Where did all the time go? I had eons. I had sunrises, sunsets, I had the thrill of the burn. I always wondered what the sand at the bottom of the ocean would feel like between my toes. Centuries ago someone told me that sharks fear vampires. That when a vampire swims, their unbeating heart makes no rhythm or ripple in the water. The shark would know that something unnatural hunts its waters and would swim away deep into the dark of the ocean.
But I never believed that I would ever be sixteen again or at Wickham Boarding School, imprisoned in a job at a library. Not to mention, at that particular moment, investigating a long lane of books. Actually, I was hiding near the stacks so I could watch the movements of boy 500 years younger than I. ‘A veritable child,’ Rhode would have scolded. ‘What could you possibly have in common?’ But Rhode, my Rhode didn’t take breaths. Never a twinkle in his eye. My time at Wickham Boarding school was a machination of Rhode’s vampiric mind. He was always thinking ahead, the constant planner, the orchestrater…the mover of my bones.
But who was this Justin Enos to me? He stepped to the glass door of a private study room down the hall from where I stood. There was a whole line of these rooms flanked with glass windows and doors. Justin grasped the silver door handle and stepped inside. I watched the hunch of his back when he placed his book bag on the floor, then the crook and curve of his arm as he lowered himself into the seat. He was so…warm. I leaned closer to the shelves of books, trying to conceal myself. I took a breath, inhaling the old paper and musty smell of ancient bindings. Justin Enos has a presence, a gleaming aura. He is alive.
“This is a job, Ms. Beaudonte. Not your time to day dream.”
My eyes snapped up from the row of books, the librarian, my overseer, handed me a pile of books. She was a tall woman with a thin nose and eyes shaped like a cat.
“Alphabetize these. Might as well learn sometime,” she barked.
The books she handed me all belonged in the plant life section of the library. I’d heard that this school, Wickham had a magnificent botany department. I had seen nothing of the sort as of yet, but I heard that there was a greenhouse. I’m not sure if anyone besides me was excited to go into that greenhouse but as a vampire, herbs and plant life were the only connection I had to human world. I followed the signs running along the sides of the bookcases, which directed me toward the science stacks.
But I didn’t need books to tell me about the healing power of plants and flowers. I knew a rose in your tea would bring you love.
The burned petals of a peony will rid you of a broken heart. But I knew much more than that…
If you cut an apple in half, the core will make the shape of a pentacle.
If you wish on a shooting star – you will conjure change.
So many curses, I thought as I kept walking down the aisle toward the study atrium where Justin Enos was flipping through the pages of one of his books. The truth was that I lived my whole existence by the pulsations of the stars. Rhode told me that when the Ritual first came to be, hundreds of vampires died, desperate to achieve human life. All failed and the Ritual became myth. But he knew, he said. He knew it was the intention of your actions that mattered. No vampire he had ever known cared for the well-being of another vampire; it went against the natural make up of a vampire to feel compassion towards another being. I remember saying there was nothing natural about a vampire. About us.
I stopped and leaned against another stack of books this time just a bookcase or two away from the study room. I opened one of the books, Natural Holisitic Remedies and lifted the thin page. Even a hundred years before, last when I was aware of the world, paper was different. Thicker. It had a substance and weight. This was so thin, like gauze. I looked down at the contents of the page.
I closed my eyes and the memory of a conversation came back to me. A conversation and the deep, woody smell of frankincense.
“The contours of your face stir my soul. You could make wings out of lead,” Rhode said and moved a long strand of hair behind my shoulder. “And you kill so beautifully. No fear.”
“I’m not afraid of this life,” I said.
We sat on a beach at nightfall sometime in the early 16th century. We were in England along the coast, not far from London. I was still a young vampire then, considered a beast of the lowest order. But, then again, I was only learning.
Frankincense smoldered in a scallop shell between us, the smoke swirled toward the sky.
The sun had long left the sky and I faced Rhode, he faced me, his legs bent in front of him, and his arms lazily strung over his kneecaps. We had recently come back from Italy, where an artist named Michaelangelo had sculpted a man out of stone. The David they called it and I spent hours staring at his hands. Beautiful fingers. The slope of a wrist. Rhode’s hand hung like that over his knee. I reached up and touched our hands, fingertip to fingertip.
But we were vampires, no longer hungry from our early evening murdering a peasant couple. We could have cleaned the blood from beneath our nails. Even though we touched finger to finger, there was nothing to feel. Words would be our skin. Our voices and intentions would fill the gap of humanity between us.
“This isn’t filing books, Ms. Beaudonte,” the pesky librarian passed me, her soft sneakers making a squishing sound against the soft carpet of the library.
My fangs would have ripped her neck in two. I would have left shreds of her skin on the floor and liked it. She pointed down the aisle, closer to where Justin Enos was studying. I walked, carrying the books in my hand keeping my eyes focused on the glass windows of the study room ahead of me.
Only, I hadn’t realized that the width of the book case had been blocking the entirety of the door, and someone else had joined him in that room. Justin and his girlfriend, Tracy Sutton were pressed chest to chest, his lips against hers, and they moved their mouths, together.
You could make wings out of lead.
Something inside my chest clenched but I couldn’t look away. Both of them were so…alive. They seemed filled with something I could not touch, like a secret to life or love and living that I could not wield with my hands. His hands trickled up and down her back and while I stood there, motionless, watching. I wanted to be Tracy Sutton. I wanted to be this insipid, useless girl with no original thought in her head so I could feel like she did.
Was that so wrong? I thought. To want to burn? I had smoldered for Rhode but never felt it with my body. Now I had a human body and could only watch others, I had no way to wield this fire within me. When Justin broke away from Tracy he looked into her eyes and then pulled her close to his chest. As her cheek rested against him, he looked through the glass window, directly at me.
Our eyes hung there, suspended looking at one another – mine blue, his green – and then it was as though the wind was knocked out me. I remembered that I was standing there in the middle of a library aisle, staring at this boy. My books flew to the floor and my cheeks burned.
“Who are you looking at?” I heard Tracy say only then realizing that the door of their study atrium was just barely open.
Tracy turned and when I looked up she was glaring at me, her long blonde hair cascading down her shoulders and over her breasts. She rolled her eyes and raised her hand, placed it on the door and slammed it shut.