Disclaimer: morbid self-harm
He had allowed her to leave and then he’d trashed the apartment just because.
Because he had no idea how this new power worked. It simmered hot in his sluggish veins, taunting him with a ferociousness that felt like Faith herself. And, just like Faith, it was stubbornly refusing to cooperate with his will. It amplified and reflected everything he did, that much was clear, but only insofar as to thwart him endlessly.
Seth didn’t understand; when he had taken Lilith’s ability to rewind and Caleb’s mind control, he had slipped into his new powers like one might don a custom-made pair of gloves. Instinctively, he had known what to do, how to use his new gifts. He had, of course, had to train himself to master them, but right off the bat they were usable, they felt right.
But this one? It didn’t fit. It didn’t feel right.
And even if it had – whisper it – he wasn’t sure it was worth it.
His full stomach lurched at that thought. When he had taken from the Vatores, the only regret he’d had was that he hadn’t done it sooner. But the second Faith had fallen limp in his arms, the second he thought he might have lost her, he had realised that those feelings, those pesky, interfering sentiments weren’t simply borne of the desire to rob her of her delicious power. Nor were they a product of her own mind, manipulating him.
No. They were, unfortunately, genuine. He really did love her.
“You don’t know what love is.”
The bitter irony that that moment was the only one in his waking existence where he honestly did know what love was. He had felt it through Faith’s feelings for her sister and he woefully, too late, realised that he felt it for Faith herself.
And so, after he had watched her stagger from the apartment, down the street, into the darkness and out of his unlife – where she deserved to be – after trashing the apartment and fighting, fruitlessly, with the spoils of his favourite game, Seth had done what Seth did best.
He needed to soothe his desire to rip out a few hearts just because.
Because he’d royally buggered things up. Because he’d wanted everything and ended with nothing.
Because he’d hurt someone he cared about. Again.
Because he’d allowed himself to care.
He rampaged to blind himself of every memory of her. He savaged until he was almost black-out drunk on blood, on endorphins, on adrenaline, on the chemicals of life that repeatedly passed him by. He had no idea whatsoever who any of his prey were; every time he’d tried to read them, he’d failed and ended up reading himself.
“You try my patience, Seth, and see what happens…”
A few weeks ago, he’d have loved this, explored every memory, every thought he could find, but not now. Now there was no denying it; every emerging memory seemed worse than the last. There had been so little hope, scarce pleasure, no lasting happiness.
Perhaps never more so than present. After all the blood was shed, after all the rage was gone, with the liquor of a half-dozen fresh corpses on his tongue he could still taste her. As he’d wandered through the countryside, bombarded with endless memories he didn’t want, his inners sloshing as if he were nothing but a glorified bucket, he’d seen glimpses of her from the corner of his eye, in the trees, in the shadows. She’d haunted him with her pale grey eyes; her ghosts of irises. As he’d climbed the water tower, she’d followed him.
As the stars faded and the world approached sunrise, he’d been obsessing over every detail of her, inside and out. He knew that he needed to let her go, but, as his memories were proving over and over, he couldn’t let anything go.
Seth rose to his feet to leave and his worn boots slipped slightly on the sheet metal roof of the rusty tower. Steadying himself, he felt a brief moment of relief that he hadn’t fallen, followed by a pang of disappointment at that fact.
Morbidly curious, he inched his way to the edge and peered over. He knew it wouldn’t kill him, unless he was mightily unfortunate with his landing, but he wondered how much it would hurt, what he would break, how long it would take to heal.
He wondered if it would compare.
He’d watched her go, battered, broken and defeated, with a swelling ache in his chest. He’d done that; he’d wounded her. Every beat of hope he had that he could keep her went with that realisation. Of course she wouldn’t stay.
“I’ll be back at sunset to clean up your remains because someone will have to…”
“…You selfish arse!”
Melinda had awoken just before sunrise, on her bed, in her pyjamas, with an ashen taste in her mouth, a thumping in her head and sense of dread. She’d sworn it to herself the last time she’d consumed mind-bending beverages, but this time she was adamant – she was never ever drinking again.
The room swayed slowly into focus as Melinda pushed herself upright and groggily scoped her surroundings. April didn’t know how to make a bed properly, so the fact that the pristinely-pressed sheets were still tightly tucked in perfect pinfolds told Melinda that her blonde buddy hadn’t used it.
Perhaps April was still in the snug, with Wyatt and Caleb, ‘doing magic’ and talking nonsense.
Melinda left the bedroom and quietly walked the series of corridors that led to the snug. She listened outside but could hear no voices. Gently pushing it open, she saw Wyatt asleep on the sofa, snoring loudly with a puddle of drool under his cheek. There was no sign of April or Caleb.
