Ann woke with a groan, a headache making her head pound as she forced her eyes open, immediately regretting it as the early morning sun coming through the window blinded her. She closed her eyes again, pulling the blanket higher up. Whatever hour it was, she had no interest in getting up.
That was until the events of last night came back to her in a flash, and suddenly she felt disoriented as she looked around herself to make sure she really was in her bed. How’d she ended up here? She searched her memory, but no matter how hard she concentrated – which was a challenge in her current rather lightheaded state – the last thing she recalled was looking at the vampire before everything went black.
She’d passed out, but clearly she must’ve woken at some point to get herself to bed. Or had this all been a dream? Ann briefly considered the possibility with how bizarre her memories felt but was brought back to reality when she reached for her neck and found the bite marks.
Ann let out a long sigh, forcing herself to sit up slowly since she knew she’d lost plenty of blood and was unstable. Her head was spinning, everything around her seemingly turning as she struggled and let herself back down.
Her gaze fell over to her right, her eyebrows going up in surprise when she spotted the chocolate bar and water next to her. Had she had the clarity of mind to put these there last night with whatever energy she’d had left? Or had the vampire…? But that would mean-
No. Certainly she wouldn’t have. Vampires were selfish creatures, Ann reminded herself, even if her first encounter with one had been vastly different from what would be expected. This one hadn’t quite matched the image in her head of a cruel monster that would tear her apart and suck every little drop of blood from her.
This one had been different. Ann was living proof of it. So maybe… maybe the vampire had helped her after she passed out, even though Ann knew she would never learn the truth. Ann reached for the chocolate bar and removed the wrapping, hungrily digging into the rich chocolate.
It was pointless since she would never see her again, but Ann couldn’t pull her thoughts away from the vampire, questions rushing through her mind one after another. Did she always keep her victims alive? Ann vaguely recalled the vampire telling her she tried to avoid killing wherever she could, so that suggested she generally kept them alive. What was her reason for this? Why had she chosen Ann last night? What was her name?
Ann was burning with curiosity. She’d always been eager to learn about those things that she did not understand, and this was no exception. She wanted to find out all these answers, and while it was probably for the better that she wouldn’t, part of her was disappointed.
She opened the bottle, sat up a bit and took a big swig as the stranger appeared on her mind once more in her black coat, her long flowing hair and dark mysterious eyes. Ann wasn’t shy to admit that perhaps part of her fascination came from the fact that this stranger was attractive. Biting her lip, she shook her head at herself with a smile. Definitely not the right person to fancy.
Putting the bottle aside, Ann lay back down and closed her eyes until she drifted off into a light slumber for a few hours. When she woke again, she felt much better, the dizziness mostly faded. She still felt a little rattled but found herself able to get out of bed.
After a long hot shower, Ann stood in front of her bathroom mirror, tracing her fingertips over the two fang marks. They were smaller than she’d have expected, especially after seeing much nastier, bigger and often gaping wounds with skin torn out when almost dead victims had been brought to her hospital in desperate – often futile – attempts to save their lives. Those were the worst examples, admittedly, but those images had stuck with her.
Her wounds were not like those. The vampire had told her she wouldn’t kill her, had promised it even, and by how small the wounds were in comparison, Ann could sense the truth in that promise; she’d really controlled herself.
She looked at the wound for a moment longer before deciding to get dressed and call Catherine. Ann needed someone to talk to about this.
Comfortably dressed in a baggy shirt and sweatpants to relax the rest of the day, Ann dug her phone out of her bag. There was an unread message.
Thomas: Hey Annie. I was just thinking of you. How are you? I haven’t heard from you in ages. Call me sometime?
Ann groaned as her insides twisted with disgust. Thomas Ainsworth had been persistently trying to get together with her for years at this point, spurred on by the encouragement he got from part of her family that thought they’d make a “wonderful couple”.
Apparently, what Ann thought about this didn’t matter too much. Or the fact that she was a lesbian – whenever she brought that up, she was reminded of that one brief phase when she’d been unsure and had kissed a guy. Once. When she was sixteen.
She’d largely resorted to ignoring his messages, which unfortunately didn’t deter him. Sometimes he would even call, and Ann found it much harder to say no over the phone and often times ended up with an unwanted evening spent at an expensive restaurant with Thomas.
But she didn’t want to think about this right now. She swiped the message away and called Catherine.
“How’s my favourite cousin?”
Ann chuckled at the cheerful greeting. “Oh, Cath. You will not believe what happened to me.”
Lying down on her sofa, she told Catherine every detail about what had transpired with the vampire last night.
“Holy shit, Ann. You’re okay though, yeah?”
Ann nodded as if Catherine could see her. “Yes, all good. Was a little lightheaded earlier, but now I’m good.”
Ann smiled. “Yes. You do know I’m a doctor, right?” Her smile widened.
“I’m just saying. That is… wow. You’re so lucky you’re still alive!”
Clearly, Catherine was as taken aback by the whole thing as she was. Unsurprisingly, considering Ann could easily be dead today.
“I know. That doesn’t happen every day. She wasn’t what I would’ve expected from a vampire at all.”
“What do you mean?”
Ann bit her lip, debating for a moment if she should say what she was thinking. This was Catherine though, her best friend; she’d tell her everything.
“I mean… other than the fact that she was there to bite me, she was kind of considerate, you know? And she was rather, uhm, attractive.” She swallowed as a slight blush spread on her cheeks.
“Oh my God.” Catherine laughed, but not unkindly. “Seriously, Ann? A vampire?”
“Well, I’m just saying,” Ann responded sheepishly. “It’s not like I’ll see her again anyway.”
“True, true. Well, I guess vamps can be hot too.”
They laughed together, and Ann once more appreciated that she could be so open with Catherine and wouldn’t be judged for it. After a few moments when they’d calmed, her friend cleared her throat.
“Have you already reported it to the police?”
Oh. Somehow, that had totally slipped her mind.
“I… I haven’t actually thought about that yet. I suppose I should.”
“You don’t sound too bothered.” Catherine chuckled.
“I mean… no. I don’t think she’ll return, and I can’t imagine the police can get any clues from my wound to trace her down, right?” And I kind of don’t want them to, she added in her head.
“I guess probably not, no. But you should report it, Ann. They’ll freak out in the hospital if you show up unannounced with a vampire bite. I can already picture it.”
Ann nodded, fiddling with her shirt. “You’re right.” She made a mental note to call in.
After that, the two women chatted for a while longer about any news around the hospital – Ann always appreciated sharing her workplace with her best friend, even if they often didn’t work together that much with Ann’s position as a doctor and Catherine being a nurse.
Anne turned on her side as she woke up, reaching for the lamp on her nightstand. It was rather unnecessary since her eyesight allowed her to see just fine even in the pitch-black darkness of her home, but over the years Anne had made a point of it to keep some little things the way she would’ve done them as a human. Something Tib didn’t tire of pointing out to her, and that she needed to ‘let go’.
She looked at her alarm clock. 5:23pm. The sun must just be setting at this time, she thought and sat up to stretch her stiff limbs. Padding over to the window, she pressed the button and carefully opened the electric shutters enough so she could see if there was any sunlight left, but only the blueish early evening sky could be seen. She opened them all the way, standing still in front of the large window and admiring the remaining orange glow at the horizon mingling with the dark blue that was drowning it out as time progressed.
Anne often watched these last bits of the sun disappear in the evenings if she was up early enough – and she generally was. She’d been a bit of an early riser when she was still human, and this was the next best thing she got to watching the sunrise in the mornings, at least this time of year when autumn was turning into winter.
In summer, when the sunrise came earlier, Anne would often stand at her window and watch the sky brighten until the first pink glow signalling the sun’s impending arrival would show, forcing her to retreat to the safety of darkness. As a human, she used to love the long sunny days of summer, but now she preferred the long dark nights of winter and hated that summer forced her to hibernate for most of the day.
This world wasn’t made for her kind, and it didn’t tire to remind her every single second of her existence. Anne frowned at the thought, but chased it away knowing she couldn’t change anything about her fate anyway.
Giving the sky one more look, Anne turned on her heels and went for a shower to start her night on a better note. As the warm water engulfed her, her thoughts were drawn to the young blonde woman she had bitten last night. It wasn’t uncommon for a fleeting thought here or there to go to the more likeable of her victims, but they usually dissipated quickly.
Now her mind lingered a little, however, and she wondered what the woman might be doing this evening. Was she spending it alone? Or would she perhaps be working late again like last night? Unlikely. She was probably still recovering and had the time off. Anne hoped she was doing okay.
Why was she even thinking about her this much at all? Anne gave herself a long look in the mirror before wrapping the towel around her body and leaving the bathroom to get herself a coffee.
