"Hey babe, buy you a drink?"
Geneve glanced sideways at the man. He had on a T-shirt and jeans. A baseball cap, once red but now faded to pink, was jammed tightly over his greasy dark hair. She sighed and pulled a cigarette from her pack.
"Sure." He signaled the bartender while she lit her cigarette. She took a deep drag and blew out a stream of smoke. She watched it curl up towards the ceiling then turned to face him.
"So, you live around here?" he asked casually. He took a swig of his beer, and let his other hand drop to her knee.
Geneve considered the stupidity of the question before giving him a friendly smile. "I do. Not far from here."
"Really? I'm from Moose Lake myself." His hand moved up her leg and began to rub.
Geneve took another drag, "Really? Moose Lake?"
"Yeah, but I got a place in Duluth now."
"Ah." she nodded, not really interested. She looked at him, he seemed to want more. "So what brings you here?"
"I drive a truck." Geneve tried to look interested. "I was taking a load down to Chicago. But I'm stuck here tonight." He paused and looked at her slyly, then took a swig of his beer "You know, it's pretty lonely on the road." he continued, looking her in the eye.
Subtle as a brick. Geneve thought. "That's too bad." She said sympathetically. "Where are you staying?"
He sighed deeply and tried to look sorry for himself. "Oh, I guess I'll just sleep in my cab tonight. Get an early start in the morning and all. There's a truck stop outside of St. Paul where I can shower." he trailed off, looking hopefully at her.
"Oh you shouldn't have to do that. You know, I don't live far from here. You could stay with me tonight." Her voice rose up on the end to something not quite a question. Might as well cut to the chase, she thought, stubbing her cigarette out. Taking a drink of her beer she gave him a sideways glance.
He feigned shock at her suggestion. "Oh, I couldn't take advantage of you. You probably got a jealous boyfriend or something." His hand climbed off her leg and curled around her waist, gently pulling her forward.
"No, I insist." She let him pull her off the bar stool and stepped forward between his legs.
"Well now, if you insist, how can I say no?" he said, his other hand snaking around her. She leaned into him and put her arms around his neck.
"Yes, how can you?" she kissed him deeply. He tasted of stale beer and ashtrays.
The afternoon sun came out from behind a cloud, beaming brightly through her window and on her face. Geneve groaned. Grabbing the blanket, she threw it over her head and turned over, trying to get back to sleep. A few minutes passed and she sighed heavily, then she rolled on to her back. An arm snaked out from under the blanket and patted around on the nightstand. Finally locating her cigarettes, she sat up and put her legs over the edge of the bed. Pulling a cigarette out of the pack, she saw she had grabbed a folded piece of paper as well. She put the cig in her mouth and unfolded the note.
"Babe," it read, "Had a great time last night! Will look you up again next time I'm in town! Love, Merve." Geneve looked behind her at the other side of the bed, vague memories of someone wandering around the room percolating through her head. Shrugging off the thought, she grabbed her robe from the floor and walked to the kitchen.
She looked inside the refrigerator: half a stick of butter, a dried-up bottle of ketchup and a carton of milk stared back at her. "Fuck." she muttered. Straightening up, she opened the cabinets one by one until she found a nearly empty box of cereal. Setting it down on the counter, she opened it up and peered inside. There was just enough left for one bowl. Rinsing out a bowl from the sink, she grabbed the milk from the fridge and poured the cereal into the bowl. Opening the carton of milk, she watched it pour, then trickle, then the last drops let go of the edge and fell into her cereal. She smiled in victory.
Pulling a "World's Greetest Dad!" mug out of the sink, Geneve turned to the coffee maker on the counter. To her surprise, the pot was half full and still warm. A note stuck out from underneath. She poured herself a cup of coffee and read it.
"Babe, hope you don't mind, used the last of your coffee. I'll bring you some next time! Love, Merve." Geneve snorted and tossed the note in the trash. Picking up her bowl and mug she turned and looked at the kitchen table. The surface was covered in papers. A pile of men's clothing, neatly folded with an empty trash bag draped over it, covered the single chair. Geneve carefully set the mug and bowl back down on the counter. She reached for a lighter and lit her cigarette. She thought about moving everything and glanced out the window. The sun was shining brightly and cotton ball clouds moved slowly across the sky. Picking up her bowl and mug again, Geneve left the kitchen, crossed the empty living room, and opened the front door. Sitting down on the front porch steps, she started to eat her breakfast.
A bus pulled up at the end of the block, "Oak Creek Day Camp" written on the side. A group of kids unloaded and it drove on. Geneve watched people walk down the street as she ate her cereal. No one waved to her. Finishing her cigarette, she stood up and walked back inside, and dropped her empty dishes in the sink. As she walked back through the empty living room, the flashing light on the answering machine caught her eye. Sitting down on the floor, she pressed play.
"Miss Olssen, this is Miss Dickery from Mr. Gustafson's office. I am just calling to confirm your appointment with Mr. Gustafson today at 4:00. If that's not convenient..." Geneve skipped ahead to the next message. Of course it was convenient. She had nothing but convenience. "Hello! This is Missy from Hello! Properties. Do you remember the Johnsons? They came by last week? They want to see the house again! I'd like to bring them by tomorrow! Give me a call and I'll make the arrangements! My number is..." Geneve hit erase. Lying back on the floor, Geneve stared at the ceiling for a while, not thinking of anything. Finally, she stood up and scratched, "Suppose I better change into the monkey suit." she muttered and walked to the bathroom.
Miss Dickery, always "Miss" not "Mrs." and never "Ms." - gave Geneve a hard look as she walked in the front door. Geneve glanced at the clock on the wall, 4:00 on the dot, she smiled at her. Miss Dickery did not smile back, she leaned forward and picked up her phone. "Mr. Gustafson, Miss Olssen is here to see you." She listened, nodded, and set the handset down. "He'll see you in a minute." she said, giving Geneve another dirty look and turning back to her typewriter. I bet you shit diamonds. Geneve thought. If you shit at all. She sat down in a chair to wait. Fortunately, it was not long before the phone buzzed again.
In his office Mr. Robert Gustafson, Esq. had one picture of his wife, two pictures of his three children, and seven pictures of his dogs. Geneve had had plenty of time to count them in the last few months.
"Good to see you again, Ms. Olssen." Leaning over his desk, he shook her hand and waved her to a chair. He pulled a file folder out of a drawer and set it down on the desk in front of him. Opening it, he shuffled the papers around, then pulled out a few and set them on top. "Well we've paid the taxes, and all the outstanding debts. As soon as the house is sold, we'll be done."
Geneve waited a second, then his words sunk in. "That's it?"
He smiled. "That's it. As soon as the house is sold, the estate will be settled and we'll pay you and your sister your inheritance." He pulled out some papers, "Now if you'll just sign here..." he pointed to a line.
Geneve closed the office door behind her. Her mind was full and she walked down the hall to the reception area in a daze. Paused by the front door, she opened her purse. She needed a cigarette.
"A-Hem." Miss Dickery said loudly, giving Geneve another dirty look. Geneve gave her a sweet smile that did not reach her eyes and turned away, pulling open the door. Diamonds. she thought, She must be fucking rich from all the diamonds she digs out of the toilet in the morning. She stopped just outside the door. Digging the pack out from the depths of her purse, she tapped it against her palm and glanced down the street. A familiar figure was getting out out of her car. As she put the cigarette in her mouth, Geneve glanced up at the clock on the bank across the street. Is it that time again? she thought. Bending her head to light the cigarette, she took a deep drag as Mr. Gustafsson's wife walked past her, going into the office to see her husband. As she opened the door, Geneve blew out a stream of smoke letting the door catch it and lead it inside as it closed. Turning away, Geneve glanced sideways, watching through the window as Miss Diamond Shit Dickery coughed and waved her hands at the sudden invasion of her space.
Geneve ambled down the street, smoking and window shopping. She assumed she would eventually pass a pay phone and she could call Missy but she was in no hurry. A flyer in a window caught her eye.
"Summer Faire! Rides! Games! Petting Zoo! Pony Rides for the Kids! Two Weekends Only! July 15-17! 22-24! FREE Admission! Rides ONLY $5!
Sponsored by Pine County Lions Club
with help from Burt Entertainment."
"Huh." Geneve said. Well, she'd need something to do when Missy chased her out of the house again. Maybe it'd be fun. She could kill a couple of hours at least. Geneve read the poster again committing it to memory as she finished her cigarette. She dropped it on the ground and looked up the street. Aha, there was a phone in front of the liquor store. I can call Missy and buy a beer for later.
Turning off the shower, Geneve stepped out of the shower and picked up a sponge, wiping away the drops still clinging to the wall. She dried off, folded the towel and put it away. Pulling on her jeans and a t-shirt, she shoved her feet into sandals. Grabbing the sponge again, she wiped down the sink. The doorbell rang, "Just a minute!" she called. She opened the cabinet under the sink, tossed sponge the inside and ran to answer the door.
Melissa Rodriguez, top seller at Hello! Properties, smiled broadly at her. Her black hair, red highlights picked out by the late afternoon sun behind her, was pulled back into a perfect bun. She wore a sky blue suit with matching pumps. The color should have been garish, but, somehow, she made it look good. Geneve smiled stiffly.
"Hello Ms. Olssen! How are you today?" Missy leaned forward, grabbed her hand and shook it. "I hope you don't mind the time, but Mr. Johnson was working late and he wanted to see the house his family was raving about!"
"Hi, Missy, I'm almost ready. Let me grab my purse and I'll get out of here." She stepped aside to let her in, and picked up her purse from the floor.
Missy stepped inside and looked around, a slight frown on her face. "Are you sure you don't want some staging? It would really help."
Geneve gritted her teeth, and took a deep breath before replying. "I am still living here Missy." she said tightly. "I don't need furniture I can't use. As I said before, as soon as we get an offer, I'll sell the rest and move out. Hell, how about I save you some time? I'll call the Salvation Army right now and have them send a truck over."
"Where are you going?" Missy asked, changing the subject.
"I thought I'd go to that fair." Geneve opened the door and stepped out.
"Well, have a nice time." Missy said, closing the door behind her.
Geneve wandered through the midway looking at the lights and the rides. She was not quite bored, but she was definitely not excited. She looked around trying to decide if she should buy another strip of tickets and go on some rides, or find a bar and hang out until it closed.
"Hit the target! Win a prize!" Someone yelled to her left. She looked up. "Give it a try, pretty lady?" The carny smiled at her.
Geneve was about to refuse, but found herself hesitating. "I don't know..."
"Oh come on," he said. "Don't you want to win a prize?" He swept out his arm, taking in the purple teddy bears hanging above him.
Geneve looked at the booth, then at the man. He was short, out of shape, and his hair was a dirty blondish color – not really her type. "Just two dollars." he said, charmingly.
She gave in, fishing out a few bills she laid them down on the counter. "You won't disappoint me, will you?" she asked smiling.
He picked up the money and tucked it away in his apron before bending over and pulling out three softballs from under the counter. "Never." he replied, laying the balls on the counter. Picking one up, she held it in her hand and looked at the target.
"Here now, don't hold it like that. You'll never hit anything." he said, gently wrapping his hands around hers and adjusting her grip. His hands were cool and unexpectedly soft.
"Like this?" she asked, putting her other hand on top of his. A niggle of worry in the back of her mind was telling her this friendliness was strange. Geneve looked at him and it didn't matter. She leaned into his grip.
"Just like that." He gently pulled her closer and put an arm around her. "Now just pull back and release."
She threw the ball and missed. He came around the counter and put both arms around her. She hit the target. She threw the ball a third time and missed. He kissed her.
"One out of three." he said as he walked back around the booth. "You win a prize." He tapped the rack of cheap trinkets in front of him.
Geneve looked down at the tray, making a show of selecting something. "What time do you get off?" she asked.
"We close at one. My name's Arthur, by the way, but you can call me Art."
She chose a lighter, and looked up at him. "Geneve. I'll be back then."
"Hmmohhh..." Geneve moaned. "Yes. Ohhh yes, right there..."
"Is that good? You like that?" he panted, pulling her close.
Geneve moaned again, almost beyond words. He kissed her. He kissed her lips and eyes. He kissed the hollow of her neck. He nibbled her shoulder and moved on. Tease! She thought. There was a sudden pain on the side of her neck. Is he biting me? The pain faded quickly. What is he doing? She could feel a wetness on her neck. Is he kinky? He's kinky. Well, I can be kinky, too. His shoulder was in front of her mouth. She bit him. He shuddered slightly, but did not pull away. Blood trickled down and she licked it, following the trail back up to the wound. He pushed himself up and looked at her curiously. Wrapping her arms around behind his head, she pulled him down, pushing her tongue past his lips. Copper and iron tastes filled her mouth.
Catching his breath, he pulled back and looked at her again. "What did you do?" He whispered.
"Nothing. Let's do it again."
He rolled over and fumbled for the clock next to the bed. "I'd love to, but my roommate will be back soon. He doesn't like having guests over in the morning."
Geneve recognized the lie. "No problem, I should get home myself." Pushing back the blanket, she stood up and began to gather her clothes.
