Almost Too Late
Time, Abby thought, time and memories could fade easily or remain amazingly clear. When she looked back over the span of her very long life, many memories had faded with the passage of the decades and –in many cases- centuries. Others would remain etched in her mind throughout the eternity she seemingly had before her. They would always stay clear to her. They would be as clear to her as Owen's sleeping face that now lay mere inches from her own.
She had seen many years pass by her. When she had been born, and subsequently made into what she was, America was still a collection of colonies and the name George Washington was only known as an officer from the Seven Years War. She now reflected on the irony every 4th of July that her age was greater than that of the country whose founding was celebrated in the fireworks that she and Owen now watched every year. As she had told Owen ten years prior in Los Alamos, she was twelve years old…but she had been that age a long, long time. She idly wondered if Owen ever thought of these things. She honestly didn't think he did, so she had not bothered to ask.
Of course, Owen would still see time much differently. She was twelve, but had been twelve for well over two hundred years. Owen was thirteen years and ten months old, but he had only been that age for coming up on nine years now.
Abby reached over and gently placed her hand on his cheek as she carefully studied his face, even though its contours were as well known to her as the solution to an old puzzle. Ten years, she thought to herself. She'd known him for ten years now. Ten years was decidedly not a long span when you could look back through centuries. However, Abby could say, without one word of a lie or exaggeration that they were the ten best and happiest years of her life.
The ten years had been years of peace. They had been years of safety. They had been years of love.
She pulled the covers –that truthfully they didn't really need since neither of them was affected by temperature any longer- and gently inched her nude body closer to Owen's. Usually, when they went to their bed as the sun rose, sleep came very quickly. (The sleep of a vampire was generally quick to come and hard to disturb. It was why she had often been so vulnerable during daylight hours and had needed some sort of daytime guardian before she and Owen had come to this safe haven that been their home for a decade.) But, on occasion, Abby found herself awake. She didn't mind it too much. She simply lay close to Owen and savoured his close presence. However, it did allow her mind to wander. And, when that happened, she often found her mind wandering back to memories that she knew would be clear to her forever.
Her memories took her back to those last days in Los Alamos in 1983. The memories that made her shiver with cold, as she realized what could well have happened back then. She thought over the terrible "What if's", as the saying went. She found herself imagining what would have happened if some small things had gone differently back then. She knew the end result would have been losing Owen forever. If that had happened, as she'd realized on a very memorable night in 1984, when she came so close to losing Owen in an even more terrible way when her own horrid past caught up with her, she could not have continued with her existence as it had been. Owen had awakened a part of her that she had thought to be dead since the 18th Century. It was the best part of her, and she couldn't go back to what had passed as her existence before. If she had lost Owen then, sooner or later, she would have simply decided to watch the sun come up.
She thought back over ten years, to that nightmarish day when she told Owen she had to leave Los Alamos. When she had to leave him….
Twelve hours. That was all it had taken for things to have changed to terribly. Twelve hours prior, Abby had sensed that there was something for her that never could have dreamed of. Twelve hours ago, she had let herself imagine that she might be granted something that she never would have imagined herself having.
Twelve hours ago, Owen had done something that she had hoped for with all the fibers of her being, yet never allowed herself to believe would come to pass. Owen had seen what she was, yet he still let her in. He let her into his home. He let her into his heart. She had stood there bleeding from every pore and opening on her body. She had watched his face, in an instant turn from curiosity at what would happen to shock to utter, desperate fear. He realized, as her blood began to pool on the floor of his apartment that she was literally dying in front of him.
Her heart had leapt at the sound of his screaming out an invitation to her. Just as swiftly, the bleeding had stopped. The accompanying agony had stopped. The dying had stopped. What hadn't stopped was Owen's trembling. As he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, she could feel his shaking, as well as the pounding of his heart. With a voice that was barely under control he'd asked her what would have happened if he hadn't have said anything. She'd simply replied that she knew he wouldn't let that happen. Had she really known? Or, had she simply hoped? All she now knew was that Owen had truly seen her for what she was. Yet, he looked far more scared now, at the thought of her dying right in front of him than he was at seeing her vampiric face the night before in the secret room.
When she'd emerged from the shower, she had actually felt awkward, with only the towel wrapped around her. She had no idea why she should feel that way. She'd spent the night in his bed once, without wearing anything. She'd had no awkwardness then. (Of course, she suspected Owen had felt more than a little awkward) Her only awkward moment was her puzzlement of what Owen had meant by his meaning they "go steady". Perhaps now her nervousness stemmed from the fact that it was all real. He knew just what she was and had accepted her for it. It wasn't pretend any longer. There were real emotions being displayed now.
He had said she could put on one of his mother's old dresses to wear. Now, that was strange for her. She hadn't worn anything that overtly feminine in a very long time indeed. She knew he was watching her too, as she changed. Abby had not needed any heightened senses to know that. Owen was a twelve-going-on-thirteen year old boy. His girlfriend was undressed a few feet away and she knew the door hadn't shut totally behind her. Abby didn't know exactly what going steady had meant, but she wasn't an idiot.
When she emerged, in the dress, Owen had just stared at her like he was seeing her again for the first time. She had reacted by actually smiling at him. Not the guarded smiles she'd given at the arcade or the by jungle gym. But, she'd given him a full smile of happiness and realized she couldn't stop herself from giggling as she twirled around in the dress. She heard the music playing from the record player and realized he was actually trying to set a mood. She was impressed. He was doing all of this for her. Despite herself, she found herself bobbing her head in tune to the music of David Bowie as her smile became even wider.
