Karin learns that she has her own prejudices that need to be settled.
They made their way into the part of the city Ren liked to frequent, because Anjou was certain she could find some jealous girl that had been jilted by him, or some kind of spat that she could use. Jean-Claude was in his normal hunting clothes and walked along side Anjou. He really did not need to feed, considering the events of the night before; however, clobbering some thug would not be such a bad thing. Considering the neighborhood, Jean-Claude almost hoped someone would walk up and say something to Anjou. However, with him standing there, no one seemed to pay them any mind. Before long, they found Ren, he had one girl on his arm, and there was another screaming at the other girl, saying that she had better get her paws off her man. The other girl, just laughed as the two of them went on. Ren waved his hand before her eyes, just enough to pause her brain while they went their way. The other girl stood there steamed, not knowing what to do. Jean-Claude kneeled down, and said to Anjou, “Play like you’re a lost little girl that wants to go home. Get her talking and take her to the park. I think you know what to do from there.”
“Of course, Big Brother,” she said, with her normal blank expression, “That’s one of my normal traps.”
“Well, looks like you got this under control,” laughed Jean-Claude, who added, “I won’t be far behind.”
Anjou played her cards right, and gained the sympathy of the woman. As they walked, she started to talk to Anjou, as if she were someone that could help her, or at least feel sorry for her. Anjou let her talk until they reached the park near Kenta’s place, and they sat down. Anjou started to snuggle close to her, and then said, “I can help you with that jealousy.”
The woman stroked her hair, saying, “You’re sweet, honey, but, how could someone your age understand what I am feeling?”
She did not notice Anjou inching closer to her, fangs extended, and by the time she realized what was happening, Anjou was sinking in her fangs. She wanted to scream, but she could only manage a squeal from the initial pricks, and then she sat quiet as Anjou fed. She moaned as if she was enjoying the experience, and then Anjou released her. Unfortunately, she lost her grip, and she began to fall. Jean-Claude came out of nowhere and caught her. He set her on the park bench as Anjou erased her memory of meeting her. They then found a park bench out of sight where they could talk.
“Now, you have a great technique,” said Jean-Claude, “I just hope you can improve on that as you age. You won’t be able to keep that up for long.”
“I know,” she said blankly.
They sat quiet for a few minutes, and then Anjou said, “There was more than looking after me that brought you out, wasn’t it?”
“Can’t hide anything from you, Corn Muffin,” conceded Jean-Claude, “In fact, I do want to ask you a few things.”
“Like what?” she asked.
“I like the fact that you want to be close to me,” he said, “I’ve never had a little sister to look after before, and it’s kind of nice.”
“You make me feel safe,” she said.
“Is that the only reason?”
Anjou though for a moment, and then she said, “You had a nightmare on the way here, didn’t you?”
His face turned white, and his jaw went slightly agape as she said this. He slowly turned to her and said, “How did you know?”
“You know much about your ability,” she said, “but there are a few things you need to learn yet.”
“So, what happened that night?” he asked.
“It must have been a very disturbing dream,” she said, “because you let out a primal scream that, if a vampire is tuned into it just right, they hear it like a distress signal. Both Karin and I were tuned in that night.”
“I would not know how to apologize, Muff,” he said.
“There is no need,” she said, “It’s something that happens.”
“What else was there about it?”
“You were only a bit younger when it happened, wasn’t it?”
He started to tear up, which was rare these days. The pain he felt that night when his whole life was shattered was buried deep. However, it only took the right things to dredge them up, and he was gone in tears. “Oh, God, Anjou,” he said, “After all these years, it still hurts!”
He threw off his hat and pulled down the scarf as he began to bawl like a baby. She inched over and leaned her head on his shoulder as she hugged his arm. She said, “I sense that you have not ever had the chance to truly mourn for your family, have you?”
