A Christmas Journey (with Vampires, a cat, a train ride and a fight)
In December of 1875 tragedy came into our lives. My best friend Isabelle almost killed my brother Max’s best friend. To make a long story short, I eventually married the best friend and we’re putting up our Christmas tree today.
Anyway, scandal was the only word for Isabelle’s behavior. My parents were upset at the prospect of Isabella or any of her rogue Vampire friends contacting, or corrupting my brother Valentine or me so we were to be sent away for a few months to keep us out of trouble. The plan was to send us to New York to say with my Grandmama Lola for Christmas. I was sixteen and Val was seventeen, and the prospect of the big city was more exciting than anything we’d ever experienced. Best of all it got us away from the eyes of our parents.
Yet, Val and I were also angry that my parents had so little trust in us that they thought it necessary to ship us off clear across the country. After all, we were practically adults. In fact, in most circles at that time we would have been considered adults who could get employment, get married or live independently.
My father’s friend Nathaniel Chase agreed to take Val and I from California to New York City on the train. Nathaniel had his own private luxury car so nobody thought there would be any problems. Nathaniel was the very image of the sophisticated and charming Modern Vampire. He was also cunning and dangerous in his own ways – enough to take care of two over active Vampire teens. What trouble could a couple of teens get into when watched over by a four hundred year old Vampire?
On the first night Val and I explored the train. There were dining cars, first class, second class, other private luxury cars and all sorts of interesting people. Nathaniel was busy with “business.” Unfortunately that didn’t last for long. He was scolding us for getting too friendly with people, running, sticking our heads out the window and laughing too loud. That was just the short list.
On the second night he caught Val in an embrace with an attractive woman from San Francisco. That didn’t go over too well either. Val used the excuse he was just being a Vampire. Nathaniel knew better.
On the third night there was a party in another private car in which there were plates full of beautiful treats. I had my first eclaire. It was huge – the size of a man’s hand. That with a stomach full of warm blood (from a handsome nineteen year old who claimed to be the son of a famous minister), a bottle of sparkling pink wine (which I wasn’t supposed to have) and sugar (which makes Vampires absolutely ill) had me throwing up most of the night.
By the time we got to our first stay over in Chicago, Nathaniel Chase was ready to lock the both of us up for good. But he didn’t.
We stayed in a large new mansion built after the great fire of 1871. It was there for Vampires of our rank. Val and I were in heaven. Off of the train with Nathaniel gone most of the time!
Nathaniel had given us a full set of rules and warnings. Bite only on the wrist, not the neck. Don’t go into questionable parts of town (he supplied coordinates.) Do not talk to Vampires you don’t know. Don’t be turned by a pretty face. Watch for Vampire Hunters. Stay close to the house. Shop, have fun, act normal. Under no circumstance let anyone suspect you are different. Don’t act like children.
Val and I did all that and more. We were the perfect little citizens. At parties everyone commented on how charming young well-mannered people we were. I’m sure that warmed the cold heart of the old Vampire Nathaniel Chase.
On our fourth day in Chicago Val and I were walking along at dusk when we heard a great commotion coming from a warehouse. And you would be right if you guessed we were in a part of town we shouldn’t have been in.
Inside of the building a large group of men were standing in an impromptu arena yelling and cheering. We thought it might be a boxing match until we realized it was a dog fight. Beasts of all sizes had been brought in to tear each other apart. We could smell the blood and the fear in the dogs. We could also smell the excitement and blood lust in the men who watched the fights. I held Val’s arm, utterly appalled by what I saw. Ears were torn off, bowels were torn open and dogs howled and whimpered in pain.
Then just as I thought I’d seen enough a large man held something out to five growling dogs.
“I present you Lucifer. Tonight you will see before your very eyes these dogs devour the devil.” And he held up a black kitten of about 5 months who cried with pitiful mews of fear. My cold blood boiled.
