[.."Dedicated to the memory of the one I love: Christian Whitby, my big black cat.."]
It had been a long time since I’d been this far north. But then, I’d spent so many weekends travelling back to York, it felt almost like coming home when the train ground and humped its way past the white picket fence of the girls’ school, and the pebbles spelling out the name of Rowntree’s on the embankment. A sudden darkness as we pulled into the shelter of the station itself, a great honeybrown Victorian superstructure with a glass roof where the pigeons squatted and crapped with abandon, and I was back.
I almost didn’t recognise Andrew. It had been so long since we’d seen each other – why had we let it go so long? We’d been practically in each other’s pockets at university, and even when we graduated we’d promised to see each other once a month. And we had, for a while. And then things had just got in the way, and once you start to let a friendship slip you can’t pull it back without making an effort, can you? His fault as much as mine, I suppose. It just got too much trouble to write to each other, and then, well, there’s nothing to say, is there? Nothing in common without spending half your life explaining who people are, and what happened in the spaces between. I think the longer you leave it the worse it gets – and then, eventually, you might as well never have known each other. Only your seventeen year old ghosts remain, drunkenly hugging on a rainslick pavement in the dark promising to be friends always.
Almost, but not quite, I didn’t recognise him. As I stepped off the train, stretching my cramped legs and lighting a relieved cigarette, I was searching the press of people for a familiar face. Expecting, I suppose, the counterpart of to my memory’s ghost – the razorsliced hair spiked every which way, the pristine consumptive pallor, the spiderthin legs. For a moment I didn’t associate the stranger in the long black leather coat standing nervously by the chocolate vending machines with that old image – and then, like slipping two layers of a negative over each other, I saw Drew’s face beneath the dark glasses and the veiling of hair. His hair looked better longer. He looked at me for a long moment, eyes impenetrable behind the tinted glasses. Then he raised one leather-clad hand in solemn salute, and his face cracked into a huge grin. “All right, Matt?”
“What’s with the cyber look, mate? Gone all techno-bunny on us? I thought you hated all that electro shit?”
He grinned. “Oh yeah – I wouldn’t listen to it. But what the hell, it looks good. And look at you!”
I ran a hand through my hair – black and red for the time being, till the next time I got bored – and grinned back at him. “You can please yourself when you’re self employed – it’s one of the few perks of the job.”
He shook his head, still grinning. “You’re a fucking freak, boy. I knew you were weird when I met you.”
His coat creaked as he threw his arms round me. “Shit, it’s good to see you, Matt!” He felt the same, same long bones and solid muscle as ever. Same as the last time we’d hugged each other, on this train station three years ago, saying goodbye to our stupid youth. His hand tightened on my back and it occurred to me that he was thinking exactly the same thing. “Same platform,” he said roughly. “Same damn platform. Life’s weird.”
“And then you die?” I hazarded, slipping back into our old way of capping each other’s sentences, and was unprepared for the way he suddenly went stiff as metal and stepped away from me. Hard to tell, but I’d have sworn that behind those damned unfathomable lenses he was staring at me. Hard. “Let’s go and get a drink,” he said shortly, and picking up my bag with a mental shrug I followed him out into the violet dusk.
Sitting in front of a log fire I was beginning to feel nearly human, with Drew beside me screwing up paper and throwing it strategically onto the logs, and a pint of Guinness in front of me. “Bloody hell, it’s not changed a bit in here,” I said. He smiled. “Yeah, you still have to mind your head going down the stairs. And all the bloody rockers still come in on a Friday night. Still….it’s the only pub in town where you can get Black Sabbath on the juke box.”
“And it’s still as dark as the bottom of a sack in here. Jesus, Drew, how can you see in those bloody glasses?”
He raised an eyebrow at me. “Practice.”
