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35 Thirty-Five

    "Do you have another story for me today?" Dr. Parrish asked on Thursday.

    "I'm not sure."

    "Not sure? I'll take any old tale, Annie. What happened when you and Keats first moved in together? Were you ever self-conscious hunting around him? Or something about Will. Were you friends with any of Will's girlfriends? What do the girlfriends think of the way he always drops everything and, superhero-like, comes to your aid?"

    "Well, I've had another fight on my mind," I said.

    "Fist fight or argument?"

    "Argument. Keats and I. Not even a bad one, but I've been thinking about it often, partly because it's never made a lot of sense to me."

    "And you want me to make sense of it," Dr. Parrish said.

    "That's what you do for a living, right?" I asked.

    "No. You must have me confused with a translator or a code-breaker or an algebra professor."

    I stared at him. "You were a lot less snotty before you believed I was a vampire. Do you paint yourself with honey in bear territory?"

    "Your metaphor implies that you find snottiness appetizing. Interesting."

    "Acerbity, irony, wit...yes. Snottiness, not so much. It just makes me want to bite you."

    "Tell me about your argument," Dr. Parrish said, grinning.

    I did.

    Keats refused to argue about anything at first. I provoked him weekly that first year, trying to stomp out that passivity. Keats walked out, more often than not, usually spending a day or two on Will's couch before coming home with apologies.

    I don't know why I was so determined not to let him be a doormat. I mean, women dream

    about that, right? A guy who tries to do everything right and would rather walk out than argue. It's not that I wanted to argue with him. But I did want him to stick up for himself. I didn't want to be able to take advantage of him. Maybe I didn't want anyone else to be able to either. Or maybe that's just what I tell myself now that he's not around to argue with me.

    My project took more than a year. Sometime between our first year together and our second, Keats would at least shout back a few jibes before leaving to go sleep on Will's couch.

    One morning during that second year, Keats and I began arguing about what we argued about best and most often: hunting.

    "I'm fine," Keats said, turning away as though the conversation were over.

    "No, you'll be fine once you're no longer starving. We've still got half an hour before the sun even starts to rise. Let's go," I cajoled, pulling on my shoes.

    Keats yawned. "Too tired. I'll go tonight."

    "Damn it, you always do this."

    "I'm not doing anything," he said, a snap in his voice. Nothing snappier than a thirsty vampire. "I just want to go to bed."

    "Food first, then sleep. We've gotten into a rhythm, you jackass. Now, don't make me eat alone," I said.

    "God, Annie, you're not my mother. Just go. I'll see you when you get back."

    I thought about slapping him, about trying to drag him out the door, but my strength matched Keats's-it didn't surpass it. We would end up, as we always ended up, in a standstill that was only broken when one of us started caressing the other's private parts.

    But then it would be hours before either of us ate, and I was starving, even if the jackass

    claimed he wasn't.

    "Forget it," I said. "We have this argument so often that I could jab a **ing pencil into my ears and still not miss anything."

    "Just leave me alone, okay?" he spat.

    "You got it, Keats. You know, I just won't come home. I'll be the one sleeping on Will's couch for once."

    A clumsy, giant-footed silence crashed through the house. I finished tying my shoes and looked up. Keats stared at a blank spot on the wall.

    "You can, you know," he said, his voice suddenly a whisper.

    "Can what?" I shouted.

    "Move in with Will. He wouldn't mind, and I wouldn't do anything to-"

    "You're such a **ing moron, I don't even want to talk to you."

    I returned in an hour, almost giddy in fullness, bearing a bag of blood for Keats. I would entice him to drink it later so I didn't have to deal with his crabbiness.

    "So, what do you think?" I asked Dr. Parrish

    "What do you mean?" he asked.

    "Well, I told you that our argument never made much sense to me. I mean, the start of it was clear enough, but by the end, I didn't know what we were arguing about or why we weren't arguing anymore." I felt stupid, now that I'd told him. I didn't know how to explain that it couldn't possibly mean what it sounded like it meant.

    Dr. Parrish scribbled something in his notes, then looked up at me. "Annie, you told me once that Keats said...." He flipped a few pages in his notebook. "If it were possible to give a vampire an organ transplant, Will could have all of his."

    "What is that supposed to mean?"

    Dr. Parrish gave me his best pro-psychologist expression and said, "What do you think it means?"

    It meant that as much as Keats loved me, he loved Will more.

    ���It means," I said, "that Keats had a secret ambition to be a surgeon."

    "Annie," he said, shaking his head at me like a scolding parent.

    "It means that I need to spend some time at the batting cages," I said.

    "What?"

    "Working out aggression, relieving stress. Hunting is good for that, but there's also something special about whacking something that can't whack back, you know?"

    Dr. Parrish stared at me, and I thought: I've finally made him speechless. Now my life is complete.

    "Time's up," I told him, standing and heading for the door.

    "See you next week, Annie?" he said, his forehead crinkling at me.

    "I don't know. Maybe."

    He was saying something else as I walked out, but I didn't hear.
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