Chapter 5: Garbage
“Where’s your girlfriend?” Roseanne Paxton asked her son with what she intended to be perceptive kindness.
She had seen his red eyes as he came out of his room to go to the bathroom and was trying to draw him to talk about it as a mother should.
With five years of practice, Jeremy could usually control his feelings around his parents. He wouldn’t have come out of his bedroom if he hadn’t had to pee so bad he was about to burst. “Gotta use the bathroom, be right back,” he got out, not looking at them, not looking at the place on the floor where he’d scrubbed up all the blood.
Once there, he sat on the pot and shook. Where was his girlfriend? She was under his bed. When she’d been alive (or whatever he should call it), he’d thought of keeping her there during the day but couldn’t make himself keep a slave girl under his bed. Now he was a murderer hiding the corpse under his bed. He’d killed his brother and he’d killed the only girl he ever loved. He wasn’t sure he actually believed either of those things but he stabbed himself with that knife over and over again. For a break, he looked angrily at the wall to his right. His bedroom was just the other side of that wall. If he could just carve a door in that wall, he would never have to face his parents again.
But he had to walk back past them. “Jeremy,” his mother tried. “Do you want to talk about anything?”
He should have kept walking, but he’d never been the kind of kid who just plain ignored his parents. He was a prevaricator instead. Without looking directly at his mother, he said, “We, she kinda, broke up with me and, aaauhmmm, I don’t want to…” The tears were buzzing in the back of his head; he was going to start crying in front of them!
He tried to run back to his room but they’d really know something was wrong if he did that! He looked quickly at them: his mother welled with sympathy that made him cringe, his father looked at him with a speculation that left him cold.
“Poor baby, come here,” Roseanne said, holding out her arms. His skin crawled at the thought but he didn’t know what else to do and she thought she understood everything at the sight of his tear-filled eyes. He let those arms pull him to her, remembering KerriAnne’s embrace but forgetting how ready he’d been to shove a stake into her heart when she first wrapped her arms around him.
“Poor baby, it’s okay to cry,” Roseanne assured him, patting his back like he was a pet terrier, “Men can cry, you need to cry. She wasn’t good enough for you, I didn’t want to tell you but she really looked like a tramp. I know you’ll find someone much better. Isn’t that right, Matt?” Her breath was warm with wine and her speech was just slightly blurred. Jeremy’s sobs ravaged his throat as they forced their way out.
“I won’t argue right or wrong, but I have time to cry,” his father replied somberly. Another sixties or seventies song. Feeling no more comfort than if he’d been held by a boa constrictor or a ramshackle construction of plywood, Jeremy cried for the love they could never understand and that he knew would never come again. “I’m glad you’re crying about something,” his father added. There wasn’t even a stress on the word “something,” but Jeremy understood: you never cried about the death of your brother who you killed, but now you’re crying for yourself.
It wouldn’t end unless he walked away. Roseanne didn’t really want to comfort him but she was doing what she thought was her job. “I guess I kinda, wanna be alone right now,” he choked out.
“Of course, poor baby, I understand. But if you need to talk…?”
He tried to say, “I’ll be fine,” but could only shake his head. But now he could hurry back to his room and shut the door. The last time he’d walked away from his parents like that, he’d had KerriAnne under his arm. There was the corner of the bed where she’d sat just before she collapsed when the sun rose. She’d been scared but trusting.
Oh, God, that innocent look of trust and hope! If only he’d said, “Well, maybe not, let’s just wait a while longer.” She’d have left for the day and she’d be tapping on his window right now, he’d open it and let her in and she’d kiss him and his arms would hold her, he’d say “I love you,” and see her whole body light up with the joy of being someone’s true love. It seemed like he would never get past the grief.
She was right there, under the bed. He could look at her if he wanted to. And – and maybe she’d be back! It was after dark, maybe the sun magic which had made her alive enough to bleed to death would be reversed in the nighttime! Maybe she’d still be alive!
His body shook like he’d been in freezing rain. Hope tore at him more than the numbing despair did. Of course he’d have to look and of course she’d still be dead. Or (he remembered the Monkey’s Paw) she’d be a soulless vampire again and would grab at him.
He had to look. Really, there’d be nothing to see, if she had come back to unlife with the setting of the sun she’d already have crawled out from under the bed. If she was reanimated and hadn’t moved yet, it was bad news, it meant she was being crafty. But maybe she was under there terrified, afraid to move. He had to look.
He’d left the blankets hanging down sloppily so that if his parents had made this the one day in all the year that they looked into his bedroom, they wouldn’t have seen anything. He could see the outline of Han Solo and Princess Leah but the stupid little-boy sheets didn’t matter anymore. He got down on his knees and, trying to be ready for anything and at the same time to expect nothing, looked into the dark place under his bed.
The shadowy form of her body looked the same as when he’d put her there in the early afternoon, having to shove much harder than he wanted to. She still wore the sweatshirt he’d lent her with the white outline of the number 47 on it, now stained with still-soggy spurts of blood. Gingerly he reached his arm under and touched her shoulder, cold.
Her head flopped to the side and her eyes looked at him, hollow, like thin coins for the ferryman of death. He shrieked and jerked back.
But nothing else happened. Her eyes looked at nothing. Her head lolled to the side. His heart pounded so loud in his ears that he could only just hear his mother knocking on his door. “Honey? Jeremy, are you alright?”
Turning his back on the pale corpse for just a moment, he gulped two deep breaths before calling out, “I stubbed my fucking toe.” With all the anger he felt at her in his voice. He knew she’d focus on his language and forget any suspicions or concerns about him.
When he looked back, she hadn’t moved, not even when his back was turned. Sobbing silently, he reached under the bed and closed her eyes again. How did they keep dead people’s eyes from popping open in funeral homes?
Later, after Matt and Roseanne had taken their sad selves to bed, Jeremy had the final, horrible task still to face. He pulled KerriAnne’s poor body out from under the bed. She seemed to weigh more than she had before: did that mean anything? As he moved her, the first hint of decay hit his nostrils, a fishy fart-like smell. It was just a whiff, gone the next second but that more than anything had to mean there was no hope left.
He could have dragged her, it wouldn’t make any difference now, but he picked her up tenderly in his arms as he had this morning when he’d been so full of hope. Fresh tears ran down his cheeks as he carried her through his door, down the hall and to the front door. He had to do this, he couldn’t possibly bury her anywhere without being spotted. He had to get rid of her body this way and he couldn’t even wait one more day for her to start to smell bad.
He laid her small body down in the hall and opened the heavy red front door where he’d stood next to Alec five years ago, where he’d let KerriAnne in just a few weeks ago.
Five vampires hissed on the crowded front stoop, their careless feet on the bristly woven-hemp welcome mat. How did they know when a door would open? They had to stay out of sight now, but as soon as a door opened, here they were. Five nighttime voices began whispering.
If he welcomed them in, they’d still kill him, wouldn’t they? What would it feel like? He shuddered, imagining their hands on him. Like his mother’s hands.
He couldn’t do it; he couldn’t just shove her out there to them. With pleading eyes, he said, “You guys? She was your Queen. Take her… someplace nice? Be nice to her?”
But he was being a fool again. The white faces, with mindless hunger, watched to see if he’d slip up and stick a finger beyond the line of the doorframe. As soon as he pushed her beyond the door, they’d tear her up, devour the flesh and the fragments of bone and the newly minted blood that soaked his sweatshirt and her chest underneath.
At last he did it, pushing her out to the maddened sharks. The roaring ravaging whirlwind of carnage brought Alec’s death back in vivid colors and sounds. He’d meant to take one last look at her face but in steeling himself to just do it he’d forgotten and now he accidentally got that look just as an iron finger hooked into her eye socket, squished the eyeball with a sickening glop, clawed her fair skin off in ragged strips showing blooded bone underneath…
Gagging, he slammed the door, knowing that gory final image would be how he thought of her forever.
Through their earplugs, alcohol and sleeping potion, his parents never heard. He sat with his back against the door, legs splayed, numb and empty. He’d had to push her out into the night like garbage and now the love that had touched his empty life was gone. He hadn’t even been able to bury her and mourn, like a human being.
Rage boiled inside of him. Poor, dear little KerriAnne, put outside like the garbage. That damn, murdering vampire! And that Sally and her lover: maybe they’d been taken in by the older vampire or maybe they’d joined him full on, but either way, their lies had killed her. And KerriAnne had so loved her older sister.
Jerking to life like an animated corpse, he yanked out his phone, partly just to be doing something, anything. He’d post the address of that deadly house on the internet, get vampire hunters from everywhere to converge there.
But he didn’t know the address. KerriAnne had taken him there but she hadn’t told him the house number because he hadn’t asked. The phone was warm from his pocket, warmer than his hands were.
But he didn’t need to know the address. The house was on Duncan Street. He could lead his friends there. He hadn’t seen them in weeks but he tentatively started thumbing a message to them.
“Weeks of detec wrk paid off. Found nest of vampires. Wanna party?”
How long he would have sat staring at the phone he didn’t know. But Brandon replied within five minutes. “Dude! Lng time, where the fuck?” Brandon’s way of saying “Long time no see.” And then four words that set his heart blazing. “Say where and when.”
Instantly he was making plans and as long as he was making plans, he didn’t hurt too much. Daytime or nighttime? It would have to be daytime: he wasn’t “at home” with Brandon, Satsuki and Keevian, not enough to walk the streets. And they couldn’t tell Sister Amanda. She’d met Jesse and Walter, talked with them. Where was she anyway?
And then, without any conscious reasoning, the perfect plan dropped into his head like a gift from above. With tight lips and fierce eyes, he sent three more texts, then got up to head for his empty bed. A full night’s sleep if he could get it: he had a lot to get ready tomorrow.