Her arm was on fire. Mr. Gustafson held down one side and Missy Rodriguez held the other. "Muah ha ha!" They laughed evilly as they pushed her arm down, closer to the flames. Geneve struggled in her dream, but they held her down effortlessly. "Stage it!" Missy hissed, a forked tongue slipping out from between her lips. Geneve struggled harder, the flames crisping her skin like a chicken in a rotisserie. She woke with a start. Her arm lay in a strip of sunlight shining between the curtains. Out. Get out of the sun, she thought. Grabbing the blanket, she jumped out of bed and ran into the closet, closing the door behind her. Cowering against the back wall she looked at the thin sliver of light coming from under the door. Looking up, she began to pull down dresses, skirts and other clothing, stuffing them into the crack under the door. Ignoring the shower of hangers on her head, she wasn't satisfied until the space was pitch black. Backing into a far corner, she wrapped the blanket completely around her and fell into a dreamless sleep.
She woke again. It's dark? No, I'm in the closet. Why? She turned over, and her arm brushed painfully against the rough carpet. She rubbed it, the skin was tight. It felt like a sunburn. She squinted at her arm, when did I...? Her thoughts trailed off as she caught sight of the bundle of clothes stuffed under the door. Leaning forward, she tentatively pulled out a blouse. Damn! My linen shirt. I'm never going to get those wrinkles out. Then another thought occurred to her: How am I seeing this? The barest glimmer of light shone from under the door. It's dark. She pulled more clothes out from under the door, more yellow light came through the crack. What is going on? Was there an emergency? She couldn't recall any sirens, but then again, she barely remembered getting home. Reaching up, she braced a hand against the wall and pushed herself up. Her legs were wobbly and weak. Carefully, she reached for the door handle.
Suddenly, her bladder and bowels simultaneously reminded her of their existence and announced they were not going to wait. "Fuck!" Geneve cried. Throwing open the door, she ran out of the closet and into the bathroom.
A few minutes later, Geneve flushed the toilet and turned on the fan. Ugh. She rubbed her stomach. Nauseous. God. Hope I don't throw up. She washed her hands and wiped them dry on her shirt. She looked up. I never turned on the light. She looked around, but I can see everything, she thought. Okay... Since when can I see in the dark? She turned around, and flicked the light switch.
"OW! Shit!" The sudden blaze of light blinded her and she bent over, squeezing her eyes shut. Fuck! They weren't this bright yesterday! After several minutes, it seemed like forever, she carefully opened her eyes. Straightening up, she looked around. "Did someone sneak in and change the bulbs?" She wondered out loud. The light was harsh and seemed to emphasize every corner and edge. She spun around slowly, Did Missy...? But why? Her eyes fell on the mirror on the medicine cabinet over the sink. It reflected the wall behind her.
"What the hell?" She stepped forward, and tapped the mirror. Her face, her finger, did not show. She looked at her hand. She rubbed her face. It seemed solid enough. She snapped her fingers and drummed them on the counter. She turned on the water, wet her hands and patted her face. Yes, solid. She looked in the mirror again. "But she's not there." she said. Vaguely disturbed, she pulled open the cabinet door and studied it. Nothing seems to be wrong. It looks the same as it always has. She ran her hands down the side. Nothing's changed, even the dent where Mom banged her head is still there.
Giving up on the mysteries of the bathroom, Geneve walked out into the bedroom, absently rubbing her arm. The light from the streetlight came through the window and lay in a wide strip across her bed. Pulling aside the curtain, she looked outside. Moths flitted around and a bat briefly swooped in and out of the light. She looked at the neighbors across the street where the blue light of a television flickered behind their curtains. It all seemed so... normal.
Letting the curtain fall, Geneve turned and sat down heavily on the bed. "What the hell happened last night?" she put her head in her hands and took a deep breath. Think it through. One thing at a time. "Missy came by." she counted off on her fingers, "I went to the fair. I went on the Tilt-a-Whirl... Did I go on any other rides? The Ferris Wheel? The Avalanche? No, the line was too long. I had a hot dog and cotton candy. I... played a game?" It seemed hard to think of it now, the memory was foggy and faded. "What game? Softballs. There were softballs." It was starting to come back, she remembered someone's hand on hers, showing her how to throw... What was his name? "Art!" She cried, standing up. What time is it? She looked around wildly for her purse, there it was! She dived for it, and dug around inside until she found her watch. 10:38. "Damn, I really overslept! But maybe I can still get over there before they close."
"Hit the target, win a prize! Three balls for two dolla!" Art cried at the passing crowd. He caught sight of her as she walked up, "Hey pretty lady, want to..." His voice trailed off as he recognized her. "Oh crap." he said.
He turned and stuck his head behind the canvas that was the back wall of the booth. "Hey Jeff, I've got a bit of an emergency here. Can you take over?" There was a pause. "I know I said I'd work all weekend, but it's an emergency." Another pause. "Please, man? I'll make it up to you."
"All right." another man's voice said heavily. Art stepped back and another man pushed aside the canvas and walked out. He was tall, thin, and a cigarette drooped loosely from his mouth. Art hurriedly untied the apron around his waist and handed it to Jeff. Leaping over the low side wall of the booth, he walked over to Geneve. He took her arm and started walking, steering her away from the main path and towards the darkness by the fairground wall.
"Shit. I was afraid of this." He muttered. They were walking very fast, but Geneve had no trouble keeping up. Odd.
"What?" she asked.
He didn't answer. "Shoulda known, Shoulda known..." he muttered to himself.
"What?" She asked again. This was getting annoying.
"Damn it! Should never have..."
"What?!" Geneve stopped where she was. "What is it? Should've known what? Tell me!"
He stopped and looked back at her. Then he looked around. "Come back to my trailer. I'll tell you there." He took her arm again.
Geneve planted her feet and crossed her arms. "No."
He looked at her exasperated, like she was a child throwing a tantrum. "Look, if you'll just come with me, I'll tell you everything."
"No. Tell me now. You know something. Tell me."
He sighed and looked down. "All right." he looked back up at her. "You remember the other night?"
She thought about it. "Yes..." she answered slowly. She had gone home with him, hadn't she? Her memories of the night before were slowly starting to harden into reality.
"You remember when we were having sex?"
"Yes..." she paused, thinking. "You bit me."
"And what did you do?" he asked.
"I bit you back." Now she remembered – the taste of his skin, licking the blood on his shoulder, sucking at the bite... ew.
He nodded at her expression. "You drank my blood. Now you're like me."
"What do you mean I'm 'like you?'" She paused, then smiled. "What are you, like a vampire or something?"
Geneve frowned. "You're shitting me."
