Vampber – Bright Dusk

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So now you know a bit more about me. Such is the beginning of discovering my extravagant and peculiar interests that I decided to cement by making it into an occupation for myself today. 

And yes, you could say Kimberly was the ‘first’ when it came to exploring the fascination with, which I am ever so grateful for. And of course, by your way of deduction you can definitely tell that I didn’t end up happily ever after with her given her absence coupled with my obvious searching for others in some recent anecdotes. It’s a long story to get into, but perhaps I’ll try to add some closure for you on that part. 

Nevertheless, I shan’t take away too much time with such introductions and pop you right back in with: the weekend to start a youthful summer 

*
There I was, back at Jules Lane, but this time much earlier. I never really cared to wear a watch, but I remember it being barely seven in the morning when I walked out the front door.

“Just meet us when the store opens. Dad usually opens up around eight, so you can come a little later than that,” played Kim’s voice in my head. Except I was dead sure it was definitely still a long way to eight, and there I was sitting on a bench facing the empty and dark shop.

My stomach growled. I knew it was a bad idea to just skip out of the house right after the shortest morning shower I ever had (let’s not forget this new awesome short ‘do only makes it ten times easier to shampoo) without even grabbing a bite. But perhaps it was a lot more than just my stomach trying to eat itself- perhaps it was also my nerves now consuming its own dendrites of senses everywhere.

My legs were in jitters. I don’t think I had a foot that was planted on the ground for a solid minute ever since I sat on this bench. Coming early seemed like such a great idea; I wouldn’t have to risk being late and thus embarrassing myself with tardiness. Yet, I never really did consider the long wait that only ended up decimating me internally as I suffered these pangs of hunger and terror.

Just as the universe heard my internalised screams, a pickup truck pulled up with a rev right behind me. I turned only to hear “Heya Carms!” exclaimed with an excitingly familiar voice from out the window.

“H-hey Kim!” I felt like slapping myself for stuttering. I jumped onto my feet as Kim and her dad got out, slamming the doors shut behind them. She seemed slightly different from the previous (and only) time I saw her; her curly black hair was a little more down today, where it gently reached just below her earlobes instead of hanging around those cute ears. Also, this time her attire seemed a bit more casual, with a simple pair of baggy jeans and a white tank top. “Summer attire, eh?” I tried prodding it for conversation.

“Of course. It’s so hot, and it’s only get worse, innit’?” Kim replied as she stuffed her keys down a pocket. “Need a nice outfit to keep me cool. And soon enough, this all here,” she reached up to ruffle her hair- a spectacle that lasted a moment yet seemed like minutes- with a hand, “is gonna be cleaned up to be all cool too!”

“Hahaha, totally,” my mind still couldn’t wipe the image how she ruffled her hair out of my head. “You, uh, nervous?” I tried to keep the topic going while I recovered.

“Eh, not really,” she admitted. “If anything, I’m bloody excited. Been jealous of you since the moment I walked into my dad’s shop and realised a girl was cutting her hair shorter than me,” Kim joked. Almost out of nowhere, her hand found its way onto my head. I could feel her gentle warmth as she ruffled the crown, then gently rubbed the sides, and I just couldn’t help but break out a smile. “How’s the short hair life been for you? Amazing, innit?”

“Well, I l-” I almost said too much, then remembered I had to act it cool. I mean, it seemed like such a golden moment I really didn’t want to ruin it. “It’s been really good. Adequate. Pretty cool and all.” Looking back, I really want to fucking slap myself for pulling the ‘nonchalant’. Young Carmen is really not the most charming.

“Well you’re quite the early bird, aren’t you?” Kim’s dad (thankfully) cut in, turning his keys into the shop door. “Could make a better apprentice than my lovely daughter by just turning up more on-time, honestly.”

“Dad!” Kim shot playfully at Lester. “You know I’ve got school and stuff.”

I blankly chuckled, thinking about what he said. “Apprentice?” I had to ask.

“Yeah, Kim’s technically my apprentice. Been teaching her quite a bit ever since she wanted,” he stated as he opened the door to hear the cheerful bell chime. “Come on in, you two weirdos,” he invited.

The two of us gladly walked in, with Kim going straight for the lights and air-conditioning while I leaned against the barber chair closest to the window. The lights turned on with a flick, and the stuffy shop slowly cooled. Lester went straight to the little area behind the counter to drop his bag, scanning through some papers before turning on the radio.

