AMANDA INSISTS ON celebrating my birthday. Everybody conveniently forgets the two hundred or so years in-between my sixteenth and now my seventeenth birthday.
Embarrassingly I give in and we all go to Paris, where Herman takes us to a Ballet performance. I enjoy dressing up again in evening-wear and we stay at the Ritz Hotel for the night, before driving back to the château again the next morning.
I cannot really enjoy myself because I feel desperately tired and ill.
Amanda asks me worriedly, “Are you okay, Susie. You are looking very pale these days?”
I try to smile. “I am fine.” I do not tell her I have been vomiting every morning for the last two months, that these days I am always tired, that my breasts feel sensitive or that I feel bloated. I do not tell her my suspicions.
In the car back to the château, I lean my head against Andrew’s shoulder and I fall asleep restlessly. He cradles me gently to him.
When we get home, he walks with me to my room and when I fall down onto my bed listlessly, he lies down next to me. He gently draws me into him and when I start crying, he rubs my back softly. When my sobs slow down, he asks softly, “What’s wrong, Susie?”
I look up at him, from where I have my face hidden in his chest and I say softly, scared someone might hear me, “I think I am pregnant.”
The shock on his face makes tears burn behind my eyelids again and I feel another sob escape my lips.
He asks urgently, “Are you sure?”
I nod my head, yes, and then I say forlornly, “Pregnant and only seventeen. Before, years or age never bothered me, but now that I am here in the proper seventeen, I feel as if I have disappointed everyone, especially Amanda. The last time I was sixteen, being pregnant out of wedlock was immoral. I would have been shunned by everybody I knew and I cannot help it if I still have the same notions and beliefs.”
He says softly, suddenly excited, “We’ll get married soon, before anybody notices.”
I laugh sarcastically. “Do you propose we tell everybody the healthy baby was born three months too early?”
He holds onto me tightly, whispering in my hair, “Susie, stop worrying about everybody else. I love you and we will be together, always. The initial shock was great, but now when it has sunk in, I think I would like to have babies with you.” He laughs softly. “Lots of babies. It does not matter what everybody says, and I am not going to allow you to turn something beautiful between us into something ugly.”
I cannot help when I start crying again. He continues holding onto me silently and eventually I cry myself to sleep.
When I start showing at five months, I am the centre of attention of my little family. I laugh at the look on Amanda’s face when I tell her jokingly that soon she will be a grandmother. I felt such dread when I had to tell them I was pregnant and I was unexpectedly surprised when they laughed happily at my scandalous revelation. Justin, Herman, Claude, Edward and not so much Peter, fight for the privilege to touch my stomach tentatively and when I cry out in amazement when the baby kicks me from the inside, they rush to me. Amanda reprimands them to be careful in case they knock into me. I am permanently pampered and coddled by them all as if I could break and I am not allowed to work in the vineyards, although Andrew and I go for long walks every evening. Every night I cuddle tightly into the arms of Andrew and I am content.
In my seventh month of pregnancy, while Andrew and I are preparing supper, I look over at him. He does not look well.
I ask, “What’s wrong? Are you coming down with something?”
“I don’t know. I do feel awful. I think there is a draft in your room and it has probably given me a chill.”
“We must ask Amanda if she has anything for you. I’ll go quickly.”
He holds me back. “We can ask her later.”
“I think you should go lie down. How long have you been feeling ill?” I suddenly recall the last few days when he was only picking at his food and not really eating. Worriedly I answer for him, “A while now. Why didn’t you say anything, Andrew?”
He looks weak on his legs and I lean into him. I put my arms around his waist and I try to get him to walk with me to the nearest chair.
I say admonishingly, “You are burning up!”
Thankfully, Edward comes walking in. I hear him vaguely ask if there are any more popsicles left. He looks over at us and then he scoops his arms in under Andrew, just as Andrew collapses. It happens so fast.
Edward walks down the hall carrying Andrew’s limp body and calling Amanda’s name. She comes out of the library and then I see her visibly gasp. She looks at me worriedly while she instructs Edward to carry Andrew down to the cellar.
“Why the cellar?” I ask unsure.
“How long has he not been eating?” She asks me, avoiding my question.
“I don’t know. He has been picking at his food for a few days now. I wasn’t really paying attention.”
I follow them worriedly to the cellar. They take Andrew to Callum’s sanctuary and lie him down on the luxurious burgundy couch.
While I light a few candles to brighten the dark room, I look around. I have not been down here for such a long time. I cannot believe Callum has been gone almost four years already.
Amanda interrupts my thoughts and instructs me, “Sit with him. I am going to fetch a few things upstairs.”
I sit down on the couch next to him and I look down at his soft face. He is so boyishly handsome. His full dark eyebrows define his face. His dark hair curls over his forehead, which is beaded lightly with drops of perspiration, his lashes are long, casting shadows on his cheeks. I cannot see his deep, brooding eyes because they are tightly shut. I take his hand softly into mine and I wonder worriedly what could be wrong with him.
Amanda comes back and she is carrying a basin and wash cloths. She has a multitude of bottles with her, which she carefully places on the little table in the middle of the room.
Softly I ask, “What is wrong with him, Amanda?”
“I had a suspicion, the first time I met him, but then his birthday came and went and nothing happened. I thought I was wrong. Maybe his birth certificate reflects the wrong date or his adoptive parents did not know the exact date he was born on.”
“It cannot be because he did a genealogy of his family, so surely he would have discovered if his birth date was wrong?”
She smiles agreeable. “How would he know if the date on his own birth certificate is wrong? He would not have searched his own personal details, only those related to his mother and father and other ancestors.”
I suddenly grasp what she is saying. “No. You mean he might be inflicted with the sickness?”
She smiles softly. “I wouldn’t call it a sickness.”
Hurriedly I explain, “I didn’t mean sickness in that way, I meant he is turning. You are going to make him drink your blood and he is going to become a vampire.”
The thought hits rock bottom. I will be the only one here—human. My hand reaches protectively for my extended stomach.
I look up at her worriedly. “If he survives the turning, the Four Judges will have him killed.” I start crying. “So either way, he will be dead soon.” I did not want to lose him.
She stands behind me and puts her hand comforting on my back while she looks down at Andrew. She says softly, “He looks so soft and innocent laying there. Call me when he wakes up so I can explain the choices to him.”
Softly I cry while I sit with Andrew and I remember the first time I saw him. He made me feel like jelly when I looked into his eyes, even though he was so ignorant of me. He has not had the easiest life, living with Mr. van Heerden, always feeling unwanted. It must have been so sad.
I wipe the sweat from his brow and I sit beside him, pulling a chair closer to the couch. I fold my legs in under me and I start reading on of the books Callum left behind.
Later I hear Andrew mumble, “Susie?”
I put the book down and I smile down at him. He looks so weak, and he whispers, “What is happening to me? I feel weird, as if I am disconnected.” He swallows. “I am so thirsty.”
I smile down at him reassuringly. “I am going to call Amanda. Don’t fall asleep again, try to stay awake.”
I run through the tunnels and up to the kitchen. All the lights are off and it is night. Sometimes they are so inconsiderate when they forget there are people here who are unable to see in the dark.
I knock against the kitchen table, groping for the light switch. It flickers on and then I run through the hallway, yelling Amanda’s name. She comes rushing from upstairs and I ask angrily, “What are you doing? Andrew is awake and I think he is dying.”
Tears start running down my cheeks and she hushes me. She walks ahead of me and I follow her, trying to keep up.
When we reach Andrew, she sits down next to him unhurriedly. She smiles down at him kindly and she talks to him softly. I am standing inches away from her and I can barely hear a word she is saying.
I see first the look of shock wash over Andrew’s face and then acceptance. He looks up at me and his eyes are miserable. He whispers, “I cannot leave you, Susie.”
I hear Amanda say, “If you choose to change, you do not have to leave her. You will both still be here and everything will be the same as it has always been. Do not be afraid, it is okay to be one of the living dead. Look at me, my happiest years has been the years since I died.”
I see Andrew frown and he looks back at Amanda. I want to rush to him and throw my arms around him.
Amanda stands up and says to me, “I’ll be back now.”
I sit down next to Andrew again and I take his hand into mine. I trace my fingers over his palm softly, and I see a faint smile on his lips. He asks, “Remember when we were stuck in the basement of that building? Amanda says she knew this would happen that day she told me you were a vampire.”
I see his eyes go hazy and I wonder frenzied where Amanda could be. I look around for something sharp so I can cut myself and let Andrew drink from me and find a letter opener. Holding it above my wrist, I feel nervous hurting myself. I smirk, so much for wanting to live on the edge, face death and defy it. I push the sharp point into my wrist and suddenly it flies out of my hand.
