Eliza: Rose’s are…

Her mouth was dry, and it had nothing to do with the desert plains of Oasis Springs. Eliza tugged the fabric of her clothes, trying to cool herself as she awaited Scarlett. It was the maiden voyage, the first date, with Scarlett and of her whole life. Eliza was in her mid-thirties, coming to the end of a successful sporting career. When Scarlett called, Eliza worried what Scarlett would think of her distant tone. That the distraction by her nieces when accepting a date meant Eliza was not interested. Scarlett arrived flustered, apologising for their lateness. A last-minute change to the trains, and they missed the connection.

Scarlett and Eliza

The Chez Llama had changed little over the years. A fresh coat of paint and menu changes kept people returning. The balcony offered views of endless burnt land, rocks and artificial grassed areas. Scarlett’s gaze drifted across the land. They were nervous; on their first date in years. The waiter hovered, impatient to get the order and make fewer trips up the stairs. Otherwise, the balcony was private, making Eliza wonder if lunch was the best idea for a date. The waiter added to the awkwardness and pressure to decide. His sighing and pencil tapping against the pad irritated them both.

Scarlett had shown themselves a capable chef; the meals they provided were heaven. Eliza flushed, panic sitting at the back of her throat concerned she might make a dining faux pas. What would Scarlett think if she mispronounced the name of a dish or paired the wrong drink. Relief flooded her as Scarlett suggested a few they would love to try. Eliza agreed to share and was grateful Scarlett knew the correct wine to request.

In the silence left by the waiter, Scarlett led the discussion. They were curious about how Eliza became a soccer player and what plans she may have for the future. The conversation flowed; with sweet nectar and divine food. Eliza had put little thought into life after sports. Since it was a few years away, she believed there would be ample time. Scarlett’s life came with tragedy, as their parents died during a volcanic eruption. They had lived in Sulani all their lives and had never seen one. It happened fast, there were no warnings, as the lava bombed their home. Scarlett decided to move to the city rather than trying to rebuild. With the monsoon season approaching, it was futile to try. They hoped to one day return, open a restaurant in honour of their family.

Talking with Scarlett seemed natural, a sense they had always known each other. This comfort gave Eliza confidence in her desire as their eyes lingered on each other. The flecks of red in Scarlett’s eyes were clear as the sun danced around them, glistening like ruby’s. Eliza found her gaze tracing the curves of their face. She rested a moment on Scarlett’s lips, the way they shaped around the words. Neither had stopped smiling and when Scarlett spoke of her parents, Eliza touched her arm. The touch developed into a subtle stroke, giving Scarlett goose bumps. They pulled their arm back and interlocked their fingers with Eliza’s, eyes resting on the act.

Scarlett and Eliza

They both reached for the bill as the impatient waiter dropped it. Gentle laughter filled the space. Eliza took charge; it was the least she could do to say thank you. Scarlett had conditions; they wanted a second date. Another chance to explore the romance festival as a couple. Butterflies filled Eliza, had her ears deceived her or did Scarlett want them to be official?

Eliza brushed stray hair from Scarlett’s face, her fingers tracing their jaw. Her lips brushed theirs, a tentative and faint kiss. Scarlett’s hands rested on Eliza’s hips, sliding upwards to her waist and back. They pressed closer. The kiss was firm, complete and dizzying. Eliza never wanted to let go of Scarlett, as they were all that tethered her to this world.

Eliza: Realisations

Eliza squeezed Milly’s hand; it was time. Patrick had completed his memorial garden with a waterfall and wildflowers. He hoped the family would come to reflect and remember those they had lost. Milly clutched Vicky’s urn; it felt final. She spoke to her daily. How would her mother hear when buried in another town? Eliza took the ashes and placed them in the hole next to the headstone, covering them with fresh soil. They stood staring at the ground; Milly read the inscription, and her voice trembled. A few lines summed up the life of a woman who meant the world to her. It told future generations nothing of the wonderful person they had been. Who would remember the artists they helped curate or the mother she had been? Eliza said it was in the stories they told which would give Vicky immortal wings. She was an angel that Milly’s children would recall as legend.

Eliza and Milly

When Patrick created the garden, he believed the water would be soothing. The bright colours were to bring joy when tears flowed. A meditation stool was his final touch. Patrick had not considered how this tranquil space would fare alongside Daciana and Luliana. The twins ran into Aunt Eliza’s arms. She squeezed them tight, ushering them into the house under the promise of cake. Eliza glanced over her shoulder as they reached the door. Milly froze to the spot, unable to tear her eyes away from Vicky and Ziva’s resting place. The finality was too much; she sank to the ground sobbing. Eliza did not want to leave her alone, but with eager nieces, there was little choice.

