Julia's Regret- A Free Short Story from the Series, The Eyes of The Sun

As part of my 2015 relaunch of the series, The Eyes of The Sun, I am making available this previously unreleased short story that takes place prior to the beginning of the first book. While this is being offered to read for free in a public forum, all standard copyright laws apply. Copying, publishing, and redistribution with or without the intent to turn a profit is strictly prohibited.

Special thanks to the master of short story crafting, Mr. V.M. Sawh for providing me with critical feedback. 

The following is a short, bonus story from my series, The Eyes of The Sun. While the events of this story take place prior to the beginning of the series, it centers around the meeting of Lucy's mother and father. If you have not yet read Bluebeard's Children, the second book in the series, I would strongly suggest doing so before reading this. 

**Additional Advisory Info**
This story contains teenage rebellion, vampires, and sex. While not graphic or gratuitous, it is more than the mere suggestion of sex that I have employed in previous books. Reader discretion is advised.

Julia’s Regret
A Prequel to The Eyes of The Sun
Christina McMullen
May 28, 1996
   My baby girl is turning ten years old tomorrow. I can’t believe how quickly she is growing up. It seems like just yesterday she was learning to walk. I feel as though if I blink, my little girl will be gone, and a grown woman will be in her place.
   And what an amazing woman she will be. I’ve never met a child as smart as my Lucy. Of course, you’d expect a mother to say that, but Lucy is truly a gifted child. I swear to you, her first words were “Mommy, how does the microwave work?’ That’s just how Lucy is: inquisitive. She wants to know everything about everything.
   That’s also the reason why I left the house early this evening. I’ve bought her a computer for her birthday. Sure, it was expensive, but every hour of overtime that I’ve had to put in will be worth it when I see the look on her face tomorrow. I’ve even got the disk to get us set up with internet access. She’ll have all of the world’s knowledge at her fingertips whenever she wants it. Who knows? My little Lulu may grow up to be the next Bill Gates.

   Of course, she is growing up, and soon she’ll have questions that I’m afraid the internet will not be able to answer for her. I’m not so sure I’m ready to answer them either. I’m a single parent. So far, this has not been an issue. The best thing I can say about raising a child in San Francisco in this day and age is that my situation is not unusual. Lucy has many classmates with only a mother or father, and some with two mothers or fathers. But I’ve never discussed Isaac with Lucy.

   My own father died just before my high school graduation. I can’t pretend that his death, and the toll it took on my relationship with my mother, wasn’t a big part of what led to the circumstances in which I find myself: a single mother of a ten year old at just twenty-eight years of age.

   I was not a wild child. I never got into trouble. I graduated with honors from an exclusive, all-girls private high school and received a full scholarship to UC Berkeley’s fine arts division. Not that I needed a scholarship and to be perfectly honest, accepting it made me feel awful. My family could more than afford to send me wherever I wanted to go. However, if I had relied on my parents’ money, I would have been forced into Stanford or at the very least a different division of Berkeley. One where my choice of majors would be limited to law, business, or something equally as tedious and mind numbing.
   You see, both of my parents were lawyers. Dad was in family practice where he went to bat for the little guys, but mom was a high-powered partner in a well-known firm that represented the interests of large corporations. Mom’s firm churned out many politicians and mom was no exception. She had spent the last six years as a local representative and just this past November, she won the nomination to the United States senate. It won’t shock me at all if mom makes a bid for the presidency before her first term is up.
   To say that she wasn’t impressed with my determination to become an artist was a gross understatement. It didn’t matter that by the time I was sixteen, I had already had two gallery openings and my drawings had been displayed in a special exhibition for young artists at the Museum of Modern Art. To her it was a hobby, not a career and she told me this…constantly.
   On the night of my high school graduation she started in again, telling me it wasn’t too late to change majors, that she would pay my way if I went into law. I got mad. I was still grieving the loss of my father, the one parent who had always supported my talents, and I felt as if mom was trying to bully me now that dad wasn’t there to defend me. I was hurt, so I did something irrational.

   I left.

   I packed a small overnight bag and drove down the coast to Monterrey. I had an older cousin there. Ellie, one of dad’s sister’s daughters, was something of a hippie throw back. She let me stay with her on the condition that I called my mother and told her where I was. To say that mom was unhappy was an understatement. She demanded that I come immediately home, but fortunately, after Ellie spoke to her and assured that I was welcome to stay the summer, she relented.
   It was a lot of fun. I took my sketchbook out to the coast almost every day. I would have been content to spend the entire summer in Monterrey, but Ellie, my cousin, saw my art and suggested we fly to Santa Fe and visit the galleries there. Normally I wouldn’t have done something so impulsive, but Ellie was an adult, and Santa Fe had been a dream of mine since I was a little kid.
   I did the responsible thing and I called my mother to tell her where we were going. I could tell she wasn’t thrilled, but she trusted Ellie and I think part of her willingness had to do with the fact that she too was sorry about the fight we had. I think she hoped that if she let me do this, I might change my mind about my major.  
   If anything, the trip solidified my desire to make art my life’s work. Santa Fe was amazing. We went to every gallery and I got to visit an actual artist’s community. After a couple of days, Ellie was ready to head back to California, but I had other plans. I had come across a gallery that was featuring an artist from New Orleans who painted pictures around the theme of Jazz funerals. I was mesmerized by the bright colored paintings of skeletons dancing and playing instruments. I suggested we continue on to New Orleans. 
   Ellie nixed the idea. She had a job and couldn’t spend the rest of the summer running all over the country. When we got back to Monterrey, I spent one more night, thanked Ellie for her hospitality, and left in the morning. But instead of driving north, I took the highway south. I had no intention of heading home just yet.
   New Orleans is a long way away from California. The drive took me three days and that was with just the barest minimum of stops when I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. By the second day, I was scared. I knew that what I had done was wrong and anything could happen to me, but I was also stubborn. Besides, the damage was already done. 

   I don’t know what I expected to find in New Orleans, but it was like no place I had ever been before. The heat, for one thing, hoo boy! Santa Fe had been hot, but in New Orleans, the humidity made it nearly impossible to be outside for very long.
   Maybe it was the weather, but there was a different kind of warmth in New Orleans as well. Something I was unaccustomed to. People made eye contact. They smiled, and talked to strangers. New Orleans was nothing like my antiseptic life of gated neighborhoods and shopping malls back home. I found a comfortable hotel overlooking the Mississippi river and fell in love.

   It turns out I would fall in love three times in New Orleans.

   I loved everything about the city: the music, the people, the unexpected art and culture, and of course, the mystery. I took all the tours; cemeteries, ghosts, history, and I looked for vampires.
   I found my second love while wandering around one afternoon. For most of my life, coffee was nothing more than the beverage that turned my parents into functional humans in the morning. In New Orleans, I discovered Gilly’s Magic Beans, the supposed authority on New Orleans style coffee, and immediately understood what it was my parents had loved. I never did get to meet the world famous Gilly, whose wizened visage graced the sign over the door as well as each paper coffee cup. But the locals who hung around her shop had plenty of stories to tell about the sassy woman who had been brewing up magic since 1954.

   It was through my love of Gilly’s coffee that I met my third New Orleans love.

   I noticed him immediately. Young, handsome, and much to my chagrin, always dressed in the uniform of the New Orleans Police Department. The baby faced cop seemed to be a staple at Gilly’s, much as I was becoming, myself. I quickly learned his routine and began showing up a few minutes before he would so that I could snag a corner table and stare at him over the book I would pretend to read.
   To call him simply handsome would be a laughable fallacy. Handsome was a word for an attractive actor, or the cute boy in class that all the girls liked. This man was a living work of art. He was tall and slender, and if his forearms were any indication as to what his uniform was hiding, he had a sleek, muscular physique. Not the rippling bulges of cartoon superheroes, but the slim contours found on the likes of Michelangelo’s David. His hair was that shiny shade of black that almost looked blue in the sun and his skin was a deep shade of brown that made me think he might have been Egyptian or Mediterranean.
   But his eyes, oh yes, his eyes were by far his best feature. There were no words to describe them that would do them justice. They were gold. Not hazel, not a light amber shade of brown, but a clear, liquid gold with flecks of pale gold that seemed to radiate their own light. Silly, I know, but I swear I was hypnotized by his eyes.
   Of course, I knew that I didn’t have a chance. Not that I was bad looking, but this guy was out of my league. He was a police officer. Even if he was fresh from recruitment, he was an adult and I was a a young girl of seventeen.

