January 22, 2005
Well Diary, I can’t believe I am 24 today. It seems almost unreal. Wasn’t it only last year that I learned to ride my bike or had my first kiss? Now here I am, on my own in Los Angeles, moving into a new apartment and getting on with life?
I think birthdays are bittersweet things. They remind us of the past, of the people who shared them with us and of what we have accomplished or not for that matter. Kind of like some kind of cosmic scoring system I always think; what have I done with my life this year? Somehow I don’t usually feel like I’m ahead in the point’s thing.
How are we judged in the grand scheme of things I wonder? Have I gathered good karma or bad? Do I understand love, honor, and loyalty? Have I learned difficult lessons and took some painful knocks? I think so; I guess I can only hope that whoever or whatever keeps score sees it my way.
This year the weather is fine out and so it will be a barbeque at Mom and Clark’s house. Robbi and Kevin will be there, and Julia and a few other friends too. And, of course Mom and Clark. Lani can’t get home from Tokyo, which is understandable. As much as I love seeing everyone this day is in ways a painful one; no Grams or Gramps.
It’s funny; I still miss them both so much it hurts. A real, honest and tangible pain that somehow I would have thought would be gone by now. Maybe it never goes away, I don’t know. No tiara for this birthday girl, it’s at my apartment safely tucked away. I still put it on sometimes and stare at myself overly aware that I am no longer Gramps’ little princess who stares at the world in wide-eyed wonder and awe, innocence worn like a cloak. Instead I am a woman who has loved and lost people in my life that helped me to become the person I am today. I am strong, determined and eager to for my life open up for me. Dare I say that I hope I am lovable; that there is a man out there who will accept me for who I am, flaws, warts and all? A man who will be able to look directly into my soul and recognize the beauty, pain, fear and love that is all me? Well diary, I certainly hope so.
I used to always feel my shadow man really strongly on my birthday; I don’t know why. Nowadays, I still feel him in an esoteric sort of way but instead of being shadow man I think he must just be more of a guardian angel; keeping me safe from a distance, perhaps guarding me with love from another place.
God, how did I get so maudlin? It’s my birthday for heaven’s sake! I need to go and have some fun!
Beth pulled up in front of her Mom and Clark’s house totally unsurprised to find ribbons and balloons decorating the front yard. She laughed, hoping at least that there was not going to be any clowns. Robbi came running out of the front door, well, waddling was more like it since she was 8 months pregnant. This was a great year for her; she had graduated last December with her doctorate and was due in mid February. She and Kevin had decided to not find out the sex of the baby; they wanted to be surprised. It drove Beth nuts to not know, but she couldn’t be happier for them. If ever two people were meant for one another it was Robbi and Kevin.
“Oh my God, look at you Robbi! You’re big as a house! And you look stunning…” she told her friend as she hugged her and kissed her cheek. They held one another close for a moment and Beth heard a slight sniff come from her friend. “Come on now, no waterworks or we’ll both be crying!”
“I know Beth, but I just don’t get to see you often enough; it’s only San Diego and yet it’s been six months!”
Beth felt a guilty pang stab at her because she had intended to go to Robbi’s graduation but the paper had sent her to Sacramento to cover a trial.
Robbi saw guilt and regret wash over Beth’s face and she said, “Don’t blame yourself Beth; we both sometimes miss those important things in each other’s life.” Robbi was remembering the birthdays she missed and how guilty she felt when she did. She took a deep breath and forced a smile onto her face and added, “We’re here together now, so let’s go have some fun! I’m starving and Clark has the hamburgers cooking!”
Beth grinned in return and grabbed Robbi’s hand as they went to the back yard. She could smell the grill and the burgers cooking and her stomach growled in response. Everyone else was waiting for her and by the time she had been thoroughly hugged and kissed it was time to eat!
As she piled her burger high with jalapeno’s, hot sauce and pepper jack cheese she looked around her at the people she loved the most in this world and she suddenly knew that, at this moment at least, she was content.
Mick sat staring at the fire place in the loft, trying really hard to not focus on what day this was. Clark had called him and invited him to the party they were having for Beth and he had almost considered going. How could they explain him? Would she recognize him? That thought totally scared him. What if she did and it brought back all the memories? How would he/they explain why he didn’t look any older?
No, it was too risky, even though Clark had assured him that they could make it work. So he sat here, feeling alone and miserable and fighting the urge to just go and observe, stand in the shadows as he had for so many years. He thought the best thing to do would be to go and see Josef or Logan or even Guillermo down at the morgue but he didn’t trust himself to get behind the wheel of the Benz because he knew exactly where he would go.
What would be so bad about it? He could just go for a few minutes, just a friend stopping by to say hello. Whose friend? An acquaintance from work? Damn, he just couldn’t do it, risk it.
The phone rang just then and whether providence or divine intervention he didn’t know but he grabbed it like it was a lifeline. “Hello?”
“Hey there stranger! How about offering an old friend a drink?”
“Elka? Are you in town?” The possibility immediately brightened his mood. “Sure, come on over. It’ll be great to see you!”
“Okay, I’ll be there in oh, 30 minutes or so. Is that okay?”
“Yeah, I’ll be waiting!”
They hung up the phone and Mick rushed around, making sure the place was tidy and getting the drinks ready. He wished he had some fresh blood, but the bagged blood would have to do. Since he had come back to LA he had fallen in to his old habits, much to Josef’s despair.
As he got everything ready he thought about Elka; he hadn’t seen her in a year or so as she had moved to Detroit. She said it was time to move on, new city, new name, the usual vamp outlook. He had missed her friendship and no-nonsense attitude; she never walked on eggshells around him and was always ready with a solid kick in the ass when he needed it.
Boy, did he need one now…
He heard the elevator bell ding and he rushed to the door, opening it and waiting impatiently for Elka to get to his door. He grabbed her and hugged her tight, feeling so much happier than he had in ages.
“Come on in!” he bade her, standing aside so she could enter the apartment.
“Wow, same old Mick, not a thing out of place!”
He just grinned and shrugged. “Well, old dogs and all!” he laughed.
He took her coat and they made their way to the couch and sat down. “So, tell me all about Detroit?”
“Oh, I love Detroit. It’s a highly underrated city, for vamps at least. I’m really enjoying the cold winter,” she told him with a sparkle in her eye. “Sometimes I just sit out on the deck with the snow falling around me and think how much I miss North Dakota winters!”
“I’ll bet not too many people would say that, human’s anyway.”
“Yes, I’m sure you are right!” She took a drink of the blood and realized it was bagged blood. She was almost surprised but then again maybe not. He had been on her mind a lot lately; it was the reason she was here. She knew he wasn’t happy. “So what is going on in your life, Mick?” She watched him over the rim of her glass to see his response. His face immediately became cloaked as he tried to hide whatever was going on.
“Not much; working, you know how it goes.” He looked around the room, anywhere but at her because he knew she could tell he was lying and he didn’t want to face it.
She reached for his hand; he tried to pull it away and she held on tighter. “No bullshit Mick, what’s going on?
His shoulders slumped and when he finally met her gaze the look in his eyes broke her heart. “Ah Mick… You haven’t seen her have you?”
“I can’t Elka, I just can’t. Today is a really hard day, I’m glad you’re here. It’s her birthday; her stepdad invited me, but I can’t go, I can’t…”
“Why?” One word, just one quietly spoken word. The answer though, well, it was complicated.
He explained it all to her, his justifications for not going, for staying out of her life. He could see she didn’t buy any of it.
“Mick, unless you try and see her how are you going to know how she will react? So what if she does remember your face? She was a child, her memories are bound to be skewed, distorted. But you’ll never know if you don’t seek her out.”
“I – I don’t want to risk hurting her Elka. Bringing back memories she doesn’t need to remember.”
“I don’t think that is the problem at all, Mick. And if she does finally remember, maybe that’s the best thing for her, did you ever think of that? Can you imagine what it would be like to live with that shadow hanging over you? Maybe it would be a blessing for her, a chance to open herself up and move on with life. “
“I can’t imagine that it could help her at all Elka, I just can’t.”
“Mick, how long do you think I would have survived if I hadn’t been able to work through those horrible things that happened in my life? If I ran from them or blocked them out? I would never be happy, have found any level of happiness Mick.”
“Maybe if you had blocked them out Elka you would be able to find love again?” he said and he saw a shadow settle down on her face at those words.
