The Vampire’s Portrait
I first met Alabaster at an art show. My name was left off the advertisements “accidentally” and my work was crammed into a dim, low trafficked corner because “room was scarce.”
For three excruciating hours, I answered questions about where the bathroom was located, yes it was an open bar, and no I could not introduce you to “one of the better artists.” And, of course, “Yes I am supposed to be here.”
“I love this,” Alabaster St. Aurora said of one of my paintings by way of greeting. She took off her sunglasses, revealing the most powerful brown eyes I had ever seen in my life. Alabaster looked at me, the rest of my work, and smiled with lips painted blood red. “How much?”
“F-For which one?” I stumbled.
“All of them.” She turned her hell honey colored eyes to meet my dumb mortal gaze. “And I would adore a private commission,” she added with a voice that silenced all other sounds, “if you accept them. A portrait of myself in this style,” she indicated one of my pieces.
Two months later, Jeff, my roommate, blurted out — “She is a vampire, my dude. She is going to eat you once you finish.”
“Vampires don’t exist,” I countered without looking up from my sketchbook. The Argument has returned. Cool, we haven’t discussed my impending demise in three days, I’d almost started to relax.
“She picks you up at dusk — in a car with blacked out windows. You come home at dawn,” Jeff said, counting off fingers pointedly, “She insists you work from ‘life,’ vampires are not alive dude, for your sketches, not photographs.” A brief pause. “Because she doesn’t show up on film! She feeds you while you are there — ”
“Spaghetti!” I interrupted —
“Yeah! Yours had sauce, but her plate? Her sauce wasn’t sauce, it was blood! How can you not see this? Did you have garlic bread?” came the haughty retort, right on schedule. “I’m just saying please pay your half of the rent before you get eaten.”
I ignored him and resumed drawing. Is it illegal or just rude to accept the cold hand of undeath because you don’t like your apartment?
A week later, I felt my throat constrict with sadness as I finished the final few brush strokes.
“I love it,” Alabaster said from behind me. I started, I hadn’t heard her get up from her pose.
“I’m gl-glad,” I forced out. As terrifying as the experience was, I was sincerely going to miss our time together on this damned odd commission. As I finished cleaning and packing up my supplies, I couldn’t resist saying, no matter how desperately I tried to tuck it into the folds of my brain… “My roommate thinks you’re a vampire.”
“Oh?” Alabaster said with genuine curiosity. She filled two glasses with a red liquid.
Cranberry juice by the smell.
Not quite that.
“Vampires don’t exist,” I said with decreasing confidence as she approached, hand outstretched, a statue come to life, marble and moonlight. A nightmare made flesh. Accepting the glass felt like accepting a pact I could not understand and would not refuse if I had.
Alabaster smiled, looking into my eyes, my soul, as she raised her glass to her black painted lips. “How can you be so sure?” she asked as she finished her drink, as the room darkened and the temperature lowered.