"Do you have everything sweetie?" Mina's father asked. The little eleven year old girl silently nodded her head slowly. Her face was red from crying all morning. She hated everything about this day. She sulked her way into the back seat of the family car.
"Come now, we agreed no sour faces." Her father said, placing the last of the bags in the trunk. "This is a whole new opportunity for us Mina. You'll understand that someday."
Mina slammed the car door shut and rested her head on her knees. She started to cry again.
The Count looked out the window overlooking the town. The drapes in his castle were closed tightly behind him to shield the rooms from the sunlight.
He touched the glass of the window as he watched the car pull out of the driveway to follow the moving vans.
---------- Twelve years later.
"Why not just go find her then?" Igor said plainly. "I'm getting sick of your constant moping."
'That's it! Why not just go find her? What would the harm in that be?' The Count snapped his fingers. He'd waited long enough, he had to see her at least once more. Even if it was only for a few minutes, he had to know how she was getting along.
"Where to start looking though? I have no information..." He paced himself around the library of his castle wondering where in the world to begin his search.
Igor lowered his head. "Wait just a moment master." He said, sulking away. He returned a second later with a box. Papers and envelopes poked out from under the lid.
"What is this?" The Count asked opening the box.
Igor was silent, twiddling his thumbs.
There were at least thirty or so letters, various address and dates were stamped on them. The Count stammered at the sight. He recognized the name and handwriting on them instantly.
"W-why would you keep this from me?!" He wailed, gripping his servant by his collar.
"I-I thought you were getting too attached." Igor hissed. "She's changed you master."
"NONSENSE!" He cast Igor aside and furiously searched through the pile of letters to find the latest one sent. The last one was dated a little under two years the current year. Grabbing his cloak he bolted out the door and flew off into the night sky.
'This must be it. Please let this be it.'
After a few knocks on the door, a lanky boy in his early twenties answered. His hair was a mess and he looked as though he had been asleep. The Count raised his brow in confusion.
"Hello." He spoke softly, placing a hand on his chest. He looked at the boy for a moment, turning his nose up at him. His grimace quickly formed back into his suave smile. "I am looking for a miss Mina Harper, is this her home?" He leaned forward just slightly as to peek inside the room.
The boy looked at him confused. He hesitated for a moment before answering. "Yeah, she lives here." The boy leaned backwards, catching a glimpse of the clock on the wall. "She should be here in a few minutes, you just wanna wait for her?"
The Count breathed a sigh of relief. "Yes, thank you." The boy didn't immediately let him in, instead he looked the Count over again. After a moment of silence, he finally welcomed him inside.
It was a very small apartment. He felt more cramped here than he did in his own coffin. There was a large, neatly-made bed in what should have been the living-room; the bed was placed just beside the door leading to the balcony. A tall, worn dresser blocked an entrance to the kitchen; a curtain of some sort hung above it.
The rest of the apartment must have been the boy's, the Count assumed. Piles of clothes were strewn around the place, leading into a bedroom down the narrow hallway.
'Does she really live like this?' He was almost disgusted. The boy cleared his throat, bringing the Count back into reality.
"Soo..." the boy started, "You know Mina?"
"We are old friends, yes." he responded politely. He looked around again for a moment, straightening his collar. "May I sit down?"
"Oh, uh, yeah sure." the boy said, gesturing toward the ratty couch leaning against the back wall. The Count pulled aside his coat as he sat in what they were using as a living-room.
"So, how is it you know Mina then?"
"We met freshman year. We're just friends." The boy must have sensed the hostility coming from the Count.
The Count didn't hear him, he was lost in his own mind, coming to his own conclusions.
'Just who is this boy?' He wondered. His felt a twinge of pain shoot through his heart in an instant. 'Her...boyfriend perhaps.' In his mind he began arguing with himself. The boy had flipped on the television, looking back and forth between the screen and the Count.
'Well, it isn't like she is not of age. Will she even remember me? This pitiful human couldn't possibly be her lover. Perhaps this was a bad idea...She will surely accuse me of intruding...'
He was lost in his own reasoning that he had not heard the jingling of keys as the door opened.
"Oh my God, Lucas..." came a gentle, but irritated voice from behind. The Count's ears perked up, he felt his face flush. He froze for a moment. The voice sounded so grown-up but he knew in an instant who it belonged to. He was at a loss of what to do. He wanted to just get up and hug her, take her away from here. His body wouldn't budge. He felt so nervous. Did she even notice him when she came in?
"If I have to deal with one more chauvinistic customer, I just might punch someone." The now much taller, more exhausted-looking Mina slumped into the room. She tossed her bag onto the bed and pulled an elastic band off her wrist to tie up her now much longer hair. She hastily headed into the washroom. The sudden sound of running water replaced the awkward silence between the Count and the boy.
"You knew what you were getting yourself into when you took the job." Lucas chuckled. He cleared his throat again and stood. "Uh, Mina..." He started.
"Yeah, what?" She responded loudly over the faucet.
"You've um...You've got a visitor."
The water cut off and the door opened slowly. The Count shakily stood up. He adjusted his collar, as if to distract himself from his nerves.
"Oh really? Who--" She stopped the second she saw him. For the moment the two just stared at each other. Mina couldn't believe who she was seeing in front of her. Could it really be him? She blinked a few times to make sure she wasn't seeing things.
"Hello, Mina." The Count cooed. He offered his hand for her to shake. Mina's jaw had dropped.
She was indeed a stunning young woman. Despite her obvious after-work disheveled look, he saw nothing but the beauty standing before him.
'My, she is even more radiant than I could have ever imagined.'
"H-how did...Vlad!" She yelped, jumping onto him. The Count almost lost his footing from the sudden hug. Chuckling, he gently hugged her back.
"It's good to see you again too my dear." He smiled, squeezing her tightly to him.
"When did...How did..." Her voice was muffled by his coat, "I can't believe it!"
"So," Lucas interrupted. Vlad and Mina looked at each other again before continuing to chuckle.
"Lucas, this is Vlad." Mina said, nodding toward him. She still had a tight grip around his waist. She wasn't about to let go now. "You know, my best friend." As she said that she could see Vlad's face light up.
"Heh, oh. The vampire right? Nice to meet ya." Lucas waved halfheartedly. Vlad gave him a polite nod before giving Mina another tight hug.
She hopped down and gestured for Vlad to follow her. "Let's take a walk." She held her hand out for him to take, but he slid past her to open the door.
"Ladies first." He said lithely. This made Mina blush a little. She quickly shook it off and waved goodbye to Lucas.
"Be back in a bit."
Together they rushed down the stairs. Mina could only giggle as she jumped down the steps.
"So tell me Mina, what has become of you over these years?" Vlad pondered as they walked along the sidewalk. Her apartment complex made him feel fenced in. He didn't like it and couldn't imagine how Mina was able to stand it. Still, he was beside himself now; happy he could walk with her once more.
Mina thought for a moment. "Well, I've um... I'm almost out of college, just a few more classes to take. What I'm going to do with a degree I have yet to figure out." She hung her head, a little ashamed.
"I'm sure you will find your calling in life." his silken voice echoed against the row of storage units.
"I suppose so, heh I've changed majors about a hundred times." Mina shrugged. "I guess my problem is I want to do everything."
"What do you do for a job now? I heard you complaining about it when you walked in. Are you...unhappy?" He stopped her for a moment with a look of concern. Mina shrugged again.
"Every job has its rough spots. But this one..." She sighed, exhausted at the thought. "Basically, I work in a video-game store, and I'm the only girl there. It causes problems." She chuckled a little.
"Problems?" Vlad raised his brow. His concerned expression deepened.
"Sometimes, yeah. Guys'll come in thinking they're buying more than a game then get really mad when I turn them down." She rolled her eyes, scoffing. "I've been there for a while, so it doesn't happen as much anymore. Still,"
She noticed the look on Vlad's face and felt a little guilty for some reason. "I'm contemplating quitting."
"Would you be happier if you did?"
"Maybe, more than likely. But I have to have another job waiting for me before I can quit this one. Wouldn't be able to keep up with my half of the expenses."
Vlad nodded. "I see."
"Ahh, life." She sighed. She tilted her head a little, the stood on the tips of her toes. Vlad still towered over her. He reached out and firmly patted the top of her head.
"What happened to the short little girl I remember?"
Mina shied away for a moment before looking back at him. "I grew up."
"I can see that." He said, taking her hand and spinning her around. He took a hold of her other hand and led her into a waltz. They glided on the pavement together as if they were in a ballroom.
