Burn for It

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: October 29, 2017

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Submitted: October 29, 2017

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It never happened before. Never, and I’d been around a long while, too long a while for

any man: a 150-plus year old vampire with dark eyes and a dark past, blah blah - you’ve heard

that before so I won’t get into the bloody bits (see what I did there?). The point is it never

happened before that night. Before her.

Yeah, this is that kinda story. I met a girl and she changed everything. I’m not sorry for

being a cliché because for once, just this once, that movie fairytale happened. It happened to me

and it happened to her.

And then we both died.

---

The town was nothin’ but a few shops, a gas station, an elementary school, a church

(God, don’t get me started), a couple a’ bars – the Walker-Payne, kind of second home for

everyone, and another shack of a place that hadn’t a name since the Civil War. And where was

all of this? Smack-dab in a desert-heat field next to the middle of nowhere, with the reddist sand

you’d ever seen, and dead spikey trees like some sort of Wild West Tim Burton-esque border

keepin’ us all in tight claustrophobic under an almost constantly clear sky and blazing ball o’

sun. Come to think of it, I can’t remember the actual name of the town. Perhaps that was a

decision my mind made for me. More scar tissue to come, trust me.

I landed a job alongside Jackson Harris. Man, Jackson Harris: permanent five o’clock

shadow, black hair that defied gravity, and eyes so dark I forgot I was supposed to be the scary

one. Jackson was every man’s Every Man and every Lady’s Man. Funny he only ever had one

lady himself. I never met her – she was always bombing around the world - but from the stories

Jackson told me I imagined her as some great mythic figure. One minute she and Jackson were

fucking, the next she’d pull a Goodfellas on his ass, straddling him with a gun pointed right in

between his eyes because God damn it dishes go in the dishwasher, not the fuckin’ sink! Despite

this, or what anybody might have thought from his always-black attire, or that look in his eyes,

Jackson was a good man. He ought to, to be my friend anyway. Bonus: he didn’t give two fucks

about me being a vampire, long as I stayed off his neck.

Jackson was the sheriff. In that town, that meant little more than diffusing gossip and

fights between the locals. The job didn’t earn him much respect. When Mrs. Simmons told him

her lumbering rosy-cheeked drunk husband beat her – again - Mr. Simmons pulled a shotgun on

Jackson in a drunken rage and told him he’d shoot him if he didn’t leave his marriage and this

town alone. Jackson very quietly finished his whiskey, grabbed the barrel of the gun, slammed

the butt of it into Mr. Simmons’ face, then yanked it out of his hands. As the drunken bastard

looked up from the small of his back, his nose a bleeding mess, Jackson aimed the shotgun at the

old fuck’s crotch and said, “We both know where we ought to stay.” See, that? That’s movie

shit right there. But to be perfectly honest, most of the time business as usual: get case (and I use

the word ‘case’ very loosely), solve case, have beer, repeat - until that night.

She walked into the Walker-Payne bar with two other women. Unlike them she looked

like she’d a rather been anywhere else, but her indifferent smile shielded that truth from anyone

who wasn’t really looking. I don’t blame them for not really looking either. She had a slim body,

firm thighs, and skinny ankles in dark jeans and black boots. She didn’t have the biggest rack but

it worked with her small waist and curvy hips. She wore a solid white tank top. Green earrings

shined from within long thick dark hair. Like actual waves that brunette mane tumbled, all the

way down her back. She smiled at the bartender and I saw even from where I sat in the corner

with Jackson, I saw a light in her eyes. There was something going on in there, a spark in this

woman so bright in a place as shit-hole and dark as this.

“What’da think, Lindsey?”

I frowned at Jackson. “I think I want to shit my pants.”

“Likely not the best first impression.”

The woman sat down with her lady-friends. Them two had a couple of beers between

them; she only had what looked like water (really luck of the draw in this town. Want a glass of

water? Here’s a cloudy yellow-ish liquid we call ‘water’). She wasn’t a big drinker then. I was

well into my fourth beer.

Jackson nudged me. “Go talk to her.”

“Jacks, look at that. She’s got her head on straight. Mine’s been on backward since I

came outta me mum.”

“She doesn’t belong here.”

“She’s not from here?”

Jackson looked at the woman, reading the terrain. “No. I mean, I don’t know. But she

stands out, doesn’t she?”

I got that. This woman ought to be from far away, from somewhere maybe I hadn’t even

touched. She had to be. I watched her. She looked around a lot. Not at anything in particular, but

not at nowhere neither. While the other two ladies drank their beers and nattered on about who-

the-fuck-cares, she appeared to listen and play the social game, but she was really somewhere

else. That was her head, the spark I would eventually know. Everywhere but nowhere as she

watched the scum, the dirt, the haggard and jaded scattered about this place.

And then she looked at me.

I might have shit my pants.

She looked at me across the noise and smoky air, across every table and eye that watched

her. She looked only at me. I couldn’t tell what ran across her eyes; almost too many things.

Then she smiled, almost imperceptibly. Was it because I was smiling? Was I smiling? I want to

say in that moment I waltzed on over, chatted her up, impressed her friends, took her home and

had her ‘till she came twice.

But I didn’t. I got up, sure, but then I practically ran out of there. I may as well have

grown a vagina at the same time. I don’t scare easy, me, but she scared the livin’ shit out of me –

and she only had to look at me.

Despite my epic failure as a man, I couldn’t escape her. Full on Willie Nelson action:

always on my mind. I returned to the bar a couple nights later. She wasn’t there. Did I let her go?

Of course not. One night I spotted her walk out of the elementary school with a little girl. A car

pulled up, she helped the little girl into the passenger seat and then waved her off as the car

rolled away. No wonder I hadn’t seen her again: she worked in the one place I didn’t even finish

myself. Yeah, I didn’t finish elementary school - fuck off if you feel like waggin’ a finger. I

turned out okay.

I followed her home in my truck. May as well have had a giant flashing I’M OBSESSED

WITH YOU sign the damn thing clinked and clanged around so loud. I did this a few times a

week, enough to call myself a stalker; if she noticed, she never once gave me a sign. After a few

nights I discovered she in fact worked at the elementary school as a counsellor. Shit: she was

smart. I’ve always been stupid, but now I really felt it. She was out of my league and I was out of

my mind to think I could have her. How did she do this to me? If it was anyone else (believe me,

I’ve had many “anyone elses”) I’d a had my fun long ago and walked away. But she had me by

the short and curlies, this one.

One night while in our office, Jackson finally had enough. He said, “Lindsey, go see her.”

I blinked. “‘Go see her.’ Genius advice, mate, not like I’ve considered that.”

“No, I mean go see her. As a patient.”

“She helps kids.”

Jackson looked up at me as he lit a cigarette. “Exactly.”

I rolled my eyes and gazed out the smeared window. How do you get that foggy shit off

windows? Windex? Can windows sweat? Nothing could help this window anymore.

I looked at Jackson again. “How did you get your girl?”

He shrugged. “I asked her out at the country club dance when I was fifteen.”

“That easy?”

“She told me to fuck off. Then I told her I had some weed.” He grinned. “We danced all

night.”

As soon as the sun went down, I returned to the elementary school. Sure enough I found

her again as I did before, just as she walked out the same doors after another day of nut-brains.

She wore shorts - dark blue ones - black sandals, and a red tee shirt.

I jumped out of my truck. “Hi.”

She turned around, a bit stunned. “Hello.”

I waved (such an idiot). “Lindsey. Sheriff. Well, second-in-command.”

She arched an eyebrow. “You mean an ‘undersheriff’?”

I opened my mouth, then closed it. Then I said, “You know, I prefer ‘his number two’...

and now I don’t because I realize that actually sounds worse. We’re law enforcement people, the

two of us.”

She smiled. “I’m Lilly.”

I shook her hand. “Lilly, wow. That kinda rhymes, doesn’t it? Lilly and Lindsey.”  

Her smile froze.

I coughed. “You’re a counsellor here?”

“Are those your sheriff skills or your stalking skills? Or are they the same for you?”

Shit.

Lilly scratched her neck. Her thick hair rustled. “Yeah, I’ve gotten to know your truck.

Care to explain why I’ve had the pleasure of its noisey company these last few weeks? Or do you

have a child you’re concerned about...”

I almost choked. “Me, have kids? Oh God, no. No, no. I mean, not that I don’t like them,

I just... God, I hope not.”

Lilly smiled again.

I felt myself flush. She was fuckin’ gorgeous, even in shorts and a tee shirt. She barely

had any make-up on. “I thought I’d ask for your help,” I said finally.

“My help?”

“Counselling. I need counselling.”

She squinted. “I’m a children’s counsellor...”

“Practically the only counsellor of any kind around here, though. What’da say?”

She shrugged. “Sure. Tomorrow morning, 8AM.” She turned to leave.

I smiled tight. “I don’t do mornings.”

She turned back. “I can fit you in after lunch?”

“No lunchtime either. Don’t do much of daylight time anything. I’m a night owl.”

“I can meet you tomorrow night.” She tossed a smile at me over her shoulder as she

walked away. “I mean, if you plan on following me again.”

Who was this woman?

 

The next night Lilly and I opted for her office instead of outside the school to meet. The

office walls were spotted with little pictures and art-things little shits make. A couple of wooden

chairs with purple cushions were placed in front of a brown desk by the window (so much

cleaner than Jackson and mine’s office window). I looked at a book shelf beside the desk. Fuck,

that’s a lot of books.

“Shall we get started?”

I remember how she looked when I turned around. She’d snagged one of the purple-

cushioned chairs and sat herself beside the couch, a notepad and pen already in her hand, and her

hair tied back. For a second I wondered what she was on about – then I remembered. I didn’t

really want help, of course. Might have needed it now that I think about it, but we both know

that’s not why I was really there.

She must have seen all this go through my mind because she suddenly frowned, like she

thought I was going to throw up.

I rocked back on my heels. “I think I’ve made a mistake.”

Lilly smiled. “It’s hard to ask for help but trust me, there is nothing you can or can’t say

that isn’t worth saying. I’ve heard it all.”

I almost laughed. “I’d take that back.”

“Everyone has a story.”

I stared at her. She looked back at me, sitting so still in that chair.

I lumbered on to the couch and sat in front of her. “You’re not from here, are you?”

She smirked. “I can tell you’re not.”

“I’m from nowhere, really. Nothin’ more to offer than what I got right here and now in

this moment in this shite hole –” I grimaced. “Sorry. Potty mouth.”

Lilly tilted her head to one side. “What makes you think that?”

“I’ve been cussin’ since I was five –”

“No, the...” She laughed. “Why do you think you have nothing to offer?”

I looked at her, really looked at her for the first time since I saw her. “I know what I am. I

know what my life is, what it will be. I’m going to live out my days here – or maybe not here.

Maybe somewhere else, somewhere that’ll become forgotten and old and abandoned like

everything else eventually is. It doesn’t matter, really, it’s so simple for me but you... you’re not

one of us. You’re not this place, this... dry, dusty wasteland. You’re not even like them girls at

the bar. You never wanted to be there, did you?”

Lilly never left my eyes. “Am I that easy to read?”

“Am I?”

Her brow furrowed. “I feel like I haven’t really started.” She surrendered her pen and

notepad with a sigh. “But you’re... sincere. Curious, even insightful. I wasn’t expecting that

monologue.”

I winced. “I wasn’t either.”

Then, the light literally faded from Lilly’s eyes. “But I’m sorry: you don’t have me as

figured out as you think.” Suddenly she stood. Seconds later, she had her purse slung over her

shoulder.

I jumped to my feet. “What did I say? I’m sorry, I speak when I shouldn’t, well, speak.

It’s quite often, I promise, and with practically everyone.”

Lilly smiled at me but it wasn’t like any smile she gave me before. This was her work-

smile, the kind she used on parents before she told them their offspring were padded-cell-crazy.

“This place,” she said finally, “this dry and dusty wasteland, with those girls and everyone

else...”

I shrugged. “Yeah?”

“It’s where I was born.” She turned and walked out.

I didn’t know what to think. First, she just barged out of a session. Aren’t I a paying

patient? Well we never got that far. Plus, she left me alone in an elementary school after hours –

hardly a smart decision for such a dramatic exit. But before I let that convince me she was just

stuck-up, I had another thought (yes, it happens). That thought? I blew it. I lost her before I even

got her. Okay so she interpreted my compliment as an insult, but could she blame me? She was a

diamond in this pile of shit, a gem in this dusty sun-baked turd of a town. Why did she belong

here? How could she come from here? I decided I couldn’t leave it at that. I’d already stalked

her. What was one more night?

I moved quickly. In that town the sun came up faster than someone’s sister got knocked

up (again) and I’d have preferred not to burst into flames on her doorstep. I drove up to her small

rancher, an old little place you could tell she loved. The paint chipped, and the swinging chair on

the small porch hung from hooks I don’t know how many times replaced, but she had these

flower baskets hanging from the gutter, and bright lights in the windows like Christmas string-

lights. It seemed a fantasy home, a small wonder glowing in this ever-dark place.

Behind the wheel in my grumbling truck, I watched the kitchen window. Lilly washed

dishes. A string of hair dangled in front of her eyes. She ignored it, scrubbing the dishes so hard.

What’d she make, concrete patties? At last she shook her hands out, wiped them on a small

towel, and flipped the light off.

Cue the vampire.

By the time I reached the porch, Lilly already swung the door open. She looked at me

through a screen door. “I think you should leave, Lindsey.”

I stood up straight, real gentleman-like. “I’m sorry. I should have been more up-front

with you. I should have known you’d be smarter than... everyone.”

She threatened to close the door.

I raised my hands. “Hear me out. Please. Look, I don’t need counselling. I don’t need any

help, really. Well that’s debatable, but... look, I like you. Like, really like you. I saw you in that

bar, like, 500 years ago ‘cause I mean I’ve been on your ass a long while now – not on your ass,

that’s not what I meant...”

Lilly took a breath. “Lindsey -”

“Please, just...” I sighed and hung my head. “I’m a 150-year old vampire from

Manchester, and you’re the first woman I’ve met that I didn’t just want to fuck and leave.” I

peeked up at her. “Sorry I said ‘fuck’.”

Lilly stared at me. She stared at me for as long as tumbleweeds took to roll by (not really

but what a movie moment that’d a been, eh?) Finally then, she opened the screen door. “I know.”

I turned to leave. “Alright, I’ll go – wait, what did you say?”

 

I’ve heard and seen many things in my many years, enough to make me laugh, run and

shit my pants at the same time (you don’t think it’s possible), but I could tell by the way Lilly

looked at me when she said it, none of that would bode well this time. “You’re clairvoyant,” I

repeated.

She nodded, clutching a cup of tea with both hands. “I discovered it when I was a child.

Mrs. Hamilton, my second-grade teacher. She watched this couple walk by the playground. The

mother was holding a baby girl over her shoulder. Probably wasn’t a couple months old. Mrs.

Hamilton had the saddest smile on her face: she’d had her abortion two weeks earlier.”

Remember the shitting my pants bit? In that moment I might have - a little. “So you can

read minds?”

“Oh no, no, I’m not psychic. I... pick up on things from people’s energies, feelings, even

objects. And sometimes I sense things from those who have passed on.” Lilly paused. “That’s

how I learned about my teacher’s abortion... through the baby.”

I actually felt my mind racing. “Did you tell anyone?”

“I was terrified I even knew. I didn’t know what I was doing, or how. How would I tell

anyone? It felt like a dream.” Lilly turned and dunked her tea into the sink. “Childhood was fun,

but high school – that was a whole different story. So many hormones! By senior year I

understood what I could do. Whenever it would happen, whenever I’d pick up on information,

I’d call it a ‘read’: reading someone, or something. It’s... overwhelming. It’s really become

managing everything I take in. Still, I moved out after graduation. I’ve been on my own ever

since. Being alone, it... makes life quieter.”

I smirked. “Quiet? In this town?”

She laughed a little. “I only speak for myself.”

“Not a social butterfly then?”

“Those girls are...” She hesitated. “I guess friends from work, if I can call them friends.

Come out and have a drink with us, they said. De-stress.” Lilly shook her head like she’d tasted

something bitter. “It’s very noisey in that bar.”

I felt my eyes widen. “That’s why you... in the bar, your eyes were everywhere. But you

still want to be a part of this town. I mean, that’s why you were upset earlier, in your office. I

pointed you out.”

She looked at me for a long time before she spoke again. “I want to be reminded that I

belong somewhere. That I’m... normal. Even in this town.”

I stared at her. “Even when you’re still alone, in this house, in this town.”

She turned away.

I slid closer to her. “You know me, then. I mean, you read me, yeah?”

Lilly nodded.

“What did you see?”

“Not much and too much at the same time. I guess I didn’t really believe it, what you are.

You fascinated me.”

I admit I blushed.

Lilly smiled. “But apparently I missed your intentions, or misunderstood them. I suppose

not wanting to just fuck me and haul ass is impressive?”

I denied the temptation to acknowledge her word-play and slipped even closer “Go on.

Read me again. See how many women I’ve met who are like you.”

Lilly smiled, surprised if impressed. Then she looked at me, straight into my eyes. I

realized what I’d done. I shit my pants again. Yep, there it was: a hot mess all down my leg

(don’t worry, this is just a metaphor. At least that time it was). But I wanted Lilly to read me, to

see me. Little did I care for what any fucker thought of me, but I cared what she thought. She

needed to see I meant it. And I meant it: 150 years and counting and never in all that time

meeting someone like her? She needed to know.

At last, Lilly frowned. “They’re bad people, aren’t they?”

I blinked. “Bit specific, love?”

“The ones you kill. The ones you... feed from.”

“Ah.” I leaned back. Then I stepped back. “I’m not gonna eat a toddler, am I? Well,

unless they deserve it. Some of them – little fuckers.” I winced. “Sorry for cussing again.”

Lilly laughed. “Only druggies and thugs, bad guys and dolls.”

“Druggies, no, not if I can help it. Their blood tastes funny.”

Her eyes sparkled. “God, you are real. Are you immortal?”

I smiled up at her with my head down. “I’m not dead...”

“But you’ve been around.”

“How so? Like, around or around? The answer’s yes to both.”

Lilly laughed. I smiled. That was it. That was the moment I had her. I think she knew it,

too – just like I know it scared both of us. Who’d a thought a 150-plus year old fucker like

myself, and an angel in the dust would find each other like this? These moments, my friend, are

few and far. Forget few and far – they just don’t fuckin’ happen. Trust me.

I decided to take advantage of the perfect movie moment and leaned in to kiss her.

But Lilly stepped back.

My heart rocketed into my stomach. “I’m sorry –”

“No, no, it...” She smiled, softly. “It’s fine. But, maybe we ought to call it a night?”

I pushed myself off the counter. “Quite a first date, huh?”

She nodded to the side. “I’ve not had many, but yeah. This has been a lot.”

“Hopefully not too much, though.”

She smiled. “I’ll wait for the familiar racket you call that truck.”

I stopped on my way to the door. “I love my truck.”

“I didn’t say I didn’t.” She lifted one shoulder to her chin as she smiled.

I looked away, afraid I’d look like a complete tool for being so giddy. Then my smile

faded. “It’s not really because you want to be normal, is it?”

She frowned, listening.

I gestured to my head. “Your clairvoyant thing. You moved out after graduation, yeah,

but then you could have gone somewhere else, anywhere else. But you stayed. You say it’s

because you want to belong, don’t want to stand out. That might still be true, but I think it’s for

the kids. Your kids at the school. You can see them, can’t you?”

She took a breath. “Someone ought to.”

That was it. That was the beginning of our... were we dating? God it sounds so juvenile

but yeah, I suppose we were. We didn’t do much exciting: I’d roll up and pick her up after work,

we’d spend hours at her place or at the bar if she was up to it – imagine the looks I got from the

fat fucks who watched me both come and leave with her. After sundown she’d go to bed, I’d

take the couch, and we’d pick up where we left off the next day. She met Jackson. He charmed

her with his charisma and wit, soon smitten just the same. The two of them had a kind of brother-

sister thing. A fuckin’ sitcom our lives became, all three of us like some perfect albeit, motley,

family.

Obvious then as things started to look up, it all went to shit.

A woman ran into Jackson and mine’s office, mad-house hysterical. Her five year old

son, Charlie Morrison, didn’t show up at school after he got off the bus. He wasn’t at his daycare

either. Jackson and I jumped on the case, our first real case beyond drunkards and bullshit. But

we got nothing. We crossed all our T’s and dotted them I’s, but we came up empty every time.

No one’s seen him? Where could he be? The town’s a finite area and everyone’s known

everyone since the damn dinosaurs (those who believed in them anyway). By the time four days

passed, Jackson worried the boy wasn’t even in town.  “It’s all about statistics,” he’d said. By the

tone of his voice, I knew he feared worse.

Then, one night while we stewed in our office, I chucked another file across the table and

looked at my best friend. “We can ask Lilly for help.”

Jackson flicked his eyes to me. “We already talked to the school.”

You following? I’d not yet told Jackson Lilly was clairvoyant. She hadn’t either. I mean,

it’s not something that pops up in conversation normal-like.

After I told him, Jackson sighed. “You know how to pick ‘em, Lindsey.”

Lilly wasn’t surprised when we asked her for help, though a case involving a missing

child made her nervous. She singled out a few possible suspects within a day for more

interviews. But after each reading, she couldn’t pin-point anyone for sure.

Days crawled by without Charlie. People started to lose faith, if they had any to begin

with. Charlie’s parent’s looked like hell. I imagine I would, too. Lilly was determined to find the

one responsible for causing this pain. Jackson and I shared her disgust for whoever did this, but

she took it to heart. One day she had meetings with each child at her elementary school: each

child. She hated to do it but she wanted to read every single child, see through them and their

experiences if she could find out where Charlie was or who took him, no matter how small the

detail. One by one the children passed through her office - one by one they passed with flying

colours. Lilly didn’t sleep that night. All of that information rocked her head. I asked her what it

felt like.

“Ever had a migraine?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

She shut her eyes tight. “It’s nothing like that.”

Like a monster with its fist through her heart, this case. She cared so much for this child,

for Charlie Morrison who she’d admitted she herself only talked to maybe once or twice in the

playground. He was just a little boy like any other. She felt guilty for not knowing him better; I

felt bad for not being able to care like she did. It’s not that I didn’t – a damn child was missing!

But I wished some days I were clairvoyant, too. I’d know the right things to say or do to help her

because I realized, in one of my purely selfish moments, this whole thing was taking Lilly away

from me, slowly. I hate me for saying it but if I’m anything, ever, it’s bloody honest. This case

took her so far away from me and I wanted her back, wanted us back. Lilly had twenty-

something years to her name - I’d already had 150 and counting. She couldn’t for a second

understand what she meant to me, and then this awful thing happens... I admit I couldn’t adapt.

So as you’d expect, I let all this stupid jealousy and selfishness go to my head.

I drove to the school to pick Lilly up from work, like I always did. She walked out the

main doors, like she always did - except this time, with some guy. Tall with dark floppy hair, a

sweater vest (in this heat?) and fancy loafers I remember my granddad wore, he walked and

talked with Lilly on their way toward one of them Fiesta-type cars. He ducked in behind the

wheel, she joined him in the passenger seat, and off they went.

By the time I blasted up to Lilly’s rancher, Mr. Sweater-Vest-Fiesta-Driver had

vamoosed - but I was just getting started. I marched into the kithcne. “Who the fuck was that?”

Lilly froze with the tea kettle in her hand.

“Who was that? That fuckin’ knobhead sweater-wearing pretty boy I saw you get in a car

with. Have you forgotten a kid’s gone missing? The guy who’s done it can be anyone, anywhere!

What the fuck were you thinking?”

Utterly silent, Lilly turned to the stove and set the kettle on the back burner. As the water

boiled a slow low rumble, she turned to me and curled her fingers around the counter edge

behind her.

Oh. Shit.

Lilly looked me in the eye. “You can ask me anything you like about anything at all at

any time and I will answer anything just the same. But speak to me like that again and I will beat

you to death - with a frying pan, if I have to.”

I shifted like I had to pee. “Never seen a vamp done in by a frying pan.”

“That’s why it’ll work. I’ve been alone a long time, Lindsey. I will gladly do it again.”

The thought of losing her calmed me down real quick. “Who is he?” I asked, quietly.

“His name is Patrick. He’s a Special Ed teacher.”

I tried to remember everyone Jackson and I spoke to at the school. This Patrick-guy

rang the faintest bell. “Why’d you get in his car?”

“Like everyone else he’s very aware of Charlie’s abduction, of the fact that we still don’t

know who took him – that it’s dangerous...” She raised her eyebrows at me. “So he offered me a

ride home.”

“And you took it?”

“I’ve worked with him for years.”

“I was coming.”

“You were late.”

“I was with Jackson, doing my job - I lost track of time!”

“Then what’s the problem?”

I tried to find some more ammunition. I was all out. I’ve hated myself a lot in my long

life (mate, I’ve done horrible things) but never more than in that moment. Why did I ever doubt

her? Why did I ever doubt myself?

When I looked at her again, Lilly almost smiled. I laughed a little, surprised I felt

nervous. “I suppose you just got all that?”

She shrugged. “I got the gist.”

I trudged toward her, enclosing her perfect glowing body with the dark, warped shadow

of mine. “I’m sorry. I’ll never talk to you like that again.”

“You’re forgiven. I guess we’re all a bit on-edge.” She shook her head and looked off

somewhere. “It’s all over this town. The pain, confusion, anger. It’s...”

I touched her hair. “It’s tearing you apart. Make no mistake, love: Jackson and I won’t

stop until we find Charlie.”

Finally, Lilly smiled. She sank into me and pressed her forehead to my chest. I folded my

arms around her and drifted into her neck. I kissed her soft skin. She breathed in a little, her

fingers curling into my back. I pulled her closer, buried in her. I slipped my fingers down her

stomach, under her shorts.

Lilly gasped suddenly. “Lindsey...”

“Yeah?”

She laughed a little, nervously. “I, um... I think, uh, I don’t...”

I looked up at her so fast I got dizzy. “I wasn’t. I just –”

She touched my cheek. “I know. I know. I want to be close to you, too. Just... I want to

tell you I’ve... never gotten... that close before.”

“Really, Lilly, it’s not –” I blinked. “Oh. Oh! Wait, never?”

The kettle whistled. Loud.

Lilly arched one eyebrow, though she still smiled. “Problem?”

“No. God no, no problem, just...”

The kettle whistled louder and louder, a shrill scream.

I smiled at Lilly. “Hold that thought.” In one swift step, I moved around her and took the

blasted kettle off the burner. The whistle died to a wobbly whimper. “Finally! Where were we?”

“What is it, Lindsey? Never met a virgin who wasn’t sixteen? Or don’t tell me

younger...”

“Fuckin’ hell, no. I... God, I hope not.” I looked at her again and sighed. “I like it.”

She squinted: further persuasion required.

I smiled. “Fuck, I knew you were special. And now this, it just... I like it. Really.”

She looked off, almost proud. “Well, I’m not about to give it away.”

“Why haven’t you? I mean, out of curiosity.”

She shrugged and turned to prep her tea. “I’ve not dated a lot, sure, but I’ve still had

opportunities. But, one read and I’d know their true intentions.”

“You didn’t know mine.”

She grinned. “That’s true. I still can’t quite see all of you. Maybe it’s because you’re a

vampire. Or maybe you’re special, too.”

I swept an arm in around her waist. “That’s a hell of a way to live your life. Reading

people, deciding if they’re worth it before you even let them try, you know?”

Lilly smiled but her eyes were sad, far away. “I’ve always felt too much, Lindsey. I don’t

want to hurt too much either. So, it ought to be someone worth hurting and loving for.” She

turned to me. “Do you love me, Lindsey?”

I pulled her into my chest, smiling. “No fuckin’ way.”

 

The next morning, Lilly and I awoke to a rapping on the front door that sounded like a

bloody call to arms.

When I opened it, Jackson stood before me, breathless. “We found him.”

Jackson put his foot down harder than my truck probably felt in her life. Sticky heat blew

in through the opened windows, with Lilly sandwiched between us. She’d never been so anxious

(and she wasn’t the one shielding herself with a giant hoodie against the sun). Soon we arrived at

the crusty brown trim to the sad sack of this desert mop – in laymen’s terms, the edge of town.

Only a few scattered trailers lived here, parked so long they’d grown roots. The vulturous

townspeople surrounded one of them, their necks strained as they tried to get a piece of the

action. The sight disgusted me, but I couldn’t blame them either. Paramedics crawled all over the

place. By the time Jackson cut the engine, one of them emerged from the spotlighted trailer with

a small body under a blanket.

We knew instantly it was Charlie. Worse, we knew he was dead. When she saw him,

Charlie’s mother collapsed.  

Jackson had to take a moment, too. I’d never seen that look on his face. He was the hero

of this fuckin’ turd of a town yet he looked so deflated, so absolutely like shit I thought he’d pass

out. Then I looked at Lilly. Across the chaos, across the rippling heat she looked at Charlie,

looked only at this little boy in his crying mother’s arms.

“The neighbouring trailer called me this morning,” Jackson told us quietly. “Said their

dogs been barking at that trailer. Not like him to be this spooked, they said. Then there were the

rats. I mean, rodents are normal around this area, but they... they all converged here.” He paused,

his head down. “Charlie was... buried under the floorboards in the living room.”

I blanched. “This whole time?”

Lilly marched toward the trailer.

Jackson started after her. “Lilly, what -”

“I need to see.” She trembled, sweaty. “I need to see.”

Jackson looked at me. I shrugged – could either of us stop her?

I’ve never seen anything like it. Inside the trailer, a filthy shag carpet once orange (or

some variety) destroyed with the upturned flooring. In the corner, a tiny fireplace overwhelmed

with dust and spider webs, nearly buried in hoarded books and boxes of other random shit.

