“You’re being very rude to our guest, Mel,” April said. “Come on! Sit with us. Have a little drinkie; it’s not going to kill you. The plasma is actually super yummy with gin in it! Or is it that the gin is yummy with the plasma? I don’t really know.” She giggled and took another swig, waving her glass at her stubborn friend. “Don’t make me get all Mother on you, now.”
“I’m not thirsty,” Melinda huffed, from across the room. She was about as far away as she could get without burning to toast in the setting sun, which she was almost considering doing.
“You could at least sit with us to be polite then,” April said, unrelenting. “It’s not like you to be so impolite.”
At the attack on her character, Melinda turned. “He’s just admitted that he kills people for fun. I want nothing to do with him.”
“It was a joke! Look, he’s laughing!” April beamed. “He’s so funny!”
Melinda folded her arms. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe her bad mood was making her take everything too seriously. She twisted round, finally addressing Seth directly. “Was it a joke?” she asked.
“No,” he replied, with a straight face.
Melinda couldn’t tell if he was being serious. She shook her head, annoyed, looking between Caleb and Faith who weren’t giving anything away. The atmosphere in the room was still tense, despite April’s bubbly laugh. Thankfully, they hadn’t played spin the bottle or, even worse, strip poker as Faith had suggested. Faith had instead satisfied her crude desires by steering the conversation in her brazen, over-sexualised way, constantly throwing lewd insults and flirtatious sideways glances at Seth that he was pretending not to notice.
April had been fangirling over Seth and his amazing powers and Caleb had been grinding his teeth and clenching his fists every time Seth so much as looked back at April, which he seemed to be doing a lot.
Melinda could tell that Seth was only showing interest in April to wind everyone up; that he didn’t actually find April worthy of his time. He was just another plumhole in a long line of plumholes who was using April, taking advantage of her amenability.
Screw him! Melinda wasn’t going to be sucked any further in. Everything about this guy gave her the creeps. Seth had growled in a way that had made her highly uncomfortable when she’d challenged him, like he enjoyed it. If it was a reaction he was after, or -ick- a cheap thrill, she wasn’t going to give him one.
She wasn’t going to acknowledge him at all.
Perhaps Faith and Caleb were feeling the same; the room had fallen quiet.
April didn’t often let silence linger and today was no exception.
“So funny,” April repeated, her words now soft at the edges, courtesy of the plasma ‘cocktails’ that Seth had insisted on making. “How long have you been a vampire for, Seth?”
“Ages and ages,” he replied flippantly, like he was talking to an annoying child.
“Are you older than Caleb?” April asked.
“Yes.” Seth set his drink down. He looked a little irritated, cutting in before April could open her mouth again. “No, I don’t know when or why I was turned.”
“Oh my gosh! That’s insane! So you just woke up one day as a vampire?” April asked, missing the finality in his voice. “Were you alone? How did you react? I have so many questions!”
Seth mumbled to himself as looked at Caleb. “Yes, no, violently. You certainly do…”
“Not happening,” Caleb said, for no apparent reason. There was a weighted pause; an inexplicable heaviness in the room before he spoke again. “Fine! Damn it all to bloody hell!” he muttered. “April, change the subject.”
April paused mid-question with her mouth open for a few seconds before she nodded. “OK… um. What’s your favourite colour?”
It was such a polite, ridiculous, innocent question to ask this formidable, ancient vampire.
It was so very April.
Melinda could hear the spirit return to Seth’s voice as he spoke. Humouring her. Mocking her.
“Red. What’s yours?”
“Pink, so almost the same!”
“We’re practically twins!” Seth grinned and winked at April. April tried to wink back, but she’d never been good at that and blinked forcefully instead.
April’s tone sounded like whispering, but everyone could hear her. “Faith, I really like him. Ignore Mel; I think she’s jealous because she’s the only one who doesn’t have a boyfriend now.”
“He’s not my boyfriend, Blondie,” Faith said. “We fucked once and now he just follows me around like a sad dog. Don’t you, boy?”
“Woof,” Seth replied, causing April to collapse into giggles, again.
“Well, he should be your boyfriend because he’s actually really nice and he’s sticking around unlike all the other bajillion men you’ve thrown yourself at.”
“Oh, good. Your judgement is impeccable, so I’m glad you approve,” Faith scoffed.
“I mean, that creepy man from the bar? With the long hair? He was so rude and so ugly! Oh! Not that long hair is ugly, Seth!” April laughed. “I bet you’re actually kinda handsome. You know, underneath all the worn leather and grime.”
“He is,” Faith purred, giving a rare compliment, but even this got no reaction from Seth, who was still entirely focused on April.
April was studying Seth, her head tilted in that inquisitive way. “I bet if you had a shave and wore some clothes that were, you know, clean and intact you’d scrub up super nice! I know! I’ll give you a makeover and you can teach me some mind magic! First, we need to scrub you in the bath!” She giggled, spilling her drink down herself but not noticing. “Get your clothes off, Mister!”
At this, Caleb hissed at her. “April! Holy hell; I’m right here!”
She blinked at him, taking a minute to focus before she answered. “Oh. Yes! So you are! Sorry, Caleb. I was only joking, please don’t be mad.” She reached towards him to stroke his face, slipping from her chair in her uncoordinated state and falling to her knees, ungracefully, between them.
“You’re already pretty,” she whispered, too loudly. “You don’t need a bath.”
Melinda knew that Caleb could’ve easily caught April before she fell, but he didn’t even try.
I should give him a piece of my mind! I should… I… I should drop it. She wants you to drop it. Melinda reminded herself. She loves him, for some crazy fudging reason.
