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19 Nineteen

    "Do you ever feel guilty about killing people?"

    Somehow, it was Monday again, two weeks since Will's birthday party, and I was in Dr. Parrish's blue office again, contemplating things I rarely bothered to contemplate. "No," I said. "I usually stay away from children and...nuns. Otherwise, I have to eat."

    "Doesn't it bother you to choose your life over the life of your...prey?"

    I sniffed. "Nope."

    "Really?"

    "Look, I've met very few people I didn't want to eat. If it helps you, I go for the dangerous prey when I can, the burglars, the guys on their way home to beat their wives."

    Dr. Parrish nodded, tapping his pencil against his notepad and looking at me over his huge nose. "Other vampires hunt at random?" he asked.

    "Most. They choose teenagers on a date, mothers on their way home from work, infants. But you have to eat to live, and one cow now and then isn't going to diminish the herd."

    His eye twitched. Apparently everyone was offended when I called people cows.

    "Will goes for old people," I said, more quietly. "People who have already enjoyed the healthy, 'exciting' years of their lives. At least, that's how he sleeps at night."

    "You couldn't eat animals instead?" he asked.

    "Maybe. But humans are easier to catch."

    He almost laughed. "So the myth that vampires are faster and stronger than humans is true?" Dr. Parrish said.

    "No," I said. "At least, mostly not true. But in a decade or two of hunting, you learn how to fight, how to take one body from a crowd without being noticed, how to be strong and fast and quiet."

    "Your 'healthy and exciting years' last a little longer than ours."

    "Lots of benefits to being a vampire, Dr. Parrish. Long life, fast healing, freedom from acne and shoulder tension and all of mankind's other plagues."

    "I'll keep that in mind. Any downsides to becoming a vampire, Annie?" he asked with a smile.

    "Technology," I said. "We can't keep up with it. But there always seems to be enough new vampires around to keep us from completely sinking into the dark ages. And there are vampires like Will, who keep up amazingly well. The rest of us spend so much of our first five vampire years feeding that we fall out of touch with everything else. And with the way the world moves now, five years is huge. I bought a computer magazine in my sixth year as a vampire and didn't recognize a thing in it. I'm out of touch. I still only use my cell phone for calling people."

    "Will keeps up with technology and throws frequent parties," Dr. Parrish said, as though these two things were incompatible.

    "I always have thought that was weird," I said. "Will just isn't the partying type. Even at his own parties, he ends up talking to every guest one-on-one or in small groups, as though he would prefer meeting them that way but could only lure them in with a party. But maybe that's how he keeps up with it all-bringing in new vampires and drilling them on what's new in the world."

    Dr. Parrish scribbled away in his notebook. After a minute, I realized that even if he was copying down what I said verbatim, he should be finished by now. He was adding observations. I could picture them: More to the story, or vampire delusions seemed detailed, perhaps even rehearsed, or Will sounds fascinating-convince Annie to bring him to meet me. Or maybe nothing like that. Maybe his page was filled with compulsive drawings of tiny people, running along every line toward the edge of the page.

    And at the same time that all this nonsense was spinning through my head, I was also trying to figure out how to convince Dr. Parrish that I was, in fact, a vampire, without biting him. I could bring in his secretary and bite her, but that probably wouldn't go over too well either.

    It wouldn't matter-proving it to him-except that therapy was helping, and I was afraid that, unless he believed me, my counseling would eventually reach the end of its usefulness. He couldn't help me work through my issues unless he accepted that what I was telling him was true. Soon, he would want to know more about Keats, and nothing about me and Keats made sense without that one little detail.

    "How can I prove it to you?" I finally said.

    Dr. Parrish looked up with a frown, setting his pencil and notepad down immediately. We'd been pretending that he believed from the start. I wondered if pretending along with him for so long had hurt my case.

    "How can you prove that you're a vampire?" he asked.

    I nodded.

    "Do you think I don't believe you?" he asked.

    I grinned with a head tilt that said, "I'm not so delusional that I think you'd take me at my word."

    Dr. Parrish, still watching me, said, "Fine. So what do you think would be a good way to prove that you're a vampire?"

    I told him the two options I'd already disregarded, then said, "I'm not sure what else would be sufficient proof."

    "Why don't you think about and ask your friend Will, and maybe you can prove it to me on Thursday. In the meantime, tell me more about Keats."

    I wanted to say, "Not until you believe me," but that wasn't really fair. There were dozens of stories I could tell him before I got to the big, final story, and most of the stories in between didn't require a belief in vampires.

    So I told him about how Keats became a vampire, and about how Will was so drunk on his research that he didn't notice what was happening to the kid in the office next door for eight months.
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