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“No, no. James, what are you doing?”
Gemma backed away from her once friend, her eyes lit with terror. James was advancing towards her, his eyes filled with bloodlust, his lips parting slightly to reveal his sharp, gleaming teeth. Teeth that were so like a vampire’s it frightened Gemma. But James wasn’t a vampire.
“Come here Gemma,” James said in a dry, scratchy voice, a voice that sounded nothing like the James Gemma knew.
No, this can’t be real. This can’t be happening. This isn’t the James I know, Gemma thought to herself. Scenes from the past flashed before her. Her earliest memory came forward, of her playing outside in a sandbox with James. Other memories began to flash before her. Growing up with him, learning and playing together. Him holding her hand as they walked into school on their first day of kindergarten, both of them terrified. Always sticking together, even in grade school when all the other girls avoided the boys because they had cooties. The scenes fast-forwarded a few years to high school: late night cram sessions, scary movie nights, meeting for pizza after school. Just two weeks ago he had surprised her by asking her to their senior prom with a dozen red roses. It was then she had begun to sense her feelings for him change; she became more aware of his every move, touch, smile. She had begun to wonder if there was more than friendship in their future.
He’d been gone from school since then because of some mysterious disease. She’d missed him, and when he had called her earlier that afternoon asking her to meet him at the park, she’d thought nothing of it. But the instant she’d seen him she’d known something was wrong. His body was rigid, his stance different. When he had turned his gaze, a gaze filled with fire, upon her, she’d fled. The person she’d trusted and known her whole life frightened her, something that had never happened before. She’d let her fear take hold of her mind and senses, running to anywhere, just to get away, and now here she was, trapped in an alley, her back against the wall.
“James, please. What’s wrong? This isn’t like you at all. You’re scaring me.”
“I’m not myself. Not anymore,” he replied. His smile grew wider, revealing his knife-sharp teeth.
“What are you talking about? Please, stop looking at me like that. Let me through,” Gemma said with a shaky voice.
James didn’t comply, and with every step closer he took, Gemma felt her breathing quicken and her heart beat faster. His eyes were veiled partially by his jet-black hair, but they were still fixed on her, never moving to the right or left. She noticed they were tinged with red, no longer the clear blue orbs Gemma had always known. Thoughts raced through her mind. Could he really be a vampire? It seems impossible, but he’s so different, so frightening. I need to get away.
But it was too late: James was right in front of her, only a foot away. He examined her and then took a deep breath, closing his eyes, as if to fill himself with her scent. He began to reach for her. Gemma’s mind told her to move, but she was frozen in place.
“What are you?” she whispered.
A bemused smile lit his face.
“Can’t you tell? You were always smarter than me. I would’ve thought you’d have figured it out by now. I’m a vampire, Gemma.”
The blood drained from Gemma’s face, she struggled to stay upright.
“If you have any memories at all, if you can recall the past and the friendship we had, you will let me through. Please James. For me.”
“But that’s precisely why I can’t let you through. Gemma, being a vampire is amazing. All your senses are heightened, seeing in the dark is easier, I can run faster and jump farther than any human. I want to share this with you.”
Though James’ eyes were still filled with malevolence, his voice held excitement as he spoke, and Gemma could sense the sincerity behind his words. But that didn’t make her any less frightened. She had to act now or never. She swung her hand back and hit James square in the jaw, hoping to at least distract him long enough to get away. He knelt down, clutching his chin, and Gemma sprinted around him. She was almost to the mouth of the alley when James suddenly appeared in front of her. She stopped dead in her tracks, dazed by the man who had so suddenly materialized.
“I told you I was fast,” he said, defiance in his voice.
Gemma staggered back, leaning against the wall, letting the feeling of defeat wash over her. She was weaker and slower than him. There was no way she could get past, and she knew it. Tears came into her eyes and swelled over. A look of agony broke through the harsh exterior of James’ expression, and he came up beside her, gently reaching out his hand to stroke her cheek, brushing away her tears.
“Please, Gemma. Don’t cry,” he said gently. “I just… I just want to be with you. Being a vampire is so lonely. I was angry it was only me who was bitten. The emotions took over and I wanted to force you to change too. We’ve been friends forever, and I couldn’t stand losing you. I thought…”
He looked down at the ground, as if searching for words. This sudden change in mood surprised Gemma. This was still her James, the one she’d known all her life. He was different and more frightening, but somehow the same. He looked up from the ground and into her eyes. All the fire and malice was gone, replaced with longing.
“I love you,” he whispered.
A sea of calm washed over Gemma. The memory of the dozen roses flashed back into her mind, as clear as a crystal. Her feelings for him, his feelings for her, they would never change. She looked into his eyes, and realized that she could never leave her friend. She closed her eyes and tilted her head back, giving her consent, knowing what he had to do. She felt James kiss her neck, and then felt a sharp pain as his teeth penetrated her skin.
The world went black. When she came to, she was lying on the ground with her head in James’ lap. She opened her eyes to see him looking down at her, smiling.
“Welcome to my world.”
But before she got up, before she looked around to experience this new world, there was something she had to do.
“James? I love you too.”