I know I am but summer to your heart,
and not the full four seasons of the year.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay
Forgotten Hollow, Vatore residence
The room was filled with friendly banter and laughter, while it hadn’t been the first and certainly wouldn’t be the last gathering of friends here, it still always seemed like an oxymoron considering this place was home to vampires.
Caleb now quietly walked past the couch I was sitting on with his wife Cassandra, where we were being entertained by Blaine’s always interesting storytelling, I looked over at Caleb, who just didn’t seem his usual happy-go-lucky self, instead he was rather quiet. Too quiet for my taste, it was unlike him.
Something was definitely bothering him, but looking around the room, nobody else seemed to have noticed. All were engaged in animated talk, gesturing, none of them even seemed to miss Caleb’s usual remarks.
When I eventually saw him quietly and otherwise unnoticed slip out the door at the back of the room I followed him to the kitchen slash dining room of his home.
“Caleb, is everything all right?”
“Oh, yes, of course, my petal … sorry. Old habits are hard to break.” he looked sad as he recalled one of our conversations about using terms of endearment on me.
I felt guilty, maybe I had been too harsh on him about that, maybe this was just who he was. Although I could not remember one instance I ever heard him call his sister, wife or any other ladies anything cutesy, except maybe Anastasia.
“It’s fine, just Cass and Blaine may not be really amused by it, that’s all.” I told him calmly.
Caleb chuckled, but didn’t respond, instead prepared himself a drink, offering to me as well, which I declined, as I sat down, wondering how to best crack his shell to get to the bottom of his melancholy.
“I am breastfeeding, sweetie, no alcohol for this girl for a while. Are you going to tell me what is going on, or shall I just wait until you had enough of those ‘daddy juices’ as Blaine calls his stiff drinks these days, to loosen your tongue?”
Smiling Caleb shook his head, I was afraid he would still not reply, but he did.
“Alcohol doesn’t have quite the same effect on vampires, at least not to the degree it effects mortals. More the good without much of the bad. No hangovers either, at least I never managed one.”
“Don’t tell Blaine that or he’ll have you turn him in a heartbeat! Joking aside, quit deflecting, I know what you are trying to do and it ain’t working, buddy. Don’t make me go snoop to see if this old shed comes with a secret, hidden torture chamber so I can try it out on you.” I joked, while I watched Caleb down a sizable glass of hard liquor in just a few gulps.
Caleb’s home was supposedly Victorian era and style, but it exuded the feel of being much older, more like built around when dinosaurs still roamed. Okay, slight exaggeration, maybe.
“Care for a walk, Viktoria?” Caleb asked now, his tone serious, no hint of the usual smile.
I didn’t particularly feel inclined to wander around dark Forgotten Hollow, but with Caleb by my side, there would be no safer place plus he may open up one on one, so I agreed.
There weren’t many places to walk to in Forgotten Hollow, so unavoidably we ended up at the cemetery – yeah, how cozy, right? – and immediately I had flashbacks to the dark time in my life when I thought Blaine was dead and buried here. Caleb had been so full of kindness and helpful then, a true rock to me when he didn’t have to be, now I was even more determined to get to the bottom of his sadness.
“Caleb, let’s sit.”
“Isn’t it too chilly for you?”
“I’d sit in a tub of ice water with you to figure out what is wrong and how I can help.”
My reply made him smile, even though there was a sense of melancholy in it.
“How about we go inside? Not heated, but at least shielded.”
“The church? Can you go in those?”
“Yes, vampires can enter churches. Many of us are old and raised rather religious. You do not lose your faith when you get turned, although a lot just adds up even less than before once you are immortal. But fret not, my dear, I won’t fall to dust upon entering a house of the Lord.”
“Well, had you not taken that old vampire secrets book away from me back then, I would probably know that already.”
He laughed, it was a real and honest sound.
Gallantly he gestured towards the church, opened the door for me, we entered and as expected, aside from us it was empty as usual, unless there was a funeral – evidently there was one planned for the next morning judging by the decor, wreaths on the walls. It crept me out, Caleb barely acknowledged it.
“So, what’s been eating you?” I asked without any further ado.
“I learned some news yesterday. They should be happy ones, but alas, as so often in my life of late, what should be a happy milestone in a man’s life, turns out to be only complicated and painful.”
“I have a child, a little infant daughter, I knew nothing of. Now I do and wish I didn’t. She is out of wedlock, you see, a secret. The thing I looked down on Lilith for, I have done the same without knowing it. No, I am guilty of something much worse than my sister. She had a child with a man she thought she loved and who loved her, someone she dated for a while, who unfortunately turned out to be not what she had seen in him. Me, I let a night of lust, debauchery and insolence result in a child, my child, and now that child will live a lie as the daughter of another, who cannot know the truth, must not know the truth, since neither Lilith nor I officially even exist, how could we in a world where my kind is officially but a myth and if any of us tried to prove otherwise, hell would break loose upon us, either we’d be hunted or end up as lab rats. What’s worse, I never cared about the child’s mother and still do not, I cannot even stand her. That makes me terrible by any standards, mortal or immortal.”
“Oh holy shitballs!!”
“You can say that again.”
“Is the little girl … mortal?”
“I do not know, her mother doesn’t know. Part of me hopes she is not, assuming the mother would have to tell the perceived father the truth then and she would be given to me to raise. But if she is mortal, I can only ever see her from a distance, she will never know me. That is a pain I wish not upon my greatest enemy.”
My heart just broke for Caleb, he turned from me, undoubtedly so I would not see him cry. I took his hand and held it for a long time as we sat quietly, as I realized how much I really cared about this man.
“Caleb, does Cassandra know?”
“No! Nobody knows, but you and me now. Not even Blaine and I would ask you to keep our secret just between you and me. If you care about me at all, which I believe you do, you will honor my wish.”
“All right, but if you were to meet the girl, without disclosing who you are, could you figure out if she is human or vampire?”
“Yes, of course.”
“All right. Here’s the plan. We both know you are a grade A stalker if you want to be, so find out where she lives, where they take her, and we will just ‘happen’ to run into them.”
“Viktoria no … too risky …”
“Risky? How? You forget I have a baby too. We’ll be just a husband and wife out with their baby for a stroll. As we see them I will go into mommy-mode and coo over the little baby and you get the chance to check.”
“The mother knows me, Viktoria.”
“But she doesn’t know me, does she? And she got married, why couldn’t you have, assuming you are not besties or something. Who is she anyway?”
“A girl named Holly and no, I haven’t seen her since that fateful night, until of course I ran into her by chance, which is where she told me the news. She is now married some oddball by the ridiculous name Joaquin Le Chien.”
“Oh holy hell Caleb. That makes it really easy. Never heard of the woman, but I do know Joaquin, he is one of Blaine’s … let’s call it ‘admirers’. That dude had been all up in Blaine’s business something fierce! He is still in the closet about being gay, maybe he’s bi, who knows, but sounds like they married each other as beards. But if it’s supposed to be such a secret, why did she tell you at all and not just let sleeping dogs lie? And what if she is lying?”
“Take a guess. Why would a woman tell a man they are the real father of her kid?”
“Oh, gimme a million breaks! You existed enough for her to screw, father a baby and now pay, but you don’t exist enough to meet the baby?! That is a steaming heap of bullcrap! You will not give her one shiny fucking penny without a DNA test!”
Caleb smiled, took my hand in his and breathed a kiss on it, which didn’t bother me this time.
“My sweet, there are no DNA tests for vampires, but if I get close enough to the little girl, I will be able to tell. I do have to say, I really can see why Blaine would walk through hell and high waters to get back home to you. Any man can only dream to have a woman who cares as deeply, and who fights so fiercely. I consider myself very lucky to count among those who made your list of friends, my treacle.”
“Well, you’re covered then, you have three such women, your sister, your wife and me caring about you.”
The look he gave me was odd, it never occurred to me then what he was really thinking. Not then at least, not until many weeks later. I was too busy mentally putting on my suit of amour to go into battle for this hapless chap so badly wronged and also rolling around in him calling me ‘fierce’. And also, a-ha! Take that all those who call me subservient and boring. This man recognized. Yes, yes. Fierce he said. Just wanted to point that out.
I’ll sum the next part up for you. Caleb got to meet the baby, she was his and also mortal. The mother of the baby was rude towards Caleb and me, told him coolly this would be the first and only time to ever see the child, then suddenly her husband came home, so we all played our parts instead of fighting about it. There was no use, no way to fight it legally. I took Caleb back to my home, trying to be encouraging, come up with ideas how to maybe swing her vote in his favor, but he just shook his head.
“She would have every right to be cruel to me. I was cruel to her. She was falling in love with me, all I wanted was sex, so I told her lies until she put out. I broke her heart when I told her afterwards thanks and farewell, for I loved another, blocked her number and never saw her again. I am ashamed of my actions now, but felt fine about it then.”
“Oh! Yikes, who could have guessed you had so much douche-bag potential in ya? Yuck. So you had already met Cassandra then? But wait, why did you sleep with Holly then and .. no, wait again, that Math doesn’t add up at all ….”
“Let it go, Vik. It was long before I ever met Cassandra and not her I was referring to and no, I will speak no more to that matter, so do not even try. I like to think a Grand Master vampire is able to keep some secrets, even from you, my rose.”
“Really? You cut me out of the most juicy part of the story? Can I at least get a hint who that mystery woman is?”
Annotation by nowadays me: yes, I really was that naive and no, I wasn’t playing coy. I know you all got the memo a long time ago, I had not. Looking back, I realize how dumb I must seem now. Pitiful.
“No, my petal, no hints. They won’t do any good, believe you me.”
“Caleb, I just got to thinking. If you do not exist and cannot officially have children with anyone, how exactly are you married?”
Caleb’s smirk turned bitter.
“To you mortals we are not. The ceremony was a vampire one, so among my kind Cassandra very much is my wife. To your kind Cassandra is basically still single. If she and I were to have a child, the father would be listed as ‘unknown’ and should the child turn out to be vampire, it would go on the books as deceased. Were I to turn Cass – which I won’t ever do – she would seize to exist. Part of the transformation has the host body die. Her parents would see her dead, bury her, and she would eventually come back to life, unofficially. But again, that will never ever happen.”
“Oh dear heavens! This entire vampire thing sounds even more complicated than I thought. My brain is already smoking with what little you have told me so far. Also, you are one complicated man, Mr. Vatore. Jeeze! No wonder you and Blaine get along so well.”
“Ironic, isn’t it my petal, that you and I are such close friends also then, huh?” he smirked and winked.
“Hey, no need to attest me insanity and weirdness, I am well aware of all my shortcomings, Caleb.”
“If you ask me – or Blaine – we would attest you nothing but perfection.”
“Now you are really laying it on thick, dude. That lie is big enough to get up and walk out the door by itself. Joking aside, how about some coffee? Blaine should be home soon and he will know how to cheer you up. He’s been writing this insanely silly song for Anya, it’s hilarious.”
“I’ll hang, but I’d prefer something stronger than coffee if you have it.”
“One daddy juice for Mr. Vatore coming up.” I slightly bowed then got to work behind the bar, trying to remember all Blaine had taught me.
Caleb just sat there and smiled.