Wow. This’ll make you laugh. Definitely one for the Goths. I think I was about 15 when I wrote this. This is evidence of growth, I hope!

R.E. “What is it to be a vampire?”
Sender: Laurenne
To: Aaron

Dear Aaron,
Hi. My name’s Laurenne. I went to the ‘Cybervamp’ website last night and read your article “What is it to be a vampire?” It was pretty basic, wasn’t it? Not bad, but I’m looking for more information than that. A friend of mine gave me your address – I hope you don’t mind – reckoned you’d be the person to ask. If you think you can be of any help to me, please meet me in the ‘Original Sin’ chatroom, tomorrow evening, at seven. If you can’t make it I’ll understand, but it’d be… nice.

**********************

[‘Original Sin’ chatroom. Over 18’s only.
No weirdoes.]
– Hi. Is Aaron there?
– Who’s that?
– Laurenne. Are you Aaron?
– Baby, I’ll be anyone you want me to be!
– Piss off, creep. Aaron?
– I’m here.
– I said piss off, arsehole.
– Make up your mind, Laurenne. Do you want my help or not?
– Oh shit. Sorry! One to one?
– Sure.
What was all that about?
– Just some pervert in the chatroom. Huh, like I should be surprised! Are you really Aaron?
– Do you want proof?
– Yeah, OK.
– “Hi. My name’s Laurenne. I went to the ‘Cybervamp’ website last night and read your article blah blah blah pretty basic wasn’t it blah blah reckoned you’d be the person to ask” etc etc etc. Enough?
– Yeah. Sorry. Had to check.
– No problem. There are a lot of weirdoes on the Net.
– (lol)
– I’m one.
– Yeah. Me too.
– So why have you contacted me?
– You’re, like, my local cybervampire!
– Actually, I am the cybervampire.
– What?
– You said like. I’m not like one, I am one.
– (lol)
– And it’s vampyre.
– Confused.
– We’ve all got to move with the times, darling. And retro is so “in” at the moment.
– (lol)
– What’s so funny?
– You. Not in a bad way. You make me laugh, that’s all.
– I’m glad you find me such a persistent source of amusement, Laurenne.
– Anything for you, sweetie!
– Is that a promise?
– Er…!
– What did you mean by ‘pretty basic’?
– It didn’t tell me much that I didn’t know already.
– So you study us?
– You could say that. I’m doing research for my next book, part of the ‘Beginner’s Guide To…’ series. You may have heard of them? I’ve written one on UFO’s and another on werewolves, of all things! The next one’s on vampires, which is why I’ve contacted you.
– I can’t say I’ve heard of them, no.
– Oh okay. I can send you a copy if you like?
– Thank you, but I think I’m past the beginners level on those topics. After all, some of my best friends are werewolves.
– (lol)
– Two books hardly constitute a series, do they?
– There are a couple of other authors writing for the Guide besides me. We don’t tend to collaborate. So do you reckon you can help me?
– We usually prefer to talk to those who try to seek the truth out from the crap – first-hand information; untainted, if you like.
– What are you suggesting?
– We could meet somewhere.
– Ooh, great chat-up line!
– I don’t follow you.
– Sorry, game over sweetie! You’re hardly subtle, are you?
– You’ve lost me.
– Come on, drop the act. You’re not a real vampire!

– Aaron?
-I’m wasting my time.
-Wait!

– Aaron?
I’m sorry.
– Are you?
– Thank God. I thought you’d gone.
– God does not exist. Why are you thanking him?
– I dunno. It’s just a figure of speech.
– Maybe.
– So where do you want to meet?
– The Electric Ballroom. Camden Town. Tomorrow. Eleven o’clock.
– Outside?
– No. Inside.
– I’ll never find you in there.
– I’ll find you.
– OK. I’ll see you tomorrow.
– Tomorrow never comes. There is only today.
– OK, I’ll see you today, then!
– (lol)
– That’s the first time you’ve laughed.
– That’s the first time you’ve made me laugh.
– Touché! See ya then babes!
– Au revoir Laurenne.

