Eating Our Hearts Out

"If I'm sick of being a victim, but not cut out to be a hero, what does that make me?"

Scotty Matthews is an alcoholic- he’s used to waking up miles away from his university campus with no memories to explain where he was or who he was with. As he tries to recover from one night of drinking, though, he realises he doesn’t feel quite right. He has nightmares he can’t explain, sickness he can’t suppress, anger he can’t control, and- worst of all- hunger he can’t satisfy.

Scotty needs to know what happened to him that night, but he only has two leads- a neck wound that probably came from a broken bottle, and a vague image of a girl, taken from a dream and friends who aren’t sure what they saw. Scotty tries to convince himself she was just another drunk student at a party, but he’s soon forced to accept the far darker truth. Not only is she a monster- she’s turned him into a monster too.

And if he wants to get his symptoms under control, he’s going to need her help.

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Author's note

Hello!
This is a little trigger warning. "Eating Our Hearts Out" is a vampire story, but there isn't any sparkling or ballroom dancing, and the violence goes a HECK of a lot farther than a bit of vanilla stalking. This story is packed with blood, guts, violence, pitch-black humour and an unhealthy amount of cannibalism alongside themes of alcoholism and drug addiction. Also, both my protagonists make morally questionable decisions to say the least. If you're squeamish, proceed with caution. If none of that bothers you, then please have fun reading! Jem :)
AA

11. Devil

Maria and I remain alone in the playground for half an hour, but we barely talk at all. She doesn’t ask me how I’m feeling after last night, or even who I was talking to on the phone—she only thinks to tell me she collected her new puppy from the shelter today. He’s a white Shih Tzu, apparently the most adorable thing she’s ever set eyes on, and she already loves him more than she’s ever loved anything before.

Greg shows up eventually, clutching a fresh box of cigarettes in the pocket of his winter coat. He’s alone. He smiles exhaustedly as he walks through the gate and sits down on the bench.

“Where’s Sam?” I ask him.

“No hello?” Greg smiles weakly. “He’s not well.”

“Oh. Again?”

“Mm.” Greg looks down at his feet.

Maria gets up from the swing next to me. “Greg,” she says, her voice full of sympathy. “I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah, he passed out this morning. From drinking. I think he’s getting worse.”

My heart sinks, and Maria sits back down. Sam’s always drinking beer, but as far as the other two know, he’s a bit of a lightweight. Only I notice the signs he’s got a worse problem, and there’s nothing I can do. I’m ten times worse, for one thing. For another, he’d never listen to me.

“Anyway.” Maria says after a few more seconds of worried silence. Greg looks up at her, and she smiles at him. “I got another dog.”

 

 

Once Greg’s left, and we’ve watched him till he’s out of sight, I register that I’m loitering by the gate instead of leaving. Maria’s still here too. She’s swinging gently back and forth on the swings. Then, as I put my hand on the gate, she scrapes her feet along the ground to stop herself and stands up.

“Are you going home?” She says.

I turn, startled. “Uh, yeah.”

She presses her lips together. There’s a short pause. Then, she says, “Stay.”

I blink. Despite the biting wind, and after the argument with my parents, that one word makes me feel warm again.

“You know…” I say with a slight burst of laughter. “I, um, guess I may as well stay. I don’t actually have a home to go to.”

“What do you mean?”

“I moved out of Keith’s this morning.”

“With nowhere else to go?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

I sigh, deciding not to bother lying. “Because I’m afraid of my… this… bloodlust.”

She winces, sitting back on the swing and drumming her hands on her lap. “You’ll learn to control it, you know.”

“Hope so.”

“You will, I promise you. And you don’t have to worry about having nowhere to go. Come and move in with us.”

I look at her. “With you and… and Frank?”

“Yep.”

“No.”

She blinks, looking hurt. “Why?”

“I’m not…” I sigh, and walk back to the swings to sit next to her. “I can’t be any closer. To it. To you. I just… can’t, Maria.”

There’s a long silence. When I look up at her, she’s running her fingers across her bottom lip, thinking. “I get it.” She says eventually.

I’m suddenly seized by a desperate urge to lighten the mood. “Besides, I don’t think Frank likes me much.”

She laughs harder than I thought she would. “That’s not true!”

I frown. “It is.”

“Oh, he likes you.”

“No, he doesn’t. He’s pretty pissed you turned me, isn’t he? Does he think I’m gonna blow your little Bonnie-and-Clyde thing open, or something?”

She doesn’t reply. Instead, after a long time, she says, “What if it rains?”

I look at her. “What?”

“Where are you going to go if it rains? And in the sunlight, too? What are you going to do unless—”

“Maria, enough.” I say. “I’m not moving in with you. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I saw you do last night.”

 “Yep. Okay.” She sighs, biting her lip. “What about your family? Can’t you go and live with them?”

I look down at my clasped hands, pressing them into my lap.

“You know,” Maria says softly. “It’s funny. I’ve known you all this time, but I know nothing about your family. You never talk about them—only Olivia.”

“Oh, yeah? Well, you never talk about yours either.” I say, suddenly defensive. “I don’t wanna be near my family.”

“Because you’re scared you’ll hurt them?”

“Because they don’t want me.”

No. No. There’s no way you’re doing this now.

“Oh.” Maria sounds surprised. “Want to tell me about it?”

“No.”

“Oh, go on. I’ll spill if you do.”

I grit my teeth. I’ve never told a soul about my family before, but I’ve never let someone drink my blood either, or been trusted with a secret as hideous as Maria’s.  I think, despite everything, I trust her more than anyone I’ve known before. Suddenly, I want to tell her everything, and am deathly curious to know her story in return. How much of the story she told Sam, Greg and me—about being the woefully untalented loose cannon in a Hunstanton family of artists—is actually true? Are her whole family vampires? Or is she…

“No, I, uh… I’m no good at sharing.” I say, before I can agree.

“Go on,” she says playfully. “Tragic backstory exchange. A sob story for a sob story. It’ll be fun.”

“I’d better not, Maria. It’ll be a mess.”

“Is it something you’ve never told anyone before? Bottling things up isn’t healthy, Scotty. I want to tell you, too. I like talking about me.”

And God, I want to know. “You can tell me.” I say nervously. “If… if you want.”

“No.” She grins mischievously. “I want you to tell in return.”

With that, I finally break. “Okay, fine.”

“Good choice.”

“I…” I struggle to start. “It’s really not all that exciting. I suppose, first off… My family live in London.”

She spits laughter. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Damn. I knew you were English, but… five hundred miles away?”

“Yeah. So I guess you can tell I moved here for uni to get away from them.” I start to pick at a hangnail. “Well, half my family lives in London, anyway. The other half’s six hundred miles away, on the Isle of Wight.”

I should stop. This is stupid. Why am I telling her this? Her, of all people? Because she’s the first person who seems to wants to know. Everything that’s happened to me in the last few days, combined with the phone call, seems to have brought everything back I thought I’d forgotten. My mouth’s rapidly filling with words, like a dam broke somewhere in my head. Fuck it. Just let it all out.

“My dad.” I continue, Maria’s gaze on my face. “He’s the one on the Isle of Wight. He left my Mum when I was four. It was just the classic reasons. Nothing dramatic, at least as far as I know. They fell outta love, he was stifled, whatever. It started off okay—he used to see me quite a lot. Take me to theme parks and the beach and shit. Once he was free of my Mum he stopped being a parent, and started just being a mate, but the novelty wore off pretty quick. I wanted to live with him, but he didn’t want me. He pretended, as most dads would, at first. Told me I couldn’t come with him because my Mum needed me, all my friends needed me. I thought at first he just didn’t want to be a husband or a Dad, but he got a new wife in a year and a new daughter in two. She’s, I think, fourteen now? She’s a genius—she makes him proud. She’s won all these scholarships and awards. Never met her. Haven’t seen him since I was seven.”

