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46 Forty-Six

    It was three days before I went back to my apartment. Will ignored his cell phone, allowing the messages to continue to pile up, and he stayed with me, chatting about every light and cheery topic he could invent. If I'd been human, I would've eaten gallons of ice cream and cried for three days, but neither of those were options for me.

    I had to get out of his apartment on the third day to hunt, and since I had to move from my perpetual spot on the couch anyway, I thought it might be a good time to go back to my apartment, take a bath, and try to remember what I did with my free time before Humphrey.

    I ate a little, all I could stomach, and left a young truck driver unconscious but very alive behind a highway truck stop with a neon Budweiser sign in the window and a state lottery advertisement on the door.

    I expected to go back to my apartment and be slammed with the absence of all the baby things. I expected to shut my eyes before I got too far inside and feel my way to the bathtub.

    But the absence wasn't even the first thing I noticed.

    Will had decorated.

    I knew it had been foolish to give him my key, but I really didn't think he would take advantage of my fragile state to redo the apartment. There was art all over the walls, some of it actually good. There were end tables and a coffee table, even a dining room table. He'd put up curtains and brought in bookcases and filled them with books and knickknacks.

    And in the midst of it all, there sat the hideous brown couch, and Will waited, sprawled over it and enjoying my wordlessness.

    Finally, I managed, "Did you sublet my apartment?"

    "If I say yes, will you move in with me?"

    I raised my eyebrows at him.

    "I just spruced up the place a little," he said. "Now it looks like someone actually lives here. And really tell me if you don't like the paintings. I can get you different ones."

    "Will, I just...thank you. I really was fine with it the way it was before."

    "I wasn't. If I'm going to hang out here, something had to change."

    "Thank you," I said again.

    I walked through every room.

    Even the bedroom was different, everything a lovely dark green that seemed cozy to me. I went to the nightstand and put my hand on the books he'd left there.

    Jhumpa Lahiri's complete works.

    "I heard you liked her," Will said from the doorway.

    I turned to face him, but as I did, my eye found the little cupped indentation in the carpet that showed where Humphrey's crib had stood. The new nightstand covered two of the marks, and the bed blocked my view of the third, but the fourth was there, a ghost from a borrowed life.

    He followed my eyes, then looked back at me. I didn't believe he really understood, not in the way I wanted someone to understand, but that was okay.

    He took a step closer and put an arm around my shoulders.

    "Come to St. Petersburg with me," he said, staring down into my eyes.

    "Cancun is sunnier," I said, not sure what he meant.

    "Not a big draw for a vampire," he said, then explained, "I found someone in St. Petersburg who has been doing research similar to mine. We've been emailing for a few weeks, but we thought it would be better to meet and compare notes."

    Will had shown me his notes. He had two stacks of legal pads, each as tall as I was, with only a fraction of the information recorded in his computer. He didn't need a Russian vacation; he needed a secretary.

    "I'm leaving tomorrow," he added.

    "How long will you be gone?" I asked.

    "A couple of months," he said, and the question was still there in his voice, and the arm that kept me close to him told me that he wanted me with him.

    My eyes flicked again to the crib marks in the carpet.

    "Annie," he said, his voice gentle. "Do you want to come with me?"

    "I don't think so," I said.

    He drew his arm tight and hugged me. I closed my eyes against his chest.

    When he let me go, I walked him to the door.

    "Thank you," I said again. "The apartment looks amazing."

    Will opened the door and turned to me. "You'll be here when I get back?"

    "Of course," I said.

    He took my hand for a moment, then I watched him until he disappeared down the stairwell.

    I stood, one foot inside the door, one outside, thinking, I don't think so, again and again, until I knew it was a lie. I did think so.

    I looked back over my shoulder at my newly decorated apartment, an apartment where I could be comfortable, where I could wait for Will to come home from Russia, so we could take things slowly instead of impulsively running off together.

    Or...or it was a place to come home to after a long journey.

    I closed the door and ran after him.

    The End
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