I promise. People say it all the time, but they hardly ever mean it. You make empty promises without even considering if you're at all sincere. You never plan to live up to those promises. I know I didn't.
Time had done more than slipped away from me. Every clock in the apartment was wrong. After grabbing my jacket from the closet, I dashed out the door, hoping I wasn't forgetting anything, which usually I was. "Come on," I ordered the elevator while descending from the fourth floor to the first. I promised I wouldn't be late, and as usual, I was.
On the sidewalk, outside of the apartment building, I stood at the curb trying to hail a taxicab. The wait was making me even more anxious. Thanks to society and its little gifts, it took about ten minutes for one of the many passing taxicabs to pull over. I held out a twenty and a ten-dollar bill to the driver, which was more than enough to pay my fair for the trip. "There's more where that came from. Please, hurry," I pleaded. The driver happily accepted the money, stuffing it into his pocket, and started driving.
About ten more minutes later, the taxicab stopped in front of LaMoursaplette, one of the most fancy and expensive restaurants I had ever gone to. I handed the driver a five-dollar bill. "Hey," he complained, staring at it as if it weren't real.
"I said there was more," I said. "That's more." After the driver mumbled something, no doubt it was something insulting about me, I got out of the taxicab and entered the restaurant.
"I have reservations for eight o'clock," I said to a waiter standing behind a podium. He wore black pants and a red vest like all of the other waiters. He looked at a list of names. "Party of two," I said.
"Holmes?" he asked plainly, still looking down at the list.
"Yes," I said.
"Table five," he said with a low sigh. I waited there for a moment, but he didn't move. As I walked away, I thought, isn't he supposed to take me to the table?
Sitting at table five was John, staring at his glass of water as if it were some foreign object.
"John," I said, approaching the table. He looked up at me then stood.
"Sam," he smiled and hugged me.
"I'm sorry I'm late," I said. "I was looking for my purse."
"That's O.K," he said. "You're here now."
It was our two-year wedding anniversary. John had been in Seattle on business up until that evening. "I missed you," I confessed, sitting across from him.
During dinner, John pulled a black flask from his jacket's breast pocket and took a long drink. I thought it was alcohol, but he hardy ever drank. "Aren't you going to eat?" I asked, a menu in my hands.
"I'm not hungry," John replied.
"What are you drinking?" I asked him.
"Medicine," he replied. " I haven't been feeling well."
"You look really pale," I noticed. "Do you want to go-?"
"No," he said. "I'm fine." I took what he said and nodded a little. There was no reason for me to question him.
We left the restaurant at 9:55 p.m. At the curb, I turned to John and said," You don't look so good. When we get home-."
"No. I have to go somewhere first. You go on without me," he said.
I placed my hand on his forehead. "You're cold as ice. You should come home and rest."
"I'm going to be late," he said, waving for a taxicab.
"Should I wait up?" I asked. He shook his head. A taxicab finally stopped. I crossed my arms. "Where do you need to go that's so important?"
"Sam, please. Don't get upset. I have a little more work left from Seattle. When I get home I'll be all yours." And with that, he kissed me and opened the taxicab door. He closed it once I was inside.
"Corner of Mattison and Brien, please," I said to the driver. As he started to drive away, I looked back. John was gone.
"Nisa, could you put your life on hold and tend to my every need because I'm too lazy to get off my ass and do it myself?" said Nisa Timmons, a friend and CO-worker of mine. She was doing a small impression of another person that worked with us, Helen Lewis. "I've been here for far too long. As soon as a I find another job-."
"'Another job?' You can't leave me here with her," I said, rubbing my soap-covered hands together. "It's better here than at that insurance agency you used to work for."
"Yeah," she agreed. "I guess you're right."
"At least you have your own space. I have to share an office with her," I said.
"I hate that bitch," she said, tossing her damp paper towels into the nearby trash can. "From the bottom of my heart, I hate her."
Suddenly a toilet flushed, a stall door opened, and Helen walked out. Tears had ruined her makeup and her fist was full of tissues. Neither Nisa nor I felt it was necessary to turn around. We looked at her through the mirror and didn't speak.
"Here's a tip. Check under the stalls first," said Helen.
"We did," I said plainly, expressionless. Then Nisa said, "Bitch," and walked out of the restroom. I looked downward, searching for signs of guilt as I washed off my hands under the running water, but found none. She sniffled then spoke.
"I hope you're happy." I raised an eyebrow at her then looked back down at my hands.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Helen," I said and turned off the faucet. She lifted the ball of tissues to her face and wiped away another tear. I quickly dried my hands with two paper towels. Seeing her standing there in tears was making me nervous and uncomfortable. I had never seen her show any emotion, besides anger. I took a last look at her, turned and walked out. On my way back to my office, I passed Nisa.
"She's out of here," said Nisa.
"What?" I asked.
"Helen got fired," She announced. I had been waiting to hear that for years. I smiled with delight.
"Do you know what this means?" I said.
"I'm gonna get promoted," I said proudly. Nisa then stopped smiling. "Are you mad?"
"No," she said, looking away.
"If I get the job, I'll ask for you as my assistant," I assured her.
"Assistant?' You mean, partner."
"OK, partner," I said.
"John? That you?" It was ten o'clock and I had just gotten into bed when I heard the apartment door open. I sat up waiting for an answer. Have you learned nothing from movies? I scolded myself. But knowing there was a handgun in the bottom drawer of the night-stand beside me made me feel a little safer.
"Sam," he called back. A few seconds later, he entered the room. I couldn't see his face as he walked across the bedroom and into the bathroom. His clothes look as if he had been wearing them for weeks. "Where were you?" I asked with a kind of nagging tone.