He started to cry louder, and she was glad that there was no one near enough to come over to examine the sight. “Why! Why!” he cried, “Mommy, Daddy, I miss you so! Oh God, why couldn’t they just leave us alone? We didn’t hurt anyone! We didn’t do anything wrong! I want them back! I WANT THEM BACK!”
“I feel for you, Big Brother,” she said, “because I think I could understand how you feel if you lost everything.”
He looked up with a tearstained face and reddened eyes, fangs extended from the emotional release. He shook his head, not sure where she was going with it. She then said, “As you know, when vampires mature, and awaken, they can essentially fend for themselves, its just that I awakened younger than most. Karin and I were close, and, if she had been a normal vampire, I think that I would still have contentment. When she awakened, and turned out to be what she is, I knew that it was only a matter of time before we would not be able to be around each other. The spirits that used to live in Boogie-kun and my other dolls ceased to be when I awakened. I lost my sister, and those friends. I have my brother and my parents, but, because we are all awakened, we are not as close as we could be. I am in a house full of people, and yet I am alone. Then you came along. You live in the day too, but you don’t treat me like a wall ornament when we are together. Neither does Karin, but I don’t see as much of her as I want.”
Feeling a bit calmer, he said, “I can’t do that to people. I care so much for people.”
“That was because of your family,” she said, “They taught you more than you realize.”
Now, she had his full attention, amazed that such a young mind possessed such wisdom. She then sat back beside him, and said, “Perhaps I feel a bit jealous of you, because, you, for a short time, had what I once had, and more, in fact, and learned what it meant to love people. Karin taught me that, but I wish I could see her more. You, however, seek me out, and want to spend time with me. You have no idea how good that feels…well…then again, maybe you do.”
At this, she cracked her characteristic Mona Lisa grin, and he returned it with a grin of his own. She then said, “What’s more, you are trying to reach out to everyone else in the same way, and I think it’s having an effect.”
He raised his eyebrows at her, as if to say, “Do you really think so?”
“Don’t stop trying,” she said, “because, even brother doesn’t see you as a foe anymore. You have fought shoulder to shoulder with him, and watched his back. He now, sort of, wants you around. If you keep this up, you just may make us close, the way it should be.”
“Are you saying that you were once close?” he said as he blew his nose.
“I am saying that, because of Karin, and their complete misunderstanding of her situation,” she answered, “we never really had a chance to be close. Mother never really could be the mother she wanted, father began to sit back and let mother control more, and everyone has been so uncomfortable.”
“Has that changed?” he asked.
“Some,” she said, “Mother is softening a bit, and father is becoming more assertive. He always has been. Has he told you about when Karin had her first nosebleed, and what he did?”
“Like I could forget that story!” he said, “He really does care.”
“Yes, but,” she said, “but mother, because she didn’t know how to handle the situation that was thrust on her, she has never allowed us to become as close knit as we could be.”
“Yet, now Karin is of value,” he said, “I would think that she and her mother could get a better rapport.”
“I don’t know,” she answered.
“That’s nonsense,” he said, “It’s never too late to start over. I think I need to talk to her tomorrow while you and Karin are fetching the Usuis.”
“I’m not sure that would work,” she said, “But you are welcome to try.”
“I think I am going to talk to Karin tonight as well,” he said, “I think that there is something there, because, if we can get close, she has no excuse. I think she is avoiding you.”
She looked him in a bit of surprise, and then he asked, “Was she there when you awakened?”
Anjou looked down, and said, “Yes, and it was her best friend.”
Jean-Claude leaned back on the park bench, sounding like he just had an epiphany, and said, “That explains it.”
“What explains what, Big Brother?” she asked.
“She is so used to being in the human world, and because of how you described the situation in your family,” he said, “she has never really seen herself as a vampire, or has as much of an ability to relate. Yes, let me talk to her. She needs a wake-up call, and she owes you an apology.”
“You say it’s never too late to start over, right?” she asked.
“That’s right,” he answered.
“Then,” she said, “I know you can never get them back, but I think they would love it if they knew you found a new family, and that you just may be able to heal the riffs enough to give the both of us what we have always wanted. Help make us a complete family, Big Brother. You can beat them if you can get back more than they took.”
A wave of emotions came over Jean-Claude again. She was indeed a kindred spirit. Both of them had been stranded on mental desert islands, looking for rescue, and they now had each other to get each other “home.” His heart started to race, and he started to tremble. He then snatched her up and held her tight, saying, “Oh, thank you, child! Thank you, Jesus! God willing, I will insure that you never be alone again, no matter what happens next! If I were to have to live at night, just to insure it, I would do it! I love you so much!”
She kissed his cheek and hugged his neck, and he said, “Let’s go home!”
He held her as he scooped up his hat, and he carried her all the way.
While they walked, he started to meditate on what he wanted to say to Karin. The one thing that stood out to him was that she needed to come to grips with whom and what she was, as well as to get a grip on what her family is. She also had to realize that, by having the mentality that she had, she was, in reality, saying that she was ashamed of what she is, and what they are. That had to change! She needed a mental slap in the face! In truth, by thinking like this, she was really only thinking of herself. She stepped all over Anjou’s toes, and she needed to make it right. Things might have been better in the household, yet, just because the rest of them needed to learn how to be closer, that did not mean that she did not have to heal the rifts that she had created, and she had created them! He hoped he could catch her before she went to bed that night.
He set Anjou on the porch before they entered, and then he began to put some steel into his resolve, because what he needed to say was going to be harsh. He had always appreciated what it meant to have a family, but this little one had sharpened that appreciation to razor sharp, and now he was going to teach some people how to appreciate it, starting with Karin. He knew she might feel like she was being unfairly picked on; in fact, she may not even realize what she had done, and that had to be made clear. Once it had been, he knew she would not feel so picked on anymore, and then go make things right. Calera and Henry saw him with a determined face, and asked him what the matter was. He stopped, looked at them, and said, “A selfish girl is about to get a psychological spanking. Anjou and I just had a long talk, and I’ll say more later. For now, whatever happens out back on that porch, pay no mind to it, and insure that she doesn’t run away to you.”
Calera looked at him shocked, and said, “What in the name of common sense are you planning to do?”
“A certain little vampire needs to learn truly who and what she is, and how her behavior is actually flying the proverbial finger at her own family.”
Now they looked at him oddly, and said, “What do you mean!”
“For a vampire, she’s too human!” he said, “I know that sounds odd coming from me, but learning to love myself, and love people for who they are was instilled in me long ago. In order to be that way, mom and dad made me well aware of who and what mother was, as well as what I could be, and that I had to accept mother’s behaviors. In other words, having to feed was just a part of life, and we cannot deny what we truly are. If we do, we lie to ourselves, and we become miserable, and, as such, we never find our place in this world. If Karin continues like this, eventually, she will start to hate herself, and she will be miserable for the rest of eternity. She needs a wake-up call!”
The Markers both nodded, now clearly seeing his point. They let him go, because, sometimes, hearing it from someone other than your parents can get through where they could not.
He stomped up the stars and knocked on her door, saying, “Karin, are you still dressed?”
“Yes,” she said, “I was just getting ready for bed.”
“Wrong!” he said, with some authority in his voice, “You are coming out now, because you and I are going to have a little talk!”
“Can’t it wait?” she said.
“No!” he snapped, “because Anjou has been filling me in on some things, and I do NOT like what I hear!”
There was about five seconds of silence, and then she snapped back, “Who do you think you are, talking like that to me?”
That did it! He flung the door open, saying, “I’m your big brother!”, and he scooped her up onto his shoulder as if she were a sack of potatoes. She screamed, and started to hit his back and kick. The blows to his back meant nothing, and he restrained her legs. She screamed, “Daddy!” but it was to no avail. Anjou just sat in her room, concentrating on the bat that was watching the back porch. He took her downstairs, past her parents, (of whom she begged profusely for help, and they acted as if they were not even there,) closed the door behind him, and plopped her down on a bench. “What in the world got into you!” she thundered.
“I was about to ask you the same question!” he said through his teeth. He then asked, “Why did you treat your sister like a freak when she awakened?”
That hit her like a kick in the head. Now she knew what the deal was, and she wasn’t sure if she wanted to deal with it at that moment. She started to bolt, but he caught her in one arm, and put her back down, a bit more forcefully this time. She begged for help, and she was quite being ignored. Jean-Claude then said, “Don’t even try to vamp up with me, either, because I can be worse than you! That’s ironic, too, considering how you see yourself compared to your own family!”
She stared at him, wondering what he was going to do next. He then said, “Karin, you have been around humans so long that you have forgotten what it truly means to be a vampire.”
“Don’t give me that!” she snapped, “I well know what I am! How could I forget, with them constantly reminding me?”
He sighed, calmed down a bit, and said, “Yes, they need to apologize for that too, because they dealt with it wrong as well. There is enough blame for everyone. Yet, look…because of the way things went, I think that, deep down inside, you don’t want to be a vampire, do you?”
She wanted to protest, but she was beginning to get an epiphany of her own. For years, Calera had always made her to feel ashamed for being a blood maker, but now she realized how foolish he had been, considering how it had been in ignorance that she acted the way she did. In her own way, Calera did apologize, but there had to be more acceptance from her. On the other hand, she had always wished that she could have been human, because she never would have had to put up with as much as she had over the years. “Maybe you’re right,” she conceded, “maybe I have wished to be human. Yet, I think you can understand why?”
Jean-Claude thought for a moment, and began to wonder if he had overreacted a bit. He then probed this by saying, “Let me ask you this: because your sister was the only member of your family that could be up in the daytime, did you think that, maybe, it could last?”
“You know,” she said, “I never really thought about it.”
“Could it be then that you always secretly—even subconsciously—wished that she were a human?” he then asked, “Was it because you did not want to lose her to the inevitable?”
She hung her head, and said nothing, which was just as good as an answer for Jean-Claude. “Thus, what did was lie to yourself for years, hoping that things would not change, and ultimately convinced yourself that it would not change, right?”
She started to tear up, now seeing where things were going. She then said, “Yet, can you blame me? I mean, I knew that I was trapped from my own family for something that wasn’t my fault. I had to be independent, somehow. So, can’t you see why I got so close to Anjou?”
Now, a bit of the anger returned to Jean-Claude, realizing that, even though Calera owed her daughter much in the way of apology, and not learning to bond to her daughter, it was no excuse for Karin. He said, “Karin, just because you have been separated—somewhat—in this way, that did not mean that there was no hope. They had to extend a hand to you, but you have to do something too! You could have made the effort to find a way to get close and overcome things. You could have met them halfway, at least!”
Karin was beginning to get it, but Jean-Claude did not think that she was getting it enough. He took a risk. “Karin, look at me,” he said. She looked up, and saw him vamped out. He looked so different this way, and a bit scary. He said, firmly, “Karin, you are a vampire. Your family is vampires. What does this mean? It means that you—we—do not deal with this world in the same way. We cannot ever see humans in the same way other humans do. They can be our friends, and our allies, even one can be your husband. At least, I think so. Yet, Karin, they are also our food! You may not be able to relate fully, because you don’t feed, you give. However, we are what we are. We cannot change that. The same feeling of peace and ecstasy you get when you release is the same one we get when we feed. It is hard for you to see it that way, because you live amongst them as a peer. Yet, so do I. However, just because they are peers to me does not mean that I will not do what I must. I am happy that I have the taste that I have, because it gives me a great excuse to do what I do. However, if it were something else, it would not matter to me. I have to feed. I cannot live otherwise. You have to release, or, as you have seen, you may just have the one big nosebleed that does you in. Why did it shock you when Anjou awakened? You knew what she was—what she is. You treated her like she wasn’t even your sister to the point that you were shocked at what she did.”
