The outside commotion dragged Natalie from her dinner. She peeked out the bedroom window to darkness, but when flares soared high into the sky, she saw police brandishing their guns. A full-blown riot!
She yanked the drapes together as if blocking the scene made it less threatening. The action reminded her how she closed her eyes when she didn't want someone to see her—as if doing so made her invisible. Such silliness!
Returning to the kitchen table, she demolished the last of the bread and soup. The soup had cooled in the few minutes she’d been in the bedroom. She closed her eyes, imaging the horror outside—outside on her very street, right outside her window! How could that be?
The world had changed; violence was the new normal. Unknowingly, she had picked the right profession. Nurses and doctors were in demand. At first, she hadn't been certain she could follow through with her chosen career, but gradually, during her forty-plus year as a nurse, the sight of blood became her new normal.
Except she wasn’t working any longer and missed those days at the hospital.
She missed her husband, too.
She let her face drop to her hands, ignoring the tear that plopped to the table. Her sweet Bill. Whatever in the world had she been thinking?
She dipped her index finger into the blob, which had increased with the addition of several more tears, and traced the outline of a leaf. The shape resembled a teardrop, reminding her of dear Bill. A teardrop leaf. She snickered. How silly!
She smacked the blotch, surprising herself.
She sighed and returned to the window, peeking between the drapes. The din had lessened though a throng of people still lingered.
She went to the closet and withdrew an almost weightless box from the top shelf, placing it on the floor and removing the lid. Ah, her nurse’s cap, which she hadn’t worn for the last ten years, not after she’d been forced from the hospital due to her age. At least that's what she told herself.
In reality, she had been fired for drinking blood, caught in the act by a sickly patient who had screamed at the discovery. Natalie had tried to wheedle her way out of the predicament, but blood dripping down her chin was the only evidence needed.
A policeman had the audacity to ask if she were a vampire. A vampire? Hadn't they gone out with the dark ages? Had they ever been real?
“You’re too silly. I’m not a vampire.” Her words had been spewed to deaf ears—except for the dratted patient who had given Natalie away. Natalie had wanted to throttle her white, turkey-gobbler neck.
She sighed and twirled her waist-length hair into a bun, ensuring it lay neatly on top of her head. Had she really been fired because of the blood? She had convinced herself she had been fired due to her age, which gave her a legitimate reason to hate her employer and the staff, who had been itching for her to resign for years. Luckily, she had managed to keep her pension. She had worked the requisite thirty plus years; no one had the right to snatch that from her,
What a load of crap! It wasn’t against the law to drink blood. And silliness to boot! So much silliness that no charges had ever been laid. The hospital, not interested in adverse publicity, wanted to forget the incident. Old Mrs. McNaughton, the woman who had caught her in the act, was senile and adamantly refused to testify. They had no case even if the hospital had wanted to press charges.
Natalie’s supervisor at the hospital had declared her a nut case. Natalie grimaced. After over thirty years at the same hospital, she should have held the supervisor positon, not some upstart twenty-year-old who didn’t know the difference between a needle and a thermometer.
“What kind of imbecile drinks blood?” Natalie’s supervisor had added after declaring her a nutcase.
“Me,” Natalie had said. “I was thirsty.” She kept a straight face but inside her guts constricted with glee. She had known it was the wrong reply, but she couldn’t help herself. She had whispered it, though, so only the supervisor heard it, which made the younger woman even more irate. But the telltale blood was the nail that kept the lid on the coffin, so to speak.
“Never mind,” Natalie had said, “I quit,” even though she was aware she was a tad late; she had already been fired.
She had paid no never mind to the awe-struck onlookers, snatched her handbag and her pristine white cap that had fallen from her head during the “excitement,” and raced from the ward. She hadn't set foot in that hospital since. Wouldn't give them the satisfaction of knowing she might be sick.
Without more pondering, she set the cap on top of her head. It sat perfectly, wedged on her bun, but just in case, she secured it with two bobby pins.
After a final look in the mirror and a minor adjustment—must look presentable, dearie—she closed the door behind her and descended the three flights of stairs to the ground level.
The evening was darker than usual with the streetlights destroyed by rioters, but riots meant injuries. Injuries meant blood. No one would see. A dark corner would exist, somewhere, away from the cops and the flares.
She licked her lips in anticipation. Her dear, sweet Bill flashed in front of her. She prayed she could snare a wounded, unconscious man. Alive was best, one who resembled Bill. Poor Bill, gone much too soon, but she had enjoyed his last moments of breath even if he hadn’t.
She snickered. Much too much silliness! She’d never find another Bill.