Note: "Beast and the Harlot" is the title of an Avenged Sevenfold song that I like. The story doesn't really have anything to do with the song or its lyrics, but I thought the title fit. I don't own the song...so don't sue me. Thanks!

-~-~-~-~-~- the beast and the harlot

I never meant for it to turn out this way.

Sure, these things do happen, and I'm sure I'm not the first or only person this has happened to. I even knew that it was bound to happen at some point. But somehow, I went on and did it anyway.

I glance around the room. Nothing has changed, really. The walls are still the peculiar shade of blue-violet that they have been forever. The calico carpet is still fluffy beneath my bare feet. My queen-sized bed, without a headboard, is pushed into the corner, the same way it's always been. My desk sits under the open window, still cluttered with old papers, broken pencils, and an open jewelry box. The closet door stands open, with clothes hanging limp from their hangers.

Yes, everything in the room is the same. Nothing has changed within the last year.

Except me.

I've got new memories for this room. The walls – "They match your eyes, you know? You could blend right in." The sigh grazes my ear and slinks down the back of my neck, causing the hairs there to rise. A shudder runs down my spine.

The bed in the corner – I could still hear the soft music playing from the radio in the corner, could still smell the heady aroma of candle wax and roses mingling with the subtle musk of his skin, could still feel the silk sheets that were cold to my bare flesh of my back. Could I still lie in that bed and fall asleep tonight?

The jewelry box – there, sitting perkily between my class ring and my purity ring, was a small diamond set in a gold band. The loopy engraving on the inside could be illegible if I really tried. The jewel glints in the sunlight streaming through the window, almost as if to say, "Pay attention to me!" I close the jewelry box in spite.

My God, is there any part of this room he hasn't left his mark upon, anything he hasn't claimed?

...Is there any part of me he hasn't claimed?

I might be sick. I don't want to know the answer to that question.

-~-~-~-~-~- just beyond my reach

The phone's ringing again. It's either Jen or it's my mother, and since Jen's probably still asleep, I'm going to hazard a guess at the second one.

"Hello?"

"Good afternoon, Calliope!" comes a musical voice I know all too well.

Yes, it's Mom. How good am I? And she still uses my full name. I've given up trying to get her to call me Callie like everyone else does; every time I ask her to, I get the same lecture about how Calliope was the chief of the Greek Muses, and that she inspires thinking and creativity in people. It got to the point where I could recite what she was going to tell me word-for-word, so I just dealt with the usage of my full name.

"Hi, Mom. What's new?"

"Nothing, dear, just checking up."

"I'm relatively the same as I was two days ago," I laugh.

Another of my mother's quirks is that she's the stereotypical overprotective mother. I get calls from her every other day asking what I'm doing and who I'm doing it with, peppered with reminders to eat my vegetables and to wash behind my ears. I'm not kidding. I love my mother and she means well, but I'm a twenty-five year old woman with a steady job and her own house, and I don't understand why she worries so much about me.

"Well, that's good," she says, though I can tell she's relieved. I roll my eyes. "What's on the agenda for the day?"

"I'm going to sit in my room like a hermit all day, and then maybe go to the movies later," I say sarcastically.

"Going with a boy?"

"Yeah, Marshall," I say, laughing to myself. Marshall is my pickup truck, but my mom doesn't need to know that.

"Is he nice? How old? How does he dress? Calliope, remember that no means no and that you don't owe him anything-"

"Mom, Marshall is perfectly respectable-"

"Have you met before? Calliope Jane, why didn't you tell me about him last time we talked?"

"Mother," I say firmly. "I promise you if Marshall doesn't behave, I'll give him a good kick." This seems to calm her down.

"Well, honey, have a good time tonight. I'll talk to you later!"

"Bye, Mom. Love you." I hang up the phone before she can follow up with a "wait, before you leave..." reminder.

I take a look around my little flat. It's cozy, just the way I like it. The dark-green-and-yellow striped paint in the main room gives the room sort of a chunky feel. The carpet and furniture is as white as new snow, except for the green shade on the floor lamp the corner and the bowl of green and yellow apples on the white coffee table.
The walls of the adjoining room that functions as my bedroom are the most peculiar shade of blue-violet. My queen-sized mattress sits in the corner, and my desk sits beneath the window, which is usually always open. The whole room just feels soft and comforting.

I wouldn't have my house be any other way. Stylish, but soft. It's definitely my style.

The clock on the wall reads 4:30. I read earlier that at five, there is a classic movie marathon tonight at the small vintage movie theater a few blocks from where I live. I probably should get going.

I lock the house and start Marshall up. He's a little old, since I got him secondhand, but he's mine and I love him anyway. The truck sputters a bit in the chilly October air before I can get him to move. The drive takes less than five minutes, and I snag a parking spot in the small lot adjacent to the theater.

There's surprisingly few people here, which surprises me. Usually this place is full of mothers with small children, or couples, or groups of teenage girls chattering loudly. But tonight, the only people in the theater are two old ladies, a middle-aged-looking couple, and a young man leaning up against the wall, calling someone on his cell phone. I shrug,buy some popcorn from the small vendor counter, and enter the theater.

The theater, unlike most of those in malls, would probably seat about forty. The screen isn't fourteen feet high and there isn't cute speckled carpeting or fancy upholstery on the seats. It's just a normal little theater. I choose a seat somewhat in the middle.

Gone With The Wind is playing at five. I've decided to stay for just one movie before going home, so I'm glad the movie is one of my favorites. I follow Scarlett O'Hara's stressful love life for almost four hours, shedding quiet tears and "aww"-ing to myself at appropriate moments. I've always been a sucker for love stories.

I leave the theater and walk straight to Marshall, excited to get home and maybe get a few extra hours of sleep. If Jen had been going to call, she definitely wouldn't now; I'm relatively certain she's out at a bar or club.

But before I drive away, I notice something strange.

The young man, the one who had been on the phone when I entered the theater, is still there.