Daciana insisted on showing Eliza all their new toys. An overwhelming delivery of birthday gifts designed to spoil his daughters. Eliza expected nothing less from him; they called him “daddy”, and he never corrected them. Patrick worried, knowing Eliza was not telling him the whole truth. She could not explain her findings, and worse, Charlotte had attacked her. Eliza debated the latter part, but it made a disturbing sense. This new reality was where their sister had become the fantasy monster. The romanticised Vampire stories Charlotte told her, were true. Eliza had believed they were the ideals of a teenager looking to escape family life. The two distinct marks on her neck were insufficient. Eliza needed proof of her sister’s transformation. Caleb’s style, his home, they were carbon dated. The house had a dark, dank feel, heavy velvet curtains and shielding himself from the sun. Their skin was cold; Eliza recoiled at the memory, Charlotte’s icy grip tightening on her arms.

Eliza and Daciana

A cheerful melody brought Eliza back to her senses. Scarlett’s name flashed on her screen, and four curious eyes beamed as she answered. Luliana shared her rose-tinted view of life. She loved to watch films, the damsel or princess, imprisoned and saved by the handsome prince. The notion Eliza would be going to meet her true love excited her. Luliana would be the beautiful maiden, and her prince would ride his pony to their door and whisk her away. Daciana snorted; she wanted the squash-buckling adventure. To be the one firing arrows at the enemy or a sword, bringing down the beast that threatened. Luliana squealed as Daciana jumped and chased her from the room.

Eliza: Red’s My Favourite Colour

Eliza checked her neck in the mirror, wincing at the discomfort. The bruising had reduced and localised to where the puncture marks were. It had been six weeks and she still could not recall what had happened. They were arguing; in truth, Eliza knew it was her yelling at Charlotte. Two pincers stuck into her neck, a warm, wet trickle down her throat, soaking into her clothes. Charlotte was holding her. Did she fall? Did Charlotte help her up? Nothing made sense.

Eliza

The coach benched Eliza, forcing her to miss the start of the season. Her energy levels depleted, the journey to the training ground was tiring. With regular hospital visits to treat her for anaemia, she looked to be out all season. The doctor said she fell on a barbecue fork; she was lucky a nurse was on hand to stop the bleeding. Lucky is not a word Eliza would use. Her memory of that night was hazy but falling was not a part of the equation. What had happened to Charlotte in those five years? The uncomfortable truth Eliza arrived at was Charlotte had attacked her. The sister had stood quiet, a youthful appearance despite the passing years. Forgotten Hollow was a place best avoided. It was a historic place where people changed after encountering its darkness. Eliza shivered, recalling the sense of eyes watching her swift feet carry her to Caleb’s door. She would not return, and Charlotte chose to cut ties with her family. Eliza applied the concealer. It was better to hide this strange truth. How could she answer questions or throw accusations without her memory intact?

Milly had taken the lion’s share of the housework. Eliza felt guilty, as Milly should be out with friends; instead, she was playing nursemaid to her. A flash of red interrupted Eliza’s thoughts as she stepped out of the apartment. Scarlett apologised for not visiting. They made small talk, asking how Eliza was doing and how she liked the Sixam Beast they prepared. Eliza looked confused for a moment. Milly served her a selection of meals with high iron content. During the first week home, Scarlett had assisted Milly, bringing over meals. They had been reluctant to disturb Eliza’s rest and remained on the threshold. They had been due to meet for lunch the day after Eliza visited Charlotte. Romance had been furthest from Eliza’s mind until this encounter. The memory of Scarlett’s touch danced on her skin, and a hard lump formed in her throat. Eliza panicked, her calm exterior not betrayed, but she feared her chances. Scarlett had been the one person who made her heart race. Sure, she had noticed other women, none captivated her the way Scarlett had the first time they met.

Eliza and Scarlett

The conversation took an awkward turn as neither knew quite what to say. Scarlett shuffled their feet, prompting Eliza to invite them in. Hesitant, Scarlett declined, her voice soft and nervous. Scarlett wondered if Eliza’s flirtations were real or the sakura tea. Their cheeks flushed, matching the thick glossy red hair. They hoped the forwardness of their inquiry would not damage their friendship. Eliza beamed; the thought had crossed her mind. She shared the same concerns. To be certain there were no external influences, Eliza gave Scarlett her number. It was a promise of dinner at the Chez Llama.

