Friday, June 2, 2017

Chapter 8 of Book 1 of 3 as a sample read

Chapter 8

When Bekka heard the front door close, she awoke from a wet dream. Her fingers smelled from her masturbation that resulted in an intense orgasm, and the bed was still damp. She was embarrassed by her recent inability to control her sexuality. “I’m a grown woman,” she thought, “not some teenager with a crush.”
She wiped her tears with her hand and thought about Demetrio. He had shown her how to use the extensive library the day before, and every time their bodies came close, he had twisted away as though he were afraid of being burned. She consoled herself, “He belongs to someone else. If he were yours, you would want him to act the same.”
Then she remembered that night on the beach. Bekka had always been sexual but had never been promiscuous. She had always demanded respect, and she had never had a one-night stand. But Demetrio was different; he allowed her to let go. It had all been her decision. She had hoped that sometime during the night he would sneak into her room and say, “I’m going to tell Rose I am in love with you and leave her.”
That didn’t happen even though she had waited, and now he was gone, and her stomach ached with loss and despair. She grabbed her robe and headed to the bathroom for a cold shower. “It could still happen,” she told herself. “After he sees Rose, he’ll settle his affair honorably and come home to me.”
“Breakfast!” Susana shouted up to Bekka. She peered over to Rebe who was already seated at the table eating, “What’s taking her so long?”
Rebe smiled, “She’s probably having those spontaneous orgasms of hers. When she’s done showering, she’ll be here.”
Sister Helga laid Susana’s plate down, “Por favor.” She was alarmed that Rebe had already begun to eat, Susana had not yet sat down at the table, and Bekka was still showering.
“These gringas,” she thought, “How thoughtless of them not to wait for their friend to join them.” She had worked especially hard on this breakfast to impress Bekka with her culinary skills. She had made Chiles en Nogada, a traditional dish from Puebla consisting of poblano chiles filled with picadillo and a mixture of aromatics, fruits and spices, covered with a walnut-based cream sauce, and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds to represent the colors of the Mexican flag.
Finally, when Bekka came to the table, she was dressed as if they were going to eat at a fancy café. Sister Helga saw that the other two women seemed not to even notice that their friend was overdressed for breakfast at home. She looked at the trio: Susana still wore her nightclothes, Rebe wore jeans and a black t-shirt and no shoes at all, and Bekka wore a beautiful dress and had already applied her makeup. They were a most unlikely combination of women. 
Sister Helga shook her head in bewilderment and felt Rebe’s eyes on her, then a voice in her head asking, “Are we bothering you?  The extra work must not be pleasant.”
“No, child, you are not bothering me and making breakfast is no chore. You all seem so different though; therefore, I wonder how you will get along in what lies ahead.”
“What does lie ahead?”
“Something, only the good Lord knows, but something indeed. Demetrio is respected for his self-control and his wisdom, and he is the only one of his kind in this area. The balance here is now disturbed, and I can see no elegance in any of you.”
Rebe snorted and continued the silent conversation, “I could put on a dress if you like.  Bekka looks pretty elegant.”
“That is not what I meant by elegant, my dear. I meant conservation of movement, grace, dignity, and manners. You all three move your bodies without thought, without precision, and you are loud. You seem like tourists.”
“We are tourists.”
“No longer. You have much to learn, or you will not survive. Also, it is impolite to enter the thoughts of another without permission.” Sister Helga showed Rebe how to ask permission; it was as though she plucked the string of a harp inside Rebe’s head and gave Rebe the choice of blocking her thoughts or opening them. Rebe mimicked the request for permission in Sister Helga’s mind and met with a nod of approval. 
As a nun of the order who served the Parroquia, Sister Helga never travelled outside of San Miquel de Allende and only went on errands for supplies, and then she returned to the convent or to Demetrio’s home. Helga hoped that one day the Lord would forgive her sins and forgive Father Hildago and take her home during the night, to the land of the blessed. For this, she waited fervently.
Bekka began an inspection of her plate with her fork, studying it as if she were going to write a critique rather than eat.
Sister Helga asked, “Do you like it?”
Bekka replied, “Oh, it’s fine.”
Both Susana and Rebe exchanged glances and laughed to themselves because Bekka had been so engrossed in her conversation with Susana that she hadn’t even tasted it.
After breakfast, the ladies decided to stay in the kitchen to discuss their situation with Sister Helga who began the conversation by saying, “Tomorrow we will have a full moon, a special equinox full moon. It is important that you stay inside the house during this time and the following three nights, as Demetrio has already explained to you.”
