Chapter 2.34 – Puppet

After taking yet another tiny, barely thirst-quenching drink from Danny, Melinda had tucked the poor boy up into the basement bed and retreated to the living room with April. Caleb had yet to return from his job interviews and Faith had been upstairs all day, obsessing over her outfit for her date with Seth the Sociopath.

Melinda knew that the ‘date’ would involve questionable hunting techniques and possibly murder – and Melinda felt absolutely awful about allowing that – but her protests to Faith were falling on deaf ears and they certainly wouldn’t stop Seth.

She was tired of painstakingly picking up the fragments of Faith and gluing her back together just to have her drop herself from the shelf again five minutes later. If watching whatever grisly scene Seth was planning was what it took to jolt Faith to her senses then – Melinda couldn’t even finish that sentence.

She knew that Faith had been doing questionable stuff for a while and had tried to understand, but there was only so much that Faith’s excuse could excuse.

Melinda was always proud of herself for having her ship together, so how, in the space of two weeks, had her whole life had been completely turned on its head? She’d always been the smart one in the group, the one they looked to for solutions, but these days she felt clueless.

She felt like the only one drowning.

Especially now, despite all her plans to leave and even though she knew that April was not romantically interested in her any more – perhaps never really was – when April curled up next to her on the sofa, rested her head on her shoulder and reached for her hand like it was the most natural thing in the world, Melinda could not pull away.

How could so much have changed and yet still so much remain familiar?

The too grown-up perfume that Sandy made April wear, that she still dabbed delicately on to her inner wrists and behind her ears each morning, out of habit. Her pale, golden hair that even without the expensive conditioners and fancy styling was still somehow so silky that it would slide straight out of a hair tie. How impossibly soft and unblemished her skin was. The weight of her head, the sound of her soft sighs, her blue eyes and sweet lips…

It was all too much.

“Please don’t leave me,” April whispered as Mel fought to get up. Those darn words. They stopped Melinda dead as they collided with the invisible wall between the girls, looking for any way through. “I know you’re going to leave us, Mel. Please, please don’t.”

Melinda wanted to ask how April knew, wanted to blame her, hurt her. She wanted to be strong, resilient, let her know that she wasn’t buying her ‘helpless little girl’ act. But when Melinda opened her mouth all that came out was a plea.

“Come with me.”



Lilith had slowly consumed one bag of O-negative, put the rest in her inventory and calmly shut up her surgery for the last time. She had jumped into a taxi and serenely listened to the driver talk about his day as they’d crawled through the Del Sol Valley rush hour traffic and only now, as her finger released its pressure on the doorbell did Lilith stop and ask herself what the actual hell she was doing here.

This was madness! She’d berated Caleb for visiting the house of humans and stopping for dinner, and now here she was, doing exactly the same thing. OK, so she was highly unlikely to attack these people or bind them to her for eternity, but still.

Lilith turned to leave just as the door opened and Chuck greeted her. His warm smile and kind eyes somehow simultaneously dissipating half her fears and amplifying the rest, tenfold.

She followed him into the overly bright house, reeling slightly at the scent of dinner cooking. Perhaps this was one of the worst parts of being an undead, law-of-nature defying creature; her sense of smell was far more sensitive than that of her human counterparts. Yet, no matter how good something looked, smelled or how much she remembered enjoying it from her human days, it would always taste at best, like nothing and at worst, like ash on her dead tastebuds.

For once, however, she was grateful for this fact; ash was probably preferable to what she could be tasting this evening, which smelled like burnt fish, leftover curried porridge and… marmalade?

“Good afternoon, Lilith,” Babs trilled. “How was your day?” Did you save anyone else’s husband?

“Oh, it was fine,” Lilith replied, trying to focus purely on Bab’s bouncy spoken words rather than her hostile thoughts, whilst also remembering how small talk worked. “I was interviewing for a new administrator. Had a few non-surgical procedures.”

