The Astor’s quarterly calendars, lovely works of art in themselves, have graced the walls of many an illustrious and not-so-illustrious share house over the decades. See what a joy the calendar is … well, that’s only half of mine … it’s huge!
It was the bloody Spanish Inquisition. Her underarms started to sweat accordingly.
“Izzy and I have just come out of the movies.”
“Oh yeah? What did you see?”
“A double feature, ‘Crimson Peak’ and the nineteen thirties ‘Dracula’.”
“A double feature. And a classic too. Sounds like a pretty cool theatre.”
Ava couldn’t help but warm to the topic and her enthusiasm trumped her reticence.
“It is! The Astor’s amazing. It’s a decaying art deco beauty and the perfect place to hang out with Bela Lugosi.” She felt him smiling as he made attentive listening noises.
“Tell him about the cat!” yelled Izzy.
“And there’s this gorgeous cat, Duke, who lives there and lolls around on the couches in the foyers. And sometimes he comes and sits on a lap during the movie. He sat on Izzy for most of Dracula, purring away like a furry heat machine. She’s over the moon.”
He gave a husky laugh and she remembered how it felt breathed into her ear in the dark.
“Sounds very cool. I should have guessed you’d have a taste for the Gothic, Ava. You know, I feel like I missed out. Why didn’t you invite me?”
Once again, he’d shocked her into muteness. Then she rallied. “I’ll text you the details. You and the boys should go, you’ll love it. It’s the best place.”
Ava – Siren’s Wave novel – extolling the Astor cinema’s virtues and wondering why on earth hot-rocker Bran is calling her … surely he’s not ringing to just … chat?
. . . otherwise known as Dracula’s Castle because it is the only one in all of Transylvania that fits Bram Stoker’s description.
“Look at this, Ave. This is what I was trying to show you. It’s so funny.” Izzy thrust her phone under Ava’s nose. The white medieval castle on the screen was crowned with a jumble of angled roof slabs and turrets and covered in vermillion tiles.
“Well, yep that’s certainly lovely but not so hilarious.”
“But wait, don’t look at me like that. This is the castle. The one known as Dracula’s castle in Romania. Guess what it’s called? Go on.”
“Um … Castle Vlad? Fangtacular Castle?”
“No, Bran Castle!”
“Yeah. Definitely not funny.”
My God. Now even the image she’d picked from the film to distract herself with was ruined. There was no escaping him.
Izzy and Ava, post viewing the 1930’s film Dracula, at Melbourne’s gloriously art deco Astor theatre – Siren’s Wave novel.
Throughout history, gorgeously Gothic ravens received a bad rap. From Middle Eastern, Norse and Celtic mythology to Egar Allan Poe’s dramatic poem, their dark allure sends a shiver running through us with ease. They’ve been depicted as oracles, tricksters, and messengers of ill omens. What power, exactly, does Bran need to harness from his glossy namesakes? Regeneration perhaps or something a little more sinister?
“And being called Bran, how did that come about?”
“Nate, in high school.”
“Do you know about the Celtic legends? About Bran the Blessed, the Raven? God of regeneration etcetera?”
“Nate’s brought it up over the years. Usually, when he wants to be a pain.”
Beth ignored the warning. “And your mum is the only person who doesn’t call you Bran?”
Staring stonily at Beth, he gave her a barely discernible nod.
“Middle name?” she asked, allowing no quarter.
“Henrik,” he said flatly.
“Henrik? Alexander Henrik Brantsen.” Beth laughed loudly.
“Shit, you even know my last name?” He gave her a look of mock suspicion, trying for levity but not quite managing it.
“I aim to know a lot more about you, Bran. So, where are your parents from?”
His eyes skated over to Ava’s then back to Beth’s. He sighed and crossed his arms over his chest, all signs of playfulness gone. “The Netherlands.”
Dix’s wife, Beth, interrogating Bran at Izzy’s party.
…and it’s going to be an interesting celebration for Bran and Ava.
Over the last hour, she’d taken great care to alternate between inside the house and the garden, always in direct opposition to his location. And thank God, he was nowhere in sight now. On a spark of excitement, she twirled around like a nine-year-old brimming over with light. When she came to a halt, there was the rotter himself standing right in front of her, beaming away. And what a nice picture he made. She could call it, ‘My Own Personal Catastrophe – Holding Two Margaritas’.
Ava, avoiding Bran unsuccessfully, at Izzy’s New Year’s Eve party, Siren’s Wave.
A lemony coconut scent mixed with something earthy assailed her senses, and she wondered if it was aftershave or deodorant. Either way, it made her limbs feel heavy.
Arm engulfed in heat, she looked down at his hand still wrapped around it and tried to draw his attention to the inappropriate holding thing by narrowing her eyes at him.
It must have sent a different signal because without breaking eye contact, he stepped closer and moved his thumb slowly over her skin, pressing his fingers into her muscle like he was … was …
Ava, bamboozled by Bran who’s busy bamboozling himself.
Bran’s eyes flicked up from the plate of fast disappearing fish and chips in a flash of guilt. Relieved, he watched Ava flap her hands at the seagull who was taking off with one of her chips. She sure liked her salt. She practically crumbed her food in the stuff. Laughing along with the others as she wiped her hands in irritation, he wondered what he had to feel guilty about. Oh yeah, probably the sleazy way he’d scoped her out at the beach, that might be it.
They sat at bench seats pulled up to a wooden table on the deck of the pub. It was some view. The breakers cruised into the sand in a rhythm he could set lyrics to. Sparkling-green hills. Darkening shadows. Girls with luscious asses. What? Bran shook his head to clear the unwelcome image of Ava in her bathers, swallowed a too greedy mouthful of food and chased it down with a gulp of beer.
Bran and the Silva boys at the Rookery Nook – Wye River Hotel, Siren’s Wave Novel.
“Hey, that seagull likes you, Ava,” said Ben, eye-fucking her like a great jerk. “He’s coming back for more.”
“Yes, I’m sure he does. I think you’ll find, Benjamin, that I’m a great favourite with creatures of the web-footed variety.”
Bran felt himself smiling a stupid grin at her and for some reason looked down to inspect his own feet.
Before he could wrest a clever comment from his slow firing brain, which had been lulled witless by his senseless contemplation of Ava over dinner, he was annoyed to hear Ben say, “Oh, is that why I like you so much? I knew we were meant for each other.”
Dan shot a funny expression at Bran, a one eyebrow raised, what-are-ya-gonna-do-about-that kind of face. Bran did somehow feel put out. The fuck if he knew why though.
She shook sand off her towel in aggressive flicks and was pleased to see him flinch. “Don’t gawk like fools! It’s actually quite normal for a girl to have some meat on her bones, you know.”
With wide eyes and a raised brow, Bran immediately set about gathering his things. The others seemed to decide her comment was a joke and milled there chuckling up at her face and then down at the sand, up and down their eyes went until she shocked them out of their stupor.
“We’re hitting the pub up the road for dinner as soon as Dan and Dave arrive. We’re going straight from here, so if you lot are happy to sit there all night with barnacles attached to you then by all means do so.”