Her heart sank. Oh no. How long had Wyatt been out? Melinda gently pulled the door closed behind her and paused to listen, to contemplate. The apartment was still and silent.
She walked slowly around, listening for any sign of the wayward couple, looking for any hints of struggle or… worse. The living room was empty, the kitchen was empty, Wyatt’s room was empty.
Melinda paused with her fingers on the handle leading to Sage’s bedroom. She hadn’t explicitly been told she couldn’t come in here, but being so close to this door felt like a violation. She was tempted to knock, but changed her mind, silently turning the handle and peering in.
In the dim light of the bedroom, she could see two figures, limbs entwined, cuddling on the bed. Caleb shifted, pulling April closer and nuzzling into her hair. April moved into his arms with a contented sigh.
The sinking heart feeling transitioned from slow, gradually-lowering, dead weight to a straight down plummet from chest to floor.
She wasn’t even sure that she’d closed the door, she just needed to get away from it. Melinda briefly considered fleeing to her workshop, but couldn’t have promised that she’d leave all the pots intact and some of them were really darn pretty, in her opinion – her painting lately really seemed to be taking on an edge.
Instead, she scrambled back through the corridors, reaching what looked at first glance like a cupboard and climbed inside, feeling around until her fingers caught on to the rails of a ladder.
She and Wyatt had been up here a few nights back, watching the stars. It had been really nice, having someone new to point out constellations to, even if Wyatt, like his daughter, hadn’t genuinely been that interested.
At least he hadn’t tried to kiss her to shut her up.
The sun hadn’t come up yet. Melinda lingered at the edge of the balcony, trying to push the darkened, blurry image of Caleb and April from her mind. She should be happy, right? That he appeared to have taken all his lessons to heart and was being sweet with her? She should be happy that April was happy, right?
But she wasn’t. Melinda wasn’t happy at all.
“Mel? Oh my good god,” she said breathlessly. “It really is you.”
Melinda almost lost any shred of cool she had, hearing that sweet, melodic voice. She flicked her gaze briefly to April, taking in her crumpled clothes and sheepish expression before looking back over the view.
“I see you and Caleb got close,” she whispered.
April twisted the fabric of her blousy shorts in her fist, and nodded. Something about this action irritated Melinda. What was she expecting from April? Denial? Regret?
She cleared her throat, fighting against the jealousy and the spite. “Did he hurt you?”
Please say yes – I mean, no. Yes, no, yes… no, ugh! Was she a horrible person for wishing that Caleb had treated April badly so that she could pick up the pieces?
Yes. Yes that was horrible thing to wish for. Fudge.
April shrugged and rolled her eyes up to meet Melinda’s, briefly, before focusing on the floor. “No… he didn’t. He was quite gentle really. For Caleb,” she added quickly. “And it was my idea. Sort of. Mostly. I didn’t not want to.”
For a moment nothing was said, Melinda just watched April as she memorised the floor pattern.
She looked back out over the view. “I see.”
That was clearly not the reaction April was hoping to elicit. With confusion written all over her beautiful face, she reached out towards Melinda, the way she used to. She playfully swung her arms as she hummed a little tune, turned her face towards the sky and said,” Is that Mars?”
Something in Melinda simply snapped.
“No it’s not Mars!” she squeaked, her voice doing that gosh darn annoying thing it did when she was emotive. “Quit it, April!”
April pouted and reached out again, only to be rebuffed. She looked at her hand, at Melinda’s arm, back at Melinda’s face.
“What’s wrong?! Don’t you realise what you’re doing?”
April hesitated. She reached out again, without conviction and then continued to fumble with her shorts as she shook her head. “I just… I,” she gulped. “I wanted to touch you…”
Melinda felt her eye twitch. With the after effects of the tea, it seemed to be making her whole head twitch like she had lice.
“You’re with Caleb,” Melinda reminded her. “You spent the night with Caleb. You even smell like Caleb.”
Melinda wrinkled her nose and turned away. “You can’t come to me after that and just expect me to be OK with… whatever this is.”
“What is this?” April whispered.
Melinda growled to cover the fact that she didn’t really know. A one-sided crush? A game April liked to play; tease the lesbian? She licked her lips, but her mouth was so dry that her tongue stuck to them. She turned away for a second so April couldn’t see the failure she was having before rounding back.
To her surprise, she came almost nose to nose with April.
She was so close. Oh gosh. So close. Barely dressed. Melinda took a step back, for sanity.
April reached for Melinda’s slender hand and linked their fingers.
“I’ve realised something,” she whispered, so quietly, as if divulging a huge secret. “I don’t like him very much.”
Melinda couldn’t hold back her sarcastic laugh. But April never had been good with sarcasm and, misunderstanding, she laughed too.
