By Laura Feltyberger
After a while Martine opened her eyes and saw Michael standing over her. Her eyes pleaded with him to remain silent and not to disturb her charge, who had sobbed herself into a stupor. The two women stood and Martine walked the weary woman down the path to the paved walk where a police car was parked. She opened the car door and sat the woman in the empty cruiser.
"Stay here, you’ll be safe." she said as she turned to Michael. She looked tired, dirty streaks down her face where she’d rubbed at her tears, dust on her jeans from sitting on the ground. But her eyes looked hard, old. She led him away from the street light that illuminated the woman in the police car.
"Now you’ve seen us. What are you going to do? Will you turn us in? Come up and stake us during the day? Or will you just open all the doors and windows and let us burn to death?" Martine was angry.
Michael didn’t know what to feel. They had stopped a rape in progress, maybe even saved that woman’s life. But they had killed the attacker, and enjoyed it. They fed on the terror and fear that had accompanied the violent acts. He knew that there was no right or wrong here, that this area was totally gray.
Gavriel and Sedrien emerged from the woods, surprised to see Michael. Gavriel made a move toward Michael, but Sedrien stopped him. "You might want to go home and change, guys. You don’t want anyone to see the blood on your clothes." Michael flung at them before he walked away. No one pursued him because the police officers who belonged with the car finally reappeared, and the three vampires explained how this poor woman found a dead body on the side path and nearly hurt herself trying to get away from it. With that taken care of they went after Michael. He’d followed the lighted walk back toward the park entrance.
"Michael, I’m sorry you had to see that." Martine yelled after him.
"You’re sorry. You’re sorry." he turned to face her. "You’re not sorry; you’re sick. I bet the first time we went to bed together you wanted to finish me off like a midnight snack afterwards. I can’t believe you let me live after that. Or is that why you’ve come for me now? You can’t have your secrets spread all over New York, so you’re going to silence me and get rid of the evidence."
"Michael, you have nothing to fear from me, from us. I would never hurt you, and you should know that. I love you."
"Don’t say that! I can’t imagine that all this time we’ve been together I’ve been living in a lie you constructed. I feel like every minute that we’ve spent meant nothing at all to you. You lied to me; I don’t know where that lie ends. I don’t know where you were in all of that, what you really felt, if anything you said to me can be believed."
Martine took a deep breath. "Everything I felt for you is true. Almost everything I told you about myself is true. I only left out some of the damning details.
"What I told you about my grandparents, and my parents, that was true to an extent. Only my grandparents never lived to see the concentration camps, my parents did. And my mother was never rescued by a German soldier, that was me. I didn’t know at the time that he’d given me his blood to keep me alive when I almost died of fever and starvation. When the danger of our being found grew too close he sent me on a train to Calais. That was where I met Sedrien. He had to explain to me what I’d become, because Gunther had never told me."
"But you told me. And that’s supposed to make it right?"
"I can’t make it right. I can only do my best to make it up to you."
Michael sniffed at the chill breeze that began to blow. " You owe me nothing." And he stalked away from her toward the street.
Martine called out to him, trying to call him back, but he quickened his pace, jogging down to the sidewalk and into the street.
He didn’t check the oncoming traffic. He didn’t see the truck until it was too late.
Martine screamed loud enough to alert the cops two blocks down, as well as Sedrien and Gavriel. Michael’s body had been thrown two car lengths, and then bounced sickeningly to the ground. She ran into the street, where the truck blocked the traffic that might have run her over as well. All his joints seemed bent at wrong angles, and one side of his face was covered in blood. Martine was afraid to pick him up, afraid to find him dead. She screamed and kept on shrieking and crying as Sedrien picked her up off the asphalt, her wails blending with the sound of the approaching police car.
Martine almost didn’t hear the doctor when he approached. She was staring off into space wondering how she could have done this to Michael.
"I’m going to be absolutely straight with you. Michael’s situation is not good, not even close. He’s got multiple fractures all over, including damage to his skull and spine. The real danger is all the internal injuries we can’t see. He’s bleeding in so many places he’s like a sieve. If he survives the night ,... damn, I can’t keep your hopes up. Chances are he won’t make it. The best we can do is make him as comfortable as possible."
