Michael and Golden slept the sleep of the dead. It would be wrong to say they slept the sleep of the 'undead'. Michael wasn't sure where the idea originated that vampires were not one hundred percent among the living. He was certain he was very much alive. But right now, he slept soundly, and did not dream. Golden, too, had undisturbed sleep.|
That is, their slumber was undisturbed until the piercing wail of a ten year old bolted them both upright in bed. ''Jackass is DEAD! Jackass is DEAD! Somebody killed Jackass!'' Michael shuddered, and whispered in Golden's ear, ''Ugh, we FORGOT something, honey! I don't blame YOU for the forgetting, I was sidetracked as well.''
The boy's voice got louder, as he ran into the house. ''Jackass is DEAD!'' His mother, trying to find an answer herself, queried, ''Have any wild animals been seen wandering the area?''. And then added, ''I'll go ask your brother. He was up early this morning. He might have seen one.''
With that, the awakened pair rose. Golden checked his clock. ''It's 4:30! Peter is home from school and soccer practice.'' They straightened up their clothes as best as they could, and walked out into the living room, where the distraught Peter and his Mother were. ''What's going on, Pete?'' Golden did a perfect job of feigning sleepy innocence.
''My poor cat! It looks like some wolf or big dog BIT it and killed it!'' He turned frantically towards Golden, and demanded, ''Did you see any wild animals this morning?'' This was asking a bit much of the young Golden. He was struggling simply to keep his face expressionless. Michael came up with the answer, ''Now that you mention it, we DID see a big coyote out wandering near the park this morning. Now WHY a coyote would leave the rural areas and come into the CITY, I don't know. But I saw him, I did.''
Dorothy uttered firmly, ''We'll have to keep an eye out for him. Maybe we should notify the animal control people.'' With that, she returned to a fluster of cleaning the house. The more subdued young boy declared, ''I'll go dig a hole for Jackass, now. If I see that coyote, I'll kill him myself!''
Neither Michael nor Golden said anything to that, and Dorothy just kept on picking up old newspapers and throwing them away.
''Maybe it's time to gather together what you'll be bringing tonight. Have you any bags?'' Michael initiated. ''Um, we have some big black trash bags. Will they do?''
''Yes, that will be perfect!'' He was eager to go back in Golden's room, and get some distance from his human family. The lights on, he surveyed the clutter of Golden's room. He never saw so much possessions, all owned by one young almost man. ''So when do you turn eighteen?'' he queried, recalling some rule about those under eighteen being 'jailbait'. ''This November, I turn eighteen. I suppose none of that makes much difference, now,'' Golden added, considering the possibilities of eternal youth. ''Well, you can pass for eighteen now. If anyone asks you, remember to tell them you're eighteen. This is very important.''
He couldn't stress it enough. He had no wish to see the inside of a jail cell, even if he weren't a blood drinker. And, as a blood drinker, well, he just couldn't let that happen. Golden understood. Fortunately, the time of his eighteenth birthday was just five months away, so the worrisome time would not be long.
As the two prepared things for Golden's new chapter in his life, his mother sat down on the sofa to ponder the situation. Some other mothers might not be so understanding. But she had seen her dear Andrew suffer like no human should ever have to suffer. Night after night, he'd soak his pillow with tears, and she hadn't known quite how to comfort him. He wouldn't believe her when she told him he was attractive. He just thought she was trying to making him feel better.
''So if a small, pale stranger can do what I've been trying to teach him, I will let my child go to him and his friends. It breaks my heart for Golden to leave home. He's been such a good child. But he needs to learn things I can't teach him.'' So Dorothy sat and prayed and hoped and prayed some more. And then she prayed still further.
Meanwhile, Golden was just grabbing and tossing stuff into bags, without much thinking about what was going into the bags. Michael grew alarmed, and reminded him, ''Now remember, we have to CARRY all this stuff several blocks. We are a bit stronger than ordinary men, but we can't carry EVERYTHING!'' Golden endeavored to be more selective after that.
By the end, he had filled six extra large trash bags. ''Double bag them!'' Michael reminded him. By this time, the sun had set and the sky had grown dark. Golden hugged his mother and told her goodbye. She did her best not to cry, but it didn't work. Golden hugged her again, extra hard, and smiled. He'd call daily and let her know how he was doing.
He then went to Peter's room, and found him engrossed in a computer game full of animated warfare, and told him goodbye, as well. ''I'm sorry about your CAT! You can get another one, you know,'' he offered, trying to comfort the young boy. It did not work. But Peter did pause his battle long enough to give him a hug. He didn't understand his strange brother, but he hoped he would be happy.
Golden's father was out in the shed, and he didn't want to confront him, so the two of them each took three bags, and quietly slipped out the front door. The crickets had begun their chorus already. The street was full of rushing cars. Did any of the drivers wonder about the sight of two pale young men, carrying an impossible load? Michael and Golden didn't pause to examine, but kept their pace as quick as reasonably possible.
When they arrived at the small apartment, two very surprised women greeted them with stunned looks. They kept shifting their eyes from Golden, to the many bags, now dropped on the floor. The apartment seemed to magically shrink right before their astonished eyes.
