Authors: Gayla Twist
History of the Vampire
Book 4 in the Vanderlind Castle Series
Copyright © 2015 Adrianne Ambrose
All rights reserved.
To my darling Q.
I was in love with Colette Gibson. There was no doubt in my mind. But what kind of life could we have together, coming from our two different worlds? I couldn’t imagine turning Colette into one of us, the undead. To do something like that would have been like painting over a masterpiece. I wanted Colette for who she was, not to simply turn her into somebody new. But I couldn’t let things keep going on the way they were going. I had to make a decision or the fates would make one for me.
“But it’s not fair,” Lilly insisted, her face a little flushed from trying to make her point. “How am I supposed to find a husband, if I can’t even go out on one date?”
“Well,” Papa said, letting his voice drag a little as if he was giving the whole thing a lot of thought, “there’s what’s fair and there’s what’s right. I’m choosing to raise you girls with what’s right.”
Lilly was not to be so easily defeated. “Tons of girls get married right out of high school and you won’t even let me go out on a date. Dorothy Smiley is engaged and she’s Lettie’s age,” she pointed out. “She’s only sixteen.”
Mama and Papa were quiet for a moment, both frowning to themselves. Papa’s eyes shifted toward his wife. Mama cleared her throat. “Those are special circumstances,” she said, looking at the table instead of her daughter. “I don’t think Dorothy Smiley is a good example of how I want to raise my children.”
I could tell by the way Mama folded her hands that she wasn’t going to speak any more about that topic, although I wasn’t sure why. Dorothy was a local girl who was always very popular with the boys. I think she’d been dating since she was fourteen. Whenever I saw her about town, she was always laughing and chatting with a bunch of boys clustered around her. They were drawn to her like bees to a flower.
“But I’m graduating in just a few months. Don’t you think that most girls should have gone out on at least one date before they graduate from high school?”
Papa gave her a stern look. “I’m never thought of my daughters as ‘most girls’ and I doubt I ever will.”
“But Walter Bennett is really nice,” Lilly said, persisting in her cause. “He’s stopped by Zucker’s a bunch of times now and he’s always been perfectly polite.” My sister worked a few afternoons a week at the local five and dime. I knew that her prospective beau had come in several times under the excuse of needing one thing or another. He never spent much money, but he sure did take his time about shopping for whatever he needed.
“How a boy behaves when he’s out in public and how he behaves when he’s alone with a girl can be two very different things,” Mama insisted.
“But…” Lilly drew breath to continue her argument.
Papa’s hand came down flat on the table. He didn’t bang it down like when he was angry about a client trying not to pay his bill, but I could tell his temper was starting to rise.
“In my day, no nice girl would be seen out with a boy, unless she had a proper chaperone,” Mama said, trying to head-off Papa’s growing annoyance. A thought occurred to her. “Maybe that’s the solution?”
“A chaperone?” Lilly all but wailed. “Mother, no one has a chaperone these days.”
“Well I’m not letting this young pup come a courting without one,” Papa growled.
I had to fight not to smile. No one said, “come a courting” anymore, as far as I knew.
“No dear, that’s not what I meant,” Mama said, putting a gentle hand on her husband’s forearm. “I meant that my real objection to Lilly going out with this Walter fellow is that I don’t want her to be on her own with a boy she only knows from the five and dime.” Then Mama directed her gaze across the table toward me. “Maybe if Lettie was to accompany them. And they didn’t go anywhere in a car. They could always walk down to the diner for a soda.”
Oh, great. Now I was being dragged into the mix. The last thing I wanted was to be a third wheel on my sister’s first official date with a boy.
Lilly immediately turned to look at me, hope glowing in her eyes. “That could work,” she said, all too eagerly.
“I’m sorry, but I think I’d feel very awkward,” I told them. I could just imagine sitting at the counter, reading a book and feeling like the whole town was pitying me as the poor, dateless sister of Lillian Gibson.
“It wouldn’t be awkward,” Lilly insisted. “We’d include you in everything, I promise.”
I knew my sister had every intention of making me feel comfortable and included on this hypothetical date, but I’d seen her flirting with Walter across the counter top. When he was around, she didn’t have eyes for anyone else. I even knew that Mr. Zucker had scolded her more than once for taking too long with only one customer while other people were waiting.
“Well, what if it were to be a double date?” Mama suggested.
“No,” Papa said, flatly. “Lilly is only sixteen.”
“She’ll be seventeen soon enough,” Mama reminded him. “And we can’t keep our girls locked in the house forever. Even if we tried, the young men would eventually start crawling up the drainpipes to flirt with them.”
I began to get nervous that both my parents were warming to the idea. “I’m afraid I don’t know anyone who would want to come along,” I hurriedly told them all. I didn’t have any particular boy who was a friend and it would be too embarrassing to ask a boy from school. I put my hand to my cheek, blushing at the mere thought of it.
“Oh, I’m sure Walter has lots of nice friends,” Lilly said, practically bouncing in her chair. “I know there are tons of boys who would be happy to come along.” Then she added as an afterthought, “We could always do something to fix your hair,”
My hands immediately flew to my hair. Had it already struggled out of its bun? My hair was a raucous gathering of curls and it never behaved the way I intended.
“I meant we could tame it with hair tonic or something,” Lilly quickly added. I could tell she hadn’t meant to be unkind.
“I…” I stammered. I knew Lilly desperately wanted to go on her date, and I hated to disappoint her, but the thought of being fixed up with a boy who had no desire to be out with me in the first place made me cringe. “I’m sorry, but I really don’t want to go,” I said, pushing my chair away from the dining room table. “And I have some homework to do before going to bed,” I told them before hurrying away, grateful that the dishes had already been cleared. I knew that if I sat there any longer then Lilly would persuade me into going. And that was the very last thing I wanted to do.
I hurried upstairs, but not before I caught more of my father’s conversation. “I think your mother has a very good point,” he said to his eldest daughter. “No matter how much I dislike it, you girls are growing up. So you can go on your date…”
“Oh Papa,” Lilly exclaimed, clapping her hands with excitement.
“Wait, let me finish,” father said in his sternest voice. “You can only go if your sister accompanies you.”
“Oh,” Lilly said, sounding more than a little forlorn. I hurried up the stairs before I could hear any more.
It’s not that I didn’t want to see my sister happy. There was actually nothing I wouldn’t do for her. But I was pretty sure that she’d be able to convince our mother and father that she would be just as safe with one of her friends on a double date as she would with me.
I probably should have been excited about the prospect of a double date, but I wasn’t. I liked boys well enough, I just didn’t happen to have a crush on any particular boy. Truth be told, I probably spent too much time reading Austen and the Brontes. I daydreamed of a love much bigger and more passionate that anything I imagined a local boy could provide.
I closed the door to the room I shared with Lilly and then went over to perch on the cream colored dressing chair that I kept by the window. The window faced the backyard and I liked to pull open the curtains and sit there, gazing over the open fields behind our property. There had been quite a bit of construction in our little town of Tiburon, Ohio before the market crashed. But when the stocks all dropped, so did the building trade. At least it kept our home from being crowded by too many neighbors. Many of my free hours were spent looking out that window and thinking of my future. Where would I be in ten years? Would I still be in Tiburon, happily married and raising a family? Or did the world have more in store for me?
The way the tree branches in our backyard swayed and waved let me know that the evening had turned quite breezy. The warm weather would find us eventually, but it wouldn’t be for another few weeks at the least.
I heard Lilly coming up the stairs. She wasn’t exactly stomping her feet, — that’s something Papa would never allow — but I could tell she was unhappy.
She said nothing as she came into our room. As a matter of fact, she took great pains to close the door very quietly. I turned toward her as she came in, but she wouldn’t look at me.
“I’m sorry,” I said as she began brushing her hair in front of the vanity table that we shared. “I’m sure Mama and Papa would let you go on a double date with Betty Schaffer. Or maybe cousin Irene.” Our cousin was older and had been on lots of dates, so that felt like a safe bet.
Lilly stopped her brushing and looked at me through the mirror’s reflection. “I already asked and Papa said no. He’s convinced that the only girl who will truly look out for my well being is you.”
I had to wonder why our father was being so cautious. Neither of us girls had ever done anything to cause him any concern. We were conscientious at school and we did as we were told when home. Lilly even had a part time job and I one set up for over the summer. But I guess it was hard for him to accept that we were turning from girls into young women. At least that’s what Mama usually said.
Walking across the room, I pulled my flannel nightgown off the hook on the back of the door. It was an evening to wear wool socks to bed. I thought I might get in a bit of reading before turning out the light. I still had some math problems to solve and a chapter of American history to go over, but I figured I could do that in the morning before school.
“Won’t you please agree to come on a double date with me?” Lilly asked rather abruptly as I was climbing into bed with a book tucked under my arm. “You can borrow any of my things that you want. Anytime, without even asking. And I promise that Walter will fix you up with one of his really handsome friends. And I’ll help fix your hair and I’ll do the dishes all by myself for a month, you won’t even have to help me.”
She was promising so much, I couldn’t help but giggle. It was obvious that she wanted this date with Walter more than she cared about me borrowing her tortoise shell combs or snagging her only pair of silk stockings.
“Oh, alright,” I finally said, completely capitulating. “If it means that much to you.”
“Really?” Lilly leapt to her feet. “You’ll really go?”
“Yes, I’ll really go,” I told her, no matter how much I didn’t want to.
“Oh, Colette,” Lilly exclaimed, rushing over to my bed and throwing her arms around me. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said, kissing my cheek. “You’re the best sister ever.” In a burst of joy she did a twirl while crossing the room to snatch her nightgown off the hook. “I can’t wait to tell Walter.”
“You can’t be serious,” Daniel exclaimed, rising abruptly from his chair and nearly tipping it over in the process. “Ship the whole damn thing to America? Really, Grandfather, I think you’ve gone a bit mad.”
“I assure you, my sanity is as sound as it’s ever been,” our grandfather growled, glaring across the table at my older brother. “And I am quite serious. I’ve made up my mind.”
Doing his best to suppress his outrage, my brother dropped back into his chair and tried to compose himself. “Don’t you think the mortals might notice if a medieval castle suddenly sprang up in the middle of Manhattan? It might lead to a few questions, you know.”