Short Story Sunday: Ode to a Greek God

I like this story a lot and I didn’t write anything new today. OK I started something but didn’t finish it… so here you go. Some of you might have read this one before.

 

vm_on the water

Ode to a Greek God

A story by Marla Todd

 

I’ve been 6000 years at the top of my game. I knew it was too good to last.

I’m having breakfast on my deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean with the perfect amount of salty warm breeze drifting over me. A beautiful redheaded woman is still in my bed and I can still feel the warmth of her skin against mine. Fortunately she’ll be gone in an hour.

Anyway, I’m having coffee and some amazing cheese and apple pastries my son dropped off this morning. I’m also checking out a box Pan had dropped off with the pastries. That’s my son Pan, the famous happy-go-lucky satyr who dances through the woods making merry. That’s over. He settled down about 150 years ago with a wood nymph named Gloria and they’ve been keeping domestic bliss ever since. I never thought I’d see the day. Anyway, they were cleaning out some closets and found some stuff I’d swiped a few years ago. Thirty-four years ago to be exact.

It looked like I’d gone into the backpack of a college girl. I’d been in college mode that year for a change of pace. I was young, buffed and blue eyed and a killer smile. Female heads all turned in my direction.

In the box was a silver hair clip in the shape of a flowering tree branch, a delicate sexy lacy cream-colored underwire bra size 32C, a sea shell and a folded up piece of college ruled notebook paper. I unfolded the paper and read the words that would change my life.

It was a poem. It was in a round girlish script written in blue felt tip pen. No name identified the writer. I started to read, expecting the usually silly girlish babble about the meaning of life, teen angst and the horrible nature of never being understood. What I read was something else entirely.

As I stood upon the steps,

Halfway between the land and sea

The messenger god Hermes

Came to me,

Swift footed and bright

But somewhat overtaken

By his cousin Dionysus’ last visit

He brought me a message

And I read it through his blue eyes

“I bring you myself” he said.

No answer came from my lips

Except a kiss,

Which spoke very clear.

Oh happy was I,

When hand in hand

Under the stars we ran

For my mythical Hermes

Turned into a man

I took a gulp of coffee and stared at the poem. A poem about me? People had written poems about me, of course, but this was personal. It was a poem about ME, not a god of tales and lore but about ME, Hermes. It was about ME.

This girl knew me. I mean she KNEW me. She knew who I was. How? I never let on to any mortal to who or what I am. Never.

She wrote me a poem. It wasn’t a great poem. It wasn’t even a good poem. It wasn’t epic. But by my father Zeus, it was tender and sweet, full of the promise of love. It was happy. It was from her heart. A heart that considered me more than just a good body and maybe a great fuck, if I did indeed fuck her. I know I must have kissed her. I must have made love to her, because a girl who wrote the poem would never just fuck a guy. She’d have made love to me in a way I should have remembered, but damn it I couldn’t remember a thing.

A kiss. I tried to recall it. Such a kiss I should have remembered. It should have burned on my lips. It should have taken my immortal breath away. I sat going through all of the dusty file drawers in my brain trying to remember, but NOTHING came to mind.

Don’t get me wrong. I am usually NOT the romantic type. I love women but I refuse to be the kind of guy or god who is going to turn into a jellied mass of so much romantic bullshit over just any female. Or am I? My stomach knotted up. My head spun. My heart started to beat fast. I thought I was going to throw up.

By the way, I am Hermes, the messenger God. I go by a lot of names but my friends and family and people who worship me call me Hermes. The Romans called me Mercury, but that is a completely different story, one I’d like not to bring up right at this moment.

So I close my eyes and THINK. 34 years. I’m trying to get a face. A location. Who the hell wrote that poem? There was a ski trip to Aspen and another to Tahoe. An uneventful week in Miami brought back no memories. Of course there were trips to Greece and Paris. The summer was spent in San Francisco and a little north of there was the beach house. Fall brought on New York and Boston. I was in Vermont for the holidays with my family (I know what you’re thinking and yes, we do get together for the holidays just like any other large dysfunctional family).

I heard a car start and looked back to the side of the house. The redhead drove away in her red BMW. I wouldn’t see her again. She got what she wanted and was happy. Fine with me.

Up the drive walks my cousin Dionysus, who happens to be staying at my brother Apollo’s place next door. There again, he was the PARTY GOD. Now he turned into Mr. Bottle Shock. Always going up to Napa, Sonoma, Amador or jetting over to France, Australia, and all corners of the Earth for wine tastings. The guy has been going on about Lodi wines lately so much that I wanted to smack him until I tried them. He was right; it was the nectar of the God’s. But really – Lodi? Have you been to Lodi? Despite all of that he’s still my best friend.

He read the poem. “Halfway between the land and the sea. She was at the beach house you dork.”

“Do you remember her?”

“Yes I remember her.”

“Who was she?”

“Miranda. Quiet girl with the pretty blue-green eyes. She was cute enough.”

“I’m trying but I don’t have a face yet.”

Dionysus poured himself a cup of coffee, added about a gallon of milk to it and half a cup of sugar before sitting down. “She drove a beat up old MG Midget. You talked cars. She was impressed by your Porsche. The two of you hung out all weekend making small talk. Saturday night you went for a walk on the beach and she had sex with you. You thought she was sweet. Remember, she was getting ready to go off to UCLA for the fall. You told her you were going to Harvard.”

Pictures, smells, sound and feelings started to flood my brain.

“She’d been there for several weekends. We always ended up talking on the porch.” I said as images started to come back into my brain.

“Right. She liked you a lot but she didn’t come out and hunt you like the other chicks always did. It wasn’t until that last weekend that you acted on it.”

I remembered. She was a cute, somewhat pretty 17 year old girl with long brown hair and aqua marine eyes. At a party she wouldn’t have been the girl all the guys were after, but I noticed her. Well, she noticed me first. She started out talking to me about cars. From cars we talked about the tides and the ocean and movies and music and school. She wanted to travel to Nepal and spend time in Europe. Most of her friends were moving on to different colleges but she seemed all right with it. Her mind was set towards the future. I liked her company but she didn’t indicate at all that she wanted true love or a lasting relationship.

We’d walked on the beach. I’d made a few jokes and she’d laughed. She said a few things that were so funny it surprised me. I kissed her and a few hours later we made love by the base of a cliff in a private isolated area of the beach. She didn’t howl at the moon or put on a show. She wasn’t a virgin either.

Miranda let me take the lead but followed with quiet perfection. She lost herself quietly in the moment (which by the way lasted a good hour) and in me and didn’t ask for more. She could kiss too and had an amazing body. What more could a young man want?

We walked back to the house with all of our friends and she never said a word about it. The next morning she gave me her number and said, “Call me”, knowing full well the chances of me doing that were slim to none.

I never called her back.

Now I sat alone in my anguished romantic hell. She’d written a poem that morning and I’d stolen it along with a few other items to remember my lovely weekend. The god of thieves had taken a token of love she dared not share with me and for 34 years I had no idea what she’d written on that piece of folded up note paper.

“Where is she now?” I asked Dionysius, knowing if he didn’t know he’d find out.

He pulled out a large wine glass; the big kind used for reds and filled it with water.

“Take a look Hermes. But you might not like what you find. I guarantee you that one like her isn’t sitting around pining for the boy who got away.”

Images and information started to swirl in the glass. And I guarantee you, it sounds primitive, but you get a lot better information in a wine glass than you’ll ever get on Google.

Miranda had earned a doctorate degree in Genetics from UCLA and an MBA from Stanford. She was currently the Director of Development for a biotech firm in Northern California. The husband was an advocate for foster youth and has been a public defender for 20 years. They’d produced two lovely children, one of each. 11 year old girl and 13 year old boy. Both in swim club, good students, get along, popular, no problems. Lots’ of friends with kids, vacations and barbeques. Her home is in a fairly upscale neighborhood but not too pretentious. They go wine tasting a lot and like to cook. My kind of mortals if you don’t mind me saying. The husband even built sort of a wine cellar in the basement. She also likes to build garden sculptures but the visuals were blurred.

“Like whirly gigs?” I asked, thinking of pink flamingos with wildly spinning wings and little figures of men chopping wood. The idea was too weird to digest.

“Kinetic yes, but more large found items, tiles, wood, paint.” Answered my cousin.

“Like the Watt Towers?”

“Not that extreme. More like something out of Sunset Magazine. Understated with a touch of rustic charm.”

Enough of the garden shit. “What’s the relationship like with the husband? What is he? Some middle-aged Viagra popper?”

Dion gave me a smile, like the kind you’d give someone who just said something incredibly stupid. “Hermes, I’m surprise in you. The husband doesn’t need Viagra. He functions quite well on his own.”

“I didn’t need to know that. Did she ever write HIM a poem?”

“The husband? No. You’re the only one she has ever written about.”

“Does she still write anything?”

“She just finished a novel. It’s a mystery romance sort of deal.”

“Can you get me a copy?”

“Sure. I’ll call her up tonight and ask her to email it to me.” He said with a slight touch of sarcasm in his voice.

“Am I in it?” I asked too urgently, hoping the answer would be a definite YES.

“I have no idea but I seriously doubt it.”

“Is she looking to publish it?”

“As we speak. This is her dream Herm. She wants to be published before her kids get into high school so she can be home more with them.”

How could any woman with such a romantic soul, who wrote a poem to a god end up where she was I wondered? “What the fuck is she doing in Biotech?” I asked my cousin.

Dionysus shrugged. “A growing and diverse field with fulfilling opportunities to make the world a better place. She loves it but after 25 years of it she is ready to move on, maybe be a consultant but her family is everything to her.”

I looked into the glass again and saw her as she is now. The brown hair was a little shorter falling slightly below her shoulders, now lighter with blonde highlights. She was dressed stylishly in one of those cute little sweater sets all the women are wearing with a slim skirt and flats with bows. She wore bows on her shoes, a fact that turned my body to so much more jelly. I remember she always wore some bit of fluff or frill along with her Levis and rag wool sweaters. The aqua marine eyes sparkled with little signs of aging. She laughed out loud filling the room with joy. How could someone be so happy working in a science lab? How could someone be so happy without me?

The glass told me that she is known for her humor and mirth. I hardly saw any of it 34 years ago. How could I have been so blind?

To make matters worse was the fact that she was lovely. Fifty one years of lovely female bliss aged to perfection – like the most exquisite and complex wine ever made. She was something to be savored. She was something to be lingered over and enjoyed slowly with great appreciation. I wanted her so bad I ached.

I’m not the kind of guy, or god for that matter, who turns himself into an animal (like dear old dad) to trick a woman. I’m not going to do anything to hurt or use a woman. If a woman wants to use me, then fine, I’ll let her, but that doesn’t make me a bad guy. But I guess I was the perfect asshole to Dr. Miranda Wilkenson Hobbs. She wrote me a poem and I never called her.

I looked up at my cousin. “What was it like before she met the perfect husband?

He shrugged. “She traveled a bit. Worked a lot. Dated a lot. Had a couple of serious relationships but nothing she couldn’t walk away from. She met her husband 16 years ago at a party.”

