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C. T. Thomas
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tip.jpg
Art by Aisling Kerins 2011

A Well Earned Tip

 

C. T. Thomas

 

 

 

The appointment had started well. I was greeted by the pleased widening of his eyes at my appearance. My look is not odd exactly, but different, pleasantly exotic, beautiful by the second glass of wine. He took my coat and hung it in the closet by the door, awkward hotel hangers, but he managed them with ease, almost without looking. I commented on his grace and he smiled and waved it off, a birthright, he said, none of his doing.

 

We sat on a leather couch in the room adjoining the junior suite, chatting and sipping a pinot noir that was like spiced silk on the tongue. He was better read than I was, which bumped at my ego somewhat. It seemed though, that he had devoured a well-funded library, which was dumbfounding enough to soothe my bruised pride. I excused myself to the washroom, where I checked that the envelope he gave me upon arriving was indeed stuffed with my fee. I was exclusive, very high-end, and did not come cheap, so to speak. The money was all there, packed inside the sort of birthday card I usually received from my grandmother. 

 

He had moved to the bedroom and was sprawled bonelessly on top of the covers when I returned, his white silk shirt now open at the collar and two buttons down. 

 

He affirmed that I had brought a second set of clothes, and that my current ensemble wasn’t special to me in any way, save perhaps by price. I nodded and indeed had worn a button up blouse to facilitate the fantasy.  He kissed under my chin and yanked my head back by my hair, not painfully, but with dominance. We kissed, because you cannot command my price without kissing. He tongue was dizzying, and his mouth left me enraptured and breathless.  My blouse tightened across my back and shoulders, and before I could finish gasping there was a cool draft against my skin; I didn’t even hear the material rip. I could hardly think, but my ability to count to two was still intact. Two as in the hand on my thigh plus the hand on my ass. I moaned into his neck, he had very nice hands, but I managed to give pause and realize that with both hands occupied, he must have ripped my blouse clear off my back, with his teeth. I may have given it more thought had he not chosen that moment to begin suckling my breast, my neck, my shoulders. He was kissing my left wrist when I felt the flaming licks of pain. I imagine I must have screamed, but my next memory is of waking up, so I couldn’t say for sure.

 

My mind was a mishmash of fuzz when I awoke, my head was foggy and my vision blurry. I was used to waking up in unfamiliar beds, so I wasn’t bothered with the realization that I wasn’t at home. A turn of the head revealed an apparently empty sitting room, and as there were no sounds coming from the bathroom I assumed I was alone. I worried a bit at the pain in my arm, a throbbing in my left wrist. Left wrist? Appointment, hotel, great wine, expert kisser, shredded blouse … I sat up with a jolt and squinted at the confusing sight.  I half expected to find a syringe or tranquilizer dart jutting out of my wrist, or maybe even freshly burned flesh. Instead there was a large, dark red, softly scabbed blotch. I ran a finger over the spot and gasped, then gagged.  The blotch was a pulpy gouge the size of a … bite mark. My body broke into a sweat as my stomach churned. I choked on a burst of hysterical laughter and forced myself to my feet. My legs wobbled to the adjoining room, confirming that I was alone. I put the chain on the door and made my way back to the bedroom, wondering at my terribly blurred vision. My head felt fine, I hadn’t a concussion or suffered any head trauma. The wine seemed fine: he had uncorked it in front of me and didn’t seem to insist on what glass was mine. My skirt and panties were still in place, neither torn nor askew, and a quick exploration of my vaginal area uncovered nothing out of the ordinary. 

 

At least six hours had passed according to the bedside CD/radio alarm clock, though I began to worry those six hours were actually thirty or fifty-four. He had taken a bite out of my wrist, and the intensity of the pain sent me into an hours long, possibly days long, faint. I let myself dance over that one for a moment knowing full well that something was missing, something I wasn’t going to like, but in the meantime, I would allow myself to avoid pursuing those answers.

 

Time up.