Edward is bending over me and he growls, “Are you stupid, Susanna?”
I look up at him shocked.
He continues, “He will kill you.” I look at Edward confused and he explains, “You are human now and once we start drinking your blood, we secrete a chemical which renders a human helpless. Therefore, it is easier for us to drink until we have had enough, without having to fight you. Once he starts, he won’t know when to stop.” He shakes his head and mumbles to himself, “Did Amanda never tell you anything?”
I consider this and realise Amanda and Shayne had always treated me like a child and they have always protected me. I have found out more things about my kind since I have met Callum and his friends, than before. I want to ask Edward if this is why I turned mortal again after the vagrant vampire bit me. Did this chemical which was injected into me, to calm me, suppress the vampire virus in me, did it kill the virus, eradicate it and heal it?
Edward turns away from me, he picks up the letter opener and then without hesitation he cuts his wrist open. I watch the crimson blood ooze from the wound. He sits down next to Andrew on the couch and he says softly, “Here boy, drink this. It will make you feel all better.”
I see Andrew’s eyes grow wide and then he reaches up to Edward’s arm. He folds his lips around the wound and then I see him bring his hands up and fold them around Edward’s arm. He drinks greedily.
Just then, Amanda walks into the room and she exclaims stunned, “What are you doing, Edward?”
“Don’t worry, Amanda. You can still mother him, but I’ll stay by your side and help you look after him.”
I see Amanda nod approvingly.
Edward pushes Andrew’s head away from his wrist and when Andrew is laying down again, he closes his eyes tiredly. Already I can see the colour return to his cheeks. Edward whispers softly as he leans down to Andrew, “This means starting over.”
I look at Edward amazed. I never realised he could be so compassionate. His joking and mockery of everything around him were hiding his real personality.
Amanda says, “He should stay here. We can give him Amanda’s supply of pills in the meantime. He has to be kept a secret.”
I see Edward look at me, but I do not recognise the look in his eyes. He asks Amanda curtly, “Have you spoken to her about her choice.”
Amanda looks at me suddenly and then she returns Edward’s gaze admonishingly.
Edward shrugs and walks away.
I ask, “What choice, Amanda?”
“You know we cannot turn a human at random, but you have been a vampire before. If you chose to go back to the way it was, we can always ask permission from the Four Judges.” Hurriedly she adds, “Only if you want to, Susie. Make the choice only for yourself and nobody else.”
I ask confused, “How?”
“From what I understand, the vampire venom binds to the vampire molecules in your body and confines them, suppressing them. However, if someone changed you back, it would break down this layer. The vampire virus is stronger than your human cells, and they would once again, be in control of your body.”
I sink down into the chair behind me and I notice Andrew has drifted off to sleep. I never contemplated the idea, never even considered it. Should I roll the dice and go back to the way it was? I feel the baby kick me ruthlessly and I smile softly to myself. I believe there is no choice. Even now, with Andrew becoming a vampire, I will remain human. I am sure I could always convince him to be human again. I want to be mortal and I do not want to be stuck in this body forever any more.
Sitting in the chair across from Andrew, I change my plans and dreams to include a different Andrew. I make future plans and decide to wait until the baby is older before we go on our reckless adventure, although I do not feel the irresponsible urge to look death in the face defiantly any more. My priorities have changed and I have to consider the baby and what might happen to him or her, should something happen to me.
When Amanda walks into the room again, she looks down at Andrew shocked. I notice the colour has drained from his face and he is insipidly pale. Amanda hurriedly leaves the room.
I look down at Andrew and he is laying in exactly the same position as he was the last time I looked up at him. His dark lashes are fanned across his cheeks. He did not move since Edward and Amanda left mere minutes ago.
Amanda returns with Edward. He sits down next to Andrew on the couch, and then he looks up at Amanda miserably.
I walk closer to them and I ask in a shrill voice, “What’s wrong with him? Why is he so pale?”
Amanda walks to me and softly she takes me into her arms. She pulls me closer to her and then I know. I just know Andrew is dead. I predicted long ago, spitefully, he was too weak to survive a turning and now I proved myself right. I sink into Amanda and she holds onto me tightly.
I cry for days, weeks.
I refuse to eat until Amanda reprimands me and reminds me of my unborn baby.