Such a good word, Ginny decided. It was almost onomatopoeic as a descriptor for the way she was feeling.
“But, vampires aren’t real,” she protested at last when she saw from the expressions of the two women sitting at the table with her that they really weren’t joking. They genuinely believed what they were telling her.
And there was the minor fact she was alive and uninjured after that terrible incident in the church with the vicar.
Memory of which suddenly pushed even the ludicrous idea that she was now a vampire out of her mind for a moment.
“The vicar,” she said, “was a giant rabbit.”
Em just nodded as if it was the most natural thing in the world to have a giant rabbit as your local clergyman.
“Oh yes,” Agnes said. “A wererabbit as it turns out though I had a side bet with Lilian that he’d be a wererat. Would have suited him much better, in my opinion.”
Ginny gave a brittle laugh which she could hear had a distinct edge of hysteria to it. “Oh it all makes so much sense now. We women are vampires and the vicar was a wererabbit. Silly me.” She put her hand to her mouth to stifle a sudden sob.
Em reached over the table and squeezed her hand.
“It is a bit much to take on board all at once. Normally we’d have a careful selection and interview process for a new Sister, but it was something of an emergency in your case.” She wore a bright encouraging smile, as if willing Ginny to perk up. “I’m sure you’ll have a lot of questions. Agnes and I can answer some now, but you don’t need to tackle this all at once. You have plenty of time.”
Plenty of time.
Vampires were immortal.
Ginny suddenly found a slew of questions overwhelming the mixed up emotions, all pushing forward to be answered first. It must have shown in her face, because Agnes stood up quickly.
“I’ll make coffee, you’d better take Ginny up to the Office.”
“Good idea.” Em got to her feet and Ginny followed her back upstairs, along the landing from the bedroom she had been in and into a bijou study with walls lined with bookshelves and just enough room for a desk facing the window, which commanded a view over the churchyard. Ginny was wondering where she should sit and taking in the range of Em’s literary tastes – Jane Austin sitting next to JK Rowling, and James Joyce jostled in beside EL James – when Em pulled a large, leather bound tome (could it really be a Bible?) slightly forwards, and one of the shelf units swung back to show a modern looking teak and steel spiral staircase going up.
“I always wanted one of those,” Ginny admitted as she stepped into the attic area which turned out to be a spacious and comfortable room.
“What? A spiral staircase? A pain to clean I can tell you.”
“No. A secret door in a bookcase.”
“So did I. It’s why I had that one put in.”
Ginny took a seat and found herself staring at a large map of the village pinned to the wall. Each house had a small label stuck onto it with just two or three words. Things like ‘arrogant wanker’, ‘spiteful gossip’ and ‘mostly harmless’. She found herself looking for her own little cottage and just before Em blocked her view by sitting in front of it, she was almost sure she read ‘wet hen’.
“Ask away then,” Em said, leaning back in her chair.
Ginny decided to start with the obvious.
“This whole blood-drinking thing, do I…?”
“You can survive very well on regular food most of the time, but we need blood to support the extras of being a vampire – heightened perceptions, healing, that kind of thing. And go too long without and you will become quite ill.”
“So I have to…to…bite people?” Ginny struggled to even think it let alone say it.
Em waved a dismissive hand and smiled.
“Oh goodness me, no. We don’t live in the Middle Ages any more. We get deliveries from the local blood bank. So even your vegetarian ethics shouldn’t be too offended as those were donations made freely by people who wanted to help others.”
“I’m sure that wasn’t quite what they had in mind when they went to give blood.”
“Probably not. But they all wanted to save lives and they are helping to do that. Besides which, we purchase what we get so we’re not stealing from the system.”
It was a rather loose ethical take on the situation, but Ginny decided it was a lot better than the alternative.
“So with the blood drinking, am I – er – are we immortal?”
Em considered for a moment before she replied.
“That depends what you mean by ‘immortal’. We can be killed by most things that would kill a regular human, like accidental beheading, being run over by a combine harvester or whatever, but we are immune to human illness, we heal much faster and we don’t age. Oh and we are fine in sunlight as long as it’s not for too long or too intense.”
“As long as we have enough blood?”
Em smiled warmly
“You’re getting it.”