Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
The first time he saw her, she was facing the edge of the cliff. Rick and George had decided to try out hang-gliding and they had just arrived at the ledge on Mount Tom, their kites assembled and gear in place. They’d been practicing, running from lower hills to get the feel of it and now, they’d decided they were ready for their maiden flight.
They’d stepped from the trees just in time to see a guy run off the hill and fall. There were several people who stepped near the edge and started calling down to him, and they could hear him swearing below. Rick stepped toward the edge of the cliff to see what was going on. The guy’s kite was caught on the tree tops below and it was twitching as its’ rider freed himself from the harness. “Idiot!” the woman with the kite behind him said in a low voice.
“You know him?” Rick asked, and when he looked at her, his eyes stuck.
“Most of my life,” she answered, and stared right back. Rick couldn’t stop staring. Her face wasn’t beautiful in the conventional sense of the word. She was tan, and he was sure he saw a few freckles across her nose. Her blue eyes laughed in her thin face and her over-large lips curled. She was tall, as tall as him, and her skin stretched over her shoulder blades. After a minute, she eye-rolled him, and Rick felt a blush worthy of his mother taint his face.
She turned, and he saw her thin, blond snake braid. He realized that, undone, her hair probably hung past her hips and he ran his eyes over her again, from the political slogan on her tee-shirt to her well-worn hiking boots. She wasn’t wearing knee pads or elbow guards, but she had fingerless leather gloves that protected her palms. She buckled her helmet in place and said, “Watch the tell tales.” When he frowned, she jerked her chin toward the trees. Rick could see bits of ribbon tied to the branches. The woman had picked up her kite and was waiting, watching the ribbons.
“What’s your name?” Rick asked, reluctant to let her go.
“Brigid,” she told him.
She slung a backpack in place. It had the logo of a prep school on the coast. “You went there?” Rick asked.
“You ask a lot of questions,” she grinned, and turning her face toward the open space in front of them, she ran, leaped, and her kite caught the air.
“Get her phone number?” George asked as he walked up behind him. Rick shook his head, watching the woman glide over the valley floor.
“I wish I had,” Rick said after a minute, and then turned his attention back to his friend and the task at hand.
It was the last week of their summer vacation. Next week they were headed East for college and the next phase of their lives.
George had applied and been accepted to Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Rick wasn’t surprised. George enjoyed the give and take of business and Babson was one of the best. It had the extra attraction of being small and situated in the country, but close enough to Boston to allow its students a taste of city life. Rubio and Lily Hermosa, George’s parents, were disappointed. They had hoped George would choose a college closer to them, in Louisiana or Mississippi, but George got a scholarship and it was decided.
Rick was happy his friend wouldn’t be far. Rick was headed to Boston, a member of the incoming Harvard freshman class.
He had the grades, but Rick was sure Aunt Fran’s contacts had played a part in his being accepted, although she swore that wasn’t the case. Rick’s musical abilities had been a part of his interviews and his outdoor skills. Everyone Rick met in connection with the school was interesting and that was appealing, but the fact was Rick didn’t want to go to college, at least, not yet.
Everyone told him it was just jitters. He’d lived in Chester all his life, protected within its close community. It wasn’t that Rick hadn’t traveled or didn’t function well with strangers, he did. Rick went to Boston often to see his Aunt Fran and he traveled to New Orleans to see his parents a couple times a year and part of every summer vacation. He’d even gone to Ireland once. Peter, his friend, had traveled to Dublin in Rick’s senior year to play music with some friends and Rick tagged along. He earned his keep, backing Peter up on stage and learning some new techniques along the way. No, Rick’s problem wasn’t jitters, it was that Rick wanted a break.
