Chapter One – Dust To Dust
It had been a bad idea from the start. If Stassy hadn't known that to begin with then she definitely knew it now. It had sounded like such a nice place, so cosy, so welcoming, and family orientated too. That had been the clincher for her. But it had been a lie. Grabbing her car keys and slipping on a hoodie she left her room on the fourth floor of Morrigon Manor. Creeping into the hallway, she closed the door quietly behind her taking care not to wake Margot, the girl she shared with. All she had to do now was go and pick up Felix from his room and then she could get out of there.
Yeah right, she scoffed silently, edging her way along the dark corridor with her fingertips brushing against the walls. That's going to be so easy, of course.
But the truth was that nothing was easy anymore. Once upon a time it had been. Before Felix…. before Benny. Stassy pushed the thought of Benny away, quickly. It was too painful. Too painful to remember all the lies. Too painful to remember how she'd lost him. And beneath those layers of pain was another one she hated to acknowledge. A twisted pain laced with anger, and resentment, and unwanted love. There was no time for dwelling on any of that though. They had to get out of there quickly.
The thick, soft carpets swallowed the sound of her footsteps as she hurried down the staircase and into the Richard Desborough wing. When she and Felix had first arrived at the manor Stassy had felt sick when they told her that she and Felix would have to live at opposite ends of the manor.
"But he's my son," she had protested. "He's only two years old, he can't live without his mother!"
"Don't worry dear," Dr Brown had soothed. "There are plenty of nurses who will take care of him. They know everything there is to know about caring for children like him."
Children like him, she had thought. A mother like me. Stassy knew that there were many people who thought that she and her son didn't belong together, but she had been led to believe that the manor wasn't like that. Alarm bells had sounded when they prised Felix out of her arms and disappeared down the long dimly lit hallway. No one had ever mentioned anything about separate living arrangements before. But she couldn't leave. She wasn't safe out there anymore.
The main reason she'd come to Morrigon Manor was because she and Felix needed protection. When she'd first met Benny she had no idea what he was, and she hadn't found out until it was too late. It wasn't until he had been killed that the truth was revealed to her.
The truth about the person she thought she loved, and the truth about what their son would become. Vampires had never been anything more than a fairytale to her before then. Now they were her life. The manor itself was run by a man just like Felix, half-vampire, half-human.
Bill Morrigon had learnt to control the vampire half of himself and had dedicated his life to helping others do the same. Bill also helped the families of victims of vampires and over the years the Institute had grown into an organisation dealing with every paranormal and supernatural problem that anyone cared to present to them.
There were rumours flying around that not everything in the Richard Desborough wing was quite as anti-vampire as it was made out to be. Kim, the sister of newly made vampire who was boarding at the manor in an attempt to learn how to control his bloodlust, told Stassy that she had seen young toddlers being bottle-fed blood in the nurseries.
Stassy knew that some of the younger children who had already "gotten into the habit" as Bill so delicately put it, had to be weaned off blood slowly. At first she had thought Kim had just seen some of the children who were being weaned, but her recent visits with Felix were telling her a different story.
When he first cut teeth, Felix was always trying to nip at Stassy's wrist and once or twice he had succeeded in drawing blood. But once Stassy knew the truth about what her son was, she became very strict with him when he tried. Felix hadn't done it in almost a year. But recently his fascination with wrist biting had resurfaced. Also, his appetite had diminished. Ice cream didn't appeal to him anymore, and he just turned his nose up at juice and milk.
He was quicker too, more agile. There was a sharpness in his eyes that hadn't been there before, the same cool alertness that Benny had.
As the image of Benny's eyes came to mind, Stassy stopped, slumping against a wall. Her mother had always told her love could be complicated, but Stassy didn't think even she had realized just how complicated it could become. Stassy and Benny were just fifteen years old when they met.
Everyone warned her about him. They all told her to stay away. But how can you stay away from someone that you know you're meant to be with, she wondered. Stassy sighed, remembering. The first time they met he was locked out of his house, which was just around the corner from hers. The rain was bucketing down hard and showed no sign of letting up.
Benny had been stood on the patch of grass outside his front door, soaked to the skin wearing nothing more than a t-shirt and jeans. Hugging himself tightly with his big broad shoulders huddled against the wind, he had watched Stassy approaching. She couldn't see his eyes, hidden behind a mass of drenched dark hair, but she knew they'd be beautiful.
Stassy had stopped by the low white stone wall around his garden and held out her umbrella to him. "Take it," she'd said. "My house is just around the corner. If I run I won't get too wet."
Benny had frowned at her. "All you can offer me is an umbrella when you have a perfectly good house you could invite me into?"
At hearing his voice, muffled through the constant pounding of the rain, a warmth swept through Stassy right from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. And that was when she made the two biggest mistakes you can make where the walking dead are concerned. She invited a vampire into her home. But even more perilously, she invited him into her heart.
Look where that got me, she thought pushing herself off the wall and advancing towards Felix's room. A teenage mother who has a half-breed son with no father.