   But fate has a funny way of working out.

   I found myself wide awake one night, unable to fall asleep. I tried everything. Reading, watching television, and even getting up and pacing, but nothing helped. I decided a walk would do me good.
   Yes, it was well after three am, but New Orleans was a nonstop party and it never occurred to me that not everyone out at that time had good intentions. I didn’t even realize I was being followed until I found myself cornered in a dark alley after one too many wrong turns.

   “Hey pretty lady!”

   But that was as far as the thug got before he was being pushed up against the wall by none other than my beautiful cop from Gilly’s! He was out of uniform and I must say, despite being scared out of my wits, I couldn’t help but notice how good he looked in a pair of body-hugging faded jeans that were torn in all the right places.
   “Get out of here, leave the girl alone and if I so much as see you out again tonight I will personally rip your balls off, you got me, son?”
   “I ain’t you son, fool. Mind your own damned business, and get outta here!”
   The thug pulled a knife. I would have screamed but I was so scared that I just stood there, like an idiot, waiting for something horrible to happen. My savior didn’t even flinch.
   “If that’s all you got then you better run fast, got me?”
   His back was to me so I didn’t see what he did but whatever it was, it put the fear into my would be assailant because he took off running and never looked back.
   “Are you okay, Miss?”
   I just nodded. The way he was looking at me, along with the fatigue from my earlier adrenaline rush, had me tongue-tied.
   “You’re not a local, are you?”
   “No sir,” I managed to squeak out.
   “Do you have any friends or family you can call?”
   I shook my head.
   “What’s your name, miss?”
   “Julia?” He wanted my last name. I wasn’t about to give it to him.
   “Childs,” I answered quickly, “Julia Childs.” I was never a good liar. But beautiful cop or not, I was still a runaway. The last thing I needed was my mother to be alerted to my whereabouts. Well, actually, the last thing I needed was for her to find out that I was in New Orleans and I had almost been mugged or worse in a dark alley in the middle of the night.
    “Is that so?” The corner of his mouth turned upward at my obvious lie. “Are you sure about that?”
   “Um… Yes?” I silently begged him not to press the issue. “Thank you. You know… for saving my life.”
   “That, Miss Julia, is my job, no need to thank me.” He smiled, oh god what a smile, I almost fainted.
   “I thought that was only your job when you were in uniform?” I realized after I said that that I probably shouldn’t have known he was a cop. He wasn’t surprised at all.
   “It’s not the kind of job you can just leave behind when you punch out for the day, especially in a place like this. What were you doing out here alone anyway? Gilly’s closed hours ago.”
   I blushed when I realized he recognized me. Here I thought I was being so sly. On the other hand, I was flattered that he noticed me.
   “I couldn’t sleep and I thought a walk might help. I got lost.”
   The way he was looking at me made my insides melt. His eyes, so mesmerizing during the day practically glowed in the moonlight.
   “Well, Julia, you should probably be heading back to where ever you are staying. May I escort you safely back? I’m Isaac, by the way, Officer Isaac Gillman, at your service.”
   ”I’d appreciate that, Officer Gillman.”
   “Just Isaac.”
   The truth was, I wasn’t the least bit tired, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to turn down the offer to spend more time in his company. When we arrived at my hotel, he stopped short of coming into the lobby. I didn’t want the night to end, so I stood awkwardly for a moment, unsure what to do next.
   “You should go sleep, Julia. I wouldn’t want to get to Gilly’s tomorrow and not see you there.”
   I nodded my agreement. Once again, Isaac had me incapable of speech. He wanted to see me again! I couldn’t believe my luck.

