This chapter is non-explicit
"Though the squally east-wind keenly
Blew, with folded arms serenely
By the water stood the queenly
Lady of Shalott."
The Lady of Shalott ~Tennyson
Willie was standing under the broad overhang of a doorway on the main street of Collinsport, Maine. The business was a cigar shop, and the sign in the door said "Closed, back tomorrow at 8:00 am." The full-bodied aroma of the cigars and pipe tobacco seeping from within was a pleasingly complex mingling of smoky and sweet. Willie looked up. The sky was heavily overcast, with an imminent promise of more snow. The streets and sidewalks themselves were piled with snow, the roofs and windowsills of the shops still layered with the whitest snow, their windows reflecting white in the still air, their reflections touched by the puffs of hot air rising from the automobiles driving slowly past, their tires hushed and squeaking as they lazily compacted the fresh layers of snow.
Willie was aware of the people walking by, to those nearby a nod and a greeting in turn, to all an interest in the cares of the day turning to the promise of the evening on their faces.
Willie had borrowed Barnabas' cloak, something he had never thought of before, and yet, here he had done so without asking, and without regret. He felt in the heavy cloak some insulation from the world of humans, which he barely occupied, almost as a foreigner. He was watching a little part of their world, seeing it through his Barnabas' eyes, asking himself what it would mean to him when he became like his lover.
Willie recognized someone he knew on the sidewalk opposite, the proprietor of a shop he frequented. The man did not notice him, and Willie studied him for those few moments, noticing what was the same, and what was different about the man when he was walking away from his shop, walking steadily towards home.
The man was near the end of the block when he greeted someone familiar, the woman he remembered from when Barnabas had brought him to the town, feeding with Willie's face so close to his own. She stood out in her fine clothes, her fur coat an elegant puff of thick warmth shaped about her, her shin high boots showing from beneath. She wore leather gloves and a fashionable hat, her makeup perfect, her red lips sharply outlined on her fair skin.
As Willie followed her progress, he pictured her near to him, her mouth open slightly, picturing her teeth, the quick flash of her silent tongue as she moistened her lips against the astringent winter air. He imagined them standing together, a stillness against the world moving around them. He embraced her in his mind, falling into her, his face deep in a fluff of fir and fragrant hair, her breath changing, rising around them. He was whispering in her ear as she stood with her eyes closed, caught in a trance of receiving the touch which melted her loneliness, reminding her of pleasure, there once was pleasure...
She was across from him then, walking away, the so slight hint of weight in her step, the weight of a life unsought and based upon lies, the lies of money and status that bound her.
She was gone, and he pictured her near instead, standing before him in his little room as he opened her coat, slipping the weight off of her with her fine clothes, her tight undergarments and shoes, her skin slightly dull as the truth of her existence. When he imagined her standing naked for him on bare feet, she seemed to awaken, her eyes becoming light, her breathing deeper as she took in the fragrance of life and freedom. Willie pictured her waiting, caught up by him so subtly as he took her head in his hands, his thumbs brushing her cheeks, her eyes closing with pleasure as he was tipping her head back, their lips meeting in a silent exchange of warmth and greeting.
His breath was a whisper escaping lips that pulled slightly as they so slowly parted, like a tender word released into the close space of his room. And he wondered, how would she answer this communication of honesty and sweetness?
My love? He heard inside, his toes curling with pleasure in his boots.
My love, Willie answered, opening his mind to his lover.
You are in the town, wearing my cloak? Where are your manners. And you are fantasizing about a woman.
I am, Willie answered. The wealthy lady with the fine clothes. She walked past me, but she is gone now.
For the first time in months, Barnabas had in that moment the strong desire to reveal the secret to Willie, thinking of it... while they were connected inside.
Steady! He stopped himself. Did he find it in my mind? I cannot hold out much longer.
Willie registered that Barnabas had withdrawn from him, and was curious why.
My love? He said inside.
I am here, Barnabas answered, relieved that Willie's tone was casual. He was intrigued by Willie's tone, so calm and distant. My Willie. You are there, looking at the world.
I am, Willie answered. He could feel Barnabas withdrawing slightly, giving him his privacy.
When you have finished with the world, will you come back to me? Willie could see revealed in his mind's eye, Barnabas standing alone on the back steps, smoking and looking with a distant gaze towards the town, towards him.
I am not finished yet. Willie knew Barnabas would not quite know what he meant.
I will wait for you, my love, my love... I am so hungry for you.
Willie's toes were curling again as his focus returned to his surroundings.
Willie had turned sideways in the alcove, and he turned again towards the street. He saw her car approaching, stopping opposite him, waiting for traffic to move again.
Time slowed down. He could see her face through the back seat window. Her head turned, and when their eyes found each other, she did not look away. The car was moving then. Willie saw her hand reaching to the front seat as she passed out of view, and pictured her leaning forward to say something to the driver.
The car pulled to the curb. Willie stepped out onto the sidewalk, then leaned down slightly to see her sitting back in her seat, relaxed, with her chin down slightly, not looking at him. He realized then that her chauffeur had walked around the car, and was opening the door for him. Her elegant movements captivated Willie as she moved to the other side of the car, then looked towards him as he slid in beside her. The chauffeur closed the door with a gentle click. He did not return to the car.
The car was very warm. She had removed her fur coat; her suit of fine wool was slate blue, with satin accents at her cuffs and breast pocket. Her hat and gloves were grey, and matched her eyes. Her ash blonde hair stopped below her single pearl earrings, and was straight with a generous curl at the ends. She reminded Willie of a starlet from the 1940s.