Charlotte: Guilty Drinker

In the years since she left Newcrest, Charlotte had died. Her resurrection remained a guarded secret. She began learning what she could from Caleb and his books. Vlad kept his distance, angry at Caleb’s reckless behaviour. He refused to meet Charlotte, fearing what reckoning they would face. Those sympathetic to their union provided plasma packs and assisted Charlotte’s development. What she lacked in speed, Charlotte made up in strength. An arm wrestle with Lilith had the sister-in-law embarrassed. Lilith prided herself on being superior to her brother. This same position she believed would apply to Charlotte. Underestimating the petite framed girl would be the undoing of several challengers. Honda, a former friend of her father, was their greatest ally, believing them to be a rival house for power. She confided this was Vlad’s fear. His reign was predicted to end by the mediums. He resented the idea they were the rising House that would take it from him.

Charlotte and Lilith

The presence of Juliana and Cliff in their lives; made Charlotte miss her family. She found it difficult to concentrate on her training, to feel connected with the world. Listless, and restless, Charlotte flicks through books, unable to absorb the knowledge. During the day, Charlotte watches the park from the window, taking care to remain in the shadows. The fallen leaves dance in the light breeze, and the bird song drills her mind. The muscles in her neck tighten, and despite a recent feed, her stomach is heavy and empty. There is a lump in her throat. Tears well beneath blue eyes. She covered her mouth, suppressing the desire to open the gates. Charlotte wanted to scream, to let the pain out. Her mind recalled the two children she abandoned, their faces forever in her memories. As the tears broke the banks, she squeezed them tight as something moved within her.

The release would be temporary. A banging interrupted her thoughts. The sun was high in the sky, and two vampires were wary of answering the door. Caleb feared a lynching. Had Vlad decided to take them out with hired hunters dragging them into the sun? He imagined his skin blistering, flames licking. Would they let him hold Charlotte, a promise to find her in the afterlife? Or would they make him watch her burn, scared, alone? The banging continued with relief as a familiar, albeit angry voice hollered.

Eliza pushed her way in as Caleb shielded himself with the door, pointing to the living area. Charlotte brushes her clothes in an attempt to appear normal. Eliza launched her attack; how she used several private investigators. The majority she never heard from, missing from their position. Eliza later discovered they were in the hospital with neck trauma. A bitterness tinted Eliza’s voice as accusations of reckless behaviour flowed. Asking how she could abandon Daciana and Luliana seemed rhetorical. The twins needed their mother. Patrick struggled; he doted on them, nursed them when they were sick, and taught them to walk, talk and swim. These were all the things Charlotte should be doing. If she needed help, they would have come together as a family. How did Charlotte not learn from their father? Ignoring problems did not make them disappear. Charlotte needed to face the consequences of her actions.

The names cut through Charlotte. She gritted her teeth, as Eliza could never understand. Fists clenched at her sides. It did not anger Charlotte as Eliza chastised her. The thing that stirred within her had needs and desires beyond Charlotte’s control.

Charlotte and Eliza

Caleb watched Eliza, her brow furrowed, breathing quick and shallow, cheeks flushed. It happened; in slow motion, the scream, the scent of blood filling his nostrils. He grabbed Charlotte’s hair as she latched on tighter. Speed was no match for her strength. Charlotte’s elbow collided with his chest snapping ribs. Caleb flew across the room, skidding over the kitchen counters. A weakening voice cut through. Eliza clawed at Charlotte, begging, her skin pale and mind dizzied. Charlotte regained control; her hand rested on her stomach, the other across her mouth.

Eliza collapsed unconscious on the sofa. Caleb held Charlotte back; her body trembled as she screamed. She reached for Eliza, apologising, pleading with her to wake up. Caleb kicked the rug, pulling Charlotte down as he yanked the trap door open. Charlotte descended, tormented and guilty.

Eliza had a weak pulse, but she was alive. He elevated her head, a compress to her neck and awaited Honda. Their friend was a nurse, or at least she had been. She brought pure plasma and gave several to Caleb to pacify Charlotte. They worked together, stemming the blood flow. Honda stitched the neck and gave her blood via a cannula. They shared a look, an understanding. Caleb would need to protect Charlotte should Vlad find out. Honda promised to watch Eliza and ensure she did not seek retribution with the Ministry.

Charlotte: Eloped

Caleb considered the future. If he were honest, Charlotte’s ability to control her power was scary. Charlotte used less energy when engaged in training. He would collapse exhausted, longing for a peaceful coffin. She would be bouncing with energy and enthusiasm. This mastery of her power was quick to realise. In mediation, Charlotte exceeded Caleb’s ability. It was as though she had been born to this life, not created. Caleb closed his eyes; they needed a change of pace, a distraction away from the training.

