Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.
Unsuccessfully trying to fight back the tears which were welling up in my eyes again, I stared at the two graves before me, each containing what was left of the two people who had mattered most in my life, now both gone.
My mom and Blaine.
Months I had spent trying to disprove what the authorities were telling me, spending every last dime Blaine and I had put aside to buy a home together. I had fought like a lioness, until I had tried all I could think of to prove to them that Blaine just could not be dead, how they had it all wrong.
The authorities countered with actual proof, based on science, evidence, and experience, showing me pictures of the burned-out wreckage after a bomb had detonated on board, I saw images of mangled fragments of burned clothing and flesh, barely identifiable as human. Someone at the studio Blaine was signed with must have had their hand in some cartel drug cookie jar and it literally blew up in everyone’s face, that was all I knew at this point.
They had shown me DNA tests proving the presence of all the members of the crew and team on board.
Everyone, including Blaine.
When they showed me the lab report clearly listing his name as having been identified from the samples found on the scene of the accident, something inside of me broke.
My hope, my spirit, my will to go on, extinguished, like the little gleam of hope I had until then.
As much as I didn’t want to believe it, they had solid proof that he was dead, while after weeks of intense trying all I had were empty hands, an empty heart and an empty bank account, drained while trying to prove that he wasn’t.
Without even one single person in my corner telling me I was right, I was out of strength and just gave up.
I just existed from here on out.
Alive in a senseless world for no apparent reason at all.
Like in a state of trance I couldn’t do anything but watch them bury what little they had found that may have been him, the only thing I had the strength to do was to insist he’d be laid to rest next to my mom, who had been the only mother he had ever really had as well.
The funeral had been a couple weeks ago now, I was staying in a cheap no-tell style motel nearby and came here religiously, every day. Looking down I noticed my ring, the engagement ring Blaine had given me, and tears of memory and regret flowed freely as I slipped it off.
I had done that a million times by now, I would always put it back on again eventually. I just could not let go, even though I knew you could not be engaged to a dead man, all that ring did was remind me of what could have been, but was lost to me forever now.
Memories of amazing times with him flashed in my mind, and the nagging regret of not just having given in to him and run with his idea of us becoming parents against better knowledge. I could have been pregnant by now, at least then I would have something left of him. Something that was Blaine, that I could love and dedicate my life to with him gone now.
Now I was all alone.
My life had lost all color, meaning, and drive. It lost its sound.
Music was dead.
“A real shame.”
The male voice startled me, and seeing whom it belonged to didn’t raise my spirits.
I said nothing, just glared at the speaker, before turning my back to him, hoping he would leave. Naturally, he did not.
“If you would like to talk, my home is right over there, as I am sure you remember.” the man with the youthful, albeit pale appearance smiled without revealing teeth. For a good reason.
“I remember,” I said with a scratchy voice. I didn’t speak much these days, not to anyone.
“Maybe you would like to come over, so I can …”
“NO!” I barked at him.
“… make you coffee, to lift your spirits, was what I was going to say. I understood the first time around, Viktoria. I can accept a no, sadly, you still found it necessary to totally cut me from your life ever since that one night where I may have gotten a little carried away. Certainly, I cannot have been the only man that ever happened to lose his cool around you.”
“You tried to bite me!” I hissed.
“A misunderstanding. I thought you were into that. Some women I have met at parties like Penny’s were. I apologized right away and tried to explain, I promised you it would never happen again, I meant it then and still mean it today. Sadly, I never got the chance to prove myself.”
“I am in mourning Caleb. I do not want coffee or deal with your weirdness now. Just leave me alone, please.”
“I can’t do this now!” I exclaimed and tried to leave, but Caleb held on to me, his grip gentle, but firm as iron claws.
“I am trying to be a friend, Viktoria. To you and in a way to Blaine. I liked him and I miss him as well. He and you were two of the very few people who were ever genuinely nice to me for no other reason than that you two wanted to be, even after discovering the truth about me. He a little more than you, though admittedly I likely deserved your anger, seeing how I never tried to sleep with or feed on Blaine.”
“I guarantee you, Blaine would not have been so nice to you, had he known that you and I sort of had a thing at some point.”
Yeah, in the worst of times my dirty little secret appeared. Long before Blaine and I became a couple, Caleb Vatore and I had met at one of Penny’s parties and gone out a few times. I thought he was dreamy then, he was infatuated with me. All was well until he invited me over to his house one night, got a bit carried away making out and I found out he had fangs. Yeah, that was the moment I learned that vampires weren’t just a thing to scare nitwits and children with. After that, I avoided Caleb like the plague, even when Blaine and he started to hang out. It was true, Blaine and he met, not surprising, Caleb often hung around bars, including the one Blaine used to tend bar at, both misfits in their own right, so they became friends. Caleb used to joke that he liked booze, blood, and chicks and that bars were a one-stop-shop for him. I never told Blaine about Caleb and me, knowing how jealous he could get, founded or unfounded.
“We did have a little thing, didn’t we? Come on Vik, just a cup of coffee with me, for old times’ sake. You have my word that will be all. If you can wait till evening, I will even see you safely back to your hotel.” Caleb offered, referring to the fact that because of some fortunate layout of mountains and hillsides, the skies were almost always overcast in Forgotten Hollow, so he and his sister weren’t limited to just nighttime here. As soon as you left via a pass through the mountains, the weather could be anything, including bright sunshine, which was detrimental to vampires. Even I knew that much.
He loosened his grip and I considered running, yet, while I wasn’t the most well versed in all things vampire, I had the feeling that wouldn’t work out for me as planned. And what was I running from anyway? I had nothing left in life at this point. Nothing to live for. Even if he bit me, killed me, turned me, so what?
“Fine. As friends.” I agreed.
I followed him to the small, old-fashioned house, feeling a mix between safe as can be and as if I were being lead to my own execution.
Caleb smiled as he opened the door, then gestured to the right, I followed him into the kitchen and watched him make coffee as if this was just two friends on a coffee date, not a vampire and a crazy woman, at least if you asked anyone in law enforcement in Del Sol Valley.
I swear my picture had been hung in a bright red frame on the walls of every police station and federal building, adorned with a solid warning along the lines of
“Avoid at all costs!
If unable to, proceed with caution,
contents under pressure,
with a dash of total brain decay due to mourning.
Code 324: cray-cray bi-a-tch.”.
At least in my mind, that’s what they all thought of me, when in reality they probably didn’t even remember me now, with the case load they seemed to have. They moved on, while I never would. Still, I know I had driven everyone crazy attempting to prove Blaine was still with us, above all myself.
Waiting for the coffee to run through, he looked over his shoulder at me and smiled.
“What?” I found nothing about this situation amusing.
“I just realized the irony of how you are the actual reason we have one of these at all. I will never forget your face that night you came over after you saw I didn’t have a coffee maker. I think at that moment I ranked somewhere between something nasty stuck to the bottom of your shoe and a cockroach with you. To this day I still wonder if the real reason you avoided after that night wasn’t because of my slip up, but the fact I didn’t own a coffee maker. Despite the way the date ended, I went out the next day to buy one. Hope evidently does die last.” Caleb chuckled.
“Caleb, had I known that, I would have told you not to bother. I have never been fond of wasting money, not my own and not yours. I assure you, whether or not you like coffee didn’t even cross my mind after that night. All I will say is that in my book, I was never going to set foot in this house ever again.”
“Well, I am glad I was able to change your mind, and the coffee maker was not a waste at all. Out of curiosity and after spending time with Blaine, I acquired a taste for coffee myself, as has Lilith. Here’s to hoping that may get me to rank higher with you again eventually. Shall we go sit?” smiling he winked at me, before pointing at the table behind me.
“Yeah, sure, sounds good.” I agreed defeated. Where else was I gonna go? Might as well sit and have coffee with a vamp, even though it still had the aftertaste of a sparrow landing in the cat’s mouth.
We walked over to the kitchen table and sat down next to each other, Caleb studied me for a moment while I stared into my coffee mug wondering if he was doing some covert vampire-thing or really just looking at me.
“So, how are you holding up?” Caleb asked, honest concern sounding in his voice. A vampire concerned for my well-being. Now I had heard and seen it all.
“I am not holding anything up or together. Everything is in shambles. I do not even know how to go on at all. I am literally left with nothing. No hope, no money, nowhere to go.” the truth just poured out of me.
“Then stay. I cannot say I ever liked you so far away. Besides, you are not a girl for the tropics. Your skin is nearly as pale as mine, I just have a better excuse for it.” he chuckled, a comforting sound, reminding me of Blaine.
“Very funny. Well, thanks for the coffee and the candor.”
“Stay, please. We have space, and before you freak out, I promise to be an utmost gentleman and act as much a mortal as I can muster. Plus, Lilith lives here too, and is home most of the time. She will keep me in line.”
“Uh, no thanks. Very nice of you to offer, but I already prepaid the hotel room, would hate to lose that money.”
“You shouldn’t go back to the islands regardless. If there is one thing being immortal has taught me, it’s how to deal with loss. I have always enjoyed friendships with mortals, alas, they will eventually perish, while I will be left with the memories. In other words, I understand how you feel better than you may think.”
Call me crazy, but Caleb sounded genuine, caring and concerned and it felt good, a relief of sorts. His kindness, even if I was wrong and it was an act, was a lot more than I had been getting from everyone else since the terrible news hit. Either annoyance or pity was the usual resonance.
Despite Caleb’s words of caution, two days later I was back in Sulani. It felt wrong, wasn’t the same, no longer a home, nature’s beauty I could no longer appreciate, it now suffocated me.
I lasted barely a week until I found myself knocking on a door of a certain vampire residence in Forgotten Hollow. What the hell was I doing?
“Viktoria, what a pleasant surprise! Come on in.” Caleb look about as surprised to see me at his doorstep, as I was standing here.
“Caleb, I know this is sudden, sorry, I would have called but I didn’t have your number. I think I would like to take you up on that offer, if it’s still good. Just for a few days until I can figure out where to go. You were right. I cannot stay in Sulani. It’s killing me.”
“My offer stands. I will let Lilith know and get a room ready for you. Do you play?” Caleb had caught my lingering glance at the oddly shaped organ in his living room, which had triggered memories of me performing with Blaine, making me smile absent-mindedly, which Caleb must have mistaken for an eagerness to play.
“No, not the organ. I play the piano. I USED to play, I mean.” I corrected, before swallowing hard.
Without Blaine there would never be music in my life again.
“You look tired. Let me show you to your room, so you can freshen up and rest.” Caleb sounded caring and genuinely concerned.
He took my heavy bags with seeming easy, then I followed him upstairs and into a room, looking around.
“This isn’t a guest room, is it Caleb?”
“No, it’s mine, but I am happy to let you have it. I have another sleeping quarter available to me which I cannot offer you, I am sure you can put two and two together without me having to be more blunt. This room is all yours for as long as you need it. The only thing I cannot provide you with is shared meals, I am sure I won’t have to outline the reasoning.” Caleb said.
“Yeah, no, that’s fine. I am used to eating by myself.”
With a faint, knowing smile Caleb left.
Was this safe?
What was I thinking? Staying with two known vampires in a remote place where few mortals ever went, unless it was a sunny day so they could pay their final respects to loved ones buried at the cemetery next door.
Oh boy, where had my life taken me?
It all held so much promise, and then all was gone in an instant.