Section summary: Eternity. One would think one has plenty of time to think deep thoughts. One would think rightly. But when those thoughts are thought, what is to be done about them? What if nothing can be done about them? Eternity renders time moot, but it doesn't grant patience. Just the opposite, in fact, for me.
I am a vampire. I am eternal. That means I'm supposed to be patient. Isn't that correct? Yes. I can outwait you. I can outlast you.
But I have never needed to do that: I can simply overpower you. And I simply do.
But now. Now, I'm confronted with something that I cannot force. In fact, I am the one who must submit. I am the one who must wait. If I weren't already dead, the anticipation would be killing me.
For what am I being forced to wait? The girl's name.
What is her name?
So trivial a thing, isn't it? Something that is thought of once, if it is thought of at all, and thought of before the character of the named one is even ascertained.
But it's not trivial. It, the Name, points to the ineffable essence of the Named. The name is the most important possession, the shape of the heart, the vitalis, the doorway to the soul. It is not trivial. It is not to be taken lightly, for it will shape everything about this girl. It will shape everything that transpires between us. Everything.
But so many people are named so carelessly, aren't they? The perfect example of that indifference is the eponymous girl sleeping in my arms.
Did her parents put any thought whatsoever into her name? Isabella, the great Catholic queen of Spain (and, actually, the name's spelling is Isabel, but we Americans pride ourselves in our independence from everything, including history. We are not rooted in any past, and respect none of its weight. An example of that: this girl's family name: Swan, not the original Schwan ... but that trespass might be forgiven: it was illegal for the German immigrants here to speak their native language or to school themselves during the Great War. A desire to integrate, and disappear from censure, can be very strong). Is this girl a great Catholic Spanish queen?
Hm. I wonder what her religious beliefs actually are? It would be just my luck for her to be Catholic, now, wouldn't it? The religion that embodies the episcopate so much more strongly than what my diaconate ancestors, the Pilgrims, fled to the New World for, escaping the Church of England. Escaping to the freedom that the New World offered. Imagine it: a Catholic girl falling for a Presbyterian vampire. So episcopate — no: magisterial! UGH! — verses diaconate, so tradition verses scripture, so black verses white, so up verses down. So impossible. It could never happen.
Impossible? ... or exceedingly improbable? Never say never.
I hate this eternity. I really do.
Not that what her religion is matters to me. She doesn't matter to me — not at all, right? I remind myself — so her religious beliefs are of no concern to me either.
So, no: she's not a great Catholic Spanish queen. Obviously. But then the most clear derivative of that formal name — a formal name that she vehemently rejects — presents itself: Bella. Obviously, the Latin does not apply: bella premunt hostilia? Please. This girl? The personification of War?
Well, actually, I have seen her temper flare, but to call that warlike would be to call the mewing of a kitten a lion's roar: just too amusing to consider seriously.
... And, well, yes: she is surrounded on all sides by hostile forces.
But as my arms encircle hers, hers cling to me. She isn't so much surrounded by hostile forces as much as she purposefully surrounds herself with them, seeking them out, begging them — begging me — to stay with her, to comfort her.
It's as if her infatuation were much stron...
No. She is simply deluding herself. That is all.
She thinks she loves me, but she doesn't. Not really; it's just an infatuation of hers. And I don't love her. So, all is well.
My mind whispers a phrase so quietly that only a vampire could hear it: ... at present, and it smiles.
GOD DAMN IT all to HELL!
FINE! ... FINE: I don't love her yet. YES, I KNOW THIS! Thank you so much for the unnecessary reminder.
Now, where was I?
So, not really the Latin bella, but the Italian one? Bella: beauty. Does she see herself as beautiful?
That she is beautiful is not the question. Obviously she is. In fact, after I looked beyond my initial prejudice, I now see her physical beauty far outshines mine. I do have the critical eye to judge this correctly. And the dispassionate detachment to state it objectively. She just needs a bit of cleaning up — well, much more than a bit of cleaning up — and some strengthening of her childlike self-confidence. Which I can provide. Which I will provide. She must grow to see herself clearly. She simply must. And when she has that poise that her clear seeing will provide, then ... well: if we went back to Rochester, all eyes would be on her, not me. Rochester? She would be admired anywhere and everywhere: London, New York City, Paris, Rome, ... Amsterdam. When I first saw her, even though at the time I had mistaken my jealousy for disdain, I did have every right to be jealous. Every right.
She would be admired ... even in Volterra — the city of vampires — but I couldn't imagine a visit at Volterra as a pleasant experience. I don't think the admiration of her beauty would be at all a topic of the conversations there.
But even there, even where every creature is more beautiful than any mortal there, even as my beauty outshines theirs ... naturally, of course ... her beauty would blind all before her like a Sun brought present here to Earth, deigning to visit those vampire lords stuffed with their empty self-importance.
And if her physical, that is, her external, beauty is something, then her inner beauty ...
But the real question is not if she is beautiful, but does she see herself as beautiful? And, currently, the real answer is that she does not see herself that way. Again, vehemently so. If she does not see herself in this light, if she fights with everything she has — in her carriage, in her poise, in her dress, in her comportment, in her speech — to reject this image, if she refuses to call herself truly Bella — Beauty — then there is no way that others, that I, can call her that.
'Bella' is not this girl's name. What, then, is her name?
She chafes against what she thinks to be the pejorative designation that I am currently forced to use. She thinks she has it hard. She has it hard? I've only had this little captive three days — most of the time of which has been occupied with my hunting needs and her spectacularly inventive ways of dying — and for all this brief eternity I've been forced to keep everything about her so open, so unsettled, that I cannot even find a way to address her. Girl, start breathing again. Girl, put on clothes. Girl, do you need to go to the WC? Girl, I am not kind; I am a monster. Girl, you are the kind one, accept that. Girl, drink water. Girl, girl, girl.
She hates that? I HATE THAT! I just wish she would stop hiding her true nature, her true self, and tell me her name. And I wish she would do that right now!
Being in eternity does not give one patience. In fact, this anticipation is making the seconds slow to a crawl. That future — that Now-to-be — when she does tell me, or when she does show me, what her name is? If it came in the very next second, it would not have arrived soon enough.
Will she tell me now? I look down at her, but her face is hidden by her hair as it is cast down ... as usual. I shift my weight and hers ever so slightly, ever so gently, and her head slowly tilts back and up. Her expression as she sleeps is entirely relaxed, at peace. And a void. Even in sleep, she gives nothing away. And she gives everything away. So freely. So trustingly. To all. Even to me: a monster.
Hilarious, given what I am — biscuits, and before that cornbread ... for vampires! — but, also, so à propos. Bread: the representation of life itself, the ancient offering of the very self to the gods.
See, even in her smallest gestures there lies a depth of giving that no mortal could match or even comprehend. Even when she's being a silly little girl, she is beyond compare.
I had moved her so gently that she wouldn't notice this in her sleep. But somehow she does anyway. It's as if she is aware of the slight pulling away so that I could see her face. She shifts back, returning her face back to the blanket between us, as if trying to burrow her way back into my chest, and then sighs when she again feels me against her, her cheek resting against my body.
I hope she tells me her name before she dies.
Maybe it will arrive to me with a bit of meditation and prompting on my part. She sleeps now, and I have time. Let's see.
It fits. She is Death's captive. I look down at her.
Hm. She doesn't look like a Persephone. That's much too formal a name for this girl: she will not even accept the rather less exalted Isabella, I can just imagine her response every time I would say, Persephone, dear, please go to sleep; you need your rest from all that dying today. Or, Persephone, make sure you drink your water. Or, Persephone, why are you crying? Don't cry; it's okay. That last phrase would be happening at nearly regular three minute intervals. Would she tolerate being called Persephone every three minutes? I think not. And besides, Persephone received her release from Hades for six months of every year. This little one would receive no such release. Not from me, her Hades, her Death.
Not Persephone, then. Well, what about a name volunteered by her? She did mention Io, didn't she? Io did have a run-in with more than one immortal, didn't she? Particularly with an irate goddess. And Io was turned into a heifer. This girl, with her beautiful brown eyes and hair radiates a gentleness of spirit, a kindness and ease that matches the name perfectly. Io.
You may think it insulting: Did Rosalie just call the girl a cow? But then it may perhaps be that you have never touched a cow, looked at a cow, hugged a cow, then, have you?
I actually don't know. I must have, though, mustn't I? It must have occurred when I was a human. It must have occurred when I was little. Did my parents take me to a farm, or to a patting zoo (an euphemism for "farm that charges a small fee to allow city children to do some farm work": "Here, kid, try milking this cow. 'It's Fun!'")? Were my parents ever kind to me that way before my twin brothers came along, and they moved on to the task of making every effort to advance our family in the world? Were they kind to me when I was very young, like a little girl of three or four?
I don't know.
What if ... Oh, my goodness. I quickly removed my encircling arms from the girl, moving them so my hands hung over either side of the bed, and I turned my hands upward and away from anything that might be destroyed from my reaction to my next thought. I checked to make sure no limb of mine endangered the girl, and then I thought the next thought.
What if I had found her at the age of three or four? What if she was out with her father in the woods when the wolves attacked? He would defend her. He would use his body to shield hers. What if I came across that tableau as the wolves were ripping out his throat and leaping toward that little girl?
I would do the same thing that I did for her just this week, wouldn't I? Oh, yes! I would. I would save that girl. But then, in my arms would be a little three-year-old, looking at me, so lovingly and so trustingly. I would have a little girl in my arms.
My own little girl.
I could not draw in calming breaths, but I could, this time, allow my body to lock up. I could strain every muscle. I could clench my hands into fists and tighten my arms and allow my body to shake with the pure power that thought rocked me with. I could do all this — this time — without harming or killing the girl. Unlike the last time — just this very night, in fact — when similar feelings rocked me, when all I could do is remain still and relaxed.
My own little girl. I trembled with the feelings that that thought enflamed.
The release of those feelings through my body helped quite a bit, actually. I recovered much more quickly this time, and I could enclose the girl in my arms again before the absence of her "protector" was noticed enough to wake her. I made sure she was still sleeping by listening to her brain activity. She was deep in Δ — delta — so I continued my fantasy.
If I had found this girl at the age of three, would I love her?
Yes. I would love her unconditionally.
In fact, I would experience a love that no vampire before had ever experienced. I would experience a love that no vampire could ever experience. I would experience the love of a mother for her own child.
And I would be changed. Gladly. And I would love her. Not as my own mother had loved me, because, frankly, she didn't. No: I would love her as if she were my very own daughter. She would be my very own daughter.
Just imagine it! Instead of having to deal with this girl now, so lacking in self-confidence and poise, so unaware of her own merit and beauty, I could work on her from the very beginning, building her confidence, helping her to face every adversity, making her strong to rise to every occasion. She would no longer be this weak, yielding, weeping thing, for I would turn her into ...
I looked down at her, and realized, in horror, exactly what I would turn her into.
... I would turn her into a Hale. Worse: I would turn her into me.
She wouldn't be her at all anymore. Not after I finished with her: she would be cold.
She would be beautiful, yes, but she would be cruel and heartless. For I would squeeze every single drop of her kind and gentle nature from her body and her spirit as I molded her into my own image: Are you indulging in these weaknesses again? I would scream at her, Remember, you are a Hale: act as one! Yes, she would be a Hale. Just like her mother. Me: her relentless vampire mother, a Hale. Just as I am just like my own mother. I am my mother. A Hale.
I could blindly argue the argument that every child advances as they become parents: oh, no! I'm not going to raise my children like my parents did. I'm going to raise them right! But what really happens? The child-parent acts out the only play they know. Every word, every gesture, comes from what their own parents did to them. My little baby girl would be raised by a heartless vampire mother whose nurturing skills were informed by a human mother who is colder than most vampires can be.
A/N: The Latin phrase 'bella premunt hostilia' comes from the Verbum Supernum Prodiens written by St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Faith. It means something like [my translation]: 'the forces of war surround (me)'. As an aside, it's always helpful to have something like An Elementary Latin Dictionary by Charlton Thomas Lewis and Hugh Macmaster Kingery lying about when dealing with vampires. It seems like vampires like to quote and to think in Latin, and stuff.
A/N: This chapter does not pretend to represent itself for Presbyterian vampires or for what Presbyterian vampires think of lapsed Catholic girls pining for them. Or for the success of any alleged relationships that may or may not occur between Presbyterian vampires and lapsed Catholic girls should such a relationship occur or not occur between the said parties regardless of gender, religion, or region of upbringing. Again, caveat lector, or, colloquially: YMMV.