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Rose of Thorns
She backed up slowly, breathing hard. There was no where else to run- nothing to hide behind. Not that she had expected there to be. He was closing in, slowly, his eyes glowing red with his desire, his fangs bared. She was too tired to scream, too resigned to fight any longer. Her throat was sore from her previous cries, and now she knew that there was no one close enough to come to her aid. She was too weary to hold him off any longer, but she still warred against it. Her mind still tried to deny the truth, still tried to convince her that there was some way to escape. Her heart pounded out a frantic beat- her vision blurred, and turned red. I woke with a start, cold sweat was beaded on my forehead, and I was breathing hard. Shaking my head I relaxed. It was just a dream, nothing more. There was no reason for such fear. I couldn’t even remember what my dream had been about. Closing my eyes I tried to go back to sleep, it was still hours until I should have woken, and I couldn’t afford another sleepless night. Considering the tests that awaited me didn’t sooth my mind any more than considering my continual nightmares did. Finals… the very thought sent shudders down my spine. Maybe that was all I had dreamt about, the finals and how abysmally I thought I was going to do on them. It felt like hours before I finally gave up on the dim prospect of sleep. I had known from the start that there was no point to it, not with a cold knot of ice resting in my belly. Glancing at my alarm clock I sighed. It was only 2AM. I kicked off my blankets in disgust. Weren’t teenagers supposed to sleep twenty-four-seven? I dressed quickly, and went downstairs to get a bowl of cereal. My parents were probably used to my early morning snacks by now, and didn’t stir as I crept passed their room. Bringing a bowl of frosted mini wheats back up to my bedroom I sat down with my algebra book. x+34=2x-8, mentally I tried to solve the problem, and sighed. Math was not, and never had been my strong suite. Feeling only moderately more prepared I walked downstairs carrying my bowl when my mother called us for breakfast. I was still hungry, and glad that my mom still made us breakfast every morning. Jason was sitting at the table, shoveling eggs and toast down his throat with hardly a pause to chew. Mom turned away from the toaster to greet me, and glared at the bowl in my hand. “It’s not good for you to eat at night.” It was not the first time. “Yeah Rose!” Jason said, grinning. “No food at night.” I stuck my tongue out at him. I knew very well that he kept a box of fruit chews and a bag of M&Ms under his bed specifically for late night snacking. If only my parents had realized that giving the boy an Xbox 360 and halo 3 for his birthday had been a bad idea. Maybe someday the cave dweller would get lonely with only hostile covenant aliens keeping him company- but I doubted it. “Sorry mom, exam day, I couldn’t sleep.” Her expression softened. My mom was really great, she was the kind of person who knew exactly what to say when you needed something said, and when she just needed to shut up and let you vent. I couldn’t have asked for better. Plus she was as bad at test taking as I was, she understood my test anxiety. “Well eat your breakfast then, I don’t want to add hunger to your worries today.” I smiled gratefully and sat down. Just to spite Jason I commented on how good the eggs were- he glared at me over an overfull mouth and I sniggered. 7 passed all too quickly into 8, and the bus was unusually punctual. I grabbed my backpack, hugged mom, waved to my brother and stepped outside. Cold was a fact of life here, and I used the chill to distract from the algebra exam that awaited me first thing this morning. Inside the heated bus I had no buffer. Luckily I was one of the last people on the lengthy route and so didn’t have long to entertain myself with horror stories. My personal favorite was failing the test and being forced to take all my least favorite courses a second time. We crawled into the parking lot at Carawin High, and filed out into the sudden drizzle. I wondered whether the horrid weather was a sign. My best friend, who looked at least as frantic as I felt, ran up to give me a quick hug. At least she had good reason to be nervous; she was in all honors classes. I was stuck in the bozo courses, and I was still stressing it. “Good luck Lilly.” She smiled, “Same to you Rose.” It had once been a great source of amusement that the both of us were named after flowers. She hurried away, as always conscientious of the coming tardy bell, and I sprinted off at high speed myself. It was maybe the third time this semester I would be on time, but I wanted to be on time, if I wasn’t I’d lose a letter grade on my already poor test grade. (Well I was certain it was going to be a poor grade, but I didn’t actually know…) I just made it, sitting in my desk as the bell rang. For once the whole class was stiflingly silent, and we stared at the white board with apprehension. The instructions were clear, but that didn’t make us feel any better about it. Do not open your tests until you are told to do so. Do not draw or write outside the given space. Show all work. When you are done flip your test over and read quietly. No Talking. Clear, concise, normal. Still the icy knot grew and I was forced to swallow a lump in my throat. Mrs. Mallory walked up and down the aisles, handing each person their test without a word. We all set them on out desks without so much as a glance at the first page. Mrs. Mallory was actually a decently fun teacher, even if I did hate her subject, but when it came to test taking and rules there was no one stricter. “Begin.” I sighed with relief when I saw that the whole first page was multiple choice. Or multiple guess as the case may be. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. The morning passed with aching slowness. I barely had the energy to drag my feet down for lunch, and there was another three exams to take (and pass) that afternoon. Luckily for me one of them was in drama, and I was almost certain that I could ace any impromptu exam we might have in that class. Unfortunately it also included my social studies class, and my teacher was notorious for quizzing you on minute details and dates, in other words a D was an optimistic goal. Lilly ran up to me, bouncing with exuberance. “How did you do? I think I did pretty well, though I know that I missed the third question in Language Arts. The answer was foreshadowing, I put down symbolism. But other than that… Rose, are you ok?” I was staring at her blankly. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten Lilly’s tendency to spend test days actually talking about tests. Her most annoying trait, but perversely, also one of the most helpful and relaxing. She was talking all the way to our normal table, and I needed only to nod my head or grunt at the right points to keep her going. There was something soothing about her voice, and I was content to let her speak as much as she wanted. Liam walked up behind me just as I took my first bite. He was good at the sort of thing. I almost choked. “How are you girls doing?” He asked, I hated him for the light pleasant tone he assumed. I could just see the amused expression on his face. He was two years older than us, and, despite being in normal classes, was really good at tests. He could have gone to a genius school but hadn’t wanted to. He was the kind of person who liked to coast by on the middle ground. “I’m fine.” I hissed, once my throat was functional, and they both laughed. “Still stressing I see.” Sitting down next to me he grinned at Lilly. “Think she’ll ever relax?” “Doubtful.” I shot Lilly a reproachful glare, and she shrugged. “I am not stressing. I am merely concerned for my GPA and little things like passing!” Liam struggled no to giggle. “Trifles.” “Says Mr. four-point-0.” I muttered turning red. He just shrugged; his perfect grade point average mattered about as much as an ant in his world. It was hard not to hate him for it. “So, you two up for the mall after school? I’ll drive.” Technically it was not legal for him to drive with two other minors in his car, but it had never stopped us before. Plus there wasn’t a cop alive that could find a good reason to pull him over. Liam was conscientious about driving laws, and careful. “Sure.” I said, but Lilly looked a little uncomfortable. “I guess…” “What’s wrong?” “I’m supposed to go to piano today.” “I thought your mom cancelled, she didn’t want you to overwork yourself remember?” “Still, I shouldn’t miss…” “It’s not missing if you’re excused.” Liam said firmly. Lilly always bowed to his experience and authority in these things, partially because his grades at least matched hers, and he was a talented pianist. What wasn’t Liam talented at? “Okay.” He smiled, and I relaxed. Tests or no tests it was nice to be at school, if only because my two favorite people were almost inevitably there. Compared to the glacial slowness of my morning our forty-five minute lunch passed all too quickly. Almost in the blink of an eye I found myself hugging them goodbye and rushing to my dreaded social studies exam. I hit my locker when, for the third time this week, it refused to open. Sighing I slumped against it. I was tired, irritated, and in no mood to deal with a temperamental locker. “Problems?” Liam’s honey-like voice made me jump, and he laughed. As always. “Yeah, again.” I turned to dial to the three numbers of my combination; he already had them memorized so there was no point in hiding it. Once again it refused to open. Once again the red metal was met by the palm of my hand. I was kind of impressed that it had yet to dent. Liam reached forward, and I stepped aside, knowing what was to come. Smoothly, and so quickly that I couldn’t see what number he actually landed on, he put in a combination, and the locker swung open. I cursed, loudly. It was a very good thing the hall monitor was my friend, otherwise I’d be spending more time in detention than I cared to think about. “Try 35, 14, 42 next time, I think they got your locker’s combo mixed up with mine.” “What? Why?” “Because ever since the first day when you showed me yours that is the one I’ve been using and every time you have problems opening your locker I use my combo.” He said simply. I glared. “And it took you four months to tell me this?” “Your lock’s bad, the wrong combo works about half the time, I couldn’t be sure.” “Great, who knows who could get into my locker?” I pulled my backpack out and slammed the stupid thing shut. Liam stooped and picked something up off the ground. I looked at him curiously when he straightened. “This fell out.” He said, offering a white sealed envelope. “Hi guys!” Lilly called, running up behind us. “What’s that?” She pointed at the letter. I shrugged, and so did Liam. I went to open it, hoping that it wasn’t another stupid love poem from Denis Trap, and hesitated. The envelope was sealed with wax, not the glue under the flap. Liam palled, and Lilly, who had only lived here for a couple years, looked confused. She wouldn’t know, most of the country didn’t know because it wasn’t something people liked to talk about. They weren’t secret, everyone knew the truth of their existence, but only those towns close by knew what that bright red wax meant. To Liam, who had lived here his whole life, it was familiar, and frightening. “Don’t worry about it Lilly, it’s just a letter from my aunt, she’s a little eccentric.” It was a bad lie, but how was I supposed to tell the truth? What was I supposed to say? It wasn’t supposed to happen to people you actually knew, just the rare person who you barely recognized, or the people the skirted the outer edges of society. It wasn’t supposed to happen to you, or your best friend. And it wasn’t supposed to happen to someone that close to you when you didn’t even know what was going on. It was so unfair. It hadn’t even hit me that it was me it was happening to only that it was unfair that it should happen to me the first time Lilly ever saw. So unfair. “Come on, the mall wont wait forever.” Liam said, recovering quickly. I slipped the letter into my bag. Lilly didn’t notice that anything was wrong. That was another nice thing about Lilly, she was clever, but she was no good at all at recognizing social cues, or she just knew when to pretend she hadn’t noticed. We dropped Lilly off at her house around five-ish, and I moved to the front seat. “You want me to come over to your place, or do you want to go to mine?” Liam asked. He knew I didn’t want to be alone when I read it. “You should probably come over to mine. My dad might have a heart attack if he finds out I was over at your place without asking.” Liam gave a half smile. “He might at that.” Liam was always welcome over, my mom adored him and my dad thought he was a ‘fine young man’, plus his parents thought he was old enough to be responsible for himself. As long as he never had to call them for bail money he was allowed to do pretty much whatever her pleased. Lilly only lived a block or two from my house, so it was a short drive. Liam parked on the curb, and we walked inside. It was so strange- silence was unheard of with the two of us. I walked in and wiped my shoes on the rug. Liam did the same, taking his off before he stepped onto the painfully clean hardwood floor. “Liam’s here.” I called. “Cool.” Came Jason’s sarcastic reply from the den of all things first-person-shooter. Mom, rather than calling a reply came out from the kitchen and hugged him. Had I not been used to this I would’ve turned crimson. “Good to see you! How did testing go?” “Fine Mrs. Kelledy. Thanks for asking.” “And you, Rose? Think you did ok?” “I did fine mom, I only got hung up on like three questions all day.” I almost winced at the sheer teenager-ish-ness of the statement. Luckily mom didn’t seem to notice the change from my normal speech. Liam did, of course. He glanced at me, but had the good sense not to comment. Lilly may be my best friend, but Liam had known me infinitely longer. Once free of my mother, who practically glowed when Liam asked what the wonderful smell coming from the kitchen was, and there by gained invitation to dinner, we trooped upstairs. My room was comfortably small, just big enough for a desk, bed, dresser, and a butterfly chair. I didn’t have the room, or desire, for a TV and game console like my brother, and was actually quiet fond of the dark walls and one window my perpetually dim room offered. Not that you could tell considering all of the posters and paintings the covered those walls. Liam settled on the chair, and I on my bed. Silence reigned. Finally Liam spoke. “Well, you have to read it at some point.” I nodded and drew out the white envelope. There was only two possibilities really- neither one good. Still I held my breath, one was better than the other after all. The seal was as brightly red as the first one I’d seen, some three years before. A boy that time, and he had brought it to school with him. None of us liked to be alone when we actually saw what such a letter said, and few were brave enough to tell their parent’s straight off. I hadn’t known him; he was one of the Goth theater types, back when I was still unsure about drama. His jet black hair and even darker clothes had always distracted me from him, despite an actually rather pretty, lean face and more than pretty wiry body. He had been panicked, and I hadn’t even known what it meant. Liam had, his brother had been taken some two years even before that. He had explained. And I had been as horrified as the boy’s friends as he opened the letter and read it aloud. I’d never seen him again, or at least never recognized him if I had. Now Liam sat with me as I broke the seal, and pulled out the whitish parchment. Rose Kelledy was inked on the front of the folded paper in handwriting that was both flowery and slightly spiky. There was no mistaking my name, and my last hopes that maybe the letter had not been meant for me melted away. Liam held out his hand, and I placed the letter in it. His face was expressionless. I wondered what he was thinking; he had seen more of these than anyone I knew. He had lost more to them than anyone I knew. He looked at the name, and nodded slowly. He handed the letter back without opening it. It crackled as I opened it, and I was glad of the quiet music I had playing. If anyone was close enough to hear us they would catch nothing more than garbled words and the melody of music. It wasn’t as long as I was expecting, and I didn’t know whether that was good or bad. Lightening crackled outside. The storm had only gotten worse since this morning. Rose Kelledy. As you know there is a vampire academy near here. And as you know this is a refuge not only for vampires but also for the Promised- those who will become vampires. You now rank among the Promised. We request that you move to our facilities as soon as possible. Sincerely, Annabella Serene. One of the Promised. The prospect alone was frightening. It meant that one of the prophets of the vampires of the hall had seen me, as a vampire. Or, worse, seen me being attacked by one of their own. I let the paper drop to my lap. Annabella Serene. She was a pureblooded vampire. A vampire born of the union between vampires. She was a High vampire on top of this- a member of the high council that ruled over vampires, kept them under control. The same High Council that had originally contracted the Hunters, those that went after rogues, kept these creatures that were so much more powerful than we under control in reality, rather than just making the laws that they must follow. Vampires had been known to exist since just after my birth, and all those legends about them and sunlight, crosses, and stakes were utter bs. They were real, and they were practically indistinguishable from humans. They had lived among us for centuries, almost entirely undetected, after all. But they did need blood. And they were technically dead. No pulse, no detectable brain waves, and while the purebloods and those that were born vampires did grow till they were fully mature, they were immortal. Some Promises change as well, some Promises, for some unknown reason, gained blood rank when they change. No one knew why, but Promises occasionally joined in aristocracy simply because their blood, their lineage, gave them power. And then there were the people who were attacked senselessly, the people who were never Seen, never became one of the Promised. They almost always grew out of control, and they were hunted down, every single time, without exception. “Don’t go.” I looked up; I had almost forgotten the Liam was there. He looked almost angry. “They can’t make you, not until after they know when you’ll turn, and even then maybe they can’t. There’s no reason for you to leave, nothing that should make anything different yet. Being a Promise isn’t exactly something new is it? You’re born that way, its just you’ve only now found out. You don’t have to act like anything is different. Not yet.” I had never seen Liam like this. He was always so laid back, like nothing could shake him. Now though, there was something different, something that was as afraid as it was pissed. “Liam?” he stood and crossed the room, which admittedly wasn’t hard, he covered it in three steps. Have I mentioned that Liam was tall? Like almost had to duck in most rooms tall. So even though it wasn’t hard for him to cover the distance it was intimidating. I was half afraid, but then he bent down and hugged me. He’d done this before of course. As Lilly put it we were about as far away from dating as any two people could get while still being completely in love with each other. And his hugs were a comfort- they always had been. He was tall enough that he seemed to envelope me, like there was nothing else in the world but the two of us. I had always loved the feeling, like all he had to do was touch me and I was safe. This time it was different though. It felt like this time he wasn’t just hugging me to show affection or comfort me, this time he needed comfort every bit as much as I did. I hugged back fiercely. I was scared, but it was like he said, it was horrible and frightening, but just because I was only now learning of it didn’t make it new. It made me feel a little better to know that no matter what I did this always would have happened. It wasn’t my fault, and no one could imagine it was. I don’t know how long we stayed like that. Time faded away so that we could have been there hours, or only seconds. All I know is that when he released me the world was somewhat right again. It wasn’t as new and strange as I’d feared, and I was almost certain that whatever was to come I could deal. He knelt and wiped his thumb across my cheek. “Don’t cry.” I hadn’t realized I was. But even as I opened my mouth to say that I wasn’t that I was fine another sob racked my body. Liam smiled as if he knew what was going through my head, standing he walked to the door and just stood there, looking away. I didn’t know how to thank him. When I was under control and my face wasn’t so reddened and puffy we went downstairs. Dad still wasn’t home, he was working late. But that didn’t throw either my mom or my brother. They were used to it. So we talked, all of us, though I was quieter than normal. Liam more than made up for it though. I could tell he was working hard at it, but he was exuberant. His whole demeanor was rich and lively. He complimented my mom more than once on the quality of her cooking, and talked avidly with my brother about the pros and cons of games like Halo and Left4Dead. I actually found myself having a good time and smiling all-round. Liam left right after dinner, saying that he was sorry, but he really had to get home. That was more for my mom’s benefit than mine. I knew that his parents wouldn’t mind if he showed up at midnight. It must be nice to have a 4.0 and easygoing folks. Suddenly more tired even than waking up and 2 could account for I told Mom that was going to go to bed early and went upstairs. Even in my pj’s and under the comforter I’d had since I was eight. I couldn’t still my mind enough to allow for sleep. As a result I lay awake, with my eyes resolutely closed, until long after even the distance sounds of my brother killing his aliens and zombies had faded into silence. My exhausted body eventually demanded that my overworked mind pay its dues though, and I got one of my first full nights of sleep in a long time.
