Her Kiss is Deeper
Story by Andrew Peregrine
When I get home, I am already late. It's almost eight, I'm hungry and I'm tired. My keys fumble in the lock and spill vindictively onto the path. I bend down with loathing to pick them up, and succeed only in kicking them further away. This is just too much to deal with. I just want to get inside and see that she is all right.
She opens the door. She must have heard the clatter of my duel with the keys (which now come easily to my hand to further annoy me). She looks drained and pale. I can see she hasn't eaten at all today. But she still manages a smile for me as she leans against the door. She must have only just got up. Her silk dressing gown is hanging loosely round her, allowing her long T shirt to tell me that 'Barbie is a slut'. She wears no make up, and her hair is a windblown mess that she hates, and I adore.
"So are you coming in?" she asks with mock distain.
I grin and step next to her. Brushing her cheek with a kiss I tell her, "Only if the ancient guardian of the doorway will allow it."
She slaps my shoulder as punishment for my gentle insult. But I still find no resistance as I put my arms around her and hold her for a moment. We kiss as I push the door closed. It is good to be home.
We go into the living room. I cast off my coat and jacket and my tie follows them both. I sink onto the sofa and she gently and deliberately snuggles next to me. Her head rests on my neck, and her arms enfold me. I return her embrace, and we sit for a moment. Just saying how much we love each other without uttering a word.
After a while I feel it necessary to broach a difficult subject.
"You haven’t eaten, have you Helena?" My tone is a little more accusatory that I had wanted. She is instantly on her guard.
"Nothing was right. I did look. I just couldn't find anything. Do you want me to be less fussy?" She is angry now. "Do you want me to take anything at all." Hunger has made her abrasive.
I shudder slightly. "No, of course not, I just want you to be well. I don't want the hunger to control you. You should take from me."
She looks at me with frustration. She is angry because she knows I'm right. The thought of losing control terrifies her, perhaps more so then it does me. So she says nothing as I roll up my sleeve and bare my wrist. I put it towards her mouth and she takes it in her cold hands. She is trembling a little, as if she feels the cold inside too. As if to ask for another way she looks up at me once more. Her mouth is slightly open and I catch a glimpse of her fangs sliding gently into place. She usually hides them from me; she must be so very hungry. Then she bites into my wrist. I feel the twin needles for a moment before the area goes numb. We lie there together as she drinks of me, while I sit stoking her hair until she has had enough.
She pulls away and lets my hand drop. I feel weak, but that will pass. She hates to take blood from me; it makes her feel like a parasite. But when the hunger takes control, she is truly a monster. Her skin is warm now, rosy although still a little pale. She looks quite human again. But to the touch, her flesh is like marble. Although her caress is as warm as any other woman's could be.
We talk for the rest of the evening. She makes dinner for me, while I watch the news. Then we both watch 'Friends' before going to bed. Well, I go to bed. She holds me while I sleep, and then sometimes goes out.
To my continual surprise, we met in quite a normal way. It was at a club in London. Not, as you may suppose, some dark gothic place, but a small dive on the outskirts of Soho. I was there with some friends, unwinding after work. We had been getting quietly drunk to the non descript sound of various boy bands. She sat alone, but not at the edge in some darkened booth. She held a small table right next to the dance floor. It wasn't odd to see her like that. Although she was stunning, there was an air about her that warned you to stay away. But such subtle desire was lost on my beer-sweetened temperament. So I decided to ask her to dance, despite the fact I know myself to be a terrible dancer. She was about to say no, with only a gesture. But something stayed the dismissive wave of her hand and made her stare at me for a moment. I just stood there, swaying slightly as I tried to recall how to stand still through the beer haze. Then she stood up, kissed me very gently and tenderly on the cheek and slide a card into my shirt pocket. But then she left, without looking back once. The card had her number on it, which I phoned the next day. It was if she realised she wanted to know me from the moment we met. But that she knew I'd screw it up if we talked then. So she simply offered me a second chance. I would have been a fool not to take it.
It was of course a while before I found out the specifics of her diet. I observed her eating like a bird every time we went out for dinner. But I'd taken plenty of similar women to dinner before. I got used to this delicate flower consume half a small salad and declare herself full. So it surprised me when she ordered a very rare steak for one meal. I thought it was just because she felt more comfortable with me. I was right. But I had no idea how much more she had to share. We might have carried on that way for quite some time. I wonder if she would ever have told me her secret, had not fate forced her hand.
We were walking home together after a night out. We had been to the cinema to see 'Vampire in Brooklyn'. While I like Eddie Murphy, she had found it far funnier than I had. But I think there were a lot of in jokes only she could have appreciated. If they were intentional I couldn't say.
A man left the shadows ahead of us as we entered an alley. He calmly told us we were to give him all our money. I stood there wondering what to do, as he was twice my size. But more worrying was the way he was looking at Helena. Deciding I was no threat, he grabbed her. I went to fight for her, but discovered I didn't need to. With a blur of speed she had her hand around his throat in moments. Then she almost casually lifted him off the ground. I just stood there like an idiot, amazed at this frail looking woman gripping this full-grown man like a doll.
But our assailant was not as defenceless as he now appeared. Hidden in his hand was a knife that he took great pleasure in thrusting into Helena's side. She winched slightly, but other than that made no sound. Her other hand sped to the man's hand and grasped it. Even from a few feet away I could hear the bones crack as she pulled both the knife and his hand free of her side. The livid knife wound bled for a moment and then sealed. Leaving only a dark stain and a hole in her dress as evidence. She threw the man aside with such force he passed out, and then she turned to me.
That was when I saw her face, and it terrified me. Her fangs were out, as if to dispel any lingering notion she was human. Her hair blazed around her like flame. But the look in her eyes of rage and passion was both attractive and frightening. I was dumbstruck as she stood there looking at me. Just as I realised she was not looking at me as potential food, that this was still the beautiful woman I had spent the evening with, she ran.
There was no way I could have caught up with her, so I just phoned her as soon as I got home. There was no answer, so I kept phoning for two weeks until she finally answered and agreed to meet.
We met in a small out of the way bar in Camden. It was mid week, and everywhere was quiet. She looked terrible, as if she had been crying for days. As if she thought I would hate her for saving my life. I didn't let her speak first. I could see she wanted to offer some long explanation. But I had to tell her first that it didn't matter. She was Helena, the woman I had enjoyed several dates and intimacies with. That she was also a vampire was odd, but didn't change that. She was more than a little relieved to hear that.
I asked what it was like. She said it wasn't like you see in the movies. From her it was simply a statement. Not an arrogance from some vampire wannabee trying to justify their own delusional fantasies. But as she was about to tell me more detail I told her to stop. I didn't need a lecture. It felt like asking a girlfriend about her toilet habits. I only needed to know one thing; did she need to kill people? She told me she didn't and I could see the idea of murder horrified her, so I pried no further. Then told me in a resigned way that it was all right to ask. Confused, I said "What do you mean? Ask you what? "
"You want to be like me don't you", she said with resignation. "That’s why you came back, why they always do. You want me to 'turn' you."
I told her no. The thought hadn't entered my head. Here was I trying to save a relationship and she was talking about joining a cult. I was a little angry and I told her so. To answer she got up and held me so tightly. Then she kissed me, and as our cheeks touched I could feel a tear.
"I'm so glad I found you", she said.
That was all we spoke of it. We have been together for a while now. She has been alive for a long time. (Although she won't tell me how long) and has considerable savings. So I go to work as usual while she sleeps and we spend the evenings together. When I am asleep she goes out. I know a little of what she does, But I don't want to know any more. She does what she needs to do without hurting anyone. Well, without hurting anyone who doesn't deserve it. She is a decent girl, so I trust her judgement.
But this morning, when I wake, I’m surprised to see her gone. Usually she is there, sleeping beside me by the time I open my eyes. She sleeps so deeply that no noise will wake her. Only if I nudge the closed curtains and let in a little light does she stir. Her absence today worries me a little, not just because it is unusual. She is strong and fast, but has other compensatory weaknesses. She can still get hurt. So I decide to get dressed and take the day off, so I can find out if she is all right, or just be here when she returns.
But when I go into the bathroom as usual to shave, I know why she is gone. She told me once that she cannot stand seeing those she loves die. She told me it would destroy her heart to see it again. As I look in the mirror I see what she saw when she decided last night to go. There among my dark hairs is a single strand of grey. I stare at it, knowing I will never see her again.