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2008-06-23 | |
Vampires in the family Chapter 5 The best policy
When I woke up it was seven in the morning and the lights in my room were still on. What in the world?
My alarm clock beeped plaintively at me, like it did on every Monday morning during the school year. I didn't remember setting it. Heck, I didn't even remember going to sleep.
Groaning, I rolled out of bed, knocking my stuffed animals onto the floor, and managed to stand upright. I was tempted to open the thick, black curtains that hung over my windows just to make sure that it really was morning, but I decided against it. Opening curtains, at least in my house, was a bad habit to get into. Mother had her condition, after all, and if a single ray of sunlight accidentally landed on her skin, she could get really bad burns.
It'd happened once before, when I'd been seven and really excited to go out and play. I'd opened the front door while Mother was standing right there, letting in the warm beams of the sun. She hadn't been able to get out of bed for a week.
Still groggy, I forced myself to get dressed in my usual school outfit - jeans, simple v-neck shirt, sneakers - and stumbled downstairs.
"Good morning, Sylvia."
I looked up with blurry eyes. Mother was standing there, looking as perfectly coiffed as ever. "Morning," I managed to croak.
She smiled at me. "Aren't you the quintessence of cheerfulness?"
I grunted at her as I made my way to the kitchen, trying not to trip over anything. I'm not very good at conversation in the mornings...or thinking clearly...or walking.
Okay, I admit I'm not a morning person. Like Mother, I prefer the night. Unfortunately, my high school did not hold classes after dark, so I had to get up at the crack of dawn every morning like every other poor kid in my class.
That was why, when Mother sat down at the table with me and watched me eat my cheerios, I didn't register her serious facial expression right away.
"I've had a lot of things to think about, Sylvia, since last night. Byron's visit certainly threw me for a loop, as they say, and we'll talk about that later, but one thing in particular is bothering me beyond all others."
I blinked at her. Oh yeah, Byron. That weird vampire guy who called himself my grandfather, even though he only looked about five years older than I was.
For some reason, in the blurriness of the morning, the memory of Byron didn't jar a single iota of energy into me. It was way too early to care about anything. I'd think about it later.
"I was wondering, Sylvia, why it was that you decided to walk home, by yourself, after dark?"
That woke me up a little. Being outside at night was completely against the rules. Heck, that was part of the reason why Mother had made me go on a blind date with that whiny Emmanuel in the first place; as a sort of punishment for sneaking out to meet my boyfriend after dark.
Mother, for good reason, I guess, was always worried about my safety. All the bad people came out at night, at least in her eyes. I guess she knew better than most about this, since night was when she hunted.
"Um," I said, trying to clear my head enough to speak comprehensively. "I guess because Emmanuel left me at the restaurant."
"Yeah," I said. I rubbed my eyes and yawned so widely that I thought I was gonna break my jaw. "And he also left without paying. I feel kinda bad about that, since I didn't pay either." I took another bite of cheerios, chewed and swallowed, too sleepy to really pay attention to Mother's expression. "I should go back, slip the waitress a tip or something."
"Never mind that," Mother said. "Are you telling me that Emmanuel abandoned you to walk home, by yourself, at midnight in that neighborhood? All of this after stealing the money I gave him to pay for your dinner?"
"Well, yeah, technically." I yawned again. I couldn't help it. It just came out. "But it wasn't completely his fault, though. I did sort of make fun of him."
Specifically, I laughed in his face for thinking that Mother would ever make him into a vampire. She must have been pretty desperate to make such a claim at the time - normally, she would never tell such a lie to a stranger, but Byron was visiting and, it was obvious to me by now, Mother hadn't been sure if he'd react positively to my presence. The "blind date" with Emmanuel had just been a means to get me out of the house and away from the potential danger of another vampire.
Too bad it totally didn't work out that way, though.
"That's no excuse for Emmanuel to completely disregard my orders," Mother said. She had one of the fancy, embroidered cloth dinner napkins in her hand, and she was slowly ripping strips off of one end. She probably didn't even know she was doing it.
Oh well, I shrugged. Trying to force myself awake, I took another bite of cheerios. Good cereal, cheerios. My favorite kind. The other brands were way too sweet.
"I gave him specific instructions," Mother continued, talking to herself as the poor napkin lost another, torn inch.
"Whatever," I said. "Everything worked out fine. I'm okay and Byron wasn't evil and now I can stick to normal dates." I paused. "With my boyfriend," I emphasized. "Micah."
Mother waved her hand at me. "Yes, yes. Point taken, darling. Although I do think that you should date more than one boy. You're far too young to be this serious over a single person."
"I was with Emmanuel yesterday," I reminded her. "That's more than enough 'socializing' for me, thank you. He only made Micah look tens times better by comparison."
"Well, I must admit," Mother said, her dark eyes flashing, "Micah seems like the type who wouldn't abandon you in the middle of the night to fall prey to whatever vampire who happens to be near you."
"Mother, look, I..." I started to say, but then I glanced at the kitchen clock. It was 7:35. Oh crap! The bus was going to be here at any minute!
"I gotta go!" I said. I abandoned my half-full bowl of cereal and burst down the hallway. My backpack was resting next to the coat rack by the door, so I grabbed it and threw it onto my shoulder.
Even though I was in a hurry, I still checked behind me to make sure Mother hadn't followed. I saw her on the far side of the house, still in the kitchen. Very carefully, I opened the door as narrowly as I could and slipped outside before too much sunlight could escape into the house.
It never hurt to be too careful, especially with Mother's condition.
I looked down the street to where the bus stop was. Oh crap! The bus was at the top of the hill, only about thirty seconds away from where my neighbors were standing, waiting patiently.
Pulling my other arm through the backpack's strap, I burst into a run so that I could make it to the stop before the school bus arrived.
The school day passed by as an entire non-event. By third period, I'd woken up enough to start seriously pondering the events of last night, so much so that my chemistry teacher had to call my name, twice, to get me to answer his question. Cheeks burning, I stammered out the correct reply - nitrogen - but I wasn't so embarrassed that I didn't immediately slip back into my thoughts and ignore everything else the teacher had to say.
Heck, I knew most of it anyway.
Had Byron been serious last night? Did he really mean to move in? Now I was kinda wishing I'd stayed awake and snuck downstairs to eavesdrop on their conversation; I was sure it had been interesting.
I couldn't imagine Mother ever agreeing to such a thing. Even if she had allowed Byron to visit me alone in my room - which, for her, was a huge gesture of trust - she still held our home as practically sacred. And she was right. Most of the antiques and bladed weapons that decorated the rooms were a museum of Mother's exploits when she was younger. To just let someone else intrude upon that was disrespectful; Mother had made this very clear to me after I'd snuck Micah into the house to show off all our stuff.
But Micah was human and unaware of Mother's condition. Byron was just like her. He'd understand about the meaning behind the medieval Turkish scabbards and ancient Scottish dress dirks. He'd know that Mother didn't just collect stuff like that - she'd actually used them to slaughter armies and hunt down warlords for the sake of the violence.
Byron would also understand about Mother's need to have a man bleed slowly to death in our basement. He, as a vampire, had the same necessities as Mother. There would be no need to hide those aspects of our family from him.
But it was our house, darn it! And while Mother obviously knew him pretty well - he'd given her her condition, after all - I wasn't familiar with him. As far as I knew, he was old, friendly, and liked to steal my stuffed, pink bunny rabbits (poor Mr. Fluffers!).
He could actually be a nice as he seemed, but he could also just be playing with me. And what was to stop him if he got really hungry later on? Or if, heaven forbid, I accidentally cut myself in front of him?
Mother had trained herself not to react to me if I was bleeding. She'd had a hard time of it when I was younger and scraping my knees practically every other day, but she's managed to control herself, despite the predatory urge to feed.
Byron had no such training. Nor, I doubted, any added self-control.
The bell rang for fifth period and I went to the cafeteria for lunch. They were serving tacos today, which was awesome since I loved Mexican food. I grabbed my tray and searched the room for my friends. They were sitting at the back table.
Anise, my best friend since middle school, waved at me and I hurried over, smiling. She was always doing these really awesome things with her hair. Today she had it hanging down in hundreds of tiny, perfect braids. Little green and gold beads were tied to the ends, making clacking noises whenever she moved her head. It looked so cool.
"Hey, babe!" Micah greeted. He was wearing his prized possession - Dolce and Gabanna designer shades - even though he was inside, it had turned cloudy, and it was against school rules.
Micah was such a rebel.
"Hey, Micah," I said. "How are you?"
"Missing you all through morning," he replied. I sat down between him and Anise, sliding my tray onto the table. Micah kissed me on my cheek, a quick peck, and I started to giggle.
"Wow, look at the lovebirds," Anise teased. She had broken up with her ex-boyfriend during the summer, so she would sometimes pretend to be jealous over Micah and me, but I knew she didn't mean it. It was just her way of interacting.
She shrugged. "Nothing much. Why didn't you say hi to me in the hallway this morning?"
Oops. I'd been so lost in my thoughts this morning that I probably hadn't even been paying any attention to her greeting.
"Sorry," I said. "I totally didn't see you."
"Obviously," she laughed. She snuck a plain glance at Micah. I did the same - he was talking to Roger, one of his other friends who occasionally sat with us. He wasn't paying any attention to Anise and me.
Anise leaned in, her beaded hair clacking together like a rain stick. She whispered so that only I could hear her.
"How did it go?"
Oh. She was referring to the blind date. Right after I'd found out what Mother had planned for me that evening, I'd rushed up to my room to call Anise to complain.
"Not so great," I said. "The guy totally left me at the restaurant."
"No!" she gasped, looking both shocked and amused.
"Seriously," I said. "Can you believe it? How rude."
Anise rolled her eyes. "What I can't believe is that your mom even did that to you. I know she's overprotective and stuff, but really! To try and break up you and Micah for someone she likes better?" She shook her head. "That's just crazy."
Anise was my best friend because she was loyal, she was funny, and she was actually interested in what I had to say, unlike so many other people. I totally loved her, in a best friend sort of way, but I kinda had to edit what I said to her so that Mother didn't get into trouble.
Anise had no idea about the vampirism, or the house rules. She definitely didn't know about the men in our basement, which, you know, thank goodness.
Another reason why I liked her so much was because she was so normal. Despite her weird hairdos and her occasional bursts of randomness, she was everything I could have been if Mother hadn't raised me.
Don't get me wrong. It isn't like I resent Mother - she was the best, after all - but with Anise and Micah so close to me, I knew what it was like, through them, not to have to lie all the time to protect my parent. It was like a window into another world.
"So," Anise said, leaning in even closer. "Are you gonna tell Micah about last night?"
"The blind date?" I whispered back. "Do you think I should? I mean, wouldn't he get jealous or something?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. The reason I dumped my ex was because he'd made out with Rebecca at summer camp. He said it was a one-time thing, but since I heard about it from other people, I didn't really believe him.
"Maybe," she continued, twisting one of her braids around her finger. "Maybe if he'd actually told me he'd slipped up and kissed another girl, maybe we could have worked through it." She looked me in the eyes, all serious. "According to my magazines, honesty and open communication is one of the best ways to make a relationship stronger. I think you should tell him."
I stared at her, taking a big bite of my taco as an excuse for not answering right away. Maybe she was right. If Micah somehow found out about the disastrous blind date, he'd think I'd been trying to cheat on him. But if I told him now and explained everything - well, everything I could without betraying Mother's secrets - then maybe we'd be okay and he'd forgive me.
"I think you're right, Anise. I'll talk to him after school and tell him about it."
"Good luck," she wished me. "I hope I'm not telling you to do the wrong thing, or anything."
I thought about it. "I don't know. What you said makes sense. Honesty is the best policy, and all that.
Turning around in my chair, I interrupted Micah and Roger's conversation to arrange things with my boyfriend. After school, I'd go hang out at Micah's house, as usual, and we could do our homework together. During that time, I'd bring up the blind date and, hopefully, Micah wouldn't take it personally.
"See you after school, babe," Micah said, grabbing my tray to dump my paper plate and coke can into the garbage. He gave me a goodbye kiss on the cheek before he walked out of the cafeteria.
Oh jeez. I wish Mother had never even conceived of sending me out on a blind date. If Micah took this the wrong way, she'd be getting her wish after all, and I'd be boyfriend-free.
Still feeling worried, I grabbed my things and walked with Anise to our next class. Even though it was only half-over, I was already wishing the school day would come to an end.
I was not looking forward to meeting Micah after school.
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