…Nothing like the Sun


“Wow, did you decide to hibernate in here?”

It was early evening and going into a fourth very lonely night. I didn’t need any reminder of beings in stasis, but Nick hadn’t seemed to understand the inappropriateness of his joke.  Sometimes, I really wondered why I continued to employ a rather mouthy millennial who insisted on checking in on me.

After Maurice’s healing, my body had been fully restored but my mood had become dour indeed. Leaving the hotel room when I was literally counting the minutes that Jesper had “slept” was an impossibility so room service with the drapes drawn tight and a single lamp turned to its lowest setting had become the extent of my existence. That and pouring over my tomes and the Internet trying to figure out why Jesper still slept.

“Why, come on in, Nick,” I answered as he stepped past me carrying two grocery bags and his satchel. He made his way to a table I’d pulled over next to the crate. Before I could warn him, Thunk!

“Owww!”

He slipped the bags onto the table, his satchel to a chair, and stooped down to see what he had run into.

I grimaced. I wasn’t going to like this. When I didn’t hear a snarky comment or exclamation, I wandered over to stand behind him just as he stood, holding his foot’s assailant. He turned the crowbar over in his hand.

“Um, aren’t we supposed to leave the boytoy in his hermetically sealed box?” He turned to me but his face was in shadow. “For his protection?”

I sighed heavily. I couldn’t help it. First I’d removed one board on Jesper’s crate so I could reach in and touch the marble that was his current form. But it hadn’t been enough; every time I laid down to sleep, it was like I felt him screaming to get out. So board after board got removed. It wasn’t in any sort of meaningful order so it looked like the crate was splitting open from the inside.

“You’re going to lose your Ritterreiter warranty with this.”

I sharply inhaled but Nick reached out and patted my arm. It was a joke. He stared down at me for a few moment’s more before he shook his head and turned to the crate.

“You want this side opened up? You’re not planning on watching the sunset, are you?”

Hmmm, how about right in front for all to see?

My head pulsed suddenly, like the twang of dizziness you can get when you stand too fast. For all to see… the courtisane…

“Eh?” As Nick started on another board, he looked back at me. It cleared my head.

“No it’s ok, that side will be fine, thank you.” I nodded emphatically.

My head was a mumble; lack of sleep, confidence, overload of worry, even the medication perhaps, had set the thoughts not free exactly, but the tethers were…loosening.

To lighten the mood, I asked, “What did you bring me?”

“Some healthier snacks, stuff I used to eat when working on an all-nighter. Some water too. It’s gonna be hot hot hot this week.”

“Ugh,” I moved over to peek into the bags, “Isn’t Seattle supposed to have temperate summers? Mmm, more gyoza. Pocky! Is that healthy?”

The nails squeaked in protest as he worked them loose. “Naw, they just looked fun.”

I felt my fatigue and looked back in the bag for any caffeine. I brought out a bottled coffee drink and smiled in delight.

Meanwhile, Nick silently worked to bring order to the chaos I created. And in that moment, I knew exactly why I still employed this millennial renaissance man.

As I snapped open the bottled drink, I felt him staring at me. “Go ahead and ask, Nick.”

“Rather more a statement than a question: This isn’t working. You’ve been looking through books and the Internet for days. I’ve been scouring the Memento. I think we need a new approach. Can’t we just ask Luce?”

I opened a package of matcha Pocky and snapped it into segments one by one into my mouth. There should’ve been righteous indignation at his suggestion, but he was not wrong. “Oh, it’s Luce, now, eh? Well, considering neither she nor her brother have been around other full vampires that much, I’m not sure how much help she could be.” Even if Jesper resembled any other vampire.

The courtisane…just like any other monstre masculin.

“You sure you know all that those two have been up to in the last few centuries?”

Ignoring the murmuring, Nick’s question made me think of Maurice, how he’d healed me, how I couldn’t really remember how, and how I was supposed to be immune to vampire abilities. Unless it was something else.

Quite so, you should remember your own.

That stodgy arrogant voice from the northern climes in my head sounded louder than usual. Who let her out? Shush!

At any rate, I didn’t answer which he took as a No.                                                                                            

I deflected. “Where’s Morena?”

“Ah,” he seemed glad I brought her up. He paused, standing back up to look at me. “She’s convinced that she’s persona non grata because she blood-doped your boy.”

…votre monstre masculin…

I shook my head, tapped my ears.

“Hey, if she hadn’t, we’d both be dead. As well as our disappeared deli friends…”

The murmur grew more voices, some arguing with each other in all manner of languages.

Nick continued, his voice just barely making it through the chatter, “Who seemed to have vanished in thin air. Which might later present a problem with ownership of the deli. Especially as we continue to work on the repairs and upgrades…are you listening?”

“Hmm,” I stood up and made my way to the window. “I understand.”

