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

20. Runaway

I SUPPOSE, AS we walk home, I’m calm because I’m blocking out the memories. It doesn’t seem that way. It seems as though I don’t care. It’s awkward to walk with her, because as soon as I drape an arm over her shoulders she seizes the other to wrap herself up in it, pushing herself as close to me as she can. I don’t want to think about why she’s so high. I want to pretend she overdid it a bit on a night out. I’m doing my job as whatever it is I am to her- her boyfriend? Maybe- and helping her get home safely. I love her. I feel even closer to her when she’s giggly and loose and clumsy like this- when she needs me. I can’t help it.

My mind’s a mess as we muddle the keys in the lock and stumble into the hallway as one bulky body. I think she’s nearly sober again, but she’s still laughing. At something I said two minutes ago. I love her laugh. I should be thinking about the hideous noises she made outside that bus shelter, and the ones Olivia made too. But I… I’m not. I’m horrified, sure. Shock, guilt, fear, regret, blah blah blah blah. It’s all in my head, but only because it needs to be.

“I’m going up to my room.” I say, letting go of her the moment we walk into the living-room. I assume she’s going to head straight for the shower, but she doesn’t.

“Okay.” She says. “See you up there.”

I stop on the stairs. We’ve been sleeping in the same bed every night for the last week. Even if all we’re doing is lying down on the covers with our arms around each other, we’re always together. I shouldn’t want her anywhere near me right now, but I do.

I turn back to her. From the way she’s standing there in the middle of the carpet in her card-stiff clothes and her blood-charred hair, I can tell she’s almost sober, but trying to cling to the high. On the way home, I found myself wishing we were both off our heads on it. I wouldn’t be feeling all this shit if I could only let go. I smile at her, and she smiles back.

“I guess I should say I’m sorry.” She says. She seems to mean it, but it’s not what I want to hear.

I sigh. “No.”

“Oh, okay.”

I walk off up the stairs and wait for the sound of the bathroom door slamming, but it never comes. I lie down on my bed, propping my head up on my pillows, my hands folded over my stomach. My thoughts start to weigh heavy on me. I hope she comes up soon.

A few minutes later, I open my eyes, noticing a strange buzzing sound coming from downstairs. It could be the radio in the kitchen, or the wind outside, but it doesn’t sound quite right. Cautiously, I peel myself away from my duvet and go downstairs, turning across the hallway into the living-room as the buzzing gets louder and more tuneless. Maria’s lying down on the carpet. She’s washed the blood off her face, but she’s still wearing her sodden clothes. Her arms are thrown out around her head and her rusted blonde hair’s spread in a halo. She’s singing loudly at the ceiling.

I force myself to swallow a smile. This is ridiculous. What have we done? What has she done to me?

I watch her for a few minutes, leaning against the doorway with my hands in my pockets, and realise I understand how she became so lost. It’s been two hundred years. Nobody could hold onto guilt for that long. I listen to the lyrics of the song she’s singing- they’re about the sky turning red and Heaven burning down and angels crawling up from the ground. I watch her, and if she feels her eyes on me, she doesn’t move.

It’s only a few more minutes before I start to need her again. I walk across the room and lie down on the floor next to her. The carpet’s itchy on the back of my neck. I don’t care. The blood’s still heavy in the air; I don’t care. I wasn’t drawn by that. She silently rolls over to press herself against me. The tips of our noses touch, but our lips never do. She tangles her legs around mine and I snake my arm around her waist. A few minutes later, she starts to sing again. I focus on the sound of her voice as I look into her eyes, because it’s the only thing keeping me sane. We killed someone. We killed someone I’ve known all my life. We’ll go down for it. We killed someone, and now she’s singing to me. This is how people go mad, isn’t it? Shit.

A grin starts to grow on her face, but I never smile back or laugh. I just watch her till I start to fall asleep in her arms. Then, she prods the tip of my nose with her finger.

“You sleep funny.” She says.

I squint at her. “Thanks.”

“With your mouth open.”

I sigh. “Haven’t you seen worse?”

“Oh, yes. I’ve seen worse from you. I’ve seen worse.” She wraps her arm around my neck and pulls me closer. “Didn’t stop me falling stupidly in love with you, did it?”

I breathe out, trying to relax enough to let the warmth fill me up.

“Do you really love me?” I murmur.

I still can’t believe it. I can’t believe, after all this time, someone loves me.

“I mean…” Maria trails off, looking upwards. “I guess, maybe… love isn’t the right word for it. Now you mention it.”

