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The Edges of Eternity

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It was always there, to remind her.

That funny, slightly nauseated, slightly dizzy sensation was her constant companion. It started in her abdomen and fluttered up her chest and into her head. Mary Margaret Stone was never unaware…for more than a few precious moments in each hour, each day of her remaining months…that she was dying. The hazel-eyed blonde was a young woman dying too soon, doomed before her threescore years and ten could even truly begin. Some days, being a terminally ill person was easy…effortless in fact. Other days, such as today—were a different story. A general fatigue, lack of appetite, warm flushes followed by cold chills, and a distinct ache inside, where the hallmarks of days like today. As the sun set across the water Maggie was finally beginning to feel like tomorrow might be a better day. But—in the end—she knew what the outcome would be.

The funny sensation always came back…to remind her.

 

Bianca Montgomery was thirsty.

Bianca, with her cold brown eyes and the slightly feral curl to her red lips she was forever trying to hide…was never unaware—for more than a moment—of her constant thirst. The need to be quenched was her omnipresent companion. Bianca needed blood. Bianca could draw sustenance from nothing…but blood. She had tried countless times in her first years as a vampire—to eat food. She had always failed of course—indeed it had sickened her. Hunger was a distant, hollow memory of her mortal existence. Bianca missed hunger—she missed sitting at a meal table with loved ones—or even enemies—and sharing the daily meat and bread. Thirst. Thirst was all she knew…and sometimes, Bianca was afraid that thirst was all she would ever know, ever again. Thirsty…hunt…drink…still thirsty… It had been this way since a night on the seashore—a night not unlike this one—some one hundred and ninety years ago. That had been the night she had joined the Immortals…

The night…she had been changed…forever…

 

It was beautiful…the sea by moonlight.

Maggie found herself coming to the boardwalk again and again since moving here. The ocean was serene, eternal. The tides coming in, then washing out again was soothing to her, body and soul. Maggie had searched for a place like this that would soothe her. Maggie could barely remember how it had felt when she was well.

Before the cancer. The recent winter and spring seasons had drug on and on with endless tests and needles… and infusions of chemotherapy with the resulting hours with her face in a pink plastic basin. A sudden and unexpected clarity had fallen upon Maggie just a few short weeks ago—followed by a sense of peace—and a choice…

Enough…

Maggie had sworn to fight this cancer. Maggie was in medical school—a first year student-- when she was diagnosed. Maggie had never wanted to be anything but a physician. Maggie Stone, all five feet, one inch of her, was a feisty firebrand. But the ultimate drain on her will and her courage had been the saturation her mind and soul had endured—of faces. She had seen an endless line of human faces: her own medical school classmates, nervously clutching bouquets of hospital gift shop flowers and computer print outs of the latest theories regarding her cancer…plus the tired-eyed faces of the oncology residents and fellows—just dying (pun intentional) to get a look at her extremely rare form of cancer…and the faces of her few friends—shell-shocked… distant…unwilling to commit to any further relationship that would only end, ultimately, in attending Maggie’s funeral. The faces…all those faces…had finally been the catalyst for Maggie’s decision to end her fight and find some happiness in the ‘four to six weeks’ she could be expected to live.

Maggie had left home, selling all she had and giving away the rest. She had found an old RV in a used car lot and traded her SUV for the rusty POS of a camper and had driven away, no clear destination in mind. She had named the small camper Harriet after an old family friend who had always supported a young Maggie Stone in her dreams of becoming a doctor. Over and over, Maggie asked herself—am I running away? And the honest answer had been, no…Maggie was not running…she was…travelling…seeking something…God knew what. Maggie just wanted to feel alive for her last days and being on the road, or among people in the small, sea-side villages where she would park Harriet and rest—being part of the ebb and flow of life in general…made her feel a part of life.

That had been just short of five weeks ago… and the calendar…and soon the clock…where catching up with the thin, sickly-looking, petite blonde.

 

Bianca Christine Montgomery walked the streets and alleys in the night…looking for her next meal.

Bianca was an outcast among vampires: after almost 2 centuries of being an Immortal … Bianca had grown weary of the hunt…the chase. The blood of the young, the innocent, and the unlucky souls found in taverns and bars and homes…sweet and satisfying though it may be…was no longer her preference. Bianca didn’t want to be a monster any more. Innocent blood was like honey—but only for an instant. The aftertaste…had become bitter. If she was to be a killer…a predator…then she would be a monster—with a focus.

Now, Bianca exclusively hunted the evil…the cruel…those bent on doing harm or taking life without conscience. Many were the thief, the human killer, the rapist, the bully-for-hire…whose blood had long ago nourished a thirsty fellow traveler in the darkness.

Bianca had been born into a wealthy, aristocratic family—the only child of kind, educated parents who were seekers of enlightenment in dark times. If only they had not both been killed in a Native uprising…Bianca’s path would have undoubtedly taken a much diverse course.

The young woman, still unbetrothed, now without relations, had been shuttled to a distant cousin and that stranger’s second husband—a devout and physically zealous clergyman. For Bianca, who’s life before had been books and music and pretty dresses and parties…was now only scriptures and endless prayers and more hours spent in the Church than at her small room in her guardian’s modest home. Bianca’s inheritance was quickly seized and even more rapidly squandered by the Rector. In his few solitary hours, he was possessed not by the Spirit, but by spirits…. Afterward, her resources gone, the usefulness of his lovely ward was in question.

Then, a beloved housekeeper had been threatened, placed in fear for her immortal soul, and finally abused into revealing a secret only she had ever been kind and tolerant enough to hear from the young Bianca.

The sweet young mistress…held in her heart…a desire only for other women…

When the threats and the screams to Heaven and the endless prayers had failed to change who Bianca was born to be…the beatings began.
It was a bloody, broken, and emotionally absent young woman who had escaped to the seashore on a night so like this one…with the intent of hurling herself off the cliff and into the ocean. Seeing her only option—letting the benevolent God she believed in accept her as she WAS--Bianca had been half a heartbeat away from the leap.

It was then…that a tired undead, weary of Eternity…happened upon the lost young woman.

 

Maggie was a bit worried about money. It was not as if she had ever been wealthy. But the ready cash in her mattress from her now closed bank account surely should have been enough…especially for just a few weeks. It was not as if she needed much FOOD money. Maggie, constantly sick to her stomach, rarely ate much.

Checking though a few receipts in her carry-all bag, Maggie realized that it had been the rising price of gas that had been the undoing of her budget.

Oh, well…

Maggie was not letting the situation depress her. This little town with its lovely view of the ocean was as good a place as any to cease her wandering and wait for the end.

The blonde watched the sea from Harriet’s doorsill step as the moon rose and the sun set. She closed her eyes and considered one expense she couldn’t trim from the budget: her medications. Both her prescription bottles for her pain and her nausea medicine were empty. Maggie had chosen a 24 hour pharmacy just a short walk from the lot by the ocean where she’d parked Harriet. It seemed—an evening stroll was on the agenda.

