Stargazer Page 38

Dad didn’t seem to have heard what Mrs. Bethany said. “The wraiths hate vampires. They’re hostile, and they’re dangerous. Last night should have proved that beyond any doubt.”

“I didn’t dispute that,” Mrs. Bethany said. “All I meant is that we must remain focused on our own goals instead of worrying overly about the wraiths’.”

My father’s words reminded me of a question I’d had since I’d first talked about ghosts with Balthazar. “Why do the wraiths hate vampires?”

Mom and Dad glanced at each other, obviously wondering what to say, if anything. Mrs. Bethany folded her hands together, and she was the one who replied. “We none of us know precisely where we come from: vampires, humans, or wraiths. Myths vary, and science has so little to say to those of us who have survived our mortal lives. But there are legends that bear the stamp of truth.”


“Once, there were only humans,” Mrs. Bethany said. “Long, long ago. Before history, even before true human consciousness. Therefore, it was also a time before—morality. Intent. Emotion. Man lived as an animal, as united with the joys of the flesh as he was alienated from the knowledge of the soul. What humanity now calls the supernatural—

precognition, the hearing of thoughts, and sharing of dreams, powers that go beyond those of the flesh—all of that was part of the natural world then, as simple and evident as gravity. But man evolved. Consciousness developed. And with consciousness came the capacity for sin.”

I could only stare at Mrs. Bethany. I’d never heard any of this before, and judging by my parents’ rapt silence, perhaps they hadn’t either.

Mrs. Bethany continued, her voice for once free of coldness or disdain. “The day came when the first human being killed another—with foreknowledge, intent, and the understanding of what it is to take another human’s life. When that blow was struck, the bonds between the natural and supernatural world were shattered. Even though that first victim’s life ended, his existence did not. The supernatural part of the first murdered man split into two—body and spirit. Vampires are the undead body. Wraiths are the undead spirit. Our powers are unlike each other’s.

Our consciousnesses are different. And we have been divided from them and from humanity ever since.”

My head spun from all this new information. “Is that all real?”

“I cannot prove it, but many of us have believed it for a very long time,” Mrs. Bethany said. “I tend to believe it myself.”

“You mean—every time a vampire is created, a ghost is, too?”

“No. Our ‘family tree’ split with that first murder. Vampires are capable of creating more of our kind. Wraiths—they have to be more creative.” A strange smile played upon Mrs. Bethany’s face. “Yet they can be spontaneously created as well. Certain kinds of murders—those involving betrayal and broken promises, in particular—have a tendency to create ghosts. It is rare, but it can occur.”

“If vampires and wraiths don’t have anything to do with each other anymore, why do they hate us?”

She studied me carefully before she said, “Most wraiths cannot long maintain any physical form. It must drive them mad in short order—

witnessing the world without ever being able to take part in it. Think how you would feel, Miss Olivier, if you were trapped and powerless in that way, and then you saw other undead creatures still able to feel, act, and enjoy their time on earth. Think how much closer we are to the experience of life. Does it seem more clear to you now?”

“Yeah, I guess it does.”

“If you witness anything else, of course, report it at once. Adrian, Celia, thank you for bringing her over so promptly.”

“That’s it?” My mother shook her head. “There’s nothing else we can do to protect—to keep the students safe?”

“The students should simply take care not to spend too much time alone.” Mrs. Bethany raised an eyebrow. “Particularly in isolated rooms far from the teachers in the hopes that their paramours will soon arrive.”

“Next time I’ll bring Balthazar with me,” I promised. That made Mrs. Bethany scowl, but I could tell my parents were amused.

We walked back across the grounds from Mrs. Bethany’s carriage house toward the school. It was a cloudy day, unseasonably cold, and I wished I’d brought a heavier coat. Dad put one arm around me as we went. “You’re not worried?”

“No. Are you guys?”

“No,” Mom said. When she saw my expression, she sighed. “Okay.

Yes. But not for any good reason. Just because we’re your parents and we love you.”

“What did Mrs. Bethany mean by ‘constructive ways’ to get rid of ghosts?” I asked.

“Let’s hope the damn thing is gone already,” Dad said, which wasn’t exactly an answer. Before I could ask anything else, Dad grinned and waved. “Look who’s here.”

Balthazar came across the grounds toward us, wearing a long coat and a dark blue scarf looped casually around his neck. “How was the in-quisition?”

“As much fun as you could imagine,” I said.

“Well, as long as this place is haunted, I think we might want to try doing something a little different.” Balthazar deployed his most charming smile, which was pretty incredibly charming. “With your permission, of course, Mr. Olivier, Mrs. Olivier.”

“What do you mean?” Mom asked.

“If you think it would be all right, I was hoping to take Bianca off campus once in a while. Starting this weekend, maybe. We could go into Riverton or wherever, and she could show me a little bit about twenty-first-century life. I could tell her more about where I’ve been, what I’ve seen.” Balthazar said it like this was a brand-new idea, not like we’d been plotting this for weeks. “I know she’s young to go on dates off campus, but as long as this wraith is here, I’d feel safer somewhere else.

I bet Bianca would, too.”

“Definitely,” I said. “Absolutely.”

My parents didn’t suspect a thing; in fact, they looked thrilled. A little too thrilled, really. I mean, I knew they liked Balthazar. Who wouldn’t? But they seemed overeager to match us up. Still, as long as it was working for us, I wouldn’t argue. Dad spoke to Balthazar first.

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