Betrothed, p.21
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       Betrothed, p.21

         Part #6 of The Vampire Journals series by Morgan Rice

  Caitlin felt as if she were in a dream as she found herself being led through the thick crowd, down a crowded, muddy alleyway, and across the street to a small tavern. She could see actors from the play filing in there, some still dressed in their extravagant wardrobes. They looked relieved, and were laughing, cheering, patting each other on the back. The mood was festive, and she marveled at how jovial these actors were, despite having just performed such a tragic play. She figured that was just the nature of actors: able to change their moods at whim.

  She held Scarlet's hand tight as they wound their way through the crowd, Caleb holding her other hand, and Lily in front of her. Sam and Polly joined them, along with the rest of their coven members.

  Lily ducked into a small, stone tavern, heading down the steps, ducking her head as she went, and they all followed.

  The tavern was comprised of one small room, with stone floors, and long, well-worn wooden benches. It was crowded and cheery in here, brightly lit by several torches affixed to the walls. There must have been close to a hundred people crammed in, sitting and standing. The mood was jovial.

  Everyone seem relaxed, as if a great tension had been broken, and most already had a drink in hand.

  Of all the differences between the 21st and 16th centuries, Caitlin was amazed to see that bars had hardly changed at all: they still looked mostly the same, down to the drinking glasses, the long, well-worn slab of wood that made up the bar, the busy bartender behind it, pouring drafts of beer. At least one thing hadn't changed over the centuries: people still loved to drink, and they still loved taverns.

  Caitlin felt a glass thrust into her hand by a passing waiter, who was handing out a dozen glasses to a large group. A frothy liquid, the head of a beer, flowed over it and down over her hand and wrist. She tried to step back, to prevent the froth from running over her shoes, but she was jostled from every direction, and had no room to maneuver.

  "To Will Shakespeare!" yelled someone from the crowd.

  "To Will Shakespeare!" the crowd roared back, and everyone raised their glasses and drank.

  Caitlin tried to catch a glimpse of him, but it was hard to see in the thick crowd.

  "Would you like to meet him?" Lily asked.

  Caitlin looked at her, amazed that she was close enough to make an introduction. She didn't know what to say, and only managed to nod in return.

  Lily took her by the arm, and led her through the thick crowd. As they pushed their way through, passing one person at a time, Caitlin noticed the rows of actors sitting side-by-side, laughing with each other. The room broke out into song, as they began singing a festive tune that Caitlin didn't know.

  She recognized many of the actors from the play in here, including Romeo, Mercutio and Tybalt.

  It was funny to see them there, all now sitting happy, laughing together, sharing a beer - while just moments before they'd been killing one another on stage.

  "Will, I'd like you to meet someone," Lily said.

  Caitlin turned, her heart pounding.

  There, standing before her, was Shakespeare. He looked to be in his late 30s, with long-ish black hair, a goatee, intelligent, brown eyes which stared back at her, and dark circles beneath them, as if he had been up all night. There were worry lines etched into his forehead, and he already looked older than his age. Sweat dripped from his forehead in the hot and crowded room, but nonetheless, he seemed relieved, as if happy his play had been so well received.

  He smiled back at her.

  "Caitlin," he repeated, "a fine name. Do you know its origin?" Caitlin shook her head, put on the spot, and embarrassed to be at a loss for words. What could she possibly say back to Shakespeare that could make her sound even remotely intelligent?

  "It is Greek, of course. Meaning 'pure. ' I could see that about you. They say that people's faces reflect their names. Don't you agree?"

  She only nodded back dumbly, afraid to even speak. She couldn't remember ever feeling so self-conscious. She, of course, had had no idea of her name's origin.

  "Of course," he continued, a mischievous smile on his lips, "the Greeks stole it, as they do everything. The true origin of Caitlin is actually Irish. It's a Gaelic variation of the old French name, which was derived from Catherine, which in turn, was derived from the ancient Greek. So there you go - full circle. Some people would attribute it to the Greek goddess, Hecate. She, of course, is associated with magic, witchcraft, necromancy, and crossroads.

  "I'm working on a new play, actually, that features Hecate - the original Caitlin, if you will. I'm thinking of calling it Macbeth. Are you a player?"

  "I'm sorry," Caitlin said, not understanding.

  "An actor?" Lily clarified.

  A player. Meaning, actor. Of course, Caitlin realized. The old usage of the word. She felt even more embarrassed.

  "Um. . . no," she said.

  She didn't know what else to say. Was William Shakespeare truly asking her if she acted? Was he offering to put her in one of his plays?

  "WILL!" shouted someone, a large beefy man, who suddenly reached over his huge arm and draped it around his shoulder. He hugged Shakespeare tight, and the two of them clinked glasses, as their bills beer spilled over. "You owe me a drink," the man continued. "We had a wager, remember? And I didn't forget a single line!"

  "You did," Shakespeare responded.

  The man furrowed his brow. "Which one?"

  "Well, not a line, but a phrase within that line. You skipped a word. But I'll forgive you.

  Bartender, give him that beer!"

  A small cheer arose among the actors.

  Shakespeare was then dragged off, yanked in several different directions, and before Caitlin could say another word, there were already a dozen people between them.

  Caitlin turned and looked at Lily, feeling stupid, as if she had just missed a great opportunity. But still, even now, she didn't know what to really say to him. That she loved his work? Wouldn't that seem so obvious, so common? Or should she have tried to say something smart in return? Or should she have told him that she came from 500 years in the future, and that he was a huge success in the 21st century?

  He probably would have thought she was crazy. She could have told him that she had seen several movie versions of Romeo and Juliet. But then, he would have asked her what a "movie" is.

  "Was it what you expected?" Lily asked.

  Caitlin simply nodded, not knowing what else to say. Meeting him had, indeed, been overwhelming. He had a certain presence, an aura, an energy - intelligent, but also fun, and filled with energy. She could now see how he could write so many plays so quickly: he had a larger-than-life persona.

  "I know," Lily said, understanding. "I was like that the first time I met him, too. It's a bit overwhelming. What's most overwhelming of all is that he doesn't even realize his star is beginning to shine. He still clearly thinks of himself as just an ordinary writer, an ordinary actor, just one of the boys, just like everybody else. "

  Lily shook her head slowly, as if amazed.

  Caitlin made her way back to the others, happy to see that they'd found an empty table. She sat beside Caleb and Scarlet, and Polly and Sam, and Lily joined them, with several of their coven members. They all had drinks before them.

  "Can I taste one?" Scarlet asked.

  Caitlin exchanged a look with Caleb.

  "I'm sorry, sweetheart," she said, "this is only a drink for adults. "

  Caitlin suddenly thought of Scarlet's being in here, and looked around, at all the rough types, and suddenly realized that maybe this wasn't the best place to bring a child. She wondered why she hadn't considered that before. She just wasn't used to being in the mindset of a parent. She realized that she should probably take her out of here soon. Caitlin was feeling a little tired herself, anyway.

  The energy in the room was relentless. Watching the play had been one of the deepest experiences of h
er life, and she felt she needed some quiet time to process it all.

  Caitlin leaned forward and took Caleb's hand, and he smiled back at her, a beer in hand, drinking with all the others. Just as she was about to suggest him that she leave with Scarlet and that he catch up later, suddenly, a voice rose up over the din.

  "Caleb? Is that you?"

  It was a woman's voice, and Caitlin turned, immediately on edge.

  The table seemed to quiet down, as they all stopped and looked.

  There, standing at the head of it, looking down on them, was one of the most beautiful women Caitlin had ever seen. She was tall and blonde, well proportioned, with glowing green eyes, and wearing an outfit that was nearly skintight, surprisingly revealing for this time and place. She was dressed in all black, and Caitlin could immediately sense that she was one of hers: a vampire.

  Caitlin looked at Caleb, gauging his expression. She could tell that he was shocked, and saw how flustered he became, and Caitlin began to worry. She could sense that something had happened between these two.

  "Violet?" Caleb asked back.

  She smiled down at him.

  "I always thought that we'd run into each other again, in some time and place," she said with a smile. "Some things are destined, I guess. "

  Caitlin's heart started to pound as she could sense with even more power the strength of the bond between these two.

  Who was this woman? she wondered. She had never heard of her before. Why hadn't Caleb told her? Could this be another one of his ex-wives?

  Caitlin felt her mouth become dry with upset and worry. She had thought they'd finally put Caleb's ex-loves behind her, after all she went through with Sera. And now this?

  She had assumed, had been sure, that there was no one else out there who could possibly get in their way. And with Caleb's ring on her finger, she had felt more sure than ever that their destiny as a married couple was just ahead of them.

  And now this.

  As if reading her thoughts, Violet suddenly turned and fixed her startling green eyes directly on Caitlin. She slowly looked down at Caitlin's ring, as if in recognition, then looked back up.

  "Who is she?" Violet asked Caleb slowly, a bit disdainfully.

  Their table quieted completely, the jovial mood broken. Sam, Polly, Lily and the others all looked from Violet to Caitlin to Caleb, and she could feel all the eyes on her. She was beginning to feel embarrassed, not knowing what to make of all this.

  "This is. . . um. . . " Caleb began, stuttering, "um. . . Caitlin," he finished, clearly nervous, looking back and forth between the two.

  "And who is that?" Caitlin asked Caleb, now looking directly at him. She could feel herself beginning to tremble with fear and upset.

  He cleared his throat. "Violet," he said.

  "I know," Caitlin said, annoyed. "I already caught her name. I'm asking you who that is. "

  The table became silent, the tension thick in the air, as all eyes turned to Caleb.

  Caitlin could feel her heart pounding in her throat. Clearly, there was something he was hesitant to tell her. What on earth could it be?

  Caleb looked down at the table, then slowly looked up at Caitlin, with guilty eyes.

  "Violet is the one who turned me. "

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