Carla DiViellio had held many different jobs in her four hundred and seventy one years on planet Earth. She’d been a duchess, a clown, a nurse, a railroad bandit, a prime minister, a wife, a slave, a secretary, a fisherwoman, a croupier, a snake oil saleswoman, a miner, a stevedore, and a queen, to list just a few. Unfortunately, one thing she had never been was any good with money. She wasn’t one of those vampires that made a lot of smart long term investments and lived off interest. She tried once or twice, but, no matter what she did, every couple of decades, she always ended up in debt to some viceroy or mobster. In these times of desperation, she turned to the one job that was always available to her: cocktail waitress. She was convinced that in all of human— not to mention vampire— history, there existed no shittier job than cocktail waitress, but she had to admit she was great at it. This time, she found herself in debt to the internal revenue service to the tune of a hundred and sixty years of back taxes. So for most of the last year she’d been slinging cocktails at The Wet Cat. Sixty per cent of her wages were garnished, but she got to stay out of prison. She’d heard enough stories about what happens to vampires in prison.
The restaurant was too chic for anything so blasé as a uniform. Instead, Carla’s manager would leave dresses in the office for her, as if she hadn’t been dressing herself for almost half a millennia. Carla would have to squeeze into her work outfits in the tiny cubicle of an employee bathroom.
She poured her lithe frame into that night’s shroud and tried to discern if it was providing adequate coverage. Without the benefit of a mirror (that is, there was a mirror, but it was of no use to her,) she’d walked out more than once without realizing some precious piece of anatomy was insufficiently covered. Tonight’s garment was exactly the sort that had given her trouble in the past, a black strapless spandex minidress. Basically just a black sheathe. Carla zipped herself in, and could instantly tell it was too short. She pulled the clingy fabric first up, then down, trying to judge the coverage by the fullness of the dress floating in the mirror. She arched her back, wiggling, trying to find the sweet spot. It simply wasn’t meant to be. Carla squatted down to her bag, fished out a pair of black shorts. She hiked them up as high as possible, a tiny hem of cotton poking out below the sheer material of the absurd outfit. It wasn’t how the designer would want a runway model to wear it, but Carla had to be able to squat and bus glasses in this rag. She crammed her bag full of her regular clothes into her tiny locker, and punched in.
The kitchen was already in full swing, the restaurant opening a full hour before Carla’s shift began. The pungent smell of garlic in the air felt like fire in her nostrils. She wrinkled her nose and then pinched it shut.
Sarah, a massive line cook whose tongue even the chef was afraid of, watched Carla closely as she passed. Sarah was able to man two stations on the hot line at once. She’d been moved out to Chicago from some top restaurant in New York to be the star of the kitchen. This made her the most critical employee in the restaurant, and everyone knew it. Especially Sarah. Knowing she could get away with anything, she was an impetuous bully. Carla wove through the throng of food runners and stewards that always seemed to crowd the pass, head down, hoping to avoid Sarah’s wrath.
“What’s the matter, vamp tramp? Little garlicky for you?”
Carla shot a deadly look in return. She could rip Sarah’s throat out and not break a sweat. She could drain Sarah’s considerable personage of every drop of its precious blood in under ninety seconds. The look was intended to remind Sarah of that. But it was an empty threat, and they both knew it. Sarah was daring Carla to lose her cool, and with it her job, and her freedom. Her defiant sneer bested Carla’s murderous glare.
“That’s right. Keep walking, skinny little freak.”
She kept her back to Sarah and the hot line as she picked up a tray and plunged into another shift.
The Wet Cat was alive on a Friday night. The music was loud, the lights sparse and tightly focused. At the bar, the mostly human crowd was two or three deep, but up in the lounge, Carla had just enough space to flow like water through the cracks in the crowd, deftly angling a tray full of cocktails without spilling a drop. Her fluidity was supernatural, but it wasn’t a vamp thing— Carla was just a fucking good cocktail waitress.
The bass throbbed as a Carla passed through a column of smoky white light, briefly illuminating her pallid skin. Two human guys stared shamelessly as they watched her approach with their cocktails. She smiled, black lipstick parting just enough to expose the white bone of her fangs.
“Stoli and soda.” She said, sliding the drink in front of the skinny guy in the threadbare suit coat. “Bloody Mary.” She placed the other in front of a stubbly guy in a wrinkled The Strokes t-shirt. Her smile concealed the thought about how only a douchebag orders a bloody Mary at a place like The Wet Cat.
“Bet a nice bloody sounds pretty good to you, huh baby?” The douchebag asked, snickering. Carla didn’t bat an eye. She ate guys like this for breakfast. Lunch and dinner, too.
“Almost as good as a Stoli and soda.” She retorted, smiling, coy.
He was undeterred, his hand suddenly behind her, gently touching the small of her back. But she was more experienced in this dance, and effortlessly shifted away from his wandering fingers without a hint of intention. Her grace was mystical, trained by a couple centuries of experience as a woman in a man’s world.
