Not that that’s what the words were, but that’s how David would say it.
With the absence of an all-hearing vampire in my room, I took a moment to be human, then jumped into the welcoming, enveloping heat of the shower, washed my hair quickly and jumped out, wrapping the towel around my chest and tucking it under my arm.
As I stepped back into my room, a sudden breeze swept through my window and knocked all the papers off my desk. “Damn it, David,” I said to myself, squatting down to pick them up. I was sure that was closed a second ago.
“Agh! David!” My heart splattered in my chest; I looked up from my precarious squat on the ground to the vampire perched on the windowsill like a pterodactyl. “You scared the living bejeezus out of me.”
“What were you doing out there?” I stood up, tapping the edges to force them into a neat stack. “You ruined my homework pile. Now I have to reorder these before I hand them in to Dad tomorrow.”
“I’ll do it for you.” He shrugged, obviously in no hurry to remove himself from the path of the whipping breeze.
“Why are you just sitting there?” I looked at him suspiciously. “Are you hiding something?”
He shook his head, one of his eyes narrowing slightly into his smile as he looked over my wet, towel-covered body. “I’m just admiring the view.”
“You better mean the stunning panoramic view of the hills and my backyard, David Knight.” I dumped my disordered papers on my desk and took a step back.
“Nope. I meant my beautiful, almost-naked girlfriend.” He jumped down from the ledge, slowly pushing the window closed behind him. “So—bowling?”
“That’s the plan,” I said, inhaling the fresh cologne wafting off this suave boy as he stepped in front of me, hair all wet and brushed back, for once, showing his forehead. He looked more like a man today in that black hoodie and grey V-neck shirt than he ever had before. It almost made me sad that he’d never grow older than nineteen. “So, do you actually want to go bowling?”
“As long as I’m with you, I will do anything.” He smiled down at me, his eyes becoming small with warmth. “But you shouldn’t stand in front of me like this, my love. You make me think inappropriate things.”
“Oh. Sorry. So—” I took a wide step back, “—are you any good at bowling?”
“You forget—” he used a louder voice to call out as I disappeared into my wardrobe, “—I lived through the fifties. Bowling was huge then.”
“Doesn’t mean you’re any good at it,” I stated, slipping my emerald-green sweater over my head.
“True. It’s more like I have to try to be bad. I’m a little too precise. I’ve also been known to break a pin or two.”
I turned around, buttoning my jeans, and met cheek-to-chest with the rain-dotted fabric of David’s jacket. “Hey! How did you even know I was finished getting dressed in here? I could’ve been naked.”
Hmpf! “Is there any point in me even dressing in a different room—with you and your mind-reading invading my privacy?”
“Etiquette?” He shrugged. Then, as his eyes traced over the low, rounded neckline of my sweater, his finger copied. “I like this.”
I closed my eyes. “I like you touching me like that.”
“So—” His finger came away, a sudden tone of urgency making my eyes open. “Are you up for a little outing today?”
“I can’t. I have a few notes and references to finish on my paper.”
“Which paper?” He followed me out of the wardrobe.
“The subject I told you not to do?”
David smiled, nodding toward my suddenly very neatly reordered pile of papers. “Or do you mean the report I just finished for you? The one on angels.”
“Angels?” I ran over to my desk and flicked through the pages. “No! I spent hours working on that, David!”
“I know. And it was a great report. But I told you not to do vampires—you didn’t listen.”
“But, why?” I spun around and leaned on the desk. “What does it matter?”
“Because you know things you shouldn’t, and if you happen to publish any minor detail of fact, and my Set were to somehow find out, I could be punished, and you—” His words trailed off.
“You could be killed. It’s not worth the risk.”
“Shh.” He rested a finger to his lip. “Your dad doesn’t know I’m here, remember? Look, I didn’t want to tell you that because I didn’t want you to worry. I just hoped you’d listen to me—for once.”
David smiled too. “I know that now.”
“So, that’s what you were doing—when I came out of the bathroom?”
“Yes.” He laughed, wiping a hand across his jaw. “You actually snuck up on me—for once. The evidence was still in my hands. I had to leave it on the windowsill and hope it didn’t blow away while you were standing there.”
“You could’ve just told me the truth.” I stepped into him, tucking my arms along his ribs. “That would’ve made me change my mind.”
“I’ll remember that for the future.” He kissed the crown of my head.
“You said they’d punish you if I published any facts. What would they do?”
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe a seven-day-burial, a month being tortured by the First Order, or a personal favourite of my Set...a complete draining,” he said casually.
“Mm.” He nodded, his mouth small. “They drain every ounce of blood from your arteries and leave you parched and partially insane in a dark room for a few weeks.”
“How do they drain you? You heal like superglue—how do they get the blood out fast enough?”
“They place a metal vise, right here—” he pinched his fingers, then spread them outward a few inches above his wrist, “—it holds the arteries open—prevents closing and healing of the wound.”
“That’s why I didn’t want to tell you. I knew you’d ask these questions and not let up until you had all the gory facts, well—” he stopped with a non-committal shrug, “—either that or not speak to me for three days.”
“Okay, well, with that in mind, a paper on angels will be great.” I pointed into his face. “And I better get an A.”
David laughed. “Don’t worry, you will. So—” he scratched his nose, “—an outing then?”
He walked away and opened my bedroom door, then turned back with a grin. “I thought I might teach you a little about history.”
“You know, I live with a History professor.” Our hands linked back together. “There’s not much you can teach me.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” he mused. “Come on, meet me at the front door in twenty seconds.”
He kissed my cheek and, with less than a sweeping breeze, disappeared out the window—closing it behind him.
“I told you not to call him that, Sam.”
“You’re not the boss of me.”
“Better than being a troll.” The front door opened. “Hi, David.”
Do me a favour, I thought, for David’s purpose, tie his shoelaces together when he’s not looking?
“I see you two still haven’t managed to find common ground.” David walked in and looked up expectantly at me.
“Hard to find a way to relate to a serpent,” Sam said, keeping his nose in his book. “Maybe I’ll just have to dumb myself down a little so we can hold a decent conversation one day.”
“See what I have to put up with?” I said to David, grabbing my coat as I shut my door.
“Sleep well?” he asked, pecking me on the cheek.
“Grow up, Sam,” I said, slamming the front door behind David and I, but an almighty crash from inside stopped me in my tracks.
“Hey!” Sam’s high-pitched screech echoed across the street. “Who tied my laces together?”
The car door opened, and a cool breeze eased the dread compressing my lungs. Across the road, wiry branches guarded iron gates, warding visitors away from the dwelling of the dead or, perhaps, imprisoning them. And the worst part was, something told me that was our destination.
“David?” I grabbed his sleeve, folding myself against his arm. “What are we doing here?”
“Come on—it’s okay. I wanna show you something.” He took my hand and led me through a gap in the creaking gates, lifting the heavy chain so I could duck under. The air smelled murky with rotting leaves under the diluted scent of dead roses, their brown petals blown away in the wind, littering the cobblestone path like confetti.
“You will. I’m taking you to an older part of the cemetery—there are trees there and it’s not so—” he looked around the yard; I looked too, at the way the low cloud in the sky made everything look dark grey and… “Eerie,” he said finally.
“Yeah, eerie is exactly what I was thinking.”
He laughed softly and held me close as we strolled past rows and rows of headstones.
In the distance, a murder of crows blackened the day, gathering at the feet of a caretaker tending a grave. They cawed loudly, their sinister fables setting me on edge.
“See that grave there?” David pointed to a cracked plaque, barely able to stand within the stone grasp of its template.
He nodded. “He’s a friend of mine. Goes by the name of Philippe now.”
“Nope. In fact, many of the graves in any ancient cemetery are actually empty. The bodies either still living, or removed for scientific research hundreds of years ago.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re not in one of these graves.” I snuggled against his shoulder.
“That’s just the thing—” He pointed to a towering oak tree at the top of a small hill, sheltering five small headstones from the threatening storm. “See that group of graves up there?”
Oh boy, when he said history, I had no idea he meant this kind of history. I caught up to him, huffing and puffing a little, and stood by his side, watching his nostalgic smile fall on the first headstone.
My head whipped back up to look at David. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, wearing a cheeky grin.
“You were nine when he died?”
“Well, who was this?” I stepped around the base of the grave, so as not to walk on the dead, and dusted some dried orange leaves off the next stone. “Mary Elizabeth Knight?”
“My mother,” his tone softened on the word.
I looked back at the grave with wide eyes, kneeling down to dust a few more leaves from the base, then traced my fingers over the stone carving of letters. “Died in childbirth, eighteen-ninety-four.”
The inscription on her headstone made me sad. She never made it to motherhood; they couldn’t even give her the dignity of citing that she’d been a beloved wife and mother? Only died in childbirth. It seemed so cold.
“Even still,” I said, dusting off my jeans as I stood back up, “it sounds cold.”
“I know.” He nodded, considering the grave. “My father was destroyed when she died. He was expected to put up a strong front, but his grief was so deep that he became a recluse—couldn’t even make arrangements for her burial. In the end, Father John had to step in and take charge.”
“Yeah. The worst part is—” he pointed to the word Mary, “—no one ever called my mother by her real name. She was known as Elizabeth. That name should have marked her final resting place, but the priest didn’t know.”
“Uncle Arthur wanted to. He and my mother were...close, but my father forbade him. Even when Father passed, Arthur would not go against the right of a husband.”