“Tragedy always has a way of connecting us, doesn’t it?” Dr. Beckwith said with an upbeat tone, his eyes and smile thin. There was something so knowing, so mysteriously haunting about his soft smile that Frank felt a shiver crawl up his spine.
Frank groaned. Lord Almighty, he wanted some sleep and maybe a good novella. Lucy's chores were certainly going to be doubled, at least. “Nice to see you again, Dr. Beckwith.”
“Just call me David.”
“Nice to see you again, Dave.”
The doctor’s eye twitched but he decided to ignore it. No point in fighting against it, since Frank was quite well known for his stubbornness on the most minor of things. The hospital had a strange smell. On one hand, it smelled like bleach and a number of other sanitized chemicals, but the dank stench of death lingered. Frank rubbed his eye, “So, what’s the report?”
“Well,” The doctor said, looming over Barbara’s sleeping body. For once, Mrs. Baker's face wasn't traced with disgust. Instead, she looked tranquil. There were still a few blood stains in her ginger hair and a blood drip stood next to the doctor. “The usual, I suppose. Two punctures with little sign of struggle. She’s real lucky that ankle-biter’s so loud, otherwise she would have bled out. Whatever she was stabbed or ‘bitten’ with went deep enough to hit her bone.” He explained. Frank was unphased. “What’s most interesting is the fact there was only one ‘bite’ this time. Usually there’s about three or four sets.”
Frank shrugged, “Maybe the dog scared ‘em off?”
“It’s possible, especially considering they don’t usually attack in the midday. Anywhos, Mrs. Baker should make a full recovery,” David spoke lightly, then turned to face Frank. “What were you doing down there, anyway?”
“Getting food, then Lucinda heard a dog barking and I went to check it out,” Frank gestured to Barbara’s body, “Surprise, surprise.”
David chuckled, “What would this town do without you?” He mused to himself. Something seemed off in his tone, but there was something off about David Beckwith in general. Everyone in Wakefield had some strange persona or peculiar interests. “So, Frank, how’s things been ‘round the ranch?”
“The normal. Lucinda’s really good with animals, surprisingly.” Ignoring the fact she tried to eat them 20% of the time.
“That’s good. The girl’s in good health, yes? I don’t think she’s ever come in for any check-ups,” David said, sly. Frank swallowed hard. David’s face inched closer, “I’m just, hm, surprised a little girl working around that rusty ranch hasn’t had any… accidents.”
David’s gaze didn’t waiver. “It is flu season, after all.”
Frank stared back. Perhaps the drowsiness would hide his suspicions.
“She’s a tough girl,” Frank said simply.
Then, David shrugged, his thin white coat shuffling with him. “Good. Seems that being stubborn and strong is in the Williamson’s blood,” He leaned a bit closer, “She is your niece, right? That’s the rumor, anyway.” Dawson already had that spreading? Well, that boy never knew how to shut up.
Frank had to suppress his laughter. Lucinda was soft. Very, very soft. A stub of the toe and she was bawling her eyes out. Fortunately, Lucy was off doing chores most of the time, so he didn’t have to handle her. He’d have already lost it if he did. “She’s my late sister’s. We weren’t too close,” Frank lied, “So you don’t gotta worry. If anything happens, it won’t.”
David laughed softly, his demeanor now light and buoyant. “Of course, I understand. Thank you for coming in, Frank.”
. . .
Lucy picked at her fingers. Her skin wasn’t fair, but pale. Mrs. Baker would say she was whiter than winter snow. Lucinda couldn’t deny it. She couldn’t tell if that was a family trait or a vampire thing. She sighed. She always messed things up. Her family threw her out because she was too much of a crybaby when it came to feeding, but she could barely keep her hunger away for more than a week, at most. She’s worked with Frank only a month and she’s eaten at least four times now! How awful was that? Were her older siblings like this when they were her age? How did her parents keep them under control, but not her? Was her dietary needs different from other vampires?
Would she always be different, no matter where she went?