When Rick was fourteen his life changed. He discovered he was part vampire and his Father was still alive, in a manner of speaking. In the space of a year, Rick went from being a normal kid living with his Mom in a quiet New England town to being the son of semi-famous vampires; a boarding school kid who lived a long way from the people who’d raised him. Rick’s Mom was attacked that same year and turned into a vampire. Rick met his Father, and now his Mom and Dad were re-married and living together in New Orleans, literally a whole country away from him. His next closest relative was his Aunt Fran. She wasn’t really his Aunt and she acted more like his Grandmother, but she was old and sick, and he worried about her a lot.
When Rick graduated from high school, everyone traveled to Chester to see it: his Mom, his Father, Aunt Fran, even Aunt Lora and Sean, her husband. They helped fund the town party for all the local kids who graduated that year and they all showed up at the dance that ran all night. Rick stood on stage alongside his friend, Peter, playing fiddle until he thought his arm would fall off. What he found was it didn’t matter how hard he played, or how many people wished him well, all he wanted was to find a quiet place, somewhere he could be alone and just think, not forever, but for a year or two.
When he mentioned taking a year off, his Mom dismissed the idea and when he pressed, she got angry. “It’s Peter, isn’t it?” she scolded. “I knew he was a bad influence on you! Is that how you want to end up? Living in someone else’s house, running someone else’s business?”
Peter was living in the B&B where Rick grew up. Now that Rick had turned eighteen, the B&B was technically his, a gift from his Aunt Fran. Peter had no college education. He’d dropped out shortly after starting, returning to Chester, and declaring himself done. Rick knew his Mother wasn’t being fair, but she had a blind spot when it came to Peter. She accused the free-spirit of leading Rick astray. It was true, Peter lived in the B&B, and he did run it for their family, but it wasn’t Peter’s only source of income. Peter also ran his own brew pub which was gaining notice, both for the venue and for his home-brewed craft beers. He ran a small café featuring recipes Peter had developed himself at the B&B, and he was in demand both as a band musician and teaching music in workshops.
Karin, Rick’s step-sister, lived with Peter. Rick wasn’t sure exactly what she did for a living these days, but he suspected it had something to do with bounty hunting. She would leave for New York, sometimes for months at a time. When she returned from these trips, she and Peter were inseparable, but there was no talk of marriage or bonding, or whatever vampires did about making it official. In fact, Peter never really talked about his relationship with Karin at all, except to let slip once he’d told Karin he’d never agree to being turned. Rick was pretty sure Karin passed reports on him back to his parents, but she was nicer to him than she’d been when they first met. Rick figured her accepting she was in love with a human had mellowed her some.
Rick thought he might get more support from his Aunt Fran, but she’d proven just as set in her opinion as his Mother. “Once you leave school, you’d find it hard to come back,” she’d warned. “I know you’ve had a lot to deal with, but it’s only four more years, a drop in the bucket for someone like you. Besides, you’ll be here in Boston, closer to me, and that’s something I’m not likely to give up without a fight!”
The only person who expressed any support for Rick’s position was his Father, Eric Northman. When his Mom started nagging at him, Eric had done that still thing that managed to capture everyone’s attention. “Sookie, he is a man now,” he’d said when all the talking died. “Rick must make his own decisions.”
It had been weird to see his Mom back down, but she had. Rick almost thought he’d won until she came back. She waited until Eric wasn’t around to tell him that although she respected his Father’s opinion, Eric didn’t understand modern times. “When your Father was your age, he was already married with children,” she told Rick. “It’s not like that anymore.”
Rick thought going behind his Father’s back was a dick move and he was pretty sure his Mom knew it, but he didn’t confront her when Eric was around, and she did let it drop. Rick could tell from his eavesdropping on Eric’s thoughts his Father considered the matter settled. Rick could also tell from reading his Mom that she didn’t. Rick wasn’t sure when his ability to read vampires started, but now that it had, he found himself dipping into his Mother’s thoughts often. Some part of him felt bad about doing it. He didn’t read others so frequently. It seemed a violation, but with his Mom, he rarely hesitated.
That’s how he knew that trying to fight his Mom on this was a lose/lose proposition and so, when the acceptance letter came through, Rick dutifully packed his things and trundled off to Boston to join the incoming Freshman class at Harvard University.
It was a disaster from the start. Aunt Lora and Sean took him to campus and they helped with his trunks and suitcases. His room assignment took him to a quiet hallway and he found himself in a small room with just one bed, a desk, and the usual room refrigerator.
“I thought all the freshmen had roommates,” and Sean looked surprised. Rick was, too. He hadn’t received any information about a roommate, but everything he’d read in the literature suggested it was the way things were done normally.
“Let me check to make sure we’re in the right room,” Lora suggested, and she took off down the hall.
She returned with a person who held out his hand and then snatched it back, executing a kind of clumsy bow. “I’m sorry I missed your arrival,” the man with Lora said, “but I can see you haven’t been here long. I’m Martin James,” and he fished a business card from his pocket. “As you can see,” and the man waited for Rick to look at his card, “I’m your Local Disability Housing representative.”
“I don’t understand,” Rick shrugged. “I’m not disabled.”
“Well, not in the conventional way,” Martin grinned, “but folks here thought with your particular issue…”
“What issue?” Rick wasn’t sure whether he was insulted or stressed, but he could feel his fangs itching.
“Rick didn’t apply for special housing,” Aunt Lora chimed in.
“Yeah, but he’s a vampire, first one here at Harvard. I mean, you can’t expect people to be comfortable rooming with him,” Martin said as though his words weren’t cruel. “We figured under the circumstances it would be better for Rick to maintain some privacy, so he can… You know…”
“I’m not sure I do know.” Rick had it sorted it out now and he was pissed off. Coming to college hadn’t been his idea in the first place and now, first thing, he was being singled out.
“Oh,” Martin continued, apparently oblivious, “that’s right.” He found the paper he’d been looking for and shoved it at Rick. “The local donor center isn’t far, and our medical folks will have someone at the on-campus clinic for you…” and he circled a schedule with dates and times toward the bottom of the paper, “during these hours. Of course, you’re requested not to try to… I don’t know what you call it, but…”
“Feed?” Rick asked. He didn’t bother to hide his frustration, and Martin seemed to wake up.
“I’m sure this is just a misunderstanding,” Sean said quickly.
“Where do I eat normally?” Rick asked.
“Oh…” and Martin looked surprised. “Normally?”
“I eat human food, too,” and Rick swallowed hard.
“I don’t have any information on that,” Martin stammered. “I don’t think we realized…”
“Who do I need to call to sort this out?” Aunt Lora asked, using her best bossy voice.
“I’ll do it right now,” and Martin grabbed his phone from his pocket. “Sorry,” he shrugged. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you all set up. After all, you’re our first…”
“Vampire,” Rick finished, “Yeah, I get it.” When Martin walked down the hall, talking a mile a minute, Rick glanced at his friends. “You think everyone here knows?”
“Of course not,” Lora assured him, “How could they?” But, she was wrong.
Rick joined a group for his orientation and almost immediately, the tour guide’s eyes opened wide and she said, “Oh my God! You’re the one!”
“Rick Northman,” and Rick held out his hand, trying to cut her off.
She stared at his hand and then, tentatively gripped it. “I didn’t think you’d be warm,” she gushed. “I mean, all the movies…”
“Oh, you’re that vampire kid,” another of the students in the group said and, as one, ten pairs of eyes fastened on Rick.
“Half vampire,” Rick corrected. “Mostly human.”
“Your parents are that famous vampire couple from New Orleans, aren’t they?” his fellow student persisted.
“They don’t think of themselves as famous,” Rick shrugged. “It’s just there aren’t a lot of vampires and New Orleans makes a lot of them. I blame Anne Rice.” He laughed, trying to make light of the situation, but he couldn’t ignore the thoughts around him. Most of his fellow students were curious, but some were angry, and Rick figured that didn’t bode well.
