Caleb and Melinda made their way back to Marjorie’s house. Melinda climbed the stairs and pushed the door only to find it locked.
She learned that the sensation of her heart skipping a beat was not purely a mortal one. Had something happened? Had a relative of Marjorie’s returned? What should she do – should she run away? Should she knock?
“It’s locked,” Melinda whispered.
“Well, unlock it then.” He looked bemused.
“I can’t. We don’t have the keys. We just sort of broke in.”
“So who’s locked it?”
“I don’t know!” she hissed.
Caleb knocked on the door.
“What are you doing?!” Melinda screeched as a light came on in the hallway and the door opened.
“Oh, it’s you.” Faith wasn’t smiling.
Melinda glared back at her, “You locked me out?”
“Found some keys in the kitchen. Thought we couldn’t be too careful, now.”
“Didn’t think to tell me? Some friend you are,” Melinda huffed.
“I didn’t think you were coming back. Why are you back?” Faith asked.
Melinda pulled Caleb into the hallway.
“Who are you?” Faith purred at him. “Mel, did you catch him for me?” She ran her finger down the front of Caleb’s jacket. “Hi. I’m Faith and I bite.”
“Uh… I’m Caleb. I’m here to see April.”
Faith pulled her hand back like she’d been burned. “You’re Caleb?” She looked him up and down. “Oh boy. That thing we had going on there for a moment? It didn’t happen. OK?”
Faith ran into the house, Caleb and Melinda just behind her. She sang up the stairs, “April, visitor!”
April’s voice travelled back down. “A visitor? For me? Is it Lilith? Because I’m not drinking that gunk.”
Caleb was trying very hard not to smile. “It’s not Lilith,” he called in his ice and fire tone.
It felt like barely a second before April had practically fallen down the stairs and was standing before him.
Something unseen, unspoken lingered between the two of them and Melinda suddenly felt like she was intruding, yet it was Faith who broke the silence. “Well, this is intense.”
April didn’t take her eyes off Caleb, “Just… just go do something, yeah?” she waved her hand dismissively at her friends.
“You mean like eavesdrop from the kitchen?”
April shot Faith a look that could have withered a cactus and flicked her eyes towards the ceiling.
“Fine,” Faith took Melinda’s hand, “come on Mel, let’s leave these two alone.”
April waited until she heard the bedroom door close before she spoke. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh. Right. Do you… do you want me to leave?”
“I didn’t think I’d ever see you again. I thought you’d changed your mind.”
“Have you thought of me?”
“Seriously, April? I’ve not thought of anything else.”
April felt the weakness coming over her again as she looked at him. “Me neither.”
They gazed at each other for a long moment. It was just as April had imagined. Now he would take her in his arms and kiss her. She closed her eyes.
When nothing happened, April blinked them open. He was looking at her so intensely. She wondered what he was thinking. Perhaps he just needed another little push… “Aren’t you going to kiss me?”
April’s face fell. “Why ever not?”
Caleb shrugged. “Why rush? We have eternity.”
Somewhere from upstairs came the sound of someone pretending to retch. April ignored it.
“Eternity,” she repeated.
“Oh, that was such a line!” Faith laughed, her ear pressed against the bedroom floor. She looked over at Melinda.
“I don’t understand what happened. They’ve known each other all of five minutes!”
“This is April we’re talking about here. She’d probably fall in love with me, if I looked at her the right way. Maybe Caleb’s the same. Sounds like he’s also pretty lonely.”
Melinda nodded, unconvinced.
Faith settled on the bed beside her, wondering where the hell to start. “You know, we had no chance, right? Especially you; she’s gorgeous and you’re kinda weird-looking,” she teased.
“At least I didn’t offer to bite him.”
Faith groaned, “Thanks so much for reminding me.”
It had felt like so long since the two of them had been alone, but the joviality couldn’t paper over cracks quite this big.
“I’m sorry, Melinda. I have been completely out of order.”
“You should be; you really have been.”
“I don’t like the person I’m becoming.”
“Me either,” Melinda sighed.
“Why did you come back? I saw that you’d packed all your things. I thought you’d actually manage to leave this time, now you had somewhere to go, if I just got April out of the way for the night. Then, when we were out, all I could think was; ‘Oh my god, what if she’s not running away? What if she’s going to do something stupid and I didn’t try and stop her?’ I mean, I know we’re already technically dead, but…”
Melinda looked at Faith but she felt this wasn’t the time for her talk.
