Forsythia: Blood Moon
It was almost time to close up shop. Rain was beginning to drizzle outside, and I wondered how long it would be before the thunder rolled in with it. It had been a long evening, with practically no customers. Michael, my boss, had been gone for a long time, saying “You should be okay to close up on your own, right?” I figured he’d gotten tired of waiting for customers to come in and ran off to the bar. That was a very long three hours ago.
As I was finishing up cleaning the floor, I heard the door chime. A customer had just walked in! I looked up to greet them and saw Charlie Bennett standing there, looking around curiously. He came in almost every day, and he always bought a new card, whether it was one for a birthday, a thank you card, or anything in between. Mike’s Paper Goods was great for that, but we had other stuff too, like little trinkets and other small gifts, that people were more inclined to buy. No one consistently bought one singular card regularly like Charlie did.
Tonight was no different. I watched as he gazed at the Get Well Soon cards, brow furrowed. “Do you need help deciding?” I asked from my place on the other side of the floor.
He turned to look at me. There was a strange intensity in his eyes that I hadn’t seen before. “Yes, actually,” he said, gesturing to the cards. I walked over and looked at them with him. “My father is sick.”
“I need something that will…cheer him up.” He didn’t sound too sure about what he was saying, but I didn’t let that stop me from looking with him.
Pulling out a purple card with a nice font, I said “This one seems to be basic enough, you could probably write something sweet in there to make him smile.”
“Hmmm.” He took it from me and looked at it. It seemed to take a little bit too long, but he seemed to decide against that card, putting it back. “What about this one?” Charlie chose a black one with red trimming. “This seems more his style.”
I nodded, holding back a shrug. “Yeah, that one’s nice too. It’s completely blank on the inside so you could definitely write some words of encouragement in there.”
Charlie looked down at me, holding up the card. “I would like this one.”
“Alright, well let’s check you out then,” I said happily, walking over to the register. He followed behind, and I could feel his eyes on me. It only felt a little weird. At the register, I scanned the card and packed it up for him. “Thanks for being a regular,” I said in my customer service voice. “We appreciate your patronage!”
“What are you doing after you close up?” Charlie asked suddenly. I wasn’t ready for the question, so I had no reply. Usually he just paid and left, barely saying anything. “I only ask because I have this show to go to tonight, but I don’t want to go alone. I figured I would leave early, but I also figured why not ask you? You like music, right?”
“Uh, yeah,” I responded, wondering if he had noticed me dancing to the music on the speakers from time to time. “I usually don’t go out with customers, though…”
“Oh,” he said, sounding a little disheartened.
I backtracked. “What kind of music is it? Have I heard of the people you’re seeing? I know a few local bands, but not many.”
Charlie shrugged, saying, “They play different music than what you all play here. More…intense, I guess.”
“I’m glad they don’t play stuff we play here,” I joked. “I like some of it, but most of it is so bad.”
He chuckled, shaking his head. “They play more…alternative rock than this.”
I really couldn’t make up my mind…on one hand, I had always thought he had a weird kind of cuteness to him. All I could think of, however, is that he could be any kind of person in real life, one that I shouldn’t risk being around alone. Although, we would be at a bar, most likely…a busy bar…
“Okay, I’ll go,” I decided. “But I have to change my clothes first.”
Charlie’s face lit up, and he smiled a genuine smile for a quick second before regaining his neutral demeanor. “That’s great,” he finally said. His eyes were twinkling. “Would you like to just meet there? I don’t mind waiting at your place, but I’m thinking you would like to not invite me in for this first time going out together.”
“Oh, yeah,” I realized. “That would probably be wise, given that it’s night time.” I pulled out my phone, going to the contact list. “Put your number in my phone so that I can tell you when I’m coming to the place. Also, text me the name of the place,” I added, realizing that I didn’t know where we were actually going.
“That would be helpful.” He took my phone and quickly texted himself on it. He then handed it back to me and gave me his usual small smile. “The show starts at 10:30, but please take your time. I don’t want you to think I’m waiting impatiently.” With that, he turned around and walked out the front door with purchase in hand.
