This is what I remember:
It was dark and the air was cold enough for me to see my breath. Goosebumps rose on my skin, making my hair stand on end. I thought that was fitting, considering what it was that I meant to do here. Impatiently, I paced a narrow swath between the headstones, scanning the darkness around me. He was late.
It was too dark for me to see my watch, but it felt like I'd already been waiting an eternity. As I turned, a half-buried rock caught on the toe of my boot and I stumbled a few steps, wind milling my arms wildly before catching myself. Cursing at my human clumsiness, I made a show of straightening my clothes and pretending like nothing had happened, though luckily, there was no one around to see me.
"You could be dancer with grace like that."
I spun around, nearly falling again. There he was. Max reclined at the foot of an elaborate grave marker in the form of a weeping angel with wings outspread. He looked like he'd been sitting there comfortably for hours—like he had been waiting for me. I managed not to drop my jaw in surprise, but just barely. I still had not gotten used to his sudden comings and goings.
"I'm serious," Max continued sarcastically, "the American Ballet Company doesn't know what it's missing."
"Shut up." He smirked at me, and I felt nervous again.
"Why did you want to meet here, anyway?" he asked me, gesturing at the grim surroundings with a curled lip of disgust.
"I don't know," I said stupidly. "I just thought it would be more...appropriate, because you're a...you know." Max was amused by my avoidance of the word. He was always laughing at me for something.
"More cliché you mean. It's fricking cold."
Max folded his legs tailor-style and rested one hand on each knee. He looked serene, for all the world like a wise yogi—nothing could have been farther from the truth. Before asking me his question, Max slowly cocked his head to one side, not blinking and thoroughly creeping me out.
"So," he said, his tone innocent, "what did you want to talk about?"
"You know," I answered, sidestepping the question. But Max still waited for me to answer. "Come on," I said, sounding whinier than I might have liked. "Do I really have to say it again?"
"Maybe I have to hear it again." Max slid from his perch and stood in front of me. Standing, he and I were about the same height, but he was no less intimidating. "I haven't made up my mind yet, and I'm wondering if you might be insane."
"I'm not insane."
Max was quiet for a long time. When he spoke again, his words were serious and measured. "Do you know what you're asking?"
I nodded, but I could tell that he didn't believe me. Didn't he know that I looked at this from every angle? Weighed the costs and benefits? Did he really think that I'd take a decision like this lightly?
"I don't know..." It was one of the only times I'd ever seen Max look unsure.
"Think about it—you know what I'll be leaving behind. You know that it will be no great loss."
He still looked unconvinced. "That still doesn't justify…" A sinking feeling settled in my stomach like a lead weight. It didn't look like Max was going to go through with it.
"Look," I said, pulling a pocketknife out of my pocket and opening it. "I came prepared. We can do it right now." Max stared at the blade, and then raised his eyes to my face. Unconsciously, I took a step back at the look in his eye.
"What," he said softly, deadly, "is that for?"
I swallowed thickly before speaking, but the words still tumbled out, tripping over themselves in my nervousness. "I-I..you said...I mean, you told me how this works."
"Put it away," Max said harshly. Where before, he had seemed merely uncertain, now he sounded angry. "We're not doing this. I'm not doing this..."
"No!" Some of the strength went out of me as this one thing I wanted more than anything was denied to me. I stopped just short of actually falling to my knees and holding my hands out to Max in supplication. "Please," I begged him, "You have to do this for me."
"No. I don't." There was pity in his eyes as he watched me crumple. "You don't understand. It's nothing like you think it will be. It's not glamorous or exciting. It's dangerous and messy"—Max's expression turned wistful—"You'd regret it."
"No, I wouldn't..." I trailed off, almost in tears.
"You would. I know you would."
"Just face it," Max cut me off roughly, "it's not going to happen. And you'll just have to believe me when I tell you that it's better this way." He turned his back on me. Before he could disappear into the darkness, my desperation overwhelmed me and I completely lost my head.
"No! You have to!"
I took the knife I still held and slashed it across my neck where I roughly guessed my carotid artery to be. As I fell to the ground, I managed to laugh weakly through the pain. Now he'll have to do it or watch me die. Either way, I win.
Max had told me how this worked—something he probably regretted doing now. I had to get as close to death as possible without actually crossing over that line, and then there had to be an exchange: some of my blood for some of his.
My vision began to get black and fuzzy around the edges. My ears roared as I hovered on the edge of consciousness. Before I fell into complete darkness, my last memory was of Max's face as he kneeled over me, of his hands on my neck, trying to keep me alive.
"Remember?" His face is hard and pitiless. There is wetness on my cheeks and my hands grip my hair in tight fistfuls. Max had warned me. He'd tried to save me from myself. I want to forget again.
"I..." I have to stop as a dry sob wracks my body.
"What?" Max barks out the word, impatient and unsympathetic.
"I'm sorry," I whisper. Far from a monster, Max had been a true friend, and I—the real horror—had trampled all over that.
"Me, too," he says after a moment, still angry, but perhaps more gently. A long minute passes. Max stares at me, unmoving. I stare at the dead leaves covering the ground. Again, I wish I could vomit.
"Well," he finally says, "you've survived your first night. So what do you think?"
What can I say?
"Are you happy now? I gave you what you wanted."
My still heart sinks as I realize that he's right. I got exactly what I asked for.