“Leif, Alexis, if you aren’t down here in five minutes to catch the bus, you’re going to school with Mr. Stackhouse and Mrs. Northman like a couple of geeks!” Sookie shouts up the stairs at our children. The mad scamper that results from her threats brings me deep amusement which earns a playful grin from my wife.
“You are too good at finding just the right motivators for children,” I tell my wife as she goes back to the study and packs the last of her graded papers from the day before.
“It’s a joy of motherhood; knowing how to simultaneously embarrass and motivate your child,” she tells me.
Before I can reply to this sage statement, my children practically fall down the stairs in an attempt to avoid being shuttled to school by, not only their mother and uncle, but also two of the school’s teachers.
“Mom,” Alexis is struggling with her hair, “my braid is going sideways!”
Sookie steps behind my daughter to fix the errant plait of hair, and as she does, I look her twin brother over with a critical eye.
“Leif,” I frown, “where is your belt?”
My son releases the softest of scoffs and looks sideways in his I’m-not-rolling-my-eyes-Dad way of his that pushes my temper. So, it is one of those days, is it? I think in exasperation. “The teacher confiscated my belt yesterday. He said wearing a belt made of bullets wasn’t school appropriate. I had to wear a stupid woven one all day.”
“I told you when you got you that belt you weren’t allowed to wear it to school,” Sookie chimes at him as she ties off the end of Alexis’ braid. “You have two other belts you can wear. Go get one.”
“But, Mom, they’re lame,” Leif protests.
“Not as lame as your butt hanging out of your pants all day,” Sookie’s voice mimic’s Leif’s whine perfectly. “Now put on a belt!” She points up the stairs and Leif makes that sound in the back of his throat that makes me want to shake him.
“Dad,” Alexis distracts me with her dazzling smile, “you don’t have to pick me up after cheer practice tonight, Bella is giving me a ride home.”
My eyes narrow, “Bella E. or Bella S.?”
Alexis frowns, “E. Why?”
Because Bella S. always smells like the entire football team came on her, I say to myself with distaste.
“Bella S. seems too undisciplined to me. I do not like the idea of her driving you around if she is going to be distracted,” I shrug. It is one thing to not like one of my daughter’s friends. It is an entirely different thing to trash them. That will probably only make my daughter desire to spend more time with this young woman I cannot stand! Alexis narrows her eyes at me suspiciously, but I am saved from her explosion of defensive shouts when Leif returns. “Much better!” I praise when his pants are held in proper place.
“Whatever,” Leif grumbles and I sigh. I think I would prefer Alexis being on the defensive over ‘whatever’. I hate that fucking word.
“All right, all right, everyone out of here. I’ll see you two at school,” Sookie shoos them out the door. “Wait, Leif, do you have your lunch money this time, or does mommy need to drop it off in your homeroom again?” she taunts, making Leif’s ears go red. He pats down his pockets and pulls out a ten dollar bill.
With that, my children file out of the house and I let my head drop against the door frame. “When do they stop being teenagers?” I moan to my wife with something that feels suspiciously like exhaustion.
Sookie smiles and leans in to kiss me, “When they are paying their first mortgage.”
I groan a bit louder, “Shall we kick them out after graduation?”
My wife wraps her arms around me, “No, they have college to go to, and then we can talk about giving them the boot.”
“Your son has me about ready to spit nails,” I comment.
“Why is he my son when he’s difficult and your son when he places in track?” Sookie demands laughingly.
“It is the same reason Alexis is my daughter when she punches a man in the face, and is your daughter when she wins the Spirit Award at cheer camp,” I reply.
“Are you saying I’m the more difficult of the two of us?” Sookie raises her eyebrows.
She snorts on a laugh and pulls me in for a kiss just when Jason pulls up to our driveway honking. With a disappointed sigh, she pulls away and smiles before grabbing her bag, telling me she loves me, and leaving for school.
