MJ Gardner
Dark Fiction

Juliette: A Cautionary Tale

The bartender hadn't seen her come in. He bent down to adjust the hoses on the tap and when he stood up, there she was. Honey-blonde hair, ice-blue eyes, 1950s starlet sequined gown and a wine glass already in her hand.

The bartender doesn't know where she got her drink from, and he isn't sure he wants to know. He's tended bar for many years, seen many strange things. Above all, he knows enough to trust his instincts, and stay away from the woman in the evening gown.

Juliette knows that he has seen her and wonders. She doesn't care. What could he do? She sips from her glass.

He does see the girl who walks in not five minutes later. He can tell she's never been in a bar before, and she's underage, but it's a weeknight, a weak night, and there are so few patrons. Besides, she goes to the strange woman's table.

"You're Juliette?" asks the girl nervously.

"Oui, ma chère," Juliette answers in a purr, "and you are the one my friend sent to me for...education." She has a French accent and a lovely low, musical voice. It's the kind of voice that makes the pulse quicken before you even see her face.

"Yes, Estephan sent me."

Juliette gestures to a chair and the girl sits down quickly, hoping no one will notice her. She doesn't want to get carded. It would be embarrassing. How can she be inconspicuous, she wonders, with this woman in her blazing red sequins? But the bartender isn't coming to their table.

"How did you meet Estephan?" asks Juliette.

"On the internet."

"But have you ever met him?"

"N-no. I mean, we've talked through Email and IRCs."

Juliette doesn't know what those things are, but she is nonplused. She knows what she needs to, which is that the girl has never seen Estephan.

"Do you know what Estephan is?"

"A--" the girls stops and looks around to see if anyone is listening. No one is paying any attention. They are watching some sports event on the TV. "A vampire." She blinks. "Isn't he?"

"Of course," Juliette assures her. "What is your name, ma chère?"

"Emily."

"And tell me what you know about vampires," Juliette whispers the word and smirks a little. She takes a drink from her cup and Emily wonders what's in it. Is it blood?

"That you're immortal," answers Emily in awe.

Juliette shakes her head. "Not true. We are changeless, ageless. But we can be killed. Do you know how?"

This isn't what Emily wants to hear. She knows vampires can be killed, but she doesn't want to dwell on that.

"But you won't die, I mean, you won't get sick and die, or die of old age."

"No, ma chère, but continued existence means taking care. You have to be careful whom you trust. Do you trust me?" Juliette leans forward, so her face is close to the girl's.

The word "no" burns up Emily's throat. She does not trust Juliette; it is nothing the other has said or done in the five minutes she has been here, it is purely instinctual. But she knows that "no" is the wrong answer. That if she cannot trust Juliette, she will be sent away, back to her little mortal life.

"You hesitate." Juliette sits back in her chair and casually runs a manicured finger along the rim of her glass. "You are not too stupid, then."

"Estephan said I could trust you." He hadn't really, but wasn't that implied by the fact that he had sent Emily here to meet Juliette?

"Did he? How nice." She toys with the rim of her glass a little more, sizing up the girl in front of her.

Emily is uncomfortable under Juliette's scrutiny, but awe overweighs everything else. Here is a real vampire. Here is the person she has been hoping to find. After months of combing the internet and following up false leads and practical jokes, she has finally found a real vampire.

She knew she would find a real vampire. She knew they must be out there, and out there in cyberspace. Finally one of them has taken her pleas seriously.

"So, what else do you know about vampires?"

"You drink blood."

"Indeed. And did our friend tell you that I will require some of yours?"

"Yes." The fine hairs stand up on the back of Emily's neck.

"Do you know how the transformation is accomplished?"

"By drinking your blood just before -- just before it's too late."

"Our friend told you this?" Juliette regards the girl with half-lidded eyes.

"N-no. I've done a lot of research."

"Have you?" Juliette appears calm and unemotional, but inside she is clapping with delight like a ten year old on Christmas morning. Here is plum ripe for the picking, to be savored, if she can only restrain her desires long enough.

