Many moons ago, there was a debate about the visibility of vampires in reflective surfaces. One theory was that the real issue was the purity of the silver that historically formed the reflective surface, so in the current era, it is not an issue.  A good theory, but I argued, oh no, it is any reflective surface, and vampires spend a fortune on makeup so people don’t notice them. That is why there are so many pink Cadillacs. The inestimable Mrs. Hoyt said, “Write that!”.

So I did, or at least part of it, then I forgot, then I found it, then I finished it, then I re-wrote it. And so without further gilding the lily and with no more ado, I give to you, How Cindy Got Her Cadillac…

***

Cindy stared at the house in front of her. Like her, it was in pretty good shape, but had seen better times. Just a little run down, a couple things here and there that needed a quick fix that the owner hadn’t quite gotten around to. In the early twilight, just after sunset, it was easy to see the fine frame of the house and let the little rough areas fade from attention. Just like Cindy.

Her husband had been giving her grief about the whole thing. Mark had many a comment about selling makeup door-to-door and the topic had spurred on more than one fight. “Really, it’s like sand in your shorts,” she thought to herself, slipping back into the south Texas sayings she’d gotten from her grandmother. Mark made plenty, and they didn’t really need the money, but it would be nice to not have to explain, and dammit, she liked being able to just blow some pocket money without having to feel guilty about it.

But one more smart-ass comment from Mark about “Finally getting the keys to that pink Cadillac,” and 12 years of marriage or no, she was going to smother him in his sleep.

She looked again at the door, the faded wreath ringing the peep-hole and thought, “Just one more. One more door today, and back home.”

Her friend Judy had gotten her in to this. “Oh, it’s so easy,” she had said. “What woman doesn’t want to sit down and talk makeup!”

“Quite a few, apparently,” she thought again. This was the 15th house today, and so far she had sold exactly two tubes of lip balm. To the same teenager who wouldn’t let her in while her parents weren’t home.

They had been cheerleaders together, Cindy and Judy, and in high school Cindy probably spent more time thinking about makeup than she really needed, but after, she and Mark had gotten married, and makeup was just there, just something you did because it was expected, and you tried not to let it become too much time spent.

As she walked to the door, she could smell the faint smell of burgers drifting in from someone’s back yard, and she thought about what she still needed to get done for the day. Tonight was taco night, and Mark had been giving her grief about that as well. He didn’t like her being out, not doing the things he thought of as “her role around the house”, mostly cooking and cleaning up after him. She didn’t understand his problem there, either, the house was clean, and frankly, Mark ate himself stupid every time they had tacos.

“Last one,” she thought again, and knocked. She heard a quick thump from inside, and the door opened. A bit. Enough to see some unkempt hair, a strikingly pale cheek and one eye tired looking eye.

“What do you want?”

Based on the voice, Cindy was fairly certain she was dealing with a young woman. She launched in to her now practiced, if a little worn, spiel.

“Hi! My name is Cindy and I am so excited about some new products I’m selling, do you have a quick minute? I have these great skin products and makeup that are so amazing that my company is letting me give free facials and makeup demonstrations! It looks amazing and it feels like you aren’t wearing makeup at all!” She felt like if she said ‘amazing’ one more time today, she might just lose her mind, but the door had drifted open, and she could now see what she was dealing with.

The woman behind the door was small, petite even. Dressed in a robe thrown on over loose pajamas, she looked like she had just gotten out of bed after a particularly long and unrestful sleep. Her hair, which judging by the bulk, would probably hang down to at least her mid-back, was a violently tangled black mass, mostly on the top of her head, but there was a lot of hair that was making a break for it in a wild assortment of directions. Her face was pale, and the shadows under her eyes spoke of a weariness that made her look old. It looked like some makeup had been applied, but Cindy doubted that the end result was what the young woman had in mind.

“Makeup?” came the quiet, doubtful question.

“Yep! The best, most natural looking makeup money can buy!” Cindy continued, holding out her horribly pink business card. “And while the first session is free, you are just going to be astonished at how affordable it all is!” Astonish, and all its variants, was another word Cindy was prepared to cut from her vocabulary. She rolled on. “These products are every bit as good as anything you’d buy at the mall, at half the price, and so easy to use that you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can be ready to face the day!

That line earned her a sort of suppressed snort from the woman, but still, the door was open, and she hadn’t actually stopped her, so Cindy rolled on. “But seriously, if I can have just 10 minutes to show you the basic foundation and rouge, you won’t regret it. If you don’t like it, we can stop right there, and it won’t cost you a thing.”

The woman narrowed her eyes for a moment, and seemed to come to a decision. “OK, Cindy was it? I’ll give this a shot. Enter my home freely and of your own will.” Cindy was a little confused by the phrasing, but so far, this was the best she had done all day. As she entered, the woman turned on the entryway light, and led her into the dining room.

“Well, Cindy, welcome to my home. My name is Margaret, but please, call me Maggie. Can we work here from the table, or would you prefer somewhere else?”

