I used to be one of those weirdos who liked funerals; you believe that? People always wear their best shoes to funerals. Not weddings. They'll scope their closet, they'll think about the bride or the groom, and they'll go, "Yeah, I can wear these, I don't need to go to the mall," and they think nothing of wearing last season's pumps.
But if it's a funeral, they'll think, "Aw, jeez, I was so mean to Aunt Ginny that time and now she's dead," and out come the new Guccis.
Me, I was so lucky. So lucky. I was so lucky I didn't know how lucky I was; I'd think, "Jeez, Aunt Ginny was such a jerk to Cousin Brian, I wonder what he's gonna wear to her funeral?" I never had to go to the funeral of anybody I really, really loved. Well, except for my dad's. But I spent most of that funeral in a state of high pissed-off, so my focus was elsewhere. (It turned out an evil librarian was out to get me, and not-for a change-owed from all the overdue charges from late returns. And there was a cursed engagement ring involved. Nightmare. The whole thing. Just awful.)
My focus was often elsewhere, and too often, my focus was often in the exact place it should not be. Case in point: my dead friend Marc. (Also: the future, but I can't think about that right now. One soul-shriveling crisis at a time, please.)
Once, a long time ago (in my head, I mean … in real life, it hasn't even been five years), I talked a man out of committing suicide. Two weeks ago, he killed himself. I'm ashamed because I didn't see it coming. How's that for the Lex Luthor level of lame? Who doesn't see someone they know to have suicidal tendencies committing suicide? He practically wrote it on his forehead in red Sharpie.
I wasn't at his funeral, by the way. Nobody was. He'd strictly forbidden one in a number of letters he'd left for me; he also left his diary. Words, words, they were all over the place. He was nagging me more in death than he had in life, which was a pretty good trick given that, nag-wise, he trailed only behind my friend Jessica. Okay, and maybe my mom.
I couldn't stand to read too much of his stuff at a time. I'd cry, and then look ugly, and cry harder, and make my husband sad, and then we'd sad-fuck. Which was great, but sad. (Thus the name.)
The stuff I've read. It's like he knew he was going to die within a few years of meeting me. But he doesn't say how he knew. It's all over his diary, it's all over his suicide letters. Who writes suicide letters? He wrote me a suicide manuscript, the heartless bastard … he knows if it's not Gone with the Wind or Pat Conroy, I've got zero interest. He knew he was doomed, he had a plan, but what he never said was why.
I found that kind of curious.
I never find anything curious. So I figure it's a time-travel issue, or a me issue. Now, I'm not pulling a Mary Sue thing here, but I am the vampire queen. One of my best friends killed himself so that Evil Me from the Future (EMFTF, pronounced "emftf") wouldn't turn him into a horrid nasty Marc Thing.
So, yeah. I'm pretty sure it's not all about me, but it's definitely a lot about me.
So. Time to get to work.
Don't get too comfy being dead, Marc.
"What are you talking about, she's dead?"
"Betsy, I've got a zillion things to do, what with creating life and all, so could you pay attention when I talk? Did you not see my lips moving?"
They're always moving, I thought but did not say. Jessica was too cold except when she was too hot, and she was starving except when she was throwing up or, worse, starving while throwing up (I didn't even want to think how that was possible). She was angry and she was joyful. She was tearful and she was enraged. She was pissed and she was venomous. She was pissed except when she was crying and-God please help us all-crying-pissed was the worst. The very worst. My super vamp powers were no match for crying-pissed.
Wrong again, I realized, remembering what I'd overheard last night from two floors away. When Jessica wasn't eating or pissed or nesting or pissed or nagging, she was horny. Sometimes eating olives stuffed with garlic made her horny. Worst yet: she was often all those things at once, nesting and horny and pissed and horny and hungry and horny. Nobody was brave enough to touch the olive jar in the kitchen. And poor Detective Nick/Dick was starting to shamble about the place with the nine-hundred-yard stare.
"Well, look." I was afraid to. Look at what? At her? Why? Maybe she was wearing her giant, yellow and blue circus-tent shirt in a terrifying attempt to seduce me. The thought made me want to simultaneously burst into gales of laughter and throw up in my mouth. "She is."
