48 comments

Lesbian Romance Thriller

Penny rushed home, ignoring the pain as her thin shoes slapped against the pavement and her heart pounded in her ribcage. Was she too late? She turned the corner onto their street, saw the side-gate where Celina must have entered, and a new flood of rage pushed her forwards. This was all her fault. How could she have let this happen?

The wooden gate slammed into the red brick of their house as she hurtled past. The rich smell of freshly brewed coffee hit her, and panic seized her chest.


***


Earlier that morning, sunlight had warmed Penny’s eyelids as a familiar hand slid over her waist and cupped her breast, squeezing the nipple.

“Good morning,” Nicolas had said, his breath hot on the back of her neck. She could feel the fullness of him pressing against her lower back, but the sensation didn’t arouse her like it used to. Or maybe it was just pre-wedding stress.

She shuffled round to nuzzle into him. Her left hand stroked up his arm and onto his broad shoulders where her diamond ring winked in the sunlight. The flicker lit the shame in her stomach, rousing it to flames.

“I love you,” he said. So sure, so certain.

“I love you too.”

Their lovemaking was good, leaving Penny more confused than ever. A lazy rocking to climax which left her panting as Nicolas yawned, stretched, and drifted back off to sleep.

She threw on a thin, floaty dress adorned with sunflowers and let her dark hair tumble loose over her shoulders. She leaned over and kissed Nicolas’ rugged stubble before quietly closing the bedroom door.

He really was very, very lovely.

Padding down the stairs, still covered in the musky scent of him, she wondered, not for the first time, whether she’d made a terrible mistake. Her gut seemed to think so.

But her dreams were worse…

Even in the deep slumber brought on by the sticky summer heat, Penny could not escape the taste of Celina’s sweat. It was sweet and her skin smelt of coconut and… cinnamon? She licked her lips. The dappled, hazy light of the greenhouse permeated every image her mind conjured. The shadows of thick fern leaves drifted over Celina’s warm caramel skin, her lips full and eager, the eyes black wells begging her to dive in and drown with her.

Penny stepped onto the cold white kitchen tiles and froze. The back door was ajar, the breeze making it tap again and again against the jamb. On the smooth wooden countertop was an alien metal cake tin with a blank white envelope propped up against it. On top of the tin was a single black rose.

No.

Celina had been in their house.

She snatched up the envelope and pulled out the note. Her hands trembling as she read the single line written in precise, elegant cursive.

“Crazy bitch,” she said, ripping the note in half again and again until it resembled oversized wedding confetti, and dumped all of it in the bin. She slipped on her cornflower-blue ballerina shoes and left by the back door, grabbing the rose as she went.


***


Celina’s Florist had been recommended by a friend. Nestled down a narrow country road not far from the village green, it boasted an expansive glasshouse and a wide variety of tropical flowers.

Penny had been shocked to discover that it was within walking distance of her house. She’d never known it was there, but then again, why would she? She never bought flowers.

The first time she’d gone, a little bell tinkling as she entered, she’d been mesmerised by Celina’s passion and expertise. The woman moved like a dancer from one flowering plant to another, examining, touching, pruning as she went. All the while asking Penny what she liked, what flowers, colours, smells, textures… Penny hadn’t realised it would be this complicated.

“What do people usually get for their weddings? Roses?” she had asked. This question had earned her a withering look.

“A wedding should be personal,” Celina had said. “Each element tailored to fit those there to give themselves to each other. There is no ‘usual’.”

Despite feeling chided, Penny stayed, drinking in the vibrant colours, strolling along the rows of exotic rainforest plant-life (or what she assumed was such). Sweat pricked her skin as she found the back of the greenhouse and a door marked with white skull and crossbones like a pirate flag.

It hadn’t been locked.

Inside, the air was less thick and heavy, but still warm. On the left, ivy wound its way up a trellis and she could see some white flowers blooming further down. The entire right side was occupied by a plant with long, thin branches and smooth leaves. It was festooned with purple, bell-shaped flowers and cherries. She reached out—

“Don’t touch them!” Celina was suddenly behind her. “Didn’t you see the sign? They’re highly poisonous. The slightest touch will irritate your skin.”