"What is your name?" she asked.
"My name is Willie Loomis." He noticed her fine leather boots had tiny floral cutouts that reminded him of forget-me-nots.
"Hello Willie Loomis, I am Isabelle, Isabelle Lachance." Willie recognized this name from some of the gravestones he had seen in the old cemetery, ages ago it seemed. She offered her hand, and Willie thought for a moment she had read his mind, something he was so accustomed to with Barnabas. Her gloved hand was very soft in his as she let him move her hand in greeting.
"I am here from Bangor, attending to yet another family matter." Her voice was endearing in a gentle sarcasm, a moment of humor that was very dry. She had turned her head, looking out of the car window for a moment, and Willie loved the light on her fine skin. She turned back to him, her gray eyes suddenly so close to his. "Do you live here in Collinsport? "
"I live at Collinwood," Willie said. "I am a servant to Barnabas Collins." He did not mention The Old House. Willie expected her to change her intentions once she found out that he was a servant, but he noticed no discernible difference, except that she looked at him a little closer.
"The intriguing man from England," she said. "A friend has had the pleasure. She wondered why he didn't have an English accent."
"His schooling was at _____________," Willie remembered the name Barnabas had prepared him with of a boarding school in London with curriculum exclusively for American students.
She was smiling. Willie saw his answer register in her gaze, but there was something else. She looked down and began removing her gloves.
Willie was relieved when she didn't pursue it further. He became silent, waiting for her. What was her intention?
"I discovered something in you, in your gaze," she smiled. "Tell me why you looked at me that way." She produced a cigarette, and offered one to Willie, who did not take one.
"You seem lonely." Willie found that he was not hiding himself from her, the way he did not hide his true nature from Barnabas.
"Yes, I am quite..." she said. She was enjoying the cigarette and the car was soon filled with a sinewy haze. "I saw an opportunity for a few happy words in your gaze," she said. Her gray eyes were impossibly kind when the sadness slipped away.
"You are beautiful, and you deserve more, you deserve freedom," Willie said. Willie was moved by the way her slack hand folded slightly with feeling, closing with her gloves like a flower. "Isn't there a way for you to be free?"
She looked at him without speaking. Willie waited, but did not press her further.
"You see, I knew I could share a few words with you, Willie Loomis." Willie was reminded of the way Barnabas often called him by his full name. Her manner changed, her head tilting slightly. "I know what you are," she said. "I know." Willie was surprised by her words, and equally surprised that her words caused him no concern.
This was why she stopped when our eyes met. She knows who I am.
She was still looking at Willie, and he loved her eyes, liquid and languid, brightened by her knowing smile. "Your secret is safe with me. I once loved someone who... as you do."
"But you are human," Willie felt how much he enjoyed speaking with someone who understood what that meant.
"I lost him. He left me before I was made," she said, her sadness palpable in her breath, in her body, in the liquid swirl of her eyes. Willie understood then the true source of her sadness. He thought of how unbearable it would be to somehow lose his Barnabas, alone and greatly changed by him without his moment to be claimed by him forever. Willie had sometimes sensed a similar sadness in Barnabas, and had guessed that Barnabas somehow lost his maker after the change, a closely held source of unresolved grief in him.
"You could find love again," Willie was earnest. He knew her now. He remembered his attraction to her, picking her out amongst the others he saw in the town. We are kindred spirits.
"You are so thoughtful and kind," she said. "And you don't realize it yet, but you have already begun to change."
He knew she was right, though he wasn't sure how.
"I didn't think I would ever meet another... like me." She was putting out her cigarette. "I thought Barnabas was the only vampire I would ever know of." It was hard for Willie to say this word with someone other than Barnabas.
"We... they are rare. I do think they manage to avoid each other." She laughed. "Perhaps all of them prefer the company of humans, however briefly." She laughed again, leaning back a little with an expression of sudden mirth. Then she was serious again, her light words barely covering the intensity of their full meaning. "How exquisite it is for them when they find one to make like themselves."
She was silent then. Willie was aware that his time with her was short. "Will I ever see you again?"
She was happy again; his words had touched her. "That will be up to you. Soon you will be like him, and you will think of me as the last to know you when you were still human. You will think of me that way long after I am gone." Somehow he knew they would never see each other again. He pictured himself finding her marker in a cemetery in Bangor, leaving her fragrant flowers, remembering her.
Willie was aware that the driver side door had opened and cold air was slipping into the car with the returning chauffeur. She held him with her eyes as the driver pulled his door shut, as the air in the car pushed sharply inside their ears, shifting the private space between them, sealing for a few more moments their little pocket of intimacy against the cold world beyond.
"Remember me, Willie," she said, holding out her hand. Willie squeezed her hand with affection as she grasped his hand lightly, shaking it just so with obvious feeling. He felt it in her hand, her body becoming just slightly more liquid, like her eyes.
"I remember you, Isabelle," he brought her hand to his lips, her eyes a sudden mist as they were anchored to each other in time, returning her hand before he let her go, watching her drift away with the moment. He slid towards the door, stepping out into the new fall of snow. As he turned to shut the door, the car jolted slightly and was moving away. He watched it as it made its way down the street, the outline of her hat just visible in the small privacy window in the back.
Farewell... he thought, looking around at her world, turning towards home.
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