Time passed. As it turned out I didn’t do too badly on any of my exams. As a matter of fact I aced a few of them, and didn’t get anything lower than a C even on my dreaded social studies final. I even scraped a high B in algebra, much to the surprise of myself, my parent, and my teacher. But winter break passed quickly into the second semester and the New Year. Lilly, Liam, and I were as close as ever, and I almost forgot about the foreboding letter that last day of the previous semester. Most of the time I was focused on other things. But it was always there, in the back of my mind, the little black promise that I hoped would never be kept. It had been only a few months when that letter was drawn back to the forefront of my mind though.
We were one of the closest towns to the Academy. It made us one of the safest places in the word because even the most insane person, be they human or vampire, would hesitate to commit any major crime in a place that was so heavily protected by so many powerful vamps. It also meant that you could occasionally see them. Vampires who had the overly pale, graceful, actor-like demeanor and thus were identifiable or the students who still wore one of the Academy uniforms were actually relatively common. Whenever this happened they were watched, carefully, and from a distance. People were afraid, and rightfully so, but they had never seen any of these people actually do anything out of the norm, so, it was permitted. Lilly and I were out walking around one of the more popular sections of town when we saw a large group of them, all sporting their uniform, pass by. Lilly watched with interest as they walked passed us and into the nearby starbucks.
“Those can’t be vampires can they? I thought vampires didn’t have to eat normal food.” It was sometimes all too easy to forget that Lilly wasn’t a local. No one from around here would have thought that vampires didn’t eat, not with them frequenting trendy clubs and high quality restaurants all the time. I answered the question anyway.
“Actually it could be, they eat just like you and me, just they need blood to, to replace theirs I think is what it was. But those probably weren’t vamps, they were most likely Promises. People who already know that they’re going to become vampires someday.” She looked at me over the chai latte she was drinking. The nice thing about little diners like this one was that they didn’t mind if you brought in your own drink, especially when it was one from a big corporate chains that they couldn’t threaten in any way.
“You mean there are people who actually volunteer to become vamps?”
“No, though I’m sure there are, after all look at all the Goth kids who thing vampirism is so cool. What I’m talking about are people who’ve been seen by Vampire Prophets either as a vampire, or being attacked by one and surviving. The people who will inevitably become vampires- most likely in the near future, they go to the school because it’s important for them to know the laws and codes they will have to follow before they actually have a vampire’s power and hunger.” She nodded pensively.
“Yeah I guess that makes sense. Though it kind of scary that they can know about this sort of thing before it happens. Must be useful though.” I nodded, it was useful, and it was scary. Vampires probably could rule the world if they put their minds to it, in fact the probably already did.
I wanted to spend the rest of the day enjoying myself. I wanted to enjoy the company of someone I knew, someone who I trusted absolutely- but it was there now, nagging at my mind, coloring every action. The fact was I was no less a Promise than were those kids, and probably no farther away from becoming a vampire than they were. And I hadn’t told Lilly, who was my best friend and the one person in this world I might possibly trust with my life. I couldn’ty think of a single thing I would keep from her if she asked, except this. It was like a gulf had opened between us, and I had no way of knowing how it had opened, or how to mend the gap.
Lilly herself was more than happy to continue chattering happily while I thought. She was the sort of person who could listen when someone else spoke, but filled any silence with a stream of meaningless blather. She was a very think out loud diarrhea-of-the-mouth kind of person. It was rather endearing rather than annoying, at least partially because she was not at all shy about it, and because she knew what she was doing, and how to stop.
We wandered. We had been given the day to do as we pleased, and since our parents did not object to picking us up when we wanted to go home there really weren’t any limits as to where we could go. We wandered in and out of bookstores, cafes, novelty shops, and little boutiques. That was the advantage of living in an area with a vampire intensive population, the trendy little places that were normally consigned to the downtown areas of a big city were attracted even to smaller cities and towns. Just because our population was relatively low didn’t mean we didn’t enjoy all of the luxuries of big city life. And for a teenager that was an unimaginable blessing.
Despite the fact that we had less than forty dollars between us we looked at every interesting object and shop like we were actually considering purchasing the goods. Occasionally we were. But we were both aware that the day was long, and the warm smells that drifted from the little cafes that surrounded us would be more than tempting once we no longer had the cash to spend on food.
Even in a shop I normally adored, half because the sheer cheesiness of some items amused me, my mind was preoccupied. And only partially with the strange curios and mysterious art that lined the walls. I wanted to tell Lilly, badly. But, as always, a voice rose in me that warned against it. What would she think? How could she understand when she had never seen it before? Who could expect her to know that just because you were destined to join the immortal dead did not mean that you were any less the person you had been your whole life, just that that person was to live life eternal. Liam even had been frightened by the prospect, how much more would a girl who knew nothing of vampires, their kin, or what tended to happen around them? And so, despite the long friendship I’d had with the girl, and the fact that we could have been no closer had we been bound by blood and kinship, I remained silent. Together we passed the day, one in darkness, and the other in ignorance.
School slowly became a torment. I liked my classes, and I was actually doing decently well, but being me I was being buried under and ever growing pile of homework as my teachers actually quantified the number of days they had left to cram the remaining subject matter into our skulls. Aside from the intellectual issues of the ever increasing pace, social life was less than easy. Everyone was practically holding their breath for the next Promise to be unveiled for what he or she was. There had never been so long a stretch between the letters in all our memories. Once they had begun seldom had more than a year passed before someone we knew at least by face was taken. They had no way of knowing that the ill-fated letter had already arrived. Keeping the secret was a burden that I shouldered willingly, the pressure to leave and join the academy would have been unbearable otherwise, but it was still hard.
It was a normal day by all accounts. Sure the weather was bad, alternately tepid rain and thick mist, and tempers running high, but that was normal enough. No one thought it at all out of the ordinary, and no one was prepared. Vampires rarely ventured into schools- it was not unheard of, they came sometimes to fetch a particularly reticent Promise, or to warn someone of an impending doom their prophets and Seen by chance, but mostly they avoided such overtly human places. So when a vampire, identifiable only by the intricately woven black cloak he wore, was waiting for us in the cafeteria it was understandable the people freaked. Liam, Lilly and I all pressed though the crowd to the back corner, pretending that we hadn’t noticed him. Lilly because she was freaked, Liam and I because we feared we knew why he had come. He didn’t do anything though, didn’t so much as move from the piece of wall he was leaning against. Eventually everyone quieted and sat down like nothing had changed. It was a few minutes still before anything really had. Finally, when only someone intimately familiar with the dynamic of the high school cafeteria would have noticed that anything was amiss, he crossed the room. It was almost a collective intake of breath as those who had been watching him from the corner of their eyes stiffened, and the people around them, correctly interpreting the signs- gasped. Vampires are fast, like if they aren’t trying to fit in they move in little blurs. This one simply disappeared, and materialized, seemingly out of thin air, close to the opposite wall.
Adam was not someone I was terribly familiar with, he was in a few of my classes, and for all I knew there wasn’t much more to him than his obsessive drawing and quietly bored demeanor. He kept to himself, but you could tell that the small group of like-minded people that surrounded him were close, and each and every one of them bristled with both fear and anger when the vamp re-appeared behind him. Adam tried very hard not to notice, but you could see that he was gritting his teeth and that his hand was shaking against the table. Vampires didn’t use their abilities around humans, they just didn’t, it was in their best interest that we remained tolerant, that we weren’t actually afraid of them. The fact was that if even one vampire in every hundred went rogue there would be nothing humans could do to stop them. The horror stories we saw on TV were far from common, but there were enough to give us nightmares for months. You see, a vamp can go rogue without being noticed, if they choose to let us realize what’s going on they’re going to make damn sure none of us will have any doubts as to exactly what committed the crime, and that we wouldn’t be able to forget, ever.
“Is there something you want?” Asked a girl I didn’t recognize. People around us were beginning to stand up, not to do anything, just so that they could see better. I stayed sitting. There was no reason to draw attention to myself. I didn’t want to go, I didn’t want to be a Promise, and I did want to be human. Forever. I already knew that no one who made the change liked it, because the only people who made the change were people who for some reason or another survived the attack of a rogue.
He spoke loudly, his tone impersonal, formal. And the room was silent save for his voice and the echoing of our staggered breathing.
“Adam Sarelli, you have been Seen. You are Promised to us. By our Blood and yours I claim your life.” He reached out one hand and grasped Adam’s arm. Adam was no small guy, he wasn’t a bodybuilder, but he had the sort of corded muscle the denoted both agility and power. Still, despite the fact that Adam was clearly trying to escape his grip the man’s arm didn’t even vibrate. He looked around, his eyes probing, scanning the whole room. Many people turned away from the gaze, afraid perhaps that they too would be taken if they faced him.
“Rose Kelledy- you have now twice been Seen by the council. Come willingly, or we will take you.” Achingly slowly for a vampire he lifted Adam, carrying him first like a baby, and then simply slinging him over his shoulder when Adam refused to lie still. And he was gone, both of them.
I didn’t move. I couldn’t. I was paralyzed- certain that the world was coming undone around me.
Sound returned first, people who were shocked, and people who were offering their condolences, people who were talking like I wasn’t there, and others who openly distained me now that it was known I would only walk among the living a little longer. Then sight returned, blessing me with the ability to see the faces of the people all around me, the fear, the anguish, and anger. Finally, as blood pumped through my veins again, pushed onward by my faulty re-starting heart, movement came, and I was able to escape.
