Babysitting for Vampires E02P01
Babysitting for Vampires
by Meg Merriet
Episode 2 Part 1
I had the same nightmare. It was the one where I wake up and can’t move. I can’t see either. I hear the girls giggling as little girls often do, but I know what’s coming. I’m going to die.
As it turned out, this was a waking nightmare; for in time I regained movement in my fingertips and the impenetrable blackness of the air dissipated into the normalcy of my own bedroom. I found myself safely nestled in bed, covered in fleece and an electric blanket. Time to get ready.
Three white pills lay in a glass dish on my kitchen counter next to splotches of marinara that I would eventually get around to cleaning. One by one I swallowed the garlic supplements with a diet Coke. My suitcase was packed with clothing for the weekend as well as more holy water that I stole from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. I also had my silver crucifix and enough garlic supplements to take out an army of darkness. My radio-sized television on the counter was still making that buzzing sound. Sunlight and sand glistened on the screen in a commercial for a resort in Cancun. The door buzzer outdid the TV as it groaned obnoxiously. I turned everything off and lopsidedly rolled my suitcase out the door, extra careful with the busted handle that would pop off if you didn’t hold it the right way.
Gentry met me halfway down the stairs and took my suitcase.
“Careful,” I tried to say, but he carried it like it was filled with air and floated gracefully downstairs. “Thanks,” I called down.
“It’s no trouble.” He opened the door for me and bowed his head as I stepped out into the night. Gentry unlocked his rental car by hand as if he didn’t know how to use the remote unlock. He tossed my bag into the back and I hopped into the passenger seat, taking notice of his kooky little air freshener shaped like a bat.
“You’re such a stereotype, you know that?” I teased.
Gentry tuned the radio to a harpsichord concerto.
I burst out laughing. “Are we really going to listen to this?”
His eyes narrowed into a gentle scowl. “Robin. This is true music. This is genius at its finest.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t be giving you a hard time. Thanks for getting me another job.”
“That reminds me. This is for you,” he said, handing me an envelope. “You will receive the other half Monday at dawn.”
“Cool. Thanks for driving me. It’s really nice of you.”
“Nice?” Gentry chuckled. “I am driving you because the client doesn’t trust a human with her address. My friends don’t believe me that a human can handle their children, but when I mentioned that you double as an emergency food supply and have the potential of running errands during the day, we got a few takers. All the same, once we get to Connecticut, I will have to take your cell phone and blindfold you.”
I checked his eyes to see if he was joking, though Gentry was not the kind to kid around. “No way! You’re not taking my cell phone.”
“Mortals and their silly devices. Robin. You are perfectly capable without technology. If you do well with the countess, you could find yourself with a very lucrative career.”
“The countess?” I asked incredulously. “What is she Dracula’s wife?”
Gentry laughed darkly. “No, love. Her name is Beth.”
We drove along on a snow-lined I-90 listening to an endless performance on the harpsichord. Moonlight sparkled on the snowy banks, as silver as Gentry’s long pencil-straight hair. When we reached the border between Massachusetts and Connecticut, he pulled over on the side of the highway. He looked at me, smiled and held up a black sash.
“Robin, I have to keep my promise. Do you still want to do this?”
“Just give me a minute to think.”
I reached into the backseat and grabbed my winter coat. Pulling it on, I got out on the side of the road. This January night was bitterly cold. The occasional gust of wind felt like knives on my face. Tiny disks of snow floated down, melted on my cheeks like tears and speckled my dark hair. Part of me clenched in terror, remembering when I was trapped in the children’s closet, buried under toys and left to die. Yes, I had tools now, but no guarantee that I could win again. I could easily end up dead. There are no guarantees in life. I could end up dead in any career, especially working at the bar, getting out late and relying on public transportation. Whose to say I haven’t come close to being murdered by an angry patron in the alley behind my work.
Gentry came up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. In the headlights of a passing car I saw my shadow black against the snow, but next to me there was nothing, no shadow for Gentry, as if he didn’t exist. I touched his fingers with my own, and realized that both of our hands were icy cold. I turned. He was so luminous in the moonlight, silver and blue like the snow. I touched my fingertips to his lips. Even his breath was cool.
“Are you ever warm?” I asked.
Gentry blinked, caught off-guard by my question or quite possibly my forwardness. He shook his head. “No, I suppose not.”
“What’s the kid like?”
“He’s thirteen, and he plays the part. Beth is going away to see her new beau in New York.”
“A beau? Like a boyfriend?”
“Why can’t the boy take care of himself?”
“Beth worries about hunters.”
“Is her kid a young vampire?”
“He’s nearly five hundred years old,” Gentry said, adding, “Vampires who are made as children are weak for eternity. Even if they were sired by a powerful vampire, they only acquire a percentage of those talents… a dismal percentage.”
“Why make them then? Isn’t it cruel?”
“Mirabelle had some strong feelings about it.”
“Yes,” Gentry said. “When Catherine was sired, she made the choice to sire her own daughters. Mirabelle was at that age where she was just nearing the cusp of womanhood and now she is forever trapped as not quite a teenager and not quite a child. Had I known them back then, I would not have made that choice for a child of any age.”
“Mirabelle said that Catherine was afraid her daughters would surpass her in beauty.”
“No, love. These are the poisoned words of resent. It is a dark wish to see one’s families frozen to a single place in time, and selfish, yes, but Catherine never saw her own daughters as rivals. She merely wanted to feel… needed. In this line of work, you will meet many haunted children. That is why you must deeply contemplate if this is what you want.”
I shivered. The snow fell harder now than before. I tucked my bare hands inside my coat, hugging myself as I considered his advice. It had felt so incredible making a difference at his residence, earning Mirabelle’s respect, winning Lottie’s love, saving Angel’s life and seeing the look of surprise on Gentry’s face when he found me still breathing upon his return.
