The following day was eventful for Melissa and Rachel, even though both girls could not wait for the day to be over for their own personal reasons.
At the college that Melissa attended, she went to her usual classes and did her best to study and do her schoolwork, even though she found it very difficult to concentrate. Her teachers and lecturers seemed to take notice of the fact that she was not paying full attention, although she was too distracted to care much now. Melissa simply wanted to treat the day like a normal day in the hopes of getting through it more quickly.
The only thing she took note of was how anxious John Scum seemed; he was practically telling the whole school that a werewolf had attacked him at his dorm room window the night before, which earned him a combination of laughter and odd looks from anyone he tried to tell. He ended up becoming so frantic about it-especially when no one believed him-which he wound up having a nervous breakdown and being taken to the nurse’s office. Melissa had no idea what happened to him after that, nor did she care all that much.
In the meantime, Rachel kept her promise to Travis and made an effort to improve her attitude at the very least. Her Aunt Mae marveled at the way she began to move around the house without asking for assistance very often and she even attempted to get through each meal with as little help as possible.
“Rachel I am so proud of you,” Aunt Mae said at one point during dinner. “I knew you could do things on your own if only you set your mind to it.”
“Aunt Mae,” Rachel said, “I was just wondering… where does Uncle Richard go during the night, when he leaves the house?”
“Oh… you’ve noticed that.” Aunt Mae began to shove her food to one side of her plate. Rachel did not see the gesture but she heard the distinct sound of the metal utensil tapping and scraping softly against the ceramic plate.
Travis was right, Rachel thought to herself. It really was possible to take advantage of one’s other senses when one’s vision was absent. It did not make up for the feeling of loss that she would never be able to see people’s faces again, or the interior of her own home or the trees and flowers outside, but… well, she had promised Travis she would make an effort, and so she was.
“Yeah well, you’ve mentioned it on occasion too,” Rachel pointed out. She took a second to remind herself that the sliced chicken breasts were at five O’clock on her plate, and she picked up a piece with her fork and ate it. Okay, so she grabbed a piece of broccoli instead of the chicken; but at least she was grabbing things from her plate instead of knocking over the saltshaker or stabbing the napkins now.
“Well, it’s nothing you need to be concerned with, Dear,” Aunt Mae said hesitantly. “You just focus on yourself and getting used to, well, the way things are now. You leave him to me.”
“Yeah well, I was just asking because I think someone’s looking for him,” Rachel pressed tentatively, testing the waters. She did not want to mention anything about Travis for fear that her Aunt might make the wrong assumptions. As far as she knew, Travis was a friendly young man who meant well and… someone who seemed to have problems of his own, yet made valid points.
She simply hoped that she would be able to find out more about him later that night.
“Who is looking for him?”
Judging from the tone of her Aunt’s voice and the sudden, brief clatter of a utensil, Rachel got the impression that she now had her Aunt’s full attention. “I don’t know, it’s just something I heard somewhere,” she offered.
“Someone who came by last night.” Rachel shoved another piece of food into her mouth, thus discovering that the chicken was actually located at twelve noon on her plate.
“Oh? I didn’t hear anyone knock.”
“I guess you were sound asleep or something,” Rachel said, moving her shoulders in a sort of shrug. “All I know is that somebody started shouting at the house and I heard them through the window.” That seemed like a creative enough lie to her.
“And who was it?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never heard his voice before.”
“What did he look like?”
Rachel dropped her fork.
Aunt Mae almost seemed to choke on her own breath. “Oh, Rachel, Honey… I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. I mean, I just forgot… well… you know…”
“It’s okay.” Rachel found her fork again and picked it up. “Look, does it really matter who this guy was? I’m just curious what Uncle Richard is up to.”
“It’s nothing you need to worry about,” Aunt Mae said again, sounding defensive. “Now let us finish dinner and then we’ll see what else we can do before bed, okay?”
“Where is Uncle Richard right now?” Rachel asked, grasping at one last straw. “Why isn’t he home much?”
“Your Uncle is a very busy man.” That time, Aunt Mae’s voice seemed to tremble a bit. “He works very hard, and at the end of the day he just wants to relax and… do his own thing.”
“But what does he do? Where does he go?”
“It’s not important.” With that, Aunt Mae left the table and began to gather up the dishes, even though neither of them were quite finished eating. Rachel simply remained still and quiet, listening to the sounds of her Aunt scraping leftover food into the garbage and rinsing off the dishes to put them into the dishwasher.
“Aunt Mae, what’s wrong?” Rachel asked when she heard her Aunt’s footsteps walking past the table again. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“Rachel, it’s been a long day and I have a headache. Do you think you can manage on your own for a little while? I just want to rest.” Before Rachel could even begin to form a reply, Aunt Mae had left the room.
Left with nothing else to do, Rachel found her way to the bathroom and used her sense of touch to feel her way around and give herself a shower. She used her sense of smell to judge which bottle was which when it came to the shampoos, and she used her nose to help her detect the bar of soap. She also took extra time to rinse herself off, making certain that she washed all of the soap off her skin and all of the shampoo out of her hair, since she could not see what she was doing.
Once she was finished, she dried herself off and then wrapped herself up in a dry towel. After that, she made her way back to her bedroom, only stumbling once or twice on the way. Her Aunt had done a fine job of informing her where everything was throughout the house over the past couple of weeks, and she was pleased that her mind had retained most of that knowledge.
Somehow, it did not seem quite so bad, at least not inside the house. Her sense of touch informed her that the world was still quite real and could be maneuvered with skill and practice, and her sense of smell helped her find things as well. She knew that she could also rely on her sense of hearing quite a bit as well; perhaps she could find a way to survive without her eyesight after all.
It’s still not fair, though, the stubborn, brooding part of her mind argued.
Yeah, it’s not fair, she thought. However, Travis did have a point in many things. What was she going to do, just lie around in bed in the vain hope that her eyesight came back? She realized now that that would only make her Aunt suffer, if Mae simply had to watch her niece wither away in a mass of self-pity. Not to mention Aunt Mae seemed to be worried about something… Uncle Richard seemed to be doing something--or involved in something--that was bothering Mae very much, something that she did not feel comfortable telling Rachel about.
Why does everybody have so many secrets all of a sudden? Rachel wondered as she felt the clothes in her closet, trying to pick out something. She then realized that there was something that her other senses could not do for her; they could not tell her what color something was. In addition, her Aunt seemed otherwise preoccupied, so she could not ask her to come up and help her.
Finally, Rachel simply grabbed what felt like a shirt and a pair of pants and put them on. If nothing else, she would simply sleep in them and then change them in the morning. She then sat down on the edge of her bed and continued her precious train of thought.
What exactly was Uncle Richard up to and why was Travis looking for him? Moreover, why did it seem like there was something that Travis was hiding, something that had to do with his cold hands? Something was not quite right, and she could see that in spite of being blind.
I’ll just have to ask Travis when he gets here tonight, she thought, and then something else occurred to her. She had absolutely no idea what time it was. She could not see the daylight outside her window, nor could she look at any clock. Aw crap, she thought. Well, she supposed that she would simply have to wait around, or perhaps sleep, until Travis arrived.
With that, she simply lay down on her bed and rested her head against her pillow--the very same pillow that she and Travis had tossed around in the wee hours of the morning.
A few hours rolled by. She knew that she had dozed off for at least a couple of them, and she had been distantly aware of her Aunt coming up to check on her at one point. Rachel simply pretended to be asleep, wanting her Aunt to leave her alone for the rest of night in case Travis did return.
Eventually though, she did end up drifting off into a nice deep sleep.
“I really think you ought to apologize to John Scum,” Travis said in a serious tone as he and Melissa once again walked down Duck Hollow, toward the two-story house where the Green family lived.
“And why is that?” Melissa asked. “He doesn’t know it was me.”
“You could always apologize to him in your wolf form.”
“And scare the pants off of him again? You really think he would let me near him without wetting his pants?”
“Hmm… point taken.”
“Just how did you find out about that anyway, Travis?”
“Let’s just say I have very good hearing, and I know where to listen.”
The two of them fell silent as they neared the rose bushes. Melissa sighed as she took up a position near them. “Do you really want me to stay here again?” she asked.
“You have a clear view of the house from here, both the back door and the front door,” Travis confirmed. “If you see anything, just bark three times and I’ll be out here to help you.”
“What’re you gonna do in the meantime?”
“I told you, I’m going to visit Rachel Green.”
“Right. Well… have fun I guess.”
With that, they parted ways. Melissa ducked into the bushes, and Travis walked toward the house.
“He’d just better show up tonight,” the werewolf girl muttered under her breath. “I can’t take much more of this.”
Rachel was startled out of her sleep when an ice-cold hand touched her shoulder and gave her a gentle shake. Her eyelids fluttered open, an automatic reflex to being awakened.
“It’s alright,” Travis spoke in a velvet tone. “It’s just me.”
Rachel felt her cheeks tightening as she smiled. “I knew you’d be here.”
“If there’s one thing I try to do, it’s keep my promises.”
Rachel pushed herself up into a sitting position. “Why are you looking for my Uncle?” she asked.
“I don’t know if it’s my place to say.” She heard a definite frown in Travis’s voice.
“Well if you don’t tell me I don’t know if anybody else will,” Rachel said. “I tried talking to my Aunt, but she just got all upset and left the room. I don’t know why my Uncle isn’t home much or why he goes out at night, but I think I have a right to know.”
Travis sighed. “Perhaps you do have a right to know,” he mused. “But the question of the matter is, do you really want to do? Would it be good for you to know?”
“Stop playing word games and stop teasing me.”
“I’m not teasing you, I’m being honest. Don’t you think that some things are kept from you for your own protection?”
“Don’t you patronize me like I’m six years old! I can’t see, but I’m not stupid. And just because I’m blind doesn’t mean I need to be protected from everything.” Rachel’s face contorted into a furious expression as she grabbed for her pillow. “I want to know!” She threw the pillow at Travis, something that was quickly becoming a bantering ritual between them.
This time Travis allowed it to hit him in the face. Not because she had scored a lucky hit, but because he moved in front of it. He simply figured that in his own way he would be a good sport and throw the pillow fight, even if she could not see it. “Just so you know, I’m not trying to treat you like a child, and I don’t think your Aunt means to either.” He tossed the pillow back to her; it landed on the bed just in front of her. “I can assure you that there are some things your Aunt wouldn’t want you to know even if you weren’t blind.”
“Fine, if that’s the way you feel too, then just get out.” Rachel grabbed her pillow and then turned over, facing the wall and lying flat on the mattress as she hugged the pillow to her chest. Her manner suggested that she was dismissing his presence and getting ready to go to sleep.
Travis sighed. “What if I said you might not believe me?”
Rachel did not move. “Try me,” she said simply.
“Okay then…” Travis slowly moved toward the bed, his face twitching in annoyance as his foot caused that one loose board to creak nosily again. He sank down on the edge of the bed and folded his hands on his lap. “Rachel,” he said in a quiet, serious tone, “I have reason to believe that your Uncle is a werewolf.”
If Rachel still had the ability to see, she probably would have shot straight up and whirled to face him. Instead, she simply kept her face turned toward the wall. “What?” she uttered in a disbelieving tone.
“Your Uncle is… probably a werewolf,” Travis stated in the same serious tone as before.
A few seconds of silence passed.
“Get out of here.” This time Rachel managed to smack him in the face with the pillow head-on.
Melissa was growing very impatient in the rose bushes. What in the world was Travis doing in that house anyway? She did not believe that the vampire was just up there to keep a blind girl company. Surely there was something else going on, otherwise he would have stayed outside with Melissa. He should be out here keeping me company, or stationing himself on the other side of the house, she thought.
It was not right that she had to play watchdog all by herself, even if she was technically the dog in this situation. Maybe he’s lining that girl up for his next meal, she thought, trying to rationalize the entire thing. I suppose that would be fitting. If he wants the family for his next meal I don’t give a hoot, just as long as I can get the werewolf who bit.
Then again, it did seem out of character for Travis to suddenly want a meal. She did not know the vampire very well, but from what she had gathered, he did not strike her as like the type who looked forward to his next meal. He fed only out of necessity, when the instinctual urges could no longer be denied.
That’s why I try to pig out when I’m in my human form, she thought glumly. If she stuffed her face with all kinds of food before the sunset and the moon came out, she ended up being less hungry when she was a wolf. It seemed to help at least a little; she was not as prone to hunt stray animals in the city or do gross things like eat human carcasses. The weirdest thing of all was that no matter how much fruit, salad, meat or even junk food she stuffed her face with it never seemed to have any effect on her weight. No matter what she did, she was still a three-hundred-pound beast during the night and a slim girl of one hundred and sixty pounds during the day.
If anything, she suspected that she was losing a bit of weight. In actuality, she had gone from one-hundred and sixty-two pounds to about one-hundred and fifty-nine in her human mode.
She shoved that thought aside; this was no time to be focusing on her eating patterns or body weight. She focused her full attention once again on the house, straining her keen vision to the maximum in an effort to spot anything.
All of a sudden, she did see something. Travis appeared to be hopping down out of the window and then he jogged around to the front door. She felt her ears perk up in response to her heartbeat quickening; had he found something? What was he up to?
She was half-tempted to leave the bushes and make a spring for the front porch in order to ask him, but she did not want to draw attention to herself. Instead, she forced herself to be patient and remain exactly where she was.