Holly opened her eyes, only to meet the metal grating of the underside of the top bunk. She quickly sat up in a brief panic. A dull ache jabbed at her neck. She relaxed some once she remembered where she was. Her mouth was dry. She was uncomfortable.
She attempted to adjust her eyes to the darkness around her. In the distance she could hear others tossing in their bunks. She felt the urge to cry. She wanted Aidan. She knew she had to be brave. Still, she couldn’t stand not knowing what was going on above them. Was he okay? Was he hurt? There were so many things to say to him since their last encounter.
She tugged at the bandage on her neck. There was no way she could go back to sleep now. She had to find out what was going on. Maybe she could wake Maggie, and they could at least take a look above.
She tossed her legs over the side of her bed, and stumbled her feet around, feeling for her converse. Once she found them, she slid them on. The damp cold reminded her how badly she needed a shower.
Oh how a cup of coffee sounded amazing at that moment. Food briefly occupied her mind as she slowly reached to the bunk above her to nudge Maggie, but as she did, she found that the bunk was empty. Where did she go? Her blankets were tucked neatly as if she had never slept at all.
Confused, Holly stood up. She made her way across the room, passing the bunks around her. Nobody gave any notice as she walked towards the doorway at the other end of the sleeping quarters. A guard stood by, and gave her a quick nod. He was young.
“Are you okay miss?” he asked.
“Yes. I’m just thirsty.”
“If you make your way down the hall, you’ll find nourishments there. Mind you miss, it isn’t much of a selection but it should suffice.”
“Anything is fine. Thank you.”
Holly forced a smile. Even in times like this, they are polite to humans. It was as if they were trained to be. Still though, how could such powerful and frightening beings be so kind? There was something about their eyes. The way so many of them looked when they looked at humans. Dispite the pleasantries, and warm invitations, it felt somewhat superficial. Most of them looked hungry.
The young vampire nodded at her. His eyes moved to the side of her neck briefly, and then back to hers. A chill shot down Holly’s spine.
“You’ve not imprinted,” he said.
“Not yet. No.”
“You should miss. It isn’t safe to just walk around Kanthos without the mark. Some vampires may see an opportunity to drink from you. The synthetic blood is fine, but it’s not quite the same as the real stuff,” he smiled. It was distant.
“Thanks for the tip,” Holly said, making her way past him. She quickened her step. She could feel him watching the back of her head.
She felt like a target. He was right though. She hadn’t really thought about it much, but he was right. She was technically fair game without the mark. She felt a sense of vulnerability about her when she was alone here. She needed to find Maggie.
There was a lit room at the end of the hallway. Wait was that? No way… it was… coffee! She could smell it lingering. What a wonderful smell. It felt like ages since she smelled anything that reminded her of home. Oh how she missed earth. Her mom. Real food.
She walked into the lit room, and right into what looked like a cafeteria. Long white tables stretched the center. It was empty, all except Maggie. She was sitting at the center of one of the tables gripping a mug with her elbows propped up on the table. She hadn’t noticed Holly walk in. She looked deep in thought.
“Is that… coffee?” Holly asked softly.
Maggie looked up at her and smiled.
“Yup. Sure is. Have some. I swiped it from home. They don’t grow coffee beans here. It’s one of the few things I bring back with me when Esra and I go back so he can feed.”
Holly poured herself a cup. She closed her eyes and let the steam take her. The aroma was relaxing. She took a seat next to her new friend.
“Couldn’t sleep?” Maggie asked.
“No. I’m worried about the others.”
“Yeah… but it’ll be fine. Sometimes waiting is the hardest part.”
“Tell me about it,” Holly smirked.
Holly couldn’t help but notice how tired she looked underneath all that fierceness. Maggie’s eyes were always so sharp, so focused. But not now. Not here. She had dropped her guard some. This was a side of her Holly hadn’t seen.
She looked at the marking on her neck. The mark most of the others had. Holly wondered what it was like. To imprint. It seemed so powerful. Does it change you? Give some sort of new clarity? So many questions.
Maggie was beautiful. She has never known someone quite like her. She was a mystery. Her body alone told tales if you just looked at her. So many scars. The imperfections were probably the most human thing she’s seen since she’s been here.
Holly noticed something else. It was just above her collarbone. It was two small puncture bites. Did Esra do that? Maggie noticed she was looking and chuckled lightly.
“You’re not the only one who knows what it feels like to be bitten by a vampire,” she lightly spoke.
“Yeah… it hurts…” Holly said, touching her bandage.
“Mine didn’t. At least not in a bad way,” Maggie bit her bottom lip.
Holly’s face grew hot. She hadn’t really thought about that. What was it like to be with a vampire?
“Do you let Esra drink from you?” Holly cautiously asked, almost embarrassed.
“Sometimes… yeah. It’s different though with your vampire. It’s nice. I let him when he behaves.”
“I don’t even know how to respond to that,” Holly laughed.
“It was weird at first. I wont lie. For some reason they have a strong urge to please. They really are loyal to us. Not like the guys we know. Humans. We’re flawed. Selfish. We tend to hurt the ones we love the most. Ya know? But not vampires. They aren’t like us.”
“Yeah. Honestly I can’t even remember the last time I ever really loved someone. I never had any luck with guys.”
“So you mean you’re a virgin?”
Holly’s eyes grew wide.
“Yeah you’re a virgin!” Maggie busted out laughing.
“Oh my God! Maggie!” Holly’s face grew hot.
“What? We’re both adults here. There isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Actually… it’s kind of cute…”
“I never really talk about that kind of stuff. It’s not like I couldn’t… you know? I just never wanted to with any of the guys I met.”
“What, have s*x?”
“Yeah. S*x. Believe me they tried. I just… I don’t know. Never wanted to.”
“I couldn’t imagine not getting off when I wanted to.”
“I do! Just not ya know… s*x…” Holly said, flustered.
“Well, if you imprint that will change,” Maggie said.
“What’s it like… with a vampire?”
Maggie smiled deviously.
“Its exciting… different. Kind of feels wrong. Kind of like the first time you ever kiss a girl. Ya know?”
Holly just looked at Maggie. For some reason her heart was beating faster. The idea of touching Aiden in that way. Could she do it? Her palms were starting to feel clammy at the thought of being intimate.
“I do miss it sometimes though,” Maggie said.
“People. I mean the touch of another person. Don’t get me wrong, Esra is the best I’ve ever had, but I’m talking about the warmth of another person. The smell of another human. With a vampire it’s different. It’s raw passion. The only complaint I ever had with Esra was the way he touched. It wasn’t as gentle at first. I had to teach him how people kissed. Ya know… soft… but man… to feel another person’s lips again.”
She sat back in her chair, and took a sip of her coffee.
“I guess you would say my way of life is taboo compared to yours. I mean… ya it was a cult, but I didn’t know that at the time, and we all honestly loved each other. We did. We just didn’t have rules. We took what we wanted. Including each other. Guys… girls… it didn’t matter. We were all together.
“I’m not judging you mags. I don’t care what you’ve done or how you lived. All that matters is that you’re happy. That’s all anyone really wants in the end… to be happy.”
A sadness crept into Maggie’s eyes. She slowly reached into her pockets, and pulled out a gold chain gripping it tightly in her fist.
“How do you chase happiness? It’s such an impossible thing to do. Happiness is fluid. Changes with the tide. We make so many mistakes doing s**t that we think will make us happy… or better.”
She looked down.
“Can I show you something?” she quietly asked Holly.
“Of course,” Holly said.
“I’ve never showed anyone this before,” she said, holding out a gold necklace. On it was a tattered charm of a mermaid. It was filthy.
“Who’s was it?”
“It belonged to a little girl who’s life I’ve ruined. No… stole. I took it away Holly, and it wasn’t fair.”
Tears swelled her eyes.
“No! I need to say this,” she wiped her eyes.
“Greg sent us on a cleansing. That’s what he called it. Those that were un-pure. Three of us went out to kill this man. This sick man, or so we thought at the time. We scoped his house out ya know? Got to know his routine. Well when it felt right we struck. It was dark out, cold.”
“I cut a sliver into the screen on his back porch and unlatched the door. We jimmied the lock on the back door and crept in. He was supposed to be alone. We didn’t know. I should have known better going up the stairs because I saw pictures on the wall.”
“I wanted to turn back! I did! But Chase was behind me encouraging me to keep going. That it was too late now. We crouched down the hallway, and I inched the bedroom door open. He was sleeping.”
Maggie shakenly sipped her coffee.
