Upon Maria's request, the duty to dispose of the newborns whose loyalty was unaligned or who were proven to not be of any use was mine. As always, she escorted me to the beach and whispered her orders so the newborns wouldn't overhear. Her lips ventured so close that they brushed against my ears, her touch sent shivers down my spine and I relished when she spoke my name. As always, I stood at attention and awaited my orders.
My eyebrows furrowed and I cocked my head slightly more towards her to assure I was hearing her correctly. I turned to her intending to make her see reason, that slaughtering these newborns was a senseless act of violence. I wanted to plead with her and assure her that I, as her faithful second-in-command, would make loyal fellow soldiers out of the recruits. But as I made eye contact, as usual, there beared no soul behind her scarlet eyes. Once a decision was made, it was carved in stone. I ached for the victims, but I knew better than to defy Maria. I straightened myself and nodded in agreement. She smiled and placed her lips gracefully on my cheek before wandering off to leave me to my work. I studied the gravel by my boots as I forced myself to accept what came next. Before long, I swallowed my apprehensions and reminded myself where my loyalties laid. I slowly brought my gaze to the barn ahead. What now served as housing and training quarters for our newborns, would soon see a massacre.
I waited until nightfall when the newborns were lounging in the barn. Some were talking about their training and the improvements they felt they were making, or the lack thereof. Others were keeping to themselves, reading old classics or simply laying on hay bales. None of them saw me coming, I was too quick and vastly superior to them in combat for them to make a move against me. One by one, I raced to each newborn; the sound of porcelain being broken rang in my ears as each head was brutally snapped off and tossed to the side. Despite my speed and desperate attempts to suppress it, the fear in their last moments was overwhelming. In mere seconds, the last body fell with a thud to floor. As it did, the victims' emotions were cut off, but they still lingered in my mind. I gazed upon the carnage with sorrow. I was caught off guard when I felt soft lips plant themselves on my cheek. I broke my concentration off the scene to find Maria and her fellow soldiers flooding in and dragging off the bodies to be burned.
"Come." She whispered, Maria had a gentle voice about her that made those who didn't know her well enough harbor under the delusion that her requests were just that, but I had known better. I carefully took the hand she had offered me and followed her to the outskirts of their land where the bodies were being hoisted into a pile that seemed to touch the clouds. Maria and I watched as the corpses were lit with a torch and engulfed in fire. The flames danced in our eyes as we were surged with two different sets of emotion. I stood as lifeless as the corpses, my victims' fear and helplessness drowning me more and more as the seconds bore on. I questioned my loyalty, my values, but most of all..my purpose. All the while I glanced down at Maria whose eyes were glued on the wreckage. Her feelings of power, victory, and accomplishment radiated off of her. I was confounded by the fact that in the moment I felt closest to death, Maria had undoubtedly never felt more alive.
The blaring sound of my hotel rotary phone snapped me out of my recollection. Even on human ears the sound was bothersome, on superior vampire hearing it was simply unbearable in close proximity. I quickly picked up the phone just to get the ringing to stop and placed it gently upon my ear. On the other end was Peter, calling to confirm that I had traveled safely to Philadelphia. After reassuring each other that we were safe and each wished each other luck, we said our goodbyes. I couldn't bring myself to be forward about my lingering depression. The massacres, the fleeing, the constant looking over your shoulder, the burden of carrying others' emotions, the bloodlust..it was all too much for one man to bear. I winced in pain as my throat burned like I had swallowed a vat of acid. My senses lit up as the crowd of humans pushed past each other like pigs in a pen just waiting to be slaughtered. I grabbed my wool coat and fedora off the golden coat rack and sped out the door in search of my prey.
