“They feel the same. It’s…it’s not us Elsa, and it’s not you either it’s just that some things can’t happen. I see that now and I’m sorry that we let it get this far.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It seemed as though it wasn’t really Josh speaking at all, as though someone else was speaking through him, but I didn’t know if that was just my own wishful thinking or not. The world seemed to shimmer and lurch around me. I felt as though I was going to lose my balance.
“I think it’s better that we stop seeing each other. All of us,” he added. That broke my soul. Everything was being ripped away from me and I couldn’t stop any of it. My mind was frantic, trying to figure out what had gone wrong, but I just couldn’t think of any of it. My eyes darted from side to side and I tried to make sense of it all, but I just couldn’t. The boys were the only thing that made this place palatable and without them I was back to being the lonely unwanted girl from the orphanage. Was I never meant to be happy? How was I going to continue the Slayer bloodline if I couldn’t even fall in love right?
Adam warned me about this as well. He said that he had hurt someone in the past and now I had been hurt too. I wanted to get out of there. I needed fresh air. There were so many things I wanted to say to Josh. I wanted to scream, and shout, and rant, and tear out my hair, but everything was jumbled and my lips felt locked together. There was a lump in my throat and a sick twisting in my stomach. I staggered away from him and my name on his lips became a whisper. I went towards the light. My mind was hazy and dazed. All I could think was about how good I had felt with them, and how I would never feel that way again.
I stepped out of the entrance and was blinded by the sun. I was so lost in my own fractured soul that I didn’t hear the roar of an engine or feel the tremor of the car that wanted to speed away. I looked around, panicked but it was too late. Even my superior Slayer agility wasn’t quick enough to save me.
But Josh was.
He leapt out at me and dragged me away. The car swerved. Tires screeched. It narrowly missed me and the horn blared. Gravel crunched loudly as it sped away past the fountain and disappeared into the distance. Breath rushed out of me as I looked down to check myself for injuries, surprised that I was unharmed. I heard Josh wince beside me. At first I assumed he had been wounded by the car, but that didn’t make any sense because he hadn’t been anywhere near it. The only way the car could have hurt him was if it had rammed through me first. But Josh cried out in pain and he was almost smoldering. I reached out for him, not understanding how he was in such anguish. He had turned away, but as I moved around I saw that his face was mottled, scarred, and withered. I shook my head, astonished and distraught, because I had seen these types of wounds before. It couldn’t be true, but as thoughts rampaged through my mind I realized that they must have been. It made sense now why Adam had the curtains drawn in his room and why he only liked going out at night. Josh didn’t like going to the gardens because of his allergies, it was because of something else entirely.
It was because they were vampires.
I took one look at Josh’s wounds and tore myself away from him. I sprinted in the opposite direction, not caring about classes or anything else. The last thing I heard was him calling after me, but he didn’t chase me. He couldn’t. He had to get back to the shadows, back where he belonged.
I ran until I could run no longer. I ran until I was out of breath and my limbs were on fire. Nothing made any sense anymore. My world had been destroyed and I didn’t know how to cope. All this time I had been falling in love with vampires and I hadn’t even realized it. I should have, especially given how in the dream the faces of the vampires had been replaced with those of my boys, but I thought it was all just a metaphor. I worried that they were the masters, that I would have to kill them. I felt like throwing up and I wasn’t sure how I was going to tell Arthur about this, or Julia. Were there more vampires at the academy? So many questions ran through my mind, but the heart of the matter was that I didn’t think I could kill the boys. I didn’t know if I had it in me and yet I knew I would have to because that was my duty as a Slayer.
I was so frustrated because I felt that finally I had something in my life that wasn’t touched by the fact that I was a Slayer, yet when it had come down to it, it bled into every area of my life. I wondered if I would ever be happy. I didn’t know how I was going to go back to the academy after this and I ended up wandering around for hours. I watched the sun set and I was completely lost in my own mind. I would usually have gone to Arthur for guidance, but I was worried that cavorting with vampires would go against the Slayer code and I would be targeted for termination by the council. I didn’t even feel like going on patrol for vampires. I didn’t want to do anything other than sort out the mess in my own mind.
I wandered the streets aimlessly, walking like a vagrant, with no purpose and no direction. I almost bumped into people as I staggered through the streets and once the shadows had set I felt more like I was at home. The air was cool and the streets became emptier. I wanted to feel as though I was the only person in the world. It was easier being alone. You didn’t have to worry about anyone hurting you, and I started to regress to the girl I used to be, the one w
ho pushed everyone away without a second thought. My heart dried up into a cold stone and I vowed I would never let myself get carried away with my emotions again.
After walking for, I don’t know how long, I heard footsteps behind me. I turned around, ready to fight. But my fists dropped when I saw it was Josh. His wounds had healed. I tensed and looked around to see if there were any other vampires with him but he was alone. He held up his hands and looked apologetic. I was tempted to walk away but as soon as I saw him again my heart melted and I felt a tug at my emotions. It was difficult to stuff emotions back into a heart, once they had been released.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I wanted to explain about what happened earlier.”
“I don’t need your explanations. What are you going to tell me, that it’s allergies again?”
“I’m sorry,” he said, letting his head dip. “It made sense at the time. I needed to tell you something, and I thought you’d never believed the truth. But when you saw me today…you know, don’t you?”
“That you’re a vampire?”
He seemed visibly relieved when I mentioned the word. “I’m sorry for not telling you. I’m sure you can understand why. It’s how I tracked you here. You covered a lot of distance today.”
“You put yourself at risk when you saved me,” I said, thinking about how he thrust himself into the light without any hesitation, to pull me out of the way of the moving car. Despite everything else I at least owed him my gratitude for that.
“I couldn’t let any harm come to you. I care for you, deeply.”
“That’s not what you said earlier,” I snapped. Part of me was relieved to see him, but another part of me was still angry and just wanted to have a go at him for hiding this from me. He looked shocked at the vehemence of my words and actually seemed wounded.
“It wasn’t fair. I know. I just…it’s a complicated situation. You remember when I said that I wanted to understand myself before I became involved with someone else? This is why.”
“When you talked about a transformation I assumed that you were talking about the cancer. You were talking about this, weren’t you?” I asked. He nodded. “Was any of it true? Were you lying about the cancer as well?”
“No, I would never lie about that. Look, come with me and we can talk more,” he said, gesturing to a park nearby. It could have been a trap, but I didn’t feel threatened by him, so I nodded and followed him into the park. In the day this place would have been filled with people strolling around, running, playing with their dogs and having picnics. At night it was the complete opposite. The lampposts dotted the path with light. We found a bench and sat down. There was distance between us. I still hadn’t told him I was a Slayer yet. I wasn’t sure how to broach that particular subject, but I knew I couldn’t avoid it forever.
“How did you know I was a vampire?” he asked as we sat down.
“I think you owe me answers first,” I said. “Tell me how you became vampires.”
He placed his hands on his thighs and leaned forward, taking a few moments to compose himself. He stared into space and spoke slowly, as though he wasn’t accustomed to telling this story.