ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the June 17, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer, [personal profile] janetmiles, and [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "fall from grace" square in my 6-10-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.


"Who Finds a True Friend"


Igor woke up with a warm
but completely unfamiliar
form curled around his back.

"Excuse me," he said
as he scrambled out of bed.

The vampire gave him a tolerant smile.
"Good morning," Csilla said.
"Thank you for taking care of me."

"You're welcome," Igor said automatically.
He realized that he could still feel her,
some subtle and pleasant heat
like basking in front of the hearth
on a cold winter's day.

Well, she had said something
about her bite increasing empathy.

Igor rubbed his forearm where
she'd bitten into the bend of his elbow,
but there was no bruise, no scab,
no mark at all to show for it.

Victor came in then,
looking like he hadn't slept well,
but he smiled so brightly at Igor that
it was like the sun coming out from clouds.

Igor pressed himself against Victor
and just enjoyed the feel of him,
so warm and alive and fond.

There was something else, though,
like a burr inside a blanket, that
itched and scratched at him
and Igor couldn't put his finger on it.

After a minute, Victor pulled away
and asked Csilla, "How are you feeling?"

"Better than yesterday," she said.

That was undoubtedly true,
but there more underneath;
Igor could see the tension in her.
"What's bothering you?" he asked.

"I am still hungry," Csilla replied,
"but you should not feed me again so soon."

Igor looked at Victor.

"I think one of us should stay fully able,"
Victor said. "You're going to tire more easily
until your body replaces what you gave away."

"I could ask around," Igor said.
"Someone might be willing to help."

"Come down and share breakfast with us,"
Victor invited, beckoning to Csilla.
"Can you drink anything besides blood?"

"Water, or some fruit juices," she said.

So Csilla joined them at the table
with a bottle of apple cider, while
Victor boiled cornmeal for mămăligă
and Igor fried thick slices of sausage
and folded vegetables into omelettes.

Adam made his way around the room,
clinging to one piece of furniture
and then the next, ending at her chair.
"Hi," he said as he looked up at her.

"Hello yourself, little one," Csilla said,
"and who might you be?"

Adam stuck his fingers in his mouth
and did not respond, suddenly shy.

"This is our son Adam, who should
know to stay in his seat instead of
scrambling about during breakfast,"
Victor said, scooping up the toddler.

After breakfast, Igor took the wagon
and went down to the village.
His newly enhanced empathy
was a subtle thing -- he had always
been good at reading people,
it was just a bit clearer now.

Igor sifted through the villagers he knew --
solid Imre the blacksmith, but he was busy today;
Bálint, but Victor had said he was part of the mob;
Anne the baker's wife, but she couldn't shut her mouth
if someone sewed it up and bunged her in a barrel.

Then Igor saw Dénes the brewer,
and remembered how kindly
he had taken care of Igor that time
when Igor had a fight with Victor and
ran off to freeze himself nearly to death.

"Dénes, I need to ask you a favor,
but it's a little --" Igor began.

"I'll do it," Dénes said.

Igor blinked, startled by the sudden wave
of assurance and affection washing over him.
"But -- but I haven't even told you what it is."

"You and Victor saved my arm,
and probably my life," Dénes said,
"So whatever you need, if it's
something I have or can do,
it's yours for the asking."

"All right. Thank you," Igor said,
grateful for such a true friend.
"Let's go up to the castle.
It will be easier to show you there
than to try explaining here."

By they time they arrived,
Igor had a headache, worn out
just from driving the wagon.
He ignored it as he stabled the horse
and led Dénes to Csilla's room.

"Csilla, this is my friend Dénes,"
Igor said with a wave of his hand.
"Dénes, this is Csilla, who needs your help."

The brewer gave a thunderous frown.
"Who beat her like that?" he demanded.
"I'll give him my fists, even if it's her husband!"

"That was Artúr," said Victor,
"and he roused half the village too."

"Because he thought she was
a strigoaică?" Dénes said.
"I told him to leave off that nonsense.
Kálmán will give him penance for a month!"

"I am a strigoaică," said Csilla,
sitting up a little straighter in bed.
"That is why I need your help.
Igor fed me last night, but I need
more blood than he can spare
to finish healing my wounds."
She lifted her splinted arm to illustrate.

Dénes looked Igor up and down.
"You seem fine," he said tentatively.

"I am fine," Igor said, "just a little tired.
There's not a mark on me; it healed overnight."

