My senses were so focused in on Mom that I didn’t notice Emma had gotten up to follow me until she caught up with me. Startled, I turned to look at her without stopping walking. She bit her lip and tried to smile encouragingly at me.
“I told you I was going to hold your hand for this,” Emma said. She followed up her statement by catching hold of my hand. I found myself holding hers back, and some of my anger melted. Just a little.
“Thank you,” I said — and then we were at the restroom. I pushed open the door with my free hand and led the way in to confront my mom.
The bathroom was rather large for such a small restaurant. It had a three-sink-wide counter with a long mirror over it, a half couch across from that — for people to sit on if they’d only ducked in to the restroom to wait out some creepy guy who’d been following them, I figured — and two stalls. Mom was at the middle sink. Her purse was on the counter beside her, and she actually did have makeup set out on the ledge below the mirror. There were a couple of crumpled tissues by the faucet’s knobs, probably from wiping her eyes before we’d gotten there.
Mom paused in rummaging through her purse when we entered. She looked at Emma and I, but her gaze didn’t make it past our entwined hands before she looked away. Her mouth was set in a strained, sour expression and she went back to sifting through the contents of her purse. Given how small it was, she was obviously pretending and only doing it to have the excuse of not paying attention to us.
Frost seemed to burn my veins as some of the anger that had melted decided to come back.
“So, Mom,” I said. “I know you didn’t listen when I said I was going to be staying here. And I know you don’t want to listen when I say I’m in a relationship — two relationships — that are worth staying here for. And frankly, I don’t care. I am and you’re going to just have to deal with it.”
Brilliantly done, me. There’s nothing quite like starting off confrontationally to get the desired response from someone. Of course, that assumed I had a desired response. As I stood there, it distantly occurred to me that at this point there really was no way this conversation could turn out well. Did I honestly expect mom to accept Emma? No, not really. Lesbians were lumped in with those women, in my mom’s opinion. And she probably didn’t even think bisexuals were any more real than… than vampires.
And yet, even assuming the conversation would go badly was built on the assumption that there was a conversation at all. Mom turned back to the mirror, but didn’t even meet the eyes of my reflection. I shivered and thanked my good luck that vampires weren’t actualy invisible in mirrors. “Say something,” I said. “I’m not going to leave until we have this out. I’m sick of you ignoring things, and frankly: this is too important to me to let you.”
Silence. I grit my teeth, and Emma squeezed my hand. Anger, frustration, and sorrow jumbled in a barely noticeable undercurrent to my thoughts. I shouldn’t have come here, not to a place with windows like those at noon: that was obvious now. Even though I was young and the sun was supposed to be tolerable when I’d recently fed, I somehow felt like I hadn’t had blood all day. Fuck, I should just kill her and be done with it. No! Bad Dead Abby! If you do that, Living Abby will just do something stupid in a grief induced bout of idiocy. Fight with your words, not your fangs, and you can eat Emma or Hans later.
“Is this because I like a girl?” I asked, the accusation dripping with derisive incredulity. “God, mom, I always thought you were too prim and proper to be that openly bigoted.”
That got her attention. Mom spun toward me. “Bigoted?!” My mom shot back. Her eyes widened in outrage and anger, which let me see that they actually were red and her makeup smudged. I ignored that. “No. My only concern about you and… Emma, was it? My only concern for Emma is for Emma. Really, Abigail, a boyfriend and a girlfriend?” My mom sneered. “I raised you better. With a man like that, you’re clearly not a lesbian so stop jerking this poor girl’s heart around. Honestly, just because you can’t help acting out it doesn’t give you the right to hurt other people with your make believe.”
With an effort of supreme will I managed to keep my voice level and my darker urges under control. Where was Katherine when you needed her? I could really use someone killably expendable right now. “I’m not pretending, Mom. Emma and I are an item, and if you’re so upset that you’ve become hell bent on denying it then the only person stuck in make believe is you.”
But mom had already changed tactics — or at least remembered she was trying to ignore me. Instead of responding to me, she keyed in on Emma. “I’d thought that Hans fellow was mistreating both of you,” she said, “but it turns out that my daughter is the one with the morality of a harlot. Yes, I’m upset — and you should be, too. You think too little of yourself, dear, if you’re willing to be less than someone’s everything. Really, you seem like a nice girl. Do yourself some good and don’t settle for someone who’s too greedy to think you’re enough for them.”
