Anita hasn’t seen much of her employees over the past few days, but that’s not entirely uncommon when they’re working a case. One night, she’s at the office well into the night, as lately the house has seemed very empty and lonely. She finds herself thinking about Sandra and about Kat, and there’s an emptiness she can’t seem to shake. That’s when she hears a commotion out in the stacks. It starts with a low mumbling and arguing that she can’t make out through the walls. Then she hears a gruff, female voice, loudly say, “I said go away. I want to be left alone!”
A male voice, persistent, answers, still to quiet for her to hear. Then the female voice loudly says, “No, wait. I’m hungry!” Then there’s a scream and the whoosh of Essence that indicates the non-violence spell has triggered. It occurs to her that the voice she heard was somehow familiar. Then she hears screams from outside. Heading to the window in the turret that looks over Forbes, she sees Lorelei across the street, red-orange eyes and fangs, cornering a young girl who is clearly terrified. Lorelei looks completely out of control, and Amara is nowhere to be seen.
Anita tears ass downstairs and outside. Putting her head down and her shoulder forward, she runs full tilt into Lorelei, knocking her back, and positions herself between her and the young girl, to whom she says, “Go inside, now,” pointing at the Hive.
Facing Lorelei, she says, “Hi sweetheart. Good to see you again…but this is still my town, and I can’t let you just go around eating folks. If you’re hungry, I can get you some blood. And then we can figure this out.”
Even as Anita says that it occurs to her how foolish a statement it was. Lorelei is a kindred, which means she feeds on essence, not blood. Dead blood won’t do her any good. You can even feel the essence being drawn from the girl as she runs (then staggers) inside, the flow only cutting off when she gets through the doors of the Hive.
Lorelei turns, blood tears streaking her cheeks, and looks at you as if she’s never seen you before. Then, gradually, a spark of recognition returns and she says, “Anita? Is that you? Of course it is. I came to see you.”
She falls to her knees and descends into hysterics. “I’m so hungry, Anita. So cold. And so alone. Everyone’s left me again. I don’t know what to do. Help me…please, help me.” She looks around wildly, eyes wide, and says, “Where’s Kat? She’s not going to kill me, is she?”
“Oh, honey,” Anita’s eyes fill with water despite herself. “There’s a lot we have to catch you up on. No, she’s not going to kill you, and neither am I. Come on inside.” She gestures to the door to the Hive.
She pulls back. “No, no, no…can’t go in. Too many people. I’ll hurt someone. I need…I just need to get out of here!”
“It’s just us, sweetheart. Well, us and that girl, but I’ll tell her to leave. Plus there’s a spell…you can’t hurt anyone in there.” She searches her face. “Where is Amara?”
She very tentatively lets Anita guide her into the building and up the turrent stairs to Anita’s office.
“I…I don’t know,” she says. “She was teaching me about the rules, how things work, how to feed and use my abilities. Then, one night I woke up and she was just…gone. I couldn’t even feel her. I waited for three nights, and she never came back. I went looking for her but I had no idea where to start. So I went looking for Sandra. That was a bad idea.”
Her face twists in bitterness. “She has a boyfriend, Anita! She’s met some stupid hick boy in some town in New Mexico. I came back from the dead for her, and she’s seeing some long-haired hillbilly. God, I wanted to kill him. It would’ve been so easy.” The tears are flowing again. “Sandra wouldn’t let it happen. I left. I had nowhere else to go, so I…I came here. I came home. Except I don’t have a home anymore, do I? I can’t go to my parents. They think I’m dead. Where’s Carrie, and Kat? Everything is changed. Why did everything change?”
Anita cautiously smooths Lorelei’s hair away from her face. “This will always be your home, sweetheart. We will talk to your parents.” Her brow furrows. "Amara would not have just left you like that. Something must be wrong. And I am sure that whatever you saw with Sandra…it must have been a big misunderstanding. She never stopped loving you, Lorelei. " She pauses. “But first things first…we need to get you feeling better. How have you been feeding?”
She looks apprehensive. “I shouldn’t say. You won’t like it. I mean, there’s blood, obviously, but the other ways…”
“There’s so many things about this entire situation that I don’t like, but that’s really besides the point.” She sighs. “Can you feed from me without killing me? Because that would be like, an epic inconvenience. Also, who were you talking to, before? It sounded like a guy…”
She frowns. “Honestly…I don’t know. I’m so new at all this. My control isn’t what it should be.” At your second question, she makes a sour face. “Oh, that guy. I don’t know. Just some guy who thought hitting on me would be a good idea. I lost control. I bit him. Then I got this massive migraine and found myself outside, across the street.”
