The next day, I was definitely going mad. Charlie rang up and asked "When are you coming over?"
To my ears, his tone sounded ridiculously happy and I told him harshly "I'm not."
"Can I come over, then?" he asked, sounding a little confused.
"No," I replied. "I can't see you or Christopher today."
"Christopher?! I thought Rick was going to make him leave you alone!" Charlie sounded angry. "What's he done? Are you okay?"
"Nothing," I replied exasperatedly. "I'm fine."
"If that jerk...," Charlie began.
"He's a better person than you'll ever be," I interrupted uncaringly.
"What?" Charlie sounded horrified and upset. I found it satisfying in the cruellest way. "I don't understand..." He trailed off.
"Christopher is a better person than you'll ever be," I repeated.
"Are you okay?" he whispered.
"I'm fine! Stop bugging me!"
"Terri, please, talk to me! If he's hurt you..."
"Just shut up, Charlie!" I yelled, hanging up.
When I realised what I'd done, I couldn't believe it. Where had my sanity gone?
That evening, I felt even crazier. I wanted to escape the confinements of my suffocating room with its memories of Christopher and Rick. I felt nauseated.
In retrospect, I have no idea what came over me. Out of the blue I found myself wandering down the stairs and asking my dad to drive me to town. I told him I'd arranged to meet some friends there, knowing perfectly well that that was a lie. He dropped me off at the bus shelter and said he'd pick me up at nine o'clock. My feet took me over to ‘The Black Dove'.
Outside, I struck up conversation with the vampire on duty. He recognised me from the previous nights I'd been here and acknowledged me with a nod.
"Evening," I said cheerfully.
"Evenin', miss. It's a cold night. You don't wanna be standing 'ere chattin'."
"Don't you get lonely, though?" I asked.
He looked surprised at me question.
"Not really, miss. I'm used to it."
"You must get a little lonely sometimes," I pressed, desperate for conversation.
"Nothin' for your dainty self to worry about," he said kindly, though he looked baffled.
"Okay, then," I sighed, entering the pub. ‘Poor man, out there all alone,' I thought.
When I got in, the light-hearted atmosphere made me feel safe. It also, however, made me more reckless.
I stood at the door and thought loudly, ‘A friend of mine told me there are vampires looking for love around here. The idea was ... interesting.'
Every vampire in the bar area looked at me in shock. Some looked sympathetic and turned back to whatever they'd been doing before. Other sympathetic ones communicated with me telepathically.
‘If you're upset, honey, you don't have to do this, they said in my mind. Just sit down and have a drink.'
‘I want to do this,' I thought. ‘What amazing lovers vampires must be! I mean, they can read your thoughts! Who doesn't long for someone to understand them? And they can chase away your troubles with a few words.'
The other sympathetic vampires turned away, shaking their heads.
A couple of vampires who weren't sympathetic grinned at me, daring me to sit with them. I chose to sit with a vampire who was looking at me in neither a sympathetic nor malicious way. His smile was friendly and inviting.
"You're very brave," he murmured to me. His eyes were a beautiful turquoise colour and his hair was soft, short and buttercup blonde. The glow around him was a stunning dancing shimmer of blue and green.
"I thought a vampire's glow was only either gold or silver," I murmured, thinking aloud.
"I'm a special vampire," he told me, though not boastfully. "I can shape-shift and induce trances with one word."
"Wow. What word?" I asked.
"Well, if I said it, you'd go into a trance wouldn't you. I don't think you want that." He chuckled softly.
"Couldn't you write it down?" I asked, while trying to cope with a mind that had collapsed from the beauty of the sound leaving the vampire's mouth.
"No, because then you'd go around trying to say it. You have to be careful with things like one word trance inductions." The guy's voice was wonderfully musical. I found myself almost desperately wanting him to talk more.
"What's your name?" I asked, realising I didn't actually know.
‘Wow, what a beautiful name,' I thought, before answering shyly, "Terri."
"So, you're looking for love are you, Teri?"
Mesmerised by his voice, I found myself unthinkingly replying "Yes."
‘Perhaps that was why I came here in the first place,' I thought to myself.
"But haven't you already found it? You're such a pretty girl."
‘How charming,' I thought helplessly.
"Why don't you just let me ask the questions and answer as best as you can?" he suggested. I realised that it was an actual hypnotic suggestion.
"How do you know about vampires?" he asked.
"One fell in love with me," I heard myself replying. "He lured me to him by night and told me what he was. The second night I found that I loved him too and so we started going out. It was during the relationship that I found out all I know now about vampires."
"What was this vampire's name?"
"Christopher." I found I didn't feel uncomfortable answering questions; in fact, it was quite pleasant to talk.
"Are you still in love with him?"
"I think so. I'm a bit upset at him currently but I don't think my feelings for him have changed," I confessed, recognising it as the truth as the words left my mouth.
"Then why are you here?"
I was interested to hear this myself.
"I'm lonely. Christopher won't talk to me until he's sorted out his problems and I wanted emotional support."
"And you needed more than a friend?"
"I suppose so: yes." Coral's tone was gentle, reassuring. While my subconscious answered for me, I relaxed in the bed of his tone. "Also, how could my human friends help? They found it hard to believe Christopher was a vampire."
"I can't love you if you love someone else," Coral told me. "Perhaps if you didn't..."
He left the sentence hanging for me to finish off.
"What are you saying?" I frowned, the spell appearing to have been broken. "I don't understand."
"If you forget yourself or Christopher..."
I interrupted, realising what he meant.
"You'd give me the emotional support I need." I paused. "How would I forget myself, though?"
"I'd only let you forget your name and the fact you were in a relationship."
"Can I trust you, though?" I asked.
Coral stared deep into my eyes.
"Of course you can. Do you want to do this then?"
I gazed back into those beautiful irises and nodded.
He leant towards my ear and whispered, so quietly I could barely hear him, the word "Beguile."
I woke up, not realising I'd fallen asleep.
"The word's ‘beguile'?" I asked.
Coral smiled. "Thank goodness it's not or you'd have unwittingly hypnotised me."
‘Wait,' I thought suddenly. ‘I don't know who I am! I've forgotten my name! I know I'm in ‘The Black Dove' talking to Coral but I don't know my name!'
"Um, do you know my name?" I asked, feeling stupid as well as faintly horrified.
Coral nodded, not seeming to be bothered my question at all.
"Cassandra. But you like to be called Cassie."
"Thanks," I replied, suddenly feeling strangely calm. "Anyway, if the word's not ‘beguile', why is that what I remember you whispering?"
"Well, this will sound strange but it was what I made you believe I said. I couldn't have you running around knowing the most powerful word in the world, now."
"Why did you hypnotise me, again?" I asked, my memory fuzzy.
"You didn't believe I could induce a trance with one word," Coral answered, shrugging.
As he said this, I found myself remembering snorting when Coral had told me he could do such a thing.
"Sorry," I apologised sheepishly.
"No problem. Are you ready to go then?"
"Go?" My memory was really failing me this evening.
"To somewhere slightly less ... public," he said, his mouth curving upwards in a mischievous grin.
"Oh," I replied, smiling in the same way. "Yeah, I'm ready."
We stood up. Coral took my hand and we walked into the frosty night air.
As we headed for a blue convertible in the shadows, I heard a voice in my head.
‘Terri?!' it shouted.
I frowned. The voice was familiar but why would anyone I know call me Terri?
‘Oh no!' the voice continued. ‘Not Coral!'