In the dark, in a dingy alley behind a Chinese restaurant, Bianca paused for a moment and tasted the breeze. There was nothing stirring in the area, save a few rodents in and around the trash dumpsters. Bianca recalled this alley; it was here she had enjoyed her last good meal—a prostitute with a penchant for killing and robbing her customers—and had acquired the simple clothes she now wore. They had previously belonged to her recent dinner.

A tiered, rose colored cotton skirt, topped by a lacy, beige blouse was a simple, summery outfit that was very akin to what all the mortal women wore along the beach and the boardwalk. Bianca liked to blend in. Being inconspicuous also made hunting easier.

Bianca was seeking those who would use this alley for improper rendezvous—drug dealers, thieves, those who preyed sexually on the weaker or homeless. Those were Bianca’s current preferences for slaking her thirst. Evil doers were easier to kill—to consume. The blood was often bitter…or tainted with liquor or drugs—but the sense of being quenched was the same. And the re-awakening human conscience inside the decades-weary vampire felt somewhat better about each death—feeling she helped preserve other lives by taking these evil ones. Or…so Bianca told herself.

 

On that cliff back near her last mortal home, as she wept and summoned her courage to jump into the cold ocean and sharp, craggy rocks hundreds of feet below her, the young Bianca had heard a chilling laugh from behind her.

“Yes little warm one…death IS preferable to this life…isn’t it?”

Bianca had been terrified of the figure before her in the moonlight. He was a ragged-looking man, wearing scraps of old clothes and tattered blankets. He smelled of rot and of death. It was his eyes though that made the young woman’s heart jump in her chest and the bile to rise in her throat. This stranger’s eyes…were blood red… He smiled, but not in humor.

And his teeth…Bianca could see as he leered at her…were sharp fangs…

Too quickly to even summon a scream, the vampire had bitten her in the neck and drunk her life’s blood. As Bianca lay supine in the clover, and was again ready to die…he slashed his own wrists with his fangs, and watching as a near-comatose young victim gazed, unseeing at the night’s starry sky, filled her dying mouth with fetid, sticky red blood.

Bianca began to burn. The change was upon her.

“Yes my little child. Welcome to the night. Welcome to the endless night. A gift, lest ye think me an ungracious host!”

The mad old blood-drinker had lashed a heavy leather satchel around Bianca. As he lifted her effortlessly over his head, she thought she heard the tinkling of coins…

“Farewell little one…enjoy Eternity—as long as you can stomach it…and--enjoy your moonlight swim!”

And he had hurled her into the ocean.

Bianca burned for what felt like weeks. It must have been mere hours because as she pulled her changed body with its new strength upon the sandy beach, she saw both the rising sun over the water…and the dying embers of a funeral pyre on the cliff above her.

The old one…had destroyed himself…but had left his curse…and his wealth behind him.

Bianca was horrified by her new life. But after she discovered what to do to slake the awful thirst…and after she had made sport and then a meal of the drunkard Rector …she felt a bit better.

 

Ah—at last—here comes something…

“Hello? Is someone there?” Maggie, long past actual fear for her mortal life, still possessed enough of an instinct for self preservation to be worried when she heard something behind her. Coming down this stupid alleyway—despite the twenty minutes and some two hundred weary steps it saved her in the daylight—was probably NOT a fine plan in the new dark. This little seaside town was undergoing a bit of crime wave of late—especially among the undesirable levels of the populace.

“Hello…” said a shadow from the edge of the alley. Maggie stopped short. Now, she was afraid.

What are you DOING, Bianca—she asked herself. You don’t TALK to the meal! You drink it and move on. But—this one…is innocent. The vampire again tasted the air. And this one…is sick… Bianca could smell the distinct, piquant odor of long-term human illness. Bianca was ashamed…she didn’t drink little sick girls…

“Are you lost?” Maggie addressed the young, alluring woman with the dark curly hair, nearly black eyes…and alabaster skin. She was…Maggie was at a loss for words…breathtaking. Maggie had come out of her personal closet too little, too late. She had dated exactly three women after coming out as a lesbian…and had never found anything akin to the love and devotion she herself was ready to give the right woman. Then…the aches and fainting spells had begun…followed by her diagnosis.

“No…I was…” Bianca was flustered. And now she was explaining herself to this woman? A woman who, only seconds ago she had been planning on drinking her utterly dry. But hearing her voice had somehow displaced the thirst…and with the need to feed in the background, Bianca found herself suddenly, inexplicably, as eager for more conversation as she had been for the girl’s blood.

“Do you have name?”

“…Bianca…”

“Pretty name. It suits you… I’m Maggie. And if you don’t mind—we should keep moving and get out of this alley. There have been some murders around here lately.”

Bianca was amused. “Yes, I know.” They walked side by side. Maggie wondered if this woman ever smiled beyond that secretive smirk.

“Please tell me your name again?” Bianca loved the sound of Maggie’s voice. It…stirred her…and triggered a few old memories.

“Maggie. I’m pleased to meet you, Bianca.”

“And I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Maggie.”

“You speak like someone born a hundred years ago.”

“Closer to two hundred—but who’s counting…”

“Funny.”

“What brings you out in the night, Maggie?”

“A trip to the pharmacy. What about you?”

“I was considering a bit of supper…I haven’t made up my mind yet…”

“Isn’t that just maddening? Hankering for a meal, but you just can’t decide what sounds good…”

“You have no idea…”

Maggie found herself quite taken with this quiet, lovely stranger. She spoke like an actress in a historical production. She moved like a cat. Bianca’s eyes seemed gentle, alluring…but they reminded the young patient of a Bengal tiger she had once seen in a zoo. But somehow, as much as her ‘spider sense’ was telling her to fear this odd woman…Maggie didn’t. Indeed…she found her fascinating.

Bianca, despite the smile on her face, was still waging a tumultuous inner war. To drink or not to drink. Maggie’s aroma was utterly mouthwatering. Surely this tiny mortal has done something unkind in her short life! Even as she thought it, Bianca was keenly aware that Maggie was not her profile victim. As much as the Immortal craved this young woman…another part of Bianca was enjoying her company…immensely. It had been a long, long while since Bianca had chosen to actually converse with someone… With a start, she realized…she HAD been lonely. A few minutes of idle chat won’t cause any harm.

And…I can always kill her later…

Arriving at the all night pharmacy, Maggie asked, “Care to come with me? Or are you off to find your supper?”

“I might join you--” But Bianca was suddenly forced to turn her back—from Maggie and from the glass door of the pharmacy. This store was one of a chain, connected to a local Catholic hospital. Their logo was prominent on the door…and it included a cross.

“Bianca—you ok?”

“I’m sorry dear…on second thought…I’ll stay here and enjoy the night.” She turned just enough to smile at Maggie reassuringly.

“OK—suit yourself…”

Bianca walked a bit into the parking lot and regarded the night sky. She missed the sun. And even now, just shy of two hundred years later, the once-devout woman still felt ill-at-ease being unable to gaze upon religious icons… But, she had adapted. The stars had become her sacred writings…and the moon her vestments. The night had become her church…

Maggie, already known to even the night pharmacist, had her new medication bottles in hand quickly. Thanking the graveyard shift staff she made her way back to the front door. She didn’t expect Bianca to be there still. Despite that conviction, when her sweet tooth forced her to pick up a chocolate bar at the check out—she rather automatically grabbed two. It seemed…so natural to include Bianca in even this simple act…buying a candy bar.

Maggie, she told herself…you just met her. You have no idea who she is… She could be an axe murderer. She could vote Republican… She could hate sushi and have never watched Buffy… She—worse of all—might be…straight!

“You’re still here!”

“Yes…”

“I’m glad…I, uh…I got you something. Here.” Maggie looked at Bianca as she handed the candy to the bemused brunette with the shining eyes.

“Thank you…that was…most kind of you.” Bianca looked at the Hersey bar in her hand, utterly spellbound at the simple, though useless, act of kindness.

“You’re welcome. It would have been rude to eat mine in front of you…” Watching Maggie peel the wrapper off of her candy and begin to eat it, Bianca decided to do anything but give Maggie the impression her gift was unwanted and, for a vampire, inedible. Mimicking Maggie, Bianca peeled her chocolate and smiling as she simulated eating it, used her ability to move faster than human eyes could track—to hide pieces in her pocket—as she “ate.”

The two women walked back toward the boardwalk, this time avoiding the scary alley. Neither mentioned any specific plan to spend more time together; it was assumed. Both women felt an innate sense of having found a kindred soul. There was a magic in the small space between them. Maggie spoke of her home upstate. She spoke of her excitement over becoming a doctor. She hesitated over mentioning her cancer…but Bianca didn’t press. Maggie, when her strange companion asked how her studies were going, Maggie simply replied, “Got sidetracked…when I got sick.” Bianca only nodded and gazed at Maggie.

“What about you?”

“Me?”

“Do you have a career?”

“I…inherited a sum years ago. Managing it keeps me comfortable.”

“Oh…Did you ever want a career?”

“Yes. I always thought…I would someday…become a teacher…” Which was true. As an unmarried woman—who secretly wanted other women—being a teacher or a nurse were the only actual options in her day. And Bianca, acknowledging that she was unlikely to become a mother due to her preferences, still sought a way to be among the young. Bianca had often thought of teaching school—especially music.

Of course, she mused, an unexplained smile arriving on her lips—today I would have great opportunities as a history teacher. Night classes only, of course…

Bianca spoke of her home…of her parents and how they had died when she was young. Bianca told no lies—but did carefully omit any references to any date on the calendar, or time since an event had occurred.

After a couple of hours—despite frequent rest breaks on boardwalk benches--Maggie was fatigued. The dose of her medications inside her was also making it difficult for her to walk. Bianca noted the change in her companion.

“Maggie—you’re tired. Perhaps I should see you home.”

“I’m afraid you’re right. But—home is right over there. I have a rusty old travel camper parked in that lot. Care to join me for some tea?” The chocolate was sitting fairly comfortably in Maggie’s tummy—and a cup of tea often helped keep it soothed.

Bianca’s inner voice—the once she substituted for a conscience—was telling her that being with Maggie for much longer was going to end only one way. But—being with the sweet, sickly young blonde was tending to other needs—other desires long buried and thought to be absent. Maggie was nourishing Bianca’s soul.

“I would be pleased to continue our conversation. It has—been a long while since I made a new friend.” Again—the words were spoken before Bianca was aware of it.

“For me, too…I travel a lot and sometimes I forget to smile and talk to people…”

Maggie led Bianca up a small set of cement stairs, then around a corner to an open lot—mostly empty—of parking slots for travel trailers and recreational vehicles. A short time later, behind a huge Winnebago, they came to Harriet…in all her rusty glory.

“Quaint…”

“Yeah, right…she’s a piece of crap…but she gets me places… Come in please.”

Avoiding the uncomfortable issue of needing to be invited—Bianca stepped up the two corrugated metal steps and into Maggie’s ‘home.’

“Be it ever so humble…please, ignore the mess—maid’s day off and all that. Bathroom is over behind that door if you need it…let me put the kettle on.”

“Maggie—you are exhausted…and not feeling well. Allow me, please.” Bianca motioned for her hostess to seat herself on the RV’s built-in sofa. Maggie sat, gratefully and laid her head in her hands for a moment. Just let those pills kick in, please… Maggie thought. Bianca nodded, then seeing the kettle on the tiny range top, filled it from a bottle of fresh water on the counter, lit the burner, and set the kettle to boil.

“Tea pot is in the top cabinet to the left…and the tea is in the second right-hand drawer…”

“Yes, I see both, thank you.” Bianca found cups in the dish drainer and set these on the counter as well. The vampire couldn’t recall the last time she had been so…domestic… It brought back memories of tea with her parents on Sundays after church. Relaxed, easy hours when her brilliant parents would read aloud books on science, philosophy, the cultures of other lands… Or she and her father would entertain Mama by reading Shakespeare plays aloud…

Bianca closed her eyes and distracted herself by ruminating over the foul odor of the spoiled food that was evidently forgotten under Maggie’s bed.

Maggie, slowly feeling the numbing effects of two pain pills and one nausea wafer wash over her, opened her eyes and considered her guest. Bianca was an enigma. She was cultured—no doubt of that. Educated…her accent was—the young woman could not place it. Her clothes were standard, comfy beach wear but they seemed somehow not the brunette’s style. Indeed, the skirt and top were ill-fitting.

Of one thing, there was no doubt: Bianca was fantastically gorgeous. Plus, she had an inner beauty as well. She stirred feelings in Maggie that the dying woman had weeks past resigned herself to never experience again before the end. Maggie had ‘come out’ only the past year. Having dated and slept with men for years, the rigors of medical school…plus the death of her mother…had finally shaken something in her core identity loose. Maggie had sought therapy…and support groups…and had finally accepted who she was. Maggie was going to be a doctor. She was going to be successful…and happy…and someday—she would find a wonderful, beautiful woman to share it all. Perhaps they would have kids—smart, feisty kids who would be loved and treasured by their two mommies…

Oh…yeah…not gonna happen…

Maggie studied Bianca as she carried teacups and the pot to the sofa. Bianca met her eyes as she simulated taking a sip of her tea. The Immortal couldn’t hear Maggie’s thoughts—but after so many years, Bianca had become adept at reading mortals. She knew Maggie was wrestling with unanswered questions.

For her part, Maggie knew she had to be up front with her new friend right away. Gay or not, willing to be the chum of a dying woman—or not—Bianca deserved the truth. Maggie’s self esteem wouldn’t allow anything less.

“Bianca—may I ask you something…delicate?”

Such as—‘are you one of the undead, Bianca?’—the vampire thought to herself. But she only smiled and said, “Please ask…”

“Bianca—are you straight? Or gay?” Well…that was not the question I expected! You surprise me, little one…not so easily done these days…

Bianca knew the modern terms. She had obstinately refused to apply them to herself. “Your question is—I believe—do I prefer men or women as objects of my affection?”

“Wow—fancy way to say it…but…yes.”

“Women, Maggie. I have always adored women.”

“I’m glad. My gaydar is kind of iffy sometimes.” Bianca knew those terms too. She nodded. How odd to be so drawn to this mortal. And how truly bizarre to be having this conversation! Such was the 21st Century.

“Your senses are correct about me. Maggie—are you telling me—that you find me attractive?”

“Uh…that’s getting right to the point…but—yes, Bianca. I find you attractive.”

“Maggie…I must say—that I find you adorable. And I am attracted to you as well.”

Maggie sighed. If only Bianca had been straight, or not interested, she would have been off the hook—at least for tonight. Now, she had to come clean, fast and dirty.

“Bianca—I want to ask you out…I want to spend time with you and see if we might be good for each other. But I have to tell you something…about me…and I expect you’ll run screaming into the night when I do.”

Bianca could see the dread in her new friend’s eyes. “Is it your illness, Maggie?”

She nodded. “Bianca…I have terminal cancer. And this is not a ploy to get you into bed. I am dying…I came here, to die. That’s why I quit school.”

Bianca, despite herself, moved closer to Maggie and laid her hands over the wringing hands of the blonde.

“Your hands are so cold. Do you need a blanket?”

“You tell me you are dying—and you offer me comfort?”

“Yeah….I guess I just did. I’m sorry to blurt it out like that…but I wanted to tell you the truth…I couldn’t lie to you… You’re—special Bianca.” Icy or not—Bianca’s touch felt so wonderful.

Bianca had had enough. It was time to end this charade, no matter the cost. Tell her, see to it she has resources to make her last days comfortable, and then go—far from this place. Leave before the thirst turns Maggie from a beloved new friend to a savory meal.

Or worse—the object of sincere love…

“Maggie—I too have truth to confess. I am not who you think I am.”

“Your name isn’t Bianca?”

“Bianca Montgomery is my name. That has been my name since the local clergy baptized me when I was an infant…a long, long time ago.”

“Oh please, Bianca—you can’t be any older than me…and I’m only 24.”

“Oh Maggie, you dear child…I am much, much older than you.”

“Not possible.”

Of course. She would need to be convinced. “Maggie—take this please.” Bianca handed the young woman the rolled ball of foil from the candy bar wrapper. Maggie wrinkled her eyebrows.

“OK…what do I do with it?”

“Toss it behind me—hard—and watch closely.”

“Ok…” Maggie wound up and tossed the ball of thin foil as hard as she could. Faster than her human eyes could follow, Bianca rose, moved in to intercept the missile and easily caught it, tossing it back to Maggie. The blonde was dumbfounded.

“Not a trick. Watch me Maggie—try to not let your eyes leave me.” Bianca went into her predator-speed, and flitted around the camper—to the kitchen, sitting on the bed, standing in the doorway, then again sitting next to her friend--only lingering in various locations for long enough to be seen by her companion at each. Maggie’s eyes were again wide with shock and amazement. Finally, Bianca went forward to the cab, and was back sitting in her chair before Maggie was fully aware she had left it. In her hands was the tire iron. Without a word, Bianca effortlessly turned the steel tool into an infinity symbol shape. Then, making a powerful fist, she crushed it into a blob of misshapen metal and loose filings.

“I’m sorry for the theatrics…but I doubted anything less would have convinced you.”

“Convinced me of what?! What—who—are you, Bianca?”

Suddenly—despite her convictions—the Immortal didn’t want to say the word. She simply—smiled. A proper smile this time, and showed her fangs.

“Ok…let me digest this for a minute. You’re a vampire?”

“Yes.” Bianca was done with subterfuge. She would tell Maggie the truth—all of it. Then she would go and leave this dying mortal in peace.

“Well I gotta say—that sure trumps my announcement! Do you live on blood?”

“Yes, I do.”

“And you have been a vampire…for how long?”

“One hundred, ninety years, four months and eighteen days.”

“Wow…Do you want to kill me?” Maggie said the words waiting for the fear. It didn’t arrive.

“For a moment…I did. But not now.”

“Why?”

“I have…no idea. I just…decided I wanted to talk to you. You’re interesting Maggie. I don’t fully understand—but you resurrect…feelings in me…that I had forgotten ever having. You awaken compassion…and attraction…and kindness in me. And…I was…lonely…”

“Well…after a couple o’ hundred years…I imagine loneliness would be a problem.”

Bianca—laughed. She laughed a rich, vibrant laugh that came from deep in her silent, motionless heart. It had been decades since the Immortal had laughed so.

Maggie joined in—her laugh equally robust. “You have no idea…” Bianca finally answered. “Finish your tea Maggie…and forgive me if I don’t join you.”

“Yeah—sorry—fresh out of A-…and it was on my shopping list, too!”

“You bespell me, little one. You laugh and joke when others of your kind would shriek and run.”

“It’s my nature…Can I ask you--”

“Anything you wish.”

“Do you turn into a bat?”

“No.”

“Can you fly?”

“No.”

“Do you sleep in a coffin?”

“Only once…and not by choice. I didn’t enjoy it. Especially…the digging myself out with my fingernails…”

“Uhg. I see. Do you catch on fire in the sunlight?”

“No. But the sun drains me of my strength. Too much sunlight can kill me…just as prolonged exposure could kill you…and it is painful to me…”

“Oh!” Maggie jumped up and rummaged through some drawers in her galley-style kitchen. Finding a roll of aluminum foil and then a dispenser of tape, Maggie strode to Harriet’s windows and began to cover them.

“Maggie? What are you doing, child?”

“What does it look like? The sun will be up in just a couple of hours. Or—won’t this work?”

Bianca…again…laughed….as only this little, feisty mortal could make her laugh.

“Maggie…do you really think I am staying here all day with you?”

“Don’t you want to?”

“I should go…”

“Before you do something you’ll regret?”

“Maybe…”

“I mean, where else would you go at dawn? Do you spend the daylight hours in a cave…or the sewers…or what?”

Amused, Bianca tilted her head and with a coy smile she said, “Actually, Maggie—I have a room at one of the nicer tourist hotels…twelfth floor…a very splendid view. And free cable TV.” The vampire swept a lock of her dark hair behind one ear in a characteristic gesture.

“Nice digs—if you can get them.”

“Perhaps you would like to come spend a few hours there with me? I would be pleased to return your hospitality.” As soon as she said it, Bianca realized she meant it. She did want to be with Maggie. The idea made her smile.

“That sounds nice…” Maggie thought Bianca’s smile was dazzling…and the fangs…oddly attractive. Too many movies, Maggie mused.

“I can’t vouch for the quality of the room service—but you look like a decent meal wouldn’t harm you…and I would be delighted to have you as my dinner companion.”

“As opposed to BEING your dinner…”

“As you like.” Another brilliant smile.

“Also—there—you would be less inclined to kill me—what with witnesses only a wall away…”

“Perhaps you are correct.”

“Bianca?”

“Yes, dear?”

“Were you always this gorgeous? Or did becoming…”

“…a vampire..?”

“Yeah…did that make you so beautiful?”

