Emeralds in the Dark
“I told you Gabe would look good in denim.”
Mary looked over the clothes that Wes and Gabriel had bought that week. There seemed to be a trend of loose fit jeans and button-up shirts. She tried to imagine why they had bought so little variety. She knew that Wes would have given his opinion on how to blend in, but her roommate had insisted that Gabriel had agreed on everything they bought. There was one thing that Wes had convinced the vampire to get though.
“Did you have to insist on a brown, leather jacket? I mean, the temperature only affects him in extremes.”
“Trust me on this, Mary,” Wes held up a hand from the doorway of his room in protest. “You will be amazed at how everything comes together. I’m so glad I made him try it on.” He grinned boyishly, making Mary worry even more.
“I don’t know. This is all going to take some getting used to,” she sighed, putting the clothes in the closet.
Wes had a place in the closet cleared for the vampire to keep his belongings. Clothes and any other things he picked up had a shelf he could access, which Wes couldn’t even reach anyway.
Gabriel still insisted on keeping his sword with him though. After giving it some desperately needed care, Mary and Wes both found it beautiful. Gabriel had looked so proud to see it back to its proper state.
The young woman couldn’t help but feel happy for him. He had so few things that made him happy right now. A piece of his old life was the least she could give back to him. She just hoped that there wouldn’t be legal issues since he carried it with him at all times.
“Come on. We’d better get back down to the parlor.” Wes unlocked his wheels to turn around and head back outside. “We wouldn’t want to disturb our sleeping prince either.”
“I wouldn’t worry much about that, mate,” Mary said with a smile. Glancing over at Gabriel, he was sleeping on the couch. She tucked the blanket around him a bit more just to make sure no light would touch him. Wes had even bought him his own, black blanket to shield him. “Vampires sleep like logs while the sun is up. Until its presence falls behind the horizon, not even a bomb raid would make them stir. I never thought I would care about that though. I really appreciate everything you’ve done for him, Wes. Out of your own pocket and all...”
“Hey, don’t sweat it,” Wes said as he opened the door. “He’s a good guy, and he said he would help you with figuring out vampire stuff. It’s money well spent as far as I’m concerned. Think of it as putting a down payment on something that could help us out later. Now, let’s get back before Mitch comes up here and barks our ears off for slacking.”
Mary laughed, locking the door behind her. They went back down together before parting ways at the kitchen. Wes waved her off before going to his office. She looked back to see a sink full of dishes. Just great. She went straight to work, scrubbing cooked cheese, burned marinara, and bread crust off the flat pans. After she got through those, she started on the deeper pans for the rolls.
Suddenly, Mary felt a sharp pain in her head. She froze, feeling the strength leaving her body. Her legs went first, bringing her down to the ground. Staring straight ahead of her, she tried to breathe, but she felt like her airway was shrinking. Her vision grew blurry as tears fell from her eyes. Her body slumped to her left. She wished she could call for help, but she couldn’t even move as everything went black just before she hit the floor.
“Mary, I-” Mitch stopped when he saw Mary, lying in front of the sinks. He rushed over to see what was wrong. Taking the pan from her limp grasp, he took her wrist in his hand, checking for a pulse.
“Mary? Mary, what’s wrong?” Nothing. The rest of the kitchen was starting to look now. “Mary, talk to me! Mary?! Mary?! Damn it!” He draped her arm behind his neck as he scooped her up off the floor. He hurried from the kitchen, heading for the office next door. Kicking the door in, he yelled, “Is this normal?!”
“Jesus Christ!” Wes cried as his door burst inward off its hinges. At first, all he wanted to do was yell back at his friend and demand a reason why he would scare him that much over such a question. Then, he saw Mary, lying limp in Mitch’s arms. His heart stopped for a moment, remembering something that made him break out in a sweat. “Put her on the couch...!”
“Then, I’ll take that as a ‘no’,” the pizza chef said as he put the young woman down. As Wes was coming around, Mitch closed Mary’s lifeless eyes, so his friend didn’t see how empty they looked. “Should I call 911?”
“No...!” Wes said hoarsely. When he got to the couch, he reached out to take her hand in his. “No, don’t call anyone...”
“Don’t call? Are you kidding me? You want me to stand here while Mary needs medical attention?”
“They can’t do anything...” Wes whispered. He held the back of her hand to his forehead. “There’s nothing they can do...”
Mitch watched how tremulous his friend was. He decided not to push the issue, but at the same time, he knew he had to stick around in case Wes went bottom up on him, too. Taking a deep breath, he stood up to close the door. He tried to get it to close, but the hinges were useless, let alone the splintered frame.
He forgot his own strength when his adrenaline was pumping. The feel of his chest tightening always made him go into survival mode. He couldn’t help it. Once the door was semi-closed, he pulled a chair over to rest against it. He plopped down in it himself, trying to slow his heart rate down. He needed his wits in order, knowing he was the only coherent person in the room now.
