Babysitting for Vampires E01P03
Babysitting for Vampires
by Meg Merriet
Episode 1 Part 3
“Hi, um, I ordered a pizza really late last night and it never arrived. Yes, I’ll hold.” I hopped up on the kitchen counter, checking the tips of my worn fingernails and kicking the backs of tennis shoes against the cabinets. The sunlight dimmed to an auburn glow. I watched through the window as it sank beneath the row of brownstones.
“I’m so sorry. Looks like our delivery boy took off with your order,” the girl said on the other end.
“Oh no. I hope he didn’t run into trouble along the way.”
“Happens all the time,” the girl said. “The kids who come through here, he probably decided to quit and took your pizza home for him and his friends. Anyhoo, we’ll send you another one on the house.”
“Awesome. Can I get this one with garlic?”
“I thought someone over there had an allergy.”
“Yes. My little sister. She’s not here tonight, so can I have extra garlic?”
“Course you can! It’ll be about thirty minutes.”
Thirty minutes. This was the amount of time I had to subdue the demons upstairs. If I failed, at least the next pizza delivery personnel would find my body. They could alert my next of kin, my parents in Illinois.
I adjusted the rubber straps on my makeshift utility belt. It included a silver crucifix from a church altar, a spray bottle full of holy water, two chocolate bars, a string of garlic bulbs, a metal stake for camping—or vamping in this case—and two cans of garlic flavored PAM.
“Mirabelle! Charlotte!” I sang. I lowered my voice into a furious tone of assertion, “You are in big trouble!”
The girls giggled behind their door. I marched upstairs and tried the handle. It was locked, which didn’t surprise me. I warped my hairpin and knelt. Having grown up with an older brother who liked to lock me out of all sorts of places, I knew all the tricks of simple house locks. I coiled the pin deep into the mechanism and tricked the apparatus inside. Click. The handle twisted, but when I tried to open the door, I came up against a barrier.
“Aren’t you hungry, girls?” I asked.
No sooner did I speak than the wardrobe in front of the door went flying. Mirabelle pounced on me and I squeezed my finger on the garlic PAM, spraying her hand. Mirabelle sank her teeth into my shoulder.
“Did she just try to spray grease on you?” Lottie said, peering out from behind the door.
“There’s garlic in it!” I cried, feeling increasingly dizzy as Mirabelle drained me of blood.
“Oh,” Lottie giggled at me. “You silly thing. That’s artificial flavoring. If there’s any garlic at all, it’s miniscule.”
Mirabelle’s incisors withdrew and she pushed off of me. She groaned in agony, clutching her stomach.
“Oh no,” Mirabelle whined.
“Mirabelle? What’s wrong?”
“She… she…” Mirabelle covered her mouth with her hand. She collapsed on all fours and vomited profusely. Her projectile sick came out black. The bile seeped through the bars of the railing and dripped onto the carpet on the first floor.
“I ate some real garlic while I could,” I gloated. I took out my holy water in the spray bottle and spritzed Lottie in the face. Her cheeks and nose swelled up like it was pepper spray. She howled in agony, clutching her face and then pulling her swollen hands away from the burn.
I picked up my phone and shined the light into the bedroom. The teenage pizza boy was still on the floor. I crawled toward him and squeezed his wrist. He had the faint murmur of a heartbeat.
I shook the boy gently and then hard, smacking his cheeks with the palms of my hands. He didn’t stir and his breath fluttered close to his lips. I sprayed some holy water on his face. He muttered indistinct nonsense about hamburgers and not having enough of them. “Oh thank God!” I cried, hugging him close.
“Mami?” he said.
“No, sweetheart. I’m not your mom.” I wrapped my string of garlic around his neck. “Can you stand?”
He gasped in pain as I pulled him up on his feet. With one arm, I supported him and with the other held the spray bottle poised for attack. The girls cowered in the corner, Lottie holding Mirabelle’s hair back as more and more bloody vomit poured out of her.
“I haven’t suffered garlic poisoning in over twenty years,” Mirabelle cried between fits of puking.
