illustrated by cerine
They say tea is good for the soul. Natalie hoped so, because she needed to save her soul from the Devil.
She was meeting the Devil for tea in an hour.
Natalie slumped forward at the edge of her bed, looking at the screen on her phone. It was a birthday gift from her late mother; she sure as hell couldn’t afford an iPhone by herself. Natalie didn’t have anyone to talk to with it, but she wasted money keeping it active anyway. It wasn’t a big deal, despite her meager means, because she knew exactly when she would die. The Devil would take her on her thirtieth birthday unless she could make a case for her continued existence.
Barring a miracle, today was her last day on earth. Her birthday was only a day away.
Her phone bill was the least of her worries. So what if she couldn’t afford it, it wasn’t like she’d be starving for money, or anything else. She kept staring at it, the first message she’d gotten in a year.
Meet me at the usual place at 6:00 sharp. Don’t bother wearing panties. They’ll just get in the way.
Tacky as usual, but Scarlet certainly knew the right words to piss Natalie off. She tried in vain not to remember the night that text referred to, the night they first met. Natalie had loved the Devil, once.
She couldn’t put it off much longer. It was almost six. Natalie straightened her clothes, sparing herself a lingering look in the mirror before heading out. She wore a tight white shirt underneath a black jacket, a pair of jeans, and the most stylish boots a woman could find in a thrift store. If it was her last day on earth, then damn it, she was going to look good.
And she wore panties, one last act of defiance before forfeiting her soul.
Natalie had no job, her last girlfriend was Scarlet and that had been seven years ago, she lived in a shitty studio apartment, and she couldn’t remember the last time she’d gone out and done something other than job-hunting. At least she could rest easy in the knowledge that world wouldn’t miss her. That was something, right?
The coffee shop was only about a mile away, so Natalie decided to walk. Not that she had much of a choice—she didn’t have a car—but she wanted to anyway. It was a chilly day in the beginning of autumn and the leaves were just starting to fall. It had always been Natalie’s favorite season and she wanted to experience it one last time.
Lately, however, autumn scared her. Yet another thing Scarlet took from her. She watched the leaves slowly fade and fall into the gutters, and she could only sink her head and sigh.
Scarlet would have stood out even if she hadn’t been waving like an idiot. She always stood out in every crowd thanks to her impossible beauty. Every time Natalie saw her, she remembered why she fell for the damn woman all those years ago. If only she had known back then.
Still, despite all the evil inside of her, Scarlet was a lovely sight with her brilliant red hair and fair, perfect skin. That shade of red shouldn’t have been able to exist in the world, yet her hair, lips, and eyes showed it proudly. If it were a little darker, Natalie thought, it would look like fresh blood. Worst of all, however, was that unlike Natalie, Scarlet hadn’t aged a single day in the past seven years.
“Hello, Natalie,” Scarlet’s voice was every bit as silky and sexy as Natalie remembered. She gestured to the chair opposite her. Steam rose from white cups on the table, hot drinks in the cold air. Scarlet had already ordered tea for both of them. “I’ve missed you.”
“I haven’t missed you.” Natalie cleared the fallen leaves off of her chair. She sat in silence, her gaze shifting between her tea and the plunging neckline of Scarlet’s shirt. Between the red V cut and the gold necklace that fell perfectly between them, it was hard not to stare at Scarlet’s breasts. Natalie wanted to strangle her libido.
“I’m sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can do to make it better?”
A deadpan frown formed on Natalie’s lips. “You could not take my soul.”
Scarlet shook her head. “You know how this works. Why do you deserve your soul more than I do?”
“Because it’s mine.” Sitting there, face to face with the Devil, Natalie had a hard time holding herself together. She was on the verge of tears. “Because I want to live.”
“Why? What makes your life here so much better than the one I can give you?”
And there it was. What was Natalie’s life worth? What was it good for?
She’d spent years dreading this day, trying to think of an answer to that very question. It ate at every aspect of her life, its hold on her attention and her life increasing with each failed meeting with Scarlet. She lost jobs because of it, as well as friends and family due to her distance. What little spare money she had was squandered on whiskey to cloud her thoughts.
And in all those years of thinking, Natalie never found an answer.
She leaned onto her elbows, head in hand. “I don’t know.” Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t hide her feelings of utter defeat. “I don’t have an answer for you.”
“I see.” Scarlet leaned forward and put a hand on her shoulder. It might have felt comfortable if it were anyone else. “So then what’s the problem? Are you scared of me?”
“Don’t be. I don’t want to hurt you, sweetie, I want to have you. It’s what I’ve wanted this whole time.”
