The late summer afternoon is languid. The lakes full of itch and everyone bored with going to the pool to swim. Lynne and her brother and sister and a bunch of neighborhood kids watch TV and eat popsicles and chips and talk about school starting. They sprawl across the basement floor with elbows propping their torsos up on pillows – long bare legs press against the cool tiles as they watch the vampire show, the one on weekday afternoons. The vampire is opening his mouth. His sharp teeth shine as a woman leans backward into his arms. Offers up her neck. Beautiful and graceful as a swan. The kids watch him sink his teeth into white flesh. Lynne lets out a little scream.
Lynne is nearly five feet tall, thin, and anxious. Her blondish hair is meant to be cut in a bob but looks more like her mother put a bowl on her head and cut around the bottom. Large circular glasses sit on a smallish nose that she is forever pushing her glasses back up and onto.
“That’s how vampires have sex,” Billy says. Billy is Lynne’s brother’s friend and in high school already. He lives next door and lets himself in through the basement door whenever he wants. Most of the time Lynne’s mom doesn’t know who all is downstairs. When things get loud, she opens the door from the kitchen upstairs, yells at them to keep it down, then slams the door shut. Billy takes whatever he wants from the downstairs fridge. It is mostly full of onions and potatoes and milk, but sometimes there is pop or cookies or cake. If there isn’t, Billy cajoles Lynne to sneak upstairs and get him something. Go get me something good, he says and gives her his sad, pouty face. Gazes at her with dark-ringed, cobalt eyes. She has admired them for some time now. Has debated which color blue they are. Sapphire for a while, then indigo before she settled on cobalt. Cobalt seemed more grandly fitting. Like the sky. Or infinity. A place to disappear. She has wanted to touch his black hair that falls in a long thick shock across his face. She likes to watch him push it aside with the palm of his hand or toss it back with a throw of his head. Like a Rockstar, she thinks.
“She likes it,” Billy continues. “See look, she don’t even try to stop it.” Lynne watches as the woman crumples into the arms of the vampire, watches her press into him as if she can’t get enough of his bite.
“Let me show you,” Billy offers and before she can say otherwise, he stands and pulls on her arm. Drags her upright.
“Just pretend,” Billy says, “I’m the vampire and you’re the lady,” he says and wraps a hand around her neck – walks her backward toward the wall then slides a knee up between her legs to hold her there. His other hand presses a shoulder.
“That’s not like on the TV,” Lynne says, her voice barely audible above the TV.
“This is what real vampires do,” Billy says. He does a little laugh and stares at her for a while, “You’re kinda cute,” he says and pulls her t-shirt away from her chest, peers down, and breaks into a vampire cadence. “I want to suck your blood,” he says and throws his head back and laughs a mock monster laugh. Lynne can smell his breath, feel it as he leans forward again. Closer. Whispers into her ear – like it’s just her and him there now. Like no one else is watching. Lynne lets out a nervous giggle and smiles and he opens his mouth just like the TV vampire and smacks his lips. Runs his tongue over his teeth like he has fangs, then bites right into the delicate arch of her neck. He bites her so hard it hurts. Later, when she looks, there is a purple welt and she can even see the marks of individual teeth. But no blood. Before he bites though, he runs his tongue over her neck. A slobber really but her back arches, and a fine little prickle, like soft fingers, spreads a warmth over her body. Nearly takes her breath. It makes her feel beautiful for a moment, and strong, like a swan maybe, and she wishes she had big white wings and almost thinks she does. Then it makes her feel weak, the way she closes her eyes and almost falls over. She wants to beat Billy back and enfold him too. Pull him inward. But she pushes him away and Billy stumbles backward and nearly falls. Lynne sees something flash in his eyes.
“What the hell,” he says and catches himself from falling. Lynne tries to say something but stutters and her face turns red. She runs up the stairs, down the hall into her bedroom. Slams the door shut.
“Mutt face,” Billy yells after her before turning to the other kids and laughing. They stare at the ceiling as if it might talk and then soon the basement screen door bangs shut as Billy walks into the afternoon. Above is sniffling and crying and the kids break into giggles that get loud enough to make Lynne go quiet and hold her breath. She thinks she can hear them chanting something. I want to suck your blood, is what she thinks she hears, and more giggles, thuds as if they are wrestling and then the door bounces shut again and again and there are yells and shouts that fade into the trees that separate the houses. The TV chatters into the empty room. Words and a wisp of music drift upward to Lynne there on the edge of her bed, sitting in the light sifting through the window curtains, the heat of the waning afternoon sun touching on her neck, almost like a hot breath, languid and lolling, right there where Billy bit.
Dawn Erickson is a writer based in rural western Washington by way of Minnesota. She once made a living fixing hiking trails but now raises her son and helps run an outdoor adventure program for kids. Her essays have been published at Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers and Literary Mama, among others. When not writing, she is most likely out wandering. You can read more of her writing at dmerickson.com.
Lead image: “Swan” (via Flickr user Phil Fiddyment)