‘Hello sunshine!’ called the vampire as Mark shuffled down the stairs.
‘Hi Victor.’ He shielded his eyes against the glare of the morning sun through the open windows. A cool Spring breeze chilled his bed-warm skin.
‘Woops, let’s close that.’ A second later, Victor was back at the kitchen counter, speaking up to cover the whirr of his latest smoothie-maker device.
‘Do you want me to fetch a fleece for you? Dressing gown? Blanket?’ His own bare chest didn’t show the slightest reaction to the cold.
‘Don’t bother. I’ll get warm with a cup of something.’
‘What will it be this morning? Assam? Sencha? Oolong?’
‘If you could just let me think for a minute, Victor, I’ll pick myself. Thank you,’ he added as an afterthought.
Another whirr of the blender covered the vampire’s response, if there was one.
‘And there, you, go.’ He poured the blood-red drink into a mason jar and topped it with a paper umbrella. ‘Plenty of vitamins to get your day started.’
Mark buried his face in his hands and rubbed the last of his sleepiness away. He let his hands drop to his sides and considered Victor for a minute.
‘Or, you know,’ he offered casually, ‘I could have coffee.’
‘Coffee? Are you sure dear? It’s awfully bad for you. Makes your blood all…’ He shuddered.
‘You mean bad for you,’ Mark countered. ‘I don’t mind the caffeine rush.’
Victor visibly pouted. ‘Ok, but at least have your smoothie now and wait after my breakfast for your coffee.’
‘As you wish,’ smiled Mark. This was just a foretaste. He took a sip of the berry smoothie, and let Victor walk closer until their hips were touching. Then the vampire leaned and kissed Mark’s collarbone before gently sinking his teeth into the neighbouring vein. His arm curled around Mark’s back. It was over in a matter of seconds. Mark felt light-headed and instantly hungry. He selected a bun in the assortment the vampire had spent the night baking, and settled on a high chair with his coffee, blowing the smoke in Victor’s face. The vampire wrinkled his nose.
Spring was ready to tumble into summer. Most of the cherry blossoms had shed their petals by now, making Mark a little wistful on his way to work. As soon as he reached his office, the endless stream of attentions started flowing again.
‘Hi Mark, would you like a cup of something warm?’
‘Hi Mark, do you want me to close the window? You look a bit chilly.’
‘Hi Mark, here’s a plant to increase the oxygen in your office.’
Between work and the constant ‘yes, please’ and ‘no, thank you’ he had to provide, the day flew by without any time for him to think through his plans. He was too tired on his way back home to do much more than inhale deeply the first hints of summer in the lingering daylight.
‘Good evening, dear! How was your day?’
Mark stopped on the threshold. That smell…
‘Are we celebrating something?’
Victor’s head glided into view through the kitchen’s doorway. For a second he looked taken aback, but he quickly composed a serene expression again.
‘Not at all, I just thought it would be nice to have something extra fancy for dinner.’
Mark walked in and closed the door behind him. He had barely shrugged off his coat before Victor was standing behind him, ready to take the garment and hang it in the closet.
‘I can hang my own clothes, you know.’
‘Of course, dear, but why bother?’
Mark took a deep breath in. It was too early to start. He could at least have a bite of what the vampire had cooked up.
‘What’s for dinner?’
‘Oh, Mark, it’s so refreshing to be able to surprise someone. Let’s not spoil the surprise just now. I’ve lost count of the times I spent hours cooking just to have my guests guess the menu before they even reached the doorbell.’
‘That’s what you get for living in a city of vampires.’
‘And that’s why I won’t tell you just yet. Would you rather take a quick shower now, or have dinner?’
‘Do I… smell?’
‘Of course you do, but nothing different from your usual smell, dear. I didn’t mean what you think I meant.’
Victor’s ‘dear’s were wearing Mark’s patience thin. He forced a smile on his lips and tried to sound cheerful.
‘Then I’d dearly like to have dinner. I’m ravenous.’
It turned out they were celebrating, after all. Victor had reproduced the exact same meal they first shared when Mark moved in with him.
‘I’m sorry I missed the date, Victor.’
‘Don’t you worry, Mark. You being here is enough for me.’
‘Could you stop that?’ He couldn’t stop some of the edge from seeping into his voice.
Victor’s face grew still. He took his hand away from Mark’s.
‘What’s wrong? What do you want me to stop?’
‘Well, I don’t know.’ Mark was finally unleashing the anger that had bubbled up inside him for the past months. ‘For a start, why don’t you stop considering me like your pet?’
‘I don’t… You’re not…’
‘When was the last time you let me open a bottle, or even a tin in this house?’
‘But, what if you cut…’
‘I don’t care!’ Mark smacked the table. ‘I don’t care if I cut my hand on a can opener, or scratch my knees in the garage fixing the car, or get a bruise.’
Victor recoiled with each possibility.
‘I feel like a bloody china doll all the time. You won’t let me do anything at home, and at work it’s the same. I can barely type on my own computer without a colleague checking if I’m not straining my wrist and offering me to dictate a report to them instead.’
Mark clutched his knife until his joints whitened. Suddenly he brought the edge of the blade over his other hand and drew it slowly across until blood welled in the thin gash. Victor looked sick.
‘I can’t bear the idea of you getting hurt.’
‘But I can,’ Mark replied softly. ‘I need to do things on my own, Victor. And if I get hurt in the process, I’ll heal. Ok?’
Victor stood still for a few seconds – an eternity to him. Then he nodded. It took him a couple more seconds to relax visibly.
‘Can I still disinfect that cut?’
This story was written thanks to Susan Dennard’s “Story a Month challenge”. On the first day of each month, Susan sends her subscribers an email with three prompts: a textual one, a visual one, and a sound. Have a look at her website to find out more (click here) . “A Taste of Spring” was written thanks to the March prompt.
© Marie Bretagnolle 2021
Photo credit: Brigitte Tohm via Unsplash.