Chapter One – Hunger Pangs
Juliette sat in the same booth every Monday. A cup of coffee, only a teaspoon of cream and two sugars, a phone nearby, and two eggs, toast, and two slices of bacon. Every Monday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. she'd sit at The Café, sit as if waiting for a revelation. Sat as if somehow life would start moving and she'd jump on and finally enjoy the ride.
But no, nothing happened to Juliette, other than having a name people always found 'lovely' or 'unique'. She didn't know how her name came about. Her mother was either too sad or drunk, or feeling especially caught up in a book she was reading that day, June 15th 1901. She was never sure.
Juliette left home when she was only 16 and lived on her own, either to her despair or good fortune, she still wasn't quite sure of that either. She was possibly a vampire. Again, something she was never quite sure of. Mythology never taught her what a Lamia was and why it seemed similar to vampire folklore, but she knew that vampire was the closest she could come up with. There were no books on being a Lamia, and the mythology she had read of never enlightened her to what she was, since they were wrong. She didn't have ugly features, didn't eat children, and never had a serpent tail. She was all female, no goddess, other than being strikingly tempting in her beauty, and the only part they got right is that she had a voracious appetite… for youth and for blood.
When she looked at her reflection she could see she aged, but at such a slow pace she barely looked 30. Maybe that was the difference between what she was and a vampire. They were kept in a state of continual youth at the exact same age they were when changed. She had even met a few vampires in her life, but it was in passing and they instantly stayed away from her. There were no mentors, no schools, and no teachers to inform her of what she was and why she was in this way.
She was alone – not vampire and not myth.
…And what of human blood?
It was necessary, like taking your vitamins and eating right. Without the blood she'd get sick and withdrawn and age more quickly. It kept her healthy and youthful. Human food sated her appetite, it was even delicious and she enjoyed a good meal, but some course was always missing.
Was it vanity, then, that kept her feeding on the helpless or unfortunate ones who crossed her path? Possibly. She liked to think it was simply survival. All of us need to survive.
She had been merely surviving for the last 110 years. And now she sat in this little café at the same time every day for the last month, growing weaker, attempting to finally be rid of this curse and move on with her life… or death.
She'd grown a conscience through the years. And could she continue this way? Consistently stealing away another's youth? She was here, now, finding those too ill to go on, or senior citizens - those nearer to death - but it wasn't enough. It was like eating five day old bread or fruit that was near rotting, and she hated the taste in her mouth. This was no longer a life.
She had reached her fork in the road and looked out across the patrons who sat in this restaurant, every day from two p.m. to three in the afternoon. Senior discount special time and they were all so clueless to the beast who watched them eat their meals and chat endlessly about things that did not matter to Juliette. She was listening and watching for her next meal. Oh, the irony of it all.
Juliette laughed into her coffee, thinking it over. In the end, what truly mattered? She'd loved and lost too many times so that it was a joke. Nobody loves and loses so well, as Shakespeare had written. It was never better to have loved and lost, because no matter how much you loved you still lost. That was the kicker. You lost and you never got it back. We love and we lose and we die a little more inside.
Juliette had died so many more years ago than now. She'd been living a life of emptiness for so long. She just wanted it to stop.
Just please… stop.
She glanced around, watching the patrons she'd heard but not really listened to in this eatery. One man, especially sullen and despondent, a blank stare spread across his old red eyes, looking far off, maybe to dreams that had passed him by, as his wife chattered endlessly. It looked like the woman did not even mind him not listening, as if she merely wanted to talk and share something, ramble and let it out. They were two ships with two different captains passing on a massive ocean, dense in fog, never seeing the nearness of the other. This saddened Juliette in a way that made her look away suddenly, as if she'd drown on that ocean and couldn't breathe. She looked away, a sharp pain inching along her esophagus. She swallowed hard, the bacon difficult to chew and she spit it up in a napkin and then left it there beside her plate. She was done with the meal.
Juliette wondered why this stung, as it did. These two people were nothing to her. But that was not it. The food no longer seemed edible. Her coffee was cold, the cream making a ringed pattern toward the sides, looking undrinkable. The flavor was her favorite when she'd traveled in Europe. She recalled the taste of coffee, so much deeper and richer than this American blend. This was all new to her – this life in Texas. The name itself made her cringe: Texas. How did she end up here? Not that it mattered. It was a state she just hadn't lived in before and she needed new territory. There was a remote piece of property for sale, a large estate, and it seemed fitting to her. So she had her servant, Omar, buy it and now she was here.