"But vampires don't..."
"Exist?" He interrupted. "Yes, we do. So do werewolves, for that matter. I'm not sure about ghouls. I don't hang around in graveyards."
"So you're saying I'm a vampire now?"
She smiled sarcastically, "So do I get a cape? Can I go around, like, 'Blah! Blah! I vant to drink yer blood!'" She raised her arms and did her best to loom over him.
He leaned back against the wall and rolled his eyes. "That's a terrible accent." He straightened up. "Look, be serious. You're a vampire now. You can't change it, you just gotta get used to it." He started walking, slower this time. "Come back to my trailer and I'll fill you in." Geneve followed, somewhat reluctantly.
He held the trailer – it was barely more than a camper – door open for her and followed her inside. Sitting down on the edge of a chair she looked around. The whole place seemed shabby. The cushion she was sitting on was patched with duct tape, and the carpet was worn thin in front of the door.
Sweeping aside some empty takeout boxes, Art sat down across from her. "Sorry," he apologized halfheartedly, "I gotta get after Jeff to clean up."
Geneve looked around again, noting the yellow line of old smoke near the ceiling. Why didn't I notice all this last time? She wondered.
"So, um, you're faster, and stronger now. Have you noticed that yet?"
"Yeah." She answered slowly, not entirely listening. Look at that bed. Doesn't he ever wash his sheets?
"Good. Have looked in a mirror yet?"
She forced her attention back to him. "Yes. I'm not there. I-I don't reflect."
He nodded. "Yeah, that happens to everyone."
"Everyone? How many have you done this to?"
"That's not important right now." He said dismissively, "What's important is..."
"Tell me." she interrupted.
He looked down at the floor, "two." he said quietly.
Geneve stared at him for a long moment, then she giggled. "I'm your second?" She laughed. "Well, good thing I wasn't your first, I mean I'd hate to be the one who takes your vampire cherry!" She laughed harder.
"Ha. Ha." he said, giving her a sour look. "What? Do you think I do this all the time? I loved Sharon, I wanted us to be together."
Geneve wiped her eyes, "So, what happened to her?"
Art scowled and looked away, "We – had a disagreement. She left."
Geneve tried to hide her smirk. "And when was that?"
He counted silently to himself. "Three years ago."
"Three years?" She repeated, disbelieving. So recent?
"Yes, three years. What were you expecting? 20? 200? Some long lost love from ages gone by?"
The door opened, Art's friend from the booth came in, smoking a cigarette. He walked over to the stove, took a last drag and stubbed it out in an ashtray.
"Hey Jeff." Art said.
Jeff nodded in his general direction.
Jeff nodded. "Closed an hour ago. Larry came by. I told him you were with someone."
"An hour ago? Shit. Is it that late?"
He nodded again. "You better volunteer for something tomorrow. He ain't happy." He opened a cabinet over him and took out a can of soup.
"All right, thanks." Art stood up, "Come on," he said to Geneve. "I'll take you home."
"So how old are you, anyway?" She asked.
Art stopped and thought about this. He turned to Jeff. "How long have I known you, Jeff?"
Jeff turned the crank on the can opener. "Twelve years?" He shrugged. "Somewhere around there."
Art turned back to Geneve. "62, I think. Maybe closer to 74." he opened the door.
Geneve looked at his face as he walked outside. He looked, physically, about 35.
They walked together down the main street. Cars passed them occasionally, but Geneve knew it was past the hour when anyone would be out on the streets. The bars had closed at least an hour ago, probably more.
"How far back to your place?" Art asked.
"About a half hour, 20 minutes if we walk fast and cut around the drugstore."
"We have time."
They walked in silence for a while. "You don't look that old." She said finally.
"I know. It's an advantage: you don't age. Jeff says I look exactly the same as when I met him." He thought a minute. "How old are you?"
"Hm." he said noncommittally. "What time did you wake up this morning?" he asked.
"I don't know. I was in the closet."
"You sleep in the closet?"
"No. I woke up in the closet."
"I'm not sure. I just had to get somewhere dark."
He nodded sagely. "Ah."
"What?" Geneve asked, perturbed.
"You might want to move your bed or cover up the windows, you don't want any sunlight in the bedroom. Were you born here?"
"Yes, but what does that..."
"If you ever feel like you can't leave, and I mean that literally, it helps to fill a bag with some dirt and keep it with you. I keep some under my bed. I refill it when I go back to Miami."
"A bag of dirt?"
"You'd be surprised."
They turned down her street. "So, no sun, dirt, I won't age, anything else I should know?"
"This your house?"
"No, the next one. What else?"
"You're selling it?"
"My dad died a few months ago. I'm living here until it's sold."
"How's your mother?"
"She died when I was 12."
Geneve shook her head, dismissing the sympathy. She'd had enough of "I'm sorry" and "Are you OK?" at the funeral. At least the church ladies had given her food.
"You want to come in?" she asked. Maybe he'll explain inside.
Geneve saw the light flashing on the answering machine. Ignoring it, she lead the way into the kitchen. "You want a beer or something?" She asked, opening the fridge and looking inside.
"No thanks." he said. She heard him pull out a chair and sit down.
She pulled out a bottle for herself, and closed the door. Picking up the bottle opener from the counter, she sat down at the table across from him. He watched as she opened the bottle and took a long drink.
Her stomach immediately rebelled. "Oh, Shit." she said, clapping a hand across her mouth. It was not enough and beer foamed out over her hand and across the table.
Art laughed. He stood a safe distance away on the other side of the kitchen. She hadn't seen him move. Geneve gave him a dirty look. He laughed again, grabbed a handful of paper towels and began mopping at the table.
"That's what else. You can't eat anything."
She glared at him again, "Could have told me." she muttered. She walked over to the sink rinsed off her hands and wiped her face.
"It was funnier this way."
He dropped the soaked towels in the trash can. "What time is it?" Geneve pointed at the clock on the wall behind him. He turned and looked. "4:48. I should get back." He thought a minute. "I'll offer to take the kitty bag to Mora tomorrow. Do you have a car?"
"Good. I'll find someone who doesn't mind a threesome. Come by the fairgrounds tomorrow night, um, around 11-ish."
"A threesome? Hey I'm not..."
He rolled his eyes. "You're gonna be hungry tomorrow. I need to show you some things."
Geneve stopped, confused.
Art sighed, "Just come by the fairgrounds tomorrow night. I'll meet you there." He turned and started towards the door. Geneve followed and opened it for him. Walking outside with a wave, he disappeared into the darkness. Geneve closed the door and walked to her bedroom. Standing in the doorway, she surveyed it. I suppose I can toss the pillows in the closet, she thought absently, crossing her arms. Her hand fell on the burn and she rubbed it. It felt different. She looked down, the skin had mostly healed over and it now looked a few days old.
