Help me…! I’m so frightened…!
Mary moaned from where she slept on the couch. The voice echoed over and over in her head. Someone was calling to her, but who was it? It didn’t even sound like a normal voice either. It was resonating like a siren’s song would carry over the waves to a sailor at sea. When one last sniffle reached her, Mary Black shot straight upright as she realized who the voice belonged to.
She screamed in panic, reaching forward as if her twin was somehow in reach. Instead, she was left staring at the white wall behind the television. Her heart sank, reflected as she slowly lowered her hand to the blanket ruffled in her lap.
Wes was downstairs. The parlor wasn’t open yet, but he hadn’t slept well. He was going through papers on his desk, trying to restore order in the chaos.
Mitch was in the kitchen, prepping the kitchen as usual. Everything was normal for a Sunday morning. Then, Mary’s scream bellowed from above, making both men look up sharply.
“Mary?!” Before Wes realized he had even moved, he had unlocked his wheels, moving like there was no tomorrow. Panic filled his chest as he got to the door before Mitch even left the kitchen. As he peeled for the ramp, worst-case scenarios filled his mind?
Had Mary snapped? Was she experiencing bloodlust? Had someone broken in and attacked her while her vampire was sleeping?
None of these things had happened in the time they had lived together, but hearing that scream had sent him back to a time when something just as bad had happened to him. Bagging his fist into the doorknob, the sheer adrenaline behind his momentum tore through the door jam, swinging the door open.
“Mary! Are you all right?!”
“Oh my god!” Mary screamed at the sound of splintering wood and Wes yelling, jumping into the air and striking her head on the ceiling before falling back to the coach. She had been hurriedly pulling her boots on before the man burst through the door.
Looking at her roommate, she trembled at the dominating aura coming off of him. Had he always possessed such a presence? What about his bleeding fist? Had he punched the door in?
“Wes... You... You gave me a fright...”
“I gave you a fright?!” The manager gaped back angrily at the woman. “I heard you scream so loud it came through to my office! Do you have any idea how much you freaked me out?! Jesus, Mary!”
“Whoa!” Mitch called as he rushed up the ramp, taking the handles of the wheelchair to pull him back. “Time out! Mary’s okay. Everything’s cool. Calm down before you stress yourself out.” Waving to the startled woman inside the apartment, the cook tried to sound reassuring, “Sorry, Mary. I’ll take care of this.”
“Wes...” She took a breath as her composure returned. She stood up to follow them out the door, pausing a few steps down the ramp. “Wes, I’m sorry I frightened you. I just had a dream about Mara, and I-”
“Fine! Do whatever the hell you want!”
Mary flinched like a kicked animal at the blunt reply. Mitch looked back at her, mouthing a ‘sorry’ and waving her back up the ramp. As Mitch wheeled them toward the entrance to the parlor, she stood dumbstruck by the new side of Wes she’d never seen before. She felt tears falling down her cheeks. She wasn’t sure if they were due to his raised voice or the curt farewell. Turning to go back up the ramp, she tried to think of why he would act that way.
Why had he snapped on her like that? He had never raised his voice, except the few times he was exceptionally happy. He had said he was 'freaked out'. Did that mean he was worried about her, or did he always panic when someone screamed? She’d been in the same apartment with him for two years, and she realized how little she knew him or Mitch. She hadn’t even asked now that she thought about it. Could he be angry that she hadn’t screamed for a satisfactory reason in his mind? Sitting down on the couch, she slumped down to put her forehead on her knees as she cried. What had she done to upset her friend so much?
“Wes... I’m sorry... I’m so sorry...!”
“Let me go, Mitch!”
“Only if you promise me you’ll calm the hell down.” Mitch held onto the chair firmly as they rounded the building to the front door of the parlor.
“Fine! Okay! I just want to be alone right now,” Wes said as he threw his hands in the air.
“All right...” Mitch let go, letting his friend wheel himself to the door to let himself inside. “Guess I’m making a hardware store run then before we open.” Thank god it was just across the street.
Wes closed the door to his office with a slam, releasing the rest of his pent up tension. He stared at the wall for a bit, letting the reality of the situation sink in. His glare soften to regret as he recalled the look on her face when he got the door open. He underestimated his strength. Still, he’d never beat a door in before. His right hand was still bleeding, but it didn’t hurt as much as he thought it should. Adrenaline was terrifying.
Leaning back in his chair, he ran his hands over his face, trying to figure out what had possessed him to yell at the poor woman. She hadn’t done anything to deserve that. What was happening to him? It wasn’t like him to go off like that.
“Forgive me, Mary…” He sighed, heavily, “I’m an idiot...”
The day went forward without any further incident. Mitch made it back in time to drop off the supplies to fix the door frame on a break or after work. Mary had cried herself to sleep, so he tried to keep the door as closed as possible and not disturb her.
Wes stayed in his office, trying not to feel sorry for himself as he beat his pride around the ring. After the kitchen had reached a level of stability he was comfortable with, Mitch stepped out to go check on his pal next door. He knocked on the door to the office.
“Hey, Wes? You got a minute?”
“Yeah, Mitch,” the manager replied with a sigh, tossing the bills he had in his hand on his desk.
He owed Mitch an apology, too, didn’t he? He hadn’t messed up this badly since his dumb, high school years. When Mitch walked in, Wes motioned with a bandaged hand for one of the two chairs in front of him.
“Have a seat. Guess you’re on break, huh?”
“Yeah,” Mitch’s six-foot-two, athletic build felt obligated to sit when he had long chats with his friend. He hated the feeling of looking down at him, especially after all the years they had known each other. The bandages made him pause with concern for a moment before speaking.
“It’s the only time I can come talk to you without abandoning my kitchen.” The cook grinned like an idiot, trying to lighten the mood. Didn’t do a thing? “I wanted to talk to you.”
“Me, too... I’m sorry about earlier. You were trying to keep me from making a fool of myself, and I did it anyway. I really am sorry. You’ve always looked out for me. I slapped you in the face today. Forgive me.”
“Well, let’s try to stay objective here, okay?”
The two looked at one another for a moment. Mitch’s reassuring face made Wes feel a bit better. He nodded, waiting to hear what Mitch had come to talk about.
“I noticed you’ve been stressed. You were tense even before Mary’s freak out. You’ve gone all workaholic on me again, and that’s never good. It's like you’re trying to bury yourself in work. It can’t be the parlor that’s straining you, but I didn’t want to bring it up until I had a better idea in my gut.”
“Okay, I admit that I freaked out when she screamed, but I thought she was hurt or...” Wes stopped when he realized what he had just said. Covering his mouth, he tried to tell himself it was just a coincidence as his eyes watered.
“Wes,” Mitch tried to sound as sympathetic as he could without being too hard on his friend, “I’ve known you for years, since middle school, dude. You weren’t the same after the accident. I won’t claim it was for good or bad cause I’m no shrink, but I know this much.” Wes’ deep blue eyes looked back sadly at Mitch’s grey ones. What was he trying to say?
“I remember when Mary moved in upstairs. She was really quiet, but you were good to her. She’s opened up a lot in two years. I’m not gonna ask what she is to you or anything cause that’s your business, but I will say that I think she’s been a better friend to you than I was back then. That’s my nickel of wisdom for today. What you buy with it is up to you. I’ll see you later. Don’t worry about your door either. I’ll fix it today.”
Wes watched the door close behind his friend. Mitch was a great friend, putting up with him and his emotional crap. His thoughts went back to what had dawned on him moments ago. He was thinking of things he had tried to forget for years. Dropping his face to his hands, he shook his head, telling himself it was over and done with.
The images still flashed through his mind. The range of emotions he had gone through that night rose up in his chest a bit. The scream he had actually heard rather than Mary’s echoed in his ears. Opening his eyes, he tried to even out his breathing, so he could focus on the event that had happened today.
Looking at the ceiling, he recalled that Mary had been getting dressed to go out. Hadn’t she said something having a dream about her sister? Did she miss something she wanted to follow up on? They usually discussed this sort of stuff, but in his lack of thought, he had shut her up when she tried to tell him. He was such an ass. He didn’t deserve Mitch or Mary, but he didn’t want them to leave him either. He was one selfish bastard.
“You were right, Mitch,” Wes said to himself. He laughed even though he wanted to cry. “I did change after the accident. I’m so much worse.”
Mary finally stirred from her crash. She had no idea how long she had been asleep, and she wasn’t particularly looking to find out either. Gently rubbing her eyes, she could feel the swelling around them still. She hadn’t cried that hard since her parents had been killed. It was one of those cries that left you completely drained of strength and helpless.
She looked over at Gabriel. He was still sleeping on the floor in the shadow of the recliner chair. He had been lucky enough to completely miss the sun’s rays earlier. She would have to find him better sleeping arrangements. They couldn’t rely on luck. She covered the vampire with her blanket, wondering if temperature bothered vampires while they slept.
Glancing at the front door, it looked good as new. Mitch must have fixed it. He was such a jack of all trades, dipping his hands into as many pots as he needed. He had come up as well earlier. Had she upset him as much as she had Wes? He had seemed concerned, but he had seemed more level-headed. Thank goodness for that.
“Well, it’s just you and I, Gabriel,” Mary said in a soft voice. “Wes seemed really upset with me this morning. I doubt he wants to see me right now. I’ll wait till he closes up shop before I apologize; let him cool off and such. Sleep tight, mate.”