To fill the silence, Faith started rambling, “We were out for hours tonight and we managed to stop just one driver. By the time we’d both taken what we needed, he was too drained to carry on driving so we just left him in his car at the roadside. I feel fucking awful about it. At least when we were seducing guys they weren’t dying of fright. Then we bump into Will outside the bar, and even though I know he’s married and even though he’s a massive tool, if April hadn’t have been there I would’ve just got in his bloody truck.”
“Who’d have thought it, hey? I’d be the one struggling while you happily slaughter strangers. I’m not judging, I mean, we need to survive, right? I would much rather not care about anything and happily go on some sort of killing spree. How are you doing it? Being so cold, I mean.”
“Yeah, I mean ripping Paul’s throat out? And that guy the other night that you found? Just acting like it’s nothing?”
“Because it is nothing,” Melinda said. “You actually believed those things?”
“Paul is definitely dead, Mel.”
“I told you, I didn’t do that! I swear! I couldn’t even bite him. I threw him out.”
“And the guy the other night?”
“I made that up! I didn’t even watch a horror movie. I went stargazing.”
“Oh, thank fuck for that!” Faith laughed. “Here I am, trying to be as ice cold as you and you’re not cold at all.”
“Why do you want to be cold?”
“I don’t… but April has her mind-bending superpowers and I thought you were casually snuffing blokes and hunting down vampires. I didn’t want to be the weak link.”
“You genuinely thought I’d be capable of killing someone? Me? I mean, look how mighty and fearsome I am.”
“You’re stronger than you look. Plus, I thought this might have been the thing that finally broke you; the need to feed. Wait, so how are you surviving, if you’re not mutilating men?”
Melinda reached into her backpack and handed Faith a plasma pack.
“Right.” Faith tipped the pouch upside-down and the contents made an unappetising squelchy noise as they descended. “Yummy. Congealed gloop. I never thought it was poison, you know. I don’t think Lilith would hurt you…”
“Why did you give me so much grief about her, then? You really, really upset me.”
“I guess I’m just jealous.”
“You’re not, though. Try again.”
“I guess… I just… Ugh! Because… because… hurting you is the only way I can really hurt me, right now, OK?! Maybe I just need you to hate me as much as I do.”
“I’m stuck, Mel. I needed this thing to work and it’s all gone completely to shit. I gave up everything! I’ve thrown Joy under a fucking bus. Now Caleb’s come back for April and you’ve got Lilith and the world is on fire. Where does that leave me? I sold my soul to the devil for a second chance with you guys and I have nothing to show for it!”
“Right, OK. Stop.” Melinda said in her calmest voice. “First, I don’t hate you—“
“No. I don’t like your choices much. But at least now you’re listening to me again we can figure it out. Second, people don’t have to have a finite amount of friends, Faith. I can be friends with both of you and Lilith, you know.”
Faith nodded, her rage subsiding. “Why the hell would you still want to be friends with me, after all of this?”
“Well, no-one else has sold their soul to the devil for me.”
“You’re strange, Mellybean,” Faith sniffed.
“Please don’t cry. Your makeup is already a mess,” Melinda grinned.
Faith cry-laughed. “It’s hard doing makeup when you can’t see your face.”
“Then why don’t you and April do each other’s?”
Faith was still playing with the plasma pack. “Are these any good?”
“I don’t know how they compare to actually feeding on someone, but compared to some things my mum has cooked over the years, they’re great. Satisfying.”
“Your mum always made the craziest things. Do you remember the blue lasagne?”
Melinda laughed, “Oh yeah! I remember you pretending to be pleased that she’d made enough for you to take for school lunch for a whole week—“
“— blueberries and beef mince are not a great combination. And my lips and tongue were stained blue the whole time—“
“— and then you puked purple all over yourself in assembly. The teachers thought you had llama disease and isolated you in the chemistry lab.”
The pair collapsed into fits of giggles on the bed.
“Ah, I miss your folks, Mel. They’re both completely bonkers.”
“I know, I do too.” Melinda smiled, sadly.
“We’ll see them again one day, I promise. I’m going to give this hot poison a go, too. And I want to come visit Lilith with you. She seems like she could teach us a lot. I need to get myself under control if I want to see Joy growing up. Someone needs to ensure that she develops only the finest taste in motion pictures and heavy metal music. Plus, I can’t do this hitchhiking thing again. That driver we pulled over tonight tasted disgusting and the look in his eyes…” she shuddered, “I will be having nightmares about necking him for years to come and not just because he had tufts of ear hair.”
Melinda rolled her eyes, but she smiled.
Faith was still there.