The rest of the night was spent laughing, crying, hugging, and patting my unusually dry diaper. After a late-night snack, I noted the faintest glimmer of light outside my window and knew within my heart that dawn wasn’t too far off.
I grew tense when I felt Elizabeth’s arms circle around my waist, but then she murmured something into my ear and I relaxed into her embrace. She began to rock me back and forth, resting her chin on my shoulder and sighing happily.
I don’t know why I was so surprised that she was this way with me. She’d been a mother before she’d become a vampire, and until this recent fire, she’d been a mother for well over a century. I guess I was amazed that such an instinct didn’t fade over time.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
“For what?” I asked.
“For everything, I suppose.” Elizabeth hugged me a little closer. “You have no idea how long it’s been since I’ve had real human interaction. Most of my conversations with mortals don’t go this far, if you know what I mean.”
I frowned and turned to her. “I hope I know what you mean.”
Elizabeth laughed. “Don’t worry. I told you, I wouldn’t dare try to seduce you like I do others. You saved my life, and I’m going to pay you back as best I can.”
“Like what? And don’t get me wrong, I like the way you change me, but—”
She laughed again and then planted a firm kiss on my neck. I blushed and looked away.
“I can help you live the life you’ve always wanted,” said Elizabeth. “I’ve plenty of money, I have friends and connections all over the world, and I know just about every major city and what each has to offer. You name the place and we’re there. You want to find a boyfriend in Paris or Madrid, just say the word.”
“Ooh, tempting.” But it sounded too good to be true. How could vampires afford such things? As far as I knew, the movies never really showed how they got all their wealth and luxury.
I finally had to ask her about that, and she responded first with another kiss to my cheek. Then she said, “Remember that I was a British citizen. I still have an account with the Bank of England, and I’ve been running on the interest from that and a few other solid investments for decades. Money just isn’t a problem for me.”
As soon as I heard that, I had a sudden irrational urge to go shopping and buy the most ridiculously expensive items I could find. All those shoes and dresses wouldn’t buy themselves! But it was a passing mood and soon I was trying to be more level-headed. I knew that I’d wanted to visit more of Europe ever since my semester in London. I’d only gotten as far as Ireland and parts of Scotland, so there was a whole continent to explore.
I told Elizabeth about my idea for such a trip and she seemed pleased with it. She then glanced out the window and said that she should get into her trunk right away.
I let her drop into the trunk and watched as she reached up to close the lid. Before she pulled it closed, Elizabeth glanced up at me and smiled.
“Let’s develop a schedule,” she said quietly. “I’ll go to sleep here at five-thirty in the morning and then I’ll wake up around six-thirty in the evening. If you want to keep up with me, I suggest you go to bed around eight or nine in the morning, and when I get up, I’ll change you, and you’ll wake up around seven o’clock. Sound good?”
“It’ll be weird, but I think I’ll manage.”
She smiled and blew me a final kiss. “Sleep well, Julia.”
I watched her close the lid and then the room was eerily quiet. So I stayed up long enough to watch the sun rise over Chicago, taking in a pleasure that my guest could no longer enjoy. I told myself that I’d watch the sun go up for her sake, and for the sake of her little girl Margaret, may her soul rest in peace.
Then exhaustion overcame me, and I fell asleep right there on my bed.
When I woke up later that evening, I wasn’t wearing a diaper. Elizabeth had apparently changed me while I slept and put me back in normal underwear. I took a moment just to enjoy the sensation, as I hadn’t woken up without a diaper since I was about thirteen.
Once I’d shaken out all my mental cobwebs, I became aware of a few faint noises coming from the kitchen. Gingerly, I crept out of bed and got dressed.
I tiptoed down the hall and found a peculiar sight in my kitchen. Elizabeth was at the stove with two frying pans, cooking up an omelette in one pan and bacon in the other. She was wearing a frilly pink apron that I’d hardly ever used and beaming at her culinary accomplishments. All I could do was stand there and watch. I was trying to guess at how long it must have been for her to be around real food. She certainly hadn’t eaten anything since she started living with me.
By this time, I’d come to accept that she was just a little telepathic, too, because the vampire suddenly looked over her shoulder and smiled at me. “Evening, dear. I hope you’re hungry, because I’d hate for all this to go to waste.”
“Smells great,” I said through a yawn. I stretched and sat at the dining table while Elizabeth served my dinner, even though it was technically breakfast. When I began to eat, my appetite took over and soon I was wolfing down eggs and bacon and taking large gulps of milk. Elizabeth just sat there, watching me eat with an intent expression, but whenever I looked up at her, she would just smile and encourage me to keep eating.
In the back of my mind, I had this terrible image of Elizabeth standing over me while I slept, salivating and baring her fangs over my plump body. I paused in lifting the next forkful of omelette to my mouth and shook my head of such thoughts. I reassured myself that she’d been more than capable of making me her victim a few nights ago, and there was little point in going this far to befriend me as part of some elaborate seduction.
