Scott sat in the passenger seat, sobbing all the way home.
Josie, on the other hand, was fuming. She had clearly bitten her tongue while Scott was at his worst, but as soon as he started to let up, she started in. The verbal tongue-lashing that she gave his family actually made him feel a little better.
She pulled the car into a parking spot directly in front of the office. “They keep hiding behind those children,” Josie said, repeating something she had said twice already, “but the girls didn’t seem afraid of you that night they actually let you into the house. And you’ve had Clarice twice a week for over a month. I mean, if you can be around your own child regularly, why should it be a problem to see your nieces once or twice a month?”
Scott pulled a plastic bag out of the pocket in the door and began picking up his mess. The floorboard littered with damp, balled-up napkins.
He still sniffed a little. “Like you said, it’s just an excuse.”
“Yeah, it is.”
“They make me feel like some sort of pedophile,” Scott said, his grief beginning to be replaced by anger.
“That’s exactly the way they’re acting.”
“When I get hungry, my first thought isn’t to bite people; I just walk to the fridge and get something—just like when I was human. I don’t feel an overwhelming desire to bite people.”
“Except around me,” Josie said with a slight smile.
“Yes, but that’s more from lust than real hunger. And, if you’ve noticed, I can show restraint; I’ve refused your offer of blood before. I’m perfectly capable of controlling myself.”
“I know. Excuse me for saying so, but your family is really thick-headed.”
He smiled a little. “Yeah.” He tied off the top of the plastic sack. “But it doesn’t matter now. I’m moving forward with my life and I’m only taking people with me who want to be with me.” He looked over at her and smiled. She returned it.
He tossed the bag in the trash can on the street, and he and Josie opened up the office for the evening. There weren’t any appointments scheduled, so they went into the basement to see his finished apartment
“Wow, this looks so nice, Scott,” Josie said, as they descended the stairs into his new living room.
“It does, doesn’t it?” he replied, equally amazed.
There was a proper floor—not just carpet on top of the dirt—and a wall separated the living area from the other half of the unfinished basement. The living room ran the width of the building and Scott’s couch and TV were on the far side, and nearest the stairs were the table and chairs. There were two bedrooms in either corner with a small bathroom in between.
In Clarice’s room, the brick walls had been left exposed, and they were painted a pale lavender. The other two walls were white and the carpet was a light gray. Overhead, the floor joists were still exposed, but they had been painted white. Despite the fact that it was in a basement, the room looked quite bright and cheery.
“Oh, this is great,” Josie said. “I can’t wait to see it with the furniture and everything.”
“That’s coming tomorrow.”
“I hope they get it set up before Clarice gets here, so she can see all of it at once.”
The bathroom was very plain. The walls—including the brick—were white and the cabinet and fixtures were all white as well.
Josie gave a little nod as she inspected it. “I can work with this.”
“What do you mean?” Scott asked, with a little trepidation. With the exception of putting furniture in Clarice’s room, he had thought the project was done.
“You can’t leave it plain like this.”
“Because plain is ugly.”
“I thought plain was plain.”
“No, it’s ugly.” She patted him on the shoulder in a rather condescending way. “I’ll take care of it. Don’t worry.”
“You know I broke the bank building this out, right?”
“Fifty dollars and I’ll have it looking great.”
He looked at her skeptically.
“Alright, thirty,” she bargained.
“Oh, alright,” he finally relented. She looked so pleased—and smiled so beautifully—he had to restrain himself from agreeing to give her fifty after all.
They went to look at his room next. In it, the brick walls had been left bare and the other two walls had been painted a deep red to match. The floor joists above had been painted white, and the carpet was a dark tan. His bed was already in it, and his clothes were hanging in garment bags from nails in the floor joists.
“Can I have fifty dollars to decorate your room?” Josie begged.
Scott got out his wallet and pulled a hundred dollar bill from it. It left him with a grand total of three dollars.
“Here,” he said, handing her the hundred. “That’s all I have, so you better make it stretch.”
She beamed and plucked it from his grasp. “You’ll be surprised what I can do with it.”
“I better be,” he said with mock seriousness.
Before she could retort, though, someone called out from upstairs. “Hello? Scott?”
Scott and Josie went upstairs. The city’s D.A., Mark Pitchett, was in the lobby.
“There you are,” he said, a grin sneaking on his face. “I didn’t interrupt anything, did I?”
Scott tried not to look embarrassed. “No. The contractors finished my apartment today, and we were having a look.”
“Oh?” Mark said, sounding almost hopeful.
“Do you want to see?” Scott offered.
Mark and Scott took a quick look around the new space. “Well, I must say,” Mark told Scott at the conclusion of the tour, “I’m disappointed.”
“Disappointed?” Scott asked, confused. He thought it was quite nice for a basement.
“Yes. I expected a vampire’s subterranean lair to be more ghastly. This looks so urban and middle class.”
Mark put a hand on Scott’s shoulder, looking more serious. “Actually, I came over to offer my condolences. How are you doing?”
Scott’s momentary happiness disappeared in a puff of smoke. “I’m….” He choked up, unable to finish. Tears stung his eyes.
Mark looked at him with compassion. “I’m sorry.”
“I… I had to break it off with my family tonight.”
“What do you mean?”
“They don’t like being around me because I’m a vampire. Tonight, I told my mother and brother that they either had to treat me like I was normal, or… or I was going to cut them out of my life.”
Mark looked horrified. “And they disowned you?”
“My mother said it was my choice—that I could stay in contact with them or not—but, God, can’t she and Brandon see that they’ve driven me to do this? That I can’t stand being treated like a leper by my own family?”
Mark nodded sympathetically.
“I mean… I just can’t stand being treated like that anymore. I’m tired of being the bad guy. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“No, you didn’t.”
Scott sighed. “Maybe it will be easier if I just pretend I don’t have a family. If I don’t contact them, maybe I’ll kind of forget and it won’t hurt so much.”
“I seriously doubt it. But at least you can quit feeling like a doormat.”
“Yeah,” Scott said glumly.
As Scott was walking Mark out, Shirley and her vampire partner came in. Scott was finally introduced to the beefy, tattooed man, who also happened to be named Scott.
“What happened to your father?” Shirley asked kindly. “Judge said he was in a car wreck?”
“Yeah, he crossed the line and hit Dad head on.”
“What happened to him?”
“He’s still alive, last I knew. They life-flighted him to Vandy. He was a young guy, though—twenty-something. Dad had just turned seventy.”
“Yeah, something like that’s so much harder on an older person. Bones are more brittle, they don’t heal up so well.”
She patted him on the arm. “I am so sorry to hear that, baby.”
Judge Smithwick came by later that afternoon to offer his condolences as well, and Scott received two floral deliveries. One was a large peace lily from Judge Standiff and the county’s night court staff, and the other was a vase of mixed flowers from his client Mrs. Stanley.
“Wasn’t that nice of them,” Josie said, as she put the plants on Scott’s desk.
Scott couldn’t help but compare his family—who had quickly ignored his suffering—to his friends and colleagues around town who had thoughtfully visited and sent him tokens to show they were thinking of him.
“Yeah, real nice,” Scott agreed.
Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee