“There was really nothing he could do but be patient. Freedom could come in the next hour, or the next century, or never.”
Hugo registered this thought from Victor and decided it was intensely irritating to deal with a creature who regarded any division of time smaller than a decade of no particular importance.
He could actually sense the reserve: the coldness, and utter implacability of this being, and it would have scared him had he not known Victor for some years now. Still, he found him frighteningly controlled for the most part, but his lapses into passionate anger terrified him occasionally. He was careful not to push their friendship too far. He couldn’t regard death as freedom, but then he was still young enough to savour the future with a certain amount of excitement and even hope. Not so his cold-blooded friend who hadn’t moved for some time, and didn’t appear to be breathing to a casual observer.
So, it seemed that death was not an option for Victor, or at least not a likely one, short term . Quite early on in this unlikely friendship, Hugo, an unusually psychic human had been persuaded by his blood thirsty companion that he was not a danger to humans; although he did have a necessity to hunt small animals, and a fondness for red wine. He did, however appreciate that his friend had no idea how long he would live, despite all his centuries of research.
Hugo surreptitiously studied a somewhat morose Victor sitting opposite at dinner. As usual the Vampire had polished off the rare beef in record time and was merely toying with the accompanying cauliflower au gratin and baby carrots. He had also finished the first bottle of Bordeaux. Hugo ordered a second; it was obviously going to be a long night. He still hadn’t been given any clues about why his friend had suddenly tired of his longevity.
Looking around the restaurant, he was surprised to find that most of the women diners were not reacting in the usual way to his dining companion. He had grown accustomed to the attention and the fascination that Victor’s appearance engendered in most of the females within range, but at the moment he seemed to be invisible. Most of them were studiously and deliberately not looking in their direction and some fingered their necklaces or collars nervously.
So, he chanced, over the cheese and crackers, “How are things?” The uncontrolled force of the response succeeded in emptying the restaurant and shattered a rather fine glass of vintage port. He did, however, catch a hint that the cause of this entire trauma was in fact named Anna.
“Not good then, but what seems to be the nature of the problem? I’m not prying of course, but what has Anna to do with this?”
“She is a witch” was the only, thankfully muted, response.
He wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to this. He’d lost count of the romantic and no doubt sexual liaisons, of his undoubtedly attractive friend. In the years he had known him he’d given up trying to remember their names. They never lasted long, and it was quite unusual that any female should cause this sort of angst. No, on consideration, it was unknown, and therefore he resolved to proceed with caution.
“Aren’t they all?”
“No, Hugo dear chap, I rather think you are missing the point! She casts spells and is immensely powerful. It just couldn’t be worse. She’s already in her thirties; witches do not live forever and I cannot bear to lose her!”
“Ah, waiter, the bill, if you don’t mind, and would you order a taxi?”
He didn’t see his friend for some months, but they continued to correspond by letter. He learnt a great deal about their relationship, which appeared to be fraught with difficulties. It was more than likely they would never be able to produce children. Anna, although extremely gifted, appeared to have had no formal tuition in how to control her magic. Their domestic life was interrupted by various disasters whenever Anna became annoyed. The drawing room was rendered uninhabitable by water damage, when she was upset once; not just a few tears apparently but a veritable flood. Well, at least she was still alive, he thought, the closeness of their physical relationship must have been an awful temptation to the Vampire, however civilised he imagined he was.
At their next meeting, Victor, with his finely carved rare slivers of venison untouched, looked even paler. It took two bottles of Marguax before he started to talk. Although pale he was calm; almost resigned.
“Modern research on the subject of genetics seems unable to provide the answers. Anna and I believe that much of the knowledge of the old world has been forgotten. We need to go back to basics and find out where we have gone astray. We must go back in time.”
Hugo knew his friend had lived through many centuries, and had on more than one occasion, been grateful for the insight into exactly what happened in the past. Lost manuscripts had been found, correcting many of the misconceptions of modern historians.
Hugo knew this was goodbye, and shook his friend by the hand, realising that this was the first time they had touched. The hand felt cold, but not uncomfortably so. It was to be their last meeting.
Hugo often wondered how Victor and Anna had fared, but in time he met and married a fair-haired witch of his own. Julia had flown into his life and turned his world upside down. She was a fellow historian and in charge of acquisitions for various renowned institutions. Their minds were totally in tune.
Some years later, in the British Library, Hugo was the first to examine a new manuscript, donated by an anonymous collector and in pristine condition. The first illustration was portrait of a man, dark haired and unusually tall for the period, accompanied by a woman and a young girl. Fair haired, just like her mother, she looked just like photographs of his wife, Julia when she was a child. He had been utterly bewitched by her when they first met, just as Anna had so captivated his friend.
The caption in pencil, under the illustration read:
“We have thrived here, I think we’ve cracked it; take care of the future. V & A”
This was an addendum to the Latin, which translated read: Hugo, watch for my ancestors, and if you find another who is like me, love her. This is the way forward. Farewell, Anna”
Julia appeared, seated next to him in the Library, although he knew that just a couple of moments before (when she had caught his excitement at his discovery) she had been playing with their daughter at home in Scotland! Of course, it did cross his mind to wonder exactly why his wife had chosen to delay receipt of this message from the past from Victor and Anna. It was obvious that she most certainly had now chosen to bring it to his attention.
” Because you made the right choice”, she beamed!
Hugo did wonder who exactly had chosen whom, but wisely kept his counsel. It was their anniversary after all.