********************

Laurenne stood by the bar in level one of The Electric Ballroom, Camden Town; the tacky, Gothic style clock on the wall proclaimed it to be five past eleven. She sipped at her fourth drink, a Bacardi and coke, growing rapidly impatient that Aaron had not yet materialised. Not that he was even particularly late, of course – not wanting to be late herself and hearing that the Tube was out, she had allowed far too much time for her journey by bus and had reached the club by ten o’clock – but she did not like being stood up and made to look a fool in front of strangers. She looked along the bar and someone over to her left caught her attention. He was dressed all in black, not in any way unusual for The Electric Ballroom. He made eye contact and smiled, but made no move to speak to her. She ignored him, waiting, if this was Aaron, for him to make the first move. He turned to face her and, reaching across the person standing between them, put out one leather-gloved hand to her.
“Laurenne.” They shook hands.
“Who told you?”
“I told you I would find you. You did not believe me?” His voice had the barest trace of an accent, not one that Laurenne recognised. She glanced away for a second, then looked back and grinned.
“Come on then, show us your fangs!” He dropped her hand and any sign of a smile vanished from his face. He turned away from her and started to walk away. Laurenne followed him, shocked.
“Hey, Aaron! Where’re you going?” He turned to face her. “It was just a joke.”
“It was not ‘just a joke’. This is not ‘just a joke’. Do you understand?” He was pale with his anger. Or perhaps, Laurenne reflected, he had always been pale. It was hard to tell under these lights.
“Yeah, I understand,” she said quietly. They stood silently facing each other for a while, she feeling awkward by his glare and by what had happened. Shit, her friend had sent her to the so-called fucking authority on vampire mythology – even if he was a little weird – and already she’d pissed him off.
“Would you like a drink?” she asked tentatively. His eyes focused on hers for a second, studying her. Then he brushed past her, back towards the bar.
“Don’t tempt me.”

