Author's Note: A very old story of mine, probably my first vampire story. Generally, it's about an ancient, and somewhat insane, vampire who mistakes Deirdra for a lost love. Feeling sorry for him, Deirdra takes him on for the Christmas holiday, but gets more than she bargined for.
Deirdra paused at another store window, trying to act as casual as she thought possible as she peered through the frosted glass to the classy merchandise on the other side. Pulling her scarf tighter around her neck consciously, she chanced a glance back the way she had come, her dark eyes searching the masses wildly before she slowly turned back to the window.
Needlessly to say, the strange man that had been following her was still there, leaning against the wall several streetlights away, half-hidden by shadow and the bustling throng of late Christmas shoppers. Not for the first time since she had discovered him following her, she shuddered, and not from the cold. He had been stalking her since she had left the small mall on foot, now several blocks away, always keeping at a small distance, as if uncertain on whether or not to come any closer. She figured he was biding his time, waiting until a crowd no longer surrounded her and she was alone. The thought froze her more than the chilled, snowy air. Swallowing to relieve the painful dryness in her throat, Deirdra tightened her grip on her plastic shopping bags, turned, and quickly walked on.
Her breath came out as soft clouds of white before her face in the frigid air and she was conscious of her feet crunching on the salted sidewalks and stray ice chunks and her heart beating loudly in her ears. Nothing of the Christmas carolers and stray music notes from shops, decorated in lively décor, reached her worried mind. She had to find a way to lose him, and she had to find it soon, or else she had a feeling she was going to freeze.
She turned the nearest corner and quickly slipped into the closest shop, hurrying to the back where she quickly hid herself from anyone glancing in through the window or the door. Luckily, the shop was more than a little crowded and noisier than many she had seen. Trying to act inconspicuous, she switched all of her bags to one hand and used the other hand to finger a nearby ornament, trying to shrink into the people that pushed around her on their way to the cash register.
Putting down the ornament, she moved to the next one, glancing at the door and window to the cloudy word outside. She continued browsing through the shop for the next half hour, and all the while, the crowd slowly began to drift away, their shopping done and their minds focused on spending what was left of the Christmas Eve with their families at home. When only half the original people were left, she put down the last of the ornaments she got and silently slipped out, trying to avoid the curious and suspicious look of the cashier. Pulling her hood up to cover her face, mainly because she wanted to hide her face, but also because it had started to snow, she started back down the street, doubling back the way she had come several times and keeping to what remained of the big crowds.
Several times she paused to look around at the darkened street and sidewalks, anxiously searching for the stranger. But it seemed he had disappeared.
Relieved, she trekked home to her apartment through the thickening snow, keeping an eye on the sidewalks and the shadows around her for any sign that he was still following. But the stranger was no where to be seen.
Two and a half hours after she had left, she trudged up the stairs to her apartment on the second floor, cold, tired, and still nervously glancing around. The apartment building in general was quite well kept for being so old. It was near the heart of the small city, an hour or so drive outside of New York City. Considerably smaller and nicer in quality compared to that of the many apartments she had considered on her visits to the larger city of New York, the price for a room was fair, and the quality of the rooms was decent. Or at least decent enough that she had almost immediately chosen it as her temporary residence while pursuing a career as a chef and assistant manager in one of the many hotels scattered throughout New York City.
But despite the fact that the apartment building took up residence in was both reasonable and orderly; she had liked the town as well. The occupants were friendly and her neighbors—or at least the ones she had met—were helpful and probably as threatening as distant relatives were. The landlord and lady were kind as well; a tender old couple that had welcomed her with open arms and had strewn the entrance way and all the doors with festive decorations for the holiday season. As she rummaged around for her key, she considered visiting them the next day, having heard that the arrival of the majority of their family was delayed and possibly wouldn't arrive until late Christmas day, due to the heavy snowstorm that was predicted to be settling in that night. With a glance out the window at the end of the hall, Deirdra had a feeling it had already arrived.
Finally finding her key in her coat pocket, Deirdra quickly let herself in and flicked on the main light. The lamp on the entrance table was on as well, but since she could not seem to remember turning it on, she merely shook her head, turned it off, and thought nothing of it as she glanced around the room, surprisingly more neat and cleaner than she had left it. But, remembering how the landlady, Mrs. Creamer was, and how she had often come to clean her room while she was out, she just smiled and became more determined to visit them the next morning. No one, especially a nice old couple like the Creamers, needed to be alone on Christmas.