   The next morning I woke up and put on the hand painted sundress I had purchased in Santa Fe. Knowing that Isaac would be there, I also took a little extra time with my makeup and did my best to smooth my hair into a sleek bun that would hopefully resist the humidity. I was shocked to see that he had made it to Gilly’s before I did, and he was sitting at my table.  Wearing a short sleeved button down shirt and a pair of snug fitting jeans, this guy just kept getting better looking every time I saw him. As I approached, he stood and smiled.
   “Julia, you look lovely this morning,” He took my hand and raised it to his lips in an old fashioned gesture. I blushed and tried to keep the goofy smile from my face, but failed.
   “Nice to see you too,” I managed without too much of a nervous trill. “So you’re not in uniform today.” For some reason, I felt the need to state the obvious.
   “No, I’m not,” Isaac beamed at me, “I was wondering if you had any plans for the day?”
Plans? Even if I had plans to dine with the president, if Isaac was asking me out I would have changed them.

   I’ve never had a more perfect day. Isaac took me to his favorite places around the city. We took a boat tour on the Mississippi. We rode the trolley cars, and Isaac informed me that in New Orleans they were called streetcars, not trolleys. He took me to dinner at a little restaurant outside the touristy area that made the best seafood I’d ever had. And later that evening, he asked me if I wanted to see the sunset over the lake. Of course, I said yes.
   As it turned out, Isaac lived in a small cabin on the lake. I was nervous about going to his home. I mean, there might have been an expectation on his part that I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with. With any other guy, I most definitely would not have done this. But Isaac was a true gentleman. He had a couple of deck chairs on his back porch and we sat and watched the sun set. It was beautiful. If I had my sketchbook, I would have drawn it.
   We sat and talked until late into the night. I told him about California and my life there, carefully avoiding anything that might give away my age. Isaac hadn’t asked, and I hadn’t told him. He told me about his life and how things might have gone a lot different. Isaac had been orphaned at a very early age and found himself roaming the streets just looking to survive. It turns out it was the owner of Gilly’s who got him off the street. Ida Gillman was her name. Ida took Isaac in and raised him alongside her other children. He worked at Gilly’s all through high school and when he graduated, he had saved enough to attend the police academy. He told me that Ida still takes in troubled kids and that he now helped her in her fight to make their lives better.

   As the night wore on, we moved from our chairs into a hammock that he had strung between two trees near the lake. The night was so peaceful, and I loved the feel of his strong arms wrapped around me as we lay side by side. Soon I was drifting off to sleep, but not before Isaac placed a soft kiss on my cheek and thanked me for spending a perfect day with him.

   I awoke first, just as the all too bright Louisiana sun made another minute of sleep impossible. Isaac’s arms were still wrapped around me, making it rather difficult to get up, but I managed to untangle myself without waking him. As soon as I was up, I missed the feel of him, but I wanted to surprise him with breakfast. I found some eggs in the fridge and a bowl in one of the cupboards. As I started cracking eggs to make omelets, I heard the screen door creak and turned to see Isaac standing in the doorway.
   Some people aren’t at their best in the morning, like me. I knew my eyes were puffy, my hair was a mass of tangles and my pretty sundress was wrinkled beyond repair. But Isaac was brilliant. His rumpled bed head only added boyish charm to his beautiful face.
   “Good Morning, I hope you like omelets.” I smiled. Isaac yawned, gave me a lopsided smile, and leaned his head to the side. He regarded me with a curious look that couldn’t quite read.
   “Is something wrong? I can make something else, how about French toast?”
   He straightened, crossed the tiny kitchen to where I stood, and put his arms around my waist.
   “Wrong? Definitely not,” he whispered, pulling me closer and making me very aware of the contours of his chest against mine. “I was just thinking about how wonderful life would be if every morning I could see you like this. But then again,” he reached one arm up, tangling his hand into my wild mass of hair, “how much more wonderful would it be to wake up with you in my arms, your head on my chest, your glorious hair blanketing the both of us.”
   I couldn’t contain the shiver that passed through me. Instinctively I looked up. The raw emotion in Isaac’s eyes was my undoing. I tilted my head up just as he leaned down. I’d never been kissed like that before. Admittedly, at seventeen, I wasn’t exactly an expert on the subject, but this was not the clumsy, rubber-lipped slobbering that I’d experienced with boys my own age. Isaac’s lips moved in perfect harmony with my own. Every slightest touch was perfectly calculated, eliciting tremors is places that both thrilled and terrified me.

   I found myself stumbling willingly down the hallway to the bedroom. Before my brain had a chance to catch up to my body, I had slipped out of my sundress and was on my back fumbling with clumsy, inexperienced fingers at the buttons of Isaac’s shirt. His hands had already begun their own exploration that was anything but inexperienced. At last, I managed to remove his shirt and began attacking the button fly of his jeans, cursing whoever made such a contraption.
   “We probably shouldn’t be doing this,” Isaac whispered, but his fingers, now roaming the contours of my stomach did little to convince me of his convictions. His hand covered mine just as I had gotten the last button apart. “Julia, please. We…”
   “I don’t care,” I whispered breathlessly, surprised at my own uninhibited behavior. I pulled his face up to mine and kissed him softly. “I want this. I want you, Isaac. I…”
   “Julia, wait,” Isaac placed his hand on the side of my face and stared at me with deep longing. “I have to explain…” he said, suddenly shy, “I’ve never…” His face reddened slightly. “I don’t want you to think that this was my intent.”
   “Isaac,” I said, reaching up to cup his face. “I want this too.”
   “Do you?” He asked, leaning into me. “Do you want all that this entails? Because I’m not looking for something temporary.”
   His words awakened in me a new and unfamiliar emotion that both awed and terrified me. I was thrilled to think that this beautiful creature was completely mine.
   “I’m yours,” I whispered. “Always.”

   We never made it to breakfast, or lunch for that matter. It was well into the evening before the rumbling of our empty stomachs became too loud to ignore. Any lack of experience jitters melted away instantaneously. The only prior knowledge I had about sex had come in the form of stories from my more experienced friends and from what they told me, I was indeed very lucky to have found someone as attentive as Isaac.
   I checked out of my hotel the next morning at Isaac’s insistence. My original plan was to leave for California within the week, but I realized I had plenty of time before I had to go back and register for classes so I stayed. For two blissful weeks, Isaac and I lived together in his little cabin by the lake. In the mornings, I would take my sketchbook out to the backyard and draw. We continued to meet for lunch at Gilly’s every day and after he went back to work, I would spend time downtown until his shift ended and we could walk home together. After dinner, we would sit together in the hammock, or I would draw Isaac while he worked on one of his projects. And of course, every evening, after we’d made love so beautifully that sometimes we would both shed tears, we would fall asleep wrapped in each other’s embrace.

