Cool water splashed against the sides of the goblet as it was poured from the jug, dampening the crisp cloth.
“Oops, I’m such a butter fingers! Never mind,” Aunt Daisy giggles, patting one of my cheeks.
I sniff as subtly as I can as the smell of moth balls reaches me.
My cousins, seated around me, grin.
They know I have an announcement to make. I have their support at least, even though they won’t stand next to me. If I can make a change, so can they, but if it all goes wrong, they’ll still be okay.
The golden children of the family.
I can feel my stomach tying itself in knots as my father, the head of the family, glides into the room.
The chatter around the table instantly dies, and there’s a loud scraping of chairs as everyone hastily stands.
He glances around at all of us before sitting, spreading a napkin across his lap.
The soup, a dark, blood colour is already in the tureen in the centre of the table.
Aunt Daisy, head bowed and hands shaking, hastens to serve, only spilling a few drops.
“So, I hear that there is news tonight,” my father says quietly, as we all sip, the blueness of his eyes cold and hard as he stares at me.
I feel a shiver travel down my spine. Who could have told him?
All of sudden the knots in my stomach seem to unwind. I feel sick.
The cousins continue with their soup, staring down.
“Well speak up son. What is this important announcement?” he asks.
Shaking like a leaf, I clear my throat,” I want to be a mortician.”
Several of the aunts gasp, dropping their spoons in their bowls with a clatter. Aunt Daisy grasps the pendant around her neck, looking as if she were about to faint, and starts muttering.
My uncles look at my father. As usual, they will follow his lead.
Narrowing his eyes, my father grins, the points of his fangs almost shining in the light from the candles scattered around.
“But son, we have a business,” he says, his voice still quiet. “We have built it, to pass on.”
“Dad, I understand the sacrifices that you and my uncles have made, as we all do,” I answer, my voice as quiet and soft as his, as I repeat my well- rehearsed speech. “But I want to try something new, and different. I want to spread my wings.”
Slowly, he leans forwards, placing both elbows on the antique table, and cupping his chin in his hands.
“You are my son, you will continue the business.”
“But dad, there are the cousins who will….”
“Enough! There will be no more conversation! Mortician! If my grandfather heard of this, he’d be straight out of his coffin.”
He glares around the table, daring one of them to contradict him.
Everyone remains silent, heads bowed, looking down at their bowls.
The aunts pick up their spoons again. I wince as I hear a few of them slurping.
The candles flicker, causing shadows to appear across the walls.
The soup is now cold and will have to be reheated, I think as I spoon some into my mouth.
“What is the matter?” my father asks, frowning.
As a group, almost as if eager to leave, my cousins bounce to the window.
“Oh no,” one of them whispers.
“Well, what is it?” my father snaps.
The cousins stare at him, their bloodless faces pale.
Muttering, “Do I have to do everything around here?”, my father marches over to peer outside, his black cape swirling around him.
Sighing, he turns to face us,” It is another mob. They are going to try again.”
He stares at me.
I can see his face, tired and lined. It’s almost as if he’d had enough.
“Son,” he says, his voice still quiet. “Take your cousins and your aunts to safety. We will deal with them.”
The uncles rise as one to stand next to him.
“No,” I answer.
Surprised, he looks over his shoulder at me.
“No,” I repeat. “They can look after themselves. I’m staying.”
“You’re my only son, you must…,”
One of the uncles touches him gently on his arm,” Vlad, maybe this is a good idea. Maybe it’s time for the boy.”
They shift themselves, making way for me.
Looking out, I see the line of the mob stretching far into the distance, torches aflame held high above their heads. They’re chanting something, but I can’t hear what.
One by one, the aunts and cousins turn into bats and, wings flapping madly, escape into the night.
I watch them until they disappear against the inkiness of the sky.
“Come, my son, we have work to do. We must make peace again,” my father says.
The mob moves closer. I can see their faces as they circle the castle. Their chanting dies as my father steps forwards.
“Friends,” he says, both hands held out towards them. “What can I do for you this evening?”
One of the mob steps forwards and spits at my father’s feet, his face twisted in hatred.
“We don’t want your sort around here!” he yells, sweat pouring down his face from the warmth of the torch. “Taking our women and girls, and sucking their blood! We know what you do!”
“My friends, whatever you have heard is…,”
The mob start yelling, drowning his voice out.
The man who spat lunges forwards, a wooden stake in his hands.
My father gasps and steps back, the stake sticking up through his chest.
“No! Father!” I yell, catching him as he falls.
“My son,” he gasps, gripping my hands tightly, his eyes focused on mine as the blood stains his pristine shirt. “Carry on the family name.”
Nodding, I whisper,” Of course father.”
His hands go limp. His eyes remain staring at the sky, at the stars twinkling above us.
Growling, I turn to face the mob, my eyes glowing red, my hands clenched into fists.
Hastily they step back, lowering their torches.
“You will pay for this,” I snarl, stepping towards them.
“No, don’t do it!” my uncles yell, trying to hold onto me. “Your father wouldn’t want this.”
I glare at them, with a look I’m sure my father would be proud of.
“My father is no longer here,” I yell at the mob. “He wanted peace, and this is the result! You’d better run. You’d better always lock your doors. Be sure that I will come to you, or my name isn’t Dracula!”