Since her move to New York three months previously Andy Sachs savings had dwindled to almost nothing as she pounded the streets looking for work. She was alone in New York and did not understand why she responded to the compulsion to move from the relative safety of Cincinnati to the city that never sleeps, but it often seemed that her soul was being called towards something unfathomable.
For as long as she remembered she had experienced a yearning for a place she did not know. The first time she had seen images of New York it seemed to trigger the intensity of her longing, which caused tears to fall. It seemed nonsense to cry for nothing, for a place she'd never been, but it was as if her soul was crying, longing for the City that haunted her dreams.
Andy had travelled to New York months after completing her studies at Northwestern. She thought she wanted to be a writer but had no idea where to start. Now New York was the place she called home. At every turn, it seemed like she had been there before, had travelled the streets. Perhaps in another life.
Thoughts of her life in Cincinnati left her cold, considering the loneliness she experienced, even when surrounded by the support of a loving family. The isolation was not something she ever discussed, except with her grandma. She called what Andy felt, Saudade.
Elizabeth Sachs explained the concept to her before she left Ohio for Northwestern. Saudade was a deep emotional state of profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone you loved and the repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return. Her grandma told her that her soul knew what it wanted, and she needed to find the courage to travel toward her soul's calling. That journey would lead her into the life she meant to live. Andy remembered the small smile her grandma wore when she told her the soul's calling was the biggest mystery in the world.
When her grandma passed away the year before, Andy understood she would never return to Cincinnati permanently. It was time for her to move on and explore the world she yearned for.
As she walked the twilight turned to night, she smelled rain in the air. Turning down the dark alley towards the exclusive nightclub she hoped to get a job at, her heart pounded furiously. The fine hairs on the back of her neck rose, and she turned her head sharply over her shoulder. Seeing nothing Andy breathed a sigh of relief. Hearing the click of heels following her she lengthened her stride. She shivered as an icy breeze rushed over her. Within moments heat surrounded her as she caught the blazing blue eyes of an older woman who seemed to appear from nowhere.
"Andréa Sachs?" The older woman smirked as Andy stalled and almost tripped over her feet. She nodded, her eyes trailing from the 5-inch Stilettoes to the knee-length red sheath and up over her face to her silver hair. The woman was beautiful, with her high cheekbones and her imperfectly crooked nose. Andy wondered why she turned her face away from her. "Welcome to the Crimson Mist. I am Miranda. I've been expecting you. Come." The woman's voice was soft and melodious and Andy couldn't help but move towards the woman it came from. As they came abreast, she welcomed the immeasurable sense of warmth and security that enveloped her.
The older woman led her through the club, music blared through the Funktion One Sound System, the bass making the room shake as the DJ set up for the night, and there was loud laughter from the two women behind the bar. Andy eyed the petite redhead and a tall blonde, giving them a warm smile as she passed them. Both gaped at her in her low rise black skinny jeans, biker boots, a plaid shirt and a leather jacket. Sturdy, comfortable clothes and not at all glamorous.
As she looked around, she noticed the winding staircase that led to the upper level of the club and scanned the balcony and comfortable booths where people could sit and chill. There was deluxe lighting hanging from the high ceilings throughout. She knew the dual dance floors on both floors would be empty so early in the night.
Andy knew from research The Crimson Mist was an exclusive New York venue with the toughest door to get through. Actors, musicians, models and the New York elite frequented it. The club only opened Friday and Saturday nights to keep its exclusivity and always drew long lines at the door. Having a tough door policy allowed the club to focus on their elite client base.
As Miranda stepped into her office, she gestured to the seat in front of her wide desk. Moving slowly around she sat down and steepled her fingers under her chin contemplating the brunette in front of her. "So, tell me Andréa, who are you?"
