Vampirea Elvesa Vampirea Vampirea Elvesa Elvesa ELVESa .

Xan Jacobs put the last of the manuscripts into the appropriate pile on his desk. And sighed. First year Creative Writing for Non-Literature Students was, so far, running true to form, much to his colleaguesd ill-disguised glee. Wearily he bent down beside his desk and fished in his briefcase , just in case. His fingers brushed something down there and stilled, clenched. He peered over the edge of the desk and down into the briefcase. A manuscript. Lurking at the bottom of his bag. He swooped on it. Pleasea pleasea pleasea no! Vampire!!! e ARGGGGHHHH.f Xan put his head in his hands and howled. Forty -one manuscripts. Surprise me, hed d told the class of eager faces. HAH!!! He dropped the offending manuscript on the appropriate pile , resisting the urge to dump the lot in the waste paper basket. And then he noticed the airline tickets. They had become attached to the paperclip holding the forty-first manuscript together. Xan grabbed them, crumpled them into his pocket. The last thing he needed was a reminder of Waikiki: soft sanda surfa sun a and Orelinea e ALEXANDER?f The disembodied and slightly confused voice of his mother floated up the stairs. Xan dragged his brains back from the beaches of Hawaii, and his person out onto the landing. The fact that he had to climb over three boxes and a surfboard to do it, had done nothing to improve his temper. He leaned over the bannisters. e Yes, mum?f e Is something the matter, dear? You sounded like a soul in torment.f Hazel Jacobs smiled up at her son from the hallway, a plate in her hand, which she was methodically wiping with a tea towel. e I am in torment.f Xan scowled, and expanded on the nature of his misery. e Forty-one thrilling first-year manuscripts. All requiring reading, markinga forty-one variations on Tolkien or Anne Ricea or even Stephenie Meyer. The woman I was going to ask to marry me dumped mea for my boss, thus depriving me of the love of my life, making my department a humiliating nightmare, and simultaneously rendering me homeless. So yes, I think you could safely say that I am in torment.f His mother smiled serenely at him, e Oh darling, itd s not as bad as all that, and youd re not homelessa youd re living here.f She wafted back into the kitchen on a perfect cloud of righteousness. Resisting the urge to point out that he was barely ticking over here, at his

© SarahJane Heckscher-Marquis 2011

parents' place, which could scarcely be called living, Xan also decided not to mention that the tickets for the magical holiday where he planned to propose to his girlfriend were non-refundable. So he was completely broke until the end of the month. Oreline! He winced. Or Lucretia Borgia as Toby dubbed her, disapproving entirely of Xan's choice of girlfriend. Just once, do yourself a favour and steer clear of the femme fatales, Toby had warned. Caught up in the first flush of hormones to the head, Xan took no notice. Oreline loved writers. Xan s first book ha been release to consid erable critical acclaim, but poor sales. But with his PhD newly-bestowed Dr Alexand Jacobs would d very , er o nicely (for the moment, as it happened Oreline consented to be his consort. ). Deliriously happy, Xan thought he had finally struck gold The girl of his d . reams was his. Within six weeks, Xan had given up his tiny bug-infested shoebox, and was installed in Orelineds swish up-market city flat. He planned his proposal with meticulous care, a romantic beach, at sunset, after a d of surfing, ay they would walk hand in hand he would go d , own on one knee and pop the question. Then came the bombshell: Claire, his ed itor, thought he should write another. Had insisted on it. Xan had thought about it and cautiously agreed He'd d . one little but think about this book for almost four months. He had started getting up in the mid le of the night and prowling backward and forward outsid his tiny d s s e office space, where his laptop lurked Occasionally, he broke off to peer at it . from around the d oor as though it was a particularly savage d g which he fully o expected to bite him. Oreline was not amused Nor, more importantly, was she impressed . . She started to spend more time out with her girlfriend The two of them s. d rifted around the flat they shared barely interacting. Try as he might, Xan , could ndt break d own the barrier. Then, one afternoon, after two weeks of nightly perambulations, the chilly silence, and six lousy word which had come to Xan in a moment of sheer s d esperation, he had come home to d iscover his clothes packed and his belongings boxed up outsid the d e oor, which was now bearing a shiny new lock, and a Dear John letter of spectacular pretentiousness sitting on top of the boxes. Everything was very neatly packed Oreline was a neat person. Not neat in . the charming American id iom of cool or funny, but neat in that Hospital Matron, Uptight, Boxed Corners, Bounce a Coin on the Bed sort of way.

