“That’s Caleb’s room. That’s mine and it’s strictly off-limits. You three will be in that room. Help yourself to the pantry. I’ve got surgery until five; do not call me unless it’s urgent. If I come back and you’re all drunk, I’ll turn you in myself. Understood?”
“Yes Mum,” Faith joked. Lilith narrowed her eyes at her and Faith felt that now familiar fuzzy sensation in her brain. In her mind, Faith started counting to the tune of Happy Birthday while picturing Caleb dancing around naked holding an inflatable crocodile.
Lilith could clearly see, or hear, at least part of this; she raised an eyebrow and turned her attention away.
“We appreciate what you’re doing, Lilith,” Melinda said.
“Yes,” April agreed. The next part of her sentence sounded like effort. “Thank you for everything.”
Lilith didn’t respond. She gave Caleb a look that caused him to flinch, headed straight downstairs and out of the front door, without a word.
She had been in an even frostier mood than usual from the second Caleb had defiantly placed the knackered old television in the living room. Lilith hadn’t said anything, but the look on her face told Faith that if the girls hadn’t been there, Caleb would not have gotten away with it.
Faith was really quite proud of him, although it wasn’t lost on her that he was still simply following orders.
April had gone to lie down and the rest of the group immediately raided the pantry and were hanging out around the kitchen table with their glasses. Faith liked it like this. It reminded her of the days when the three girls would hang out in April’s bedroom. OK, back then they drank soda, rather than weird blood concoctions, but the feeling was similar. Relaxed. Easy.
Melinda had started to perk up but as morning turned to afternoon, Faith again found herself distracted. When night fell, should she go back to Seth? Sated. Did he mean what she thought he meant?
The things he had told her appalled her, actually sickened her and yet the brazenness with which he told her about them captivated her completely.
To be that unrestrained, that free… she couldn’t even imagine it.
She thought of the way he had caressed her throat with a tenderness that contrasted his violent words. The way her skin had reacted to his touch and the way it reacted now, remembering it. We’ll figure something out.
It took her a few moments to realise that Melinda had asked her a question.
“When was the last time you saw your reflection, Faith?”
“Oh, the morning I turned? I think. I don’t really remember. Why?”
“Caleb said he’d never seen his. Are you OK?”
“I’m fine. You’ve never seen your reflection? Well that explains a lot.”
Caleb ran his fingers through his hair. “I feel another fringe joke coming on. Do I really look that bad?”
“Let me show you.” Faith took her phone from her pocket. “I can’t believe I forgot we could do this! No more wonky eyeliner for me!”
“That’s not going to work.”
“What? Where did you go? Why don’t you show up in photos?” Faith asked.
“Lilith says that ‘we can’t be perceived by anything other than a compensating eye as we contradict all the laws of nature’, being both alive and dead,” Caleb explained. “I think it’s something to do with not having a soul.”
“Wow. Do we even exist at all?”
“So you have never seen your face? Ever?” Melinda asked.
“Never that I remember. Do I look like Lilith?”
“Not really.” Faith thought for a moment. “Melinda, draw the man.”
Faith knew that Melinda hated being asked to draw people, but surely this was an exceptional circumstance. Melinda didn’t argue, in fact Faith had never seen her so keen to draw. She pulled out her sketchbook. Faith had bought that for her. It was the best one she could afford, but the paper wasn’t great quality. Melinda had much better, fancier ones.
It made Faith feel all kinds of warm things knowing Melinda faithfully used this one.
Faith watched as all those strange pictures Melinda drew of herself flickered past. Melinda smoothed out the first blank page.
“Don’t smile like that,” Melinda requested as Caleb grinned at her. He tried to set his face into a more neutral expression, but his excitement kept getting the better of him.
Melinda worked swiftly and smoothly. She barely spoke the whole time she drew. The room was silent but for the gentle scratching of the pencil against the paper. Finally she placed her pencil down and Faith peered over.
“Pretty good, although you’ve flattered him somewhat.” She dragged the book across the table placing it in front of Caleb.
Caleb studied the picture for a while, taking in every pencil stroke, the wonder evident on his face. “This is what I look like,” he said to himself, amazed. He looked up at Melinda. “Thank you.”
“Is it what you expected?” Melinda asked.
“No. I’m much better looking than I thought I was. More… human.”
“Yeah, a bit pale but mostly human. It’s just a shame we can’t actually see half of your beautiful, ghostly face, Fringey.”
Caleb looked like he was having some sort of inner battle. Faith could practically see the cogs turning in his head. Finally, he looked up at her.
He didn’t even need to form the question. Cutting something was just the distraction Faith needed.