"What's it like?" Dénes asked him.

"The bite hurts a little at first,
like cutting yourself on sharp glass,
but the pain fades quickly," said Igor.
"After that, it's ... oddly nice."
He wouldn't mind doing it again, in fact,
after he recovered from last night.

"This time it should not hurt," Csilla said.
"I am strong enough now to offer
proper comfort mind to mind."
She went on to explain the side effects,
as she had for Igor, but Dénes stood firm.

"I promised to help, and I will," he said.

Csilla patted the mattress with her free hand.
"Come and sit with me," she invited.

"All right," Dénes said as he obeyed,
careful not to jostle the bed.

"Look at me," Csilla murmured,
capturing his gaze with her gray-green eyes.
A moment later, Dénes went limp
and nearly toppled to the floor.

"What the --" Victor yelped,
darting forward to catch Dénes.

"He is fine," Csilla said, struggling
to steady both herself and Dénes
with only one working arm.
"He is just very receptive to my will."

"Quit that. Lie still," Victor said.
"Let us do the heavy lifting."
Then he turned to Igor.
"We need more pillows."

Csilla already lay in a small mound of them
to cushion her broken arm and sprained ankle.
Igor fetched more to prop Dénes securely
against the wooden headboard.

Dénes was so pliant that Victor
had to push up his sleeve for him,
cleaning the skin with a dash of pálinka.

Csilla leaned into Dénes as best she could.
He had quite a lot more body hair than Igor,
so she used her razor-sharp teeth
to shave the hairs away before she
bit into his unresisting flesh.

Igor could see the gentle motion of her mouth
as she lapped and swallowed, all without
disturbing Dénes in the slightest
to judge from his slack body.

Some time later, Csilla let go of Dénes
and laid his wrist in his lap.
Still the man did not stir.

Igor was fascinated by the minute wound.
"I can hardly see where you bit him," he said.

"Yours was the same last night," Victor said.
"No bruising, just those tiny little slits,
already sealed over. How are you today?"

Igor bared his arm to show Victor.
"It's completely healed, if you can believe it."

Csilla gave the brewer a gentle nudge.
"Wake up, Dénes," she said.
He stirred, stretching languidly,
and smiled at the vampire.

The next moment, though,
his pleasure turned to abject shame.
"I fear that I have just betrayed my wife,"
Dénes said, flushing a deep crimson.
As he shifted position in the bed,
a small damp stain showed on his trousers.

Well, that was awkward.

"I'll get you some clean clothes,"
Victor said quietly, slipping out of the room.

"I don't understand," Igor said.
"Nothing like that happened to me!"

"Of course not, you're ... with Victor,"
said Dénes as he plucked at his pants.

"Not like that," Igor said.
"I like women well enough;
they just don't like me."
He shrugged, suddenly and
awfully conscious of his hump.

"It is not common, but it is not unknown,"
Csilla said. "I am sorry, Dénes.
Perhaps I should have warned you, but ...
speaking of it tends to make men treat me
like a whore, and I cannot abide that."

Igor could sympathize all too well
with hiding something that made people
go all strange on you.

"I need to go home," Dénes said
as he stood up, but he swayed on his feet.
"I have to tell Dorottya what happened."

Igor reached out a hand to steady him.
"You should rest first," he advised.
"Moving too soon could make you sick.
Wait a few hours until you don't feel so dizzy."

"Wait until tomorrow to tell her," Csilla said.
"Most people feel the rising empathy by then.
It may help you resolve the matter."

"No, I have to go now," Dénes said.
"If I wait, she'll think I'm hiding it
from her, and rightly so."

"I am truly sorry," Csilla said. "I will
make amends to your wife if she wishes it."

"All right, Dénes, I'll take you home," Igor said.
"Here, lean on me so you don't fall down."

Igor made Dénes sit in the wagon
while he hitched up the horse again,
which did not help his headache,
but Dénes was fresh from a feeding
and already wilting on the seat.

When they got there, Igor offered
to walk him in and explain everything,
but Dénes sent him away quite firmly.

Ravenous himself now, Igor stopped
at the bakery for a raisin pastry and
another stuffed with spinach and cheese.
One nice thing about living here was that
you could get spring greens all summer,
as people planted them up the mountain.
He was craving spinach for some reason.

