AS SOON AS the sun sets, we pile into the car.
Amanda upgraded her rental car to a larger vehicle. It would have been amusing trying to fit six large men into her tiny car. She was nervous the whole afternoon because it is imperative we leave as soon as the sun set over the horizon and the delivery people with the car were late.
Our appointment with the High Court is for tomorrow and there is no way anyone can ever postpone a summoning.
We will have to drive a fraction above the speed limit if we are going to get to Mont-Saint-Michel before sunrise. Nobody knows where we will be able to stay during the day if we could not make it.
Callum, Herman and Justin sit tightly packed into the back seat. Amanda sits in the front, in the passenger seat. Peter will be driving. I find it amazing how Amanda has started to relax. All of us are working hard in the château and Amanda is pleased it is liveable again – not perfect according to her specifications, but we are getting there.
Although the car is bigger, I still end up sitting on Callum’s lap. I feel self-conscious because his reasons why he could not love me seem insignificant and the way I feel about him is obvious.
My legs are stretched across the legs of Herman and Justin. Claude and Edward are squashed up in the hatch area at the back of the car. When we pull away from the château, I rest my back against the door behind me, listening amused to Claude and Edward complaining continuously.
They all talk, but I stare at the passing scenery across from me in the opposite window. Every now and again, I see a house flash past and the moon is hovering on the horizon, keeping pace with us.
My mind returns involuntarily to Andrew. I feel a little depressed because although I want to experience the greatness of love, love does not want me. Andrew is half way around the globe and far removed from my world. Although he knows me, every dark secret, it makes no difference in the end. I could love Callum, I could be with him, but he does not want me.
Tiredly I lean my head back against the window behind my head.
Callum pushes his arm in between my back and the door. He folds his arm around my shoulders tenderly and gently he pulls me into him while I willingly lay my head on his strong shoulder.
He folds his other arm around me and cradles me against his chest, resting rests his cheek against my head and my head fits perfectly in the fold of his neck. After a while, I close my eyes.
I wake up when I feel him kissing me softly on my head and he whispers softly, “Wake up, my red-haired girl.” Although he whispers, I know everybody in the car can hear him and I sit up quickly.
I ask, “Are we there?”
Justin answers, “We are here, and it looks imposing.”
I lean forward and look out of the front window. The abbey is on a little island. A giant wall encircles it and it is completely surrounded by sea, the ocean water crashes thunderously against the wall. The high towers of the abbey rise into the sky, like a mountain.
Everybody gets out of the car and I am about to slide across the seat when Callum pushes his arms in under my legs on his lap and lifts me while he gets out of the car. Gently he puts me down on my legs.
I have a sudden urge to burst out and to tell him here and now his reasons for not wanting to love me are stupid, although it is the most inappropriate moment ever.
I say nothing.
Callum takes my hand and silently I walk with him across the beach and into the waves. When it gets too deep to walk, we swim.
We reach the wall and we climb up it effortlessly. We walk through the quiet medieval lanes up to the abbey. The sky is starting to lighten and I realise with relief we made it here in time.
When we reach the large, rough wooden doors of an old house, it swings open silently before we even have the opportunity to knock.
We walk in and then an old, hunched-over man guides us into a richly decorated room. The furnishings in the room are dark wood and burgundy velvet. The rough stones in the walls remind me of medieval castles. I notice there are no windows and the stone walls must be very thick, the large chandeliers hanging from the roof are the only light.
Nobody talks and the atmosphere is hushed. The old man leaves the room pulling the doors shut behind him.
We stand around awkwardly. I see Amanda look at Callum reproachfully where I am still standing next to him and my hand is still resting in his large palm.
It feels as if hours have passed before we hear the doors open again.
Four cloaked men walk in. They have amused bored expressions. I can, however, see they have lived far too long. Their skin is almost see-through. They look very old and tired. Three of the men have the hoods of their cloaks hanging over their shoulders, but the man standing closest to us has his hood over his head. The hood is deep and his face is hidden in the shadows.
His voice is deep and resonating and it is disconcerting hearing his voice, but not seeing his face. “Susanna, I am pleased to see you have decided not to pursue your relationship with the human.”
I feel Callum stiffen next to me and I lower my head and look at the floor. Fear settles itself in my chest because this man frightens me.
He addresses Amanda next, “Amanda, I am sorry to hear about Shayne. It must be difficult for you. We were closing in on Ethan and his friends, but you got there before us. Thank you.”
Amanda nods her head in acknowledgement.
He then turns to Peter, assuming he is the leader of the six savages, Amanda and I had discovered. “I find it unbelievable you had to race here at night because you were afraid of the sun. I cannot remember when last that was a problem and we are amused to learn there are still vampires like yourself.”
Peter replies, “Your eminence, we were just as amazed to learn there were different ways of living.”
The other three men step forward, interested.
The first man speaks again and I wish he would remove his hood, “Introduce yourself.”
Peter bows at the waist. “Your eminence. My apologies. I am Peter.” As he introduces Herman, Claude, Justin, Edward and Callum, they step forward individually.
One of the other three men steps forward. “We have much to discuss. Please be seated.”
It seems so casual, but I know one wrong move or sign of disrespect and they will kill us so fast, we will not even see it coming.
It feels as if we have been here for days and eventually the Four Judges’ curiosity is satisfied. They leave the room silently and I turn to Amanda, wondering where the medication is when the old, hunched man enters the room.
He hands each of them a brown paper bag with a big yellow smiling face on the outside. He instructs them, and I notice there is not a tooth in his wrinkled mouth, “You are to stay here for six days. Drink one pill every morning at sunrise. On the seventh day, you may leave.” He looks up at Amanda. “It will be your responsibility and only yours to make sure they integrate into society.”
They say thank you and then the man leaves the room. We stand around unsure.
Amanda asks softly, to no one in particular, “Do we stay in this room?”
Peter says, “I suppose so.”
Edward laughs. “My god, I cannot imagine that in a few short days I will be walking in the coveted daylight.”
Herman and Claude start laughing with him. I see Justin rush to Peter and they hug for a long time.
Later a woman brings in a tray with wine and amused I notice it is a vintage from my estate. A wine Francois produced. The Four Judges evidently have a sick sense of humour.
I walk to the fireplace and I sit down in front of the fire. I watch the blue; orange flames lick against the wood.
Callum walks to me and when he reaches me, he hands me a glass of wine and then he sits down next to me. His knee touches mine and I look at him sadly, but I do not want him to see he is breaking my frozen heart, and maybe because it is unmoving and rock-hard, it hurts excruciatingly more. I smile at him and he reaches for my hand.
I see him look over my shoulder at the others and then he leans closer to me. “Susanna, I love you. I have loved you from the first moment I saw you and I will always love you. I always knew there was someone for me, although after all these years I have never met her until I saw you. Hundreds of years, I have waited for you. We have forever and I want to go and experience the colours of each city which previously I have only seen in shades of grey and black.”
“I could go with you.” My voice has a pleading tone.
“No, you cannot, my red-haired girl. Amanda needs you.”
I realise he is right. I could not leave Amanda. She has always been there for me. She has been the closest thing I have to a mother, and love will endure. I will wait for him, because could I really take the pleasure and enjoyment of living in the day away from him. I remember my first years. It was as if I was seeing everything again for the first time.
He smiles tenderly. “The other night I never said I could not love you. I said I could not make you mine just yet.”
Looking over my shoulder at Amanda, I see she is staring at me. She does not look at us condescendingly any more, she looks sad. I know she can hear every word.
I take a sip of my wine and look over the rim of my glass at Callum. I will convince him to love me completely before he leaves and on his last night, I will attempt to seduce him.