Charlotte settled in Milly’s room, the single bed emphasising the loneliness she felt. She refused to see Eliza and Patrick, fearing judgement. Vicky offered reassurances, leaving a small suitcase in the room. Charlotte’s refusal to speak meant they left without answers. Her mind raced; they would fail to understand the truth, the weight of secrecy her relationship with Caleb brought. Patrick had recoiled at the cold touch of Caleb’s handshake, her mother referenced his sense of style, and Eliza suggested he should get out in the sun. In isolation, these were simple observations, meaningless; together, they revealed his occult status. Vampires were private; the temptation when living amongst the humans was like trying to be on hunger strike at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Caleb described how each human had a unique smell, their pheromones. He found hers enticing, the kind where he was unsure if she was food or his lover. Charlotte had felt jealous when he admitted this was how he chose his partners. As if the female of the species was not enough for her to contend with, Caleb enjoyed many male companions. If he was honest, gender identity played no part in his desire, letting his animal instincts lead him.
Vicky knitted her brow; the darker side of Charlotte’s lover concerned her. The description, what Charlotte chose to imply, led Vicky to believe this man wanted the fantasy life. His avoidance of Charlotte in the latter stages of her pregnancy, the vampire analogy, was merely an excuse to avoid responsibility. In schools, occult history was glossed over, with references to them confined to literature. Newspapers had tiny sections poking fun at people who claimed Vampires invaded their homes. Others suggested Spellcasters made them ill or stole from them, usually when their partner. There were sightings of Mermaids in Tartosa, Sulani, and Fisherman, claiming their song made the storms or lured others to their death. Whatever the reality, Charlotte embraced hers, at least for the moment.
The future seemed unbearable, at least in the uncertainty of what would become of her relationship with Caleb. Staying in Brindleton Bay would need to be temporary, her niece grumbled, wondering when she could have her bed back. Vicky kept quiet, but Charlotte overheard her complaining on the phone as Milly slept restless, kicking her. Beyond her vampire dreams, Charlotte had given nothing else much thought. Being told that having children so young would not get in the way of her future was little comfort. She could feel the strain; her stomach tightened through another contraction. Shaking her head, Charlotte believed she was about to lose everything. Nothing prepared an adult for the trials of parenthood, and she was still a child herself. How could she be a mother?
Charlotte pushed Vicky away; the doctor gave a sympathetic look, and the onlookers whispered, thinking it shameful someone so young was pregnant. Vicky sat reluctant, waiting for Caleb to arrive. She could hear Charlotte calling for him as they rushed her into the delivering room. Caleb paced outside the hospital, wrestling with his bloodlust. Over the centuries, he had learned to control it; hospitals were places he knew to avoid, everything centred on blood. Caleb licked his lips, his inner demon flickered behind his eyes, and he took off into the night.
Caleb had agreed to let her use his name, and since Grace was her grandmother’s name, they sounded beautiful together. Charlotte’s face tensed, shuffling back as the nurse handed the first twin. Vicky intervened, comforting the crying child, opening her arms to take the second. A whispered sob escaped Charlotte, almost unwilling to name her daughters. Charlotte continued to sob; with Caleb’s absence, she wondered what life she could offer Daciana and Luliana Vatore-Grace.