make you perfect, my love. Perfect.”  Liquid flames ravaged her body, but could not smother her lungs. Isa fought to stop her screaming, but as the minutes wore on, the sounds of her suffering increased. “Isa.” Her whispered name deadened her shrieks. Who? How? Several moments elapsed before she croaked, “Jaleen?” “I’m here, my love.” The smile was evident in his warm voice. “You just need to come here.” “Why did you leave me?” she demanded angrily. She winced immediately when her throat protested. God, it hurts! “I didn’t.” The calm denial infuriated her. “You did!” Isa cried, steadfastly ignoring the pain in her neck. “You left me alone, Jaleen! There were all these screams, black things—maybe ghosts…I don’t know—and a snake.” Isa waited for him to say something, anything. He remained silent.

“Did you hear me, Jaleen? A snake! There was a fucking snake trying to kill me!” Jaleen’s tone remained soft and soothing. “Come to me, Isa. I have something to show you.” Defeat tugged at the corners of her tight mouth. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t care that he left me alone. He doesn’t care that I was scared. He just doesn’t care. Isa voice her thoughts. “You don’t care.” “I do care, my love. I care more than you know.” She made no effort to hide the naked plea in her heart. “Then why? Why’d you leave me?” “You’ll see. Hurry, Isa,” Jaleen urged. “Hurry.” I have no choice. I have to go to him. No matter what. As she began to obey him, Isa finally took notice of her surroundings. Her desperate flight had landed her in a small vestibule. The taupe stone covering the walls looked old and medieval in design. Two alcoves framed a curtained doorway. Several lit candles flickered mysteriously within them, effectively creating an eerie atmosphere. Isa’s gaze settled on the heavy velvet curtain. Jaleen is behind there. He’s waiting. Sweat broke on her brow as she struggled to drag herself up. Isa’s leg collapsed beneath her, sending her crashing into the ground. “Ah!” Her chest heaved from the pain as she drew her limb up. “Oh, damnit!” She saw that the skin on her ankle was an angry red. Isa also noted worriedly that clear liquid oozed from several puncture wounds. “What’s wrong, Isa?” “My leg. I can’t—” “Yes, you can.” The complete confidence in his tone caused her to look down. What Isa witnessed made her stomach clench with dread. Her leg was healed. No trace of trauma remained. Keeping her questions, she stood up gingerly. Nothing. Not even a twinge. Perplexed beyond belief, Isa was compelled to walk forward. However, her steps drew to a stop after a few feet. Swallowing thickly, she felt her mouth grow dry. Once more she stood on the threshold of something new. What if there’s something just as sick as what was out there? Isa looked over her shoulder. The battered door mocked with its decrepit condition. It seemed to barely hang onto its rusted hinges. How she had been able to keep out the past horrors was a ridiculous mystery. Still, there was no way she could turn back. Isa reached out with a trembling hand and grasped the rich velvet. She flung the material to the side and stepped forward. Tremendous heat blasted her back and shrieks of endless torment filled her mind. Isa raised her arms and protected her face, wishing she could to the same to her ears.

It was worse than the hallway. It was madness come to life. Sweat poured down her body. Her lovely clothes soon assumed the texture of limp rags. She fought to keep her feet, but her knees began to buckle under the pressure. “Put your arms down, Isa.” “I can’t!” “Yes, you can. Do it, Isa.” Sweat trickled into her eyes. It stung. “I can’t, Jaleen. I c-can’t!” Still keeping her arms up, she spun around only to draw up short. The doorway was gone. Isa’s upper limbs fell to her sides lifelessly. Her only way out had disappeared. The fiery winds died down. The screams became whispers. She was trapped. “Turn around, Isa,” Jaleen commanded softly. “Turn around and see what you’ve been longing for.” Heart hammering in her chest, she obeyed reluctantly. What I’ve been longing for? How would you know? It was supposed to be my secret. Mine! Isa’s weary, defeated gaze widened in black astonishment. She crept forward with hesitant steps until reaching the chest-high balustrade. “How can this be?” “Aren’t you happy?” Jaleen stood behind Isa with familiar grace, his black suit immaculate and ethereal beauty in tact. Isa looked up at him. Terrible sadness glittered in the form of tears. “No. I’m not.” His carmine eyes glowed eerily. “You should be. After all, it’s what you’ve dreamt of, my love. It’s what you’ve wished for behind my back.” “No!” “Don’t lie to me, Isa.” She winced as the saccharine fury poured over her. “I’m sorry,” Isa mumbled before she could stop herself. A cold, pitying smile twisted Jaleen’s perfect lips. “You haven’t begun to feel remorse yet, Isa. But no matter. You will soon enough.” He didn’t give his lover time to consume his ominous threat. Placing his hands on her shoulders, he turned her neatly. Jaleen leaned close to her ear and whispered, “Look your fill, Isa. Look at what you’re willing to trade Paradise for.” Isa trembled from his touch and hated herself. Yet, dutiful as always, she stared at the strange world before them. A sepia sky dotted with heavy clouds hung oppressively over an ebony cityscape. Thousands of building stretched into eternity. Steel fingers reached for the heavens, casting smaller structures into permanent darkness. Millions of black dots swarmed in dizzy array. Isa knew in a moment of insight that it was their screams she heard.

“Is this Hell?” she asked tightly. His answer was deliberate in its coldness. “Yes.” Winged shadows swooped down from the putrid sky. In an instant they soared upwards, caws overflowing with living wails. The carnage of souls sickened Isa and marked her with hopelessness. “Am I dead, Jaleen?” “No.” “Then how come—” Jaleen turned her back to him. Without a word, he removed her drenched shirt before doing the same with her skirt. Taking both pieces of clothing, he flung them off the balcony into the madness below. For the first time, Isa hid her body from his gaze. One arm covered her breasts while the other protected the flesh between her legs. “I can’t be naked—” “Ssh!” Standing back, Jaleen asked gently, “What do you want more than anything else?” Fatality deadened Isa’s frenetic dream world. She knew where this was going. Had always known. As if in a trance, she responded, “Home.” I know the lines. I know how this is going to end. I just wish I could change it. “Home?” “It’s where I belong.” “But it’s so ugly there.” Isa’s eyes grew heavy with uncluttered memory. “Was it really? Was it really so ugly?” It wasn’t so bad. I was just too soft, too much of a whiner. “Maybe. Maybe not.” Jaleen drew closer, his mouth a whisper away. “But can you leave this behind?” His enthralling fingers pushed her hand away before brushing across her bare mound. Dipping into her wet folds, Jaleen orchestrated a symphony of raw, feminine sound. “Can you really leave?” Isa raised her arms and wound them around his bowed neck. Hungry for more, she spread her legs in obscene demand. Her body clenched as he obliged her command with another finger, stretching her a hairsbreadth away from pain. “Yes…no.” Isa groaned and her hips moved with their own desires. “I don’t know,” she panted while arching her thighs. “You’re the only thing I’d want. I’d want you with me.” “But that’s not how things work,” Jaleen answered with regret. “You know that.” His crimson eyes blazed with sudden rage. It was not fair. No matter what he gave her, no matter how much he lived for her eternal pleasure, it ended up like this. Shoving aside his helplessness, Jaleen concentrated on Isa’s imminent explosion. If there was one consolation to be found in failure, it

lay right beneath his hand. She would pay for her faithlessness with all the tears in her soul. “I know,” she mewled. The promises of ultimate gratification wove a tight net in her womb. Sinking into pleasurable oblivion, Isa had never felt sadder. Secrets. They don’t mean anything. All my life all I ever did was keep secrets. First for my parents, then I kept lying to the world…lying for the sake of lying. I thought I could lie to him and the only one I was lying to was myself. Jaleen took his lover to the brink before removing his fingers. Spinning her around, he leaned her against the stone balustrade. He lifted her leg and felt her excited trembling. Without further teasing, Jaleen released himself and drove into her wet core. Isa’s sudden intake of breath blessed him. “Look at it,” he commanded. “Look how filthy it is.” She moaned in desperate abandonment. Her eyes locked on the smog hanging like a dead pall over the infinite city. “I know…I know it’s dirty…that’s why I want…to leave.” Jaleen’s harsh laughter shot out like a thunderclap. His cold fingers dug into her hips. For the first time in their affair, he spoke to her hatefully. “Leave, Isa? You don’t want to leave it, you ungrateful bitch. What you want is to leave ME for IT.” She dug her nails into the railing. Several of them snapped, creating ragged crescents. “No!” she denied hotly while pushing back into him. “YES!” Isa hissed as pain threatened to outweigh pleasure. Jaleen’s body dominated hers with near-brutal efficiency. She tried to make herself pliant, hoping the stranger behind her would transform into the loving man she craved. I don’t want this! I want to go back to the way it was! One of Jaleen’s hands left her hip. It soon found the back of her neck. He pushed her head down while snarling, “You had Eden in your grasp, Isa. You had perfection on your lips. You could’ve had it forever.” “I was wrong! I’m sorry, Jaleen! I won’t think about it anymore!” He ignored her pleadings and concentrated on her silken flesh. Isa’s hips furiously worked with his, leaving him the bitter consolation of her naked desire. Keeping one hand on her neck, the other delved into her core. His fingers worked with the gift of familiarity. When he felt her telltale trembling, Jaleen leaned closer and whispered, “You shouldn’t have taken me for granted, Isa. You should’ve been constant.” “I didn’t! I was! I love you!”

Jaleen’s growl passed for bitter laughter. “You love the sick reality of your life more! That’s why it came, Isa. That’s why it sought you out—because you gave it something I couldn’t.” “It? What are you talking about?” Jaleen pulled out in fury. He tucked himself in and turned the naked girl around. He made no effort to hide his awesome rage. As a result, her flushed face crumbled in anguish and her eyes begged for understanding. Isa reached for him but he firmly held her at arms length. “Jaleen, please. I don’t get…” Regret thickened his voice. “You should’ve accepted your gift, my love. I would’ve stayed with you forever.” Dark comprehension wrecked her miserable expression, turning it into something wild. “Please, Jaleen! Please don’t!” “It’s too late, Isa. You’ve been bitten. You bear its mark. You can never come back.” “I didn’t mean to! I tried to run away!” “It doesn’t matter. The serpent wouldn’t have come for you if you hadn’t called it.” “I didn’t! I swear I didn’t!” “Yes, you did. You called it by wishing for home.” Jaleen said the last word like a curse. “You thought you were keeping it a secret from me, didn’t you?” “No! I…I…” “Answer me!” he yelled not an inch from her face. Isa bit her lip and lowered her eyes. “Y-Yes.” This can’t be happening! It just can’t… He leaned back but refused to relinquish his crushing hold. “You said you were happy, but you weren’t.” The venom in Jaleen’s voice made Isa cringe. “The shadows told your lies. They kept growing and growing until they consumed everything. I saw them and I knew.” “I didn’t want to lie…I just didn’t want you to know.” Rage took root in her breast. She lashed out. “I don’t want it to end like this! It was my secret! Mine! So what if I miss home? It shouldn’t matter!” Jaleen’s mouth tightened. “What is it you miss? Your wellordered lie of a life?” Isa’s heart thudded with pain. She felt trapped. As much as she wanted to turn away from him, his bloody gaze refused to relinquish its unnatural hold. Jaleen saw her weakness, leaned closer, and smiled scornfully. “When you process your little invoices, tidy up your cubicle, and go shopping with Melanie from A/P, does it really make you feel like you’re worth the space you take?” “Stop it!”

“What about when you go to the gym, Isa? How does it feel to be sweating on the treadmill, just like everyone else, but knowing you’re not like them? Knowing that instead of focusing on your heart rate, you’re thinking about secrets.” She saw the specters of her past come to unwanted life in his eyes. Isa writhed in his grip and gritted out, “Shut up!” “Do you talk about your violent daddy, Isa? Do you ever tell anyone how he’d come in at night and start screaming your name? Or what about Mommy? When you go out for drinks, do you ever share how the smell of beer makes you think of her?” “SHUT UP!!” Isa’s throat closed up. Her eyes burned from the tears she refused to shed. Jaleen studied the fighting woman in his grip. Dispassion gave way to ancient regret. “You work so hard but can’t run away from who and what you are—isn’t that right, Isa?” The hellish world fell beneath the true hell living inside her scarred memory. “I’m not running away!” Isa screamed between muffled sobs. “You don’t know what you’re saying!” “Oh, I know. I know because I know you. I’ve known thousands of Isas. Thousands.” He leaned forward and whispered in her ear, “And I know because I know me.” Fate’s blades carved their way through her. All her emotions bled into one another, leaving her as near-catatonic carcass. I didn’t want it to end like this. I wanted him forever. But I knew what would happen. I knew. “I loved you, Isa.” Jaleen kissed her ear before leaning away. “I told you I’d be with you always, but you didn’t believe me. You kept questioning my devotion.” His gaze bore into hers accusingly. “And now here we are.” Despite his vicious cruelty, Isa couldn’t bear the threat of separation. Life flared with passion. “It doesn’t have to be, Jaleen! We can go back. I know we can. You’re real, remember? You can make this go away. I know you can!” Jaleen ignored her frenzied outburst, but his heart lay in shreds. It shouldn’t have turned out this way. “We can never go back. But you can go. You can go back to Daddy, Mommy, and anyone else who wants to kick you.” “No,” she moaned piteously. “Tell me again. When you came to me, what did you see?” Isa remembered the hallway’s horror and cringed. His hands tightened on her arms. His beautiful voice shook from impotent frustration. “If you had wanted to stay here, you would’ve seen beauty beyond compare. Instead, you saw corruption and filth. You saw home, Isa—even if you didn’t know it.” “No…”

