Milly: The Next Level

Milly’s phone buzzed with Hunter’s messages. He would call over before work, inviting her for coffee and pastries. She would pick at the flaky textures, listening to him. Hunter worked at Newcrest bowling alley maintaining the machines. This was temporary until Sim Nation woke up to his musical and comedic talent. His main reason for working there was as captain of the reigning team, “Split Happens”. The butterflies in her stomach when she was close to him made it hard to eat. He had a firm disappointed tone at the mess created. But how could she eat? They had not kissed since the sofa, and she could not think of anything else. Milly would watch how his lips moved, craving their touch. She needed those arms around her and was too afraid to ask. Everything became jumbled in her mind and she was too distracted for work.

For Eliza, her career reached its pinnacle. As an all-star player, she had seen her team through to the semi-finals of the Sim Nation Cup. A win against Del Sol Valley at the weekend would put them in the final. That, win or lose, would be the perfect end to her sporting career. Her focus, in recent years, changed to settling down and raising a family with Scarlett. They were not at that stage. Eliza was building the courage to take their relationship to co-habiting status. Scarlett spent their time in the apartment, sleeping over for days. Their stuff appeared in the bathroom, and in Eliza’s bedroom, they had a drawer. Milly and Eliza were passing ships, neither spending more than five minutes together.

Hunter swung by her work on the Saturday lunch. He confiscated her plain cheese sandwich and tossed it in the bin. Instead, he laid out Samosa he brought in the Spice District. Her colleagues looked over, jealous of the triangular pastries. The spicy aromatic smell, the crack as she bit into one. It was the perfect blend of vegetables and potatoes. Hunter leaned back in the chair, watching her devour all three. Her supervisor summoned her; Hunter stepped into Milly’s path, kissing her cheek. A trail of them led to her lips. The supervisor cleared their throat as Milly looped her arms around Hunter. She was happy to annoy anyone if she got her second kiss.

The same evening Hunter arrived as promised. Their first official date required a train ride to Brindleton Bay. Milly had not seen her hometown since her mother died, and nothing appeared to have changed. Hunter watched Milly recount memories. The art gallery had the same display Vicky had shown her years before. Other people gathered, asking their questions under the assumption she worked there. Milly felt obliged to answer, but Hunter stepped in, dismissing them. He held her hand as she remained quiet at his side.

At the door, Hunter’s kisses were different. His tongue pushed her lips apart and caressed hers. In a surprise, Milly stepped back, pressing herself against the wall. He had years of experience, relationships he mentioned in passing. Everything she knew of romance came from books, magazines, and the people around her. Hunter kissed her hand, knowing what he wanted, the future he saw for them. He closed the gap, taking the apartment keys. Her hand trembled in his, the excitement building through her body. Milly hesitated at the giggling coming from Eliza’s bedroom. Part of her felt she should ask if Hunter could stay the night, but he had already made himself comfy on her bed.

Milly and Hunter pose

Milly: Second Chance

In the months following her failed first kiss, Milly threw herself into work. The Arts Centre demanded perfection from the creators it employed. The majority of her work included showing patrons around the gallery. She spoke about the art, bringing energy and enthusiasm. Unlike her peers, Milly wanted to learn what inspired such works. Showing a painting of eggs and bacon needed context for those ignorant of the artist in question. Her mother had starved for her art, so Milly could see the hunger this painter poured into each stroke. Viewers raised an eyebrow, questioning why they choose this frivolous and unstable career. Milly knew she would speak out of turn, but why would someone live unfulfilled? A stable job puts food on the table and keeps a roof, but where is the passion? There were grumbles and a disapproving look from her supervisor. Art was an expression of self, a reflection of human emotion. Milly wanted everyone to feel this for themselves.

Passing Hunter in the hall or waiting for the lift, Milly kept her head down. Scarlett spent more time with Eliza, so Milly was grateful to have company on her way to work. Hunter had attempted conversation, but her voice caught in her throat. She dropped her head as memories of her birthday flooded her mind. Having Scarlett there meant he would speak with her instead. Milly refused to tell Eliza and Scarlett what happened between her and Hunter. Knowing Eliza disliked Hunter made telling the truth harder. Eliza never outright said it, but both she and Scarlett felt he was not a good person.

Milly wanted to take back her actions, to have a second chance with Hunter. The opportunity presented itself in the form of a text. Eliza and Scarlett were going to the Romance Festival, which meant they would be home late. Hunter knocked on the door, greeting her with a thin smile, bearing no teeth. Milly stammered, hesitating to invite him in. He reclined on the sofa; at home in the apartment. Milly’s throat tightened as Hunter patted the space beside him.

She sat on the edge, inches from him, legs squeezed together and playing with her fingers. The silence felt unbearable; the voices from the street below were fleeting. His eyes drifted over her frame, lingering on her lips, breast, and thighs. Milly flinched as he reached for her hand, followed by an immediate apology. She stood breathless, a rambling continuation of how foolish she had been. Hunter took her hand, bringing her back to the sofa. He turned her face, and his lips to grazed hers. His tongue teased the inner rim, retracting and pressing his lips to hers. Each kiss was soft, a whisper of what he intended. Milly loosened her jaw, relaxing into the kiss as his tongue pressed deeper into her mouth.

Milly and Hunter poses

Milly: First Kiss

Eliza filled the fridge with treats; Scarlett’s cooking made the apartment smell delicious. It brought a host of neighbours knocking on their door. Eliza had hoped to keep this as a family event since Charlotte and Caleb wanted to be present for Milly’s big day. Eliza wondered how time had disappeared. It seemed not too long ago she was moving in, and life was changing for them both. Scarlett almost dropped the stew as Milly ran into the kitchen, screaming. Vicky’s presence in the art community had a positive influence on Milly. She applied and accepted a position with San Myshuno Art Gallery as an apprentice Artist. Milly hesitated, feeling coy, a realisation, she had not checked with Eliza. She assumed she could remain living with her until she got a proper position. Eliza teased, but this place was her home too.

Well-wishers and two hungry children saw the prepared food devoured. Eliza was too slow to stop them from indulging in the birthday cake. She busied herself in the kitchen with a second, leaving Scarlett to play host, topping up the drinks. Milly had found a distraction in the form of Hunter. His jade-green eyes focused on her. A gentle touch of her chin or cheek if she looked down or away from him. Milly spoke of her excitement, about staying in the city to create art. Her dream is to own a gallery to showcase her work. She also hoped to teach the next generation, as her mother taught her.

Interrupting Milly and Hunter was difficult. There were candles to blow, and the twins had already sung happy birthday until they were hoarse. The latter, Eliza believed, was an excuse to indulge in more of the alcohol-free punch. Full of sugar, Patrick hoped the girls would fall asleep in the apartment. He begged Eliza to keep them so he and Leticia could sneak off until the morning. Eliza had an uneasy feeling watching Hunter. He had ignored Milly, at times dismissive of her presence. On her eighteenth birthday, Milly appeared not to notice his sudden change. She felt heated under his gaze, her finger touched his arm when they spoke, and he did not reject. Eliza cleared her throat louder, glaring at Milly. As they headed to the kitchen, Hunter took Milly’s hand, pulling her closer to him. Butterflies danced in her stomach, and eager not to miss the chance, Milly decided to make her move. She wet her lip, her mouth feeling dry. Standing on tiptoes, Milly pressed her lips to Hunters. They were thin and unresponsive as he took a surprising side step. Milly lost her balance, toppling to the sofa. Her cheeks burned, unable to meet his gaze. With a foolish notion and a messy first kiss, Milly was no longer in the birthday mood. Hunter did not say anything. As she cut the cake, he made his exit.