“Yes,” I said, closing my eyes. I stood motionless before him and waited there until I felt the sash on my face. When I was blind and vulnerable, Gentry took my hands in his and guided me back to the car.
We drove deeper into the snowstorm and Gentry had to slow down. His pace on the winding roads off the highway made me motion sick. I sank into my seat, leaning my head against the car window and whining, “I’m gonna hurl.”
“We are almost there,” he assured me. “It’s not so bad at all these days, Robin. Catherine despised travel as well, but in those days, we rode in carts on cobblestone streets. Our fangs would ache as the carriage rattled us senseless. And everything stank of horse dung all the time, wherever you were outside. Of course, there were more trees and open air back then, but going anywhere was such an endeavor. This trip we’re taking tonight would have taken days. Days of bumping around on dirt roads, days and days of horse shit stuck in your nose—.”
“Gentry,” I murmured. “Please.”
“Sorry, love. Here we are!” The vehicle came to an abrupt halt. Gentry got out of the car and came around the side to let me out. As he did, he removed my blindfold. “There’s my pretty Robin,” he said.
“You know, you can’t talk to women like this anymore,” I said as I climbed out of the car. “Especially your employees. It’s completely inappropriate.”
“I thought we were getting to be friends,” he sulked, “after our road trip and all.”
“It’s not a road trip when somebody is blindfolded.” The snow seeped in through my boot soles. My wet socks pinched my toes, but it was just a short walk to the house so I pushed through the discomfort.
The home had lavender board siding on the exterior and fish-scale shingles cloaking the sharp peaks of the roof. Just below the grand turret roof cap on the left side of the house, I saw a curtain sway as if someone had been watching and then fled upon our arrival.
Gentry brought my suitcase up to the wrap-around porch and set me up at the front door. Just as I was about to ring the bell, the door flung open and a woman in gray taffeta stood before me. Her black hair was pulled back tight and wound into an ornate up-do. She had thin lips that were just as taut, poised in a subtle frown. Her eyes, so much like a shark’s, scanned me over like I was a meal, a walking, talking roast chicken here to babysit her child. Already, I regretted not taking that last chance to back out.
Gentry stepped forward and took Beth’s hand in his, dusting her knuckles with a kiss. “As lovely as ever, Countess.”
“Do come in,” she said. She had a thick accent of some Eastern European origin. We stepped into her lovely home, which was styled in a very French country décor with its chalky white furniture and pale baseboards. There was an iron lace modesty screen dividing the living room from the television set where I could see a Gamecube safely nestled into an antique cupboard.
Everything looked very much like a normal New England home until I looked up. Hanging from the ceiling were the most menacing iron cages I had ever seen in my life. The bars had spikes jutting within like an iron maiden. I hardly knew what to say at this point. So you collect medieval tortures devices… lovely.
Beth called to her son in a language that sounded almost Russian, but I’d never heard it before. The boy came stomping downstairs. He wore a Legends of Zelda T-shirt and a pair of black jeans.
“Mom. English,” he muttered, tossing his black hair out of his eyes. His accent was totally Americanized. His mother likely preferred her own culture and her own native tongue while her son had more of an appreciation for the new world. When he saw Gentry, he held up a peace sign and said, “Hey, bro.”
His mother looked at him sternly, pointed to me and said, “You behave. You no eat. Okay?”
“Yeah, whatevs.” Her son plopped down on the sofa behind the iron lace and turned on his game system.
“That’s Paul,” Gentry told me. “He’s a lovely vampire with great self-control. This should be an easy job after Mirabelle and Lottie.”
“She can fight hunter?” Beth asked. “This is human girl. How can she be qualified?”
“She single-handedly stopped my girls from eating her and saved their other victim. Then she made them clean up all the blood by themselves.”
“She made them clean? Even Lottie?” Beth clutched her ribcage and cackled fiendishly. Then she took a deep breath and sighed. “I will show you panic room.”
“Panic room?” I eyed Gentry warily.
“I had five children once, Miss Lesune. Now I have one. Now I have panic room to keep him safe. If hunters come, you make sure my Paul goes to panic room.”
“Screw that,” Paul muttered.
Beth took me downstairs into the basement. She slid a dense velvet curtain open and revealed the door to a vault with a frightening receptacle beneath a needle the size of a meat skewer. She pricked her finger and let the blood drip into the metal box. It was sucked down into a drain and suddenly the bolts moved mechanically out of the wall and the metal door swung open.
“It will only open for one of my line.”
A reader that registered DNA? I was speechless.
Beth came in close to me, her face inches away from my own. She lowered her voice. “I don’t care how you do it. Stuff his mouth with garlic if you must. But if hunters come, you lock my Pavli up tight.”
“Okay.” I nodded nervously.
We returned upstairs. Paul was showing Gentry how to shoot a bow with his Wiimote. He thanked the boy vampire and came into the foyer to say goodnight.
“There is a landline here,” Gentry told me, taking my hand in his. “If anything happens, you can call me.” He kissed my hand. I stared at him, disappointed that he was still pushing my boundaries. “I’m sorry. Was that inappropriate?” he asked.
“Yes, Gentry. It was.”
Gentry smirked. “Tootaloo.”
I closed the doors behind him and noticed five locks that could be twisted. I applied each one, remembering what Beth had said about hunters. I turned to look for Paul by his video games, but when I did, he was no longer ignoring the adults and indulging in pixelated fantasy. Now he stood behind me, only a few feet away, and he had a grin from ear to ear and owlish malevolence in his eyes.
“Hello, Robin. This is going to be fun.”