It was the eve of my twenty-sixth birthday when I got the call. I had to sit down and make sure to breathe for a moment. Six months… my life had been completely perfect for six months. But I knew there had been something wrong, even if I couldn’t put my finger on it. Mom had been blocking her thoughts from me more often lately, and she was looking paler every time I saw her. I thought that maybe she had finally stopped tanning, but it was a vain hope. I knew there was something going on and I had refused to think about if for very long. Sometimes, when you decide to ignore something, something comes back to bite you in the ass.
Up until the night when I got my brother’s call, I’d been living a serene life with my husband Evan, in my new house in Shreveport, running Dad’s business as he prepared to sign it over to me. The wedding had been Mom and Dad’s gift to us, and so was the new house I was now sharing with my husband. I remembered Dad’s incredibly proud face when he walked me down the aisle six months earlier, and Mom crying but saying she was happy all the same. She had blocked her thoughts that night, but I thought it was just so I wouldn’t be nervous on my wedding day.
Now my brother Rowyn called sounding very scared. He was still living at home while he went to college at LSU, and right that moment I was glad he was there to monitor the situation. He kept talking as I grabbed my purse to make my way across Shreveport to my parents’ house.
“Dad sounds like he’s pleading. I saw him earlier wiping his face of blood. I’m scared Idy,” he said, using the name he had adopted for me since he learned how to talk. I could imagine his face full of worry, looking so much like a slightly younger version of Dad but with red hair, like Dad’s dad, or so the story went.
“I’m on my way, okay? Don’t tell them because then they’ll get nervous and call me to tell me to stay home,” I said to my little brother as I raced to my car wearing my comfy pants and shirt, what I’d been wearing after work.
I hung up with Rowyn and called Evan to let him know what was going on. He was still working his shift as detective with the Shreveport PD. I’d already told him about my uneasy feelings.
“Dad crying doesn’t sound good,” Evan said. He was very fond of his in-laws, as was I of mine. The Vincent family hadn’t worried about their son marrying the daughter of a vampire. “Let me know what’s going on, okay?” Evan’s worried voice was a comfort. It made me think that he could fix anything.
“As soon as I figure it out I’ll call you,” I said and raced to my parents’, disobeying several traffic laws.
As soon as I parked in front of my parents’ house I knew something was wrong. I was able to read Mom’s mind easily, and she was making lists. That, in and of itself, wasn’t surprising. But she was listing people to call in case of death: My uncle Jason, my aunt Pam, the lawyer, the insurance company, the bank… I shook my head, a mannerism that my mom and I shared and drove Dad nuts, but it didn’t clear my head. I turned off the car and saw Rowyn opening the front door. Suddenly Dad stood behind him, looking like somebody had hit him in the gut. Sometimes I wished I could read vampire minds. They both waited for me to join them, and then we walked silently to the den.
“What’s going on?” I asked after a long period of sitting in silence.
“Mom won’t let me heal her anymore,” Dad said looking at his hands on his lap. He looked beyond defeated.
“What do you mean? What have you been healing her from?” I asked. Daddy used to give us drops of his blood to heal scrapes as kids, but I suspected Mom’s young looks were due to the fact that he gave her much more than just a few drops. Mom looked around thirty years old, maybe thirty-five, not fifty-two.
“She didn’t want me to tell you anything, but now I have no choice. Mom has cancer. When we found out I started giving her my blood more often. It would shrink the cancer, but it never went away. For two weeks she has refused my blood. She says it’s her time. She refuses to get treatment. The doctor recommended chemotherapy, said it would buy her some time, but your mother refuses.” Dad shook his head, red tears forming under his eyes.
I’d never seen my dad cry. It hit me so hard that he was in so much despair. Rowyn and I hugged him, too shocked by the news to cry yet. We were about to lose our mom. But there was something else I knew: if Mom left us, Dad would die right after. There was no doubt in my mind. Rowyn and I would be orphaned.
