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The Town was a small one, enough so that everybody knew each other. There were the men, and their wives and children. The houses were all the same: tiny and somewhat square with quaint red roofs, your classic Southern town. Side by side, far enough apart to allow privacy yet not too far that privacy exists. The houses were all wooden with sloping roofs, some freshly painted others slightly more worn, lining down the single long street all facing each other. The grass stood short and green, waving hello to the people passing by whenever the wind beckoned them. If no one was watching, the grass still was with its subtle, unespied gaze.
Within this Town, there was a girl with skin the color of butterscotch, so rich one could smell the sweet wafting vanilla scents of her body from miles away. Hair so fair, the color of lemonade on a summer’s day, with candied lemon eyes to match. No one had ever seen such a beauty before, exotic, full of colors so warm there were stories saying she didn't even need electricity, for her body's radiation was enough. These were all myths, not known to be true, discussed in hushed tones. No one had ever spoken to her, not even to learn her name.
People began to call her the Sugar Lady.
The men were enamored by the Sugar Lady, the wives despised her. Wives grabbed their husbands and turned them away when she walked by. She would always leave her sugary scent in her wake that would stick to everyone’s skin like dried maple syrup. No one tried to talk to her, except for the children. The children would pitter pat down the cobbled streets barefoot, creep up to her house, knock on the door, and await to see if there was a response. Wide eyed with irises so clear, one could almost see the bright light shining through, the curiosity sparking like flint stone. Their mothers pulled them away before they could ever receive an answer.
Men dreamt about her, her golden skin, how it would feel pressed against their tongues, the flavor of deliciously saccharine caramel seeping down their throats. The dream woman, mystifyingly beautiful, young with everything still upright. From the minute she moved into town, no longer did the men think about their wives or each other's wives, now the men would think of the Sugar Lady, the flesh and bone fantasy.
Nothing bad ever happened to the Town, the citizens were sheltered and blanketed like a newborn baby in its burrito-like cloth. Therefore, when the children started going missing, their vibrant eyes no longer visible, panic erupted. Hysteria so strong, the wives’ tears drenched the country house floors, the scent of moist wood hanging limply in the air for days on end. All that was left in the Town was the sadness and emptiness of the wives: empty shells scooped hallow.
The wives cried for each child gone missing, as it began at one, then two, then three. The small town had never faced something like this, such confusion and agony. The wives mourned for their children, making heart shattering assumptions. They envisioned wild beasts tearing up their children's flesh, gore staining the forest’s grounds like cheap hair dye. Tripping and falling, losing consciousness on the ground all alone. A specific someone finding them, seducing them, stealing their innocence. Trapping them inside her dungeon, torturing them and ripping their hearts out to boil for later, leaving their bodies to rot alone. The wives believed what they wanted.
"She messed with the balance," they all said. "Nothing had ever gone wrong until that w***e came here," they said. No one had ever spoken to the Sugar Lady, yet everyone decided she was a witch. That she had done it. And so the men proceeded, following their wives' desires, yet also their own. They went to her house, the Sugar Lady’s.
The men approached the black door of her quaint house. The pathway was a long dirt road, covered in rocks and pebbles, dust rising with each step. The color of the house itself was a muted cream tone, the type that looks like it had been painted many years ago, as the wooden color peeked through like flies do to people from their walls. Four ornate, white pillars lined the entrance to the house along with white fencing, hovering over a pleasant porch made out of old, unsanded wood, almost as if a man had never been around to fix it up. On either side of the door resided two white windows, square at the bottom but rounded at the top, covered by shades so no one could see inside.
The huddle of them inched closer, slowly rapping on the door frame. Silence followed, eerie and tense, as the wives watched from a distance and the men prayed for a response. There was an animal inside of them, waiting to be fed by this woman, the perfect mid-afternoon snack. The pause was so long that the men turned around, when suddenly the door swung open. The men all raised their arms up to block the light intensity until they adjusted. Standing there was the Sugar Lady.
"Good evening gentlemen, how can I be of your assistance this fine evening?"
The men swooned, staring at her honey smooth face. They had forgotten to respond, words dripping and melting within their minds and out of every orifice, completely at a loss. Empty.
"Uh, yes, Sugar- Uh, Ma'am. We cannot seem to find our children you see… We are going to need-ta have a look around."
In they walked.
The aromas hit them first, the scent overwhelming, like thousands of snickerdoodles and lemon bars being baked in an oven at once. They were greeted by yellow walls, light-toned hardwood floors, and a soft glow in the air. There were no lamps or windows to be found, yet the brightness was astounding. They crept forward to the end of the hallway, where they were greeted by a kitchen that looked untouched, an oven lit up golden and bright. Lace draped over the walls like sunlight tattoos. Vacant, yet delicate looking chairs of all different sizes occupied the rooms, waiting desperately for someone or anyone. A piece of matching yellow, silk cloth separated themselves from the next room, so the men drew open the curtain, walking into a room with couches buttressing the walls, facing the center of the room like an ancient Greek amphitheatre.
