My blood approves, p.21
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       My Blood Approves, p.21

         Part #1 of My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking
 
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The soft music of Nina Simone playing out of the car stereo did little to make me feel good, and I stared apprehensively at Mae, who in turn, stared straight ahead, looking rather tragic.

  “I was born in Reading, England in 1928,” Mae explained in a voice so sad, it barely sounded like her. “When I was very young, the second World War broke out. Towards the end, American soldiers were stationed all over England. Philip was the most dashing young man I had ever met. ” She smiled lightly at that, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “Despite my best attempts at being virtuous, I ended up pregnant at sixteen, and Philip was an upstanding man, so we were wed. My first child, a son I named Samuel, was born while he was still fighting in the war.

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  “Samuel was five months old when Philip finished his tour of duty, and we moved to the US, to a small flat in St. Paul, where Philip and his family were from,” Mae continued. “The first few months we lived here were truly wonderful. Then, one night, three weeks before Samuel’s first birthday, I went in to check on him, and he wasn’t breathing. ” A solitary tear slid down her cheek, but she chose to ignore it.

  “The pain never gets easier. Don’t listen to what anyone tells you. Losing a child is… an impossible loss. ”

  “I’m sorry,” I said, unsure of what else to say.

  “Everybody kept saying, ‘At least you’re young enough to try again. ’” Mae smiled bitterly at the memory and glanced over to me. “But I didn’t want to try again.

  “After Samuel died, I spent months curled up in bed. My family, everything I had known and loved, was a million miles away, and my husband, as much as he did love me, was very young himself and he was busy trying to work and start a life for us…” She had a faraway expression for a moment, but then she remembered I was there and snapped herself out of it.

  “I was just a little older than you, so you can imagine what it would be like,” Mae looked at me warmly, but I sensed an uneasy warning underneath her gaze. “I understand the excitement of being offered a whole new life with an attractive stranger. But you isolate yourself from everything you know. ”

  “I don’t feel isolated,” I offered lamely.

  I tried to understand her reasoning for telling me the story. My guesses were leaning towards Samuel’s headstone, and she wanted explain the immeasurable the loss a person goes through when they out live everything around them.

  But she would’ve outlived her baby whether she was a vampire or not. It had nothing to do with the choices she made.

  “Nevertheless. ” Mae stared straight ahead, her knuckles turning white from the way she gripped the steering wheel. “Philip, bless his heart, stayed by my side, when a lesser man might’ve shipped me back home for my parents to deal with.

  “Eventually, I managed to pull myself out of the depression and go on with my life. I got a job at a deli to keep myself busy and made a few friends. And one day, I decided it was time to start trying for a family again.

  “Being pregnant was the most miraculous thing that ever happened to me. To feel this little life growing inside me…” She looked rather blissful, but her gaze got harder when she turned to me. “That’s something you’ll be giving up, you know. Vampires can’t get pregnant. They don’t have children. You will never have a family if you choose this life. ”

  “I don’t think I want kids anyway. ” I had actually thought about it very little, but for the most part, the idea of having a child didn’t sound that appealing.

  “Well, you might change your mind when the option is taken away from you,” Mae replied thoughtfully. “It’s just something for you to think about. ”

  “I will,” I promised her, but I doubted that it would affect my decision at all.

  Even if she was right, if someday I regretted never having children, I could only make the decision now, based on my current state of mind. And right now, having children didn’t seem that important.

  “The day my daughter was born was the happiest day of my life. ” Her expression stretched into a deep smile, and her eyes filled with happy tears. “She was so beautiful. Her eyes were huge and blue, just like Philip’s. And she had these soft, downy curls, the same as I had had when I was born. I remember the first time I held her in my arms, and the soft warm weight of her body… I promised her I’d never let anything bad happen to her. ” She exhaled heavily, and the sadness started seeping into her eyes.

  “I named her Sarah, after my mother. ” She wiped at her cheek, trying to catch a tear before it fell. “Everyday with her was absolute heaven. I’m sure every mother thinks her child was perfect, but she really was. She rarely cried, and she woke with this beautiful smile on her chubby cheeks. I quit my job at the deli just so I could spend as much time with her as I could. Every moment with her just seemed so absolutely precious.

