“Do you think she planned this whole thing?” Melinda asked. “To keep us? Why would you want to keep someone who didn’t even like you that much?”
“Why do you pretend to like her?” Lilith asked.
Melinda looked guilty, “For Faith’s sake.”
“Faith must be a good friend.”
“Sun will be up soon. Do you know the way back?” Lilith asked.
“No. I might have to borrow your cat again.”
“My cat? I don’t have a cat.”
“Oh, right,” Melinda looked a bit disappointed, “it must have been a stray.”
“I can walk back with you though,” Lilith got to her feet, “the old Davies house, yes?”
“How do you—?”
Lilith tapped her head.
Melinda smiled to herself and pushed her chair back but as she rose from the table her knees gave way beneath her. In an instant, Lilith was beside her, lowering her back to the seat.
“Melinda? When did you last drink?”
Melinda could barely see as she gripped the chair. “I… I haven’t yet.”
Lilith stood up, her arms folded. “You said you were ‘drinking guys dry.’”
Melinda didn’t know if vampires could blush, but if they could, that was definitely what her face was doing. “I… I didn’t with my guy. I couldn’t.”
“I see,” Lilith said. “Let me get you something.” She walked towards a nearby door.
Oh gosh, Melinda thought, is that the basement where they keep the humans?
Lilith laughed, “No. Well, sort of.” She reached in and retrieved a small pouch which she placed into the microwave.
Melinda watched through her swirling vision, wondering if she was hallucinating. Is this some sort of vampire ready meal?
“You could say that,” Lilith responded to the question Melinda hadn’t asked, decanting the syrupy liquid into a glass and placing it before the younger vampire.
Melinda looked at the gloopy brown fluid. “What is it?”
“Plasma pack,” Lilith smiled. “Sustenance for the kinder kind of vampire.”
Well, this week couldn’t get any weirder. Melinda lifted the glass and gingerly took a sniff. There was something appealing about it. “What is it made of?”
“I think that one is from Ms. Ward’s liposuction. She’s quite a bleeder.”
Melinda stared at Lilith, horrified. “That’s made from bits of humans?”
“It’s mostly blood, but I bulk it up with odd bits and bobs, to round out the flavour. Some of these self-obsessed people taste absolutely rancid. Oh, and there’s some anticoagulant, a few flavourings—“
“Do people know that you do this?”
“It’s in the disclaimer they sign. Not that anyone ever reads those things.”
“Is that ethical?”
“You tell me. I compel them to sleep without any anaesthetic, their wounds heal faster than with any other surgeon. They get a top-notch finish from someone with centuries of innate knowledge of the human form. I take less than a pint, they barely notice. I won’t book them back in until they’re ready. Stop me when you’re convinced.”
“But they don’t explicitly say that you can take it.”
“Would you rather I keep them in the basement?” Lilith smiled. “Hunt them in the street?”
“No. I still feel conflicted, though.”
“Yes. You remind me of someone.”
Melinda looked at the glass and sighed. “Is drinking human blood the only way?”
“There’s apparently a fruit that can sustain us, but I think this may be a myth as I haven’t found it. And I have really searched. Vampires of old would occasionally feed from cattle or other animals, but I think that’s worse. You can’t compel a cow, nor explain what you’re doing, you just have to watch it trembling with fear. Although some of the vampires I used to know liked feeding on fear. Very much enjoyed it, you might say,” Lilith finished bitterly.
“If I don’t drink, what will happen? Will I rot?”
“You will drink. Eventually your thirst will just control you. You’ll attack a random human, or even one of your friends. Don’t get any ideas though. You might be unnaturally nimble, but if you try to bite me, I will whoop you.”
“You have no reason to trust me. I understand that. However,” Lilith pushed the glass closer to Melinda, “you need to listen to me. You must consume something, soon, and it’s not going to be me. Drink up.”
Melinda lifted the glass and watched as a bubble popped on the surface. It looked absolutely disgusting. But then she thought of the stuff that had come out of April’s wrist and decided nothing could be as bad as that. At least this was in a glass. It was warm and… she did… she wanted it…
She took a tentative sip. It was the first thing she’d sampled for days that hadn’t tasted like ash but it was still revolting. She set the glass down, noticing how she felt compelled to pick it back up, how the tightness inside her seemed to be unwinding.
“Well?” Lilith asked. “Is it OK?”
Melinda needed another sip. The taste didn’t seem quite as bad the second time and she certainly felt better for it. She drank it in one and placed the empty vessel back to the table.
“I can’t believe I just drank a cup of blood and I sort of liked it. Thanks Lilith.”
Lilith didn’t respond, she was looking towards the front door where the first rays of sun were starting to creep through, her face creased with worry.
“He’s been gone a while,” Melinda whispered.
Lilith smiled to herself. “Caleb ruined your life and you’re worried about him?”
Melinda didn’t say anything. Lilith sighed. “He’s fine with sunlight though, if that’s what you’re thinking. He’s spent enough time over the years trying to blister himself to oblivion, it doesn’t really touch him anymore.” She closed her eyes, a memory heavy behind them.
Melinda took hold of her hand and Lilith’s eyes fluttered open, surprised.
Perhaps Melinda didn’t have to be able to read minds to know what someone was thinking.
Even with the thick canopy of trees, Lilith couldn’t risk taking a brand new vampire outside while the sun shone. The weather channel promised dense cloud and thunderstorms this afternoon. Melinda was struggling to stay awake, so Lilith had offered her a bed in the meantime.
Lilith settled in the living room to check her emails. This was prime season for new appointments, the Starlight Accolades were just around the corner, and yet work had tapered off. At least now she finally understood why this might be and why Sandy Moss’s people had left that negative review on her website.
She hoped she would be able to harvest enough blood to feed five.
She heard the front door unlock softly and turned to look at Caleb. He pretended he hadn’t noticed her and headed to the kitchen. She heard him rummaging and then return to the door.
“Where did you go?” Lilith asked.
Nowhere. Has she gone?
“She’s upstairs, resting. I gave her your bed.”
“Of course.” Caleb nodded. “She looked thirsty.”
“I’ve sorted it. I don’t know how she’s going to survive, Caleb. I’m glad she found us, but I am so, so mad at you.” How could turn someone?
I had to.
“Why? Why did you even drink? It’s been years, I thought we were doing OK.”
So did I.
“What was it about April?” Lilith asked.
Lilith hadn’t expected an answer, which was just as well as Caleb didn’t have one.
“She sounds awful,” Lilith said. “I think she’s been manipulating Melinda her whole life and turned her just to keep her, like a pet or something. I don’t think the girls even like each other. Now they’re stuck together. Caleb, I really don’t know what else I can do for you. If you can’t control yourself by now…”
I can. I just… I just made a mistake.
“Then let me in,” Lilith pleaded. “Let me help you process this.”
Caleb’s voice was hollow, “Tell her I’m sorry.”
“Are you sorry? Why don’t you tell her yourself? She’s a lovely girl, very kind. You’ll have to work on her a bit, but hey, we’re not short on time. You could definitely use a friend.”
“So could you.” He moved towards the door.
“Wait, was this… intentional? Have you given me new companions so that you can finally leave? After everything we’ve been through?”
What do you think?
“I don’t know what to think.”
Caleb paused, his fingertips grazing the door handle. Then without a word, or thought, to his sister, he opened the door and left.