Chapter 3: Mend Her Broken Heart
“This is my girlfriend.” Jeremy faced his parents defiantly.
Their eyebrows raised in shock.
“Her name’s KerriAnne.” He put his arm more tightly around her shoulders and looked at her tenderly. He’d let her in at his window a few minutes ago and persuaded her to put on one of his old sweatshirts. Underneath she still wore the gold lamé skirt and the skimpy striped top which seemed to be the only things she owned. (Her clothes stayed as perfectly preserved as she did, which meant the egg stains on her top had come from before she became a vampire, however that had happened.)
Matt and Roseanne Paxton stood on either side of the butcher’s block in the kitchen with the first of their evening cocktails, beginning the descending arc from their extreme morning cheer. Jeremy saw his mother’s eyes take in the slutty skirt, recognize the sweatshirt as his own, conclude that KerriAnne had spent the afternoon in his bed and shake her head at his father.
As Jeremy flushed with humiliation, Matt pulled himself together, came forward and stuck out his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Carrie.”
KerriAnne seemed to shrink slightly from the name. “Not Carrie, KerriAnne,” Jeremy said firmly. What did it matter if they thought he’d had sex with her that afternoon?
Something like a twinkle danced momentarily in Matt’s eyes. “Carrie Anne. What’s your game?” he asked solemnly. “Can anybody play?”
His mother said quietly, “Matt.” KerriAnne shrank into herself and shook her head but Jeremy had heard the old song his father referred to and merely cringed in embarrassment.
“Can I fix you a … diet Coke?” Roseanne asked, looking down uncomfortably at the drink in her hands.
“I’m not thirsty,” KerriAnne said in a small voice. She looked from one to the other of them and shrank still further into herself.
“We’re going out,” Jeremy announced into the awkward silence. “You know we’ll be perfectly safe, right? You heard the news announcements?” He knew his parents seldom watched the news.
“What news was that, honey?” Roseanne said, eyes going wide with worry.
“There’s a new thing. If you know you’re at home with, well, like, whoever you’re with, you’re safe, y’know, like in a home.” He talked more awkwardly when he tried to lie. The new factor hadn’t been announced on the news yet; he had only seen it in action at the plaza.
“Oh, I don’t think I like that,” his mother said nervously. “You two can surely stay here and keep us company?”
“He’ll be fine, honey,” Matt said smoothly. “This is no different than going with the Sister to the plaza a few weeks ago, is it now?”
After a few more uncomfortable minutes, Jeremy and KerriAnne walked out into the evening. “This is my sweetheart!” Jeremy called into the night. “Wherever we’re together is our home!”
Down the front steps they went. White faces and bodies in dark robes made a reluctant circle around them as they walked toward the confrontation with the vampire who had destroyed his life.
They walked the hissing streets down to the overpriced shopping area and up again. A white form pushed closer in to them and KerriAnne hissed, “You dare not touch us!” She looked quickly at Jeremy, ready to apologize for her Queen of the Night act. But Jeremy smiled with pride: nobody had taken care of him for a long time.
She saw his pride and wriggled happily. Even through his storm of feelings about facing the vampire who had killed Alec, he put his arm around her. This was his girlfriend, and he was helping her be good. They’d have so much love together once he took care of this mission of revenge.
For the first time, he had a future.
“Noooooo!” His poor throat was raw with the word. “I love you, I love you, I just wanted to save you, I didn’t mean to, oh my God, oh God, how could you do this.”
But it didn’t matter what he said or how much he hurt. KerriAnne was truly and finally dead beside the murderous square of sunlight that lanced into his eyes from the hardwood floor. He still knelt beside her body and begged her to live again.
Speaking to God now, he begged, “Bring her back, give me another chance, I don’t want to live without her. C’mon, don’t be such a bastard, you bastard.”
He’d seen lots of movies where the girl seems dead and then just when the hero bows his head with tears, she stirs and says that sweet thing that she Always Used To Say and the hero cracks some wise-ass joke and it’s a happy ending. Maybe now that he’d been fooled, had bowed his head and cried, there could still be that happy ending?
But her eyes stayed open and empty, looking at something. Or maybe looking at nothing. Her face looked happy. Maybe she’d died happy? But damn it, oh God damn it, if she was that happy she should have been allowed to live. He looked again at her; maybe she’d be allowed to move now?
He thought he saw a tremor! He thought he saw sparks of golden fire swirling across his vision. He looked up, into the shrill golden face of the sun which had killed his love.
He saw in the sun an immense, powerful God who was somehow orchestrating all that was happening on this Earth. But he couldn’t understand what this God was saying. In that glory of light he saw, at least he wanted to see, God and the angels carrying KerriAnne off home.
The sun climbed into a fluff of cloud and everything went dim.
He played back the moment when he’d taken her hand: if he’d only had the sense to fling her hand back at the first sight of blood, but he hadn’t seen it until she’d somehow moved and then it was too late! If he’d only been ready to push her out of the light again, just a hard push would have done it. He should have been ready.
He almost begged once more for KerriAnne to come back to him but he stopped. There was that old story of the Monkey’s Paw, wasn’t there? Where the guy begs for his wife to come back or the woman begs for her husband and back they come from the grave, all decayed and dripping? What if he kept begging and God, the bastard, did send her back and she was a soulless monster who would take him in a cold embrace before she destroyed him. They might walk the cold nights together for a while before they were killed or died of hunger, but he could never have her again.
He wished with all his heart to confess his sins to Sister Amanda, even though she was Anglican and they didn’t do confession and she wasn’t a priest anyway. He wanted her to hold him and comfort him like his own mother never could.
In a daze, he wandered away from the body (he was going to have to do something with her, she wasn’t just going to disappear). Back in his bedroom he looked at the side of his bed where she’d sat just, what, ten, fifteen minutes ago? Tears pricked at his eyes and throat again. She’d been so scared and he’d convinced her. She’d been talking to him such a short time ago, she’d trusted him. He’d give anything if he could go back and stop trying to persuade her, let them have a few more days.
His head tilted, trying to understand how she could have been real and talking to him fifteen minutes ago and now he would never talk to her again, never see her opening to him, trusting him, never hear her frightened, tentative laugh when he made a joke. He had pushed her to try the sunlight too soon! Maybe with more time, he would have found some way to mend her broken heart so that the sun wouldn’t have killed her.
Mend her broken heart.
He wept again, throwing himself on the bed. But he couldn’t stand the feel of the bed where they’d made love, where he’d held her just an hour ago, talking to her in the pre-dawn. He rolled onto the floor.
He still felt her in his arms. Her body naked against his, the exciting feel of her one good breast and her cool belly pressed against his (her heart weeping unending wetness from her deflated other breast against his chest).
She was so strong but so fragile too! Just half an hour ago he’d hurt her feelings when he said, “I don’t know, I shouldn’t even have gone to that vampire’s house. It was so long ago, maybe I should have just…” And then he’d seen her dismay. She’d found the vampire, she’d brought Jeremy to him as her gift to him, and he was telling her she’d been wrong?! Annoyed at this regular ritual, he’d hastened yet again to reassure her that she was doing fine.
Perhaps a good therapist could have helped him see that if KerriAnne had lived he would soon have felt her extreme devotion and his lavish promises as strait-jacket. She would expect rewards from the world for her noble efforts to give up blood and be a good person and when the world did not oblige she would become recalcitrant and surly. The more she demanded, the more he would evade; and that the more she tried to abstain from blood, the more ravenously hungry she would grow in this house to which she had free access and where his warm, tempting parents lived. At best KerriAnne would have been reinforced in her belief that the world was a cold place where you grabbed whatever tiny flicker of light you could. At worst, a day would have come when he looked at his dead parents and vowed to hunt her down with fiercer hate than he felt for that smooth-faced older vampire. After months of deep soul searching, he might have realized these things and made some peace with her death.
But he was alone and he could barely remember the tired annoyance he’d felt as she wilted and cried: if only he could have her back to reassure again and again!
At last, grief gave way to dark sleep. In a dream, he stood next to the bed where she lay waiting for him to make love with her. His groin quivered with life but he knew there was some reason he had to wait. Suddenly he saw a bug, a roach! It crawled blackly on the floor beside his discarded clothes, about to invade his shirt. He was barefoot and he knew he should wait, that it was very important to find out what kind of bug it was, but he quivered with revulsion and picked up her heeled shoe and smacked it down on the bug with a satisfying crunch. “What is it, sweetie?” said her sleepy voice. “A bug, a roach!” he cried, hardly able to bear the horror of it. But the smear where he’d stamped out the bug was swarming with other bugs, worms, tiny dots and he realized it was a replicant and that killing it would only make hundreds and thousands of bugs grow in its place. Desperately he tried to squash the new bugs but they grew and multiplied under his hands—
He started awake, gasping. There was some miserable reason he didn’t want to wake up and for one disoriented moment, it wouldn’t come. Then the pain of his loss slammed down on him.
Eventually, he was cried out again, aware that the day was passing and that he would have to deal with the dead body. Could he dig a hole deep enough to bury her in the back yard? No, he could never get away with that: his mother would see the fresh dirt and anyway the nosy next door neighbor would be out on his back porch watching.
Then he realized what he had to do, and cried again.