Title: Clouded Warmth: Gianna's Story
Written by: Mrs. Cope
Summary: Alone, despairing and without hope, why would a human want to become an immortal? This is the story of Gianna, and it's an extension of her character from New Moon. In that story, what was given about her was that she was human and working for the Volturi. Bella wondered how she could do that, knowing that they could end her life at any moment; Edward explained that Gianna hoped that they would make her one of them. I wanted to understand what could make a human, with no loving ties to a vampire, want to become a vampire herself. This is the basis of that story.
Thank you to IvyRain, for simply perfect beta contributions!
All characters are the property of Stephenie Meyer. No disrespect or copyright infringement is intended.
She had another exhausting day.
Driving home, Gianna's fantasy life threw itself into overdrive. Coming home, walking up the path safely, both the sidewalk and driveway shoveled and dry. The warm yellow glow of a mica porch lamp would greet her to the comfortable, cozy hideaway she called home. Then, once inside, the yellow atmosphere of the soft-lit house would welcome her; she'd lay her keys down on the credenza by the door - in a small ceramic bowl made specifically for her keys - hang up her coat and jacket, kick off her wellies. She'd jump into to her favorite overstuffed chair in front of the burning fire to warm her feet and drift off into a comfortable nap before even thinking about dinner…
The minute she pulled around the corner, reality slapped her soundly across the face.
The tiny, ice-encased blue shack sat glumly at the curb. The house was sunken so deeply in the day's snow that the parking spot in front was completely obscured. The first two steps were submerged in a drift that ended at the threshold. No lights were on outside. The curtains had been left open, to reveal a dark, dejected, depressing glower of an abode. The only bright spot was the silver of the snow shovel she'd left standing my the mailbox trowel up when she excavated the car to go to work.
She sighed. No one was going to do this for her.
Setting the hand brake, she turned on the flashers and got out of the car. She tugged the shovel out of the snow and, taking a deep, rattling breath, shoved it in to the white barrier.
When at last she reached the doorway, she kissed the mezuzah and ducked away from the cold. The interior of her house was as unwelcoming as the frost-covered barricade outside. The small space heater groaned as she switched it on; it was unclear how much longer it would last. It would have to do; this shack couldn't sustain the work needed to add heating even if she could somehow afford it.
She moved to the kitchen with her coat, hat and gloves still on. Looking in the sink, she saw that the frozen chicken scraps she'd left out to thaw were still frozen solid, so dinner would take much longer. She sighed; some days, it just didn't seem worth it.
She shuffled over to the small nook that was her dining room, and picked up a stack of bills. As she read through them, she made decisions about which creditors absolutely must be paid. She laid out ten on the table, and pointed to each, singing in Hebrew:
"My hat has three corners, Three corners my hat has. If it did not have three corners, It would not be my hat."
Her finger landed on the doctor's bill. Of course.
Preparing for the bedbaths on her round, Gianna poured the antibiotic soap in each of the bins. Readying the basins, cloths and towels was tedious, but not strenuous; she could at least daydream a little about someplace warm and summery as her own personal preparation for the task at hand. She clenched her teeth, and sped up her process. At least she wasn't measuring output and cleaning bedpans. Yet.
Gianna's work as a nursing assistant had seemed like such a blessing when Werner had left. She had virtually nothing – he'd taken everything of value with him to his new, blond, blue-eyed, healthy Swiss wife. The job posted in the small town the day after he left, and though she had been unskilled and untrained, her height and looks had impressed the hiring manager enough for him to take a chance on her. It didn't matter to her that he saw her as a possible bedmate; she felt that whatever got her the job without the need to beg or become promiscuous was simply her advantage. In any case, he had been fired a week later for sleeping with one of the patients, leaving her with the job and a miniscule income.
After a year of hard work, she still had virtually nothing left.
She rolled her washcart into the old woman's room. She tried very hard not to like this patient, but had failed in that attempt. Rosalynn Cavilleri was Italian, outspoken and rapidly declining. Gianna listened with rapt attention as Rosalynn talked of her homeland, the harvest, her life and her devilishly good-looking husband as a young man.
"How are we today, Mrs. Cavilleri?" Gianna said, positioning the cart next to her bed. She set the brake, and looked over the bedrail, her face close to her patients.
"I am old. I am dying. How should I feel?"
"Now, Mrs. Cavilleri," Gianna said, lowering the side rail and lifting the basin from the cart, "We'll have none of that talk. I'm here for your bath; are you ready?"
"Yes," she answered, and Gianna began her preparations. "I remember when I was a girl, not much older than you, the bath after the harvest. My husband worked so hard. So much glean, so much to regret. And the clean up, ack. That I do not miss. It was excruciating."
Gianna set the basin atop the cart, and said, "The harvest bath?" without looking to her patient.
Suddenly, Gianna felt a iron grip descend on her wrist. Startled, she gasped and swung her head back to the rail. Mrs. Cavilleri was straining upward, eyes wide in horror, clasping Gianna's wrist with every ounce of strength she had left. "Is he here yet?", she cried softly, imploring Gianna with her eyes. "Is my husband here?"
Gianna gripped her hand and loosened her fingers while speaking quietly to soothe her. "Mrs. Cavilleri, your son should be by today, that'll be nice, won't it?
"Son?", Mrs. Cavilleri asked as if the notion were new to her. "Oh, my son. Yes… my husband, though…"
"Mrs. Cavilleri, do you remember? Mr. Cavilleri is gone, gone to heaven." She softly laid the old woman's hand at her side, and turned to look deeply into her eyes.
Mrs. Cavilleri let out a loud guffaw. "That is not likely, my dear!" she sputtered, her laugh reducing to raking coughs. "That is just not likely." She laid back down and chuckled lightly to herself. "Not likely at all, dear."
Gianna struggled to regain her composure. She'd seen this before: patients in their last hours losing the ability to remember the difference between the living and the dead. It was always sad, but with her fondness for Mrs. Cavilleri, she was heartbroken.
She lifted Mrs. Cavilleri's St. Christopher medallion from her neck, disentangled it from her hair, and dropped it into the pocket of her scrubs. She bathed her carefully, slowly, with extra care. Smoothing lotion into her legs, her arms, her hands and face, Gianna could see she had once been a great beauty. So much waste, so much time alone, she thought as she hummed a wordless melody to calm her patient and herself.
Mrs. Cavilleri was asleep. Gianna loaded the cart and pulled it out of the room, watching the sleeping woman's untroubled face.
"Excuse me," a deep, low voice uttered right at her ear. She spun around, jerking her hand to her ear. So cold! Shelet go of the door and heard it crash into her cart. Her eyes flashed to Mrs. Cavilleri, whose eyes were open and arms extended.
"Demetri!" Mrs. Cavilleri gushed, excited to see the man staring at Gianna.
"Oh, I'm so sorry. I was just startled. Are you okay?" Gianna could feel her skin flush with embarrassment.
"I'm more than alright," the beautiful stranger gushed in a dulcet tone. "I am enraptured."
Gianna could feel his violet eyes boring deeply into her, but she could not meet his gaze. She could hear the smirk in his voice, but beyond that, there was something not… not right. She didn't feel afraid, exactly. As Mrs. Cavilleri called to the man again, it struck her: she felt excited.
As if to prolong their contact, he said, "How is she today?" as he motioned a waiting gesture to the calling woman.
"She's… She misses your father," she answered in a murmur. "She asked me if he's coming today, but the records show he's dead. I told her you would be here, and that seemed to calm her some."
"I imagine it would." He replied calmly, smirking again. He turned to look at the woman in the bed, and a fondness descended over his face like rain. "May I talk to you later? Will you be here?"
"Yes, I should be. I don't get off until much later this evening."
"Excellent. Please excuse me," he said, as he glided through the door and over to Mrs. Cavilleri's side.
"Demetri, you came, you said you'd come and you came… Ah…" and she broke into another language that sounded like Italian. He responded in the same. Gianna understood they needed privacy, a moment alone, mother to son, to release each other from their earthly bonds that joined them. She yanked the cart out of the room and let the door whisper closed.
She sat in the break room, daydreaming again about the beautiful stranger, about Werner and about his healthy new wife. I wonder if he would leave her if she got sick, she thought. She tried to resist the bitterness she felt, but each time her thoughts wandered to Werner, her mouth was sour and her thoughts were caustic.
In sickness or in health. I didn't realize then this only applied to me.
The doctor had called the house with the bad news right at the dinner hour. His words were devastating, "I'm sorry, Mrs. Schlenz, but it is as we thought. We're not exactly sure why Ashkenazi Jews are at higher risk for breast cancer, but this has been true in your family and is true in you as well. When would you like to begin treatment?"
Stunned, Gianna let the phone drop and fell to her knees. "I have cancer," she said to Werner, the tears constricting her throat, forcing her words into a whisper. "I have cancer…"
Werner lifted her to her feet and led her to the chair. He went to the kitchen and returned with a glass of water. His only words were, "I'm sorry," as if that seemed to say it all. Wordlessly, he went upstairs, packed his suitcase and left the house.
Even though his mother had died of cancer, this reaction seemed extreme. Gianna couldn't understand how one word – cancer – had driven her husband out of the house and into the street. It wasn't until the following week when the divorce papers were served that she began to understand: he had another, someone else waiting in the wings.
Heartless bastard, she thought. He took everything – the house, the car, her heart, the money and with it, her only hope of salvation. After the initial surgery, the bills began to roll in and the hope of treatment drifted further and further out of reach. She was left penniless, abandoned, cold and hungry.
Gianna hugged herself, wrapping her arms across her stomach. Think of someplace warm… It was her mantra, her daydream, her only hope to push her forward.
She felt something cool in her pocket. Her hand pulled out Mrs. Cavilleri's medallion. She jumped to return it to her; the last thing she needed would be her son's notice of its absence and accusation of theft. She needed this job.
Without hesitating at the door, she burst into the room and saw Mrs. Cavilleri's son bent over his mother as if kissing her. The sound was wrong; she stood watching him without words. Underneath a growling hum of deep pleasure, a wet sucking sound gave counterpoint to the air. He turned towards Gianna, who watched without breathing.
"She is gone."
Gianna's eyes flashed to the bed where Mrs. Cavilleri laid. Her eyes were closed, and her face pale and peaceful, almost as if she had died in rapture. Gianna had seen death many times: pain, dementia, and sleep, this she understood. But the death mask she saw before her now spoke a different cessation – death in the arms of a lover. But it was her son…
Gianna struggled to remember Mrs. Cavilleri had said. She looked back to the beautiful stranger, who stared at her, willing her to see a tableau different than the one before her.
"Your name is Demetri, correct?" He nodded slowly, watching Gianna. "Demetri, I'm sorry for your loss."
"Thank you. She was old." He turned to the body, then dismissed it. He returned his gaze to Gianna, but the fire and intensity made her cast her eyes downward. She held out his mother's medallion to him.
"I took this off when I bathed her and forgot to put it back on. I wasn't stealing it, honestly." She hung her head and closed her eyes, unable to look at his bright, intense red-violet eyes.
"Gianna, please, keep it. Such things mean nothing to me."
"Please, I'm Jewish. It has no symbolism for me either."
"You can use the money if you sold it, yes?"
She lifted her eyes to find his face close to hers. She opened her mouth to gasp, but he stepped back instantly, mumbling. "I must go."
That night, Gianna was sick. Upset and stress made the symptoms of her cancer flare; she was weak and aching from vomiting, her skin sore to the touch. Her thoughts were wild and racing. When at last she fell asleep, she dreamed of unending rows of red wheat, ripe for the harvest, through which she ran directionless and calling.
Three days passed. No one seemed to notice Mrs. Cavilleri had gone, as if she hadn't been there at all. Surely there will be a service, Gianna thought. She decided to stop at hospital administration after her shift to see where the body had been taken, hoping to find the date of the service.
She opened the door to the office, and found a man at the counter. He turned, and she murmured, "Demetri."
"Hello, Gianna, is it?" He said motioning to her badge.
"Yes, Gianna, it means – "
"God is gracious," he said, ending her sentence.
"Yes." She was surprised; few knew the roots of her name; most mistook it for Italian.
"Gianna, will you wait a moment?" Demetri did not wait for an answer, but turned back to the women behind the counter who was clearly having trouble breathing. "Are we done here?"
"Ah, yes, yes…" she breathed, wide-eyed and confused.
Demetri turned back to Gianna. "Will you allow me to escort you?" And again, without waiting for an answer, he took he elbow and guided her to the door.
Gianna studied Demetri as he guided her down the street. Each time she opened her mouth to speak, she closed it again. What could she say to a man of such quiet ferocity and beauty? Finally, she said, "I know what Demetri means, too."
He stopped abruptly and turned to her. "You do?" He hesitated a moment, then said "Tell me, Gianna, what does it mean?"
"It means gift of the harvest. But," she stopped. The intoning of the word meant something, something specific about Demetri. "But for you, you are the harvester."
He studied her coolly. His face was at once blank, controlled and intense. "What are you talking about?"
"Demetri, where are you from?" Her thoughts were spinning. Mrs. Cavilleri spoke of her home outside Tuscany in Italy many times, and spoke of the harvest… The death mask of the old woman popped into her head and she saw Demetri truly for the first time.
"I see you have made some connections. Clever girl," he said, releasing her arm. "What is it you think you know?"
"I understand," she whispered, voice faltering, "the harvest."
"That is unfortunate." He turned to her. The intensity of his eyes burned, his irises bright red.
Gianna tilted her head to one side, her brows knitting together. "Wait."
He smirked, and waited for her to continue, his eyes locked on hers.
She saw her death before her, as if laid out for harvest. At last the words made sense.
The sidewalk was icy and cold, a sharp contrast to his eyes. Her dreams of warmth and comfort began to crash around her. She could not die like this, on this winter's day with no shelter, no heat, no hope.
"Is it Volterr, Volterra where you live?" She looked up to his eyes and held his gaze. "Is it warm there?"
The question was clearly unexpected. He took a step backwards – she was still within his reach – and said, "Why?"
"I do not fear death, I do not fear loneliness, I do not fear dying alone. Take me if you must, Demetri, but I beg of you, take me where it is warm."
Her apartment in the castle was everything she had dreamed of. This door bore no blessing; no affirmation of God or his chosen people existed here.
At last, the dimly lit, yellow air she had longed for and imagined for so long was hers. She spent every night in front of the fire, unless the sickness dictated otherwise. Tonight, the cancer raged inside her, but she could bear the pain bundled in front of the fire, teacup in hand. Although her end was near, she was at peace with what was to come.
Her time in Volterra had taught her many things: how to be happy though ill; how to hide her illness from her masters; how her masters harvested their food and the cost of the harvest. The lesson she valued most surprised them, but no more than she surprised herself: she wanted to join the harvest.
Demetri knew of her wish for immortality. He dangled the promise just out of her reach, waiting for the "right moment". She bided her time and did as she was directed. She had greeted carloads of human harvests: living, breathing people who entered the castle and never spoke again. And she saw the exception, too: the one human girl who entered with the strange, golden-eyed vampires and was allowed to leave as well.
Demetri was praised for her work; the masters were pleased with her, and so, pleased with him.
Sitting in her overstuffed chair in front of the fire, a knock came at the door. "Come in," she called. The door was never locked, there was no need.
"Demetri," she said, "What a nice surprise." She motioned to him to sit by the fire, knowing it would not warm or comfort him; it was her own comfort in his presence she sought. He remained standing, then took a step towards the chair and leaned over her.
"Gianna," Demetri began. His eyes were dark as night and the skin below them bruised and purple. He needed to harvest. "Are you warm tonight?"
"I am," she replied.
"Have I kept my word?" he asked, smirking. He was in complete control of what was to come.
"You have." Gianna smiled gently, but made no motion of escape.
"Then I have come to show you my name." He leaned in, his cold cheek flat against hers. "Ah…"
And he bit into her flesh.
The cold fire jolted through her body. Any warmth she had ever known was obliterated in this, the final harvest. She took her last breath, gasping, silently bidding farewell to her life.
Demetri pulled air through his nose as her life drained into his mouth. Suddenly, his head jerked away and his face twisted into a grimace. "Phhht! Puttana!" Demetri shouted as he spat the blood, falling away from Gianna. "You have cancer! You bitch! How dare you!" He drug his sleeve across his lips and tongue and spat again. He screamed, "I will never be generous again!" and broke through the apartment door.
But Gianna heard nothing. She was changing; the cancer in her burned out and she was finally aflame.