“What, at all?” Maria says.

I shake my head.

“I’m sorry. That must be hard.”

 “I took it pretty terribly, actually, to be honest.” I say with a laugh. “When he left for good. Everyone told me what they thought they were meant to tell me—y’know, Mummy and Daddy both love you very much, they wish they could always be with you, they did this for you, blah blah blah. I knew it was a lie. He could easily have kept in touch. He told me we were gonna fall out of touch because he was moving back to the Philippines to be with his parents, but he never left. Even though he was still in England, he never came back, he never… tried to see me, nothing. And my Mum felt cheated, coz she’d been lumbered with me. She wanted him to take me. She wouldn’t’ve cared where we went.”

“Why the hell wouldn’t they want you?” Maria asks.

“Isn’t it obvious? Look at me.”

“I’m looking, Scotty. I’ve been looking for a year.”

I look at her, and she looks back, but we say nothing.

Speaking about my Dad like this feels horribly wrong. I always thought of him lovingly, but I only had to say the facts out loud, all at once, to completely flip my opinion of him on its head. He’s like one of those giant puzzles you can’t see till you’ve got all the pieces and you’re standing far enough away.

The rambling may be filling me with guilt, but in a way, it’s also insanely satisfying. It’s all true—telling people your problems really does lift a weight from you. If Maria’s not going to stop me, there’s no way I’m going to be able to stop.

 “After Dad left, it all devolved into some shitty soap opera. Actually, no—my whole life’s been a soap opera.” I say with another  chuckle. “I mean, can you blame Mum for hating my guts? It was always Dad this, Dad that, and she knew full well I wanted him more than her. I suppose I hurt her before she ever hurt me. But I was… I was only a kid. I didn’t understand shit, and yet she decided she was gonna punish me. She started ignoring me more and more. I was a failure at school—I did try, I mean… sometimes, but she didn’t care. I liked to write stories and songs and shit, but she didn’t care about any of that either, I guess because I was shit at it. She wanted a successful son to match my dad’s successful daughter, and I couldn’t do it—couldn’t, or didn’t want to.

“I felt sorry for her, actually… for Mum. I thought she was depressed at first, but as I got older, I realised she wasn’t. Just jealous. And spurned.” I look up at Maria, who’s listening intently, her cheek in her hand. “I’ll spare you the gory details of how the drinking began. Basically, it was to shut myself up. So I wouldn’t be able to disappoint her anymore. And to stop the… the bloody pain of it all, I guess. I’m sorry. That sounds so…” I chuckle drily. “Emo.”

“That’s… Scotty.” Maria says softly. There’s a pause. “At least you’ve stopped now, right?”

“Oh, yeah, exchanging an alcohol addiction for an addiction to human blood’s way fucking healthier.”

She laughs gently. “You’re okay now.” She says. “That’s awful, what you… what you’ve been through, Scotty.”

As I look at her, I realise she thinks I’m done, and she realises I’m not.

“Haven’t even told you about my stepdad yet.” I say.

She widens her eyes. “Oh.”

“I can stop if you want.”

I’m expecting her to decline politely, but instead, she looks insulted, and her response is adamant. “No. Keep going.”

I struggle to get the words out, and eventually manage to say, “I guess it made sense after all that my Mum married Gordon. He was the first guy after Dad who called her pretty.”

God, when I started this story, I wasn’t expecting to end up being so cruel to them both.

Tentatively, Maria laughs again. “Gordon’s a pretty nasty name.”

“Yeah, well, he’s a bit of that.” I sigh. “Gordon Barker. And my Mum—Shanice Barker. I thought when they got married they’d make me change my name too, but they never did. Guess they didn’t really wanna be affiliated with me beyond, y’know, living in the same house as me and paying for my food. Gordon loves my Mum so, so much. He does. I’m sure he loves her more than Dad ever did. He loved her so much after he met her he decided to make all her dreams come true.”