The apartment was well furnished and comfortable, having the feel of a true home. The former tenant had had the walls reinforced in some places with a reddish wood, and the rest painted a pale, off white. The furniture she had chosen were all dark colors, blending in with the deep blue carpet yet standing out against the walls and stucco ceiling, balancing out the colors between light and dark. All in all, she was happy with it, and she knew her parents would be too when she showed them the tape she had taken of her apartment when she visited them the next day.
Making a mental note to clean the mud and wetness she had absently tracked in on the tiled surface of the entrance way, she deposited her wrapped purchases on the entrance table, quickly stripped off her outdoor winter clothing, and padded into the kitchen, tossing them on the couch. As she warmed up some water for hot chocolate, she glanced out the darkened window to the outside world where the snowfall was steady and heavy, and the thoughts of the stranger that had been stalking her returned.
Suddenly shuddering in the warmth of her heavy sweater and the warm room, Deirdra rubbed her arms nervously, almost tempted to glance around and search every room. But the memory of where she was and the sight and feel of her comfortable surroundings dimmed part of her anxiety, and she merely settled on locking her door and windows tightly and pulling the curtains shut.
After making her drink, she settled in on the couch, turning on the television and stopping on the first Christmas-like show she found. The clock ticked away closer to Christmas day, and the thoughts of her stalker faded until they disappeared. The show finished sometime around ten-thirty, and Deirdra realized how tired she was. Remembering the long drive she had to her parents' house the next day, and how the highway would more or less be slick and dangerous, she switched off the television, washed her cup, and got ready for bed.
While Deirdra was washing her face, she had a vague feeling she was being watched. The now-familiar feeling of dread returning, she quickly dried her face, straightened, and slipped into her room, trying to act as normal. Her heart was racing now as she glanced furtively around her apartment as she made her way to her bedside night table.
She thought of the lamp, mysteriously left on when she knew she had not turned it on before she had left. She remembered the mud and the water that had been all over the tiled floor when she had taken her shoes off almost the moment she had stepped in and of the neat organization of her apartment upon coming home. She had merely thought that Mrs. Creamer was responsible for it, but now she had a feeling that that was not entirely the case.
Shakily, she opened the top drawer of her nightstand, her gaze falling immediately on the small pistol and dagger hidden in the back beneath assorted clothing and papers. The pistol her father had given to her, saying he hardly ever used it now that he no longer worked on field cases for the police. The dagger she had gotten from her brother for a birthday present. Beautifully handcrafted and as sharp as the edge of a piece of broken glass, it was a formidable weapon, and would not make as much noise as the pistol. But the pistol could be fired at a farther range.
Her brow furrowed, she glanced over her shoulder, and quickly grabbed both, clutching the dagger in one hand, and the pistol in another. Taking a deep breath, she loaded the small gun, taking every safety precaution her father had taught her, and slowly got up, her senses alert and ready, both from training and from fear.
She searched her bedroom, the closet, the bathroom, and moved into the main room, nervously searching every place someone could hide, but nothing turned up.
Finally, after finishing a thorough search of her entire apartment that lasted almost an hour, she nervously retreated to her bedroom, flicking on every light there was and sitting on her bed silently, still glancing around. It was nearing midnight and she was tired and soaked in cold sweat. She was praying that her instincts had deceived her, that everything that she had noticed out of place truly was nothing but Mrs. Creamer's cleaning spree…
"Do not be afraid love," a soft voice murmured uncomfortably close behind her.
Immediately, Deirdra froze, her breath caught in her throat. Gloved hands reached out from behind and gently closed over hers, taking the dagger and pistol from her terrified grasp. She heard them drop to the floor. All her training and courage seemed to have been drained, her will power weakened to a point where all she could do was stand there, barely able to breathe.
"Who-who are you? What do you want?" she said shakily when she had found her voice, the words coming out a hoarse whisper.
The words that answered her were not what she expected. "Do you not remember me love?" the voice whispered into her ear, almost sounding hurt. "It is I, Shields. Remember?"
The gloved hands touched her arms tenderly and she resisted a shudder.
"No, I don't," she said, her voice coming out in a shaky hiss as she regained what free will she could. "Stop touching me or I'll scream."
This time, the hurt in the man's voice was almost painful to hear. "But love, it is only I, your Shields. Why do you not remember me?" The voice paused, only to continue before she could answer. "Oh, I understand; it has been so long since we were together. But oh, love, it has been torture this past century being away from your arms. I have searched the world over for you, ever since my changing. Oh love; please do not despise me now for the creature I am. I had no choice; it was part of the deal to save your life. I wish I could have seen you once more before my Master forced me to leave. The villagers found out what we were before I could say good bye. I tried so hard to get back to you…"
"Stop it," Deirdra finally hissed. Whoever this man was, it was obvious he was insane. But so were all the sick and dangerous monsters that stalked women. Either that, or he truly believed she was someone he had loved. However, she was willing to put money more on the former reason.
Much to her surprise, the man immediately fell silent, as if wanting to hear what she had to say. She was sorry to disappoint him, but what she did have to say, probably was not what he wanted to hear.
"I don't know who you are," she said fiercely. "I'm not who you think I am. I don't have a boyfriend named Shields, and I never had. I didn't even know Shields was a name."
"But love…" he said, his hand resting on her shoulder.
Deirdra reacted quickly then. She flung his hand away, swinging her clenched fist in a punch to his face, followed by a roundhouse kick that left him flat on his back on the floor.
Not bothering to waste the time to glance back, she raced through the hallway and into the main room, deciding to try and make a run for it and wake up her neighbors than trying the phone in her apartment. Her shaking hands scrambled on the locks frantically for what seemed like eternity before they both gave. Her cold hands quickly groped for the doorknob, but another hand had beaten her there first.
With a scream she whipped around, hand clenched again with the intent of knocking him flat, but another hand caught her blow, fingers closing tightly over her wrist and pinning it to her side. She tried to slap him with her other hand, but again he stopped her, holding both her arms to her side in a grip so tight it hurt.
For the first time she got a good look at the man's face. He seemed to be just as old as she, with dark brown hair that was long enough to be tied in a ponytail, and pale green eyes, filled with desperation that almost startled her. His skin—what was not covered with the heavy black clothing—was a pale white; almost so pale he looked like a ghost. But the thing that caught her attention the most was his expression. He seemed to be terrified and heartbroken as his eyes swept over her face, focusing finally on her own eyes and peering into them with such a longing that she couldn't help but stop struggling against his grasp. There was pain there, pain and a suffering that she had never seen before.
He looked at her for a long time, and then his eyes dropped and he let her go, stepping back, his shoulders sagging. "Your eyes…they are not the same…"
She looked at him curiously, stunned, and almost about to speak when someone knocked worriedly on the door behind her.
"Deirdra? Deirdra, are you all right?"
Relieved, she glanced at the man and hurriedly flung the door open, immediately greeted by the worried face of her next door neighbor Jack Truman.
"Jack…" she breathed.
Her friend caught sight of the man, Shields, behind her and quickly pulled her out behind him, stepping in between them. Shields seemed to be lost and the pain and agony on his face was almost heartbreaking for her to see.
"Deirdra, is this man bothering you?" Jack asked quietly.
Deirdra glanced at Jack, then turned to stare at Shields, who looked up at her in return, his eyes filled with anguish and broken hopes. It was his eyes that made her decision then. Perhaps Shields was insane, but he was obviously lonely. Her mother was a caseworker, often dealing with people like him, and she had learned to sometimes pity them. Usually they were just people who had been left by those they loved, and sometimes mistaken others for those they had lost. Perhaps her mother could help this man…
"No, not anymore," Deirdra said softly. "He just…took my by surprise, that's all."
Jack glanced at her carefully, almost as if not trusting her words.
"Are you sure…"
Deirdra blinked and smiled up at Jack, pushing a stray strand of auburn hair from her face. "Oh yes, I'm quite fine. Sorry to startle you so. Shields is an old friend that I haven't seen for a long time, and I hardly recognized him. Since I was out so long, he decided to wait for me inside, and, well, he kind of accidentally fell asleep…well, anyway, he was one of my mother's cases."
Realization suddenly clicked in Jack's eyes. Deirdra knew that Jack knew what kind of people her mother worked with. With a yawn, he finally relaxed enough to simply nod and turn to leave, "All right then. If you just need anything, we're just next door."
"Don't worry, I'll call if I need anything," Deirdra called after him. "Tell your wife and kids Merry Christmas for me."
Jack grinned sleepily at her as he disappeared into his apartment.
"Jack dear, what was wrong?" she heard Jack's wife, Marie, question worriedly.
"Oh nothing sweetheart, just one of her mother's cases…"
The door closed.
The grin falling quickly off her face, Deirdra hastily backed into her apartment and swung her own apartment door close. She slid the locks into place, then hesitantly turned to face Shields.
He was silently staring at her, a mournful grimace on his face. "You are not her, are you?"
Deirdra blinked and studied him silently. Situations like this needed to be taken slowly and handled with tender care. She did not want to hurt his feelings; or else he might end up on the top of a building, contemplating on how it would feel to hit the concrete twenty stories down.
She forced a sweet smile and touched his shoulder. "I'm not sure who you think I am, but I don't think we've met. My name is Deirdra."
