Barbara perked up as the two men returned.
Ambrose sat beside her and gave her a look that was almost a glow.
“You okay?” Well. That can’t be the right question to ask. Ambrose is very obviously okay.
“I’m fine. I’m clean.” He smiled. “I’m all new.” He stroked her face and gently kissed her. “It’s been too long since I’ve felt like this.”
The priest politely cleared his throat.
Ambrose and Barbara turned their attention to him.
“So. The question remains: Should I let you two marry?”
“Is there a reason you shouldn’t?” asked Barbara.
“Why don’t you tell me? Is there a reason why you shouldn’t marry him?”
Barbara was taken back by the question. “What kind of reason?”
“Given the fact that he is a vampire over a hundred years old, are you certain you two aren’t related?”
For a moment, Ambrose and Barbara had the same stunned look on their faces.
“I’ve never thought about it.” Ambrose scratched the back of his head. “I was my parents’ only child. I know I’ve never fathered any offspring. I killed all of my relatives.” He pressed his hand against his forehead.
“I don’t recall hearing about any Smiths in my family tree. How could we know for sure?”
“You’ll have to take a DNA test.”
Ambrose slumped back. “And wait for the results. Lovely.”
“What if comes back saying we aren’t related?”
The priest smiled. “That would be very good news.”
“Would you accept us then?”
“Hold on. Don’t get all hasty. Are either of you divorced?”
They both shook their heads.
He looked straight at Barbara. “Do you feel safe with him?”
“Yes.” There was no hesitation.
He gave Ambrose the laser beam look. “Will you try to control her, limit her activities, abuse her, punish her for microfaults?”
“Would you ever rape her because she told you no?”
Ambrose looked aghast by the whole concept. He wordlessly shook his head.
“Not even if you thought it was for ‘her own good’ or maybe ‘she deserved it’ or ‘to teach her a lesson’?”
“I am not that kind of man. I don’t want her to be afraid of me. I don’t want her to dread my touch. I would never hurt her like that, with or without a wedding ring on my finger.”
“I’m sure you’re right. But, after being a priest for so many years, I’ve seen and heard things that sicken me. I do not want to give my approval to a marriage that will be a nightmare of hurt and suffering for either spouse.”
Ambrose shook his head. “As I told you in confession, I have hurt her before. I hated myself for it. I will never hurt her again.”
“Will you be okay with her raising the children in the Catholic faith?”
“Why would I object? It was the religion I belonged to. It was my family’s faith. Yes. I have fallen away over the years, mainly because I had no idea that a mission like this existed.”
“Would you be willing to go to church with her and the children?”
“You won’t bar her from attending or make it difficult for her to attend?”
“No. I don’t even know why I would.”
“Given that you are a vampire, will you be able to help her raise the children?”
“I will do my best.”
Farther Landover directed his attention back to her. “There will be days when the children will be running around the house like their blood is made out of 100% sugar with free-floating fructose added into the mix. He won’t be able to help you settle them down, because he is a vampire and he needs his day sleep. Will you grow resentful over that? Will you be constantly yelling at him that he doesn’t do his part, it must be nice to lay in bed all day and let someone else do all of the hard lifting?”
“I sure hope not.” She tried to imagine herself in such a miserable state. “No. No, I won’t. I know what he’s like during the day. I know he is completely and physically unable to function. I’ve seen him at his low points.” She spread her hand on Ambrose’s knee and looked up at him. “I know him. I trust him.”
“Ambrose, if you saw a woman who was very pretty and had a powerfully attractive scent, would you cheat on Barbara with her?”
“No. Just no.”
“Barbara, you will have to make meals only for yourself. You will have to eat your meals alone. Will that make you too lonely? Will you try to find solace in another man’s arms?”
“Knowing myself as I do, that sort of behavior would make me both guilty and miserable. I’d rather eat meals alone than deal with all of that guilt and fear.”
“Ambrose, will you care for her when she is sick?”
“Barbara, will you resent his staying always so young while you grow old?”
“No. Because, inside of me, I am still me. I may wind up carrying lots of weight with bad hips and arthritis, but I’ll still be me. I’ll still love him. We will have years of memories to recall and I will love him every year.”
Ambrose turned to her.
She looked at him, at his beautifully black eyes.
The priest and his rectory fell away.
And there was only Barbara.
And there was only Ambrose.
And they were so happy together.