I DID NOT fall asleep after that and I see the sun peek up over the horizon while staring at Amanda, fast asleep on the opposite couch, unseeingly.
I think about Callum, who is handsome and confident, secure in himself. His jaw is square and muscular, his blonde hair falls softly around his face and brushes his shoulders, his eyes are a dark, dark blue. He is built powerfully and he has a brilliant, dazzling smile.
Andrew is also handsome, but more boyish, not so secure within himself, but to his defence, he is seventeen and only seventeen. His dark coffee-brown hair is short and his dark brown, almost black eyes are broodingly serious. He is lean and muscular and his arms, when he folds them around me, are strong. Unfortunately, he is very human.
I wait for Amanda to wake up and it is a long time before she eventually opens her eyes lazily.
She stretches. “I cannot remember when last I stayed up so late or, must I say early.”
I reply, “It’s been a while.”
She stands up from the couch. “We better get ready to go to the shops and get those supplies. I wonder if there is a refrigerator here.”
“I doubt it. No one has lived here for almost a hundred years.”
“We will have to buy one then, and a generator, unless you want to go to the electricity department in the village and have it reconnected.”
“The electricity wiring in the house was installed when electricity was first discovered and we will have to rewire everything, before having the current reconnected,” I add. “Besides, who will I say I am? Although we know I am the rightful owner of this property, I am going to have to proof it and that involves paperwork.”
“Another thing I will have to add to my to do list.” Amanda always makes sure to get the correct paperwork required whenever we move—she has become very experienced in the art of forgery.
She throws her head forward and puffs her hair vigorously. Throwing her head back again, her silver-blonde hair cascades over her shoulders. She is the envy of many human girls. “So? Are you ready?”
“Yeah, let’s go and get it over and done with.”
We walk out of the house and down the stairs to the rental car parked to the side of the house.
“I wonder how Callum never noticed the car last night,” I say.
“The grass is long here and the car is hidden from that side of the house. If you did not rip the curtain from the wall, they probably still would not know we are here.”
I look at her apprehensively, but she is smiling. Laughing, I defend myself. “I did not rip it off the wall, you know. I touched it to pull it aside and it must have rotted out of the wall, and only needed a final pull to fall.”
We slam the doors and Amanda start the car. She laughs hysterically. “I wonder if they know about cars.”
I laugh loudly with her. “And aeroplanes, and nice clothes and meat.”
We laugh unstoppable. It is unbelievable there are still vampires in this day and age who live the way Callum and his merry five live. At this moment, they are hiding in the cellar, too scared to come out, because if they did, they would turn to dust when the sun touches them.
Amanda stops laughing and says seriously, “Shayne would have been fascinated to meet them. They are a lost breed. Like a caveman to the humans.”
I agree with her and a quiet sadness fills the car. It is still going to take a very long time for Amanda to be able to laugh without feeling guilty. Vampires are like the albatross which may fly great distances over the oceans, but despite its extensive travels, it will always return to the same place and the same partner when it is time to breed.
We stop in the small village. It still looks the same as when I was little and it is as if time has stood still here. The structures have changed in the building materials used, but it is still the one main road running through the centre with all the businesses alongside it. Each inhabitant of the village owns a business and they live on the second floor above their individual business premises. The village services, and always has serviced, the surrounding wine producing farms.
The villagers are friendly, although some of them look at us suspiciously. Amanda still speaks French fluently and she talks casually and naturally. My French is rusty, but here and there, I understand a word or two. She tells them conversationally, “We have been employed by the owners of the château to restore it.”
The woman behind the counter warns Amanda to be careful because people have been disappearing from the village.
I feel apprehension and I know if Amanda and I want to stay here, we will either have to convince Callum, Justin, Peter, Claude, Herman and Edward to move away or to stop feeding on the villagers. I feel sorry for them and I would like to help them.
After Amanda buys enough cleaning products to clean a lot of houses, hardware products and utensils, orders a fridge/freezer and a generator, we drive back to the château in silence.
When we get there, Amanda starts cleaning immediately. I can sense she does not want to talk and I respect her need to be with her own thoughts. I clean with her and at lunch, Amanda takes the two steaks she bought from the bag. She had also bought paper plates and plastic knives and forks. Amanda believes no matter where you are, there is no excuse not to behave civilised.
She puts the raw meat on the plates. She pulls the dusted, shiny chairs closer to the occasional table in the centre of the room. We sit down and hunched over to the plates on the table, we eat silently.
When we are finished eating, Amanda clears the plates and cutlery into a plastic bag. She walks out to the kitchen and when she comes back, she says, “There is so much to do here. There is not even a bin in the kitchen. Thank goodness we do not have to cook either because the stove is still one of those coal burning furnace things.”
I smile. “You said there is nothing else to do and just imagine how nice it will be when we are finished. We could live here like they did in the olden days, with all its splendour and grandeur.”
She smiles softly. “I do miss those days.”
We continue cleaning and Amanda makes a list of all the damages which need repairs. She knocks on the walls, rocks back and forth on the balls of her feet on the wooden floors, and then scribbles in her notepad.
I hear her mumble, “They do not build houses like they used to any more. After all these years, this house is still in a good condition.”
