Vampires and werewolves; oh joy! I know, I know...but it was stuck in my head and it had to be written. Enjoy!
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What fascinated Elsie Minor the most about Martin Bullen wasn’tthat he drank other people’s blood, or that he’d live forever. Being with him meant that she, too, would beimmortal, but that wasn’t all that interesting, either. She liked being your average, run-of-the-millwerewolf, and mortality had its perks.
What most fascinated Elsie was the fact that she couldn’t readabout Martin Bullen in any textbook. Shecouldn’t find his name on registers or confirm that what he said was true. But why would he lie? All he’d had to do was find himself in theright place at the right time, alone, with Elsie, trapped in the gloomy breakroom at the hospital, and, with a grin, he’d pulled her under his spell. By his own admission, and she was willing totake his word for it, he hadn’t even had to use any of the tricks of hisspecies to win her over. Elsie had towonder if she was truly that easy to read.
He’d started telling his story before she’d even revealed her loveof history. If he was a con man (to behonest, he’d had centuries of practice), he was a damn good one, to be able torecognize such a personal trait so easily. But Elsie had learned, long ago, not to ask questions. She liked to listen. Martin didn’t mind doing all the talking.“They’re out?” Martin said, his gaze on one of the windows of theMinor apartment’s living room.
Elsie’s eyes were on the same window. “They’re out,” she confirmed. “We’ll be gone before either of them ishome.”
“Good. It’s for the best,darling.”
“I know.” She turned herhead and tucked her face against her shoulder, doing her best to ignoreMartin. It was hard to be involved withsomeone who could read you with a glance, the way he could. He’d been studying faces for years, whetherhe’d realized it or not. His ability tocall her out on her emotions was unnerving. Elsie sighed and straightened her back, looking back at the apartmentbuilding. “Wait here. I’ll be out in half an hour, tops.”
Martin placed a hand on her shoulder, his face painted with concern. “You’re sure you don’t want me to come upwith you?”
“You shouldn’t,” Elsie replied. “They’ll know.”
“They’ll find out either way, whether I’m in the apartment or not.”
She turned to face him. “Don’t invade their space. Please.” She knew he understood. He was going through the motions, trying tosupport her, but he’d leave it be. “Waitfor me here.”
They kissed, briefly, and then Elsie glanced out of the alleyway,before hurrying to the curbside and jaywalking hurriedly across the city street. She paused at the door with her keys in hand,glancing back to where Martin was waiting for her. He was staring back, emotionless, and gaveher a gentle nod. Elsie turned back tothe door, muttering affirmations as she let herself into the building andjogged up to the third floor.
The apartment seemed like hostile territory, as quiet as it shouldbe at the seven o’clock hour when her husband was working late and her daughterwas upstairs, eating dinner with her best friend’s family. Everything was right, but nothing felt thatway in the shadows of the life she had once lived. Elsie shut and locked the front door behindher, then moved into her bedroom to grab a backpack from the closet and startstuffing it with clothing and necessities. She’d had her escape list planned for weeks, knew where to findeverything and how it would fit into her bag. She had plenty of time to get what she needed and get out. She even had the letter written.
Elsie Minor was thirty-eight years old. For the last seventeen of those years, she’dbeen married to Glenn and, for the last fourteen, she’d been Stella’smother. Her first love, history, hadbeen deemed too flighty by her parents, who had refused to pay the bills if sheinsisted on pursuing such a frivolous degree to the college level. She hadn’t had the money to support herself,and every dream of becoming a historian, or the curator of a museum, or theauthor of books and giver of lectures, had vanished with the declaration of anursing major. History, in a fit ofrebellion, stuck as a useless minor. Medicine wasn’t her calling, but helping people seemed nobleenough. She liked kids and she wantedthem; pediatrics seemed to be the way to go. And she could always read, couldn’t she? Dreams could still be dreams, even if you knew they’d never beattained. For thirty-eight years, Elsierealized, somewhere between packing underwear and toothpaste, she had been moreor less happy.
But Martin Bullen was six hundred and ninety four years old. He’d survived the Black Death and spokesixteen languages. He’d read everything,or so it seemed to Elsie. He’d had eightchildren and lost just two to the plague, and he’d been happy, too, once upon atime. For thirty-four years, Martin hadlived his quiet life as a peasant of honest work and a good reputation. When he’d been turned, he’d gone without muchof a fuss. Centuries later, he’d beenalive to watch his great-great-great-granddaughter become Queen for three shortyears.
That’s what had won Elsie over, all the things he knew that shecould never have learned without him. She didn’t want to be without him anymore.
She heard the key in the lock and froze, listening to Glenn’sfamiliar footfall crossing the threshold and her own panicked breathing. One hand in the sock drawer, the lights stilloff in the apartment, Elsie could hear her husband and daughter talking out inthe hallway. She quietly closed thedrawer and zipped up her backpack, rising to meet them.
“Els?” Glenn said, puzzled as he took in the pack over one shoulderand the tears already forming in his wife’s eyes.
“I have to go,” Elsie replied. The letter, explaining everything, was lost in the bottom of thebackpack, forgotten. It was useless now,anyway.
“Mom?” Stella narrowed hereyes suspiciously. “Where are yougoing?”
“Just let me go.” Elsiewiped tears from one eye. “Please.”
She tried to move towards the front door, still ajar, but Glenn putout a hand to block her exit. With agentle push, he moved Stella silently out of the way. He paused, raised his head, and scented theair.
“Just let me go,” Elsie repeated.
Glenn turned to fix his hard stare on Martin, who appeared in thedoorway with a mild smile playing on his lips. “You told me about him,” Glenn said, his tone accusatory. He turned back to his wife. “You sat at our dinner table after work and told me about him, the masochisticvampire surgeon on the fourth floor. Yousat and told me about him.”
Elsie turned from her husband to her daughter. Stella said nothing. Elsie turned back to Martin, looking forhelp. He shook his head subtly, butasked, “May I come in?”
“Don’t you dare let him in our house,” Glenn said, turning to theunwanted guest to snarl, “You’re not invited.”
“Come in, please,” Elsie begged, her voice cracking on theplea. She forced Glenn’s arm out of theway and Martin entered, taking in the surroundings with only dampenedcuriosity. He leered at Stella, who rosefrom her spot on the sofa with clenched fists, then stuck out a hand for Glennto shake. “Martin Bullen, sir.”
Glenn lunged at the vampire, rage convincing him of the strength hedidn’t posses as a man. Martin let themortal land a few blows, for ego’s sake, then simply threw out an arm and sentGlenn flying into the living room wall across the room. The man collapsed at the foot of the wall,dazed, and Stella hurried to her father’s side with a strangled cry of fear.
“We should go,” Martin murmured to Elsie, heading for the door.
Elsie didn’t follow. Transfixed, she stood by the door, rooted to the spot, her eyes unableto leave the sight of her husband and daughter. The backpack slipped from her shoulder. If only they’d listened to her and stayed away. If only they were reading a note right now,her nice, neat little note, they could know everything and they wouldn’t be insuch pain.
Stella suddenly stood, watching her mother’s hesitation withdisdain. “Get out,” she growled, hereyes narrowed. Martin took a step back,officially exiting the apartment, as her command had dictated. When Elsie didn’t move, too, Stella strodeforward and gave her mother a forceful shove backwards. “Get out!” she cried, tossing the backpackafter her. Martin retrieved it, only tobe met with a decent punch to the left cheek that probably would have donedamage, had he been human. He raised hiseyes to Stella’s, whose eyes were watering in pain, and she yelled again, “Getout!” She took a step away from thethreshold, away from both the vampire and her mother. “Don’t come near us again. I never want to see you again.” It was clear that she meant it more for hermother than the vampire who was luring her away.
She slammed the door in their faces and Elsie simply stared at thebarrier, until Martin pulled her to her feet and settled the backpack on hershoulders and forced her down the stairs. There were footsteps coming down the stairs, to see what the commotionwas about, and it was possible to make out strangled sobs from within theapartment, following them all the way down to the front door. Outside, the night was dark and cool andElsie didn’t know what she wanted anymore.
Martin was fascinated by the humanity within Elsie Minor that droveher to drinking. In the beginning, justafter they’d fled Chicago and the angry pack she’d left behind, she became agross, sobbing mess after just two fingers of whiskey and a generous helping ofice cold water. She’d sputter throughher tears and choke on the burn of alcohol at the back of her throat and he’dhave to hold her close all night and pray she didn’t start screaming in hersleep again. She always did.
But there were too many anniversaries to raise a glass to, too manydates to commemorate, for Elsie not to become a seasoned drinker, in time. The woman had the stamina of an ox and put itto good use whenever life left her unsatisfied. Martin, being a vampire, had no such urge for food or drink, and anyliquor he did partake in left nothing within him but an unsettling swirling ofalcohol in his stomach, until the gin evaporated. He sometimes missed the dizziness, the shock,the way the landscape swam before his eyes and his brain convinced him that hewas king of the world. He rememberedthese feelings, all of them, though he’d last been good and drunk over sixcenturies earlier. And though hecouldn’t entirely sympathize, he understood why Elsie felt the need to drink.
It was hard in the beginning, when she was out of practice withholding her liquor and the memories seemed to come flooding up like therelentless hurricane tide. Each week,nearly every day, brought something new and stinging to the surface that onlyan extra glass of wine or a few more shots could dampen. The first event was Stella’s birthday, notlong after they’d left. Then it wasElsie’s wedding anniversary. Then,Glenn’s birthday. Then the day Stellawould start her sophomore year of high school. The day Elsie should have been promoted to head nurse. The day she called the family lawyer andlearned that her divorce had been finalized. The birth of a cousin’s baby that she managed to catch wind of. The day they’d bought their first apartmenttogether, the day she’d first met Glenn, the day she could first feel thestirrings of a new life in her womb. Elsie Minor’s life was marching on without her, and she was left withnaught but an increasingly irritated vampire lover and whatever bottles shecould get her hands on.
