Sophie and Camryn were persistent. It took quite a long time, but in the end, everything worked out.
The existence of vampires was now known, though some referred to them as occults (which became a rather rude word used to describe a person afflicted with vampirism). After much discussion and research, Sacred Spleen and the science facility declared vampirism a disease, and as such those afflicted were not at fault for their condition, and not to be discriminated against (they were, after all, people too).
The mayor and chief of police declared vampires protected as long as they stuck to a diet of plasma fruit, animal blood, or purchased their own plasma.
Many laws were made, both to protect humans and vampires alike.
Any vampire caught feeding from humans would be punished, depending on the severity of the breech. Feeding off a human without consent, as this would lead to the human in question becoming a vampire, was punishable by imprisonment, or forced into taking the cure, and heavy compensation for the victim. Any vampire causing the death of a human would, at the least, be forced to take the cure. At the most, that vampire would be hunted and destroyed. The elders of the vampires agreed wholeheartedly on this.
In turn, there was no baiting of vampires, no discrimination allowed, and no killing of innocent vampires. The penalties here were also quite stiff.
Many of the victims of the vampire known as Drake were cured. They were happy to return to their families and lives as they had been before the attacks. Some chose to remain as vampires. Many of the oldest vampires living in Bridgeport, and even around the world, chose to continue their existence as vampires, though a few gladly accepted a chance to be human once more.
Kale, I knew, remained vampiric.
“I’ve lived this way for a long, long time,” he’d said.”I’m fine the way I am.”
He’d struck up a friendship with Sophie and Camryn.
With me, it was not so easy.
I couldn’t move past my experience that easy. I tried, but it was too difficult.
Kale was saddened. He was trying so hard to show that he cared for me, that he loved me, that he would never hurt me, but I didn’t want to see.
I felt that if I tried to be friendly, that if I let him show me how much he liked me, if I gave in, something would happen. I would be hurt again, and then he would be, too. I couldn’t let it happen.
So I held myself away from him, tried to harden my heart against any and all advances.
What Kale didn’t know was it was hurting me as much as it was him. Because I wanted to be loved, I did want a relationship with someone, like Sophie and Sam’s. Perhaps I did have some feelings, whatever they were, for him. But what kind of relationship could a human and a vampire have?
I told him as much.
And I had never seen such a look before. Like I had somehow twisted a knife in his heart. I felt the pain of it, through my guilt.
“What can I do to convince you that I won’t hurt you?” he asked, frustrated.”What can I do to convince you that I love you?”
“I don’t know,” I replied simply.
I was about to find out.
A few days later, I was talking with my parents. They called weekly now, ever since they’d found out what I’d gone through and that Sarah’s murder had finally been solved. Now and then, they urged me to come back home. But I couldn’t. Bridgeport was now my home.
As I finished my call, Sophie stopped by with a parcel.
“This is for you,” she said oddly. She and Camryn were hurt by my refusal to even be friendly to Kale.”It’s…from Kale.”
My instinct was to ignore it. But, somehow, I opened the box anyway.
Inside was a shining, gorgeous heart shaped gem. It was dark blood red, and seemed to glow. It sparkled eerily.
“What is this?” I whispered, mesmerized.
“Kale said it’s a Vampire’s Eye,” Sophie said.
Where had I heard that? I thought for a moment, then lunged for my bookshelf. I pulled out my copy of ‘Vampire Lore in the 21st Century’, and flipped through the pages til I found the page I hadn’t read.
‘Vampire’s Eye: a very valuable and precious gem, it contains a part of a vampire’s soul. Many give these gems as a show of faith to a mate. To entrust a part of their own soul to another is a show of infinite love and trust’.
Oh my God.
I groped inside the box, hoping there was a letter. There was.
‘My dearest Layla,
I have tried for a long time to express how much I love and care for you. I have tried in so many ways, but nothing I do can break through to you. I have inquired of your good friends, who tell me of your heartache and pain. I cannot change the past, but I can try to change the future.
I give to you this Vampire’s Eye. It is a part of me. A part of my soul is within the gem. This is how much I trust you. For I would not hurt you, ever, and I feel you would not hurt me, either.
You said to me you did not think a human and a vampire could have a relationship. I do, and I know that if we just tried, it could work. But I won’t ask anything of you that you are not willing to give. But I will do anything I can to be with you.
I have decided to take the cure. I will become human. Even if you do not love me as I love you, this I will do for you.
I dropped the letter and sat down, feeling dizzy.
“Layla!” Sophie cried.”You’re so pale! What’s wrong?”
“Did Kale say what he was doing today?” I asked slowly.
