Walk with me let me dream of one shining moment with you

Falling into your open arms and calling your name...

No regrets, no turning back

Oh throw caution to the wind

My whole life pales beside the look in your eyes tonight


From "Tonight" by The Shroud

Lyrics by Lydia Fortner




Chapter Four

Chance and Possibility


I have returned to the scene of my greatest shame. It has been over two weeks since I looked upon my love's face for the last time. My love? No — no longer that — for I have finally resigned myself to that fact. I have awakened from my dream of love and come face to face with the hard reality of my dark, lonely existence. It was a sweet dream while it lasted; but there comes a time when even an immortal vampire must awaken from the gentle caress of slumber and face the world as it truly is. It is a cold, lifeless world; but it is the only world I know.

I returned to my hidden sanctuary that shameful night and locked myself in. I did not venture out for almost a week — until my need drove me out into the night. I avoided the town and went out into the countryside. Never had I felt as alone as I did that night. As I looked down at the darkened landscape, it seemed as if all the color had gone from my sight and I saw only a world of gray shadows. I no longer even felt the exhilaration of soaring through the sky. There was no feeling, no emotion within me. It was as if I had lost myself and that a stranger was looking out of my eyes. After hurriedly feeding, I returned to my lair and once again locked myself away. So I spent the next six nights — until tonight.


I don't know what drove me here. If there was one place in the entire world that I wanted to avoid, this was it. Why? Why did I come here? I could gain nothing by it — it could only bring me more pain and humiliation. Yet despite my best efforts, I found myself drawn there; almost as if under some kind of compulsion. Tired of fighting within myself; I could only give in and soon found myself quietly standing in the small garden at the back of the Elbourne house.

The garden — even at night it is beautiful; I can only imagine what it must be like in the daylight. The heady scent from the many different blossoms is almost intoxicating and my heightened sense of smell was almost overwhelmed by it. Reaching out my hand, I lightly brushed it across the dark petals of a rose, deeply drinking in its soft, alluring scent. Roses — I recalled that they were always scattered throughout the Elbourne house. These were her roses — this was her garden — and for a short time, I found some peace as I wandered among the blooms of Charlotte's garden.

I was so lost within myself that I didn't sense the mortal presence until it was already in the garden with me. With a growl in my throat, I spun around to face the human. As I beheld the face of my intruder, the sound in my throat died to a hoarse croak and my eyes widened in disbelief. Standing across from me, no more than ten or fifteen feet away, was my heart's greatest desire — Charlotte Elbourne. I was so startled that I could do nothing but stare at her.

"I knew that you were real . . . that you weren't a dream." Her voice trembled slightly as she looked at me with wide eyes. I felt myself growing uncomfortable under her amber gaze and I quickly turned my face away towards the shadows. I could still see her as she moved towards me.

"I mean you no harm." Charlotte's voice was soft and I could sense her nervous heartbeat. "I've watched every night for you — I knew you'd come back." She stopped a few feet away from me and waited. I knew that she expected me to answer her, but I couldn't move my mouth to form the words. What would I say to her anyway? Hello Miss Elbourne, my name is Meier Link and I'm the vampire that almost took your life two weeks ago? Madness!

I sensed a slight change in Charlotte's heartbeat and breathing; she was becoming more nervous and scared by my silence. The last thing I wanted was to frighten her — but I just couldn't bring myself to face her. At that moment I wished that the sun would suddenly appear and burn me to ash. I knew that I would never be able to live with myself after seeing the look on her face when she saw the truth of what I was. Why did I ever come here? Could the gods themselves have been anymore cruel to me? As I struggled within myself, I could sense her eyes on me as they tried to see my features through the shadows.

I could smell Charlotte's fear as it started to grow and I saw that she was once again trembling. She slowly started to back away from me, towards the black wrought iron gate that led to the door of her house. As much as I was afraid to face her, I didn't want her to go. I squeezed my eyes shut and gathered my strength; my voice was a hoarse whisper as I managed to croak out a single word. "C-Charlotte."