“Maggie—I don’t know how to answer that. I always felt I was passing pretty when I was mortal…I had a suitor or two…men of course. But--I was never lovely enough to entice another woman to bed with me—as much as I desired several.”

“Tell me about them, B.” Maggie pulled her legs up to her torso and made herself comfortable.

“B..?”

“Yes…it just came out…”

“I—don’t recall ever having a nickname. Do you have a pet name others have called you?”

“Uh…classmates called me ‘Mags’ sometimes…”

“Maggie suits you better.”

“As you wish… I am sorry that in your era being different was such a burden. Not saying that being gay is exactly easy today--”

“You tell me of your secret loves…and I shall tell you of mine.”

“Oh—that’s fair. Well…my first boyfriend was named Andrew. He was golden haired and pastel blue-eyed…and very pigeon-toed. I kissed him under a weeping willow…my very first kiss…”

“You tease—I see your game. And you both were…how old?”

“I was six…he was seven.”

“Ah…first love.”

“Your turn.”

“Yes. My first love has to have been Marguerite. She was an auburn-haired beauty—a student from France who was my governess for several years. She also taught me music…” Despite herself, Bianca sighed, wistfully. “She was in my life from my eleventh birthday to almost my fourteenth. I adored her every day of those years…”

“What became of her?”

“She married well…and moved to another territory. And…died in childbirth years later I heard.”

“I am so sorry…”

“It was over a century ago, Maggie. And your first love...?”

“The first woman I ever felt drawn to like that was...Sonja…”

“Lovely name.”

“Yes…she and I were classmates when I was premed at the university.”

“Tell me of her…”

“Well…she was dark-haired and deep brown eyed, like you. And she was very gentle and soft-spoken…again like you. I was…utterly head-over-heels in love with her.”

“Did you and she..?”

“No…she was straight…But—we were good friends. I introduced her to the man she ended up with…and I danced at their wedding…”

“Sad…to love so and be a spectator only.”

“It sounds like you have a similar story.”

Bianca let out an ancient sigh. Dare she even think of it? “Elizabeth…golden hair like the wheat in the fields or the fleece of mythology…and eyes the color of the ocean at ebb tide. Like you, she was…was small of stature…”

“Ah…we short girls have to stick together…”

“Indeed. She was my classmate too…in what you would call high school. She discovered me in a field behind the school one afternoon…my skirts hiked up to my knees…kicking a ball—quite an improper act you must know…”

“Such a crime…”

“In my day, yes. She captured my heart from the first instant our eyes met. I could think of little else. We were the best of friends—rarely apart.”

“Did she know how you felt?”

“Eventually. And…we did share a connection. Eventually, we tossed fears to the side and declared ourselves. In our era we risked everything to be sweethearts. We secretly stole moments in the gardens or the forests behind our homes and the schoolhouse. Her kisses…”

“Yes?”

“Maggie—calm yourself. Your heartbeat just doubled its pace, dear.”

“Can you blame me—this is better than any gothic romance…tell me about her kisses…”

“You minx. Kissing Elizabeth was like drinking in the dew…like touching my lips to rose petals and fresh cream. Her touch was satin…and she always smelled like vanilla and summer rain.” Bianca touched her lips, trying to recall the sensations. “If only my heart could still beat…it would still race to think of her…my first true love…”

Maggie was spellbound. At last, she broke the silence: “What happened, Bianca?”

The vampire laughed without mirth. “THIS ‘happened’ Maggie…” She motioned to herself. Then, the rest of the suppressed recollections came to her thoughts; waking in the ocean, but not feeling any sense of drowning…then, hauling herself with such little effort up from the foam and onto the seaweed-covered rocks…the power in her hands, the clarity of her sight and vision—even in the night. The pyre on the cliff. Looking into the leather bag that was her makers final gift and being dumbstruck by the sudden wealth in her hands…gold and silver coins, gemstones the size of her thumbs…and—then—the thirst…

“Bianca…what is it? What’s wrong?”

Bianca recalled too easily, and oh so clearly—the ease with which she drank the life’s blood from her evil, drunken step-uncle. Then, for a dessert—she killed and drank her aunt. The poor housekeeper who had betrayed her looked on in horror then fled despite her own broken body…Bianca had spared her. But—only because she was satisfied for that one moment.

Before the sun could rise, Bianca was at the home of her love. Elizabeth, thinking Bianca’s presence in the night and her new, horrific appearance to be a nightmare, at first, paid no heed to the new vampire’s earnest pleas. Bianca begged in her new voice—for them to flee the lands with this new power and the new wealth. They could go anywhere they fancied. Go and be together. Live together and love unashamed.

Before Bianca could move in to kiss the love of her mortal life, Elizabeth had fully wakened. She looked at the new face of her secret paramour…and saw it clearly in the light of the bedside candle. And—Elizabeth began to scream.

It was done in an instant…

 

Bianca—ripped herself from her awakened memories and looked at her new friend…the young woman who had roused all these bits of humanity within. The vampire rose and was at the door in an instant. Maggie could see the change and she did not understand it—but she had her suspicions…

“What? Please stop, Bianca. Talk to me!”

“This isn’t right. I must go.”

“Why?!”

“We are different creatures. As much as the poets and the preachers would like to speak of the lion lying down with the lamb—it just doesn’t happen!”

“It has tonight…”

“And it was wrong…”

“Why Bianca—what are you afraid of?”

Bianca was silent, brooding, her hand on the doorknob. Leave…leave…but Maggie’s pleading voice was like an anchor.

Maggie felt she had an inkling as to the cause of her vampire friend’s sudden urge to flee. “You have spent hours with me—and my blood is still inside me…”

“More than once—you don’t know how close we came to that not being so…”

“I am not afraid, Bianca. I’m not afraid of you…I am not afraid to die. I’m dying right now…I have only a few days to live—at best—anyway!”

“Doesn’t justify my behavior.”

Maggie summoned her courage and spoke to Bianca as she would any mortal friend—despite the possible risk. “What sin exactly has the awful bloodsucker committed here?” The dark woman’s anger was immediate—her voice made the air around Maggie sizzle with raw power.

"DO NOT MOCK ME!!!"

“Still not scared… Bianca…” Maggie took a cold, dry, ashen white hand in her own. “You sat and talked with me…shared your heart with me…we became friends…”

“Monsters don’t have friends.” Even to Bianca’s own, superhuman ears, the arguments were sounding feeble. But—she wasn’t leaving.

“Then I guess you aren’t a monster…because I AM your friend…and I hope—somehow—you will see me as your friend…”

Bianca released the door and turned to Maggie. Her eyes were wet—but the tears…were pink. Then, they dripped pale red. Of course—Maggie thought—vampire…her tears are blood…

“I…I’m sorry…” Bianca could not recall having felt vulnerable in any way for some unrecalled number of decades. But that night, that moment…with Maggie…she was vulnerable.

Maggie gathered Bianca into an embrace. Bianca returned it, being so very careful not to accidentally crush Maggie in her sadness and self-loathing. “What for...?”

