By Ben Pyle
Satan is a staggeringly good kisser. Not too much tongue. A light nibble on the lower lip. Way better than my ex-husband.
My dead husband.
Satan and I have been seeing each other for a little over three months. Met on Tinder. Go figure.
Not that I knew he was Satan when I swiped right. He went by Sam. Washboard abs. Ebony eyes. Utterly irresistible.
I’d been out of the dating scene for a while. My husband passed two years ago, and I couldn’t quite bring myself to sign up for an internet dating profile promising to match me with my next love. As if I could ever find love again.
But when my friend told me about the freedom of meeting men via cell phone with no strings attached, I thought, what the hell?
Amid the sea of received semi-hard genitalia pics, I matched with this handsome devil now sitting across from me.
Wiping away my gloss from his lips with a napkin, Sam explains how much he’s loved our time together. How he can envision a future for us. How he can’t believe the way my husband completely downplayed my beauty and sense of humor.
Blinking, I ask him to clarify his meaning.
He casually explains how, of course, he met my husband two years ago when he descended into Hell and became Sam’s eternal prisoner. Hadn’t he mentioned this before?
My blank expression spurs him to continue saying how my husband was a terrible, terrible person and deserved every bit of torture he’s received and will continue to endure. However, his recurrent screaming of my name led Sam to inquire about me. My preferences. My tastes. My character.
Am I going to finish the last bit of wine?
No, all yours, I say. But, if what you’re saying is true, that would make you —
Satan, he says. Yes. Not the best name to put out there to attract a partner. A bit loaded.
Oh, sure, I agree.
Anyway, he says, that’s why he wanted to have this little chat tonight.
My husband is in Hell, and only I have the power to spare his soul.
* * *
I like to think I wasn’t always attracted to devilish men. In high school, I dated an Eagle Scout. For two weeks.
But I’ve only ever discovered the men I care about hide a dark side too late for my own good. In college, I thought my advisor simply wanted to see me get into a great graduate school.
Shane was different. Waited to engage me physically until I was comfortable. Engaged me properly with the permission of my father, outdated as that may now seem.
We married on his family farm surrounded by friends. Bought a house in the historic district. Remodeled it to fit our tastes. Every inch ours.
Sure, he liked to drink. Enjoyed gambling. Going out. Having a good time.
When he died, I was home asleep. I’d had a hard day at work, and he’d just closed a big deal. I wanted to celebrate with him, but I needed to get up early. Go on, I said. Have fun. Just be careful.
And he was.
His heart simply stopped. Doctors said it was an arrhythmia. Young man, healthy diet, worked out. Just genetic. Died before the ambulance even arrived.
* * *
But then you learned the rest of it, Satan says. About Shane’s other life.
What do you mean? I ask.
Don’t make me say it, Satan pleads.
No idea what you’re talking about.
He huffs, rolling those gorgeous dark eyes and saying, You still believe he’s your perfect angel?
Shane was everything to me.
Not debating that, Satan says, reaching for my hand.
I pull away and grab the wine bottle. Might need another glass after all.
Simply suggesting you didn’t know him as well as you believed, Satan says.
Because you haven’t kept anything from me, I counter.
* * *
The funeral came and went quickly. Life went on, not noticing Shane’s absence. Work. Bills.
Shane always handled the finances. More business-minded. More financially savvy. Didn’t want to overburden me.
Surprised? Shocked? Of course.
Devastated? Hardly. I’d lost the most perfect person who’d ever walked the planet. Nothing could destroy me further. These oddities could all be explained if only Shane were still here.
* * *
He had plenty of opportunities to inform you of his dealings.
I never asked.
So, it was your fault?
No, but there are more important things than money.
Like love. Like giving the benefit of the doubt.
Like he granted you? In thinking you’d understand? Forgive him?
Yes. I down the glass of wine and signal the waiter to fetch a fresh bottle.
Seems like you’ve decided, then.
Shane, Love, says Satan.
I stare into his unblinking coal-black gaze.
So, you’re The Devil, I say.
You can still call me Sam.
Remind me of my options?
Whether I spare your husband’s soul.
Sure. Spare him.
Just like that?
Why not? I, obviously, don’t want him to suffer.
What is this? Look, I was drunk enough to entertain your shit half an hour ago, okay? But I’m done. Drop the act. What, did he owe you money, too? Sleep with your girlfriend? Your wife? You decide to get back at him by catfishing me or whatever you call this? Scare me into revealing something about him you can use? ‘Cause, listen, if you think you can hurt him by messing with me, you obviously didn’t know him as well as you thought.
You, neither, “Satan” says.
Not meaning to singe you with the truth. I care about you.
That’s why you’ve lied to me all this time, right?
You weren’t quite prepared to hear —
What? How the person I cared for played me? How I’d grown to trust you and instead you’d been screwing me with that smug look on your goddamned face? How I figured something was up, but why would I say anything, right? Why would I jeopardize what we had just to preserve your pride and self-worth when you never gave two shits for mine? Never. I cooked and cleaned and worked and listened to your bullshit only for you to take our money and ruin whatever safety-net we had for the future. But you weren’t even looking to spend your life with me, were you? You were looking for the next thrill. How can I get ahead, how can I sleep with more women, how can I — Right, Shane? And now I’m stuck here without —
I really do prefer you call me Sam.
I’m sure you do.
The waiter stands at a safe distance, lest he steps into my line of fire. I waive him off and bend to gather my purse.
Quite finished? “Sam” asks.
How was it? Releasing your anger?
Honestly? Hurts even more.
Then you wish him to suffer?
For the love of — Would you stop? I loved my husband. ‘Til death do us part.
And you have.
No. We haven’t. Not in the slightest. I don’t know what happened between us. What reasons he had for — I only know I loved him. Love him. I’ll never escape him. I don’t want to.
“Sam” sighs and tosses his napkin on the table between us saying, Damn. Really liked him, too.
As did I.
First time for everything. Guess I should at least earn my deserved due. Not used to losing a wager.
Hope you bet against the spread.
My wallet falls from my open purse onto the floor. I reach down only to sense someone standing at my side.
“I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to ask you to leave,” the waiter says.
“Just grabbing some money to pay the check,” I say.
I return upright to see the overturned bottle of wine leaking onto the tablecloth. Too expensive to taste that bad anyway.
The restaurant’s assorted guests avert their eyes. Utensils clinking. The chair across from me sits empty. Undisturbed.
“Do we need to call someone for you, ma’am?”
I stand the bottle back up, the label’s dancing devil laughing merrily.
“I’m fine,” I say. Perhaps believing it.