Melinda was very relieved that, as a vampire, she did not have the function to poop herself, as the zombie had appeared from nowhere to rip the face off an unsuspecting truck driver. April squealed in delight and Faith looked almost bored.
The gore in the movie didn’t seem to bother Melinda as much as she remembered, but she still didn’t enjoy the sensation of fear or the lingering tension as she waited to be jolted from the sofa. She got to her feet.
“Where are you going?” April asked. “You can’t use the bathroom excuse nowadays.”
“I think I’m going to go take a walk,” Melinda said. “I won’t be long.”
Faith smiled, winked. “Don’t kill anyone this time though, yeah?”
“And don’t bring home any more undead friends,” April added, bitterly.
Caleb had set off on his nightly walk, leaving Lilith alone in the house. She had waited a while to ensure that he wouldn’t just pop back in, before she pulled out her laptop.
Over the last few days, she’d run a number of searches for this vampire encyclopedia that Caleb said April had mentioned. She planned to visit the girls and borrow their tome, if it existed. If it contained information about their family, information that could not be found anywhere else, what else did it contain?
And, perhaps more importantly, how had April come to it? Who else knew about it?
Her brother might think he could deal with whatever disaster was looming on the horizon, but Lilith was not so sure. The blood stocks would dry up pretty quickly, between feeding the girls and the slowdown of patients through her practice. It was inevitable that they would end up having to hunt and highly likely that April would be caught. A vampire in custody, especially one who had committed such a high-profile crime? It was another vampire hunt waiting to happen.
Now, more than ever, there was one thing Lilith needed to find.
Melinda hadn’t intended to go to the cliff side, but that’s where she found herself. She walked up the dimly lit path, leaving the darkness behind her. April had turned into May and had brought with it the first blush of summer. The clouds that shrouded the moon threatened rain but she didn’t mind. She smiled, feeling the warm breeze in her hair.
She was just glad to be alone, free from the worry of being shocked out of her skin.
“We meet again.”
Melinda clutched at her chest and spun around to see Caleb sitting on the bench, wearing his not-quite smile.
“Oh, it’s you.” Her face fell and took Caleb’s with it. “I didn’t see you there. Aren’t you supposed to be going to see Lilith?”
“I did go to see Lilith,” he said.
“Is she OK?”
“She is. I’ll be heading back there shortly, if you wish to join me?”
Melinda nodded and took a seat beside him. He looked at her for a while before he asked, “Is there something on your mind?”
Melinda pouted. “You and April…”
“Oh?” He smiled a little.
“You seem so into each other.” She narrowed her eyes. “It doesn’t take a lot for you to fall, does it? You just needed to know she was interested and you’re promising her eternity? In that respect, you two are probably a good match.”
“I think we are a good match—“
“I think you’re leading her on.”
Well, he wasn’t expecting that. Caleb clenched his jaw, almost lost for words. “I’m really not—“
The silence fell between them like a invisible wall. Caleb was blistering at Melinda’s accusation, grasping for something to say.
“Faith is really something.”
“Yes,” Melinda agreed. “That’s one way to describe her.”
He glanced over at the moody little vamp on the bench next to him. She was staring at the sky, lost in her thoughts. He could see them playing out through the expressions on her face.
“Why are you friends with them, Melinda?”
His tone was soft but she felt like he’d hit her. “What do you mean?”
“You’re not like them. They’re both so full-on and you’re, well…”
Melinda bruised at his comment. “I’m boring?”
“No. Quite the opposite.”
Now she was the one caught off-guard. She could feel her face burning. “We’ve known each other a long time. Faith and I have been friends since pre-school. Our mothers were friends.”
“So it’s out of loyalty? Why are you friends with April?”
Melinda could feel herself getting defensive. “What does it matter? What would you know? Do you even have any friends?”
She realised, too late, that she already knew the answer. His shoulders dropped as he turned away. “No, I guess not.”
She mellowed, softened again by his broken demeanour. “Have you ever had any friends?”
“No. Not really. A few casual acquaintances. But they all die, eventually.” He thought for a moment. “Wait, I do have one, Robert. But I don’t think he counts.”
Caleb smiled in his sad way. “He’s a cat. He was Marjorie’s, he started coming over to the house after she passed away. Lilith doesn’t like him, so I look after him. I have to feed him on human scraps from Lil’s pantry, though. It’s all a bit disturbing.”
“That’s just wrong.” Melinda thought for a while. “Is he white and really fluffy?”
“That’s him. You’ve met?”
“I followed him to your house, that first time. Why is he called ‘Robert’? That’s a weird name for a cat.”
“What would you call him?”
“I don’t know… Fluffybum?”
Caleb’s laugh rang out and, once again, Melinda found herself caught off-guard.
“You’re too cute, Melinda.”
Melinda wondered how much hotter her face could get before her hair would catch fire. She stumbled for a new topic. “What do you like to do for fun? When you’re not pretending to be a doctor or feeding surgical waste to your dead neighbour’s cat.”
He grinned. “Not a lot. I mostly stay home, loiter in the village, go to the bar or come here. I help out at the surgery but only on the admin side. Lilith won’t let me anywhere near the scalpels. I’m not bad at chess, but Lilith doesn’t like to play. Yourself?”
“I like to draw. I’m an art student. Well, I was.”
He looked genuinely interested. “What do you draw?”
“Mostly portraits.” Please don’t ask me to draw you.
“Perhaps you would show me, sometime?”
“You want me to draw you,” she sighed.
“Well, you can, if you wish. But mainly, I’d like to see what the world looks like through your eyes.”
People usually weren’t so curious. When they were, it was only because they wanted a portrait of themselves.
Melinda studied him carefully. She exhibited her final pieces at college but she never showed her personal sketches to anyone.
It surprised her to find that she suddenly wanted to.
She reached to retrieve her sketchbook, held it out to him, with a feeling akin to giving him her soul.
He casually flipped it open.
“Faith,” he stated, admiring the first image.
“You’ve captured her well. There’s a vulnerability in her, for certain,” he said, turning the page. Melinda nodded, surprised at him.
“April,” he whispered longingly, looking at the next image.
Melinda nodded, relieved that he hadn’t said anything else.
Those were the only two pictures that weren’t of Rose.
Caleb looked through silently for a while; carefully studying each image before slowly turning the page.
Say something. It was torture for her.
“Is this multiple versions of yourself?” he asked.
“Not exactly.” She wondered how to put it. “It’s my mother.”
“Interesting. Why does she always look slightly different?”
“Because I don’t remember her. I was adopted. This is my birth mother, Rose.”
“Rose?” he asked, pausing on one of the sketches.
“Yes. She disappeared. Presumed dead.”
Caleb nodded; still staring at the same image, but not seeing it.
Now he remembered. Now he understood why Melinda was so familiar.