“You can’t stay inside for six days. That’s crazy,” replied Bekka.
“If you do not, you will die,” replied the Sister.
Everyone looked on in silence until Rebe, always rational and full of questions asked, “Now, Sister Helga, Demetrio did say we could venture out during the day – just be inside before the moon rises.”
“Yes, but this is your first full moon, and it is an equinox, so you need to exercise extra caution on this day. Do you even know when it rises? Do you know that the moon can rise before the sun sets? You are not accustomed to think about such things, and you are already weak. It is best that you stay inside until three days after this full moon. Later, you will learn how the moon moves and what it can do to you, and perhaps then you will be able to venture outside. It is something you will have to figure out through experience.”
Bekka sighed, “This is going to be hell.”
“It’s like getting your period once a month,” complained Susana.
Rebe snickered and said, “I don’t know about that – I skipped mine this past week, and I so, so hope that’s part of our bizarre condition now. How about you Susana?”
Susana shook her head no and said, “Maybe, we’ll all get our periods at the same time. We’ll be psycho-sisters.”
“It would be cycle-sisters, not psycho-sisters, dummy,” corrected Rebe.
Susana laughed and said, “I know. I’m joking. Professor Rebe, get it? Psycho and cycle?” 
Rebe rolled her eyes and then asked Bekka, “Well?”
“Well, what?” Bekka asked, staring at her plate with unfocused eyes. 
Rebe repeated, “Your last period?”
“Oh, none of your business.” 
Rebe disregarded her and turned to Sister Helga, “Sister, what about our womanly functions?”
Sister Helga thought a second and then said, “I do not know. I guess we will have to ask Julia, but you will not be able to meet her for a few days.”
“A few days?” questioned Susana.
“Yes, Julia is a Night Vampire, remember. She cannot venture out in the day, and you cannot go out into the night until the full moon is over.”
Rebe began the questioning again, “Sister, what about you? I noticed that you didn’t eat with us. You’re not a vampire, so what are the bodily functions of an immortal?”
Sister Helga sat quietly, longer than Rebe thought she would. “Maybe I over-stepped my bounds and hurt the poor woman’s feelings,” Rebe thought.
She was about to apologize when Sister Helga answered, “My body needs to be nourished, or it will wither away. I am too old to have a cycle, but I have normal human functions, perhaps not so normal since I am both a man and a woman. I solve my problems like I always have, in mediation and prayer, but God still does not call me to him.”
 “Why don’t you kill yourself?” asked Bekka as she finished her breakfast.
Susana cursed her, “Don’t be a bitch Bekka.” 
“I’m not. I mean, I’m not trying to be. I’m just saying that if living forever is a curse for you, couldn’t you just get out of it? I mean, if it were me, I would try suicide.”
Sister Helga cried out sharply, “I cannot! It is a sin and certain damnation, and I would never do such a thing. I have to suffer now for the things I have done. You do not know about the suffering I have caused, and I would rather talk about something else.”
The ladies all sat and lamented her predicament. “Well, that sucks,” grinned Susana, hoping to break the somber mood.
“Anything else, Sister Helga?” asked Rebe.
Bekka interrupted, “Sister Helga what are these chili peppers stuffed with? They are really tasty and colorful.”
Sister Helga smiled and appreciated that Bekka had finally noticed her efforts and replied, “The main ingredients are ground meat or chicken and dried fruit to which you add onions, garlic, and other seasonings. Now, ladies, let us return to our discussion. Demetrio asked you to use these days to practice your new skills. Your time will go by more quickly if you listen to his advice. Then, when you can leave the house, we can consult with Julia at her place.”
“What place?” brightened Bekka, thinking about an outing.
“She has a place named La Noche Piano Lounge; it is a place of refuge for all Night Vampires and brujas.”
“Whoa, won’t that be dangerous?” asked Bekka. 
Sister Helga thought for a moment, and then replied, “Do not worry. Julia makes sure that it is a neutral ground for all vampires. No fighting is allowed. I would like you to keep in mind that you are under Demetrio’s protection, and your behavior reflects upon him, so stay out of trouble.”
“Well, so far we haven’t needed any blood, and our teeth haven’t grown into fangs. When will that happen?” asked Susana.
Sister Helga answered, “Maybe after your first moon, you will feel the urge. Demetrio likes to call it ‘the hunger.’ It is like having a sweet tooth or a desire for a favorite dish. The first time will be the most difficult because part of you will feel repulsed by what you are doing. The good thing is that White Vampires do not need much blood to survive, only about a cup every month.”
