Josef is overcome by the urge to speculate about Charlotte’s latest acquaintance.
London – 1841
‘You met Freyja Deacon?’ Josef said. He was standing the library window that looked out onto the garden watching the children play.
‘What’s this debt she owed Bran?’ I lay down on the chaise lounge with my book.
‘I can’t remember exactly,’ he said. ‘If she said like for like he must’ve saved someone she loved at some point. Seven hundred years is a long time to keep up with all the people that owe him debts.’
‘Collects them like books, does he?’ I stretched my back feeling the ache of healing bruises.
Josef considered then nodded. ‘Not that he ever calls them in, foolish of him. The Deacons do keep their word though.’
I thought Josef was missing something there, it might be foolish from our perspective but Bran was different from us. He was nice. He didn’t do things for strategic benefit, he did it because he was nice. Then I remembered I’d adopted three children which wasn’t the strategic thing to do. I was getting soft in my dotage.
‘I suppose the question is “why save me”?’ I said and opened my book at the bookmark.
‘It’s nice to see you don’t assume there was no motive.’ He grabbed a heavy leather armchair with one hand, moved it closer to the chaise lounge and sat down. ‘What did she say?’
‘That her sister told her it was an advantageous night to “disembowel a misbehaving Fae”.’ I glanced at him. ‘And no, I’m not assuming it was a coincidence that I was there.’
‘Her sister is Frigga Deacon, The Oracle.’ He sat back. ‘If she said it was advantageous then –‘
‘She must’ve had a vision of the future.’
He looked surprised.
‘I know what oracle means,’ I muttered. ‘If Freyja hadn’t been there then I wouldn’t have been shot.’
‘Or you might’ve been killed some other way. Perhaps you were destined to be mortally wounded, it was not the how, it was someone being there to save you.’ He rested his elbows on the arms of the chair and steepled his fingers.
‘I think that thinking like that will give you a headache.’ Not that eerily similar thoughts hadn’t been running through my head the night before. I’d had a headache by the morning. ‘And do you think saving a woman from the workhouse would matter to the grand Deacon family?’ I mimed doffing a cap.
‘You’re an oddity but I don’t think that would interest them.’
‘Thank you, arsehole.’
He smiled. ‘You’re changing Bran.’
‘I don’t think so.’
‘Perhaps change is the wrong word.’ He sighed. ‘Would you be more satisfied if I said you brought out parts of him he’d buried?’
‘Still dubious.’ I flipped over the page of my book, though I wasn’t reading it. ‘Bran’s the same person he ever was.’
He arched his eyebrows and said nothing. No wonder Bran had lacked confidence if his best friend hadn’t thought him up to much. Bran had survived seven hundred years, he did himself down too much.
‘You really are an arsehole.’ I got up and crossed to the drinks table. ‘But we’ll go along with it for a while on a hypothetical. Bran, the centuries old vampire has an “epic destiny” all lined up for him and it hinges on me being there to tell him he’s not a failure?’ I poured a measure of whiskey. ‘I grant you, a bit of confidence can do wonders but I’m not taking “epic destiny” out to dinner.’ I put the glass to my nose and inhaled the bitter scent.
‘You mean it could be Bran, or you or me or someone we don’t know is on the field –‘
‘I mean your version works on the assumption that the advantage wasn’t a strategic advantage against Lenny or a chance to pay off her debt to Bran,’ I said. ‘In all the stories I’ve read the Fae like to hold the debts, not be in debt.’
‘Your face is beautiful but your mind a thousand times more so.’ He nodded at the glass in my hand. ‘Are you going to drink that or smell it?’
I set the glass on the table. ‘Should I be worried about such a powerful woman and Bran?’
‘No,’ he replied and sat forward, his eyes gleaming with amusement. ‘Were there the remotest possibility of Bran straying, Freyja believes men are only for procreation. So…’ He made a vague gesture with his hands, but I hardly needed vampires’ inability to have children explained to me.
‘We’re immortal, sometimes we get curious,’ he added. ‘But I’ve never known her get that curious.’
‘Curious? Like you are about me?’
‘Oh, I am very much more than curious. I still mean what I said.’
I snorted. ‘I still mean the slap across the face.’
His lips thinned and he shifted back again.
I shook my head, went to the closest window and looked out at the street. There were people walking up and down and carriages passing but no sign of Bran and the children.
‘Josef,’ I said without looking at him. ‘If something should happen, can I rely on you?’
‘Yes,’ he replied. No jokes or insults. A simple yes.
‘Good to know.’
Part of Jesse’s Studio’s Fiction Frenzy there will be a new episode of Victorian Mistress everyday from 4th June until 17th June 2017.