"Huh. Another advantage." she said, and started stripping the bed.
Geneve stared at the highway in front of her and mentally assessed herself. She was hungry. That was number one. It was constantly in the background of her mind. Sort of like someone poking you, she thought. You can ignore it, but only to a certain point. She rubbed her arm and realized again there was no warmth there. Number two, she thought. She rubbed her arm again. No heat, nothing. My skin is – cold? No, cool. She put her hand on her cheek and left it there for a moment. Nothing, she thought. Weird. She pulled her purse closer and began to fumble one-handed inside it. I need a cigarette. Nothing came to hand.
"I could've sworn I had..." she muttered, pulling it into her lap and glancing inside. Nothing. Snapping her purse shut, she tossed it onto the passenger seat in frustration. Where did I leave...? She sat back as realization struck. Her cigarettes were on the bedside table. Exactly where she had left them two nights ago. When did I last...? At the fair. On the Ferris Wheel. She took a deep breath and blew it out. "Wow." she said, amazed. "That's a hell of a way to quit."
The siren snapped Geneve out of her reverie. She glanced down at the speedometer, Shit. Hadn't the guys at the bar been talking about the speed trap outside Mora just a couple of weeks ago? Mentally kicking herself, she pulled over on the shoulder and stopped.
Geneve watched in her rear view mirror as the cop slowly pulled in behind her and slowly got out of his car. Sauntering over, he leaned into her window.
"Do you know how fast you were going?" he asked.
She looked down at his hand on the door. Big strong hands, a gold wedding band on one finger was the only adornment. She looked up and tried to smile, "I'm not sure, I was uh... I had a lot on my mind."
"Uh-huh. Miss, the speed limit here is 55. I clocked you at 70."
"Really? I, um, didn't realize."
"You want to tell me where you were going in such a hurry?"
Shit, shit, Think fast girl. She looked up and met his eyes, "My – my father, I just got a call from the home that he's taken a turn. He's, uh, not doing well. I have to get over there." What the hell kind of story is that?
His expression softened, "Your father? Oh I'm sorry, miss. I'll give you a warning this time. But watch your speed."
Geneve stared at him, her mouth open. "Ahh... Yes. Yes I will. Thank you sir." Apparently satisfied, the cop turned and walked back towards his car. Geneve pulled back into traffic, carefully watching her speed. What the hell just happened? That was a terrible lie! That was worse than what I used to tell my teachers! But he swallowed it all! Is this something else I need to know about? I've got to ask Art.
Pulling up to the Mora fairgrounds, really just a large parking lot in front of a mall, Geneve saw Art sitting on the hood of a car. A girl sat next to him. His arm was around her and she was laughing wildly. He waved at Geneve as she stepped out of her car.
"Hey Jen!" he said standing up. "This is Tiffany." Tiffany attempted to slide off the hood, and fell on the ground. She laughed loudly as Art helped her stand up.
"Hi!" Tiffany said, she stepped forward, lost her balance and fell on Geneve. Catching her, Geneve pushed her back upright. "Oops. Sorry." She said, and giggled again. Art rolled his eyes.
"How many drinks have you had tonight Tiffany?" Geneve asked.
"I had a couple of Mad Bombers. Then I met Artie and we had Sex on the Beach. Didn't we Artie-wartie?" She looked over at him, a broad smile on her face as she waited for him to get the joke.
"Yes you did, Tiff." Art said. Geneve heard a slight note of annoyance in his voice.
He turned to Geneve. "Follow me, I know a place nearby."
The Prairie View Motel was a tiny place, one of a number of similar motels on this stretch of road. The faded sign outside advertised hourly and weekly rates. Art walked into the office carrying Tiffany's purse, a few minutes later he walked out with a key in hand.
"Room 112" he said, leaning down to her window, "down at the end."
Room 112 was clean at least. Tiffany, still giggling, threw herself down on the bed. "Come on Artie." she said. Then she looked at Geneve and stopped, confused. "Unless you want to watch first?" She shrugged and began clumsily fumbling around her back for the zipper.
Art looked at Geneve. "Remember what you're here for." he said in a low voice. He looked at Tiffany on the bed and looked back at Geneve.
"Let me help you with that." Geneve said. Gliding up on the bed behind Tiffany she gently tugged the zipper away from her reaching fingers and slowly pulled it down.
Tiffany lay back on the bed, eyes closed and one hand twined in Geneve's hair. She giggled softly to herself. Art propped himself up on his elbows on the other side of her. "Go ahead." he told Geneve.
"Where?" Geneve asked.
Geneve freed the hand and sat up. She looked down at the body underneath her. It seemed like she could see the blood pulsing – driven – rushing back and forth, the heart beating strong in her chest. The hunger was powerful now. Her mouth watered. Hot spots shone on her neck, the point of her jaw, her wrists... She picked up a hand and stared down at the pulsing just under the skin. Geneve licked her lips. Had she been eating garbage all her life? This was a gourmet feast laid out and waiting for her. She sank her teeth into Tiffany.
Bliss. It was the only word. Blood flowed into her mouth and she swallowed again. Bliss. Nothing had ever been so wonderful. Someone tugged her shoulder. She swallowed again. They pulled again, roughly. He wants my food! Growling, she bit down harder.
"Jen. Gen. Geneve! Stop!" He pulled hard and she fell backwards. He looked at Tiffany's wrist, "Geeze." he muttered. "I'm gonna need to wrap this." He stepped off the bed and went into the bathroom.
Geneve lay on her back and stared at the ceiling. Did I just growl? She looked over at Tiffany, who lay unconscious next to her. Blood flowed in a sluggish line down her wrist, staining the sheets underneath her. Art reappeared with a towel and began to wrap it tightly around Tiffany's wrist.
"Why did you pull me off?" Geneve asked, pushing herself up.
"You gotta learn to control yourself." he replied shortly.
He ran a hand through his hair and looked up. "How do I explain this? How did you feel when I grabbed you?"
Geneve thought, trying to put the feeling into words.
"Like an animal?" he asked.
Geneve frowned, that didn't seem like it should be right...
"Try to avoid that. Don't let your..." he paused, searching for a word, "...nature, get to you. Keep your head on. You don't eat the whole cow if you only want a steak. There's always people around, there's always tomorrow."
Geneve lay back on the bed and thought about this.
Art picked up the clock next to the bed and looked at it. Then he picked up Tiffany's hand. A red stain had spread across the towel. He frowned. "This doesn't look good." He leaned over Tiffany and lightly slapped her face, "Tiff? Tiff? Wake up honey, you've had an accident." Tiffany moaned but didn't wake up.
