CLOSEST TO PERFECTION

By Phantom Angel; Christina Cole

It is strange now to think that I shall never see her again. I can picture her face so clearly now in my mind. Only yesterday it seemed I held her in my arms and she wanted me.

I found my Cat when she was very young. She was born into a very wealthy family. Both her mother and her father had been bounty hunters in their day and when they'd made their fortune, they'd settled in a gorgeous house here in New Orleans. Their daughter, Catherine, had my heart from the moment I first saw her; from the moment I knew her fate, and that of her parents, I loved her.

How perfect was Catherine at the age of 16 when she took the shape of a young woman, her face perfectly sculpted like fine porcelain, and her hair the most magnificent shade of auburn falling down her back in a full, rich, thick braid that reached her waist. Her eyes, though, were the things that captured me most. They were such an unusual hue of pale blue. When she looked into my eyes, they were perfect… innocent as eyes could possibly be.

And yet, even with this creature, who was closest to perfection, they were disgusted by everything about this girl child of theirs. So badly had they wanted a boy that they seemed to try to make her one. Always was she dressed as a boy, when she could have had silken dresses and white lace for Sundays. Everything she did was wrong in her parents' eyes. And what was more, the girl realized it very quickly. When they tried to train her into their trade, she would sit through the lectures with her vivid imagination wandering, and she would complete her exercises half-heartedly.

As I watched her then, I wanted to take her under my wing, show her how it ought to be. I wanted her to see how perfect she truly was. But the timing was wrong… and timing was everything.

When that evening finally came; that night when everything would change for her, I didn't want it to happen. I didn't want to see her eyes sink like stones sinking to the bottom of a well. Somehow, I was sure I wouldn't be able to bear that lost despair in her eyes that I knew would be there. That look haunted my dreams. So I tried to stop it.

I remember that night sorrowfully well. There was no moon at all. The stars were veiled by thick clouds and the wind was howling, blowing snow into my face and chilling even me down to my bones.

I stood outside their door listening, for just a moment to the soft, quiet music cheerfully played behind it. Tonight, I knew, would be the turning point in my life and Cat's, no matter what the outcome was.

I stepped inside, almost unnoticed. Cat wasn't anywhere to be seen, which I already knew she wouldn't be. Her mother and father gaily conversed with their guests, their minds soaked soft with old wine and brandy.

The hour struck midnight. It is strange the qualities that this hour has. At midnight, things seem to change and the world seems to become a different place. At midnight, this point of darkness furthest from daylight, the world belongs to the night and its children.

As I stood there, in my black suit and that weapon that I hated so much to hold,it happened right in front of my eyes. The room grew intensely cold, and the candles' and fire's light slowly faded to nearly nothing.

As I write, I cannot describe to you the details. Everything happened so quickly that I scarcely know how it happened myself. They came through the high open windows and the next thing I knew, women were screaming and fainting on the floor, and two figures in the room were dead. I could smell the blood, but more convincing was the fact that they were meant to die this night.

Even now as I think about it, I think I might have stopped this all from happening… and yet, I knew even then that to play games with fate is a dangerous wager and to try to change the plans set out for people in their lives is catastrophic.

The creatures had come and gone in a heartbeat and no one could tell the detectives the next day exactly what had happened. The human mind is wonderful the human mind will come up with ways to explain things that, according to their logic cannot be real. Cat's parents knew about the existence of my kind, yes, but none of the others did. None of them could explain the murder they'd witnessed the night before, and so they simply told the detective that one of the guests had gotten violent in his intoxication and has taken a pair of thick, sharp, thorns and had individually pierced the jugular groove and thus the two had bled to death.

Catherine came out the next evening to begin to clean up the mess from the gala the night before. I stood there, waiting for her in the parlor when I heard her footsteps coming from the floor above. She looked at me a moment and didn't seem at all distressed that I was there. And she recognized me for what I was immediately, yet she didn't either turn away in fear, or come closer. I think, by the look in her eyes, she had been crying. Her parents hadn't cared at all whether she lived to be a woman or died. And yet she mourned their death. This touched me, as she stared at me a moment before she spoke.

"Why have you come here?" she asked me in a quiet voice, Her tone was small, and soft, as if she were unsure of herself and perhaps she was a little afraid of me, though I couldn't tell if she was.

"I have come, Catherine, to offer you the thing that you need most now. I have come to offer you my assistance and my friendship. You have lost something dear to you… and I have come to help you overcome your grief and to be prepared for your future." I wished I could have said something different; something more comforting rather than sounding like some lawyer or the like trying to sound as if they cared.

"Why would you help me?" she asked, taking a step forward, coming into the room. She was beautiful as the light fell on her face. I cannot possibly describe to you the feeling she gave me. For someone who is living to see her would have made them pity her, perhaps enough to want to help her. But to me, as I am living no longer, seeing her so grieved when she still had life ahead of her, when I knew that she would eventually forget this pain, it was pure torture. And I loved her even more as she so slowly edged closer to me. She was a child no longer and yet still so childlike in her manner that she almost convinced me of her lack of maturity.

"Because, Catherine, it is your destiny to take your parents' place. You must be trained to do what they did, as you are their heiress. I will help you find your way there…"

"Cat,' she said quickly.

"What?" I asked her.

"Cat. Call me Cat… if you please…" she added the last bit quickly as if she feared chastisement if for forgetting the first time.

"Very well, Cat. You will come with me, and I will give you the knowledge you need to get through what life will send you."

She opened her mouth as if to argue, but she didn't, "Will I need to pack?" she asked carefully.

"Yes, child," I told her, "I'm afraid we ll not be returning her for a good long time…"