Short Story Sunday: Mail Order House

Spring semester was supposed to start January 18. Maybe he’d lodge his leg out of the hole in the attic before then. His first class had a wait list of twelve, but he was sure at least five wouldn’t show so at least five wait list students would get in. No show, no class.

Why the Hell was he thinking of that right now. There were Vampires, or at least dried up husks of old Vampires wrapped in blankets four feet from him. Damn, he’d hoped they were dead enough not to smell the blood coming out of the cut on his leg.

The first class was titled “Major Problems in US History.” Fuck, that was fitting and timely. Every morning he wished the news would just go away. He wished he could go should on the streets, on Fox News, NPR, CNN, Buzz Feed, The Washington Post, and every crazy ass news outlet that Vampires, Werewolves, and Ghosts were real. But he didn’t. The ACLU would be all over it, and God only knows who else to give them equal rights because, after all, they are human and American citizens. They vote. Fuck. His leg ached.

Austin worked three jobs. There wasn’t any reason for it, he just did. First and foremost he was a History Professor at the local college. Second he was a contractor who restored historic buildings. Third, like his granny, he was a Vampire Hunter. The Vampire Hunter occupation wasn’t by choice. It just sort of happened. It was in his blood like, well, being a Vampire is in the blood of one of them.

He should have been home in bed with his wife, while the kids were up early watching cartoons. Only there was no wife or kids. There should have been. What he did have were a couple of recently adopted shelter cats named David and Crosby. The requirement was that the two Tom cats had to be adopted together. David was a large black and white tuxedo cat with a sweet disposition. Crosby was a skinny orange cat with a stub tail and a loud happy voice. It was love at first sight. They were five years old, so he figured he had at least another ten to fifteen years with them if they didn’t run in front of a car or get eaten by a coyote. He’d never seen a coyote in his neighborhood but he’d seen raccoons plenty of times. He thought of the movie “Lady Bird.” Part of it was filmed in his neighborhood, or at least a few blocks from there.

The house he was in was out in Fair Oaks. It was a mail order kit house built in 1915 complete with all sorts of fun features, including the river rock chimney. He’d purchased it for restoration and sale as a single family home. Over the years it had been turned into a flop house, then apartments, then a total mess. This house was not unique, but it was still special.

A burst of pain shot up from Austin’s right foot to his hip. He closed his eyes tight, then opened them only to see a single eye looking at him. The caramel brown was like a light shining out from a partially veiled face. The face was like dried bark. The eye was alive and fresh.

“What?” he said to the husk of a woman. “Are you going to eat me?”

A sound like grinding, or maybe cracking paper filled his ears as the Vampire lifted her arm then held out her hand.

“Take my hand,” she whispered in a barely audible voice.

Austin put his hand on the hilt of his knife and took the think dried out hand.

She pulled him up and out of the hole. It reminded him of when he was a child and his dad had pulled him out of the lake after he’d called out of their boat.

The Vampire touched his injured leg then licked the blood off of her fingers. Her face began to turn soft and almost glowed. She became beautiful before his eyes.

“I saved you,” she said to Austin. “I will not drink your blood but you must do me a favor.”

“What?” Austin asked. He knew about Vampire favors. He knew he couldn’t trust them.

“Cut off the heads of the other two Vampires. They’re no good. They are the reason I’m here. Then drive me to a place a few miles from here. The man is now old but he will remember me. He is my brother.”

“How long have you been up here?” Austin asked.

“Since 1963.”

Austin dropped her off then headed to the hospital to get thirty two stitches in his leg. His girlfriend Elizabeth met him there.

She put her cold Vampire hand on his forehead, then kissed his lips with hers. He wondered if those lips had been on somebody else’s neck that night. Then he put the thought from his head.

“I took an Uber over. I’ll drive your car home.”

Later that day he woke in his own bed. Elizabeth was sitting in the window seat reading a book.

“Did you hunt tonight Elizabeth?”

