Josh held his breath, knowing exactly what lay ahead of him.
“. . . and you said your ‘parents’ wouldn’t sign it? Then he said for your foster parents to call him . . . . And I was just wondering . . . did your parents, y’know, abandon you when you were young?”
Josh carefully kept his eyes averted. “My parents didn’t abandon me. They’re dead,” he whispered. “They were murdered, years ago.” His murky brown eyes finally met Karli’s brilliant blue ones. A rueful smile played across his lips. “I’ve still to avenge their deaths.”
“I’m sorry,” murmured Karli awkwardly, not quite knowing what to say.
Josh laughed, yet there was not a drop of humour or light-heartedness in it. “Why would you be sorry? It’s not as if you butchered them. You aren’t the one who ripped their beating hearts out or laughed when their bodies crumpled to the ground. You—”
He came to an abrupt halt, uneasy. He kept his gaze to the floor, biting his lip. Karli saw his chest rise and fall in a silent sigh of agony.
She gently touched his cheek with her quivering hand. His eyes, though he willed them not to, focused on her face. “I’m sorry I asked you about it. I didn’t mean to upset you.” She bit her lip, not wanting to hear him speak such gruesome words again. He stood up, unwilling to be charmed back into happiness.
He sighed exasperatedly. “Look, I just—I’m sorry, I’m overreacting,” he interrupted himself, calming down a bit. “It’s just . . . a painful memory. You don’t need to hear it. Just because I caused their deaths doesn’t mean you have to be involved,” he added under his breath.
“Don’t blame yourself, Josh,” Karli whispered, also rising. Then, imagining her own parents being slaughtered like pigs, shivered. She pushed the image to the back of her mind, focusing on the task at hand. “It’s not like you could stop it.”
“You’re wrong. I could have stopped it. I—I could have told them to run, or. . . .”
“Josh, stop it. This is stupid. You didn’t kill them,” she enforced her words, unwilling to believe her boyfriend a dangerous person. He was, after all, Josh the peacekeeper, Josh the pacifist. Now he seemed to be trying to convince her that he intentionally hurt his own parents. But that was impossible . . . wasn’t it? “It couldn’t have been your fault. Even you aren’t able to stop a . . . a crazy, bloodthirsty killer.”
His voice was a monotone. “Crazy. Bloodthirsty. Killer. Perfect words for him—particularly ‘bloodthirsty.’ And I could have stopped him—of course I could have. He . . . .”
“You're not the one to blame, Josh. Not unless you knew he was going to kill them.” Her dark thoughts grew even darker. It could have been possible, really. “But you . . . you didn’t, right?”
His voice was a pained whisper. “What if I did know, Karli? What if I knew exactly what was going to happen, and made little effort to stop it?”
“Josh, I’m not going to believe you're at fault. You’re the superhero, Josh; you always are and always have been.”
“What if I’m not? What if I killed my own parents? . . . What if I killed you?”
“You wouldn’t. You’re the greatest guy in the world.” Oh, good God, Karli thought, what if he is a killer? What if he’s on drugs? “You’re as harmless as a flower.”
“Then I’m a rose, drawing people towards me, then pricking them. Hurting them . . . drawing blood . . . .”
Karli inhaled deeply, and wrenched the malevolent thoughts from her mind. “Enough of this nonsense, Josh. I know it wasn’t your fault. Stop trying to convince yourself it was.”
He steadily walked towards her, closing the space between them. Taking her hands in his, he kissed her softly on the cheek. “I’m so glad you feel that way.”
“It doesn’t matter. So long as you feel that way. It really wasn’t your fault.”Karli pulled closer to Josh as he carefully kissed her jaw. “I did kill them,” he breathed on her skin.
She moaned, annoyed by his persistence, as his lips made contact with her neck. They parted, and his teeth raked her smooth skin.
As she was about to pull away, his teeth pierced her flesh, and she collapsed into his arms, gasping wordlessly in pain. Rich blood, the blood of a young girl, flowed down his throat and he it drank greedily.
Stopping before he killed her, Josh regurgitated the blood back into her, adding his own saliva, which carried the infectious toxins. Then he moved slightly away from her, licking his lips.
His thirst now satisfied, he smiled. He was bitten, and now so was the one he loved the most. The first thousand years for him had been difficult—lonesome, yes—but the next thousand would be happy memories of himself and Karli.
Nothing could have been more perfect.
Text copyright © 2007 by Terri Freedom. All rights reserved.