Timeline: November 30, 2008 — 2:30 am
Jesse had been transitioning to become a bit of a night owl. It worked better in that she could help Ann-Marie and keep her updated with business of the day more easily. So, she’d taken to staying up until around 3:30 am, then up by ten am or so to do some part time work for Tara (depending on the day). This left late afternoon and early evening to handle business for Ann-Marie. Given her artist profession, those duties were pretty light and consisted mostly of making arrangements at businesses and galleries to show her boss’s art. Most sales seemed to be generated from places like that rather than direct requests, although ebay self-publish of Ann-Marie’s work was doing reasonably well.
Ann found Jesse, having finished her various tasks many hours ago, watching some movies on dvd at home.
“Evening Jesse,” she paused, “you are up late. All packed for the trip?” she asked. It was obvious to Jesse that Ann-Marie had had a long night so far.
Jesse nodded and smiled. “Yeah. I wanted to see this movie before I left. Meet the Robinsons is pretty funny. Cute movie.” She clicked the tv off with the remote. “You look like you had an interesting night out.”
“Interesting? Perhaps. It started fun and ended kind of melancholy. It’s the middle part that was both interesting and disappointing; but not quite what I was shooting for.” She paused, “In any case it’s done and to a degree I think it was a good thing despite it all.”
Jesse looked puzzled. “Would you like to talk about it?”
“You know that’s what I wanted from him, to talk about it.” she says, sighing a bit. “You see tonight I did an experiment in social relations which, due to circumstances beyond my control, misunderstandings and communications failures didn’t quite succeed. Perhaps it never could. You see tonight I asked Ramiel to go out clubbing. Nothing sexual as I am not interested in him anyway, but an attempt to break the ice and build trust. It backfired and in many ways it is my fault.”
Jesse looked concerned. “He really went?” A thoughtful looked crossed her face. “That’s unusual for him. Ramiel hasn’t shown any interest in that sort of thing. Not even with Lyla really. Sounds to me like he was trying, too, at least at first. Did he not enjoy himself?”
“Not really. I mean the ride down was fun, but he didn’t really want to dance or even get set up. I was definitely willing to be his wingman on that. You see, I didn’t even know him well enough to know not to ask him out like that. I thought, since the first time I ever saw him was at a club, that he had simply been too busy and stressed.”, answered Ann-Marie.
“How do you know about his clubbing habits?” she asked quizzically.
“You and Lyla went clubbing all the time around six months ago,” Jesse said. “He never went once and as far as I know, never expressed interest in going with, either.”
The girl nibbled her lip, then offered, “Um. I hate to point this out but… I know that Lyla was angry with him a long time. I mean, practically the whole town could figure that one out. They seem to have patched things up recently though. Maybe this was a bad time to suggest he, er, hook up with a stranger? I mean, I can’t begin to guess how their relationship works, but if I were Lyla or Ramiel I’d be super-sensitive about that right now. Maybe he went just to hang out with you and when that didn’t happen just sort of sat there by himself all sullen and grumpy? He’s the sort of person that, if you open up to him he’ll like you. If you don’t, he tends to be cold and distant.”
“I’ve tried to open up to him. It just doesn’t seem to work. He really doesn’t reciprocate with me and our talks degenerate. Then again, perhaps the fact I am what I am gets in the way. To be honest, I’m not sure of why he is so guarded with me.” She paused. “I did help him tonight with an ‘incident’ and despite helping he didn’t really tell me what it was all about in detail. It must have been more personal than I thought at the time. But I think that my pestering for information didn’t help. I don’t like not understanding my situation. In the end he thanked me though. That’s good, though his guardedness and ego got to me and I told him so.”
“I’m going to guess that didn’t help things?” Jesse asked.
“Well, if anything I’m honest with people…within reason. But I doubt he even noticed. His mind was so fixated on the situation,” she replied. “But no, I doubt it helped.”
“Everybody reacts to things in a different way. Girls tend to talk things out, but guys aren’t like that. Maybe he thought he was being clear even if not in so many words,” Jesse suggested. “I mean, the fact he went out with you is huge. And you helped him with some kind of incident — that sounds like it was important. If he didn’t want to come out and talk about it, then there’s something really personal going on there and you got to be part of that. He probably didn’t react as you expected because while you might have thought you were asking simple questions, he might have felt was prying or going too far. This was the first time the two of you spent any real time together, as far as I know.
“May I ask what happened tonight?”
Ann-Marie was noticeably hesitant. “While I trust you Jesse. I don’t know if I should. One thing about me is that I always keep a person’s secrets. I know yours and have said nothing, ever, to anyone about anything you said in confidence. Even though he didn’t particularly say it, I think (especially based on what you just said), that I should treat it that way.”
She then added, “This way, should you be asked, you can be honest.”
“I see,” Jesse said. “So do you think he’s mad at you over what happened tonight?”
“I really don’t know. I think I should apologize for being so nosy. It shows strength I believe to admit one was in the wrong. But to be honest, I think he likely isn’t dwelling on it.”
“That may be. I think maybe it affects you more deeply. What would make you feel better about what happened this evening?” Jesse asked.
“It affects me because I failed in my purpose, yes. I do not like to fail. It depresses me I suppose. In any event, I intend to offer an apology. That is proper, though I doubt he is angry with me. Likely he sees me the same as before. I don’t believe there is anything else I can do, or should do. We are simply too different.”
Jesse accepted that, then said, “Then let’s focus on your wins. How are things going with Ironclaw, Lyla, and Chaska?”
“Are you my Dear Abby now?” she said with faux annoyance laced with a subtle smile and irony, “I suppose you don’t get that reference?”
“I just think it’s not going to help you to dwell on Ramiel and I can’t help but notice…” Jesse hesitated. “Well. I’ve noticed that everyone has been so caught up with their own lives, no one really seems to be spending much time with each other lately. The past half a year or so.”
She smiled a bit, musing. “I was trying to change that. A little. I figured I’d start with the ones I knew least. Perhaps that was ill judged. I should perhaps have built on what I have first, now that my Kindred presence is secure.”
She smiled, “You know, sometimes I am truly glad you are not enthralled. A ghoul would never have been so honest. You serve me well and do me justice.”
“Thanks, I think?” she said. “Anyway, that’s how vampires refer to them, isn’t it. Victims of the addiction you told me of? That they are enthralled and are called ‘ghouls’. I remember we talked about it a long time ago.” A cold shiver possessed her body. Vampire kind truly did think that those addicted to their blood were nothing more than cattle or slaves and gave them ugly names to put them in their place. Jesse reminded herself that she was very fortunate to have not suffered the same fate.
Ann-Marie referred to her employment as how Jesse served the vampire and Jesse supposed that was far better than the alternative. It was hard not to wish she might be thought of more as an employee and friend but if she was obliquely referred to as a servant from time to time, that was still far better than slave.
“Whewh,” Jesse said, shoving her thoughts to the back of her mind. “Anyway, back to the topic. Yeah, I’ve noticed that certain people have really distanced themselves from the other over the past six months. Ramiel and Michael are obvious — they were away for that time so naturally they were distanced. But I also mean that you and Lyla, who for a little while had been hitting clubs and traveling all over the state together, barely spent any time at all together in the past six months. But more than that, I haven’t seen Lyla spend much time with anybody other than her very scary friends,” Jesse lowered her voice to a whisper, “the werewolves.”
She raised her voice to normal speaking volumes and continued. “But even that wasn’t all that much. Rey and I have barely spoken, although I think she’s dating that one indian guy so that might be taking up her time. Dr. Beckett seems only to spend time with you since you guys moved out, or at least he doesn’t come to the bar very much.
“It could be just that some of these people have been getting together places I can’t go. If so, I’m probably totally off-base here. But otherwise it just seems… quiet around here.”
Jesse’s perception of things were certainly interesting for Ann-Marie to hear. It wasn’t difficult to read between the lines, either. Jesse clearly didn’t lump Lyla with the “scary werewolves” category. Admittedly, she was the most social of the group. Although Rose and Selene were generally friendly to people, they hadn’t historically received as much attention from people. She also didn’t think of Michael and Ramiel as being “scary” either — which was quite possibly a mistake.
“Yes it has been. Ominous, isn’t it?” she smiled. “But before I go any further with your observations, what was the ‘whew’ all about?”, asked the vampire. She leaned in and continued, “Just so you know, you serve me yes, but you are far more than a mere servant, employee or a hapless ghoul. You know that don’t you?”
“Oh ‘course I know that,” Jesse said. “But those kinds of perceptions about … ghouls … are so ingrained in the — should I call it the vampire ‘culture’? — that it’s part of vampire speech and thinking. You’ve taken me with you several times and it’s very educational to me. We go to lengths to be sure that everyone we visit together has every reason to believe I’m exactly that kind of creature. I really and truly believe that not one of them would give me the same freedoms I have with you.
