Angels and Vampires

“OOOOOOH!” my cousin Kay squealed as she steps into Suncoast. “Look Murph, look! They have Twilight out! On DVD!”

"OOOOOH  . . . . can we get it?!"

"OOOOOH . . . . can we get it?!"

“Oh, can we get it! Please, please can weeee?” my sister, Bree, pleads while jumping ecstatically like a Olympic diver, each bounce a little higher than the next. Momentarily caught among a girls’ soccer troupe dribbling trash beneath foot court chairs, I manage to free myself from the human flow after a dozen fervent apologies: “I’m sorry, Miss,” “Sorry about your toe, er . . . foot there,” “Just trying to cross, um to the other side there, sir. Oops! Sorry, didn’t mean to wake him .  . Oh!  Well, she looks like you ma’am.” The sea of humanity parted, and after a nearly fatal brush with some pierced Goths, I safely jumped within the movie store where the two vampire-loving girls pleaded their case. A six-foot cardboard cut-out of Edward, the movie/book’s tragically-confused vampire, his pale moody face lurking above two excited pre-teens, secretly smiled at my as-of-yet-to-be-drained wallet.

Now much of what I’ve learned about women stems from a high concentration of Jane Austen novels, manga heroines, and shopping dates with my mother and sisters. This intense education has kneaded in me feelings of love, respect, and – above all – fear of the female sex, lest they decry my honor publicly or aerate my torso with shooting stars and katana blades. Long ago (age ten) while shopping for cocktail dresses with Mom, I learned the importance of communication. For example the question ‘Which dress do you like best?’ – despite better logic – has in fact a correct answer: one must choose but choose wisely. Katie instructed me on fashion, hair-styles, and proper use of slang (i.e. men in turtlenecks are forbidden to say ‘Down wit dat’); my sister-in-law, Tiff, advised me on honesty and other means in which guys find themselves in trouble. Then we have Bree, the youngest and admittedly the most dangerous of the bunch.   Hammett’s Brigid O’Shaughnessy in miniature, Bree’s adorable face and heart-melting personality masks an insatiable hunger for power, fruit smoothies, and wallets everywhere.

Our excursion began on a blustery Saturday.  The first day of spring this year welcomed the East Coast with blue skies, no snow, and chilly climes that apparently scared most of Eastern Seaboard indoors to the malls. The parking lots seemed primed for holiday shopping as I steered Mom and the two girls along asphalt rivers, circling parked cars like a shark around the Amity tourists. A recent doctor’s visit had deigned that my nearsighted little sister needed glasses, and after suggesting some . . . helpful alternatives (Seriously eye-patches are so trendy), I was asked to drive Bree to the mall to purchase some child-sized specs.

After purchasing some smoothies, we strode over to LensCrafters.  Doctors nowadays have the irksome habit of asking the children instead of the parent for pertinent information . . . until the matter turns to the bill, that is. Ignoring Mom altogether, the opticians stared at Bree and asked her, where she lived, her age, and her phone number: everything but her name, which they managed to spell incorrectly. However, once the bill appeared on the computer, the good doctor miraculously remembered Mom’s presence, prompting for her credit card as Bree — sucking absently on a strawberry-banana smoothie — appeared in no hurry to empty her pockets of candy wrappers and loose change.  Kay pocketed a few free shade-shaped keychains.

The lens smithes would finish their work within the hour.  In the meantime, I took the girls to Suncoast, while Mom browsed in Macy’s. Unlike Best Buy, Suncoast hosts an expansive collection of titles, many of which are rare to non-existent among retail stores. Several anime titles now lost in Best Buy shelves can be found there if you’re willing to put up the money. A title that costs fifteen bucks at Walmart might cost ten or twenty dollars more here especially if you don’t own an annoying club card.

“Twenty-two bucks for this stupid movie?” I mutter. “No way. Tiff said it sucked [pardon the pun]. You girls ‘ave read the books anyway. Why . . .”

