The seamstress examined the gloves and clicked her tongue. “You are too hard on your gloves, Mr. Arden.”
He sighed. “Not necessarily. I just had a bad mental slip.”
“Looks to be more like a bad claw slip to me.”
“Indeed. Can you fix them? Is it possible?”
‘Oh, it’s possible. For the right price.”
The scent of roadkill crept over his shoulders and pummeled his nose. He cleared his throat. “I will pay you when they are ready.”
“You know my price, right?”
“I assume it is the same as always.”
She smiled. “You would be right.” She put the gloves into a manila envelope and wrote James Arden on the front of it. “They’ll be ready on Friday.”
“I will be here. Thank you.” He turned to leave and found the black cloaked creature looming right behind him. “Please excuse me.”
It stretched its arm forward and laid its cold, steel-covered hand on Raven’s forehead.
Raven’s pupils shrank into the smallest of dots as all of his deepest fears came to the surface. He could see them.
Miss Farlington looked at him in disgust. “So. You are a vampire. Loathsome creature. Devil. Monster. Get away from me. Don’t touch me. Don’t even look at me!”
He sank his fangs into Miss Farlington’s neck. She put her hands on his chest and tried to push him away. He didn’t care. He bit harder, deliriously harder. She screamed and writhed in pain. He didn’t care. He kept drinking from her. And he loved the taste.
He opened the drawer where he kept his gloves. Mice scurried from one end of the drawer to the other end. His gloves were in ruins, shredded and gnawed up and turned into mice nests.
Missy looked at him, cold and hateful. “You ruined Antioch. You ruined him. You made him like you! I HATE YOU!” She blurred into Miss Farlington. “I HATE YOU, JAMES ARDEN!”
He covered his mouth with his trembling hands.
Push it down.
Push it down.
The house was empty. The chairs and couches covered with white sheets. All of the unused bedroom doors closed. He sat down at the kitchen table and listened. Hoping to hear a voice. Ambrose. Robin. Isellta. Missy. Their laughter. Their footsteps. Robin yelling. He heard nothing. Because they were all gone. They were all dead due to his carelessness.
Raven burst into tears. He tried to push it down, to bury it all deep down, but it made him cry all the harder.
“Hey! Mrrunthe! Stop it! Let him go! Or I won’t help you!”
The hand left his forehead.
Raven covered his face and doubled over. He couldn’t stop crying.
“Come here, Mr. Arden.” The seamstress patted his back. “Come with me. I’ll get you something to drink that will calm you down. Okay? Okay. Come on.”
He let her guide him into the break room and push him down into a chair.
“I’m so sorry about that. Mrrunthe is a wraith.” She opened the refrigerator door and kept on talking. “They feed off of fears and he happened to be hungry.” She closed that door and opened one of the cabinets. “I should put a sign up saying ‘Don’t enter on an empty stomach’ or something along those lines.”
She poured a liquid into a glass. “You have no idea how many vampires I’ve had to forcibly kick out of my establishment.” She put a glass in front of him. “There.”
He uncovered his face. His breath came and went in sharp shudders.
“Come on. Pick it up and have a sip. It’s apple juice. Maybe not the best kind of apple juice, but it’s better than nothing.”
He picked up the teal colored glass and took a sip. “Mm.”
“Don’t chug it all down. You’ll make yourself sick. Take small sips.”
He did as he was told. His breathing returned to normal by the time he took that last sip. “Thank you.”
“Not a problem. You’re a good customer.”
He looked down at the empty glass. “Are you going to ask me?”
“About your fears? No. That is your business, not mine.” She patted him on the back. “I need to get back to work.”
He started to stand.
“No. You just stay here and take as long as you need.”
“I’m fine. I need to get home.” He did a slight bow. “Thank you very much for the drink. It helped.”
“Apple juice always helps. Take care of yourself, Mr. Arden.” She winked at him. “See you on Friday.”