His dad had finally bought him a trumpet when he was nine years old.
He'd wanted one since before he could remember, but his dad had always told him that he had to be patient. If he still wanted one in a week, in a month, in a few year's time, he'd get one. Wouldn't it make it that much more worth it, his dad had told him while he sulked in the corner over another seventh birthday present that wasn't a loud, golden instrument, to know he truly wanted it? His dad had spoken to him endlessly about how he had felt forced into being a boot maker with his own father, before running away to be a musician.
"You can be anything." His dad put his hand on his shoulder, speaking to him gently. "You don't have to follow me, not if you don't want it."
But of course he wanted it, he thought watching his dad through the crack in the stage wall as Lena, with the soft velvety voice and sparkling dresses, flirted with him on stage. His dad was the best trumpet player he'd ever seen. Lena was beautiful too, not more than the pictures of his mum his dad kept in the tin with their minimal savings, but still enough to make his cheeks flush when she pinched them.
"We're not allowed to watch!" Karen cuffed him over the back of his head and pushed him over. He glared up at her, rubbing his hair and scrambling to his feet.
Karen raised an eyebrow at him, rolled her eyes when he stayed quiet, just stared back at her defiantly.
"I'm telling Dad." She stuck her tongue out before turning, skipping back to the dressing room where they were meant to be sleeping.
He turned his face back to the crack in the wall, saw his dad laughing with Lena before pressing his lips to the trumpet he held and making it growl. Lena threw her hands into the air, belting out a note that made his chest feel funny, made his eyes shut and a grin spread his cheeks wide.
He didn't care if he got in trouble, if Karen told on him. It was worth it for this moment. He wanted to be just like his dad one day, more than anything.
He wanted to be a trumpet player.
Karen sang, and Freddie played the trumpet. It worked because they were siblings, because he was good and she was beautiful and unafraid. She wore dresses with the slit all the way to her hip, and flirted as much with the audience as she did with the band.
Freddie hadn't stopped playing since he'd finally gotten his trumpet, had slept with it in the tiny beds they travelled round with. When he was thirteen, and getting taller by the minute, and in effect more cramped in the beds each night, he put it next to him instead. It was the last thing he saw before he went to sleep, the first every morning when he cracked his eyes open.
Karen had scoffed at him until he'd learnt to play properly, and had grudgingly admitted he was okay. His dad played in the band until Lena left, running off with the clarinettist and making his dad's playing seem to fall suddenly flat. Karen had been fourteen then, but she'd pleaded with their dad to let her sing, let her take over for Lena. Their dad had refused for the longest time, as girls only slightly older and far less talented took their turns fronting the jazz band, until one night she had beaten him down and he agreed to let her have a chance. Just one, for just one night, so she could see how hard it was.
She had loved it though, and Freddie had stood in the wings watching his sister singing, feeling his eyes close and grin widen, had seen the tears on his dads cheeks when the song had finished.
His dad had stopped playing when Freddie was sixteen, had declared himself too old. It was natural for Freddie to take over, he knew all the songs anyway. He slipped up a few times at first, felt Karen glaring at him over her shoulder before turning back to the club's patrons and smiling. But he kept at it, felt his confidence bolstered in particular when the other musicians in the band started ribbing him for all the female attention he was attracting.
It was true, though. Girls loved him, watched him avidly as they were swung around the dance floor by partners who couldn't hold their attention. Loved the enthusiastic applause he received after numbers that forced his fingers to fly over the valves and his tongue to flutter out the notes. Was particularly pleased that these skills helped him in areas outside of trumpet playing, the sound of a woman orgasming beneath him the only thing he found close enough to the joy that playing brought.
There was a down side, of course, he thought as he felt his cheek slapped for the umpteenth time that month by a jealous girl who thought when he told her he liked her he was promising forever. He loved his sister, he loved his trumpet, he loved his dad. He hadn't met any girl that measured up to any of them, though. Instead put up with the fawning for the attention, for the fucking, for the bored moments when he wasn't on stage.
The night he saw her for the first time, he'd missed his cue and almost fucked up the whole number. He'd blushed, apologised, launched into his part at a different moment, and ignored the exasperated look on Karen's face when she turned to him. There were a lot of people on the dance floor that night, the air hazy with smoke and heat. He had wiped the sweat from his brow, and out of his eyes, and caught a glimpse of someone watching him from a table in the back. Had seen bright red hair, and painted lips smirking at him. Could see pale shoulders and more than a hint of cleavage from the low cut dress she was wearing. He'd felt his interest piqued not only because he found her more than attractive, but also because she wasn't looking at him with adoration or awe, like almost every other girl in the place.
No, she looked like she knew something about him he didn't. Like she was better than him, and he found himself more attracted to her than he had been to anyone else.
He'd approached her during the break, pushing his way through the mass of people between the stage and her table, had smiled at her as charmingly as he could when he reached her.
"Hello." He'd gestured to the empty seat across from her. "Mind if I join you?" He kept smiling, waiting as she slowly turned her head toward him and narrowed her eyes.
"Fine." She said, the smirk gone and her expression blank. "Though I'm not really in the mood to chat." He noticed her watching other patrons with a strange expression on her face, wincing every now and then.
"Oh well, don't let me bother you." He wanted to frown at her dismissal, at her lack of eagerness for him to join her. He hadn't felt that way since he was a boy waiting in the wings for his dad and sister to leave the limelight, and join him back in the shadows.
She looked him up and down, tilting her head to look into his eyes and stare, as if searching. He felt slightly alarmed but kept his smile warm, hoping against all hope she would ask him to sit with her. He had ten minutes, and she was the most interesting person he had met in a long time. He wanted to get to know her.
She smiled suddenly, looking at the table, and then batting her eyelashes at him coquettishly.
"You can sit." She murmured, gesturing with her hand. "Please."
"Can I get you a drink?" He smiled as charmingly as he could, though she shook her head. "Are you here alone?"
She tilted her shoulders back, pushing her chest out, watching his eyes as she did so. He didn't let them stray to her cleavage, though wanted to look so desperately he felt the smile freeze on his face for a moment as he struggled to control himself.
"I am." She smirked at him. "You're not bad at trumpet playing."
He felt himself frown slightly. Not bad?
"Not bad?" He couldn't help it, he'd never received anything short of praise. He felt his face clear when he remembered the missed cue. "Usually I'm much more on the ball, you know? I got a bit distracted tonight."
"Right." She replied, eyeing a couple at the table over from theirs with a strange look on her face. He'd thought it would be something akin to lust if the thought didn't make him feel strange in his stomach.
"I'm Freddie, by the way." He stuck his hand over the table, and she turned back to him, extending her own delicately.
Her skin was smooth and cool, and he felt his groin twitch with the way she lowered her eyes and her lips quirked as their hands touched.
He had to excuse himself then, as Harry the horn player came to retrieve him, the band break over.
He had played the rest of the night to her, and she had watched his every movement. She was the type of girl, he thought suddenly as their eyes met over the crowd, he could fall in love with.
He was disappointed at the end of the night when he saw her table empty. Hadn't noticed her leave, had been too caught up in the music, and playing his heart out.
He lit a cigarette that had been lined with marijuana as he left the club, waving off his mates in the band who were keen to keep the night going. He might've gone with them, he usually did, drinking and dancing with girls who were far too eager to let him fuck them at the end of the night, but he couldn't stop thinking about Katie.
His trumpet case swung against his side as he walked, smoking and gazing toward the stars.
He heard her voice drifting out of an alleyway, and puffed on his cigarette, grinning suddenly when Katie walked out of the shadows toward him.
"Oh, hello!" He mumbled around the filter, inclining his head toward her. "You're out late."
She smirked at him, walking closer, leaning up to gently pull the cigarette from his lips and take a drag on it herself.
"I'm what you might call a 'night owl'." She exhaled, looking deeply into his eyes before holding the cigarette to his lips. "Do you like the night, Freddie?"
He felt himself nod, her fingertips tracing his jaw delicately before she took the cigarette back.
"Did you mean it?" She whispered, throwing the fag on the ground and crushing it with her heel. She grabbed his face in both hands, peering at him intently even as her voice shook ever so slightly. "Did you mean it?" She repeated, her voice low, the words hissing past her lips.
He didn't know what she was asking, felt himself leaning down toward her, prepared to promise her anything.
"Yes." He answered, before he pressed his mouth against hers and sighed. He'd never felt so much, before, and thought again about love.
She hesitated before kissing him so forcefully he had to take a step backwards, his trumpet case slipping from his fingers and falling to the ground.
It had been just him and Katie for a few weeks, luring young girls and boys into the shadows and having their way with them. Katie always turned to him afterwards, blood dripping from her bottom lip, holding his face so hard it almost hurt him.
"Tell me you love me." She would whisper harshly, demanding.
"I love you Katie." He would always respond before moving his hands to her hips and lifting her onto his lap.
They would fuck for hours, his fingers splayed over her shoulders, her head thrown back toward the ceiling. She would demand it then, too.
"Tell me you love me." Her voice strained, her nails digging into his thighs.
"I love you Katie." He would groan out, thrusting into her with everything he had.
She had taken him to Emily, to Cook and Effy. He hadn't thought, stupidly, that there were others, though meeting them made him as happy as meeting Katie for the first time.
"Freddie and I are together." Katie had announced, her eyebrow raised toward Effy, who blinked slowly and otherwise didn't react.
"Nice to meet you." Emily, Katie's twin, smiled at him and shook his hand. It was all so normal that he wondered that he hadn't spent the last few weeks as a vampire feeding and killing people.
"Cheers." He smiled at her, charmingly, noticing the way her eyes flickered between Katie and Effy as they continued to stare at each other.
"Welcome to the fold, mate!" Cook had hugged him excitedly. "I'm telling you, glad for another bloke around, yeah?" Cook had grinned at him, and Katie had torn her eyes away from Effy and rolled them when she spotted Cook.
Emily looked between all of them, a slight frown on her face.
"Yeah, it's great to meet you lot." He reached for Katie's hand, taking comfort when she squeezed his in return.
Effy stood slowly, then, and sauntered over to him. She kept her eyes trained on Katie the whole way, until she stopped in front of Freddie, and gazed up at him.
"Charmed." She murmured, extending her hand.
"Yeah." He responded, taking in the length of her, the way her hair fell in waves over her shoulders, the way her eyes almost sparkled as he felt himself falling into them. He removed his hand from Katie's to shake Effy's, and that was when, he thought much later, everything had started to go wrong.
He stood on his balcony, trumpet in hand, unsure what to play.
He thought back to Katie, how she had taken him from one life and thrown him into another, based solely on the fact that he loved her. He knew that now, he wasn't stupid. Knew he had served a purpose.
Effy had never really paid him that much attention, had fucked him and fed with him a few times after he'd ended it with Katie, but had only seemed to do so when Katie was around to notice. Cook had shrugged his shoulders, seemed far too interested in shagging and biting anything that moved than getting caught up in the 'girl drama'. Had told him, once, that Effy had warned him about falling in love with her, had turned him for the company as opposed to any sort of emotional attachment and had made sure he had known it.
That was all years later, of course. Years after he saw his sister for the last time, after he became something he never dreamt of being.
He held the trumpet to his lips, exhaling forcefully into the instrument, letting his fingers move over the valves effortlessly.
He had sat down with Katie once, after a night where everyone had seemed to enjoy themselves except for them. Cook and Emily had attracted an entire choir full of young women, and Effy had shrugged, laughing lightly, and gone along with them.
"Katie, listen." He held her hand between his, feeling awkward. When she'd pressed her mouth to his ear and whispered about forever, back when forever was something he didn't understand, he had thought it was entirely possible. Being with someone for the rest of your life.
"I know." She said it quietly, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth.
"Look, thank you for choosing me. I mean," he cocked his head to the side slightly, squeezing Katie's hand. "I just didn't realise how long forever is, you know?"
"Fuck's sake." Katie mumbled, pulling her hand away from his. "It's fine, alright? It was fucking stupid to, I don't even fucking know." She stood, pushing her shoulders back and turning away from him.
He stood quickly too, calling out to her. "Are we alright?"
She rolled her eyes when she turned to him, and it hurt to realise, somewhere deep down, that this was the only Katie he would know now.
"Of course we fucking are. Sorry, is this the point where I'm meant to cry because you fell out of love with me?" She narrowed her eyes, teeth bared, and laughed. "Fat fucking chance. I'm going to find Effy and them, yeah?"
He hadn't followed her. The choir had kept them all entertained for days, and he had used the time alone to brood. He had taken out his trumpet, wiping the dust away guiltily, and struggled to remember the last time he had played the thing.
Of course it was the night Katie had found him, and he blinked when he realised he'd never played it as a vampire. That the last time his lips had touched the mouthpiece, they'd been alive.
He had resolved then to play it whenever he could, to remind himself who he was and what he had once decided to be.
He finished the song, not recognising the notes and wondering where it had come from. He stayed on the balcony, looking into the night as a breeze ruffled his hair.
"That was lovely."
He turned, seeing Emily smiling softly at him.
"Cheers." He shrugged, smiling at her easily.
"What was it?" She moved to stand next to him, leaning on the railing as the breeze made her hair fly around her face, for a moment making her look like Katie.
"Not sure, really. Just something I had to get out."
They were silent, side by side, before he frowned at her.
"You really love Naomi, don't you?" He held the trumpet in his hands loosely, the familiarity of it sometimes the only thing that stabilised him.
Emily peered into the night, the lights of Bristol winking at them as if in secret.
"I think so." She said after a moment, glancing at him with such a vulnerable look that he extended his arm and placed it around her shoulders.
"Well, be sure, yeah? It's a long time to be in love." He shook his head slightly. "I mean, just. Fuck. I almost wish she hadn't turned me, sometimes. I might've handled fifty years of it. You know?" He shrugged again, tightening his half embrace.
She shook her head. "I don't want to turn her, Freds. That's the problem. I don't want her to have to, I don't know, deal with this. It changes you, and you can't ever really change back."
He gripped his trumpet tighter in one hand, his other gently squeezing Emily's shoulder.
"I think that's love, then, girl." He pulled his arm back, winking at her.
"Yeah." She stared into the distance for a minute, before smirking at him. "For what it's worth, apologies for my twat of a sister. I never really understood, back then, you and her."
He snorted, bringing the trumpet halfway to his mouth.
"It was doomed from the start. But you and your girl, Naomi," he paused thoughtfully. "I think it's different, for what it's worth."
She blinked, shrugging a little helplessly before leaning her back against the railing and tilting her head toward him.
He brought the trumpet to his mouth, remembered to make his lungs inhale, before he pursed his lips and blew.
He shut his eyes as he played, saw his father laughing as Lena batted her eyelashes at him, saw Karen dragging her hand over her thigh as she sang to a smiling crowd. The memories burned brightly in his mind, his tongue fluttering over the notes. He saw himself, finally, as a young boy watching from the wings and dreaming of what he could be.
A trumpet player.