Day Trippers: A Reflection From Sunnier Climes
© josh & sadie rose 2001
(This story was written during a trip to the Balearics a couple of years ago and intended as part of a longer series called Vampires on Vacation. Needless to say... the Vampires are still out there!
No part of this story may be reproduced or used without the authors' permission.)
"So..." Matty Greening perched on a corner of the dry-stone wall at the roadside, surveying his surroundings with an expression reminiscent of a supremely polite, middle-aged, middle-class Surrey Virgin who has just walked, by accident into a Korean Bordello. "...tell me again, Lover, what 'exactly' are we meant to be doing here?"
He brushed road dust off his Versace denim cut-offs and gazed balefully through the diamante-studded, rose pink lenses of his frameless, Oliver Peoples shades at the diminishing rear of the broad 4x4 which had just forced the pair of them off the tarmac and onto the over-grown verge. One long-boned, sun-tanned hand patted the gold-embroidered-aqua silk kerchief tied pirate-style around his tumbling, wind-blown mane. Locks the colour of every kind of honey spilled down his back in an unruly horse-tail to his slender waist (bared in the current fashion by the artful tying up of his shirt tails just beneath his bony ribcage). Beneath the deceptively casual garments, his skinny, six-foot frame was tanned a complimentary shade of golden brown.
His smaller, darker companion glanced up from the crude, hand-drawn map he had been studying, flashing a wry, crooked smile at him in response. Briefly he considered that, given Matt's avowed disdain for any activity remotely 'outdoors', he was immaculately bronzed... all over (which the older man could also vouch for!) Matty never did anything by halves. He had in fact spent about thirty hours in an obscenely expensive London Solarium perfecting this newly gilt image before they left the city for Barcelona. Naturally, Matt would never have been caught dead (or Undead) on a sunlounger looking anything less than a golden (if skinny) Adonis.
By comparison, Rayne Wylde, his older compatriot and fellow Vampire, looked like a tramp. This was in no way an insult to the black-clad man's sartorial elegance. Matt Greening was blessed with the godlike gift of naturally out-dressing anyone within a five-mile range. Rayne did not think that he even set out deliberately to do so, it was just a hang-up he had. Matt found it impossible to walk past a designer outlet without reaching for his credit card. Leaning against the wall beside him, in black cord hipsters with a sable-silk shirt over skinny-fit, cropped, black tee and his omnipresent black Cuban boots, Wylde looked lean, and dangerously handsome, but still modestly clad.
Not that he seriously minded this too much right now. If this had been London, Barcelona, or even back in Ibiza Town from whence they had just sailed, he might have made more of an effort. Out here, the attention was off him, and he relaxed for once, almost able to be himself for a few rare days. Although he still took the eye. It would have been impossible to meet that black-lashed, acid-drop gaze through the tumble of his ragged, sable hair and look away without thinking, at the very least, that this was a devastatingly good-looking guy. And out here on this winding, inland, unsheltered road in the middle of Formentera (or the "middle of fucking nowhere!" as Matt would have it, although the entire island was not more than a few miles from end to end) the temperature was in the high eighties, but he had not even broken sweat.
There was at least one good thing to be said for Unlife.
Behind the mirrored lenses of his ebony-framed shades, eyes the colour of green Chartreuse in a glass of crushed ice twinkled with mischief and his generous mouth twitched in a mocking smile as he retorted; "'You' wanted to go to the fuckin' 'beach', Sweetheart."
His voice was mellow and slightly husky like the purr of a well-tuned engine and the crunch of gravel under the wheels of an E-Type Jag. Many people were surprised that he spoke with such a resonant, contralto pitch when his singing voice was given to insane flurries of coloratura falsetto invective, interspersed with his trademark tenor snarl.
Matt's gold-flecked, dark-chocolate eyes narrowed behind his shades and he rested both sets of knuckles on his bony hips as he snapped back; "You didn't tell me it was on the other fuckin' side of the fuckin' Balearics! 'Just a little stroll,' you said! 'Just over there, babe,' You 'Said'!
His sharp-edged, genuine Cockney accent rose another half octave when he was irritated by something. Matt had a way of throwing words at you so that you 'heard' every capital letter and every punctuation mark. It unnerved many people. Rayne, who was used to it by now, merely shrugged his slender shoulders and tucked the scrap of paper into a back pocket before wandering on.
"It's not 'that' far, babe."
"Fuck You, it's not!" Matt squeaked, forced to follow or be ignored - which was absolute anathema to the blond Vampire. "We've walked fuckin' 'miles', Ray!"
