Disclaimer: Lenore and Ragamuffin are definitely not mine.
Warning: Some T/M rated scenes. Lenore will be somewhat OOC, since she's older.
She could hear her own, wild breathing as she ran down the dirt track, onto the road, into the field. Fortunately, the sky was enlightened by the web of stars and the moon was full bellied and pregnant with light in that night, so her vision wasn't obscured. By the time she reached the last house, she had noticed that the crops which spread on the field were standing tall in front of her and represented a significant barrier.
But then she realized that those could be a barrier to anyone, even a vampire.
She hoped they were.
Lenore peered agitated behind her and stood like that for a few moments, listening intently to the smallest noise that would suggest he was coming after her. She could almost hear her blood flowing rapidly through her entire body, her pulse banging loudly into her ears. A heavy, tense stillness surrounded her as she stared at the path she had run onto, the earth path that led to the core of the town and was covered in dark shadows, giving her the impression that various, unknown beings lurked behind them.
She turned her head and looked in front of her, at the wall formed of enormous, rusty crops which appeared just as uninviting as the place where she came from. She couldn't possibly hide through those, since she could get deeply lost- even more than she was right then- and there was no way someone would find her there in the course of a few hours, not even days, if she thought better.
She had no escape and no choice but to face him.
Her nails almost pierced the skin of her palm and her knuckles became so white, she believed for a second she lost all her blood. Ironically, it would be a great convenience to her at the time.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a rustling in the hedgerow at the edge of the last house's garden and she turned her head brusquely in alarm. Maybe she had the possibility to knock at one of those houses and ask for someone's help, but she realized that no one would actually open the door in the middle of the night, especially during the terror that had fallen upon the town.
Frozen with fear, she stared hard at the bush that had rustled, and jumped when it moved again. Suddenly, two twin orbs of glimmering yellow-gold appeared in the shadows beside the bush. It was a moment before Lenore realized they were eyes.
Spurred into action by fear, she didn't care about the fact that she could get deeply lost so she just turned, ready to run towards the forest of crops. She made a few steps before she perceived a soft thud behind her as the creature leapt from the cover of the bush and took off after her.
Or maybe she had just imagined it, because, after a second or two, the heavy silence of the night covered her ears again, signaling that those sounds weren't actually the source of a real danger. And she had been right.
A soft mewling hit her hearing and she stopped in her tracks and listened. Lenore carefully turned around only to see the same auburn cat she had caught earlier and a smile made its way on her face at the sight of it. She exhaled loudly and put her own palm on her chest, feeling her wild heartbeats as she tried to compose herself.
"Oh, kitty, you scared me."
Lenore accidentally took a step backwards and her body collided with what appeared to be a solid, immovable, much bigger object- that definitely hadn't been there moments ago- and she enlarged her eyes as she remained stuck to the spot, looking straight ahead. She swallowed heavily, feeling small drops streaming down her forehead and she knew she had to turn her head sooner or later, but she was so horrified she couldn't even make the smallest move.
The object wasn't actually an object.
She spun around fast, her stormy blue eyes drowning in fear as they met dark, vile ones. Her stomach simultaneously scrunched up and settled in an uncomfortable lump when she remarked his predatory look, before she instinctively raised her hands in front of her into self defense. She shouldn't have done it in the first place, because she was sure every gesture was irremediably useless. Still, that didn't determine her to give up. She had to say something, anything to distract his attention.
Words escaped her mouth before her thoughts even had the chance to grasp them.
"You don't want to do this." She suddenly said. There was a heavy stillness in the air as they gaped at each other. Ragamuffin raised an eyebrow and Lenore realized that he wasn't taking her seriously.
"Really? And why wouldn't I?"
Lenore swallowed heavily and bit her trembling lip.
"I don't taste good." She spoke, fidgety. The vampire blinked at her, probably taken aback by her odd, silly excuse. His incredulous stare bore into her, measuring her up.
"I really do have a bad taste." Lenore anxiously repeated, a small hope growing at the back of her mind. She observed disbelief and bewilderment slowly replacing his feral expression and she somewhat became excited about her ability to capture his attention.
"This one time, I was really curious about my taste, so I bit myself." She nodded in confirmation, like it was something to be proud of. She stopped for a moment and frowned at what she had just said, feeling slightly ridiculous at her sudden randomness.
It was like she couldn't stop herself. Turmoil welled up in her chest and she had the need to carry on her rant when she realized that he was actually listening to her ludicrous phrases.
Well, he was staring at her as if she was a lunatic, but he was listening.
Her fear was slowly fading away, turning into precaution. She just needed to keep him distracted.
"It was a really unpleasant taste. It sort of resembled that odd root I ate some while ago." She scrunched her features up.
"You're weird." He said flatly, his mouth curled into slight disgust at her words. He looked at her for a brief moment, apparently musing whether he should attack her or not. Lenore snapped her mouth shut and backed away slowly, nervously closing one of her dress's folds into her hand.
"In fact, you're one of the weirdest persons I've met." He appeared to be somewhat annoyed by her behavior, although slightly captivated at the same time. He got closer and she backed away, even though he closed the gap by walking forward again.
"Although you still look quite appealing."
There was a blur, literally, as he approached so fast that she couldn't see when he closed the space between them. All she felt was his hand touching the back of her neck and that was when her survival instinct kicked in, because she twisted her entire body and slipped through his fingers right at the last moment.
She leapt into the wild crops that scratched her skin and clothes as she mingled scared through them. Her arms pushed the golden, dry wheat with all her strength, trying to create a way through it as her breath became quicker and her heart rate fastened, at the slight feeling of suffocation.
After a few minutes, she skidded to a halt, before she landed into a small patch of leaves and dirt, hidden between the tall plants. There was a complete silence, except for an owl that made creepy sounds, far away in the forest. Her breath was too loud, so she put her hand over her mouth, trying to remain as still as possible. Her entire body ached from the fall and from all the effort.
She definitely was naïve and had no self-preservation because no one in their right mind would actually try to make conversation with a vampire. Curling into a ball, Lenore remained unmoving, while her thoughts went haywire at every little whir that came from the darkness that surrounded her. Something was telling her that it was almost impossible for someone to find her through that wilderness, but that someone would be a normal human being.
And Ragamuffin was definitely not a normal human being.
She looked up at the starry, dark-blue sky. Surprisingly enough, it was calming her down even in the most terrifying situations; that was why she always loved to look at it. The feeling soothed her.
It always happened. She never thought about the consequences of her actions hence she always ended up in tangled situations, from which someone had to help her get out. Her parents helped her most of the time, even though they punished her after that for being disobedient and forbade her from many activities, including leaving the mansion.
She always had absurd ideas and whims that she acted on. Her mother constantly told her that her immaturity, excessive curiosity and tendencies to daydream all the time would eventually get her into endless trouble.
Lenore wanted to kick herself for being so dimwitted and thoughtless and for even having the idea of going into the town to look for a murderer. That convinced her there was definitely something wrong with her.
A hand burst out from the density of crops and grabbed her ankle, making Lenore scream in shock. She madly shook her leg as she tried to escape from the tight grasp, but the lock was so strong that it hurt and bruised her skin at every small move she made.
"Let me go!" She yelled in anger and fear.
The hand was followed by an arm, then foul eyes that gave her the impression they had a red, mad shine in them, before her gaze read his captivated, hungry expression. Terror and desperation grew inside her and she flailed her legs as she turned on her back, making great efforts to hit him, but his hold was so strong that her leg was practically paralyzed. Her eyes flicked everywhere, searching for an escape, while the vampire was smoothly leaning over her.
"You can't escape, so stop struggling already." He bared his fangs as he advanced on her and put his hand on one of her wrists, pinning her to the ground. Lenore's mouth curled in itself as she gritted her teeth. She stood petrified, eyes wide and scared, and watched how he opened his mouth, prepared to bite her. She couldn't stand it anymore and turned her head to the side.
That was it. She stretched her free arm faster than she thought she was capable of and dug her fingers into the dirt, grabbing some with all the little strength that she was left with, before she threw it into his eyes.
He furiously hissed as he abruptly backed away and covered his eyes with his hand. Lenore remained dumbfounded as she stared at his retreating form.
She didn't think it would actually work, but a rush of joyfulness passed through her, before she stood up on her trembling legs and threw another cloud of dust into his face with her foot.
"Take that, you bastard!" She threw one last look at his hunching figure, before she swiveled on her feet and turned around, running through the mass of plants. She didn't know how much she would keep on running, because her legs were throbbing. She feared that she would eventually collapse from exhaustion.
It didn't take long before the wheat crops separated to reveal an old, massive wood door that belonged to a house, apparently built in the middle of the field.
Lenore soon realized that it was actually an empty barn so she forcefully pushed the door, which opened with a loud screech. She carefully walked into the thick dark, closing it after her, and stared at the vaguely illuminated, dusty wood floor and walls.
There weren't animals in there to her relief- she didn't want any animals to be killed by a vampire-, but there were large amounts of hay scattered through the entire place. She exhaled and inhaled heavily as she leaned on a bump of hay, resting on it and wiping her messy face.
It was an eerie stillness as she stood there and stared tensely at the barn's shadowed door, at the white rays of dim light that fell through its cracks. She knew he would find her.
Lenore clenched her fist in frustration. She wasn't going to give up, even though she would end up dead, sooner or later.
The rays suddenly disappeared as a shadow blocked them and she widened her eyes when she realized he was on the other side of the door. She carefully slipped between two large piles of hay and hid behind one of them, before her body froze at the sound of the door being opened.
Her chest almost exploded when she heard his steps making contact with the old floor. She couldn't remain there because she was sure he was completely aware of her hiding place, so she silently advanced through the piles, distancing herself from the barn's entrance. The place was quite large since she didn't even mange to see the back of it. All she could see was the great amount of hay which surrounded her from all sides.
Lenore looked up to notice a wooden platform situated three or four feet above her and the end of a ladder that led to it. She strode forward until she found the bottom of the stairs and climbed on them, reaching the platform. Her mind instinctively guided her body to stay close to the ground in an attempt to shield herself from his view, since he would have definitely noticed her if she stood up.
It was almost pitch black. Her eyes squinted to see the front of the room, peering over the hay to follow the vampire's form there, near the main door. He was standing still, in silence, and that made her stomach turn and twist in restlessness because he wasn't making any effort to search for her. That meant that he was either going to give up or he just knew where she was.
And Lenore had the terrible certitude it was latest.
"Stop with this stupid game already." His voice was low, rough and, to Lenore, it sounded like he was infuriated.
Even through the thick dark, she was able to see him raise and turn his head towards the place where she was hidden- or where Lenore only believed she was hidden- and look exactly at her.
She felt her breath stop for a few moments as every inch of her limbs became tremulous. Her stomach felt like it got stuck to the front of her back and she almost thought she was going to throw up due to the fear and the anxiety that overcame her.
She suddenly had the impression that there wasn't any air there, as if invisible walls closed in around her from all directions. She turned a little and looked around her, looking for a window, something that would mean her last chance at escaping. She didn't want to give up so soon. Unfortunately, all she could see was the black of the barn's wooden walls.
Her body started trembling and her limbs moved around uncontrollably as she couldn't control her fear.
Her leg suddenly hit something hard and the sound of an object rolling around on the floor made her perk up, turn and stare at it. Lenore wasn't really sure, but she perceived the outlines of what appeared to be a gas lamp. A sudden anger boiled inside her.
That was the last thing she needed right then. Something with which she could light the place so that the vampire would see her better.
The anger ignited an instinct to hit the lamp. She almost lifted her leg to break it, until she stopped right at the last moment as an idea brusquely hit her like a rock in the head. Excitement rolled her mind on all sides, before she stood on her knees and desperately searched for a light match, through the dark. There had to be one, since there was a lamp, too.
She grabbed the gas lamp with one hand as she blindly fumbled through the rug of hay with the other one, not even caring if the vampire even heard her. Lenore was aware that she was making a lot of noise and that determined her to search for the match faster, in despair and terror.
As her hope was beginning to fade away, her fingers encircled a small, carton box and she almost escaped a yell in thrill. Lenore barely managed to open the box as another fear caught up, something that told her there might not be any sticks left, although she exhaled in relief when her skin made contact with two or three.
After a few, shaky tries, the powerful, reddish-gold flame threw its light over her dirty, frightened face, before she introduced it into a small opening, on one side of the lamp. The flame became three times bigger, enveloping the surroundings into a dim, yellowish color.
She then realized that it was useless for her to hide anymore since the light immediately gave away her position.
Lenore inhaled deeply, trying to calm her shivers and her strong fear. She swallowed heavily, before she weakly lifted herself on her legs, holding the enlightened lamp in her right hand. She got closer to the edge of the platform, looking down at the vampire who glanced up at her, a little taken aback by her straightforward apparition.
His surprise was replaced by an intense aggravation as his features roughened, revealing his aversion to her. She knew she had probably brought him to the end of his patience.
"It's better if you just give up. I've had it with this chase and you're just worsening things for yourself. You're nothing but a nuisance." He spoke lowly, almost threateningly.
Lenore furrowed her brow, sensing a fury growing inside, spreading its roots in her entire body. It was diminishing her uncontrollable fear, giving her confidence.
And the anger wasn't directed at the fact that he wanted to eat her. And neither at the contempt that he displayed towards her.
The anger was directed again at the way he called her.
"My name is Lenore." She spoke, trying with all her might to keep her calm. "If you're going to kill me, at least learn my name." She carried on. "Although I know it has no importance because we're all the same to you. We're all food."
Ragamuffin didn't sketch an emotion, apart from the constant annoyance present on his features, even though she could see a small, unknown flicker in his dark eyes, a flicker that passed as soon as it appeared. Or maybe that had been just her imagination induced by her neverending, desperate hope.
In fact, she noticed that his frown became even more prominent on his young, shadowed face.
"You're right." He retorted back. He didn't sound as infuriated as before, but there was a restrained ridicule in his tone, probably derived from the fact that he was still annoyed with her. "Your name is of no use to me." Her fingers clenched the lamp's metal edge tighter. "But I'll use it since it's one of your last wishes." He stopped for a moment. "Lenore."
He spoke through gritted teeth. She heard mock and annoyance in the way he pronounced it and she could feel a heavy, unseeing pressure on her chest. A pressure that she recognized as disappointment.
Lenore realized that he wasn't what she had initially expected him to be. Even though he had attacked her, a minor, naive part of her mind still trusted that he might have something good in him.
After his last words, she convinced herself that she truly had been wrong. That those people were actually right.
She couldn't believe that she went to look for him, imagining that ridiculous, impossible friendship. That she had been so foolish, that it was her entire fault she was going to die.
She couldn't accept that she was going to die at the hands of someone like that. At the hands of someone who had no remorse, who didn't care about anything, except his own greed and thirst.
"You have no redemption." She muttered. Surprise passed under her skin when she saw that strange flicker lighten his eyes for the second time. It was out of his place on his threatening, feral traits. Then her naivety made her say something out of place, something that she shouldn't have. But it was already too late.
"I can't believe I've actually considered the possibility of being your friend."
He widened his eyes as an unusual shock glazed over his eyes along with the earlier spark that Lenore couldn't describe.
That was when she realized it was actually an emotion. Not one of those that made him look evil, like the anger, the annoyance or the derisiveness constantly present on his face. It was something different.
"What?" He stared at her, apparently at a loss of words.
"It's my fault." Lenore continued. "It's my fault I'm going to die tonight." She spoke more to herself than to him, as if she reprimanded herself for her fatal, thoughtless actions.
Ragamuffin still stared at her, frozen and tensed, a whirl of different, conflicting emotions enveloping his features. They remained quiet for a few moments.
Then he suddenly frowned.
"That's absurd even for a weird brat like you." He tensely spoke. His tone was empty and stoic this time, void of the annoyance she had perceived earlier.
Lenore stretched her arm and raised the gas lamp in front of her, the wrath flaring inside her again.
"Maybe. " She replied, decided and fervid. "But at least I'm not going to die murdered by you. "
He enlarged his eyes and stepped back when he found out what she had in mind. The hay. Everywhere. Hay. And the fire that burned inside the lamp, a harmless, small, golden flame.
"And you're not going to continue your stupid, immortal life either."
Her palm spread open as the lamp from her hand fell four feet in the air until it reached the bottom floor, the one where the vampire was standing petrified, and broke into thousands pieces of glass. Flames burst everywhere, on all sides, on the walls, on the hay, turning everything into a mass of destructive, burning, infernal nightmare.
Lenore jumped backwards and fell on a patch of dry hay, as the sharp teeth of the fire dashed at her, trying to eat her whole being. She crawled on the floor, hoping that she would find the trap door with the ladder through which she got there, but the fire soon surrounded her on all sides. Terror suffocated her along with the deathly smoke that replaced the entire air.
She backed away in a corner and waited for the horrific, monstrous fire to swallow her. In that moment, she didn't know if she chose the best alternative. She didn't know what would be better. To burn alive or to be eaten alive by a savage vampire.
Both options were hellish and horrifying, although she didn't want to regret her decision. She didn't want to die in remorse and she definitely didn't want to give him the satisfaction of having her as a victim.
Her chest went up and down, trying to capture the last signs of air, as her mouth involuntarily opened, helping it. She was aware it was useless. Her head started spinning at the lack of air, before she began choking and coughing desperately. Everything she could see was fire. Fire at her feet, fire that was soon going to reach her and light her like a candle. If she was going to burn alive, she at least wanted to fall in unconsciousness before she died. The pain would be too unbearable.
She was grateful for whoever watched over her, because her eyelids soon began falling as her mind started to shut itself off, separating her from the living world.
The last thing she saw was the furious mouth of fire.
Then everything went black.
There were voices around her. Three, four…she couldn't perceive their number. It was like she was trapped at the end of a tunnel and she had to reach the other side to hear them better. Vague rays of light interrupted the endless darkness that covered her vision and she soon realized that her eyelids were half open.
The rays turned into the outside daylight that fell through her lashes. The voices became clearer and clearer until she managed to comprehend the words.
"…she was there, right in front of my house. " It was a male voice that she couldn't recognize. "She was lying on the pavement, unconscious. I don't know how she got there, but it's a miracle she hasn't been caught in the fire." He carried on. "It has spread on a great part of the field."
She then barely managed to open her eyes completely to see the persons that were standing around her.
First, she was in her bedroom, in her own bed. Second, she saw her parents' worried faces, her supposed, annoying fiancé, the maid and two men that she didn't know.
Third, she knew she was in big trouble. Which almost made her want to disappear through the white sheets and suffocate right there, so that they wouldn't see her anymore.
She tried to move a little, but her gesture was suddenly stopped by a sharp pain in her right leg, which wiped away every little intention to sketch another movement. To her frustration, she whimpered before she could retain herself.
All the heads turned in her direction, surprise covering their traits. Her mother gave a small cry, before she rapidly sat on the edge of her bed and smothered her with a hug.
"Oh, Lenore, you scared me to death!" She cried into her shoulder and Lenore winced at the touch, since her body felt like it was an enormous bruise. Every small inch of it hurt. And the worst part was the leg. One of those two unknown men gently grasped her mother's shoulder, slightly pulling her away.
"She's vulnerable now, so it's better if you just let her recover, Mrs. Lynchfast." He spoke in a serious tone. He was probably the doctor. Lenore sighed in relief when her mother backed away with tears in her eyes and watched her, filled with concern. Lenore felt a little guilty at her lack of empathy, but she couldn't stand all those emotional scenes. She just waited for her parents to announce her punishment, so that they could get over it already.
"What happened?" She mumbled, still half unconscious. Her head felt like it was going to explode in any minute.
A deep silence fell over them as they waited for someone to answer. After some unbearable seconds, the other stranger stepped forward and shook his head, sighing in dejection.
"We thought you were caught in the fire, miss. There was an enormous one, last night." He appeared to be really poor and somewhat dirty. Lenore felt a wrench in her stomach when she remembered that she had actually started the fire. "The town's barn was burned to the ground, along with some areas around it. Fortunately, you just passed out due to the smoke, right in front of my house. If you had gone farther, in the field, then we wouldn't have found you."
She suddenly tensed as her eyes widened. That wasn't possible. She knew she was on the barn's second floor when she fainted, not in front of some stranger's house, and she was sure the fire almost reached her in the moment she lost her consciousness. In no way, anyone could have saved her from there, unless he had supernatural powers or something like…
Her train of thought froze as her breath was caught in her throat at the shock that hit her.
He saved her.
Lenore was aware that her face probably turned a sickly white, because the people around her started asking her questions, even though she couldn't hear them. All that haunted her right then was that idea.
The idea of Ragamuffin saving her.
That meant he didn't die either. Why did he do it? Why did he save her? Was it because she told him she wanted to be his friend?
No, he wouldn't be convinced by such childish, ridiculous excuses. Then maybe he spared her so that he could kill her with his own hands. So that he would get revenge on her because she had tried to destroy him.
Lenore shivered as terror began creeping up on her again. She furrowed her brow. If those were his motives- and Lenore was almost sure they were- , then she was cursed. It was a nightmarish, endless curse.
But if he wanted to kill her himself, why didn't he do it when he got her out of the fire? Even more, why did he leave her in front of a house, so that someone would find her?
Maybe he didn't want to kill her while she was unconscious. She had to be awake so that he could torture her for what she had done to him. Or for what she had tried to do.
Lenore let herself sink into the white mattress, dizziness engulfing her head. Her stomach felt like it was going to turn upside down, even though she knew she hadn't eaten at all in the last two days. Someone's warm hand clenched her own and she tiredly looked up to see her mother's concern.
They all turned their heads towards her father, who, as always, wasn't giving away any emotion. Although Lenore knew him too well, so she noticed the vague glint of worry passing over his dark eyes. That was his usual method to show his care for her. Punishment.
"You're not aloud to get out of this house for ten days. "
She couldn't say she hadn't expected that after all.
He then turned, followed by the other two men who politely inclined their heads towards her and her mother, and left the room without even looking back.
There was shuffling and movement inside the room for a moment, before someone cleared his voice and that was when Lenore realized Wilbur was trying to catch her attention. She remained deadpan as he offered her his typical wide, irritating smile, then he bowed a little, which almost made her twist her features into a disgusted grimace.
"I have a deep regret for what happened yesterday, my dear Lenore." He started, almost dramatically. She heard her mother sigh near her and Lenore barely refrained from throwing up. "I hope things will work better for us in the future."
He took her hand and kissed it and her mother's as well, before he made another bow and went out of the room. Lenore hurriedly wiped the back of her hand on the sheets. She saw her mother frown at the gesture, even though she didn't say anything regarding it, to Lenore's gratefulness.
The hold of Evelyn's hand tightened lovingly and Lenore looked up to see small tears gathered in the corners of her mother's eyes.
A pang of guilt traveled her body as she turned her gaze away and looked at the wall. She was aware that she worried them all, particularly her mother, especially since there had been the fire in the town, as well.
"I'm sorry, mo-"
"Don't you ever do that again." She interrupted her, before Lenore could finish her apology. Her voice was rougher and colder than earlier. "I don't even want to imagine what would have happened if you had been caught in the fire. Even worse, what would have happened if the vampire had found you." She covered her mouth with her palm, closing her eyes, apparently trying to regain her calm.
Ironically, memories of both of those events passed before Lenore's eyes for a moment, which almost made her snort in bitterness. She didn't do it because she didn't want to cause suspicion.
"Thank goodness the cross offered you good luck." Evelyn murmured softly. Lenore tensed and clenched her fists in anticipation, hoping with all her might that her mother wouldn't ask for the cross.
She didn't. She exhaled in relief and caressed her hair, before she pressed a small kiss on her forehead, and Lenore felt as if a heavy rock was lifted off from her chest. Her mother stood up and threw her one last apprehensive look, before she turned to the maid and silently motioned her to take care of Lenore.
"Remember, be very attentive with her broken leg. She is not supposed to move it too much in the next few days." Her mother instructed as she opened the door. Then she closed it with a soft thud.
Lenore widened her eyes. So that was why her leg was hurting so bad. She huffed and took a breath in, distress flowing through her mind, reminding her again of her recent discovery regarding the vampire.
Paranoia gave her negative thoughts, making her believe that he maybe broke her leg intentionally, just so that he could come and kill her easier in that state. She shook her head. No, she must have broken her leg when she fell on the barn's floor, when she backed away from the fire.
In the next few days, she didn't really have a choice but to let herself in the maid's care, who just fulfilled her duties, unaware of Lenore's dark, terrifying thoughts.
She might have blown her cover once or twice when she had nightmares and talked loudly in her sleep, because the maid suddenly told her the next day that she understood her excessive fear of Ragamuffin.
Lenore must have mentioned his name in her dreams, that was why she ordered the maid to stop supervising her at night, especially when her leg began to recover.
Even though that wasn't the worst part.
After the fifth day since the incident, Lenore realized that she might lose her minds in her maddening wait. Her wait for him to make his appearance and murder her already. She was aware that it was only a matter of time before that happened.
She became silent and brooding, talking only when someone addressed to her, which probably woke up several persons' suspicions, including the maid and her parents. She probably looked ill and paler than ever as she stood locked in her bedroom and stared out the window, like in a daze, her chin prompted in her palm, her eyes empty and hollow.
That sickening wait for her death was even more terrifying than a vampire chasing after her on the dark streets of Nevermore.
Then she started seeing him everywhere. When she looked out the window, at the people that were constantly coming to her home to visit her parents.
She saw him disguised in those men and she backed away like a cornered, hunted animal and hid in the corner of her room, only to realize later that it had been just another visitor.
Once, she really lost her sense. It was one night when she saw a dark figure, in the street lamps' fade light, heading towards the mansion.
Lenore slammed her bedroom door like a storm and ran down the main stairs faster than ever as she yelled at the servant who was about to open the main door to welcome him.
"Stop it!" She screamed breathless and horrified just when the servant clutched the door's knob. She pushed him aside and prompted herself in front of him, prohibiting him to open it. He stared at her wide eyed and surprised as she stubbornly blocked the entrance, white as a sheet of paper.
Other voices were heard approaching them through the mansion and her father was suddenly next to her, unyielding and not convinced at all by her tremulous mumbling.
"Please, father." Her voice was weak and almost desperate as she gazed up at him pleadingly. "It's not who you think it is."
He furrowed his brow, staring at her harshly and making her feel as if she was mad. And she probably was.
"I expect someone, Lenore." He spoke coldly, pushing her aside. "I don't have time for your childish plays."
Her breath was practically knocked out of her in the moment he touched the door and opened it, painfully slow in her tortured mind. She brought her hand to her chest, breathing heavily and staring terrified at the shadow that was standing in front of them.
Then it was proven that she was wrong again, for the umpteenth time. It was just another acquaintance of her father, another unknown man.
She made a few steps backwards and turned, the tight knot still hard in the pit of her stomach, threatening to come out. Of course, he wouldn't come right in front of her house and ring at the door. His attacks were sneaky, hidden, not straightforward.
She had to stop going on like that. She had to stop suspecting every man who appeared in her sight.
There had to be an end to that daily torture.