I seamlessly blended into the city crowd and followed the flow of foot traffic until I could find an inconspicuous place to feed. The alluring aroma of so much fresh blood had me struggling to hold my composure until I noticed a group of young men leaning against the brick wall of a pizzeria, smoking cigarettes and catcalling women as they walked by. I hung back from the crowd to watch the troublemakers whistle and howl, who were met with gasps and disgusted looks. One man went as far as to grope a young blonde women while she was walking hand in hand with her daughter who couldn't have been more than 6. The group of men bursted into laughter as the mother directed a police officer perched on the corner in their direction. Once the men noticed the uniform approaching, they branched off from the crowd and into an abandoned alley to escape. I locked eyes on them as their backs disappeared in the darkness of the trail - I had found my prey. I stalked them into the alley until they hit a dead end. Still laughing, they flicked their cigarette butts onto the ground. I licked my lips in anticipation, and swiftly took two of them by the neck and slammed them into the brick behind them. Once again, the fear was deafening, but in this rare situation..I was less inclined to care.
"You gentlemen oughta know that's no way to treat a lady." I said with twisted smirk. Unable to control myself any longer, I sunk my teeth into each body and sucked them both dry. I let their bodies thud to the floor and wiped the fresh blood off my mouth. The two remaining men were fleeing down the alleyway, screaming as they went. For a moment, I considered letting them escape. After all, I loathed killing anymore than necessary to fuel my hunger. But, of course, I couldn't afford any loose ends. I was already fleeing from Maria and her army, the last thing I needed was to have a hit placed upon myself by the Volturi. I sighed, the guilt of my hunt already weighing in heavily. Before my victims reached the daylight or caused too much of disturbance, their necks were snapped and I hoisted each victim onto my shoulders.
After disposing of the bodies discreetly and cleansing myself of the blood, I wandered out of my hotel room to see if a walk would clear my head. The emotions of those around were pounding there way into my consciousness, it was so overwhelming that it grew more and more difficult to distinguish where others' feelings stopped and mine had started. As usual, I questioned myself. Where did my loyalties lie? What were my values? What was my purpose? I found myself outside of an old mom and pop diner nestled on not-so busy street in the heart of the city. A dainty bell rang overhead as I pushed through the entrance doors and grabbed the morning paper before being seated in a burgundy vinyl booth by a large window overlooking a run down bar, a post office and a crosswalk. An older lady wearing a canary yellow dress adorned with a white apron and a name tag that indicated her name was "Ruth" approached. Her eyes were gentle and I couldn't help but notice how accentuated her smile lines were, which told me you'd rarely catch her without her smile. I assumed she owned the establishment, judging by her age, the amount of stress she exhibited, but also by the amount of passion that radiated off her like the sunlight in June. The stress, I feared, was due to her business going under. Despite it being lunch hour, the time when most restaurants were booming with business, the diner was nearly deserted; except for myself and two other gentlemen seated at the counter. I made sure to adjusted the brim of my hat to cast a shadow on my eyes, hoping to conceal the alarming scarlet hue of them and risk exposure. Nevertheless, I returned her warm smile when she approached.
"What can I get you, honey?" She beamed.
"Ah, I think that smile o' yours has just about given me all I need, Ruth." I said playfully, putting on my best southern charm. "Just a glass o' water will be just fine, if you don't mind."
Ruth chuckled. "You got it, darling." She replied as tried to hide her blush.
As she went to fetch my drink I could feel that she had been so flattered by my remark that her stress had all but disappeared. I grinned to myself, happy to have eased her burden, even if for only a little while. Ruth soon returned and gently laid a napkin on the table before placing the tall glass of water upon. I tipped my hat to her in thanks and flashed her a smile as before she rushed off to attend to one of the gentlemen asking for a refill on his coffee. Alone, I glanced once more out the window pane and let myself slip into a daydream. I channeled my supernatural hearing--cars honking at one another, young boys tormenting their younger sister while their mother hushed them fiercely, a vendor selling hot dogs on the street corner shouting about a sale, two squirrels circling up a lamp post, a small bell, the squeak of vinyl..
"Ah, you kept me waiting long enough."
The voice broke me out of my concentration and I sharply turned towards the sound of the voice. Before me was a young women with hair that matched the deep burgundy of the seats we sat on; It was groomed perfectly and cut short enough to rest gracefully just below her ears. She was lean and dainty, her skin was porcelain and without flaw. She wore a mustard yellow swing dress with a tied bow just below her neck. She accessorized with black suede gloves and a diamond encrusted necklace with a pair of earrings to match. He sensed that she was like him - a vampire. However, Most curious were her eyes, which were a stunning hue of gold that he had never witnessed before.