“I just… I just grabbed the guy by his mouth, and jumped on top of him and started stabbing! He was screaming between my fingers Holly! I couldn’t hear what he was trying to say but his eyes! It was his eyes! The way he looked at me. He was so scared! He was begging me with his eyes to stop I could see it! I could see it. And the blood! So much blood!”
“When you take someone’s life away from them, it’s always the eyes you remember the most. They scream so much louder than the words!”
Maggie’s eyes darted around the room, not particularly looking at anything as her chest heaved with every breath.
“He was crying Holly! And… I was too. I was crying too! I just remember thinking… just finish this. Just hurry up and finish this so it can be done. Just be done and forget about it. He wasn’t pure. It was what had to be done. That’s what I was thinking.”
“Finally he stopped moving. I let go of him. I was just relieved it was quiet again. That it was done. Then it happened… the most awful sound I’ve ever heard in my entire life. That sound that I just can’t get out my mind no matter how hard I try!”
“I turned my head, and saw this fragile shaking little girl in a pink nightgown. She was screaming her small lungs out as hard as she could! She was seeing things no little girl should ever have to see! She pissed herself. You could smell it. Just… piss and blood… that’s all you could smell! And all I could see was her confusion and pain looking at me! Asking me why?! Why?! Why did you do this f*****g monster?!”
“I went cold! I had to say something! Anything! I went to speak, and all I remember next is the smell of gunpowder and the spark of light that lit up the horror on her face! I saw her very last few seconds alive! Chase shot her Holly! He blew her brains out the front of her head… and her hair! Her beautiful blonde hair exploded red like spaghetti all over the floor! All over me!”
Maggie threw her face into hands, and started sobbing uncontrollably. Holly felt sharp hot tears run down her face. She reached for Maggie’s hand but Maggie retracted.
“And I hear her Holly. All the time. She’s screaming. She’s always screaming, and I can’t make it stop. I am… I am a monster. I am.”
“No Maggie! You’re not! You’re not a monster! Listen to me! Monsters don’t feel pain! Monsters don’t feel bad about what they’ve done!”
“No… I am… I can’t take it back. This is my burden, and I have to hurt like this! I have to suffer! I took this from her to remind myself that the pain it brings is the least I can do for her!”
Holly leaned forward. At her friend, her broken beautiful mess of a friend who she wanted to help so badly but didn’t know how. Maggie was dangerous, deadly, complex, and fragile at the same time.
It reminded her of how confusing humans really are, how broken we all really are underneath. We try so hard to hide ourselves, but hiding the pain and loneliness we all feel inside becomes so exhausting. So taxing, as a reminder to us all that pain is something we were never wired to handle alone. We need each other more than we know.
Something snapped in Holly. She did something she never would have done in a million years. Maybe it was desperation to help a friend. Maybe it was a newfound love for her for exposing her worst for her to see.
Holly grabbed Maggie by her wrists, and pulled her towards her so hard a look of shock overcame her grief stricken face. She cupped her hand on her wet cheek and kissed Maggie deeply on the lips. Maggie jerked for a brief moment, and then pushed herself into the kiss, letting go of everything else.
Holly pulled back for a moment and studied Maggie’s face. She saw an intense lust in her eyes. A passion she knew nothing about until now. They kissed once more, this time softer, more controlled. Holly softly pushed Maggie back onto the table, losing control of any restraint, shocked at the behavior. This wasn’t like her. All she knew was that she loved this beautiful mess, and expressed it the only way that made sense for Maggie.
Maggie slid her arms back onto the table to support herself, knocking over the coffee mug as it shattered on the floor beneath them. Maggie gripped her shirt and pulled her on top of her.
“What are we doing?” Maggie asked as she kissed her friend.
“Healing,” Holly whispered.
Holly straightened her shirt, and sipped her coffee. Maggie sat in the chair beside her, and slipped her arms around Holly’s waist, and lightly nestled against her neck.
“Thank you,” she said smiling.
“I honestly forgot what it was like to kiss another person. You’re a good kisser. You surprise me Holly Weston,” Maggie said with a sly smile.
“You are too hard on yourself Maggie. We can’t change what we’ve done. All we can do is be better.”
And with that, they both sat quietly together, patiently waiting for the fighting above them to come to an end. A friend told Holly that sometimes… waiting is the hardest part. But at least they wouldn’t have to wait alone.