When I saw her, I stopped cold. She stood at the corner, waiting around the entrance of V. Her legs were spindle thin, jutting out from her short skirt. Her hair was longer than it had been before, but it hung limply around her gaunt face. Shivering like mad, her skin had a bluish tone to it, and her eyes darted all over.
“Jane?” I took a few uncertain steps over to her. Her eyes locked on mine for a split second, then quickly looked away. “Jane, what are you doing here?”
“Nothing.” She shook her head and turned around the corner to get away from me.
“Jane!” I repeated and ran after her. Jack, Milo, and Bobby lagged behind, giving us some space.
“What do you want?” Jane stopped but wouldn’t make eye contact. A streetlight glowed nearby, and she hid in the shadows of it.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in the hospital?” I asked.
When she moved, I tried to see if there were any bite marks on her neck. I didn’t see any, but that didn’t mean anything. They healed quickly, and she could have fresh ones on her arms and thighs out of sight.
“I came home yesterday,” Jane replied flatly, and she twitched. Once, she had been the most beautiful girl I had ever known. Now she looked like she had leukemia.
“What are you doing here?” I whispered.
Another vampire rounded the corner. He didn’t acknowledge us at all, but Jane stared after him with a hungry expression on her face. Humans craved vampires just as much as we craved humans.
“I thought you were done with this,” I said, pulling Jane from her vampire lust.
“Don’t give me that shit, Alice.” Her eyes were frantic and nervous, making it hard for her to keep them steady on me. “You left me for dead on the steps of a church. Don’t pretend like you care about what’s best for me.”
“I did not leave you for dead. You were alive, and we thought it would be better if you got professional help instead of living around vampires!” I shouted, and she looked away. “I was almost killed trying to save you! I risked my brother’s life because I wouldn’t hurt you! So don’t tell me that I don’t care!”
“Alice,” Jack said from behind me, and I realized that my words echoed off the buildings. I was loud, especially considering I was yelling about vampires.
“Fine, whatever, you care.” Jane shrugged, but tears stood in her eyes. “It doesn’t change anything.”
“What are you talking about?” I softened and took another step closer to her.
“Look at me,” she laughed darkly. “Look at me, Alice!” A tear spilled down her cheek and she brushed it away. “I’m a junkie!”
“Jane,” I said.
“What am I supposed to do?” she asked. “I spent the last month in the hospital, and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. They know I’m an addict, but they can’t treat it. I mean, what twelve-step program is there for getting bit?”
“I’m sure any twelve-step would work,” I said, and she laughed again.
“I hope so.” She sniffled and rubbed at her nose. “My dad is sending me to rehab tomorrow. I want it to work. I hope it does. But I just needed one more fix. I know everyone says that. One last time and all that.” She smiled thinly at me. “I don’t care if it’s cliché. I want to feel good one last time, and then I can try and make it through this.”
“The last time someone bit you, they almost killed you!”
I know what a hypocrite I sounded like, especially since Milo had almost killed Bobby before, and Peter had almost killed me. Vampires were really dangerous, and I would warn off any human involved with them. Spend enough time with them, and you’re gonna end up dead.
“I know!” Jane fidgeted and shook more than she had been before. “God, I know, Alice! You think I am such an idiot! I know how dangerous this is, way better than you! I’m the one that let them feed on me for months! I’m the one that lost all the blood and nearly died, twice. Okay?”
“Then why are you doing this?” I asked.
“Because I have to!” She looked at me with this insistent need. It was a hunger I shared, except in reverse. She wanted to be bitten, I wanted to bite. The idea seemed to occur to her as well, and her expression changed from one of panic to pleading. “Alice, if you’re really worried about my safety, then you could just do it.”
“What?” I scrunched my face up and took a step back. “No. Don’t be disgusting.”
“No, Alice, listen,” Jane moved towards me. “I need just one more bite, really just one more. And you know you wouldn’t hurt me. Jack is right here!” She gestured to him, and I glanced back to see the uneasy look he gave her. “He wouldn’t let you hurt me. Just do this one time, and then I’m going to rehab first thing in the morning.”
“No, Jane, no way.” I waved my hands and took another step back.
“Fine.” She crossed her arms over her chest and looked at me defiantly. “If you won’t do it, then I’ll find somebody else who will. And they might be dangerous. They might kill me. Who knows?”
“That’s emotional blackmail!” I yelled, and I heard Milo mutter something about her playing dirty.
“No, it’s a fact! I am getting bit tonight. And if it’s not you, then it’s somebody else.” Jane shrugged and stared at me, as if it didn’t matter to her one way or another.
The vampire part of me became aware that we were talking about eating and not just eating anything, but fresh, warm, human blood. My stomach twisted happily, and my mouth salivated. When hunger took over, logic went out the window.
I turned to Jack, knowing that he would be the voice of reason, but he looked at me dismally and shrugged. He wouldn’t be mad at me, and my thirst became more dominant.
“You promise you’re going to rehab in the morning?” I looked back at Jane.
“Alice, don’t be stupid!” Milo shouted. He stood at the corner a ways behind us, and Bobby had to rein him in.
“I promise,” Jane nodded, and for the first time in a long time, I saw a glint of happiness in her eyes. The only thing that gave her any pleasure was being bitten.
“I’m never doing this again,” I warned her, and Jack sighed loudly.
Jane nodded again, and with that, I swooped in to bite her. I pushed her back against the silver windows of the building, slamming her body harder than I needed to. She gasped, and I sunk my teeth into her neck. It was the first time I had ever consciously bitten anyone, and I was surprised by how natural it came to me.