Jaleen released her. He sank slowly down to his knees. Isa shook her head hysterically. “No! Please! Don’t!” He reached for her hips and pulled her forward. He ignored her blows. He ignored her weeping. His mouth found her and demanded release. Isa battled the sensations sweeping through her body like wildfire. If I don’t come, he can’t make me leave. I can’t come. I can’t! Lapping away at her delicious velvet flesh, Jaleen poured all his energy in constructing his perfect punishment. No matter how much she squirmed, his mouth refused to allow her an inch. He would engorge himself on her secrets, on every little facet of her flawed personality, until she burst in his mouth like the sweetest of crimson fruits. And then he would exact his revenge on her. He would make his punishment eternal. He would do this because she forced him to be a serpent in their garden. Isa made him reveal his other side, the one that destroyed, and for that he could never forgive her. Ecstasy tortured Isa’s will. Beyond pride, she begged for mercy and forgiveness. “Jaleen! Don’t! Please, don’t! I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! I’ll never think about it ever again! I love you!” Jaleen doubled his efforts. Ruthlessly, he forced her body into compliance. The stone railing supporting her disappeared. Scorching wind pulled at Isa and panic scarred her face. She felt the trembling in her legs and screamed, “I don’t want to go home! I don’t want to go! I don’t want—” Jaleen stood up, towering over her quivering form. Without a word, he kissed her hard on the mouth. His tongue flicked past Isa’s cracked lips and tasted all the useless regret she held in her soul. When she began kissing him back, Jaleen pulled away. “Go back home, Isa. Go back to Hell.” And just like that, he pushed her. He pushed her and she fell. Convulsing, writhing in tormented orgasmic release, Isa plunged into empty air. Other bodies flew past her. Their cries of miserable loss echoed her own. But they didn’t matter. Nothing did. Jaleen’s eyes were the last things Isa saw before Hell reclaimed one more victim.  It was late, almost three in the morning. Bright corridors attempted to make a lie of that fact. Even so, the hospital staff was quiet.

It was as if they believed their silence could keep death from lingering in the air. The hallway was empty except for two people. A glass partition separated the bed-ridden girl from her observers. “When did she regain consciousness?” the younger man asked. “Yesterday.” The officer registered the nurse’s answer with a nod. “Has she said anything yet?” “Not really.” She paused. “Where did you find her?” “At her apartment. She hadn’t shown up for work in about a week. Boss thought maybe she was in a bad way.” The man’s voice reflected his weariness. “Turned out she was.” She stayed quiet. Her feelings were the same as his. They had both seen too many victims of this underground drug epidemic to remain unmoved. Staring at the catatonic patient, he let his frustration loose. “It’s the damnedest thing, isn’t it? These girls get so hopped up on Paradise that they become zombies for days. Then just like that—it’s over. Their bodies reject the drug.” The nurse shook her head in puzzlement. “Does anyone know why? Do they even know where it’s coming from?” “No. Not yet. But we’re working on it. All we got so far are these.” He reached into his pocket and withdrew an empty black and white package. The officer heaved a sigh. “If it was only left like this…a little time in the hospital, maybe even rehab…it wouldn’t be so bad.” “I know.” The nurse’s tone echoed his. “But they can’t let it go. They go back for the drug.” “But no matter how much Paradise they get their hands on, it doesn’t work.” “So suicide rates go up.” “And we both are left to clean up the mess…before it happens.” The two continued to observe Isa Collins. Their pity tangible, their silent question obvious: How much time will pass before she makes a trip to the morgue too? Isa sensed their stares. She felt it with numb awareness. She didn’t care because nothing mattered anymore. Nothing. She was perfect once. She lived in Eden. She had Paradise on her lips and in her hands. But now she was dead. Her body was alive and that was the ultimate punishment. Being alive in this world was Hell. Two perfect tears rolled down her cheeks. “Jaleen…”

This story is from short story anthology entitled Fracture. The book can be found online in its entirety for Members only at my website Š2005 Claudia D. Christian. All rights reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from DelSin Publishing, LLC. DelSin Publishing, LLC and the author assume no liability assumed for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual or fictional events, locations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Paradise - A Miserable Love Short Story  
Paradise - A Miserable Love Short Story  

Isa lives in a perfect world. So why does another life haunt her? Desperate to keep her secret, she denies the ugly truth--only to find Hell...