Elise cringed nervously in her seat when she sat with Lucius at one of the small tables in the cafeteria. She could hear some of the female students whispering about how unusual it was to see Lucius invite a girl to sit with him for lunch. From the corner of her eyes, she could tell that their gazes were filled with jealousy and confusion.
“Ignore them,” said Lucius as he twirled his spaghetti onto his fork. “This is the last time I’m going to tell you this. They’re only interested in my appearance. You don’t have to feel ashamed to be with me. Besides, this isn’t the first time we’ve eaten together.”
“O-okay…” said Elise as she picked up her utensils with shaky hands.
Hopefully the female students hadn’t heard the part where Lucius reminded her that they had eaten together previously. As she cut into her chicken, Elise’s eyes kept glancing at the female students who were observing her. All she could hope was that those girls would not bully and harass her.
“So,” said Elise, making another attempt to strike up a conversation with Lucius. “that banter in English class with Mr. Kilbury. Was that prior knowledge before you enrolled here in this school again?”
“Yes.” replied Lucius bluntly. “Father and I became acquainted with Bram Stoker during his visit to Whitby in 1890. We sometimes visited the public lending library on the Harbourside, where Stoker got his inspiration for Dracula.”
“Was that also the place where you met Bram Stoker?” asked Elise who was beginning to feel fascinated.
For some strange reason, the uneasiness she had been feeling was gradually diminishing. Briefly glancing from the corners of her eyes, the female students had seemingly lost interest in her and had gone back to their lunches.
“Yes.” said Lucius. “My father also played a role in Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula. Our ancestors originated from Transylvania, the birthplace of vampires. They fled the country because of Vlad the Impaler who was the ruler at that time. My ancestors immigrated to France where they changed their family name ‘Corb’ to the French equivalent ‘Courbet’.”
“Does that mean, Bram Stoker also knew that you and your father were actually vampires?” asked Elise.
“No,” replied Lucius. “Father just told him about our ancestors. He also told Stoker about the historical and geographical aspects of Transylvania. When we were still in France, father and I would sometimes travel to Transylvania to visit our ancestral home.”
“Were you vampires from the very beginning?” asked Elise out of curiosity.
“My family history goes a long way back,” said Lucius. “I’m told that very first vampire in the Courbet family was Dumitru Corb. He was born a human, but died in 1432 from an unknown illness. However, ten years after his death, he mysteriously rose from his grave and attacked his sister, Luminita. She died a few days after his attack. Strigoi is what the vampires were called at that time. Luminita also became a vampire.”
“What happened to them afterwards?” asked Elise out of curiosity.
“They escaped their village, after several failed attempts to kill them,” continued Lucius. “They settled in Wallachia where Dumitru became a merchant, but they fled again to France during the second reign of Vlad the Impaler in 1456. Dumitru Corb became Dimitrie Courbet while his sister changed her name to Lucile.”
“Were they your grandparents?” asked Elise.
“They’re actually my great-great-grandparents,” replied Lucius. “They married after they settled in Wallachia where my great-grandparents were born. My family then fled to France to escape Vlad the Impaler. Then my great-grandparents had my grandparents who then had my parents. Father was born at the beginning of King Louis XIV’s reign, 1643.”
“I remembered you telling me earlier this morning that your family married their own siblings.” said Elise, “And you also said that vampires age at least ten human years, once every thirty to a hundred years.”
“In my case, everyone in my family aged ten human years once every thirty years,” said Lucius. “They stopped aging once they reached their mid-thirties. When I used to feast on human blood, I also aged the same as them. However, I stopped aging when I went off human blood and converted to blood tablets. That’s why I physically look like a teenager even today.”
Placing his cutleries back on his now empty plate, Lucius reached into his trouser pocket and pulled out his pill box. Handpicking one of the tablets, he popped it into his mouth and swallowed it with his saliva.
“You should finish up too,” he told Elise. “Didn’t you want to know the way to the library?”
Realising that she had only eaten half of her lunch, Elise quickly began to stuff her mouth with the remaining food on her plate. She had not realised that her conversation with Lucius aroused her interest to such an extent. So much, that she had forgotten about her lunch.
Elise hiccupped as she rubbed her bloated belly, while Lucius guided her to the library. She probably should not have eaten so fast. They still had twenty-five minutes of their lunch break left before the last two hours of school today.
“The library was one of the Duchess’s prized collection,” Lucius told Elise. “She was also an avid collector of books. Some of the books are in a state of disrepair from old age, so they need to be handled with care.”
They soon arrived in front of a pair of large wooden doors with gold handles. Pushing the doors open, Lucius stepped aside to allow Elise to enter first. The library had a second floor with ornate iron balusters with wooden handrails, and a spiral staircase for access. Landscape paintings and portraits depicting the former owners and the school’s founders adorned the wooden walls.
There was a mix of old and new books on the bookcases of both the first and second floors. The first floor had two long reading tables, one on both sides of the room. In the very centre of the library, there was a pair of sofas and a coffee table in front of an unlit fireplace.
The library was illuminated by the sun shining through the gothic windows, some of the panels consisting of coloured glass. The windows were framed with modern velvet curtains, coloured and designed to match the historical aspects of the library.
“The fireplace is lit during the winter,” said Lucius. “It’s also one of the reasons I like coming here. There is even a room in the library which functions as a meeting room for the School Governors and the Diocese of York. If the room is not in use, it also functions as a study room.”
Lucius led Elise through the library and up the spiral staircase to the second floor. The space between the bookcases built into the walls and the balusters on the second floor was quite narrow, but it was wide enough for people to pass through. They soon stopped at another set of doors which opened to reveal the meeting room and study room.
The walls were bookcases filled with old fashioned volumes, and an iron netting to prevent people from touching them. Elise knew it meant that those books were only for display purposes. The centre of the room had a long wooden table with velvet-cushioned wooden chairs covering all of the table’s sides. Just like the main library, the room was also illuminated by the gothic windows draped with the same velvet curtains downstairs.
“I don’t know which is better,” said Elise who was staring around in awe. “The library in your manor, or the library here.”
“They’re pretty much the same to me,” shrugged Lucius. “Anyway, always be sure to check with Miss Halloway before you use the study room.”
Elise nodded as Lucius escorted her out of the room and back into the library. Just as they had descended the staircase back to the first floor, Elise spotted Miss Halloway cataloguing some books on the computer at her desk. She was not there when they first entered. Probably still at lunch or elsewhere during that time. Miss Halloway looked up from her computer and called out to the pair, supposedly having had heard their footsteps.
“Elise!” she exclaimed, “Did you manage to find your way to the library?”
“No,” replied Elise modestly. “Lucius showed me the way during lunch.”
“Now that’s unusual!” said Miss Halloway, “Lucius doesn’t usually hang out with anyone at school, but it’s good to see that he has opened up to someone.”
“What do you mean?” asked Elise.
“Well...” said Miss Halloway.