"It's a really long story," he replied. He pulled off his jacket and slipped out of his shoes.
"Guess what," I said.
"What?" he said, beginning to undress.
"I may get promoted. Helen was fired today," I announced.
"Really?" he said, washing his face with a washcloth.
"Yep," I said. "You know how long I've been waiting for this?"
"Yeah, I know," he said, turning off the bathroom light and approaching me. He sat on the edge of the bed facing me and placed his hand on the side of my face. For a moment, I just stared at him. Something was strange about him, but at the time I couldn't figure out what it was-his face, his eyes, his voice, everything.
"Sam? Are you all right?"
I shook my head and looked away. "Sorry, sorry," I said. "I'm all right." He kissed me then stood up again. I grabbed his arm. "Where are you going?"
"To get dressed," he said. He was wearing only boxers.
"Why?" I said, pulling him back down. I managed to put my left leg over his right shoulder. "You're already overdressed."
"Do you love me?" I asked John.
"With all my heart," he said. "Promise." Our hands were together near my head and John was kissing me in a way that wasn't really usual-a little aggressive but still soft and amazing.
I heard John whisper, "I love you," my eyes closed, and the rest…the rest is just a blank.
"I would do anything for you. I would kill for you. I would die for you. I would do anything."
"You would? Promise?"
When I awoke, I was wearing a T-shirt and shorts, the bedroom window was covered with a thick, black blanket, and the bed had been made with me still inside of it. I sat up and looked at the alarm clock on the night-stand. What? I thought. It was 8:32pm.
"John!" I called. "John!" The bedroom door swung open and John rushed in.
"You're awake!" he said in a relieved tone, sat on the edge of the bed, and hugged me tightly.
"What day is it?" I asked when he finally let go of me.
"Saturday," he replied.
"I missed a whole day?"
"Well, at first, I thought you were sleep. But I got worried when I couldn't wake you. was here at twelve today- Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Confused but fine," I said, then he hugged me again.
"You need some rest," said John.
"I think I've gotten plenty," I said.
"Dr. Groles said you shouldn't be very active right after you come to."
"I don't know. Just following doctor's orders," he said. "I have to go, but I'll be back as soon as I can."
"O.K," I nodded, and he gently kissed my forehead.
"What's that?" I asked, looking down at a book in his hand.
"It's a book called, 'you need to rest,'" he said and stood. "You should try it." I lay down as John put the small but thick book into his duffel bag. He put the bag in the back of the closet and left.
Ten minutes later, I got the duffel bag out of the closet and set it onto the bed. "What are you doing?" I asked myself, looking down at the black bag. After unzipping it, I pushed the bag opening wider and paused.
What's wrong with me? I thought, looking down at the duffel bag which was full of different books.
I picked up one book and read the cover: "Night," by Kevin Hans. The second book I picked up was T. Ling's "The Truth in the Myths of Vampires." I read the front and back cover of every book. And the one thing they all had in common was the subject: Vampires.
"Something weird's going on," I said, looking at the books, then at the blanket covering the window.
I zipped the bag closed and put it where I had found it. I was in the bed just before John walked into the apartment. "You're back."
"Again! It happened again!" I had slept until the next night. "Something's wrong," I said.
"I know," said John sympathetically, placing a cold wash cloth on my forehead. "How do you feel?"
"I'm fine," I said. "I think I need to see a doctor though."
"All right. I'll make an appointment. Here," he said and handed me a glass. Inside of it was a dark red liquid. "Drink it straight down so it won't taste so bad," he suggested.
"What is it?" I asked, staring at it.
"It's medicine," he replied. "Remedy my grandmother created. It won't be that bad."
I put the glass up to my mouth and quickly drank from it until it was almost empty. "Eww! Gross!" I said, handing the glass to him.
"Are you hungry?" he asked. I shook my head.
When I awoke the next night, John was gone. He left a note for me that said to drink more of the mysterious medicine in the refrigerator and that Dr. Groles was on vacation so I had to see a Dr. Wolfe the next night.
After getting dressed in a V-neck sweater and jeans, I managed to swallow another glass of the medicine. The second time wasn't as bad as the first. Then I saw John's jacket hung over the back of the chair, and the black flask was sticking out of the left pocket. I put the little bit of medicine in a plastic container and put it and the flask into my book bag that I carried instead of a purse. I then tried to eat an apple, even though I wasn't hungry at all.
When I reached for the knob on the front door of the apartment, I dropped my book bag, rushed to the bathroom, and vomited.
"What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be somewhere else denying you know me?" my friend Doyle Thomas said. He worked at a local hospital.
"I haven't been ignoring you," I protested as we walked down a hospital corridor. "I need your help, Doyle."
"Wait a minute. I don't recall owing a favor."
"This is really important," I said as we entered a room. "Will you help me?"
"What do I have to do?" he asked.
After telling him about everything that had happened within those couple of days-the sleeping, John's strange routine of leaving, my vomiting after every time I ate-I asked, "What should I do?"
"Well…" he said while looking into a microscope at a blood sample. "It sounds like you're just being paranoid. Maybe your insomnia is going away."
"I haven't had insomnia in years," I said. "And why can't I eat?"
"I don't know. You know, you always did go through some weird phases," he said, filling out a form about the blood sample.
"Can you tell me what this is?" I held up the flask.
"Alcohol," said Doyle.
"Doyle, please. This is serious."
"You owe me," he said.
Doyle took a sample of the mystery liquid in the flask, placed it under the microscope and looked into it. He was silent for awhile.
"My God," he gasped.
He stood up straight and looked at me. "You said he drinks this?"
"Yes, why?" I asked.
To be continued...