I looked down at my phone and saw the name of the bar — Eclipse — along with the rest of the text: “Eclipse. Corner of High and 21st. 10:30. Meet me at the corner of the bar, I’ll be waiting for you there.”
What was I doing? Before now, he had only said a handful of words to me. Charlie wasn’t the most extroverted person, from what I could tell. What was the big deal? Why tonight, of all nights, did he want to go on this…date? Was it even a date?
“Ugh.” I hurried up and closed the store, making my way home a little faster than usual so I could meet him down there. “What else do I have to do, really?” I asked myself as I started my car. “Go home and eat pasta salad? Go to sleep in 45 minutes? That’s it, that’s all you would’ve done, Mallory.” The pep talk continued all the way home, until I got to my closet and looked at all my clothes. “I have nothing to wear.” I ran a hand through my hair, trying not to grow frustrated. “What is this place like, anyway? Does it even matter what I wear?”
Pulling out my phone, I went to look up this bar. Eclipse seemed to be too cool of a name for it to have always been downtown and not have been noticed. As I found their website, however, I saw a big label on it that said “The City’s Only Goth Bar since 2000.” It had been there for almost twenty years! A goth bar?
“Well,” I said aloud. “At least I know what to wear now.” I pulled out one of the many black shirts I had and threw it on my bed. Eventually, I had myself all put together, and I was waiting outside for my ride. Car-sharing apps were amazing for a night out with a strange man.
Terry, the driver, welcomed me into the car cheerfully. “How are you doing tonight?”
“I’m alright,” I responded.
I must’ve sounded nervous because he looked in his rear view mirror at me. “What are you up to this evening?”
“My friend invited me to a show tonight, so I’m going to this place called Eclipse.”
Terry the Driver looked back at me now, eyes wide. “Eclipse?”
“Have you ever been there before?” he asked, voice hushed. He was driving slower now, maintaining eye contact. “It’s a weird place.”
Oh no. “How so? I’ve never been before.”
Terry shook his head. “It’s a place of sin.”
Oh boy. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.
“There’s rumors about that place. People go in there and they come out…different.”
“Different?” Why was I playing along with this guy’s superstitious mind? “How are they different?”
Shaking his head some more, he turned back to look at the road. His voice was almost too low, as if someone else was listening in and he was trying not to be heard. “People go in there and come out looking sick. Like they’ve never seen the sun. It’s hard to describe, but my sister went in there and now she never comes around. Or, well, she does,” he corrected. “But only in the dark. She…I think she’s a demon.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “A demon? That makes no sense.”
Terry stopped the car suddenly and spun around to look at me once more, looking wild. “Something’s wrong with her,” he insisted. “She was fine until she went into that bar! I swear it, there’s something wrong with that bar. I don’t think you should go in there.”
This was ridiculous. “Sir, I don’t think you have the authority to tell me what to do, but thank you for your input,” I told him flatly. I didn’t want to push him anymore, and I definitely wanted to get to Eclipse in one piece.
“I think this ride is over,” he said abruptly, unlocking the car. “You’re only a block away anyhow. I hope you have a good night.”
Not wanting to argue, I got out of the car and he sped off. “I guess I’m not giving him five stars,” I grumbled, making my way down the street. There was no way what he was saying was true. People don’t suddenly change after going to a bar once. Believing him would be silly.
When I got to the bar, the first thing I noticed is that the building had no windows. It was a black brick building, with an usher outside the blood red door and the name of the bar on a cursive neon sign above it. Surprisingly, there was no line. I showed the usher my ID and he opened the door for me.
The first thing I noticed coming into the bar was the smell. It was unlike any other bar I had walked into. Usually, bars smelled of frat boys, liquor, and vomit. This bar had a lavender-rose haze to it, the scent immediately intoxicating. In front of me was the stage, all set up with the music equipment; on my left, there were a handful of doors, presumably to bathrooms and maybe the employee areas.
On the right was the bar, where most of the people were. I instantly realized that I was very under dressed. Every woman I saw was a goth goddess, dressed in their fancy dresses and chunky heels, makeup flawless. My leather leggings, black t-shirt, jean jacket combo wasn’t exactly cutting it, comparatively. All of the men looked the same as well, with inky dark hair and lots of black leather.
Through the crowd, however, was Charlie. He was the only man in the building with a lighter shade of hair than black. Although it was only light brown, it made a difference. He saw me and waved me over, so I made my way to him. “I’m glad you came,” he said, softly smiling as he handed me a drink. “Hopefully you like vodka crans.”
“Yeah, I do,” I said, taking it from him. I looked at what he was drinking. The glass was tall, and its contents were dark red. “What is that?”
“The specialty drink here,” he said simply, taking a sip. “It’s called a Blood Moon. It’s an…acquired taste.” He paused to take another sip, then gestured over to the stage. “Want to get a good spot?”
“Sure,” I said, following him over to the stage. “So, it’s almost time?”
“Yes,” Charlie said, meeting my gaze. “I don’t know if you’ll enjoy the music, but I’m still happy you came. I didn’t know if you would agree or not, seeing as I’m just a customer.”
I took a sip of my drink. It wasn’t particularly tasty, but it was just a vodka cranberry, after all. “Thank you for inviting me,” I smiled. “Honestly, I would’ve been asleep in an hour, so this is a much better way of spending my Friday night.”
Charlie let out a chuckle and took a big sip of his drink. We waited in silence, Charlie nursing his drink while I looked around at everyone. There was something in my gut that was telling me that something was off about how everyone looked, but I couldn’t place it. Everyone seemed to have very pale skin. Even Charlie looked a little waxy. I looked down at my hands. They were flushed, pink…normal. I looked up at Charlie again. He was drinking, but he wasn’t red at all. No one was. It was like they all had a really high tolerance for drinking or something.
I realized Charlie was looking down at me now. “Are you alright?” he asked, concerned.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I quickly replied, taking a large gulp of my drink. “Just people watching.”
This didn’t seem to convince him, but he didn’t pry. I looked towards the stage, knowing that the time was getting close. As soon as I went to ask what time it was, the lights shut off, and everyone started to cheer. Fog machines blasted all around, and the lavender-rose smell was pungent as I watched the stage intently.
The shadows of two men came out and grabbed the guitar and bass that were sitting on stage. A small shadow came and started drumming, a pulsating bass kick that reverberated in my ribs. Finally, the lights came up and a gorgeous woman was standing at the microphone, guitar in her hands. She let out a roar that I instantly knew was the beginning of the show, and I felt the crowd behind me start to mosh. It was this kind of show.
Charlie got behind me and shielded me from the pit as the band began to play, a cacophony of noise that I wouldn’t listen to on my own, but was okay in the setting that I was in. From the way Charlie was tapping my arm, he seemed to be enjoying it. I decided to do a little bounce to try and show that I was enjoying myself. Instantly, Charlie’s hand stopped tapping and he leaned down to talk in my ear. “Not your thing?”
Blushing, I looked over at him and shook my head gently. He smiled knowingly. “Let’s stay for this song, then we can go somewhere more quiet, okay?”
“Okay,” I agreed, turning back to the band. The people were ethereal, literally the most beautiful people I’d ever seen. They radiated some strange energy that I had only seen from, well, Charlie. He wasn’t on the same level as this band, though. They were gorgeous.
I looked around at Charlie. He really seemed to be enjoying the band. In the light from the stage, I noticed that his eye color was grey. It was a silvery grey I had never seen before in a person’s eye. The wrinkles on his face that I could see told me that he was older than I initially thought, but not by much. I wasn’t too far off, in all honesty. The fact that his hand was on my arm, not my hip, should’ve pointed out that he was more respectful than most of the younger guys I’ve dated.
The song crashed to an end and Charlie took the opportunity to move, grabbing my hand in his strangely cold one and guiding me with him. We got out of the crowd way faster than I thought, and pretty soon we were right back at the bar counter. “What would you like to drink?”
“A Manhattan, please,” I said. He turned towards the bar. The bartender made us our drinks and he turned back towards me. “How much was it?” I asked him.
“No, it’s on me,” Charlie said, waving his hand dismissively. He started to walk towards the other side of the building and I followed close behind, trying to keep up. Eventually we ended up on the side with all the doors. “This band’s name is Forsythia,” Charlie quipped. “They’re my friends. The lead singer is my sister.”
My eyes widened. “Your sister?”
“Yes,” he said, looking towards the stage. “She’s got a great voice, for the genre.”
“I would guess so,” I shrugged. “Everyone seems to be enjoying it. You did, for sure.”
Charlie nodded as he drank his drink, humming. “I like her band. But this screaming stuff isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.”
“Thanks for understanding,” I said, reaching up to rub the back of my neck.
“Of course,” he smiled, glancing down slightly. “Would you, uh, like to go into a room?” Motioning to them, he added, “Every room is slightly different, so I’ll let you choose randomly, if you’d like.”
I looked at the doors, brow furrowed. What did that mean? Every door looked the same. What could be behind them all? Walking towards the left, I stood between two of the doors, looking back and forth between them. Finally, I moved so I was standing next to the door on the right. “This one?”
Charlie walked towards me, and I moved slightly to let him get in front. He grabbed the handle and opened it towards us, motioning for me to enter. I walked into the room and looked around. There were lots of couches, black velvet, and a handful of people sitting around in couples, smoking and drinking closely. Candles lit the walls and the ash trays on the tables in the middle of the walk ways. The shadows were eerie, but it honestly looked pretty cool with the smoke. Through the cigarettes and weed, I smelled the same lavender-rose from the main bar.
“What is this room?” I asked him softly, as it was very quiet, save for the sound of murmurs.
“The smoking room,” Charlie responded, leading me to the back of the room where no one was. He watched as I sat, and then sat next to me, a notably respectful distance away. “Do you want to leave? We can go to a different room if the smoke bothers you.”
“No, it’s okay, I don’t mind the smoke,” I told him. “It’s not a big deal!” I readjusted, getting as comfortable as I could on the couch. “So, I guess this is the part where I ask you about yourself, right?”
He looked down to smile at his drink, then looked back up at me. “I would say so. What do you want to know?”
“Why do you buy so many cards?” I asked him bluntly. “No one buys that many cards normally, you know?”
Charlie’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “I didn’t think I was being that obvious, I guess,” he shrugged. “I think you’re cute, so I needed an excuse to come in and see you.”
“Oh!” I figured that was the case, but I didn’t think he’d be so honest about it.
Charlie didn’t even blush. “What do you like to do in your free time?” he asked, leaning forward slightly.
Still shocked, it took me a moment to process the question. Once I got it together, I realized that I didn’t have an answer. “I don’t do much, really. Just stay home a lot, maybe go to the grocery store every once in a while.”
He looked confused at this. “Do you go out with friends or anything?”
“Not really,” I said. I didn’t really have friends, just a couple from high school that stuck around emotionally. “The friends I have all moved away after school. I stayed because I couldn’t afford college.”
“I see.” He took a sip of his drink, then sat it on the table. I finished mine and put the glass down next to his. For a moment, we were quiet. Glancing over, I noticed that he was staring off into the distance, deep in thought. “I don’t really have many friends in this city, since I just moved back from Toronto.” His voice was a little weary. “So I understand what you mean.”
He turned towards me now, and I moved to match him. We were still an arm’s length away. “Is this a date?” I asked him. I couldn’t go on not knowing whether or not it was.
A frown was what I was met with. “I thought so?” he said, sounding thoroughly confused. “Is it not?”
“I thought it was too,” I said, holding up my hands. “I didn’t know because you’re not very…hands-y!”
Charlie paused, but then started laughing. His laugh was sharp, like he wasn’t used to doing so. I began to laugh out of nervousness. “Not hands-y?”
“Yeah!” More laughter. I could feel my face grow hot. “Why are you laughing?”
He regained his composure slightly, enough to respond. “I’m sorry for laughing, I just didn’t know that was something I should be doing.”
I wanted to hide my face in my hands. “It’s not, really,” I said, holding my thighs tightly. “Just, usually when I go on a date, it’s not with someone who’s so respectful.” His face fell as I continued. “Usually the guy’s a jackass who doesn’t know when to stop.”
“I’m…sorry to hear that,” Charlie said, grabbing his drink and downing it. “That doesn’t sound good at all.” I gave him a half-heartened shrug and started reaching for my drink before realizing that it was empty. He realized this as well and stood up. “Another Manhattan?”
“Please?” I smiled sheepishly. He nodded and strode off, leaving me sitting here. There was a bar in this room, so he didn’t have to go to far. I reached for my phone and idled through my apps. This date had taken a weird turn. My head was racing with all of the possible things that could happen next, and it was buzzing as well. My tolerance for alcohol was already pretty light, so I was already feeling the liquor.
Charlie came back with two drinks and handed me mine, sitting down again. I noticed that he was closer, but still not close enough for it to be considered any more than friendly. I could tell that he was trying to be polite, but it was driving me a little bit more than crazy because now I knew that this was not just a hang out.
I took a good drink of my Manhattan and closed the distance between us, getting close enough for our legs to touch. He jumped slightly, but didn’t move away. “What else should I know about you? Besides the fact that you’re a goth guy who doesn’t have friends,” I added cheekily.
This made him smile bashfully, but he didn’t look away from me. “I really enjoy sushi,” he said simply, causing me to laugh. “It’s so good, when done right.”
“I like sushi too, actually,” I said through giggles.
“I also enjoy movies, any movies,” he continued, leaning in.
“Movies are always a good time,” I agreed.
“Sleeping in is nice.”
“May I ask you a question?” he asked me, voice low. I nodded softly, and he leaned into me. “Are you having a good time?”
I nodded again, saying, “Yes, I am. I’m kind of buzzed, so sorry if I start acting weird.”
“You’re drinking,” he reminded me. “It’s not weird at a bar.”
“Right,” I giggled. Even though I was close to him now, I noticed that I was a little cold. “Is there a draft in here or something? Should I be cold right now?”
Charlie nodded. “I’m cold.”
“Well yeah, that’s why I’m asking if there’s a draft,” I agreed.
“No, I’m cold. Like my body is making you cold.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Touch my hand.” I rose my eyebrows at him, but he just held his hand forward and waited. When I grabbed it, it was indeed cold. Colder than it should’ve been, considering we were indoors. “I’m not warm, right?”
Shaking my head, I said, “You are pretty cold, that’s for sure. Why are you so cold? Why are you MAKING me cold? That’s the weird part.”
He gave me that small smile. “If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me. You want me to tell you anyway?”
“You can’t just say that and not tell me, Charlie,” I giggled again.
Charlie brought his lips to my ear, brushing against them gently and sending shivers down my spine. “You’re in a vampire den, Mal. Almost everyone you see is a vampire.”
There was a very long pause. I could feel my heart racing against the back of my hand as I gripped my martini glass tight. The logical part of my brain knew that he was lying, but the fantastical in me wanted to believe. After all, the Earth and the Universe were so big, I couldn’t really rule out anything being real or fake. I knew that most things could be proven with fact. Technically, there was no way I could know just by looking at him whether or not he was strictly human.
I was also an adult with an overactive imagination, and I knew that the idea of vampires existing was silly and childish. How could they? It just didn’t make sense.
There was one way to find out, I guess. “Prove it,” I whispered, my voice shaking as I spoke into his ear. Another long pause. That lavender-rose scent was inebriating now. I felt his hand take the glass out of mine and sit it on the table along with his glass, moving away slightly as he did so. As he sat them down, he sighed.
“Are you sure?” he asked. “It might scare you.”
“Not much scares me,” I responded, sitting up straight. I wondered if he could feel me trembling next to him.
Charlie settled into the couch again, wrapping his arm around my waist to pull me in close. Our eyes met and I felt my mouth drop. His eyes were glowing, and they were a bright silver. Around his eyes, there was a harsh black tear, as if his skin was crackling marble. His skin was almost luminescent, and his shockingly white teeth were fanged.
Fanged. “Oh, hell,” I breathed, realizing that yes, he did have fangs. “Those weren’t there before, were they?”
“No,” Charlie said, his voice completely different. It was as if he was holding back the raw sensuality his voice naturally had. His whole demeanor was different, too. I could definitely see the gorgeousness that his sister possessed was not lost on him. “I may be many things, Mal, but I’m not a liar.” He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, and just like that, his eyes were back to normal, fangs gone.
I wanted to scoot away from him, but I couldn’t look away from him, let alone move away. “Why are you telling me this, Charlie?”
He let out another sigh. “I really think you are cute,” he started. “And I would like to get to know you, honestly. But…” He paused, looking down slightly before looking back up at me. “I needed to find a human because I don’t have a reliable source of food anymore. Honestly, I could choose anyone who’s not a vampire. When I come into the shop, however…” He took a moment to breathe. “There’s something about you that draws me in. I am not sure how to describe it, if I can be honest. The only way I can describe it is a ‘vibe’, but that sounds so…modern.”
“Issa vibe,” I weakly joked. Charlie shook his head, seemingly amused. “So, what, do I smell good or something?”
“I’m sure you always do, but that’s not how it works,” Charlie chuckled once more. “I am usually able to hold back, in terms of how I operate as a vampire. There are ways to reel in the cravings and the impulses I have. I have been trying very hard to not appear too…forward with you, and I know you think it’s because I’m a polite man.” His eyes began to glow again, and I felt my heart begin to race. “While I am polite, I am also a man who knows what he wants. Do you understand?”
Did Charlie want to kill me? By the look in his eyes, it sure seemed like it. There was a primal hunger there that I had never seen in my life. I knew for sure I was shaking like a leaf. Figuring I should answer, I whispered, “You’re gonna kill me, right?”
Charlie instantly started to laugh again. “Absolutely not!” he cried, breaking away from me to lean back and laugh some more. “I would never!” Pulling himself together and wiping a stray tear from his eye, he leaned back into the conversation. “I would just like to ask you very simply: Would it be okay, even though we have just officially met, if I were to have some of your blood? Just enough to fill me up, it won’t be enough to kill you.”
How could I have guessed that this would be my Friday night? A customer, who I just found out is a vampire, wants to make me a snack in a sexy goth bar slash vampire den? What kind of world would this ever happen in?
Apparently this one.
Really, I had nothing to lose except however much blood he was going to take. I didn’t have to work for the next two days so I could recover from whatever was about to happen, and there was no way I was going to risk walking away now, now that I knew that he could very much kill me if he wanted to.
“I’ll let you have some of my blood,” I decided, watching as his face slowly began to smile. “My only request is that you tell me what you’re going to do before you actually do it.”
“Like when you get a shot at the doctor’s office?” Charlie asked.
“Uh, sure,” I responded awkwardly.
Charlie sat up straighter, and so did I. He grabbed my arms gently and moved me so that my back was resting on the back of the velvet couch. “I’m going to be over you like this,” he started, standing up and putting his knee underneath his body so that he was over my body slightly. “Please move your head towards my chest, extending your neck.”
“This is all very technical,” I commented.
“Yes,” Charlie agreed. “Now, I’m going to get close and begin biting down right here,” he told me, touching the artery with his finger gently. His hands were so cold, and they were trembling like I was.
“Is it going to hurt?” I asked, knowing damn well it would.
“It might,” Charlie said softly, leaning down into my neck. I instinctively reached up and rested my hands on his chest, scared out of my mind. “I’ll try to be gentle, but I can’t promise that I won’t hurt you.”
“Okay,” I sighed, trying to keep my breathing even.
“Are you ready?” he asked, lips brushing against my skin. Ready as I could be, I nodded, closing my eyes and bracing myself for the bite.
Thanks for reading, y’all! I accidentally wrote too much of this for it to be considered a short story, so it’ll have at least one more part. Hopefully y’all liked it enough to read more about Mal’s adventures with Charlie Bennett!
If you feel like following me on Twitter, I say go for it! I’m always down for a Constructive Criticism-themed DM, seeing as this is one of the first times I’ve been willing and able to share my creative writing without absolutely hating it first. But I also retweet lots of funny memes, so you can always stay for the memes as well as the weekly blog posts!