********************

They sat at a small round table in one of the ‘quieter’ rooms, near the back, by the window, Laurenne frequently sipping at her drink, nervously, Aaron taking peanuts from the packet he had bought at the bar and idly picking them apart as they talked. Leather gloves now removed and laid neatly on the table, he lined up the peanut halves along the surface with long, thin fingers. Then he offered the peanuts to Laurenne. She declined, and he continued to push them about, making patterns on the tabletop. Laurenne looked puzzled.
“Why don’t you just eat them?” He shrugged.
“I’m not hungry.”
“Then why did you get them?”
“Because you were paying.” His head was bowed intently over the peanut shells; he glanced up at her through lowered lashes and smiled briefly. She flashed him a sarcastic smile, then grinned as if in apology, though for what, she was not sure.
“Come on, Laurenne. I thought you said that you’ve studied us –”
“Well, obviously not nearly well enough!” Laurenne snapped, annoyed. Aaron raised his head to look at her, smiled, folded his arms and leaned forward over the table.
“Then you should know,” he said calmly, “that vampires do not eat. They do not drink – at least, not in the conventional sense of the word.” He moved back and continued to play with the peanut shells.
“Is that because you can’t, or because you don’t need food?”
“Oh, we can eat; but it… disrupts… certain things.”
“In what way?”
“It isn’t a particularly pleasant feeling,” he said, changing the subject slightly. He grinned. “Not like… well, I’m sure you know what I mean, darling.” His tone was suggestive and he smiled again, raised eyebrows obviously hinting at something.
“You mean, not like drinking blood.” He considered this.
“Well, yes, that too.”
“So…?”
Aaron raised an eyebrow, clearly puzzled that he would have to explain his meaning.
“I meant sex, Laurenne. Way to spoil a joke!”
A look of amazement crossed Laurenne’s face.
“What? I thought vampires couldn’t –”
Aaron laughed loudly, disbelievingly.
“Do you want me to prove that as well?”
“Well – No! Hang on, but…” She stopped, and he waited patiently, watching her, his face impassive, until she had her thoughts in order.
“Go on,” he suggested.
“It’s just that… well, Louis said his only lust was for the kill, for blood –”
“I don’t think so. What about Louis’ love for Claudia? Not lust, but certainly within the same sphere of emotion, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yeah, maybe, but –”
“And Lestat and those women? A ‘veritable furnace of passion’, wasn’t it?” Aaron reclined in his chair, stretching leather-clad legs out underneath the table. He continued to harass the fragments of peanut, the vaguest hint of a smug smile on his face. Laurenne came to the conclusion that he was setting her up. She sighed deeply and put one elbow on the table, chin resting on her hand.
“OK. Dracula, then. He was only after power.”
“He was a bloody Carpathian, Laurenne!” He said, laughing sharply. “What did you expect?!” Laurenne could not help but smile at this.
“No, come on, be serious!” she insisted, laughing now with him. He stopped abruptly.
“You’re right, of course. Besides, these are works of fiction. Stupid stories. OK. Where were we?”
“About to have sex!” she quipped, and they both laughed. Their eyes met briefly and Laurenne barely had time to be shocked when he moved forward suddenly and kissed her.
“Did you mean that?” he said quietly, his lips moving on hers as he spoke. She appeared flustered before regaining her composure. Turned her face to one side.
“Er… no.”
“Pity.” Aaron shifted back into his seat again and folded his arms over his chest; the pale hands resting against the blackness of his jacket served to remind her of exactly what he was claiming to be, and she shivered despite herself. What a time for her usual cynical persona to run off and hide. She pulled herself together. Wondering vaguely why she was not angry at this latest turn of events, at the man’s utter confidence – no, arrogance – that he should have tried it on like that, she made an attempt to change the subject.
“So, er…” (C’mon, Laurenne, think.) She cleared her throat, and became aware of Aaron watching her, apparently amused by her predicament. Why the hell hadn’t she hauled off and slapped him one yet?
“Yes?” He enquired, one eyebrow raised almost mockingly. Laurenne ignored the bewildered argument raging in her head, and continued.
“Er, yeah. You said that God doesn’t exist. Why do you think that?”
“Did I say that?” Aaron extended an arm, picked up Laurenne’s drink and took a sip. He winced.
“Problem?” He shook his head. “No, there’s obviously something wrong. That ‘unpleasant feeling’ you were telling me about? Or were you just going to criticise my choice of poison?” He grinned at this.
“The latter, actually.”
“Prefer a Bloody Mary, would you?” He stopped smiling.
“How strange, and somehow fitting, that you should keep making the same mistake. You have really perfected the art of pissing me off, Laurenne.” The last four words were precisely articulated, said forcefully, almost angrily. Laurenne nearly snapped at this. She was pissing him off? Again she ignored it. She was damned if she wasn’t going to get something out of this meeting.
“I’ll take that as a compliment, shall I?” She smiled sarcastically and inclined her glass towards him before taking a sip herself. Replacing the glass on the table she motioned for him to continue, but spoke herself before he could say anything.
