Ambrose arrived at the Gendarme Kicker Café and Bar in a black dress shirt with a mandarin collar, plain black slacks, and his better pair of black shoes. He tried to ignore the butterflies migrating from his gut to his head, but it was not an easy thing to do.
I wonder what’s going to go wrong this time.
Nothing’s going to go wrong.
Everything’s going to be fine. We’re going to have ourselves a great time. Even if it kills me.
He stopped at her table. “Well. I’m here.”
She lowered her menu and smiled bright. “It took you long enough. Oh! You dressed up this time.”
“What? This old thing?” He smiled and sat across from her. “Nah. Dressed up would be me wearing a tie and coat tails.”
“Mm. I’d love to see that.”
“Who knows? I might wear it next time. Just to surprise you.”
She giggled. “I wish you would. That would be awesome.”
“Have you ordered yet?”
“Not yet. I was waiting for you.”
“I don’t eat.”
“I’ve wondered about that. What happens if you try?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t tried. Human food doesn’t appeal to me.”
“That’s too bad. You’re missing out on so much.” Her eyes brightened. “Do you want to do an experiment?”
“Let’s see what happens if you try.”
He chuckled. “Uhh, no. I’d rather not make a spectacle of myself. I honestly don’t know what will happen. Maybe I’ll spew projectile vomit. Maybe I’ll have a heart attack and drop dead. Maybe I’ll turn into a raging maniac. I just don’t know.” He reached forward and laid his hand on top of her hand. “I don’t want to ruin tonight.”
The waiter made his appearance. “What will it be?”
“Mmm.” She smiled at Ambrose. “I think I need some more time. Could you give me a few more minutes?”
“Certainly. And you, sir?”
“Hot water. And that’s it.”
“You…don’t want anything to eat?”
“I ate before I came.”
A pained look came over Barbara’s face.
“Oh. Well. I’ll get you your hot water then.”
As the waiter left, Ambrose released her hand. “That bothers you.”
“My vampirism. Now that you know what it’s like to be bitten, you’re not comfortable with it anymore. You know what I can do. You know how horrible and ruthless I can be when I’m hungry.”
“I knew all along that it wasn’t a romantic buggy ride in the dark. I just…Ambrose. Let’s not talk about it right now.”
“But you want to know me. You want to know if I’m worth the chase. We should talk about it now. We should talk about all of it.” An old, familiar hurt flared up. “We should start with Maria.”
“You don’t have to, if you don’t want to.”
“I do.” He took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh. “I’ve been in love before. Her name was Maria. I met her in Paris. I was trying to get from this one particular street to the one that ran parallel to it.”
The scent of sweets filled every corner of the city.
“I stumbled across this thoroughfare.”
Barely wide enough for a pair of lovers to tango through.
“I was going one way. She was going the other.”
“Excuse me, sir. Do you speak English?”
“English and French with a sporadic collection of German curse words.”
“Can you help me? I’m lost.”
“She smelled like high quality caramel. And in my memories all of Paris smells like caramel. Maria and I dated, fell in love, never got engaged.” The pain dug deeper. “She became sick.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t.” She closed her eyes and laid her head on her pillow. “I’m so tired. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
Her father scowled. “If you try to attend her funeral, vampire, I will make sure you get staked. My little girl is dead because of you.”
“But I never even bit her. Not even once.”
He curled up in his bed and cried. Everything hurt. He felt broken all over. Then, the scent of high quality caramel filled the room. “I’m here.” She touched his arm. “I’m right here, Ambrose.”
“She came back as a ghost and haunted me. I wasn’t afraid of her, though. I knew it was her and I was happy. And she was happy to be with me.”
He frowned. “Then, Mark Caten got involved. He must have sensed that I was too happy or something. He had her sent to the other side. And she’s gone. I’ll never see her again.”