“A practitioner has the right to suffer, but a practitioner does not have the right not to practice.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, “The Moment is Perfect“
This chapter written with Xantheanmar, who graciously volunteered Aylin to join the story.
After she finished her homework, Sylvia fired up the computer.
Hannah Fry’s chapter on the mathematics of love got her thinking. Fry wrote so well. Maybe a mathematician could be a writer, too. Mathematics was another language, after all, and if she was good at math, maybe she could translate that skill into writing.
Sylvia had an idea for a novel. It would be a series of interconnected stories, each one reflecting a mathematical concept.
The first one would be about duality. She didn’t think it would be a love story.
She wrote through twilight until it was time for her lesson with the Count.
When she arrived at the Straud estate, she found a bookish-looking woman standing near the front steps.
“Whoa!” said Sylvia. “You look like someone I could maybe, actually, talk to! Are you, like, a librarian?”
“In a way,” said the woman. “Nice to meet you. I’m Aylin. And you are?”
“Sylvia! Sylvia Zoranto!”
“Zoranto. Lady Miranda’s daughter. My apologies. I amend my greeting, Lady Sylvia.”
“Oh, not Lady,” replied Sylvia. “I mean, yes, my mother is Miranda Zoranto, formerly De Suena, but we’ve dropped all that. Or at least I have.”
Aylin raised an eyebrow. “Heritage is not something easily dropped,” she said.
“Tell me about it!” groaned Sylvia. “Ever since we moved back, there’s been so much pressure. Ma wants me to learn everything, and Papa–he’s been dark for days.”
“And how are the lessons progressing?” Aylin asked.
“Well, some of it is fascinating,” Sylvia replied. “I mean, I love to learn. The book stuff, that is. It’s the practicing stuff that’s kind of weird. Here’s the thing: I love to meditate. I’ve been doing it every day for, I don’t know, maybe three years? But this dark meditation–it just feels weird. Isn’t that like the opposite of what meditation is supposed to be about? I always thought that meditation is about, you know, unity and stuff. That meditation was light.”
“Darkness is not evil,” Aylin said.
Sylvia looked at her askance. “I like sunlight better, truthfully, though I can’t be in it anymore.”
“Difficulty with darkness is something all people have,” Aylin continued, “but never is it so clear as it may be for us vampires. I encourage you to make peace with your darkness, Sylvia, or you may end up like me.”
“But I’d love to end up like you!” Sylvia said.
Just as she was about to tell Aylin that she found her the perfect role model for the type of vampire she wanted to mature into, the Count joined them.
“Ah!” he said in his nasal tenor. “You’ve met my new pupil!”
“Excuse me, Straud,” Aylin replied. “I didn’t realize she was studying with you. I assumed Lady Zoranto was teaching her own daughter.”
The Count scoffed. “Don’t be ridiculous! Look at where home-schooling has got her. Hillbilly,” he hissed, under his breath.
“Maybe you could teach me,” Sylvia suggested to Aylin. “I think I might progress quicker under a woman’s tutelage!”
Aylin smiled, and Sylvia felt her heart open. It would be something to learn from her! Why, under Aylin’s guidance, she just might be able to accept her heritage!
“Enough!” said the Count. “She is my student! I’ll have none f your interference, Missbibliothekar!”
“Je vous avez averti, Straud,” Aylin said. “We’ll meet again, Miss Zoranto!”
Sylvia smelled tar smoke, and two bright eyes were all she saw where Aylin had stood.
She felt the wings of the bat, before she saw them. And then Aylin flew above her head, darkening the moon.
And Sylvia was alone with the Count.
“So easily impressed!” he said. “That’s nothing! Watch this!”
He contracted into a smokey haze, shooting her with his intense stare. Sylvia chuckled. Such a show-off!
When he landed, it was her turn.
She rose a few feet, feeling the tarnished wings of coal spreading behind her. What had Aylin said? “Make peace with your darkness.”
She felt calm inside, with the stillness of night gathered into a ball at her solar plexus.
She let the dark center pulsate, pulling her back into the contraction. All this power! If she released the spring, she’d shoot forward. The Count would need to be quick to escape her!
“That was not the worst,” the Count said, when she landed, “nor the best, neither. It was the middlin’ power.”
He took a deep breath, and she waited for his final pronouncement.
“And there is truly nothing worse than a middlin’ hillbilly!”
He turned and walked up the steps.
She waited until the door slammed closed behind him. Five seconds, and the strains from the organ sounded faintly from within.
It wasn’t anger that Sylvia felt inside, but it was a disturbance.
It was disdain. And then she felt ashamed for feeling the disdain, because she really did believe in the value of respecting her elders. And she felt resentful that the Count was her mentor, and not Aylin. She felt envious of Aylin–so independent. So self-contained! So powerful! Willing to stand up even to the Count!
All this conflict inside!
As she rose into the dark meditation, she let the conflict be. She had the right to suffer, after all.
“Difficulty with darkness is something all people have.” She heard Aylin’s words again.
She had the right to suffer, but she didn’t have the right not to practice.
Darkness has energy of its own, and it swirled within, neither good nor bad, just there, lifting her above her concerns, rising on the tumult of feeling.