I felt his breath on the back of my neck, and I had to fight against arching my back in pleasure. His breath still smelled like low tide and cigarettes, but against all reason I was becoming used to it. It certainly didn't make me flinch like it used to. I was aware of the magnetic pull of his body as he stood so close to me I could hear his heart beat through his thin T-shirt.
"This is stupid," came his deep gravely voice behind me. A shudder rippled through my spine with perverse enjoyment. I shook it off. This was getting ridiculous.
"This is not stupid," I countered. I probably sounded more angry with him than I really was, but I was fighting an impulse telling me to spin around and kiss him. The moment I gave into that impulse, Macarius would NEVER let me live it down. God-damned bastard.
"You said I could do this my way, Macarius. This is how I want to do it."
"I didn't think you'd turn it into a whole ordeal," he moaned. "I prefer not to think too long on this shit. Can't we just pick up a drunk and go?"
"No, Mac," (Macarius grunted in annoyance again. I guessed calling him "Mac" was right out.) "If I have to do it, I'd rather try to even the scales a little."
"This isn't evening the scales, Abbey, this is screwing around!"
"Please? Can we just try it this way?"
"Fine," growled Macarius. "Let's just hurry. It's frickin' freezing out here and I'm hungry."
I shifted my position on the crumbling cornice. We were probably a good thirty feet in the air, but I was getting used to heights now. The corner overlooked an alley in a shadier section of Chelsea. Outside a row of apartments, I saw her emerge from behind a dumpster. Her face and limbs were stick-thin, not only from that stretched-out look all teenaged girls get from growing too fast, but also because she was slowly starving to death.
"Ah, we're not going to get anything out of HER," Macarius sniffed.
"Shut-up," I hissed.
The girl looked both ways and came out into the street. There were dark sunken hollows under her cheekbones and around her eyes, which made them look large and frightened. Her hands were raw and chapped from the cold as they grasped the plastic orange prescription jars in her hand.
She shivered in her thin, unraveling sweater as she legged it up the sidewalk. I had followed her for a few nights, and I knew where she was going.
"This way," I said to Macarius motioning south. "We'll cut her off before she gets home."
"A junkie?" asked Macarius, somewhat mollified.
"Yeah. She dumpster dives for Rx bottles with a few pills left in them. Then she goes back to her cardboard box and watches the pretty colours.
"She looks only about fifteen," said Macarius. I stopped in mid-stride and turned to look at him. He'd obviously been affected by what he saw. His hard eyes were softened and sad. His rough hands were balled into fists as he matched stares with me. He seemed to be sizing me up again. He always did that little down-up-in review when his brain was forced to re-catagorize what knew about me. He'd start at my hair and go down to my horrible orange tennis shoes, then he'd go back up again, (each time his progress would be halted by my boobs, and I'd always tried to be offended, but I never could, really). After looking me down and up, he'd look into my eyes.
I could never tell what color Macarius's eyes were. They sure as hell weren't white – more of a jaundiced yellow, and were always framed by blood vessels. The irises were...dark, whatever they were, and could look brown or grey or black or even deep violet depending on what kind of light there was. As it was now, in the dark, they were as inscrutable as ever. I got the feeling tonight, they were pleading with me – begging me to make the twisted, drug-addled waif we'd just seen go away – to tell him she only an imaginary figment, and not a real soul in a mortal coil.
"I want to help her," I said plainly.
"What if it doesn't work?" he asked me softly. "What if we can't help her?"
"Then at least we'll have tried," I said with a shrug. "Having tried makes all the difference. C'mon."
We arrived at the alley the girl was heading to. In the back, behind the trashcans was a battered cardboard box that had once held a washing machine unit. It was hidden under a plastic tarp to keep out the damp. Inside were a few personal items: a high school yearbook, a pair of scuffed-up glasses, and a very battered September Issue of Elle from last year. I picked up a plastic bag that was skittering around in the wind and put the items inside it. She would want them later, I figured, wherever she ended up.
The girl came into the mouth of the alley and stopped dead upon seeing us. She dropped the pill bottles in her fright and started to back away slowly. Macarius and I froze and held our breaths. We certainly didn't want her to scoot off to some new location. I let Macarius draw her back, I still hadn't gotten the hang of calling people. Macarius said that was the one thing he couldn't teach me, it was different for everyone. For him, he said, it helped to think of a particular song and to sing it in your head as you called to them. Music was universal, it called to all people, no matter their age or culture. Being tone deaf and only knowing, like, three songs, this was a stumbling block for me. Hoping to glean some pointers in any case, I studied Macarius carefully.
He approached the girl with slow deliberate movements. It was odd how graceful he could suddenly be as he advanced, never breaking eye-contact with the kid. I heard him humming under his breath as he thought of the song to call her, but I couldn't place it. Knowing Mac's taste in music it was probably a monster ballad. The girl stopped in her retreat and gazed transfixed at Macarius, her wide eyes making her look even more frightened and vulnerable. She didn't flinch as Macarius extended his arms, inviting her into them. The girl drifted to him in a trance and let herself be enfolded in those long, leather-clad arms, like a child returning to a parent’s embrace. When she was subdued, he beckoned me over to them.
"Use your voice," he whispered. I nodded.
"Sweetheart, what's your name?" I asked using the sonorous voice I could summon at will.
"Makayla" she whispered.
"Are girls named that now-a-days?" Macarius asked me in mild disgust.
"Yes they are, shut-up," I hissed in my normal voice before turning back to Makayla. "Where are your parents?"
"They split up. Neither wanted me so Iived with my sister," she said quietly. "Jessica said I was a crack-whore, so I left."
I didn't know who any of these people were, but I knew that this girl had no place to go and wouldn't last long in this weather, eating a diet of garbage and pills. There was only one thing left to do, and I hoped she would forgive us. Macarius shot me a questioning glance and I nodded. Quickly and as painlessl, he bit into her neck and Makayla closed her eyes. When he was done, I fed too.
I watched as the St. Vincent De Paul's Halfway House received a strange visit that evening by a tall dark man in a leather coat and a "Guns 'N' Roses Appetite for Destruction" t-shirt. He delivered an unconscious girl to the holy sister who answered the door. She was dressed in slippers and a bathrobe and was obviously terrified of him. He told her briefly that Makayla had been living in a box and abusing drugs and that she needed help. The nun at the door nodded in frightened acquiescence and took the sleeping girl in her sturdy arms. As soon as Macarius had left, however, she just stood there on the doorstep in the chilly night, looking confused. I was familiar with the look. She was wondering if she had really seen that dark stranger or if she’d just imagined him. I hoped that whatever happened Makayla would be better off for it.
"So what do you think of my way now, Macarius?" I asked, as I felt that same warm, fetid breath on the back of my neck. I huddled up against his chest, shivering a little to emphasize that I was only interested in his warmth not his company. He draped an arm around me and held me tight nonetheless.
"I feel like Doctor-fucking-Phil," grunted Macarius but without a trace of bitterness. I could tell the vampire was smiling as he said it. Getting him to smile was a rare victory for me.
I later asked what song Macarius used to call Makayla. He told me it was "Sweet Child Of Mine."
"Very appropriate," I said.