Turned / Chapter Six

Chapter Six


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Carnegie Hall was absolutely packed. Jonah led the way as they fought through the thick crowd, towards Will Call. It was not easy getting there. It was a wealthy, demanding crowd, and everyone seemed like they were rushing to make the concert. She had never seen so many well-dressed people in one place. Most of the men were in black tie, and the women wore long evening gowns. Jewels glittered everywhere. It was exciting.

Jonah got the tickets and lead her up the stairs. He handed them to the usher, who tore them and handed back the stubs.

"Can I keep one?" Caitlin asked, as Jonah went to put the two ticket stubs in his pocket.

"Of course," he said, handing one to her.

She rubbed it with her thumb.

"I like hanging onto things like this," she added, blushing. "Sentimental, I guess."

Jonah smiled, as she stuck it in her front pocket.

They were directed by an usher down a luxurious hallway with thick, red carpeting. Framed pictures of artists and singers lined the walls.

"So, how did you score free tickets?" Caitlin asked.

"My viola teacher," he answered. "He has season tickets. He couldn't make it tonight, so he gave them to me. I hope it doesn't take away from it that I didn't pay for them myself," he added.

She looked at him, puzzled.

"Our date," he answered.

"Of course not," she said. "You brought me here. That's all that matters. This is awesome."

Caitlin and Jonah were directed by another usher into a small door, which opened up right into the concert hall. They were up high, maybe 50 feet, and in their small box area there were only 10 or 15 seats. Their seats were right on the edge of the balcony, flush against the railing.

Jonah opened the thick, plush chair for her, and she looked down at the massive crowd and at all of the performers. It was the classiest place she had ever been. She looked out at the sea of gray hair, and she felt 50 years too young to be here. But thrilled all the same.

Jonah sat, and their elbows touched, and she felt a thrill at the warmth of his body beside her. As they settled in and sat there, waiting, she wanted to reach over and take his hand, and hold it in hers. But she didn't want to risk being too bold. So she sat there, hoping that he would reach over and take hers. He didn't make any move. It was early. And maybe he was shy.

Instead, he pointed, leaning over the railing.

"The best violinists are seated closest to the lip of the stage," he said, pointing. "That woman there is one of the best in the world."

"Have you ever played here?" She asked.

Jonah laughed. "I wish," he said. "This hall is only 50 blocks away from us, but it might as well be a planet away in terms of talent. Maybe one day," he added.

She looked down at the stage, at the hundreds of performers tuning their instruments. They were all dressed in black tie, and they all seemed so serious, so focused. Against the back of the wall stood a huge choir.

Suddenly, a young man, maybe 20, with long, flowing black hair, dressed in a tux, strutted proudly onto the stage. He cut right through the aisle of performers, heading for the center. As he did, the entire audience rose to its feet and applauded.

"Who's he?" Caitlin asked.

He reached the center and bowed repeatedly, smiling. Even from up here, Caitlin see that he was startlingly attractive.

"Sergei Rakov," Jonah answered. "He's one of the best vocalists in the world."

"But he seems so young."

"It's not about age, but about talent," Jonah answered. "There is talent, and then there is talent. To get that kind of talent, you need to be born with it - and you really need to practice. Not four hours a day, but eight hours a day. Every day. I'd do it if I could, but my dad won't let me."

"Why not?"

"He doesn't want the viola to be the only thing in my life."

She could hear the disappointment in his voice.

Finally, the applause began to die down.

"They're playing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony tonight," Jonah said. "It's probably his most famous piece. Have you heard it before?"

Caitlin shook her head, feeling stupid. She'd had a classical music class back in ninth grade, but she'd barely listened to a word the teacher had said. She didn't really get it, and they had just moved, and her mind had been somewhere else. Now she wished she would have listened.

"It requires a huge orchestra," he said, "and a huge chorus. It probably demands more performers on stage than just about any other piece of music. It's exciting to watch. That's why this place is so packed."

She surveyed the room. There were thousands of people there. And not an empty seat.

"This symphony, it was Beethoven's last. He was dying, and he knew it. He put it to music. It's the sound of death coming." He turned to her and grinned, apologetically. "Sorry to be so morbid."

"No, that's OK," she said, and meant it. She loved hearing him talk. She loved the sound of his voice. She loved what he knew. All of her friends had the most frivolous conversations, and she wanted something more. She felt lucky to be with him.

There was so much she wanted to say to Jonah, so many questions she wanted to ask - but the lights suddenly dimmed and a hush came over the audience. It would have to wait. She leaned back and settled in.

She looked down and to her surprise, there was Jonah's hand. He placed it on the armrest between them, palm up, inviting hers. She reached over, slowly, so as not to seem too desperate, and placed her hand into his. His hand was soft and warm. She felt her hand melting into it.

As the orchestra began and the first notes played - soft, soothing, melodious notes - she felt a wave of bliss rushing over her, and realized that she'd never been so happy. She forgot all about the events of the day before. If this was the sound of death, she wanted to hear more.

*

As Caitlin sat there, getting lost in the music, wondering why she had never heard it before, wondering how long she could make her date with Jonah last, it happened again. The pain suddenly struck. It hit her in the gut, like it had on the street, and it took all of her willpower to keep herself from keeling over in front of Jonah. She gritted her teeth silently, and struggled to breathe. She could feel the sweat break out on her forehead.

Another pang.

This time she squealed out in pain, just a little bit, enough to barely be heard above the music, which was reaching a crescendo. Jonah must have heard, because he turned and looked at her, concerned. He gently placed a hand on her shoulder.

"Are you OK?" he asked.

She was not. Pain was overwhelming her. And something else: hunger. She felt absolutely ravenous. She had never been so overwhelmed by such a sensation in her life.

She glanced over at Jonah, and her eyes went straight for his neck. She fixated on the pulsing of his vein, tracked it as it went from his ear down towards his throat. She watched the throbbing. She counted the heartbeats.

"Caitlin?" he asked again.

The craving was overwhelming. She knew that if she sat there for even a second more, she would be unable to control herself. If left unrestrained, she would definitely sink her teeth into Jonah's neck.

With her last ounce of will, Caitlin suddenly bounded from her chair, climbing over Jonah in one swift leap, and racing up the stairs, for the door.

At that same moment, the lights in the room suddenly went on full blast, as the orchestra played its final note. Intermission. The entire audience leapt to its feet, clapping loudly.

Caitlin reached the exit door a few seconds before the masses could get out of their seats.

"Caitlin!?" Jonah yelled from somewhere behind her. He was probably getting out of his seat and following her.

She could not let him see her like this. More importantly, she could not allow him anywhere near her. She felt like an animal. She roved the empty hallways of Carnegie Hall, walking faster and faster, into she ran in a full-fledged sprint.

Before she knew it, she was running at impossible speed, tearing through the carpeted hallway. She was an animal on the hunt. She needed food. She knew enough to know that she had to get herself away from the masses. Fast.

She found an exit door and put her shoulder into it. It was locked, but she leaned into it with such force that it snapped off the hinges.

She found herself in a private stairwell. She raced down the steps, taking them three at a time, until she arrived at another door. She put her shoulder into that one too, and found herself in a new hallway.

This hallway was even more exclusive, and more empty, than the others. Even in her haze, she could tell that she had arrived in some sort of backstage area. She walked down the hallway, bending over in pain from the hunger, and knew that she could not last one second longer.

She raised her palm and shoved it into the first doorway she found, and it opened with one blow. It was a private dressing room.

Sitting before a mirror, admiring himself, was Sergei. The singer. This must be his backstage dressing area. Somehow, she had arrived back here.

He stood, annoyed.

"I am sorry, but no autographs right now," he snapped. "The security guards should have told you. This is my private time. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to prepare."

With a guttural roar, Caitlin leapt right for his throat, sinking her teeth in deeply.

He screamed. But it was too late.

Her teeth sank deep into his veins. She drank. She felt his blood rushing through her veins, felt her craving begin to be satisfied. It was exactly what she'd needed. And she could not have waited a second more.

Sergei slumped, unconscious, into his chair, Caitlin leaned back, face covered in blood, and smiled. She had discovered a new taste. And nothing would stand in her way of it again.


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