April looked around the room that was now home. It was even more poorly decorated than Marjorie’s. The whole house was. Muted colours, kind of empty. Perhaps it was a reflection of Lilith.
April had never shared a bedroom before. When Lilith had told her that she would be, she’d assumed that she’d have been sharing with Caleb, but he hadn’t even suggested it. When she said she needed to lie down, he hadn’t taken the hint. Barring that quick kiss this morning back at Marjorie’s, which was probably pity, Caleb had largely ignored her.
Her memories of the previous night were patchy but she remembered kissing him, feeling wanted.
Maybe she wasn’t a good kisser. Oh goodness, if she couldn’t even kiss him right how could she ever compare to his thousands of other lovers?
Maybe he was thinking the same thing. He’d made a mistake choosing her. He was finally realising that she was inadequate.
Ugly. Rubbish kisser.
Then she had woken up, alone. Lilith looking down at her with an expression of disgust.
Had she done something wrong? Something embarrassing? Oh no. That was it. She remembered climbing on top of him; remembered him protesting.
Did she make a fool of herself? Had she ruined everything?
“What do you think?”
“April? Oh. Well it… it’ll grow back.”
She blinked confused. “What?” She turned her face up and noticed Caleb standing there. “Your hair is gone!” she gasped.
“Yes. I knew it was a bad idea,” he said, sadly.
“No! You look… you look good.” Too good for you. He’s going to leave you.
She didn’t know what to do, so she flung herself into his arms. Desperate.
She tried to pull away. Ungrateful.
Struck dumb by her erratic behaviour, he rocked her gently as she began crying against him. He listened to her whispering to herself, over and over. “Stupid girl. Ungrateful.”
“Hey, what’s the matter? Why are you saying these things?”
“You’re going to leave me.”
“What? I’m not.” He pulled back to look at her. “Why would you ever think that?”
“She told me,” April sobbed.
“Who?” She could feel the anger in him. He’s angry at you.
“Mother,” she answered, quietly.
“Your mother’s dead, April.”
April tapped her head. “She’s not. Not in here. I don’t know how to shut her up, Caleb.” He stroked her hair as her tears soaked his shirt. “She tells me all these things. She hates me, she makes me hate myself. She never stops.”
Her tears had bled through his clothing, through his skin, filled him. Her words could have been his own. He’d learned long ago that he couldn’t fix this, he couldn’t change it, he had to accept it. There was only one thing he could offer her.
“I understand,” he said. “I’m here.”
Faith had spent the whole day trying to talk herself out of going to see Seth again. She hadn’t told Melinda; she knew that the second Melinda heard about his slaughtering ways, she would convince her not to go.
That very fact had convinced Faith that she didn’t want to be talked out of it at all.
Melinda knew something was going on; she had always been able to read Faith better than anyone. But trying to get Faith to open up was always difficult. And trying to convince her not to do something she’d set her mind to was nigh on impossible.
The two had set up the TV and were catching up on the news.
“I know April killed her, so why does it feel like Sandy is the one getting away with murder?” Melinda asked.
Faith shrugged, watching the sun setting outside the window. “I’m going to go take a walk I think. Feeling a bit cooped up.”
“Hey, good idea, I’ll come with.”
“I’d rather go alone.”
“Oh? Everything OK?”
Faith looked at Melinda’s sweet face. There was never any pressure. Never any need to lie.
She found herself doing so anyway. “Yes. I just need some time to think. I won’t be long.”
Faith stepped off the porch just as Lilith arrived. The two looked at each other for a while, neither speaking. Faith tried to imagine Caleb with his crocodile again but she couldn’t. As her thoughts became more clouded she watched Lilith’s emotionless face. Her lips hadn’t moved but Faith still heard her voice.
Don’t trust him.
“Do you have something to say, Lilith?”
Lilith didn’t break her stare. “He’s deceptive, Faith.”
Faith was livid. “He’s told me all about himself, even the worst parts and yet you lied about even knowing him. How can I trust you?”
“I don’t know him. Not like I used to. He made sure of that,” Lilith hissed. “If you think he’s told you everything, you are sorely mistaken. If you let him in, he will destroy you.”
“Like how you destroyed Caleb?”
A shadow flickered across Lilith’s face, her eyes darkened for the briefest second. “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.”
“Yeah, why not? You pretend you don’t hear him. You’ve made him a quivering wreck, a shell. You’re a tyrant. He might not stand up for himself, but I fucking do.”
To Faith’s surprise, Lilith laughed. “You really think you’ve got this whole thing figured out, don’t you? You don’t have a clue what you’re dealing with. Do you think you’re special? Think you’re the one who can tame him? Change him? Walk into his trap, Faith. But don’t you dare come crying back to me when he makes you forget who you are.”