Blackwood farm, p.25

Blackwood Farm, page 25

 part  #9 of  The Vampire Chronicles Series


Blackwood Farm

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  "AUNT QUEEN AND JASMINE DIDN'T LET me down. Whatever Aunt Queen's misgivings about Mona, she would not hurt Mona's feelings. When we arrived, Aunt Queen, with open arms, welcomed Mona to the house, and when I announced that this was my future bride Aunt Queen received this information with sublime equanimity.

  "Jasmine showed Mona up to Pops' room, where all her new clothes were waiting for her, and then we went off to my room, where we would really be during this visit, and we had a scrumptious meal at this very table where you and I are sitting.

  "I don't remember what we actually ate. What I remember is that watching Mona eat was a trip, because I was so infatuated with her, and seeing her handle her knife and fork with such quick gestures and talk in an animated way the whole time made me more truly abandoned to her.

  "I know what I am saying is crazy. But I was so in love with her. I had never known such feelings before, and for the time being they utterly erased the habitual panic I suffered, and they even took away my reasonable fear of the mysterious stranger, though I should add here that there were still plenty of armed security men around our house, even inside of it, and this did also give me some feeling of safety.

  "Of course Aunt Queen wanted to see me alone, but I graciously declined. And when the lunch things were cleared away and Jasmine had polished up the table (and by the way, Jasmine was a stunner in a light navy blue suit and crisp white blouse), I was ready to lock the whole world outside if I could do it.

  " 'Now you understand,' Mona explained. 'This cousin Pierce whom I'm probably going to marry is utterly boring, I mean this cousin is like a loaf of white bread, he has no paranormal powers whatsoever and he is a lawyer already in the firm of Mayfair and Mayfair, where his father, Ryan, is a partner, and Ryan, my beloved Ryan, he's a loaf of white bread too, and their life is just a direct line to conformity and security. ¡¯

  " 'Then why the hell do you keep saying you're going to marry him?' I asked.

  " 'Because I love him,' she said. 'I'm not in love, no, I could never feel that way with him, but I know him and he's beautiful to me -- oh, not beautiful like you, not even tall like you, but beautiful in a calm kind of way, and with Pierce, I hate to say it, but with Pierce I'll probably be able to do what I want to do. I mean Pierce himself is not intense, and I have enough intensity for three people. ¡¯

  " 'Exactly,' I said. 'So this is a safe marriage. ¡¯

  " 'It's a Mayfair marriage,' she returned. 'And Mayfairs like me always marry other Mayfairs. Now it's a cinch that with his background and my background some of our children will be witches --. ¡¯

  " 'There you go with that word again, Mona, what do you mean, "witches"? Does the whole family use that word? Does Fr. Kev use it?¡¯

  "She laughed the sweetest laugh. 'Yeah, the whole family does use it but that's probably on account of the Talamasca, and Aaron Lightner, a member of the Talamasca whom we all loved. We lost him. He died in a terrible accident. But Stirling is our friend now, and Stirling uses the word. You see, the Talamasca is this organization that for centuries watched our family without us ever knowing it. Well, no, that's not entirely true. Sometimes our ancestors knew it. But anyway, the Talamasca made what they call the File on the Mayfair Witches, and after we all read that material we had a better understanding of our history, and yeah, we do refer to some of us as witches. ¡¯

  "I was too intrigued to put another question. She took a big gulp of her caf¨¦ au lait and went on talking.

  "(Jasmine had left us a pot of coffee on a small candle warmer and the warm milk in a pitcher and plenty of sugar, and that was a good thing because we kept drinking it and the littleness of the china cups was annoying. )

  " 'A witch to us is what a witch is to the Talamasca,' said Mona. 'It's a human being who can see and command spirits. You're born a witch and Stirling Oliver has the theory that it has its origins in the physical brain, rather like a person's ability to see fine gradations of color, for instance. But because we can't study those receptors in the brain, because they can't be isolated by science, it sounds mysterious. ¡¯

  " 'In other words,' I said, 'Stirling thinks that someday one will be able to diagnose a witch in someone like you or me?¡¯

  " 'Exactly,' said Mona, 'and Rowan believes this too, and she is carrying out extensive research on this at Mayfair Medical. She has her own lab and she does pretty much what she pleases. I don't want to make her sound like Dr. Frankenstein. What I mean is the Mayfair legacy is so big that she doesn't need grant money, and so she doesn't have to answer to anyone. And she does secret and mysterious research. God only knows all Rowan's projects. I wish I knew what she was up to. ¡¯

  " 'But what can she do if she can't cut into actual brain tissue?' I asked.

  "Mona explained all the routine brain tests that could be run, and I explained that I had been through these and no abnormality had been found.

  " 'I get it,' she said, 'but Rowan is searching with us, she's searching in ways that aren't routine. ' Her face suddenly went dark, and she shook her head. 'There are other tests, blood tests on those of us who have abnormal genes. Yeah, abnormal genes, that's how you'd put it. Because you see, some of us do. That's why my marriage to Pierce will almost certainly happen. He doesn't have the abnormal genes but I do. So it's safe for me to marry Pierce. He's got the clean bill of health. But I wonder sometimes. . . maybe I shouldn't marry at all. ¡¯

  " 'But I have safe genes, don't I?' I insisted. 'Why not forget utterly and totally about Pierce and marry me?¡¯

  "She stared at me for a long moment.

  " 'What is it, Mona?' I asked.

  " 'Nothing. I was just thinking of what it would be like to be married to you. It doesn't much matter about the clean bill of health. We'd surely have witch children. But I'm not too certain it would matter. But Quinn, you have to give up on that idea. It's just not going to happen. Besides, I'm only fifteen years old, Quinn. ¡¯

  " 'Fifteen!' I was amazed. 'Well, I'm eighteen,' I said. 'We're both precocious. Our children will be geniuses. ¡¯

  " 'Yeah, no doubt of that,' she said. 'And they'd have private teachers like I do now, and they'd travel the world. ¡¯

  " 'We could travel the world with my Aunt Queen,' I said, 'and with Nash, and he would tell us about all the countries we would be visiting. ¡¯

  "She had the most serene smile. 'It would be a dream,' she said. 'I've been to Europe -- this last year I went all over with Ryan and Pierce -- Ryan is Pierce's father. Ryan is the big lawyer in our lives, though we have a whole family firm of them actually. But anyway, what was I saying? Europe. I could go again and again and again. ¡¯

  " 'Oh, think of it, Mona. You have your passport already, and I have mine. We could just steal you away. Aunt Queen's been pleading with me to go!¡¯

  " 'Your Aunt Queen would never let you steal me,' she laughed. 'I can see she has a venturesome spirit, but she wouldn't agree to kidnapping. Besides, the family would just come after me. ¡¯

  " 'Would they really?' I asked. 'But why, Mona? You speak of your family as though it's a giant prison. ¡¯

  " 'No, Quinn,' she said, 'it's really like a giant garden, but there are garden walls that separate us from the rest of the world. ' She was getting abysmally sad. 'I'm going to cry again and I totally and egregiously hate it. ¡¯

  " 'No, don't cry,' I said. I got the box of tissue for her and set it down before her. 'I totally can't bear the thought of you shedding one tear and if you do I'll swallow it, or I'll dry your eyes with these. Now tell me why they wouldn't let you go to Europe. I mean we'd have Aunt Queen as the perfect chaperone. ¡¯

  " 'Quinn, I'm not just an ordinary Mayfair as I told you. I'm not just an ordinary witch. I'm what they call the Design¨¦e of the Legacy. And the Legacy is something that dates back hundreds of years. It's a great fortune that is inherited by a new woman in each generation. ¡¯

  " 'How big a fortune?¡¯

  " '
It's in the billions,' she replied. 'That's why it could endow Mayfair Medical, and right now the Heiress is Rowan Mayfair. But Rowan can't have a child and I've already been named to succeed Rowan. ¡¯

  " 'I see. They're grooming you and guarding you for the day when you have to take over. ¡¯

  " 'Precisely,' she answered. 'That's why they want me to stop acting wild and sleeping with all my cousins. Since we got back from Europe I've listened pretty much. I don't know what it is with me and sex. I just love it. But you get the idea. I have to occupy a position of honor, if that doesn't sound too egregious. That's why they wanted me to go to Europe, to be educated and cultured and --. ¡¯

  "Again her face went dark, and this time the tears came up to stand in her eyes.

  " 'Mona, tell me,' I pleaded.

  "She shook her head. 'Something bad happened to me,' she said. Her voice was breaking.

  "I got up and I led her away from the table. I shoved back the bedclothes and the two of us kicked off our shoes and we climbed in against the nest of down pillows. Never had I loved my fancy bed so much as when I was lying under that baldachin over there with her. And you have to picture that we were fully clothed, except for the fact that when I started kissing her I opened her blouse all the way down, feeling her breasts, but she didn't mind.

  "But then we tapered off, principally because I was so tired, and then I brought her back to the subject.

  " 'Something bad happened?' I asked her. 'Can you tell me what it was?¡¯

  "For a long time she was silent and then she started to cry again.

  " 'Mona, if anybody hurt you, I'll hurt them,' I said. 'I mean it. Goblin could even --. Tell me what happened. ¡¯

  " 'I had a child,' she said in a hoarse whisper.

  "I said nothing but I could see that she wanted to go on.

  " 'I had a child,' she said, 'and it wasn't what anyone would call a normal child. It was. . . it was different. Very precocious, yes, and perhaps what is best called a mutation. I loved it with my whole soul, it was a beautiful child. But. . . it was taken away. ' She paused, then went on. 'It was taken far away, and I just can't come back from that. I can't stop thinking about that. ¡¯

  " 'You mean they made you give up your baby! A family that size with all that money. ' I was appalled.