By the time I had finished dinner, it was almost a quarter to eight. Elizabeth took the dishes back to the kitchen to clean them, then reemerged a few minutes later with her apron in hand.
“I feeling like going out for tonight,” she said with an encouraging smile. “Would you like to come along?”
I said I’d be delighted, and before I knew it, I was putting on my coat and heading out the door with her. It was strange to see this woman—this vampire—moving on down the hall like a normal person. I flinched and ducked every time we passed someone on our way to the elevator, but to my surprise, no one cried out in terror or ran away. In fact, they ignored us. I suppose that, to their eyes, Elizabeth was just a very pale woman and nothing more.
My amazement increased the moment we stepped outside. I saw Elizabeth’s eyes light up. Her white hands pushed her hair back toward her shoulders as she shivered with excitement. And as we continued our walk, her stride became more graceful and lovely, like that of a dancer on stage. I had to jog a little just to keep up.
“Now that you’ve had your dinner,” Elizabeth was saying, “it’s time I had mine.”
I nodded in response, right up until her words registered in my brain. Then I came to an abrupt halt and nearly bowled into a rather large black woman in a turtleneck. Elizabeth turned back toward me with a questioning look.
“You mean…” I shook my head slowly. “You don’t mean…”
“It’s not as bad as you think,” she replied, taking a step toward me. “I don’t take people who don’t deserve it. I only…” She frowned and pondered her own words for a moment. “I only feed on those who prey upon others. Murderers, rapists, drug dealers, sex traffickers—you name ’em, I’ll take ’em. I’ll feed on men and women who are on the verge of committing suicide, whose only release from the pain of their lives is a quick and merciful end.” The vampire folded her arms and stared back defiantly. “Do you get my point? I don’t
attack the innocent. Ever.”
I stared at her face for a while, as pedestrians moved around us on the sidewalk, not really listening to our conversation. I could see her face as something that was both human and inhuman, full of genuine affection, but twisted with ancient hunger and all the stresses that came with an unnatural lifespan.
“But how do you know?” I whispered. My voice was cracking with tears. “How do you know who’s innocent and who’s not? What gives you the right?”
“I never asked for this fate,” Elizabeth said calmly. “I do the best that I can with these powers, with this craving that would drive me mad if I didn’t fulfill it at least once every few months. If I don’t use it to help others, then I’d be an absolute monster.” She was shivering again, but not from excitement. “I’d become something like my husband.”
That struck another nerve in me. I remembered the pain in her voice and the real tears she’d shed at the memory of losing her daughter. Granted, they’d been tears of blood, but they were shed all the same.
“If you don’t want to watch,” Elizabeth said, her voice breaking into my thoughts, “I won’t hold it against you. Just accompany me to the place and wait until I return.” She extended her hand toward me, a warm smile spreading over her ghostly face. “Think you can handle that… Julia?”
I nodded. Time seemed to slow as I reached out and took her hand with my own, my warm flesh pressing into her cold skin. But the connection was real and I didn’t let go as she led the way through the cool night air.
Our walk led us to a small neighborhood seven blocks away from my apartment. I held onto Elizabeth’s hand the entire time, partly for comfort, but mostly because it was the only way for me to keep up. It seemed like her feet were barely touching the ground, and I didn’t want to let her go sailing through the atmosphere without me.
It was almost eight o’clock when we arrived in front of a small corner house. It had the white color and brown roofing as all the other homes in the area, so I couldn’t find anything spectacular about it. The minivan in the driveway was a bit shinier than the other cars in the neighborhood, but that was all.
Elizabeth turned to me with a very serious expression. It was the kind she’d worn when talking about her husband and the monster he’d become.
“This is the situation,” she said sharply but quietly. “You can’t tell right now, but inside this house is a middle-aged man and a woman in her late twenties. He seduced her in a bar and brought her home, but now she’s passed out on his floor, probably because of a date rape drug he slipped into her drink. She’s half-naked on the floor and he’s getting ready to take advantage of her.”
She let go of my hand and turned to the house with a grim stare. “And that’s why I’m going in there.”
“How can you possibly know—?”
“Julia,” she said softly, “I just know. Trust me.” She glanced over her shoulder at me and nodded. “Stay right here. If anyone asks what you’re doing, tell them you’re here to meet a friend.”
By the way she was striding confidently toward the front door, I was convinced that she was going to just ring the bell and wait for him to answer. But instead Elizabeth crossed the front lawn and stood in front of a window looking into the living room. The lights were off inside, but they didn’t seem to hamper her vision any.
She put her hand on the window and pushed it up fast and without a sound. Then she stepped over the threshold and into the house. I thought I saw her bend down for a moment, perhaps over the unconscious girl, and then she disappeared into the shadows.
