39 Thirty-Nine

    Rain bulleted down on me when I left Dr. Parrish's office, not a pleasant warm rain, but a rain that was probably ice when it left its cloud home. I ran for the covered benches at the bus stop and had to crowd into the little cubicle with a dozen other people. A man in a bright yellow rain slicker got a little too cozy with me, so I ended up standing in the cold rain to avoid contact with his pelvis.

    The bus was just as crowded of course, and even though Mr. Friendly Pelvis didn't follow me into it, I was still jostled around inside, tossed against people as the bus driver swerved his drunken route through the city.

    I ran the blocks from the bus stop to my apartment building and let out a giant sigh of joy when I saw my front door.

    Namid sat with Humphrey on the floor, no toys in sight.

    I closed the door behind me, and Namid's head jerked around, and she examined me.

    I took another look at their tableau. No toys. No flash cards. No puppets.

    Just Saint Namid sitting with Humphrey as I dripped rainwater onto the carpet.

    He looked up at me and babbled.

    "Hi," I said to him, picking him up but holding him away from my soaked clothes.

    Namid took him out of my hands. "He's been yawning," she said. "I think I'll go put him in his crib."

    "If you don't mind watching him for a few more minutes, I should change clothes."

    She nodded on her way to the bedroom.

    I took a quick, steaming, beautiful shower and put on the pajamas I'd left on the bathroom floor a few hours before.

    I didn't hear anything when I left the bathroom. I looked at the closed bedroom door, then I went to the kitchen and opened the freezer. One of the blood bags had been shoved underneath the others. I pushed the others aside and pulled it out of the freezer. Someone had opened and clumsily resealed it. Blood was partially frozen around the rim of the opening.

    "Sorry, Saint Namid," I said, and turned around.

    She left the bedroom, closing the door softly behind her as though she believed Humphrey was already asleep.

    She saw me holding the blood bag, and the nervousness that had surrounded her like a halo from the moment I came home pervaded the whole room now.

    "I knew there was something weird about you," she said, her voice trembling. "I couldn't put my finger on it at first. But there were so many bizarre things. You live in an empty apartment. There's nothing in your kitchen but a few random food items that never change because you never eat them or buy more. There's nothing in the trash, ever, except baby things and maybe an empty tube of lip gloss or a broken shoe string. No food containers, no drink containers. You don't seem to have a job unless it's a twice or three times a week job that you can do fast. I thought you might be a prostitute at first, but you always look exactly the same when you come home, not a button or hair changed. You even smell the same, which is like nothing. You don't smell like anything except bubble bath."

    She took a breath, and I realized I'd been clumsy.

    Namid went to the living room and sat on the couch to put on her shoes.

    "And you always leave looking stretched-thin and like you need a fix, and you come back looking full and cheerful and years younger. I thought you might be a drug addict next, but I've never seen track marks and you don't seem to have nose problems like a snorter would, and you seem generally healthy." She stood and started moving toward the door.

    I moved an inch closer to her, not because I doubted that I could catch her before she reached the hallway, but because I was growing eager for her to get to the point.

    "Tell me what you decided, Namid," I said, feeling my words draw out like a predatorial hiss. "What am I?"

    "You're a monster," she whispered.

    I whipped toward her and broke her neck before she'd even reached for the doorknob.

    I used her blood to fill more Zip-lock bags.

    So unnecessary, I thought, slamming my fist into her chest to pump her still heart a few final times, to harvest as much blood as I could.

    If I'd known how to make someone into a vampire, if it wasn't some **ing national secret, Namid could've lived. She couldn't have been Humphrey's babysitter anymore, not a new vampire who didn't know how to handle herself yet, but she could've lived, gone on to teach special-needs students and hunt the kids who made fun of them. Namid would've had a good time with that, I think.

    I pushed the bedroom door open a crack, to see if Humphrey was asleep. He was. I opened the door the rest of the way to pull his sock back on and to check that crazy Namid hadn't done anything to him.

    Humphrey made a protesting sound. I kissed his forehead and returned to the living room.

    Namid's driver's license said she lived on Wright Street. She had only two keys in her pocket: a post office box key and an apartment key, which meant she hadn't driven here.

    I picked her up, carried her out into the hallway, and locked the door, hoping that Humphrey wouldn't wake up while I was gone.

    I tossed one of Namid's arms over my shoulder and carried her Weekend at Bernie's-style.

    "No more vodka for you, honey," I said, as I pulled her into a taxi with me.

    "Don't let her puke on the seat," the driver grouched.

    "Chariot Street," I replied, two blocks beyond Namid's Wright Street apartment.

    The driver broke thirty laws getting us there and screeched to a stop at the corner. I paid him, then dragged Namid out.

    I took her twelve blocks back the way we came, talking to her about the importance of attending every A. A. meeting and consoling her about losing her job and not getting that modeling gig she'd really had her heart set on.

    Namid's head hung down, her hair covering her face.

    The people in the street would only remember a drunk girl with a nice friend.

    I took her behind Ace's Bar and left her beside the dumpster.

    I took the cash from her pocket before I lit her on fire.

    "Sorry, Namid," I said silently. I wanted to stand and watch her burn, to say a few words over the ashes when it was finished, but I had to walk away, had to get clear of the area before someone noticed the smoke.

    In two or three days, someone would call, asking if Namid had shown up to babysit for me that night. I would tell them, yes, she was here. Namid is always so responsible. But she rushed right out of the house when I got home. The exact time...hm, let me see. Namid's okay, isn't she? You can't find her? God, I hope she turns up soon. She said something about meeting someone at a bar, which I thought was strange because she never seemed like the bar-type, you know? Oh, please let me know if I can help in any way. Namid is a lovely girl. An angel, really. Could you send someone else during her usual time? Yes, I'm afraid I have an appointment I really can't miss. Please tell Namid to call me and let me know she's okay when you find her.

    And I would be more careful next time.

    I took a taxi home and ran upstairs.

    Humphrey lay just where I'd left him. I sat on my bed and stared into his crib for an hour, trying to communicate to his sleeping brain that I was sorry for killing his babysitter, sorry that there was no stability in his life whatsoever, sorry that his life would never be stable so long as I was his surrogate mother, sorry that I was having such a hard time deciding to let him go.
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