Never in her wildest dreams did Carmilla imagine that her Sunday evenings would be spent watching old seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, cuddled up to her girlfriend on the couch in their one-bedroom apartment in Berlin. Strangers might say that it was unusual, yet heartening, to see a couple in a state of security that was basically impossible at the age of twenty-three.
But Carmilla wasn’t twenty-three; she had been eighteen for almost three hundred and forty years, with the cynicism and smarts of a survivor to prove it. And Laura? Well, she was... Laura. Even four years later, she still refused to let the world chip away at her stubborn idealism.
“Oh man.” Laura’s hands were covering the bottom half of her face, her eyes wide as she watched the scene unfold onscreen. “It hurt to watch this scene when I was fifteen, and it still hurts to watch now.”
On their television screen, Callie Torres, wearing her mother’s wedding veil, was tearfully pleading with her mother to recognise and to understand her love with Arizona. The day before their wedding. Didn’t Callie’s mother think to say something sooner? Why were fictional humans so melodramatic?
Carmilla crossed her arms. “If society hadn’t tied the feelings of everlasting love to marriage—which, by the way, is a ridiculous institution that has always had an arbitrary manner of deciding who is allowed to take part in it—then they wouldn’t be having this problem,” she said. “I mean, Callie’s mother only disapproves of the marriage because the state, and the religion that influenced the creation of the state, has historically said that two women marrying cannot be a thing that happens!”
“Seriously, Carm, we’re gonna go all political philosophy on this?” Laura had dropped her hands from her face. “It’s Sunday. Can’t that big brain of yours take a break? You can talk to your students about this tomorrow. Besides, this is a seminal moment in television. This is about Callie and Arizona’s love being greater than marriage or laws or all the other human things you get grumpy about.”
“Only because you don’t learn from your mistakes, cupcake.”
“Just because some of us get burned while taking risks doesn’t mean we should stop taking risks altogether, Carmilla,” Laura said. “I mean, maybe we should think more about the consequences, but man,” her face lit up, “imagining the payoff is way more fun.”
Carmilla turned her attention back to the screen. “She’s gonna call off the wedding, isn’t she?”
Laura rolled her eyes. “No chance that I’m spoiling it for you.”
“See!” Carmilla pointed at the screen. “This is what I mean by ridiculous! Callie and Arizona throw this big white wedding for a marriage that, in the eyes of the state, isn’t even real. And they spent thousands of dollars and cried a lot of tears over this bloody ceremony. Meanwhile, Meredith and Derek,” she huffed, “decide on a whim that they want to adopt a baby that coos at them like, what, twice? But they have to be married so they literally waltz into a courthouse and become man and wife in two seconds flat.”
“Well, that’s the question here, Carmilla,” Laura said. “Some of us have to fight harder to get married, and is that fair?”
Carmilla scowled. “The fairest outcome is if they abolish marriage.”
“You’re doing it again.” Laura paused. “Hang on, does this mean that you don’t want us to get married?”
“Cupcake, come on.” Carmilla nudged her lightly. But Laura’s expression darkened. “Seriously? You want to get married? You wanna do all that?” She gestured at the television.
“I’ve always wanted a wedding, saying vows, celebrating our love in front of the people closest to us, food, music, dancing, speeches,” Laura admitted with a shrug. She chewed on her bottom lip before continuing: “It kinda sucks that you don’t, but I understand. I’m being silly and way too optimistic about the idea of marriage. I’m just buying into the hype, I guess. It’s just a piece of paper, right?”
Her defeated tone did not go unnoticed.
Carmilla emerged from her last lecture of the day to find Laura standing outside waiting for her. She smiled. They’ve had a packed three weeks at work, so they planned a date night to spend a fancier night together and blow off some steam. “Hey,” she said, before giving Laura a peck on the lips, “I thought we were meeting at the U-Bahn?”
“I got out a little early so I decided to come pick you up,” Laura explained. She laced her fingers with Carmilla’s and they walked out of the campus. “How was your day?”
“Tenured professors are still assholes, rich brats are still entitled, and I will never stop lamenting the fact that some of my brightest students do not have the privilege of staying eighteen forever, because I feel like as your body physically ages, so does your attitude to learning new things,” Carmilla said. “As evidenced by the tenured assholes.”
“Well, Doctor Karnstein,” Laura teased, “not all of us grew up in towns where vampire cabals are on the hunt for fledglings.”
“Just your luck,” Carmilla muttered. She cleared her throat. “How about you, love? How was work?”
Laura launched into a story about the some of the senior journalists showing skepticism over the go ahead to increase production of digital content, which was the division of the magazine that Laura worked in. “I don’t want to believe that journalism is a dying industry, but if anyone’s going to kill it, it’s these people who are still stuck in the ways of the past. World’s changing, you know? We should be trying to keep up.”
“Yeah,” Carmilla said. “I get that.”
After dinner and dessert, they sat on the U-Bahn home, Laura’s hand casually tucked into Carmilla’s coat pocket, her head resting on Carmilla’s shoulder. “Thanks for the great evening, babe,” she said.
“Thank you, too,” Carmilla said. “Do you find it strange that we’ve been together for years but we still thank each other for dates?”
Carmilla snorted. “Not all the time, but that’s besides the point,” she said. “So, do you find it strange?”
Laura lifted her head. “No, not really,” she said. “I mean, we’re busy all the time. We were dating throughout university, and we had jobs then, too. And now we’re working full-time. There’s bills to be paid and paperwork to be finished because we’re supposedly real adults now.” She shrugged. “I think it’s good to appreciate the time we set aside specifically for each other.”
“Definitely,” Carmilla said. “That’s a good way to put it.”
“And it’s like, I don’t want to not thank you,” Laura said. “You’re a great girlfriend. I love being around you, I don’t get sick of talking to you, and I could chill out with you all the time if I had to. I feel that ‘thank you’ is a pretty succinct phrase that covers these thoughts I have towards you. We’re a pair, you and me.”
