By Diana Vincent
The Fledgling – copyright 2012 Diana Vincent
All Rights Reserved
Part 1: Schooling the Young
“Can’t I at least have a little drink before we go?”
“No, Marcus,” his father answered, measuring his son with his deep set eyes the color of wet iron and an expression equally as unyielding. “Hunger is a strong motivator for a successful hunt.”
“I don’t need motivation,” Marcus mumbled under his breath, even though he knew his father’s hyper-acute hearing would pick up every word.
“You’d be surprised,” Orion D’Capilla said. His features softened as he studied his son sprawled on the sofa in front of him with his arms tightly folded to his chest, one leg to the side and the other stretched forth with his heel on the floor and the toes wagging back and forth, a sign of his nervousness. He looks so much like his mother, but he has my eyes. But why must he wear..? He eyed with disapproval his son’s attire – faded jeans that rode low on the hips, a hole in one knee and frayed cuffs, a black tee-shirt with the screen-printed emblem of a rock band across the front, and worn black sneakers without laces or socks. The influences of sending him to a public school, he sighed inwardly, can’t be helped. He thought back to his own early education when flamboyant cravats in shocking colors had been the rage. He recalled one in bright pink and purple…ah well, youth; but that was over three centuries ago. A slight smile wafted briefly over his countenance.
“Darlings!” Elizabeth D’Capilla glided into the living room wearing a sleek, dark red sheath and matching heels. Diamonds sparkled in her ears and from settings within a gold chain around her elegant neck. Her thick blonde hair waved to her shoulders, framing the attractive angular features of her pale face. “Are we ready?”
“I don’t know why we have to do this now. Why can’t it wait until after I graduate?” Marcus grumbled, his position on the sofa unchanged.
“Marcus,” his mother admonished, her patience strained. “You are fifty-two years old. Most youngsters your age have been hunting for at least a decade.”
“What about Jocelyn? She’s seventy-five.”
“What a cruel thing to say!” Elizabeth’s voice rose a decibel.
“You know very well Jocelyn has some…difficulties,” his father replied.
“Poor Jocelyn…I don’t know if she’ll ever…” Elizabeth sighed, her beautiful mouth turned down sympathetically. “Brain damage at birth,” she added in a softer tone. Then remembering tonight’s purpose, she steeled her features to glare at her son. “We have been feeding you for over fifty years. It is well past time you are fledged. We won’t be around to care for you when you leave for Harvard.”
“I’ll have all summer to learn to hunt. I have exams to prepare for.” It wasn’t that Marcus objected to learning to hunt; he knew it was inevitable and crucial for his ultimate survival in a world hostile to his kind. In fact, just a decade ago, he use to beg his parents to take him with them on their bi-weekly evening rounds, only to be told he was too young. He looked forward to becoming a proficient hunter, just not now.
Four years ago his parents enrolled him in Beacon High School in Manhattan, and he had submerged himself in its culture; enjoying the camaraderie of his classmates, bantering with the boys in the locker room and between classes, flirting with girls, and best of all, playing basketball. Now in his last year, with his superior speed, agility, and accurate eye, he was the star center on the team. He had never missed a basket in play or a free throw. He was popular, had excellent grades, and had dated many girls. He was enjoying this phase of his life and wasn’t ready to alter his lifestyle. It was a Friday night after all!
Marcus appreciated the decision his parents had made to enroll him in public school, for many of their kind chose to exclusively educate their children at home. Marcus had already received an extensive education through home study, so attending high school was not for the academics but to immerse him in contemporary customs and culture. His father had attended a public school during his own youth, but his mother had been educated at home. His parents had discussed in depth their different upbringings and decided cultural immersion offered many advantages for survival.
Orion sniffed and raised his eyes at his son’s excuse. Both his parents knew Marcus did not need to study to pass his tests. “Come, the hour is almost prime,” he ordered. He picked up a black silk pashmina tossed over the back of a chair, and adjusted it around his wife’s shapely shoulders while she smoothed the lapels of his black Brooks Brothers suit. Then they affectionately kissed each other on the lips.
Marcus groaned as he shifted off the sofa and pulled on a tattered, gray sweatshirt, leaving the hood up. He followed his parents out the door of their Manhattan apartment, and into the elevator that descended from the fourteenth floor to street level in a matter of seconds.
“Good evening Mr. and Mrs. D’Capilla; Marcus,” Martín, the doorman greeted as he opened the heavy, ornate front doors for the family. “Your car is waiting.”
“Good evening, Martín, thank you,” Orion returned the greeting. Elizabeth nodded at him pleasantly.
“What up, Martín?” Marcus said.
The doorman ushered the family to the black Mercedes Benz parked at the curb with its motor purring, and opened the doors for The D’Capillas to settle themselves into the back seat. Martín watched the chauffeur ease into the scant late night traffic, remarking to himself, such a nice family. Unlike so many of the residents of the apartment building where he worked, the D’Capillas always greeted him pleasantly by name, pronouncing it correctly with the accent on the last syllable. He pocketed the twenty dollar bill tip given him by Orion, always generous. And such an attractive family! The parents looked to be in their twenties, yet had a teenage son. He appreciated the elegance of their dress, something rare nowadays, even among the wealthy. Well, the son dresses like every other adolescent on the street, but that’s a kid for you.
“Your destination, sir?” Paul, the driver asked.
“Sandy’s,” Orion answered and then activated the soundproof panel between the front and back seat. He turned his attention to his son. “Let us review what we have been going over for the past weeks.”
“Do we have to?”
Ignoring the whine in his son’s voice, Orion proceeded with his questions. “If you intend to kill?”
“Select an artery,” Marcus answered, and added before his father could ask the next question, “and if I intend to play with my food, select a vein.”
“Correct, and after feeding, what do you need to do?”
“Be sure to lick the puncture site with my tongue.”
“Good; and why is that?”
“The secretions from our lingual gland produce a clotting substance similar to fibrin, and will prevent further bleeding from the site after we have finished feeding.”
“Oh, Marcus, you are so intelligent,” his mother smiled and kissed him on the cheek.
Marcus groaned, “Mom.”
“How do you obliterate the evidence of a kill?” Orion continued his drilling.
“Press a finger over the bite for ten seconds, to allow the serum from our digital glands to fill in the broken skin.”
“Your memory is excellent,” his father praised.
The chauffeur navigated smoothly through Manhattan, into Greenwich Village and beyond, cruising alongside the Hudson River until they reached an intersection that took them into a seedier neighborhood. He parked between two cars in a lot behind a bar with a neon sign flashing Sandy’s over a metal door and with all its grated windows darkened. He cut the motor and jumped out to open the doors.
“Here we are. Now as we discussed, observe first and then we’ll let you have a go; but we’ll be nearby to back you up,” Orion reiterated the instructions he had gone over just a few minutes before.
Marcus swallowed, trying to hide his nervousness. His heart, normally beating at a rate of twelve pulses per minute, accelerated to forty.
“Thank you, Paul,” Orion said as they emerged from their vehicle, and glancing at his gold Rolex, added,” We will most likely return within an hour and a half to two hours; by two a.m. I should think at the latest.”
“Very good, sir.” Paul stood at attention until the family walked away, then settled back in the driver’s seat of the Mercedes with a magazine and his thermos of coffee. He opened the glove box and positioned his .32-caliber automatic where he could grab it if needed. He never felt safe in this hood. It was not for him to judge the places his employers chose to frequent, but he did think it strange they were bringing their teenage son tonight. However, it was none of his business. He was very content working for the D’Capilla family. He received a more than generous salary with many bonuses, and was always treated with the utmost courtesy.
“Follow me,” Elizabeth directed. She led the way past the bar and down the cracked and littered sidewalk currently empty of people. She paused at the entrance of every alley to inhale deeply. “Score,” she hissed to the others, stopping by a particularly dismal gap between buildings.
“We’ll stay here and watch,” Orion said with a hand on his son’s shoulder. Elizabeth handed Orion her shawl and handbag, and walked into the dimness.
Marcus smelled the pungent scent of alcohol and rank odor of an unwashed human body even before his excellent night vision detected the presence of a human. He focused in on a man sleeping on his side halfway down the alley. His mother approached, singing in a melodious voice. The clicking of her high heels on the pavement added rhythmic percussion to her song. She wanted the man to wake and see her coming.
“Wha..?” The man pushed himself up to a sitting position and watched the beautiful specter approaching. “You a angel?”
“Are you lonely?” Elizabeth murmured in celestial tones. She stood over the man with her hands reaching out to him.
He nodded, speechless and mesmerized by her ethereal beauty.
Elizabeth squatted before him. She gently stroked his unshaven face with one hand and smoothed his tangled hair with the other. “Poor dear,” she murmured. The man’s bloodshot eyes fixed on her pale face, his mouth hanging open. Elizabeth leaned in and touched his dry, cracked lips with her own, placed both hands on his shoulders, and then went for the carotid.
Entranced, Marcus stared, blinked, and it was over. His mother rejoined them, a trickle of blood running from the corner of her mouth down her chin.
“Wow,” he whispered in awe. He smelled the blood on her breath and his insides contracted. He had not fed for a week, and he was starving. “That took almost no time at all.”
“Well, son, the human body contains approximately five quarts of blood and the human heart can pump between three to six quarts of blood a minute, and double that when under stress. So, you see, it does not take long to drink most of a human’s blood supply,” Orion pontificated.
“The poor man will suffer no more,” Elizabeth said, taking back her pashmina and purse, and withdrawing a silk hanky. “He left this world in probably the most beautiful moment of his depraved life.” She wiped the blood from her mouth and chin.
“What will the police think when they find him?” Marcus asked.
“One more drunk dead of too much alcohol and exposure,” Orion explained. “Your mother has obliterated the bite mark and there is no reason for them to do an autopsy, so they will never discover he has been exsanguinated. Now; my turn.”
They proceeded down the empty streets. It was after midnight and the late night denizens of the neighborhood reveled inside the bars or patronized the open pawn shop, liquor store, and tattoo establishment. The only people they encountered outside were a couple grappling each other passionately in the shadows next to a noisy bar, and a man who wove haphazardly across the street in the opposite direction.
Light spilled out into the street as a bar door opened. A man, perhaps in his thirties, staggered forth. Dirty brown hair fell to his eyes and covered his ears. A once white tee-shirt stretched over his bloated abdomen protruding from a filthy denim jacket. Dark patches of grease stained the thighs of his jeans.
The man noticed the well-dressed young couple with a teenager approaching. Them diamonds is real, he told himself, and grinned, exposing a mouth with many gaps amid rotten teeth. Soft man, a woman, a kid…I can easily take them.
“Meth user,” Orion whispered to Marcus. He sighed deeply. “Although our digestive enzymes will detoxify his blood, it still leaves a very unpleasant taste.”
Marcus could smell the acrid, acidy scent of the methamphetamine in the man’s system. He wrinkled his nose.
“However, he has his eye on us and I believe that will leave me no choice.”
“Hey there,” the man called out in a slurred voice. “Com’in, I’ll buy y’all a drink.” He cackled.
“That is very civil of you, sir,” Orion replied. “I know a better place down the street, and we’ll buy you a drink.”
The man stumbled and shuffled up to join them, surprised at how easily they allowed him to position himself next to the woman with the man and boy on the other side of him. Stupid fools, he congratulated himself on this lucky chance meeting, casting sidelong glances at the diamond studded gold chain around the lady’s neck and the matching earrings, assessing whether to go for all. Maybe just the necklace. I can easily snag that and run. They’ll never catch me! He smiled to himself, the drug in his system impairing his already feeble judgment and lending him dauntless courage.
At the corner, he feigned a misstep and fell against Elizabeth, his hand darting up to grab at her necklace. “Pard’n.” He tugged at the gold chain but suddenly her hand squeezed around his wrist with incredible strength for such a delicate looking woman. He felt hot breath waft over the side of his neck as the man came up behind him. How did he get there..? I never saw him move! It was his last thought, as Orion found the pulsing artery in his neck and sunk in his sharp fangs.
“Foul,” Orion complained as he finished feeding, his lips pursed tightly in distaste. He let the body slide to the ground before he pulled an immaculate white linen handkerchief from his inside pocket and dabbed at the remnants of blood at the corners of his mouth (always a fastidious feeder).
Marcus stood back, not wanting to get close to the rancid-smelling body. “What now?” he asked, trying to avoid too deep a breath.
Orion and Elizabeth both looked around, sniffing the air and listening to the night. “The Hudson River, or…perfect,” Orion said. In one agile move, he scooped the body from the sidewalk and carried it to the middle of the right hand lane of the street where he dropped it. He pulled a small vial from his inside pocket and sprayed a fine mist over the prone, still figure, and then returned to the sidewalk to join his family. “Do you hear it?”
“The car?” Marcus questioned.
“Yes, approaching at about forty miles per hour, now about half a block away…” They moved into the shadow of a building to watch. “What do you think?” Orion continued to quiz his son.
“About ten years old, probably an SUV, missing one cylinder,” Marcus described.
An older model Dodge Caravan entered the intersection. The spray from Obscurity Formula Number Four had rendered the body nearly invisible. The driver never knew what it was he ran over, causing his van to jolt and then swerve violently into the next lane. He saw nothing in his rear-view mirror. Clutching the steering wheel with white knuckles, he took in several deep breaths to still his racing heart, and then accelerated away.
“A hit-and-run is what the police will find,” Orion said.
The smell of blood, even tainted blood, overwhelmed Marcus. He salivated from the corners of his mouth and in embarrassment, quickly wiped it away, hoping his parents wouldn’t notice (but well aware there was very little they missed).
Elizabeth put an arm over her son’s shoulders and gave him an affectionate and encouraging squeeze. “Ready to hunt?” she asked.
He swallowed and nodded. “What do I do?”
“Wait,” Orion raised a finger and the three halted, tuning into the street with their senses.
“What is it?” Marcus asked.
Orion paused. He shifted his head, listening. He sniffed the air and evaluated the vibrations beneath his feet. “Why don’t you tell me?” he asked after a few minutes.
Observing his parents, Marcus also paid attention to the approaching humans, and he was able to answer, “It’s the couple we passed earlier, the man and woman by that loud bar.”
“Are you sure?”
“The scents are identical and the vibrations of their footfalls match their body sizes. They are about a block away and approaching this direction.”
“Very good; I believe you are correct.”
“Should I choose one of them?” Marcus asked. His heart thumped forcefully, and he felt like each breath caught in his chest so that he had to consciously blow it out.
“Marcus, that would be…”
“Elizabeth,” Orion interrupted, “let Marcus give us his reasoning.”
“Um…okay, the man is older than the girl, maybe by about fifteen to twenty years. He’s overweight and out of shape. The girl is in her twenties and slender, walks with a purposeful step – I bet she works out.”
“Correct,” Orion encouraged.
“I could easily knock one of them out; probably the man, and feed on the girl.”
“Yes, you would be able to do so, but is that wise?”
“Don’t stutter over your words, Marcus,” Elizabeth said, correcting him reflexively out of habit.
“I think…well, yeah, maybe not…I’d have to kill both…”
“The capture and killing of prey is the easy part. Selecting a suitable food source is why you need training,” Orion said in a pedantic tone. “The scent of the man’s clothing should tell you it is a quality fabric, and he wears expensive aftershave. He is certainly well-off. The girl is also wearing quality clothing and expensive jewelry. She may be an upper class call girl, or simply having an affair with the man. Nevertheless, what do you think would happen if either one or both are found dead, or reported missing by their relatives?”
“Marcus,” Elizabeth reprimanded again.
“The police would spend a lot more time in an investigation of either of those two, than they will for the drunk in the alley or the meth addict.”
“You are correct.”
The couple emerged into view, rounding the corner of the block and walking slowly together toward the D’Capillas. The man held the girl around the waist, his hand frequently dropping to her hip and around to her rear, which caused her to giggle and say, “Bill, don’t,” obviously not meaning it.
The D’Capillas continued in a leisurely stroll, stopping to study a display of tattoo art in a shop window, and allowing the couple to overtake them and walk past. The man glanced once sideways at them, noting a well-dressed couple and teenage boy. Although the thought occurred to his alcohol-befuddled brain that it was an unusual group for this particular neighborhood, he did not perceive them as a danger of discovery of his clandestine affair, or a physical threat to his person. He and his girlfriend sauntered on their way.
The strong scent of blood wafted back to Marcus as the couple passed, an enhanced aroma from the man’s erection and the girl’s greedy lust for all she perceived she could get from this affair. Without thinking, he fell into step behind them, salivating, and his fangs already protruding. ‘Excuse me,” he called to them.
Elizabeth watched in anxious horror, but Orion sprang to action. In seconds, he reached Marcus and placed a restraining hand on his shoulder.
The man did not stop, for a prickling of fear coursed up his spine. But he and the girl both looked back warily over their shoulders.
“Pardon me,” Orion cut in, thinking fast. “We are looking for a particular tattoo parlor, the Black and Ice Ink, but we seem to be lost. Do you know the establishment?”
“No, sorry, no,” the man answered, somewhat relieved, but nevertheless he turned away and quickened his steps. The couple soon disappeared around the next corner.
Elizabeth let out her breath on a long sigh of relief. “That was close.”
“Marcus, what were you thinking?” Orion asked in an over-sharp tone, a reaction to his own fear.
“I’m sorry,” Marcus uttered, wide-eyed and staring in the direction of the couple. “My mind went black. I totally lost control!” He was appalled at what he had started to do; acting like an animal reacting to instinct, rather than an intelligent being. Shame washed over him and his shoulders slumped.
“It’s okay, that’s why we are here to teach you.” His mother hugged him tightly to her breast, soothing him with her voice and protective hold.
“We understand, Marcus. Don’t worry, you will learn to control these urges with practice,” Orion added.
“I hope so,” Marcus replied, his voice muffled into the comfort of his mother’s breast.
“Of course you will,” Elizabeth soothed. “Okay then.” She moved Marcus by his shoulders to face her. “Take three deep cleansing breaths…that’s right…in…out…again…good,” she coached him. “Better?”
“Of course; loners are best for the first time, especially the homeless,” Elizabeth said. “Maybe I should have left that drunk for you.”
“They’re also not very hard to find in this neighborhood,” Orion added. “In fact…”
“I smell it,” Marcus said and peered down the block to the next street where his father now looked. They moved on in the direction of the scent. “It’s across the street, but not in the alley,” Marcus said.
“Good, but where?” Orion asked.
They crossed over and passed the alley. Marcus lifted his head to sniff and listen. “That doorway.” He pointed to a dilapidated apartment building half a block away.
“I believe you are correct,” his father agreed. “We’ll wait here, but we’ll be there immediately if you encounter a problem.”
Nodding, Marcus swallowed down his accumulating anticoagulant-rich saliva, and rubbed his palms down the thighs of his jeans. He did not possess sweat glands, but it was a gesture he had picked up watching his teammates before a game. He strolled down the sidewalk.
Stringy gray hair fell in thin, lank strands around the wrinkled, sallow face of a woman who appeared old; but Marcus evaluated from the scent of her marrow, was probably not over fifty – my age. She sat on the stoop of the building, resting a wine bottle in the valley of her skirt between her spread knees. The skirt was torn at the hem and mud-stained. She wore a man’s bulky knit sweater, her elbows poking through frayed holes. She looked up at him with rheumy eyes as he approached.
“Grandmother,” he said softly, and sat beside her.
“I’m not your grand…” she said in a hoarse voice as she slowly turned her head to peer into this stranger’s face invading her peace. But his beautiful countenance filled her soul with sudden longing. She felt the need to love and care for this precious child, and she reached a hand toward his face.
Marcus took the hand and cradled it against his cheek. He kissed her palm, utilizing the skills his parents had drilled into him in countless home lessons on how to mesmerize a victim. He kept his large, dark eyes gazing into her weak ones. We want them happy and not fearful. Fear taints the flavor of the blood. He recalled his parents’ instructions.
The woman smiled at him. She had no idea his heart thumped in anticipation (however, not near as fast as her own). When he moved his face closer, his warm, sweet-scented breath wisped over her, and she closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. “You are loved, be at peace,” were the last soft-whispered words she heard.
Marcus drank, his fangs hooked into the woman’s carotid artery, amazed at how fast the hot blood pumped into his mouth, almost faster than he could swallow, but oh, so satisfying as it filled his empty stomach and eased the tight cramps of hunger. It tasted like nothing he had ever fed on before! The blood his parents had brought to nourish him thus far in his life, had always been lukewarm and starting to clot (he hated the gelatinous lumps). He had never drunk hot food and he relished the heat of it flowing down his throat…and the incredible taste! None of the metallic flavor of hours-old blood. There was a hint of alcohol, a slight fruit with oaky tannins, and he understood now why his parents preferred to feed on alcoholics. Why had he ever resisted hunting?
He felt his father’s hand on his shoulder, pulling him away.
“Enough, son, if you drink her dry, you leave the corpse too desiccated; too much of a mystery for the authorities.”
Reluctantly, Marcus pulled out of the artery and watched greedily as a thin trickle of blood pulsed forth.
He leaned back over her neck and licked his tongue over the two punctures from his fangs, and the bleeding stopped.
“Good, now what?”
“Oh, yeah.” Marcus pressed his first two fingers over the bite mark and counted to ten. When he removed his fingers he observed the new flesh that had filled in the two puncture wounds.
The woman listed to her side, her head at an awkward angle. Marcus bent over and compassionately arranged her body so that she appeared to sit naturally, hunched over herself. He kissed the top of her gray head and whispered, “Thank you for the gift of life,” as his parents had taught him to say after every meal.
“This is good,” Orion complimented. It pleased him that his son demonstrated proper respect and gratitude for his food.
“Yes, I’m very proud of you,” Elizabeth added, standing at her husband’s side.
Marcus walked over and hugged both his parents, grateful for the education they were giving him, and their loving support.
“How do you feel now?” Orion asked.
“Good,” Marcus answered truthfully, and his face split into a wide grin, exposing his blood-coated fangs which he had not yet retracted. “Great, actually!” I’ve made my first kill! His chest swelled with pride and he felt quite mature.
His parents laughed heartily, each one remembering their own first kill and recognizing the proud look on their son’s beautiful face.
Orion clapped his son on the shoulder and Elizabeth linked her arm with his as they turned to retrace their steps back to their waiting vehicle.