“No Mick, you’re wrong about that. It isn’t the memories that keep me from falling in love again; it’s knowing that that kind of love only happens once to some people. The kind that is perfectly right, where your two souls unite and nothing can keep you apart, save death’s clutches. There will never be another for me like Lone Eagle, Mick. ; He was my mate, my life, my love. I hear his voice in the four winds and see his face in the clouds. I will be with him again I know, just not in this lifetime Mick. I accept that and while I am here on the earth I do my best to help other people find their destiny. I think yours lies with a young woman that you happened to save 20 years ago. You have only to find the courage to see if I’m right Mick.”
Mick sat next to her on the couch, his head bowed as her words washed over him. Tears ran unchecked down his face and he nodded, looking at her. He recognized the truth of her words, but did he have the courage? Only time would tell.
Dorothy and Clark cleaned up after the party guests had left. Everyone had enjoyed themselves but Dorothy was glad it was done. She pushed paper plates down in the trash sack and closed it with the twist tie and carried it to the trash bin.
Clark met her there and lifted the lid and then took the bag from her and stuffed it down in the receptacle. “There, all done!” he declared.
They walked slowly to the house enjoying the quiet of the evening. “I invited Mick today, but he didn’t come. Couldn’t get away I guess.”
“You – you did what?” she asked, alarmed at what she heard.
“I said I invited Mick. He didn’t come.” He shrugged as he opened the back door of the house for her. She stepped in and he followed her, closing and locking the door behind them.
“I can’t believe you did that Clark! How could you, without asking me?” Her head was reeling with the panic of what might have happened if he had come.
“Dorothy, they can’t run from each other forever. Sooner or later they will be drawn together.”
“No, I don’t believe that. I don’t…”
“All those years I watched her and so did he. And you know what? She knew that he was out there too, Dorothy, she knew. It made her feel safe; the girls used to talk about Beth’s ‘shadow man’ all the time. Who did you think they were talking about for heaven’s sake?”
It all came rushing at her like a freight train. She didn’t want to believe it, but part of her did. No, she knew that he was right. Still, something in her fought it. “He’s a vampire, Clark. His life is so different, how would she fit in to that life?”
“I don’t know that she will, but they need to meet to find out. Logan said that Mick has been miserable, Dorothy; he misses her, he needs her.”
“Vampires Clark, I just don’t know. His ex, the woman who took Beth was a vampire. I never knew until afterward that she was. It scared me so bad and I at least knew about vampires because of Logan.”
“What happened when Beth was taken Dorothy? How did it happen?”
Dorothy started crying, remembering the events that led up to Beth being taken. “It was my fault Clark; I invited that woman here to our house. Beth and I had been to the park and she was there too, watching the children I realized later. Beth had fallen and scraped her leg, pretty badly and she was crying. Cora and I were chatting and when Beth came over something odd came over her, Cora I mean. I know now that it was the smell of Beth’s blood. Anyway, we were chatting and I asked her to come back to the house with us for coffee while I got Beth cleaned up. Cora even offered to carry Beth back to the house for me, and Beth rode on her shoulders, piggy back style to the house where we got her cleaned up.”
Dorothy was lost in her memories, oblivious to Clark or anything else right then, locked in the horror and guilt of what she believed was her fault. “We chatted and drank our coffee while Beth played. She took Cora into her bedroom and showed her all of her toys and things and Cora took it all in. I remember standing there watching it all thinking how sweet Cora was to pay so much attention to Beth and all her dolls and stuff. When she left she hugged Beth and said she’d see her soon. I had no idea just how soon that would be.”
“Dorothy, darling, it wasn’t your fault. You and Beth were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It didn’t happen because you were not a diligent parent or anything. It just happened. Beth has grown up remarkably well, due to you and your parents. She is a survivor and she is building a strong and happy life for herself. She is okay.”
“Is she? You seem to think she needs Mick in her life.”
“I think they need each other Dorothy, I do. He’s a good man, the best, vampire or not. And whether or not he recognizes it, he needs her. I’ve always thought so.”
Dorothy wiped the tears from her eyes and gave Clark as small, albeit watery smile. “You may be right Clark. Only time will tell…”
To be continued…