“Fucking hell, Blondie,” Faith said, laughing at April as she tried to figure out why she was suddenly on the floor and making a shambles of getting back to her seat. “You got over your intimacy issues quickly. At least drag Fringey into the bathroom before you blow him.”
“Faith, seriously?!” Melinda hissed, but only got a shrug in response.
“Issues?” Seth asked, feigning surprise. “Is Caleb not treating you well?”
April mumbled something and Caleb cursed, yanking her roughly back to her seat.
“A doll, huh? Well, that’s Caleb for you,” Seth said breezily. “Try his coin in every slot then off to the next arcade. Oh, I could tell you some stories! There was one time, at a bar in Britechester, around 1930—”
“Utter another word and I’ll rip you apart,” Caleb hissed. He shattered his glass in his fist, sending a spray of plasma to the floor, lost amongst all the other stains.
Melinda shuddered as her own voice pounded in her head, the air around her a vice, compressing; she wanted to intervene but found she was unable to do anything at all.
Eventually, after some silent staring, Caleb growled and stormed from the room into the last rays of the setting sun, slamming the door behind him.
“What did you do? Where’s he gone?” Melinda asked, when the pressure lifted and her autonomy returned. “We’re supposed to be leaving for our next destination at sunset!”
“I sent him to calm down. He’ll come back, after his little tantrum,” Seth replied, swirling his drink, watching April now with genuine interest as she timidly sipped her own, avoiding his gaze, her sparkle gone.
Seth appeared lost in thought for a moment before his conceited expression returned and he emptied his glass in one, rising from the table.
Faith suddenly came to life, jumping up beside him and blocking his access to the door.
“Leaving so soon?” She smiled at him in a mischievous way that hid something Melinda couldn’t quite place. “You don’t fancy sharing any of Caleb’s sordid stories or having that make-over then? How about just the stripping off part?”
Seth’s face was unreadable as he stared intensely at Faith. Melinda was now doubly glad they hadn’t played poker; he’d have surely been the first person to ever beat Faith at it and she was not a graceful loser.
Just let him leave! Melinda wanted to shake her, check she still had a brain.
“Another time; I think I’ll take a walk. Find a proper drink,” Seth replied.
“Are you actually winding us up?” Melinda snarled at Seth. “You’ve just drunk half our plasma and now you’re going to go hunting?”
“No, I’m not and yes, I am,” Seth replied dismissively, not breaking his eye contact with Faith. “Perhaps you’d care to join me?”
“For the walk?” Faith asked. “Why? Do dogs need to be leashed in this town?”
“Perhaps. But not just for the walk, Faith. For the night. All of it.”
“All of it?” Faith’s eyes glazed over, lost to a hundred dreams before a reality dawned. “Wait. All of it as in… all of it? You want to take me hunting with you?”
Melinda had tried so darn hard to bite her tongue, to give her friend the benefit of the doubt, to believe that she knew what she was doing. But at Faith’s complete inability to form a response, Melinda knew. Intervention was required.
“Oh my gosh. You really weren’t joking, before, were you? You really do kill for fun, don’t you?”
“No, I wasn’t. Yes, I do.”
“And you think she wants to join you?! She’s not interested, you bloodless potato. Go away!”
“All potatoes are bloodless and I’m not asking you, cranky little orphan girl.”
“Wha—?! Excuse me?! Orphan?!” Melinda sputtered. “Flipping bell, Faith! Get rid of him, already!”
“Just… just give me second, Mel.”
“Holy Gnome. You’re not seriously considering going out with this fopdoodle, are you? He’s gonna try and kill someone, Faith! Doesn’t that bother you at all!?” Melinda screeched. She continued, in a rubbish impression of Faith, “Sure, Seth! I’ll be your accessory to horrific, unnecessary murder! Anything to get you between my thighs!”
Faith recoiled. “It’s not like that… I’m not… it does bother me, Mel. Of course of it does! I really don’t wanna watch you kill someone, Seth.”
Seth raised an eyebrow, barely smiled. “You’d rather I watched you?”
Melinda shook her head, incredulous at Faith’s silence. “What is going on here? Why is he still here? Get rid of him! He’s a monster!”
“I know he is,” Faith whispered to herself, barely making any sound. “I shouldn’t like him.”
“…but you still do? Faith, oh my gosh,” Melinda was dumbfounded. In that instant her closest friend, her lifetime buddy had become a complete stranger. “Who are you? If you can’t see all the red flags here, if you’re really considering this, him, there’s something seriously, seriously wrong with you.”
“I disagree,” Seth said, calmly. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you at all, Faith.”
“Well of course you wouldn’t! You’re an absolute lunatic! A violent thug! An abusive, stinking butthead! I’m going to call the police!” Melinda hissed at him, “They’ll arrest you! You’ll rot in jail!”
“What is this? Dad!” Melinda choked. “What did you do with him?!”
“I took him to Lilith. Someone robbed her of her supplies. She was starving.”
Melinda rounded on Faith. “You made me take it all! We took every single bag!”
“Now, Melinda. As much as I’ve enjoyed your infantile insults, you’ve said your piece.” Seth purred, softly, “Time to hush…”
Melinda closed her mouth, but not of her own free will. For the second time that afternoon, the invisible weight descended, her arms fell heavy to her sides, her body frozen in place. She glared at them both; her facial expression now the only thing that she could control. Muted by him and gosh darn furious.
“There, chance to think.” Seth took a long pause as Melinda made disapproving noises, best she could, beside him. He nodded as if he was listening. “Isn’t she bossy?”
Faith didn’t protest, earning her the full attention of Melinda’s glower.
“You’ve had enough time and we’ve played enough games, Faith. Give me your honest answer,” Seth requested, an undercurrent of impatience in his voice. “Will you be joining me tonight, or not?”