Grace Robbins (age 13), Stratford College, Rathgar, Dublin
The wind is relentless, a mean fierce thing that pulls at my skirts, pulling them up to show my petticoats. I don’t care. My hair flies in all directions as if it’s trying to pull free. I peer over the edge of the cliff down to the ravenous waves below, crashing against the rocks as if they hope the rocks were going to give way. I consider jumping, it won’t hurt me, oh no, not me. I am indestructible. I wonder whether Mother would be upset and then I remember that she is dead, long dead. I peer over the edge again and smile, I am going do this in memory of her.
I jump, pirouetting gracefully, then changing and curling into a ball before stretching my arms out to welcome the water. It’s cold, unforgiving and menacing, quite like myself, I’ve been told. I laugh underwater and an explosion of bubbles clouds my vision for a minute, I look at them in wonder.
A dull grey fish swims past staring at me all the while. I stare back. I turn my head and get a face full of shimmering brown hair for my efforts, I raise my hand to clear my vision only to see more empty space. I shudder, though not from the cold, the intense nothingness is intimidating. I push myself up to the surface and take an unnecessary breath of air. I look up to see the jagged, sharp cliff face stretching up above me.
The walk back through the town along the cliff edge is pleasant, the air smells like lavender and roses even though it is mid autumn. I have been careful to hide my wet hair inside my bonnet.
As soon as I am home I go straight up to my room, there I undress. I look in the mirror. Let me tell you now what I look like as I am sure we will get to know each other well. I do not think of myself as beautiful but others seem to. I have topaz eyes and people tell me they look like melted caramel.
I sit down at my writing desk and begin reading a letter from one of my many admirers. Oh well, I say to myself, at least most of them are good looking. You might be wondering where all this tolerance comes from, well, I have experience in this department. It’s not the men’s fault that their hearts are now mine, I have an unfair advantage, in my beauty. I have broken up many a union and I am hated in a lot of villages. I suppose I deserve it.
My temper spikes as his letter displeases me. I flounce out to the stables, I want to feel the wind on my face. I have a faster and more exhilarating way to do this but I have to blend in.
My horse is a gorgeous pitch-black stallion named Christopher who understands what I am.
It is while I am riding that I see him, the vampire hunter. He has bought the old bakery and the front is now painted a glistening blood red. Outside there hangs a poster with the words: SEEK THEM OUT, STARVE THEM, THEN END THEM!
The sight pulls me up short. I yank on Christopher’s reins and we stop. I get down to examine the offending shop more closely. There is a table outside strewn with dream-catchers and other ridiculous superstitious nonsense. The table cloth is midnight blue and disturbingly printed with fangs. I can’t see inside, which surprises me given my somewhat enhanced senses and abilities.
A good-looking man comes out and asks if he can help me in any way. I consider whether to speak and give him a clue or simply shake my head and leave him, hopefully, none the wiser – though my pale skin and beauty might well give me away. I decide to speak. Who are they, I think, to challenge me? I could take them without even blinking.
“No, kind sir, I was merely intrigued by your shopfront.” My voice rings out soft and heavenly. I see the shock cross his face and his eyes widen. He composes himself:
“Very good! And yes, not many people are interested in this practice or believe in it at all! Well, Miss, take care,” he says, smiling a wide, hopeful smile.
“Thank you, Sir,” I say, looking down.
“I hope to talk to you again, Miss . . . what is your name?”
“Evangeline, Sir,” I say, pretending to be shy, always pretending. His eyes widen again, but not in surprise, in polite interest.
“Evangeline?” he repeats. “Lovely.”
I smile shyly again. And I hear a sharp intake of breath. It seems a little fake to me. But maybe I’m imagining things.
“Goodbye, Mr . . .” I trail off, trying to be subtle.
“James,” he says, “just James.”
“Well, then, goodbye, James,” I say. I smile again when I hear his heart beat twice as fast when I pronounce his name carefully. Though, to my ears, this also seems a little fake.
I turn back to Christopher, who has been waiting good-naturedly, and climb into the saddle. I whisper to him and he gallops off. I turn back just in time to see James wave. I smile and wave back.
Only when I’m back in the safety of my garden do I let my anxiety and anger show. Anger: How dare they? It couldn’t be just the simpleton, James, operating the whole monstrous thing.
No, there had to be someone with more, well, brains behind it. Or was James just playing dumb. ARGH!! I have lived in this cloudy but cheerful town for . . . a while and then this little insignificant TOAD! comes along and thinks he can change how the town works and drive me out of my home! Well, he has another think coming.
Then the anxiety takes over: But what if he finds out and tells everyone? I can’t be caught, it just can’t happen. I have worked to get respect and a good position in this undeserving town and it is all going to be taken away by stupid VAMPIRE HUNTERS!
No, I promise myself, they can’t know anything! I mean they can’t . . . they don’t . . . do they?
I decide to spend some time with my unsuspecting human friends.
I don’t befriend poor people if I can help it, so all my friends live in big country houses with stables and servants.
I call over to Victoria to gossip and pry. I have been careful in choosing my friends. Victoria provides information and gossip. Jemima has good looks. I find that it is always nice to have someone pretty around, besides myself.
I meet Victoria in her garden and we walk while we gossip.
“I met the most curious person this morning on my ride,” I say, to spark her interest because once Victoria gets going there’s no stopping her.
“Oh, who was that? Not James I hope.”
“Well actually his name was James. But how do you know about him?”
“I do go out sometimes you know!” she laughs. “I was walking down to the village to take some exercise when I saw James. He stopped when I was walking past and we had a boring, on my side, flirty, on his side, conversation and he showed me around his shop.”
I look at her, interested now.
“It was so strange, Evangeline. You would have frowned and frowned if you’d been there. It was all dark and mysterious and there were black cobwebs hanging from the corners, crystal balls, wooden spikes, crossbows and loads of little wooden crosses. He told me that he’d already met one suspect and I asked him who it was and he said it was a beautiful girl called Evangeline.”
She bursts out laughing, an incredulous expression on her face. I stand frozen, unmoving and terrified. So he had just been playing dumb. I knew it. I have to leave. Yes, I have to go. Or else he will tell everyone. I am furious. But I am also the calmest I have ever been.
I am vaguely aware of Victoria shouting my name but I turn and stride away to find Christopher. Once home I begin packing. I might as well tell you, though you may have figured it out.
I am a vampire.