Note: somewhat NSFW
Wednesday had passed without much fanfare and it was time for Caleb’s first lesson in, as Melinda called it, ‘How Not to be a Butthead’. He was trying to focus but it had been a long, long time since he’d been at school and he was remembering how bad he had been at it, and why.
His mind was prone to wandering.
Caleb had flirted with a few old ladies that day and sold a few plants in Melinda’s hand-painted pots. A couple of the lesser-distracted customers, familiar with Sage’s subpar painting skills, had asked who had crafted them and he hadn’t been prepared for that, so he hoped they bought that it was him.
He knew that he couldn’t tell them about Melinda, or that April was hiding right beneath their feet, even though he wanted to scream it from the rooftops that he finally had a girlfriend, no, a wife. And that she was gorgeous, the daughter of a famous actress. Utterly enchanting. Simply perfect.
The temptation to remain silent about April became exponentially harder when Agatha Bun, who had visited a few times daily since Caleb had taken up his role, had temporarily stopped trying to pinch his bottom and instead conversed about the news.
Caleb hadn’t seen it, but from talking to the flirtatious old woman, he’d gathered that Seth and Faith had been spotted at a concert, somewhere. He was pretty relieved, truth be told, that Faith was all right and he was looking forward to feeding that news back to April later.
Although, Caleb had told April not to worry about her friend, to stop going on about it and, like all his off-the-cuff commands, she had taken that literally and seemed to stop caring altogether. He felt almost bad about that, they had been friends for ages. Could he make her care about Faith again? Should he?
When his lack of moral understanding failed him, which was often, he would ask his sister for her blunt opinion. But she’d not been by today. He wondered if it was something Melinda could help with, although she’d be appalled that he issued the command in the first place, whereas Lilith was used to him by now. Although maybe that was part of the problem.
It was a minefield, the emotions thing, and it was terrifying, the control. Scary that April carried out his tiniest instruction without any question.
Scary and – whisper it – thrilling. It felt right, almost. As if a long-dormant skill of his was resurfacing – the power to command, to bend others to his will, like Seth could.
The more he thought about it, the more vivid the dream became until it was almost like a memory…
“…And of course you have to remember that April isn’t as experienced as you Caleb – in anything. You have to take things slowly and be gentle with her.”
He did? He must have audibly groaned or made some other disparaging noise, as Melinda did that cute growl she did when she was trying to be threatening.
“Slow and gentle,” he repeated mindlessly. Slow was for humans but he could do gentle. He definitely could. To start with.
He tried to focus as his mind once again strayed. Why did he have to be gentle with April? It wasn’t like his bite would kill her and if he broke a bone or two in the throes of passion, so what? She’d heal. He could only assume it was the emotional thing again.
Could he command her to not have emotions? That wasn’t selfish, right? She’d never feel bad again, she wouldn’t dwell on anything he, or anyone else, did to her. She’d be free.
This sounded like a good idea to Caleb, so experience would suggest that it wasn’t one. Not that he could understand why it wasn’t. If April no longer had emotions, maybe she would do things with him happily, willingly even…
Wait, was it willing? If she said ‘yes’, but he’d – in a roundabout way – made her say ‘yes’? Caleb didn’t know, but dwelling on it, on her, was causing an uncomfortable lack of space within his leather trousers.
He’d have to sneak her away somewhere, maybe tonight when the witches went to this party or whatever it was they were going to. He’d sneak away from Melinda, with April, somewhere secluded, like Sage’s closet. He’d have her on her knees, questionability aside, her big, blue eyes gazing up at him, awaiting his instruction—
“Earth to Caleb,” Melinda’s voice cut through his daydream. Caleb shook his head bringing himself back into the room. She huffed. “Are you even listening to me?”
He sighed, trying to remember what she’d been saying and attempting to focus on her face through the memory haze.
“You were telling me to be gentle with April,” he guessed.
“Yeah, I was. Five minutes ago. You’re not paying attention, are you?”
“No,” he replied.
Melinda muttered angrily, “OK. OK.” She paused. Caleb expected her to lose her temper, like Lilith would, but Melinda was full of surprises. “Perhaps listening is the problem.”
Caleb blinked, clueless.
“People learn differently,” she explained. “My mum would explain how some children learned better if they had their schoolwork in a different format, you know, visually or auditory or—
Orally? Caleb cleared his throat, desperately trying to focus on something other than April’s.
“—Written or kinaesthetic. We have to find the best way to make this stay in your head.” She tapped her chin. “You’re easily distracted and don’t listen, so probably not auditory. And you couldn’t make heads nor tails of Sage’s flipchart, so probably not visually either. Do you read or write a lot?”
“I am quite good at that. I did all of Lilith’s admin at the surgery.”
“Maybe we should get you to do lines. ‘I will treat my girlfriend like an individual with valid feelings.’ Would that work?”
Caleb nodded, but he had, by now, completely lost focus and didn’t know what he was agreeing to.
And Melinda could tell, if her narrowed eyes and stiff pout were anything to go by.
“What are you thinking about now?”
“There’s no one else here.”
Caleb pursed his lips, but decided he wasn’t going to get anywhere by lying. “I was imagining me and April, in Sage’s closet; she’s wearing a hot, red little number—”
“Yeah, OK, I get the picture. Wow, you really don’t know her at all,” Melinda sighed, holding up her hand. “And why Sage’s closet? You know what, I don’t need to know that,” she added quickly, before he could open his mouth. She rubbed her temples. “Caleb, if you’re not going to take this seriously—”
“I am! At least, I’m trying to.” Caleb insisted, shaking his head as if to dislodge his thoughts.
“Right,” Melinda poked at the frayed patch of her jeans. “I’m starting to understand why Lilith hit you with a wooden spoon so much.”
“I wouldn’t say that method worked, but if you must—”
“I’m not hitting you with a spoon,” Melinda said. “There must be another way.”
“Hit me with a spatula?”
The corner of her lips twitched. “I’ll think about it. Shall we call it a day?”
Caleb nodded. Melinda turned on the TV and rose from the sofa. An advert for board games ended and one for tampons began. Caleb’s fantasies about April were temporarily interrupted as he remembered finding tampons in the store he’d accidentally robbed.
The advert was simply confusing, showing a tube of blue liquid and a group of smiling women. It wasn’t really shedding any light on his usage query, so he decided to ask.
“Melinda, I have a question.”
“Ask away,” she replied, digging through the basket on the shelf.
“What are tampons used for?”
Melinda jolted, whacking her head on the shelf above her. “Why would you ask—? Oh.” Rubbing her scalp, she looked up at the TV and coyly back over her shoulder at Caleb. “They’re things us girls use during our periods.”
At Caleb’s silence, Melinda tried again. “During menstruation? Oh come on; I know you weren’t paying attention to Sage’s flip chart, but you must have encountered periods, man of the world as you are.”
“Yes, I know what menstruation is,” Caleb said. “Well, I know that it is. But, how does a tampon help?”
“It goes… inside. To stop… anything, um, coming out.”
Caleb looked at the TV and back at the squirming little vampire who was desperately trying to avoid his gaze. “Huh. Women don’t use sheep wool or hide in their chambers anymore?”
“Is that what they did in the dark ages?”
“I don’t know – I didn’t live through the dark ages.”
“You’re still there,” Melinda muttered quietly. “It’s not something you have to worry about with us, with April. Hey, look!” she said, in an overly bright and chipper way. “We’ve found a plus point about being a vampire – no more periods!”
“There are loads of plus points,” Caleb corrected, prepared to reel some off.
“Hmm,” Melinda uttered, unconvinced. She fell quiet, staring into the basket, opening and closing her mouth a few times, silently, before finding some words to interrupt him with. “Caleb, have you ever… I mean, is it possible… can someone, a vampire, survive off…” she paused, looking like she wanted to ask a question back but Caleb couldn’t begin to guess what.
