Chapter Eight - Show Me The Meaning Of The World
Lacroix heard Nick begin his story.
"I had been with Sherman and Agnes for over five years, by this point. Sherman and Mildred had been married for three years, and Sherm had attended med school for two years. We all had news for each other. It was a day of revelations, not all of them good. It was a July night, hot but not humid. I attended an actual barn dance."
"We all have burdens we must bear, Nicholas."
Mildred helped her husband off the floor. The towering bulk of Josiah MacMartinson made her wince, but she did not permit him the pleasure of seeing that. Sherman glared at the big bully, but omnipresent matriarch Henrietta MacMartinson spoke up.
"See my son, Sherman Potter? He's real big. Big means we go where we will, and do what we want. We don't want you or your race-mixing family here. Here, the MacMartinsons are the strongest. The strongest ones make the rules."
While not intervening, Agnes Potter grabbed Henrietta's hand to stop her as she left.
"Mrs. MacMartinson--remind me someday to tell you about the exception to your rule of strength."
As the crude but tolerated family left, Sherman tried not to bristle.
"If he just hadn't taken me by surprise, I'dve---heck, I'dve really gotten clobbered."
Mildred looked around.
"Where in Heaven's name is Nick?"
The answer was to be found in a tireless man, taking in every dance, partner to every willing female for miles around. A vampire who, surrounded by true family, had finally learned to relax. When he was done, he sauntered up and kissed Mildred's hand.
"Milady--shall we dance?"
Mildred smiled, but shook her head no.
"Thanks, Nicholas. But I'm not up for it."
"Honey, I just had the wind knocked out of me by that ape. What's keeping your sails still?"
"The nine-month flu."
Agnes threw in her two cents.
"Which she's had for two months, and refused to tell you about. Mildred, you are such a nervous nelly! Its just a baby, after all."
"Mother--I was going to tell him--I just wanted to find the right moment."
"Secrets are meant to be shared, dear. Not kept--and especially not from family."
Rather than let her point go, Agnes continued all the way home. A look from Sherman told Nick that sometimes, a mother's natural jealousy of her daughter - in -law can be carried too far.
Once inside, Agnes brushed Nick off, at least on that subject.
"Oh, I was just funning with her, Nick. What's important is that, if my reading of ritual is correct, a tiny drop of that baby's blood-will cure us both. Its of our mortal line, and we two will help each other to survive the change. Oh, I want to play with that baby in the sunlight."
Nick smiled, and prayed to a God whose existence he now doubted that Lacroix would remain far away til this was done.
"The sun--food--children of my own, again."
Agnes took his hand.
"Nick--I was only 30 when I was brought over."
He gently pulled away.
"Agnes--you've asked me to act as your son's brother. What do you think that might do to him?"
"You look so like my Andrew, it frightens me. I loved your nephew, Nick. Badly. Sometimes I miss him so, it hurts. Will you forgive me?"
"Always. You've given me better than a spouse. You've given me a home."
A voice from the hall came through.
"Mother--I didn't care too much for the way you rode Mildred, tonight."
"Sherman--she shouldn't keep something that important a secret."
"So no big secrets? Is that what you're telling me?"
Sherm walked into the kitchen, wine-bottle in hand. He placed it firmly on the table. The substance within, of course, was not wine. Nick and Agnes saw a Sherman who was less angry than hurt.
"Well, drink up you two--cause its sure not my vintage."
Agnes, unsure of herself, withdrew. Sherm looked at Nick.
"Dad always mentioned an Uncle--one he'd had a bad fight with. Grandma Flora's brother."
"That would be--me."