“You need to get some rest. Do you need any pain killers?” she answered.

Austin did fall asleep with dreams of strange events in American history. He’d make sure to add something about mail order homes in at least one of his lectures this semester. He’d skip the part about Vampires.

~ end

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Click HERE for more Austin and Elizabeth Stories

 

 

The Quiet Beauty of San Miniato al Monte

Last week, it seems like yesterday, and it seems like a hundred years ago, I was at San Miniato al Monte monastery and cemetery in Florence, Italy.

The church was built in the year 1018 with no power tools, and workers who no doubt couldn’t even write their own names. It is beauty from a dark time.

It was an unexpected, moving, and beautiful find.

We (my husband, children and I) expected to find an old monastery at the highest point in Florence. We did not expect to find the huge cemetery surrounding it.

There was not enough time to spend there. I could have spent a week looking at the hundreds of touching statues that spoke of memories, but there by those who loved and those who lost their hearts. So many dates were from the 1940’s. So many were children.

The ghosts lurked far from us, watching us walk through the rain. More than anything we could feel the love and the loss. It is a special place where those who are no longer remembered by anyone now living, are still touching our hearts and souls.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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Cold Hands, Warm Hearts

Cold Hands, Warm Hearts

My eldest brother Max (10 years my senior) had asked his best friend Teddy to escort me home from the theater one evening. It was 1874. I was 15 years old.

“Your hands are so cold,” he said as he helped me up off of the muddy street onto the boardwalk.

I gave him a coy smile. “I have a cold heart sir.”

He laughed. I never called him sir. He offered me his arm.

I gladly took his arm. “Your hands are positively burning. What sort of fire stirs your soul tonight?” That was pretty forward but I didn’t care. I was floating with the joy of being a flirt and having no brothers or parents around to stop me.

“You’re not like the other girls.”

“No I am not.”

“You’re an impish little thing. It will take a man with a quick wit and a good sense of humor to woo you Juliette.”

“Ahhhh, but you forget I have four older brothers. I pity any man who would have to deal with them.”

“They’ll love any man who is truly in love with you Juliette.”

“I doubt that Teddy.”

Then he stopped and faced me. “I have some news. A secret if you can keep one.”

“Your secrets are always safe with me.”

Teddy had a large smile on his handsome face. “I’m getting married.”

My young Vampire heart literally stopped dead. My head started to spin, but I managed to smile because like all Vampires, I was a natural liar. “Oh Teddy. I’m so happy for you. She really is lovely.”

I wished I could just turn to putrified slime and slip into the dirt like the dead in the cemetery but instead I found a dark place to curl up in for the rest of the night. Teddy would now be lost to me forever. No more laughing at silly jokes with him. No more having him give me sly smiles. No more watching him and my brother Max in awe as they turned from boys to real men.

Teddy would be moving on to the world of married men where there was no room for girls who laughed too loud and talked too much. There was no room for Vampires. Sure, once I was older and became an icy cold elegant woman like my Vampire mother I could entertain Teddy and his bride, but until then it was over. He might has well have died – at least that is what I was feeling in my cold quiet teenage heart.

Teddy had no idea how different any of us were. He had no idea that his father’s business partner was a Vampire. Teddy had no idea what a Vampire was.

While they were away to college Teddy never really questioned why my brother Max would go out in the middle of the night. He imagined it was a woman or gambling or just a restless spirit. Like all of us, Max was brilliant at hiding his true nature.

The young woman of good breeding whom Teddy had become engaged to was sweet. That was her only attribute aside from being considered pretty. She wanted nothing more in life than to be the wife of a successful man. The fact that Teddy was the most handsome human I’d ever seen in my life, interesting, smart and funny was just an added bonus. Other than the fact that Teddy thought she’d be a good match there was nothing remarkable about her. Good breeding. Good reputation. Good girl. I didn’t even think about passion. Thinking about that would be almost as bad as thinking about my parents having any kind of passion (remember I was 15 years old.)

Teddy’s love wasn’t out sucking blood out of people in the middle of the night. She was in bed alone dreaming of angels and kittens. She was the kind of girl he dreamed of and I am sure he dreamed of her at night.

I wished I was like her. I wished I was sweet and warm like a her. I touched my icy hands against my cheeks and closed my eyes and then wiped away cold tears. No amount of wishing could make me warm. No amount of wishing could make me walk in the sunshine without dark glasses or a parasol. No amount of charm or wit could make him continue to be buddies with me, a girl who lived in the shadow of the night. He’d never love me.

I found my brother Val and told him the news. Val, who is only 16 at the time, thought I was being silly. He didn’t understand. He was a boy. Teddy could still be friends with a boy.

Max came up on the roof where I ended up that night. He sat next to me and put his arm around my shoulders. “Teddy is like family. He’ll still be here for a long long time. With any luck he’ll live a long life and we’ll always be able to watch over him and protect him.”

I closed my eyes knowing it was a battle I couldn’t win.

“Listen Jewels, part of growing up is letting go, that means letting go of everyone else who is growing up and moving on. It won’t just be Teddy. All of us will have to go out in the world and make our way. We’ll all find love. We’ll find it with people like ourselves, other Vampires. People move on, but the human heart, and our hearts have a great capacity for love. You have to treasure that love because as we move on, they, the regular humans grow old and they die. I’ve seen Mother and Father mourn the loss of their friends in the worst way. We’ve mourned the loss of friends in the worst way. But Teddy isn’t dead. Be happy for him. He’ll still be my best friend. He’ll still be your friend.”

We sat on the roof until the sun came up and talked of life and love and loss.

A year later Teddy died and didn’t die. He became a Vampire (not from anything we did and very much against his will.) The wedding never happened. After that we all went our separate ways and had our share of love and adventure and friendship.

After Teddy acclimated to being a Vampire we became great friends. Twenty years ago we got married. That isn’t typical of anyone, but then again, not much is typical in my life.

As my own children become older and closer to being adults they’ll have to deal with friends moving away, getting in relationships and changing in ways they can’t imagine. Some friendships will last those changes, but many won’t. The fact that we can’t always predict these things doesn’t make it any easier, but at least we can talk with our kids about these things. We can be there when they need someone to talk to. And that day will come.

I have been fortunate to have friends who’ve been in my life since those days when I used to sit on the roof of my parent’s house and ponder the meaning of life. Sometimes my friends would sit on the roof with me. Sometimes my brothers would join us. We’re not sitting on the roof anymore, but we’re still talking and laughing and having warm hearts to go with our cold hands.
———————————

First posted: 2/20/14 

Thank you for dropping by. I’m on the road right now with Teddy. I’ll have a lot of new material when I return. xoxo

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Bonjourno

Bonjourno

Florence Italy Lover's Bridge

A perfect January day in Florence, Italy.

I am home from a two week adventure in Italy, complete with Christmas trees, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” style adventures, and finding those lost shadows, and romance for the soul.

So many handsome men, so many cute dogs, SO MUCH ART.

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And coffee. Oh the coffee.

And the wine.

I’ll be posting my stories soon. But I’m back for 2018 with new features, new blog posts, new insights on parenting, relationships, elders, tall tales, and critters.

When we arrived home around midnight this morning we were greeted by rain and the sound of millions of frogs.

It is always good to travel, but it is good to be home.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Short Story Sunday: Dancing on the Beach

Dancing on the Beach

As told by Dr. Shawna Greene

For three days we watched the human like form sitting motionless near the beach. We decided if it was human it was probably dead because no human could sit for so long in the heat and the cold and the wind the way this one did. More than likely it was garbage someone had dumped. A few people had traveled through over the past few weeks, near the abandoned mining town near the isolated stretches of desert and beach where we’d set up our summer research station in Patagonia.