“So… apprentice, huh?” I asked, still curious about this new piece of information.

“Yeah… Picked up quite a few skills with the scissors. I wouldn’t say I’m a pro or anything, but I guess I could do a decent job if it’s simple cutting,” Kim shared with a shrug. “Nothing too complicated, like just trims and a little more. Or, of course, the simplest,” she paused before finishing, “buzzcuts.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s… true,” I nearly hesitated. Just thinking about the way she said it sort of made my heart race a little more.

“I mean, you just fix a guard on a clipper head- or sometimes better, you can leave it bare- then just run it all over someone’s head. Simple and easy cut, innit’?” she continued. The imagery that she put in my head was… startling. There and then I was just pausing awkwardly in the middle of the shop, thinking.

“You know it’s not as easy as that, Kim,” Lester chided before stepping forward, the sound of the morning news from the radio accompanying his trail. “Although with you starting university soon I’ll definitely be needing a new apprentice- someone to help me around at the shop and stuff and maybe learn a thing or two.” He turned to face me, a rather calming and caring look that emanated from his eyes. “If you’re not too busy this summer and wanna earn some money, I’d be happy to take you in. I know I’ve only known you a day, but you seem like an eager one.”

It definitely struck me out of nowhere. One day you decide to take a crazy plunge to cut almost all your hair off, and the next day the same barber offers to take you in as an apprentice. I remember casually glancing at Kim, thinking about how I would be able to see her often just by working here. Then my more rational side kicked in, thinking about summer plans and everything. Working at a barbershop was obviously not going to be the most conventional thing, especially for a girl back in my time. But then I remembered why I came in the first place- to discover my fascination, to act upon what my subconscious mind demanded of myself. I was drawn here, and perhaps it would’ve been a golden opportunity to only discover more of myself here.

“Thank you so much for the offer,” my shy smile bloomed. “I’ll definitely consider it, Mr Smith.”

“Oh, please,” he raised a hand. “Just call me Lester. Now then,” he turned to his daughter, who had been spending her time admiring herself in the mirror. “Come have a seat, Ms Smith, and I’ll fix you right up.” Kimberly beamed before gingerly lowering herself in the chair.

I watched as Kimberly examined her head of curls- probably cherishing the last few looks of it before most of it were to be shorn off. They bounced like springs against her face as she turned from left to right, those gorgeous and full black curls that was so hard to peel my eyes off of.

I casually took a seat in the barber chair beside hers as Lester too his position behind her, the clean white cloth ready in his hands. Kim was all smiles, awaiting comfortably in her seat for her father’s transformative hands. With an air of might, he flung the cape above his daughter.

*

It landed perfectly on her shoulders, draping her now-matured frame but just shy of her flats and feet. “I can’t believe you’ve finally gotten your own shop now. It honestly feels like just yesterday you accepted my dad’s apprenticeship offer,” Kim expressed, her voice gentle and soothing as always.

“Well, for a vampire that’s had all the time and power in the world to do things, I’d think it’s a tad bit late,” I confessed while I stood behind the chair, clipping the ends of the white cape together as I smoothed out the shoulder creases.

“Aw, don’t say that . You needed the time, Carms. What’s most important now is that you’ve done it, and I couldn’t have been more proud of my best friend for pulling it off,” she beamed at me through the mirror, her smile as dazzling as ever. “Although I am really sorry I couldn’t come for the grand opening. There’s lots going at home and stuff.”

“Please, don’t sweat it. I know how much of a pain it is to be raising a family,” I mentioned as I calmly massaged her tensed shoulders. “I think your kids are blessed a million times over to have you as a mother. And Kelly is only even luckier to have you as a wife.”

She chuckled with a bright face. “Although, speaking of which…” she now turned her tone to a more serious one. “You said there was someone , now?” she asked inquisitively.

“Oh, uh- yeah,” I got out my comb with a slight tremble, completely forgetting that I had provided her a preamble before she came over. “So there’s this… girl. She- uh, came over to the shop recently looking for a haircut,” I started the story over, carefully combing through Kim’s curls as her eyes followed my face for clues. “She seemed… really nice. I mean, most of my customers are seemingly nice people and all, though I’m not trying to say I have bad customers or anything,” my thoughts just trailed off the tracks, definitely afraid of staying on the route.

