in the evening

the deep

dark summer



The forest flies apart, trees are shaken loose

by my tears,

by love that doesn't fall to earth

but bursts up from the ground, fully formed.

--Anne Michaels, "Lake of Two Rivers"


The night of the Revelation was the first true turning point in my life. It would be easy to say that Bill was the first, when he walked into the bar and walked out again with the Ratts. I followed them. I saved his life. If I really wanted to be a bitch about it, I could say that he ruined mine in return.

But the real turn came when I found out that my special madness, the overflow of nearly everyone else's thoughts into my brain, was not that special. Vampires were real. The living dead were actually—kind of—living among us and had been for centuries, though even they couldn't pinpoint the exact beginning. But this revelation was beginning enough for me. I was not just a freakish result of mutated DNA or a crazy bundle of misfiring synapses. There was magic in this world. I was not alone.

When I actually met my first vampire, I was enthralled by him. By his strength, his voice, his absolutely silent mind. I cared for him very deeply because of everything he'd shown me in the way of pleasure and acceptance of my gift. My gift. He was the first person to refer to my telepathy in a positive sense, as a present to me from God or something else and not a punishment for some awful thing I didn't even know I'd done. I told him I loved him and maybe there were moments when I really did, but more than anything, I was grateful. Even after I found out his true motives, I could still be grateful after the initial rage and shock of it had worn off.

I think, sometimes, that I'm going to drown in my own naïveté. I was so relieved and intrigued by the Revelation that I actually wanted to meet a vampire and chat with him about how different we were from the world around us and therefore how similar each of us was to the other. I would sip an iced tea, he (of course it's a he) would sip a bottle of synthetic and we'd share stories and tell jokes about all those regular humans and the silly regular things they did. Bill and I did share a lot of things. But he wasn't big on the jokes.

Eric was a different story. I was initially terrified of him. He was dangerous, dark and all that. But he was funny as hell and I soon found out he could kiss like… He could kiss. When he pressed his bloody lips to mine in that shattered house in Texas, I felt the electricity of it skating all over my body. I had kissed and had excellent sex with Bill many times by then and had never felt that kind of intensity. I told myself at the time that it was the heat of the moment, the little infusion of vampire blood, that need to reinforce life after a brush with death. But what it really was… A spark landing deep in a forest dry as bone, just waiting for something to light it up.

And light up I did, many times, with his hands and lips on me. By the end of that last night he stayed in my house, after Debbie Pelt was dead and after he took a bullet in the heart for me, after he hid her body and her car and crawled in bed to comfort me, then. Then, I burst into flame from the inside out. I was on fire with love. And then he woke up.

I have to laugh, sometimes, at the cunning little tricks my own life plays on me. He had been falling for me, I could feel it from the things he had been saying since I woke up with his fingers lightly stroking my skin in that bed in Jackson. I could see it in his face—a little piece of it at least—when he found me locked in the trunk with Bill, when he agreed to drive me home without question, when he sat next to me on the floor of my living room, knowing better than to try to handle my beaten body. And what did I do? I ran away, metaphorically speaking. I rescinded his invitation into my house. I didn't call or visit Fangtasia and I didn't return the one or two messages he left. Was I okay? How was I doing with Bill leaving the country? Do you have any needs that are not being met, my darling, his voice smirked into my answering machine.

That voice of his was so warm. I liked hearing it. It was my own fault that he stopped calling. And for the longest time, all I had of him were the memories of his sweeter self, staying in my house and needing me. He didn't know this, but when we exchanged blood and officially bonded in Rhodes, I could hear more of this thoughts than I could before and I could sense his emotions to a degree. He loved me. He just didn't know how to say it or if it was even a good idea to put that thought into words. I couldn't always hear him verbatim, but I felt his conflict and his anger, often at me. If I listened long enough, his mind always brought him back to that first incendiary spark, that love. And for that, I loved him back.

Though he still managed to piss me off often enough. And his own turmoil fueled mine, mine fueled his, sometimes we were just plain mean to each other and our mutual confusion just plain fucked up everything. I don't often swear. I am a nice person. Or I try to be, though I guess you can't really call yourself "nice" if you've shot someone in the face. I want to be nice. I want to be loved and first and not driven crazy knowing what my mate is thinking. Listen to me. My "mate". There is something so basically animalistic about these creatures who consider themselves superior to humans. I guess we're all just a bunch of animals and if we could realize that, maybe we could sit down with our drinks of choice—blood, wine, water, tea, coffee, a milkshake—and have that chat about our silly world and tell each other jokes.

Eric once said I was ruined for human men. I wasn't even offended because I knew it was true. I was more afraid of that truth than of him or any other dark thing lurking at the woodsy edges of my life. My fear just plain fucked up everything, too. And his. We were afraid of each other, I think, and of what loving each other would mean for our lives. Weakness for him, exposure for me. These dangers were just a few more drops of water in the ocean between us.

Though we crossed it, sometimes. When we kissed, we crossed it. When he lay on an old quilt in my backyard with me, pointing out the constellations overhead, we crossed it. Of course, I already knew all of them. My Gran had taken me and Jason out for many summer nights in our youth, pointing out pictures and telling stories. If Eric had looked any closer that night, he would have seen that my book was actually an old Southern Living collection of dessert recipes. I felt the need to make him comfortable, to let him be wise for me. It made him feel good when he thought he was sharing knowledge I didn't have, when I let him protect me. When he felt good, I felt good and vice versa. I was getting the hang of this bond thing.

And that's how I knew how much he needed to let me go and how much he didn't want to do it. After many months of separation, we joined again under the stars. I kissed him first. When he returned my kiss and our mouths began to move more urgently, I felt the reignition of that burning ache of missing him that had always been at the back of my mind. Since Dallas, Jackson? Since that January? Since always.

When he entered me, I wanted to cry and die in the same moment, to let this be the perfect end of everything and let heaven be endless nights just like this one. Warm, luminous, full of love come out of the forest to nip the leaves off the dogwood trees.

I whisper into his chest that I love him. I don't want him to hear me. I have something to do and loving him will not lend itself to that cause. It also doesn't help that he feels the same way. He says it into my hair. Though I can't hear the words I feel them bouncing madly inside the walls of his mind. He loves me, too, and he has also come here tonight with a purpose. I know he watches my house sometimes and I think it's sweet, but he doesn't need to know I know. He asks if I'll let Pam stay. I dig into my younger, childish self and repel him. We speak and fight, our words jabbing each other like knives. I always protect my assets. Wow. He was really going for it. I had to admire his commitment to what he thought was the right path. I suppose I was committed, too, since I let him walk away.

I cried. I covered my mouth with my hands. I wadded up a corner of that quilt and screamed into it, anything to keep from speaking and calling him back. Because he would come back and we would both fall down into the deep. I had read about the deepest parts of the ocean, clicking around on Amelia's computer one afternoon. There were fish full of their own chemicals that could make their own light. Good thing. The darkness in which they lived was absolute. And there were giant worms down there, too.

After he has left, I grope around in the dark for the shirt he flung into the grass somewhere. I forgot the flashlight I had with me until I was gathering everything else up to take into the house, the recovered shirt slung over one shoulder. I folded it neatly and let it wait under my pillow as I put the quilt in the washing machine, put away the book, the flashlight, took a long, cool shower. When I laid down to bed, I pulled the shirt to my face and cried again. I wadded it up and buried my face in it. I sobbed and screamed and kicked. Everything he has done for me. There is no one still living who has gone so far. I cried until I was empty. The next night I knew he must be far away because I could hardly feel him at all.

I did let Pam come in. For the first two nights, I didn't have to work. She was funny in her sarcastic vampire way and funny to me in the way that she didn't always understand modern humans. I was always flattered when she asked me to explain an expression she'd heard during her nights at the bar. What is this "duh", she asked. I laugh. Basically, it means: obviously.

When I had to work, she met me at the bar about an hour before we closed and rode home with me. The second night I worked up the nerve to ask her a question. What does it feel like to… Die for the day? I expected her to say it was a private vampire matter, but she answered me. Like sinking underwater. Like the deepest parts of the ocean. I tell her about the fish and the giant worms. I ask her about her dreams. Then a massive force of noise and metal blinded me with stars.

I recovered enough consciousness to see Pam above me. She was holding me. I thought that was nice of her. The noise and stars of before had calmed into a dark silence. The warm, humming presence in my brain that was Eric gave me strength to speak. I love him, Pam. I really do. Please tell him. I didn't mean for it to sound like a request but I couldn't control my voice or the rest of my body. I felt my heart fading, I felt the hum of my lover rise into panic and knew he was coming as surely as I knew he would be too late. I was going to die. I felt the release of it, like sinking into the deepest parts of the ocean. Pam cried. I thought that was nice of her, too. That was the last I saw. The last I felt of Eric was his disbelief that it could really end like this.

Eric, my love. My heart. I always wondered how I felt in his brain, how my presence through the bond manifested itself. I could imagine him feeling it as a weakness, like the soft spot pulsing on a newborn's head, the bone not yet closed up. In my mind, he was warm, confident and strong. He was level-headed and calm. I often thought he made me better, in a lot of ways. I always slept soundly when I wrapped myself in the comfort of his presence in me.

All of this. All of these things.

They run through my head as I'm stirring. I feel like a fluorescent light flickering on, illuminating a vast room and leaving the corners in the dark. I feel the smoothness of fabric over my face, under my fingertips. I am under something heavy. I'm assuming this is the end of a dream. I'm under the covers, the pillows of my bed. I have not died. I am not dead. I am not buried, sunk deep into a sea of dirt. I am not changed. This is one of those moments when you want someone to reassure you. Yes, dreaming. No, not dead, not buried, not sunk. You want someone to tell you it's not that bad, it's okay, you're fine. But it is that bad. It is not okay. I am so not fine.

And now I panic. I struggle, I hear myself scream in one long piercing wail, my head filling up with the echo of it. I tear at the cloth above me and something gives, the dirt comes tunneling into my mouth and nose. I am inhaling from instinct, it is choking me. As I struggle, I feel it loosen. I feel a firm grip under my arms, pulling me upward. I burst out of the ground with my limbs flailing, I cough and wipe the dirt from my face. I look at my pale hands. I smell things, see things, hear things with searing clarity. My stomach carves out a new place in my body and it hurts. This is why the young ones get so vicious. They're not just hungry. They are in pain. I'm doubling over from it when I feel an arm around my shoulders, sinking to the ground with me. When I look, it is Pam who is staring back at me, a mixed expression of sorrow and wonder on her beautiful face.

She presses something wet and hard to my lips. It smells off and doesn't taste that good but it satisfies. It's a little cool, she says, but it will have to do for the moment. She guides my fingers to the bottle. As the arm around my shoulder tightens, I get a deeper feeling from her, like if we touched our skin together, it would merge. Her consciousness prickles in my brain. I can almost see her seeing me. I finish draining the bottle and look down at it in my hand. TrueBlood. I am turned. The empty bottle rolls out of my slackened grip and I sink heavily against her shoulder. She is so solid. Pam, what have you done?

I don't hear her answer because I hear instead the roar of Eric's presence coming back into my mind. It is warmer, stronger, louder. It comforts.

I feel him. He is coming.



More to come in the series…