To put it bluntly, Elsie was a lush for many of their early yearsalone together. Their affair had oncebeen fun, exciting, full of passion and intrigue and the thrill of doingsomething naughty with someone so utterly wrong for you. Running away together had seemed to be thenext logical step in their romantic plan—they had such romantic plans. Together, they would live forever. Elsie could go back to school, if she wanted, for her desired historydegree. Martin might take up aprofession; teaching, maybe, or law enforcement, or writing. Something noble for them both. They could do anything.
Elsie wasted the first three years of forever perfecting herdescent into alcoholism. Three years hadonce seemed like such a short time to Martin, who had survived too much andseen nearly the entire world by now, but the days dragged with Elsie stumblingdrunkenly at his side. There were brightmoments, when she stopped drinking and seemed able to forget what they’d runfrom and just enjoy the fact that they were free to be together now. But they were few and far between in thoseearly years.
Eventually, either Martin finally succeeded in talking some senseinto Elsie or Elsie, herself, must have decided that she’d wasted enoughtime. The binges were cut back,lingering only a few days around the reallyimportant dates. Martin found thismanageable; he could easily remember the date of Stella’s birth or Elsie’swedding date, and he could remember to keep his mouth shut and stay out of herway until she called for his aid. Ittook nearly two full bottles of wine for Elsie to start sniveling, a bit moreor something stronger for her to lose control as she had in the earlydays. Eventually, she learned to makethe most use of her liquor, narrow her binges to a mere few hours on theimportant days, and stop losing control.
Martin once returned to their latest home in the wee hours of themorning after a night out hunting. Itwas maybe eight years after they’d left Chicago together, and Martin was fairlysurprised to spy Elsie, sitting in an easy chair in the living room with abottle of Jack Daniels balanced delicately on the arm of the chair. He was positive the bottle was new; it wasonly half full.
“My daughter,” Elsie said to the gloom, guessing his question andpreempting it. She hiccupped, paused,inhaled and exhaled slowly. “Mydaughter,” she tried again, “is getting married today.”
“You hadn’t mentioned that,” Martin noted, hanging his overcoat onthe rack and standing behind her chair. He considered taking the bottle away, but she still appeared to beperfectly coherent. If anything, maybethe Jack would just knock her out for a few hours and let her catch up onsleep.
“I got a call,” she continued, her tone decidedly bitter. She coughed out a laugh. “From Glennon. The bastard. Found my number here and called me up and announced it, just likethat. ‘Your daughter’s getting marriednext week.’ And then, you know what thebastard did?” Martin didn’t want tohazard a guess. “He hung up on me.”
Martin drummed lightly on the back of the chair. “We could still go, you know,” he saidsoftly. “If you’d like to go, I’ll driveyou.”
“You know who this dickhead she’s marrying is?” Elsie was making it painfully obvious thatshe didn’t want to think about attending, let alone talk about it. Martin caught on that she had been informedonly to be cruel. She hadn’t actuallybeen invited. “About to graduate fromBU. Parents are investment bankers inBaltimore. I looked up the announcementsin the papers.” She took a long draughtof Jack Daniels. “He’s all wrong forher.”
“Yeah.” She looked up atMartin and gently took his outstretched hand. “She knows.”
“If you’d like to go,” Martin said again, “we can go. You should go, Elsie, my love. It’s your daughter’s wedding. You deserve to be there.”
He watched her lips harden into a thin line and her eyesnarrow. Though she directed her rage atthe curtains hanging across the room, he knew it was meant for him, for Glenn,probably a bit for Stella, too. “I don’tdeserve to be there,” she said, dangerously quiet. “Everybody knows that. Don’t be an ass.”
He squeezed her hand. “Youcan still go.”
“Or I can sit around and get drunk all day.”
“Your choice. It’s alwaysbeen your choice, darling.”
Martin slipped his hand from hers and took his leave. The sun was rising and she was running low onwhiskey. He would need to sleep away theday, to avoid the worst of the tempest and awake later, refreshed enough to beher rock, to hold her hand through the night and listen to her painfulspeculations. He could picture thepretty little girl in her pretty little white dress, walking down the aisle onher father’s arm towards the (as Elsie had so succinctly put it) dickhead she’dchosen to marry. Elsie would spend theday torturing herself with images of wedding cakes and flower arrangements andbanquet halls, wondering what her daughter had grown up to be and if her futurehusband was a werewolf, too. Probablynot.
Martin climbed into the small room he spent the daylight hourscloistered within and willed the night never to come.