A FEW DAYS later, I am roasting a chicken, and I keep a close eye on it because I do not want to burn it – again.
I have gotten used to the faces around me, watching me while I ate, as they sat chewing on their raw meat popsicles. The looks I got were either yearning or revulsion—it all depended on the day.
I hear Peter call me from the hall, “Susie, there is someone at the door for you.”
I look at Justin, who is teaching me how to steam pumpkin. “Me?”
Justin smiles. “And he smells positively edible.”
He nods his head. “And, a him.”
I mumble, “Him,” while I walk out of the kitchen. I say across my shoulder, “Justin. You better watch that chicken!”
I hear his delightful laugh follow me, as I walk down the hall to the large double front door and I take a step backwards when I recognise the person standing in the hall.
He is twirling his hands nervously in front of him and he is swaying on the balls of his feet. I cannot help smiling when he lifts his eyes and I look into those broodingly dark eyes.
I see him sigh with relief and then I rush to him. I fall into his arms. His arms feel stronger and his chest feels bigger. He is older now and I try to work it out, but I cannot remember when I last saw him. It feels like decades ago, but I know it was only a few years, possibly two, maybe three.
He moves away from me. “Hey,” he says softly.
I smile. “Andrew, I have not seen you in so long. What are you doing here?”
“I am here for you.”
Quickly I turn away from him and holding onto his hand, I lead him back to the kitchen, while I explain, “I have a chicken roasting, and I don’t want it to burn. I cannot trust Justin, and he is probably doing his nails by now. I have to stay with him, or my dinner will be ruined.”
Andrew says, “Wait. Chicken? Dinner?”
I laugh dismissively. “Do you like chicken?”
He answers apprehensively, “I do. Are you talking about real chicken?”
“Yes, the cluck, cluck kind. What other kinds of chicken are there? I would like to know, maybe there is a kind of chicken that is easier to cook.”
He stops me. “Wait, Susie. You look different. You are talking about chicken. What is going on?”
Edward says from behind us, “She is human now, but you must still be careful of us.”
Andrew looks flabbergasted. “Human?”
I look at Edward reproachfully. “Don’t mind Edward. They won’t do anything to you.”
Andrew shakes his head. “Susie? Is it true you are human now?”
I shrug. “Yes. It’s no big deal.” Andrew still wants to say something, but I interrupt him, “My chicken, Andrew. I am serious. Follow me.”
I walk into the kitchen and the yummy smell of roasting chicken fills my nostrils. I walk to the stove, but Justin stops me from opening the oven door again. “The chicken is fine, Susie. Leave it to roast now.”
I tell Andrew to sit while Justin and I continue steaming the pumpkin.
Edward starts to talk to Andrew and I listen amused to their conversation. Edward always thinks he is funny. In another life, he could have been a comedian, he always foretells, but nobody else thinks so.
Later I dish up for Andrew and me, and the chicken is delicious. I eat it skin and all and the fat runs down my chin. I wipe it away with the back of my hand, when Herman apologises to Andrew, “Excuse her, she is new at eating and we still need to teach her a few manners.”
Andrew laughs through a mouthful of food and I glance up at him. He is so endearing. I forgot the warm mushy feelings he used to give me.
The only awful thing about eating is now I have to wash dishes. My family of vampires usually leave the room after I am finished eating. I refuse to let them help me. Later when the kitchen is clean and tidy, I will join them in the lounge. On the nights when they go out to hunt, I lock myself in my room or I hide in Callum’s cellar. I am scared after my experience with violence.
Tonight Andrew stays with me and because he also ate, I let him help me.
He asks me how it happened I became human again, and I only tell him the bare minimum. He wants to know how I manage to live with vampires, and I explain it is no different from when I was a vampire myself.
Later we join my little dysfunctional family.
The next day, Peter delegates jobs to Andrew and tell him, “You need to earn your keep.”
Andrew fits in well.
ANDREW HAS BEEN here a while and we have not really been alone. Subconsciously, I avoid having a personal conversation with him, but one night, while we are washing the dishes, he takes the plate I am washing. Gently he turns me to face him and I look up at him anxiously.
Softly he asks, “When will we get a chance to talk?”
I shrug and start to turn back to the basin, but he puts his hand on my shoulder and stops me. “I have come all this way to see you and it was not easy. I love you, Susie. Always have.”
I look down. I did love him once before I met Callum. Am I only foolish, though, still waiting for Callum? Callum has been gone almost three years now, and when he gets back the first thing he will notice is my humanness. The night Amanda gave Andrew, Callum’s room it felt as if she ripped my heart out of my chest.
Humans have so many, many emotions. Although vampires have them as well, they are more powerful and painful as a human. They rip holes in your heart and shoot straight through the pit of your stomach.
Andrew folds his arms around my waist and he pulls me closer to him. He brings his head down and his hand around, and he lifts my chin with his fingers. Tears are running down my cheeks – humans cry so easily.
He smiles sadly. “You don’t love me any more?”
I smile slowly. “I do. I really do.”
He asks, “But?”
I do not want to explain why there is a but, so I bring my lips to his. Softly I brush my lips across his and I kiss him. The familiar feelings I used to have for him, come rushing back. His kisses were always softer, alluring, whereas Callum was more certain and knowledgeable, but always tempting. Andrew pulls me closer to him, and his kisses are different, more mature, not the tentative nervous kisses of a few years ago.
Claude comes walking into the kitchen and he clears his throat loudly. He says apologetically, but I can hear the laughter in his voice, “Do you kids need help in here? It got very quiet and I thought I would come and see what’s happening.”
I push away from Andrew hurriedly and embarrassed I turn back to the basin. I bang the plate against the tap by accident and am relieved when it does not break.
Claude says jokingly, but I can hear from his tone he is serious, “Young man, let me just warn you before you start getting ideas. There is no going all the way until you get married. We are all very old-fashioned around here. Do you understand my meaning?”
Andrew answers, “Yes, sir.”
Claude says, “Good. I am glad we understand each other.”
Claude leaves the room and I say softly, embarrassed, “Ignore him.”
Andrew laughs softly. “No way. You should have seen the serious look on his face. He means it.”
I change the subject, “What did you mean? It was difficult for you to get here?”
“I couldn’t get a Visa because Mr. van Heerden refused to sign the documents, but luckily I found out I have European ancestors.”
“Yes. I traced my family tree with the help of Mrs Van Heerden. Although we found definite proof my mum is dead, we could find no record of my father.”
“Mrs Van Heerden was always nice.”
“I sometimes think, I miss her. I am glad though to be gone from there.”
“I am sure you are. That Mr. van Heerden was an absolutely intimidating person.”
Andrew laughs. “He sure was.”
After we finish the dishes, Andrew convinces me to go for a walk with him. We walk out into the night, and I walk him past the graveyard of my mum and Francois. I tell him the story of how my mum and William fell in love and how Francois attempted to kill my mother, but then William saved her.
When I finish my story, Andrew sighs softly. “That must be the most romantic story I have ever heard.”
We walk far and we talk about everything. He tells me about school at home, about Carmine, and what he had been up to since the last time I saw him.
When he kisses me goodnight, his dark eyes look pensively into mine and the feelings I have for him are so unpredictable, maybe soon I will realise Andrew is what I really need. The only thing I need.
We spend every day together and at night, I lay against his chest while we spend time with my vampire family, or we would just lay there and stare into the fire. I avoid Callum’s cellar like the plague.
WE BOTTLE OUR fist harvest and the wine has been ageing in the wooden barrels for a while. The wooden barrels have pores, which promote some chemical processes. It is a delicate process because too much contact with air will spoil the wine. Our first harvest is now at the peak of its flavour and special care needs to be taken when the wine is bottled so it is not exposed to dust or too much oxygen.
After it is bottled, we move it to another section of the cellar and here it will stay in the cool, darkness where it will ferment even further.
Andrew and I are perfect for each other, I convince myself. We are both humans. In the history of my ancestors, there has not been much luck in love. William’s dad was a vampire and his mother, my grandmother was human, then to complicate things even further, William, my dad, was a half-breed vampire who fell in love with my mortal mother. None of them could be together, they could not live together or spend their every living moment with each other. Their relationships were doomed, but here I now have an opportunity to fix all of that. I can have a normal relationship. Andrew and I can get married and we can even have children if we ever wanted them.
Andrew takes me for drives on the empty streets late at night. I kiss his lips and when we are alone he is charming and loving. I do not want to be alone as I grow old and my small family remains young looking. If I was with Andrew, we could grow old together and experience things together.
One moonless night we go outside after dinner and we sit on the steps in front of the house. I lean back on my elbows onto the stair behind me and Andrew joins me. I say reverently, “I used to do this a lot when I was little.”
“Sit on the stairs?”
I laugh. “No, sit here and look up at the stars.”
He looks up. “There are a lot of them.”
I smile pleased. “When the moon is new, the stars do not have to compete with the moon, so you can see them much better.”
We sit there for hours just looking up and later Amanda, Edward, Herman, Claude, Justin and Peter walk down the stairs past us.
Claude says, “Behave yourself, young man. I know everything. I have vamp-senses.”
Edward laughs loudly at Andrew’s expense.
I watch them walk across the driveway and then across the lawn into the line of trees into the forest. They look formidable and to be honest sometimes I do miss the excitement and anticipation.
When they disappear into the forest, Andrew says, “Let’s go in, I am cold and the stars are not that fascinating.”
I pretend to be offended, but I follow him into the house.
We go to the den and start watching a movie. The flickering flames in the fireplace dimly light the den, and I am snuggled closely into him, under his arm. I slide my hand in under his t-shirt and I let my hand drift up and over his lean, muscular chest. Slowly he slides down the chair from his upright-seated position, turning to face me and then softly his lips touch mine. He whispers against my lips, “Susie, I love you.”