Livia spoke first, ''It's a small apartment. We DON'T have room for all that stuff!'' Gwen asserted, ''We can sort through it later, let's go out to eat! I'm hungry!'' She was certain she'd think much better on a full stomach.
As they travelled to a desert area, she tried to ponder their suddenly more complex life. Golden was certainly a beautiful creature. There was no doubt about that. And he possessed a very sweet, innocent nature. She was entranced with him, actually, and was certain they could make room. She tried to soothe Livia's concerns. Meanwhile, there remained a more serious matter than a cluttered household. ''What shall we do about feeding, now that there are FOUR of us? How's that RABBIT FARM coming?'' They'd arranged with a rural friend to establish a rabbit farm, but there were few too few yet, and they were mostly babies, for it to sustain four hungry blood drinkers. She doubted Yuma's evildoer population was large enough, either. How bad could the hunger get? She'd seen Michael lose control of himself when too long denied.
''I suppose we'll have to travel all the way to San Diego this weekend for a really good feast!'' Gwen suggested, a little too brightly. Tonight, one evildoer amongst the four of them would leave them still hungry. Maybe they'd be lucky and find two. Michael assured them their family was complete now, and he wouldn't bring anyone else into it. They drove by a bar, in which a rowdy fight was breaking out. Much screaming could be heard, and its possibilities looked ripe.
Young hungry Golden had to reminded, even with the plentiful supply this night, to leave some for the rest of them. He always looked so innocent and sweet, when he looked at them, wide eyed, and said ''I'm sorry!'' They couldn't stay mad at him long. But Golden knew he had to learn better behavior. He was terrified of what would happen if he made his new friends too angry with him. ''I'm really sorry! I'll try to do better. I was just SO hungry!''
They forgave him. ''The hunger of the newly-made is quite fierce, indeed. We know you'll learn to share!'' Michael consoled him. Golden spent the drive home staring wide eyed out the car window. He felt so strange. He felt confused. And he really wanted to please his new family. They knew this, and their affection for him grew.
Golden's stuff got sorted out. He could use the dresser in the living room for his stuff, and the remainder would simply sit on the porch, to be transferred out of the black bags into huge storage containers. But they'd need a bigger place eventually. But for that, they'd need more income. At his age and experience, Golden wasn't capable of adding much income to the family right now. So Gwen and Livia discussed his plans for the future. ''It was just such a conversation like that with my human family that plunged me into a depression the night I met Michael. I don't know what to do! I don't want to be where everyone can see me. I don't want to work with the public. Now that I hear their thoughts despite myself, I can't bear the constant ''WHAT is it?'' they think. I knew they thought that before, but now I KNOW!''
Fortunately Livia found a career counseling site on the web, which featured various tests for the aspirant to take. She set Golden in front of the computer, and when his tests were done, all four of them evaluated the results. Golden showed skills in verbal, scientifical, mathematical and analytical areas. With his preference for solitude, research scientist or laboratory research technician looked most promising. Laboratory research would be possible after a four year college stint. It was decided. Golden was going to school in the Fall. They'd pick evening classes whenever possible, and he'd have to use the sun-protective clothing at other times. Gwen and Livia had managed thusly in the human world for several months now, and he could, as well.
Thus, Golden applied to the Arizona Western College, and would have a full load of classes come August. Meanwhile, he turned his daily efforts towards house cleaning. Michael, as elder, had given into his preferences, and never did do much housework. He'd figured sixty years of labor was enough, and he planned to avoid it if at all possible ever afterwards. But Golden did attack the dirt with a diligence, and even did the clothes washing. The laundry room was rarely occupied at night, and Golden found it an almost pleasant task.
Thus it was, they often had free time on the weekends, and the four of them frolicked most lovingly. They did make a happy, if exceedlingly unconventional, household, and happiness among them grew and love deepened.
Happy their weekdays, too, except for one evening when Gwen and Livia returned home to find Michael asleep, completely oblivious to a very sick Golden. Golden was found kneeling in front of the toilet, throwing up convulsively. The cause was found in the kitchen. A half-eaten banana creme pie sat on top of the counter. Now there was someone to hear him, Golden wailed, ''Oh, I'm SO sick! I keep puking and puking and puking, and . . . I don't feel so good!''
Michael, too, woke up, walked to the kitchen, saw the pie, and then walked to the bathroon door, where the three of them beheld the miserable Golden. ''Oh, poor Goldie! I've always wondered what would happen were I to eat human fare. But I've never been curious enough to try! I'm rather grateful for that!'' Michael declared, in amazement at poor Golden.
''How long have you been throwing up,'' Gwen asked, trying to determine the severity of the problem. ''Our vampiric systems just can't tolerate the introduction of such foreign elements!'' Livia rightly figured out, though this fact did not take a learned scholar to determine. ''Two HOURS, now!'' the pathetic creature wailed. Between heaves, he uttered again, ''Two HOURS!''
There wasn't much Michael, Livia or Gwen could do to offer comfort. In time, the magical blood would repair the situation. Meanwhile, poor Golden just had to suffer. Suffer, he did, for FOUR HOURS. He vowed to never touch anything but blood and water ever again. As the months passed, he kept to his word, though he did develop a fondness for chewing gum, and had a variety of it in all sorts of flavors.