The force of heat surrounding her when the brunette stepped towards her, as she addressed her, stunned Miranda. She detected the beat of the pure heart and her hunger was almost unbearable. When Andréa stalled she expected to taste the usual fear coming off the younger woman in waves, but there was only trust, acceptance and surprise. It baffled her. The young woman in question followed her wordlessly through the club, seemingly comfortable as she looked around.
She caught the young woman's genuine smile at Serena and Emily and saw as they gaped at her. Andréa wasn't someone she would usually give the time of day to, but she had to admit the young woman had peaked her curiosity. Drifting through the club, so the long-legged brunette could keep up, she made her way to her office. The area was usually sacrosanct, but she did not feel like yelling over the music. Sitting down she steepled her hands under her chin. Andréa met her first question with bewilderment and she pursed her lips.
The brunette sensed her displeasure and babbled. "Um, so my friends call me Andy. I recently graduated from Northwestern University. I'm originally from Ohio and moved to the city about three months ago. I came to New York to be a writer and sent letters out everywhere, but I've had no luck."
"What are you doing here?" Miranda questioned.
"I think I would do a good job, I have a range of experience in bars and clubs, I am a reasonable mixologist and..." Andy faltered at the ice in Miranda's eyes.
"Reasonable. Oh no. No, no." Miranda shook her head forcefully. "Reasonable is not good enough, reasonable equates to inadequate. I do not accept incompetence from my staff, Andréa." Miranda whispered.
"Well, I don't exactly want to blow my own trumpet, but...well, I can read people and that allows me to mould my style of service to a guest's specific requirements. I am calm and that will keep your customers at ease. I am naturally gregarious, I am quick and I am confident without being overly conceited." Andy stated firmly.
The words pleased Miranda and her lips quirked in a closed-lipped smile. The words and the conviction and fire behind them were surprising, but she sensed they were the truth. "Have you ever worked at an exclusive club before?"
"No," Andy muttered.
"And before the call today, you had never heard of me or the Crimson Mist?" Miranda queried.
"No." Andy's emotions swirled as the burning blue eyes of the older woman captured her focused attention.
"It is probably just as well we have a uniform policy, you have no sense of style." Miranda almost laughed as Andréa's jaw dropped at her words.
"I think that depends on…" Andy responded hotly.
Miranda raised her eyebrow, "No, no. That wasn't a question." She looked over the brunette before standing and moving to a closet in the corner of the room, pulling out a black t-shirt with a red wave across the middle, she threw it at Andréa. "A six, I assume?" Andy nodded. "Come, put that on and we shall go upstairs. You will show me your so-called skills. Leave your things here, they will be safe."
Andréa shrugged her jacket and shirt off, leaving her in her jeans, boots and bra. Miranda took in the expanse of pale flesh and sensed the quickening of Andréa's heartbeat and noticed the flickering of the pulse in her jugular. Licking her lips, she saw as the young woman pulled the t-shirt over her head and smoothed it over her toned stomach. Nodding once, Miranda gestured for her to follow.
She did not understand why she experienced the need to give the brunette a chance but leading her upstairs she sat at the bar and gestured for Andréa to stand on the other side. "This is Nigel's bar, I am sure he will be here shortly," Miranda explained. "I am of the firm belief you can judge a bartender on one cocktail. Make me an Old-Fashioned." Miranda demanded.
Andréa looked around quickly, taking in the location of the glasses and ingredients and memorising them. "Do you prefer bourbon or Rye?" Andy asked.
"Bourbon," Miranda stated.
Nodding once, Andréa grabbed an old-fashioned glass and dropped in a sugar cube, she hit it with two dashes of Angostura bitters and a bar spoon of water. She muddled it so the water helped dissolve the sugar cube before adding 60ml of Bulleit Bourbon and stirring the contents of the glass. Taking some carved ice, she dropped it into the glass and stirred again before cutting a slice of orange peel and expressing the oils on top of the drink as she twisted it and placed it in the cocktail. Moving gracefully, she pushed the drink towards Miranda with a wide smile and watched her as she sipped the drink.
Closing her eyes as the flavour exploded on her tongue, Miranda hummed before her eyes blazed open. She caught Andréa's eyes. "Acceptable." She whispered. She hadn't had an old-fashioned as good in over twenty years. She grinned to herself, it was more like fifty years. Looking at the young woman in front of her it was like she travelled back in time. She sighed. "I will give you a trial. One night to prove yourself to me. Do not disappoint." Miranda stood gracefully, her movements fluid. She took two steps with the glass of whiskey in her hand. "See Nigel, he'll do something with that." She waved dismissively at her face and hair before turning away fully and gliding away. "That's all."
"Elizabeth?" The questioning tone caught Miranda's attention, and she turned to look at Nigel as he moved quickly up the final steps.
Miranda turned to the bar and saw Andréa, cast in the low lighting. Her breath caught. It couldn't be, could it? There was something about the young woman, something familiar. Shaking her head, she looked at Nigel as he stood in stunned disbelief. "Don't be ridiculous, Nigel. That is our new employee, Andréa. Do something with her, won't you?"
"Of course, Miranda." Nigel moved towards the bar and called out to the brunette. "Well, hello there, Six. I'm Nigel." She detected the smile in his voice. "Let me look at you." He clapped his hands in happiness as Andréa gave him a bright smile. "Come with me, sweetie. I will make you look fabulous." He drawled the word causing Andréa's explosive laughter.
The night was busy and Miranda kept a closer eye on the brunette than she normally would. She trusted Nigel with her, knowing he partook in 'little drinks' often. He kept control of his hunger. She had never really had to clean up a mess of his creation, unlike Emily.
She often wondered if she had made a mistake turning the fiery redhead, but her family was complete. Emily and Serena were twin flames and she couldn't sit by and watch Serena fade to nothing as she observed Emily from the edges of her life as she aged and then died as all mortal humans do.
She wondered what it was like, finding your eternal mate. She had once believed she had found it, but it wasn't to be. The young woman, although accepting of their alternative lifestyle, made it abundantly clear she did not want that life for herself. She'd walked away from Miranda, her presence leaving a gaping hole in her non-beating heart.
She had watched as the young woman had married a lawyer and they had formed another relationship of sorts, as pen pals, keeping in touch via letter when she and her family moved from Nashville to New York.
They returned the last three letters to her. In a short note, they had told her the woman had died in childbirth. Holding an uncontrollable rage, she unleashed her fury on the first unsuspecting evil-doer she came across on the banks of the Hudson, draining him to the point of death before ripping his evil heart from his chest and drinking it dry.
That was her exception from being what she was, she only fed on the dregs of society. The evil-doer, rapists, murderers, drug lords and paedophiles. Those with a bright spirit were free to roam the dark nights safely. Children were especially safe from her family. She had rules they would obey. Innocents were not to be fed on. She had seen the effects the transition caused. They had turned her own children at the same time as she, almost one hundred years before. Now they were stuck in a suspended state, at ten-years-old, with no chance to experience the milestones that every other child encountered.
Shaking her head from her dark thoughts she moved quietly through her clients offering her close-lipped smile as people greeted her. Stepping up to the bar she saw Andréa's tip jar was almost full, proving her popularity with the patrons. Looking up she caught the fire in the young woman's eyes as she frowned at something over her shoulder.
Spinning around, Miranda caught the final moments of what was now an unsuccessful drug deal. Before she could call their security, Andréa launched herself over the bar and tackled the perpetrator, twisting his arm up his back as she emptied his pockets and littering the floor with cash and bags of white powder.
"You fucking piece of trash." Andy hissed furiously. The man struggled in her vice-like grip as security ran in and pulled the young woman off the man.
Miranda stepped up. "Take that to my office," Miranda whispered. The two doormen nodded and one dragged the young man away while the other picked up the scattered contents of his pockets. Turning to the young woman she saw the blaze of fury in her eyes and it left her feeling hot. She could hear Andréa's heart pounding furiously as the adrenaline coursed through her. Her hunger burned the back of her throat, returning tenfold. She needed to calm the woman before she did something stupid in front of her customers. "Andréa, look at me," Miranda demanded. As their eyes met, she spoke quietly and firmly. "You will calm down and you will have a drink before you leave for the evening. It is Saturday, I expect to see you next Friday. You will not be late."
"Friday, okay," Andy muttered, taking a deep breath. Her heart returning to its usual pace as she relaxed. She gave Miranda a bright smile. "I guess I'm done for the night. Do you want to have a drink with me?"
Miranda found that smile disarming, and she experienced a jolt of desire which replaced the hunger. "Not tonight, Andréa. Have a good week." Spinning on her heel, she stalked away, moving gracefully down the stairs as a certain pair of eyes followed her every step. She sensed those eyes burning into her back. Gritting her teeth, they pierced her lower lip, and she hissed before swiping her tongue over the pinpricks as they healed quickly. Stalking to her office she threw open the door and glared at the young man tied to her chair.
The bar was quietening and Andy sat nursing the craft beer whose name she could barely pronounce. As she leaned her elbows against the bar, Nigel stepped towards her and caught her eye. "So, tell me more about yourself, Six."
Andy observed the overwhelming need to tell him her every thought and emotion and frowned. "Well I'm 24, I recently graduated from Northwestern, as a journalism major. I'm from Cincinnati and moved to New York a few months ago."
"And where are your family?" Nigel asked.
"My parents and siblings are still in Ohio..." Andy trailed off and bit her lip. "...I never thought I belonged there, they're supportive but...My grandma was the only one that really understood me, but she passed away just over a year ago."
"Tell me about her." Nigel was curious. The young woman had obviously some effect on Miranda and she looked so much like...
"You don't want to learn about my boring family." Andy laughed. It was a joyful sound that caught a few people's attention.
"Trust me, I do. I want to know everything." Nigel stated firmly, his eyes locked on the young woman, compelling her to tell him all.
"My grandma was called Elizabeth, she was a good woman. She used to tell me about her time living in Nashville before moving to Cincinnati just after she got married. She was a singer in a jazz club down there and cherished every moment." Andy smiled at the memories, not noticing as Nigel stiffened. "My grandpa's family were all professionals, lawyers mainly. She used to tell me I get my artistic side from her. We have a long line of writers, painters and musicians through the Ronel side."
"Your grandmother was called Elizabeth Ronel?" Nigel asked. "And she died last year?" Andy nodded. Finishing her beer, it delighted her when Nigel popped the cap off another and placed it in front of her, waving her money away. "Did she keep in touch with any of her friends in Nashville?"
Andy sighed. "She tried but lost contact after my dad's birth triggered Guillain-Barre syndrome. She was paralysed and never fully recovered. Treatment wasn't what it is today." Andy sipped her beer and closed her eyes to savour the mild hoppy flavour. "She moved in with us after my grandpa died. We were close, my mom and dad always say I resemble her."
"Well, if they say it I'm sure it's true," Nigel stated. "You light up when you talk about your grandma, she must have been a special woman."
"She was always good with me..." Andy faltered as tears pricked her eyes. "...She didn't judge people, she was accepting and...I miss her."
"The ones that love us, never really leave us." Nigel's lips quirked as Andy's eyes brightened before she laughed loudly.
"Well, I never expected a Harry Potter quote from you." Andy continued to chuckle as she swiped under her eyes.
"Miranda's twins are great fans." Nigel's gave her a wide smile as her look of shock at the unsolicited snippet about the older woman's life. She had to admit she was curious. "Now, finish that beer and head on home, the morning will be here before you know it."
"Okey-dokey." Andy offered him a bright smile at his good-natured eye roll and drank her beer down until she placed the empty bottle down. Sliding off her stool she realised she had left her jacket and purse in Miranda's office. "G'night, Nige. See ya next week." She tossed the words over her shoulder before drifting down the stairs.