“Okay, Mister Vampire, we’ll treat this as a real interview. I’ll stop taking the piss and you stop with the Darker Than Thou, alright?” His eyes flashed, then he appeared to calm down, and mutely nodded his accord.
“Yes, you did say that God doesn’t exist,” she added, reminding him of their online conversation. He looked thoughtful.
“Define God,” he replied. Laurenne frowned thoughtfully.
“Okay. Nothing too deep and meaningful, um… Let’s go with ‘omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent’, alright?”
“Fine.”
“So does he exist?”
“Why ‘he’?” Laurenne shrugged.
“General belief, I suppose.”
“I thought humans were supposed to be logical.” He realised that she didn’t understand. “How can you have one without the other?” he expanded, cryptically. Laurenne continued to look puzzled.
“What, you mean how can you have humans without logic?” Aaron looked incredulous, sighed, and continued patiently.
“Look, you believe in a male God.” Laurenne shrugged an affirmative and picked up her drink. She swirled the ice cubes around in the glass, watching them. Aaron persevered regardless, although suspecting that she was not really listening. “But humans are male and female. So how could a solely male God create both male and female?” Aaron’s suspicion was confirmed when Laurenne responded with “of course he could! He’s God!”
Finally, in exasperation: “Christ, Laurenne, how dense are you?”
“Hey! Look, I get what you mean, I just don’t agree with it,” she lied, trying to move the conversation along. She was supposed to be researching vampires, not holding theological debates with strangers in a north London club.
Aaron shook his head.
“If you understood what I meant, you would be agreeing with me.” Laurenne folded her arms.
“Where I come from we’d call you a fanatic,” she stated acidly.
“Where I come from we’d call you a closed-minded ignoramus,” he retorted calmly, casually examining his nails. He looked up at her. She scowled and looked away. He smiled.
“You get offended so easily, Laurenne.” Laurenne made a small scornful noise, somewhere between a laugh and a snort.
“You’re one to talk!” She glared defiantly at him and he held her gaze.
“Maybe,” he replied. “But then I’m older than you. I’ve had to put up with more shit than you – probably more than you ever will.” Laurenne rolled her eyes disdainfully.
“Don’t be so bloody dramatic!” He smiled again and dropped his gaze; for the first time he appeared a little shy.
“Yeah, well, that’s probably something to do with the company I keep.”
“And who might they be?”
“Mostly actors. I’m living above a theatre at the moment.”
Laurenne’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“What?”
“Well, I suppose it’s what you’d call a live-in job. I play the penniless actor who turns up on their doorstep looking for a break, would they please just give me a chance etc etc, and a couple of auditions later I’ve got a room in part of the theatre building, a series of walk-on parts because, let’s face it, they can’t take a risk with some unknown like me, I get along well with the different casts –”
“Hey, what happened to the ‘mysterious stranger’ aspect of the vampire?” Laurenne interrupted. “You mean to tell me that you’ve actually got friends?”
“That’s a bit harsh, darling. Yes, of course I have friends.”
“So presumably they know you quite well.”
“I didn’t say that.” Laurenne gave a short laugh, part cynicism, part amusement.
“Come off it, Aaron! They’re your friends, for God’s sake!”
“There you go again with that God crap,” Aaron sighed. He smiled. “I play the part of the penniless actor. I must also play the part of their friends.” Laurenne frowned.
“Must you?”
“And what do you think their reaction would be if I told them ‘the truth’?” He pointed out, making bunny ears around the words with his pallid and somehow translucent fingers. “I have to work with these people, Laurenne, I have to live with some of them. The only thing that allows me to exist in relative peace is to act out the character that those around me expect me to be. I know it sounds contradictory, but I happen to enjoy where I am at the moment and I do not wish to be forced to leave. The people are friendly, the food’s good…” He grinned at her shocked expression, and laughed at her attempt to hide it from him. He raised an eyebrow at her and pulled a face.
“What, nothing to say, Laurenne? No sarcastic remark? You’re not going to tell me what a ‘little devil’ I am? Call me a monster, perhaps?” He tilted his head to one side, feigning confused innocence.
“I’m just getting a little bit tired of this game you’re playing with me,” she replied quietly.
“Game, Laurenne?” He leaned forward, elbows on the table, cupped his face in his hands, and grinned.
“Yes, game! You haven’t given me even one tiny piece of evidence to back up what you’re telling me! And you just expect me to believe? Just like that? It doesn’t work like that, Aaron!”
“Does it not? You are human, after all. Can’t I expect even a little blind faith?” At last the anger that she hadn’t quite been feeling towards him bubbled to the surface. She forced it down; one more chance, and then she was out of here. She took a deep breath to calm herself; just enough to continue. She leant forward, resting folded arms on the table.
“Give me some proof, Aaron. Give me something I can work with. You’re the actor – convince me that what you’re saying is true. Make me believe you.” Aaron sighed and shook his head slightly.