Caleb and Charlotte

The Chez Llama was, as Charlotte remembered it, the bright lights and crisp white linen. She inhaled; the tantalising smells made her mouth water. Caleb wanted to remind her their lives could be as they were. They would enjoy meals, dance in clubs and take advantage of the world as it changed around them. Charlotte eyed the menu, unsure why they should eat when they had a liquid diet. He asked her to humour him; some vampires reject this basic human need, but some find a new pleasure from eating. There was another reason for their presence; Caleb wanted to test her self-control. He engaged her in conversation, watching her eyes and fidgeting hands. Charlotte could hear rapid beats and chewing as the patrons enjoyed their dinner. Conversations and laughter distracted her.

Human food could not sustain a vampire. It was the flavours which brought their kind back to the restaurants. They were also perfect hunting grounds; but, that would be for another day. Charlotte admired the plate of sizzled brisket with a sour clover salad. The robust texture exploded flavour in her mouth. The fragrant citrus zinged through the smoky aroma. This cut of meat in her fathers hands was chewy; the chef behind this dish made it melt in the mouth. Charlotte let the food dance over her tongue, taking her time to savour each note. Flecks of garlic gave her sweet, nutty and creamy vibes. Caleb watched with interest. Raw garlic, with its earthy spice overwhelmed many vampires, including himself. Charlotte embraced every flavour on her plate, leaving her plasma drink until last.

Charlotte and Caleb

They travelled back through Newcrest. Charlotte shifted uneasy, watching the familiar streets illuminated by the street lights. Caleb parked close to the chapel, where her grandmother, Aria and Aunt Ziva married. She stared nervous at the long road, past the cinema and restaurant. At the end was her former home, where Charlotte abandoned her children. The place she had been human. Caleb held her hand, drawing her attention back to him. Their future was with each other. Bound for eternity in blood, Caleb asked if she would unite with him, in love.

Charlotte wondered what her wedding might be like. Would her siblings be in attendance? Would she wear a white gown? Dreams melted as Caleb took her hands with promises of love. She stood beneath the floral arch, the third generation Grace to be blessed at the chapel. The warm candles, their light flickered across their faces. Caleb created a perfect moment within which to elope. Charlotte believed that if her heartbeat, it would stop for this. Her breath would catch, and words might fail her. Her skin tingled and fine arm hairs raised. Caleb’s gentle touch around her hand grounded and calmed her. Within those eyes, the entire world resided, and Charlotte felt complete.

Charlotte: Master of Herself

Charlotte’s phone remained quiet, as though Patrick and Eliza knew she was not of their world. It gave her space for her to discover her true nature. She wrestled with her thirst, unsatisfied by plasma fruit blends. Caleb made her focus on control in a dark, meditative state. Plumes of purple smoke billowed around her as she levitated, leg crossed, and eyes closed. Acute hearing picked out footsteps, voices, a scuttling spider and a mouse’s breath. Her mind connected to the gift of immortality. She reached into her own memories, letting slip a giggle. Caleb pondered her, confused. Charlotte recalled a long slobbering tongue, fuzzy hair and wet snout of their dog Sparky; she could feel the warm breath on her face as Sparky licked. The vividness of her memories concerned Caleb. He kept silent, hoping her gifts were more akin to his than routed in her mental state.

Charlotte and Caleb

Utilising her power and increasing its effectiveness would make her a formidable opponent. He led her outside into the darkness, the cool, damp air, refreshing against her skin. Charlotte inhaled; she had not taken a breath for purposes other than talking since she awoke. The fresh, earthy scent filled her nostrils, the relief of being above ground evident in her smile.

Caleb demonstrated his speed, moving behind her, knocking her off balance. He held her in position mid-fall, pulling her back into his arms. There would be ample time to explore, to show her Forgotten Hollow, its midnight beauty. He spun her; chest pressed against her back. Caleb nudged her feet apart, front foot grounded, the back used to pivot. Charlotte wiggled her hips against him, unable to focus with him so close. He gritted his teeth, ignoring how this action attempted to distract him. Caleb extended and rotated her wrists, drawing them back into a guarded position. He curled them round, hooking the elbow, stroking her cheek with his. Caleb squatted, forcing Charlotte with him. He drove upwards with an emphasis on hitting the chin. The strength possessed by Charlotte surprised him, but it was useless if she was not a fighter. She looked disappointed, hoping to embrace her first steps in the darkened world. Instead, Caleb took a guarded stance opposite her, coaching through the punches. He knocked each throw away, as they danced in a circular motion.