A rock hit her in the cheek. “Hey!” Lucy hissed, curling up deeper into the plastic chair.
“Sorry!” The little boy next to her said, though he didn’t look apologetic. More… oblivious. He was the typical fair boy, with blonde hair and overalls. He only looked a couple years older than her. “I was aiming for the window. Wanted to see how far it could go. Your fat head got in the way.”
“Fat head?!” Lucinda shrieked, “I don’t got no fat head!” She grabbed the pebble at her feet, then sent it flying for his head. She hit the fair boy straight in the forehead. “I was aiming for the door, but your fat head got in the way!”
Soon enough, the boy started sobbing. Oh, right. Lucinda was stronger and sturdier than most kids. She had enough strength to take down grown men on the daily. A little toss was a baseball pitch to normal kids. “Mama!” He cried, sniffing in loose snot, “She hit me! She hit me in the head!”
The clerk looked over the desk and rolled her eyes, “Percy, no playing in the waiting area,” The woman said, barely glancing over the war they were in.
“Sorry, mama,” The boy grumbled, rubbing his forehead. A big spot grew on his forehead that already grew black and blue. He glared at Lucinda, “My mama says you’re a creeper! I don’t wanna play with a weird creep!” With that, the kindergartener stormed off behind the front desk, clinging to his mother’s leg. He grabbed one of the children’s books from behind his mom’s feet and hid his face in it. Lucy doubted he even knew how to read.
“Lucy?” Frank called, fiddling with a notepad he hid in his pocket. The clerk briefly glanced him up and down, but paid no attention to his drowsy and tired appearance. Actually, she looked just as perpetually bothered and unamused. “C’mon. It’s almost bedtime.” Lucy glanced outdoors. The day had fallen into a deep twilight. How did it go by so fast? It was just seconds ago that they arrived, wasn’t it? Maybe her conversation with the clerk was long talk instead of small talk. She wasn’t very nice, but she was entertaining.
“Coming,” Lucy mumbled. She pushed herself off the seat and took one last look at Percy. Only a tuft of bright blonde hair could be seen above the cover of Little Blue Boy. She wanted to apologize, but she knew that he’d be too stubborn about it. Especially if he thought that a little girl could throw better and harder than he could. That bump was going to be purple for a long while. Hopefully it wouldn’t swell, but Lucy knew otherwise.
Frank carefully placed Lucinda into the seat next to his. She dug her nails into the cushion of the car seat, preparing for the ride. “What happened in there?” Frank asked as the car started up. This time, he didn’t instantly slam his fist into the broken radio.
“Some kid threw a rock at my head! So, I threw it back,” Lucinda said, now confident in her choice. Remembering how it happened only renewed her anger. He didn’t even try to say sorry, then went crying to his mommy! Frank stifled a laugh. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothin’, but it’s pretty rich you barely understand Wakefield customs.”
“Chucking a rock at another kid meant you liked them. And if it’s a boy throwing it to a girl…”
“Ewww,” Lucy moaned. This time, Frank couldn’t help but laugh and scratch his beard. He needed a shave. Badly.
Then, the radio came on and they started down the road. Through the static, I Hear a Rhapsody flooded the car. Despite it all, Lucy couldn’t help but smile. It was her favorite song. The instruments, the voice, the lyrics– They all made her feel normal for once. Every time it came on, she grinned when she realized she could enjoy music like a normal person would. The violin stringing made her forget that constant thirst in her throat. Dinah’s voice, like a delicate diamond that’d shatter if she sang any louder, cooed to Lucy as if she were just another girl. Frank bought a record player just so Lucy could put the song on when she needed comfort. The console that there could be someone else out there who loved this song; she finally wouldn’t be so different to someone. See! We like the same song!
