“…There never was any toy, was there?” Finn’s question wasn’t really a question, but he sounded more serious than usual. I should’ve known something was on his mind during our latest research session.
“Batty would never let me forget one of his favorites,” I admitted. “But I know my brother misses you too. Can’t I call upon dangerous forces and arrange a passionate reunion?”
“He’s an adult. You shouldn’t get involved like that–”
I swung my legs off the couch. “…And you can? He’s my brother, Finn–what is he to you? And my lie was smaller than yours.”
Finn must really care about Benny, to make up a job for him just to make him happy. Would he have done that for me? And we never fought. Finn didn’t like to fight, even though it could be fun sometimes, if you did it like my mother and father.
Fighting meant passion. Finn always just gave in right away–except about turning me into a vampire–or avoided me if we disagreed, so it wasn’t like him to argue with me now. “I’m a hypocrite, aren’t I?” he said.
“Mmhm. But poor Benny needs all the help he can get.”
“…Is that really for us to decide? What our siblings need…?” He sighed. “He said he wants to be friends.”
“Not that kind of friend, O.”
“So you’re not interested in him…?” I asked suspiciously. “You don’t want to throw him down on an icy embalming table and–”
“I don’t. That crush–it was a long time ago. I was young. We were young. We’ve all moved on.”
Maybe Finn was like Benny, and had trouble saying what he really wanted or how he really felt. But Finn never lied to me. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll find another way to help next time.”
“As long as it doesn’t involve me, or lying…”
But I had no idea who it would involve until I met him on my second day on set: my character’s husband, Lord Harrington Bishop.
He was a vampire lord, and he found my character, Lady Octavia Bishop, wandering naked (eheheh) in a forest outside his mansion, weak and disoriented from blood deprivation after escaping the morgue. He carried her home, dressed her in her old clothes (we didn’t get to shoot that part since it’s network television), and carried her down to her coffin.
He also happened to look almost exactly like Benny’s first love. (First loves are a recurring theme in vampire stories, along with vampires meeting their first loves’ doppelgangers years and years after they die and falling in love all over again against their will.)
Benny was a vampire, and I was almost a vampire, and he was a human, so it was perfect. The romance scenes in the show were my favorite part, but I didn’t really understand all the chess.
Luckily, all I had to do was stand around near my vampire lord husband and think smoldering, sensual thoughts while he played chess and my pet were-leopard lay at my feet, according to the director.
Lord Harrington Bishop was a very proper, aristocratic vampire, just like Benny’s favorite butler in his old game–but an actor wasn’t his character, and I had to find out what he was like outside his role.
Luckily, I got to spy on him interacting with a pure, innocent human: my cousin Lyanna.
“Thank you for your work today,” he said to her. “I know it’s time-consuming to cover up all those tattoos.”
“I don’t mind,” she said. She was always saying that, when she wasn’t apologizing. I’d feel bad if I asked her to watch Batty for me if I started acting full-time, but she had a dog too that Batty seemed to want to play with. “At least you don’t have any shirtless scenes like Mr. Duke…”
“That reminds me, I should ask him about his workout regimen,” he said. “I need to whip my body into shape if we get picked up.”
“…I think he likes yoga,” Lyanna said. “But I can ask, if you like.”
“I’d appreciate it.”
Hmmm… He came to set on time. The crew–some of whom he apparently worked with before–seemed to like him. He was polite, even to the lowliest makeup artist. All good signs…
I waited for my cousin to leave us alone. And then I pounced.
“Oh, I wanted to thank you too, in case this is the last time we see each other,” he said. “I can’t believe you’re a total newbie. I hope you find work fast, if the show doesn’t pan out.”
And he was nice to novice actresses… “Hamlet Richardson…?” I said, committing his name to memory–or maybe saying it like a dark incantation, influencing him to do my bidding.
He laughed. He had a nice laugh. “My parents were theater geeks. And you’re Ophelia–kind of funny, isn’t it?” He knew my name, despite me being a nobody. Yes…this could be my last chance.
“Hmmm…are you hopelessly entwined in a passionate romance with anyone at the moment?”
“Oh–oh. Uh–I’m not, and you’re absolutely lovely, and I’m sorry if I’ve given you the wrong idea, but–well–I’m very, very gay.”
“I know.” It must be some kind of dark power, because I always knew. “And I think you’d be perfect for my brother…” I lunged for my phone on the counter and brought it back to him over his polite protests.
“That’s very sweet of you, but–”
I showed him my best recent pic of Benny, from the last time the shower broke at his apartment and I let him use the one at the funeral parlor. (Mother paid me for every candid photo of him I sent to her, with bonuses for one or both fangs showing.)
“…He kind of looks like a grownup, scruffy Henry Puffer,” he said. “The book version, not the movie one–he was my first crush. Or my favorite comedian, if we’re talking celebrity crushes.”
“He’s single,” I said. “And he’d really like you.”
“…He’s not a fan, is he? Or another actor? My last boyfriend…” He winced. “Big-time actor. Bigger than me. Very public breakup.”
Well, he wasn’t a fan of him, so that wouldn’t be a lie. “He’s a butler.”
“…I’d like to meet him, if he’d like to meet me. Why not?” He laughed again. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, after so many fans have tried to set me up with their daughters or granddaughters over the years…and finally sons or grandsons, but that took a while.” He glanced at my phone again. “He looks sweet, but maybe I shouldn’t judge just from his appearance–”
“He’s very sweet,” I confirmed. I wouldn’t tell Leo, but Benny was my favorite, just like with Mother. Sweet and lonely and lied to, but maybe this wouldn’t be a lie. Maybe it’d be real, and a dark, terrible romance would blossom…
I had less faith in the future of my unexpected acting career, but at least it was very good for my writerly inspiration.
Just the embalming table alone…
I was brimming with inspiration. And hopefully soon, Benny would be brimming with passion–among other things.