Charlotte

Charlotte lacked his speed, experience and discipline. As a fledgling Vampire, Charlotte expected a lot from herself. She wondered if Caleb’s focus on self-control stopped her powers from manifesting. She retreated into the books, a place she found comfort. She was unsure what gifts she hoped to achieve. Charlotte eyed the pages with deepening interest. If she were worthy at the level of Grand Master, could she accomplish those coveted abilities? Vampires reaching this level were often given unique roles within their houses.

A house is a vampire collective. There was one house in existence, Strauss, with Vlad at the helm. The Caster’s decision to curb the occult presence in the world meant this would remain the case. Roles were destiny, the Ministry of Magic could not deny this. Mediums were sought for their knowledge and understanding of the magics that bound them. Charlotte clutched the book, drawn into Caleb’s world by love, this would be hers one day. Besides, House Vatore-Grace would reach beyond this hamlet, bringing together human and occult.

Charlotte: Restrained

Charlotte grew restless in her stone prison. The iron gate tormented her, preventing access to the life Caleb promised. Their plasma packs were low; Charlotte knew he would need to leave; when he did, she wanted to go too. Her body contained energy, every cell wound tight, waiting to explode. There were vampire books covering lore and laws, some she read long before Caleb came into her life. They recounted a biased history and wrote of abilities each vampire could unlock. Charlotte growled about how Caleb was denying her this development by restraining her. She was ready to test her strength, pit it against his and learn how capable her body was.

Charlotte and Caleb

Caleb rolled over, a loud groan, pulling the bedspread around him. Their clothes scattered; she had seemed relaxed, satisfied. Sex should have served as a distraction. It amazed him how much energy Charlotte needed to release post-rebirth. When he and Lilith woke, the coiled springs, the energy of their cells exploded with their fear. It gave them the power to punch through their coffin and dig themselves out of the grave. Charlotte suffered no such fate, and her expulsion of energy came in waves. Caleb lay spent, his legs numb and sore from her bites. A few were too close to an area he wanted to keep for future use. Charlotte had laughed, blood dripping as she kissed him. Consumed by the pleasure principle and her calm exterior was a temporary illusion.

It was not the hunger; which created the problem but the need to flex her blood-infused cells. It drove Charlotte from their bed; she ran her hands through her tangled hair. She smoothed over her cold skin and clutched her breasts, squeezing them together. The hissing irritated Caleb. Charlotte developed an involuntary response brought on by the frustration of captivity. Some days he believed her pacing would wear through the stone. Other times, he feared she would hurt herself as the body crashed into the walls. Her fists bled from pounding, tears and desperate screams.

His home was a simple stone-built, two up, two down. The bathroom and Kitchen used limited space on their respective floors. Food might not be a part of Caleb’s diet, but he loved to cook. Visits from his children Juliana, and Cliff, were rare. Caleb had limited contact with them due to the rules of vampires raising human children. Juliana accepted his lifestyle, making it easier for them to forge a friendship. Things with Cliff remained strained, but they muddled through awkward conversations. Caleb saw them as the teens he met, despite them being grown. There was a pained look in Caleb’s eyes when they visited. These were lives he could not take part in and the five grandchildren he would never meet.

Caleb welcomed Juliana and Cliff, relieved both agreed to greet Charlotte. They were under no illusion this could be dangerous, as she might mesmerise and drink from them. Charlotte fidgeted. The scent of the visitors and the loud beating hearts made her mouth water. She imagined how it would taste, the warm blood as it flowed into her mouth untainted by plasma fruit. The peach-shaped fruit, a pinkish purple colour, with the essence of blood. Spellcasters and human scientists created a plant-based alternative to weaken and pacify vampires. The problem, Charlotte realised, with this concept was the flavour. The fruit was by nature’s design sweet. Whilst perfect for baby vampires, failed to satisfy a turned adult.

Charlotte, Cliff and Juliana

The children were older, embracing the human lives Charlotte she chose to reject. Caleb watched his girlfriend battling her inner nature. Impressed by her determination to prove herself in control. The conversation centred on Charlotte’s youth. Cliff made digs at their father for choosing a woman closer in age to his grandchildren. Caleb managed an awkward laugh. Vlad sired him at eighteen, Charlotte was nineteen, but the hundred or so years made a difference. Cliff cleared his throat. He wanted to enquire about Charlotte’s family, and how she felt never seeing them again. The silence echoed; Charlotte inhaled, paused, then released, her mind confused. In the desperation of her choice, her family never registered. She would never be able to say a proper goodbye, and they had not mourned her.

