Authors: Kathyn J. Knight
Vampires of the Sun
Kathryn J. Knight
Special Thanks to
Troy, Marcus, and Ray
For all the help you have given me!
Black on black was beautiful. It draped and complimented well when pieced together properly. When Norah held it against her skin, the fabric brought out an unrealistic paleness in her skin that was splotched with freckles and veins. Black was a slimming color and made Norah’s wardrobe beautiful and regal. The entirety of her wardrobe, including bags and shoes, was black. No other color was suited for her or looked quite nice on her. It always gave an air of being fancy like she had somewhere nice to be.
Mostly Norah never had anywhere to go. Her number of friends was limited to one who lived in New York City and their whole relationship existed purely on the internet. She’d never met
in real life. That was the norm these days right? Anyone could find friends on social media but the hardest thing to do was correlate that in the real world with real friends to hang out in person with.
Norah made attempts to join society by going somewhere to sit and drink coffee with a good book to read. Still prideful and unwilling to admit she was lonely, Norah would only do things that didn’t make her look lonely or a perfect target for strangers to think of nefariously.
On a day without much sun or when the air was cooler, Norah would take her toy poodle Maxine to the Barton Creek Wilderness Park on the south side of town to have a picnic and play with other dogs. She’d even throw a couple of sticks into the water and watch Maxine splash around happily as she played fetch. A girl and her dog were a lot less conspicuous than a girl alone. If Norah really wanted to look like an active member of society, she’d walk the couple of blocks from her condo to Sixth Street and lean against a wall and smoke a cigarette while she people watched. It was easy to pass a couple of hours at night in downtown Austin. If she moved around and grabbed a bite to eat from one of the many food stalls, no one was able to tell that she was all alone.
Mauve, her therapist, said Norah’s small adventures weren’t enough. She needed to interact with other people more. Dogs can’t talk back and Norah should be having actual conversations with actual people. If Norah stayed in the outskirts of society during important years for social growth, she would lack the necessary social skills required for later in life.
Mauve wanted her to live life to the fullest and all that jazz. It was more difficult to do than Mauve made it out to be however. The feelings of jitterbugs that arose in her stomach before trying to strike up a conversation with a stranger made it near impossible, even in the south which was known for being a friendly place. Of course Norah could say hello and wave to neighbors or be responsive to questions asked about her day at the grocery store but if she wanted to compliment someone else on their clothing choices or ask them where they bought a specific item in their wardrobe, the words just wouldn’t come out.
Fashion had always interested Norah. She liked to thumb through magazines in the waiting room before her weekly appointment with Mauve. Her evenings were filled with surfacing through images from the latest look books and images from various fashion weeks. Her shared interested with keira10001 was what had brought them together to compare and share favorite designers. Norah knew that unlike herself, keira10001 couldn’t afford to buy Rick Owen jeans or a Bottega Veneta purse. She didn’t show off pictures of herself wearing the Dolce and Gabbana dress she’d gotten for her seventeenth birthday. She treasured their interactions and refused to give it up over something as petty as jealousy.
Norah already knew what Mauve would have said if she asked her therapist as to why she had social interaction issues. Mauve, if asked why, would have said all the blame could be attributed to her parents and how they were never home. She was the kind of therapist where everything was nurture versus nature. Norah didn’t want to fault her parents for everything that went wrong in her life though. Claude was off earning money and Mara couldn’t be parted from his side. She romanced the idea that they were like young lovers even in their older age. No, Norah didn’t blame them.
While Tuesdays meant an appointment with Mauve, Wednesdays meant volunteering at a local food bank she’d chosen for her weekly good karma points. As a believer in what goes around must come back around, Norah wanted to help people who couldn’t help themselves in case she ever came into the position of not being able to help herself. Knowing it probably didn’t exist didn’t stop Norah from hoping that it did and that she was making some kind of difference in others’ lives.
Norah had seen the food bank being advertised in the daily newspaper that was delivered despite a lack of regular readers in the Banks household. Norah Banks was an only child and with Claude and Mara being in Switzerland or Germany, depending on the week, Norah couldn’t be bothered to read about depressing news all that often. It was purely a coincidence that she had looked at the unclassified ads the same day that the food bank was being advertised.
The food bank wasn’t all it was cracked up to be though. Instead of young, helpful people congregating to solve world hunger, the food bank was filled with catty, older, trophy-wife type women who had nothing better to do than sit around and talk bad about those who came in needing help. She heard comments about how ugly ‘poor people’s’ clothes were or questions regarding how someone so fat could be starving to the point of needing food assistance. Norah wondered if these women ever truly thought about how other people couldn’t afford gym memberships and didn’t have the luxury of taking three hours off of work or watching children to go to spin class or hit the elliptical.
Norah continued to volunteer, staying out of the politics that came with the job. Wordlessly, she helped pack up food into bags when those with needs came. She didn’t feel good about helping while she was there but when she could block out the memories of the useless chit-chat and focus on how she might be making a difference in her own way, it made her feel good and it helped Mauve get off her case about interacting with people outside of school.
Taking up the responsibility of work at the food bank gave Norah a bit of uniformity in her life. She liked having the mix of structured and unstructured days when her classes ended. It was exciting to plan out what she wanted to do in her free time and find places she could take Maxine to have fun.
For her sixteenth birthday, Norah came home from school on the city bus to find that her father Claude had left a gift with Mr. Santiago, the doorman of their building and a kind, older man. The gift of a car key was part of a larger gift from her father, who agreed with her mother Mara that Norah shouldn’t have to take public transportation home. Norah’s money made her a target for the “unseemly” as Mara put it. Norah had to admit it was true but she refused to ask for special treatment just because she didn’t want to deal with the drunks and the crazies who took the bus or the light rail. She could deal with avoiding the homeless guy who leered at her and tried to bother her for her phone number and asked if she needed a friend on multiple occasions. If she thought about it, Norah knew it was strange that she could deal with that type of stranger over her peers and coworkers at school and work.
The key in question belonged to a car that had been parked in one of the two parking spots of the condo’s car garage that was rented by Claude. The car was a new, beautiful and blue, Honda Civic. The car almost made up for the fact that Norah’s parents had missed three of her birthdays in a row, only leaving behind expensive gifts for her instead. She could count on one hand how many times she’d seen them in the last couple of years. Claude always claimed to be too busy to come home and the year between receiving the car for her sixteenth birthday and the D&G dress for her seventeenth birthday passed rather quickly. Now she was almost eighteen years old and a new beginning to an unknown life was beginning to take root.
After Norah visited Mauve on a Tuesday the month before her eighteenth birthday, she had a lot on her mind by the end of their meeting. She would be an adult soon, graduating high school in a few months with a guaranteed acceptance to her father’s alma mater. While UT Austin might not be the most prestigious school and known for an exorbitant amount of partying amongst Texas residents, it was within walking distance of her building. She’d continue living at home if she decided that was where she wanted to go. It would be all too convenient.
On top of asking Norah if she planned to keep seeing her now that she was going to be an adult and had a choice in the matter, Mauve had asked if she was content with how things at home were. Mara had extended an invitation to come visit them in Europe. Her parents would be in Paris over the summer and it sounded dreamy that Norah would be able to spend a large amount of time with them.
Even without the promise of spending time with her parents, Norah would have loved to go to all the big fashion houses that resided in Paris as well as art galleries in Montmartre after taking in the sights of the city. All of her fantasies though included softly lit evenings while she walked down the Seine alongside the Notre Dame and to the Eiffel Tower with a mysterious handsome man at her side rather than her parents. She would have met him in a café in the evening where she’d stopped for a shot of espresso and a cheese plate after perusing river side book sellers. He would ask her to show him around the city because it was his first time in Paris. Their first date, he would bring her flowers and they would take in the city up at Sacre Coeur before closing the night out in a lovely Italian eatery with an amazing view of the glittering Eiffel Tower. She would think she was in love even though she’d never been romantic with a man before.