Mary was falling. She was surrounded by darkness, falling seemingly into nothing. Deeper and deeper, she fell, yet she couldn’t feel anything. No wind rushed passed her face. The only means of knowing she was even falling was the pull of gravity, drawing her limp form further and further. What was going on? Was this what a dizzy spell felt like? Was this even vertigo?
She sensed something hovering above her. Try as she might, she couldn’t focus her eyes on anything in the abyss. Where was this anyway? There couldn’t be a place like this in the world, could there? As she was about to give up and resign to her unknown plight, she noticed something above her. Slowly, it took form. Two, emerald eyes gazing down at her. It was just eyes, but a chill ran through her body at their gaze. Something was not right about them.
“Cometh... Cometh to us...”
Back in the office, Wes was still holding onto Mary’s hand. It had been thirty minutes since her collapse, but there was no change. He was gripping her limp palm in his lap. He hadn’t left her side for a second. Looking at her face, it was so calm, so peaceful, yet all he could think about was how she looked dead.
He was trying not to crack, but this was more than his nerves could handle. His mind had gone back to the place he had locked away - the things he never wanted to think about again. It was open now, and everything was flooding out. He couldn’t close it again, not right now, not while Mary was lying there this way. It was all he could do to keep himself from crying.
“Hang on, Mary. I won’t leave you. Everything will be all right, as long as you hang on.”
Mitch watched the scene in front of him, grimly. How could this be happening? Why now? Why Wes? Hadn’t he suffered enough? It just wasn’t fair. No one could deserve the amount of pain his friend had been through. Listening to Wes whisper in such a faraway voice, he could feel his heart breaking all over again. It felt far too much like that time...
Both of them had changed that night. Wes was never the same. He’d not only lost his legs, but he lost something even worse that Mitch feared might never return. He wanted to look away, but he just couldn’t let Wes suffered through this alone. Finally, Mary moaned softly as she came around.
“Wha...?” She furrowed her brow as she tried to open her tired eyes. “What... happened...?” She finally got her eyes to open, looking over to her side. Wes was holding her hand, gaping down at her. He looked scared.
“Wes...? What’s wrong...?” She grunted trying to pull her brain back on track. That was when she saw Mitch in front of the door to the office. He slumped backward as if he were releasing a great deal of tension. “Why is Mitch out of the kitchen...?”
“Because I carried your ass here, princess,” he groaned loudly. “Don’t do that anymore, okay? You almost landed Wes and I in the ER next to you.”
“The wha...?” Mary tried to sit up to question further, but she had to stop on her side as her head pounded violently. She moaned, rubbing her temples. Things were beginning to come together again, getting her caught up on the moments before her collapse.
Wes let her hand go, at last. When she looked down at her palms, she recalled the eyes that had been calling to her. She could almost hear them calling now. She shivered, reliving the disturbed emotions all over again. Rubbing her palms against her eyes, she told herself not to think about it right now.
“You gonna be okay now...?”
“I think so,” she replied to the question. She knew it was Wes, even if his voice was so quiet. “I suppose I caused a ruckus. I’m sorry.” She paused seeing his face. He was staring at his hands. He looked like he was in shock. “Wes... are you all right?”
Mitch looked up when Mary’s tone changed. She was sitting up, taking the paraplegic’s hands in her own. She looked like she was about to freak out now. He finally saw the look on his friend’s face. Standing up, he pulled Wes’ head into his arms. Holding him close, he hoped the touch would bring him back.
“Snap out of it, Wesley,” he spoke quickly, urgently. “You can’t fall back like this, not after you’ve come this far. It’s over. It’s done. Mary’s all right, just like you said she would be. She’s not Carol. Okay?”
“Yeah...” Wes said in a tired voice. He closed his eyes, taking a shaky breath. “She’s not... Carol...”
“Carol?” Mary looked up at Mitch. She was very confused. Who was this Carol? What was over? How was any of this relevant to her fainting? Whatever this was about, Wes seemed to feel very strongly about it. He shrugged his shoulders to get Mitch to let him go. The other man obliged, turning to move the chair back. She glanced between the two, waiting for someone to explain something to her.
“Mary,” Mitch spoke up with his back to them, “let’s give him a minute. He’ll be okay. You think you got your legs back?
She looked back at Wes. His head as hung, covering his eyes with his obsidian bangs. Maybe she did need to give him a moment. Standing up slowly, she walked over to where Mitch was holding the door open for her. She looked back at the manager, watching until Mitch got the door to close as best as he could. She didn’t want to know why the wood was splintered and the frame warped, but she had another question she wanted answered first.
“Mitch, who is Carol?”
“I had a bad feeling you were going to ask that.” Mitch rubbed the back of his neck, looking away as the people in the diner stared back. “That’s a touchy subject. I could use a smoke break after all this craziness. The kitchen will live without me for one cigarette.” He waved for her to follow him as he walked toward the door. The young woman followed him, quietly.
