Watcher Diary of Elinor Giles
July 7, 1936
Catherine Jacobs, 16, of Chicago, has been assigned to me and is to be sent here tomorrow to begin her training. The activity outside of Oxford is of particular concern to the Council and so they've made arrangements for her to live here with me until she reaches the age of consent. She has been living in an orphanage since her parents died, and though the sisters who run that institution insist she spends more time on the streets than she does at her books, she is said to be bright and articulate. I look forward to meeting her.
I have been an active Watcher since the age of 29. Catherine will be my third assignment of a potential. I am nearing 40 now, and I think she will be my last assignment as well. While many on the Council continue to be active well into their 60s, I am tired, and looking forward to retirement. Arthur left me handsomely provided for, and my son, Jeremy, will carry on the family traditions.
Gileses have been Watchers since the beginning of the Council, and they will be Watchers until the end.
I met Catherine today. She showed none of the resentment, rebellion or fear I have seen in previous girls who've shown her promise. In fact, she greeted me warmly and said she was eager to begin her studies, which I found surprising. Perhaps she is only eager to have a direction provided for her in life. She has been alone for many years. Her parents died when she was 8, when their motor was hit by a train.
She is tall, nearly as tall as I am, with long light brown hair and dark brown, nearly black, eyes. She's too thin, though, for the physical trials she'll have to face, and I instructed Bernice to make sure she's well fed.
Bernice seemed pleased to have someone else to cook for again. I listened as she and Abigail led Catherine down to her new room, thinking it was good for them to have a young girl here. With Jeremy away at the Academy pursuing his own studies, this house has been too quiet since Arthur died.
Catherine asks endless questions, mostly about the farm that borders our property and the family that has worked it for centuries. She wanted to see all the animals, to milk the cows, to walk up and down in the vegetable garden while Amos told her the name of each plant. He has been wonderfully patient with her and I am deeply grateful to him for his hospitality.
She and I have also talked a great deal, in the interest of building her trust in me. She spent a great deal of her time on the streets of Chicago, exploring the city, and something in her face still lights up when she talks about sneaking into basement taverns, listening to jazz music. She wanted to be a singer, she said, before Geoffrey Price came along.
At the mention of his name her expression closed down. The conversation that followed was very telling, and I've transcribed it as best I can recall.
"Did he explain everything about your situation?"
She shook her head. "He tried, but … it was a lot to take in at once. Am I the only one right now?"
"The only potential?" She nodded. "No. There are at present three others who have been identified. One is in Madagascar. The other two are both in India."
"Will you train them all?"
"No." She looked relieved. "They've been assigned other Watchers, who will monitor them according to their situations."
"And the …" she seemed to struggle. "The Slayer? The real one? Where is she?"
I considered her carefully. "Slovenia, right now," I finally said. "There was some disturbing activity in the Balkans and she was sent to root it out. She'll be there some time."
"So am I first in line, to take her place if she dies?" Her face was equal parts eager, and afraid.
"I don't know," I admitted. "Some potentials are never called. You may be one of those. Didn't Geoffrey tell you?"
"He did, but …" Her dark eyes flashed suddenly. "He said it was a silly expense to train me, when in all likelihood it would be `that insufferable twit from Mongolia called next.' I didn't even know who he was talking about."
Geoffrey, Geoffrey. None of us found Ming-Han easy to handle, but handicapping her chances in front of a potential … very badly done indeed.
"What happens if I'm not called?"
"We will assist you in fulfilling whatever task you choose to set for yourself, of course. Geoffrey tells me you were quite the accomplished locksmith in Chicago."
She grinned, a rakish glint in her eyes. "Broke into his hotel room and rearranged the furniture while he was out booking the trip," she confessed, and I could not restrain a chuckle. Mustn't encourage her criminal tendencies in the future, however amusing it might be to put one over on the old stuffed shirt.
"Who else lives here?"
"In the house, you mean?" She nodded. "My son, Jeremy, when he isn't at University or the Academy. He just turned 20. Bernice and Abigail you've met … There's a dog that belongs to Frederick the gardener, but that's all of us."
"What about your husband?"
"Arthur died two years ago," I said, and held up a hand to forestall her stammering apology. "It's all right, Catherine. He and I married very young, before I entered the Watcher's Academy. We had almost 20 years together."
"Do you want to remarry?" She saw my expression and stopped, blushing again. "I'm sorry, that was rude. It's just that you're so pretty."
It was my turn to flush. Foolish old woman. I've remained in shape over the years by necessity, to keep up with my young charges in fencing and fighting, and Bernice's cooking of late has not encouraged gluttony, but I know what I am, and pretty is not it.
Vanity. Task at hand. "Let's get you some supper, shall we?"
"What do I call you? I mean—"
"Call me Elinor."
