As it turned out, Angela had been quite busy on the ghost front. She had been regularly talking to someone for weeks. Her family had not been concerned at first but, after seeing me talk to ghosts Nick had put together what was happening.
Getting up from the sofa where I had been listening to Vicky’s explanation, I moved to where Angela was playing on the floor. I sat down cross legged next to her, careful not to disturb the array of drawings she had arranged around her on the rug.
“So I hear that you’ve made a new friend.” I said, “Does she have a name?”
Angela nodded, “You know her. She lived in the castle before.”
I was surprised by her statement but it made a few pieces fall into place. It took a moment for me to remember the name of the ghost we had briefly met whilst searching Rowlands castle for Angela. “Hester?” I asked.
Angela smiled, delighted that I had got the right answer. “Yes Hester. She was lonely before but she is not now.”
“Is she around now?” I asked, “I would like to speak to her.”
Angela shook her head. “She gets tired and goes away sometimes. You can’t talk to her now.”
I sat back on me heels, frowning. It did make sense, away from any attachment and without anyone giving her extra energy Hester would be weak. A worrying thought occurred to me. “Angela, when Hester gets tired, does anything happen to you?” I asked.
She looked down at her drawing, suddenly guilty. “No.”
“Please tell me the truth, I won’t be angry.” I said gently, trying to meet her eyes.
“Sometimes… when Hester gets tired… I get tired too. One time I got really sick and I couldn’t go to school.” She admitted from behind her long dark hair.
Vicky had been covertly listening to our conversation. At the mention of her daughter’s illness she abruptly joined in, expression filled with horror. “I thought she just had the flu that day. She was fine after a couple of days. Are you saying that it had something to do with this… ghost? It’s hurting her?”
I bit my lip with worry. “It is possible that Hester has been using Angela’s energy… I don’t know if it is intentional or not. Sometimes ghosts can… draw strength from things. If Angela’s ability is the same as my own, she may be able to give or take energy. In her case, probably only a small amount.”
“Like what you do with Lillian?” Nick asked, moving closer to us. He was familiar with my arrangement with my dead roommate.
“Yes.” I confirmed, glancing at him. “But this is not the same.”
“Why not?” Vicky interjected.
I wasn’t sure how to explain my position. “I… I doubt that Angela would be able to channel the same quantities as me, without sustaining… significant injury to herself.” I admitted. I was an ancient vampire, my strength and healing powers were substantially greater than a human child.
Vicky still looked puzzled. “I don’t understand, how are you any different?” she asked, no doubt seeking to understand how her daughter could be protected.
Nick seemed to realise that the conversation was heading in a dangerous direction, as he tried to interrupt. “Would anyone like a coffee? I think we need some caffeine to figure this-“
Angela was not listening; she looked up at her mother innocently. “Of course Scarlett has more energy than me; vampires have different colours to us.”
I frowned in confusion. “What do you mean by colours?”
Vicky had suddenly turned white as a sheet. “What do you mean by vampire, honey?” She asked her daughter sharply.
Angela did not realise the implications of her words, she had not yet learned the prejudices of her family. Her mother’s reaction made her look a little nervous. “That’s what Scarlett is.” She said, confused.
Moving surprisingly fast, Vicky quickly whipped her daughter away from me and moved into a defensive stance in front of her.
Nick looked alarmed. “No, Mum wait- its fine.”
I sighed and rose slowly to my feet, trying to look as unthreatening as possible. “I thought my welcome was a bit too friendly. I should have known that you hadn’t told her.” I said to Nick.
Vicky was looking at me with a completely foreign expression, one filled with hatred and fear. “So it’s true?” She whispered.
I inclined my head. “Yes, but I can assure you that I mean no harm.”
She was too afraid of me to turn away but I could tell that her next words were directed at her son. “How could you bring this thing into our house? Near your sister?” she hissed.
Her reaction irritated me but I tried to be patient. “You might have forgotten that this thing was the one who rescued your daughter. You don’t have to be afraid of me.”
Nick appeared to be scrambling for some kind of argument that would mean something to his mother. “Mum, she is not the same- she’s different-”
“That’s what she wants you to believe.” Vicky growled, still shielding her daughter who had begun to cry.
“I think it would be best if I leave.” I said, moving slowly towards the door. When nobody moved to stop me, I kept going until I was safely in the hallway. Looking back once, I met Vicky’s gaze levelly. “You should know that your son is no fool. The second he realised my true nature, he put a stake through my heart. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.” With those parting words I swept from the house and got into my car, slamming the door slightly harder than I intended.
I took a deep cleansing breath as I started the engine. Vicky’s reaction was not unexpected. I was used to people being afraid of me but on some level it still hurt. I liked Nick’s mother, I didn’t want her to hate me.
I felt too restless to go home so instead I went to Eclipse. I wasn’t in the habit of visiting for fun but something in me craved people and noise. I entered through the back after parking my car in my private space. Even the main club area was quiet due to the early hour. I slipped into a leather booth with a drink to keep my hands busy and silently watched as the place grew busier. It was a Saturday night, prime time for going out. I drew some looks and respectful nods from those that knew me, but thankfully people seemed to receive the message to leave me alone.
When it grew late I mingled with the crowds for a while and danced to some songs that I liked, but I couldn’t get into it. When a drunken human put his arm around me and I got the sudden temptation to rip it off, I decided that it was probably time to leave before I did something I would regret. The club did not need any negative attention drawing to it.
Choosing to leave my car and walk home, I took the scenic route. The light drizzle falling from the sky felt pleasant on my skin after the thick air of the club. The quiet streets were nice after hearing the pounding music. When the dark figure of a woman stepped out from a side street and began following me I was not concerned. There were not many people who could be a threat to me.
Quickening my pace slightly I rounded a corner and silently jumped up onto a fire escape. As expected, a few moments later she rounded the corner and stopped, realising that I had disappeared. The woman had cropped blonde hair. She was dressed in a dark red jacket and dark jeans. When I looked at her closer I thought that there was something familiar about her, although I couldn’t place it. I dropped down from my perch, landing behind her.
“Can I help you with something?” I asked politely.
She whipped around, eyes blazing. “Like you helped my sister, you mean?”
I frowned as I stared at her, trying to figure out the familiarity. Suddenly something clicked; there was something in her wide brown eyes and the shape of her face that reminded me of Linda, the witch I had recently had to visit in the morgue. “Linda?” I asked.
Her gaze darkened. “So you did know her. You killed my sister.”
I shook my head quickly, “No I didn’t, I swear I-”
“Save it!” She hissed, moving towards me.
I moved to defend myself, not wanting to hurt her until I had explained but she didn’t try to hit me like I expected. Instead she threw a glistening powder over me as she chanted something too fast for me to understand. I choked on the bitter powder, accidentally inhaling it as I tried to move away. A sudden weakness overtook me and my vision swam.
“What-?” I tried to ask as I fell to my knees. I tasted blood in my mouth.
“Now you will see how it feels to be changed into something you hate.” She snarled.
“I didn’t kill her.” I managed to gasp, gripping my head as a severe pain shot through it.
“Go to hell.” Her voice was faint, far away.
The world tilted around me and suddenly my head hit the pavement. I didn’t feel the pain as my world faded to blackness.
When I awoke, I could tell that some time had passed, dawn felt significantly nearer. I felt nauseous and strangely cold as I slowly sat up. My clothes were soaked through from the drizzle. It took me a moment to realise that there was someone looking down at me. Quickly I scrambled unsteadily to my feet, eyeing the newcomer warily. It was hard to see clearly, almost like looking through a thin sheet of material. I could make out the shapes but the finer details were hard to discern. I thought that I must have hit my head harder than I had first realised. I blinked, trying to focus.
“Who are you?” I growled.
The fair-haired man in front of me looked surprised and more than a little confused. His blue eyes widened when I spoke and he actually glanced behind him. After a moment he answered, “Gabriel. My name is Gabriel.”
“Right Gabriel, what are you doing here?” I was not in the mood for pleasantries.
He smiled although his eyes remained cryptic, “I could ask you the same thing.” He said.