“Mhm?” Kim’s eyes were a searchlight peering right into me. “I’m sure as hell you didn’t want me coming all the bloody way from London just to talk about how some girl is ‘really nice’, did you?” her sarcasm was weaved too well in her speech.

I stopped combing. “Kim, I think I…” Again, the train kept trailing off the tracks. But with her eyes dead set looking at me, I knew I had to face this train of reality head on. “I think I like her.”

I couldn’t believe I just said that. A cozy, Friday night in my shop with my best friend from teenagehood- well, yeah, in case you can’t already tell, it didn’t work out between us for some sexuality-related reasons. But I’m so fucking glad that we still managed to be the closest of friends throughout the years, even through my transition into vampirism- and I had just spilled what I felt perhaps prematurely, but it was definitely not untrue. Her eyes continued the search, registering my defenseless face- and she smiled. “What’s this lucky girl’s name?” she broke the silence.

“Reyna… This really cute and kinda tall girl. Came in to get a short cut, and I swear it was probably the most fun I ever had with a person in god knows how long, considering it was a just a haircut and…” I trailed off, rather strategically, because I really didn’t like having to say more than I had to.

“And?!” Kim’s voice grew louder with eagerness as she half-turned her body, twirl-creasing the white cape with her eyes now directly looking into mine.

“Well,” I now put down my comb, clear seeing there was not much point to be using it in such a position. “Let’s just say blood transactions were made, and when I returned blood to her I did so in a conventionally ‘romantic’ way.”

“Shit!” Kim now forcefully spun the chair so that I faced her widened eyes of excitement that I only ever recall seeing this first time I watched her get her hair cut. “You might’ve been going a teeny bit too fast there in your advances, eh?”

“And to make things worse , she… “ I squirmed slightly, a little too shy to admit, “returned it mutually.”

Her jaw dropped, her stunned and bright face staring transfixed for what seemed like an eternity. “Oh my dear Carmen, tsk tsk tsk,” she shook her head playfully at me. “You are the slyest and naughtiest girl I’ve ever met. True blue Slytherin from the very start,” she took her hand out from under the cape and tapped me motherly on the nose. “Please tell me you asked her out.” I paused, glancing to the side in guilt. “You had practically the most perfect opportunity and you didn’t take it to ask her out?” Kim was definitely incredulous right now.

“Well…” my hand was now reaching for the back of my neck, finding a reason. “In my defence, I didn’t think I was ready at all-”

“Not ‘ready at all’?! You fucking kissed her!” Kim only grew more incredulous, her face filled with a heart yet disbelief.

“It was in the moment! I didn’t know what the fuck to do,” I tried to defend myself yet again, though I knew she wasn’t really buying it.

“Yes, definitely. You’re not ready to ask a girl out, but you were absolutely ready to kiss her. Is that some vampire logic I’m not supposed to understand?” she cracked at me, weaving in a smile.

“Well, maybe I sort of did ask her out . I gave her a ‘follow-up’ of sorts. I reminded her to come back in four weeks to get her hair trimmed so it didn’t grow out of place and all,” I tried using it as a way out.

Kim sighed. “I guess that’s something ,” my heart was filling with relief seeing that she was calming down a little. “But that still doesn’t change the fact that you kissed her. How long has it been anyway?”

“Exactly eight weeks as of today,” I recited immediately.

Her eyes shot up at me in shock. “Well you definitely think about this girl a lot, don’t you?” Kim gave me her playful look yet again. “If she seems as ‘nice’ as you say she does, and if she really did kiss you back, I’m giving you 100% assurance that she’ll be back soon.”

“That’s what I thought about exactly four weeks ago, but as the days pass it just seems like maybe it’s never gonna happen, y’know? Maybe it was just a fake kiss. Maybe she doesn’t ever remember it,” I let out, remembering the words I had said to Reyna in Compulsion.

“Oh, sweetie,” Kim now took both my hands and pulled me closer. “She’ll come back, I know it.” I only replied with my disgruntled look as I weakly rubbed her hands. “I promise it,” Kim now affirmed, her tone getting more serious. “In fact, I’m so sure of it, I’m willing to invoke the Buzz Favour for it.”

My gaze immediately fired back into hers, widened at the sound of something I haven’t heard of since the few times it was used in our youth. “You would actually do that?” it was my turn to sound incredulous. All she did was nod confidently. “B-but your hair… Your curls are so gorgeous-”

“And I’d lose them all just to prove to you that she will be back. And when she does, you will have to honour the Favour, and ask her out,” Kim’s facial expressions remained unfazed.

