As a child Bronagh would get up each morning and go to school. There she’d figure out ways to escape through day dreams and long lone walks around the school ball field. In her more lucid and social moments she’d be trying to ignore the nonstop bullying from the group of smirking thugs who ruled the school. Having a different name in a universe full of Debbies and Nancys and Susans made one stand out. It made one get picked on along with being small, plain and quiet. Her family was also considered weird.
Her father was a large loud Irishman with a thick accent and her mother was a small pale elf like German woman who’d lost her family in a tragic accident, then ended up in a group home for unclaimed children. The Irishman and the German girl met in a bar, got married, moved to America and had too many children and didn’t do things like other families. They’d sit up all night and play cards and smoke and drink too much. Then they’d tell stories of ghosts and werewolves and violent relatives who didn’t come to America. They’d sing loud songs and walk around their backyard in their underwear. Sometimes the intensity of the couple frightened the other families of their normal middle class community.
Bronagh was never mistreated at home but she never felt too connected to her family either. She loved them but she didn’t want to live with them or be like them.
She struggled in school but in her secret world she was smart and would one day be beautiful and successful. Nightmare sessions in front of the class unable to do a math problem while other children jeered made her imagine a different life. At that point she started to keep secrets.
Nobody ever knew what she was feeling or thinking. She gave away nothing by her expression or words. She lived in two worlds – one on the outside and her own world inside.
She grew up, went on to high school, made friends, grew into a beautiful young woman, made straight A’s and never looked back.
Then she went to college and found herself on too many long walks alone, but that was OK. She was used to that. Friends came and went. There were always good times to be had but she never stayed close to anyone. She graduated and had plans but her life seemed to be one big black hole that sucked the life out of every idea, every relationship and every job prospect. All of her choices sucked. It was as if everything she touched turned to garbage. It was garbage that couldn’t even be recycled. It was toxic waste.
Time passed and roadblocks grew higher and doors slammed in her face. She found herself with a college degree, a shelf full of books, a stray one-eyed tabby cat she named Toulouse, and nothing else.
One day she decided that one of two things needed to happen. She either needed to die or fall in love. Nobody would ever love her she decided, so she set a date to end it all, that is if nothing happened.
She grew numb.
One day she forced herself to go the large university library to research jobs and graduate schools.
On the first floor she ran into an old party friend Cindy. Beautiful lucky Cindy was going off to her dream job in Los Angeles. A huge engagement ring sat on Cindy’s finger. Cindy’s clothes were beautiful and obviously expensive. Joy radiated out of her, not for material reasons but because she was just where she wanted to be. Then again Cindy had been born where every girl wanted to be. Cindy was that kind of girl. Bronagh gave Cindy a hug and wished her the best.
Then she saw a guy she’d had a one night stand with talking to a biology professor she’d had. Ditching them she went up the stairwell to the second floor to take refuge with some art books.
On the second floor, as she left the art section, she ran into a man she’d been in love with. He was glad to see her. He was glad to tell her that he was getting married – to somebody else. He asked her if she still had the cat. She thought he thought she was an idiot. She lied and said she had a boyfriend and great job prospects. Someone she really liked had dumped her the week before. She’d been fired from a job she’d held for a week. It didn’t matter. He’d cheated on her anyway. Being young and miserable with no prospects is no fun even when you don’t feel bad about telling lies.
Feeling numb she looked at college catalogs, made notes about graduate school requirements then go up to walk and distract herself. It was time to look up poisons or just sit down and die and turn into a mummy that someone would find in 50 years or so behind a stack of books nobody ever read.
In the deep darkness of the ancient basement stacks she accidentally tripped and fell into the arms of a man. It wasn’t that kind of fall into your arms. It was more of the kind of “I noticed you were looking up poisons,” kind of falling to his arms. He noticed in a big way. Poisons were not the kind of things pretty girls, or anyone not doing medical research or writing crime novels usually looked up. She said she was writing a story. He knew she was telling a lie but he let it pass. He told her he was doing research for a class he was teaching in creative writing. That wasn’t a lie. Well, not a complete lie.
She had iced herbal tea with him in an earthy crunchy little coffee shop and they talked about all sorts of things. His name was Valentine, yes, that Val, my brother. His friend Alonzo joined them.
That was 36 years ago. She still remembered the purple skirt and white lace top she was wearing. On her feet were gray flats. Val was wearing jeans and a black tee. Alonzo wore a red vest and a white button down shirt. His dark hair curled around his ears. It was weird how she remembered the details. She clicked with Val and Alonzo. They didn’t judge her. But they were not like the predators she’d met who wanted to lure her into schemes and religions and cults and plans that she didn’t want to be part of.
They became friends and she became one of them – one of us. A Vampire.
I know it sounds weird but she tells such a glum story. Bronagh is the funniest Vampire I’ve ever met. Yes, we have a sense of humor. You can’t live as long as we do and not.
Bronagh thinks about things too much – old things, things that happened, the guy in the library, the guy who dumped her, people who had been to her, a friend who died when they were young. But then not really, not lately. She used to sometimes wonder what life might have been like had she not become a Vampire.
Becoming a Vampire wasn’t what solved her problems. Having some support and encouragement and sheer tenacity is what got her out of her gloom. Long story. Hard work. Creative thinking. Love. Humor. She shrugs it off.
She’ll laugh and talk about how handsome Alonzo is, but she’ll be quick to tell everyone that she married him for his sense of humor. She’ll tell you about how he proposed to her while they walked under the stars on a windy beach. She won’t tell you about the times she was so unhappy and lost before that day in the library. Those dark times were such a small portion of everything but still, it makes a mark.
Alonzo had a past so full of nightmares that he was glad to become a Vampire and live in a world of calm control and find some measure of peace. I’m just glad to have them in my life. Maybe I’ll talk Alonzo into telling me a few stories.
Valentine’s Day is almost here and all kinds of ghosts of relationships past are coming out of the woodwork. Let’s just keep most of them tucked away. We don’t need to deal with them or let them bother us.
Alonzo just shrugs and laughs off anything from his past. Bronagh does the same for the most part. They’re just like any other couple, only they’re Vampires. They believe that what they is due to divine intervention and it happened for a reason. Maybe. Maybe not. I’d like to think it was meant to be. OK it was meant to be.
And the odd thing about this story is that the old one-eyed tabby cat Toulouse is still alive at 43 years old. Of course, cats aren’t supposed to live that long but sometimes, well, all Vampires know that there are things we’ll never be able to explain.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman