She liked fresh berries off of a flourishing bush. She liked sitting on the beach in the moonlight. She was an only child. She was born in Charleston. She smelled like delicate lilac. Her skin glowed, a radiant pale shine. Her curls of ribbon-like hair bounced gently as she laughed. She seemed perfect. Maybe too perfect.
But she still held back secrets. Melatiah could feel it. He could tell she was holding something back, was uncomfortable, or maybe didn't trust him quite enough. When he would ask how old she was, she'd ask how old he was. When he'd ask why she had followed his family around, she'd change the subject. And now Melatiah was skeptical of Aphrodisia.
Of course, Aphrodisia was one of the best things that had happened to him, Melatiah would think. She's simply wonderful! But even as he knew that, he found his lover quite odd.
Her eyes had a bright glow -- but only if one looked directly into them. Her skin would almost smoke in the midday sun. Her teeth were so sharp. Melatiah was almost afraid to kiss her. But how he did love her!
"What's wrong, my love?" Aphrodisia batted her eyes at Melatiah. "Is there something troubling you?"
Melatiah glared. Suddenly, he felt about to explode with anger. "Why do you hide things from me? I'm so tired of you keeping secrets to yourself and leaving me in the dark! I have told you again and again that I will love you no matter what. You haven't told me everything. You have to tell me now. How can you expect me to trust you if you don't tell me?"
Aphrodisia's face drooped. Her eyes held a sadness that Melatiah could not comprehend.
"Alright," Aphrodisia whispered. "I'll tell you."
Melatiah felt worried. He was not sure of why.
"I... Well, I was the cause of your mother's death. I killed her."
Melatiah felt his heart go numb. His face was a piece of plaster. His eyes were chipped and watery. I killed her. I killed her. I killed her. I killed her. I was the cause of her death. I killed her I killed her I killed herIkilledherikilledherikilledheriwasthecauseofherdeath. Death Death Death Death Death.... Two bleeding circles on her arm... unknown cause of death... dog bite... reaching out to you, fear surrounding you... Aphrodisia...
"You killed my mother." He said simply. Calmly, stoically. Quietly. He laughed, then stopped abruptly. "You killed her. You killed her! YOU KILLED MY MOTHER!"
"You killed her, Aphrodisia. You killed her," Melatiah squeaked. He reached toward the sky. Aphrodisia tried to take his hands in hers, but Melatiah jerked them away from her grasp.
"You're a vampire, aren't you? One of those blood-craving savages that steal life away from others, aren't you? One who kills for your own worthless benefit? One of those disgusting, sly-"
"Melatiah, you don't understand! Let me explain-"
"-sneaky, fruitless, barbaric animals that kill innocents! How dare you harm Emilie? What did she ever do to you? I had never doubted you before, and now I wish I had. For once I began to doubt you, I noticed what you really were. You are evil with a beautiful face. That's the worthless scum you are."
Aphrodisia had not expected this type of reaction. She had thought that Melatiah might crumble into her arms and sob. But now, at hearing all of his angry insults, Aphrodisia was the one who wanted to crumble into his arms. Only she knew that he would drop her to the sand, cold and hard.
Her eyes filled with sad tears; tears she had not expected to shed. "Yes, Melatiah. Maybe I am what you said. Maybe in your eyes I really am a blood-craving savage, a stealer of life, a killer for my own benefit. I just might be a sly, barbaric animal that kills innocents. Maybe I am-" Aphrodisia's voice caught "- worthless scum. But you didn't let me explain. You didn't let me tell you my whole story. You just jumped to whatever conclusion popped into your head. And you certainly do not understand me, my life, and my hardships.
"I'm disappointed in you, Melatiah DeCuir. This is not the Melatiah I saw buy those slaves a while back. You aren't the Melatiah I saw set Nancy and Exeter free. You are someone else. If you can accept the differences and hardships of slaves, can you not accept my own differences and hardships? If you can accept what makes others who they are, why can't you accept what makes me what I am? And now my little soliloquy sounds so silly because I have only explained part of my story. A word of advice: if you want to know someone's story, listen for the WHOLE THING!" Aphrodisia shot a look of ice at Melatiah, and turned around, walking away.
Melatiah did not understand. He sadly gazed off at Aphrodisia's disappearing figure. She did not look back.
Once again, Melatiah wondered what he could have done differently. "Wait!" He called out, but she was already too far away to hear. Red hot fury pulsed through Melatiah's veins. Aphrodisia had killed his mother -- but why? What had made her do it? Melatiah sobbed in the humid air. Betrayal clouded his vision. Aphrodisia had betrayed him.
She had lost track of time. All she knew was that she had been walking all night, sometimes weeping, sometimes remembering back to the days when she and Melatiah had been happy together. Aphrodisia knew that killing Emilie was bad, but she felt that she had learned so much since Emilie's death. In her heart of hearts, Aphrodisia knew she was not a blood-craving savage. But Melatiah's words had cut deep.
If Emilie DeCuir were here, what would she do? If Elizabeth Laurier-Beaumont were here, what would she do?
Aphrodisia knew that she had to right these wrongs.
