Vampire Agápe 01 - Blood of Anteros, page 3
I expected to find an easel with supplies stuck off to the side of a bed, but it definitely wasn’t. “Wow, this is quite an impressive studio. I would love to have something like this someday.”
It was perfect and I could easily see how the light from the window would radiate the canvas perfectly for human eyes. Anna had a sweet little set up going on for herself and I noticed a large piece on an easel, next to the window. “Do you mind?” I asked and gestured toward the portrait, asking permission to inspect her work.
“Of course, I would love for you to give me some feedback about this piece.”
It was a portrait of a young girl standing on the beach. She was a beautiful child with dark curls cascading down the back of a long, white, sleeveless dress. Her body faced the ocean’s water while her face was turned, peering back over her shoulder, as if hearing her name called. The wind had blown loose strands of hair about and her hand was lifted, as if to brush them out of her face. A small, frontal view of the same child stood in the heavens above the ocean’s water, looking down upon herself on the beach.
I leaned closer, drawn to the eyes of the girl, to study her use of color. She achieved multi-dimension like I’d never seen and I saw a reflection in the girl’s eyes. What was in the reflection? As I stood trying to make out the reflection, I heard a soft, unrecognizable whisper.
I turned my attention to Anna and said, “I’m sorry. Did you say something?”
She was waiting for my assessment and was disappointed I had yet to voice my opinion of her work. “No, dear, I was just watching you study my painting.”
I turned my attentions back to the portrait and approached an awkward stage of staring, but I didn’t care. I was mesmerized by the care taken in the details and a few moments later I heard the whisper again, this time, certain it wasn’t Anna.
“I ask that my misplaced heart no longer wanders, lost and wounded, and finds it’s way into the arms that love me.”
I heard the words clear as a bell and recognized them. They were the words I had used more than twenty-one years earlier, at the moment I should have met my true death and I had never repeated them to a single soul.
Anna cleared her voice, breaking the awkward silence and I didn’t mention the whisper again, for fear she would find me insane. “Mrs. Emerson, this is incredible. Is it inspired by a real child?”
She happily answered, “Yes. It’s my granddaughter. It’s a scene from a repetitive dream she has and I have heard about it so many times, I felt I knew it intimately. This has been a work in progress for a year. Each time it wasn’t quite right, she would describe it to me again and I finally finished it last week. She says I have captured it just as she dreams it.”
Anna’s talent was incredible. It was natural and couldn’t be taught and I wasn’t certain she realized how incredible her work was. “You are an amazing artist, Mrs. Emerson. I may be too ashamed to show you my work.”
“Never. All artists’ work is special, in it’s own way,” she said as she laughed, then continued, “Well, Mr. Brennan, you passed the only requirement. You love my art, so I think you have found a new residence, if the quarters suit you. You’ll have plenty of room in the basement to work, but before we go downstairs, let me show you the rest of the house.”
She proudly gave me a tour of the house I built almost three lifetimes ago and she had no way of knowing that she led me through a tour of my past. I obediently followed her as she led me through room after room, and while the decor and furnishings were different, the general design of the era remained intact.
We entered what was once my bedroom and Anna continued, “This is our granddaughter’s room when she stays with us.” The room was tidy and consistent with the era. “It won’t be quite so organized when she visits.”
This is where Marsala ended my human life and robbed me of the future I planned in this home. This should have been the home I shared with a wife and family. Our children would have played on the double staircase, while their mother sipped tea on the front porch with her friends. We would have grown old together in this house and died together, the normal way.
I could no longer mourn what should have been because it only made me more bitter and wrath had been my lord for too long. I reminded myself I came here to rid myself of the rage because it was the key to ridding myself of this lingering wretchedness.
“Curry, do you feel alright? You look a little pale,” Anna said, with a worried look on her face, and being the mother she was, she reached for my forehead to check for a fever. “You definitely don’t have a fever. You’re on the cool side.”
“Yes, ma'am. I feel fine. I was just lost in thought, I guess,” I explained.
“I think you should join us for supper tonight. Maybe you need to fill your stomach with a warm, country cooked meal. That will fix you right up,” Anna warmly invited.
Uh oh. I wasn’t expecting that. Think. Think. Think. “I would love to, but I stopped and got something in town. How about another time?”
“Only if you promise.”
“I promise,” I lied, knowing I would never join her for a meal.
“When would you like to move your things?”
“Is Saturday too early?” That gave me a few days to prepare and purchase the things I needed.
“Perfect. We’ll see you on Saturday.”
I said goodnight to Anna and Grady and thanked them for allowing me to rent the apartment before I drove to the hotel room I currently called home. Later that evening, I found myself unable to do anything, but think about the little girl’s portrait in Anna’s studio and didn’t understand why I couldn’t get the child off of my mind. The depth of her eyes haunted me and I felt her stare, well beneath my surface. Strangely, her angelic face had found that unknown place within me that pleaded in my defense all those years ago.
