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Toxic #18: Perky Enough To Punch

May 14, 2014

 “Toxic Cinema, #158 – Why Phone Companies Suck”

I’m not sure what to say about “Netherbeast Incorporated,” other than its concept of vampires running a big corporation isn’t the way I usually think of my undead. Do we really think Dracula is holding board meetings and dealing with personnel issues? He’s sleeping in dirt and getting ready to rip your throat out, folks. Still, I have to admit it had its charm. Don’t watch this one expecting to scream, but if you want a laugh on a Thursday night it’s an acceptable pick. See if you recognize the guy from Blue’s Clues, for fun.

Verdict: It won’t scare your pants off, but it may explain a little something about your phone service.

Type B+ and proud,

Toxic

 

I skipped downstairs on Sunday. I should have been freaked after what I’d agreed to, and if not freaked then wary. Two days ago I’d thrown my entire life philosophy away and agreed to hang out with the monsters. But after spending all day Saturday reading through that doorstop of a book Fir had given me, and getting stupid texts about Julia and her barf-fest on my phone from Scott, I wasn’t freaked. I felt good. I’d been trapped in a pattern of avoiding everyone except my grandmother, and it wasn’t a life; it was an existence and a sucky one. Now I had options. People to talk to. In a messed up way, Vincent and Fir had handed me the keys to my self-imposed cage.

Okay, I might be monster bait this way. I’d be more likely to attract their attention since I’d be hanging out in their space, anyway. But I also was free. I didn’t have to hide what I saw with any of them, and that meant I could make friends. Maybe even get a boyfriend. I’d have to get past the fangs, but it might be possible. I’d kissed Damian after all, and it’d been… good. He’d toyed with me, used me, but I couldn’t say he didn’t know how to use his lips. So maybe if I stayed away from crushing on Julia’s siblings, I could find a semi-normal supernatural that I could be myself with.

The thought made me so perky I wanted to punch myself. Or puke.

Stumbling across my mom in the living room took some of the spunk out of my steps. She was slumped in her chair, still in her scrubs. Her ever-present cup of coffee was in her hand, but she’d hardly touched it. “Did you just get home?”

She lifted her coffee, breathing in the steam while she looked at my clothes. “Is that really appropriate attire for lunch today?”

I winced, looking down at the short plaid skirt I’d picked. It was a little loud, but it went with my “Keep out of direct sunlight” t-shirt and bat belt. Heck, my feet were in actual shoes and not sneakers. “Dad’s not taking me to the opera. It’s lunch at some guy’s house.”

“His boss’s. Your father told me. I still don’t know that you should be dressing so casually.”

I sighed and dropped my bag on the chair. She knew this was fancy for me, which meant she was in a foul mood from work. Someone had probably died on her. “He said it was a relaxed thing. This’ll be fine.”

“You’re not one of his college students. You’re his daughter. You should make a better impression at a faculty event.” She set her coffee cup down. “Maybe we need to take you shopping tomorrow. Is there a mall here?”

“Somewhere. There’s a study group tomorrow, though.” It wasn’t technically a lie. I just wasn’t studying anything for school.

She raised her eyebrows but didn’t comment. She was probably too shocked that I had anything remotely social to do.

I cleared my throat, looking away. The back wall was a spotless stretch of windows with an endless view of the lake that gave me the chills. Couldn’t she at least get some curtains so I didn’t trip my phobia every time I watched TV? I turned my back on it, determined to keep my good mood. “Are you on tonight?”

She nodded, picking her coffee back up. I opened my mouth to say more—I had no idea what, but something, anything to share my happy—but a horn honked before I could. Sighing, I grabbed my bag and headed out. It was just as well. My perky would only annoy her when she was tired. And it’s not like I could explain why I was in such a good mood.

I ran over the wooden bridge separating the house from the driveway, holding my breath and looking straight ahead. The bridge crossed a tiny stream fifteen feet down, and if it wasn’t another sign my mom had picked this place to make me face my phobia, I didn’t know what was. Too bad it wasn’t working. It just gave me the creeps every time I left the house.

Dad was in his usual cardigan and khakis, one of those stinky flowers from his garden poking through an open buttonhole. “Is that a river?”

“Stream,” I said as I slid into my seat. “What’s lunch today about?”

“The dean asked us over. His daughter goes to your school.” He frowned at the bridge and then backed out of the driveway. “I thought you hated water.”

“I do.” Was my dad setting up a play date? I glowered at him, ready to say something about it because I wasn’t five. When I saw how clenched his jaw was, though, I stopped myself. “A daughter, huh? Sounds like fun.” Not.

“I’m aware you can make your own friends, but he was insistent. So thank you for being polite about it.” He cleared his throat and tapped his fingers again. “I should warn you—Dean Rorbauch is a little eccentric. I find it’s best to humor him if he asks for something odd.”

“Like the daughter thing?” My good mood went poof. If my dad with all his quirks thought the guy was odd, he was probably a raving lunatic. “Are we talking ‘sometimes I put peanut butter on steak’ eccentric, or Vincent Van Gogh ‘I cut off my ear’ eccentric?”

“He’s unusual.” He took a turn off the main road into a gated community. “His daughter isn’t, I promise. Her name is Julia. Do you know her yet?”

I swallowed, watching houses bigger than my school flash by behind walls of green shrub. Julia. Don’t even tell me…. “Does she have a brother?”

“She does, yes. But I don’t think he’ll be there.”

Shit. Julia and Damian’s father. It had to be. My weird, iron-in-the-walls father worked for the head of the local vampires. The guy Vincent wanted me to avoid at all costs. The guy almost as bad as the fairies, according to Fir. And while I hadn’t met a fairy yet, I got the impression I didn’t want to. Which meant the only thing remotely funny about the situation was how appropriate my t-shirt suddenly was.

© A.M. Schilling  2014. All Rights Reserved.

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