“But, why Maki?” she said, now openly crying, “Why did it have to be her?”
He shrugged his shoulders and asked, “Why not?”
She snapped to her feet, vamped out, and said, “Because she is my best friend!”
He growled, and said, “You’d better put those fangs back, missy, or it’s going to get bad for you!”
She saw herself in the window, and she was shocked at what she saw. She had seen her reflection before when she had been like this, but not like this time. She really did not look human anymore. Jean-Claude went with it, got behind her, marched her up to the window, still vamped out himself, and shouted, “That’s right, Karin, take a good long look! You are not one of them! You are a vampire, and it is high time you started to accept that! Yes, your friend was her first! Yet, to Anjou, she was not nearly as close, and to her, she was just another meal! However, did it hurt her? NO! Did she mean Maki any harm? ABSOLUTELY NOT! In fact, she ended up helping you, because…well…I am going to tell you something she may have never told you, and you may not want to hear!”
By this time, Karin was almost hysterical, and because of that, she could not retract what she looked like at that moment, though she desperately wanted to. “No, I don’t want to know,” and she tried to plug her ears, but he then restrained her arms. “Maki was jealous of you and very angry at you that day!” he said.
“Stop it, Stop it!” she wailed, “I don’t want to hear any more!”
“She despised the fact that you could get any boy you wanted, and she could not get one for herself,” he said not relenting.
“No, not Maki! Please, oh, please stop!” she begged, but he had none of it.
“She could not accept that she may not get the boy she wanted, because you were in the way!” he continued, “However, if Anjou had not come along, you may have never been friends again. Because of what she did, she learned to accept things. Because of that, her true self came through, and she won him! You owe your sister greatly!”
She was now trying to raise her blood to fight him, but he was just as stubborn, and said, “Remember who taught you that, missy!”
He thought for a moment about rising blood, and then he said, “In fact, you must think we hurt people, because you think that this is what you do, isn’t it!”
That was something that she could not deny, no matter how she wanted to. He said, “You avoided biting Kenta all that time, risking bleeding to death, because you thought that you were going to hurt him, and because you despised the fact that you had to act like a vampire! I dare you to tell me I’m wrong!”
There was no avoiding the truth now. She was being forced to face herself, and she realized now how wrong she had been. She collapsed to the porch floor, weak and sobbing. She was then able to retract things, and he followed suit. He then said, “Why are you ashamed of what you are, (and don’t tell me it is because you were made to feel this way.)”
“I…just…” she chocked out, trying to find the right words, “Why did it have to be this way?”
She then began to regain her resolve, and she then said the one wrong thing, “How can you know how it feels?” and then she put her hands to her mouth, suddenly realizing what she had just said. Rage began to flood him, and Anjou, who had been watching the whole time, said, “That was stupid, sister.”
Henry and Calera, who had been listening in, cringed at what was about to happen, and stood ready if Jean-Claude got out of hand. What no one knew was that Ren had returned from his feed, and came in time to catch the spectacle. He thought to himself, “That was dumb, but, it’s about time you faced this sister.”
Jean-Claude vamped out again, but this time, in a way that would strike fear in the bravest of men. “HOW…DARE…YOU!” he thundered loud enough to wake the dead. “HOW CAN I KNOW HOW IT FEELS? YOU HAVE NO CLUE HOW IT FEELS. I DID NOT ASK FOR MY LIFE! I DID NOT ASK MY PARENTS TO BE BRUTALLY MURDERED! DID I ASK TO BE HUNTED BY HUMANS AND VAMPIRES ALIKE! OH, GOD, WHAT I WOULD GIVE TO GET IT ALL BACK, TO MAKE THINGS DIFFERENT!”
The words echoed off the hill, and he figured that it was only the hand of God that restrained him from throttling her. He started to breathe deeply, in an attempt to calm down. He began to quiet a bit, and said, “Neither of us asked for our lot, and God only knows why he allowed it. Yet, Karin, know this: because of the way that I believe, I know that, even though things have been the way that they have been, I have learned that it is either accept things for what they are, or just curl up and die. God gave us this, so we make the best out of it that we can. The first thing is that we have to learn to love and embrace what we are. Even though it is a hindrance, we are still special, and can do good things with what we have been given. Some may call us monsters, but one man’s monster is another’s hero. Yukiko should have taught you that. I did not ask for my life, and to be what I am, but, on the other hand, it can be fun being different if you have a healthy attitude about it. Just because we feed on humans does not mean that we necessarily hate them. That comes to some vampires for other reasons. We also do not think them lower than us because we do feed on them. Do you think the vampire bat thinks himself better than the cattle he feeds on? Do you think he hates the cows? Some vampires even appreciate humans because they are our sustenance. We know that, without them, we would be dead. If enough vampires thought like that, they would not hate so much. If enough humans realize that we mean no harm, and that what we do can actually help them, then they would not hate us. Hey, they may even seek us out, asking us to feed! Now, wouldn’t that be a sight! This is why I believe that both sides can get along. You are different, and that’s okay. Don’t think of yourself as a freak, think of yourself as a happiness dispenser, because of what your infusions do for people. Take a look at the abilities that have awakened in you, and ask yourself, ‘How can I do my fellow man some good with what I can do?’
I guarantee you, if you start thinking like that, you will learn to love yourself, because you can do for people what they cannot do for themselves. That is what I do, and in a major way! When you do, people will see you differently. They will like you, because you love yourself, and exude a confidence in which they can find strength! Did you know that your sister, even though they cannot hear, thanks the people she bites, because they were able to sustain her? Is that the heart of someone that seeks to hurt people? In fact, I bet, if you talk to Maki about it with your sister, you will all get a big laugh about it?”
The mood was becoming noticeably lighter, because Karin was now beginning to accept things for what they were, and realized how much of a fool she had been. At the same time, she was finding a new appreciation for being someone that was different, even amongst her own kind. Jean-Claude helped her to her feet, and said, “We cannot help how other vampires and d’amphiles see humans, but that should not dictate how you see them. What other predator in this world could call its food its friend at the same time?”
He looked her in the eyes, and said, “I think there are some fences you need to mend.”
She smiled through her tears, and said, “I think you are right.”
Karin went into the living room, and said, “Mother, father, I am sorry. I have been acting ashamed of you for what you are, and I am such a hypocrite. I should know better, and I am sorry for how I have acted towards you. Just because you live at night did not mean that I could not have learned to reach out to you, and have a relationship. Can you ever forgive me?”
Calera and Henry both got up and embraced their daughter, and Calera said, “Please forgive me for trying to push you away. I should have tried to do more to learn how to accept you, and live with things. I should have not been so embarrassed about you that I worried too much over what so-called friends thought. You are my daughter, and no matter what, I have always loved you, and I still do.”
After a time, Karin said, “I have to go see Anjou.”
She went upstairs and she was about to knock on the door, but Anjou said, “Please, come in.”
Anjou was sitting on her bed, wearing the hair clip with the snowman on it that Karin had bought her for her birthday, and that set her off again. She collapsed on Anjou’s bed, crying and apologizing. Anjou said, “I forgave you long ago, because I knew you were going through a hard time yourself. I know we can be close again.”
“I’ll make a way,” said Karin through her sobs, “I swear it: we do not have to be apart! I am so happy you awakened. Now you can be yourself. I wish I just could have been there to help you face it, you know, leaving all of your childhood behind. You were always there for me. How can I make it up to you?”
“Just be my sister, and my friend from now on,” said Anjou, “and help me through this dark world we live in as best you can. I know that you can.”
Though no one realized it at the time, the Markers became a full, true family for the first time. It was not just the bonds of being vampires that bound them now, but it was also the bonds of love.