Ten years later, she still was curious as to what would have happened had Owen's mother not arrived home at that very moment. Owen was clearly trying to create a romantic mood. They were alone. Was he planning some sort of seduction? (Well, at least what an almost thirteen-year old boy would consider a smooth seduction.) Abby's own defenses were down to a point, that she realized later that Owen would not have had to do much more if that had been his idea. Instead, there was the sound of a key turning in the lock and Owen's mother loudly announcing she was home. Owen's face underwent a change that was so swift and dramatic that Abby would not have believed it had she not witnessed it. In hindsight, the shift and contrast was actually comical. He went from a happy, confidant, smile to an expression of sheer, utter terror. Abby noted that he looked infinitely more scared of his mother coming in and catching them together –and Abby wearing literally nothing but an old dress of his mother's- than he did at any revelation of the various aspects of her vampiric nature. Either, she would muse, Owen simply cared about her so much that it nulled any shock about her true nature…Or his mother's reaction would have been far, FAR worse than anything Abby could show him. No matter what, Abby didn't need to take the subtle hint Owen was giving her. Alright, the subtle hint was Owen frantically –his face white and with his eyes bulging out their sockets- waving her towards his bedroom. Abby took off without hesitation, sprinting down the hallway, the sound of her barefeet striking the floor covered by both the lightness of her practiced step and Owen's own heavier pounding behind her. In one swift move she dove headfirst out the window, turning around in mid-air to angle herself back to her own window next door. She was so fast that scant seconds later when Owen stuck his head out the window and looked around for her, she was waving to him from her window, giggling at their narrow escape. His face took on a look of relief as he waved back and began to giggle as well.
The rest of Abby's evening was….dull. She found herself sitting crosslegged in the middle of her living room, playing with her various puzzles. She then looked about the scantly furnished apartment as the sheer scarcity of her existence struck her. There was little in the way of furniture. Certainly nothing that would make the place look or feel like a true home. It was odds and ends that she and the man masquerading as her father had picked up over the years. Her own personal belongings were equally scarce. She had her puzzles, a few books and some various items of clothing. That was it. Everything she owned and would ever want to keep could be packed up in one large steamer trunk…and the large size was to accommodate her for daylight travel as well. Her existence was, she sadly admitted to herself, a terribly empty one. Yet…It hadn't seemed to bad an hour or two ago. She had felt happy. She had felt attractive. She had felt like a human girl again. She turned her head and looked over at the plain wall that she shared with Owen's bedroom. In truth, she wasn't looking at the wall itself but was thinking of the person who lived on the other side of it. In her more than two centuries of nocturnal existence it was fair to say she had never met anyone like Owen. It was like…He knew exactly how to get past her long-built defenses, yet she didn't feel scared by that. Instead, she welcomed it. And, earlier that evening, before her shower, she had shown him something nobody had ever seen before. She had shown him something her "Father" and any of the other damaged, disturbed and dangerous humans who had been her daytime familiars over the centuries had never been told about, let alone been allowed to witness. She had shown Owen the moment where her life and innocence was stolen and this damaged and unclean vampire was left to occupy the shell.
He had wanted to know how she was able to do the things she had to do to survive. She told him simply she did it to live. She knew she could have left it at that. Instead, she had touched his face and shown him what had happened to her that horrible night in what was then the Colony of Virginia, back in the 1760's. He had seen the glowing, demonic eyes staring at her and a horrid mouth opening to reveal those gleaming white fangs and teeth. He had seen her trying to kick out and escape. He had seen the futility of her struggle. He had heard her unearthly screams of pain as the creature had taken her blood, had taken her innocence. He had seen the visage of her human face, in tears of pain and fear as the vampire's infection spread through her body.
She'd broken it off then. She simply couldn't continue herself. She had looked at Owen, expecting a look of revulsion directed at her. Instead, she saw pain that was from what she had gone through. He reached out and pulled her into a hug. The same as he'd done after she nearly bled out. The same as he'd done when she'd vomited his Now And Later candy. He had held her for what seemed forever. Then he'd just given him that smile which always broke through her reserve and asked if she wanted to shower. When she emerged, she saw what he was doing and simply couldn't stop herself from smiling.
Shame his mother came home, when she did, Abby thought. She was about to move to the wall and try a Morse code signal when she heard the knocking at her door. It was a series of three long knocks followed by a short one and then two long ones. The Morse Code for the letters "O" and "W". She reached the door before he could start on the single dash for the letter "E".
"Hi.", she said as she opened the door wide and subconsciously pushed her long, blonde hair and straightened the old dress she wore that had belonged to his mother.
"Hey.", Owen answered sheepishly. He then smiled subtly and asked "Can I come in?".
Abby couldn't stop herself from giggling –she honestly felt he had made her laugh more in these last few weeks than she had in the last two centuries. "Yes.", she said as she stepped aside and made a welcoming gesture, "You can come in.", she intoned in a deliberately formal tone as if she was the butler welcoming a guest into a grand manor.
"What happened with your mother?", asked Abby as Owen took off his silver jacket and sat down next to her on the floor. "Does she know where you've gone?"
"No.", sighed Owen resignedly. "She's on the couch. Sleeping. Well…passed out is more like it. Again."
"Owen…I'm sorry.", Abby murmered as she snuggled close to him and rested her head on his shoulder.
"It's OK. I'm used to it by now."
"It's alright. I'm used to her doing it. You get used to just about anything after a while.
Abby, who could definitely confirm that people could adjust to almost anything, no matter how terrible, simply replied "Yeah, I know."
"And my dad, my mom doesn't even want him seeing me. I really don't think that he's too bothered by it either. He's got his new girlfriend. I guess they both have something, you know. My mom has her church groups, and bible groups…and her drinking. My dad has his new girlfriend"
"Well…You asked me to be YOUR girlfriend, didn't you? You asked me to go steady, didn't you?"
"I said yes, didn't I?"
"Yeah.", said Owen as a smile broke over his face. "You did."
"So, you've got your own girlfriend now."
"Yeah. You're right."
"Owen, I'm always right."
"Don't I ever get to be right?"
"Nope.", Abby said with a giggle. "You're my boyfriend now. It's part of the deal."
"Oh well.", said Owen as he pretended to give a dramatic sigh. "I guess that's OK. You're way prettier than Dad's girlfriend is."
"You've met her, or seen pictures?"
"Nope. Neither. I just know she's not you. She's not you and nobody can be prettier than you."
"Owennnnnn.", Abby giggled as she felt goosebumps actually break out over her whole body. She walked barefoot in the snow regularly and it didn't cause any reaction. But Owen's simple words caused her whole form to tingle. She was wondering if she was capable of blushing still. If she was, she was certain her face was a bright red by now.
Owen smiled at her as he saw the effect that his words had. Abby had always seemed so sad. Of course, now he knew why. But, he still wanted to try and make her feel happy any way he could.
He looked down at the puzzles strewn about. "So," he gestured at the scattered objects "what are all these?"
Abby reached out and grasped a wooden lockbox puzzle that was simply cut wood pieces fitted together in a most specific way. It was quite common and popular around the time of the American Revolutions. She angled the small reading lamp up on the puzzle and proceeded to tell Owen its history. Owen listened with genuine interest as she went from puzzle to puzzle.
The night hours passed quickly and far more pleasantly than Abby could have imagined. Even something as simple as describing her puzzles was enough to keep Abby more than entertained. The difference was Owen. He listened with rapt attention to her words. He smiled everytime she looked at him directly. He studied her profile from the side, as if committing her details to his memory. He did small things to make her jump and giggle, like sneaking out his hand to tickle her bare feet whenever she wasn't looking. It was, she reflected, a perfectly fun way to spend their first official evening together as boyfriend and girlfriend.
Towards 4:30 in the morning, they had been lying on the floor talking. Abby looked over to see the clock as she guessed that dawn wasn't too far off and she would have to start thinking of going to her daytime lair soon. She hoped Owen wouldn't be too disappointed at this sweet time together coming to an end. She looked back over only to find Owen had fallen sound asleep on the floor. Abby smiled to herself. He had told her he had barely slept the night before. After learning of her vampire nature and the tense conversation in her living room, he found himself waking from bad dreams all night long. Abby padded to the bedroom in her barefeet. She grabbed a blanket off the bed, returned to Owen and gently lay the blanket over his sleeping form. Looking down the hall to the bathroom, she realized that Owen might just look around for her when he awoke. For that matter, he might just go in there to use the washroom when he awoke. And that, could be very bad indeed. Yeah, better safe than sorry. Grabbing a notepad and pen, she quickly wrote him a note in which she explained where she was and asked him to please not try to come in. She asked if he wanted to hang out again that night. She dearly hoped he would. She guessed he wanted to do that too. Abby added a final sentence that she liked him very much. After reading that, she nibbled the end of the pen and looked at what she'd written. DID she really like him like she'd written? No, she admitted to herself, she didn't simply like Owen a lot. She loved him. She loved him like she didn't think she had it in her heart anymore. She loved him like he was the other part of herself that she knew she'd been missing all these many dark and lonely years. She loved him to an extent that she actually let herself think of doing something she swore she'd never do to anyone…To bring him over into her eternal nightworld so they could truly be together.
Abby shook her head at this tommyrot. What was she thinking? That Owen would welcome this half-dead world of darkness she'd been condemned to, just because of her? He'd give up sunshine? Real food? His parents? A normal human life all for her? She couldn't imagine that. Nobody would choose her over such things. Still, she couldn't help but love him. Was this what it felt like? To lose her heart to Owen, only to know that sooner or later, time would separate them forever?
But still, Owen was the most unique soul she'd ever encountered. Maybe there could be a way, somehow…
It was too much to think about now. She smiled and signed the note "Love Abby" and left it on the table for him to find when he woke up. She knelt down one last time before him as she walked to the bathroom. She looked at his sleeping form, and silently leaned down and kissed him on the cheek. Abby smiled as she felt another newly remembered feeling surge through her…hope. She felt some hope that somehow, this could be the start of some sort of new beginning for her. This was her last thought as she pulled the layers of covers over her head and drifted off to her vampiric sleep in the bathtub.
Abby's next sensations were vivid and traumatic. She felt pain. She felt fear. She felt confusion.
The pain was a searing fire lancing over her arm. The source was a small beam of sunlight that had penetrated the bathroom window somehow. It was one of the few things that could instantly roust a vampire from a daytime sleep. The next thing she knew was hearing Owen scream.
"NO! STOP!", Owen's screams were blunt and terrified. Abby looked up sharply and took in the scene instantly. Owen was standing at the bathroom threshold, still in last night's clothing. His face was a study of sheer terror. It wasn't for him though. She realized it was for her.
The next sight caused her to stifle a cry of shock. There was a stranger in her lair where she spent her most vulnerable hours. He was a stocky, balding man with glasses and a mustache. In his hand he held an automatic pistol. He had turned in shock at hearing Owen's cry. He had completely forgotten the seemingly lifeless girl in the bathtub.
"Christ Almighty, son…!", this stranger said in a voice that was breathless from shock. He never got another word out.
Abby, had a side of her that even she was frightened by. It was a primal, feral side. It was triggered by either hunger for blood or self-preservation. In this case, it was the latter.
Before this strange man could say one more word, she was on him. She wrapped her inhumanly strong arms and legs around his torso and sank her teeth into his neck. The man let out an equally inhuman scream of pain and shock. He sank to the ground as Abby drained more and more of his blood. Dimly she perceived Owen at the door as a bloodied hand reached for him. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the door close.
