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I sat eating breakfast when the call finally came. I flipped into minor panic mode because I just consumed one of those huge scoops of cereal before I entirely swallowed the previous one, so my mouth was completely stuffed with oats or corn or whatever this particular brand consisted of, and there was absolutely no way I could talk around it. If I even tried to open my mouth, it would probably dribble out into a soggy wad on the table. I rarely receive calls to my land line, so it was probably a telemarketer. I knew I should ignore it, but there was always the chance it was one of my ads, finally paying off, and I couldn’t afford to take the chance that it wasn’t. With some furious chewing, I managed to get half of the cereal down without choking myself, spat the last of it out into the sink, Farewell, Crunchy O’s. You will be missed, and snagged the phone off the hook on the very last ring. Okay Eva, be professional here, I reminded myself. Shoving more food into my mouth than I could fit? Fails to be professional on all counts. I’d better think of a legitimate excuse...
“Blanche residence.” I tried my best to sound out of breath, which wasn’t hard. I might have lodged a little piece of crunchy oat goodness in my windpipe. “Sorry, I just walked in the door from my morning jog, and barely grabbed the phone before it went to message.” I hide a discreet cough in my fist.
“Must have been a long jog,” the voice on the other end uttered in deep, melodic feminine tones. It was a voice with character, belonging to the kind of person everyone instantly wants to like them. I felt relieved that my professionalism didn’t go to waste on a telemarketer before the peculiarity of her words hit me. I glanced up at the clock. It took me a split second to remember how to read analog before my face flushed red in embarrassment. 1:16 in the afternoon.
Crap. Note to self: professionals wake up at the same time every day, regardless of whether they have an actual job to get to that morning or not. And they don’t sleep in past noon. And I should probably invest in a decent watch. With an alarm.
“Yeah…I stopped for a late breakfast, and it really ate up my time.” I was eating breakfast, and apparently a very late one at that. So, yeah. Technically the truth…ish.
“I see.” The voice resonated sarcastic amusement. As strange as it sounds, I got the feeling she knew exactly what I was really doing, even if I logically knew she was only taking her cues from my voice.
“So…” I said, rubbing the back of my neck sheepishly, whipping my hand back down only to realize she couldn’t actually see me. My mom always told me I fidgeted too much for anyone to take me seriously. I never laid eyes on the woman, exchanged fewer words with her than I have with my toaster (And if I actually find my toaster to be a suitable conversation partner, I should probably look into getting a roommate too), and she already had me jumpy. I suddenly felt acutely aware that a granule of cereal was lodged in the little dent of one of my bicuspids. It was like I was back in high school again, trying to impress the popular kids.
“This is the Blanche residence, then?” she said with a smile in her voice. “I didn’t dial a wrong number? Of course I didn’t,” she answered herself. “You did answer that way. ‘Blanche residence.’ And after all that research I did, shifting through all those different files and numbers, I don’t think I’d dial wrong now. Sorry, I’m rambling.”
“Oh, no no no! It’s fine!” I assured her. Does she always rant like this to people she doesn’t know? “Eva Blanche, at your service.” I did a kind of an awkward little salute, momentarily forgetting again she couldn’t see me.
There was a long pause before I realized she was expecting me to say something more. “So, uh, who is this again? Why were you calling?” I winced even as the words left my mouth. Ooohhh, so bad. Good-bye professionalism, Good-bye…actually, I still didn’t know what this was about.
“Oh!” She sounded surprised, and maybe a little embarrassed. “I’m sorry. I guess I never said, did I? I’m Margaret. Margaret Bishop.” For whatever reason, she paused a moment before she said it, and even then it sounded a little uncomfortable, a sour note in an otherwise ordinary introduction. I fancied she wasn’t used to saying it, and found myself wondering if it wasn’t her real name.
“I was calling because I saw your ad in the paper.” This had the potential to be extremely awkward. “Which one?”
“What?”
“I, uh, have more than one ad out.”
“Oh.” She didn’t seem to know what to make of that. It’s called not putting all your eggs in one basket. I don’t know why I even feel embarrassed admitting it. Freelance isn’t the best way to guarantee my rent. I could tell she was curious about the other ads. Thank God she didn’t ask.
“Well, I’m calling about the one in the Courier.”
Oh. Wow. That one. “Oh. Wow. That one.” Which I probably shouldn’t have said out loud.
“Wow? Seriously? You’re the one who put the ad out!”
“Yeah, but I never actually thought…” Just great. I did it again. I’m never going to get another customer as long as I live.
“So, what? Should I just hang up then? Let’s forget I ever called,” she huffed, her annoyance spoiling what had started out as such a good, or at least pleasantly mediocre, day.
“No, sorry. I’m so sorry. I only meant…I don’t know what I meant. Please don’t hang up.” There was a long stressful pause; she sighed, still obviously irritated, but at least faithfully committed to the minutes she already wasted on me.
“Alright, but just so you know, I got…” In the background I could hear the crinkling of a newspaper unfolding, followed by the distinctive pop of a marker cap. “…A whole ‘nother four people equally desperate to serve, so don’t think you’re anything special.” Even as she was speaking, I could hear the marker squeaking as she circled another ad. “Five now!” Her voice was the perfect medley of indignant and smug.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m just a little surprised that anyone answered. I know that positions are pretty scarce, and my tongue gets away from me when I’m nervous. And I probably shouldn’t have told you I’m nervous,” I sighed. “I’m new to the business. And I just wasn’t expecting the person to call would be a girl…Not that that’s a problem! I just always assumed…Isn’t it usually, I don’t know, the other way?” I’d pretty much abandoned professionalism by this point. The best I could hope for was to convince her I’m a decent human being, and if I sounded pathetic enough, maybe she’d be guilted into hiring me.
“Not always,” she replied, thankfully more amused by my curiosity than offended. “And don’t worry your pretty little head. It’s been a while since I’ve had to do this, and I’ve forgotten most of the formalities anyway.”
“So, your full timer…” For what other reason would she be looking to hire again? “…I’m sorry to hear that.” Still, good news for me. If she’s in the market…
“Oh, no! She’s not dead!” Margaret hastily corrected me. “She’s got a really nasty flu, and my sub is on vacation. I’m looking for someone to come in just the once, and maybe once more if Kelly doesn’t recover soon.”
“Yeah, I can do that.”
“I hope that’s okay.” My voice had obviously betrayed my disappointment that my big break was a one shot deal. You Benedict Arnold…
“So when did you want me to come in?” I asked.
“As soon as possible, I was hoping. I put it off for much longer than I should have.” Maybe she was hiding it before, or I just wasn’t looking for it, but her voice did sound a little strained.
“So how soon do you think you can get the paperwork filled out?”
“Ummm…” I cradled the handset between my ear and my shoulder as I scrambled in the drawers for a pad of paper and a pen. “I’ll need to call up my physician. I had a complete physical when I first placed the ad, but that was past two months ago, so for our purposes, it’s not really up to date anymore. I’ll schedule an appointment for the earliest opening tomorrow and have that sent to your warden right away.”
I paused, unable to hold in my curiosity. “What’s it like? Having a warden, I mean,” I hastily corrected. “Not that…other thing.” She laughed, not at all disgusted by my shameless personal inquiries. “Like having a doctor, a lawyer, and a bodyguard all rolled into one. Although I should probably throw parole officer in there, too. That’s the real reason they assign one to all of us. Your warden can be your best friend, but they’re always watching you out of the corner of their eye, waiting for you to slip up.” She sounded more amused than bitter, but the confession still left me feeling a little uncomfortable.
“Right, so, oh! Lawyer! I won’t have to call him, because this isn’t a contract.” At this point I was talking more to myself than to her, trying to remember all the procedures for this kind of thing. If I forgot even one little detail, I’d probably be paying for it up until retirement. That’s if I live that long. Everyone tends to get really touchy about…my line of work, I guess. Because it is my line of work now. That thought would take some getting used to.
“Your warden will provide the release forms when I get there?”
“Mmhm,” she agreed noncommittally, before cutting in “So we’re talking…?”
I tilted my head back, imagining my calendar superimposed on the ceiling, and doodled notes in the air with a finger. “Umm…Thursday? Maybe?” She groaned.
“Sorry. I guess I forgot how much red tape there is to wade through. For one teeny little…! It’s not your fault. I should have dealt with this days ago.” She sighed. “I was hoping if I waited long enough, Kelly would get better, and I wouldn’t have to deal with any of this.” I could see her in my mind’s eye, running a tired hand through her hair. “Well, here’s the address, and the number I can be reached at if Thursday’s a no go,” she added listlessly, before rattling off a string of numbers. I hurriedly scribbled them down, not wanting to have to have her repeat them, but I had to interrupt her as a sudden thought struck me. “Don’t you need to see my profile first?”
“I already had my warden secure your background check before I called you up.”
“You’re allowed to do that?”
It was her turn to be surprised. “Of course! Once you enter your name into the register, any warden can pull up your whole life story at the request of their charge, or if they suspect foul play. You should know that,” she accused. When my shocked silence continued, I suppose she took pity on me. “You really are new to this, aren’t you? Don’t worry; I can’t give out any of the information I find without a release permit. So your embarrassing secrets are relatively safe.”
“Yeah?…! It’s not your fault. I should have dealt with this days ago.” She sighed. “I was hoping if I waited long enough, Kelly would get better, and I wouldn’t have to deal with any of this.” I could see her in my mind’s eye, running a tired hand through her hair. “Well, here’s the address, and the number I can be reached at if Thursday’s a no go,” she added listlessly, before rattling off a string of numbers. I hurriedly scribbled them down, not wanting to have to have her repeat them, but I had to interrupt her as a sudden thought struck me. “Don’t you need to see my profile first?”
“I already had my warden secure your background check before I called you up.”
“You’re allowed to do that?”
It was her turn to be surprised. “Of course! Once you enter your name into the register, any warden can pull up your whole life story at the request of their charge, or if they suspect foul play. You should know that,” she accused. When my shocked silence continued, I suppose she took pity on me. “You really are new to this, aren’t you? Don’t worry; I can’t give out any of the information I find without a release permit. So your embarrassing secrets are relatively safe.”
“Yeah…that’s good. I’d better…call that doctor. Just give me a call when the paperwork goes through.” I hung up, a little shell-shocked. The fact that I had unknowingly signed away my right to privacy was a little scary, but I guess it made sense why they did what they did. If someone was killed on either side…I doubt there would be actual war, then again, look at Archduke Franz Ferdinand, but it certainly wouldn’t be good. What scared me more in the here and now was that there must have been an investigator following me around for a while after I filed for acceptance to the register, and I didn’t notice.
And…my first job. I was actually just hired. As a…I just woke up, and already it’s a busy day.
Exactly three rushed days later, I found myself standing in front of a door painted a cheery green. The house wasn’t very deep, but it made up for that in height. There was a door knocker in the shape of a Claddagh ring; two hands clasping a crowned heart. I opted for the doorbell.
“Coming!” I recognized the voice from the phone. We’d spoken once more since then, and she had sounded more anxious the second time, but no less friendly.
I heard the click of three, count them: three deadlocks before the door was wrenched open. It took a few tugs. This area got a lot of rainstorms, and exposure to the elements had caused the wood to swell. I should ask her if she’s thought about installing an outside glass door.
The door tugged open another inch, and a set of long fingers curled around the edge. The nails were elaborately painted with an enviable underwater landscape, all different shades of blue and tiny sea creatures. The index finger sported a miniscule scuba diver. My own bitten nails came across hobo-ish in comparison. With one last heave, the door crashed open, and revealed Margaret Bishop.
She was about my height, maybe two inches shorter. She wore a pair of dark rinse jeans, an enormous wristwatch with a red strap on her right arm, and a daffodil yellow long sleeved shirt bearing a picture of the Grand Canyon. Her deep brown hair fell in bouncy curls just past her shoulders. Equally brown eyes stared out from red framed glasses perched on a pointed nose. In appearance, she looked to be in her late twenties. She’s older than me. Not by much, but I didn’t expect that.
“You’re Eva, I take it?” I nodded. She stepped to the side, and gestured. “Come on in.”
There really wasn’t anything unusual about her house. It wasn’t very large, but I didn’t expect it to be: she hadn’t mentioned a husband or kids, so I assumed she lived alone. The first floor was taken up entirely by a cramped but cozy living room portioned off of a kitchen. But there was a pretty violent clash of personalities on display on the bookcase shelves. One half was dominated by cheesy paperback romances, jammed in upside down, sideways, and every which way, while the other contained hardcover mysteries lined up like soldiers at attention. I saw a number of mens shoes and coats in the open hall closet. She noticed my wandering eyes, and explained “Most wardens live with their charges. And not just in case one of us goes crazy,” she stage whispered behind a palm. “I don’t understand why it’s such a surprise to most people. What’s the point of a warden if they’re not there when you need them?” Margaret stopped in her tracks, and cupping her hands around her mouth like a megaphone, proceeded to yell at the top of her lungs “Though for those of us who are married, it can get a little awkward having another man in the house!” In response, heavy footsteps began thudding down the stairs from the upper level in response. That would be her warden, then.
“So in those cases,” she continued at a normal volume, “the spouse can take some rudimentary warden training classes, and get a permit. If you get it renewed every few years, they’ll leave you alone as long as you promise to call your assigned warden in case of emergencies.”
She showed me into the kitchen, a room that appeared bigger than the house’s dimensions should rightly allow, with a square oak table, pristine white appliances, and yellow wallpaper with a repeating rooster pattern. A tall man with brilliant blue eyes dressed all in black ducked through the doorway, and sat down across from me. “This is Owen,” she introduced. He glared at me. So I’m guessing not a people person.
Margaret rifled around in some drawers and pulled out several papers with a smile and a flourish. She skimmed the text for a moment before plopping them down in front of me. “So, sign…these?” she said, speaking to me, but glancing hesitantly at Owen. He nodded, and she smiled again, relieved. It was only three pages long, and seemed to be the standard release form. I signed in messy cursive at the bottom, and pushed the papers across the table to Owen, wondering if I was making the biggest mistake of my life. He barely glanced at them before shoving them into a manila envelope I hadn’t even seen him pull out, and placed that in a black briefcase leaning against one of the table legs.
“Okay!” Margaret clapped her hands delightedly. “You ready to start? Owen will be supervising, so you don’t need to worry about dying or anything. He’s got a gun, and he’s been told to use it if anything goes wrong. See?” Owen pulled a gun out of his waistband, Isn’t that exactly what they always say you’re not supposed to do?, and gave it a lazy wave. “You look a little freaked. Wanna close your eyes?” Yes. I want to close my eyes. “No, I’m fine.”
Margaret walked up behind me, and placed her hands on my shoulders. “Just relax,” she whispered into my ear, and as her lips brushed my neck, I felt a prick and…
I pulled my head up off the table, and groaned. My neck was going to sore for a few days after this. I groaned again when I noticed I drooled on the table while I was knocked out. Owen was still sitting across the table from me, and he was smirking. Jerk. “Margie went to change.” He talks? “There’s orange juice and some cold pizza in the fridge,” he added, before going right back to ignoring my presence. One of the perks of being a willing donator for the vamps: you get to eat whatever you want out of their fridge. It’s not an actual law as such, but it’s just something that’s done. Any vamp that doesn’t offer isn’t likely to get repeat service.
I helped myself to some of the pizza. I drank the orange juice straight from the jug to pay Owen back for smirking at me. From the animosity I felt rolling off of him in waves, I was correct in assuming he probably had some germ issues. When I finished, he handed me a check, and pointedly jerked his head in the direction of the door.





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