or He Sleeps With His Fingers Curled
By Tara Ann Stridh
(Darla is tucking little Connor into bed;
they are living in Spain)
Mommy, why do you have two faces?
Iím a vampire.
Is that why you drink the red stuff all the time?
You made him like you?
Is it blood? Does it taste good?
Is that why you and Jena always lick my knee
when I fall down? Jena says itís yummy.
It is, but itís not for you to drink.
Youíll just get a very nasty tummy ache.
Is Lindsey my real daddy?
Why would you say that?
I donít know. I just have this feeling that thereís someone else.
There is. Lindsey isnít your real father, but he is if you want him to be.
Do you want him to be?
I want him to be, I think.
Whereís my real father?
Far from here, but he loves you very much.
Then why isnít he here?
Because he doesnít love me. Because I . . . just because.
Is he a vampire?
You made him?
Yes, a very long time ago.
Because I was lonely.
Do you love him?
Yes. Always. But I love you more. More than anything.
But Iím not supposed to, but I do.
Why arenít you supposed to?
Because itís not the way things work.
Is there a law?
No. Vampires donít have souls. Except for Louis.
Whatís a soul?
Itís what makes you so very precious to me.
Youíre my little darling boy. My little darling prince.
Sheís my little dear one. And sheís Lindseyís little honky tonk.
I thought you were his little honky tonk?
What is he?
Heís my sweetpea.
Your real father used to call me his lamb.
So I have one, a soul, but you and daddy and Jena donít?
Thatís right, honey.
Grandpa Holtz has a soul?
Is Lindsey Jenaís real daddy?
Yes, he is.
Why did you make him?
Because heís pretty.
Because I love him, but you must never tell him so.
Plus, heís smarter than your real father.
Iím not a vampire like you, am I? Or like Jena?
No, sweetie. Youíre special. Youíre my baby boy.
She says I have a noise and that Lindsey used to have a noise, too.
All vampires had noises Ė I mean, a heartbeat once.
Except for Jena. She was born a vampire.
With little baby bumpies.
Are you going to make me like you so I have bumpies, too?
No. I think about it sometimes, actually, I think about it a lot, but no.
Because I love you.
But I want bumpies like you.
No, you really donít. Maybe when you get older Ė no,
I didnít say that.
(still uncertain about him calling her that even though she is his mother,
also secretly content)
I love you, too. And I love Lindsey. And Jena. Even Holtz.
I know you do. Though, you be careful about Poppy, I mean Holtz.
Your sister should be careful, too.
Sometimes I think Grandpa Holtz wants to hurt you.
Because I hurt him a long time ago.
Because vampires are mean.
I donít think youíre mean.
Maybe one day you will.
No. I never will.
Iíll protect you from Holtz.
Mommy, do you want to eat me like you eat other people?
(she thinks about the one and only time she made a little cut on his arm when he was a baby just so she could have a little taste)
Should I love my real father?
Whatís his name?
Iíll tell you when you get older.
Iíll tell you everything. I promise, baby. Now go to sleep.
Okay. Goodnight Mommy.
Can I sleep with you and daddy if I have bad dreams?
Of course you can, snugglebunny, but remember the jasmine over your bed
protects you from scary dreams.
You promise? You promise you wonít let Jena kick me out?
Your sister loves you. When you were a baby sheíd always want
to hug you and sheíd pretend she was your mommy.
Can you tell me how I was born?
Again? You just donít want to go to sleep.
Iím not sleepy. I want to stay up all night with you.
It was raining and cold.
Did it hurt?
No. Sometimes pain is good.
What did you feel when I was in your tummy?
Warm. Hungry all the time.
What about Jena?
(natural she thinks to herself)
Did it hurt when Jena was born?
Babies donít hurt their mommies.
(telling the truth, sort of)
No they donít.
And mommies donít hurt their babies.
(telling the truth)
No. They donít.
Youíre the best thing that ever happened to me.
The one good thing you ever did?
Yes. The only good thing.
But didnít you do other good things?
Baby, just go to sleep, please. For Mommy.
Mommy, I think youíre pretty. I like your other face, too.
Your vampire face. I think itís pretty, too.
It doesnít scare you?
No. Is it supposed to? Sometimes Jenaís does.
Can you show me?
Not tonight. Tomorrow.
I want to feel your bumpies. They make me feel safe.
Connor, you are safe. No oneís going to take you away from me.
(Iíll kill them, she thinks)
Did you use to feed me milk like the kittens
and the mommy cat in the backyard?
Yes, something like milk, anyway.
And Jena, too?
She had the red stuff, sweetie.
Blood. I licked my own boo-boo once.
It tasted good I think. Give me milk now.
I canít. And youíre too old.
In my Cookie Monster cup?
You already had enough at dinner.
Can you sing to me? You sing pretty.
(Darla sings a jasmine lullaby to her son;
then she tucks him in again, gives him his baby iguana beanie baby,
and turns out the light)
Donít let the vampires bite.
I wonít let them.