She chose the black horse.
Standing in the glare of the
multi-colored lights, Ginnie took another moment to enjoy the craftsmanship of
the carousel stallion before slipping her foot into the gilded stirrup,
grabbing the brass pole, and swinging her other leg up and over the red lacquered
The seat of the wooden sculpture
felt worn and natural, like the fit had been made especially for her. Looking
around, Ginnie watched as other couples, parents with children, and teenagers
made their selections, choosing which horse or lion or giraffe or tiger they
wanted to ride. Bits and pieces of conversation and laughter drifted to her,
disjointed by the warm summer breeze.
During the latter part of the season,
the carousel in the park stayed open late, drawing those who preferred the
cooler, carefree evenings over the heat of the day. Luring them with the music
and the lights, and the childhood thrill of its up-and-down, round-and-round movement.
She’d been through a tiring day but
wasn’t ready yet to call it a night. She needed a chance to unwind first, and
decided the park would be an excellent choice, especially with the additional
foot traffic. So what started as a casual stroll past the jogging trails ended
up with her drawn by the rinky-tink sounds of the ride, to find herself staring
across a small bridge at the whirling magic of the carousel.
She paid her admission and waited
for her turn to mount the wooden boards when she spotted the ebony-colored
horse, its head reared back with golden mane flying and blood-red nostrils
flared. There was a sense of power in the horse’s stance, defiance in the tilt
of its beautifully carved head and prancing hooves. That one, Ginnie had
decided, was hers.
The horse began its descent as the
ride slowly moved forward. Fascinated by the play of the lights on its glossy
hide, she ran her fingers over the smoothness, noting how the figure still felt
warm from the heat of the day…or was it from the countless bodies carried
during its numerous rides?
A plaque passed by. She barely
managed to catch a glimpse of it, but she already knew what it said: ESTABLISHED
About the time Zebulon would have
been a child, and twenty or so years before he was turned.
She reveled in the gentle movement.
Is this how it felt for you, Zeb? When you were a boy, sneaking over here in
the middle of the night? Was the wood still warm when you sat on it?
Turning around, she saw that the
artist had carved handfuls of fruits along the edges and emerging from the back
of the saddle—deep purple and green grapes, bright yellow bananas, oranges,
pears, and lemons. All looking so real, so tempting. She looked overhead to see
her reflection stare back at her in countless diamond-shaped mirrors embedded
in the ceiling of the awning. Above the open canopy, the full moon glowed
almost as brightly as the incandescent bulbs.
The full moon. His life now revolved
around the phases of the moon, and on nights like this, he would be out and
Are you out looking for me?
Expecting me to be at my apartment, but worried because I’m not there?
She tried to peer out into the park
as the carousel gained speed, but the lights only extended a few feet past the
sidewalk that ringed it before being swallowed up in the velvet darkness. The
sight became a dizzying blur if she tried to watch it for too long.
Closing her eyes, Ginnie clutched
the large brass pole with both hands and laid her cheek against its cool,
comforting surface. The ever-flowing up-and-down motion was intoxicating,
lulling her with its smooth, rhythmic glide. The night winds ran warm fingers
over her face and through her hair, pressing her blouse and jeans closer to her
body. The gentle rise and fall was exciting in a way she couldn’t explain, and she
realized with a smile how much happiness she’d forgotten she could find in a
child’s simple diversion. Pressing her knees tighter against the sides of her
steed, she secretly wished she could stay there for hours.
Please, just a little longer. Let
me pretend you’re here with me, sharing with me this feeling, this moment that
allows me to make-believe I’m as ageless as you. And the both of us are riding
forever into the night without fear, and without the pressure of time.
Too soon, the carousel began to
wind itself to a stop to allow for the next set of riders. She debated whether
to go again, but knew she took the chance of losing her favorite midnight
stallion if she went to pay for another ticket. Besides, tomorrow was another
workday. She needed to go home and to bed.
Reluctantly, she dismounted, gave
one last affectionate rub to the glossy rump, and stepped rather shakily onto
the gravel walkway. It took a minute for her to regain her shore legs.