Later in the afternoon, a lorry arrives with the generator and refrigerator Amanda ordered.
The four men carry the appliance and generator into the house. I catch a word or two as they mumble amongst themselves in French. I smile at their amusement of two women trying to restore this dilapidated building while they follow me to the kitchen.
Too late, I realise the stairs to the cellar lead off from the kitchen, but then with a sigh of relief, I notice the bright sun filling every corner of the kitchen as it shines through the wide windows.
When the men return to their lorry, Amanda thanks them and ask where she would be able to employ some strong men.
We would not need them, obviously, but when they started seeing the restoration and refurbishment of the old house, they might start to wonder how two women did it all by themselves without the brute strength of a few capable men. Before Amanda can even think of employing any local people, though, we will have to get rid of Callum and his friends.
I walk back into the house and I hear a piano faintly. Frowning, I tilt my head slightly to the sound and I follow it. The sound leads me back to the kitchen and I am just about to take the first step into the cellar, when Amanda asks from behind me, “Where do you think you are going?”
I turn to her, ignoring her question. “Do you need any help to set up the refrigerator and generator?”
Firmly she says, “I do not want to see you alone with them.”
“Why not?” I ask frustrated.
“You know what? I actually do think I need help with this.” She turns away from me to the fridge and the generator and looks back at me over her shoulder. “Do me a favour, please. I left the oil outside, next to the stairs. Don’t you want to fetch it for me?”
I walk out the kitchen without replying. The notes from the piano fade as I walk away from the kitchen, so somebody down in the cellar is playing the poignant tune.
I get the can of oil and walk back to the kitchen. The light is fading fast and when I get back to the kitchen Amanda is connecting the fridge to the generator.
I put the can of oil next to the table and I ask, “Do you want me to start cutting this meat into strips for the popsicles?”
“Please,” I hear her voice from behind the fridge.
While I cut the meat into thick strips, I ask, “Why don’t you want me to talk to them?”
I hear the hint of frustration in her voice when she replies, “Susie, you are still so young, only two hundred and a few years old. That Edward knew your father.”
“They all still look so young, though. It is only Peter who looks as if he could be in his late thirties.”
“They are too old for you Susie. Compared to them and the years they have lived; you are a baby.”
I do not insist and I am lost in thought when I jump with fright as I hear voices behind me.
They come from the cellar one at a time.
Callum stands close behind me. “What are you doing, Susanna?”
Nobody uses my full name, except Amanda when she is irritated with me, but it sounds nice on his lips. The night before, when Amanda introduced us to them, she introduced me as Susanna.
I say softly, shyly, “I am making popsicles.”
He asks, “Popsicles? What are they?”
I hand him one and say, “They are nicer when they are frozen, especially on a hot day.”
I feel sorry for him when I see sadness flash in his eyes. He takes the meat on a stick and looks back at me with an inquisitive frown.
I smile. “Suck on it.”
He puts the meat in his mouth apprehensively and I see understanding in his eyes when the taste of blood touches his tongue. He slowly takes the meat from his mouth and I notice his full lips. “Is this how you manage your cravings?”
I smile in agreement.
Amanda comes from behind the fridge and looks at me admonishingly.
She starts pushing at the fridge and Claude rushes to help her. They push it back against the wall. Amanda says thank you and then she comes back to the table. She takes the meat from the bags and then she starts packing it into the freezer.
Claude asks, “What are you doing?”
Amanda explains patiently, still flabbergasted they know so little of modern life, “If we freeze it, it lasts longer. The sun and heat make it go off.”
Claude nods as if he understands and I cannot help myself when I start laughing at his ignorance.
I notice Callum looking at me amused while I offer them all an unfrozen popsicle, and they start to suck on it tentatively.
Amanda breaks the silence of their curious wonder, “When you go out to feed tonight, do not go to the village. I do not want them to get suspicious. I actually think you should consider going somewhere else permanently.”
Interrupting her, I say, “Amanda, couldn’t we help them? We could give them some of our pills and educate them so they can also…”
Callum agrees, “If you did we would be eternally grateful.”
Amanda says, “No, we cannot share our pills. We only have enough for ourselves.”
I insist, “We could get more.”
“That means you and I will have to go Paris to buy some more. I would not get a dealer in an area as rural as this.”
“We could, couldn’t we?” I look at her expectantly.
She sighs and looks at me angrily. “We will discuss it later, Susie.”
Callum smiles while he turns his gaze back to me. “Susie?”
I smile bashfully.
Amanda says calmly while looking at me with her piercing, cautioning gaze, “Callum, would you please be so kind and light the fire in the front room hearth.”
He twirls the empty stick from the popsicle in his mouth and smiles. “Of course. Susie, would you join me?”
I start to follow him out of the kitchen and I feel Amanda’s gaze follow me.
I hear Herman ask, “So all you need is this meat. Is it human?”
Amused I hear Amanda sigh annoyed and she starts to explain, “It is beef and although there was a difference in taste, eventually you get used to it and it helps to suppress the demon inside.”
She has given up tobacco and she is more irritated than she used to be before.
Callum moves to the side so I can walk beside him. “Susie, tell me all about you,” he says softly, curiously.
I chuckle self-consciously. “It’s a long story.”
“I have a lot of time.”