“Did she write him a poem?” I asked.

“No. Nothing.”

“Nothing. Any hang ups with old boyfriends?”

“None. She’s still friends with a few. They’re all married with kids. Nothing unusual. She didn’t write them any poetry either.”

I conjured up an image of the husband in the glass. Average to nice looking middle-aged man. Full head of black hair, sparkling bright blue eyes, slightly crooked nose but with one of those warm and fuzzy charm filled smiles that women love. Nice slightly better than average guy who could in no way compare to me. No way. Not enough for her to write him poetry. Asshole bastard.

During the following weeks I pulled strings and called in favors that sent Miranda’s book right into the waiting hands of Bryan Woods, literary agent extraordinaire. By the way, Bryan Woods was the name I went by when I spent those weekends at the beach house 34 years ago.

When she received my call I couldn’t believe how good it was to hear that lovely voice. Why of course she could meet me. Where? I made arrangements in San Francisco. She’d have to drive to the big city which was A) always a treat for her and, B) a few hours from her home and away any distractions, C) a most romantic spot for seduction.

It was a beautiful day in the city with clear skies and a high of 68 degrees F. I wore gray Armani and my Rolex Daytona (yellow gold), and of course a Hermes tie. The blonde highlights in my hair were perfect and natural. The smile was a zillion watts. The eyes sparkled blue as a Maxfield Parrish sky.

I picked a restaurant with impeccable service and food, an excellent wine list and a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Exactly at noon Miranda showed up. She scanned the room and saw me with a slight hint of recognition. She’d dressed carefully with thought as women do. A flattering and pretty pink tweed suit over a pink silk blouse with high t-strap shoes that was so classic and sexy I nearly laughed out loud with joy.

She smiled and took my outstretched hand. I took her back to our table. There was the usual required small talk about the drive over, the weather, etc etc etc.

We ordered wine and food. I told her how impressed I was with her book. By the way, I was impressed. The woman could write a story. We spoke of publishing and possible options and contracts. I told her I could see a movie deal coming out of all of it. No lies there. After a flurry of animated conversation we suddenly stopped.

Then she looked at me with slightly squinted eyes and asked “Have we met before?”

I said “The beach house.”

“Oh my goodness. That is you.” She said looking slightly embarrassed.

“We made love on the beach.”

She glanced down unable to meet my eyes for a moment then took a sip of wine and looked up at me again. “We were just kids. Wow that was a long time ago. Small world. Um, it’s good to see you again. You’ve obviously done well for yourself”.

“So have you dear Miranda.” I put the piece of notepaper with the poem in front of her. “Read it.”

She read it but her reaction wasn’t what I thought it would be.

“Where did you get this?” she demanded.

“I took it from your backpack.”

“It wasn’t yours to take.”

“You wrote it about me.”

“Just because we…Bryan, this was private. You betrayed my trust in the absolute worst way.”

“It’s Hermes.”

“It wasn’t yours to take.”

“I’m Hermes. My real name is Hermes, not Bryan. On some level you had to know. Tell me you knew.”

It was as if she didn’t hear a word I said. “Yes, it was about you but the poem was mine,” she said. “You were not supposed to see it.” She was clearly upset, not in a crying angry way but in a calm and collected rage.

“How did you know?” I asked calmly trying to sooth and comfort her.

“Because you shrugged it of the next day like nothing ever happened. I really liked you a lot but oh well. Shit happens.”

I took her hand. “But it did happen Miranda. You and me. You wrote a poem about us.”

“Guess what? It happened a long time ago. I’m not that girl anymore.” She said obviously not following my lead as she pulled her hand away from mine.

“Obviously. How did you know that I am Hermes?”

“You were cute and light on your feet. You made me think of Hermes. Jeeze Bryan. Is that why I’m here? If this isn’t about my book…”

I put my hand on hers again. “I didn’t mean to upset you. But yes, Miranda, I am the messenger god Hermes. Hear me out. I only use the name Bryan Woods when I mix with mortals. Your poem touched me to the very soul and to my bones in a way that nothing else has ever touched me. Nobody has ever written anything so personal to me or about me before. I’m sorry I over looked you. I am sorry I never called back. I’m sorry that it has taken so long for me to tell you that I love you.”

“I should go.” She said trying to pull her hand away and starting to stand up.

“No” I said still holding her hand as I transported her to another time and place.

I took her to a beach. The air was cool and breezy not too cold. She wore a sweeping filmy dress of lavender and white that highlighted her curves. Her hair was slightly blown by an ocean breeze. She was bare footed. I wore a romantic poet’s shirt, sleeves rolled up, half way open to show my spectacular chest.

Against the cliff was a bed piled high with romantic white on white pillows and flowing curtains off of high bedposts. Pink garlands of fresh roses wound around the bedposts. It was one of her dream sort of things.

Miranda looked around 360 at her surroundings, completely ignoring me. Her eyes squinted at the sight of the bed. She turned to me with a total lack of expression on her lovely face except for an angry fire in her aqua marine eyes.

I put my arm around her waist and pulled her close then buried my face in her hair. “It’s been too long”. I said.

She pushed herself away. “What the hell is going on? Did you put something in my drink?”

“I told you I’m Hermes. You’re in my world now.” I said.

I grabbed her wrists. I would have her and she would submit and enjoy ever bit of it and then be glad that she was mine. Or so I thought. She twisted to get away and stomped on my foot. We lost balance and went down to the sand. I was still holding her wrists as I landed on top of her. I could have taken her then and there as I lay between her legs, but I didn’t. Not with Miranda.

“Let’s move it to the bed.” I said gently, my lips meeting hers.

“No, I’m not going to do this. Please. Don’t make me do this.” Tears welled in her eyes. I felt a knot in my stomach and then a wave of nausea swept over me. I rolled over onto my back letting her go. The day was not going as planned.

She got up and walked down the beach a ways then stopped dead in her tracks. She stared at the surf. The sea serpents were out there wrestling. They’re as big as humpback whales with all the teeth, big eyes and claws one expects from them. She froze, and then looked back at me.

“Sea serpents.” I said catching up with her. “Listen Miranda, I’m really sorry. Yes, I’m an arrogant son of a bitch. When I read the poem I thought just for a moment that, no it was more than a moment. Nobody has ever cared like that.”

She didn’t hear a word I said as she stood transfixed on the sea serpents. They roared and crashed into each other in kitten-like play. Green, blue and gold scales sparkled in the sunlight.

I put my arm around her shoulders. “Pretty magnificent creatures aren’t they?”

“Will they come after us?”

“No. They pretty much stay to themselves.”

“This is amazing. Are they real?”

I turned her around and looked into her face. “Yes, they’re as real as I am.” Taking her face in my hands I kissed her. She didn’t fight me, but didn’t exactly jump in my arms either.

“We’re at that point between the earth and the sea.” I kissed her again. She stepped back and crossed her arms. This was going to be more difficult than I thought.

“You’re Hermes, the god Hermes.”

“Yes. I am Hermes.”

“You’re real.”

“I am.”

I expected her to kiss me or something now that she realized who and what I was. She turned away from me and looked at the sea serpents again then looked back at me.

“I wish my kids could see this.”

“My children always loved it when I took them to see the sea serpents. They still do.” I said suddenly thinking that I’d done well by my children and their mothers. In these modern times we’d be a typical blended family. Go figure. Miranda didn’t say anything but kept looking out to the sea.

“This could all be part of your life Miranda. Few mortals ever see this. I’m willing to make you part of this.”

“I can’t.”

“You’d give up immortality?”

She gave me a look that would have killed any red blooded mortal. I watched her take off again down the beach.

I suddenly understood that she’d never love me in the way I wanted her too. Honestly I did. Of course understanding and acceptance are two different things. I ran after her and caught her by the arm spinning her around to face me.

“Miranda stop.” I said trying to reason with her.

“What about my book?” She demanded.

“What about it?” I spat back at her.

“Did you like it or were you just saying that to get me here?”

“It could be a best seller.”

She glared at me. “I won’t sleep with you to get it published.”

I was slightly offended but saw her point. “That isn’t good business Miranda, you should know that. Your book is good enough to publish without sex.”

“I know it is. But as my agent can you get me a good deal and top posting on Amazon and book and posters in the window of Barnes and Noble? Can you get me on the best seller lists? Can you get me an interview with the New York Times and NPR?”

“I’m your agent now?” I asked.

“Yes, I mean don’t you want to be?” She asked looking at me like I was stupid or something.

“What about your biotech job?”

“I’ll keep working until the royalty checks start coming in,” she snapped.

I put my hand on her shoulder, ever so gently. “I’ll get you a six figure advance. You can quit your job tomorrow if you want.”

Her face softened. I could feel her shoulders relaxing. “Really? You’d do that?”

“Of course I would. I’ll be your agent but you have to do something for me.” If I couldn’t have her love, I’d get something almost as good out of her.

She squinted her eyes up at me. “What?”

“You have to write about me.”

“Poetry?”

“Books. The modern adventures of an ancient god.”

“I can do that.”

“I’ll have the contracts drawn up. I believe you’ll like the terms.”

“I’m sure I will.”

“One day I will make love to you again.”

She finally smiled. “Don’t count on it.”

“Let’s go back.” I closed my eyes and when they were open we were back in San Francisco. The restaurant (which by the way I own) was empty of any other customers and fresh blackberry pie and fresh made vanilla ice cream was on the table along with coffee. The sun was starting to set over the San Francisco Bay. We talked about our lives and our kids for about another hour or two. It was so easy with the elder Miranda.

“You’re going to get caught in some pretty nasty traffic.” I told her in my most concerned and caring voice. “You can stay the night here with me.”

“It’s ok,” she said,”I have a couple of audio books in the car.”

I walked her out to her car, a blue 2010 Mustang convertible. I should have known she’d still have a convertible.

I didn’t want to let her go. “Miranda, I’m sorry I was a jerk. I didn’t know how you felt about me. Another time and place and we could have…”

She put her finger to her lips as if telling a child to be quiet. “Listen, Bryan, I mean Hermes, I’m sorry it didn’t work out the way you imagined it but I have a good feeling about this, about us. I really do and we’ll make a good partnership and maybe even become friends. I take that back. We will become friends. Okay?”

Friends usually means the kiss of death in a relationship but not this one.

“You’ll write about me.” I said, not as a question.

“I will write about you Hermes.” She put her hand on my waist, stood on her toes and kissed me. “I will write wonderful things about you that everyone will want to read.”

I opened the car door for her. “I’ll fax over the contracts in the morning. Drive safe Miranda.”

Late into the wee hours of the morning I sat on the balcony overlooking the Bay and thought of her kiss that lingered on my lips. The messenger god Hermes had indeed turned into a man.

 

A Christmas Journey (with Vampires, a cat, a train ride and a fight)

Everyone loves Christmas stories, especially those of journeys and discovery and love. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing my Christmas stories with you – that is Vampire Christmas stories. Some of you might have read this one before but go ahead and pour a glass of wine, or a goblet of blood or even hot chocolate and enjoy this one again. xoxoxo

A Christmas Journey

People don’t know who or what we are. We’ve kept it that way for centuries, as stories and myths over ride any sense of reality in the minds of men.

