Note: includes discussion of suicide and mental illness
Lilith was not sure at what point of the night she’d slipped completely into ‘don’t give a damn’ mode. She suspected it was somewhere between using a crystal ball to bowl over some sacred ritual candles and painting ‘Sage smells’ on the florist’s workbench, but she well and truly did not give a damn now.
She swept a few things off the store counter and climbed up, supported by Caleb’s uncharacteristic cheering, and began shaking and shimmying to an upbeat rhythm that Wyatt had manipulated the ambient speakers in the shop to play.
Wyatt was a blast; he was so relaxed and down to earth that she had to wonder if he was aware of what he was capable of. She guessed that he wasn’t and when he finally was, he’d be as much of a dick as all the others.
Broof, or Broompig as Lilith had taken to calling him, knew though. Caleb was oblivious to everything going on around him, as usual, but Lilith noticed the envious little glances Broof threw Wyatt’s way and the smoky ones he threw her way. Ugh. These supernatural men were all the same; obsessed with power and thinking they were Watcher’s gift to women when all he was, was a bearded git who couldn’t teleport his way out of a paper bag.
Lilith had almost forgotten where she was as the room swayed in a wash of crazy colour and the music vibrated through her bones, becoming her. She was a goddess, high in the heavens looking down on her loyal worshippers. She was a queen, reigning untouchable above her peasants. She was—
“—going to fall if you’re not careful,” sang a voice from behind her.
“Sage!” Lilith squeaked, whipping around and losing her balance. Fortunately, Caleb wasn’t too out of it to catch her before she even realised she was falling. He was good at that.
Sage tutted and waved her hand to mellow the music back to its soft, ambient forest sounds as Lilith ruffled Caleb’s hair.
The room had sobered up and fallen silent in an instant and Lilith wriggled from her brother’s hold She looked around at the sombre faces knowing that they all felt like she did under Sage’s unforgiving gaze; like a naughty child who’d been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. She shrugged, trying to focus through the bubble-induced haze.
Sage nodded. “I always do. My conscience is clear.” She passed her gaze over the three men, pausing on Broof. “Still here?” she asked, sweetly.
“He’s literally just ‘ported in,” Wyatt interjected as Broof opened his mouth. The hairy-faced goon didn’t even stand up for himself; he promptly snapped his jaws shut and nodded his agreement.
“Oh, what excellent timing,” Sage chirped, in that fake way she always did. Three centuries hadn’t changed her a day, beyond the jowls. “Would you two boys sort out breakfast for our guests here, as you agreed, and then prepare the guest room for the arrival of the girls? Lilith, after breakfast you and I will head down the old cottage and collect them.”
Lilith sighed. “April is—”
“Stuck in the house, I know,” Sage said dismissively. “You have a mobile telephone, don’t you Lilith, dear? Good,” she smiled as Lilith nodded, “when we get to the cottage, we’ll call Wyatt and then, Caleb darling, you can simply undo your command! And while the two girls are here, we’ll see to it that you learn not to be so frivolous with your instructions. April is not a toy.”
“Three girls,” Caleb said. “There are three; April, Faith and Melinda.”
He said the last name with a hint of distaste that wasn’t missed by anyone in the room, leaving Lilith to guess at what had happened between Caleb and his stargazing buddy. But she did have to smile at her gormless brother glossing over the threat and reprimands from this prickly witch to focus solely on the facts. And as for this plan of hers? Sage must be getting soft in her old age; there were so many holes in that plan she was surprised Caleb wasn’t trying to screw it.
Lilith could work with this.
“No, darling. There are two girls. Faith’s whereabouts are currently unknown,” Sage clarified, clicking her tongue at the challenge and smiling around at the three men who wore various expressions at this news.
“Unknown?” Wyatt asked. “That’s… that’s not good, right?”
“Shoot,” Broof said. “Perhaps they had a falling out? Faith and April were always falling out but she always came back. Unless something prevented that…”
He looked to Lilith. Probably for answers, but it felt like an accusation.
Fuck off, Broompig.
Sage leaned in towards Lilith and whispered. “Oh my. Did you push her away? Did you push them all away? Tut tut. All these secrets and crossed wires. We do have a long day ahead of us and lots to explain and untangle, don’t we Lilith, dear?”
Lilith glared at her brother; rueing his senseless outbursts, his flippant vampire creation and his grumpy face.
What part of ‘keep your bloody mouth shut’ don’t you understand?!
Even when there was another soul in the dining room, no one spoke other than to themselves. Jessica waved at everyone who walked past, but aside from Dorian, no one waved back. Dorian had been at the Tower for over twenty years and was part of the furniture; his insistence that demons spoke and acted through him which was why he kept setting fire to things, never subsided in that whole time, even with the strongest of medications and the full array of therapies.
Jessica found him fascinating. Hearing voices when there weren’t any moving faces nearby was something she’d been experiencing since her teens, but mostly hers was a buzz of background noise. It was akin to being in a crowded pub, where she could hear the hum of conversations going on around her, but unless she really focused, she could not discern any meaningful words. Occasionally, one would shout up over the others, but it was generally nonsense. They certainly never told her to do anything and she’d never given it much thought.
There was probably a medication she could take for it, but Jessica was not an idiot. She knew that the second she admitted anything that even bordered on being out of the ordinary, she could kiss her freedom goodbye for at least a year. And she needed to be out of here as soon as possible, there was so much to do. She needed to investigate Chase’s and Ralf’s deaths, attend their funerals and pay her respects. She needed to meet and apologise to the family they’d left behind for not noticing, for not doing the very things she was paid for; to keep others safe.
She also needed to find a new job and a bigger place so she could raise her baby—
Her baby. She idly drew a circle on the front of her gown and thought back to the conversation she’d had before breakfast. The doctor offered no reaction when Jessica told him she would be continuing her pregnancy, but something told her that her decision was inconvenient.
She looked down again at the plate of food that was taunting her, willing herself to comply and just eat it. She’d barely eaten since she’d gotten here and she was starving, but each forkful that passed her lips caused Jessica’s stomach to lurch. She hadn’t even taken a bite yet; she just been tapping the mushy dome of unidentifiable meat with her fork and watched as it oozed blood…
Jessica abruptly pushed her seat back from the dining table and ran towards the main door. Dorian watched her go, but was preoccupied with his own thoughts. The orderly buzzed the door open as Jessica approached, a knowing look on her face, allowing Jessica to sprint up the stairs to her bedroom.
She stumbled into the tiny shower room just in time to heave a burning stream, comprised entirely of the walls of her empty stomach, into the toilet.
Maybe she’d be in the mood for lunch.
Jessica washed, changed into a clean gown and settled on her bed to watch the news. Barring Pixie’s daily visit, it was her only contact with the outside world – as biased and sensationalised as it was.
“Thanks, Bob. So there you go folks, if you will be attending Sandy Moss’s monument, please keep vigils to a maximum of eight people and remember that the graveside is not a poolside and clothing must remain on.
“In other news, the suspected suicide of local police chief, Ralf Widdlefinkle, 54, a week after the unexplained death of his nephew and deputy, Chase Crooks, 29, has left the Woodland Borough Police Department severely understaffed and conspiracy theorists in a spin. We now cross live to Reb Porter in Willow Creek, who is at the scene where the police chief was found. Reb.”
“Thanks, Lorna. I’m actually here at the Glimmerbrook Truth Society Headquarters in Willow Creek, a couple of streets away, where I’m hoping to speak to Zibbo, a GliTS member and the one who found the ill-fated police chief’s body.
“Oh, someone has arrived, let’s see who they are… Oh! That’s her! Tibbo! Tibbo! Over here! Reb Porter, News Channel. I understand that you were the one who found Ralf Widdlefinkle’s body, is that correct?”
“It’s Yibbo, and I did but—”
“Tell me about the body? What wounds did it have? Were the circumstances suspicious? Whereabout was he, Libbo?”
“Yibbo, and he was on the floor, but I didn’t see—”
“You must know, Yobbo! Was it poisoning? Bleeding? Did he shoot himself?”
Jessica’s heart ached as the news feature played on above her. She willed that vile reporter to get her microphone out of poor Yibbo’s face, but she couldn’t seem to stop watching, willing Yibbo to answer because Jessica needed to know. What did happen? If Ralf decided to end it all, why? Could she have stopped him? Jessica twisted the hem of her gown as the background noise inside her head got louder, angrier. Demanding answers. Demanding to know how she’d failed so badly to notice the signs—
Jessica squealed and clutched at her chest. The orderly who had appeared in her room raised an eyebrow; her stoic expression almost changed as she took in the hyperventilating young woman before her. “Do you need the doctor?”
“No,” Jessica managed. “I’m fine. It’s just… nausea.” She tried to smile.
“Right,” the orderly replied. Having shown the minimum level of care she was paid to, she no longer cared that Jessica was mentally beating herself up. “Are you up for visitors?”
