The next day, nearly an hour before the sun was to set on that still warm September day, was when Chantarell awoke with a yawn and a stretch from her nap that afternoon in the large, lush bed next to her employer, Mr. Torrence, who was still in the grip of a sleep as deep as death, itself.
“About time you woke up.” her mother, Ana, chided her, from her place nearby the bed where she continued the painting she had been working on for days.
Ana had reddish brown locks that fell loosely a few inches below her shoulders, where her slender body was covered by nothing more than one of her employer’s expensive shirts which obviously were a bit too large for her frame. But most striking about Ana’s appearance was that she, herself, didn’t look a day older than her early twenties, which made the fact of her having a daughter in her mid-teens, that much harder to believe, as were many things about she and her daughter.
“Well we were up a bit late.” Chantarell responded with her own smile, cuddling closer to her bedmate, who lay upon his stomach, Chantarell’s fingers curling in his long blonde locks as his head lay turned to the side, his beautiful face and closed eyes towards where Ana stood, painting, while he remained fast asleep.
“I know. I was there.” Ana reminded her equally beautiful daughter with a playful grin as she applied another brushstroke to the canvas.
“I’ll keep watch the last hour if you’re tired, mom.” Chantarell offered as she placed a brief kiss upon his bare, pale back and glanced towards her mother once more.
Ana smiled at the offer, thinking on it a moment, before answering, “No, it’s only an hour. I wouldn’t want to do that without asking him first, anyway.” she added more quietly.
“I’m a big girl now, I think I could handle it, no one in town comes near this place anyway.” she teased her mother with facts the older woman already knew.
Before Ana could respond, it was almost as though the fates wanted to scold Chantarell for her occasional overconfidence, as there was then the sound of rapping upon the door at the front of the large home.
“What were you saying?” Ana asked, startled by the fact of a visitor herself, as both women turned their eyes towards the front of the home, despite being tucked into the large master bedroom at the back of the large house.
“Maybe it’s Claire?” Chantarell asked with her own uneasy shrug as both she and her mother moved to slide into nearby dresses that they had already set out for the night, as Chantarell had only been clothed in her undergarments as she slept.
“An hour before dusk?” Ana denied as she hurried to dress.
“I’ll get the door, you stay with him.” Chantarell offered, having dressed more quickly.
“Please be careful.” Ana called after her daughter, seeming truly concerned, though even that maternal concern somehow didn’t outweigh her need to stay at the bedside of her sleeping lover.
Chantarell took a deep breath as she left the bedroom, locking it behind her, and squared her shoulders before moving forward through the house, to the front door. One more deep breath, and another look back over her shoulder towards the bedroom before finally moving to open the door. Much to her immediate relief, it was a stranger to her that stood at the door. Though most would be wary of strangers, Chantarell’s life had somehow convinced her that a stranger would be less dangerous than any townsperson who had suddenly decided to pay them a visit out of nowhere.
She was not stupid though, she did keep the door closed most of the way, only opening it a crack to take in the sight of the young man who waited there. After all, it was still almost an hour before ‘the man of the house,’ and the home’s true protector would awaken.
“Yes?” she asked the man hoarsely, her eyes somehow not able to keep from appreciatively glancing over the young man’s appearance.
He didn’t look much older than Chantarell, herself, possibly in his late teens, with long strawberry blonde locks pulled back into a loose pony tail, and looking a bit winded as if he had traveled a long way by foot, on that very day. The large, but worn bag he held over shoulders that looked surprisingly strong despite the narrow waist, which suggested he was a bit underfed, also lent credence to the theory of him having traveled a long way to somehow reach their door.
“Hi.” he swallowed as he looked Chantarell over as well, surprised by the fact of her long red locks being free around her shoulders, but he did not dwell on this fact, as he seemed to have more important things on his mind, “Sorry about it being almost dark, but I had to walk. All the way from the next town over.” he added as an afterthought.
“And the town, and the other houses between here and there, they didn’t strike you as a good place to stop, but this one did?” Chantarell returned. Her finding him to be physically attractive didn’t totally quell the suspicion brought on by her own concern for her employer’s well-being during those hours while he slumbered.
“Actually, this was the place I was looking for.” he answered her, still seeming somewhat unsure of his words, though determined as well.
A visible tension then came over her as Chantarell stood up straighter and held the only half open door even tighter, “And why’s that?” she asked as she swallowed hard.
“I was actually looking for someone, and I was told this was the last place he had lived. I was hoping he might still be here, or at least whoever was, might know where to find him.” the young man responded, his own breath shallow, seeming nervous to speak the words, despite how many times he had rehearsed them during his long walk to their home.
“Well I’ve lived here all my life, and unless it’s Mr. Torrence you’re looking for, you’re out of luck. He’s the only male who’s here, now.” Chantarell told him with brevity she hoped would make him leave their doorstep, at least until her employer awoke.
“Yes, Mr. Torrence!” he told her with a bit of hopefulness, “I was told that the man I was looking for, that he used to work for a Torrence. I didn’t get that one's first name though.”