Within seconds, it was all over. Abby grabbed the lifeless head with both hands and gave it a harsh twist. There was a sickly cracking noise and the man's head hung at a grotesque angle. At least, she thought, it's over for him. He would not have to endure becoming what she was.
As she stood up, Abby suddenly realized she'd seen this man before. He had put his head out the window of the hospital the night her "Father" had died. From what she overheard, he was a detective. Looking down, Abby saw the pistol that had scattered across the floor. On the man's body, clipped to his belt, was a police badge.
A policeman, she realized. Had he traced her back from the hospital? Or, had she been seen long enough two nights ago when she had attacked that woman in the courtyard that he had come to the apartment looking for her. At any rate, he clearly had no idea just what she was. At least, she didn't think he had known. In the late 19th and into the 20th Century, belief in her kind had fallen off sharply. She couldn't imagine a detective in 1983 New Mexico deciding his quarry was a vampire. It appeared, he had come alone. But, he might have just been following leads and been lead into her apartment by mutual bad luck –bad for her, worse for him.
She regarded the corpse beneath her with dispassion. She felt no animosity towards this man whose name she didn't even know. He clearly had just been doing his job. She, meanwhile, had simply been following what her nature compelled her to do to survive. (A vampire's two strongest drives were the need for food and self-preservation. In extreme cases, they overrode her rational abilities. It was this that drove the attack in the courtyard that led to this). Now, she felt no victory or happiness. She silently murmured an apology to this man and exited the bathroom.
Owen was standing there, his hands over his ears, a look of stunned horror on his face. She walked up gently and wrapped her arms around him.
"Thanks.", she simply said. There was nothing more to say. If he hadn't have warned her, she would be part of a fireball now. The whole building would probably be engulfed by now. Owen just simply nodded.
Scant minutes later, after Abby had carried the policeman's body down to the secret basement room, Owen and Abby stood in her apartment facing each other. Both of them had a look of utter pain and despair on their faces.
Abby was seeing that faint hope for a new life disappear. She'd could see that Owen was in the same excruciating inner pain that she was. Finally, Abby spoke.
"Owen…I have to go away…"
Two Nights Later.
She'd had to go away, told Owen, and so she had. She'd stoically walked out of the building where she'd felt such wondrous new things and had her brief vision of a life where happiness might be granted to her. She'd walked, with her head down, her barefeet crunching in the snow and gotten into a cab as the driver placed the steamer trunk in with the rest of her few belongings. She knew Owen was watching her. She couldn't look up. She just couldn't. If she saw him there, her resolve would be lost. For all she knew, she'd launch herself up to his room and disregard everything else. She would take him in her arms and just hope the rest worked out.
But she couldn't. She couldn't destroy Owen's life along with all the others that she'd touched in her cursed existence. Not for the first time, she'd wished that when Jebediah had finished his attack on her, he had been merciful enough to snap her neck the way she did with those she fed on. Of course, mercy had never been in his vocabulary. So now, her misery seemed to be as eternal as she was.
That first night, she hadn't known exactly where she was going. She was limited in that she certainly couldn't rent any sort of apartment or even book herself into a hotel without suspicion. She had wound up at a rented storage locker. The next day found her inside her trunk, trying to sleep. The operative word, was trying. For a vampire to not fall into a deep sleep as the sun rose was extremely rare. Abby, was lying in her trunk, trying to stem the tears that seeped from her eyes. The morning before she'd been in her apartment, dreaming of a happy potential future with Owen. Now, she was back in her nomadic existence…and again alone.
Alone, she thought. That was a cruel word. Abby was no stranger to cruelty. She'd witnessed it on the plantation in Virginia where she'd spent the first twelve years of her human life. She'd has the most unspeakable cruelty inflicted on her. She'd watched much cruelty inflicted between people in the ensuing two hundred years. She'd done things which had cruel results herself. Of course, she didn't try to be cruel, but her predatory needs drove her to do things that were cruel.
But with Owen…She couldn't shake the feeling that things could have been different. Something whispered to her that a path with Owen could be a path where she didn't have to live in a world pain, of violence, of wandering, of death. Owen was a path where she could have a world where there was peace. Where there was love. How this could happen, she had no idea. She just knew that this feeling was real. If Owen could accept her even after seeing what she truly was, it surely wasn't too farfetched that somehow together they could carve out a peaceful and happy life together.
But a life together for how long? If there was one thing Abby knew for sure, it was that people grew old and eventually died. Owen would eventually grow old and die. There was no way around it except one. She could make Owen a vampire like herself and condemn him to live in this half-dead world of hers that never saw the light of day again. Or, she could settle into a life with Owen only to watch him grow old and eventually die as the years passed in front of her.
Yet, what was the alternative? She could leave now and always think back to these precious weeks. She could let them overwhelm her for well, forever. Or, she could do what she thought was now impossible. She could go back. She could go seek out Owen. And then what? Could she ask him to leave everything behind and go away with her? No, she couldn't ask that of him. If he still wanted her, she wouldn't leave. She could not return to the apartment complex, but she could surely find some other place to hide herself. It could be closeby and only Owen would know of it. It was a long shot, but she had to try. There was literally nothing at all for her to lose. Thinking that perhaps hope had not left completely, Abby let herself drift off to sleep.
That night, when Abby awoke, her first thought was extremely simple. She had to track down Owen. The question was, where. Her first thought was to go to the apartment complex and seek him out.
That thought was quickly dismissed. There was every chance the policeman's body had been discovered and the place would be alive with activity. It would not be an ideal place to try and track down Owen. She could, of course, look the place over and stay hidden. Launching herself into the air, Abby soon landed on the street outside her former home. A glance at the parking lot and up the street showed there were no police cars or newscrews anywhere around. She'd scanned newspaper boxes earlier and found nothing involving the policeman. So, she concluded nobody had found anything yet.
