A Dance of Conversations
"Mina, I am concerned for your well-being. You seem to be drawn with more cares than I have seen in you for a very long time."
Mina looked in her father's kind, bearded face. It was lined with worry for her. She reached down and summoned a smile for the man who had loved her, raised her, cared for her all her years. The man who had never exhibited the least bit of embarrassment or doubt for her highly unusual career ambitions. The man who had held her as she cried for her mother. The man who had gently offered his love and guidance whenever she needed it.
The man to whom she must now lie, from whom she must hide her true feelings and thoughts. For as understanding and encouraging a man as he was, she found it highly unlikely to expect that he would understand and approve of her current state of affairs.
Yes, Father, I suppose I am a bit changed as of late. You see, I find myself now in love with a man cursed with vampirism and am currently working to make him permanently human again.
Oh, the parameters of our relationship? Well, as you can see, there is no wedding band upon my finger, but I feel our souls are espoused to one another in a way that no mere bauble of silver or gold can express. Surely London society would be accepting of all this, don't you think?
As Mina was ruminating upon the unfortunate impossibility of confiding in her father as she had done so often in times past, she noticed he was rubbing and flexing his left arm.
"Father, are you unwell?" she asked, reaching out to him.
"Yes, my dear. I have been not quite myself for several days now. I've been feeling a bit out of sorts and tired, but that is to be expected, I suppose. I am not as young as I once was."
Mina smiled at him affectionately. His kind face shined with fatherly love for his precious child then became solemn once more.
"Now, Mina my dear, no more misdirections. You seem to have become somewhat distant since discontinuing your engagement to Jonathan Harker. Are you discontent with that decision?"
Mina smiled sadly.
"No, Father. That was right for me and I am so very grateful that you were kind enough to accept it."
He put a gentle hand to her cheek.
"Of course. You are my daughter and I support your endeavors. When I know of them."
The last remark was slightly pointed and Mina casually avoided answering it. And so her father continued on when she chose not.
"I have heard you have been often in the friendly company of Mr. Alexander Grayson as of late."
And there it was. He knew. Knew of something at least. She nodded, unable to entirely lie to this dear man.
"Yes. After the Resonator explosion, I was caring for his man Renfield."
Her father drew a deep breath which seemed to strain him somewhat. She started to note his disconcerting discomfort, but he continued on his current course.
Now it was she who breathed deeply and gathered her words with care.
"Father, I did not discontinue my engagement with Jonathan to pursue one with Mr. Grayson. It was Jonathan who strayed from me. With Lucy Westerna."
Her father's brow furrowed in distress but he said nothing. Eyeing her closely, he stayed quiet and still, choosing to let her continue her thoughts uninterrupted. And so she did.
"But yes, it is true that Mr. Grayson and I are developing a close association after the fact now. He understands me, and believes in me in a way that Jonathan never did. And we seem to have a deep connection between us that I cannot quite explain in so many words. But I tell you the truth, Father. I did not stray."
Her father seemed to think this over carefully before he spoke.
"I did see you dancing with Mr. Grayson in the hospital, you know."
Mina colored slightly but did not back down from her chosen stance.
"Well, yes. We did. But a dance is not a stray."
Dr. Murray searched his daughter's face. He was uncomfortable with the thought of her and Mr. Grayson, but he had no clear evidence for his growing disquiet.
"Perhaps not," he conceded. "But it can be the start of one."
Mina held still, waiting to hear what he would next say.
"Are you happy with him? You mentioned before being affected by his magnetism, but are you happy?"
Mina thought carefully on how to respond in such a way as to be completely honest without divulging overmuch information that would only lead to more questions and concerns from her well-intentioned father.
"All relationships require work, Father. But yes, Mr. Grayson treats me well and I believe I am a positive influence for him also."
Dr. Murray considered this. To push Mina too hard would result in her drawing away from him and the time might come when this grown, mature, responsible woman would need her papa again. And if he burned their connection beyond repair, she might not feel she could come to him then.
He took another breath, willing himself to ignore the squeezing sensation now prevalent in his chest.
"I respect you, my daughter and I trust you. Just be careful with yourself and with this, or any, man. He is, as are we all, flawed. And remember your papa, as well, mmm?"
He winked at her then and she knew their conversation had reached a companionable conclusion.
She kissed his brown-bearded cheek and he hugged her tightly.
"I love you, Mina."
"I love you too, Father."
As Mina was preparing to leave her father's house, she was engaged of the housekeeper Mrs. Bentley and compelled to stop and chat.
"Oh Miss Mina, so glad to see you!"
"And you as well, Mrs. Bentley. How are you?"
"Oh, I wouldn't complain. Especially with this lovely weather we've enjoyed recently," she replied, absently patting her grey streaked brown bun of hair.
"I am glad."
As Mina started to turn away, Mrs. Bentley seemed to catch a word away and so Mina turned back to her expectantly. The matronly housekeeper hesitated, unsure of the acceptableness of her inquiry. Finally, she spoke.
"Begging your pardon, Miss Mina, but I have to ask. Is it true about Mr. Harker and Miss Westerna? I don't mean to pry but I heard talk from Miss Westerna's house staff and rather than believe formless rumors, I feel the need to ask."
Mina set her face into a smooth expression.
"Yes, Mrs. Bentley, it is."
The rotund housekeeper could not completely contain her ire.
"Oh, Miss Mina, I know men are prone to wander, but that man should not have mistreated you so."
Mina smiled sadly and patted the housekeeper's arm.
"No, he shouldn't have. But that association is now over and I am moved on."
Mrs. Bentley seemed to consider this, attempting to conceal her hungry desire for information.
"With Mr. Grayson?"
Mina took a deep breath. There was no secret to conceal. She had strolled casually through the streets of London with Alexander during his sunlit freedom.
Mrs. Bentley nodded absently.
"A somewhat more mature gentleman than Mr. Harker, if you don't mind my saying so."
Mina smiled politely, wondering how far this conversation would continue before she would be forced to derail it.
Mrs. Bentley seemed thoughtful.
"I presume then that Miss Westerna has been feeling shame of her sins. She appears to have gone into hiding with her mother and entire household."
For a moment, Mina felt a stirring of concern for Lucy and thought of visiting her home to console her. But the next moment she saw a flitter of an image of Lucy and Jonathan writhing a lover's embrace while she lay ill in hospital.
And she decided to let Lucy tend to herself.
Mrs. Bentley was still speaking as Mina came out of her reverie.
" . . . with some suspicious characters as of late," she was saying.
Mina tried to back up and clear her mind.
Mrs. Bentley spoke again.
"Mr. Harker. He seems to have disappeared out of the social eye recently. Wasn't he working for Mr. Grayson?"
Mina shook her head.
"Yes, but that is no more."
Mrs. Bentley tilted her head knowingly.
"Yes, I can imagine so. And the Resonator . . ."
Mina interrupted her not unkindly.
"I must apologize, Mrs. Bentley, but I really have an appointment to meet. Perhaps we can continue our discussion another time?"
Mrs. Bentley looked somewhat disappointed, having warmed to their conversation though she knew she really shouldn't be engaging in idle gossip. She nodded and Mina pecked her cheek affectionately before escaping out the door.
"Jonathan . . ."
The female voice floated out of the darkness, in a lilting singsong tone.
Joanthan Harker looked around him, suddenly feeling lost and afloat in his own dimly lit parlor. That voice, he knew that voice.
"Jonathan . . ."
Suddenly, he thought he had imbibed too much of the drink again in an attempt to drown out the wrathful drone of van Helsing's incessant monologues. Or perhaps to forget that he had sworn a blood oath to the highly questionable organization of the Order of the Dragon. Or perhaps to drown out the pain in his heart at the betrayal of Mina and the hurt he had seen in her beautiful blue eyes.
"I have invited no one into my house," he said, trying to sound as gentlemanly irritated and annoyed as he could manage. He thought he only sounded drunk.
"No one invited, no. But given our previous . . . association, I thought perhaps you would always welcome . . . me."
And the lithe, graceful figure of a familiar woman drifted out of the shadows. Pale hair once always just so, now wild and free, green eyes positively glowing from her pale face.
"You," he said a little unsteadily. "What are you doing here?"
She smiled suggestively at him and did not speak. She seemed . . . wrong somehow. And Jonathan Harker discovered that through his inebriated state, he was terrified.
"Alexander, van Helsing's scientific notes clearly state that frequent electrical shocks of the strength you are undergoing. . ."
He interrupted her, his volume moderate, his tone strained.
"I don't care what the notes say, Mina."
Mina huffed in exasperation, her hands stubbornly planted on her hips.
"You may change your ideology if you start exhibiting some of the more unfortunate symptoms."
Renfield spoke up mildly, as always, but clearly concerned by the current topic.
"Sir, it does sound concerning. Debilitating damage to the brain tissues is nothing at which to scoff . . ."
Alexander turned his frustration on them both.
"How many times must I repeat myself? I shall live as a man or not at all!"
Without another word, Mina nodded and kept her eyes on the man she loved. She worried about his possible reactions to repeated electroshocks of the strong magnitude he was enduring, but she understood the desperation and desire behind them.
And so she would electrocute Alexander Grayson time and time again and inject him with the solar serum and pray that his body and mind were strong enough to withstand the brutal toll it wreaked on him.
So that he may live and walk in the sun as a man.
If only for a few precious days at a time.