Wolf and Mitch spotted the Decoupage Coupe as they were driving toward South Park on Second Street. Pulling off, they paid the guy at the parking lot booth, parked, and walked over to the car.
Rose was inside, hyperventilating. Wolf tapped on the window and she startled, then slowly lowered it.
“Aphrodite … ” she said. “Over there. She’s the real deal, she’s changing who people are just like the Hook does. Only … not to torture them but to make them … different. She’s giving them what they want. What they really want, what they want so bad they can’t even say its name.”
“Wait, you’re saying that this Aphrodite is what?” Mitch said.
“She’s real,” breathed Rose. “She’s the Goddess, She’s Aphrodite. She’s giving people love, cutting through all their lies and bullshit and personalities and free will and everything, making them into who they … think they want to be. She’s doing it just like the Hook does his thing, only She’s making them into people who can love instead of people who want to die.”
“Did she touch you, Rose?” said Wolf. “Did she force you to get rid of your fear of love?”
“My fear of … what?!” She stood up out of the car. “What the Hell do you mean by that, Wolf?!”
Wolf grinned. “Evidently not,” he said.
“You … Bastard!” she fumed. “You don’t get to say what I …”
“Rose, I tell the truth,” Wolf said. “I’m just naturally not able to abide bullshit. If I have to live with too much bullshit, I get crazy. I get … diminished. So the more bullshit people have going the more I have to avoid getting close to them. I can smell fear, and every time you’ve talked about love, every time your body language says you thought about love, you were afraid.”
Rose came to a stop. If he’d said a single false word to her, she’d have known it. And he hadn’t. She swallowed her anger and turned Wolf’s words over in her head. Fear of love. If she fell in love, if she gave herself in love, she’d get Lost. Or would she? Didn’t Indra have Philo, and didn’t Indra somehow cope? Was that what was Rose afraid of, really? Was Wolf right?
“Why … why didn’t you say something before?” she asked.
Wolf leaned down next to the window, opened his mouth, and told her another truth. “Because I hadn’t decided yet that I wanted to be closer to you.”
“You … decided you want to be closer to me,” Rose repeated.
Wolf nodded solemnly.
“You know I’m dangerous,” she said, green eyes locked on his.
He shrugged and cracked a grin. “Well, yeah. But getting close to someone is always dangerous. No need to feel special about it.”
She laughed a barking laugh that echoed from the bridge above them. “I thought you wanted me to get over my fear of love, not make it worse.”
Wolf shrugged again. “I do, but like I said, I can’t abide bullshit. I won’t lie to you about it. Not now. Not ever. And for what it’s worth, I’m glad it’s you working to deal with your bullshit, and not having it done to you by whatever that is over there,” and he jerked a thumb back in the direction of South Park.
“Uh, if you two are done with the clumsiest flirt I’ve ever seen,” Mitch said, “I want to know about Mike. Where did you see him?”
Rose pointed downhill, at a convenience store on the corner. “We stopped to get something to eat,” she said, “and he walked by on Third Street, headed away from South Park. He didn’t notice when I called his name, and he wasn’t wearing any of his good stuff. I’m afraid he was Lost, But I couldn’t catch him then because Marta – the woman I was with – was dragging me toward South Park by then.”
“Marta?” said Mitch.
“Nobody very special,” Rose said, “Just a lady with problems. She’s part of the crowd in South Park now.”
“Her problems got fixed?” Mitch asked.
“Sort of.” Rose squirmed. “I swear to the Goddess Mitch, I didn’t know it was going to be … like that.”
“And what Goddess, exactly, would that be?” Mitch wanted to know.
“I … I’m sorry. I didn’t mean Her,” Rose jerked a thumb over her shoulder toward the park. “I’ve just thought of God as … a woman my whole life, because I … I didn’t want to be scared of God.”
This is one chapter of The Hook, a novel which is being published serially on this site. This page links to all chapters so far serialized.
The complete novel is available from Amazon.