"Simple Pleasures"


Simple Pleasures
by Grace G.

           "One sundae, please. Don't spare the nuts." Maximilian Townsend stretched his small, ten-year-old frame to look over the counter at the soda jerk. "Two cherries instead of one, please." The soda jerk smiled as he prepared the sundae.
           "That will be 60 francs."
           Max returned the smile as he dug into his pockets and started to count out change. I hate the end of the week, he thought as he slipped several coins onto the counter. But at least I didn't have to get an advance.
           After counting the change, the soda jerk slid the sundae towards Max. "Enjoy."
           "I will!" Max replied, licking his lips in anticipation as he settled into a nearby table outside. He loved this little stand. It was the only one in walking distance that made sundaes like back home.
           He picked up the spoon and started to swirl the ice cream into the chocolate syrup. As he put the mixture into his mouth, he dipped his upper lip. He'd enjoy that little bit after he swallowed.
           "Enjoying your sundae, Maximilian?"
           Max stiffened. That all-too-familiar voice sent chills up his spine. After only one encounter, that voice, that accent, was burned into his memory. He looked up and saw Alexander Lucard sitting at a table directly in front of him, an ice cream sundae in hand.
           "Aw, nuts!"
           "If you don't like nuts, Maximilian, you shouldn't have asked for them." Lucard smiled, revealing even, white teeth. Max flinched nonetheless, half-expecting fangs to appear. Why did I turn down Chris and Sophie's offer to tag along? he thought to himself.
           "What's the matter? Ice cream not agreeing with you? What a shame, since ice cream would be the most appropriate treat to eat on such a lovely summer day."
           Lucard's emphasis on the last word had its desired effect: Max untensed a little. Stupid! Max thought. It's two in the afternoon. Sunset is several hours away. Lucard's letting me know that right now he's powerless. Lucard just smiled, swirling his ice cream.
           "Um, what are you doing here?" Max asked, hoping his voice didn't reveal how shaky he felt. For the most part, it didn't, much to his relief.
           "Same as you. I came to enjoy a cold, delicious sundae on a hot, summer day. I'm really not all that different from you, Maximilian." Lucard swallowed a little spoonful and continued smiling.
           "You're different enough."
           "Perhaps." Lucard scooped a strawberry and whip cream and brought it to his mouth. "But we are quite similar in many other ways." He smiled as he chewed the strawberry. "There is nothing that represents summer better than a strawberry. Don't you agree?"
           Max nodded as he watched Lucard eat his ice cream. "You like ice cream." It was a statement, not a question. Max was unnerved by this. Count Dracula was sitting before him eating an ice cream sundae, looking absolutely normal and non-threatening. Like a wolf in sheep's clothing. Max shuddered.
           What's the matter, Maximilian? Having a hard time picturing me as the hideous monster that you've already made me out to be?" Lucard put down his spoon and leaned forward, a mischievous smile on his handsome face. "I used to be human, too, Max. A long time ago, granted, but not so long ago that I can't remember the simpler pleasures in life."
           Lucard tilted his head and regarded Max for a moment. "You know, Maximilian, you remind me of myself when I was your age."
           That was too much for Max to bear. "Don't say that," he whispered.
           Lucard straightened up. "What? That you remind me of myself, or..."
           "I mean it."
           "Why?"
           "Because." Max's voice was getting husky.
           "Max," Lucard said softly.
           "What?" Max's hand was trembling, though he didn't seem to notice.
           "The ice cream on your lip melted."
           Max managed to turn and wipe away the remains of the ice cream from his face. When he looked up, Lucard was gone. Despite his relief, he was a little perturbed at the sudden departure. "How rude not to say goodbye before leaving," he muttered. Still, he was grateful he didn't have to face Lucard again. In only a matter of minutes Lucard had managed to shake Max to the core. And just by eating ice cream.
           Ice cream. Max looked at his sundae and saw that it had melted. He was so engrossed in Lucard eating his that he completely ignored his own. Nuts, Max thought. I forgot my ice cream. He swirled his spoon around, further mixing the gooey mess. Don't even want it now. He tossed the melted sundae in the garbage.
           Max was upset.
           He sat down and put his head in his hands. "He said I reminded him of himself at my age." Max sighed. "Dracula was once like me. Dracula. Blood sucking vampire. Stalker. Hunter. Cold-blooded murderer. Dracula used to be like me. Oh, man!"
           Dracula, Lucard's voice said in Max's head. The most sophisticated, successful, powerful vampire this world has ever seen. Handsome, fabulously wealthy, popular with the fairer sex and, above all, immortal. And he used to be like you!
           Max stiffened and looked straight ahead, oblivious to his surroundings. He was focusing on Lucard's voice.
           You have potential, Max. You may not be as great as I am, but you do have potential. And what does your mother say about potential?
           Max's ears were burning, as though Lucard's words passed through them. "One must always live up to their potential," he whispered.
           He had to get home. He jumped up and started running back to the Helsing house. Sunset wasn't for several hours, but he needed the protection of the Cross of the Magyars and Uncle Gustav's arms before he could feel safe again. He ran, trying to outdistance the laughter erupting in his head.


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