A Sense of Distance
A week and a half later.
Mr. Courbet had advised Elise to the rest of the week off school in order to fully recover from her recent blood loss. Ever since Lucius had told her that he would stop drinking her blood, he had avoided her. He did not come to check up on her, nor did he join her and his father for their meals.
Even though Elise had the company of Mr. Courbet, she still felt lonely without Lucius. It had been several days since she returned to school, and she missed how he would wait for her in the morning, or after school to catch the bus together. This included the promises he made to bring her anywhere around Whitby or just outside the town.
“You barely had any asthma attack! The signs are beginning to show… that you’re losing your humanness.”
Lucius’ words from that day had haunted her mind. Growing up with asthma had hindered Elise’s physical ability, and sometimes, the symptoms would act up whenever she got stressed in certain situations. Since Lucius told her that she had started to change abnormally, Elise did not know whether to feel scared or relieved.
Scared, because she was gradually losing her humanness? Or was she supposed to feel relieved, because she would not have to worry about night attacks and could now participate in any physical activity?
One morning, Elise entered the dining room for breakfast. She found Mr. Courbet sitting at his usual place at the table, and as expected, there was no sign of Lucius. I guess Lucius took the early bus again. She thought to herself.
“Are you perhaps, suffering from withdrawals of not having your blood sucked by Lucius?” asked Mr. Courbet out of the blue.
Elise flushed when she heard this. She knew Mr. Courbet was not wrong, because there had been several nights where she would dream of Lucius penetrating her skin with his fangs.
“It must have hurt you,” said Mr. Courbet. “When Lucius told you that he was not going to feed off you anymore. Your mind and body must have become accustomed to being attacked by him.”
“You couldn’t be more right,” replied Elise quietly. “It feels so lonely without him by my side. Whenever he bit me, it was painful. But for some reason, the pain started making me feel excited. Even though he stopped biting me, I can still feel his hot breath and the sharpness of his fangs on my neck.”
“I think Lucius was right to refrain from biting you,” Mr. Courbet told Elise.
“What do you mean?” she exclaimed.
“I mean exactly what I said,” he replied. “Lucius is the type of man who does things for a reason, even if he ends up hurting others to do so. I have also noticed it to. Recently, you’ve had no asthma attacks since your trip to Robin Hood’s Bay, and you are appearing to be unusually fit for a person with asthma.”
“Does that mean I’m becoming a vampire?” asked Elise.
“Gradually so,” said Mr. Courbet. “Do you remember what I told you after Lucius first bit you?”
“No,” said Elise with a quizzical expression. “It has been a while, so I don’t remember.”
“I said; if you allow yourself to succumb to such masochist desires, you will eventually lose your humanness and become a vampire,” he explained. “This brings me to my next question, do you have any intention of becoming a vampire?”
Me, become a vampire? Thought Elise to herself. She had not thought about it. All she had been focused on was Lucius’ wellbeing. She was fine letting him have her blood, but never had she considered becoming a vampire. It would be cool, but to live an eternal life sounded like a burden.
“I can’t quite answer that question as of yet,” she told Mr. Courbet. “All I was focused on was Lucius’ health. I didn’t want him to suffer anymore from blood withdrawals.”
“I admire your selflessness and honesty Elise,” said Mr. Courbet. “However, this brings me to my last question. Do you love Lucius for himself, or do you only love him because of the pleasure you receive when he drinks your blood?”
Elise tensed up when she heard this question. She was certain that she had fallen for Lucius because of his genuine kindness which he often denied. Or was that what she had wanted to believe? Was she actually denying her overwhelming masochist desires?
“What are you talking about?” she nervously asked Mr. Courbet, “Of course I love Lucius as a person! He’s always been kind to me, even if he denies it.”
“I’m only asking because you keep telling me that you came to fall in-love with Lucius for himself,” explained Mr. Courbet. “Seeing that you are upset that he has refrained from taking your blood, I’m beginning to wonder if your feelings for him are really genuine. There are people in this world who claim to love an individual, but they’re only committing to them for their own benefits. In your case, it is possible that you only love Lucius because of the pleasures you experience from being bitten.”
Hearing all this, Elise found herself unable to deny Mr. Courbet’s claims. She had grown accustomed to Lucius biting and drinking her blood. Once he had stopped, her desire for pleasure had drastically increased.
“I’m not saying that I don’t believe that you’re in-love with my son,” said Mr. Courbet. “I know that you truly have fallen for him, but I’m only telling you this because I’m worried for you. It is tormenting when one cannot differentiate true love and masochistic desires. But most importantly, I want both you and Lucius to be happy.”
“Thank you, Mr. Courbet,” said Elise quietly.
After finishing her breakfast, Elise headed to school. The bus ride felt lonely. She recalled how she and Lucius would sometimes sit in silence, or talk about random things that had happened the previous day, or when they wanted to know each other better.
“There are people in this world who claim to love an individual, but they’re only committing to them for their own benefits.”
Mr. Courbet’s words from this morning were stuck in her mind. Was she really in-love with Lucius? Or had she been unknowingly feigning her feelings for him in an attempt to deny her desire for his fangs?
“Mr. Courbet’s right,” she quietly whispered to herself. “I can’t tell the difference between love and desire. What should I do?”
French was the last class of the day for Elise. For the majority of the lesson, she could barely pay attention. All she could think about was the pep talk from Mr. Courbet and how Lucius was avoiding her. She randomly took her mind off everything by doodling in her workbook, doing a rough mini sketch of Lucius’ face.
Unbeknownst to Elise, Monsieur Archambeau was observing her from the corner of his eye. A faint flash of red appeared in his emerald green eyes when he saw her doodle of Lucius. Has mademoiselle fallen this much for Monsieur Courbet? He quietly wondered to himself. Monsieur Archambeau quietly gritted his teeth as he inaudibly muttered under his breath that he was running out of time.
The school bell finally rang, signalling the end of another school day. Just as Elise was about to leave the classroom, Monsieur Archambeau called out to her. For some strange reason, Elise found herself unable to refuse her teacher as he beckoned her to stay behind in the classroom for a bit.
“Mademoiselle Benoit-Smith,” he said. “I’ve noticed that you have been spacing out a lot today. Is there something on your mind?”
“Nothing really,” replied Elise sheepishly. “I was just a bit ill last week, hence my week long absence. Though, I’m feeling much better now thank you very much.”
“Does it have something to do with those bandages around your neck?” asked Monsieur Archambeau as his emerald green eyes narrowed.
Elise tensed up as her hand instinctively reached up to touch her neck. Particularly the areas where Lucius had bitten her. The wounds were still slightly sore, and they were very likely to take a month or few to fully heal.
“I do not mean to poke my nose into your business, but are you having problems at home with your adoptive family?” asked Monsieur Archambeau.