I twisted myself to peek behind me to assure there wasn't another gentleman or lady behind me that she could be addressing. I then turned back towards her and noticed the amused grin on her face.
"Forgive me, miss. Were you-"
"Oh, yes. I wouldn't mistake your face, Jazz. I've only been seeing it for the past few decades." She giggled before turning to Ruth who had noticed the new guest and was approaching the table with her notepad in hand. "Oh, I'm alright, Ruth. You simply must tell me where you've found your shoes though! They're lovely!" She boasted, causing Ruth to blush.
As she and Ruth began getting lost in conversation over fashion, my mind was spinning. I was absolutely positive I had never met this woman before, her charm and exuberance would be next to impossible to forget. And what had she said? She's seen his face for decades? Could she have been watching him for so long without detection? I was usually so vigilant and..did she call me Jazz?
When I finally snapped out of my whirlwind of thoughts, the woman had no longer been conversing with Ruth and instead was observing him with a sympathetic look on her face. He could feel her concern and guilt. "I've startled you, haven't I? I shouldn't have approached you so boldly, but you must forgive me. I've waited so long for this moment! My excitement just couldn't be contained and..oh, how foolish of me. I haven't even offered you an introduction, have I? My name is Alice." She smiled so brightly that I nearly got lost into it before my better judgment fled back to me.
My mind was still desperately trying to shove the pieces together, trying to make sense of what the hell was going on. So far, only one scenario made sense. "I see. I take it Maria has had you tracking me since I left camp, and that you've come to attempt to assure that I rejoin her forces. Let me make it abundantly clear, that I have no intention of doing so. I refuse-"
"Oh Jazz, no. You've misunderstood. I have no association with Maria whatsoever. Though..I do know of what she's used you for, and the toll it's taken on you in the process. Let me just say, I'm very sorry that you had to go through that." She reached across the table and placed her hand lovingly on mine, her eyes were filled with sorrow and empathy, which her emotions mirrored.
Surprisingly, my instincts hadn't made me pull away..instead, they reveled in her touch. For the first time since my creation, I felt warmth. It both confused and thrilled me. I hadn't the slightest clue how she knew what she knew, or what her intentions were, but somehow I knew they were pure. I returned her gaze and placed my free hand on top of hers, her radiant smile returned to beam back at me.
"I'm sure you have plenty of questions.."
I scoffed and raised my eyebrows in agreement.
She laughed a hearty laugh that was music to my ears. She slid off the booth and stood before me with her hand outstretched. "Come..I'll explain."
I hesitantly wrapped my hand around her and let her lead me out of the diner, leaving a more than generous tip in the tip jar for Ruth.
We walked the crowded streets of Philadelphia until the day turned into night and until day broke again. The world faded around us as we traded stories of our transformations and what our lives as nomads were like. We both gave in-depth descriptions of our supernatural gifts, which led to the explanation of how her gift led her to foresee me. She told me how she coped with being alone and how she managed to control her lust for human blood by curbing her appetite with animal blood, a concept I had never heard of but was both intrigued and impressed by. In return, I told her about my life with Maria and how it pained me, which led her to grip my hand tighter and lean on me as we walked, which made me smirk. I listened with awe as she described her visions of our meeting and my heart soar a little when she said were bound to be mates.
As I watched Alice ramble on about how she foresaw the progression of fashion and how excited she was for women to regularly wear trousers, or as she called them "jeans", I momentarily thought back to Maria. Her bloodlust, her hunt for power, her desire to be conquer and spread fear. Alice embodied everything Maria considered to be a weakness - kindness, compassion, loyalty. She was the light in his very, very dark and bleak world. As soon as his body had a taste of her radiating warmth, he knew he would chase it -and her- for the rest of his infinite days.
"..and wait until we meet the rest of our family!" Alice squealed with excitement that startled him out of his daze.
He stopped in his tracks, letting her surpass him on the trail. "Family?" He repeated. "Wha- what family?!" He yelled back at her as she skipped along, ignoring his question.