Chantarell took another breath, obviously deflated that she had not yet deterred him, as having visitors there during the day was especially nerve wracking to both she and Ana, “The Torrences have had a lot of people work for them, for a lot of years. Whoever it is, they’re long gone by now.” she attempted.
“Well, his name was Ezekial Beringer, I believe. Can you at least check to see if anyone remembers him?” he continued hopefully.
“I‘ll ask, but you‘ll have to leave now. We weren’t exactly expecting visitors.” Chantarell told him, losing whatever tact she may have had as she knew that her employer would not approve of any visitors at this hour.
“I’ve come a long way though.” he returned, the hope seeping out of his voice at her refusal to give him any immediate help with his search.
“Not my problem.” Chantarell told him, the tiniest bit of regret peeking out from behind her otherwise rough tone. Something about this young man made her want to help him, something beyond his basic attractiveness, but she knew that her other duties were more important than aiding a seemingly lost stranger appearing unannounced at their door, before sunset.
Before allowing herself to look back into those beautiful pale blue eyes of his once more, eyes that seemed so pleading, so desperate for answers, Chantarell quickly ducked back inside the house, closing and locking the door tightly behind her as she leaned back against it from inside, waiting for her own nervous heartbeat to slow once more.
“Is he gone?” Ana asked worriedly, peeking out from the bedroom door as she heard the front door close.
“I think he’s still out there. He’s asking questions about one of the former servants. Does this mean that we are going to have to move after all, like he keeps telling us?” Chantarell asked sadly.
“I don’t know.” Ana returned, looking back toward the bed behind her, where he still slept, while she remained in the bedroom doorway, “I guess we’ll have to ask him.”
“I finally made a friend though, mom.” Chantarell told her mother sadly, for the first time, sounding as though she were nothing more than a lonely teenage girl, just like Claire so obviously was.
“You know it’s hard for us to have friends, Chan. We both told you that long ago.”
“But Claire is different. She knows about us, and still is my friend. She’s different.” she repeated.
“Knows what about us?” Ana stated worriedly.
“No, she doesn’t know what he is, I’d never tell that secret.” Chantarell assured, obviously knowing what secret her mother was most worried of having found out about the three of them that made up their strange family. Luckily, that most highly protected secret, was also the most difficult for anyone to truly believe. After all, even the ever-so-levelheaded church officials who tortured and killed their kind, found it easier to believe in women cavorting with spirits that must only exist in their own ‘twisted’ minds, than it ever was for anyone at all to truly believe in something like the walking dead.
An eerie silence hung around the two women who continued to sit near the bed waiting for their employer to awaken. Ana tried to focus on a book as Chantarell sat at the opposite end of the couch fussing with her newest dress that she had been making, while not really accomplishing anything. Both women looked from his sleeping form back toward the front door, in turns, as if waiting for the lost young man to burst through the door and push them into some kind of deadly action to protect the man they both, truly, loved.
Though that instance did not come to pass before their shared lover finally stirred as the sun disappeared, making way for the moon to become the only source of light in the cooling nighttime sky.
“Haven, you’re awake.” Ana smiled to him with obvious relief flooding her as she set aside the book while Haven stretched and glanced toward her with appreciative, though slightly confused, blue eyes of his own.
“It is sunset. That’s the routine after all.” he chided her softly as he also cast another smile towards his other lover, who honestly looked closer to his age than even her youthful mother looked, as Haven himself, did not look a day over eighteen or nineteen, the same age that their earlier visitor appeared to be. When, in actuality, Haven had actually walked the earth for nearly one-hundred-and-forty long years.
“We had a visitor.” Chantarell’s youthful impatience, and growing nervousness, forced her to pipe up, despite how very distracted she usually was by Haven’s nude body rising from their shared bed as he reached for his own clothing.
He glanced back at the two women over his shoulder as he slowly slid the pants over his beautiful body, “When was this?” he asked, not immediately showing the nervousness of the two women, as all three of them had remained clearly unharmed through the course of the day he had been forced to sleep through.
“Less than an hour ago.” Ana responded quickly, “We think he might even still be out there.” she added worriedly.
“Well, who is he?” Haven asked, still seeming more curious, rather than worried, as he slid into a nearby shirt as well.
“I don’t know. He’s a little older than me only, but he was asking about one of the former servants, I think.” Chantarell relayed the details of the ever so brief conversation the two had shared.
“He’s only a little older than you?” Haven thought on the statement a moment as he pulled his long locks from the back of the shirt, before adding, “Did he say what servant he was looking for?” he asked warily.
“Yeah, Ezekial Beringer, I think.” Chantarell easily answered as she immediately noticed the knowing look that passed between Haven and Ana, a look that also seemed to be marred by a deep, deep sadness to it as well, “You guys know who he was, and who this boy is?” Chantarell interrupted the look between the other two, which still seemed somehow quite sorrowful.
“It’s Sean.” was the quiet statement offered by both her mother and their shared lover, in the same moment.