In December of 1877 tragedy came into our lives. My best friend Isabelle fell under the spell of rogue Vampires and almost killed my brother Max’s best friend, who was the son of my parent’s closest regular human friends. You see, for those of you who are new here, we’re Vampires. As part of the Modern Vampire movement, we go by the rule that nobody is ever turned into a Vampire without consent.

Anyway, scandal was the only word for it. Theodore Kings, my brother’s 26 year old friend was not only the smartest and most handsome regular human any of us had ever met, he was also a kind man who was engaged to be married in February. Isabella decided she wanted the handsome Teddy for herself. We almost lost Teddy, as in death. Not the death one has when turning into a Vampire, but forever death. And when my father did manage to save our beloved friend, dear Teddy was horrified at what he had become…he was horrified at what we all were…but that is another story for another time.

My parents were upset at the prospect of Isabella or any of her rogue friends contacting 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 16 and Val was 17 and the prospect of the big city was more exciting than anything we’d ever experienced. Plus it helped us get our minds off of Isabella and Teddy. Most 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 400 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 19 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.

“He was a messenger. So it 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 22 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 1877. 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

 

gabriel

Short Story Sunday: Checkmate

Today I’m treating my readers to a fun creepy bit of fiction from my friend and fellow WPaD author Dave Stone.  I’m so excited! Thank you Dave for sharing this bit of fright.

Checkmate

A story from Dave Stone
Nathan Kemp opened the dusty door of the dusty little pawn shop, causing a dusty bell to tinkle dustily through the drifting dust. He stepped in and closed the door behind him, looking around as he did so. Light filtered dimly through the coat of dust on the small windows, casting a yellowish petina over display cases and odd bits of junk in the shop. The sound of the bell caused a bit of movement in the back room, and soon a curtain covering the door to the back fluttered and the proprietor came out. He was tall, he was athletic, he was blond…and he was pasty. He looked like he hadn’t seen a sunshiny day since his first birthday…in fact, he looked like a statue in a wax museum; so much so that Nathan had to resist the urge to go over and dust off his eyelids. He grinned…a huge, fake grin full of too-perfect teeth, and he spoke.

“Hi! I’m Billy Boy! How can I make your day brighter today? See something you like?” Nathan winced at the abrasive quality of his voice.

“Ummm…not really. My car is in the garage across the street. They told me to come back in an hour, so I thought I’d wander in here and check the place out.”

“Wonderful!! Well, not about your car, but about the fact that you chose to come see me. Please…look around, browse to your heart’s content. If something grabs your eye, just let me know. If nothing grabs your eye, why, it was wonderful of you to come in!”

“Thank you.” Nathan turned away, began to wander the shop. Billy Boy stood by the counter, huge, fake grin plastered across the bottom of his head, and watched Nathan. Nathan, knowing he was being watched, looked around self-consciously and spotted something in the far corner that looked like it really needed closer inspection. He strode quickly over to it.

“It” turned out to be a chess set, covered in dust, but still extremely impressive. He reached down, picked up the white queen, and with a guilty look tossed over his shoulder at Billy Boy, politely blew the patina of dust off of it. He found that he was holding a small, but heavy, dragon, perfectly and obviously hand carved from white marble. The piece was exquisite, detailed perfectly. The dragon was sitting back on her haunches on a round base, one claw resting on her knee, the other extended, claws out, toward Nathan. The neck curved up and around, ending in a perfectly carved head with deep blue gem chips as eyes and a crown sitting on top of it. The wings were folded back, partly extended, and covering the back half of the beast. A closer inspection showed dozens of individual scales, each detailed in minute perfection. Looking at the head, Nathan noted a mouth full of tiny, razor sharp teeth, and he rubbed his finger thoughtfully along one of them. He felt a prick, and a tiny droplet of blood appeared on one of the fangs. Nathan jerked back at the hint of pain, and sucked at the finger while looking at the blood droplet, which glistened momentarily in the dim light…and then seemed to absorb into the marble, leaving it once again the purest white.

As the blood disappeared, the queen seem to become softer, almost life like, and it seemed to pulse before hardening once again to marble. This action apparently re-animated Billy Boy, who immediately glided across the intervening space, stopping just by Nathan’s shoulder and looking down at the piece. Quietly, he purred into Nathan’s ear.

“Isn’t it exquisite? The finest Italian Carrera marble, the finest black onyx from Brazil…the table made up of ebony from Sri Lanka and Weymouth white pine from England. Every square inch before you was hand carved over a period of several years. I got it from an estate sale a couple of years ago, and I’m willing to let it go for a very reasonable price. What do ya think?”

“I think it’s nice…and I’m sure that the price is reasonable. But, as I said, I’m just waiting for my car, so I don’t think I’ll be buying anything today.”

“Well…OK. It certainly was nice to meet you, and if you want anything…why, you know where I am.”

Nathan thanked him, and left the store. He walked across the street, collected his car and drove home. “Home” was a dilapidated, hundred year old, inherited-but-unwanted, looks-haunted house that sat on a large lot just outside the center of town. He went in, kicked off his shoes, grabbed a beer and flopped in a chair, hoping to relax a bit before the daily rummaging of the refrigerator looking for something edible. The relaxing part eventually gave way to the dozing off part as he slipped into a quiet slumber.

The quiet slumber worked for a short time, until the dream kicked in. The dream consisted of Nathan on one side of a large room, and a score of dragons on the other side. Nathan had a Bowie knife and a small camp ax…the dragons had…well…fangs and claws and scaled armor and…oh, yeah…flames shooting out of their mouths. He heard a noise behind him and turned, only to see the wall behind him start to move, grinding slowly toward him and forcing him to move to the dragons. Closer and closer he moved, and just before he reached the furthest reach of the dragons flames…
Nathan awoke, sweating and screaming. He jumped up, pacing around and trying to figure out the meaning of what he had just experienced in his sleep. He ran to the phone and made a call, then immediately left the house. An hour later he was back, carefully carrying in a chess table and setting it up in his study. Another trip and the chess set joined the table. A couple of minutes later, the set was up and ready to play. The only disconcerting thing was the memory of the huge fake grin, full of too-perfect teeth, that had been plastered across the bottom half of Billy Boy’s face as he accepted the money for the set.

The dream didn’t return, and Nathan spent three days looking at the chess set, examining the chess set, playing with the chess set. Now, Nathan knew his way around a chess set. After all, wasn’t he once rated by the USCF? Wasn’t he listed on page 119 of the U.S. Chess Federation Lifetime Membership (2007 edition) book? Of course he was. This didn’t change the fact, of course, that he lived alone and had nobody to play chess with. But if anybody happened to drop by, why he was ready for ‘em.

About a week went by…and early one morning, Nathan was getting ready for work. He went into his study to get his cell phone, and on the way out, he stopped suddenly, staring at the chess set sitting so serenely in the middle of the room. The white king’s pawn was pushed forward one square. Nathan knew he hadn’t touched the set…there were no pets in the house to move the piece…he didn’t know what the hell was going on. He carefully replaced the piece on it’s home square and went to work.

Several hours later he came home, totally exhausted. He dropped his keys on the table by the door, drooped his briefcase on the floor under said table, took off his coat and tossed it in the general direction of a living room chair, went to the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the fridge, went to the study, dropped in the big, comfy office chair, leaned back, drank deep, closed his eyes and sighed in relief. After a couple of minutes, he leaned forward, set his beer down (being careful to set it on the already present water-stained ring) and took the remote from his desk drawer. Hitting the button on the remote activated the TV across the room, and he leaned back and watched the news.

The news was over, the beer was gone. Time for food. Nathan got up and headed toward the kitchen…and stopped suddenly, looking at the chess set. The white king’s pawn had been pushed forward one square. Food forgotten, he crouched down, looked under the table, examined the whole thing closely. This thing have a computer built in that he didn’t know about? No…no computer components anywhere. Well…maybe a ghost wanted to play chess. The house was certainly old enough to have a couple of those. And, Nathan, well, Nathan was a pretty damn good chess player…so…what the hell? He pushed the queen’s pawn forward two squares and went to get food.

The next night, he came home and went straight to the chess table. The queen’s bishop’s pawn was pushed forward two squares. Nathan cocked his head at that. Whoever…or whatever…was playing was initiating the Van’t Kuijs Attack…what the hell? He knew that this opening was weak for the white side, and with the variant that he had played on the first move, black actually had a 54% chance of winning, whereas white had only a 23% chance. He couldn’t understand that, but OK…he’d go with it. He made a move..and moved on. This scene repeated itself over the next few days. Nathan came home, saw that a move had been made, made a move of his own and moved on.

So far, no pieces had been taken, but as the play progressed, Nathan noticed that if he sacrificed a pawn, it might be possible to set up a trap that would definitely give him a major advantage. He examined the board, going over future moves in his mind, and finally pushed his pawn forward into danger. Then he took a deep breath and stepped back, watching the board. The gambit worked ass he…she…it…whatever decided to take the pawn. A knight swooped up and occupied the same space as the pawn. But then, the weird thing happened. The dragon figure that was the knight seemed to breathe, reared up and shot a thin stream of flame toward the pawn. As the flames engulfed the pawn, it quickly disintegrated into dust…which floated up and toward the white king. The king reared up, drew a deep breath, blinked it’s icy blue eyes and inhaled the pawn dust. As it did this, it seemed to grow by about a half an inch. It then settled back on its haunches and hardened back into a marble chess piece.

Well, that set Nathan back just a bit, and he started to suspect that maybe…just maybe…there wasn’t a ghost involved in this game. So, now he had no idea what the hell he was playing against. But he did have the feeling that stopping the game at this point wasn’t really an option. With a deep sigh, he made his next move and went to bed.

The game proceeded apace. Because of a small technical error, Nathans trap failed. But he managed to hold his own, and pieces on both sides fell at a regular rate. Both the white king dragon and the black king dragon were now a foot taller than they were at the beginning of the game, as they inhaled the dust of their vanquished enemies. Nathan was in trouble at this point, and he knew it. Normally, he would have offered his opponent a draw…but there was no opponent to ask. He could only play on…or resign.

Three days later, it was over. Nathan knew it was over. He didn’t want to admit it, but he knew it. He looked down at the shattered and scattered remnants of his army and, with a deep sigh, reached out and tipped over his king. What happened next filled him with horror. As soon as the defeated king hit the board, the white king dragon came to life, rearing up and inhaling mightily. With the exception of the white king dragon, every piece on the board, black and white, dissolved into dust and drifted toward the remaining figure. And, as the dust was inhaled, the white dragon began to grow. Two feet, four feet, five feet…splinters shot across the room as the weight of the dragon shattered the table sending it crashing to the ground. Still the dragon grew, snaking across the room…ten feet, fifteen…and at this point, Nathan let out a squeak and bolted for the door, bouncing off the far wall in an attempt to turn down the hall toward the front door.

As he stumbled down the hall, Nathan heard a crash behind him and risked a glance back, just in time to see the doorway of the sturdy explode as a huge head rammed through it. The head swiveled and shot a stream of fire toward the fleeing man. The fire slammed into Nathan’s back, splashing left and right onto the curtains, furniture and walls, while the main portion of the stream continued straight, exploding out of his chest and smashing into the front door. As Nathan collapsed in a pool of flame and the curtains, furniture, walls, house erupted into a raging inferno, the white dragon, now twenty feet long, reared up in the study, smashing through the ceiling into the second floor, and let out a thunderous roar, which reverberated through the neighborhood.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Detective Callen walked slowly toward the old house, moving carefully up the creaky, blackened steps, stopping just shy of the front door and looking around.The roof and upper floor had collapsed onto the lower floor, leaving mounds of charred wood and plaster piled here and there. A couple of interior and exterior walls still stood, but they drooped sadly downward and looked like they could go at any moment. Underfoot was a muddy mixture of ash and water. He stepped carefully over what remained of the threshold and into what remained of the house.

He was met by a fire inspector who introduced himself as Inspector Jackson. Together, they slowly walked over to the charred lump of debris that was, in fact, the sole victim of this fire. Callen squatted down, examined the corpse closely. It was actually difficult to determine that this had once been human, but there were a few indications…a misshapen head, a couple of teeth poking out…indications of arms and hands, maybe legs…he stood, thinking.

“Do we have any idea of who this once was?”

“Best guess…this is probably Nathan Kemp. It is his house and, as best as we have been able to determine, he was the only occupant. He is also the primary source of ignition, by the way.”

“Spontaneously combust, did he?”

Jackson chuckled. “No, he didn’t spontaneously combust. But, we do know that the fire started with him; specifically, on his back. Maybe someone or something threw fire at him in such a way as to set his back of fire. I don’t know. I do know that there is no trace of gasoline, turpentine, or any other accelerant on him. But, while he is the cause of the fire, there is something very, very strange that you should see. Just in here, if you will.”

As he spoke, he stepped up to a door, solid oak, that groaned saggily against what was left of its jamb, miraculously still standing in the middle of a mostly gone wall. Moving past the door, to a spot where the wall wasn’t anymore, they stepped through, and into what appeared to be the remains of a study. At the far end of the room stood a desk, heavily charred, held together by sheer determination. The walls and windows were gone, the bookcases puddled piles of debris. But there, there was…

Standing in the middle of the floor, in absolute pristine condition, was a chess table. Untouched by smoke, flame or water, it gleamed in the light. The table was constructed of Sri Lankan and English woods, with the board portion being alternate light and dark squares. On the table stood a chess set, white pieces of Italian Carrera Marble, perfect in every way. The black pieces were constructed of black Onyx, blacker than the deadest night. All of the pieces, black and white were intricately carved into dragons, perfect miniatures of the mythical beasts.

“What the hell is this?” Callen stepped over to the set, peering at it in awe. He picked up the white king, looking at it closely. He noted the beauty of it, and ran his finger gently over the piece. He sighed deeply, reluctantly put the piece back on the door, and turned away. He and Jackson left the study, with the mystery of the cleanliness of the chess set running through Callens mind. As they re-entered the living room, the medical examiner was just zipping up the body bag and preparing to remove the body. A small army of police and fire department personnel were combing through the house, seeking answers to the questions of how and why the fire had occurred.

Callen wandered around, poking here and there, looking for something, anything that would explain the mess in the house. But as he walked, his mind kept going back to that chess set…wondering how it could possibly be so pristine in the sooty, wet mess. Finally, he gave up all pretense of working and headed back to the study. He crouched down in front of the set, examining it closely without touching it. Nothing on it seemed amiss. It just sat there in its pure beauty. He reached out, picked up the white queen, noted its heaviness, the cool marble. The attention to detail in it’s construction was superb and the tiny fangs seemed to be razor sharp. He tentatively ran his finger over the fang, then jumped when the fang punctured it. A spot of blood appeared on the fang, then slowly absorbed into it, leaving it once again gleaming white. As the blood disappeared, Fire Inspector Jackson…tall, athletic, blond Inspector William “Billy Boy” Jackson plastered a huge, fake, full of too-perfect teeth grin across the bottom of his face…and chuckled.

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For more stories from Dave Stone check out his blog: davestone1.wordpress.com

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A Novel Idea (To Elizabeth With Love)

Short Story Sunday is on vacation today. Today, rather than a new short story, I’m giving you the first few pages of a novel. There are no Vampires, no Ghosts, no Werewolves. Nothing paranormal or Gothic. I think you’ll like it. One more thing, this is a work in progress.

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Also by Dr. Gregory Atkinson

Letting Go – A Marriage Guide for Beginners

Love and Loss

Love and Respect

Love and Trust

 

Excerpt from “To Elizabeth with Love”

By Dr. Gregory Atkinson

This book was written as a love letter to my wife Elizabeth Hobbs Atkinson. She was brutally tortured and killed by a man who had once been my friend. Her body was never found, but her legacy of love will here.

Liz and I met in the summer while working together at the Olive Branch Youth Christian Summer Camp in Pennsylvania. I was the director that summer and Liz was a counselor. We hit it off immediately with our passion for Christ and quick comfortable friendship.

I first noticed Liz’s bright smile and easy laugh. I couldn’t help notice her beautiful figure and grace as she moved with the children. She was sunshine and I was drawn to her warmth.

Within a week we were inseparable. At the end of the summer I asked Liz to marry me. She was 19 and I was 26, both sure in our love for each other and commitment in Christ.

Marriage is an equal partnership in love and friendship, blessed by God as the perfect union between a man and a woman. When I met Liz I finally met a woman who was my best friend and true equal. She was the one I could finally have that perfect union with.

We were married in November. The next 6 years were filled with such joy and passion I could have never imagined. We also had our share of tragedy with 3 late term miscarriages. Then, just as we had hoped that maybe God would grant us the blessed titles of Mommy and Daddy, the unthinkable happened. Liz was brutally murdered, in a cruel twist of fate by a man who called himself the Killer of Virtue.

According to the police report my darling wife lost enough blood to kill her before she was stuffed into the back of a car. The evidence showed the massive loss of blood didn’t kill her, at least not before she’d put up a valiant struggle for her life. Nobody knows if she died in the killer’s car or was dumped unceremoniously in an unknown location. Nobody knows if she too, like the other five innocent victims, was dressed like a whore and posed as if ready for her next customer, waiting for the police or an innocent jogger or hiker to find her. Traces of clothing soaked with her blood, torn pages from her note book and other artifacts were found in the woods, scattered by animals and weather, but her body was hidden much too well to ever be found.

From the day Liz vanished I prayed for her return and for hope. The day she was pronounced legally dead I lost all hope and thought I too would die. Only my faith in God and the love Liz and I shared kept me from going off into a black abyss of hopelessness and grief.

Not a day went by when we didn’t say, “I love you”. Not a day when by when we didn’t hold hands. Not a night went by when we didn’t completely celebrate our physical passions as man and wife.

Liz was sunshine, a joy to all who met her. She was my anchor. She was my best friend. No man had every loved a woman as I had and still love Liz. No woman ever loved a man as Liz had loved me.

To me marriage was never something I had to do. In fact, it wasn’t something I’d seriously thought about until I met Liz.

After Liz was pronounced dead I was bombarded by the attentions of women, each wanting to be the next Mrs. Gregory Atkinson. These women proclaimed they wanted to rescue me from my heartbreak. Most of them wanted to take advantage of my situation and cash in on my grief. Most had the false hope that they could comfort me. Each thought she could be a replacement for my lost wife, like a new puppy or a shiny new car.

These women, who lined up to tempt me with home cooking, sex and sympathy, only coveted what Elizabeth had. My disgust in them grew but I also pitied them in their ignorance of real love and the real meaning of marriage. To them I was a possession to be had, the big catch, a great opportunity. I would be the man who would make their lives complete.

I didn’t need a wife. I needed Liz. I needed her laugh, her understanding, her touch and her love.

The misguided woman who pursued me saw Liz as dead. I would never see her as dead, only in another place until one day I would see her again.

Perhaps one day I will marry again. I know Liz wouldn’t want me to be alone, but another wife could never replace Liz. It will be different next time, God willing, if it is God’s will for me to marry again.

My comfort came from my faith and my knowledge that Liz is in a better place.

“Son of a bitch.” I put down my glass of wine and threw the book across the room.

I’m surprised the bastard hasn’t been struck by lightning. What a crock of crap and lies. Any poetic justice of my situation had gone down the drain at that moment. Greg is walking and talking and writing bestselling books about me and about our marriage…and I’m still dead…saved by a serial killer, no less. God save me and have mercy on my soul and on that abusive lying son of a bitch Gregory Atkinson. May he rot in Hell. But he did get his wish. I am in a better place. A much much better place.

Chapter One

All of us Hobbs kids were exceptional liars, well except my brother Jordan who was a liar by default by his refusal to tell either lies or the truth. There were seven of us. Jordan was the youngest and had no discernable personality or identifying character traits except for his unusual refusal to talk, unless it was to speak about his love of the Lord and his belief that our brother Steve, now diseased, would soon come back as an avenging angel.

The rest of us were quite talkative and also could quote scripture as fluently as we could lie.

Once upon a time, the fashionable and pious Belinda George met the successful, and widowed young father Douglas Hobbs. Like Hitler and Mussolini they created their own empire complete with an army of children to worship the ground they walked on and do their bidding unflinching and loyal. Actually my mother always envisioned herself as Maria Von Trapp and us as the singing wunderkind, but more on that later.

The eldest Hobbs child, David was a serious and brilliant boy. His mother was our father’s first wife Barbara Vanderhook, a quiet mouse like woman who hung herself from the upstairs banister when David was five. She left a note saying that she could never love her strange cold son. Part two of the note stated that she loved her husband (my father) too much even knowing that he saw her as a failure.

We didn’t see much of David growing up as his mother’s will left us enough money to be shipped off to an exclusive prep school 2 hours from our home.

In the meantime mother started to pop out her own large brood of children. First came Mark Douglas Hobbs, the favorite and most aggressive. A year later the twins Bradley George and Katherine Belinda arrived. Bradley was almost as aggressive as Mark but had a soft manipulative side including charm, which he used at every opportunity to his advantage. The sensitive, pretty and evil Kathy spent her childhood trying to be our mother’s favorite. Unfortunately for Kathy, Belinda’s only favorite was Belinda.

Eighteen months after the birth of the twins, one cold January morning Stephen Allen Hobbs came into the world singing out songs of justice until the day he died. Elizabeth Ann Hobbs came along ten months later in October. After my arrival the lines were drawn and it was the real twins vs. the almost twins (or as my politically incorrect mother called us the Irish Twins). Brad and Kathy were classic bullies in every sense of the word, worshiping their leader Mark. Where Steve and I lacked in mean brute force we made up in cunning and deception.