“What do you mean?” Maria sounds angry. “What’d he do?”

“He hurt the person who’d hurt her the most.” I say, hugging my arms on instinct, feeling the lumpy hard skin under my hoodie sleeves. She sees.

“Which-”

“Me, yeah.” I spit. “Me. Her thick lazy alcoholic son. I was the Devil to him.” My voice wavers, like I’m about to cry. I shouldn’t have rambled so much. I need to finish, but I can do it quickly. “Basically, Gordon started to slap me around. Slap me, and kick me out the house whenever he caught me drinking or drunk. Or knocked something over. Or spoke without permission. Or came home too late or too early, or failed a test… whatever. And oh, God help me when I started to steal stuff. Yeah, he slapped me, with his hands at the start. That’s normal. Guess his hands got tired after a while. So he started using rolled up newspapers and sticks and fists. And belts.” I sigh. “And broken bottles.”

I look up at Maria, who’s frozen, her hand over her mouth.

“And it…” I say. “It’s funny you mentioned the eyeliner the other day, before the, uh… before the party. Because I’ve got a story about that. It’s the most emo part of the whole thing. Gordon and I had a little game we used to play with the eyeliner, back when I wore it. I remember the first time I wore it, I borrowed it from my friend Melanie. I came home like that, and the moment I walked in the door he tormented and teased me till I was so overwhelmed I started to cry. I wasn’t scared, or embarrassed or anything like that. It just went on for so long that I… anyway.

“He’d bullied me into making it run, and used that as an excuse to tell me to go wipe it off. The next day, I did this…thing that I told myself was fighting back. I wore the eyeliner again.” I laugh. “I’m not even sure I liked how it looked; I just screwed up all my courage and told myself I had to find some way, even if it was superficial as all fuck, of proving to him or maybe just myself he hadn’t got the better of me. It was just like a game. He never said it, but he was really trying to make me cry. And I promised myself I’d never let him see me with those little black lines on my face again. Meaning, I’d never ever cry again. And I managed.”

“Wow.” Maria says. “That’s… good. But then you stopped wearing the eyeliner.”

“You’re still bitter about that?”

“What? Well, I mean, yeah. Now that I know your emo phase was the mother of all emo phases. That it actually represented something genuine in your life. In fact, you could go so far as to say growing out of it seems kinda… counter-productive.”

“Nah. I just stopped wearing it coz the pen ran out. That was it. It didn’t really represent shit; I guess I told myself it did, but it was just something I clung to, like I said. So, yeah. Anyway. The story has a happy ending, at least.” I say, brightly. “Yeah. I told them to go to hell and moved out that house and came here. Happily ever after.” I lean back in the swing till I nearly lose my balance. “Happily ever fucking after.”

There’s a long silence. Yet again, in awkwardness, I crane my head back and watch the red blinking light of a plane passing over us. It crosses from horizon to horizon. I keep thinking Maria’s going to speak, but she doesn’t. We sit there, listening to the distant humming and shrieking of traffic, for a minute. Maybe two. Maybe an hour.

Then, Maria clears her throat. “My turn.”

Slowly, I sit up in the swing, and turn to watch as she pushes off the tarmac with her toe.

“You’ve had it awful, Scotty.” She says. “Honestly, fucking awful. We have a lot in common. Until you told me that story, I don’t think I realised people like my parents still existed. I don’t want to undermine you by telling you I know how you feel, or anything like that, because mine might not have been as bad.”

“It’s okay.” I tell her. “You owe me now.”

“Or they might have been worse,” she continues, stopping the swing and dropping her gaze to her knees. “A lot worse. My parents were miserable buggers. My brother and I barely saw them at all as kids, but it was a blessing.”

“You’ve… got a brother?” I ask, surprised.

“I had a brother.”

My heart sinks. “Oh. What… what happened?”

“He died.”

“Oh.” I pick at my hangnail. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. It was a long time ago.”

“How, uh… how’d he die?”

She clicks her tongue. “Old age.”

I frown, my stomach twisting. “Uh… what?”

“My older brother Duncan.” She looks up at me, traces of a daft grin twinkling in her dark eyes. “Lived a long and happy life. Got married, had six kids, died at the nice old age of sixty-one.”

“Maria, how… old are you?”

“A hundred and ninety-seven.”

I freeze, my mouth hanging open. I don’t know why I didn’t think to ask before.

“A hundred…” I say softly. “And ninety-seven.”

“Yep!” She says brightly. “I’ll be two hundred in just over two years. Mental, right?”

“Yeah.” I say shakily. “Yeah, that’s one word for it.”

She stares at me for a long time, laughing quietly at my expression. Her giggle makes my skin crawl.

“This is a lot.” I say. “Sorry.”

“Stop!” She says, reaching over to hit me lightly on the shoulder. “You shouldn’t ask a lady how old she is. It’s very rude. You’re also distracting me from my deep dark tale of woe and tragedy. Anyway, where was I?”

I laugh, shakily. “Your brother… died… of old age.”

“Right. Duncan moved away from our hateful parents, first chance he got. I was left alone with them. And let me tell you, they hated me. With a burning passion.”

“Why?”

“Mostly to do with how much I ate. How fat I got.” Maria grins at me. “They said it was ill-mannered, but what they meant was that it was unattractive. Aside from that, I was thick as a brick, tone-deaf and manic with hair like a bale of hay. I didn’t want to learn all the rich ladies’ crap; I wanted to play with boys’ toys and roll around in mud and scream at the top of my lungs. Not exactly fitting for the daughter of the Lord of the manor. Couldn’t marry me off, didn’t matter I was one of the richest women in the country.” She grins. “Oh, and did I mention I was born on Halloween night? Three weeks premature. My father called me the Devil’s daughter. He could have been right.”

“Oh.” I say, trying to wrap my head around everything she’s just told me. “That… sucks.”

“Ah, I don’t know. I actually found it kind of empowering.”

I cough. “I… I can’t believe this. You can’t be two hundred years old.”

“Well, I guess biologically I’m seventeen.” She says. “Since that’s when I was frozen. My body’s seventeen. But my mind… I was born two hundred years ago, Scotty.”

“I… I can’t believe it.”

She sighs. “Well, it must have been some time around then. I’m sure they stopped burning people for witchcraft pretty soon after they burned me.”

Cold bleeds through me and I shut my mouth.

“When I was seventeen, I ran away from home. I don’t remember why. I got lost in the woods all night long. I found this weird group of people in black cloaks, kind of… huddled together.”

“Vampires?” I ask. She nods. “What did you do?”

“Well, obviously, Scotty, I went over to say hello.”

I wither my gaze. “You’re kidding me.”

“Hey, I’m a well-brought-up lady,” she protests. “Was then, still am.”

“You weren’t suspicious of them at all?”

She shrugs. “Etiquette before caution, Scotty.”

“And what’d they do?”

“They grabbed me and tried to kill me, obviously. But I talked my way out of it. I told them I was nobility, practically royalty. And they said they’d let me go on one condition.”

I swallow. “That they turned you.”

“No.” She says. “That they got to use me. That I became their object.”

I widen my eyes. “Their object?”

“Yep.”

“For what?”

“Oh, don’t act so innocent, Scotty. You know what. The two things men’ll do anything for. Sex and money.”

“Uh… huh.”

“Them turning me into a vampire…” She says. “That was… that wasn’t what they wanted. That was what I wanted. That was my condition in the other direction. If they got to use me, I said, I’d use them in return.”

“What? Why? Why would you want to be a vampire?”

