It was the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows. Elise was crammed into one of the church pews at the school’s cathedral. Today’s celebration day began with a whole school mass.
While listening to the opening prayer, Elise glanced at the impressive stained glass windows, marble engravings depicting the Stations of the Cross, wood-carved biblical figures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, a spiral staircase leading to the choir loft, and the sanctuary had a spectacular marble engraving of all the saints behind the altar.
It’s a lot more grander than the church at St. Jerome-Emiliani. Thought Elise to herself. She recalled the atmosphere in the orphanage church; the grey stone walls and tombs which emitted cool air, and the simple gothic arched windows that allowed light to brighten up the interior.
The church she was currently in gave her a sense of warmth. It was not because she was crammed into one pew, it was the colourful lights being refracted from the stained glass windows and onto the white walls. For as long as she could remember, the world in her eyes seemed bleak. Ever since she began her new life as Mr. Courbet’s ward, colours had vividly brightened her view of the world.
Elise briefly glanced back at the pew behind her. Lucius had been seated on the other end of the row, and he was yawning out of boredom. He doesn’t believe in God, does he? She thought. It was not long until she felt her eyes widening in surprise when she saw Lucius covering his mouth with a nauseous expression. It looked as though he had seen something morbid.
The students nor the teachers didn’t seem to notice Lucius as he hurriedly left his seat and headed towards the exit. They were too focused on the sermon. It was unusual for Elise to lose concentration during mass. Back at St. Jerome-Emiliani, she took every liturgy seriously, compared to the orphans who preferred to go about the town.
Elsewhere, Lucius stumbled through the gothic arches. He barely made it to the stone bench as he fumbled through his pockets for his pill box. Handpicking one of the tablets, he popped it into his mouth and swallowed it with his saliva. However, the pain did not nor gradually start subsiding.
“How… can… this… be… happening?” he muttered.
Beads of sweat trickled down his forehead as he convulsed. His eyes were glowing red as he bit his lower lip with his fangs, causing blood to trickle down his chin. He took a tablet earlier this morning, but how could the effects wear off this quickly? I only just modified them! He thought, Why is it not working?
“Blood…” he snarled, “I... need... blood!”
Not the blood modified into tablets, but actual human blood. Slowly getting up from the bench, Lucius staggered towards the main school building. He could not remain at school in his current state. If he lost control of his vampire instincts, who knows what those humans would do to him.
Back in the church, the choir sang Salve Regina as the bread and wine were brought before the altar. As Elise quietly sang along with the choir, her eyes remained fixated on the spot where Lucius had previously sat. He had been gone for a long time now.
The choir ended today’s liturgy with the hymn, Virgin Blessed, Thou Star the Fairest. Elise followed the flow of students exiting the church and dispersing for break. At the cafeteria, today’s cakes was chocolate brownies with chocolate butter cream icing and sprinkles, served with cups of English Breakfast tea for snack.
As Elise nibbled at her chocolate cake and sipped her tea, she could not find Lucius no matter where she glanced. When she noticed how much time she had left for break, Elise quickly finished her snack and headed to the library.
Miss Halloway was there. When she saw Elise, she gave her a wave.
“Good morning Elise!” she called out, “What brings you here this morning?”
“I guess it’s because I enjoy your company?” Elise shyly replied, “I also wanted to thank you properly for helping me yesterday.”
“It’s not a problem!” exclaimed Miss Halloway, “That aside, is Lucius not with you today?”
“He disappeared during liturgy this morning,” replied Elise. “I saw him leave his seat, but he never returned.”
“I see.” said Miss Halloway.
“That aside,” said Elise. “do you know what kind of person Lucius is like at school? Even before I came?”
“Lucius actually transferred here just two years ago,” replied Miss Halloway. “I heard that the same happened with his father and grandfather.”
It was no longer a surprise for Elise, since Lucius had explained everything to her the previous day.
“I first met Lucius when he came straight to the library on his first day here,” Miss Halloway continued. “The expression he had on his face that time looked as though he was already familiar with the place. He told me that he was using the library to hide from the girls. I guess it’s because not a lot of students come here nowadays.”
“What was your first impression of him?” asked Elise.
“The type who likes to keep to themselves,” replied Miss Halloway. “Due to being popular with the girls, most of the boys don’t take him too kindly. I think his aloof appearance attracts girls, but repels the boys. He also never participates in any of the schools' social events either.”
This caused Elise to be reminded of when she first met Lucius. He was quite hostile towards her. Unlike the other girls who were attracted by his appearance, Elise was drawn to him because of the hint of despair she saw in his amber eyes. His eyes were cold like winter. She recalled.
“Did Lucius confide in anything with you?” Elise then asked, “You seem to be the only one at school he trusts.”
“Usually, he complained about the girls chasing him,” said Miss Halloway. “Other times, he would talk about his father’s lectures about reverting to some old-fashioned method which was a part of his family tradition.”
Looks like Miss Halloway doesn’t know that Lucius is actually a vampire. Thought Elise. Even if she told Miss Halloway about the existence of vampires, she’d probably brush it off as some teenage fantasy.
It was not long until the bell rang to end break. English was next on Elise’s timetable today. After parting ways with Miss Halloway, Elise hurried back to her homeroom for English. Lucius still had not returned.
Today’s English lesson was more like a Religious Studies lesson. Mr. Kilbury did mention in yesterday’s homeroom session that they would spend the rest of today studying about the feast day. Elise was familiar with the seven sorrows of the Virgin Mary; how her heart was pierced by the sword of sorrow when Simeon foretold what would become of her son, Jesus. The escape to Egypt and the events that led to Jesus’ crucifixion, death and burial.
The rest of the school day progressed as normal. Leaving through the school gates, Elise took a detour into the main city of Whitby. This was after a conversation she had with Miss Halloway during lunch.
“You’ve never tried makeup?” exclaimed Miss Halloway.
“I don’t know why,” said Elise. “but I wasn’t interested in makeup before. It’s probably because I never really cared about appearance until I came here.”
“Just remember Elise,” said Miss Halloway. “you don’t have to wear makeup because the other girls are doing it. Do it for yourself.”
Elise entered Boots, heading straight to the cosmetics section. Fumbling through her wallet, she had saved up just enough to spoil herself. Miss Halloway had also written her a list of recommended products for first-time users.
A while later, Elise left Boots, satisfied with her purchase. It was getting late, so she headed straight to the bus station to catch the bus back to Wintervale Manor. She was greeted by Mr. Courbet when she returned.
“Welcome back Elise,” he said. “How was today’s feast day?”
“It was interesting,” she replied. “but Lucius left during the morning liturgy and he wasn’t at school for the rest of the day.”
“I see,” said Mr. Courbet. “Lucius returned home this morning and has confined himself in the conservatory since then.”
“Is he alright?” asked Elise worriedly.
“Thank you for your concerns,” said Mr. Courbet as he placed his hand on her shoulder. “but I’m sure Lucius knows how to take care of himself.”
He then skilfully changed the subject by informing Elise that her wardrobe of new clothes had arrived while she was at school. He suggested her to go try them on before dinner.
After freshening up, Elise chose an off-shoulder cream coloured sweater top, a red-checked pleated skirt, and black ankle-length boots to top it off. I feel really refreshed wearing new clothes. She thought. The clothes she had worn at St. Jerome-Emiliani were hand-me-downs or donated from charities.
“You have good taste in styling,” Mr. Courbet told her as she sat down for dinner. “The clothes you are wearing right now suits you very well.”
“Thank you Mr. Courbet,” said Elise. “but how is Lucius now?”
“Unfortunately,” he replied. “Lucius refused to join us for dinner.”
They discontinued their conversation after that. Elise could not help but worry about Lucius. Mr. Courbet insisted that his son was capable of taking care of himself, but she wanted to make sure that he was alright.
After dinner, Elise found herself heading towards the conservatory instead of her bedroom. Opening the door, the room was dark with the moonlight shining through the glass windows and roof. Goosebumps crept all over her skin as she walked past the plants and towards a dimly lit area where Lucius’s laboratory stood.
The table that held all his laboratory equipment was a complete mess. There were handmade tablets scattered on the floor, some had been stepped on and turned into dust. Elise finally spotted Lucius curled up on one of the rattan sofas. Beads of sweat rolled down his forehead as he clutched his chest while breathing laboured breaths. He was in a lot of pain.
“Lucius?” asked Elise as she approached him.
“Blood…” he snarled quietly, “I must… have… blood!”
Before Elise could say something, she felt Lucius grab her arm in an iron grip. He pulled her down onto the rattan sofa, pressing her body into the soft cushions. Elise’s heart pounded loudly when she saw his amber eyes glow red, and his fangs glistening in the moonlight.
“Curiosity killed the cat, huh?” he taunted, “You’re nothing but a feast to me you stupid girl…”