“Always go to the bank smelling like the last whore you fucked.” she smiled, the final syllables sucked sharply inward as he spread her legs and applied himself to the suggestion. Her kiss began in his mouth and descended his neck, her breath hot between her teeth as she closed them hard upon his shoulder, raising the taste of his blood from the star-shaped scar still buried in his skin. He used his weight against her exigency, slowing her until she began to subvert the imposition, feet sliding on the sheets as she twisted beneath him. Catching her knee, he drew it over his shoulder, delivering the unsparing emphasis that she enjoyed in silence, until it returned a half-forgotten notion.
“I want people to look at you and know exactly how this feels."
“If anyone else knew how this felt I’d cut their throat.” he promised.
“You are this to me.” she whispered. “If not you, then no one.”
Susan looked up from her purse mirror, moving slowly to wipe away the lipstick she no longer favoured, aware her every movement was closely weighed by two pairs of watchful eyes and tall, attentive ears. A slender doe and her half-grown companion nosed acorns on the lawn before her, shadowed branches figuring their mouse-brown coats in the mid-morning sun. The pair had drifted closer during her patient vigil on the porch steps; guessing the hour, she blew a sigh that overrode the sound of Edward’s descent, starting when he walked past her in the darkness of a new suit. The deer did not lift their heads though he stood only a few metres distant, back to them as he knotted his tie. He wore an uncharacteristic pair of sunglasses and under their effacing influence looked so exactly like his brother that Susan was astounded that such iteration could arise from conceptive obscurity.
"Sis'thle bai'in." he said, passing the remark briefly over his shoulder to the cervine invaders, who gave over grazing and moved off through the gates toward the hillside. Touching a hand to the shape of the knot beneath his chin, he walked to the other side of the sedan while Susan scrambled to gather her accoutrement, standing to brush off her skirt.
“William said you were going into town...” she called. He sat down behind the wheel. “I was wondering if I could... go with you...”
“I don’t know when I'll be back.”
“I don’t mind... I just have to get my money out.” she assured him. If he debated the prospect privately he gave no further sign and Susan fashioned the silence into assent, though with her hand upon the passenger door she hesitated, sinking down into the seat only when he glanced up at her from behind the glasses. A slim black case stood in her leg well, and she set it aside carefully.
Edward drove with more circumspection than his brother, slowing at the corners rather than floating out across the last available inch of tarmac. After William's car, the sedan's interior seemed as bland and spotless as the features of a department store mannequin. He made two francophonic phone calls, discoursing with such uninhibited fluency that she turned to stare at his profile, startled by the softness and volubility of his voice outside the strictures of her own language. She reached across to engage the climate control and directed a blast of warm air toward herself; he looked at her pointedly, and she murmured, switching it off. Under any other circumstance she might have admired indifference to the tyrannous exactions of smalltalk, but his devotion to the road in the face of her difficulties extinguished all such considerations. In search of a tissue she began to explore the blank face of the glove compartment, gently pressing and tugging the panels in an unrewarding process of elimination. The small compliment of buttons beside it issued invitation to her thwarted fingers, but his glance deterred her, and she sat back. The heavy car rocked slowly with the contour of the road, invoking one of the rolling bouts of nausea that had troubled her recovery.
“It's the blood loss.” Edward told her. "Put your head between your knees."
As she leant over he looked down at the gouges on her neck where the vampyre’s fingernails had torn her skin. They had healed well, the scars passing into the dark blue of her hair. With her eyes closed she reviewed the fragmentary memory of his presence at the exorcism, its visuals confused by intrusive notions of his fraternal resemblance, though Susan was struck most by the intangible deficits that distinguished him from William, all that had bloomed in one and failed in the other. She pondered them, addressing him again in her own time when she sat up.
“I thanked you, didn’t I? For helping me, after...”
“I’m so hungry, and tired, god..." Her scrutiny earned his attention where her inquiries had not. "I know you think I'm a gigantic idiot, but I didn't mean for the Siobhan thing to happen, if that's what you're worried about."
“I don’t believe you so unconscious of your own shortcomings that you would deliberately solicit more.” he said finally, though in her afflicted state his eschewal of the vernacular made him more difficult than ever to comprehend. She set her elbow on the door, winding a knot into her hair as she scowled again to herself, allowing the roadside properties to pass in an autumnal blur.
"Is it me, personally? That you don't like..."
"I don't entertain any particular sentiment toward you." he assured her. Susan nodded to herself slowly.
"So, almost blowing my head off wasn't personal? That Nyāti cow put you up to it, didn't she?"
"No... I'm sure it never crossed her mind." she muttered. "So... if it's not personal, it mu..."
"From a professional perspective I could say you're everything I need to make Sachiin do whatever I want. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
"And Lilian's not?"
"My brother labours under a number of difficulties. His trouble with no can prove catastrophic. There was a point when you should have said it for both of you."
She let four or five kilometres pass under the wheels before responding.
"Why help me, then?" The colour of her eyes underscored the solemn tone of the inquiry. "You could have just... let me go... blamed everything on Siobhan. Why did you bother?"
"What happens under my roof is my responsibility." he replied.
She let a similar distance elapse while she explored the rationale, accepting its sincerity.
"Edward... I hate this. I hate pretending that's your name, I hate sneaking round the house like a complete twat trying to avoid you, and I really hate you thinking I am one, so can we just... not be so... like that?" she proposed. "I don't entertain any sentiments toward you, either." His use of silence caused her a small, wry smile. “That can't be everything, surely...”
“What were you expecting?”
“More of a lecture.”
"I can't claim to have ever taken much advice myself."
She looked back at him from the window, tucking hair behind her ears.
"I wasn't lying about Caleb's... everyone really does think it was you."
"Aren't you bothered?"
"Never hand the truth to someone perfectly content with gossip." he murmured. Its occult logic abashed the judgements she had intended.
“I don't know how you keep everything so tidy."
“Repression. It's simple. Hygienic."
"So you... what? Repress everything?" The dismay that overtook her incredulity prompted them to look away from one another, Susan almost glad of the nausea that distracted her from the idea.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce