BURNING LOVE • by Janel Gradowski

“This is ridiculous,” Eric sighed and studied the woman lying next to him. She was gorgeous, even in the murky darkness of the bedroom. Raven black hair, ocean blue eyes, wine red lips, alabaster skin. A real Greek God’s pin-up girl. She was perfect. What man wouldn’t love her?

One more time. Just to make sure. He slowly traced a line down her arm, from elbow to fingertip. No sizzle. No sparks. No warm, pink line appearing like a jet contrail behind his finger. He felt only her silky smooth skin. She didn’t wake up. She didn’t gasp at the shock of his touch. She rolled over and murmured something about coffee.

This wasn’t what he expected when they met at the party two weeks ago. It was love at first sight. He was sure of it, until he casually touched her elbow during a conversation about seafood restaurants. Nothing happened. Not even a zap of static electricity. She smiled at him and described a grilled salmon dinner.

Eric slipped out of bed and made his way to the bathroom. The bare light bulbs over the mirror cast jagged, gray shadows on his face. He looked and felt tired and demented.

“Father, why did you curse me like this?” he whispered.

A booming baritone voice came from the toilet, “So that you will know when you find true love.”

“Um, you’re speaking through the toilet.”

“So? I am speaking to you. Why does it matter?”

“Because I need to pee.”

“Very well.” The voice was now coming from the corroded shower head. “Is this better? Or did you need to take a shower too?”

Eric sighed, “What do you want, father?”

“You asked me a question. I answered. Now I have a question for you.”

Eric flushed the toilet, shook his head and muttered, “Here it comes.”

“Why are you wasting your time with this woman? You know she isn’t your true love. Your mother and I would like some grandchildren soon.”

“I don’t think having fun is a waste of time.” Eric dried his hands on a thread-bare towel. “Besides, why do I need to have children with my true love? Plain old lust will solve that problem.”

“Nonsense!” A spray of rusty water flew out of the shower head. “Only mortals can reproduce without love.”

“You could’ve picked a different way to let me know when I’ve found her,”  Eric whined, “Do you really think a woman will want to stay with me after I give her second degree burns?”

“You said you were looking for a love burning with passion. That’s what I gave you.”

“I didn’t mean it literally.”

“Picky, picky. You know the searing heat thing will only happen the first time you touch her. Then you’ll be back to your normal, boring self.”

“Whatever, father.”  Eric shifted his weight from foot to foot. He was naked and it was cold in the dingy bathroom. “Haven’t you ever heard of once bitten, twice shy?”

“No, I have not.” The voice paused for a few seconds. “You know, you don’t need to bite them. A simple touch will do.”

“I know that.” Eric ran his fingers through his hair, turning it into a spiky, wild mess. “Are we done?”

“Fine. Until next time, son.”

Eric turned off the light and stood in the doorway, letting his eyes adjust. Her bedroom was messier than expected. The closet doors couldn’t close because of the tangle of clothes and shoes spilling out of it. More clothes were draped over the back of a rocking chair near the window. A small table next to the chair was covered with precariously stacked books.

Books. He had never been able to understand the obsession some mortals had with them. What was the big deal? They were just a bunch of words printed on paper.

The portrait of a beautiful woman on one of the covers caught his attention. Why did the beautiful, real woman sleeping in the bed want to read this book? He picked it up and examined it in the pale moonlight. The book felt odd in his hands, peculiarly warm. A wisp of white smoke curled through the darkness as Eric watched charred halos forming around his fingertips. He had found true love.

“Father isn’t going to like this.”

Janel Gradowski lives and writes among the farm fields of central Michigan. She is a wife, mother and dog owner, among other things. Her fiction and non-fiction work has appeared in many print and online publications.

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