“I am a soulless creature beyond redemption…I don’t have the right to feel sad…or happy…or grateful…”

“You are crying…anyone who can cry is not beyond redemption. I’m no expert in the immortal soul…but my money is on you having one, Bianca. And why can’t you feel happy…or sad…or grateful?”

“I…have not…felt…anything…in so many years. I finally decided long ago that I was incapable of feeling. But I am happy—happy that I met you. I am sad—that we cannot be anything meaningful to each other…”

For the moment, Maggie let that statement pass. “And why are you grateful?”

“Because you are looking at me like that…holding me…I didn’t think…I would ever feel this way again…for the rest of eternity…”

“Feel how, Bianca?”

“…loved…and…feeling love in return…”

“Bianca…”

“I…I killed her Maggie…I killed her and drank every last drop of her. I guzzled her sweetness into me like she was a penny a gallon ale. She is still inside me…”

“I know honey…”

“Don’t you dare comfort me! The thirst is all I am…all I know. It will rise again at any moment-- I haven’t fed in almost two days, Maggie! Very soon you will become my next meal if I am not far away from you…”

Maggie looked into the eyes of the certain Death Bianca warned herself to be. She had seen her approaching Death so clearly in her dreams and her chemotherapy and narcotic induced nightmares. And this creature before her—as shocked and appalled as Bianca’s nature might make her—did not have the same face. Fear was Maggie’s old friend now. She and fear had had fought many battles in the weeks past—and now—while no winner was declared, Maggie was comfortable in their stalemate. And Death…was an expected guest…with an invitation.

“I am not afraid of you, sweetheart.” Pale, hazel eyes met blood-stained cocoa eyes in a shared moment of understanding, acceptance… Bianca realized that distance alone would never be enough to protect the treasure that was in her powerful arms. Maggie was center stage the in the theatre of Bianca’s heart and mind. When the Thirst resurfaced…

“Maggie…don’t worry. I won’t hurt you—ever! I…when the sun comes up…I’m going to go to a quiet, secluded area of the beach…and watch it rise—and let it wash over me. I miss the sun, Maggie. And I would like to see it one last time…then I will be gone—just a bad dream--and you will be safe again…”

“I can’t let you do that Bianca…you have centuries…hell—eons left to live…”

“Not like this Maggie…”

“How? Powerful…beautiful…mysterious…exotic?”

“Murderous…vicious…without mercy.”

“You have shown me mercy tonight.”

“You gave me what I wanted.”

“And you gave me what I needed as well…in this day and age--among us mortals—we call that friendship…love…a relationship…”

“I am so tired Maggie…and so thirsty…I can’t hold out much longer…and I don’t want to kill again—especially you. I’d rather not exist than take another life. After this time with you…I am…I have a conscience—for this moment…I need to use it before it vanishes behind the thirst… I would have my last act be one of…love…”

“Then…” Maggie was also tired…also in need…and finally resigned.

“Bianca…as my friend…if I asked you to do something for me…would you consider it?”

“Yes…”

“Good…I want you to stop worrying about me.”

Despite her turmoil, Bianca smiled--her newly reborn compassion evident in her dark eyes. “Perhaps I like to worry about you…”

“Don’t. And I want you to--” Maggie dropped her gaze to the floor, then, back into those intense brown-black eyes. “…drink…”

“I already told you…”

“No, listen. No lives will be lost tonight. Me. I want you to drink…from me…”

“Maggie—you are—insane.”

“No, Bianca…I am dying. Tonight…tomorrow…later this week…maybe sometime next week at the latest—I’ll be dead. My life is a waste…unless…”

“No, Maggie. Do NOT ask this again!”

“You promised that you would consider my request…”

“I am a killer, Maggie….but I am not an executioner.”

“I would like to leave this life with the knowledge that my death served a purpose. If I die feeding you—helping you to live and seek your redemption another night—then that is enough for me to die happily. Bianca—I hurt. Like your thirst, my pain and my sickness are always with me. I haven’t endured my burdens for as long as you—but-- I would lay them down, my dignity intact…”

“Maggie…”

“I am asking you to show me the compassion that you say is resurfacing inside you. I have a sense that passing from this life quickly…in your arms…would be an easier way to die than curled up in my bed…in pain…throwing up into a pan.”

Despite herself, Bianca was horrified. “I could…make it easier…” she muttered.

“I know…”

Bianca bared her teeth and growled in pure animal fury. She pulled back from Maggie and dug her nails into the wall beside the door, leaving long, jagged claw marks down the length of the thin metal. Maggie looked on, an impassive witness. What a sight the two of them were, the young blonde thought. The killer and the would-be healer. The dying and the Immortal. One who took blood as sustenance from the living…and the other whose diseased blood was killing her. What a pair we are…

Maggie knew her request, though reasonable in her own dying mind, was the antithesis of what the world-weary vampire needed. Maggie decided to ask for a more immediate…and perhaps acceptable favor from Bianca.

“Bianca...?”

“What?!” the angry creature growled.

“When you are calm again…no hurry…”

“What, Maggie...?” She was finding her control…she retracted her claws and closed her lips over her fangs and regarded the petite, fearless, and beloved mortal again.

“Please…would you please come hold me?”

Bianca almost laughed again. “What is this power you wield over me, little Maggie?”

“My natural charm, I guess…” She held out her hand to the vampire. Bianca gazed at it, her eyes wistful. There was nothing more she wanted at that moment than to go to Maggie and be bathed in the warmth of her embrace, be soothed by her forgiving touch, and be surrounded by her delicate fragrance…

“The sun…will rise soon…”

“Bianca…we have a little time. Come here, please.” Maggie again took Bianca’s hand and led her toward her bunk in the back of Harriet’s living area. Maggie lay down and pulled back a blanket, inviting her Immortal friend to share the bed with her. Hesitantly, Bianca sat. Her red tears leaked out her eyes. She wiped them away with the back of her pale hand. Suddenly shy, Bianca confessed.

“I have never… shared a woman’s bed, Maggie…”

“But you have always wanted to…haven’t you?”

“Are you my own personal demon—come from Hades to tempt me…?”

“I have been called many things in my life….but never a personal devil. I kinda like it!”

“Maggie…I give you my solemn vow: IF I lie with you tonight…I will try and resist your sweet scent. But if I fail…and your blood leaves this little vehicle inside me—then I see the sunrise today…I swear it!”

Maggie sighed. “I can’t argue with what you choose to do after I am dead…but please remember—that I care for you very much…and do not want you to die…”

Bianca gathered Maggie into her arms…ever so gently as Maggie fell back to the sheets, her companion above her. She laid her head between Maggie’s breasts and inhaled deeply. The scent of the woman in her arms—despite the taint of the illness—was like purest perfumes. To Bianca, Maggie smelled of freshly-washed linens drying on a line…and wildflowers…honey on fresh-baked bread…and of course…the sweet, coppery, rustic smell of warm, flowing…blood. Bianca’s mouth was watering… But—there was also the heat of Maggie’s body next to hers. She could hear and feel the racing heart of the mortal. Bianca could see the flush of arousal on Maggie’s cheeks and smell the womanly scent of her body as she tightly held the small woman.

