When it became apparent that April was as settled as she could be, Melinda sneaked out of Caleb’s bedroom and into the tiny bedroom next door. She dug through the craft basket, looking for the brightest yarn she could find and idly began to knit, to no pattern in particular.
The monotonous action of the needles lulled her into a welcome trance as she watched the morning sun breaking over the horizon. The teeny glimpse of that glowing orb physically hurt her delicate retinas. She blinked and turned her attention back to the fabric in her hands, seeing none of the colours, nothing but the inky black of the rising sun in negative for a moment.
She closed her eyes, but the second she did, she could see April again, pale and wilting and afraid. She could see the look of sorrow and disappointment on her dad’s face as he ran from the cottage, from her. She could see Faith, following Seth to the ends of the Earth and never returning.
She couldn’t see her knitting, but she could see everything unravelling.
Lilith had been gone almost a day and Caleb had been gone for two. Melinda had started to lose hope that either would return. Perhaps this was all an elaborate plan to ditch the girls; after all, the Vatores seemed to be doing fine before three teenaged vampires crashed their party and ruined their cake.
Melinda had often wished that she could take April away from her mother, away from everyone who ever wanted to hurt her and start again somewhere. But this just sucked. What would she do if no one came back? How would she get April out of the house? How would she get Danny out of the house? Would the pair be forced to drink him to death to survive?
What would happen then? Would they be forced to attack each other?
Melinda shuddered and left the small room, heading downstairs to fix Danny his breakfast in exchange for her own. April was in no fit state to accompany Melinda to the basement to mesmerise the boy, so she’d have to figure something out by herself.
Melinda emptied the can of soup into the saucepan and stirred slowly. Danny seemed like a sweet boy. Maybe, if she asked him nicely and explained the situation, he might give permission for them each to drink a little from him.
If she asked him nicely?!
Perhaps it was thirst, perhaps it was desperation, perhaps it was because she’d been wearing the same shirt since she’d left her backpack behind and it was starting to get to that stagnant stage. Whatever it was, Melinda was done. She was so, totally, ruddy done. Everything she’d ever done was done nicely. She always tried to do the right thing, the kind thing, the nice thing. And where the heck had that gotten her?
She growled, throwing open the kitchen drawer and retrieving a large knife. She tilted it in the wakening light; the blade illuminating along the edge throwing a thin shaft of light across the slate walls as she searched for her absent reflection in its surface.
She imagined storming into the basement swinging this thing with her skinny arm – her skin ashen, her fangs bared, her irises ‘missing’ – terrifying the poor boy until he submitted to be dined on. Then she’d bite him on the neck and she’d drag him upstairs and she’d… she’d…
Probably cry more than he would, let’s be honest.
Blah. Melinda couldn’t even imagine being cruel. She was such a rubbish vampire. She placed the knife neatly back into the drawer, decanted the bubbling soup into a bowl and headed to the basement to ask Danny nicely.
Seth’s memories might have been unearthed but his morals were still six feet under.
He had thought about what Angeline would’ve said about his lifestyle. Of course he had. He had imagined her telling him off, or making him hug a human to show that they had feelings, as she once had made him do with a cow. In a way, her influence was still there and always had been; in his existence, he had never harmed a cow, nor would he.
But people have faces too, Seth.
Not from behind, they didn’t.
Seth made light work of the character Faith had deposited in front of him. He hadn’t had the strength to addle him any more than Faith already had with her feminine charms, so it was not the most satisfying of meals, but it had certainly given him enough impetus to hunt a second one, on his own terms.
Meanwhile, Faith skulked around; pouting but maintaining that she was fine.
Ah, wasn’t she endearing? He was grateful for her firm hand and devotion and he’d more than make it up to her later, he’d decided, but he’d let her stew a while first.
Three kills in and feeling much more himself – in multiple ways – Seth was idling on a picnic bench with his insecure initiate, as he was finally able to explain the evening’s events in more structured sentences.
“Since that night on the bridge a white cat, very similar to the one in my memory, has been following me. I am nigh on certain that it is one and same as the creature that lingered around the abode you temporarily resided in in Forgotten Hollow”
“Right,” Faith mumbled. “And what? You think it’s connected to Kitty, right? Makes sense I suppose, Kitty being a kitty.”
“Perhaps,” Seth replied. “There are vampires who can shapeshift; Layne – the rogue leader – he reportedly could become a bat, although I never did see that.”
“A bat. How predictable,” Faith scoffed. “I bet he slept in a coffin, too. So say the cat is Kitty, and she’s been appearing to you in cat form lately for whatever-the-fuck reason,” Faith started, her cool tone betrayed by face. “Why do you want to find her after everything she did to you? Revenge?”
