Cold Hands, Warm Heart

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.
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First posted: 2/20/14 

Stay safe. Wear a mask. Talk to your kids. Hug your dogs and cats. Check in on those who are elderly, alone, or might need extra help. Be kind. Don’t be a dick. And kiss a Vampire (you’ll thank me later.)

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Doubt

change

I had an extremely misspent youth, even as a Vampire. This was mainly due to ignorance and stupidity on my part.

That is the main reason why I spend so much time thinking about how to parent my own kids so they won’t be going out into the big wide world with no direction or wrapped in a cloak of ignorance.

Anyway…

My brother Val and I spent a lot of time together when we were young. We have three older brothers, but we’re the youngest and only a year apart in age.

We don’t play “remember when” much anymore about the stupider moments of our lives. Remember when your hair caught on fire? Remember when you left your corset in the carriage? Remember when that Hungarian countess didn’t tell you she was married? Remember when we got locked in that basement for two weeks? Remember when you fell in love with HIM? Remember when she broke your heart and you chased her all the way to Boston and crashed her engagement party and she told you that she hated you forever? Remember when we went to that underground club and both got blood poisoning and threw up for a week. Remember when everyone had completely lost respect for both of us? The list pretty much could cover about 500 pages of 8 point type and single spaced. That would be the short list.

It really wasn’t that bad. It just sounds bad on paper, or if we say any of it out loud.  Most of our friends have the same sort of experiences. Somewhere along the line we learned from our mistakes experiences and grew up.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all bad. It wasn’t all stupid. We were just kids who didn’t know how to be grownup yet. We’d been around for a lot longer than most adults, well, all regular human adults but we just sort of floundered. It was a long time of trial and error. We all go through it, or maybe not. I don’t know.

All I know is that I don’t want my kids to feel that sense of missing out or missing the boat, or just being lost and clueless. I want them to be prepared and to have all the tools they need to succeed in whatever they want to do.

Val and I remember the exact moment we grew up.

After yet another break up with my on-and-off-for-years lover Pleasant Van Dusen I moved back to my hometown. Pleasant moved 3,000 miles away and I was only slightly heart broken by his departure this time. I settled into a large downtown house by myself, making a studio in the upstairs and more or less living up there with my art. I’d go out in the night, reconnecting with a few old friends. Sometimes I’d go visit the Elders on their farm on weekends, reconnecting with a sense of something that seemed normal. I spent most of my time alone with my art, illustrating for magazines and books under a male name. It was 1922 and women were still supposed to be hidden away in the kitchen or some other domestic activity.

In my spare time I decorated the house, bobbed my hair, read and started to get more involved with my community, that is the local community of younger Modern Vampires. That included my brother Aaron who had started a law practice.

A few months into my move, my brother Val moved in with me. He’d just come back from Europe after some bad experiences with body snatchers and Vampire hunters.

We spend our evenings out, still making mischief but not so reckless as we had before.

One evening I found myself sitting on the steps of my basement wondering what the next century would really bring. I thought about Pleasant far too much. I thought about all sorts of things, but for some reason, no matter how crappy my thoughts were I knew I was home. I was where I needed to be.

Val came down and sat beside me.

“I was trapped in a basement for a week with a Werewolf named Ben Hayes and a nun before I made it back here. I know you’re waiting for a punch line on that one, but it wasn’t a joke. Sister Martha was trying to assist two young men who she thought needed help and we all ended up as captives of a crazy man. I owe Sister Martha and Ben my life. It was so stupid and it was all my fault.” Val sat in silence. I knew part of the story but didn’t press him for more.

He put his arm around my shoulder and gave me a squeeze. “The only reason I’m even here is because I realized that it wasn’t the basement that was holding me captive. It was my own prison of my own making.”

“Me too,” I said. “So how did you get out?”

“One night Ben tried the door and it was open. We just walked away.”

And in a way that is what I did too. I just opened the door that kept me from moving on with my life and walked away.

After that Val and I both lived a life where we learned from our mistakes and from our experiences. We thought before we acted. We treasured what we had and what we’d worked for. And when we worked we did it not just hard but smart.

Sure there were more disasters and mistakes and broken hearts, but all in all we’ve done quite well for ourselves.

But still, sometimes that nagging self-doubt comes back like some ghoulish phantom. Doubt can be a Vampire’s greatest fear and greatest enemy. So can the loss of hope and the sense of no direction.

And it wasn’t some earth shattering event that brought this all on. It was just getting to that point where suddenly everything clicked. Or maybe it was just that no bull shit point.

My kids will be (are already) smarter than I every was or ever will be. I can credit myself and my husband for a lot of that (for most of it.) I didn’t raise them by accident or without thought or purpose. I didn’t keep them in a box. I talked to them all the time. And I hope I’ve prepared them to make better choices with their eyes open and with purpose. Most of all, I want them to be happy and happy with who they are.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

prison of our own making