She stopped, but did not speak. Knowing that I couldn't put off the inevitable, I turned my face towards the moonlight so that my features were completely visible. As she caught sight of my face, I heard her sharp intake of breath. With a small cry, Charlotte stepped back several paces, while her right hand stole quickly to her throat; her fingers sliding over the smooth flesh as if seeking something. I saw that she was trembling as she looked at me with wide frightened eyes.

I could feel the quickening of her heartbeat and I knew that her fear was beginning to take over. I tried to make my voice as soft and as non-threatening as possible. "I will not harm you, Charlotte."

"Are you here to finish what you started the other night?" She was very close to hysteria and I knew that she could bolt at any minute.

"No," I felt a great sadness settle over me and I shook my head. "I merely wished to enjoy the beauty of your garden one last time. I did not expect to find you here. You have nothing to fear from me."

"I'm supposed to believe you?" Charlotte had dropped her hand and wrapped her arms around herself.

"I can swear on nothing that you would accept — the only thing I have is my word. But I will give that to you, Charlotte Elbourne. You have my vow that I will never harm you." The sadness leaked out into my voice and I turned away from her once again, unable to look at her frightened eyes.

The two of us stood quietly like that for several long minutes. I could sense Charlotte's fear and confusion. After what seemed like an eternity, her heartbeat slowed a bit and her breathing became more regular. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her drop her arms until she was clutching her hands nervously. My own eyes widened as she slowly walked towards me once again. She was still several feet away when she stopped. "I don't know why, but I feel . . . that you're telling me the truth. I don't completely trust you . . . but I will take your word."

Amazed once again, I turned to face her. Remembering the manners of the gentleman that I had once been, I gave Charlotte a small bow. She looked slightly amused at the old-fashioned gesture and I noticed the barest hint of a smile on her lips. Not wanting to lose the moment, I introduced myself. "Although I know your name Charlotte Elbourne, we have not been properly introduced. My name is Meier Link."

Charlotte's brows rose and her mouth opened slightly — she had heard of me and I could feel the pounding of her heart once again. Oh yes, my reputation was well known — and feared. Perhaps I had made an error in revealing my true name to her, but deep down I knew that I could never lie to her. I knew that to gain her trust, I would have to be completely honest with her.

I watched as Charlotte tried to regain her composure. Without trying to make her even more uncomfortable, I let my eyes drink in her radiant, moon-lit beauty. She was dressed in a pale green gown and her hair was loose about her shoulders with small strands of beads wound through her dark curls. I could smell the faintest trace of her perfume — something that reminded me of lilies and green grass. As she stood before me in the glowing moonlight, I wanted nothing more than to fall at her feet and profess my love and devotion to her.

As I gazed at her, I could see that she was shivering slightly in the night air. Vampires do not feel cold or heat — except for the heat of the sun, of course. Although I was fully dressed, I could have been standing naked in the middle of a winter's night and not felt anything. Charlotte hugged her arms to her chest and gently rubbed them with her hands.

Moving slowly so as not to startle her, I undid the clasp of my cloak and took it from my shoulders, "Here Charlotte, take my cloak. I didn't realize it was so chilly out tonight." I held the garment out to her. Charlotte looked at the cloak and hesitated — I could see that she was afraid to take it from me. "It's alright; it's only a piece of cloth — it cannot harm you."

Charlotte looked at me and then reached out a trembling hand. She hesitated once again; but after a few seconds she took the cloak from my hand, careful not to touch me. I waited while she settled the garment about herself. "Thank you." Her voice was soft and I was rewarded with a small quick smile. The cloak was far too large for her slight frame and its hem dragged on the ground.

Once again we stood silently, the sounds of the night loud around us. "You have a very beautiful garden." My voice seemed to boom out in the darkness and Charlotte jumped a little at the sound of it. "T-T-Thank you." I could see the blush on her cheeks and feel her blood as it rushed to her face. "It's really my mother's garden . . . or it was." There was sadness in her voice; that same tone of melancholy that had drawn me to her that first night so many weeks ago. "She passed away a year ago . . . this garden was her greatest passion. I've tried to keep it up, but I don't seem to have the green thumb that she did."

