Saturday, June 13, 2009

Vlad: XI.

Candy's family lived in a comfortable and spacious apartment on the seventh floor of a new building on An-Ho South Rd. Candy's mother and father had recently been spending occasional evenings at the bedside of an old aunt who was in the hospital. Because of the importance of her coming exams at school, Candy was allowed to stay home and study at her desk rather than go with them to visit the aunt.

It was the night of June 12th, around 10:00 p.m. It was a Thursday. Candy's parents were at the hospital again, and she was studying in her room. She was trying to concentrate on a boring history assignment--history was her worst subject--when she heard a bumping and thumping noise in the living room. She switched off her desk light and went to see what it was.

In the soft light of the living room lamp, Candy could see something moving out on the balcony, but couldn't see clearly what it was. It was black and birdlike, and it knocked repeatedly at the handle of the balcony door. Candy was afraid, but since she knew the door was locked she decided to come closer. Her heart began to beat heavily as she stepped slowly toward the glass that separated her from whatever it was that was knocking against the door from outside. She strained her eyes to see it in the darkness. It was rubbery and hairy and black, and it flopped and skipped about just two meters from where she stood--there on the other side of the glass.

Candy was about to run back to her room when suddenly the creature opened its little pink mouth and hissed at her. Her heart jumped into her throat as she recognized it to be a huge fruit bat of some kind. It was staring her directly in the eye. Then its little amber-colored eyes blinked at her. They blinked almost like human eyes would. She was frozen to the spot with fear. She'd just begun to step away from the door when suddenly, with a rush of its rubbery wings, the bat flew away into the night.

Candy dropped into a leather chair and began shaking all over. It was gone now. But it was only a bat. Why had she gotten so scared? If her parents were home, she thought, she wouldn't have gotten so scared by it. She’d never seen such a thing in Taipei, but still it was just a bat. Maybe it was sick from being in the city, and that's why it flopped about like that. Maybe it had come to the balcony just to…

From the corner of her eye Candy noticed something white on the balcony. It was a folded piece of paper lying just outside the glass door. It was there right where the bat had been. What was it? Why should there be a piece of paper on her balcony now? She had to know what it could be. She could open the door quickly to grab it. But no. What if the bat were still out there? There was no way she’d open the door.

She went back to her room, her head dizzy from fear, and lay down on her bed. She lay there thinking about the bat and about her schoolwork and about how tired she was. Soon her eyes were going to close.

A few minutes had passed when the doorbell rang and she gave a start. Jumping out of bed, she went to the foyer and turned on the video monitor to see who was ringing. As the bluish light of the monitor softened into clear relief she recognized Vlad from her English class.

"Who is it?" she asked in Chinese, pretending not to know who it was.

"It's Vlad," he said in English, smiling warmly at the camera. "Isn't that you, Candy?"

"What do you want?" Candy asked.

"Felicia gave me your address," he said, smiling even more warmly. "I thought I would visit you. I live very close to here, you know."

Candy didn't like the smile: there was something suspicious about it, she felt. And why would he visit her? Boys never visited her before.

"I'm sorry, Vlad," she said. "I can't let you come in. My parents aren't home now, and they would get angry if I let you come up."

"Okay," said Vlad. "I understand. I didn't know your parents weren't home." Again he flashed the same smile. "But I really want to talk with you some time. I don't have many friends here, and since we live so close to each other I thought that maybe… Well, maybe you could show me some good places in the neighborhood. Some good places to go. You know?"

"I can't go out tonight," replied Candy. "I'm--"

"I know, I know," interrupted Vlad. "I don't want you to go out tonight. But tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow. Will you meet me after your school--right after school? Can you meet me in the food court in the Taipei Metro mall? If you'll meet me, I'd be happy to buy you an ice dessert. Red bean or taro, whatever you like."

Candy didn't know how to reply. She was about to say no to him when Vlad said: "C'mon, Candy, just for a few minutes. I may be a foreign boy, but just because I'm a foreigner doesn't mean I'm a bad person. Do you hate foreigners?"

"Okay, I'll meet you in the food court," she finally said. "But only for a few minutes. Goodnight, then. I have to go back to study."

And she flicked off the monitor screen and went back to her room.

When her parents got home about an hour later, Candy came into the living room and turned on the TV. She didn't know why, but she decided not to tell them about the bat or about Vlad's strange visit. Then she suddenly remembered the piece of paper on the balcony. Quickly sliding open the door, she reached out and grabbed it, shutting the door with a bang and locking it again. She took the paper back to her room, unfolded it, and read the following lines:

Your feet are light like ivory toys,
Your neck is smooth as jade;
I don't want you with other boys,
I'm glad you're in my grade.
It's only on you my thoughts do linger;
I'd crawl across Asia to prick your finger.
How did this get onto her balcony? And who wrote it? Was it for her? Candy didn't want to imagine it was in any way connected with the sick bat. But how did it get there?

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