‘Tis an old, old story, which I fixed a little but not too much.
[Content warning: story starts off with abuse, which then turns out to be more playful bitching than anything else, but it could still seem bad]
“And you’re always with the chewing of those fucking toothpicks. I don’t even know where you get them from. Cut. It. Out.”
“Uh, no. And I always grab them whenever I go–” Petals slapped him. He wiped some drool off the other cheek.
“We’re in a fancy restaurant Glads, and you should act like you’re here too.” The windows were large and the mood was sixties but alive, and the waiters were professional and the music was nice and people ignored that what had happened had actually happened with that otherwise lovely-looking couple at one of the middle tables.
“Stop acting like you’re my mother. We’re on our eighth date.” Gladstone looked around the room, counting twenty-one other occupied tables, eleven of which were romantic – most of them second dates by his estimation. Another table held an old couple with their grandson along because probably the parents were dead or having sex. Maybe there was some sort of holiday he and Petals were missing.
“Our first date was sixteen months ago; we’re a couple, you dolt.” Petals looked around as well. On their first dates they had always gone people watching, spinning tales about strangers they’d never talk to because it was free and fun.
“If it annoys you that much, why’re you dating me?” He moved the toothpick from one side of his mouth to the other and chewed idly. She glared. “It helps me think, okay?”
“And at the same time it drives me up the walls. It’s not like you think of anything useful, just quit it.”
“Ah, thank you. The soup was for the lady, yes.” Gladstone switched game to the food got here in time and nodded at the imaginary waiter and smiled. He took out the toothpick and put it on the table carefully like one of the utensils, and he started eating his imaginary food with one of the sets of silverware laid out on the table before him. The very real wine went well with the imaginary food, he would say.
Petals picked up the game and picked up the spoon and started eating her imaginary soup grudgingly and slurping extra loud to annoy Gladstone but she stopped after a while and just started eating her imaginary food normally. They stared at each other for a long while all the while their shoes left under their chairs and their feet were free to play; all hidden by the tasteful tablecloth which reached almost to the floor. At one point Petals stopped pretending to eat and just sat there smiling and giggling too much to notice that the waiter was walking towards their table. Two plates balanced on his arm: on one a bowl of hot soup surrounded by shrimp (presumably to dip in it) and on the other a hot-smoked chum salmon with pommes duchesse and a container of some sort of Béchamel to go with that.
Gladstone, whose mind was in his feet when the shrimps appeared in front of him, near swallowed the toothpick he was chewing on. Petals laughed too hard to notice he was actually bleeding but the food still tasted extraordinary and she wanted to commend the chef for doing an excellent job. She stretched over the table and put a shrimp (dipped in the Béchamel) in Gladstone’s mouth, and he ate it greedily. She’d spilled a little gravy in a trail over the table.
They drank wine and bitched about each other for a long time until a gunshot was heard and they all but sobered up, suddenly realizing that they both had sunk down almost two decimetres from their earlier upright positions and it must have looked ridiculous even though that’s not what they should focus on right now. They ducked as best they could and Petals fell off her chair wishing that crises actually do sober one up like on the movies. She tried to think straight and be afraid like everyone else. And Gladstone was picking out the pieces of the toothpick he’d broken from his mouth trying to listen at the same time, that was difficult. There was a horrible silence and there was some soup on Gladstone’s shirt.
“LISTEN UP,” the dapper pale young man in a suit, who’d just fired a bullet through a perfectly excusable pair of sunglasses belonging – and still clinging to – the face of an old man. “I need blood. None of you are getting away until I get my blood but then you are free to walk and tell the police whatever. If I see one bloody phone get picked up or hear it buzzing the owner will get two new orifices like this old man here. You listen and you won’t die, okay. Questions?” The junkie-slash-vampire-slash-business-man had some scorched remains of leather gloves on his hands, and something similar on his ears.
Petals raised her hand for half a second but she put it down again when she thought better. Gladstone chewed his toothpick hard waiting for a sniper to take out this madman like they do in the movies. He and Petals watched a lot of movies at home and there were always snipers in hostage situations.
“Why do you need blood?” asked a woman in her thirties, on a date with a guy she would never see again after this unless he turned out to be a shrink.
“I’m a vampire.” The vampire showed his teeth to prove it, and two of them poked out like something trying to escape his eerily blood-red gums. “It’s not just any blood which makes this fucking difficult so I wo– ould appreciate some cooperation.” His gun hand was shaky and he looked like a weak person but looks always deceive when it comes to vampires.
“Weird blood fucks with me wrong, and if any of you try to give me wrong blood you’ll die more painfully than the people with–” bang, “–their–” bang, “–cell phones,” bang, “–in their hands.” Every shot had gone straight through the skull of people trying to clandestinely dial the alarm number to speak with the police and none of them had managed. “Should I have mentioned that like all vampires I have bloody super hearing and you should not disobey me?” Trails of sweat rolled down the vampire’s head, making red-glowing traces that looked like they stung.
People sat still like obedient little kids, except for the little kid who stood up right next to the vampire not even breathing, so afraid was he. When he passed out, he fell backward still petrified.
“I need blood type O negative and I need to see your donor card and if you’ve got any strange antigens in your blood when I drink it I will haunt your family and wipe out your bloodline. Do we have any blood donors in here?”
Nobody moved, except Gladstone who just changed position and moved the toothpick from one side of his mouth to the other, over and over again. Petals was afraid but wanted to go over to him and hold him, but she couldn’t.
“Why did you shoot the old man?” another woman asked him, one who was too horrified to close her mouth properly. The fork she held in her hand was stuck through a piece of indoor-grilled chicken drenched in maroon barbecue sauce and crispy green salad leaves and it had hovered in the air since the first shot.
“To get your attention.” He wiped something sizzling off his forehead. “Oh, and don’t think I don’t see y’all rubbing the garlic bread on your necks. I just need to touch this fucking trigger to fucking kill you. And none of you have fucking stakes or the balls to impale me with them, so you can now all shut it and hand me your blood.” The vampire wolfgrinned, the kind of smile that’s only there for teeth.
Petals looked at Gladstone like he was insane and still capable of having the mental faculties to do the most stupid thing in the world when he stood up and waved his wallet around. She started crying but then the vampire pointed the gun at her and she was quiet.
“As long as my fiancée survives, you can have my blood. It’s a bit alcoholized ‘cuz I got a problem but it should be fine. I don’t see anyone else waving their,” he moved the toothpick again, “wallets around. Right?”
Petals managed to get out a few syllables: “Are you proposing?”
Gladstone tossed her the tiny box he had in his coat pocket and walked towards the vampire slowly, both hands raised non-threateningly, one to the left of his face and one holding the wallet out as far as possible.
“Yeah, don’t do anything stupid and she lives. Lemme see that card.” He grabbed it from Gladstone and stopped him there, one meter away from one another. “Yeah, it’s valid. Thank God. So hungry. Tilt your head to the left, please.”
Gladstone did so and took out the toothpick from his mouth with his left hand and passed it to his right hand and put it through the vampire’s stomach using all the strength he had – it went through his hand as well but it definitely penetrated the vampire and if he was right the vampire would–
disintegrate. But not before getting two shots away, one into the side of Gladstone and another one two feet away from Petals.
Gladstone was a hero and the police report and the newspapers and the radio reports on the whole thing failed to mention the mad man’s teeth or his disintegration at all but the witnesses of that evening would never forget, and Petals counted herself as engaged from that day forward.