Dead and Loving It
“Relax, white girl. I’m curious, is all.”
“Look, it’s really really rude, and I’m trying to cut down, okay?”
Betsy was too curious to drop the subject. “So compared to you guys, we’re slow, and not too bright, and we can’t smell at all, and we stink, and we’re really wimpy.”
Antonia noticed Betsy said “you guys” in reference to herself as well. Interesting. “Well… yeah. But, uh, we know you guys can’t help it.”
“So it’s like being born blind?” Jessica asked dryly. “Poor things, blah-blah, better luck next life?”
“But where do you fit in? A werewolf who’s never a wolf?”
“I don’t know,” Antonia said and then shocked herself as much as anyone when she burst into tears.
“Oh my God!” Betsy almost screamed. “I’m so sorry! Don’t cry. Please please don’t cry.”
“I’m not crying,” Antonia sobbed. “I never cry.”
Jessica leaned across the bed and awkwardly patted her on the back. “There, there, honey. It’s gonna be fine.”
“Totally fine!” Betsy endorsed. “Totally, totally! Please don’t do that!”
“I’m not,” she said, crying harder.
“Okay, so you’re not crying.” Jessica held up a navy blue tank top. “What do you think of this one?”
“I hate it,” she sobbed.
“Not into blue, eh?”
“Jessica, can’t you see she’s really upset?”
“Can’t you see she doesn’t want to talk about it?”
“Why did he have to fall in love with you?”
“What?” the women said in unison.
“I said, why did you have to show me anything blue?”
“Well, jeez, we didn’t think you’d get so upset,” Betsy said. “A tough honey like you?”
“Did George hurt you? Is that why you’re mad?”
“Of course he hurt me. We hurt each other. That’s what— never mind.”
“Oh, sorry.” Jessica looked away. “It’s none of our business.”
“I don’t have human hang-ups about fucking,” she reminded them. “I’ll draw sketches, if you like. It’s not that. It’s something else.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
And that was that.
Then they came back down to the kitchen, to her surprise, Garrett was sitting at the counter with a weirded-out Sinclair. Waiting.
For her, she was surprised to see. He came to her at once, nuzzled her neck, and then retreated to his stool.
“You forgot your yarn,” Jessica said after a long moment in which it appeared someone had to break the silence.
“Not in the mood,” he replied.
Betsy started poking through the mail, squealing with glee when she saw the red Netflix envelopes. She ripped them open, and Jessica groaned when she showed them the discs.
“Why did you get Cone With the Wind again, dumb-ass? You own the damned movie!”
“Yes, but this is the new special edition with two new deleted scenes.”
“There’s one born every minute,” Sinclair commented.
“You hush up. Where’s Tina? She might want to watch it with me.”
“Don’t you have to do some hunting, too?” Antonia asked her.
“Elizabeth is unique among us.” Sinclair was giving the queen a look that was positively sappy. “Among other things, she doesn’t have to feed as often.”
“Like you,” Betsy told her. “Unique among the fuzzies.”
Antonia groaned. “Please don’t call us that.”
Jessica had been looking at Garrett during most of the conversation, then back at Antonia, then at Garrett. Antonia could smell the woman was stressed and waited for her to say something.
Finally: “Garrett, do you remember, uh, how you became a vampire?”
They all waited. Betsy, also obviously curious, asked, “Do you mind telling us how?”
Antonia said sharply, “He doesn’t want to talk about it.”
“I don’t think he cares either way,” Sinclair replied, looking Garrett up and down with a critical eye.
“Forget it, Garr. You don’t have to say shit.”
Sinclair raised a knowing eyebrow. “Protective little thing, aren’t you?”
“You wanna go, king of the dead guys? Because we’ll go.”
“Don’t fight,” Betsy snapped. “Let’s just drop the whole—”
“I was acting. An actor. For Tarzan.”
