Everything Falls Apart

~900 words :: Vampire Chronicles :: Claudia :: 3/25/03
Claudia realizes she’s never going to grow up.

“The girl in the box next to us tonight, how old do you suppose she was?” I kept my eyes trained on the book on my lap, but I hadn’t been reading it for some time. Instead, I had been formulating the question in my mind, over and over again, trying to get it just right. Trying to sound casual.

“I don’t know, fifteen? Sixteen, maybe? Why do you ask?”

This was the hard part. “I was just wondering.” Deep breath. Remember, casual. I put my book down beside me and turned to face him, placing my hand on his arm. “I’m eighteen, but I don’t look like her.”

Flustered, he looked away.

“Do vampires age more slowly than mortals?”

Mocking laughter filled the room and I turned to see Lestat standing in the hallway, laughing so hard that tears were streaming down his cheeks.

“What, what’s so funny?”

He clutched his sides and leaned up against the wall to steady himself, giggling hysterically.

“Lestat!” Louis hissed. And then he turned to me, his eyes meeting mine for an instant before quickly fixating on a point somewhere on the wall behind us. “We don’t, vampires don’t age.”

“No, but you…” I looked back and forth between the two of them, Louis still staring at the wall with a pained expression and Lestat, having slid down to the floor, his laughter sounding more and more like choked sobs than anything.

I didn’t understand what was going on.

“You’re grown up…” My voice faltered and I felt suddenly very silly, though I didn’t know why.

Silence filled the room, interrupted by the occasional giggle-sob from Lestat. Louis was staring at him and there was something in his eyes that I didn’t want to think about because it would only give birth to more questions that I didn’t want to know the answers to. But then his mouth twisted, turning down at the corners, and words sprang unbidden to the front of my mind: pity, sympathy, love.

In that instant I hated him. Hardly a day went by that I didn’t think I hated Lestat, but that anger was always as quick to die down as it was to flare up. More like annoyance. This was a sickening feeling that settled like a stone in my gut.

He looked back at me now and all those emotions were still there, but it wasn’t the same, and I realized then that I had wanted him to look at me the way he looked at Lestat.

“We, Lestat and I, we…” He turned away again. “We were already adults when we died. When we became vampires.”

The horror of what he was saying threatened to swallow me whole. A part of me had always known, or at least suspected – feared – but I had kept that part clamped down, locked up tight, shoved back so far that it couldn’t invade my conscious thoughts. Yet now it was free, and gleeful in its triumph, that part of me that yearned for self-destruction.

A thousand jeering voices kept me rooted to my seat, unable to move, unable to speak, until one voice cut through the rest.

“We don’t change.”

It didn’t register, at first, that this one came from outside my head, but then I turned and saw Lestat, standing now, his arms folded defensively across his chest.

And Louis just sat there with his head in his hands.

It was futile, I knew it, but still I said, “But…what about child vampi-”

“You’re never going to grow up!” he roared.

He stood there for a moment before turning on his heel and practically running up to his room. I heard his footsteps on the stairs and then the slamming of his door. There was a short pause and then the brittle crack of what must have been the mirror on his bureau shattering. It didn’t make any sense to me, but then very little tonight had.

“Louis…? Papa?” I hated calling him that, especially now. And the sound of my voice, so high and childish. Would I really sound like this forever? Look like this forever? Is this all he’ll ever see?

He leaned back in his chair, eyes closed, hands folded and pressed against his lips as if in prayer. He sighed and looked at me and I wanted to scream when I saw my question answered so clearly.

I was trapped in this body, in this role.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered brokenly.

Sorry for what? I wanted to ask, but he was gone. Upstairs. I could hear his voice, too soft and muffled to make out the words, but I could imagine. Asking Lestat to let him in. I could see him; I knew how he would stand, leaning against the door jamb. And then the slight creak of the door opening and Lestat’s voice answering. The click of the door closing, and their voices again, too low for me to hear, even when I strained my ears. Then silence.

The clock chimed the hour and I realized that what had seemed to stretch for eternity had been only a few minutes. I cried then, and there wasn’t anyone to comfort me, only a horrible, crushing loneliness.