I stared at her long and hard, the reality of it setting in. “God, you’d actually do it,” my own words struck me solidly. When it came from Kim, you rarely ever saw her back down.

“Of course, Carms. I don’t like seeing you so worried like this, and I assure you, it’s going to come true for you. On the Buzz Favour, I promise you. I mean, for God’s sake, she fucking kissed you back when you took such a whim. I can’t really find a better guarantee. And with that, you must guarantee that when she does comes back, you’ll ask her out,” then she pulled me close to her. She ran a hand through my head of red hair that I grew out for a seeming eternity. “And if I somehow find out you don’t, perhaps it was time I showed you my haircutting skills, huh?” she half-threatened and half-teased me.

I was caught rather off-guard by it all, but I couldn’t decline. “Deal,” I reluctantly but resolutely agreed, sneaking a half smile into the exchange.

“Then that settles it,” Kim concluded as she spun herself backwards to face the mirror. “Perhaps I am quite due for a good shearing, don’t you think, Carms?” she ruffled her hands through her curls that dangled around her ears, almost in the same style I remembered it from the first time I met her.

“Certainly,” I played along, still coming to terms with the whole scheme I had been forced into, and yet ultimately agreed to. I slowly walked over to the counter, looking for the tools I needed to now honour the favour. My hand went straight for the most important one- the clippers.

Sleek, black and custom-made, I’ve always wanted to use this baby, though I never once thought that I would end up using it for a Buzz Favour.

“Well, as per our rules,” I now turned to face Kim who was still gleaming in the chair. “Since you invoked, you get to choose how short.”

“Hmm,” she pretended a deep contemplation. “One,” she resolutely stated. “All over.”

I was stunned for a moment, genuinely surprised that she’d actually go to those lengths (or rather, towards the lack of it) to prove her point. But alas, a deal was a deal- and for the Buzz Favour, it ran deeper than sacred vows would ever have for the both of us.

“Very well,” I remarked before picking up the appropriate guard for the clippers. I snapped it on my trusted machine, glancing to see Kim still completely unfazed as she awaited me. “Oh, before I forget,” I added before tapping on the screen of my phone. In a burst, the Beatles blared from the stereo, singing ‘She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah’.

“Fucking hell,” I instinctively remarked as Kim chortled.

“It’s a bloody sign, Carms,” Kim cheekily teased.

“Whatever,” I dismissed it before my thumb flicked. Hum. “A #1 for the lady is in order,” I channeled this frustration into a devious smile towards her.

“Yes, please,” was all she said before she looked straight ahead into the mirror with a grin.

I took my position behind her. My left hand ran through the back of her lovely curls that hung around the topside of her neck, while my other hand held the living and breathing machine. “Head down for me, love,” I instructed before forcing her head down myself, relishing the command. I placed the steel blades on her slender neck, just below where the curls start, then made my ascend.

The humming grew to a high as it met the curls, though they offered little resistance to my powerful weapon. I reached the occipital bone before I gently flicked the clippers back, watching those delicate curly locks drop to the small space of white cape that covered over the chair. A lovely swath of stubble stood behind, too short to pinch but still prickly with love.

And so I kept going, taking a nice stroll up each pass, but never waiting too long to start another when one was done. Curly hair was always a joy yet a rarity when it came to cutting it. In those seldom I did manage to come across a curly-haired customer, it was always a trim or touch-up, never more. But now with this opportunity with Kim, it definitely does help make me feel better about this favour that she proposed- this felt almost like the caviar dish of my fascination.

“Feeling lighter already?” I tried to take a swing at the teasing this time.

“Oh, definitely!” Kim was still gleeful despite having to only face down while I did the most non-visible part for her. “Only feels better knowing that The Beatles really understand what I mean right now.”

I made a face to her in the mirror before slowly pulling her head back up. I casually swept the mess of severed curls that spread across her shoulders as I moved to her right side. Little ringlets rained onto the floor, starting to litter up the checkered tiles.

With the back done, her right side was now the next target. Starting from the sideburn area, I moved the clippers up towards her temple, taking my time time as my lovely device took apart her curls slowly. The vibrating blades inched towards the top, and just as I was shy of the crown, the bell chimed.

I flicked the clippers in a half-flinch, causing those severed curls to plunge their way down onto the cape with a thud as I turned to welcome the guest.