Once they were outside and around the corner, the pizza cook pull out a carton of cigarettes. Slapping it against his palm a few times, he drew out a shaft with his lips. Flipping a silver lighter out, he lit up the end, shielding the flame from the breeze. When the tobacco caught, he shut the lighter, pocketing it back where it came from. He took a long drag before letting the smoke billow out of his lips. This wasn’t going to be easy for him to talk about, but Mary had a right to know. Especially since Wes was beginning to confuse her with someone else...
“Carol was his girlfriend,” Mitch said flatly, staring up at the sky.
“Oh...!” Mary gaped at the discovery. Her cheeks felt warm as she leaned against the brick wall. Staring at her feet, she wondered why her name would come up back in the office. “Did something happen to her? Is that why Wes panicked the way he did?”
“You could say something like that...” Mitch felt the guilt weighing on his shoulders just remembering the girl. “You know, she almost ended Wes and my friendship for good. She was gorgeous, and we both liked her like the dumbasses we were back then. When we finally agreed not to say anything to her, she picked Wes over me. Back then, I as was jealous as a yellow jacket, but now, I wish I’d thought things through before I opened my big mouth. It might have been better for all of us in the end.”
Mitch didn’t say anymore. He just finished his cigarette, and Mary watched him stare up at the sky with the saddest expression she’d ever seen on his face. Once he put out the but, they walked back to the kitchen door, returning to their posts.
Mitch fell right back into his job without a pause. Mary went back to her filled sink. She sighed, slipping into her own little world as she washed the pots and pans until closing. She had a lot to think about after all.
After closing, she made her way up to the apartment. It was Friday night, and she was going to head back to Romania to look into that lead she had found about the vampire clan in the Carpathian mountains. Unlocking the apartment door, she found Gabriel sitting in the recliner. He was drinking serum when she rounded the chair. After giving him a once over, she had to agree with Wes. Gabriel did look good in denim, and that jacket did look great with the rest of his clothes. Leave it to Wes to know best.
“Valorous evening, Mary,” Gabriel said, rising from his seat to bow. “I shall leave after mine own meal.”
“No need to rush, Gabriel,” Mary said with an amused grin at his formalities. “Is Wes up here yet?”
“He must still be downstairs then...”
Her voice trailed off as she thought about how she had left him. He hadn’t come out, according to the cashier. She hugged herself as she thought of what could have happened to this Carol to make him react so drastically. She felt her chest ache, wishing there was something she could do to help him this time. Alas, she had nothing to go on, so she had no idea where to begin.
“Does something trouble thee, Mary?” Gabriel said. Seeing her that way concerned him. As her vassal, it was his responsibility to ease her unrest. “I see in thy visage that something has transpired while I did sleep. Can I be of aide to thee?”
Looking back at him, Mary thought about his offer. She had no idea how to be a vampire. Sure, the drinking blood and sunlight were bad, but that was common knowledge to people that weren’t even vampires. She hoped that fainting wasn’t a part of it, but if it wasn’t, she hoped it wasn’t part of whatever she really was because it just couldn’t be a vampire. Perhaps her vampire servant could offer some counsel to her.
“Gabriel...” Mary had to pause to gather her thoughts. She had no idea if she was about to sound crazy to him or not, but hopefully, he was serious enough of a guy not to laugh at her.
“I had a bit of a spell today. I felt something strike my mind, and I fainted. While I was unconscious, I had a dream. These green eyes were looking down on me as I was falling into darkness, and a voice was calling for me to come to them. I can’t make anything of it. Does any of this sound familiar to you?”
“Green eyes?” Gabriel’s voice was dark as his amber eyes narrowed. Mary felt as if he wasn’t looking at her right now. She must have struck a nerve. He definitely knew something about green eyes. “I know well of a vampir with eyes of emerald. Yet, I do not know if it be true they are thy attacker.”
“What vampire was this? I’m willing to go on any lead I can find at this point.”
“The mention of the dark led me to believe the eyes belong to the Countess of Darkness.” Mary gaped at the title. Why did she feel like she knew it somehow? “The mother of the accursed vampir line, the Emerald Lady, Countess Eve has brought woe to countless victims throughout the ages.”
“Eve?” The young woman swallowed a lump of nerves in her throat. She didn’t want to think about the subject anymore. “Thank you for the tip, Gabriel. When you get downstairs, would you tell Wes that I said goodbye, and I will see him on Sunday?”
Gabriel bowed, taking his leave with his sword at his side. He mulled over the word ‘tip’ as he walked down the ramp. Mary shook her head as she tried to refocus on her goals for the weekend ahead. Following up on her lead about Romania, she hoped her search of the mountain range would not be fruitless.
She went into the bathroom to shower before dressing to leave. She couldn’t waste any time. There were too many things pointing her to Romania for her to let things slip through her fingers. Mara was alive. She knew it. She just had to find her. No one was going to stand in her way, no man or vampire.