By the end of the month I was ready to cry, and I don’t believe in shedding tears. Orcus and Sebastian were at each other’s necks like it was mating season (which, for them, it probably was) and much to my consternation we hadn’t been able to prove any theory other than that the latter of the two morons was a vampire. I often saw Orcus out by the observation point overlooking the mine, and I wondered just as often if the people we had seen that night had anything to do with Sebastian or his sudden appearance. I wondered equally often if they were still there. Orcus told me one day that he hadn’t seen anything of them since that first night; it was a cause of worry for us both. It was frustrating and it seemed like an impossible leap to make, especially as there was no solid proof. All the same. . . .
To my further bemusement and vexation there was also the fact that Orcus was eating alive practically every male entity on campus who came into remote physical contact with me; luckily for the male populus, that number was quite small. I didn’t understand it, and found it annoying, which may have, in turn, contributed to my double annoyance and subsequent lashings out at Sebastian. Orcus was my archrival, my academic nemesis; attraction to him was completely out of the question, and here everyone was beginning to think we were finally becoming, to use the slang, “a thing.” The mandated week by Raechel had passed, and Sebastian was now taking full advantage of my time. It was frightening on a good many levels, and I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew beyond doubt that I preferred a human to an undead being (which, if you think about it, is sort of the same as being alive, so there goes that argument), and Orcus Locke had to know as much. He was counting on my taste in men, Michelle theorized, to keep me open for him until he was ready to make his move. I felt very confused at this. It was a valid point, but it was Michelle’s idea, and Raechel and I had made it a habit to ignore pretty much everything she had to say.
What I didn’t understand was Sebastian’s pathological need to be around women all the time. It’s one thing for a boy to flirt with girls; this boy was taking ‘prowler’ to a level that would have frightened most other Casanovas. We managed to keep his lasciviousness contained to the girls in our bedroom. Raechel was spared the worst of it, Michelle didn’t mind watching (which is creepy beyond all belief, you have no idea), and I briefly considered asking Orcus to be my significant other, if only to keep the vampire at bay. I then reminded myself that I hated Orcus and would rather bathe in a tub of flaming snake venom.
Eventually I came to the conclusion that if anyone knew anything about the inner workings of men, it would be my mother. She’d had her fair share of fun before she settled down with Dad’s money, and she had been what was considered beautiful when she was young. She would be chock full of advice. I decided not to call. Mother may have known, but it wasn’t worth it to bring up the matter.
I was saved my trouble. Mother called me.
Two Mondays after Orcus’ week expired, I was sitting in ‘science’ class when the instructor’s phone trilled shrilly. Silence immediately engulfed the room, and Mr. Hoare glared at the machine as though its existence was offensive. It trilled again, and he grudgingly answered. His voice was low, but I was very near his desk and heard every word.
“I’m not giving her up for a whimsical conversation, Helen.” Funny, I thought. That was my mother’s name. “No, we’re in the middle of class. Tell Richard to wait.” Even funnier, Richard was my dad’s name. I began to feel amused. What were the odds that Mr. Hoare was friendly with two people who had the exact same names as my parents? Mr. Hoare sighed. “Fine.” He looked directly at me. “She wants to speak to you, Tourney.”
Was there someone else in class—I realized he meant me, and my insides went a little cold. “No, she doesn’t. It’s a prank call. She’s wasting your time.”
Hoare held out the phone. “Tourney.” There was a smirk playing at his mouth.
I thought quickly, and yelled, “I can’t talk to you! I have cancer! I’m dying tomorrow! The doctor said to avoid poisons!”
Mr. Hoare, while not overly fond of my blatantly arrogant disregard for the rules, was exceedingly fond of my caustic sarcasm. His brow twitched. “Mallory.” His voice was warning, so I grouchily walked over to him and took the receiver.
“Yes?” I said.
“You do not have cancer, and no doctor would tell you to avoid what would kill you faster.”
“Why, yes, Helen, the weather here is lovely. A bit on the sunny side, though, which means you’ve been doing someone naughty; I’m sure he didn’t mind. But don’t worry about me; I’ll survive.”
I could hear my mother’s teeth grinding. “As unfortunate as that is, Mallory Eleanor, I will not tolerate your lip.”
I sighed. “Mother, I’m in class with a teacher you should not, under any circumstances, know. As per the United States government.” That she expected anything else was optimistically foolish.
There was a loud bang on the other end, so I knew I’d pissed her off. “You listen, and you listen good, you little shit. I’ve gotten a phone call from that Orcus Locke, and I want you to avoid him completely.”
Well…. Shit. I pulled the receiver away from my ear and made sad and frustrated gesticulations to Mr. Hoare. He was actually smirking now, not just thinking about it. Now I had to date Orcus. Thanks for that, Helen. “Why?”
“He concerns me.”
Deal with it. “Why does this matter?” I said, trying not to sound pained. “He’s an evil demon from Hell. You should be dancing for joy in the streets.” I saw Orcus glare at me from the corner of my eye. “What did he say?”
“He wanted to know when your birthday is.”
I don’t know if it’s possible to really put into words how that statement made me feel, but try to picture a small child who’s just been handed a half-eaten lemon. “Probably for the irony of homicide. Don’t worry about me, thanks.” It’s done far more good than bad in my life, and if you get involved it will all end in tears.
“What’s he got on you?”
“Oh sweet Sweeney Todd, what hasn’t he got on me?” I said. “He’s a slippery fucker, he knows everything, and I don’t know how he knows. He’s got rats everywhere.”
“Steer clear,” said Helen.
“One does not destroy the enemy by avoiding him,” I said sagely. She’d find that irritating.
“I don’t want that boy crawling up into the family business,” she snapped. “You find a way to get him off the scent, or you can forget about coming home after the school year.”
“Home?” I said. “What home? I have a home? How long has that been a thing?”
My mother’s anger caused a disturbance in the Force. She slammed down the receiver, and I ended the call with a high note of pleasure. It was an hour’s reprieve before my father called, and I was going to make most of my peace, however temporary.
Orcus was gazing at me thoughtfully as I returned to my seat. “Evil demon from Hell?” he whispered.
“Yes,” I replied simply.
Orcus sighed and rolled his eyes. “Let’s pretend, for alliance’s sake, that you don’t despise me. What was all that?”
I narrowed my eyes. “Why do you want to know?”
A strange glint passed through his eyes. “Mallory, must I torture it out of you?”
I snorted. What could he possibly do that hadn’t already been done? “You don’t scare me, Orcus.”
“Looks like you screwed up then, doesn’t it?” I sneered.
He chuckled, the gleam in his eye never leaving. “I’ll just have to rectify that.”
I simply quirked my brow and went back to my table to conduct the ‘experiment’, and for a good while nothing went wrong. And I, being the idiot I am, let my guard drop.
As I was measuring an acid into a beaker, I felt on solitary finger inching its way across my wrist. I twitched and snatched my arm away, whipping my head around, intending to snap at the idiot who dared invade my personal space. Unfortunately, I came nose-to-nose with Orcus Locke. Let’s be honest, no one is surprised, not now. My spine tingled and I felt muddled. I gave him the best warning stare I could muster, and turned back around. It didn’t feel safe to speak, and I knew I’d botch things up royally if the words weren’t threatening enough.
His fingers crept back to my wrist.
“Don’t,” I ground out; it wasn’t a very ominous sound.
Orcus wasn’t fazed. In fact, he looked quite happy to maintain his current position. It began to look as though words, and perhaps violence, were necessary.
“Orcus, stop it. Now,” I commanded.
He smiled his softly cruel smile. “No.”
“Take your hand away, or I’ll bite you,” I warned.
Orcus’ eyes were laughing. “I remember the last time you bit me.” My face went bright red.
“Don’t even get any ideas,” I growled. “Take your hand away.”
He didn’t move, and sensibility told me he wasn’t going to do something he didn’t want to do. I turned back to the beaker, and his finger started trailing again. I bit my lip and narrowed my eyes, determined to focus on what was in front of me.
“If you aren’t going to keep your hands to yourself, could you at least wait until I’m not pouring acid to feel me up?”
He smirked. “Why?”
“Because I’d like to not stand under the high-pressure shower-head.” He’d need more incentive than that. “Please.” My voice was picking up that strained quality, often indicative of a strong desire for and tendency towards violence.
Orcus, I swear, was about to die laughing; that conclusion didn’t come from rocket science. He eventually nodded and removed his phalange from my person, and I went back to my acid.
By the end of the class I was murderous and irate, primarily because I was finding myself distracted by Orcus Locke’s sudden sex appeal, and that was simply not okay. How could he possibly know. . .? Of course, in his case it could have been a lucky guess, but the likelihood of that. . .was extremely high, now that I think of it. Orcus was very good at making educated guesses.
I stopped by my Hall to switch out books, and was on my way to ‘English’ when I noticed him tailing me. I tried to ignore it; we had the exact same schedule, thanks to him, so it wasn’t really all that surprising. This was different, though. His attention was targeted, and his movements quicker.
I meandered at my own pace, and quickly ducked down into a small alcove under the pretense of checking my books and notes. I was hoping he’d just pass me up and head straight down the hall on the off-chance that he was eyeing someone else. I was rather stupid, wasn’t I? He didn’t do anything of the sort. When I looked up again Orcus was towering over me, his face passive.
“What was that phone call?” he asked, his tone pleasant and curious.
“Nothing,” I answered, and tried to push past him.
Orcus’ arm shot out, blocking my path. “We both know that’s not entirely true, don’t we, Mallory?”
I rolled my eyes. “My mom, okay? Happy now?” I tried shoving him out of the way, but he pushed me back into the alcove.
“What did she want?” His tone hadn’t changed.
By now ‘Chem’ had been completely forgotten, and I was becoming more than a little obstreperous (another word for the week!). “It is none of your business, you self-obsessed tomato-half.” I shoved him harder then, and he was forced to take a step back. I tried to slip past him again, but his obnoxiously long fingers closed over my wrist, and I found myself suddenly pinned between him and the wall.
“What did your mother want?” His voice still didn’t change, but the grip on my wrist hurt badly; he was becoming dangerous. That wasn’t what had me scared: The halls were filtering out, and if he decided to become violent the odds were definitely not in my favor. So I did the only thing that seemed to offer any lucrative reward: I bit his hand.
Orcus isn’t the type to admit when he is in pain unless there is a greater goal to be achieved. It was just so this time. There was no indication that he’d even felt it; he simply slammed me into the wall with a little more force than usual; the air left my lungs in a rush.
“Don’t make this harder than it has to be, Mallory.”
I sneered. “You know me; always doing it the tough way.”
“Tell me what I want to know, and we can walk away from this, no marks on record.”
“No marks on record?”
“I’m sorry, which of us is hiding a vampire in her room?” Again, this should not surprise anyone.
“What exactly do you think you can do to me that you haven’t already?” I snarled.
He let out a laugh that sounded almost giddy. “D’you need a kiss to convince you?”
I felt my eyes turn into slits. He’d been giving me flak about this since I’d made it quite clear that the deal we’d made with Sebastian was never to be discussed with anyone ever, nor was it to be invoked. This, however, just got a hundred times more complicated. Orcus doesn’t joke about making people uncomfortable. I was seriously thinking it over, and found myself in quite the dilemma. On the one hand it would make my mother exceedingly angry. On the other, I knew his not knowing would bother him a lot, and his discomfort was my only aim.
“She was asking what I wanted for my birthday.” It wasn’t worth it.
I snorted. “How should I know? It’s not like my mother tells me what she’s thinking. She doesn’t like you though, so at least there’s sense.”
Orcus leaned in so close our noses were almost touching. “What did she say?”
“I’ve just told you.”
“You’re lying, Mallory, and we both know it.”
“Well, I’m pretty sure it’s none of your business,” I said coolly.
“Mallory, I’m going to allow you five seconds to tell me what she said. If you’d like to avoid what has the potential to be a very awkward situation when our dear hall monitor comes ‘round that corner, you’ll not try my patience.”
Unfortunately, I took too long to make my decision. Some of my peers would disagree; a kiss from Orcus was, after all, rumored to be the only aphrodisiac necessary.
I nearly died from the head-rush. You wouldn’t think that, would you? I mean, sixty-three kisses in three weeks, I should have had my shit together. Excepting for the fact that I am a senior in high school – and one could correctly assume from this information that I am a teenager – and no teenager ever has all of their shit together, it’s not an outrageous request. That being said, head rush. Endorphins. Happy hormones. Orcus’ mouth and everything else. So….
He pulled away all too soon, and he knew it. That was, without doubt, the best damn kiss I’d ever had, including the sixty-three in the last month. At the same time, I’d discovered a level of hate I wasn’t aware existed. It was a quandary like no other: Should I do something potentially suicidal, or should I just bite the bullet and let Lord Sociopath Extraordinaire have his way? My rapidly de-fogging brain settled on the former. Garroting would have been better! The wheel of torture! Pressing! Trunchbull’s chokey! Anything, really, I’m not going to be picky about my list of preferences.
I schooled myself. “That was very nice of you,” I said icily, “and now I must be going. I have a class.” I moved to leave, but he caught my arm again.
“Don’t leave, darling. We’re not done here.”
“We have class, Orcus,” I said, trying to retain my cool.
“I’ve just said I’m not finished,” he replied.
I, for one, had had enough. When he opened his mouth to speak again I brought my knee up and scored. Orcus crumpled, his eyes squeezing shut.
“But we are finished, Mr. Locke,” I replied. “I’ll probably see you later, much as the thought irks me.” I knew he’d take me to task for this later, but I was so beyond caring at this point. I just wanted to get away. With any luck he’d have forgotten about the phone-call next time I saw him.
And as I walked away I resolved to keep that kiss buried in the back of my mind.