As selfish as that sounds, I couldn’t bear it. I’d always seen my dad as a force of nature. At a thousand-one-hundred-seven years old, he was one of the oldest vampires I knew. My mom was an amazing telepath and had taught me and Rowyn how to control our powers. More than each individual, Mom and Dad together were an exceptional couple. No one could have taught me what true love looked like better than them. I couldn’t love Evan so well if it hadn’t been for watching my parents in love every single day of my life. I never thought they would be no more. One never thinks about those things.
I went to Mom and Dad’s room and found Mom sleeping. There was an IV in her arm, but that was the only indication that she was ill. That and her pallor. I stared with fear rising in my gut, unable to keep my thoughts covered enough not to wake her. Rowyn was probably thinking just as loud standing next to me. Dad didn’t want to come in the room just yet. He wanted to cry alone. His despair was breaking us.
“What are you two doing in here?” Mom asked sounding a little surprised.
“Rowyn called me,” I said at the same time that Rowyn said, “I called her.”
Mom sighed and looked away for a moment, before looking back at us. “The cancer started in my breast, but it metastasized. Now it’s in my lungs. I saw my Aunt Linda battle it, and I don’t want to go through that. I’d rather…”
“Why won’t you take Dad’s blood?” Rowyn asked, his tears coming down as hot and steady as mine.
“Because I was still in pain. The doctors kept taking out the cyst and it kept returning almost as soon as I stopped drinking Dad’s blood. I can’t give him mine, and he can’t replenish well enough on substitutes. It’s been killing him,” she explained.
“He’s dying, but not because of you taking his blood,” I pointed out. I knew it wasn’t fair, but I was mad and sad at the same time. “What about Aunt Pam?”
“She’s in a committed relationship. I couldn’t ask her, but it doesn’t matter. She would waste away as well. It’s my time to go. You know, Dad once said that even the mighty Sookie Stackhouse can’t cheat death. He was right.” Mom smiled, remembering something.
“I’m calling Grandpappy,” Rowyn said, whipping out his cell phone.
“Please don’t,” Mom said lifting an arm to stop him. “He will want to come and Dad can’t be around fairies right now. I don’t want visitors either.”
Mom was being stubborn. Well, what else was new? She motioned for us to get closer, so we sat at either side of her on the bed, like old times except now all four of us wouldn’t fit… or would we? I could sense Dad by the door, listening into our conversation.
“I don’t know how much time I have left. Daddy called to have a nurse come every day. The doctor prescribed the morphine to ease my pain. I’m okay for a while, but I don’t know for how long. I want you both to be strong. This is part of living. At least I wasn’t cursed like my grandmother to watch my own children die before me. You two will live long and healthy lives and you will take care of each other and Daddy. That is all I ask.” Mom reached for our hands. Hers wasn’t frail yet, but it seemed so to me. I was afraid of touching her, imagining her to be like a puzzle that was about to crumble into pieces.
I had a moment of serendipity. If I could give her something to look forward to, maybe she would accept whatever help Dad was willing to give her. I wasn’t ready to share the news yet, since so many things could happen, but it was my only ace.
“Mom, I’m pregnant,” I said, and let it hang in the air like hope on a string. I was putting all of our hopes on that tiny bundle of cells that was growing inside my belly at that very moment.
Dad burst into the room, eyes wide, hope shining within. Rowyn looked at me astonished, his mouth opening and closing like a fish. And Mom beamed and brushed a couple of stray tears from her cheeks.
“I wish I could see my grandbaby,” Mom said, her voice breaking.
“Then stay,” I said, but she was already shaking her head.
Dad collapsed on the floor shaking violently. Rowyn went to him and held him, and I held Mom who was shaking just as bad. They were two parts of a whole, why couldn’t she see?
I made a decision as I soaked my mom’s nightgown with tears: I was not giving up. She didn’t want me to call our Grandpappy, that was on her. I was calling. I was going to beg for his help and I wouldn’t care how much it cost.
