Faith knew what she was expecting when she pushed open the bedroom door. April would be lying upon her bed; awake perhaps, but not entirely and still stuck in that creepy new dark form that she had.
She did not expect her to be stomping around the room looking very much back to normal.
“Who put me in this nightdress?!”
Faith promptly pointed at Melinda.
“You could’ve picked a nicer one!” April wailed. “You’re trying to sabotage me, aren’t you?”
“Err… that one’s pretty, I…” Melinda said, looking at Faith, bewildered. “Shall we come back later?”
April’s shoulders dropped. “No. I’m sorry. I’m just… being stupid. Don’t go, I need to talk to you. Sit with me.”
Melinda and Faith both sat on the bed, wondering what April was going to say. Probably another tantrum or a hare-brained plan.
“I’m sorry. I am really genuinely, super sorry. About everything. About dragging you here, about all of my promises. Everything,” she said. “I want to try and fix things, but I don’t know where to start.”
“Fucking hell, April. Where has this come from?”
“When I was lying in the sun, I was thinking about you. Thinking about how I’ve treated you. I was thinking about everything, really.”
“You were thinking?” Faith smiled, “You can actually do that?”
“Hush, you. I’m having a moment here. I realised that I am like a rubbish version of Mother. I don’t want to be anything like Mother. I don’t want people to be afraid of me or only love me superficially. I don’t want people to have to clean up my mess. So, I’m going to take some responsibility and turn myself in.”
“Wait, what?” Melinda exclaimed, “You can’t turn yourself in!”
“I can and I am. I won’t tell them anything about you. They’ll never even know we were friends, I won’t implicate you, you’re free.”
“Are you shitting me? So all this was for nothing?” Faith said. “Game over?”
“What? I thought you’d be pleased? You can go back to your families. Forget me and this whole disaster.”
“You’re not turning yourself in, April.” Melinda said firmly.
“What about the questionable morals of me putting Father in jail?”
“Eh,” Melinda shrugged, “He offered, right?”
“Who are you and what have you done with Melinda?” Faith asked.
“I just think that we need to stick with our own kind now. What will happen if you end up in jail, April? When you don’t age, you can’t eat the food they give you, when your bloodlust takes over? They’ll know we exist, there’ll be hysteria, they’ll hunt us all and probably many innocent others, if history is anything to go by. I think sacrificing one in exchange for many is probably our best option right now.”
“Shit, someone has embraced her dark side,” Faith said. “I agree though, April.”
“I’ve been thinking that it’s probably time I left home,” Melinda said. “I miss my dad but he was right; this is character-building. I think I’m starting to enjoy being out on my own. Besides, I can’t leave you guys. I left you alone for only a few hours and look what happened. You got in a car with a random man and nearly went up in smoke and Faith considered prostitution then fell for a psychopath.”
“Oh you just wait ’til you see him. He’s much better looking than Caleb. I think he might be the one for me.”
“He told you his name, rummaged in your brain then plummed off,” Melinda scoffed. “You’re hardly married.”
“Well, usually I don’t get their names, so…”
“Rummaged in your brain?” April asked.
“Oh, yeah I forgot that part. His name is Seth and he’s a vampire. And it’s not like you can talk, Mellybean. Brain violators seem to be attracted to us both. Yeah… I see the way Lilith looks at you.”
“I… what? Does she? I don’t fancy Lilith.”
“I didn’t say you did.” Faith smirked. “Oh, Lilith! You have such lovely hair! Let me stroke it with my face,” she joked, in a perfect impression of Melinda.
“Wow,” April said sadly. “The world’s really changed while I was out of it. Or maybe I’m just seeing it now?”
“Perhaps it’s just because you’re full of Lilith, but you seem to be finally finding your brain. Don’t turn yourself in. It would be a shame for them to stake you now,” Faith said.
“I need to thank Lilith, is she here?”
“I think she just left, but yes, you do,” Melinda said. “You absolutely do. And Caleb, too, if you haven’t already… which you probably haven’t. It really upset him, finding you like that. He wouldn’t leave you.”
“Mr. Fringey sure has it bad for you, Blondie. Fuck knows what he’d have done if we’d lost you.”
“Probably just turn another girl and then not kiss her,” April huffed.
“Wait, is this why you’re grumpy about my choice of nightdress?” Melinda asked. “Were you expecting him to woohoo you when you came round?”
“OK, sorry. Next time you’re saved from death and your traumatised lover keeps vigil over your fractured corpse, we’ll be sure to dress you in your skimpiest lingerie.” Faith laughed. “Shall we lay you face up or face down?”
“Up, obviously! He kissed me on the nose! Like how you’d kiss a little kid!”
“Maybe he’s just really shy?” Faith suggested, through her laughter.
“Maybe,” April said, thinking. “Maybe he’s never kissed anyone before!”
Melinda had been trying very hard not to join Faith in her laughter, but suddenly failed, “No, from what I gather, he’s very much familiar with female anatomy.”
“How would you know?” April scowled. “Have you slept with him?”
“Wow. No. I just pick up on stuff because I do this weird thing called paying attention. But can you blame him for treating you like a child, April? Since you became a vampire you’ve been throwing tantrums, getting jealous over nothing, then you run off into the sun without regard.”
“Yeah,” Faith agreed, “Maybe you need to show him that you are actually a woman and not a toddler.”
“Maybe I do,” April mused. “He’s still downstairs, yes?”
Melinda nodded. “Are you going to go and talk to him? Bare your soul? Figure out what he’s thinking?”
“No, you two are,” April said, excitedly. “I have a plan!”
“Of course you do…”
Lilith was standing in the dense forest near the fish billboard on the affectionately named Hook Corner. She’d been walking around for a while, but there had been no sign of Seth.
She’d have to tempt him.
She closed her eyes and filtered through her thoughts. So numb was she to the sensation of fear that there was only one memory that would still work.
The air around her closed in like a cage; she felt Seth’s ragged teeth at her throat before he recognised her. He lingered a while, grazing gently against her skin; the sharpness giving way to softness.
She could hear him, remembering.
“Lilith. I didn’t think anything still frightened you. Of all things…”
“Back so soon, you cretin? You drank the woods of Glimmerbrook dry quickly.”
“I missed you telling me off.”
“I’m not here for your games, Seth.”
He laughed. “I can tell that you’re drained. You’re not here to offer your syrupy, bittersweet self, either, alas.”
She didn’t react as he pulled her closer, snaking his arms around her waist as he invaded her mind. “So what else could you want? I haven’t left you any gory gifts for a while, can’t be that. If you’re here to offer your company for the night, you should know that I have already indulged. It may not be my finest work.”
“The girls—” she began.
“Yes. I saw that you have fresh ones. Young ones. Hunting on my turf.”
“This isn’t your turf.”
“Well, you don’t use it.”
“Regardless, they won’t bother you again.”
“Perhaps I want them to bother me. Why are they here?”
She tried not to think. Not that it mattered.
“Did I even need to ask? Which of them is Caleb’s? Quiet. Let me find it. It’s been so long since I have been… inside you.”
She felt her skin crawl as he rifled through her thoughts.
“Aha. April, the vacuous blonde. How predictable. Another one to add to his pile of broken dolls. He gave her fangs and promised her forever? Despite all your intrusion, he doesn’t get any more intelligent, does he? Well, I’m sure that will end spectacularly.”
“Doesn’t make it untrue. If he hasn’t changed by now, he can’t.”
“He has changed.”
“Sure. Good luck to him and his brainless beauty.”
Lilith hissed as he continued to scroll through; a memory of Melinda flashed before her eyes.
“You’ve done enough damage to her, already,” she spat.
“Ah, yes. I remember that one. The unstable, suicidal human. Melinda knew her? Her mother. Interesting. She was riddled with regret. It was most merciful of me to slaughter her.”
“You disgust me. She had her whole life ahead of her.”
“No, she didn’t.”
“If you touch Melinda, I will smite you.”
“Now, now. There’s no need for violence, my vicious vampiric vixen. I have no interest in Melinda and her untangled mind. She is far too wholesome, although I can see why that would draw you. Cling to the hope of trying to regain what you have lost. I’d rather embrace what I have gained. And what I wish to gain…”
“What do you want with her?”
“She is a mystery. You have surely experienced it yourself; her thoughts do not match her words. What we can hear is a superficial layer, a disguise. There is so much that cannot be accessed, so much she can’t admit to herself. Rather more of a challenge. And you know how much I enjoy a challenge. Yes, she has been bothering me…”
He paused, reading. “So she can’t stop thinking about me, either? Handsome stranger. Well, didn’t I make a good impression?”
“I’ll tell her exactly what you are.”
His laugh sent the birds fleeing from the trees.
“And what is that? Lesser than you, correct? We have both strayed into the void thanks to our own selfish desires, Lilith. Our only difference is that I can admit that I enjoy them.”
“I’m nothing like you.”
“You keep telling yourself that.”
“She’ll avoid you like the plague.”
“Will she? Try her. Tell her all about me. Give her every gruesome, biased detail that you have. Heck, make some up, you’re a glorious liar. She will only want to seek me more. I can feel it in her. Darkness.”
Lilith knew he was right. “She deserves better than you. I hope she’s your downfall.”
He waved his hand and she felt herself turning on the spot. She’d always hated that he could do that. That she couldn’t.
“I love it when you spew your venom. You’re driving me to distraction here, Lilith, telling me how very bad I am. Keep turning your knife in my heart.”
“You don’t have a heart,” she spat.
She felt the change in him as he cradled her face, leaned towards her. His voice became soft, dangerous. “I used to. Any idea what happened to it?”
Lilith freed herself from his hold but, in a beat, he had vanished.