Pushing my way through the crowd, not bothering to pick up my bag, my books, I ran. I didn’t have a destination in mind, I didn’t know where my feet were taking me, but I didn’t care. I wanted away, as though escaping the place would allow me to escape all that had happened there. My logic seemed pathetically thin, but it was something to cling to, something that made it so that my next breath, my next step didn’t feel like my last, something that made it so that I didn’t feel hunted as I ran, so that my destiny was no longer pursuing me.
I was a block and a half away from the school when I realized that I couldn’t go home- and there was no way I was going to turn back. My lungs were on fire, and I was dizzy from over-exerting. I bent over, panting. Adrenaline still pounded through me, making the seconds slow, but even under the influence of the chemical there was only so far I could push myself. I was drenched, and afraid, and above all, cold. I wanted to be home, somewhere safe. I wanted to be anywhere but here, alone. Resignedly I began to stalk back toward the school. There was no point in staying away, better to get the lecture and referral now when my truancy was still a minor offence than later when I would have ditched three classes rather than just one. It rain was almost cold enough to turn to hail, and my skin burned with every freezing impact. Giving in to the cold, and hoping the school would have a towel and a change of clothes I could use, I began to run again, slower this time, and more carefully than before. Still it took several minutes before I was sheltered inside the warmth and light of the building. Liam was sitting in the office, talking with the vice principal, his face unreadable. But my bag was there on the floor next to him so there was nothing I could do but knock.
I must have looked really pathetic standing there drenched and shivering, my hands moving up and down my arms in a futile attempt to warm myself up. My hair and nose were dripping, and I wasn’t entirely sure that all the water on my face could be blamed on the rain. Mr. Johnson opened the door quickly, gesturing to a chair without a word. To my surprise his normally stern face was compassionate, understanding. I wondered if breaking the rules endeared you to him somehow.
“One second, I’ll be right back.” He said, and left. As soon as the door close Liam looked at me, his eyes full of concern, his mouth set in a grimace.
“Are you ok?”
“Yeah- what, what did Lilly say? Why are you here?” His expression darkened.
“Lilly didn’t say anything, she looked surprised, and frightened, just like we all did the first time we saw it. But she didn’t say anything, just went to class like everyone else. I’m sorry.” He looked up for a second, and I sniffled. I had been right, she hadn’t taken it well. What if she didn’t want to be friends with me any longer? “And I’m here because they wanted to talk to anyone who might have known. Your friends mostly, Lilly and the others already left because none of them knew what was going on. They asked me to stay, I don’t know why.” I nodded, there were two options. Either they wanted to know how he knew, what my reaction had been, and why no one else was aware of the situation- or they wanted to make sure that being in the know, and having helped me keep the secret, that he was ok now that I was out in the open and obvious that I would have to go to the Academy sooner or later. Probably sooner. I wasn’t sure whether I was afraid, anxious, or just plain tired. I was certainly too tired to sort through it all and decide, and I had no desire to try.
It was about ten minutes before Mr. Johnson had returned, and to my delight he was carrying a white towel and a steaming cup of what smelled like black coffee. Normally coffee wasn’t really my thing, or, more accurately, I preferred it diluted with cream, sugar, and some sort of flavoring syrup. Just then though the bitterness of the stuff raw and undiluted would be more than welcome.
“Here.” He said, handing them to me, with a slight smile. I found myself beginning to like him. With my icy hair off my neck, and hot liquid in my stomach I began to settle myself- and get even more tired than before. He sat behind hid desk, but not so that I couldn’t see him. His screensaver flashed onto the screen, and I smiled at a picture of his wife and kids, whom I recognized only through their distinct resemblance to their father. It was so mundane, so normal. My world stopped spinning quite to quickly.
“How long have you known?”
“A couple months I guess- I don’t really remember very well.” That was a lie; I remembered the day perfectly, down to the last detail. It was all preternaturally sharp in my mind. However, having learned that the key to a good lie is that it contains a grain of truth I hadn’t denied to truth entirely. I couldn’t remember the date; I couldn’t quantify the number of days and weeks since I had known because I couldn’t remember the date of the day on which I had found out. A feeble truth sure enough, but enough to keep my face smooth and to stop my hands from twitching.
“And does anyone but Liam know?”
“No. I didn’t want to go to the Academy; I don’t want to be a Promise. Had I told anyone someone would have made me go.” Every word true, yet the real reason was not among those truths. Liam cut in.
“I was afraid too, we’ve all heard about the Vampires, and their Promised. No one would want to join that, no matter how glamorous they make it seem on the outside. Who would want to be attacked by one of them and survive? Most of the promised who made the change say that they would rather have been killed than to have joined the ranks of the everlasting.” Exhausted as I was his words rang a bell in me. I started humming along to the song that had popped into my head, as I had heard it on ‘Highlander’. “Who wants to live forever?” I almost giggled.
“It isn’t actually all that bad. Everything you’ve heard has probably been from the conservative point of view. Most people who have the public eye are afraid of vampires, and some of them are even against the continued tolerance of their activities and existence within human cultural borders. In all truth most vampires are perfectly happy with their existence, and it is a rather glamorous state of being. It’s nothing you should really fear. Hundreds of people every year have to face what you are, and they all make it through it.” He sounded so reasonable, and I was almost convinced. But there was that population, no matter how misrepresented the situation may be, that was malcontent, afraid, and without options. “And you should be happy that they gave you warning, more often than not they aren’t given enough time in advance to prepare you for the change. Most often they just take you, or send a letter announcing their pending arrival, usually later that day.” I knew that, when vampires decided to act they did so quickly. I had seen too many white letters, watched too many scenes like the one today to doubt the efficiency of the collective will of Vampires. I had seen too many scenes like today to think that anyone would go willingly, without grief.
“You mean she should be happy that they’ve let her think about it for months, that they warned her before they even actually knew when or how it was going to happen? You want her to be grateful that they chose to let her live in fear for months longer than they normally would?” Liam’s tone was cold, anger that cut like a razor blade. I’d seen it only once before, and had known then that I never wanted to see it again. It was like he had changed, that his eyes saw only in red, and he seemed to almost forget who you were and what you meant to him. The last time it had happened only a degree of self control I had not thought possible had kept him from losing it, and only just barely.
“Liam, its fine, I’m fine, they were just…” Mr. Johnson cut in, looking at Liam now, not me. I sulked, tired enough that I thought the childish resentment for being overridden a better course than to point out I have been speaking.
“They are bound by our laws and the ruling of their council to give fair warning as soon as they can determine it necessary.” Liam glowered, unhappily accepting this new information. Finally they stopped staring at each other, and I could almost feel the tension release. Somehow I was convinced that Mr. Johnson had a relative who was a vampire. Nothing else seemed to fit his stalwart defense of them.
“Anyway, Rose, I would very much doubt that you mother has not been made aware of the situation, and the school itself has received a letter that said, in few and direct words, that they did not intend to let you continue like this much longer. ‘She is a danger to all those she associates with and we cannot stand by while innocent lives are put in danger.’” He said with almost monotonous boredom.
“They threatened her?” Liam inquired, but despite the fire that burned in his eyes his voice was calm. Personally it all seemed to fly by me; I was cold and tired and wanted nothing more than to sleep. Perhaps emotions had more power over the human body than I thought.
“No, I actually think they were implying a threat to the school and her friends.” Mr. Johnson said matter-of-factly, as though he dealt with threats of death, mutilation, and worse on a regular basis. Maybe he did, he was after all mostly in charge of the disciplinary actions taken at the school. “And I also think that they are quite right in demanding that she go to the Academy, There is no reason to insist that she remain in a public school until the date of her change is known, and some very good reasons to start her learning what it is to be a vampire early.” I felt like I was listening to a lecture about someone in the distant past, not myself. Exhaustion had brought back a measure of denial, and thus a measure of peace. It also allowed me to ignore the fact that everything was happening too quickly to be comprehended, and that it seemed I was being led by the hand toward the correct response.
“So you’re saying- willing or no, that I should go to the Academy? I mean what do they teach them there that’s so different from what we learn here? How much can there possibly be to study about sucking blood?” I asked, unaware at the time of how dazed I looked and sounded. All I really remember is Mr. Johnson’s concerned face looming suddenly closer.
I woke up about half an hour later according to the clock on the wall, in warm clothes that were certainly not my own, and under several blankets. When I had the ability to focus in on my surroundings I realized that I was in the nurse’s office, the numerous don’t smoke and no drugs posters on the walls left no doubt. The intense anti-bacterial smell that hit my nose a moment later confirmed it, and made my wrinkle my nose. I hated sick people/ hospital smell.
“She’s fine, no need to worry Mrs. Kelledy, she just got herself too worked up, and then when she went outside she got a little too cold. She’ll be fine- I’m sure she’ll wake up soon and be right as rain. Just a little sleep and dry clothes that’s all she needed.” The nurse was a very nice person, but she was also very brisk and I could tell that my mom wouldn’t be reassured at all until she could assess my health for herself. Half a smile graced my face.
“I’m fine mom, really.” I said, and winced at how thin and quiet my voice was. After that it was all the nurse could do to get my mom to give me the privacy I needed to change into the spare clothing she’d brought with her. Thankfully that meant getting our of the school gym uniform which I’d always hated. I was however excused from the rest of the day, and, to my surprise, completely off the hook about ditching 5th hour. As soon as I was in the car my euphoric mood disappeared.
“Come on, you have to pack.”
“When we get home I want you to pack some clothes and things you want to take with you, I’ll drop you off tomorrow.”
“Wait, where are you dropping me off at?”
“White Rose Academy.” Otherwise known as the Academy. Otherwise known as the last place I could have possibly wanted to be. Otherwise known as accepting that I’m a Promise and preparing myself for the day a vampire will attack me and shove its blood down my throat. No freaking way.
“No mom, I don’t want to go, and you can’t make me, and neither can they.” She didn’t even bother glaring, or sighing, or even skipping a beat before she answered.
“Yes I can, and so can they if they really wanted to, which they will soon. I’d rather you go now then later when there may not be enough time. At least this way I’ll still be able to visit you, and you might be able to come home for the weekends sometimes.” So that’s all she wanted, an occasional visit and me home on the weekends. Didn’t she realize that by sending me there she was pretty much consigning the remainder of my ‘life’ to be spent amongst the un-dead, who, I might add, would like nothing better than to end it themselves?
In the end she won, of course, she was my mom, what was I supposed to do. So I packed, most of my clothes fit inside the suitcase she’d given me, and there wasn’t anything that wasn’t ‘vampire appropriate’ no garishly bright colors, little pink, mostly subdued tones and flirty styles. I figured that even if I had to be one of the undead I might as well look like myself some of the time. I packed some books, I had always liked to read, but there was a pretty good library close by so I wasn’t worried about running out, and a few odds and ends that it would have felt wrong to leave behind. Packed an ready to leave I found myself with nothing to do. My room looked really bare with all of my favorite items tucked away safely for transport the next morning, and I didn’t want to go downstairs. What would everyone say, what would my brother say? Already a gulf had opened between us, as though they were still human and I was already something more, something less familiar. Somehow I felt less myself than I had in a long time. I wanted some physical sign of the change that was coming- something that I could point to and say ‘that is the change, not me, that.’ But there wasn’t- and I couldn’t blame them for thinking of me differently. A few tears streamed down my face, silently for I had never been big on sobbing. I could only watch as one after another they fell to the ground.
I wondered if I’d ever see Liam and Lilly again as I sat in the front seat of my mom’s car. I sort of doubted it. Lilly would want nothing to do with the new stranger that was me, and Liam probably wouldn’t be able to handle seeing me when I was about to enter a while new state of being and leave him behind, just like his brother had before me. That made me want to cry again, but all my tears had been shed the previous night. I was ready, if not willing, and I would go forward. I always had. It wasn’t a long ride, but I thoroughly intended to enjoy it. Mom let me pick the music, and I blared Evanescence almost as loud as the speakers allowed, rolled down the windows and sang as loudly as I could the whole way. Somehow, as we pulled up outside the gate I was smiling.
We were conducted inside by two vampires that were practically the twins of the one I had seen the day before. At least they were twins in demeanor. Both wore dark and dangerous like a cloak. I did my best not to let them intimidate me, but it was more than a little difficult. Humans didn’t scare me, these two, and the knowledge that if they chose to they could kill me before I knew what was happening, set me on edge. Mom even seemed to be a bit nervous, an impossibility. Yet she was smiling, and her eyes said that everything was fine. More than a little of me wanted to be about two, I wanted to cling to her and thus be reassured by her stolid presence. Instead I walked with my head held high, shoulders back, proud and confident. Outside I may have appeared the arrogant teen; on the inside butterflies aplenty fluttered their colored wings.
We only were in the company of the silent pair of guards for a few short minutes; soon we were met by another vampire, one that seemed to come from a different breed entirely. This one wore bright colors, and smiled. She seemed to glow with her own special inner radiance. I thought her smile was genuine, and so offered on in return- but her eyes disturbed me. Intense, brooding, and wholly other worldly, they also seemed to be somewhere very far removed from here. She welcomed me warmly, and nodded at my mother, who nodded back, seemingly unconscious of the condescension that saturated the movement.
“Welcome to White Rose, Rose.” Her grin wasn’t mocking, but I could sense that it would not be the last time the irony of my name and the schools was brought up in conversation. “I hope you are well?”
“Well enough thank you.” I said curtly. She may seem more open than the others, but there was an aura about her, and the raw power of it did nothing to sooth my suddenly growing fears. Her smile flickered, but it might have just been my imagination. I blinked and her face had assumed it’s all encompassing happy radiance once more.
“Would you like to see her dorm room?” She asked, addressing my mother, most of the warmth gone from her voice. I thought it was going to be a very rough first week if everyone was this condescending of humans here- I’d probably punch people, and be punched, far more often than was good for my mental health. I’d never been very good at controlling my emotions- and I’d learned a thing or two from some of my more violent- back alley friends, but I didn’t relish the idea of a fight. My mom however looked nervous. And I knew what was coming even before she opened her mouth. I resisted the urge to sigh.
“Uh, no, I really need to be getting home. Sorry.” The vampire nodded understandingly, and Mom gave me a quick parting hug, kissing my forehead, she waved goodbye as she walked away. I would have given anything to have been able to run after her. Instead I faced the vampire, my head held high, sure that my eyes were teary, but determined to make sure she knew that I was not going to give in, that I was not going to cry. At least not until I was good and alone.
“My name’s Natalie- I already know yours is Rose so there really isn’t much reason to tell me now is there? I would assume you would like to see the campus? Or should we just head straight to your room?” How to choose, how to choose- which poison did I want to drink? Straight to the solitude of my room, where I was sure to break down- and from which I doubted I’d be able to emerge for a while after I had retreated there, or see the campus, and possibly socialize, or at least see, the people with whom I would be spending my last days? I couldn’t really see much difference, one game of mental eni-mini-miney-moe later…
“The campus please.” I picked up my suitcase in both hands, almost annoyed. The first chance these people would get to see me would be with me struggling with a too large, awkward weight. Natalie looked behind at me, as if wondering why I was so far behind and amusement crossed her features for once.
“Don’t worry about your things; someone will take them up to your room.”
“Ok.” I was pretty sure no one would be interested in stealing my things, and that even if someone did I would have no problems recovering them, so I saw no reason to embarrass myself by demanding that I keep the suitcase by my side.
She was fast; I took one and a half steps for her every one. She didn’t seem to notice. One thing was to be said for White Rose Academy, it was beautiful. The gardens were well tended, and plentiful, the buildings had a unique architecture that combined modern and ancient seamlessly as well as elegantly. The windows were all colored glass, and I was sure that some of the paintings and tapestries hanging on the walls of common areas must have been original works. It was strangely empty though, as if not many people lived there. Maybe it was just that the school itself was huge, and the grounds almost impossibly large, but we didn’t run into many people. When I asked she dismissed my question.
“Many of the students will be in classes- or else off campus.” I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. More worrisome was the fact that of all the students I saw only one looked at me openly. Most were wary of meeting my gaze, and blushed at having been spotted looking at me. I didn’t dare point it out to Natalie.
We concluded the tour with a brief peek into the cafeteria. It was a large room, with white walls and a marbled black and green stone floor. So far, of all the rooms I’d seen, including the library, this one was the most inviting. I smiled, perhaps it was the very teenage feel to the place, or perhaps it was the way it seemed to get bigger the more I let my eyes roam over it, but it was more homey and familiar than anywhere else. The strange beauty of the Academy could not be denied, but after a time it had grown to be as unnerving as vampires themselves. There was something about perfection and grace that seemed to frighten humans. Imperfection was more our style.
“Your room?” She half asked, but she was moving again before I had the chance to answer. We went up several flights of stairs, which made me less than happy, and finally arrived in what must have been a tower. There were only three doors in the whole section, and from the looks of it all three were locked. My door was small, and I opened it cautiously, half afraid I’d find a rough hewn stone room with barely enough space for a bed and dresser. The room was large, well furnished, and everything a teenage princess would have wanted. The canopy bed had layers upon layers of thing flowing curtain; the floor was plain wood, but a rug more beautiful than any I’d seen lay proudly on the shimmering surface. There was a desk, and if I wasn’t much mistaken the thin square that was sitting on it was a laptop, there were lights everywhere, and shelves that were just begging to be filled. I could see two doors in this room alone, leading, I assumed, to a closet and a bathroom. I couldn’t help but let a grin cross my face. It was wonderful. I began to think that maybe, if I was allowed to keep this room, this school might be bearable after all.
Natalie drew my attention back to her by placing her hands on my shoulders. I looked back at her, and she smiled indulgently.
“It’s all yours, our gift to you. Feel free to stay in here as long as you like today, though supper is at 6 o’clock, prompt. Tomorrow you will get a letter with your classes, you can change them if you would like, but I think you’ll enjoy them. Good Afternoon Rose.” She made as if to kiss my forehead as my mother had done, but thought better of it long before her lips brushed the sensitive skin on my face. As soon as she was gone I closed the door, and locked it with the deadbolt. I didn’t want anymore visitors.
As Natalie had promised my suitcase was sitting on the bad, still closed, and one glance inside assured me that no one had looked through it, not that I really cared if someone had. Moving it to the floor I flopped onto the bed, covering my head with my pillow. The Academy was beautiful sure, but I didn’t want to be here, there was nothing I wouldn’t give to be at my normal school, taking normal classes, around my friends, my family. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t give to have never been Promised. I wasn’t big on crying, and much sooner than I would have expected my eyes ran dry. So I was a Promise, it wasn’t like it was the end of the world, not just yet. A lot of people became vampires, hundreds every year. I wasn’t the first, nor the last- and somehow I was going to make it through this just like every one else that came before me. I may not want it, but since when had I gotten everything I wanted? Somehow I was going to make this work.
My stuff was in a rough and tumble pile inside the suitcase and sorting through it took a while. I was glad of the distraction though, and of the familiar scent of those things. It was strange how much I could miss simple things, and how much the feel of being home seemed to be tied to the smell of my room, my things. If I closed my eyes I breathed through the thin cloth of one of my favorite shirts I could almost imagine that I was in my room, surrounded by me family, and that nothing had changed, that nothing ever would. It was short lived though, and I found myself wiping away the renewed wetness about my eyes.
I folded my clothes into neat piles, sorting through the things that could go into the dresser, and those I wanted to put in the closet. It was a simple, mindless task, but it was enough to keep my mind off worse things. Aside from clothes I had brought only a few small articles, things that were as much me as my hair or eyes. After I had put away my clothing I turned back to the small pile that was still on the floor. Some were just necessary, a brush, toothpaste, and things like that that I would have brought for just a vacation. Others, like the intricate statuette of an astral fairy, were things that I wouldn’t have been able to bear leaving behind. I wasn’t quiet ready to deal with those things yet, that would be admitting that this was my new home, and I was still hoping that when if I fell asleep I’d wake in my bed, the last months only a dream. Carefully I put them back into my suitcase.
Grabbing the toiletries I opened the door to what I had assumed to be a bathroom. Instead I found myself in the doorway to what could only be described as a den. Bean bag chairs and a couple couches provided seating; there was a high quality stereo in one corner, and a large flat screen TV in the other. The only thing it was missing was a pool table, but I didn’t much care. It didn’t make my situation much better, but it certainly was a bonus. The remaining door, that was on the opposite end of the game room, was a bathroom, and deposited my toothbrush, tooth paste, and brush there. Glancing at a clock I sighed, it was still hours until supper, and I had no intention of browsing the games for the Xbox I hadn’t noticed when I first entered the room. I did not want to turn into my brother. Instead I decided that I shouldn’t hole myself up here much longer. I had already decided that I was going to make the best of this, and one cannot hide from the truth and make the best of it. I didn’t want to go outside particularly either, but I had better get used to it now, rather than later.
I descended the stairs rapidly, trying not to notice how tight the turns were, or how dizzy I was becoming. Maybe I would get used to it with time. I was alone when I reached the bottom, the air was motionless, and the light that filtered in through the colored windows was still. Feeling almost claustrophobic I cringed. Maybe I’d get used to it, maybe I wouldn’t. Hopefully the dead aura of this place would dissipate some when it was occupied. Hopefully. Instead of dwelling on that I walked purposefully across the hall, to the door on the other end. This revealed yet another large, ornately beautiful, and depressingly empty room. Tapestries decorated the walls, and there weren’t as many windows, making me think I was closer to the main building that I had been in the unlit hall leading to my room. Some bookshelves could be found here, even though I knew that I was no where near the library- I looked at the title of one, only to find that I couldn’t read it, it wasn’t even written in an alphabet I knew. Confused I looked up and down the shelves, only three were in characters I knew, most were in runes, or some other form of writing I had no name for. I opened one of them, staring at pages I certain were hundreds of years old. Half afraid that I would be in trouble for touching these books, much less pulling them out, I replaced the one I was holding, but not after catching a picture that imprinted itself in my mind.
I was certain that the girl depicted by the artist’s clever hand was a vampire, no human looked so perfect, so pristine, and no human would be represented with the finely pointed fangs of the girl. She was tall, her skin mildly luminous, her hair dark, her eyes shadowed and misty. What caught my eye though wasn’t her beauty, or the skill with which the page had been rendered- it was the pale, almost invisible tattoos that covered her bare skin, patterns of stars, writing that I knew nothing of, but that called to me- and the crescent moon upon her forehead all written in ink that was barely lighter than her skin, that glowed only a little brighter. Shaking I traced the thin lines of spidery script on the spine, disturbed, afraid, and more than a little curious. Curiosity killed the Cat, but maybe, seeing as my days were already numbered there was no need for caution. Something within me stilled my hand, warning me against undo carelessness. I turned away, but knew that I wouldn’t be able to forget either the book, or the strange picture it contained.
White Rose Academy was justly named, many of the gardens featured some of the most purely white roses I had ever seen, and I was more than tempted to pluck one. Instead I headed the warning of the oft repeated story, Beauty and the Beast. I had no desire to repeat the fatal mistake of a man caught in a fairytale, for it certainly seemed that I too had fallen, unwittingly, into one. More than once I saw other students, but they all darted away quickly, without really looking at me, or giving me the chance to look at them. Finally I gave up on trying to find one, and just wandered content for once in the beauty of the gardens, and the pleasantly sweet scent on the air. That was when I stumbled into one of the little havens that were so common there, a small enclave with an ornate fountain adorning the middle of the circle. He stood quickly, almost before I had noticed him,
“Wait! Please!” I almost yelled, hoping that he would hear me, or that my request would startle him into stillness. It did neither, but he did turn to look at me, and he smiled.
“Sorry, I thought for a moment you were one of the vampires.” He said with an abashed grin.
“One of the vampires? Hardly, I’m a Promise, like you.” His expression darkened,
“Yeah, its kind of obvious once I look at you.”
“What is that supposed to mean? And why would you be running away from a vampire? I thought they taught all the classes here, shouldn’t you be used to them?’
“You must be Rose- they said you would arrive today. And I would be running away for that exact reason, classes. Some people have this hour off, but I don’t, and they don’t take kindly to ditching.” He shrugged.
“I wouldn’t think anyone would ditch if it was a vampire enforcing the rules.”
“Not many would, but I’m new, like you, and I guess I haven’t been properly intimidated yet. Besides, there isn’t much they can do really, we’ve already gotten the penultimate threat, remember?” I smiled a bit at that, he reminded me of Liam, always doing as he pleased.
“That’s true.” I said. “So what would happen if they caught you?”
“Honestly? I have no clue. They haven’t so far have they? Besides what are they going to do? Give me extra bookwork? I already live here so detention isn’t going to do much. And I would like to see their faces; I want to know what a vampire looks like when they get mad.” I didn’t know what to say to that, it seemed like a suicidal prospect, especially when we already knew that one of them was going to lose it and kill us, sort of. He seemed to know what I was thinking, and blushed.
“I know that it’s not exactly a good idea, but who knows? Maybe I’ll end up staying here until I’m an old man if I don’t piss one off, maybe my annoyingness will be what makes me change, what they saw make me change.” I nodded, it almost made sense, but there was one thing I was certain of, now. This wasn’t really all that different from any other high school, or at least the kids who went here weren’t. He sounded just like some of the kids who had attended Carawin. I could almost feel the tension in my muscles begin to relax.
Twilight came slowly, and with it a sudden outpour of students into the gardens, and I found that this time I was the one who was being cautious, hiding. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to meet more than one of the Promised at a time, and everyone here seemed to be intent upon herding.
“Hey!” I whirled, surprised that I hadn’t gone unnoticed. “You’re the new kid right? Rose?” The girl who was speaking raised her hand and motioned me over. The first thing I noticed, to my embarrassment, was that her skin was the color of a good espresso; somehow I had always thought that all vampires had to be white. I smiled and walked over, trying to ignore the shiver that ran down my spine.
“Yeah, that’s me.” I whispered. She laughed,
“Speak up, we can’t hear you!” I smiled and repeated myself, this time louder.
“Knew it!” Said the lone boy in the group, “I told you she wasn’t vampire!” I laughed; it was so ridiculous that someone would mistake me for a vampire that I couldn’t help myself. It occurred to me that this was the second time it had happened today, and I buckled over. It was stupid, and I knew it, but I needed to relieve stress somehow.
“Are you ok?” Asked one, which only made me laugh harder.
“Yeah- I’m fine; it’s just that I can’t even imagine being a vampire, much less being mistaken for one, and this is the second time today.” I said, once I was under control. Smiling I looked at them.
“It’s not really surprising. You’re not in our uniform- plus you have the not human look.”
“The not human look?”
“Well, aside from pale skin, which a lot of people around here seem to have, just the way you move, how you distance yourself from everything, it’s very ethereal.”
“Yeah, no kidding, even your voice is different, smoother I guess.” They were almost talking more to themselves than to me, I didn’t mind really, they were strangers to me, and it was obvious that they were very close. Plus they were giving me a lot to think about, and there was no way I was going to get answers to my questions any time soon.
They had been talking for a while without my notice before the girl who had called me over noticed my preoccupation.
“Hey! What’s up?” She asked, looking severely tempted to wave her hand in front of my eyes.
“Nothing, I’m just thinking.”
“Eh, nothing really.”
“Right. Well I think we all need to get back to fit in some much needed studying- so um, see you at dinner I guess.”
“Yeah.” I nodded, half relieved and wondering how stupid I looked. I certainly felt like an imbecile, perhaps if I didn’t limit myself to a four word dialogue next time. I hated appearing dull.
