TWO HUNDRED YEARS ago, a week before I turned sixteen I became seriously ill. I remember waking up as if it was yesterday. Most of my memories over the years have faded. There are just too many things to remember, but some moments have burnt into my memory forever.
The morning of my birthday, I woke up and my stomach had a queasy feeling, spasms in my abdominal area made me cringe and fold up into myself. I could not get out of bed and all my muscles were cramping, so I stayed in bed and by the time evening arrived, I had a fever.
Carla, the girl who was my mother’s servant and her close companion before my mother died, sat next to my bed by now, and every so often, she rinsed the cotton cloth, wrung it and then neatly folded, placed it back on my forehead. She spoke softly to me in French, and those days I spoke French fluently.
She often told me little snippets of my mother, like the first day she met her, how kind my mother was. She never ever spoke about my mother and my father together though. When I used to ask her, she would tell me to ask my father. Before Amanda, she was the only mother figure I had.
The man, I then thought of as my father, Francois, and the doctor was standing in the corner of my room, the gaslight barely touching them, but I could hear every whispered word. I heard the doctor say I would not make it through the night, and when he left, Francois walked to the side of my bed with a worried look on his face. Sitting down next to me, he took my hand into his.
After sending the servants from the room, he whispered softly, “Oh, Susanna.” He had a distant look in his eyes and I was not sure if he was talking to my mother or me. I have the same name as my mother and she died giving birth to me. Sometimes he would get confused and I would think he was calling me, but then Carla would gently touch me on the shoulder and shake her head sympathetically. I heard the servants talk amongst themselves and they all thought he had gone a bit loony since my mother died. When this happened, I obviously felt guilty because unintentionally I killed my mother. My birthday was always sad for my father. It reminded him of my mother’s death.
I smiled up at him weakly anyway.
He continued, “I have sent for a specialist, so if you hold on until morning, he will be able to help you.”
I felt confident I would be able to do that, although I felt extraordinarily weak. We did not speak and he just sat there next to me, holding my hand in his and now and again, he would moisten the cotton cloth on my forehead.
I woke after a fitful sleep and I noticed he had also fallen asleep. His head had dropped down onto the bed next to me and his face was close to our hands entwined together.
A shadow danced across the wall in my room and the gaslight sputtered.
I inhaled deeply when I saw a man and a woman come out of the shadows and they slowly walked toward my bed. They were smiling friendly, but I still felt apprehension. Then with relief, I thought they were the specialists my father was talking about and it was probably already morning and thankfully, I held on. I had made it.
The man remained standing erect at the foot of my bed and for a brief moment, I considered he might be the grim reaper, here to collect my soul. Afraid I turned my head to the sleeping figure of my father, but he was still fast asleep.
The girl knelt down next to my bed, on the opposite side of my father. The faint light from the lamp shone on her face and I saw how beautiful she was. Her skin was so smooth; I had the urge to touch it. Her eyes were rich mahogany and her lips were faintly pink. Her dark blonde hair hung over her shoulders and reflected the light like a mirror.
She leant closer to me and her hair fell forward softly. She whispered in my ear, barely audible, but I could hear her every word clearly, “Dear Susanna, you are grown up now and this might come as a shock to you, but I want you to trust me.”
Weirdly, although I have never seen this woman before, I trusted her with my life. I thought this strange, I have never been a very trusting person. I have grown up secluded and the only people I have ever socialised with were my father and the servants. As it was, before I became ill, I was in pleading negotiations with my father regarding my coming-out. He believed there was no need for me to come out and he promised me he would never marry me off to anybody. When he said this, he had a strange melancholy in his voice. He did not explain himself, though.
I nodded my head weakly.
This striking girl held my eyes captive with hers. “You are a very special girl, Susanna. If you agree, I will show you a way to make you feel better. It will make all this hurt go away. When last did you eat?”
I could not remember when last I had a meal. Only remembering the idea of food revolted me. I could not even contemplate letting food pass my lips and nobody in the kitchen could tempt me. “I cannot remember.”
“If you agree, you will soon feel much better. First, though, I have to explain it all to you. Would you be able to stay awake? It is important you hear what I have to say?”
I nodded my head again.
She moved her head away from mine, breaking the spell between us and for a brief moment, she looked at my sleeping father thoughtfully.
She leant closer to me again, but she kept her face in front of mine. I could see her lips move, but I could not hear her, as she said, “Francois here is not your biological father.”
As sick as I was, I still recoiled and wheezed croaky.