   A summer drew to an end, I realized that I was running out of time, but the thought of leaving Isaac became a physical hurt. I had fallen in love. I realized that what Isaac and I had was beyond special. So special that I felt sorry for everyone else in the universe who had not experienced the level of love and fulfillment that we shared.
   I decided to stay. There were plenty of schools I could get into in New Orleans and I knew I could get a job based on the number of “help wanted” signs I saw all over. I couldn’t wait to tell Isaac my decision and I practically bounced all the way to Gilly’s, but when I got there, Isaac was waiting for me outside with an unhappy look on his face.
   “We need to get out of here.” His voice was gruff, but there was an underlying sadness that worried me. We walked back to the cabin in silence. Isaac seemed to be keeping an eye on our surroundings and would occasionally look over his shoulder. When we reached the cabin, Isaac stopped at the driveway, where my car sat.
   “Julia, pull your car around back, behind the trees.”
   “Sure.” I did as he asked and followed him into the kitchen. He was leaning against the counter, facing away from me with his shoulders slumped.
   “Isaac, what’s wrong?”
   “Julia…” He turned around to face me and I almost wished he hadn’t. His expression held shock, disappointment, and pain, “Why didn’t you tell me who you were? Or how old you are?”
   My heard sank into my stomach. My mother. It hadn’t occurred to me that she could find me through my credit card activity. “I’m seventeen. You never asked, so I didn’t think it mattered.” That was true. I assumed Isaac was only a few years older than me and in Louisiana there was nothing illegal about our relationship.
   “You’re a minor and a runaway.”
   “No!” I shook my head vehemently, “I left home, yes. But my mother knew that.”
   Isaac leveled me with a hard stare. “She knew you were visiting your cousin, but you left there almost a month ago. She’s reported you missing. Julia, if anyone knows you are here, I’m going to be arrested for kidnapping at the very least.”
   “What? No!” I stared at Isaac in horror. “They can’t do that!”
   “They can and will. You are a minor and your mother is very upset. You need to call her, and then…” Isaac’s eyes shined with unshed tears. “You need to go home.”
I couldn’t pretend to stay calm any longer. I threw my arms around him and sobbed uncontrollably, staining the front of his uniform with tears, but I didn’t care. “Isaac, please. Let me stay. I’ll be eighteen in a few weeks. I don’t want to lose you.”
   Despite any misgivings he might have had, Isaac put his arms around me and held me while I cried.    “You aren’t losing me, doll. I’m not getting over you any time soon, but, sweetheart, you have to go back to your life. Classes start soon, you don’t want to compromise your future.”
   “Without you, I have no future. I love you.” I sobbed. “I’ll find a school here, I’ll…”
   Isaac’s lips stopped my hysterics. “You love me?”
   I nodded. Isaac kissed me again. “Oh Julia, you can’t possibly know how happy that makes me. I’ve never felt as alive as I do with you. I love you so much, but New Orleans is a dangerous place. We’ll be together again, I promise you that.”
   “How? California is a long way away, Isaac.”
   “I’ll visit you,” he promised, “Every chance I get. If I thought I could, I’d jump into the car and drive back to San Francisco with you right now, but I have a lot of unfinished work here that I can’t put on the back burner. But as soon as I can, I’ll be with you.”
   “Cross my heart.”

   In the end, he convinced me to go home with the promise that he would come see me soon. He explained that the work he could not leave behind was not with the police force, but rather an outreach program that he had started with the owner of Gilly’s to try and get problem kids off the streets. It was noble work, and I felt guilty knowing that I had kept Isaac from it for the last two weeks, just as he had started making progress with a couple of local gangs.

   I made it back to California in time to register for classes. I spoke as little as possible to my mother and on the day I turned eighteen, I leased my first apartment. It was small, two rooms and a kitchenette, and in a less than desirable Oakland neighborhood, but I was on the bus route to school. I could have tapped into my trust fund and gotten something much nicer, but I wanted to make it on my own.
   By the end of my first semester, I could no longer pass off my ever expanding waistline as typical freshman weight gain, nor could I lie to myself about the nausea I was experiencing every morning. Quietly, I withdrew from Berkeley.

   Lucinda Sofia Soriano was born on May 29th, 1986. I wavered back and forth about her last name. Isaac had yet to keep his promise and I didn’t have answers to the questions that would inevitably be asked. As you can imagine, my relationship with my mother became more strained, but over time, we began to mend what was left. I suspect Lucy had everything to do with that.
   For the first few months of Lucy’s life, I lamented the fact that her father was still absent. But soon all thoughts of Isaac were pushed aside as Lucy became my whole life. She was such a vibrant and intelligent child. She had the same brilliant gold eyes as her father, but unlike either of us, Lucy had a pale, milk and honey complexion. She also had problems with bright light and her pediatrician suggested she might suffer from a slight form of albinism.

   It wasn’t until Lucy’s fifth birthday that Isaac came back into my life, bringing more questions than answers to the confusion I had. He had come into the diner I was working at, late at night. At first, I thought nothing of the blonde haired, tanned man sitting alone in the back booth. He wore sunglasses, which would have been odd at three in the morning, but this is California. As I passed his table, he touched my hand and said my name. I jumped, visibly startled that this stranger knew my name, but then he took the sunglasses off and I saw his eyes.
   I couldn’t believe it. He looked like a faded photograph of the dark skinned, black haired man I knew, but there was no mistaking his eyes.
   “Do you have a moment?”
   I told my supervisor I was taking a break and sat down across from him. I opened my mouth to ask him what he had done, but he spoke first.
   “Lucy, she’s my daughter, isn’t she?” I nodded. Isaac hung his head and looked at me with regret.      “I’ve been a fool, Julia. My god, I’m so sorry!”
   “I don’t understand.”
   “I came to see you,” Isaac explained, “in March, after you had left. You were pregnant. I had been told I… that I cannot have children. I thought…I thought you had moved on. I went back to New Orleans. I didn’t want to complicate your life. Had I known, I would have come for you, I could have helped.”
   Now, most women would see this as a clear case of a man running from his responsibilities, but Isaac wasn’t like that. The pained look he wore was genuine.
   “We’re getting by, Isaac. You didn’t know.”
   He smiled ruefully. “Getting by. Julia, you should be having gallery openings, not waiting tables. Come back to New Orleans with me. It’s a lot safer now. The organization I work with has done a lot for the safety of the city. I can provide for you, you don’t need to work. And I want to know my daughter.”
   I should have said yes. I should have quit right then and there, gone home for Lucy, and started a new life, but I didn’t. I have something of a stubborn streak as my mother knows well.
   “Isaac,” I sighed, “Lucy’s about to start kindergarten, and she’s just getting to know her grandmother. What you are offering sounds wonderful, but I have questions.”
  "My appearance?”
   “For starters,” I nodded. “I don’t buy that the man I knew five years ago happened to have a killer tan. And there’s the fact that my daughter looks like her father was Scandinavian.”
   “I assure you, that was no tan. I’m…” Isaac sighed, “Well, to tell you the truth, I’m not sure what I am. But I’ve always had some unusual abilities. The ability to change my appearance is one of them. Lucy may have inherited some of them. My ties to New Orleans, my outreach, deals in finding others like me. There are others, many others, but they tend to be dangerous.”
   “What do you mean, dangerous?” That had my attention. Isaac smiled, not the beautiful smile I was used to seeing. This smile was sinister, and punctuated by very long and sharp canines. I gasped and nearly fell out of my chair. When I looked back, they were gone.
   “What are you, a vampire?” I kicked myself for saying that out loud, but Isaac laughed softly.
   “Another of my kind, a brilliant doctor I might add, seems to think we are exactly that. But not in the sense that you’re thinking. I don’t drink blood, and I think you know full well that I don’t burn up in the sun.”
   I admit, I was a little frightened. Here was the only man I had ever loved, telling me he was a vampire. Sure, I couldn’t explain the fact that he suddenly looked like a SoCal surfer, but a vampire? I wondered if he was in his right mind.
   “Isaac. I don’t know what to think.” I started.
   “I can explain everything, Julia. Rather, there are experts in New Orleans who can explain better than I can. Come back with me.”
   “I don’t know,” I hesitated. “I’ve missed you Isaac. Believe that. You don’t want to know how many nights I spent crying myself to sleep because I thought I’d never see you again. But this, you, here now…I don’t know, it’s a little scary.”
   I broke his heart.
   I could practically hear the pieces fall to the floor. He sat in silence for a moment, then stood and retrieved a small box from his pocket.
   “I’ve never gotten over you Julia, and I never will, but I’ll give you as long as you need. I brought this with me the first time I came out.” He opened the box and held it out to me. Inside was a ring, a beautiful diamond engagement ring. My heart fluttered wildly.
   “I still love you, Julia. I always will. Take this ring. I’ll come back, every year, on Lucy’s birthday. When you are ready to accept me, wear it.”
   He placed the ring on the table and walked out.

   Isaac kept his promise. But every year I came to him with one excuse or another. I’d be lying to myself if I said that there was truly anything keeping me in California other than my own fear. I am still afraid, but I think it’s time. Lucy hasn’t exhibited any strange abilities, but my baby is inquisitive, brilliant and deserves to know the truth.

   And I am ready to give her the truth.

   I’m wearing your ring tonight, Isaac. I’ve waited long enough. Too long. Lucy deserves a family that is whole. You deserve a wife who can move past her anxiety and do right by the man who captured her heart so long ago. I wish we could have had the last ten years, but it doesn’t matter, only the future matters.
   We have the rest of our lives, my love. I’ll see you soon.