“Visitors, plural?” Jessica asked, glancing back at the live news report on the screen where Morag and Pixie had joined a tearful Yibbo on the porch, all looking as shell-shocked as she felt.
So it couldn’t be them. And it couldn’t be her mother; she wouldn’t willingly set foot back in the Tower even if Jessica would allow her to. Jessica didn’t have any other local family and hadn’t been back in town long enough to rebuild any childhood friendships. She had absolutely no idea who these visitors might be.
A cold chill ran down her spine. It’s Ralf’s family. They want answers.
The corner of the orderly’s lips lifted into a sly little smirk, almost as if she was enjoying Jessica’s tangled thoughts and internal panic. “Plural,” she confirmed as she left. “Gloria and Beth Wangshaft.”
“Dude,” Wyatt groaned, dragging his feet and coming to a pause at his bedroom door. “I’m gonna get my head down for half; I’m shagged.”
Caleb looked quizzically at his new friend. Wyatt didn’t speak like any other human he’d known, maybe because he wasn’t really human? It took a while sometimes for Caleb to fully piece together the sentences that Wyatt uttered. He had no idea what ‘head down for half’ meant and had never used ‘shagged’ like that. But Wyatt had just donated breakfast, and could probably turn Caleb into a frog, so he should really do whatever activity he wanted to do.
“All right,” Caleb said slowly, warily, wondering which substance he might be agreeing to this time. “Let’s do that.”
“I thought you didn’t sleep?”
Caleb blinked, wondering how that was relevant. “I don’t,” he replied. “Well, I do, sometimes, but not often. Lilith says it’s more a catatonic state, rather than true sleep. I don’t know what that really means, but I’m sure if you ask her, she’ll explain.”
“Right,” Wyatt smirked. “So if you don’t want to sleep, you just wanna come and cuddle with me then?” he asked.
He was laughing a bit. Caleb didn’t know how to interpret that, either, but he definitely did not want to cuddle. Wyatt tasted really good, almost April good, and even though he – bizarrely – hadn’t felt compelled to drink since he’d been in the apartment, being that close would definitely tempt the beast.
“No.” He recoiled, not following at all. “Are we still talking about drugs?”
Wyatt guffawed. “We never were. One is rather fatigued and is going to partake of a brief slumber,” he enunciated in perfect Queen’s English and handed Caleb his mobile. “You OK to stay awake and wait for the call? I’ll only be down a short while; I don’t really sleep, either.” He shrugged and the briefest hint of something out of place flashed across his features. If Caleb hadn’t been studying him so hard at that moment, trying to understand, he would have missed it.
“Yes, I’ll do that,” Caleb replied, taking a seat at the counter and looking around the kitchen.
“…You’re just gonna sit there?”
“Yes, until either you or Broof wake up, or April arrives.”
“You’re a strange fruit, Cal,” Wyatt snorted. “One sec.” He disappeared into his bedroom, appearing a few moments later with his laptop, which he placed on the counter. “Here, don’t go dying of boredom. Or re-dying. Whatever.” He patted Caleb on the back and walked towards his door.
“Wait,” Caleb requested, and Wyatt turned back. “I’ve never used a computer unaccompanied.”
Wyatt paused with both eyebrows raised. “Why not?” he asked.
Caleb looked back at the laptop and then back at Wyatt. “Lil forbade it. If I had to use a computer, she watched me the whole time.”
Wyatt threw his head back and roared. “You pair are even more attached than the Globrot twins. You’ll be fine.”
“What if I break it?”
“You won’t break it,” Wyatt insisted and whacked his palm on the keyboard to demonstrate. Caleb thought about mentioning that if he did that, he’d probably smash the laptop to pieces and also dent the counter beneath, but he felt that wasn’t the point Wyatt was trying to make.
“I don’t know what to do.”
“Just type what you want to look at in that search bar there; you can find anything you like,” Wyatt yawned and headed towards his room, again. “Keep it PG though, dude. Don’t get so distracted that you forget to answer the phone, yeah? G’night. G’morning? Whatever,” he finished sleepily and vanished behind the door.
Caleb stared at the empty search bar. Wait… he could find anything he liked?
His fingers hovered over the keys a long while. Surely there was a caveat. If people could find anything they wanted, then Lilith would have had the plasma fruit ages ago. Maybe this search bar was a magical thing. Maybe requests were limited. He pondered for so long that the screen started to get dark, but it instantly brightened as he made up his mind.
He would look for the fruit and for a vampire cure. But in case he only got one wish from this plastic genie, he’d first search for something far more important.
f… a… t… backspace… i… t… h.