Raphaël Destain and Simone Destain Raphaël stared out the window at the garden which Simone had taken such good care of for so many years. He had a perfect view of the bench where Nadine would sit and talk with Simone about her daily life, the ups and downs and twists and turns of being a practicing lawyer, dressed all up in her fancy pantsuit, while Simone, caked in dirt from planting petunias or whatever flower she was adding to her garden, would turn and say those few small words of wisdom that always made everything all better in the end. But that was years ago now. Nadine had run away to the land of her mother's birth to fall in love with a handsome young man named Loïc despite, and perhaps in part because of, her father's disapproval. Simone had turned over the care of her garden to a lovely young gardener because she could no longer kneel for so long some time around her seventieth birthday. The garden was still beautiful and the bench was still there but the way of life that had buzzed around it had ceased to exist. "Raph," said a cracked old voice from behind him, "you've proved to me that you'll be all right. Come away from the window now." Raphaël had forgotten his purpose in standing by the window, caught up in his memories, but the sunlight did burn him to the bone. It wouldn't kill him, not for so short a time, but it ached all over like a million bruises deep in every muscle. The older a vampire was, the longer they could exist within the sunlight, like slowly accustoming oneself to a poison. Raphaël had more than four hundred years behind him, four hundred years of acclimating to the sun. He could easily pass half a day within the sunlight and longer if it was a cloudy day. The trick wasn't surviving the pain, it was pretending the pain didn't exist. "Raph..." "I am sorry, minou," he said, turning from the window, "I am coming away." He moved further into the interior of the room, every step away from the sunlight which poured through the glass easing the pain it brought. He sat on the sofa next to the ninety-year-old woman who had spoken and laid his head on her frail shoulder. She lifted her knobby hand and stroked his cheek lightly. "You know how it worries me when you do these, these dangerous things. You don't have to be here." "And who would greet the nurse? Who would get the door? You can't walk anymore, Sim. That's why we need the nurse." "Maria is here," Simone reminded him. Maria was the reason they hadn't needed to resort to a professional nurse until now but a maid with poor English could only do so much. "Ah, sí, Maria," Raphaël said, mimicking a Spanish accent. "Maria is a sweet girl," Simone said. "Leave her alone." "Sweet, but not very bright," Raphaël replied. "And, honestly, I'm not thrilled with having another young thing, this nurse, whatever her name was, come into our home either." "It doesn't matter what you're thrilled with, Raph, we need the nurse, unless you'd rather have me go live in a home with all of the other old people my age." Raphaël grimaced painfully at the thought but didn't have a chance to reply because he heard their guest arrive. "She's here," he said. "Now, don't drive her off, chéri," Simone warned. "No, of course not," Raphaël replied innocently, but his expression darkened with the possibility.