Chapter 8 Cosima and Jeffery at the mall Let's talk about it!
Chapter 8 Cosima and Jeffery at the mall
Cosima drummed her fingers on the food-court table. Her son sat across from her wolfing down a meatball sub. She stared at her veggie sub and then at the people walking by; teenagers holding hands and groups of women all shopping for happiness. Her eyes searched the crowd for Jeffery. Where was he? The Wednesday mall crowd grew thicker than what she expected. Was an event going on today? She glanced again at the clock in the 50’s ice cream parlor. Ten minutes past six, only five more than the last time she looked. Maybe he forgot? Her hopes sank a little as she watched Logan smear sauce all over his face. Watching him eat meat made her feel ill, like a predator tearing apart its kill.
“Thirteen, and you still can’t eat without making a mess,” she said. Logan curled his sauce covered lips at her and continued devouring his food.
“So who are we meeting?” he mumbled with a mouth full of chewed up meat.
Cosima pressed her hand against her turning stomach. “Jeffery, a new friend mommy made at work. Don’t talk with your mouth full. You’ll make the other people sick.” He had already done a great job on her.
“Nobody cares mom, can I go to the game store when I’m done?” His eyes pleaded and his mouth bulged with half-chewed food. Her stomach lurched.
“If you’ll stop talking with your mouth full and clean your face. You’re a mess! You’re going to embarrass your poor mom.” He rolled his eyes and continued to chew. He shoved what was left of his sub in his mouth and got up to leave for the store.
“Not yet! Chew it up first and clean yourself off,” she said in a deeper voice letting him know her irritation. He continued to chew and smile at the same time. He took a deep gulp swallowing what was left and wiped his mouth off on his sleeve.
“Why didn’t you use your napkin?” She picked up the napkin in front of him and waved it wildly like a flag of surrender.
“I du know, can I go know, I’m bored of waiting.” He held up his hands in front of him, pleading.
“Only go to the game store and when you’re done come right back here. No wandering around.” She narrowed her eyes.
“OK,” he said and took off before she could say anything else. She watched him skip away making sure he went the right direction then glanced at the clock again. Maybe he changed his mind. She felt like every pair of eyes in the food-court stared at her. She imagined everyone thought her pathetic sitting alone.
Cosima turned her head in the direction her son had gone, wishing he’d hurry back, and there, making his way around a group of girls, strolled Jeffery casual and calm smiling at her. Thank goodness! He wore a white button up silk shirt, untucked, and black khaki pants. He smoothed his perfect waves back with his hand and locked hold of her with his gray eyes. He approached the table and gracefully seated himself across from her. He hung the same army green backpack he had before on the back of the chair. Her pulse quickened and her body heat shot through the roof. She wrapped her worn, black leather jacket around tighter to cover her old ragged clothes. Dressing up didn’t even occur to her. She had been too busy getting her son ready so she wouldn’t be late.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” he said, “I got a bite to eat and spilled it on my shirt and had to go back and change at the hotel.”
“That’s OK, my son and I were just eating too. He went off to the video game store. He’ll be back in a little while.” She fiddled with her hands under the table and her right foot wouldn’t stop tapping on the floor. She looked directly at him and knew her face probably turned ten shades of red.
Jeffery leaned casually back in his chair studying Cosima. He wanted to know everything about her; her favorite color, her favorite food, whether she snored at night when she slept. From the parallel existences, he knew she was creative. She always worked as an artist of some sort. Maybe that would be a good place to start the conversation.
“So what do you do when you’re not at the Holiday Inn?”
“I’m a wedding photographer. I just work at the hotel for extra money. Wedding photography doesn’t pay that well in this area.” She relaxed and shifted her body toward him leaning her arms on the table. ”And what do you do all night long?” She leaned on her elbow completely focused on him.
What was he going to tell her? He hadn’t worked up a story about his night time activities. He wanted to tell her the truth but knew it would either scare her away or she would have him committed to a loony bin. He decided to stay as close to the truth as possible without making himself look insane.
“I’m doing research on an old 12th century journal that was found. I’m trying to validate the historical information contained in the journal. It was found in a grave eleven years ago. The information contained inside, if true, will change the way we view history during that time.”
