Fern had almost fallen asleep when the taxi glided to a gently stop. The engine turned off, cutting a song on the radio midway. Fern looked out of the window and recognized the car park of her apartment block. She nudged her shoulder to wake up Brook and as he sat up, Fern glanced at the taxi driver. He was staring out the window, hands resting of the wheel.
Brook stretched his arms and popped open the door. He got out and opened the driver’s door and give the man instructs in a low voice.
Fern caught some of those words as she got out of the car and hurried to the main door of her tower. Around her, four other apartment blocks reached up to a black, starless sky and there were other car parks, garages and patches of grass. Fern dug her keys out and put the right one in the lock. She opened the door and stepped inside. A stale acidic smell hit her and she wrinkled her nose.
‘Problem solved,’ Brook called out from behind her as he caught the door.
Fern hummed and went to the elevator. She pressed the dinted and sticky button in. The panel lit up red and the whirl of gears churned. She felt Brook put a hand to her lower back and kiss her on the cheek. She gave a slight shake of her head. Don’t distract me.
Brook stroked her back gently till the elevator came and they stepped inside. Fern hit a very cracked number fifteen button and the doors slide shut. She fidgeted with her bag and its’ strap, wondering if she had ever thought about coming back here before she’d become a vampire. The thought hadn’t seemed to have crossed her mind and the idea that maybe she had subconsciously decided that as a vampire she wouldn’t need human things.
The doors opened and a dull ping broke the fifteenth floor silence. Fern got out and walked down the corridor to her front door. On the way, she got the key ready and slotted it into the lock as soon as possible. She opened the door and stepped inside, hand going for the light switch, not sure what she would find.
The lights flickered on and showed her place as she had left it. She stepped into her bedroom-living room-kitchen and invited Brook in over her shoulder. She heard him walking in and closing the door. Fern looked at him and read the disappointment on his face.
‘Well, I couldn’t afford anything else,’ Fern explained, ‘help me get those suitcases down.’
She pointed to the wardrobe and moved over to it.
Brook got them down for her and put them on the bed. Fern opened the wardrobe and began taking clothes out. She heard the slinking sound of zippers being undone then Brook was taking t-shirts and jeans out her hands.
‘It won’t take us long,’ Fern reassured him, ‘I don’t have that many things and none of the furniture belongs to me.’
She glanced around as she said that, taking in the single bed, bedside table, wardrobe, desk, chair and armchair. In the left far corner, was a little kitchen with a tiny fridge-freezer, portable gas stove cooker and some cupboards. Over to the right was the door to the bathroom. Fern handed some more clothes to Brook then leaving him to it, went to the bathroom. Opening door, a waft of mould tickled her nose. Turning on the light, she grabbed towels and wash things.
‘Where’s the rest of your stuff?’ Brook spoke, ‘I thought there would be lots more.’
Fern came back to him and dumped the bathroom stuff into the other suitcase, ‘when I found out I was ill and they give me the timeline, I decided to go traveling and do things I always wanted too. As I ran out of money, I sold stuff. You can’t take it with you, right?’
Brook nodded his arms full of clothes, ‘I’ve done that before.’
‘When I moved here, thanks to council and the support unit, I sold off almost everything else valuable and…started my wait,’ Fern added.
‘I bet that was tough,’ Brook said slowly.
Fern trace the edges of lacy black dress and fought back a storm of memories.
‘You got any more suitcases?’
‘Under the bed, there’s like three. The zipper is broke on one though. I got some duck tape we could use,’ Fern replied and hurried off to find it.
Quickly, they packed up the rest of her clothes, books, DVDs, CDs, photos and sentimentally things she had kept. Finally, Fern stripped her bedding and put into black bin bags. With everything lined up by the door, Fern took a last glance at the place she had come to die in.
‘I’ll take the first lot of things down,’ Brook muttered.
