Chapter 14: Portraits
My nose will itch, but man,
I’ll get my fix, because you’re my healing and my pain,
I guess that’s why they call you cocaine.
Todd didn’t speak to me at all that day, which was really awkward considering that we were lab partners in bio and sat next to each other in Lit, it was really awful. I tried to flag him down at his locker, only to be left alone.
“Todd, wait! Can’t we please talk about this?” I called out to him. “I’m sorry!” I reached out for him but he kept walking away, away from me. “Damn,” I punched his locker and then pressed my forehead against it. “Why do I have to suck? Why did I have to do that?” I felt a tear trace a path down my cheek before falling to the ground at my feet along with a pair of black converse and black jeans.
“Elisabeth, what’s wrong?” Daniel whispered. “Why is…” Daniel stopped talking when he saw my face and instead pulled me into his arms. “I don’t know what is going on, but I’m sorry.” He said. I wiped my eyes and stepped out of his grasp.
“It’s okay, Daniel.” I said. I needed to put some distance between the two of us, we were getting too close.
“Why is Todd upset with you? Why is he ignoring you?” He asked.
“It doesn’t matter, Daniel, okay? I’ll be alright. I’m sorry for troubling you.” I turned and walked down the stairs near Todd’s locker to catch my bus. Since Todd wasn’t talking to me he hadn’t driven me to school that morning either. Daniel followed after me to my bus. “Really, Daniel, it’s fine.” I said, he didn’t look convinced though.
He frowned at me with sad eyes. “Elisabeth, let me help you,” He said. “I don’t like seeing you upset.” Daniel reached for me and pulled me towards him again, and that’s when I spied Todd across the parking lot, looking horrified, well shit.
“No!” I pushed Daniel away from me hard. “You’re only going to make things worse!” I ran across the bus lane and into the parking lot towards Todd. “Todd, wait!” I shouted. Yeah, I was making a scene, but I didn’t really care at the moment. “Please, Todd, I can’t stand this. I can’t stand you not talking to me.” I broke down when I reached him. “It’s only been two days but it feels like an eternity, I don’t want Daniel, I want you.” I reached for his hands and entwined our fingers together. “I love you Todd.” I stared into his green eyes, hoping he would forgive me.
Only Todd still wasn’t looking at me, instead he was looking behind me, where Daniel was making his way over to us.
“Todd, please,” I begged. I cupped his face and tilted it so that he was looking at me. “Say something,”
“I don’t know what I should say,” He said. “Why was he holding you?” He accused.
“He was trying to make me feel better after you blew me off in the hallway.” I said. “He saw me…crying.” At this point Daniel was in the parking lot with us looking as confused as ever. “Daniel, please, you’re really not helping this situation.”
“I just want to know why Todd is going around upsetting you, that is all.” He replied coldly, protectively. “He should be treating you like the princess you are.” Ugh, Daniel, stop.
“It’s not his fault, Daniel, it’s mine. He said he loved me and I…I didn’t say it back because I… I was developing feelings for you.” Daniel’s eyes went wide at my confession. “But I was wrong, I want to be with Todd, Daniel. This whole thing we have going on needs to stop, I can’t do this anymore.”
“But, Luminita, this morning in German class…” He said softly.
“It was just a skit Daniel; it didn’t mean anything.” Daniel’s face fell to the ground, I had really hurt him this time. “Look, I can’t handle your vampire baggage, okay? I don’t want you to bite me and I don’t want to marry you. You’re just going to have to tell your parents that it won’t work, because I’m not moving to Romania; I’m not leaving the life I have here.” I turned away from Daniel and faced Todd. “I’m sorry, Daniel,” I said finally, staring hard at Todd’s chest although on the inside it almost felt like something was breaking.
Todd squeezed my hand and we walked to his car together. I gave Daniel one last glance, which was a mistake; he looked deflated, like I had run over him with a steam roller. I’m sorry, Daniel, but this is how it has to be. I can’t be what you want me to be, just like you can’t be a human.
The car ride to my house was a little awkward, things were still kind of tense. We were pretty much silent the whole way to my house, which was thankfully only ten minutes away from the school. Todd pulled into my driveway, but I didn’t make a move to leave, so we sat that way for a moment.
“Back there, in the parking lot,” Todd whispered. “What kind of thing did you and Daniel have going on?” He asked hurt.
“It’s not what you think Todd, we were just starting to get too close, that’s all. He keeps showing up when I’m feeling vulnerable; like he did this afternoon.” I said. Todd nodded absent mindedly. “But I love you Todd, I mean it. Today…today was awful, I don’t want to lose you.” I reached across the center console and squeezed his knee. “I’m sorry.” I murmured. Todd finally turned toward me and looked into my eyes. “Please,” I pleaded. “I messed up and I’m really sorry, but I know what I want now, and that’s you.” I stretched across the console and kissed his cheek.
Todd turned his face towards me and we kissed then. “I’m sorry too, Elisabeth.” He sighed. “You’re right, today was terrible, it’s really hard to be angry with you.” Todd’s face cracked into a small smile, but that was all I needed to know that we were okay. We sat in the car for a few silent moments staring at each other. What had I been thinking feeling for Daniel? Todd was so adorable and sweet; and he loved me. I didn’t have to worry about vampires with Todd, or having to marry him when I turned eighteen, this was where I wanted to be.
“Elisabeth,” He started, I looked up at him. “Do you want to go to the Valentine’s Dance with me?” He asked. I mean, did he even have to ask that?
“Of course Todd!” I said happily. “You don’t even need to ask that question,” I teased. He smiled with relief before pulling me in for another kiss.
“Great.” He smiled. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning then; text you when I get home.” Todd gave me a quick kiss before I stepped out of the car and into my house. When I walked inside neither of my parents were home yet, Dad was working the evening shift and mom normally didn’t get home until around five, and it was only four at the moment. I kicked my shoes off next to the door before making my way upstairs to drop off my stuff. I need to finish my self-portrait today, the sooner it’s done the less I have to worry about it. I thought to myself. I reached the top of the stairs and walked down the short hall to my bed room. It’s chilly in here.
I tossed my stuff into my room and was about to go back downstairs to make myself a snack, but did a double take when I noticed a hunched over figure sitting on my bed. How had I not noticed this immediately?
“Daniel what are you doing here?” I crossed my arms across my chest and faced him. “Actually, how did you even get here before Todd and I?” I wondered.
“Just one of my many hidden abilities,” He said standing from my bed. “Luminita, I think we need to talk.” His eyes were a dark blue void, I couldn’t read them, he stopped in front of me and for the first time I almost felt a little afraid to be with him.
“About what?” I asked trying to hide my fear.
“You can’t be with Todd,” Daniel said. “You are not human Luminita, it will never work. It may be alright now, but in the future you will feel the pull of your vampire heritage, and that is not easily ignored.”
“You said I’m essentially human so long as I’m not bitten though, so I don’t see how it matters.” I said stubbornly. Daniel frowned down at me for a brief second.
“I know what I said, however that does not change the fact that what I’m saying now is true. Female vampires that never reach maturity tend to become unhappy in life, they feel like something is missing. If you don’t embrace what you are then that is what will happen to you as well. Regardless of whether or not you want to marry me, you can’t deny your true self forever.” Daniel said.
“Oh yeah? And what’s my true self, huh?” I asked with a glare. “Am I not my true self now?” Daniel said nothing, only frowned even deeper at me. A moment later he was curling his lips back and baring what I could only assume to be his fangs at me. Normally his upper canines were only slightly sharper than mine, but now, these were vampire fangs, real fangs. They must have been one and a half inches long and sharp as a knife. I gasped and practically jumped away from him.
“This is your true self, Luminita, this is what you are,” He said still flashing his teeth. “You need to accept it,” Daniel stepped towards me when I tried to back away further, he caught my arm and pulled me into his chest, wrapping his arms around me. “In class today you told me you loved me, was that all a lie?” His voice had changed in an instant. He was no longer the angry Daniel, but the hurt Daniel that I always found to adorable to ignore.
“I mean, I guess it wasn’t a total lie,” I mumbled. Daniel gave me a hopeful look, God, why did it have to be this way? “But I can’t do this anymore, Daniel. I can’t be what you want me to be.” I said. His face fell, before turning into anger again. “Hey,” I tried to step away from him but his grip tightened around me.
“You can be what we want you to be Elisabeth, it is you who refuses to see that. We know what you are, you even felt your fangs a few weeks ago, yet you still say that it can’t be true, that you cannot be what you are. I have been trying to go about this in a nice way, in a way that maybe you could understand, but it would appear that I was wrong. It would seem that the only way you will see, is if you become.”
What? I thought. Daniel’s mood was like being caught in a hurricane, you didn’t know where it would go next. His mouth was set in a hard frown for a brief moment before his lips were on mine. Not this again. I tried to wriggle out from his grasp but he was too strong, and even though I was scared, I still found myself kissing him back. Daniel was sort of like a drug, irresistible. His hands moved to my head and he knotted his fingers through my hair, holding me tight to him and kissing me fiercely.
His lips moved from my mouth, down my jaw and onto my throat over my vein. I could begin to feel his fangs, fully extended once more, scratching my neck like they had a few weeks ago. “No!” I gasped. “No, Daniel, don’t do this!” I struggled hard as I could, even as the pain shot up my spine into my mouth. In a moment, I had an arm free, so I swung as hard I could into his crotch area, which only distracted him for a moment since I didn’t have a very clean shot. It was long enough for me to high tail it downstairs though; I ran for the basement and shut the door behind me. I couldn’t get my breathing under control, and I found myself sobbing, like, super ugly sobbing.
“Daniel,” I moaned. Why would he do that? He practically attacked me! Where was your police dad when you needed him? I sat there for a few minutes trying to get my sobs under control. Up until now I had never felt like Daniel was going to hurt me, things always seemed to change with him so quickly.
“Elisabeth,” He called out softly. “I know you’re down there,” he paused. “I am sorry, I lost my temper, I should not have done what I did. I’m so sorry…” his voice trailed off. “I didn’t—don’t want to hurt you, please Elisabeth.” The door creaked open slowly and he took a few tentative steps down. “Is it okay if I come downstairs with you?” I didn’t respond to his question, only pulled my legs into my chest and buried my face in my knees. “Okay… I’m coming down.”
Daniel came down the rest of the steps slowly, pausing at the bottom for a moment. He came over and sat on the edge of the couch next to me and put his arms around my shoulders, pulling me into his side. “Elisabeth, I truly am sorry,” He whispered. “I’m sorry I keep hurting you, this betrothal…I am starting to think that is not fair to you.” Daniel said.
“You think?” I said hoarsely. Daniel sighed and turned his face into my hair, inhaling deeply. He held the breath in for a few beats and then exhaled slowly. Is he smelling me? “What are you doing?”
“Oh,” Like in German class the tips of Daniel’s ears turned red and he averted his gaze. “I, well, I can smell the fear on you.” He said softly. “Everyone has their own scent and when you become familiar enough with that scent you can start to tell when they are feeling certain things. Mainly only strong emotions such as fear, extreme happiness or sadness, and, um, arousal and pleasure.” He stumbled over the last two. Oh. My. God. Was he seriously saying that he could smell when I was turned on? I lifted my head to look at him but he still wasn’t looking at me. Plus, now his ears were red in their entirety instead of only the tips. I do believe Daniel Florescu was experiencing teenage awkwardness.
“So, um, what do I smell like normally?” I asked tentatively. It seemed the question took him by surprise, his eyes widened a little but then softened as he thought it over. Daniel leaned over just enough to catch another whiff of my scent and held the breath in his lungs.
“You smell of ginger, nutmeg and honey; almost spicy, but also sweet.” He said finally.
“Ah, I see,” There was a silence between us after this. I was beginning to regain my composure, the swelling in my eyes was going down and with Daniel’s arm around my shoulders I felt comfortable, almost cozy in a way. Not exactly safe, but maybe close to that.