“Mom, leave her out of this,” I growled even though I knew Emma was rather integral to the issue at hand. But she wasn’t a target, dammit! Mom showed no sign of listening, though. I felt my nostrils flare as my simmering frustration boiled away the undercurrent of sorrow and fed into my anger. I was about to say something more forceful to get Mom’s attention, but Emma drew herself up and stepped forward.
“Abigail is a fierce, passionate woman,” Emma declared. “And if you think her heart is so withered that she can’t love more than one person in more than one way, then you don’t know your own daughter. I know how she feels about me, and our relationship makes me happy.” Her hand clenched tightly around mine. “And… and I would never want to be someone’s everything! I’ve been the person in that place before, and it is hell. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, let alone someone I loved.”
Mom’s expression twisted in disgust. “I should have known I couldn’t expect someone like you to understand the point of romance,” she said dismissively. “Not if you’re so besotted you don’t even mind the fact that she’s flaunting her cheating in front of you.”
Emma threw up her free hand in frustration. “What cheating?!” she repeated. “I know about Abby’s relationship with Hans. Hell, I know Hans: he’s a kind, gentle man and — if you haven’t noticed — hella hot. If it weren’t for the fact that he’s told me he’s monogamous, I’d date him too! You might think the only thing I could possibly get out of seeing him and Abby together is jealous, but I prefer to focus on being happy that she’s happy, because ultimately that’s what you want for someone you care about: their happiness, and it doesn’t matter who’s providing it in the given moment! It’s called compersion, Helen, ever heard of it?” Emma sniffed loudly, and I could tell she was upset. I wondered how much was bleedover from her fight with Katherine, but that just made me think of Katherine bleeding. Heh. Yay. “Hell,” Emma snapped, “have you ever even felt it?”
I felt cold — the cold that came from my heart slowing to a stop. I pulled myself away from my fantasy of dealing with Katherine instead of my mom, and tried to focus on what Emma had said. That was actually a mistake: I knew Emma was speaking in anger, but what she was saying resonated too strongly with things I’d thought when I’d been hungry and talking to Mom. Could I remember her ever being happy with me?
Hell, not only couldn’t I remember Mom ever being happy with me, I couldn’t remember her ever even being happy for me! Even at graduation, there had been ostensibly polite questions about what I thought I could actually do with my degree, and how it was too bad I’d graduated in the middle of my class — how was that going to set me apart for future employers?
This conversation was pointless. I’d already realized it, but now I actually accepted it. Mom was angry. Emma was angry. I was angry. And why? Because I was insisting on interacting with someone to whom I was just an obnoxiously stubborn obligation. Someone who cared far more about how I made her look as a parent than she did about my happiness and success as a person. I started to pull Emma away. We needed to leave. I needed to collect Hans, get to his Hummer, and feed.
Then Mom laughed. It was a short, angry bark. “Imagine that: the only one of you who doesn’t want to screw everything that moves is the brutish clod. And if you believe what he says about that, then you’re not just a slut, you’re a stupid one, too.”
I hadn’t even noticed when I turned from pulling Emma away and changed my movement to a step toward mom. The sound of my slap snapping her face to the side reverberated through the restroom. I trembled and forced myself to breathe deeply: in through the nose, out through the mouth. Don’t bite, Abby. Don’t kill her. It won’t be worth it later. I knew that once I fed I would be fucked up by this whole encounter, and I knew it would be worse — much worse — if I killed anyone. But I was on the cusp of just not caring.
I was dimly aware that the heartbeats pounding in my ears didn’t include my own: just Emma’s and Mom’s. Mom’s lower jaw was open, frozen in a mix of pain and astonishment. Strangely, my vision was wet and blurry — my body wanted to insist that I was sad, even though all I felt was anger.
I let my hand drop to my side. I’d never stood up to Mom before, not really. I’d only even gotten to go to college because of Dad weighing in on my side. Somehow I didn’t think he’d be on my side after this. I couldn’t make myself care, though: why should I? Why should I care about someone who let Mom raise me like she had?
“You know,” I said quietly — and I wasn’t sure if I was talking to Mom or to Emma. “When I came here today I was so afraid my parents were going to reject me: my relationships; my autonomy as a human being, all of it. The idea absolutely terrified me. How funny is it that trying to talk to you has made me realize that would never happen? You would never give up having someone to tear down and feel superior to. So it turns out, it’s up to me to reject you. What a joke, right?”
I stepped back and pulled gently on Emma’s hand. “Come on, Emma.” As soon as I got her somewhere more private, I was going to tear open her veins. “We really need to leave before I get pissed off enough to decide to kill someone.” I heard Emma’s heart speed up. Mom’s didn’t. Maybe Mom was in shock. Maybe she thought I was being overdramatic. It didn’t matter: Emma knew I was serious.
By the time we reached the restroom door, Emma was almost dragging me away from Mom. Mom’s breathing had gotten shallow and fast. She yelled my name, but Emma paid it no heed. I barely had time to flip the cowl of my hood up and tug it low past my eyes before we burst into the restaurant and the field of those damn windows again. I kept my head down and let Emma led me to our table.
When I got there, I didn’t wait for Hans or Dad to say anything. “Hans,” I said, “we’re leaving now. I’m sorry for the awkwardness of leaving you alone with my dad, but my mom and I had to have words.” I wondered how audible those words had been to him. I still wasn’t sure how his hearing compared to mine, but I knew it was better than human.
“Dad…” I had a second of debate: did I want to burn this bridge completely? It seemed like I would find some satisfaction in it, but that would be momentary. Once I was sated, that satisfaction would turn to grief. Grieving Abby would doubtless do something stupid. And that settled it. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m not going home with you, and I’m not talking with someone who insults the people I love.” Did I love them? Not right now, no, but they were mine. Maybe I did when I was sated, but for now it was enough that they were mine to do with as I pleased, and any insult to them was an insult to me.
Emma had as much as said she loved me, though. I was going to have to take a closer look at her emotions, the next time I fed on her.
Dad sighed softly. “I’ll talk to your mom,” he said. “She needs time…”
“I don’t care what she needs,” I interrupted, “anymore than she has ever cared what I need. Don’t let her call me again. I’m blocking her number. If I answer a call from you and it’s her, I’ll block yours, too. If you ever think she honestly wants to try and talk things out again, fine: but you make the call, and I’ll pick the place, and I’ll pick the time. And I won’t answer to ultimatums anymore. When you talk to her, make sure she understands that.” Living Abby would probably cry her eyes out, but if I didn’t leave an avenue for reconciliation open, I’d probably do something stupid and try to contact Mom myself, when I was sated. And if my usual emotional, screwed up self tried crawling back to make peace then Mom would have the advantage over me.
“Mom has always been so concerned about what’s right and ‘proper’ and how things look to others; what people think of her when they look at me or at our house or at our family,” I said. “Well, now she needs to damn well think about how I see her when she shits on my life and calls it caring.” I turned toward Hans. “We’re done here,” I said bluntly. “Let’s go.”
Hans didn’t say anything. In my limited field of view I saw him shift, and I thought he might be nodding a farewell to Dad. Then Hans turned, took my free hand and threaded it through his arm, and started to walk away. I let Hans and Emma lead me to the car. Being sandwiched between them made it easy not to worry that I was about to collide with something.
When we got to the car, Hans opened the door for me and he and Emma both helped me in. Then Emma went to her side of the back seat, and Hans got in the front. “Are you okay, Abigail?” Hans asked.
I nodded, though I didn’t know if he could see it under my hood. “I will be,” I said instead. “But I need to feed. Pretty badly,” I added.
Emma slid into the middle seat and offered me her arm before I even finished talking. I looked down on it sitting in my lap. The delicate blue veins throbbed almost imperceptibly in time with her pulse. I doubted a normal human would have noticed. I wondered how much of her aura had been restored since last night, and decided I didn’t really care. At least if Emma died, Living Abby could console her self with the fact that I’d only killed someone who’d signed up for the risk. Right now all I wanted to do was to stop fighting the instinct to feed and just gorge already.
I leaned forward so my cloaked body could help block some of the sun. Then I slipped my hands free of the folds of my cloak and caught Emma’s elbow and hand. I raised her wrist to my lips. Then I viciously snapped my fangs into her flesh, releasing some of my pent up frustration. Emma’s strangled scream sounded muffled — maybe she’d put her other hand over her mouth. I really didn’t care. I moaned into the wound as life flowed into me and took the edge off my need. Then I bit in again, deeper, shredding flesh and tearing open the veins so that arterial blood could gush over my tongue.
Time to gorge, I exulted — and I didn’t care about anything else.