Miranda stood behind the drug dealer, his head angled just so. Bending over she licked at his jugular. She had the names and descriptions of his cohorts and now it was time for him to die. Her teeth elongated, and she grazed his throat, tasting the fear that had paralysed him. Biting down she sucked hard, and the blood flowed down her throat. She drank heavily, appreciating the man's weakening pulse as his memories flowed through her mind.
She saw him as a young boy being slapped by an older heavyset man, his chin wobbling as he fought the oncoming tears, knowing it would just make things worse.
She viewed the flickering images with interest as the young boy grew, felt his sadness at watching his mother drinking herself into oblivion as an escape to the life she had tied herself to when she got pregnant and married his father. She discovered the arguments and words of hatred as the young man stood up to his father and protected his mother, using his fists for the first time to beat the man to a pulp, his pledge he would raise himself from the poverty he was born into by parents who could not drag themselves into a better life.
She saw his memories of his first theft, something that was inconsequential but had thrown him into the spotlight of the local crime lord. His life of crime paid for the life he wanted but now his life was in her hands.
The door of her office opening ripped her focus away from her feed as the air crackled with warmth. The involuntary growl that tore from deep within her throat showed her displeasure. Sniffing she sensed the brunette's presence, the pure unsullied soul of the beautiful young woman.
Turning her head, Miranda did the only thing she could. She let go of the man and his life slipped from him, his eyes turning glassy and lifeless. "Get out." She hissed menacingly, unwilling to turn fully towards the young woman and have her see her in her monstrous form. "Leave now.
Miranda caught the disbelief in the brunette's eyes and the jolt of fear rolled over her and watched it overwhelm Andréa's senses as she took in her face in profile. The sunken cheeks, elongated canine's which sat in front of her bottom lip, dripping with blood.
Andréa did what anyone else would, she ran. Miranda fought the overwhelming urge to chase her down. She knew it was unlikely she would see the brunette again and if she was stupid enough to say anything, everyone would assume she was mad.
Growling her frustration, Miranda pinched her nose between two fingers and calmed the beast within her. Her teeth retracted. Looking around she spotted the young woman's coat and purse and frowned. They would need returning to Andréa. Picking them up, she moved gracefully through the dwindling crowd and out to the back entrance.
She could still hear the pattering of feet as Andréa continued to run, she smelt her blood as she tripped and grazed her palms. Using her gifts, Miranda launched herself up into the sky quickly and landed on the roof. Using it for cover she moved quickly and followed the brunette, jumping easily from building to building silently until she reached a small apartment complex above a bakery on Broome Street in the Lower East Side. Using the fire escape Miranda moved stealthily until she reached the window which would allow her to view the brunette as she entered her apartment.
The door slammed shut, and the deadbolt was in place before Andréa slid down the door and wrapped her arms around her knees, hiding her face in her knees as she got her breath back. As the young woman looked up she saw the tears, but what stunned her the most, there was no longer fear clouding her sensibilities. She looked serene.
Miranda watched as the brunette rose to her feet, moving through the apartment as she cleaned and bandaged her hands while muttering. She caught the words. "Grams was right when she quoted Shakespeare. There are more things in heaven and earth, many of which are inexplicable. I wish I'd believed her when she was here."
Moving from the fire escape, she followed someone into the complex and made her way to the third floor. Knocking quickly on Andréa's door she dropped her jacket and purse in front of the door before disappearing into the stairwell. Miranda heard the bolt being lifted and the door creeping open before the gasp of astonishment hit her.
"Miranda?" She left the whispered question unanswered. Moving silently down the stairwell of the building she reached the foyer in a few seconds and caught the whispered. "Thank you."
The gratitude stunned her. Shaking her head, she stepped out of the building and walked sedately back towards the club through the night-time crowds, curious about the young woman she had taken a chance on.