“N-never mind,” she mumbled. “Fancy a quick game?” she asked, holding up a games controller, but looking at the floor.
Caleb didn’t have time to ponder what insight Melinda thought he could offer, as the sprightly knock on the door announced Sage’s presence before the sight of her coiffed, silver hair did.
“Sorry to interrupt,” she said, tucking herself neatly inside the door. “Myself and Wyatt are about to head off now – I wanted to check if you needed anything before we left?”
“No, I think we’re fine,” Melinda said with a smile. Sage lifted her eyebrow at Melinda, her head quizzically cocked but Melinda simply shook hers.
“When will you be back?” Caleb asked.
Sage’s face registered a flicker of annoyance before she replied. “We will be gone a while—”
Caleb perked up at this, in more ways than one.
“Are you quite ready for the responsibility of looking after a house and two young women?” she winked at Melinda, who hid her smile behind her hand. Caleb didn’t know what that meant. Women really were complicated. Having one in a room was bad enough, but two? Doing that woman thing they did with the eyebrows and the head shakes? He had no chance.
He puffed out his chest. “I’m sure I’ll manage—”
“I’m sure you will, one day,” Sage sang in her sugary tone. “But today is not that day, is it?” Another quick glance at Melinda. “So, just on the very off chance that you need assistance while I’m gone, I have drafted in someone who will ensure that no chaos ensues.”
Caleb’s face fell. All of his hope of this being his chance to get at April withered along with his manhood. “You’ve got us a babysitter?!”
“Not a babysitter, more of a minder. And not for you, collectively, just for you personally, Caleb.” She turned to Melinda. “I’m sure you’re capable of not infecting any computers, binding any random women or setting anything on fire, aren’t you dear?”
“All of those things were accidents!” Caleb wailed. “I’m three hundred years old – I don’t need a minder!”
“A boy your age really shouldn’t be having ‘accidents’,” Sage said softly, causing Melinda to bite her knuckle to stifle her laugh.
Calen pouted, finally deducing that this may be a joke. “You’re teasing me, aren’t you?”
“I most certainly am not,” Sage said crisply. “Your sister will be here any minute to keep an eye on you while we’re gone.”
“Lilith?!” Caleb huffed and threw himself back on to the sofa with an almighty growl. “Damn it all to hell!”
Sage studied him for a moment and then smiled again, but something about it seemed different to before. “I think perhaps we should switch you to feeding from me for a while,” she mused. “I don’t need two stroppy boys in this house – sweet Mother Moon, one is more than enough!” She smoothed her skirt and focused her attentions back to Melinda. “The meet will last until about midnight, and we’ll be back fairly promptly after that. There is a small snack for each of you in the fridge. Have fun!” she smiled. “But not too much!” She opened the door, but paused again. “Melinda, dear, could I borrow you, just for a moment?”
Melinda nodded and followed Sage from the room, leaving Caleb alone.
He was tempted to follow. If they had left the room to discuss something, it was likely that it was about him. But during his dramatic fall to the sofa he must have inadvertently impacted on the remote and the TV channel had changed.
“—state-of-the-art equipment, that will prove the theory beyond any doubt. Stay tuned, Weird News fans! Now, back to the studio. Lorna.”
“Thanks Bob. We’ll be back with our Weird News correspondent, Bob Pancakes, later as he prepares to spend the night in the, possibly haunted, Boudoir Lounge, where April Moss’s friend, Faith Splodge, 19, was last seen along with the mysterious man known only as ‘Seth’.”
In a gaudy apartment only a few miles away, Faith almost dropped her towel as she heard the broadcaster say her name.
“Holy shit,” she gasped, skidding back into the room she’d just departed and gesturing wildly at the screen. “Seth! It’s us! Look! They know we were at the gig! Seth! Look! SETH!”
