Episode 5: Grounded

Three empty wine glasses and an empty bottle of wine sat on the coffee table in the front room, but mercifully, whichever two city council members had been over for drinks, they were gone now. This would be between Kerry and her mother.

“Sit down, Kerry,” her mother said from the cozy armchair where she sat, waving her hand at the next chair over.

“Hi, Mom.” Kerry tried for contrite, even though her fury at Officer Morgan remained knotted tightly in her chest. If not for him, Kerry’s evening would be full of comfortable half-asleep best friend babble as she and Char prepared for bed. Kerry went in for a hug to soften the moment. After all, her mother always accepted hugs. Then she sat down. “Did my notes help with your strategic planning session?”

“Kerry. You lied to me.”

No getting around this conversation, then. “I told you I needed the car to help with some research Char and I were doing.”

“Based on the context, I had assumed you meant a research project for school, and the car would help you get to Charlotte’s home safely since it would be dark outside after the city council meeting.” Her mother crossed her arms. “Lies by omission or partial truths are still lies. If I’d known… Were you looking for somewhere to make out without us gross parents watching? There are better, safer places in town, you know.”

When Kerry came out to her parents, they’d supported her—but now they treated anyone Kerry even casually associated with like a potential romantic partner. That honestly felt judgmental in a whole new embarrassing way. It wasn’t like being bisexual meant that she wanted to hop in bed with everyone she met. It just meant sometimes she crushed on boys and sometimes she crushed on girls. She had a level head on her shoulders.

“Char and I aren’t—oh, never mind.” Kerry sighed. “Look, I found a bit of an urban legend I wanted to check out. You know I do social media posts for that online fantasy magazine. Photos and an interesting story help create interaction online, you know?”

Research for volunteer experience looked good on college applications—even if this was another half-truth.

“Did you even think to check for warnings about wolves or bears before you went out?”

“There are always warnings about predators. We’re living in a city in the middle of a forest, Mom.” The tone slipped before Kerry could catch herself, and her mother’s eyes narrowed.

“If I can’t trust you to be honest with me, and I can’t trust you to make safe and sane decisions about how you use the car, I can’t trust you with the car, either,” her mother said. She held out her hand. “Car key, please.”

Kerry’s heat sank. When she’d gotten her intermediate driver’s license, her mother gave her the car key to keep along with her house key, just in case of emergencies. It showed she trusted Kerry to ask before she took the car. And now her mother didn’t trust her.

She couldn’t fight this head-on, though—fighting to her mother’s face would just make it worse. Getting in a spitting match with Officer Morgan would absolutely make it worse. She just had to grit her teeth, take the car key off of her key ring, and hope this wouldn’t last too long. But the best way to make sure she didn’t open her mouth and dig herself in any deeper was to get out of the room.

“Permission to go to bed?” she asked through gritted teeth as she pressed the key into her mother’s outstretched hand.

Her mother sighed. “Of course. I just want you to behave responsibly and tell me the truth, Kerry. Okay?”

Kerry just nodded. She gave her mother one more hug as a consolation before she headed up the stairs and to her bedroom.

The strange thing about truth was it didn’t feel like it had a place in this house. Half-truths hung all around her in the family photographs on the walls—her, her mother, and her father together on various vacations at various ages. But vacations were about the only time she ever really saw her father. The half-truth, stated, was that being a consultant meant he traveled for work a lot. Since he was good at his job, he traveled more. But, the other half of the truth, the unspoken, was he didn’t want to stay in Paxwood, not even for his family.

She only briefly considered calling him up and asking him to talk her mother into returning the car key for Memorial Day Weekend, at least, but she knew how he’d respond. He’d just tell her to listen to her mother because she knew the situation.

Even though her mother didn’t. She didn’t know that Officer Morgan always seemed to be around whatever Kerry was investigating, no matter how innocuous, ready to get Kerry in trouble like it was his personal vendetta. She didn’t know that Kerry and Char had evaded the wolf on their own, safely, and left the area—she didn’t even ask for Kerry’s side of the story. She didn’t know how much Kerry loved these stories that took her out into the night. She didn’t know that Kerry had choked on her words, trying to ask Char out. She didn’t know that Kerry’s gut was still twisted because she got so caught up in being angry about Officer Morgan that she hadn’t asked Char if she was all right.

Her mother didn’t want all that truth. No, her mother wanted a daughter that stayed in line and filed through high school, college, and a successful adulthood. Her mother wanted anything that would help her advance her political career. 

Kerry closed her bedroom door behind her—careful not to slam it, not to add one more thing to her list of wrongdoings for the evening. That last thought, though, gave her a potential path forward.

This Paxwood House sale mattered to her mother. She wouldn’t want Silphium sinking their corporate teeth any deeper into the town than they already had. So, this was her path forward. She’d gather information on the history of the mayor’s house that could help spark meaningful conversations with local business owners, maybe even inspire someone else to throw their hat in the ring to buy the place. She’d dig into anything about Silphium to establish that they were the vampires in this deal—even though she knew they weren’t literal vampires.

Couldn’t be literal vampires.

Vampires weren’t real.

“And neither are faeries, witches, or demons, but that didn’t stop you from trying to find a gate without a fence in a stand of birch trees on an old dead-end logging road,” Kerry mumbled to herself. She pulled out her laptop and flopped down on her bed. Late as it was, she should have wound down, but instead she started searching the internet for lore about vampires.

Ninety percent of what she found was rooted in live action roleplay, popular novels from the 70s and 80s, TV shows from the 90s and early 2000s, or more recent teen vampire romance fiction—so pretty much all of it was stuff that she knew about more from people’s disdain than any personal interaction with the source content. One website traced vampires in popular fiction back to Varney the Vampire, which predated Dracula, and Kerry snorted at the alliterative name. The title sounded better suited for a children’s picture book about vampires, also starring Wally the Werewolf and Miranda the Mummy. 

She yawned, snapped her laptop shut, and slid it into her nightstand nook. That was enough of that. Tomorrow, she could search out more useful information about the things that really mattered—like Paxwood House. 

related 🧶 for ko-fi members – Kerry’s Notes for the Pixie-Bitten: Initial Vampire Research

Episode 5: Grounded

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