“Oh, bollocks,” escaped through my lips quietly as I registered this too familiar person. “Reyna,” I said as I shifted to reality, flicking the clippers off.

“Reyna?” Kim’s mouth went agape as she tried to turn her head to see the reflection in the mirror. My left hand kept a tight grip on her head, making sure so she wouldn’t seem so obvious by turning.

Reyna walked in confidently, tall as ever wearing a mid-sleeve black dress that ended like a cute circle skirt just around her knees. Her red hair surprisingly didn’t seem so overgrown with her sides being combed neatly. Although, what probably took the cake of surprise was the top which was now parted slightly to the side with a hint of a fringe that… curled?

“Hey Carmen,” she greeted with a smile, which slowly devolved when her eyes began absorbing the scene that was in front of her.

“Uh, why don’t you have a seat?! I’ll be with you in a jiffy, love,” I cheerfully invited with an exaggerated smile.

“Sure,” Reyna still had the hint of shock on her face, but agreed to sit as she put down her handbag.

I turned back to my work in progress only to find an ecstatically gleaming victim in my chair. “I told you,” Kim half-mouthed.

I could only make a neutrally antagonising face towards her in return, afraid that Rey would notice.

“It’s alright Carms. Just focus. You’ll get your chance right after you’re done with Kim,” my heart whispered, trying to get myself back in the zone.

The next song on the stereo had already started the moment Reyna walked in, though I could hardly register any of it just being distracted by the million things that were going on in the shop at the moment. I tried kicking myself back into motion, flicking the switch of the clippers back on to a hum. But just as I was about to start another pass up the right side of Kim’s head, the song’s familiar bright tones and Kim’s ever-bright face started clicking together in my head.

“It’s Friday,” Kim softly started to sing, “I’m in love!” she half-exclaimed.

I stood with bloodshot eyes, staring at Kim in the eyes through the mirror as my clippers were halfway making a pass up the right side of her head. “Monday you can fall apart.
Tuesday, Wednesday break my heart,” she continued singing as I took the clippers off her head, fathoming a way to just shut her up right now about all these cheesy little coincidences. “Thursday doesn’t even start. It’s Fri-”

“That’s it,” I interrupted the now-most annoying line in that song as I tilted her head rather forcefully forward. She immediately shut up, and her eyes widened when she realised the clippers were now right at her forehead. Before I could even let her realise what was going to happen next- Bzzzzaaa 

Her loud gasp ringed in my ears as she watched a bundle of her curls collapsed right onto her cape-covered lap. Bzzzaaaa. Bzzzaaaaaa . I swiftly made more passes, freeing her crown of her curls while she sat facing down, observing the curls littering the white cape. The pace of the game was now quick, long strides, but I savoured each one of them- almost like plucking severed curls right off from the head and dropping them right in front of her face. Kim’s expression only grew more dazzled the faster I went, staring at the destruction I was causing of her hair.

But her mouth that was once agape in shock now only turned slowly into a smile. “Tsk,” I let out softly, though audible enough for her to hear- irritated that I wasn’t punishing enough.

So I swiftly cleaned up the top of her head, then moved to her left side where I tilted her head a little too violently to the right. But like a lamb, she relented with a gleam in her eyes. I then started on the left side, trying my best to make quick work of her hair with the air of force. But even as those curls just plunged down, Kim would still be unfazed.

“Oh God, Carms,” Kim commented as she observed her head being sheared down. “You do know I’m enjoying this about as much as you are, right?” she disturbed with an impish smirk.

I could only pretend to be angrily buzzing her hair before accepting the truth. “That’s true,” I said. “But god, you can be focken annoying at times, y’know?”

“That’s what I do best as your best friend, don’t I? Besides, I’m glad I annoyed you. Been meaning to feel that rush of adrenaline when you go right down the middle. If anything, I must’ve enjoyed it a lot more than you,” she replied before giving me a wink. “But please, don’t rush this too much,” she now gave a slightly concerned face. “I really miss this feeling.”

“Don’t you worry, love. I’m evil enough to buzz you forcefully like a sheep, but you know I’d never deny you the best feeling in the world like that,” I assured her, feeling empathetic about it.

So I cleaned up the last remaining bits of outstanding curls on her head, watching them tumble onto the mass of curls that lay lifeless on her cape as I left behind straight-standing stubble on Kim’s scalp. There was something poetic about it- how no matter how curly your hair may be, once shorn all the way down it returns to a rather straight spike.

