So many memories. To have lived a life as long as mine has been means much of my life is bound up in memories. Time stretches before me, ever present and the past often comes to haunt me. My Josette once told me that I am “the future.” But what is the future, but tomorrow’s past?
I was born in the late 18th century, and in many ways I am of my time. To be immortal is something many people wish for, but it comes with a price, and one I have paid for dearly over and over again.
My dear little sister Sarah…..never was there such an enchanting child. From the moment she was born I loved her dearly. Our bond was strong, and I vowed to protect her as any older brother should. Little did I know that I would fail her in the most horrifying circumstances.
Those early years before that terrible night I was changed forever were filled with sunlight, laughter and long walks on our estate. Sarah loved to ride in the carriage with me and stop and pick flowers for our mother. To see my mother’s sweet smile of delight when Sarah would hand her the flowers gave me happiness. I was very close to my mother. She and Sarah would sometimes dry the flowers and press them into books, or Sarah would glue them onto paper and write stories underneath the flowers. She was an imaginative child and had she lived to adulthood I think she might have been one of those lady novelists.
How simple life was then, despite my often troublesome relationship with my father. He and I seemed unable to understand each other, and he often expressed his disappointment of me. He rose early of a morning and expected me to do the same. He took a small breakfast and then would work at his desk until mid morning, and then go out and take care of his business affairs.
He was a proud man and much concerned with honoring the family name and making good connections. He sought to instill this in me as being his only son, much of the future of our family would continue with me.
I remember coming down to breakfast one morning to see my father frowning. As he often wore a frown I did not think much of it.
“Good morning Father,” I said as I sat down and poured myself coffee.
“Is it a good morning indeed? Isn’t it about time you got married Barnabas? Collinwood needs an heir.”
“When I find the right woman Father,” I said.
“Oh, you’ve been saying that for years! You’re not getting any younger Barnabas. What if something should happen to you?”
“I am strong and healthy Father, nothing is going to happen to me,” I said biting into my buttered toast.
“I am glad that you can see into the future and be so sure! I want you to start considering looking for a wife instead of gadding about.”
I made to leave, feeling irritated, but he had not finished; once my father started he hardly knew when to stop.
“Now you stay here and listen to what I have to say. I blame your mother for all this romantic nonsense- always sitting there with poetry books and sipping sherry and sighing. It’s her influence on you, that is why you are this way! And what are you laughing about now? You are far too frivolous Barnabas!”
“I am not laughing at you Father if that is what you mean.” I held out a piece of paper. “Look at what Sarah drew for me this morning.”
My father eyed the paper quickly and grunted.
“Do you not find it charming?”
“Well, what is it supposed to be?”
“It is a view of the dawn sky she saw this morning, can’t you see it?”
“If you say so,” he said getting up from his chair. “Now finish your breakfast and get on with the accounts I have left you in the study, and remember what I said- I mean it Barnabas, you have a responsibility to this family. Do not forget it.”
I could not forget it: responsibility to the Collins family, he reminded me of it often after that. We could never have foreseen just how far my responsibility to the Collins family would reach. Long after he was gone, it fell to me to protect my descendents, a role that I took seriously. There was never any time for the “frivolities” he so often accused me of.
I shall never forget little Sarah’s drawing of the dawn sky. Something so simple, a pleasure I expect many of you reading this will take for granted. When you can no longer see the dawn, forced to live at night only, the dawn becomes precious. To feel the sunlight warm your face no longer, only the cold light of the moon night after night, and only shadows instead of the vivid colors of daylight.
I wish I could still look upon Sarah’s dawn, but one of the maids twisted the paper up and used it for kindling to start the fire a few mornings later. I was more upset over this than Sarah was, and my father found yet another reason to regard me frivolous.
He was a man of contradictions my father. He would have had me marry any frivolous heiress so that the Collins name would continue, but in doing so denied me the chance to find love if I had not stood firm in my convictions- I would marry for love, or not at all. And I almost did- but my dear Josette was taken away from me in the cruelest way imaginable.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had married one of the many young ladies my father had encouraged me to court, none of which I may add whom I felt the slightest love for- what would my life have been like?
Almost certainly I would never have been cursed to live as a being of the night. Would I have been happier for it, to have never met my Josette? My family would not have suffered so- for many years I blamed myself for this. My loyalty to the Collins family of the twentieth century became my reason for living; somehow I had to make amends for all the misery that had been brought to my immediate family, and learn to use the powers that came with my condition to prevent even more suffering. It was not always possible for me to not bring more suffering to others, however, which is something I shall talk about another time.