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“Take a seat,” Mike said, pointing to the living room couch. A fermented, fruity smell lingered from my mom’s favorite wine but there weren’t any bottles or glasses lying about.

I sat on the couch, not having done so for quite a while. My mom was almost always here until she went to sleep late at night, after I’d gone to bed.

So instead, I usually hung out in my room.

Mike didn’t sit down, he paced lazily in front of the couch, looking annoyed.

“What’d I do?” I asked.

He scowled at me. “You need to get sleep in order to do well in school,” he told me. “And I need to get sleep in order to go to work.”

“Oh. Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

His expression told me that wasn’t what he cared so much about.

“Lexi,” he took a breath and finally sat in the arm chair. “What is going on with you?” he asked.

“What do you mean?” I asked, playing dumb. “Someone at school got hurt and the police think that I did it.”

“No,” he said dryly. “They don’t think you did it. They think you know who did.”

I swallowed. “Why would I know something like that?”

I was aware the question probably made me sound more guilty, but I didn’t have any other response.

Mike looked as tired as I felt. He took a breath. “I’m going to list out the facts for you.”

I already knew some of those facts.

“First, you broke into an old abandoned asylum, right?”

I nodded.

“And in that asylum you witnessed a man get murdered.”

I didn’t nod right away, but I’d told the police that entire story so he would have found out by now.

“Shortly after, you have a new girlfriend who doesn’t go to your school and who I know very little about.”

I nodded, swallowing down the anxiety in my throat. My skin was cold and hot at the same time.

“There’s another murder in the area, practically unheard of in a town this small. And then—” his breath shook just a bit as he said this. “Your enemy nearly ends up murdered with the same MO. Do you see how this looks to me?”

“I’m not…” I sniffled, and realized I started crying at some point. “It’s not my fault. I didn’t do anything.”

Mike’s expression softened. “Tell me who your girlfriend is,” he said. “I know almost nothing about her.”

“It’s not your place to know,” I snapped. “That’s mom’s job. You're my brother, not my father.” The tears were dripping now and I wiped them away.

“I’m your family, and I love you and I don’t want my sister going to prison because of some crazy girlfriend."

I shook my head. “She’s not crazy.” I snorted up some snot and swallowed it down to continue. “She’s lonely and had a rough time back—back—with her family.” I looked him in the face. “You’ve seen her. There’s no way she could’ve taken down an adult man like that. Not without getting significantly injured. Not unless she was truly some kind of monster.” I hated using that word. Scarlet wasn’t a monster. She was just a different kind of creature with a different set of needs.

Mike waited for me to continue, but instead I just rested my head in my hands, trying to hide all my feelings.

He got up a moment later. I thought maybe he’d been satisfied with that answer and would leave me alone, but he returned a moment later with a box of tissues. 

“Listen, Lexi,” he said softly as I took one and got the various fluids off my face. “I know you’re not stupid. And I know Scarlet is quite small and everything. But people are complicated. Some of the most dangerous snakes are also the smallest. Some of the gentlest animals are huge. And Scarlet is just… a mystery to me. I don’t know where she came from. Frankly, I’m not sure you know where she came from and she appeared right at the same time there was suddenly a serial killer running about. Even if she isn’t a killer herself… she probably is affiliated with whoever is, right? Like, you understand why I’d get nervous, right?”

I nodded. He had a right to be nervous about that. Especially since Scarlet was a murderer. Probably even a serial killer, but I couldn’t bring myself to blame her for that. It wasn’t her fault her dietary needs required human blood. That wasn’t exactly something they could buy at a grocery store. And where they could buy it… probably wasn’t any more ethical than murdering people themselves.

“Scarlet isn’t a bad person,” I told him. “I promise. She’d never hurt me. I think, even if we grew apart. She isn’t… like that.” Scarlet never got angry. She didn’t even get annoyed, just sad.

“Do you promise to tell me if you end up in trouble?” Mike asked.

“Of course. You’re my brother. You’re one of the few people I can rely on.” I felt a fresh wave of emotions with that statement. But it wasn’t like the stressful breakdown. Instead, there was a guilty pit in my stomach as I lied to his face. I’d already been in trouble and possibly still was.

I trusted Scarlet, that much was true. But her brother was scary and I was rather glad he’d moved on so quickly.

Mike offered me a hand and helped me to my feet before pulling me into a long embrace. I returned it, trying not to let my emotions take over. After he let me go, I slipped off back to my room, rubbing the sorrow from my eyes, hoping not to worry Scarlet too much when she saw me. But she wasn’t on my bed, nor in my closet. I got down on hands and knees to check under the bed, but she wasn’t there either.

Oh no. My stomach dropped again as the chill washed over my skin again. I got up and looked at the window, which was open again. She’d left. I rubbed some more tears from my eyes and went over to look outside, but there was no sign of her.

Mike and I must’ve scared her off for the night. Or maybe she just didn’t want to risk getting caught. It was a close call as it was, Lee taking the blame for that one.

I shut the window and sat back on my bed. The tears started to come again, stinging in my over-tired, dry eyes. I laid down on top of the sheets, staring off into space, wishing I could just be asleep and unfeeling for a while. Or maybe hoping sleep would soothe the hurt from missing Scarlet. Or maybe just wishing I could sleep and not have to wake up and deal with all of this ever again.

At the very least, I wasn’t dead yet.


AN: I'll be missing an update, maybe two, bc I am rather sick and still going to be travelling and doing some work for some ppl so I'll probably be spent for the next few days. We'll be back soon, though. I hope you enjoy anyway.

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