ELEVEN WHITE ROSES
by Tari Gwaemir
"Rose of memory, rose of forgetfulness."
A man, holding a little girl by the hand, unlatched the gate to the graveyard. It opened with a painful creak. Miyu noticed the intrusion and turned to watch silently from her rooftop perch.
"Go on, Aya-chan," the man said, releasing his grip. He was thin and haggard, his black suit hanging baggily on his hunched shoulders. The girl, who carried a bouquet of white roses cradled in her arms, took a tentative step forward. She tiptoed past gray stone slabs both flat and tall, to a small, unadorned grave, marked with little more than a name in three characters. Two decorous tears sprang to her eyes. She sank to her knees, unmindful of her white stockings.
"Mama," she whispered solemnly. "Are you there? Can you hear me?"
The man--presumably her father--had followed behind more slowly, and he stood by the kneeling girl, his eyes closed as if to hold back pain.
"Aya brought you flowers," the girl continued. "Roses, your favorite." She laid them gently before the grave, her small hands careful. She reached out with a finger to trace the name engraved on the stone.
"Get up, Aya. You shouldn't muddy your dress," the man said quietly. "Leave Papa alone for a moment. Wait for me by the gate."
The girl scrambled to her feet and brushed off the hem of her dress. She looked at her father with a small, worried frown, but his eyes were still closed, his arms wrapped protectively around himself. She stepped back and turned, ready to tiptoe back to the gate, but found her way blocked by a curious Miyu, who leaned forward and looked into her eyes.
"Who are you?" the girl asked.
"My name is Miyu," she replied. Behind her, a dramatic swirl of black cape and a white mask appeared as if from nowhere. "And this is my friend, Larva."
"G-good e-evening, Miyu-san."
"Miyu!" exclaimed the man, turning around swiftly. "The vampire?"
She frowned. "How do you know me?"
"I came because I heard--that is to say, someone told me--"
"That I offer a life of eternal dreaming?"
"That you had the power to help me forget."
Miyu studied him, her head tilted to one side. She played with the edge of her wide red obi. "I only drink the blood of beautiful boys," she told him finally.
He looked at her with wide, terrified eyes, his mouth trembling. He reached out a hand as if to grab at her. She leaped back, into Larva's arms.
"You will forget with time," she said. "But I don't think you want to truly lose your memories."
She turned to the girl, who had looked away decorously. "Little Aya, what do you wish for?"
"Me?" the girl exclaimed. "Me?"
"Yes, Aya. What do you wish for?"
"I want--I want Papa to see me again."
The father glanced at his daughter in astonishment. After a shocked, pensive moment, he reached out a hand. The girl took it silently. They left the graveyard without looking back.
Miyu smiled and picked one rose from the bouquet lying before the gravestone. Larva asked, "Are you satisfied?"
She placed the pad of her thumb against a thorn and watched in fascination at the blood emerging from the wound. "Yes."