I was terrified—not for myself, but for what might be happening inside. I knew that I would be her accomplice in this murder—and it was
murder. She was preventing an injustice, sure, but it was still a cold-blooded execution, without any pretense of the law or due process.
A minute later, I thought I heard someone moan—a quick sound, like the noise you make in your sleep when you’re having a nightmare. Then I heard a gentle thud and nothing after that.
Five minutes later, I saw the front door open and out came Elizabeth. She was carrying a young woman with blue-streaked blonde hair in her arms. Without so much as a glance in my direction, she carried the girl into the minivan (having somehow grabbed the keys for it) and opened the door for the driver’s side.
When she finally turned toward me, all she said was, “You should get in now.”
It took me a few seconds to get my legs to obey, but I managed to walk over to the passenger side and got in. My hands fumbled with the seatbelt as I buckled up and then I shot a nervous glance at the girl in the backseat. She was still passed out, but she was at least fully dressed—if you could call wearing a tube top and miniskirt “dressed.”
Elizabeth pulled the van out of the driveway and down the street. As we left the neighborhood behind us, she quickly explained that she had found a driver’s license in the girl’s purse with her home address on it. She didn’t say a word about the moan I’d heard or who else had been in the house.
I decided that I didn’t really want to know, that it was safer not to know.
We drove a few miles west and ended up in a different neighborhood with another series of near-identical houses. I waited in the van while Elizabeth swept the girl up in her arms and carried her to the front door. She rang the bell, then bolted from the door to the van in one white blur. Before I saw the front door even open, our “borrowed” van was hightailing it out of the girl’s driveway and back into the night.
By this time, I felt courageous enough to take another look at Elizabeth. Now that she had “fed,” her skin had taken on a healthy pink glow. The color of her eyes turned from smoky gray to emerald green, and she seemed less statuesque. Right before my eyes, she was becoming human again.
There was no doubt in my mind. I was seeing the original Elizabeth Jane Watson.
“It happens after every feeding,” Elizabeth suddenly said. When she turned to me, the knowing smile on her face proved that she was getting a read on my thoughts. “The blood circulates nutrients back through our bodies and we appear human for a time. That’s how we endure for centuries. It isn’t pretty, but it’s how I’ve lived for a hundred years and I won’t apologize to anyone for it.”
It was at a time like this that I really wished I’d been wearing a diaper because, with all the panic-inducing hormones racing through my system, I felt like I was really about to pee myself right there in the stolen minivan.
The night was still young, so we ended up at a small pizza parlor on Belmont Avenue. I sat with Elizabeth at the table, staring into the red-and-white checkered tablecloth and my giant, greasy slice of pepperoni pizza. Elizabeth had discreetly ordered a glass of water, but made no move to actually drink it or eat a single slice of pizza.
Just the thought of how she’d been fed made me shiver a little.
“Gah,” Elizabeth muttered into her glass. “That guy had too much cholesterol in his diet. I swear, you Americans were a lot healthier fifty years ago.” When I didn’t say anything, she looked at me with concern. “Is this about the girl? Look, she isn’t going to remember anything beyond passing out and waking up on her own doorstep. Either her parents or her roommates are already looking after her now, so don’t worry.”
“I don’t… it’s not…” I shook my head desperately. “No, it’s not that at all. I just don’t understand what I’m doing. I don’t understand how this happened.”
“Neither do I,” Elizabeth said sadly. “To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t planned on showing up at your apartment that night. I just ran and ended up there. And for some reason… he
never followed me.”
I was shivering again, but it was too abstract for me. I pictured some tall shadow in the shape of a man, slowly stalking the beautiful Elizabeth. I couldn’t see the sinister and corrupt creature her husband had been—had tried to turn her and her daughter into, no less.
“Julia,” said Elizabeth. She laid her hand on mine, and to my surprise, it felt as warm and tender as that of any human being. “I know this has been hard on you, sweetie. Believe me, I’d like to make it up to you. I’ve felt how lonely you’ve been, and for all I knew, that’s what drew me to you in the first place. I know you’re scared about what I am and what I might do, and that’s fine. Just know that I am
here for you, and that I will never hurt you, may God strike me down if I do.”
I looked up at her and saw how serious she was, but I still couldn’t form a reply. But it turned out that I didn’t have to, because Elizabeth got up and walked over to the other side of the booth. She sat down next to me and took me into her arms—her warm, all too human arms. It was honestly the most loving embrace I’d ever known since the first day I’d gone to live with my foster parents.
I felt warm lips brush against my forehead and then she whispered into my ear, “I lost my daughter, but I found you. You never knew your mother, but maybe I could be the mom you always wanted. What do you say, dear?”
I still didn’t say anything as tears began to trickle down my cheeks. I opted for burying my face into the side of her neck, and Elizabeth continued to hold me in our tiny corner booth in the near-deserted parlor. She rocked me in her arms, murmuring some kind of a lullaby to me even as the TV on the wall blared and our pizza grew cold.