She finally made the purchase of the place she would live for the remainder of her days – as many days that she would be allowed. She was never sure when her life would end. She expected it, but never assumed it to happen. It seemed more real than ever now, and it made her feel somewhat hopeful.
Suddenly a young voice caught her attention.
Juliette spied upward to the waitress station where they added up the bills and grabbed extra pitchers of water or coffee pots for refilling coffee.
Her eyes glanced up for the briefest moment to see the waitress on her cell phone in a tight whisper, "No, I don't need you to do that. I have a… co-worker for that. You don't have to bother… anymore!"
The young waitresses' voice floated in a multitude of emotions: urgent, pleading, exasperated, and then angry, with whomever was on the other end of her cell phone. She hung up with, "Whatever," and then she caught her mutter, "bitch" under her breath.
Juliette grinned to the side. Her mother had always told her young ladies do not speak that way. But it seemed that's the only way they spoke these days. "Whatever" - such a common term, Juliette thought. It had no meaning, because it was always said when someone really did want to find out the 'ever' that 'what' was regarding; but, they wanted to somehow save face – not give in – not give up… pride? ...A silly term.
Juliette watched, but didn't look up. She had fantastic peripheral vision. She knew this to be the waitress with the electric blue eyes, the type that sizzle with brilliance, standing out, setting her apart from others. Her hair was dyed black, common with young "edgy" types, Juliette thought. It was slightly unoriginal, but it was a messy cut, longer on top and shorter at the back. Barrettes kept it neatly from her face, and made her eyes stand out even more. She was a beauty of youth amidst all these older patrons. She was also a temptation.
In an instant, Juliette paid the bill and left. Hitting the exit doors she nearly ran outside.
The sky was dark and swollen with a late winter storm. And then, as she searched for where she'd parked it came. Torrents of rain and a crack of thunder, as the sky became alive; and Juliette stood there. She stood as the rain violently rushed across the pavement of The Café's parking lot and she stood there and held her arms out in a T-shirt and jeans. She loved the feel of jeans. They were so casual and plain.
She liked life that way. She'd spent so long traveling and seeing the entire world. Places at one time she had dreamed visiting. More places most humans have not seen in a lifetime. She'd seen it all. But like someone who worked 80 hour weeks, she longed to come home. Sit in front of the TV and fall asleep on a comfy couch in front of a fire. To hold the one she loved and be held and to fall off to sleep and dream of a life she would never have as a simple human being.
"Please, soak me. Drown out my thoughts," she whispered to herself. "Let it be over… please," drifted from her lips.
The words tumbled forth and then she began to laugh that she'd spoken out loud to no one but a thick gray cloud cover.
No, nobody was around. No, not at this time of the day – there would be no one else around. The lot had only a few cars, there was an Exxon on the corner and a small shopping center behind, and then the sky opening up violently, shaking her to life with its unfettered fury. This was a small town. Quiet. Undisturbed.
Rain water splashed from her long eyelashes, as she blinked, thinking over what to do. Starving herself was not as easy as she had hoped it would be.
And then she heard it.
Juliette turned to the soft Texas drawl calling to her, and there was the waitress, holding out a dark brown leather purse, wearing a thin rain coat over her crisp white waitress blouse and the black slacks.
"Ma'am, you forgot this. They asked me to run it out to you since I just got off work."
Juliette caught the thin, black-haired waitress; the one with the dynamic blue eyes, eyes that burst out from the center and capture you like a swirling kaleidoscope in the shade of blue. Beautiful. This girl was stunningly even more beautiful when the rain touched her face. Perhaps she wore contacts to get them to have such a striking color, but no, her standing not two feet from her she could see they were simply, naturally… striking. This girl was much too young, but her smell was so tempting.
"Oh," Juliette held out her hand as the girl placed it into her grasp, "Thank you. I can't believe I rushed out and forgot this."
"It's cool. You seem to be thinking of something. I noticed… you seemed to be really deep in thought."
And then the younger waitress stood, watching the older woman, not all that old, early-30s maybe, strawberry blonde hair and deep olive green eyes, the iris so large it nearly made the sclera of white disappear. Her skin was smooth, looking healthy, a milky white finish with the lightest spattering of freckles around the nose and cheeks from her youth.
The older woman had always caught her attention. She'd been eating at her restaurant for a month now and always sat at the table across from where she served.
"So, you okay?" the young girl asked.
The waitresses' question stunned Juliette for a moment. And then she saw the name tag, 'Taryn' and her mind drifted to the sounds of thunder and rain, pounding harshly on every surface.
"I'm doing well… Taryn, how are you doing?" she asked, thinking over the conversation with whoever was on the other end of the phone while at the waitress station.
After a brief pause, "…I could be better, I guess."
"Yes." Juliette looked upward at the torrential downpour, thinking over the perturbed tone of the young girl's earlier conversation. Her eyes then drifting back to meet the deep blue of the girl's eyes. "It must be getting very cold for you."
"Nah, I'm okay, but you're getting soaked." Taryn was captured by the intensity of the woman's gaze, and stumbled slightly. "Um… sorry to keep you, ma'am."
"No, I don't mind the rain. It's merely water. I live close by and I'll just change when I get home."
"Really?" Taryn glanced across the area, feeling awkward because of her attraction to the woman, "You live close?"
Taryn tried hard not to stare at the woman whose T-shirt was soaked through so that everything underneath the T-shirt, nipples and the fact she didn't wear a bra, was apparent. She was in good shape too, actually having abs; but everything showed through and it was hard for her to look away. She hadn't seen such an exquisite body in her life, and knew the lady must be some sort of Pilate's instructor or something. Plus, the woman obviously didn't mind showing off her assets. Thoughts like this always entered Taryn's mind, and was possibly what chased her ex, Emma, away. Taryn had a wandering eye. She couldn't help herself.
"I'm off… work right now," the girl burst forth quickly, her words tumbling through her lips. "Um… not that you should care, right?"
Juliette stared oddly at the girl and then smiled gently, commenting, "Then I won't keep you from enjoying the rest of your day free from the confines of work."
Taryn laughed, chuckled really, at the comment because the wording was unusual and the woman sounded European, or like women in old black and white movies from the 40s that she loved watching.
"Do you," the girl paused, feeling slightly more nervous because she didn't know how to breach asking a stranger out on a date, but it's what she had wanted to ask since this woman caught her eye the first time she walked in her place of employment. She'd been dating her girlfriend then, but then Emma, her girlfriend, dumped her. She suspected she was seeing someone else, but wasn't sure. Taryn thought they had something special, and the pain of Emma leaving her was so raw it made her want to scrub it away – scrub it with something to fill this void she'd felt all day, nearly on the brink of tears. Emma seemed to see no problem moving on, and so then why shouldn't she?
"Do you have to be somewhere?" Taryn finally asked, "…or to someone?"
The question opened all manner of thoughts for Juliette. Yes, I have to be somewhere, but I haven't been anywhere for so long I feel like I'm nowhere.
"You sure you're okay?" Taryn asked again.
"Why?" The question was almost too intrusive for Juliette not to snap back, "Why would you keep asking me that question?"
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude. You just seem to be somewhere else… I mean, you even forgot your purse."
It took a moment for Juliette to register she'd overreacted. Maybe she still felt the pangs of hunger. She was sure it was the hunger. This girl was too much a temptation for her and she had to leave.
"I'm sorry, that didn't come out as it should have," Juliette answered, "I've just had a rough week."
"Oh, that's cool."
The girl said 'cool' again. It was a new vernacular and Juliette liked the way it sounded from this girl's mouth ensconced in a Texas drawl.
"I wanted to ask you if you're busy tonight," Taryn ventured, "It's just I see you in this place and wondered… y' know?"
"Wondered if I had a life?"
"Oh no – no, huh… not at all," that didn't come out right and Taryn wanted to kick herself. "No, I meant I wondered if you'd be interested in going out with me. You see, I just went through a break-up and hoped to get out and just do something to preoccupy my mind. I… kind of caught you looking at me and wondered…? I mean nothing serious – just a date to have some company… I guess. Coffee…? Some shit like that… is all?"
Taryn's eyes lowered.
Juliette noted the egregious motion: asking her out? …On a date? …Really? She had never had someone approach her this way. It bothered her slightly, but the girl was extremely attractive. This wasn't right. She was so young, and yet it interested Juliette that this young lady noticed her attraction. She'd mastered that years ago, looking at someone and never being seen. Taryn was the first who seemed to pick it up, and in that it made the older woman curious. Because, in truth, she had been looking at the young waitress, as well - smelling the cheaper brand of perfume that she wore from a local Walgreens and the fact her tennis shoes were worn Converse, a basic pair from some discount retailer. Juliette noticed everything about the lovely thing before her in this restaurant for the last month.
"How old are you?" Juliette asked. "I'm a little old for you, don't you think?"
"What? I just graduated college with my associate's degree, and I'm twenty-three." And then Taryn, not one to mince words stated flippantly, "Shit, I'm not asking you to marry me or start dating - I just wanted to get a drink and I've never seen you with anyone."
Anyone? No, Juliette was never with any one – destined to walk the earth alone.
"Are you gay?" Juliette pointedly asked, the rain finally slowing.
"Kinda personal, but yeah – and this isn't a date."
"It's just two people needing company and something to preoccupy their minds?"
Taryn nodded, smiling coyly at how Juliette caught on, and feeling more confident.
"I see," Juliette stated crisply, noting how the rain soaked through her blouse and then looking back up, realizing what the girl had noticed. Interesting.
She considered leaving the young lady, but her neediness was somewhat attractive. Her nose was smallish, pert and her upper lip was turned up, which added to her childish appearance; but she wasn't a child, maybe a little tomboyish and cute, but not a child. No, this was a 23-year-old adult woman wanting to pick her up. How amusing?
"I need to drive back to my home and clean up first." And then Juliette added casually, "My name is Juliette, by the way."
"Zhoo-lyet?" Taryn smiled at the pronunciation; she said it with a French accent. "I love your name. You're not from Texas, are you?"
"Thank you, and no I am not. Would you like to come with me and wait while I shower and change?"
Taryn thought over how for the first time Emma would not be picking her up. Her ex was her ride every day after work and today was the first day she told her she'd get a lift from a co-worker. She knew they were through, despite thoughts they might have gotten past this time. In a way, she wanted to wait for Emma, but in another way this would be the best respite. Juliette was awesomely beautiful, and was kind of a turn on, like when you fall for your English professor.
"Sure, I'll just call my… sister-" she lied "-and tell her that I caught a ride with a co-worker."
Taryn punched in a number, but immediately hung up. She had no one to call, but didn't want to come across as a total loser to this woman who seemed too classy to hook up with her; but then Taryn figured she was having a turn of good luck.
The rain stopped as suddenly as it had begun and Juliette walked toward her silver Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren. Taryn tagged behind, stopping just before the door swung open from the side and upward, like a wing. She had never seen a car with those types of doors and stood there shocked.
"Climb in," Juliette instructed. "The car… won't bite you."
"Uh…" she snickered, "sure."
Taryn climbed in the woman's nice car. She sat on the black leather seat, her mouth agape, looking over the interior of red and black leather, as the doors slowly shut with a quiet shush.
"Wow," the young girl breathed heavily, still in awe, "this car is expensive."
Juliette turned the ignition, grimacing slightly at her stating the obvious. The engine roared heavily, yet restrained. Taryn could feel the power just being held back as it rumbled under the seat. Even this woman's car was a turn-on.
"I've always wondered what a car like this looks like inside. I've never seen a Mercedes Benz that looks like this," Taryn stated, turning to her driver. "You must be kinda rich."
"Kinda," Juliette mimicked the young girl's voice. "You do not see cars like this because they are rare. These aren't common in the U.S. I brought it over from Europe."
"Wow," Taryn laughed, still in awe. "How much does a car like this cost?"
Juliette turned slightly, her brow lifting as she smirked to one side. "A lot." She winked once, and then hit the gas in reverse, spun a 180 and drove out the parking lot within seconds.
Taryn held to the side of the door and grinned. This was exhilarating. Juliette drove at least twice the speed limit, as if this car drove only one speed - fast.