"Do you have a place to hide during the day?" asks Juliette.

"Uh, oh, no. But I figured...." What had she figured? That Juliette would have a coffin ready for her? It seems an imposition to ask for that on top of the gift of immortality.

"Well, I suppose we have enough time before dawn for you to find one."

"Do you have any psychic powers?" asked Emily. She has read a lot about this, but no two vampires seem to have the same abilities.

"Of course, ma chère," answers Juliette with a smile. "But I will not use them on you. Ours must be a relationship of trust." She gives a dazzling smile and the girl smiles back, relaxing a little. She can just see Juliette's fangs.

"Are you really prepared to give up your old life and enter the darkness?" asks Juliette casually, as if she is only asking for the sake of form, as if she does not doubt that Emily is ready and willing.

"Oh, yes. I want very much to be a vampire. To be eternal. Forever young and beautiful and deadly."

"You want to be deadly? Have you ever killed before?" Juliette thinks there might be some promise in this girl, but it is a slim hope.

"Well, no." Emily blinks in surprise. Of course she's never killed anyone before!

"I see." Juliette settles back in her chair, disappointed. It is always the same isn't it? They don't really understand what they are asking for. They don't understand what a vampire is. All they see is the Hollywood image -- rich, beautiful, powerful, forever young. They don't know that being a vampire doesn't change you.

It hasn't changed Juliette. She was always this way.

"Well, ma chère, let us go some place private, then. This is not the proper atmosphere for such a sacred rite," says Juliette. She rises, leaving her glass on the table. Who knows? Some desperate drunk might sample its contents.

Emily's heart races. Her palms are sweaty, her arms are all goose bumps as she follows Juliette out into the warm summer night.

They walk in silence for two blocks. Juliette's red dress attracts stares and cat calls. Emily is sure that no one can even see her in Juliette's shadow. But that will change. She's sure of it. She'll be like Juliette.

Maybe not quite like her. Juliette is beautiful, striking. Emily thinks she will still be a brunette after the change, and she'll still have brown eyes. But she's sure men will stare at her. Will want her. They'll come to her like flies to honey.

Juliette is tempted to look back and see if her little charge is following, but, thinking of Orpheus, she doesn't. She ignores the hoots and whistles from a carload of teenage boys. On another night she might not, but tonight her evening's entertainment is taken care of.

Juliette takes Emily through the spacious lobby of an apartment building. It is full of ferns and mirrors and preposterous teal couches. Emily cannot find Juliette's reflection.

They go up in the elevator. Way up. Eighteenth floor. She unlocks a black lacquered door and they step into the entrance hall.

It is dark. Emily hears the fall of tumblers and the slide of a bolt behind her. Juliette has not turned on the light.

"Wait here, ma chère," says Juliette, her voice surprisingly close to Emily's ear. She brushes against Emily in the dark. Oh, well, thinks Emily, it's dark, it was an accident. But that hand that slid across her behind does make her a little uncomfortable.

A match flares to life and she sees Juliette lighting a candelabra. Emily emerges from the short entry hall into a living room. A vampire's room!

The far wall is covered with sumptuous draperies, velvet it looks like, dark red maybe, but it's hard to tell by candlelight. Furniture is scattered around the perimeter of the room: chairs, tables, art deco floor lamps and a love seat. All of it is ornate, antique, eclectic.

And in the center of the room is a... something between a bench and a couch. It has arms but no back. One could imagine a Roman emperor reclining on it while one beautiful slave feeds him grapes and another buffs his nails. Just behind this, a little off center, is the table with the candelabra, draped in a white damask tablecloth. It looks like an altar.

"Have a seat, ma chère," says Juliette, gesturing to the couch. Somehow Emily knew it was for her.

Juliette disappears and returns with two silver goblets and a bottle of wine. She sets them on the altar table and pours one for Emily.

"What about you?" asks Emily, taking her cup. She is too young to drink, has never drunk before, and is pretty sure she doesn't want to do it alone. She needs someone to imitate.

"I will have mine," answers Juliette with a smile. "Drink, it will dull the pain." And from somewhere, as if by magic, Juliette produces a little pointed knife. It reminds Emily of the scalpel that came with the microscope she got when she was ten.

"What are you going to do?" she asks, repressing her alarm. It is such a small blade, it won't do to be alarmed by it. Especially since she was expecting Juliette to use her teeth.

"I will just fill my cup, cherie," answers Juliette, her musical voice flowing smoothly and soothingly. "Drink; do not watch. It will only hurt a little. The rite would not be complete without communion."

Emily drinks. She does not like the taste of the wine, but it warms her nicely. She has finished half the cup.

"Drink up, ma chère. I will not cut until you have finished. Don't worry, I will refill your glass for you and we will have our communion."

Emily obediently finishes the wine, feeling Juliette take her hand as she tips back the chalice for the last drops. Juliette's fingers are cold and her touch is light. Gentle. How could Emily be afraid?

The cut makes Emily gasp a little. She does not look, as she has been told not to.

Now Juliette has turned her wrist over, is holding her hand bent back. Not too far, not to hurt. Only enough to let the blood flow. When she has enough in her cup Juliette licks the wound. Emily is surprised by the flick of her cold tongue, but the bleeding stops immediately.

"There, that was not so bad, was it, ma chère?"

"Mmm. No, I guess not," answers Emily. Her mouth is dry. She feels a little lightheaded. Is it the blood loss or the wine? she wonders. She watches Juliette sip from her cup.

"Relax, ma chère," says Juliette, and gently pushes her back onto the sloping arm of the couch. Her cold hand caresses Emily's throat and strays down a little farther between her breasts. Did she undo a button? No, it must be the wine. Emily is imagining things. She feels warm and fuzzy and too comfortable to move.

Was there a corkscrew in the wine bottle? Did Juliette take the time to unwrap the foil, or did she just pop the cork out? Perhaps she has doctored the wine. Or perhaps not. Perhaps Juliette is good enough not to need to drug her playmates.

Juliette watches Emily's eyes, glittering under half-closed lids. She reclines languorously on the couch. Ah, so tempting. The game will be played out too soon if Juliette does not show some restraint.

But then, restraint has never been her long suit.

She leans over and kisses Emily on the lips. A gentle kiss. A lover's kiss, no doubt about that.

Emily doesn't know what to do. By the time she could get around to reacting, Juliette has pulled away. It was only a kiss, only one kiss. Emily thinks, "A vampire kissed me," not "A woman kissed me!" And after all, she is French, and from another time, when customs were different. Emily needs to rationalize.

"Here is your wine."

"What next?" asks Emily, sitting up a little so she can drink from the cup. What is that salty taste on her lips? Something left by Juliette's kiss?

Juliette laughs, and it is like chimes ringing. "Are you in a hurry, cheri?"

"Well, no...."

"Then lay back. Relax. You don't want to see one more sunrise?"

Sunrise? Emily is never up that early. "No."

"Spend another day sunning yourself at the beach?" Emily hates the beach. She burns faster than dryer lint. "No."

Juliette casually undoes another button of Emily's Oxford button-down shirt. Her eyes never leave Emily's, like a snake hypnotizing a sparrow.

"You aren't fond of blue skies and spring sunshine?" Button. "Or icicles glinting in the winter sun?" Button. "Or the golden sunsets of autumn?" Last button.

Emily thinks that maybe she is, but what are those things in return for immortality? Nothing.

"No. What are you doing?"

She sits up and is surprised when her shirt falls open.

"You came into this world naked, and you shall go into the next the same way," answers Juliette, as if that makes perfect sense. Juliette always speaks as if she's sure of what she's saying. And people believe her.

"Naked?"

"It is only me here," answers Juliette with a chuckle. "Certainly you are not shy, cheri? Not with another woman."

Well it is silly to be shy, isn't it? But Emily is, even so.

"Is it part of the ritual?"

"Yes, exactement, of course. Come, come," chides Juliette. "Off with your clothes. You will not want them again, anyway. They are not fitting for a vampire."

"Alright," agrees Emily doubtfully. She stands up but her head is swimming and she sits down again heavily. Oh, well, she can take off her shirt this way. Only her cuff buttons seem to have evolved into puzzles, like those Chinese wire things you try to take apart.

"Let me help you." Juliette takes the uncooperative cuffs in hand. She is on her knees beside the couch.

"You're so wonderful," gushes Emily suddenly, overcome by a wave of gratitude, "to do this for me. I've been looking so long for a vampire, a real vampire, who would take me seriously."

"It is nothing," answers Juliette, and smiles. Emily thinks she is really pleased with her gratitude. She thinks Juliette is happy to help her out. "Stand up, ma chère."

Emily is naked from the waist up, and her pants are undone. She stands tipsily, while Juliette whisks away her jeans and underwear. When did her shoes and socks come off?

Juliette hands her the wine cup again when she sits down, and Emily drinks before laying back. That's better. The wine eases the dizziness. The velvet of the couch feels good on her skin. It's decadent, Emily thinks, to have velvet under her bare bottom.

Something trickles down between her breasts.

Something cold and wet and soft wipes the wine from Emily's cleavage. Licks it up. Juliette's tongue. Emily is starting to rise, to protest, when she feel Juliette's fangs. Just above her left breast. They hurt no more than the knife did, which is enough. She lays her head back and gives a little cry.

"Softly, softly, ma chère." Juliette's breath is a cool breeze over Emily's wine-warmed skin. "You are much prettier with your clothes off, petite," she adds.

Juliette's hand strokes Emily's other breast, and she can feel Juliette moving over her, her cool skin against Emily's flushed body. What happened to the gown? She is going to bite her again, on the other side. Emily finds she cannot raise her head, it is too heavy.

"Don't fight it, ma chère." Juliette's tongue teases Emily's nipple. "This is what you wanted, no? Excitement." Below the surface of her skin Juliette can hear the song of Emily's blood, the rushing, the pulsing. If only she can make her last long enough.

When Juliette sinks her teeth in again, Emily gasps, but does not cry out. It doesn't hurt as much this time. Maybe she is getting used to it. Maybe it is because Juliette's hands are giving her a pleasure that masks the pain, despite Emily's desire to be appalled.

Juliette's weight shifts. Her lips and her tongue are moving farther south. Down Emily's ribs, past her belly button. Emily protests, but her voice is faint. She cannot raise her head. She lifts a hand and it falls on a strand of Juliette's hair, but it feels oddly numb.

Juliette's lips and tongue go still further down, around the nest of curly hair. She easily parts Emily's thighs. This is the state Juliette likes. Where they can feel everything, but cannot move. She can do anything; there is no choice for her playmates but submission.

Juliette's tongue opens Emily's nether lips, traces them. She inhales Emily's delicate scent. Virginal. Freshly bathed. Her fingers pry and delve.

Emily is beyond rational thought. She only knows fear and pleasure, but does not know where one emotion ends and the other begins. It is moot, anyway. She no longer has the power to choose resistance or submission. Juliette has seen to that.

Down here the bloodsong is fast and high-pitched. Piccolos and flutes. A timpani pulse. When she sinks her fangs into the petal-wall of the delicate red flower Emily stiffens, her back rises off the couch, her toes curl upwards like elves' shoes.

And for a moment she knows, if not immortality, at least timelessness.

And then Emily relaxes. The breath goes out of her, and out and out. The bloodsong stops. The pulsing stops. Her heart has stopped.

Juliette wipes her mouth on the back of her hand and swears vehemently in French. She took too much too fast. She was only beginning to play.

After showering and donning her red dress, Juliette lets herself out of the apartment, leaving Emily splayed on Estephan's couch.

Estephan is not a vampire; he is a ghoul. He will happily feast on Emily's tender flesh.

Perhaps those boys are still cruising, thinks Juliette.