The Cemetery Farewell
It was not the chilly October wind--which blew right into my half-frozen face--that bothered me the most. It was the look in his normally warm carmine eyes. Tonight, they were neither warm nor happy; it was as if someone had painted a coat of melancholy over them.
"Clayton?" We were sitting in our favorite spot in the old, forgotten cemetery. The lonely cemetery was perched on top of a barren hill--a hill that had probably once been full of life. Maybe it was our favorite spot because the stars shone the brightest there. Maybe it was because of the atmosphere of forlornness. Or maybe it was both.
He looked at me, red eyes of despondence stared into green eyes of apprehension. "Yes?" His voice was quiet, almost lost in the howling of the wind.
"Are you…okay?" Truth be told, I did not know what to ask.
He nodded and put a paper-white arm around my shoulders. I felt a shiver run through me, probably from the icy coldness of his skin against mine. "Ruth…are there times when you think about the future?"
"I rarely ever think about the future and you know that. I haven't even thought about college yet," I replied. "The future holds so many surprises that I just don't know what to expect." And then I shrugged. "Whatever happens though, I know you'll be a part of it. A part of my future." I sounded sure, definite.
He smiled a rueful smile, not at all like the mischievous smile I was used to. His perfect teeth glinted under the moonlight, fangs razor-sharp as ever. But he said nothing. To me, nothing signified an infinite stretch of possibilities, an infinite stretch of meanings.
"Clayton?" He gazed up at the black velvet sky lingering above us, at the scatter of twinkling silver stars. "Why did you want to meet up with me?" He had called me up not too long ago, saying that he needed to tell me something--something important. I figured it must be really important because it was already a little past midnight. Sneaking out of the house had proven to be easy because my parents were such heavy sleepers.
"There's something I have to tell you," he said, measuring his words, speaking slowly.
I nodded. "I'm listening."
He dropped his cold hand from my shoulder and stared at the forest below us, as if he could not bear to look at me straight in the eye. The serene forest seemed miles and miles away from where we were sitting. "To be honest, I don't know where to begin…."
"Well, what is it about?" I wanted to make this easier for him, but at the same time, my heart was slamming violently against my rib cage. I hated to say this, but there was a fear inside me that I couldn't define.
"Do you know how much trouble you're putting yourself in whenever you're with me?" he blurted out. It sounded as if he were blurting it out because his words came out blurred and distorted, despite that deep, melodious voice of his that could never be compared to any mortal's.
"What are you talking about?" I demanded.
He looked at me for a moment, his impossibly handsome face pained, then he looked away. "You know what I am talking about." Then his voice became quieter. "I am not worthy of your love, Ruth."
"Don't say that." I couldn't stop the panic rising in my voice. "Please."
"I am a vampire, Ruth. And that alone is reason enough to make me unworthy of your love." I wanted to say something, but he stopped me with a firm look etched on his striking features. "You are not aware of the trouble you're placing yourself in whenever you're with me. Even when you're not with me. Ruth, I love you. I can never stop thinking about you. It's like your face is plastered in my mind, and not a minute goes by without me thinking of you." He then added weakly, as if he were already exhausted, as if he hated himself for it, "And the worst part is, I'm not exaggerating."
I felt hot tears prickling the backs of my eyes. "I don't care, Clayton! Don't you see that? I don't care."
"You can't not care, Ruth!" His crimson eyes were blazing with such emotion that I was forced to look away. "This is about your safety, about your life."
"I don't care," I said persistently.
"Don't you realize that I could accidentally…that I could accidentally…turn you into one of us?" He seemed scared of this thought, the thought of sinking his severe, pointed teeth into my neck. He shuddered slightly. "Please understand," he begged. "I could lose control. You don't know how it feels, Ruth. Your blood…it smells so sweet. But at the same time, I love you so much. I-I could never harm you. Never. I would kill myself if I ever did." He stood up from his position on the depressingly windswept soil.
"Why are you telling me this, Clayton?" I could hear the wailing in my voice as I stood up, too. "Why?"
"I am leaving for London." Certainty was evident in his words.
I stared at him in horror, my eyes wide and disbelieving. "No," I whispered. He was not coming back, I knew it in the deepest part of my heart.
"I called you here to say goodbye." He reached up to place a stray lock of chestnut behind my ear, his ice-cold hand lingering on my jaw. His solemn gaze held mine. "I'm sorry, Ruth. I'm sorry for disturbing your peaceful life. I'm sorry for wasting your time. I'm sorry for putting everything in your life in utter disarray--"
"Stop saying sorry!" I could have yelled, but tears were already sprinting down my cheeks in quiet harmony with the beating of my heart.
"Please don't cry." Clayton wiped the tears streaming down my face with a white hand. "I'm sorry for making you cry. If you had not met me, none of this would have happened; forgive me."
In a sudden gust of emotion, I began hitting him on the chest with my angry fists. I couldn't stop, the tears kept coming, and soon, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably. He held my hands and pressed my face against his hard chest, enveloping me in an embrace. The scent of him besieged me and I didn't think I would be able to let go. "I don't care if you turn me into your kind! We could be together for the rest of eternity…." My words were interrupted by my own choking and sobbing.
"Believe me, you do not want that," he said softly, his lips on my hair. There was a firmness in his voice, as if nothing would make him change his mind anymore.
He lowered his head to meet mine and our lips collided, blending into one, molding into the love we had forged. But there was a sadness to it, in the way his marble-like lips converged with my tear-stained ones. It was a fleeting moment that I knew I had to hold on to because in a little while, it would be nothing but a memory with no proof, no evidence whatsoever. For all I knew, all this could have been a dream, to be forgotten in the morning.
He pulled away, eyes of ruby red shining in the dark. I couldn't tell if they were unshed tears because my vision had already been blurred by the tears in my own eyes that wouldn't stop pouring. His voice was silent when he said, "Ruth, I've lived for eighty-seven years, and I can say right now, under the full moon, under the countless stars, that you are the best thing that has ever happened to my life. Never forget that. I am leaving not because I want to, but because I need to. I want you to live the great life you are destined to live, I want you to be truly happy. Right now, I am standing in the way of the things I want you to have--"
"That's not true--"
He shushed me. "Whatever happens to you, never forget how much I love you." His words were carried by the wind, into the sky, into the perpetuity that spread out above us.
"I love you, too," was all I could manage, for all the things I would like to say felt like they were stuck in my throat. Tears were still cascading down my cheeks overwhelmingly and I realized that I couldn't find any words that would better suit how much I was feeling.
We stood in silence for a time, his intense gaze crashing into mine. I watched him, memorizing everything about him, every part, every facet, every detail--every point and every curve of in his face. I memorized his black coat, his black jeans, the boots he wore, the paleness of his skin, the hue of his eyes, the forlorn smile that sat on his lips, the way the breeze ruffled his sable hair.
"Goodbye, Ruth." It was faint, but his voice echoed within the walls of my heart.
He took a step backwards, and then he turned. My heart twisted in pain, a throbbing ache that would, no doubt, last as long as I lived, as I watched him walk down the hill, into the forest, never looking back. To forget about him, that was what he wanted me to do, although I did not think it was possible. He disappeared into the woods, and I stood there, alone, on top of the hill that he and I had together once loved.
A black bat emerged out of the forest, flapping its leathery wings fiercely. I watched with tears in my eyes as the bat flew out into the sky, out of the cemetery, out of the little town I lived in, and in some ways, out of my life.