AMANDA AND I sit in the lounge while they have gone out to hunt. Callum promised he will keep strict control over his friends and they will go far away from the château, perhaps across the border into Germany.
I turn to Amanda apprehensively, where she sits knitting a jumper. She has always liked to keep her hands busy and although we have enough money to buy designer clothes and she has more garments she would ever have a use for, she still likes to sit and knit. Over the years, she has developed her skills perfectly and sometimes she would ponder starting a label of hand-knitted fashion wear. Shayne always encouraged her to do this and I think now that he is dead she is considering it even more. It would channel her passion into a new direction.
I ask softly, “Do you think we can help them? Help them to fit into everyday life?”
She looks up at me briefly and then frowning she looks back down at her melodiously clicking needles.
I stare at her silently. I do not want to persist to the point of making her decide against it.
After a long while, she sighs softly. “I suppose we could. We will go to Paris next week.”
“Only next week?” I exclaim.
“Yes, Susie. Next week. I will have to make a few calls first to establish where we can buy it in Paris. I have not been in Paris for the longest time. We will go early in the week.”
“Okay. Do you think they will be able to adjust and they will be able to control their desire, that awful, permanent craving?”
“It takes determination and control initially. I do not think they will all adjust, it has been too long for some of them to feed whenever they have the need, which as you rightly said is permanent.”
“It has been so long; I cannot even remember it. I remember though when Ethan kidnapped me. I thought I would die from the hunger inside of me.” Too late, I realise, once again, I am talking about something she does not want to be reminded of and softly I whisper, “I am sorry, I wasn’t thinking.”
She smiles sadly, but she does not look up from her knitting.
I get my book from my bag lying next to me and put my feet up onto the couch, leaning my back against the armrest. I continue reading the story of the girl who fell in love with a vampire.
Starting to feel sleepy, I hear Amanda say, “Tomorrow I will have to go into the village again, to go and collect the materials we ordered to start fixing the little things. If Callum decides to stay, we would not be able to get contractors to help us with the larger things, so they are going to have to start helping us, so I suppose it is better if they can work by day. It would look less suspicious.”
She is trying to convince herself why she should help them and sleepily I reply, “Okay.”
I OPEN MY eyes groggily, something woke me, and I gasp softly as I notice the dark figure sitting on the couch by my feet. The fire, still burning in the fireplace, is behind his back. My eyes adjust to the dark and then I recognise Callum. I open my mouth to ask him what he wants, but softly he puts his fingers over my lips and I hear his silent hush. He smiles slowly and then he stands up. I look up at his tall figure and then I see him lean down closer to me. Softly I feel his lips on my forehead and then he is gone.
SUNLIGHT STREAMS THROUGH the large windows and immediately I remember seeing Callum sitting next to me on the couch, staring at me while he thought I was sleeping. My fingers come up to my forehead and tentatively I touch the place where I felt his lips. Surely, I convince myself, it was only a dream.
Looking across to the other couch, I see Amanda has already left. I get up and I walk to the kitchen, but everything is quiet.
We need water, so I decide to go for a walk along the river and to bring some water back with me. I carry the empty buckets with me and they clang noisily against each other.
I consider there must be a blockage somewhere in the piping because the house does have plumbing, but the water is not coming out of the taps.
When I get to the river, I have an urge to jump in and swim. It would be nice not to have to wash my body from a jug. I am used to bathing in a lot of water and now the small action of only washing with a cloth seems insignificant. Although, not so long ago, bathing from a jug was the preferred way of washing yourself.
I look around me, even though I know there is nobody around and then I pull my shirt over my head and my trousers down my legs. I take off my underwear and then leave it on the bundle of clothes under the weeping willow before I jump into the water and it feels refreshing and uplifting. Swimming to the middle of the river, I feel the pull of the river against my legs. The sun is hot on my shoulders and it reminds me of the day I went to the dam, the first day Andrew singled me out and started talking to me. I sigh despondently and consider it might be time to let him go. If he was supposed to be my soul mate, my albatross, he would not have been a mere mortal.
I climb onto the riverbank and then I sit naked in the sun. I pull my fingers through my long hair and the sun dries me quickly. The sun feels delicious on my skin and later I reluctantly decide to go back home. I put my clothes on and fill the two buckets with water. I walk back to the house with a bucket in each hand, carrying it easily.
Walking through the back door, I walk straight into the kitchen, and once again, I hear the music coming from the cellar.
I put the buckets on the kitchen table and then I walk to the door leading to the cellar. Taking the first step down, I wait for Amanda to stop me, but she is still in the village.
Softly I turn the doorknob and I open the door silently. Walking into the cool darkness of the cellar, memories flood back from when I was little. I remember when I used to play down here, running through the long tunnels lined with barrels. Francois used to run a very profitable wine farm and he used to produce a very good wine. I wonder if Amanda and I could do as well. It would be fun.
I follow the music through the arched tunnels and slowly my eyes adjust to the complete darkness. It always saddened me in earlier years, when we only lived at night, how darkness sucked all the colours from your eyes, sucked the colours out of everything. Living at night was like living in a black and white world.
I see him before he notices me. Callum is sitting in front of the piano. His head is bowed forward and I see his slender fingers move across the keys flawlessly. I stand where I am, looking at him in awe. It sounds like raindrops falling on a tin roof, then softly in a meadow, on the surface of a river, falling between leaves. It is the most beautiful sound I have ever heard.
