They spent the following week staying at the hotel and sightseeing in the village, strolling the cobbled roads with their hands clasped. Taking pictures with a digital camera and buying little mementoes at an antique store, small things that neither would live to treasure.
They rode the ferry and took a tour of the villages dotted along the shores of the great blue lake. Standing at the rail with the wind in their hair, Bella's arm around Alice's shoulders, silent, gazing out at the hills hazing away in the morning sunlight. They took dinner at a romantic restaurant with a patio under the stars where Bella would eat and Alice would watch. Alice's face in the warm light of the lamps was smiling and made up with makeup but underneath the thin veneer of happiness Bella could see the glaze in her eyes, the liddedness, the languor, the longing for blood.
That night they went back to the hotel and made love as they made love every night and afterwards Bella guided Alice's face to her neck. Holding her there, whispering for her to do it. Alice inhaled the scent of her hair and the lingering scent of arousal and then she moved her head. It felt like she was nuzzling her neck but she was actually shaking her head. Bella released her and looked at her sadly.
"You haven't fed from me since you came back," she said. "It's been over a month."
Bella was laying on her back and Alice was hovering over her, pale, thin, gazing into her face with her dark and tired eyes and petting her hair gently. Smiling.
"I know," she whispered.
Then she kissed her and kissed her again.
Alice refused to feed from her that night, stroking her till she fell asleep, and refused again the next night and the night after. In the days to come she got weaker and weaker and they began to go out less and less. They would have dinner ordered to the room and Bella would eat with hardly any appetite while Alice would watch with her pallid smile.
One morning Bella woke up to find Alice asleep. Bella had never seen her sleep before and then she realized that vampires don't sleep. Instantly her heart locked down in her chest, fearing the worst, and she reached out to wake her.
Alice was laying on her back with a strange composure, like a corpse arranged for viewing. Her eyelids were paper thin and Bella's heart only resumed beating as they fluttered open feebly. Alice smiled wanly.
"Oh," she murmured. "You're awake."
Bella gazed at her with tears of worry forming in her eyes. "Were you asleep?"
"Just resting, baby."
"Alice, please," Bella said, sitting up, the sheet falling away from her naked breasts. "You have to feed."
"You have to."
"I can't, baby. You know I can't."
Bella had been trying to gather the girl in her arms, but she only lolled limply. Her body was light and thin. She weight nothing. Alice fended her away weakly and finally Bella gave up, setting her mouth and eyebrows in a frown with her eyes tearful and rage-speckled.
"So this is your plan, is it?" she demanded. "To starve yourself to death to protect me?"
Alice was laying there on the pillow, gazing up at the naked woman above her. Still smiling that eerie smile, a smile which seemed to be smiled not by her but by something inside her, the part that longed for the escape of death.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"You can't do this, Alice."
"I have to," she murmured, lifting a hand. "I can't lose you, baby. I just can't."
The hand caressed Bella's cheek.
Bella sobbed and held it there.
A few days later they went out to eat for the last time. Alice was almost too weak to move and yet she insisted on going for a stroll afterwards. They went down a narrow lane that led through the centre of the lamplit village, past dark shopfronts and bicycles chained on sidewalks. Alice was holding Bella's arm for support and she was gazing about the night with considerable contentment, as if the evening could not have turned out finer. They were walking very slowly and Bella's heart felt like a twisted mass of ligaments in her chest.
"We should get you back to the hotel," she said.
"I don't want to die there."
"You're not going to die, Alice," Bella said viciously. "I won't let you."
Alice didn't seem to hear. They had stopped walking and she was gazing up at the sky, at the full moon up there with all the stars around it in the nightsky like diamonds tossed on a jewellers blackcloth. Bella was staring at her, trying not to break down.
They went back to the hotel and the next morning Bella set out alone with Alice's instructions. She rented a car and bought a mattress at a store whose owner helped her tie it down to the roof the car with bungee cords. She also purchased clean sheets and a quilt before driving to a different store that sold camping supplies.
It was a long drive into the hills and she drove as fast as she could, with the mattress lashed to the roof of the car and her heart heavy with despair. She came at last to the mansion where Alice used to live and where Alice wanted to die. She pulled up at the gates and got out. The house was shrouded away in a morning fog and it stood there in the mist with it's dead windows and rotting foundations, decayed and dilapidated but still standing to welcome one last tragedy.