They slumped onto the couches, weak kneed, watching her glide away from behind: the swishing of her blonde hair and curves of her body as she left the room. They all looked down, staring at their feet, crossing their legs in silence until the sound of footsteps began to near again, soft and gentle.
She stood in the center of the room, the walls giving her body a goddess like halo that somehow made her even more appealing to the men. She began to play with her turtleneck, her long skirt swishing, when she broke the silence, "I thought you might be here for the children, as I believe I may know where they reside. I tried my very hardest to inform one of the men in town, however, all he could seem to do was stare at me. I felt so desperate, and I do not know why he could or would not respond… This is off topic, however. I was sitting by my window having some tea and cookies when I saw them in my backyard, digging tunnels in the dirt. They were over that way," and she pointed to the back of her house with her brows scrunched together in concern, eyes wide with empathy.
The men sat there, silent. They stared at the woman as she stared back. A look of confusion arose on her face and she asked, "Is there anything else I can do for you all?"
And the men sat there, silent. Realization crossed the Sugar Lady's face, a look of anger flashed and then disappeared, replaced with her smooth expression. "Okay” she replied, “I see."
With that she gracefully corrected her posture, and the men let out collective gasps. Lilting music started playing, soft and sensual like her voice, as her clothed body began to dance to the sound. Quick flashes of her golden skin seemed to fill the air, the minds of the men, and their universes. The swaying continued, calling for them to reach out for her, for the Sugar Lady.
"Sugar Lady, please, what do we call you?" one man let out as he continued to watch, enamored.
She let out a breathy laugh.
The gyrating continued, the glowing in the room growing so bright it was as if they were on the sun. The men thought of their wives, their missing children, of their wants. And so they let their families slip from their minds, releasing them like doves from a cage.
The pace picked up, louder, quicker, faster, more, more, more. Until one of them broke, cracked, crumpled, reached forward to touch her sweet, honey skin. On hands and knees he crawled, pure desire, reaching out for her. Hands pulling at clothes, trying to rip, tear, stretch, the soft fabric from her body. The others followed trying to catch up to him.
He reached out, she is mine he thought, tearing open her skirt, so close to her thigh, until finally his finger grazed the flesh through the torn apart stretch of fabric and
He melted. Almost fast enough that it could have been missed with a blink of an eye, yet at the same time torturously slow to make sure this would not be so. Legs puddled, the smell of burning flesh wafting around the room with its own breeze, mixing into and with the decadent smells of southern cooking. Then the torso and neck until the head and the arms were left, an expression of shock residing until they too reached the floor. A single hand left flailing, desperately reaching out and clawing at the ground: melted, bitter, expired, chocolate. The man was no longer there, his body dissolved until there was no one left. A slight imprint remained on the ground where he had been. The man was gone, one less breath in the room.
The others gasped in surprise, but continued going until they too had reached her body. Skin touched skin, men melted, dissolving, becoming one with the house, until there was no one else in the room but the Sugar Lady.
She dressed herself into something not torn and let the music simmer off into silence. She then walked out of the room, dusting off her hands, glad to be alone once again, the delightful smells returning.
The wives were all home waiting and watching the house as the lights turned on and off. Watched their husbands not return home. The wives stayed inside, fearful, what had happened when the men had invaded the house? Why have the gentlemen and loyal husbands not returned? That w***e. Never would their men do wrong, so the wives mourned. Their honest, brave, husbands must have expired looking for their kids, or still be out searching. The men would never forget about their families, would they?
None of the children had yet to pop up. Days, weeks passed. No men, no children, just the wives left. They continued on, walking around, lost without their families. Herds of them would come together: unshell nuts together, glare together, and stare longingly at the Sugar Lady’s House together. They talked and they gossiped and they conspired, yet they all went off to cry alone and confused. No one talked about the way their hearts felt like a magician's heavy straight jacket, sinking and pulling and empty, dragging them down into the tank alone.
They were going on their night walk when they decided to take a new route around to the back of the Sugar Lady's house. Maybe they would see the w***e doing something terrible, and could inform their husbands when they returned home.
As they were walking, they broached a pile of dirt. Almost like it could be a hole dug up in the ground. They stayed away for dirt was for the men: they were all wearing nice shoes that could not afford the damage. Sounds began rustling nearby, and out of the woods walked the children, crusted with grime and each holding a flashlight.
"The flash lights saved us mommy! Without the flashlights, we would have died! We were so scared!"
The wives rushed forward into the mud, arms extended as their children mirrored them. Love and relief and confusion swept through their hearts like a swift plague. Skinny arms and haunting, untold stories remained between the two generations: a gap that seemed much to deep to cross. The second the children lifted their arms to be hugged and to start to build the innocent bridge, with their flashlights extended towards their mothers hearts, the name Esther on the handles flashed along with a swift wave of vanilla.