Splintered blinds hung from dusty old windows and in the middle of it all, sat in an armchair

even Archie Bunker would refuse, a pot-bellied man in his sixties with thread-like hair on a

balding head, in an old tee shirt and tattered jeans. He stopped fidgeting with his handcuffs when

we walked in.

I glanced at Lilly. Then I did a double-take.

I don’t think she was breathing. Tears welled in her eyes as she just stared at the man in

the chair. “It’s you.”

Jackson shifted closer to her. “You know him, Lilly?”

Lilly couldn’t take her eyes away from the man. She looked as if she’d crumble to

nothing right there. Then, in barely a whisper, she said, “Colton.”

I looked at her. “Who’s Colton?”

A tear dripped from her eye. “I remember... and now Charlie, oh God... you’re a

monster.”

The man appeared held captive by Lilly, trapped in her tractor beam. This shrivelled old

perverted sick thing in this little shit trailer was absolutely terrified of a woman in a white dress.

Next thing I know Jackson’s yanked the bastard out of his chair and thrown him outside.

I heard a commotion follow, no doubt the townspeople having their time with the sick fuck, but I

didn’t see any of it. I focussed on something else.

Lilly kept staring at the empty chair that excuse-for-a-human just sat in seconds ago.

I had no idea what was to come.

Jackson deemed a trial unnecessary. The piece-of-shit confessed to killing Charlie and

hiding his body under the floorboards of his trailer. Then he confessed to killing a boy named

Colton Owens almost twenty years earlier and burning his body in a fire pit in his then-backyard.

The bars filled that night with everyone and their sister all coming out to thank themselves for

catchin’ a killer. Even Jackson and I got a few claps on the back for our service. We couldn’t

truly take all the credit. While everyone celebrated as mourning knowing some sick filth was

behind bars and the children were safe again, Lilly didn’t join them. After the arrest, she walked

right passed me and out the trailer door. I didn’t try to stop her. Truth is I was scared to. But

when the sun disappeared beyond the horizon, I finally called her. No answer. I stopped by her

house, by both hers and Jackson and mine’s offices. I couldn’t find her anywhere, until I did.

Make no mistake: just ‘cause I’m a vampire doesn’t mean I can’t walk into a church. I

can walk into a church, sit in the pew, read the Bible, and – imagine that – touch the cross. It’s

all fine and well, just a building to me. That’s where I found Lilly sitting in the front pew,

surrounded by the loud white walls before the giant cross that hung above the stage.

My boots echoed as I traipsed toward her. “Hey.”

Lilly looked up, startled. “Hey.”

I asked anyway. “You alright?”

She nodded as another tear dripped from her eye. “I was... sitting on the swings with my

friend. Sherry Parker was her name. We were only five or six. Someone walked toward us. I

looked up. It was her dad. I’d seen him before, seen him every day when he came to pick her up.

But that day, that time when I looked at him...”

I carefully sat beside her. “What did you see?”

She shook her head. “Colton Owens. He went to my school. He went missing that year.

That day, that day Sherry’s dad picked her up I saw Colton all over him, around him like an

aura. Sherry’s dad killed him and burned his body in his backyard.”

I stared at her. “You knew.”

Lilly looked up, her face red under the pressure of this pain. “That memory, God, I didn’t

know I buried it that deep. That memory was...” She sighed. “That was my first clairvoyant

episode. The very first time I discovered what I could do.”

I looked at her quickly. “It wasn’t your teacher’s abortion.”

She shook her head again. “So deep I buried this I couldn’t even see his face now, didn’t

notice him during the investigation. I know everything else in this town but I never saw him

right there all along, right in front of me.”

I took a moment to organize the thoughts in my head. “Lilly, it’s not your fault.”

She blinked back tears. I watched her drown right in front of me: drown in her

clairvoyance, her cursed gift and the only loneliness it gave her. I didn’t know how to tell her she

wasn’t. When we met, our differences, our uniqueness as two separate people fit us together like

no one else fit with me in my long life. Now that same person became a stranger right in front of

my eyes in real time.

Lilly sighed. “I don’t want to do it anymore, Lindsey.”

I sat back. “Lilly, this... this was fuckin’ hard, for all of us. It was unbelievable - but it’s

over. Charlie is... I don’t know where he is, but we know where the bastard is who took him, the

same one who took Colton from us, too and trust me, he won’t see the light of day.”

Lilly nodded but her eyes ticked back and forth, fast. “The kids’ll be fine without me.”

“What do you mean ‘fine without you’... Lilly, what are you saying?”

She looked at me. She didn’t have to say it.

I wanted to laugh. “Lilly, you... you brought that turd to justice, for Charlie and for

Colton. That was you! They got justice because of you!”

“No, Lindsey, they got justice because of some rats and a barking dog! I didn’t do

anything for those boys, and where are they? Where are they to enjoy their justice?”

“It’s not your fault -”

She jumped to her feet so fast she could have knocked the pew back. “Stop saying that! If

I just paid attention, if I just saw what was right in front of me, if I let myself see I could have

found that man so much earlier, maybe years earlier and Charlie would be alive today. I may as

well have killed them.”

I stood up quickly. “Take that back.”

She trembled, pacing. “Lindsey, this - this thing I can do, it’s good for nobody if it helps

nobody, and I can’t do anything about it because I can’t tell anyone.”

“Why not? What’s so bad about telling your townspeople, these people you love so much

that you can help them?”

She laughed. “Imagine what they’d ask of me. Imagine what these people would ask of

me if they knew what I could do. No. No, I can’t. I can’t stay here anymore.”

“Then what about the kids? What about them rugrats? They need you, Lilly.” I strode

toward her, desperate to keep her talking, to keep her with me. “Look, I was wrong. Don’t look

so surprised. I was wrong when I said you were more than this town, more than these people.

You do belong here. You are one of them.”

Lilly shook her head, her eyes away.

I clenched my jaw. “Fuck, Lilly, listen to me! You are the one who told me someone has

to be here for them. Someone ought to listen, right? If you want to feel responsible for

something, feel responsible for them. They need you.”

She stepped back, trying to breathe. “I wish I never knew,” she cried. “I don’t want to

know. I don’t want to know anything anymore.”

“Fine. That’s fine, Lilly, I’ll help you. Jackson and me, we’ll both help you deal with this

and then you’ll be okay. But you just have to stay with me.”

Lilly backed away.

I wanted to badly so sympathize with her, but frustration soon took its place. “What

happens if you leave then? What happens when you start reading other people around you

because I’m sorry to tell you, but people?  They’re kind of everywhere, and in all shapes and

sizes, with stories and pasts and sins. What if you read someone one day and find out he’s a child

killer, too?”

The last time Lilly looked at me that way, she threatened my life with a frying pan. “I

won’t.”

“Won’t what?”

“I won’t read anything but damn words on a page, alright? I’m not doing it anymore!”

“Right, and I’m not gonna drink human blood. Your clairvoyance –”

“Is not all I am, Lindsey!”

I strode toward her. “No. No, and it never was. It is just one part of what makes you who

you are and sometimes it sucks, but sometimes it’s amazing. All the same, it’s you. Just like I

can’t un-be something that drinks blood, you can’t not read someone. But it’s just one part.”

Lilly had a kind of bitterness in her eyes I’d never thought capable for her. “It’s going to

happen again.”

I frowned. “What’s going to happen?”

“I don’t know when, but it will. Someday someone else will die in this town and someone

in town will be responsible for it. It’s in their genes, in the sand, in the... the fuckin’ air they

breathe. It’ll happen and I won’t be able to stop it.”

I wanted to laugh again. “I thought you said you weren’t psychic.” I gestured to the

building we stood in with a grand sweep of my arm. “Or is this Your house?”

Lilly looked like I’d just slapped her. May as well have.  She quickly wiped her face with

her hands and started for the doors. “I’ve made my decision.”

I followed her. “Then what about me? You’re walking away from me, too?”

Lilly stopped.

I blinked. “Wow. It’s that easy for you? After everything?”

She faced me. She hesitated. “It’s not.”

I snickered. “No. No, you know what? Go. Go ahead. Do whatever you gotta do and

work this out of your system. Figure it out but trust me: you’re going to come back.”

She shook her head. “If I don’t?”

“You will. You will because I know your heart now.”

She cried, listening.

I ignored her tears and marched right up to her. “I know your heart, Lilly. I’ve felt it and

believe me, since my heart’s stopped I’ve got real good at reading someone else’s. You were

never the only freak in this town. Not since I got here.”

Before I let her have the last word, I stomped out the door.

Someone had to pay for this. Someone had to pay for ruining the one perfect thing I ever

had. It wouldn’t be me. Wouldn’t even be Lilly, or Jackson for that matter. No - we were all

three of us just fine until Charlie Morrison. Cool your jets - I’m not saying the kid ought to pay.

He was already dead. Who does that leave?

As the bar celebrations echoed in the night, I waltzed on into the police station and

straight back to the holding cells. He sat there on a bench, a shrivelled mess of a man (I gag to

even call him that) curled up in the corner. Moonlight streamed in through a small barred

window, striping him and the wall behind him. Something crossed his eyes when I walked in.

Was it shock? Apprehension? Fear? I vote all three - especially the latter.

I fished around the desk for the cell door keys. “She’s gone. She’s gone because she

loved that little boy you took from her. From all of us. You took that other little boy, too, all

those years ago. She knew then just like she knew now that it was you. She just didn’t want to

know. Didn’t want to remember. And now she’s gone.” I slammed another drawer closed. Where

the fuck were the keys? I turned to the caged animal. “I don’t imagine you know what I am, but I

can tell you this: I’m more than you will ever be.” I curled my fingers in through the gate.

The man ticked his eyes from the cell door to me.

I smiled a little, sad. “I don’t look forward to this. I imagine you’ll be the foulest thing

I’ve ever tasted.”

What happened next I remember only in flash images: ripping the cell door off its hinges;

his face as he screamed; the blood. And then he’s just dead, and I’m lounging against the wall

covered in his blood. But this next bit... that I’ll never forget.

I heard Lilly before I saw her. When she finally swept in, panting, her hair wind-blown...

the way she stared at me then is seared into my mind like a brand. As pale as death she looked at

the mess I made, and then she ticked her eyes to me with a simple nod. “I told you it would

happen again.” And she ran back out.

I watched her go as if I wasn’t really even there. Why did she come back? To reconcile?

She had her meltdown – granted, but still – and now she was fine? And then she saw me... well,

what did she expect? That’s when I felt it, one of the clearest memories of feelings in general

that I have. What I felt I admit for the first time since I loved her, in that moment, was hatred.

I hated Lilly.

Minutes later, Jackson strode in. The keys I looked for dangled from his fingers. When he

saw me his eyes widened so big he’d have illuminated a power outage. “Was that Lilly running

out of here?”

I nodded.

He took a breath. “You gonna fix this?”

I glanced at the mess and shrugged. “Just did.”

Jackson cast his gaze away from me and sighed. “Get out.”

 

When I trudged into Lilly’s rancher, I knew she’d already gone. I collapsed into a chair at

the kitchen table and kicked off my boots. I watched through the window the sun rise and fall for

days, that bastard’s blood crusted and stained all over me. No one came by. Lilly never attracted

attention to begin with but after the help she gave me and Jackson with the case, you figure

someone would check in. Everything went back to normal. I suppose towns like those are

reliable for being exactly what you expect when the unexpected happens.

Finally, about two weeks later (and yes, by this time I’d showered and changed),

someone stopped by. I knew his footfalls before he even reached the door. He walked in, took his

shades off, put his hands on his hips, and looked me over like a disappointed dad.

I couldn’t help but smile at Jackson. “If you’re here to arrest me, you took your damn

time.”

He looked down. “It took my damn time to cover your ass.”

I laughed. “Just like one of them then, you are.”

“I could say the same to you.”

I wiped my hands off on Lilly’s sunflower apron - which I was wearing. “Do you really

think someone wouldn’t have got to him if I hadn’t first?”

“That’s not the point, Lindsey. We don’t get to make those choices. We do our job. We

don’t, and this fuckin’ town gets free reign.”

“Says the sheriff who covered up a murder!”

He frowned. “Would you have rather me tell them what you really are? They’d have

themselves a good ol’ fashion burning at the stake – with you as the stake.”

I looked away. “I wouldn’t fight it.”

I felt Jackson’s disappointment burn into me. “That’s what this is all about. You did it for

Lilly.”

I turned the tap on and watched the water bubble into a dirty pot. “Lilly didn’t have a

choice. Her clairvoyance gave her up. I made my decision.”

“Just like she made hers when she left.”

Ouch.

Jackson sighed. “Listen. I’m not a fan of what she did to you either, bailin’ on you and

this shithole town. It hurts. I care about her, or did you forget that? She had her reasons. You

can’t blame her, just like you can’t kill the pain away.”

“Even if they deserve it?”

Jackson wore his best poker face. Still I saw: he almost agreed.

I stared out the window at the unrelenting rippling heat. “Jacks... she’s my Lilly.”

He stepped toward me. “She always will be. In the meantime, life has to go on.” He

turned the tap off and wiped his sunglasses on my apron. “The Walker-Payne bar. Boss tells me

money’s gone missing from the tills three times in three months. Thinks it’s an inside job.”

I admit I laughed. “You want me to come back to work? Just like that?”

“I thought the case was weak, too. Obvious, even - until I discovered a cartel’s been

hittin’ town.”

I looked at him.

Jackson raised his eyebrows at me over his sunglasses. “Come back. Bust a cartel with

me. Call it... what’s the word? Penance. Plus, if these thugs are as bad as they seem, you can

have yourself a buffet – in self-defense, of course.” He tossed me a sideways smile and sauntered

out.

What the fuck just happened?

Once the sun went down, and with a lit cigarette in my mouth, I strode out onto the dusty

roads: back in business. A few nights later I got myself some good ol’ fashion hand-to-hand with

these thugs hittin’ town at seriously uncouth hours of the night. Imagine their faces when they

shot, stabbed, and beat me, and I stayed alive. Had myself a buffet alright.

Jackson and I became like the great Western heroes. The townspeople threw us smiles

and free beers. No matter the place – bar, super market, bathroom stall – if we were there, we

owned the joint. Racking up some serious police work, we finally got respected. The next year

was just as incredible. We busted a bootlegger making some serious bank. I didn’t keep the

movies, of course. That’d be illegal.

All the work with my best friend at my flank proved to be the perfect distraction. And I

have to admit: being a man who loves a woman, I took pleasure in more than an ice cold beer or

a good payday every so often. But it never felt the same. Nothing would ever be the same in that

department. My Lilly always came back: in my eyes at night, in the way the moon rippled in

humid rain like her white dress in the wind, in shadows in the sheets around me like the curves of

her body. Always returned, no matter how sweet another woman had been, or how hot and lush

that thug’s blood was, or how quiet some nights were as me and Jackson watched the stars from

the station roof. There were so many sometimes. What the fuck were they all doing up there? I

imagined what anywhere else in the world looked like. Were their skies as full with stars?

