I received an unexpected call. A simple string of numbers (703) 8xy-zabc came up on my cell with the caller simply identified as UNKWN.
Ordinarily, if the call weren't from family, I ignored the call, regardless of who was calling me, but this particular number was burned into my mind, and had probably made a permanent mark on my retinae, not, of course, from the frequency of the calls I received from that number, because that was very near zero, but from the caller itself.
Or should I say: herself.
Herself. My singer.
I had thought, after pushing Emmett out the door, after falling, inexplicably for Bella Swan, of all people — and people being bona fide living, breathing humans! — and then ... after Bella had, after a time, just as inexplicably left me. Left me!
I had thought that the bitterness of despair and the putrid taste of animal blood would be the only taste I would ever, grudgingly, swallow for the rest of my existence, for the rest of my eternity.
And, but then ... just as inexplicably, Alice one day told me to pick up Starbucks coffee for her? And for what reason? And there, in that Starbucks, was a girl, a ... a girl with raven-black hair, a mere bag of pasty-pale skin tightly wrapping bones, and crystal blue eyes that pulled me into her very being, her very soul, and when, pulled in, I got a whiff of her scent ...
I, I, Rosalie Lillian Hale, never thought I would entertain the thought, but I finally sympathized with what Edward experienced the first time he ever breathed in the scent of Bella, his perfect singer, and I found, for the first time in my existence struggling with my want, and losing to it.
The girl, with her mop and bucket, in the women's bathroom in Starbucks, was dead. She was dead as I hoisted her up onto that sink, pulled down her jeans, and put my hand between her legs and wormed my fingers into her tiny, tight slit, bringing her to one powerful orgasm right after the other.
I was that close, when she threw her head back, exposing her neck, her carotid artery to me, to bend in and to extend my teeth over her soft, sweet, pearlescent-white neck, and biting, and in biting, drinking, and in drinking, sucking her dry, my hand over her mouth to muffle her screams, at the time of shocked pleasure, but o-so-close to being screams of agony.
I was that close.
And Alice, that minx who sent me on that stupid fool's errand in the first place, was there, like she always is, always so annoyingly so, always so desperately fortuitously so, and pulled me off the girl before I could complete the act I was on the precipice of starting, and threw me out of that private place, where nobody would see me commit another murder, this time, to my shame, helplessly, instead of the seven other times, with absolute control and pure malice aforethought.
And Alice redressed that girl, and almost carried her away to her little yellow porsche she loves so much, and drove her away from danger.
I would have hunted that girl down. She couldn't live far from that Starbucks. So easy for me to track, even me. I would have found her.
If she hadn't found me first.
With Alice's help, of course.
Alice is ...
I knew she was trouble when she presented herself to 'us' Cullens in Stowe, Vermont, eyes all bright yellow, and practically vibrating in place at finding 'us,' her 'family.' Her, along with mate, Death Himself, with so many scars from so many battles that to look at him was to know your own doom.
But would anybody heed my warnings about them?
Does anybody ever heed my warnings about anything?
Of course not. And for that, we had the entire Volturi army descend our little 'coven,' our little family and those few who were too brave or too stupid to consider their continued existence in the balance.
We even had Count Chocula, that is, Count Dracula, or Vlad to his friends (of which he has none) on our side, ... how could we lose?
Yes: how, indeed? Unless you factor in the minor detail that the Volturi have amicably branded us enemies of the race, and will show no compunction nor remorse in isolating and eradicating us, given the opportunity.
And there are always opportunities, if one waits long enough. And Eternity always presents the eventual opportunity.
I tried to warn them. I did. I warned them about Alice. I warned them about Bella.
And what do they do? They don't listen! 'Oh, Rosalie, stop your bitching!'
Well, my 'bitching' if it were listened to, would've prevented us from losing Emmett from our family. And Edward.
No sad loss, the latter, and unfortunate that he eventually returned, his superior sneer now permanently scarring his haughty face.
I don't know what I ever saw in him. I don't know what anybody sees in the stupid, egotistical bastard.
"Oh, Rosalie, why don't you comb your hair again today?" He smirks.
"Oh, Edward, why don't you comb your hair this month?"
Alice was happy — ecstatic, in fact — to have Edward back, which shows a blind puppy love she holds for her brother that is beyond explanation, so I simply try (and fail) to accept this deficit in her character.
Alice and Edward. You would think Jasper would show some gallantry as her husband and do us all a favor and rid the World of Edward Anthony Mason Cullen.
But no. Edward and Jasper are best buds.
And I thought Jasper was smarter than that.
No accounting for intelligence, nor taste. I heard he even voted Democratic in the last Presidential election.
After I heard that I told him to get over the Civil War, please, and he told me it was 'The War of Northern Aggression' and for me to mind my own Old Boy-Big Business Favors business, and I said 'Excuse me, "Old Boy?' and that was the last we spoke to each other for a week.
In short, a mess. Everything is a mess, all because nobody listens to me.
And because of Alice, giving that girl my '411'.
My '411'. Children these days don't even speak the King's English anymore. They speak in code. They 'text-speak.'
This girl showed some education, whenever she rose her Bella-like stutters.
What is it with people these days and propriety, intelligence and self-confidence?
It was never a problem with me. Ever. I said what I meant, and I went for I wanted. A Hale. We rose to the occasion, and conquered it. That's why my father was president of Rochester Bank; that's why I was betrothed to the owner's son. We knew what we wanted, and went for it, and let nothing stand in our way from getting it.
Even if getting what we thought we wanted meant our own death and destruction.
But at least we Hales, all of us, had a backbone, not like these spineless creatures that pass for people these days, where all they want is what they don't want, the 'Me' generation that blindly follow spiritless 'spirituality' and are rootless and dispossessed. Directionless.
A herd of animals with no direction.
It makes one seriously consider the merits of Volturi view on humanity.
I'd feed off the vermin, because that's the mass of humanity: vermin, ...
... except for one detail.
I am a Hale.
And a Hale is above it all, the vermin of humanity, but also the self-serving distain of the Volturi.
I just go along the Cullens because their views happen to be aligned with mine.
They should thank me for my presence.
It's rather annoying at times that are blind to acknowledging that. I'm not asking them to kowtow, but at least an acknowledgement that when I'm right, I'm right, and when they are wrong, they are wrong.
Well, the Cullens may be high-handed, I'll grant them that. But that doesn't mean they are the brightest lights in the night sky.
I tolerate the lot of them the best I can.
But some things are intolerable.
Like Alice, pushing that girl at me, as if I needed her.
I'm a Hale. I don't need anything.
But ... the call of her blood. There is no way to describe the agony, second-by-second, of not taking her, and the instant gratification, the ecstasy that I can taste on my tongue at just the thought of taking her, consuming her, drinking ever drop of blood I could squeeze from her limp form and then suck from the marrow from each one of her bones I would meticulously rip from her corpse, break open, and drink every single drop that I could extract from her, from what was left of her.
And each second that I don't, and that I hold her, gently in my stone, cold arms is ...
... a victory.
So, getting an email from her, getting a text, or impossibly rarely, a phone call from her, ...
My lips, stupidly, curve up into a goofy smile. Me, Rosalie Lillian Hale, smiling like some stupid teenage girl with a crush, receiving a communiqué from a mere human girl!
I thank God my mother is not alive to witness this shame. She's have more than a few choice words for me if she saw the completeness of my descent from the nobility that is rightfully a Hale's to claim.
But Mother was here not more to scold me and to belittle my every action.
This girl was here. For me. Now.
I answered the call, "Yes?"
I said pleasantly, but perhaps a bit too brusquely for someone of a sensitive nature, a nature I had never been plagued with.
"Uh," the child's voice stuttered on the other end, "uh, Rosalie, it's, uh, ... me." She finished rather weakly.
"So I gathered," I said dryly, cursing my lips as they curved upward in a warm smile.
I know I am not made of ice, as I had suspected, because I would have melted into a pool of water on the ground by this time.
Ah, Spring, and fools thoughts turn to Love.
And, I, the most foolish of the lot, Rosalie Lillian Hale, had thought I would never love again.
What a fool I was!
What a fool I am!
Love always crushes those who love. Love always disappoints. And I, Rosalie Lillian Hale, crushed, disappointed, and now, foolishly, in love again.
What was the World coming to?
Thank you, Mother, for being in my thoughts, still, nearly a full century after my death, ... and yours.
"Um," the girl's stutter through the æther interrupted my reverie.
I frowned. This generation.
"I suppose there's a reason, a purpose, for the honor of this call?" I prodded, trying not to show my impatience.
"Well, uh, yeah ..." She sounded almost frantic with fear in her hesitancy.
I sighed in exasperation. "Is it because you are gracing me with the sounds of your melodious voice and expecting me to bask in the awe of it all?"
I wondered if children these days had the ability to enunciate 'awe' and 'all' in one breath distinctly.
"Uh, no!" she said quickly. "I mean, yes ... I mean ..."
The desperation in her voice was becoming palpable.
I was losing her. Just a very slight prod, a light bit of teasing and already she was in full-blown panic mode.
Her next step was to ring off ... what do they call it now? ... 'disconnect'? — a surprisingly fitting word — and disappear for days, or a week, or more.
She's done this before.
I had to act now.
"Sweetie," I commanded softly, reassuringly, "take deep breaths, calm down. Take your time, there's no rush, okay? Breathe for me, please."
I heard panting on the other end of the line.
After fourteen seconds of this, when her breathing became less arhythmic, I asked patiently, "Are you okay now?"
'Okay:' despicable word. A word that invaded the English language and now is the most-'understood' word in the world, in any language. But what does it mean? 'Okay'? People say it all the time: 'I'm okay' or 'I'm okay with that.' When it means they are not 'okay' and they have major contentions, but do they voice their concerns? Do they tell the truth about themselves and what they are 'dealing' with? No, they say they are 'okay' or when asked when obviously under duress, if they are 'okay,' they feel the only viable answer is to play it 'cool' and be 'okay.'
The 'okay' generation, Starbucks latte in one hand, 'smart'-phone in the other, being 'okay' with everything, and missing every single experiential moment of their lives.
The girl panted a bit more and gasped out a "Yeah ... I guess so ..."
A perfect example. So non-commital. This generation refuses to be burned, not taking a stand on any issue at all. They haven't heard that if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.
Just like Bella Swan, falling over everything, even a crack in the sidewalk, even nothing, just tripping over nothing, even Edward Cullen.
Even me. Tripping over me, into my arms, then ... tripping away.
Well, when in Rome ... stab the benevolent dictator? Don't tempt me. No, that's incorrect: When in Rome, do what the Romans do.
"Good," I said encouragingly, playing along, "So ...?" I prompted gently.
"So," the brave, modern-day girl, continued after recovering from her episode, "so, ..."
I wondered if there was some violation of the economy of 'so's in the Universe.
"So," she essayed again, "The Avengers is playing tonight at the Hoffmann, and I hear it's, like, really good, and I mean 'good-good' not like 'good,' like 'good' like what everybody likes, but it's good because everybody's saying that actually, um, well, ... um, goo-..."
The girl was getting lost in her own sophistry.
"Yes, and ...?" I pushed past her explanation, hoping that someday she'd get to the point.
"And, well," she braved, "well, are you doing anything tonight?"
I felt my eyebrows crease in perplexity, "'Doing anything'? as in ...?"
I am always doing something. Investments to manage and to grow; post-doc theses to write, carefully dumbing them down so even Ph.D.s could get a nugget here and there that we could debate in the review board so that they could be pleased to show me that they are smarter than what they thought I appeared to be, my babies, that is: my cars, always some fine-tuning or a complete overhaul of the cam-shaft, or transmission, or replacing the brake pads that always seemed to be wearing out much faster than promised for some reason, for, after all, I'm not a lead-foot.
What? Why that incredulous look?
In Eternity, there's always too much too do: that, in itself, can become boring. Why do anything, when there's always something to do that you've done before?
Vampires die. They go out in a ball of flame. But why? Humans die, the the prognosis is 'heart failure.' But 'heart failure' simply means 'they died.' Why they died, why their heart gave out, is epicurinism, or nihilism, or ennui, some philosophy that they saw, years ago, would precipitate their death, but they refused to give up smoking, or eating pure sugar, or believing life is purposeless and slitting their wrists. The same thing for Vampires. The 'life' of a Vampire is pure boredom, and you either choose to do something in that null-timelessness, or you choose to allow the boredom to overcome you, to become you, and you flame out, insane, in a blaze of glory in front of the Volturi, because you can't stand it anymore.
And people want an eternity of boredom because their life is so complicatedly stultifying already for which reason again?
Why would this girl ask if I were doing anything, when I'm always about the business of something. I am always doing something ... particularly doing her. My lips curved up in a wicked smile, and this time I freely allowed the naughty grin.
"Well," — that word again — she continued obliviously, "If you weren't doing anything, we could, like, you know ..." she trailed off helplessly.
I felt prodding now would precipitate another panic attack, so I waited for her response, even though I had to restrain myself from grinding my teeth.
Diamond-sharp, rock-hard teeth grinding against each other? She might hear that through her 'smart'-phone.
"Well, we might ... go watch ... the Avengers, you know ... together ...?" The last bit of her stuttered request came out as barely a whisper.
But it was there. She had asked.
I was shocked.
"Are you asking me out on a date?" I blurted out in surprise.
"NO!" she yelped, equally surprised.
She swallowed hard into my reproving silence.
"I mean ..." she continued, "that is, if you weren't doing anything else, and ..."
"I mean ..." desperation began to creep into her voice again.
"No, no," I said quickly, "I'm not saying 'no,' Violet. It's just that I haven't been asked out in a date in ..." I computed quickly, a pause in conversation that she, a mere human, would not even register: "over a year."
The last time I was asked out on a date was Emmett. 'My' man Emmett, ever gallant, ever mine, because he fell in love with me from his dying breath into Eternity, calling me his 'Angel' and always believing it, and being Vampire, never giving up on his love for me ... that, try as I might, I did not return.
It wasn't his fault. It was Royce, and his buddies, and the violations they repeatedly visited on me, leaving me to die, as I should have, in that alley on that cold Rochester night.
After that, even the thought of a man ...
I saw red, and I needed to control my hand from crushing my cell-phone.
Emmett, though gallant, was a man, and our wedding night was a disaster: I threw him out our marriage bed through the wardrobe, and wall, and right out the house with one furious push.
He understood, and was understanding. But it was a cruelty: his undying love for me.
So I let him go. I pushed him away, and replaced him. With Bella.
How ironic that Bella replaced me, so easily, for a man, saying she couldn't do 'this' anymore.
Like love, even love for another man, like Edward, or even love for another woman, like me, could so easily be substituted or replaced.
Emmett will always love me. And I love him, in my way. And I will always love Bella, even as she walked over me to go out the front door. Edward will always love her, even though his being only has complete scorn for everything and everybody now.
But I don't know if Bella even thinks of us, her old life, any more at all, or just a passing thought in her now normal life.
I hope she has found happiness and completeness in another man's arms.
God, I love her so.
"Bullshit!" the girl exclaimed.
"I beg your pardon!" I retorted, affronted. Was she daring to call into question my love for Bella? Or that I could not love her because I will always love Bella, too?
"There's no way it's been a year since you've been asked out on a date!" She declared with certainty.
Oh, that. Being a vampire is difficult, because you're always juggling fifty things in your head at once. Sometimes you have to recall which thread is the conversation you're currently having.
"Oh?" I smirked.
"Yeah!" she asserted. "You? You must get, like, what? 50 guys or whatever asking you out every day, or something! I would if I were as beautiful as you."
I sighed. This conversation again.
"Firstly, Violet, you are as beautiful as I am; more importantly, you are as beautiful as you are."
"Yeah, right; whatever," she disagreed by agreeing.
"And secondly!" I snarled through her interruption.
So rude, children these days.
I dared her to say something ... for one-tenth of a millisecond ... before carrying my point.
"And, secondly, would you have asked me out on a date?" I demanded.
"I didn't have to," she reminded me, a touch of reproach in her voice.
"But if we just met, and I played it cool ..." I pursued my point.
Silence on the other end of the line.
"Would you have asked me out?" I pushed the question into the silence.
I heard her thoughts in the silence.
"Violet?" I pressed.
"Well, no, but ..."
I snapped right back: "'Well, no, but ...' Violet, is all I get, except from two boys brave enough to overcome the terror of a beautiful woman to ask me out, both time ending wonderfully disastrously, for them and for me, thank you for asking, and the one time I thought that Edward had feelings for me, and I talked with his parents, he busted right into the middle of our private conversation and told me exactly why and every single reason why he would never lower himself to align himself with the likes of me."
"I thought Edward was your brother."
"Step-brother," I said, irritatedly, already tired of this tired episode, "and that was before I was adopted into the family. My point is, my dear, is that people are terrified of beautiful women like you and me."
"But I'm not beau-..."
"Don't even go there with me; I won't allow that kind of talk." I commanded.
A very quiet 'whatever' was whispered into her receiver.
"What?" I said coldly.
I was not to be trifled with.
It got very quiet on the other side of the line. All I heard was the sound of her breathing, forced to be regular and even.
"Violent ..." I asked with concern, "are you crying?"
"No," she said curly, quickly, trying to hide the lie.
"Why?" I ignored the lie.
"Why does everything always have to be so hard?" she whispered.
"If it wasn't hard," I countered, "would anything be worth it?"
"Yes, no, I don't know!"
She sounded so lost and confused.
I paused, collecting myself.
"Why don't we ..." I offered. "Why don't we try again? You can ask me your question without all this trepidation, seeing you've already asked me, so the hard part's over."
"And you won't fight me on every word I say?" she essayed, trying to sound like she had the moxie to cross swords with me.
I smirked at her faux-daring.
"Yes," I answered simply, trying not to debate the finer points of her thesis.
Although I was sorely tempted.
"Okay," she breathed out heavily. I could just imagine her wiping away her tears. "So," she said, "after I get off work, would you like to go with me to the Hoffmann to see the Avengers?"
"I'd be delighted!" I said, smiling, and the smile in my voice, "and thank you for inviting me. Would you like me pick you up at work?"
There was a pause. "Um, no," she said. "I'll go home and freshen up first. Besides, if people saw me in my Starbucks' blacks, I'd get snide coffee order from people thinking they were clever all night long."
I hadn't thought of that. "So I'll pick you up at your apartment, and we'll go from there?" I offered.
"Uh, no, I'm like what? a whole half turn around the Beltway...?" she said cautiously.
"Violent," I answered dismissively, "it's no trouble at all for me, I can just ..."
"Nah," she cut in quickly, "s'okay, I'll just meet you at the Hoffman, kay?"
She was always so embarrassed about where and how she lived.
But her, meeting me at the theatre? That meant I couldn't take her home tonight without leaving her car in the Hoffmann parking lot.
NST. 'No Sex Tonight.' Ah, well, the girl did need her sleep sometimes, being mortal and all.
"Okay," I agreed, forcing cheerfulness into my voice. It was a date, that she was taking me out on, the first time in a very, very long time, after all. "So, it'll be the ..." I checked the schedule on rottentomatoes quickly, "10:30 show?"
"Uh, yeah ... that works," she said slowly, probably calculating the time it took her to shower and to drive at her crawling pace that those humans had for 'speed limits' around the Beltway.
"Okay," I said, "'Bye, love you." and rung off.
I was rather pleased with myself at how I said 'love you,' so quickly, so casually, not weighing it down with that desperate longing and need I felt for her.
I can't appear as weak or clingy. That would make me look bad.
... hours later ...
I checked the doors of the theatre for the 27th time — I had counted each time — looking for her, so I could wave her to the seat I had saved for her in the filled-to-capacity crowded theatre.
There were some people even willing to stand in the aisles, but wouldn't that just call in the fire marshall.
So I had received looks. I ignored them. My (now) unearthly beauty (literally) always drew attention, it hadn't always been exactly unwanted, until tonight, when I felt more and more irritated at Violet's unexpected tardiness.
When a vampire becomes irritated, people die, lots of people die, and we can't have that: it would (now further) ruin the ambiance of my first date in a very long time.
The theatre darkened, the interminable previews rolled on and on, ... and still no Violet.
The movie was surprisingly good. The director knew how to use the set pieces of the characters playing against each other to maximum effect, and the snappy dialog showed a wise, knowing hand guiding the diverting blockbuster action. I found myself actually smiling during the wittier parts.
... and still no Violet.
The credits rolled, and we saw the reason for the movie, after all. Or, at least I did. 'Humans are unruly, and therefore cannot be ruled.' The Volturi should take note here. 'To trifle with them is to court ... death.'
And then the supreme overbeing turned to the audience, to me ... and smiled.
I knew that smile. I've seen it over and over again on a very old immortal, just before they are extinguished.
Gods have what humans do not: immortality, so they long, eventually, for the one thing they cannot have: death.
Not one human in the audience got it. Not one.
Mortals. So dangerous in their oblivious ignorance.
And still no Violet.
Then the second encore. Which I will not tell you, but was so ... sweet, so tender. Super-powered beings, sharing a moment so common for humanity, but so rare, so impossible for us.
A sprinkling of laugher from the few people who remained. Then the screen went dark, and the house lights went up, and we all exited to the parking lot to our respective vehicles, mine more respected than all the other ones.
I got looks. Respectful looks. I always do.
And there I was, sitting in my Mercedes, and it hit me like a kick to the stomach, if I had had a stomach to kick anymore.
I, Rosalie Lillian Hale, had been stood up.
I have never been stood up. Never.
Nobody would dare do that. They would've known they wouldn't live to the next day to tell the tale.
Say what you may about Royce, but at least he understood the forms. And Emmett worshiped the ground I walked on. To stand me up? The thought, the possibility couldn't enter his mind. Bella couldn't stand me up because she was under my protection and surveillance 24/7.
But this girl, this weak, frail, mousy little girl ... stood ... me up?
I left half the rubber from my tires on the asphalt as I tore out of the parking lot, and I was on the beltway, when I wasn't over it, at just below supersonic speeds.
You could ask the police who clocked me, but it would take you a while from my car to go all the way back to his cruiser to ask him.
I was going to go that girl's apartment and break through her door, and then ...
And then she would know what Hell is because I would visit it on her.
Stand me up? Stand me up? I know torture; I visited quite a bit of it on Royce on the last few hours of his life, to repay him, one-hundred fold, for raping me and leaving me to die. I wouldn't torture this girl, but by God, I would scare her into knowing what had happened to others when trespassing on me and mine?
Stand me up? No, it had never happened before, and it was not going to happen now, by God. I would, yes, bust through her door, and make her take me out tonight. She would honor her word to me and take me out tonight, whether she liked it or not. She could be at death's door, for all I care, but she would take me out tonight, or I just might shove her through that very door Mr. Death was holding open for her.
I screeched into her parking lot and at least four car alarms went off from the force of the wind from my car passing them.
It was past one AM. The noise may have disturbed some people in the apartment complex.
Ask me if I care.
I marched right across the quadrangle of grass browned by dog shit or other excrement, maybe animal, maybe beggar. None were safe from me tonight.
Luckily for them, none chose to have a post-midnight stroll.
I leapt, with one bound, to the spruce across her bedroom window to ascertain the occupant's presence of whose door I was about to bust through.
What greeted my eyes was a sight that if I still had a heart it would have stopped.
Just like hers had.
She was laying on top of her bed, on top of her covered, her clear blue eyes wide open and staring right at me.
She had done it. She finally did what Bella kept attempting, and swallowed her whole medicine chest, and all that was left was a shell of a body, her modest chest barely covered in its modesty in a silk camisole I had gifted her (which she had to accept, as I had torn her tee shirt from her body at that quite memorable time) and ... no panties, as she had shucked of then and her pants and they lay strewn on the floor next to her bed, but her legs crossed, covering her tiny treasure.
Her dead hand limply hung over the edge of her bed, grasping her prehistoric iPhone.
Was she attempting to text me, to call me when the death rattle overtook her?
I took this all in in an instant, and then I had to make the decision: crash through the window ... to do what exactly? ... to see if there was one speck of life left in her ... so that I could extinguish it?
Just as I did to Emmett.
Just as I refused to give to Bella.
The gift of Death.
That's all we Vampires do: kill or give the 'gift' of eternal unlife.
I did not want this 'gift' ... this curse ... and I vowed never to visit it on anyone. It was too much to bear, even for a Hale, ... it drove all others insane, sooner, or later.
Or, should I leave now, and leave her in peace, her last few hours in death, before the call was made, and rude police would touch her, poke her and prod her and make lewd remarks about this girl, this Jane Doe, no records, no credit cards, no nothing, found mise en scène, as it were, as exposed in death as she came into this world in new life?
Despair gripped my being. I had come a vindictive force, to punish her, only to find my just retribution stolen from me, because Death had stolen her from me.
I looked down at the ground to leave her in peace, when out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw something.
I thought I saw her chest rise, ever so slightly.
I froze. I waited, staring at her. Willing for this not to be a trick of the mind. And then I did something that is o-so-natural for our kind, and o-so-deadly for hers.
I focused my hearing, and listened for her heartbeat.
The human heartbeat is a call to a vampire. Every human is a target, and they signal their exact whereabouts about once a second with the beat of their hearts.
It calls to us, the heartbeat, it says, "I'm here, I'm here, I'm here."
And most all vampires in the world answer that call. Gladly. Joyfully.
To listen for a human heartbeat is to be a vampire. And me, distraught, irritated, angry, to give myself to that ... I might do something I would later regret.
Good thing, however, that I am Hale.
But I heard it: faintly, weak, but regular, not arhythmic, I heard its call, calling to me, and my throat burned and went dry, and I saw red, and felt the pull of my want for this singer so badly that it physically hurt.
She was still alive.
Lucky her, I thought wryly.
But now, what to do? The facts had not changed. She has still stood me up, and my fury was still there, and I had never been stood up, and this would not be the first time to happen to me, because it would never happen to me.
There's always a first for everything.
Thank you for sharing, Mother.
But she looked ... so pitiful, with dark circles under her sleeping, vacant eyes, and ...
I have no idea how she draws out the mothering instinct in me. I love that about her and I hate this weakness in myself at the same time.
I had a sudden worrisome impulse, a need. I had to know if she were okay. I had to. Or if she had poisoned herself, even if her regularly beating heart said other than my fear.
I called up her contact, but then, looking down at my blackberry, I was stuck.
What to type?
'Thanks for standing me up; that's a first.' was what I was feeling, but it might not strike the right chord in follow-up conversations.
'Right outside your window' another honest one, but then I would have to explain that Rosalie's, like Tiggers, are very good climbers of trees with or without low-hanging branches to get one 10 meters above the ground.
I settled for 'Hey'
So ... au courant.
I grimaced ruefully as I sent the text.
I heard her muted phone buzz in her hand, and the vibration made her shift her position, letting go of the phone, which fell with a crash onto the floor, and she moaned in her sleep and turned in the bed facing away from me.
Well, that is, her front faced away from me. Her pert little round rump now showed itself to me as she gave me a full moon.
And then again, I was tempted to bust through her window, the things I had done to her ass, kissing it, licking it, rubbing it, fucking it ... the things I wanted to do to it right now.
And maybe a few spanks to warm up her tush, a few sharp, stinging ones to remind her who was the boss — that she had stood up! — and a few more dozen or so to get her all wet as I rubbed her slit between each firm stroke, getting her all hot on her backside and all bothered everywhere else I rubbed.
I was getting rather hot and bothered myself, just looking at her very inviting posterior. I swallowed the accumulated venom, and welcomed the burn as it scorched its way down my throat, once again congratulating myself that it wasn't human blood I was swallowing, no matter how tempting, and it never would be.
But my 'Hey' my stupidly inarticulate text message had done its job, it had shown that she was still viable, still functioning, and not fading out.
My relief surpassed my earlier fury.
And I did something that I had mocked in Edward, calling him a fool and a simpleton, watching that Bella Swan all night as she slept.
Rosalie Hale: a fool and a simpleton, in love. I watched the girl as she slept through the night.
Her alarm surprised her awake as she shot up into a seated position and she patted around groggily for her phone, and found it, eventually, locating it by the sound of the alarm.
She looked down at the phone face, and uttered an oath: "Shit!" she cursed.
She had read my text message. An evil grin twisted my face up in a wry smile.
She slumped down onto the bed, shoulders slumped, head bowed, her long, raven hair covering her face, and image of contrition.
I looked at the sad tableau, and my heart went out to her.
Eventually she sighed, the wearily stood, going to her closet-sized bathroom adjacent to her bedroom that barely fit her and her bed. I heard her pee, then wipe and wash.
She came out and stood in front of her one luxury: a full-sized mirror, framed in a thin wooden strip with peeling green paint. She stared at herself in her camisole for a second, then abruptly doffed it and tossed it aside.
She stood in front of her mirror, ramrod straight, staring straight at herself. She raised her hand to her small breast, a quick self-examination, then she cupped it, elevating it slightly. Her nipple hardening at the intense attention.
She sighed, glancing away.
'I am what I am,' she murmured, a trace of resignation in her voice.
Then she looked right back in the mirror, dropped her hand and stared directly into her own eyes, first very intensely.
Then her shoulders relaxed. Then her eyes dulled and grew vacant, and she stood there, staring, for ten, then twenty, then thirty seconds.
Her eyes completely blank, vacant, staring at nothing, into nothing.
I could not believe it.
She was staring into her own soul.
There was absolutely no awareness in her body. It was just her, looking at her, and nothing else was there, but her.
Her being had left her.
A single tear welled in her eye, and fell straight to the floor at her feet, and still she stared on, there, but gone, for a full minute.
Then, as gradually as she had left her, she recollected herself, and awareness seeped back into her frame and awareness back into her eyes.
She blinked, wavered in place, and tore her eyes away from her mirror and almost stumbled back into the bathroom where I heard her open the tap to her shower.
I realized I had been holding my breath this whole time. I sucked in the air, tinted with her scent, with a grateful gasp.
A few moments later she came out again, bathed and wrapped in a towel. She dressed quickly, automatically, and went to her efficiency kitchenette.
I shifted branches to watch her in her domestic scene.
She pulled out two oranges from her refrigerator and juiced them in her juicer, a gift from her brother, then she went to the refrigerator again, and pulled out a bottle.
It was peach schnapps.
She poured a capful into a cup, emptied it into the cup, and then did it again: pouring a capful of the liquid into the cup. She replaced the bottle in the 'fridge, then briskly poured the juiced oranges into that cup.
The scent of oranges and peaches wafted from her apartment.
She looked down at the mixture with distaste, and as I prayed she would just pour it down her sink drain, she quaffed it in three large gulps.
She bowed her head as she meticulously washed the cup and the parts of the juicer, making sure no orange pulp stuck to the cup or kitchen utensils.
She then made herself a cup of coffee from one of those new automatic coffee dispensers, a Keurig is what they are called, I believed.
I thought that she being in the coffee business she would have a more refined taste in it ... or no taste at all for it.
While the coffee was being dispensed (it cannot be called 'brewing' that process, can it?), she grabbed a packet of oatmeal from a large wicker basket filled with a variety of such packets — I smelled processed cinnamon as she ripped open the packet and poured it into a bowl. She then liberally sprinkled two small handfuls of raisins into the bowl, filled it it with tap water — I smelled the industrial chlorine from the water — and placed it careless in the microwave.
Coffee mug in hand, she got out a jar filled with a milky, viscous white substance. I narrowed my focus and read 'Unrefined Coconut Oil.' She scooped out a large tablespoon-full and mixed it in with the now-cooked oatmeal. I smelled the sweetness and the fruitiness from the coconut as she mixed it in with the cinnamony-raisiny oatmeal.
I watched it all, her morning routine, something that fifty or one hundred years ago would be considered a luxury that only the ultra-rich would have access to, I know. But her movements were automatic, robotic, even, as if the cloying extravagance of flavors were nothing but grayness and dross to her.
She sat down with her king's meal of oatmeal and coffee at her tiny kitchenette table, and stared down at it dully for a moment, crossed herself, mouthed a silent prayer, and ate.
I watched her eat. It looked as if she were being tortured with each bite, as if she were eating dung or poison, or, more à propos, as if she were a vampire eating oatmeal. She took a couple of bites, small bites of the oatmeal, washing them down with parsimonious sips of coffee, then paused, looking down at her meal, and sighed.
She stood, still full bowl and still full mug in hand and poured both down the disposal, and washed both. A listless air pervaded her every movement.
She went back to her bedroom and changed into her work uniform: black tee, black denims. I noted that, when she selected her undergarments, she paused, looking over her pale green cotton panties, and I saw a tiny grin just touch her lips as she looked at them before she put them on quickly, mechanically.
Dressed for work, she went to her front room, and instead of walking right out the door, she paused at it, and stood there, stock still, for a full minute, just staring at the door ...
... as if it terrified her.
Her shoulders slumped and she reached tentatively for the handle. When her hand touched the door knob, she paused again, straightened her back, expelled a sighed 'Let's do this,' and jerked open the door and shoved herself into the corridor and the outside world.
I leapt down from the tree and followed her at a discreet distance. I watched her march out the parking lot, right past the heap she calls her car, and walk out onto the side of the main road. She was walking to work in the early morning light? It was less than a mile, yes, but the way the early morning drivers were so carelessly racing right past her, easily less that a meter from her ... I felt my throat constrict as each vehicle whizzed right by her, each vehicle a near miss, and her, walking along so oblivious to her second-by-second brush with death.
It was if she didn't know of her own mortal state, ... or as if she didn't care.
I watched her back receding in the gray early morning mist, shaking my head at this girl, this foolish, fatalistic mortal, and shaking my head at me, this foolish, indestructible immortal, destroyed by love.
Now, what to do with the next few hours? I can't just show up, right at opening, now, can I? Mustn't appear too eager: that would just not do.
I drove up the store front, the racket selling warm, browned, milky water for a price that would cause an outcry and riots in my day, that is: during the Great Depression, but now people simply charged on their credit cards? or automatically purchased with their smart phones? for a cup of coffee? and not even bat an eyelash?
And people wonder why there is a world-wide debt-crisis, and wonder why politicians, that is people elected with the exact same world-view, couldn't manage world finances better, when personal fiances are atrocious?
But who's asking me? After all, my views — buy only what you can pay for — are old-fashioned and considered outré.
What do I know, after all? I only manage the Pacific Northwest fund, a multi-billion dollar trust fund, so who am I to say?
That's the problem with immortality: you have all the answers, but nobody listens!
I approached the counter, watching Violet failing more and more to mask her nervousness at my approach.
Like I was going to do what in this public space? Make a scene?
Being a vampire is the opposite of being a scene-stealer. Always skulking in the shadows, away from the limelight, or any light, for that matter. And people so want to be vampires for what reason? Immortality? An eternity of anonymity?
When I was Rosalie Hale, a living, breathing human, I was the Belle of Rochester. Now I'm an immortal stood up on her first date in (what feels like) forever, and all I can do is text a 'Hey' and order a coffee.
I approached the counter.
"Hey," said the pale-white girl cowering behind the counter, trying to appear nonchalant.
"Hey," I said, true to form.
I just love modern day conversations. It's the depth to them that's so compelling. I pursed my lips in distaste, which only made the girl more upset.
I sighed. Life: so complicated, particularly the simple things.
"Look," she said quickly, "I'm really, really sorry about last night, see, I got home and ..."
"... you were tired and fell asleep." I finished for her, smiling easily.
She was taken aback. "Well, yeah ..."
"Violet, it's okay," I began, forgivingly.
"It is?" she asked, incredulity shading her voice.
"Yes," I said, "you look tired, so you probably needed the rest. Did you sleep well?"
Her eyes shifted around furtively, "Well, yeah..."
"Good," I said.
"But, well ..." she began, helplessly, nervously wringing her hands together.
The man behind me cleared his throat significantly.
I resisted the urge to turn around and punch his face through the wall.
Violet's eyes shifted to him and then quickly to mine. Her tone became business-like, professional. "So, what'll it be? The usual?"
"Yes, please," I answered politely.
"One tall green tea latte!" she barked to the bar, and the order was echoed to her, just like clockwork.
And people thing 1984, Clockwork Orange, Brazil, and Metropolis are fiction.
She turned back to me. "That'll be $4.15."
I dolled out the money, fishing in my purse for the coins.
While I was doing that, she asked me in thoughtful tones, "Why do you order the same thing every morning when you never drink it?"
I looked up as I handed her the money, and bit back so many retorts, ...
like, "Why are you drinking alcohol in the early morning that I can still smell the scent of peaches on your breath?"
like, "Why do you stare at the mirror? Why do you cry when you do that? What do you see that makes you despise yourself so?"
like, "Why aren't you eating, ever?"
like, "Why do you drive that death-trap you call a car?" or "Why aren't you driving that car and instead throwing your body onto the side of the road like meat waiting to be pounded by the next truck with a driver groggy from driving through the night?"
like a thousand other things.
Instead I said: "It reminds me of you."
Her face became confused, then she blushed, hard, whispering: "Oh, my bath wash..."
I smiled evilly. "Yes" I sang back in a counter-whisper, which only caused her to blush more.
The beast in me smiled, too, and purred, hungrily.
She looked away, quickly, embarrassed, and if she were my prey, she'd've been dead before you could say "Jack Sprat."
Never look away from a predator.
I retrieved my drink after paying at sat at my corner table, breathing in the scene of coffee so pervasive in the air, and my green tea, and the scent that overrode all scents, her: Violet, my singer.
I waited for the morning crowd to thin, and during a quiet moment — 'down-time' or more appropriately for me: 'dead-time' — I approached the counter again.
"Hey," she said. I could hear the weariness and the wariness in her voice.
I smiled, anticipating the pleasure of saying my only possible response.
"Hey," I said easily.
She looked at me expectantly.
"So," I said, "Avengers was really good. You'd like it. So, ..."
"So?" she asked.
"So," I pressed forward, "if you'd like to come with me tonight, we can go see it."
She raised her eyebrows. "You'd watch it again after you've just seen it?"
"Sure," I said.
She thought, and said: "But won't it be boring for you?"
"No," I answered simply.
"Why not?" she demanded. "What'd be different this time after you've just seen it?"
"This time I'd be watching it with you."
I watched the words sink in, and then she blushed.
"Oh," she whispered, eyes averted.
"So," I said, staring at her, willing her to look at me, "I can pick you up after work tonight."
"I get off early," she said. "I don't have the late shift today."
"Fine," I said, waving my hand dismissively, "there're early showings, too, and then we won't have to fight for seats."
"Okay," she agreed weakly, "I'll go home and ..."
"No, I'll pick you up here," I interrupted, "and we'll go straight to the theatre."
"But I need to change out of this ..." she whined waving down at her Starbucks 'uniform.'
"Don't worry," I said, "I'll bring a change of clothes."
"Not like last time!" she snarled quietly.
Ooh, a feisty one! I thought, pleased to see the fight return in her.
"No, of course not," I smirked at the thought of her showing up in a little red mini skirt and a skin-tight uniform top from the Annandale Atoms cheerleading squad. "We're going to the movies, after all."
She blushed, still angry, still embarrassed, "Well, okay, then," she agreed in a quiet, but cross, tone.
"Well, okay, then," I agreed, pleased. "And you don't have work tomorrow, right?"
"Yeah ..." she said cautiously.
"Great," I said, "then after the movie we can pick up some take-out and go to my place."
"For what?" her eyes shifted around uneasily.
"For supper and a sleep-over, of course, you silly girl!" I smiled.
"I'm not a girl!" she protested hotly.
"Mm-hm," I hummed dismissively.
"O-okay," she stammered, "but ... will I be getting any sleep?"
"Oh, yes," I asserted, then paused, smiling evilly, "... after."
She blushed, and whispered, "Oh."
She wouldn't be whispering that, more like screaming that, tonight.
"Okay, then, see you later!" I said breezily and swept out of the store.
I peeled away from the Bradlick plaza, almost obeying the speed limit — the speed limit in the parking lot is 55 mph, right? — humming to myself, joyfully. This was my first date in a very long time, regardless of it being a reprise. Violet would enjoy the talkie, or 'movie', as they called them these days. Yes, it was formulaic, but entertaining while adhering to convention, and then tonight, she would be with me, and yes, I am a demon, evil incarnate, a dangerous predator, and Death Herself, ...
Yes, I am all of these things, but I am also her lover, and on balance, I'm less of a threat to her, in her eyes, than the demons she sees when she looks into the mirror, or pours from a bottle into her mug of orange juice in the morning.
And every moment with me would be occupied with ... things: supper, conversation, light laugher, and in bed, ... other things, ... until she was safely asleep in my arms.
And, while sleeping, I would watch over her, and her dreams, protecting her from demons without and within.
I cruised down the Beltway, opening my baby up to 175 mph, as I didn't have to assuage a terrorized girl in the passenger seat, seeing not the road ahead of me and the cars I passed so speedily it looked like they were standing still. No, I saw her in the windshield, and felt her, in my arms.