“Elisabeth,” Daniel said slowly. I turned my gaze to him and our eyes met. “Do you know what happens to vampires when they disobey their superiors?” I shook my head no, trying to figure out where this was going. Daniel stood from the couch and in a flash his pea coat was unbuttoned and his gray t-shirt tossed on the floor. Um, okay? With a reassuring smile Daniel turned and I was staring at his back. His back looked strong, you could see the muscles taut beneath his pale skin. When you looked closer, though, you could see long scars crossing his back.
“Daniel, what is this?” I asked with worry in my voice.
“They are from many punishments,” He said simply.
“What, punishments? Who did this to you?” I lightly traced one of the longer scars with my finger. I followed it from his right shoulder blade diagonal down to above his left hip. Daniel grabbed his shirt and pulled it over his head then turned to sit next to me on the couch, our legs touching.
“It’s typical in the vampire world. Whenever I disobeyed my parents or did something wrong, I would be whipped. The number of times depended on what I did, or didn’t do.” He said. His parents whipped him? How was this normal?!
“Did…did they do this to you when you went home in October..?” I asked fearing the answer. Daniel said nothing for a few beats until he finally nodded. “They, your parents, they whipped you because you came home without me? I did this to you?” I was beginning to panic, who could even do this to their child? I certainly didn’t want to be responsible for him being punished, not when he didn’t deserve it.
“No, Luminita this is not your fault, I knew what was going to happen when I went home without you. Do not blame yourself.” Daniel reached out and gently lifted my face to look at him. “This is not your fault Elisabeth,” He said again sternly, but soft. He reached over, hesitated for a split second, then entwined our fingers together. “You are afraid again,”
“You know, you being able to smell my emotions isn’t exactly fair.” I pointed out. “It sort of puts me at a disadvantage. Do you know how great it would be to know what you’re thinking or feeling all of the time? Especially since your moods change in the blink of an eye.” Daniel chuckled and brought my knuckles to his lips. Seriously, how was I not supposed to feel for him when he was this sweet to me 75% of the time?
Once again we sat together in silence for a few minutes, our hands still linked. It was a comfortable silence, although inside my head my thoughts, and emotions, were racing. Being with Daniel always seemed to be an emotional roller coaster, one I wasn’t sure that I wanted off of yet or not.
Daniel stood from the couch slowly a minute later. “I should go,” He said. “I have caused too much trouble for you Elisabeth. Even if you did feel how I feel about you, I fear you would not survive in Romania.” He had the saddest smile on his face, I was afraid he was saying goodbye for real this time. Daniel’s eyes searched my face and then slid down to my throat where he had tried to bite me again, where a prick of blood had welled up over the marks. He sighed, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have gotten angry with you. It is not your fault that you were raised this way, with humans.” He bent down and kissed where there was a small bit of blood, and it instantly stopped bleeding and healed.
“Are you leaving again?” I asked quietly. Daniel shook his head no. “Then why does it feel like you’re saying goodbye?” Daniel sighed and reached up, cupping my cheek in his hand.
“Because I’m releasing you from the contract,” He said. “You wouldn’t survive in the vampire world, Elisabeth. You were raised in a much softer environment than we are, I do not think you could handle it.” He stroked my cheek with his thumb softly, he made it really hard to not have feelings for him. “You don’t need to worry about marrying me and being something you’re not anymore, Elisabeth. Consider the contract burned.” Daniel bent down and kissed my forehead gently before turning away from me. “Goodbye Luminita, see you at school tomorrow.” He turned and walked out of the basement without even turning back, a moment later I heard the front door shut behind him.
“Goodbye,” I whispered.
I pulled out my cell and dialed Gigi’s number a few minutes later. I needed a girl to talk to.
“Hey, Elisa,” She answered. As soon as she finished speaking I burst into tears once more. “Hey, hey, what’s going on?” She asked with worry.
I recounted everything that had happened this past afternoon, Daniel showing up and trying to bite again, him comforting me and then ultimately releasing me from the betrothal.
“Wow,” Gigi breathed when I finished. “Well…” Gigi trailed off, she knew she was treading into dangerous waters. “Maybe it’s for the best you’re no longer betrothed Elisabeth. Ever since he showed up here back in August your life has been especially dramatic.” She said. I knew she was right, but I couldn’t get myself to feel the same. “Now you can focus on you and Todd.” She continued.
