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38 Thirty-Eigh

    I stopped calling Will.

    Three weeks had gone since I last talked to him, and there was no point in wearing out my cell phone battery listening to the ringing on his end of the line.

    Maybe he was busy. Maybe he was preoccupied. Maybe he was dead. But I couldn't keep going through the possible scenarios in my head. Every time I thought of him, which happened more and more often as days passed, a feeling of slow panic crept into my stomach, and I had to spend twenty minutes assuring myself that he was fine before I calmed down again.

    Instead of scenarios, I thought about Humphrey, and I talked to Humphrey, and I took long walks in the city holding Humphrey or pushing his stroller. I collected his laughs. I bought a disposable camera from a filthy convenience store and took pictures of his wide brown eyes.

    And I tried not to think about what would happen if I had to give Humphrey up and Will never came home.

    I also thought about what else I would say to Dr. Parrish. I'd committed to continue meeting with him until Keats's story ended, but the end seemed closer than I'd thought, just sentences away.

    I continued leaving Humphrey with Saint Namid on therapy days, continued scheduling my weeks around those Mondays and Thursdays, continued filling the time in between with deliberate distractions, continued searching my memory for stories of Keats that would keep me from reaching the end.

    On my next Monday meeting with Dr. Parrish, I found him sitting in his chair with a cheery smile. I wanted to strangle him immediately.

    "Any status reports on our bet?" he asked in a chipper Santa Claus voice.

    "None," I said. My voice sounded more like Exhausted Chain-Smoker Elf's. "I can't make any definitive statement about Will not being in love with me when I can't find the **er."

    Dr. Parrish raised his eyebrows. "'Can't find the **er?' Will disappeared?"

    "Vanished."

    "Do you think he's okay?" he asked.

    I felt my teeth grind against each other. "Sure. People around me disappear all the time. Of course, they are usually dead when that happens, but there aren't that many vampires out there who feed on other vampires. It has about as much appeal as secondhand gum."

    "I only meant-"

    "I don't know if he's okay. I don't know where he is or what he's doing or who he's doing it with. Let's just talk about something else."

    Dr. Parrish nodded, a bobble-head in an earth-tone room that was too small today, too dry.

    "How is Humphrey doing?" he asked.

    I closed my eyes. "Much better."

    "So you're going to find another home for him soon?"

    Do not bite your therapist.

    "Will was supposed to be helping me with that," I said.

    "I can ask around, if you like," Dr. Parrish offered.

    "That would be swell."

    "Annie, you know it's for his own good."

    I took a few breaths, put a hand in my pocket to count my remaining cigarettes, and said, "Keats was never one of those guys who checks out other girls in bars."

    Dr. Parrish raised an eyebrow, then flipped a page in his notebook and started scribbling.

    I took a deep, deep breath.

    The girls I knew in high school were always complaining about guys like that. The worst ones would even point it out: Look at that ass. Check out those melons.

    I had one date like that, in college, but I ended up breaking the guy's arm when he shoved his hand up my skirt later that night, so it was totally worth it.

    But Keats had an almost worshipful respect for higher life forms. I could more easily imagine him laying his coat on a damp bench for a woman to sit on than using the word, "melons."

    He checked me out when we met, but with an expression of awe on his face that told me that both "melons" and "tap that" were far from his mind.

    Keats was sweet. I wouldn't have spent ten years with him if he wasn't.

    Once, we were in a theater watching one of the awful new Star Wars movies, and a guy two rows behind us whistled as Queen Amidala came on screen.

    Several people laughed, but Keats only leaned close to me and said something incredibly geeky about how that guy would never appreciate what a great ruler Amidala was, what amazing sacrifices she made for her people.

    "So you don't think she's hot?" I asked.

    He shrugged one shoulder. "I don't like the weird hair. You're hotter."
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