The delivery boy managed to stand with one arm wrapped over my shoulders. We came downstairs and I helped him lie down on the fainting couch, giving him a throw pillow for his head. I broke off a bulb of garlic and had him eat it whole. Then I gave him one of the chocolate bars on my belt, hoping the sugar might help him recover. Every movement he made as he ate was so desperately frail, but in time, the color returned to his face. I wiped the sweat from his forehead and hushed him as he struggled to breathe.
“What are those things?” he asked.
“They’re vampires. I was hired as a nanny, but I’m beginning to think I was intended to be more of a meal plan.”
“Puta madre,” he cursed. “Who are you?”
“I’m Robin. What’s your name?”
“Okay, Angel, you’ve lost a lot of blood, so I’m going to get you to the hospital.”
“Not just yet,” a wicked little voice squeaked. At the top of the stairs stood Lottie. In the light from the electric lanterns I could see the extent of the damage I’d done. She looked like hellspawn, her nose and upper lip swollen and red and that mess of blood streaking the front of her dress. She descended slowly, tying back her white ringlets with a red velvet ribbon.
“Stay back!” I shouted, holding up the silver crucifix. Lottie jerked abruptly and fell on her knees, reeling in pain.
“Put it away!” she shrieked. I lowered the crucifix warily. “I have to transfix him before you let him go. He can’t leave knowing what has happened here tonight.”
“I won’t tell, I swear. Nobody would believe me,” Angel pleaded, curling up behind me on the sofa.
“It isn’t you that worries me,” Lottie explained. “Hunters will come for us. The hospital will take note of your bite marks. There will be press. If you remember anything, the hunters will make you talk.”
“I swear I won’t tell them.”
“Some hunters are vampires themselves. They will transfix you and you will talk against your will. Our only choice is to erase everything from last night.” Lottie stepped toward us, slowly.
“He’s eaten garlic!” I warned her. She nodded, her eyes locked with his. She placed her stubby fingers under his chin. Their eyes seemed to fog like the elderly who suffer from cataracts.
“On your way to deliver this pizza, you were robbed by brigands.”
“Gangbangers,” I suggested.
Lottie scowled at me and sighed. “You were robbed by gangbangers. They stole your pizza and your bicycle. They hit you in the neck with a board full of nails and left you to die. A kind old man with a glass eye rescued you the next day and drove you to the hospital.”
“A kind old man.” Angel smiled dreamily.
“Now sleep, Angel.” Lottie took her hand away and the clouds in their eyes cleared up. Angel leaned his head on my shoulder and drooled down my arm. I guided him gently to rest against a cushion.
“You do have a car don’t you?” Lottie asked. I did not. “Dammit, Robin! What good are you? First I have to call for a coach and then second I have to transfix the driver. It’s been nothing but trouble with you around.”
“I’ll call the cab,” I said sternly. “You are going to march right upstairs and clean up that mess on the floor. Then you’re going to take a bath, change your clothes and be ready for bed at dawn.”
“That’s not fair!” Lottie sniped. “Mirabelle made the mess!”
Ding dong. The doorbell rang. The pizza! I’d forgotten all about the pizza. I took the tablecloth from the dining room and threw it on top of Angel’s body. Lottie stomped upstairs, grumbling over how unjust everything was. I opened the door and found a plump young woman with a mousey brown ponytail going through the back of her baseball cap. She stuck a pen in her ear and grinned like a TV commercial as I opened the door.
“Hi there! Sorry for the wait. Here’s your pizza. On the house!” she said with bubbly enthusiasm. I took the pizza from her and handed her a tip.
“Thanks. And remember, if you ever need a—.”
I closed the door with my hip and brought the pizza into the kitchen while Lottie struggled with the mop upstairs.
“That is utterly foul!” she called down to me. “That onion is the most rancid garbage root I’ve ever smelled in my life and you reek of it!”
I helped myself to a slice of pizza and came out into the living room to eat, watching Lottie dip her stringy mop into a bucket. Her water had already turned red. This was the best babysitting gig ever. I had to keep garlic in my bloodstream until sunrise, which was the perfect excuse to eat pizza all night while I made the kids do my bidding.
Lottie slopped water across the baseboards and mopped vigorously. The red water came running over the side of the landing, running through the railing bars.
“Your sister is too sick to help,” I said.
