A single click.
He was far too familiar with the sound of the office door at this point. How effortlessly it had slipped open with a gentle push of his palm.
“You have asked for me, Sir?”
At the desk sat his boss, a burly man with a cigarette between his lips. His hand scribbled something down before he became aware of his employee. His gaze wandered behind him, waiting for the door to fall shut.
Then his boss huffed, smoke poured from his nostrils. His pen tapped against the desk as if to fill the silence between them.
“This is the third time this month that you’ve been sent up here”, he growled before he gestured for his employee to take a seat across him. Once he did as told, his boss let out another growl. “I’m starting to believe that you’re not taking this job seriously, Mr. Alucard.”
At first, he only blinked at him. He couldn’t care less for the threats of a human, but even the Lord of Darkness had his bills to pay. Rent wasn’t exactly cheap these days, so Dracula had to resort to jobs that wouldn’t give away his identity right away.
This time, it was a food joint, of all places. He’d rather hunt for victims than new jobs, so he couldn’t snap at this pathetic excuse of a blood bag and risk losing his occupation.
Thus, he let out a long sigh before he shook his head, his gaze lowered. His boss now clicked the pen and Dracula could practically feel his piercing glare.
“I certainly meant no disrespect, Sir… It is just that my…” Dracula rotated his hand in the air, looking for the right word before the movement stopped and he glanced back up. “… My condition is not the best influence.”
“Yes, yes! That rare skin condition and everything else that comes with that! I’ve already given you nightshifts only!” He stuffed the cigarette butt into the overloaded ashtray and Dracula crinkled his nose as the other huffed the rest of the smoke in his direction. “But you can’t use your mental and physical health issues as a cover up every single time!”
For a moment, Dracula could only watch his boss fish for yet another cigarette in his box, lift it to his lips and light it. He narrowed his eyes as he gritted his teeth, then Dracula pushed his shoulders back to regain his neutral expression.
“I am not here to defend myself with this condition. It is simply a reality that I cannot ignore even if I wished to… Surely, it is difficult to imagine for you, Sir…” Another deep exhale and his gaze trailed off, not focusing on anything. “The darkness that dwells in one’s heart and soul—”
“Stop it with your speeches!” The boss puffed some more, and his features were blurred by the smoke. “Don’t try to distract me! You’ve not taken the appropriate steps to follow a costumer’s complaint!”
Dracula blinked against the accusation, nothing stirred in his expression. He merely folded his hands in his lap and kept his eyes locked on him.
“You must be exaggerating.”
However, Dracula knew what incident he was talking about.
It was during his last shift that he had been approached by a woman at his counter. Or rather, she had stomped there, her face red from anger; an unsettling contrast to the dark rings underneath her eyes. She had slammed her tray on his counter, the many items dared to topple off.
“I’ve specifically asked for no pickles on my burger!!”, was her request.
Dracula had slipped one finger underneath the top bun and lifted it for a second before he glanced back up.
“There are none, Madam.”
“But there are!! I’ve bitten into it and tasted the strange vinegar flavor, so somebody back there fucked up my order!”
Another sigh. His eyes had darted down at the pitiful sandwich, a singular bite indicating that it did only take that much for her to imagine the pickled vegetable to be among the ingredients.
“Have you checked the circular meat patty for the pickled slices?”, he had asked instead, and it had taken less than a second for her face to heat up even further. The lady pulled up her shoulders in growing rage before she crossed her arms.
“Psh! As if I’m touching that thing with my new manicure!” And yet, she had been less cautious of said manicure when slamming her palm on the counter next. Dracula didn’t flinch and had watched a couple of fries falling off the tray. “I demand a refund!!”
Naturally, Dracula could have just taken her order back and asked the staff to make a new one. He could have simply agreed to her claim to keep this customer from exploding right before him, but the facts didn’t line up with his knowledge.
The simplest research could have done the job and yet, the lady before him couldn’t even manage a task so simple.
And he didn’t enjoy being wronged.
Dracula had shot her the fakest smile that he could muster before he had gestured for her to come around the corner.
“Of course, Madam. Would you like to discuss this matter with our honorable manager to resolve this issue?”
His eyes had focused on hers, the iris changed into a bright gold. Only an exhale parted his lips, this hadn’t taken much of his energy. The customer’s gaze had hung with him for a second, becoming lactic, then she had shaken her head to snap herself out of her stupor. The color on her cheeks had slowly returned to normal as she searched for her breath.
With a slam of a fist, Dracula was dragged out of his memory; the sound led his gaze back up to his boss who was practically chewing on the cigarette butt at this point.
“The manager said that you didn’t bring anybody in!” He retracted his fist once he got his attention back. “Instead, a co-worker of yours stated that she left the restaurant in a daze afterwards! And without filling out a customer service report!!”
“Well… Madam stopped complaining, did she not? With no complaint present, it should not affect our current sales.”
His boss leaned back in his chair and took a long draw from his cigarette. Once again, the smoke framed his round face as his expression softened a tad.
“That might be correct, but that’s not how you handle these situations! They are paying customers after all”, he grumbled, a bit of ash was tapped off at his lip’s movement. “It’s part of our store’s policy! An unhappy customer fills out a report, no matter if they’re expectations are met or not!”
Dracula watched the flakes sit on the dark wood of the desk as if waiting for a little spark of flame to eat into the material. Yet, nothing stirred on the surface, so he looked back up and cleared his voice.
“I merely felt like the situation needed some… De-escalation. And, in the end, Madam has not returned to these facilities for revenge. I didn’t think that it needed further… Investigation.”
“That’s true, there’s no online review to slander us… You’re still supposed to follow our policies though.” A frown was upon his brow as he looked the other over and he narrowed his eyes. “After that encounter, you were also seen lounging in the back with cherry coke and stained your work uniform with it, too!”
“Yes…”, Dracula murmured under his breath, “Cherry coke…”
The boss’s features softened, then he pressed two fingers against his temple and closed his eyes. His thumb clicked his pen again in a quick rhythm.
“Look… I know it’s difficult for you to find a job, but…” With a sigh, he opened his eyes again and grimaced; it was past midnight at this point. “If you keep messing up like his, I don’t know how much longer we can keep you. After all, you may not be the right fit for us…”
“Sir, if I may…” His thin lips stretched to a cold smile. “You have every right to call out my shortcomings, but I assure you that my skills are… Valuable for your establishment. Wouldn’t you agree… Sir?”
His boss couldn’t even consider looking for his ashtray when his eyes were caught by a dull shine. He was captivated by it, his thoughts slipping away behind his mind, shutting them off like a door that opened and closed with a soft click.
When his cigarette dared to slide off his mouth, the boss shook himself and tightened his lips around the cigarette as he scratched the back of his head.
“R-Right… But this is your last chance, you hear?”
Dracula’s smile grew into a smirk and he gave a light bow.
“Ever so kind of you, Sir.”
(c) Nathalie Roos