Another two years passed in the Hobbs household when Jordan Emmanuel Hobbs arrived. Unlike the rest of us he was quiet and uncharacteristically passive in nature. In contrast to the physical prowess of his elder siblings Jordan was flabby and sedate. He could sit for hours while the rest of us ran, jumped and tumbled like we were training for the Olympic Ultimate Fighting Club.

Jordan and David were both odd in the opinion of the five middle children. They were quiet and passive; behaviors we couldn’t understand. To his credit David had a mean cynical streak that we greatly admired. As for the middle five children, we were sly and aggressive, qualities needed to survive in our good Christian home.

Mother (as Belinda insisted we call her) was delighted in the status that seven children brought her, but what she gained in status she lacked in maternal instinct. The seven Hobbs children were alternately ignored, neglected and both physically and psychologically tortured by our mother.

Our father demanded perfection; perfect behavior, superior grades, perfect musical pitch and a house that would put any military ideals to shame, and a complete devotion to God and the study of the bible. Of course there were consequences if we did not live up to his standards. Like mother, our father also believed in quick, harsh physical punishment to all infractions of his code of conduct. Luckily for us we rarely saw the workaholic bastard. Our dear father was having a long-term affair with his assistant, a lovely passive/aggressive girl named Pam who would do just about anything to please her boss.

Food was always a big thing in the Hobbs house hold. Not that anyone cooked, because they didn’t. It was the lack of food that kept the growing brood of Hobbs children hungry and always on the prowl. Mother didn’t cook, so while we were young she used her charms to get good spirited women from our church to come help her out with the babies. There were so many of us toddlers, five children under the age of 6 plus a baby, that nobody could resist the lovely young mother in need.

But as we grew older and started school things changed dramatically. We were no longer cute and more of a hassle. Nobody cared if you had a lot of older kids. We ceased to be cute or interesting to Belinda. This was not the way she wanted to spend her time.

Not being one to spend money on anyone other than herself, our mother had a schedule of pot luck dinners at our church she’d take us to at least 4 nights a week. We’d bring a couple of loves of French bread and a grocery bag of empty containers. In turn we’d come home with cakes, cookies, pasta, salads, casseroles, fried chicken and whatever other leftovers from the groaning church tables that would feed us the remaining 3 days. The rest of the time we foraged from our almost bare cabinets and from the homes of friends. Our lunches came from the school cafeteria so we always knew we’d be fed at least once a day during the week. Unlike the other kids, we never complained about the quality of school meals.

By the time Mark was 10 we were also cooking for ourselves. Let me take a step back. My parents never ate with us. Once Mark turned 9 they went out almost every night for dinner or brought dinner for two in and ate it in the formal dining room without the distractions of the children.

The kitchen would be stocked with mac-n-cheese mix, cans of soup, eggs, bacon, frozen pizza and other easy to fix and cheap items. That didn’t last long. One morning after Kathy got mad at me for calling her a “stupid butt picking rat” she threw a skillet containing about a half pound of bacon and several cups of flaming hot grease at me. With that little prank all hot meals ended.

I wound up with a stay in the hospital and a skin graph to my left thigh. Kathy, who neglected to use a hot pad on the cast iron skillet, burned off most of her fingerprints. My dear sister claimed I’d threatened her, causing the accident, and of course no adult believed me. Steve and Jordan stayed quite after threats of death from Mark, Brad and Kathy. After that all cooking, including use of the microwave was banned from our home.

While in the hospital recovering from my burns I was told to pray to God for forgiveness for being such a willful and sinful child. A child psychologist was sent in to talk to me. I lay in my bed quietly not daring to tell anyone about my fear of what God, Belinda or my siblings might do to me. No eight year old had ever given a better performance, spinning lies about a happy home and idyllic childhood. Later the minister from our church asked me if I’d ever been abused or mistreated at home. Of course I lied to him too. I’d always liked Reverend Johnson and didn’t want him to think badly of me.

During the stay in the hospital I lost the ability to cry. I don’t know if it was the ability or just the desire. Why cry at all? It never did me any good. Nobody ever comforted me, except Steve and it only scared Jordan. Or it could have been result of being told that I should be feeling both the fear of the fires of Hell and the love of God for saving my skinny little 8-year-old ass from burning to death from a flaming shower of bacon grease. I could feel pain both emotionally and physically – pain that had me wishing I would die on the spot, but I could no longer cry. I’d already learned to hide pain and emotional distress as a means of survival so it wasn’t that big of a deal, at least to me. Over the years it became creepy and disconcerting to others.

On those few occasions I did feel the need for tears or any other show of emotion or distress it manifested itself into violent stomach cramps and vomiting. I never figured it out and like everything else in my short life; I just accepted things as they were.

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More to come…

Let me know what you think.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

MT

Short Story Sunday: A Night at the Crest

Vampire Maman Short Story Sunday Presents:

A Night at the Crest

A Story from Marla Todd

Dallas Andrews was performing at the old Crest Theater in Sacramento.  Jonathan Ward’s soon to be ex-girlfriend Beth told him that this guy was hot. Andrews could actually communicate with the dead. Dallas Andrews said angels walked among them. He claimed to see angels all around him 24/7.

Andrews was the darling of the clairvoyant, medium, mysticism, aura generating followers of spiritual awakening.  He had been featured on most major network and cable television stations. He did radio shows, graced the covers of magazines and now was packing in full houses on a nation wide tour. He followed in the footsteps of Casey and Nostradamus. His book was on the best selling nonfiction lists.

Jonathan had tried to talk Beth out of it. He told her the guy was a fake. He told her that all of these guys were fakes, but she insisted. She told him it would be fun and enlightening.

“It would be fun and enlightening to stay home and watch The Wizard of OZ.” he replied, but she wasn’t going to budge.

Jonathan Ward, founder and editor of the West Coast Review, was 5’10 with broad shoulders on his medium build.  He was in good shape for someone his age, which appeared to be somewhere in his mid 40’s. According to his drivers license he was 46.  His sandy brown hair had soft grey streaks at the temples. His eyes were framed with long thick lashes. His prominent nose was straight and narrow, but it fit with his oval face. He was good looking enough to get noticed by women but not enough to stand out in a crowd, unless one noticed his almost unnerving pale ice blue eyes. He had almost a perpetual and too quick of a smile. “Always amused” is how he was often described.

His companion Beth McAllister was knock down drop dead gorgeous and she knew it. Aside from her occasional bizarre and childish fascinations with freaks like Dallas Andrews, she was also brilliant. Well, most of the time.

Beth chattered away as they entered the lobby of the Crest Theater. Her stiletto heels clicked on the floor. Jonathan always thought of it as her mating call. He slid his hand down over her perfect behind. She promptly slapped it away. “Who do you want to contact?” she asked.

“Judy Garland and Billie Burke.”

“No, it has to be somebody you knew.”

“There are no dead people I want to talk to.”

“Maybe Dallas can contact your parents or your brother.” She said gently.

“They have unlisted numbers”

“You aren’t funny.”

“Bitch.” he whispered then kissed her on the mouth and led her to their seats.

As they made their way through the crowd his eyes met a well-dressed, slightly handsome, thirtyish man in the lobby. Jonathan was sure it was a plant; someone sent by Andrews to listen in to the conversations in the lobby.  “My brother was blown to bits in Afghanistan. Pass that one on to your boss.” The man looked calm but Jonathan knew he’d unnerved him.

The restored art deco movie palace was the perfect place for the grand show of bullshit he would witness tonight. The lights dimmed. A woman in a long green dress played a traditional Irish harp on the corner of the stage. At the other corner was a plainly dressed woman signing for the deaf.

“I bet there isn’t one deaf person in this theater.” He said to Beth. She rolled her eyes at him and squeezed his hand. The lights came up on the stage.  The crowd cheered. Jonathan sat back with his arms crossed, glaring at the stage.

Dallas Andrews walked causally onto the stage dressed in a white silk shirt, cream colored tie and matching cream colored dress slacks finished off with tan Italian loafers with tassels. He was in his mid-to-late thirties with wavy dark hair and boyish good looks.  He smiled sweetly at the audience showing off perfect dimples, practically glowing with goodness and concern.

How innocent, how angelic, how phony” thought Jonathan.

The audience clapped until Andrews blushed on command and told them to stop. Jonathan glanced at Beth. She was transfixed. He had lost her, to Dallas Andrews, at least for the next hour.

The man in white told his story with all the passion of the finest bard or worst televangelist, depending on one’s point of view. It was all bullshit about dead friends and relatives who’d ended up with tragically only to “speak” to Dallas through his new found gift.

Dallas ended his touching life story with “We can all be at peace with those we love who have passed over. I knew at that time I had to help others to find that peace and end the pain and worry.

It is a selfish thing that we expect the dead to contact us. It isn’t easy for them. But I’m trying to make it easier, as their go between. I channel. I am the messenger. I am merely a vessel to bring the message of love from the other side.”

Jonathan said nothing as the audience sat transfixed. He jotted a few notes then put his pen away.  The night might not be a complete waste of time if the timing was right.

Andrews proceeded to ask questions of tearful audience members who wished to hear from departed loved ones.

“I’m hearing from Mary, Martha? I also see black and white. A nun. A policeman.” Andrews said in the most gentle and concerned voice.

“I can’t fucking believe this.” Jonathan swore under his breath. The people around him glared. He ignored them.

They heard from a dead son killed in a car accident, a recently departed grandmother, a young wife who died from cancer, a career Army officer killed in Iraq. Jonathan’s heart broke for those who came looking for answers and the hope of any small comfort. He took notes while Beth wiped tears from her face.

After about 90 minutes Andrews opened up for questions and answers. When called on, Jonathan stood up with his usual amused smile. “Be nice” Beth whispered.

Dallas Andrews saw a familiar face. He knew who the middle-aged man in the expensive black suit and distracting ice blue eyes was. Then he noticed the incredibly beautiful brunette sitting next to him. Dallas smiled sweetly at Beth, catching her off guard. She smiled back then blushed. With any luck he’d she’d be at the reception afterwards and after that in his suite at the Hyatt Regency across the street.

“Yes, you had a question.”

Jonathan addressed the clairvoyant. “You actually see angels?  Show me who the angels in this room are?”

Dallas smiled and nodded “You won’t be able to see them. They are spirits who reveal themselves to me, but they are here, all around us. Open your heart and you’ll feel their presence.”

Jonathan didn’t like the answer “Tell me Mr. Andrews, are your angels from heaven or are they from someplace else? It’s often hard to tell the difference.”

The room hushed. Dallas Andrews was obviously annoyed by this man. “I sense you have a troubled soul.”

“You don’t know the half of it.” Jonathan replied in disgust.

Andrews gave a sympathetic smile and help out his hands, palms up. “Let me try to help you find out where your demons come from.” His voice was soothing as if talking to a troubled teen.

Jonathan almost laughed. “Oh you’re good. You’re very good. Mr. Andrews, where I come from we have words for people like you. A few that come to mind are liar, con man, cheat, and oh yes, more importantly sinner.”

“What is your name?” asked Andrews trying to keep his composure.

