“We fight like cats and dogs, but we really do love each other, right?”

That was Layla’s favorite line. We were… you know, that kind of couple. People would have called us Joanie and Chachi, or Ronny and Sammy, or any other corny generation-claiming example that fit two people who really did not belong together.

People probably would have called us that. If people knew we were together. We kept it quiet, and it’s stayed that way ever since.

We were just teenagers, after all, who met at the mall. A couple of stupid kids who had not yet learned the difference between lust and love. At least, that’s how I saw it.

I loved the way her curly brown hair bounced up and down on my mom’s basement couch.

I loved the feeling of my lips on that soft spot between her shoulder and neck.

I loved the sound of her whispers and little gnaws on my ear.

I loved the smell of her cinnamon perfume.

But those were just sensations. Something on the surface that might have sparkled and shined in my young mind, sure, but… Did it mean anything? To either of us? We had nothing in common. That was clear. I was a book worm; a classic example of a kid who kept his eyes on the prize. College was my excuse to get out. Layla said she had not applied. She was a self-proclaimed Satanist who spent her Saturdays with her five favorite slasher films. She didn’t even go to my school.

“It’s a Catholic school,” she would say, her voice dripping with irony. “Just past the state line.”

She was a crazy kid. The type that claimed a rough childhood and reflected it in every unhealthy habit she could find. She talked about drugs a lot, and had tried everything just about everything once.

“Sometimes it’s fun to try and see if there’s a God,” was her explanation.

She smoked Camels, the pink ones, and they gave her voice an unattractive rust.

“I’m not the girl who wants to meet your mom,”

She said that a lot too. So the first time we had sex, she snuck into my basement after two. After that, Layla became my addiction.

I found myself needing her every weekend. That was mandatory. We had a meetup every Saturday, halfway between both of our houses on the freeway where we sat, and talked, and had sex. Without that, it always felt like I was missing something in my life. I was tired, cranky; angry, even.

My parents had noticed a change in me, and had begun to worry about my tanking grades. Mom had asked about the scars on my back, and the smell of smoke on my jacket. Dad wanted me to keep my eyes on the prize.

The stress started to stack up for a kid of seventeen. One weekend, Layla asked me if I wanted to meet her friend.

It was the source of a lot of arguments at the time – the distance of two hours between our houses made it tough for us to hang out like a normal couple. Layla did not have a car, and I only had a learner’s permit. But on my eighteenth birthday, I got full privileges on my out-of-state license. That meant it would be easy to borrow my dad’s Buick without too much suspicion.

I caved after a couple weeks and lined up my alibis perfectly.

Sean was my best friend, and he was the only one who had any idea of my budding relationship. His parents were cool, and understood most of the situation. They agreed to back me up when my parents called, to make sure I was actually sleeping over their house.

Friday night, I hopped in the Buick and began the two-hour trip.

The drive down to Layla’s place was perfect. It was Autumn, and the leaves of the deep South fell in shades that covered the swamps and bayous like blankets. Her town was a familiar one, and it was fortunate that one stretch of road took me the whole way there. It had just started to get dark as I pulled into the driveway of the address she gave me.

The house was empty and quiet. There wasn’t a car in sight, and the only light I could see then came from the over-sized porch. But part of me had expected that. I knew Layla’s parents were out of town, and that she might have told me to come over before her friend. My thoughts were admittedly in the gutter as I ran up the stone steps to the big red door and knocked.

In seconds, Layla was at the door in her best red lace. Her thin frame curved ever so slightly when she cocked her hips the right in a tease and crooked her finger towards me in a sultry beckon.

“Come on in,” she said with a modest giggle.

I must have drooled like a dog. In seconds we were pressed against the wall with the front door still wide open. My lips were on her chest and my hand was between her thin little legs before she finally put up her hand and said wait.

That was when the alarm bells went off.

The lights were definitely off. Every single one. But we could still see, and that was thanks to a hundred cheap candles and incense sticks lined up at every corner. The whole place reeked like a mottle of smells like cinnamon, vanilla, and lavender. It was hard not to gag on the spot.

There were pictures on the walls, too – frames and frames of a happy family with six kids that all smiled and looked nothing like Layla. I had seen this movie before, so it was with a total lack of surprise when I asked if she actually lived here.

“Nope,” was all she said.

I turned to leave.

“W-w-wait,” she laughed and grabbed my hand before she slid a finger in her mouth. “It’s my friend’s house”.

At this point, if I thought with my brain over my pants, so much could have been avoided. But that was easier said than done for a seventeen-year-old.

The place was huge, but creepy. The front room was a hallway of sorts, with a big open staircase at the top and paths to the den and kitchen on the bottom. It was not long before Layla and I were interlocked and moving deeper inside.

“There’s a bedroom upstairs.”

