Princeton’s Barbershop & Salon, Windenburg
Latimer, 11:00 a.m.
Latimer had been coming to this barbershop since they moved to Henford-on-Bagley, while Betty went to the salon next door for her braids and twist-outs. When she got sick, the owner, Princeton Williams, promised to buy the place and knock the wall down—an idea Betty had been pitching for years.
“You just have to live to see it,” Princeton insisted whenever he visited her at the hospital.
Betty didn’t live to see it, but Princeton followed through anyway. Latimer came to the grand re-opening but couldn’t force himself out of the car. Vlad handled him like he was made of glass. He asked no questions, merely buckled Latimer’s seatbelt and drove them home. Every few months, when his hair grew too shaggy, the vampire would sit him down and quietly reach for the scissors. He never cut it to any style, as if he somehow understood that Latimer couldn’t bear to see himself put back together.
You’ll take care of each other, Latty; that’s why I can let go.
As they walked into the shop, Latimer steeled himself for a cool reception.
“Well, if ain’t just the devil and his father,” Princeton crooned, “What, you forgot how to dress in your long absence? You need lessons from your son,” he flung a hand in Vlad’s direction. “How you let your father leave the house like this?”
Vlad arched a brow, “It may surprise you to learn that my father is not a man whom you can tell anything.”
“Yeah, you hear that, Princeton?” Latimer huffed, “You can’t tell me shit.”
There was a tense silence, and then the shop burst into laughter. Latimer gave a small smile of relief.
“Come on,” Princeton patted a chair, “I think I know which one of you needs a cut.”
Latimer complied, watching as Vlad was instantly drawn into a chess game.
“By my count, you’ve missed about sixty game nights, so I reckon it’s your turn to host,” Princeton said as he sorted through clipper attachments.
Before Latimer disappeared, his heart having shattered into a million jagged pieces, the Joneses rotated hosting game night with the other staff at the shop. Vlad served them barbeque and McDillons and preened at the compliments about the house. Betty hustled them out of every dime before declaring an “early bedtime,” and then Latimer and Princeton would sit up until all hours talking.
“It’s Betty’s day, ain’t it,” Princeton jerked his chin in the direction of a photo and a vase of flowers, “Miss DeeDee always sets them out for her.”
Latimer nodded, his throat tight. He could still remember the first day he saw her, working at the lab by the base in StrangerVille. He cut out of drills early for months to flirt with her, following as she collected her samples.
I am a scientist, Latty, and I say a supernatural heart needs love just as much as a mortal one. And he does love you.
Love was complicated. It came with a hair-trigger temper and violent nighttime pacing. His wife, llamas rest her soul, was wrong.
“Whatcha looking to get?” Princeton asked.
“Anything,” Latimer mumbled, “It don’t matter.”
Princeton shook his head, “That’s the grief talking. But you’re here now; that’s what matters. Might I suggest something fresh? Betty would rise up out the grave if she seen you wandering around all floppy-haired and sorry.” He flicked on the clippers and motioned for someone in the shop to turn up the radio. “Hey, Michael, show Vlad that Sims Tok dance!” He nudged Latimer, “Just watch; you’ll love this. All the young folks are doing it.”
Latimer snorted. Young folks. If only they knew.