When Nick came to, he knew immediately that something was fundamentally different. He hesitated before opening his eyes and considered the possibilities. His face was on the pillow and his hands were underneath. It had a familiar scent and when he shifted his arms the bed made the squeaking noise he had heard a hundred times before. Rose’s bed.
His head hurt.
Was he late? He flipped over, rubbed his eyes and checked the digital alarm clock on the bedside table. It flashed up 9:14. No, not late. It was the first day of the summer holidays and he didn’t have to collect Natalie, his daughter, until midday. The room was still dark but that was to be expected. Those old curtains were thick enough and dusty enough to block out the brightness of a thousand, fiery suns.
He was thirsty.
Rose was still asleep. She was lying on her front with her head turned away from him. It was a little chilly so he pulled the sheet up over her exposed back. He heard her purr softly and watched her snuggle in deeper. He stroked her long, black hair before getting up and making his way to the kitchen. He turned on the cold tap and let it run while he fetched a glass from the cabinet and the box of dispersible panadol. He filled the glass, plopped in two tablets and watched them fizz as he pieced together the night before.
When the school bell had gone at 3.30, the kids went running and screaming out into the sunshine. Nick was in the pub by four and stayed until nine: five pints, max. He met Rose for dinner, hit two more bars and was in the club by 1am: pretty drunk. Cab home at 4am and that was that, right? Just a hangover, then. But it didn’t feel like a hangover.
Nick drank the medicine, refilled the glass with water and necked the second instantly. “Thirsty,” he croaked, as he made his way to the bathroom. After relieving himself for what felt like an eternity, he flushed and went to the sink to wash his hands. He blinked twice at the mirror above the sink. “You gotta be shitting me…Rose. ROSE!” he yelled. He looked again at the mirror and rubbed his right index finger slowly over his throat. He felt two small bumps. “Rose! I don’t believe it…” He sprinted back to the bedroom in time to see Rose sit up in the bed. She looked exquisite and it took his breath away: jet black hair falling around her shoulders, pale skin, tired eyes. “What is it?” she asked, “Jesus, Nick. What’s with the yelling?”
Nick stood motionless: “Last night, when we got back. Did…did you bite me?” Rose’s eyes narrowed slightly and she leant back on her pillow. “Well, yeah, you asked me to. Why?”
“Because…I don’t understand. Jesus Christ, because…” Nick paced around the bedroom and ran his hands through his hair. He stopped dead at the end of the bed and caught and held Rose’s gaze, “Because it’s happened. I don’t understand why it’s happened, but it has definitely happened. Okay…you bit me? Fine. But I don’t understand how I’ve been turned. I mean, I didn’t drink your blood or anything, did I?”
“Of course not, don’t be ridiculous.”
“Then how come I’ve got no frickin’ reflection any more? I mean, I was standing in the bathroom, blinking into the mirror and all I could see was the tiled wall behind me!”
“Oh crap. Um, I dunno. Before bed…did you use my toothbrush?”
Nick’s face dropped as the realisation that he had, indeed, used Rose’s toothbrush began to sink in. “Jesus”, he sighed, and his shoulders slumped. Rose could barely contain herself as she choked on a giggle: “What. An. A-hole. Oh, Nick! You’re an idiot. Come here and give me a hug.”
Nick walked forlornly to her side of the bed and sat down, dejected. “Christ, of all the days. It’s bloody summer and I’m supposed to take Natalie to the park in a few hours. What the hell am I going to do?”
“Fedoras are your new best friend!” laughed Rose. As Nick looked up and gave a resigned smile, she leant over, threw her arms around him, and gave him a big, sloppy kiss on the cheek.