Back at the castle, Igor found Csilla
much improved from the previous day.
Victor was rewrapping her ankle.
"The sprain is healing well," he said.
"The cuts are closing fast, too;
the stitches already need to come out."

"I can take care of that," Igor said.
He used a pair of tiny curved scissors
to pick out the bits of silk thread.
The slash across Csilla's palm
was no more than a dark pink line,
and the blisters had already vanished.

"I did not mean to bring trouble to your village,"
Csilla said, her eyes full of unshed tears.
"It just seems to follow me wherever I go."

"What kind of trouble?" Igor asked
as he spread salve over her skin.

"Hunters came to our colony," Csilla said.
"They murdered my people and
they burned our home to the ground.
Some of them died in the fire, but
I know that others escaped.
I suppose no place is really safe ..."

"You are safe here," Igor assured her,
winding fresh gauze around her hand.
Her grief and fear weighed on him
like a damp blanket, heavy and chill.

"Igor and I will protect you if necessary,"
Victor added. "The villagers listen to us,
at least most of the time, and we will not
stand idly by while some imbecile like Artúr
rouses the countryside to hunt an innocent."

"Come to think of it, Artúr is not
the first person to try that recently,"
said Igor as he let go of Csilla.
"Alcot was stirring up trouble,
and then Clyde came back to us
covered in those dreadful burns."

"I wouldn't be surprised if they
turned out to be hunters," said Victor.
"Then there was that traveling priest ..."

Igor shuddered. "How anyone so full of hate
can claim to be a man of God is beyond me."

"So much makes sense in light of this,"
Victor said, shaking his head.
"Ugly business, if you ask me."

Nobody had a great deal of energy,
so they all spent most of the day
in the sitting room playing quiet games.
Victor and Csilla discovered
a mutual interest in backgammon.

Igor brought out Adam's blocks,
and when the boy tired of
playing with just the blocks,
Igor added scraps of fabric
and showed Adam the game of
covering their surface area with blocks
which could then be counted to see
how many had fit into the space.

For supper, Igor chopped together
fresh tomatoes and green beans
with a quantity of stew meat,
flavored with garlic and oregano
from the castle's herb garden.

"Those are good choices,"
Csilla said idly, watching him work.
"They will help you recover faster."

Then Victor insisted that she make a list
of food for replenishing lost blood.

That night as Igor and Victor
curled up in bed together,
basking in each other's presence,
Igor felt grateful to have found
such a deep friendship.

The next morning's breakfast was interrupted
by a thunderous pounding on the front door.

Igor opened it to find Dorottya on the steps,
her arms crossed and foot tapping.
"Dénes really didn't mean to fall from your grace,"
he said. "We didn't realize what could happen."

Dorottya pushed past him. "Where is the woman?"
she demanded. "This Csilla? I want to talk to her."

"In the kitchen -- please don't start a fight,"
Igor said, wringing his hands.

"Mamă!" Adam said, happy to see Dorottya,
but she didn't stop to greet him as usual.

Dorottya marched up to Csilla and said,
"I want you to do to me what you did to Dénes."

"I didn't see that one coming," Victor murmured.

"I am willing to feed from you," Csilla replied,
"but I doubt it will have the same effect,
unless you have a hidden fancy for women."

"As close as may be, then," said Dorottya.
She sighed and uncrossed her arms.
"I know Dénes didn't mean it that way,
but he didn't tell me what he was doing,
and now I feel like there's this --"
Her hands fluttered ineffectually.
"-- this wall between us."

Igor carefully did not look at Victor,
who had been acting a bit odd
ever since Igor had fed Csilla.

"Very well," Csilla agreed.
"Come with me to my room."

Igor took the time to put Adam in his crib
while Victor put away the breakfast leftovers,
before joining Csilla and Dorottya.

This time they took the precaution
of surrounding both women with pillows
in advance, even though Csilla insisted
that her broken arm was much stronger.

"I don't care. Quit trying to use it,"
Victor said, firmly returning it to the pillows.
"If you rebreak it, then it will take longer to heal."

Csilla subsided with an abashed look.
"I am not accustomed to feeling so helpless."

"Nobody likes it," Igor said. "All we can do
is take care of you until you get better."

Csilla tried to capture Dorottya's mind
with her gaze, but to no avail.
"Your will is too strong," Csilla said.
"Are you certain that you still wish to feed me?
Without my mental touch, the bite will hurt at first."

"I've given birth to six babies,"
Dorottya said with a shrug.
"I'm not afraid of a little pain."