She slammed the front door closed when she said that, and tugged on my hand. As we walked up, there was a creak and groan in every floorboard. The lack of light played tricks on my eyes as they tried to adjust. Every time I thought I saw something, Layla would pull on my hand harder. Her hips swung back and forth when she was in a hurry. Those drew my wide-eyed attention as she pulled open the last door on the left and stepped inside.

Then she turned, and bit softly on the bottom of my lip. I loved it when she did that. She grabbed a hold of my belt and walked backward, falling onto the bed with me and giggling as the whole thing blew up a plume of dust. It was disgusting, like it hadn’t been slept in months. But one hand found her face and the other found the cool skin behind her waist, and I stopped worrying.

Sometime later, a noise downstairs told me we weren’t alone.

It sounded like the clapping of a closing door. My gut said was that someone was back home, so I pulled on my clothes in a hurry, cursing under my breath and begging Layla to do the same. She just laughed at me, dancing back and forth half naked as she did.

“He’s here, silly! He’s here, he’s here!”

Then she shouted, “Husband?! We’re upstairs!”

As if in response, two heavy feet started up the staircase. I was panicking, cursing even louder as I tried to jam open the old window in the bedroom. It was at least a fifteen foot drop, but that felt worth the risk right about then.

Layla never talked about a husband. Then again, how much had she really ever said about herself? I didn’t know the name of her school. I never met any of her friends, or her parents, or coworkers. This was not her house. Hell, no one even knew where I was besides Sean, and he didn’t have the address. All of those facts came crashing down on me in that moment.

When the steps got to the top, they headed down the hall in a hurry. Layla continued to dance as the door swung open.

In stepped an old man. He wasn’t particularly remarkable – he wore a professional brown suit, with long graying hair that was held back in a neat ponytail. His belly was protruding a bit, and he was the owner of a bushy mustache that made him cartoonishly resemble a walrus.

“Oh, Layla honey, is this what you have been up to?” he said with a sigh.

I turned to look at the woman I loved, but found her to be nothing like she was.

In place of long, flowing auburn hair was stringy, semi-attached pieces of gray. Layla’s perfect skin and flawless breasts were replaced by sags and wrinkles that were ingrained into every fold, and that withered skin made soft suckling noises against itself as she continued to dance back and forth.

Her teeth were gone, and in their place were gaping, empty gums. They sucked together, mashing a sickly sound as her giggles grew harsher and deeper. The smell of cinnamon that had become synonymous with sex was now overwhelming; enough to make me sick.

“I bought him for you! We can be young again, baby!” she said to her apparent husband.

The man smiled with Layla, and wrapped his arms around her in an embracing bear hug. When they kissed, they whimpered and covered each other with wet slopping sounds that sent my stomach turning all over.

They were distracted, so I worked harder at the window. In a moment, it was open. Without a second’s hesitation I launched myself through it.

At a twenty foot drop, I was bound to break something. But I had watched enough TV to know it was probably better to keep my feet underneath me. So when I landed, both legs were both definitely broken. At least it wasn’t my neck.

Layla screeched from the window. She looked like she thought about jumping herself before she flew from sight and presumably went for the flight of stairs. I dragged myself to my car, the old Buick that my dad had let me borrow for keeping my eyes on the prize. I cried then, thinking about my mom and how I would never see her again. It was almost impossible to lift up for the handle and use it as a pull up bar. But adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I screamed as the shattered bones of my knees lifted off the ground and into the curve of my car seat. When I was halfway, Layla’s husband opened the front door.

He was naked now too, and his eyes had turned a reddish color as they found my pitiful shape in a puddle by the car handle.

“Don’t be afraid,” he shouted with a suave, confident chuckle. He stepped forward cautiously, keeping his eyes on me with his arms outstretched. “It won’t even hurt a bit.”

That was all the motivation I needed. In seconds, I lifted myself fully into the car and closed it’s door, locking it behind me. Layla was out the door as well now, and both of them were approaching the front of the Buick like they were going to block it. I threw the car in reverse, dodging them perfectly as they reached out long nails that tried to grab hold of the grill.

With some luck on my side, the couple fell flat on their face as I peeled out of the driveway and hit the gas in horrible pain. Their screams followed me all the way to the highway.

I never told anyone but Sean about what I saw. When I got home, I honked my horn and fell out of my car in a heap. My parents came rushing out and immediately called an ambulance. I was treated for the broken legs, which required several surgeries. My Mom wanted to know how something like this could happen, so I made up an elaborate story about hiking and falling off a short cliff. Sean backed me up, once I told him the truth about Layla.

Until now, he was the only one who knew the actual story.

I threw away my cell phone. I told my parents it was time to be responsible, and signed up for my own plan with a brand new number. They liked that, and it was a quick and dirty way to cut that horrible woman from my life; in case she ever tried to contact me again.

Even now, years later, it is hard to forget her horrible old face. And it still worries me that Layla knows the way to my parents’ place.