Five

Life still went on outside the bizarre bubble Lars had created for Cass, and it seemed especially undesirable lately. There was a strange disconnect now, however, when the real world ripped under her skin and wrenched at her emotions, and then she stepped into a specific café or wherever she would meet the man and the world would become unreal again. It didn’t seem fair when a regular guy from the real, regular world managed to make her insides tighten with the distorted shadows of sadness. Not when Lars himself embodied the true surrealism of this world.

Yet, the stupid girl managed to feel a specific warmth and rhythm in her chest when a specific guy was in her presence. It was so very normal, and yet Cass hated it. Especially when the reality finally slammed into her, head-on, that her Peter was never hers at all. Not even in the slightest.

If there were gods, they were laughing at her, twisting her life through their fingers for their own petty amusement. Because apparently, such beings could actually get bored enough to need some side entertainment.

He’d been so nice when she’d met him over the summer, funny and sweet and Cass had enjoyed being around him. She wouldn’t call it love, or even strong feelings, really, but she felt more for him particularly than she felt for most others in her life. When Peter smiled, it encircled dirty blonde hair and backlit grey-green eyes and curved full, pink lips. His chuckles were rich and gravelly, and there was always a lilt in them as if he was surprised he was laughing. Cass had appreciated that.

She frowned, plucking herself from the reverie and peering absently down the glass neck in her hand, eyes following the liquid sloshing along the walls without really seeing it. The darkness of the night made the bottle pearly, and the liquid silver.

“Prettier than the stars,” she slurred, not worrying when her wrist tilted the bottle almost completely horizontal. The liquid didn’t spill out yet. The bottle melded to her lips again and her throat tingled as fire slipped down it, caressing every inch of her organs and furling under her skin. Better than any touches Peter had –or hadn’t –given her.

Cass supposed it wasn’t really his fault. Can’t blame people because their personalities ultimately win out and make them suck.

The warmth of his torso pressed into her side, extending along his arm that was tight around her shoulders. It felt good, his body and warmth enveloping her, and Cass wanted to make it into a solid material and make all of her clothing out of it. The two were lying on her bed, the lights dimmed and Peter’s computer brightly playing a movie in front of them.

It was so typical, such a normal thing to do. And yet, Cass had absolutely no complaints. It felt nice.

“I like you a lot,” he muttered quietly, and Cass felt her lips twitch. She wasn’t very good with these conversations, but Peter was the first guy in three years that she’d liked at all, let alone this much, so she just nodded.

The screen seemed to twitch, and a small white box appeared in the corner. A message, for Peter.

I love you Peter

Cass really hated modern technology. And for one of very few times in her life, it took her a moment to think of something to say, especially when Peter straightened and paused the movie.

“Uh,” she started, trailing as he turned the laptop and typed quickly. His response was fast, he swiveled the screen back to face Cass barely a few seconds later. And she still hadn’t said an actual sentence.

“Yeah, that’s my girlfriend,” he grinned, settling back against her. Cass’s eyebrow arched, her spine straightening as she attempted to process what the hell had just happened.

Cass didn’t see the astronomical need for Peter to have to suck so spectacularly.

She braced her hands on the wide cement slab in front of her, pulling herself up and finally standing on it. The bridge spanned across the wide river that dominated the city, and it had two car lanes, and two full sidewalks complete with a waist-high cement wall. Wide enough to sit or stand quite comfortably on, Cass appraised as she swung her left foot out, letting her leg extend in a semicircle from her side until it crossed over her right leg. When it was directly in front of her, not pausing its arc, only her foot hung without cement underneath it. The brief sight buzzed along her vertebrae, and Cass grinned as her head tipped back. She felt the adrenaline, her body naturally responding to being precariously balanced. It mixed with the dark smoke that hollowed her bones, and Cass felt her vacant eyes stare at their lids. It all didn’t matter. The knowledge and chemicals felt heady, and she wondered if it would increase just a little bit more through her alcohol-hazed brain if she just –

“Cassille,” the voice was a dart thrown out of lips, yet it didn’t hurt when it nailed into her skin. Her head slowly rolled onto her shoulder and she lazily opened her eyes, blinking at him through her lashes and messy hair bunched around her face. He stood calmly, hands loosely clasped behind his back, on the sidewalk behind her, but a few feet back. Any other person would’ve seen the girl standing on the edge of the bridge and screamed, run to grab her. Some kind of reaction. He just appraised her calmly, with more than enough room. Although, she supposed he wasn’t a normal human anyway.

“’Sup?” she responded, popping the ‘p’ and snickering to herself. Lars’ eyes flicked about, never leaving her but jumping to different parts of her. Looking her over slowly and quickly and thoroughly all at once. He took one step closer, and Cass put her leg down and bent her knee, her toe holding it in position.

“You seem unhappy,” he remarked, as though noting that it was a clear, cloudless night. Cass barked out a laugh.

“Not quite,” she sang, then frowned. That did not sound like her. The glass bottle felt cool and smooth in her hand, her fingers clenched around it unable to get a firmer grip, but the reminder was enough. She shrugged. “I just don’t see much of a point anymore. I’m bored,” she settled.

Lars nodded, and then he managed to tug just a twinge of surprise from Cass when he gave a small smile. “I think you should come with me. You could be like me, and we could leave her and go anywhere, do anything. I do not promise happiness, or even contentment, but you would never be bored.”

His hands swung out by his sides and came together in front of him, mimicking how he’d held them before. His head was tilted slightly, his face smooth but relaxed. Cass narrowed her eyes, turning sharply on the ledge and facing him, her back squarely to the water beneath and beyond them.

“And what are you exactly?” she asked, voice straightforward. She knew he couldn’t possibly be normal, their past encounters had all but shoved ideas of logic out of her mind, but he was far too clam and calculating to be something bizarre either. Two worlds revolved around him, one that Cass had created as their bubble, but there was another that she didn’t quite know.

“I suppose the easiest term is vampire,” he stated, waiting for her reaction. Cass raised her eyebrow, a bit sorry to disappoint him, but she followed the crooked road of questions that had been building since the night he’d told her she looked pouty.

“I’m guessing this is an entire world I don’t know about,” she said back, and Lars chuckled and nodded. “Well?” He looked at her questioningly, and Cass sighed. “Well, why?”

Lars looked thoughtful for a moment, his gaze finally breaking from her. He sighed then, and shifted in his stance as though getting comfortable. Cass watched him intently, even as her knees bent and her body lowered until she sat on the ledge with her legs tangled underneath her. He looked back up at her once she’d settled, and spoke.

“Vampires originate from a curse. During Caesar’s time fighting in Gaul, a witch who was rather obsessively in love with him took six Gallic people, each who were special to their particular tribes, and used a rare snake to turn them into the first vampires. From then, they change others, until you have myself and thousands of others around the globe.

“I was changed after I had already fathered children, so my name continued. And I’ve rather liked keeping loose track of my descendants, if nothing more than idle curiosity.”

Cass interrupted him, but her voice didn’t come out as derisive and disbelieving as she wanted it to. “So you’re my great-great-great-great granddaddy then?”

Lars nodded. “Something like that, my birth name is Laurens, although since then the family name has evolved a bit.”

“Into Laurent,” Cass finished, nodding slowly. She studied the man before her, not sure how to take the information. A slight breeze picked up, and she let it push at her shoulders more than it could have, let it skim through her hair to the nape of her neck. “So what?” she asked, looking back at him, her gaze entirely focused. The blurs of before were gone.

“Usually, I observe and then move on,” Lars confessed. “I rarely even introduce myself. But you are curious, my dear Cassille. Your attitude, your lack of fear all the times I’ve clearly presented myself as a threat. Why?”

It was Cass’s turn to think, leaning one shoulder back as she rested her weight on her arm. The position exposed her neck, but though she realized, she didn’t bother changing it. Lars’s observation seemed apt.

“I just didn’t,” she finally said. There was nothing else. She didn’t have some deep recognition of her supposed kin, some connection in the back of her mind that had told her he wouldn’t really harm her. She’d had no reassurance. Cass hadn’t particularly cared.

Lars sighed, smiling slightly. “I was so curious.”

Cass shrugged, standing again. “Sorry to disappoint,” she stated, though the words were blank. She spun and faced the water again, though the storm in her blood was calmer now. She just stood straight, didn’t lean or swing her leg again. There wasn’t even a breeze to push her hair in a direction.

“Cassille –” he started, but Cass shot a disbelieving sneer.

“This isn’t some very elaborate spiritual rebirth crap? Would be very weird, and an extreme amount of effort,” she taunted, not believing her own accusation.

“I offer this to you,” he began, taking one more step forward, and Cass tilted her head to see him. “Your story could be just beginning, Cassille.”

Cass shrugged. She looked back at the water, out at the horizon line, and then back to the man. She focused on her chest, air expanding it and then leaving it just as deflated as before. Her heart pounded dully, steady through everything. No fear or excitement yanked her spine straight or bent, nothing lit her blood or tingled in her fingertips.

She spun again and put her right foot out, as though stepping. She let it hover for a moment before swiping it to rest perpendicular to her left, as though in ballet. She raised the nearly-empty bottle to him in salute, then swung it to her mouth. Lars looked at her.

“It will be painful,” he said quietly, as though thinking it would change her mind. “There’s a period…”

Cass didn’t care as Lars continued, his words vague enough so that it didn’t matter that she had stopped fully listening. His words ran over in her mind, and she knew she should have reacted more. But she didn’t. He’d been bending her world already, and quite honestly her world didn’t have much in it before him. It was boring.

He was quiet again after a few minutes, and then Cass refocused. She couldn’t care when, but at some point Lars had leapt up to stand beside her, and had bent his arm and her hand was comfortably but securely looped under it. He smiled slightly at her.

“Happy birthday, I suppose,” he said quietly. Cass side glanced him, pausing for a moment, but otherwise gave no acknowledgement before the two stepped off, side by side.

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