Hiking up my skirts I climbed the ropes around the arena and entered the ring. I yelled at the man to put down the cat. He laughed. Then I growled at him showing my fangs. In horror the man lashed out striking me across the face. His large ring made a gash across my cheek. Val jumped the ropes and came to my rescue. Knocking them man down he was about to tear his arm off when someone grabbed us up by our collars and threw both of us out into the snow.
Nathaniel Chase and two other Vampires stood there looking at us in disgust. We could hear the commotion inside of the warehouse grow louder.
Nathaniel pulled me to him and yanked me into a waiting carriage. “You could have had us all killed.” His coat smelled slightly of patchouli and roses. I saw a long light brown hair against the black of his jacket. He’d been visiting a woman. I should have known.
“You were with a woman weren’t you?” I glared at him with the triumph of someone too stupid to know what I was saying.
His eyes lit up with a fire and he pulled me around in front of his face holding both of my arms like vices. “It isn’t just small animals that they kill. They kill what they do not know or understand. They kill what they fear. They kill anything they see as evil.”
“But they’re evil themselves,” I stammered back, unable to move or remove myself from his glare.
“No, it is their world, so be it if it is ruled by ignorance and superstition. You must NEVER show yourself for what you are. Never. So help me God Juliette, if you ever do anything like this again I will make sure you will spend the rest of your days drinking rancid blood out of a gourd, in a dungeon so deep you’ll forget there are stars in the sky.”
He let me go and turned to my brother. “As for you Valentine. I have no words to express my disappointment in you.”
One of the other Vampires, an elegant looking man called Joseph pulled a small black kitten out of his coat pocket and handed it to me. “I believe this is yours. Do not forget the price you paid for his freedom.”
All the way back Nathaniel lectured us on responsibility and stupidity. When we returned to the house he vanished into the study with the two men. We were told to go to our rooms and stay there until midnight.
I lay on my bed and cried my heart out. Val came in and sat quietly next to me. We were utter failures.
When the large clock at the end of the hall struck midnight we left the room and went in search of Nathaniel Chase.
On the balcony he stood cradling the sleeping kitten in his arms. He quietly sang to himself in Welsh the old song “All Through the Night.”
All the stars’ twinkles say
All through the night
“This is the way to the realm of glory,”
All through the night.
Darkness is another light
That exposes true beauty
The Heavenly family in peace
All through the night.
“You have Lucifer,” I said stroking the purring kitten under his chin.
Nathaniel gave me a rare smile. “His name is Gabrielle now. He’ll go where I go. Do you know who Gabrielle was.”
“I believe an arch angel,” said Val.
“Gabrielle was a messenger. So is this little beast in my arms, brought to us in order to teach the two of you humility. But also to teach me what good hearts you have. Compassion is a rare and wonderful thing. It can also be a danger if you react in fear and by letting your heart lead the way.” He held up a hand knowing what I was going to say. “Your heart and the feelings of your heart are important. But you must be smart. You must not be like your friend Isabelle who turned a man into a Vampire, almost killing him and committing his soul to Hell. She claimed it was romantic but it was cruel and selfish.” He handed me the cat now called Gabriel. “Take care of this cat until we get to your Grandmama’s, then he is mine. And Juliette, remember that we are like dark angels who inhabit the night. No matter how much good we may do we are still to be feared by those who are not our kind.”
Gabrielle lived for another twenty two years and went everywhere with Nathaniel Chase.
Val and I got to our Grandmama Lola’s house in New York City by Christmas Eve night.
Nathaniel Chase still doesn’t have much confidence in me. I made mistakes with my heart over the years, as did Val. But we learned that we must keep our hearts to ourselves and take action with our brains and with conviction and with deliberate action.
A few weeks ago I visited Nathaniel, along with my brother Val and my husband Teddy. He still looked the same as he did in 1875. He still has a black cat. The current one is named Michael. They’re all named after angels. Small dark angels of hope and love.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas from all of the Vampires and their cats.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman.
This story was first posted December, 2013