At her most current state of mind, Norah thought of her parents more as benefactors who supplied her with whatever she wanted as an investment into a good future rather than the guiding figures they should have been. Mauve made her question how she thought of them and how she felt. Was she happy with how things were? Did she want a more conventional family?
Changing how her parents were now didn’t seem possible to Norah. She was almost an adult and nothing she did could change what her childhood had been like. Continuing to see Mauve seemed useless. She wasn’t depressed and wasn’t into self-harm or mutilation. She had only begun to see Mauve because someone who worked at her school complained that Norah distanced herself from others too much and must have complications with social interactions if she didn’t have any friends. Claude said she had to go see Mauve in order to appease the school officials so Norah went. If she didn’t have to see Mauve, it wasn’t a plus or a minus. It was just something she did now that she’d been going for so long and she wouldn’t continue doing once she graduated.
Something else that weighed heavily on Norah’s mind was letting her father do everything for her. Shouldn’t she want to be financially independent, not having to rely on her father for everything? Other than the food bank, she’d never had a job before. She had a trust fund and her dad would pay for college. Why rebel when she was going to get everything she needed? Would she rebel purely for the sake of rebelling? Norah wasn’t exactly the rebel type anyhow.
Leaving Mauve’s office and the slightly chilled air that reverted to heat so easily the minute she stepped through the door, Norah left with a confused mind. She headed out into the slowly blossoming heat of summer even as the darkness of the night was beginning to set in. The sun was going down and the feeling of heavy thoughts made her restless. She got like that sometimes when night came on and the day had left her particularly numb and her mind strained and overused. It wasn’t easy to fall asleep on such a night. Tonight, Norah didn’t even try, bringing her car out of the busy parking lot. She got a small scare as a car backed up and almost hit her but with a bit of maneuvering, she was on the open road.
Norah drove. She drove towards home, entering the ramp to IH-35S from the frontage road. On her right, as she entered downtown, she admired the tall buildings and the practicality that was downtown Austin. Buildings built tall to hold residences flush with people and offices of up and coming Fortune 500 businesses, while the street-level held the promise of eateries and bars. She passed UT Austin first with the big bell tower which had doubled as a sniper’s nest in the 60’s and the premier collegiate level Texas football team’s stadium that sprawled across many acres of land before seeing the Capitol building. It stood tall and regal with its renaissance revival architecture. Norah particularly liked the dome shape that spiraled up on the inside with a mural and how anyone could look down onto another floor mural from the balconies above. Lastly she looked for The Driskill hotel where she occasionally took brunch on Sunday’s or tea if she felt like having it. She could barely see it from the highway but she knew where it stood. The buildings were only just turning their on their neon and fluorescent lights and even though it was a weeknight, Sixth Street was gathering young business men and women to drink and party all night long.
Passing downtown, Norah could see her condo. There were two balconies; one overlooking the highway and one overlooking the city. It wasn’t on the top floor but it was only three down from the penthouse. If she passed by, Norah always looked for the darkened windows.
Norah drove over Ladybird Lake with the bat bridge in the distance. She regretted not being close enough to see the bats coming out for the night but it wasn’t an unfamiliar sight to behold, having seen them over two dozen times in her youth. Norah could easily blend with any of the tourists who gathered there daily to behold the site of tiny, fluttering bodies. Norah took the ironic nature of Lady Bird Lake into account every time she passed it on the bridge. It wasn’t really a lake. The water was just a wider part of the Colorado River which flowed through town. All the same, it was lovely to see the swan boats out in full glory during the summer months. Norah left the view of the lake quickly as the road curved around and upwards into the small hills and passed into South Austin before she slowly left the city. Within an hour, Norah had made it to San Marcos, even with the traffic.