I frowned, not impressed with his answer. “Whatever, I need to go.” I moved away from him, eager to get to the safety of my home. The details of my collapse were returning to me. I deduced that the witch had meant to kill me in some sort of revenge for her sister, Linda. Clearly, it hadn’t gone to plan since I was alive and talking to some random bystander.
I made my way up the street, feeling my strength returning to me as I moved. Gabriel remained where I had left him, standing in the glow of a streetlight staring curiously after me.
I made it back to my house a few minutes before sunrise. The familiar look of my tidy living room was a huge relief to me as I stumbled in the door. Lillian stood up from her seat on the sofa when she spotted me. “Scarlett! What happened? You look terrible.” She fussed, looking worried.
I smiled as I pulled off my still soaked coat and pushed my hair out of my face. “I’m fine, don’t worry… it was an eventful night.” Eventful was putting it nicely but since I was ok, I didn’t want to worry her unnecessarily.
I shivered suddenly as a strange feeling spread through me. I glanced at the window; the sun was just breaking the horizon. For a moment I thought that it was the normal weakness that hit me every day when the sun rose, but then all at once it worsened. A piercing pain suddenly shot through my jaw and into my head and I groaned. “Ow.”
Lillian rushed to my side. “What is it?”
I was about to answer her when the pain suddenly intensified beyond comprehension and for the second time I fell to the floor. A terrible sound filled the room and after a moment I dimly recognised that I was screaming but I was powerless to stop it. I writhed as the pain spread throughout my entire body like fire.
Another voice joined Lillian’s and after a moment I recognised Amir looking down at me fearfully. “What’s going on? What’s happening?”
“I don’t know!” Lillian cried, although of course he couldn’t hear her.
I tried to tell them that that of course I must be on fire, what else could this pain be? The effort proved too much for me and thankfully I passed out for the second time that day. This time, unconsciousness was a relief.
This time, I came back to consciousness slowly. I could hear voices arguing nearby. After a while I recognised Lillian and Amir.
“We have to take her to a hospital!” He urged, sounding worried.
“We can’t!” She replied, “They have never seen anything like this before.”
“I don’t want to go to a hospital.” I groaned, still keeping my eyes closed.
The arguing abruptly stopped and I heard them hurrying over to me. I opened my eyes to find that I was lying on the sofa, thankfully still in my living room.
“Scarlett?” Lillian sounded anxious, afraid even.
“What happened?” I moaned. I had the mother of all headaches. Something suddenly occurred to me and I focused on Amir with some difficulty. “Can you see her?” I asked, confused.
Lillian shook her head in exasperation, “You made me visible right before you passed out, remember? You gripped my wrist and sent energy into me and then you passed out.”
I didn’t remember this but I nodded all the same. I squinted my eyes; the room looked dull and fuzzy, despite the bright light. “Why can’t I see properly? Wait- why is it light?” I glanced around in a panic, realising that it was daytime. The curtains were closed but sunlight streamed through the cracks. I sat up quickly, or as quickly as I could when my limbs all felt clumsy and heavy. “What is going on?” I demanded.
Lillian looked worried, as though she was scared to tell me something. “Scarlett… something… well something has happened to you.”
I felt a fluttering in my stomach as true fear set in. “Lillian, be honest with me please. What is going on?”
Very carefully she took my hand and held it up for me to look at. “Scarlett… you have a heartbeat.”
Her words floated over my head as I stared at my own hand as if it was an alien. It was familiar yet… not. My normally ice white skin had a slight flush to it, as though blood actually circulated in my veins. Standing up, I unsteadily made my way over to the mirror above the mantelpiece. My face was the same- my face yet not quite my face. My features hadn’t changed but the slight natural blush along my cheekbones made it seem entirely different. There was a slight softness to my appearance that had not been there before. My blue eyes looked bright and scared but emotional as I was; there was not a trace of red. My fingers shook as I pulled back my top lip to look at my teeth.
“My fangs are gone.” I breathed. Carefully I placed my hand on my chest, feeling the steady beat that had been missing for over a millennium. Abstractly I realised what the strange sensation had been before- warmth. I was warm, I was alive. The thought proved to be the tipping point as I abruptly burst into tears. The information was too much; I didn’t know how to process it.