5:34 a.m. - 2023-05-20
Owen's first glimpse of Abby is from a distance. Alone in his room, trying to find a way to deal with the relentless bullying of Kenny and getting caught spying on his neighbors during an intimate moment, he turns his attention to what appears to be a father and daughter, newly arrived to his apartment complex. The girl is about his age, pretty, and walking barefoot in the snow: an irresistible mystery which is magnified the following morning when Owen, on his way to school and the inevitable bullying, sees her bare footprint still in the snow and notices that the windows to her new apartment are mysteriously papered over.
Their first face to face meeting occurs that night in the courtyard. Again, Abby carries with her an air of mystery. Owen, used to being alone at this hour, is acting out his recurring fantasy of standing up to Kenny with a knife. Without hearing her approach he senses Abby's presence. When he turns, she is standing in a hooded cloak, motionless and once again barefoot, watching him. Throughout the movie, as established in this scene, Abby is very still, self-contained, and centered. Unlike Owen, who is experimenting with different identities and attitudes, she knows exactly who she is. Their brief exchange ends with her telling him, "Just so you know, we can't be friends." Lonely and isolated, Owen reacts with anger. But later he hears frenzied shouting through the common wall of their apartments. The furious voice sounds nothing like that of the girl he met in the courtyard, so he assumes it must be her father.
Again in the courtyard Abby, whose vampiric feeding has been delayed because of Thomas's blunder, comes upon Owen playing with a Rubik's cube. This time, despite her state of craving, it is her curiosity which is aroused. Owen explains the puzzle and offers to let her try it overnight. He also notices that she smells funny. At this point the camera focuses briefly on Abby's bare feet, which appear oddly deformed: the toes long and curved, the nails black. Is this an early stage in vampiric transformation, along with the smell that Owen has remarked on and the apparent rumbling of her belly? If so, she shows remarkable self-control--and perhaps a dawning emotional connection to Owen--in not attacking the defenseless boy. Or perhaps, unlike later in the film when the blood lust is full upon her, she is too cautious to seize a victim in a spot where the body will inevitably be discovered. After Owen leaves, her cravings become overwhelming, and she goes on the hunt. Afterward, Owen hears another shouting match, but this time it is Thomas, furious that he has to dispose of the jogger's body.
Owen discovers that Abby has solved the Rubik's cube overnight. Not only is this remarkable to him, but the audience realizes that Abby had to have done so after feeding on the jogger. Abby is even more intriguing to Owen now, though later, when Owen visits her apartment, we see an old toy that resembles an early version of Rubik's cube, suggesting some deception on Abby's part. They tell each other their names for the first time and discover that they are both twelve years old, though Abby insists that her age is an approximation.
At their next meeting, Owen has two documents: a copy of ROMEO AND JULIET, which his young class is rather ambitiously reading, and an explanation of the Morse code. Here the potential romantic connection between the two children is made more explicit. Romeo and Juliet were, of course, tragic young lovers. Juliet was only thirteen at the time of their meeting. They met most often by night, coming from families that were essentially at war. Juliet expressed a wish "that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun." Owen's nocturnal meetings with the soft-spoken Abby are a welcome contrast to the loud, brutal world of his daytime existence. Owen suggests that he and Abby can use Morse code to "talk" through the shared wall of their apartments, evoking another pair of ill-fated lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe. They learn that they are both from one-parent families, Abby's mother being deceased and Owen's parents separated and going through a divorce. Of course, Owen's relationship with the adult world is much different than Abby's, though he doesn't know it at the time. Owen is largely ignored, both by his parents and teachers, or viewed with suspicion by his female neighbor. Abby is much more successful at manipulating adults. Thomas, her familiar, is under her control, though there are occasional moments of tenderness between them. The jogger/victim and the reception nurse at the hospital view her as appealing and vulnerable, calling her "Sweetheart" and "Sweetie," and going out of their way to help her. Abby asks about the cut on Owen's cheek, and he tells her the true story after concealing it from his mother and, presumably, his teachers. Abby interrupts Owen to insist that he must learn to fight back, promising to help him if necessary, and adding that she is much stronger than she seems. How much stronger we have seen already and will again.