 

He had bitten a sizeable portion – like taking a hungry bite out of a ripe apple – out of my wrist. Where was the blood? I inspected the cream colored linens with dismay; there was a small splattering of blood if I squinted closely, much like one would expect from a particularly nasty paper-cut. Certainly not enough to account for my missing mass of flesh.

 

Isn’t that how teenaged drama queens killed themselves, I mused. No, no, I corrected, that’s how they attempted to kill themselves, which must be why I wasn’t dead. Because slitting one’s wrists rarely led to a successful death.  Unless one had the temerity to slice deep, hot bath, aspirin. But still, where was the blood? I amended my previous statement: he had taken a bite out of my wrist and either changed the sheets, collected the blood for an avant garde art installation, or drank it – every damn drop.

 

How much blood could I have lost through a wrist bite? I didn't feel especially faint, but perhaps that explained my terrible vision. I realized then that my eyes were itchy and bothered. I had been … unconscious? … for hours, wearing contact lenses that were not made for such use. I considered leaving them in and just suffering through it, my vision was shit without them, leaving me to navigate through blurry shapes at questionable distances. My wrist provided enough physical discomfort, so I peeled my contacts off of my dry eyes and dumped them in a glass by the sink in the bathroom and filled it with water.

 

I could see clearly. Something I hadn’t done for … well, something I don’t recall ever doing without assistance, having worn some sort of visual aid since childhood.

 

Something was terribly wrong.

 

In my panic I poked at my eyes again, hoping that I had missed somehow and was still wearing my contact lenses, despite being able to see them floating in the glass. I poked till my eyes were red and tearing and finally wrenched myself away, stumbling back into the bedroom. 

 

My shoulder bag was still on the floor, just where I had placed it at the foot of the bed. The cellphone confirmation of only six hours of sleep failed to comfort me. I ransacked the bag foraging for better news, and found the enveloped birthday card stuffed with my fee. That was a relief for some reason. Large sums of money can soothe almost any situation, at least slightly. I pulled on the cream turtleneck and black slacks I had packed, balling my skirt up and punching it in.

 

I groped around, opening every drawer and closet door in the suite, looking but finding nothing but my own coat, which I snatched off the hanger. Leaving barefooted would mean that the night had gone far worse than I was ready to acknowledge, so I wobbled into my sling-back stilettos.   One deep rasping breath later and I got the hell out of there.

 

The bellhop flagged down a cab for me and I hurried inside, forgoing a trip to the hospital in favor of my condo. I wasn’t bleeding nor was I woozy, and the potential for receiving inexplicable results during a routine blood pressure check filled me with dismay. I brought my hand toward my throat intending to feel for my pulse, but what if? I put my hand back in my lap. 

 

I had the elevator to myself and slumped against the wall during the ride up the sixteen floors, managing the deadbolt without incident, and then locking myself inside. I fumbled around for my cellphone before dropping the bag on top of my shoes and coat.

 

The master bathroom had a soaking tub, deep enough that an average sized adult could nearly float when it was full. I added lemon scented bath-oil and strawberry bubbles and climbed in, holding the cellphone with my left hand and keeping that arm, from the elbow down, carefully dry. I kept the water flowing until the bubbles reached my chin.

 

A determined breath and a surge of courage.

 

“Hello?”

 

I nearly dropped the phone in the bath in shock, fully expecting to reach a service message mocking me with a disconnection notice.

 

“Um,” I bumbled and cleared my throat, “Hello, this is Angeline.”

 

“…”

 

I paused another moment, but no reply was forthcoming. “As I’m sure you recall, we met last night. I think there must have been a misunderstanding,” I stopped and groaned at my ridiculous courtesy, and cursed my parents for having so deeply ingrained such politeness in me. I ploughed on, my cheeks hot with embarrassment, “You’ve clearly misinterpreted the meaning of the ‘love bite’ and appear to have made a rather crude attempt to eat me.”

 

“…”

 

“This is the part of the conversation where you apologize profusely and offer a rational explanation. An idiotic explanation would also suffice.”

 

“You’re alive.”

 

“I …” That was not what I wanted to hear.

 

"Are you still in the room? I wasn't going to return till morning, but I'll come back now. Just, wait there."

 

"Oh,” I huffed, “Sure, right. Bring some salt and pepper, maybe a bottle of Tabasco. Of course I’m not at the hotel! Do you honestly think I would wait around for you to finish me off?” I resolved then to call the police. 

 

"No!" he shouted into the phone. "Look, just stay where you are, I'll find you."

 

"- " I made to speak but the line had gone dead. I sat in the steaming water, shivering, wondering what to do. Calm down, finish my bath, call the police. I had a name and a cell phone number, the hotel would have a credit card and possibly a passport number. I was comforted with the thought that my previous, seemingly paranoid actions were now serving me well, and relaxed knowing that he couldn't trace me; he had never been told my real name, knowing me only as Angeline; I had never used anything but my ‘work’ cellular, and indeed had never given him my landline. If he traced back any of my advertisements, the most pertinent information he could tie to me was the phone number he already had: a pre-paid cell which required nothing but cash to obtain. I was safe. Or at least safe enough until I contacted the authorities. 

 

The bubbles were fading when I climbed out of the bath; my towels were lush and warm. I stepped out of the bathroom and locked on a pair of familiar eyes.

 

“Don’t scream.”

 

I meant to. And I really tried to, but nothing came out of my mouth.

 

"I'm not going to hurt you," he held his hands palms up, as if I was a skittish animal. I must have believed him because my fright ceased. No, I wasn't scared, I was pissed.

 

"You realize you’ve bitten a chunk of flesh out of my arm, right?" I snorted, "And now you've broken into my place.  Why ever would I think that you’re here to hurt me?" 

 

"I'm your …" he seemed to choke, "I can't hurt you, and I'll always be welcome wherever you live." This was the most uncomfortable I had seen him, shuffling awkwardly, moving his hands from hips to across his chest, now back to his pockets. 

 

"What is wrong with you?" I frowned, "Last night you were all grace and elegance."

 

He coughed, "Look, I've never had to do this before, alright? This was an accident."

 

I twisted my lips in disgust, "I see, the appetizer and soup both died the way they were supposed to, but the main course -"

 

"Don't be stupid," he spat back. He took a breath, or what appeared to be one, "We're not trying to create an army.  There are rules, alright? Nothing official or organized, just common sense. We want to live long and happy, have nice cars and big houses, and a quiet life. That means staying hidden. No politics, no seeing your name in lights, no posting pictures of yourself on the internet, and no trail of bodies. We can't go around just draining people night after night, not if we want to stay hidden."

 

"And last night you were feeling especially peckish?" I frowned.

 

"Once a year I drain someone," he flashed a feral grin at me, returning to form, "You were a birthday gift."

 

“Oh! Happy birthday,” I chirped automatically, and then cringed at my cheerful tone, stupid upbringing.

 

"Look," he sighed, "I'm sorry about this, okay? I didn't expect someone able to withstand the bite to be working as a, well, you know."

 

I rolled my eyes, "How is it you can eat people and yet be such a priss?"

 

He opened his mouth to speak but closed it again after a moment of silence. "Just keep doing what you're doing," he shrugged. "Tell the people closest to you if you want.  Sunlight hurts but shouldn't kill you - except at high noon sometimes, and solar eclipses, you wouldn’t think it, but those are brutal. Everything eventually dies, but a smart girl like you could live a damn long time. Don't eat too many people."

 

I could see he was edging back toward the door. With a quick 'find me if you need anything' and no explanation as to how I might manage that, he scooted into the hall and I was alone again, still in my bath towel. I stared at the door waiting for him to return but knowing I was probably never going to see him again. 

 

Have common sense. Avoid solar eclipses. Don't eat too many people. Great. I heard myself giggling manically and forced myself to stop. It had been a good appointment, up until he ate my wrist, but the potential for a greatly extended life could certainly suffice as a well-earned tip.

 

 

C.T. Thomas grew up in Ontario Canada, and has been involved in the arts for the last dozen years. She enjoys cheese and cheese related activities, and is currently writing/illustrating a graphic novel. C.T. Thomas can be found at GurgleSlurp.com

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