“It’s crazy, isn’t it? But, Mel, last night Caleb and I were making love for hours. Hours,” she emphasised quietly, as Melinda wondered what point she was trying to make. Was she being her usual, slightly clueless self, or was she simply rubbing salt in the wounds?
“Hours,” Melinda repeated. Her voice was deadpan but inside she was falling to bits.
April nodded. “Yes. Oh my goodness, Mel. It was never-ending. It was so boring!”
“What?” Melinda asked, genuinely surprised. “It was boring?”
“Yes. Well it did feel quite nice, some of it. The start of it was super nice, oh gosh. But then after it didn’t feel – I don’t know how to explain it.” She laughed a little, shyly. “My body felt all tingly and happy but my mind was… not on the same page. Does that make sense?”
Melinda swallowed, hard, trying not to read too much into anything.
“Perhaps because of what happened before? Perhaps you’re still healing,” she offered.
“Hm,” April mused, sadly. “I felt super bad for him. He could tell I wasn’t having any fun and he tried all these things but even then, it didn’t make me feel… anything, really. It just felt like, going through the motions? In the end I just lied and I, um…” she squirmed. “I pretended I was having more fun than I was until he had had enough of me. Then we cuddled. That bit was quite nice.”
Melinda made a noise that almost sounded like a word but by this point, was more a cry for help. Again, April didn’t catch it. She looked at the floor, her voice breathy and full of giggles as she whispered, “Have you ever seen a willy up close in real life, Mel?
Melinda didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “No,” she replied. Nor do I want to.
“They’re so weird-looking,” April said with amazement. “Like… a stiff noodle. Faith once told me that looking at naked men made her all hot and bothered, but I had to try really hard not to laugh at Caleb when he got naked because it was so funny, just bobbing there! He said I could do whatever I wanted with it, but I didn’t want to do anything with it, perhaps other than grab it and wave it around like one of those noisemaker rattles. That wasn’t what he meant, though.” She huffed. “Anyway, remember how Faith told us that biting Seth was the hottest thing ever—”
“Faith lies a lot,” Melinda mumbled then her chin shot up. “Wait a second; didn’t Caleb tell you not to talk about Seth?”
April tilted her head to her shoulder and her face slowly morphed into a huge grin. “Oh! Yes! He did.”
“So, did he undo that command, or…”
April shook her head. “No. I think… maybe being in the magic house has done something? Because he also told me not to stop drinking from him, but I defied that too,” she said proudly.
Melinda’s brain, which had been confused and grossed-out by thoughts of naked Caleb was immediately buzzing. “You drank from him? You stopped even though he said not to? You defied him?” April nodded along. “Oh my gosh, April, that’s huge!”
“I know.” April smiled, moving nearer. In her newly heightened state, Melinda went willingly; April’s big, blue eyes getting closer… closer… until her face was all she could see in her field of vision.
Melinda had been wrong. April didn’t smell like Caleb at all; she smelled glorious.
“There was something else Caleb told me not to do,” April whispered playfully, invading Melinda’s space. “He told me I wasn’t allowed to kiss anyone except him. I think we should test if I can defy that.”
Bang! Back to Earth.
“Right. April, I don’t know what game this is, but you can’t keep treating me like this.”
“Like I mean something!” Melinda growled. “You’re with Caleb! You told me that you didn’t like being apart from him, that you ‘love’ him. You spend the night with him and then come up here and try to kiss me? You don’t understand how much that hurts. You know how I feel about you.”
“No, you don’t understand!” April whined, even though she was making no sense. She smacked herself on the forehead. “Gah! I don’t know how to explain. Stupid girl. Look, I don’t want to be with Caleb – I think my bind wants to be with Caleb! My bind wants his weird man bits, not me!”
“Whatever,” Melinda huffed. “So what do ‘you’ want?”
“I want to be with you.” She stroked a stray lock of hair from Melinda’s eyes. “Being around you makes me all ‘hot and bothered’, Mel. I think that last night started so good because I had been cuddling with you. And the second I got up here and saw you, I felt so… happy.”
“You don’t mean this; you’re buttering me up.” And it’s working, darn it!
“I do mean it. You’re so soft and so gentle and so, so pretty.”
April nodded. “You’re super pretty, Mel. I don’t care what Mother said; I think she was wrong about a lot of things. Like when she said that all poor people should be eaten by cowplants and that ‘girls can’t love girls’. I think girls can love girls, don’t you?”
April allowed her soft, pink lips to brush against Melinda’s now arid ones, gently causing them to part. Melinda whimpered, back in a place she never thought she’d be but desperately never wanting to leave it. Aprils hands tangled into her hair, her own hovered at April’s waist, not daring to touch her as she fought not to lose her head completely.
She was afraid to move, afraid to open her eyes, afraid that she’d find she was hallucinating, that none of this was real.