Copyright © 2013 by Michael Litzky
Sally had intended to tease Lavinia for a while. “You know,” she’d meant to say, “when I told my dad to go fuck himself, I was embarrassed that I didn’t know any good Chinese words to insult him with. So,” she’d meant to go on, “I made it my business to look up some Chinese insults. Like bun dan which means ‘dumb egg’ and yun toe ju nou which means ‘pig brain.’ Or I could call you chun ju, ‘stupid pig.’”
But when she saw the fright behind the tough front in Lavinia’s eyes, she just cried, “Loosen up, gweilo. It’s still a big, beautiful yes!”
Lavinia’s lovely face, and it really was a lovely face, relaxed into cautious happiness. “You really thought about it?”
Sally pulled the door slamming shut behind her and sat cross-legged beside Lavinia’s stretched-out form.
“One,” she ticked on her index finger, “I was miserable when I thought I’d lost you. I never want to feel that lost and hopeless again.
“Two,” middle finger this time, “I fought for you and almost died rather than lose you again.” Joy which she couldn’t quell was dawning on Lavinia’s face.
“Three,” ring finger, with symbolism she hadn’t planned on but delighted in. “Just being sad when someone is gone isn’t good enough; I knew a couple got married because they missed each other when they were apart but they got divorced within a month cause they couldn’t stand being together. So big, fat, fucking three, I love you with all my heart, I’m filled with joy when I’m with you. Most of the time, I mean. When I’m not wanting to kick your butt. Good God, we’ve been together 24-7 for months now and sure we’ve had fights but I love being with you.”
“Okay, I get it,” Lavinia laughed.
But Sally, unstoppable, said, “To quote someone I love, shuddup. Four,” adding the pinkie, “okay, you thought you didn’t deserve me and here comes some Chinese guilt back at you because you don’t know about guilt until you’ve had a Chinese mother, I thought you didn’t deserve me either! I never thought I’d tell you that and I feel sick that I ever thought that way but it was part of the master/slave bullshit.” Far from being offended, Lavinia actually looked relieved.
“But,” and Sally straddled Lavinia and put her face right up to hers, “That wasn’t all. I also felt something deeper than any of that from the moment I first looked into your eyes and I think, you damn Jewish-guilt-complex-on-legs, you did too.” Lavinia’s nod didn’t stop Sally. “Good, so no more nonsense about getting out of this.”
Lavinia’s eyes were shining. Sally kissed her deeply and thoroughly. Lavinia’s lips were warm even though she hadn’t been in sunlight since yesterday. Were they warmer than they’d been earlier this morning? Once again Sally treasured the crazy idea that her love was healing Lavinia.
Pulling up from the warm pool of the kiss she asked lazily, “So what was it you stopped yourself from asking me to promise back then?”
Lavinia wouldn’t meet her eyes. “Ah, just some stupid…”
“Tell me.” A warm kiss. “Tell me.” A longer, deeper kiss. “Come on, you were nobly going to let me walk away from this for my own good. What did you need me to promise?”
At last Lavinia admitted, “I was gonna ask you, if you did decide to walk, to stake me first.”
If Sally hadn’t felt so sure she would never want to walk, she would have been horrified. Even so, she couldn’t help asking, “You’d rather have died than live without me?”
Lavinia took a long time formulating her answer. “If I was still alive, I’d have been sad and miserable but I could have gone back to living without you. But I knew I didn’t want to exist as a vampire without you. I’m sorry.” She seemed ashamed, like she’d been selfish.
Sally regarded her with great tenderness. “I’ve got more to tell you. Big revelation. Should I get you into sunlight first?”
Lavinia moved her head slightly side to side. “I won’t be able to think if it’s like yesterday. I’m good.” Her eyes were still melted candy. “I’m actually amazingly good. Tell me the rest of it, tiger.”
Sally sat up, still straddling Lavinia’s body. “I was emptying the slosh chamber and thinking that if there were vampires hiding in that outhouse hole, a day ago I’d have poured the shit on their heads gleefully. But now, I couldn’t. Now I’d seen the spark of humanity that could blossom again and I couldn’t do that to them, no matter how evil they acted.
“And blam, it hit me, just like that. Think of vampires you’ve seen outside your window or pressed up against our home here. Can you picture any one of them as an individual? Can you remember what any one looked like? Race, sex, nationality, facial features, anything?”
The astonishment on Lavinia’s face matched what Sally had felt when she realized it. “No, they’re all these white, generically evil hissing things. But they must, jeez, I never once thought about it. They had to have been men and women but I couldn’t even tell.”
“You get it, right? Cause now think of the gang last night. When we were fighting them outside, they were all the same. But once you invited them in and they started getting even the smallest bit of their selves back, I could instantly tell that some of them were black, some white, some men, some women.” She wrinkled her brow. “I could even identify one heavyset Hawaiian guy and one woman of Japanese descent.
“It happened outside just now. The vampire I killed last night, in the sunlight, suddenly I could see him as a black man in his twenties or thirties. I think the sun was bringing him back just a little, but his wound where I … bit him … was too horrible for him to live, and so he died.”
Sally’s eyes widened in pain. “That’s why he looked like ecstasy and crying at the same time: he was being healed of vampirism, but he knew he’d have to die just when he was finally human again. Aw Jesus.” Sally found herself hurting over this single man caught up in the planet-wide horror.
“Coulda been something else,” Lavinia offered. “Still a fuck of a lot we don’t know.”
“I know.” Sally moved on, but still felt the tragedy of that single individual. He looked like someone I’d have enjoyed having coffee with.
“Anyway, love. This all came together for me as I was trying not to pour shit on my foot.” She laughed at that image of her big revelation. “I know something, we know something, nobody else knows: vampires can be brought back. And I know what I have to do. I have to help everyone else see that. See the vampires as individuals, help cure the ones that can be cured, help cure the world not by shutting the vampires out but by welcoming them back in.”
It had sounded so much simpler in her head. The words spoken out loud hung wavering in the air, huge, monstrous, impossible. She had no idea how to make any of those things happen, other than continuing to research with Lavinia, to find out what did and didn’t help.
Lavinia shook her head, the barest perceptible movement. Sally felt her wavering dream about to puff away at the first scornful word. Angrily, she prepared to defend a cloud castle she could no longer see clearly.
But then Lavinia spoke. “Look me in the eye, tiger. You’re wrong about one big, major thing.” Sally counted four hammering beats of her heart. “I gotta help, we gotta help. But you, you don’t gotta help. You gotta lead.”
Sally felt like she’d been hit by a solar flare.