She was only inches away from Felix's door when the lights came alive in a sudden blaze of brightness. The accompanying squeals of sirens forced her hands up to her ears as she backed up against the wall. A door on the other side of the hallway flew open, and Mona, one of the nurses, flew out dressing gown flapping, and her hair up in rollers.
"STASSY!" Mona screeched over the deafening din. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING DOWN HERE!!!"
"I COULDN"T SLEEP!" Stassy yelled back. "I JUST WANTED TO SIT WITH FELIX FOR A WHILE!"
Mona's shrewd eyes took in the car keys Stassy was still clutching, and understanding flashed across her face.
"WE'LL TALK ABOUT THIS TOMORROW!" Mona bellowed. "YOU DON'T WANT BILL CATCHING YOU DOWN HERE!"
Stassy sighed dejectedly. With the sirens blaring, Bill would be down any second. The stupid things went off about four times every twenty four hours thanks to a bunch of local kids who thought it was funny to jump the fence and set off the intruder alert. If only the damn thing didn't create such a spectacle Stassy was sure the kids would stop doing it.
As suddenly as they had begun, the sirens ceased. The security guards were getting ever more efficient at silencing them with each 'hilarious' hoax. Mona shuffled towards Stassy, her face tired and serious. She wrapped an arm around her shoulders and began leading her back down the corridor.
"Come on my love," she urged. "You go back to bed and get some rest."
"Can't I see Felix first?" Stassy pleaded. "I might as well now I'm here."
"No," Mona replied sternly. "Better not disturb him."
"As if that racket didn't disturb him already!"
Stassy was sick and tired of being told what to do by the nurses. There was nothing she could do with Felix without running it by them first. It was as if he had become their property, or as if they had deemed her an unfit mother. Life had been tough for them before they'd moved to the manor, but at least they had been together back then. Now she had little to no control over what happened to her son.
"Go on Stassy," Mona smiled, softening slightly. "You go up to bed and I'll bring Felix up to see you first thing in the morning. How does that sound?"
"Not good enough," Stassy mumbled.
Mona's thick and heavy brow furrowed. "Listen up young lady," she began. "We are being very good to you and that little lad of yours. Letting you both stay here, full bed and board and not asking for a penny in return. We know what we're doing my dear, and you are nothing more than a child yourself, so you'd do well not to question us."
Stassy shrugged Mona's unwelcome hand off her shoulder and marched away, back towards her wing, back towards her prison away from Felix. When she finally got back Margot was sat up in bed, munching on chocolate biscuits and reading a trashy lifestyle magazine.
"Oh, hello," Margot smiled, wiping a few chocolaty crumbs off her lips. "I was wondering where you'd gotten to. Those stupid sirens woke me up and now I'm not sleepy at all. Where did you go?"
"Just for a walk," Stassy replied, placing the car keys down on her dresser and shrugging her hoodie up over her head.
"Down to Felix's room again?" Margot asked.
Stassy nodded and flung herself face first onto her bed. "They wouldn't let me see him," she sniffed. "As usual."
Margot's eyes filled with sympathy. "Oh, well I'm sure they have their reasons Stass."
Like Stassy, Margot was the mother of a half-breed. The only differences were that Margot was married to her blood-sucking beloved and their little girl still had a Daddy. He didn't live at the manor though. Fully-fledged 'active' vampires weren't allowed to. And Pierce was most definitely both fully-fledged and active.
Stassy wondered how Margot did it. How did she stay with him, knowing what he was, knowing all the things he did? Margot had been the first person to ask Stassy the question she didn't like to think about. If Benny hadn't been killed, would they still be together? Stassy wanted to say no, but she knew that wasn't true. No matter what Benny was, no matter what he did, she loved him. And she hated herself for it.
"I'm taking Charlie for a picnic tomorrow," Margot went on. "Why don't you and Felix come along?"
"I'll have to ask permission first I suppose," Stassy whispered, fighting back the tears of yet another defeat that were ready to flow. She unbuttoned her jeans, kicked them off and slid between the sheets, pulling them up to her chin.
"It's alright to cry you know Stass," Margot ventured softly. "In fact I think you should. I don't know how you cope. I really admire you."
Stassy glared at her. "Oh really? I'm nineteen years old, with a son I can't control, a common-law widow, living off charity, with no friends and a family that doesn't want to know me. Yeah, I'm what every girl aspires to be."
"No friends?" Margot asked, ignoring Stassy's sarcasm. "What do you call me?"
"A nuisance," Stassy shot back, flinging a cushion across the room at the doe-eyed blonde. "Now can you at least try to keep all that biscuit crunching to a minimum please? I need to get some sleep so I can wake up bright-eyed and ready to face another day of my wonderful life."
Margot silently threw the pillow back and watched as Stassy settled down beneath her covers. As she closed her eyes Stassy knew she wouldn't sleep, and even if she did her dreams would be filled by images of Benny and what their life together would have been like if Benny hadn't died. Or if he hadn't been undead when they'd met.
Stassy hated those dreams just as much as she loved them. After all what are the use of dreams that can never come true? Everyone knows when a vampires dust that's it, they're gone for good, she reminded herself. Benny's never coming back. Not in this life, or the next.