Talulla Rising Page 94

‘It’s about time you stopped taking Jake’s word for everything,’ Marco’s voice said. ‘Although what he’d think of you drinking gin at this hour, God only knows.’

I’d started so violently I’d almost fallen off the chair – but jumped to my feet and got my body between him and the twins.

He hadn’t moved, except to raise a hand, palm out. He looked exactly as he had at the monastery, except that he’d apparently taken a shower and washed his hair. There was the dark-eyed face of monkeyish mischief, the odourless vibe of weary amusement and inexhaustible energy. He was sitting directly opposite me on one of the kitchen worktops, ankles crossed. My body was still reacting: armpits, scalp, bladder, adrenline-ravished, blood-rich. Not straightforward fear, though fear was the big flavour. Excitement, dread, something like recognition.

‘What do you want?’ I said.

‘Not to harm you or your children or anyone in this house,’ he said, ‘unless egregiously provoked. I thought we might have a chat.’ He pulled out a pack of American Spirits and a brass Zippo, lit up, took a visibly-relished drag. ‘I assume you have questions.’ He registered me keeping one eye on the bassinet. ‘Really, I promise you, you’re completely safe. The nippers too.’

‘Who are you?’

‘Straight in, no foreplay. I like it. Who am I? I think that’s one you know the answer to already.’


‘You yourself say so.’


‘Tell me something. Do you still believe the universe is a meaningless accident?’


‘I was thinking of names, you see. Your own, for starters. Talulla Mary Apollonia Demetriou. “Talulla”, as you know, is an Anglicised form of the Gaelic name “Tuilelaith”, composed of the elements tuile, meaning “abundance”, and flaith, meaning “lady” or “princess”. Commonly said to mean “prosperous lady”. Then you’ve got “Mary”, with its connotation of miraculous birth – it certainly must have seemed miraculous to you when you found out you were pregnant – “Apollonia” is the feminine form of “Apollonios”, meaning “destroyer”, and then to cap it all “Demetriou”, the root of which is “Demeter”, goddess of fertility. So you’ve got a prosperous lady with a history of miraculous fertility who’s also, once a month, a destroyer.’

‘Wait. Stop talking. What do you want?’

‘I’ve already answered that: to talk to you. It doesn’t stop there, does it? Look at the kids: “Zoë”, Greek, meaning “life”, and “Lorcan” – this is my favourite – derived from Irish Gaelic lorcc, “fierce”, combined with a diminutive suffix to give “little fierce one”, when practically the first thing he did on entry into the world was bite someone!’

‘How do you know that? You were there?’

‘Twenty thousand years, you think you’ve seen it all.’

When he said this, it was as if he were standing right behind me. His breath touched my ear, though I could still see him across the room. The physical sensation was real. I couldn’t help spinning around.

‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘Look, I’m right here, sitting still. I shan’t move without your permission. No more tedious gimmicks.’

In the monastery I’d had the feeling of having heard his voice before. Twenty thousand years, you think you’ve seen it all. I had heard it before. That night in Alaska when my waters broke, spoken right behind my ear. Twenty thousand years. It was impossible. Except of course it wasn’t.

‘Someone’s awake upstairs,’ he said, looking up. ‘We’ll have commotion if they come down.’

It was Lucy, going unsteadily, barefoot to the bathroom. We listened to her peeing. An absurd suspense.

When her door had closed again, I said: ‘You are a vampire, right?’

‘The vampire, you might say.’

‘You don’t smell.’

‘Not at the moment.’

‘At the moment?’

‘It’s a long story. Is that really the one you want to hear?’

‘Did you write The Book of Remshi?’



‘When papyrus was new.’

Vertiginous compression again, the ancient past dragged here into the kitchen. The beautiful hands’ unimaginable history of touch. I got glimpses: a small jar made of lapis lazuli; a tooled leather saddle, sun-warmed; an oiled male shoulder, skin the colour of plain chocolate. I thought: I can’t. I can’t. I didn’t know what it was I couldn’t. I was excited and sickened.

‘In Egypt?’

‘I wasn’t in Egypt when I wrote it. I was in China.’

‘And you’ve been asleep?’

‘Yes, but I’ve been up and about since before you were born. You and Jake drove by my house in Big Sur.’


‘There are patterns all over the place. Stories. That’s my curse.’

‘Wait. Please. One thing at a time.’

‘Apologies. Fire away.’

I looked down at the twins. They were asleep again, Zoë with one arm across her brother. I was aware with a detached part of myself that I should be afraid, making plans, working out if there was anything sharp and wooden I could get to. I was aware of it, but stuck in the state of debilitating sickened excitement, full of useless energy.

‘Do you have answers?’ I said. ‘Does it mean anything?’

‘I have the answer to the missing verb.’

‘That’d be “no’”, then.’

‘God bless Manhattan for breeding the most impatient people on the planet! Manhattan impatience saves the world decades that would otherwise be spent not cutting to the chase.’

‘Look, if you’ve genuinely got— ’

‘Shshsh! That’s Walker.’

Sounds of movement from upstairs. Walker called out: ‘Talulla?’

The vampire was silently on his feet. ‘I’ll have to go. No good for any of us if he comes down and I’m here.’

‘Why do you say that?’

‘I think you know.’

‘No, I don’t.’

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies