“How’s your vampire?”
“He’s doing alright.” Lucia replies, stirring the dregs of boba in her cup. She’s lying, yesterday Ruthven asked her to kill him. “He hasn’t been out of the house in a while, but that’s normal for him.” Asa only hums in reply, doodling a small Venus flytrap on his napkin.
“How’s Carmilla?” Lucia asks. Carmilla is not a vampire, just a regular human friend of Asa’s. Lucia doesn’t like her because she’s a leech. She’s sheltered and spoiled, and she could be nitpicky over the littlest thing, and couldn’t do anything by herself. She couldn’t even drive despite her age, frequently contacting Asa to drive her around like a private chauffeur to places like the mall where she’d guilt him into buying her what she wants.
“Has she made new friends?”
Asa hums again. For three years Asa has been Carmilla’s only friend. After graduating a year ahead of Asa she dropped out of college before the first week of classes could even start. She lives with her parents, rent-free and jobless.
Lucia sighs. “I don’t understand why you hang out with her.”
Asa shrugs, tearing his napkin with his pen.
“Asa, it’s clear you’re uncomfortable.
“I wouldn’t feel that way if she would just stop reminding me that I’m her only friend all the time, I never know what to say…she’s too sensitive.”
A silence falls over them. Lucia can tell he wants to change the subject, though before she can come up with something her phone vibrates alerting her of a text from Ruthven. She gets up and starts gathering their trash. “I should get going. Ruthven’s getting hungry.”
Asa grimaces, eyeing the bandaid on her wrist. “Lucia…”
“You look pale.”
Lucia unconsciously touches her wrists. “I’m fine.”
He never drank from her neck, she wouldn’t allow it. She’d known Ruthven since they were children, and she stuck by his side after he’d been turned as a teen, becoming his only source of food and giving up her dreams of traveling overseas. Ruthven’s blood type is O negative, and he could only consume a blood type that matched, like Lucia’s. He tried all of his old friends, each of them willing one by one, but only Lucia’s didn’t harm him.
“What are you thinking about?” Ruthven spoke around Lucia’s wrists, his fangs puncturing the skin. Blood drips onto the newspaper atop the carpet. “You look lost.”
“Nothing important.” Lucia murmurs, it takes effort to ignore the pain when he drinks from her. She can’t even watch, focusing her attention on the nighttime cityscape outside their apartment, the lighted windows of buildings faraway mimicking stars. During the day, the windows remain covered by black-out curtains, and the apartment is always dark.
Ruthven finishes, cleaning her wound with hydrogen peroxide. She doesn’t flinch when he dabs her with the cloth. “Are you good?” He places a fresh bandaid over her wound.
“I’m fine,” she lies. In truth she’s feeling light-headed, black stars pepper her vision. Every time he feeds she swears he’s taking more and more. It didn’t used to be like this in the beginning, but now if he doesn’t feed on her at least three times a day he becomes ravenous. Lucia’s bothered by this, Ruthven can’t control when he’s hungry and Lucia often leaves work or social events to attend to him since he rarely goes outside.
Lucia finds herself wishing sometimes for someone else to feed Ruthven so she could leave, just for a while. She’s thought of other ways to supply him blood, but could never make them work. She can’t scout blood donors on Craigslist or rob a blood bank. Even if she could, Ruthven won’t trust anyone else to give him blood. But she’s sick of the city and sick of their tiny apartment. She can’t tell him, it would hurt his feelings. He feels guilty enough already. Since the day he first fed her he’s been apologizing and trying to make up for the burden he’s become; cooking meals and keeping house, or stealing her gifts during the night from jewelry to new clothes. (He could rob a blood bank, if he wished, Lucia thought to herself once. But she knew he’d never steal from those who needed it more). He didn’t have a job and refused to take her money, when Lucia receives his gifts she doesn’t feel grateful, she feels angry. She’s angry at him for assuming she’s angry, and angry at herself for actually being angry, keeping her thoughts unspoken. Everytime he asks she says she’s alright.
Asa comes to her when the sun was high in the sky, the time Ruthven hid in his room behind blackout curtains. “I did it,” he says, exuding guilt, “I broke things off with her.” Lucia hustles him out of her apartment and to the cafe below her apartment.
“She started to cry. When I tried to comfort her she yelled at me, she said I was an awful person,” Asa’s voice wavers, he’s doodling abstract shapes on a napkin.
“It’s about time she learned to rely on herself,” Lucia assures, “You did the right thing.” She didn’t think Asa would ever do it, she considers him weak-willed, but he proved her wrong.
He crumples the napkin. “But why do I feel like I didn’t?”
Lucia places her hand over his. “I don’t know.”
Lucia’s heart aches when she returns to her apartment. She envied Asa. Turning the lights on she gasps, Ruthven’s sitting on the kitchen counter obscured by the shadows of their dark apartment.
He shakes his head. “Couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking about what I said to you.” Lucia is silent. “I’m-”
“Don’t,” Lucia covers her ears. “I’m tired of hearing it.” Ruthven’s in front of her in a flash and he pries her hands away.
“I think it’s time I go.” He whispers. “You’ve done so much for me, thank you.” He’s by the window, the black-out curtains drawn, before she can blink.
“What are you doing?” Lucia’s heart thumps heavily. “Get away from there.”
“I heard you downstairs in the cafe,” He laughs lightly, “Vampire hearing, remember? I’ve decided to end it so you won’t have to leave me.”
“I’m not going to leave you!” She moves towards him. “Let’s talk it out, please.”
Ruthven pulls back the curtain.
Some say that in times of danger a person’s adrenaline can produce impressive feats. Lucia’s not sure how, but she assumes that’s the reason she was able to leap over the couch, tackling him to the ground before realizing she had moved, yanking the curtains shut. She bunches his shirt in her fists, hot tears dripping on his face. Ruthven’s fingers are blistered where the sunlight touched them.
Lucia growls, her voice commanding. “I won’t hide my feelings from you anymore. Once I’ve let go, we’ll talk. We will find another way to help you, and we’ll find a way to help me too. Just don’t-” Her voice cracks, “Don’t burden me with your death.”
Ruthven closes his eyes, an apology at the tip of his tongue. He swallows it. “Alright.”
When Ruthven’s finally tucked away in the dark confines of his room, Lucia returns to the windows. She touches the black-out curtains, running her fingers along the soft fabric. Opening the curtains she allows a sliver of light into the room that burns her face, ever so slightly as if she were leaning too close to a lit candle, with its warmth. She opens them wider.
She gazes at the world outside, closing the curtains when the sun disappears.
Biographical Note: Jamie Galioto is expected to graduate in April of 2022 from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelor’s in English. Her writing career began in the third-grade with her self-insert character, Kimmy, a third-grader just like her. After a brief stint in fan-fiction writing, she returned to creating her own original stories as a high-school freshman, leading to her choice of major upon entering college. Ever since she’s been writing short story after short story as practice for a novel, trying her best to create something worth reading beyond self-inserts and fan-fictions, until finally she felt confident enough to begin submitting her works to literary magazines. “Leeches” is her first published piece, and she looks forward to continuing her pursuits.