True to her word, she did not flinch
when Csilla sank her sharp teeth
into the tender skin of Dorottya's arm.

Before long, Dorottya had
cuddled into the other woman
just as Igor and Dénes had done earlier.

Igor thought that they looked
strangely beautiful together,
and he couldn't imagine why
Victor had that little pang of protest
that Igor could still feel in him.

It wasn't like Igor and Csilla
had done anything carnal,
the way poor Dénes had gone off
like a wine cork with no warning at all.

Then again, maybe that was
what bothered Victor about it,
because their relationship was not
based on carnal knowledge
but on true and happy friendship,
so perhaps it was Igor's platonic favors
that Victor wished to keep to himself.

Igor wasn't sure how he felt about that.

When the two women separated,
Dorottya was smiling, wide and fond, and
all her frazzled places seemed smooth again.

"Thank you, Csilla, that was very nice,"
Dorottya said. "Never do that with Dénes again
unless I am there to care for his other needs.
Together, you may ask it of us."

That was a clever and generous solution,
but it was also exactly what Victor and Igor
had already done, and Victor hadn't liked it.

"Will you and Dénes be all right now?"
Igor asked. "I feel bad about asking him
for a favor that went so far awry."

"Yes," Dorottya said. "Dénes and I
were friends before he came courting.
He isn't like most men, all strut and muscle.
He is thoughtful and patient. We'll be fine."

"What set you off?" Igor wondered.
"You aren't usually the jealous type."
Neither was Victor, for that matter.

"It wasn't like Dénes to make such a decision
without telling me," Dorottya explained.
"That's what made me worry about him --
well, that and the fact that he wouldn't
come out of the basement this morning.
He got up in the middle of the night with
some mad idea about brewing berries."

Csilla smiled and patted her shoulder.
"There are always those who find the bite
inspiring, as well as intoxicating.
You needn't worry. Dénes will emerge
whenever he is done creating."

Without the urgency Dénes had shown,
Dorottya rested for an hour before
getting up, and stopped to see Adam
before returning to the village.

Igor caught up to Victor after that.
It was better to talk things out and
be sure what they were saying
to each other, rather than risk
a major misunderstanding.

"What's really bothering you
about seeing me with Csilla?"
Igor asked Victor.

"Nothing," Victor said with
a smile that did not reach his eyes.

Igor sighed. "Something is.
I can feel it, Victor, like
a splinter under my skin.
Please talk to me."

"It's foolish," Victor said.
"I have no right ..."
His voice trailed away.

"To feel upset about something?"
Igor said. "Of course you do."

"Seeing you together ... it was sweet,
but it made me feel, I don't know,"
Victor said with a helpless shrug,
"like looking through the window
of a closed candy store."

"If there's something you want
from me that you're not getting,
I'd like to know," Igor said gently.

"It's not that, really," said Victor.
"It was more seeing her get
what I wanted, and then
I had to go to bed all alone."

"The cuddling?" Igor asked, startled.
"Oh, Victor, I'm not going to leave you
to go snuggle with a vampire forever."

"But that's just it," Victor said.
"She's a woman, and you like women ..."

"I like women. I love you," Igor said.
They rarely spoke of such things aloud.
Maybe it needed to be said more often.

"It's not like we have a commitment,"
Victor said in a small voice.

Adam wailed, demanding food.

"There's our commitment," Igor said dryly
as they headed toward Adam side by side.
"I may not have put a ring on your finger but
I gave you my loyalty when we made our son.
It's a rare lucky man who finds a true friend
like you, and rarer the two who manage
to make a life together. Trust me, Victor.
I'm not looking for a wife anymore. I've got you."

"All right," Victor said, leaning against his side.
Igor wrapped an arm around him as they walked.
The niggling splinter of doubt melted away
like ice in the warm summer sun.

* * *

Notes:

"Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife."
-- Franz Schubert

The name Csilla is pronounced "SHILL-a."







Read about Romanian breakfast dishes.

Empathy in the psychological sense concerns the ability to identify and sympathize with other people's emotions, a complex part of human interactions. Empathy in a psychic sense is the direct perception of someone else's feelings, and in some cases, the ability to influence them. The psychic version can grow out of the psychological version, as Igor is discovering. Know how to increase and show your empathy. There are also ways of teaching empathy.

Friends often do favors for each other, and a village may be woven together with an intricate web of them.