He finishes the melody and then he looks up. He is startled when he sees me and then slowly he smiles. “How long have you been standing there?”
“A while.” I grin.
He stands up and again I notice the dignity in his posture.
I walk to him and he takes a few steps to me. I say softly, “That was beautiful.”
“Thank you. Sometimes I feel as if I belong in a time far away from here and in those moments I like to lose myself in the music of long ago.”
I look at him surprised because often I also feel as if I did not belong here in modern times. I grew up in a time of extreme good manners, decorum, grandeur and etiquette and sometimes I find it sad the world has changed so much, and most of the times it has been for the worst.
He takes my hand softly into his, but he does not move and for a long moment, he just stands there looking down at me. I start to feel self-conscious, so I move away from him.
He asks, “Would you like to stay with me for a while. We could talk.”
I ask, “Here?”
He grins. “We carried down the chairs, piano and some books. We tried to make things as comfortable as possible.”
“Where are the others?”
His smile reaches his eyes. “We intended on making this home for a while. We have our own bedrooms down the different passages.”
I laugh softly. “So once I dared go upstairs to the bedrooms I will find most of the furniture missing.”
“Not really missing, but right here.” He smiles impishly.
We sit down on the chairs and we talk about our lives past. His life spent at night and mine during the day—in recent years. He is curious and wants to know everything. It feels as if I am in a magical, two-tone world down here in the cellar with him. He touches my hand briefly and I feel a flutter where my heart should be.
The voice of Amanda calls me from a distance. I stand up quickly, and explain, “I better go. Amanda is scared you lead me astray.”
He stands up and taking my hand in his, he pulls me to him. I stop myself from bumping into him by bringing up my hands. I feel him under the palms of my hands and I close my eyes for a moment.
He brings his head down, and he whispers, “Come back whenever you want to, I will be here reading old books and playing the piano.”
He stands deadly still, staring at me.
I turn away from him and walk in the direction of the panic-filled voice echoing through the tunnels.
When Amanda sees me, she exclaims, “Susanna! Where have you been? I have been calling forever.”
I hear laughter behind me in the darkness of the tunnels and then Amanda yanks me by the arm out of the cellar.
When we are in the kitchen, she whispers, “Susie, what do you think you are doing?”
Softly I say, “We were only talking.”
“There is something I have never told you. If either one of them bites you…” She stops talking and I can see her mind working overtime.
“What?” I ask.
“If they bite you, you will die.”
“Please, Amanda. Nobody is going to bite me. We were just talking. Callum fascinates me with his eagerness to learn everything about living in the light.”
I see she wants to say more, getting a distinct impression there is more to be said and I want to ask her, but I hear their voices coming from the tunnels in the cellar.
Turning to the door, I am genuinely pleased to see Callum walking through the door. Callum walks straight to me, ignoring the look on Amanda’s face. He takes my hand and silently he leads me out of the back door.
We walk away from the château and into the night. The heavy full moon hangs low in the sky and it feels as if we are walking through the long knee-high grass into the moon. We spend the first half of the night together. We sit on a little hill, facing the huge moon next to us and we talk.
He tells me, “A woman, Veronica, turned me when I was twenty-four. I was leaving a Ball in Munich when we came across a woman walking along the side of the road. She looked up at the carriage and I remember as if it was yesterday. Her face was so beautiful and her eyes so sad.” He smiles softly. “Almost as sad as yours.”
I look down shyly and pull at the grass around my legs. He continues, “I told my driver to stop and ask her if she needed help. I could not leave a woman alone in the middle of the road late at night. She did not look poor or destitute and I was intrigued to find her there in the middle of nowhere. As soon as she entered the carriage, she said thank you politely and when my driver turned his back to go back to his seat, she attacked me. I remember waking up days later with a terrible thirst. She helped me through it, though, and Justin and Herman were already with her. Claude joined us later. Not so long ago, she turned another and one dark moonless night four cloaked men killed her. She and the girl were brutally murdered and butchered in front of Herman, Claude, Justin and me. We wanted to avenge Veronica, but as mysteriously as the murderers appeared, just so strangely they disappeared.”
I explain, “In our community, the vampire community, we have a high court and those cloaked men were them.”
He asks, “High court?”
“Yes, everyone needs law and order. They declared a law prohibiting us from turning humans. Should we have continued turning people into vampires, it would have spread like a virus and today there would have been no humans to feed on. Also, vampires aren’t allowed to…” I hesitate embarrassed and then I say softly, barely audible, “Make babies with a human woman any more because there have been too many half-breeds. Now, when the illness inflicts a human, the Four Judges or their appointees come and kill them shortly after they turn.” He frowns and I say, “I cannot believe you do not know any of this.”
He smiles forlornly. “I think the world left us behind. This is the first time I have ever heard any of this—civilisation, order, law, vampire community.”
I reach for him sympathetically. “I will teach you everything. I promise.”
He continues to ask questions and I continue to answer them patiently.
At midnight, he walks me back to the door of the room where Amanda and I are sleeping and softly he says, “So long have I been dreaming of something more and now here you are with a promise of day.” He leans to me and he kisses me fleetingly on my cheek. I hear him murmur softly, “My red-haired girl.”