‘It should be me thanking you, Melissa,’ Lazarus replied softly, tilting her head up a little, bending down to brush his lips against hers. ‘You brought the music back into my life. All I could ever play before was old. Nothing new, not until you arrived.
‘You don’t need to thank me,’ Melissa smiled, gently tightening her grip on his hand.
‘I do, though.’ He returned he smile, his eyes gleaming brightly.
‘No you don't. Staying with me is thanks enough,’ she replied, pulling him in close, inhaling. He had bought a new aftershave, self conscious of his dog odour. The mix of spices drifted around him enticingly. He didn’t know how to reply, so he remained silent, putting a hand on her waist and holding her against him.
‘I heard we’re getting a new neighbour,’ Lazarus commented after a while. He had let his thoughts drift, and he wondered what poor, misfortunate soul would be moving into the block of grimy, foul apartments.
‘Hmm, I heard. Poor soul. Dingy flats and a werewolf and vampire for neighbours.’ She smiled and Lazarus pulled away.
‘He’ll be fine,’ Lazarus said dubiously, hardly daring to believe his own words.
‘Yeah, he will be safe. Don’t drink from innocents.’ She giggled and Lazarus forced a smile.
‘I wonder who it is.’ he muttered, then shook his head. ‘C’mon you, let’s go to bed. I’m tired.’ He stifled a yawn and got up. Melissa looked out the window and saw the sun rising over the town. She smiled a little as she thought about all the hyperactive children waiting impatiently for their presents.
‘Okay, it’s morning soon anyway,’ she followed him to the bedroom, picking up her lace gown. Lazarus left the room, shutting the door to let her change in privacy. She smiled to herself. Lazarus had been the perfect gentleman, never laying a hand wrong. She was fairly certain he had stopped drinking, too, though if he was, he hid it well.
As he brushed his teeth, Lazarus looked at himself in the mirror. His face had lost the permanently tired look it had once held and he began to remember why people had loved him so much so long ago. A beautiful, talented young man – who wouldn’t love someone like that? He sighed and rinsed his mouth out, traipsing back into the bedroom when Melissa was done changing. They fell asleep in each other’s arms within minutes, small smiles on both their faces.
Knock, knock, knock! Lazarus was ripped from his sleep by the thumping at his door. Groggily he got up, pulling on a pair of jeans before stumbling over to the door.
‘Hello?’ His voice cracked as he opened the door and he covered his mouth as he yawned. Melissa had followed him out, wrapping herself in a satin dressing gown. Lazarus pulled the door open a little more, rubbing his eyes as he looked at the man standing outside their door. ‘Oh, sorry, did I interrupt at a bad time?’ the man asked, an amused smile on his face. Lazarus was numb. That face... it looked like... Gabriel? He blinked and tried to stop staring, but the resemblance was undeniable. Melissa glanced at Lazarus, concern in her eyes, before smiling at the man. Realising that Lazarus wasn’t about to say anything useful, she spoke.
‘Hi. You must be the new neighbour? I’m Melissa, this is... Lazarus.’ She looked at him, irritated at his rude gawping and nudged him.
‘Sorry. Hi.’ Lazarus stuttered, tearing his eyes off the man.
‘I’m Connor,’ the man laughed, ‘and yeah. I’m the new neighbour. Just thought I’d... say hi, but I think I woke you up.’
‘It’s fine, nice to meet you, Connor.’ She flashed him a smile, he brilliant features dazzling him. Lazarus is a lucky, lucky man, Connor thought to himself.
‘I see Lazarus is a lucky man, eh?’ he returned Melissa’s smile with a cheeky grin.
Melissa sighed; ‘I'm lucky to have him too.’ Her smile became a politely forced one. Humans, they only see one thing, she thought. She glanced at him and saw that he was gazing at the floor, a strange expression on his face.
‘Sorry, I should really have a shower. Excuse me.’ Lazarus said, nodding at Connor, pecking Melissa on the cheek. Connor shifted uncomfortably.
‘Well it’s nice to know that not everyone in this block is so unfriendly. I’ll maybe see you around, I should go.’
‘Yeah, okay. See you around,’ Melissa beamed at him again and shut the door when he had turned to leave. She whirled around and faced the bathroom door, angrily shouting over the sound of the shower running inside. ‘Lazarus Thorn! That was so rude! Open the door!’ she thumped on the thin wood. He didn’t answer. She tried the door handle.
Lazarus was sat on the edge of the bath, his face in his hands, the water running behind him. He swore inwardly, ignoring Melissa. He let himself fall back into the bath with a thud, sitting under the water, half dressed. He barely noticed as the shower soaked through his jeans, making them cling to him uncomfortably. He didn’t look up as the door opened.
‘Lazarus!’ Melissa’s eyes widened as she took in his blank face. She turned the water off and sat on the side of the bath. ‘What is wrong with you?’ she sighed. He took a moment to respond, looking up, his mouth open forming a small “O”.
‘I... it’s... it’s him!’ was all he could say.
‘Who?’ she reached over, brushing his wet hair out of his face. His face twisted and he pushed her hand away. She withdrew, stung.
‘Gabriel!’ he cried, letting tears mingle with the water from the shower.