After my father passed, my sense of time warped. The moments I cried alone in my butler quarters seemed to stretch into eternity, while the funeral home director upselling caskets and full service funeral packages disappeared in a blink.
Everyone would’ve agreed that Father had a fitting funeral service. I saw Finn comfort Ophelia afterward…as he naturally would.
I could’ve used comfort as well…but Hamlet was thousands of miles away. I escaped the throng of grieving relatives and sympathetic family friends to make a call.
If I had a heartbeat, it would’ve stopped when Hamlet didn’t pick up on the first two rings.
“Benny,” he said, his voice thick with sleep. “Are you okay?”
Why was everyone asking me that? How could I be, when Father was gone? But still, I was filled with relief at the sound of his voice. “You’re alive,” I blurted. “I worried there might’ve been a fatal accident onset, or unseasonal freak lightning storms, or a human stampede over fancy cheeses…”
Was I crying again?
“Calden Curry isn’t that unlucky,” Hamlet joked, but I didn’t want to hear the name of his co-star from his lips–and not only because of the rumored curse. “Benny, you know I’d be there if I could, but production is running so far behind schedule and our budget’s shot to hell thanks to those two cameras exploding. Still, if you need me there…”
“I’m fine,” I insisted, trying not to think about explosions in close proximity to my very mortal boyfriend. “I only wanted to make sure you hadn’t died since we last spoke…”
I let him return to sleep after that.
Hamlet had wanted to work with his film’s director for so long and make art that meant something. I didn’t want him to lose something so important because of me. It was far better to shoulder my grief on my own.
I tendered my resignation to Miles Bingham-Long shortly after the funeral.
“You were a good butler, kid,” he called after me as I went to clear out my butler’s quarters of personal items.
What did it matter, when Father couldn’t see? I’d never caught up to Leopold while he lived, and now… Now, I never would.
I changed out of the butler uniform I would never wear again.
I’d be staying with Mother for the foreseeable future. At least she needed me, the only one in the world who did.
Fangs Island and the Lyons estate both felt smaller upon my return…
And inexplicably, a number of our large appliances, along with the bathtub and commode from the master bathroom, were strewn all over the front lawn. Maybe Mother was remodeling or upgrading…
Had there always been so many steps leading to the front door…?
I wasn’t certain how to enter a home that no longer had my Father in it. The thought of seeing the home I’d grown up in without my Father scrubbing a counter or dusting a bookshelf filled me with dread.
I dragged my feet into the house, leaving a fragment of my heart at the door.
The house was far too quiet. I should’ve been able to hear Father’s heartbeat, or Mother complaining to him about Uncle Byron or a butler trainee behind on their academy tuition. He should’ve been there to offer me advice, to tell me how to deal with immortal existence without him. At the very least, I expected to hear Mother weeping.
But instead there was only silence…and multiple cardboard boxes.
“Oh, Benedict,” Mother said from the corner of the room, her voice dispassionate. “You’re just in time to help me pack away the rest of your father’s things.”
“…Pack?” I repeated. “But why?”
She sighed impatiently. “I can’t have any reminders of him anywhere in the house, now that he’s gone. I simply can’t. Oh, I bought your favorite plasma packs,” she added, as though she hadn’t just vowed to eliminate every last trace of Father. “But the refrigerator reminded me of him, so they’re in a cooler I borrowed from your Uncle Byron instead.”
“But–but he’s your husband,” I sputtered. “And he’s my father–and Leopold’s and Ophelia’s. You can’t–you can’t just get rid of him.”
“Lysander is dead,” she said, her voice cracking momentarily before her composure returned. How could she be so calm now, when she was never, ever calm? “I don’t have to get rid of him, because he’s already gone.” One hand went to her wedding band, as though she was considering casting that over a balcony as well.
“You can pack by yourself,” I snapped. “You’re a vampire, you have eternity.”
“Very well, Benedict,” she said coolly. “If I can manage without your father’s help, I can manage without yours as well. I’m going out.” She swept past me toward the door.
I suspected if I asked her where she was going, I’d regret it–likely to some facility that incinerated a dead butler’s most precious possessions, possibly on a giant serving platter.
Instead, I went to my room, the place I’d always gone to hide from her and Leopold when I was younger. It looked the same, and yet…
I wanted to call Hamlet, to tell him how unreasonable my mother was being, to talk about the father I’d always disappointed–and to make sure my boyfriend was still alive. Because he was a human, and humans died.
How could Father hug me one moment and be gone the next? He’d only just learned the truth I’d been so afraid to share, and now…
Anger flared inside my chest. “Why didn’t you let her turn you, Father?” I whispered to a man who wasn’t there, who would never be there again.
Hamlet wouldn’t understand, even if I told him. He was a human, fragile and short-lived. He still didn’t know I was a vampire, and he’d never be able to understand that not everyone had to die. The ones I loved shouldn’t have to.
Would Hamlet ever consent to being turned? Then he really would be stuck with those ridiculous tattoos forever.
I didn’t know what else to do, so I slept in my old, creaky coffin.
I left the lid ajar, the idea of being forever sealed inside a casket and buried deep within the earth filling me with trepidation. The thought had never occurred to me before, but now my sleep was restless.
Even when I woke, I avoided Mother–and continued to do so for the rest of the week. I had nowhere else to go, now that I was no longer a butler. I avoided calling Hamlet or picking up his calls as well, until finally…
“I can’t be with you anymore,” I said hoarsely. “I’m sorry.”
He went silent, and then: “…Do you want me to come home, Benny?”
I choked back a sob. “No. I can’t be with–with anyone right now.” Especially not a human.
“If that’s what you want, then I understand. It hurts, but I understand…”
It wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted him to tell me he loved me, that he couldn’t live without me–that he wouldn’t live without me, because he’d gladly become a vampire for me. That his movie didn’t hold a candle to his feelings for me, that he’d drop everything to be by my side when I needed him most.
But he didn’t, and we were both better off for it.
Time slowed to a crawl. I wished I could listen to a heartbeat just so I’d know time was really passing.
Mostly, I slept. And cried. Leopold would’ve laughed at how much I cried and tell me that a true Lyons butler would never shed a single tear.
I reread Father’s obituary every day; at least that was something Mother couldn’t scour away, because whatever you posted on the internet was there for eternity.
…But that made me cry too.
But I couldn’t stop reading about how much of a loving father and dedicated butler Lysander Lyons was. How he ran one of the most prestigious butler academies in the world (that also had a line of monogrammed white gloves, on sale now).
“Benedict.” Mother’s voice was like fangs across a chalkboard. I didn’t care if she saw me crying now; maybe it would remind her how to cry like a normal widow who missed her husband.
I stood and kicked the chair against my desk. “…What?”
Her voice was unusually gentle. “You have a guest. I do hope you’ll see him; you could use the company.”
I didn’t need her telling me what I did and didn’t need. I needed my father. But…
Hamlet? Hamlet had rushed to visit me after all–and couldn’t imagine living without me?
I wiped away my tears and hurried into the hall. What would I say when I saw him? Would he kiss me, or just hold me first?
I stopped when I reached the second floor. Hamlet couldn’t bring my father back. He probably wouldn’t even stay for very long. He was an actor, and actors were very busy.
I took the long way to the front door, inhaling the fresh air even if it was worthless to a vampire. Even just the act of breathing could be soothing.
…I should’ve known it wouldn’t be Hamlet waiting for me.
“Benny,” Finn said. “I’ve been so worried.”
He didn’t ask me if I was okay, or how I was holding up, or tell me that things would get easier in time. He was just…there for me.
Finn couldn’t bring Father back. But at least he was there.