“I gave you my heart and soul, and then…” Natalie tried to push the memories of that day out of her mind. She always dwelled on it around the time she met with Scarlet each year. “Why do all this? You already have me if you want. Why torture me for so many years?”
“Because it’s fun.” Scarlet shrugged. “Because I want you to admit that you want this, too. Because if you really and truly don’t, you’d come up with a reason why.” Natalie wanted to slap that grin off her painted red lips. “Or would you rather hear something like ‘Because I’m a bitch’ or ‘Because I’m the Devil?’ Those are true, too.”
Natalie hated that smugness. Scarlet knew that she had won. Not that it was hard to tell—anyone who saw them could plainly see that Natalie had given up. She’d worn that look of hollow resignation for years now. She wanted to look tough, but despite what the movies told her, no one was going to hold their head up high and go out with dignity. They’d get scared and beg. She was just happy she wasn’t openly weeping out in public. “Why do you want to kill me?”
“Kill you? Who said anything about killing you?”
Natalie lifted her head enough to give Scarlet a blank stare. “Isn’t that what happens with the Devil gets your soul?”
“It could be,” Scarlet said. “I don’t want it to be. It would just mean that you belong to me, forever, in this life and all eternity.”
Had she been scared over nothing all this time? She already belonged to Scarlet, having given up her soul seven years ago. She was too stupid to ever ask, and Scarlet was too much of a bitch to ever tell her. “So I’ll just keep on living my life?”
The sunken feeling in her gut at the thought surprised her less than it should have.
“No. You’ll never go back to it. You’ll be at my whim, completely.” If a snake could have smiled, it would have looked a lot like Scarlet did in that moment. “Trust me, it will be quite fun.”
“For me or for you?”
“That would be telling. I don’t like ruining surprises. It can’t be worse than what you’ve got.” Scarlet took a sip of her tea. “Don’t think I didn’t notice that sadness at the prospect of continuing to live your life.”
It was true. Natalie lived a very lonely, empty life. She didn’t have much of a drive to live, given her circumstances. But the other option wasn’t very appealing, either. “What’s the point of living if I’m your slave? People should be free to do what they want, and live how they want. You can’t just take that away from me.”
“You should have thought of that before you gave yourself to me.”
“You’re an asshole.” Natalie wanted to scream and slam the table and make a scene. At least she’d go out with a bang, but she couldn’t find the energy. It didn’t matter. Yelling and throwing things wouldn’t make any difference at all. “I don’t want to spend eternity with you. Let me go.”
“Natalie,” Scarlet said with a sigh, “you’ve wasted your entire life. You have no job, no meaningful relationships out of me, no friends, no–”
“Stop.” Natalie’s tone was grim as she waved her hand in front of her. “I get it. It’s a sad, pathetic life. But it’s still my life, not yours.”
Scarlet laughed. “Please. What life? Are you honestly happy? Are you content with things? Do you even have a reason to get up in the morning? Things could be so much better for you.”
The way she laughed pissed Natalie off, but what could she do? She sure as hell didn’t want to tell Scarlet the real answer to any of those questions.
And yet, Scarlet was silent, waiting for an answer, trying to coax it out of Natalie with her eyes. The way she leaned forward on her hand and looked at her with those crimson eyes, Natalie hated to admit, made her look extremely cute. She tried to rid herself of those thoughts, but her traitorous mind had different ideas.
It was hard to deny Scarlet the satisfaction of an answer when she couldn’t help staring at her tits. Even in her defiant silence, Scarlet had her in her grasp, and they both knew it.
She stood up and placed a hand on Natalie’s shoulder, having grown tired of their games. “Come on,” she said, “Let’s go.”
Natalie regretted never sipping her tea. She realized she may never have the chance again.
Scarlet’s car was parked a few blocks down the road, but it felt like the longest walk of Natalie’s life. She drove a flashy red convertible, the kind of car Natalie would normally love. To feel the wind in her hair, to listen to the sound of the engine, it was the stuff of dreams. She didn’t enjoy the ride.
She’d moved up in the world since Natalie last saw her. At some point she’d traded her trendy loft for a gated, three-story mansion. The lawn was immaculately manicured even in the messy autumn weather, and the trees lining the perimeter were all shades of red and orange. Scarlet was apparently still a secretive person. Where she’d once lived high above the city where no one could see her, now she was behind gates, trees, and darkly curtained windows.
The door creaked when Scarlet opened it and Natalie tepidly walked behind her, pausing at the threshold until Scarlet tugged her inside. At some point Scarlet must have traded trendy minimalism for gothic Victorian sensibilities, which given her fickle nature didn’t surprise Natalie one bit. Her house looked like it came straight out of a painting. The modern amenities felt almost out of place, but Scarlet found a way to work them into the room naturally. It was, of course, decorated in various shades of red, from almost neutral to eye-catching vibrancy.