“No, no. The table is fine, everything else I need is right here in my kit.” Something was bothering Cindy, but she couldn’t quite isolate it. As she moved to the table she put her case down, opened it, and began to lay out what she called, “the tools of the trade.” Brushes, compacts, and lip-glosses, as well as a mirror.

Maggie reached out to the mirror and turned it down. “Let’s just let you do your magic then, shall we? And we’ll look when you’re done,” she said, with an odd tone in her voice. If Cindy had to put a description to it, she would have called it a faint willingness to be pleased, with extra helpings of preparing to be disappointed.

“Well, Maggie, let’s talk shop. What kind of face do you want to wear today? As women, we both know that makeup is just one more tool in our arsenal when we take on the world, so what are we wanting to show today?” Cindy looked across the table and was surprised when Maggie wouldn’t meet her eyes.

There was some reluctance, and in a quiet, hesitant voice, Maggie replied, “When I was a… bit younger, I wasn’t nearly so pale. I’ve been ill. Do you think“, and the hesitation was back, ”do you think you could put just a little blush in my cheeks?” Now she raised her head and looked across at Cindy. In Maggie’s eyes, Cindy saw a fragility and sadness that brought a lump to her throat.

“Oh, honey,” she said and set to work, ‘we can do that.”

It took more than 10 minutes, but Maggie was more than willing to sit for it, and Cindy, channeling her inner cheerleader, wanted nothing more than to make this woman smile. After a final brush of gloss to the lips, she said, ”OK, we’re done, let me show you our brand new Maggie.” She reached for the mirror, and Maggie stiffened in her chair.

“Wait, wait,” she burst out and looked at Cindy. “Are you sure we are ready?” The sadness, which had left during the session of brushes and small talk, was back. Maggie’s small hand held Cindy’s down on the mirror like a cold vise.

“Maggie, trust me.”

Maggie nodded, and released her hand. “I trust you,” came the small voice.

“OK, let’s look.” Cindy held up the mirror, moved behind Maggie and held it so they both could see the results. As she let Maggie take it in, she admired her own handiwork. She could see delicate shading of the blush as it faded across the cheek, and the gleam of the lip-gloss, but something, she knew something was screaming at her but she just didn’t know what.

Maggie turned happily to her, a huge smile breaking across her face. “Oh, Cindy, it’s wonderful!” You really have no idea what this means to me!”

Looking directly into Maggie’s eyes, Cindy felt the contagious excitement and she felt the smile spreading across her own face, but there was something…

Maggie turned back to the mirror, and Cindy froze. There were no eyes in the reflection. Cindy could clearly see the eyeshadow, but were Maggie’s warm, green eyes, should be, there was nothing. It was Maggie had no eyes at all. She felt the blood rush from her face, and an icy streak of terror flew up her spine.

Maggie stopped, and her shoulders slumped a little. “Ah, I see. You have come to a realization.”

Maggie turned back, and Cindy managed to get her frozen legs back under control, and started to scramble away.

“Stop,” came the quiet command, and Cindy’s legs became as unresponsive as clay. Maggie sat in her chair, hands folded in her lap and looked at her sadly. “I cannot tell you how grateful, how appreciative I am of you, Cindy. I can’t say it enough and you really have no idea of how sincerely I mean it. I hope that we can be friends.”

“What… Who… What are you? “ Cindy whispered.

“Please don’t panic, Cindy, please? I don’t want to hurt you, and I think there is a lot we can do for each other.”

“What do you mean?” Cindy asked.

“Oh, Cindy, you saved me!” Maggie cried. “I’m… I’m a… vampire. I’ve been this way for a couple of months now. The elders keep telling me I’ll adjust, but I… I can’t I can’t see myself, I can’t do makeup right, I can’t brush my hair right, I’m freaking out and I’m ready to walk out into the sun and I nearly did today!”

Maggie calmed down. “I need you, Cindy. I need you to help me with my makeup, and help me blend back in and look like a typical 22 year old. I need you to help me keep attached to ‘normal’ so I don’t become one of those creepy old corpses that look at people like cattle. You have helped me so much today and I just want some part of normal back!”

Cindy could hear the fear, and it sounded like someone holding desperately to the edge of sanity, and someone afraid that sanity was already gone. Strangely, her felt her own anxiety calm. “I… I don’t understand…” she managed to force out. The fear might be gone, but if her throat had ever been dryer, she couldn’t remember it.

“It’s the mirror thing, and all the rest.” Maggie replied. “Every bit of it is true. I haven’t been able to see myself in over two months. What you saw in the reflection,” Maggie gestured to the mirror lying on the table, “was just the layer of makeup. Without the makeup, nothing.”

Maggie stood and walked to the window, looking out at the darkening Texas skies. “Yep. There’s all sorts of things they’ll tell you when you’re depressed and lonely as hell, and just looking for something, anything…”, she started upbeat but her voice trailed off. “They’ll tell you about the power, and the grace and all the exciting things that you’ll be able to do. But they never tell you that you can never come back, never undo your choice. And your choice sucks.”

