“How did you sleep last night, Elise?” Mr. Courbet asked the next morning during breakfast.
“I had a bit of an asthma attack,” she nervously replied. “but after using my inhaler, I slept alright.”
“Perhaps it was just your nerves from your first night here,” he assured her. “Asthma attacks can occur when someone is stressed or anxious. But I am glad that you are alright now.”
Lucius sat in the very same place as he did during dinner last night. He was in his school uniform, exactly how he was dressed the first time Elise saw him. Lucius then reached into his trouser pockets and pulled out a pill box which raised Elise’s interest. He handpicked one of the tablets, popped it into his mouth and swallowed it with his saliva before standing up and leaving the table abruptly.
“My son suffers from anaemia,” said Mr. Courbet quickly. “That’s why he takes those tablets. However, it does not affect his physical activities at school.”
Hearing this, Elise was reminded of her dream from last night. She wanted to tell Mr. Courbet about her dream, but surely he would pass it off as some silly nightmare. Her thoughts were interrupted when Mr. Courbet informed her that his tailor would be arriving after lunch to take her measurements for her new wardrobe.
Elise sighed in exhaustion, rolling her shoulders and head to relieve the stiffness from holding her posture too long. I didn’t think taking measurements would be this tiresome. She thought to herself as she headed to the dining room. The door was slightly ajar, and just as Elise was about to enter the room, she heard the father and son having a discussion.
“As I’ve said,” said Lucius, slamming his fists on the table. “I’m not going to do it the old-fashioned way! I’ve gone off it since that time. So long as I keep taking my tablets, I will be fine.”
“Lucius,” sighed Mr. Courbet. “you cannot keep clinging onto the past. I have been too lenient on you since that time, because I thought if I left you alone, you would eventually get over it. Seems I was wrong. You have become too rebellious. As my son, I cannot allow you to abandon our tradition and lifestyle. Hence why, you have to do things the old-fashioned way in order to truly survive in this present time. One day, your tablets might not be able to suppress your withdrawals and cravings for blood.”
Hearing the word ‘blood’, Elise froze. She remembered Mr. Courbet telling her that Lucius was anaemic. Anaemia is a condition where a person’s red blood cells is less than a normal person’s. She recalled. But Lucius does not look like someone who suffers from anaemia. So what were those tablets really for?
What ‘old-fashioned method’ did father and son have to use in order to survive? What was this tradition and lifestyle that Mr. Courbet wanted his son to not abandon? And what is all this talk about blood? Her thoughts were interrupted when Mr. Courbet called her into the dining room, supposedly having noticed her lingering outside.
Dinner went smoothly again. Elise remained quiet. Even Mr. Courbet and Lucius did not speak throughout dinner, supposedly after their seemingly heated disagreement. As she ate her dinner, in the corner of her eyes, she noticed Lucius vaguely observing her. Does he want to know me? she thought, If he wanted to know more about me, he could’ve just asked. But he’s probably not going to be interested in someone who’s been an orphan for most of her life.
After dinner, Elise prepared to go to bed. However, she was unable to gradually fall asleep this time because of the dream from last night. She could not help but wonder if she would be attacked in her dreams again by that mysterious assailant.
“My throat feels dry,” sighed Elise as she kicked the covers off. “I’ll probably heat some milk with honey. Hopefully it will help me fall asleep.”
Wrapping herself in a shawl, Elise made her way to the kitchen. Compared to the manor in broad daylight, it looked slightly creepy at night. She felt slight chills down her spine when she saw the ancestral portraits seemingly stare back at her. Elise managed to find her way to the kitchen. No one was there. The servants are most likely abiding to the ten o’clock curfew. She thought.
Elise carefully removed the milk pan off the wall mounts and poured a cup of milk using a mug for measurements. Placing the pan onto the stove, she turned it on using the gas and matches. As she waited for the milk to heat up, Elise rummaged through the cupboard, finding the honey among the jams and the preserves.
Hearing the milk slightly bubbling, Elise turned the stove off and poured the contents into the mug. After washing up, she added the honey and gave the milk a stir until the honey had completely dissolved. At St. Jerome-Emiliani, she would often make herself warm milk and honey in the common room when she struggled to sleep. Elise took a sip of the warm milk before heading back to her room, careful not to spill the contents.
Just as she made it up to the second floor, she spotted the tall figure of Mr. Courbet exiting the bathroom. He was not wearing his suit jacket, tie nor waistcoat. Just a plain white dress shirt and his trousers. Mr. Courbet turned to head in Elise’s direction and was a bit surprised when he saw her.
“Trouble sleeping?” he asked when he saw Elise with her warm milk in her hands.
“Yes,” said Elise. “I already took my inhaler but was unable to sleep. So I thought it’d be nice to heat some milk and mix it with hon-”
Her voice suddenly trailed off when she noticed the collars on Mr. Courbet’s shirt with several red splotches. His hands and mouth were slightly wet, supposedly having just washed his face and hands.
“I hope you don’t mind me asking,” said Elise nervously. “but did you hurt yourself Mr. Courbet?”
“Oh!” he exclaimed, “I just had a shave. I think I might have accidentally cut myself and some blood got onto my shirt. I know it may sound weird, but I prefer shaving in the evening, rather than the morning. It saves a lot of time when I get ready.”
“I see…” said Elise unconvinced, “But I’m glad you’re alright.”
“Thank you for your concerns Elise,” replied Mr. Courbet. “Now let us retire to our rooms. It is almost midnight. There is a lot more to show you other than this manor.”
Mr. Courbet then hurriedly made his way back to his room, passing Elise who stared after him suspiciously. There was not a single cut on his face. She thought. If that was not his blood, whose was it? Was Mr. Courbet not the gentlemen he appeared to be? Was there something he did not want her to know?
When Elise felt that the mug was not as warm as it was when she left the kitchen, she quickly hurried back to her own room. Locking the door behind her, Elise clambered back into her bed with the mug in her hands. Sipping her milk, she began to process all the events that took place since she first arrived.
Mr. Courbet is such a kind and considerate man, especially towards his servants. She thought. He also claimed that his son, Lucius suffers from anaemia, but Lucius does not look unhealthy despite his paleness. There was not a single razor cut on Mr. Courbet’s face, even though he claimed to have cut himself while shaving. I really want to tell him about the dream I had on my first night, but he’ll just probably laugh it off and claim it was a silly nightmare.
Placing the now empty mug on the bedside table, Elise grabbed her sketchbook and HB pencils. Opening the sketchbook to a new page, she hurriedly did a rough sketch of what she remembered of her mysterious assailant. Gradually refining the details, her eyes widened in shock after she added the last finishing touches to her sketch.
There was no clear facial features, but what stood out the most was a pair of fangs.
“It can’t be,” she said quietly. “do vampires actually exist? Was that dream from last night a warning?”