After work on Tuesday, I sent Dani a text. I did not want to use work time or work computers and leave a paper trail. I asked her if she could check with Mara about a meeting for the following weekend. On Thursday night, just as I was drifting off to sleep, I received a text from Dani that Mara could see me Friday night at 10. I prepared a list of questions, but Mara waved them away when I arrived. She had decided to tell me a story instead.
In 1722, a girl was born to a merchant family in Marseille. Her name was Marie. She helped her mother keep shop but often got in trouble for drawing in the ledgers. She was 10 when her father died, and her mother was unable to care for all the children, so Marie was apprenticed or sold off to a printmaker. The printmaker knew of Marie's artistic talent, and her mother was glad to see she was provided for, but there was another part to the bargain, that the printmaker had not told the family. He was looking for a successor both to his art and to his line. I'm sure you've all guessed it by now. He was a vampire, Dracula's clan.
“Ah, well that tells a bit of what I needed to know about how she might behave and what's likely to offend her,” I thought.
Marie was a clever girl and she discovered this soon after she was sent to live with the printmaker. He told her he would kill her if she told anyone. She was terrified at first, but on the whole he was a good master, if strict. And he taught her art, which she loved. When she was 17, he gave her the choice to leave and marry and lead a normal life, but she wanted to stay and serve. The printmaker knew then that he had found his successor. Although it was odd, he hired a tutor for her and she learned Latin and Greek and algebra and geometry and rhetoric. And art. Above all, art. Her skill at drawing and painting had only grown since she was a child.
Just after she turned 30, the printmaker sat down with her to talk about the future. He asked again if she wanted a normal life, but by that time she thought that a normal life was out of her reach. He proposed to send her to the French colony in Louisiana to trade and study, but he wanted to make sure of her loyalty. So he would turn her to bind her to the clan and to him. She thought about it but came to a decision quickly. He had taken her in and allowed her the thing that she loved, her painting, and she saw no reason not to acquiesce. And so her unlife began in the winter of 1752.
She stayed the winter in France and sailed on the first ship in April of 1753 to New Orleans. Sometime later, the letters from the printmaker stopped coming, and she learned that he had been hunted and killed. She never learned by whom but suspected a rival clan of vampires. Mara implied that Degas had learned a bit from her during his time in New Orleans. As time went on, people came into her life and drifted away, and she grew lonely and her paintings reflected that. She changed her name to Mara, “bitter”, around the turn of the last century. And she was looking for an heir.