Eternal --- by Ana Moreno
The Comfortable Couch
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Istvan Bathory was restless. He had been in Chicago for over a year now, trying unsuccessfully to ingratiate himself into thriving Hungarian-American community there. People seemed not to know what to make of him even though their heritage was the same, and he had suffered many indignities at their hands. The first had been shortly after he purchased a townhouse on Lake Michigan: Most of the residents to whom he introduced himself at a tenants association meeting the week after he moved in couldnt understand his English. They seemed to think that when he said his first name, he was saying, "Its Van". And what people did with his noble old surname when they saw it written down was even worse--they pronounced it as if they were talking about a bathroom but changing the "m" to a "y". He had eventually decided he could live with the first name, so he began to answer to Van. He even put up with their chuckling at his unfamiliarity with modern conveniences like elevators and laundry rooms. But when the manager of the building began calling and waking him in the middle of the day to relay the many complaints he had received about the noise coming from Istvans apartment at night, he had decided it was time to move on. So here he sat in the waiting room of a small real estate office on a gloomy winter evening, waiting to meet with an agent.

The glass door of the office banged open with a gust of wind and a petite figure with a huge black umbrella hurried in. As the umbrella was lowered, Istvan could see that it was a woman with masses of wavy auburn hair, wearing a dark green knee-length parka with a fur-trimmed hood and black vinyl boots. She opened the door again and shook the umbrella outside, then hung it and her coat on the rack standing by the door. Her slim figure was swallowed in a bulky black fisherman turtleneck sweater and a long skirt of maroon, gray, and black plaid wool. What Istvan noticed most, though, was that although this woman was small and slender, her breasts appeared to be very large. He couldnt be sure because of the sweater of course, but he suddenly found himself wishing he could rest his head on them, the way he had on his wifes ample bosom. His wife had been dead for many years now, more years than he cared to think about, and he burned every day with longing for her...

"Mr. Bathory?" The woman was walking toward him, snapping him out of his reverie. Istvan stood and looked her in the eyes, almost gasping as he realized that they were the same hazel as his Elizabeths, flecked with gold and framed by pale lashes and high-arched eyebrows. Not only that, but she knew how to pronounce his last name! "Im Benita Curran," she was continuing; Istvan fought the burning inside him as he tried to focus on the present, "but you can call me BC. Everyone does--my mother always said I was an old soul, even as a child!" I can see that, Istvan thought--you even speak as sweetly as she poor Elzi! Once more Istvan made an effort to act as if he were really functioning in reality, taking the hand BC extended and shaking it automatically. It too was like his wifes, delicate and so very soft that he didnt want to let it go. "How do you do," he finally managed to respond, his ancient Hungarian upbringing taking over so that he bowed and kissed BCs hand. Mmmm, he mused, licking his lips as they left her hand--she even tastes and smells the same! He exerted his greatest effort yet to straighten back up and let go of BCs hand, and when he looked at her face again saw that she was blushing--just the way Elizabeth always had after.... No, he couldnt think about that now, it was too painful a pleasurable memory--or too pleasurable a painful one; he had never really been sure--and he couldnt let himself try to recreate it with this woman until he had gained her trust.

BC cleared her throat and tossed her hair back with both hands, asking, "Shall we go?" Though she tried to hide it behind her smile, she was obviously uneasy in the presence of this tall, gracefully built foreigner with hair as black and thick as the winter darkness. It was the first thing she noticed when she had seen him sitting here, head bowed, through the plate glass window of the office. Looking up at him now (quite far up, as he was over six feet tall), BC saw that it hung in waves to his shoulders and gleamed with silver (though not gray, for Mr. Bathory was obviously a man in his middle twenties) under the fluorescent lights. Then she came under the spell of his eyes--they seemed to take up half his bronze-skinned face, and were so brown that they appeared at first to be black, as were his long curly eyelashes and heavy but perfect brows. In thus noticing the color of his skin, BC realized that his face was smooth as if it had no hair apart from a full, well-trimmed mustache and heavy sideburns, and saw that his nose was large but elegant. She stood rooted though she had been the one to suggest they leave, studying his square jaw, firm chin, and long neck half-hidden under a pale blue cashmere turtleneck. Trying to reestablish eye contact as she waited for his answer, BC decided his gaze was too unsettling. Besides, as her eyes traveled downward, she now found the broad expanse of his shoulders and chest too great an enticement in spite of what she had instantly seen as beauty in his face. She was giving his torso a lingering glance when suddenly BC saw that one of Mr. Bathorys large, graceful hands was coming up toward her face. Before she knew what was happening, it was caressing her cheek, then trailing down to lift her chin so that she could see his full, coppery red lips part in a smile, revealing the most flawless, dazzlingly white teeth she had ever seen. They seemed almost too large for his mouth and the canines appeared longer than normal.

"Yes, let us go now," he said, so softly that in her distraction she almost didnt hear. Her mind wandered unwittingly to a place where what he had actually said might have been, "Let me make love to you now," and BC felt herself blushing again. Mr. Bathory released her chin and offered her the crook of his arm, taking her hand and placing it there with a gentle pat. It seemed to BC as though they floated to the door, but the spell was broken as she had to retrieve her coat and umbrella, turn out the lights and lock the door. Then she turned back to Mr. Bathory and he did as before, patting her hand down onto the sleeve of his black leather trench coat, and they glided together down the block to her car. Having seen the quality of his clothes, BC was embarrassed to let Mr. Bathory into her beat-up old Honda. As she cleared papers off the passenger seat for him, she stammered, "Excuse the mess, Mr. Bathory!" After sliding his long legs into the car and opening them so his knees just touched the dashboard, Istvan replied, "Think nothing of it, BC--and call me Van, please!" BC found herself staring at his lap, trying not to think about what lay under his grey tweed trousers, but the position of his legs made the thought come unbidden. Cheeks burning once more, BC managed to shift her gaze and start the car. "OK, Van," she said thickly, "I hope you like what I have to show you tonight!" Too late she realized how that had sounded, but her uneasiness this time was swallowed up in the most melodious sound. Istvan was laughing, his head thrown back and teeth gleaming in the dim light of the streetlamps. As she stopped for a red light, BC looked over and saw how much more beautiful he was this way, finding herself giggling and being aroused at the same time, in spite of trying to maintain a professional demeanor. "Ah, I am sure I will!" Istvan was saying, taking her hand and squeezing it for a second before the light changed. Just as quickly they both fell silent again, and nothing more passed between them as the drive continued. Istvans thoughts were too full of plans for him to make conversation. He knew what he had to do. Benita Curran would belong to him, body and soul, before the night was over.

Istvan was jolted from his planning by the fact that BC had stopped her car. Behind huge evergreen trees, a high wrought iron gate loomed in front of them, and beyond he could see a huge stone facade with turrets and double wooden doors. He was instantly transported back to his ancestral home in Hungary. BC was getting out of the car and using a key--evidently left with her by the previous owner--to open it, and when she got back in, Istvan found himself saying, "I dont even need to see the inside, BC--I love it!" BC laughed, "After I got out in this cold drizzle and messed with that heavy gate, the least you can do is take a look at the place!" Istvan joined in her laughter and nodded, "Alright, for you I will, dragam!" BC stopped laughing, "What did you call me? Dragon?" Istvan laughed even harder, his head thrown back again and all his teeth visible, and BC found herself joining in without knowing why. "No, no, not dragon," he sputtered, "dragam--it means darling!" BCs laughter was once again cut short, replaced by tears welling up in her eyes. "Oh, Van, that is so sweet!" It barely occurred to her that they had only met an hour ago, or that it was freezing outside, and when Istvan reached out and took her in his arms BC didnt resist. Instead she rested her cheek on the soft cashmere sweater he wore and listened for his heartbeat. To her surprise she couldnt hear it. But she didnt have time to consider that fact, for Istvan was breaking away from the embrace and saying, "Come, let us go see my new house!"

BC opened the double doors with another key on the large ring she carried. Flipping on the lights of the chandelier in the huge foyer, she went in and turned to Istvan, who was still standing on the front step. This man is quite unusual, she thought to herself as she gestured like, "Come in," but Istvan remained standing outside. "Whats the matter, Van?" she asked, "Dont you like it?" He shook his head and replied, "Its not that--I really do love it!", but still made no move to enter. "Well then," BC cajoled, "cmon in!" At her invitation Istvan finally came inside, closing the doors behind him. She took off her coat, but noticed that Istvan did not remove his. Maybe its colder in here than I think, she told herself, with the heat being turned down because the place is empty--my sweater is probably heavier than his. Istvan was reaching to carry her coat, so BC laid it over his arm and began walking through the living room straight ahead to the entrance to the kitchen at the back left corner. From there they walked into the dining room and back into the foyer again, without either one saying a word. At the bottom of the stairs to the second floor, Istvan suddenly dropped BCs coat and took her in his arms again. This time BC looked up into his fathomless brown eyes and knew instinctively that he was going to kiss her. She stood slightly on tiptoe, for he was nearly a foot taller, and watched Istvan incline his head, black hair cascading over his cheeks and casting eerie shadows on his darkly handsome features. BC gasped, for a split second fearful of the look in his eyes and the leering smile on his lips which had looked so gentle just a moment before. When they finally did meet hers after what seemed like eternity, BC found that her intuition had been correct, for Istvan kissed her so hard that it almost felt like he was biting her lips. She understood in some part of her brain that what he was probably doing was sucking on her lower lip, which should have been pleasurable, but the rest of her mind cried out for him to stop.

BC let out a whimper against Istvans lips, and he backed away abruptly. At first she was afraid to meet his gaze for fear that she would find him angry, but then he was lifting her chin just as he had done earlier, so that she had no choice. She had to fight not to gasp again, because when her eyes caught sight of Istvans lips, they looked redder than she remembered them, and when she reflexively licked her own she swore she felt cuts on them and tasted salt. So he had been biting her! BC didnt have time to be afraid, for now Istvan was smiling tenderly and starting up the stairs. "Arent you going to show me the rest of the house?" he asked with what BC thought was a wink. All she could do was nod, take the hand he offered (noting the length and delicacy of his fingers as she did so), and follow him. She continued to lick her lips every so often as they walked down the hallway, and when she was showing him the hall bath BC stole a look in the mirror. Her lips were definitely oozing blood. Istvan caught her looking at herself and put his arms around her from behind, burying his face in her hair and nuzzling it aside until his lips met her neck. "Te vagy szep," he murmured against her skin as his hands found her breasts under her sweater, "You are beautiful!" He sucked gently at her neck as well, until BC almost forgot where and who she was. But something made her squirm around in his arms and face him. With every bit of the professionalism she had fought so hard to develop since receiving her real estate license a year ago, BC reached for Istvans hands which now rested on her shoulders, pushing them away. Without a word--she didnt dare speak because she was afraid she would cry if she did--BC left the bathroom, walked down the hall and hurried down the stairs. Something made her stop in the foyer, although she had intended to run to her car and leave Istvan behind. When she could hear again over the pounding of her own heart, the sound that came to her ears was like the roar of a hungry lion.

Moment's later Istvan appeared at the top of the stairs, a wild look on his face as though he would fling himself down them. They just stared at each other for a long time, and when Istvan finally broke his gaze and looked up toward the chandelier in the foyer, BC thought she saw tears glistening in his eyes and trickling down his cheeks. She fought the urge to run back up the stairs to him, but her feet seemed not to be listening. The next thing she knew, BC was at Istvans side, throwing her arms around his neck and standing on tiptoe to whisper, "Oh, Van, I am so sorry! I didnt mean to be rude!" She realized even as she was saying this that his arms had gone around her again and he was lifting her off the floor as if she weighed nothing. Then BC felt Istvans arm sliding down behind her until he was holding her like a baby. He carried her into one of the bedrooms, and she was surprised to find that there was still a bed-- sheets, comforter, and all--in this house that had been vacated weeks ago. Istvan placed BC on the bed and laid down on his stomach beside her. As he looked into her eyes and toyed with her hair, he knew with even greater certainty that he had found his Elizabeth again after all these centuries, and that he had to take this woman with him into eternity, the way Elizabeth had meant to do for him. Elizabeth had never had the chance. Though they had ruled a province of Hungary together as Count and Countess, she had wanted more. Though she was the most beautiful woman in the entire country, and though Istvan had sworn to love her for a lifetime, she had wanted more.

Elizabeth had wanted to remain young and beautiful forever, and the idea that this was not possible had driven the poor thing mad. She had become convinced that the way to preserve her youth was to bathe in the blood of virgins, and to that end she had begged Istvan to go throughout the countryside and find the most beautiful young women he could. If they could swear to their virginity, Elizabeth instructed him, he was to promise them a position at court if they would come with him to his castle. There he was to pretend to seduce them. Then, as Istvan and the girl were lying together in bed, Elizabeth would come into the room and, feigning outrage, stab her to death. He could not to this day fathom why he had agreed to carry out this insane scheme so many times, except for his love and the pity he felt at his wifes condition. Then there was the reward Elizabeth always gave him, to relieve his inevitable frustration--a night of lovemaking so wild that she even seemed to be biting him, especially on his neck--but he soon learned that they would both be paying the price. When the true nature of those many deaths had been discovered--that they were not crimes of passion by a jealous wife but deliberate acts which a group of ecclesiastical judges interpreted as sacrifices to Satan--Elizabeth had been sentenced to be shut in her chambers and the door bricked up, there to remain until she starved to death. The night before the gruesome sentence was to be carried out, Elizabeth begged her jailers for one last night with her husband, and they relented. When she was brought to Istvan, he hardly knew his own wife, for she seemed well on her way to the starvation decreed for her, and looked as though she had aged many years in a few weeks. But Istvan did know that after this night he would never see her alive again, and his love for her took him over more completely than ever before.

They made love all that night, in the same wild fashion, but just before dawn Elizabeth became strangely restless. She kept insisting that the judges and jailers had told her to leave Istvan before sunrise, yet she didnt disengage from his embrace. Then when they heard heavy footsteps coming down the hall, Elizabeth suddenly slithered down her husbands body, and before he could comprehend what was happening, she did something she had never done to Istvan before. She took his manhood in her mouth, but it was immediately obvious to him that this was not simply for his pleasure. Instead, Elizabeths teeth were sinking into his flesh, and when she had drawn blood, she lay drinking it in until Istvan could no longer hold himself back. Just as he reached a climax in spite of the pain, guards broke down the locked door and pulled Elizabeth away. In Istvans fevered mind at that moment, it seemed as if he had been made love to by an angel throughout all of eternity, but his doctors rushed in to find him weak and fading quickly. He lay near death for days, but miraculously recovered. As he resumed his duties, Istvan felt stronger than twenty men and wanted to do to every woman what he had done with Elizabeth--make love wildly for hours. But he had found that he could not, and came to assume that he just needed to find the right woman. It had taken almost five hundred years and many deaths brought on by his rage at the incapability of his otherwise strangely powerful body, but now he knew the right one was beside him. She was his Elizabeth come back to him, the only one who would become immortal and remain with him.

But even in the presence of this new soulmate, Istvan couldnt help remembering how only after her sentence had been carried out had he discovered what his first Elizabeth had really done to those girls and to him. And that the killing had not stopped as he had thought because after a time the stabbings had. Her insanity had only escalated when it had become obvious to her that she would never achieve immortality by taking her unspeakable baths, so Elizabeth had instead decided to take the young women alive before they reached her husbands bed and keep them in her chamber for as long as they continued to live after she began to...He couldnt even bring himself to think of it now, so far from the events. It was only because one of the girls had escaped and told the priest that his Elizabeth had been sentenced as a worshipper of Satan. Not that he had not seen the evil in what she had done, but all these years he had always pitied her more than himself or the unfortunate young women. For like everyone else in that country at that time, Istvan thought he knew what drinking human blood did to a person. It might prolong life indefinitely, but made it necessary to obtain ones sustenance more and more often as time passed. It took away all taste for any other food. It made one a creature of the night, unable to tolerate even the first rays of dawn. And worst of all, he mused with tears in his eyes--especially as he looked down on the lovely face that was now looking quizzically back at him--the only pleasure he had felt since that last night with his wife had been in tasting blood.

There he tried to stop his thoughts, for the man he had once been made Istvan hesitate to taste it now. That part of him which wanted to taste of real human love again began fighting its way back to the surface of Istvans consciousness as he heard BC asking, "What do you want from me, Van?" She didnt seem frightened now--perhaps she thought she already knew the answer and was resigned to it. How could he explain to her that he didnt want to--he literally couldnt--force himself upon her? At least not as a mortal man might, and he knew now he could never do to BC what he had done so forcibly to all those others over the centuries. All he wanted was for her to stay with him until he could let go of his hunger and rest forever. Suddenly, Istvan was aware that the humanity he had thought was long dead had risen with a vengeance. It seemed he could feel his heart beating again, even though he had not eaten for days. And there was no mistaking what was taking place elsewhere in his body--his manhood was returning to life for the first time since his last night with Elizabeth. Even though he had traveled the world for hundreds of years, searching for the woman who would be her for him once again, it had seemed impossible to him that once he found her he would be able to truly love her with his whole being. It was obvious to him now why he had never known. Back in those times, in his homeland, one could speak of blood and death and curses without fear of censure. For example, it was thought necessary to drive stakes through the hearts of these cursed beings in order to kill them--but hadnt his Elzi simply starved to death even though she was one of them? Although everyone thought they knew what it meant to be a vampire, no one really understood that they retained some of their human nature, and that it was possible to return to it fully through the union of a destined man and woman--to speak of such things was forbidden. But hadnt Elizabeth still been able to make love with him even on their last night together? He silently berated himself for not reaching this conclusion before, and the tears which had been hovering in his long eyelashes began to spill down his cheeks.