We’d come to look for dinosaurs (with success, finding eggs and giant bones).

Dave, Blane and I trekked an hour down the hill to the spot where the mysterious lump sat. It was indeed human, wrapped in a blanket, large brimmed hat, dark sunglasses and a scarf covering the face. It almost looked like a modern mummy. The, without notice it moved.

“¿Estás bien?” Dave asked the stranger.

The man unwrapped the scarf from his face and removed his sunglasses. “I’m fine. I speak English too. But thanks for asking.”

He was tall with long chestnut colored hair and sparkling hazel eyes. Of course I noticed.  I couldn’t help it after being out in the wilds for a month with my fellow researchers. My two college aged kids were in summer internships, my ex-husband was off on a honeymoon with a woman 10 years younger than me and I was doing something I loved – discovering the past.

But today, we discovered something quite different and unexpected. His name was Andrew. He was tall (I figured 6’2″) with a quick smile and a musical voice that captured the attention of all when he spoke.

Andrew said he’d been researching folk music, writing songs, savoring the local flavor and hinted at getting over a broken heart. A kindred spirit I thought. Well, I have to admit, my heart had mostly healed after my husband left two years ago – the day after our youngest child graduated from high school.

Had it been anyone else, we would have let him stay, but Andrew was so delightful and charming, and helpful that we let him stay on. His knowledge of just about everything was astounding. In the evenings he would sing songs ranging from Argentinian folk songs to Italian Opera. Everyone on the team did better with Andrew around.

The younger women, especially the graduate students Courtney and Kaitlin were enchanted by Andrew. No surprise there. He’d dote on them without being a predator. Then again the men were enchanted by him to. We all were.

Sometimes Andrew and I would share a glass of wine under the stars and talk of everything under the stars. He didn’t give away much of his personal life. He’d been living in New York and London, but thought of moving back to California where his family was. His first love was Opera, but he was taking notes on a book about how music takes the mind and soul to new places. He was more interested in finding out about us than telling us about himself.

I felt a bond with this appealing and mysterious man. He was so mysterious but I was so comfortable with him, like I’d known him forever.

One evening we walked the beach after dinner, just the two of us. We talked about time and space and he opened up in an unexpected burst.

“Time travel,” Andrew began, “will be possible, a reality, but it will be squandered by idiots who don’t appreciate the past or the possibilities of the future. They will be selfish short-sighted buffoons only interested in entertaining their own shallow minded pursuits and never seeing the power of the invention of the time machine.

And think about this…we are here on Earth with no knowledge of ANY life on other planets, yet we spend time and brain power on theories of what is out there and life in the universe and how the universe started and… what if nobody else is out there.

Or what if someone else is out there and they’ve figured it all out and we’re wrong, or we’ve figured it out and they are wrong. But we don’t know, because while you look for your giant dinosaur bones which seem like they’re from another planet, we ponder if there is life on other planets. And why is it all so random. You might disagree because of your scientific mind and experience with creatures of the past and because of the sheer amount of wonder in your soul…but…oh Shawna, we’re so different you and I.”

I didn’t know what to say. Andrew held out his hands. “Dance with me Shawna. Dance with me under the stars.”

Taking his cool hands in my own I found myself suddenly transfixed, dancing in the dark, with a long haired stranger who indeed was so different from me.

“Close your eyes,” he whispered in my ear. And against all better judgment I closed my eyes only to find myself transported into a ball room, wearing a silk gown the color of roses and sunsets, dancing with a handsome hazel eyed man in tails and white tie. And then I opened my eyes to find myself in cargo shorts and a fleece jacket on a desolate beach on the bottom of the earth.

“What are you?” I asked him that surprised that I didn’t ask who but what.

He laughed and I caught something different in his smile. His teeth. He looked like he had fangs. “I am a genetic wonder and mystery. I am the Velociraptor of the human subspecies.” Then he looked serious. “Shawna, don’t be afraid of what I tell you for I would never harm you. I am a Vampire.”

