Keeping secrets came easy to Charlotte, Caleb, and her pregnancy. Despite her petite frame, she did not look pregnant, so her brother remained none the wiser. Patrick acknowledged her increased appetite, teasing her over the weight gain. He leaned back in the chair, patting his stomach, accepting he was soft in the middle. Unlike his sisters, Patrick did not conform to conventional exercise. He liked the graft, shovel in hand, lifting bags of compost and all were rewarded with good food. Charlotte cringed through another mouthful wondering if Caleb would find her attractive. This hunger started early in the second trimester. The first, plagued by nausea, meant she ate little. Charlotte lied, blaming Patrick’s terrible cooking. It would be something to miss when she became a vampire. Caleb tolerated some food in front of her family, although it caused him discomfort.
Caleb grew distant with each passing day. He feared Vlad and what her brother would do when he discovered the truth. The lack of empathy and support took its toll as her fate revealed what was to come. Caleb, already of pale complexion, turned whiter still at the baby scan. Two tiny bodies nestled, one pushed high in her abdomen, the other playing kickball with her spine. Charlotte turned her face from the image, his hand had loosened its grip on hers, and a pained look filled his eyes. Both wanted the selfish route to keep their offspring. Caleb thought aloud, hoping they could pretend they were raising vampires. and turn them at eighteen. The notion dismissed, Vlad was not so naïve, and they would be unable to hide for long.
She returned from school finding a beautiful, hand-crafted bassinet. Above was a bat mobile, a nod to their ancestry. Charlotte ran her hand across the cream silk. The cushioning beneath would be perfect for their little one. What confused her was why they were here. Her heart squeezed; this was Caleb’s goodbye, his effort to do right by her and the vampire laws were at odds. He needed to let her go. She sank backwards, the weight in her body unbearable. She loved the world growing inside her, but they meant nothing without Caleb. Her hand shook with the note. Thick paper, calligraphy, she was not lost, sitting alone in her room. He wrote of heartbreak, speaking as though she had died. Charlotte knew he loved her, wanted her, the mark on her neck seared hot whenever he was near. The paper crumpled in her tight fist, he may have surrendered to the out-dated rules, but she was a fighter.
In San Myshuno, Vicky often called upon her nieces and nephews. The city invited exploration of edible delights, buskers and flea markets. Charlotte tended to avoid these over the past few months; as her stomach began to protrude. Patrick had grown suspicious that food was only part of the reason. She maintained her silence, as did Caleb. Her lover’s increased absence from her life pained her, and she needed to talk with someone. Milly interrupted as Charlotte opened her mouth. From the playground, half a dozen teens cheered as another basketball missed the net. Vicky rested a hand on Charlotte’s shoulder; inviting her home with them that evening. Charlotte stroked her bump; Vicky sighed, understanding without the need for words. She pulled her into a gentle embrace; Charlotte shook as she tried to hold back her tears.
Eliza joined the group kicking up the competition. Vicky wanted to break up the group, while the cousins were together and old enough to travel alone, Milly was not. The youngest clenched her fists, they had been there an hour, and were eager to see a busker. Eliza sided with Milly, agreeing to let her stay in the city. Although the apartment was small, they had sleeping bags and Eliza hung sheets as a make-shift tent. There was a concerned look as Eliza watched Vicky lead Charlotte away from the group. As the eldest sister, Eliza hoped Charlotte would confide in her. Their conversations had centred on Caleb, her love and hopes for the future. In the last eight months, this had waned. Charlotte spoke in mono sentences or passed the phone to Patrick. Eliza suggested Vicky. Their Aunt had supported Eliza; even with Ziva gone, Vicky continued to check up on her.
Charlotte stayed quiet on the train staring at the changing scenery. It seemed odd for a shipping town to not share a direct link to the city; they were neighbours. The dividing hills were an inconvenience for trains. She imagined what it would be like to dig through. Would she feel free or triumphant reaching the other side? As they passed through Evergreen Harbour, her stomach squeezed. The feeling passed quick, the pained response got her an unwelcome audience. Vicky reached for her hand, dismissing the passengers’ concerns. To entertain Milly, Vicky had learnt to preoccupy the child’s imaginations. She loved to create stories for the passengers. Charlotte wanted to humour Vicky, but something pulled her back to the smoggy view.