“What are they?”

Atropa belladonna, more commonly known as deadly nightshade. It’s what Macbeth used to poison Duncan’s army.” 

“Oh, right,” she said. She knew Macbeth was Shakespeare, but who was Duncan? She decided not to ask. “Why do you have them?”

Celina ushered her out of the room and closed the door, her smooth skin brushing against Penny’s, and pointed her towards some roses.

“They’re not poisonous for all animals – rabbits and cows can eat them, for example - and they have medicinal properties.”

“Ah.”

Penny looked at the roses. They were a safe option. Everyone knew roses meant love. Tulips meant death…

“Does deadly nightshade have a symbolic meaning?”

Celina raised an eyebrow, she was standing close, her coconut scent seeping into the humid air. “Danger and… betrayal.”

Penny should never have gone back, but the greenhouse beckoned to her like a siren and a part of her longed to fling herself into the swell. At first, it was nothing. An accidental touch, a brushing of fingertips against bare skin. But it didn’t stop there. She couldn’t be sure who had started it, how exactly it happened, but happen it did. Celina’s sweat slaked skin pressed up against hers beneath the thick fronds of a jungle fern right at the back of the greenhouse. Words were thrust aside for breathless moans.

“When are you going to tell him?” Celina had asked one day.

“Nicolas?” The thought had never occurred to her. This was just a final passionate tryst, wasn’t it?

“Yes, unless you have anyone else who thinks you’re marrying them?”

The silence had drawn out until Celina propped herself up on one elbow. “You are going to tell him, aren’t you?”

“Uh…”

Celina had gritted her teeth, before asking quietly, “What do you think this is?”

Penny had dumped people before. She expected crying, anger, bartering, maybe even threatening to tell Nicolas, but she hadn’t been prepared for Celina’s reaction.

Cold, implacable stillness like a lake harbouring something horrible beneath the surface. She had searched for the ripples and seen none, but she knew it was there.

She’d sensed the monster.


***


Time ticked by and wedding excitement mounted within Penny as the big day skipped closer. She began to think she had been silly to worry. That she could snuggle into the crook of Nicolas’ arm, filling her lungs with his comforting scent and forget about Celina.

But she’d been wrong.

She turned down the narrow country path and clenched her fists to stop her nervous scratching. Up ahead, the large panes of the glasshouse glinted in the sun. How dare she!

Celina had entered her home. And for how long? Had she heard them? Listened?

Her tongue clicked against the roof of her mouth as she pushed open the front door with both hands.

The heat made Penny’s thin dress immediately cling to her body, but she didn’t care. She stormed through to where she knew her ex-lover would be.

“There you are.”

“Ah, hello Penelope. And what can I do for you?” Celina asked. She had her back to Penny, one hand holding gardening shears, a mound of shredded stems and leaves at her feet. If she was upset, her voice gave nothing away.

“You know why I’m here.”

“Oh?”

“You were in my house.” Penny threw the black rose down on the gravel-strewn floor, it landed just to the right of Celina who gave it a sly sideways glance, but nothing more.

“Was I?” Her hands moved effortlessly, slicing away without hesitation.

“You can’t just come into my home, leaving ominous flowers and notes for my fiancé to find, hinting at… uh…”

“Hinting at what?”

Now, Celina turned. She didn’t look confused or sad or hurt. She looked angry. Those eyes like black holes threatening to destroy everything in sight.

Penny took a step back.

“The note was for you, Penelope,” she said. “‘The course of true love never did run smooth’… do you know who said that?”

Penny shook her head.

“Shakespeare.”

Penny thought of Romeo and Juliet and her mouth went dry. That hadn’t ended well for anyone.

“This isn’t Shakespeare,” Penny said, her voice wavering. “This is real life. I’m going to marry Nicolas and—”

“You are not going to marry Nicolas. You do not belong to him.” Celina held the shears up and pointed them at Penny’s face. “You belong to me.”

“What are you going to do? Tell him? Because he won’t believe you.”

Celina smiled. It was a cruel turning of the mouth which didn’t touch her fathomless eyes. Penny swallowed; there was triumph in that smile.

“What have you done?” she asked.

Celina let go a low throaty cackle. “I’ve saved you. You would never have been happy with Nicolas. He doesn’t know you like I do.”

“You barely know me at all!”

“In here,” –Celina tapped the blades against her chest— “We are bonded. Kindred spirits. I knew it the first time you walked in. Now, we can be together.”

Penny stepped further back. Why was she talking like that?

Like she’d already won?

Nicolas didn’t know. She’d destroyed the cryptic but meddlesome note… but Celina just said the note had been for her. Not him.

Penny scratched at the palms of her hands. Why were they so itchy? Something tugged at her mind, a memory birthed in this very space of twisted vines and snaking roots. No. She wouldn’t have. Her feet crunched along the gravel of the greenhouse path, right to the back. Faster. Celina didn’t follow, but her laughter continued at a higher pitch, becoming borderline hysterical.

Penny’s sweaty hand grappled for a moment with the door before it opened inwards with a loud creak.

The patch which had been filled with Atropa belladonna – deadly nightshade – was bare, brown earth. No sign at all of the juicy black berries filled with liquid death.

Penny backed away, her hands reaching up to cover her face. Celina’s note had been resting against a cake tin. And Nicolas loved cake.

She looked at her watch. Nine-thirty on a weekend. He might still be in bed.

Clinging to that hope, she sped towards the front of the greenhouse. Celina was there, doubled over with tears making black mascara-stained tracks down her cheeks.

“If you’ve hurt him,” Penny said. “I’ll kill you.”

She was vaguely shocked to find that she really meant it. She did love Nicholas. She did want to marry him. She launched herself at the door, cursing her pathetic desire to have one last fling.


***


She found him sitting at their kitchen table. A steaming cup of coffee sat next to a plate littered with crumbs.

“Nicolas!” She bent over and cupped his gorgeous face in her hands. “Please tell me you didn't eat the cake."

He put a hand to his chest in mock horror. “As if I would do a thing like that."

"Then what's—"

"Toast," he said, frowning quizzically. He tilted his head to one side, his shaggy mop of bed-hair flopped over one eye. "Are you alright?"

“Yeah… sorry.”

Penny slumped into the chair next to him, letting relief surge through her.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” he asked. “You're not usually this dramatic about cake. Who's it from anyway?"

“Oh Nicolas,” she said, running one hand over her face. He deserved better. She wondered if Shakespeare ever had anything to say about truth and regret. Probably. She took a deep breath to steady herself. “We need to talk.”

July 31, 2022 08:40

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

48 comments

J.C. Lovero
12:13 Jul 31, 2022

LOVE THIS. You built up the suspense beautifully. I found myself HOOKED all the way through until the very end. And I'm so glad it ended the way it did. Not sure my heart could have handled what I thought was going to happen LOL. As always, your descriptions throughout are gorgeous. You do a nice job with setting and grounding the reader in the location. The glasshouse felt whimsical at times, and I was here for it. Good luck!

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
16:06 Jul 31, 2022

Thanks, J. C.! So pleased you enjoyed it 🙂

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Zack Powell
18:36 Aug 01, 2022

Great to see another story from you, Zelda (love the new name, by the way - as you can imagine, Z names are my jam). Thought you used all three of your genre tags very well, as well as the prompt. This is a wild ride. Lots of good stuff going on here. The pacing is nice, the two main characters are compelling, and the Shakespeare references have a nice inside joke feel. If Shakespeare were alive in this generation, this is very likely the type of story he'd write. You said it best - it's like Romeo and Juliet meets Macbeth meets the 21st ce...

