Mosca opened the front door and there she was, standing in the hall, about to knock on his door. She looked so worn out. All life had drained from her, leaving an emaciated shell of what she use to be. For Mosca, the most shocking was how dim and bleak her eyes were.
Without a word spoken, she entered his apartment. Together, they went to his bedroom and lay in his bed. Mosca wrapped his arm around her shoulders. He cringed as he felt her bones beneath the thin layer of skin. Even her scent had changed. She was clean and smelled as if she had just stepped out of the shower. Yet, underneath the soap smell, he could detect something akin to rotting apples. When she curled her fingers around his hair, gone was the strength of a healthy woman. He also noticed red scabs all over her arms. Some were healing while others were fresh and moist with blood.
Though he found her body worn out and unattractive, there was still the energy she exuded. It was a drug for Mosca and he wanted to consume her until there was nothing left but her sickly skin and bones.
She reached for his face, her fingers tracing the outlines of his face. She studied his features, drinking every inch of his being.
“I have to go soon” She whispered, tears gathering in her eyes. Her voice was weak and lifeless. Before he could formulate any kind of reply, she pressed her lips to his, making him forget all but the hunger. In the midst of their passion, Mosca heard her whisper It’s the ladybugs over and over, like a worshipping monk.
When she was curled up, sleeping like a cat, he took a shower and sat in the kitchen, smoking and looking out the window. He wondered where Nina had been, what she did to reduce herself to a shadow like creature. He didn’t mind so much since there was still that strong connection.
Just as he drifted off in memories of all the moments they shared, a ladybug landed on the window. Mosca let out a grunt, watching it crawl over the glass.
He continued to think about Nina, to question her daily existence. After a year, he realized she had never revealed anything about herself.
Another ladybug joined the first, crawling in senseless patterns on the window.
Mosca had met Nina the previous year, after his wife, Amber, had died in a car accident. It was the day he finally got the courage to throw away Amber’s belongings: old make-up, her favorite cat mug, bracelets, miss matched earrings, a broken comb and many scarves. She had always loved collecting scarves. It drove Mosca crazy at the time. Now, he missed it along with other small quirks she had.
Amber and Mosca were newlyweds, both eager and excited to take on the world together. Their heroic plans ended abruptly when Amber was hit by a car while walking a neighbor’s dog.
As thoughts of his dead wife resurfaced, Mosca noticed there were now several ladybugs on the window. He almost felt like they were observing him.
Deeper in the past his thoughts ran. The day he threw out that last box should have been a hard day for Mosca. It was eerily the easiest thing he did. By throwing her belongings in the trash, he threw out any attachment he felt for other people. Looking at the trash bin outside his apartment, Mosca savored the numb feeling as it spread from his gut to the rest of his body.
That is when she appeared, from around the bend. She wore a white dress that hugged her curves in all the right places. Her hair flew in the wind without a care. She smiled a wicked smile, the blue eyes on fire with lust. Thus started a weekly encounter with the only person Mosca had craved, as one craves a hallucinogen.
As images of the old Nina floated in his mind’s eye, he realized that now his window was completely covered with ladybugs. Mosca went up to the window, feeling the eyes of the insects follow him. He had never seen so many ladybugs gathered in one place. All of a sudden, it seemed like their attention shifted to a point behind him. Mosca turned around and saw Nina with his blanket covering her naked body. She stood frozen, exuding utter fear. Her lips quivered and her eyes darted from the ladybugs to him. She quickly turned away, not bothering to put her clothes on or close the door behind her.
In twos and threes, the ladybugs flew away. Mosca took another cigarette, sat down and smoked away the night.
The following year found Mosca traveling, going from city to city, promoting his book of short stories and establishing more solid contacts in the literary world.
On one of his tours, he finally saw Nina again. She was sitting in a café, reading a book, drinking a fancy drink. She looked healthier then the last time. The scabs were gone; she had gained some weight, though she wasn’t as voluptuous as before. Her hair was longer and more tamed. She still had that sensual energy surrounding her and that is how he found her in the crowded café. The way her eyes lingered over the words of her book while she reached out and stroked the mug absentmindedly reminded him of her touch.
There was no thinking needed. He went to her table, sat down next to her. He whispered a few pleasantries in her ear and she laughed like she use to. A ladybug landed on her book while they chatted. She simply brushed it away, continuing her thoughts where she left off. Soon after that, they found themselves in his hotel room, recreating the rituals exactly as before.
Consuming her was the same as before. The old hunger took over as they stripped each other of their clothes and inhibitions. The soothing fire of passion spread through his body like the drug he knew her to be. Just as expected, her energy gave him a moment of ecstasy.
“Tell me a story.” She asked with a sleepy voice. Smiling, Mosca stroked her hair, feeling like the world was right again.
“Once upon a time, not too long ago…” He started. She perked up her head and with a sly smile she finished the formula:
“In a far away land, much like yours and mine.” Mosca’s smile faded as he truly looked at the woman in his bed. Everything about her was the same as Nina, except for her eyes. They were a dark shade of gray, not bright blue. He got up and went to take a shower, leaving her curled up like a cat in bed.