Disclaimer: I own nothing. I simply indulge in the raspberry-filled world that has already been created. I'll go run off that indulgence in a bit.
"Sweetie," I sucked a deep, ragged breath into my lungs. "I have lived. I-I loved my life." Another deep breath. "I have battled forms of cancer they didn't even know existed." Breath. "If hair-follicle cancer is what's going to take me down, so be it." Cough, then inhale. "Be happy. Make your family happy. Make you happy." Another breath. "But let me go."
Her eyes went colorless, which I knew wasn't a good sign. She had decided; I just didn't know what, yet. She leaned in close then, as if to whisper to me, but no words came out. She just stared into my eyes, hers filled with determination. I knew what she wanted to do, but I couldn't let her.
"Isa…" Her face disappeared, and my words were halted by a searing pain. My time had come, right? I tried to cough, to make any sound, but the burning in my throat didn't allow for any of that. Yeah, my time had come, alright. My last memorable thought only consisted of one word. Dammit!
"Ms. Black, it's time for your medication."
I nearly gagged as I turned to see the sickly sweet nurse smiling at me. I smiled back, my gleaming teeth causing her happiness to falter for the slightest moment. "Okay, Charlene. I'll be right there."
I gripped my cane with one hand and the arm of the wooden chair with the other as I wobbled to my feet. The slowness at which I had to rise was maddening, but keeping up appearances was necessary for me to maintain some normalcy. I had already slipped up once that week when I easily maneuvered out of the way of Mr. Lockhart as he tripped and fell, so I couldn't risk another mistake for a few days at the least.
Once firmly on my feet, I shuffled my way toward the window that reminded me of a ticket booth at a movie theater. But instead of an adventure or thriller, I was going to sit and watch Guess Who's Coming to Dinner for the twenty-eighth time this month. Though I did love Hepburn movies, I was greatly anticipating my next move. I could hardly stand staying there another day.
Ah, yes. Charlene.
Later that afternoon, once the wonder of watching Sidney Poitier on a 19-inch tube had come to a close, I returned to my room to find mail awaiting me.
Most folks were excited to receive mail. We never got bills and the junk was rare, so mail usually meant family and friends were in contact. I let out an audible groan.
I sat on the edge of my bed, inspecting the envelope in my hands. The name "Ms. Esme Black" - I liked to have my fun - was printed in perfect handwriting on the front of the envelope, with no address or return address to be found. Hand delivery seemed excessive, but nothing surprised me anymore.
I was just preparing to rip the letter to shreds when I heard a loud thumping coming from the next room. Barney hadn't left his room for nearly a week, so the steady beat of his heart had become very familiar to me. As I heard it get increasingly louder and more erratic, I felt a burst of excitement. We all knew he was on death's doorstep, and now he was knocking. My time had come again.
I crept silently down the hall and into his room, being sure to close the door snugly behind me. The nurses were busy with those still in the common room, and were loud enough to provide me plenty of notice to make it look like I had happened upon his room if they were to come looking.
Barney Sherman, who had been leery of me since the day I moved in, began panting when he saw me approach him, my eyes wide with excitement.
"Barney, don't fret now. It's all right, I'm here to help. Well, help myself, anyway." I rested my cool, calming hand on his forearm just long enough to feel his tension release beneath my touch. "It's time, my friend. I'll try to make it quick."
The words that should scare someone nearly to death only lulled him as he watched me. I hovered my face just above his and gave him a seductive wink, then slowly lifted his IV-punctured wrist to my lips, puckering for a quick kiss before piercing his brittle, wrinkled skin with the pearly razors I called teeth.
I was pleasantly surprised when the taste of chalky mercury didn't overwhelm the feed. He must have been refusing his medication for some time. I silently thanked his stubbornness for the almost fresh-tasting blood as I drained all that I knew would go unnoticed before slipping back out of his room and into the common room for some socialization. The façade was nearly unbearable, but it only needed to last until they discovered the death. Then I would be free to do as I wished.
It didn't take long. I saw one of the nurses, Marcus, alert a few of the others before they all disappeared into his room. After carrying on a twenty-three minute conversation with the fish so I could watch the rebels, Jimmy and Charlotte, through the tank sneaking in hands of Hold 'Em when the nurses were distracted, I felt secure enough to return to my room without the promise of being bothered.
Except that the damned envelope was still sitting on the corner of my bed, just where I had left it. I rolled my eyes and tossed it onto the nightstand as I plopped onto the bed, pulling out my old, worn copy of Fat White Vampire Blues and settling in for the night.
The next morning, the entire facility seemed to be buzzing with excitement. I had heard the nurses remove the corpse of Mr. Sherman from his room during the night, and work tirelessly to clean and prep it for a new occupant. The place had a waiting list that lasted years, and they always rushed to move past a death by welcoming another resident. I could only hope this one would be nearly as close to death as Barney Sherman had been.
It wasn't until 1:45pm that the newcomer arrived, complete with a cane and one single piece of luggage. I watched from my window as he approached the entrance, fairly aged but still moving well. I rolled my eyes. Guess I'll have to gun for one of the veterans.
The nurses hurried and scurried around the hall as they did all they could to help the man move comfortably into his room. As was usual, they hovered just long enough to get him settled before rushing off to take care of their other tasks. I half expected him to come introduce himself, but was pleasantly surprised when I heard no movements coming from his room. The quiet was nice. Peaceful.
It took me another half of a breath to realize the air was too quiet. I waited a beat before moving to the wall to listen. Silence.
I hurried to my door, sure that in the flurry of footsteps outside I had simply missed him leaving his room. When I cracked my door open, I saw a nurse approaching his room. He knocked twice, and called through the door that dinner would be served at four. The man responded with a quick, contrite "Thank you."
I froze long enough to realize that whatever was going on, the sooner I knew the better. Once the nurse was out of sight, I whipped out of my door and over to his, flinging it open in what was meant to be an intimidating fashion, but was really more clumsy than anything. His chuckle told me he knew all of this, too. That irritated me, and I let out a growl.
When our eyes met, his golden irises piercing through my grayish-crimson ones, I could growl no longer. My universe seemed to slow to a crawl, the mass of information flow in my brain finally halting to allow my eyes to adjust to the sight before me. The pieces of my life seemed to fall together in a seamless puzzle, forming the perfect image of him and me together, smiling and laughing as couples did. It was incredible.
"George?" My voice sounded awe-struck, as though I were meeting a celebrity on a red carpet premier. I may as well have been. "George Clooney?"
He seemed surprised, his eyebrows rising on his forehead. He sniffed noticeably, scowling as what I presume was my scent hit his flared nostrils. "I should have known when you barged in here so quick. And a lady of your age shouldn't glow as you do. My sniffer doesn't work as well as it should."
If my heart were still alive it may have jumped out of my chest.
"So, how did you end up in this predicament, Ms. ..."
When I realized he was waiting for my name, I answered without hesitation. "Renee Swan."
"Black! Renee Black." No, damn! "No, damn!" No! "What?" Esme! "Oh! I mean Esme! Esme Black."
I took a deep breath to compose myself and then stated very slowly, "My name is Esme Black."
At this point he was laughing hard enough that the permanently creased lines around his eyes seemed to deepen.
"I'm going to assume your first answer was correct. So, Renee Swan, how did you come to be a member of the Secret Society of Geriatric Immortals?"
We sat in a cabin tucked away in the far corner of India, wrapped in the fur of the bears we had devoured long before. He reached into his pocket, retrieving an old, crumpled envelope with a name written across the front. "Ms. Esme Black." I laughed aloud.
"Dear, we've been avoiding this topic for months now. It's time you tell me where you came from, and I have a feeling we should start here." He handed me the envelope, and I hesitantly opened it, pulling out the single sheet from within. He unfolded the paper and read it aloud.
We haven't heard from you in some time, and wanted to make sure you are continuing to do well in your new home. I understand your indefinite request for distance, but there are some things I've been looking into, and I wanted to share them with you.
Bella, Edward and I have done extensive research on elderly vampires. They are quite uncommon, but the few that we do know of are closer to sixty than ninety, so the similarities between you are few.
None have mentioned the tendency to be unfocused, but I feel that may have been a human trait that followed you into immortality. My hope is that it will ease with time, once you have become more accustomed to our world and way of concentrating.
Unfortunately I have found no documentation on another vampire experiencing the chronic aches you have been feeling. I have sent out numerous inquiries to friends who have been around much longer than I, and made sure to include all details you have given - including the need to hunch your back as you walk and that you are occasionally unable to maintain your grip on an item.
I do have some good news that I would like to share. We were able to track down another vampire who seems to have a gift similar to your own, which Eleazar informed us of when you stopped by for an impromptu visit last spring. She is called an Eccentric. Her ability allows her to feel freer within her existence. She is constantly surrounded by a force of peace and positive energy, which is passed to her prey so they feel only calmness in their last moments of life. We believe you have a gift much like this, just to a lesser degree. The aggressive behavior you have been portraying would indicate you are not in a constant state of peace and positivity, though you do seem to show a freedom within yourself. Have you noticed whether or not your victims are in pain when you feed? If so, would you be able to report back so my documentation is complete?
I would like to mention one last item of concern for me. For all of us, really. Please do not rip up the letter before at least reading the following.
Your diet. Bella has assured us time and again that you will change your mind, but that does not seem to be in the near future, according to Alice. My hope is that you will reconsider the lives you are ending to spare your daughter's eternal guilt. She loves you dearly, and did not make this decision lightly. Please do not make her regret her choice. Willpower is all you need.
We laughed a great deal at the somber tone Carlisle insisted upon using to describe such a humorous situation. The diet of an eighty-eight year old vampire with a hunchback was hardly lecture material.
After much thought and consideration, I formulated my reply. I knew I would make contact eventually to inform them of my new life, but just then I was happy. And of course, I liked to have my fun.
Willpower is like a rusty old Chevy pickup. I've got it there if I need it, but as long as my carnivorous Ferrari is running well I don't see any point in wasting my energy on the truck. Do you understand?
Send my best to the family.