“I could make you believe me, I suppose. But I would prefer you to believe for yourself. At any rate, I have come to the conclusion that this evening has been, as I was anticipating, a complete waste of time.” Aaron sat up in his chair, stretched and glanced at his watch. “I’ll leave you to be briefly pissed off with me before writing our meeting off as… well, as whatever you decide it has been. Goodnight, Laurenne.” He got up to leave, retrieving his gloves from the table and pulling them on as he did so. Laurenne seemed lost in her own thoughts for a moment, and Aaron was about to vanish into the crowd when she suddenly stood up, hurriedly gathered up her coat and bag and followed him through the seething masses of people. She lost sight of him for a minute; he reappeared at the top of the stairs, heading for the exit. Laurenne found a break in the crowd and forced her way through.
“Aaron! Wait!” He turned slowly, looking puzzled. Mouthed the word “What?” at her. She caught up with him.
“Aren’t you at least going to see me home?” She smiled at him. Aaron regarded her impassively.
“No.” He started off down the stairs, then looked back and grinned at her affronted expression. Then he continued walking, reached the exit and disappeared. Laurenne stared at the now empty doorway, stunned. She reached a decision.
“Dammit!” she muttered, and ran down the stairs after him. She exited the club and cast about wildly. The usual night-time tableau of the drunk, the high and the homeless presented itself for her perusal. A clubber, no older than fifteen, sat propped up against the wall, out for the count. Her latex outfit was slick down the front, presumably with vomit, and her pink hair fell across her semi-closed eyes. Laurenne regarded her without sympathy, and then gasped as leather-clad arms reached out from the shadows behind her and dragged her backwards. She tried to scream but a leather-gloved hand was already over her mouth. She relaxed; the arms released her and she turned round.
“Thought so.” She stated matter-of-factly, trying not to shake. “You didn’t actually expect to frighten me with that stunt, did you?” He laughed.
“That’s so human.”
“And what exactly is that supposed to mean?” she snapped, her nerves more than a little frayed.
“I think you know. Anyway, I have to leave. I have things to do.” He smiled at her. “Are you alright?” he added, genuine concern in his voice.
“Do you really care, or are you just acting?”
He rolled his eyes at this. “No, I really care,” he replied in a singsong voice. Laurenne shrugged.
“I’ll live.” Aaron grinned.
“And who are you to make such an assumption?” Laurenne figured that she should probably be shocked, but suddenly she was too tired to react or even reply. Aaron sighed deeply, a faint smile on his face. He put his arm round her shoulders, the first real friendly gesture towards her since they met. Discounting that kiss, of course. But he almost seemed like a different person now.
“Come on, where do you live? It’s dangerous for a young woman to be roaming the streets of London by herself late at night.” Laurenne shook her head, and wriggled his arm off her shoulders.
“Nah, I can get home okay by myself, thanks all the same –”
“Are you afraid of me, Laurenne?” he interrupted.
“What? No! Of course not! Why should I be?” Aaron shrugged.
“I don’t know. It’s just something I’ve come to expect. Are you sure I can’t escort you home? I was going to get a cab anyway, and we don’t live that far away from each other.” Laurenne frowned.
“And what, may I ask, makes you think that you know where I live?” He raised his eyebrows, amused, and she dismissed the question as the product of paranoia, overdue though it may be this evening. She relaxed somewhat. “Anyway, why’re you being so friendly all of a sudden?” He shrugged again, and smiled at her. His eyes had glazed over, and he was swaying slightly. She could not help but laugh.
“It’s like you’re drunk or something! How can you be drunk?” Aaron staggered forward, grabbed hold of a nearby lamppost and swung round it.
“Me? Drunk? How can I be drunk? How indeed?” He threw his arms around Laurenne’s waist and hugged her to him.
“Forgive me, darling,” he breathed into her ear, giggling, “for being so cranky earlier.” He pulled back and looked into her eyes, suddenly serious. “I’m only cranky when I haven’t fed.” He let go of her and wandered off down the street. “I’m sure you’re the same. Aren’t you? I suppose that’s one thing we have in common… sort of. Blood’s my drug. Yours, on the other hand, is probably…” He gestured vaguely at the empty air in front of him before saying, slowly and deliberately, “…chocolate.” He started giggling again. Laurenne stared at him in disbelief, amused despite everything that had occurred so far.
“Never mind you escorting me home…” She rummaged around in her bag, finally locating and dragging out her mobile. She thumbed down, searching for a cab number. “Come on, where do you live?” Aaron shook his head.
“No, it’s only a short walk.” He pointed a long finger unsteadily in the opposite direction, back past the Electric Ballroom. Laurenne sighed, then grinned, and put her arm around his waist. He did the same to her.
“Come on then, Nosferatu!” she says. Aaron stopped smiling and shook his head.
“Aw, I hate it when a girl calls me by some other guy’s name!”

