Melinda had allowed Lilith to guide her back to the sofa which was just as well as her whole body felt like it might crumble to dust beneath her.
“She made you do it?” Melinda scoffed. “She made you attack her, almost kill her, turn her? What would she gain from that?”
“You’re completely despicable to blame her! She was a defenceless human! You’re a gosh darn vampire!”
“I bet you’re just the kind of… of butt-head, who lies about everything just to get what you want. You’re probably not even a doctor.”
Lilith, who had enjoyed watching someone else give Caleb a dressing down, was suddenly alert at this new information. “You’ve been pretending you’re a doctor?”
Caleb squirmed. Great, now they were both at it. “Only the once. Sandy Moss called demanding to see you, but your schedule was full. So I went to her house to see her.”
“The Sandy Moss? Wait, are we talking about April Moss here?”
“I didn’t want to turn down such an influential client. Plus, Sandy seemed to assume that ‘Dr. Vatore’ was a man so I went along with it. It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“You could have just bumped Eliza down the list again, but instead you went to a human’s house, Sandy Moss’s no less, pretending to be me and thought while you were there, you’d just casually attack her daughter? Forgive me if it’s obvious Caleb, but what part of this did you think was a good idea?”
If Caleb’s face had fallen any further, his chin would have been in his lap. “I was only going to give her a few pamphlets, I swear. Also, I didn’t explicitly say that I was Dr. Vatore so I wasn’t pretending, really. I made to leave as soon as we finished our consultation.”
“April told me you stayed for dinner,” Melinda said.
“Of course you would stay for dinner with the humans.” Lilith had to laugh or she’d have just wept.
Caleb sighed and looked at Melinda, wondering what else April might have told her. “I did, that was April’s idea. She’s strange, isn’t she? She was following me all night and asking me a hundred questions about myself, my job, my name. I didn’t want to give myself away as a fraud so I tried to ignore her. I don’t think she liked that.”
“So when did you dine on April?” Lilith asked bitterly. “Was it before or after the fish course?”
“After. Sandy convinced me to stay and have a glass of wine with her. Although she drank both glasses and the remainder of the bottle by herself. Before you say it, I know I should have left,” the corner of his mouth lifted, “but Sandy seemed quite keen on me and she was so very charming. It was the most entertainment I’ve had in ages, her flirting with me as she became intoxicated.”
“I bet it was,” Lilith huffed. “You never learn.”
“I had no intention to drink from Sandy, or do anything else to her for that matter,” he clarified. “I’m not an imbecile.”
Lilith laughed, “Oh, you really are.”
“Alright, I’ll admit, I was getting pretty close to biting, especially when she was stroking my leg… I excused myself, thought I’d take a breather, so to speak. As I was on my way to the bathroom I encountered April, eavesdropping. Then, out of the blue, she said ‘I know what you are’ and called me a vampire.”
“So of course the next logical step is say ‘you’re right!’ and then attack the girl!” Lilith threw her hands up. “You idiot! Why didn’t you just deny it and leave?”
Caleb faltered. “It wasn’t just some off-the-cuff accusation. She knew Lilith. She knew about our family.”
“Our family? How?”
“A book, apparently.”
“I don’t know, some vampire encyclopaedia. That completely threw me, too, and before I knew what was happening she had cornered me and she offered herself. Quite eagerly, in fact.”
He closed his eyes as the memory intruded again.
It’s OK. I don’t mind. Gently, if you can.
“You should have left!”
“I know, Lil! But I’ve never had a human actually offer themselves to me before,” he said incredulous, “and such a beautiful, ripe one, too.”
“I’m never letting you outside again.”
Caleb was lost in his thoughts. “Holy hell, the perfume of her… absolutely divine, being near her was making me lose it. I tried to fight it, I really did, but she was so close, so insistent.”
Lilith was seething. “You’re unbelievable. You’re an absolute joke.”
“I was lost to the thirst, Lil. I guess that’s what decades of sobriety achieves. I didn’t even realise I’d bitten her, at first. Heck knows how much I drank before she fainted.” He knotted his hands in his lap, his voice quiet as he continued, “that snapped me out of it, alright. I laid her down on the floor and shook her. When she came round she was livid. She said I’d ruined her hair. She threatened to tell the papers about me, unless I turned her.”
“Trust you to fall for a honey trap. You should have knocked her out and left her. Or just killed the stupid girl,” Lilith hissed.
“I couldn’t just leave her! Kill her? Does that always have to be your answer? It would all be over, Lilith. This wasn’t some village girl. The daughter of Sandy Moss? No way could that go under the radar. They would’ve hunted us down, again. I wasn’t thinking straight-“
“You’re never thinking at all!” Lilith screeched. “Caleb, how many times?!”
“No… this can’t be right. April has her flaws but she’s not like that. You must be lying. Why would she do that? Why would she want you to turn her?” Melinda heard her voice but hadn’t been aware that she was speaking. She was overwhelmed; everything was the wrong colour.
“That I don’t understand,” Caleb answered honestly. “We didn’t have time to discuss the finer details. I could hear that Sandy was on her way and April was threatening me and so I just… did it. She drank from me and then, when her mother appeared, April pretended to pass out. Sandy freaked out, of course. Fortunately for us, she called Mortimer rather than an ambulance.”
“Wait, she drank?” Melinda’s eyes were wide and glassy as she struggled to focus. “She drank from you? Is that how you turned her?”
“Yes,” Caleb said, “that’s how it works. She barely took anything, but clearly it was enough.”
“Barely anything. And April was awake? She knew what was going on?”
This time Melinda couldn’t stop the memory from flooding back.
The pair of them had made it to April’s bathroom without leaving too much of a mess on the stairs. As thirsty as April still was and as much as this situation was making her crazy, she couldn’t yet detach herself from the reality of what was happening. Melinda was bleeding everywhere and April had no idea what to do to stop it.
“Please, April,” Melinda whimpered, “I need to go to the hospital. I won’t tell them what you’ve done, honest.”
April had responded with an adamant no. She couldn’t risk calling an ambulance and the hospital was miles away. An idea suddenly hit her. “Maybe you have to drink a little bit from me to make it stop?”
“Won’t that make me a vampire?”
April hesitated. “I don’t think so. I didn’t drink from Caleb.”
“I don’t want to. It’s weird.”
“Can we at least try? If it doesn’t work, I promise I’ll get Broof to take you straight to the hospital.”
Melinda shook her head, sank to her knees. She’d had enough of this horror story. The thought of consuming any part of April… she couldn’t even form the words.
April cupped Melinda’s face, wiped away a tear and whispered, “please?”
Melinda wondered why she was nodding.
April had used her fangs to slit a small wound in her own wrist and had offered it to her friend.
“Oh my gosh. You’re so cold. Did you just slit yourself open? What the heck even is that stuff?”
“I don’t really know.” They both looked at the murky liquid that bubbled out through April’s porcelain skin.
“I can’t do it.” Melinda tried to get to her feet but her legs wouldn’t work.
“Please, Mel,” April begged, kneeling in the puddle beside her friend. “Please, just try it. I can’t lose you like this, I’ll never forgive myself.”
Melinda tried to focus on April’s face. “April… no. It’s so gross.”
“Please, Mel.” April’s voice broke around her words and Melinda’s heart went with it. “This is the best way. Please. You can’t leave me.”
Oh but I wish I could.
Melinda tried to imagine she was anywhere else doing literally anything else. She took a tentative lick from April’s wrist and sure enough, the flow from her own started to slow.