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Friday, 4 March 2011

Sleepless Nights

It was a velvet sky, smooth-black and sexy. No clouds spoilt the effect yet no stars peeked through; she tilted her head way back but not one winked out. She was alone which is exactly what she wanted. The old swing seat rusty at the hinges creaked and squeaked companionably as it rocked back and forth, back and forth. The tired fabric of gaudy flowers smelt of mildew and stale rain. Nadia inhaled and wished for rain; such a comforting smell, took her back to summers at nana’s house when the sun shone bright on long summer days and rain was just another plaything. The surrounding fields were so fresh after a shower like god had washed his creation. She laughed at this notion; as if there was such a thing as god.
Only the light from inside illuminated the garden. They were inside and she did not want to be there with them. Her eyes scanned the shadowy darkness with no fear. There was nothing to be afraid of out here; she owned every inch of it. Nadia let her mind stretch out to the darkest corners where her eyes could not reach, parading the borders of her territory. She sniffed the night air, lavender and something else; something fleshier hit her flared nostrils, gently like a nose bump from a puppy. A deep breath in sucked up the scent, savoured it at the back of her throat, she rolled it there like cigar smoke before exhaling long and luxurious. Ah, tonight she might indulge a little, let loose her inner demon; it was her birthday after all. That is why they were all here, to celebrate. Celebrate what precisely? That they believed they were edging closer to their inheritance. Another year to the tally was nothing more than a hindrance; no cause for a party in their eyes. Such a long tally it was too. A smile, small and twisted crawled across her face as she thought of them in there, mingling, chatting, and faking it all to remain in with a chance. They made her flesh creep these bloodsucking relatives of hers.
“How long, how long can this go on”, she whispered into the silence, enjoying the sound of her voice in the night air. It was a soft voice, not gentle but subtle with power. It was a power of sorts she possessed; wealth certainly but there was something more to Nadia than a bank balance, it was the part of herself she both loved and despised.
A small rustle caught her ear, Nadia turned sharply towards the sound. He emerged from the side of the veranda, brushing against the bushes that softened the shift from house to garden. His jacket was shabby but serviceable, his face bright in the darkness, the song whiter shade of pale skimmed across her mind as she took him in, all six foot four of him. Tim wore his limbs loosely; they flowed like ribbons from the solid core of his chest. This combination of lax movement and firmness presented an oddly reassuring figure. He made no effort to speak; just smiled a slow rolled out smile, sat down beside her and rocked them both gently in the tarnished old swing. Nadia loved Tim. He was the one. Of all her relatives he understood. Perhaps it was because he never asked her for anything; oh it wasn’t pride. Nadia was not a fool. He asked for nothing because he wanted nothing; needed nothing. He was as free from desire as she was saturated with it; not for him, no. She wasn’t perverse. Nadia craved life, blood pumping, sweat soaked, and imperfect life. No matter the years that ached out behind her; what counted was the swell and heave of the years ahead. She wanted more than she could have. Tim knew it; he understood that the night was not always for watching but sometimes hung heavy with longing and regret.
With no real movement involved his hand found hers and softly squeezed. “Happy Birthday Nadia.” Nothing else was said, she simply squeezed back and they both sat immersed in the night. Laughter from inside trailed out, high pitched, grating on the ear like a fork scratching over a plate. Crickets hummed in the grass trying their best to erase the intrusion from those inside.
“They’re waiting for you”, he said. The words seemed to float from him easily, moths on the night air. His wide smile did not hide judgement but rather invited it of the crowd inside. Tim had no time for his family, its mean streak and greed. To live was enough for him; and what a life this family had been granted; at a price admittedly but still, what a life.
“I don’t want to go in yet. I want to give you something first.” Nadia’s eyes were bright in the dark, sparkling with decision and delight. A playful smile skipped over her lips as they parted, she leant forward and went straight for the jugular. When Tim was almost drained and she knew his innermost secrets; she could be sure her decision was correct. He was the one. All the while Tim accepted his fate with no fight, his head tilted a little to ease her passage to his neck. He had done this to others so many times before; it was intriguing to be on the receiving end again, eyes closed to enjoy the pure sensation. This was first part, for some it meant the end but Tim knew that tonight would bring the second part; the change. Only when there was barely a flicker left in him did she tear at her own wrist and pour her gift down his throat.
            He gulped, slurped and gripped with iron jaws despite himself; this was Nadia he reprimanded, be tender. When she eventually pulled away, eyes still bright in a pale face, he felt a loss, sudden and severe. As her blood mingled with what was left of his Tim understood Nadia from all angles, her power became his power. This was the true inheritance; what they all wanted inside. The rest was trinkets and junk in comparison. Now the family could stop jockeying for position; the successor was crowned.
“Come”, she said, “Let's go make a toast. Shall we share our news with them? For the first time in three hundred years I will see sunrise.” The night sighed its satisfaction; a soft warm wind behind them as they entered the patio door arm in arm.

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