ON THE MORNING of the seventh day, the old man opens the large double doors widely for us.
Herman asks hesitantly, “Is seven days enough?”
Claude confirms his own hesitation by asking nervously, “Why is it seven days, anyway?”
Amanda replies solemnly, “It is supposed to have biblical significance.”
Justin says disbelievingly, “Those four imagine themselves to be God?”
Amanda shushes him, “Are you crazy? Do you want to get yourself and me killed?”
I feel the tension in Callum’s hand while he holds onto my hand tightly.
We walk out of the room and then through the large archways and high-roofed cathedral rooms until we leave the old medieval mansion. We walk into the pre-dawn and we swim back to the beach where Peter parked the car.
Once we are standing on the beach, we turn to look out over the ocean and when the sun peeks over the horizon, I feel Callum shudder. I see Herman take a few steps backwards and Justin bring up his hand to shield his face.
I look at Callum when it dawns on him he is standing in full sunlight, when I know he can feel those weird pinpricks of light on his skin, and when he can hear a strange music in his ears. His face lights up and he looks at me pleased. He leans down and he scoops me up into his arms. He holds me tightly to him and I feel the laughter bubble through him and out of his mouth. I remember my first time and I know how he feels; it is truly unbelievable.
The cynical laughter of the Four Judges echoes through the early morning sky toward us.
Later we all get into the car again and sitting on Callum’s lap, I enjoy the new sights with him. I can imagine his joy and total bliss, the multitude of colours you cannot imagine even with an electric light, candle or gaslight. There is a certain way the sunlight will filter through the leaves of a tree, or glint off a blade of grass.
When we get home later that evening, because we drove home at a more reasonable speed, we are all tired.
They go out to feed and Amanda admonishes them to make sure they behave themselves.
I wait for them and when they get back the next morning, Callum walks straight to me.
He is reluctant to go to sleep and together we walk out into the sun. He turns to me. “I cannot believe how bright everything is. Although you described it, I could never have imagined how it would have looked.”
I smile. “Amazing, isn’t it?”
We spend the entire day outside. We walk hand in hand along the river and we sit in the fields with the high grass gently swaying in the breeze. Callum looks astonished up at the sky and watches an eagle soar across the sky as if mesmerised. We joke and talk and I know I will miss him when he goes.
That evening late, he kisses me softly, fleetingly on my lips and then he goes down to the cellar. He will be leaving the next day and he is leaving on his own.
I wait for Amanda to fall asleep and then softly I get up from my couch. We still sleep in the lounge, because we have not started fixing the upstairs. The floorboards need restoration first before we can even consider sleeping in the rooms.
I walk through the house quietly to the kitchen and then into the cellar. I follow the arched passageway to the tunnel where he showed me he slept.
The tension in my stomach is overbearing as I enter his tunnel and then softly I walk to his bed.
Quietly, I slide in next to him. I put my head on his arm, which he has wedged under his head and I put my arm over his chest.
My fingers softly brush over his skin and I hear him mumble softly. He turns over onto his side and I see him smiling. He whispers, “Susanna.”
I smile shyly. I do not care if he thinks I am a girl without any morals, but I am not going to wonder what it could have been like, knowing without a doubt I want to be with him for the rest of my eternal life.
He puts his arm around my waist and he straightens out his arm under my head. He folds his arm around my shoulders and then he pulls me closer to him. I find his lips and I kiss him.
He groans softly as he pulls me closer to him until I can feel every inch of him next to me. Pulling his lips away from mine slowly, he says, “We should not go all the way. I want to marry you, Susanna. I want to do it the way we are supposed to do it, not just become partners or mates, but I want you to be my wife, to stand in a church and declare to the world and to God, I love only you. That I want to spend my every day with you.”
I laugh softly. “Do you even believe in God?”
“I believe there must be something greater than us, although God probably does not want me.”
“How could God not want you?”
“I used to think God did not care about me, because he let this happen to me, but then I met you and I realised if I was not like this I would probably never have met you. I am sure He still does not want me, though. Perhaps one day I could develop a serum which would help us to digest normal food and we could stop feeding on humans. Stop being murderers.”
“I think it has been tried. We are stuck with drinking human blood.”
“So, Susanna?” He changes the morbid subject.
“Will you marry me in a church when I get back?”
I laugh pleased. “Yes, I will marry you in a church when you get back.”
“I won’t be gone long, I promise.”
“It’s okay. I understand why you have to go, I honestly do, and I will wait right here for you.”
I move to get up, but he pulls me closer to him. He nuzzles me in the fold of my neck. “I said we should not go all the way, because of my conventional background, but there is no harm if you just stayed here with me tonight, is there?”
Pleased I agree. He finds my lips and I sink into him.
THE NEXT MORNING, he leaves, but I know it is not for long and I smile sadly while I wave goodbye to him.
Edward, Justin, Peter, Herman, and Claude decide to stay and I hear them discussing how they are going to start working on producing a wine which will be even more extraordinary than the wine we drank at Mont-Saint-Michel, which was produced by Francois. I hear Edward say it is a matter of principle to better Francois, in the memory of William.