Milly wished the world could swallow her; eyes stung, she ran into her bedroom as the guests departed. Burying herself into the lavender-scented covers, Milly sobbed. Eliza began using the scent when Milly first moved to the city. The sweet floral helped soothe her, lull her into slumber. She hugged the pillow hoping it would offer comfort in her embarrassment. How could she be so foolish? Hunter had shown interest, curious about her future. The magazine she read told her signs to look for in a man. Milly had been stupid, making a mental note and seeing them where there was nothing to find. How could she remain in the apartment, knowing he lived across the hall? She would never be able to show her face again.

Hunter and Milly picture

Charlotte: Lucky Ones

There was a time Charlotte, blinded by love, saw Caleb as the future and nothing more. Despite the pleasures she discovered within Caleb’s arms, Charlotte grew restless. Caleb’s protective nature bound her to their home. Her nights were training with Lilith or socialising with other vampires. It surprised her, she preferred comforting Cornelius’s bad dreams. She yawned her way through the days, unable to sleep. As her eyes closed in the dawning hours, Charlotte thought of the life before. Memories of her mother, how disappointed she would be with the choices. Scenarios where her daughters accepted her and became a part of her life; shattered. The harshness of the truth that Charlotte abandoned them; behaved selfish and irrational. A bitterness dwelled in her, and their rejection was her punishment. These thoughts denied her sleep and made her toss in the bed beside Caleb.

The walls were cold and dank, the same as they had been since she awoke to her new life. Aside from a few chaperoned trips to Windenberg, Charlotte spent all her time at home. Caleb would hunt when the temptation to feed became too much. Her blood had awoken his thirst, so reigning it in had proved difficult. It angered her; in their years together, Caleb still did not trust she could control her desires. Yet it was he who struggled to stop the urges. Lilith had escorted him home after he made a nuisance of himself in a quest for blood.

Lilith arranged a safe passage for Cornelius to attend daycare in Windenberg. At least he could enjoy a humanised existence until his twelfth birthday. Charlotte hated the quiet following his absence. These daylight hours were for sleeping when their power was weakest. Charlotte longed for the stories with Cornelius. The noise and energy his presence brought drowned her negative thoughts. Caleb and Auntie Lilith, bored of his tales from the nursery, his favourite about a frog. Hidden in another toddler’s lunchbox was a striped leaf frog; it had sat patient and silent. Ms Sole, the nursery teacher, screamed, climbing onto a chair as the frog leapt towards her desk. The children howled, clutching their sides, amused by the reaction. Cornelius wanted to take a frog in for show and tell, but letters sent to the parents ensured this could not happen.

Her engagement with Cornelius gave Caleb hope. He wanted to further their discussion of expanding the Vampire brood. Cornelius had been a happy accident, but he grew too fast for Caleb’s liking. Charlotte distanced herself from these conversations, knowing she could never love Cornelius. That was not quite the truth; on some level, there was love, but to Charlotte, it seemed insufficient. Her mother built a life around her children. It broke Emilie’s heart when Eliza vanished, and somehow she held the family together. Every day, Charlotte’s silent heart ached for the girls she abandoned. There were apologies and grief, and nothing more she could do.

Caleb’s desire for a family came from missing his sister and settling with his vampire bride. This stone building was an impermanence as his dreams stretched further. He planned to knock it down and build a mansion to rival Vlads. The future he saw for them involved many more vampire offspring. Lilith, despite their differences, was his sister, and Charlotte had two siblings. Another child would mean Cornelius would learn and train with them rather than be alone. There were few vampire families, and magic that enabled them to get pregnant was not an exact science. Their bodies were, in essence, dead. The baby, their developing heart, had to circulate the blood and extract the nutrients. It is why many reproduced with humans, and they would watch from afar. Caleb reminded Charlotte, his hand resting on her stomach; they were lucky.

Daciana: Fragmented World

Daciana perched on the bed. The mattress had through the years become worn and lumpy. It offered a strange degree of comfort as though used to moulding itself to a child’s form. She flicked through her homework book wishing to appear studious. The information remained on the page as her troubled thoughts refused to budge. Patrick had chicken sizzling on the barbecue, the sweet stick sauce should entice her. She saw how other children were around delicious foods, salivating and hungry. Leticia taught Luliana how to chop vegetables. Daciana smirked, knowing Luliana would eat half before dinner. Patrick hollered, calling her down, but she sat, unable to find the will to move. The stairs creaked. Daciana searched the bed for her pencil.

He perched beside her, surprised at the sudden desire to complete her homework. The girls seemed excited, eager to get into the woods, so why the change? Patrick wondered if not seeing a bear or encountering wolves disappointed her? Daciana shrugged, shuffling away from him. The boring option awaited her downstairs, bland food was the doctor’s orders. It made a difference but Daciana’s stomach lurched at the idea of food. She did not want to face another meal or those nutrition shakes.

Patrick moved closer wrapping an arm around her. Daciana’s shoulders twitched until freed. The reluctance to open up to him hurt. She had been closing herself off since they met Charlotte. Their mother insisted on wanting to be a part of their lives. Luliana made herself clear, Patrick and now Leticia were her parents. The younger sister believed she spoke for them both, and Daciana had yet to speak up about her feelings. The idea Daciana wanted to know Charlotte and Caleb gnawed at him. He wondered if she feared upsetting him, that he might reject her if she got too close.

Silence. Patrick sighed, asking her to at least join them for dinner. Daciana turned the page, pretending to focus on the equations. The tears stung her eyes. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, Patrick was right. Except it was her parents she feared would reject her. The pencil flexed in her fingers as she held back tears. It snapped, and the crack jolted her; Daciana threw her head into the pillow burying into its musty smell. Why would no one explain why her parents chose to leave her and play happy families with a new baby. What was wrong with her? She hated Cornelius. She hated her parents. She resented her sister being happy as they were. The ability to eat food without intense pain. Daciana’s fists clench the pillow, suppressing her screams. She hated her life.

Patrick: Deeper into the Woods

Patrick arranged with the Ranger for the twins to attend a survival workshop. They would learn about insects, trees, plants, and fish discovered in the lake. Luliana hugged Daciana, ready to absorb the knowledge on offer. She wanted to be a part of the project. It was a chance to inspire the next generation to preserve this beautiful woodland. Daciana seemed unenthused by their fun-packed day, shrugging her sister away. With arms folded, Daciana remained quiet when asked what was wrong.

The moodiness had begun the previous night when Leticia offered to read to her. Daciana sat unresponsive as Leticia added flourishes to the story. Downstairs she could hear Patrick and Luliana washing up. Amongst the clanging of pots, Patrick splashed and threatened to tickle her. Luliana squealed and giggled, calling him ‘daddy’. A reminder of how perfect the younger twin believed their family was. Except it wasn’t. Leticia was a good woman, and Patrick lit up whenever she entered the room. For a moment, Daciana forgot the reality, embracing Leticia into their lives. Yet, the memory of Caleb cooing over Cornelius made her want to scream. All she and Luliana knew of their life was a lie. Daciana could no longer accept the world presented.

Leaving the girls behind, Leticia and Patrick headed deeper into the forest. Due to the lack of rainfall, the ground crunched and rustled beneath their feet. The chilled air made misty breath, and Leticia clung tighter to Patrick for warmth. In Luliana’s storybooks, Patrick wondered if there might be some truth. He had not seen anything on the map pin on the campsite board, and the Ranger gave him a vague answer. They trudged through the thicket, brambles clinging and snagging their clothes. A babbling brook tempted them, fish were easy to attract, and he knew they were close. He risked his hands, pulling back a cluster of brambles, revealing an archway. Branches, woven together, created a snicket into the darkened overgrowth. Leticia hesitated, shuddering at the thought of the spiders or biting insects. Patrick held her hand, keeping her close. His phone provided restricted light, as though the blackness were thick treacle. The brambles drooped behind, sealing them in.

At the far end, lights flickered, and a fresh autumn breeze filled their nostrils. Patrick braced himself for the stabbing pain as he cleared their path. Instead, these were vines, flowing over his jacket, inviting them into the sun. Luliana’s books did not prepare either for the sight. The breeze danced through the trees, bushes and flowers. Along with water; it sounded musical. Leticia believed she could hear singing. Things around them appeared clearer and sparkled. The stories claimed this was the fairies keeping this world alive. An area which broke away from the Magic Realm and hid from those looking to steal its secrets.

The woodland had given way to a clearing edged by jagged rocks on one side. Waterfalls carved their path into deep pools, a rippling glass into another world. A solitary house sat idling with planters and boxes filled with temptation. Leticia peered in through the window and queried through an open door. The home had a lived-in feel, centuries of solitude and memories of a bygone era. She backed away from the door, recalling other stories. People, lured in by the comforts of home, then baked in an oven at one hundred and fifty degrees. Their muscular flesh was seasoned and seared on all sides. Hunters discovered casserole dished with a mouth-watering stock, garlic and herbs. Fleshy temptation of the worst kind, all baked for six hours. The meat fell away from the bone of the person they had searched for, the realisation driving them mad.

Leticia hurried towards Patrick as he considered the unusual plants. She tugged at his jacket, her eyes darting across to the trees. He laughed off her concerns, deciding he should curb her television viewing to a PG level. Pocketing his cuttings, he agreed to return. The sun was setting, and the girls would be home with hundreds of stories to share.

Daciana: Fish of the Lake

Nothing said adventure like French Toast with lashings of maple syrup. Patrick threw on a few strips of bacon for good measure. The girls eyed their plates, waiting for everyone to sit. As they took that first bite, they hummed with delight. The crisp outer layer of the eggy bread followed by the sweet and salty hit. Patrick tapped his glass, drawing attention. When the holiday was over, Leticia would be moving in with them. The girl’s eyes turn from dad to her, the woman who was happy for them to call her mum. Leticia squealed, jumped up and knocked her orange juice. She did not stop, throwing her arms around Leticia. Daciana grinned, following her sister’s example with less chaos. Patrick felt somewhat left out, and with another bite, he joined them. His chest pressed to the back of Leticia’s chair, and with arms stretched wide, he embraced his girls.

Patrick had a magic vision of their holiday, a view shared by Leticia. To the outside world, they looked normal. Mum, Dad and their two curious daughters. The twins pointed, questioning and giggling as they strolled along the pine trails. The initial excitement of embracing Leticia into their family unit waned in Daciana. She hugged herself again the autumn breeze. In the days following Spooky Day, Daciana had grown quiet and distant. For Luliana, it appeared nothing had changed. She continue with life, calling Patrick “dad” and fantasising about him marrying Leticia. Daciana felt an increased sense of isolation. She saw how Caleb doted on Cornelius; he smiled as the giggling toddler played with his food. Charlotte seemed hesitant to make conversation. What she said lacked the interest and affection Leticia’s voice conveyed. Daciana wondered why the coldness which infused the air had begun growing within her. These thoughts weighed heavy on her mind as they approached the lake.

Daciana lifted her eyes skyward. There were rumours, fairy tales and legends of a great battle. A large chunk of land ripped away in a time when magic existed in their world. The rough surface of the cliff overlooking the lake stood as a testament to this story. Over the years, trees covered the rugged and desolate land. A place that once housed a thriving spellcaster community. Daciana rolled her eyes as Luliana swooned, drawn in by these stories. “Where water falls over the earth’s edge, a doorway will open and lead the seeker to a magical realm”. Daciana stuck a finger in her mouth, pretending to vomit. She hated the romanticised views, and her sister was full of them. Luliana ignored her, continuing to share the prophecy. “In the bygone era of the fae creatures, people believed a human and a fae would reunite the worlds”. It was this trope Daciana hated; she wanted to be old enough to watch movies about the war itself. Still, she had to admire Granite Falls; it held an eeriness, an odd silence which caught her by surprise. The uneven land and the tunnel carved into the jagged rocks to make the forest accessible. Her lips curled, shying away from a full smile; Daciana thought, there was truth in the stories.

Leticia and Luliana sat on the damp grass. They watched as Patrick demonstrated his limited fishing skills to Daciana. She held the grip firm, flinging it back and forth to find the rhythm. Patrick handed her the reel; it clipped to the rod with a satisfactory click-clack. Daciana gave a momentary grin. Patrick caught her, and it spurred him on. His enthusiasm was infectious; Leticia almost wished they had a spare rod. Their catch was small fry, not worth the effort and patience they were giving. Patrick wound the last of his catch, releasing the palm-sized fish back into the lake. Daciana squealed, her rod tugged hard. Patrick clasped the grip, knocking her aside as the reel spun. Daciana grabbed Patrick’s jacket, shouting as the fish wrestled against the line. The scales shimmered in the midday sun. Its tail flickered. Eight inches of determined fish hung on Daciana’s rod. Patrick hugged her, apologising for his rough manor. He would, of course, make it up to her by barbecuing the fish for her supper.

Patrick: Into The Woods

Finding someone who could share his love of travel and his love for his daughters was a tall order. Women, Patrick, believed preferred one or the other. His experience extended to his mother, sisters and the few dates he had enjoyed. Leticia encompassed both. She adored the girls; they bonded through movies and playing with toys. It surprised Leticia, as she had never wanted children of her own. What was missing from this perfect family unit was the adventure. Patrick regaled tales of bears in the forest and fishing for dinner. Luliana preferred the idea it was a teddy bear’s picnic. A bear with large foreboding teeth, growling outside her tent kept her awake at night.

Leticia and Patrick

In the wake of his mother’s death, Patrick imagined exploring the Granite Fall trails. He would discover insects, explore hidden groves and connect with the natural world. Putting his dreams on hold for the girls was worth all the tantrums for the moment they called him dad. The joy when they said it in front of their biological parents was incomparable. Leticia was unsure and awkward when Luliana asked if they could call her mum. While it was clear Patrick loved her, a discussion of their future, the next step, had yet to occur.

The cutlery clattered as they shared concerns about their trip. A chorus of “are we there yet?” gave Patrick a headache on train trips into the city. He regretted his decision to hire a car, but he hoped the girls would enjoy playing their favourite tunes. Leticia was unsure how many repeats of “Kinzakura no Chigiri” she would tolerate. Neither option was preferable as the conversation fell awkward. Patrick cleared his throat, laying a palm-sized box on the table. His breath held as she flipped open the lid. The bronze keys were an invitation for her to move in with him. Leticia’s silence made him panic; was it too soon or was she unsure of daily family life? His other thought had been a proposal, and looking at Leticia, marriage was a definite desire. He watched her fingers caress the keys. Leticia rested a hand on Patrick’s, accepting this should also mean the girls get their wish.

Daciana, Luliana, Patrick and Leticia

Patrick and Leticia stole glances as they loaded the car. They agreed to wait until the cabin before sharing their news. Daciana pulled Luliana’s coat tight; neither was keen on the chilling weather. Patrick knew it would be late when they arrived. Had he not emphasised the importance of school to Daciana, they would have taken a vacation day. Instead, he scheduled a stop in Evergreen harbour for dinner. He had stopped at the bar, enjoying an awkward meal alone. The food had been reasonable and he doubted much had changed. After the girl dozed in the back as they bumped over the unmarked roads towards Glimmerbrook. From here the light faded, Leticia kept him awake as they made the final drop into Granite Falls.

It was, as Patrick predicted, dark when they arrived. They walk with a flickering touch towards a log cabin shrouded in darkness. He teased the girls they would need to sleep on the ground. A lack of light would make it difficult to erect the tents. Daciana grumbled, kicking the fallen leaves and pinecones. Her sister lagged behind, whimpering at the thought a bear would carry her off in the night. Her sister poked her plump stomach, still full from the fish and chip supper. It was a reminder how Luliana would make a delicious meal for a hungry bear, get them through the winter. The girls were not much different in size; despite Daciana’s poor health, she was not skinny. Patrick laughed, patting his stomach; if the bears were looking for a meal, they would choose him. There would be plenty of fat to keep them warm. Daciana grinned, their laughter falling silent as they heard a twig snap.

Leticia cleared her throat, unlocking the cabin door and throwing on the lights. The girls stared at Patrick. Visions of canvas tents ripped open or blown into the river and swept down steam vanished. They raced into the cabin, embracing it’s warmth. Patrick wrapped his arms around Leticia, snuzzling her neck. He wondered if she was certain this was the life she wanted? Upstairs the twins argued over beds and using the bathroom. Leticia leaned into his affection; this place, him and the girls, it was home. They were, as they should be, a family.

Charlotte: Spooky Day

Cornelius, A full-blooded baby with a taste for blood. He nipped Caleb’s fingers, growling like a puppy. He would giggle, refusing to let go as Caleb cringed, dreading the day his vampire’s teeth came through. Unlike his adult parents, Cornelius had a beating heart, common in born vampires. The natural blood flow helped them develop like human children. Caleb loved the opportunity to cook. The house was filled with smells to make mouths water and stomachs rumble. The plasma fruit enabled Cornelius to adjust over the years. He would control his yearning and become stronger than his parents.

Cornelius and Caleb

Charlotte needed to steady her nerves. Patrick agreed to bring the girls to visit on Halloween. Her hands shook as she poured the bag of sweets into the orange plastic bowl, letting them spill on the floor. The knot tightened in her stomach; Charlotte had not seen the girls since she left. Patrick refused to share photos, saying they should decide what Charlotte could know. She crushed the bag in her fists, suppressing the cry.

Caleb seasoned the turkey, watching and wary of asking how she was. It was going to be a difficult day for everyone. Bringing her family, a group of humans Caleb was unsure he could keep the secret, made him nervous. Vlad was looking for reasons to take Charlotte from him, and bury them both in the graveyard. What would become of Cornelius? Vlad never objected to vampire children, he welcomed the purity. The issue Caleb could see was Cornelius was not of his blood. Would Vlad slay or bury him after reaching puberty when the changes began? Caleb wrestled with his loyalty to his sire and the vampire he created. The ministry of magic had blessed them, and for now, they were safe. Charlotte kept pushing the boundaries of Vlads house rules. Caleb rubbed his neck, and his adam’s apple bobbed in his throat, when would they reach the end of Vlad’s tolerance?

Eliza arrived first, a cautious Milly behind, taking tentative steps into the house. Milly felt the chills of Forgotten Hollow, and the dark, dank rooms did nothing to dispel her fears. A giggle of excited girls followed behind. Patrick came armed with a casserole, unsure what Caleb would offer them. He had strange visions of blood bubbling or sliced open for any visiting vampires. Shallow cuts allow the blood to ooze. Caleb placed a steaming bowl of roast potatoes on the counter. Eliza took a deep breath, making the first bold move to see if he needed help.

Daciana, Patrick, Eliza, Caleb and Charlotte

A pair of curious eyes followed Milly. Cornelius had snuck downstairs, lured by the nervous conversation. Charlotte made a cold introduction, hoping Patrick would not make a scene at the word son. The glassy eyes of Luliana were all Patrick needed to hold his tongue. His girls knew the truth, and the sense of abandonment solidified in the younger twin. He moved closer to her squeezing her hand, wary of accepting the offered food.

Charlotte shifted. The silence from her daughters gnawed at her as they avoided eye contact. Caleb had added plasma to meals given to her and Cornelius. He tried to appear casual in nursing his blood fill wine glass. The tension ached in Patrick’s shoulders. Despite the delicious meal, suspicions and concerns wavered in him. Daciana broke the silence praising the food. She met Charlotte’s gaze; her dad, referring to Patrick, was an excellent cook. Daciana took a bite of his casserole, humming as the flavour popped in her mouth. In truth, the food made her stomach churn, but she hid the pain. There was a smell making her curious, the thick liquid in Caleb’s glass. She watched as he swirled it, hypnotised by its glossy colour. Her stomach rumbled; Daciana covered her mouth. The acidity mixed with gravy, turkey and roasties. Patrick reacted, dragging her to the bathroom. Luliana excused her sister, having eaten sweets before they came.

Patrick was unclear if Charlotte believed him. Either way, Daciana was not her concern. She surrendered that right and the girls made their stance clear. Saying goodbye, Patrick pulled his daughters closer. He had no intention of bringing them back, Forgotten Hollow was not a place for humans.

Charlotte: Cornelius Vatore-Grace

Charlotte knew meeting her siblings would be problematic. She never expected open arms, but her brother’s hostility surprised her. The years had failed to soften the heartache caused by her disappearance. Patrick spoke warm and loving in his affection for the girls. He offered the family life Charlotte was unable. She was grateful, but the anger inside her raged as his words cut. A noose of guilt tightened as Patrick wanted to protect the girls, keep them away from Charlotte. How could she make amends when her siblings were against her? The fear in Eliza’s eyes made Charlotte believe herself a monster. Caleb had warned such meetings would bring heartbreak and disappointment. He refused to support her desire to reach out to those she left behind. It brought a coolness to their relationship. Her family should be unaware of her existence as a vampire, but Charlotte wanted to apologise.

Caleb and Charlotte

Leaving her babies with Patrick seemed appropriate. A way to protect them from the life she wanted. Charlotte struggled to admit her feelings for her daughters were not those of love. It had been overwhelming. Charlotte buried herself in Caleb’s arms, demanding the death he offered. The plan worked; her focus on mastering her talents kept her from feeling the darkness. This escape was temporary as Intense waves of sorrow began in the weeks before Eliza found her. Charlotte could feel it squirming, drawing on her strength. A bitter resentment festered as the tiny heartbeat echoed. When Eliza arrived, Charlotte, having kept the secret from Caleb, needed fresh blood. The verbal attack from her sister was unbearable. Charlotte wanted to tell Eliza she was pregnant, but the rage took over. She could feel her baby, hear Eliza’s racing heart, and Charlotte took what she desired.

Concerned and fearing the wrath of Vlad, Caleb locked her in the basement. When Vlad uncovered the truth of Charlotte’s transformation, he attacked Caleb. They had lied, denied the existence of the twins and how Caleb came to drain Charlotte. Vlad resented the position, fooled by members of his house. He pinned Caleb to the ground, the protégé squirmed in a feeble effort to escape. Vlad’s features were gaunt and harsh, his cold eyes warning of the consequences. The brutality of two human children denied their mother. The behaviour was impulsive, selfish and inconsiderate. The punishment for this crime was imprisonment, akin to his zombies, or death. The Ministry would demand retribution, and Vlad would lay the blame at Caleb’s feet. He wanted to bury them and Honda for this betrayal. The sages, magic’s most senior advisors, were against this. Vlad would not tolerate Charlotte’s actions regardless of her pregnancy. It seemed he feared what role Charlotte would play in the future, a vision not shared with her or Caleb. Her attack on Eliza would give Vlad reason to ignore the Ministry and take justice into his hands. Caleb knew his wife would face eternity, buried once the child was born.

Cornelius, Charlotte and Caleb

Caleb chained Charlotte to prevent her from breaking through the steel gates. This damp, candlelit cellar was the birthplace of their full-blood vampire, Cornelius. The baby screamed for his mother, who cowered in the corner sobbing. She rejected the child, leaving Caleb to comfort the infant. When alone, Charlotte forced herself to watch Cornelius sleep. Chubby cheeks and a fine layer of blonde hair christened his head. At this moment, Charlotte tried to believe she loved him and would be his mother.

Charlotte and Caleb in picture 1

For Charlotte in picture 2