After more than a week in which nothing happened, she started returning to her old, optimistic self. Other beliefs began walking through her mind, beliefs filled with hope, beliefs that brought her again the initial image she had about Ragamuffin, an image in which Ragamuffin wasn't completely evil. Maybe Ragamuffin saved her because he was actually good, deep down inside.
She knew that it was just typical of her to think like that, not to mention extremely naïve. She knew another part of her laughed at that infantile thought. But she couldn't help it. The hope had always been there, to be part of her. It was what characterized her for the most part.
It was like a great battle was taking place inside her. A battle between the fear she had of him and the optimism that gave her an irrational excitement regarding a savage serial killer.
She became so confused about Ragamuffin's gesture that she decided to ask someone about it. Not directly, of course.
"What if someone tries to do something bad to you, but then he suddenly does something good for you?" Lenore abruptly inquired, fixing the maid who was constantly cleaning her bedroom. She turned nervously and bit her lip in thought.
"It depends, my lady." She retorted, fidgeting. "If you did something that changed his mind about you, then maybe his intentions are well natured." She paused, furrowing her brow in concentration. "Or maybe his intentions are not so good after all and he just tries to set you a trap."
Lenore pursed her lips, an uneasiness bothering her stomach again. She tensed up as cold sweat streamed down her unusually pallid skin. What were the odds of someone, who committed hundreds and hundreds of murders, to suddenly spare one little, insignificant being just because he was only supposed to be good, deep down? A being that had also tried to put an end to his immortality.
She already knew the answer and she felt how the paranoid, fearful part was taking over once again.
Although if he actually wanted to kill her, he would have done it until then. Everything was too strange and confusing.
To her surprise, she actually started to chant about him. Lenore used to hum at times when she was alone. She used to hum about everything. About her family, about animals, about the town, about life. About events she passed through, generally.
And she hadn't even been aware of it, until her mother eventually noticed it, when she had been a child.
She didn't realize when she started singing about him or how many times she did it. She just knew that someone would hear her one day and think that her strangeness was a trait that defined her indeed.
Because no one would leisurely sing about a terrifying vampire as if it was something normal.
Even though it helped her. It helped her pass over what happened. It helped her pass over her fears, over her nightmares, over her terrible obsession.
When her mother told her that it was absolutely necessary for her to get out of the house already because her skin color had turned into a sickly gray, the panic returned in full force, capturing the depths of her mind again.
She didn't want to go out there to be exposed to the peril that she still presumed it waited for her, so she promptly refused, tense and somewhat alarmed. When she observed her strange reactions, her mother became even more convinced that Lenore had to go into the outside world and participate at emancipated reunions because her daughter's estrangement from the standard, typical young lady image had become too obvious.
Then her mother decided it was time for Lenore to attend another ceremony, accompanied by her new fiancé, in public. The anger, the frustration, the fear blew her away, so she desperately searched measures for the oncoming, apparently special day. Measures of protection from the possible danger, measures regarding her foolish partner and thinking about excuses through which she could escape from the ceremony as quickly as possible.
A day before the party, Lenore remembered what her mother had told her some time ago. About the garlic. She knew that method might be just as effective as the cross, but she was so desperate, she didn't even care anymore. She had to try anything to protect herself.
She sneaked out of her room and went to the enormous kitchen, where various servants roamed, before she managed to snatch one piece quickly.
One of them saw her at one point, but she just blabbered something that made no sense – like the fact that she was taking some garlic because she wanted to wear it as a pin-, which they accepted, because they all knew how weird the master's daughter was, so her excuse seemed quite plausible to them. Even though she had to admit that the idea of a garlic pin was somewhat tempting.
In that night, she was quieter than usually. She patiently waited for the servants to finish their duties regarding her appearance- which consisted of a long, blue dress which made her mother radiate at the sight of it, because she told her it matched her eyes- as she constantly thought about the precautions she was going to take. After the maid managed to tangle her hair into some sort of complicated loop, she requested to be alone for a few moments, just enough to hide the garlic under the edge of her corset.
Then everything passed as in a storm. She didn't really give importance to the persons that talked to her, she just responded to them as if she was in a daze, her mind being only focused on the fact that she might be in danger.
She was aware that her mother constantly admired her looks and gave her advice of how to behave in public, that her father silently nodded and motioned her to walk to the car that waited for her outside. The car that belonged to her consort, who complimented her and kissed her hand again, almost making her punch him in the face.
They arrived at one of the greatest mansions she had ever seen, a place crowded with people, filled with music and laughs, that annoyed her and made her feel uncomfortable.
Lenore didn't care about any of those. She just wanted that night to pass already.
She stood in a corner, looking at people, her eyes shifting from one side of the room to the other, tense and impatient. The guy who accompanied her, her presumable future husband, talked to her for a while, probably trying to make her behave like a respectable young lady so that she wouldn't make a fool out of him in front of the other guests. She ignored him for the most part, just as she ignored the instinct to murder him.
He left her alone after some time, mumbling some poor excuse like he had business to discuss with some gentlemen, even though he probably left her there because he was most surely embarrassed and bored with her distant, grumpy attitude. Lenore was thankful for that, since she would have been constrained to commit that murder if he stood there longer.
She wasn't aware of how much time she remained there, carefully scanning the room, before she started falling into some sort of strange melancholy. She daydreamed again about the days when she played in the mansion's green yard, singing and running after birds and cats, pretending she was a ballerina. The days when she was younger and brighter and not preoccupied with dark, terrible thoughts. The days when she was free and not obliged by her parents to marry a pathetic, rich buffoon.
Lenore almost smiled, when someone's words suddenly attracted her attention. Words that included her name.
"…that Lynchfast girl doesn't even realize how fortunate she is."
Lenore raised her eyes and searched for the source of the female voice. She managed to spot three elegant girls around her age or slightly older through the crowd, a few feet away from her. They probably didn't know she was there and she made sure they weren't going to see her either, because she backed away and hid behind a group of upper class people. She tried to catch more of what they were saying through all the commotion.
"She is engaged to Howard Wilbur and everyone knows that she has no intention in respecting that marriage, in spite of her parents' efforts." The girl continued.
"Yes, I've noticed that he left her alone around here." Another one retorted. "He's surely had enough with her. I mean, she's just too weird." All three laughed together at the statement, which made Lenore frown.
"I admit that his appearance is not much to look for, but his fortune surely is." They giggled again. "She is such a fool."
She should have expected that. She should have known that people would start talking about her, in the moment her parents had set her marriage with one of the richest men in town. But she didn't foresee that the tattle would revolt her to such an extent.
Lenore turned and walked away from there, wanting to get rid of all those abhorrent persons. She couldn't stand that place anymore, she just wanted to leave already, and she couldn't even find her repugnant companion, since he was the only one who could drive her back home.
Her loath was growing more and more.
She pushed some guests as she created her way through the people, and she could see them throwing her offended looks. Her already not-so-favorable reputation was perhaps going to worsen, but she couldn't care less. She had conformed with the fact that no one would ever want to be her friend. Lenore just carried on her walk, trying not to give them attention.
Then she suddenly stopped in her tracks.
There was a flash of dark hair and burning eyes across the room, but those eyes weren't directed at her. Her heart lurched in her chest as her limbs began trembling again. She hoped it was just her imagination, she hoped with all her might that those images were just scrapes of her twisted mind, but she couldn't convince herself that they were.
She was aware that the people around her were weirded out by her behavior, even though she didn't have control anymore.
All she wanted was to find out if what she had seen was real or just a product of her imagination.
She wanted to assure herself that the man she had just managed to catch sight of was just a stranger, just like the others. She wanted to be convinced that he wasn't actually there. That it was still just her sick obsession, the fear that was inducing her illusions.
He couldn't possibly be the vampire.
She knew for sure that her precautions had been absurd, because she didn't actually believe he was going to be there, passing through people like he was just an anonymous man, someone who didn't have the status of an infamous murderer.
It couldn't be real. It just couldn't. People would have recognized him.
In spite of the cold horror that took over her, the curiosity and the despair made her step towards what- or who- she thought she saw not more than ten seconds ago. Her hands created space through the oblivious guests, as her blue eyes carefully stared ahead, not observing anything suspicious. The earlier flashes were just gone. Nowhere to find. Like dust in the wind.
Lenore turned her head in all directions, but all she saw was the great mass of joyous, entertained people. No black hair. No dark eyes. No evil features or sharp teeth hidden behind a derisive smile.
She almost exhaled in relief, before what she thought she escaped from suddenly returned in front of her eyes like a shocking light that blinded her, revealed by dark curtains.
She could clearly notice him there, passing between two people, talking normally to what appeared to be a girl that had no idea what terrible fate waited for her.
Lenore couldn't believe it. She was dumbstruck. She couldn't believe that no one realized who he actually was, that no one even gave importance to the danger that hid between them. She didn't manage to spot him for more than a few seconds, but that had been enough for her.
She had no doubt that it was him. She couldn't understand how he was doing it. Maybe he was using his charm, his vampire tricks to make them believe he was a normal person, but what he used clearly wasn't working on her, which confused her terribly. He didn't seem to notice her either and that was what baffled her. Perhaps he just pretended he didn't see her.
Or maybe her insanity aggravated to such an extent that her hallucinations were more vivid than ever.
She was livid and rooted to the floor, wide eyed and tremulous, standing there as she couldn't decide what to do. She had to make sure that it wasn't actually him, but a big part of her was telling her the contrary. She walked forward with shaky movements, leaning on various objects- like chairs or tables- in her way as she followed the vampire's steps or the man who looked like him. Lenore couldn't even think straight while she advanced through those wealthy people. She didn't even know why she did that, when she could easily walk away from there, go in the opposite direction. Her head was already spinning and her thoughts weren't coherent anymore.
She somehow reached a dark, empty hallway after all, but no sight of the vampire or the girl that he was with.
No one was there, which kind of made her wonder. There were rows of doors on each side of the hallway and she guessed they were bedrooms. She rested her back on the right wall and stood there, trying to calm herself down.
He couldn't be there. Even if he was, he couldn't kill anyone in that crowded place.
She could hear voices coming near the hallway, on the same path that she had walked, which absurdly made her back away from the enlightened part of the hall into the shadow covered one, even though she had no reason to do it.
So what if people saw her there, a girl, alone, in a dark hall, staring at the walls? It wasn't like they didn't think she was weird already.
To her ease, the persons that approached the hallway didn't enter it, they just went further, only passing by. Lenore stood there, concealed by the hall's shadows, until those people blended into the swarm.
Her panic had been futile, just like always, her hallucinations deceiving her once again. She closed her eyes and exhaled heavily for some moments, trying to block all the music, all the sounds, trying to concentrate on the hallway's petrified silence.
"Are you trying to kill yourself?"
Lenore froze. She couldn't hear anything apart from his voice, his words that echoed in her mind, banging loudly inside her head. Her muscles, every fiber rippled with terror as her mouth opened involuntarily to escape a sound, a whimper, a scream, anything.
Nothing came out of her, because his cold hand covered her mouth as his other arm trapped her into a lock, impending her from making any move.
She struggled with all her force, but it was soon drained by his, as he was probably infinitely stronger than her. Tears filled her eyes, from fear and frustration, because she was powerless in front of him. He brought her to his chest, clutching her tighter, before he backed away even further into the darkness of the hall, bringing her with him.
"Just hold still." He spoke into her hair. His voice was calm and void of any feeling. "Why are you constantly following me? Is not enough for you that I let you live when I could have easily killed you? Are you suicidal or what?"
Lenore felt sick with nervousness. She barely managed to turn her head and glance up at his emotionless expression. Her heart was madly hammering and her stomach was churning.
What was he talking about? She thought he followed her there, not the other way around. He was the one who wanted to get revenge, to murder her.
She mumbled something, but her words were muffled by his hand that was covering her mouth. To her surprise, he took his hand away, without threatening her that he would kill her if she screamed. He just waited for her to speak again.
And Lenore did it. Without screaming, to her absolute puzzlement.
"You f-followed m-me here." She tremulously breathed. "You're mad because I tried to set y-you on fire and you're t-trying to kill me n-now, aren't you?"
The silence that followed was longer than she had anticipated. He didn't change his expression. In fact, he became even more unreadable, if that was possible.
"No. I've come here for other reasons. You just accidentally saw me through these people and went after me. That doesn't sound like I'm the one who follows you." He spoke as Lenore blinked at him, eyes watery and big. "But you make sense. I should want revenge after what you tried to do to me." There was a heavy pause. "Except I have no intention in killing you, especially not right now. " His mouth curled in distaste. "Even if I want to eat you, I can't, because you smell awful."
Lenore widened her eyes as what she had hoped since the moment she put the garlic beneath her dress turned out to be true. It was actually working.
She almost forgot about her fear and about the fact that she was indeed speaking to a vampire and probably the most savage killer ever, because the corners of her mouth suddenly curled up triumphantly.
"So it works!" Lenore concluded, almost too enthusiastic for her liking. "Vampires can't actually stand garlic!" She was aware that she sounded ridiculous, even puerile.
She could see him give her a dry stare, unbelieving and somewhat annoyed.
"Are you serious?" He inquired. She nodded and pointed towards the upper part of her dress, the place where she had hidden the piece of garlic. "I just can't stand garlic because I've never liked it, not even when I was human. It has nothing to do with me being a vampire."
Lenore gawked at him.
"Really? Why don't you like it?" She felt quite strange asking him about a common subject like that, when he could easily kill her in any moment. He probably felt weird too, because he furrowed his brow in bewilderment. She sensed his tight clutch loosening until he completely released her from his hold.
Lenore quickly paced forward and put a distance between them fast, turning around and facing him, still fearful.
"Because I don't." He said bemused. "It's irrelevant, anyway." He carried on, frowning. "Just stop following me. You should be thankful that I took the decision not to kill you. Don't constrain me to do it."
She stared at him, really perplexed. She wanted to find out why he didn't want to kill her, to ask him, but, as always, she only ended up speaking without even thinking first.
"So if you don't want to kill me… then you actually want to be my friend?"
He stared hard for a moment. Lenore bit her lip in nervousness and averted her eyes, somewhat embarrassed that she let herself carried away and said that. Then he furrowed his brow again.
"Don't say such weird things." He retorted, his voice stiff. "And stop repeating my name daily."
She leapt as her eyes enlarged in intense shock.
"I can hear when people mention my name, but I don't give them importance. Still, when someone repeats it so many times, it catches my attention." He stated darkly.
That meant…he had heard her chanting about him, all those times.
That was terrifying. Just the idea itself, the thought that he was actually hearing her when she hummed alone, in her room or in the yard, it was… panicking.
They quietly stared at each other. She just couldn't believe that he wanted to spare her. Lenore had to ask him why, she had to know why, but, before she said anything, a male voice suddenly spoke behind her, at the end of the hall.
She brusquely turned her head to see Wilbur beaming at her. She whirled again towards the dark part of the hallway, but it was empty. He wasn't there anymore.
It was like he evaporated in thin air.
Lenore blinked and stared at the hall, her heartbeat, though slowed down, was still loud inside her chest. She was astounded, left with no words after what had just happened. She had met him again and he didn't kill her. Even more, he didn't even want to kill her. They had even talked like two normal persons- well, almost normal- but they had done it.
Lenore knew she should give up, she should renounce at that wanting, but she couldn't help it. Enthusiasm and eagerness were slowly enveloping her heart and mind.
She was taking everything from the beginning again.
She reluctantly took a turn, still staring at the place where Ragamuffin had been, not more than a few seconds ago. It was to be expected he could suddenly disappear like that.
When she got closer to Wilbur, she noticed him looking towards the spot she had been staring at and frowning when he couldn't see anything but an empty, dark hall.
"What are you doing here, alone?" He asked in slight confusion.
Lenore was suddenly drawn back to reality. She looked up to see that annoying smile, before she knitted her brow as her mouth twisted downwards. She barely abstained from ignoring him.
Buildings passed before her eyes, as she gazed on the car's window, on her way back home. Old buildings, new ones, empty, cold streets and walls with pictures. Pictures with him, staring at the world with dark, hypnotizing eyes from behind a black and white painting. Making her want to know what was hiding beneath them, twisting and turning her mind.
Curiosity had never been one of her positive attributes. She had always tried to get rid of that trait, a trait that had been excessive since she knew herself. And she was certain she wasn't going to get rid of it too soon, either.
There was the moon's pale light, the black sky and a shadow that faded into the night as fast as she blinked.
She knew she should cower in fear, be horrified by it, like any other being.
The corners of her mouth strangely curled up instead.