"Does Michael know this?" Gavriel asked.
The doctor shook his head. "He’s in a coma. He’ll never regain consciousness."
Gavriel held Martine against his chest, letting her sob out her anguish.
Sed laid a hand on her shoulder.
"I’ll go see him. I’ll take care of him."
"No!" Martine had a hold on his sleeve. "I want to see him. I’ll give him peace." Her voice weighed heavy with the finality of what she intended to do.
She walked into the trauma room where nurses monitored Michael’s failing heartbeat and non-existent brain waves. Someone adjusted a bandage over his face, covering a gash that ran from temple to jaw. His hair drifted across the pillow and left a trail of blood. Upon seeing Martine, the nurses tactfully left the room.
This was something she did all the time. She could spare him the painful slow death he faced and give him peace. By taking his pain and his life she would live. For decades this was how she lived her life and justified her living it.
But this was Michael, the man she loved. This was different; he was different from every other patient she’d helped to his rest. Tears, more tears than she’d ever shed as a human, flowed down her face and throat. This was a man, a love, worth dying for.
She could hardly see what she was doing as she moved the plastic tube from his mouth, raised her arm, and cut her own wrist open with her knife. She held her arm over his lips, watching the blood drip into his open mouth.
She hoped he, and Sed, and Gav would understand. She hardly understood herself. She dug the knife deeper when the wound sealed itself, cutting her arm lengthwise and laying the vein wide open. Michael’s only hope flowed from her and sealed her fate as much as it renewed his.
Martine emerged pale faced and weak from the trauma room. Sed was there to catch her when she fell into his arms. "Take me home." she said.
At that moment an alarm went off in the trauma room and staff pushed them aside in their rush. Sed caught a glimpse of the slash in her arm.
"My God, you didn’t." he asked sotto voce. When she didn’t answer he knew. "We should stay, for Michael’s sake."
"It’s up to him." Martine sighed. "Please take me home. I want to go home."
No one noticed the three leaving the emergency room. Everyone was too busy with the startling turn of events in the trauma room. Michael was awake, and completely healed. He’d started yanking the bandages and wires, and that’s what had set off the alarms.
He was confused, not remembering the accident at all. The police and medical staff fired question after question, until Michael could no longer think. His head buzzed with a dozen voices, and his mouth stung with a strange metallic taste, as if he’d bitten his tongue and drawn blood.
"Wait a minute! Would someone please explain what is going on here? Just
ONE person? And where in the hell are my clothes?" He swung his legs over the side of the table, clutching the sheet they’d draped across his hips and legs.
"I don’t get it, there are no marks left on you." one of the doctors turned Michael’s head to see a gash that was no longer there. "There was a laceration a mile long on the right side of your face, multiple lacerations and contusions all over your chest, fractured ribs, both ulnae, oblique right fibula and femur, dislocated shoulder, shattered knee cap. Not to mention you were bleeding out of half the vessels in your body. Your skull cracked and sent fragments into your frontal lobe. You shouldn’t have been breathing when they brought you in here. How is it that you’re sitting up and talking?"
Michael suddenly knew what was going on. He grabbed the faded blue scrubs someone had tossed on the nearest flat surface.
"Man, when I saw the size of the truck that hit you, I didn’t think there’d be much left of you to scrape off the street. And look at you now!" The cop was one of the ones who’d been taking care of the rape victim. He’d heard Martine’s screams and responded, calling the ambulance once he knew it was needed.
"I was practicing,... for a magic act on TV. Yeah, I’ll get hit by a truck and come out without a scratch. That’s all they were, just scratches. I’ve got to go catch up with the rest of my team, they’ll be waiting." He pulled the scrubs on and headed for the door, finding his shoes under a pile of grisly looking clothes that had been kicked by the door. He belatedly recognized them as his own. He ran through the emergency room with cops and nurses hot on his trail, and lost them in the crowded waiting area.