********************

“Oh, the Roundhouse? Why didn’t you say? We could’ve got a bus down here. I wouldn’t have had to persuade you that it wasn’t a good idea to go play in the canal if we’d been on a bus!”
“Ah, but I didn’t do it. That’s the important thing.”
“Quite.”
They reached the main entrance. Light was escaping through the partly open doors and spilled down the first few steps.
“Oh God,” groans Laurenne. “Bloody steps!”
“Been out on the piss again, Aaron?” a voice called out cheerfully. Aaron waved at the body emerging from the auditorium.
“Yes, I certainly have, darling! This is Ben, Laurenne,” he added, as Ben swaggered out of the light of the doorway and down the steps towards them.
“Actor friend?”
“Of course.” Ben reached them, and executed a long, sweeping bow by way of a greeting. He gave Laurenne a brief, appraising look before turning to Aaron and grinning.
“And who’s this?”
“This is my next victim, aren’t you, precious?” replied Aaron, nuzzling Laurenne’s neck. She pushed him away, laughing.
“Get off!”
Ben backed away from them, sniggering, hands up as if to defend himself.
“Hey, if I’m interrupting… I’ll leave you two alone! See you tomorrow, Aaron. Nice meeting you, ‘precious’!” he threw back over his shoulder as he walked away. After Ben had vanished into the building, Laurenne turned on Aaron.
“What the hell did you do that for?”
“What?”
“Setting me up like that! What must he think of me?” A look of surprise and amusement crossed Aaron’s face.
“Does it really matter?”
Laurenne started to answer but then stopped herself. She shrugged.
“No, I suppose not,” she sighed. “Oh well. Now what?”
“Would you care for a tour?” Aaron suggested.
“Yeah, why not?”
“Then follow me, madam,” he replied, bowing deeply. Laurenne rolled her eyes.
“What did I tell you about that melodramatic crap?”
“So that’s what I get for trying to be a gentleman?” Aaron asked, contriving to look hurt. Laurenne slipped her arm through his, and smirked.
“Hey, if you think you can manage it!” Aaron pretended to sulk at this, before apparently deciding that it wasn’t worth the effort.
“Come on, I’ll show you around.”