© SarahJane Heckscher-Marquis 2011

 

 

 

Pathologically neat. And apparently she was very sorry, but she had found someone else. She had moved on etcetera etcetera. Lucretia Borgia incarnate, Toby had reiterated when Xan showed him the letter. She poisons you and moves on to the next one. In vain, Xan had pointed out her many virtues , and his current state of broken-heartedness, to which Toby retorted that yep, he could certainly pick 'em like your average Medici. It was only slightly bothersome to Xan that his best mate had a more lethally-cutting way with words than his published self. Xan sat back down and, mainly to take his mind off of Oreline and Hawaii, pondered his best mate. Toby Lawrence was a fireman. All hedd ever wanted to be since nursery school was a fireman. Virtually everything Toby had d one throughout their school d ays was in pursuit of this goal . Nothing had d eterred him, not the wailing of his mother who thought his ambition was d read ful, and that he was sure to be killed not the d , eeper pockets of their former schoolmates who had all, almost to a man, become something in the City with varying d egrees of success. Absolutely nothing shook Toby Lawrence from becoming a fireman. And shortly after his twentieth birthd ay, with his mother alternately bursting with prid at her hand e some son in uniform and weeping buckets at the thought of his bod m aimed for life in some y d read inferno, Toby had promptly achieved his ambition. ful Don't forge your siste is coming for te d t r a, arling... and she bringing your 's swe t little ne ws. e phe His mothe voice loate up the stairs again in the mid le o his wond ring r's d d e e ve 's time ds ambition. Xan groane , d what it would e l like to achie one li e d ve banging his he on the d sk in ront o him. He looke up. He now had se n ad e word a se nth o a sort, as his ore ad had struck se ral ke and the s, ve he ve ys space bar. He save his se n word And shut d d ve s. own with a vind ictive lourish o the mouse . Swe t little ne ws. Fe Damian was, in Xan's consid re opinion, an aptlye phe h! e d ll pt name spawn o he who had to be ke out o the pond and away rom his d athe r's aquarium so that he would murd r the ishe The amily cat had n't e s. le t home ne r to re f ve turn about f minute af r Damian had starte to ive s te d crawl. Tiny Gaius was still only a baby and as Toby so d lightf , e ully put it, an e little puke monste but he se me d stine to f vil r, e d e d ollow his old r brothe into e r a lif ofbroke orname e n nts, d stroye books and d e d amage -be d yond -re sale re pair home e rtainme e nte nt quipme nt. Lucilla...Gaius... f a f w mome or e nts Xan wond re why e e d xactly his pare nts had that strange mania f classical name which had obviously rubbe of on his or s, d f siste He pe r. 'd rsonally be n name f a Gre k ge ral. The le than e d or e ne ss f latte ring associations with the name Ale xand r, particularly the one e s

© SarahJane Heckscher-Marquis 2011

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concerning horses, Xan had chosen to forget. His sister, two years younger, had been named for the sister of a slightly dodgy Roman emperor who had the kind of name that reminded you of bodily functions. Which is probably why Cilla is such a pain. Suddenly the very idea of his sister and his nephews was just too much to take, much less their imminent visit. If he didn't pack up and get out of the way there and then, he would be forced to dandle the explosive Gaius on his knee while his sister and mother made nauseating gooey-cooey noises at him. Negotiating his way with extreme care between various boxes packed with his belongings, he made his way to the en suite to clean his teeth. The face which stared back at him in the mirror was pleasant en ough he looked, to his eyes at any rate, slightly sinister and mysterious. Not a man to be trusted. He rubbed the mirror clear of toothpaste splatter and drew himself up to his full height to strike a pose. A pose curiously similar to the one on the back of the dust jacket of his book. The overall effect was somewhat spoilt as he had to lean forward to focus. Glasses....... damn, where the hell are my glasses? He had inadvertently flushed one of his contact lenses down the sink during his early morning wash and brush-up. Xan wondered, with growing irritation, where he had last seen his glasses. He rummaged around in his bedside cabinet, then in his bag, in his desk drawer and finally found them lounging innocently behind his desk tidy. He upended his odds-and-ends plastic pot on the desk and scraped all the change into his pocket. A further rummage in his usual hiding places yielded a ten pound note crumpled in the bottom of the back pocket of his black jeans, and some more miscellaneous change fr om two other pairs of jeans slung carelessly over the big easy chair in the corner of the room. Grabbing his jacket and edging his way between the precariously balanced boxes, he headed out. eMum, I'm taking the car.f He scoope up the ke to his f d ys athe ancie r's nt die l Me de se rce s. eBut darling... Lucilla,f his mothe waile r d. He kisse his mothe che k. eCilla won't mind. She come to se you, not d r's e 's e me .f Haze looke he son ove critically. eDarling, I know it's all ve hip, but ,f l d r r ry she put up a hand to smooth down his short but unruly black hair, edon't you think you should shave You look just like that Crocodile pe ? rson.f Te vision f Xan's mothe had pe d some le or r ake time around the e ightie whe s n Miami Vice was at the he ight ofits powe rs. The characte his mothe was r r

© SarahJane Heckscher-Marquis 2011

thinking about was Crockett, but since Crockett had shared his life and his boat with an alligator, Xan's mother had been entirely unable to separate this information out in her mind. Crockett had become the Crocodile person. And had remained so despite all attempts to sort it all out. eI'm only going round to Toby's. He won't care .f You look ve scrufy.f ry f

eBut darling, shorts, and that dre ul te shirt? adf e

eNothing the matte with the I washe the car in the this morning, that's r m. d m all.f He looke down at his clothe in be d s wilde nt. He hone rme stly couldn't se e what the f uss was about: e rything that was suppose to be conce d, was. ve d ale Le was good e gal nough f Xan. It was the we ke or e nd: he didndt ne d to we e ar a suit, or a jacke and tie and he d ndt ne d to shave t , id e . On the whole he d n't obje to be mothe d as he ad d his pare id ct ing re , ore nts, but some time things we a bit be s nt yond his comf ort le l. Af r all, he was ve te thirty-f our, not f our. eIt looks like you washe the car with the d m.f be hind him mad him jump. e The sarcastic voice f rom

Xan close his e s and mad a quick count to te d ye e n.

eHe sis.f llo

eBro.f Lucilla wrappe a se ntine arm around his ne and hugge him to d rpe ck d he looking him ove critically like he mothe had Xan submitte to the r, r r r . d f male scrutiny with as much grace as he could muste e r. Xan love his siste The we re d r. y re markably alike in many ways: tall, d ark, attractive inte nt, the took af r the f , llige y te ir athe almost e r xclusive in looks. ly Xan was more accommod ating than his siste be more like the mothe in r, ing ir r te mpe rame his siste was more like the f nt; r ir athe analytical, some r, time s critical and outspoke It was he habit ofsaying e n. r xactly what was on he r mind that was the proble m. Xan just f ound coping with he d f r ificult. Espe cially whe she was in one ofhe le n r t's-improve -Ale xand r phase In e s. vain he told himse that he was pe e lf rf ctly happy with his se cond -string status in the inte ct d partme lle e nt, he was more than happy with his re laxe lif style d e , and e rything was f ... absolute f . ve ine ly ine eSkipping out on me e , h?f He blushe und r he gaze eYou know how it is? Toby...f he mutte d d e r . re vague and slippe away be ore she could ask any more se ly d f arching que stions about his love lif , his se e cond book, or his care r. e Xan pulle the d d oor close be d hind him, and he e d ad d own to the parking space

© SarahJane Heckscher-Marquis 2011

where his father routinely left Gertrude. Gertrude was, without doubt, the ugliest and least desirable car it was possible to own. In vain the entire family had tried to point out to Xan's father that the Germans only used them as taxis. Gertrude was heading into her four hundred thousandth mile and Professor Jacobs had no intention of letting her go just yet. The huge ugly brown Mercedes estate sat smug , and untouched by bird droppings, squarely in the centre of its parking space. Xan got in, made himself comfortable, closed his eyes in silent prayer and turned the key. Gertrude started. It would be untrue to say that she burst into life. Gertrude was not a burster. She had a sort of ugly unhurriedness that was nigh on impossible to explain. She didn't even rumble. If anything, she burbled. And she was ugly. Hideous. Her brown colouring was an offense to the eyeball. Cringing with more than the usual teenage embarrassment, Xan and Cilla had tried to point out to their ignorant father that the reason this ugly monstrosity had such a substantial discount on the sticker price was because no one would want to be seen dead in her. A strange aroma filled the car, reminiscent of hot donut stands, and Xan closed his eyes again, this time in abject horror. He didn't mind his father's occasional economy drives, but chip fat in the diesel tank was one of the least charming. He remembered the last time he and four friends had been stranded miles from anywhere, by virtue a desiccated chip jammed in the fuel line. They were out of mobile signal range, and the two-hour trudge in the pouring rain to the nearest habitation to beg to use the p hone was more than a body should have been expected to have to take. The AA man had found it perfectly hilarious. As Xan had made the mistake of pointing out to Toby after it was all over, it had taken him weeks to live down the hilarity of his mates. He slipped the gearbox into drive -- even Xan had to admit that Gertrude had a smooth gearbox -- and the big machine glided with a certain Germanic snootiness out of the parking space and headed in the general direction of Toby's.

© SarahJane Heckscher-Marquis 2011

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