Jeremy landed right in front of his favorite local coffee shop, causing the potential customers about to enter the shop to get tossed back onto their behinds. He yanked the door open and smiled when he realized there wasn’t a line. At the counter, he ordered his go-to coffee; an oat milk latte. As he made his way to the other end of the counter to wait, he was confronted by a striking woman. Jeremy studied her features. She had Walnut brown, wavy hair spilling down her back and wore a blue dress that stood out against the muted background; it clung to her bronze skin. The woman turned to him and smiled.
“Hi,” Jeremy said.
“Hello.” The woman said
Her face began to distort and what was left of her mouth opened wide. An alarm escaped between her lips.
Jeremy woke up with a start. He turned onto his side and silenced his cell phone alarm. Sighing, he rubbed his face and tumbled out of bed. As he showered, he replayed the dream in his mind; yet the more he thought of it, the more it faded.
Jeremy was standing in line at his favorite coffee shop, looking at his watch again. He had left his apartment with plenty of time to make it to work promptly. The door to the shop tinkled, and he lazily glanced over. A flash of blue entered through the doorway. Jeremy took a better look, and his eyes widened. It’s her! The woman in blue strolled to a table and placed her laptop and purse down. She glanced at the long line and then sat. It wasn’t the blue dress from the dream, yet it was the same color on a blouse, which she combined with light denim.
Jeremy briefly glanced at the woman every few minutes as the line inched along. He finally made it to the waiting area. He noticed that she was typing away at her computer without peering up much. With the cup of latte in hand, Jeremy headed to the door, then double-backed towards the table where the woman sat. Screw it. I’ll be late for work. As he approached the table, the woman was getting up.
“Excuse me!” She said as they nearly collided.
“Sorry!” Jeremy said his hand over the lid of his latte.
The woman frowned at him.
“I-I was about to head out, and I noticed you here. You look familiar.” Jeremy said.
She smirked. “Is that your pick-up line?” She said.
“Oh, no! I mean… this is going to sound crazy, but I saw you in my dreams.”
“I believe that’s also a pick-up line. An old one, but I guess it’s still a good one.”
“Look, we started off badly. How about I buy you a coffee?” Jeremy asked.
“Sure.” She glanced at his suit. “You don’t have a job to go to? Cause I see you’re wearing a suit.” She said.
“It’s alright. They don’t care if I’m late. I’m actually an assistant manager at the office.”
Jeremy never made it to work; he had spent the day with the woman of his dreams. Her name was Monica, and she worked as a remote content writer for a marketing firm. It was her first time at the coffee shop, the one that she was going to regularly closed permanently. They both discovered that they enjoyed Indie music, reading mysteries, and binging on political documentaries.
“Well, I didn’t get much work done today,” Monica said as she glanced out the shop window. The sun was heading down behind the apartments across the street.
“Sorry about that. If it makes you feel any better, I totally missed work.”
She laughed a sweet, tinkling sound, and it warmed his heart. Jeremy peered at the staff behind the counter; most of them were looking at the two of them. It hit Jeremy that the coffee shop was about to close. He waved at them and stood up.
“I believe that’s our hint to get going,” Jeremy said.
Monica grabbed her things and walked out with Jeremy.
“Will you be coming to the coffee shop more often?” He asked.
“Yeah, I think so. The coffee is decent.” Monica said.
“Really? I think it’s great. It’s better than that franchise crap.”
“I don’t know… my old coffee shop sure had a killer cup of flavored coffee.” She said, grinning. “I guess I’ll be back tomorrow. Maybe I’ll see you?”
“Definitely,” Jeremy said as he felt like flying off as he did in his dream.
Months passed, with Jeremy and Monica spending most of it together. Summer turned to fall as they traded their shirts for light jackets while they went on hiking dates and late-night dinners. Then fall turned into winter as they spent more time indoors exploring their relationship.
Jeremy had most of his stuff at Monica’s townhouse since he was renting a small studio apartment; she rarely came over to his place.
“Monica! Have you seen my cufflinks?” Jeremy asked from the top level.
“I think I’ve seen them in my wardrobe,” Monica said.
“Ok, thanks.” He said as he wrinkled his nose. He didn’t like going into it; it had an old, earthy smell. Much of Monica’s furniture had that scent. She claimed she enjoyed shopping for vintage wooden furniture; it made the home feel more like a museum.
Rummaging through the pockets of the wardrobe, he came across human hair. Yanking his hand back, he peered into the small drawer. He realized that it was a wig. When did she start wearing one? Forgetting about the cufflinks, Jeremy went back out to the landing.
“Why do you have a wig?” He asked.
“Oh, my hair is thinning out. So I thought I’d start wearing one to hide it.” Monica said.
“Really? I never noticed.”
“Well, I guess that’s good. I was embarrassed to say something.”
“Don’t be. It happens. Look, I have a bald spot on the top of my head now. I feel it every time I take a shower.” Jeremy said.
Monica smiled up at him.
By spring, Jeremy moved in with Monica leaving his studio apartment and old neighborhood behind, including his friends, who complained about his absence. Jeremy fell in love with Monica and didn’t miss his friends or his old home.
A cool night air rustled the trees along the promenade Jeremy and Monica were walking on. They passed by couples sitting on benches and taking in the view of the setting sun. A couple walking the other way stopped and got their attention.
“Jeremy?” The man said.
Jeremy looked and widened his eyes.“Victor! Lucy! It’s been so long.” He said and greeted them warmly.
Victor glanced at Monica and frowned.
