When I was nine years old, I noticed a timeline counting up the years to 1999 on the walls of my elementary school. That moment, I promised myself that by the year 1999 I would be in college working towards my dream of becoming a doctor, a pharmacist, or maybe even a lawyer. Being young, dreams were attainable, reachable, because the sometimes cruel evenhandedness of life had not yet made me jaded. Being young, I didn’t know any better. Fast forward years and years later and with all of the sometimes strange and sometimes bizarre things that have occurred in my life, I could never in my wildest dreams had planned for what happened last night.
He had slipped into my home and seated himself on the loveseat below my living room window, like he owned the place. This being of mist and shadows, white roses and blood red wine wears black jeans and a navy blue and green sweater bemuses me, and confuses me. I freeze and clutch my robe around me, like some lovesick Victorian maiden. I use the word being, for lack of a stronger, more precise word, because the word man (which he clearly is) doesn’t cut it.
My mouth opens wide, releasing a tiny gasp of surprise. “Gabriel? Gabriel Lennox?”
He smiles, removing the gloves from his hands, but is it truly a smile? No, it’s just a flash of bared teeth. A hint of intimidation?
He spreads his arms wide in a shrug and drapes them on the back of the furniture, looking scrumptious as red velvet cheesechake. “Yes, Monique, dear. It is I. The one and only, Gabriel.” I could recognize him anywhere, like a woman recognizes the face of a long lost lover or a mother recognizes the face of her child no matter how old he has become. I have seen him in my dreams, I have directed him via computer and typed his lines, his thoughts, his secret desires, his hates, his wishes, and wants for my eyes only. And piece by piece, line by line, scene by scene, and chapter by chapter, he became more real, blooming from the fertile garden of mind into flesh and blood, body and soul. And somehow, he has been plucked like a precious, thorny rose and transplanted in my living room.
“What are you doing here?” I ask.
“We need to talk.” His seductively deep and husky voice, (think Benedict Cumberbatch, but better) accented with the droll spice of an English Breakfast tea, is a cliché, and as far as hot vampires go, a very much welcomed cliché. He sighs and clasps his hands in his lap. “The book. Forbidden Fruit. So, you shall allow the light of day to shine upon my story, yes?”
I shrug. “Don’t you mean my story. After all, I did create you. It was not the other way round.”
“Hmmm. You think so? Who is to say that it is not the other way around?”
“Because I say so and I know so, Gabriel. Besides, don’t you want to be famous? Think of all the attention that mortals will pour upon you. Imagine the possibilities. Bad or good – what does it matter? You will become even more real. You’re a great character. Sure, you start out as a cranky, selfish, murderous, hateful, bitter, stark raving mad jerk, but you do change. Eventually. You grow into a—”
He raises his hand and I fall silent, letting him talk. “I am thoroughly disappointed in you, Monique. I mean, truly I am.” A pained expression enhances the beautiful, soft features of his face. Oh, how I love the wonderful world of clichéd pretty-boy vampires and how their beauty masks what lies beneath.
I smirk and sink down on the couch across from him. “Oh really? Do tell?” The coffee table serves as a joke of a buffer between us, but who am I fooling (myself)? An antique coffee table isn’t going to keep a four hundred year old vampire at bay. Oops. There’s that word: vampire. Good thing I don’t utter it out loud . . . and good thing he is not prying into my thoughts. He would have a nervous breakdown. Poor dear.
“You are a secretive woman,” Gabriel says softly. “You rarely use your Facebook account—”
I bolt upright, disturbed. “Hey! How did you know about that?”
“I know everything there is to know about you, but let me finish. Do not interrupt. Please.”
I frown and allow him to speak.
He takes his time, raking his beautiful, long and slender fingers through his silken red hair and clears his throat. “You rarely use your Facebook account and even when you do, the heart of your most inner character does not shine through. You share no pictures of your family. And even when you do share, the information is shallow at best. You post about political issues, racial issues. You post about television shows that you find detestable. You also post about trivial, albeit humorous memes that catch your fancy and you flit thereafter about like a butterfly to the next fancy in the vast world that is Facebook. I once likened you to Emily Dickinson, a recluse who limited her more private life to a select, chosen few. But now? Now, I do not even know you!”
I roll my eyes and stab an accusing finger at him. “Really, don’t be so melodramatic. Yes, I am an introvert, but I’m in no way a recluse.”
“But you would be if you could.”
He stares at me and a slow smile lifts the corners of his full, kissable mouth. “You dare to deny that you are not what one would call a recluse? You who dubbed yourself as ‘selectively antisocial’? Truly? Oh, this is . . . rich. This is so wonderfully farcical!” He tilts his head to the side and laughs. Laughs at me – the woman who created him.
I glare at him with enough ice in my eyes to freeze a bowl of punch. “It is true that I described myself as such, but it really isn’t that funny.” I lower my eyes to my hands clasped in my lap, lost in thought. As a child, I had been friendly, kind. My mother had once said, “A tree could follow me home.” And then life happens, as it often does, and somehow my naive sweetness had dried up with the passing years. And I wielded my solitude like a two-edged sword to keep me safe. I hated to admit it, even to myself, that Gabriel was right.
His green (nope, emerald – who are we kidding here?) eyes soften with what looks like compassion. “I had hoped that you would grow to be more and more like Miss Dickinson, also known as the woman in white. She was rarely seen by others. In fact, she rarely left her home and when she did venture out, she wore white. To this day, she is a legend, a myth, an intriguing mystery. That could have been you. A mystery. An enigma. Such a seductive wonder that one could meditate on. But no. Now you dare to step out into the world.”
I say nothing and study my fingernails, which are in need of a manicure I can’t afford. The blasted nails often grow a couple of inches, stretching past the nail bed and then snap off, right at the nubs. Gabriel’s nails on the other hand are smooth, shiny, and oh so perfect. Damn him. Why did I have to create such a . . . creature? And even if he is a monster, he has his redeeming, gentle moments, which is why I must write . . . and share him with the rest of the world and willing or no, he must acquiesce.
“You have no right,” he murmurs. I look at him and he realize the wide eyed expression on his face is unmistakably fear. “Being for your eyes and ears alone pleased me. It was enough. Why can it not be enough for you?”
“It’s my last name. Desir,” I reply, drawing out the syllables: dee zear. “It’s a curse. Blame my father. Desir – it stems from the Latin word Desiderius, which translates to ardent desire or the longed for. I want what I cannot or should not have. Constantly longing, constantly wanting. Blah, blah, blah. Heck, it’s a bloody family tradition.”
He cocks an exquisite eyebrow. “Bloody?” He gives his head a grieved shake. “Please, mind how you speak. It is not ladylike to use such offensive language.”
“Gabriel, it’s the year 2014. Women curse and do a whole lot more. You’re going to be in for quite the culture shock, dearie.”
“You are not cursed. What use is there to be pessimistic? Your surname is also the Greek word for “beloved”. You are loved, Monique. And as a man of extremes, I can tell you that I either love or hate individuals. Those I love, I would gladly kill for without hesitation and those I hate?” He grins, flashing white teeth. “Well, what more needs to be said?”
“Hmm. I don’t need a personal assassin.”
“Come now, really? Is that not one of the dark, little reasons you writers wield your pens and scrawl upon pages? To vent, to murder those who irritate you. I liken you and your ilk to literary serial killers. Even the Whitechapel murderer penned a line or two to taunt the police. Perhaps, once upon a time, you were a sweet little girl of sugar and spice and everything nice, but those days are long gone, my dear.”
His sudden, mocking laughter, caresses me and opens hidden longings I thought long since dead. I’m nine years old again and standing in front of the time line board in an elementary school hallway, imagining myself twenty years older: married, with two children (a boy and a girl), living in a luxurious mansion and tending to a garden bursting with flowers of vibrant violets and intoxicating scents of jasmine and gardenias. I am a doctor. Or maybe a lawyer defending those who are wrongfully accused. In one word, I am successful. But then, the reality of who I am and what I am not hits me and I feel uneasy. He murmurs my name, so softly, so gently, and I resurface from my mausoleum of regrets (that nine year old dreamer, is she really dead?) and meet his gaze.
“You are weeping. Why?”
I wipe the tears from my face with the back of my hand, remembering that he hates to see people cry – especially women. Ah, such a valiant knight.
“Because I’m afraid. That’s why.”
“I thought you only cry when you are angry. Or happy. You are such a contrary woman.”
“At times. But this is fear. I’m afraid, Gabriel. For a time, it was enough for you to exist in the recesses of my mind. It had been enough for you to simply be known amongst my family and dearest friends. Writing is like breathing air for me. Writing gives me immense pleasure and joy. And I had made a promise to myself that I would write and become published. So, I must share you. And yet, perhaps, you were right to come and tell me to think otherwise. Perhaps . . .” my voice cuts off, strangled tight with emotion.
He rises from his seat and sits beside me. “I suppose, if this means so much to you. I suppose, I can . . .” He rests one hand on my knee and gives it an awkward pat.
“But before I relinquish complete and total control, there is one thing that must be clear. Just one thing . . .”
He leans in closer and closer . . . perhaps expecting my very breath to catch in my throat and for me to clutch the collar of my nightgown, like some silly 19th century Victorian maiden found in the pages of a penny dreadful novel, spouting maudlin lines of “If-I-had-but-known”, but no.
I’m a writer. I call the shots. I pull the strings.
His lips, inches from mine, speak three, priceless words a mistress of dark fantasy would be proud of:
“I don’t sparkle,” he whispers.
I smile and kiss him on the cheek. “No, that you do not.”