“You don’t understand. Back then, everyone believed in vampires. To me, getting bitten and becoming a vampire was a dream in exactly the same way as other girls my age dreamed of marrying a prince and becoming a princess. I don’t know if I would’ve wanted it if I hadn’t grown up getting called Devil and Demon and Hell-spawn by the whole damn town, but I had, so I did. The Hell-spawn crap was meant to discourage me, but it did the opposite. I saw it as an opportunity to get back at my parents. They—the other vampires—saw it the same way. They liked the idea of having a bargaining chip in an important family.”

“Wow.” I say, awestruck. “What’d you do then?”

“Oh, I killed the lot of them.” She fiddles harder with her bottom lip, slurring her words, and I freeze for a second, unsure I heard her right.

“You—you killed them?”

She looks up, her mouth pressed. “Yep.”

“All the other vampires?”

“Yep.”

“Why?” I say, but then, I realise I’m far more interested in the answer to another question. “How?”

“Oh, they were all old and weird and creepy and slow. Not built for fighting at all. They also smelled kind of funny. There was this one guy who kept hissing. I think his name was Zagan. Also the evilest name in history, along with Gordon. They were also misogynistic pigs, obviously. A lot of them had been alive in a time before a woman could even shit without a man’s say-so. I was the only woman in their group, and they treated me like a slave. Got sick of it pretty quickly. Luckily, all this resentment came after they’d explained to me how vampires could be killed.”

“Sunlight?” I say doubtfully.

“Yep, but not how I did it.”

I wrack my brains. “Oh. Garlic.”

“Nope. I-”

“Crucifixes?”

“Crucifixes do nothing to us. I mean, it’s not like we’re demons. Holy water—that doesn’t work either. I don’t know about wooden stakes through the heart. I don’t think it’d work, but I’ve never been brave or stupid or suicidal enough to try it. It’s silver, Scotty. That’s how you kill a vampire.”

I go cold, all over. “Oh.”

“Uh-huh. Just trust me when I say they all deserved what I gave them. Every last one of those bastards was evil to the core.”

I swallow. “Maria, you… you’re no better.”

She sighs. “Mm, I suppose I turned into them after a few years. I couldn’t help it, as it turned out. Eating people and being evil kind of come in a nice package. Kind of feel guilty, actually, now, for killing them. But not then.” She grins, leaning back on the swing. “I was insane then.”

I shudder. “In… insane?”

“Oh, yes. Proper rocking-on-the-floor, laughing, screaming, raving insane. I fell pretty fast. I’d long hit the bottom by the time I found those vampires. I was lucky to have avoided the asylum, actually.”

I look at her. I can’t picture her that way for the life of me. “But… but you’re…”

“Now? Yep, I’m okay now. It’s strange. I think it’s entirely possible I was just pretending to be crazy. Not purposefully. Subconsciously. Because I spent about a hundred years moving from place to place, absolutely rocking off the walls insane, and then I gradually… got bored of it. I don’t know how to describe it. Maybe I just relearned how to be sane. But I’m sane now. I know that for sure.” She swallows. “Sucks sometimes, actually. Considering the things I have to do.”

I breathe in. I don’t know how the hell to respond. Being alone for that long… it’s no wonder she’s forgotten her morals. Accepted what she does, stopped feeling guilty. Started seeing it as a bit of a joke.

“You were burned.” I say. “At the stake. Right? That’s what you said.”

“It is what I said.” Maria says with a tired smile, rubbing a hand down her face. “Not at the stake, though.

“I was found, in that same clearing… By my Father himself, six days later. They all thought I was dead. I’m pretty sure they were looking for a dead body. Well, in a way, they found one…” She laughs shakily. “Seven, actually. Me, and all the bastards I’d killed. I was covered in blood. Laughing like the maniac I was. Like the devilspawn they all knew I was. But then, instead of shouting vampire they shouted witch. Why witch? I have no idea. But my fanatical religious zealot of a Father was so petrified he didn’t even have me tried, not that the trial would’ve been fair. He ordered everyone else out of the house. He dragged me into the kitchens. He chained me to a chair next to the oven.” Maria runs her hand through her hair, then down her neck.  “And he set that shit on fire.”