Geneve sat up and looked down at her. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"I think two of us was a little much for her."
"What do we do?"
"Hang on." Art stood up from the bed and walked into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. Geneve stood up and started to dress. There was a sudden crash followed by the tinkle of broken glass from the bathroom. Art opened the door again, a towel was wrapped around one hand. "Oh no!" he yelled. "Tiffany! What did you do?!" Geneve leaned to the side to look around him. Glass shards lay in the sink. "Tiffany! Are you all right? You're bleeding!" Art yelled again. "Help me get her dressed." He said to Geneve.
Geneve picked up Tiffany's panties from the floor and slid them up her legs. She noticed red spots on the towel around Art's hand. "You're bleeding too." she said quietly.
"I'll heal. Let's get her dressed and I'll take her to the hospital."
Geneve watched Art leave with Tiffany, cleaned the bathroom as best she could, and settled with the night manager for the broken mirror. She wondered, idly, how much Tiffany's next credit card bill would be. The tiny clock in her dashboard said it was almost four. Resting her chin on her hands, she waited for the traffic to clear. Warm, she realized. Her skin was warm now.
The light on the answering machine seemed to blink even more insistently the next day. Geneve stood over it, looked down, and sighed. Sitting down on the floor, she pressed Play.
"Hello, Ms. Olssen? This is Missy, from Hello! Properties? I have some good news for you! Could you call my office? The number is..." Geneve skipped ahead. "Ms. Olssen? This is Missy from Hello! Properties. Can you give me a call at your earliest convenience? I have some news for you." The next three messages were similar but with increasing desperation.
Maybe I can buy time with some phone tag. Geneve thought. She picked up the phone and dialed Missy's number.
"Hello, this is Missy Rodriguez."
Damn! What is she doing there so late? Geneve marshaled her voice into something pleasant. "Hello Missy. This is Geneve, I'm returning your call?"
"Oh Ms. Olssen! I'm glad you called! I have good news for you! The Johnsons are making an offer!"
"Yes! Isn't that wonderful? Now I need to get together with you so we can get this process started. When can you come by my office?"
Shit! Fuck! Shit! Come by her office? During the day? "Hmm, I don't know if I can make it this week, Missy. I'm going camping with some friends. I'll probably be gone the entire week."
"That's not a problem, did you want to make a counter offer? Or I can have the inspection done while you're away. By the time you get back I'll have the paperwork started."
Geneve leaped for the thin straw offered. "Yes! Why don't you make a counter offer! You know I want to get the best price."
"All right. I'll contact their agent. I'll let you know."
"No problem, you're lucky I was working late tonight." Missy hung up.
Geneve nearly dropped the phone, but caught herself and set it down gently. Shit! How could I forget? Now what? People are going to be walking around here during the day! I can't hold them off forever! Geneve lay back on the floor. I need help.
Mercedes unlocked her apartment door and walked inside, letting her backpack drop on the floor. She walked to the kitchen and started at the note on the refrigerator door for a moment before her brain remembered to read it.
"Dees, Staying at Ron's place tonight! Back tomorrow! *Sandy* PS. Out of milk! Can you buy more? Thanx!"
"Wouldn't have to buy milk if your boyfriend hadn't decided White Russians were oh-so-cool." Mercedes muttered. She took a pint of ice cream from the freezer then turned around and grabbed a spoon from the drawer, slamming it shut with her hip. Walking over to the couch, she threw herself down with a heavy sigh.
"Could have gone with Dr. Cheeswright to Guam." She berated herself as she pulled off the lid. "But noo, you didn't want to leave. You wanted to study with Dr. Pavel." She dug into the container and shoved a heaping spoonful in her mouth. "Why didn't I listen to Marie? She said the university wasn't happy with him. She even offered to get me a spot on Dr. Debord's project! But did I listen? 'It'll be fine.' I said! 'He told me so himself!' I am such an idiot." She shoved another spoonful in her mouth. I can't dwell on this, she thought, what's on TV? Digging around in the cushions underneath her she located the remote and flicked it on. Flipping through the channels until she found a tolerable rerun, she was about to settle into some mindless watching when the phone rang.
Briefly she thought about letting the machine answer, then reconsidered and picked it up on the second ring. "Hello?"
"Hello?" Mercedes said, louder. "Speak now, buddy, because I'm probably not interested in..."
"Mercy?" Geneve interrupted.
"Oh, Gen! Hey, how are you? How's it going?"
"Um... it's all right. Fine. I guess."
"Gen? Is something wrong?"
"Uh, sort of. Can you come up here?"
"I'm not sure I can explain. I need you to come up here."
"What is it?"
She could picture, in her mind, Gen biting her lower lip. Just like she always did when she had something important to ask. "Complicated, how? Tell me Gen."
There was a long silence on the other end, then a sigh. "OK, just – will you listen to me? This is going to sound weird."
Mercedes looked down at the melting pint of ice cream in her lap. "Go ahead." she said.
"Some people, the Johnsons, they've made an offer on the house."
"That's great, Gen!"
"Yeah. But Missy's going to want me to come down to the office and like, sign papers and shit! She'll want me to go down there during the day! I can't do that!"
"Why not?" Another silence. "Gen?"
"Because I'm a vampire." she said, in a very small voice.
A vampire? She must be joking."What?"
"I'm a vampire now." Again, a small voice.
"All right, Geneve, ha, ha, very funny. I'm rolling on the floor here. Now tell me the real reason."
"Mercy! I'm serious! Can you come up here or not?"
Mercedes thought about it. She did sound serious. God knows I have nothing to do until Dr. Cheese returns. That'll be, when? September? "All right. Just give me a couple days to straighten up around here. How about – hmm, Friday?"
"Thank you Mercy! Oh thank you so much! I'll do anything for you! Just ask!"
"Yeah, yeah. I'll give you a call before I leave, OK?"
"Yes! OK! I'll wait for it! Love you!"
"Love you, too. Bye Gen." Mercedes looked down at the carton in her lap. It was soup now. Cherry soup with bits of chocolate. She stirred it around then sat back to watch TV. Avoiding thinking about what she had agreed to.