“Yes, I saw on your website that you were advertising bloodletting as a treatment for aging? That’s,” a load of money-grabbing codswallop, “fascinating! Do you get many clients for that? I might have to give it a go!” When hell freezes over, “Things really do go south after fifty.” Not that you’d know, Little Miss Perfect, with your flawless face and gravity-defying boobs.

Babs was not a bad person, not by any stretch, but she was the worst kind of person for someone like Lilith to be around. She wasn’t alone in having thoughts that contradicted her words; it was human nature to bend the truth to paint oneself favourably, especially around someone new. The problem with Babs was how skilled she was at ignoring it. She had mastered how to beat down and contain her inner bitch, which was admirable, but she hadn’t managed to fully internalise that goodness, to truly become it.

Babs was very much not aware of this, or just how threatened she was by Lilith’s presence in her home.

But she did know full well that vegetarians did not eat fish.


“What an amazing coincidence that you found your way to Lilith’s doorstep after your run-in with a mugger!” who didn’t even mug you. “What are the odds? Slim to none? Astounding.” Bullpoop, more like.

“There aren’t any many houses in that neck of the woods, so it’s not that unlikely,” Lilith explained.

Don’t patronise me, just because you have more letters after your name. “I suppose not. Still, I am so very glad that he found you. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without him. How is the fish, Chuck?”

“It’s a really interesting mix of textures and flavours; I can’t get it in fast enough!” Because this way I hardly have to taste it!

Lilith covered her laugh with a cough. She had actually been having more fun than she thought she would. How nice it was to be in the company of two regular people who expected nothing from her. They spoke about their work, their life and told her a hundred cute stories about what was clearly a very happy marriage.

Lilith kept waiting for the subject of Melinda to come up, but it didn’t, although their daughter did flicker through their minds regularly, especially through Chuck’s.

Chuck must have warned Babs that Lilith wasn’t one for answering personal questions, because they hadn’t delved below the superficial, which was an added bonus. And the food did have some interesting textures, so even that wasn’t completely awful.

Lilith had been to many functions over the years where she’d been offered canapes and various fancy dishes and was well-practiced at the subtle ‘chew and spew’ method. Alas, now her napkin was full of half-chewed food, so she was forced to take as many dainty forkfuls as she thought her withered innards could handle then politely excuse herself.

Oh dear. Eating disorder? I knew that no one could be that naturally skinny. “When you’re back, you must tell me what made you go vegetarian? And why would a professional young woman like yourself choose to live in the sticks of Forgotten Hollow instead of a fancy city centre apartment? I’m so curious about you!” You’re hiding something.

“Bathroom is at the end of the corridor, Lilith,” Chuck said. Please do be swift because this stuff is already repeating on me.



“I want to come with you,” April admitted. “But I can’t leave Caleb.”

She wants to. Melinda clung to this sliver of hope. “You can. You can leave him.”

“No, I really can’t,” April murmured, looking around conspiratorially. “He told me that I’m not allowed to leave this house without him.”

What the heck? “You don’t have to do everything he says,” Melinda explained gently. “Why do you?”

April fell silent. Melinda thought that maybe she’d pushed too far but just as she was about to backtrack, April spoke, “I can’t explain it. When he tells me to do things, I feel like I have to do them. Like, my brain is a puppet and he’s holding the strings and all I can think is ‘I have to do this thing’ even if I don’t want to. Does that make sense?”

Melinda pouted. That made no sense at all. She tried to see it from April’s ‘always caged’ point of view but it still didn’t sit right. April had often successfully disobeyed her mother; sneaking out, sneaking her friends in, eating banned foods and watching banned movies. She always found a little way to defy control. So, what was different about her relationship with Caleb?

Was it obligation stemming from the title of ‘girlfriend’ perhaps? Something to do with him being her sire, ergo, ‘master’?

Wait a second. What did April just say she felt like… a puppet?

I turned her the wrong way, into my doll. Now we’ve had sex we’re connected and she belongs to me, I can control her.

“Oh my gosh. He actually told us he did this,” she whispered.

“What?” April asked. “What do you mean? What did he do?”

