Brimming with energy, I couldn’t resist joining the others in dance, especially with Mila providing us with song and lighting effects fit for a club, not that I had actually snuck into one. My head was still fuzzy and I needed to burn off some of this energy before I made silly mistakes.
Not refraining in showing off my moves was probably a mistake, but I wasn’t about to let everyone ― excluding Portentia ― show me up by too much. Though graceful and a quick study, Portentia obviously hadn’t studied dance.
“She’s deaf.” stated Aaliyah after leaping into my arms to have me spin her around.
I stared at her blankly, hardly able to believe what I had just been told. Unable to hear the music, Portentia had to be watching us and feeling the vibrations for queues. Her abilities just raised themselves a couple notches in my eyes. I had thought her accent was a bit odd, but I merely assumed English was a second language to her. The girl was remarkable to say the least.
I misstepped slightly as Aaliyah kicked off me to flip backward out of my arms. As I spun around to catch myself, James easily snatched my hand, dancing with me now. I still couldn’t really believe he was “human-ish” as Aaliyah had put it. I could feel his strength in his hands and the very slow beat of his heart as we danced. His heartbeat was far too slow for a human at rest, much less one dancing.
Trying to shock him, I made my body grow taller. His eyebrow raised, but that was all. I knew I was being observed as I observed him, but being the one who was likely getting less from the exchange was rare for me when away from my parents. I had no doubt that Aaliyah was his secretary by choice, but who was he to have drawn her into such a position?
A stab of misery plunged through my heart as I thought of them, how I’d never see them again.
James dipped me back with such ease that I’d swear he had danced like this a thousand times, easily lifting me as he spun us around. When he set me down, I was facing Aaliyah again, so I shrunk to dance with her, my clothes becoming baggy sacks over my frame where they had been too snug a moment before.
My tiny friend thought nothing of it, of course, but nothing had ever surprised her to my knowledge. From the moment we met, she had held all the cards. My parents’ meager attempt to oppose her when they realized something dangerous was in our home was met with playful brutality as she demonstrated the ease with which she could kill them. She asked so little of us that my father spoke in shocked whispers about her for a week.
Did Aaliyah manage to shock James as much? I was having trouble gauging him. He smiled with such ease and seemed genuinely kind, but who gained such wealth at his age without misdeeds? He seemed young at least. Was he really?
Portentia smiled as James passed her my way, and I took on her appearance, surprising her immensely. I would wager that her vampire friends had been cautious around her. Invulnerability was an intimidating aspect to overcome if she ever became an enemy. I didn’t doubt her certainty in her ability to regenerate was well-tested, now that I had seen a fraction of it myself. If she actually acted the part of a superhero, she had surely been attacked countless times.
“Your heart’s not beating.” I stated a while into dancing with her.
“Nope. Don’t need a heartbeat.” she told me proudly.
“I could have sworn I heard a single beat when I fed off you.” I told her.
She shrugged, concentrating on dancing, but I was still wondering what she was. How many other oddities lived here beyond James and her? I was intrigued but a little overwhelmed. Why did Aaliyah bring me to such a place where I was obviously outmatched? Whom could I trust here? James… I wanted to trust him. As mysterious as he was, I already knew I believed in him. Such trust this early was worrisome.
“Master, you should probably change clothes and head to breakfast.” stated Mila hours later when she suddenly paused the lights and music. “Marco will have food prepared in seven minutes. You are scheduled to give your normal instruction this morning, though we might need to switch to the employee recreation center if the evil twins don’t give Cosette permission to use their gym.”
Dancing with Mila had been interesting. I was fascinated by the technology involved in her construction and even more impressed by the A.I. existing.
“Oh. Fair point. I’d best be on my way then.” replied James, taking a step toward the door. Then he turned to us and said, “Thank you, everyone, for the lovely time.” Looking to Aaliyah, he asked “Care for me to come back this way on my way to the kitchen, or should I just meet you there?”
She tapped her chin as if in thought before saying, “I’ll go to the kitchen with Cosette. I bet she’d love to try Marco’s cooking!”
“Wait. What? She eats food?” he inquired.
“I’m perfectly capable of eating, yes. See, I have teeth.” I assured him, causing my fangs to grow in size as I opened my mouth wide. Giggling at wry expression, I said, “Sorry. Vampire humor. You’d be amazed what my parents saved on dental work.”
“I bet, but you still won’t get paid extra for not making use of our dental plan.” he insisted with a wink.
I laughed and said, “You’re as bad as Aaliyah, ruining my perfectly good plans before I can get started. In all seriousness, I can consume human food just fine. I simply don’t get any nutritional value from it. As long as I keep my tongue active, I do get to enjoy the flavor as well.”
“Umm… Keep your tongue active?” he inquired.
“Well, I’ve been told I’m an amazing kisser, so I suppose I can demonstrate.” I replied, stepping toward him.
“What!? That has nothing to do with eating.” he stated.
“For a vampire, it can.” I teased.
“Vampires have a great deal of control over their bodies, boss-man, sir. She can ‘turn off’ her taste buds. Vampires keep a large number of their organs inactive to conserve energy.” explained Aaliyah.
Nodding, I said, “Generally speaking, it’s just easier as well. Keeping things active takes concentration. You wouldn’t believe how difficult carrying a baby is for a vampire. I have huge respect for my mother.”
Aaliyah walked over and hugged me. As well as I might try to hide my jumbled emotions, she knew.
“Ah. I see. I really must be going though. I’ll meet you both in the kitchen.” James assured us.
“I’m going too.” stated Portentia, obviously not wanting to be left out.
“Well, the three of you. Sorry. See you soon!” he exclaimed with a wave before turning to the door.
Mila followed on his heels.
“Any recommendations on what to wear?” I asked Aaliyah.
She grinned at me and went running to my bags.
“Why bother changing? It’s not like any of us worked up a sweat.” stated Portentia.
“I can’t be seen wearing what I arrived in last night.” I argued.
“Why not? No one will care.” insisted Portentia.
“That Alma girl will certainly look down on me if I do, and these clothes smell of where I’ve been the past day.” I replied.
She shrugged and said, “Everyone collects odors. What’s the big deal?”
“James doesn’t seem to smell of anywhere. He just smells…” I paused, trying to decide on the right word for him.
“Like James. Yeah, I getcha.” she told me, smiling.
I found myself wondering if Portentia had any clue how many heads she must turn with her flawlessly white skin and hair. She didn’t seem like she’d even consider it. We might well become friends, especially if her sincerity about letting me have her blood held true. If nothing else, I did have hope.