He finished with the last board and made a neat pile behind the chair where no one’s toes would be at risk from loose boards or a crowbar. He approached me, “Do you?”

“Morena is….one of our own.”

“Our own?”

“One of us. I mean,” I fought with words, phrases from different conversations, different timelines, different versions of me. “Morena is welcome here. While I know we don’t see eye to eye on all things, I know she wants to look out for Jesper and more importantly for you.”

I looked up at him and the voices silenced as he blushed and grinned haphazardly, nervously brushing his hand through his hair. I smiled, which felt like an odd thing painted on my face, and stepped away from him, to lift the curtain back a smidge the opposite direction of the crate. It was early evening, but the sun was still high, seemingly bending around the northwest side of the building. So much for a sun-free room.

He cleared his throat, pointing back towards the corner, “Now that crowbar stays put. I don’t want to lose our deposit if you decide to expand the closet.” I simply nodded and he continued, “Morena will be glad to hear you’re cool…since she’s actually on her way over. She wanted to see how you are and….if anything had changed.”

We cannot change the past…we are doomed to repeat it if we do not let go.

That voice was new or at least not one I remembered hearing as clearly. I suddenly smelled flowers and thought of my daughter. Who was safe. Away from me.

He moved to the chair where he left his satchel. “So if we can’t try the terror twins, I’m pretty sure my other option you will like even less.” He fished something out then held it up. The Memento.

Bâtard!

“You don’t think I know every single page…by heart…have thought through everything written in it…for an answer?” I flicked at the curtain and watched Nick’s eyes bug out.

He strode over, pulled the curtain closed tight, and gestured with the tome. “I’m not proposing we read it.”

I stepped away and pulled another section of curtain open. He followed and snapped it back. “What are you doing? You want to give your boytoy a suntan?”

I grabbed my arms around me. I didn’t know what I was doing. My thoughts and my body were interacting in ways I didn’t feel entirely in control of. In the midst of that, Nick was trying to get me to look at the book and some growing, angry, festering part of me wanted nothing to do with it. That part wasn’t speaking anymore but I felt her crouched in the corner, chuckling, as if she knew she had the upper hand.

She was ready for her moment…

And then the door swung open and Morena strode in.  

Her moment of vindication….

“Hey, how’s our statue doing?” Then Morena seemed to notice the crate. “What the hell happened there?”

Her moment of revenge….

“He has a name!” I gritted through my teeth. And I grabbed hold of the curtains and pulled them all the way open as my mind exploded in a shroud of emerald green and the smell of fetid, burning flesh.

The whole world froze for me; inside my mind, a rustle of fabrics jostled into each other, the voices shouting at once.

What in Yama’s name have I done?

Well, that’s just splendid. She’s gone off her rocker!

 Liberté!

“What the Fuck!”

Morena jumped for the bed, grabbing at the comforter as Nick and I both seemed to notice all the sunlight bouncing off of the buildings into our eyes. Nick became desperate, fighting to try and pull my hands away at the same time he tried to shut the curtains. “Sophie! Let go! What are you doing?”

But underneath it all, one voice remained silent and a calm settled in, one I’d known only once or twice in my life even though I always felt her, just out of my reach. It was with her will in which I trusted most deeply that my hands pulled with the might of all my lifetimes, most of them compelled to my will, and one who smiled with delicious avarice at the expected consequences, as I tore the curtains.

As the whole section of curtain rod came away from the wall, Nick tripped over the Memento he’d dropped and landed in a thud as Morena faced the fact that A) I hadn’t slept in that bed for four days and B) the housekeeping staff were serious professionals so had instituted hospital corners to discourage my bed dismantling. She tugged and tugged but the comforter wouldn’t come free fast enough.

So we all watched as the light from the sun, held aloft high in the summer northern sky, seemed to bend and reflect off the modern prism that Bellevue had become, travelling its course through the windows, aiming right for the now fully revealed hunk of frozen marble in the corner.

At first, the statue strangely seemed to refract the light back out into a million tiny rainbows, like a disco ball, mineral flecks in the stone perhaps aiding the effect. But just as Morena wrenched the comforter free and Nick struggled to his feet, it began to glow and hum, as if from the inside. Then the hum became a rattling, the remaining crate boards fighting against each other to get free. Morena jumped over the couch and when she was almost there, just a few more steps, the surface of the stone started to crack and splinter.

“Morena!” I think Nick and I both called out at the same time.

Luckily, she sensed the danger and used the comforter as a shield as the glow turned hot white, the sound roared to crescendo, and she and Nick dove for cover. But I couldn’t look away as the light seared my eyes, the vibration deafened me…and suddenly abated.

I wasn’t sure if my ears had ruptured but as my tearing eyes blinked, the room returned and the veined, red and mottled brown hue of the rock had melded to a more neutral almost peach fleshy tone, like a newborn.

And then with a thump, Jesper fell back naked into the crate.

“Are we dead yet? Why aren’t we dead yet?” Nick asked, arms protecting his head. I gently pulled at his shoulder to which he first resisted and then finally relent and raised up, eyes still closed tight.

I rubbed his shoulder gently which drew his gaze to me but when he saw my face, he turned back to the corner. His eyes looked ready to pop out of his head. All he could see was Jesper’s legs, the whole rest of his body lay in the shadow of the couch.

“Morena!” Nick called.

“Can I look? Is it ok to look?” She too remained under cover, as if Sodom and Gomorrah lay out before her.

“Morena, bring me the comforter,” I called, peacefully, all the other voices held in awe.

I could see his chest rising and falling, and that he was taking a moment.

“No way, you crazy fucking bitch, you’re the one that did….” Her head popped up and she saw Jesper laying there. “This.”

Jesper moaned as he began to move, trying to sit up, light flashing in his face causing him to turn his head away as his eyes smoked. Morena jumped to her feet, lifting her arms up and spreading the comforter out to shade him. But she wouldn’t go any closer and seemed almost frightened to approach.

She blocked my view so I started to stand, Nick helping me to my feet. Jesper still lay there, blinking his eyes. His skin looked freshly sunburnt, as if even a few seconds more and he would’ve turned to cinders. But he was breathing and blinking and alive. He moaned a bit more as he rolled to his side and pushed his way up to a seat.

As he took his time, I noticed that not all the vibrations in the room had ceased. There was one, faint, low, just over the hum of the mini-fridge. It felt familiar and old and yet wholly new. The room’s AC suddenly kicked in as it sensed the temperature in the room had spiked.

Jesper took in a deep, long breath, the cooling air seeming to revive him. Then he stood up. Only to bump into the chair nearby and have to use it to steady himself. Half-standing against the chair, he finally looked up and saw us by the window.

Saw me. And smiled. And started gingerly, awkwardly moving toward me, as if his legs were shorter than he remembered.

I smiled back my most idiotic, addlepated, completely relieved smile. I think I even blushed and tried to brush the hair away from my face. I mean, he was naked. Nick clung to the Memento he’d picked up off the floor as if it would shield him from the strange events. Then he hazarded a look at my face, did a doubletake, and then his face chagrined when he also noticed Jesper in the altogether.

Altogether. In one piece. The calm presence that had stood up within me receded and I was now just as muddled and confused as the moment he’d turned to stone.

Morena moved with him, never getting closer than a few feet, all of us lucky her height and long arms probably made her an excellent point guard as well as sunshade. Jesper watched her too, a tentative smile as I could now see her shock as she backed towards us. Jesper had to crouch a bit and give her a moment to get around the end table, but she finally arrived at my side, and Nick reached behind me to grab an end and hoist the comforter behind us.

Jesper finally stood before me, straightened to his full height and took in a deep breath. And I must’ve stepped forward, although I didn’t remember doing it, as if a hand in a red sari had guided me.

Gone was the sometime auburn, ash, strawberry, or even white blond, in its place was a hue that could only be described as golden. I put my hand up to touch it, hours spent wondering if I’d ever have the chance. He let out a long sigh as if he knew my thoughts and shared them. He didn’t make a move to touch me, just let my fingers work through his hair until they finally, inevitably landed on his cheek. I couldn’t help brushing my thumb across a freshly shaved chin to which he let out a quick breath.

His eyes caressed every part of my face. There was only one color to describe them. And you wouldn’t find it on a color chart.

Nick, never one to suffer a quiet moment, decided to remind us we were not actually alone. “Oh hey, man, happy to finally see you.” Then a shift in his weight and his mood changed, “Ok well, maybe we don’t need to be that happy to see each other.”

“Nick!” Morena complained.

“What? I mean, he’s the one naked and all that.”

“As if we need to talk about that at a time like this.”

Jesper looked at Morena and Nick, each one with a long thankful gaze and then back at me and nodded. He then made up his mind, reached out finally to gently slip his hand around my head, fingers caressing the nape of my neck, much as I had done on my second examination of him, and said, “I’m sorry. I must be going now.”

The room then spun upside down and inside out and when it stilled, Jesper was suddenly at the desk, its position against the wall just out of the sun’s reach, the phone handset to his ear. I exhaled suddenly, as if I’d been holding my breath underwater. And just as I grabbed all the pieces of my awareness back together and the shouting of my voices shushed themselves to pay attention, he waved a hand, two fingers in a way I’d never forget. Then suddenly his whole being seemed to be sucked through the earpiece of the headset and was gone.

“Oh, you gotta be shitting me!”

Huh, I thought, for the first time ever, Morena and Nick are on the exact same page.

I then proceeded to fall to the floor in another stunning example of my well-honed ability to tackle a crisis.

One Response to “…Nothing like the Sun”

  1. Oh my gosh! whoosh… so excellent!

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