A Ghost in the House
Not much changed between them for the next three days. Damon hardly saw Lindsey, and she had to be the quietest human he'd ever encountered. He hardly ever heard her when she was in the office. He heard her in the kitchen just occasionally, heard the bathroom light go on and off, the water running, the toilet flushing, but since it had a connecting door to the second bedroom, the only time she ever left it was to scuttle into the kitchen, usually in the early mornings, and she must have retrieved her clothes when he took a shower. The two or three times he went into the office to use the computer, she flew past him and stayed in the far corner of the kitchen until he left and went back into the den. She was, as she said she would be, a ghost. He had heard her crying in the office, and knew she was miserable. He even tried to convince himself if she had just allowed him to apologize, everything would have been all right. But he knew better.
The morning of the fourth day, someone slid an envelope under the door. It had Lindsey's name on it, so he knocked on the office door, but since, as usual, there was no answer, he opened the door, put the envelope on the computer desk and left with, "That came for you just now." She was still on the futon and acted as though she hadn't heard or seen him. Truth to tell, he wasn't sure she did.
He barely heard the whispered, "Thank you."
Lindsey opened the envelope. Inside was a note that read, "Please be at the front door, dressed in 15 minutes, for your evaluation."
Evaluation? What was this? Well, nothing for it but do what they said. So, she put on clean clothes, brushed her hair and teeth and generally tried to look presentable. She put her shoes on and went to the front door.
"Where are you headed?" Damon asked.
"Note said to be ready in 15 minutes for my evaluation," Lindsey replied.
"Evaluation? What the hell does that mean?"
"I don't know." She stood for a moment, then glanced to see Damon's blue eyes watching her intently. "Please stop staring at me," she said.
"I hardly know what you look like."
"You know enough."
Ouch. He really had cut her to the quick, hadn't he? "Are you going to be like this the rest of the time we're here?"
"I haven't bothered you. In fact, I've made every effort not to bother you."
Damon's ear was attuned to nuances of human vocal expression, and he tried to hear what she didn't say. He didn't really hear self-pity in her voice, though. Resigned acceptance is how he would describe it.
"Well, tell me what happens."
"If I'm allowed to." Suddenly, the door unlocked and swung open. Damon did his best to look out as Lindsey left, but he only saw an ordinary hallway. The door closed, leaving him alone.
Lindsey went to her right, since the unit was at the end of the hall and she walked until she saw an elevator. The door opened, and when she walked in, she saw the floor button had already been pressed. The elevator went down several floors, then stopped. The doors opened and she stepped out into another hallway. An arrow on the wall pointed to the right, so she turned right and walked until she came to glass double doors. They opened and she walked through them. Another set of doors opened and she walked inside and found herself in a dimly lit room. There was an armchair in the middle of the floor.
"Please be seated," said a voice. She sat.
"We realize you must have many questions. We will endeavor to answer some of them," that same, oddly neutral voice said. "Your responses will be recorded."
"Some answers." Not all, obviously, she thought.
"You are part of a research project conducted by a private firm. Our goal is to see whether humans and vampires can co-exist peacefully, among other things."
"I don't know if anyone can co-exist peacefully with this man, honestly," Lindsey said.
"We are aware of his behavior."
"I figured. The rules said we were under surveillance."
"The rules also specified you were to share a bed."
Lindsey rolled her eyes. "You're kidding, right? Look. You've got me in the same condo with him. I have to deal with him every day. Please don't ask me to share a bed with him."
"We must insist. And you must spend at least an hour a day in each other's company. We will notify Mr. Salvatore of these conditions."
"Thank you, because I sure didn't want to." It was too weird to talk to some disembodied voice. She felt like the Sandmen in "Logan's Run." Except it was even creepier.
"We have some questions for you now."
"Go for it."
"We expect complete honesty."
"Do you find Damon Salvatore attractive?"
These people were sadistic sex voyeurs. Had to be. "Yes. Very."
"Are you interested in having sexual relations with him?"
Lindsey shook her head. "With a jerk like him? No."
"Not based on his personality. Based on his appearance."
"Listen here, every straight woman I know – and some who aren't so straight – would give their eyeteeth to get in the sack with him, based strictly on his appearance."
"What do you find most attractive about him?"
She put her forehead on her hand. "Seriously? Everything. Top to bottom, all right? He's one of the best looking men I've ever seen in my life."
"But you wouldn't consider having sexual relations with him."
"Asked and answered. But I think the problem would be whether he would consider having sexual relations with me. And he's already answered that for you, too." She wished they would change the subject.
"Does his drinking blood upset you?"
"It's not pleasant to think about, but no, it doesn't upset me."
"What human food does he eat?"
"I have no idea. I haven't cooked for him. I assume if he wants anything, he's a grown man and can fix it himself. All I can tell you is he drinks – a lot. I've seen the empty bottles. But you know that already."
"Does this upset you?"
"No. As long as he doesn't attack me in an alcoholic rage, then I don't care how much he drinks."
"Do you have any other questions for us?"
"About a million, but I'll confine them to just one: why me? Why choose the one woman an arrogant ass like Damon Salvatore would be most likely to find unattractive?"
"For that reason."
Lindsey felt as though she had been punched in the gut. "You people must enjoy this. You must enjoy setting people up to be hurt. No amount of compensation is worth this. Please, just end this here, and either kill me or let me go. I swear I'll never say a word about this. But I've never done anything to deserve this kind of hell. Unless I've died and I'm already in hell. Am I right? Is this hell?"
"You are very much alive. You were chosen because although he may find you unattractive at this time, you are not completely unattractive."
"Gee, thanks. You people are psychopaths."
"We are scientists. You may go. We will speak again in several days."
Lindsey stood and went back to the doors, which had opened, and returned to the condo. She felt completely drained.
Damon could hear her footsteps dying away and wondered how long she would be gone, and what would happen to her. He thought about her. Objectively, was she that unattractive? Not really. Nothing wrong with her face. Brown hair, brown eyes. She just wasn't his type. And it's not like she was the biggest girl he had ever seen by any means, but as she said herself: she wasn't Britney Spears, either. Still, it wasn't her fault she was here with him.
Lindsey reached the condo's door and took a deep breath. It opened and she saw Damon sitting on the sofa. His sexiness hit her like a wave and it was all she could do to keep from closing her eyes away from it.
"So what happened?" he asked.
"They asked me a bunch of questions. Never saw anyone. Just talked to this voice."
"Questions about what?"
"Personal questions. I don't really want to discuss it."
"Oh. They didn't like, physically hurt you or anything, did they?"
"Well, that's encouraging. Any ideas on how long they're going to keep us here?"
He handed her a folder. "This came while you were gone."
She looked at it. "Yeah, they told me they'd tell you this. The only thing I know is this is some kind of screwed-up research about whether vampires and humans can peacefully co-exist."
"That's pretty screwed up, all right."
"It surely is. If you'll excuse me..." She went to the office and closed the door.
Damon had to wonder what transpired at the evaluation. Lindsey looked like they had slapped her around. Mentally, anyway. He could hear her crying again. Poor lady. She really hadn't asked for any of this. She probably didn't hang out in bars or go looking for trouble, or hang out in the "vampire" clubs that had suddenly become popular, and were actually great places for the real thing to find a date or a meal, or both. She was just looking for a job.
Damon looked at all the paperwork again, and it dawned on him. Either these people were Augustines, or admired their work. Those were the only people he knew who were crazy enough to do this. And that automatically made him sympathetic to her.
Lindsey didn't appear again until nearly midnight – not even to eat something. "I'm going to bed, now," she said. "You can come whenever."
"All right. Good night."
"Good night." She went into the bedroom and closed the door. He could hear shuffling around, but didn't know what was going on until he ran out of bad television to watch.
He went into the bedroom and saw she had taken the comforter and other bedding and had carefully spread it on one side of the bed. She had a blanket and afghan on her side, covering her up. He knew she wasn't asleep, though. He turned out the lights and lay down. There was silence for several heartbeats.
Damon sighed. "Look, Lindsey. I'm sorry. On that biography? It shouldn't have said 'mercurial.' It should have said, 'obnoxious asshole.' I excel in that. I shouldn't have taken it out on you. God knows you didn't ask to be here, either."
"Thank you" – again, barely audible.
"So talk to me. What did they say to you in there?"
"They told me the reason they chose me."
"That was in the rules."
"The other reason."
"There's another reason?" Damon was interested.
"Yes. The real one."
"So what is it?"
She took a deep breath. "I was chosen very deliberately, it turns out. They wanted a woman you would find unattractive." Her voice was devoid of emotion.
Nausea washed over Damon. This was disgusting. And people called him a monster! But they were the ones who abducted this nice lady and put her in the worst situation possible. Equally nauseating was that they knew how much more difficult such a situation would be for him – because he was so driven to make sure he hooked up only with the really sexy women. Since he could, that's what he did. And that was an ugly truth about himself he had to face. And he was so prone to call humans shallow.
"Sick, psycho bastards. And I'm sorry. I really am."
Silence again, then, "Why don't we start over? I'm Damon Salvatore."
"Nice to meet you, Lindsey." There, that wasn't so difficult, was it?
"Nice to meet you, too."
"Come here often?" he said, a smile in his voice.
"Me either. The cable and internet really suck." Both laughed at that and some of the tension dissipated from the air.
"Good night, Damon."