16 Sixteen

    I tried Will's apartment again after counseling was over. My stomach had been twisted up so tight all day that I still felt it, even though I knew Dr. Parrish had forgiven me. Maybe I just needed a television, something to fill up the silence of my apartment when I was there alone.

    Will was home this time, but as soon as I opened the door, I realized I should've waited for tomorrow.

    He looked me up and down and said, "You've been hunting too much again."

    My hand went to my stomach without thinking about it. I could feel the bulge, though slight now, under my jeans. "Bad day," I said. "But it's okay now."

    Will opened the door, and I went inside. "I thought Dr. Parrish was helping you," he said.

    "Dr. Parrish still doesn't believe in vampires," I said, but Will and I both knew that didn't matter. The doctor was helping me. "I broke into his office Monday night, and he caught me."

    He laughed a little before he realized I was serious. Then, he said, "Damn, Annie. Why?"

    "Why did I break in? I don't know. I was bored." I didn't mention the cigarettes. Will wouldn't approve.

    Then I noticed what he was wearing. Button-up shirt and slacks, shiny shoes. His black hair neatly combed. A small bouquet lay on the table next to his wallet and keys.

    "You're going out," I said.

    "Date," he said, not meeting my eyes as though he felt guilty for taking someone else out, as though he thought we were involved, or would be if he wasn't on his way out the door to see someone else.

    "Well, have fun," I said, heading for the door.

    "Annie, if you need me to-"

    "Don't be silly. I'll see you next week sometime. Okay?"

    Will didn't say "okay" back, but I'd probably just walked out before he could.

    Funny that there were still people dating in the world. How long had it been since I went out on a date? Had the whole world really stopped for me after Keats? But it had been...I counted...five years. Five years. Wasn't that time enough by anyone's calendar?

    Never mind that I'd spent two years of that time in such a fog of hunting that the body count caught the attention of the police, then the local news stations, who then reported an unusually high number of mysterious and seemingly random deaths. They nicknamed their serial killer "Fire Man" because his victims were burned so thoroughly. Not very creative. And no one seemed to realize that the bodies burned so well because they were significantly drier on the inside than most bodies.

    I went to my apartment from Will's and slept the rest of the night and all the next day, not strange after a binge like mine. Dreams woke me up twice-amorphous dreams that disappeared as soon as I awoke, terrified, convinced that I couldn't possibly go back to sleep. The first time I fell back asleep before I could make a decision about whether to get up. The second time I did get up, turn on all the lights in the house, and hum the "Genie in a Bottle" song because it was the only one I could think of.

    I ended up falling asleep in the bathtub, my head propped up on a bath pillow, and I slept there until the water was cold. I woke up shivering, drained the tub and refilled it with hot water, and when I was warm again, I drained the tub a second time and got out, wrapping myself in a fluffy white robe.

    Then I opened the blinds in the living room, sat on the ugly couch, and stared out at the other apartment buildings and the street, three stories down.

    And then I was bored.

    I usually counted on Will to provide me a way out of boredom, but he wasn't being too useful these days.

    Therapy was useful for relieving boredom, but therapy was only twice a week.

    Maybe I needed a job. Almost a year had passed since I'd walked out on my fry job at Corndog Heaven. The manager had yelled at me for my seeming inability to produce corndogs of a proper golden hue. And then he accused me of stealing fries.

    I told him that everyone could see from his face to his waistline that it wasn't me who hoarded greasy crap in my desk drawer and wolfed it down when no one was watching.

    Then I took off my apron and my Corndog Heaven t-shirt, dropped them into the fry vat, and walked out the front door in my bra and blue jeans.

    The cashier, Mindy, told me that sales went up for a while after that.

    San Antonio enjoys year-round warm weather, and I was glad because when I got outside, I realized I didn't have a car or a spare shirt, and I ended up walking four blocks to this shop called Rainbow Joe's Vintage Ts and buying a Hogan's Heroes shirt in this great olive green. It's still one of my favorite shirts.

    The kind cashier took off the price tag so I could put the shirt on while she rang up the price.

    But I hadn't worked a day since then, unless you include writing deliberately snotty and controversial letters to the editor of the San Antonio Express-News.

    It wasn't as though I needed a job right away. Keats had left me quite a bit, and I had a lot saved from my pre-vampire days, too, when I thought I was saving for a house and a family.

    That savings, minus whatever I spent on rent, therapy, and bubble bath in a month, seemed to always be shrinking. I worked random jobs, and I added the cash from the wallets before the wallets and their owners coincidentally burned to ash. I felt a little bad about that, robbing them all, but they weren't going to be using it anymore. Most months, I could pay rent on what I collected.

    But the numbers of my savings account still dropped like a rollercoaster on the downhill side.

    So that would be something to do to fill the time. I could work.

    I let my head fall into the pillowed back of the couch as I watched the cars pass.

    I could work.

    Or I could just sit here.
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