“I’ll be back to check on you two. Count on it.” She winked and was gone, swimming back upstream towards the kitchen. She could feel those unshaven eyes on her naked shoulders as she disappeared into the crowd.
Back through the galley doors, Carla’s professional smile fell off her face. She dropped off her tray, full of empty martinis and collins glasses full of melted ice, left it there for the dishwasher to deal with. Technically, Carla was supposed to load the glasses into the dish racks, but lifting her hands above her head carried a high risk of her tits popping out of the cylinder she was dressed in. Besides, the dishwashers were, shocker, all in love with the beautiful vampire who wore outfits that in some cultures would be considered lingerie, and so they were usually happy for an excuse to help her with something. Her high heels clacked loudly on the hard tile, announcing her return to the service bar to ring in new orders.
She kept her back to the hot line, but she could feel Sarah’s eyes on her, the same as the lech’s. Carla kept her head down and punched in drink orders to the touchscreen computer. She focused so hard on not turning around she didn’t notice the smell of burning garlic attacking her senses until she was blinking red tears out of her eyes. Carla quietly wiped the crimson from her cheeks, not turning still, not giving Sarah the satisfaction of seeing her cry.
“Oh, I’m sorry, is the garlic smell too much for you?” Sarah, who else. Carla slammed her last order into the screen, picked up a new tray, grabbed two cocktails off the service bar and stepped to leave.
“It’s just that we gotta do something to cover up the smell of vampire cunt in here. Stinks like death.”
Some cooks kept their heads down. Some giggled. A few blushed. None of them said anything, none of them defended Carla’s honor. Carla’s eyes were full of blood again and she forced herself to push back through the galley door and go sell more cocktails. She kept repeating to herself how badly she needed the job. She told herself Sarah was just another angry human, pissed off about being mortal and fat. Carla had been dealing with this shit for hundred of years before Sarah was born, and she’d probably deal with it hundreds of years after Sarah was dead. The thought of Sarah’s headstone calmed her. She tasted blood and realized she had bit through her own lip.
Back on the floor, she moved without thinking, her mind preoccupied with the memory of a woman she beheaded in the seventeenth century who looked a bit like Sarah. Things were simpler back then, and more fun. But she reminded herself about MDMA and cheeseburgers; the modern age had its charms, too. The only real constant was that humans would find a way to be the goddamned worst. Shoulda ate them all when we had the chance.
Soon enough she found herself delivering drinks to a table right next to the douchebag in the Strokes shirt. She stood just inches from him as she carefully lifted one of a pair of cosmopolitans off her tray. She crouched down to the low table, one cosmo in her hand, the other on her tray, almost every muscle in her body involved in the lie of appearing effortlessly sexy and confident while performing the balancing act. Her concentration was total, which meant she had no ready defense when she felt the hand on her back again. She didn’t realize he had managed to grab the zipper until he had already yanked it all the way to the bottom.
The tiny garment jumped off Carla’s front side as if spring loaded. She was suddenly naked except for her shorts and heels, caught in an awkward squat, cosmopolitan still in-hand. She dropped it, her hand darting back to cover her chest, and the glass shattered on the small glass table. Carla squealed in concert with the breaking glass, drawing every eye in the bar to her ageless body. Human men and women stared, jaws slack, at Carla. Her pale skin radiated like a beacon. A chorus of gasps gave way to a tittering of laughter. Carla made eye contact with a vampire in a black Armani suit, and they held it for a brief moment. He radiated pity and that, more than anything else, embarrassed Carla, brought a blush to her paper-white cheeks. Carla grabbed her dress off the floor and stood as phones flicked to life. She held the dress, now just a square of fabric, over her chest as she looked around once more, mouth open and trembling but too shocked to speak, before finally finding the strength to sprint back to the kitchen.
She burst through the galley door into the dish pit. Relatively safe, she let herself slide to the floor, burying her face in a corner of her dress, letting it soak up her bloody tears. Her skin was the same white as the antiseptic kitchen walls, and she wished she could disappear into it. The smell of garlic wafted around the corner, and she wondered where, exactly, she was going to go.
She looked up and saw the dishwasher, a short Mexican guy in his forties, staring at her.
“S’okay miss Carla. Don’ cry.” He said, and Carla was ashamed that she didn’t know his name. He tossed her a clean rag. She sniffled and spoke to him in perfect Spanish, “Where can someone like me go to be treated like a human being?”
He laughed at the surprise of her flawless accent.
“Shoot, I dunno. You find out, you tell me, okay?”
Her turn to laugh.
“But don’ let anybody see you like that huh? They gonna fire you, lookin’ like that.” And with that he turned back to the sink, resumed spraying the plates clean, his eyes flicking over towards her only once or twice.
She nodded to herself. He was right, and she had bills to pay. So she stood up right there, zipped her dress back around her body (ignoring the new stickiness it had picked up from the barroom floor), wiped her face on the dishrag, and marched back into her life. One day, she’d be a queen again.
Photos by Riko Matsunaga