ONE MONTH LATER:
Aphrodisia cautiously crept up to Melatiah, who was sitting on the old wooden bench. She was unsure of what to expect from Melatiah, because she had left him with a month to settle with the idea that she had killed his mother. Aphrodisia wanted today to be the day that Melatiah found out her whole story. If he listened, that was.
"What are you doing here?" Melatiah asked. "What do you want from me? Blood?"
Aphrodisia ignored him. "I'd like to tell you my whole story, if you'll listen to me."
Melatiah snorted. "Amuse me. I'll tell you if I think it's laughable or not."
"I was born in Charles Town, in 1648. I was born human. I lived a sad childhood, as my parents did not want me. They left me in out in the streets when I was six because they did not want the burden of taking care of a child they did... did not want to have. I ate the leftover scraps of the wealthy and was beaten by them because they did not want a filthy child eating their unwanted food.
"So I lived in the streets, with other kids who were orphaned until I turned twenty. At that age, I decided to leave Charles Town. The night before I was set to leave, I slept in the graveyard because I not many people visited at the time, and I wanted to protect the few valuables I had stocked up on during my homeless life. But, that night, I awoke with a start to find a strange looking man staring down at me. He had startling glowing eyes and terrible fangs. He offered to turn me into a vampire. He said it would make my life better, less sad. He told me he knew that I had a tough life on the streets. I didn't know he was wrong. I agreed, and he turned me into a vampire."
Melatiah's anguish had morphed into concern. "I... I didn't know you had suffered so much in your childhood. I'm very sorry..."
Aphrodisia nodded. "I'm not done, though. Life as a vampire was hard. The man left me all alone. Once again, I was abandoned. I had an intense longing for blood. I was starving, and I needed blood or else I would die. I visited the home that belonged to my parents. I-" Aphrodisia let out a soft whimper "- drank every drop of blood they had. Once I realized what I had done, I felt terrible. I tried to wake them up, but they were dead. I finally understood that I had made a mistake in agreeing to the man's offer. But there was nothing I could do. Once you're a vampire, you can never go back."
"I fled to France, leaving innocents drained of blood behind. I began to ask myself if I really deserved to live since I was killing so many people. I tried to drink from animals, but it wasn't the same. I had a difficult time learning to control my desire for human blood.
"In France, I met a young girl who changed my life forever. I called her Lizzie. She was a sparkling child with a beautiful imagination. I became her 'imaginary' friend. I couldn't let her parents see me -- I knew they would be suspicious. Lizzie and I would play in her backyard all the time. Sometimes we would visit a small stream in the woods. One day, after it had rained, Lizzie begged me to take her to that stream. I wanted to refuse because it was slippery. I didn't want Lizzie to fall and get hurt, but making her happy was the least I could do. Her younger sister had recently died from an illness. Making Lizzie happy made me feel better and forget about my own problems."
"We did visit the stream, and Lizzie wanted to cross it. I told her not to, but she did anyway. She slipped on a wet stone and fell into the water, face down. If I had not been there to save her, I fear the sweet girl of ten years might have drowned. I always feel like if I had been a little more responsible, the whole situation could have been avoided. Sweet Lizzie Laurier..." Aphrodisia sighed.
"Lizzie Laurier? Do you mean Elizabeth Laurier? Did she move to Detroit? That yellow house?" Melatiah interrupted, forgetting his anger at Aphrodisia. Aphrodisia smiled.
"Yes, that was Elizabeth Laurier. I knew her."
"You saved my grandmother's life..."
"On with my story, though. Lizzie grew up, and eventually I hid myself from her. I wanted her to be able to move on. She dearly wanted children and I didn't want our lives so intertwined that my decisions affected her wishes. She meant everything to me. I followed her to Detroit and have watched your family over the years. When you were born, I became visible to you. Sometimes, when you're happy, I can see a flicker of Elizabeth in your smile." Aphrodisia sighed, saddening.
"The trouble began when Bernard wanted to move. He had your whole family leave. I was torn; I wanted to stay in Lizzie's world, where her grave lay, where her dreams remained, but I knew she was gone and that she was living through her children and grandchildren. I followed your family here. I was desperately trying to ignore my desire for thirst; I tried to live off animals, and originally, I wanted your blood. I pretended to not know much about your family in front of you. I decided to drink from Emilie. Thing was, I was so thirsty that I couldn't stop drinking... I drank too much." Aphrodisia glanced at Melatiah apologetically. "I am so sorry. I know I cannot make up for what I have done."
"No, I suppose you cannot," Melatiah said. "But I suppose the fact that you saved my grandmother earns you something. If you indeed had not been there, my current family would not be alive today. How can I ever return the favor? And I know that you would never kill my mother with malice. Anyone who knew Elizabeth would never be able to kill our family with malice. You made a point the other day; if I can accept others' differences, I should accept yours. It is difficult for me to accept yours, but I will do my best to understand you and your differences. It may be a while before you can earn back my ultimate trust. It was an accident. You must drink off only animals from now on. If you agree to that, consider yourself forgiven, although understand that you will need to buy back my trust."
"I guess you aren't a blood-craving savage after all," Melatiah smiled as Aphrodisia put an arm around him.
"I love you, Melatiah. I don't know where we go from here. I mean, I understand if you cannot love me back anymore, but..."
"Aphrodisia, I may be a fool, but... I still do love you. No more secrets, okay?"
*The Antique Legacy*