“He told us that he could control you because he’d turned you ‘the wrong way’. The night we ran away from Lilith’s when you were upstairs and wouldn’t come down… oh my goodness, you couldn’t come down, could you?”

April shook her head. Melinda’s mind was racing, pulling together all the pieces into a horrible bigger picture. “We thought he was just being a sexist dork but what if… what if he did turn you ‘the wrong way’ and that somehow means that he does control you?”

“How can you turn someone ‘the wrong way’? Aren’t you either vampire or not? Am I not a real vampire?”

“I don’t know. April, what you told me before, about not remembering him turning you, that was true? You don’t remember drinking from him?”

“No! Yuck. I didn’t drink from him,” April said adamantly. “I remember him drinking from me, thinking that I was going to die. He was feeling my bum and then I was on the floor. I’m sure he could see my underwear. Then nothing,” she babbled. “I woke up in my bed feeling like death. Oh! There was a random bowl of fruit—“

“So ‘the wrong way’ can’t be that you drank from him first or something.” Melinda scratched her head, looking again at all her pieces. “What am I missing?”

I lack restraint… I was never allowed to drink alone. She supervised me.

“Oh my gosh. Of course,” Melinda said. “When he drank from you, he couldn’t stop—“

“No, he did stop when I asked him to.”

“But then you passed out?”

April nodded.

“Remember what he said to us back in that first motel? That Lilith had to supervise him when he drank?”

“How could I forget?” April huffed. “I have to time him every time we hunt or he just drains everyone like some sort of bottomless blood vacuum.”

“Exactly. So, once you’d passed out, who was there to supervise? Who would stop him then? But that would mean that he… ” Melinda shook her head, fuming, as something dawned. “What if ‘the wrong way’ is that he turned you after he’d… he’d…”

April’s eyes were like saucers. “You think he killed me?”

“Is that even possible?” Melinda asked, desperately hoping that it wasn’t. “To turn someone after they’ve died?”

“I don’t know,” April said. “But even if it was, why would he do that to me? Why would he bother to turn me. Because he’s been with loads of women and drank from loads of women and he hasn’t turned any of them,” April said. “Oh my goodness! Unless he has! Maybe there are hundreds of us puppet girls!”

Melinda thought for a second. What was that Caleb had said, the first night she’d met him? I’ve never had a human actually offer themselves to me before.

“No. I don’t think he has. I think you were the only one to ever offer.”

April looked mortified for a moment before bursting into tears. “Of course I was the only one to ever offer because I’m Stupid, Weird April! I deserve this! I deserve everything!” April sobbed, thumping her tummy. “I’m surprised I even have enough brains for him to control!”

“April—“

“Don’t tell me that I’m not stupid, Mel! I offered myself to a vampire without any question. Who would do that except for a big stupid fucking idiot?”

“I also offered myself to a vampire without question,” Melinda cooed soothingly. “So, I guess I’m a big effing idiot too.”

April laughed around a hiccup, wiped her eyes and nuzzled against Melinda. “No, you’re not. You’re amazing. You’re the only one who’s not going totally insane—“

I wouldn’t put money on that, Melinda thought, fighting the urge to find out if April’s lipstick tasted like ash. Which was just as well, as at that moment, Caleb stormed in. Almost instinctively, April leapt to her feet, leaving Melinda cradling the air.

“H- hi Caleb!” she stammered, too cheerfully. “Did you get a job?”

21 thoughts on “Chapter 2.34 – Puppet

  1. Ooh, a Melinda POV! I’m enjoying seeing this ballsier side of her. Took her becoming a vampire for her to realise sometimes the only way ahead involves stepping on people’s toes. So it’s nice that it made her spinier… too bad it basically ruined her live in every other way possible, lol. (Still not going into motivational speaking, in case you were wondering).

    So with the binding, I wonder how that would work if April tries to come with Melinda. Caleb could of course simply order her to stay, or to come back… although does it have to be said out loud? What we’ve seen so far seems like it’s more of obeying the voice command rather than the intent of the one commanding, given how many rhetorical questions complicated things along the way. So if April was far enough, would Caleb still be able to order her to do stuff, I wonder? Would they continue trading?