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
19:14 Aug 01, 2022

Thanks for the thought you put into this comment! I did enjoy weaving in the Shakespeare quotes and the glasshouse imagery. This was a fun one to write, so I'm glad you enjoyed reading. Thanks again 😊

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
16:49 Jul 31, 2022

Oh wow, Zelda 👏👏👏 This has me in so much suspense! I was so worried about Penny and Nicholas, on the edge of my seat through the whole story! Your details were so beautiful, and often sensual. It was a perfect balance in my opinion. Great job, my friend 😊

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
21:13 Jul 31, 2022

Thanks, Hannah! This was fun to write. Love doing suspense. Pleased to hear you enjoyed reading 🙂

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
12:43 Jul 31, 2022

YES --> The course of true love never did run smooth Great line here: ripping the note in half again and again until it resembled oversized wedding confetti, And I'd love to be a fly on the wall: She wondered if Shakespeare ever had anything to say about truth and regret. Probably. She took a deep breath to steady herself. “We need to talk.” I want to read THAT conversation. What thrill this was! Loved it.

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
16:03 Jul 31, 2022

Yey! Thanks, Deidre 😀 Looking forward to catching up with your stories.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Seán Mc Nicholl
09:47 Jul 31, 2022

A great story Rachel! Had me on tenterhooks right to the end (because I would have eaten the cake for breakfast!) Great drama throughout! Loved the insanity of Celine which was well portrayed from early on. Loved it! One little thing, and it might have been intentional; was this meant to be ‘tinkling’? “a little bell tickling as she entered”

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
09:57 Jul 31, 2022

Oh no that was meant to be tinkling, thanks! Glad you enjoyed reading 🙂

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Jay Mc Kenzie
09:24 Jul 31, 2022

This is a great story Rachel. It's the perfect length and you bring us in at just the right point. The pace and tension build is excellent, and I was racing along with Penny at the end. There's a sentence near the beginning that didn't read right: "She shuffling round to nuzzle into him." I also wondered if Celine's florist needed a capital F, as it took me a moment to realise that she was the florist. Very minor things though. Very well written, and a bit steamy!

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
09:30 Jul 31, 2022

Hey! Thanks for reading and catching those awkward errors. I have corrected them 👍🙂

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Jessie Nice
09:32 Aug 12, 2022

Wow, you’re an excellent author. I was absolutely hooked the whole way through. You told a whole story in a short passage, yet nothing felt rushed; it flowed beautifully! Instant follow, can’t wait to read more from you!

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
17:35 Aug 12, 2022

Thanks so much!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
08:59 Aug 11, 2022

Beautiful story, especially the quotes of Shakespeare, have been used accurately.

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
17:36 Aug 12, 2022

Cheers!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Glenn Holt
03:38 Aug 11, 2022

That left me breathless... I as other comments said found myself worrying for both Penny and Nicolas. I loved the switch-up of her using the full formal name Penelope. I am waiting for chapter 2!

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
06:50 Aug 11, 2022

Thanks, Glen! 🙂

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
09:13 Aug 10, 2022

Rachel!! Sorry for being so late to the party. What a wonderful story! I really liked the start of this - it's not explicit at all, quite tastefully done, but I feel like Reedsy shies away from anything remotely sexual, so it was refreshing to read. There's a good building of tension too; I flew through this story, and I'm glad you gave them a happy ending (though I'm not sure Penny deserved it lol). I loved the part when Penny confronts Celina, and she's chopping flowers using the shears with her back turned. That played out in my head li...

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
19:17 Aug 10, 2022

Hey, thanks Shuvayon! No, I agree that Penny isn't sympathetic, though I tried to show her feeling remorse at the start and some wedding jitters. Could have ramped up the remorse maybe to make her more likeable... It was intentional, because she has to face the consequences of her actions in the end and I thought the reader would be worried for Nicolas and then pleased that Penny didn't get away it.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Kelsey H
07:49 Aug 10, 2022

I really enjoyed the way the suspense and tension was slowly built throughout the story. I especially loved how you ended it after the hints toward a dramatic violent end of some kind, it instead ended on the drama of human emotions and the potential end of their relationship in a different way. Also really loved your descriptions of the glass house.

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
07:53 Aug 10, 2022

Thanks, Kelsey. I'm glad you enjoyed reading 🙂

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
L.M. Lydon
00:01 Aug 10, 2022

This story flows well and forbears to take the obvious ending (I actually think you created almost more tension by ending at the excruciating conversation). I also enjoyed the imagery, particularly when Celina reacts to the dumping. Celina almost succeeds in stealing the story despite her relatively brief "on stage" appearance.