"Where is she?" Michael demanded, storming into the moonlit apartment.
"Come see for yourself." Sedrien answered. He gestured to a scroll-arm chaise near the floor to ceiling windows. Someone had removed her blood stained clothing and wrapped her in a silk robe. She was laid out on the cushions as if she were already in the grave. Her eyes opened halfway. "Michael, don’t be angry. I couldn’t stand to see you like that; to know that there was nothing I could do to save you, when there was only one thing I could do to save you."
"Did you really save me? You made me a monster! I would rather have died." he snarled.
"Careful what you say in front of the dead." warned Sedrien.
"You killed her, you bastard." Gavriel stepped from the deep shadows of the stairs. His eyes glowed ancient bronze and fire. "She gave her life for you and this is how you repay her."
"She won’t die. All you have to do is feed her. Bring the doorman up here and ask him for a pint or two."
"We’ve tried that. I can’t bring her back. There’s nothing I can do. She gave you her life, and nothing will give it back." Sedrien’s voice rang in seplucheral tones.
"It’s true." Martine’s voice was a papery whisper. "We’re changed.
There’s something different about us. You are one of us now, and you have to know."
Sedrien sat on the floor at Martine’s side, entwining her fragile fingers in his own strong ones. "Some vampires have learned to survive by feeding on strong emotions. Fear, anger, sorrow, lust, pain- they’re just as intoxicating as blood. Some vampires who have the power to do this cause pain and suffering in order to feed. We have never done that. We have tried, to the best of our abilities, to use that power to help others."
"If someone is hurting inside, we can take away the pain, make it stop. The victim of that rapist was terrified. Martine soothed her fears. Sed and I drained the attacker of his terror as well as his blood." Gavriel brooded looking out over the silver gilded city. "He deserved it. That’s called justice."
"And this is called love." Sedrien watched Martine’s silent still face.
"She couldn’t bear to see you suffer, to see you die. She gave you all she had. Because she loved you she gave you her life, and she has nothing left."
"I have nothing left. With her gift she took away everything I have. I have no home, no family, no life anymore!" Michael seethed.
"You have my life, my home, and my family now. You have to continue for me. Forget your petty complaints and remember there are others in worse shape, and they need you. You wanted to do something more meaningful with your life, remember?" The words rattled in her throat. She swallowed them with difficulty. "You have to think of those out there, not yourself, and not me."
Michael threw his hands to the ceiling, pacing back and forth between the chaise and the couch until he flopped down on the latter, cradling his head in his hands.
"All these years I’ve been drinking sorrow, eating pain. I became numb. I had forgotten what it was like to feel anything. Then you came into my life. You reminded me what it was like to be human; to feel happiness, to feel ecstasy, to feel anything at all. I tried not to love you, but you gave me back my life. How could I not love you?
"When the doctor said you wouldn’t last the night, my first thought was to take away the suffering, to make you comfortable. I had no thoughts of healing you until I saw you lying there. You were so helpless, so lifeless, and I couldn’t bear the thought of you like that. You have too much spark, too much energy to end like that. I gave you the only thing I could. You gave me my soul back; it was only right that I gave you a new life." Tears streamed from her eyes into her hair. Sedrien reached over and brushed at the gleaming trails on her skin.
Michael wept silently. He loved her too much to argue, but he hurt. "How could you heal me and leave me here like this, knowing that I’d lose you in the bargain? It seems like a deal drafted by the devil himself."
"I can’t go on forever. I’ve lost too many friends, lovers, to stand idly by and watch your life end. That was my devil’s pact: to watch those I cared for die when there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was selfish then. I still am, and that’s why you’re here. You mean everything to me. I’d give you heaven and earth if they were mine to give."
Michael rose and sat beside her on the chaise. "If I could take away this curse and make things right,..."
"No, it’s not a curse. It’s a gift. My gift to you. You have to learn to give it to others." Her moon-bright eyes shone with tears. Michael lifted her to his chest and held her tightly. He sought her hand and squeezed it.
Something cold and wet ran between their joined hands. Looking down he saw the dark stain of blood.
"No!" he cried. The wound she had made for him to drink had opened and the last of her blood ran sluggishly from her arm. Michael tore a scarf from the cocktail table and tried to staunch the bleeding.
"What’s this?" asked Sedrien. Gavriel dropped to his knees, about to offer his blood to heal her.
"Don’t. There’s nothing you can do. You made me happy again, Michael. Now I can go to my rest in peace." Martine’s voice trailed away. She stared up at Michael with love and bliss in her eyes.
They sat huddled in a pile on and around the settee. Michael sat with Martine lying across his lap, Sedrien on one side watching the skyline, Gavriel on the other side seeing nothing. Martine was quiet, but still breathing, still alive, waiting to see her last sunrise.
"Sed, I want you to promise that you’ll take care of Michael. Teach him what he needs to know. Gavriel, I don’t want any bickering between the two of you. You’re going to have to live with each other for a long time."
"Michael will always have a home with us." answered Sedrien.
"And I promise to behave myself." agreed Gavriel solemnly.
"Michael, listen to Sed and Gav. They will take care of you until you can take care of yourself. The first few years are rough."
He shushed her. "Don’t worry about us."
There was a long pause. "I want to see the sunrise." she said.
"You will, sweetheart." said Sedrien.
"Maybe if we put her to bed like always,..."Gavriel offered.
"No. We’ll do as Martine wishes." said Michael. She stirred in his arms and he dropped a kiss on her forehead.
They sat that way for a long time, until the sky began to lighten. Gavriel kissed Martine then went to his room and locked himself in.
"I remember the day we met." Sedrien combed his fingers through her hair.
"Gunther sent you to me on the train from Hamburg. At the station you asked what had happened to him that he couldn’t come with you. You had no idea what was going on. He had locked you away to be safe and not told you about your fever or the blood-change."
"He locked me away with his books, and I didn’t care what went on beyond those walls." She smiled faintly. She opened her eyes to see the first gray streaks reaching beyond the horizon. "I didn’t know anything outside that room. When I left for the station I expected to see daylight. I was not aware that I would never see it again."
Sedrien rose and kissed her hand. "Michael, it’s time for us to go. You have to be in your room before the sun rises. You know what happens if you don’t."
His room, not hers. Michael chuckled. "If all the horror movies I’ve watched are true, yes I do."
Sedrien strode silently up the stairs to wait for Michael. Michael pulled Martine close. She had no strength to hug him back, but pressed a kiss to his hair, his cheek.
"Put me in the window."
Michael pulled the settee to the edge of the room, right under the windows. She reached up and drew her locket out from the folds of her robe. "Take this." Michael undid the clasp and fastened the chain around his own neck. He kissed her once, twice, and couldn’t let go.
"I can’t leave you. I want to die with you. I love you."
Martine sighed. "If you love me you’ll go to bed and leave me be. Go now."
The gray streaks were tinged with blue and yellow. Dawn was almost upon them. He stepped away, still holding her hand. With each step their fingers lost their grasp, until he was running up the stairs. Martine heard Sedrien’s voice, then two doors closed, Michael’s and Sedrien’s.
Martine turned her face to the window and watched the yellow streaks turn bright. When the first glorious sliver of pure sunlight broke through she felt enveloped in it. Joy sang over her body as she vanished in the light.
Michael woke in Martine’s bed. The sheets smelled of her perfume. He held her pillow crushed in his arms. As he uncurled himself the locket tumbled to the mattress. He opened the heavy silver oval and found a small watercolor of a sunrise. In the opposite frame was a picture of himself and Martine, one of the ones taken in the photo-booth at the arcade. In the darkness his heart broke all over again.
Sedrien and Gavriel were already awake when Michael finally came downstairs. Martine’s robe lay empty on the chaise; both were dusted with a fine powder. Michael carefully picked up the robe, catching the pearly silver dust in it. Gavriel opened the casement. All three men stood looking over the moonlit city as Michael tossed Martine’s remains to the night, to be scattered on the wind.
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