Peggy showed Aster how to keep pressure on their neck as they walked back into Dinah’s.
“Does this place have a first aid kit?”
“Uhhh…the office, I think.”
Aster led them through the kitchen and to the back hall. At the end was a door Peggy had never been through before, and behind that was a flight of stairs Peggy didn’t even know existed. At the top was two doors, and Aster opened the one on the right.
“Dinah’s office?” Peggy asked, helping Aster to sit in one of the leather chairs in front of the desk.
Aster snorted. “There’s no Dinah. This place is owned by Frank Gonzalez. He’s hardly ever here, he owns, like, three other places in the city.”
For mostly sitting empty, the office was a cluttered mess. The desk was covered in papers and snack cake wrappers. The bookshelves on either side were a mess of binders with paper falling out and transaction books and a couple of family photos. Even the heavy safe, squatting in the corner, was covered in a heap of clothes.
“First aid kit?”
Aster pointed at a skinny closet. Inside was surprisingly neat. Everything lined up in perfect order on the shelves and no signs of junk food. Sitting on the top shelf was a metallic red box. Peggy reached for it and checked inside.
“Gauze and tape a-plenty,” she said to herself.
“What the fuck was all that?” Aster asked as Peggy sat down in the other leather chair.
Peggy shrugged, trying to make it casual, and kept her face neutral.
“Must have been…I don’t know…a mugging gone wrong?”
She had just been lifting up Aster’s purple hair to get to the wound when they pulled back, eyes wide and incredulous.
“A mugging? Are you seriously trying to tell me that bitch in the outdated jeans was just trying to mug me? For money?”
Peggy threw up her hands. “Well, what else could it have been?”
Her mouth fell open like she had been slapped. Peggy tried to cover it up, turning and coughing into her hand, but Aster had seen. Peggy shook her head and tried to sound innocent. She gently turned Aster’s head and lifted up their hair again. As she started to clean their neck Peggy did an excellent job of pretending the wound wasn’t two puncture marks.
“A vampire? Are you kidding? Please tell me you don’t actually believe in that kind of thing.”
“I didn’t. My whole life, I didn’t. Right up until that skank came up to me in the alley. Right up until her canine teeth grew into fangs. Right up until those fangs were in my fucking neck.”
“All right, keep your voice down,” Peggy said, glancing at the closed door. She slowly took the gauze away from Aster’s neck, and when she was sure it wasn’t going to start bleeding again, she put a fresh piece on and began taping. “Maybe…maybe she was just crazy…Maybe she just thought she was a vampire.”
Aster sat back in their seat and pointed dramatically at their newly patched neck. “Fangs! In my neck! Drinking my blood. If you hadn’t shown up when you did…”
As they trailed off, their eyes darting around the room like they were a scientist having an epiphany, Peggy had precisely one thought.
“You…you fought that thing,” Aster said.
“You did. You fought that thing. And you did things…you jumped over her, you ran up a wall…it was unreal.”
“You weren’t seeing things right. Because of the blood loss.”
“The blood loss I got from the mugger who totally only wanted my money and didn’t want to drink my blood until I was dead?” Aster asked. “That blood loss?”
“I know how to fight, sort of,” Peggy said. She was floundering and she knew it. She had lost total control of this conversation, but she wasn’t going down without a fight. “I took some krav maga as self defense a few years ago.”
Aster looked at her with a flat, unimpressed face. “I don’t know much about krav maga, but I’m fairly certain they don’t teach you how to vertical leap ten feet in the air. Oh, my God. You’re gaslighting me!”
“What? No, I’m not!”
“Yes, you are! You’re trying to tell me I didn’t see what I saw, but I know what I saw because I saw it. Stop fucking around and tell me the truth. Motherfucker, I just got bit, I think I at least deserve the truth.”
Peggy glanced around the room, hoping she would spy some secret stash of liquor. She very much did not want to have this conversation without a drink. There was nothing she could find. Guess you didn’t need to keep liquor in your office when there was an entire bar underneath. She stood up and rubbed her hands together.
“Fine. That woman was a vampire. Vampires are a thing, and that was one of them.”
Aster leaned forward in their chair, their eyes lighting up. “I knew it. I feel like I always knew it, on some level. There’s some weird shit that goes on in this city. Wait…am I going to…to turn?” They clutched at their neck. “I need sun, Peg, I do not look good pale.”
“You’re not going to turn,” Peggy said, rubbing the back of her neck. “Making a vampire is more complicated than just a bite. It’s a whole thing.”
They leaned back with a sigh. “Well, thank the universe for that, anyway. So, what about you?”
“What about me?”
Aster narrowed their eyes. “Oh, no. The truth, Peggy. All of it. What are you, some kind of vampire-human hybrid? Like Blade?”
“No, no,” Peggy said. “Not vampire.”
They gestured for her to keep talking. Peggy shifted her weight between her legs, back and forth. She hadn’t actually said this part out loud in years.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“My granny…was a god.”
Aster stared at her, open-mouthed and eyes wide, for so long Peggy began to believe they had somehow passed out in an upright position. Eventually, slowly, Aster put their hands in front of their mouth.
“Your grandmother…was a god.”
“Like…God god? Like you’re Jesus’ cousin or something?”
“No, not that one. There’s a lot of gods.”
“And your grandmother was one of them.”
“I mean, is. She’s not dead. She’s a-”
“God, yeah, I got it,” Aster said, squinting their eyes shut and rubbing their temples. “I’m going to have to sit with this one a minute.”
“You wanted to know,” Peggy said. She leaned against Frank’s desk and started chewing her thumbnail. Three years and she’d managed to keep that part of her life to herself. Hadn’t told anyone. Had even started to believe it wasn’t true. It was just some made up story her mother had told her, and as long as she didn’t talk to her mother anymore – and that was certainly the plan right up until the day Peggy died – then it was easy. Only now it was out there, and it had once again fucked up her life. She didn’t want to find another karaoke bar.
Aster looked up at her, and broke out in a quiet grin.
“You’re a superhero.”
Peggy practically jumped. “What? No I’m not!”
“You have superpowers, I’m not seeing the problem. What is it, like, super speed?”
Peggy nodded her head back and forth. “A little. It’s mostly heightened agility and reflexes. And my senses are better than most. But I wouldn’t call anything super. And I’m definitely not a hero.”
“Oh, come one. If I could move like you and I knew there were those things out there, I’d be out there every night. Wait…seriously? You’re not?”
Peggy threw her hands out. “What am I supposed to do? Spend all my nights, patrolling Pacific City, stopping all kinds of crime and vampires while wearing a brightly colored leotard and a cape?”
“Okay, first all, you would look great in some colors, I can’t believe you wear black all the time and I’m so glad I can finally bring that up. Second of all…yes, are you crazy? How can you sleep at night knowing people are getting attacked and there’s something you can do about it?”
Peggy rubbed at her eyebrow and stood up. “Okay, I’m done with this conversation. Have a good night, Aster. If you start feeling lightheaded maybe go to the ER or something.”
“Wait, you can’t just walk away from this,” Aster called after her. Their words bounced down the stairs, following. “We can help people and you’re just going home? Don’t think you’re getting off this easily, I know where you drink!”