Over the next three days Kalika grows to the approximate age of five, while Eric ages ten years. During this time she reads greedily and masters English, as well as many subtleties of conversation and social convention. I have tested her--her IQ appears off the charts. Her beauty flourishes as well. Her long dark hair is like a shawl of black silk, her face a fine sculpture of hidden mysteries. Even her voice is magic, filled with haunting rhythms. When she speaks, it is hard not to listen, to agree with her, to forget everything else. But it is seldom Kalika does speak, and what runs through her mind--besides her hunger for blood--I have no idea.
It is in the middle of night when my daughter wakes me in my bed. She does this by gently stroking my hair. I am forced to wake to confusion.
"I can't wait," she says. "I need more."
I shake my head. "He can't take it. You're going to have to wait till later in the day. I have to get you another."
Kalika is gently persistent. "I can do it if you don't want to. I know how."
I frown. "Have you been watching me?" Naturally, I have not let Eric see where his blood is going. Somehow I doubt it would lift his spirits.
"Yes," Kalika says. "I watch you."
I sit up. "Has he seen you?"
"No." She pauses and glances at Ray, who contin?ues to sleep. "He hasn't seen either of us."
"You are not listening to me. This boy can give no more blood. Already his heartbeat is erratic. In a few hours, when it is light, I will go out and find another supply. Until then you will have to be pa-tient."
Kalika stares at me with her dark blue eyes. Perhaps it is my imagination, but I catch a glimmer of red in their depths. She smiles slightly, showing her front teeth.
"I have been patient, Mother." That is her new name for me. "I will just take a little of his blood, and then we can go for another supply. We can go in a few minutes."
I snort. "You're not going with me. You're a little girl."
Kalika is unmoved. "I will come with you. You will need me."
I pause. "Do you know that for sure?"
"I don't believe you."
Kalika loses her smile. "I won't lie to you, Mother, if you don't lie to me."
"Don't give me orders. You are to do what I say at all times. Is that clear?"
She nods. "As long as you don't lie to me." She adds, as if it were related, "How is Paula doing?"
Her question confuses me. Kalika has never met Paula. How would I explain that I have given birth to a child and that she has grown to five years of age, all in a month? Of course, I have talked about Paula with Ray. Perhaps Kalika was listening.
"Why do you ask?" I say.
Kalika glances at Ray. "I am curious about her. She means a lot to you."
"She's my friend. She's doing fine. One day you will meet her."
"Do you promise?"
I hesitate. "We'll see." I throw off the covers and put my feet on the floor. "We can go out now, if you insist. But we're not disturbing Eric any?more."
Kalika puts a hand on my leg. It is still a small hand but I have to wonder if I would be able to stand if she didn't want me to. I doubt it, and do not try to brush her fingers away.
It is a terrible thing to be afraid of one's own daughter.
"I will take only a little of his blood," she repeats.
"That is not a little, not for him. He is weak, don't you care?"
Kalika is thoughtful. When she gets that way, she stares at the ground. I have no idea what she looks for. Her eyes close halfway, and her breathing seems to halt. The overall effect is disturbing. Finally she looks up.
"I care," she says. "But not in the way you mean."
I am curious. She is still an enigma to me. "What do you mean?"
She shakes her head. "I cannot explain, Mother."
Kalika leaves me to get dressed. Knocking lightly on Eric's door, I step in his room. I have not been able to untie him as I had hoped. As his strength has failed, his behavior has become more desperate. He thinks only of escape, or of his own impending death. I wish I could release him. An unhappy bundle of nerves stuffed in a stale corner, he twitches as I step into the room.
"No," he moans. "I can't."
I kneel by his side. "I need just a little. Less than last time."
He weeps. "Why?"
"You know I can't tell you why. But it will be over soon, Eric, I promise. I'm going out right now to--to get someone else."
He shakes his head sadly as he stares up at the ceiling. "I'm not stupid. You're never going to let me go. You're going to keep me here till I die."
He speaks with passion. "Yes. You're evil. You're a vampire. You have to kill me to keep your evil ways secret."
His words hurt. "I'm not a vampire. I don't take this blood for myself."
He is not listening. He continues to sob but grows more animated. "You're some monster from another planet. You're going to rip me open and eat my guts. You're going to have a glass of wine and have my guts all over your face, dripping on your clothes, on the floor..." He raises his voice. "You're going to eat me alive!"
"You're an alien monster!"
"Help! The monster's got me! The aliens are coming!"
I am forced to strike him hard in the face to shut him up. My reflexes are still excellent, my martial art skills sharp. I believe I break his nose. Yet he continues to moan softly as I tighten the tourniquet. After I have drained away eight ounces--I know Kalika will count them--he dozes, probably out of sheer loss of blood. I kiss the top of his head before I leave the room.
"You will go home, Eric," I whisper. "I am not a monster."
While Kalika has her breakfast, I dress in my bedroom, in black leather pants, a tight leather coat. Ray sits up in bed. I do not need to turn to feel his eyes on me.
"Are you going out?" he asks.
"Yes. You know why."
"Yes. You've waited too long anyway."
"It's not an enjoyable task, you know, finding people to kill."
"Eric's still alive."
"Find someone you don't like. A criminal, a rapist--you used to specialize in them if I remember correctly."
I turn on him. "I may not be able to handle a criminal or rapist nowadays, or does that concern you, my love?"
He shrugs. "Take your pistol. It has a silencer on it. Just get someone you're not going to go to pieces over every time you have to take blood."
I speak with thinly disguised bitterness. "You didn't answer my question, my love. But I suppose that is answer enough. You know I enjoy this little family we have here. A gorgeous daughter who is a medical and historical first, and a supposedly loving boyfriend who has forgotten what the words friend and love mean. I mean, you've got to admit, five thousand years of intense experience has really helped me create the perfect domestic environment. Wouldn't you agree?"
He is unimpressed by my outburst. "You create what you want You always have. If you don't like it, you can always leave."
I snort. "Leave you with Kalika! She would starve in a day."
"I doubt that Kalika will need either of us soon. She's not a normal child, you know." He adds, "Not like Paula's child will be."
I stop. "Why did you say that?"
He ignores me. "When is her baby due exactly? Soon?"
I frown. Why were they both dropping remarks about Paula? "She's not having a baby anymore," I say carefully. "She lost it."
He waves his hand. "Yeah, right, she got kicked by a donkey."
A donkey, I think. "Yeah, that is right." I turn away. "Seymour was right about you."
Ray is instantly alert. "You spoke to him. When did you speak to him?"
I reach for my black boots. "None of your busi?ness."
"What did he say about me?"
I glare at him. "He said that Eddie Fender's blood has warped your mind. He told me not to trust you, which was probably good advice."
Ray relaxes. "Good old Seymour. Did you invite him down for a pleasant evening of food and conver?sation?"
I have my boots on and stalk out the door. "He is not interested in our problems," I lie. "He has better things to do with his time."
But Ray's final remark makes me pause outside the door.
"I hope you didn't tell him about Kalika. I really hope you didn't."
I glance over my shoulder. "Of course not. He would never have believed me if I had."
Ray just nods and smiles.
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