I watch the car pull away and look around the empty house. The past seventeen years have been a real adventure. Our home in Ohio has truly become a family home with scuffs on the banisters, dings in the walls, and marks on the ceilings that I still have not gotten a confession from either child on how they came to be there.
As I go to the study and begin my day’s work of conference calls and emails, I am delighted to see a message from Quigley. Apparently he is going to be joining Diedre in her visit this weekend.
Admittedly I am just as apprehensive as I am delighted. Diedre will be meeting my son for the first time, and I am curious how it will pan out. My children have had very little interactions with vampires that are not part of the Gaul line, and for good reason. They smell exceptionally good. Even Weres turn their heads when my children pass by.
Thankfully the vampire community is aware of my children and understand the ramifications of touching them. It was a lesson taught with extreme prejudice when a Youngling tried to snatch my daughter. Even though the vampire community protested and yowled at my swift murder of the young vampire, I silenced their shouts with my own roar. I made it clear that loss of impulse control is always a dangerous thing, and I would make sure it resulted in death one hundred percent of the time if that loss was experienced around my family.
Our children had only been a few years old at that time, and Sookie had been understandably protective of them for several years after the incident. Thankfully, the vampire in question had been young enough for Sookie to hold him at bay until I arrived, and Alexis had been left unharmed in the scuffle. That is probably why Sookie only shut us into the house for two years instead of twenty.
That evening had involved a very difficult conversation with our four year old twins about what daddy, Aunt Pam and Uncles Godric and Jason were. Somehow Sookie managed to explain in a way that our small children could understand, and even now, thirteen years later, they identify us as Daywalkers instead of Vampires.
Of course, they have learned more and more over the years, and so has the rest of the family. We have learned the curious attributes our children have acquired having been bred between an angel/fairy and a vampire/Daywalker. Both Leif and Alexis are considerably more athletically able than the average humans their age. They have also been able to function on less sleep than children their age since hitting puberty. Between the ages of eleven and thirteen they slept ungodly amounts of time, but then around fourteen and fifteen, they required as little as three hours sleep a night. It has been like that the past two years now.
Another curious trait they have gained is an affinity for drinking blood. This strange impulse only hits them when they sustain injuries (like when Leif broke his leg at a track meet), but it had also been quite strong when they went through their growth spurts. The consumption of blood seems to allow them to heal faster than their mother or Camilla, but still not at vampire speeds. Where Sookie’s broken nose her first year of college healed by the end of the night, Leif’s leg snapped back into place only an hour after drinking two bottles of blood.
Ludwig has had theories now and again, but her biggest curiosity is if our children could initiate a Bond of their own with non-vampires. Of course, I have already come up with my own solutions if any children Sookie and I have find a Mate that is not a vampire already. Jason or Pam could always turn them and the Youngling could perform the Bonding ritual. Hopefully that is a very distant problem!
I have already accepted that my son will be Diedre’s, and perhaps I am not as at peace with it as I thought I would be. Again and again, I try to remind myself that he is the same age Sookie was when I began courting her, but there is a strange weight on my heart. I can feel it on Sookie’s heart as well from time to time. It is the weight of parenthood. No matter how much you may like your child’s mate, there is a displeasure at seeing someone else care for them. The idea of Diedre straightening his tie instead of me, or smoothing his hair instead of his mother; it creates an ache in my chest.
It makes me confused why I never felt it in my human life with my human children, but I know the answer is simple. When I was human, life was stronger and more brittle simultaneously. You were strong and hard, but at the mercy of injury and disease. Now with eternity to live, I just want my children to stay babies that much longer. I want them to stay in my and Sookie’s care just a few more years.
A smile tugs at my lips as I read my work e-mail for the tenth time and gaze fondly at the link attached. It is a free electronic copy of Spirit Snare by none other than Jason’s ‘Snow White’, or as I knew him, Jeremy Lintner. He emailed me when he published his first short story with a word document copied so I could read his first official publication ten years ago. Though he’s written several short stories and three unheard of novels in these past eleven years, I’ve actually heard mention of his newest novel in popular online blogs and a few news broadcasts! Though it’s no New York Times Best Seller, it is a tremendous accomplishment for my former student!
