The first time that I saw Eric, I was only fifteen years old. He was beautiful even then with those large, sapphire eyes. His hair was a golden brown, the back just nearly touched his shoulders and the sides were combed back and tucked behind his ears. He was dressed the way that teenagers dressed back them, a baggy shirt and blue jeans, torn about the knees. He had scuffed tennis shoes and a faded old denim jacket. He had an ear ring in his left ear then, if I remember correctly it was a silver stud, nothing fancy, just a plain silver stud but it reflected the light of the moon as he sat perched, on a picnic table in the small park near my house. It was 1989 then and I was a girl against the world, angry at any adult that crossed my path. My parents didn’t understand me, and I felt like my school was a prison that held me hostage and kept me from reaching my full potential as the artist that I knew I was inside. The only person that understood me and saw the real me inside was Tyler Bennett.
Tyler was a self-proclaimed “bad boy”, he was dangerous, kind of a trouble maker but oh my God was he hot. He smoked, which was a big deal in my neighborhood back then, only the cool kids smoked and I was cool because I hung around with his group. I wanted so badly to be Tyler’s girl but he saw me more as a little sister rather than a potential girlfriend, but I didn’t care, I tried everything I could to make him see me in a different light. I was always there, at his side. I laughed at his jokes; I hung on his every word and even played goffer for him when he wanted a soda or something to eat. Tyler was eighteen but I guess back then it never occurred to me that he was interested in someone with a little more experience, that’s why it nearly killed me when I ran to his house, upset about the recent fight with my dad, expecting Tyler to take me into his arms but instead I found that Kim Jennings had already found her way into the arms that I longed to be caressed in. I ran away from Tyler’s house in tears, despite his protests for me to come back and talk to him. If he didn’t understand why I was hurt then, he never would. It was late, almost ten and I didn’t want to go home, but I couldn’t think of anywhere else to go so I headed for the park where I knew I could be alone. Many nights I would go to this park, slouch down on one of the swings and cry my eyes out as I wished for my prince charming to come and sweep me away to some far away kingdom where kids were in charge, no one grew old, adults were the enemy and I could do whatever I wanted. Yeah it sounded a bit like never never land and I sure as hell was no peter pan but I was fifteen then and well, it sounded good to me at the time.
Needless to say, my prince charming never came…until the night I met Eric.
He was watching me as I walked across the grass that night. It was just nearing the end of summer and I had a light jacket on over a black tank top and black faded jeans. The grass looked black as walked across it and that was fitting because that’s what I felt like inside, like a black empty void had swallowed my adolescent heart. It doesn’t seem so important now, but back then Tyler was my life and I just felt like my life was suddenly over. I glanced to the side and saw Eric sitting there but I didn’t pay much attention, he was just another kid, barely older than me and nothing about he stood out as exceptional. I walked to my swing and sat down, the tears of my broken heart stained my face and my black eye-shadow and liner streak my cheeks so it looked like I was crying black blood. Eric walked over and sat down on the swing beside me. He started swaying back and forth slowly, his feet scuffing the ground beneath him. “Hey Girly…” He whispered, “Why the water works?”
“Go away.” I groaned, “It’s none of your business anyway.”
“I was just trying to help.” He said softly, not really angry or annoyed, he seemed like he understood the pain I was in and he just sat there, quietly watching me.
“Who are you anyway?” I snapped at him suddenly, “I’ve never seen you around here before.”
That was when he told me his name, Eric. The word fell off his lips softly and seemed to echo in the comfortable night air. He had a soothing tone to his voice, like a choir of angels singing when he spoke and I suddenly realized that there was something magical about him. He smiled, almost as if he knew what I was thinking.
“I know you’re in pain.” He said then, “You’re parents suck; your friends aren’t there for you when you really need them, and your life seems empty right now.”
“How do you know all that?” I asked him.
He shrugged some and seemed to stiffen up a bit at that question. “I’ve been watching you for a while.” He said to me, almost in a whisper. “I felt bad I guess, because I know how you feel. I thought I might be able to help you.”
“You can’t help me.” I frowned, “And there is no way in hell that you can know how I feel.”
“You’re wrong there.” He smiled again, but it was a calming, friendly smile. “My parents were horrible; they always treated me like a kid and thought they knew what was best for me. My friends weren’t much better, they abandoned me when I needed them the most, but I made new friends, friends that understand me. They helped me through a tough time and I am totally devoted to them now. I think if you came with me, you would see what a real family is like.”
“A real family?” I asked, “What about your parents? Did you run away or something?”
Eric nodded, “It was a long time ago, my parents are gone now but that doesn’t matter because I have a family that loves me and would do anything for me. It can be that way for you too, if you want it.”
“I don’t know if I want to run away.” I said. “I mean, I’m sure my parents would miss me.”
“They probably would…” Eric agreed, “But at least you would be free to do whatever you wanted, be whoever you wanted and not have to live under their rules anymore, and you wouldn’t be alone because you’d have a new family, and you’d have me.”
“I don’t even know you.” I told him. “How can I know that I can trust you?”
He laughed then, “If I wanted to do something bad to you, I would have done it by now. Instead, I am offering you a chance to be free. Not just that either, you’d be different, you’d be powerful.”
“Powerful?” I narrowed my eyes as I looked at him, “What do you mean powerful?”
“My family and I …”He hesitated a moment and looked up at the night sky as he thought over his words, “We’re not exactly like anyone you have ever met before. If you joined us, it would mean giving up the life you have now, your family and friends, school everything, but it’s worth it when you think of what you would be gaining.”
“And what would I be gaining?” I asked.
“Eternal life…” He said simply. “The chance to stay young and beautiful forever; you would never be sick again, no colds or flues. You wouldn’t even so much as get a runny nose. Adults would look at you differently, and the world would seem like a much better place because you wouldn’t be tied down to one place and made to grow up in this mundane little town, falling into the patterns of everyone else that has lived and died here. “
I thought he was insane at first and I laughed as I looked at him coldly. “What are you saying? Like you’re a vampire or something?”
He didn’t smile when he looked at me, he just nodded his head. “That’s exactly what I am saying, and you can be one too, that’s what I am offering to you.”
I was about to jump off the swing and start running, he was obviously nuts and I didn’t know what someone so unhinged was capable of but as I looked into his eyes, I could see that he was serious, he was telling me the truth. I know that it sounds ridiculous when I think back to that point, but I just knew in my heart that what he was telling me was true, he was really a vampire, and he was asking me to join him and his family. I started thinking about what that meant, what I would be giving up and, like he had told me, what I would be gaining in the process. I shook my head suddenly when the reality of it hit me. “No…”I said as I looked up at him, “That would mean what? Staying fifteen forever? Never growing up?”
“I’ve been 16 for forty-years.” He told me, “And not a night goes by that I have regretted my decision. Steven, whom I now think of as my brother, came to me just as I have come to you and he offered me the same thing. I came back a few times to see my parents, just curious as to how they were and when I saw that they had gone on with their lives without me, I knew that I made the right choice.”
“Where are they now?” I asked him, “Your parents.”
He looked down, a little sadly then. “Dead, they passed away a few years ago. But I have a brother and sister, nieces and nephews. They have all had a good life so it was all okay, I am sure they missed me for a while but they moved on and so did I.”
“Did you ever speak to them again, or even get to say good-bye?”
Eric shook his head. “It’s not allowed to have contact with your human family after you’re changed. They wouldn’t understand, how could I explain to them why I ‘ve never aged.” He pulled out his wallet and flipped to an old faded black and white photo and showed it to me. I saw a young boy, with his parents and younger siblings, dressed like people did in the 1950’s. They were smiling and the young boy was captured in a timeless waving gesture at the camera, when I stared at this aged photo I realized that the boy in the picture was Eric.
“It’s the last one that we had taken as a family.” Eric explained. “There were other pictures over the years, but I wasn’t in any of them. I’ve held onto this though, it’s the only thing I’ve kept to remind me of that time. Steven calls it my “Human sentimentality” but it’s just all that I have left. I love my life now but it doesn’t mean that I have to let go entirely, and neither do you.”
“But it’s just a picture.” I whispered, “To never see my family again, never fall in love, get married or have children. I would miss out on so much more and it doesn’t really seem worth it. I want to grow up, I want to go to college and have a family. I’m not ready to just give up on all of that; it seems like such a sad and lonely existence.”
Eric smiled sadly as he swayed on the swing, “It’s a pity but I wish you would change your mind, I really like you.”
“So what now?” I asked.
“Now…” He said as he hoped off the swing, “I’m going home. Don’t stay out here too long, it’s getting colder out.”
“That’s it?” I asked, “I mean I know your secret. You’re just going to let me leave?”
He smiled at me and chuckled a little. “We’re not really the monsters that you see on TV, and I doubt that you’re going to tell anyone, they’d think you’re nuts. Have a great life Cecilia even if it’s not with me.” He blew me a kiss then walked off, seeming to disappear into the shadows.
I didn’t see Eric again for thirty years, I was forty-five and going through a divorce. My two kids were grown and my sons wife expecting their first child. I was at the mall shopping for a gift for my unborn grand-daughter when I saw him sitting on the edge of a fountain in the middle of the food court. There were a few young girls sitting beside him and they were talking and laughing. He looked the same as he did when I first saw him back in the park except that his hair was different, more modern and his clothes were the style that kids wore in 2010, but he still looked like the same sixteen year old that I had met all those years ago. My heart leapt into my chest when I saw him, I had lived a good life, I went to college had gotten married, had children and I had no regrets except maybe my failed marriage. But it was different now, I was finally ready. I waved to him and he looked up at me, at first he was confused then I saw the recognition in his eyes and smiled and waved back. I mouthed the words over the vast crowed that separated us, “I’m ready now.” Sure that he could see me and he did. He smiled a sad sort of smile and shook his head as he stood up. “Good-bye” He whispered to me as he motioned for the girls he was with to stand up beside him. He waved once more then turned and walked away, the girls following in tow behind him. My heart sank as the realization washed over me, I was ready now but I was too old, he wanted a teen aged girl to spend eternity with, not an old woman. “Good-bye Eric.” I whispered as a tear slipped down my cheek. “Have a great life…even if it’s not with me.”