Fern held Brook’s hand and watched towns, cities and landscapes sliding passed the taxi’s window. The clocked ticked over on the dashboard and the Satnav as they drove on. The radio news came on and they heard the same reports. Fern shut her eyes a few times, lulled by the swaying car and white noise of the engine. Her thoughts patterned into questions about Brook, Dacian, vampires in general and the future. Yet, she didn’t voice any of them.
Brook was quiet too. He dozed and looked out of the window as well, his thoughts all to himself. Sometimes, his expression would change to a frown or a sad look or a small grin. Finally, he put his head back and shut his eyes, allowing the silence to grow further.
Fern watched the taxi driver for a while. The man had been mute and totally focused on the road. His taxi radio sometimes crackled and called him in, but he didn’t pick it up. Fern wondered what he’d say when he returned, maybe that his radio had broken? And where had he been? She imaged his boss and wife asking.
‘I got a big job,’ Fern thought he’d reply, ‘this couple wanted me to clean out this flat with ‘em then drive them to their new place.’ Fern wondered if they’d asked how much he’d gotten paid. God how much is this going to cost me? Fern suddenly thought. I only thought about getting my stuff and going back to Brook’s. Not that he’d then decided to go straight to his actually house. He has an actually house?
Fern shook her head and realised that once again, she hardly knew anything about Brook. She cast her mind back, thinking of the first time she’d seen him swimming across the lake in the Lake District. She hadn’t thought much about the time in-between that and waking in the crypt. She wasn’t even sure how many days had passed either. Giving it some more thought, she let her mind return to the snatches of memory.
She had gone back to the lake the next night and waited for him to reappear again. A part of her had tried to convince her that it had been a dream or Brook was a human and not a vampire as she really wanted to believe. She had sat by the night time water and looked out, listening to owls and traffic going by. She had been on the edge of giving up, she recalled, when he appeared from far to her right.
What had they talked about?
Fern sighed in the back of the taxi, hating herself for not remembering. It couldn’t have been much of a talk though. She looked at Brook, he seemed to be sleeping. She knew he wasn’t though, but wasn’t sure she could disturb him about this yet now. She shut her eyes and put her head onto his shoulder.
What you thinking about? Brook’s voice glided into her clouded thoughts.
You, Fern replied back.
When we first meet. I was trying to remember the days in-between. What we talked about and did. I can hardly remember leaving the Lake District, but I know I did come home and we met the next night in the park. Do you remember?
‘Yes,’ Brook breathed, his lips brushing her hair.
‘Why can’t I remember?’ Fern asked, slightly moving her head to look at him.
‘The transformation affects things like that. It’s defensive, I think, a way to separate your human life from the new vampire one.’
Fern frowned, ‘but I remember things before we met….’
‘Maybe, you were just going through a lot? What did you want to know anyway?’ Brook questioned.
‘To know more about you,’ Fern answered and eased herself up, ‘your human life, how you become a vampire…Jay?’
Brook took a sharp intake of breath and turned his head away.
‘You were together once, weren’t you?’ Fern asked gently, ‘what happened?’
‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ Brook muttered.
Fern dropped her shoulders and clutched his arm, ‘you never do,’ she sighed.
‘And his name was Jamie by the way,’ Brook growled, ‘he hated being called Jay.’
‘You were at school together?’ Fern uttered trying to make it seem like a suggestion rather than the question it actually was.
‘No. I was a vampire when we met. He was at high school. Final year.’
A small smile flickered on to Fern’s face, but she hid it in Brook’s shoulder. Her heart and head thudded and she tried to remain calm. Brook could easy go silent on her again and she was eager to get as much out of this as possible.
‘Where did you met?’ she mused, ‘the beach? in town? At the apartment?’
‘The arcade…not the one we went to. A different one, further along the beach.’
Fern slotted her fingers together and paused over her next question.
‘He’s dead by the way,’ Brook said suddenly, ‘so don’t worry about meeting him.’
Fern shot off his shoulder and looked hard at him. Her lips formed around words that she couldn’t voice. Brook didn’t look at her, but dug in his pockets for his cigs and lighter. He pulled out a new box and unwrapped it. Ripping open the top, he pulled out a cigarette and lit it. Fern glanced at the taxi driver and met his eyes in the rear view mirror. There were clear signs on the windows saying not to smoke. The driver dropped his eyes back to the road then switched across the lanes to come off. The car began to slow as it approached a roundabout. The driver doubly checked both sides, pulled out and joined a slipway to a dual carriageway.
‘What happened?’ Fern asked at last.
‘I tried to turn him and something went wrong. Maybe he wasn’t strong enough, maybe I didn’t give him enough blood. Whatever. He didn’t make it and I buried him,’ Brook explained as he waved the cig around.
Fern wiped ash off her jeans and moved further away from him. He took a drag, held the smoke in then let it out in a long exhale. Brook licked his lips, glanced out of the window then back to her. His express was a mask. Fern could barely see through it, but there was a hint of sadness and regret in his violet eyes.
‘He was your first?’ she said gently.
‘Second,’ he corrected, ‘the first was a homeless man that I did for practise.’
‘Yeah, well no one taught me how to do it and I wasn’t sure…So I fed off this ancient guy living under a bridge and then give him my blood,’ Brook shrugged and put the cig to his lips, ‘I killed him. Didn’t know you weren’t actually meant to be dead.’
Fern settled back into the seat and swept her hair back, ‘what would you have done if it’d worked?’
‘Probably killed him….What? I had no use for him. And I’m a dick, remember?’ Brook chuckled.
Fern rolled her eyes and fingered her seatbelt.
‘Jamie forced my hand,’ Brook picked up a few seconds late after he’d blown out some more smoke, ‘he was so desperate and I couldn’t say no. His parents found out we were in a relationship and having sex. They weren’t happy and banned us from seeing each other. He wanted to run away. Start over and stay in love forever…’
‘And what did you want, Brook?’
‘I don’t know,’ he breathed, ‘a best friend, a lover. Someone to explore the world with. It felt right at the time.’
‘Do you still miss him?’ Fern asked softly.
Brook took a deep breath, but didn’t answer. He finished off the cig and opened the window to flick the butt out.
Fern took his silence to mean yes.
Trust will return in December.