~Thanks for always believing in me, Mrs. Northman. Thanks for seeing something in me when no one else did.~
It was a short letter, but it still tugs at my heartstrings. Who would have believed a kid I taught almost twenty years ago still thinks about his sophomore English teacher? I open my drawer and look at the hardback cover of Spirit Snare. Jeremy has no idea I’ve bought a copy of every one of his publications to show my support. I’ve written praises to the magazines that published his short stories and comments on websites that have featured his work. Maybe one day I’ll send him a copy of this book to have signed.
The bell rings, announcing that my students will start trickling in, and I bound to my feet with Jeremy’s book clutched in my hand. When the bell signaling the start of class shrieks throughout the room, I hold up the novel with the biggest grin I’ve worn this year.
“Good morning, class!” I greet excitedly, “I have a special announcement!”
“You’re retiring?” Jacob Keaton calls from his back corner.
“Haha,” I sigh. “I’m nowhere near old enough to retire. I’d just be given the boot. You need to learn more about the joys of becoming a teacher.” A few students snort laugh, but since I have everyone’s attention now, I hold up the book I want to gush about once again. “Now, the special announcement is a student I used to teach at this very school, who learned in this very room just had his first hardback publication!” I brandish Spirit Snare through the air like a banner.
“Uh, good for him,” Bella N. says politely. All these damn Bellas! How did a book grossly misrepresenting vampires become so freaking popular!? Of course I know the answer to that. The vampire community had actually plugged the book themselves because it encouraged vampire/human relationships among a very susceptible group- i.e. teenagers. Tons of ‘Bellas’ went searching for their ‘Edwards’, and vampire/human marriages quickly became legalized all throughout this country and several others. Eric said some good came from it, and several of his Ancient friends found their Bondeds, including the Vampire King of Sweden to whom Eric is particularly close.
“Do you guys not realize this could be any of you down the road?” I ask of them. “Any one of you could be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King! A-den, A-why-den, A-eye-den,” I point to the three boys who share the same name with different spellings that we joke about constantly, “you could write the next big comedic screenplay. Bella, you could become the Jane Austin of the twenty-first century. Jacob,” I look at my number one antagonist of the year, “you could send an entire generation to the stars with the right words!” My class is suddenly very quiet, and I flip open my book to a passage that I love.
~Luke knew he would never have the powers that were wielded by his new friends. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that his body was fragile and incompetent by comparison. However, he also knew that in this moment he could save them despite his short-comings. As Finley tried desperately to keep his soul from being torn from its borrowed vessel, Luke stepped between Finley and his corrupted lover.
“Evelyn,” Luke opened his arms wide, “not Fin. Don’t hurt him!”
“Luke!” Finley called in horror as he watched the young boy’s life force glow and flutter around his physical body. “Get out of there!”
The boy closed his eyes as he accepted his fate. If Evelyn needed a soul to appease her inner demon, then she could have his. After all, what more could a human offer to the Guardians of the Gates of Hell?~
A-why-den snorted, “The hero’s name is ‘Luke’? What is this? Star Wars?”
“Shut up!” Bella G. snapped at her classmate, “It’s supposed to be an everyday name! It’s the writer’s way of showing that anyone can be a hero!”
I smile as the class argues over the passage without the context of the rest of the book. By the end of the period, everyone writes the name and author to borrow or buy their own copies.
As my day goes on, I ignore the impending weekend, and what it might bring. Ever since Eric told me Diedre would be coming by, I’ve done a pretty good job through most of the week not thinking about what her visit might lead to.
That is until lunch and my stupid brother.
“So,” Jason nudges me, “it’s gonna be a pretty big weekend, huh?”
Cammie sighs and rolls her eyes for me, “Come on, Jason, don’t make her think about it!”
“I will remind you that I didn’t even know if I could stand Eric when I first met him,” I point out to my brother.
Jason snorts and nearly throws his head back with his laughter, “You’re joking, right? You had ‘fuck me’ written all over your face. It just so happened to be underlined with ‘fuck off’.”
One of the older teachers glares at Jason’s language, and I can’t say I blame them. Jason’s voice has a habit of carrying, and with teachers coming and going out of the lounge, a wandering student could easily overhear such a crude statement.
“Regardless of all that, it doesn’t mean there will be some instantaneous occurrence,” I press.
“Have you told Leif anything?” Cammie asks even though she knows Eric and I have kept our mouths shut about the whole thing. I only bother to shake my head negatively.
Obviously both of our children know what Bonding is, and we have expressed that we want nothing less for either of them. To be honest, I think I’m more worried about Alexis than Leif. I can only hope she’s as supportive of her brother as Jason was of me when I met my Bonded.
“Great lifts today, Lexi!” Bella E., or Belly as we call her, gives me a grin as we head to the locker room to change. “Hey, I need to give the other Bella a ride home tonight too,” she adds as she reaches for the zipper on her skirt.
“Oh, okay,” I shrug. I hang with the Bellas all the time, so I’m not particularly surprised by this turn of events.
“You knoooow,” Bella S. leans in as I take my top off and change from my uniform to my street clothes, “my brother is back from his trip to Germany.” My face goes suddenly hot. Ethan Sims is the most gorgeous guy I’ve ever seen! He was a Senior when I was a Freshmen, and I won’t even pretend I didn’t have the biggest crush on him in the world. It would be a lie if I did because every girl in the entire school crushed on him at some point.
Ethan graduated midterm that year and headed straight off to college that January. He’s already graduated with his Bachelor’s in Engineering and took time off to travel abroad before continuing on with getting his Master’s degree!
And did I mention he’s gorgeous!? He’s got dark blond hair and just has this self-assured way about him that reminds me of my dad. His confidence is just so… I don’t even know a word for the attraction it spurs in me!
“Lexi?” Belly gives me a tiny shove and then giggles. “Y’know, we could always hang at Sims’ house for a bit. Maybe you could flirt a little, ask him about his trip?” she suggests with a little wink.
Images of Ethan disemboweled in our living room pop into my head with my father standing over his body with a bloody sword. “Uh,” I pause, “I kinda promised to be home right after practice.”
Bella S. rolls her eyes, “Come on, where’s your inner rebel? Why can’t you be more like your brother? He sticks it to your parents all the time!”
That’s a crock of shit, I think in frustration. Every single time he’s ‘stayed out past curfew’, he texted Dad and asked if it was okay. Since Leif and I need very little sleep, our parents are lenient as hell about us staying out. Leif just likes to look like a badass. I mean, he can be moody, but so can I!
Dad will ground you for forever if you go to Bella Sims’ house, I remind myself of this morning’s exchange, and how disapproving Dad had looked when the Bellas came up.
“Okay,” I sigh, “but only an hour tops. Okay?” I finally consent and take out my phone to text my dad and let him know I’ll be hanging with Bella E. for a bit after practice. He promptly responds back to be safe and call if I need a ride home.
Belly squeals and claps her hands as we leave the locker room. Out in the parking lot I take a deep breath and climb into the backseat of Belly’s car. I just lied to my dad! I think nervously. Well, it wasn’t a full blown lie, I try to reason with myself as my throat tightens up. That won’t matter if he finds out! He’s gonna ground me for forever!
While I sit having a panic attack in the backseat, the Bellas gossip in front of me.
“Oh em gee,” Belly shrieks, “did you hear Sophia Blanc cheated on Ayden!?”
“With who?” Bella asks excitedly.
“Which one?” Bella demands impatiently.
“Just an A- Aden,” Belly answers.
I tune out the chatter and return to the problem I’ve created for myself. Just stay for a half hour, run home and confess to everything, I haggle with myself. Tell him you realized he wouldn’t like it if you hung out with Bella S. and you came straight home.
Great, and now you’re just neurotic, I sigh.
“Everything okay back there, Alexis?” Belly calls from the driver’s seat. “You’re being super quiet?” Her voice hikes at the end, questioning my silence.
“Yeah, just thinking about the back tuck at the end of the routine. I feel like I could get it tighter,” I reply automatically. Get out of your head for five seconds, Alexis, I tell myself firmly.
Before I can wimp out completely and ask to just be taken home, we arrive at Bella’s house, and I follow them in with fake enthusiasm. Oh, God, what if they think about this tomorrow and Mom hears? I feel faint at the disappointed look on her face.
I’m about to turn out the door when Ethan strolls down the stairs. He’s walking around without a shirt on, and his jeans are hanging low on his hips without a belt to keep them up. His feet are bare, and I swallow hard at the teen heart throb in front of me. It’s February, isn’t he cold? Some shrewd part of my brain chimes in and my mouth blurts, “I’d be a popsicle walking around like that this time of year.”
Ethan looks at me with that throat tightening grin. Why is he so gorgeous!?
“Cold doesn’t bother me,” he says while closing the distance between us. As he gets closer, the Bellas scamper off to the kitchen.
“H-how was Germany?” I ask as Ethan puts a hand on my shoulder and pushes me toward the living room. I stumble a bit since I can’t seem to take my eyes off him, but I find the couch in my peripheral vision and sit down.
“A lot of fun, but the downside is the beer over here tastes like piss in comparison now,” he laughs, and my heart hits my ribs in time with his chuckle. “I don’t know how I’ll be able to handle another kegger with Bud or Miller.” I laugh a bit too high and his smile softens. He almost seems to take pity on me. “How’s school? Almost ready to graduate?”
“Oh, uh, yeah,” I mumble. “Leif and I are going to have a really easy last semester. Only two classes on our schedule are requirements for graduation. Everything else is either electives o-or, um, um,” Oh, brain, come up with the word! You can do it! Spit it out!
“College credits?” Ethan finishes for me.
“Yeah,” I squeak.
“I knew you were smart,” Ethan nudges me playfully. My arm feels warm where his elbow pressed against it. That warmth spreads all the way up to my shoulder. “Any idea what you want to go to school for?”
“I want to be a doctor,” I reply. “A surgeon.”
“Woah!” Ethan laughs in surprise. “That’s pretty ambitious!”
My brow furrows at that, “What do you mean?”
Ethan snorts, “Well, wouldn’t you rather be a nurse?”
Now my face tilts into a frown, “What year do you think this is? 1960? A woman can be a surgeon!”
“Yeah, but you’re a cheerleader!” Ethan laughs a bit harder and instead of making my heart race, it makes my ears burn.
“I also have the highest GPA of my graduating class, which is higher than yours ever was,” I tell him angrily as I rise to my feet.
“Hey, hey,” Ethan tugs at my hand, “I’m sorry. Sometimes I find it hard to remember not all cheerleaders are as stupid as my sister.”
“I HEARD THAT, ASSHOLE!” Bella S. yells from the kitchen.
“I really am sorry,” Ethan says again like he didn’t even hear his sister’s shout, but I find it hard to forgive him.
“It’s fine,” I say, but I don’t mean it. Not really. I won’t hold a grudge or be rude to him about it, but something’s gone. Suddenly his smile doesn’t seem so beautiful, and his physique doesn’t look so perfect. Is this what disillusionment is?
“You don’t seem like you forgive me,” Ethan pouts playfully, but it doesn’t make me laugh.
“I do,” I assure him, “but I need to be going. I sorta lied to my dad about coming here, and I don’t want to push my luck,” I explain as I take back my hand.
“Aw, come on, Alexis, I said I was sorry,” Ethan scowls. “Why are high school girls so fucking sensitive?”
My face scowls once more, “Probably because college boys are so fucking insensitive!”
With that I rise up to my feet, grab my bag and storm out of the Sims house. No one comes after me, no one freaking texts me, and I’ve walked nearly a block when I realize that bothers me more than my argument with Ethan. The Bellas don’t even care that I walked out…
Setting down my bag, I sit on the retaining wall of one of the Hill Houses and stare at the ground. My throat feels like there’s a rock in it, and my eyes itch like I’m going to cry, but I refuse to let that happen. Instead I tilt my head back indignantly and stare across the street.
It gets cold quickly sitting on the wall, and some snow is melting into the seat of my jeans. When I finally stand up to finish walking home, a car pulls up to the stop sign in front of me. I wouldn’t think much of it, but the driver looks at me, tilts his head and then rolls down the window.
“Oi, are you Northman’s kid?” An Irish accent croons at me, and I hate that it makes my heart flutter. Apparently I am a fickle teenager, I think bemusedly.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I tell the stranger and begin making a beeline for my home.
“Haha, I guess your father was wrong. He was so sure his first born would be a boy!” The man’s car lulls lazily down the road alongside me, and it takes all my effort not to reply that technically my dad was right because Leif popped out before me. Instead I keep my shoulders squared and continue walking briskly down the road.
I’m in such a hurry to get away from this stranger who’s following me that I run through the next intersection.
“STOP!” I hear yelled at me, but I’m in a blur of headlights and honking. I brace for the impact, and wonder just how many bottles of blood I’ll have to chug to heal from this accident.
Instead of the collision I was preparing for, I find myself lifted and moved through space like a rocket. The last time I felt like that was when my dad caught me as I was falling out of a tree in our yard.
“You silly girl!” the stranger yells in my ear. “Didn’t your dad teach you to flee properly?”
I stare up, stunned at the vampire holding me in his arms. He has a broad jaw covered with a full beard and a barrel chest dusted with similar blondish red curl. Everything about him is thick and sturdy. Even his voice has a strength to it that commands respect. It’s that command that made me scared. It was that strength that made me run.
“H-hi,” I whisper up at the stranger.
His scowl breaks into a rueful smile, “Hey there.”
“I’m Alexis,” I tell him.
“Quigley,” He laughs again.
Suddenly I’m back on my own feet, “Your dad still live on Rose Acre?”
“Y-yes,” I answer as I’m tugged along.
“We’re almost there. I’ll take you the rest of the way,” he tells me.
“Thank you,” I pause as he opens my door for me. Before I get in, I try to think of some security question. Something only friends of the bloodline would know. Quigley stares at me as I remain frozen in front of the passenger’s seat. He seems to understand my hesitation.
“I’m going to whisper something only me and one other person know about your family,” Quigley leans in right against my ear and says in a voice so soft, I doubt another vampire could hear from two feet away, “Your mum and your uncle…” He taps his temple with an intense look in his eyes, and I know what he’s implying that he knows.
I jerk away at that and gape. No one is supposed to know that! Hell, mom and dad haven’t ever said it out loud before! It’s an unspoken family secret, and if this vampire knows it, then he must be a friend of the family!
Finally I take a seat in the car, and I’m surprised when Quigley shuts my door for me like a gentleman. My dad always does that for my mom, and Godric does it for Cammie all the time, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else do it. It makes that swooney feeling happen in my heart again, and I chastise the traitorous organ because I know Quigley will be able to hear it.
“So, why were you sitting on a wall all by yourself?” Quigley asks as he settles back behind the wheel.
My face reddens a bit, but I answer, “A boy I liked turned out to be a jerk. I left, and no one seemed to care that I did.”
Quigley glances at me and smiles, “Most people your age are jerks, Alexis. Don’t let it bother you none. With your upbringing, maybe you’re looking for more maturity than boys your age can handle.”
Oh my God, is he flirting with me?! I wonder in shock and awe.
“What’d your crush say to hurt your feelings?” he asks while I flounder with the notion that this vampire might be interested in me.
“Oh,” I let my eyes wander out to the street, “I told Ethan I planned on going to medical school to become a surgeon. He laughed and said cheerleaders aren’t smart enough to be surgeons.”
Quigley suddenly roars with laughter and I glance at him in surprise and maybe a little hurt. Does my dream really seem that impossible?
“Your father. Eric the Fucking Viking Northman… He let’s his teenage daughter jump around in those little skirts?” Quigley laughs even harder.
“Mom made him let me,” I reply dumbly and he just howls even harder.
“I knew that woman had him by the dangly bits, but this is just too good!” Quigley chuckles, but seems to sober from his laughing fit.
As we get closer to my house, I turn to my, now quiet, driver and ask softly, “When you talk to my dad, can you not mention the thing with Ethan and me being upset?”
Quigley looks at me in surprise, “Why’s that, Storeen?” The way that foreign world rolls off his tongue brings some of my earlier clumsiness back.
“Uh,” I fumble for my words, “well, dad will probably get upset with them for…” Calm down, Lexi, and find your thoughts! “not bringing me home like they promised. I don’t want him to be mad at them. It’s my fault. Not theirs,” I explain lamely.
Just a little ways up the street from my house, Quigley pulls up to the curb and smiles, “You’re a lot more like your mother than I would have thought. I only got to talk with her a little bit while we were working together, but I thought you would grow up to be more like your dad.”
“Why’s that?” I wonder.
There’s a bit of hesitation in his reply, but he recovers and says, “Your dad reminds me a lot of my Maker is all. Calculating risks, prioritizing those risks based on how they’d benefit him or his family. I suppose I just expected you to be more like that,” He pulls away form the curb. “I won’t say anything,” he promises as we drive the rest of the way down the street.
Why does he look so disappointed?
“Jeeeesus, Leif,” Liam whines as he hops up and down, rubbing his arms briskly, “how aren’t you freezing! Let’s go inside!” he pleads.
“You’re such a wimp,” I grumble as I stub out my cigarette in the ashtray and shove at my friend while we walk into the convenience store.
Mom can’t stand that I smoke, and she can’t stand even more that there’s no health related excuse for me to stop. Pam finds it hysterical and occasionally bums a smoke off me when we hang out. Dad… Well, he just shrugs and says if I want to waste my allowance on cigarettes, then I’m not as financially responsible as he thought. He then proceeded to tell me not to expect a raise in allowance as long as I’m a smoker.
Alexis makes ten dollars more a week than I do now, but she gives me five of it because she feels guilty. She doesn’t know that I keep the five dollars every week to spend on her. It’s always little stuff so she doesn’t realize I’m not spending her money on myself. A couple dollars on a pack of gum, or an extra cookie for her at lunch. Shit like that.
Liam holds his hands near the hot dog turner, trying to warm them up, and I wander over to the ICEE machine to pour some blue slushy into a cup.
“How can you drink that shit in the winter?” Liam calls at me and I just shrug. The truth is, doing stuff that’s out of the norm is just something to do. Like egging my dad on, or annoying my mom. It’s not that I don’t like them or think they’re lame, I’m just bored. I want to do something. Anything. Everything.
Instead, I’m here, trying to act like some sort of badass, but it’s really just to relieve the tedium until I’m eighteen. That’s the agreement between me, Alexis, and our parents. If we can make it to eighteen without any incidents that could alert the humans to our otherness, we’re allowed to jet off on a summer adventure by ourselves before going anywhere we want for college. All we have to do is get into that college on our own merits and not our parents’ check book. I’ve already been scouted by Yale for track and field, and Alexis is looking to be our Valedictorian so she’s going to have her pick of colleges too.
I guess that, aside from being bored, I’m also scared. Alexis seems to know there’s some path out there for her, and everything in front of me feels so empty and dark. I don’t know why I feel so blind to my future when she seems able to see it so clearly.
If there’s a word for what I’m feeling, I can’t find it. Mom probably could, I think with an internal snort of a laugh. Too bad I can’t ask her, I grab a bag of Doritos on my way to the counter with my ICEE. Mom would tell me I’m a kid and an immortal; there’s no rush to find myself. “Life moves too fast as it is. You don’t have to run through it,” she’d say.
Dad would be even less help. He’d tell me to go wandering or something. I don’t want to wander, I want excitement!
I want to sleep under the stars, in the wilderness; maybe fight a bear! I want to go out on a shitty little boat on the ocean and deep sea fish. I want to… My thoughts freeze, and my ICEE drips a bit from the small opening on top of the globe-like lid. I barely even hear the clerk shout about what a dumb ass I am for dripping all over the floor.
All I can see is this girl walking from the gas pump to the station to pay for some gas or buy something to eat.
Her hair’s black as the night around her and as flat and glossy as glass. She’s got a tan, but it lacks the right luster. It’s then that I realize she’s a vampire, and I finally seem to bring myself back under control.
“Woah,” Liam is suddenly beside me, watching the female vamp come into the store and gaping like he’s found the newest deposit for his spank bank. We both watch, unashamed, as she walks toward the cooler, and I wonder if she’s going to buy a blood for the road?
Before she can open the door to the fridge, she suddenly pauses and turns to look at me. She’s young looking, but I know that doesn’t mean anything because Godric looks younger than dad, but he’s way older. She looks my age, actually, maybe a year or two older?
The vampire turns from the fridge and approaches me and Liam.
“Hello,” she greets, and I watch her eyes turn completely black as she smells me. Dad’s warned me about hanging with unfamiliar vampires. One tried to snatch my sister once because we allegedly smell good to vamps. Even though Alexis and I both drink blood from time to time, we don’t think either one of us smells good at all. We’ve only exchanged blood once, and that was when we were doing survival training with Godric in the woods. Alexis had missed a branch on a treetop leap and fallen about seventy feet to the ground. She drank my blood to heal up faster.
“H-hi,” Oh, shit, my voice broke! My voice hasn’t broke since I was fifteen! Why did it have to squeak the second the hottest female I’ve ever met speaks to me!?
“Are you Eric Northman’s son?” she asks, seeming to forgive my throat for its sudden loss of control.
“Yeah,” I reply, but I’m not all that surprised. Dad made quick work of explaining my and Alexis’s parentage, and also assuring everyone that if a supe so much as rustles a hair on our head, they’ll be dead before they can hand us a comb.
“I am Diedre,” she holds out her hand to shake mine, and the wonderful coolness of her skin calms the heat and perspiration of my own.
“Leif,” I whisper my own name as her dark lips tilt in a small smile. There’s this strange urge to reach up and touch her lips. They’re thick, dark and shining with this brownish, red gloss on them. Her bronze skin glows with her vampirism, and makes that gloss seem all the more ethereal…
Oh my God, stop thinking about her lips! I realize in a panic that my musings are rushing blood places I don’t need them to right now.
“A-are you, uh, looking for my dad?” I ask. I wonder how old she actually is?
Diedre shakes her head, and her straight, black hair fans slightly in sharp wisps. Don’t look at her hair either! I think wildly as another pulse throbs through my groin. I focus on her eyes instead, but they’re reflecting the light from the LEDS above us. That shimmer just about makes me lose my mind.
“No,” Diedre tells me with that small smile that real teenagers don’t wear, “I know where he lives. He is an old friend of the family,” she explains discretely because my friend next to me is looking between the two of us in complete disbelief.
“Will I see you again then?” I ask with more than a little too much hope bubbling into my voice.
Diedre stares at me a moment before that small smile of hers splits into a big, bright one. “I am certain this is not the last we will see of each other.”
As she spins away, and that flurry of flat, black hair slices through the air, all I can think is:
That’s the adventure I’ve been longing for.