“Want to be a pair forever?”
“Wha– what do you mean?”
Carmilla couldn’t believe what she was about to say, but the words came out of her mouth before she could stop them: “Let’s get married.” She watched Laura nervously.
Laura’s eyes widened. “What?”
“I know I talk a lot of shit about it, but I know that it’s important to you,” Carmilla said. “I’ve been thinking about it since it came up a couple of weeks ago, and like you said, we’re a pair, right? So let’s celebrate it with a wedding, and let’s be each other’s wives.”
“Is this a proposal?”
“Yes, Laura.” If her heart was still beating, it would’ve jumped out of her throat by now.
Laura’s voice was cracking. “Look, I don’t want us to get married just because you think it might make me happy, because like, in terms of our relationship, all I need is you being who you are. That’s what makes me happy,” she said. “I’m not marrying you if you’re just doing it because it’s what I want, not what you want.”
“Laura,” Carmilla chose her words carefully, “I want to be the woman you spend the rest of your life with.”
“You and I know that we can do that without a wedding,” Laura said.
Carmilla shrugged. “Well, maybe it will be fun. You know I like parties. I’ll even let you run wild with the desserts table,” she said. She bumped her forehead gently with Laura’s. “How about it, cupcake? Will you marry me?”
“Yes. Oh my god, yes. I will marry you,” Laura said. She wrapped Carmilla in an awkward side-hug. “I can’t believe that you proposed to me on a train.”
“I’m sorry, is that unromantic?” Carmilla frowned. “Do you want me to do it again somewhere else or –”
“Carm, no! This is actually super romantic,” Laura said. She snuggled up to Carmilla’s side. “For the record, even if you were into marriage before, I didn’t think you’d be the one proposing.”
“Well, I’ve decided that marriage has certain legal benefits that we might do well to take advantage of so long as we’re living in this liberal democratic capitalist society,” Carmilla said. “Property rights and medical insurance and all that…” She punctuated her sentence with a dismissive wave.
Laura giggled. “Oh, shut up, Carm,” she said. “You won’t admit it to my face, but I know you. You softy. Remind me to kiss you properly once we get home.”
“Oh.” Carmilla smirked. “We can’t forget that, can we?”
Laura laughed again. Her breath tickled Carmilla’s neck, and she was warm and soft and smelled like chocolate mousse. “Carm?” she said quietly.
“What is it, love?”
Carmilla sighed contentedly. “I know.” Because Laura never failed to show her every day.
A hush fell over the room as Cedric Hollis stood up, a glass of beer in one hand. He cleared his throat loudly. When Carmilla first met Laura’s father, she was surprised that he was short, stocky, and was baby-faced without his well-groomed beard. He wasn’t a taciturn man, either; Laura’s chatterbox nature had to come from someone, after all.
Despite this, Cedric inspired respect from other people. All eyes were on him as he prepared to say something at Laura and Carmilla’s engagement party. He shot a smile at Laura before scanning the room and taking a deep breath.
“Hey everyone.” He gave a little wave, which made a few people chuckle. “I tried my best to introduce myself to everyone, but in case I missed anyone, I’m Cedric, Laura’s father. And first of all, I’d like to say congratulations to Laura and Carmilla on their engagement, and like everyone, I am thankful and excited to be here celebrating it with you.”
Carmilla smiled back at him as he made eye contact with her.
“I remember the day I met Carmilla for the first time. I picked the girls up at the airport in Winnipeg for their semester break, and I have to admit, I thought she was exactly the kind of girl I didn’t want Laura dating.” There was laughter from the audience, including Laura. “But a couple of days went by and I saw how caring she was, so helpful, so funny. I mean, I know you wouldn’t think it just by looking at her, but Carmilla here actually knows how to crack a good joke!”
“Anyway,” Cedric continued when the laughter died down, “Carmilla, thank you so much for making Laura happy for the last few years. I can’t imagine anyone who would be a better daughter-in-law. Some say marriage is the union of two families, but I think I’ve considered you a part of the family long before this evening, and I have to say,” he paused, “it’s not just Laura who’s lucky to have you in it.”
Carmilla’s gaze fell to her lap as she tried to collect herself. Laura’s father was not a gruff man, but this was the most emotional he has ever been around her. With the fuss being made about their impending “official” union as a couple, it almost slipped Carmilla’s mind that Laura’s father was going to be a part of her life as well. She didn’t know if that made the human idea of “forever” better or worse. She stared at the elegant, yet discreet, engagement ring on her finger. Laura had picked it out when they went shopping for each other’s rings the weekend after Carmilla proposed.
“You okay, babe?” Laura whispered.
“Yup, I’m good,” Carmilla said.
“All right.” Laura squeezed her hand, then turned her attention back to her father.
Cedric’s eyes were on his daughter now, and Carmilla knew that look. It was how you looked at someone so important to you, that everything else just faded away. “Laura,” he began, “I stand here as a person who, admittedly, hasn’t been fortunate with love or romance. And I’m very glad that isn’t hereditary, because as your dad, all I want is for you to be safe and happy. I’ve seen that you’re both with Carmilla.
“I’m proud of the person you’ve become, Laura. I’m proud of you for making such good decisions about your education, and your career, and especially about the person you’re spending the rest of your life with.”
“Aw, Dad,” Laura sniffled. “Thanks.” Her eyes were filled with tears.
Carmilla put an arm around her and kissed her cheek. “Shhh, love,” she whispered.
“All right, I wanna give other people a chance to speak, so I want to end this with a toast.” Cedric raised his glass. “To Laura and Carmilla, and to the love that they will share forever.”
The sensation of Laura’s fingertips brushing against her bicep pulled Carmilla from her state of half-sleep. Since moving to Berlin, she had adjusted her body clock to a sleeping schedule resembling Laura’s, give or take an hour or so. Laura still almost always fell asleep before she did, so the fact that she was awake meant she probably wanted to talk about something.
