April was ravenous and yet every morsel made her sick.
It had been almost a whole day since her strange episode in the kitchen. She was feeling fine yet she hadn’t managed to keep a single bite down. Also, just as strange, her mother had been distant since their meeting on the landing. Sandy had informed the household that she would be away for a few days getting her face fixed and that was all the contact they’d had.
As she lay on her bed scrolling through a mental list of foodstuffs, trying to decide what she found least revolting, April’s bedside drawer vibrated – her secret phone with a message from Melinda.
Hope you’re OK.
It suddenly dawned on April that she hadn’t spoken to Faith or Melinda since her party. She tapped out her reply.
Wicked witch away tonight. Come round for 7.
She opened the drawer to put the phone back, then paused and slipped it in to her pocket instead.
At 7 pm, April was waiting by the door. Her mother had long left for her appointment at a clinic miles away in Oasis Springs. April wasn’t the only one looking forward to her Sandy-free evenings. Travis had changed into his forbidden trousers and had gone up to bed with a large pizza. Broof had taken the night off to go to a sports bar.
It was almost 7:30 when the doorbell rang. April flung it open, excited to see her friends, but it was only Melinda who was standing on the other side.
Melinda looked glum. “She still doesn’t want to see you.”
April nodded sadly. She had really messed up this time and Faith could certainly hold a grudge. Melinda’s face brightened. “But I guess that means no drama tonight!”
April followed Melinda through to the music room. Melinda pulled out her phone and leaned close to April to show her the screen. “Before I forget, you have got to see this video! This cat is so darn talented.”
She tapped play and the screen came to life. A cat holding a paintbrush in its mouth was making some smudges on a canvas. It was just the kind of video that Melinda enjoyed. She loved anything to do with cats. April would usually giggle at all the right places while her friend belly-laughed beside her, but not tonight. She held her stomach as it gnawed itself beneath her hands.
She was so close to Melinda she could smell her skin. Oh, she smelled amazing. April closed her eyes, leaned in slowly towards her friend’s shoulder feeling the warmth radiate from her body. She parted her lips. Just a little bit further…
“What the-?” April was woken from her trance. Melinda looked warily at her friend. “Did you just try to lick me?”
Did she? April didn’t know what to do. Her laugh was too high but out it came. “No!” She threw her hands up and laughed like it was the funniest thing she’d ever heard. She laughed until her sides ached and her face hurt. Melinda stood there silently until she’d finished.
“April,” she whispered softly, “what’s wrong?”
April hated it when Melinda did this. When she cared. Why did she have to be so nice? Now she was shaking and Melinda was stroking her hair and cooing. Every kind touch just made April more inconsolable. Melinda draped an arm around her friend, pulled her close.
Melinda had seen April cry but never like this. She suspected it was something far more serious than her falling out with Faith. Had her mother done something?
“Shh,” she whispered as she rocked April in her arms, “talk to me. Has something happened?”
April choked back a hiccup. Her words came out broken between her sobs. “He.. he…”
Melinda struggled to imagine Travis ever doing anything that would ever impact anyone.
April shook her head. “He… he… attacked me.”
Now Melinda was confused. “Broof?”
April was sobbing so hard now that she could barely form any words at all. “Ca – Caleb.” she managed before falling in to Melinda’s arms.
“What did he do?” Melinda tried to soothe her friend while she felt her blood boil at whoever this jerk was. Was he some rich kid that April knew? A friend of her mother’s? April had been upset after encounters with entitled rich guys before, but nothing like this. What the hell had this Caleb done?
April slowly regained composure. Melinda sat with her quietly, waiting. Eventually April looked up at Melinda’s concerned face.
“It was the night after my party. Mother had invited Dr. Vatore – Caleb – round to be her new plastic surgeon and he had stayed for dinner. I’d heard of him beforehand and was keen to meet him. He wasn’t what I expected, not like all those other doctors. He was really young but there was something really strange about him, you know?”
Melinda nodded even though she didn’t know and April continued.
“So anyway we had dinner. I was asking him questions and he was ignoring me like I didn’t exist. Then the butler came in and dropped dessert right into this guy’s lap. Everyone freaked out. We were in the formal dining room, you know, next to that big mirror? Well I was looking in this mirror as everyone was flapping about it front of it and, I kid you not Mel, this Caleb guy didn’t have a reflection.”
“Seriously. So I was, like, proper shaken because – who the hell doesn’t have a reflection?” April paused, shook her head. “I thought maybe I was seeing things. Anyway, so I excused myself, I came in here,” she motioned around the room, “and I thought I’d try and listen in to the conversation he was having with my mother, then the next thing I know he was standing right behind me. And – I don’t know why I blurted it out – but I did, I called him a vampire.”
Melinda was staring at April, her tone disbelieving. “A vampire.”
April nodded. “He laughed at first and then… he changed. He came towards me and, holy shit Mel, he actually was. He actually was a vampire—“
“But April, vampires don’t exist—“
“He had fangs Mel! He grabbed me and it was like my whole body was in a trance. He told me I should know better than to go around accusing folk of being vampires.” Her words were coming so fast now they were almost unintelligible. “He said he should… teach me a lesson so he… he…” she hesitated, mind reeling, “he sank his fangs into my neck.”
“Why would he—“
“I was so scared, Mel. It felt like he was sucking my soul out. I was pleading with him to stop but he wouldn’t. I remember thinking I was going to die and then… nothing. Everything went black.” April dropped her head to her hands, the sobs once again taking over.
“Right…” Melinda stood for a while trying to process this information. She didn’t so much doubt that April had been attacked… but a vampire? “Are you sure April? I mean, I believe you, I guess, but the vampire part, it’s all a bit… implausible. Perhaps this guy was just some sort of obsessive vamp fan? At one point Faith was thinking of getting fangs, remember? Maybe it was just some sort of weird aesthetic?”
The two looked at each other, silent. Then without saying a word, April laced her fingers with Melinda’s and pulled her gently towards the nearest mirror.
Melinda’s eyes were like saucers as they registered the image before them. April still had hold of her hand and she turned her face towards her friend. April’s irises were almost white; her voice barely above a whisper. “He was a vampire, Mel. And now I think I am too.”
Melinda was rooted to the spot looking between the mirror and April. Her heart hammered as she took in the undead coldness of April’s fingers against her own. She trembled. Why had April invited her here? What did she actually want?
As if she’d read her mind, April looked up almost shyly through her lashes. “Please,” she whispered as her fingers traced the veins in Melinda’s wrist, her voice broken. “I just… I think I need to drink.”
Melinda didn’t know what to believe. Something about April’s story just didn’t seem right, but she was never one to turn away someone who needed her. She relaxed her arm into April’s hands, nodded and closed her eyes.
Resigned to her fate, she winced as she felt something sharp puncture her skin.