One very early morning, I stepped out onto the porch into air that felt, for once, cooler

than hell-fuckin’ hot. The moon hung in the bluest sky. Still time before the sun returned. I sat on

the porch steps, lit a cigarette, took a long drag, and blew the smoke out into a light wind.

There I saw her. Within that winding trail of smoke in the cool air under the bluest sky

with the biggest moon she appeared, only a few feet away. Was she not there when I stepped

out? Didn’t I see her? Was this really a cigarette?

Lilly walked toward me. A flowery blue dress swayed around her knees. I rose to my

feet, even if I couldn’t really feel them. I swear I’d have believed you if you told me two years

hadn’t passed. She looked exactly the same.

She stopped in front of me and smiled. “Hello Lindsey.”

I didn’t want to blink. I looked at her, at all of her, and then I slipped my hand in her hair.

She rested her cheek in it.

I practically shivered. “You’re real.”

She smiled. “So are you.”

I couldn’t stop staring at her. She stared back at me. Was she reading me? I let her. I

didn’t care what she saw. I just didn’t want her to stop looking at me.

Finally I found words again. “Wanna come inside?”

Lilly gently took my hand from her cheek. “Maybe you can buy me a drink first.”

At one of the back tables in the Walker-Payne bar, the same bar Jackson and I saved

almost two years earlier from a cartel, I sat with Lilly. Neither of us said a word since we got

there. Jackson insisted he join us, though he watched from the bar across the floor. As if I

weren’t nervous enough.

Lilly knocked the ice cubes around her glass of Sprite (still on the straight-edge even

when she asked for a drink) with her straw. “Wow, he looks like a real sheriff standing there like

that.”

Jackson stared at us over the rim of his glass.

I took a breath. “He loves you, too. After what you both saw that night... what I did...”

She frowned. “Does he really believe you could hurt me?”

I looked her in the eye. “I could, and I can. But I settled for hating you. At least in the

beginning.”

Lilly gazed into her Sprite.

I took another breath. “Where did you go, Lilly?”

She shook her head. “I ran. I ran and I ran for... God, I don’t know how long. Soon it was

all just highway and desert. Then a little while later, like straight out of a movie: a bus loaded

with Vegas-bound seniors.”

I nodded to the side. “As good a place as any to get answers.”

She smiled. “I got off at the next station. But before I could decide where to go, first I

had a panic attack. It was terrifying. A big part of me wanted to run back here. I came so close.

Then, randomly, I remembered a name. A place. Banff, Alberta.”

I felt my eyes widen. “Canada?”

She nodded. “My mom camped there every summer with her family when she was little.

After I arrived, I checked into rehab.”

I frowned. “I admit I thought you were going to say you went camping.”

“It’s not just for drugs or alcohol,” she said. “I don’t know, I just made this big

declaration, this personal vow to... face myself, you know? Face my inner demons, face my...

abilities. Figure everything out. It sounded glamorous, even easy - then I actually had to do it.

Two months I stayed there. I even used my abilities to help other patients. I didn’t want to at first

but with my counsellor’s encouragement, I mean, it became therapeutic in itself. Reading others,

helping them... it gave me perspective. I realized not only how worse off others are, but what I

have.” Her eyes wandered about the bar, almost finding me but not quite. “The goodness I have

in my life, however complex. After I left rehab, I sought out the local psychic community.

Among them, a clairvoyant named River Glawson taught me not only how to better manage my

abilities, but how to separate myself from them. Like an actor leaving his character on-stage. I

got another job counselling children. Personal counselling outside the classroom helping kids

other counsellors couldn’t, or didn’t have the resources support to. With practice I was able to do

what River taught me: leave it at the office. On one day off I read no one. Not once. I didn’t

realize it ‘til I went to bed.” She paused, her eyes closed. “I heard silence in my mind for the first

time since I was a child. It relieved and scared me at the same time.”

I watched her face. “You thought you’d lost it.”

Lilly looked at me. “Only one part of me, yes - but still a part. One of my counsellors

suggested I face the man who killed Colton and Charlie. Since he was the one who... triggered

my abilities, as it were, she felt it would give me closure to speak to him.”

I looked down. “I guess that’s my bad.”

“Why do you say it like that? Like some chastised child? Besides, I didn’t agree with

her.”

“You didn’t?”

“What kind of closure could a man like that give someone like me? I saw it when I read

him. That night I saw that dead man in the cell with you. There was nothing. No remorse from

him, no pity, just... blackness.” She paused. “I’m not saying that makes it okay, what you did.

It’s not. But, to be honest...”

I nodded. “To be honest, it is okay, and that’s what scares you.”

Lilly met my eyes again.

I almost smiled. “Kill enough as I have, for food or otherwise, and you’ll understand.”

She glanced off, even if a small knowing smile formed on her lips.

I sat back. “So, now what? I mean I hate to ask, but it’s nagging me. Are you... seeing

anyone?”

Lilly laughed. “No. No, there’s been no one.” She hesitated. “You?”

I felt myself flush.

“Well, I guess we did break up...”

“Lilly, it was never -”

“You don’t have to explain -”

“No, I do.” I shifted in my chair to face her straight-on. “Lilly, there’s never been anyone

like... look, I know at the time you were certain you wouldn’t come back. I was certain of the

opposite. But I’m here. Now, you’re here. I have to know: will you stay?”

Lilly stared at me.

I really wanted to be clairvoyant.

 

Them rugrats could barely contain themselves when Lilly walked through the elementary

school doors the next morning. That night, too, she went to the bar again with those same lady-

friends as the first time I saw her. She became all about this town like nothing happened, this

same town she ran away from that she’d only wanted to be a part of her whole life. By the way, I

didn’t know all of this because I stalked her again - this time I got my news through Jackson. He

took it solely upon himself (I swear) to keep Lilly in his loop. She stayed at his small rancher –

not at her own place, where I was. To be honest, and I know this sounds contradictory

considering I knew her every move, but I didn’t care. I want to say not caring worried me, but

then I didn’t worry about not worrying. I had an epiphany: if she stayed, she stayed; if she left,

she left, and I’d keep to the same words I declared that night in the church. I knew Jackson

worried, though. Not much I could do there; she filled his heart just the same as she did mine.

And then, it happened.

The three of us spent one evening at the Walker-Payne bar. I sat with Jackson; Lilly sat

across from us. She felt far away, quieter than her usual. She watched everything around her in a

state of perpetual restlessness, like she’d left the stove on. I wondered why she struggled to

control her abilities now since she learned all the control-Zen-shit River-what’s-her-name taught

her. Something was on Lilly’s mind.

Some drunk bastard (not Mr. Simmons; he’d bailed town after a vengeful act involving

scissors from his long-suffering wife) threw June Carter’s “Wildwood Flower” on the jukebox.

Couples gathered in the small middle section of the bar, creating a makeshift dance floor.

Lilly smiled at Jackson. “Dance with me?”

Jackson smiled back. “Absolutely.” He slipped out of his chair, accepted Lilly’s hand,

and led her to the dance floor. He swept her into his arms as they began to sway.

It was instantaneous. Like some bad rash, I knew. Something was terribly wrong. Not

because Jackson danced with Lilly. But it was there; something between them, surrounding them

in that moment that night. Lilly leaned on Jackson’s shoulder, her fingers curled on his back. She

spoke so quietly to him. Jackson held her closer, his ear bent to her. Trust I say this as a

compliment: no one ever felt safer than when in my best friend’s arms. Their conversation,

though – that was for them and for them alone. That was the moment. That’s when it all fell

apart.

And all because of a conversation.

In Lilly’s bedroom, the same that’d become mine, I packed what little I had to call my

own into a garbage bag. A small radio perched on the dresser played Elvin Bishop’s “I Fooled

Around and Fell in Love” (I swear I’m not lying). There I was again making another mistake:

breaking my vow to stay. What had I become? I was a fuckin’ force of nature! I ate men alive!

Over a hundred years all over the world I stomped, doing whatever and whoever the fuck I

wanted, and then this town happens. But I even made something of this shithole. I put thugs

behind bars with my best friend. I became respected, yet it all went to shit because of a woman I

didn’t just want to fuck and leave. All because I couldn’t leave her. Because I loved her.

I loved Lilly.

The music stopped.

I turned around.

She stood by the dresser, her finger on the radio’s OFF button. She frowned. “What are

you doing?”

I dropped my arms. “I know I said I’d stay for you... but fuck, Lilly! Who am I kidding?

You just had this incredible soul-searching Morgan Freeman-narrated transformation, and me?

I’m just me, same old fucker Lindsey. You were always out of my league, I knew it. You got

your head on straight and a new life ahead of you, and I can’t fuck it up for you. I love you too

much to fuck it up.”

When I finally looked at Lilly again, she was smiling at me.

I admit I felt a bit annoyed. “What? What?”

Her smile widened. “No fuckin’ way.”

My mouth dropped open. “You don’t have to mock me, alright? I’m already leaving.”

Lilly laughed and walked to me, her feet so light on the carpet. “Lindsey, that’s what you

said when I asked you if you loved me. Remember?”

I smiled at the memory - then I snapped out of it. “This is your home and your life,” I

said, grabbing my garbage bag. “Jackson’ll take care of you.”

Lilly intercepted me. “I don’t want Jackson to take care of me. Does he even know?

You’re brothers, you two. You’ll leave us both?”

I looked out the blinded window.

She inched closer. “There’s no one in this town, in this world like me, Lindsey, except

you. You were right all along: I would always come back, because I was never the only freak in

this town.”

I could actually feel the world fall away as I stared at her then. “Not since I arrived.”

She smiled.

I shook my head. “Un-fuckin’ believable, Lilly.” I took her face in my hands and kissed

her. She threw her arms around my neck and wrapped her legs around my waist. I buried my face

in her neck, deep in her hair, in the most blessed dark place I’d ever been.

“Lindsey, wait.”

I pulled back. “What is it?”

Lilly rubbed my neck. “I want you to do something before we do this. And please, don’t

say no.”

God, I just wanted her. “What do you want me to do?”

She looked me in the eye. “I want you to turn me.”

I – gently – set her on the bed. “No.”

“It’s what I want, Lindsey.”

“Lilly, no. I can’t give you any kind of pain like that. I won’t.”

She took my face in her hands. “Trust me, Lindsey, you... you’re worth loving and

hurting for.”

I looked at her, at my Lilly: her dark eyes so alive, her hair, her mouth – her everything.

“Are you sure?”

She nodded, holding me. “It’s what I want.”

Finally I kissed her again. She pulled me down onto the bed. As she readjusted her head

on the pillow I suddenly, unintentionally, laughed.

She laughed with me, though her brow creased. “What?”

“We might have to move.”

“What?”

“Look at us, love. One vampire in this sun-drenched place is a story, but two...”

Lilly threw her hand over her eyes as she laughed again. “Anywhere, Lindsey. We’ll go

anywhere. Turn me and we’ll go.”

I took a breath. “I love you.”

She nodded quickly. “I love you.”

I threw my head back and lunged into her neck. She cried out, a tight, sharp sound. Her

blood oozed into my mouth: hot and sweet and so thick. I drank and drank, spellbound by my

own senses.

I didn’t even feel Lilly’s legs drift down...

... or her hands slide off my back to her sides.

When I finally tore myself away I was almost dizzy. Her blood buzzed inside me,

vibrating under my skin. Then, I bit into my wrist, opening a small cut, and pressed my blood to

her lips. “I know it tastes fuckin’ awful now,” I panted, “but it won’t after.”

I didn’t feel anything. I looked at Lilly. She stared up at the ceiling, her eyes wide. She

lay completely still. I laughed a little. “Lilly, drink it. Come on.” I pressed my bleeding wound to

her lips. “Lilly, you have to drink. Lilly. Lilly.”

 

Being immortal equals a lot of years. Your memory almost becomes its own person.

Sometimes I can barely remember yesterday, recall an hour ago. Other days I remember things

like they just happened, like the colour of the tea kettle I broke in that shop in San Francisco after

I dropped acid with Jefferson Airplane (I’m not shitting you. And it was yellow). I remember my

last sunrise before I became a vampire. It started to rain just as it came up, and a rainbow halo

appeared around the sky, this amazing dome of colour in the showers. The sight defied fuckin’

physics, but it was beautiful. Imagine that then, all those memories and the rest, detailed or

forgotten, and then imagine how utterly empty and quiet my mind became as I sat in the hallway

in the hospital that night, in that town.

I stared at the faded matte checkered floor. Every few minutes shoes passed: cowboy

boots from a drunken whore, little sneakers of a crying toddler, slippers from an old man having

a coughing fit... then, a familiar pair of black boots, scratched and worn but somehow still shiny,

stopped in front of me, and then walked around to the empty chair at my side.

Everybody: my best friend, Jackson Harris.

I took in a shaky breath. “The doctor said she died of shock. Her body and mind,

overwhelmed... she died quickly, just seconds after I....” The floor became a blurry mess in my

eyes. I felt hot and cold at the same time, like I’d been struck with a terrible flu (in that place I

wouldn’t be surprised if I had).

I glanced at Jackson. “What did she say to you? When you danced?”

He stared off. “She told me she realized where she belonged. What she wanted. Who.”

I swallowed. “Did she ask you if she should do it?”

He took a shuddering breath. “Lindsey is my best friend, I said. You love him, and I love

you for it.”

So many scenarios flooded me:

a) I ripped Jackson’s head off and drank from his oozing neck stem,

b) I lost all my shit and broke down so hard I needed to be committed,

c) I killed everyone in the hospital,

d) I ran into that room and tore Lilly to fuckin’ shreds for being so stupid.

Why? Why would she make that decision? Didn’t she understand what would happen if it

failed, if I couldn’t do it? If I could, what if it didn’t work? What if it didn’t take? How many

vamps are you aware of? Trust me there ain’t many of us, not anymore. It’s fuckin’ risky. Why

would she do that to me? Why would she put so much faith in me? Had she met me? Of course

she had. She loved me. That was the problem.

I admit I was angry with Jackson, too. Lilly confided in him but it was me who made it

happen. I had to live with that, not Jackson. But fuckin’ Christ I couldn’t hate him. He was all I

had now, officially.

“Are you sure your blood won’t take?” he asked.

I wiped my face with both hands. I was exhausted. “She has to have her last breath in her.

I’d already taken it.” I planted my palms on my knees. “Do me a favour, Jacks?”

He nodded. “Anything.”

“Find your girl. Bring her here or go to her. I don’t give a fuck which. Just find her,

marry her, and never let her go.”

Jackson nodded again.

I nodded, too. Then, I pushed myself up and started down the hallway.

“Where are you going, Lindsey?”

I didn’t answer. I didn’t hear anything after that. Didn’t look at anything or anybody. All

I ever had or wanted was gone. Because of me. Even when I tried to save her.

I’ll never forget the sun that afternoon I stepped out of the hospital. The fuckin’ most

beautiful and brightest I’d ever seen.

It never happened before. Never, and I’d been around a long while, too long a while for

any man: a 150-plus year old vampire with dark eyes and a dark past, blah blah - you’ve heard

that before so I won’t get into the bloody bits (see what I did there?). The point is it never

happened before that night. Before her.

Yeah, this is that kinda story. I met a girl and she changed everything. I’m not sorry for

being a cliché because for once, just this once, that movie fairytale happened. It happened to me

and it happened to her.

And then we both died.

---

The town was nothin’ but a few shops, a gas station, an elementary school, a church

(God, don’t get me started), a couple a’ bars – the Walker-Payne, kind of second home for

everyone, and another shack of a place that hadn’t a name since the Civil War. And where was

all of this? Smack-dab in a desert-heat field next to the middle of nowhere, with the reddist sand

you’d ever seen, and dead spikey trees like some sort of Wild West Tim Burton-esque border

keepin’ us all in tight claustrophobic under an almost constantly clear sky and blazing ball o’

sun. Come to think of it, I can’t remember the actual name of the town. Perhaps that was a

decision my mind made for me. More scar tissue to come, trust me.

I landed a job alongside Jackson Harris. Man, Jackson Harris: permanent five o’clock

shadow, black hair that defied gravity, and eyes so dark I forgot I was supposed to be the scary

one. Jackson was every man’s Every Man and every Lady’s Man. Funny he only ever had one

lady himself. I never met her – she was always bombing around the world - but from the stories

Jackson told me I imagined her as some great mythic figure. One minute she and Jackson were

fucking, the next she’d pull a Goodfellas on his ass, straddling him with a gun pointed right in

between his eyes because God damn it dishes go in the dishwasher, not the fuckin’ sink! Despite

this, or what anybody might have thought from his always-black attire, or that look in his eyes,

Jackson was a good man. He ought to, to be my friend anyway. Bonus: he didn’t give two fucks

about me being a vampire, long as I stayed off his neck.

Jackson was the sheriff. In that town, that meant little more than diffusing gossip and

fights between the locals. The job didn’t earn him much respect. When Mrs. Simmons told him

her lumbering rosy-cheeked drunk husband beat her – again - Mr. Simmons pulled a shotgun on

Jackson in a drunken rage and told him he’d shoot him if he didn’t leave his marriage and this

town alone. Jackson very quietly finished his whiskey, grabbed the barrel of the gun, slammed

the butt of it into Mr. Simmons’ face, then yanked it out of his hands. As the drunken bastard

looked up from the small of his back, his nose a bleeding mess, Jackson aimed the shotgun at the

old fuck’s crotch and said, “We both know where we ought to stay.” See, that? That’s movie

shit right there. But to be perfectly honest, most of the time business as usual: get case (and I use

the word ‘case’ very loosely), solve case, have beer, repeat - until that night.

She walked into the Walker-Payne bar with two other women. Unlike them she looked

like she’d a rather been anywhere else, but her indifferent smile shielded that truth from anyone

who wasn’t really looking. I don’t blame them for not really looking either. She had a slim body,

firm thighs, and skinny ankles in dark jeans and black boots. She didn’t have the biggest rack but

it worked with her small waist and curvy hips. She wore a solid white tank top. Green earrings

shined from within long thick dark hair. Like actual waves that brunette mane tumbled, all the

way down her back. She smiled at the bartender and I saw even from where I sat in the corner

with Jackson, I saw a light in her eyes. There was something going on in there, a spark in this

woman so bright in a place as shit-hole and dark as this.

“What’da think, Lindsey?”

I frowned at Jackson. “I think I want to shit my pants.”

“Likely not the best first impression.”

The woman sat down with her lady-friends. Them two had a couple of beers between

them; she only had what looked like water (really luck of the draw in this town. Want a glass of

water? Here’s a cloudy yellow-ish liquid we call ‘water’). She wasn’t a big drinker then. I was

well into my fourth beer.

Jackson nudged me. “Go talk to her.”

“Jacks, look at that. She’s got her head on straight. Mine’s been on backward since I

came outta me mum.”

“She doesn’t belong here.”

“She’s not from here?”

Jackson looked at the woman, reading the terrain. “No. I mean, I don’t know. But she

stands out, doesn’t she?”

I got that. This woman ought to be from far away, from somewhere maybe I hadn’t even

touched. She had to be. I watched her. She looked around a lot. Not at anything in particular, but

not at nowhere neither. While the other two ladies drank their beers and nattered on about who-

the-fuck-cares, she appeared to listen and play the social game, but she was really somewhere

else. That was her head, the spark I would eventually know. Everywhere but nowhere as she

watched the scum, the dirt, the haggard and jaded scattered about this place.

And then she looked at me.

I might have shit my pants.

She looked at me across the noise and smoky air, across every table and eye that watched

her. She looked only at me. I couldn’t tell what ran across her eyes; almost too many things.

Then she smiled, almost imperceptibly. Was it because I was smiling? Was I smiling? I want to

say in that moment I waltzed on over, chatted her up, impressed her friends, took her home and

had her ‘till she came twice.

But I didn’t. I got up, sure, but then I practically ran out of there. I may as well have

grown a vagina at the same time. I don’t scare easy, me, but she scared the livin’ shit out of me –

and she only had to look at me.

Despite my epic failure as a man, I couldn’t escape her. Full on Willie Nelson action:

always on my mind. I returned to the bar a couple nights later. She wasn’t there. Did I let her go?

Of course not. One night I spotted her walk out of the elementary school with a little girl. A car

pulled up, she helped the little girl into the passenger seat and then waved her off as the car

rolled away. No wonder I hadn’t seen her again: she worked in the one place I didn’t even finish

myself. Yeah, I didn’t finish elementary school - fuck off if you feel like waggin’ a finger. I

turned out okay.

I followed her home in my truck. May as well have had a giant flashing I’M OBSESSED

WITH YOU sign the damn thing clinked and clanged around so loud. I did this a few times a

week, enough to call myself a stalker; if she noticed, she never once gave me a sign. After a few

nights I discovered she in fact worked at the elementary school as a counsellor. Shit: she was

smart. I’ve always been stupid, but now I really felt it. She was out of my league and I was out of

my mind to think I could have her. How did she do this to me? If it was anyone else (believe me,

I’ve had many “anyone elses”) I’d a had my fun long ago and walked away. But she had me by

the short and curlies, this one.

One night while in our office, Jackson finally had enough. He said, “Lindsey, go see her.”

I blinked. “‘Go see her.’ Genius advice, mate, not like I’ve considered that.”

“No, I mean go see her. As a patient.”

“She helps kids.”

Jackson looked up at me as he lit a cigarette. “Exactly.”

I rolled my eyes and gazed out the smeared window. How do you get that foggy shit off

windows? Windex? Can windows sweat? Nothing could help this window anymore.

I looked at Jackson again. “How did you get your girl?”

He shrugged. “I asked her out at the country club dance when I was fifteen.”

“That easy?”

“She told me to fuck off. Then I told her I had some weed.” He grinned. “We danced all

night.”

As soon as the sun went down, I returned to the elementary school. Sure enough I found

her again as I did before, just as she walked out the same doors after another day of nut-brains.

She wore shorts - dark blue ones - black sandals, and a red tee shirt.

I jumped out of my truck. “Hi.”

She turned around, a bit stunned. “Hello.”

I waved (such an idiot). “Lindsey. Sheriff. Well, second-in-command.”

She arched an eyebrow. “You mean an ‘undersheriff’?”

I opened my mouth, then closed it. Then I said, “You know, I prefer ‘his number two’...

and now I don’t because I realize that actually sounds worse. We’re law enforcement people, the

two of us.”

She smiled. “I’m Lilly.”

I shook her hand. “Lilly, wow. That kinda rhymes, doesn’t it? Lilly and Lindsey.”  

Her smile froze.

I coughed. “You’re a counsellor here?”

“Are those your sheriff skills or your stalking skills? Or are they the same for you?”

Shit.

Lilly scratched her neck. Her thick hair rustled. “Yeah, I’ve gotten to know your truck.

Care to explain why I’ve had the pleasure of its noisey company these last few weeks? Or do you

have a child you’re concerned about...”

I almost choked. “Me, have kids? Oh God, no. No, no. I mean, not that I don’t like them,

I just... God, I hope not.”

Lilly smiled again.

I felt myself flush. She was fuckin’ gorgeous, even in shorts and a tee shirt. She barely

had any make-up on. “I thought I’d ask for your help,” I said finally.

“My help?”

“Counselling. I need counselling.”

She squinted. “I’m a children’s counsellor...”

“Practically the only counsellor of any kind around here, though. What’da say?”

She shrugged. “Sure. Tomorrow morning, 8AM.” She turned to leave.

I smiled tight. “I don’t do mornings.”

She turned back. “I can fit you in after lunch?”

“No lunchtime either. Don’t do much of daylight time anything. I’m a night owl.”

“I can meet you tomorrow night.” She tossed a smile at me over her shoulder as she

walked away. “I mean, if you plan on following me again.”

Who was this woman?

 

The next night Lilly and I opted for her office instead of outside the school to meet. The

office walls were spotted with little pictures and art-things little shits make. A couple of wooden

chairs with purple cushions were placed in front of a brown desk by the window (so much

cleaner than Jackson and mine’s office window). I looked at a book shelf beside the desk. Fuck,

that’s a lot of books.

“Shall we get started?”

I remember how she looked when I turned around. She’d snagged one of the purple-

cushioned chairs and sat herself beside the couch, a notepad and pen already in her hand, and her

hair tied back. For a second I wondered what she was on about – then I remembered. I didn’t

really want help, of course. Might have needed it now that I think about it, but we both know

that’s not why I was really there.

She must have seen all this go through my mind because she suddenly frowned, like she

thought I was going to throw up.

I rocked back on my heels. “I think I’ve made a mistake.”

Lilly smiled. “It’s hard to ask for help but trust me, there is nothing you can or can’t say

that isn’t worth saying. I’ve heard it all.”

I almost laughed. “I’d take that back.”

“Everyone has a story.”

I stared at her. She looked back at me, sitting so still in that chair.

I lumbered on to the couch and sat in front of her. “You’re not from here, are you?”

She smirked. “I can tell you’re not.”

“I’m from nowhere, really. Nothin’ more to offer than what I got right here and now in

this moment in this shite hole –” I grimaced. “Sorry. Potty mouth.”

Lilly tilted her head to one side. “What makes you think that?”

“I’ve been cussin’ since I was five –”

“No, the...” She laughed. “Why do you think you have nothing to offer?”

I looked at her, really looked at her for the first time since I saw her. “I know what I am. I

know what my life is, what it will be. I’m going to live out my days here – or maybe not here.

Maybe somewhere else, somewhere that’ll become forgotten and old and abandoned like

everything else eventually is. It doesn’t matter, really, it’s so simple for me but you... you’re not

one of us. You’re not this place, this... dry, dusty wasteland. You’re not even like them girls at

the bar. You never wanted to be there, did you?”

Lilly never left my eyes. “Am I that easy to read?”

“Am I?”

Her brow furrowed. “I feel like I haven’t really started.” She surrendered her pen and

notepad with a sigh. “But you’re... sincere. Curious, even insightful. I wasn’t expecting that

monologue.”

I winced. “I wasn’t either.”

Then, the light literally faded from Lilly’s eyes. “But I’m sorry: you don’t have me as

figured out as you think.” Suddenly she stood. Seconds later, she had her purse slung over her

shoulder.

I jumped to my feet. “What did I say? I’m sorry, I speak when I shouldn’t, well, speak.

It’s quite often, I promise, and with practically everyone.”

Lilly smiled at me but it wasn’t like any smile she gave me before. This was her work-

smile, the kind she used on parents before she told them their offspring were padded-cell-crazy.

“This place,” she said finally, “this dry and dusty wasteland, with those girls and everyone

else...”

I shrugged. “Yeah?”

“It’s where I was born.” She turned and walked out.

I didn’t know what to think. First, she just barged out of a session. Aren’t I a paying

patient? Well we never got that far. Plus, she left me alone in an elementary school after hours –

hardly a smart decision for such a dramatic exit. But before I let that convince me she was just

stuck-up, I had another thought (yes, it happens). That thought? I blew it. I lost her before I even

got her. Okay so she interpreted my compliment as an insult, but could she blame me? She was a

diamond in this pile of shit, a gem in this dusty sun-baked turd of a town. Why did she belong

here? How could she come from here? I decided I couldn’t leave it at that. I’d already stalked

her. What was one more night?

I moved quickly. In that town the sun came up faster than someone’s sister got knocked

up (again) and I’d have preferred not to burst into flames on her doorstep. I drove up to her small

rancher, an old little place you could tell she loved. The paint chipped, and the swinging chair on

the small porch hung from hooks I don’t know how many times replaced, but she had these

flower baskets hanging from the gutter, and bright lights in the windows like Christmas string-

lights. It seemed a fantasy home, a small wonder glowing in this ever-dark place.

Behind the wheel in my grumbling truck, I watched the kitchen window. Lilly washed

dishes. A string of hair dangled in front of her eyes. She ignored it, scrubbing the dishes so hard.

What’d she make, concrete patties? At last she shook her hands out, wiped them on a small

towel, and flipped the light off.

Cue the vampire.

By the time I reached the porch, Lilly already swung the door open. She looked at me

through a screen door. “I think you should leave, Lindsey.”

I stood up straight, real gentleman-like. “I’m sorry. I should have been more up-front

with you. I should have known you’d be smarter than... everyone.”

She threatened to close the door.

I raised my hands. “Hear me out. Please. Look, I don’t need counselling. I don’t need any

help, really. Well that’s debatable, but... look, I like you. Like, really like you. I saw you in that

bar, like, 500 years ago ‘cause I mean I’ve been on your ass a long while now – not on your ass,

that’s not what I meant...”

Lilly took a breath. “Lindsey -”

“Please, just...” I sighed and hung my head. “I’m a 150-year old vampire from

Manchester, and you’re the first woman I’ve met that I didn’t just want to fuck and leave.” I

peeked up at her. “Sorry I said ‘fuck’.”

Lilly stared at me. She stared at me for as long as tumbleweeds took to roll by (not really

but what a movie moment that’d a been, eh?) Finally then, she opened the screen door. “I know.”

I turned to leave. “Alright, I’ll go – wait, what did you say?”

 

I’ve heard and seen many things in my many years, enough to make me laugh, run and

shit my pants at the same time (you don’t think it’s possible), but I could tell by the way Lilly

looked at me when she said it, none of that would bode well this time. “You’re clairvoyant,” I

repeated.

She nodded, clutching a cup of tea with both hands. “I discovered it when I was a child.

Mrs. Hamilton, my second-grade teacher. She watched this couple walk by the playground. The

mother was holding a baby girl over her shoulder. Probably wasn’t a couple months old. Mrs.

Hamilton had the saddest smile on her face: she’d had her abortion two weeks earlier.”

Remember the shitting my pants bit? In that moment I might have - a little. “So you can

read minds?”

“Oh no, no, I’m not psychic. I... pick up on things from people’s energies, feelings, even

objects. And sometimes I sense things from those who have passed on.” Lilly paused. “That’s

how I learned about my teacher’s abortion... through the baby.”

I actually felt my mind racing. “Did you tell anyone?”

“I was terrified I even knew. I didn’t know what I was doing, or how. How would I tell

anyone? It felt like a dream.” Lilly turned and dunked her tea into the sink. “Childhood was fun,

but high school – that was a whole different story. So many hormones! By senior year I

understood what I could do. Whenever it would happen, whenever I’d pick up on information,

I’d call it a ‘read’: reading someone, or something. It’s... overwhelming. It’s really become

managing everything I take in. Still, I moved out after graduation. I’ve been on my own ever

since. Being alone, it... makes life quieter.”

I smirked. “Quiet? In this town?”

She laughed a little. “I only speak for myself.”

“Not a social butterfly then?”

“Those girls are...” She hesitated. “I guess friends from work, if I can call them friends.

Come out and have a drink with us, they said. De-stress.” Lilly shook her head like she’d tasted

something bitter. “It’s very noisey in that bar.”

I felt my eyes widen. “That’s why you... in the bar, your eyes were everywhere. But you

still want to be a part of this town. I mean, that’s why you were upset earlier, in your office. I

pointed you out.”

She looked at me for a long time before she spoke again. “I want to be reminded that I

belong somewhere. That I’m... normal. Even in this town.”

I stared at her. “Even when you’re still alone, in this house, in this town.”

She turned away.

I slid closer to her. “You know me, then. I mean, you read me, yeah?”

Lilly nodded.

“What did you see?”

“Not much and too much at the same time. I guess I didn’t really believe it, what you are.

You fascinated me.”

I admit I blushed.

Lilly smiled. “But apparently I missed your intentions, or misunderstood them. I suppose

not wanting to just fuck me and haul ass is impressive?”

I denied the temptation to acknowledge her word-play and slipped even closer “Go on.

Read me again. See how many women I’ve met who are like you.”

Lilly smiled, surprised if impressed. Then she looked at me, straight into my eyes. I

realized what I’d done. I shit my pants again. Yep, there it was: a hot mess all down my leg

(don’t worry, this is just a metaphor. At least that time it was). But I wanted Lilly to read me, to

see me. Little did I care for what any fucker thought of me, but I cared what she thought. She

needed to see I meant it. And I meant it: 150 years and counting and never in all that time

meeting someone like her? She needed to know.

At last, Lilly frowned. “They’re bad people, aren’t they?”

I blinked. “Bit specific, love?”

“The ones you kill. The ones you... feed from.”

“Ah.” I leaned back. Then I stepped back. “I’m not gonna eat a toddler, am I? Well,

unless they deserve it. Some of them – little fuckers.” I winced. “Sorry for cussing again.”

Lilly laughed. “Only druggies and thugs, bad guys and dolls.”

“Druggies, no, not if I can help it. Their blood tastes funny.”

Her eyes sparkled. “God, you are real. Are you immortal?”

I smiled up at her with my head down. “I’m not dead...”

“But you’ve been around.”

“How so? Like, around or around? The answer’s yes to both.”

Lilly laughed. I smiled. That was it. That was the moment I had her. I think she knew it,

too – just like I know it scared both of us. Who’d a thought a 150-plus year old fucker like

myself, and an angel in the dust would find each other like this? These moments, my friend, are

few and far. Forget few and far – they just don’t fuckin’ happen. Trust me.

I decided to take advantage of the perfect movie moment and leaned in to kiss her.

But Lilly stepped back.

My heart rocketed into my stomach. “I’m sorry –”

“No, no, it...” She smiled, softly. “It’s fine. But, maybe we ought to call it a night?”

I pushed myself off the counter. “Quite a first date, huh?”

She nodded to the side. “I’ve not had many, but yeah. This has been a lot.”

“Hopefully not too much, though.”

She smiled. “I’ll wait for the familiar racket you call that truck.”

I stopped on my way to the door. “I love my truck.”

“I didn’t say I didn’t.” She lifted one shoulder to her chin as she smiled.

I looked away, afraid I’d look like a complete tool for being so giddy. Then my smile

faded. “It’s not really because you want to be normal, is it?”

She frowned, listening.

I gestured to my head. “Your clairvoyant thing. You moved out after graduation, yeah,

but then you could have gone somewhere else, anywhere else. But you stayed. You say it’s

because you want to belong, don’t want to stand out. That might still be true, but I think it’s for

the kids. Your kids at the school. You can see them, can’t you?”

She took a breath. “Someone ought to.”

That was it. That was the beginning of our... were we dating? God it sounds so juvenile

but yeah, I suppose we were. We didn’t do much exciting: I’d roll up and pick her up after work,

we’d spend hours at her place or at the bar if she was up to it – imagine the looks I got from the

fat fucks who watched me both come and leave with her. After sundown she’d go to bed, I’d

take the couch, and we’d pick up where we left off the next day. She met Jackson. He charmed

her with his charisma and wit, soon smitten just the same. The two of them had a kind of brother-

sister thing. A fuckin’ sitcom our lives became, all three of us like some perfect albeit, motley,

family.

Obvious then as things started to look up, it all went to shit.

A woman ran into Jackson and mine’s office, mad-house hysterical. Her five year old

son, Charlie Morrison, didn’t show up at school after he got off the bus. He wasn’t at his daycare

either. Jackson and I jumped on the case, our first real case beyond drunkards and bullshit. But

we got nothing. We crossed all our T’s and dotted them I’s, but we came up empty every time.

No one’s seen him? Where could he be? The town’s a finite area and everyone’s known

everyone since the damn dinosaurs (those who believed in them anyway). By the time four days

passed, Jackson worried the boy wasn’t even in town.  “It’s all about statistics,” he’d said. By the

tone of his voice, I knew he feared worse.

Then, one night while we stewed in our office, I chucked another file across the table and

looked at my best friend. “We can ask Lilly for help.”

Jackson flicked his eyes to me. “We already talked to the school.”

You following? I’d not yet told Jackson Lilly was clairvoyant. She hadn’t either. I mean,

it’s not something that pops up in conversation normal-like.

After I told him, Jackson sighed. “You know how to pick ‘em, Lindsey.”

Lilly wasn’t surprised when we asked her for help, though a case involving a missing

child made her nervous. She singled out a few possible suspects within a day for more

interviews. But after each reading, she couldn’t pin-point anyone for sure.

Days crawled by without Charlie. People started to lose faith, if they had any to begin

with. Charlie’s parent’s looked like hell. I imagine I would, too. Lilly was determined to find the

one responsible for causing this pain. Jackson and I shared her disgust for whoever did this, but

she took it to heart. One day she had meetings with each child at her elementary school: each

child. She hated to do it but she wanted to read every single child, see through them and their

experiences if she could find out where Charlie was or who took him, no matter how small the

detail. One by one the children passed through her office - one by one they passed with flying

colours. Lilly didn’t sleep that night. All of that information rocked her head. I asked her what it

felt like.

“Ever had a migraine?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

She shut her eyes tight. “It’s nothing like that.”

Like a monster with its fist through her heart, this case. She cared so much for this child,

for Charlie Morrison who she’d admitted she herself only talked to maybe once or twice in the

playground. He was just a little boy like any other. She felt guilty for not knowing him better; I

felt bad for not being able to care like she did. It’s not that I didn’t – a damn child was missing!

But I wished some days I were clairvoyant, too. I’d know the right things to say or do to help her

because I realized, in one of my purely selfish moments, this whole thing was taking Lilly away

from me, slowly. I hate me for saying it but if I’m anything, ever, it’s bloody honest. This case

took her so far away from me and I wanted her back, wanted us back. Lilly had twenty-

something years to her name - I’d already had 150 and counting. She couldn’t for a second

understand what she meant to me, and then this awful thing happens... I admit I couldn’t adapt.

So as you’d expect, I let all this stupid jealousy and selfishness go to my head.

I drove to the school to pick Lilly up from work, like I always did. She walked out the

main doors, like she always did - except this time, with some guy. Tall with dark floppy hair, a

sweater vest (in this heat?) and fancy loafers I remember my granddad wore, he walked and

talked with Lilly on their way toward one of them Fiesta-type cars. He ducked in behind the

wheel, she joined him in the passenger seat, and off they went.

By the time I blasted up to Lilly’s rancher, Mr. Sweater-Vest-Fiesta-Driver had

vamoosed - but I was just getting started. I marched into the kithcne. “Who the fuck was that?”

Lilly froze with the tea kettle in her hand.

“Who was that? That fuckin’ knobhead sweater-wearing pretty boy I saw you get in a car

with. Have you forgotten a kid’s gone missing? The guy who’s done it can be anyone, anywhere!

What the fuck were you thinking?”

Utterly silent, Lilly turned to the stove and set the kettle on the back burner. As the water

boiled a slow low rumble, she turned to me and curled her fingers around the counter edge

behind her.

Oh. Shit.

Lilly looked me in the eye. “You can ask me anything you like about anything at all at

any time and I will answer anything just the same. But speak to me like that again and I will beat

you to death - with a frying pan, if I have to.”

I shifted like I had to pee. “Never seen a vamp done in by a frying pan.”

“That’s why it’ll work. I’ve been alone a long time, Lindsey. I will gladly do it again.”

The thought of losing her calmed me down real quick. “Who is he?” I asked, quietly.

“His name is Patrick. He’s a Special Ed teacher.”

I tried to remember everyone Jackson and I spoke to at the school. This Patrick-guy

rang the faintest bell. “Why’d you get in his car?”

“Like everyone else he’s very aware of Charlie’s abduction, of the fact that we still don’t

know who took him – that it’s dangerous...” She raised her eyebrows at me. “So he offered me a

ride home.”

“And you took it?”

“I’ve worked with him for years.”

“I was coming.”

“You were late.”

“I was with Jackson, doing my job - I lost track of time!”

“Then what’s the problem?”

I tried to find some more ammunition. I was all out. I’ve hated myself a lot in my long

life (mate, I’ve done horrible things) but never more than in that moment. Why did I ever doubt

her? Why did I ever doubt myself?

When I looked at her again, Lilly almost smiled. I laughed a little, surprised I felt

nervous. “I suppose you just got all that?”

She shrugged. “I got the gist.”

I trudged toward her, enclosing her perfect glowing body with the dark, warped shadow

of mine. “I’m sorry. I’ll never talk to you like that again.”

“You’re forgiven. I guess we’re all a bit on-edge.” She shook her head and looked off

somewhere. “It’s all over this town. The pain, confusion, anger. It’s...”

I touched her hair. “It’s tearing you apart. Make no mistake, love: Jackson and I won’t

stop until we find Charlie.”

Finally, Lilly smiled. She sank into me and pressed her forehead to my chest. I folded my

arms around her and drifted into her neck. I kissed her soft skin. She breathed in a little, her

fingers curling into my back. I pulled her closer, buried in her. I slipped my fingers down her

stomach, under her shorts.

Lilly gasped suddenly. “Lindsey...”

“Yeah?”

She laughed a little, nervously. “I, um... I think, uh, I don’t...”

I looked up at her so fast I got dizzy. “I wasn’t. I just –”

She touched my cheek. “I know. I know. I want to be close to you, too. Just... I want to

tell you I’ve... never gotten... that close before.”

“Really, Lilly, it’s not –” I blinked. “Oh. Oh! Wait, never?”

The kettle whistled. Loud.

Lilly arched one eyebrow, though she still smiled. “Problem?”

“No. God no, no problem, just...”

The kettle whistled louder and louder, a shrill scream.

I smiled at Lilly. “Hold that thought.” In one swift step, I moved around her and took the

blasted kettle off the burner. The whistle died to a wobbly whimper. “Finally! Where were we?”

“What is it, Lindsey? Never met a virgin who wasn’t sixteen? Or don’t tell me

younger...”

“Fuckin’ hell, no. I... God, I hope not.” I looked at her again and sighed. “I like it.”

She squinted: further persuasion required.

I smiled. “Fuck, I knew you were special. And now this, it just... I like it. Really.”

She looked off, almost proud. “Well, I’m not about to give it away.”

“Why haven’t you? I mean, out of curiosity.”

She shrugged and turned to prep her tea. “I’ve not dated a lot, sure, but I’ve still had

opportunities. But, one read and I’d know their true intentions.”

“You didn’t know mine.”

She grinned. “That’s true. I still can’t quite see all of you. Maybe it’s because you’re a

vampire. Or maybe you’re special, too.”

I swept an arm in around her waist. “That’s a hell of a way to live your life. Reading

people, deciding if they’re worth it before you even let them try, you know?”

Lilly smiled but her eyes were sad, far away. “I’ve always felt too much, Lindsey. I don’t

want to hurt too much either. So, it ought to be someone worth hurting and loving for.” She

turned to me. “Do you love me, Lindsey?”

I pulled her into my chest, smiling. “No fuckin’ way.”

 

The next morning, Lilly and I awoke to a rapping on the front door that sounded like a

bloody call to arms.

When I opened it, Jackson stood before me, breathless. “We found him.”

Jackson put his foot down harder than my truck probably felt in her life. Sticky heat blew

in through the opened windows, with Lilly sandwiched between us. She’d never been so anxious

(and she wasn’t the one shielding herself with a giant hoodie against the sun). Soon we arrived at

the crusty brown trim to the sad sack of this desert mop – in laymen’s terms, the edge of town.

Only a few scattered trailers lived here, parked so long they’d grown roots. The vulturous

townspeople surrounded one of them, their necks strained as they tried to get a piece of the

action. The sight disgusted me, but I couldn’t blame them either. Paramedics crawled all over the

place. By the time Jackson cut the engine, one of them emerged from the spotlighted trailer with

a small body under a blanket.

We knew instantly it was Charlie. Worse, we knew he was dead. When she saw him,

Charlie’s mother collapsed.  

Jackson had to take a moment, too. I’d never seen that look on his face. He was the hero

of this fuckin’ turd of a town yet he looked so deflated, so absolutely like shit I thought he’d pass

out. Then I looked at Lilly. Across the chaos, across the rippling heat she looked at Charlie,

looked only at this little boy in his crying mother’s arms.

“The neighbouring trailer called me this morning,” Jackson told us quietly. “Said their

dogs been barking at that trailer. Not like him to be this spooked, they said. Then there were the

rats. I mean, rodents are normal around this area, but they... they all converged here.” He paused,

his head down. “Charlie was... buried under the floorboards in the living room.”

I blanched. “This whole time?”

Lilly marched toward the trailer.

Jackson started after her. “Lilly, what -”

“I need to see.” She trembled, sweaty. “I need to see.”

Jackson looked at me. I shrugged – could either of us stop her?

I’ve never seen anything like it. Inside the trailer, a filthy shag carpet once orange (or

some variety) destroyed with the upturned flooring. In the corner, a tiny fireplace overwhelmed

with dust and spider webs, nearly buried in hoarded books and boxes of other random shit.

Splintered blinds hung from dusty old windows and in the middle of it all, sat in an armchair

even Archie Bunker would refuse, a pot-bellied man in his sixties with thread-like hair on a

balding head, in an old tee shirt and tattered jeans. He stopped fidgeting with his handcuffs when

we walked in.

I glanced at Lilly. Then I did a double-take.

I don’t think she was breathing. Tears welled in her eyes as she just stared at the man in

the chair. “It’s you.”

Jackson shifted closer to her. “You know him, Lilly?”

Lilly couldn’t take her eyes away from the man. She looked as if she’d crumble to

nothing right there. Then, in barely a whisper, she said, “Colton.”

I looked at her. “Who’s Colton?”

A tear dripped from her eye. “I remember... and now Charlie, oh God... you’re a

monster.”

The man appeared held captive by Lilly, trapped in her tractor beam. This shrivelled old

perverted sick thing in this little shit trailer was absolutely terrified of a woman in a white dress.

Next thing I know Jackson’s yanked the bastard out of his chair and thrown him outside.

I heard a commotion follow, no doubt the townspeople having their time with the sick fuck, but I

didn’t see any of it. I focussed on something else.

Lilly kept staring at the empty chair that excuse-for-a-human just sat in seconds ago.

I had no idea what was to come.

Jackson deemed a trial unnecessary. The piece-of-shit confessed to killing Charlie and

hiding his body under the floorboards of his trailer. Then he confessed to killing a boy named

Colton Owens almost twenty years earlier and burning his body in a fire pit in his then-backyard.

The bars filled that night with everyone and their sister all coming out to thank themselves for

catchin’ a killer. Even Jackson and I got a few claps on the back for our service. We couldn’t

truly take all the credit. While everyone celebrated as mourning knowing some sick filth was

behind bars and the children were safe again, Lilly didn’t join them. After the arrest, she walked

right passed me and out the trailer door. I didn’t try to stop her. Truth is I was scared to. But

when the sun disappeared beyond the horizon, I finally called her. No answer. I stopped by her

house, by both hers and Jackson and mine’s offices. I couldn’t find her anywhere, until I did.

Make no mistake: just ‘cause I’m a vampire doesn’t mean I can’t walk into a church. I

can walk into a church, sit in the pew, read the Bible, and – imagine that – touch the cross. It’s

all fine and well, just a building to me. That’s where I found Lilly sitting in the front pew,

surrounded by the loud white walls before the giant cross that hung above the stage.

My boots echoed as I traipsed toward her. “Hey.”

Lilly looked up, startled. “Hey.”

I asked anyway. “You alright?”

She nodded as another tear dripped from her eye. “I was... sitting on the swings with my

friend. Sherry Parker was her name. We were only five or six. Someone walked toward us. I

looked up. It was her dad. I’d seen him before, seen him every day when he came to pick her up.

But that day, that time when I looked at him...”

I carefully sat beside her. “What did you see?”

She shook her head. “Colton Owens. He went to my school. He went missing that year.

That day, that day Sherry’s dad picked her up I saw Colton all over him, around him like an

aura. Sherry’s dad killed him and burned his body in his backyard.”

I stared at her. “You knew.”

Lilly looked up, her face red under the pressure of this pain. “That memory, God, I didn’t

know I buried it that deep. That memory was...” She sighed. “That was my first clairvoyant

episode. The very first time I discovered what I could do.”

I looked at her quickly. “It wasn’t your teacher’s abortion.”

She shook her head again. “So deep I buried this I couldn’t even see his face now, didn’t

notice him during the investigation. I know everything else in this town but I never saw him

right there all along, right in front of me.”

I took a moment to organize the thoughts in my head. “Lilly, it’s not your fault.”

She blinked back tears. I watched her drown right in front of me: drown in her

clairvoyance, her cursed gift and the only loneliness it gave her. I didn’t know how to tell her she

wasn’t. When we met, our differences, our uniqueness as two separate people fit us together like

no one else fit with me in my long life. Now that same person became a stranger right in front of

my eyes in real time.

Lilly sighed. “I don’t want to do it anymore, Lindsey.”

I sat back. “Lilly, this... this was fuckin’ hard, for all of us. It was unbelievable - but it’s

over. Charlie is... I don’t know where he is, but we know where the bastard is who took him, the

same one who took Colton from us, too and trust me, he won’t see the light of day.”

Lilly nodded but her eyes ticked back and forth, fast. “The kids’ll be fine without me.”

“What do you mean ‘fine without you’... Lilly, what are you saying?”

She looked at me. She didn’t have to say it.

I wanted to laugh. “Lilly, you... you brought that turd to justice, for Charlie and for

Colton. That was you! They got justice because of you!”

“No, Lindsey, they got justice because of some rats and a barking dog! I didn’t do

anything for those boys, and where are they? Where are they to enjoy their justice?”

“It’s not your fault -”

She jumped to her feet so fast she could have knocked the pew back. “Stop saying that! If

I just paid attention, if I just saw what was right in front of me, if I let myself see I could have

found that man so much earlier, maybe years earlier and Charlie would be alive today. I may as

well have killed them.”

I stood up quickly. “Take that back.”

She trembled, pacing. “Lindsey, this - this thing I can do, it’s good for nobody if it helps

nobody, and I can’t do anything about it because I can’t tell anyone.”

“Why not? What’s so bad about telling your townspeople, these people you love so much

that you can help them?”

She laughed. “Imagine what they’d ask of me. Imagine what these people would ask of

me if they knew what I could do. No. No, I can’t. I can’t stay here anymore.”

“Then what about the kids? What about them rugrats? They need you, Lilly.” I strode

toward her, desperate to keep her talking, to keep her with me. “Look, I was wrong. Don’t look

so surprised. I was wrong when I said you were more than this town, more than these people.

You do belong here. You are one of them.”

Lilly shook her head, her eyes away.

I clenched my jaw. “Fuck, Lilly, listen to me! You are the one who told me someone has

to be here for them. Someone ought to listen, right? If you want to feel responsible for

something, feel responsible for them. They need you.”

She stepped back, trying to breathe. “I wish I never knew,” she cried. “I don’t want to

know. I don’t want to know anything anymore.”

“Fine. That’s fine, Lilly, I’ll help you. Jackson and me, we’ll both help you deal with this

and then you’ll be okay. But you just have to stay with me.”

Lilly backed away.

I wanted to badly so sympathize with her, but frustration soon took its place. “What

happens if you leave then? What happens when you start reading other people around you

because I’m sorry to tell you, but people?  They’re kind of everywhere, and in all shapes and

sizes, with stories and pasts and sins. What if you read someone one day and find out he’s a child

killer, too?”

The last time Lilly looked at me that way, she threatened my life with a frying pan. “I

won’t.”

“Won’t what?”

“I won’t read anything but damn words on a page, alright? I’m not doing it anymore!”

“Right, and I’m not gonna drink human blood. Your clairvoyance –”

“Is not all I am, Lindsey!”

I strode toward her. “No. No, and it never was. It is just one part of what makes you who

you are and sometimes it sucks, but sometimes it’s amazing. All the same, it’s you. Just like I

can’t un-be something that drinks blood, you can’t not read someone. But it’s just one part.”

Lilly had a kind of bitterness in her eyes I’d never thought capable for her. “It’s going to

happen again.”

I frowned. “What’s going to happen?”

“I don’t know when, but it will. Someday someone else will die in this town and someone

in town will be responsible for it. It’s in their genes, in the sand, in the... the fuckin’ air they

breathe. It’ll happen and I won’t be able to stop it.”

I wanted to laugh again. “I thought you said you weren’t psychic.” I gestured to the

building we stood in with a grand sweep of my arm. “Or is this Your house?”

Lilly looked like I’d just slapped her. May as well have.  She quickly wiped her face with

her hands and started for the doors. “I’ve made my decision.”

I followed her. “Then what about me? You’re walking away from me, too?”

Lilly stopped.

I blinked. “Wow. It’s that easy for you? After everything?”

She faced me. She hesitated. “It’s not.”

I snickered. “No. No, you know what? Go. Go ahead. Do whatever you gotta do and

work this out of your system. Figure it out but trust me: you’re going to come back.”

She shook her head. “If I don’t?”

“You will. You will because I know your heart now.”

She cried, listening.

I ignored her tears and marched right up to her. “I know your heart, Lilly. I’ve felt it and

believe me, since my heart’s stopped I’ve got real good at reading someone else’s. You were

never the only freak in this town. Not since I got here.”

Before I let her have the last word, I stomped out the door.

Someone had to pay for this. Someone had to pay for ruining the one perfect thing I ever

had. It wouldn’t be me. Wouldn’t even be Lilly, or Jackson for that matter. No - we were all

three of us just fine until Charlie Morrison. Cool your jets - I’m not saying the kid ought to pay.

He was already dead. Who does that leave?

As the bar celebrations echoed in the night, I waltzed on into the police station and

straight back to the holding cells. He sat there on a bench, a shrivelled mess of a man (I gag to

even call him that) curled up in the corner. Moonlight streamed in through a small barred

window, striping him and the wall behind him. Something crossed his eyes when I walked in.

Was it shock? Apprehension? Fear? I vote all three - especially the latter.

I fished around the desk for the cell door keys. “She’s gone. She’s gone because she

loved that little boy you took from her. From all of us. You took that other little boy, too, all

those years ago. She knew then just like she knew now that it was you. She just didn’t want to

know. Didn’t want to remember. And now she’s gone.” I slammed another drawer closed. Where

the fuck were the keys? I turned to the caged animal. “I don’t imagine you know what I am, but I

can tell you this: I’m more than you will ever be.” I curled my fingers in through the gate.

The man ticked his eyes from the cell door to me.

I smiled a little, sad. “I don’t look forward to this. I imagine you’ll be the foulest thing

I’ve ever tasted.”

What happened next I remember only in flash images: ripping the cell door off its hinges;

his face as he screamed; the blood. And then he’s just dead, and I’m lounging against the wall

covered in his blood. But this next bit... that I’ll never forget.

I heard Lilly before I saw her. When she finally swept in, panting, her hair wind-blown...

the way she stared at me then is seared into my mind like a brand. As pale as death she looked at

the mess I made, and then she ticked her eyes to me with a simple nod. “I told you it would

happen again.” And she ran back out.

I watched her go as if I wasn’t really even there. Why did she come back? To reconcile?

She had her meltdown – granted, but still – and now she was fine? And then she saw me... well,

what did she expect? That’s when I felt it, one of the clearest memories of feelings in general

that I have. What I felt I admit for the first time since I loved her, in that moment, was hatred.

I hated Lilly.

Minutes later, Jackson strode in. The keys I looked for dangled from his fingers. When he

saw me his eyes widened so big he’d have illuminated a power outage. “Was that Lilly running

out of here?”

I nodded.

He took a breath. “You gonna fix this?”

I glanced at the mess and shrugged. “Just did.”

Jackson cast his gaze away from me and sighed. “Get out.”

 

When I trudged into Lilly’s rancher, I knew she’d already gone. I collapsed into a chair at

the kitchen table and kicked off my boots. I watched through the window the sun rise and fall for

days, that bastard’s blood crusted and stained all over me. No one came by. Lilly never attracted

attention to begin with but after the help she gave me and Jackson with the case, you figure

someone would check in. Everything went back to normal. I suppose towns like those are

reliable for being exactly what you expect when the unexpected happens.

Finally, about two weeks later (and yes, by this time I’d showered and changed),

someone stopped by. I knew his footfalls before he even reached the door. He walked in, took his

shades off, put his hands on his hips, and looked me over like a disappointed dad.

I couldn’t help but smile at Jackson. “If you’re here to arrest me, you took your damn

time.”

He looked down. “It took my damn time to cover your ass.”

I laughed. “Just like one of them then, you are.”

“I could say the same to you.”

I wiped my hands off on Lilly’s sunflower apron - which I was wearing. “Do you really

think someone wouldn’t have got to him if I hadn’t first?”

“That’s not the point, Lindsey. We don’t get to make those choices. We do our job. We

don’t, and this fuckin’ town gets free reign.”

“Says the sheriff who covered up a murder!”

He frowned. “Would you have rather me tell them what you really are? They’d have

themselves a good ol’ fashion burning at the stake – with you as the stake.”

I looked away. “I wouldn’t fight it.”

I felt Jackson’s disappointment burn into me. “That’s what this is all about. You did it for

Lilly.”

I turned the tap on and watched the water bubble into a dirty pot. “Lilly didn’t have a

choice. Her clairvoyance gave her up. I made my decision.”

“Just like she made hers when she left.”

Ouch.

Jackson sighed. “Listen. I’m not a fan of what she did to you either, bailin’ on you and

this shithole town. It hurts. I care about her, or did you forget that? She had her reasons. You

can’t blame her, just like you can’t kill the pain away.”

“Even if they deserve it?”

Jackson wore his best poker face. Still I saw: he almost agreed.

I stared out the window at the unrelenting rippling heat. “Jacks... she’s my Lilly.”

He stepped toward me. “She always will be. In the meantime, life has to go on.” He

turned the tap off and wiped his sunglasses on my apron. “The Walker-Payne bar. Boss tells me

money’s gone missing from the tills three times in three months. Thinks it’s an inside job.”

I admit I laughed. “You want me to come back to work? Just like that?”

“I thought the case was weak, too. Obvious, even - until I discovered a cartel’s been

hittin’ town.”

I looked at him.

Jackson raised his eyebrows at me over his sunglasses. “Come back. Bust a cartel with

me. Call it... what’s the word? Penance. Plus, if these thugs are as bad as they seem, you can

have yourself a buffet – in self-defense, of course.” He tossed me a sideways smile and sauntered

out.

What the fuck just happened?

Once the sun went down, and with a lit cigarette in my mouth, I strode out onto the dusty

roads: back in business. A few nights later I got myself some good ol’ fashion hand-to-hand with

these thugs hittin’ town at seriously uncouth hours of the night. Imagine their faces when they

shot, stabbed, and beat me, and I stayed alive. Had myself a buffet alright.

Jackson and I became like the great Western heroes. The townspeople threw us smiles

and free beers. No matter the place – bar, super market, bathroom stall – if we were there, we

owned the joint. Racking up some serious police work, we finally got respected. The next year

was just as incredible. We busted a bootlegger making some serious bank. I didn’t keep the

movies, of course. That’d be illegal.

All the work with my best friend at my flank proved to be the perfect distraction. And I

have to admit: being a man who loves a woman, I took pleasure in more than an ice cold beer or

a good payday every so often. But it never felt the same. Nothing would ever be the same in that

department. My Lilly always came back: in my eyes at night, in the way the moon rippled in

humid rain like her white dress in the wind, in shadows in the sheets around me like the curves of

her body. Always returned, no matter how sweet another woman had been, or how hot and lush

that thug’s blood was, or how quiet some nights were as me and Jackson watched the stars from

the station roof. There were so many sometimes. What the fuck were they all doing up there? I

imagined what anywhere else in the world looked like. Were their skies as full with stars?