She chews on her lower lip for a second. “It’s not ideal,” she says, “But…I can do animals if I have to.” She holds up her hand, which is slightly trembling, and looks at it for a second. “I think I’m okay for a little bit,” she says. “That girl gave me enough to get by.” You’re not sure, but you could swear she sneers a little as she says, “That was nice of her.”
Then she gets a look of fear on her face and looks at Anita. “My parents! You said we’d talk to them. No, please, don’t. They don’t need to know this. What are you going to tell them? Hi, your daughter you creammated fifteen years ago was magically reconstituted as a vampire? They’ve mourned. They’ve moved on. It was one of the first things Amara told me. That life is over. I have to find a way to move on. I just…I don’t know how to.”
She cocks her head to the side. “You keep avoiding my questions about Kat and Carrie.”
It strikes Anita like a fist as she looks at Lorelei, that despite the fact that physically, she’s now a beautiful young woman in her thirties, she died when she was sixteen years old. She doesn’t have the benefit of those past fifteen-plus years experience to temper everything that’s going on. For all intents and purposes and from an emotional standpoint, she’s an unbelievably powerful (and very dangerous) teenager who’s been left utterly cold and alone in a world that’s completely alien to her.
She’s definitely still Lorelei, but there’s also a new aspect to her, something you knew had to be there, but which it’s hard to see. It’s animalistic, bestial. She’s a hunter, now, and she’s still learning to control that. She’s at a crossroads, and the choices she makes here are going to determine the course of the next couple centuries…or even whether she lives that long. One thing’s for certain; she can’t stay in your office forever and it’s not safe to have her wandering the streets.
Anita holds up her hand. “Okay. We won’t talk to your parents. Your call.”
She pauses. “You can stay with me until we find Amara if you can agree not to kill people. You can feed from me, or we’ll find you animals or other willing donors. You can have Kat’s room.” She swallows hard. “She’s gone, Lorelei. She died years ago.”
Lorelei looks horrified. “Oh. Oh, my God, I’m so sorry! I didn’t think—I should’ve…I’m sorry!” Then she looks saddened again. “Just one more thing lost. What about Carrie? Is she dead. too?”
She gets sheepish. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be pushing like this. I just want to know where I stand. Thank you…for the offer. I could use somewhere to crash. And for feeding, I don’t think I’d be comfortable feeding from you. Animals we can do. For now, anyway. Do you happen to know where there’s Elysium in this city? Amara said every city has at least one. They’re, places where Kindred hang out. I guess…I’m supposed to announce myself to the Prince? Like you said, people who are willing are better. At least that’s what Amara taught me. I need to get to know the subculture here again. Places I wouldn’t have been able to go when I was sixteen.”
Anita chuckles. “Well, I’m obviously not Kindred, but I’m pretty sure I know where you’re talking about. I’ve also met the Prince. He seems…princely. And no apologies needed, honey…you didn’t know, you’ve been gone, too. And Carrie’s not dead, though I’m not sure where she is at the moment. We’ll find her.” She pauses. “Just give me a sec to do a thing and we’ll head to my house so you can get settled.”
She pulls out her cell phone and sends two text messages-one to Amara, ‘Lorelei is in Pittsburgh. Please advise.’ She sends a second to Sandra, ‘Lorelei is here and seems to think that you’ve dumped her for some long-haired boy, what the Hell are you doing???? Text me ASAP.’
Text from Sandra: U hv worst timing. Can’t talk. Ftg. Tk care of L. Call L8r.
Lorelei watches Anita and when she’s done texting, asks, “So you know the Prince? Do you think you could help me, you know, announce?”
Anita texts Sandra back, ‘You better. Also, she’s 30 going on 16. Be careful, kick ass, and take names like you’re all out of bubblegum. Love you’
She tucks her phone in her pocket and pulls open a drawer of her desk. “Yeah, sure can. I know he gave me a card or something…”
Finding it, she also tucks it into her pocket and grabs her car keys off her desk. "Let’s get you home. "
Later, after Anita gets Lorelei home and settled into Kat’s room, she gets an email from Sandra:
Sorry, I know I said I’d call and I will but I’m in the middle of an investigation right now and it’s nasty. There’s these snake-men-vampire-things they call “culebras,” and they’re overrunning this town. Supposedly it’s built on the same site as some old boom town from the 1880s called…wait for it…Apocalypse.
So right now I’m binding people’s wounds (not mine; I’m okay) and trying to root out this nasty cult and it’s anything but fun. All I have to work with are some good-hearted and determined townsfolk, and I spend as much time trying to keep them out of danger as they spend helping.
Speaking of which, so…the guy Lorelei mentioned. His name is Josh and HE IS NOT MY BOYFRIEND. She didn’t want to hear that. She tried to kill him. I had to hold her off, and she left in a rage. Josh is a very nice, very normal guy. Although I think his life is changing irrevocably, now, and I hate that. I guess you’ve probably been there. Could he be my boyfriend? Another time, another life, maybe. I’m too fucked up in the head for anything like that right now. And maybe I’m a dick for saying it, but I’m not in any shape to be dealing with a crazed vampire girlfriend, either.
My God, did I actually just say “crazed vampire girlfriend,” in relation to me? That’s my life, now.
I wanted to talk to Lorelei, try to hash things out, but she wouldn’t hear me. I guess on some level I can’t blame her. I do still love her and I always will. She has to know that. But she’s been dead for nigh onto twenty years! This isn’t something I can just jump back into like nothing ever stopped. We have so much to talk about and work out, and there’s Darrek (not that that’s even possible on any planet) and just…I don’t know. I feel like I don’t need to be this confused at this point in my life.
Please tell her I love her so much, and that I’ll be in touch as soon as I can, and we will talk. And tell her that JOSH IS NOT MY BOYFRIEND (make sure you say I put it all in caps). She can have my loft for the time being if she needs a place to lay low. Just don’t let Hilda stake her.
Anyway, I’ll keep you posted. You both have all my love,
Anita hits reply.
‘Thanks for your message, even though I was looking forward to hearing your voice. Hopefully things will settle down with your investigation soon and I will. It’s funny, I was just thinking about you and Kat earlier, and how quiet the house has been lately…and then Lorelei showed up, seemingly out of nowhere. So once again, the universe gives me a girl to take care of…although I daresay she’s the most dangerous one yet.
She’s staying with me for now. I told her she could have Kat’s room. Amara is AWOL. Trying to get in touch with her. I’m going to contact the Prince here in Pittsburgh and get her connected with her…people?…hopefully. I think they’ll be able to help her…more than I probably can, anyhow.
I told her that you never stopped loving her, and that I figured there had to be some sort of misunderstanding. She’s behaving just like a jealous 16 year old in love…which is about where she’s at, emotionally. My best advice is to give it time, but also don’t be afraid to set boundaries. Love, as Pat Benatar wisely sang, is truly a battlefield.
Speaking of which, our mutual British friend would probably benefit from hearing from you, although I know he’s part of your current confusion. He’s been working really hard on the problem here in Pittsburgh, maybe too hard…Henry sent me a message a few days ago and is very concerned that he’s slipping. He does seem more frazzled than usual. You always did have a way with him. No pressure…but if you’re feeling up to it, drop him a line with some encouraging words. It surely couldn’t hurt. He’s missing you. Asks after you constantly. I gave him a copy of the key for your loft, and he’s been helping me look after things there while you’re away. Hope that was okay. Obviously, if Lorelei ends up living there, I’ll get it back from him so we avoid any more jealous blowups.
I’ve been to Apocalypse…don’t ask. Just do be careful.
So, do you think baby vampires like Highlander: Endgame? We’re about to find out. And I’ll pass THE MESSAGE along.
TTFN. Love you, honey,
The Next Day
There was a soft knock on her office door. Anita looked up from what she was doing and said, “Come in.”
The door swung open. Darrek stood in the frame.
“You wanted to see me?” he asked.
“Yeah.” She paused. “Have a seat. And close the door behind you.”
He did as she instructed, taking his dark grey coat off, and sat down across from her after draping it over the back of the chair. The steel blue shirt he wore seemed to intensify the green of his eyes as he gazed at her.
She inhaled sharply. “Right. So, I need your key to Sandra’s loft back. It’s…going to be occupied.”
He reached into the pocket of his coat and pulled his keys out. Flipping through them, he found Sandra’s, pulled it off of his keychain, set it on Anita’s desk in front of her, and returned his keys to his coat pocket.
“Is she coming home?” he asked.
Anita shook her head. “No.”
“Oh. Then, who’s going to be staying there?”
“Someone.” She paused. “Someone who probably shouldn’t be unsupervised, at least not around you.”
His brow furrowed in confusion, but only for a brief moment. He folded his hands in his lap.
