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a reflection in your pearls

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She can't let go completely, watching her daughter go is harder than she ever expected. There has been nothing steady in her life besides Eleanor and now the girl was gone.

Once upon a time a girl lived on the seashore and a man called her a pearl.

The girl didn't even know what a pearl looked like, only that the rich wire them woven on strands.

Darvell doesn't know what to expect when he follows Clara into the night. He says he wants to be a good person but he hasn't been one of those for a very long time. Not since he let his friend drag a poor girl from the beach. He likes to think he would have treated her differently but he knows deeper down that he was a man of his times.

Maybe he can be a man of newer times.

He can smell sex in the hotel they go to and he can smell sex on her. Warm and thick like blood. They don't fuck though. It has nothing to do with want. He wants her. It is no secret and he can see the knowledge reflected back at him in her eyes.

But she is in mourning, losing something she had for centuries. He’ll respect that. When the sun comes up she is lying in his arms but he makes no other moves. If there are tears in her eyes, the sunlight is too blinding for him to see.

“It’s for the best,” she murmurs when the sun goes down and forces a smile to her face. Her makeup has been wiped off and there’s a pause before she replaces it. A moment where her own face looks up at him. The red lipstick is already in her hand.

“What is?” He asks though he doesn’t need the clarification.

“Her leaving. I was never much good for her.” She pauses and sets the lipstick down without applying it. “Do you mind? It can be tedious, all the glamors that must be put on to assuage men’s egos.”

“You’re beautiful.”

“That wasn’t what I asked.”

Once upon a time a man went to war but didn’t make it back alive.

There are many ways to experience life and not all require being alive.

They leave the seaside town. There is nowhere the Brotherhood is not but they pretend anyway. Pretend that going to the Continent will keep them away. They walk down a street of Prague with her hand in his. She lures in a homeless man who no one will miss and make sure to wash his neck before biting down.

“She believed she was mine so easily,” she says, her lips red with blood instead of lipstick. The man is a forgotten heap and they sit on a rooftop to watch the city. “Not many willingly spend time with me. Not once they know me.”

“I’m still here.”

“Still haven’t figured out why.”

He can’t explain because he doesn’t know why either.

He dreams of the bats and he knows she does too. It is the only dream he’s had since he stepped into that cave. No dreams of a future or a past. Only the bats, as if he’s never truly left the cave.

He still asks what she dreams of. And she laughs, light and easy. It sounds practiced but maybe she doesn’t know how to do simple things anymore, too used to having to put on a show to get by. “I dream of rolling around on piles of gold, and the sea, and I don’t know. I dream of a home I guess.” She sits up and her smile becomes a smirk, radiating danger. It’s a smile to make hackles rise and reduce everything to fight or flight. “I almost had that. Before your Brotherhood showed up.”

“You didn’t love him. That man whose house you lived in.”

“So? You don’t have to love everyone. I loved her.”

Her eyes are deep and sad and old. They have both lived too long but now that they’ve got here, they’re willing to fight for it. They’ve deserved this second life after what the first go around did to them.

Once upon a time a girl was born into a world that would hate everything about her. Others might bend and snap but she embraces it, throws it into the face of anyone who tries to use it against her.

Clara stretches, wearing one of his shirts that falls artfully off of one pale shoulder.

“We could find them,” he suggests. “Your Eleanor.”

Her smile turns sad and he knows this is something true because sadness doesn’t sell. “She isn’t my Eleanor. Not anymore. She’s her own woman.” There is something sacred about her relationship with Eleanor, or maybe she simply doesn’t trust him with those secrets.

He curls a hand around her bare thigh, cool and firm What exists between them isn’t love. He knows he could go on breathing without her, maybe one day even bring another woman to that cave. But right now, he wants her. He wants to fill the space beside him with her. To make up for letting another man carry her off that beach. For not fighting for her against the Brotherhood so long ago.

“I’m not a project,” she says, chastising gently.

“Good, I wouldn’t know how to go about that. Never was good with my hands.”

She laughs and lets the gentle touch lead her to him. “Spoiled aristocrat.”

“It is what I was raised to be.”

The next day she takes them to a club, dark and loud and slips into a corner, drawing over a young man eager for anything. He doesn’t seem to care that Darvell looms to the side, watching closely.

But she looks right at Darvell, dragging her lips over her young toy’s neck. “The rich taste just as sweet,” she says before sinking her teeth in. It’s vindictive, a hundred years of anger at being stepped on all let out in a single bite.

He pushes the boy away to kiss her, wanting to taste her lips and her anger. Wanting to know what it feels like. There is blood on their clothes and he doesn’t fight when she pushes his head to the boy’s neck. Blood is blood, Darvell has learned, rich or poor, man or woman, young or old. It is nothing but food.

She licks her lips as she watches and he leans over to kiss her again, the boy sagging close to lifelessness.

“How much blood is on your hands?” She whispers.

“Lost track. And you?” He licks her lower lip.

“No idea. Does it matter? Make me less attractive? Less lady-like?” She runs her fingers through the boy’s leaking wound, smearing blood over her skin and slowly licks it off. In the dark club no one notices the boy’s body fall to the ground or the two of them, engrossed in each other.

Once upon a time a boy was born who believed the world was to be his for the taking and it took a girl with a blood red smile to show him the darker truths of life.

It isn’t love between them but he thinks it might be respect between two who have survived for far too long. With blood on their hands and souls lost to the devil.