Exsanguination

When he drops by her house unexpectedly, a misanthropic teenager must play hostess to the one and only Florian Werther Bathory Byron, a vampire with a tragic life story, a luminous complexion, and a dangerous reluctance to actually kill anything he decides to eat.

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2. New and Borrowed Light

"Thank you, Sabilla," he said, and he glided forward smoothly through the gap. He knelt and picked the coin off the ground: than he rose and strode past me with a long steps towards the house.

"Um -" I squeaked. "Wait a second! Where are you going?" And I followed him in a state of great anxiety: he walked very, very fast, and he was almost on the porch before I caught up.

"Is there something I can do for you?" I stammered, springing up the stairs before him, and positioning myself defensively in front of the front door. I was trying my absolute hardest to sound like an adult, someone who knew what they wanted and knew the correct procedure for asking very attractive strangers to leave when they showed up unexpectedly.

"I'd really like to go inside, " said the stranger patiently, as though it were the most natural thing in the world. "A little sun is always good for the morale, I find, but too much – even in the late hours of the day – is very bad for the complexion."

"I live here," I said incredulously. "You can't just come in like that. It's my house now, not Cordelia's. I'll – I'll scream."

It occurred to me that now might be a very good time to call 911: but even as I felt in the pocket of my shorts with sweaty palms and found no smartphone – it must have fallen out while I was looking for Momow - I knew, somehow, that it was already too late.

"Surely, Bill," he said, "Cordelia must have told you about our arrangement, if she left you the house."

"I don't know anything about any arrangement. Who are you? Stay back, or I am going to scream!"

"Oh, don't do that, please, I already feel a migraine coming on.  Surely she must have mentioned me at least once to you! Florian? Her dearest F.W.B.B?"

I shook my head incredulously. "F.W.B.B? You don't mean... "

"I mean F.W.B.B, short for Florian Werther Bathory Byron. My full name. Why, what were you thinking it stood for?"

And smiling toothily, he held up his bag, which was embroidered, in deep crimson silk, with those same initials. "See? And as for these gloves I'm wearing, she made them herself, here in this house, long ago."

He stepped closer to me and held his left hand up for my consideration: the glove was yellowed with age, and the crochet work was very delicate, if stretched tight: on the fourth finger, about halfway up, were three tiny, almost imperceptible rusty stains. 

"As a symbol of our particular friendship," he said.

A chill ran down my spine. I recognized the pattern on the glove back at once, even upside-down. A doily with the exact same motif - a death's head surrounded by five petals and a five-sided frame of thorns - was lying in an upstairs room, on my great aunt's dresser, next to her jewelry box, and had been since I moved in.

Florian Werther Bathory Byron seemed to have noticed my discomfort, and pushed his hand back smoothly back into his coat pocket. "Anyway," he continued, clearing his throat, "Even if you were not on close terms – surely – well – I hate to be so crass – but surely you must have read her will? You are living here, after all."

He looked at me expectantly. "There must have been something in there about me." 

"I don't remember ever signing anything that mentioned you," I said, which was true, and was surprised to see him look rather stricken. 

"No? It's not possible. It must say in there somewhere – that she left me my room in the west wing. It must. I'm certain of it. I don't have any other family in the world, you see. They're all gone... Really, Bill, all matters of tenancy aside, I am very sorry not to be able to see her again, though of course it is a great pleasure to meet you."

He closed up his umbrella with great care, set it nose-down on the peeling boards of the porch. Was he blinking, behind the sunglasses? I couldn't tell. Then he turned away, and looked out into the garden the way we had come. The sun was setting, and there seemed to me to be something very painful about him standing there all of a sudden, his long shoulders hunched, the curve of his mouth flattened out in a way that was different than before, more unflattering and much less studied. Looking at him, I knew that something he had just said was true - the part about being alone. I knew I could be certain about that part.

"I hope sincerely – that you don't feel as if I'm trying to pressure you or anything," he said suddenly, glancing back at me, "I really am a person who is very considerate of others. I – supposed I could call the taxi back and find a hotel, since she's no longer with us and I would rather not impose..."

"I suppose," I said slowly, "If you don't mind staying in the west wing with the cats, you could stay here for one night. But I need to call my lawyer before we talk any more about the will."

Florian Werther Bathory Byron beamed. It was slightly blinding. "Of course. I wouldn't dream of mentioning it again – I wouldn't even have brought it up, except for the uniqueness of our situation." He bowed deeply, and stepped lightly up onto the stoop next to me. "Thank you, Sabilla. You are a most charming girl, and I am in your debt."

"No need," I said, retreating hastily indoors. "You can come in, just let me get the lights."

And I did so. As the front door clicked shut behind me and the dusty chandelier flickered on in the gloom, I turned around to see him hanging up his wide-brimmed hat on the tree by the door, next to my light summer jacket: the umbrella was already leaned neatly up against the wall.

Now that he had removed his sunglasses, I could see that his eyes were blue. His hair was black - wavy and artfully tousled – and very striking against the pallor of his skin. So much that at first it seemed to me that his face glowed in the dim hall: not in an ordinary way at all, but rather like the glow in the dark stars I used to have in my bedroom as a child, the kind that have to been left out in the sun to have light in them, and slowly lose their luster over time. I blinked, chalking it up to the difference between indoors and out, to something being wrong with my vision: at the time, I simply couldn't imagine any other explanation.

Florian Werther Bathory Byron joined me at the gateway between front hall and dusty parlor, and returned my gaze.

"Ah. I see now you have the same lovely hair as Cordelia," he said. "Red!"

I blushed down to the roots of it, and he watched me do so with great interest. His pupils seemed very large and dark: his eyes fixed on my face for a long time, then met mine again, with an almost sheepish expression.

"My vision's not wonderful in the full sun," he said. "Excuse me for misidentifying you before: I see now you are quite your own person."

I wasn't at all sure what to say to that: fortunately for my composure, at just that moment, there came an unearthly shriek from upstairs.

 

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