Anita smirked. “Damn, you really are clever. I was smart when I hired you.”
“I thought Sandra left to…to be with her.” He paused. “So, why isn’t she?”
“That’s Sandra’s business,” Anita responded in matter-of-fact fashion, looking at him.
He held her gaze. His face was neutral, but she knew him well enough to recognize that he was irritated. “Alright, then. Am I allowed to know why I suddenly require a chaperone around Sandra’s girlfriend?”
Anita sighed, then continued. “Lorelei’s a brand new, very powerful Moroi with the emotional maturity of a sixteen year old. And she seems to be particularly volatile where Sandra is concerned.” She paused again. “I don’t think she knows, yet, but I’m thinking it’s probably only a matter of time before she finds out.”
“Finds out what?” He cocked an eyebrow at her.
Anita gave him a hard look. “About how you two feel about each other.”
Darrek broke her gaze and stared down at his hands. A deep blush rose up his neck and spread across his face.
After a long pause, he finally spoke. “There’s no reason for Lorelei to be jealous of me." He paused. “I doubt I could stand between her and Sandra even if…things were different than they are…which they aren’t.”
He reached up, his fingers worrying the edge of the cross that hung from a chain around his neck and rested again his chest. “I made a vow, before God and a lot of other people, to love, honor, and cherish my wife, and to put her and our children first and foremost in all things. I’m far from perfect, and I make loads of mistakes…but I love my family, as unconventional as we are…and I intend to give them the husband and father that they deserve.” His eyes and voice softened. “I also love Sandra, and I will always be there for her, but she and I are agreed that in this life, we are just friends…albeit anam cara.”
Anita picked up the key and began turning it over with her fingers. “I know you do. And I know that Sandra loves both of you very much, and if something happened to either one of you, it would devastate her. So, seeing as I’m the closest thing to a mother that girl has, I’m asking you…please play nice with Lorelei, and be careful. I don’t want to see Sandra get hurt again. She has suffered way more than her fair share.”
He nodded, meeting her eyes again. “Yes she has. Look, you don’t have to worry about me, Anita. I promised Sandra that I would be good, and I’m not planning on breaking that promise, either. She deserves nothing less but every happiness…and that’s all that I want for her."
“Thank you.” Anita murmured. “You’re a good man, Darrek Tinsley.” A smile danced across her lips. “You know, if things had ended up differently, you might have had me as a mother-in-law.”
“Good gods, that’s a terrifying thought.” He pushed his hand through his dark hair, and let out a laugh. "By the way, can I give you some Christmas gifts to send along to her?”
“Sure, of course. I have some stuff I need to mail to her, too.” Anita put the key in the top drawer of her desk.
“Was that all you wanted to talk with me about?”
“Yeah, I guess…for now.” She watched him stand up and pull his coat back on. “Is there anything else you need to tell me?”
“No,” he said, breaking her gaze again and glancing at his watch.
Liar, liar, pants on fire, she thought. “Happy anniversary, by the way. It’s coming up soon, right?”
He looked back up at her, surprised, and smiled. “Yes, it is. Thank you.”
“You and Emily doing anything special to celebrate?”
“I made reservations at the Le Mont for dinner, and I’m going to talk to Hen about spending the night at Matthew’s place so the wife and I can have the house to ourselves for the evening. Hopefully he’ll understand.”
“I’m sure he will. Enjoy,” Anita smiled and winked at him.
“Oh, believe me, I intend to.” He smiled back, his eyes sparkling. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I’ll be here.”
Later that Night
Anita gets home and opens the door just in time to hear an exasperated, “OH WHAT THE HELL!?”
_She rushes into the living room where she finds Lorelei, seething. There are two televisions set up (she’s brought one down from Kat’s room), and one has True Blood playing while the other has The Twilight Series_. She turns to Anita and gestures wildly.
_"That one," she says, pointing at True Blood, “I just…I can’t even. But this one?” She points at Twilight, “What the ever-loving fuck, Anita?”_
Anita sighs. “You really should have gone for Forever Knight or Blade the Series.” She smiles. “But you have to admit, Lafayette is fucking fabulous, right?”
She takes the remotes and turns them both off. “That’s about enough of that. So, I talked-well, texted-with Sandra, and she asked me to tell you that she loves you so much, and that the boy you saw her with is NOT HER BOYFRIEND.”
Lorelei’s eyes grow wide as Anita raises her voice.
“Sorry, it was in all caps, and she said to make sure you knew that. She also said that she will be touch soon and that if you want, you can stay at her loft. She lives in the South Side, above Matthew’s-he’s the Number One to my Captain Picard. Not that I’m kicking you out. You’re welcome here as long as you want.” She paused. “Probably a good idea to introduce you to him and the rest of my crew, though. Also, I got in touch with the Prince, and set up your meeting with him. It’s in an hour. I’m not allowed to attend, unfortunately. Do you need a ride? While you’re chatting I can get some Chinese takeout for dinner.”
“Hm,” Lorelei says. “I’ve never had Chinese. Do you know where they hang out?”
She lets Anita sweat for a minute, watching her gape, then says, “Just kidding! Geez. I like Goth girls anyway. Yes, I’ll take a ride. I guess, maybe, I should learn to drive at some point. I mean, I was starting to take lessons when…” her hand goes to her neck convulsively. Then she closes her eyes, takes a deep breath and steadies herself. “It feels like it just happened.”
A single blood tear rolls down her cheek. “I have all this power,” she says, “and these…desires. And I don’t want to become…I don’t want to misuse it. And I don’t know where my Sire is. I can’t even feel her, and I feel like I should be able to.”
She gets up and goes to the window, standing off to the side to stay out of the evening setting sun. Slowly, she extends her hand and holds it there. Two seconds pass. Then five. Then ten. Then, finally, the sizzling sound begins and the smoke, and it begins to turn gray and blacken. She grimaces and pulls it back, then looks at it absently
“She told me it would take time, but someday I might be able to walk in the sun. I’m not supposed to tell the other Kindred about it, though. I’m not supposed to tell them what generation I am. I’m not sure what I’m going to say to the Prince.”
She looks back at Anita. “I’d love to stay in Sandra’s place. I think it’ll be comforting while I figure out who I’m supposed to be. So who is ‘the gang’ you want me to meet? Who’s this Matthew guy? Oh, my GOD, Is he totally your boyfriend? I’m guessing John and Cyan and Drake aren’t still around Pittsburgh? I mean, they were with you when I came back, so…”
She takes a breath to steady herself, and it creeps Anita out a little as it hits her that it’s just an affectation. This girl standing before her, one of her dead Slayer’s best friends, is just as dead as Kat, but she’s here, in front of Anita, pretending to breathe out of sheer habit. Then she gets that lightbulb-above-my-head look and says, “Hey…d’you think maybe we could go to the Upstage later? I didn’t realize it till just now, but I miss Goth nights there.”
Anita rubs the space between her eyes with her fingers and chuckles. “No, Matthew’s not my boyfriend. John lives in Ohio, Drake and Cyan are in England, Klaus is off in Tibet somewhere-oh, sorry, you didn’t know him. Anyway, I have a new crew, now. There’s Matthew, obviously, Hilda, our current Slayer, Yun-Xun, master of getting knocked down and getting up again, Danny, he’s a were…something, Henry, he’s a Protector, which is like the magical equivalent of a Slayer, and Darrek, he’s a sorcerer. and the brains of my operation. Oh, and there’s a new guy, too, but I haven’t met him yet. With our powers combined, we make Captain Planet.” She grins, then her face falls. “The Upstage closed years ago, sweetie. There’s another club now…Club Apocalypse…but I make it a point not to go there. The owner makes me want to repeatedly smash his face in.”
She pulls her phone out of her back pocket and checks her messages. [Any word from Amara?]
Nothing from Amara.
Lorelei wipes the blood tears from her face and holds up her hand. “This part here?” she says. “It’s disgusting. No wonder vampires don’t cry. So the Upstage is gone, too. Everything’s gone. Next thing you know the Hive will be a cell phone store or something. This whole world is completely different and I don’t know where I fit in anymore. Do I even have a place? Maybe you should’ve just let me unravel.”
She looks out the window. “Sun’s going down. Guess we should go. I don’t want to keep the Prince waiting.”
Anita says in a quiet voice. “I feel like that all the time, honey. And you do have a place here…you just have to give yourself time to discover it again…to discover yourself again.” She reaches for Lorelei. “If God didn’t want you here, what Amara and I did wouldn’t have even been possible. And You’ve been with God and in God for a long time. I can’t imagine how disoriented you must feel being back here again…but for what it’s worth, I am so glad that you are.” She takes Lorelei’s hand, squeezes it, and smiles.
She lets go and grabs the keys for the Jag off the counter. They jingle in her hand. “Alright. Let’s boogie, sweet cheeks.”