"Don't be so melodramatic. We have not!" Rayne glanced back, running a hand through his sleek ebony hair, drawing the heavy fall back from his face. The sly, crooked smile still teased his generous, narrow-lipped mouth. "You walked further than this when you were couture shopping in Barca."
Matt trailed after him like a cranky child.
"You're a fuckin' heartless bastard!" he complained, vehemently. "It's about a thousand fuckin' degrees Fahrenheit out here, and we can't even 'see' the fuckin' sea! What are you try'na do? Fuckin' 'fry' me?"
The speculative expression on Wylde's face should have warned him that he was not about to get sympathy.
"I can't exactly 'kill' you, can I, sweetheart?" the older creature pointed out reasonably. "Look... it's just over that next rise, according to the map. You can swim and pose around to your heart's content once we've got there. I won't ask you to move again all day, if that's what you want."
"I'll hardly have the energy to, will I?" his young associate muttered resentfully. "Look at me! I look a fright! I'm exhausted and tense and these fuckin' people keep trying to fuckin' well run me down!" As he said this a small, dust-streaked, white van came barrelling past them, within an arm's length and Matt scuttled for the safety of the verge once more. "Don't these bastards believe in pavements?" he yelped. "Oh Ray.. please, let's go back. I'm at the end of my fuckin' rope, here!"
"If only," Rayne breathed, almost inaudibly.
"I heard that!"
"Good!" the lean, dark fellow turned back to face him, an edge creeping into his own voice. "Pull yourself together! 'You' wanted to go to the beach! I'd have been happy to wander up to that little bar near the hotel and catch a bite and a VAT, but no... her fuckin' Ladyship wants the 'sand-between-her-toes' experience! Well.. we're going to the fuckin' beach, all right? So shut your fuckin' mouth and enjoy yourself or I'll tie you to that fuckin' gate over there and leave you for the fuckin' lizards!"
A short, simmering silence filled the empty space behind his threat. The pair of them trudged on, dodging mopeds for a little while like this, until Matty muttered; "You wouldn't dare!"
That was enough to ensure temporary compliance and the Undead couple got about four hundred yards in comparative tranquillity. Then Matt stopped in his tracks.
"'What' fuckin' lizards?"
Briefly Rayne halted and closed his eyes wishing a thousand evil curses on his companion's head. When he opened them his gaze quickly scanned the roadside and the scattered, heat-wilted undergrowth until he located the object of his search.
"Here..." he beckoned economically. "Look... by that dark stone..."
Matt came closer and peered over his shoulder. As his gaze took in what he was meant to be looking at a squeal of dread escaped him and he backed away immediately, putting Rayne squarely between himself and the tiny, emerald green creature, basking on it's stone, which was barely as long as his hand.
"Jesus-God! What the fuck is that? Kill it!" he insisted in tones of escalating horror. "What is it?"
Rayne rolled his eyes wearily.
"It's a fuckin' Komodo Dragon, what d'you think it is?" he deadpanned. "Fatally poisonous... except to Vampires! Unfortunately also a protected species."
Even Matty was not 'that' dense, to his chagrin.
"I thought they came from South East Asia?" he ventured suspiciously.
"It's on holiday," Rayne said impassively, adding under his breath; "Like we're 'supposed' to be!"
His companion bristled like a defensive cat.
"God! You totally fuckin' get off on fuckin' windin' me up, don't you?" he hissed, putting on his most outraged pout.
"I prefer a more challenging activity, personally." Rayne sighed, striding off with a shake of his head and a small, evil smile.
"Bitch!" Matty sniped, hesitating briefly while he contemplated turning back, then changing his mind when he spied another lizard eyeing his designer espadrilles with predatory interest. "I hate you! You know I 'loathe' animals!"
"It's not an animal, it's a reptile," Rayne corrected without looking back. "And you loathe everything that doesn't come with a designer label and an expense account attached. Sweetheart, anyone would think that you were born in Miu Miu with a hand-etched silver dummy by Salvador Dali in your mouth and white velvet Alastair McQueen nappies! Get 'Real', babe, for fuck's sake - you're as common as the rest of us!"
"At least I 'bothered' to try and yank myself out of the gutter," he protested. "I'm not going back there, Lover. I 'couldn't'!"
He shivered, mock-dramatically.
"No one's askin' you to," Rayne murmured in a terse approximation of a soothing tone. "It's just a little walk down to the beach. We'll find a bar. You can sit and show off your flash and I 'might' even buy you a MaiTai."
Matt still pursed his lips slightly, but the promise of alcohol did seem to have appeased him. At least, he stopped complaining for a little while.
As they walked, Rayne pointed out distractions, hoping to soothe his friend's sense of outrage at the preponderance of 'rampant nature' into which he had been launched. It was a thankless task, for certain; flowers failed to inspire him; 'real, living' sheep just made him wrinkle his nose and shudder, and the grapes stretched out in long rows of lush, verdant vines only made him yearn even more for a drink.
"Since when were you such a country-fuckin'-bumpkin anyway?" Matt demanded at last. "Back home, you won't even walk to the fuckin' Take-away!"
"I grew up by the sea, out in the country," Rayne reminded him. "Mum taught us the names of things."
He looked as if he might have said more, but fell silent. Matt knew all too well how much he had loved his late-lamented mother, who took her own life when Rayne was just fourteen. For once he did not throw back a smart answer right away. About forty five seconds elapsed before he mused to himself; "Maybe God is punishing me for something, then."
"He'd be spoiled for choice!" Rayne remarked at once, without looking at him. "Anyway, you don't believe in God."
"I do, too!" Matty flashed back. "I've had lunch with him at Chinawhites. We had that gorgeous saumon roti en sauce sancerre and a magnum of absolutely delicious 1985 Charley Heidsieck bubbly. Yummy!"
That wasn't God, that was Jean-Paul Gaultier," Rayne chuckled, his eyes finally twinkling as he turned his head to acknowledge his friend.
Matt grinned back at him. "Same fuckin' thing!"
"'The ocean here is endless blue'," Rayne crooned softly. He was standing on a lip of weathered rock, looking out over the swaying expanse of water with his hands in his pants pockets and the fierce sea breeze buffeting his ebony mane and dark, silk shirt. "'Aquamarine and Ultramarine, and somewhere deep down in between, a glorious turquoise hue'."
About ten feet away, Matt sipped brandy and rum and an assortment of fruit syrups from a tall, iced glass containing the island's annual citrus fruit export, through a long, pink straw, in the shade of a convenient thatched awning. He shivered slightly.
"Thank you, William F. Wordsworth! It's fuckin' sea, just like anywhere," he pointed out now, deprecatingly. "We've walked for fucking miles and there's just sea and rocks and fuckin' seaweed, like anywhere!"
"At home," Rayne expounded, turning back to face him with his hands held out almost imploringly, "it's the colour of mud and crud, and it stinks like hell's arse! How can you say that? It's fuckin' beautiful!"
"Whatever," Matt sighed, glancing up through his diamante shades with the very briefest of tight smiles, before returning his attention to his MaiTai.
Rayne rolled his eyes.
"Oh come on! Even you can't fail to be inspired by all that fuckin' power out there. All that big, majestic, blue 'beautifulness'!"
"I'm cold," Matt said petulantly, wrapping himself in his flimsy shirt, but reluctantly staring out at the sea in any case. He found that it only made him want to piss, and only inspired him to try and find the number of a cab firm that could spirit them back to civilisation. "I'm sitting on a plastic chair that's numbing my arse by degrees, in a grass hut in the middle of nowhere. A 'grass hut', for fuck's sake! We're not even in 'Africa'!"
His fellow Vampire shook his head at that.
"When we arrived you were 'baking half to death'!" he remarked, mimicking Matt's tone with uncanny accuracy. "Come out here in the sunshine then."
Matty surveyed his lean brown arms one at a time, then looked up smugly.
"I'm done, Lover. Any more and I'll singe like a pork crackling left in the fuckin' oven too long!"
Rayne gave up and returned to his contemplation of the waves while his friend finished his cocktail. He lowered himself to sit on the edge of the rocks and wrapped his arms around his knees, lost in thought. After a little while of being ignored, Matty Greening surprised him by coming to sit beside him, perching his sleek behind on a small boulder, covered in dried seaweed, cautiously as though he feared it might come to life and bite his arse. He looked out at the waves again and forced a distinctly unenthusiastic smile.
The older Vampire put an arm around his shoulders, and thought that Matty actually seemed a little bit surprised himself. The blond man did not comment, but leaned in a little closer to Rayne. A few moments later he pulled out his mobile and played with the buttons distractedly.
A small smile quirked Rayne's mouth.
"Y'know, I bet the sea goes on and on from here as 'far' as Africa," he murmured in a quietly thoughtful tone.
Matt fired a baleful glance at the distant horizon.
"Maybe that's why I can't get a fuckin' Vodaphone reception!" he muttered sourly.
"You've no vision, Sweetheart," Rayne chided him fondly.
"Wrong, Lover! I've got visions of those unaesthetically-naked Germans we passed, just up the coast, that will haunt me until my dust blows on the wind!" Matt corrected him, surveying more of the uninhibited sun-worshippers down below with another flesh-scouring glare. "Are you seriously happy, surrounded by these mad, ugly people?"
"I don't think they're mad," Rayne said quietly. "And most of them probably aren't so ugly..."
"You wouldn't fuck a 'single one' of them, surely?" his companion persisted, in horrified tones.
"Maybe only one," Rayne said, turning to look at Matty directly through the mirror lenses that hid his ice-green eyes, and hence also his thoughts, from the younger Vampire sitting beside him.
Matt stared back at him, unfazed. "'Are' you happy, Lover?"
The question seemed to perplex him, for Rayne frowned slightly as if he was thinking; wondering what had inspired his friend to ask it. It was entirely unlike Matty Greening to care what others were feeling, under normal circumstances. But this was far from normal.
He responded with a question of his own. "Do I seem happy?"
Matt almost found a smile. His gaze roved out to sea again as he mused; "Ummm... I suppose you do, oddly enough. You're in your fuckin' element, virtually. Y'know, I always liked that about you. You seem to revel in the oddest stuff."
"It's not so odd!" Rayne protested in a good-humoured tone of voice. "People do this kind of thing all the time. Ordinary people, doing ordinary-person things...."
"But we're 'not' People, Lover," Matt reminded him, more soberly. "Fuck it! We're not even 'Ordinary'!"
Rayne tilted his head to look at Matt quizzically.
"Do you ever wish we were?" he asked softly.
Without hesitation, Matt shook his own head. "No."
The slight, dark-maned Vampire looked back out at the sea then, in silence. Behind those huge shades, his expression was unfathomable. Matt's tawny brows lowered contemplatively.
"Do 'you'?" he asked at last.
"I dunno," Rayne answered him distantly. "Maybe.... Sometimes...."
"You never used to." It was almost an accusation of treachery.
Rayne said; "Once, when I was a little kid, I wanted everything. I wanted money, a flash car, and all the attention. The whole shootin' match..."
"You got it," Matt reminded him unnecessarily. "You'll never need to feel small, or cheap or inadequate again. Isn't 'that' something?"
"I don't think it's so easy, Sweetheart. All the trimmings; that's not what's missing... it's something here." He touched his fingers to his chest lightly. "Some days life just seems to lose it's sparkle."
Matt gazed at him, mock-horrified.
"Then shake some fuckin' stars down on it, girl!" he teased at once. Sitting here, this close, literally face to face, he gave in to impulse and kissed Rayne briefly on the tip of his nose. "I 'thought' you were happy," he said at once, to cover his embarrassment.
Once, years ago - Matt reflected - he would not have even hesitated to plant a smacker on the man next to him. Now he found himself wondering what they had come to, himself and Rayne. Why they were here together... Well, that was easy enough, Ray had asked him to come along. But Matty still wasn't sure of the 'why' of it. Once, many years ago they had been lovers, but the relationship disintegrated, long before Whipsnade, the band that was Rayne's brainchild, followed it into history. They were too different, Matt reminded himself firmly. Ray loved to bask in distant adoration. He was the archetypal loner, always fending people off if they tried to get too far under his skin. Matty preferred to be a social butterfly, flitting from project to project, organising people and events, motivating his armies of assistants and accomplices into a constant flurry of action.
What Rayne would never admit, even to Matt - who already knew as much - was the yearning to be loved and appreciated. He built walls around his feelings that Edmund Hilary would have had a hard time scaling! And if someone threatened to get through his defences, he built them higher and thicker until the assailant gave up and went away.
"I 'am' happy," Rayne said now, unconvincingly. He touched a wary fingertip to the bridge of his upturned nose as though he suspected Matt of somehow marking him by that simple, tiny kiss. "This makes me happy; the sea, the silence.... You."
That pause was telling. It spoke of a chasm shoulder-deep in uncertainties. Since the breakdown of their intense, public, ten-year affair, Matty had never once tried to get Ray back. He never pleaded, or even asked "why?". The reasons, he still thought, were painfully obvious. Rayne had grown bored with him; had become tired of him; begun to find him irksome, grasping, needy. The more he tried to hang on - the more he battled to 'make' Rayne Wylde love him - the harder his lover pushed him away. And as a backdrop to all of this, Whipsnade had been on a massive European tour at the time and they were living, literally, in each others' pockets, unable to escape one another.