Warning: Sexual violence, issues of consent, suicidal thoughts and generally unpleasant.
Faith had been fifteen when she’d lost her virginity. She had been taking a remedial science class over the summer when she’d met the lucky fella. His name was Adam or it might have been Alan; she forgot which. He’d boldly seated himself next to her and told her, while looking at her chest, that she had nice eyes.
The only things that she really knew about Adam, or Alan, was that he was seventeen and that he’d been in juvenile detention more than he’d been at school. He had invited her over to his house the night before a test to revise atomic structure. She’d arrived without her textbook or underwear.
It had been the first of many disappointing sexual encounters. Faith always found herself craving them and yet always wound up hollow, wanting them to end as soon as they’d started, giving much more than she ever received.
In her efforts to please, to feel pleased, she had attained an almost Sandy Moss level of pretence. Will was wrong; she could fake those ‘guttural moans’.
It didn’t matter. The type of man she usually attracted only heard what they wanted to hear. Their expectations set by pornography and perpetuated by women like herself, who were desperate for the attention and far too eager to self-sacrifice.
It was difficult to admit that.
For the first time, she had something to contrast all those one-sided, rough fumbles. The first time she’d actually enjoyed herself. The things this man had made her feel. She’d had no idea that tender could be so intense. That sex could be, well, satisfying.
She had to remind herself that it was still meaningless. As amazing as this night had been, this was not the start of an epic love story. Seth wanted something from her, that was all. This was all part of a trade.
The pair had settled back into what Faith had dubbed his ‘probing pose’, although his efforts to crack the nut were somewhat subdued this time, distracted.
“What are you thinking?” she asked.
“Interesting question,” he replied. “It’ll require a visual answer.”
“A vis—” she started, her confusion instantly erased as something that didn’t fit right materialised in her mind’s eye.
“Who is she?” Faith asked.
“I don’t know; I was hoping you might.”
Faith studied the face of this woman. Nothing about her was familiar.
“Ah. I feared as much. However, something about you keeps making her appear to me.” He shifted restlessly behind her and she watched the image fade. “I suspect that I may have known her when I was human, but those memories are patchy, at best.”
“Did you have a family?”
“I don’t remember.”
Faith pictured Joy. She couldn’t imagine ever forgetting her cheekiness, her squeaky little voice, the milk and cookies scent of her.
It must have been a long time since Seth was human for him to have forgotten this woman completely.
“How old are you, Seth?”
“Really? Not even a ballpark figure?”
“No. My older memories are irretrievable. Perhaps a mind can only hold so much.”
“Perhaps.” She twisted round to look at him. “If I didn’t know you were ancient, I’d say you were… twenty-seven.”
“And you are… ah, only nineteen. Wonderful. Now I can add ‘pervert’ to my list of flaws.” As she made to settle back, he stopped her and gently pushed her away. “As pleasant as this is, I need to excuse myself, Faith. My thirst is becoming a nuisance.”
“Oh, right,” she said. “Your thirst. Does that mean you’ll be… y’know?” Killing someone.
Faith nodded. In this blissful bubble they had created, the reality of him had somewhat slipped her mind. She wondered who it would be. If he’d be taking Lilith any ‘gifts’.
“Whoever pulls up to see Roxie and no.” He smiled at her in a way that made her feel all sorts of conflicted things. “But I may pick out something for you. Perhaps a decorative kidney for your bedside table? You’ll have to forgive my gift-wrapping skills.”
She really hoped he was joking, but who knew? “You’re disturbed, Seth.”
“So they tell me. Same time tomorrow, Faith. I’ll meet you here.”
He took her hand and pressed her knuckles to his lips, disappearing before she had chance to respond.
April was still staring into space. When Caleb finally managed to bring himself to look at her, she smiled at him, but even he could tell it was forced. He wanted to hold her, soothe her but he also never, ever deserved to touch her again.