As much as I enjoyed wandering through the many gardens of my new home I found that I was growing bored soon after they had departed. So, even though my dorm was still a little too big and still a little too empty for my liking that was where I returned to wait out the remaining time until dinner. I settled on one of the many bean bag chairs, surprised by how little time was actually left, and turned on the TV. To my surprise they actually had a good selection of channels, more even than most fancy hotels. I smiled and flipped on one of my favorite no-brain-required shows.
There was a pit of ice in my stomach as I descended the stairs to dinner. Despite the positive effect my earlier encounter had had on my demeanor I was still more than a little wary of the other student’s here. With good reason. The one good thing about the whole situation was that now that classes were out the halls were less barren. I didn’t feel completely only inside the confines of its walls. With some effort I managed to plaster a smile on my face- I didn’t think it looked too faked but one can never be sure. Head held high, back straight, eyes pointed straight ahead, I walked through them. They didn’t quiet part like the red sea at my approach, but it was close. I could almost feel my inner self curling into a ball; did I really look that much like a vampire?
The dining hall itself was just as I remembered it, spacious and welcoming. Filled to the brim as it was now it even had a homey quality. I joined the line along one wall, hoping that food wouldn’t be disgusting. I intellectually knew that vampires really didn’t have any of the allergies that were so often associated with the legends about them, but I was relieved when I smelled all the normal spices in the lasagna. Oh what a blessing there was in a simple thing like garlic.
Once my tray was loaded with the necessities, like Dr. Pepper, I turned and cast a cursitory gaze around the room. No one seemed to take much notice of me, which was a relief, but also presented the issue of determining where to sit without any of the usual social cues. Inside I sighed. Even the switch from elementary to middle, and later middle to high school was awkward, and then you had the padding of ready made friends. Being the new kid was a pain in the butt. After standing there awkwardly for five minutes or more, when I was just considering sitting by myself at one of the few unpopulated tables, I was hailed by the same girl that had called me earlier. A slight smile on my lips I joined them.
“Hey, Rose!” Said on, smiling warmly at me.
“Hiya, umm…” I trailed off, realizing that I had no idea what her name was. She laughed lightly, not at all put out.
“Liana.” She pointed to the dark-skinned girl. “That’s Annalee,” she waved and flashed her ivory teeth, “Jamie and Kristine,” She pointed at the two who were seated closest together, their heads bent in concentration. Both look up when she said their name, and both grinned, eyes flashing when they saw me. Somehow the even that simple gesture sent a shiver down my spine; I wondered what they were plotting so secretly over in their corner.
“Hello!” They chorused, adding a freak factor that was hardly necessary.
“Sorry about that, they love freaking people out. They’re cousins- and best friends.” Annalee explained her tone one of long suffering.
“And I’m Jason.” Said the boy, looking at me intently. The sound of his voice provoked a question- which was immediately answered.
“He’s completely gay.” Jamie and Kristine looked at me almost as if to gauge my reaction, and Jason turned toward them, but obviously this was something he had expected because he hardly seemed upset.
“Hi Guys!” I whirled; behind me was another, unfamiliar person. But I had a good guess who he was. “Who’s this?” he asked, setting his tray down next to mine. Jason reached out a hand to give him a hi five, and the stranger returned the gesture with easy grace. The color on Annalee’s face was rising, perhaps she liked him? Or was she angry?
“The new inhabitant of the Tower.” I caught myself staring. They really were scary good at that.
“Kelledy huh?” His voice was quiet, assured, and id I hadn’t known one very similar for a very long time I wouldn’t have noticed anything. “Carawin High right?” Oh very smooth, but he knew who I was, and I knew who he was. But I had thought he was already a full-blown vampire, not a mere Promise any longer.
“Yup.” I said jovially. “Why, you know anyone there?”
“Not anymore I hope, everyone I knew should had graduated last year.” He smiled. “Though maybe one or two are serving a term or two as super seniors.” We all grinned at that. “So they gave you a room in the Tower did they?”
“Yeah, why, that unusual?”
“Why don’t you come by Liana’s dorm, or mine, after dinner? Then you might understand the difference.” Annalee said, the smile gone from her voice.
“The last person to be Changed after living in the Tower became a Prophet after he was Changed- as has almost every other inhabitant before him.” Jason said matter-of-factly. “Only a few people ever even go up there, much less get rooms. You’re very lucky or very unfortunate I guess.”
“So wait, your saying that I’m a Prophetess in the making?”
“Who was the last person who lived up there?”
“Not lived, lives.”
I didn’t go to either Annalee or Liana’s dorm after dinner after all. Unlike the others I didn’t linger very long after I had finished my food. I didn’t relish the thought of having the strange dorm all to myself again, much less sleeping in the unfamiliar bed, but I didn’t want to stick around either. I told everyone I was tired, and slipped out. Maybe it was my slightly guilty conscience that made me walk without really seeing, or maybe I really was more tired than I had thought, but I was almost blind as I crossed the many halls between the tower and the cafeteria. I didn’t want to reveal that I knew who the stranger was- that I had known about Aaron since practically the day he had been taken, but I felt bad for not telling him all the same. Maybe if circumstances had been different I wouldn’t have walked right into the last people I wanted to, even if I didn’t know it yet.
“Hey!” She yelled as I bumped into her. It was completely unintentional, a product of weariness and inattention, but she looked like I had purposefully rammed her. I stepped back, slightly intimidated. She looked more like a vampire than I possibly could have. Her face was perfect, mildly angular and well proportioned; her hair was long, wavy, and trailed in perfect golden splendor to her narrow waist. And from the spark in her eyes, and the set of her mouth I knew that I had just royally pissed her off. “Watch where you’re going!” She snapped, and then her eyes widened when she took in my appearance. “You’re that new girl Rose aren’t you?” Had I done something already? Broken some sacred code that had already marked me as a target? The accusation in her tone stung like acid.
“I am.” I said defiantly, if there was one thing I didn’t like it was people who thought they could push you around just because they were bigger, bader, and or prettier and more popular than you.
“You’re pretty bold for a new kid.” She hissed, I smiled sweetly, somehow that always seems to annoy people more… In any case it wasn’t a good idea just then, her eyes darkened and her lips pulled back over perfect ivory teeth. “Look, you may live in the Tower, but you are nothing, just another piece of human trash like everyone else here.”
“Including yourself I assume?” Probably not the best move ever, but I didn’t let my face show my chagrin. She reddened, and raised a hand as if to slap me. I noticed for the first time that she possessed perfectly manicured and very long nails. Claw like nails- she could do damage with those things. I didn’t want to admit that I was afraid, but she was taller than me, obviously madder, and I didn’t have any aspirations to make trouble my first day at an academy full of vampires. No thank you, I may not be the smartest, but I’m no imbecile.
“Selena!” cried a familiar voice from behind me. I shut my eyes. I almost wished she would just hit me, wished that he wasn’t there. I wasn’t ready to confront him again. Aaron’s footsteps echoed in the hall. Only when I was sure he was behind me, could hear his breath, did I open my eyes. It wasn’t just the three of us- there were about four other girls behind Selena- all of whom were pretty, and, from the looks of them and their haughty gazes, arrogant. They were staring at us, unsure as to what they were supposed to do. Or maybe they were just staring at Aaron, I couldn’t be sure.
“What the fuck Selena? What happened?” He asked, ager rising in his voice, as well as concern. I hoped he wasn’t angry with me- I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get along with him, but I didn’t want any enemies, and it already seemed I had at least one.
“She’s just a new freak what do you care?”
“She’s also a human being, which means that you don’t get to treat her like a piece of shit.” He said firmly.
“She ran into me.” Selena said almost pleadingly.
“And you were about to hit her, guess which one is worse. Besides, is that really why you’re upset?” Selena seemed to shrink. “You’re just upset that someone else lives in the Tower now.” The color in Selena’s face drained, and her eyes glittered.
“Selena.” She fell silent looking up at him unhappily. He sighed. “Leave it.” Selena turned away and gave a great sound of irritation. She waved to the others with her.
“Come on.” And waltzed away.
“You coming?” he asked me, jerking his head in the direction of the tower.
I discovered very quickly that his pace was faster than my own; I was almost jogging just to keep up. He laughed softly when he saw me and slowed down. I was tempted to glare, to punch him lightly on the shoulder, any of the small playful gestures I might have given his brother. Instead I looked down and blushed. Epic Failure. The only thing that kept be from turning red from my ears to my toes was the knowledge that it would have been something akin to betrayal to treat Aaron the same way I treated Liam, at least so soon. I was Liam’s friend, not his older brother’s.
“You ok?” He asked after a moment.
“Huh?” I asked, feeling particularly imbecilic. Aaron only smiled, lightly. I missed Liam, the way his smiles would actually light up his face. Aaron seemed incapable of the same warmth, he was all cold ice.
“Are you ok? Selena can be a bit… overbearing. No one needs to deal with her crap their first day here. Plus you’re a Tower kid- you don’t need any additional stress.” I nodded absently, he was trying to be nice, but he still felt distant to me, sort of like a shadow of Liam, or the ghost of someone I’d only briefly known. There was some familiarity there, but both of us were uneasy, and neither was willing to close that precarious gap just yet.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I can take care of myself.” His smirk deepened.
