This is the rest of the story. Click here for the beginning
She glanced around as she waited, taking in the surroundings. The booth was little more than a desk, a computer, two chairs on one side and one on the other. It certainly wasn’t enclosed, not in any way that would give privacy. The sides barely reached halfway up her back now she was sitting, and even those were missing for more than half of the booth.
There were two similar booths next to hers, then another three on the other side of the aisle. Only the booth directly across from Jadra was occupied, by an elderly man wearing the bank’s uniform and a young woman of maybe sixteen or seventeen.
There were four arches for tellers at the back of the large room, but only one was open. That was staffed with a bored looking woman waiting in vain for a customer.
Other than those few people, the security guard, and the young greeter, the bank was empty. Jadra wasn’t surprised by that. She’d researched on the internet and chosen a time when the bank would be at its quietest.
Movement from near the teller windows caught her eyes and she turned to see a middle-aged man in a suit walking towards her, smiling as he came. The door he’d entered through closed behind him with a muted click and became almost indistinguishable from the rest of the wall.
“Miss Jadra, how do you do?” he asked, giving her hand a quick shake as he took the chair opposite hers. “I’m Mr Cole. I understand you are here to open an account.”
Jadra had to clear her throat The moment was approaching. She needed to be ready.
“Yes,” she said. “I need to give my employer an account number so they can pay my wages.”
“Excellent! Well, I’m sure we can help you. Now I can see that you filled in most of the information online, which certainly makes my life easier. So that means we just need to run through the security checks. Do you have your documentation with you?”
Jadra pulled out her identity documents, all completely legal, though none obtained through the channels most would use. For all that her father had tried to dissuade her from coming to the city, he had gone to a lot of trouble making certain she had everything she needed. She passed the paperwork across to Mr Cole.
“Good, good,” he said. “Yes, we have everything we need here including photo ID. I’m afraid I will have to ask you to remove your glasses and your hat, just for a few moments, so I can vouch for the fact you really are the person in these documents.”
Jadra’s breath froze. No! Not that! Not when she was so close to getting what she’d come for!
“Is that really necessary?” she asked. “I mean, can’t you tell it’s me anyway? It’s just… I’m really shy and I hate feeling exposed in public.”
“I’m really sorry Miss Jadra, but I have to be sure you are the person these documents relate to. If I don’t it’s my job on the line. I could even be facing prison time. I completely understand that you’re nervous, but there’s hardly anyone here. It’ll just be for a minute, I promise. Surely that would be okay.”
Jadra moved her hands in helpless gestures, trying to find some reason to refuse. Just a minute, he’d said. No, that wouldn’t be okay. Not at all. A minute would be far too long. One glance at her would be too much.
She glanced around the bank, and caught the security guard watching her closely. Dammit. She was supposed to be acting normally, and here she was doing anything but that. She looked back at Mr Cole, seeing no give there. Not surprising considering the risks he’d just told her he’d be taking if he didn’t verify who she was.
She sighed, then lifted her hands to her sunglasses. She grasped them, paused for a moment, then slipped them off.
As she did so she squinted her eyes almost shut. Maybe that would be enough. Maybe that would protect Mr Cole. Maybe that would stop her powers from working.
He stared at her for a few seconds. She hoped desperately that he was comparing her face to her ID, but his eyes didn’t leave her face. A few seconds later a huge smile crept across his face and his eyes grew much wider.
No! It had happened! Her squinting hadn’t helped. He’d still fallen to her powers. And now… now what was she going to do?
* * *
Mr Cole sat there, just staring at Jadra for a few more seconds, then the effects kicked in fully.
“Why are you working?” he asked. “You shouldn’t work! You shouldn’t ever have to worry about money! He reached out with one hand and laid it gently on hers. She pulled her hand back sharply, cursing as she noticed the wedding ring he wore.
“I’ll give you money!” he continued. “You just need to sign these forms so the account can be opened, then I’ll… I’ll put some money in there for you. Lots of money comes through the bank. I’ll start off by putting in half a million. No, a million. You deserve that! And there will always be more if you need it.”
“No! You mustn’t do that! I just want to be able to get my wages paid in.”
“Nonsense! Let me take care of you! Let me do this for you!”
She shook her head, wanting to protest, but knowing that it would be useless. Mr Cole was well and truly hooked, and nothing she said or did could free him from the effects. Only time could do that, time and distance from her.
“Could I ask…” he added, leaning forward. “Are you busy later? Would you like to go to dinner? With me I mean?”
She’d known this would happen before she came in. What had she been thinking? How could she ever have a normal life? How could she have been so stupid?
Tears were starting to prick at Jadra’s eyes, partly for herself but mostly for poor Mr Cole. She had to get out, had to get away from him, before she caused him more harm.
She shoved her chair back, stood, swept her documents into her bag. Then she whirled around to leave, but found herself staring into the eyes of the other customer, the young woman, who’d apparently finished her business and stood up to leave.
Jadra felt the electric thrill of her powers making a connection, saw the girl’s eyes go wide, but was then distracted by the security guard who had stomped over.
His face was like thunder and he was frowning, apparently sure something was wrong even if he didn’t know what, but as soon as his eyes met Jadra’s that all changed. After a few seconds he smiled and started walking toward the entrance.
“Let me get the door for you, Miss,” he said.
Jadra cursed herself. In her rush she’d swept her sunglasses into her bag along with the papers, which meant two more people had been exposed to her curse. She looked down, grabbed the sunglasses from her bag, then rammed them over her eyes. It was already too late for the guard, the girl, and for Mr Cole, but she could protect everyone else she passed.
“Wait!” shouted Mr Cole. “You can’t just leave!”
She heard him hurrying toward her. He’d taken a bad hit, and she needed to stop him sinking any deeper into the curse of her powers. Hating herself for doing it, she smiled at the security guard.
“I think Mr Cole is a little enamoured with me. Could you stop him from following me? Gently!”
She added that last word based on an earlier and very unpleasant experience. The security guard smiled, delighted to be able to help her, and immediately moved back into the bank. Jadra heard a scuffle, but ignored it as she thrust her weight against the door, half ran through, then turned and rushed off down the street.
The tears were falling now, her vision was blurry, but she kept the sunglasses on. She knew from experience that the tears wouldn’t hamper her powers, if anything they increased the impact. The impact of the power she’d never wanted, never asked for, but couldn’t be rid of.
She rushed along the pavement. Soon the bank disappeared behind her. And with it went all her hopes and dreams of living a normal life.
* * *
Jadra was back in her small studio flat. She wasn’t crying anymore, she was just sitting staring blankly at the wall, all her plans having unravelled.
She only had the flat because she’d used her powers. With no deposit and no references she couldn’t have found anywhere even vaguely decent to live without her powers, but having secured the flat she was determined not to use them again. She was going to pay her way through life… which, of course, required money.
She’d got herself a job. It had been hard to find one that was suitable, but in the end she’d stumbled on a vacancy in a nearby DIY store, stacking shelves while it was closed at night.
Her habit of wearing sunglasses even during the night shift had drawn some comments, but she’d soon realised she was far from the only strange person working there. It was a job that suited those who didn’t quite fit in with the normal world, or in some cases were completely at odds with it.
The job had turned out to be perfect, but after nearly a month the requests for her bank details so they could pay her salary had turned into urgent demands, and finally into a warning that they couldn’t keep on if they couldn’t pay her.
She’d raised the possibility of being paid in cash but was firmly told that would be against company policy. She’d caught herself lifting a hand to her sunglasses, preparing to use her powers so they’d make an exception in her case, and had snatched her fingers away as if they’d been burnt. That wasn’t the solution!
So she’d taken the plunge. She’d gone to the bank to open an account. And it had been a complete disaster. She had no doubt the same problem would arise at any bank she went to.
The days of opening an account over the phone or by mail were long gone. The laws to prevent money laundering and terrorist funding made it nigh on impossible for Jadra to open an account honestly. If she tried again then each time someone looked into her eyes, or just at her face without the sunglasses on, they would be lost and would try to do anything to try and please her. She shook her head. Why did doing the right thing have to be so hard?
They’d told her it would be. Her family. Her father especially. She hadn’t listened, and now she wished she had. She’d thought she could live a normal life, hidden away in the city. Now she knew she couldn’t. She couldn’t stay. She knew she’d have to go back, go back and lose her independence.
Or… she could use her powers, do what she’d sworn she wouldn’t do. She could stay in the city, but only by being the thing she didn’t want to be. Or she could return home with her tail between her legs. What a choice.
With nothing else to do, she lay down on her bed and tugged her quilt fully over her head. She didn’t think she could possibly fall asleep, yet just minutes later she was snoring softly.
* * *
Jadra woke with a start. It took her a few seconds to realise the insistent knocking came from the real world, not the dream she’d been dragged out of.
She stumbled out of bed, wondering who it could possibly be, and made her way to the door. Without really thinking about it she pulled the door open, and found herself facing the young woman from the bank.
Damn! The girl must have got a bigger hit of Jadra’s powers than Jadra had thought. That was bad. At least she wouldn’t get a second… oh crap! Jadra realised she’d completely forgotten to put her sunglasses on!
This was bad. Really bad. A second blast of her powers, so soon after the first, could cause permanent harm to the young woman. Jadra just stood there, not sure what to do or say. After a few more seconds she noticed something… her visitor was looking down, very carefully not meeting Jadra’s eyes.
How odd. Normally someone who’d taken a shot of Jadra’s powers was driven to seek her out and get another hit. But not this young woman. Did that mean she had some idea of the powers Jadra had? If so then she could be dangerous. Very dangerous.
The girl smiled down at the floor, and started to speak.
“Hi, my name is Gemma. You’re Jadra, aren’t you?”
“I… yes I am. Just a second.”
Jadra turned and scrabbled through a pile of paperwork and junk by the door until she found a pair of sunglasses. She snatched them up and shoved them on her face, then finally relaxed. She turned back and found the young woman, Gemma, was now staring back at her.
“Ah, I wondered about that,” said Gemma. “So the sunglasses block your powers?”
Jadra stared at Gemma for a dozen racing heartbeats, then stumbled backwards in fear.
‘She knows about my powers!’ thought Jadra. ‘She knows what I am!’
Before she’d left, Jadra’s father had made it very clear what some people would do if they learnt of her powers. He went into detail of the lengths they would go to in order to control her so they could use her powers on others. It was the one thing which nearly made Jadra abandon her plans. Now she stumbled further back, shaking her head in terror as she imagined the things Gemma had planned.
Instead of lunging forward, Gemma’s eyes went wide and she shook her head. She lifted her hands to show they were empty.
“Wait!” she shouted. “What’s wrong? I’m not going to hurt you! I just want to help you!”
That was better, but not much.
“You only want to help me because I’m forcing you to,” said Jadra. “You seem to know something about my powers, so you know that I’m making you help me.”
“Oh… that? No, that’s not it at all. I felt a little strange for a few minutes after meeting your eyes in the bank, but that soon passed.
“But I saw what happened and I spoke with Mr Cole, once he’d calmed down. That let me piece together events a bit more. I managed to get your name and your address from the forms you were filling in. I came here because I want to help you!”
“No one can help me!”
“I can’t believe that’s true.”
“It is! Everything I do, every time I’m with people, I end up forcing them to do… well, not what I want. What they think I want.
“What I really wanted was a normal life. I wanted to live quietly like everyone else. Now I’m alone, everyone at work thinks I’m weird, and I’m going to lose that job anyway. I’ll never fit in! No one will ever accept me!”
“Yes they will! Trust me! I’ve got some friends who will definitely understand, and one of them can help you to open an account. You won’t need to go into a bank.”
“I’m sure he can do it. He’s used to representing very… unique clients. I don’t think your powers will be able to affect him either. Not even without your sunglasses on.”
“You’re wrong! It works on everyone! Well, everyone except those from my family. I know he can’t be one of them. None have come anywhere near this city in decades. That’s part of the reason I chose to come here.”
“Maybe, but I doubt you’ve ever met anyone like Vincent before!”
* * *
Three hours later Jadra was following Gemma along the street to a smart-looking office. It was getting late. Night had fallen an hour before. But according to Gemma these were the hours her friend worked.
Jadra shook her head. She wasn’t sure this was a good idea but the two alternatives, returning home or using her powers, seemed even worse.
As they reached the door it was pulled open by a middle aged gentleman wearing a bright smile. He was immaculately dressed, wearing a suit that must have cost at least a thousand dollars, but he didn’t seem threatening.
He ushered them in as he introduced himself as Vincent and shook Jadra’s hand. Then he invited her into his office.
“Don’t worry,” said Gemma. “I’ll be just out here. Trust me, Vincent is a good friend. I’m sure he’ll be able to help you.”
Jadra nodded, though she wasn’t convinced. She followed Vincent into his office. He pulled out one of two chairs in front of a large, wooden table, then once she was seated he sat on the only chair on the other side. Then he smiled at her.
“Now, I think before we do anything else you should take off your sunglasses.”
“I really don’t want to do that. I don’t suppose Gemma told you…”
He shook his head and smiled.
“Please, you need to trust me for us to work together. I’ll be fine. I promise.”
She looked into his eyes for a long time, weighing things up. He sat there quietly, waiting patiently for her answer and not trying to press her. Finally she decided to take the risk. Well, truth be told the risk was on his part, but just maybe Gemma was right and he wouldn’t be affected.
She took a breath to steady herself… then slowly pulled her sunglasses away from her face. His eyes met hers and she felt the electric pulse of a connection, as she always did.
