9. Past Mistakes
I awoke with a start, my heart jumping into my throat. I couldn't breathe. "Phoebe?" The word was spoken quietly, but it startled me nevertheless. It took a moment for my sleepy brain to realize what was happening. Levi had rolled over in his sleep and must have draped his arm across my chest, making it hard to breathe. He lifted his head and looked at me in the dark. I could barely make out his features in the moonlight, but he looked like he had also just woken up. He slowly lifted his arm off of me and groaned, sitting up. He rubbed his face with both hands and sighed loudly.
"Levi?" I whispered into the dark.
"My apologies," he responded, voice husky from sleep. "I must have fallen asleep." He started to stand but my fingers closed around the hem of his shirt seemingly of their own free will. He stilled and glanced back at me. "Are you alright?"
I hesitated. I didn't know the answer to his question. I didn't know why I had stopped him from leaving. The thought of being alone was kind of terrifying, but the idea of continuing to sleep in the same bed as a practical stranger was equally as scary. "Will you come to the kitchen with me? I need a drink."
He chuckled. "Scared to move around a house of vampires on your own?"
I let go of his shirt and sniffed. "Something like that." I was trying very hard not to think about what had happened. I climbed to my feet and carefully maneuvered around the bed and headed toward the door. "You coming?"
He grunted in response and we made our way downstairs and to the kitchen. He settled himself in a chair at the table and watched me move around the room silently. I didn't know what I was looking for, but I was kind of operating on the assumption I would know it when I found it. I opened the fridge and sighed. It was pretty sparse, but considering the residents didn't actually have to eat or drink, I supposed it wasn't bad. I scanned the interior and chewed my lower lip, finally grabbing the milk and some cookies I had found in one of the cupboards. I went in search of a glass, but found I couldn't reach them. I turned to ask for help and came face to chest with him. I blinked and he looked down at me as he reached up and plucked a glass from the top shelf.
"We can move these..." He said slowly, watching me.
I realized I wasn't breathing and took in a lungful of air. He was much too close, much too quickly. But the counter was at my back and I couldn't slide past him. The kitchen seemed charged with electricity all of a sudden and goose bumps sprung up along my arms. Levi seemed completely oblivious to whatever was happening to me and the sound of the glass clinking on the counter brought me back to myself. I took another deep breath and everything went back to normal. A second clink had me glancing behind me.
"May I join you?"
"Oh...uh...yeah," I managed to stutter out. He took the glasses and stepped back and it was like nothing ever happened. I brought the milk and cookies to the table and poured two glasses and we sat across from each other, the cookies in the middle. Neither of us spoke for a few moments, each taking our cookie. "What about you?"
Levi lifted an eyebrow. "Pardon?"
"You were telling me about your family...the Coven. But I don't know much about you," I said. And I found myself wanting to know more about him.
He shifted in his seat and sighed. "What is there to know?" he asked. "I already told you I don't remember much about my family. A few scattered memories, but it has been a very long time. When you don't have a support system there to guide you, it can be difficult after the change." He got a faraway look in his eyes and I got the feeling he wasn't really sitting across from me anymore. "I did not make the choice to become...this. I was a lost soul trying to find my way in the world and someone took advantage." He scowled. "I was out that night, alone. I remember...there was someone waiting for me. A woman. But I had been drinking and was not my best. I stumbled into the gutter and just stayed there, looking up at the sky as it rained on me. I felt...alone. I felt...defeated. And that's when he emerged, as if he could sense my despair."
I frowned and started to reach across the table to touch his hand, but thought better of it and pulled back. For someone to have claimed they didn't remember much, he sure seemed to remember this. Though, I supposed I would probably remember the moment my life changed forever too. No matter how long.
"He came to me and knelt by my side and just bit me. There was no pretense or lead up. It was simply an opportunity and he took it. He nearly killed me, but I guess he changed his mind because, as I lay there, nearly dead, he forced his blood into my mouth. And I stayed there in that gutter for I don't know how long. He disappeared without ever speaking a word. I didn't know what was happening, but I was in agony for what felt like hours. And then suddenly it stopped and my mind was clear. I pulled myself out of the gutter and went home."
The way he said it made a knot form in my stomach. "You don't have to-"
"The woman was there, waiting up for me. How horrible is it that I can't even remember her name?" He scoffed. "She hugged me and I...I could smell her blood and it made my mouth hurt. It made everything hurt and I couldn't stop myself. I bit her, only I didn't stop. Not until she was dead."
I hadn't realized I was out of my seat until my arms were wrapping around him. Tears stung the backs of my eyes, but by sheer force of will, I held them back. I held onto Levi tightly, like somehow if I just squeezed hard enough I could make it all better. I wished I hadn't asked about him. I wished he hadn't told me about his past. It was obvious it was painful for him to remember and I felt terrible for bringing it out of him. His arms slowly went around me and he held me just as tightly. And we stayed there for a long time, just holding each other. Neither of us spoke and when he finally let go, I peeled myself off of him and sat back in my chair. "I'm sorry," I said.
At the same time he said, "Thank you."
We both fell silent again. Anything I could think to say just didn't seem right. What was I supposed to say after learning he killed someone important to him? She could have been his wife or his mother. I had never stopped to think about what it must have been like for him. For all of them. They all had a story and I had a feeling most vampires didn't have a very feel good beginning. Finally, Levi stood. "We should get back to sleep. I'll stay down here. Go on up to bed, Phoebe." He turned his back to me, but his shoulders were stiff and I noticed as he left the room, he did not head to the living room, but to the front door. Against my better judgment, I followed.