He was trying not to notice the dried tears on her face, but he could feel her wincing as she moved. Her skin hadn’t even fully healed and now he’d added puncture wounds and possibly a broken bone or two to the mix. It would all repair itself relatively swiftly, but that knowledge didn’t ease the guilt. Didn’t change the fact.
He had attacked her.
He’d wanted to give her what she’d asked for; he had wanted so much for it to be what she’d hoped, to be different. He’d surely be able to keep control by now, with her. Surely. But as the darkness had descended, as his humanity had unravelled, he’d gradually stripped her back until he didn’t see April at all. Until she was just another way to fill the void.
He had wanted to believe he was better. Reformed. Safe. That he could lay with a woman without draining or devastating her; without Lilith having to reset their limbs or their memories. The blurred, rose-tinted pages of Marjorie’s novels were testament to Lilith’s ability to pick up his pieces. Poor Marjorie had ‘fallen down the stairs’ a lot, in her younger years.
The silence had been weighing heavily in the air, threatening to crush them both, since he had managed to grasp a thread of control and tear himself away. There was only so much he could apologise, but…
“I’m sorry, April.”
…that was the fifth time they’d exchanged those words. It wasn’t OK. She should be angry, sad, hurt. Something. Anything. Should he keep apologising? Should he explain? Could he explain?
He’d let everyone down today. He clearly needed even firmer intervention. He could ask Lilith to step it up, again; there must be something she could still do for him. Something they hadn’t tried. There had to be.
Hopefully, Lilith would finally give up on him and simply tear his head off. If not he’d be building a bonfire to throw himself on to.
Perhaps that was the only solution left.
“You should head back,” Caleb said, but April didn’t appear to be listening.
“Did I do something wrong?” she asked, quietly, playing with the hem of the skirt she hadn’t even had chance to remove. “Were you trying to punish me?”
Damn me to hell. Her words felt like a kick in the gut. “Holy hell no. It’s me, I—.”
“Because I’m not very experienced,” she said gently, as if he hadn’t spoken. “I’ve never actually had sex before. If I’m honest, I don’t even know what half that stuff was that we were doing. So if it wasn’t what you expected, I’m sorry.”
If it wasn’t what he expected? What the hell? “Don’t be sorry, you have nothing to be sorry for—”
“I can learn,” she tried to smile again, her voice had an eerie, cool tone. “I’ll do better next time, I know what to expect, now. You won’t have to be so forceful with me. Next time.”
“There won’t be a next time.”
“Why not? Are you are you breaking up with me?”
He sighed, dropped his head to his hands. He should break up with her. He should nail this coffin firmly shut before he ended himself. He didn’t want her blaming herself for that, too.
“You’re thinking about it, aren’t you? Oh gosh, I’m so embarrassed. Was I that bad?” He’ll move on to someone else now. Probably bloody Melinda.
Her jealousy. He could feel it. He tilted his head to look at her aloof face but couldn’t form any words over this sickness inside him.
“Why aren’t you answering me? It’s because I’m disposable, isn’t it? You don’t care anymore, right?” she said, evenly. “Number ten thousand and one.” I thought we had something. Eternity, he said.
“Did I ever mean anything to you at all? Or did you just keep me for fun?” He got what he wanted from me. He doesn’t need you anymore, you stupid girl.
He couldn’t deal with this. For every sentence she said, he heard three. Her own voice, her mother’s.
“Please, stop. Listen to me.”
She wasn’t done, he could tell, but she pressed her lips together, silencing herself.
He could still hear her. It’s not fair. I love him.
He knew that she could mesmerise; now it seemed that she could project thoughts as well. Although she wasn’t wording them directly at him like Lilith did, she must not be aware of what she was doing.
Of all the times for her powers to manifest, it had to be now? Could she mind-read? He couldn’t feel the static or the compression that usually told him someone was trying to read him, but his walls went up. He didn’t need her scanning his mind looking for more sticks to beat herself with; this was a big enough catastrophe as it was.
Lilith. He needed to take her to Lilith. She’d know what to do. She would look after her.
“We need to go,” he said. “Get dressed.”