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Authors: Michael Thomas Ford

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BOOK: Jane Goes Batty
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Walter answered the door even before she’d rung the bell. “You’re here!” he said, a little too loudly. He leaned in and gave Jane a peck on the cheek. “She’s already making me crazy,” he whispered.

“Is that the girl?”

Walter stepped aside, revealing a small, thin woman perched on the couch. Her hair, which was black with only hints of gray, lay flat against her head like a swim cap. Her blue eyes focused in
on Jane like a bird of prey sizing up a rodent far below, and the look on her face told Jane that she had yet to make up her mind about her son’s choice of girlfriend.

She was dressed in white slacks and a billowy black blouse patterned with yellow and red flowers. Numerous rings covered her fingers, and beside her on the couch sat a small brown Chihuahua with enormous ears that stuck up like a bat’s. Something about the dog didn’t seem quite right, and then Jane realized that it was missing its right front leg and was leaning against Miriam for balance.

“Jane, this is my mother,” Walter said. “Mother, this is Jane.”

“I can see that,” Miriam said. She extended her hand. “Who else would she be?” she asked.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Fletcher,” Jane said as she shook Miriam’s hand.

Miriam drew back her hand. “Ellenberg,” she said. “
Ms
. Ellenberg.” She looked at her son. “You didn’t tell her? You should have told her.”

Jane, realizing her mistake, instinctively moved to protect Walter. “Oh, he did tell me,” she said. “I’m so sorry. It’s not Walter’s fault. I’ve been so looking forward to meeting you that it completely slipped my mind that you and Walter’s father—”

Miriam shook her head. “All the trouble I went through to divorce that man, the least I could get was my name back. How is that little
shiksa
he married?” she asked Walter. She glanced at Jane as she said it, and Jane couldn’t help but see that the barb was aimed partially at her.

“Bethany is fine, Mom,” said Walter.

“That’s too bad,” Miriam remarked.

Jane decided to change the subject. “What a handsome little dog,” she said. “What’s his name?”


Her
name is Lilith,” said Miriam.

Hearing her name, Lilith perked up her ears and looked up at Miriam. “I found her in Jerusalem,” Miriam continued. “She was wandering around the streets.”

“What were you doing in Jerusalem?” Jane asked.

“Hunting,” Miriam replied. “For antiques,” she added.

“Mother has traveled all over the world,” Walter told Jane.

“I still do,” Miriam said. “I’m not quite dead.”

“Of course not,” said Walter. “Mother travels all over the world,” he said to Jane.

“Walter’s father hated traveling,” Miriam said. “It’s one of the reasons I divorced him. That and the fact that he was a lazy, no-good son of a bitch.”

“I’ll just go get us some drinks,” said Walter.

“I’ll help,” Jane told him.

“No,” Miriam said. “You sit. We’ll talk.”

Jane looked at Walter, who nodded. Jane sat down in an armchair beside the couch and smiled at Miriam. “I’m so pleased you’re here,” she said.

“Bullshit,” Miriam said. “You’re terrified of me. You’re afraid I won’t think you’re good enough for my son. And I don’t. But nobody is, so don’t worry too much. Walter tells me you’re converting.”

Jane cleared her throat. “Well, I have been talking to a rabbi,” she said.

Miriam snorted. “Talking to a rabbi,” she said. “It takes more than that to be a Jew. Being a Jew comes from here.” She tapped her chest over her heart.

“Ms. Ellenberg,” Jane said, “I care very much for your son, as I see you do as well. I would like us to be friends. However—”

“Don’t however me,” Miriam said. “And let me make one thing perfectly clear. You will never marry my son.”

Jane stiffened. “And why is that?” she asked, trying to keep her tone civil.

Miriam leaned closer, until Jane thought she might jump off the couch and leap into her lap. “Because,” said Walter’s mother, “I know what you are.”

“I
DON’T KNOW
WHAT
SHE MEANT
,” J
ANE TOLD
L
UCY
.

