The next morning, I waited until I heard my parent's car pull out of the drive for church. I looked a mess; I was still wearing the same clothes I had slept in, half my hair was sticking up and my eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep. I grabbed a carton of orange juice from the refrigerator and spilling a good half of it down my shirt. I rubbed the mark with the dishcloth. Changing was too much effort, and I needed to see Mark.
I grabbed a cereal bar from the cupboard and walked briskly out of the front door. Mark's place wasn't far; the village was small enough for everything to be within walking distance. It was another selling point for my parents and one of the things I truly appreciated about Clockford.
As I walked, my mind wandered back to Bethany. I had successfully repressed all thoughts about her, opting for the scared animal approach of accepting the danger without really thinking. But the fresh air helped clear my head, and Bethany's grey face kept flashing through my mind.
She was definitely dead; I had seen her in the clinic morgue only a few hours before she appeared at my window. Even if she was still alive, what reason would she have for faking her death? The grief in her parents' eyes was real enough. Hell, the grief in Mark's eyes was certainly real. I didn't exactly like her but I wasn't jumping for joy over her death.
She was dead, but I definitely saw her last night. One of the side effects of keeping myself up made sure I didn't have a chance to dream it away and slip her horrible face into my subconscious. So what was she? A zombie? No, zombies don't have fangs. Vampires have fangs.
Half of me wanted to laugh out loud at the idea. Vampires don't exist anywhere but in films and books and Mark's video games.
The other half wanted to curl up in a ball and rock back and forth until the police showed up.
But I wasn't going to. People would think I was crazy, no matter what I-
"…That's three now, including the Ellis girl…"
"…Not so unusual for our population, but three within a week? Something must…"
"…Probably just a summer cold."
I paused, hoping to overhear more, but the conversation stood still.
"I'm sorry, three what?" I asked, turning towards the source of the voices. A pair of elderly ladies sat on a bench where they had been chatting amiably. I briefly wondered why they weren't in church.
"Oh, hello, dear. Three deaths, that's all, mostly among the older residents of the village. I don't know, the kids are growing up and abandoning us. The village will be completely empty by winter, mark my words!" The first woman said, throwing her hands up in mock despair.
"But the poor Ellis family! I hear the wife is coming down with something too, no doubt brought on by the stress…" The second woman tailed off.
"Thanks, bye!" I smiled and ran off. I needed to get to Mark, but what the women had said was interesting. If other people had died in addition to Bethany, and presumably before, it meant she wasn't the root cause of whatever was going on.
I almost slapped myself for being so stupid. Of course she wouldn't be the original vampire – I shivered at the thought – she had to have been bitten by another or infected or whatever, otherwise people would know about things like this. Corpses weren't supposed to rise from the grave.
I picked up my pace, striding towards Mark's house. I turned onto his street, took the porch steps two at a time and knocked furiously on the door. I had to tell him what I knew.
"Maddie?" Mark's father peeked around the door, morning sunlight glinting off his rimless glasses and growing bald patch. I was surprised he was home; I thought he worked on Sundays.
"It's me, Mr Waterman. Can I see Mark?"
"Please do," He pulled the door fully open, running fingers through his depleted hair. "We haven't been able to get him out of his room this morning. You might have a better shot."
"I'll get him up. He's really upset, but I'll try," I smiled and walked upstairs with a hop in my step. It was irrational to be happy; Mark's girlfriend was dead and apparently trying to suck my blood and Mark was distraught, but the idea of making him happy made me happy. I knocked gently on his door. "Mark? It's me, Maddie. Can I come in?" There was a pause and a quiet shuffling noise. I half expected him to be asleep.
"Sure," Mark mumbled through the door almost inaudibly. I pushed open the door. Mark was in bed, the covers pulled up to his chin. His face was pale; not deathly pale like Bethany's, but like he hadn't slept properly. His eyes were a little sunken, lacking the usual sparkle of life I was so used to seeing.
"How are you?" I asked in my best nurse voice, trying not to sound patronising.
"Great. I slept like a log but I feel like I ran a marathon in my sleep. And my eyes keep going out of focus, which is really distracting."
"Do you have a temperature? Any cold or flu symptoms? Are you eating properly?" I knelt by his bed, hands knotted in the bed sheets.
"No, not really, and probably. I hope noodles count as proper food, because that's all I've eaten for breakfast."
"Because they're the only thing my little brother can cook without burning the house down." He grinned, and I saw the twinkle in his eye again for a second. Maybe he really was still there.
"That might be a problem. But how are you emotionally? What phase of mourning are you in?"
"I don't really know. I think I'm still in denial, a bit. I get that she's dead, but I still half-expect her to show up at the window," I visibly flinched at his words, then tried to cover it up by leaning backwards.
"I dreamed about her last night. I dreamed she came to my window, and I let her in. She said the weirdest things, something about you, I think. And then she kissed me,"
A/N: This is the only time I will do an author's note because they generally annoy me. Just thought I'd apologise to my readers for making you wait. I got lazy, and I'm supposed to be revising for some exams coming up. So I'm going to be putting that as my top priority right now, so if I only update once a week, you now know why. Thanks for understanding!