Barbara’s touch lived inside Sammy’s skin as he walked out to his car. It was a soft, gentle tingle.
It was the glow of lightning without the shocking pain.
Sammy opened the driver’s side door and sat on the black leather seat.
He kept his thoughts silent and still.
After all, he didn’t want his car to explode with him in it.
But one small thought slipped forward.
It was not about Barbara.
It was about the piece of paper in his slacks pocket.
It was about the phone number and address written down in a woman’s handwriting.
And a message.
A confession of like, not love.
He pulled it out and unfolded it.
A smile spread across his face as he reread her message.
Daisies sprouted in his ash tray.
He pulled out his cell phone, hesitated, and dialed her number.
Two rings later, she was on the line.
He swallowed hard. “Hi. This is Sammy.”
Her joy was plain in her voice.
“Can I see you tonight, Lee?”
“Yes! Where do you want to meet?”
He smiled. “I’ll let you choose.”
Daisies took up residence in all of the cup holders.
“Wherever you say, Lee, I’ll meet you there.”
“What if I said, ‘Meet me at the Grand Canyon in 25 minutes’?”
“I’d be there in 24. Just so I can beat you there and watch you arrive.”
She laughed. “And if I said meet me at my house in fifteen minutes?”
“I’ll be there in thirteen.”
“I really do like you, Samer. Come to my house and we’ll decide where to go together.”
He closed his car door and put his keys in the ignition. “I’ll be right there.”
Blood flowed thick and deep like an ocean, like a heavy rainstorm, in Ambrose’s dream. He opened his mouth wide and tried to take it all in, but every drop, every splash avoided hitting him in the mouth.
The blood receded and Mark Caten appeared.
He was dressed in a white linen tank-top and pleated black slacks. It was a plain and simple combo, but one that undoubtedly came from Neiman Marcus or somewhere even more expensive. He smirked. “Awww. Is da poor wittle vampire hungwy?”
Ambrose snarled at him.
“Oh! I just realized my neck is totally bare. You could bite me. Oh, dear! Whatever will I do?” He turned this way and that way in a dither. “Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.”
Ambrose tried to rush forward.
But his body was pinned to the wall.
He clenched his teeth and tried to pull himself free.
Olessa appeared next to her father. She held a branding iron in her hands – the tip glowed an angry red-orange. “Hey, dad! I’m going to do a marvelous experiment. First, I’m going to brand his face and then I’ll pour holy water all over it.”
“Oooo!” Mark Caten rubbed his hands together.
“What do you think will happen?”
“Let’s find out.”
Olessa approached Ambrose. Her features furrowed and contorted into something ugly and cruel. The branding iron sizzled as if it were hungry for Ambrose’s skin.
He tried to pull away.
He tried to escape.
He couldn’t move.
She stopped in front of him.
She smelled of burnt olive oil and seared flesh.
She raised the branding iron.
He could feel its heat.
The branding iron moved towards his face in slow motion.
His breath caught in his throat.
He couldn’t gasp.
He couldn’t cry out.
He couldn’t even breathe as the iron touched his skin.
Ambrose woke, screaming into his pillow.
Robin elbowed him. “You gotta make that much noise first thing in the mornin’?”
Ambrose stopped screaming. He turned his face towards Robin. “Bad dream.”
“You wanna talk about it?”
“No.” He sat up and stretched his arms out. “mmm.” He folded his hands behind his head and turned left, right, then leaned back. “mmm.”
Robin quickly got out of bed. “I’m gonna take a shower. You come bargin’ in there, I’ll throw junk at you.”
Ambrose lowered his arms.
“Make it quick. I want to take a shower too.”
Robin blushed and furiously fled the room.
Ambrose scratched the back of his head. “What’s his problem?”