“If we don’t drink blood, what will happen?” asked Rebe.
“You will die. That is why you are going to the piano lounge. Julia will give you your first blood.”
“She’s not going to kill anybody for us, is she?” asked Rebe.
“No, she has men and women giving their blood to her of their own free will, a gentle blood-letting,” explained Sister Helga.
“Sounds like a wild swingers’ group,” added Bekka as she continued, “so, Sister, are you looking forward to drinking with us?”
Sister Helga said, “Why would you ask that? I am obviously a nun and given to quiet contemplation and praise of the Lord. You will go by yourselves. We will use these days to practice. Rebe, you can go to the second floor balcony during the day and practice reading the minds of passersby. You should also practice planting suggestions in their minds. I think you may have a natural inclination for planting ideas and that would be an excellent skill to develop. Susana, you can practice in the cellar below.”
Susana looked shocked and asked, “Why the cellar?  That sounds like being in jail.”
The nun continued, “It is safer for you and everyone else around you. If you are successful, I do not know how much of your mind will be left. We will see whether you are the animal or the animal is you. But do not expect much change in these first few days. Bekka, you can…” she stopped as she did not know what to say or how to explain it.
“You mean, learn how to captivate men?” asked Bekka, “There’s no sense in practicing what I’m already an expert at. I’ll just read a book.”
Sister Helga did not answer directly but continued, “We have thousands of books downstairs and in the library. I would like to say that seldom does one have only a single gift. Time spent in silent contemplation would be beneficial to you, my dear Bekka.”
Susana asked snidely, “And what’s your second gift Sister Helga, drinking extra wine during communion?” That remark ended breakfast.
During the afternoon, the three did what Sister Helga had asked them. Bekka merely sat herself in one of the many rooms of Demetrio’s grand colonial house. She tried to read her book but was distracted by the Moorish architecture, the fine furnishings, and incredible art, and especially the ancient private chapel upstairs on the third floor. The sound of water in the many fountains kept lulling her to sleep.
How wonderful it would be to spend each day in a different room and wonder about its past history. She thought to herself she could easily be the woman of the house, Demetrio’s woman, with Sister Helga as their servant, if that’s what she was.
Bekka had had several lovers over the years and had always hoped to see the relationship grow into a marriage, but something untoward always introduced itself between her and the man she was with. Sometimes the men lied and said they were divorced, or they had kids who were more important, but the main reason was that infatuation wasn’t love. So the little things they did would start to bother her out of proportion, and she would end up not being able to stand it anymore.
She had always wanted to be a wife again, to have a warm body on cold nights, but now it was different. She enjoyed the power she had over that man in the store. Without batting an eyelash at him, he had wanted to be with her. “Well, I’m now a vampire, and I can have any man I want. If I can’t have Demetrio, then I will entice other men. I’ll show him he can’t leave me like a two-bit whore. Stop, Bekka!” she thought. “Control yourself. He’s doing the honorable thing.” 
She needed to walk, so she stood up and decided to explore the house.
Rebe rested her head on the black wrought-iron balcony rail as she sat and watched the people below. It was like listening to a radio, switching from station to station, receiving the thoughts of the people passing. What amazed her was that their thoughts were in Spanish yet she understood them. She tried a few times to get someone to jump, but it didn’t work. She could see that it might in the future, after time and practice.
“This is fucking great,” she thought, “I can understand any language. Just think of the possibilities. When Demetrio gets back and teaches us what he needs to, I’ll go back to San Diego and reform our university system.” Rebe knew she was too old-fashioned for this new world of huge classes and on-line learning. 
In her experience, a professor would personally guide students to greater levels of knowledge and critical thinking.  She remembered dinners with her mentors and the gentle guiding minds that helped form hers. “That’s what education is,” she thought. “It’s about learning how to live a better life, not about how to take a test.” 
Meanwhile in the cellar, Susana just stared into a mirror. She didn’t know where to start, so she remembered an acting lesson she had taken and tried to visualize herself as a jaguar. She growled at herself, trying to be fiercer each time. Eventually, she added her hands to the exercise, pretending she was clawing at her own image. Finally, she got down on her hands and knees and began to mimic a cat crawling around the room – growling, clawing, and stopping to lick the back of her hand and then scratching her hair.
Her eyes widened in embarrassment as she saw Bekka at the foot of the stairs holding a glass of wine as she giggled and said, “You look ridiculous.”