So we sat, and drank, and gradually the old link came back. It had stretched, maybe, over the intervening years, but it hadn’t broken. Like we’d always said. Like being kids, like being drunk, when the person you’re with suddenly seems like your best friend in the world and you can’t imagine a time when you won’t know that person and share all your best and worst secrets with them. Only with me and Drew, it was real. Or maybe that was just the Guinness lying thick as treacle on my tongue. I knew, for instance, that he wasn’t telling me everything, but he would, in time. I knew there was some point to the disguising glasses and the dim jumping shadows of our old local, not just the desire for things to stay the same. He looked the same, but he wasn’t. There was a sort of….apartness to him, now. Before, we’d gone looking for girls together, and there was a kind of wordless agreement between us that she – whoever she was – would have to be something pretty bloody special to come between us. Drew was always more romantic than me. Probably better looking, too, at least most of the girls we met seemed to think so; I remember one girl who’d had a try, failed, and settled for me instead, saying that he always looked so lost, it was endearing. I, clearly, always looked like I knew exactly where I was, but Drew – seemed to be looking for something, or someone, apparently. And this evidently worked as a means of seduction, for some reason best known to the female of the species. He fell about laughing when I told him, mind you. But I knew what she meant. There was something idealistic about him, something that was above all the casual clammy gropings in the corners of nightclubs, the phone numbers in lipstick on the back of flyers that always got “mislaid” on the way home. You’d always got the feeling that he really was waiting for the right woman, and all this was just keeping his hand in while he was waiting. What was different now, was that he wasn’t, if you see what I mean – wasn’t waiting any more. Had either met her and lost her – in which case, surely he’d have told me before now? – or something had happened that made him not believe in angels any more. That saddened me. Me, I was an unregenerate cynic and I always had been, but it was always nice to be a romantic by proxy, to watch him throwing himself wholeheartedly into the most unsuitable liaisons, time after time, in the belief that this time it would be different. It was like a light had gone out somewhere, now.
“Come on, then, let’s pick up some chips and a carry-out and go back to mine,” he said suddenly, pulling himself vertical on the edge of the table and tilting the curdy remains of my pint dangerously towards him. I grabbed the glass just before it tipped. “Bloody hell, Drew, steady!” It wasn’t like him to get this drunk. He looked up at me through his hair, grinning, and I realised I was in no position to be making judgments about sobriety myself. “Ha,” he said with satisfaction as I struggled to find the sleeve of my jacket. “You were saying?”
“You’re drunk,” I said solemnly and got up. Slinging my bag over my shoulder unbalanced me and I staggered into him – not the alcohol, I might add, just because the damn thing weighed about half a ton, due to my vanity and desire to show off to my mate out in the sticks causing me to bring half my wardrobe. He pushed me back, clearly amused, and we scuffled amiably for a moment out in the street until Drew lost his footing on the cobbles, overbalanced backwards, and would have gone down with a hell of a crash if I hadn’t caught his arm. As it was he lost the shades and I got my first good look at his face.
Silvery scar tissue sprinkled like glitter across his cheekbone, bursting into glistening seams and runnels across the side of his throat, under the hair. “Fuck,” I said, awed. “What the hell happened to you?”
He shrugged. “‘S okay. Doesn’t hurt. Not any more.”
“Well, yeah, but – shit, Drew, what was it? It looks like you went through a bloody windscreen!”
He replaced the glasses and behind the tinted glass I saw the bright gleam of his eyes. “If I told you, you’d think I was bloody mad.”
Behind us, there was a brief scuffle of noise and his head jerked, as if he wanted to look round but was determined not to. “Cat,” he said, and I couldn’t help but notice the question in his voice. I nodded. “Yeah, probably. I saw a couple on the way down. Probably in the bins.” He glanced at me gratefully, and slung his arm round me. “Want to get those chips on the way home?”
He didn’t want to talk about it. That was fine. I knew Drew too well – I had known him too well, at least, once – and he was no more capable of keeping things to himself than he was of growing wings and flying. I watched him amble into the off-licence with an odd little pang of the heart. He still had that ridiculous loose-jointed aimless gait when he’d been drinking. Even though he must have had, what? six, seven years practice at not walking like a man wearing seven-league boots. Which made me wonder, how much of me was left, now? What did he recognise in me now of the me seven years ago? Shaking my head to clear it – the cloudless cold was making me fuzzy – I followed him into the shop, intent on more beer and chocolate. I had sudden nostalgic cravings for a Picnic bar.
Drew was sloping up and down the aisles humming to himself – probably thought he was doing it under his breath, but it was quite audible, and even recognisable – as Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy”. I crept up behind him and prodded him lightly in the small of the back. “Been a while since I heard that,” I said.
I wasn’t prepared for his reaction. I’ve never seen a human being turn that colour before, and I don’t ever want to see it again – a kind of dirty candle-wax cream, like the cooked fat on meat. I honestly thought he was going to pass out. He gripped my arms so hard I had bruises, even through the tough leather of my jacket. “Do not fucking do that to me,” he said breathlessly, and although he was half joking once he saw it was me, he bloody meant it. “Do not ever do that to me. I thought you were…” He stopped, and again I saw the wet glint of his eyes behind the glasses flick sideways. Checking for movement. I realised with a slow roll of the contents of my stomach that it was a reflexive thing. He didn’t know he was doing it. “Someone else,” he finished lamely, and I wondered for the first time if this was going to be worth it. If he was going to be worth it, best mate or not. Whoever had left those marks on his face was coming back for him. All I could think of was that he must have really pissed someone off, and that I didn’t want to be around when they turned up to finish it.
He bought a bottle of vodka and a packet of cigarettes, and I stood behind him shaking my head. Drew didn’t smoke, didn’t drink like this. What the hell was the matter with him? We seemed to take the weirdest route back to his flat, always passing down the brightest and busiest streets, and if there was a break between shops and houses he’d cross to the farthest side of the road. He wasn’t running, exactly, but he was walking a lot more purposefully; and believe me, compared to that long bouncing stride he’d always had when he’d been drinking – the way he’d been ambling along before, before I’d rattled him in the shop – I could tell the difference. Even as we walked under the long arched shadows of Bootham Bar, down the narrow lane where the shops seemed to lean towards each other blocking out the light from the Minster grounds, he was almost jogging. I could hear his keys jangling in his hand as he tossed them edgily – ready to stab someone? my sense of self-preservation supplied helpfully, and I swallowed hard and touched my own door keys in readiness. Then we were out of the claustrophobic shadows, and his pace slowed as we came level with the shrubs surrounding the Minster.
It was a cold, clear, cloudless night. Everything was clearly defined, leached of colour, shades of ashes. The veiled woman sitting on the bench behind the Minster with her book on her lap was as real as Drew or I were. She turned her head and looked at us – the veil lifted with her breathing in the frozen air, and then her long white hands raised from the cover of the book to the delicate traceries of the lace. Drew didn’t wait to see what esoteric beauty might be revealed – though I, well, I was curious. He grabbed my arm and hauled me after him as he took off at a dead run.
I’m not a fit man – I smoke way too much, for one thing – but we must have covered about half a mile in a minute. I thought I was going to puke, I could hardly breathe, I had a stitch that felt like whalebone under my ribs, and Drew was still hauling me along at this ridiculous pace with no thought for dignity or cardiac arrest. I wrenched my arm free as we sprinted down the side of the railway line, over the bridge and onto the terrace where he lived. “I’m not -” I wheezed, “going another step till you tell me what the fuck is going on.” Standing there with my hands on my knees, panting like a furnace, I didn’t think I presented much of a threat, but Drew looked worse. He looked ill. In addition to being about as unfit as I was, he was managed to combine sweaty and hot with a greyish pallor – an effect that kind of spoke of plague victim. “Get inside,” he croaked. “Now.”
“Fucking hell, Drew, I don’t think I can walk another step, what’s the rush?”
“Now,” he repeated, with an insistence that persuaded me. Whatever it was – if it was there – he believed in it, and out here alone on the deserted street with the wind rustling in the bushes on the railway embankment, that was good enough for me.
On the landing leading to his flat I risked a look out of the window, but the street was as bare and empty as when we’d stood in it. Not so much as a wandering cat to spoil the stillness. It was almost weird. There wasn’t even a breath of air to move the bushes – so what had been rustling there? The hairs crept slowly upright on the back of my neck, and when Drew bolted the door of the bedsit behind us – not once, not twice, but three times – I was nothing short of bloody relieved. Still breathless, I went to hang my coat on the back of the door, and paused at the big cheap crucifix slung over the coathook. “Turned Catholic, Drew?” I said, lifting the flimsy plastic with a finger. He winced, and the scars on his face, suddenly clear in the bright illumination of normality, rippled. “No. But she is.” He pulled the blinds down and I realised with that same feeling of unreality that he’d wound rosary beads round the curtain pole. “Who is?” I said, in hallucinogenic curiosity. Either he’d gone bloody mad, or I had.
