Copyright © 2014 by Michael Litzky
In a room as dark as his thoughts, Jesse Casselberger sat in bed, studying his sleeping husband. Walter slept on his back and his breathing was as innocent as ever: his lips pursed, then parted with a soft “poooo” as he breathed out.
He had let Walter hold him like always when they went to bed. Thank God Walter hadn’t been amorous because he couldn’t have made love and if he’d said he was too tired, which he’d never done before, Walter would have known something was wrong. As soon as Walter was asleep, Jesse had wriggled out of his arms and sat up. He had been sitting, hollow and exhausted, for hours.
He thought about the horrible time ten years ago, just before they made a monogamous commitment, when Walter had left for two weeks to have sex with old flames, total strangers in bars and probably even prostitutes while Jesse tortured himself with graphic, grainy details. He had never known such desolation of spirit. His mantra had been that Walter was having one final fling before settling down to marriage (though they couldn’t legally marry at that time). He hadn’t really believed it, so when Walter did come back, full of remorse and tenderness and ready to commit, Jesse hadn’t stopped to consider wayside things like self-respect or sexually transmitted diseases. If Walter hadn’t volunteered to be tested, Jesse knew he would never have insisted.
It was finally safe to think about that time because it was too frightening to think about Walter’s second disappearance four years ago, shortly after he became a vampire. Or about the look on Jeremy’s face just before Walter disappeared from the doorway and how well that fit with a dozen other bits of strange behavior in the last weeks.
Maybe if he didn’t look at it too closely an innocent explanation would pop up.
Just ask him, Jesse told himself. Just wake him up and ask him. That’s what Sally would do.
But that wasn’t true. Sally had guessed too, he was sure of it. But she hadn’t asked, she had bailed.
Somebody was moving in the house. Jesse froze.
Heavy feet: Charla going to the bathroom? Or a white-faced Jeremy with hollow eyes, stake in hand, ready to kill the vampire he hated?
But the bathroom door creaked open. It had to be Charla.
The thought occurred to him that if he went out into the hall, he could talk to her. But she was a hard person to talk to in the best of times. There was no relief there.
He put his face in his hands and bent nearly horizontal with anguish. What should he do? What should he do?
Beside him Walter breathed steadily. “Pooooo.” And again, “Pooooo.” And again.
Sally felt Lavinia stir in her arms.
She came instantly awake, as she had trained herself to do, to be there to bring Lavinia back to full humanity.
She was ready to say out loud a dozen things that would remind Lavinia of who she was: You’re Lavinia Starr, your grandparents were named Stryjewski, they kept the name at Ellis Island but Americanized it after five years of having a Polish name with the word “jew” right in it; your mother lives in Florida and she’d love me if she ever met me; you’ve never been monogamous in your life until now, you use to go to women-only sex parties and you hated the taste of dental dams…
Lavinia’s eyes opened with no disorientation. She looked directly at Sally in the dim glow of a streetlamp not quite filtered out by the camper’s stiff curtains, as if she had seen her before her eyelids lifted.
“I think you get to stand down, tiger,” she said with sleepy triumph. “I went to sleep with your face in my mind. And just now, I felt that call. You know. That call. And I called on you instead.” She smiled and held out her arms. “Wasn’t even close enough to be exciting.”
Sally floated into her beloved’s arms, cherished the strong hands on her back, kissed back with tears in her eyes.
If Lavinia could wake up without the despair and the darkness, without needing a human Sally Yan to call her back, there was little left to stop Sally from joining her, except her sureness that she needed to be human for the darkness they were soon to face. But then, they could both be superhuman!
If I don’t screw it up by ordering her out while I’m still human and she’s a vampire. If whatever we’re about to face doesn’t destroy us. If we don’t kill ourselves tomorrow morning with my crazy idea…
“Shhh,” Lavinia said, though Sally hadn’t made a sound. “There’s only us here, there’s only now. All there is here is love. Fuck the world outside.”
Sally pushed everything else away and obeyed hungrily.
Amanda Malreaux walked the pre-dawn streets of San Francisco, dressed warmly this time so as not to catch another foolish cold. The vampires kept their distance, but followed her as she knew they would.
The Sisters were all worried about her; she understood this. She was still amazed at her presumption on that first night a week and a half ago, the night she got sick. But she had talked to the Minister Provincial and explained what she planned to do. The Minister Provincial had questioned her long and intently, but had finally said, “If this’s what you feel you’ve gotta do, Amanda, I won’t try to stop you. But you’re scared as a mouse at a cat wedding, m’dear. Are you sure? Really really sure?”
She had nodded, as sure then as she was now. She smiled at the image of herself under that tree. Then she put the thought aside. Her work was here and now.
She stopped in the middle of Cesar Chavez Street, five lanes wide here with its left turn lane. This place was good and wide, and would be perfect except that the dawn would soon be here, and with it the traffic. And so she headed for tiny Juri Commons, that slender, block-long city park that stretched at a 30 degree angle between Guerero and Valencia Streets. It would do just as well.
KerriAnne had always been scared. Attacks of disorientation and terror came more often now because she was so hungry. Hunger gnawed at every empty artery and vein in her body, worse than any food hunger had ever been.
Jeremy sat in the bed still naked and held her hands. She was dressed to depart for the day. The light was dim but brighter than it had been. She had to leave very soon or there wouldn’t be time to get to her hidey hole.
But he had presented a dizzying possibility. What if she didn’t have to hide from the sun? What if she didn’t have to spend the day paralyzed, with nowhere to hide from her thoughts? What if she didn’t have to leave this one she loved so intensely, not even for the day?
It was so hard to go. She whispered, just needing a little more persuading, “You saw it? You’re sure you saw a vampire in the sun?”
Perhaps it was sunlight she craved. She faced her sweet man who would never ever forgive her if she drank the blood of a human now, and felt his hands on hers and breathed in tiny gasps as she gathered what courage she had to take this new risk.
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