“She’ll be fine in an hour or two. Humans are so impatient. No appreciation for time,” Lottie muttered hatefully as she ran the mop over the wood upstairs.
“Don’t worry, Lottie. She’ll be punished too. I have something quite special in store once you finish cleaning up,” I said, biting into my slice and pulling strings of cheese down my chin. Chewing, I added in a singsong voice, “You’re dripping.”
Lottie glared at me with hateful intensity. She squeezed out the mop and soaked up the liquid under the bannister.
As the sky brightened, I got the little ones ready for bed in their windowless chamber. They wore clean nightgowns now and I had their blood-stained frocks soaking in the ironclaw bathtub. One by one, I combed and braided their damp hair. By the candlelight in their bedroom I could see that Mirabelle still felt queasy. Lottie’s swelling had gone down and she almost looked like a good little girl again.
“Why did he turn you into vampires while you were still children?” I asked as I tied off Mirabelle’s hair.
“He didn’t. Our mother did. Mother was a very beautiful woman. A vampire called Cyril chose her as his mate even though she was an older lady with two daughters. Our mother was a vain fool when she was young. She feared that when Lottie and I grew up, we would surpass her in beauty and her vampire lover would abandon her and take us as lovers.”
“You don’t know that,” Lottie said. She crawled into her coffin and tucked herself under her satiny comforter.
“It’s true. I know because I was nearly thirteen when we were turned. Cyril was already looking at me, mentioning more and more how pretty I was. Mother made us vampires so we could be her little ones forever. Selfish, isn’t it?”
Lottie hugged her teddy close under the covers. I adjusted the blanket under her chin. “I didn’t mind so much,” Lottie said. “I was mummy’s little doll.”
“She gets to be the baby forever,” Mirabelle sneered. She lifted her candle tray and carried it to her coffin.
“How did you come to find Gentry?” I asked.
“Mother was right about Cyril,” Mirabelle said as she set herself up in her coffin. “He lost interest after about twenty years. Each generation brought new beauties, new conquests. Then we met Gentry. You know what they say about third husbands: Third husbands are with you to the end. Gentry and mother shared eighty years together. He showed us how to understand our humanity and we became a family.”
“What happened to her?” I asked.
The life in Mirabelle’s eyes faded. “Hunters.”
“I’m so sorry,” I whispered, touching her shoulder. “How old are you, Mirabelle?”
“Are you a physician?”
“Then it’s impolite to ask.” Mirabelle blew out her candle and reclined into her coffin.
“Goodnight,” I said. I left them and went downstairs to change into some pajama pants. These girls needed one hell of a babysitter, but to my surprise, I still wanted the job. Somehow, in spite of everything, it beat working in the restaurant industry.
My soft, non-constrictive clothing made me feel much better, but after eating nothing but pizza all night, I felt disgusting. A sluggishness pervaded and all I wanted to do was pass out. I parted the drapes and rested on the fainting couch in a patch of sunlight. It didn’t take long for me to sink into impenetrable slumber.
The girls and I prepared for Gentry’s homecoming at midnight. With their dresses hanging up to dry, I took this opportunity to take a shower and wash my hair. Afterwards, I did my makeup, but I kept my eyes natural with brown mascara.
Mirabelle called to me through the door. “Robin! Come out! We have a surprise for you.”
I looked for a robe, but to my surprise there were only kimonos hanging from the door. All three were different variations of black silk lined with red trim. Gentry was a strange fellow, even for a vampire. I toweled myself off and donned one of the kimonos.
“What is it?” I asked, coming out of the bathroom in a kimono and with a towel on my head. Mirabelle and Lottie stood side-by-side, wearing double-breasted black sailor dresses and patent leather shoes. Mirabelle wore her hair up in a ponytail of ringlets and Lottie had hers pristinely plaited into two long braids. They looked like the creepy twins out of The Shining, but I tried to act like it was no big deal.
“You should consider becoming one of us,” Mirabelle said. “You would make a fine match for Gentry.”
I laughed out loud at them, almost crying. With a swift motion I removed the towel from my head and squeezed out any remaining moisture from my dark locks.
“Why is she laughing?” Lottie whispered to Mirabelle.