  " 'No. ' She shook her head. 'It wasn't like that. It wasn't the family. Let's just say that the child was taken away, and I don't know what happened to it. It wasn't the family's doing. ¡¯

  " 'The father's doing?' I asked.

  " 'No. I told you this was something terrible. I can't tell you all of it. I can only say that at any time I might hear about that child. ' She chose her words carefully. 'That child might be returned to me. Some news might come, good news or bad news. But for now there's nothing but silence. ¡¯

  " 'Do you know where the child is?' I asked. 'Mona, I'll go get the child! I'll bring it back. ¡¯

  " 'Quinn, you're so strong, so confident,' she said. 'It's really totally marvelous just being with you. But no, I don't know where the child is. I think the child is in England. But I don't know. And when we were in Europe I was sort of looking for it. There's no word from the man that took it. ¡¯

  " 'Mona, this is ghastly. ¡¯

  " 'No,' she said, shaking her head, the teardrops hanging in her lashes, 'it's not the way it sounds. The man was a loving man, and the child -- the child was exceptional. ' Her voice broke. 'I didn't want to give it up, but I had to. It had to go with this loving man, this gentle man that could care for it. ¡¯

  "I was too perplexed to ask a sensible question.

  " 'If you have an inkling where this man is, then I'll go to him. ¡¯

  "She shook her head. 'We used to know how to reach him. Rowan and Michael -- those are my cousins and foster parents now, they knew the man very well. But now we don't. ¡¯

  " 'Mona, let me protect you in this, let me go after this man and let me go after the baby. ¡¯

  " 'Quinn, my family has tried to do it. They've used the resources of the Mayfair Legacy to try to find both the child and the man and they can't do it. I don't need your vow that you'll try. I don't want you even to think about trying. I only need you to listen to me. I only need your vow that you won't ever tell another human being what I told you. ¡¯

  "I kissed her.

  " 'I understand,' I said. 'We'll have other children, you and I. ¡¯

  " 'Oh, that would be so lovely,' she said. 'So very lovely. ¡¯

  "We snuggled down into the covers, taking off each other's clothes, button by button and zipper by zipper, and then we were naked where I had always slept so chaste with Little Ida or Big Ramona. I felt the bed was being properly christened, and I was happy.

  "Then I slept.

  "In my dream Rebecca came knocking on the door. It was as if I was awake, but I knew that I wasn't. And in the dream I told her she had to go away. I told her I had done all that I could do for her. We fought, she and I. We fought at the head of the staircase. She went wild against me, and I forced her down the stairs, telling her she had to leave Blackwood Manor, that she was dead and gone and that she had to accept it.

  "She sat down on the last step and began to cry piteously.

  " 'You can't come anymore,' I told her. 'The Light's waiting for you. God's waiting for you. I believe in the Light. ¡¯

  "The living room was full of mourners again, and I could hear the cadence of the Rosary rising like a tide, the Hail Mary, Full of Grace, and then I saw Virginia Lee sit up from her coffin again, her hands clasped, and at once she made her graceful ballet step to the floor, her skirts billowing, and she came to snatch up Rebecca, and together they were hurtling through the front door of the house, the two ghosts, Virginia Lee and Rebecca, and I heard Virginia Lee cry out, 'You come again to trouble my house, do you? You bring me down from the Light!¡¯

  "Rebecca screamed. A life for my life. A death for my death.

  "All was silence. I sat on the steps in the dream, wishing I could wake up and be back upstairs in bed where I belonged, but I couldn't.

  "A life for my life, she'd said. Did she want mine? Nothing I'd done had satisfied her. It wasn't enough.

  "Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up. It was Virginia Lee, very lively and pretty, though she wore her funeral blue dress.

  " 'Get away from this place, Tarquin,' she said. Her voice had such tender resonance. 'Go on, Tarquin, leave this place. There is an evil here. That evil wants you. ¡¯

  "I woke, sitting up, covered with sweat, staring forward. I saw Goblin in the corner near the computer merely watching me.

  "Mona slept soundly beside me.

  "I got into the shower and when I saw Goblin's shadow outside the glass I finished up and dried off and dressed quickly. He stood behind me looking at me in the mirror over my shoulder. His expression was not as mean as it had been before, and I prayed he couldn't sense my apprehension. He didn't seem as solid here, even with the moisture in the air, as he had been in New Orleans. I was grateful for that.

  " 'You love Mona, too?' I asked as if I meant it.

  " 'Mona is good. Mona is strong,' he said. 'But Mona will hurt you. ¡¯

  " 'I know,' I said. 'You hurt me when you're unkind to me, when you say unkind things. We have to love each other. ¡¯

  " 'You want to be with Mona alone,' he said.

  " 'Wouldn't you if you were me?' I asked. I turned around and faced him.

  "I had never seen such a face of trouble on him as I saw then. I had stung him and I was sorry for it.

  " 'I am you,' he answered. "
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