Susana quickly stood up and brushed the dust off her knees. “I’m not. I’m immersing myself into the character.”
Bekka laughed and said, “You’re immersing yourself into being a dumb shit is what you’re doing.”
Susana replied sarcastically, “Oh yeah, well, what the fuck do you know. Do you know how to change into another creature? Oh no, you don’t, because your power is driving men crazy. That’s your superpower.”
Bekka glared at Susana and retorted, “Well, at least it’s getting men to do my bidding, and you? What are you going to do? Maybe get lucky and get humped by a mangy alley cat while crawling around on all fours, pretending to be a jaguar?”
“SHUT UP, BITCH!” It wasn’t the shout that startled them; it was the sound of a lion’s growl mixed with a human voice coming out of Susana’s throat.
The shout was so loud and fierce that Bekka felt the vibrations ten feet away, causing her to drop her wine glass and break it.
Susana put her hand over her mouth, as if she were a child who had cursed in church. They heard the door open.
Que pasa?” shouted Sister Helga down the stairs.
“Everything is fine, Sister Helga,” answered Bekka, “Susana was immersed in her character.”
“It is best to leave her alone, please.” Sister Helga closed the cellar door. 
Bekka turned to Susana and smiled, “Damn, woman, you would kick some ass if you went back to Fresno.”
Susana gathered herself and smiled back, implying forgiveness. “Yeah, couldn’t I?”
The ladies gathered throughout the day and night with Sister Helga to discuss their innate powers and to ask a river of questions.
The night of the full moon was horrible for all three even though they were inside. They tried to sleep but found their legs needed to move, so they were each kicking the sheets around on their beds and arching their bodies trying and failing to stretch into comfort. Even during the day, they were weak, all suffering as if they had the flu, but staying as far as possible from a prone position.
“This is your first full moon, and it is an equinox. White Vampires call the spring and autumnal equinoxes ‘The Restless Times.’ This is when you are your weakest,” reminded Sister Helga. “This is the most dangerous night for you. Many White Vampires die during this time. That is one reason they are so rare.”
After failing to sleep, they complained to Sister Helga that they could not control their bodies. She had them lie down on the pews in the chapel and provided pillows and blankets, but the three women just paced and stomped.
Sister Helga told them, “Your lives as normal humans are now over; everything will change. You will outlive many of your loved ones. Regrettably, if any of you have children or grandchildren, you will live to see them die. Everything about you – your social security number, insurances, and wills – will have to be settled. That is the easiest part. Demetrio and I both know people in government offices who will help you forge a new life.”
“But I do have family I care about. I can’t bear to do that to them,” cried Rebe.
“If you cannot, I understand. It happened to me as well. But it is easier for you to be dead and gone from their lives rather than to outlive them and not age as they do and have to explain that to them. If you do not believe this,” Sister Helga went to a small chapel door and opened it revealing the full moon’s rays, “then go outside and wait for the moon’s rays to kill you. That way, your family can at least bury you and mourn.”
That option did not appeal to them, and nobody volunteered to go outside. Sister Helga walked over and closed the door.
Bekka and Susana began to fire questions at her – too many for her to answer.
Bekka noticed Rebe wasn’t asking Sister Helga anything and seemed unable to join their conversation. She was staring into space with a shocked look on her face, as if listening to someone who wasn’t there.
“We will be okay as long as we stick together, like Charlie’s Angels,” said Susana. “Don’t worry Rebe, it will be okay.”
Rebe still stared into the middle distance; her face had turned utterly white. She turned to Bekka, her eyes red with tears not yet shed. In too much despair to communicate verbally, she transmitted her thoughts to them all at once. “Demetrio’s dead! Rose killed him!”
Bekka slowly buried her head into her hands and sunk to the floor as Rebe embraced her. Sister Helga’s face whitened, and she fainted, slipping down against a pew with amazing grace. Bekka stretched her shaking arm forward, grabbing for her purse, trying to find a cigarette. She fumbled and dropped it; she tried to get another, then threw the whole pack onto the wooden floor.
Susana looked down at Sister Helga lying against a pew and then at Bekka sitting on the floor. Rebe was trying to light a cigarette for Bekka, so Susana went to Sister Helga and gently shook her shoulders. The Sister did not respond.
“You lit the wrong end of the cigarette. Haven’t you ever smoked before?” Bekka screamed at Rebe, “If you’re going to help, please do; if not, then get the hell out of here.” The last six words were whispered and far scarier than the screaming.