But this was different. He wasn’t falling to her powers. She’d never really been aware of how that felt because she’d had nothing to compare it to, but now she did. She could feel the difference, could feel her powers being blocked.
More than that… she could feel Vincent pushing back. His eyes bored into hers and she felt his will flowing into her mind. His eyes blazed bright red and she felt herself becoming lost in his gaze.
She tried to fight back, tried to block him out, but she couldn’t. Instead she felt her sense of self weakening moment by moment.
As his fiery red eyes continued to bore into hers she realised she’d fallen into a trap. She didn’t know whether Gemma was involved, but it didn’t matter. She was being captured. She knew she needed to get away, but it was too late. She was already losing the battle… and with it her mind.
Her father had been right… she should never have come to the city. Now she would never leave… and she’d be forced to use her powers for other people. For Vincent, and whoever he represented.
* * *
Suddenly the fire in Vincent’s eyes died away. Jadra felt the pressure on her mind ease then stop, only to be replaced by a flood of a different kind. A flood of apologies.
“I am so, so sorry!” said Vincent. “I’ve never actually met a siren before, I’ve never felt the influence from one of your kind. I had no idea it would be that powerful and that my defences would kick in so strongly. They’re deeply hard-wired in all vampires, I suspect as a defence against others of my kind, but I’ve never felt such a strong reaction. That’s why it took me so long to recover and override them. I do hope you weren’t hurt.”
“I… I’m fine,” said Jadra. “It was a real shock, though. I’ve never known anything like that. I thought that you… I wondered if… never mind. I’m fine now. But are you?”
“I am, and it seems I’m now able to gaze into your eyes without any ill effects.”
Jadra started, not having noticed, then she realised that his eyes had changed. The fierce red glow was gone, now replaced by a soft grey. She smiled tentatively
“You have no idea how good it feels to just look at someone without having to wear sunglasses!” she said.
“Well,” said Vincent. “You might be surprised. Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get on with the important business. We need to sort you out with that bank account, and all the other forms you’ll need.”
“Don’t you…… don’t you think it’s strange that I want to do this? I could walk into any bank, any business, and they’d give me anything I asked for. Don’t you think it’s odd that I want to work a boring job and earn my way?”
“My dear, I’m a vampire but I spend my time working as a lawyer. I completely understand your desire for a normal life, and trust me, this is far from the strangest thing I’ll have dealt with this year.”
“I… thank you! I’ve been feeling so alone. I have some work colleagues, but no friends.”
“Yes, Gemma explained that to me. I know how hard socialising can be when you are… special. Don’t you worry, we have some friends who will welcome you with open arms. You’ll fit right in, though you will need to keep your sunglasses on. They won’t have the same defences I do. But I can promise you none of them will ever think you strange for doing so.”
“I… well, that would be wonderful.”
“Great! But first… we need to open you a bank account…”
* * *
Two weeks later Jadra had just finished her shift. As she neared the exit she called good night to her manager.
“Good night, sunglasses girl!” he replied.
He was smiling, and his words were friendly. She smiled back and nodded her head. She knew he was happy with her — she worked hard and caused no trouble. And she was far from the strangest of the night shift, even if all the others were humans.
After leaving the store she turned to the left and walked for several blocks until she reached a bank. It was closed of course, it was the middle of the night, but she was there to use the cash-point to pull out some money.
She was due to meet Victor, Gemma, Stan, and some of her other new friends and she wanted to buy a round of drinks. With her own money. Money she’d earned honestly!
She felt settled. Happy. And she wasn’t having to use her abilities at all! After the débâcle when she tried to open an account she couldn’t possibly have imagined things turning out so well, but they had.
She took the money from the machine then turned… and froze. Two large men were standing right in front of her, and both were holding vicious looking knives.
“We’ll be taking that money,” growled the one on the left. “And everything else you have.”
Jadra glanced backwards and forwards between the two of them. Both were larger and stronger than her, and each held their knife confidently. The look in their eyes suggested they’d be happy to use the knives if they had to.
“We’ll take the sunglasses too,” said the other thug.
Jadra stared at them both for a moment, then relaxed and smiled. It seemed that maybe, very occasionally, there was a place in her new life to use her powers.
She took off her sunglasses, and let the two men stare into her eyes for a few dozen seconds, ensuring they got the full effect. Then she sent her new admirers straight to the nearest police station to confess all their crimes… except their attempt to rob her, of course.
She watched them rush away to do as she’d asked, smiled, put her sunglasses back on, then walked back into her nearly normal life.