Moving to the sidewalk, she watched
until the ride started up once more. Then, digging her hands into the pockets
of her jeans, she turned and began to follow the wide cement path that led out
of the park and toward her apartment building.
It wasn’t until she reached the
park lamp at the entrance that she could feel a presence nearby. With it, a
feeling of contentment washed over her, echoing her own self-satisfaction. Ginnie
squinted at a group of trees just off the trail when a dark figure detached
itself from them. Immediately, without further thought, she ran past the copse
and into a pair of strong, waiting arms.
“You’re supposed to be Brooklyn!”
she half-accused, burying her face in his soft leather jerkin.
“And you were supposed to be in
Albany,” Zebulon reminded her with a teasing tone. He held her fiercely yet
lovingly against him as she clutched the edges of his cloak.
Lifting her face, she stared into
his, noting the strong jawline, the long, ivory-colored teeth, and dark eyes
that seemed to see into her soul. Not detecting the smell of blood told her he
hadn’t fed yet, and she smiled. He knew she couldn’t stand the sight or scent of
it after he’d gotten his fill. Which meant he had sought her out first before
leaving her to search for his next meal.
“I got through early, so I caught
the last shuttle flight back. I’ve missed you, Zeb.”
“I felt you return,” he explained
softly. “It’s been such a long two weeks, I couldn’t wait to see you. But I
have to go back tomorrow to finish the job.”
Ginnie understood. “I came here,
thinking of you, and found myself by your carousel.” A little laugh. “I haven’t
ridden a carousel in years. But tonight, I couldn’t resist.” She lifted her
arms to wrap them around his strong neck when a sharp, biting odor came to her,
and she grinned. “My hands smell metallic, like the pole I was holding,” she
Zebulon lowered his mouth to where
he could nuzzle her cheek and the sensitive skin near her ear. A playful breeze
tossed a leather thong from his cloak across her eyes, and as she rubbed her
cheek against his, she wondered if he could tell she also smelled of paint and
old wood, of perfume thick from her perspiration, and traces of the detergent
she washed her clothes in.
“Did you enjoy it?” he murmured.
Behind him, she caught sight of the
full moon hanging near the horizon as it readied itself for its ascent. “Yes.
Too much, I’m afraid.” She lightly laughed. “This place has a magical quality
to it, especially with the full moon.”
He glanced upward, then back to
find it. “Ah. The Thunder Moon.”
“The Thunder Moon. It signals the
summer storms that will soon appear. I’ve also heard it called the Buck Moon.”
“Why is it called that?”
“This is the time of year when the new antlers emerge from a buck’s forehead, so he’ll be prepared to
defend his does when rutting season rolls around.” His arms tightened around
her. “Never fear walking out here alone, beloved. I may not have antlers, but I
will protect and defend you until your dying day.”
She smiled. She knew he would. He never
broke his promise. Lifting her lips, she silently implored him for a kiss.
Zebulon gladly granted her wish. Despite the distinctive coolness of his skin,
his mouth was warm. Better yet, when he grew passionate, he was extra careful
not to let his unique teeth harm her.
She broke away first and pressed her
forehead to his chest. “I
wish,” Ginnie whispered, bringing him back from his reverie, “you could have
been there with me.”
“No. On the carousel. On the horse
next to mine. I wish we could have shared the moment together. The joy, the
wind, the music and the lights. Feeling like we were children again.”
Another breeze rattled the leaves
in the trees above them, but his answer was a pulse singing in her ear. “Who
says we can’t?”
She jerked her eyes up at him.
“But…the lights. The mirrors.”
“If it will make you happy, I will
gladly make the sacrifice. However, before I do…” He started to release her,
but she gripped his cloak more tightly.
“No. Don’t go. Not yet.”
“I will return,” he assured her.
“But you know I cannot go into that brightness without feeding first.”
“I know.” She smiled and reached up
to guide his face down to her sweaty neck. “Take what you need, my love.”
He paused. “But only enough to
allow us to remain together a while longer,” he swore.
Ginnie nodded. And when he opened
his mouth to take her this time, she felt nothing but total happiness.