Eyes Cold Like Winter

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The First Night

Mr. Courbet lead Elise out of the conservatory, closing the door behind him. They then made their way up the grand staircase to the second floor. Opening a pair of large ornate doors, a grand ballroom was revealed with paintings adorning every inch of the walls. Elise recognised the period styles, ranging from Baroque, Neoclassical, Romantic, Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Surreal Art.

“I prefer the Old Masters than the current generation of painting,” said Mr. Courbet. “The Neoclassical and Romantic periods were the earliest forms of contemporary art.”

He gestured to several paintings which Elise recognised were by French painters, David, Gericault and Delacroix.

“Unfortunately this part of the collection is not the original works of the artists themselves,” sighed Mr. Courbet. “I commissioned a painter to replicate the original paintings. Most of the original artwork are in France, while others have found their places in America or Europe. The other paintings in the ballroom were purchased at auctions, most notably Christie’s and Sotheby’s. I also use the ballroom for functional purposes such as hosting soirees or meetings with the NHS board.”

“I sometimes visited the Bowes Museum back in County Durham,” Elise told Mr. Courbet. “It was where I got my inspirations for my artworks.”

“I am glad you are enjoying this Elise,” said Mr. Courbet. “and I am confident that you will settle in nicely.”

Mr. Courbet then showed Elise the kitchen, the main dining room and the bathroom, before concluding at the bedroom he had designated for Elise.

“Tomorrow, I will have my personal tailor take your measurements for clothes,” he told her. “Also, if there is anything troubling you, feel free to bring them up to me.”

“I’ve got my own clothes!” exclaimed Elise, “You’re being too generous Mr. Courbet.”

“You are being too humble Elise,” said Mr. Courbet. “As my ward, it is essential to keep up appearance. It is also because we need to get your measurements for your school uniform. Preparing just your school uniform is also not enough, hence why I decided to feature a wardrobe of clothes as an additional asset.”

“Thank you, Mr. Courbet,” replied Elise. “I appreciate your thoughtfulness.”

“Excellent!” he said before checking his watch, “It is an hour till dinner, how about you go freshen yourself up and have an early night afterwards?”

Elise nodded as she opened the door to her new room. Just as she was about to enter, Mr. Courbet suddenly cleared his throat as though he had forgotten something.

“The key to your room,” he said as he handed a key to Elise. “Before you go to bed, be sure to lock your door. Although I have told you that the curfew in this manor is ten o’clock, you are free to step out of your room for any necessary means. However, I advise you to remain in your room afterwards before midnight.”

“Does that mean I can use the bathroom, or get a snack or drink from the kitchen, but not after midnight?” asked Elise.

“Precisely,” said Mr. Courbet. “So long as you are back in your room before twelve. Due to your asthma, you still need your rest.”

“Thank you, Mr. Courbet,” said Elise as she took the key. “I will keep that in mind.”

Closing the door behind her, Elise felt that Mr. Courbet was hiding something from her. It was admirable to see the master of the manor being very considerate to his household staff, but was there another reason why the curfew had to be at ten o’clock? She really wanted to know, but if she were to ask him to explain in detail, his answer would probably be the same. Everyone needs their rest, especially you who has asthma.

Glancing at her bed, she noticed that a bath towel, a robe, and a white nightdress had been specially prepared for her. The hospitality so far was like the service at a five-star hotel. Finding a nicer set of clothes from her luggage, Elise gathered her toiletries and headed to the bathroom to shower.

Dinner went smoothly. It was the first time Elise had a classic three course meal cooked to perfection, compared to the meals she had at the orphanage. She remembered the types of meats she had would taste dry unless it was drowned in gravy.

Elise also noticed how Lucius sat at the opposite end of the long table, facing his father. Judging from the father and son banter from earlier that afternoon, it seemed that their relationship was a bit strained. She decided not to bring it up, as it would create an awkward atmosphere.

Getting ready for bed, Elise admired herself in the mirror, wearing the nightdress that had been prepared for her. She liked how the nightdress outlined her bust, with a square neckline exposing her chest and collarbones.

Remembering to lock the door, Elise placed the key in the drawer of her dressing table before using her inhaler. She then flopped onto the bed and buried her face into the soft pillows, inhaling the scent of softness and warmth. Slipping under the covers, Elise shut her eyes hoping to get some sleep.

It was not long into the night when she was woken up to the soft crumple of her duvet, and the bed creaking. Someone was clearly in the room and on her bed, but she could have sworn that she had locked the door. I need to get out of here! Was her first thought.

Elise abruptly sat up and just when she was about to throw the covers off, a pair of strong arms grabbed and pinned her back down on the bed. She squinted in pain when she felt her wrists being gripped tightly as they were pressed deeper into the mattress, while her legs were trapped beneath the mysterious assailant.

“Don’t move,” whispered a deep voice. “Prepare to be intoxicated by the waves of ecstasy.”

“What do you mea-?!” exclaimed Elise, but before she could finish she squealed in alarm when she felt a warm, but wet tongue glide across her neck.

Without warning, there was a sharp pain in her neck as though she was being pierced by a pair of staplers. Elise wanted to scream in agony, but she could not. The pain she had felt the first time gradually diminished into numbness, spreading all over her body. This feels so good… thought Elise. Wait, what am I thinking? Is this the ecstasy her assailant spoke of?

Her heart accelerated as her body got hotter and hotter. Pleasure had overwhelmed her senses, causing her vision to become hazy when she saw her assailant pull away from her neck. She vaguely saw a pair of bloodied fangs gleaming and dripping with… her blood.

“Give me your everything,” the voice told her. “Your blood, body, heart and future.”

No! thought Elise to herself. This can’t be happening! Snap out of it, snap out of it! She sat up in bed, her hands flying to catch hold of her neck. No puncture marks, and no blood. Turning on the bedside light, Elise saw that no one was in the room. Clambering out of bed, she hurried to the dressing table and opened the drawer. The key was still there. She then tested the door and it was locked.

“So it was a dream after all,” she sighed in relief. “but it seemed so real…”

Elise could feel goosebumps on her skin, not because she had gotten out of bed. She was scared. That person bit me like a vampire would. She thought to herself. But there’s no way vampires actually exist.

Her chest began to tighten and her breathing becoming irregular, leading to a series of coughing fits. She barely made it to her bed as she grabbed her inhaler and took a few puffs, which gradually relieved her of her shortness of breath. It was just a dream. Elise reassured herself. First nights in a new place are sometimes scary.

Meanwhile, in his room, Lucius lay on his bed. Letting out a sigh, he quietly wondered, “She looks just like her. Could she have been…? No, it can’t be, they’re nothing like each other.”

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