In Lucy’s eyes, the cold winter day had faded into a sweet serenade. In Lucy’s heart, the bumpy ride that flung her around mercilessly seemed just a bit better. Quietly, she tried to sing along. It wasn’t groundbreaking, and her attempt to make her voice deeper made it more nasally if anything, but it made her happy. For once, Frank didn’t comment on how bad her high-pitched voice sounded compared to the mature voice of the radio. It was soft enough that he could ignore it if he wanted to. Lucy swayed her head to each low, gentle beat of the cello. She closed her eyes, and she could already see herself decked in a fancy gown, dancing with normal people in a large ballroom.
My darling hold me tight,
And whisper to me,
Then soft through a starry night,
I’ll hear a rhapsody.
The song ended and she was sent flying forward. She choked slightly on the arm Frank pulled out in front of her. “I’ll start cooking the stew,” He said, distantly, “We can eat on the carpet by the fire, if you want. You have to set it, if we do.”
Lucy sighed. Back to reality, and she knew how awkward dinner would be. She was still full, after all. “Yes, sir.” For now, at least, she could focus on setting a fire.
. . .
Why did Frank bother having her around? He pondered this question every day. Was being too lazy to actually get any work done and employing free child labor really worth it? For all the chores she did, the more problems he caused for his actual job. On the other hand, he loved what he did. He’d spend countless nights simply going over facts, rethinking every single thing he first believed. When he was a kid, he loved puzzles. Now he has to spend his days figuring out real ones.
Yet he still couldn’t figure out what came over him that night. She offered to work for him, and he accepted. Why he did that– even he doesn’t know.
Lucy sat front in front of him, crisscrossed on the carpet. Orange lights illuminated the side of her face. For once, her red eyes looked soft. Even in her most vulnerable state, she always had this sharp edge to her stare. The dim evening and crackling of flames seemed to warm her ghostly features. Lucinda spun her spoon around the bowl, poking the vegetables with disdain. She kept her head hung low in shame.
“So,” Frank said, wiping some broth from his beard, “We can’t avoid it forever.”
“Yeah,” She mumbled while she lazily stirred the stew around, “I know.”
“You should already know your chores will be doubled, so I’ll get to the important part. How’d it happen?” Frank asked as he slurped in. For such a serious conversation, Lucinda cared for it far more than Frank did. “Were you keeping up with your practice? We had chicken breasts yesterday, too, so that should’ve helped.”
Lucinda’s stomach twisted into a knot. “Well, it did, for a bit. But…” Her eyes watched beef float aimlessly through the hot, brown liquid. All the carrots and potatoes were just decoration for her. She didn’t even need to eat any of it, really. The first month they were together, Frank never cooked anything for her. It was only after that when Frank decided that maybe having a weekly murder case wasn’t a great look on him. Lucy had to wonder if he was helping restrain her impulses for his gain or for the good of them all.
“I dunno,” She said, guilt punching her in the gut. She felt like throwing up everything she just ate, but that would be rude. Instead, she sipped at her spoon. “I just… Sir, will you be mad?”
“You killed someone,” Frank said matter-of-factly, “I think you’ll be fine by now.” Lucy’s nose scrunched up. It already hurt, but hearing that word specifically, kill, it made her feel awful.
Lucy swallowed the biggest gulp of stew she could, trying to put off the inevitable. “I tried to hold off for a bit longer.”
Frank’s eyebrow raised. “When did you last eat some real blood?”
“... Almost a month ago?”
Frank let his spoon dip into the stew. The fire’s dying cracks and shimmers were all that kept silence from taking over. “You tried to starve yourself a month? Ya didn't even chomp on one of the animals?"
“Well, um, yeah. I thought I could do it… but I think I’m not ready for that yet.”
Frank took a deep breath. Of course this happened. Of course. He suggested it a while ago, and it seemed as if eating meat would help. Their next idea to put in place was to start purchasing pig’s blood, but Wakefield was a small, strange town. Rumors would spread far too fast. Frank didn’t even know what to say. Should he be proud she tried? Should he scold her for trying that without his permission? Should he just be silent about it? It was hard to tell. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings. If he did… Well, he didn’t want to mess with a killer vampire’s temper. She was stronger than him, surely. In Frank’s eyes, Lucy was more akin to a chess game than a little girl.