Maggie was chilled from the coolness of Bianca’s touch. But—she was also feeling a hot flush at the presence of the other woman…and the knowledge of what she WAS…aroused her. Maggie could feel the growing between her legs. Musing—if this was her last opportunity to get turned on--he might as well make the most of it! The fine thread of terror at her likely demise running as an undercurrent, Maggie in her uppermost perceptions was filled with peace. Being with this woman—this vampire—felt right. Had they been born in congruent eras—Maggie was certain—they would have been together.

This…tonight…was all that this time…and this place…could give them. And each was content that they had found one another…if only for these few hours.

Maggie placed her hands on either side of the brunette’s face and guided her lips into a kiss. Maggie knew that Bianca was immensely strong—and if she had wanted to resist Maggie’s feeble tug…she could have do so effortlessly. Bianca—did not resist.

Their lips met…

The ancient vampire and the young dying medical student kissed each other. Softly at first they brushed lips, and then kissed with more force and more passion. Hands touched, explored, caressed… The long-denied desires of the Immortal and the buried needs of the ill woman rose up from their internal lands of exile—and met in a middle ground between them. The energy of their mutual arousal flowed back and forth and built upon itself with each circle. Simple touching, kissing, holding…was powerful…electric…

As much as each of them wished to rip the clothing from one another, they silently chose, instead, to carefully undress each other. Maggie lacked the physical strength to tear the cotton skirt and blouse on Bianca. And Bianca…was too worried that any effort on her part to tear away Maggie’s jeans and tank top would result in Maggie being injured. Soon enough, they were safely naked in bed together…under Maggie’s old quilt. Their naked selves in close contact set their electric connection aflame.

Kiss followed kiss. Bianca loved the taste of Maggie’s mouth. She was sickly, yes—but the flavor of her mouth was like the mineral-laced water from the mossy spring in the garden of Bianca’s mortal home. Maggie ran her tongue along Bianca’s and felt the tingling sensation of a fine, dry red wine. As the passion built, her flavor became more intoxicating for Maggie—first akin to a rare cognac and then, like a well-aged whiskey.

Lips and hands, tongues and fingers explored…touched…fondled…tasted…and simply caressed and treasured. The pleasure continued to build—differently for each woman—but the desire was identical: …love…and be loved in return…

For Maggie…life had been uncomfortable and lonely treatments for her cancer… followed by endless hours of pain and nausea to the point of utter exhaustion. Maggie had always been a sensual woman. But, since her cancer, sex…indeed any form of pleasure… had all but vanished from Maggie’s ability to perceive. For Maggie…simple pleasures of the senses—a bottle of inexpensive wine and a meal of sushi or steak and baked potato… or the pleasure of coffee and conversation with a friend during a much-needed study break …or the simple indulgence of a hot bubble bath and a favorite old novel…had long been replaced by any scant moment of feeling any way—but completely miserable. For Maggie…happiness consisted of the pain and the need to vomit settled to a dull roar and her mind sufficiently numbed by her medications to not whirl and spin in on itself. The idea…the dream… of any form of ecstasy…was long forgotten.

Until…now…

For Bianca, so long ruled by a solitary desire—this level of pleasure could only be associated with drinking. And yet—her desire for blood was…at least for this moment…held in abeyance. Now, with the body of her young, human lover in her embrace…all Bianca wanted was pleasure—both given and received in return. Something deep and dormant inside the vampire awoke with a sharp instant of pain. Then—it was gone and replaced by…something. Something…human…something frail and needy and mortal…came to the surface of Bianca’s heart and her mind. The vampire and her endless thirst fell behind this new presence. This new—and yet old Bianca…the young woman the dark-eyed beauty has once been almost two hundred years ago--was…reborn…in Maggie’s arms.

And all that this creature wanted…was Maggie.

“Bianca…”

“Maggie…”

Bianca slid her fingers into soft, wet folds between Maggie’s legs. The blonde gasped in pleasure. She could feel her orgasm building. Never again had she expected to feel this. Maggie reached out and found Bianca—still very much a woman despite her transformation—and placed her fingers inside, leaving her thumb on her lover’s clit.

“Is this all right?” Maggie had read her fair share of lesbian lovemaking manuals—but this coupling between her and the immortal was not in any chapter she had ever read..

“Yes, my love…you feel wonderful…your touch is like magic…”

“So is yours…please kiss me…”

Their pleasures reaching a crescendo, tongues plunged into each other’s mouths with reckless abandon. Maggie, discovering Bianca’s fangs, courageously ran the tip of her tongue over them—and was stung by an unintentional puncture.

A scant drop of Maggie’s blood in Bianca’s mouth was enough to trigger a feeding frenzy. As Maggie felt Bianca’s body movements change from lover to predator—as she saw Bianca pull back her face—her eyes black and feral-- she had an instant to think—if she had to die—this was one wonderful moment to do it. She was ready.

Bianca plunged her fangs into the left side of Maggie’s neck before she realized she was doing so. Warm sweet blood…the sweetest, most satisfying Bianca had ever tasted…rushed into her mouth. The vampire and the young lover viciously wrestled each other inside Bianca. At the same instant, Maggie was filled with pleasure, both from Bianca’s bite AND from her lover’s hand inside her. As an intense orgasm of unparalleled magnitude began to shake the blonde, she dug her nails into Bianca’s left shoulder. Blood oozed out of the small wounds…dark and powerful-smelling. It trickled into Maggie’s open mouth as she screamed her pleasure, calling out Bianca’s name…and waited for the end to come.

Bianca…feeling the last instant before her own long-awaited orgasm exploded inside her…and savoring the rapture of Maggie’s blood pooling in her mouth…felt a last and now subtle battle being waged between her two personalities. Something…snapped. And another something… cracked…painfully so. As these tiny changes happened—Bianca was set afire. A burning started inside her heart and leapt outward like a wildfire to her very toes and fingertips in a split second. Bianca knew---just knew in her very soul—and she was utterly certain in that instant that she did indeed possess one still—that a choice was to be made. And—she made it. She swallowed that one, utterly satisfying mouthful of Maggie Stone’s blood…and then licked the fang wounds quickly…sealing them with her vampire saliva. Maggie’s blood was locked back inside the writhing blonde, safe. And then…the burning overtook the brunette…it spun her around, faster and faster until she was certain she would fly off the very edges of eternity. The orgasm rippled though her and she collapsed unseeing, unfeeling, and unaware into Maggie’s arms.

Maggie…was in approximately the same place. She too, was unconscious.

 

Bianca found herself doing something she could not remember doing in countless years. She was waking up…from having fallen asleep. Vampires rested—especially in daylight hours. Bianca could even recall sleeping lightly for scant moments in her life as an Immortal. But to frankly and unintentionally fall into a deep, restful sleep? The last occasion was before her transformation.

And yet…Bianca woke. Feeling…refreshed…rested… She also felt...sweaty? A dampness clung to her naked body, and the sheets of Maggie’s bed were stuck to Bianca in various places… Vampires do not perspire…

Bianca was also…

Huh?

