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He slid his hand behind my head, tilting it back gently as he lifted the glass goblet to my lips. The glistening, red liquid pooled around my clenched mouth, but my lips refuted parting. Fear was causing me to second-guess my decision. What he was about to do would change my life forever, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give up living my normal life within my dark room with my favorite books, and quiet nights in complete solitude. My quaint reading nook next to the fireplace would be abandoned. I’d never be able to return to it. My books would lie collecting dust, just screaming for my hands to fan through the pages and jump into a fantastical land filled with monsters, and scary things lurking in the shadows.
I sorrowfully pushed the goblet away, turning my head in disgust with myself.
“I can’t do it. I’m sorry,” my voice cracked.
He stepped away and in an instant, I felt the familiar cold creep up my spine. I didn’t realize how much heat his body was generating. Feeling his body so close to mine was gradually thawing my skin. It felt nice. I wondered if that was what it felt like to bask in the rays of the sun, warmth seeping into every pore.
I strode toward the window, and drew the curtains back. The moon flooded my room with its soft light, illuminating the man’s appearance even further.
My stomach was acting strange. It did little flips as I gazed at his tall, lean body. His hair was short and wavy making it seem effortlessly scruffy. A few strands protruded out poignantly in ways that looked utterly appealing. His thin lips were curved into a sexy smile, as his eyes flickered in the moonlight. I wanted to go with him. This stranger was so compelling.
“I’ve been watching you, Victoria,” the man’s gravelly voice echoed on her walls, “I watched you leave the safety of your home to sneak into the library for more books. You eat quickly and slither back here to read,” he set the goblet down on the mantle, and picked up a book nearest to the sofa just to fan through the pages.
“Now you sound like a stalker,” I said.
He stifled a laugh, and stretched his arms in the air.
“Well, maybe I am, but I’m one who means no harm. I just can’t stop thinking about you,” he smiled.
I beheld him in shock; my jaw hanging open slightly. No one had ever said such a thing before, at least not outside my books. It was romantic and creepy. I liked creepy. I curiously smiled back at him, and tucked my hair behind my ear, mirroring what I had read before as flirting. It was the only thing I could think of doing. Being alone for so long doesn’t really do much for one’s social character.
“So, does this mean you have real feelings for me?” I implored.
“My feelings for you are as real as the moon lighting up your beautiful face like a gothic portrait in front of me. Victoria, I’ve spent sleepless nights longing to hold you in my arms and stroke your raven hair. I cannot stand having to watch you from afar. It’s torture,” his smile faded and he stepped closer to me again, his hand outstretched for mine.
Involuntarily, my icy hand found its way into his. His warmth soothed me once more. I stepped forward until I could feel his breath on my face. I gazed into his chocolate brown eyes. Suddenly I felt something flutter in my chest. It was quite brief, but it was enough for me to take notice.
“I don’t even know your name.” I breathed.
He beamed, as his fingers gently brushed a strand of hair away from my chin. His fingers lingered just below my lips, as if contemplating whether to kiss them.
“My name is William, and I’ve fallen madly in love with you, Victoria,” his breath sent a wave of heat through me, “I love your eyes as dark as the night sky, and I love how you let your raven hair cascade down your shoulders like a dusky waterfall. If you come with me, I can take you away from this horrible town. The townspeople will be your past, and you can make a future with me in my castle in the capital.”
Again, I felt the quick tremble in my chest.
“Go on,” I begged as I put my other arm around his neck.
“And… I cannot help but want to kiss your glistening black lips,” William pleaded.
I gazed at his thin, hard lips and I wanted to kiss him too.
He pulled me in, as he leaned his head ever closer. His lips were almost connected with mine, when my eyes caught sight of a throbbing vein in his neck. It snapped me out of my love trance. I yanked myself away from him.
“We can’t do this William. It’s too risky,” I clamped my hand over my mouth, turning away from the sweet smell suddenly leaking from every pore of his body.
I was expecting him to say something, or ignore my statements entirely and wrap me in his arms again, but I sensed him move toward the fireplace.
“Victoria, if you drink this, we can be together. No risk involved.” William picked up the goblet of dark red liquid again.
“If I drink it, my life would never be the same. My whole world would be different, I can never return to my home, no more books and midnight trips to the town library, and I won’t be able to enjoy the sweet drinks from the townspeople. I can’t just leave it all behind,” I explained to him.
William cocked his head to the side and smirked.
“There are books in my castle as well, Victoria. Many books that you are welcome to read. But, if it’s this life you want, here in this house near the town, I can stay here with you.”
If he stayed, I knew what would come from it. I would end up hurting him. I couldn’t do that to William. He was too precious. He loved me, even though he knew how much of an oddity I was. He’d risk it all just to make me happy. Why couldn’t I do the same for him?
“I cannot let you do that, William,” I dropped my hand from my mouth.
William’s eyes lit up with hope.
“William, I can’t explain the flipping in my stomach, or the electricity in my body the minute you are near me. I can’t get enough of your short wavy hair and how it makes my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth. I want to feel the unfamiliar fluttering in my chest when I catch sight of your thin, firm lips; and your smile and adoring words mean so much more to me now than all the books in the world. I can’t seem to stop thinking about you now that you’ve entered my empty existence. I love you too, William.”
He stepped forward, the goblet in his hands. I inched closer to him as he brought the goblet back to my black lips. I was just about to open my mouth, when he abruptly pulled the goblet away.
“Are you sure, Victoria?”
I looked into his brown eyes and I suddenly realized I would be lost without seeing them every day for eternity.
“Yes,” I said firmly, as I took the goblet from him.
I opened my mouth revealing my sharp, pointed incisors. I expected William to flinch, but instead he beamed. I recognized the pure joy glinting in his eyes.
I put my mouth around the lip of the cup and I swallowed its contents greedily.
Around me, my environment tilted and turned as if I’d spun my head a dozen times. I reached for William as my vision of him blurred like steam over glass. My chest tightened in a way I’d never felt before. It hurt. It hurt like a stake being driven right into my chest over and over. Suddenly a thought occurred to me. What if this was just a ruse to be rid of me? What if the townspeople set this up to kill me? What if William didn’t love me? I shrieked, and the goblet slipped from my hand and fell to the floor.
NO. William’s love was true. I could feel it. I had to trust him.
My incisors felt peculiar. I reached for my mouth and blood leaked from my lips. The taste was unlike any blood I ever drank. It tasted metallic and fowl instead of sweet and mouthwatering like it usually did on the palate. I spit the vile liquid to the floor. My stomach lurched into my throat. I looked down at the blood on the floor, and there, lying in the pool of red, were my fangs. I panicked. I ran my tongue over my teeth, and where my fangs once were, two normal incisors took their place.
I doubled over in shock, and the pain in my chest was now a methodic thump. I lay on my side crunched in the fetal position. The thumping in my chest was heavy and unfamiliar. Breathing was incredibly difficult. Before, breathing was simple. Sometimes, I didn’t breathe at all. Now, I HAD to breathe. It was like a fire in my chest if I didn’t take slow deep breaths.
William knelt next to me with a concerned look on his face, rubbing my back soothingly.
“Are you okay, Victoria?” he asked.
I sat up sluggishly, clutching my chest in disbelief at the even beats it was making, and the feeling of warmth radiating from my entire body. The chill that had always been with me was finally gone. I smiled. It was unlike anything I ever experienced.
“Yeah, I think so,” I whispered.
William stood and reached down to take my hand in his. His hand was still warm, but now it synced with the warmth in my own hand. He helped me to my feet. I stumbled dizzily, and he caught me in his arms. I looked up at him. His chocolate eyes bore into me like he was staring at something totally alien to him. For a brief moment I felt insecure, but then William’s eyes softened, and he smiled lovingly.
“What’s wrong William? Do I look different?” I asked.
“Actually, you do, but I could get used to it.”
He pulled me toward the full-length mirror in the corner of my room. The dark cloth covering it was full of dust. I hated that mirror. I hated all mirrors. They showed the monster I was. I hated looking at my pale skin, and dark eyes. I hated the fangs that jutted out of my mouth. I was ugly, and so I covered the mirror in a sheet to save myself from the torture.
“Are you ready to see the new you, Victoria?” William beamed.
“As I’ll ever be.”
William yanked the cloth off the mirror and the dust went flying. The moonlight reflecting in the mirror transformed the dust in the air into sparkles around my new visage. I gasped and stumbled back into William. The girl before me was a stranger. Her hair was the color of a sunflower, and it hung down around her shoulders in a golden waterfall. Her eyes were a midnight blue, and her skin was a dewy, light, and creamy. Her cheeks were rosy red, and her lips were flushed pink. I never saw a townsperson like this before. She was so beautiful. That’s when I realized. This person was me.
“William! I’m… I’m human.” I screeched.
I touched my face, my skin, and my hair. Now I could see that it really was me. The same me, but I was alive, and breathing. Abruptly I recognized the thumping in my chest was actually my heart beating full force. I became totally aware of the warmth on my breath, and the coolness of the floor beneath my warm bare feet.
“Yes you are, Victoria. Just like me. You’re alive. You’re human. Now you and I can be together,” William turned me around to face him.
I looked into his brown eyes and I felt belonging in his arms. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him close. I could feel his heartbeat in sync with mine. We could be together. I could go with him, and I could be happy.
“Can I kiss you now?” William pleaded.
I didn’t respond. Instead I pulled his head closer to mine, and placed my lips on his gently at first, and then more deeply. I kissed him hard, and I ran my hands through his short wavy hair. He tasted like sunshine in spring.
His arms wrap tightly around my waist and squeeze me close to him. If I had my way, I could’ve stayed kissing him like that forever, but the burning in my chest reminded me I needed to breath. I let go of his lips and took a deep breath. I looked at William, and in that moment, I knew this was just like a story from one of my books. Except, this story was my own.