I peeked, prepared for the worst. Prepregnancy Jess had nothing in the knockers department, and that was no longer the case. Luckily, seduction wasn't on her mind right now.
We stared down at the body with more than a little surprise. "What happened?"
"No idea. I was headed to the basement and I almost tripped over the body." Jessica patted her gigantic belly. Like the stairway wasn't dusty and dark and claustrophobic enough without The Fetus of the Darned hogging her stomach and also most of the stairwell. "I could have broken my neck! Do you know what a fall could have done to me at this stage of my pregnancy?"
Nothing. Nothing at all; the Michelin Man had less padding. I didn't say anything, though. I wasn't ever going to be lauded for my genius, but that didn't mean I was an utter dumbass.
This is going to sound terrible (even for me), but you know that series Game of Thrones? I guess the show did so well that now there are books about the Game of Thrones. Or maybe the books came first-I dunno. I quit reading fantasy before I was voting age. There was just too much of "I shall draw the mystical sword of Eldenwurst, thus named Soulsucker, and with mine eldritch blade will smite all enemies of the fey, but fear not, all ye who tremble before Soulsucker, I shall rule with a just hand and also the council of Geeks, now ye and ye, bring me fifty virgins and lots of mead." Those books lose me right around chapter two. Anyway, I'd never read the books, but the show was pretty cool, and I got hooked on it.
No. That wasn't true. Marc had a huge crush on the Khal Drogo character, and he got me hooked on it. So he'd come off shift from the ER and we'd raid the DVR and rhapsodize about Drogo's unbelievable shoulders and what a doucheboat Viserys was.
Wow, getting ahead of myself more than usual … okay, so, in the first season of Game of Thrones, the unborn baby of one of the main characters was called The Stallion Who Mounted the World, a scary yet cool nickname. Jessica was sporting The Belly That Ate the World. She claimed she wasn't due until summer, but I had my doubts. She was just … gigantic. Gah: Twins? Triplets? Just what this place needed, three pissed-off newborns continually crying and pooping.
"I'm glad you didn't trip." I sighed and glanced back down at the dead cat. "She's looked better." An understatement. Giselle didn't look like she was sleeping; dead bodies never looked like they were sleeping.
And Giselle, the cat who'd gotten me into this whole vampire queen mess in the first place, was most definitely not sleeping. Her eyes were cloudy slits. Her mouth was frozen, half-open, and she was thin, but not dangerously so … she'd always been scrawny. And she was old … I'd had her for over ten years. She just showed up one day and refused to leave, so I got in the habit of feeding and sheltering her. I guess that's how babies and roommates show up, too. You feed 'em and they just never leave.
For ten years we pretended the other one didn't exist. Our only interactions were during meal times. (Hers. Not mine.) And since I'd moved us into the mansion way back when, plenty of other people were happy to take over the chore. The mansion was so big, my pet (except I'd never really had that warm connection to her, and you couldn't say I was her pet: see above, lack of connection) and I would go days without seeing each other, which suited us both.
I'd been killed the first time trying to coax Giselle into coming out of bad weather. I wasn't paying attention during the snowstorm while I coaxed, and got creamed by a Pontiac Aztek. Giselle, natch, scampered off without a scratch. She was the only thing in my life that found my resurrection boring.
Now here I was, looking down at her skinny dead body and realizing I had one more task to finish before I could consider all my pet responsibilities fulfilled.
"Are there shovels in the shed?"
"There are? Really?" What terrible news; I couldn't pull the old "I can't do this unpleasant chore even though I really want to because we don't have the right equipment" ploy. Another wonderful day in a shit week. Month, come to think of it!
Giselle, you insensitive jerk, you couldn't have done this a month ago? Or a month later? You gotta do it now, while fate and/or karma is really piling it on, and Jessica wouldn't have pedis without me, and we'd burned out the motor on one of the smoothie blenders? Typical cat: not one thought for how her death would inconvenience me. Andrew Vachss, the best noir-ey writer in the history of the genre, called cats the lap dancers of the animal world. Give them attention, they're there. Stop, they're outta there.
