She knew by now that he was very old, but would always appear to be twenty-five; that he didn’t actually suffer from porphyria—a skin condition making him sensitive to sunlight—but did have a condition very much like it; that he fed on the blood of living men and women and the occasional animal in order to survive; that he hated it, but was overcome with undeniable urges. She knew he had abilities other men didn’t have.
The moon was high in the sky and reddish September leaves drifted by on a warm breeze as Helen and Vincent sat with folded legs across from each other among the herbs, ferns, and succulents of his rooftop garden in Beacon Hill. Vincent took her hands and closed his eyes. Helen smelled the ash of a distant fireplace and the minty smell of nearby lavender.
When Vincent opened his eyes, Helen peered at them and saw his pupils had dilated so much that each of his irises—normally a forest of green with little flecks of sienna—had become a mere sliver around black discs. His face appeared serene and entranced at the same time. He looks as though he’s seen something otherworldly, thought Helen. A vision of saints and angels? The ghost of his mother, returning to embrace him? Helen didn’t believe in ghosts any more than she believed in God, but Vincent’s face never lies.