Chapter 2.14 – Leather and Grime

“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?”

15 thoughts on “Chapter 2.14 – Leather and Grime

  1. The situation is becoming increasingly tense! 😬
    April chit chat is really entertaining. She still throws large amounts of gasoline on the fire.
    Sweet wise Melinda saw her father in a horrible sight. She has no power over Seth and Faiht seems to be out of reach.
    I’m thinking about Faith. Will she go with Seth?

    Oh! You’ve done it again! Created a cliffhanger that can keep me awake at night while I try to pick up a light in the dark 🤨

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Drunk, clueless April is so adorably sweet. “Drinkie” and falling onto the floor to try and touch Caleb’s cheek. Oh lordy and asking Seth was his favourite colour is. She’s so cute in this chapter. xD Oh, looks like this time around, Caleb is the jealous, possessive one. Did they swap traits again, or are they both hypocrites that are fine with giving attention to the opposite sex but don’t want their partner to do so, I wonder?

    Yayyyyy, go Melinda! Finally someone who isn’t gobbling up Seth’s bullsh*t! You tell him off! He won’t care, but it’s the thought that counts! Yes! Bwahaha, and she even called him a fopdoodle XDDD

    Interesting how Seth is almost outright ignoring Faith for most of the conversation. I didn’t make that connection the first time around, but he’s doing it on purpose for what comes later, isn’t he? The snake. And Faith is visibly affected by it, too. Despite having a good poker face she sure is giving away her tells there, looking into her glass all mopey when Seth ignores her over April.

    Why do I get the feeling that the bar in Britechester around 1930 was the same event that Seth bullied Caleb into seeing memories of not too long ago? Ouch, and Caleb slipped right into dark form over it, too. Gone is the good mood in the entire room. I wonder why, out of everyone in that room, Seth chose to overpower Melindog in that moment. Because she might have been able to diffuse the tension? And he doesn’t want her to? Gah, and right back into her shell April goes. Did Caleb’s outburst remind her of her time with Sandy? Or is this the undead marriage pulling strings? Or both?

    This comment is turning into another novel but I can’t not rant about what happens at the end. Gah, that is why Seth was really there, wasn’t it? Ignoring Faith almost all visit long, antagonizing Melinda, and now April is a silent doll sitting in the background and Caleb has stormed off. Now he’s luring her along with dark sexiness oh but we’re killing someone too, that’s fine yeah? Gaaaaaaah and it’s driving a wedge right between Faith and Melinda noooooo! Melindog’s comment that there’s something wrong with Faith and her not raging at Seth but blaming Faith for taking the blood supply… those two are painful. They’re going to stick in Faith’s head, aren’t they?

    Aw, man. If Faith joins Seth and leaves Melinda behind, that wedge might turn turn into a rift. Breaking her bonds with friends and family indeed. Goddamnit, Seth. I’m genuinely curious to see what Faith chooses here. Her lifelong friendship with Melinda, or Mr. Tall-dark-and-violently-dangerous?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Woo! Novel!

      Did they swap traits? Who started with what and swapped what? All sorts of layered mess is going on here, as usual. My head…

      I think Melinda’s been spending her long nights awake reading ToC. Also, you totally don’t have to censor yourself here, although Melindog was pleased that you did, but politely suggests ‘bullpoop’ as an alternative.

      Would he do that? I’m sure Seth was just so enamoured with the lovely Miss Moss that he forgot all about the crude, mean woman next to him. I mean, Faith said it herself a while back that next to April, she must have looked kind of dull. He totally would not exploit that insecurity, right?

      It may or may not have been that event, but it was certainly an event. He might have overpowered the others but we don’t yet, as we were following Melinda. Or maybe he knows something we don’t about Mel, I mean who can say? And April? Well, it’s confrontation. She’s not good with it. Caleb’s dark form probably doesn’t help.

      Seth was there simply to deliver booze and hang out in a tiny room with an old TV and a ‘brainless blonde’ – that was probably exactly the sort of afternoon he enjoyed, right? Totally no other reasons. Antagonizing the best friend of his desired conquest? Causing the only other ancient vampire to storm out? Coincidence, surely. Wait so, if you’re not including the murder in the proceedings, what is dark about the sexiness? Driving wedges? I mean, you’re really giving Seth a lot of credit that this afternoon has somehow all gone to plan…

      Who will she choose? Will her friendship be irreparably damaged? Will she choose Melindog or Sexy Seth? I don’t know why I’m asking you. I blame the wine. 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Woah. April is a super happy drunk. And what a mess I don’t even know where to begin.

    For starters, I can’t tell when Seth is steering the conversation his way, or controlling anyone against their will. Like Caleb suddenly leaving the girls behind and alone with Seth seems like something he’ll never do, so I’m inclined to think that Seth did make Caleb take a walk there. But April’s over the top fangirling is confusing. April is so clueless that I’m still wondering if its more than the booze. But if Mel’s sudden strange compressing fuzz. Does Seth’s mind control ability affect everyone around him, not just the person being targeted at? Or he was really controlling a few people at once there when Mel tried to intervene between Seth and Caleb?

    Caleb’s got quite the temper there. Oh well, there goes my cute little clueless vampire couple fantasy wish for both of them.

    I’ve never seen Mel lose her composure. How strange. But blimey. I quite like the Faith-Seth dynamic, and can kinda understand why Faith is having a hard time making a choice there. But with how Seth treated Mel and April, I really hope she says no. Especially when he’s controlling them in full view in front of Faith. She should know by now how little regard he has for her friends. :c

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you’re ever not sure where to start, start at the end because then the end becomes the start and you can always finish.

      Ah yes. This chapter would have been much more straightforward for you to read (and given a lot away…) if written from Seth’s shadow rather than Melinda’s. But you guys wanted more Melinda, so I delivered in my usual way – as unsatisfactorily as possible! 😆

      I love that even in this entire mess you are still rooting for a sweet little love story. Don’t lose all hope yet, OK?

      We get Faith’s decision next time and maybe things will make a bit more sense. Hopefully. Although I have spent most of the last few days drunk, so I can’t promise anything.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is the strangest reasoning ive ever heard. 😆 My first instincts is to counter with ‘got head, got tail’. I think the equivalent in english is “everything that has a beginning has an end” but lol what a mouthful and am not sure if it full expresses my 4 word proverb. Ok i went off on a strange tangent there.

        Yea that Melinda pov was so unsatisfying 😂

        Sounds like a great christmas you had there. 😄 Naice! All i did was hot pot lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This was the best late Christmas gift to me. Where do I start? Perhaps at Seth not knowing when he was turned? or April acting like an eager to please puppy while Faith spent the night referring to Seth as the dog?

    Here’s the thing, Melinda, I’m not entirely convinced that Faith is not also a monster (and I mean that in the best way possible). From Mel’s perspective (being so sure that she know her friend) this seems like an open and shut case. Seth is a psycho-killer who is a bad influence on her friend.

    But I wonder…

    Is he a bad influence, or is he seeking approval. Because maybe I’m biased, but I’m pretty sure Faith has him on the ropes…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, a lot of canine references, but no actual dogs. Cat references just aren’t the same.

      I don’t think Faith is entirely convinced that she’s not a monster, either. And Seth, well, he’s seeking something.

      Bloody hell. That short, crap reply to you required all my finest vague answering skills. I think you’ve got me on the ropes. 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh man, but there is a whole other conversation here that we’re missing *grumbles* One I’d sure love to hear. Must have been hella lot confusing to be in that room, unless you’re drunk April, haha. Though presumably Melinda should be realising they’re tqlking telepathically, considering she’d seen lilith and April do it.

    I was waiting for Melinda to physically attack Seth the whole chapter, she managed to stay surprisingly restrained. I’m sure of she heard whatever Seth was telling Caleb, that would not have been the case.

    Unpopular opinion time – Melinda sure likes to act like she’s better than the lot of them, but she still continues to tag along, even though she thinks Caleb is abusive. Same goes for the plasma bags, she didn’t *have to* take them all just because Faith said so. She likes to shift the blame on everyone else around her to keep her conscience clear. Sounds like Lilith in the making, really.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The amount of conversation you’re missing may not be as much as you think; Seth, of course, had a focus during that whole afternoon, which you’ll be enlightened with in due course. I swear it; this jigsaw has all the pieces in the box, but they’re being handed out, one at a time, in seemingly random order still, because I still don’t really know how to write properly.

      You were surprised Melinda -didn’t- physically attack Seth? Now I’m imagining her flying at him with her tiny fists clenched and him just blinking or something and knocking her head off. Which would have been funny, but sort of ruined the story somewhat. Although, not for you as you seem to hate Melinda now. 😆

      I do love an unpopular opinion! “Melinda sure likes to act like she’s better than the lot of them” interesting. I wonder where she’s got that from. If she didn’t tag along, where would she go? And if she knew someone she cared about was being abused, could she abandon them?

      “Sounds like Lilith in the making, really.” Coming from you; ouch. We’ll see. 😘

      Like

      1. Haha I don’t hate Melinda. I’ve always been very neutral about her. She is ok, but she definitely still needs to find her own tune, if that makes any sense. I do still think the three of them will each go their separate ways eventually regardless, it’s inevitable. They’re already drifting apart, not that they had the mst rock solid of friendships in the first place, haha.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh I can imagine this was fun to write. When you know your characters like you seem to do, they write themselves, don’t they? Seth was like a gasoline to the group’s fire. They barely manage to get along with each other and then he inserts himself, a new element they are forced to react to. I wonder what was Seth’s main goal here. Did he come to study April’s & Caleb’s bond? Did he come to see and tempt Faith? The way he ignored her most of the time would suggest exactly that. Or did he come equipped with the weapon of secret knowledge about Melinda waiting for the right opportunity to use it and cause chaos and observe? I really hoped Melinda would find a way to throw him off somehow. She’s the thoughtful one and I guess I always expect her to say something significant and poignant. And probably because she’s in disadvantage against Seth due to his secret knowledge the more I’m hoping she manages to get back at him somehow.
    It was painful to watch April trying to be nice and friendly only to make a fool out of herself. Was it really contempt what Seth felt? I’m actually wondering if Seth has ever been ‘married’ the way Caleb is now. Could the woman from his memory be his ex-wife?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most scenes are fun to write, especially where the 3 girls are concerned. Yes, in my head they totally just talk to each other and write themselves. Seth’s motivations will eventually become clearer, but he has a few.

      Ah, you’re not the only one who wanted Melinda to out-do Seth, however she’s very young and very new against a formidable force, so today was not the day…

      Oh I know, poor April. Forever a pawn in someone else’s chess game.

      Like

  7. Oh, this one has just so many things to address, so many little clues and bits and pieces I just can´t hold my tongue about. My actual comment got so super chatty, I´m totally moving it to the mail. I´ll just say here, this is all different shades of dark but I´m still grinning, here. This story just brings out my shoulder devil so bad, I love it. :DD

    Liked by 1 person

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