Usually she made a proper one with her coffee machine, but on the odd nights she was in a bit of a weird mood – like tonight, apparently – she would open her fridge and take out one of those coffees in a can.
Tib rightfully always made a face at her for drinking these; they were awful, really, but Anne found that on some nights the thin coffee-like flavour that was only borderline drinkable did something for her. She downed the contents in a few gulps before crushing the small can and disposing of it.
The skies were clear tonight, so Anne opted for her favourite leather jacket, black pants and shirt and boots. Giving herself a quick look in the mirror, she nodded pleased with the result. On her way out of her bedroom, her gaze fell on the revolver that was hanging on the wall, and she could practically hear Tib’s voice echoing in her mind telling her she should take it with her more often, even if it was unlikely she would need it.
Anne often didn’t see the point in carrying the firearm around with her on the off chance that she’d get into trouble with the vampire hunters and her usual powers might not be enough. She shook her head and stepped onto her balcony, breathing in the fresh evening air before shapeshifting.
There was always something freeing about flying through Halifax, the darkness and her small size making her practically invisible. She could fly wherever she wanted, and often Anne would spend a long time just letting the wind carry her and enjoying the sense of freedom it gave her.
Sometimes, she would also watch what people got up to in the city at night. She could also do that walking through the city in her normal body, but it could be risky if someone talked to her and identified her as a vampire. No, she usually preferred staying on the rooftops or watching as a bat.
Anne focused back on her surroundings, noticing that she’d mindlessly flown to a familiar building while lost in her thoughts. She landed on the rooftop she’d been sitting on last night, her gaze falling over to the balcony. The lights were on.
She remembered the woman’s interest, how she’d asked her why she hadn’t killed her. Anne hadn’t been able to answer that question since she’d passed out, and part of her wanted to rectify that. Would she really appreciate that? Surely not.
Part of Anne also wanted to make sure she was doing alright, that little voice in her head nagging her to check on her even though she never did that. Even though it was her rule to bite them once and never return.
She couldn’t explain the lack of rational thought to herself, only knew the nagging feeling would likely not leave her alone anytime soon if she didn’t act on it. Aunt Anne’s voice echoed in the back of her mind, kindly telling a younger Anne how these impulses were our souls trying to guide us on a better path. Anne had never believed it, but the memory drove her as she flew over to the balcony.
Ann was humming along to the melody of a pop song in her head as she stirred the contents of the pan, taking a deep breath of the stir fry, her mouth watering already. She reached for her fork and tasted it, humming contentedly before adding some salt and trying it again. Perfect.
She moved the pan off the cooker when there was a knocking sound from behind her. Ann turned, finding herself looking into dark eyes as the vampire was leaning against her doorframe.
Fear clutched her heart as Ann’s eyes widened and she pressed back against the stove as if she could get away. But the vampire was blocking the only exit; she was trapped.
Anne realised how this must look. She couldn’t blame her for that reaction, and part of her scolded herself for coming here at all and scaring this young woman who seemed to have been having a nice evening on her own before she decided to ruin it by showing up.
“I’m not here to hurt you,” she started carefully, awkwardly scratching the back of her neck as she realised she hadn’t really thought about this. How this would go. She suddenly felt a little silly.
But Anne Lister didn’t make a fool of herself. That didn’t happen, she reminded herself, her pride kicking in making her stand more upright as she looked at the woman.
“Are you recovering well?” She pointed at the wound.
Ann looked at her wide-eyed, clutching at the counter behind her as she tried to keep herself upright. She’d expected to already find herself pressed against the wall while fangs tore into her skin once more, but that question caught her off guard. Her adrenaline-fuelled brain took a moment to find a proper response.
She cleared her throat, trying to find her voice. “I, uh… yes. Yes. The morning was rough but I’m fine now, thank you.”
Why was the vampire here?
Anne nodded. “That’s good, that’s good.”
Awkward silence followed, and Anne wondered if she shouldn’t just leave.
“H-how did you get in? I didn’t keep the balcony door open.”
A small smile grew on Anne’s lips as she pointed behind herself. “One of the windows was tilted open.”
Ann raised an eyebrow in question. No person could fit through that. Or did she break it…?
“I turned into a bat and flew through.”
Oh. Ann nodded as understanding set in. “I didn’t know- I didn’t know you could do that.”
