Jake looked at his dad’s curly hair, his glasses, and the serious look on his face. Dad had always been so nice to him and cared about him so he just felt more disappointed in his father than angry when these things happened. Still, it was embarrassing. If he wasn’t going to get him a car, dad could at least let him live his own life and not feel that he had to look out for him or protect him.
“I know you’re 18-years-old now,” Dad said as he started pulling into the driveway. “You’re an adult, that’s true. But it’s not safe to be walking around outside after midnight. I wouldn’t even be walking around outside after midnight. See if you can get a ride home and then if you can’t, you might want to consider coming home a little earlier. When your mother woke up and saw that you weren’t home she was worried sick.”
Even though Grace wasn’t here, Jake thought about if she were here and watching him get lectured like a child by his father, how humiliating that would be for him. Just picturing that made him uncomfortable. Jake’s father pulled into the driveway.
“Looks like our new neighbor is finally out,” he said as he parked the car.
The only pieces of evidence Jake had actually seen that they had a new neighbor was that the ‘For Sale’ sign that had a ‘Sold’ sign on top of it had been taken down, the shades on every single window had been all been pulled down after being open the entire time it was for sale, and the fact that his gossipy mother had said the new neighbor had moved in despite the fact that she was clearly annoyed that she hadn’t met the person or persons either.
Jake looked over in the direction that his father was looking in. He saw extremely long black hair that covered a good portion of the body of this woman and he wasn’t able to see her face. She wore a black dress with a reddish tint to it that was so long he couldn’t even see whatever footwear she may have had on. She was just standing there and didn’t move when Jake and his dad got out of the car.
“Hello!” Jake’s father called to her.
The woman’s head jerked up and she looked at the two men. She looked extremely startled and there was something about the look on her face that made Jake think that she was going to hiss at them. She looked scared and defensive. The skin on her face was extremely pale, making it really stand out in the dark night. Jake looked at his father who was smiling like nothing was out of the ordinary.
“You startled me!” she said as if her new neighbor was being rude for introducing himself as she stood there in her driveway that had no car in it.
“Sorry!” Dad said, not allowing her rudeness to shake him. “Just wanted to say hi and introduce myself. I’m Eddie. This is my son Jake.” The woman’s head shot in Jake’s direction as she looked at him. She still looked unhappy and he found her face creepy.
“Hi,” Jake said and he waved to her. She didn’t respond with a Hi or a wave. She looked back at Eddie.
“My name is Victoria,” she said, sounding more like she was introducing herself to a large group rather than casually doing so to her neighbors.
She had an accent that sounded like it was German but Jake couldn’t tell. He was amazing at guessing peoples’ ages, so accurate his friends always told him he should join a carnival tour and show off those skills, but when it came to recognizing accents he had no idea. Though she had the accent, she spoke clearly, so much to the point where it sounded like she was making an extra effort to do so. She said nothing else after her name and was now staring at Eddie. Jake could tell that was making his dad a bit uncomfortable.
“Well it’s nice to meet you,” Eddie said. “Stop over some time for a cup of coffee. You can meet my wife as well.”
“Thank you,” she said. “I will come over some time and take you up on your invitation.”
Eddie smiled at her. She did not smile back and Jake felt pretty sure that she did not like his father although his dad didn’t seem to notice. Eddie made his way towards the house and Jake followed. As he walked towards the house, Jake took one look back at Victoria. She now looked the same way she had when he had first saw her. She was looking down with her hair covering her face so he couldn’t see it. She was just standing there.
“She seems nice,” Eddie said once they got inside and the door was closed behind them.
That was his typical dad, Jake thought. Eddie always tried to give people the benefit of the doubt and Jake just found that naïve. Eddie had always complimented Jake’s friend Jared Reilly, saying what a nice and smart boy he seemed like. If Eddie only knew that Jared was always picking on the other kids, pushing them to do things that would get them in trouble, and he had a phase where he liked starting fires. Jared was now 18-years-old and even though he was going to be going to a good college next year he drank a lot and did coke, but Eddie never would have believed it.
There was clearly something not right about Victoria and it wasn’t just her unfriendliness. Of course, Eddie didn’t seem to see it at all. Jake looked through the tall thin window next to the front door out to Victoria’s driveway. She was no longer there. She had probably just went back inside, Jake couldn’t imagine she’d want to just stand there in her driveway for long. But he still found it creepy that she was gone for some reason.
Walking through the park was a bit darker than walking on the main road but Jake didn’t care. It didn’t scare him. He lived in a quiet suburban neighborhood either way and there was never any trouble around here. Thinking there was any danger around here was just stupid paranoia on his father’s part. If he went out driving around looking for him again, he wouldn’t find him here.
“Jake!” he heard a woman’s voice call. It startled him and scared the heck out of him. It was close to 12:30 a.m. and people around here were never in the park this late.
He looked towards the voice and it took a moment to register for him who the woman sitting on the bench was. The dress Victoria had on this time was strictly black with no tint to it. The bench she was sitting on was facing him diagonally. She sat across it, her back leaning against the far end. Her long, black hair didn’t cover her face this time at all. He could see that extremely pale face of hers again and this time he also noticed her lips looked extremely red, as if she had just put on fresh lipstick moments before seeing him. The biggest difference that he noticed about her face this time was that she looked friendly and relaxed, much different than the annoyed and suspicious look she had on her face the last time he had seen her. Her dress was just as long as the other, however, she was sitting with her legs stretched out on the bench so it didn’t go past her ankles. Her feet were completely bare and her soles that were even paler than her face were looking right at him, the black dress at her ankles making them stand out even more. Her feet were long but slender and she had long toes. He looked back at her face. She was smiling like she was very happy to see him.
“Hello,” he said. This woman was no more than 5’2 and couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds, but she scared him. She was just sitting there, not playing on her phone like just about every person he ever saw sitting alone did, not even reading, just sitting there by herself on a park bench a little after midnight.
“Out for a late night stroll?” she said. He could still hear her accent and she still spoke like she was making a concerted effort to speak clearly, like she wanted to show that she could speak English as well as anyone else. However, her tone was nothing like it was just 2 nights ago in her driveway when she sounded like she didn’t want to be bothered and had a strong dislike for him and his father.
“Was just hanging out with some friends,” he said.
“Friends,” she said, her smile looking like she felt connected with them. “Was one of those friends a female? One you are interested in?” He still blushed but although this was normally a subject he hated talking to ‘adults’ about, for some reason he felt OK discussing it with her.
“It was,” he said as he warmed up to her more.
“She is so pretty. The first time I saw her face I knew immediately she was someone that I would love to get to know better and be able to date.”
Victoria looked so happy to be hearing what he was saying to her that he couldn’t believe this was the same woman that had been so cold to his father. Perhaps they had just caught her a bad time and now she was overcompensating because she felt bad. She probably hadn’t been expecting to be having small talk when she was doing whatever she was doing in her driveway after midnight so it made sense.
“What is her name?” Victoria asked him.
“Grace, that is a lovely name. And you are a very handsome young man. The way you felt when you saw her – thinking how beautiful she was and knowing you wanted to be with her – she felt the same about you.” She said it very confidently as if it were fact. While it felt good for him hearing her say that, he did not like being called a young man.
“I’m actually a man,” he said, trying to speak confidently, but feeling a bit intimidated by her. He was beginning to get a vibe from her that she had much more power than he did, though he couldn’t pinpoint exactly why he felt that. This was a small woman. “I’m 18 now.”
“Ha-ha-ha!” she laughed, very loudly to the point where it echoed. “That is young to me. How old do you think I am?”
Oh he knew - he never got these wrong. She was 32, he could just tell, and he tried to hide his excitement to impress her with his ability. As he opened his mouth to impress her with his knowledge he remembered that a woman would be much more impressed if he flattered her rather than showed off some dorky, useless skill of his.
“You are 24,” he said and he spoke as confidently as she did when she told him that Grace was interested in him. “I am certain of that, and you are not a day older.”
She laughed loudly again but it sounded like she was doing so because she was flattered and not because she was laughing at him. It made him feel really good, as if he could flatter this woman he should certainly be able to win over Grace. He needed to stop being so shy around Grace and act like he was now.
“You really know how to make a woman’s day,” Victoria said laughing still. “Do you know how old I am? I am seven hundred and five!”
Her laugh got louder to the point where he could feel it in his ears. Her joke was funny, although he didn’t think it was nearly as funny as she was making it out to be. He started laughing anyway, mainly because her laugh was contagious. But as she continued to laugh he caught a vibe from her, he wasn’t sure why he thought it, but he was certain it was true – she was laughing at how far off he was on his guess but she was dead serious about what her age was.
His eyes moved down to her feet and he looked at those pale soles that were looking right at him. Her feet were swaying back and forth and there was something about them doing that that he wasn’t able to take his eyes off of. Her feet looked so peaceful just resting there on the bench, nothing covering them so they could just freely enjoy the cool, autumn air. And they continued to sway back and forth, back and forth.
Watching them was so peaceful and he felt like he could do it all night but he didn’t want her to think he was crazy. So he moved his eyes up to her face. She was quietly smiling at him like she had been watching him look at her feet the entire time but didn’t care. There was something about her that gave him the impression she was someone that genuinely cared about him, though there was something about her teeth that looked not quite right. Now he made eye-contact with her and he felt like he couldn’t look away.
“Such a charming young man you are,” she said to him. “You just made me feel so young. You really know how to make a woman feel good. You will win over Grace. She is going to love you. She is going to be yours.”
Her words made him feel like he was the best person in the world and that everything was right with his life. He now realized that she had been hypnotizing him but it was too late for him to care. As she stood up and began to advance on him he did not move. It was as if he was drunk and knew that something was wrong but in his state of being under the influence he felt fine with it. As she moved closer to him, right before she bit his neck, he did think about how his father had been right and that it was dangerous to be out after midnight.