It was nearly dusk, but the sun clung tenaciously in the sky. The clouds were parting, and the pale blue space behind them was colored by roses and orange, creeping from the edges, and would soon become brighter and flame.
A passing thought hit her, about the number of amazing things she had seen. But in the street, as she walked silently in her sandals, she thought the ordinary transcended that. Rows of little houses, trees still glazed with rain, brightened by the orange sky-it was a glory beyond all she had seen. It was glorious because it was beautiful, and because it was real.
Some things were not real. Or shouldn't be. It was why she was walking that day the familiar route, the trailing path through the suburban streets she could walk without a single thought as to the way. It was why she could not feel elation at the brilliance of this day-the freshness of the soft and misty wind, the quiet of the streets, or the glory of the sky. She was focused on her task. It had gone too far, she needed to go there. It had to be done.
And so a very small woman in a white sundress entered the gates of the cemetery. She waited a while, hesitated-thought. She sat a long time on a bench thinking before she went to the crypt, below a gracefully carved angel, holding out its crown of laurel.
She opened the door. He was standing in the middle of the room, glass in hand. He put it down and walked towards her.
"Come to tell me you want me out of your life again luv? Because I'd enjoy hearing it one more-"
He dropped silent, caught the sudden motion of her arm. As soon as he walked into her range, she pulled out the stake and lunged in one motion. He jumped back. She tried not to look in his eyes as she attempted a second pass.
He blocked her initial attack with his left arm, and tried to speak, to say her name. But he couldn't-the words wouldn't come. He blocked her second intention with his right, catching the feint. He knew her too well.
She ducked. He spun to face her, and their eyes met. He was completely still, but she felt like she'd been hit when it happened. And a tear ran down her cheek as she hit back.
He flew into the air, forced back and against the stone wall of the crypt. A lamp shattered on the floor. He had taken her blows so many times, given her enough in his day, but he could feel the jaw break with the force. Blood ran from his lip as he burst up, fangs beared. He kicked her from the side, and she lost her grip on the stake. It rolled across the floor, sounding on the stones.
He knew she wouldn't win. As she fought tears mingled with the blood on her own cheek. They always knew how to hurt each other. But she wouldn't win. Behind her tears, her eyes were dead and unreadable. Her reactions were uncertain, faster than perhaps any other mortal woman, but he could see now the emptiness, the hole of despair in her.
And so it was he swept behind her, pinning her arms. And with a forceful movement he knocked her against the wall. She crumpled unconscious.
And he knelt beside her, and touched a strand of hair matted wet against her cheek. He felt a sob shake him, and he laughed through it bitterly. And his voice faltered, barely intelligible, and broke through the pain in his jaw as he whispered.
"Not today, pet."
She woke up, the cold in her fingers, her cheek pressed against something rough. Floorboards. Her arm was asleep from where she had pinned it with the weight of her body. She turned onto her back. The grey boards above her, and the porch light. She was home, just outside her door.
As she sat up, she flinched. Stiffness filled her body, and a number of forbidding pains. It was cold. The leather duster fell from her chest, where it had covered her. The stake that had been placed beneath her hands clattered to the ground.
And she gathered the mass of tired leather in her arms, gingerly pulling it against her as she falteringly stood, and found her way through the door, and into the warm and silent space beyond it.