I kept the clippers moving all over the top of her head, her eyes closed in satisfaction with slight “mm”s coming silently out of her as the clippers buzzed. Being the superior one in this position had its benefits and joys, but God, I was actually so jealous of Kim at that moment. Almost a part of me just wanted to ditch asking Reyna out at all so that Kim would punish me, but that’d be a little too idiotic. I mean, when opportunity knocks on your door- or rather, walks through your door- it only really makes sense to take it.

The clippers kept humming its tune merrily for a few solid minutes, giving Kim the absolute pleasure of a lifetime up there. After it felt enough, I flicked off the switch and killed the buzz. Kim opened her eyes, a slight dismay on her face, yet still a dazzle of joy at the sight of her new ‘do. She turned to the left and her right, admiring herself as I got out the neck brush- probably one of my other favourite parts.

Playfully, I dusted across her neck, then moved on slowly up towards the top of her head to sweep off the little hairs that may have been stuck in the stubble, whilst also letting the little shrubs tickle her almost bare scalp. She giggled at the sensation, clearly loving it. “Picture perfect moment, eh?” I asked teasingly. “I still keep those pictures you know.”

“Of course you do,” she quipped, flashing a look of confidence which her buzzed head only accentuated. I gave her a really nice rub on the head, enjoying those little pricks of hair all over my skin. God, I missed this feeling- whether it was just on my nape and sides or all over my head (yes, there were a few occasions when I did braved the buzz). But for now, feeling it on a close friend was satisfying enough.

I gave a few quick dusts on her neck, sweeping off those stubborn curls that still clung close to her as they fell lifelessly to the floor. I undid the cape and swooshed it off her, letting years of her curls tumble down onto my checkered floor. She stood up with gravitas, letting the whole room know how satisfied and bold she felt with her decision today. A buzz for a promise, and she’s held her end of her bargain. Soon enough it would be my turn to fulfil my side, else the clippers were to be the one dawned on me.

“I absolutely love it,” Kim declared, rubbing her hands all over her beautifully buzzed head. “I’m so glad you decided to pursue being a barber. My dad would be so proud when I tell him back in London.” She then embraced me in a hug, her warmth radiating through my cold and pale figure.

“Say hi to him for me, will you? Tell he’s always welcomed here. Anything for an old teacher,” I told her as we retracted.

“Definitely,” Kim affirmed before glancing slightly to her side, then back at me. “Now, I believe you have some business to attend to.” I gritted my teeth in a fake smile, gnawing down on the fact that I had to face a dreaded yet exciting reality that sat right there in the room. “I’ll take my leave then, and maybe hope to get a call from you tonight on what happens,” she half-whispered, making sure Rey couldn’t hear which was apparent given Rey was absorbed in her phone at the time.

“Take care, Kim. I’ll see you soon,” I bade her farewell.

“You too, Carms. Goodbye, old friend,” she bade hers as she opened the door.

“Say hi to your kids for me!” I exclaimed just as she left the shop, which was returned with a thumbs up by her through the window.

I sighed. Then I turned to Reyna, who was already looking right at me. She seemed rather chirpy, though there was a certain hint of… nervousness, to her. I could sense a hasty pulse, but not as awful as if there was life threat nearby. So I decided perhaps try to ease her before I went onto the ‘business’ that had to be carried out.

“You look lovely tonight,” I chose the path of compliments, to which she beamed brightly. “Got special plans tonight?” Perhaps this could’ve been my way in.

“Sort of,” she looked down, shying away an unconfident look. “Planning to ask someone out and it really depends on whether they say yes or no.”

My heart sank, teeth gritted a little too tightly. “Oh,” I could only let out, crushed. Eight weeks of wait only to fall flat. I forced a smile, trying to be the supportive one. At least for now, I would have a valid reason to call off the favour with Kim. “And who’s this lucky person?” I tried to at least continue the conversation, feebly trying to fill up any awkward gaps in this conversation that took a dreadful turn.

She smiled sheepishly as she looked up, a charming dazzle in her eyes. “You.”

My cold, pale cheeks somehow felt… warm. If I had a pulse, it would’ve been racing right now as my stomach lurched all over. She just fucking asked me out- and in probably the smoothest way I’ve ever seen. It all came at me too fast- the thought of failure that skyrocketed into a success was all too much, even for someone like me in undeath.