Catherine is progressing very well. She grows stronger by the day, and her reading is helping what at first I considered unnecessary rashness. I did not wish to frighten the poor thing, but she seemed so eager to begin actual combat that I saw more good than harm in giving her access to the Demon Text Reference. A few photographs and grisly descriptions of disembowelment later, she was most content to stay on the property and spar with me instead of hunting trouble on her own.
Catherine has become more direct and personal in her questions of late. I've tried to steer her concentration back to training, giving her a heavier workload so her mind will not be so free for speculation, but it seems there is ample room in her quick brain for both.
"How long have you been in this ... line of work?"
"All my life. I was born into it. My father was a Watcher, and his father before him."
"It must have been hard for you." She paged absently through the Encyclopaedia Moria. "Not to be able to choose your life."
I was surprised by this observation, more so that she was taking an interest. "You didn't choose yours, either, Catherine. Sometimes our borders are set by others, but what we do within those lines is what defines us."
She slammed the book closed. "No one defines my life but me," she said, her voice and eyes suddenly sharp and hard. "And I can leave anytime I want to. I can choose to leave."
She stalked into the house, and I did not follow her. One of the hardest things to teach someone is how to surrender to your duty, your destiny. How to learn who you are, and once you learn, how to accept it.
She still felt the need to maintain an illusion of control. I let go long ago, as easily as breathing.
I allowed Catherine to patrol tonight for the first time outside the woods of my property. She didn't go far, and I accompanied her, but I could see she gloried in the freedom she'd once enjoyed in her city, being alone with the night.
We encountered no demons. She wore loose trousers and a shirt that was inadequate for the weather, and was shivering by the time we reached the gate again. I gave her my cloak to wear until we were inside.
"How did your husband die?"
I looked up, startled, and nearly cut myself on the sword I was sharpening. "He had cancer, Catherine."
"I'm sorry," she said. "I just … you never talk about him."
"He was ill a long time," I said, my eyes on the blade, but I could sense she was paying very close attention. "Toward the end, he did not … know me. The pain affected his mind. It was very …" I stopped, flustered. She did not need to know this.
"You must have loved each other very much," she said softly.
"Being married to a Watcher was difficult, at times, for both of us." It had been so long since I had had someone to talk to about Arthur. Talking about his father upset Jeremy, and I wouldn't dare reveal personal details to Bernice or Abigail, loyal though they were. "The Council is mostly men, so I am an oddity. I at times felt he did not understand or respect my work. And in turn, he often became frustrated that we did not have a `normal' life, complete with dinner parties and more children. Arthur would have worshipped daughters."
"And it was tough begging off supper with some big university type because your wife's vampire slayer stumbled on a nest of Kraal demons and got herself beat up by one," she surmised with a sympathetic smile, and I had to laugh.
"That's it, precisely. Why, there was one occasion …" I caught myself. "But he was lovely about it, as much as any man could be expected to be."
"As any man," she echoed, and there was a look on her face I could not interpret.
Catherine hasn't been sleeping well lately. She tells me she's taken to walking around the house in the dark, looking out windows, afraid something is out there that she missed during her now-nightly patrols. She doesn't mention nightmares, but I can see from the smudges under her eyes that she's having a difficult time adjusting to an owl's routine. She often misses breakfast, which makes Abigail fret and Bernice scowl, muttering darkly about the waste of food.
Tonight I awoke with a start sometime after 2 a.m. and my hand was on the dagger beneath my pillow before I turned on the bedside lamp. She was standing in the doorway in her pajamas, leaning against the frame, looking at me with a curious expression.
"Catherine." I tried to still my pounding heart. Surely she could hear it.
"You frightened the life out of me. What's wrong?"
"Nothing," she said, but didn't look away. "I was lonely, that's all."
I dropped the dagger and fell back on my pillows, chuckling with relief. "We'll have to consider getting you a pet of some kind."
She came a step inside the room. "That would be nice."
"You may as well sit down," I said, resigned, gesturing to the chair beside my bed. "I'm wide awake now."
She sat on the edge of the bed instead, her fingers kneading the quilts. I realized, suddenly, that I had not had company in my bedroom since Arthur died. Curious, the sound of another voice in here.
"Maybe a cat," I suggested. "A nice tabby. It could keep you company on your evening perambulations. You could train it to walk on a leash. I've seen cats like that."
She smiled indulgently. "Dear Elinor."
"So long as you kept it away from Frederick's wolfhound, I don't think it would be any trouble. And if it slept on your bed, that might calm you somewhat, not to mention keep you warm ..."
She laid a hand on my bare arm, and every one of my senses crackled. It was the strangest reaction to touch I've ever had.
"You're so good to me," she said. "Just like a sister. Just like a dear, dear friend."
When she pressed her lips to my forehead, I closed my eyes.