Maggie turned back to Cindy. “I can’t have my life back. I can’t see my family, I can’t see my old friends. I’m literally dead to them, and today I was ready make one more choice I’d never come back from. Today I was going to get out of the house, get through one last night and then drive out to the lake and watch the sun rise. Then you knocked.”

She came back to the table. “Look, I know it seems like a little thing. Makeup. Looking ‘pretty’… Being able to go out without freaking people out, just being able to relax.”

“Can’t you, I don’t know “, Cindy waved her hand and wiggled her fingers vaguely, “do things, and people don’t notice?” Cindy thought back to some of the movies she had seen with vampires. The vampire always seemed dreadfully obvious, but could always seem to do something and people just ignored them, or even worse accepted them as normal.

Maggie laughed a little. “Actually, yes. The Glamour.” Cindy was certain about the capital “G”.

“When we want them to, people see what we convince them they want to see. Sometimes, it’s so easy that I wonder if I could have done it before.” Maggie paused and considered. “Probably. Some of the people I used to hang out with were idiots.”

“Still,” she continued grimly, “I don’t like to do it. It seems wrong somehow, and I feel like I’m lying even more than I already have to them. And I’m lying a lot. The old ones, they barely care. They only care enough to not cause an incident, and they complain the whole time. It’s always, ‘Back before television’, or ‘Back when there were no cameras’, and they talk about what they used to do.”

“How… how do you survive?” Cindy wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer.

“Nowadays?” Maggie turned and smiled. “Nowadays it’s all trips to the bloodbanks, and willing groupies,” she admitted. “Thanks to that Rice woman there are always young folks ripe for the recruiting.” A little bitterness creeped back into her voice. “I’m not-living proof”.

“Now some of the not-quite-so-crusty-and-ancient ones understand money,” she continued. “Money and finance are good things and keeping a low profile keeps everyone alive, sort of, and happy. Abell runs that part and Abella runs a tight ship.”

“Abella?” Cindy asked.

“Sorry. Abella is our mother, our leader. Whatever you want to call the head vampire in charge.” Maggie answered. “She’s from France… originally… and I think she’s about 180 years old. She won’t say and says that it’s impolite to ask, but I’ve heard her talk horribly about a man named Mansfield Lovell. Thanks to Google, I now know that Mansfeld Lovell was a General during the Civil War. Most of the time she still has her accent, but when she gets mad it gets very… southern. She manages the money, and she does it quite well. Honestly, I’ve never had money like I have it now. But Abella insists that we maintain a low profile and says, and I quote, ‘torch wielding mobs are horrible, but torch wielding mobs with repeating firearms will ruin your whole afterlife.’ She seems to speak from experience, and I don’t want to test it. I know vampires are tough, especially the old, crusty ones, but there are limits.”

Maggie turned back to the window and was silent for several minutes. Cindy felt slightly detached, like she was coming out from the sedative at the dentist’s office. Her mind started to dwell on trivia from the rest of her day, the heat, how full was the gas tank on the car, where was she going for the tacos to take home. Everything but what was in front of her right now. She straitened herself up and refocused.

“What now?” She asked. A voice in her head kept telling her she should be much more panicked than she was, but somehow, part of her simply couldn’t accept the situation. It was beyond believable, but there she was

“Now. Yes, what now?” Maggie repeated. She turned to Cindy for a moment, and then turned back to the window. “Now, we see. Honestly, there a couple of ways this can go. I can use the Glamour, and you’ll forget. At best, you’ll remember this as one more house visit that came to nothing, and you’ll go on with your life. Back to doing whatever. We’ll go our separate ways. Another option is this,” the loneliness in her voice was joined by a note of faint hope. “You can help me. I promise you absolute safety. My word on it, and you help me. You help me learn how to do all this again,” she said, gesturing to the kit, “and I get something that resembles a life again, at least for a little while. Either way, I promise you, you will come to no harm from me.”

Cindy thought back across her day, and across the days before. She thought about Mark and her home life, and she thought about the terminally enthusiastic Judy, who had gotten her into this makeup mess. If she was completely honest with herself, she had been having a really good time with Maggie before she looked into the mirror.

“Well, Maggie, let’s see what happens.”

***

Cindy started awake, as the peppy ringtone from her phone assailed her. From Mark’s side of the bed, came a slurred, “phone, phooone!” only partially muffled by the pillow, as she reached for it, she saw the time.

“Please, it’s 4:15 in the morning,” she mumbled into the phone. “Who is this?”

“Cindy! Cindy! It’s Maggie! Oh, Cindy”, Maggie’s excited voice pierced into her ear.

“Cindy!” Maggie gleefully continued, and started to giggle. “You have got to come over tonight! I was out last night and everyone noticed! It was awesome! Right this second, I’ve got three ladies here at my house who want to meet you. I told them there was no way you’d come over now, but you’d come over tonight. Oh, Cindy, this is going to be SO MUCH FUN!”

*****

~finis~

 

 

 

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