The basement wasn’t really that creepy. Thanks to my vampire vision, I didn’t even need to turn on the lights to see. I turned them on anyway, though, just out of habit.
The utility room also turned out to be less intimidating than expected. Contrary to all reasonable beliefs, it was not full of well-oiled bondage gear and blood-stained torture devices – or even rusty bondage gear and well-polished torture devices. Instead, it was just a narrow room with a bunch of shelves and a gun cabinet on one side, and a washer, dryer, and long deep freezer on the other.
And, tucked into a corner in the back, was a form wrapped in big plastic garbage bags secured with duct tape.
Mr. Salvatore’s corpse.
From the bulkiness of the wrapping, I had to guess Mr. Salvatore was still wrapped up in my mom’s quilt under the garbage bags. I shivered. That was fine: he could keep it.
Despite all the plastic wrapped around him, I could still smell a hint of burnt cotton and charred flesh.
I tore my gaze away from the lumpen form before it could start to freak me out more. I dropped my bags on the freezer and turned to look for the light switch. I didn’t need lights to see in here anymore than I had in the larger basement room – but I definitely needed them to be on.
I didn’t like going closer to Mr. Salvatore’s corpse, but the washer and dryer were toward that end of the utility room. I found detergent on one of the shelves across from the washer and got a load started. I couldn’t stop glancing at Mr. Salvatore’s corpse. I was expecting it to tear its way out of its wrappings and attack me.
I gave serious thought to having Hans go out and get a pickaxe and cement mix so we could seal Mr. Salvatore under the floor until the Directors showed up to take him away. Not that the idea of a corpse under the floors wouldn’t give me nightmares, anyway.
Once the laundry was started I beat a hasty retreat. I left the light on in the utility room, though.
I could have gone up to check on Emma’s progress, but I didn’t. I sat down on the couch instead. The delicates’ cycle – because most of what Megan had bought for me yesterday was delicate or dry clean only – would take about half an hour. I skimmed the shelf of DVDs next to the television, but they were all movies. I didn’t want to distract myself with something that would take longer than my laundry. Not if Emma was going to be waiting on me before going to sleep.
Besides, I wouldn’t have been able to focus on a movie anyway. I was coming down from the scare of running into Melvin; from the forced high of pretending to be decisive. And I was feeling guilty.
I frowned. I still didn’t know what to do about Megan. Or Fumiko, for that matter. And I didn’t want to think about it. But I wasn’t going to figure anything out if I kept ignoring it.
I chewed my lower lip. I knew that just ignoring the issue wouldn’t help. And promising myself I would avoid Megan and Fumiko just wouldn’t work. Not only would it be shitty and hypocritical of me to keep Hans and Emma close while keeping Megan and Fumiko at arm’s length, but it also wouldn’t keep them safe. Not if I got hungry and vampire Abby decided to break living Abby’s self-imposed quarantine.
In fact, avoiding them would make things even more dangerous. If I got hungry and went off the rails, Megan and Fumiko would have no idea what I was capable of or how to protect themselves. They wouldn’t even know what to watch out for, or who to check with to find out if I was keeping a steady diet.
I was going to have to tell them I was a vampire. They needed to know.
I made a frustrated noise and flopped over on the couch. I wasn’t ready to come out to them. I didn’t think I ever would be ready to tell my best friends that I was a blood sucking monster… but beyond that, I didn’t have anything lined up to keep them safe from the fae. I wouldn’t until I’d talked to Hans and Emma’s friends, which meant vampire-me was still better at coming up with solutions to my problems than I was.
It kind of pissed me off, actually.
I decided to call Fumiko. I wanted to talk to Megan, but I didn’t trust myself not to let everything spill out as soon as I heard her voice. Maybe I have codependency issues, but I already felt shitty and guilty and depressed about avoiding her calls all day. Fumiko, on the other hand, was safe. She was a friend but she wasn’t the person I went to for comfort when my world was falling apart around me. I probably wouldn’t blurt out anything I couldn’t pass off as me being crazy to Fumiko, and I could ask her to check on Megan for me.
It would have to do.
I fished out my phone and flipped it open. A fresh wave of guilt sucker punched me. I had thirty-eight missed calls!
I pulled up the incoming calls history and scrolled through the numbers and times in a fit of emotional masochism. Megan had called a bunch of times after lunch. Then there were a couple of tries from Fumiko mixed in. And then….
I sat up and scrabbled at the phone, pulling up the number and calling back. I forgot all about my plan. I didn’t have time for plans.
This was pure damage control.
The phone on the other end rang twice. I didn’t know if it was taking forever between rings, or if it was just me. Maybe both. Maybe I’d panicked enough to unconsciously pull a vampire time whammy.
Two rings was plenty of time for me to figure out what had happened, though. This morning Megan had tried to call me and I hadn’t answered – so she’d asked Fumiko to check up on me. Megan had clearly tried to get ahold of me again this afternoon – and when I hadn’t answered, she’d asked Fumiko to try. But by then I’d put my phone on silent, so when Fumiko hadn’t been able to reach me either, Megan had been forced to try someone else.
My mom picked up on the third ring.
Mom always waited for the phone to ring at least twice. Less than that made you seem rushed, in her opinion. I didn’t care: I couldn’t stand to let my own phone ring, an idiosyncrasy my mom knew about and disapproved of. She disapproved of a lot of my idiosyncrasies.
“Um,” I said, “mom? Uh… hi.”
“Abigail.” My mom’s voice was cold and level. “It’s after ten. I hope you have a good reason for calling so late.”
I swallowed. I didn’t know if she was upset because Megan had told her about last night and I hadn’t called home, or if she was just upset because I was calling so late. Calling after ten was rude – that was one of the hundreds of rules of proper decorum mom had tried to teach me growing up, and I had apparently failed to learn.
Depending on how the conversation I was guessing she’d had with Megan had gone, I imagined mom was upset for both reasons.
“I… I had a kind of crazy day,” I hedged lamely. I seized an excuse that might sound legitimate. “And I didn’t get a chance to buy a new phone charger until just a little bit ago. Sorry.” Of course, I didn’t say that my phone had been dead because that would have been a lie and mom always catches me in lies. But the implication might be enough to save my butt, if I was lucky.
I crossed my fingers and bit my lip. Hey: magic was real, so maybe the fingers bit would help.
Mom sighed. A long suffering sigh that I knew all too well. “And of course you didn’t think to borrow someone else’s phone. Do you know how much your dad and I have been worrying? And we wouldn’t even have known what happened until you had a moment of sense! We had to hear about what happened from your friend. Do you realize what it’s like to find out your daughter was assaulted? To have to find it out second hand?”
My mom’s voice dripped with disappointment. Disappointment in me, in how I was handling the situation, and, no doubt, in Megan. Mom did not approve of my friendship with Megan. Mom had a strong suspicion that Megan was one of those girls.
“I’m okay,” I said. “I was going to call, honest.” That was only a minor fib – I would’ve called once I’d thought to. God knows when that would have been.
There was silence on the other end of the line. Mom didn’t approve of displaying anger. It wasn’t ladylike. She employed silence instead of screaming.
I started to fidget. I don’t cope well with imagining other people’s disapproval of me. Knowing for a fact that I was receiving the full brunt of mom’s disapproval was far worse. Her silence could always make me break – it was a lot louder in my head than any yelling.
When mom decided I’d suffered enough for being a bad daughter, she sighed again. “At least it’s over,” she said. “And maybe now you’ll see some sense and start making better life decisions. I can’t say I didn’t see something like this coming – it’s bad enough that you insisted on living alone in the city, but then you had to make friends like those. It was only a matter of time before they drew the wrong sort of attention toward you, you do realize that now, don’t you?”
I squeezed my eyes shut and didn’t answer. I felt sick. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry, I told myself. Mom didn’t approve of crying. It was attention seeking and obnoxious, and it would make your face splotchy and red. But it wasn’t my fault Mr. Salvatore was a psychotic vampire obsessed with Megan’s blood! It wasn’t Megan’s, either!
I couldn’t say that, though. And listening to the accusatory tone of mom’s voice, I couldn’t help but feel that what had happened was our fault. I knew mom thought so, at least. Despite my best efforts my eyes were wet. I tried, and failed, to hold back a sniffle.
“There, there, Abigail,” mom said. “There’s no need to make a fuss. These things happen when we make mistakes. That’s how we learn, and now you know better.” There was as much self-satisfied certainty in mom’s voice as confidence. She hadn’t approved of my taking a job in the city instead of moving back home after college. She hadn’t approved of Fumiko’s unladylike athleticism and bluntness. She’d actively disapproved of Megan. And now she clearly felt vindicated.
“Now,” mom said, “your friend informed us that you weren’t staying with her when I asked.” She sniffed in disgust. “I imagine she didn’t even offer,” mom added, “but that’s just to be expected of that sort.”
I didn’t give her a chance to offer, I protested silently. She was in the hospital and I didn’t go to see her. I’m the bad friend.
“Good riddance,” mom continued – oblivious to my unvoiced outcry. “You’re better off with family to take care of you. I do hope you see that now?” The question was rhetorical. I didn’t have it in me to answer, anyway. “So tell me where you’re staying,” mom concluded, “and tomorrow your father and I will drive up and bring you home.”