The night that we told our children that Sookie was dying is a strange one in my memory. Some moments were a blur, and some moments are etched in my memory like sculptures on granite. I know I told Idy and Rowyn some things, I know that Sookie told them others, but I don’t remember much of that. I remember crying for the very first time in front of my children. To me they were still my babies. Idony was a day shy of twenty-six, a capable strong woman like her mother, with a head for business like me. Rowyn was twenty, still making his way through his studies and living with us. But to me they were the tiny little babies that I fed with their mother’s milk at night, my two legacies, the ones who would carry me through this existence. Never did I think that Sookie wouldn’t be by my side.
When Idony announced she was pregnant I was ecstatic for two reasons. One, it would be another miracle, my baby making me a grandfather. As old as I am and I can still be surprised. Two, I knew that Idy was also trying to keep her mother alive, and she was dangling that carrot of hope in front of Sookie’s face.
Sookie shook her head. She wouldn’t stay, not ever to see her grandchild. I collapsed on the floor, the last hope shattered. How was I supposed to continue without my blood bonded? She was my everything. My existence was tied to her irrevocably. It was more than blood and magic what bound us. It was love, our hearts, our souls. My dear one, my darling, my everything was dying!
That night I watched my three loves sleep on the bed next to me, dreading the sun because I didn’t want to be unconscious during any part of the day. With the nurse coming in, I had to sleep in one of the guest rooms, so I felt even more isolated from my wife. But that night I had it all for a few precious hours: my three beloved and a fourth one the way. Why couldn’t it always be like this? I wanted it all. I had it all for twenty-six years, my daughter’s life span. Not nearly long enough.
I stared at each beloved in turn.
My son Rowyn, who we hadn’t named until we met him in the hospital room where he was born. The wisps of red hair reminded me that my father had red hair, so we named him after my father. He was his mother’s child, loving and giving, and like his mother and sister also had the gift of telepathy. He had been a great and dedicated student, a quiet child, living forever in his big sister’s shadow. My baby boy. My pride and joy. He was my dreamer, the one who would tell me made up stories that would have made a skald envious. I had great dreams for him, but then again, he had great dreams for himself.
My daughter Idony, conceived during our honeymoon, the first miracle. Ever the curious one, she was always asking me to show her my fangs. She was a pillar of strength, and a favorite of Pam. They fired snarky comments at each other like it was a hobby, and not just now as an adult. One of the first full sentences she said to Pam was that Pam wasn’t her real aunt. When asked how she came to that conclusion she said it was because Pam didn’t look like me or Mommy, like that ever explained anything. Idony was the explorer, always searching, until one day she found an old calendar with my picture on it. She must have been ten. She was furious that I had posed for a picture and showed my butt. Did Mommy know about this? I laughed so hard that I couldn’t show her where I’d dedicated the photo to Sookie. Now my explorer was going to be a mother, but the announcement was bittersweet. I could not rejoice if Sookie would not share in my happiness.
My wife Sookie, my beloved above all others and above all else, the one that had made everything happen. She had given me my miracles. She had loved me like no one else. I had loved her back, and I still loved her so, that I didn’t know how my heart wouldn’t beat for her. I knew it wanted to. I imagined waking up without her and it felt like dying all over again. Who would I talk to? Who would I love? Who would talk to me? Who would love me? My darling, my little Sookie, the one who had chosen me, she was leaving. I was hers. To continue my existence without her was an aberration. It wasn’t supposed to happen. I wanted to force her to take my blood.
But I never could.
I had thought about a transfusion, sneaking during the night and giving her my blood through the IV she had in her hand.
But I never would.
That’s not what she wanted. She wanted to leave in peace, on her own terms, not to linger in limbo with pain.
I hoped that I was invited wherever she was going because I would have to follow.
Skald: The skald was a member of a group of poets, whose courtly poetry (Icelandic: dróttkvæði) is associated with the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic leaders during the Viking Age (source: Wikipedia.org)