This story is by Nancy Pezdek and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Day into Night
I long for the night. It is when he comes to me. I have yet to discover what he does during the day as he keeps it close to his chest. All I know is he devotes his nights to me, and I live for the sun to go down. At times we never go to sleep, but he always leaves before dawn.
The first time we met, it was at night. I was standing in a gallery downtown looking at a painting that caught my attention. It depicted a landscape of the moors, dark and impenetrable. I could not look away.
He sidled up to me as quietly as a mist blowing over my shoulder and murmured in my ear, “What do you think?”
I shivered and stared at the brooding canvas.
“It makes me feel lonely.”
“I am sorry.”
The tenderness in his voice compelled me to turn my head, and I looked into eyes which had seen too much of life. It saddened me, but held me spellbound, and I was moved.
“May I take you out of here for a drink?”
He grasped my hand and led me across the street to a bar where soft music filled the air. We sat at a corner table curtained off by red velvet drapes. Lit votives created an intimate ambient light. As the night progressed, we moved closer to each other and talked in whispers. I had never met anyone like him, and I was increasingly drawn into his magnetism. I did not want the night to end and neither did he. Or so he said. After he drove me home, he left me at my door.
A month later, he asked me to go away with him for the weekend to his ancestral home by the sea. I did not hesitate to accept his invitation, and soon we were on our way after dusk to the coast.
“Tell me about your family. Will I meet anyone?”
He evaded my question by expounding on the history of the estate that had been in the family since the 1500s. My mind conjured an image of Daphe du Maurier’s Manderley which sent a foreboding of doom through my veins. Was it a warning?
As we neared our destination, we eventually reached a densely forested landscape divided by a one-lane road. As the scenery opened up, I could see in the distance a huge outcropping of stone beyond which an ancient bridge spanned a deep crevasse. I gripped my seatbelt as Nicholas drove over this structure with ease, and I held my breath until we were on solid ground. Soon we arrived at what I could only describe as a towering castle which appeared to be centuries old. I shivered and suddenly felt small and insignificant. What was I doing here? Who was this man sitting beside me?
I looked over at Nicholas who was staring at me. He smiled and my fears vanished. He parked under a portico, and an older man came to my door, opened it, and bowed. Was he a butler? Nicholas walked around the car and reached out to me. I put my hand in his, and he guided me to the front door.
“Thank you, Edward. Is dinner ready?”
“Yes, Master Nicholas.”
“See to our bags, and let Mrs. Shelby know we will be ready after we have a glass of wine.”
I frowned. “Master Nicholas?”
He grinned. “Yes, since I was a child.”
“Well, it’s very imposing.”
“Not to worry, my love.”
Nicholas escorted me into a lavishly furnished library with floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with old, hard-backed books. Between two upholstered chairs was a small table set with two glasses. A warming fire had been lit, and it was welcoming as I sat down. But a sudden chill enveloped me, and I pulled my sweater more closely across my chest. Nicholas noticed, immediately grabbed a blanket, and draped it across my knees.
He poured wine from a decanter into a goblet. “Here, this will warm you.”
I took it gratefully and sipped it as we sat in silence thinking our separate thoughts until dinner time. After savoring a meal which could have been served in a fine restaurant, he showed me to my chamber. It was connected to his by a dressing room that any number of ancestors would have used in the past. I had seen several of his forbears staring down at me from portraits that lined the stairwell and hung in the hallway as I walked to my room. I admitted to Nicholas I was tired, and I thought I would go to bed. He kissed my hand and walked off.
I entered a time capsule when I opened my door. I could tell that the furnishings were very old, yet no fabric was faded on the canopied bed or the upholstered chairs. The heavy drapes that shut out the day were still vibrant with color and spanned two massive windows looking out onto the ocean. I opened them and watched the distant waves break against the rocks below. Dark clouds threatened rain. I undressed quickly and got under the soft duvet. I fell asleep immediately.
In the morning, I woke up to the smell of coffee. A robe had been draped across the end of my bed, and I put it on before walking to the bathroom. Returning to my room, I noticed the drapes had been closed, and a tray, laden with an appetizing breakfast, had been placed on a table for me. An envelope rested on the cloth napkin. Where was Nichola,s and why was I not eating downstairs with him?
The answer was in Nicholas’s note. He wrote he would be out early, before sunrise, to exercise Excalibur. Then he would be unavailable until sunset when he would join me for dinner and a walk along the cliffs under the moonlight. He suggested I might like to read the book he left on his desk in his study.
After I got dressed, I went down the stairs and picked up the book. It was a hand- written, bound history of Nicholas’ family. I took it out onto the veranda where the sun was shining and sat in a chair. I was startled out of my reverie when Mrs. Shelby appeared with a lunch tray.
“Thank you. Do you know when Nicholas will be back?”
“He always shows up at night.”
“What keeps him so occupied?”
“That is not for me to say.”
I frowned at her back as she walked away. As the afternoon progressed, I realized there was something strange about Nicholas’ family. I could not put my finger on it, and the mystery kept nagging at the back of my mind.
Finally, Nicholas arrived, dressed in a riding habit he must have worn all day after taking his horse out for a gallop.
“Excalibur. That is quite a name,” I mentioned when he talked about his ride during dinner.
“He’s quite a horse.” He smiled and I was charmed. “Do you ride?
“I will teach you if you like. I have a gentle mare that would suit you, I think. Did you enjoy the book I left for you?”
“It was interesting.”
The topic was not pursued. Instead, he expounded on the history of the small village we had driven through the previous night. At one point the townspeople had rushed the castle with torches waving.
“I’ll save that story for another night.”
After our stroll along the cliff’s edge, I invited him into my room. He wove his spell tightly around me from which I did not ever want to escape. He looked down into my eyes, and his intense stare frightened me.
“It’s my anniversary.”
“What? I don’t understand.” Was he married? I did not want to know.
He began to tell me a fantastic tale about the year 1740. It was on an evening like this one under a full moon that he became what he is today, a creature of the night. I could not believe what I was hearing. He could not be over two hundred years old. The expression on his unlined face canceled my doubts. I tried to move but his words had wrapped around me, weighing me down. I opened my mouth to scream but before any sound emerged, he sunk his teeth deep into my neck.
As I write this down in my journal, it has been a year since that fateful night. My first anniversary of being a creature of the dark. I sleep all day, entombed with Nicholas, while Edward and Mrs. Shelby see to our nightly needs. But they cannot bring me what I want. To feel the sun, penetrate my pale skin. I yearn for daylight. I may not be lonely, but I am changed. Forever.