They were in the living room of Lucy’s apartment. Jane had gone there after excusing herself from the evening with Walter’s mother as early as she could without appearing rude. It had been a tense couple of hours, although Walter hadn’t seemed to notice that anything was wrong. Even Miriam had behaved perfectly normally, complimenting Walter on the roast chicken and asking Jane the usual sorts of questions two people ask upon meeting for the first time.

“Maybe I imagined it,” Jane suggested.

“Why didn’t you just ask her?” said Lucy, handing Jane a glass of merlot.

“I was startled,” said Jane. “And Walter came in just at that moment. I could hardly say anything with him there.”

Lucy sat down on the couch. “It’s the sort of thing you say to someone you think is a gold digger,” she said.

“Precisely,” said Jane. “But Walter hasn’t any money to speak of, and at any rate I have more than enough of my own. I certainly don’t need his.”

“My guess is that she’s just trying to put a scare into you,” said Lucy, sipping her wine. “You know what you should do?”

Jane shook her head.

“Bite her,” Lucy said.

“I’m tempted,” Jane said. “What a horrible woman.”

“I’m serious,” said Lucy. “Didn’t you tell me that feeding on people can make them more susceptible to your charms?”

“Well, yes,” Jane replied. “In a manner of speaking. But I wouldn’t feel right feeding on Walter’s mother. I think that crosses some sort of line.”

“What about glamoring her?” Lucy asked.

Jane shook her head. “Glamors are temporary. I’d have to keep doing it, and that would be exhausting. Besides, truth be told, I’m not terribly good at it. I mean, I can get by, but something like that would take more power than I’ve developed.”

“Maybe you should sic Byron on her,” Lucy suggested. “I imagine he could glamor anyone.”

“I’m not so sure of that,” said Jane. “He’s not done very well with Ned.”

“Ted,” said Lucy.

“That’s what I meant,” Jane said. “With Ted.”

“No, he hasn’t,” said Lucy.

Something in Lucy’s voice caught Jane’s attention. “You know why, don’t you?” she said.

Lucy shifted uncomfortably. “No,” she said defensively. “Why would I know anything?”

“You
do
!” Jane insisted. “Out with it.”

Lucy sighed. “All right,” she said. “But you can’t say
anything
to Byron. It will hurt his feelings.”

“You’re assuming he has any,” Jane said.

“Be nice,” Lucy told her. “I think he’s behaved rather well, all things considered. He hasn’t hit on me once since our battle with Our Gloomy Friend.”

“Anyway,” said Jane, waving her hand dismissively. “What do you know?”

“Well,” Lucy said. “Apparently Ted isn’t at all attracted to Byron. He thinks he’s too old.”

“He
is
old,” said Jane. “He’s two hundred and twenty-three.”

“I mean too old for Ted,” Lucy said. “How old was he when he died? I mean when he turned?”

“Thirty-six, I think,” said Jane.

“Is that all?” Lucy said. “I would have guessed early forties.”

“Eternal life isn’t as easy as it might seem,” Jane remarked.

“Ted is only twenty-two,” said Lucy. “Those fourteen years make a big difference.”

“Not after a century or so,” Jane replied. “He’d catch up.” She drank some more wine. “Besides, the way he acts most of the time, Byron might as well be twenty-two.”

“You sound as if you
want
Ted to be turned,” said Lucy.

“I suppose I do,” Jane admitted. “Not for Byron’s sake. He’d tire of the boy within a month after he got what he wanted. I’m thinking about the other one. Ned.”

“What about him?” asked Lucy, tucking her feet under her and leaning against the back of the couch.

“I hate to see him lose his brother,” Jane explained. “I know what that’s like.”

“But didn’t you once tell me that you wouldn’t have turned Cassie even if she’d asked you to?” said Lucy.

Jane nodded. “I did feel that way,” she said. She hesitated. “I don’t know that I do now.”

“What if
I
wanted you to turn me?” Lucy asked.

Jane looked at her friend. “I’ve never turned anyone,” she said.

“That’s not what I asked you,” said Lucy.

“I know what you asked,” Jane snapped.

Lucy looked stung. Jane got up, went to the couch, and sat beside her. She took Lucy’s hand. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to sound so angry.”