The angry little tremor in her voice made him both smile and shudder, but at least now he understood why. Even after all this time it appeared that he still enjoyed his women ‘rebellious, bad-tempered and unremarkable’. Although he had warmed slightly to his feisty fledgling, one part of her still grated on him to no end; her questions – or rather, his compulsion to answer her questions.
He attempted to formulate a lie, as practice more than because he didn’t want to answer her, but was unable to even configure it. He was right back to square one, he realised bitterly.
“Answers,” he replied. “I want answers. Even with all the new memory, I still don’t know what happened between my falling to my knees in the courtyard and ending up in the basement, but the cat was there, so that seems a pursuable route. Revenge would be a sweet side, of course.”
“Yeah, totally,” Faith chewed the inside of the cheek and mumbled, “Where did the guillotine come in?”
“When we first met, you told me you got your scar from ‘dodging a guillotine’. Where does the guillotine fit?”
Seth blinked a few times, rubbed his thumb along the scar on his jaw, thinking. Through the murky black he could see the glint of a suspended blade, but he couldn’t place it in his timeline. “I don’t know,” he muttered, annoyed.
“Right,” Faith huffed again. “So you’ve still got memory missing. Fucks sake. Is this, like, amnesia or dementia or something?”
“It’s something,” he mumbled, not wanting to admit that it was possible to erase a vampire’s memory, just yet. He was still attempting to fathom how Lilith had managed to bury something so huge, and why. She was clearly far more powerful and devious than he’d thought, he realised with regret. “Perhaps, once we find out what happened to Angeline—“
He watched the name ignite Faith, like it had always ignited Kitty but this time there was no thrill in his fear.
“OK, I’m done with this softly, softly shit. I can tell you what happened to Angeline,” Faith spat, startling a couple of teenagers who were making out on the nearby pirate ship. “She is dead, Seth. Deceased, expired, fucked sideways and pushing up daisies, as are any kids you might have left her with, their grandkids and generations after. Even if you find out what happened to her, even if you trace your whole fucking family tree, what do you expect to gain? Did you think you could waltz in and play ‘happy families’? That she would give a hollow damn about you? I’m all you have, Seth and the sooner you accept that, the better.”
Faith’s fury wavered slightly as she realised he wasn’t biting. Her voice lost its conviction.
“Shit. I’m… I don’t know where that came from. Of course you want answers. I… sorry,” she shook her head. “Look, I don’t know what happened to make you forget this stuff, but maybe… I think I know why it happened. I think you got so obsessed with finding… finding…” she paused at where she should have inserted the name and looked like she was composing herself. “I think that you got so obsessed with her that you lost all focus and drove yourself – and everyone around you – literally insane. Lilith probably clobbered you on the head with a frying pan or something until you shut the fuck up.”
Was that why Lilith did it?
“This is totally not how I thought vampire life would be,” Faith whined. “It’s not like in the movies at all. We are supposed to be all dark and mysterious and powerful and shit. I’m filthy and I bloody stink. I’m bored to the back teeth, you’re fucking mental; we don’t even have a lair and before you say it, no that shack doesn’t count, nor does that cave.”
Seth turned his attention towards the path where a solitary man was jogging along, his mind flooded with the earworm that was stuck in this human’s head.
Faith was quietly crying now; her dry hiccups shook the picnic bench. “I miss my life,” she sobbed, “I miss my sister. I want to go home.”
Her words resonated and for the briefest moment he wanted to let her do just that.
Then, graciously, his senses returned. He had more to discover, more to learn, more to take and if Kitty was still out there, a reason to equip himself best he could against her. He began to wonder if that was his motivation all along. If, on some level, he had always known that she was not gone, that one day he would have to face her again.
No way could he afford to lose Faith now. He snaked his arm around the trembling girl beside him and stopped her, once again, from clawing at her wrist.
“It gets easier, Faith. The isolation, the roaming, the careless slaughter—”
Faith winced at this last one. “Let’s just not,” she mumbled. “Let’s never mention her again.”
He shrugged. “All right.”
“She was so young,” Faith sighed, breaking her own rule immediately. “And she smelled like a fucking sweet shop,” she choked. “And she was so… so innocent… and I did really like her jeans. I should have at least kept her jeans. Shit. I literally killed her for fucking nothing. I’m a fucking monster.”
“You’re dreadful,” Seth agreed. “I hope you don’t ruin my pristine reputation with your misdeeds.”
Seth finally drew a small, temporary smile from Faith before her face once again fell. She looked around the car park; it was empty besides the two of them, but clearly she felt additional privacy was required. She reached for his hand and he heard her voice from inside him, like the beat of butterfly wings against the glass wall of a jar.