“WOW, are you a historian or archeologist or something?” She sat up, possibly impressed. “You look far too young for that and dress more like a teenager. I would have guessed shift work at a factory or office. Why do research at night?” Her body tensed suddenly and she sat back. She looked shocked for a moment and then her cheeks flushed. Her blood, so close to the surface of the skin, awakened his hunger, but the hunger subsided quickly. He had fed well before arriving, too well. Blood had gotten on his shirt making him late, but he didn’t want to take any chances being surrounded by so many humans.
“I just prefer working at night, I’m a night owl. Sometimes I work during the day when I need to speak to people or if I need to go to a library or records room. Those places tend to not be open at night.” He hated lying to her.
“How old are you?” She blurted out suddenly. Her shyness evaporated and curiosity took over. ”I was thinking maybe you were nineteen, twenty, but it seems like you would need some kind of degree to be doing research like that. Which would mean you’re at least twenty-one? You look so young.”
“Actually, I’m thirty.” He watched her reaction. He didn’t look thirty, but if he were still human, that’s the age he would be. Her eyes opened wide for a moment and then her expression relaxed and she smiled.
“You don’t look thirty, but then, I don’t look my age either. People at weddings are always surprised when I tell them I’m thirty-five and I have a thirteen year old son. They always think I’m in my early twenties. I’ve been cursed, or blessed, depending on how you look at it, with my father’s baby face.”
“It’s true, you don’t look thirty-five at all. I bet you’re the envy of all your brides.”
Jeffery smiled, she was easy to talk to and so accepting. Her body continued to relax as their conversation continued. How would she react to him being a vampire? Hopefully, if his research went well, he wouldn’t be a vampire much longer and he would never have to tell her.
They talked a while longer, and then Logan returned from the game store. He stared at Jeffery, his blue eyes big and round. Cosima put her arms around Logan and pulled him closer.
“This is my son, Logan. Logan, this is Jeffery.” Logan squirmed around a bit in his mother’s arms and worked out a shy, hi. He chose a chair at the table and moved it closer to his mother.
“Hi Logan, nice meeting you.” Jeffery said politely trying to ease Logan’s obvious discomfort. He noticed Logan only had a few features in common with his mother, her nose, freckles and the shape of her lips. His other traits must belong to his father. He had short blond hair and bright blue eyes. Cosima had brown eyes. He was thin like his mother but his bone structure was different. Now that he sat face to face with Cosima’s son, he felt guilty. He could be putting this child in danger along with his mother. He should never have met with her. He needed to leave town as soon as possible. Tonight.
“Do you like video games?” Logan asked anxiously.
“I love video games! Although, I don’t have much time to play them anymore. That’s pretty much all I did when I was a teen.”
Logan concentrated on his mom, clearly excited with Jeffery’s answer.
“Can we invite him over so he can play games with me?”
Cosima rubbed her son’s shoulder. “Logan is always trying to find people to play video games with,” she said. She looked uncomfortable again, shifting in her seat and glancing down at the uneaten sub in front of her. “I’m not much of a player and there aren’t many kids in the neighborhood.” She stared straight at Logan. “I think we need to get to know Jeffery a little better before we have him over.” She shifted again.
Clearly, visiting was still out of the question. “Your mom’s right. Maybe later I’ll take you up on the offer.”
Cosima gave Logan a stern look. He glared at his mom for a moment, then relaxed back against his seat and folded his arms across his chest.
“I’d love to come over some time and play games, but your mom and I just met so I think we need to get to know each other a little better first.” More lies. He’d never get to know her, not until he was cured.
Cosima flashed him an appreciative smile. He wanted to know her, spend time with her, but it was too dangerous.
Suddenly, Jeffery choked and rose from his seat, his throat exploding like wildfire. He glared past Cosima and Logan searching the crowd. The blood lust rose in him like a storm burning inside him, consuming him. The suddenness of the attack could only mean one thing; someone from his bloodline was near. He needed to leave immediately before he lost control in public or his relative saw him.
“Are you OK?” Cosima thought Jeffery choked on something.
“I’m sorry!” he exclaimed, clinching his throat, “I need to go, I suddenly feel… sick.”