  “One night, I was preparing supper, and I realized that we were out of milk,” Mae went on. “We had a man who would deliver milk to our house, but with having a toddler, we went through milk faster than normal. Sarah was nearly two, and I had stopped breastfeeding not long before that.

  “Philip had just gotten home from work, so I didn’t want to send him back out. Besides that, the corner market was only two blocks down and it was a beautiful night.

  “I remember that I had been wearing this beautiful spring dress with blue flowers that I’d made from a pattern. It was one of my favorites, and I had been meaning to make a smaller version for Sarah just as soon as I got more fabric. ”

  She hesitated before she spoke again, and I almost thought she might not go on anymore. Whatever she had meant to tell me had become too painful, but finally, she continued.

  “He was so attractive that I would’ve gone with him anywhere,” Mae said bitterly, but she was angrier with herself than him. “I had barely made it a block, and then he just appeared out of nowhere.

  “In retrospect, he wasn’t half as handsome as Ezra is, but to my human sense, he was an Adonis. I never even put up a fight. When he led me away into the trees, I was too intoxicated by him to think of Sarah. He sunk his teeth into my neck, and I thought for sure I was dying, but it felt so good, that I didn’t even care. I should’ve been pleading for my life, for Sarah, but I just…”

  “You couldn’t do anything,” I tried to comfort her. While I had never been in the exact same position, I knew how impossible it was to think when a vampire wanted your blood. “It wasn’t your fault. ”

  “But I loved her!” Mae insisted fiercely. “I just wanted to spend the rest of my life watching her grow up and being a part of her life! But instead I went into a patch of trees, and let a vampire bite me.

  “He drained me, but then instead of leaving me to recover and go back to my family, he offered his blood to me. He said I tasted too good to waste on a human life. I didn’t understand what he meant, and I was still completely under his spell, so I did as I was told. ” She smiled painfully and rolled her eyes at her own ignorance.

  “I had a choice!” Her voice broke sharply. “I’m the only one that did. Ezra was forced into it, and Peter and Jack were done to save their lives. But me, somebody asked me. I didn’t understand what it meant, and yet I agreed to it. Willingly. ”

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  “But you couldn’t have known. ” I thought about reaching out to touch her, but she was too angry.

  “For two days afterwards, I laid in the trees, afraid to move,” Mae went on. “The virus attacked my body, and everything changed and died. I was weak and in pain, and I had no idea what was happening to me.

  “Then finally, my strength returned, only much more brilliantly then it had before. And this unquenchable thirst. All the while I had been writhing in pain, all I had been able to think about was Sarah and how much I wanted to get back to her. But as soon as I felt that hunger, I knew that I could never go back to her. I couldn’t trust myself.

  “Within my first few hours as a vampire, I nearly killed our neighbor, I
was so hungry. After my bloodlust calmed down, I felt safe enough to check on Sarah. I hid in the backyard and peered in through the window.

  “Before I even got near the house, I heard Sarah crying. Philip was carrying her around trying to calm her down, saying ‘We’ll find your Mama. She’ll come back to you. ’” Fresh tears streams down her cheeks, and the car started to slow.

  We were on a suburban street I had never seen before, and Mae parked on the side of the road, underneath a tree.

  “I slept in the woods during the day, and at night, I would sit outside the window and just watch Sarah. She cried for me every night for a month. Philip had the police searching for me, so I had to be very careful that no one would spot me. ” She sighed heavily. “I lived that way for over six months. I wore the same dress, and fed on our neighbor, since he was nearby. If Ezra hadn’t found me, I don’t know what would’ve become of me. Maybe I’d still be living out behind that house. ”

  “What happened to your family?” I asked quietly.

  “Philip eventually remarried a girl I had known from the deli. She was very kind, and I’d like to believe that she was good to him. They had two more children together, and Sarah eventually started calling her Mom. I don’t know if she even remembers me anymore. It’s probably better if she doesn’t. ”

  Mae nodded towards a house in front of us, and I saw the silhouette of an older woman it the window. She carried a small child, a little boy, on her hip, and she looked happy. There was something familiar about her, and I couldn’t quite place it.

  Then it dawned on me. Her hair graying wavy hair, pale skin, and even the way she smiled – they were all Mae’s.

  “That’s your daughter!” I gasped, looking over at her.

  “It is. ” She looked pleased that I had been able to see the resemblance. “She’s a teacher. She used to be married, but her husband left her years ago. Ezra threatened to teach him a lesson, but I told him not to. Sarah has to live her own life. She’s fifty-four now. She has a daughter, Elizabeth, and that little boy on her hip, that’s her grandson, Riley. My great-grandson. ” She smiled painfully. “During the week, she watches her grandkids, while Elizabeth works and goes to school. Riley’s three, and Daisy just turned five. ”

  “So you just come out here and watch them?” I asked.

  “It’s the only way I got to watch her grow up,” Mae explained sadly. “When she was little, I would come into her room at night and watch her sleep. I even did that a little while with Elizabeth, but Ezra says that I need to start letting them go. Sarah has a wonderful life, and I should just be happy with it.

  “I know Ezra’s right,” Mae said. “It will get harder watching her as she grows old and frail. Watching her die. ” She swallowed painfully. “I don’t want to outlive my daughter. I outlived one of my children, and I swore that I’d never do it again. ”

  She turned to look at me and whispered harshly, “It is so much harder to watch everyone you love die then it is to simply die yourself. Immortality is much more of a curse than it is a blessing. ”

  “But you have Ezra, and Peter and Jack,” I attempted to comfort her. “I know it’s not the same as a child you gave birth to, but you love them too, and you get to spend forever with them. ”

  “I know, and I am grateful that I have them. Without Ezra, I never would’ve made it this long. ” Mae had gone back to staring at her daughter. Through an open curtain, we could see Sarah chasing after a small girl with soft, blond curls.

  “Three years ago, Philip died. I cried more than I had thought I would after all these years. But he had always been good to me, and he’d been wonderful father to our daughter.

  “That’s when Ezra built the house that we live in, and he said it would be the last place we lived in Minneapolis,” Mae sighed. “He doesn’t like to stay in one city for this long, especially one that has family. Jack’s mother launched a missing persons search for him after he turned, but they eventually chucked it up to another drunk kid falling in a frozen lake. ”

  “How does Jack feel about leaving his mother and family behind?” I asked. He had never mentioned his family at all, but then again, neither had Mae, and they were incredibly important to her.

  “He severed all contact with her after he turned,” Mae said. “He’d never been that close to her anyway. She left when he was young, taking only his sister with her, and his father raised him. From what I understand, his father wasn’t a very nice man either. When his father got cancer, and his mother was forced to take him back in. Truthfully, I think he was rather happy that he has an excuse not to see her. ”

  “So why did you all stay here for so long?” I asked, even though I thought I knew the answer.

  “I refused to go,” Mae said simply. “But the boys are getting restless. Jack has never lived anywhere else. Peter will go stay other places, but he’s always been more of a drifter. In a few years, I’ll have no choice but to move, and I suppose it will be better for me to remember my daughter this way, while she’s still vibrant. ”

  “Where will you move?” I asked.

  “I’m not sure yet. Jack has a list of places he’d love to go, but there has been some talk of England since that’s where both Ezra and I were born, and I haven’t been back since I was sixteen. ” She turned her serious gaze on me. “In two or three years, at the latest, we will be moving, and we won’t come back for another fifty years or more. We may not even come back to America for many years. ”

  “I don’t understand why that’s a bad thing,” I said. Moving to another country sounded ridiculously exciting. I didn’t know why she made it sound like a threat.

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  “You will not be able to see your brother again,” Mae explained softly. “Even if we stayed around here, the best you could hope for is watching him grow old from afar. Even as much as I’ve watched my own family, I never interacted with them. After you turn, you’ll be unable to talk to Milo ever again. ”

  “But…” I trailed off, trying to think of an argument that would win her over. “But he’s met you all! And why can’t I just tell him what you are? What I’ll be? He’d understand. And he wouldn’t tell anyone. ”

  “Telling humans just makes their lives worse,” Mae told me gravely. “If you decided not to turn, or if we’d never even offered it to you, can you imagine how you would feel? In a year or two, we just up and leave you behind. Knowing what we are, knowing that we exist.

  “Every time you’re enamored with a boy, you’ll wonder if it’s just because he’s a vampire. You’ll age, and you’ll wonder what it would’ve been like to stay young forever. And you’ll wonder if you just made it all up, if you’re insane. ”

  “But you think it would be better for Milo to think that I had been murdered or kidnapped or something?” I asked her incredulously. “That’s the better alternative?”

  “You don’t want to watch him die, Alice!” Mae insisted with tears in her eyes. “I know that you don’t love him quite the same way that I love my daughter, but even knowing that Philip died was devastating. Leaving them behind is hard, it is so very hard, and you’ll question it forever. But there is no other option. Immortality requires you to leave everything behind. ”

  “So you expect me to turn my back on all of this, all that you have to offer, because Milo will die? He’s going to die anyway! Me staying human doesn’t make him live forever!” I countered. “But you and Jack and Peter won’t die. I don’t know how I could possibly go back to living my life knowing that you’re out there and I’m not with you. ”

  “You just needed to know,” Mae looked at me earnestly. “You needed to know exactly what you’d be giving up. It’s not fair to ask you something that you don’t understand. I wanted to give you a chance, so you wouldn’t make the same mistake that I did. ”

  “Are you saying that you don’t want me to turn?” I asked thickly.

  “No, no, of course not, love. ”
She reached out and gently stroked me cheek. “I would want nothing more than to spend forever watching you turn into the amazing woman I know you’ll be. But I know the price of turning better than anyone, and if I can spare you from any pain, I will. ”

  “But as a human, people will still die around me,” I argued. She dropped her hand from my face but kept her sad eyes on mine. “I’ll be touched by even more death as a human than I would be as a vampire. At least you guys won’t die. ”

  “That is true. But that doesn’t make leaving your brother any easier. ” She forced a smile at me, then turned the car back on and drove away from her daughter’s house. “It’s just something that I thought you should think about it. ”

  “Thank you. ” I sunk low into the seat.

  I stared out into the darkness, watching the houses and trees roll past us. Mae sang softly along with the stereo in attempt to alleviate her own sadness by the time we got back home. She had left me with an impossible choice. Leave behind my brother, or leave behind them.

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  The covers were pulled completely over my head in attempt to keep the daylight out, but when I finally poked my head up, there was no light spilling in. Part of it was because of the thick curtains that blanketed every window of the house, but the main reason, according to the clock on my nightstand, was probably because it was after six, and the sun had already set.

  Last night, I had again stayed up with Jack, watching his DVDs of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and very deliberately not talking about the elephant in the room: whether or not I planned to ever become a vampire.

  I couldn’t understand all the ramifications of my decision when I couldn’t even fully believe it was true. Last night, I had spent the entire time watching an old TV show on DVD and trying not to entice a vampire to bite me.

  How could I possibly reconcile those two ideas? The utterly mundane with the totally supernatural? One of those things just didn’t belong.

  Instead of dwelling on it any longer, I rolled over and grabbed my cell phone off the nightstand. I vaguely remembered the jingle of my phone interrupting my sleep, but I had been too tired to answer it. When you’re still human, staying up all night can be incredibly exhausting.

  So what? Are you like really sick or something? That was a text message from Jane. Along with, Hello? Are you ignoring me? At least she still cared, which I found to be kinda surprising.

  There were three from Milo, and I was reluctant to read them. I didn’t want to think about him being alone in that apartment all the time. He didn’t really have any friends, and on top of that, he had his current issues with his sexuality. It was a very cruel time for me to leave him.

 
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