“Victor, Lucy, this is Monica.”
Monica shook their hands.
“What are you doing around this area?” Jeremy asked.
“We heard of a great bar that opened recently and wanted to check it out. You guys want to come?” Victor said.
“Sure!” Jeremy said, ignoring Monica’s slight shake of her head.
The four of them stayed close to closing time at the bar. Jeremy had a great time catching up with his old friend, except Monica, who only chimed in when she was called on. Victor and Lucy would peer at her for long moments, infuriating Monica, while Jeremy didn’t seem to notice. After picking up the tab, they headed out. Before Jeremy and Monica walked off, Victor pulled Jeremy to the side.
“Jeremy, we all miss you, man. We haven’t heard from you for a while. If I hadn’t passed you by, I probably still wouldn’t know what you’ve been up to. Why don’t you answer your phone much?” He asked.
“Well, you know, I’ve been busy at work, and things have been going so great with Monica and me.”
“Speaking of Monica, how old is she? She seems way older than you. I mean, I don’t remember you being into older women.”
“What are you talking about? She’s my age.” Jeremy said. He glanced at Monica, who was talking to Lucy.
“What? She looks more like mid-fifties, not early thirties.” Victor said.
“You’re crazy! And you wonder why I don’t talk to you anymore.” Jeremy said and strode away, grabbing Monica by the waist and guiding her away.
Lucy came over. “What happened?” She asked.
“I asked him how old Monica was, and he freaked out. He thinks she’s as old as he is.” Victor said.
“What? She’s like sixty or something.” Lucy said, shaking her head.
“Well, he doesn’t see that. Hell, he hasn’t been himself since he met her.” Victor said as he took hold of Lucy’s hand.
Monica placed the pregnancy test onto the book that Jeremy was reading. He glanced at it, not understanding what he was looking at; then he realized there were two blue lines. Jumping to his feet, he dropped the book and hugged Monica.
“Two lines mean you’re pregnant, right?” Jeremy asked.
“Yes,” Monica said with slight annoyance.
“Oh my god. Wait – we have to get married! I don’t have a ring yet, but I’ll get one. I promise.”
“No, we don’t have to. It’s fine.”
“What? What do you mean it’s fine? Don’t you want to get married?”
“No,” Monica said.
Jeremy stepped back and frowned. “I really think we should.” He said.
“Well, I think we shouldn’t. I’m fine with having the baby.” Monica said, and she grabbed a huge book from the coffee table.
Jeremy stared after her. That book again. She’s been reading that book all the time now. He laughed at her when he found out about the book. It was a book of spells, and he was surprised that she was into that.
Jeremy sat down. Lately, he’d noticed that Monica had changed. She wasn’t the same cheerful person he had known her for. There were also the strange things he found; at first, it was the wig, then the false teeth, followed by the book. That morning he found her pushing the skin on her face back and forth. He didn’t know what to make of it. Jeremy hoped that her pregnancy would change her back and that he would be able to convince her to get married.
The room swirled in front of Jeremy’s eyes; it made him feel nauseous. He glanced about, not knowing where he was. It was dim, and he could barely make out what was in the room. A long table lay across from him; candles decorated the ends. Jeremy tried to stand up, even though he was tied to the chair. Adrenaline coursed through him and beads of sweat dotted his forehead. What is going on here? Where am I, and where is Monica? He called out her name. Monica appeared, walking down a staircase, naked and fully pregnant.
“Monica! What’s going on? Where are we?” Jeremy said.
“It’s the basement,” Monica said.
“There’s a basement here? In the townhouse?”
“Yes, you big fool.”
Jeremy blinked and saw something that took his breath away.
“You’re almost ready to have the baby! How could that be? You just told me earlier today.”
Monica laughed and drew her face closer to his. Jeremy yelped. Her face was aged beyond recognition. Deep lines accentuated her face, her eyelids drooped, and her lips were drawn thin.
“What happened to you?!” Jeremy said.
“I am a witch, you idiot! I knew it would be easy to tempt you. I needed you, Jeremy. You just didn’t know how.”
Monica turned and grabbed something from under the table. When she placed them on it, Jeremy saw that it was the book of spells and a dagger. She scrambled on top of the table and laid on her back, the book and dagger at her sides. The book flipped open to a random page. Monica started to recite something that wasn’t intelligible to Jeremy. The words on the pages began to glow. She took the dagger into her hands and slowly pointed the blade towards her belly. Jeremy stiffened and shook his head; he tried to cry out, though his words were trapped in his throat.
Monica plunged the blade into her belly; blood poured forth from the wound. Instead of screaming out in pain, she began to laugh. The candles flared brightly, giving Jeremy a better view. He screamed as he watched the belly twitch. Monica’s face mutated as if it was made out of putty. It folded in on itself. A popping sound brought the face back. It was a young, radiant face that turned to stare at Jeremy.
Nearly falling out of bed, Jeremy woke up yelping. Monica bounced awake next to him. He scanned the room; it wasn’t the basement but their bedroom.
“What’s wrong?” Monica said.
Jeremy stared at her, her face was normal, and she wasn’t pregnant. “I-I think… I had a nightmare. It felt so real and-and long.” He was breathing hard.
Monica embraced him. “It’s alright. Whatever you saw wasn’t real.” She said.
“Let’s go back to sleep, ok?”
Jeremy laid back down; she kissed him on the forehead and turned to her side. He did likewise and peered at the wall mirror across from him. He squinted; under the bed was the book of spells and the dagger; glistening with blood.