She paints her fingers with a close precision. She used to paint them red. Blood red. But they would taunt her. He found her once sitting under the dim lamp-light, staring at her nails, licking her lips. She had been caught in some sort of trace. He had to shake her rapidly to make her finally blink and look away. After that, he warned her to stay away from that colour. No matter how much she craved it. So now she paints them black like the night sky. The only sky she ever gets to see.
When she notices the sun rising, she quickly closes the heavy, velvet curtains. Even though he never gets to see the morning light, his body seems to know that it's time to wake up. He stirs under the blankets that cover the bed and his eyes flutter open. She smiles when her eyes meet his and he sends her a lazy smile back. She lifts her glass of gin to her lips and takes the last mouthful. It's not what she wants. It's not what she needs. But she drinks it for him. She wants to prove to him that she's not the monster he found that night.
It was just over a year ago when they had met. She had been lost. She had no family, no friends. It was only her hunger that had driven her on. She had killed a child. Drank it dry. But the mother had walked in. The look on her face made the pit of her stomach ache. She had never seen anything like it. The mother had shrieked like a banshee. So loud and piercing that she had fled the house and made a promise to herself that that child would be her last feed. Her plan had been working. She had more self-control than she had initially thought. A month had passed without another victim. But there was one thing she had not planned for. Something she hadn't known. That the more she waited, and the more hungry she became, feeding was out of her control. It must have been some sort of survival instinct. The monster she so desperately wanted to keep hidden would consume her entirely. That was when she had woken in the early hours of the morning behind a restaurant. Her skin was burning in the sun. She had screamed and had fallen back into the shadow of the wall. Blood had been smeared over her face. In her hair. Down her dress. She hadn't known where it had come from. It was as if she had woken from a blackout.
He had passed the alleyway and had heard her whimpering. He had run to her and gasped at the sight. But he hadn't been frightened. He had understood. He had took off his coat and wrapped it around her to make sure none of her flesh had been showing. He had taken out an umbrella and held to over her head as he escorted her to his house. They had lived together ever since. He could tell by the fear in her dark eyes that she hated what she was and so he had made her a promise that day that he would take care of her until he breathes his last breath.
He gets dressed and heads out of the bedroom to do his morning routine of shutting all the curtains she had opened once it had gotten dark enough to do so. She likes to look out of the window and gaze at the stars, yet she daren't step a foot into the cold, winter breeze.
"It's okay to come out now," he shouts up the stairs. She picks up her empty glass and glides down to meet him. She has an air of grace about her. Her footsteps never make a sound. Easier to catch the prey.
She meets him in the kitchen where he is stood at the counter pouring a blood bag into a glass. He works at the hospital and would sneak out bags for her and keep them in a fridge in the basement. He slides the glass to her. She eyes it longingly then looks up into his bright eyes for permission.
He nods with a warming smile. "You've done great. It's been almost three months."
A smile rises on her lips, so wide it creases her cat-like eyes. She takes the glass in her hand but looks up again at him tentatively.
"Drink," he says and she does. As soon as the glass touches her lips, the liquid has slithered down her throat. She lets out a moan of pleasure that seems to echo around her body like she is a labyrinth of hollow caves.
"More?" he asks. She nods and pushes the glass back over to him. He fills it and again, the blood is gone in the blink of an eye.
He had to reward her every so often because, without the blood, she would waste away. As soon as he would notice the creases deepen in her forehead and around her eyes, he knew it was time to let her feed.
The healthy yet pale glow returns to her face and her wrinkles fade. She sends him a gratified smile, showing her stained red teeth, and walks over to him. She goes around his back and throws her arms around his neck. She kisses his ear-lobe and softly whispers, "Thank you."
"You've earned it." He kisses her on the back of her hand.
She could smell his blood all the time. It would linger in the back of her nose but she had gotten used to it. But there had been one night when she could have ended his life. It had been in the summer. He had come home from the hospital after a surgery and she could smell the patient's blood on him. He had taken off his coat and hung it on the hanger in the hallway. She had stood by the stairs, nostrils wide, sniffing like a hungry wolf. The clammy, summer air seemed to intensify the smell. His blue eyes had widened as they fell on the monster that looked nothing like the girl he had first housed. Her eyes were black, empty pits. Her perfectly manicured nails had turned into talons and were snapping, hungry to tear his flesh. He had darted for the basement. She had shot after him, baring her fangs. He had grabbed a knife and without hesitation, stabbed her in the side. She had wailed and had fallen to the floor, giving him time to escape down the stairs and lock himself in the basement. But the knife had only slowed her down for a couple of seconds. Soon she was back on her feet and darting after him. The door had slammed behind him just in time.
Eight hours he had been trapped in that basement for. He had scrubbed himself by the sink so hard he was almost ripping off his skin as her talons screeched across the door. He knew he had been safe to leave when he heard her voice. It had been muffled by tears.
"Andrew?" she had whimpered. "Andrew, are you in there?"
"Yes." He had run to the door.
"Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine." He had smiled, placing a palm on the door as if to try to contact her.
"It happened again," she had sobbed.
"I know. But it's okay."
"But there's blood on me."
She had gasped. She had never seen her own blood before. No wonder she hadn't had the urge to suck it clean off her blouse.
"I had to hurt you for self-defence," he had added, feeling a pang of guilt.
"You did what you had to."
They both sit, snuggled up on the sofa watching a film as the sky began to lighten. She had slept all day and he had gone to work. But every evening when he came home, they both liked to pretend that they were no different to any other young couple.
She has the popcorn on her lap and her head rests on his shoulder. She loves him and he loves her. That was another reason why he had taken her home that night. It only took one look at her slim, pale figure; her long, wild black hair and her curling eyelashes to know that there was something in her that he would grow to love. He had been alone all of his life too, and knew a lost soul when he saw one. That's why they fitted so wonderfully. They needed each other to feel alive.
She picks up her glass of gin from the table but her grip is too strong and it smashes in her hand. Sometimes she would forget the severity of her strength, especially straight after feeding. She looks back at him with worry set in her eyes. He smiles and strokes her hair.
"I'll clean it up," he says and walks into the kitchen to get the dust-pan and brush. He kneels down beside her and begins to sweep up. He hisses with pain and brings his thumb quickly to his lips to suck on the small open wound and mask the smell. But her sense of smell is even stronger than her grip and she can feel the monster inside of her screaming to be released.
"I'll get another glass." She smiles sweetly and leaves for the kitchen. Her eyes widen as she watches her nails growing rapidly, curling into talons. It is any time now. She pulls open a drawer and takes out the key to the basement with difficulty. When he had first brought the blood bags home, she told him to hide the key so that she wouldn't be tempted. But he had told her that resisting temptation is how she would be able to fight her true nature. And she had never touched it. Never even looked at it. Until now.
She glides down the narrow stairs and slots the key into the heavy, steel door. The scratches are still clearly visible and the sight of them always makes her shudder. She shuts her eyes tightly and tries her best to coax the door to be silent. But the inevitable creak follows. Once inside the room, she flies to the refrigerator. One. Two. Three blood bags are soon drank dry but her lips still smack together, hungry for more. After her sixth empty bag, her eyes catch passing legs through the small window at the top of the wall. She runs to it, pressing her nose to the glass and smelling the fresh blood. Her eyes mist over and turned as black as her talons. Her fangs grow and lie over her bottom lip.
She pushes the window open and gets out. If she didn't looked like a skeleton with skin pulled over it, she would have never been able slide her way through. It would have been impossible for any mortal adult. Once out, the fresh air nearly knocks her off her feet. She inhaled the sweet air that smells like a perfect bloody potion. She can hear hearts beating in her ears like a beautiful symphony. It isn't long until she finds her first victim. The person that had been attached to the legs she had spotted from the window. A young, drunk girl on her way home. But she never makes it home. She leaps onto her back and wraps her knees around her waist, forcing her to the floor. The young girl doesn't even manage to escape a cry before her throat is ripped out.
Fresh blood. She hasn't tasted it in over a year. She wipes it from her chin and hungrily laps at her hands. But it isn't enough. He had been starving her. She needs to fill the emptiness that has hollowed her out. She needs more blood. The bar over the road is always busy. She smiles wickedly at the thought and strolls in. Drops of blood are speckled over her dress but no one seems to notice. She has the type of face that any man would gaze upon. And with a face like that, the blood spatters are non-existent. Everyone else in the bar is non-existent. She orders a gin and tonic at the bar and winks at the nearest man. He smiles giddily and slides closer to her.
Andrew has scooped up all the broken glass and is stood in the kitchen, alone. He scratches his head and calls her name. After there is no reply, he notices the door leading down to the basement is slightly ajar. He opens it and his heart sinks when his eyes find the open steel door. He runs down and straight away it hits him. She has escaped. With his heart thumping against his chest, he runs out of the front door and down the street. He gasps at the mauled youngster she has dumped like road kill and follows the droplets of blood to the door of the bar.
His hands clasp over his mouth and he nearly falls back at the sight. Dead. All of them. Everyone. Blood is smeared over everything. Bodies are scratched and punctured like pillows in the claws of a distressed dog. But it wasn't a dog's doing. It was her. She is knelt down, sucking the remains of the bartender. Her head bounces up at the sound of the door opening. The black, empty pits stare into his eyes. She is gone. The monster has taken over. She licks her lips and gets to her feet. Her talons snap together and she studies him. Fear is overflowing him. He is frozen on the spot.
"Mona," he says calmly, attempting to reach the girl he knows is long gone.
Her eyes narrow to slits and her head cocks to the side inquisitively. He smiles, thinking she has recognised his voice when in fact, she has noticed the tiny cut on his thumb and the bead of blood that is oozing out of it.
"Mona, it's me. It's okay." He lifts his hands up as if to show her that he means no harm. But what harm can he do? He is completely defenceless and completely unaware that she is mentally ripping him to shreds. She licks her lips and now he knows. He runs and she chases him. Luckily for him, he has an athletic build and is a good match for her.
She wakes up, collapsed on someone's front lawn. The sun is just about to make its appearance but it is still dark enough that she isn't writhing in pain from the feeling of acid being poured all over her. She gasps at her blood covered dress. It has dried and has made the material stiff. Another blackout. She presses her fingers to her temples as if trying to open up the locked box in her mind that the memory is stored in. But it is no use. She needs to get back to Andrew before the sun rises.
She sits up and spins her head around to find her bearings but finds the horrific truth instead. She crawls along the dew-covered grass. Tears cloud her vision and she pulls the body from its side to its back. She lets out a howl of pain when her eyes hit his pale face. His fixed expression is one of sheer terror. And she knows that it was her that made his beautiful features distort like that. Puncture wounds cover his neck and chest like a gruesome pin cushion.
"Andrew," she sobs and presses her forehead to his. She is nothing without him. She is going to be that monster for eternity.
The sun peaks over the clouds and a searing pain rushed through her as the beams penetrated her skin. She can hear her flesh sizzling. The smell of it burning knocks her sick. It wouldn't be long until she will be nothing but ash.
How can she live without him?
Should she live without him?