The one thing that caught her eye, however, looked positively drab in comparison to everything else. There on the very center of the mantle was something Natalie recognized all too well.
It was a great loft, high above the city, and much larger than any living space Natalie was used to. Seeing where Scarlet lived, she started feeling embarrassed about all those times they’d gone to her studio apartment—her studio apartment that she shared with a roommate. Other than the space, the colors were the first thing that caught Natalie’s eye. The north wall was red brick, and the others were painted a dark, deep red. Even the wooden floor had a reddish tinge to it.
“Wow,” was all she could say. She felt so small in it. One similarity between their homes was that they were mainly just one room, only Scarlet’s was huge. She got a cup of water from the kitchen nook and placed the red roses that Scarlet gave her into it, setting it down on the counter. “This place is just–”
When she turned around, Scarlet was standing right behind her, a hungry look in her eyes. Natalie jumped, thankful that she had put the glass down before she could drop it. “You startled m–”
For the second time in a row Scarlet interrupted her without needing to say anything. This time she grabbed Natalie and pushed her against the wall. She pressed her lips against Natalie’s and began exploring her body with one hand, the other grabbing a handful of hair.
Scarlet pushed her leg between Natalie’s thighs to spread them and shoved her hand underneath her skirt. “No panties?” Scarlet licked her smiling lips.
“I thought they’d just get in the way.” In their month of dating, they hadn’t made love before. Scarlet wanted to wait and make it a birthday present, and Natalie was too impatient to wait a second longer than she absolutely needed to.
It was totally worth the wait.
Natalie was spent and exhausted, lying in Scarlet’s large bed, covered with sweat-coated red sheets. She’d be surprised if she could walk tomorrow. Scarlet was next to her, still catching her breath. The way her body rose and fell with each breath, the way the sweat on her pale skin caught the light, the look in her eyes, Natalie couldn’t resist the urge to kiss her.
Scarlet was the one to break it, slowly moving her lips to Natalie’s ear, breath hot against it. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, baby. I swear, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me.” Natalie, still tired and spent, lazily pulled Scarlet down so they could lie together. “Best. Birthday. Ever.”
“Only the best for you,” Scarlet said, resting her head on Natalie’s chest. Her hand moved softly on Natalie’s belly, lazy motions that felt amazing. “Will you give your heart to me, completely?”
“What?” That was a strange question, but Scarlet always did have a thing for the overly dramatic. It must have come with being an acting student.
“I’m just being a little dramatic, babe. I’m sorry. It’s just, in movies and stories, you know? Everything always sounds like that, and I love it. I like hearing it.” She pushed herself up, both palms on the bed, so she could look into Natalie’s eyes. “So, Natalie, do your heart and soul belong to me?”
Seeing her above her like that, long hair cascading down onto Natalie, she knew there was only one answer to that question. “Fuck yes. After that birthday present of yours, my body does too. Especially if you promise to do all that again.”
Scarlet smiled and caressed Natalie’s cheek. Her hand went lower, sensual touches as her fingertips traced down Natalie’s neck. And then she started digging into her chest with a long fingernail.
“I thought so.”
“Is that why I haven’t been able to fall in love?”
Scarlet shook her head. “No, not at all. I haven’t done anything to your heart. Not yet, anyway.” She pressed herself against Natalie’s back and wrapped her arms around her. She kissed the side of Natalie’s neck, and it wasn’t nearly as good as it was seven years ago. “All your failings in love and romance are your own.” Natalie wasn’t sure if that made her feel better or worse.
“Is there anything that could make this easier on you? I can get some wine, if you’d like.”
“I don’t like red wine.”
“Neither do I. I only keep white wine around.” She poured a glass for herself and one for Natalie. Natalie wasn’t sure where the bottle or the glasses came from. She didn’t think on it for too long. It was hard to care about much when faced with the end of her life. That she wouldn’t literally die made no difference to her. Her life was effectively over in a little under six hours.
Scarlet took her to the bedroom. She still had red sheets, blankets, and pillows, but there was a new, much larger bed. The room was huge, with candles along the walls for lighting and a large, gold-framed painting on the wall. The centerpiece, the bed, was red-trimmed with gold and had a magnificent canopy of thin, translucent curtains draped around it. Under different circumstances, a place like this would be romantic.
“Relax,” the Devil told her, as if it were somehow possible. She began to squeeze and knead Natalie’s shoulders from behind. It didn’t help; no massage would get her to relax. She wanted to put up a fight, but she just didn’t have it in her.
