"Where the hell have you been?" Anna shouted as she threw her hands out to shove my chest. I easily caught her wrists.
"That's not a good idea," I told her. Anna forcibly pulled her hands back with an angry grunt. I had expected her anger. I knew as I was scaling her building, tonight, that she had been seething about "that stupid, beautiful vampire". However, I was sure that after I would tell her of Clara's death, Anna would most certainly no longer see me as something beautiful.
After I had disposed of Clara's body in a Brooklyn dumpster, I spent the rest of the day contemplating how I would tell Anna what had happened. I needed a clear head, so a decent meal was in order. It was convenient that a wanted fugitive was taking refuge in the same alley I found the dumpster in. I threw his body in along with Clara's. It would now appear that Clara was only in the wrong place at the wrong time when vengeance was taken on the fugitive. At least that was what I was hoping for.
"It's been five days! Five days! Why didn't you come back? You promised you would be here four days ago. "
"I was busy," I replied lamely.
"Ugh, you're such a typical man," Anna stated with disgust. She turned away from me and started rummaging through her belongings, putting away things she had used in the day. "Let me give you a tip, Edward. When you make a promise to a girl, you keep it. You don't ever be 'too busy'. That is, unless you want to stay single for the rest of your life."
"I'll keep that in mind. I didn't—"
"If you were going to be five days, why didn't you just say so? Or perhaps send a message letting me know of your change in plans? I'm sure that within the past few days you had time to do that."
I sighed in defeat. She was right. I could have done that. I could have found a way to let her know.
"I'm sorry. I really didn't think that you would want me to come back." I, again, went for honesty with her. She was the only person to know the truth about me. It was refreshing to not have to lie. I could be myself with her.
"Why would you think that?"
I only shrugged in response. Seeing the sincerity in Anna's thoughts, I now felt embarrassed at voicing my insecurities about her possibly regretting her pleas for me to return to her.
"I was so worried about you. I thought that Alexander had…just don't do that to me again," Anna said, demanding.
I nodded in response. I couldn't believe that she was worried about me. She knew that there was a sadistic vampire after her and she was worried about me. I contemplated calling into question her sanity, but thought better of it. She only had a kind heart.
"So what have you been so busy with the past few days?" Anna asked, now showing playfulness instead of ire.
"Being stuck in my apartment during the day, and chasing the Count all over the island at night."
Anna's eyes went wide. "Why have you been chasing him?"
"He's been too close to your house. I promised I wouldn't let him hurt you. He posed too much of a threat, so I figured keeping you alive was more important than placating your extreme desire to see me." I couldn't help but tease her a bit.
Anna paled when she thought about what my statement meant. I could now see what kind of fear my absence elicited this week. If Alex had killed me, then Anna would no longer have a protector. She was up at night—scared of who would come in her window. I felt stupid for not thinking of that.
"Anna, I'm so sorry. I should have let you know what I was doing."
"He's going to continue this, isn't he?" she asked, scared to know the truth.
"You don't have to worry about that. He won't be a problem for you."
"You killed him?" she asked with shock.
"No. He's alive, but he won't be a problem for you."
"How do you know?"
I didn't know what to tell her to convince her. I didn't just want to say "he promised". That would not go over well with her. I also didn't want to tell her that I knew he was telling the truth because I could read his mind and instantly know if he was lying. I didn't want to tell her about my ability, only because I didn't want the Count to find out about it if he may be overhearing. That was information best left to myself, as far as he was concerned.
"He no longer has use for you. Let's just leave it at that."
"What does that mean, he no longer has use for me?" she asked with insult in her tone.
"It means that you had a purpose for him before. You served that purpose; therefore, you are no longer needed. It's as simple as that. You have nothing to worry about," I explained.
"But you just said that he posed a threat to me."
"Yes, he did. But he doesn't anymore. He won't come for you, I swear it."
Anna gave a small huff. "You really expect me to put a lot of trust in you."
I leaned against the wall and folded my arms. "Well, I do know a lot more about vampires than you, so…"
Anna narrowed her eyes and threw a pillow at me. I let it hit me in the face to make her feel better.
"That wasn't nice," I admonished. "Violence is never the answer."
"Says the vengeful vampire," she said teasingly as she retrieved the pillow to replace back on the bed.
"How is it that you accept everything about me so coolly?" I had to know. She had no problem throwing the term vampire around without thinking it odd that one was standing right in her room.
Anna's thoughts turned to some of her favorite books from when she was growing up. She loved stories involving anything that regarded the supernatural. It had given her a nice escape from her strict, debutant upbringing. Her favorites always had someone who had abilities, beyond that of the average human, who used them for good. She related me to some of her favorite characters and felt a familiarity with my presence. She really wasn't thrilled with what her life had given her and found that same escape, which she did as a child, in me.
"What's not to accept? You are just like everyone else, with only a few quirks," she answered.
Anna noticed the dark change in my expression. I wouldn't quite call the things I was drawn to do quirks.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make your existence sound trite. It's just that I don't hold prejudices. You are what you are, and that's it. Whether you're happy with it or not, you can't deny that you are a good person." Anna really had no idea what she was talking about. I looked away from her and tried to keep myself from doing things that would prove her wrong. I knew what I was. Anna rolled her eyes.
"What? Now what is wrong with what I said?" she asked impatiently.
My eyes locked on hers in a way that made her heart jump and breath stutter. Anna froze under my gaze—recognizing the monster looking back at her.
"If I was a good person, I wouldn't elicit that kind of reaction in you," I stated bluntly.
Anna huffed and shook her head. "You only caused a moment of fear because you wanted to. Anyone can do that, not just vampires. Come here."
I obeyed Anna and approached her. She turned me to face her full length mirror, then smoothed out my shirt sleeve and linked her arm in mine. I would have been uncomfortable with the gesture, but she was only being friendly. I found myself, again, reveling in the small amount of affection she was showing me.
"Hey, look at that. You have a reflection," she pointed out. It was then my turn to roll my eyes. She giggled.
"Now look at yourself, "Anna instructed.
With a sigh I did as I was told. I started to learn that opposing the things Anna said came with a dose of futility.
As I looked at my reflection, I grew uncomfortable with the exercise. I hated looking in mirrors. I did it as little as possible. The only things I ever saw when I looked at myself were the changes becoming a vampire had made to my human form. Especially now that I was again accosted with these red, demon eyes, I was painfully reminded of the disparity I felt at the beginning of this existence. The color not only represented the lives of those I took, but also of my own death—a death without peace, a body never laid to rest, and a motionless heart that will always mourn the love and life that used to reside in it.
"Now, I see a perfectly nice, handsome young man," Anna said, obviously seeing something completely different than I was. "His hair is a little messy, but, still, he's nice enough," Anna continued, and I smirked at her statement.
She smoothed her free hand over my hair in a useless attempt to bring some control to the disarray. She narrowed her eyes at it when it rebelliously bounced right back to where it was. I could not hold back my chuckle.
"Why does it do that?" she asked, perplexed. I motioned for her to have a seat on the bed, while I sat in front of her on the floor. I was happy to be away from the mirror. I knew I had to tell Anna about Clara, but I was enjoying the interaction with her. I didn't mind putting the conversation off for a while.
"It was always a bit unmanageable," I started, "even more so after I was turned."
Anna's interest peaked. She was excited to finally get some details about my existence.
"Why?" she simply asked. It was a question I had asked myself after I noticed the difference.
"I'm not sure exactly, but I have a theory. When the change takes place, some physical attributes can change slightly, but we are essentially frozen the way we are. When I was changed, I was on the verge of death. The Spanish Influenza had wiped out a lot of people at the time. The symptoms of that illness are horrifying. The fever was so high that it caused significant sweating. I remember my mother, or sometimes a nurse, constantly wiping it off my face. Anyway, by the time I was turned, my hair was a disgusting riot. I'm guessing that whatever direction the hairs were laying is how the follicles grabbed and froze the hair in place."
Anna listened with rapt attention. I didn't know that a conversation about my hair could be so interesting.
"Your mother had to watch you suffer?" she asked sympathetically.
"Not for long." Anna waited for me to elaborate. "She died before me."
"Oh my God, and your father?" she inquired, almost afraid to ask.
"He died before my mother."
"No. I was an only child."
"You poor thing."
I was always uncomfortable responding to sympathy, so I shrugged, and said nothing, waiting for Anna to spout off one of the many questions brewing in her mind.
"You said that physical attributes change. What did you mean by that?"
"Well, we have to be alluring to our prey, so some of our features become perfected, and muscle tone becomes more defined. My nose, for example, was never this straight. It was actually slightly crooked."
"What else?" Anna asked, intrigued. It was as if one of her remembered stories was coming to life right in front of her.
"My jaw became more defined, as did my cheekbones. My complexion became flawless, and not to mention as pale as your bed sheets. It was very disconcerting seeing my reflection for the first time after I was turned."
"Why does the skin turn so pale? Alex is the same way."
"Because the body dies. I have no blood running through my veins, so there is nothing to bring oxygen to the skin cells which would give them color."
Anna's face glowed with fascination. She wanted to retrieve a pen a paper to write everything down so she wouldn't forget, but decided it best to wait until I left so she would not make me feel uncomfortable. I was going to have to subtly inform her of the danger of having evidence of my kind around the house.
"If blood doesn't run through your veins, does that mean your heart doesn't beat?"
I held out my wrist in answer. Anna took it and depressed her two fingers to the vein showing prominently there. After finding no pulsating, her shocked eyes met mine. She then came off the bed and reached for my neck, again searching out the pulse point.
"There's really nothing there," she said in amazement. "Your body really is dead, by clinical terms, anyway."
I nodded in response as Anna sat back on the bed.
"If your body is frozen, will you never grow older?"
"Then how long will you live?"
"Until someone tears me apart."
Anna took a moment to contemplate the term forever. She was torn between being enthralled with the idea and also the reality of a tedious life never coming to an end.
"Does forever scare you?" she asked carefully.
I wasn't expecting her question and it caught me off guard slightly. She touched on a topic that I didn't like to spend time thinking about.
"Yes. Anything unknown scares me. I'm only twenty seven years old, so I haven't been around long enough to feel what it's like for someone my kind to go decades or centuries trying to stay entertained. On the other hand I have already experienced almost eleven years without changing, and if I try to contemplate what even just a few more decades like that will be like, it makes my head spin. I may go insane thinking about forever."
"Do you know any old vampires that can tell you what it's like?" she asked, trying to offer up some kind of help for me.
"I do. He advised to keep busy. The mind has the capacity for constant learning. Even if the body shows no change, the mind can always evolve and grow, and that is what will consistently bring us to new experiences and keep us from losing ourselves." The pain was evident in my voice. I was, in no way, following that advice. I chose a different path. But in my defense, it was the only that path that made sense for me.
"That sounds like good advice. He must know what he's talking about if he's been around for a long time. You should listen to him."
"I usually do," I said with my eyes downcast.
"What do you mean by usually? When do you not listen to him?" I guessed that it was the time I would explain how my rebellion from Carlisle was what led me to making the mistake that took Clara's life. Words could not describe how much I did not want to do it.
"I did everything he told me to do for ten years, up until about six months ago. He's not always right about everything. His ideals, while they work for him, aren't easily implemented on others of our kind. I don't think that I should have to abide by them only because he does. I was impressed that I was able to do it for a decade, but his way of life is not for me."
"Way of life?" Anna was perplexed at the phrase.
"I mean how he chooses to sustain himself. He doesn't drink the blood of humans," I explained. "Vampires can actually survive on animal blood."
The expression on Anna's face at that statement was actually comical. She mimicked the confused appearance of a dog with her head cocked drastically to the side. It caused me to bark out a small laugh.
"Was that a joke? You are kidding, right?" she asked, not able to believe me.
"No, it's not a joke. It's true. Animal blood sustains us. It's not palatable, or very quenching, but it keeps us healthy, you could say."
"So you're telling me that the first ten years you spent as a vampire you killed animals, and for the past six months you've been killing people?"
"Yes," I whisper. Hearing someone say it to me provokes the same shameful feelings that voicing my opinions to Carlisle had in the past. I still haven't been on my own long enough. I was certain that those feelings would go away once the lessons Carlisle had ingrained in me had enough time to fade away.
I know Anna caught the shameful tone of my voice, but she chose not to address it. She decided that my inner turmoil was a conversation best left for another time.
"So, I assume you enjoy killing people more?"Anna asked.
"No," I answered quickly. I was actually disgusted at her assumption. "I don't enjoy killing at all—animal or human. And I certainly would not choose the death of person before an animal. But that is coming from the human that still resides in me. However, if you want to talk to the monster, who no longer wants his appetite curbed, he will tell you something different." My words got softer as insecurity started to take over my speech. I was afraid that Anna would think me insane.
"Like a dual personality?" she asked, guessing at what I was trying to describe. I took a moment to contemplate her assumption.
"I wouldn't quite say it's that extreme. It's more like having a human mind coupled with animalistic instincts. With a dual personality, one personality is more dominant than the other at any given time. With vampires, both the mind and the monster are present at the same time. We are always aware of what desire comes from which entity. My mind knows well enough that killing another creature is a horrible thing. However, the monster demands it. It's a strange battle to have to get used to."
I let Anna have a few moments to mull over what I had said. She had a hard time seeing me as someone who would be described as a monster. She thought that 'animal hunter' was a better fitting lifestyle for me.
I was distracted away from Anna's generous musings by her father coming home. As soon as he entered the house he began looking for Anna, thinking about the important, tragic news he had to tell her. She should not have been finding out from him. I was supposed to tell her. It was, after all, my fault—my responsibility.
He was making his way up the stairs, and I had to decide whether I was going to stay in Anna's room and hide, or just leave and come back another time, or not at all. I didn't know what Anna would want. I started to stand.
"Where are you going?" Anna asked, not wanting me to leave.
"Your father is coming to talk to you."
"How do you know?"
"I can hear him," I explained. I didn't think his footsteps on the wooden stairs were quiet enough for a human to hear.
"No. I meant, how do you know it's my father and that he wants to talk to me?"
I stared speechlessly at Anna for a moment, feeling utterly stupid at my own blunder. Why did I only assume that her question meant that she didn't hear her father approach when I should have been listening to her thoughts to see what she was really asking? Why did I have to be so unobservant?
Quickly sifting through the minds that were in my range of hearing, I listened to hear if the Count was close enough to have heard what just happened. I didn't think he was. I was sure that I would have picked up on him by now, but I couldn't be too careful when it came keeping my ability a secret. Just having Anna know about it would be dangerous enough. With all the questions she liked to ask, she would probably bring it up at any random moment that she would think of it. That was a risk that I was not willing to take.
Anna noticed my dumbfounded expression which brought her some suspicion. She wanted to demand that I answer her question, but was interrupted by a gentle knock on her door.
"Anna," her father said through the door. "Are you still awake?"
"Yes, Father, I was just changing for bed," Anna answered.
"I need to speak with you. Join me in my study when you are finished."
"All right, I'll just be a few moments."
"Take your time. I have some work to do that will keep me busy," her father instructed. He was grateful to have a distraction before he spoke with Anna. He wasn't the only one who didn't want to tell her of her friend's death.
"That's odd. He never asks to speak to me privately at this time of night," Anna mused to herself, and then brought her gaze back to me. She watched me as I stared at the floor, unable to look at her. I was running through different excuses I could use to explain how I could have known what I did, but nothing seemed feasible, and would only spur more questions that I wouldn't have the answers to.
Anna's mind was busy attempting its own conclusions. When she decided that the expression on my face looked 'guilty' is when she assumed that I was hiding some kind of information from her.
"Do you know what my father wants?" she asked. She was too smart for her own good. Well, my own good, really.
"Yes," I answered truthfully. I didn't want to break my honest streak with her.
"Do you know because you have knowledge on what he wants to talk to me about, or because you have a way of knowing?"
That was a very dangerous question. Anna was getting to close to the answer to it. Luckily, I could answer her in a way that was still honest and not lead her to the secret I wanted to keep.
"I'm involved," I stated.
"My father knows about you?" she asked confused.
"No. He doesn't know that I'm involved."
"I don't understand," Anna said, her confusion growing deeper.
I decided that it would be best for her father to tell her. If I told her, then she would already be upset and have to try to act surprised at receiving the news a second time. That would have been a cruel thing to put her through. Having to deal with the death of a friend was bad enough.
"You will when your father explains," I said softly. I was scared of what Anna would assume when she heard the story. "You should go talk to him, and not leave him to wait."
"Will you stay? I will probably have questions for you after I talk to Father."
I eyed the window warily. "I should probably leave," I suggested, and Anna's features fell. "I'll come back."
"I've heard that before," she said skeptically.
"I've heard that before, too."
With a defeated sigh, I sat back on the floor. "I'll stay."
Anna smiled as she stood up from her bed and approached her door. She turned the knob to open it, but paused to turn back to me.
"Yes," I acknowledged.
"Don't think I didn't notice that you never denied not having a way of knowing things." The widening of my eyes told her that her assumption was right. "That is called a lie by omission, by the way."
With that she left the room, leaving me to sit and think about how much of a damn screw up I was.
I flopped onto my back to lie on the floor, and in that moment that I vowed to myself that I would become the most meticulous and careful vampire that ever existed. After the whole situation with Anna and Clara was over I would not get involved with another human ever again. I would leave Anna alone and no longer mix up her life with the turmoil that I brought into it. I would be a ghost, disappearing from her life just as quickly as I came into it.
I would forget about all my entertainments. No more concerts, plays, movies, or books—nothing that a human would do. I wasn't human and didn't deserve those things. They were a distraction, and my recent actions proved that that they did more harm than good.
It turned out Alexander was right. I would not be able to keep my humanity and live this life. Therefore, I would give up all of it. I would concentrate my existence on the sole thing a vampire should be concerned about: blood.