********************

“And this is the kitchen, not that I personally have much use for it,” Aaron finished, showing Laurenne into a large room consisting mainly of the usual kitchen set-up and a rather battered-looking wooden table and chairs. He pulled out a chair and gestured for her to sit down; she shook her head.
“I’m alright here for a bit, thanks.” Aaron shrugged and sat down. Then he stood up again.
“What kind of a host am I? Can I get you a drink?”
“Er, yeah, sure. You got coffee?”
“Please, Laurenne, this is an actors’ kitchen. We’ve got tea, coffee, Valium…” he continued, gesticulating with a pale hand, “… some herbal shit…”
“Just plain boring black coffee for me, thanks!”
“No problem.” Aaron filled up the kettle from the tap and flicked the switch, then started trawling through cupboards in a vain search for clean mugs.
“What happened outside the Ballroom, exactly?”
“Ah ha!” Aaron triumphantly dragged out two mugs from the recesses of the cupboard. “Next choice: blue mug, or mug with picture of woman in bikini, just add hot water and bikini disappears? Your choice, I’m not bothered. If I can’t bite her then she can keep her bloody bikini on!” He started giggling again.
“Oh, great, now that’s set you off again!” She watched him silently as he searched for coffee and a spoon. “You’re avoiding the question, Aaron.”
“I’m trying to make coffee, Laurenne,” he countered, imitating her tone of voice. He spooned instant coffee into both mugs. The kettle boiled. He stared reflectively at it for a minute.
“Why do people say the kettle’s boiled, when it’s really the water?” Laurenne tutted, but laughed as well; she pulled a chair out from under the table and sat down.
“Come on, what – thanks,” she interrupted herself when he handed over her coffee.
“Sugar’s over there on the worktop if you want it,” he interjected before she could start again.
“Ta, but I’m not in the mood for sugar.”
“Aw, come on, you can always be in the mood for sugar!” Aaron put his mug down on the table and sauntered over to the worktop.
“I’m still waiting,” Laurenne said pointedly, sipping at her coffee and wincing when she burned her tongue.
“What – ah, yes, the effect of a marinated dinner on a vampire. You should never drink on an empty stomach, darling.” Laurenne stared at him. He looked up and raised his eyebrows.
“Hmm? Have I said something wrong? Oh – so you still do not believe me, do you?” he said, perching on the worktop. Laurenne shrugged.
“Hey, we all have our little quirks,” she replied. Aaron stood up suddenly. He strode over to the doorway of the kitchen and slammed it shut before turning to face her. Laurenne stood up also. “What are you doing?” she demanded, trying to hide her sudden fear.
“What does it take to convince someone like you?”
“Look, it’s like you said – blood, chocolate, it’s all the same, right?”
“Are you trying to piss me off, or does it just come naturally?”
“That’s a lot of emotion coming from someone who’s dead!” Aaron was very suddenly right in front of her. She gasped and moved back, but the worktop was behind her. A look of puzzlement crossed Aaron’s face, and he stepped away from her.
“Did I scare you that time?” he asked. Laurenne nodded, biting her lower lip. “What’s wrong?”
“You just had this look in your eyes… it scared me a bit. Not much,” she added, somewhat defiantly. He smiled, looking straight at her, eyes a little wider than necessary.
“Has it gone now?” She nodded again.
“Yep.”
“Good.” Aaron sat back down at the table. “I never wanted to scare you, darling.” He thought for a second. “No, that’s not quite true. Anyway, I’m just sorry that I had to employ such a cliché in order to convince you.” He smiled serenely at her. She scowled.
“I thought you said that all these vampire novels are just stupid stories?” she countered.
“Ah yes, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no truth in them. You’re not the only writer who researches her books, you know,” he said, mock-reprovingly. Laurenne gave a humourless snort.
“So how are you feeling now?” she asked, hoping with uncharacteristic nastiness for a negative reply.
Aaron pushed his mug out of the way, folded his arms on the table and rested his head on them.
“I just need a victim with a really high black coffee content!” Laurenne laughed, and sat back down.
“What’s so funny?” he asked, looking up at her.
“Just the way you call everyone victims, that’s all.”
“Well what else would you call them? Donors, perhaps?” Laurenne grinned into her mug and shook her head.
“Sick! Why don’t you just drink your coffee, then you won’t need to kill anyone. Why the hell else did you make it?” Aaron looked down at his mug as if he was seeing it for the first time.
“It’s really only for appearances. You have to give the right impression. The others were shocked that I don’t smoke, but I absolutely have to drink coffee, don’t I?” He thought for a minute. “‘You won’t need to kill anyone’,” he said thoughtfully, repeating her own words. “Does that mean you believe me?”
“Hey, I didn’t say that –”
“As good as!”
“No, no, no! Let’s just say I’m coming along for the ride. Playing it by ear or something like that. I’ve still got no proof either way.” Aaron sighed.
“Better than nothing, I suppose. But the proof is there if you know where to look.”
“What do you mean? Oh, yeah, your ‘victim’ earlier? Come off it! You were just pissed, that’s all. You must have got to the Ballroom way earlier than me, though – or did that sip of Bacardi just push you over?!” She stopped laughing when she saw the sombre look on Aaron’s face. “I take it back – you still are pissed!” Aaron sighed again but said nothing. He started playing with the sugar, pushing it around the bowl with the sugar spoon. Laurenne reflected on the irony that a bunch of actors with only two clean mugs between the lot of them would still insist on having a sugar spoon. Must all be missing their middle-class family lives, she concluded. She looked at Aaron. He was still harassing the sugar.
“You’re such a bloody fidget, Aaron! What’s the sugar ever done to you?!” He didn’t respond, but instead began spooning the sugar into his coffee.
“You would not notice a dead body if it rose up and bit you on your cute ass, would you?” he said, pronouncing each word carefully, watching the sugar granules fall off the spoon. “I drank too quickly,” he continued, “that is why I was acting strangely – drunk, as you said. But she – I think it was a she – was surprisingly sober for a clubber.” The tip of his tongue flicked out between his lips and back again. “Didn’t taste too bad, as far as teenagers go.” Laurenne forbore to comment straight away.
“So,” she began finally, “after spending most of the evening trying to convince me that you’re a vampire, you… fed… in the time it took me to get down the stairs, and didn’t even present me with a dead body at the end of it?!” Laurenne looked suddenly stunned and shook her head in shock. “I can’t believe I just said all that! I must be going nuts or something, this is all fucking crazy weird –” Aaron put his finger to her lips.
“Shh. Listen, for once. I did not want you to see. It wasn’t a pretty sight.” He smiled suddenly. “She was pig ugly, for one thing!”
“Aaron! Don’t joke about this! Why -” Am I actually believing this? “- why didn’t you want me to see? I think I would’ve believed you then!” Aaron shook his head.
“And you would have come back with me if I had shown you? I doubt it.” He gulped a mouthful of coffee and pulled a face. Started coughing.
“Didn’t stir the sugar in,” he spluttered, laughing between coughs. “Can I borrow your spoon?”
“Huh? Yeah – why don’t you use the sugar spoon?” Aaron pretended to be aghast.
“Use the sugar spoon?! You can’t use the sugar spoon!” Laurenne laughed, but distractedly. Aaron put the spoon down and gingerly tried the coffee again.
“Ah, that’s better. I wouldn’t worry so much, if I were you,” he said seriously.
“Not worry? What the hell do you expect –”
“There you go again. I said don’t worry. And anyway,” he added, “I didn’t kill her. Do you really think I could drain a human being in the time it takes you to go down a flight of stairs? She’ll be fine. Won’t remember a damn thing. Pity, really. I think she liked me.”
“I thought you said she was pig ugly,” Laurenne retorted bitterly. Aaron smiled.
“Yeah, but beggars can’t be choosers, babe. Not that I have ever needed to beg, of course.” Laurenne laughed, and then stopped, hating herself for it. Aaron made eye contact with her and smiled.
“Come on, you know you want to laugh! It isn’t going to hurt anyone. Unless you laugh so hard you rupture something, of course. Which would just be nasty. That’s more like it,” he added as Laurenne started laughing again. It seemed that she couldn’t stop it, or even control it. Everything was just so unbelievably funny, somehow. Aaron began to look concerned.
“You should really come up for air, you know.” Laurenne made a visible effort to calm down.
“Do you need air?” she asked, still giggling. Aaron raised his eyebrows at her.
“Yes, darling, even I need air. It keeps the blood from going stale once I’ve drunk it. Helps it move round my body. Speaking of blood,” Aaron downed the rest of his coffee and dumped the mug in the sink, “I’m still hungry. Or thirsty. Or whatever – I need to feed!”
“Yeah, wouldn’t want you getting cranky again.” Aaron sighed.
“Laurenne, there are many other things that can make me cranky. Please don’t be one of them. That’s a point, actually. What am I going to do with you?” Laurenne tilted her head over to one side, exposing her neck.
“I thought you said you were thirsty?!” she queried, teasingly. Aaron smiled but looked away.
“Tempting, but I don’t want to reduce you to the status of a takeaway, darling.” She laughed.
“Can’t I come with you?”
“You wouldn’t really want to watch me eat, honey –”
“Oh cut the crap. It’s all strictly in the interests of investigative journalism, honest!”
“It would not be a good idea.”
“Hey, coming here wasn’t a good idea –”
“And flattery will get you nowhere. I mean it, Laurenne, this is not going to be one of those ‘treasured experiences’. Besides, you’ll only get in my way.”
“No I won’t! I could –”
“You could what? Make notes? Can’t you just accept ‘no’ for ‘no’?”
“What, with some of that ‘blind faith’ you keep telling me I should have? No, sorry sweetie, I’m afraid I can’t. Why is it such a big problem, anyway?” Aaron said nothing. Instead he walked slowly over to the door and opened it. And sighed.
“Come with me, then.”

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