“But it’s not any less scary to me. I mean, I know what could happen. Intellectually, I know because I’ve seen it and I can’t feel anything but real pity for those that are, as vampires call it, enthralled. The real horror of it, the part that really keeps me up at night sometimes, is that if that happened to me, I just wouldn’t be able to help myself. Not any more than they can. I mean, can you imagine how horrified you would be if you were enslaved by a Mage or a Werewolf in such a way that you’d want nothing more than to continue to be their slave no matter what they did to you?
“Anyway, that was the ‘whewh’. I’m not in that position. I live in Eldon Well near you and there aren’t any other vampires around plotting against your, or scheming to do something terrible to me because it might amuse them. But if we lived in Albany? No, I don’t think I’d be the same person for long.”
“No you wouldn’t. You might be greater still or a dead failure. Who knows? My friend, long ago I made up my mind to observe you and not take your freedom; hence the Masquerade we play. In fact you are free to become a ghoul if you want, but that would mean in some sense that you failed. The test dear Jesse is to overcome your fear and become stronger for it. And tests will continue, as I test myself constantly; hence the Ramiel situation. This whole experience, you, Ironclaw, Lyla, being social and building alliances with outsiders is all a dangerous test for me as well. Very dangerous. But I think I’ve become stronger for it.
“For example, I would truly fail if I gave up now after all this and said, ‘okay he’ll (Ramiel) never be a friend, best make him an enemy’. You’ve helped me focus the conclusion I was moving toward this evening in my wanderings. Reconciliation and satisfaction in that he said ‘Thank You’. That is more than I’ve ever heard him give to anyone else, and truly is progress.
“But, that aside. We kindred can be cruel, and I can’t promise you that your time with me won’t be without tribulations. In fact I can see how fear weighs on you sometimes. But you stay. You’ll go to New York tomorrow and return, because you are stronger for it my friend. Only the strong, like you are becoming, are deserving of my trust, my friendship and of the gifts I can offer you.”
“Now, about the werewolves. You don’t seem to lump Lyla with them. Do you not fear what she can do?”
“Well, I can’t say I really know what any of them can do. It’s just something about them that really feels dangerous. Take Ironclaw for instance. He scares the shit out of me, frankly. I don’t seem him very much, but I just can’t predict what he might do. Like he’s a wild bear or something. The others tend to be a little like that to some degree or other. It’s just their nature.
“Lyla can be that way sometimes, too. But it’s really rare with her. It’s like she’s aware that she can be scary and she really tries to behave in a way that isn’t like a predator on the hunt. Granted, I haven’t spoken with her much. But that’s my perception. There’s something… not maternal. But protective in the way she deals with her friends, Rose and Selene and Rey. Sometimes I wish I knew her better, too.”
“Very well. And Ramiel & Michael? They can bend reality to their whim and don’t really seem to have common, well morals. At least not as much as others. Both can be as cold as Kindred at times, yet their hearts beat. Why do you not fear them?”
“Yeah, well, I really don’t recall seeing them do anything. In fact, the scariest thing I’ve seen them do is make fun of each other and banter back and forth. Whereas the werewolf-type people are scary with a look or just sitting there, those two aren’t. So, I haven’t seen them be scary at all. Why, do you think they should should be feared? Ramiel’s never been cold to me, so… I guess I’ve never seen that side of him.”
Ann-Marie replied, “And hopefully you won’t. He and I got off on the wrong foot early on and never really recovered much. He is very young with a great deal of power, but not as much wisdom as he ‘thinks’ he has. I’m afraid of him slipping away into an addiction of power. Lyla, I believe, truly keeps him stable; though they have their shaky periods. Michael seems to be the yang to Lyla’s yin for Ramiel and he too, in a way keeps him stable. That being said, I don’t think there is any love lost between Lyla and Michael.”
Ann-Marie shrugged, “To be honest, I’m not sure. It’s just a feeling. Michael spends a lot of time with Ramiel. But then again, I really don’t see Lyla as the jealous type given their circumstances. Could be Michael’s situation with Selene went worse than we know (and other than they dated, that’s all I know), could be anything really. But it is definitely a tension there. But, not something we should worry about. For now at least.”
“Hm. Okay,” Jesse said. “Anything else you want to talk about?”
“No, not for now. What was that movie you were watching?” she answered.
“It was Meet the Robinsons,” Jesse reminded her.
Ann-Marie said, “Then by all means, lets’ watch.”