Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Crossing

Okay, so here's a scene from my novel that one of my professors (he's not actually my professor, but we sit and go over the prose aspects of parts of my novel, but I haven't heard back from him this year, mostly because he's only doing one class..if that, this semester, so he's not around. Still working on that) told me that I needed to write. Well, I did, and while we haven't gone over, I'm still trying to decide what to do with it. Whether I'll throw it in at the beginning (which, I now have the idea to rewrite) or put it in as a memory. Yes, my novel deals with vampires (no, they don't sparkle) and gypsies. It also deals with a whole host of other things, but they're not really important right now unless you get really, really lost. I'm actually just looking for a little bit of feedback, since this is one of the more emotional pieces, especially to see a character backstory. Lemme know what you think, and I really hope the formatting works this time.

Ral had his knees on the couch cushions, curtain parted slightly and staring down the driveway. His mother’s red Corsica stood there, a brushed burgundy in the dying rays of the late November sun. Floppy bangs nearly brushed his hazel eyes and he blew air toward them with an absent toss of his head. Headlights caught his gaze and he pushed himself up a little straighter and then deflated as they went past the driveway. The waiting was always the hardest part; waiting for the right car to come along and meander up the driveway. Wait for the passengers to get out. Wait for them to come up the steps. All while Ral’s anxiety would multiply tenfold. He saw his father only a few times a year, his birthday being one of them, and one night (part of a night, actually, Ral usually had a bedtime) was never enough.


He looked over his shoulder at his mother. If it bothered her to only see her husband a few times a year, she never said anything. At least where he could hear.

“He’ll come,” Vilasia said, coming to kneel beside her son. “He wouldn’t miss this for anything.”

“I know. The sun just can’t disappear fast enough.” Ral didn’t know why his father always waited for the sun to set before coming to see him, but that was the way it was. He’d tried one time to bring it up, to ask, and had been met with cold silence and hard looks between the adults. Ral hadn’t asked again.

Vilasia smiled, kissing her son’s unruly mop of hair. She was not about to explain why exactly her husband needed the cover of darkness to leave his house to her son, no matter how much she loved him and wanted him to know about both sides of his past. It was also part of the agreement she had not only with the rest of her family but also with the other gypsies in the area. It was how she’d been allowed to keep her son.

There was the slam of a car door and the crunch of gravel and Ral tipped himself backward off the couch in his haste to get to his feet.

“Easy, baby,” Vilasia laughed, helping him stand. Ral took off like a shot to the hall, standing by the coat rack and fidgeting his impatience. She watched him from the doorway, a fond expression in her eyes and a smile that turned to a grin when the door was opened. Ral, for his part, had at least waited until Maerton was all the way through the door before launching himself at his father. Maerton caught the boy easily, picking him up easily. Ral was little for his age, skinnier than his mother and grandmother liked, but Maerton always picked him up. Ral had the feeling that his father would be able to pick him up until he was at least fifteen.

“Hey, kid,” Maerton said, giving his boy a squeeze. He set Ral back on his feet and crouched so ice blue eyes could meet hazel. “You been good?”

Ral did his best bobblehead impersonation.

“Yeah, you’re always a good kid.” He stood, ruffling Ral’s hair even further and approached his wife.

“Maerton.” Vilasia allowed him kiss her neck before being enveloped in his arms. She missed this. She might have had Ralurick, the better half of the deal, but she missed the closeness and love that Maerton gave to her. He was, and had always been, her protector. She picked her head up enough to see Tim, Maerton’s little brother, walk by on the way to the kitchen, her kid slung casually over his shoulder.

“Midget and I are gonna help Manny in the kitchen,” Tim said, smiling broadly, the tips of his fangs glinting in the light from the living room.

“Tim.” Maerton’s tone was warning.

Tim closed his mouth, wrinkled his forehead, and then showed his teeth again. “We good?” He tickled the boy on his shoulder, laughing at Ral’s delighted giggles and continued on the way to the kitchen.

“Mother doesn’t mind, Mert,” Vilasia said. It wasn’t quite the truth but Maerton didn’t need to know that. Her mother hadn’t approved of her even so much as looking at Maerton when she’d first encountered him and well…even Ralurick’s appearance in the world ten years ago hadn’t changed her opinion much.

“Would you two get out of the frosting!”

Maerton raised his eyebrows and looked toward the kitchen. “That’s your kid.”

Vilasia snorted, disentangling herself from her husband. “That’s your brother.”

Dinner went off without a hitch, Tim sitting nowhere near Manny after the cake incident, Ralurick sitting across from his parents and beaming because his family was all there. The plus was that it was his birthday. Cake was served after dinner – Manny glared at Tim as she set it on the table, the four-inch frosting-less space faced away from the birthday boy – Vilasia wished for a camera as Maerton interlaced his fingers with hers beneath the table. Her little boy was ten. The agreement had held true for another year.

Ral sat in the living room a little while later watching The Great Mouse Detective that Tim had given him among other Disney movies, the adults in the kitchen with coffee, or in the case of the men, something a little stronger and much more organic. Manny had retired to her room, leaving her daughter and the Fosters alone.

“He’s ten, V,” Maerton said softly, rolling his shoulders to get the kinks out of them.

“No, Mert.” Vilasia didn’t have to look up to know what he was thinking. She had the agreement to think about, what the gypsies would do to her little boy if he were to cross that line. To placate him, she prepared to say the same line she had told him for the past four years, which was, “Maybe next year.”

“Timmy was turned when he was seven,” Maerton said, ignoring his brother’s wince at the use of the nickname.

“And I’m sure Tim turned out just fine, but this is different.” The circumstances are different. I have to live by the agreement. “Another year, Mert, please.”

Maerton looked at his mug and jerked his head. Vilasia took that as a yes. “I need to get some things from the attic, for the apartment. Keep an ear on him.” With Maerton’s sensitive ears he’d hear Ral coming long before he saw the boy. Those same sensitive ears tracked Vilasia’s steps all the way to the attic. With a hard look at his brother, Maerton headed silently from the kitchen to the living room.

Ral was curled in the couch cushions, eyes glazed as he watched the TV screen. “Hey, Dad.”

“Hey, kid.” Maerton looked down at his son, fully knowing that Vilasia would never forgive him for this. Ralurick, too. Manny would probably want to kill him (if she didn’t already) but it needed to be done. He couldn’t wait another year. “I have another present for you.” Guilt twisted his gut and he shoved it aside, allowing the colder nature of what he was to surface. This had to be done.

“Okay.” Ral, trusting as always of his beloved father, followed Maerton from the living room into the darkened sun room on the back of the house. The potted plants cast crazy shadows as the moon shone through the windows onto the painted hardwood floor. Maerton settled on the folded futon and patted the space next to him. Ral stumbled a bit in the dark, glad to be pressed against his father’s bulk on the futon.

“Come here.” Maerton pulled the boy into his lap and hugged him tightly. The vampire inside him told him it was the right thing to do, the father in him screamed to leave his boy as he was, as he could be. He could hear the blood beating, Ral’s heart kicking up a little from the darkness, the overall mood of the moment. He kissed the top of Ral’s head.

“I love you, Ralurick.”

Maerton’s teeth found his son’s vulnerable neck in one swift motion and Ral’s entire body seized, flinging him headlong into an abyss, fanged demons following swiftly behind him.

My throat hurts.

It was the first rational thought that Ral had when he jerked his eyes open, still staring at the plant silhouettes in the sun room. He scrambled to his knees on the futon, his skin raw and itchy, overly warm. Was he getting sick? And where was his father? Maerton had been sitting out there with him, watching the moon through the windows and wasn’t there anymore.

He worried his lower lip with his teeth, wincing when he tasted the copper-tang of blood. He didn’t think he’d bitten that hard…He slid off the futon and onto the floor, his legs shaky and knees weak. He was definitely getting sick if he felt like this. Mommy will have to let me stay home from school…

Shivering, he rubbed his arms and immediately wished he hadn’t; it was painful, like he’d just
tried to rip his own skin off. His stomach rumbled as he wandered through the house, queasy and hungry at the same time and his mouth felt full, like his teeth has somehow gotten bigger without him knowing.

Ral wandered into the kitchen; Vilasia and Manny sat at the table, coffee cups between them. “Mama?” Tears pricked his eyes; more blood filled his mouth. He’d sliced his tongue somehow.

“Baby? Where did you go?” Vilasia turned in her seat to look at him and her eyes went wide. Blood dripped from the corner of his mouth, his lips chapped and cut. He was alabaster where he should have been still losing the golden summer hue of his tan and his eyes were same ice blue as his father’s. “No.” It was out of her mouth before she had the conscious thought to say it and Ral recoiled from her, fear plastered on his pale features. “Baby.” Manny must have heard the raw panic in her voice because she turned as well, hiding her surprise marginally better than her daughter at the sight of her grandson so drastically changed.

“Ma – ” Ral couldn’t get the word out without catching his tongue. His lower lip wobbled.

Vilasia was out of her chair and kneeling in front of him, wiping away both tears and blood. She kept her touches light; his skin would be extremely sensitive. “Mom, can you get me a wet washcloth?” Ral opened his mouth; she shook her head. “Don’t talk right now, baby. Let me get you cleaned up.” She looked over her shoulder. Her mother hadn’t moved. “Mother! Wet washcloth, now, please!”

Manny snapped out of her stupor and headed immediately for the laundry room.

“Ralurick Emmett,” Vilasia said softly. Blue eyes looked at hazel. “I know you’re scared, baby. We’re going to get you cleaned up and then we’re going to explain this, okay? I need for you, first though, to be really careful of your teeth.” She opened her own mouth wide and pointed to her incisors. “These ones, baby. They’re sharp.”

Ral pulled his lips away from his teeth as he was told, confused at Manny’s coldness to him as she handed Vilasia the cloth. First and foremost he wanted to know why exactly his teeth were sharp enough to cut him. And where had Maerton gone?

I am going to kill that bastard, Vilasia thought savagely, carefully dabbing blood away from Ral’s mouth, wondering how he’d managed to get it near his eye. I am going to kill him for what he did to my baby and I’m going to kill him because he didn’t stick around long enough to teach the basics. She closed her eyes and swallowed hard. Another realization hit her then, this one worse than what her baby boy had just become. The agreement was now null and void.

“Mama?” It was a whisper because Ral figured if he whispered and didn’t move his mouth too much he wouldn’t slice himself up further.

Vilasia looked at him and sat on her rear on the floor. Ral crawled immediately into his mother’s lap, his ear seeking her familiar heartbeat for comfort.

“It’ll be okay, baby,” she crooned softly, stroking his hair and rocking him gently. “It’ll be okay.”

No, Ral protested in his mind, remembering the look in his grandmother’s eyes, the look in his mother’s eyes when he’d first entered the kitchen, it’s not going to be okay.

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"The difference between life and the movies is that a script has to make sense, and life doesn't."

-Joseph L. Mankiewicz