She spent the remainder of the morning and part of the afternoon lugging the mattress upstairs and fixing the bedroom to a point where it was somewhat liveable, wearing rubber gloves with her hair pinned back, like the ghost of a chambermaid. She dragged the old mattress off the bed, jumping back at the rats which scurried away, and fixed the new one in place. It looked obscenely new and clean against the rotting wood of the headboard. A shaft of dusty light fell through the hole in the roof and for a while she just stood and stared.
It was dark when she drove back to the village and darker yet when she drove Alice back to her home. Alice could hardly walk at this point and Bella had to carry her. The girl was thin to her bones. Bella didn't even struggle. Carrying her up the creaking staircase like a bride or a victim of some kind, bearing her down the corridor and into the decrepit bedchamber where her mother had died and where now she would as well.
Bella tucked her into the bed and settled beside her. She had lit an electric drycell lamp she had bought at the camping supply store and the light was harsh and white and cast across the girl's wasted face like the light of heaven coming to claim her at last after all these centuries.
"Oh Alice," Bella sobbed.
The next few days were a torment of anxiety and exhaustion. Knowing she was going to die. Knowing every time she closed her eyes she might not open them again. Breathless. Desperate with denial.
None of the bathrooms in the house even seem safe to use and she used the garden instead, washing herself with a rag and bottled water before hurrying back upstairs to check on Alice. Slipping a hand under the sheets to feel for warmth, the relief washing over her before turning to ash and dread, knowing it wouldn't last, knowing that the end was upon them.
She lay in the bed at her side and tried not to sleep at all, not wanting to lose a single moment. Blinking. Slapping herself. Alice's face, so pale, so thin. Bella's eyes filling with tears. Her heart withering. Falling asleep and waking in terror to reach wildly under the sheets for warmth, same as how Alice used to do with her mother. Alice's eyes fluttered open. Bella wept.
"Please, Alice," she said. "Don't do this."
"It's okay, baby," Alice whispered, softer than the night breeze leaking through the cracks in the walls. "It's okay."
"No," Bella whimpered. "You know I can't live without you."
Alice's eyes had been drifting away but now they flickered back, a feeble fire lighting dark and deep inside them. "Yes," she hissed. "Yes, you can. You promised. Remember, that day in the park? You promised you would live without me. And be happy. You promised…"
"No. Baby, listen. I need to tell you. I love you. I love you so much. You're the best. You really are. I love you more than anything. I…"
Bella sobbed and started crying.
"Don't cry, baby," Alice whispered, her voice going weak again. "It's okay. I think it was always supposed to be like this. I think this is why I met you. I've been looking for you my whole life, I just didn't know it. You were the reason I became what I am. So that I could find you. And be happy. Even if only for a short while. Do you see, baby? Do you see?"
Bella was shaking her head and not even listening.
"Just kill me, Alice," she said, with tears streaming down her face. "Please. I can't bare this."
Alice closed her eyes in the moonlight and subsided on the pillow.
"No," she whispered.
Two more nights passed. The end drawing closer.
Bella made a fire in the rusted grill of the fireplace. She was afraid the chimney might be blocked but it wasn't. The nights had become cold and she had wrapped herself in a jacket and for a long time she stared at the flames. She had bought a box of granola bars back at the village but she hadn't ate anything since arriving at the mansion.
Bella turned and went out onto the balcony. A thin crescent moon, high in the sky. It was too dark to see the ocean. She could only hear it. A crash and boom and a slow seething sound. Like something teething down there. She looked out over all that blackness and a frail hope began to form in her chest.
She went back into the bedroom and tore a flap of cardboard from the granola bar box to write on. She used a ballpoint pen and she wrote quickly, tears in her eyes. The cardboard got smudged with the dirt of centuries that had accumulated on the desk. She wrote and sniffed and then she left the pen on the table and went to Alice's side. She looked at her in the flickering light of the fire. Her face was white and almost skeletal. And yet so beautiful. Bella set the note on the bedside table and then she leaned and touched Alice's hair and placed a kiss on Alice's mouth. Her lips were warm—faintly.
"I love you, Alice," she whispered.
Alice didn't wake.
Bella went out onto the balcony.
The moon hadn't moved and neither had the stars, each glaring brightly from the blackness of space like a myriad of eyes, silent and cold. Bella climbed over the mould covered marble balustrade and stood there at the edge of darkness, leaning into the night and gazing down at where the ocean was only faintly visible in the starlight. Her chest was heaving and she seemed to sway in the breeze like a flower. She hesitated, she didn't know why. There was no reason to hesitate because there was no other choice. Deep in her heart of hearts she knew what she had always known—that she could not live without Alice.
She had been holding on to the banister with both hands and now they began to loosen. One first then the other. She let her weight carry her forward and began to fall, a feeling of weightlessness washing over her. She didn't make a sound. The wind was rushing through her hair. The ocean gleamed like a black satin sheet in the moonlight. She was falling, falling. The darkness was getting closer and then suddenly the darkness consumed her, coldly and completely, snatching her from the world and dragging her down into a blank bliss of blackness.
Alice woke shortly after. The fire had died slightly. Her head turned on the pillow. Bella wasn't there. She began to panic and the panic turned to terror when she saw the piece of cardboard propped against the base of the dead drycell lamp on the bedside table. She stared at it for a long moment before she finally sat up.
It took all her strength. All that remained of it. She dragged herself up against the headboard and sat for a minute with her eyes closed and head bowed. Then she reached for the note and held it trembling in her lap and tilted slightly toward the firelight.
I can't write as elegant as you, so I'm going to just say it. I can't live without you. I just can't. If you wake up and find me gone, please don't be afraid. One way or another you'll see me again soon. That's my real promise. I refuse to be separated from you, Alice. In life or death, I have to be with you. I love you. I need you.
Alice sniffed. A small sound like a whimper came out of her. Two tears dropped onto the cardboard. She looked up and suddenly she stopped crying.
There was a figure in the doorway.
At first she thought it was her mother but then she realized it was Bella. She was soaking wet and her hair hung in long wet locks. She came into the room and the firelight washed over her face. Her skin was pale and smooth and there was just the faintest smile about her lips.
"Bella," Alice gasped.
Bella's smile widened, just slightly, and she climbed onto the bed. She took the piece of cardboard and set it aside without even glancing it. She kept her eyes solely on Alice and Alice stared back at her. Bella was straddling her lap and now she sat up and pulled the hair away from her neck. She tilted her head back to tauten the skin there and then she used a fingernail to make a slit in her flesh.
Alice's eyes widened as a line of dark liquid pooled in the wound and run down her neck. Bella smiled and gathered the girl into her arms. Alice didn't resist. She didn't have the strength to. Bella wove her hand in Alice's hair and pressed Alice's face to her neck. Alice moaned softly as the blood touched her lips. Then she began to suck on the wound. Bella held her and rocked her and smiled at how her grip became stronger. Soon Alice's fingers were digging into Bella's back. The girl continued sucking at her like a baby until finally she stopped. She looked up at Bella with blood all over her mouth and in the orange flicker of firelight she could see that Bella had fangs. Bella smiled and leaned and licked the blood from Alice's lips and then she eased back Alice's head and bit into her neck. Alice gasped and held her and after a while she turned her face and began sucking anew at the wound that still ebbed in Bella's neck, the two of them clutching each other in the firelight and drinking each other's blood with their shadows entwined and dancing across the wall.
From that moment they were never separated. Alice fed from Bella and Bella fed from Alice and together they went on for all eternity. Traveling the world with their hands clasped and retiring to hotel rooms where they would make love and exchange blood and thus live on in an endless cycle of giving and needing, entrapped in each other's arms for all time and never letting go. And afterwards they would wrap sheets around their bodies and take the moonlight from the balcony of the hotel room. Alice would gaze up at the stars and then she would turn her gaze to Bella and she would smile because she knew she would never be alone again. Bella would smile as well and slip her arm around her and draw her close and place a kiss on her lips. With the full moon high in the sky and with their embrace silhouetted against the stars they seem suffused with a greater kind of romance, like two whom truly belonged together. Fated ones. Not even death could keep them apart and in each other's arms they had found something against which even time itself would not prevail. A love that would never stop. Never dim or die. A love that would last forever.
AN: Well, there it is. The end. Thank you for reading, and special thanks to anyone who really enjoyed it. Hopefully I'll see you around in a different story. ;)