Next, Abby flew up to Owen's bedroom window. She thought sadly back to that night where she'd come in through his window and climbed into his bed. She'd left all her clothes on the floor beforehand. Owen had, amazingly, taken it in stride. He seemed more shocked about the fact she was freezing cold than the fact she was completely naked. To say nothing of the fact she'd come in his second floor bedroom window in the middle of the night. That night, she had just taken his hand and put it against her cheek. Afterwards, she had drifted off to sleep with him. She'd woken just as the sun was coming up and had barely escaped disaster. She couldn't believe she'd let her guard down so much that she had allowed herself to be caught there. (She definitely didn't want to imagine what would have happened if his mother had entered the room and found Owen in bed with a completely naked girl she had never seen before. That would not have been a pretty sight.)
This time, however, there was no Owen there. The room was darkened. Abby landed across the street by a payphone. She hoped it was working, as these phones were often the targets of vandals. Someday, she thought, they should invent a personal phone that is small enough for people to just carry around in their pockets. Dropping some coins in the slot, she dialed the number she had spotted when she'd been in Owen's apartment the other night. It rang three times before a female voice, somewhat slurred by alcohol, answered.
"Hello. Is Owen there?", Abby queried. She'd dropped her own voice just enough that she would sound like a prepubescent boy.
"No. He's at school. Some sort of gym class."
"Oh, Ok. Thanks."
"Who is this? Can he call you when he gets home?"
"Goodbye", Abby stated simply has she hung up the receiver. The school, she thought. Owen had told her that he was getting involved in the afterschool athletics program. He had excitedly told her that he was starting to lift weights and was learning to swim. She realized now that he was trying to impress her. She smiled at the thought.
She remembered which direction was the school Owen said he attended and took off.
It was as she approached the school that she got the first sign something was wrong. Something was very wrong. First of all a huge plume of smoke was rising from that direction. Abby urged herself through the air faster. As she got closer, she could see, with some relief, that the smoke was being generated by a massive fire in a garbage dumpster in the school parking lot. But, then the question hit her, just how did a dumpster catch fire to such an extent, and in winter when there would be plenty of snow on everything. She knew that fires in garbage dumpsters were common events. She also knew they did not burn with such intensity, at least not without some sort of fuel being used. Now, why in the world would someone do that in a middle school parking lot on a weeknight in the middle of March? The answer, to her horror, soon made itself clear.
A figure stepped away from the glare of the flame, after apparently realizing that throwing snow on the flames was not doing much good. She could hear him muttering in some broken English about getting a fire extinguisher and calling the fire department. Then, Abby noticed two things. One, the figure was a grizzled looking adult dressed in athletic gear. From Owen's descriptions, this was Mr. Zoric, the gym coach. Secondly, Mr. Zoric was unable to get back into the building. As he pounded and cursed in several different languages, Abby could discern that someone had locked him out…from the inside. A chill harsher than the air around her went through Abby's whole body as she put two and two together. A fire had been deliberately set to draw Zoric's attention…and now he was locked out of the building. It wasn't so much this fact that frightened Abby. It was her speculation as to who had done it and why. She only knew she had to find Owen….Now!
She picked up the smell of chlorine and let it lead her to the swimming pool area. There, she found a large window and looked in. The sight that greeted her was her worst fears realized. Four boys were gathered around the deep end of the pool. Three were staring intently at the fourth, who was –by far- the oldest and largest. He was kneeling by the edge, holding something underwater. Bubbles were emanating from this submerged body. Bubbles that were getting fainter by the second. She strained her eyes and could see through the water's light refraction that it was Owen.
Abby realized the situation immediate…and something happened to her. Throughout her long life, Abby had killed many times. Each time had been either for food or for defense. It had never been anything personal or anything she had taken pleasure in or had tried to toy with her prey.
THIS time was different however. These, she knew were the bullies who'd been tormenting Owen for months. She recognized Kenny by the bandage over his left ear. Apparently, after Owen had fought back, they had gotten help for themselves. Well, so be it then. Owen had help too…and it was now here. And these four monsters were about to have their worst nightmare come true.
Abby threw herself at the window. The glass simply exploded in like a wine glass hit with a hammer. The four thugs looked up. All they could initially see was a lithe, little blonde girl, clad in only a hoodie, thin pants and no shoes, who looked about 12 come dropping into the pool. The first two bullies, Donny and Mark had time to register something was horribly out of place. Abby's eyes glowed intensely and when she opened her mouth, they could see those deadly teeth. She grabbed each one by their collar and easily lifted them off the ground. Fear must have gripped them, since Abby had a second or two to note that a large, wet stain appeared on the front of each of their pants. The thought that they'd pissed themselves was perhaps their last conscious thought. With a snarl Abby smashed their heads together…hard. It was so hard that their heads literally exploded from the impact. With a sickening crushing sound, their heads ruptured open like a pair over overripe tomatoes that collided at a highway speed. Brains, blood pieces of skull and parts of their faces all mixed together as they fell to the pool deck. Abby stalked majestically through the carnage towards Kenny and his brother. Behind her, the now headless corpses fell to the deck and blood gushed through the open neck cavities. Abby didn't even notice the overpowering odour of food. She had business to take care of, and as the saying went: business before pleasure.
Kenny stared at this tiny avenging angel as an insane fear took over his eyes. There was a sudden sound followed by a truly gross smell. Kenny had lost control of all his bodily functions and simultaneously wet and soiled himself. Abby ignored him for a few seconds –a brief reprieve for him. It was his brother who was holding Owen underwater, so that was the priority.
Abby reached Kenny's brother, Jimmy with another step. Jimmy was too paralyzed with fear to do anything. If he'd pulled Owen to the surface, it might have spared his life…Or at least given him and Kenny a distraction to try and escape. But, Jimmy was too scared to think. Jimmy was scared to death…although fear wasn't the cause of his death.
