I don't own Twilight.
This was written for lyricalkris as part of the Twilight Exchange.
Huge thanks to wickedcicada, as always.
Someone to Watch Over Me
In the beginning, it was the scent of the blood. Light and floral, it was hard to miss in the overcast December air. It tempted me beyond reason and caused my throat to burn. Though as a vampire I drank human blood to perpetuate my own existence, I limited myself to the lowest forms of life—rapists and murderers, those who deserved to die. One could argue I was doing the world a service. The monster deep within me was sated through the act of draining the life from an equally vile creature. This scent—that of human blood far too appealing to ignore—overpowered me. As I set out to find its source, I could only hope that if it belonged to someone worthy of life I would have the strength to resist it.
I moved through the streets of New York City propelled by instinct, not permitting myself to be distracted by the thoughts of the many individuals around me. They were always the same. As I turned a corner and passed a breadline of broken men looking anywhere but at each other, their thoughts flashed in my mind as they did their own, far more distracting to them than they would ever be to me.
Please, let them not run out of stew.
I hope she understands that I couldn't say no. If we hadn't taken in my brother's family, they'd be out on the streets.
Two years ago my son believed in Santa Claus. Now he doubts the existence of God.
What if she really is pregnant?
I hope the preacher's lecture is brief. If I don't eat soon, I fear I'll faint.
Look at that his hat and coat. I doubt he understands hunger...
The irony of that man's thought was not lost on me. Perhaps he was right; I didn't understand hunger. I did, however, bear the burden of a perpetual thirst beyond what he could ever imagine.
I followed the scent into an alley. Though its intensity increased exponentially yet I could not hear any thoughts. Then I saw her—a tiny scrap of a girl with dark eyes and holes in her coat. Her skin was almost as pale as mine, and despite the fact she was emaciated, her cheeks were not hollow out. I should have anticipated that any creature whose scent was that appealing would be lovely. The bones of her wrist were exposed as she reached out to rap on a door.
When are these beggars going to give it a rest? If I give one so much as a crust of bread, I'll have a Hooverville outside my back door!
Those were not her thoughts. How was her mind blank to me?
The door quickly swung open.
"There's no work here," the man said gruffly.
The door was mostly closed when she called out to him.
"Wait, please! I'm not looking for employment, sir." She lifted her skirt to mid-thigh, exposing the creamy flesh above her tattered cotton stocking. "But I am willing to work for whatever scraps you can spare."
My thirst relocated from my throat to the base of my penis. I was familiar with lust in theory. Though I'd never experienced it personally, I'd it seen enough of it in the minds of others to recognize it now in myself. What I didn't understand was the rage. If this man accepted her offer, I had no doubt I would have him dead and drained before he'd even opened his trousers. Thankfully, it didn't come to that.
"Scram!" he shouted as he slammed the door.
If his rebuttal upset her, her face did not betray it. I followed her through the streets as afternoon became dusk, past apple sellers and hobos. Her thoughts remained as silent as her lips. My bloodlust was now overpowered with curiosity and wonder. Not once in the twelve years since I awoke to this life had I ever encountered a breathing soul whose mind was closed to me. I wanted to know how this was possible—to know her. How ironic this silent mind that fascinated me so was brought to life by the very blood that tempted me beyond description—and that both belonged to a prostitute.
Except she didn't seem like the kind of woman who would sell her body. I would know; though I'd never sought physical comfort from one, I'd spent many a night walking the streets among them. They were every bit as hardened as I was. Had I not witnessed her propositioning a shopkeeper just now, I would not have believed it. Whores—like vampires—were dead on the inside. This girl's blood called to me with such intensity I had no doubt that she was alive in every way possible, a fact that made her desperation affect me so much more than anything I'd previously encountered.
And I'd encountered everything. Though I was an innocent for the seventeen years I'd walked the earth breathing out of necessity rather than subterfuge, the days I'd existed since were anything but. I'd witnessed it all. Hoovervilles and hunger no longer registered as tragedies alongside the murders, rapes, and tortures I'd seen through my black eyes and in the minds of others. This girl was different; I just didn't understand why.
Her journey stopped in front of a decrepit apartment building. I waited until the sky was black before climbing the fire escape and peering in the window. Her hat was gone, revealing shiny brown hair she kept tucked behind her ears. Her coat remained, and I wondered if it was any warmer inside her apartment than it was outside. She sat on the floor of a tiny, unfurnished room cradling a little girl and a baby who appeared to be no older than two. I could hear the children's thoughts as if they were speaking, finally permitting me a glimpse inside the life of the being who fascinated me so.
Her name was Isabella, but they called her Belle—a tribute to her singing voice, which lately had been their only source of delight. Their mother died in childbirth, and they hadn't seen their father since he sent them to spend a few days with their mother's sister and her two children, under the guise of needing to pack up the contents of their home and move to another. Six months later, he had yet to return for them. They remained in the two-room apartment with their aunt and cousins, with no heat or electricity and very little hope this would ever change.
"I'm afraid of the orphanage," the older girl said.
"You shouldn't be afraid, Marie. You'll have a warm bed and food in your belly. It's an easier life than this."
Marie's thought came through clear.
I'd rather go without food than go without you.
"But you said you'd never leave us."
"I won't leave you. If..." her voice wavered. "If we are turned out, it's safer for you to be in a home. I promise it won't be forever. I'll find work doing something; I don't care what. I'll find us a place to live and as soon as we can, we'll be a family again. I promise." She kissed each child on the top of their head. "We have two more days. Try to sleep and keep each other warm. I love you both very much."
Marie lay down on the floor, the baby in her arms. Isabelle tucked a thin, worn blanket around them and began to sing:
"I'm a little lamb who's lost in a wood
I know I could always be good
To one who'll watch over me."
Her voice and (if the thoughts of her siblings were to be believed) her soul were lovelier than I would have imagined. I no longer wanted to claim her life; I wanted to preserve it at any cost. I knew I couldn't be the savior of whom she sang. I could never be a flesh-and-blood man who won her heart, but I could keep her safe.
I leapt from the fire escape with a speed and agility known only to humans in radio programs and newspaper comic strips. The Shadow had nothing on me. Moving only at the speed of the average breathing man was frustrating, but necessary to avoid detection.
Money was not an issue for me; I had more than enough of it left from my human life. Knowing that physically I'd remain seventeen forever, I'd long ago withdrawn my fortune from the bank and converted it to gold—something that could be sold anonymously when I needed funds without raising the suspicions of an overzealous bank clerk. Despite the times, I carried some money on me. As a vampire, it was very hard to hurt me and nearly impossible to destroy me. Even the most violently desperate individuals were no threat to my safety.
Mythology had gotten the actual facts about my kind almost entirely wrong. A stake through my heart would not destroy me. Far from it—it would crumble without piercing my skin. Sunlight didn't harm me, though it did expose me for what I was. Though my flesh was made of carbon just as that of my human counterparts, mine was not weakened by the presence of other substances. On days without cloud cover, I sparkled.
When I reached Woolworth's, they were closing for the night. A smile and my assurance that I would make remaining open more than worth the salesman's while granted me access despite this. I selected blankets, sweaters and socks that I thought would help them keep warm. I doubted the children had toys so I also bought jacks, yo-yos, dolls for the older girls and a Teddy bear for the baby. I wanted to replace Isabella's tattered stockings, to touch something that would grace the creamy flesh between her thighs in a way I never could, but I knew doing so would taint my gesture. I wanted my gifts to her loved ones to be as pure as her heart.
The salesman was happy to wrap my purchases in Christmas paper for me. As I waited for him to complete his task, a white-beaded ladies' change purse caught my eye. As I lifted it from the shelf, it reflected the light much like my skin did on a sunny day.
"Could you add this, please?" I asked the clerk.
"Wonderful choice. Your sweetheart will love it, I'm sure."
"Could you spare a sheet of paper? I'd like to tuck a note into it before you wrap it."
The clerk handed me a stationery sample and a pen. I chose my words carefully.
Be good, little lamb.
Your shepherd watches over you.
Too quickly for the salesman to see, I tucked forty dollars inside the bag. I wasn't sure how far in arrears they were in their rent, but that would cover three months with a little to spare. I could always give her more if I found out she needed it.
"Please mark this one for Belle," I told him, laying it on the counter.
Though I was loaded down with my purchases, they were of no weight to me. During my walk back to her building, I passed another apple seller. Knowing Belle and her family were hungry, I bought his entire stock. I arrived at her apartment and peered inside from the fire escape. Though the room had gone dark, I could see inside to where the six of them slept on the floor, huddled together for warmth. Belle was closest to the window, no doubt choosing to bear the worst of the draft. As quietly as I could muster, I opened the window, carefully placing the packages inside. I was about to close the window when Belle opened her eyes and looked right at me.
"Fear not, little lamb. I've come with Christmas gifts for your family."
"If only this dream could come true," she said sadly, placing her head back on the pillow.
"It will, my lamb," I whispered. "This and many more."
I don't own Twilight. No copyright infringement is intended.