“You’re hundreds of years old, and yet still you have the maturity of children,” I said.
“It’s a perfectly reasonable proposal,” Mirabelle touted. Lottie went scurrying into Gentry’s bedroom.
As I watched her go, I added, “I hardly know him.”
Mirabelle was evidently skeptical of my reaction. She folded her arms, smiling as she shifted her weight from toes to heels. “I saw how you looked at him. You think he’s attractive.”
“Eternity is a long time to be married to someone you don’t love.”
“Love?” Mirabelle laughed. “That’s not what marriage is about. It’s quite simple. He’s affluent and needs a mother for his children, and you need to escape the life of a bar wench. Bloody Victorians ruined everything with their obsessions with romance. Honestly, I only suggested the match because I’m worried about you. In a few years, you’ll be too old to marry.”
“I’m only twenty-five!”
“Oh dear. I thought you were much younger. I doubt he would still have you.”
Lottie came running back to us holding a sapphire blue garment.
“Let’s play dress up!” she squealed, hopping up and down.
“You don’t have to act like a baby anymore,” Mirabelle said.
“You’re such a bitter old shrew!” Lottie retorted. “I’ll be playing dress up another hundred years from now.” She handed me the garment and I unfolded the most beautiful antique dress I had ever seen. The seams were hand sewn and embroidered with black lace and iridescent pearls. It appeared so fragile, but the stitching had been reinforced.
“Was this your mother’s?”
“Mm-hmm,” Lottie said.
“I couldn’t possibly wear it. It’s disrespectful.”
“She’s been dead since 1896!” Lottie squawked.
“Oh,” I said. “I suppose that was a long time ago.”
Mirabelle reached down the front of her sailor dress and pulled out an ornate silver locket the size of an egg. She opened it and showed me a small photograph. It was a picture of me, but it was clearly not me. The woman had my hair, my eyes, my teeth—even the shape of my forehead—but she was of another era.
“You look exactly like her,” Mirabelle said. I looked into the eyes of the woman in the photograph and thought of her and Gentry over a hundred years ago, linking arms and walking through the old city of Boston. Part of me felt very sad knowing that his wife of eighty years had perished before him. While one vampire, Cyril, had sought the new beauties of every generation, I did ponder, who was it who Gentry sought? A look-alike to this woman? When he came into my bar and flirted with me, was he enacting some tragically sad fantasy?
I heard the key scrape the lock at the front door. The girls hid in their room. I wasn’t sure what to do. I went down to meet him, but I felt suddenly very inappropriate wearing his dead wife’s gown. Was it really okay even a hundred and some years since her death? I turned away from the entrance. I heard Gentry come in and drop his suitcase. He just stood there staring, his jaw hanging open.
“I’m sorry, Gentry. The girls dressed me up,” I said, breathing faintly under the force of the corseted bodice.
“You’re still alive,” he said, amazed.
“Well,” I said, turning to face him. As he saw me, he froze where he stood. He came close and touched the little round scabs at my throat. I withdrew, unsure if I could trust him not to transfix me or bite me or break my neck with one swift attack. There was a kindness in his eyes that put me at ease. “The girls didn’t make it easy. They drugged me. They drank my blood and they ordered pizza and drank the pizza boy’s blood. So as punishment, I gave them a time-out, made them clean their coffins and made them sit down and watch all five Twilight movies on my laptop.”
“Ooh, that is quite harsh,” Gentry murmured, “but I’m impressed.”
“Tell me, Gentry, did you bring me here with the intention of feeding me to your children?”
“What if I told you I had a feeling you could handle yourself,” he mused.
“I would know that was a lie. I can barely handle you.”
“Is that right?” Gentry smiled. “In truth, when I found a young woman who looked so much like their mother, I thought maybe this would keep them from killing another nanny. I apologize for putting you in danger, Robin.”
“You apologize? Oh, well thank you so much, Gentry. So what’s next? Are you going to transfix me so I forget? Will I even know you next time I see you at the bar?”
“I have no desire to tamper with any part of you, Robin,” he said. He hooked me around the waist and buried his face in my hair. The sudden embrace surprised me. The lights flickered. “You were brilliant. I’m going to refer you to all my friends.”