He poured himself a glass of vodka – a pint glass, half filled – and his hands were shaking so hard the bottle chattered along the rim of the glass. Then he sat down, dropped the sunglasses on the chair beside him, and lit a cigarette. “You’ve seen her, I think,” he said calmly. “By the Minster? I think that was Serafine. I wasn’t going to stay to find out. Not till I’d got you safe inside.”
“Bollocks, Drew! That was some bloody girl off the ghost tour, dressed up!”
“At eleven o’clock at night? Sat by herself? Reading a book? Well, tell me this, then. What light, exactly, was she using to read by?”
“Shit,” I said, after a pause. “She’s stalking you? What – is she mad, what?”
He actually laughed. “Mad? Oh, God, no, Serafine’s not mad. She’s very attached to me, actually, in her fashion. She’s just got a funny way of showing it.” He took his shirt off and laid it over the chair arm, and I shivered in sympathy. God, he was thin. But it wasn’t the rash of goosepimples fluttering across his bony white chest that made me turn my face away – although I didn’t know how anyone could be that malnourished and not be in hospital – it was the puckered purple gouges across his ribs, terminating in….a crater where his left nipple had been. It looked as though someone had tried to tear his heart out with their bare hands. He smiled faintly, as if reading my mind. “They did,” he said wryly. “She did. I told you she had a funny way of showing it.”
“Fucking hell,” I said softly. “She’s dangerous, mate. What did the police say?”
For a long moment he looked at me, and the scars down the side of his face fluttered to their own internal music. Then he started to giggle. I stared back at him in disbelief, but he couldn’t stop laughing. Tears were actually streaming down his cheeks. “Oh, God, Matt, I forgot…. You think she’s alive, don’t you?”
“Well, I fervently bloody hope so,” I snapped, offended. “If she isn’t you’re going to have a hell of a lot of explaining to do.”
“Oh, she isn’t.” He’d stopped laughing as if a switch had been flicked, and lit another cigarette from the butt of the last one, took another unflinching swallow of the neat vodka – his hands weren’t shaking nearly as much now – and sat back. “One of the many things I don’t know about her – if she ever was alive. She – ”
“Serafine,” I guessed, and he gestured sharply. “Don’t say that. Don’t call her by name. Not again. It might…invite her. I owe her – something. Something I promised her I’d give her…I just haven’t decided yet whether I want her to have it yet.” His hand flickered against his leg. “I’m thinking about it. I don’t know. I just don’t want her coming in here – spoiling it – before I’ve made my mind up. So just don’t say it, okay? Don’t say her name. She will come. I know her, as soon as you say it….”
I started to laugh. “Bloody hell, Matt, you make her sound like a vampire!”
“Exactly like a vampire. She is a fucking vampire, Matt! Did I not tell you that?” It suddenly occurred to me, looking at him, just how tired Drew was. How fragile and weary and hurt. He grinned at me and I couldn’t help peering at his teeth, even though the rational part of me knew most of this was – had to be – imagination. Not that I thought he was mad, or anything, but….well, yeah,I thought he was mad. His teeth looked perfectly normal. “Get some sleep, Drew,” I said.
He laughed again. “Over my dead body. Literally, I suspect.”
“I’ll keep an eye out for you,” I said. He needed some rest, that was about the limit of my prescriptive powers.
“And what will you do if she comes in?” he said.
“If she’s capable of getting through a door that’s locked with as many bolts as that one, mate, I’ll scream, shit myself and run. Failing that, I’ll sit here with the biggest kitchen knife you’ve got, if it makes you feel any better, and hope to God she can’t walk through walls.”
The corner of his mouth twitched, but he got up obediently. His back was just as runnelled, the flesh torn into silvery ridges like melted wax. A pattern I recognised, though. I’d had marks like that down my back before now. Difference was, I’d been proud of having made the girl under me claw into my flesh like that – and the borderline between pleasure and pain was fine, skin on skin. I didn’t comment on that. “She probably can,” he said, over his shoulder. “But thanks anyway.”