“Oh.” My heart sinks slightly. I guess maybe it’s too early. Way too early. A week, in fact. “Okay.”

“It’s not melodramatic enough.” Maria says. “Love’s just… love. You know? It’s just love. Love’s just that sappy sugary crap they go on about in the movies. That doesn’t compare to what you make me feel. I don’t think there is a word strong enough for that.”

“Huh.” I say, looking into her eyes and smirking. “Well, there’s always adore.”

She grins back. “Yes, I suppose there is.”

 

 

I wake up the next morning to find Maria gone. As I roll over and sit up to face the thin rectangle of sunlight oozing through the closed blind, I shake my head to clear the last of the nightmare. Olivia was in it. Maria wasn’t.

I can hear the radio blaring in the kitchen- some trashy song with ridiculously inappropriate lyrics is playing, but above it all, I hear Maria singing and the dogs running around on the tiles. The sound of her voice makes me relax, remembering the night I came home to the note, but that nightmare’s still set doubt in. We can’t just pretend what happened last night didn’t happen- we don’t have the excuse of being high or shocked or tired anymore. I get up from the ground.

As I’m rubbing my eyes, Maria appears in the doorway, Tricky at her heels and Bounce in her arms. She grins.

“Look, he is awake.” She says to the dogs in a high, childish voice. I roll my eyes. “I told you the music would work. Eventually.”

I walk towards her, rubbing my eyes. “How long’s the radio been on?”

“Three hours.” Maria grins. “I only switched it to the tacky channel a couple of seconds ago, though. Before that it was heavy metal. We assumed that’d work the best.” She hugs Bounce, pressing him up under her chin so he can lick her, and giggles. “We were wrong, weren’t we? He sleeps like he’s dead, doesn’t he? Bounce, stop!”

“Why… why’d you need to wake me up?” I ask, watching as Maria dumps Bounce back onto the ground, and he scurries into the hallway.

She presses her lips together. “I think we need to talk. About… last night.”

I blink nervously. “Yeah. Of course we- we do. Has there been, uh… anything on the…”

“Radio? No.” Maria chews her lip. “Actually, maybe. I don’t listen to the news. Scares me.”

“Yeah.” I rub my face. “Me too.”

When she looks at me, she looks so guilty I want to hug her and tell her it’s all okay. Because I feel like it is, even though I shouldn’t.

“Scotty…” Maria says, twisting her mouth sideways. “I need to leave Glasgow soon.”

I look at her, widening my eyes. My stomach drops and my insides crumple.

“You…”

“I’ve been here too long.” Maria says. “I’ve been cleaning out the streets; it’s obvious something terrible’s going on. It’s only a matter of time before I’m caught. Especially after last night, when…”

“Yeah.” I rub my face, trying to disguise the misery in my voice. “Yeah. I know.”

“They’re going to connect us. To her. Soon enough. People know. People are going to talk.”

“I know…” I say. “They’ll know it was me. I’m going to get you caught if you don’t get out of here. You’re… you’re right.”

She looks up at me. “Come with me.”

I look back.

“Please.” She says, reaching for my hand. “Come with me, Scotty. I wouldn’t ask you, but I thought… you’ve not got much to leave behind. Like me.”

“I… Where are we going?” I say.

“I don’t know.” She smiles. “I thought maybe some small town somewhere. Down south. With all the people who talk funny. Or maybe somewhere with a forest. Unless you’ve got a better idea.”

The way she’s looking at me lights me up. I know this is my last chance to back out- once I’ve disappeared with her, I can never come back to my old life. Why would I want to? This would be a completely new start for both of us. I could live with no drink, no reputation, no family, no friends. Just me and her. Murdering people. Why does it sound like heaven?

Maria sees the expression on my face and smiles. “We’d need new names.”

“Oh.” I say. “Really?”

“Yes; we’d be effectively MIA in Scotland. If that.” She grins. “We’d need to pretend to be someone else. Better come up with new names. Personally, I think we should pick each other’s.”

I twist my mouth sideways. “That sounds like a recipe for disaster.”

“What?” She huffs. “You don’t trust me? What, you think I’d give you a stupid name?”

“Yes.”

“Well, if I give you a stupid one you can pick me a stupid one.”

“I don’t want a stupid name!”

“Well, tough.” She presses her bottom lip, thinking. “I think you look like an Ernest. Ernie for short.”

I frown. “What?”

“Yes, I like that.”

“You are not calling me Ernest.”

“Too late. What’s my name? What goes with Ernest?”

“I’m not called Ernest!”

“Yes, you are.” The look on her face as she hits my shoulder tells me she’s joking. “Yes, you are, Ernest.”