Even Rick’s professors knew about him. A couple made a point of letting him know he shouldn’t expect special treatment, which, of course, made the other students want to know why it was necessary to mention. One blurted out who he was and made a point of talking about his parents. Luckily, the remaining two classes were lecture-style and Rick felt reasonably sure he could go undetected.
Martin turned out to be someone with whom Rick was supposed to communicate often. He handed Rick a packet of medical-type paperwork, requesting that Rick have his physician complete it and set up a schedule to ‘check in.’ Rick wondered whether he could convince Amy Ludwig to make a personal appearance, just to complete the shock factor. That was when Rick was feeling upbeat about his situation. When he found himself the object of unpleasant thoughts, he considered calling Mr. Cataliades and asking the attorney to create some sort of supernatural restraining order or maybe a cease and desist.
“It can’t be as bad as all that!” Aunt Fran scolded when he joined her for dinner. Lora was there that night, helping as she did several days a week. She knew Rick was right, but even she would only say ‘sometimes it just takes a while’ to adjust to new places. Rick agreed to give it a chance and things did settle down, but not enough.
By October, Rick was seriously thinking about dropping out. He was attending classes and the work was reasonable, but he was finding living his life in a fishbowl exhausting. Everywhere he went on campus people whispered, either aloud or in their heads. The only place he found peace was wandering the streets of Cambridge. There, he could filter out the thoughts of those around him. Rick usually lived well with his telepathy as long as the surrounding thoughts weren’t directed at him, but when they were, it was like an auto accident; Rick knew he shouldn’t mentally peek, yet he was unable to stop himself.
Whenever he could, Rick escaped to Wellesley to visit George. As close as the schools were geographically, they were worlds apart in terms of student life. At Babson, Rick was just George’s friend from Chester. For blessed, brief periods, Rick could be normal again, but always, within a day or two, he returned to Harvard and all the blessings as well as the downfalls of being part of a small, close-knit community.
Still, there were a few who reached out, sincere in their overtures at friendship, so Rick did have company at dinners in the great Hall. He supposed he could have found gigs in town. Cambridge was a great town for music. Rick even saw several Morris dancing groups, but he held back. ‘I’m leaving soon,’ he’d think.
It was Columbus Day weekend when he found himself walking through The Square, as the main thoroughfare was called. He would be headed across the Charles River Bridge to spend the long weekend with Aunt Fran in a few hours. Already, most of the students in the dorms had cleared out, heading home. George was among them. He’d said goodbye last night, headed for Logan and the flight home. Mom called, offering Rick a plane ticket, but he’d declined. ‘It’s only three days,’ he’d told her, feeling guilty but wanting to punish both her and himself.
Rick was thinking he’d need to do something soon. His self-pity was starting to piss him off. He wondered if Peter would let him camp out in the attic room in Chester for a while. He knew that would cause problems, but this whole Harvard thing wasn’t working out.
As he turned the corner, something caught his eye. It was a tall, thin woman. She had a mandolin in a homemade denim case slapping against her back right under the long, blond snake braid. In a flash, Rick saw the brave, brash woman from Mount Tom and he felt his heart catch a beat as he walked faster.
It took almost a block to catch up, but she hesitated at a crosswalk and as she looked to the right, he stepped beside her. “You!” he said aloud.
Her chin lifted, then her eyes widened, “Did you ever fly that day?” she asked.
“It was perfect,” Rick replied, although he wasn’t talking about hang-gliding anymore.
“It was great seeing you, but I’ve got places to go,” Brigid smirked.
“You play?” Rick asked, falling into step beside her.
“What?” and then Brigid glanced at her instrument. “What if I told you I was carrying it for a friend?”
“I’d be disappointed,” Rick answered. “Would it be the same friend you were gliding with? Oh, and by the way, did he get out of the tree?”
“Yes, Todd got out of the tree, and the mandolin is mine.” Brigid glanced back, “You saying you play?”
“Mandolin? A bit,” Rick answered, “Fiddle mostly.”
Brigid stopped, causing Rick to have to back up a bit. “You any good?” she asked, her head cocked to the side.
“I play for my town band in Chester,” Rick answered, trying to sound nonchalant. He figured it sounded pretty impressive, but Brigid didn’t seem to think so.
“I’m on my way to meet my group. We have a gig at The Stars. We’re looking for some back-up players. You should get your fiddle and come by tonight,” and then Brigid stilled. It wasn’t like vampire still, but he saw the minute she really focused on him. “What’s your name?” she asked.
“Rick Northman,” he told her. He waited for the flash of recognition he got around campus, but it didn’t come.
Instead, she held out her hand, “And I’m…”
“Brigid,” he supplied, taking her hand and then turning it so it was more like they were holding hands than shaking.
She laughed. She laughed and her whole face lit up. It was as if the sun came out and Rick smiled back. “You headed there now?” he asked, and when she told him she was, that her band was meeting early for a practice session, Rick said, “Then I’ll see you in a few. You can decide for yourself if I know my stuff or not.” As he headed back to his dorm, it occurred to Rick that Cambridge might not be so bad after all.
Rick grabbed his fiddle, and then on a whim, his mandolin as well. His cases still looked new, but the instruments were old and well-loved. He hurried out of the yard, taking the gateway closest to The Stars. It was still several blocks and Rick found it hard not to run the distance.
The front door was locked, so he walked around to the side and there the door was propped open. He could hear the music, a Cajun ballad he knew. He walked through the dark hall and found himself standing in a backstage area. The stage wasn’t large, and Brigid was standing with her mandolin in hand. She was watching a dark-haired woman who was playing guitar. There was a stand-up bass player as well, a tall, dark-haired kid Rick had seen around campus. They were good, and Rick listened, imagining how he’d fit in. “You just going to stand there?” Brigid called, breaking Rick from his reverie.
“I didn’t want to interrupt,” Rick answered.
“This is Rick,” Brigid told the others. “He thinks he can play.”
Rick hadn’t sensed mockery before, but now, he wondered. His pride twitched and he laid his cases down. In under a minute, his fiddle was in his hands and it felt right. Rick didn’t ask the key they were using, he could tell. He tuned quickly and as they started the chorus he joined in, taking the high path, laying counterpoint to the guitar player. Rick watched Brigid’s eyes widen and then her smile grew, and it warmed him, stroking his ego. When it came to Brigid’s turn to take the melody, he laced his notes around and under hers, pushing her, and her fingers flew in answer. They finished together as though they’d been doing this all their lives. “I guess we should ask if you’re looking for a band,” the guitar player asked, holding out her hand. “I’m Meg.”
“I’m Todd,” the bass player added, and Rick felt his heart clench as he realized this man was the same one who’d been flying with Brigid, the one she’d known ‘all her life.’
“Rick Northman,” Brigid introduced him. She glanced at her fellow band members, “We’ve been playing together since prep. We all went to Talcott Hill. You mentioned Chester?”
“Yeah, me too,” Rick answered. Rick tried not to think of himself as a prep school kid. It smacked of elitist attitudes and lazy money, but, in this moment, if it meant being close to Brigid, he was glad he was.
“We’re not the rich ones,” and Todd gave him a knowing look.
“I went because I lived in the town,” Rick added, and he could feel that he’d earned points.
Meg ran through their play list with Rick. He knew almost every song and after they played a few more together, he was sure he could contribute, even on the tunes he didn’t know. Just before opening, they ducked around the corner to grab some dinner. “You don’t mind vegetarian, do you?” Meg asked.
“Sounds good to me,” Rick shrugged, glad he’d fed well at the campus medical center this morning.
“I’m a meat-eater,” Brigid told him. “Todd and Meg aren’t though,” and as if on cue, Todd and Meg held hands. Rick felt an odd rush that had him staring at Brigid, a foolish smile pasted across his face.
“Guess now you know,” Meg told Brigid.