“Nuh uh,” Kay shakes her head, which slurping loudly on her own fruit shake. “It’s good. It’s really good.”

“Pretty pweease!” Bree puckers, a puppy-dog face. Deadly.

“No,” I mutter moving deeper into the store, needing to replenish my strength after such an attack. “We’ll rent it first.”

 . . . as I untangled myself from the grammatical morass.

. . . as I untangled myself from the grammatical morass.

The girls grumble behind me and then disappear into the stacks. After a moment’s pause at some old Bogart films, I find myself before the anime wall, an immense collection of overpriced DVDs and boxsets. While I consider the thirty dollar price tag on volume two of Baccano! the girls snuggle up to me once again.

“Hey Murph, how about Step Up 2!”

“No,” I answer resolutely, recalling the tagline to the street-dancing bi-epic: “It’s not where you’re from. It’s where you’re at.” Wonderful.

“We could buy the first movie,” Kay suggests, as I untangle myself from this grammatical morass. “After all it was the best.”

“But the second movie had that guy!”

“Oh my gosh, he was so cute!”

“I know!”

“Honestly, I cannot have a conversation with either one of you,” I mumble, while my fellow anime geeks scurry away from us, cradling their swag of gun-toting space cadets. The girls giggle and skip down another aisle, only to appear minutes later with Season Three of NCIS.

“Ok, how about this?” Bree asks, holding her thumb over the price tag. I reach to check the price. She pulls away.

“You have to promise to get it first,” she says.  A devil’s smile.

Honestly the girls love this show. Idolizing the tattooed forensic scientist Abby, they have already spent hours watching the second season – which I bought for Dad three Christmases ago –between reruns on the USA network. Frankly among the other acronymed forensic shows on TV today, NCIS does feature some amusing characters, and seeing that it beats the trite Nickelodeon and Disney Channel fare, why not buy another season for them? My will was cracking . . .

“What other seasons do they have?” I ask, walking over to the television section.

“Only this one and season two, which we have,” Kay says.

“Right, so here’s the deal,” Bree begins. “Since you won’t let us buy Twilight, you have to buy us NCIS. One or the other. No exceptions or else.”

“Or else what?”

“We’ll cry,” they say together.

“So?” I counter. “I’ve dealt with tantrums and tears before. Sean and Shannon used to erupt in the bookstores whenever I refused to buy them anything . . . what have you got?”

“We’re girls. When we cry, hearts break,” Kay smiles, feigning a miserable sniff. Bree pouts. My remaining strength – now just sticks and bricks – shatters into dust. End game.  KO.

Two ladies pass us and laugh.

“Hard sell, eh?” they giggle.

“Mercenaries to the end,” I whisper, picking up the NCIS DVDs.

ncisThe cashier talks me into renewing my Suncoast membership card. No threatening tears this time, merely a smile and the option of saving ten dollars off my purchase convince me to re-enlist.

Kay approaches as the cashier scans my DVDs. “I’m angry at Bree. She keeps making faces at me. Plus she won’t admit that the guy from Twilight is not ugly.”

“So . . . you fancy him?” I ask, teasing.

“Ewww, no,” Kay sneers, “He’s a horrible Edward, but he doesn’t look horrible . . . not like you or anything.” I was so glad that I had purchased the DVDs for them.

“Anyway, I hate her,” Kay huffs, curling her arms about her chest.

“Yeah, I agree,” interjects the cashier. “I had a little sister once too. They’re all annoying . . .”

“What’s going on?” Bree – the little sister in question – sings skipping up to us. “Hey, Murph, I saw Step Up one and two back there for only twenty bucks, can we get it? Kay, can’t watch it though, did you know she likes Edward?”

“Do not! Nuh uh, she’s lying!”

I shuffle the girls out before they could create a scene, or consider more ways to drain my wallet. Or the helpful cashier remembers that the Step Up dual pack is on sale. The male soul can suffer only so much. Loss of money is one thing; West Side dance war between rival dance studios on the street . . . well, I’d choose emo vampire love trysts over that any day.