I was going to post the next section of "Deadly Weight Loss," my Pod World novella here today...but given that this story just became available for reposting and we're only a day from the holiday, I thought you might enjoy seeing it here. This story was written for the Valentine's Day Writing Contest on the Mistress of the Dark Path website. If you haven't been there yet, do yourself a favor and check it out: http://mistressofthedarkpath.wordpress.com
Ice Cream John
“Tell her to go screw herself!” John said to the pale boy. “My price is my price, and I ain’t taking ten cents off for nobody, not even for the mother of a gimp.”
Eyes wide and lips quivering, the little boy struggled to move his crutches away from the ice cream van.
A beautiful redhead sidled up to the stainless steel counter. The black flower clipped in her hair might have been a rose, but the petals had a ragged look, almost as though they had been chewed. The girl could easily have passed for early- to mid-twenties, but something about her suggested late-teens instead. She leaned in suggestively to peer at the menu on the further wall. John’s eyes slid down to her ample cleavage.
“You were tough on that kid,” she said, leaning away abruptly.
His attention snapped up to meet dark eyes with amber glints, like a cat John used to have…in another life.
“Ain’t nothing easy in this world, missy.”
“Rosie,” she corrected him.
“And it won’t hurt that kid none to get the message early. ‘Sides, his welfare mother was probably pitching that ‘can’t afford’ crap long before he was born.”
Two young girls rode up on their bicycles.
“Do you have slushies?” the brunette of the two asked.
“Yeah, pink ones…for Valentine’s Day,” the blond added.
“I got ice cream,” John snapped, “just like it says on the truck. Chocolate, Strawberry or Vanilla. That’s it.”
“No slushies,” the brunette said.
John glared at the pair of them, then reached down into the cooler and pulled out three paper-wrapped treats. “Do you want ice cream or not?”
“Not, not, not,” the two girls chimed, riding away.
“You’re not exactly a people person, are you,” Rosie said, pursing perfect red lips.
“I try not to let my winning personality stray too far,” he said, dropping the snacks back in the cooler. His eyes scanned the prim houses that lined his side of the street. An attentive observer might have noticed how he focused on a blue house with black shutters longer than on the others. His gaze shifted back to the pretty teen. “So, what’ll it be?”
Rosie flipped red curls from her forehead and glanced at the menu again. “How come there are a dozen treats listed but you have only three to choose from?” Her hands went to nicely curved hips.
He refused to let his eyes linger.
“Chocolate, Strawberry or Vanilla?”
Rosie ran a graceful hand across the counter. He should have pulled away, wanted to pull away, but his hand remained where her fingers just missed his.
“How long you been driving this truck?” Rosie asked, a grin playing across her face.
“Long enough,” John said. “Now are you here to buy something or are you just a loiterer?” He glanced at the blue house. The shades were still closed. Not surprising, given there was still an hour to sunset.
“It’s Valentine’s Day,” she said, “and I just…ended things with my last boyfriend.”
“Poor slob’s probably crying in a corner someplace,” John said, “so how come you don’t look too broken up about it?”
“There is a difference between boys and men.” Her eyes traveled up and down his athletic frame. “I could never give my heart to a boy. Are you a man, John?”
*I never got the chance,* he thought, wondering how much interest the girl would have had had she seen the masses of scars hidden beneath his clothes. He reached into his pocket and rubbed the toe nail clipper that his mother used to short across an electrical outlet to start a fire, a fire that had scarred him but had ultimately also saved his life.
“Missy, you are probably all the rage with the local school boys, but I’m not a boy and I’m not interested so how about you choose something and go. You’re interrupting my business.”
Rosie gave him a knowing smile. “And what is that business, John? We both know you can’t make a living selling only three kinds of ice cream.”
Her eyes scanned the inside of the van.
He forced himself to remain calm. The wooden stakes and crosses were safely hidden behind the passenger seat, and the Holy Water was in standard water jugs on a shelf beside the cooler. There was nothing for her to see.
A teen boy with a mild case of acne approached. He loped like a rapper in a music video.
“What’s up, homes?” he said to John. Then after a sideways glance to Rosie, he added, “Yo, mamma.”
“T’cha eyes off me!” Rosie snarled.
“Tricks must be hard today,” the boy said with a wink to John. “What you pitchin, man?”
John pulled out all three flavors of bars and spread them across the counter.
The teen slid the strawberry his way. “Beautiful, just like this fine thang’s hair.” The boy reached over to stroke one of Rosie’s orange locks.
For one split second, John was tempted to intercede, but Rosie’s face had already twisted into a look that said there was no need. She reached out to grip the boy’s cheek. His eyes bulged and veins swelled along his forehead. She leaned close, as if to kiss him, and stared deep into his eyes.
“Go play in traffic, now.”
Like an automaton, the boy turned and strolled away, toward what in three blocks would be a busy intersection.
John suddenly realized that Rosie wasn’t just some alluring teen, she was a bodyguard for the nest of vampires he had come to destroy.
“Stop him,” John said.
The redhead stared at him with eyes that may have been hundreds of years old. He now recognized the flecks of brimstone for what they were.
“Why would I do that?”
“So we can be together,” he told her, “forever.”
“You know,” she said.
“Boy,” she called out.
The halting teen turned. Shoulders slumped and mouth hanging open, he stood there.
“Go home and forget you ever saw me.”
The boy changed directions and trudged slowly away.
John pointed toward the blue house where a family of vampires nested. They had killed his parents and two brothers when he was just seven years old. It had taken this long to find them.
“You’re protecting the suckers?”
“In my way,” she said with a flirtatious pout. “But that doesn’t change anything. You and I do still have a deal, don’t we?”
“That we do,” John said, moving to the back of the ice cream van and opening the door for her.
She climbed in, but before she could touch him he drove a silver knife into her slender stomach. She slumped against the wall, where he tied her wrists and ankles behind her with Holy Water-soaked rope. He left the knife in place.
“You can’t kill me, you know,” she croaked.
“I know.” He took one last glance at her gorgeous, pain-filled eyes before grabbing his bag of stakes and other vampire-killing equipment. The vamps were weakest just before sunset. “I’ll be back.”
And he meant it. There were worse ways to die than in the arms of a succubus on Valentine’s Day.