Mercedes climbed the porch steps, her shadow stretching out far ahead of her. There was a note taped to the door. "Thanks again for coming, Mercy! The key is under the mat." There was no mat. Mercedes smiled at the old joke between them. Reaching up, she ran her fingers along the top of the door frame until she found the key, unlocked the door and stepped inside. The living room was empty of furniture. The only exception was the telephone and answering machine, sitting on top of a phone book on the floor next to the door. Mercedes set down her backpack and walked into the kitchen. The two chairs at the table were the only place to sit. She put her hand down on top of the table as she walked around towards the fridge, then lifted it again. It was sticky. She made a face and turned to the sink. A dried out sponge sat on the counter. The sink itself had a few dirty dishes sitting in the bottom, bits of dried food were stuck on them. The rest of the kitchen was clean, however. Turning on the water, she wet the sponge. Reaching up to turn the water off, she decided to let the sink fill and picked up the soap. She washed the dishes, left them on top of a towel to dry, and wiped down the table.
Looking up at the kitchen clock, she realized she'd been there over an hour and hadn't seen her sister. In fact, the house was silent.
"Gen?" she called. She walked upstairs. "Gen?" she called down the hall. She paused a minute in front of what had been her bedroom. It was empty now. Even the curtains were gone. She sighed and was about to move on, when she caught sight of the wall next to the door frame. Oh look, she thought, examining the faint pencil marks on the wall, each labeled "G" or "M" She followed them up with her finger until she reached the scratches in the wall. Scratches that extended deeply into the door frame. Oh. That time. When Mom couldn't find a pencil and used a knife instead. Mercedes turned away before the memories could come up and continued down the hall towards the one closed door. A note was stuck to it. Mercedes pulled it off and read: "Please do not open the door. I'll be up around 9. Love, Geneve"
"Long night, I guess." Mercedes muttered to herself and walked back downstairs.
She was reading at the kitchen table when she heard the soft footsteps coming downstairs. "Mercy?" Geneve called, tentatively.
"In the kitchen." Mercedes called back.
She was suddenly grabbed up in a hug. "Mercy! I'm so happy you're here!"
Ah! Her ribs! She couldn't breathe! "Gen!" She choked.
Geneve immediately released her. "Sorry! I'm not used to the strength yet! Sorry! Are you OK?"
Mercedes rubbed her sides. "I'm fine." She leaned forward and took Geneve into a light hug.
"It's so good to see you!" Geneve said. She was dressed in a pink bathrobe. Mercedes recognized it as one that used to belong to their mother. Mercedes waved Geneve to the chair across from her. "So, tell me what's going on with the house."
"Well, Missy got an offer last week. I told her to make a counter offer but their agent is on vacation this week in Mexico or somewhere so she's still waiting for a reply."
"So we've got a bit of time. Now why can't you take care of this?"
"I can't go out during the day."
Geneve looked down at the table. "I told you. On the phone." she said flatly.
"You told me a story. You said you were a vampire or something."
"I am." She drew on the table with her finger.
"Come on, Gen. This isn't like you. Tell me the truth."
Geneve looked up at her from under her hair. "I am."
"Gen, I can't help you if..."
"You want to see?" she interrupted. She held out her hand across the table. "Take my hand."
"Take my hand."
Mercedes suddenly felt like she wanted to do this for her, to please her sister. She leaned forward and took her hand. "You're cold." she said after a minute.
"What's it like outside?"
"Warm. Humid. It's August." Mercedes was thrown off slightly by this change of subject.
"You're pretty warm yourself."
"Yes." She wasn't sure where she was going with this.
"Shouldn't I be warm too?"
She leaned forward and wrapped her other hand around her sister's. "How do I feel?"
Mercedes looked up and met her sister's eyes, realization slowly dawning. How long had they been holding hands? A minute? Five? Slowly she let go and leaned back. She tried to ignore the ice crawling down her back. "Ok," she said, slowly. There had to be an explanation for this. "Maybe you're just..." she let her voice trail off. She couldn't think of anything.
"I know!" Geneve suddenly stood up. "Come on." she waved for Mercedes to follow her. Again, I'm following her orders without question. Strange.
Geneve walked quickly into the bathroom, and stopped in front of the sink. Mercedes flipped on the light. "There!" Geneve said triumphantly, motioning to the mirror.
Mercedes looked at her reflection, "Gen, I don't see..." She felt her move around behind her. She looked at the mirror and saw her own reflection. Pushing Geneve out of the way, she ran out of the bathroom.
Geneve poked her head around the kitchen door. Mercy sat at the table with her head in her hands. "Are you all right?" she asked.
Mercy took a long shuddering breath and let it out. She didn't look up. "No." She took another deep breath, composing herself. "That was fucking scary, Gen."
Mercy rubbed her face. She did not look at Geneve.
"It was the best way I could think of." Geneve continued, half-apologizing.
Mercy leaned back and looked up at the ceiling, then she looked over at Geneve. Geneve waited patiently for her to talk. "All right, I believe you." she said finally. She looked drained. "It's been a long day. I'm tired."
Geneve glanced at the kitchen clock. It was almost 11. "Sorry."
"Do you have a blanket I can use?"
Geneve suddenly realized the only bed in the house was hers. "Ah, shit, use my bed. I've been sleeping in the closet anyway. I'll just grab a sheet or something."
"Why are you sleeping in the closet?" Mercy asked guardedly. "Or shouldn't I ask?"
"Of course." Mercy yawned.
"Come on, let's go upstairs." Geneve said standing up, "I'll tuck you in." She smiled at the joke.
Mercy started to stand up, then stopped and sat back down. "How are you doing that?"
"You tell me something and I do it."
"Why wouldn't you?" Geneve was confused.
"I mean, I'm acting without question."
Mercy sighed. "I mean, you tell me 'Jump' and I'm not asking 'Why?' I'm sailing into the air."
"Really? Mercy, go out to the porch and wait for me."
Mercedes stood up and walked out of the kitchen. Geneve followed her, watching curiously as she strode the to the front door and put her hand on the knob. She started to turn it, then stopped and scowled. Her hand shook slightly as she struggled internally with something. Then she dropped her fist to her side, turned, and glared at Geneve.
"You know, that explains why that cop let me off so easy." Geneve said thoughtfully.
"I'm going to bed." Mercy announced, exasperated. She turned and started walking towards the stairs.
"Hey Mercy, pick your nose!" Geneve called after her.
Mercy continued up the stairs."That's disgusting, Gen." she said, not turning around.
"You used to when you were three!"
"It's been 20 years. I've changed."
A manila envelope, with a note stuck on top, sat on the kitchen table. "Here's everything about the estate and the house. - Love, G" it read. Mercedes opened it, inside were two folders, both labeled in Gen's neat handwriting. Sitting down at the table Mercy opened the one labeled "Dad" and began to read. By the time she turned over the last page of the "House" file, the sun had risen high in the sky and her stomach growled. Mercedes stood up and opened the refrigerator, It was empty. She snorted to herself, Gen never did like to go grocery shopping. Heck, Dad never liked to go grocery shopping. She had taken it over as soon as she'd been tall enough to push the cart. She added "buy food" to her internal to do list.
Missy met Mercedes as soon as she entered the office. "Hello Ms. Olssen!" she said shaking her hand. "How are you today?"
"I'm fine. Gen called me up to help with the sale."
"Oh? Is anything wrong?"
"No, no, there's just been some... changes recently. She asked me if I could help out." God. I'm such a bad liar. Gen is glib, not me.
Missy nodded, "Well why don't you take a seat over there and I'll be happy to go over everything with you." She lead the way towards her desk. "Would you like some coffee?"
The last of the sun was setting below the horizon as Mercedes walked up the street carrying groceries. Talking with Missy had been... enlightening, she thought. If nothing goes wrong I think we should be done and out of here soon.
Putting the grocery bag down on the porch, she paused to search for her keys. The streetlights switched on overhead as she located her key ring and selected the house key. She started to reach towards the knob, and the door opened. Geneve stood there in her robe.
"Oh you bought groceries! Good, I was going to go later tonight." She bent over, picked up the bag, and started inside.
"No you weren't." Mercedes said, picking up the other bag and following her inside.
"I would have. Eventually. You're here." She said, coming out of the kitchen and taking the bag from her. "Anyway, tell me what's going on."
As they put groceries away, Mercedes told Geneve the details of her meeting with Missy.
"Five weeks, huh? That's, um, just after Labor Day isn't it? When does school start?
"It's cutting it close, I know. But if worse comes to worse you can move in with me, and Missy can just come down to Minneapolis." She grabbed a mug from the cupboard without looking and filled it from the sink.
"Thanks." Gen said quietly.
"No problem." She looked down at the mug in her hands. "'World's Greetest Dad.'" she read, and smiled nostalgically. "You know, he really liked this."
"The mug?" Geneve looked down at it. "I got it from a dollar store." She smiled ruefully, "I was mad at him that year. I wasn't going to get him anything."
"Do you remember my boyfriend Tommy?"
"I'm not sure, was he the one with the truck?"
"That was him. I'd broken up with him – I should have done it long before then. I mean, I was 16 and he was what? 27? Anyway, Dad had been giving me this 'I told you so' look all week. That made me mad and I thought I'll show him, I won't get him a birthday present."
"Oh yeah. That would've shown him." Mercedes said dryly.
"Shut up. I was 16. Anyway, Tommy came over here really drunk, just completely wasted, and he started yelling and crying about how he was sorry and he wanted me back."
"Would you have? Taken him back?"
"Hell no! His idea of a good time was drinking beer in his trailer or drinking beer at his friend's trailer. What the hell did I see in him? He never showered."
"So what did you do?"
"Well I was standing outside yelling at him to go home. He was yelling at me 'Oh baby I love you so much' That kind of bullshit. Then he yells 'If I can't have you, no one's gonna have you!' and he started to go for the gun in the back of his truck."
"He had a gun?"
"Oh yeah." She rolled her eyes at the memory, and dropped into a mocking accent. "He liked t' go huntin' wit' da' boys."
"Where was I? I don't remember this."
"You were at a friend's house, I think."
"So what happened next?"
"Dad came up behind him and closed the door on his hand. He said 'I don't think you want to do that.' Well, Tommy was this little, skinny guy, and Dad, well, you remember how big he was."
"So Dad, he leans on the door. Right on top of his hand. Tommy was screaming and yelling, and then like three police cars come tearing down the street and stop in front of the house. Dad told me to go to my room."
"Did Dad call the police?"
"I don't know who called them. Maybe the neighbors. I don't think it was Dad. I never saw him go in the house. All he said was 'Go to your room, Gen.' and I didn't argue."
Geneve ignored the remark. "He came up to my room after and asked me if I was all right. If Tommy had hurt me or anything. I said no. And he said 'Good. I don't want you hanging out with that boy anymore.' and he left."
"That was it?"
"You know how he was."
Mercedes nodded. "So then you bought this?" she looked down at the mug.
"The next day. I was still kind of mad at him, I thought I could have handled Tommy. I know, Mercy! Don't give me that look. So I went to the dollar store."
"You know, he really liked it. He told me before he died. He said he kept it on his desk at the plant so everyone could see it."
Geneve stared at the mug, and sighed. "It's weird sometimes. It's not like I expect to see him anymore. But I can't believe we're selling this place."
"Yeah." They sat a moment in mutual silence. Mercedes' stomach broke the silence with a loud growl.
Geneve grinned. "Hungry?"
Mercedes smiled ruefully. "I guess."
Geneve stood up, "I should get dressed. I'm hungry too."
Geneve heard a TV in the room when she woke. Mercy must be here, she thought. The bathroom floor was hard and the blankets she'd thrown down mitigated this fact only slightly. Unfortunately, it was the only place in this cheap-ass motel room without windows. She stood up and opened the door. Mercy lay on the bed watching a game show.
"Hey." She said without looking up.
"How'd it go?"
"Did the final walk through today. Told Missy we'd be out of there by Saturday. I talked to the guy from the thrift store, he's coming by with a truck tomorrow for the rest of the furniture."
"Need any help packing?"
"Let me get dressed."
Geneve watched as the lights flicked off inside and the front door opened. Setting the last box down on the porch, Mercy pulled a small manila envelope from her pocket and dropped the keys inside. She licked it closed, picked up the box again, and walked down the steps to the car. Geneve looked down at the shoebox in her lap. She pulled another cassette tape out and held it up as Mercy walked around the car.
"Can I borrow this one too?" she asked, holding it up.
Mercedes squinted, then took it from her and held it closer to the light. "'Best of Queen?' OK. I didn't know that was in there."
"Thanks." Geneve slipped the tape into her purse, stood up and put the shoebox back on the floor in front of the passenger seat. "Is that it?"
"Yup." Mercy handed her the envelope. "Missy said just drop it off at her office and she'll take care of everything in the morning."
Geneve looked at both their cars, packed full and loaded down with boxes then at the house. She sighed.
"Sad?" Mercy asked.
"No. Not sad. Just..." she shook her head. Silly, emotional...
Mercy put an arm around her waist. "I know."
Geneve stepped forward out of her grasp. "We should get going." She walked to her car and opened the door. She looked back at Mercy shaking her head as she walked to her own car. "You take the lead!" She called out as she opened the door. Sitting down, she tossed her purse on the passenger seat and Mercy's tapes spilled out. She started the engine, took "Best of Queen" out of its case, pushed it in and hit play. She looked up as Mercy pulled out ahead of her. "Bicycle! Bicycle!" the stereo called out as she pulled out of the driveway and followed Mercy down the street.