He blinked, the expression on his face brightening. "Deirdra?" He reached a hand out to grasp her shoulder tightly. "Deirdra…love…it is you…"
Deirdra had to resist pulling away from him. What were the chances that his lost love had the same name she had? Probably next to nothing, she thought doubtfully. Yet here he was, looking at her with the same longing as before, calling her by her name as if he had known her for years.
She stopped his hand as he reached up to touch her face. "Shields," she said gently; the way he was looking at her made her more uncomfortable each moment. "I'm not your love Shields. Perhaps you are confused…"
"No!" he said, so fiercely that she almost jumped. "It must be you, I have been searching for so long. It must be you…it has to be…"
"Shields," she said again, this time more forcefully. He stopped and stared at her, his eyes mirroring a desperate hope. "You have to calm down Shields. Just think about it for a while. Don't say anything," she added quickly when he made to reply. He hesitated, then closed his mouth and continued to stare silently. "You need to relax. It's the middle of the night anyway. Perhaps you just need to rest. We can talk about this tomorrow morning, okay?"
Again he stared at her for the longest time, searching her eyes and her expression in a desperate attempt to find the face of his lost sweetheart. Deirdra forced herself to remain still, to keep her look kind and open. If he thought she was not sincere enough, then he would not trust her, and if there was one thing she had learned from her mother in dealing with people like him, trust meant everything.
Finally, he bowed his head and nodded silently. Relieved, Deirdra gently took him by the arm and led him to the couch.
"You'll be comfortable on the couch," she said insistently. "I have to drive to my parents' house tomorrow morning." She hesitated. "Maybe you should come along. Do you have any family, any where to go for Christmas?"
She glanced back at him as he shook his head slowly. Deirdra sighed slightly and frowned. No wonder he was acting the way he was. No doubt his love had probably been the last of those he loved that he had lost, which was probably why he was so obsessed with her. But then what had he meant by not wanting her to hate him for the creature he was? What was the deal that he had been forced to be a part of to save her life?
Deirdra shook her head slightly, trying to erase the thoughts. It was too late at night and her mind was not thinking straight. Perhaps tomorrow she would reconsider the questions. But right now, she had to deal with the matter at hand.
"Where do you live? Anywhere near here?" she asked as she set him on the couch, trying to spark some kind of conversation to keep him talking long enough to forget what had brought him there.
"I don't have a home," he said flatly.
Blinking in surprise, she pulled some spare blankets and a pillow out of the closet by the entranceway and lugged them back, dropping them mindfully next to him.
"You don't have a home? Well, then wear do you live? Where do you sleep?"
He shrugged indifferently. "Wherever I can."
It was her turn to stare. "How do you survive? Don't you own anything?"
"I take what people give me," he said softly, waving a hand carelessly at a small, worn bag in the corner that she had failed to notice before. "That is all I have. That, and what I am wearing now."
Deirdra was almost unnerved at the sudden change in Shields' personality. The longing and heartache that had been in his voice merely moments before was now replaced by a dull tone that made it seem almost as if he had lost whatever drove him to live. It was like he had become a different person.
"Do you have any friends?"
"Do you know anyone around here?"
"Do you know anyone?"
She frowned; this situation was getting stranger by the second, and her terror and mistrust of him was fading more and more into pity and an aching desire to help him in some way. It was Christmas after all, and he was completely alone, with no where to go and nothing to do. The thought of seeing him bundled up, alone and freezing, somewhere in the middle of the snowed-in city was not a very pleasant thought.
"I offered before," she started slowly after a few moments of silence passed. "But would you like to come with me to my parents' house? I'm sure they won't mind having another guest for Christmas dinner, and I don't think I would be able to stand leaving you alone, especially on Christmas Day."
Shields was silent for a while, staring blankly at the floor, his face expressionless. Patiently, she waited for any sign that he had heard her, wondering what she would do if he said no. Like she had admitted to him, she probably would not have the heart to abandon him at some homeless shelter. She had no idea why, but she felt determined to make it so he enjoyed Christmas, so he was not alone. Perhaps it was because he had mistaken her for someone he had loved dearly, or perhaps it was just her natural sense of wanting to help her fellow men. But whatever it was, it was something she felt she would not be able to ignore.
After like seemed like hours, the man finally looked up at her, the sorrow in his eyes returning, but more of an echo of what she had seen before. "I-I would like that," he said softly. "I would like that a lot."
Almost relieved, Deirdra smiled at him and tucked the same stray piece of hair as before behind her ear. "Great," she said, trying to decide on whether she meant it or not. "Well then, we should probably get some sleep; it's a long drive."