“You know perfectly well who I am.” thought Jonathan. He smiled at the man on stage. “Jonathan Ward, West Coast Review.”

Dallas Andrews pointed at Jonathan then put his finger to his chin. He smiled again. “I thought I recognized you. You’ve seen with your own eyes, heard with your own ears the news I’ve brought to these people tonight. Mr. Ward, humor me for a moment. Think of someone you’ve lost.  Your parents were from Alaska. They died in a plane crash, you and your siblings survived. Would you like a message from your parents?” he asked raising an eyebrow at Jonathan.

Beth took Jonathan’s hand. He gave it a quick squeeze and let go.  Parents my ass. “Why should my dead mother contact you, a stranger, when she could contact me directly?” he asked.

Dallas toned down his voice. He turned up the gentleness and compassion. “You block out the passage for her to travel with your negativity.”

Jonathan only glared. “You found the information about my mom from the bio on my web site. You’ve been following my stories for the past year.”

“You must have great pain in your heart” replied Dallas in a comforting voice, as he put his own hand over his heart.

“How do you know my mother is really dead or even has a soul?” Jonathan shot back sarcastically.

“I speak with the angels.”

“Really? You not only see, but you also speak with angels? That is truly amazing.”

“It is a gift, a blessing.”

“It’s a lie.” said Jonathan calmly as Beth sunk lower in her seat.

Dallas Andrews smiled sadly “Ladies and Gentlemen, this reaction is common from skeptics. There are angels all around us.”

“Show me.”

“There’s one right next to you.”

Jonathan ignored the comment. “Dallas, do you believe in God?”

“Of course.”

“Do you believe in hell?”

“I believe in the intrinsic goodness of all mankind. So, no, Mr. Ward, I don’t believe in hell.”

“You will Dallas, believe me you will.”

Dallas lifted his chin in defiance. “Is that a threat?”

“No Dallas, it isn’t a threat. It’s a statement of fact.” Jonathan said cooly.

“What in your opinion is hell, Jonathan?” asked Dallas slowly and deliberately as if he was ready to pull out the big guns.

“I’ll give you a tour,” Jonathan thought to himself.  He wasn’t going to take the bait. “I’ve seen enough. Good night Dallas. Don’t forget to check out next week’s issue of the West Cost Review for the end of this riveting story.” Grabbing Beth’s hand, he started to make his way to the back of the theater. Beth stopped and turned back.

“Just like Lot’s wife.” He whispered in her ear.

She pulled her hand away and hissed “Asshole.” He stopped by the exit door and faced the stage.

Dallas Andrews had already started to have a violent seizure. Then he started to scream and fell to his knees holding his head in his hands.  Soon he’d feel pain like he’d never felt before. It was an ugly way to end the evening, but the man had to be stopped. Jonathan couldn’t kill, but he could do an amazing amount of damage to the living.  Maybe, with any luck, Dallas Andrews would get the message and change his ways.

Jonathan smiled slightly and narrowed his eyes “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Amen.” He said quietly to nobody in particular.

Beth looked at him with wide eyes.

He scowled at her “What? Don’t look at me like a frightened cat. I told you he was a fake.”

“Jon, we can’t just leave.”

“Sure we can. There isn’t anything we can do here except be in the way.” He took out his phone and dialed 911. “My name is Jonathan Ward. I’m at the Crest Theater on K Street. Sacramento. Dallas Andrews is having some sort of attack. Horrible convulsions. Oh my gosh, I think he passed out. Please, he needs help. I’m not sure…there’s a doctor or someone up on stage with him now.” He paused “Yes…you’ve had other calls…help is on the way. Thank you. Thank you so much.”

Beth stood in shock. “Oh no, oh no.” she whispered, her eyes still on the stage.

“Let’s go darling.” Jonathan told her grabbing her arm like a vice and practically dragging her out of the theater. She passed a few of her wide-eyed friends, but he didn’t let her stop. She’d be blabbering all night to them about poor Andrews. He wondered how someone as smart as Beth could be so gullible and stupid when it came to crap like this.

They walked across the Capitol Park to his car.  Beth was livid.

“We should have stayed. I bet you made him have an aneurism with your stupid questions. I can’t believe how rude and mean spirited you were to him. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life.” She tried to stop him but he kept walking.

He gave her a disgusted look. “I was rude and mean spirited? At least I was telling the truth.”

“No, if he dies it will be your fault.”

“How will it be my fault? Should I have asked for his medical history before I asked him any questions?”

She grabbed his arm. “Aren’t you concerned at all?”

He stopped and pushed her hand away. “Tell me why I should be concerned with a fraud like Andrews? Enlighten me?”

Beth was livid. “Dallas isn’t a fraud. What I saw tonight was real.”

This was going nowhere. Jonathan changed his tone. He ran his hands down her arms and gently took her hands. “Dear sweet Bethany. It wasn’t real.”

“You never respect anything I say or feel.” She cried trying to pull her hands away.  “What about his visions from his cousin and dead girlfriend?  He couldn’t have been making that up.”

Jonathan held on tight. “His cousin Joyce died when he was two years old. Andrews had seen her once. And there was no girlfriend Patty. She was a girl in his dorm who died of leukemia. They knew each other but they never went out.”

“He might have loved her. He might have cared for her.”

“No Beth, the guy is a liar and a fraud.”

“You don’t know that.”

““Listen to me. Remember the first time you saw the trunk that belonged to May Woosley, in the Sacramento History Museum? You were on a field trip with your nephew’s 4th grade class.”

Beth blinked, her voice turned shrill. “What are you talking about?”

“Let me jog your memory. May died in 1879. She was just a little girl. On the advice of a clairvoyant, like Andrews, her mother sealed a trunk full of May’s belongings in the wall of their home. Mrs. Woosley spent the rest of her life searching for a message from her daughter because she’d listened to the words of a con-artist rather than listening to her own heart for healing. The trunk wasn’t found again until 1979. When you saw it in the museum you cried. You went home and cried all night for the little girl and her family.”

“How did you…that was 5 years ago, before I even met you.  I never told you about that.”

“You didn’t have to. Beth, don’t you see.  You knew Mrs. Woosley was lied to. Dallas Andrews lies to people too.”

A tear rolled down her cheek. She backed away. “How do you know these things? You always know things.”

“I observe and I guess a lot.”  He wiped the tear away and kissed her. “See, you aren’t as tough and shallow as you pretend to be.”

The fog had rolled leaving the night air with zero visibility. He took her hands and wrapped the car keys around them. “You’re driving.”

She took the keys knowing full well that he was practically blind on clear night and completely blind in the night fog.

“Could you even see Dallas Andrews on the stage.”

“I could see enough. Let’s go.”

“If you could have seen his face.”

“I saw his face clear enough to know every single thing he said was a lie.”

She adjusted the seat and glanced over at him. “You’re such an asshole.”

“Just drive.”

“Where are we going?”

“Your house.” Her house was closer and he wouldn’t have to drive her home in the morning.

“You expect me to let you…”

“I love you Beth. Nothing, including your faith in a charlatan like Dallas Andrews, is going to change that. Not now, not ever.” He took her hand and whispered, “You are my soul. And despite the fact that you drive me absolutely crazy, I need you.”

Another tear rolled down her cheek as she drove in silence.

When they got back to her house and made love to her like she was the last woman on earth. She asked him again about the long thin scars on his back. He told her for the 100th time that he didn’t remember how it happened. It was during the plane crash when his parents died way up in the Alaskan wilderness, hundreds of miles from anyone. So final. So tragic. It made for a good story, even thought it wasn’t true.

 

Beth’s amazing body was as fake as the con man he’d just put down. Beautiful store bought breasts, a dazzling smile of the best veneers money could buy, cheek implants and a slightly smaller and straighter nose than nature had given her, violet colored contacts covering her hazel eyes, the trendiest hair colorist in town, a sprayed on tan, artificial nails and a toned body thanks to grueling sessions with a sadistic personal trainer named Bruce. Jonathan thought wistfully that there was an entire generation of American men who had never felt a real female breast.

The sad thing was that at 38 Beth would have been lovely without most of the work. At least her heart was real, despite her tendency to be shallow and superficial.

He knew he scared her.  The only reason she kept him around was for the great sex and his political connections. What a joke – there were no real “best” connections in Sacramento or anywhere else for that matter.

Jonathan knew the best people to know where those brilliant folks who stayed away from the media limelight, away from the cultural and political wanna-bees.  He often thought, “Give me the rocket scientist next door over those who claimed they partied with Arnold and Jerry, or knew the more influential elected officials and developers at the state capitol. Give me my own friends; the mom who writes historic romance novels, the high school science teacher, the master gardener and the emergency room doctor. These were the people who really know what it is like to be alive and human.”

The next morning the fog had been replaced by a grey drizzle of rain. He left Beth’s in his silver Jaguar XJR, heading off to the airport to pick up Lorna. A few years his senior, she was a golden haired, blue eyed living Barbie doll. She lived in Malibu with a view of the ocean. Tapped into the spiritual rhythm of the ocean, she fit right into the affluent new age lifestyles of her neighbors. They had to be some of the most entertaining and shallow people he’d ever met.

“Where’s the hybrid?” asked Lorna

“Dropped it off for new tires.” He thought of Lorna and her unrelenting social conscience –  knew he should have driven the hybrid, then shrugged it off.  This weekend he wanted style not substance. In a few hours all the substance he could ever want was going to be shoved down his throat.

“What are you listening to?” she asked in disgust when he started up the car.

“Metallica.”

She turned it off. “Have you heard today’s news yet?”

“No. I’m clearing my mind today. No radio. No TV. No newspapers. No Internet. No phone.”

“Tell me what happened last night?”

“Beth broke up with me. She said I was too intense. I recall she used also used the words weird, asshole and insensitive. Lots of tears so I think there’s a good chance she’ll take me back.”

Lorna grabbed his wrist like a vice. “What happened with Dallas Andrews?”

“Let go, do you want me to wreck the car? Where did you hear about Andrews?”

“NPR, Morning Edition. CNN. Fox. LA Times.”

“Was my name mentioned?”

“They said that in the process of being interrogated by you, Andrews had a violent seizure. He is now is now seeing visions of hell and keeps mentioning your name.”

He changed the CD to Vavaldi’s Four Seasons “Funny guy that Andrews. I heard the story on the way to the airport. Didn’t realize Dallas Andrews was so popular.” He said giving Lorna a wink. “Grab my phone, it’s in the glove box. Check my messages.”

Lorna’s beautiful mouth turned into a slight smile as she listened to the messages. Jonathan thought it was almost a snarl. “You have 22 messages. The first three are from your office, CNN and Beth. She’s hysterical. The rest seem to be people wanting to talk to you about Andrews.” They headed down Hwy 50 towards the hills. “What are we going to do with you Jonathan?” she asked rubbing his neck with her left hand.

“Don’t do anything with me” he answered quietly.  “Just let me do my job.”

They went up the hill towards Sutter Creek, to Ruth’s Ranch as he always called it, for the annual, get our heads screwed back on, clear our brains, find peace, drink a lot of great wine and solve all our problems retreat. He was looking forward to it. The past few months had been a major drain on his mental and emotional resources.

He loved the drive through the rolling oak forested hills. He spent every weekend he could with his cousin Ruth. But this weekend might be rough. He was going to ask his family about his latest job offer. This was his dream job. He’d all but signed the contract. Everyone would be there to give him their own jaded opinions. Most wouldn’t be too thrilled.

He looked over at beautiful golden Lorna dozing in the seat next to him. She was his older sister, his mentor, the one who kept him grounded. He imagined her with a halo and beautiful wings spread out in shining glory. Then he wondered if she was sleeping with her new best friend, a plastic surgeon named, Dennis O’Brian. Denny, as she called the man was nice enough, but suddenly Jonathan felt like he wanted to beat the crap out of the guy if he ever touched Lorna. Then he’d torture him and flay off his skin leaving him a quivering mass of, well, whatever. He had to stop being so protective of his sisters.

Jonathan’s mind skipped back Dallas Andrews. He felt sick to his stomach. It had been unpleasant business, but somebody had to do it. After all it wasn’t easy being angel.

 

 

Copyright Ó 2013 Marla Todd

 

Author and artist Marla Todd

Author and artist Marla Todd

______________________________________________

More from Short Story Sunday

Short Story Sunday is a regular feature on Vampiremaman.com.
Expect the unexpected … and a lot of fun! Click on the title to go to the story.

Tangled Tales

Tangled Tales

Vampire Desires (on writing fast & ghost writing, sort of)

I’m on the back deck, my usual spot, laptop on my lap, glass of wine, and thinking about what it means to be a Modern Vampire Mom. Wait…before you leave or unsubscribe to this blog hear me out (might take a bit because I have no idea where this might lead…then again neither do you…).

Vampire Desires

I close my eyes and savor the cool summer night Delta breeze. Bats dance around in the dark, while the last of the squirrels and birds curl into their night nests in the oak trees.

I type and delete, type and delete, type and delete…

I hear a throat clear and look up.

“Yes?” I say that to the apparition who stands in front of me translucent against the deck rail.

“You’re supposed to be writing about desires, not Animal Planet,” the Ghost said t me. “Well Juliette, show me some DESIRE.”

I started to key in the words as fast as my fingers would fly.

Ninety miles to the west of The Capitol, in the city of Meadow Creek, Richard Long, owner of the second largest newspaper in the Northwest Kingdom, was still steamed because he didn’t receive an exclusive invitation to the reception with potential Real Princess Candi.

The only invitation to a member of the press was given to The Capitol World, the largest and oldest news organization in the country. Richard scowled, knowing the spoiled, socially challenged daughter of the owner of The Capitol World, Miss Paullina Norbell, would attend.

Paullina had the social graces of a cow, the table manners of a pig and the fashions sense of a cheap whore.  Then there was her laugh.  It was like a cat coughing up a hairball mixed with vibrating high-pitched screams of something possessed by demons. Pity Prince Alexander if anything even slightly amusing happened at his big event.

For what seemed like forever, Richard had actively discouraged Paullina’s empty headed fantasies that one day she and Richard would combine their efforts and create a newspaper empire together. His steady rejections to the woman’s advances did nothing to stop her. In fact, it seemed to make her try even harder. The idea of having anything do with her made him nauseous to say the least.  Then to top it all off the woman was all sickening sweetness to the public – a public which seemed to adore her. She was called “Joyfully genuine” and “a woman with her own unique style.”  Sure he thought unique was a polite way of saying tacky.

Despite his public contempt for the woman, Paullina aggressively pursued Richard.  The memory of her at major media events rubbing up against him in her size too tight dresses and inch thick make-up made him cringe. What was worse was how she’d manage to get her hands under his jacket or in his hair every chance she got. He’d never dare sit down when she was around in fear she’d try to plop her tacky bow covered butt into his lap.

Just a week before she told everyone who was anyone that she and Richard were soon to be lovers. Richard contacted Paullina and told her that he’d rather take a vow of celibacy and live out his life in a rat infested cave than spend a single minute alone with her.

The following morning he received a package of less than modest images of him and some of his more recent female companions, with the suggestion that if he didn’t play his cards right his fashionable female friends would be more than embarrassed. Richard was always discreet when it came to his private life so he did what he had to do.

That afternoon he’d made sure that all of the top fashion houses and technology firms in Meadow Creek and The Capitol would slam their doors in the face of any Capitol World reporter.  He then published the pathetic account of how the putrid Paullina tried to blackmail “a well known, respectable Meadow Creek man” into a physical relationship. The next day a Meadow Creek judge signed a restraining order against her to stay away from Richard, and an order for all of the damning images to be immediately destroyed.

Unfortunately, Big Daddy Norbell had come to the rescue of his precious daughter and the reputation of his newspaper. Underestimating the long standing clout of The Capitol Word with certain members of King Florin’s staff, Richard’s invitation to the reception was retracted and all requests for him and his staff were ignored, except for one miserly press pass which was to be used specifically by his Capitol Bureau fashion and society columnist the lovely and popular 70 year old Kendra Catskeller. It was a hard blow to Richard, who considered himself a model of journalistic integrity and ethically superior to the owners of The Capitol World. He told Kendra to watch her back and made sure she was fitted in a stunning dress that would make her look 10 years younger than her actual age.

Despite his stellar record in support of Alexander and the Royal Family, even Simon Oliver, who was one of Richard’s closest friends, couldn’t get him an invitation to Princess Candi’s reception, but then again Simon Oliver wasn’t always in the good graces of the Royal Family.

All across the Northwestern Kingdom people were holding “engagement” parties in honor of Prince Alexander and his potential bride.  The good news was that Richard had been invited to the most exclusive and fashionable party in Meadow Creek. This was the party his close friend Simon Oliver, the 12th Earl of Greenwood, had planned to attend. That was before Simon and his wife Ellie were summoned by King Florien and forced to attend the reception for Princess Candi. 

Tonight Richard would be at Olivia Snowhawk’s fabulous party in her Greenwood mansion on the outskirts of Meadow Creek.  Miss Snowhawk was Simon Oliver’s friend, next door neighbor and business partner. She was also President and owner of Universal Technologies International, the largest and fastest growing technology company in the Northwest Kingdom.

As with her business, Miss Snowhawk’s parties were always on an enormous scale, with an enormous budget, always successful and always talked about for years.

  Having acquired an advance copy of the guest list, Richard was pleased to see that everyone who was anyone outside of the royal inner circle was going to be there. It was a mix of artists, writers, politicians, fashion designers, scientists, technology experts, business people, educators and a smattering of expatriates from the far ends of the globe. There were also an unusually large number of wizards. Six to be exact, including the hostess.  It was going to be great.

Another discovery was that the hostess had managed to steal away Prince Alexander’s very own personal chef for her own use, a fact that didn’t set will with the Prince. If nothing else, the food at the party tonight would be incredible. Along with the food it was a known fact that Olivia Snowhawk had the best wine cellar in Meadow Creek, something Richard had taken full advantage of over the years.

Sometimes Richard felt sorry for Alexander and the stuffiness of court. The Prince would have enjoyed this party with the lavish libations and brilliant mix of guests. Aside from that, the mansion itself was built for over the top entertaining and comfort. The thought crossed Richard’s mind that Alexander had never attended any parties given by the hostess. It was odd considering she lived right next door to Simon Oliver, the 12th Earl of Greenwood, who also happened to be Alexander’s best friend and it just happened, Simon was Olivia Snowhawk’s closest friend as well.

 Meadow Creek, the fashion and technology capital of the country was the perfect place for Richard Long. It was where the smartest and best looking people in the country resided. He considered himself to be in both categories. In fact for the past eight years he’d been on the most eligible bachelor list in “Stylish Lifestyle” magazine. To top that off he was also on the best dressed list every year since he’d graduated from college. He’d also received more journalism awards than he could count and interviewed most members of the Royal family, including the King and Queen, dozens of times. Aside from being oddly snubbed tonight by the Royal Press Secretary, he was always a smashing success.

He’d dressed in opulence for the evening in the perfect shades of blue to match his eyes. His golden sun kissed blond hair was tussled just so in a way that made most women wants to fuss with it. With his sparkling baby blue eyes and dimpled smile Richard Long was boyish charm personified. At 40 he was feeling at like a man in complete control of his life.

Richard’s date for the night, a tall shapely, dazzling beauty named Jaxey Devine, clearly adored him. Her red leather dress fit like a glove.  He slid his hand over her amazing backside knowing, as usual, she had nothing on underneath.  At age 26, Miss Devine was the same age as Princess Candi. Richard smiled knowing that Alexander would never get from perfect Real Princess Candi what his perfectly luscious date was willing to give.

Jaxey Devine had made a name for herself in the Adult Entertainment market. She wasn’t just another great body. She would and could do things that shocked and delighted her audiences unlike anyone else in her field.  But she was more than just a professional exhibitionist – she was good with numbers.  Jaxey had invested wisely and made a fortune investing in the financial markets. She’d be able to retire an obscenely wealthy woman by the time she was 30. 

Jaxey was overjoyed to be Richard’s date to the classy party. It was an invitation of a lifetime for her and a way to be with people who might have the chance to discover that she was more than just an erotic artiste.  Richard had to smile at her excitement.  She was so sweet and tasty, and for now, all his. Maybe Jaxey wasn’t Miss Right, but she made a great Miss Right Now.

 As they approached their destination Jaxey marveled at the house awash in twinkling lights suspended by wizard’s magic. Richard told her he couldn’t wait to see the new the chandelier, which was rumored to be made from a thousand luminous crystal dragonflies.

Olivia Snowhawk greeted him at the door with a kiss on the cheek and warmly welcomed Jaxey to her home.  The hostess’s soft lilting accent both surprised and delighted Jaxey, who had rarely met anyone from outside the country. As they followed Olivia to the ballroom Jaxey looked around in wonder at the wide hallway lined with wooden panels carved like a living forest. 

The hostess was dressed in a backless sparkling moss green dress with that showed off every great curve on her body. Her dark hair was piled on her head in careless ringlets, dotted with diamond stars. Richard was tempted to kiss the back of Olivia’s lovely neck, but restrained himself and just admired her glow. Pointing the pair towards the bar, Olivia told them to mingle, she then, as if by magic, disappeared into the crowd of “Engagement Party” guests.

During the small talk with other party guests Richard never questioned the Real Princess tradition.  It wasn’t something people talked about. Everyone accepted the fact that the prince would marry a Real Princess the same as they accepted the change of seasons or major holidays. In private, Richard did wonder why Alexander never got his head out of his ass and found a woman on his own. Sure that cheating Real Princess Bitch Viola had broken his heart, a fact not made public, but there were a lot of great women out there who’d be happy to put up with Alexander.

In contrast to Viola, everything about Princess Candi seemed right. She was absolutely gorgeous, sweet and simple. Perfect for a prince who seemed to have lost his passion for romance ever since he broke off the engagement with Viola three years earlier. Alexander could do whatever he wanted with Candi, including ignoring her, which seemed to be his pattern with most women he became involved with lately.