Abby grabbed each side of Jimmy's head with her hands, and pulled up. Jimmy's neck stretched for a brief second in way that was almost like a cartoon as his unearthly wail of agony filled the pool. Then –in only three seconds in realtime, but to Jimmy it felt like three hours- Jimmy's head simply was pulled off the top of his body and plopped into the pool, sinking past where Owen was –mercifully- still sending up bubbles. Blood gushed up out of Jimmy's neck like a geyser. Abby bent her head over and drank like someone would at a water fountain. One of her hands had caught one of Jimmy's arms as it flailed around when the body was receiving spasmodic messages from the now severed nervous system. She grabbed the one arm gave it a twist and simply yanked it off. It settled in the pool.
Now, it was Kenny's turn. Kenny, the vile little coward who had started all of this. She reached Kenny in about three steps, her barefeet squishing through the blood on the deck. She grabbed him with each of her hands, pinning his arms to his sides. She applied pressure that was far beyond the normal breaking point for human bones. There was a sickening crack as Kenny heard the bones in his arms loudly break as the pain lanced through the adrenaline that the fear was creating. Abby lifted him off the ground and buried her mouth into his neck as Kenny let out a piercing, terrified scream. He sounded, Abby thought, just like a little girl. She took off and bore Kenny's weight (which was growing rapidly less, since the blood was being drained from his body) across the width of the pool. His feet dragged in the water as they passed by Owen struggling up to the surface as Jimmy's headless carcass toppled forward into the water.
By the time they reached the far side, where Donny and Mark's pulped bodies lay, Abby had sated herself well. Kenny, however, didn't deserve the usual neck snap that she did after she fed. Instead, Abby dug her hands in through Kenny's chest, with one hand on each side of the sternum. She exterted her strength in the opposite direction…and Kenny's was literally ripped in two, more or less down the middle. Parts of him flew everywhere. His ribcage, his head, his soiled lower body…They were all in separate places.
Abby looked around as the rage passed and her senses returned. A splash distracted her and she saw, with her heart leaping with relief at the sight, Owen splashing to the wall of the pool, carefully trying to avoid what was once Jimmy.
Abby stepped over to where he pulled himself out, coughing and trying to catch his breath. Owen blinked the chlorinated water out of his eyes and focused on her wet, blood spattered, bare feet. His breath caught again as realization dawned on him. He looked up, his face clearly not daring to hope. Then he saw her…
She could only imagine what she looked like. She imagined she didn't look her most appealing. In truth, she was crimson from her head down to her waist pretty much. Her hair was full of blood, skull fragments and brain tissue. Her entire face was coated with blood. Her clothes were dripping wet from blood. Owen took this sight in, and coughed out one word that he could get out past the pool water he was trying to cough out…
"Abby!", he croaked as he threw his arms around her. Abby gasped in surprise at the strength of the embrace that she found herself in. Of course, it wasn't an unpleasant surprise. Abby threw her own arms around him and they simply gave in to the joy they felt at seeing each other again. Abby tried to say something, but was blocked as Owen placed his lips on hers and gave her a hungry, passionate, kiss. Their second kiss, she thought. And again, she's coated in blood. Their third one would have to be under different circumstances. She smiled, despite their surroundings, at the realization that now there would be a third kiss for them. In the meantime, Owen was still trying to get himself under control. He was past trembling. He was utterly quaking. She thought it was from his near drowning experience.
"Owen. It's alright. You're safe now."
"Abby…It's not that! I thought….I thought that I was never going to see you again."
"Owen….", Abby couldn't think of anything to say at that. Owen finally let go of her and looked around the pool. His jaw dropped as his brain finally processed the carnage.
"Holy shit!", he gasped. The pool deck now looked more or less –leaning towards more- like a slaughterhouse.
"I don't know what came over me. I saw they were hurting you. They were drowning you. For all I knew you might have been already dead. I wanted to make them pay." Abby looked around herself and was stunned at her own violence. "Oh God, I've done a terrible thing."
"Abby. If you hadn't done that, I would be dead now. You saved me Abby!"
"Well, you saved me the other morning."
Abby then looked down and saw that her arms were completely red. She touched her hair and felt the sheer human debris that was clinging in her hair. This was a little different than just having some blood on her face.
"Yeah?", Owen gasped as he was still trying to both cough out the last of the pool water as well as wrap his head around both Abby's return and the gallery of bloody death before him.
"Just a second." Abby stepped to the edge of the deck and jumped off, into the deep end. A cloud of blood and human remains swirled to the surface where she'd gone under. She surfaced about ten feet further down the ledge and pulled herself out in a swift, graceful move. She ran her fingers through her hair and satisfied herself that there was nothing still clinging to it. Her skin was mostly free of blood too, although her shirt was still stained.
She looked around the pool deck and realized it was only a matter of time before Coach Zoric found some way back in. "We have to get out of here. Now"
"This way." Owen led her into the change rooms. Abby stopped at the showers and turned the cold water on. She stood under the spray and tried to rinse some more of the blood out of her clothing.. Owen stood under a showerhead himself and quickly washed the blood off of his body and hair. Owen turned off the shower and gestured for Abby to follow him to his locker. Once there, Owen frantically dried himself off and tried to find something for Abby to dry herself off with. It wasn't much help, as her clothes were now soaked.
"Will you be alright, going outside wet like that?"
"Don't worry. I don't feel the cold. Remember? And being wet doesn't bother me too much either."
"Abby?", Owen asked tentatively.
"What are you going to do now?"
"Owen, I….", she started to tell him about her initial plan to find a hiding place in Los Alamos. However, this massacre would bring a lot of attention. Still, she realized when she saw him drowning a very simply yet hard fact had hit her. She could not live without Owen. Period. She would live with the risk. She never got a chance to tell him that, though.