"You don't have to stand on my shoes anymore." He pointed out, leading her farther down the path into the alleyway..
"You see, growing up has it's plus sides." Mina giggled.
"I had not suggested that it didn't." He replied, spinning her once more. "Tell me about this Lucas. Is he nice to you?"
"Mhm. He's a good guy, especially when he's motivated to actually get up and do something."
"Yes...I got the vibe that he is the nonchalant type." He hesitated for a moment before asking her the next question that dug at him. "Are you...happy with him?"
Mina stopped and looked up at Vlad. She smiled softly. "We're not a couple, just friends." She was happy to see his furrowed brow relax. He smiled along with her, but inside his mind he still felt unnerved.
'Is she not romantically involved with anyone...? How is that possible? She must be... Would she be interest-- No, you've got to think past that Vlad. She is living her own life now. She must have moved on.'
The two just swayed in place as the moments went by.
"Why didn't you answer any of my letters?" Mina asked him with an almost-whisper.
"I would have replied the instant they arrived, had I known you sent any."
"I thought after a while you'd forgotten about me..."
His heart wretched at that moment. "Impossible my dear."
'If only you knew...' He added in his mind.
Mina stopped swaying to look at him once more. Her sharpened expression didn't match the lonesomeness in her eyes. The closer she inched to him, that much he backed away. Soon he felt the brick wall behind him.
"Yes? What is it?" Vlad asked, a bit confused.
"Am I only that little girl to you?" Her eyes almost seemed to plead something to him. She drew closer to him, tugging on the cuff of his sleeve.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean Mina."
Mina sighed, disappointed. "That's what I was afraid of..."
"What are you trying to say then?" He asked, pulling back on his sleeve. He didn't understand her question. She couldn't possibly have similar feelings for him as he had for her. But, here she was standing before him as the stunning beauty she had grown into. It was wrong for him to think of her as anything else. Surely she understood that.
"I...I don't really know what it is I'm trying to say." She lowered her head. "I'm just," she sighed again. "I'm just glad you're here is all." She placed her head on his chest. For a second she tried to find his heart. To her satisfaction, she heard the dull, slow pulse beat within him.
He patted her back gently. "I'm glad I'm here too." he whispered.
"You really have no idea how much I've missed you." She whispered back. She tugged on his shirt again, loosening his collar. She raised her head up. Giggling softly, she attempted to straighten it.
He placed his hand around hers, holding them for a moment. Mina felt a sudden rush of blood flow into her cheeks. With his other hand he held her face.
"You really are quite beautiful."
Mina rolled her eyes again, she was thankful it was dark enough outside that he wouldn't see her ever-growing blush.
"No, no I am being honest. Have you ever known me to lie?"
Mina paused for a moment, thinking. "Well, there was that time you came over for dinner and neglected to tell me you hated garlic," she poked his forehead, raising her eyebrow at him. "So to avoid eating it you fed most of your plate to my cat but I wouldn't call that exactly lying. So...no." She smiled.
"Ah ha! But what about you? You failed to tell me about your sister!" He kidded, leaning his head forward. He tightened his grip on her hands.
Mina glared warningly at him. "Let's leave her out of his." She smirked a little.
"Understood." He nodded, smiling. He raised the hand holding her face as if swearing an oath.
There was silence between them. His hand slid again to her cheek, this time his fingertips grazed her ear, leading into her hair. Mina looked up at him. She was almost afraid to let his eyes meet hers. She was afraid he might not like what he saw in her. It had been a long time since they last seen each other what if she had changed too much?
The sound of a car driving by caused them to look away from each other.
"Perhaps we should go back inside." Vlad said, trying to be the voice of reason. "Your friend will wonder where you've gone."
Mina shook her head. "He can live a little longer without me."
That was it for him. He couldn't stand it any longer. He gripped the back of her neck and pulled her lips to his. He was a little surprised, but overwhelmingly relieved that she did not resist. She more than willingly complied to the gentle but meaningful kisses she received. She traced her fingers across his slender back and held him closer to her. He lifted his head to place a kiss on her forehead before taking a hold of her chin, tilting her mouth to his once more.
"I... cannot Mina." He pulled his cloak around them, blending in with the darkness of the shadows.