Brigid blushed. It wasn’t the best look on her. She was so pale her blush looked blotchy, but she bit her lip and Rick thought she looked beautiful. “What’s she talking about?” he asked Brigid, but it was Meg who answered.
“Brigid talked about you the whole drive back from Mount Tom. You don’t remember me, but I was there, standing on top. I saw you two zone in on each other.” Meg grinned, saying to Todd, “This is like watching the hand of fate.”
“You don’t know that,” Brigid stammered, but Rick was pretty sure he was okay with where things were headed.
Rick stayed to play with the group, forgetting he was expected for dinner in Boston until he checked his phone during a break. Usually, he would text, but he called instead, apologizing. “So, you’re blowing me off to play music?” Aunt Fran wheezed in the phone. Before Rick could apologize further, she said, “I’m glad to hear it! You’ve been moping so hard, I was beginning to despair. Wind up and come sleep in your Mom’s room. You can tell me about it in the morning.”
“Everything okay?” Brigid asked as he headed back toward the stage.
“Fine,” he told her, and for the first time in months it was.
As they walked back together toward school, Brigid looped her arm through Rick’s. She didn’t say anything, she just did it and Rick leaned closer, so they’d bump against each other as they walked. When they came to the intersection leading to the bridge that would take Rick to Aunt Fran’s, Todd said, “So, you’ll be back to play with us tomorrow night, right? We’re booked through the weekend.”
“Try to get there by five,” Meg added, before turning, pulling Todd along with her, and leaving Brigid standing beside him.
“I’d love to,” Rick told Brigid, but he wasn’t really talking about playing anymore. She was almost the same height as him and just as thin. He’d noticed her eyes were more sea green than sky blue and although it was too dark to really see them, his imagination filled in the detail.
She was smiling softly, and he wondered if he had the courage to lean in. “Well,” she said after a moment, “I’ll see you,” and she started to turn away.
“Wait!” he breathed, and taking her hand, he pulled her close. He hurried it, ending up by smacking his face against hers. She giggled, scrunching her face, and he flushed before saying, “I can do better,” and then he did. Rick hadn’t really kissed many women, but there had been a few and he pulled from those experiences moving his lips over hers and she responded, wrapping his arm around her to pull her closer. It wasn’t perfect, but it still left them breathless. “Wow!” he said as they parted.
“Wow!” she smiled in return. She touched his lips with her fingers, then blushing, turned to catch up to her friends. Rick watched until they turned the corner, and then almost ran the whole way to Aunt Fran’s, his pounding heart giving his feet wings. When he got to the brownstone, he flipped up the plastic cover and keyed in the code that opened her lock. He wondered if Fran still had her wards in place. He figured she did, although she’d told him she retired from magic.
“Don’t need magic,” he whispered, running lightly up the stairs, “Found my own” What he didn’t find for a long time, though, was sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, he thought of Brigid. He remembered the way she looked when she played and how she closed her eyes when it was her time to sing. He remembered how she never looked at the audience. ‘Stage fright,’ she’d told him. He remembered her one crooked finger. She’d said she broke it in a sailing accident and by the time she had it set, it didn’t heal quite right. He remembered a million details before he remembered he’d never asked for her last name.
It was the first thing Fran nailed him on when he joined her in her kitchen the next morning. The sun was shining, but Fran hadn’t ventured outside into her small garden. Instead, she was sitting in her wheelchair next to the kitchen table, smoking a joint. Even though the door was open, the air was heavy, and Rick teased her, waving his hand and tutting at her criminal conduct. Fran asked about his night and accepted the offer of tea. As Rick settled at the table, sipping his own coffee, Fran struck. “So, you were friendly enough for the horizontal mambo, but not enough to ask for a name?”
“Jeez, Auntie!” Rick blushed, “It wasn’t like that.”
“Don’t screw with me,” Fran laughed. “Playing music is like sex for you and you spent all night playing unprotected with people you barely know!”
Rick couldn’t help but laugh. His Aunt always knew the perfect way to be outrageous. “It’s not just a one-night stand,” he teased back. “I get to go back and play again tonight.”
“Oh, and what’s the name of this gang of thieves who’s stealing you away from me?” Fran demanded.
“Talcott Mountain,” Rick answered, giving the name of the band and when his Aunt’s eyes widened, he added, “Yes, like the prep school. They’re all from there.”
“Well, that shows a sad lack of imagination on your part,” Fran scolded before leaning back and taking another toke. “Still,” she said, hissing out a stream a smoke, “I suppose it could be worse. They are musical, after all.”
“Right,” and Rick headed toward the door, using a towel to try and force the smoke outdoors. “Sure, they could just be normal students with no odd hobbies or worse, they could be potheads.”
“Careful!” Fran cautioned before dissolving into giggles that turned into coughing. When she showed no signs of stopping, Rick ran to get a glass of water for her and he held her frail frame, anxious until she finally stopped, wheezing for breath and red in the face.
“I don’t think you should smoke anymore, Auntie,” he scolded. His voice sounded angrier than he felt, but he really was scared.
“You mind your own business!” Fran snapped, then, seeing the worry on his face, she patted his hand. “Now, now, your old Auntie isn’t quite ready to kick the bucket yet. Why don’t you run upstairs and grab that book we were reading? It’s so nice and sunny, I’d like to hear a little more before I nap.”
Rick lingered long enough to make sure Aunt Fran seemed okay, and then bounded up the three staircases to the library. It took a bit to find the book. It had been moved since the last time they’d read together. When he finally returned to the kitchen, Doctor Amy Ludwig was standing beside his Aunt, holding her arm and staring at the ceiling. “Auntie?” he asked, aware of how small his voice sounded.
“She’s fine!” Amy bustled, turning her frown upside down into a smile that looked painfully forced.
“Then why are you here?” Rick asked.
Fran answered, “Because it’s her usual day,” and after a beat, Amy nodded.
“You are the worst liars!” Rick snarled.
“About some things, not about this,” Amy huffed. “I did have an appointment to check in on your Aunt today, just a little later.” Setting Fran’s hand back on the arm of the chair, Amy told her, “Your pulse is rapid, which is why you feel light-headed. If you want, I can give you something…”
“I’m done with that stuff,” Amy growled. Rick knew his Aunt had dosed herself with vampire blood for years, making sure she was healthy enough to be there for his Mom when she was going through her hard time.
“Well, then I think you can expect this will be your new normal for a while,” Amy said in that doctor/patient voice. Glancing up, she fastened her eyes on Rick. “As long as I’m here, let me look at you.” Being poked and prodded hadn’t been on Rick’s list of things to do today, but he obligingly stripped off his shirt and allowed the small doctor to lick his hand and stare in his mouth.
“Assuming all the other bodily functions are working properly?” she asked with a bit of a leer.
“He hasn’t tested out all the equipment yet,” Fran teased.
“You don’t know that!” Rick protested, then blushed, pulling on his shirt.
“Who’s the liar now?” Fran teased some more.
It wasn’t as if there hadn’t been opportunities, in fact, most donors seemed to assume sex was part of the gig, but Rick resisted. It wasn’t like he was waiting for marriage or some higher purpose. “I just want the first time to be with someone special,” he told the women.
Aunt Fran smiled and opened her arms and Rick leaned far over so he could embrace her. “And it will, my darling, honorable boy,” Fran whispered. As Rick straightened, Fran smiled up at him. “It seems like yesterday I held you in my arms for the first time. You were born right above us, and you kept your mother waiting until two in the morning.”
“The witching hour,” Rick grinned. He’d heard this story often.
“The witching hour,” Fran nodded. “Your mother was exhausted, but you, with your big shoulders and full head of hair, you were ready to take in everything. It was early, just before dawn, and you weren’t sleeping, so your Aunt Lora brought you downstairs and I held you in my lap right here as we watched your first dawn together.”