Cosima studied his face. He definitely didn’t look good, almost like he could hurl any moment. He clutched at his stomach and turned away. “Sure, no problem, I understand. I’ll see you later at the hotel?” How did his illness just come out of nowhere? He seemed perfectly fine the last hour they had talked. Was the illness an excuse to get away from her? Did he lose interest in her?
“I’m sorry, we'll talk later!” He snatched the backpack from the back of the chair knocking it over with a loud clap and winced in pain hunching over. He stumbled away toward the mall exit like he was drunk never looking back at her. Everyone in the food court watching must have thought he was a mad man. From a distance, Cosima heard someone call the name John. She turned to find the source of the voice. A woman in her mid to late forties quickly shuffled in Cosima’s direction. She stopped near the table, her face white and confused. She stared after Jeffery.
“John!” she yelled again toward the exit. “Is that you?” Jeffery didn’t look back, he forced open the door and exited out clinching his stomach disappearing into the darkness.
“That couldn’t have been him, he’s gone.” The woman whispered, now standing in front of Cosima’s table. She stumbled and her face paled like she’d seen a ghost. She glanced over at Cosima with tears in her eyes.
“Was his name John?” she asked through sobs she tried to control. ”Please tell me his name!”
“Jeffery. I just met him, Jeffery Walker.” Confusion swirled around in Cosima’s head. She didn’t understand what this woman wanted. Who was John?
“Jeffery,” the woman breathed through her mouth, “He looked just like my son who died eleven years ago, exactly like him, but that’s impossible.” She kept her eyes on the door where Jeffery had rushed out, lost in some unseen past.
Logan, to his credit, remained quiet and still while all this transacted. Cosima stood up near the woman and touched her arm. The sensation startled the woman out of a trance.
“I’m sorry dear, I just lost it for a moment I guess, but that boy could have been my son’s twin. Unbelievable.” A couple tears fell from her eyes as she regained her composer.
“Who was your son?” Cosima asked, trying to help the woman calm down.
“His name was John Crouse. He died from an animal bite. They said it was rabies. He was fine after the bite for about a month and then the symptoms showed up. He had gotten a shot for rabies right after the attack, but he still died.” She started to lose composure again. ”After his death someone dug up his grave and stole his body,” she cried. She had to stop and breathe a couple times before she could continue. “They never found out who did it and they never found his body. Why would anyone do that?” She moved from sobbing to complete hysterics. Cosima led her over to the table and gestured for her to take a seat.
“I’m sorry about your son. Do you have a picture of him?” Mrs. Crouse grabbed a napkin from the table and wiped her eyes and cheeks. Mascara ran down her face and her bloodshot eyes focused on her lap. She opened her purse and pulled out a wallet and withdrew a picture from a plastic sleeve.
Her hand held a graduation picture, 1995, and the face in the picture looked exactly like Jeffery; even the same age as Jeffery with the same smile and gray eyes. Cosima held the picture in her hand double checking. Everything the same like time had not touched him.
“Wow, I can’t believe it!” Logan’s curiosity peaked and he pushed closer to get a look at the image himself. “That is Jeffery!”
“Be still. Don’t upset Mrs. Crouse, OK.” Cosima handed the picture back to Mrs. Crouse. What should she say? He could be Jeffery’s twin. She thought for a moment and then said, “I’m sorry for what’s happened to you, but Jeffery couldn’t possibly be your son. He would be older and wouldn’t look the same anymore.”
“I know, you’re right. You’re absolutely right, but when I saw that man I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’m so sorry. I’ve made a fool of myself.” She hung her head down and wouldn’t make eye contact with Cosima.
“Hey, no problem, I probably would’ve done the same thing under the circumstances.”
Mrs. Crouse peered up now and regained control again. She straightened herself up and wiped away a few remaining tears. “Thanks miss, for being so kind and for listening. It’s just been hard to accept, even now.” She stood up with a little composure returned to her and thanked Cosima again. ”There’s always that tiny shred of hope that he isn’t really gone. That they made a mistake and he’s still alive. Maybe lost with no memory. Ridiculous right?”
“No, not ridiculous at all.” Cosima smiled to reassure her. Mrs. Crouse smiled back, and then stiffly walked away toward the exit Jeffery had used.
As she watched her, all Cosima could think about was how much Jeffery did look like her son, John Crouse. The resemblance was unbelievable.