THE NEXT MORNING, I get a worried call from Amanda. With motherly concern, she says hurriedly when I answer the phone, “Susie! Where are you?”
Defiantly I answer her, “It took you this long to notice I was not there?”
Defensively she replies, “No, we noticed this morning already, but we thought you were just having fun. It is late now though and I was getting worried.”
I sigh. It has been a long night. “I am okay. We were in a car accident last night and I am here with Andrew.”
Andrew is looking at me and I smile at him. I say Andrew, but she does not know about him. How do you explain you are desperately in love with someone you should not even be friends with? We have lived long enough to integrate ourselves into everyday living, but it would be unacceptable to fall in love with a human. I would be the laughingstock of my community.
She asks, “Is he one of your friends?”
“Yes. He is Carmine’s brother.” She knows who Carmine is. After that first day, Carmine came to my house and permanently borrowed my clothes, she has come over regularly. Carmine often exclaims how idyllic it must be to live with your older brother and his wife.
“Was he seriously hurt?” Amanda asks.
“No, he is okay. He knocked his head badly, but other than that, he will be okay.”
“It is always so sad to watch them when one of their own dies. Carmine is close to you, so I would have hated to have to see her so sad when she came to visit you. It would dampen that bubbly personality of hers.”
Since the invention of the ‘vitamin’, there is nothing really that can kill us. Shayne, Amanda and I tend to avoid the murderous groups of our race. Just as humans do, we have our bad areas too, where we avoid settling down, so we are never really in any real danger of being killed unless of course, we went looking for trouble.
I agree with Amanda, “Yes, it would be sad.”
“How long are you going to stay at the hospital?”
“I don’t know.”
She reminds me, “You know it is new moon tomorrow. I do not know how you can be at the hospital with all that blood when you must be dipping from your high.”
“I have managed to block it out.” She has reminded me, though, and once again, I smell the sweet stickiness of the dark red fluid.
“I’ll see you later then. Do not cause a scandal, by staying longer than you feel comfortable,” she warns.
Ending the call, I look at Andrew. His hand is folded around mine. I know he could not hear Amanda because the sound setting on my phone is set on one, unlike other people who have their settings on full and you can hear every word the person on the other side of the line is saying.
Sighing exasperated, I roll my eyes. “My sister-in-law.”
He smiles up at me, his strong face turned toward me. Softly he asks, “You live with your brother?”
“I do. My mum and dad died when I was.” I almost say sixteen and stop myself shocked. Quickly I say, “When I was younger.”
“I am sorry.” He looks sorry. Unlike the countless people I have said this to before, he actually knows exactly what it feels like.
Now that he seems more aware than yesterday, I ask tentatively, “Can you remember anything from yesterday?”
He smiles apologetically. “It’s hazy. I have flashes of things, but it is too weird, though, so I do not think it is a memory, more like wild nightmares.”
I smile sadly. He thinks I am a nightmare. To get my mind off it, I say, “Duncan spent last night in jail for DUI and Carmine has a small cut across her arm, but she will be fine.”
Andrew laughs annoyed. “We should never have gotten into that car with Duncan.”
I hear Mr Van Heerden’s booming voice from outside the doors of the ward and get up slowly from the bench. Leaning down to him, I softly kiss him on his cheek.
Frowning he looks up at me, so I explain, “I have to go before Amanda phones me again.”
“Will you come visit me again?”
I feel my heart trip over itself. Heart? It is a weird indescribable feeling and I know love does not make hearts speed up and palpitate. I do not even have a beating heart, yet, in my chest, I feel the oddest sensation.
I smile down at him and I feel as if I could fall into the bottomless depths of his dark, brown eyes. “I’ll come again tonight.”
The Van Heerden’s come walking into the room, and like a mother hen, Mrs Van Heerden waddles to his bed. I move aside away from Andrew, letting my fingers slide out of his and he follows me with his eyes.
Carmine rushes to me. “Oh, Susie.” She starts crying, the tears flowing freely down her cheeks. She slumps against me and her arms come up around my shoulders. The small wound is close to my cheek and although there is no more blood, the smell lingered on her skin.
Suddenly I can feel her pulse rush through her body. I can feel her heart hammering against me and I fight the feeling of tunnel vision.
Just one small bite the monster tells me. Just a lick, a tiny, weenie suckle.
I push away from Carmine abruptly. Apologetically I say, “I am sorry Carmine, but I have to go. I am in a hurry. I will phone you later. Promise.”
I walk out of the hospital hurriedly, almost running. When I am out of the hospital, I start to walk faster and if there were someone looking at me directly they would have thought they had seen a magic trick or a miracle because I move away from the hospital too fast for any human eye to observe.
Slamming the front door closed behind me moments later, I walk straight into the kitchen and then the freezer. I pull the popsicle from its plastic wrapping irritated and I do not know why they have to be wrapped individually. I want to snap at Amanda when she walks into the room.
The look of worry on her face stops me, though, and I pop the icy meat stick into my mouth. I take a few because only one will not do for the moment.
My body is going to cramp and spasm from now until when we go out to hunt. The only, only thing I will be able to think about is blood.
I WAIT IMPATIENTLY for Ethan. Shayne insists we wait for him and I am starting to feel extraordinarily agitated. By the time the doorbell rings and I open the door, I growl at him.
He greets me, smiling amused, “Good Evening, sweet Susanna.”
I push past him and out the door. With annoyance I call, “Can we just go now.” Angrily I growl again and walk in circles. The need and want in me are so great, it burns like peat in the pit of my stomach. The pain is enormous. Never before have I waited this long, with this tremendous need for blood. I long for the days when I could run into rural Europe and have my pick of clean, fresh blood. All I can think about is blood, blood, blood.
Ethan takes me gently by the elbow. “Come with me. We will leave in my car. We do not always have to hunt in a pack, do we?”
I nod my head, yes, eagerly. I cannot remember a single time I have gone hunting without Amanda or Shayne. Although I am over two hundred years old, they still treat me like a child they need to protect. As always, Shayne is waiting for midnight because he is a stickler for ritual. After spending the last few days in the hospital with Andrew, surrounded by the smell of blood, I need to go – desperately.
Ethan leads me to his car and he opens the passenger door for me. I get into the car and settle into the plush seats. Irritated I watch him walk around the car. Amanda is standing by the front door and she is frowning worriedly. Lifting my hand and waving, I manage to smile reassuringly.
Ethan starts his car and backs out of the driveway. We drive out of the security estate and then he turns south. I watch the houses and trees flash by and the night is black and dark without the moon. Everything looks ghost-like. We drive away from the city and later Ethan turns off the main road and onto a rural road. We do not speak and I doubt I would be able to hold down a logical conversation. I do relax a little because I know not long from now I can feed my needy monster.
I can see across the country, across the flat nothingness toward the lights of the city on the horizon. A moment later Ethan turns into a neglected driveway and we bounce over the potholes. He drives to the dilapidated farmhouse and stops in front of the front door.
I look at him puzzled, but not caring. I just want to get in there and I want to drink. I open my door and get out of the car at the same time as Ethan. He walks to me where I am standing in front of the car and smiling, he softly takes my arm in his hand.
We walk in through the front door, which is weird. A dim thought at the back of my mind warns me something is not right, but it is hazy. The only thing on my mind in vibrant, luminous colours is my need to feed. He leads me to the basement and we walk down the stairs silently. When we are down in the basement, Ethan’s hand around my arm suddenly tightens and with a snarl, he shoves me forward. This is unexpected and I stumble ahead.
As I turn back to him, the question on my lips, I hear him slam the heavy metal door closed between us and I hear a bolt slide into a lock.
Bewildered I look around me and wonder what on earth is happening. What is Ethan doing? I bang on the door frantically, screaming his name.
He does not reply and I hear him running back up the stairs. After what feels like an eternity, I turn away from the door and walk into the room. It is unfurnished, so I sink down onto the floor in the back corner of the dark room. My stomach aches and I fold my arms over it tightly. I trusted Ethan impeccably, and because my hunger was so overwhelming, I could not think of anything else. Briefly, I consider that I have known him for so long, who could have foreseen this. I cannot even wonder why he is doing this to me because I feel my body start to shake. It is not a shiver or a tremble, but an internal quiver.
I HEAR HIM coming down the stairs and I stand up hurriedly. I rush to the door.
He yells from the other side, “Step back, Susanna. I am serious!”
He is much older than I am and thus much stronger, but I am sure I could overwhelm him. I sense him waiting at the door listening for any sounds from inside the room and then he slides open a little hatch in the door. He pushes a tray through the hatch slowly and I notice a glass balanced on the tray. It is a Bloody Vladimir—our interpretation of a Bloody Mary.
Moving forward, the smell of the blood in the drink is pungent. I lift the glass to my mouth and I feel the glass clink against my incisors. I swallow fast and eagerly, then put the empty glass back onto the tray and after he pulls the tray back through the hatch, he closes it. Desperately, I ask, “Ethan, what games are you playing?”
“You and your happy little family are working on my nerves.” I shake my head disbelievingly while he continues, “I want what Shayne has and even if I have to kill you one by one, I will get it.”
Flabbergasted I struggle to stifle an absurd laugh. “Shayne and Amanda will look for me and you know they will find me.” I scream, “They will kill you!”
He laughs sadistically. “I am ready and they will not live to tell the tale. You have treated me with disdain long enough as if I am beneath your standing. I will now show you who the better of the two of us are, and I am sick of my community looking down upon me.” I hear him walk away.
There are no windows in the dark, dank room and I calculate the day by the number of times a glass of blood is shoved through the hatch in the door – breakfast, lunch and supper.
I cannot be sure, but I imagine it has been a week and I can hear a commotion coming from upstairs. I hear furniture scraping across the floor. Suddenly a thud reverberates through the house and then everything is silent again. I wonder if it is only my mind playing tricks with me and there really was no noise after all. Still, I wait with nervous anticipation because it could have been Shayne and Amanda coming to my rescue. Later, though, I hear the hatch open and a glass with the crimson liquid is pushed through it.
I ask desperately, “Ethan, please. I’ll give you anything. Just tell me what is going on. Please let me go.”
I hear a gruff voice; a voice I do not recognise. “Ethan is not here.”
“Where is he?”
“Who are you?”
He replies hesitantly, “Juan.”
I plead, “Juan, please let me go, I promise I will give you anything you want. I have money.”
“I do not need money.” I hear a faint French accent.
“Are you French?” I ask hopefully. “I am French too, I have an old château. It is in disrepair now, but I will sign it over to you if you let me go.” I whisper softly, but I know he can hear me, “Please.”
I sense him hesitate, but then he turns away from the door and the hatch falls into place loudly.
Despondently I wonder why Shayne and Amanda have not come to fetch me yet. Perhaps they have contacted friends and are planning on the best action to take. Maybe they cannot find me. I behaved like a spoilt brat the day before Ethan kidnapped me and maybe now they are happy to be rid of me.
I sit down in the corner across from the door. Sinking my head onto my folded arms across my pulled up knees, I close my eyes miserably.