WARNING: May contain some dark themes.
Charlotte teaches Millie and Bran returns.
London – 1841
Millie fell and landed on her hands and knees on the grass. But at least she still had a hold on her wooden practice sword. God knew why she chose a sword. Knives were more efficient and easier to hide.
‘How’d you move like that?’ she asked.
‘Years of practice.’ I offered her my hand and hauled her up. ‘Plus if I didn’t I’d die. It’s a good motivator.’
She looked at me as if she thought I might be joking.
I sighed. ‘Don’t run at me like that. I can see you coming and use your momentum against you.’
She nodded and raised her practice sword in her ‘ready’ stance. We were going to have to talk about that when she stopped falling over.
I took a few steps back, but didn’t raise my practice sword. ‘When you’re ready.’
‘Mummy!’ Mary shouted, running red faced across the grass towards us with Merry behind her.
Millie swung her sword. I stepped out of the way. She twisted round and fell over. We needed to work on her footwork.
‘Mummy,’ she sobbed. ‘Pappy came home from his trip and locked himself in your room and won’t play with us. He’s Pappy! Pappy always plays with us.’ She tugged at my trouser leg. ‘Make Pappy better!’
I crouched down. ‘He’s probably tired from his trip. Why don’t you play with Millie and I’ll go see?’
She wiped her nose on her sleeve and nodded.
I took the sword from Millie. ‘No swords.’
Mary and Meredith might not have been able to get through the bedroom door but I had a key. Bran was lying on the bed hunched up with his back to the door.
I climbed onto the bed behind him and curled around his back. ‘Need some blood?’
He shook his head slightly.
I propped myself up and stroked his hair, it looked wiry but it was soft beneath my fingers. He stayed still, vampires were good at stillness, not needing to do things like breath.
I traced his ear with my fingertip and kissed it lightly. ‘I love you.’
His hand scrunched the pillow, his lips and eyes squeezed shut.
I wrapped my leg around him and touched his hair, caressed his face and along his arm, kissed his neck.
After a while he said, ‘Do you know what a Cairn is?’
‘One of those big hollow mounds,’ I replied.
‘If you roll a stone across the entrance it blocks out all the light. Complete darkness, almost as if the universe had swallowed you. You know the walls are there, you can feel them pressing in on you, but you can’t see them, There’s no perspective. No time. Just you and the dark.’ He exhaled. ‘The worst part isn’t the dark, it’s knowing you can’t get out. It’s inescapable.’
I rested my chin on his shoulder.
‘If… if my maker orders me to stay there I have to.’ He sighed. ‘Sometimes he’ll sit on the other side of the stone and talk to me. That voice in the dark, all the time to think… I’d rather take the beatings.’
‘Poor, chuckaboo,’ I whispered and kissed him softly.
A well-honed word could be sharper than a spear and Richard had plenty of practice. I wanted to cut out Richard’s heart but if I couldn’t beat the speed of one of his progeny, Jack, I couldn’t beat his. And I wasn’t sure he’d fall for my match trick either. It was going to take a lot of thought.
I tugged Bran’s shirt free of his trousers and slid my hand under it to caress his stomach.
He broke away and smiled wryly. ‘You won’t tell anyone?’
I shook my head and kissed his temple just below a cut that wasn’t deep enough to heal quickly. Bran’s little encyclopaedia of the supernatural said that the worse an injury was the faster it healed, minor injuries healed slower. It made sense, energy conservation.
‘You promise? Please? Not even Josef.’
‘I promise.’ I smiled. ‘I wouldn’t tell Josef the time of day.’
‘I’ve heard you tell him the time.’
I chuckled and kissed him again. ‘You know what I mean.’
‘Can you stay here awhile?’
I snuggled in close to his back and held him tight.
The door burst open and the children ran in to jump onto the bed. I should’ve locked it. I really should’ve have.
‘Pappy, come play with us,’ Mary demanded.
Meredith knelt on the bed in front of him and offered him her soggy teddy Patches. Millie stood at the end of the bed trying very hard to look disapproving, but it appeared more pained.
I disentangled from Bran.
He sat up. ‘What a noisy bunch you are.’
‘You missed us. That’s why you’re sad.’ Mary grabbed his hand and pulled. ‘Come play hide and seek, Mummy doesn’t do it properly. She finds us too fast.’
If they insisted on calling ‘hide and seek’ I wasn’t sure what else they expected me to do. Wandering around looking confused made no sense.
‘And she doesn’t tell the stories right with the funny voices,’ Mary added.
‘I can hear you.’ I pulled her onto my lap and tickled her. ‘Little monster.’
She squealed and laughed. ‘No tickling.’
Bran smiled faintly. Meredith pressed Patches to his neck in a hug and I saw the wince when Patches’ spit damp ear pressed his face.
‘Thank you, Merry,’ he said and patted Patches’ back.
I released Mary and she grabbed Bran’s hand again and stood the bed pulling. ‘Grown-ups can’t stay in bed. S’not allowed.’
Bran sighed. ‘Alright, I’m coming. I’m coming.’
If there was one thing I’d learnt it was that there was nothing like children to get a person out of bed. Either you surrendered or they bounced on it until you fell off.
Or sometimes they just bounced on you. I had the bruises to prove it.
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.