Catherine's 17th birthday.
Catherine cut all her hair off yesterday. When she came down to breakfast this morning, she looked like a soldier of the middle ages, a ragged cap of hair all that remained on her head. Her step seemed lighter, and when I asked her why she'd done it, she only laughed.
"The hell with fashion," she said. "I was hot under it."
We trained with the sword today. She did well.
Something has happened I can barely bring myself to recount. Each time I try I hear myself sounding like a silly old woman, or worse, like a criminal, a predator. But I must, in the interest of full disclosure, report what has transpired between Catherine and I. What lessons can this give? What purpose can it serve? That is for others to decide, and judge.
She had been having a particularly difficult week. She failed three of the exams I set out for her: a basic outline of the history of Vlad the Impaler, identification of common signs of a werewolf attack, and two essays on the roles of Slayer and Watcher in a post-war society.
Memorization had been a weak spot in her training. She could map her old city in the dirt for me to illustrate a story, but show her a list of dates in a book and she went blank.
We argued, for the first time, and she got the kind of tongue-lashing lecture about duty and sacrifice that I used to give the other girls on a weekly basis. She flounced off, I assumed to sulk somewhere.
But when I went up to my rooms to complete that day's journal entry and change for dinner, Catherine was there, waiting for me, and my diary was open on her lap.
"How did you get in here?"
She sneered at me. "I picked your locks, Elinor. You knew I had a talent for that when you brought me here. You ought to get better security, you know. There are things in here that would burn this house down."
She flung the diary at me, the page she was reading marked. I cringed inwardly at the entry she'd stopped on. " … Ming-Han has run away again. Clearly she does not have the temperament of a Slayer, or if she does, she will be a short-lived one. A mercy, perhaps, and the best we can hope for is that she takes a few vampires with her when she goes."
"Is this what I am to you?" Her voice was shaking. "A tool, something to be used and ... thrown away? Like the others? Like Ming-Han?"
I had never seen her this upset.
"When I wrote that, I was angry, Catherine. Try to understand. Ming-Han was a frustrating case and I was doing the best I could to cope with her."
"And what about me?" She looked near to tears and that terrified me. "Your early entries about me, how plain and dull I sound, how I'm doing in this, how I'm progressing in that. You sound like Amos talking about the corn, not one person talking about another."
"Catherine, I told you these diaries are for the benefit of other watchers. They are not for me to record my feelings for you, or to dwell on—"
"Personal details," she said bitterly.
"And what do the `personal details' about me sound like, Elinor? What would you write about me if you wrote about everything?"
I took her hands, rough and calloused, in my own. "Your footsteps are distinct from every other person's in this house to my ears. You pray in our old chapel before patrolling and think I don't know about it."
She closed her eyes.
"I watch you far more than my job requires—of course I care about you, in ways I only half understand …"
She silenced me with her lips.
My mind cried out in protest, she is young, and too dependent on me, but her kiss tasted like copper and bitter greens, her mouth bruising and fierce. If I did not lean toward her, she did not pull away, not for a long moment, not until we heard the heel-clicks on stone that heralded Abigail approaching the room with a tray.
"Just leave it, Abby."
Catherine stepped away from me and poured herself a cup of tea.
I felt I must say something. "Catherine, I have never—"
She cut me off. "Elinor, I know." She sipped her tea, making a face at its bitter taste. "And I know how old I am and how old you are. And I'm not—" She huffed impatiently.
"I love you," she said, her voice not quite steady. "Not my Watcher. You, yourself."
"You only think you do."
"That isn't true. You know it. You must have known it."
I made my voice stern. "What I know—think—is irrelevant. I am your Watcher, Catherine, and until we know whether or not you are to be called my duty is to safeguard you, and train you. I cannot allow this kind of—relationship, to interfere with that."
She stepped closer again and set the teacup down. Her fingers traced the blue silk of my blouse collar, lingered at my throat. And I had to swallow hard before I could ask. "Are you, Catherine, inclined in such a—"
"I don't know." She touched my hair. "I only know you're here and you're different from anyone I've ever known, and—"
"There were some girls at the orphanage," she said quickly. "They … showed me things. Things that could be done, between us."
I knew of such things, of course. American film stars … One of Arthur's colleagues … Whispers about certain of my schoolmates, whom I'd found intriguing in their utter difference from my solid country upbringing …
Her eyes had not left mine. Here we stood, two women in an empty house. Her skin had been cold to my touch.
"I have no right," I finally said, slowly and deliberately, tying to make her hear every word, "to take you away from your sacred duty, or to neglect mine."
"I don't care, I don't care, I don't care!" she shouted at me, putting her hands over her ears as if to turn back my argument physically. "I just learned about this destiny of mine three months ago. Why is it so important? Why is it more important than this? It's not more important to me. Why does It matter so much to you?"
I was angry with her by then, angry with her obstinacy and her perception. "You barely know me, Catherine. You have no right to judge my life!"
She took both my wrists and held them tightly. "But I do know you. I do, Elinor.
"I know you're nice to everybody. You give Bernice and Abigail instructions, but you don't boss them or try to make them feel small because they work for you. You went to school ten times longer than Amos next door, but you know he's tons smarter than you about some things, about the land, and you let him tell you what to do.
"I know you're lonely. I know you and your son don't get along, because I've been here all summer and I've never met him. I know it hurt you when Genevieve wasn't called, because you really believed in her. The way you believe in me."
I could not speak.
"I've seen you fight. You're so strong and so quick, and you really enjoy it, I can see from the way your face gets, all warm and … lit up. You're so beautiful at those moments, Elinor, so alive.
"But sometimes you look so sad when we talk about my future, or your husband. Sometimes you get angry with me for no reason and talk to me like I'm one of the barn cats, like I'm just going to obey you.
"I've never even heard you laugh. Not really, not out loud. And I want to."
It was all true, and it was all wrong.
Genevieve, a society girl by birth, had been entirely wrapped up in her own life and her own problems during our time together. If she saw me at all, it was as a nursemaid, forcing healthy meals down her throat and nagging her to get adequate sleep.
To Ming-Han, I was a jailer, a nuisance, the evil thing who stole her from her parents and the village in which she'd lived all her life. She rebelled, ran away, loathed me, and after a time I came to return the feelings.
Those two girls were nearly half my life, and I was never more than an accessory to them. An audience to their tales of bravery and sacrifice.
Catherine looked straight at me and saw me apart from what I was to her. I was still real to her when I left the room.
There are moments when your life stands before you, when you look at it whole, and wonder what it would be like to douse it all with petrol, to just let it burn. When you wonder what it would be like, to do that which you know is rash, and wrong, and dance around the bonfire in the middle of the night.
Will the world end if I kiss her?
She still held my hands, and I brought them to my lips, one before the other, and as her mouth traced the outline of my throat I couldn't help but laugh, right out loud.
And hearing it, she paused in her caresses and whispered to me, "That's all I wanted to hear."
I slid my fingers along the ridges in her backbone. She was cold winter air, the first breath of a carol drifting over the snow, and her skin was thin and bluish, vellum in the dark.
I have never done anything like this before, I whispered to her, and she laughed low in her throat, and her teeth knocked against my collarbone. I am the student now, and she the teacher, and for someone so young she gives lessons that would daunt a don. Writing this, now, I can still feel her hands in my too-gray hair, her teasing voice, calling me her sterling lady, her precious metal, her Elinor.
I left my weapons at her door tonight, but she came to me well armed. I am overmatched, I whispered into her shoulder blade. I am unstrung.
Sometimes, after a long patrol, she strips off her jewelry, rings and bracelets clattering on the marble vanity, and I think of Joan of Arc putting off her armour, chain mail washed in the blood of dead men at Orleans.
She should have knights riding into battle under her banner. She should be woven into a tapestry for a castle's royal hall. She should be carved in limestone atop the tomb of a saint.
She pressed her hand into the hollow inside my hip, and thoughts of sainthood, for me or for her, fled as if pursued by all the demons in hell.
December 6 (St. Nicholas Day)
I write now in a book no one will ever see. I am determined to take Catherine away before she can be called. Before she faces a choice between me, and her duty. Before I face that choice, because I know what I would do.
She came to me last night, and once again I could not turn her away.
"What does it matter," she whispered, "if we wipe every demon off the face of the earth and live on alone? I'm not that unselfish, Elinor. I need you more than the rest of the world needs me."
Let silly little Genevieve be called after all, then. Let it be Ming-Han. Let poor Olga, fighting in Russia now, live forever.
Catherine was sent to me. I will not give her up.
And all I can do is write your name, your smile in every curve of my pen. Catherine, Catherine, Catherine, Catherine.
My world has come off its wires. It spins backwards now, fast enough to turn back time.
I cannot imagine I was wrong to love you. Did it make you careless, Catherine, were you walking where you should not that night? Did you taunt the boys, give them a look that said—ohhowIknowthatlook—show me what you can do with all your swagger?
Sometimes, when you laughed, I could hear the tinkle of the martini glass, the clatter of your beaded dress as you sat in the dark bar in your city far away.
Would this be easier if it was your fault, or mine? Would it be easier if you died in battle, instead of in some absurd accident of time and place? Could I rage at fate, would that bring you back to me, Catherine, my brave Catherine?
Would an extraordinary death reconcile me to your absence? Would the knowledge you had saved a thousand lives balance the loss of your own?
The heart abhors such measurements. Catherine, my darling Catherine. Catherine. Catherine.