“Um, sir,” Lucinda put down her bowl and brushed her hair behind her ear. She was in desperate need of a haircut. Probably a bath, too. “I had an idea, and I-I know it’s a bad time to tell ideas, but I really wanna say it.”
Frank waited for her to continue.
Lucy closed her eyes and bowed her head, “Sir, I think we should start trying to find a way to… t-to not kill when I need to eat.”
Frank set his bowl down on the floor. His eyes weren’t exactly wide, but he looked more surprised than usual. He pushed his glasses up his nose. “You think that’s possible?”
As usual, Lucy picked at her nails. She’d been considering that since they were in the hospital. “Well, Mrs. Baker isn’t dead, so it’s not an instant death sentence.”
Frank gazed into the fire. If that were true, that maybe that could control her impulses, he’d never have to worry about ‘The Bloodsucker’ again. His job would be easy as all get out! Let it sit for a bit, and soon enough it'd be a cold case. Lucy could feel a semblance of normalcy. “How d’you suppose we pull it off?”
“Well, it’ll mostly come down to me not losing it when I take a bite. I think I could do it.”
“Maybe we should work on general restraint first.”
Lucy hummed and nodded. It’d have to be a long term goal, especially with how little they knew about her. He could go ask the Rainilda family themself, but he doubted they thought Lucy was still alive. Frank finished off his soup and just as the fire started dying. He could tell, since Lucinda started shivering in her nightgown. Frank inhaled slowly. He really didn’t want to, but he thought it’d be best if Lucinda had the night off. It’d been such a long day for them both. “I hear it’s going to snow. Want to sleep out here tonight?”
Lucy’s face lit up instantly. Snowy nights were her favorite and Frank knew it. The two would grab all their blankets and pillows and take them out to the plush carpet in front of the fireplace. Although they slept in the same room already, Lucy found it way more fun to have a sleepover on the floor. It ruined Frank’s posture the next day, but even he couldn’t deny the comforting light from the flames. Well, until it died out and the wood floorboards became freezing. He still wasn't sure how she handled that part.
Then, the next morning Lucinda would grab her coat (if she wasn’t too excited) and run out to make a snowman and angel. She nodded her head rapidly. “Well, get a move on. I’ll get the firewood.”
And so, Lucinda tripped on her own feet as she rushed into the bedroom. Frank huffed to himself. He should’ve just made Lucy grab the wood, too. Begrudgingly, he stood up and popped the arch in his back and wandered into the kitchen. In there, next to the oven, was a tiny patch of firewood. Maybe having it right next to the hot oven was a bad idea, but he couldn’t be bothered to move it. Thankfully, he wasn’t completely out of shape and could throw the lumber into the fireplace only breaking a slight sweat.
Lucinda had already set up. With pillows just slightly away from the blaze and their two different comforters laid out next to each other. She was grinning wide. She never did that in public. Likely due to the fact he could see her sharp fangs in full view. He still remembered how she let him examine her mouth when she first told him about vampirism. After seeing those suckers (get it?), he didn’t doubt those canines were meant to kill.
"Done!" She exclaimed, clapping her hands together as she fell onto her flower patterned blankets. She even brought out her favorite plush doll, Mr. Hopkins. A little white rabbit with red eyes like her own. She didn't know her own birthday, so Frank decided on May twenty-sixth. It reminded him of her, so he bought it. It wasn't in very good condition anyway, so it was only twenty cents. He heard the floorboards slam against her back, but she was strong enough to not care about the impact.
Frank yawned, "Let me change," He said, beginning to unbutton the collar of his shirt.
"Can I put the radio on?" Lucy asked, sitting up from the makeshift bed. Frank nodded and left before Lucinda could squeal in excitement.
That's what led to Frank staring in the mirror for upwards of seven minutes. How did he get himself into this? He wanted a normal life, and now he had to worry about a volatile toddler who could kill him anytime she wanted. That was the hardest part about this. Of course he wanted to treat her normally, but… Their relationship was supposed to be a partnership. She worked for him, he let her get away with it. Free child labor in exchange for him finding somebody to frame.
To Frank, it felt parasitic. Lucy had the power in all of this, in the grand scheme of God's plan. The only thing keeping her from taking over is that she was too young to realize it. Maybe Frank could keep it that way…
Oh, what was he saying? Lucy was too innocent for that. She could hurt a fly, but she didn’t want to. She shrieked at every little thing, she felt awful about throwing a pebble at a kid, and… Poor Barbara, if only she could understand.
Frank scratched his beard. He really should take care of that soon. It was starting to itch more and more. Then he'd take care of the purple circles around his eyes. He should probably try and get Lucinda in the bathtub, too. Would water hurt a vampire? He had no idea. Lucy only knew a few basics. She had to be invited in, she would get a rash in the sun, and she needed blood. Everything else… They mostly had to guess.
The five o'clock whistle's on the blink
The whistle won't blow and whadd'ya think?
My pop is still in the factory 'cause he don't know
What time it happens to be
Frank heard the radio through the door. You could hear everything in this house, really. The walls were too thin for their own good. He sighed and finally decided to change into a pajama shirt and pants. They were pretty old, but so was everything else here. Everything needed to be replaced, everything needed to be fixed up– Why else did he have Lucy here?
When he returned, Lucinda’s eyes were already drooping. Thankfully, she reignited the fire for the two of them. “Ya know,” She started, her voice a whisper, “This song is kinda dumb.”
“How come?” He asked, taking a seat on his plain sheets and comforters. Lucinda insisted blue was his color, but he preferred browns and muted colors.
“Well, like, how do you work until two in the mornin' and not realize you’re working over time?”
“There ain’t many windows in those factories.”
“Still! What about that inside clock you be talking about? You can tell when something’s wrong or the time’s off, why can’t her daddy? Who focuses that much on factory work?”
Frank sighed. Even if she looked tired, Lucy’s mind could run for hours. “I dunno. It’s just the song. Do you want a warm glass of milk?”
“Nah, I’m fine.”
You wanna hear what my mommy said?
When papa came home, and snaked into bed,
And told her he worked ‘till half past two,
‘Cause the five o’clock whistle
Frank groaned as he laid down. The floor absolutely killed his back, but he knew Lucy would have the load of the work tomorrow anyhow. Maybe he should start teaching her how to chop logs…
Just before he could suggest it, he turned his head and Lucinda was fast asleep. Mr. Hopkins was held tight against her chest. Only the top of the stitched doll’s head peaked out of her arms. He could already hear her snoring. Frank shook his head. No doubt her entire pillow would be covered in drool by morning. The fire stayed calm and soft with them, as if not wanting to interrupt such a quiet moment.
Frank stared at her for a moment. What would pops think if he saw this? Mama would be even more confused by it all. Would they like Lucy? Only God might know. If there was one. If vampires existed, anything could. He debated moving closer to her. Once the fire died, it’d be cold. He didn’t want either of them to get sick, though it seemed as if she was quite steely against bitter wind and freezing mornings. She wasn’t human. She’d survive. Free child labor in exchange for… It was getting hard to tell nowadays.
Frank rolled onto his side, facing his back to Lucinda. He pulled his glasses off and threw them to the sofa, where they landed with a soft plump. He tried to let the fire lull him to sleep, to forget that Lucy was even there...
But Lucinda really did have a strange smell to her. Was she afraid of water? She needed to be invited in, and was hurt by sunlight… Another human necessity wouldn’t be outlandish. Oh well, they’d find out. If he couldn’t bathe her, then he’d drown her in talcum.
It seemed the debate in his head was the only thing that stressed him to sleep.
The morning he woke up, he felt a small mass on his side. He looked behind him. Lucy’s head laid on his back, her cheek squished against her own face. Maybe she did get cold in the night.