Ambrose searched through the cards in his hands. None of them were twos.
The train decelerated.
He raised his head as the conductor’s peaceful-to-the-point-of-being-a-sedative voice came over the speaker.
“Hello. This is your conductor speaking. We are now approaching Averdeen. It isn’t much of a town. It’s actually a ghost town, but it hasn’t been certified as such yet, because there have been no documented cases of actual ghost sightings here. Oh, and also the town boasts a steady population of bums and hooligans. As long as they’re around, it can’t be called a ghost town. Tragic.”
Ambrose set his cards on the table. “Well. This is my stop.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Here? Why?”
He stood. “Personal reasons.”
“Come to wallow in your past?”
“It’s none of your business.” He walked to the sliding door and stopped. “Is it true?”
“What you said about my change. If I hadn’t struggled, if I had just closed my eyes and let it happen…”
“Yes. I didn’t fight the change. There was no hurt. Only peace and light and scents. Beautiful red scents. I welcomed it into me.”
He turned. “Why would you welcome something like that?” He unsheathed his claws and held them out to her. “Something like this?”
The train stopped.
“Hello. This is your conductor again. We have reached Averdeen. Please grab your baggages and disembark. Thank you.”
She walked over to him. Her robe whispered smooth, whispered silk.
Her fangs pierced his skin and wouldn’t let go.
He fumbled frantically for the doorknob while keeping his eyes on her.
She stopped in front of him and grabbed his hand.
Her fangs were so sharp and the pain was so strong.
“Let me go.”
The pain cracked him and bent him.
“Let me go!”
The pain was everywhere inside him.
“Leave me alone!”
“I am not your child!”
“I am proud of you. Look at you. You’ve survived without me. You’re still alive.”
Will my mother, my real mother, feel the same way? If she’s even there.
“Alive and so well.”
“What do you want from me? You’ve already changed me. What more can you do to me?”
“Nothing. I just had a strong feeling you needed to hear that.”
“Not from you.”
She released his hand. “One day, I will tell you why I wanted to be changed. Why I wanted to flee my humanity. Why I wanted—” She extended her claws. “—this.”
“But not today.”
“No, my child. Not today.” She bowed her head to his neck.
He closed his eyes.
I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!
“Then, I won’t kill you.”
She bit his neck.
Just a small bite.
But it was enough to set his body trembling.
“Let me goletmegoletmegoletme…”
She released her hold on him.
He rubbed his neck. “Why?”
“I like your smell. Have fun visiting your ghosts, Ambrosia.”
“THAT IS NOT MY NAME!”
“Hello. This is your conductor speaking again. If there is anyone else getting off at Averdeen, you might want to get off now. Otherwise, you’ll be coming with me to Kalamazoo. Nice.”
Ambrose slid the door open and stepped out into the corridor. He didn’t even say good-bye to her.
He ran to the nearest exit and left her behind.
Isadora returned to the table. She sang softly as she gathered up the cards:
“If you go now, I’ll understand.
If you stay, hey. I’ve got a plan.
We’re gonna make a memory.
We’re gonna steal a piece of time.
You can sing the melody to me.”
She smiled sadly and said, “And maybe tonight I gave you a good memory.”