Elizabeth walked up the three flights of stairs leading to her unit. She was dog tired, so much so, that her bones ached with every step. The pace of work mixed with that chaos filled weekend did a lot to wear her down.
“If there was ever a way of reminding me that I am no longer twenty-one,” Elizabeth mumbled.
Once at her door, she reached into her pockets and froze. On the other side, she heard clanging, footsteps, and other unusual sounds. It was not until Clara’s humming filtered through the door that she began to calm down.
Elizabeth exhaled, pulled out her keys, and let herself in. Immediately, she was greeted by a whole slew of smells. Some were more distinct, like seared scallops, sautéed mushrooms, onions and garlic. Others were more subtle in comparison, such as the white wine, steamed fresh peas, and melted butter.
Clara was at the kitchen counter, busy cooking up a storm. She wore an apron, although Elizabeth could not fathom where that item originated from. Clara faced a myriad of pots and pans, some that bubbled while others crackled with the sounds of frying food. Each was the source of these aromas, which magically invigorated her senses.
Of course, it was the fridge that got her attention, the old one from this morning was gone. In its place was a significant upgrade. Clearly, Clara had not been idle during her absence.
“Hello,” Clara said while looking up. “Help yourself to some wine.”
“How did you—,” Elizabeth said.
“It’s a bit complicated,” Clara said. “Let’s just say that I looked into someone’s soul and found an ally.”
Clara continued to cook while Elizabeth approached the counter. The bottle was old. It even sported a wax seal that had been cast aside when opened. When she looked at the label and saw the date, her eyes bulged, and she dropped the bottle.
Before Elizabeth could gasp, Clara caught the bottle. She smirked, placed it gently on the counter and returned to her cooking.
“Nineteen-twenty-one?” Elizabeth spat out.
“That was a great year… a lot of memories,” Clara said. “That wine is almost as old as me.”
Elizabeth sat down and chuckled nervously. One moment, all hell breaks loose, and now, she comes home to find a thousand dollar bottle of wine? This was a bit much for her to take in. Still, why worry over things that were outside of her control?
She poured herself a glass until it nearly overflowed and took a sip.
“Wow! Some things do get better with age,” Elizabeth said.
“You know, when I was growing up, seafood like this marked us as being poor. Those with money and status did not come to school with seafood or, god forbid, lobster,” Clara said. “Now this was the most expensive item that I could find at the store. Well, apart from the wine.”
For a moment, Clara appeared to be daydreaming, back in a world where monsters did not exist. Elizabeth wondered how precious such memories were for those who had been through so much.
“You can sit down,” Clara said. “Supper will be ready soon enough.”
“Why are you doing this?” Elizabeth asked, unable to play along.
Clara kept on smiling while she turned over the lightly seared scallops. Clearly, she was applying the finishing touches for this meal, and it looked like it would be mouth-watering.
“You were right earlier,” Clara said. “Honestly, I was relieved that you brought it up. Still, tonight I learned that the soul could be redeemed, and that gave me hope. It also reminded me that I have much to learn.”
So far, Elizabeth had no trouble following along, but was unsure if the soul comment was literal or figurative. She assumed this had something to do with her Firecracker, and that was probably the reason they were home safe tonight.
“For now, I’ll need a place to crash, spread my wings, and find my way,” Clara added while she poured the mushrooms and scallops into a serving bowl.
“I did say you were—,” Elizabeth said.
Clara cut her off on purpose, a reversal that turned out to be enjoyable. She carried the scallops to the table, then returned to drain the potatoes.
“What we have might end up being nothing more than a fling spurred on by events outside our control,” Clara said. “It may be nothing more than our baser interests at play. So I don’t want to push that just yet. We both need to come to terms with what happened and figure out how to move forward.”
Clara had a point, although Elizabeth wondered how easy it would be to avoid those awkward moments.
“Or was that half the fun?” Elizabeth wondered.
Clara mixed in butter, spices, and milk to mash the potatoes. While preparing the dish, she looked up.
“At the very least, we need each other. I need you to help me traverse this alien land. Without you, I’ll end up getting lost,” Clara said.
“What do you think I need?” Elizabeth asked.
Clara finished mashing the potatoes before answering, “You need me to watch over you for the next little while. A task I’ll gladly take on so you can sleep soundly knowing that no one will fuck with you.”
Elizabeth cocked a brow. A small part of her had yet to realise that fear was real. Would anyone be able to sleep once they knew that vampires did, in fact, exist?
Clara dropped the potatoes at the table, followed by steamed peas. She then walked over to Elizabeth and looked up into her eyes.
“Just to be clear,” Clara said. “If you ever kiss me like that again. You’d better be prepared to go all the way. Understood?”
“Got it,” Elizabeth said with a gulp.
“Great,” Clara said with a wide smile before pulling out Elizabeth’s chair. “Time to eat! You can give me an answer when we are done.”
“You already know,” Elizabeth said while sitting down.
Clara chuckled and said, “I only hoped. Oh! Before I forget. Do you know what cryptocurrency is?”
Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!