Rachel was not sure which had awoken her; the fact that her Aunt was calling out to her or the way Mae kept pounding on the door and jiggling the door handle. All that she knew was that there was no difference between having her eyes shut or closed, just as there was no difference between daytime or nighttime anymore; she could not see anything.
“Rachel, are you crying? Are you okay, Sweetheart?”
Had she been crying? Rachel honestly could not tell. Her face felt wet and her heart was pounding in her chest, suggesting that she had had a bad dream. Yet for some reason she could not remember it. Perhaps she had her Aunt’s frantic knocking to thank for that.
“I’m okay,” Rachel replied hoarsely. “I’m just fine.”
“You don’t sound fine; you sound like you’ve been crying. Do you want me to come in?”
Rachel pushed herself up into a seated position, taking care to make sure she was not too close to the edge of the bed. She had already fallen off a couple of times. “No,” she said.
Silence, and then, “Alright, Honey. But if you change my mind, let me know.”
Rachel collapsed onto her bed again.
So, what’re you gonna do now? Part of her brain asked herself. Lie here and mope until you fall asleep again? Think some more about how much life sucks right now?
She sighed. What else can I do?
“Are you sure about this?” Travis asked as he followed Melissa through the back roads. After the incident where his werewolf companion had broken the library doors, he was not sure about anything else she might want to try.
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to break anything,” she replied. “I’m just gonna go to John Scum’s dorm and scare him a little.”
“Who may I ask is John Scum?”
“He’s just some guy who has a crush on me in math class.”
“Ah. I take it he doesn’t know you’re a werewolf.”
“Of course not, but he’s heard some rumors about werewolves. And I got to thinking after we went to the library, and I realized he might have heard about the werewolf who bit me, not anything I’ve done personally, because I’ve been doing the best I can to keep a low profile.”
“And you think he knows something?”
“Maybe,” Melissa shrugged her furry, muscular shoulders. “I intend to find out.”
They walked the rest of the way in silence. When they reached the outside of John Scum’s dorm room, Travis opted to wait outside in the bushes while his furry friend climbed up the side of the building to reach a particular window. Melissa seemed to have a fair knowledge of the building and where everything was located.
“Just don’t draw too much attention to yourself,” Travis shouted at her from the bushes.
Melissa cast him an annoyed glance, and then rapped her furry paw against the window.
A moment later, the window opened, revealing the face of John Scum. When he saw the monster hanging from his window, his face turned even whiter than Travis’s naturally pale face and he let out a girlish scream.
Melissa grabbed the front of his shirt with her talons and growled, for once allowing her saliva to drip from her teeth and over her chin, splattering onto the windowsill. The added effect seemed to do wonders on the already terrified boy; although he looked like he was about to faint. His teeth chattered together and he trembled as if he was freezing.
“There is another werewolf around here somewhere,” Melissa told him through clenched teeth. “I want to know if you know anything about it.”
John’s lips trembled and his eyes bulged to the point where she thought they might pop out of his skull He seemed unable to speak; the only sound that came out of his mouth was a breathless tremor.
“SPEAK!” she thundered, shaking him so hard that his glasses fell off his face.
“I-I-I d-d-don’t kn-know m-m-m-much!” he stammered.
Melissa eased her grip and softened her tone a little. “What do you know, then?”
“J-just w-what I h-heard. A w-werewolf c-comes out a-at n-night an-and likes t-to eat g-garbage. S-sometimes it l-likes to h-howl at the m-moon. P-people h-have spotted it n-near d-dumpsters.”
“Who is it, do you know?”
“D-don’t know. S-some p-people think it m-might be R-Richard G-Green. H-he is r-really w-weird, and g-goes out at n-night. N-nobody kn-knows w-where h-he goes at n-night, not e-even h-his w-wife.”
Melissa cocked her head to one side. Well, if this was indeed who she was looking for, she had two options. Either search every dumpster in the area, or go to this person’s house to find out more. “Do you know where this Richard Green lives?” she asked.
“I h-heard s-somebody m-mention the s-street h-he l-lives on. T-that’s all I-I kn-know.”
“Good enough. Tell me the street, twerp.”
After she had the information she wanted, she let go out of his shirt, gave him a pat on the head, and then closed the window for him. Afterwards he promptly fainted and fell into a heap on the floor. She shook her head and hopped down from the side of the building, landing gracefully on all fours.
“Did you get what you wanted?” Travis asked, coming out of the bushes.
“More or less,” Melissa answered. “I have something to go on now at least. We’re gonna go to a street called Duck Hollow to see if we can find any information on a Richard Green.”
“Is that the werewolf we’re looking for?”
“It just might be,” Melissa answered.