“Like in the movies?” I stupidly asked.

“No, like the guy standing next to you. Like the guy who came down to the ends of the earth to heal a broken heart and soul, to give up, to write songs and wallow in my misery only to find you.”

“You have fangs.” I had to say it. I just had to.

Andrew gently brushed my face with the back of his hand. “Yes, and I use them. I drink the blood of Regular Humans. I live for a long long long time. I have relatives who are over 1,000 years old. I was born in the 19th century, before the Civil War, during the California Gold Rush. But, I am just part of the natural order of the world, of the universe, and I hope of our two souls.”

“I have to admit you’re scaring me Andrew.”

“And the thought of you being afraid scares me more than anything Shawna. I’ve trusted you enough to tell you what I am. Now let me trust that you will not be afraid or reject my offer of friendship.”

“Will you turn me into a Vampire?” It was fear in my voice now, not hope that he would.

“Only if you want me to. Maybe. It isn’t anything I take lightly. But, but, Shawna, that isn’t what is important here. It is evolution, the very thing you’ve spent years studying, the difference in species and life forms and life forces and life and…” He ran his hands through his hair and closed his eyes then opened them looking right into mine. “And love. It all comes down to love and of course passion. You have that passion. I can see it when you speak of your work, your life, your children. You have what so many can only dream of.”

“You’re a Vampire.” I couldn’t get that out of my head, despite his remarkable words and way of speaking.

“Yes, and I’m cool with it. Are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“I understand.”

“Do you want my blood?”

“I would never harm you Shawna.”

“Have you taken blood from any of the others here?” I thought of my fellow scientists and grad students.

“Yes, but…why do you think they’re so happy all the sudden? Sure I took something from them that I needed but I gave them what they needed. Do you understand? Can you attempt to understand. I mean, really, it isn’t any different than finding a new dinosaur. Isn’t it?”

Then we just looked at each other for the longest time. It was a time that ended up in his cabin on the hill, in the creaky iron bed with the colorful quilts, with his cold body wrapped around my hot human one.

It was still dark when I awoke, brushing my hair out of my eyes. Next to the bed, sitting on a wooden crate was a woman. Her chestnut hair the exact same rich color as Andrew’s.

“I didn’t know he had company but…there is something about you Shawna that makes me glad he bonded with you. He is charming but my son can be exhausting and so emotional at times.”

I had to say I was in shock seeing this beautiful woman who didn’t look more than twenty six years old. “I’ve come to take him home, not away from you, but…what I’m trying to say is that you touched Andrew’s heart and maybe…”

Andrew opened his eyes. “Mom. Have you met Shawna?”

Well, this was awkward.  They packed up and left, but not before they both left me with their contact information. This was weird. Vampires leaving contact information. Then again, it would have been weird for Andrew to just leave without a word. Of course my ex-husband left without so much as a word, but that is another story.

But before he left, he kissed me one more time then whispered in my ear, “I love you.”

The summer and our time in the desert is almost over. I still savor my short time with Andrew and the memory of his voice and his touch.

Will I contact him when I return? I don’t know. We both live in California where there are plenty of beaches to dance on and where the stars shine bright on the night.

Then again…he is a Vampire, or maybe that shouldn’t matter.

 

~ end

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

A Short Romance (about a long romance)

A Short Romance (about a long romance)

Lady Sarah put down her cup of tea and pondered the meaning of her life. According to her father she shouldn’t be doing this. First of all she shouldn’t be using her brain (according to her father) and second (according to her father) her life had no meaning until she became a wife. That would be a wife to a man of her father’s choosing.

The first time she was engaged it was to George. They’d grown up together. The prospect of being George’s wife was exciting. They’d been friends forever. But he grew distant and then one day went away and came back a week later with a beautiful wife and a tiny newborn baby. The baby had been named Sarah.