An enthralled silence, broken by Jessica’s breathless “ Annnnnnnd? ”
Garrett tugged his long hair. “Grew it out. For Tarzan. Picture folded. Felt bad.”
“So you got fired, okay, and then what?”
“Producer tried to cheer me up. Had to get haircut… couldn’t walk around like that.”
“With long hair?” Antonia asked, mystified.
“Took me to barber. Late. After sets closed. Producer was Nostro. Had barber cut my throat and drank.”
“Jesus Christ!” Betsy practically screamed.
Antonia was on her feet. She didn’t remember getting up from the stool, and who cared? “Where’s the barber? Is he around here? I’m going to pull his lungs out and eat them while he watches.”
“Who was making the movie?” Sinclair asked sharply.
Garrett pointed to the Gone With the Wind disc.
“You mean… Warner Brothers?”
Antonia had an awful thought, so awful she could hardly get it out; it was clogging her throat like vomit. “That’s—that’s an old movie.”
“Nineteen thirty-nine,” Betsy said quietly.
“Tarzan lost funding,” Garrett confirmed. “Made that movie instead.”
Betsy shrieked again and kicked over her stool. The thing flew across the kitchen and crunched into the wall; plaster rained down on the (previously) spotless floor. “You’ve been a vampire for almost seventy years?”
“What a pity,” Sinclair commented, “that we already killed Nostro.” But he was looking at Garrett in a new way: intrigued and even a little alarmed. Antonia wondered how old Sinclair was.
“Sing it, sweetheart! God, what I wouldn’t give to have him in this kitchen right now. Torturing poor George and the others for more than half a century, that piece of shit! That son of a bitch!”
“Garrett,” Garrett corrected her.
“Right, right, sorry.”
Of all of them, Antonia noticed, Garrett seemed the least upset. She asked him about it, and he shrugged.
“Long time ago.”
“I guess that’s one way of looking at it,” she said doubtfully.
“Things are different now.”
Yeah, she thought bitterly. You’ve been redeemed by love. Loving someone else, that is. Fuck.
I’m glad you didn’t cut it,“ she said later, after making love. She stroked the long, silky strands. ”I like it long.“
“Now, yes. Then, no.”
“I suppose. That’ll teach you to conform to society,” she teased.
He made a sound like gravel rolling down a hill, and after a minute, she realized he was laughing.
She supposed she should tell him; he might wonder, tomorrow night, where she had gone. “Just a heads up, I’m leaving tomorrow.”
“Because… because I haven’t been able to figure out how to help the queen. And I can’t stay here while you—I can’t stick around, let’s just leave it like that.”
“But if you don’t help… you don’t get what you want.”
“So I don’t get what I want. My life will remain completely unchanged.” She thought she said it with no bitterness. And dammit all, she was about to cry again. But not in front of Garrett. No way.
“Don’t go,” he said.
Okay, now she was crying. “Well, I am, so shut up about it. What do you care? You love Betsy, don’t you?”
“So that’s all you need.”
“What’s the matter with you? Why do you even care? You’ve got everything you need right here.”
“Look, Garrett. I guess… you don’t really love me.”
“What?” Outraged, she sat up. “You just said you loved Betsy.”
He yanked her back down. “Love Betsy… like the sun. Powerful, can’t control it. Don’t know what will happen.”
“Yeah, that sounds about right.”
“Love you like… air. Need it. Betsy is queen… belongs to everybody. Like money. You… belong to me. You’re… only for me.”
She went still as stone for a long time, wondering if her ears were defective, wondering if she dared believe what he’d said. But why not believe him? When had he lied?
“If this is your way of trying out telling jokes,” she said through a shuddering breath, “I will dislocate both your shoulders, and your legs.”
“Doit, if you’ll stay.”
“Then okay,” he said comfortably.
“I’m not sleeping in the basement, though.”
“They can give us good curtains, or we can board up the windows in this room.”
“I love you, jerk.”
He looked surprised. “Of course.”