And although it was wonderful, it was the times we sat and talked that I enjoyed the most.
Taking the remote, I turned on the television, flipping through the channels.
“What are we watching?” asked Liam, his mouth full of cookies.
“We…are…watching…this,” I finally landed on Shakespeare in Love, the opening credits just rolling. He shrugged and I settled back into his arms, munching on a cookie myself. As the movie began to play, I closed my eyes, feeling warm, comfortable and safe against Liam. He gave me a squeeze, wrapping his strong arms around me, and we settled further into the pillows. Soon the cookie tray was empty. We put it aside and sprawled out on the bed. Cuddling close to him as the movie went on, I fell asleep.
My cell phone ringing woke me up with a jolt. The room was a lot darker than the last time my eyes were open and the TV was now playing an endless infomercial. I leapt up to grab it.
“Hello?” I asked, frantic and still groggy with sleep.
“Can I speak to Amy?” said a female voice. I recognized the drone of a call center in the background, and rolled my eyes.
“No, she’s out right now,” I said and hung up, turning back to Liam who sat up abruptly, also startled by the noise.
“What time is it?” he asked, running a hand over his face.
“Uh…6” I said, and he jumped up immediately. “Everything ok? Liam?” I grabbed his arm as he shot past me, taking his coat from the hanger. “Are you ok? You look a bit pale.”
“I’m fine, but I have to go,” he said, not looking at me. He laid a quick kiss on my cheek and hurried towards the door, not even pausing for a cautious minute to make sure the hall was empty. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Amy,” he said, and practically slammed the door behind him. I stood in the middle of the floor confused, and wondering how a telemarketer cell phone call had possibly offended him.
Mind you, we had never fallen asleep together. While comfortable for me, I realized it may have made him feel uncomfortable - especially this early on. With a shrug, I switched off the TV and pulled my hair into a bun. I had homework to finish anyway.
Around 10pm, I closed my books, sighing. I was well into the work I needed to do, and I could have kept going, had it not been for that sound again. Every evening, around this time, I could hear someone crying as if their soul was breaking through the walls. At first I assumed it was a homesick student, or maybe a student who had a bad day - something that would be temporary and go away. But this was continuous as if they were on a timer. Every night at dark, it sounded like someone was being tortured.
I checked my phone for messages; something to distract me. It seemed the whole world was busy tonight, and there was still no word from Liam. I stood up to grab a sweater, checked my appearance in the mirror briefly and went out the door.
The hallways were quiet and empty. I knew the sound was always coming from my left side, and so I ventured that way, careful to make sure my steps were quiet. Just a little way down, to my left, was a hallway that led to a fire escape. No one ever went down there. The light was constantly broken and the door was always locked. But, glancing back to my room, I realized it would make sense if the sound was coming from there.
I walked down the hallway, using my phone as a flashlight as I neared the end of it. Biting my lip, I casually tried the door, looking around for another alternative. To my surprise, it was open this time.
I looked up quickly, to make sure I wasn’t about to set off a trip wire and a fire alarm. One thing I had learned from sneaking around the school in my younger days was what the alarm system looked like. However, this door had no wiring, just the sign, and I wondered if it was just a decoy.
There was a set of stairs behind the door, again badly lit. Using my phone, I could see that there was dust everywhere, aside from the middle, where there were footprints. Someone had been here, and recently as well.
Taking a deep breath to steel myself, I started down the steps, making sure my foot was firmly on one step before I went to the next one. I was definitely moving in the right direction, the noise was getting louder.
At the bottom of the steps was a huge steel door that looked like it was left over from another century. The moaning was coming from in there, and the door was slightly ajar. Even though I knew I shouldn’t, I couldn’t resist. Creeping forward, I peered through the crack.
What I saw was a sight I will never forget.
Liam was chained to the wall, cuffs around his wrists and hands that he was trying to break free of. But it was his face that would stick in my mind forever. Pale as a corpse, his teeth nearly poking out of his mouth in their length and sharpness, his eyes were black, and his muscles seemed more defined. He didn’t look like the Liam I knew at all, more like a dark shadow of himself. What softened me was that he seemed to be in pain.
“Liam?” I squeaked, my voice barely above a whisper. His head snapped up and he snarled at me, causing me to jump back.
“Amy,” he said his voice devoid of emotion. I turned, but he reached out, confined by the chains. “Wait, Amy….don’t go. You’re going to have to find out eventually, anyway.”
“Find out WHAT?” I asked, unable to take my eyes off what he had become. Liam laughed, although there was no humor in his tone.
“What do you think?” he asked. “Look at me. Look at me and tell me what do you think?”
“Are you…sick?” I asked, taking a step forward again. “Is there something wrong? Because I can deal with being sick, Liam, obviously.”
“And part of the reason I can deal with you is that you are,” he said, looking straight into my eyes. “Your blood does not smell as tempting as a normal person would. Your illness is my blessing.”
“How could you say that?” I asked. “How could you say that…?”
“Amy,” he shook his head, and then groaned again. Out of sympathy, I took another step forward, even though I was trembling in fear. “You don’t have to be afraid. These chains have held me almost every night for three years. They’ll hold now. And even if they don’t…I won’t hurt you, Amy. Ever.”
Suddenly, it dawned on me, all the facts swimming in my head. Stunned, I felt dizzy, and sat on the ground, a few feet from Liam. I held my head, trying to make sense of the clues he was giving me.
“What do you think?” he asked, baring his fangs to me. The word burned on my tongue, but I didn’t want to say it. I felt like I was going to pass out.
“Yes, Amy, it’s a joke. An elaborate hoax, and every night I visit the hair and makeup department in the hopes of tricking you,” he turned his face towards mine, and I saw the scars of tears.
“Why are you crying?” I asked, sympathy overtaking me. He winced.
“Why?” I was here now, and whether I believed him or not, I wanted answers.
“Legend has taught you to believe that vampires are forever in their demonic form, day and night, and can’t walk in the sun,” he said, leaning against the wall. “But the truth is, the reason you don’t see vampires in the sunlight is because we are human during the day. And every night, as darkness takes the city, we die and change. It’s a painful process and we crave blood every second of the night. And then, as the sun rises, our hearts start to beat again, our demonic form recedes, and we change back.”
“That night. We first kissed,” I spoke in a voice I felt was not my own. “I saw…you looked different.”
“Yes. I shouldn’t have stayed that long,” he said, shaking his head. “But then, we didn’t expect you.”
He laughed at that.
“Yes, she knows. And unlike Peter, who thinks I should stay in every night and fight it, Porsche encourages me to be who I am. If I go out at night, it’s always with her.”
“Peter locks you up here?” I said, aghast and he nodded.
“Don’t look so surprised, Amy, it’s my choice. As much as I crave blood, I don’t really want to spend every night on a killing spree.”
“Sometimes,” he said, although he seemed truly sorry for it. “As the popular stories go, we can survive on animal blood, although it’s not always very fun.”
I fell silent. I couldn’t deny what he was saying. There was too much evidence in front of me.
“Is that why you hang out with Porsche? Her blood is infected?”
“And she’s fun,” he gave me a cheeky grin. “But nothing compares to you.”
“And that’s why you chose me.” I said. “At the audition.”
This time, his face darkened, and he shook his head.
“No, Amy. I chose you because you truly were the best. Something drew me to you, and I didn’t know what it was. But you weren’t the only girl who tried out who had a chronic illness. You weren’t the first and you won’t be the last. It was your raw talent that got you chosen … that’s all.”
I took a deep breath, drawing my knees up to my chest.
“Do you sleep?” I asked, unable to rein in my curiosity. He nodded.
“I do. You saw me do it. Just not regularly. We don’t need as much sleep as humans, so usually, a quick nap from dawn to the start of school does me fine, and perhaps a power nap during the day. Nothing to throw my schedule off,” he shrugged.
“So it hurts?” I asked, and he nodded.
“I die. And then, just when I get used to it, I live again.”
A silence came over us. I placed my head on my knees, trying to make sense of everything that had happened. My head was spinning. It seemed unreal and yet I couldn’t deny what was staring me in the face.
“Are you immortal, Liam?” I asked, and he nodded, watching my face. I knew I could hide the reaction that came over it. Looking immortality in the face, and challenging it with my own weak body; my own clear mortality, made my chest ache. Tears sprung to my eyes, and although I turned away, I knew that Liam still saw them.