"Nonsense, you've done a wonderful job. The roses alone are magnificent." I brushed my hand across one blood-red bloom; it's petals like velvet on my skin.

"They were her favorite flowers." I could see the sadness that crept into Charlotte's eyes as she regarded the flowering bushes next to me. "She always loved to have roses in the house." Once again we fell into silence.

After several moments, Charlotte turned her eyes back to me. "You're nothing like I expected a — a . . . well, someone like you to be." She blushed once again, "I-I-I mean — I never would have guessed that you would be interested in a garden."

I met her gaze and held it. "I'm interested in all types of beautiful things, Charlotte." I could sense her embarrassment as she quickly dropped her eyes. Afraid that I had been too forward, I tried to smooth over my poor attempt at flattery. "Would you be kind enough to walk with me? I've seen several plants that I'm unfamiliar with; I'd be most grateful for a small tour."

Charlotte looked back up at me, and I could sense her hesitation. "No harm will come to you Charlotte — I have given you my word." She regarded me for a few more moments and then slowly nodded her head in agreement. I bowed to her once again and with a flourish of my hand, indicated that she should lead the way. Then in the shimmering moonlight, I followed the bewitching Charlotte Elbourne into her garden.


True to my word, I questioned Charlotte about several of the plants and flowers. Despite her earlier words, I found that she was quite knowledgeable about gardening and plant lore. As she spoke, I found myself becoming quite interested as well. She showed me her own recent addition to the abundant garden — a small corner filled with lilies of every color and description. With a small blush, she confided that they were her favorite flowers. I admired a particularly lovely pink blossom and asked her its name. "It's called a stargazer lily. It's one of my favorites — the colors are so beautiful." I nodded in agreement and we slowly continued our circuit through the garden.

As we walked, I sensed some of Charlotte's earlier nervousness start to dissipate. Trying to show her that I meant what I had promised, I did not touch her or make any sudden movements. I was sure to maintain a comfortable distance between the two of us as we walked. Whenever we stopped to speak of some plant or another, I made sure that I faced her completely and gave her utmost attention. I knew that she was still leery of me, so I tried my best to put her at ease as much as possible. By the time, we came to the end of our walk, I felt that she had grown only slightly more comfortable with my presence; and although she still feared me, she had perhaps started to accept me. I could only hope so.

When we returned to our original starting point, I felt a small measure of disappointment fall over me; I didn't want for this time with Charlotte to end. She was everything that I had dreamt she'd be, and I found my love for her growing once again. All the shame and humiliation that I had felt was reduced to a distant memory — as if that horrible night had never happened. All that mattered to me was her — she had touched my soul in a way that I never thought possible; and I knew that my life, such as it was, would never be the same without her.

We stopped in front of the rose bushes and I looked up at the stars for a few seconds, trying to think up some pretense to see her again. When I lowered my gaze to her face, I watched as she tried to stifle a yawn. "Forgive me, I didn't mean to keep you so late."

Charlotte gave me a small smile, "Yes, it is quite past my bedtime; but it's alright, I don't mind losing a little sleep." She looked down and I could see the blush that crept up her throat to her face.

I was startled by her words and if I could have blushed, I believe that I would have. "Thank you for allowing me to visit you — and your garden — this evening. It was very kind of you . . . it's been so long since anyone showed me any kindness." I could not hide the sadness in my voice and Charlotte raised her eyes to my face as I finished speaking.

"Earlier you said that you had come to visit for one last time. What did you mean? Are you going away?"

I shook my head, "No — not exactly." I began to feel a little uncomfortable under her shining gaze. "I-I-I will not lie to you Charlotte . . . but I have been to your home before — even before the other night. I-I-I heard your voice one night as you were reading to your father and — and I saw you through the window." I could see the puzzled look on her face and I sensed her heartbeat as it started to race. "I've been watching you for several weeks . . . I-I-I admired you."

How pathetic! Admired? I couldn't very well blurt out that I was in love with her, now could I? She was still frightened of me and that would have sent her over the edge for sure — to know that she was being spied upon by a love-struck vampire!

Charlotte's eyes widened and I saw her take several deep breaths. Knowing that I had to finish what I had started, I continued. "I know that spying on you was wrong . . . and I — I apologize for it. I've always prided myself on being a gentleman, and such behavior is totally unacceptable. That's why I came here tonight — tonight would be the last time that I — that I would see you again." I turned my face away, not wanting to see the loathing that I was sure would follow my disclosure. "I will trouble you no more."

The silence stretched out between us. I could sense Charlotte's discomfort and surprisingly, her confusion. I watched her from the corner of my eye as she wrung her hands and glanced up at me several times. It was sometime before she spoke again. "Even though I'm uncomfortable with knowing that you've been secretly watching me . . . I-I-I enjoyed your company tonight. It seems like so long since I've talked to anyone other than my father or brother. I'd like . . . I'd like to invite you to enjoy the garden whenever you wish. You seem so alone and — and I got the feeling that you like being here. You're welcome to come here whenever you like, M-M-Meier."

My name! She had said my name. I quickly turned in her direction, sure that I had misheard her. Enjoyed my company? I was welcome here? Looking at her face, I could see the honesty in her eyes — she had meant every word. It was all I could do to keep from shouting my joy aloud. Charlotte wanted to see me again!

I stepped towards her, "Thank you so much for your offer, Charlotte. Your garden did lend me some peace tonight when I need it. I'm also glad to have finally met you tonight." Without hesitation, I reached for her small, graceful hand. I was surprised when she did not try to pull free; even more so when she met my gaze with her own. "I'd like to see you again as well, if you would permit it. Mine is a lonely existence, Charlotte. It's not often that I can find someone to talk with either." Recalling my gentlemanly manners once again, I made a small bow over our joined hands. "Would you allow me the honor of calling on you again, Miss Charlotte Elbourne?"

Charlotte regarded me for a few moments and I was afraid, that once again, I had gone too far. I watched with surprise as she smiled up at me. "I would like it very much, Mr. Meier Link." I could not stop the smile that formed on my lips and taking a chance, I raised Charlotte hand to my lips and pressed it with a soft kiss. With another small bow, I reluctantly let go of her hand and watched as she sweetly blushed yet again.

Charlotte once again tried to stifle a yawn and I knew that it was time to let her seek her bed. "Perhaps you should go inside; it's very late. I don't want to keep you out all night." She nodded, but seemed reluctant to leave. "There are other things that hunt in the night, Charlotte; my presence here has kept them at bay, but they will return once I am gone." Once again, she nodded as I gently took her elbow and guided her to the gate next to the back door. As I opened the gate for her, she undid the clasp of my cloak and handed it back to me. "I don't want you to be cold, Meier." I nodded my thanks and settled the garment over my shoulders.

As Charlotte stepped through the gate, she turned towards me. "Will you come again tomorrow? I'll wait up for you." As much as I wanted to see her again, I didn't want to rush things — for either of us. I shook my head, "No, not tomorrow — perhaps in another three or four days." Her face fell a little at my words. "But I will think of you and your beautiful garden and wish that I was here." She looked into my eyes and I felt a strange sensation in my chest that spread out to the tips of my limbs. "Goodnight, Charlotte."

"Goodnight, Meier." Charlotte suddenly reached out her hand and lightly touched my cheek. I was dumbfounded as I watched her quickly turn away and go up the stairs. She was already in the door when I had recovered my wits. I raised my hand to my cheek, imagining that I could feel the warmth of her fingertips where they had touched my cold flesh.

For the first time in so long — longer than I could clearly remember, I felt what it was like to be alive.

Chapter 5
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