Adultery is technically about extramarital sex. However, the definition of "cheating on someone" can be much broader, also encompassing the realm of emotional infidelity. Worth mentioning is that physical arousal is an involuntary response, not necessarily an indication of desire. Dénes still feels like he cheated on his wife, though, and that brings a whole host of negative emotions. There are steps for recovering from an emotional affair and forgiving yourself.

Here's a list of iron-rich foods.

Romanian games include backgammon, for which you can read the rules online.

Aside from building towers, there are many activities for blocks, some of which teach measurement. Children also enjoy playing with everyday items such as fabric scraps. I used to love playing with the rag bag, and the button jar too.

Enjoy a recipe for Romanian Green Beans with Tomatoes.

mamă -- Romanian for "mother" or "mommy." Adam thinks of Dorottya this way because she feeds him. He hasn't quite made the distinction yet that this usually refers to a specific family relationship, although a woman who nurses a child not her own may be referred to as his "milk-mother."

Bilberries are similar to blueberries, which are occasionally used to make wine or brandy.

Jealousy can have various causes. In order to have a healthy relationship, you need to overcome it. Dénes and Dorottya, Igor and Victor, are finding different ways to address their issues.

A passionate friendship or queerplatonic relationship is a primary and often permanent relationship, different from a romantic friendship which is typically temporary and not primary. Nevertheless, people in queerplatonic relationships may fear that a sexual/romantic relationship will supplant them. This is especially true when people haven't talked out the parameters of their relationship in detail. Here Victor's concern primarily entails touch, love, and intimacy. It's important to understand what makes a loving relationship for queerplatonic couples.

LOVELY solution!

Date: 2014-08-22 09:56 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Yes, yes! Dorottya is a SERIOUSLY strong woman. So is Csilla.

Best of all, they finally got that niggling splinter OUT of the relationship between Victor and Igor!

Re: LOVELY solution!

Date: 2014-08-23 03:37 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
The problem is more that Victor has survived by putting one foot in front of the other, often powered by a SEVERE tendency to BS himself!

I'd love to see a different solution for Victor, rather than amping up HIS empathy; that would likely be actively harmful/frightening for him. He needs a different solution, I think.

Re: LOVELY solution!

Date: 2014-08-23 03:53 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Books may not exist yet, but /people/ do. Victor and Igor have been part of the village for over a year now, closer to two.

OH. OH!

Bouncing on toes. Sigh. Wish me luck, about to try to make the computer work for me rather than against me. Look for an email.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-22 11:00 pm (UTC)
chanter_greenie: a bright blue sky and fluffy clouds (Wisconsin summer: boundless friendly sky)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
I <3 Dorottya quite a lot here. Bright, honest fierceness for the win. :)

Reading this, not to mention thinking over some of my own reactions to situations, I've gotten to wondering. Is Dénes demisexual? His mental/emotional reaction to his physical one and the fact that he and Dorottya were friends before he courted her point that way, but I could be wrong.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-08-23 03:42 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I think another, later (as in a month or more later) feeding with both Denes and Dorottya -- and Csilla there to /feel/ the interplay between the husband and wife, and herself, will help her navigate the original confusion that spawned the problem. And, if Denes /is/ demisexual, having his wife there would reaffirm that the /stronger,/ more stable tie is to his wife, while the intimacy with Csilla is /different/ and adds other layers between the three of them. Having successfully navigated /that/--- yeah, it would be an occasional benefit to all three of them. Denes would have his bouts of inspiration, Csilla would get more than "purely" physical feeding, and Dorottya would get another woman who encourages and respects her strength, rather than treating it as purely a consequence of Denes' "dreamy" or "soft" nature.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-09-15 02:00 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Dénes and Dorottya now both have increased empathy from their first donations to Csilla, which should help them in working through these issues together.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-23 02:45 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
How do you pronounce Csilla?

This gave me all sorts of FEELS. I might come back later, after I have sorted it out.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-23 02:51 am (UTC)
mdlbear: (poly-heart)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
*Love* this. I love Dorottya's reaction -- brilliant, and unexpected. I also like your take on vampires. Csilla is wonderful; I'm delighted to meet her.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-22 08:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janetmiles.livejournal.com
This is a really sweet piece, and I'm glad it was sponsored so I could see it.

Thank you!

Date: 2014-08-22 08:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm glad you liked it. I enjoy seeing the character relationships develop.

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