What is that?

Maggie awoke as the warm body of her lover left her arms and sat up—taking the toasty covers with her. Irritated, Maggie tugged playfully on the sheet and quilt in a half-hearted effort to stay asleep…and comfortable. Then…Maggie recalled just who her lover was…

Her bed partner…was not supposed to be intrinsically warm. And there was that sound…

What…is…that?--Maggie idly wondered…

Again…both women heard it…a low rumbling sound. It was coming from Bianca.

It was a grumbling sound…a digestive sound…coming from…Bianca’s stomach.

“I’m…hungry…” Bianca stated, in a flat, matter of fact manner.

“You sound hungry…” Maggie replied, still half asleep.

“Maggie!” Bianca was near panic. Her tone woke Maggie fully and she too sat up and faced the brunette fully.

“Wait…you mean THIRSTY…”

“No, Maggie….I mean hungry. At least…I think that’s what I mean…”

“That’s…not…” Maggie reached out to Bianca’s flushed, sweaty face and recoiled for just an instant. It was long enough for a confused Bianca to be hurt…and for tears to roll down her cheeks.

Crystal clear, shiny tears fell down warm pink cheeks and landed in between Bianca’s rosy breasts. Maggie wiped away the dampness without thinking about it and as she did she felt, yet another shocking mystery. The petite blonde reached out for her lover—touching her neck and then her wrist—and lastly laid her ear on the brunette’s chest wall. She listened there for a long moment.

“Bianca…” There was no doubt.

It was a heartbeat…

“I know, Maggie…I feel it! How is this…possible?”

“I…I don’t know…”

“I’m…scared Maggie. I haven’t felt afraid in so, so long…but now I am.”

Trying to comfort Bianca and to think at the same time, Maggie ran her hand along her neck—and winced as she felt the wounded area where Bianca’s fangs had pierced her skin. The wound itself—was gone…under the caked blood was only bruised skin. Pulling back her hand, she noted a bit of blood on her fingers. Bianca was looking at them—but was not reacting as a vampire should to blood. Maggie gently moved her blood-stained fingertips closer to Bianca’s nose.

Bianca shook her head. “Nothing…smells awful actually.”

“Wow.” Maggie wiped her fingers on the sheets and then reaching up again, lifted Bianca’s upper lip to reveal her teeth.

“Let me guess…”

“Gone, honey. And they were such NICE fangs…”

“Maggie! Can you be serious?!”

“B—this is nothing short of a miracle. Maybe some laughter should be in the program.”

Bianca looked at Maggie…and laughed. Maggie quickly joined in. The two lovers laughed heartily until they again wept—but this time with joy. After the laughter and the tears…came the kissing.

“I don’t understand…” Maggie finally confessed.

“Neither do I…I mean—did we both die? Is this Heaven?”

“I can’t believe in any Heaven where we aren’t together…”

Bianca got out of bed…feeling dizzy—another long-forgotten sensation—and went to a foil covered window. Through the cracks and pinholes, bright summer sunshine was visible. It was a new day outside. Bravely peeling back a corner of Maggie’s careful taping job—a ray of sunlight was allowed to angle into the camper and fall upon the floor. Dust particles could be seen happily dancing in the sunbeam. Fearlessly—Bianca placed her hand and arm into the shaft of light.

Maggie looked on…unsurprised at what she saw. Bianca turned her hand over and over…and—nothing happened. She felt the warmth, saw the light—but it was not painful.

“Wow…” the former vampire said.

“That’s my line.”

“I borrowed it. I didn’t think you would mind terribly.” Bianca closed the foil and returned to the bed, sitting next to Maggie.

“What about you?” Bianca asked gravely.

“Me?”

“Of course. If this is a one-sided miracle…I admit--I’ll be disappointed.”

Maggie stood and stretched. “You know…I DO feel good. But I attributed that to being in love…and a night of really hot sex.”

Bianca laid her face against Maggie’s belly. She jumped. “That tickles…”

“Shhhhh…” Bianca took a deep breath. “My sense of smell may be mortal again—but I don’t think so…I can still smell that mummified slice of pizza under the bed.”

“Wow…so, what does your sniffer tell you?”

“That you aren’t sick. You don’t smell as ill as you did last night.”

“Huh…I feel--” Maggie picked up a small metal bowl from her bedside table that she used to hold small change. Dumping the 86 cents from it onto the table, Maggie wrapped her palm around the trinket and squeezed.

“What are you doing, my dear?”

“This.” Maggie squeezed harder…and the little bowl was a dented chunk of cheap steel. She dropped it on the floor. “I feel—strong. Until I hear differently—like with blood tests and biopsies--this is officially declared a double miracle.”

“Hear, hear,” said Bianca.

Maggie slid down until she was sitting with Bianca, and they were face to face, in each other’s arms.

“You know…I do think…I forgot to mention something…during all that truth-telling.”

“Yeah, B? What did you forget?”

“I love you…with all my beating heart.” Clear, human tears were again flowing.

“And I love you…with all my healthy heart.” Maggie touched the face of her miracle. “Maybe love was our miracle. They say… love changes you…”

“How does one celebrate a miracle such as this in the 21st Century?”

Maggie pulled Bianca into a deep kiss. As the girls fell again to lie on the bed, Maggie whispered, “Let me show you…”

They showed each other how to celebrate a miracle…again…and again…

 

As they shared a much-needed shower at Bianca’s hotel suite, the newly rechristened human asked the former cancer patient, “How do you feel, Maggie?” Maggie had been utterly tireless all morning. To Bianca’s great pleasure.

The blonde wiped water droplets from the lovely face in the steam with her. What a gift this woman was—in so many ways. “Wonderful,” Maggie replied, looking up into those still exotic, hypnotic eyes. “--healthy…and so very grateful…You?”

Bianca closed her eyes and sighed. “Redeemed…”

 

Breakfast was lavish. Bianca asserted—since it was her first meal in 190 years and Maggie’s first proper meal in a very long time as well—they both deserved the best. The brunette pulled out all the stops. They ate, sitting on the balcony of her room, enjoying the warmth of the summer sun on their faces. Bianca was already getting a little pink-skinned…but considering the alternative…she didn’t care about a little sunburn. Maggie dug into omelets and home fries, fruits and cheeses, a bowl of oatmeal, and some fresh, hot pastries for good measure. Bianca matched her bite for bite…moaning in pleasure at the now recalled flavors.

 

After the meal, Bianca asked the now much stronger Maggie, to open a bottle of very rare and expensive champagne. The girls held hands, fingers laced, on the table. Neither could guess what the future held in store for them…but, in that perfect moment, neither cared. Being together had saved them. Being together…was everything…

“What are we toasting to, then?” the hazel-eyed blonde asked, watching the sunlight glint off her crystal flute.

“To you Maggie—welcome back to life…to health…”

“And then a toast to you too, my love.”

“Me?”

“Welcome back—to the human race…”

Bianca’s eyes twinkled mischievously. “I’ll drink to that…”

“Very funny…”