Well, she was outta here, all right.
"Next time," I announced, "I'm getting a dog."
Jessica snorted. She knew that was a lie. She knew why it was a lie, too, but was too nice to call me on it just then. "If memory serves, you didn't exactly get Giselle."
"Your memory serves." I bent and gingerly picked up the body, then held it at arm's length like a luau platter. "Yuck."
"Oh, will you suck it up? You've seen how many hideously mangled dead vampires, never mind mangled regular people (who were bad, but still mangled), and friends have been shot in front of you and/or killed themselves in your house, but you're squicking out over a cat? That cat? Hey, I just said 'suck' to a vampire." Weirdly, that seemed to please her. "That's all you've been doing lately, complaining about how awful it is to be white and pretty and rich and married to the hottest guy in the state of Minnesota. Okay, Marc did kill himself," she admitted. "That you can bitch about."
I gave her a look, but decided not to shove her down the stairs. She's creating life, she's creating life. Oh, and she stuck with me when I came back from the dead. Also: creating life. "Can you go grab me an old sheet or pillowcase or something?"
"Sure." My hugely pregnant pal was looking right at me, her brown eyes thoughtful. Since she was a couple of steps above, I started to get scared. If she tripped, she'd kill us both. "Sorry about this, Betsy. And sorry about a couple of seconds ago. My back feels like someone's resting a set of barbells on it, and the barbells are on fire. It's not doing much for my mood. And you know…" She let out such a gusty sigh, I wondered if she'd float off the stairs like Mary Poppins. "The random deaths and stuff."
I waved it away, all of it, along with my fears of being squashed to death by a pregnant woman while clutching the dead body of my cat and fretting over my lack of pedicures. "Par for the corpse. Whoa. At least that didn't come off as a Freudian slip or anything." Had I said that? Had I really?
She giggled, thank God, then turned and started climbing the stairs again. Nonpregnant Jessica was rail thin and favored nail polish in colors like Day-Glo Orange or Aged Chartreuse (which, in case you're wondering, looks like vomit dried on a nail bed). Pregnant Jessica was not rail thin. At all. Quite the opposite of rail thin. What would that be, bovine fat? And she was avoiding all the chemicals she could. All of 'em! Which was only impossible.
So among other things, she wouldn't go near a salon (or sushi, of all things … like eighty-zillion Japanese women didn't eat sushi when they were knocked up?), which was a personal disaster for me. She was using all-natural deodorant (the kind that didn't work) and natural hair product (the kind that made her look like a pissed-off Rastafarian), and when I gently suggested a fetal-friendly salon massage, she slammed the door in my face (so to speak). All of this to say: this sucks. Who goes to a salon alone? Big-time boring. If Marc were still here, he'd love-
I followed her up the stairs, lugging my dead cat. If I was smarter, or nicer, I'd think something like, It's sad that the cat keeled over, but Jessica's baby will be born soon and out of death comes life, a full circle of life, hakuna matata and suchlike.
But I'm not smart, or nice, so what I thought was: And the hits, they keep on coming. Nobody ever considers my feelings when they decide to keel over and die on the basement stairs. And the second I'm confronted with an evil poopie diaper, I'm going to go right out of my teeny tiny mind.
Still: if our situations were reversed, I'd want Giselle to bury me. Wait. I absolutely wouldn't, since half the time I had no idea if I was dead-for-real and could wake up screaming on an autopsy table or, worse, sleep through Macy's annual shoe sale, so I wouldn't trust a cat to know, either. Shit, coroners sometimes couldn't tell. I actually knew that for a fact; it was a horrible thing to know for a fact: at least two certified medical examiners hadn't been able to tell if I was dead.
Besides, our situations weren't reversed. And I could whine and bitch until the sun rose and set and rose again, and it'd still be my responsibility.
So after Jessica got me a yellowed pillowcase, I stuffed Giselle into it and out I went, into the deep November cold, searching for some meaning in all the crazy shit that had been happening since Giselle got me killed a few years ago. And I was also searching for a shovel. And after this yuck-o errand, I would be searching for a booze smoothie.
Ah, the glamorous life of a vampire queen.