“Love, I swear I can hear you thinking,” Carmilla said. “You want to tell me what’s up?”
“I’m just thinking about what my dad said at our engagement party.” Laura swallowed. “And a lot of other things that have now just crossed my mind.”
“We’re getting married.”
“We’ve been engaged for a month, cupcake, I thought you’d have processed that by now.”
The pillowcase rustled when Laura shook her head. “That’s not what I meant,” she said. “You know, Dad said something about love and marriage and spending the rest of my life with you. I suddenly remembered that while that’s true for me, it’s not going to be true for you.”
“I’m going to get old and die, and you’re going to live forever. Without me.”
Carmilla shrugged weakly. “Well, that’s just the way it is,” she said. “I’m a vampire. You’re human.”
“Turn me,” Laura blurted out.
“Bite me, or whatever,” she said. “I want to become a vampire. I want to live forever, with you.”
“Laura, we’ve talked about this,” Carmilla said. “I can’t do that.”
“It’s complicated.” Carmilla sighed. “It involves horror and trauma and dark, ugly things that I want to protect you from, rather than showing it to you firsthand.”
“You can still do that. I know you’ll take care of me,” Laura said.
“It doesn’t work that way,” Carmilla said.
Laura rolled over so that she was on her stomach, and she propped herself up on her elbows. “I mean, I’ve got the rest of my life with you, and the thought of that makes me so happy, because you’re so wonderful. But you’ve lived for so long, my lifetime probably feels so short to you.” She expelled a breath from her mouth. Not quite a sob, but not quite an exasperated sigh. “What if you forget me?”
“Forget you?” Carmilla reached out to stroke Laura’s cheek. “Laura, you will always be the best part of my existence. And my forever may be a lot longer than yours, but I can promise you that you’ll be on my mind every single day.” Carmilla believed in love, compassion and in the inherent goodness of humans, but she didn’t believe that she—a monster in their eyes—would be lucky enough to experience it for herself. Until Laura came along. That, if anything, was something worth holding onto for the rest of her existence. “You’re the girl who saved me.”
“You saved me, too.” Laura dabbed at her wet eyes with the heel of her hand. “I don’t know, Carm. I just feel like this is unfair.”
“Well, you know what they say. All good things come to an end.” Carmilla smirked, despite the hollow feeling in her stomach. They shouldn’t have to talk about this, but it was an inevitable conversation. Carmilla thought she had grown accustomed to the thought of the few people she cared about eventually dying, but of course, Laura was different.
“No, don’t say that!” Laura exclaimed. “You know that’s not true. You know this doesn’t have to end.”
Laura was right. Carmilla did know that.
Humans who spent their existence in the lower levels of reality spent most of their lives in ignorant bliss about the possibilities that the world has to offer. There are many occasions when Carmilla envied them for that. Today was one such occasion. While she can buy her blood, along with other mystical objects, from a special store only known to certain circles in Berlin, these certain circles did not have the same appreciation for human cuisine that she had.
She and LaFontaine entered a small shop in the city proper and introduced themselves to the man at the counter. “Ah, yes, for the Karnstein-Hollis wedding?” the man asked. “Come this way, please.” They were led into a room at the back of the shop, where small servings of at least two dozen different dishes, along with a pitcher of lemon water, were laid out.
“Whoa,” LaFontaine said. “You and Laura are really going for it, huh?”
The man handed Carmilla a tablet. “Take your time to taste, and tick the dishes that you’d like to be included in your menu on here,” he nodded at the tablet. “Please, if you need anything, just ask. I’ll leave you to it.”
“Thank you,” Carmilla said. She took a seat when the man left and surveyed the spread in front of her. “Well, this was the one thing I wasn’t going to skimp on. The flavours that can be achieved by great cooking is something that vampires should learn to indulge in more often.” She picked up her knife and fork. “Sit down, LaF. Let’s start.”
“Don’t have to tell me twice,” LaFontaine said. They took the seat next to Carmilla. “Man, Laura must be sad that she’s missing this.”
“You’re telling me,” Carmilla said. “If this place wasn’t so booked up for tastings, she would’ve postponed to another day when she wasn’t so busy at work. Anyway, she instructed me to send her photos with concise captions, just so she’s up to date on what I’ve picked.”
“Great. Let’s do this thing.”
They tasted the dishes one by one, washing down the taste with a drink of water before moving on to another dish. Carmilla observed LaFontaine having a reaction akin to a divine experience after a bite of chicken roulade. “LaF, can I ask you a question?”
Out of the corner of their full mouth, LaFontaine responded: “Sure. What is it?”
“You know that shop I frequent to stock up on… sustenance,” Carmilla said. “You wouldn’t know if there are other shops near here that specialise in the same kind of, I don’t know, stuff?” She asked this question because she knew that LaFontaine, out of anyone, would probably have an answer. Upon learning that Berlin wasn’t an ideal place to hunt—and that urban vampires have abandoned the practice almost entirely—LaFontaine had referred Carmilla to a “specialist” store that sold blood by the litre. (“Whole Foods, but for vampires,” were their exact words.)
“You mean like, shops for weird, supernatural stuff?”
LaFontaine nodded. “‘Course I do! They’re everywhere, once you know how to look.”
“Well, that’s why you’re here. So I don’t have to look,” Carmilla joked.
“Cute, Carmilla,” LaFontaine chuckled. “What are you after?”
“Uhm,” Carmilla busied herself with a piece of beef, “something medicinal.”
LaFontaine inched forward in their seat, intrigued. “I didn’t know vampires can get sick.”
“Not for me. For Laura.”
“Laura’s sick? Shit, what’s wrong?”
Carmilla shook her head. “Sorry, no, nothing’s wrong with Laura. Don’t worry.” Contrary to her wishes, mortality wasn’t an illness to be cured. She prepared herself for LaFontaine’s reaction, and then said, “It’s more to do with Laura’s longevity.”
“In the bedroom? Because there are other special stores for that.” LaFontaine waggled their eyebrows.
“No! It’s not that. We– we don’t need that. Trust me,” Carmilla sputtered.
LaFontaine smirked. “Sure, Carmilla, whatever you say.”
“It’s about her youth. How to retain her youth.”
“Ah,” LaFontaine nodded, “you’re trying to play god, huh?”
“God’s run off. This world is too ugly for them,” Carmilla said gruffly. “And it’s not my idea. It’s Laura’s. I mean, I will eventually learn to accept her mortality, but I don’t think she wants to accept it herself. I just want to know if there are, you know, options. I know it’s a long shot.”
“Too damn right,” LaFontaine said, in between bites of food. “Jesus Christ,” they looked down at their plate, “this is really good. Can I tick it on that thing?” They took the tablet and scrolled down to find the name of the dish. “Anyway, to answer your question: I haven’t heard of any stores anywhere—in Europe, anyway—that would have anything like this.”
“No Alchemy Club alum selling their Elixir of Life?”
“Does that really even exist? I think that’s just fictional,” LaFontaine said. They placed a hand on Carmilla’s forearm. “Sorry, bud. I think you and Laura are perfect together, but yeah, sometimes we just can’t have it all.”
“Yeah.” Carmilla laughed briefly, to disguise her disappointment. “I guess we can’t be that couple who are too good to be true, huh?” She pulled her phone out of her pocket and opened Snapchat. She aimed her camera at the next dish she was about to eat. “Whoops, almost forgot that I had to document this thing.”
Laura was in bed fiddling with her phone when out of the blue, she snorted. “By the way, babe, the snaps you sent me today were ridiculous,” she said. “I told Perry that it was a bad idea to have you and LaF handle the catering stuff.”
“Hey.” Carmilla pouted in mock affront. She slid under the duvet and positioned herself beside Laura. “I think that we’ve been doing a great job. Catering’s enjoyable. Imagine doing something utterly boring like venue.”
“Well, you need to eat the food somewhere, Carmilla.” Laura placed her phone on the nightstand. “Anyway, it’s not that. You’ve been great with the admin stuff so far. It’s just, I asked you to send me snaps of everything you chose, but you only ended up sending me like, three snaps of actual dishes, and a lot of snaps of other random things. So besides the menu that was emailed to me after you finished making selections, I actually don’t know what the food looks like.”
“Would it make you feel better if I said that my phone camera wouldn’t have done it justice?”
Carmilla brushed some hair away from Laura’s face. “I’m sure I made good selections,” she said. “This wedding is an important event and I’m not gonna screw around, even if the little party girl in me wants to, because I know it’s gonna demote me to the couch.”
Laura chuckled. “At least you know what you’re in for.”
“I’m pretty sure three-quarters of the dishes are vegetarian,” Carmilla deadpanned.
“Oh, fuck off, Carm!” Laura contorted her face in exaggerated anger. “Consider our engagement over.”
They both laughed.
“Hey,” Laura’s voice was softer this time. “I was thinking about it today, and like, when I start visibly ageing, people will think that I must be a pretty cool catch if I managed to land a younger, drop dead gorgeous woman like you. I mean, I’d put that down for as a plus.”
Carmilla snorted. “Pretty cool catch?” she asked. “Please, cupcake. They’d think that I’m your sugar baby.”
“Wouldn’t that be cool, though?” Carmilla said, unable to keep the teasing tone out of her voice. For what it was worth, she was relieved that Laura had at least started viewing the positive sides of the not-so-positive consequences of their relationship. “They’d think I was an interesting enough person to attract someone so worldly and dignified as you.”
“Nah, babe.” Laura looked like she was about to burst out laughing. “They’d say something about how I just want you for your sexy body.” A pause. “And they would be correct.” The laughter came then, rich and full, echoing around their bedroom.
After an evening out at dinner with Perry and LaFontaine, Carmilla and Laura invited the two back to their apartment for tea. Carmilla busied herself in the kitchen, while Laura puttered around aimlessly. “Do we have any cookies, Carm?” she asked. “Or what about that lemon slice your brought home after work last week?”
“Laura, please, don’t fuss,” Perry said from the couch. “Tea would be lovely, that’s all.”
“Yeah, Laura. Come sit with us,” LaFontaine said. “I don’t think I can eat any more.”
“All right,” Laura conceded. “Let me just give Carmilla a hand.”
Carmilla arranged some mugs on a tray, along with sugar, milk and a tin of teabags. “Can you grab the kettle, love?” she asked.
“Sure,” Laura said. They laid everything down on the coffee table, before sitting beside each other on the loveseat. “Help yourselves.”
Automatically, Carmilla fixed drinks for her and Laura the way they liked them: black for her, with one teaspoon of sugar, while Laura preferred hers with a dash of milk and two teaspoons of sugar. Carmilla couldn’t help smiling as she stirred the sugar in Laura’s mug. As she got older, Laura made an effort to reduce her sugar and dairy intake, but some habits were harder to part with than others. She slid the mug of milky tea closer to Laura’s reach.
Laura paused from her conversation with Perry and LaFontaine. “Thanks, babe,” she said, before turning back to their friends and resuming her tirade on how some journalists still didn’t know the difference between 720p and 1080p. Hot beverages and a ranting Laura? They may be getting married in six weeks’ time, but some things never change.
“We have a present for you guys,” LaFontaine said after they made their tea.
“Isn’t that usually given at the reception?” Carmilla asked.
“Well, we got you something for the reception. Something practical.” LaFontaine shot a look at Perry as they said it. “But there’s something that we thought we should show you before the wedding. So you have a chance to think about it.”
Laura looked at them nervously. “Guys…”
“It’s nothing bad, Laura,” Perry said. She looked at LaFontaine. “Do you want to explain it to them? I think you’d be better at it.”
“It would be my pleasure,” LaFontaine said. They cleared their throat, before producing a vial of amber liquid from a rectangular plastic case in their bag. “Since we moved to Frankfurt after Silas self-destructed, I’ve taken the liberty of using the resources I had to work on this as kind of a secret side project.”
“That’s great!” Laura said. “But what the hell is it?”
“I’ve been doing a great deal of research on how vampires, you know, live forever. I mean, I wouldn’t call a vampire ‘immortal’, because their lives can end through very specific ways, so that means that they can die. But they still stay the same age from when they were turned into vampires, and even if they aren’t immune to injury, they do have accelerated healing rates.” LaFontaine looked at Carmilla. “I’m sorry, Carmilla, if I’m talking about you like you’re not here. I’m speaking as a scientist.”
“Oh no, it’s okay. Carry on,” Carmilla said, impatient to hear more.
“Anyway, in Frankfurt, I started thinking about the possibility of changing the properties of human blood to replicate these two qualities—eternal youth and accelerated healing—from vampires. At first it was just a fun side project. Over the years I’ve tested what I came up with on animals, and…” LaFontaine looked at Perry, then back at Carmilla and Laura, “I’ve succeeded.”
“What?” Laura and Carmilla said in unison.
“LaFontaine doesn’t like to admit it, but they’re a bit of a romantic. And I guess I am one, too,” Perry said. “We’ve never seen as a love as deep and as selfless as yours and we know that it must be hard, grappling with these ideas of what forever is supposed to be, when it’s very different for both of you, for factors you can’t change. But you can change them now.”
“This solution needs to be administered through an IV every six months. That’s how long it lasts in your bloodstream before it needs to be replenished,” LaFontaine explained. “Right now, should you agree to accept this, I have the resources to make at least a decade’s worth, and I can always get more later on. I’ve consulted lawyers on the rights for this solution, and I’ve got their guarantee that it won’t ever be available to the public or for financial gain. So, if you refuse, I’ll just destroy the supply.”
Carmilla didn’t know what to say. She turned to Laura, to read her expression.
“LaF, you can’t just give this away to us,” Laura said. Her eyes were wide and disbelieving. “You literally made the Elixir of Life.”
LaFontaine shrugged. “Yeah, but this is the one thing we don’t want to be mass marketed.”
“If you’re giving this to us, you and Perry should have some as well,” Laura insisted. “What makes me more deserving of a forever?”
Perry and LaFontaine locked eyes. They held each other’s hands. “Laura,” Perry said gently. “Everyone deserves to have forever with the person they love the most. LaFontaine and I have known each other all our lives. That time is all ours, and trust me, we’ve talked about this. It feels more than enough. We’re happy with that.”
“Yeah, Laura,” LaFontaine said. “Don’t worry about being selfish. Take this chance.”
Laura looked at Carmilla. “Carm? Babe?” she asked. “You haven’t said anything yet. What do you think?”
Carmilla’s head spun. She knew LaFontaine was a genius. But LaFontaine successfully invented a solution that made humans virtually immortal, and they didn’t even want to sell it. They would’ve made billions. Instead, it was a wedding present for her and Laura. The human propensity for sentimental judgements astounded her.
And so she gave her honest answer: “I don’t know.”
“Are you okay, Carmilla?” Laura asked.
LaFontaine and Perry had left twenty minutes ago. Twenty minutes of silence between Laura and Carmilla as they put the mugs away in the dishwasher and started getting ready for bed.
Carmilla was in the bathroom with the door closed behind her. She had brushed her teeth and changed into her sleeping clothes when she heard Laura call from their bedroom. She looked in the mirror, and felt a little disappointed when she realised that her reflection had not changed in over three hundred years. No laugh lines, no forehead wrinkles, not even dark undereye circles lasted long on her. “I’m fine,” she replied to Laura. “Just give me a sec.” She examined her smooth, youthful face again. Centuries of existence, and all the evidence was on the inside.
Laura was still fully dressed. She was standing by the bed with an uneasy expression. “I hope you’re not upset,” she said.
Carmilla got in bed and pulled the covers up to her waist. “And why would I be upset, cupcake?”
“About Perry and LaF’s gift.”
“I’m not upset,” Carmilla said truthfully. “It’s a lot to think about, that’s all.”
“Tell me about it.” Laura sat on the edge of the bed and placed a hand on Carmilla’s knee. “Is it a problem if I told you that I’m considering accepting it?”
“What?” The possibility of living the next millennia with Laura was enticing, and it was what Carmilla wanted most, but using the solution had repercussions. Not just how they’d have to keep it away from the pharmaceutical industry, but it would also affect their relationship with the people closest to them. Carmilla was accustomed to it, but would Laura be able to cope with watching everyone she loved grow old and die?
Laura cocked her head. She knew that Carmilla heard what she said clearly.
“Laura, you know this whole immortality deal is a lot more complicated than just getting some of this juice in your veins, right?” Carmilla asked.
“I know that.”
“No, I don’t think you understand it completely,” Carmilla said. “You’re gonna have to learn to say goodbye to people, to places. You’re gonna have to change your identity every thirty years to avoid suspicion. It’s like living on the run, except you’re not running from anything. More like, everything you know is slipping away from you.”
Laura laughed mirthlessly. “You think that kind of talk scares me?”
“I’m just reminding you that we’re not the only two people in this world. We have other people to think about. LaF, Perry, Danny, your father… hell, even Kirsch,” Carmilla said. “Taking that solution is practically choosing me over them.”
“I’m not choosing anyone but myself and what I want,” Laura retorted. She took a deep breath and continued in a softer voice. “Carmilla, I’ve been thinking about this for a very long time. I’m not just doing this for you. You think it won’t break my heart to know that I’ll have to watch my dad and my friends grow old and die? You think I won’t scramble to hold onto every memory I have of them?”
“Well, of course, I completely understand –”
“Sometimes I think you forget that I’m not actually that naive girl you thought I was when we first met.”
