Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A vampire a day: Auld Lang Syne by Katherine Tomlinson


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AULD LANG SYNE
I got a few quizzical looks when I signed in.  It’s possible some of the women working at the registration desk remembered me but I doubted it.  Back in high school I’d had lank brown hair, bad skin and had carried an extra 30 pounds.  I’d spent my four miserable years at Woodrow Wilson High School being invisible and dreaming of better times to come.  Better times had come.  I looked good for my age.
I spotted Alicia Cooper almost at once.  Alicia Womack, now.  Everyone had expected her to marry Tommy Womack ever since they’d been crowned king and queen at our senior prom.  I hadn’t gone to the prom.  I wasn’t asked.  I’d spent that night sobbing in my bedroom while my poor mother tried desperately to distract me with vanilla milkshakes.  I was inconsolable but I drank two of the milkshakes anyway.  I did things like that in those days. 
I never really thought I’d come to a reunion but as the years slipped by, the notion of making an appearance at my 50th began to seem attractive.  I’d long ago lost touch with everybody, but the reunion committee had set up a group on Facebook, so I was able to get all the information I needed.  I sent in my reservation, made my travel plans, and bought a new dress. 
The banquet room at the Sheraton was decorated with huge black and white photographs blown up from our senior yearbook.  There wasn’t a picture of me.  I’d skipped school the day pictures were taken. 

I drifted around the ballroom to get my bearings.  A few people glanced my way and smiled, inviting me to join their conversations, but I kept moving.
I saw Diane Todd and her husband talking to Harvey and Henrietta Martorelli.  I’d liked Diane.  She’d been nice to me in a way that hadn’t felt like charity.  She’d aged gracefully and the way she and her husband stood shoulder to shoulder told me that she was loved.  I was glad. 
Harvey and Henrietta looked more like siblings now than spouses.  Both had evolved into sexless, blocky creatures with the same graying skin and thinning hair.  Henrietta had been in my honors history and English classes.  She’d been an earnest grade-grubber with a 5.0 GPA and SAT scores that should have earned her admission to Yale like her brothers, but back then, Yale didn’t accept women, so she’d settled for Bryn Mawr instead. 
Finn Johnson had come with a woman half his age.  His hair had turned white but it was full and he wore it longish, much as he had back in high school when he was our resident bad boy.  Nobody thought he’d amount to much, not even me.  He had joined the Marines a week after graduation and five years later was part of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, the first American combat soldiers sent to Vietnam.
Finn came home with a case of PTSD, an addiction to heroin and a 600-page manuscript in his duffel.  That book, Chrome-Plated Dream, was the best-selling book of 1970, beating Jonathan Livingston Seagull by approximately 10 million copies.
Finn knew how to make an entrance and by the time he reached the bar, a little buzz had gone around the room.  Tommy Womack was looking at him with the feral gaze of an alpha male who’s just sensed a challenge.  Alicia was looking at him too, perhaps thinking about lost opportunities, perhaps wondering if Finn needed the little blue pills the way Tommy did.  Not that she and Tommy still had sex.
Alicia had been voted “most beautiful” in the class of 1960.  She’d had the figure of a beauty queen when the rest of us were still stuffing our bras with Kleenex.  Her life was a teenage girl’s dream and she had made mine a nightmare.
Alicia had not aged well.  Her hair was now the color of white zinfandel, a pink floss that had only ever really looked good on Lucille Ball.  Her porcelain skin was ravaged with deep ruts like a dirt road after a hard rain.  Her boobs had sagged and her decision to wear something low cut had been a mistake. 
Despite the deep décolletage, the dress was matronly and designed to hide her thick waist and heavy bottom.  She wasn’t truly fat but it wasn’t going to be long before she would need more than Spanx to fit into a size 16.  Keeping the weight down after menopause is a bitch.  But then, so was Alicia.
I saw her eyeing the platters of hors d’oeuvres being circulated, saw her decide against tasting even one as she looked over at Tommy holding court with Rob Dennehy and Nelson Brandt and Tad Grainger, his former teammates on the Woodrow Wilson Bulldogs.  They were all glancing at Finn’s arm candy and trying not to drool. 
Tommy still looked good.  He’d gone bald, but with style, shaving his head and embracing the inevitable.  His suit was tailored, not off the rack, his tie was designer silk.  Tommy Womack had done well for himself.  That he was still married to Alicia told me he was either very discreet about his affairs or Alicia had an iron-clad pre-nup.  He wasn’t even glancing in her direction as she stood next to him, smiling stiffly, looking around vaguely for someone to come up and talk to her. 
Bird-like Cindy Renfrew-Cheung patted her arm fondly as she passed by on her way to freshen her drink and Alicia recoiled slightly.  Cindy had been a free spirit, a good-time girl who’d had to drop out for a year when she got pregnant. During that year, she taught herself Fortran and COBOL.  By the time Fortran 66 was released, she’d created ALLI; a programming language meant for kids that she’d named after her daughter, Allison.  Microsoft bought it and made Cindy a millionaire.
Cindy was now on her third husband, a Hong Kong businessman 23 years her junior.  I’d overheard her telling someone that Gordon Cheung was in Singapore on business and that she’d brought her daughter along as her “date.”  It wasn’t hard to spot Alli Renfrew; she was a 40-ish version of her mother and just as lively.  All the waiters were flirting with her, even the gay ones. They were flirting with Cindy too.  Wrapped in a vivid blue Vera Wang dress, she was a butterfly among black-clad moths.
I saw Alicia head for the bathroom and followed, pushing open the door soundlessly.  The overhead lighting was harsh, falling on Alicia’s dyed hair like a spotlight; revealing a patch of naked pink skin on the top of her head.
“Hello Alicia,” I said as I came up behind her.  She spun around, startled.  She hadn’t heard me come in as she rummaged in her bag for her lipstick.  It was a deep burgundy shade that was all wrong with her hair.      
“Hello,” she answered automatically before turning back to the mirror to fix her lipstick.  And then she gasped.
Because of course, I no longer cast a reflection; hadn’t since I was 23 years old and turned into a vampire. 
 “Who are you?” she managed to stammer and I gave her points for that.  Most people usually say “What are you?”
I smiled, showing my fangs, which terrified her.  “Suzy Wisnicki,” I said.  “Remember me?”
She looked at me, at my golden hair and my clear skin and my slender body and saw no trace of the mousy fat girl she’d tormented so long ago.  She didn’t recognize me but she remembered my name/  Alicia had been a mean girl before the term was coined.  She’d reveled in her beauty and the power of her popularity.  She had hurt people just for fun.  The memory of how she’d treated me made her go pale.
I could see all her emotions flickering across her face and not one of them was shame.
“But you’re young,” she finally managed to say and that made me smile even wider.
“Yes,” I said.  And then I bit her.  Her blood tasted of nicotine and diet pills and diabetes.  It tasted nasty, so I rinsed my mouth out at the sink before leaving her on the floor. 
I had paid a maid to post an “Out of Order” sign at the door.  She’d been only too happy to oblige me after I looked deeply into her eyes.
Alicia would rise in a couple of hours.  Immortal like me.
But unlike me, she would live the rest of her very long life in the shell of a wrinkled old woman.  Vampirism is a youth culture.  I gave her six months before she walked into the light.

1 comment:

  1. You have so exactly captured the flavor of a 50th reunion that it is scary! Wonderful story with a nice wish-fulfillment ending.

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