    Oh my, all these thought burns by Babs, this is fantastic. I wonder how she’d react if she knew Lilith could read her thoughts. Would she get flustered at first, and then appreciate that she can actually speak her mind completely honestly and harden up her exterior? Completely hypothetical, I don’t imagine Lilith will be sharing that little tidbit. Bhahaha more of Babs’ thoughts, this is gold. Gravity-defying boobs 😀 And that smile on her face as she serves up that disgusting fish. Ah, I love Babs, she’s great.

    Ah, so he already told her she can’t leave the house without him. And dang, Mel is sharp to figure it all out. Not sure I would have in her place. But of course, where does them knowing all of this leave them?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You definitely shouldn’t. Stay away from hostage negotiation, too. You could have quite the career catering to the verbal masochists of the world though, if you do fancy a career change.

      I guess all that remains to be seen if the girls ever actually manage to get out.

      Hm, well then Lilith would have to probably explain why she could hear Babs’s thoughts which would probably get messy. It’s definitely for the best if Lilith says absolutely nothing about anything this evening, so I’m sure she won’t. Disgusting fish? That’s the finest plate of ‘Fishy Delight’ she’s ever made, I’ll have you know. (The first one caused a huge fire.)

      Where does it leave them? Up shit creek without a paddle, as usual.

      Liked by 1 person

            1. I’ll reserve you a copy. £12.99 and all proceeds go to the Willow Creek Soup Kitchen.

              Now I want to actually write it. I’ll add this to my list of ‘fun stuff I want to add to my bonus page that no one looks at’ list. 🤣

              Liked by 1 person

  2. Melinda is still the smartest in the group and she proves this by differentiating the whole process around April’s turn.
    Maybe that makes April a clone between a zombie and a vampire?
    Is there any cure for it at all? Maybe it will leave April as a dead empty shell if at some point they should come into possession of a cure?

    I can hardly bear to talk about Faith 🙄
    It also sounds like Melinda has reached a limit, but is it credible that Faith will get her sanity back if she witnesses Seth’s brutal torture and massacres?

    Melinda’s great gift is her empathy but right now it’s also her Achilles heel.
    Melinda can not bring herself to leave April and April can not leave her curse. They are both locked up until Melinda finds the strength to do what speaks against her whole being.
    Maybe it could give them a little chance to stop the inevitable fall into the abyss?

    Right now Melinda is putting her hope in Lilith’s abilities but Lilith herself is on the decline. Her business is closed for the last time and what the hell is she doing at Chuck?
    I think her longing for humanity is leading her astray.

    You often say I need to stay optimistic. I’m turning up my hearing aid but right now there’s a lot of noise on the line 🧏‍♀️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Between a zombie and a vampire is quite a good way to look at it. Rest assured that if there’s a cure, Melinda will stop at nothing to obtain it.

      Faith is just… there are no words. She’s about to get a huge dose of reality, that’s for sure.

      Is the fall into the abyss inevitable? Salvation may be closer than we think for some characters.

      Lilith so very much wants to fit into a world she doesn’t belong, and yes, you’re correct, her desire for humanity is definitely leading her astray.

      I always say it and I do mean it. If everyone was heading to the abyss I’d lose my head. Beeps will come.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a relief 🤗

    By the way, I forgot to thank you for that picture of Wangshaft and the teddy bears. You always know how to divert my gloomy thoughts with a good laugh 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ok I’m in for a doozy.

    Ah. So Mel does not understand Faith. I so wished she did. Would be nice for Faith to have a friend who understood. Now only Seth understands. Great. The only person that can help Faith is herself now. Then again, it has always been like that. And is always the case for anyone. But she was already struggling, I can’t help but think it’ll be a tumble. Or maybe Faith will turn around and surprise us all!

