Dylan got to know Rosa by degrees. Her reticence made it challenging to get to know her. Accustomed to knowing what most people were thinking, he found it both frustrating and intriguing to be in the dark, where Rosa was concerned. Dylan wondered if the gradual way she revealed aspects of herself to him was random or by design. Whenever he thought he had Rosa all figured out, she would behave in unexpected ways.
They were taking a walk through her neighborhood one afternoon, when she directed him across the street to a storefront he had never noticed before. The sign over the door said simply “Southside Botanica.” Thinking it was a bodega, Dylan held the door for her without following. He intended to wait outside.
Rosa grabbed his hand and pulled him inside. He was surprised to discover that it was not a grocery store. Wordlessly, Dylan followed Rosa up and down aisles crowded with various dried herbs, religious statues, candles, crystals and strange looking amulets. He watched her make her selections and check out. Back on the sidewalk, he waited for an explanation. She kept walking and he gradually realized one was not forthcoming.
“What was all that about,” asked Dylan.
“I just needed to pick up some bitter herbs.”
“Don’t be coy with me Rosa. What was that weird place you just dragged me into?”
“Haven’t you ever been to a botanica before?”
“Why the hell would I ever go into a place like that? I didn’t think you would either. So you’re into all that hippie dippy new age stuff?”
“Do I look like a hippie? Don’t be ridiculous Dylan. I’m a bruja.”
“I have no idea what that is.”
“I’m a healer.”
“What, like a doctor?”
“In a way, except I medicate with herbs and folk magic.”
“Are you trying to tell me you’re a witch?”
“I don’t identify with that label. I’m a bruja.”
“What’s the difference? You still believe in magic. I never would have guessed you of all people would waste time and money on this mumbo jumbo,” laughed Dylan.
Rosa made no attempt to argue, but he could see that she was upset. For the rest of the day, Rosa was taciturn with him. Dylan’s attempts to lighten the mood fell on flat. Irritated, he finally gave up and took his leave of her. When she got like that, the only thing that worked was to give her some space.
Dylan was still annoyed with her a week later. He ignored her texts and phone calls, opting to hang out with friends instead. Saturday night at the Aces Bar and Grill, Dylan was thrown for a loop when he looked up from his beer to see Rosa glaring at him from across the room. Continuing to ignore her was not an option. She would cause a scene that ended with him paying damages for whatever she decided to smash or pick up and throw at him. Dylan cautiously made his way over to her.
“What are you doing here Rosa?”
“It’s a free country. Am I not allowed to go out and have a drink?”
“So, you decided to go out and have a drink at a sports bar? You hate watching sports of any kind.”
“As I said, I’m just having a drink.”
“Fine, be that way,” Dylan huffed exasperatedly and turned to leave.
“Don’t you walk away from me!”
“You just said you’re here just to have a drink. So, enjoy your drink. I’m going back to finish watching the game with my friends.”
“So, you’re just going to leave me sitting here alone,” Rosa asked incredulously.
“I’m tired of these Mickey Mouse games.”
“So now you’re tired of me?”
“When you act like this I am.”
“What are you saying Dylan? You don’t want to be with me anymore?”
“No…I mean yes…oh hell, I don’t really know.”
Rosa stood abruptly and Dylan braced himself for a smack across the face. He sat dumbstruck, watching her stalk out of the bar. She didn’t return and did not contact him again. Dylan was initially relieved, then as days turned into weeks, then he felt increasingly uneasy. Was their relationship over or did she expect him to come crawling to her and beg for forgiveness? He’d be damned, if he’d do that, if anyone needed to apologize it was Rosa.
In the end, Dylan didn’t reach out to her. Things settled back into a predictable routine. Life was a lot less exciting without Rosa’s mischief, but the peace of mind he enjoyed made the loss of excitement a worthwhile exchange. Another woman eventually caught Dylan’s eye and he made a moved on with her.
There was a first date and then a second. When the third date ended, she came back to his apartment and spent the night. Rosa used her key and found them asleep in one another’s arms. Dylan had never before seen her so enraged. She launched herself at him in the darkness, clawing at his face with her long nails.
His date hurriedly her clothes up from the floor and escaped relatively unscathed, pulling a wrinkled dress over her head. Rose took little notice, focusing on inflicting damage to Dylan’s face. He refrained from hitting Rosa. His grandmother had raised him not to hit women. Instead, Dylan pulled on his jeans and tried to drag her to the door. He had succeeded in getting her to the foyer, when she wrenched her arm free and ran towards the kitchen in search of a weapon. Dylan halted her in the living room.
Rosa freed an arm and attempted to gouge his eyes. Dylan reflexively turned his head and shoved her away. Undaunted, Rosa tried again. Her attack became increasingly frenzied, each time he pushed her away. Rosa suddenly turned and picked up a crystal ashtray from a side table and cracked him in the forehead with it. His eyesight momentarily dimmed and a constellation of stars blazed behind his closed lids.
Rosa came at him again, before his eyes were open. Dylan blindly shoved her away and was alarmed by the sound of shattering glass. He opened his eyes to find Rosa tumbled backwards into the glass coffee table. Dylan waited, expecting her to jump up and come at him again. When Rosa didn’t move, Dylan cautiously approached and knelt beside her.
A shard of broken glass had pierced her back and was jutting out of her chest. Dylan gasped. Not knowing what else to do, he panicked and tried to pull the glass out of her back. Rosa screamed and he fell back onto his buttocks, crab-walking back away from her. Panic kept him rooted in place, until he noticed her lips were moving. Dylan crawled back over to her and put his ear to her mouth.
“I curse you Dylan Maxwell. From now until the end of your days, you will become the wolf in sheep’s clothing you always were, every time the moon is full,” she rasped.