Juliana’s brow knitted as she tried to place Charlotte amidst a sense of familiarity. Charlotte stared, transfixed by her thoughts, unable to communicate. A weight of disappointment and anger grew in Juliana. Her heartbeat increased, drawing Charlotte’s attention and focus to her neck. The bitter words spat, Juliana’s face reddened, the foolishness of her father. Juliana bit back her tears; her voice faltered. How could she look at Patrick, knowing what had happened to his sister? Juliana could not follow through on a relationship with him despite how she felt. As a mother, the thought of leaving her children made her sick. Caleb reached for Charlotte’s hand as she hissed at Juliana. The woman stepped back; her eyes widened, breathing and heart raced. Caleb’s panicked tone ordered them to leave, gripping Charlotte tighter. He pulled her against his chest to restrain her. She twisted, eyes following Juliana as Cliff pushed his sister out into the sun.

Picture one pose by https://www.patreon.com/posts/tv-dont-harass-59551665

Charlotte: So She Might Live

Her chest fell silent, and the throbbing of her veins remained static, yet every nerve was on fire. Charlotte feared her skin would blister should the pain not subside. The weight of her body pressing into the bed was excruciating. Caleb’s arms as lead weights holding her down. She bolted upright, a second to gather her strength and ran to the iron gate. Caleb, in a soothing tone, called to her; the noise permeated around the room, and her hands gripped her head. Why wouldn’t the pain stop? Her eyes squinted against the flickering candles. She clung to the iron bars, their firm grounding position aided Charlotte’s senses. They trembled in her grip but would not budge. She scratched at the walls, pounded her fists, eyes darted, and hissed at Caleb.

Charlotte and Caleb

Her eyes fell on the empty pouch in his hand; the rusty aroma overwhelmed her senses. With a change in demeanour, Charlotte focused her attention on him. A sharp throbbing developed in her mouth as sharp teeth punctured. She did not attempt to wipe the blood or show concern. Two teeth fell from her mouth: in their place, bloodied fangs. Charlotte ran her tongue across them. Her movements were deliberate and sluggish, and her stomach squeezed. Hissing, Charlotte lunged for Caleb. He side-stepped her attack, a swift motion behind her. Caleb slit his wrist, filled with fresh plasma; Charlotte clutched it, drinking deep.

When she cut her finger, Charlotte tasted her blood for the first time. Instinct took control as she sucked the wound. The metallic taste made her recoil. The same taste energised her. The liquid swirled in her mouth soothed her throat, and her eyes widened and closed. The stomach squeezed, without a heartbeat this pumped blood. It permeated through her cells, a river flowing through her veins, her skin tingled. Caleb squirmed, ripping his arm from her grasp. Charlotte spun, smiling, her tongue caught in her teeth at one side. Her hand moved swiftly, precisely to his chin, lifting him up. With a flick of her wrist, Caleb flew across the room, landing on the bed. Crawling, Charlotte inhaled his scent, fingers gripped the quilt. There was a musty, three-day clothing aroma, one she recognised in herself. She tugged his clothes, getting beneath his shirt, the scent was faint but desirable.

Charlotte and Caleb

Juniper, Thyme, a hint of peppermint and the ocean. Charlotte licked her lips remembering the initial salty taste of his skin. The sweat of days, shivering, a restless wait for his system to process her blood. Locking them in this basement was for the good of humanity. Caleb knew the immediate taste of fresh hot blood would drive her wild, control her for eternity. If he breathed, Caleb would have held it, watching her. Hands explored his exposed chest, and hunger of a different kind raged in her eyes. She shuffled upright, straddling him, wriggling her body against his firm interest.

Charlotte stopped; she turned her head, listening. Caleb was too slow to grab her, watching her cling to the iron gates. There were footsteps on the gravel, distant voices, she strained to hear. Vlad employed gardeners; humans who tended to the park their homes overlooked. She rattled the gates, frustrated, and confused. How with her renewed strength were they still unyielding?

Feasting on blood was the least of Caleb’s concerns, if Charlotte figured out how to open the gates, how would he stop her from rushing into the sun? His eyes were sunken, fatigued and his first meal in days shared with the newborn lover. He had neither energy nor strength to hold her back.