    Mel and April’s segment got to me. So sweet. Ugh. My eyes. Mel is such a sweetheart despite her thoughts and feeling alone, feeling used and keep having to be the bigger person and pushing aside her own issue,s she still extended a hand to April. Ngl I’d probably have fallen for April’s charms there and be strung along, but I have such a soft spot for Mel. She was always, always cast aside by all these larger-than-life personalities and louder voices. I’m so glad we’re getting her povs. Even if they are miserable.

    I still think that Lilith’ shouldn’t have forced herself to eat Bab’s food. She should’ve just politely declined. Vegetarians do NOT eat fish and Babs knows that. Heck. As a principal, she should know the amount of mad dietary restrictions she has to juggle among her pupils and force feeding them food they can’t eat is a lawsuit straight in her bum up backside.

    Dear gods. This is probably me projecting, but Lilith melting at Chuck’s warmth and kindness speaks to me a person who has been through a lot, too much, and at the stroke of genuine compassion she can’t help but follow like a puppy. I thought that line itself speaks so much about her character. Why she’s so incredibly hard on others because she needs to hear their inner thoughts whether it matches the face they show her, hence her cracking her interviewees like an egg. Penelope was a settle, Marshall’s outer blank matched his inner blank (hahaha), but Chuck! Chuck is a dream. Chuck I’m your no. fan too! Me and Lilith. Yay!

    I’m sorry. Babs is hella nasty. I know I shared in my writing tags that I have characters with personas. But Babs is not wearing a persona. She’s straight up a hypocrite. Reading Babs everything is mincing my ears. I can’t. I’m horrified that she’s in the education sector. No please go choose stage acting, or politics, or human resource. What the heck are you doing around kids and teens?? Of course Babs knew Lilith did not eat fish! I think the narrator ( 😛 ) was being too kind when they say Babs was not a bad person. The intent is clearly there. Babs has just fallen straight down into the frozen depths the void for me.

    I’m trying to give her leeway. Everyone is a hypocrite at times. Babs sees Lilith as a threat. She sees Lilith’s beauty as a threat. She’s probably feeling shitty about herself for having no friends because she probably projected her own hypocrisy in everyone she met. Lilith is kind of her too, except Lilith can mind read, so she can call out other people’s hypocrisy before she does it. Bab’s hostility and interpretation of Lilith’s everything is so horrible to read! Twisting Lilith’s every word and info as a weapon against her. Wow jeez. Again, why is someone so toxic doing around children. Dx gah.

    Of course Babs would be drawn to Chuck. The same reason why Lilith is drawn to him. 😭

    The rest after Babs section just takes my heart on an emotional spin and I’m feeling so sorry for everyone but I’m just going to keep it all and wait for next chapter and hopefully all Caleb heard is just the last few lines. Which is not great, but better than having heard the whole conversation. But knowing your own wifey is regretting offering herself to you is quite the blow there. Then again, this is one of those where neither realises what kind of hot mess they are doing before eloping to do a Vegas wedding. No popcorn next. I’m going to roll up in a comforter for the next chapter x.x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You weren’t kidding when you said you needed to gather yourself before commenting.

      Melinda has really tried to understand Faith and does on a number of levels. But wholly devoting yourself to another’s attention-seeking drama is draining and Mel is struggling as it is. Yes, Seth definitely understands. Maybe he’ll be exactly the kind ‘friend’ she needs to help get her out of her own trap?

      Aww. Mellybean’s having a rough time right now. I like writing Mel’s POV because, even though she’s miserable, she is a logical calm in the storm and a nice grounding point.

      Indeed, but Lilith isn’t actually vegetarian, and had ample time beforehand to reply to Chuck’s message, but clearly chose not to. Add in that Babs knew that vegetarians didn’t eat fish and I think it’s safe to say that this game is much bigger than the disgusting fish itself.

      Chuck is a dream for Lilith. As you correctly point out, other’s who have matching thoughts and words are the likes of Marshall or even Will, so Chuck will be a huge breath of fresh air and likely a reminder of someone long gone.

      Her thoughts are brash, but Lilith points out that Babs is so conditioned to ‘beating down the bitch’ that she’s not aware of her own hostile thoughts anymore. I think it would be quite natural for an older woman, who is painfully aware how easy it can be to be unfaithful when you’re low, to be threatened by a pretty, young thing who goes googly eyed around her husband, yes. Especially as said husband has just lost a huge part of his life. Everyone is a hypocrite at times, you are right.

      I’m guessing that as long as the children weren’t trying to steal her husband under the aforementioned circumstances, Babs probably wouldn’t be so toxic with them or serving them lawsuit worthy meals. 🤣

      You’ll definitely need your comforter for the next chapter. Maybe a sack of potatoes and a few pillows to punch too. We’re descending through the bog for a little while now. 😬 Hopefully see you on the other side. 🌞🌼

      Like

      1. Ugh yeah. I understand too well being targetted by “older woman unaware of how threatened they are by pretty young thing” acts. Im sure they had their own justifying reasons to feed vegetarians fish too. Nope. Not my thing.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, don’t mind me, nothing to see here. I’m just working on some new ships. Melinda and April are running off to be together like two fabulous lesbians Queens and Caleb, working in the flower shop until he gets burned to death by witches. I mean, yes, I did just say that Melinda was better off without them, and sure, I was worried for Caleb when he first went into the shop, but that was BEFORE I needed this ship like I need air.

    What will happen to Faith, you ask?

    Whomst?

    Anyways, April and Melinda will meet up with Lilith and Melinda’s dad, who are also happily together. What happened to Melinda’s mom? Who can say, really. But that’s in the past.

    Yes, all of this is great. Not going to think about Caleb being a monster who turned April after she died and controls her like some kind of zombie pet. Definitely not going to think about Faith going out with Seth in a desperate bid not to feel bad about herself, but in fact, handing him the keys to manipulate her. And absolutely, 100% not going to think about Jessica being locked away and the SBI getting too close to my baby Lilith.

    Yep.

    Everything is fine.

    Totes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aha, a new ship! This ship of fabulous lesbian queens needs a name.

      So… Chillith and the new ship sail off into the sunset, leaving everyone else to burn? Hey, who knows, that might be the exact plot I have in mind!

      EVERYTHING IS FINE.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hummm… so Melinda seems to think that going out with Seth will shock Faith to her senses. I definitely do think it will shock her, too. But whether it will make her come to her senses or rather say something she might not mean and let Seth do something about her feeling awful… this /is/ a dangerous game.

    Mel /is/ smart for having figured how things went between April and Caleb but the question is if that will even help anything. It stands to reason that if there was a way to break that bond, one of those vampire wives would have found it long ago. That and Mel is, on top of still crushing on April, her childe which won´t make running away any easier, either.

    *shrugs* The dinner actually went better than I expected. Of course Babs is jealous. Like… naturally. She´s not a fool, and as a teacher, I bet she is very perceptive. So, of course she´d notice that something is going on between Chuck and Lilith, the same weird thing I noticed going on… but since she doesn´t know Lils is a vampire, she´ll just chalk it up to romance. Even Chuck did, initially, didn´t he? So yeah, I´m not surprised she hoped Lilith would leave because fish. I´m more surprised she didn´t say anything at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Going out with Seth will certainly not be what Faith expected, that’s for sure.

      Mel is very smart but yep, you’re totally right – what good is knowing this? “It stands to reason that if there was a way to break that bond, one of those vampire wives would have found it long ago.” There is at least one way to break that bond according to Lilith, who was about to demonstrate way back at the end of book one. Ooh, yeah, on top of her crush and everything else, Melinda’s gonna find it very hard to leave April.

      Dinner’s not over yet…

      Like

      1. Isn´t it. I had the impression that she does expect it to be pretty bad… interesting.

        Well, yes, but that doesn´t count. Who else except Lilith would try to kill Caleb, be able to kill him, *and* not add the young ones to the kill list as well?

        Whoops, true that. XD

        Liked by 1 person

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