"Abby…I want to go with you!"
"Owen…Do you know what you're saying?"
"Yeah. I do. When you left yesterday, it felt like something had been ripped out of me. I've never felt that way before. Ever. Not when my parents split up. Not when I was beaten up by Kenny's gang. Never. I can't feel that way again. You have to leave. I know that. I mean, what happened here is going to attract a lot of attention. You have to leave." He smiled sadly as he thought of the line from Romeo and Juliet, "I must be gone and live or stay and die". You have to be gone if you want to live. And, I want to go with you."
"Owen.", Abby moaned happily as she caressed his cheek with hand. He took it and gently kissed her fingers.
"I mean, it's not like I can stay here. People will think I did this.", he gestured towards the pool with a nod of his head.
"No they won't"
"Oh no? I was alone with them. I had a bad history with them. Sooner or later, they'll find that detective in the secret room in the basement of the complex where I live. Abby…I'm not stupid. I know what they'll think. And….I know what I want. I want to be with you. That's all I want now in my life." As he said, this he pulled his clothing out of his locker. Owen paused briefly as he considered what to do about his bathing trunks and Abby's presence. As Abby was seemingly preoccupied with trying to wring some of the water out of her shirt, he seized his chance. He swiftly yanked off his bathing suit and pulled on his briefs. He was quick…But, Abby must have caught something out of the corner of her eye as she smiled subtly. The smile faded as she returned to the subject of what to do next.
"Owen, going with me isn't a life. You have so much…."
"You honestly think that? Abby, I don't know why you can't see this, but you are truly the best thing that has ever happened to me in my whole life. Abby…I…I love you!"
Abby's breath caught in her throat. She felt like she was glowing inside to an extent that she could dry her wet clothes in about a minute now.
"You…you love *me*?"
"More than anything", Owen said softly has he brushed her cheek with his hand, mimicking the gesture she had done with him that night in his bed. "Abby. Do you…?"
"I love you, Owen. That's it. Period. I love you. I didn't think that I could still feel love for anyone, not a real love, before you."
They leaned in towards each other but stopped when they heard the sound of sirens heading for the school. The coach must have found a payphone at last.
"Let's go now, Owen. We can pick this up later.", she said with a happy smile. Owen smiled brightly as well as he finished pulling his clothes on and putting the rest of his belongings in his bag.
"Where were you planning on going?"
"I hadn't thought that far ahead. Why?"
"I think I might have a place in mind. It's a ranch in Montana"
"My grandfather's. It's pretty big. It's isolated. You could be safe there. WE could be safe there"
"I didn't know you had a grandfather."
Owen grabbed the bag out of his locker and pulled on his silver jacket. He gestured her to follow as he led her out of the locker room.
"My Grandpa Oscar. He and my mom aren't on good terms. They haven't been since I was about three, or so. She didn't go home for the funeral when her own mom died."
"Why is that?"
"I don't know. I always missed seeing him though, from what I remember of him."
"Montana is where he lives, you said?"
"Yeah. It's far away from here. Far enough away to be safe, I think."
They snuck out of the school through a fire door by the cafeteria. Around the other side of the building, Abby could see a fire engine arriving along with a police car. She could only imagine what was going to happen when Zoric got back to the pool.
"Owen, I want you to hold on to me very tightly." She wrapped her own arms around him in an unbreakable grip.
"Oh, trust me. It's a good idea". Owen complied as Abby looked at him. Then, she shot the both of them up into the air. Owen let out a cry that was a mix of shock and exhilaration. Abby grinned as the wind whipped through her wet hair that was now starting to freeze stiff along with her clothes. Owen then made the rather bad mistake of looking down. His face took on a rather greenish hue. Uh-oh. Before something bad –and messy- could happen, Abby set them down in a park, several miles from the school.
"Sorry about that Owen. I guess I should have warned you not to look down"
"Abby, that was….totally awesome! Can we do that again?", Owen gushed as his stomach returned to normal.
"Sure we can. But, we'll take it slower and lower next time. We're not that far away from where we have to go. Want to walk the rest of the way? It's safer because there are too many people where we're going"
"Storage locker by the railway station. I left my stuff there until I could figure out where I wanted to go."
"Why'd you come to the school? You couldn't have known what was happening."
"I came looking for you."
"You did? Why?"
"I realized…I realized I couldn't go away. Not without you. I was going to tell you I was going to find a new hiding place close to your home and we could still be together at night. Those four at the pool…They rather forced my hand on the matter."
"You…You came back for me?"
"Abby. I'm…Well, look at me. I'm not that special."
"Owen! You ARE special. To me, you're the most special person I've ever met and that covers a really long period of time." She looked into his eyes and squeezed his hand gently as she said this.
Owen blushed as she said this. He looked at her and smiled. She was a sight, with her wet hair matted stiff and frost forming on her wet clothes. To him, though, she never looked more beautiful. At that moment, he knew that there truly was no other fate for him than Abby. If she'd asked him at that moment if he wanted to be made like her, he would have instantly said yes. He couldn't think of anything better than spending forever with her.
A passing car stopped Owen from doing what he wanted at the moment. The sight of a pair of twelve year olds making out in the street –with the girl in wet, frozen clothing and in her bare feet- might have drawn some attention. Abby read the disappointment on his face.
"It's alright, Owen. We're going to have time for that. It's like the song for your candy. 'Eat some now, save some for later'." She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "That was for now. The rest is saved for later", she said with a playful grin.
They made it to the storage locker without incident. They grabbed Abby's belongings and walked over to the railway station. Abby gave Owen money to buy himself a ticket to their destination. Only one for him, though.
"What about you?"
"The train schedule said it's not leaving until 7am. I'll have to be in the trunk by then."