I could feel the mystery of my escape from Marsala threatening to reveal itself and although I was happy to get the answers to my questions, I dreaded the task before me. It was time to tell Solomon the whole truth about the day I first walked in sunlight, and unfortunately, that meant exhuming memories and secrets I’d rather leave buried.
The next few days passed quickly as I prepared for moving day. Daytime moving wasn’t a problem for me because my aversion to sunlight was practically nonexistent. However, sunlight was a problem for Solomon, so I moved the things that were humanly possible to do alone and waited on his arrival to move the heavy items like furniture.
It was a good reason to have my best friend over to my new home and while here, I would break the news that I had been a lying cur dog for the entire time we’d known each other.
I arrived with my new possessions loaded in my truck and Anna stood at the kitchen door with a set of keys to my new apartment. “I know you are eager to settle your things. Do you need any help?” she asked.
As I looked at this sweet little aging woman, I wanted to laugh. Had I given her the impression I was the kind of guy to put a grandmother to work lifting my moving boxes? I was certain she didn’t consider herself old nor feeble and I didn’t wish to offend my new landlord, so I took the safest route and said, “I have a buddy coming to give me a hand, but I certainly appreciate the offer,” I said and cringed while I waited to see if my response offended her.
“Fair enough. We’ll be having supper around seven if you would like to join us.”
“I would love to, but I’m afraid I’m getting a late start on moving my things. Would you consider issuing another raincheck?”
“Okay. I’m going to let it slide one more time, but this is the last time,” she laughed.
I could see she was going to be persistent on this eating thing. “Yes, ma’am, I understand.”
“Please let me know if you need help. Chansey will be back in a little while and I can send her down to help you,” Anna stated.
Chansey? Who was that? “I’m sorry. I was under the impression you and your husband were the only re
She began to make her way to the kitchen and replied, “Our granddaughter, Chansey, decided to spend summer break with us.”
Excellent. This was an unneeded wrench in my plan and I would immediately be forced to start lying and sneaking to investigate the unknown resident. Recalling the sweet smell from the kitchen, I reopened my invitation. “Mrs. Emerson, I do have something of a sweet tooth. Will you be serving dessert after dinner?”
“As always,” she answered in her perfect southern accent.
“Perhaps I could swing by for a bite of something sweet?” I suggested.
“Oh, that will be perfect. We’ll see you around seven,” she replied.
I moved the boxes from the truck into my new living quarters, but decided it wasn’t a good idea to unpack my things until I tested my boundaries with the other new resident. The odds of my departure has jumped to a whopping fifty-fifty since my time spent around children was completely nonexistent. I wasn’t certain about my expectations and I had no gage for my response, so my only plan was to continue with extreme caution.
As seven o’clock approached, I left my apartment in the basement and walked to the back door entering the kitchen. The screen door was closed with the other door standing wide open, which apparently was going to be the norm around here, so it looked like an open invitation to me. I needed to gain access inside without being noticed, so I silently opened the screen door before I entered and shut it without a sound.
This wasn’t how I wanted to begin my life among humans. I hated lies and deceit, but I understood some lies were necessary to conceal my identity, although I didn’t want to be part of any that weren’t necessary. I tried to convince myself I was no different from one in the witness protection program and I lied to protect myself and the ones around me.
From the kitchen, I heard laughter and soft conversation. I shut my eyes tightly and listened for the telltale sign of a human’s presence and I recognized the slow, faint gallops belonging to Anna and the irregular beat belonging to her husband. Grady had a pacemaker and every sixth beat, the pacemaker would fail to sense a beat and send a short, low voltage pulse to stimulate the ventricle of his heart. I listened closely for the rhythm I didn’t recognize and easily found the faster pace of the third rhythm, a typical sound for a stronger, healthier heart belonging to a child.
My eyes remained closed and I inhaled deeply. It wasn’t difficult to differentiate between the old and the young and I instantly knew the difference. This child’s aroma was fresher and richer in red blood cells while Anna and Grady were anemic and unappealing, as were most aging adults, hence, my choice to live among an older population.
There was a time when the alluring aroma of this child’s blood would have sent me over the edge, but when I recognized the monster I had become, I withdrew into a world filled only with fiends like myself. I couldn’t help myself from finding the child’s blood was appealing because it was my nature, but I never felt more in control than in this moment. My level of confidence shot through the roof, which was a much needed confirmation.
I returned to the backdoor, exited and collected the bouquet of flowers I brought for Anna before I knocked on the screen door, making my presence known.
“Curry, come on in, we’re in the dining room,” Anna called out and I laughed at myself for thinking about how I worried she would invite the wrong person inside her home.
I entered the house and walked to the dining room where I found Anna, Grady and a young girl sitting at the table. She was a beautiful child, but she didn’t look like her portrait at all. Her hair was curly, instead of wavy, and cut just below her shoulders. The color was different, light brown with heavy blonde highlights hanging in ringlets around her face. I recalled Anna’s description of the portrait, a child’s dream, and perhaps her granddaughter didn’t look like herself in her dream or maybe the dream wasn’t of herself at all. Seeing this child made me realize I felt a connection with the portrait, rather than the child herself.
I became aware of how I had studied the child for too long and turned my attentions to Anna, handing the bouquet of flowers to her. “Beautiful flowers for a beautiful lady.”
“Oh, look Grady, what a lovely bouquet. You could take a lesson from Curry,” she said with mischief in her eyes.
“You haven’t been here a full day and you’re already making me look bad, young man,” Grady chuckled.
Anna headed toward the kitchen saying, “Thank you. You are such a polite young man. You didn’t have to do that.” She returned with a perfectly arranged bouquet in a water-filled vase and placed it in the center of the dining room table. She invited me to join her at the table, saying, ”Come have a seat. You arrived at the perfect time because we just finished dinner and we’re ready for dessert.”
I hadn’t given any thought how to pass off not eating the dessert because I was consumed with the fear of meeting this small, helpless child. Solomon had warned children were highly intuitive and sensed things adults couldn’t, so I was nervous when I spoke to the child saying, “You must be Chansey. How old are you?” I asked in my softest voice, not wanting to frighten the young girl.
Her large golden, light brown eyes looked at me like I had three heads, sending a wave a fear through me, as I waited for her response. “I’m seven, but I’m Lorelei, so why did you call me Chansey?” It wasn’t the response I expected, and because I was rarely surprised, I didn’t care for it at all. My kind didn’t tolerate the unexpected well.
I attempted to hide my reaction. “Well, it’s very nice to meet you, Lorelei. I’m Curry, and I apologize for mistaking you as Chansey.” I continued in my softest voice.
Since this wasn’t Chansey, where was she? It was risky coming here to meet her because I stepped into the unknown and my relaxation turned to frustration. There was no foul this time, but what if it had gone another way?
I inhaled deeply, searching for Chansey’s scent, but came up empty handed. There should have been some lingering scent left behind, even if she wasn’t here now, so I didn’t understand.
Grady spoke up, saying, “Lorelei lives next door. Her parents needed someone to watch her until her grandmother could make it here to pick her up.”
I was irritated, but it wasn’t the child’s fault, so I continued, “Well, it looks like we are neighbors then, Lorelei.”
“My mama is having a baby and my Nanna is driving over to pick me up so I can spend the night with her,” Lorelei explained.
“Well, I believe congratulations are in order for the big sister,” I congratulated.
Anna spoke up as she returned from the kitchen with dessert. “I’m sorry you missed Chansey. She was scheduled for the evening shift, so she won’t be back until late tonight, but I’m sure she’ll want to meet you tomorrow.”
Well, she couldn’t be a young child if she had a job. That was encouraging, but I still needed to meet her as soon as possible, which apparently would have to wait until tomorrow. Since I faired well with this child, a woman old enough to stay out working late at night shouldn’t be a problem.
“My famous peanut butter pie,” Anna said as she passed a slice my way.
“Oh, Mrs. Emerson, I’m allergic to peanuts,” I declined and was strangely disappointed by my rejection because something within me wanted to try it.
Anna looked disappointed and said, “Well, that’s a shame. This is one of my best desserts.”
Grady showed no sympathy as he reached to take my slice saying, “I’ll take his piece. I’m not allergic.”
Anna shook her head and said, “You’
“Do you still have a lot of unpacking to do?” Anna asked.
“I have everything but the furniture inside. My friend will be here soon to help with the heavy stuff. Oh, and I forgot to ask you about something earlier. Do you have internet service?”
Anna answered while Grady remained at the trough. “We do, but I don’t know a thing about it. You’ll need to ask Chansey and she can tell you anything you want to know about it.”
I would definitely be doing that and the sooner, the better. The small hours of night weren’t always so small and internet helped pass the time when I couldn’t be up freely making noise.
I was busy thinking of an exit strategy when I heard my saving grace, a knock at the front door, and knew Lorelei’s grandmother had arrived.
“Mrs. Emerson, I’m going to slip out the back so you may see Lorelei off. I still have a lot of unpacking to get done.”
I knew she wasn’t ready for me to leave and I hoped she wouldn’t insist I stay. She didn’t and I was grateful. Lorelei’s grandmother had likely saved me on that account.
“Alright, then, we will see you tomorrow,” she said.
I left through the same door I entered and returned to the room of scattered boxes. I wanted this to work and I needed this to work. Everything felt right and this still felt like home to me, even if it was the basement. Only one pending question remained; would Chansey make living here impossible for me?
It was well past dark thirty when Solomon knocked at the door. I opened the door, not giving him the chance to offer an excuse, and said, “I decided you weren’t coming. Where have you been? It’s going to look weird moving furniture this late.”
“Where’s the fire?” he said in his normal, carefree manner.
“I’m in no hurry, but these people do go to bed at night around here. I don’t think it’s wise to be making lots of noise at all hours of the night,” I scolded, as if he were a child.
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