She smiled reassuringly and took my hand resting on my chest into hers. “Do not fret, girl. You will soon understand everything. Your mum, Susanna came to France about twenty years ago. However, a pirate ship attacked the ship which gave her passage. A pirate, by the name of William, kidnapped your mother, but she escaped or he let her go.” She smiles. “Maybe a bit of both. When your mother saw Francois, she did find him appealing, but Francois fell in love with Susanna undeniably. The path for the rest of his life was decided at that moment when he first saw your mother. However, no matter what he did, he would never have been able to stop the events which unfolded themselves. Francois has an evil streak in him, and he was very pompous and arrogant, a completely different person before your mother died. He thought if he wanted something, he could have it no matter what and nobody could stand in his way. The pirate, William, felt drawn to your mother, so he came to France and when he saw her again, he was forever hers. Your mother, however, chose Francois, because if she chose William she would have had to live at night.”
I frowned confused.
“I will explain it all to you.” She smiled kindly. “Francois started cheating on your mother, more to protect his own feelings. He loved your mother so much, yet she did not love him in return. I think Francois went astray somewhere because then he did everything to push Susanna away, instead of drawing her closer to him.”
I looked at the man whom I always believed was my father. He loved me and he often said I resurrected him after the death of my mother. I knew he loved her and he still did. Over the last sixteen years, he had never gone out and always stayed home. I knew he adored me and would do everything for me.
The girl continued softly, “Your mother realised she had made the wrong choice the night she made the decision to stay with Francois. Years later, she chose to leave Francois and follow William into the night. On the ship back from England to France, your mother and William made love and they decided to run away together once they were back in France.”
I heard the man who remained just inside the shadows sneer.
The girl ignored him and she continued, “Francois returned unexpectedly and sadly your real father, William, died that day without even knowing about you. He did leave you a legacy, though—a choice you will have to make today. You see, your father, William, was a vampire.”
I shut my eyes and I opened my mouth to scream for help, but she put her hand softly over my lips. She looked into my eyes deeply and for some peculiar reason, this calmed me.
She continued softly, whilst holding her cold fingers over my lips, “There is an entire community of vampires and you should not be afraid. We are just like you.” She leant closer to me. “We have now come to the most important part, the part where you have to make a choice. You will either die before dawn or you can choose to become one of us.”
I whispered softly under her fingers, “A vampire?”
“If you want to live you do not really have a choice.”
I looked at Francois sadly.
“He is going to lose you either way, so I would not be concerned about him if I was you. If you choose to live, you can always keep an eye on him. He knows about vampires; he knew William well.”
I saw her take a knife from the fold of her dress and then she pressed it against the soft, pale skin of her wrist. I saw the way the knife dented into her flesh and then I saw the red drop of blood.
Just that one tiny drop made my nose tingle and my mouth salivates. She smiled down at me as if she knew what I suddenly felt.
She made a tiny cut on her wrist and then she held her arm out to me, her wrist only inches away from my lips and although she said I had a choice, the feeling was too strong for me. Nothing could have broken the urge, the overwhelming feeling and from that day, blood was my weakness.
I grabbed onto her arm with both my hands encircling her arm and her hand. I pulled her arm into my mouth and greedily I drank from her. As I felt the first drop of blood over my tongue, I felt like a different person. I could not stop and it was as if my mind was on a leave of absence. I only realised what I was doing when she pressed her palm gently against my forehead and pushed my head away from her arm. When the suction of my lips separated from her wrist, it made a popping sound.
The weakness left me. Feeling better, I sat up while looking at Francois sadly. I felt a tear, my last tear, run down my cheek. This would devastate him, I knew.
I swung my legs off the bed and quietly I left the room and my life because I knew I was different and I would no longer be able to continue my life in the château. I could no longer continue a normal life.
The moon outside was a bright crescent, there was not a cloud in the sky. Once we were a distance away from the château, walking into and then between the trees of the forest surrounding the sculptured gardens, they started talking again. They introduced themselves to me as Shayne and Amanda.
I asked them, “How did you know about me?”
Amanda replied, with a smile playing across her lips, “Shayne here is friends with Ethan. Ethan used to be a pirate a long time ago and sailed with William.”
Shayne agreed pleasantly, “Ethan told me although they never knew your mother was a stowaway on the boat, stories have a way of surfacing. Your father, William, is a legend within the vampire community.”
I asked uncertainly, “But how did you know I was sick? How did you know to come tonight?”
Amanda laughed softly. “We have been keeping an eye on you. I knew you would develop the fever because your mother was human and William was a vampire. Boys develop the fever at eighteen though and we could not be sure if it would be the same for you. I have heard rumours girls sometimes get the fever when they are younger and so we stayed close to the château just in case.”
Shayne added, “We heard the servants talking amongst themselves that you were gravely ill and Amanda knew the cause of your illness.”
At that very moment, I was not so sure if I was just as happy they were nearby, but I was glad I did not die.
Those years we lived only by night.
My father, William, was a pirate, so that would explain my buccaneer spirit. I did not mind moving around and I did not mind always living in a different place. I took to hunting for the blood which sustained me eagerly and without any prejudice.
Never feeling guilty taking what I needed.