Fern give him a hand with two suitcases and an weekend bag. Once the elevator doors had closed, Fern walked back into the bedsit and double checked she’d got everything. She opened the fridge and freeze, saw they contained nothing and moved on to emptying the cupboards. She took her favourite mugs and glasses out, but left anything else.
Even if I can’t use these, they’ll still look nice on something, she thought.
Opening the third suitcase full of clothes, she wrapped the mugs and glasses carefully in t-shirts, skirts and jumpers. Zipping the suitcase shut and reminding herself to warn Brook, she checked the bedside table drawers. Inside, she found some old jewellery of her mother’s amongst some other pieces she had kept, as well as, a notebook, a diary, a fancy ink pen and some photos. She took everything out and put them inside the smaller suitcase.
Brook came back and once again, Fern helped him put some more stuff into the elevator.
‘As I was coming back up, the only door downstairs opened,’ Brook started, ‘your landlord?’
‘Probably….I hope not though. What would we say?’ Fern questioned, ‘I can’t just say I got better and decided to move out…he knows it was terminal.’
‘Maybe we shouldn’t have done this…’ Brook trailed.
Fern shook her head, ‘I needed to do this. Can’t you mesmerize him?’
‘Maybe. Really wiping the mind would be better. That’s a lot harder to do though. I’ll think of something. Come on.’
Fern dragged her bin bag of bedding and another one containing shoes into the elevator. Brook took them off her then hit the button. The doors shut in her face and Fern turned back again. Hesitantly, she walked into the bedsit and grabbed the rest of her things. She stacked them next to the elevator then going back in for the final time, placed her keys on the bed and closed the door behind her.
Waiting for Brook’s return, she listened to the dim sounds of life going on behind the walls. A number of TVs were on and there was a jumble of programs, of which she caught snatches off but didn’t dwell on. Two radios or maybe CD players were tinkling out music, one of which sounded like country and western. There was a low mumbling of voices and coughing and other human noises. A cat was also meowing somewhere and was that a baby or child crying?
Fern looked at the tiled floor and turned her thoughts away from everything. Soon I’ll be away from here and carrying on with my new life, she reminded herself.
She pressed the elevator button, deciding no longer to wait for Brook. Downstairs, she could make out the grinding of gears and chains as the elevator started into action. Hoping, he’d got all of her stuff out, Fern waited. She traced the tile edges with her toe and tried to guess which soap drama the TV in the bedsit next door was showing.
The elevator doors slide opening, showing her an empty chamber. Fern quickly shoved the rest of her things in and squeezed amongst them. Going down, she thought about Brook’s words and hoped there was no one else besides from him and the taxi waiting for her. Thankfully, someone must have been listening because as the door opened on the ground floor, Brook was standing there, grinning.
‘I was worried it’d be someone else,’ he said and smiled.
Fern smiled back, ‘Yeah, looks like we were unseen and unheard.’
Nodding, Brook helped her get the last of her things out to the taxi. The driver was trying to fit everything in as if he was playing a game of Tetris. They give him a hand and somehow got everything in, leaving room for themselves.
‘So where to now?’ Fern asked.
‘My house,’ Brook replied, ‘though it’s a longer drive. It’s in the countryside. An old farm house,’ he added.
‘And it’s actually yours?’
‘Yep. Belonged to my parents and been in my mum’s family for five generations. I inherited it when they died. I probably should’ve sold it, but the money I got from renting it out kept me a float for years,’ Book detailed.
The taxi driver slammed the boot and got into the car. He started the engine and the radio came back on, blasting out a very old rock song. Brook opened the passenger door and let Fern get in. He closed the door behind her, ran around the car and got in the other side. Settling into the seat, he gave the driver the address via eye contact in the rear view mirror.
The drive tapped up the Satnav and put the information in.
Fern caught the travel time flashing up; three hours and twenty minutes then a map took over the screen with a flashing arrow pointing the way. They drove off and Fern stole a last look out of the window and up at her bedsit. Marveling at her escape from death.
To Be Continued…