It isn’t as though I deliberately got a job at the coffee shop directly beneath Finn’s apartment. At first I’d seen him from a distance, and I wasn’t completely certain it was him, and I didn’t want him to think I was stalking him, if he even remembered me…if he even wanted to.
So I ducked into the coffee shop and made a show of applying for a job–and ended up accepting it in order to keep the lights on in my pseudo-butler quarters. And then…I stayed there.
I saw Finn pass by almost every morning…
And every evening, just before I finished my shift.
But he never entered the coffee shop, not once. This wasn’t such a surprise, since he was a vampire and the shop didn’t carry plasma syrup, but he never waved or said hello. Maybe he didn’t recognize me with the facial hair (Mother referred to it as “overgrowth”), or maybe he simply didn’t remember me…
But he remembered Ophelia.
They constantly walked arm-in-arm, with her hanging all over him like a monkey with tentacles. But he never seemed to mind.
I could understand if he’d sought out Leopold’s company since our falling out, but Ophelia’s? Ophelia was a strange creature. Not even Father completely understood my little sister, and she had him wrapped around her (darkness-enshrouded) finger, even now.
I made the mistake of asking her once–what kind of relationship she had with Finn–since she seemed to visit him all the time…
“Don’t worry, Benny,” she said. “We’re friends with dark, terrible benefits, but it’s not serious. Eheheh…” She had that weird glint in her eye. “Do you want me to arrange a passionate reunion?”
But I couldn’t see him again. Not now.
I’d meant to apologize to Finn, all those years ago. I wanted to do it in person instead of texting, but he’d never returned to Fangs Island.
What could Finn possibly find appealing about Ophelia? (I could think of two reasons–the two reasons Father tried desperately to get her to cover up, the ones she inherited from Mother that would supposedly turn every man within a fifty-mile radius into a ravenous beast. I didn’t understand the appeal, but she was my sister.)
And Finn probably did have indiscriminate tastes like his father. …No, that wasn’t fair. If every man were exactly like his father, I’d be a world-class butler like mine. Like Leopold.
I couldn’t escape my twin. Not only did he follow me to Starlight Shores to witness my misery and personal failure up close, but now he apparently enjoyed rubbing my face in it.
Even Ophelia had the decency to stay out of the coffee shop, though I wouldn’t have minded her saying hello sometimes. I thought her dog was cute, too…
But why couldn’t Leopold leave me be?
He didn’t greet me, by name or otherwise, as if he’d never seen my identical face in his life. He didn’t ask me how I was, or how my job search was going (though that was a relief). He had the nerve to come to my workplace wearing his full butler regalia, reminding me again of how he’d succeeded where I failed.
And he was such a butler, and not in a good way.
“I require a grande latte,” he began. “Half caffeine, not a dollop of whipped cream.” That sounded simple enough… “As well as six scoops matcha, three scoops organic vegan protein powder, soy milk to the first line, almond milk to the second, blended on level two, and steamed to precisely one hundred-eighty degrees…with agave.”
He adjusted his cuffs yet again and straightened. “I shall be monitoring the entire process carefully to ensure accuracy.”
How far into the depths of a special, coffee-brewing hell had he gone to inflict this order upon me? He didn’t even drink coffee–he was a vampire. Yes, Leopold, I’m perfectly aware that you’re a butler and I’m only a barista. There’s no need to remind me.
But I had to treat him like any other customer and make his order regardless.
And I had to make it again–four times–until he was satisfied.
Don’t throw it in his face, don’t throw it in his face, don’t throw it in his face…
After I handed him his order, he swished the latte around in its cup slightly, almost as if it were a glass of wine–and as though he could see inside it with his perfect vampiric vision. “This should serve,” he said. “In the future, however, I expect excellence from the very first cup onward.”
Would Mother and Father disown me if I committed fratricide?
But then Leopold was gone, and I was able to calm down. None of the other orders bothered me nearly as much that day, but by the end of the shift, I was in a fouler mood than usual.
What made him the better twin? Had he stolen all the best nutrients while we shared Mother’s womb? That sounded like him, even as an unborn vampire. It must be nice to walk out of a mansion at the end of the day–if he wasn’t a live-in butler–instead of a coffee shop.
There were always ads and notices posted on the board in the hall between the shops, but I usually didn’t take much notice of them. Sometimes I gravitated toward the one for a private investigator offering their services…could they find a long-lost butler?
But there was another ad this time, this one looking for a butler. To hire.
It was most definitely new. Had Leopold planted that? Did he want me to try calling the number or emailing, only to find out it was a prank?
I took another glance, but only to search for signs of an obvious scam. “No experience–or formal butler training–necessary,” I read aloud.
I swallowed. Could fate really be smiling upon me today, after the pain–and Leopold’s coffee order–I’d endured? I searched my immediate surroundings for Leopold, just in case he was smirking around the corner somewhere.
And then I swiped the entire ad. If it was real, I didn’t want any competition.
I was in high spirits when I returned to my makeshift butler quarters. I even searched the butler forums for any mention of the house or the butler looking to train a successor, a Mr. Bingham-Long. Nothing–so maybe no one else was aware of the opening yet.
I took a deep breath, composed a professional-sounding email to the address listed on the ad (and rewrote it twenty-six times), and decided to relax while I waited for a reply.
And what better way to relax than by playing a game that explored a butler’s incomparable devotion to his master?
A butler must always be prepared to put his master first, no matter the personal sacrifice…
I always felt newly devoted to butlerhood and hopeful for the future after a few hours playing such a fine, butler-centric game. If only there were more of them.
Maybe I had reason to hope now. If I got that job, everything would change. And maybe I’d even run into Leonidas as well, if he’d followed a similar path…
After years as a barista, things could only get better.