I brought the phone up to my ear and tried to convince my heartbeat to calm down. “Hello?” I said. It sounded inane to me — anticlimactic in the face of my panic attack — but I trusted myself to sound normal to Fumiko. She probably thought most of my erratic behaviour was inane.
“Abby?” Fumiko asked. Her voice was hushed. “Is something wrong?”
My hammering heartbeat seemed to just stop from shock. I could’ve understood it if Megan was the one asking – Megan had always been able to tell what I was feeling. But how the heck was Fumiko seeing through me? We were friends, sure, but that was mostly just because we were both friends with Megan, so Fumiko was stuck with me by association.
“How… No… Why would you ask me that?” I stammered. I’d clearly misjudged things. Not only had Fumiko been shipping Megan and I, but now she could apparently tell when I’d been having a panic attack, too.
Fumiko snorted. I could practically hear her rolling her eyes at me. “You called my phone at the crack of dawn and didn’t leave a message. Given recent events it wasn’t too hard to come up with some bad scenarios based on that.” Her voice was still hushed, but I thought I heard some bemusement replace the worry. “I take it everything’s fine, then?”
No. I’m freaked out because I don’t really know if I’m alone or not. I’ve locked myself into the bathroom so at least I’ll know if they come to get me. Unless they’re already in here, giggling to themselves and waiting for me to let my guard down before they stake me. My heart started hammering again.
“Everything is fine,” I lied. They’d probably un-stake me once I’d been chained down somewhere. Then they’d carve bits out of me while I remained conscious, unable to pass out thanks to being undead. Knowing Mr. Eyelids, they’d probably start with my face. I shuddered. At least that would be better than hobgoblin speed dating.
Unless torture was some kind of sick foreplay for them. Oh god, I did not want to be speculating about that. I tried to focus more on Fumiko instead. “Why are you whispering?” I asked.
Fumiko chuckled. She had a deep, throaty chuckle that she didn’t let out much. “Megan’s still asleep,” she said. “So is Katherine. You’re just lucky I got up for breakfast or I would be too.” The good humor faded from Fumiko’s voice. “Abby… Look, I know you want to beat yourself up for calling Megan after Mr. Salvatore grabbed you. But you have got to talk to her. She has been a wreck. She’s worried about you and, frankly, I’m worried about her. She’s barely eaten and yesterday she was popping glucose tablets like they were candy.”
Megan was hypoglycemic: she suffered from low blood sugar, especially if she didn’t watch her diet or had been drinking. But that meant, in a sense, you could argue that glucose tablets were candy. Just… medicinal grade candy. And I was trying to dodge the guilt trip Fumiko had laid out by thinking about stupid shit like whether or not medicine and candy have to be mutually exclusive.
It wasn’t working.
“And it doesn’t help that Katherine bristles every time your name comes up,” Fumiko continued. “Which is about every ten minutes when Megan is awake. Frankly, I’m starting to feel like a fourth wheel around here.”
I blinked in confusion. “Then who’s the third?” I asked dumbly. Megan, Fumiko, and Katherine had gotten a hotel room together – so either I was missing something or Fumiko was much worse at math than I was.
“You are!” Fumiko’s voice raised in exasperation. “As near as I can tell, that’s what has Katherine so pissy. She thought she was going to have Megan all to herself, but even if I hadn’t crashed her slumber party you’d still be driving more of the conversation than she was.”
I choked back a vindictive giggle. I didn’t like Katherine any more than she liked me, so hearing about her frustration tickled a bitchy part of my sense of humor. Megan could do better.
But on the other hand, the person Megan wanted was me, and that wasn’t going to work out for all sorts of reasons. Not the least of which was: I wasn’t good enough for her, either.
Oh, and I already had a girlfriend. The urge to laugh collapsed into ashes when I thought about how Megan would react to that.
“I’m sorry,” I told Fumiko. “I… well, I was going to try to talk to her this afternoon.” Fumiko might have accused me of trying to punish myself, but arranging to talk to Megan again actually felt like it. “And you, too,” I said. “In person. I… I need to explain myself and… and everything,” I finished lamely. “It’ll be easier in person.”
Fumiko breathed out a sigh that might’ve been too soft for me to catch if it weren’t for my nerves ratcheting up my sense of hearing. “Good,” she said. “That’s wonderful. Do you want to meet us here? I’m pretty sure Megan is planning on extending her stay until the cops let us know Salvatore has been aprehended — and we haven’t heard anything from them yet.”
The thought of another drive during daylight hours made me recoil involuntarily. “No,” I said emphatically. “Can you come meet me here?” I knew that had to sound suspicious — the last time I’d invited Megan over to see me she’d been ambushed by a vampire, after all. Fortunately, Fumiko only hesitated a second before capitulating. Maybe she just thought my fears of driving and public transportation were keeping me stuck in one place.
“Okay,” Fumiko said. “Where are you?”
“I’m still staying at Hans’ place,” I replied. I was slightly amazed at how easy it was getting to say that.
“Yeah, I figured,” Fumiko said. “But where is that?”
For a second the question left me frozen. The truth was: I didn’t know. When we’d come from the hospital I’d kept my eyes shut against the sun — and the hospital wasn’t really a good point of reference for me, anyway. I might’ve been able to give directions from Megan’s apartment, except last night I’d been too frazzled from my run-in with Melvin to have paid attention. “Uh… I don’t actually know how to get here,” I admitted. “Or the address.”
Fumiko sighed again. This time loudly enough that I knew I’d been meant to hear it. “Abby, you’re hopeless,” she teased — but at least she sounded more bemused than annoyed. “Put Hans on so he can give directions, okay?”
“Um. Hans isn’t here,” I said. “I made him go to work so there’d be someone to explain to the office about Mr. Salvatore. Oh! But he should be back this afternoon. I’m pretty sure he’s going to just send everyone home early today. So I can call you back when he gets home.”
“Yeah,” Fumiko drawled. “Sorry: no deal. As soon as Megan hears you want to talk to her she’s going to go bonkers with impatience. I am not going to sit around and watch Katherine stew while Megan frets about when we can come see you.”
I winced at the mental image. I already knew Katherine hated me. I didn’t like the thought of her dwelling on that hatred. Especially since I was pretty sure I was going to have to rely on her to keep Megan safe from me. And on top of that, I’d caused Megan way more grief than she deserved already.
And I missed her.
I didn’t want to try explaining about werewolves and vampires and faeries without Hans to back me up… but maybe it would be okay if Megan and Fumiko came over earlier, anyway. If they brought Katherine she could keep an eye on me. And I’d just fed, so I was probably safer to be around right now than I would be this afternoon. And I could call Hans and ask him to expedite things at the office.
I knew I was making justifications to myself, but I didn’t care. When it all boiled down the facts were: I was lonely and frightened and needed to see my friends. If I had to put up with Katherine in order to see Megan and Fumiko in person, that was a sacrifice I was willing to make. I’d be able to pretend everything was normal for a little bit. Explaining all the crazy could wait until Hans got home.
“Okay,” I said. “You can get directions from Katherine. In fact, I think I need to talk to her, too, so she should come along. Anyway, she knows where Hans’ place is: it was Mr. Salvatore’s house before he decided he had to move.”
I was so relieved to have a plan laid out that I didn’t even think about how it would sound from Fumiko’s point of view.
“Are you insane?!” Fumiko practically shrieked. Being yelled at made my anxiety skyrocket, which in turn dialed my senses up even higher. In the background I heard a sleepy Megan ask Fumiko who she was talking to. Fumiko ignored the question. “Abigail, they haven’t found Mr. Salvatore yet. What the hell are you doing in his house? Alone?!”
“Abby?” Megan asked in the background. I heard the rustle of hastily thrown aside blankets followed by the beat of bare feet on carpet. “Is that Abby?” Megan demanded from much closer.
Fumiko muttered an obscenity and took the phone from her ear. I heard her tell Megan: “Talk some sense into your girlfriend,” and realized the phone was changing hands.
“Abby?” Megan cried. “Are you okay? I’ve been worried sick! Why didn’t you call me? Oh, thank God you’re okay. Please, tell me you’re okay.”
“I-I’m fine,” I stammered. In the background I could hear Fumiko waking up Katherine. “I’m okay,” I said with more authority, “and I’m perfectly safe. I can’t explain over the phone, but it’s okay. You can come over this afternoon and we’ll talk, alright?” This afternoon, when Hans was home. What had I been thinking, telling Fumiko I was in Mr. Salvatore’s old house? “Just stay right where you are and I’ll call you as soon as Hans is home, okay?”
I heard Megan squawk in protest before she could reply, and then Fumiko came on the line. She must have plucked the phone out of Megan’s hand. “Alright, Abby,” Fumiko said. “We’re coming over, so just sit tight until we get there.”
“No!” I protested. “I mean: I’m fine. I’m perfectly safe. I just need Hans to be here when I explain…”
“Yeah, no deal,” Fumiko interrupted me. I heard her say, away from the phone: “Megan, the sooner you get dressed the sooner we can leave.” Then Fumiko spoke directly to me again.
“Abby, I’m sure you have your reasons for why you are where you are. And they might even be good ones. But we’re your friends. I am not going to sit around waiting for an explanation, only to end up watching Megan tear herself to pieces because something happened to you while we were just sitting on our asses at the hotel, waiting for an explanation that we never ended up getting because we weren’t around when whatever it was happened. We’ll be over as soon as Katherine can get us there. And I really hope your reasons for sitting around — alone — at Mr. Salvatore’s house are good. Because otherwise I’m not going to stop Megan from hauling you back to the hotel. Hell, I’ll help.”
I stumbled after a reply, but couldn’t form one. This time Fumiko hung up on me.