Scarlet began to strip down, revealing that perfect body, exactly as Natalie remembered it. When Natalie didn’t follow suit, Scarlet began to remove her clothes for her. “Cheer up, will you? I’m the Devil, but that doesn’t make me a bad person, you know. So what if I like playing games with a pretty girl’s soul every now and then? I’m just trying to give you a better life.”
“You’re trying to steal my life away from me.”
Scarlet pushed Natalie onto the bed, onto her back. She didn’t move after that, keeping her arms where they fell. What life? Shit. Scarlet was right. She’d spent so much of her life preoccupied with Scarlet’s “game” that she’d never actually lived it.
Natalie stared up at the high ceiling, the chandelier blurry in her unfocused vision. Scarlet crawled on top of her like a tiger stalking her prey.
If Natalie ignored who it belonged to, the Devil’s nude body was the most beautiful thing Natalie had ever seen. She wasn’t entirely naked—she still had some of her gold jewelry on—but she wasn’t wearing any clothes. She had perfect white skin, marred only by the red tattoo around her navel, and a few gold piercings here and there. If only she were this beautiful on the inside.
Scarlet kissed her way up Natalie’s thigh, then her stomach, chest, and neck. She crawled slowly up the bed until she could lock eyes with Natalie. For her part, Natalie only looked into Scarlet’s crimson eyes because they were there. She was staring past her, into the empty cloudy, darkening space of her mind.
“Come on, baby. Don’t you remember our wild night together? I certainly do. It was wonderful, and if I recall correctly, you said you wanted me to do it all again.” Scarlet lowered her head, lips to Natalie’s ear. “Your wish is granted.”
She didn’t resist when Scarlet slowly pulled her legs apart and kissed her between them. She twitched at the touch of Scarlet’s lips there, but she didn’t reciprocate anything. She didn’t coax her on, grab her red hair, or push herself into Scarlet. Natalie remained as still and quiet as she could, only the occasional squirm or moan betraying her.
Natalie wanted to resist, but Scarlet was good. Really good. And why shouldn’t she be? She was the Devil and lust was one of her many domains. It was like that night seven years ago, the best sex she’d ever had. She stopped trying to fight it. When Scarlet moved up to kiss her, Natalie wrapped her arms tightly around her back.
“That’s it,” Scarlet said. Her fingers were still in Natalie’s pussy, exactly where they both wanted them. “Just enjoy yourself.”
Natalie could only resist so long. She was enjoying herself far too much. So much that she was able to put all the rest of it, all her worries and fears, out of her mind, at least for as long as Scarlet fucked her. She felt herself getting close. Scarlet knew just what she liked and didn’t stop with it. She was warm and soft, lying on top of Natalie, and it felt so good being this close to someone, even if it was her. It had been so long since she felt the embrace of another, the sensation of flesh against flesh. She felt awake. For the first time in years, she felt alive.
And then it hit her.
It hit her like a wave of electricity through her entire body. Her grip tightened on Scarlet’s tattooed back, fingernails digging into it, drawing red blood to mix with the red ink. She wanted it to last forever, but like every climax, it faded away. Unlike their first time, Scarlet didn’t continue to fuck her.
“So.” Scarlet pushed herself up off of Natalie so that she straddled her stomach, gazing down at her with a clear sense of accomplishment. “Can you admit that spending eternity with me won’t be so bad? I can do more to convince you, if you’d like.”
“I’m not going to spend eternity with you.” It wasn’t the orgasm that hit her in that moment—not just the orgasm, anyway—it was a realization. “I’m going to keep my life, and my soul.”
“You just proved it to me. I can still feel good. I can still be happy. After seven years, you just showed me that there’s still a chance that my life won’t be wasted. If there’s a chance of that, then I deserve to have it.”
Scarlet folded her arms in thought, staying quiet for a while. “You’re completely right.”
Natalie smiled, for real, for the first time in as long as she could remember. “So I’m free of you?”
Scarlet nodded. “If you want to be, then yes. You can walk out of here and I’ll leave you alone forever. Really, you’ll never see me again. That’s as good a case as any, I suppose.” She didn’t get up, however, still straddling Natalie, who was too exhausted to move her. “Just one thing.”
“I want you to think long and hard on this.” She didn’t need to. Natalie had thought long and hard on it for most of her adult life. All she wanted was to be free of the Devil’s grasp. “Have you ever, in all of your days, felt happier and more alive than when you were with me? Have you ever felt anything when you weren’t? Even just now, you told me you felt better than you have in years.”
Natalie started to give her a quick retort, but something held the words back.
Scarlet shifted her body, lifting a leg over Natalie so she wasn’t pinned down anymore. She could get up and leave right away, nothing holding her back. “Do you really want to give that up?”
Nothing held her back, that is, except for the truth: Scarlet was right.