Poses for Charlotte in Picture one https://www.patreon.com/posts/not-feeling-good-55829464

Pose for Caleb in Picture one https://www.patreon.com/posts/let-me-show-you-55243855

Picture 2 https://www.patreon.com/posts/answer-me-62973724

Patrick: The Blind Date

Demands grew on Patrick’s time, a job he loved and two children. Patrick knew dividing his time meant he neglected the homegrown plants. As he grappled with dead plants, flies and weeds hassled him. He struggled to remember what life was like before he was a father. Patrick wished he knew where Charlotte was, and what had become of her. Eliza hired a private investigator, but they had turned up nothing. Was Charlotte erased from the world? The girls never asked why they had no mother. He was their world, but they would be starting school, and Patrick wished he had answers. It would not be easy to tell them Charlotte and Caleb abandoned them.

Luliana and Darciana

His train of thought grew stressful about how he would explain their parent’s absence. The phone continued ringing and he could no longer ignore the vibration in his pocket. A work colleague wanted to send Patrick on a date. His friend was visiting from Salvadordra. Since Patrick was single, he thought they might be a match. Patrick knew the colleague’s wife, renowned for being jealous, disapproved of female friends. The likely outcome was they would meet; she would be out of his league and polite. After a pleasant evening, Patrick would take her number. Whenever he called they would be too busy for anything further. So why did he have butterflies? Luliana tilted her head. While having Nanny Hannah was exciting; she wondered why Patrick needed to tidy his beard.

Patrick swallowed, smoothing his hair, trying to look unruffled. Daciana decided to cry and beg him to stay; she clawed his shirt, wiping her tears and nose. The older toddler was going through a clingy phase. Patrick spent hours trying to settle her in the evenings. Food continued to make her feel unwell; the doctors were unable to explain her complaints. He arrived late, eyes landing on a tall, slender framed woman in her mid-30s. Short black hair, milk chocolate skin, and hazelnut eyes. If there were ever a moment Patrick wished he could freeze, it would be that first impression. The part of the date before he opens his mouth and she realises he is not worth her time. His palms felt sweaty, brushing them against his trousers with an apology. The woman lowered her eyes; a shy smile; her name was Leticia London.

Leticia and Patrick

They stood awkward; Patrick cleared his throat. How long did she plan to stay and should they indulge in popcorn during the movie. She let slip a giggle, unsure how to connect the two questions. Of course, she planned to stay for the film and longer-term, she was looking for work in Newcrest. Their mutual friend seemed adamant, arranging for her to meet his single friends. Patrick’s shoulders dropped. Leticia saw restaurants, clubs and bowling; no one asked if she was staying; or if she would like popcorn. None seemed as nervous as Patrick to be in her company. He was unclear if this was good; Leticia shrugged, unable to give him any genuine reassurance. The popcorn, however, was a definite. He offered his arm. Being a proper gentleman was unnatural for Patrick, but he wanted Leticia to feel special.

The movie bored; the papers wrote five stars. This implied a substantial plot, fleshy relatable characters and nail-biting action sequences. Patrick worried he was alone in his view. He sneaked glances at Leticia’s profile, admiring the curve of her nose. She yawned, fingers tapped against the chair arm, and the popcorn bowl empty. Leticia caught his eye, her elbow nudging his and pointing to the exit. movie patrons grumbled as their heads bobbed, disturbing the view. Patrick breathed heavy, relieved to discover daylight and ordering coffee. The barista raised an eyebrow, agreeing the movie was overblown nonsense.

Patrick pressed a coin into Leticia’s hand as she searched her bag. She had not played the arcades since she was a child. Leticia bobbed, rolling her eyes to the ceiling, the side of her mouth curled into a cheeky smile. A bet, any question personal or otherwise. Patrick stared at the machine confused. The flashing lights and electronic sounds pretend to be space engines. He dropped the coin, and the screen went black. From the bottom, the four-gun ship appeared, each manned by one player, with scores tallied. The aliens flashed across the top. Patrick tweaked his joystick, too slow for the quickening pace. Leticia racked up the total destroyed, a triumphant cheer. She hugged him, a surprised look on her face; she stepped back, embarrassed at her actions. Patrick had attempted to close the gap again, but her flustered apology made him wait. There would be time for romance. Patrick filled with hope as Leticia headed home; she wanted him to take her to the movies again.

Eliza: Hokum at the Romance Festival

Eliza wanted to reach out to her siblings and reconnect. She hoped to ease the guilt built up over the years. The silence given by Charlotte hurt; she had not returned any calls since leaving. The anger Eliza felt towards her sister grew over the months. Her disappointment with Charlotte’s continued silence after Vicky’s death. Their aunt supported Charlotte’s pregnancy, the least she could do was call Milly. Accepting Charlotte needed time away had long passed. Eliza refused to entertain her sister’s selfish behaviour any further. It was not alright to abandon family, Eliza learnt this the hard way. What Charlotte had done was worse as she neglected two innocent children.

Milly, Patrick and Eliza

Patrick squeezed Milly so tight a strained voice begged him to let go. He laughed, that same belly sound their father made when he pretended to be Father Winter. It seemed fatherhood suited him. Patrick moved on quickly from pleasantries to discussing the twins. Daciana seemed fascinated with Sparky. She loved to imitate him, snuggling at nap time and sitting with him to eat her dinner. The mention of the pup Eliza had to leave behind brought a wave of sadness and a yearning to have another pet. Luliana showed her true colours, becoming the more vocal of the two. She could also be a madam, reminding Eliza of Charlotte at that age. The younger twin demanded attention. Luliana followed Patrick or their nanny, talking loud. Patrick grumbled describing how she folded her arms in protest when naughty.

There was bitterness; while he gave the girls unconditional love, Patrick blamed himself. The similarity with Luliana increased his guilt. Patrick wished he had ended her relationship with Caleb. The man was older, and he charmed Emilie, as he did Charlotte. Caleb abandoned her during pregnancy, it devastated Charlotte. He was too blind to see it, Patrick realised then, he was not enough to hold his family together.

Eliza squeezed his hand, noting the glossy reflection in his eyes. They both carried the weight of blame. Milly had sat silent, munching her food, wondering if Patrick fancied a change of pace. Eliza had spoken of the festivals in San Myshuno, including the Romance festival. Patrick shook his head, needing to be back home. After his recent dates, Patrick thought it best to focus on the twins.

Eliza meeting with the Guru

The Romance Festival depicted a celebration of love. Couples came to take their vows and singles begged the Guru for positive vibes. The main draw came from the pink sakura tea. Milly’s eyes fell on the new neighbour Hunter who had joined their trip. He was tall, slender with broad shoulders and green hair. Milly felt this could not be his natural colour. His eyes matched, and if she was to guess by his dress, green was his favourite colour. He did not seem to notice her as he made a beeline for the food stall. Eliza was already distracted. Her school friend Lee had been telling jokes since they met him on the tube. As for the object of distraction, Scarlett, they were getting drinks from the bar. Milly moved off; she scanned the options. Merchandise stands, food stalls and the Guru held the interest of the majority. There were plants and flowers that a person could harvest and gift to their love. A white arch adorned with pink flowers sat central to the festival. Petals littered the floor, and benches arranged to create an aisle. Milly walked to the far corner. Here was the place to explore creative love. Four easels surrounded a board which hosted the city artists selling their work.

Eliza sipped the sakura tea. The effects were warm, and she could taste the sweet plum of the fruit with a salty aftertaste. It wasn’t bitter or unwelcome, but a perfect balance with a dizzying influence. People around her seemed to take on a pink aura. Eliza knew aliens possessed this gift. Their emotions through the design or their bodies emitted a vibrant glow. This tea gave mere mortal humans a temporary show. The design was to enhance the natural pheromones. Eliza hoped it might be enough to entice Scarlett. Her secret crush was laughing at another of Lee’s awful jokes. Eliza stood near the Guru, distracted, watching Scarlett. Tantalised by how their lips moved with the words. The flash of teeth as they laughed and the pink aura surrounding them. Lee had a girlfriend so he offered no threat to Eliza. Besides, Scarlett had expressed to him a preference for female companionship.

The Guru cleared their throat. As other patrons awaited their turn, Eliza realised they believed she was in the queue. Her eyes widened, agreeing to hear what her future held. The Guru glanced over Eliza and studied her palm. Their face fell, brows lowered, and lips pursed, with a reluctant tone shared how she would fail to hold onto love.

Eliza rolled her eyes and made her way through the couples. As a skeptic, she decided not to give weight to the words. There was a possible romance in her future, the red-head who made her heart beat faster. Scarlett had a soothing voice; it gave Eliza goose bumps. As the festival wound up, Scarlett touched Eliza’s arm. Their eyes met for a fleeting moment, and a reddish tint flicked in the brown depths. It was a second, Eliza could still feel the place they touched. Their fingertips were soft, the place they rested tingled. Excitement fluttered in her stomach.

Eliza and Scarlett

Was it her imagination? The desire to lean in for a cheek kiss bubbled as they reached the apartment. Could she have enticed Scarlett? Eliza wanted to believe in magic for the first time. As they said goodbye, Eliza noticed Scarlett lingered, their lips parted. Milly called from inside the apartment, and whatever was on Scarlett’s mind had to be for another day. As would the kiss.