I opened the church door and crept in as quietly as I could, looking around for him. I was so used to looking in the shadows that I almost didn’t spot him standing in plain sight in front of the altar. I could not see his face, but I could feel the tortured, angry, guilty, sad waves of emotion that rolled off him with the force of tsunamis. I said nothing. He knew I was there. I walked forward to the many rows of seats and sat down in the front, just a few feet behind him. For a second, neither of us moved or spoke.
“Is it true?” The question that I had meant to sound strong and calm came at a whisper.
He nodded slowly and deliberately. My shoulders slumped in defeat and I felt the tears I had been fighting since Joseph slipped were threatening to spill. I tried to hold them back, but one still fell, carefully landing on my cheek.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked. My voice was surprisingly calm, sure.
He shook his head slowly, still facing the altar, his back to me. “I wasn’t sure….” He trailed off midsentence, but his voice was thick with emotion.
“Of what?” I asked. “If I could be trusted, if… it was true?” My voice broke when I said those heart-wrenching words.
His shoulders sagged. I bit back tears. “Of those,” his tone was careful and slow. “But also that if I did tell you the truth… that you would leave. I… don’t think I could stand it if you did.” He turned to me and I could see the anguish, the pain, the absolute misery that consumed him. His eyes were red, as if he had been crying. The tears in his eyes told me that he might again soon.
I looked down at my hands, focusing on the bracelet he had once given me, in a simpler time, or at least when I didn’t know how very, very complicated those times were. “I wouldn’t have,” I managed to choke out.
“You wouldn’t have been the first,” he whispered. He walked toward me, sitting next to me on the bench. “I couldn’t take that chance. You were… you were too important to me.”
My eyes flashed up to his. “And so you would rather I found out this way? From some jerk who’s been trying to push us apart since the moment we met? You should have told me! You should have trusted me enough to know that I would never have left you, especially over something like this! You should have known that!” Some of my former anger had resurfaced, evident in my harsh voice and words that seemed to hit him like bullets.
He looked away, ashamed because he knew he shouldn’t have kept it all a secret.
“I could’ve helped you,” my voice shrank back into a whisper. “I could’ve helped you get through this. We could’ve done this together.” Salty tears crept down my face, staining my cheek.
He looked back at me, remorseful. He sank into the hard wooden bench beside me. “I’m sorry. I should’ve.”
“That’s all you have to say? After all this, all you have to say is ‘I’m sorry’? Don’t I deserve a little more than that? Don’t I deserve-“
“Yes, you do,” he interrupted, his voice fast and passionate, “Yes, you do. You deserve everything, Abby. You deserve more than me. I made a mistake because I was afraid to lose you. I’ve lost everything because of who and what I am, and I couldn’t have been able to bear it if I lost you, too. You deserve more than ‘I’m sorry’, more than distrust, more than fear, more than a monster like me! I love you. I love you and I wouldn’t have been able to go on if you were gone!” He looked at me with tearful eyes, beaten and vulnerable.
All I could do was sit there in stunned silence.
He put his head in his hands, defeated.
“I… I love you,” he whispered, peering at me through his hands.
“I love you,” he said sitting up.
“I love you,” he said, pushing my hair behind one ear.
“I love you,” he said as he stroked my cheek and wiped away my tears, “I love you.” He swept my hair behind one ear and leaned in. I leaned in, too, and closed my eyes, my lips puckered for our first kiss.
I felt his lips brush my ear and heard him whisper: “You should have listened to Joseph.” I opened my eyes to see ivory fangs glistening with saliva, poised to chomp. I tried to scream but by then his teeth were already on my neck. Then he bit down and drank.
And then I slipped into the void.
The vampire sat up and wiped his mouth after his meal. Disgusted, he pushed the girl’s corpse off his lap and dusted his hands off. The poor, pathetic, lovesick fool.
He began to walk away, but then turned back. It seemed as though he might have had a pang of conscience. Quickly, he walked back to the body, lifted her wrist (the one she had stared at earlier), and deftly plucked the gold and amethyst bracelet off her limp wrist. He always had an eye open for a bargain.
Then, whistling, he turned and walked away from the girl he had just pledged his eternal love to, her lips still puckered for a kiss that would never come.