"Abby, um, what about…eating? Don't you have to?"
"Oh…No, it's alright. I can go days…sometimes up to two weeks before I simply HAVE to feed.", she said as they sat down in a deserted waiting room at the station to wait out the time until she had to seek the shelter of her trunk.
"You can go that long?"
"If I have to, yes. It's not very nice though. I feel terrible. I look terrible. Do you remember when we first met in the courtyard?"
"Yeah. I don't think that's something I'll ever forget. It was one of the best days of my life."
"Awww. Owen, you are just too nice to me.", Abby giggled. "But, do you remember how you said I smelled funny?"
"Um, yeah. You looked like I hurt your feelings. I'm really sorry about that, by the way."
"Oh, it's fine. I know I smelled funny then. That's one of the things that happens when I go that long without eating. My body actually starts to break down."
"I'm afraid so. And, also, when I'm that hungry I don't think of doing things like showering, clean clothes, etc."
"I remember that I thought you looked sick. You were all pale and fragile looking."
"I felt so bad then. But, I was so touched then that you gave me your Rubik's Cube."
"I was really surprised when you gave it back to me all finished"
"I could tell.", Abby laughed. "That night, I'd been able to…feed…the night before. I felt so much better. I even showered when I woke up that evening."
"I know. I saw how nice your hair looked and everything. It was, umm, it was the first time that I really saw just how beautiful you are.", Owen added self-consciously.
Abby didn't say anything to that. She just smiled broadly yet bashfully, as though she couldn't believe Owen really saw her like that.
"I was wondering about something"
"Well….You said you did that to live. Is there anything ELSE you could do?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, couldn't you do something else for food?"
"I wish it could be. But, it has to be blood"
"No..I mean, why don't you get blood from other places"
"What do you mean?", Abby asked in a puzzled tone.
"Well…From animals. Where we're going there are a lot of cattle and sheep ranches and farms. I'll bet that nobody would notice if an odd steer or a sheep got attacked by something during the night. I remember that there are places around there that butcher a lot of their own meat. They probably have more blood around than they know what to do with. Couldn't you…have that? And if that didn't work, well, there are hospitals around. Don't they keep blood in fridges? You could snatch blood from those places. Couldn't you?"
"I…I've honestly never even thought of doing that. I could try it. If I could do that and it works, it would change everything. I'd give anything, well," She smiled at Owen with her eyes bright. "almost anything to not have to do what I've been doing to feed. You don't know how…tired…I am of what I've been doing. I don't care how much trouble it might be. I want to do what you said."
"You really never thought of it before?"
Abby was utterly dumbfounded. In all of her existence, she had followed her instincts to attack humans and draw from the neck. Only relatively recently had she and her previous Companion deviated from that pattern. And that, was only to cut down on the risk of her infecting someone. She had never once thought of using animal blood, or stored human blood. She was certainly willing to try it. She knew that this could be the chance to leave behind the violence and the need to move around so much. If it didn't work, she reflected, she could try another new thing. She knew she could overpower any adult. Maybe if she had to actually still get fresh human blood, she could find a way to draw it out of them without killing them. After all, these blood drives she read about did just that. People donated blood easily and safely. Well, she would simply operate on a variant of that, if she had to. Knock someone out with the gas, then put a needle in them and draw off a couple of pints. It would certainly be worth the extra trouble, since no dead bodies would probably mean no serious attention by the police. Abby smiled to herself as she realized that she actually had a way to a new life.
And it was all because of Owen. She looked at him as he studied a crossword puzzle she'd had in her trunk. It was all because of him. A chill went through her that wasn't from her still damp clothes. It was soooo close. If she'd gotten to the pool perhaps a minute later, he would have been dead. She had been almost too late. She snuggled close to Owen on the bench and contendly rested her head on his shoulder. Owen wrapped his arms around her waist and just kissed the top of her head.
Abby's reverie was broken by the feeling of a tapping on her bare leg. She smiled as she felt the letters "K" and "I" being tapped out. She reached over to Owen's own bare side and and tapped back "S" and "S".
She rolled over to face him.
"Did I wake you? Sorry."
"It's alright. Penny for your thoughts."
"I was just thinking about Los Alamos"
"Yeah. I was thinking about how close we came to not having this…Not to having us."
"But we did. That's long in the past."
"I know. But I still think about how if I'd been a minute late"
"But you weren't."
"I know." Abby tried to force the thoughts from her head. All the joys of the last ten years would never have come to pass. She would never have learned that animal blood's taste disgusted her (as it did Owen when he became like her) but she got used to it as she found it DID satisfy her needs. As did stored human blood. Every six weeks, or so, she and Owen would go to the city and make a secret visit to hospital blood banks. They simply picked bags close to their expiration dates. It made a pleasant diversion from the blood they got from the local butchers and/or the odd freerange livestock. And, they usually capped off their night in the city by taking in a movie. Abby was proud of the fact that she had not taken a human life since that night in New Mexico. Owen had simply never taken once since he became like her that memorable night in 1984.
They would never have had the Christmases they'd shared. They would never have experienced that first night, right after Owen had turned thirteen, when they consummated their relationship. So many joys and discoveries would have been lost.
Owen pulled her in close and kissed her. He figured that if they were both awake, they might as well enjoy it. His romantic overtures were interrupted by Abby's yawn as sleep suddenly came on her.
"Sorry, about that.", Abby laughed through her yawn. "We'll have to take a raincheck until tonight."
"Yeah…I guess.", Owen pretended to pout.
Abby leaned over and kissed him before settling back on her pillow. "That was for now…The rest is saved for later.", she purred as she closed her eyes.
Owen smiled at how she could entrance him as easily today as she could in 1983. He snuggled close and pulled her in as sleep overtook him as well.