Raven took the stairs, just in case he had another meltdown. He didn’t want to be the Biggest Boo-Hooing Exhibit this side of the Rockies.
By the time he’d reached the eighth floor, all of his fears were pushed down and locked up tight.
He could actually breathe again.
He thought about the name he had given the seamstress. It was the same one he had given her so many times before.
My real name.
Why didn’t I tell her my name is Raven? Why did I choose to let her know my real name?
He pondered that question all the way up to the fifth floor. By then, he had figured out the answer.
It has been too long since I have been Arden. Or Mr. Arden. Or just James. It’s nice to hear someone call me Mr. Arden.
He smiled a bittersweet smile. But I will always be Raven to Missy. I will not expect her to call me James.
Only one can.
Only she can. Even if I never permitted it.
As he crossed from the third floor to the second floor, his thoughts drifted into a daydream and into a memory…
He opened his eyes and lay still.
He was alone.
The vampire was gone.
Who am I?
I have a name.
I must have a name.
My name is…
Who am I?
He cringed as his stomach clenched up on him.
He rolled onto his side and brought his knees up.
His stomach clenched up tighter.
“eh ehh ehh…” He moved onto his stomach.
His fingers stretched out and dug into the carpet. But something wasn’t right. His fingers didn’t feel right.
He raised his head.
He saw what was wrong.
He had not dug his fingers into the carpet.
He had dug his claws into it.
Long, hooked claws.
He lay still for a moment, contemplating them, wondering what they were and if they were real.
He sat up.
The claws remained attached to his fingers.
He examined them, still trying to figure them out.
Each claw came out of the same spot on each finger – just a little above his natural nail line.
Each claw was deep black with thin red lines running along the sides.
He smiled slightly.
They are beautiful. So black.
As black as any raven.
His smile grew.
That is what I am.
That is who I am.
I am Raven.
Raven left the stairway and entered the main floor.
Seeing Miss Farlington again had restored my memories. I knew who I was.
I knew what I was.
I knew I could never tell her the truth.
I knew that she would never accept it. She would never accept me as a vampire.
I knew I could never, ever be with her.
No matter what.
No matter how much it hurt.
I had to let her go.
I had to see the woman I loved marry Charles Vansing and move on to a happily ever after with him complete with a lovely death scene.
But I am not alone.
I have Missy and Missy has me.
She is not Miss Farlington, nor do I expect her to be.
I love her.
I love Missy in ways I couldn’t feel…I couldn’t express…I would never have demonstrated to Miss Farlington.
And I love her for her.
He left the building and looked up at the night.
For everything she makes me think and feel and act, I love Missy.
He smiled as he contemplated her roundabout proposal.
“I should head home and make certain she is safe.”