I realise my hands are shaking as I watch her. Her fingers graze the high neckline of her coat, curl around it, pull it down off her shoulders, as if the memory’s making her overheat all over again. She sees me looking, and smiles thinly.

“How’d you escape being burned?” I ask her.

She looks at me, biting her lip. “I didn’t.”

“Oh.”

“I regrew. Fire doesn’t kill vampires. So overall it was a big fat fail.”

“Oh.”

“I mean, it hurt like a bitch, sure enough. My hair got singed a fair amount. And my clothes.” She smirks down at her lap. “Was running round the woods naked for a bit. But that’s fine.

“Anyway, long story short?” She says, her voice bouncing upwards again as she shrugs her coat back on, wobbling precariously on the swing. “My death was reported as a tragic accident. By both my parents. They mourned, the hypocrites. They built me a whole memorial garden—they built this white marble statue of an angel in the middle of it. An angel for a Devil.” She grins. “And they planted it all over with all these purple flowers—they knew I loved purple. I used to pick flowers all the time when I was little, so my Father had them all pulled up to spite me. I only saw that memorial garden twice. The second time, my Father had let it rot to death. That’s when I guess I knew for sure I had nothing to stay for.” When she speaks again, her voice has lost its bounce, turned dark and choked. “No reason to stay good.”

I shudder, picking more and more frantically at my hangnail till it snaps. There’s no pain, and no blood.

“And that’s it.” Maria says quietly.

I breathe out. It scares me to see her so serious. “Uh… huh.”

“I know that was a long story. Sorry if I bored you.”

“Bored?” I say with a shaky laugh. “That story was a lot of things, Maria… not boring.”

She grins. “It felt kind of good to get it off me, actually.”

“Yeah. Me—me too. Although obviously, I, uh… kinda feel like my problems are irrelevant now.”

She looks at me. “Why?”

“Be… because… of what’s happened to you. It’s a million times more horrible.”

“No. I’ve had it bad, but I’d never devalue anyone for not having it as bad as me. I didn’t tell you because I wanted to top you, or anything like that, Scotty. I just thought since I’ve landed you in it with me, you deserved to know exactly what I’ve done.” She doesn’t look at me as she speaks. “I don’t try to pretend I’m a hero or a victim, because I’m not. I’m just plain evil. I must have killed thousands of people in my life, but that’s not what makes me evil. Nor is the lack of reason. Nor is the fact I enjoy it. What makes me evil, I think- what makes me utterly and irrevocably and irredeemably rotten- is the fact I’ve got no desire to stop.”

I nod. I may understand her better now, but I never, ever want to become like her. I’d rather die than become like her.

“Anyway.” She says. “Can’t sit here eating our hearts out forever. I think I’d better go. Let you get off.”

“Oh… okay.” I say. She puts her hand on my shoulder as I get up.

“Won’t you please come back with me?” She says. “The sofa’s real comfy to sleep on. You’re more than welcome.”

“No.”

“I hate the thought of you out here alone. Especially… since it’s my fault.”

“Why d’you care so much?” I ask. “God, if you’re so evil, why d’you care so much about what happens to me?”

“Because you’re my friend.” She says simply. “And I do care about you.”

“Right.” I say slowly, caught off-guard. Why do I trust her more after hearing her story? “The answer’s still no.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“I’ll be fine. I’ll go hang out by the river, probably. Maybe do some stargazing.”

“It’s raining.”

I look up at the sky, and for the first time, I notice the thin rain falling onto our faces. “Oh. Great.”

“It’s going to start pouring.”

“I don’t care. For the last time, Maria, I don’t want to live like you.” I say. “I don’t resent you, alright? But I’m keeping my distance. You wanted me to feel safe sleeping in your house? Probably shouldn’t’ve told me that story.”

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