BC had watched thunderclouds of strong emotion pass across Istvans face as he lay staring at her. When she saw him beginning to cry she had wondered if he was fighting a battle inside himself to keep from assaulting her, and she had summoned the courage to ask him what he wanted in hopes of making him see that it would be wrong. But now that he was burying his face in her shoulder and sobbing uncontrollably, BC understood that he had never intended to do such a thing--no man with a heart as tender as his could ever do that. Thinking of his heart made her remember when she had rested her head on Istvans chest and had not heard it beating, but now she felt it throbbing wildly against her breast. She reached up to stroke his beautiful black hair and found it fine and soft as a childs. Her other arm went around his back and she rubbed it gently as she tried to quiet him. Something inside her made her ask the question again, even though as Istvan turned on to his side and snuggled against her, his hand reaching under her sweater once more, BC could feel the answer pressed against her hip. "What do you want from me, Van?" He placed his hand on BCs heart and whispered into her neck, "Szeret." BC thought he had said something like "Share it," but just to be sure, she asked, "What?" Istvan raised himself on his elbow so he could look into BCs eyes, which he did for a long moment before replying, "Love. I want you to love me." He stroked her cheek and smiled gently.

BC was taken aback but met his steady gaze with an effort. When she could tell by the look on his beautiful face and the inclination of his head that he was going to kiss her again, she stiffened involuntarily, remembering how the first one had made her lip bleed. As though he understood, Istvan first let the tip of his tongue escape from his lips and softly touched it to hers, licking away what had dried there. He found that he took no pleasure now in its taste, but rather in the action itself and the way it made BCs body relax again. Now he pushed his tongue out farther and parted her lips, extending it fully into her mouth and truly kissing her for the first time. BC reacted by pressing her lips as well as her body closer to his, turning to meet him face to face. When he felt as though he could no longer breathe, Istvan broke the kiss and put his lips next to BCs ear, kissing her hair out of the way so he could whisper right into her mind. He didnt now quite how to say in English what he wanted to say, and after so many centuries he had forgotten how to say it in his native language. So he just unzipped his trousers and took BCs hand, murmuring, "Love me, please." Now that she was touching him, BC knew she had been right about what Istvan wanted, and she also knew that she wanted this too. After a few minutes of kissing and touching, it seemed that they both decided that their clothes were just in the way, for they both sat up and took off their sweaters at the same moment. Laughing, they then stood on opposite sides of the bed, watching each other closely as they removed everything else. BC nearly gasped at the sight of Van without his clothes, seeing that she had once again been right--his shoulders were as broad, his arms as muscular, and his waist as lean as she had found herself imagining when he first stood up to greet her in the office. She was taken aback, though, by what looked like scars in many places on his body, but worst of all on his neck and...My God, she thought, they do some primitive circumcisions in Eastern Europe! When she looked up to see Istvan gazing back at her, unashamed and smiling gently once again, BC thought no more of it, for his face seemed even more beautiful than she had first thought. Love had made some kind of change him, that was obvious, but BC had no idea of the extent of that change.

BC came back to the present when she heard the sheets rustle as Istvan turned down the covers of the bed and slipped gracefully under them. As BC joined him, he hungrily reached for her and pulled her to him, wrapping her in his long, strong arms and kissing her again with almost as much force as that frightening first time. But now she was returning his passion with every bit as much intensity--every kiss, every touch more insistent than the last--and there was no more pain, only pleasure that made all those years of lonely wandering fade away. Within moments they were joined and moving in unison as if they had been doing so for hundreds of years. When they finally shuddered in climax together, Istvan didnt ever want to leave BCs body, but he remembered enough about his life with Elizabeth to realize that eventually he would have to. After that, they lay sweating and sated in each others arms, their kisses becoming more languid because of their exhaustion. Looking down the length of BCs petite body, Istvan was almost sorry that having done it this night meant that he no longer had centuries to continue making love to her. Her breasts were as large as he had thought, and he longed to rest there forever. Failing that, he resolved to himself that they would do this as often as they could, right here in this house, in this bed. As if she had read his thoughts, BC rolled over onto her stomach and looked deeply into Istvans eyes, nodding her head. "I would love to do this again, Van! As often as you want to!" Istvan smiled with the first true happiness he had felt in a long time and asked mischievously, "How about right now?" BC returned his smile and rolled onto her back. "Im all yours, my handsome prince!" I knew that the moment I saw you, Istvan thought. He resumed his place on top of BC and murmured in her ear, "Yes, you are, Elzi dragam!" In the rush of passion neither of them realized what he had said.

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