Carmilla’s heart sank at the hurt in Laura’s eyes. She was right, though. Carmilla did occasionally treat her like she was made of glass. But Laura had proven, time and time again, that she could handle whatever was thrown at her, and then some. Carmilla should remember that more often. Starting now. “All right, Laura,” she said. “What do you want to do?”
“I want to use that solution. I don’t want to grow old and die, because I hate the thought of me being a part of a story you tell other people in the future. The girl you loved the most,” Laura said. “I don’t want that. I want to be there, telling the story with you.”
“It’s possible, Carmilla! It’s right there! We just need to take it.”
“Laura,” Carmilla said again, pressing for Laura to let her continue. “Out of everything in this world, your existence is the one I find the most wonderful. I don’t want anything more than having you around forever. It’s just not as simple as it sounds.”
“Then we’ll work the kinks out together.”
Carmilla found herself smiling. Laura’s optimism and determination were endearing, and she had an uncanny ability to use these qualities to get what she wanted. This time, apparently, was no exception—not that Carmilla would ever complain about it. “Yeah, we will,” she said. Because no matter what, they always managed to.
“Wait, so you’re on board with me taking the solution?” Laura asked, watching Carmilla’s face intently.
“Yeah.” Carmilla laughed, surprised at her own decision. She lived so long not getting what she really wanted, that having it within her grasp, with no one to stop her, seemed surreal. “Yeah, I guess I am.”
It wasn’t easy telling everyone.
LaFontaine and Perry were ecstatic, but understandably overwhelmed with the gravity of what they had given Laura and Carmilla. LaFontaine made sure to tell them that the solution would render Laura infertile, but Laura and Carmilla assured them that they weren’t planning on having children anyway.
Danny was reluctantly accepting of the news. She didn’t believe that immortality was all it was cracked up to be—and Carmilla would agree with her—but she was a good friend and ultimately, she wanted to see Laura happy. On the other hand, Kirsch waxed lyrical about true love before asking them to promise that they would keep his descendants from being as much of an asshole as he was. Even Carmilla couldn’t resist giving him a big hug after that request.
It was Laura’s dad who especially struggled with it. Of course, anyone would struggle if they were being told for the first time that their only daughter’s sophisticated, intelligent fiancée was actually a centuries-old vampire, and that their daughter was going to become immortal so they could live happily ever after together. That was a lot to take in.
In the end, he sighed and told Laura and Carmilla that he would be on their side no matter what. “Any way you look at it,” he said towards the end of their discussion, “you’re going to have to bury your old man sometime, kid.”
Carmilla held Laura as she wept in bed that night.
The procedure was simple.
LaFontaine administered a small dose using a syringe a week beforehand, just to see if Laura would have any adverse reactions. There weren’t. The following Friday evening, they set up a drip chamber in Carmilla and Laura’s bedroom and sanitised the area. After a light dinner early in the evening, Laura had a hot shower, got into her most comfortable sleeping clothes, and lay in bed and watched as LaFontaine inserted the catheter into her arm.
Carmilla held Laura’s free hand and they conversed quietly until the effects of the solution made Laura’s eyelids too heavy and her speech too slow.
“She’ll wake up by Sunday,” LaFontaine reassured her.
Carmilla spent Saturday alone with Laura, reading books and grading essays out in the lounge during the daytime, then sitting beside her in bed while watching a movie on her laptop. From time to time, she would glance up at the amber liquid travelling down the tubes from the IV bag, into the vein in Laura’s arm. She stroked Laura’s cheek. Sunday couldn’t come fast enough.
Laura returned to consciousness just after noon the following day, as Carmilla returned from the kitchen with a glass of blood. “Jeez,” she croaked, staring at her rumpled pyjamas. “How long was I out?”
“Laura!” Carmilla was at her side in a flash. “How are you feeling?”
“Good as new.” Laura examined her body. “I don’t see anything that has changed, but I feel different. On the inside.” She hummed contemplatively. “So, I guess it worked. You’re stuck with me forever now, Karnstein,” she joked.
Carmilla laughed as she wrapped her arms around Laura. “It could be much worse.”
“Oh, shut up,” Laura said, playfully shoving her off. She paused mid-motion, apparently remembering that the catheter was still in her arm. “Hey, when can I get this off?”
“LaF said they’ll do it. I’m supposed to call them when you wake up, so I’m just gonna do that now,” Carmilla said. She picked up her phone from the nightstand, and was about to dial LaFontaine when Laura said her name. “What’s up, love?”
Laura was frowning. “I’m really hungry,” she said. “Do we still have some of that chocolate cake in the fridge?”
“Yeah, we do.” There was always some cake in their fridge.
“Can you get me a slice, please?” Laura asked. “I mean, I’ll eat something more substantial later, promise. But right now, I really, really want cake.”
Carmilla chuckled. “Of course,” she said. “Let me just call LaFontaine first, and I’ll get you that cake.” She walked out of the bedroom.
“Thanks, Carm,” Laura called out through the open door. “I love you!”
A pleasant warmth spread throughout Carmilla’s body. “I love you, too.” There were some words that seemed to weigh less than what they meant, but when it came to Laura, she enjoyed being able to share them anyway.
It was three in the morning, and Carmilla was on the footpath outside their apartment building ushering people—colleagues of hers and Laura’s, in varying stages of inebriation—into cabs.
“Thanks for coming,” she said. “We’ll see you next Saturday!” She stood there for a minute, watching the cabs drive off on the empty streets. She didn’t know if it was the buzz of the alcohol, but the air felt warmer for this time before dawn. She shoved her hands in the pockets of Laura’s cardigan, which she threw on over her dress, and walked back into the building.
She let herself back into their flat. The music was still playing, albeit at a lower volume. Carmilla watched Laura working in the kitchen, cleaning up the remnants from their “bachelorette party”—although the only things this evening had in common with a conventional bachelorette party were that it was held before the wedding, and there was a seemingly unlimited supply of alcohol.
“Need a hand there, love?” Carmilla asked.
Laura turned around from putting wine glasses in the dishwasher. “I’m good,” she said. “Did everyone find a way home?”
“Yup, although we might have to be up early tomorrow making arrangements with people who want to pick up their cars.” Carmilla nodded at the tray of keys by the door. “There’s a couple of those.”
“Well, if they got drunk tonight they’ll probably sleep in,” Laura said. She turned abruptly when she heard snoring from the couch. “Oh, do you mind getting the pillows and blankets out while I finish up here? Don’t want these losers to complain of body aches tomorrow morning.”
Carmilla eyed the source of the snoring. It was Kirsch, who had taken the train from Hamburg two days ago, was passed out on the couch. On the loveseat, in a foetal position, was a conked out Danny, fresh from a flight from Toronto. LaFontaine and Perry were snuggled on the giant beanbag, not quite asleep but definitely getting there. “Told you we should’ve rented that two-bedroom,” Carmilla joked.
“Yeah, an extra fifty euro a week for a room that would just result in us mediating fights over who gets to call dibs on it,” Laura said. “That sounds like the worst idea ever.”
“You’re right,” Carmilla conceded. She took the pillows and the blankets out of the linen closet and unceremoniously dropped them on their friends. And then she continued watching Laura in the kitchen. She realised that this was the only time the entire evening that she managed to get a proper look at her. Laura was wearing a burgundy dress, the hem of which just hit above her knees, and her legs were bare, since she went without tights for the first time in months.
Carmilla licked her lips. Man, did those legs look good.
She walked up behind Laura and wrapped her arms around her waist, fully pressing her front to Laura’s back. She moved some of Laura’s hair away from her neck before kissing it. She smirked as Laura sighed and melted against her.
“Carm? What are you doing?” she asked.
Carmilla grazed her teeth along Laura’s neck. “You taste amazing,” she whispered.
“How are you so sexy?” A hand slid down from Laura’s stomach to her crotch. It lingered there for a while, Carmilla’s fingertips pressing tantalisingly through the fabric, before returning to its original position.
“Not here,” Laura said, lightly swatting at Carmilla’s hand. She placed some coffee mugs in the dishwasher and started the cycle. She turned around, her body trapped between the counter and Carmilla. “Oh, come on.” She reached up and gently combed her fingers through Carmilla’s curls. Her voice was low, her eyes dark. “Bedroom?”
Carmilla smirked as she shook her head. “Nah.” She turned to check on their friends. Kirsch was still snoring, Danny’s face was buried into her pillow, and LaFontaine and Perry looked like they were finally asleep. Carmilla took Laura’s hand and pulled her into their powder room. She locked the door then pushed Laura roughly against the opposite wall beside the basin.
“Seriously?” The word escaped from Laura’s lips in a breath as Carmilla nipped on her earlobe. “I didn’t know we were university students again.”
“Shh, they might hear us.”
“The bedroom is still an option. We’ve got a nice, big bed, you know.”
“Variety is the spice of life, cupcake,” Carmilla teased, before capturing Laura’s lips in a kiss.
A new song began to play in the living room. They broke their kiss and couldn’t help rolling their eyes at each other when they figured out what the song was. “Oh, Jesus fuck,” Laura muttered. “Who put this song on the playlist?”
“Probably one of the gingers. Muppet Sheeran is one of their people, remember?” Carmilla said. The saccharine lyrics were loud and clear even through the closed door. Carmilla sighed. “Does this kill the mood?”
Laura shrugged. “Nah,” she said. The powder room’s stark lighting emphasised her wide pupils. “C’mere.” She tugged on the lapels of her cardigan that Carmilla was wearing and met Carmilla’s lips in an open-mouthed kiss. Her hands travelled down Carmilla’s ribcage to her hips, which she pulled closer to hers, so she could rock against them.
Carmilla continued kissing Laura hungrily as she lifted the hem of Laura’s dress. The material bunched up around Laura’s hips, loosely held in place by Carmilla’s wrists as she worked to remove Laura’s underwear. She tossed the garment on the floor and found Laura’s clit with her fingers.
Laura rested her head on the wall behind her, her jaw slack in pleasure. Carmilla used her free hand to bring Laura’s mouth to hers. She enjoyed the vibrations of Laura’s little moans down her throat and the sharp sensations of Laura’s teeth on her lips as she became more and more undone.
“Fuck me,” Laura panted.
Smirking, Carmilla hoisted Laura’s legs up to wrap around her waist. This was when her enhanced strength came in handy. Carmilla pushed her firmly against the wall and braced herself with her left arm. She entered Laura with two fingers of her other hand.
Laura lunged for Carmilla’s throat. Her hand clumsily pushed the fabric of the cardigan aside as her hot tongue made a trail down Carmilla’s neck and shoulders. She bit down on Carmilla’s bare shoulder as she was pushed over the edge. “Oh man,” she gasped.
Carmilla gently got Laura back on her feet. “You all right?”
“Yup,” Laura said. Shakily, she picked up her underwear from the floor and put them back on.
They emerged from the powder room to see LaFontaine standing in the kitchen, drinking a glass of water. Their bleary eyes got wider when they took in the sight of Laura and Carmilla, who probably appeared very dishevelled. “Oh man,” they said.
Carmilla looked at Laura, then back at LaFontaine. “That’s what she said.”
The last week must’ve been the fastest week of Carmilla’s life. She began it like she usually did: teaching classes, holding office hours, working on the articles that she was writing. But on Friday, she left campus after her ten AM lecture to start decorating the venue for the following day with Laura, Laura’s father, and their friends.
And then it was Saturday afternoon, and she was standing face to face with Laura in the banquet hall of their favourite art deco hotel in Berlin, with the marriage celebrant standing in front of them. Their family and friends were seated, watching the proceedings eagerly. Carmilla glanced briefly at the guests, and swore that Cedric Hollis and Kirsch, who were seated next to each other, were both teary-eyed.
“Good afternoon and welcome to everyone. Thank you for joining us today in celebrating the wonderful love between Laura and Carmilla.” The marriage celebrant—a recently retired professor from the university—followed their request of moving away from the more traditional and religiously-affiliated language of the ceremony. “Having been an academic for most of my life, I’ve wasted far too many decades trying to rationalise love, but I’ve found that it’s too complicated. And I’m sure many of you agree.” She paused as the guests nodded amongst themselves.
“While we’re here today, let’s look at these two lovely women standing in front of us. So young, with their whole lives ahead of them, and so lucky to have each other to navigate this tricky world with,” she continued. “Even with this beautiful couple in front of me, I still can’t tell you what love is, and I doubt that any of us will be able to, but what should be simple is this: if you find this kind of love in your lifetime, you should celebrate it. So,” she clapped her hands, “let’s get on with it, shall we? Now, apparently Lola is going to do a reading. Lola?”
Perry stood up, unfolding a piece of paper as she came to the front. She read a poem that she picked with Laura and Carmilla’s approval.
Carmilla watched Laura’s expression as they listened. She looked exceptionally radiant with her hair up, wearing a bottle green dress which brought out the green flecks in her eyes. They had decided from the beginning that neither of them were wearing white gowns. Nor did they want to look extravagant.
Carmilla herself had opted for a midnight blue dress with silver jewellery, and she kept her hair in its natural waves. The goal was to dress for one of the most important moments of their lives, but to still feel comfortable, and to still feel like themselves.
Once Perry finished reading, she returned to her seat to some applause. The celebrant stood up. “Thank you, Lola. That was beautiful,” she said. Her attention turned back to the couple. “All right. Why don’t you two hold each other’s hands?”
Laura giggled as she took both of Carmilla’s hands in hers. “Let’s do this!” she squeaked excitedly, causing the guests to laugh.
“All right.” The celebrant cleared her throat. “Carmilla, do you take Laura to be your wife? Will you promise to love her and care for her every day? Will you trust her and respect her, remain faithful to her, and promise to face the obstacles of life beside her?”
Carmilla felt her mouth move but strained to hear the words coming out of it: “I do.”
The celebrant turned to Laura and asked her the same questions.
“I do,” Laura responded. Her eyes were big and bright, and Carmilla could hear her heart thudding in her chest.
The celebrant turned around to get the rings from the table behind her. “Carmilla,” she said. “You go first.”
With a trembling hand, Carmilla picked up Laura’s ring. She listened to the beat of Laura’s heart and pretended, for this moment, that it was her own. “Laura,” she started. “I’ve always found it difficult to believe in romance, and I’m still not entirely sure if I believe in marriage. And maybe,” she glanced at the guests, many of whom looked slightly uncomfortable, “maybe that’s just because I’ve spent so much of my life with the wrong people. You are the most compassionate and empathetic person that I’ve ever met, and I’m very grateful to have been lucky enough to experience this firsthand.
“The last four years of my life have been some of the very best. I think I understand the fuss about romance now, and maybe I’ll start to understand marriage—it’s a celebration of all the promises we’ve made to each other, right? Laura, you are my anchor in this turbulent world, and I promise you safety and strength, hoping that it would match what you have given me.” She carefully placed the ring on Laura’s finger, and she looked up so their eyes could meet.
Laura’s eyes were shiny with unshed tears, but she was smiling. “Oh, Carmilla, that was so lovely,” she gushed. “Sorry, excuse me for a sec.” She took Carmilla’s ring from its cushion and took a deep breath. When they prepared their vows—really, they were more like declarations—Carmilla scrawled a few ideas in her journal, wrote a rough draft, and left it at that. Laura, on the other hand, worked on different versions until she was happy with it.
She started to speak deliberately, the words clear in her head: “To say that we started off on a rough patch would be a massive understatement.” There were some chuckles from their Silas friends. “But when I think about it, I wouldn’t change anything about how we fell for each other. It’s funny. I never really bought into grand romantic stories, because I just thought I’d never get one, but I did with you. You’re scary smart, you’re unbelievably beautiful, and you can be intimidating. I’m very lucky to be one of the few people to see beyond this, while at the same time, appreciating it.
“Because I do know you. I know that you’re affectionate, that you’re devoted, and that you’re actually a hilarious dork. I can tell you anything that’s on my mind and you would listen to me. Carmilla, the world can be scary, and you’ve comforted me in these moments, but you’ve also been a reminder of how beautiful and fascinating everything is. I can’t wait to keep living the rest of my life with you.” With the biggest grin on her face, she slipped the ring on Carmilla’s finger.
The celebrant directed them to the table behind her to sign the marriage certificate. Carmilla was filled with such excitement that she could barely control her writing hand, while Laura, who seemed hyperaware of the gravity of what they were doing, signed more carefully than usual.
“Well, that’s it,” the celebrant said. “I know you two are probably dying to kiss each other, so I’m just gonna get this over with. The true celebration, I find, is in the reception anyway.” She chuckled as they both shifted anxiously. “Laura and Carmilla, by the power vested in me by the state, I take great pleasure in declaring your marriage official. Congratulations! Off you go.” She gestured at the two of them.
Carmilla took a step towards Laura. “Hey,” she said softly. There were butterflies in her stomach. It was like she was kissing Laura for the first time again.
“Hey,” Laura responded.
“So, I guess we’re married, huh?” Carmilla asked.
“Yes, we are.” And with that, Laura placed her hand on Carmilla’s waist, while the other went around the back of Carmilla’s head, fingers loosely tangled in her hair. She leaned in and kissed Carmilla square on the mouth.
On any other day, Carmilla would feel uneasy about displaying affection in front of all these people. Today, however, she responded in kind. It was their wedding, after all. Their guests cheered as they embraced to deepen the kiss. Carmilla entertained the thought that this could simply be a dream. But then, the thing she loved the most about Laura was that she was unabashedly real.
And god, she can’t wait to be in awe of that forever.