That was always the part of biting someone that Miles didn’t like. Sometimes, skin got on the teeth, too, and when he rolled his tongue around his incisors, it felt like little pieces of gravel. Some of his kind would say that the skin is a delicacy.
Miles only fed on the homeless, people that society didn’t care about, which is why he liked the park. There was a water fountain by the entrance. He headed for it so that he could rinse the neck flesh, stringy veins, and clotted blood out of his mouth.
That’s when he saw her for the first time. She was sitting on a bench under a lamppost, wearing a raincoat and a scarf that covered her head in an old-fashioned way that felt so familiar to him. She had rhinestone-encrusted cat-eye glasses on and she was looking up, maybe at the stars, maybe at the moon, maybe at the shoes strung up over the telephone wires.
As he watched her, Miles put his lips to the water fountain and began to swish water around in his mouth and then spit it out. His mouth was still filled with leftover blood and skin. It ran down the drain. He watched the water as it went from bright red to pink. He kept swishing till it ran clear.
When he got up the girl was no longer looking up at the sky, but straight at him.
Not knowing what to do, Miles waved back.
He headed out of the park and down the street and back toward his squat three towns over.
The girl had so unnerved him that even when he was long out of her sight and on an empty stretch of highway, he still hadn’t been able to transform, which was a drag because it meant that he had to walk all the way back to his lair instead of fly.
Miles had a rule to never feed anywhere near his house, so it was a long walk. By the time he got home, the sky was just beginning lighten as dawn approached. He had been a little bit worried about having to find a place to wait the day out.
By the time he had unwound enough to lie down, it was well into the morning.
All day he lay in his bed thinking about the girl.
He wondered why she was sitting there alone in the middle of the night near a park that was notorious for muggings and killings. It was because of that reputation that it was such an excellent feeding ground for the vampires in the area.
It was best not to be seen in the same place too soon after a kill, and he didn’t need to feed for another few days. But he was fixated on the girl.
Once the sun set, he wondered if he should go back.
Usually, he wouldn’t. But there was something about the girl that tugged at him. He hadn’t felt compelled to act out of the ordinary since he’d been turned.
As soon as night fell, Miles transformed and flew to the park. He hung himself upside down on the lamppost next to the bench the girl had been sitting on and waited.
She arrived at 3 a.m.
With his sonar, he could see her approaching. He could sense her heart beating, her graceful walk, and the large object that she carried with her in her arms.
He was sure that she was human. There was nothing about her smell that suggested otherwise. She approached the bench and climbed onto it. Then she looked around. Seemingly satisfied that she was alone, she then pulled herself up onto the back of the bench and held herself steady by grabbing onto the lamppost.
She had to stretch as she took the object she had placed on the seat and began to attach it to the curly part of the lamppost. She was intensely concentrated. Miles could tell that she was happy and nervous at the same time by the way that her pulse quickened and then steadied, and by the smell that she excreted. It had the smell of hard work, not of fear.
The girl was so close, and yet, she was so fixed on her task that she did not notice him, in his bat form, hanging there. So he was comforted by the fact that he was not the reason why she lost her balance.
Miles could sense that her foot slipped before she did, and so he changed back to human form and grabbed her on her way down to prevent her from coming to any kind of injury.
They both fell to the ground gracefully. His arms were around her waist and they were crouched close together. His mouth was near her neck, and he could feel her rapid pulse. It was so close to him. So inviting.
He pulled away before he was tempted to do something that came naturally but that he consciously didn’t want to do.
They both stood up at the same time.
“You’re naked,” she said.
Not, “where did you come from.” Not a bloodcurdling scream because her neck, so close to him, had brought out his fangs. Not, “thank you.”
Just, “You’re naked.”
That was the trouble with transformation. If you went from bat to human, you didn’t have any clothes on. Miles got embarrassed, which surprised him.
He retracted his teeth.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
The girl, now that he looked at her, really was a girl. No older than sixteen. She was staring at him hard, and then she put her hands to her face.
“Shit,” she said. “My glasses.”
They both looked around, and Miles saw them underneath the bench.
“There,” he said pointing to them. He didn’t want to make any movements that might change her state from strange calm to panic.
She scooted down and got them, and then held them up. They were smashed. Not only were the lenses broken, but the very frame had cracked in two. Irreparable.
“My mom is going to kill me,” she said. “These were my grandmother’s glasses. Vintage.”
“I’m sorry,” he said again.
She took the cloth bag she carried, fingered a hole in it, and ripped out the bottom. She handed it to Miles.
“Here,” she said. “You should cover yourself.”
He stepped into the bag and covered himself with it. It was as though he were wearing a tiny, snug mini skirt that said WHOLE FOODS on it. He felt ridiculous.
“What’s so funny?” she said.
“It’s not too often that I feel ridiculous,” Miles said. “Usually, I’m threatening.”
“You don’t look too threatening,” she said.
He considered this. It was probably true if you didn’t know what he was. Outwardly, he looked like an 18-year-old kid. He was tall and skinny, and looked a bit like the weakling in the back of the comic books that he had liked so much as a boy.