Niles Gule couldn’t imagine a more humiliating situation. The vampire sat on a folding chair in a high school gymnasium while his partner, Mariella Cruz, patted zinc oxide on his face. Jonas Williams fidgeted with the elaborate black wig he’d perched atop Niles’ corn-colored hair. Every time Niles moved, he swished because he was swathed in three Japanese kimonos of heavy brocade silk. A properly tied obi encircled his waist. Its pouf forced the tall, thin vampire to sit ramrod straight while final preparations were made to his appearance.
As a geisha.
Could there be a more inappropriate person, Niles wondered. He was, after all, a six-foot-three, blue-eyed blond, pallid vampire with the look of a Norwegian biathlete. His tormentors couldn’t even find kimonos to fit him. His were too short, revealing his chalk white ankles in a way no proper Japanese lady would have accepted.
Niles gazed at his feet. They were shod in white socks with the big toe encased in its own little finger to accommodate the thong of his sandals.
“How am I supposed to walk?” He stood and shuffled his feet.
“You aren’t,” Williams replied. “Geisha are exquisitely beautiful, not functional.”
“That would describe you, Ghoul!” Williams’ partner, Cooksey exclaimed. “Exquisitely beautiful and not very functional.” He howled at his own joke.
Niles didn’t. For two years, he’d suffered from Cooksey’s incorrect assumption he was gay. Being made up as a geisha just reinforced the man’s idiotic fantasies.
The four police officers were taking part in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Various organizations fielded teams that would walk around a track continuously for twenty-four hours. It wasn’t a race. No one won. Except people suffering from cancer. It was simply a fun way to raise money for a good cause. When the Baltimore PD night shift formed a team, Niles volunteered. He desperately wanted his coworkers to view him as one of them because they often looked at their vampire askance as if expecting him to bite someone at any moment.
That’s when he ran into trouble.
The Miss Relay Contest.
The event sponsors entertained the audience and walkers by staging a drag contest where men dressed as women and vied to raise the most money. The team leaped at the thought of turning the tall, elegant Niles into Ru Paul. However the contest took place during daylight and Niles’ delicate skin and eyes weren’t designed for an earthly day. This was not an impediment, his intrepid coworkers decided. They simply needed to determine how to keep Niles alive in daylight. Which raised the suggestion of zinc oxide to protect his skin. Which conjured up the vision of a geisha. And thus was Madame Vampire Butterfly born.
Niles winced as he toddled outside on those silly little sandals. Not just because the late afternoon sun stung his eyes but because looking so ridiculous stung his ego. He would never live this down. Which was saying a lot. He was a vampire. He’d live five hundred years if the fates allowed.
Determined to tough it out, Niles joined his fellow contestants. He wasn’t, he decided, necessarily the most ridiculous. A silver-haired gentleman was dressed as a cheerleader, his knobby white knees blinding in the sunshine. A hulking dude wore a tutu, his bulging muscles threatening to split the seams of the sequined pink dress. The best looking was the pair of vice cops wearing slinky miniskirts, padded bras, high heels and flowing wigs. They actually made good looking women, Niles thought. He knew who was going to win this contest.
As the contestants hit the field, the crowd yelled for their favorites. Miss Cheerleader raced into the stands to demand donations. The ballerina stalked to the end zone to work the crowd there. The two vice cops worked in tandem, one pretending to arrest the other then collecting money to bail her out.
That left Niles feeling totally out of place. Not an unusual situation.
Williams gave him a shove. “You’ve got to work the crowd, Ghoul. Show some leg and beg for money.”
Niles’ loyal partner Cruz patted his arm. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”
Niles spread his arms. “Do you think I want to look like this?”
She tilted her head. “You look cute.”
“I look like a cross between Rutger Hauer and Midori Ito!”
Cruz’s face softened. “I think it’s brave.” She jerked her head in the direction of her coworkers. “I know they’re razzing you, but it’s all in fun. We only torment the people we love.”
Niles considered his ridiculous get up. “This is love?”
Cruz kissed his white cheek. “Yep! Go get ‘em tiger.”
With a sigh, Niles did as tradition demanded. He engaged the crowd, asking them to support his pathetic cause. Most did, probably out of pity. He couldn’t move very fast in those silly sandals so he couldn’t cover ground like the bouncy cheerleader, nor did he have a partner like the vice cops.
I’m doomed, he sighed.
When the hour was over, the emcee totaled the donations by contestant and announced the winners. Niles listened as she worked her way up from fourth place to first, naming off those he knew would do well. The vice cops came in second.
“And in first place,” the emcee said, pausing for effect, “with an amazing two thousand, one hundred and forty dollars, Niles Gule representing the Baltimore Police Department.”
Niles gaped. Cruz squealed and pulled him to the podium to accept his sash as Miss Relay. He stood stunned as his coworkers gathered around to congratulate him.
Then it was over. Niles had had enough. The sun was stabbing him in the eyes and he wanted the zinc off his face. Tottering on his sandals he beelined for the gymnasium. To his surprise, Williams fell into step beside him.
“There’s no way I won that contest,” Niles stated. “I didn’t collect that much money.”
“Yeah, you did.” When Niles pinned him with a blue-eyed stare, the man shrugged. “You got one really big donation from a single person. Two thousand bucks.”
Niles stopped. “How do you know?”
Williams turned his face skyward. “Because maybe I’m the one who wrote the check.”
Niles blinked. “Why would you do that?” He’d never considered Williams wealthy or a friend.
Williams gave him a hard look. “Because I know how much you hated doing it. But you did it anyway. For us. Because you want to be one of us. That means something.”
When Niles said nothing, Williams threw his arm around the vampire’s shoulders and started towards the gymnasium. “I can’t say as I like you, Ghoul. Sometimes you give me the creeps. And you’re too damned snotty for my tastes. You’re a freakin’ vampire. But you’re our freakin’ vampire. And no one…” he gave Niles a slight shake, “no one is allowed to make fun of our vampire. Except us.” Williams poked Niles in the chest. “If you tell a soul what I just did, I’ll plant a silver knife in your heart. Got it?”
Niles nodded. “Yes, Jonas, I think I do.”
Williams grunted and sauntered off, looking quite pleased with himself.
Niles returned to the gym. Under the hideous, melting makeup, he smiled.
Because he felt the love.
© 2016 Newmin
Niles comments: We vampires don’t suffer from cancer, but you folks do. The American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life is a great event. Take part if you can or just come out to watch the fun. It’s for a great cause. Just don’t expect to see me there next year. Once was enough for me!
If you look hard enough, maybe you can find me: