I've been through a lot of serious situations in my life, and I honestly think that I've been ready and capable to handle every one that came my way. That being said, I can't seem to wrap my head around the most important thing that's ever happened to me in my entire life. I can't wrap my head around that one eight-letter word that forever changed my life: terminal. Is it any surprise, though, that I can't wrap my head around the fact that I'm eighteen years old, stuck in the middle of Dallas, devoid of any immediate family members that care just beginning my life and about to die. Being diagnosed with leukemia only two months after moving into my own apartment and starting up with a dance company that I loved had been heartbreaking but not the end of the world. Sure, I'd dropped dance to work full time at both the music store I'd worked at previously as well as the Hotel Camilla as a maid so I could afford to pay rent, eat, and pay for my aggressive chemo and radiation treatments thinking once I went into remission everything could go back to normal. My whole world just fell apart when I'd realized it had all been for nothing. In approximately six months, my life would be over, and I'd be nothing more than compost.
The depression crushes me, but I try not to let it show as my co-worker, Wendy, and me quickly and efficiently finish up the rest of the rooms before the sun rises and all the vampires go to sleep. I probably shouldn't have gone to work right only an hour after my doctor's appointment, but I guess I hadn't figured that the results would be that my cancer had become terminal. My bad judgment means that I'd spent the last few hours slaving away cleaning a bunch of vampire's rooms, trying to pretend that my life isn't falling apart while Wendy prattled on and on about her boyfriend, Jackson, who is, apparently, convinced that vampires aren't real, just a conspiracy by the government to cover up a chain of gangs that are mentally unstable even though she tells him time and time again she's met more than her fair share while working at the vampire owned and vamp friendly hotel. I didn't have the heart to tell the blonde, big-haired girl that her boyfriend is clearly crazy and she should leave him because I was afraid that I'd go off on some kind of rant about how life is short and slips through your fingers too damn quickly to waste time with a boy who spends more time talking conspiracy theories them sweeping her off her feet.
I didn't want to talk about my issues, so I said nothing about hers.
"Are we going to take out break before we have to take everything down to laundry?" Wendy asks brightly as we stop our cart into the employee section.
Pausing, I rub my fingers over my wrist absently before looking up and nodding my head. I grab my purse and offer her a small smile as I adjust my ponytail and head towards the door, "Yep. I'll see you in twenty minutes?"
Wendy grins widely, not sensing anything wrong, "See you then, Lanie."
I offer her a small smile as I slip out of the employee room and move up onto the rooftop of the hotel. The night air is cool and nips at my bare arms, and I wrap my arms around myself breathing in the chilly air as I study the city below me. Above, darkness reigns, the night that used to be simply a time for sleep but now seems to breed fear for some and excitement for others with the announcement of the reality of vampires. There are no stars in the sky, and I'm not surprised, but I am disappointed. I'd grown up traveling from place to place, but my favorite place, my happy place I suppose you could call it, has always been my grandmother's small home right beside the Louisiana bayou, one of the few places in the world -it seems-that one could look up into the sky an see the millions of stars out there twinkling. Grandma used to point out the constellations to me, and when she'd been curled up on a hospital bed coughing and wheezing as a result of the lung cancer that had attacked quite suddenly, she'd smiled as I cried and said, "Don't worry, pitit, I'm not really gone. I'm in you."
I'd shaken my head and wiped the tears from cheeks, "But granmé what if I can't feel you? How can you live in me? I don't understand."
"You will," she'd smiled. "You'll understand later, but until then, when you look up to the stars you can always find me, because the stars never change. They're the one place where time stands still."
I laugh slightly as I drop onto the ground, leaning my head back against the cement wall as I stare up at the sky. Grandma had been trying to teach me a lesson, but even now all I can think about is how supernovas happen everyday and someday the stars would change and would be different, but I understood her point just the same. I shake my head, feeling the depression crushing me, and I look down to see my hand rubbing my wrist absently. Sighing, I open my purse and reach inside until I find the small plastic container that I carry with me always; I crack open the container and lift the thin razor out of the container, running my fingers along its smooth surface as I study it.
To use it...or not to use it...that is the question.
I shouldn't. I know. But I'd done it early on in childhood, and I'd started again when I'd learned about my cancer, and I hadn't been able to stop since. If my brother knew, he'd automatically assume that I'm trying to kill myself the same way my former roommate, Carly, and my best friend, Tristan, think I am. I'm not suicidal...right? The sudden sound of voices catches my attention and pulls me from my thoughts.
"2000 years is enough." A calm voice assures, and, still clutching my razor, my head darts up to study the scene in front of me. A boy who looks around sixteen or seventeen stands tall and relaxed, looking out over the city as I had been moments before, while a tall, fair-haired man that towers over him seemingly trying to stay in control of his emotions stands behind. Both are obviously vampires given their pasty complexions, and neither has noticed me, and I don't move, too entranced in what's happening to say anything, besides I don't want to interrupt-what appears to be-a very serious conversation.
"I can't accept this," the blond man says, swallowing hard as he watches the boy intensely.
The boy turns around to look at the man, resigned, "We don't belong here."
Wait...what? I've never heard that from a vampire before.
"But we are here!" The other man says loudly, not exactly yelling but more trying to get his point across.
"It's not right," the boy continues as if he hadn't heard him, turning around completely to look at the massive man behind him. "We're not right."
"You taught me there is no right or wrong," the blond man reasons. "Only survival or death."
I blink at the words in surprise; they're so cold and so...familiar. I'd lived the same way for a long time, and maybe at one time in my life I'd believed that to be true, but at a certain point you have to move on. You have to have something more to live for, simply doing what you have to for survival just isn't enough, and it doesn't excuse everything. The motto had been the same one that I'd used to get through my mother's behavior growing up as well as my brother's flighty nature, but for a vampire, I could see clearly it means something totally different. Still, I'm lost in the conversation.
"I told a lie...as it turns out." The boy admits, and while his face remains impassive, I see the regret in his eyes. I recognize the regret and feel twinge in my heart as I watch the scene unfold.
"I will keep you alive by force!" The man says angrily, stalking towards the boy who remains still and unconcerned.
"Even if you could," the boy begins, obviously doubtful, "why would you be so cruel?"
The blond man takes a deep breath before choking out words in another language, suddenly seeming desperate and sad, nearly on the verge of tears. The man replies in the same language as the other man begins to cry blood, pleading with him before he falls to his knees in tears. It's such a touching scene that I can't help but swallow hard, looking down as the man's sobs break through the utter silence of night. Words from the boy cut through the sound of the man's crying, and I swallow harder, looking up to see him still hunched over in front of the boy when he seems to cry harder. The boy nods and looks down at the man in tears in front of him, swallow as a conflicted look crosses his face, "Let me go."
The blond man quiets slightly, looking up and out towards the horizon, "I won't let you die alone."
"Yes, you will," the boy says calmly like he knows he's going to get his way. The man begins to sob again, his face falling as his shoulders slump with defeat and utter depression that seems to have crashed down on him suddenly. The boy places his hand on the back of man's neck, and his sobs quiet as he looks up into the boy's face. "As your maker, I command you," he says with a slight smile, a fake smile that doesn't reach his eyes.
The man smiles at him with infinite sadness etched across his face as he rises to his feet; they gaze at each other for a moment, and I smile slightly, reminded of the way I'd done the same with my grandma when I was little. It's a look that says, we've been through so much that words are meaningless; it conveys more love and understanding than words are truly capable of expressing. I watch as the blond takes an obviously agonizing walk from the boy towards the stairs where a blonde woman in a sundress that I hadn't noticed stands. The pair pause and look at each other for a moment as she touches his arm in comfort, the bloody tears still staining his stark white skin.
"I'll stay with him," the woman murmurs comfortingly, "as long as it takes."
That's when it really hits me. My eyes move to the horizon where a sliver of sunlight has begun to peek out over Dallas, and I swallow hard, my eyes focusing on the boy who stands looking over it all calmly. Swiftly, my eyes dart back to the blond man as he disappears down the stairs seeming desolate and lost, a feeling I'm more than familiar with. Maker. I've never heard the word before, but whatever it means, it clearly means something important between the two vampires. I frown at the boy who seems so calm, so serene. A boy who's apparently had 2000 years to live his life and, instead of living and learning as long as he can, he's giving up, putting an end to his own existence as if it means so little while I've lived a meager eighteen years in comparison and would give my heart to live until I'm simply twenty-one.
Who the hell does he think he is?
The blonde woman walks towards him uncertainly, standing a little ways away from him while his eyes remained on the sliver of sunlight that has pierced the sky transforming the deep blue to a lavender. "It won't take long," he says with a tremble in his voice, hesitating, "not at my age."
I glare at him, feeling the injustice that he's choosing to end his own life when mine is being taken from me burning red hot.
"You know," the woman begins. "It wasn't very smart...the Fellowship of the Sun part."
The boy nods, "I know. I thought it might fix everything somehow."
Well, for someone who seems to be trying so damn hard to fix everything he clearly seems like a giver-upper. The suicide of others has never really been something I thought about. The words I'd always thrown around were 'their choice' or 'cry for attention.' I guess with my own death on the horizon, I find a new perspective that includes 'selfish' and 'stupid'. Having a terrible life or needing to run from the past doesn't make it okay. Throwing away life is just wrong, especially if it is yours. After all, what right do you have to throw away life so callously when other people have it ripped away? What gives you the right to make that decision?
"But I don't think like a vampire anymore," he comments before turning to face the woman, opening his mouth to ask something else when I scoff.
They both turn to look at me, and I freeze, realizing I'd been louder than intended; I look the boy in the face for a moment, studying his impassive, accepting expression and feel the anger at my own injustice boil over. Usually, I'm shy and extremely timid, but my suppressed anger at my own situation and his decision bubble over into a case a severe word vomit,
"You don't think at all, do you?" He says nothing, so I continue. "What's your glitch, huh? What's so terrible that killing yourself is the only answer to your problems?"
"I've lived a long time, and in that time done unspeakable acts against the human race."
"And what? You can't live with the guilt anymore?" I snap at him.
"Hey-" the blonde woman begins defensively.
"It is more than that," he says calmly.
I raise my eyebrows and give a humorless laugh, "Is it? Well then, have it, explain why it's so goddamn important that you kill yourself."
"Vampires shouldn't exist. We feed off the blood of the living to sustain the dead. We think ourselves above the humans, act like we're above them. We act civilized, act as though we're like them, but we're not. We have instincts that are impossible to ignore, that urge us to kill. For years I've perpetuated this behavior. It is wrong, and I must repent for my sins."
"Fuck that," I hiss, shaking my head. "Bullshit. God, you don't even get it, do you? You're dead, so-freaking-what? And you suck blood, gross, yeah, but again, so freaking what? And since when does a person have to die to get forgiveness for all the shit they've done in their past? If that's the case then the whole freaking world would be six feet under!" I say in exasperation.
"You want to compare the sins of mankind to mine? I've slaughtered mercilessly over the last 2000 years without remorse and without regret; it is not the same."
"Bullshit, dumbass, it's exactly the same. And, for the record, if you didn't have 'remorse' and 'regret' then we wouldn't be standing here having this conversation. Besides, Mr. I-No-Longer-Think-Like-A-Vampire, how do you expect vampires to get over their superiority complex without help? You've had 2000 years to learn and evolve, not everyone has. How do you expect vampires to change if no one around is capable of it? The young learn from the old, and if you're so convinced that vampires are incapable of change-to the point where it drives you to killing yourself-why are you going become dust in the freaking wind and let the vampires who see and treat humans like blood bags train new vampires to do the same?" He blinks, opening his mouth to respond.
I'm so on a roll, though, that I can't seem to stop, so I continue. "And you might see this as peaceful, but it's so goddamn selfish! You're going to burn up and leave all the people who love and care about you behind to pick up the pieces. You don't get it do you? Have you ever lost someone you really, really loved with your whole heart and soul?" The boy remains impassive, but I can tell he's really listening, and the woman beside him seems to be in tears at the mention of losing a loved one. Their two totally different reactions tell me all I need to know about each one's history. "If you haven't then you really don't understand that regardless of why someone dies, it still affects everyone whose lives they touched. It leaves them with hurt and sadness and pain and anger and a feeling of complete abandonment that you never really get over.
"Life is so damn precious, and for some people it's so damn short, what gives you the right to decide it's over just because your tired? Life sucks sometimes, but you don't get to just end it all because your tired of living and your tired of disappointment and your tired of the people around you. Life is trying and failing and trying again. It's teaching what you learn. It's evolving and forever and full of love and hate and anger and sadness and desire. And it's not yours to decide when it's over. Why would you even want to? People would die for one more day, and you...you have forever and you're throwing it away for what?" I shake my head and cross my arms. "It's not fair what you're doing. You say you want forgiveness. Forgive yourself, because God forgives everyone immediately when they ask for it. You're the problem. Not your past, not God, not the world around you. It's you and your mindset. Life is beautiful, and if you don't realize that then you definitely have no right to leave because despite having walked this earth for 2000 years you haven't learned a damn thing."
The three of us stand in silence for a moment. The boy's eyes on me, the woman's eyes on him looking stunned, and mine on the horizon where the sun is almost about to break, brightening the pink, red, and orange sky into the gorgeous yellow light of day. My eyes shift up to meet the boy's, and I sigh, "People fight for their life tooth and nail," I whisper, "who are you to just throw it away?"
And unwilling to watch him burn away an immortal life, I run into the hotel to go find Wendy.
Story of my life.