“After a kill and each of us consuming almost all the blood supply, none of us will need to feed for a month,” Orion declared.
“But all of our meals tonight consisted of anemic and malnourished blood, so we could use some vitamin and mineral supplements,” Elizabeth interjected. “So, let’s go have some fun!”
Part 2: The Pet
Several pairs of footsteps crunched across the gravel lot. Paul sucked in his breath and reached for his gun even before looking in his rearview mirror. When he recognized the D’Capillas he exhaled in relief. His hand released his gun and he closed up the glove box, stowed his thermos and magazine, and stepped out of the car, ready to open doors.
“Paul, please take us to the Crystal Cave,” Orion directed.
“Very good, sir.” After the family settled in their seats, the chauffeur maneuvered onto a frequently traveled route to a popular hot spot. Paul pulled up in front of the club and a bulky-muscled bouncer sauntered over to open the doors.
“I’ll text you when we are ready for the car,” Orion said to Paul.
“Very good, sir.” Paul drove away to find a parking space, relieved that this neighborhood was a step up from Sandy’s.
“Good evening, Elizabeth and Orion,” the bouncer greeted the couple. “It is always nice to have you visit the club.” He eyed Marcus, waiting for an explanation for the presence of an obviously underage kid.
“Thank you,” Elizabeth replied sweetly. “Marcus is a friend of ours. He’s heard about the Crystal Cave and has been pestering to come along.”
“I’m afraid I will need to check his…”
“Of course you will.” Elizabeth waved her hand dismissively. “Marcus, show him your I.D.”
Marcus obediently pulled out his wallet and extracted his student card, watching his mother gaze deeply into the bouncer’s eyes. The big man blinked a few times but never looked away. “Looks okay,” he said, without examining the card.
“May we enter?” Orion asked.
“Please, go in.” The bouncer stamped each of their wrists, and then opened a glittery, silver-painted metal door, and they entered.
The interior design of the club reflected its name. The walls had been textured in stone patterns to mimic the walls of a cave and lined with crystal-like sconces within alcoves. Stalactite-shaped objects hung from the ceiling flashing colored lights. A live rock band blasted music from a stage at one end of the room opposite the bar. Dancers in groups, couples, and singles packed the floor.
“We’ll just mingle in,” Elizabeth said. “In a crowd like this and with the lighting, it is very easy to nip and sip, and believe me, they love it.”
“Stay away from the anorexic girls,” Orion advised. “Choose those who appear well-nourished.”
Marcus followed his parents pushing onto the dance floor, both of them already moving their bodies in rhythm with the music and drawing the attention of those close enough, and sober enough, to notice their extraordinary beauty.
A man grabbed Elizabeth’s arm to pull her toward him in a dance. She emitted a tinkling laugh as she allowed him to gyrate near her, placing his hands on her hips.
Screaming to make herself heard, a middle-aged, auburn-haired woman, heavily made-up to hide her years, sidled up to Orion. “You are the most incredibly handsome man I have ever seen!” She stroked down the sleeves of his suit jacket. “So well dressed!”
Orion pulled the unresisting woman into his arms and held her closely as he danced with her, and then leaned in to talk into her ear. Marcus watched the woman tilt her head back in laughter. His father took a quick nip at her neck, catching the jugular vein with one fang, sucked once, licked her neck, and then encircling his arm around her shoulder, pressed his finger to the spot.
The woman’s eyes fluttered and she breathed in a deep sigh of satisfaction. “Where did you ever learn to kiss like that?” she moaned.
Marcus knew that a bite from his kind did not cause pain; rather it invoked a most erotic, orgasmic-type sensation for the victim. His mother always said it was a gift they gave in exchange for the blood donation.
Orion winked at his son over the woman’s shoulder and cocked his head toward the crowd of dancers, signaling him to move in.
Before he had taken more than two steps, a pixyish, scantily dressed woman grabbed at his hands while swiveling her hips. “Dance with me,” she commanded.
He obeyed and danced in close, staring into her wide-open eyes transfixed on his handsome features.
“You are the most awesome dancer,” she yelled. She pressed up against him and brought her mouth to his ear. “I would love to see you dance without your jeans!”
Laughing to keep her relaxed, Marcus held onto her waist and nuzzled her neck, which she tilted accommodatingly. Not the carotid, go for the jugular, he reminded himself. He nipped gently, finding the vein, and took one swallow of the delicious, hot fluid that flowed evenly into his mouth. He reluctantly pulled away after the second swallow, but he stared at the bead of blood on her smooth skin, and watched as another, and then another trickled down the side of her neck, enjoying the beauty of the dark red venous blood against the paleness of her creamy skin.
“Marcus!” He heard his mother call to him in a voice pitched above that which a human ear could hear. She frowned at him over the shoulder of the man draped around her.
“What?” he answered in the same pitch. Then he saw his father not far away with his tongue flapping in and out.
“Ooh, you naughty, naughty man,” a nearby brunette shouted at his father, and lifted her face up to him with her own tongue hanging out.
“Oh, yeah, I almost forgot.” Marcus understood the hint from his father and quickly licked up the trickle of blood, then pressed his lips over the puncture site, ebbing the flow.
“Ohhh!” his pixie moaned. “So hot!”
“Hot…HOT!” She brought her mouth up to his ear again. “We could hook up at my place,” she suggested.
“I wish I could,” Marcus answered, “but I’m flying to Wisconsin in half an hour.” His parents had tutored him in how to extricate himself from a clingy situation. One method was to use as ridiculous an excuse as he could think of at the moment, one that was not easy to argue with or that even made sense.
“Oh,” she said with a pout on her lips.
He pressed a finger to her neck, kissed her mouth, and then disappeared into the throng.
Marcus moved with the dancers, nipping and sipping at every opportunity, marveling at the different flavors; all rich, hot, and satisfying. He encountered one flavor, so deliciously sweet – diabetic – he realized, remembering a past lesson. He understood now why the blood of diabetics, next to wine-rich blood, was the most sought after. “The glucose content of the diabetic human is slowly toxic to the human’s own system, but it is a bonus for us,” his father had taught.
Unaccustomed to so much rich blood in abundance, Marcus soon felt bloated and a little ill. His appetite sated, he really didn’t enjoy mixing in with the humans here. He sensed the loneliness and despair emanating from so many of them in spite of their outward joviality, and he was not used to such depressing energy. The kids he hung with at school tended to radiate jubilance, excitement, and anticipation.
“I’m going to step outside for some fresh air,” he called out to his parents.
“Don’t go far,” Elizabeth warned. “I need to find a source with a little more zinc, and then your father and I will be along soon.”
Smiling, Marcus watched his parents for a few minutes. They really like to party! And why should that surprise him? His parents were still young, both in their early one-hundreds. There was no reason for them not to enjoy themselves. His father spent many long hours at his art gallery or in his office juggling their many investments. His mother kept their home a place of beauty and comfort, shopping for and changing the décor periodically to maintain its harmonic feng shui. She often hunted solo to provide food for Marcus when his father was occupied with business. They deserved a time to play. He watched his mother dancing (along with a crowd of men and even many women ogling her). She obviously enjoyed moving to the rhythm of the music and showing off her grace and agility. Men grabbed at her hips or bolder ones tried to touch her breasts. If they interested her, she allowed them to hold onto her for a few minutes, long enough for her to have a sip or two.
His father drew a different crowd of mostly women, all reaching out to touch him as he danced with one after another. In spite of the rock beat, Orion somehow managed a flair of ballroom style dancing as he took a woman into his arms to sweep and guide her around, always finishing with a nip on the neck. His formal clothes did not seem out of place on him, and harmonized with his style of dancing.
Turning away, Marcus exited the club and nodded to the bouncer who sat in his chair playing a game on his phone since there were no customers to check in. He stepped away from the light of the club’s neon sign, and leaned against the wall in the shadow of the building. The cool night air refreshed the pores of his skin that had absorbed too much of the heavy, negative energy and heat of the packed bodies inside.
“Want some company?” A girl walked toward him with swaying hips, her question asked in a husky, seductive voice. He had noticed the girl leaning against the wall of the opposite building where she could watch as people left the club, and had determined she was a prostitute. His acute night vision had picked out the details of her attire: a black sequined halter top, very short tube skirt, high-heeled shoes that laced around her ankles, and a flamboyant, Vegas-style pinkish-blonde wig.
“No, thank you,” he replied, too sated to be interested.
“Ya sure?” She moved in closer and pulled down one side of her halter top.
The voice, the way she walked, and now that he saw her face full on…he stood up from his leaning posture, startled. “Michele? Michele Smith?”
The girl froze in her steps and her eyes widened in surprise. She suddenly looked very girlish in spite of her provocative clothing and heavy make-up. “Oh no, you can’t know me,” she moaned in a pleading voice. She squinted and as a car turned a corner, its headlights shone on Marcus’ face. She gasped.
“We go to the same school,” he said. Michele Smith – also a senior and in a few of his classes – what is she doing here, and dressed like this? Michele Smith was the type of student who blended in with the background. A mixed-race girl, she wore her thick, dark hair so that it always shadowed her face, no make-up, and dressed in baggy sweatshirts over loose-fitting jeans. Nevertheless, he had noticed her and her keen intelligence. With his well-developed aesthetic tastes, he recognized her innate beauty, invisible to most of the others at school. Line up all the girls at Beacon and remove their make-up, and Michele would outshine them all. He had never approached her because he sensed her desire to remain unnoticed.
“No we don’t,” she said quickly. “I mean, what school do you go to, and that’s not my name.” The husky timbre of her voice increased to the high-pitched tones of anxiety.
“Michele,” he said gently. “I know who you are. We have English together, and you sit two tables over in biology lab.”
Her shoulders slumped and she covered her face with her hands. He thought she might be crying.
“Hey, hey,” he said, still more gently, and walking up to her, he put his arm around her shoulders and guided her over to the wall of the building. He eased himself to the ground, pulling her to sit down next to him.
She leaned forward over her knees, buried her face in her arms, and now sobbed openly.
“Why are you crying? Hey, if you don’t want anyone to know you’re a prostitute, don’t worry. I’ll keep your secret.” He soothed her as best he could, rubbing her hunched shoulders.
Michele choked on a sob, gulped, sniffed, and then sat up straight, brushing beneath her nose with her arm, and then wiping away the ruined mascara beneath her eyes with her fingers.
“Why would you keep my secret, Marcus D’Capilla?” she asked in a tight voice.
“You do recognize me.”
“Of course,” she sniffed out. “How could I not recognize the hottest and most popular boy in school?”
He ignored the rhetorical question. “Why wouldn’t I keep your secret?”
“Because it could be the best joke of the year.” She shrugged in resignation, her brow creased in a frown.
“Michele, you’re not a joke. I promise, really, I will not say a word of this.”
She looked over at him with hope painfully transparent in her eyes. “You know how much fun the kids at our school would have with this.” She shuddered. “Me, a plain little nobody working as a hooker?”
“They will never know; at least not from me,” he assured her once again.
“Truly, you promise?”
“Absolutely.” He smiled and reached over to press her hand. “And you’re not a plain little nobody.”
She sniffed deeply, and then returned his smile with a weak one of her own. “You noticed me at school?”
“Of course, didn’t I just tell you what classes we have together?”
“Oh…thanks, I guess.” She looked down at her lap and tugged her short skirt as far down as it would go, about mid-thigh. Of all the kids at school, why did it have to be Marcus who discovered her secret profession? Marcus, who treated every girl at school with respect, who was not ashamed of his intelligence, and who had an aura about him of being something special – even as he hung out and joked mundanely with other kids. Sure, he was incredibly good-looking, but it was not his looks that had attracted her. It was something else…the kindness, his acceptance of kids who were different? She really didn’t know what made up his magnetism. What is he doing here? “Um, so what are you doing here?” she asked.
“Waiting for my parents; they’re still in the club.”
“Your parents brought you here?” Michele asked in a skeptical tone.
Marcus realized his mistake, that it would certainly be unusual for parents to bring their underage child to an over-twenty-one club. “Uh, well, they’re trying to track down my uncle and keep him out of trouble. This is one of his hangouts.”
“What does he look like? I know all the regulars and I can tell you if I saw him go in tonight,” Michele said, watching him with a suspicious look.
“He has brown hair and brown eyes,” Marcus said, thinking that sounded pretty neutral.
Michele squinted at him and tilted her face as if to study him from a different angle. “No way,” she said under her breath to herself. “I never made the connection before. I mean, you were at school, and he comes here…but that’s why he seemed familiar to me.” Her eyes flew open, and color drained from her face as she scooted herself away from him.
“What is it?” Marcus asked, confused at the sudden scent of fear emanating from her.
“You look like your uncle,” she stated, “and that must be your aunt, the beautiful blonde lady who comes with him. You were the person who went in with them tonight. I only saw your back, but you’re wearing the same clothes.”
“Those are my parents,” Marcus said without thinking.
Michele’s hands flew up to cover her mouth, as she stared at him in horror.
“What is it?” he asked again. “What is wrong?”
“I know what you are,” she said in a squeaky voice.
Marcus’s heart jumped and then thudded at her statement. She can’t possibly know! “Uh, a senior in high school?” he tried to sound light and unconcerned.
“Please don’t bite me,” she squeaked again.
She knows! “Michele, don’t be absurd. Why would I bite you?”
“I tell you, I know what you are. You look just like your father, and a little like your mother too, and I saw them one night. I was with a client in the alley; one who likes to do it standing up, and I could see over his shoulder. Your parents walked by and some thug tried to jump them, but it turned out your parents jumped him. I saw your father bite that man. It happened so fast, but he was dead.” The words spilled out as Michele told the story she had kept to herself because she knew no one would believe her. But the incident haunted her thoughts day and night since she had witnessed the scene. “You’re a vampi…”
“Sshh, sshh,” he hushed her, and caught her hand as it dropped from her mouth. “I’m not going to bite you. I promise.” She stared at him with wide, frightened eyes. Very pretty gold-brown eyes, he noticed. “We don’t like that word. We prefer Sangranista.”
“You admit it, you are a…”
Marcus leaned in and kissed her softly on the full lips of her open mouth, to silence the objectionable word. Another lesson from his parents: kisses from their kind worked on humans with an almost hypnotic effect; soothing their fright and gaining their trust. It seemed to be working. The shocked look of terror in her eyes melded into one of pleasure and adoring curiosity.
She suddenly shifted onto her knees, grabbed his face and returned the kiss with a deep and passionate one of her own. “I’ve wanted to do that ever since the first day I laid eyes on you, Marcus D’Capilla.”
Marcus studied the girl in her blotchy, ruined make-up, absurd wig, and ridiculous clothes. I like her! The kiss had been incredibly sweet! Marcus had made out with many girls of varying levels of skill at kissing. But he thought right now that this spontaneous, passionate, and genuine kiss was the best he had ever experienced.
“Michele,” he said her name and liked how the word passed over his lips. “I know your secret and now you know mine. I promised to keep yours. Will you promise to keep mine?”
She gazed at him with an expression of trust. “I promise.”
He smiled at her and she smiled back.
“Well then.” They both shifted back against the wall, their shoulders touching. “Why are you working out here as a ‘lady of the night’?”
“Okay, I’m listening.”
“Well, um…” Michele chewed on her lower lip as she considered how much of her personal life she wanted to reveal to Marcus. “Okay, I want to go to Columbia University. It’s expensive, you know.”
“I need a job where I can make enough money for tuition and stuff. I’d never save enough money if I worked the usual kinds of jobs high school kids can get. Have you ever heard of anyone paying their way through college working at a place like McDonald’s?”
“No, I guess not.” Marcus had never actually thought about having to work. He tilted his head, watching Michele nervously picking at the hem of her skirt. “But you’re smart. You should be able to get a scholarship or grant or something. There’s always student loans.”
“Yeah, my grades are good…straight As; but they’re not good enough to get me a scholarship.”
“Why not? You can’t get better grades than that.”
“Because to apply for a scholarship you have to have your parents fill out all kinds of forms about their financial situation, like tax statements. My mother is basically a prostitute. How is she going to explain her income if I could even get her to fill out a form? She’s never filed taxes in her life.”
“What about your dad?”
Michele huffed out an indignant sound. “Even my mom doesn’t know who my father is.”
“Oh…uh…” Marcus could not find words, feeling overwhelmed with compassion for this child working the streets and going to extreme measures to get herself a good education. He shifted to put his arm around her shoulder and encouraged her to lean into him. “What about your teachers or your guidance counselor? Can’t somebody at school help you apply?”
“That’s the other complication. I don’t actually live in Manhattan.” With his arm around her and as he gently massaged her upper arm, Michele found it easier to confess all. “The high school in my neighborhood doesn’t offer the kind of college prep courses I need. So I faked an address. I have a cousin who works in Manhattan and she lets me use her work address because she’s the one who sorts the mail. I can’t ask anyone at school to help me because I’ve lied about my address and shouldn’t even be attending Beacon.”
“I see, so…”
“So, I work the streets, but just long enough to get me through school. I already have fifteen thousand dollars saved up. I mean, this work can be profitable.”
“It’s hard work though.”
She snorted in derision. “Not exactly hard, more like disgusting and sometimes humiliating.”
“Michele, I want to help you,” Marcus said impulsively.
She turned to meet his deep, dark eyes gazing at her with a look of genuine interest and sympathy. “Why?”
“I don’t know, but I do.”
She smiled, a sweet smile from slightly parted lips. “Thank you. How can you help me? Do vamp…excuse me, do you have some kind of power you can use?”
“We have some skills but nothing I can think of that…maybe…let me think.” He would talk to his parents. After all, his family was quite wealthy and he knew they contributed to charities from time to time. Maybe they would consider sponsoring Michele, or at least give her a loan.
“It’s okay,” Michele reassured him, noting the troubled look on his face. It was enough of a shock to know vampires, or whatever they called themselves, actually existed. She really didn’t expect they might also have some kind of magical powers that could intercede on her behalf.
“It’s not okay. You shouldn’t have to…well, you’re just a kid!” Marcus shook his head sadly.
The sincere compassion Michele sensed emanating from Marcus touched her deeply. She did not like to see him sad, especially on her account. To lighten the mood, she laughed and reached for his hand, squeezing it affectionately. “It’s okay. Tell me,” she asked to change the subject, “what’s it like to be a…Sangranista?”
“If I tell you then I’ll have to kill you…Michele, it’s a joke,” Marcus quickly added when her pupils dilated in fright and her shoulders stiffened defensively.
“Sorry, you just…,” she laughed, slightly embarrassed. “You scared me.”
“I’m sorry; it was a stupid attempt to be funny. Because I don’t know how to tell you what it’s like to be me, any more than if I were to ask you what’s it like to be human. How would you answer?”
“I see what you mean. Can I ask you a question, though?”
“You can ask.”
“Are you immortal?”
Marcus laughed. “Of course not; that’s just myth. We live and die just like humans. We just live a lot longer.”
“Like how much longer?”
“My father is over three hundred years old, and my mother is two-hundred-and-ninety. But they’re still young. The oldest recorded age of our kind is two-thousand, nine-hundred-ninety-nine.”
Michele’s expression reflected her astonishment. “How old are you?”
“Fifty-two. I’m still a baby, just a fledgling.”
“Fifty-two,” she breathed out, incredulous, as she studied the finely sculpted features of his smooth, un-lined face. “You don’t age.”
“Well, yes, but not like humans. Our skin never seems to lose its elasticity and our bodies don’t sag; but our features do mature.”
“But you don’t really live like humans, I mean…”
“Okay, we do and we don’t. My family lives in an apartment. My father works as the procurator of a fine arts gallery on Fifth Avenue. Well, he owns the gallery. I go to school. My mother shops and decorates the apartment. But we have to move about every ten years.”
“Does she cook?” she asked half-teasing.
“No, Michele,” he quipped back. “We don’t eat.”
“Only…?” she could not quite say the word out loud.
“Yes, we only consume blood…human blood.”
A look of fear washed over Michele’s serene features until Marcus took her hand, squeezed it reassuringly, and then held it gently.
“Not any other animal?”
“No, it would make us ill. That’s another myth. Our kind cannot survive on non-human sources.”
“Can you eat food?”
“No, not really,” Marcus said, as he stroked the back of her hand with his thumb, played with her fingers, and massaged the inside of her palm to keep Michele calm and at ease. “I can put food in my mouth, chew it and swallow if I can manage to gag it down. But I will vomit it back up within a few minutes.”
“Oh, that’s awful. So, have you ever tasted food…like chocolate?”
He wrinkled his nose at a memory. “I think every fledgling has tried to eat something out of curiosity. I have never tasted chocolate but I did try to eat a banana once. I thought it smelled pretty good, so I was shocked at how horrible it tasted. But I was determined to try it, so I managed to choke down a bite. I know by experience what happens. I only ate one bite, but I vomited and then I retched for hours.”
“So, when you eat…drink…”
“It’s best not to go into details, okay, sweet one?”
“Okay,” she agreed, and sat still, enjoying the warm feel of her hand in his, and thinking over all that Marcus had revealed to her. She smiled to herself as a thought occurred to her. “Marcus, if you don’t eat food, do you like, have to go to the bathroom?”
“What?” he raised his brow and laughed. “Why do you ask that?”
“I’m curious. Really, I want to know.”
“That’s too embarrassing for me to answer.”
“You do then.” She grinned, looking sideways at him again in a way he thought quite cute. “Come on, tell me, please? I want to know,” she pleaded.
Marcus noted the bright look of curiosity in her eyes, the look of someone with an avid hunger to know things. He laughed, trying to cover up the embarrassment he truly felt, but then explained, “We don’t make waste, not like humans, except for carbon dioxide which we exhale just like you. I don’t have a bladder or kidneys. Our livers are very important in detoxifying the blood we drink. I do have a small stomach, and a very short intestine. About once a month I go to the bathroom, to excrete dead blood cells. It would look to you sort of like deer droppings.”
“No way!” Michele looked at him, wrinkling her brow and then burst into laughter.
Smiling, he declared, “It’s the truth.”
They both laughed again, and then Michele, trying to keep her face composed, asked, “Tell me one more thing, do you pass gas?”
“Never have in my life,” he stated. Laughter overwhelmed them both.
“I don’t believe that. All boys fart.”
“I swear, I’m telling you the truth,” he answered through his laughter. “What about you? Do girls fart?”
“I’m not telling.”
“That means you do.”
“No it doesn’t.”
“Yes, it does,” he said teasingly.
They bantered back and forth amid laughing fits, until at last they could look at each other and only smile.
“It’s not that funny,” he said.
“No,” she agreed and that sent them into another fit of laughter.
“One more question, can you drink water?” Michele asked.
“Yes, but I don’t need to unless I haven’t fed for a long time. Then water can prevent dehydration but not starvation.”
“Oh, interesting.” Michele chuckled, got it under control and asked another question. “You don’t have a bladder or…but do you have..?”
“Yes, I do,” he answered, anticipating the question.
“So, can you have sex?”
“Yep, just like humans.”
“Can you have sex with a human?” she asked and Marcus thought (hoped) she asked the question in a tone of more than just casual curiosity.
“We can, but we can’t get a human pregnant. Our DNAs are too incompatible.”
“Interesting,” she repeated, watching his hand holding hers while she mulled over in her mind all he was telling her. “How often do you need to…you know… eat?”
“Only about two to three times a week if I get a half-pint to a pint per meal. But I’m a growing boy. A fully mature adult Sangranista can survive on the same amount for a month.” He didn’t feel like telling her right now about his first kill.
Michele looked up sideways at Marcus, marveling at the beauty of the boy sitting next to her and holding her hand. I must be dreaming! Did the last john slip me something to mess with my mind? It was inconceivable enough that the most sought-after boy at school was sitting here holding her hand and confiding in her. How many times had she sat in class staring at the back of his head admiring his luxuriously thick, black hair; or eyeing his classic profile from across the cafeteria? She, who had no interest in sports, had attended every single home basketball game, just to watch his perfect body moving with dance-like agility about the court. And then, what he had just told her! No way, there’s no such thing as a vamp…Sangranista. But she had seen his father bite. She had seen the light glimmer off his alabaster-white fangs, and then those fangs coming away dripping red. She would never forget that terrifying sight. Now, however, it seemed that if Marcus were to bite her and drink all her blood so that she died tonight, it would be okay…worth it to be near him. Suddenly, that gave her an idea.
“Marcus, if you were to bite me…well, could you like, transform me?” she asked, starry-eyed.
He shook his head. “That’s another myth. The Sangranista are born to two parents, just like humans. It is not possible to ‘make’ one of us. I’m sorry,” he added when he saw the crestfallen expression on her face. “I would if I could.”
“Yes.” He leaned over and kissed her gently, because she looked so sad and he thought it might help her feel better. But then he pressed his mouth more firmly on hers as he felt her lips moving against his, as sweet as the first kiss. She put her arms around his neck, hugging her body against him, their mouths conjoined until they broke apart for a breath. Michele giggled.
“What’s so funny?”
“It’s not funny at all,” she said, their faces close and gazing into each other’s eyes. “These are the sweetest kisses I have ever had in my life. But the thought just occurred to me that I’m making out with a vampire – sorry, but that’s the word that came to my mind. I’m laughing because it is just so strange, and because I’m not afraid.”
Marcus smiled and kissed her once more, soft and quick before he settled back to sit at her side. “I will never hurt you, I promise.”
“I know that,” Michele answered with conviction.
“That’s not to say that I won’t nip you sometime, though.”
“Yes, but don’t worry, I won’t hurt you. In fact, I think you’ll like it. But I have no room for more blood tonight and when I taste you for the first time, I want to have an appetite.”
He’s going to bite me and drink my blood. I should be scared to death but instead, the thought is really exciting me, Michele thought, smiling to herself. “So, you don’t have to kill to drink human blood?”
“No we don’t, but that doesn’t mean we don’t kill sometimes. But when we take a full life, it is usually to relieve a human suffering, or for the benefit of society in general.”
Michele thought back to the night she saw his father kill. Of course, his victim was going to mug him. He was a criminal and a menace to society. She wasn’t in the mood to think about the morality or rightness of that. She imagined it as a future discussion between her and Marcus.
“When I said that we don’t like the word vampire, it’s because there are vampires out there, and a Sangranista hates to be mistaken for one of them. You are a Homo sapien. I am a Homo sangria. Vampires are Homo vampira. They are a lower class race; a brutal, violent people who always kill when they feed and make no distinctions about who they feed on. They are ignorant and have no desire to educate themselves, or enjoy the benefits of human society. They are truly more like animals.”
“Marcus, it sounds like you are prejudiced against vampires,” Michele observed. Having suffered discrimination many times, she recognized the distaste in his expression and in the tone of his voice.
“I suppose I am, but with good reason,” he answered seriously. “But as far as my family and our friends are aware, there are no vampires currently living in New York City.”
“Oh, well that’s good.” Michele snuggled against his shoulder for security, feeling slightly alarmed at his description of vampires. She wanted to believe that if Marcus was a racist, it was with good reason.
“Michele, I have an idea. I’ll have to talk to my parents, but, would your mother be upset if you didn’t come home?”
“Hmmph,” she emitted a short sardonic laugh. “My mother would love it if I moved out. I’m competition for her now, and it would be easier for her with me out of the way.”
“Good…I mean, not good that your mother feels that way…well, you know what I mean. But…hey, I think my folks are coming out of the club. Wait here, I’m going to talk to them.”
Michele wrapped her arms around herself, feeling chilled as Marcus left her and walked toward the attractive couple coming out of the Crystal Cave. She recognized Marcus’s parents. Yep, just as I thought.
“Mom, Dad,” Marcus hurried up to them, grinning broadly. “You know how I’ve always wanted a pet, and, well…there’s someone I want you to meet.” He grabbed Elizabeth by the hand and Orion by his jacket sleeve to propel them toward the wall where Michele waited. “This is Michele!”
“Ooh, how adorable,” his mother cooed. He knew his mom would take to Michele immediately. “I’m Elizabeth, Michele.” She offered her hand and Michele laid her own in the soft, white hand with long, elegant fingers. Elizabeth gave her an affectionate squeeze.
“It is lovely to meet you. My name is Orion.” Marcus’s father scrutinized Michele in more depth than his wife had, but also kindly offered his hand. Her clothing seemed a startling contrast to what he sensed in her manners. A nice young lady!
“We’re in a lot of the same classes at school,” Marcus explained enthusiastically. “I was surprised to see her tonight, but she’s trying to earn money to go to Columbia University. She’s really smart, and I want to help her out.” He beamed proudly.
“That’s very sweet, dear,” Elizabeth said. She looked at Orion, raising her eyebrows, noting the crease in his brow as he contemplated the situation. “Darling,” she said to her husband, “I see Paul driving up with the car. Why don’t we step over there for a few minutes?” She hooked her arm through his and drew him away.
“They’re going to talk about you,” Marcus said, stepping behind Michele and putting his arms around her.
“My love, it’s the same girl, the one who saw us a few weeks ago. The one you said we should leave alone,” Elizabeth said when they were out of Michele’s hearing.
“I believe you are correct,” Orion agreed.
“Darling, your instincts are so perceptive as usual. You had a feeling we should leave her alone, and now I think she just might be a marvelous solution.”
“What are you thinking?”
“Perhaps she could be persuaded to attend Harvard rather than Columbia, especially if we pay her tuition and expenses. Marcus could go to college with his own food supply. I’m worried about him having to rely on hunting for himself. Even if his skills improve between now and next fall, he just may not have time to hunt during the school term. You know how busy he’ll be with his studies and student activities.”
“Yes, well, we have talked about driving up there on weekends. Cambridge isn’t that far away.”
“No, but it will be tiresome going every single week. And what if he isn’t ready to hunt independently? You know what almost happened tonight. Can he learn to control those urges by the end of summer? Maybe he will, but maybe not, and we won’t be there to supervise.”
“No, you’re right. I’m beginning to follow your line of thought. If Michele is there and he feeds on her even just once or twice a month, well, that could sustain him and no harm to her.”
“Yes, and I’m sure there will be many parties and student activities where he can supplement his supply. She appears fit and healthy, and with her available, I wouldn’t worry about Marcus getting the proper vitamins and minerals.”
“Right, and we can still visit him, but not out of necessity.” Orion kissed his wife. “My dear, you are brilliant, as always.”
“Thank you, darling. Michele obviously already knows our nature, and she seems to have accepted Marcus completely.”
“I agree. I have seen this sort of bond form between a host and pet before, and it is a truly marvelous, symbiotic relationship. How fortunate for our son!”
“Shall we go see what arrangements need to be made to bring her home?”
“Absolutely.” Orion and Elizabeth walked back to where Marcus and Michele waited, holding hands.
“Michele, you are welcome to stay with us. We have an extra bedroom with its own bath that we can offer you. Do we need to make arrangements with your parents?”
“No, it’s fine. I just need to stop by where I live to get my school books and a few other things.” Michele looked up at Marcus with adoring eyes.
They strolled to the Mercedes and Elizabeth, Michele, and Marcus climbed into the back while Orion took the front passenger seat.
“Paul, please drive us to the address the young lady will provide,” Orion instructed when they were all seat-belted.
“This is absolutely wonderful,” Elizabeth declared. “Michele, Marcus says you want to attend Columbia, but have you considered Harvard?” Elizabeth and Michele chatted amicably, getting to know each other and finding they shared many opinions and tastes.
Paul eased the Mercedes to a stop at the address indicated on the GPS, a crumbling tenement building. Elizabeth stifled a gasp and murmured, “You poor dear,” as she patted Michele on the knee. “You won’t need to bring much. We’re going shopping tomorrow.”
Where did they expect a girl making a living as a prostitute would live? Michele thought to herself, irritated as well as embarrassed. “It will only take a minute,” she stated, pushing her way out of the car the moment the chauffeur opened the door. She focused her eyes straight ahead and held her head high in spite of feeling humiliated.
“I’m coming with you,” Marcus declared, sensing her wounded feelings. He followed Michele inside and up an aged, sagging staircase to the third floor. He struggled to keep from snorting out the rancid odors assailing his keen sense of smell, trying to hide his disgust. It was even harder when he followed her into a cramped, squalid living room and his acute hearing detected the sounds of Michele’s mother with a man behind the closed door of the one bedroom.
Michele’s pride had been wounded from the pity of the D’Capillas, but she was a practical girl. She shrugged off her humiliation as she shrugged out of her working clothes and peeled the wig from her head. Pulling on a pair of jeans and baggy sweatshirt she surveyed the dim room, deciding what possessions to bring with her. Nothing…no photos, no keepsakes, no favorite outfits; she owned nothing of real or even sentimental value. She picked out clean underwear from a cardboard box that held her clothes, retrieved an oversized tee-shirt that she liked to sleep in, and then in the bathroom gathered her toiletries. She stuffed all into a grocery bag, loaded her books and school supplies into her backpack and handed them to Marcus when he reached to take them.
“Just one more thing,” she mouthed silently and held up one finger. Digging out a pen and scrap of paper from her backpack, she wrote: I’m gone, Michele, then slipped the note under the bedroom door. No Dear Mom, no Love, Michele. Then, as if an afterthought, she gathered her working outfit and wig and crumpled them into a tight ball. As she and Marcus left the apartment, she deviated to the side of the building and thrust her armload into the incinerator barrel. Following Marcus back to the car, she had to hold a hand over her mouth to keep from laughing out loud, her reaction a mixture of anticipation, some trepidation, and a little sadness.
It took less than twenty minutes for Michele to remove herself from her old life.
“Let’s go,” Marcus cried out happily, sliding into the back seat after Michele.
“It’s a good thing we have the weekend ahead of us,” Elizabeth said purposefully, surveying the clothes Michele now wore. “I can’t wait to take you shopping! I know a little boutique that recently brought in a line of gathered skirts that would be absolutely stunning on your trim figure, and with matching…” The rest of the journey home, Elizabeth interrogated Michele regarding her size, preferred styles, colors, and accessories.
Paul skillfully navigated back to Manhattan, and eased the Mercedes to the front of the D’Capillas’ apartment building. Martín hurried over to assist opening the doors.
Martín and Paul watched the family as they disappeared inside the building. They both wondered about the addition of the girl, but that was something the two of them would talk about later. It was a little after five in the morning.
“The usual place for breakfast?” Paul asked, looking at his watch. Martín’s shift ended at six.
“Sounds good. Order me the usual if you get there first.”
“No problem, man. I’m just going to return the car to the garage and head on over.” Martín nodded goodbye as the car pulled away, and added the second twenty to his wallet. It was his turn to buy breakfast, and after a night of the D’Capillas going out, he could well afford it. Such a nice family!
A Note from the Author
Out for a walk one morning, I found my thoughts absorbed with vampires, for the night before my husband and I had watched Johnny Depp portray Barnabas Collins in the movie version of Dark Shadows. Although I never tire of looking at Johnny Depp, I felt betrayed that the producers had chosen to interpret in a humorous vein the cult soap opera my friends and I had followed with passionate devotion as teenagers. The Barnabas Collins of my youth was a vampire that stirred all of our adolescent girls’ blood in a way that younger men just couldn’t approach.
Those recollections led my thoughts to ponder all the vampires in their various aspects I have known through cinema, television, and literature. I met those of Anne Rice in Interview with a Vampire, and then the classic Dracula given to us by Bram Stoker. These were evil, dangerous vampires that nevertheless possessed fascinating and erotic allure.
I had nightmares for weeks after meeting the vampires of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. I will never forget reading the last chapter at a furious pace just before sunset, for I had an ominous feeling I must finish the book before the sun went down, or suffer dire consequences.
The horrifying yet funny movie, The Lost Boys, featured sexy vampires committing gruesome acts. Week after week, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, faced repulsive vampires that disguised their nature with alluring exteriors up to the moment of the bite. The current trend has introduced acutely attractive vampires who also have a conscience, such as the Cullen family in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, and the peaceful vampires of the True Blood series created by Charlaine Harris. A multi-faceted child vampire is the star of the chilling Swedish movie, Let the Right One In, and the American version, Let Me In.
These are just a few of the myriad stories centered on vampires, the very first written in the eighth century in Sanskrit, Baital Pachisi, or Vikram and the Vampire.
As I walked, it occurred to me how ridiculously impossible vampires are, yet how easily we love to believe they exist. I contemplated, “How would I create my own version of a vampire?” Thus the story of The Fledgling came to mind. The minute I returned home, I sat down at the computer and in one long day, wrote my version of vampires, the D’Capillas (get it, capillary?) who refer to themselves as Sangranistas. It is the easiest story I have ever written; even though I have never before considered writing about vampires.
I hope you enjoyed reading The Fledgling. I love to hear from readers, and you may contact me at [email protected]
The Fledgling is the story of a 52-year-'young' vampire, receiving his first instructions in hunting from his parents, during a night out in New York City. But vampire is not actually the race of young Marcus D'Capilla; rather he is of the Sangrinista, more educated and civilized than the beastly lower class of vampires. After hunting, the family celebrate by attending a night club, where they will seek additional snacks before returning to their Manhattan apartment. By chance, young Marcus runs into a classmate, discovering she has her own secret to hide. An unlikely friendship develops.