• Zenia Platten

Not a Vampire Story

Ultimately it was a curse of dentistry that led Molly Collins, a sixteen year old with media-infused ideas of romance, to push her way in to Pamela’s apartment at midnight on a Tuesday. A student at St Catherine’s Private School, Molly had arrived at her teacher’s apartment soaked through and shivering. Confused and bleary, Pamela hadn’t stopped her as she slipped past into the living room.

Closing the door, Pamela stretched and yawned, tongue flicking across the over-large incisors she had never grown into. She tried to rub the sleep from her eyes.

“Molly? What’s wrong? Do you need me to call someone?” Pamela asked, reaching for her Blackberry.

“No, that’s alright Ms Savage, I’m fine,” Molly replied. She was standing at an angle, head subtly leaning to one side. She wore her school uniform, an extra button undone at her collar and her skirt hiked up shorter than the dress code would have ever allowed. She was studying the apartment with an air of disappointment and anticipation both. “I didn’t realize how late it was, and I got lost.”

Molly turned her attention back to Pamela, batting her eyelashes and pursing her lips like a caricature of Monroe. “I knew you’d be able to help me, so I came here.”

Warning bells were sounding inside Pamela’s mind, finally awake enough to realize her situation. She tightened her robe, meeting Molly’s doe-eyed, supposed-to-be-sultry stare with a stern glare. “Not this again,” she threw her hands in the air, exasperated. “It’s like this every year. First it was Twilight, then True Blood, and now Vampire Dairies. Every damn year.”

Molly was shaking her head, still tilting it to one side to expose her supposed-to-be-a-virgin’s neck. “It’s not like that, Ms Savage. I heard about the other ones, but they didn’t understand you like I do! I saw it on your face when you taught us Dracula, I know.”

“I really need to start getting a sub in for that damn Bram Stoker unit.”

“No! It’s okay, your secret’s safe with me!”

Molly grabbed at the hem of Pamela’s sleeve and she snatched it away. This girl was the worst one yet. She was rapturous. In her ridiculous, hormone-drenched mind she was living the dream, spouting the drivel she absorbed so readily.

“Molly. These,” Pamela gestured to her pointed teeth, “were an accident of birth. Nothing supernatural. Vampire’s aren’t real, but permanent suspension for inappropriate behavior with a student is, so I need you to leave. Now.”

Molly straightened at last, pouting and stomping one foot. She opened her mouth to argue but Pamela cut her short.

“Now,” she said again, and then when Molly didn’t budge she shouted, “out!”

Pamela made a point of never yelling in the classroom, emphasizing calm discourse as the best way to deal with interpersonal issues. Molly started like a deer at the uncharacteristic sound, eyes wide and mouth dropped into a small, bewildered ‘O’. She backed towards the door, tears threatening to ruin her mascara. Molly opened her mouth to issue one last plea, to hold on white-knuckled to her fantasy, but Pamela cut her off with a throaty growl. Molly scampered over the threshold without another word.

Finally alone again Pamela locked the door behind her, leaning against it and breathing deeply. The room looked as it had when she went to sleep, tidy, a little sparse and very single. The furniture wasn’t modern, or fashionable, but it was clean and comfy, the way Pamela liked it. The threat of dismissal sat like a layer of dust across the togetherness.

All it would take were the wrong words from Molly, a different account of what had happened, bragged about to her friends or reported straight to Principal Valdez. Just words, but dangerous ones. The worry was making her hungry.

Crossing to the off-white fridge, peppered with magnets, notes, and photos, Pamela shivered, pulling her robe closer. How did these girls find her home address? Were they hacking something at the school? A mainframe, or a database – something like that probably. These days kids could all hack, even half-wits like Molly.

Then again, Molly’s mom worked at the hospital. Maybe Molly had snuck a peek at Pamela’s volunteer profile. Molly was there almost every week, slouching at the computer station, plucking away at Facetime or Twitbook, or something like that. Pamela would nod and ask her how she was, then pass by in time for her shift at the blood bank.

Pamela closed the heavy fridge door with her foot, a leftover habit from childhood. She put the brown paper packet of garlic sausage on the counter, flicking the stove top on and grabbing out a pan from the maintenance drawer under the oven. Unwrapping the meat she breathed deep, enjoying the herb smell as it rolled into the air. Extra garlic. Vampire proof. Pamela smiled.

Perhaps working at the blood bank wasn’t helping this whole vampire business. Still, people should have more common sense than that. It’s not like she was sitting there stabbing straws into the blood bags like they were Capri Suns. She shuddered, the idea of drinking something that thick cloyed at her throat. Seriously disgusting.

Pamela wetted her fingers at the sink, flicking water into the pan, disappointed when it didn’t sizzle. There was a burning smell, something stuck to the bottom of the pan, or at least to the element, smoking out its last moments. She didn’t mind, she’d taken the batteries out of the fire alarm years ago, when she was learning to cook.

She’d considered quitting at the blood bank the first time a student had shown up, neck-exposed, to her apartment. They needed her at the hospital though, short-handed as always. She had the training to be a blood tech, from back before she knew she wanted to teach, and was one of the few volunteers qualified to actually stick the needle in.

Besides, it gave her an excuse to be in the hospital, to slip down to the morgue and chat with Dean. Now he understood her. The county mortician, Dean always had interesting stories to share, and interesting views. They could talk for hours without noticing. It was a comfortable friendship. He helped her out too, on the tighter months when her teacher’s salary wasn’t quite enough to afford a Sunday roast, or even a few sausages.

It was serendipitous that they had started talking about Jonathan Swift and his most famous work. About waste, efficiency, and green energy. About the greenhouse gases emitted by raising livestock. They had discussed it cautiously at first, each testing the other, each with their shields up. But it didn’t take long for them to realize they were on the same page. Then as a joke, they watched Sweeney Todd together, laughing and poking holes in the creative barber’s technique. Even they could have done better, they’d said.

When Pamela flicked water again, it sizzled and she dumped the sausages into the pan, smiling as the garlic smell intensified. They’d probably go straight to her thighs, but she didn’t mind. Maybe it would put off the girls. She hummed The Worst Pies in London quietly as she turned the sausages.

The day Dean had suggested going a step further with their views, whispering the words ‘closed casket’ to her under the harsh fluorescent lights of the morgue, she’d said no. At first. He’d reminded her of the benefits and called her a hypocrite. He’d said it lightly, but there was a bitterness beneath that she hadn’t been able to ignore. She didn’t have many friends, the town was too small, too superstitious for that.

Pamela cut into the fattest sausage, brown juices spilling into the pan. No blood, they were done. They looked good against her white plates with the blue birds on them. Plates she’d bought at a garage sale when she was seven with money she’d saved especially for tea party planning. Pamela sat on the couch, tucking her feet under her and balancing the plate on her knees. The knife and fork moved smoothly through the meat, with no signs of the hesitation she’d shown the first time she’d had these sausages.

What would her students think? Would they be disappointed, or would they approve and say she was bad ass? They’d probably be disgusted, call her a monster. That’s what they did in the books. Pamela glanced towards the window as she chewed her first bite, taking her time. No, dear Molly, not a vampire, nothing so supernatural as that. Just a regular, run-of-the-mill, everyday cannibal.

There was an author being interviewed on the radio a while back (can't remember who, sorry!) who said 'everybody's written a vampire story' when asked about the sub-genre. I hadn't, so I thought it best to add one to my repertoire.

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©2019 by Zenia Platten.