“No,” Sophie answered.”Layla, what’s this about?”
I was fighting against the chaos within me. The part that wanted to give in, and the part that fought against it. Cracks were appearing in the ice I’d wrapped around my heart, my feelings. It suddenly shattered, and I knew which side of me had won.
“I have to go, now!” I said, and left a very scared and puzzled Sophie behind.
I knew where to find him.
He was outside the science facility, about to enter. He wore a look of fierce determination. Or what I assumed was one behind his sunglasses.
“KALE!” I screeched, running towards him.
Startled, he turned. His expression became incredulous as I stopped, panting. We stared at each other for a few minutes.
“What…do you think you’re doing?” I panted.
“What I have to,” was his answer.
I shook my head.
“No, you don’t have to do this.”
“Yes I do,” he was very firm about that.”If this is the only way, I’d do it a million times over.”
“But it’s not,” I protested.”Look, can we sit down and talk about this? There’s something I have to tell you.”
We walked for awhile, til we found a bench and sat down. We sat in silence for awhile.
“I didn’t know vampires could be out in the daylight,” I said, breaking the wall of silence between us.
“Sunlight doesn’t hurt us,” he replied.”We’re just horribly light sensitive.”
“Oh,” I said. I’d never been outside during daylight hours as a vampire, being on night shift. Come to think of it, I’d never seen Kale out during daylight til now, and asked him about it.
“I prefer the night because I can see better. I’m also a night owl, and I was before I turned. I guess now it’s something like chronic insomnia. In a city like this, it’s easier to sleep during the day, anyway. It’s far too noisy at night.”
There was another moment of silence, before he broke it.
“You said there was something you needed to tell me?”
I took a breath.
“Yes…” I said slowly, then hesitated. How to say this properly. Kale waited patiently while I collected my thoughts.
“I was afraid,” I blurted out. He raised his eyebrows at that, but said nothing.
I rattled on, explaining everything that I’d experienced and felt from the moment I’d been changed, right up til I’d read his note. The pain, the suffering, the fear. Being afraid to let myself become close to him.
“In a way, I think I blamed you for not stopping him in time, and I’m so very, very sorry!”
His expression became gentle and loving.
“You poor, poor little thing,” he chuckled.
“It’s not funny,” I frowned.
“I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing at myself,” he explained.”All this time, I thought maybe you did hate me, but for what reason, I didn’t know.”
“But I don’t hate you.”
“No, but you resented me.”
“Maybe just a little,” I whispered.”But I don’t any more. You really trust me with…with your soul?”
“Yes, always,” he said, pulling me onto his lap and wrapping his arms around me.
I took a deep, steadying breath.
“Kale, you don’t have to change for me. You don’t need to be human.”
“No, I do. You said-”
“I didn’t mean it. I’ve been selfish, but I won’t ask you to do that. Maybe humans and vampires can have relationships. I’m willing to try.”
“Truthfully?” he asked, eyes shining.
“Yes,” I nodded.”And, I want you to do something for me.”
Kale’s eyes bulged out.
“After what you went through?” he cried, jumping up and dropping me on the ground.”After what you just put me through? You must be joking. Where’s the hidden camera?”
“Will you sit down,” I snapped, picking myself up.”There’s no hidden camera. I mean it. Maybe not now, but some day. I think…I think I want to spend the rest of my life with you, but I want it to be as long as possible.”
Kale sank to the bench and stared at me.
“When you’re ready…when I’m ready, I want you to change me.”
Kale didn’t hesitate longer than a second.
Camryn and Sophie were less upset than my parents about my intentions. They had known Kale loved me, but were surprised to learn that I returned his feelings. What upset them was that after all we’d been through, trying to make me human once more, I was going to turn around and become a vampire again.
“I appreciate it, I really do,” I explained to them.”But don’t think of it as my throwing away all of your hard work. I’d like to think of it as doing my part to help others who were afflicted the same way. And now that my work is done, I can move on and do what’s right for me. I love Kale, and I want to be with him.”
They accepted my explanation like true friends.
My parents eventually became reconciled to the idea. After all vampires were people too, and I would still be their daughter. Just with slight differences in my dietary needs, of course. Mama planted many plasma fruits in her garden for me, so I could have them fresh whenever I wanted, and both expressed delight that I was finally settling down and could possibly provide them with the grandchildren they craved.
As for me, knowing it would be difficult to work in my usual department when I was changed again, switched to a nice, blood free specialty. Perhaps later, I would have my own private practice, maybe even specialize in vampiric medicine. Vampires may heal from injuries fast, but they do get sick.