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
07:55 Aug 10, 2022

Thank you! Celina is a bit of a stage stealer lol The drama. I did consider other endings, but then decided that Nicolas didn't deserve to get hurt (not physically anyway)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
13:47 Aug 07, 2022

I felt myself there in the heart of the story. Every description and word drew me in. This is marvellous indeed.

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
07:55 Aug 10, 2022

Thank you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Yves. ♙
07:19 Aug 07, 2022

First of all: THANK YOU for including a boob in this story! I am not joking even a little; I was so worried about what I'd written in mine this week that I cut out several sex jokes, just in case even that was off-limits. I love reading fiction that doesn't shy away from sex, and this was so refreshing. I particularly love the bisexual love triangle, not to mention that dark little twist! A great read; thanks for sharing.

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
07:59 Aug 10, 2022

Bahahaha you're welcome! I don't see an issue with boobs being in a story 🤣 I think it's just really explicit sex stuff that isn't allowed. Surely the odd sex joke would be fine? Depends on the joke.

Reply

Yves. ♙
23:49 Aug 10, 2022

That's possible. I just get so nervous! I'm glad you weren't nervous.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Beth Jackson
01:52 Aug 07, 2022

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, Zelda! I loved your pacing and tension, I was fully invested in your story! I liked the non linear timeline of the piece, you really pulled that off so well. The ending was the highlight for me - it makes me wonder about humanity though when someone owning up and being honest is genuinely a shocking twist 🤣🤣 So well written, and a really enjoyable read. Thank you for sharing! :-)

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
08:01 Aug 10, 2022

Thanks for the lovely comment! I did consider other endings, but I thought actually confronting Nicolas (the lovely, innocent party) would be worse for her in a way.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Hayley F
21:11 Aug 06, 2022

This was fantastic. I especially loved the ending! It was refreshing to see a protagonist have to confront their lies rather than, almost literally, bury them. There’s this bittersweet hopefulness at the end that comes off very genuine. Amazing writing, Zelda! :D

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
08:02 Aug 10, 2022

Thanks a lot, Hayley 😁 always great to hear when someone enjoys my stories

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Thom Brodkin
18:17 Aug 06, 2022

Zelda? I like it. When I read your stories I am struck at how you use words so artfully to paint a picture. You bring me into the scenes and it makes your stories that much more personal. I agree with everything JC said from the suspenseful build up to the relief at the end. Another triumph for you. Great job.

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
08:03 Aug 10, 2022

Thanks, Thom! Yes, new name. I'm getting used to it now. Hope you're well and I look forward to reading your next story 🙂

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Dina Castwell
00:00 Aug 04, 2022

absolutely LOVED the way you used description! so glad i stumbled upon this

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
06:03 Aug 04, 2022

Awww thanks, Dina!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Amanda Lieser
03:23 Aug 03, 2022

Oh my goodness Zelda, There’s so much I loved about this story. The intense conflict was gorgeously fleshed out, the characters were so genuine and kind, the intimacy was tastefully crafted. The phrase I kept thinking while reading this was: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. This was a beautifully written piece. Thank you for writing it.

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
06:58 Aug 03, 2022

Hey, thanks for reading. Oh yes, hell hath no fury! Haha It definitely applies. 🙂

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Riel Rosehill
11:54 Aug 02, 2022

What a wild ride! I knew there was gonna be something with that poisonous plant... surprised Penny didn't throw that cake out right away, there must be some unwritten rule about never accepting food from jealous exes, just in case they are trying to kill you. Actually, I was bracing myself for some stabbing with those gardening shears - I wouldn't have been surprised, and it was a relief when it didn't happen. Great story, this one, I enjoyed following a not so perfect protagonist and her total psycho lover. Oh and I LOVED the glass house lo...

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
13:05 Aug 02, 2022

Hey Riel! Thanks for the lovely comment 😃

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply