[i "Bug, I need to talk to you about something important. Do you have a few minutes?" The kind voice asked, even when angry his voice was kind.]
[i "I don't have time right now, dad. I need to get back home, have another early shift," she replied, walking over kissing his cheek. Althea barely noticed how stiff his shoulders were and that expression. Then she walked out.]
What if she hadn't walked out then? What if she had done something entirely different?
[i "Sure dad, anything for you..." Could have been the reply with a happy smile. Not an eager escape to the shady apartment with piece of shit boyfriend.]
Would they still be alive if she had stayed longer? Or would she have gone with them?
The thoughts were on repeat, some days were better than the others. On the worse days she went through it, piece by piece trying to find the missing pieces of how she could have done [i something, anything]. Other days it was good memories. The good days was when the past didn't weigh down her heart and shoulders.
Althea had fallen asleep sometime around three in the morning, her tablet was dead and the book was digging into her sternum. It was only six when she woke up but she was rested enough. After two weeks in Louisiana she felt more comfortable with the humidity but the shower was entirely useless in the morning.
In the white Cadillac, Aunt Marie Mertle took the turns with ease passing the ancient trees, already the heat rising uncomfortably. Conservative talk radio station was playing, an angry man was talking about how the government was taking power from them to decide.
"This gentleman doesn't require cleaning often, this is the first time in two years, I reckon. It's very easy, clean a few rooms and whatever else he wants," Marie informed her. "For a bachelor he doesn't really doesn't make much mess or have company over."
Althea nodded, feeling her thoughts attempting to pull her below. So today was going to be a low day, okay, she could deal with that. No problem. Marie turned to her giving her a small smile, before letting the talk radio do all the talking.
At the old plantation, Althea felt the ghost of a smile cross her lips, it was beautiful. The building wasn't blatant like the others she had visited in the two weeks. They were stunning, no doubt, and the houses in the French Quarter was those of her dreams. This was different.
Marie approached the door quickly despite being in heels she knocked three sporadic times before waiting. Althea slowly ambling after, taking in what details she could before finding herself at the side of her aunt.
Darkar listened to her go. Listened to the heartbeat moving strong in her stomach. Stella knew just as Darkar knew. Tapping his fingers on the arm of his arm chair, he waits. That’s all he could do now. With the book gone, a weight lifts from his chest that he hadn’t known was there in the first place. Rolling his shoulders, he attempts to relax. Feeling that it was useless, feeling the familiar burn in his throat of hunger, he considers his options. How could a blind mind eat? He questions himself mentally, pushing himself from his chair and fumbling with his cane for a moment. Tapping the silver tipped end on the hardwood floor, he listens to the sound bounce off things and return to him. Closing his eyes he tries his hardest to focus. To see.
Uselessly, he bumps his cane against the floor and against each lip of the stairs. Defeated, he creeps upstairs passed the library, and into his room. Laying still dressed, Darkar wonders how long he would be blind. In theory he shouldn’t be blind forever. Yet that was just a theory. Modern medicine could do anything. Laying in the dark, unable to see, Darkar felt himself grow angry. Anger stemming from the realization that he would have to get all his book translated to brail. Or as many as he could. Along with learn to read brail. Also came the next conclusion of restocking his wardrobe. Dark colors have always matched well together, at least he thought so, in that case he would have to hire someone to help him buy new clothes. No sense in looking ridiculous when already blind to begin with.
There was that churning again in her stomach, it was distinct from the time after the war. Was it entirely possible that she was pregnant? It was possible, they had been trying for the last year after the miscarriage. Stella didn't like to think on it despite Bernie's attempts to let some moments come back to life.
Looking to the book, she looked to Darkar, knowing that he wouldn't ask unless it was needed. It was the whole balance thing that had been explained, though she never fully got it.
Tracing the book she gave a slow sigh followed by a nod. "Of course, I'll help," Stella said before placing a hand on her stomach. Stepping closer to him she grasped his hand. "I am sorry that this happened. And about...other things...you will always mean something to me."
Letting go of his hand she gave a half smile. "I should go, I know a place. Also I believe I have news for Bernie..." She gave a low chuckle. "Good bye, Darkar. I do hope you recover quickly."
Darkar didn’t know the answer to her questions, he wished he did. Slowly, deliberately he tells her to place it in a box and to put it in her attic and forget about it. If anyone were to ask about it, it was gift from a friend, she never read it. Darkar knew that he was condemning her and possibly himself. In his weakened state, he needed her to take it.
“I’ll come back for it when I’m strong enough. Surer of myself. I will return for it.” He answers further, hoping to put away all over her fears. Now no one knew the book existed, let alone knew that vampire existed besides her. A strong sense of knowing kept Darkar from telling her it was okay, that she didn’t have to take it. That he would tell someone else that they could take it. The fate of Darkar’s species depended on them remaining a secret in normal society. They had tried being a part of the human world, it didn’t work out well.
There was a universal lesson to life that it seemed to come in the harshest of moments. Life was not predictable nor easily understood. Once Stella had thought she understood the world as a place where one worked to belong in different circumstances. That night when she almost lost her life when Darkar had saved her, she understood more. In just this one world existed another of supernatural beings that went beyond the imagination.
As soon as that life began to settle, there was a dreadful war, which she offered her service willingly. It was a horrible experience that still haunted her nightmares of the dying men of terrible wounds. Some had been her age, others were older, and worse was when they were the age of her younger brother, Frances.
Stella knew at this moment her options right now was to remain silent and listen to Darkar. Taking his hand, she ignored the little voice that welcomed the feel of his hand. Grimly listening, she imagined what happened, she had seen it before.
"I became a nurse, I've seen what happens, almost feels as if I've seen it all though I know I haven't," Stella responded softly, lost in the haze of memories. "I am sorry for what happened, Darkar. It'd be easy to say that it was for some common good, but I don't really believe that."
At the mention of the tome, something she had studied when she first discovered this world. Her eyes found the heavy leather book peeking out from it's resting spot. Looking back to him questioningly, she sucked in a breath.
"I do know which one," she gave a nod before moving over to the book but didn't quite grab it yet. "Darkar, this is flattering that you'd trust me with this book. I just...don't know if it's safe to do so, we want a family...not that it's happening right now. How can I protect this when one quick action and I could be killed. I really am not saying that I don't want to help, I just don't know how I could."
“Stella Darling,” Darkar begins, using her pet-name as though it were her real name. “I’ve been hurt seriously. I cannot protect myself, let alone tome. I need it to be hidden. I need it to be protected until I am back to full strength.” He answers her coolly, her friendly kiss nearly startled him. Just the same he leans into it tenderly as he always had. Questions drift from her like the beating of her heart, uncontrollable and strong. Exactly what had happened to him? Carefully he lifts his right hand, waiting for her to take it rather than him searching for hers.
“I was gravely injured during the war. That’s why I’m back so early.” Darkar could easily see how she would assume it was a knee or leg injure rather than something more serious. “I’ve been blinded dear. I cannot see at all.” His own heart sinks to his stomach at the words. For the last few weeks adjusting, he’d avoiding thinking them. Saying them entirely. He knew he would have to say them to her, not that she was ignorant or dull in anyway, but because eventually he would have to say them. To think them and come to terms with his new state of living.
“Shards of metal from a bomb imbedded themselves into my eyes. They are permanently there, that if I live long enough to have them removed.” He finished. Darkar’s voice drops several octaves as he relates the story to her. How it had happened and the heroes that carted him away from the battlefield. All fresh memories.
“I’m sorry, I’m sure you don’t want to hear this.” He apologizes after his reenactment. He nods toward the bookshelf. “The tome is there, you know which one right?” He asks finally. “Take it, protect it.”
How curious it was. There was a strange toss of emotions in this moment, most was entirely out of place. Stella could also note that her stomach didn't seem all of itself. After her barrage of statements and his simple word the woman gave a soft sound of embarrassment. Placing a hand on her stomach as her stomach gave an uncomfortable turn.
"I'm sorry, Darkar, it must be dinner last night. Or Bernie insisting on driving instead of taking the train," Althea gave a sheepish smile before it turned to a frown. Normally those eyes were quick and alert. They had caused her to blush more than once. Now they were vacant. Approaching him she leaned up and kissed his cheek softly. "It is good to see you again. What happened, darling?"
Naturally she was concerned, he had saved her more than once, and now was a friend. Only the sort of friend one didn't write to very often or mention to her husband. The questions itself would be awkward to answer.
Sitting down, she fidgeted for a moment. Placing all thoughts of her physical and emotional turbulence behind she gave him a soft look. It was bound to be important if he asked her to come. The woman was impatient for answers, but could hold herself for a while longer. Little said Stella was a patient women. It was even worse now.
Everything and yet nothing had happened. The small town just outside of New Orleans still stood. Untouched by the death and glory still floating over the open ocean like a fine morning mist. Newspapers still called for praise. Even though the war had been over a few months now, Darkar still heard the screams. Wearing a dark blue button up shirt and dark pants, he was transported back in time to a year ago. Bomb shells his broken earth, sending rocks and dirt into the air. In the distance a boy, barely eighteen, screamed. Fresh blood soaked the air, choking him and the boy’s bellows of pain rooted in the back of Darkar’s mind. Black and white images of mortars going off, tanks thrumming in the back ground, and bullets whining passed his head kept him far away. Swallowing thickly around the memories, he fought the emotions rising in his sightless eyes. Gentle rapping at his door pulled him sharply back to reality. Struggling to his feet, unsure, he starts toward the door. Helping him navigate the now unfamiliar black room is a silver capped cane of ebony wood. Carefully he taps it against the coffee table, trying to find the edge to walk around. A few tense moments of struggling pass. Finally, Darkar finds the front door, his vampiric smell letting him know immediately that it was her. Lowly her heart hammered in her chest, his hearing not used to being used so heavily yet. Swallowing again, Darkar tastes the air, using ever sense that he has left to determine if she was alone like he’d asked. A young man, a neighbor, comes over every day to help the him. The boy’s name was Jackson Witherspoon. Jack had helped him write the letter to Stella, asking her to come over and see him. Darkar had made sure that Jack mentioned an ancient tone that he wanted her to have.
“Welcome.” He cuts through her harsh interruption. Blindly Darkar bumps his way back to a new velvet armchair. Wavering he takes his time in putting his ass in the chair.
[i August, 1946]
Stella couldn't remember a time when the heat was this intolerable. It was thick and muggy, clinging to any surface and making it miserable. Of course, it was a Southern summer where the storms came in through the front door like relatives and the heat was intolerable. Somehow through her childhood, she hadn't noticed, worked on a farm then in a crowded two story building.
It had been Europe that changed that. As awful as it had been treating wounded men, the climate hadn't been so terrible. If it wasn't for the religion intolerance and lack of opportunities she would have wondered why her grandparents ever left in the first place.
Bernie thought she was visiting family, remaining comfortable at the hotel. Twisting the gold band around her finger, she analyzed it for a moment. It really was just a gold band with a single diamond in the middle.
"Darkar, are you really asking me, a mortal, to protect a book that holds knowledge on your world," Stella asked. Looking despairingly to the large book. It was worn and smelt as if it was centuries old. The pages discolored and filled with dust. "I mean, of course you do. I'm wondering the implications of this action for both of us."
It hadn't been too long, yet Stella felt more aged mentally and physically, while Darkar was exactly the same. Darkar was a handsome man, which she knew cared for her. Stella hadn't been able to feel the same. When there had been the chance, there was a war.
As a nurse, she met her British husband, Bernard Bennett, and married while in France. She assumed that had been an end to the supernatural world, instead a year later he had contacted her.
"Why are you asking me to do this? I deserve an honest answer, since I had to lie to my husband to come see you," she reminded, with more anxiety in her tone than anything else.
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