One night about a year ago while dining and drinking a little too much with Simon and Richard, Prince Alexander had mentioned he wanted a woman who challenged him. He wanted a woman with passion. He wanted a woman who could take him to the edge and back.  If anyone could take Alexander there it would be Olivia Snowhawk. Sure, take the Prince to the edge and over the brink to hell. Forget challenges, passion or going to the edge or getting back, in Richard’s opinion, Prince Alexander really needed someone nice and simple, with no complications like Candi. Someone he could marry and live happily ever after with.

Richard looked around the crowded house for Olivia but only caught glimpses of the sparkling green dress as she made her rounds to the 80 or so guests. A smile came to his face when he saw that most of the women were wearing black arm bands in sorrow that the charming and oh so handsome prince was soon to be engaged. That had to be Olivia’s idea. She was always one for fun and practical jokes. He caught her eye from across the room. She laughed then turned away and was once again lost in the crowd.

Richard and Olivia had been close friends for years. They’d found themselves in agreement on almost all social and political issues and formed an alliance in their shared passions. With her help he’d scored some of his greatest journalistic triumphs. As the owner and president of Universal Technologies International she’d been generous in giving him exclusives on breaking stories about communications and medical technologies, not to mention volumes of juicy information for the social and fashion pages.

Olivia was free with information but drove a hard bargain on exclusivity. When she and Simon gave Richard information he used to it the advantage of all of them. Simon was especially protective of making sure the Meadow Creek Recorder reporters received the information before any other media outlet, including The Capitol World.

Due to their outspoken views against the militant cults still allowed to flourish in the western regions of the country, and other social issues, Richard and Olivia had recently received threats in the form of mutilated animals left on their doorsteps, threatening letters and break-ins at their offices, plus attacks on their employees. Despite this he never stopped doing what was right, exposing injustices and small minded backwards thinking. 

Despite the fact that any kind of violence scared the shit out of Richard, he continued to put his opinions to paper. As a mere man, he freely acknowledged to himself that he was a coward but as a journalist and a publisher he was invincible.

Catching a glimpse of Olivia talking to a young well-built male guest Richard’s stomach flipped. He had loved Olivia. He’d even told her he loved her. Hell, maybe he still did love her. In return, she told him almost everything he wanted to hear except the four words he wanted to hear the most: she never once said “I love you Richard.” Never once.

Olivia had been his friend for twelve years, but she had always been a mystery. Then one magical night, after a carefully planned perfect romantic evening, he finally got her into his bed – then got her to talk.

After making love to her, a sweet memory he’d never forget, he gently coaxed her into telling him the truth of her past. It was a nightmare. He learned she had come from a dark scary violent place and lived a life of dark scary violent secrets.

Looking at the angelic woman who lay sleeping quietly in his arms he thought in horror “she’s killed people.” People as in plural persons she’d put to death either with magic or by her own hand. 

On her 17th birthday she had been more or less marked for death by the dark forces of the Crystal Mountains and by rival factions of the new Crystal Mountain Republic revolutionaries. There was no place for her to go but out of the country. She took with her the ugly physical scars of her own close calls with death and worse scars on her soul. Everything this smart, caring, funny, flirtatious woman had told him about her past life in the Crystal Mountains was violent and vile and frightening. It was nightmares of death and betrayal beyond anything he could have ever imagined.

He didn’t know what was worse, who her family had been, or what they had done to her, or what they planned on doing to her, or worst of all, what they might do to him if he continued the relationship.

He’d written and researched stories on violence against women and abusive families but nothing compared to her story.  Like most abused people he’d known or interviewed over the years he was never sure if he was ever getting the entire truth. The one thing is known for sure was that his old friend Olivia Snowhawk was living a huge lie and doing a hell of a good job at it.

He’d never tell a soul what she had shared with him. He couldn’t. He’d break her heart by leaving her, but he’d never betray her trust.

Yes, now that he thought about it some more, he did still love her. But then again, he’d rather set his hair on fire than live with her past looming over his head.

Richard’s curious nature made him want to know more. Taking what he already knew, he investigated a few inside sources, and found Olivia had a disturbing connection to the Queen that could land him in a dungeon for the rest of his life or worse.  As much as he liked to print the most scandalous, exciting and breaking news, Richard prided himself in his ability to keep secrets, even if it meant keeping those secrets to the grave

The party was better than Richard could have ever imagined.

The guests knew that whatever went on at Olivia Snowhawk’s parties stayed at her parties.  They also knew that they could trust Richard. In the interest of protecting his sources Richard made sure the press was always kind to this elite social group.

Olivia gave a speech the musical lilt of her Crystal Mountain accent charming everyone there.

She stood at the far end of the ballroom, holding a crystal goblet of red wine.

“Where I come from we don’t have marriages which involve laws and contracts. Love between a woman and a man isn’t something to be legislated or confined to written rules of order. We choose a partner, vow our love forever, in private, and live together for the rest of our lives. It isn’t a public event. Friends and family aren’t involved. It is a bonding of two hearts and two souls for as long as they live, or even longer. It is the truth in its most pure form. It is absolute trust. It is complete and unconditional love.

I’m happy to say that most of my many married friends here in the Northwest Kingdom take their vows as serious as if they came from The Crystal Mountains. I toast to the commitment and happiness of you, my married friends, on this night of celebrating love and a hopeful happy future for Prince Alexander.”

Everyone cheered and downed their glasses. More wine was passed around. Olivia continued her speech.

‘However, before you cheer me more, I must say a few words about what is happening tonight in The Capitol.

Your barbaric custom of marrying off your dear prince to the highest bidder, to a REAL PRINCESS is both fascinating and appalling to me. Of course the choice of a woman of appropriate education and breeding is expected from Prince Alexander, but it should be his choice.  If he meets the love of his soul and she doesn’t pass the real princess test, then what? Do they spend their lives in misery apart wondering what might have been? Do they lead clandestine lives together in secret?

And what exactly is a Real Princess? Nobody knows, nobody questions. That kind of blind trust my friends, is what started the revolution in the Crystal Mountains. It is what made waste of the southern half of our world. It is what keeps the far northern territories under the siege of criminal warlords. 

On the other hand, it is a quaint tradition meant to help a man, our Prince Alexander to be exact, find the woman of his dreams with little or no effort. I’ll have to admit that while my Human Resources staff at Universal Technologies isn’t involved in my love life, they can find the perfect employees. Maybe the Royal powers that be used the same dynamic matrix in finding Princess Candi.

But then again most of your traditions are barbaric to me. All of you beautiful men wear such sort hair that there is nothing for your women to grab onto. You dress so plainly and simply never expressing yourselves through your appearance. And when all is said and done you put your dead in the ground to be eaten by bugs. So I can hardly expect you to pick your mates in a reasonable way.

Another thing I don’t understand is the way the men in this country always look for an enchanted maid, a girl in the woods to rescue, a real princess. Maybe they should stop searching for a dream and find that their bliss is right next door with the girl who works in the library or the research lab. Love is magic enough without making it into a fairy tale.

Our dear friends Simon and Ellie have been in love for their entire lives and married in bliss for 18 of those years. I wish that same happiness for Prince Alexander.

But your tradition of not drinking enough will end tonight and so, before I make myself into more of a fool than I already have, I wish you all a lifetime of happiness and love.

I wouldn’t want anyone else as our Prince. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, ever. This is my home; you are the people I choose to be with. You are the people I love, heart and soul.

Now let us all toast true love.

They all held up their glasses and said True Love in unison.

Twenty minutes later Richard found himself alone in the downstairs library with Olivia. 

Despite the fact that he’d come with Jaxey, he kissed Olivia a long perfect kiss full of passion and promises of what might come later. His hand stroked her bare back and he almost became lost in his desire to want to touch all of her. Feeling she wanted the same thing, he stopped and backed away. At first she said that she’d been under the impression that he still loved her. When he made a lame excuse, she calmly stated she was done with him and that there was no chance that she would ever give him her romantic affections, never in a million years. He’d screwed up worse than he had imagined and she’d locked him out of her heart forever. That hit him like a punch in the stomach.

When he returned to the party Olivia’s friend Annie Hawthorne gave him a look that could kill.

“You’re such a shit head”. The words came out of her pretty pink lips like an electric shock to his system.

“What did I do?”

“You broke her heart.”

“I did no such thing. Olivia doesn’t have a heart.”

“You just don’t get it do you? So typical of your type.” Annie scowled at him and walked away.

His insides twisted up into a knot again. Waves of remorse passed over him. What was it with women? They always knew when you screwed up with one of their friends. Then they attacked with the ferocity of rabid mother wolves.  No man was ever safe from the “girlfriends”.

He wished he could forget Olivia. He remembered the magical night she had told him that she needed him. She said she wanted to share her life with him. She shared everything with him, maybe in the hope that he, of all men, might be able to help her.

He’d never be able to help her, not in the way she needed help because she wouldn’t allow herself to love him in return. The sick feeling came back again. Now it all made sense. Olivia seemed to be unable to figure out the key to her salvation, but he, Richard Long, had just figured it all out.

Richard knew what Olivia had to do to save herself. The only problem was that he was too much of a coward to tell her. Another problem was that if he told her what she needed to do he might risk loosing everything, including his life and maybe hers.

Returning to the party he no longer felt like socializing or being around reminders of what could have been. Taking Jaxey’s hand he headed for the door.

“Come on Jax, let’s get out of here.  I have plans for you tonight.”

Then he whispered something in her ear that made her giggle and purr, “Oh Richie baby, you’re such a naughty boy.”

He looked back at the house as he left. Olivia Snowhawk stood in an upstairs window watching him, their eyes met and then she turned away from him forever.

_________________________

“Where are the Vampires? Your story was supposed to be about Vampire Desire,” said the Ghost his hands on his hips hovering slightly above me.

I rolled my eyes and sighed loud enough to show him I was annoyed. “I’m a Vampire and I wrote about desire. End of story. Anyway, there are Vampires inside.” I nodded towards the sliding glass door to the room where my Vampire brother and Vampire husband were watching TV with the kids.

“They’re watching Chopped. Jesus, Mary and Joseph you Vampires are strange.”

I thought they were watching AGT. Oh well.  “Bite me Ghost.”

“You wish. Oh you wish I had a physical body and would take you into my arms. I can just imagine you pulling off my shirt, ripping the buttons and pulling it off of my fine body. Then I’d pull you close and as I kiss your blood red lips I’d zip down the back of your dress and slide it off your shoulders, and then, and only then would you sink your teeth into my neck as I sink into the chair pulling you onto my lap…”

“Wait, stop, please…” I took a deep breath. That was unexpected.

“Too much for you Vampire? Too much desire?” The ghost put his face close to mine and smiled a ghostly smile.

“I get your point Nigel. I get your point.”

We spoke a little longer, the ghost and I,  then he vanished with a Cheshire Cat smile and I started to write again, but this time it really was a story of Vampire Desires.

Wishing you all the desires you want and deserve,

xoxox

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Vampire Desires

Vampire Desires