Chapter 2: Hide and Seek
“I rode that ride at least a hundred times! Have you seen me? And Jake and Josh and Billy too? The best one was the water slide-” Jeremy gushed excitedly in the car as we drove back to the small apartment that I was renting. The ball cap with horns he wore wobbled on his head while he passionately waved with his hands like a windmill. “It went Bam! Then on the left turn; woosh! Not to mention that ending-” Excitedly telling me every detail of the ride which was imprinted entirely in his head, Jeremy continued without even noticing I was only partly paying attention.
My brain was on another radio frequency. Trying not to panic while thinking of a vampire that approached me a few hours ago but failing miserably. Why did the vampire come out of the darkness to ‘blow his cover?’ Was he even telling the truth or was it just a sick game that will make him high on the thrill of the chase? What was the cause of Gwilym appointing someone to watch me? Did Ly know of his best friend’s extracurricular activities?
Ugh, my head is swimming with questions and I am famished for answers.
No, no. I was not going down that particular rabbit hole. It would start with wanting clarifications and ending with me being a junky for supernatural; sitting excitedly while vampires fed off me. I vowed that I was to stay out of anything remotely non-human; that included the supernatural movies, series, books even haunted housed were out of the question. It was time to become a complete non-paranormal puritan and a spokesperson for boring normality.
Nodding appropriately at Jeremy while he - in the most exceptional detail - explained every second of his favourite ride, I pushed the cap with Mickey Mouse ears lower on my face when I noticed the traffic camera nearby.
Yes, I had taken the discarded hat that the vampire left, it was free. Sue me.
The paranoia - that everyone was perhaps a threat to us - was settling in me fast, and I pushed the gas paddle even lower, going dangerously fast toward the allowed legal speed limit. Jeremy hadn’t noticed a thing - continually jabbering about everything he loved about Disneyland while my knuckles went white on the steering wheel. It took us half the time we needed as we travelled to Disneyland to get to our small apartment.
Jeremy was still talking as I took the toys and sweets I bought him at the amusement park from the trunk of the car and he didn’t stop even as we entered our new home. “And I felt the heart in my throat as the cart went down and Billy cried-”
“That’s nice.” Blurting a response without actually listening to what Jeremy was saying, I was still thinking of what I should do. Running was seemingly becoming a better and better idea with each second that passed.
“I don’t think so. Puking is really disgusting.” Said Jeremy sickened at the idea.
Suddenly my little brother had my undivided attention. “Huh? Did you puke?”
Jeremy was not happy that he caught me. “No, Josh did. Are you even listening?”
“Sorry, Jeremy I had drifted on some point. Long day.” Feeling sheepish by being caught at not being attentive, I shoved my worries away, pressing a snooze button on them. They will demand my attention as soon as Jeremy stops talking to me. Sitting behind the table opposite of Jeremy I leaned my head on my hand.
My contrite gaze was enough to appease the boy. “Apology accepted; I can forgive you everything today.”
I grabbed the opportunity as fast as I would a french fry. “Really? Even if I cuddle you till I pass out.”
Jeremy shrugged his shoulders with a small smile blooming on his lips. “Yup.”
“Even me kissing you all over?” I pressed on.
“Even us moving away?”
“Yeah. What? No!” Jeremy stood up so quickly the chair wobbled on the verge of tipping over. He didn’t expect me to suggest that.
I pulled him in a false sense of security and tried to be cunning and make him agree. However, I knew that he was going to fight me every step of the way, what kid would want to move away when he just found a group of friends.
I sighed. Great, I smell this is going to turn into a nasty argument.
Carefully, like I was approaching a rabid weasel, I choose my next words wisely and delivered them with a calming tone. “I think we need to go-”
“No, we don’t.” Jeremy flatly refused, crossing his arms over his chest shooting daggers at me.
“Jeremy-” My warning was almost silent yet cold, wanting to advise him not to make a scene. It would make things even worse.
This was not our first row. We argued over not telling him why I suddenly and out of the blue picked him in a hospital in the dead of the night. Jeremy was smart enough he didn’t believe me when I tried to explain to him that my job had finished and that dr. Sanders informed me that Jeremy was well enough to travel.
“No!” Jeremy desperately shouted and so loudly my ears hurt. “I just found friends who actually live here! Please Dess, please. As my birthday present.” Tears flooded his eyes and I felt a ping of guilt by seeing them.
It was hard to remain stone-cold; however, it was the only way to protect us. “You already got a present.”
Interrupting him with raising my palm to him, I showed I was not going to sway. “No Jeremy we need to move.”
“Why?” The tears spilt over and wetted Jeremy’s cheeks. He inherited the family trait; to cry when feeling that things were not fair.
Arranging my face in a stone-like mask I didn’t yield only continued. “I do not need to tell you why or explain my decisions.”
“That is the same thing you said at the hospital when you came to pick me up!”
“There was no need for you to stay there, you are healthy.”
Jeremy was on the verge of throwing something at me in frustration. “You can’t make me go with you!”
“I am your guardian and I can. The law says that.”
“You are not my mom! You can’t tell me what to do!” Grabbing the pillow from the little couch he hurled it at me. The stuffed fabric didn't reach me. However, it felt like a truck hit me then rolled me under its’ massive tires once, then reversing and doing it again twice over until I was a flat human pancake.
I felt hot and cold at the same time. No, I wasn’t his mom. I never will be. That role was not mine in his life. But it still hurt when he rejected me in such a strong way.
“No, she is dead.” I snapped back waspishly at a child, losing my cool completely. “I am the only one you have!”
He ran towards the front door like a little man on a mission, while I froze on the spot for a mere second not believing I could say something so mean to my little brother.
Throwing the door open Jeremy turned around shouting so not just me but the whole corridor could hear him. “I hate you! You should have just left me in a hospital to die!”
I gasped at his words. “Jeremy, come back here!”
He slammed the front door in response and I heard him run down the stairs. I put my face in my hands while screaming in frustration. Thankfully my hands muffled the cries of my deep defeat.
Nicely done Dess. Great parenting skills you got there.
My forehead touched the cool surface and I let it rest there for a minute. Then I continually knocked with it on the table hoping it would suddenly give me some sort of revelation about how to handle kids. Was I terrible to want to protect my brother? To yet again uproot us, destroying the ability for him to make deeper friendship with the boys?
Yeah, you probably are.
I felt like a malicious bully who took lunch money from younger children without remorse. Cursing myself I stood up and picked up the discarded pillow, putting it on its’ rightful place while trying to decide if I should follow Jeremy or not. I paced up and down the apartment for several minutes not knowing if it would be better to give him his personal space or just drag the brat back here. Parenting was freaking hard. Half the time you experiment and try if the tactics work the other half hoping that the kid turns into a good person and not a serial killer.
And if I somehow manage to stuff the kicking and screaming Jeremy in the car, then what? Where would we go? Would we be followed? I knew one thing for sure, I was going to pick the sunniest, hottest place on Earth. The vampires would bleed from their eyes even after the sun would set. I cackled madly at the prospect of that happening to the Mickey Mouse vampire. The stalker would think twice to follow us again. Perhaps I needed to buy very sharp silverware if Gwilym comes after us next.
I waited for Jeremy to come back until the sky was beginning to darken outside. I became restless. Things crawl out of the shadows when the moon was out. Some even howl at it. The eerie feeling traveled up my spine and I was shivering at the prospect that perhaps my brother could become the next delicious snack of some occult being. That got me up and running out of the flat before I even finished the thought.
I took two steps at the time downstairs, once I missed a step and was in danger of rolling to the lobby like a stone ball in Indiana Jones movie. Bolting through the entrance I almost took the glass door with me. Looking left and right I needed to make a swift decision on how to proceed next. Choosing with eenie-meenie-miney-mo I dashed on the left. I was glancing around with my neck extended to the point of resembling a giraffe, searching for the familiar head of my baby brother. After an hour of senseless running back and forth, I sat on the park bench trying to catch my breath while working my brain to the max. Worry, guilt and anger were threatening to take over my cool and logical thinking, like three little furies consumed with rage. If I let them take over then I would only run in circles grabbing every child that resembled Jeremy. Sooner or later I would be put behind bars as a creepy woman or a kidnapper. I tapped with my foot in nervousness when a brilliant idea that was completely not to my liking presented itself like a Fata Morgana in the middle of a desert to a tired traveller.
Dess this is the maddest yet ingenious idea you have come up with up to date.
I sprang to my feet mechanically and marched to the secluded, dim and dingy back alley I could find. Once I was convinced there was no bum or other person in it I steadied myself. There were two parts of me battling. The first was the worried; wanting to try anything to find Jeremy while the second part was reminding me sternly that I promised myself not to involve myself with the supernatural. But one has got to do what one has got to do. Right?
“Hey! Mickey Mouse Wannabe! I know you are shadowing me! Get your vampy fangy self here!” I couldn’t get over myself and my upbringing without adding a Please at the end of that particular command.
A shiver travelled up my spine which was accompanied with a hair rising on the neck. It made me aware that someone arrived. It was as if he was always there with me, leaning on the brick wall with a scowl and glaring eyes. Whirling around like a drunk ballerina I faced the vampire who was assigned to watch me. For the first time, his face was not concealed. Passed the beautiful ethereal but sickly looking skin I could finally put my speculations to rest. The skin revealed that he was a Created and not a born vampire. I got it right when I said he seemed Korean. The head full of luscious straight short hair was swept from the face while the enchanting fox-like slanted almond eyes were dark brown. Thin lips were downturned into a displeased frown, clearly showing that he didn’t like my hollering. However, it was his slim but still athletic body and elegant face that made me feel like I was a gorilla-like girl in comparison. He was a strange mix; it as if someone combined both female and male together. He was as pretty as a girl, yet his masculine energy was coming off in waves, making no mistake about his gender.
I feel as if I should put a paper bag over my face and avoid any reflective surfaces while he is with me.
Without saying a word, the vampire glared at me, conveying a message; it was me that called him here and so it was my responsibility to start the conversation.
“You actually came?” Colour me shocked, but I hadn’t believed that my loud demanding would do the trick. “Why did you come out in the open?”
“I already showed myself to you and revealed my intention. It would be idiotic not to do so.” His reply was once again factual and quick.
“Have you seen where my brother went?”
“Is that the reason for your senseless running around the city?” A bit of a snicker escaped his lips. Then sneering at me with dry humour the Created finally let me in on the secret. “Your younger sibling did not leave your building. Last I saw, he was sitting on the stairs a few floors above you.”
A sigh escaped me as the sudden wave of relief washed away my worry. Then it was quickly replaced by annoyance. “That little brat.” Grumbling, I felt myself age at least five years, that was how much worry Jeremy inflicted on me in just an hour.
“What else did you expect to happen?” The Korean asked with a shrug of his shoulders as if I was to blame for the outburst of my brother.
I felt the judgement coming off him in a stuck up energy and I did not like it one bit. “I don’t need to explain myself to you how I raise my brother.”
“If that is what you call raising-” Mumbling more to himself than to me, the vampire looked away.
I squinted my eyes in annoyance. “At least I taught Jeremy how to properly introduce himself when he meets new people. Not stalk them and later tell half-assed information then poof into non-existence.” I was bristling like an urchin, not happy that someone, whose name I didn’t even know, poked at my insecurities while I already doubted everything about the subject.
Lifting his brows in curiosity, he deflected without hesitation. “And who says I am obliged to give my name to you?”
“Good thing I do not give a single flying shit about it.”
Look at this wannabe bad boy.
“And yet you came when I called. So you give a shit about what Gwilym says.”
I got no reply. I was flatly ignored.
“Alright. Since you won’t give me a name I am doomed to forever commemorate you in my diary as the Mickey Pedo-Mouse vampire.”
Glancing at me from the corner of his eyes, I was awarded with a raised brow. “You are quite rude to someone who just helped you.”
“Oh, boo-hoo. Go back to Gwilym if it bothers you. Or better yet just go.” I marched passed him, not giving a single jot about his feelings. At least not at the moment. I was anxious to return to Jeremy and see with my own eyes he was fine. Then give him the lecture off the year.
“Hyeon.” Came a whisper from behind me.
I stopped and looked over my shoulder. “And how old are you, Hyeon? Are you a Rogue or a Created?” I probably butchered his name as I pronounced it.
“That is none of your business.” Hyeon seethed like sharing one personal information per day was his limit.
“Touchy. And here I thought only old ladies hide their age.”
Hyeon replied with a mumble that sounded like cursing in Korean. He was probably cussing me. “I specifically instructed you not to go out at night.” He changed the topic quickly. “I have other things to do than to just watch you.”
“So you do have other things to do rather than to spy on me. I was beginning to worry.” My sarcasm was meet with a sigh and a pinch on the bridge of his nose. But to stop there would be mercy. I wasn't feeling lenient at the moment. “I would be ever so grateful for your timetable. That way we could come to some arrangement for me to disappear on your day off. We both win.”
“Gwilym forgot to mention you were annoying,” Hyeon grumbled, running his hand through his hair, messing it.
Oh, sweety. You have seen nothing yet. I annoyed a bigger and much worse Stainless for months.
“So? Go cry him a river.”
“Look. You benefit from me watching you.”
“The same way you do when I am changing my clothes?” This time I earned myself a deep growl in warning.
“No.” Hyeon took a step toward me slowly as if not trusting himself to not strangle me. “I can tell you if there is something dangerous around and you run. I will even add a bonus and tell you if the royal high-ass Varshawsky has made it into the same county as you.”
I froze as I heard that name. I haven’t dared to say it out loud for months and hearing it spoken made my mouth turn dry while my eyes watered. If I didn’t say that name, he didn’t exist in my world that was the logic behind it. He was real just in my memories.
Is today the day I need to feel and ride a rollercoaster?
Hyeon sensed my weakness and moved in for the kill. “What? You don’t like talking about him? Don’t worry. I heard that he does not even mention you.”
Once the initial shock faded I just assembled the impenetrable façade that even the porcelain dolls would envy. “And I should now probably clutch at my chest and sob, right?”
The vampire just smirked at me as if he knew that I was bluffing. Hyeon opened his mouth to give back his reply, however, he tensed and looked at the beginning of the alley. Brown eyes narrowed to slits, green pupils emerged with a flash while his nostrils flared. He was trying to find the source of peril. Without a word he jumped and scaled the building disappearing from my sight.
“Oh sure, leave me here.” Grumbling in disbelief I looked around to see with what I could take to defend myself while my heart started to hammer against my ribcage. A piece of metal rod was discarded on the end of the alley and I grabbed it while feeling the levels of adrenalin rising . I was readying myself for the flight or fight; however, if the big bad vampire escaped I couldn’t stand a chance for whatever was coming toward me.
The entity approaching which seemed to have horns was casting a long shadow onto the pavement and I adjusted the grip on my weapon and leaned my weight on the balls of my feet.
Holly hell was I going to fight a Minotaur?!
A fluffy black cat rounded the corner and sat at the mouth of the alley. It looked curiously at me then at my weapon and swished with its’ tail back and forth while the ears were turning toward the sounds that were coming from the street behind it. The lights above flickered on as the city was saying goodbye to the last rays of sunshine.
I stayed in my combat mode position for about a minute, dumbstruck at what I was seeing. The large long haired black cat waited. Its’ long fur was swaying majestically as the wind blew announcing a chilly evening while my brain was still frozen like a computer screen. I did not know what to do.
I lowered the rod and somehow my synapses made an astonishing connection. “A cat.” My voice was completely devoid of emotion as if I was learning the word for the first time.
The animal sitting in front of me just stared back unblinkingly; like it never saw a human acting so dumb before.
“A vampire ran from a black cat.” I was processing the weird information while slowly dropping the impromptu weapon so that I wouldn’t scare the feline. It didn’t seem frightened at all, just curiously looking at me.
Superstitious vampire. What comes next? Religious god-fearing witch? Vegetarian werewolf? Mummy with an allergic reaction to cotton?
Drawing closer, the cat seemed domesticated. Even though it was larger than usual its’ fur was glossy and brushed without tangles. Although there wasn’t a tag with a number, the obvious signs of being well nourished was a dead giveaway that it had an owner. As I slowly glided closer I noticed it wasn’t afraid of me. It even trotted towards me. Before I could prepare myself, it bumped its’ head at my shins in an affectionate manner. Continually rubbing itself on my legs I couldn’t stay oblivious to its’ charm.
“Aw, you are such a sweetheart.” I melted as its’ huge eyes looked up at me with intelligence. On closer inspection I noticed it had a peculiar and singular feature. Its’ eyes were dichromatic; one as blue as the Mediterranean Sea as the other was the odd shade of greenish-yellow. It was entrancing.
“Did that big bad vampire run away from a harmless kitty? Yes, he did. Yes, he did!”
The cat leaned on my palm as I scratched its’ chin and I felt the purring vibrations it made. When I stopped the cat gazed into me and I could have sworn that its’ slanted pupils were widening looking dewy, almost with human like knowledge. With a final bump of its head, I felt a sharp pain in my palm and I saw that its’ claws left three mean-looking reddish scratches.
“Hey! Does this look like a love pat to you.” I showed the back of my palm to the cat while it just darted out its’ tongue and licked my small, shallow wound.
I do not think that is very sanitary.
Without a word it darted back the way, it came from as I looked its’ fur gleaming in the street lights before completely disappearing from view.
Opening the front door to the apartment I expected Jeremy sitting on the sofa looking angry yet guilty in penance. And that was how I found him; with his legs crossed and a pillow hugging to his chest. Those big blue doe eyes were defiant while completely puppy-eyed at the same time knowing that what he had done might not have been the best idea.
Ignoring him as I closed and locked our front door, I knew that this mind trick would make him a little more anxious. Perhaps it was a bit mean to do that to an eight-year-old child, however, that was how Jeremy was going to feel a tiny bit of angst. That tiny bit was nothing compared to my panic.
When a minute of silent treatment was done I leaned on the counter and faced my anxious-looking brother. “So, how did you like running away?”
There was only grunting noises heard from the spot in which he sat. Jeremy buried his face into the pillow in embarrassment.
It was hard to stay stern-looking and cross at him. I knew that I had to maintain this attitude to get my point across to him. “I understand you were angry Jeremy. I would be too. But-”
He winced as the last part of the sentence was accompanied by a slap of my palm on the counter.
“Do you have any idea how worried I was? Till now I was searching for you not knowing, wondering, imagining the worst.” I started to pace up and down waiting for Jeremy to defend himself, however, I was only met by silence. “Well?” My voice cracked as I demanded an explanation.
Jeremy mumbled something that sounded like a 'wimble-mumble' into the pillow as he was apologising to it not me.
“I cannot hear you, Jeremy.”
After a minute Jeremy lifted his face; however, not meeting my eyes. “I am sorry Dess.”
“Me too. I’m sorry too. Next time let us communicate. Talk over instead of running away, alright?”
“ -Alright.” His small voice made me soften like a toffy on the sun.
I sat beside him and tugged at his hands so that he would let go of the pillow and look at me. “Perhaps we could stay for a while,” I suggested kindly.
That got Jeremy’s attention. The pillow dropped to the floor quite forgotten with a soft ‘thump’. He turned toward me with unknown and agile swiftness. “Really? Do you really mean that?”
“Absolutely.” Smiling at him I opened my arms.
For a second time in one day, Jeremy showed more affection than usual. I was hugged so tightly that I thought I was having an affectionate embrace with a boa constrictor.
I have no idea what my decision was going to bring. This humongous leap of faith could come round as a big fat uppercut to my chin breaking my neck in the process. Perhaps I was deluding myself and putting wool over my eyes for Jeremy’s sake. However, there was an instinct in the pit of my stomach whispering that I had just sealed our fate.