Seth, who had been writing something in his notebook, glanced up with his standard lack of concern. “So they do.”
Faith looked between the screen which was displaying some weird CCTV footage, and back at her unkempt beau. “You knew about this?”
He sighed. “Of course I knew; I’m surprised it’s still relevant in the fast-moving news world. I was going to tell you yesterday but then, events happened.” He gestured to her arm, which she instinctively tried to tuck into her towel, even though there was nothing to see. “It didn’t seem like the right time.”
Faith nodded, dumbstruck. She wanted to be annoyed at him for hiding something so huge from her, but she just couldn’t stop smiling.
Yesterday, after he’d found her in the kitchen, he had once again offered to mist her back to the boring little island, to talk things through.
And this time, she had agreed. Or at least she’d tried to. Making words was easy, but talking – meaningful talking – was hard. Seth, like Melinda, hadn’t asked questions, or pushed, content to allow her to cry for seemingly no reason, to rage or to simply stay silent and allow him to idly stroke her hair.
It had her trapped between feeling grateful that she had someone, to feeling awful that she’d ditched her friend and left her wondering what Melinda was up to now. Had she managed to get away from Fringey and Blondie? Was she still caught in the bizarre love triangle? Was Chuck OK?
Had Faith made the right decision?
Faith shuddered and tried not to think about it. She’d made a decision and couldn’t go back. Not now. Not ever. She didn’t belong with the good vampires, dragging them down. She belonged here.
Even though she had desperately wanted to change her mind when the pair were caught in a freak thunderstorm and Seth had run around with her over his shoulder instead of letting her seek cover, getting her completely soaked.
She’d especially doubted her decision when she’d smacked Seth in the mouth in order to be put down and in return, he’d unceremoniously dumped her in a mud puddle.
She had doubted her decision even more when he got into the puddle beside her, took out his gross handkerchief and tried to wipe her face clean, while laughing so much he couldn’t get his words out.
But she hadn’t doubted her decision at all when they had spent the night on the coast, each lost in their own thoughts. Listening to the waves crashing with Seth’s arm around her, trading stories of their rubbish fathers and remaining fully dressed while doing so, had been not as boring as Faith had imagined it would be.
Tonight, he had promised her a surprise that she would love and, as if things couldn’t get any better, now she was grinning from ear to ear to see her face on the news. OK, so Seth’s e-fit was taking up a slightly larger portion of the screen, but still her face was there. Her face was on the TV and April’s was nowhere in sight. Everyone would know who she was now. She— Oh, shit.
“Can we still go out tonight?” she asked.
“Why wouldn’t we be able to?”
“Well, people are definitely going to recognise me now.”
“They are,” Seth agreed casually.
“And you. That’s a pretty good likeness.”
He shrugged. “It’s all in hand.” He tilted his head towards the bathroom door. “Don’t make us late.”
Faith scratched her arm, sloughing off some dried mud. She could still see traces of it on Seth’s skin. “Are you showering tonight?” she asked.
“I wasn’t planning to.”
“You really should; you’ve still got mud on you.”
“And you stink,” she said. “Even more than usual.”
Even this didn’t get a reaction. She walked over and smiled down at him, allowing her towel to slip.
“Oops. Oh no,” she gasped in her most helpless voice. “I’m losing my grip. It must be my injured arm.”
“Fledgling,” he growled, still writing. “I’m leaving in five minutes, with or without you—”
His sentence lingered in the air and his gaze flickered over her for the briefest second. If she hadn’t been paying complete attention she’d have likely missed the hint of a smile.
“Look at me, I’m filthy,” she pouted. “And I don’t think I have the strength to wash my—”
He advanced on her, like prey, so swiftly that she genuinely lost her grip and inelegantly tripped on her shed towel. He caught her by the waist, breaking her fall and bearing down on her like a lion to a captured antelope.
“Then I guess we’ll both ‘stink’ tonight,” he hissed. “Time’s up. Get dressed – for once.”