Amy had walked up behind him and she laid her hand on his arm in a rare show of affection. “I love you, Auntie,” Rick said, and it occurred to him he might not have so many more days to tell her.
After Dr. Ludwig left, Rick spent the day hanging with his Aunt. He weeded her small garden and allowed her to bully him around the library, re-arranging books. He made them both chicken salad for lunch and when he called for a donor, he let her watch him feed because she told him she was curious. He was surprised when Aunt Lora and her husband, Sean, showed up at three.
“Isn’t it a big night at the restaurant?” he asked Sean. Sean ran two restaurants in Boston and everyone knew holidays meant double shifts.
“Just dropping off dinner and saying hello to my favorite girl,” Sean answered.
“Don’t you have to get going?” Aunt Lora asked Rick, and when he looked confused, she said, “Fran told us about your band.”
“When did you arrange this?” Rick asked his Aunt Fran. He hadn’t been happy about blowing off the gig tonight, but he wasn’t going to leave Fran sitting home alone either. Now, it appeared Fran had read him all too well.
“You take a long time in the bathroom,” Fran shrugged. “Besides, Lora has me hooked on one of her stupid television series…”
“You like it very much,” Lora laughed.
“I do,” Fran winked. “Lots of naked. They never had that kind of TV when I was younger.”
“Well then,” and Rick felt his heart lift. He’d purposely held off on texting, hoping somehow things would work out and now they had. He realized as he was opening the side door at The Stars he barely remembered running up the stairs to collect his things or the brisk walk over the river. All he could think of was sea green eyes and the way Brigid’s lip pursed as she watched his fingers, her own flying over the frets, effortlessly matching his playing.
“You made it!” Meg called out as he stepped to the stage, and Todd held out his hand. Rick shook it, but his eyes rested on Brigid and it was enough.
During their dinner break, Rick found out they were all crashing at Meg’s sister’s apartment in Allston. Meg and Todd attended MIT and Brigid was enrolled at Berkeley School of Music, just a few blocks from his Aunt Fran’s brownstone. Todd mentioned his mother was making a tofu turkey again this year and Meg laughed. “You’d think something like that would be terrible, but it’s actually pretty good, except she insists on molding it into the shape of a bird.” Meg shook her head, “It’s really kind of creepy!”
“And what about you?” Rick asked Brigid. “Where are you going for Thanksgiving?”
She smiled just a little too brightly, then her eyes cut away. “No real plans, yet,” she answered.
“Then, come to dinner with my Aunt Fran and me,” he found himself saying. “We don’t have a lot of people at the table, but my Uncle Sean makes the turkey. He runs a couple restaurants here in town and the food is phenomenal.”
“I don’t know…” Brigid stuttered, and Rick worried for a minute that he’d moved too fast.
“Say yes!” Meg scolded. “You know you want to and going to a real Thanksgiving dinner with a band member isn’t making a commitment.”
Brigid blushed and for a minute, Rick’s heart sank, but instead she looked at him in her straightforward way and said, “I’d be pleased to come. Thank you.”
The gig that night was even better than the night before. The bar was crowded, and people stood and hollered. There was table pounding and impromptu moments of spontaneous dance. They were a success, but for Rick all that mattered was the way he and Brigid played, each becoming so aware of the other they effortlessly handed the melody line back and forth.
The owner gave them a bonus and asked about a future date, and Rick’s heart flew. As they walked home that night Brigid’s hand naturally found his, and when they reached the intersection where he parted from them, she turned her head up and initiated a kiss that lasted a long time.
“Wait!” Rick called as she stepped away. “I don’t know your last name. How do I…”
“Give me your phone!” Brigid demanded, and when he handed it to her, she quickly added her contact information. “There!” she said, and then used it as an excuse to kiss him again.
Like the night before, Rick stood there, not moving until she turned the corner, and only then did he stare at the screen. “Brigid Meaney,” he said aloud, and the words sounded like music in his ears.