“Fine. You know what name matches Ernest?” I fold my arms. “Mildred.”

Her smile drops. “Hell out of here.”

“Sorry, what was that, Mildred?”

She slaps my arm, hard. “No.”

“Anyway.” I say. “What were you saying about picking each other’s names being a good idea?”

“Oh, I’ve got a better idea.” She flaps her hands. “We should pick names that sound really vampire-y. And then laugh as somehow nobody suspects us of being vampires.”

“What if they do suspect us?”

She looks at me. “Then we run again. Anyway, what’s a vampire name that’d suit you? Oh, I know! Astaroth. Or maybe Hemlock.”

“Okay.” I smirk. “I think Esther suits you. Or Penelope.”

“They’re not dark and gloomy enough.”

“Okay, fine.” I think harder. “Lamia.”

“That’s not a name.”

“Yeah, it is.”

“No it isn’t.”

“Okay, whatever. How about Carrie?”

She twists her mouth. “Carrie? How’s that scary?”

I stare at her. “You don’t read much, do you?”

“You’re such a nerd.”

“Samara.”

She grins. “Now that I can get behind.”

I smile back, but have to bite my lip. My emotions well up inside me all at once.

“Maria?” I say.

She looks at me, still grinning, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. “Yep?”

“You… you’ve made me happy for the first time in my life.”

Maria frowns. “What… what do you mean?”

“What I said. You’re the first person who’s ever made me happy. And you make me so happy. I… I just… all I want is you. It sounds stupid and fake, but it’s t-true. You’re the only thing I need.”

She smiles, but I know she’s not that great at being sweet. She’s not used to it. I couldn’t help myself.

“Scotty…” She says. “I can’t be the only one. The only one ever.”

“Well, you are.” I say truthfully. I look down at our clasped hands and pull her closer to me, wrapping my arm around her shoulders.

“Your… your family?” She murmurs, pressing her forehead to mine. “They never-”

“They can go the rest of their lives believing I’m dead for all I care.” I swallow, wondering if that’s true. “Because I only want you.”

“Only me.”

“Only you.”

“Forever?” She whispers.

I lick my lips. “Forever.”

“Well, that’s adorable.” She says, whispering softly into the centimetres of space between our mouths. “Because the only thing I’m going to need, for the rest of eternity, love… is my sketchbook.” She grins wickedly. “And my silver knife.”

I blink at her, wanting to laugh but pretending to be hurt. “Ouch. What a gut-punch.”

“What? It’s a family heirloom. You’re not all that special, Scotty Matthews. You’re cute, but not all that cute.”

She giggles and kisses me, and we melt together for a few seconds. I twist my fingers through her hair and feel her shiver. I don’t want to let her go. Is this too fast? I don’t care anymore.

Ping.

Maria stares down at my hands as I let go of her to pull my phone out of my pocket. I put it back together a few days ago, switched it back on. Just in case. It stayed silent all that time, never lighting up. And now, there’s a text. From Mum.

CALL

My heart leaps into my throat. Maria and I look at each other; we both know what this means.

Then, before I’ve even had a chance to call her, the screen lights up with Mum’s name and blank profile picture. I breathe in sharply, and choke on the air.

“Don’t answer.” Maria says, clutching my wrist. I pry it away from her.

“I have to… If- if I don’t, they’ll know.”

Her eyes are full of fear. Hatred bubbles up through me and a stab of stupidity makes me hit decline. We stare at each other, Maria biting her lip.

“You were right.” She says softly. “You needed to answer that.”

She laughs, and I look down at the phone. “I know.”

Barely ten seconds later, the phone rings again. I stare at it for a long time.

“I can’t.” I say, looking up at her as the panic sets in. “I can’t. I’ll break.”

“You won’t.”

“She’ll break me.”

Maria presses her hand into mine, taking the phone away. “She can’t. You won’t break.” She says, pressing a button. Mum’s voice crackles out of the phone, and I realise she’s accepted the call. She hands it back to me. Her eyes are saying you can do this. The way she’s biting her lip is telling me maybe I can’t.

“And Scott- Scott. Scott. Are you there?”

I bite my lip too as I hold the phone to my ear. Maria turns away, her hand to her mouth.

Not too nasty, not too nice. “Hi Mum.”

“Where the hell are you? How dare you keep declining my calls? It serves you right.” Mum’s voice quietens as she shouts to Gordon. “No- no. No. You’re absolutely right. Maybe we shouldn’t tell him. Probably doesn’t care anyway.” She comes back. “Maybe we shouldn’t tell you.”

Act like nothing’s wrong. No- act like nothing’s different. “Tell me what?”

“Like hell you deserve to know, way you’ve been treating her. I’d assume you already knew. But you’re too busy floundering round with random sluts and drinking yourself to death. Olivia’s dead, Scott.”

Think what you’d say if you were innocent. If you had no idea she was dead. I widen my eyes. “What?”

The what’s genuine, actually. I can’t believe even Mum could be so brash. She’s supposed to think I’m innocent.

“Yeah. She was murdered in the street on a night out with her friends. I’m sure you don’t care.”

“What the hell’s wrong with you?” I say, tearing my eyes away from Maria and digging my hand into my head, grabbing my hair. “Of course I care. Why- why- why would you tell me like this? Is it true?”

Maria looks at me.

Mum, on the other end, laughs. “Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, Gordon! He thinks we’re joking!” The phone crackles. “Yeah, Scott, April Fool’s, you useless waste of space. It’s a joke.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“She’s DEAD, you piece of shit! She’s been murdered! When’s that gonna batter through your thick skull?”

“I think it’s doing pretty well, now, thanks! I got the message.” My voice thickens. “She’s… she’s… dead.”

Ripped apart on the street like roadkill.”

“Don’t talk about her like that.”

“Sorry, what was that?”

DON’T talk about her like that!” I sob. “Ripped apart? Ripped- ripped- okay! I get the message. Treat her with some respect, Mum. My god.” My voice grows higher. I see Maria staring at me, her mouth pressed. “She’s… she’s… dead.”

Olivia. Olivia’s dead.

I bite my lip.

“Talk about respect all you want, you shit. You’re the one who wasn’t taking care of her. You left her for dead. You were too busy with your new girl to look after her, weren’t you? You with her now?” I catch Maria’s eye. She reaches for my hand, but I pretend not to see. “Or has she ditched you too? Rest assured. She will after this.”

I bristle with anger. Oh, I did more than leave her for dead. I want to scream down the phone. I did MUCH more than let her die! I gave the order! I shoved her back when she tried to escape! I watched as my NEW GIRL DEVOURED her! Is that what you wanna hear, Mum?

I wonder if she thinks I had something to do with it. She’d better not.

“What do you want me to say, Mum?” I ask, my voice low and shaky. Maria stares at me as I let out a sob.

“You? Say? Nothing.” Mum says. “Just have your arse down here next Wednesday if you wanna come to the funeral. Her parents mentioned it to us. Nobody wants you there. Nobody but them.” Mum spits.

A sick, cold spike of guilt twists through my stomach. Guilt, for the first time. It’s awful.

“Be there for them, won’t you? Wear something smart. And don’t bring that girl, whatever her name is. Even though I heard she likes to wear a lot of black.”

Don’t disrespect my beautiful girl like that! I want to scream at her as Maria and I lock eyes, but the rotten words stick in my throat and I remain guiltily quiet. There’s a long silence. I shouldn’t go. Not to Olivia’s funeral- I killed her. Not Maria. Me. We stare at one another for a long, long time. The other end of the line crackles as Mum sighs, waiting for a response.

Maria nods at me. I press my lips together.

“C’mon, Scott. D’we have to clear the cobwebs out your bedroom or not?”

“Scotty. You have to go.” Maria says. It occurs to me I’ll never have closure unless I go. Do I deserve closure? What if everyone there suspects me? Can I hold my tongue amongst that many people? Or will I break?

No, Maria said. You won’t break. Her eyes are repeating it now.

The truth is, everyone’ll suspect me more if I’m not there.

“Scotty.” Maria murmurs again. I swallow.

“I’ll be there.” I say to Mum. “For Olivia. Don’t bother clearing the cobwebs. I’m not staying long.”

“Good.” Mum says. Then, she hangs up on me before I have the chance to do the same to her. Silence floods me and I let the phone fall to my side. Instead of stuffing it into my pocket, I let it slip out of my hand and onto the floor.

“Damn.” Maria murmurs, leaning against the doorway. There’s not a trace of playfulness in her voice. “You’re a good actor.”

I nod. When I picked up that phone, I was so petrified I was going to break and give myself away, but there was no need. I didn’t have to fake a single word.

“Postpone the plans.” I say. “Whatever… whatever we were gonna do to get out of here. I still want to. But wait till after this. I have to do this.”

I sigh. I want my old life gone, but I can’t just let it go. I need it to know it’s no longer wanted. I need to force it to watch me walk away.

“I need to say goodbye, okay?”

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