The funeral had been during the day, like they all are. She hadn’t been able to attend. She had stopped by the wake the evening before to pay respects to Stephen’s father and sister, but the burial itself had been beyond her power.

This evening she had gone instead. She’s dressed for it, in a black mourning gown that is both well tailored and modest, no thigh-high slits or plunging necklines in sight. Its sleeves end, tapered, at her wrists. She has even donned a veil, or at least a modern interpretation of the veil, with black birdcage netting attached to a black headband set in her hair, decorated in black roses that somehow manage to avoid being gauche or ostentatious. The veil sits at an angle across her face and only extends past the one eye, its ends weighed down by pearls as dark as the rest of it. The only color on her is the ring she slid onto the middle finger of her left hand, a ruby set into a platinum band. In her hands is a small spray of flowers, greenery surrounding white, pink, and red roses and lilies.

Red, for love.

Regardless of how things had ended between them she had loved him. He had made her happy. He was her first love – and her last. Her heart has since ceased its beating and so, too, has it ceased to function as an instrument of emotion. The bond can imitate what it was she once felt for him, but never replicate. It is a pale echo of that day in the car when she had blurted the words before she could stop herself and now, as she stares down at the headstone with his name on it, she knows that she will never feel again.

Stephen Garrison
May his memory be eternal
1984 – 2011

Twenty-seven years. Twenty-seven years on this planet and he is nothing now but a memory. She cannot make more of them with him. She cannot call him from a private number just to hear his voice, then hang up before speaking. She cannot change her face and watch him from afar, or bump into him with drink in hand at a crowded club and watch him smile, sheepish, at the horror of spilling her drink.

Something breaks inside of her. She thinks it might be her heart, twisting, at the reality of this new life. She will watch her friends and family die. Every single one of them will perish long before her, and when they are gone they, too, will be nothing but a collection of words on a headstone, words on a mausoleum wall, words that she will have to choose, over and over and over again as they all die around her. Nothing but memories, and here he is, her first.

Her knees give out. She sinks to the ground, flowers forgotten beside her, and lifts her hands to her face as the sobs wrack her body. Tears leak from the corners of her eyes.

Red, for love.

And red for monster. Red for blood, for life, for loss. Red for guilt.

It is not so thick as the vitae in her body, but it stains her fingers all the same as she wipes them away. She sits like that for a time, staring at the grave in front of her with blood on her hands.

One moment she is alone. The next she is not.

I’m fast, she had said to the detective that night, years and years ago.

Not fast enough.

Not like the things that go bump in the night. Not like the monsters under the bed. Not like the man that has appeared behind her, silent as the rest of the graves, and thought her nothing but a mortal. Her Beast is obscured by shadow play so he does not feel it, but she feels his.

Vicious. Snarling. Hungry.

Her feet leave the ground. Marble coated granite slams into her back. The breath leaves her body in a whoosh, though she does not need it anyway. Her eyes snap up to find her attacker, to lift her hands in defense —

And then she freezes, and so, too, does the thing holding her.



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