“I don’t see why you won’t let me go to the door myself,” Melissa huffed in disapproval as they walked down Duck Hollow road toward their apparent destination. For the most part it seemed to be a narrow dirt road with only one occupied house; the other two were abandoned and apparently condemned. Therefore, it was logical to deduce that the house they were looking for was the only one that appeared to be in good shape, and had some lights on in the living room.
“First off, we need to find out for sure that the person we’re looking for does live here,” Travis told her. “We can’t just go barging into every place like you did at the library, or rough up everyone we see for information.”
“I knew what I was doing at those places,” Melissa stated defensively.
“I think you’re getting a little over-eager,” Travis said with a note of concern in his voice. “We’re supposed to keep a low-profile.”
“We are keeping a low profile.”
“You call giving your classmate a heart attack keeping a low profile?”
“He won’t say anything. He’ll just think it was a bad dream, or if nothing else nobody will believe him.”
“Still, we should go easier on people.”
“Whatever. Anyway, looks like we’re here.”
Travis held up a hand. “Let me handle this,” he said. “You wait in the bushes.”
Melissa sighed. “All right, fine,” she growled. “But I don’t want to wait forever. You’d better find out where he is for me.”
“Don’t worry,” Travis assured her. “Just wait in the rose bushes, and I’ll be back soon.” Melissa thankfully did as she was told, and then the vampire turned and jogged the rest of the way up the driveway, approaching the house.
He knocked on the door and waited. When there was no answer, he rang the doorbell. After waiting for a couple of minutes, he went to the nearest window and peered inside. It looked like there was an older woman inside, with golden blond hair that was starting to gray. She appeared to be sound asleep, having dozed off in front of the television.
Looks like I won’t be getting any information out of her, he thought. Nevertheless, he knew he could not give up now, especially if he did not want to risk Melissa tearing up the place herself in the event that he failed to find out anything.
He decided to peer in through some of the other windows to see if anyone else was home. He did not see anything out of the ordinary, nor did he hear anything, but it was worth a look nevertheless. Most of the other windows had curtains drawn, but there was one window up on the second floor that had the curtains drawn back, plus it was partially open. Perhaps whoever was in that room wanted some fresh air during the night or forgot to close it. Nevertheless, Travis knew that it would be his best shot at sneaking in discreetly.
Smiling, he braced himself and then made a running leap toward the window. He caught himself on the edge of the windowsill and swung his legs up in order to get proper footing by sliding the toes of his shoes through the window opening. Once he had solid footing, he reached down and gently slid the window upward, enough so that he could get inside.
He then found himself in a girl’s bedroom. She was a blond girl in a simple nightgown, sleeping on top of the bed covers. She appeared to be just about the same age as Melissa, possibly even his own age. At least, when he and Melissa had been human.
Either way, there was not that much of an age difference between him and the werewolf girl.
Travis tried to tiptoe through the room, but his foot happened to step on a loose floorboard that creaked under his weight. The blond girl, who apparently was not in a deep slumber, stirred. He remained perfectly still, hoping she would not awaken fully.
“Aunt Mae?” she asked drowsily, though she did not move or open her eyes much. “Are you in here?”
Travis shifted his weight in spite of himself, causing the floorboard to creak again. That caused the girl to stir even more. “How’d you get in here?” she demanded. “I had the door locked.”
“I didn’t come in through the door,” the vampire admitted. “I came in through the window.”
Now the girl stiffened, sitting straight up. However, she did not move much or look around much. “Who are you?” she wanted to know. “You’re not Aunt Mae.”
“No I’m not,” Travis confirmed, assuming that Aunt Mae was the woman he had seen sleeping on the couch in the living room. “My name is Travis, and I apologize for intruding; I’m just looking for someone.”
“Who are you looking for?”
Travis hesitated, wondering just how much he should let on. He did not know anything about this girl or how much information he should trust her with. “I’m not entirely sure,” he told her. “I might have the wrong house. May I ask your name? I’m Travis Jordan.”
Well, that meant he had the right house at least… if Richard Green was really the person he was looking for. “Then maybe I am at the right place,” he said tentatively. “Do you know a Richard Green?”
“Yeah… he’s my Uncle.”
“Yes, my mom’s brother.”
Travis nodded. “Is he here? Can I talk to him?”
“I don’t know… he always goes out during the night. Why didn’t you come in through the front door?”
“I’m sorry, no one answered when I knocked, and it’s very important that I speak with Richard Green,” Travis told her. “You said that he goes out during the night?”
“I guess so. Aunt Mae doesn’t even know where he goes or why.”
Well, that was certainly interesting, and it provided evidence that Melissa’s hunch was correct. “How much do you know about your Uncle?” he pressed gently.
“Why do you want to know? Why do you want to see him so badly?” Rachel demanded. “Is he in some kind of trouble?”
“He could very well be,” Travis answered, phrasing his words carefully. He eyed her closely now, noticing the way her eyes had an unfocused quality, and she didn’t seem to be looking at anything. Then again, the room was dark, though he found it strange that she had not attempted to stand up or go for a light.
“Do you want me to turn on the light switch?” he asked her politely.
“Doesn’t matter,” she muttered, and he detected a bitter note in her tone.
“Why doesn’t it?” he asked.
“Because I can’t see.”
Ah, that would certainly explain it. “I’m sorry,” he said.
“Yeah well, there’s nothing anybody can do about it. I already know I’m blind for life.”
“Is that what the doctors say?”
“That’s what the hospital said after I got hit by a drunk driver. I’ve been to other doctors since then, and they’ve all said the same thing; it’s hopeless.”
“They all said that?”
“Well… we’re still waiting to hear back from one of them, but I already know what he’s gonna say.”
Travis frowned. “And just how do you know that?”
“I don’t know. It’s just this feeling I have.”
“Sounds to me like you’ve already given up.”
“That’s easy for you to say.” Rachel allowed herself to collapse against her mattress again, a gesture that was almost apathetic. “You can still see. You can still do whatever you want.”
“But at least you’re alive,” Travis said, betraying a note of disbelief in his voice. He simply could not believe what he was hearing. This was what appeared to be a perfectly healthy young woman, and a very pretty one at that. He could easily envision her learning her way around with the use of a cane or perhaps even a Seeing Eye dog. Other than being blind, she was perfectly normal; she still had a life ahead of her, unlike him. The only thing he had to look forward to was either drinking blood for the rest of his life, or sacrificing himself to make Melissa human again.
“You call this living?” she snapped miserably. “I’m nothing anymore. There are so many things I can’t do now.”
“Sounds to me like you’re not even trying,” Travis said in spite of himself. He had nearly forgotten his main purpose for being here, trying to find Richard Green. Yet he could not simply walk out of the room and allow this girl to continue wallowing in self-pity, not when she could snap out of it and start living her life.
“You sound like my Aunt. I don’t want to try.”
“Why not?” Travis demanded, irritation rising within him. “Are you afraid you’ll fail?”
“It’s got nothing to do with failing.”
“Why do you care? You’re just some random stranger who came into my house! I think you should get out before I call my Aunt, or the police.”
“Then do one or the other,” Travis retorted. “At least that might get you up and doing something.”
“I could if I wanted to.”
“But you don’t want to.”
“I’m just going to ignore you now.” Rachel touched the bed, feeling for her pillow. She quickly found it and put it over her bed.
Travis sighed loudly, and then he walked over and yanked the pillow away from her. “You’re worse than a six-year-old,” he opined. “I think I am going to leave this house now, because I don’t see anything here except for a self-centered person who doesn’t know how fortunate she is.” He dropped the pillow onto the bed beside her and turned away, ready to head back for the window.
“I’m blind!” Rachel snapped, grabbing the pillow and throwing in what she hoped was his general direction.
Travis caught the pillow and held onto it. “Good throw,” he said neutrally, looking at her once again. If anything, this proved to him that she could learn to do more with her other senses.
“Just get out.”
“Fine, I’ll get out.” He tossed the pillow back to her; it landed on her legs. “But I want you to know that you’re still fortunate. At least you can still walk, and you can still hear, and you can still do many things. You’re still normal.”
“It’s just not fair!” She flung the pillow at him again; this time he ducked for dramatic effect and allowed it to sail over his head and strike the wall behind him.
“Hey, now,” he said gently as he scooped the pillow off the floor. “That’s not going to help anything.”
“I did everything right!” Rachel yelled, continuing her tangent. “I had my whole life planned out! I had a car and a drivers’ license, I already knew what college I wanted to go to, and I’ve always been very careful! I didn’t drink anything when I went to my graduation party. Then, even though I did the smart thing and I was careful, I got hit by a drunk driver and… and…”
Her face contorted with anger and hurt. She couldn’t get any more words out. Tears streamed down her cheeks and her shoulders shook as she sobbed quietly.
Travis sat down on the bed beside her and tucked the pillow under her head. She buried her face into it and continued to cry as he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “I know, I know,” he said, speaking in a far gentler tone than the one he had been using. “Life isn’t fair sometimes, and things happen that don’t make sense. Sometimes… sometimes things happen that are totally out of your control that you didn’t plan on.” He closed his eyes, giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Believe me, I know.”
She continued to cry for several minutes. She seemed to be getting a lot of pent up emotion out of her system. Travis had the distinct impression that this was the first time she would really allowed herself to cry, unless he was mistaken. Either way, he felt it was good that she was letting it all out.
Vampires did not cry because they had no bodily fluids; he almost envied her the ability to have a good cry. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d been able to do something as human as that, not that he’d ever wanted to go out of his way to shed tears. It was simply one more human thing she could do that he could not.
“You okay?” he asked her, looking at her face as she regained her composure.
“I guess so,” she whispered, rubbing her eyes with her sleeves. “It’s just… not fair, you know?”
“I know,” Travis acknowledged, nodding even though he knew she could not see the gesture. “But that doesn’t mean you should throw your whole life away.” He sighed, folding his hands together in front of him. “Have you tried talking to anybody about your feelings?” he asked. “I’m sure you’d find somebody who understands what you’re going through if you tried.”
“I don’t know.” Rachel moved as if to sit up, and her hand brushed against Travis’s bare hand for the first time. He attempted to pull his hand out of her reach, yet somehow she still managed to catch his fingers. “Oh my gosh,” she breathed, letting go of his hand after a moment. “I thought your hand felt cold when you touched me, but it feels like ice! You must be freezing!” She grabbed at her covers, as if getting ready to offer them to him to warm up.
Travis stood. “It’s okay,” he said. “My body temperature is… different from yours.”
“You’re not sick, are you?”
“Not… exactly, no.”
“Then why are your hands so cold?”
“That’s difficult to explain.”
“Why?” Rachel frowned and seemed to be looking in his direction now, even though she could not see. “What’s wrong with you? I mean… what aren’t you telling me?”
“Listen, Rachel, I really have to go.” Travis walked back over to the window and sat on the windowsill, preparing to push himself out.
“No, wait!” Rachel attempted to push herself into a standing position, only to fall out of bed and land face-first on the floor. “Ow,” she groaned.
Seconds later, she found herself being gently lifted from the floor and placed back on the bed. Once again, she felt the coldness of his hands as he touched her, hands that quickly withdrew from her. “Don’t go yet,” she pleaded. “Please.”
“I have to go,” he told her. “The sun will be coming out in a few hours, and I have to get back to my… place.” Not to mention he had to feed before he went back into his dark hiding spot for the day, but there was no reason to her that, at least not yet.
“Will you be back?” she asked tentatively.
“I don’t know,” Travis said honestly, and then a touch of mischief entered his voice as he added, “Besides; I thought you didn’t want me here.”
“Yeah, well… I changed my mind.”
“Do you promise to be good for your Aunt today if I do, and that you’ll at least try to do something good with your life today?” He had no way to be certain, but if her attitude in general had been anything like what he’d seen tonight, he had a hunch that she’d pretty much put her Aunt Mae through Hell.
“Only if you promise to come back tonight.”
“Okay, it’s a deal.” He took her hand just long enough to give it a brief, firm shake. After that, he was gone.
“What took you so long?” Melissa demanded when her vampire companion finally emerged from the house. “I was half-tempted to go in there to see what was keeping you.”
“Well, I’m glad you didn’t,” Travis told her. He knew that Rachel did not need the kind of treatment that Melissa had shown John Scum, especially considering her blindness. “I went inside and checked the house; Richard Green isn’t there.”
“So was this a wild goose chase or what?” Melissa demanded impatiently.
“I’d say we might be on the right trail,” Travis replied. “I found out that Richard Green apparently goes out at night, and nobody knows where he goes.”
“That’s perfect! It means it’s probably him,” the werewolf said in delight. “So all we need to do is find him, and nab him.”
“We’ll probably have to wait until after the next sunset,” Travis pointed out. “The sun is coming out in a few hours, meaning I have to go back to my hiding place and you need to get back to your dorm room. But we can meet back here after 11:00pm or so.”
“Works for me. What’s the plan?”
“I’ll wait up in Rachel Green’s room while you keep watch out here,” Travis said. “If you see Richard leaving or better yet if you see him change into a werewolf, call me down and we’ll go take care of it.”
“Rachel Green’s room? Why are you going up there?” Melissa wanted to know.
“Well…” Travis scratched the back of his neck awkwardly. “I kind of promised her that I would visit her again.”
“Why, may I ask?”
“I guess you could say we… hit it off.”
“Ah. Does she know you’re a vampire?”
“Well, have fun until she finds out.” Melissa glanced up toward the sky. “We’d better get going now, if we’re gonna make it back to our respective places in time.”
“Yes indeed,” Travis agreed. He raised his hand to his forehead and tipped an imaginary hat. “Until tomorrow,” he said.
“Yeah, see you.”
With that, the two of them began to sprint to the places they needed to be.