Seth, can I ask you something?
Her features bore a vulnerability he rarely witnessed on her and he wondered what she might ask. He attempted to read her but she was, again, frustratingly mute. You may, he projected back.
She looked like she’d changed her mind. Her face cycled through a few emotions and he wondered if maybe he wasn’t hearing what she was trying to transmit. But then finally, the wings fluttered again.
What was your first kill like?
Had she asked him that prior to tonight, he would have told her about the coachman on the roadside in 1734, but now he knew better. “I’ve told you that,” he reminded her, swallowing back the lump in his throat as he recounted the memory that had previously eluded him. “I was fourteen—“
“No,” Faith interrupted. “Not your gutting of your asshole dad – who was totally asking for it, by the way.” Your first vampire one.
Seth balked as her request pulled up a vision from the darkness. It was hazy and long-buried but he could get the gist.
He frowned. “Ah, right.” He cleared his throat trying to make sense of what he was seeing; it was like trying to use a tarred rag to clean a filthy window. He could push the dirt around just enough to see inside, but the picture wasn’t clear. “I was in the basement. Parched and on the brink of wild. I didn’t even greet the human they threw in before I ripped him to shreds.”
“Shit. That’s… shit,” Faith gasped.
“They always fed me that way,” he realised. “I quickly learned not to even try and befriend the humans. Not to try at all. They wouldn’t survive. It was more merciful to simply kill them the second they appeared than have them trapped down there with me, waiting for the inevitable.”
“Merciful,” Faith repeated quietly. “Inevitable.”
“Yes,” he stated. “And no,” he added, anticipating her next question, “I don’t intend to join Lilith on her fruitless quest to ‘wholesomeness and light’,” he scoffed. “We are what we are, Faith. If anything, I care even less for humans now, knowing how they treated me.”
Faith was staring into space; Seth couldn’t see her face. “Did they ever let you out of the basement?” she asked quietly. It was not the question he’d expected and he knew she wouldn’t like the answer.
“Sometimes,” he murmured, hoping she wouldn’t ask him to elaborate.
“Crazy,” Faith muttered, tugging at the popper on her wristband as she asked, “How did you escape?”
Seth tilted his head to his shoulder, thinking. He could recall being in his cell, Patrick was there, there was commotion, Kitty was screaming… and then he woke up at the roadside. He mulled this over silently, trying to fill in the gaps. “I think we were ambushed.”
“You don’t know,” Faith groaned, swinging her legs off the bench and sashaying across the car park. Seth swaggered to his feet and followed her, watching the exaggerated sway of her hips and listening to the distant thoughts of an approaching human male.
“I wonder why you don’t remember and why you’re only remembering stuff now,” Faith thought aloud. It was not a question, but damn it if he wasn’t inclined to respond.
He shrugged. “Perhaps it was the events of the day. Maybe if we repeat it all today, I’ll remember the rest,” he joked.
Faith stopped in her tracks and shook her head, but he could hear her smile as she spoke. “You can fuck right off. Between almost burning to ash in the sun and you losing your marbles, yesterday was literally the worst day ever.”
“Was it all so bad?” he purred, raising an eyebrow.
She chewed her lip, no doubt recalling their afternoon delights. “You’re still only top thirty,” she teased. “What the hell do you want?” Faith scowled at the man who had diverted suddenly from his path to block theirs. He looked around in confusion and, after a moment’s contemplation, Faith turned to Seth, a question on her face.
“Consider him a gift. A ‘thank you’, if you will. He wants to offer us an upgrade on our lodgings,” Seth said calmly.
“…He does?” Faith asked, looking between the pair. “How do you – oh. Oh.”
“Pfft!” the human man snorted, “I don’t need an upgrade on my lodgings! You should see my place; it’s epic.” He threw his arms wide, grinning at the pair before focusing on Faith. “Wait a second. I think I know you,” he said dopily, jabbing his finger in Faith’s general direction.
“You wish you did,” she scoffed but the flutter in her voice betrayed how flattered she was that someone finally recognised her.
“Yeah,” the human laughed. “I recognise you all right. You’re that miserable girl who works at the cinema. You tried it on with me once, but from what I hear, that doesn’t make me special,” he guffawed and turned to Seth, “But hey, man, in the dark I suppose she’s passible, right? And out here you can barely smell the puke and popcorn on her.”
Allow me, Seth projected to Faith, his teeth already sharpening with the thought of tearing this pitiful excuse for a human a new oesophagus, but her hand on his arm caused him to pause.
No. This is my gift, right? I’ll open it.