One very early morning, I stepped out onto the porch into air that felt, for once, cooler

than hell-fuckin’ hot. The moon hung in the bluest sky. Still time before the sun returned. I sat on

the porch steps, lit a cigarette, took a long drag, and blew the smoke out into a light wind.

There I saw her. Within that winding trail of smoke in the cool air under the bluest sky

with the biggest moon she appeared, only a few feet away. Was she not there when I stepped

out? Didn’t I see her? Was this really a cigarette?

Lilly walked toward me. A flowery blue dress swayed around her knees. I rose to my

feet, even if I couldn’t really feel them. I swear I’d have believed you if you told me two years

hadn’t passed. She looked exactly the same.

She stopped in front of me and smiled. “Hello Lindsey.”

I didn’t want to blink. I looked at her, at all of her, and then I slipped my hand in her hair.

She rested her cheek in it.

I practically shivered. “You’re real.”

She smiled. “So are you.”

I couldn’t stop staring at her. She stared back at me. Was she reading me? I let her. I

didn’t care what she saw. I just didn’t want her to stop looking at me.

Finally I found words again. “Wanna come inside?”

Lilly gently took my hand from her cheek. “Maybe you can buy me a drink first.”

At one of the back tables in the Walker-Payne bar, the same bar Jackson and I saved

almost two years earlier from a cartel, I sat with Lilly. Neither of us said a word since we got

there. Jackson insisted he join us, though he watched from the bar across the floor. As if I

weren’t nervous enough.

Lilly knocked the ice cubes around her glass of Sprite (still on the straight-edge even

when she asked for a drink) with her straw. “Wow, he looks like a real sheriff standing there like

that.”

Jackson stared at us over the rim of his glass.

I took a breath. “He loves you, too. After what you both saw that night... what I did...”

She frowned. “Does he really believe you could hurt me?”

I looked her in the eye. “I could, and I can. But I settled for hating you. At least in the

beginning.”

Lilly gazed into her Sprite.

I took another breath. “Where did you go, Lilly?”

She shook her head. “I ran. I ran and I ran for... God, I don’t know how long. Soon it was

all just highway and desert. Then a little while later, like straight out of a movie: a bus loaded

with Vegas-bound seniors.”

I nodded to the side. “As good a place as any to get answers.”

She smiled. “I got off at the next station. But before I could decide where to go, first I

had a panic attack. It was terrifying. A big part of me wanted to run back here. I came so close.

Then, randomly, I remembered a name. A place. Banff, Alberta.”

I felt my eyes widen. “Canada?”

She nodded. “My mom camped there every summer with her family when she was little.

After I arrived, I checked into rehab.”

I frowned. “I admit I thought you were going to say you went camping.”

“It’s not just for drugs or alcohol,” she said. “I don’t know, I just made this big

declaration, this personal vow to... face myself, you know? Face my inner demons, face my...

abilities. Figure everything out. It sounded glamorous, even easy - then I actually had to do it.

Two months I stayed there. I even used my abilities to help other patients. I didn’t want to at first

but with my counsellor’s encouragement, I mean, it became therapeutic in itself. Reading others,

helping them... it gave me perspective. I realized not only how worse off others are, but what I

have.” Her eyes wandered about the bar, almost finding me but not quite. “The goodness I have

in my life, however complex. After I left rehab, I sought out the local psychic community.

Among them, a clairvoyant named River Glawson taught me not only how to better manage my

abilities, but how to separate myself from them. Like an actor leaving his character on-stage. I

got another job counselling children. Personal counselling outside the classroom helping kids

other counsellors couldn’t, or didn’t have the resources support to. With practice I was able to do

what River taught me: leave it at the office. On one day off I read no one. Not once. I didn’t

realize it ‘til I went to bed.” She paused, her eyes closed. “I heard silence in my mind for the first

time since I was a child. It relieved and scared me at the same time.”

I watched her face. “You thought you’d lost it.”

Lilly looked at me. “Only one part of me, yes - but still a part. One of my counsellors

suggested I face the man who killed Colton and Charlie. Since he was the one who... triggered

my abilities, as it were, she felt it would give me closure to speak to him.”

I looked down. “I guess that’s my bad.”

“Why do you say it like that? Like some chastised child? Besides, I didn’t agree with

her.”

“You didn’t?”

“What kind of closure could a man like that give someone like me? I saw it when I read

him. That night I saw that dead man in the cell with you. There was nothing. No remorse from

him, no pity, just... blackness.” She paused. “I’m not saying that makes it okay, what you did.

It’s not. But, to be honest...”

I nodded. “To be honest, it is okay, and that’s what scares you.”

Lilly met my eyes again.

I almost smiled. “Kill enough as I have, for food or otherwise, and you’ll understand.”

She glanced off, even if a small knowing smile formed on her lips.

I sat back. “So, now what? I mean I hate to ask, but it’s nagging me. Are you... seeing

anyone?”

Lilly laughed. “No. No, there’s been no one.” She hesitated. “You?”

I felt myself flush.

“Well, I guess we did break up...”

“Lilly, it was never -”

“You don’t have to explain -”

“No, I do.” I shifted in my chair to face her straight-on. “Lilly, there’s never been anyone

like... look, I know at the time you were certain you wouldn’t come back. I was certain of the

opposite. But I’m here. Now, you’re here. I have to know: will you stay?”

Lilly stared at me.

I really wanted to be clairvoyant.

 

Them rugrats could barely contain themselves when Lilly walked through the elementary

school doors the next morning. That night, too, she went to the bar again with those same lady-

friends as the first time I saw her. She became all about this town like nothing happened, this

same town she ran away from that she’d only wanted to be a part of her whole life. By the way, I

didn’t know all of this because I stalked her again - this time I got my news through Jackson. He

took it solely upon himself (I swear) to keep Lilly in his loop. She stayed at his small rancher –

not at her own place, where I was. To be honest, and I know this sounds contradictory

considering I knew her every move, but I didn’t care. I want to say not caring worried me, but

then I didn’t worry about not worrying. I had an epiphany: if she stayed, she stayed; if she left,

she left, and I’d keep to the same words I declared that night in the church. I knew Jackson

worried, though. Not much I could do there; she filled his heart just the same as she did mine.

And then, it happened.

The three of us spent one evening at the Walker-Payne bar. I sat with Jackson; Lilly sat

across from us. She felt far away, quieter than her usual. She watched everything around her in a

state of perpetual restlessness, like she’d left the stove on. I wondered why she struggled to

control her abilities now since she learned all the control-Zen-shit River-what’s-her-name taught

her. Something was on Lilly’s mind.

Some drunk bastard (not Mr. Simmons; he’d bailed town after a vengeful act involving

scissors from his long-suffering wife) threw June Carter’s “Wildwood Flower” on the jukebox.

Couples gathered in the small middle section of the bar, creating a makeshift dance floor.

Lilly smiled at Jackson. “Dance with me?”

Jackson smiled back. “Absolutely.” He slipped out of his chair, accepted Lilly’s hand,

and led her to the dance floor. He swept her into his arms as they began to sway.

It was instantaneous. Like some bad rash, I knew. Something was terribly wrong. Not

because Jackson danced with Lilly. But it was there; something between them, surrounding them

in that moment that night. Lilly leaned on Jackson’s shoulder, her fingers curled on his back. She

spoke so quietly to him. Jackson held her closer, his ear bent to her. Trust I say this as a

compliment: no one ever felt safer than when in my best friend’s arms. Their conversation,

though – that was for them and for them alone. That was the moment. That’s when it all fell

apart.

And all because of a conversation.

In Lilly’s bedroom, the same that’d become mine, I packed what little I had to call my

own into a garbage bag. A small radio perched on the dresser played Elvin Bishop’s “I Fooled

Around and Fell in Love” (I swear I’m not lying). There I was again making another mistake:

breaking my vow to stay. What had I become? I was a fuckin’ force of nature! I ate men alive!

Over a hundred years all over the world I stomped, doing whatever and whoever the fuck I

wanted, and then this town happens. But I even made something of this shithole. I put thugs

behind bars with my best friend. I became respected, yet it all went to shit because of a woman I

didn’t just want to fuck and leave. All because I couldn’t leave her. Because I loved her.

I loved Lilly.

The music stopped.

I turned around.

She stood by the dresser, her finger on the radio’s OFF button. She frowned. “What are

you doing?”

I dropped my arms. “I know I said I’d stay for you... but fuck, Lilly! Who am I kidding?

You just had this incredible soul-searching Morgan Freeman-narrated transformation, and me?

I’m just me, same old fucker Lindsey. You were always out of my league, I knew it. You got

your head on straight and a new life ahead of you, and I can’t fuck it up for you. I love you too

much to fuck it up.”

When I finally looked at Lilly again, she was smiling at me.

I admit I felt a bit annoyed. “What? What?”

Her smile widened. “No fuckin’ way.”

My mouth dropped open. “You don’t have to mock me, alright? I’m already leaving.”

Lilly laughed and walked to me, her feet so light on the carpet. “Lindsey, that’s what you

said when I asked you if you loved me. Remember?”

I smiled at the memory - then I snapped out of it. “This is your home and your life,” I

said, grabbing my garbage bag. “Jackson’ll take care of you.”

Lilly intercepted me. “I don’t want Jackson to take care of me. Does he even know?

You’re brothers, you two. You’ll leave us both?”

I looked out the blinded window.

She inched closer. “There’s no one in this town, in this world like me, Lindsey, except

you. You were right all along: I would always come back, because I was never the only freak in

this town.”

I could actually feel the world fall away as I stared at her then. “Not since I arrived.”

She smiled.

I shook my head. “Un-fuckin’ believable, Lilly.” I took her face in my hands and kissed

her. She threw her arms around my neck and wrapped her legs around my waist. I buried my face

in her neck, deep in her hair, in the most blessed dark place I’d ever been.

“Lindsey, wait.”

I pulled back. “What is it?”

Lilly rubbed my neck. “I want you to do something before we do this. And please, don’t

say no.”

God, I just wanted her. “What do you want me to do?”

She looked me in the eye. “I want you to turn me.”

I – gently – set her on the bed. “No.”

“It’s what I want, Lindsey.”

“Lilly, no. I can’t give you any kind of pain like that. I won’t.”

She took my face in her hands. “Trust me, Lindsey, you... you’re worth loving and

hurting for.”

I looked at her, at my Lilly: her dark eyes so alive, her hair, her mouth – her everything.

“Are you sure?”

She nodded, holding me. “It’s what I want.”

Finally I kissed her again. She pulled me down onto the bed. As she readjusted her head

on the pillow I suddenly, unintentionally, laughed.

She laughed with me, though her brow creased. “What?”

“We might have to move.”

“What?”

“Look at us, love. One vampire in this sun-drenched place is a story, but two...”

Lilly threw her hand over her eyes as she laughed again. “Anywhere, Lindsey. We’ll go

anywhere. Turn me and we’ll go.”

I took a breath. “I love you.”

She nodded quickly. “I love you.”

I threw my head back and lunged into her neck. She cried out, a tight, sharp sound. Her

blood oozed into my mouth: hot and sweet and so thick. I drank and drank, spellbound by my

own senses.

I didn’t even feel Lilly’s legs drift down...

... or her hands slide off my back to her sides.

When I finally tore myself away I was almost dizzy. Her blood buzzed inside me,

vibrating under my skin. Then, I bit into my wrist, opening a small cut, and pressed my blood to

her lips. “I know it tastes fuckin’ awful now,” I panted, “but it won’t after.”

I didn’t feel anything. I looked at Lilly. She stared up at the ceiling, her eyes wide. She

lay completely still. I laughed a little. “Lilly, drink it. Come on.” I pressed my bleeding wound to

her lips. “Lilly, you have to drink. Lilly. Lilly.”

 

Being immortal equals a lot of years. Your memory almost becomes its own person.

Sometimes I can barely remember yesterday, recall an hour ago. Other days I remember things

like they just happened, like the colour of the tea kettle I broke in that shop in San Francisco after

I dropped acid with Jefferson Airplane (I’m not shitting you. And it was yellow). I remember my

last sunrise before I became a vampire. It started to rain just as it came up, and a rainbow halo

appeared around the sky, this amazing dome of colour in the showers. The sight defied fuckin’

physics, but it was beautiful. Imagine that then, all those memories and the rest, detailed or

forgotten, and then imagine how utterly empty and quiet my mind became as I sat in the hallway

in the hospital that night, in that town.

I stared at the faded matte checkered floor. Every few minutes shoes passed: cowboy

boots from a drunken whore, little sneakers of a crying toddler, slippers from an old man having

a coughing fit... then, a familiar pair of black boots, scratched and worn but somehow still shiny,

stopped in front of me, and then walked around to the empty chair at my side.

Everybody: my best friend, Jackson Harris.

I took in a shaky breath. “The doctor said she died of shock. Her body and mind,

overwhelmed... she died quickly, just seconds after I....” The floor became a blurry mess in my

eyes. I felt hot and cold at the same time, like I’d been struck with a terrible flu (in that place I

wouldn’t be surprised if I had).

I glanced at Jackson. “What did she say to you? When you danced?”

He stared off. “She told me she realized where she belonged. What she wanted. Who.”

I swallowed. “Did she ask you if she should do it?”

He took a shuddering breath. “Lindsey is my best friend, I said. You love him, and I love

you for it.”

So many scenarios flooded me:

a) I ripped Jackson’s head off and drank from his oozing neck stem,

b) I lost all my shit and broke down so hard I needed to be committed,

c) I killed everyone in the hospital,

d) I ran into that room and tore Lilly to fuckin’ shreds for being so stupid.

Why? Why would she make that decision? Didn’t she understand what would happen if it

failed, if I couldn’t do it? If I could, what if it didn’t work? What if it didn’t take? How many

vamps are you aware of? Trust me there ain’t many of us, not anymore. It’s fuckin’ risky. Why

would she do that to me? Why would she put so much faith in me? Had she met me? Of course

she had. She loved me. That was the problem.

I admit I was angry with Jackson, too. Lilly confided in him but it was me who made it

happen. I had to live with that, not Jackson. But fuckin’ Christ I couldn’t hate him. He was all I

had now, officially.

“Are you sure your blood won’t take?” he asked.

I wiped my face with both hands. I was exhausted. “She has to have her last breath in her.

I’d already taken it.” I planted my palms on my knees. “Do me a favour, Jacks?”

He nodded. “Anything.”

“Find your girl. Bring her here or go to her. I don’t give a fuck which. Just find her,

marry her, and never let her go.”

Jackson nodded again.

I nodded, too. Then, I pushed myself up and started down the hallway.

“Where are you going, Lindsey?”

I didn’t answer. I didn’t hear anything after that. Didn’t look at anything or anybody. All

I ever had or wanted was gone. Because of me. Even when I tried to save her.

I’ll never forget the sun that afternoon I stepped out of the hospital. The fuckin’ most

beautiful and brightest I’d ever seen.


© Copyright 2018 Stephanie Singh. All rights reserved.