Short Story Sunday: The Shadow of Fire

156937831The evening is cool and dry. I smell oak trees and a hint of fire in the dry brush. No smoke or flames but there is always the shadow of fire.

I thought of what Nathaniel had said earlier, “Everyone likes you. You’re the only one who doesn’t like you. You have to start liking yourself.”

He’d lived a charmed life. He’d never known the power of fire or the fear of losing everything or everyone. But he was right. I don’t like who I am, not usually, not when I’m alone. Not when I’m with most people, or Vampires as the case might be. But I don’t care.

Only with the kids do I care, my grandchildren many times over. They don’t bring anything into the conversation except the here and now. No ashes of the past to ruin the moment.

Fire had taken Thomas, my husband and father of my children. He was burned to death, quickly turned to ash when they discovered he was different. It seems so long ago but I can still smell the stench of the wood, the skin of the others. I can still hear the screams. I close my eyes for a second and try not to let my knees fail me.

Fire took my house in the San Francisco earthquake then almost a century later in the Oakland hills. Not a good track record.

Then it almost took me. Two years ago, I was walking to my car, alone. Being alone had never bothered me. After all I’m the predator. I’m the strong one. I’m the one who has watched and protected everyone else for centuries. They were strong and prepared. They knew who I was.  They knew how to prevent me from protecting myself. I can smell the gasoline and hear the strike of the match. That was after they kicked me and cut me and tried to…anyway, they didn’t like me either.

I did get away, but not without causing all sorts of damage to the Vampire Hunters. Don’t underestimate a woman in black boots and short leather skirt and a hounds-tooth check jacket, not to mention my favorite blue Coach bag that they didn’t get a scratch on.

That was almost two years ago, and since then I’ve almost completely recovered, yet I still get lectures from my friends and family. They consider me an ancient Vampire now. A fragile old fangster who needs to be watched like a child.

“Hey beautiful.” He stood in the doorway, just awake from a day of sleep, brushing his hair from his face, wearing nothing but a pair jeans.

My family disapproved. He was younger. He’d been a Vampire for less than two years. He was falling in love with me, a dangerous thing for any man or Vampire.

Cody kissed me in the light of the crescent moon. “Lola, I think I’m falling in love.”

“Me too.” I could feel the tears well up in my eyes. I didn’t tell him that it had been centuries since I’d felt this way. How does one say that, especially since it had been centuries since I’d even liked myself or trusted any of my own feelings. It was a true gift from Cody. I’d never take advantage of him or use him, no matter what anyone else said.

This wasn’t a gut reaction. It wasn’t survival or the survival of someone I loved. It was the survival of my heart. Was it too much to ask? Or had this have to burn out like everything else in my life?

“Serious thoughts Lola?” Cody kissed my forehead and pulled me close. “I will keep you safe, always and forever.”

I held him close and tight. Always and forever I thought. Then I started to wonder where the hose was, just in case.



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