art by Alan Bao
Naughty or Nice?
by James S. Dorr
Mignonette yawned and slowly pushed open the lid to her coffin, unsure what she would find. It was not her custom. But then her real name was not Mignonette either, not from her old life where she had had a name filled with consonants, hard for those in the West to pronounce, as in Paris where she lived now. But what was a name? She was what she was, and if she should call herself "Mignonette," the ones she consorted with seemed not to mind.
"It fits you well, ma chérie," one had said to her only the past week. "Your delicate features. You say you had moved here from Eastern Europe. Does that make you a Communist?"
She would laugh. Communist! If only it were so simple, what she was. She kissed him, then, on the cheek. Then full on the lips, and laughed again, her voice tinkling like silver bells. "A Communist indeed!" she had said. "If I were a Communist, would I do what I do?"
She had learned she should take money from these, her gentlemen, as if she were a shopkeeper or seller of services. She who had once been the heir to a title! But she also told them she must have a half-litre of blood before they left her, that this was her spécialité. It was much like her human friend Yvonne, who always used a whip, or blonde Marie who took cubes of ice and ran them up and down her men's spines until they shrieked from both pain and ecstasy.
It was a strange life, this life with les demi-mondaines of Paris--or, for Mignonette, perhaps she should say "unlife." She took to it well.
But the customs of Paris, ah, that was another thing.
Christmas. She had grown up centuries ago in a land of constant war, fighting against Turks, where there had been no time for such celebrating. And she had been brought up in the Eastern Rite anyway, back in the days she had gone to church.
Now churches were uncomfortable for her to even walk near, and crosses were something she shied away from. But these Christmas customs of modern Paris, they were not about church.
She stretched and then washed herself, taking off her corset briefly. Donning fresh linen. She put on stockings, the night was cold, but left off her shoes. She would not go out this night.
She had slept too long, she knew, but it was the custom. Marie had told her. That she must be in "bed" before midnight on Christmas Eve. She had written a letter well before then to this "Saint Nicolas"--she, a vampire, writing a saint!--and posted it, just as Marie had said. She had tried to explain, she was not really naughty, no matter what others might say of her kind. She was what she was. She tried not to kill people, not be too greedy--and never mind that one elderly client. How could she have known? Or that corrupt police detective who had attempted to shake down Yvonne. Did not les filles have to stick together?
And if she drank blood? Well, her clients seemed to like it, the kiss on the throat, the licking the red goodness as it welled out, but never too greedy. Always applying the antiseptic when it was over, reminding the gentlemen not to see her again for at least another two weeks, time to allow the blood cells to regenerate.
Did not the Red Cross do just the same thing as she, and not accompanied by pleasure as her act was?