The Bloodsuckers, Episode 25: The Ultimatum

There was no getting around it: Scott couldn’t go to his father’s funeral. The family wanted to do it graveside, and it didn’t make any sense to do it at night; it wasn’t like they could bury the man in the dark. And if anything was scarier than a vampire, it was being in a cemetery at night.

Scott spent the day at Josie’s because the workmen were finishing up his basement apartment. He didn’t sleep well, and he kept waking up from dreams that involved his father, but he could never quite remember them. He invariably fell back to sleep feeling frustrated.

As soon as the sun set, he and Josie drove to the cemetery. In the twilight, he could just make out the mounded grave with its fresh dirt and cover of flowers. There was no marker yet; death had come too unexpectedly.

Josie gave Scott some time alone, but she eventually wandered over and put her hand in his.

Scott sniffed. “Today my dad, tomorrow my mother. And the next day my brother.”

“Scott, I don’t think—”

“And after that, my nieces… and my daughter. Then my grandchildren. I’m going to outlive everyone, generation after generation. There will never be a grave here for me beside them.”

Josie didn’t say anything.

“What’s the point?” he said sadly.

“What’s the point of what?”

“What’s the point of bothering to have a family? I mean, why should I try? Or even care?”

Josie was quiet for a moment. “You know, the same could be said of me—of humans in general.”

“What do you mean?”

“We’re all going to die, so what’s the point of getting attached? Why bother to love at all? It’s just going to end in death.”

She poked him in the chest with her finger. “If we don’t love, then we don’t live. You can live alone and be miserable, or you can love people, be happy while you have them. And even when they die, the grief and misery won’t last forever; it will be replaced by fond memories which will bring a small measure of happiness.”

Scott was silent for a long time. Then he smiled in the darkness. “You are a very smart woman, you know that?”

“Yes, I know,” she said smugly.

Scott laughed.

“It’s true,” she said. “I graduated with honors.”

“So did I.”

“Yes, but mine were higher.”

“Oh? And what, exactly, does that mean?”

“That you’re smart, but I’m smarter. You should defer to me when you’re unsure.”

He chuckled, then squeezed her hand.

He had intended to go straight back to the office, but Josie’s words changed his mind, and he made a detour to his mother’s house. He noticed his brother’s car was in the driveway, too.

“What are you doing here?” Josie asked, as he turned off the ignition.

“Doing something I should have done before Dad died.” He looked at her. “Will you back me up?”

She looked confused, but nodded. “Sure.”

He went to the front door—Josie following behind him—and knocked. His mother opened the door just a few seconds later. She stood with her arm outstretched, her hand barely touching the knob. She was as far away from him as she could be and still be holding the door open.

“Scott, what are you doing here?” she asked, sounding surprised to see him.

“Giving you an ultimatum.”

“What?”

“An ultimatum. I’m tired of being a pariah to my own family. Either you take me back and act like nothing’s changed—and you stop flinching away from me and refusing to touch me—or I walk out of your lives forever. I won’t have a family anymore.”

Scott’s brother, Brandon, walked up behind their mother. She and he exchanged worried glances.

“Scott, I don’t understand…” his mother said helplessly.

“I don’t know how much more simple I can make it. Love me, or I leave.”

“I do love you.”

“No, you don’t.”

Tears swam in her eyes. “Scott, how can you say that?”

“Because for the last two years, I’ve not been good enough to be in your presence.”

“Scott, honey, that’s not it at all.”

“Yes, that is it.”

“No, it’s not. It’s just that you’re not… safe. It’s not that I don’t love you….”

“I spend more time with Scott than anyone,” Josie interjected heatedly. “We work together—hell, we live together half the time—he bites me, we have sex—there’s really nothing much we haven’t done together, from one end of the spectrum to the other. And in all that time, I have never once been afraid of Scott. I’ve had a guy shoot at me and try to kill me, but Scott has never been a problem. He’s a good man and what you’re doing to him—the agony that you’re putting him through—is unconscionable. He can’t help the fact that he drinks blood to live, but he’s never let that stop him from being a good person. I just wish you all would put aside your prejudice long enough to see that.”

Scott was blown away by Josie’s impassioned speech. He practically had tears in his eyes just listening to her. He wasn’t exactly sure what he had done to merit having her in his life, but he sure hoped he could keep on doing it.

Scott’s mother looked at him anxiously, then glanced at Brandon—who looked equally unsure.

“Well,” he said, after a minute of tense silence, “what’s it going to be?”

“I… I need to think on it. You’re asking a lot.”

“I’m not asking a lot,” he said firmly. “And you’ve had two years to think about it and get used to the idea. So make up your mind right now. And you, Brandon,” he added.

There was a long moment of hesitation.

Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee

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4 comments on “The Bloodsuckers, Episode 25: The Ultimatum

  1. Love this episode. Josie is so strong. I really like how you write her character. The live and love speech was really good. Like the humor with who was smarter. And loved how she stepped up to help him with family. Nothing to stumble over, easy to read … perfect! 🙂

    • Keri Peardon says:

      I will say this: I’m not afraid to wax philosophical when I write. Or religious. I get into all sorts of things in my Acceptance books; most of my vampires believe in God, and some–like Joshua–are quite religious.

      “I can’t answer to how God will judge any of us,” Joshua said. “But if we have committed an unforgivable sin, how much worse do we make it by praying and keeping the law? Will God destroy our souls twice over? Is there some extra level of Dante’s hell, just for us, that’s worse than any other part of hell?
      “Our relationship with God may be unsalvageable, but I know if we do nothing to try and maintain it, it definitely will be. I don’t think we risk anything by trying, but we have everything to gain.”
      “And you think being more religious will help me with my control issues?”
      “It certainly won’t make them worse.”
      Micah continued to look dubious. “Look, Micah,” Joshua said, “the purpose of prayer isn’t to change God; that’s impossible. The purpose is to change yourself. Even if praying has no effect whatsoever on your soul after death, it can at least have a positive effect on you here and now. And considering how badly you feel about yourself right now, it certainly won’t hurt you to try.”

      • I like this. Definitely like his outlook on prayer. My limited writing hasn’t taken me in philosophical or religious directions. I’m uncertain how well I would do in that arena. As a Christian, I’m often judged by others because my writing is secular, and my choice of friends, and even lifestyle doesn’t “measure up” to their standards. But I refuse to live someone else’s convictions, and I would never ask someone to live mine. Maybe next time Susan gets herself locked in a burial vault overnight, I should have her pray. 🙂 Nah, it wouldn’t ring true to her character. … By the way, I’m interested in the story cards you wrote about, but until I’m done with this blasted editing, I won’t have time to look into them. Now that you’ve “played” with them for a while, do you like them as much as you thought you would?

      • Keri Peardon says:

        I so ripped off a rabbi on the whole approach to prayer thing, LOL. The idea that it’s better to try to have a relationship with God and fail than to not try at all is called “Pascal’s Wager” after the 17th century philosopher Blaise Pascal.

        Who knew those philosophy classes in college would come in handy?

        I haven’t gotten the chance to sit down and do a full story with the plot cards yet; I have several stories already backlogged!

        Hey, I know what I’ll do! I’ll do a spread and post it on my blog as a writing exercise. Maybe I can even get some of my regular writers to contribute the first page of their story (or all of it, if it’s flash fiction) so we can see how many ways you can approach the same basic plotline.

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