I'd worked with Catherine for a few years before I found out her secret. At first I wouldn't have assumed she had one. She just seemed like an ordinary small-town High School teacher. Only odd thing was she was unmarried and, weirder still, wasn't related to anyone in the area. Here it seems everyone is related to everyone else and anyone who isn't married after a certain age is deemed "peculiar". She got a pass on the latter as she seemed to be in her mid twenties, but everyone tried to set her up because of the former. Since she was unrelated to the men here it was an opportunity they rarely got. This almost was soured for them when she said her family was originally from Toledo, Ohio & was related to the Danders. However they figured the Danders hadn't been in Ohio for more than a century so she was still fair game. She was considered attractive enough the Dander men were especially pleased. Like I said normal small town stuff and her irritation was even normal.
Until I found out she was immortal, although she hates the term.
"I am not immortal, don't be silly. I mean really is a turtle immortal? Is a sequoia immortal? Of course not, they'll die and I will too." --Cathy.
"The pictures though, & the way your toe regrew. You have to be like a hundred & hard to kill." --me.
She smiles "I am actually more like a thousand years old. My aging started slowing about when I was sixteen. And I was born in Toledo; Toledo, Spain"
"You don't look Hispanic" I say unwisely.
"Don't be an idiot. Have you ever even been to Spain or known anyone there?" she is annoyed then calms "I guess I can't blame you, lived your life with nothing but Anglos and don't know the difference between Spanish and Hispanic."
"Hey, John Travers is Arapaho or something and then there's that half-Vietnamese kid Bill Danders had from the war" I tried to defend the place for some odd reasons.
She just sighs and switches the subject, "I guess you'd have a lot of questions, I'll answer them as best I can."
"You mostly seemed so ordinary, is that an act?"
"Not really. The truth is my life is pretty dull. Most of us try to live carefully, but I lived that way even more than most. I was a nun for the first five centuries or so. Not an especially remarkable one either. Then I was mostly a housewife, or that era's equivalent. I eventually became a teacher an moved to America. That's it."
"So there are others, do they live more exciting lives?" I'm intrigued.
"Yes, many of them even fit the stereotype I bet you have in mind. Rich, and colorful with large mansions surrounded by antiques. I don't think they are happier than me, but maybe they feel different about it."
"Do they live off human blood or drink the youth of the living?"
She makes a face. "Don't be disgusting. Of course we don't."
"Well do you secretly rule the world?"
"No, heavens why would we want to do that?" she is tolerant, but annoyance with my idiocy is obvious.
So I try to improve the impression. "I guess you have a point. Look I'm sorry if I'm disappointing you, but I'm not exactly used to this. I thought I knew you."
"You actually are taking it fairly normally. You'd be surprised how often I get the vampire question. Still, do try a bit more," she says.
"Okay is it something in the family history or is it some medicine you take?"
She is pleased. "Much better. It doesn't run in families, but we're pretty sure it's genetic. I haven't kept up with the literature like I should though."
"There's studies on this?"
"Sure some of us are doctors, but I never had a head for science so I don't follow it very well."
"Maybe I could. I know I seem dumb to you, but I am the biology teacher."
"Okay, I'll give you some of M'Kinti's studies. He's the main doctor, he works in South Africa. Well anything else I'd like to make the cocoa now, it is getting later than I'd hoped."
"Well it's kind of dumb, but I was wondering if you ever had you know relationships with famous historical people."
"Yup, got to make that cocoa, I'll be back in a jiff."
The cocoa was good, and she never did answer me. Although once in the teacher's lounge the school librarian said she had a fondness for De Maupassant which caused Catherine to giggle and say, "So did I, So did I."
When she left she gave me some ugly drawing which I threw away. Later I found out it was an original Goya. She also told me, "I hope I was right to trust you, Mr. Danders," and in least in that I didn't disappoint.
Copyright © 2002 by Thomas R. and Bewildering Stories.