Rebe crawled across the dark wooden floor and collected the strewn cigarettes. She sat down and tried again to light a cigarette with shaking hands. Successful, she handed it to Bekka, who just stared at her with no trace of emotion.
Susana collected two pillows and eased the nun’s head down onto them as gently as possible, which, because it was Susana, was jarring enough to wake the woman.
Sister Helga allowed Susana to tend to her but said nothing and looked at no one. Rebe sent a thought to Susana, but it was just incoherent worry and despair.
Then Rebe, afraid that Bekka would withdraw into herself in mourning, pushed Bekka as though she were trying to start a fight. Bekka slapped Rebe hard across the face and then immediately looked horrified by what she had done. “I’m sorry, Rebe, I don’t know what to do. I’ve lost something precious,” she choked the words out through her sobs. “I’ve lost the future.”
Rebe was relieved that Bekka was crying instead of staring blankly into space, so she did not respond. “Hit me again if you want to Bekka, but please don’t sublimate your grief. It’s the worst thing you can do.”
Bekka just stared at Rebe, tears rolling down her face and did not speak. Rebe whispered, “Sister Helga may need our help. She looks pretty bad.”
They turned to look at the nun who was now trying to collect her shaking limbs to stand. “He prepared,” whispered the nun. “He prepared. He knew.”
She started praying fervently with shaking hands. Her face became a rictus of horror as she spewed Latin prayers out of her gaping mouth.
Rebe tried to hug her, to comfort her, and the nun threw her across the room in a motion so quick and unexpected that Susana screamed and ran to Rebe.
“I’m okay,” said Rebe. “Stop Bekka! She’s going for the door.”
Susana ran and tackled Bekka, knocking her over and wrestling with her. She tried to pull her backwards, away from the door, away from certain death. Bekka was fighting all the way and cursing Susana.
Rebe added her weight to keep Bekka down, and through the awkward jarring and convulsing said, “If you die, we all die. Do you want that?” No response. “That’s nice Bekka; just kill us all. Apparently, you’re the only one that matters.”
Bekka was about to respond when Sister Helga started wailing in Latin again. Her prayers came thick and frantic, as though she were pleading with the Lord, making some deal to bring Demetrio back to the living. Although the nun spoke Medieval Latin rather than classical, Rebe was able to make out a single biblical reference, “Ecce ego et pueri mei, quos dedit mihi Dominus in signum, et in portentum.”  She translated it roughly as, “Look at me and my children, whom the Lord gave to me as a signal and as a portent.”  She was unable to make out the rest of the flowing words.
Susana and Rebe stared at each other; there was nothing to be done, and Rebe couldn’t explain the passage to Susana because she didn’t remember where it came from or remember its significance.
Each took turns restraining Bekka until she stopped flailing and exhaustion overcame her. Susana grabbed three pillows, and Rebe pulled the light blue blanket over Bekka. Both women lay on either side of her, effectively pinning her restless body under the soft cover.
Sister Helga had collected herself and continued praying quietly throughout the night.
The sun was just beginning to rise when Susana awoke. She moved toward the shuttered window but kept a safe distance, just in case the moon was still somewhere in the sky. She realized that she knew nothing about the moon, nothing of its motion. That would have to be remedied as soon as possible. She watched the sky turn dark blue as the night receded, and the day began.
People in the street were either heading home after a long night or coming into town to set up their carts. “Changing of the guards,” she thought. “It’s the day shift now.”
She looked at her companions asleep on the floor. Both tossed restlessly, tangled in the blanket. Bekka’s eyes were swollen; her lashes receded into puffy folds from which tears continued to fall. Susana understood that Bekka had lost ‘what might have been,’ and from this point forward, Demetrio would be the perfect man in Bekka’s imagination, invested with super-human qualities that no other man could match.
Susana was sad that Demetrio was dead, but upon examination, she found her sadness concerned the loss of knowledge, the loss of a source of information, and loss of protection. She did not feel for the man himself and wondered if the light blue blanket was cashmere. Guilt hit her sharply in the gut, and at that very moment, Rebe woke. Her eyes were wide and searching.
Her gaze landed on Susana; she gave her a small smile and a shrug as she unwound herself from the blanket and walked quietly to stand next to Susana. She said, “I think it’s cashmere, and we can’t have a breakdown over a man we barely knew. Bekka had a special connection to him. We didn’t. I’m sad he’s dead, but Bekka is the one who will suffer.”

Susana agreed, and the two women stood looking out the window as the blue became lighter.


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