Anne hummed in response, noticing the woman looked a little less tense as she leaned against the counter less anxiously. She cleared her throat.
“I was thinking… you asked me a question, and I didn’t get to answer it.”
Ann licked her lips nervously, but nodded when she remembered what she meant. “Yes.”
Anne opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by a beeping sound.
“One sec,” Ann said as she turned towards her stove and turned off the alarm she’d set herself for her food. The hairs on her neck stood up even in those few short moments she had her back to the vampire, and she took a sharp breath when she turned back and the woman stood closer to her now, though still with some distance.
Anne took a step back, suddenly feeling rude. She’d kind of barged in here forcing herself on this woman again, hadn’t she? Just because she hadn’t attacked her this time it didn’t make it any less wrong. She bit her lip.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have just broken in here like this, assuming you’d be fine with that. I better see myself out.”
It was the polite and right thing to do. Anne turned to go.
“No, I… I’d still like to hear what you have to say.”
She looked over her shoulder, finding the blonde’s eyes on her with a shy but determined expression. Anne slowly nodded.
Ann moved over to her kitchen table, gesturing to the seat. “Please… take a seat.”
So she did. Ann put her food on a plate, looking at her over her shoulder as a thought occurred to her. “Do you, uhm, do you eat food at all?”
Sometimes, it surprised Anne how little most humans still knew about vampires. But she guessed it wasn’t exactly necessary knowledge for them. “Rarely, when I feel like it. It’s more for the taste, it doesn’t sustain me. I need blood for that.”
She offered an apologetic smile when their gazes met, and Ann nodded before walking over to put her plate on the seat opposite her. “I’m afraid I didn’t make enough for two people, but can I offer you a drink?”
“I’m good, thank you.” Truth be told, Anne wouldn’t have minded something to drink but she didn’t want to bother this woman any more than she already had by coming here.
Ann sat down and dug into her food. It looked good, and taking in the smell, Anne figured it was likely something she would’ve also enjoyed having. But she focused back on why she was here.
“Right… you asked me why I kept you alive.”
Ann put a fork full of food in her mouth, her eyes on the vampire signalling she was paying attention.
“The truth is, I don’t like to inflict more suffering than I have to to sate my hunger. And it makes it easier to stay low profile without the vampire hunters investigating a dead body.”
Ann swallowed her food, her face temporarily souring at the mention of the vampire hunters – Thomas worked for them. Ann did not want to be reminded of him right now.
Anne didn’t fail to notice the brief show of disgust on the woman’s face, and she wondered if she’d said something wrong. She guessed it was probably not a pleasant topic to think about for someone who’d become one of her victims just the night prior.
“So you’ve never killed anyone?”
Anne rubbed her hands together. She certainly wished that were true. “Well… no.”
Looking at the vampire, the way she was avoiding eye contact and rubbing her hands together, Ann could see that this was probably not something she was proud of or wanted to talk about more. So she didn’t ask about it any further.
“Why did you choose me?”
Anne looked back up, glad that the blonde had decided not to enquire further.
“I saw you on the streets and followed you on the rooftops. There is honestly not too much to it, I just pick someone who looks worthwhile and wait till I can get to them somewhere secluded… like their home.”
Ann chewed the last bit of her food and put her fork down, taking in what the vampire just said. It sounded rather clinical, like she put little emotion into the entire thing. Ann guessed that made sense, for her it was probably as normal as it was for Ann to cook her food and eat it to live. Or for a wild animal to hunt their prey. It made sense. And still, the vampire showed more consideration than a wild animal by choosing not to kill her prey.
Their gazes met, and for the first time Ann had a proper chance to take her in. Her brown eyes focusing on hers and the little wrinkles around them that suggested she was probably around her early fourties if Ann had to guess, the firm line of her jaw that gave her entire face a strong character, and those red lips curling into a smirk. Ann’s eyes flicked up.
“Am I that fascinating?”
Ann had been caught. A blush spread on her cheeks as she quickly rose from her seat and brought her plate to the sink, biting her lip when she turned back.
“I didn’t mean to stare. Sorry.”
Anne smiled, feeling like the tension between them had dissolved a little. “Don’t worry about it.”
Silence followed, and Ann wondered what she should do now. She could certainly ask her unexpected guest many more questions – she barely knew anything about vampires. But wouldn’t that be a bit much?
“What’s your name? If you don’t mind the question.”
Ann looked up, finding the vampire’s interested gaze on her. “I’m Ann.”
A smile grew on Anne’s lips as she rose from the chair. “Looks like we share a name. I’m Anne too.” She held out her hand.
Ann wasn’t quite sure why such a simple gesture made her nervous, maybe it was the dashing smile accompanying it. She steadied her nerves and took her hand, momentarily surprised feeling the warm skin against hers but quickly recalling she’d not felt any cold when Anne had held her hand over her mouth either.
“What?” Anne raised an eyebrow as their hands parted.
Ann shook her head with a smile. Anne must think her silly certainly. “I didn’t expect you to be… warm.”
“That is a common misconception. I don’t know where that belief came from, but it’s wrong.”
There were many things Ann didn’t know about this woman and her life as a creature of the night. Again she felt curiosity bubble up within her, and spotting no sign that Anne wanted to leave, she decided to go for it.
“Do you want to stick around a little? I could make tea if you like.”
Anne hadn’t planned on it. She wasn’t a tea drinker either. But she couldn’t deny that the thought of spending more time in Ann’s presence felt good, that she was starting to feel more comfortable around her and would like to talk to her more. Anne’s existence was a rather lonely one, and while Tib was a good friend, it was a friendship best enjoyed in small doses.
“Sure, I’d like that.”
They sat together in the living room shortly after, the tv running quietly in the background as Ann asked her the questions that came to mind: How old was Anne? – Roughly 42 in human years, and she had been a vampire for round about 12 years, so would be turning 52 in spring if she’d stayed human. Ann wanted to know how quickly they aged – 1-2 years in 10 human years.
“So you weren’t always a vampire. How were you turned?”
Anne swallowed. She guessed it made sense that Ann would ask her that question next, but even after 12 years it was a topic she wasn’t comfortable with – too many painful memories.
Ann noticed the shift in atmosphere, the way Anne’s shoulders tensed as she seemed to put more distance between them on the sofa. It was clearly a sensitive topic.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to-“
Anne looked at her directly, forcing a smile. “It’s fine. It’s just something I don’t usually talk about.”
Ann nodded, and it became silent save for the tv. She suddenly felt bad for having asked this question.
“What about you? Want to tell me about yourself?”
Ann licked her lips. Somehow she hadn’t expected that question. “Oh, I…”
Where should she start? Ann looked around the room a little helplessly before her gaze settled on Anne who was looking at her expectantly.
“Well, you know where I live, this is my place,” she started, holding out her arms. “I live alone, as you probably noticed, and I’m turning 30 next year. Oh, and I work at the hospital.”
She felt small under that strong gaze, knowing well that she wasn’t good at talking about herself.
But Anne only nodded as if everything was fine, smiling. “At the hospital, hm? Is that why you came home so late last night?”
Ann smiled, relief washing over her that Anne wasn’t giving her a funny look. “Yes. Sometimes I work late. I’m a doctor.”
Anne took a sip from her tea, it was honestly not bad considering she wasn’t a tea drinker at all. “A doctor. And why does a doctor like you go home through the empty streets in the middle of the night on foot, instead of taking a taxi? Surely your job pays well enough.”
Anne looked directly at her with a knowing gaze, but it wasn’t unkind. Ann figured she had a point, and she wasn’t the first person to tell her walking home at such hours wasn’t safe.
“I just like it, I guess. The calm quiet of the night around me while I walk the short way home. It feels peaceful.”
Anne could most definitely agree with that statement, the late night was peaceful. She could not argue with that.
“True. I know what you mean all too well. Still, maybe think about it. It isn’t safe. One of these days a thug might take the chance.”
In truth, this wasn’t usually the kind of talk Anne had with people. It wasn’t any of her business really, and yet some part of her still found it important to tell Ann this, even if it wasn’t her place.
Ann nodded, and while the advice wasn’t new to her, it still made her feel warm in her chest to know that Anne was considerate enough to mention this. “Thank you, I appreciate the thought.”
They talked a little longer about Ann’s workplace, and she joked how she was probably about as comfortable with blood as Anne, considering how often she was in contact with it in the hospital. She told her she took great pleasure from helping people in need and saving lives, though it was also a very taxing job that often left her drained at the end of a long day.
Hours had passed by the time Anne left. Ann found herself standing at the balcony watching her shapeshift and fly away. She wondered if this was the last time she saw her but hoped it wasn’t. Anne was a vampire, but she wasn’t a monster – that much Ann knew for sure by now.