“Want to tell me about it?”
I hated the way the scars moved over his muscles, a weird shimmering effect like a heat haze when he shrugged. “If you want to hear it.”
“Yeah, okay.” Even though I thought the whole thing was some fucked-up product of Drew’s imagination – drugs, alcohol, just lost the plot, whatever – he’d spooked me enough that I went into the kitchen and picked up the biggest wickedest-looking bread knife I could find. And he had a bloody armoury in there.
He was lying on the bed, still half dressed, when I came back. His eyes were closed and in the dim light of the lamp beside him, shaded with a silk scarf, I thought he was asleep. I pulled the chair beside the bed away to sit under the window. “I wouldn’t,” he said, without looking at me. “Not that near the window. It wouldn’t give you….much time to move.”
“Shit, man, you really are worried, aren’t you?”
“Fucking terrified,” he said calmly, and as I turned in the direction of his gaze I clocked the six-foot backsword hanging on the wall just behind my head. A cold shiver ran down my spine. He meant it. That thing had a wicked edge, the soft light from the lamp gleaming like iced water down the blade. “I’m damned if I’m going to just let her walk in and take what she wants without a fight. It started out – she just wanted it because it was mine, and because she could, and because – it would prove something if I gave it up. I think she thinks of – this thing – as more important than it is.”
“Yeah? What is it, that’s so important?”
He shrugged. “Nothing, really. Not that’d be any use to her. Like I say, she wants it for wanting’s sake. It’s just something that’s got sentimental value to me, and she wants it because it doesn’t include her. She’s a bit possessive like that.” He grinned ruefully at me. “I think it’s like a – symbol, whatever. If I give it to her, it’s like me saying I’m ready for commitment, you know? Ready to give everything up and settle down…” He sat up. “Oh, hell, take that thing off the wall behind you and give it here. It’s no bloody use to you, that’s for sure! I want to be ready – if she comes.”
I felt the heft of the sword drag at my wrists as I took it down. Shit. No pretty tin copy, then. “Jesus, Drew! Where did you get that thing?”
“Second hand shop down near Sainsbury’s.” The sleepy matter-of-factness in his voice was more unnerving than any hysteria. “Solid steel. It’s a replica, and I had to have it sharpened, obviously, but it holds a decent edge….” He sighed and shifted slightly on the pillow, and I covered him with the duvet, making to turn the light off. “Leave it on,” he said. “I can sleep okay with it on. It’s you I’m worried about.”
“Talk,” I said. He talked.
It must have been about five years back, he said. He’d been alone, and feeling it – not for the first time since we’d started to lose touch, feeling it very much. He’d gone to the Goth Weekend in Whitby, knowing damn well he’d spend the weekend by himself (I would have come if you’d asked me, I thought, offended – although I probably wouldn’t, I’d have made some excuse like I’m busy that weekend, it’s a long way, why don’t you come down to London? And meaning, the Goth Weekend’s for kids and fashion victims, and serious supporters of the scene like myself don’t show ourselves up as a travelling freakshow, thank you so much. Not even for our friends.) And there he’d been, standing at the bar in the foyer surrounded by the hum of conversation – of city cliques that he wasn’t part of, of who’s had who and who’s worn what in the intervening twelve months, of annual friendships revisited – not even a fashionable loner. He’d spent three years at university with me with people thinking he was weird, and spectacular, and different. Here, with his shoulder-length brown hair and his biker jacket, he was no big deal. Not even worth a second look, amongst the monochrome peacocks. And he hadn’t known quite what to do with that sudden knowledge.
And there she’d been, when he looked out of one of the big windows overlooking the sea – walking in the white scum at the edge of the waves, with the prints of her bare white feet washed invisible behind her. Tall and very straight in a tightly-corseted silver-blue lace dress, with the folds of the skirt dipping black in the water as they blew tight against her legs. White feet and white hands against the deep iridescent steel of the lace, and a heavy blue lace veil covering her face. Alone and fey and wild she looked – not the way some of the girls looked, as if they wanted everyone to notice how alone and fey and wild they were, but like a gathering storm, a force of Nature. The wind blew her veil against her face for an instant, and he saw the clean sharp lines of her profile.
He’d walked down the steps to the edge of the sand, to the unromantic stench of rotting seaweed and the debris of the tide. Her name was Serafine. Through the veil he saw the pearl pallor of her skin, and the gleam of bright eyes and painted bloody lips. She gave him her hand, long and cool and creamy, and he’d tasted the salt of skin and sea-spray when he kissed it. And that, for Drew, was that. Swept away by the irresistible romance of the moment, he’d spent the rest of the weekend at her side. He’d thought the partial transparency of the lace over her features was a lovely affectation, a glamour she put on to disguise the woman she was for the rest of the year. By the Sunday night they’d exchanged addresses and Drew was in over his head.
They wrote to each other for the best part of twelve months, letters that became increasingly ardent and possessive – despite, at this point, neither of them having laid a hand on each other. he asked her – begged her, at times – to move down to York to be with him. She’d agreed, on condition that he made her some commitment. Ever and always, she’d said, or nothing. He promised. She’d been on the next train.
Everyone had been looking at her as she’d stepped down onto the platform, neat and elegant in her black velvet and little veiled pillbox hat, and he thought his heart would burst with happiness as he took her warm gloved hand. The pale oval of her face was dimly visible through the delicate net, and he’d finally dared to put his hand under the flimsy fabric and touch her lips. She’d kissed his fingertips, and his fingers came away red. Lipstick, she’d said, blotting the scarlet with a handkerchief. Always, he’d said again, with tears stabbing his eyes like needles. And then he’d taken her home.
Under the black velvet her skin had been as warm and white as cream, and her nakedness was as lush as he’d imagined. They’d made love across her scattered skirts, before they’d even had chance to close the door of the flat behind them. He hadn’t thought it strange, in the heat of the moment, that she was still wearing the veil – didn’t occur to him, or, knowing Drew, he found the eccentricity exciting. It was only afterwards, when she lay in his arms and the lace began to imprint itself into his skin, that he thought to lift it away from the face of the woman he loved.
There was a long silence from the bed at this point in the story, and I thought he’d maybe fallen asleep. “And?” I prompted.
He shrugged. “And, what?”
“What happened?” I said.
“She didn’t appreciate the gesture,” he said dryly, indicating the scars.
She’d twisted out of his arms, gouging at his eyes with her fingernails, spitting and scrabbling. Her spittle burned. Frozen cold, and burning – like dry ice. He felt blood running from cheek and throat and tried to pin her down to the bed again – to stop her from hurting herself, he said, as she tore at her own flesh as impartially as his, saying her name over and over again while she convulsed screaming and cursing under him. “Don’t you look at me, don’t you dare to look at me,” she kept saying, trying to hide her face under the folds of velvet still warm and creased from the imprint of their bodies. And he couldn’t understand why she was saying this, why she didn’t want him to see her face, he loved her, didn’t he? And he’d caught hold of her chin in his torn hands, intending to force her to meet his eyes. Instead she’d sunk her teeth into the web of skin between thumb and forefinger, snarling like an animal. “You said always,” she’d said, sobbing against his bleeding hands – hot and wet and icy by turns, breath and blood and spit. Salivating like a rabid animal with his hand between her teeth. “You said always, now fucking well prove it!”
He’d held her against his chest, stroking her knotted hair, telling her of course he meant it. Always and ever. And eventually she’d calmed down, breath coming in little hitches, and she’d looked up at him with his blood still scarlet on her lips and staining her teeth and he’d thought what incredibly long teeth she had, with the punctures in his hand still welling up and dribbling down onto the sheets, and… He’d pushed her back onto the bed, and held her shoulders gently against the mattress. She kept her eyes fixed on his face as they made love again – gently, this time, for the sake of Drew’s hand and Serafine’s torn breasts – and when she’d buried her face in the curve of his neck and bit down hard – well…..he hadn’t cared. He’d bitten her straight back. She’d screamed so hard in his ear he thought he’d gone deaf, and ripped his back open down the length of his spine. He’d never known a woman like her. He’d lay there afterwards gasping with his hair sticking to the sweat and blood drying on both their skins, and she’d suddenly sat bolt upright, forced him over backwards and tried to slam her hand through his breastbone. Had torn away a handful of flesh and her nails were scratching to get through bone before he’d forced her away. He’d broken her fingers. He’d felt them snap like sticks when he bent them backwards. Didn’t seem to bother her. “I want your heart,” she’d said calmly in his ear, her breath heavy as a cat’s with the scent of old blood. “And I will have it.”
“You already have it,” he’d said, with what seemed remarkable presence of mind under the circumstances. “You don’t have to hold it to prove it.”
“You still love me? Me?” And she’d laughed bitterly. “I think not.”
“Let me prove it, then,” he’d said. And intrigued, she’d released him.
I was just as intrigued. Intrigued, and revolted. “Love?” I said disbelievingly.
Drew shrugged, sitting up in bed. “Yes, love. Is that so weird? She’s just a girl, even
if she’s – ”
“A sadistic bitch?” I suggested. “She’s a fucking freak, Matt, she’s dragging you into whatever weird S&M shit she’s into – ”
“Yeah, I wish.” He ran his hands through his hair, until it stood out in wild tangles round his face. “Wish it was that easy, Drew. I know exactly what she is. I like what she is.” He grinned suddenly, and the light beside him made his face sharply wolfish. “Come on, you remember, I was always looking for something different, and she’s definitely that. It’s funny….meeting up with you again….it’s kind of made my mind up. I do love her, you know. I know you probably think we’re both bloody mental, but I suppose we deserve each other. I reckon I’ll give her what she wants. It’s not that big a deal.” He eyed me thoughtfully. “It’s not like I’d have to give it up altogether.”
“I thought you- ” I was starting to feel nervous -”oh, shit, I think I’m missing something here. You are scared of her, right?”
He nodded. “But not for myself. I’m scared for you.”
“Me?” I twitched the curtains aside, suddenly afraid of what might be in the street outside. Nothing. Nothing, but a fluttering scrap of flimsy black cloth, impaled on the hedge, flickering in a rising wind.
Drew’s eyes were sad and solemn on my face. “She won’t hurt me. I know that. It’s not being hurt I’m afraid of. God, she can’t do anything else to me, can she?”
“Then what,” I said slowly, “are you afraid of?”
“The part of my past she wants me to give her.” He met my eyes squarely. “I think you know what she wants.”
I wished to God I hadn’t given him the bloody sword now. Anything. I’d brought the bread knife in here but it was on the table at the side of the bed and best friend or no best friend I wasn’t getting within the razor edge of that sword. “That would be pretty dumb, Drew. How do you know I haven’t told anyone I’m here this weekend? They’ll come looking for me, if I don’t come back.”
He frowned. “Matt, I think you’re missing the point. I intend you to come back. You just might be a little different, that’s all.” He walked over to the door and slipped the crucifix free. “Oh – this? Bothers Serafine. Me, I’m an atheist. You know that. Doesn’t bother me. I wanted to make sure she didn’t…spoil things. She can be a little…impulsive.”
I heard a step on the stairs outside. “I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, Matt. I don’t want her to hurt you, and if you fight me, she will.” The springs creaked as he got off the bed, but I didn’t see him move. I just caught a sudden scent of old blood, and the light spark off the razor edge of the blade of the sword he carried as he laid it against my throat. “We’ve been friends for too long to argue over this. This is my test. Serafine wants me to hurt you. She doesn’t want any of my past haunting her. Once you’re out of the way, there’s no one – nothing – but me and her. Always. And I’m happy to do turn you over to her, if that’s how you want it. But I have a choice. I can hurt you, badly, and leave it at that. Or I can hurt you and we can carry on being friends.” He leant on the blade a little harder, and I felt the chill metal start to press into my windpipe. “Forever.”
“You’d do that – for her?”
I felt him nod – felt the blade scrape up and down my throat as I swallowed. “I’d do that for you, too.” There was a thin warm trickle of blood seeping into my collar. “It’s up to you, Matt. But you’ve not got long to decide.”
The door handle started to turn.
(c) Melanie Logue, All Rights Reserved
Tags: 'All Hail the Queen of Air and Darkness', 'Darkangel'
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