Emily watched in silence as Serge, sitting across from her at the small café, squashed the remainder of his dessert flat with his fork. He looked exhausted, slouched in the seat with dark circles under his bloodshot eyes, but that wasn’t exactly surprising. The pretense of meeting to discuss portfolios had been a good one, but she had a good idea what this lunch date was really about. She’d carefully avoided mentioning Markus at all, waiting for Serge to bring the topic up, but now that the meal had been paid for, she wondered if he needed some encouragement.
“Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?” she asked, leaning forward slightly. He hesitated, letting out a short, forced attempt at a chuckle.
“I guess I’m a little obvious. I just wish I knew where to start.”
“Anywhere’s fine,” Emily said, then realized her friend could probably use just a little more encouragement. “How’re you holding up?”
“OK, I guess. James and Tristan have been such a huge help to Markus, which I do appreciate, it’s just…” He trailed off, making a dismissive gesture with his free hand.
“There’s no one helping you.”
She waited as patiently as she could as he absently crushed some croissant crumbs. Finally, he let his fork drop on his plate.
“How do you cope with it? Knowing that you’re going to get older and older while the person you love will continue to stay just as young as they always were.”
“Honestly, it hadn’t even crossed my mind. I guess I’ve been coping by not thinking about it.”
“I wish I could do the same.”
“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea,” she replied. “To be fair, it’s a bit different with me and Tristan; I knew what he was before we got together, but Markus… I’m not sure I’m going to be all that much help to you. Have you tried talking to him about this?”
“We’ve had a couple good shouting matches about it, yeah.” Serge leaned in and dropped his voice. “He has this wild idea about turning me in a few years.”
“That’s not really such a wild idea.”
“It’s not something I want,” Serge said. For a moment, Emily was too startled to respond.
“Immortality doesn’t appeal to you?” she finally asked.
“I won’t lie and say it doesn’t, but I’m not uncomfortable with the idea of aging and death; it’s all part of a very natural cycle. He’s known this about me for years. He wants to change me for himself.”
“So despite what’s happened to him, you still believe that?”
“Absolutely. Aches, pains, wrinkles, they’re all part of being human. Besides, I also have to think about my family; my mother would have a conniption if I wasn’t able to be there on Christmas morning. Have you ever seen someone having a conniption? It’s not pretty. I’m going to have a hard enough coming up with an excuse for Markus’s absence as it is.”
“I guess I hadn’t really thought of that angle; it’s not like my own mother even knows or cares if I’m alive or not.”
“It’s OK; I’m much better adjusted than I probably seem.”
Serge smiled, but she could tell he was struggling not to pick his fork up again.
“Are you afraid he’s going to change?” she asked.
“No, not really.” he answered immediately. “He’s very secure with who he is.”
“Are you afraid you’d change, then?” This time, his answer wasn’t as fast.
“Maybe. But really, we’ve gone over this several times now. I’m sure we’ll go over it several dozen more times before all is said and done.”
Serge tapped his fingers on the table, seeming to study the way the diffuse light from outside was playing off his water glass.
“I dunno, Emily. Maybe this is all just nothing,” he said, sounding like he was trying to convince himself more than her. Still, she saw no reason to discourage his attempt at optimism.
“Right. Markus is still Markus, just with a new diet and sensitivity to light. It’s really no different than finding out he has diabetes or something.”
“It’s a bit different than that, though, isn’t it?” Emily couldn’t help but feel a slight sting of defeat. “Diabetes can be controlled with diet and insulin; it’s not like there’s a shot you can give a vampire that lets them walk around during the day and not have to drink blood. Not to mention the whole ‘not aging’ thing.”
“But he’s still the same person he was last week,” she countered.
“Right now, sure.” Emily waited as Serge paused to collect his thoughts again. “I guess I just keep getting caught up in the future.”
“Maybe you should leave the future for the future, and just try focusing on the here and now. You and Markus still have each other, and, all things considered, he’s still alive and healthy.”
There was another pause as Serge seemed to gather his thoughts.
“I didn’t really think of it that way,” he finally replied. “Things can work out between a human and a vampire, right?”
“I don’t see why not. After all, there are plenty of non-vampire couples who have to deal with things like one half working the night-shift and things like that. I don’t think you have anything to worry about, really. Take it a day at a time, and pretty soon you’ll be wondering what all the fuss was about.”
“You’re probably right. Things are still a bit chaotic for both of us right now, but I’m sure we’ll settle into a routine soon enough.” Emily waited again as Serge fixed his plate with a stern look before finally pushing it away from him. “Are you ready to head out?”
“I am if you are.”
Serge rose from the table with a smile, which Emily easily mirrored. She was glad to have been able to help him, even just a little.
“Thank you, Emily. You have no idea how much this helped me.” Serge’s gratitude caught her off guard, and she let out a startled laugh.
“You don’t have to thank me,” she said. “If you ever need to talk, just give me a call.”
“I will. Take care!”
They exchanged a quick embrace before heading out into the rainy afternoon, going their separate ways.