“It’s all right,” Lucy told her. “I shouldn’t have asked.”

“No,” Jane said. “You have every right to ask. You’re my best friend. I suppose that’s why I reacted as I did.”

“I don’t understand,” said Lucy.

Jane continued to hold Lucy’s hand as she spoke. “I’ve had many friends over the past two centuries,” she said. “Many of them I liked very much, and I was sad to lose them. But the only person I’ve missed every single day is Cassie. She’s the only one I’ve ever even thought about wishing I’d turned.”

Jane stopped speaking and looked down at the floor. She felt she was going to cry, and she didn’t want to. Only when she thought she could continue without weeping did she speak again.

“Then you came into my life,” she told Lucy. “And you’ve given me back a part of my sister. When I think that someday I might lose you too …”

Her voice trailed off as the tears began to flow. Lucy sat up and hugged her, holding Jane tight. “It’s all right,” she said softly.

“I don’t know what I would do if you asked me,” Jane whispered. “I don’t know that I would be able to refuse. And that frightens me.”

They held each other for a long moment and then let go. Lucy too was now crying. She got up and went into the kitchen, returning with a box of tissues. She held the box out to Jane, who took two tissues and blotted her eyes.

“I won’t say I haven’t thought about it,” Lucy said as she sat down. “But I promise not to put you in that position. Besides, I’m sure Byron would do it if I asked.”

Jane looked at her, horrified. Then Lucy smiled. “Joking,” she said.

Jane pointed a finger at her. “Don’t even think about it,” she said. “This isn’t like when you were seven and if your mother said no to something you went and asked your father.”

Lucy shook her head. “You’re absolutely right,” she said. “It’s more like if I asked my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother for something and she said no.”

Jane couldn’t help but laugh. She wiped her eyes again and
picked up her glass of wine, taking a sip. She felt a little bit better, but the feeling that had started her down this path lingered. Lucy really was going to age while Jane remained the same. Someday they
would
have to say goodbye.
Just as you would have to say goodbye to Walter
, a voice in her head whispered.

She brushed it away, or at least tried to. But it buzzed around her head like a bee at a picnic, the ever-present threat of a sting making Jane anxious.

“I should go,” she said, standing up.

Lucy looked at her, a puzzled expression on her face. “Is everything all right?” she asked. “I didn’t mean to—”

“You didn’t do anything,” Jane assured her. “I just had an idea for my new book, and I want to get home and work on it for a bit before my confidence in it wears off.”

Lucy stood up. “Okay,” she said. “But promise me you won’t say a word to Byron about what Ted told me.”

“As much as it would bring me joy to see the expression on his face when he discovered that there’s someone immune to his charms, I promise,” Jane said.

She gave Lucy a long hug, then left the apartment and went to her car. She had no intention of going home and writing anything. Her new book was the last thing she wanted to think about. Well, the second-to-last thing. Lucy dying was the first. Lucy or
anyone
she loved. Although that list was fairly short, containing only Lucy and Walter. Byron was already undead.
Not that I love him
, she told herself. But of course she did. Despite everything, she did love him.
Just not in the same way I love Walter
, she concluded.

Now that she was thinking about what she didn’t want to think about, it was all she
could
think about. She found herself tearing up again as she imagined attending Lucy’s funeral. The logical thing—the thing almost every vampire she’d ever encountered did—was to move on and leave old friendships behind before the
inevitable separation by death. It was only slightly less painful than watching a friend die, but at least you didn’t have to witness the end grow nearer and nearer.

This was something that nonvampires could perhaps never understand, the inherent horror of knowing that you would continue on even as everyone and everything around you turned to dust. Yes, you could turn anyone you loved. There was nothing preventing you from doing that. But there were impracticalities with that as well. For one, where did you stop? Having turned, say, your favorite sister, were you then obliged to turn her husband, or lover, or children if she had them? If you turned your mother, were you then required to turn your aunts and uncles (all of whom she would likely miss when they passed on) as well as
their
children?

BOOK: Jane Goes Batty
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