The second man she had been engaged to was Percy. He was quite wealthy, good looking and said “Sarah, dear Sarah, I am enchanted by you.” They spent long hours walking and talking about all sorts of things that made Sarah use her brain. And when he kissed her (her father did not know) she wanted to use the rest of her body too. Unfortunately a month before the wedding Percy fell from a horse and was immediately killed.

Sarah thought she would die that day. She went into mourning and thought she’d never see the sunshine again.

Six months later Sarah’s father, against her wishes, her father arranged for her to be married to Jonathan, a young wealthy titled widow. His beautiful, rich and pregnant wife had thrown herself from a bridge one cold winter morning and sank down under the ice. It was horrible. But Sarah came to realize that it was a fate better than living with the abusive Jonathan. He already hinted at how Sarah had to change and conform to meet his standards. He told others how he would mould her and whip her into shape. The first time he slapped her and called her weak she said nothing. The second time she called off the engagement, telling her father that she’d rather jump off a bridge than marry a monster.

Now, two years later, she was engaged again. She remembered the night that awkward Sebastian was introduced to her. He was nice enough to look at – more than nice. But he was quiet, not the usual loud boisterous kind of man her father would bring around.

One day she’d seen Sebastian in the stable after a rain storm removing his wet clothing. Now at night she closed her eyes and imagined him in her bedroom, without the wet clothing and without the awkwardness.

One day Sarah was having afternoon tea with Sebastian – it was one of those rare times when they were alone. She looked at the young, rich, handsome, quiet man that she was going to marry and realized she hardly knew him.

“Have you always been so quiet?” She knew it was rude and improper but she had to ask.

“I’m, uh, not always so quiet dear Sarah. It seems as if this engagement was thrust upon us, this union, this contract… I have become so very fond of you. I will love you. I promise you that I will. I will adore you. You are everything I dreamed of. The fact that you ask me about my quiet nature shows you have an active mind. I like that. I’m not always so quiet. I promise you.”

I will love you. It was an odd thing to say. It was true, maybe. But he didn’t love her yet. He hardly knew her. She hardly knew him.

Sarah finished her tea, put on her coat and went out for a walk. She wished she was in the city right now. It would have been nice to see people.

In the morning fog she was a figure on the path. It was Sebastian. She ran to him and then took his face in her hands and kissed him.

He put his arms around her and kissed her again and again and again.

“We need to make it work. We’ll be happy. We won’t be strangers who live together for years. We will be friends and partners. You will be my equal. Our love will be true and strong,” he said to Sarah.

She looked into his eyes and wondered, “Who is this man?”

Sebastian put his forehead against Sarah’s and said, “I want to marry you Sarah. I see your independence, I see your spirit and your passion. Our parents think this is a good match. They see our union as good business. They also have given up on our prospects of marriage. I see this as a union of souls and of like minds. Sarah, marry me. Let me grow to love you with a passion that will last for a thousand years.”

They kissed again, and then he said, “But, I have a secret that even my family doesn’t know. Hear me out and if you don’t want to marry me feel free to leave and I will be gone from your life forever.”

Sarah listened and pondered the weirdness and then the reality of the secret. It could have been worse. So she decided at age 26 that her prospects were zero. She didn’t want to be a pathetic old maid to be pitied by others. She didn’t want to be married to a pompous ass or a man who didn’t understand her mind. It would mean a life of adventure and passion and risks. She was willing to do that. What did she have to lose?

Moth

Thinking back on those days Sarah had to smile. She was planning a special anniversary dinner. She and Sebastian would be celebrating their 200th wedding anniversary. What a special time November 1814 was for them! For you see, Sebastian was a Vampire. But I’m sure you’d already guessed that.

And yes, they did live happily ever after.

 

~ End

butterfly-clipart

First published in 2014.

I’m on the road right now but will be back soon with exciting new REAL LIFE adventures about life, traveling with adult children, art, beauty, parenting, history, love, vampires, and whatever else I happen to experience or observe. xoxo

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman