The Curious Companionship of Carla and Balo

by T. Kent

Balo asked Carla to move in three times before she finally caved.

They were curled up on his couch watching a Golden Girls rerun—Balo was obsessed with eighties sitcoms—when he raised the subject again.

“Come on baby, we can make this work. I need you. Just think, you won’t have to lug clothes back and forth, and we’ll save a ton of money on rent.”

The fact that Balo was a vampire and Carla, a healthy red-blooded human weighed heavily on her mind, and she said as much. “I don’t know that it’s a good idea Balo. If  I were here all the time, you might not be able to control your, uh…” she searched for a word that wouldn’t offend his tender sensibilities, “impulses.”

But Balo could be quite persuasive, and he assured her that he’d not drunk from a human since the twenty-four hour blood bank had opened on Fifth Street.

He tipped her chin, forcing her to stare into his pale green eyes. “I can change for you, Carla.”

Carla wanted badly to believe him. She was pretty sure she loved him, after all. He was more sensitive than most human men she knew. And besides, during their three months of dating, other than the occasional playful nip in the heat of passion, Balo had been a model of restraint.

People can change, she thought. So she agreed.

#

Soon after moving in, Carla suggested storing some blood away for a rainy day. “It’s not that I don’t trust you,” she said. “I just think it’d be a good idea. In case of an emergency.”

They were on the couch, and Carla wondered if he’d even heard her since he didn’t look up from his book. Then all of a sudden Balo sighed, tossed the book aside, and pulled her onto his lap.

He planted a kiss on her forehead. “My little worrywart. If it will make you feel better then consider it done. I’ll order several cases and store it at my sister Lucinda’s house. Finally a benefit to her being human—we won’t have to worry about it disappearing. Now, if it were beer, it’d be a different story.”

They laughed. Then Carla ran her hands through his thick black hair and kissed him hard on the mouth.

#

Carla had been at Balo’s for a week when she noticed he had a tendency to overindulge in blood. He was about to go for his fourth glass of the night when she got up the nerve to say something.

“Balo, you’ve already had three glasses. Are you drinking because you need it, or because you’re bored?”

He looked up with a frown. “What does it matter? I’m not hurting anyone, am I?”

“Haven’t you heard of ‘waste not, want not’? And you get sloppy after two glasses. I’ve got stains on my white tablecloth to prove it.”

Balo returned the blood to the refrigerator without refilling his glass.

He sulked for a while but was back to his usual bouncy self the next evening. Carla was pleased when he voluntarily cut himself off at two cups of blood. He seemed to have his craving under control.

#

One evening, Balo told Carla that his sister Lucinda had called.

“Lucinda needs me to come over tomorrow evening and help her hang some pictures.”

“Hang pictures? Do you even know how to use a hammer?” Carla thought of Balo prancing around his sister’s house with a work belt on. Was this the same Balo who spent more time than she did on his hair and who wouldn’t go two weeks without a mani-pedi? Carla couldn’t contain her giggle.

Balo crossed his arms and pouted. “Just because I don’t like to do manual labor, doesn’t mean I don’t know how.”

Carla felt bad for hurting his feelings, so the next day she searched ebay and found a first edition copy of his favorite vampire novel signed by the author. Balo clapped his hands and squealed with delight when she gave it to him.

#

In the following weeks, Lucinda requested her brother’s help on several more occasions. Carla found it strange that Balo was so willing to assist since normally he had little patience for his family—or anyone but Carla for that matter.

One morning after Balo had visited Lucinda, Carla noticed little spots of blood on his collar. She felt a tight knot form in the pit of her stomach. What if he wasn’t going to Lucinda’s after all? What if he’d met another woman? Or another vampire—how could she compete with that? She started to text Lucinda, but then thought better of it. She didn’t want to come across as ‘the  jealous girlfriend.’

That evening, she asked casually, “So how’s the work at Lucinda’s going?”

Balo looked up from his video game, brows furrowed. “Fine. Why?”

“Uh, just asking.”

“Actually, it’s finished. She doesn’t need my help anymore.”

Carla let out a small breath. Surely if it was a girlfriend, he wouldn’t give her up so easily.

#

The two settled into a comfortable routine. Balo slept during the day while Carla worked as a paralegal. Nights they spent together reading or watching television since they were both homebodies. Other than the occasional spat about minor things like Carla leaving her make-up strewn across the bathroom counter, or Balo leaving every light on in the apartment when he retired for the day, they rarely argued.

Until a critical blood shortage swept the nation.

It was so bad that a major cable channel aired a special segment hosted by a popular comedian called, Everybody’s Somebody’s Type, to raise awareness of the problem and encourage people to donate.

Balo got moodier as the shortage continued. One evening after he snapped at Carla for not picking up his dry cleaning, she suggested they retrieve the blood at Lucinda’s house.

“Carla, stop treating me like a child. I’ve got things under control. Don’t you trust me?”

“Well, er, of course I trust you.” Not for the first time, she wondered why men were so stubborn when it came to getting help.

But when Balo returned home from the blood bank a few nights later, wild-eyed and empty-handed, Carla decided it was time to force the issue.

“Balo, we’re going to Lucinda’s now. This is that rainy day we talked about.”

“But…”

“I won’t take no for an answer.”

Carla tried to engage Balo in conversation on the drive to his sister’s but he stared out the window and gave her the silent treatment. Carla blamed it on the lack of blood and tried not to take it personally.

#

Lucinda seemed thrilled with the surprise visit, complaining that she didn’t get to see either of them enough.

Once Carla and Balo were settled on the couch, Lucinda offered them a drink.

Carla cut straight to the chase. “We need to get Balo’s blood.”

Lucinda gave her a blank look. “Balo’s blood?”

Then she pursed her lips and looked pointedly at Balo. “I think my brother may have something he needs to talk to you about.” Lucinda left them alone in the living room.

Carla narrowed her eyes at Balo.

His words came tumbling out in a defensive jumble. “It’s not my fault, Carla, you were nagging me about drinking too much, and I tried to cut back, I really did. But I kept thinking about the blood we had here…”

Balo’s frequent visits to Lucinda’s suddenly made sense to Carla.

She threw her hands in the air.

“Oh, my God. There’s no blood left, is there Balo? And there wasn’t any handy work either. You lied to me, didn’t you?” she fumed. “I never should have trusted you.”

Balo was eerily quiet during Carla’s tirade.

Too late, she realized that his eyes had glazed. And worse—they were no longer focused on her face.

In an instant, he pounced, pinning her to the couch and sinking his sharp teeth into her neck.

Carla tried to struggle but was no match for Balo’s strength. Her scream was more of a gurgle and was lost in the loud slurping noises Balo was making.

A cold line of blood trailed down Carla’s neck, its  slight metallic smell mingling unpleasantly with Balo’s aftershave.

When the initial pain began to subside and the room started to blur, Carla’s last thought was closer to acceptance than surprise. Balo was, after all, a vampire. Did she really think he could change?

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