My parents say they've had it with my rabid mouth - the rumors, the smack talk, the backbiting, the tasteless cracks. It all has to go. Every bit of it. Immediately.
Oh come on! Why such a big stink over a little gossip? It's not as if I'm hurting anyone. Besides, it's all in fun. Can't anybody take a joke?
But they claim that gossip bites, like a vampire, sucking the life out of God's image placed inside of me; that gossip is really short for "ghost sips," tales from the crypt that turn normal human beings into dried up zombies.
A shiver runs down my spine. For one split second I feel a twinge of fear.
I shake my head. Gossip doesn't bite. It's just news. And vampires aren't for real. Neither are zombies, witches, ghosts, or demons. It's all a bunch of harmless fantasy.
The words bounce off the caverns of my ears like a bat with broken radar. I've got to get out of here.
Five minutes later I arrive at best friend Jezzy's doorstep, dragging my broken wing. She eagerly rushes me into her bedroom, poised to share the latest gossip - I mean news, straight from the grapevine.
Into her black bean bag chair I sink, feeling right at home with all the harmless fantasy posters plastering the walls.
Grabbing her knitting needles and two balls of yarn, one white, one black, she gets the ball rolling.
"Saw Patty at the hospital the other day. Boy, was she in the dumps."
I feel my ears itch. Patty? In the hospital? Sounds juicy. Give me more.
I do get more. More than I ever bargained for. A whole eyeful more.
Like the string of red saliva I see dripping from her tongue. If that isn't the strangest thing! I watch her twist it into scarlet thread. She sticks it to her lips and blows me a kiss.
I rub my eyes. This is too wierd!
Ow! What hit my neck? Feels like a wasp. Man, that stings! I feel a pinch in my vocal cords as she tugs the other end of the thread and weaves it into the fabric.
I must be hallucinating.
She licks her lips. An invitation to come and drink.
The muscles in my neck constrict, thirsting for the bite - I mean, for something light.
Huh? Where'd that pesky voice come from? I thought I'd gotten rid of it.
"She's been abused from childhood, you know."
Yaaah! There it is again. And right in the middle of a great sip - I mean, (news) clip.
"Her stepfather molested her multiple times and put it on video too."
I feel the fangs bite deep. Oh, the pain! I've never hurt so bad in all my life.
By now the thread has turned into a rope - or giant straw, rather. And it's getting on my nerves. I can't believe this guy is half the creep she makes him out to be.
She smiles wide, displaying two glistening canines. I see the drool. I hear the slurp.
My head is spinning. I feel dizzy. Like I could faint. I try to move my neck. Yow! It's stiffer than a board.
Jezzy stares straight at me, eyes filled with ice. "She slashed her wrists, you know."
Her words pound a stake into my heart. I can barely breathe.
"Is - is she okay?"
"For now. Had to have an emergency blood transfusion. No big deal."
"But why would she - ?" I start to ask, then catch myself. I know the reason. For it was I who started it. The rumors, that is. Never meant any harm. It was just a joke. But it got people talking. And whispering. And gossiping. Truth is, Patty's stepdad never laid a hand on her. But look at the damage caused by one careless jest.
"Oh by the way," she adds with a giggle, "about that last part - the attempted suicide - I made it up."
Or did she?
"What's the matter? Can't you take a joke?"
No, not this time. Somehow that sort of thing just isn't funny anymore. Neither is the ghost behind it, that lying shadow thirsty for a sip of human pain.
You were right, Mom and Dad. About everything. I just hope it's not too late to make amends.
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