I watched as Alicia’s eyes lit up as I told her about how Jacob had asked me to his family’s dance while we sat listening to the radio in our cozy lounge.
“Oh, Emmett, I can’t believe our girl is going on her first date!” Alicia swooned like a doting mother.
“I may not be your dad, but I feel like a proud father right now.” Emmett grinned widely as he reached over to squeeze my shoulder softly.
Alicia cleared her throat and pulled a phony serious face, “Now, you be sure that boy treats you right, or we’ll have to rough him up a little, won’t we, Emmett?”
“Too right, can’t have someone messing with our girl now.” Emmett chuckled. “But first things first, who’s going on the supply run?”
“Hallie and I will go, we can get in some girl time just the two of us, if you want too that is, Hallie.” Alicia smiled as she stood herself up.
I nodded and grinned, “I’d like that, no offense, Emmett but you know, girl stuff.”
Emmett held his hands up and shook his head, “feel free, I’ll hang back here and get dinner going and clean up a little. Have fun and be safe, please.”
I couldn’t deny I was nervous about tonight, I knew nothing about making friends, let alone dating. Back in Willow Lake, we weren’t really friends, just one extended family. You just became friends with everyone in the village because, well, you didn’t have many other choices.
However, Alicia had been human once and was a human right until she was thirty-six. She’d become a Vampire when one had found her close to death from influenza, and he’d turned her instead.
Alicia had told me how she’d been married in her human life and found love as a Vampire, too, with Emmett. So going out on a supply run just her and I would be the perfect time to talk to her about things.
Alicia placed her hand on Emmett’s shoulder and gave it a little squeeze, “we always are. Come on pretty lady, let’s go get those supplies, eat some food and get you ready for your date!”
Alicia and I trod carefully through the woods. Although the sun was still up, we knew with two wolf packs within the area; we needed to be careful.
They didn’t come out during the day often, but it didn’t mean they wouldn’t, nor remember our scent if we trod on their land. They mostly came out at night solely because that was when there was less chance to encounter a human. Yet, some still prowled in the daytime hours, just never straying far from their den.
“Hmm,” Alicia hummed as we walked further into the woods, towards the patch we knew grew the best berries, “I was thinking maybe a rabbit stew tomorrow night, how does that sound?”
“I love your rabbit stew. When I was out on my own, the rabbit tasted awful, but I like how you do it.” I agreed.
“Ah, it’s one of those meats you have to cook and season just right. Although mind you, it tastes vile to Emmett and me, regardless. After we’ve taken yours out, we add in a load of spices or herbs, which makes it a little more bearable to eat.”
“Why did you and Emmett decided you didn’t want to, you know, drink human blood?”
“I don’t know.” Alicia shrugged softly as she waved around some overgrown bushes, “Emmett was, in his early days, brutal, and he could kill hundreds given a chance, and he did. He said it wasn’t until he met me, who was already a...vegetarian, he changed. It was rough on him because his primal need to hunt and kill was, and still is, far stronger than mine. However, with my help, he became the man you know now. I was just never wired that way. After my first kill, I felt so guilty that I cried for days, and I starved myself, but that was awful.”
I shuddered at the thought of the things Emmett had done. The man I knew now would never be capable of hurting one human, let alone hundreds. To think he could kill hundreds, let alone one person, was a bitter pill to swallow.
I cocked my head to one side at her comment on starving, I’d not heard of Vampire doing that by choice, “What was it like, starving yourself?”
“I couldn’t even tell you, Hallie, it was so dreadful. When we don’t feed, we don’t die — we just kind of become mummified, but you’re alive. You can feel everything, but just can’t move or even talk, scream, or cry.” She paused in thought for a moment, “Have you ever gone more than a day without water?”
“Yeah, once or twice before I met you guys. One time I went three days without water, the thirst and dehydration had been horrendous. I could cope with hunger, but thirst was one thing I couldn’t deal with.” A shudder ran up my spine as I recalled those days, moments I really hoped I’d never had to relive.
As I evoked the memory, it was almost as if I could feel how it felt again. Each breath I took burned, each time I swallowed felt like I was gulping down sandpaper, I felt weak, dizzy, and lightheaded, too.
“Well amplify that feeling tenfold, then you get the smallest idea what it’s like, but even that doesn’t do it justice. I’d killed a squirrel out of sheer desperation and drank its blood. It didn’t taste pleasant, but I felt like me again, so that’s what I did. Sadly, I discovered if we’re going to stay healthy, quick, on our feet, we have to drink human blood sometimes. But I can proudly say, one hundred and thirty-odd years, I can count my kills on both hands.”
“What’s it like, being a Vampire? Besides the bloodlust?” It was something I’d always wondered about, but never really thought to ask before now. I had no desire to find out on a personal level, but I was curious.
“No different from being a human once you adjust.” Alicia chuckled, “There are some significant differences, sure. For example, no heartbeat, and you get cold a lot easier too. You’re faster, quicker, and more agile than a human also, but again, you can learn to control that. Honestly, once you adjust and learn to control the powers like you have your capabilities, I guess I don’t feel much different.”
“Do you ever wish you hadn’t become a Vampire?”
“I used to. At first, the whole live forever as long as I don’t get staked or decapitated was great. But after a hundred years, it got boring.” Alicia turned to me with a soft expression and adoring smile, “Then we met you, and suddenly it didn’t seem so bad, and then you did one better by creating the rings. I haven’t had one feeling of regret or wishing I hadn’t become one since. You made us feel human again, Hallie.”
I gave Alicia a small smile, “I’m glad I could help because you guys have helped me. I lost my family in that attack, but I found a new family with you.”
Alicia’s arm came around my shoulder as she pulled me into her side, “Well, so long as we’re around, we’ll always be your family. Now anyway, enough of that, you excited for your date?”
“Nervous, actually. I have no idea what to do, what to say, or anything, I’m a complete fish out of water here, Alicia.”
“Ah, pretty lady, that’s the thing. You need not do or say anything, there is no right or wrong, so just be yourself. If he’s a decent man who is deserving of you, he’ll take you as you are. Besides, this is just a chance for you to experience something all girls should at your age. When you’re older, we can look at finding you someone for real, someone you can really be yourself with. If the men in your family can do it for millennia, then so can you.”
“Thank you.” I sighed softly as we reached the berry patch.
“We’re family, always and forever, no matter what. Now, let’s get picking, hey?”
Once Alicia and I had picked enough to last us the week, being sure to leave enough for the wildlife, we went to head home. However, we were stopped dead in our tracks at the sound of a twig snapping in the distance.
Alicia instantly sprung into action, darting in front of me in a protective stance, “Hallie, get behind me. Now.”