“Oh, master! We have company! If you follow me, I’ll show you to her.” stated Mila before skipping back toward the front of the mansion.
“Aaliyah, did you have a hand in this!?’ demanded Alma.
“Of course, Alpy! Jarod has a long ways to go before he starts fabricating skin that realistic, and aren’t the eyes amazing!?” exclaimed Aaliyah, grinning at her.
I could understand Alma’s agitation to some extent, but I never had heard her protest Mila’s appearance before. She should have raised her objections long before things got this far. Mila seemed quite attached to her form now, and I wasn’t about to order her to change.
As their bickering commenced, I told them “I’ll go on ahead to see who showed up at this hour.”
Neither of them bothered to reply, so I followed after Mila and wondered at who could be visiting. My parents wouldn’t be visiting this late, not even on Halloween. Since my birthday party, numerous friends from my high school knew where I lived, but none had stopped by again. I was at a loss.
Mila curtsied as I approached the front door, and both sets of doors opened for me. Then a voice could plainly be heard singing.
“I know a place where no one’s lost,
I know a place where no one cries,
Crying at all is not allowed,
Not in my castle on a cloud.”
I always enjoyed Les Misérables, but I didn’t recognize the voice singing Castle on a Cloud. Of course, I didn’t recognize the girl in my entryway either. She was around Emma’s height, perhaps a little taller. Her hair was a chestnut color similar to my own, and her eyes were a deep blue. I was amazed at how well I could see them from across the room.
“Oh! You must be James!” exclaimed the girl.
“I am, but who are you?” I asked.
“A vampire.” stated Alma from behind me, making me jump.
I recognized the look in her eyes and jumped in front of the girl as I told Alma “Don’t you dare!”
From behind Alma, Aaliyah said, “Don’t worry, boss-man, sir. Alpy wouldn’t dare hurt my friend. Right, Alpy?”
“Aaliyah!” exclaimed the girl running toward the little girl.
“Cosette!” replied Aaliyah as she jumped into her friend’s arms.
“Cosette? Seriously?” was all I could think to say.
“Huh? Oh. Yeah. My father was a fan of Les Misérables, so I learned that song practically at birth. My name’s Cosette Bourbon.” replied Cosette.
“James, you can’t seriously be thinking of letting her stay here.” stated Alma.
“Stay here? What?” I asked before noticing the luggage. “Oh. Aaliyah, what is going on here?”
Aaliyah replied “My friend here is going to be renting the upper northeast wing. She also wants to try working for you. Isn’t that great, boss-man, sir?”
I had mixed feelings about Regina’s area being rented out.
“Did you talk with Emma about this?” I asked.
Alma exclaimed “James! Really? A vampire?”
“A vampire? Where?” asked Brandon excitedly. “I love a good vampire costume.”
He, Portentia, and Emma were walking out of the ballroom, probably taking interest in the commotion. Emma looked somewhat uncomfortable. I remembered then that her father was killed by a vampire. I really hoped Aaliyah had mentioned this to Emma before inviting Cosette to live in the same wing as her.
“Whoa. How many people live here?” asked Cosette.
“Umm… ten at the moment.” I told her.
“Twelve if Mila and you are included. More if you count the staff and the fey.” replied Aaliyah.
“Fey!?” exclaimed Cosette.
I really needed to meet the staff still. Despite months here, I hadn’t ran into the cleaners.
“Emma, James is thinking about letting this vampire rent the floor above you. What are your feelings on the matter?” asked Alma as she motioned toward Cosette.
“What!?” exclaimed Emma.
She looked pale, paler than Cosette though not as pale as Portentia.
“Oh. Cool. You must be one of the good ones then.” claimed Portentia as she walked over to Cosette. “I’m Portentia. If you’re ever feeling hungry, I’ve heard that my blood’s amazing. By the way, is Alma multiplying?”
“I was wondering that too. Love the maid outfit!” exclaimed Brandon.
“This isn’t funny.” stated Emma.
I sighed. This was too chaotic, so I said, “Emma, Cosette, and Aaliyah, please follow me. We need to talk.” I glanced at Alma, who didn’t look remotely pleased, and then headed toward the northeast wing. When I looked back to make sure they were following, I found Aaliyah walking between Cosette and Emma, holding their hands. Emma’s knuckles were white, and I was thankful that Aaliyah wasn’t really a little girl. Emma was strong for her size, so she had to be squeezing Aaliyah’s hand quite hard. Cosette, on the other hand, was looking around curiously as we walked.
I was amazed at how much I could see in a second’s glance now. The girls might as well have been standing still though they were midstride. I could’ve been looking at a picture for how much I could see… and remember. Between the enormous party, personal transformation, and Cosette’s arrival, this was quickly turning into the weirdest night of my life, which was really saying something these days.
I led the girls up the stairs and into Regina’s old rooms. The place was empty, but there was no dust here. There was never dust in my house, and I didn’t even know who cleaned.
“I hadn’t been up here, since they moved everything out.” announced Emma.
“What happened to the previous tenant?” asked Cosette.
“She died saving my life.” I explained.
“Oh. I’m sorry for your loss.” replied Cosette, looking surprisingly saddened.
Aaliyah hugged her, and I saw a vampire cry.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
Cosette seemed embarrassed as she said, “I’m sorry. I just lost my parents.”
“What? How old are you?” demanded Emma.
“I’ll be fifteen in a few days.” replied Cosette.
“But how old are you really?” asked Emma.
“She’s not lying, Emma. She’s really fifteen. Were you turned recently then?” I asked.
Cosette shook her head and said, “No. I was born a vampire. My father was over two hundred. My mother was a bit short of one hundred. They decided to have me the old-fashioned way, which takes considerably more work for vampires.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.” I told her.
“Do you have siblings?” asked Emma.
Cosette smiled ruefully as she said, “Not exactly. Father had some children before he was turned in the late 1700s. Mother never did, at least not that she told me. Arguably, I might have some sort of relatives out there, but I doubt hunting them down would do me any good. When Aaliyah suggested I live here, how could I refuse?”
“Refusing her can be tricky. I used to babysit Aaliyah before James started stealing all of her attention.” claimed Emma.
“Chad rented the apartment next to mine for a while. Who was the obnoxious girl that was causing such a fuss?” asked Cosette.
I felt “obnoxious” was a bit harsh, though Alma wasn’t at her best.
Emma replied “Sorry. That would be Lady Alma Lucy Pendreigh V. She might’ve been worrying about me. My father was killed in front of me by a vampire.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. That’s awful! I’ve never killed anyone.” claimed Cosette.
Sensing that she was telling the truth, I was satisfied.
“Well, I…” started Emma before frowning. She took a deep breath and said, “I suppose I can give you a chance.”
“Huh. I didn’t really expect things to be quite that easy, but okay. Mila will bring your luggage up. Need help with any of your furniture?” I asked.
“My apartment was destroyed in some freak fire. Didn’t even touch the rest of the building. I’ll buy some things after my little friend here finishes helping me gain access to my parents’ funds.” replied Cosette. “If you want to help me seal up the windows, I…” started Cosette, trailing off as the windows went dark.
I explained “This house is very well equipped with all sorts of technological gizmos. I’m sure Aaliyah will gladly explain what all Mila, the A.I. who runs everything, can do for you. I must excuse myself to go have a chat with someone.”
I had a guess at how Cosette’s parents died, and I wasn’t too pleased by it. I needed to speak with Alma. Surely there were dangerous vampires out there, but this one seemed quite friendly, making me doubt her parents were evil. Alma needed to stop her ruthless slaughter.