Copyright © 2013 by Michael Litzky
“I love you, sister,” Sally finally managed. From behind her, Jesse gave a murmur which might have been approval from his tender heart. Kerri nodded excitedly, tilted her head sweetly to the side.
“But you…” Sally started. She felt Lavinia beside her, Walter behind her, two vampires with very different outlooks. With superhuman effort, she said to her sister, “You, you’ve always been a vampire. And so,” she finished, voice catching, “You’re not welcome in my home.”
She understood in that moment that Kerri had not been bitten by any vampire. She had somehow willed herself into becoming what she now was. Perhaps there were more like her, vampires who retained their former selves because their former selves had been so vampire-like.
Kerri crumpled and put dainty hands over her ears. Her face when she looked up was so ashen and forlorn that Sally’s will dissolved and she ran to her sister to embrace her and love her up. She had healed Lavinia with her love and now she would heal little Carrie. The barrier let her through instead of following her because wherever she and Lavinia were together was their home.
She gathered little Carrie up into her arms, unshed tears making ribbons of pain through every limb. But she was not inside a home anymore and twenty vampires grabbed her from all sides, their hands icy, painful. “Let her go, let her go, she’s mine!!” Kerri shrieked, clinging to Sally and opening her mouth wide to bite or to kiss or to scream. The hands pulled and yanked indecisively. She heard running footsteps.
“Wherever we’re together is our home!” a harsh voice rang in her ear and then the only hands holding her were Lavinia’s, the barrier sprang into being again and pushed the others out.
“Darling wife, darling, darling wife,” Lavinia’s husky voice crooned, rocking her. “Can’t save everybody, darling wife. Gotta let her go, you gotta let her go.”
From Lavinia’s arms, Sally faced her lost little sister across a space so narrow and so deep that it could never be crossed. Behind her, Sally wondered at a transfigured look of revelation which dawned on the nun’s face. But she also saw the haunted teen holding his stake and striding with shaky steps toward where Kerri cowered against the invisible wall surrounding the plaza. None of the other vampires seemed to exist; it was like they were statues.
Sally knew that a sharp word from her would probably stop the boy from doing what he was going to do. He was only two steps from Kerri now. She still had time to speak. Lavinia’s arms were around her, supporting her in whatever she chose. She sensed Jesse and Walter moving to stand on her other side.
She remembered when Lavinia had dragged Bunt to the door of the comics shop and fed him to the vampires outside: she had known what Lavinia was going to do but had watched it happen, relieved that the choice was being taken out of her hands. Now she watched Jeremy move into place behind her little sister who had been a burden to her every day for a thousand years and didn’t know what to do.
There must be some way to save her!
She wanted to believe this. She had to believe this.
Surely nobody could be beyond hope. She would speak up, she would stop Jeremy. But she didn’t.
“Boss,” Kerri called in a tiny voice from a great, great depth.
“Darling,” Sally whispered back, looking one last time on the living, though undead, face of her sister, treasuring it up, knowing she would never see it again.
But Jeremy, hearing Sally call her sister darling, stopped, confused, anguished indecision on his face. His pleading face begged Sally for permission to strike. Behind him, Sister Amanda walked up, tears gleaming in her caring brown eyes. Was she readying herself to take the stake from his hand?
Hating herself, crying, begging a god in whom she had never believed for forgiveness, Sally nodded to Jeremy, a harsh, sharp little nod. Jesse gasped. KerriAnne misunderstood and flashed Sally a sweet playful smile that pierced her heart.
But it was Malcolm, determined to protect the people under his care, who grabbed the stake from a tormented, confused Jeremy and stabbed KerriAnne from behind with grim thoroughness.
Her body jolted, quivered. Her face crumpled in despair, as if she had always known that this would be the way she ended. Desperately Sally watched to see her expression become peaceful in death but that soul searing empty anguish never faded.
And now Sister Amanda walked to the edge of the barrier and calmly past it, knelt and took Kerri’s body in her arms. The vampires did not touch her as she closed the horror-filled eyes. “Sister!” several shocked voices said at once.
“I understood immediately,” she said, looking with compassionate acceptance at the two vampires and their human beloveds, and especially at Sally Yan, who felt like a part of her had been ripped away.
“I understood as soon as you spoke it,” Sister Amanda said to Lavinia. “Wherever you are with your beloved is your home. It was at once so clear to me that I am always with my Beloved.” A slight shy dip of her eyes conveyed the extra message: I’m not intending to force you to believe what I believe.
Sally couldn’t process anything more: Jeremy, mouth working, looking at his empty, twitching hands; the nun who now smoothed KerriAnne’s sad little face into a semblance of peace; Jesse (who wanted to save everybody) shaking in Walter’s arms. Time enough later to tell Malcolm and all the world about inviting the vampires in (she could almost hear his voice saying, “People will never go for that!”) and about vampires regaining their souls or whatever it was.
For now she was lost in the pain, and in the comfort of strong supporting arms. “Darling wife, darling wife,” the only voice that mattered whispered over and over.
Charity Claire brushed her teeth and flossed, slipped into her nightgown in the privacy of the bathroom and stroked the head of the little dragon statue on the shelf above the toilet. Then, feeling the closeness of tears (they were never very far), she walked to her bedroom mirror to brush her hair before bed.
But an elderly vampire who looked like someone’s white-haired aunt or granny glided forward and tugged at the brush. Surprised, Charity let her take it and the stranger began to run the brush gently through Charity’s long brown hair.
Charity could only just remember Grandma Claire, who had made her cinnamon sugar cookies, who would scold her mother, “Will you give the poor child no peace?” and who had brushed out her hair like this before she tucked her into the bed with the frayed comforter as soft as a grandma’s love.
The vampire’s free hand on Charity’s shoulder was sadly cold but Charity sank onto the edge of the bed, closed her eyes and cried softly, accepting the tenderness from hands which in slightly different circumstances would have killed her without a thought.
End of Volume III. Continue to next Volume.
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