Happy Valentine’s Day to all who celebrate love, and really … who doesn’t? Here’s my take on what eternal love might look like.
* * * *
The man across the table looked at me with skepticism in his eyes. I had repeated my story three times, but it was obvious he was looking for inconsistencies as he scribbled in his notepad.
“I know you think I’m crazy,” I said, “but I’ve known Emily since we were five, and there’s no other explanation for her disappearance other than what I’ve told you.”
“Miss Martin, what you’re saying is highly unusual, so we have to get the facts straight.”
I sighed—loudly. “I understand, but the story is not going to change no matter how many times I tell it. I’m tired, and I want to go home.”
He looked over at his partner who merely shrugged. I hated the whole “good cop, bad cop” routine they’d been playing for the past two hours. I was losing patience. Emily was my best friend, and I had no reason to lie about what I thought had happened to her, even if it was … highly unusual.
“Miss Martin, we all want to go home, but tell it to me once more. I promise you this will be the last time.”
* * * *
The cryptic note left for Emily’s mom read:
Please don’t worry about me. I am well and happy and wish the same for you.
With all my love, always,
Her mother was understandably distraught. She called me immediately after finding the note and said it was uncharacteristic of Emily to be so irresponsible, to vanish without saying a word. She would never leave like this …
Yes, but her mother didn’t know my friend the way I did. To her, Emily was the good girl who had done everything right from day one. As an only child, she had been an “A” student her entire academic life. She had always been there for her mom since her dad died when Emily was just an infant. The pressure to be the perfect daughter was not easy, and Emily had constantly wrestled with her mother’s inability to move on with her own life.
Emily was completing her master’s degree in metaphysics when she disappeared. As long as I had known her, she’d been interested in the idea of parallel universes. I had read some of her papers, and though they struck me as fascinating, my understanding of another dimension was rooted in science fiction, not science. Emily, on the other hand, believed there was something more and was determined to find it.
She hadn’t dated anyone in a long time, so I was naturally intrigued when she confided she had met someone. Over coffee one afternoon, Emily told me about the new man in her life. She described him as having hypnotic eyes, a deep voice, and charisma that had her dreaming about him almost nightly.
“I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something dark and mysterious about him,” she said.
Ever the cynic, I replied, “Oh, seriously, Em…”
“I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true. He’s not particularly handsome—not in the classical sense anyway, yet somehow I’m drawn to him.”
“And has he noticed you?”
“Not really, no more than any of the other students. His teaching style is not interactive. He stands behind the podium for the entire two-hour lecture, and he barely moves. He just tells us which chapters to read, and occasionally, he reads out the chapters verbatim.”
“He’s probably your type though—you like them a bit strange.”
“Ha! No, he’s not strange—he’s deadly seductive. His voice makes me think of dark chocolate—thick, delicious, and his lips, my god …”
“What does the rest of him look like?”
“… Plus he has this flawless complexion. With the auditorium lights reflecting off his skin, his face is radiant.” She took a gulp of coffee, lost in decadent thought. “Sorry, what was your question?”
I had never seen Emily so taken by a man before. “I asked what the rest of him looks like.”
“Gorgeous. He’s over six feet tall, appears in great shape, and has fierce, dark brown eyes with a hint of crimson.”
“Hmm…the way you describe him can only mean one thing.”
“He’s a bloody vampire!”
We both doubled over laughing. It had always been a joke between us to unabashedly label men as fictional characters. Between us, we’d dated a werewolf— hairy dude with the bad teeth; a zombie—guy with the dead eyes who walked with a shuffle; and gladiator man—my last boyfriend who had the rugged looks of Russell Crowe and a temper to go with it.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Emily said. “How do you get vampire from what I’ve told you?”
“Come on, he’s hypnotizing, can stand for hours without moving, and has a flawless complexion. He must be a vampire!”
That was the last time I saw Emily. After that, we continued to exchange e-mails and phone calls, and she told me about her escalating crush on her professor. He’d invaded her thoughts so thoroughly that she awakened nightly with wet dreams, her body trembling and flushed. She even found evidence of small marks on her breasts and around her neck, which she referred to as love bites. Although this alarmed me, Emily just laughed it off, saying she couldn’t wait to go to bed every night.
I was envious hearing about the passion in her dreams! It was better than any sex I’d experienced in a long time with a real man.
We made tentative plans to get together for dinner. Emily promised she had some exciting news to share and even hinted she wanted me to meet her professor. I gathered their relationship had moved beyond her dreams. Thrilled and excited for her, I was looking forward to our dinner to find out more. When I called to confirm our date on the morning we were supposed to meet and couldn’t get a hold of her, I was concerned, but not all that worried. I sent a follow-up e-mail but received no response. It was only when Emily’s mother called a few days later that I first suspected something was wrong.
* * * *
Numb from exhaustion after the four-hour interrogation, I kicked off my shoes upon entering my apartment and threw my coat on a chair. The emotional turmoil of the past week had completely stressed me out. Emily’s mother had no idea her daughter had been seeing someone, and I was beginning to wonder about it myself. It wasn’t as if I had actually met the man. I didn’t even know his name and had nothing concrete to offer the police about him.
I brewed a cup of tea and prepared to watch the news before going to bed. I don’t recall when I fell asleep, but I awoke with a start to realize I was still on the couch with the television blaring, and my cup of tea knocked over on the coffee table.
“Shit,” I whispered, running to the kitchen to grab a dish towel.
As I pushed aside the pile of magazines to wipe the table dry, I saw an envelope peeking out beneath my latest issue of Vogue. I had not noticed it before and pulled it out. It was addressed to me in a handwriting I knew well. My heart raced as I opened it and read the note.
You are the only person who’s ever understood my desire to know more than just what this life has to offer.
You were right about the professor. With him, I have found everlasting life … and love. Please understand I have chosen to be with him. He is the one.
Your friend forever, love,
The bittersweet pang of loss swept over me. Emily was gone. She had found the portal to eternal love.
This story is included in a collection called HOT FLASH, now available