With hardly an expression she said, “Hey, I’m Claudia, go natt.”
Annika standing behind me said, “close your eyes honey.”
“What if he’s turned too much? It might not work,” said Claudia.
Annika’s voice answered, “Shut up Cloudy, he’s not out yet.”
To which she said, “Oh, he’s out now.”
Annika leaned over my face and as she did she came down to where my eyes were focused and for a moment she was clear enough to see. Kissing my forehead she leaned back to where my eyes were focused again and looked into them. “Ya, I guess he is.” There were tears on her cheeks. “I couldn’t tell you before because ‘bonded‘ vampires can hear each others thoughts and see through each other’s eyes. I can’t kill a vampire, but I can kill you.” Annika whispered forcing a little smile. “It’s a quicky divorce vampirestyle. Then I bring you back, and if you live, you’ll be mine.” She kissed me on the forehead again then rested her forehead on mine crying her tears into my eyes. I tried to scream but it was too late, the damage was done. I could hear laughter coming from somewhere . . . somewhere between my own ears.
When I was fourteen and having my appendix out, I could hear and remember everything. I knew that the Padres had lost again, and the Chargers were hopeful for the coming season. Dan Fouts had played remarkably well with the coaching of Don Coryell. The doctor’s wife loved red roses but the anesthesiologist’s loved pink, even though his girlfriend loved red too.
My mom thought that they hadn’t put me under enough and screamed at them that certain people would hear about this unless they did something about it. They forgave the deductible for my operation.
Everyone told my parents that my little surgery went “completely as usual.” Until now I’d thought it was usual for a beautiful blond nurse to come kiss you on the forehead as they were putting you under.
By now everything was happening in slow motion, even the sounds were deep, protracted whale songs. I heard Annika say, “Do it.”
Claudia answered, “It’s in.” And I could feel and hear everything floating away. Then the screaming started.
Streams of profanity in multiple languages that sounded Latin and some with the Scandinavian cadence and some that were in drunken American sailor.
Sudden silence. I looked down from the ceiling. I could see Annika standing next too me with a scalpel ready to plunge it into my heart. And I could also see how much she loved me. I could see everything in the room at once without having to shift my view. The greedy Anita had stormed in the door and split it in two. Claudia had taken the first hit and slammed into the wall and she was feeling her head which was smashed in the back. My monitors flat-lined and everything stopped to listen.
Grandma Sissel appeared in the middle of the room out of nowhere with both hands up facing Anita. Grandma looked up at me and smiled. She said, “Anita Go.” And Anita stopped. She hung her head and cried.
“But it could be years.”
“Goa noo.” Grandma Sissy’s voice had became stern like a 25 year old drill sergeant.
“But Mama.” Anita stamped her foot and broke the tile leaving a footprint in the floor. Then she left.
Grandma Sissel smiled and in her old lady’s voice she said, “call him to backa new.”
But I could see a bright light opening in front of me and I was falling into it. Behind me I could hear the whir and punch of defibrillators. A voice or the feeling of what a voice would feel like if it were wrapped in a mother’s love and a father’s joy, it asked if I wanted to stay “here at home or go back.” I saw Annika’s crying face and was back on the table.
Gasping and feeling like I’d been thrown from an airplane without a shoot, I screamed “I’m Free!” Annika wrapped her arms around me so tight that I was gasping for breath again.
Grandma Sissel took off her coat and when she did it reminded me of pouring water on a long haired cat. She was a slight woman who slowly walked to Claudia and slid down between her and the wall getting Claudia’s blood all over her white dress. With both hands she was manipulating the back of her head. Putting the pieces of cranium back where they belonged, she held her hands over the wound like she was waiting for glue to dry.
Annika ran to them and knelt. “Claudia, Cloudy, wake up, is she okay, is she going to be okay, you said we don’t ever die, what’s happening?” She pleaded.
“No min lilla kanin, we don die, but sometimes we sleep for a time, that’s all.” Grandma Sissel looked very tired. I was still gasping and panting for breath. “Goa noo, and marry your man before he’s completely a vampire.”
“But what about Cloudy?”
“Noo!” Which sounded like moo with an “n” at the beginning.
Annika came to me pulling the drapes around the bed. I saw Martin trying to piece the door back together from the outside of the room. Laying on top of me, Annika put her feet on my feet, knees on knees, arms over arms and fingers flat over fingers. She whispered, “this might hurt a little bit.” She kissed me. Not like the French with those little pecks on the check, but long, passionate and deep. Paralyzed, I couldn’t move at all. I could barely blink. Sleepiness was taking me over again. Then I could feel my fingers and toes freezing up, then the tops of my legs, chest and belly. She was ice cold, colder. Beyond all explanation the pain was horrific. I was slowly being run over by an ice train.
Later when I asked why it didn’t hurt the first time, she answered, “Oh it did, believe me, Anita just make you forget.”
“Can you do that too?”