“Yeah, you’re right. Who needs Daniel anyway?” I said. “It’s not like I was super attracted to him or he made my heart beat out of my chest, right? It’s not like,” I couldn’t even finish the sentence, because at that moment I realized I had feelings for Daniel. I mean, obviously I did, but I’m talking strong feelings; maybe even love. Yeah he was weird, a little crazy maybe, but he had grown on me. And he was my weird, crazy vampire, why had I just let him walk away?
“Uh, Elisa?” Gigi’s voice snapped me back. “Please, just forget about Daniel, he isn’t healthy for you.” She said. “He wants to take you back to Romania, bite you and turn you into an actual vampire. Are you okay with that?” I sighed, she was right.
“No, I’m not. But that doesn’t change the fact that I like him, or that I’m a vampire too…” I said. “Anyway, I just really wanted to talk to you. I’m okay now, and I need to get started on my homework anyway.” I said.
“Okay,” She said slowly. “Well, just shoot me a text or give me a call again if you want to talk about it some more. You know I’ve always got your back, girl.”
“Thanks, Gigi, you’re the best friend any girl could ask for. I’ll talk to you later, have a good night.” We hung up and I made my way up to my room soon after. I definitely didn’t feel like doing homework at this point, but it had to be done I suppose.
I tackled my German homework first, although it was a little difficult. Guess that’s what I got for paying more attention to Daniel than Mr. Nacht’s lecture. Mom got home about a half hour after Gigi left so I helped her fix dinner. After dinner I returned to my room and pulled out my canvas for my self-portrait.
“Let’s just get this over with,” I grumbled. I picked up where I left off a few days ago, outlining my lips and painting the circles of my irises. Once the outlines were all done I began shading in my skin. I can’t believe his family whipped him as punishment, this is the 21st century! And he released me from the betrothal… I should be happy about that shouldn’t I? I thought to myself. I reached up to my neck with my free hand to feel where he had left marks on me earlier, but you couldn’t even see it anymore. It was like it had never even happened. It couldn’t be so bad to be with him…could it? He was always so sweet to me.
I continued to paint as these different thoughts swirled around my brain so when I actually focused my attention on my painting again I realized I had painted bite marks on my neck and there were fangs coming through my lips. “No!” I shouted shoving the canvas off of my easel.
“Elisabeth is everything all right?” Mom came rushing upstairs into my room. “I heard you yell,” I quickly picked up the canvas and flipped it so she wouldn’t see.
“I’m fine mom, I just messed up my painting, that’s all.” I said. Mom sighed in relief and turned to go back downstairs. “That was close,” I breathed out. I flipped the painting back over and looked over it. “Why did I do that? Now I have to start all over, or, I guess I could try to cover it up.” I spent the next couple minutes painting over the teeth I had coming out of my mouth, lucky I was able to cover them. The bite marks, however, I left in. Daniel was right about at least one thing; I couldn’t deny that I wasn’t human anymore. The full feeling in my mouth made that painfully clear.
I sighed with relief and continued on with my painting, I was almost done! As usual I saved the eyes for last, filling in the irises and pupils with color. All in all, it turned out decently, and now I didn’t have to worry about it for the rest of the week. I left my portrait on the easel to finish drying in the corner of my room, that way if one of my parents walked in they wouldn’t see it.
I was officially emotionally drained; my senior year was not going how I had wanted it to at all. I focused on college essays the rest of the night, each college I was applying to had a different essay, so that kind of sucked. Having to do three essays sucked.
I miss you. I sent a text to Todd. I really wanted to cuddle now, I wanted to curl up in Todd’s arms and forget about Daniel ever coming here. Wishing wouldn’t change anything though.
I miss you too. But we’ll see each other tomorrow morning. He texted back. Yeah, tomorrow morning, it wasn’t so far away. Somehow I felt that everything was going to be different by tomorrow morning though. I was released from the contract; would Daniel even still talk to me now that he didn’t have a reason to? Are we just going to go back to ignoring each other like we did back before homecoming? I had a feeling things weren’t going to be the same anymore, we weren’t going to be the same anymore.