“Yes!” I agreed too loud, to which she doubled back slightly. “Sorry, I was just-” I stopped myself, realising I couldn’t just tell her outright how excited I was to try and ask her out, let alone go out with her. “I would really love to go out with you tonight,” I materialised a proper, concrete sentence to reply her with.

“That’s great,” Reyna smiled brightly. “Do you-uh, want me to wait till you close up and stuff firs-”

“Oh, no need!” I interjected. “I was just about to close up anyway. It’s pretty late for a Friday evening to keep the shop open,” I explained, darting straight for the door to turn the sign to ‘Closed’. Right at the door I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of the glass, and I realised something really awful. “God, I look like complete shit,” I thought to myself at the sight of my tank top and jeans.

“Everything okay?” Reyna realised the shift in my facial expression.

“Yeah, nothing, it’s just-” I really didn’t know to put this very well. “I sort of need to change cos this all,” I gestured to my rather casual attire that was littered here and there with some loose hair from barbering, “is a bloody mess. Could you give me a quick five minutes to change up?” I asked nervously.

“Sure, sure!” she allowed. “You take your time, yeah? Don’t worry about it.”

“You’re the sweetest,” I thanked her, then almost immediately darted at lightspeed out of the shop.

I arrived at home in my bedroom within a few seconds, thankful for the almighty vampiric super-speed. Almost as quickly, I ran into the shower- taking off everything I had on like I was some teenage boy about to get in bed for the first time. I turned on the cold water, scrubbing at myself to clean off any loose hair or whatnot I had on me.

Within a minute I was out of the toilet wrapped in my towels, opening up all my wardrobes while panicking and wondering what the fuck I was supposed to wear. I rummaged through the dresses and tops I had all over, searching painfully for something that could’ve been decent enough to strike a good image.

Black top? No, that’d be copying her colour. Sun dress? Nah, that’d be a little too… dainty, for this occasion. Blue dress? Hell no, this ain’t some prom. I was reaching my third minute when I felt like perhaps all hope was lost to actually look good for this date.

Then I saw the that red one-shoulder dress that sat quietly at the end of the row.

I slowly took it out by the hanger, taking a closer look at the tag that was on it. The letter “V” was printed on the tag, a glimmer of a dark past shifting through my mind. I stood there transfixed for too long a while, memories slowly flooding in which I tried my best to shut out. “Thank you,” I whispered to the dress, then quickly put it on while holding back a rush of emotions that welled inside.

Onto my fourth minute, I was now in front of the mirror, viciously combing my hair to make sure it was neat. God, perhaps at times like these I wished I hadn’t listened to Kim and hadn’t just asked Rey o-

“Fuck,” it slipped right out of my mouth as the realisation seeped into me. Technically speaking, I never did ask Reyna out- she did it instead. Of all the realities to happen, I never saw this one coming- where I had the chance to ask her out, but I lost the race to it instead. So technically , I lost the bet. “Wow.”

But to hell with that- I only had less than 30 seconds now. I just let my hair down and tried a little messy aesthetic before picking up my purse and dashing right out the door.

I arrived right back at the shop to see the floor clean with a stunned Reyna behind the chair, her hand holding onto a broom and dustpan. “Wow. That was literally five minutes,” she expressed genuine shock.

“Yeah, haha,” I nervously replied, though she probably has no idea the amount of stress that piled into those five meagre minutes. “Oh, love, you really didn’t have to,” I gestured to the broom she held.

“It’s nothing, really. Just wanted to help,” Reyna explained as she put the broom and dustpan aside. “You look really great,” she slid in a compliment.

“Thank you, love,” I couldn’t help but blush, slightly shying my body away.

“Are you hungry?” Reyna asked with a slightly concerned look, ambling towards to me.

“The human sort- maybe a little. But the vampiric sort,” I leaned closely into her ear, lowering my volume to a whisper, “I’m ravenous.”

She chuckled as I slowly crept back- almost the exact chuckle that stole my heart from the first time I met her. “Well that, my dear Carms,” she started as she raised a finger that landed on my bottom lip, “will have to wait till after our dinner date.” And she winked.

I returned a naughty smile, gently lifting her hand as we slowly held them together, interlocked. “We should get going, then,” I insisted as I half-dragged her out of the store. “I don’t like having to wait for my food.”

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