He moves his lips to my hair, my forehead, my eyes, the tip of my nose, before pressing his lips to mine again. When our tongues touch, I feel my stomach drop. He moves his hands to my waist and then he slowly pulls my shirt over my head. With his fingers, he follows the chain he gave me down to the valley between my breasts where the golden heart still sat snugly. I feel the warmth of his hand travel with electrifying speed through my body and I moan softly. He turns my body and I find myself half under him. He pulls his shirt up over his head, his kisses become more demanding and when his fingers lift the cups of my bra, I welcome them. I sink deeper and deeper into the warm pool of ecstasy which flows from my shoulders to the tips of my smallest toe.
Months of kissing and touching, pushing the boundaries a little more each time has now let me to this point from where I knew I could never return. This new body of mine feels everything so much more clearly and every emotion is so much more controlling over the parts of me that should be rebelling.
When his fingers reach down and slip my panties down my legs, the realisation of my nudity drives my excitement over the edge. I taste his tongue, his lips and while we are both whispering, “Yes,” softly, I open my eyes for a moment and see the shadows from the fire dance on the ceiling above us. For a second, I feel as if that very fire is consuming me. For a brief instant, I want to stop, but I also want it, I want it very much. I open myself to him and he lifts himself forward and inward. I hold onto his shoulders, pulling down on his back and join him in the irresistible wave which makes me feel as if we are one entity. It becomes a single extended kiss, a single extended embrace. Then he cries, “I love you, Susie. I love you,” while I muffle my own cry on his shoulder.
We stop moving and hold onto each other while we wait for our pounding hearts to slow down.
It all happened so quickly and there was no time for me to reconsider, and maybe I would not have gone back once it started. I welcomed him, the feeling of belonging, of love and tenderness, the feeling of being completely human, so when the tears run down my cheeks, I cannot understand the sudden overwhelming sadness which fills me.
The next day Andrew makes breakfast, two fried eggs, and crispy bacon. We eat and then we go for a walk. He takes my hand in his as we walk away from the château. We do not talk for the longest time, and when we eventually get to a grouping of trees on the edge of the river, we sit down next to the water.
I used to dip my feet into the water, any season of the year, but now I fold my feet in under my knees, as I sit down cross-legged.
Andrew sits down across from me. Leaning closer to me, he takes my hands into his. His elbows are resting on his knees. He smiles warily and he says softly, “You know I was willing to change to be like you, I love you so much.”
I smile up at him and we sit looking at each other.
Andrew asks, “Remember when we were half way across the world, we promised we would love each other always.”
“I remember.” I smile softly and then I change the subject, “I have always wondered how it would be to experience the world as mortal and maybe you and I can do that together now. Wouldn’t it be fun?”
He frowns briefly and then he smiles thrilled. “That does sound great.”
I smile wistfully. “I would like to experience everything with another mere human. Someone who would feel the same fear, when standing on the edge of a cliff, and know if you fell down, it would all be over. To feel that overall exhilaration you could never get if you knew you would never die.”
He smiles mischievously. “I could certainly attempt to give you those thrills. While we become adventure junkies, we could also look for my father.”
I start to feel excited. There is no use for me here at the château. My dysfunctional, extended family has everything under control, and most of the time I feel like a hindrance, instead of an asset.
I say, “Let’s leave next summer.”
“It sounds great. Are you paying? You know I am just a poor orphan boy?”
“You have been working on the farm haven’t you and everybody who works here, and becomes part of my family, gets a share of all the profits, so poor orphan boy, you can very well pay for yourself.”
He frowns briefly. “I get paid?”
I look at him indignantly and laugh amused. “This is not a slave farm, you know. The wine you have been working on so hard to produce is a part of you as well – sweat and toil – literally. We are not as fortunate as the others not to secrete certain bodily fluids. Sometimes I consider the farm to be my little treasure island and we are the pirates. Instead of stealing, though, we build our fortune ourselves.”
“That is why you want to go and live on the edge, purposefully look death in the eye and see how far you can push the grim reaper. It is the pirate in you.”
“I always knew I could not stay in one place for too long, but when you do not live in one place long, you always want to. I always used to think it was my adventurer spirit, so you could be right.”
The light starts to disappear from the sky, and the chill settles in my bones. I rub my hands together and then I push myself up from the ground. He gets up with me and I say, “Let’s race.”
I start running and I hear him call from behind me, “You are cheating! I had no warning!”
Running even faster, I cannot help laughing loudly.
I beat him and reach the stairs ahead of him. It is nice to put my full effort in and to win. I do not hold myself back any more. I have to fold over and rest my palms on my knees, though. My lungs are burning and I can feel the wild beating of my heart in my temples.
Out of breath, Andrew complains, “You cheated!”
I laugh. “Whatever.”