“I know.” I started, trying to meet his eyes for the briefest of moments, but the second my eyes came close to meeting with those grey green eyes, but thought better of it at the last instant. I studied his shiny black shoes instead.
It was a very long time before the somewhat familiar corridor just outside the Tower stairwell enveloped us. A very long time. Ok so it was only like three minutes, but still- it felt like half of forever. I paused, looking around at the books that surrounded us. I was still as puzzled by the books as before, and none of the covers seemed willing to give up any of their secrets. Walking over to one that caught my eye I traced my fingers along it’s velvety spine, feeling the whispers of the words inside, just beyond hearing.
“What are you doing?”
“Shhh, the books. Maybe if I listen hard enough they’ll tell me their stories.” I said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
“Rose!” he laughed, “No one but a prophet or a pureblood had read those books in hundreds of years, no one else could once they stopped teaching the shadow tongue.”
“The shadow tongue?”
“The original language of the vampires. It can be written in any language, but you have to be able to speak it before it’ll make any sense. And no one remembers it. Prophets will meditate over the pages in times of great need, sometimes something will come to them. Only the ancients remember, and they don’t share what they know to just anyone.” A wave of disappointment threatened to overwhelm me for a second, those whispers were so inviting- but it passed.
“The shadow tongue.” I murmured.
“Come on, let’s get to bed.” Aaron called, already halfway up the first step. I followed him, hesitantly.
I had forgotten the number of stairs there were leading up to my rooms. My thighs were burning long before we reached that strange haven. At first I was swift, treating them as I would any one of the staircases at home or school- gradually I slowed, my pace dictated by my ever wearier legs. Aaron mounted the steps with all the ease and grace with which he walked normally, never slowing till he noticed that I was lagging behind. Every once in a while we passed by a door, and I always expected him to enter one of them, always I half hoped that the door led to his rooms. It wasn’t that his company was uncomfortable, just strange and un-wanted. Finally, with me breathing harder than I would admit, he reached the top, and my ornate door beckoned. Or, more accurately, the bed behind it beckoned.
“So you really are all the way at the top huh?” He muttered, more to himself than to me.
“Yep!” I said brightly, and stepped inside. I was of half a mind to simply close the door without saying goodnight, or thanking him for walking me, but years of politeness is a hard thing to overcome. “Goodnight.” I said, coolly. I hadn’t intended to be cold, but it simply happened without my consent or permission.
“Goodnight.” Aaron responded with more warmth- and turned away without seeming insulted. I breathed a sigh of relief, not quiet sure why I was relieved. At the last moment before I closed the door he turned, glancing over his shoulder casually.
“You know, Liam always had good taste in friends, but still, you are more intriguing than any I’d met.” He disappeared behind the curve in the wall, and I shut the door, slowly. I was confused, but I was dead tired and didn’t bother trying to figure out what Aaron had meant by that. I was going to have to go to classes tomorrow, and I didn’t know when they were going to start, there was no reason good enough for me to stay up stressing. I was not going to make a fool of myself my first day, I was not.
The moon was full, yet the night seemed darker than usual. The stars were bright-and a thin mist crept across the ground, obscuring her feet. Despite the chill in the air she was dressed as if for a summer day, yet she wasn’t shivering. Frantically she looked side to side, her eyes wide and fearful. The mild crunching of boots on leaves behind her made her jump. She ran. Finally, as her legs failed her, she turned toward the sound, long lost in the night. Her breath came in a succession of quick painful gasps. She bent, reaching for the small dagger she had hidden in her boot. Unsheathing it she moved into the guard position. She already knew that it was over, but she wasn’t going to go down quietly. She bared her teeth and hissed, inviting him to come forward, to try anything. He stepped into a stray ray of moonlight, smiling. Against her will her breath caught, her heart pounded a little faster.
“Oh come now little prophet- there is no need to struggle. Immortality is nothing to fear. I promise.”
Morning light was just filtering in through the tinted glass of the three windows when I woke. I wasn’t particularly tired; instead my perception was laced with the barest fear- like there was something or someone watching me. Sitting up I was struck at first by how strange the room was, how unfamiliar. It took a moment for me to remember the events of the previous two days. I half smiled- wouldn’t it be nice if this whole thing were just a nightmare, if I was really home, sleeping in my bed, in my room, about to wake up and go to school with my friends. This whole thing felt like someone else’s life, the life of a familiar and similar stranger. I showered, brushed my teeth- and put on the uniform that had appeared in my closet overnight. It was simple, and it had to be said, rather stylish. I was allowed to wear any shirt I liked under the black and silver frock-coat – and I had the choice of simple black pants, a more formal long skirt, or a flirty mini-skirt. I was hardly surprised when all the clothes fit like they had been made for me. Hell, they probably had been. Sure enough, once I was dressed and felt somewhat human again I checked the door, pinned to it was a thick envelope.
Welcome to White Rose Academy Rose Kelledy,
Enclosed in this envelope is your current class schedule- this of course can be changed to suit your interests and talents; however we would appreciate it if you attended these classes for this first day rather than trying to have them changed just yet. Breakfast is ready at 7:00 AM every day; the dinning hall is open until 8:00 AM. It will open again at Noon and remain so until 2:00 PM Dinner is served at 6:00. All students are given a free hour after lunch, during which time they are allowed to pursue whatever activity they please. Also enclosed is a school events schedule that notes any important upcoming school functions as well as rest days.
Nightwing? That was weird, but she was a vampire, maybe it went with the whole creature of the night and your nightmares thing. Sure enough, as she had promised there was a schedule for me, and one that one for the school, I barely glanced at either before fishing out the third, unmentioned piece of paper.
As you may well know you are a Promise of special merit- one that has the potential to become a prophetess and start a blood lineage. As such you are a very valuable person in vampiric society. Very soon perhaps you will be expected to take part in the functions of that society, to know its inner workings and expectations. Already your name is included in our nobility; you are Lady Rose of the dark court from the moment you open this letter on. Take caution, there are many that will seek to take a hold of you or influence your thinking while you are still a Promise. Trust only those you know- and by careful even of them. Little is as it seems.
The letter wasn’t signed.
I can’t say I didn’t like the sound of that, but the rest of the letter. I was on edge. What had I been thrust into?
Instead of dwelling on that I picked up my class schedule.
6-7 AM Breakfast
1st Hour- History
2nd Hour- Literature
3rd Hour- Drawing
4th Hour- Vampire Society
5th Hour- Basic Self-Defense
7th Hour- Modern Myth
8th Hour- Music
9th Hour- Drama
Optional Vampire Studies
11:00 PM- Lights out.
Normal enough, or at least as normal as I had expected, but no Math? I stifled a shout of happiness. No more stupid tests that I inevitably failed. Maybe they had taken a look at my grades when choosing what classes I was going to take- they had chosen well, there wasn’t a single class that I didn’t want to take on whole sheet. I didn’t bother with the school schedule beyond pinning it to the corkboard behind my bed.
A knock at my door made me jump, and reminded me that I wasn’t the only person in the school. I stood, brushed off my rumpled uniform, and opened the door. Unsurprisingly it was Aaron who stood there. He looked surprised to see me though.
“You’re up early.”
“I don’t know- nightmare I guess.” I said exasperatedly as I pushed past him. “Why does it matter?”
“Rose, you’re a prophet, everything matters.”
“I am not a prophet, not yet, that only happens after I change right?”
“But what?” I practically yelled, and my voice echoed in the confined stairwell. “Sorry.” I muttered once the rebound had finished.
“They wouldn’t have put you in that room if they didn’t think you were special, even for a prophet.” I paused.
“Vampires think I’m special?” I chuckled, “No way.” But what about that letter- and its mysterious writer… no, I wasn’t special; I wasn’t any different from any of the other humans here. I was just another Promise; I had to tell myself that.
Aaron remained silent for the rest of the walk, which meant that it was very long and very awkward. I distracted myself by admiring the building once more. I felt like I was caught in some great fantasy world, the whole place was too beautiful, too good to be true. I smiled; well it was the home of a bunch of bloodsucking fiends so maybe it wasn’t entirely perfect after all.
When we passed the many bookshelves I paused, just for the barest of seconds, staring at the spines. Something seemed to hum in me when I looked at those books, and I wanted nothing more than to be able to open one of them and actually understand the passages within.
Not nearly as many kids were in the dinning hall now as there had been at dinner the day before- but I could still find the familiar faces of Annalee, Liana, Jamie, Kristine, and Jason. I waved, and to my relief, they waved back. Aaron went straight to the table while I joined the long line waiting for breakfast. I crawled forward at an agonizing rate, I wanted to go sit down with the others, wanted to compare class schedules and figure out how awful my day was going to be. All my impatience faded when I actually saw what was available. There was everything from plain and nutritious cereals in little individual boxes to waffles and crepes with an assortment of warm toppings that set my mouth watering. It was like I-Hop meets buffet table. I resisted the temptation to load my plate with all the sugary and sweet things I could I grabbed a pancake and some scrambled eggs. I even went light on the syrup. To my surprise they also had the one morning necessity I had never expected, coffee, brewed black but they also provided pretty much every ingredient ever thought of by man to put in it. I was tempted- but I didn’t use any of the syrups or exotic spices.
Breakfast was something that I only rarely actually ate, mostly due to time constraints in the morning, but I couldn’t resist now that it was easy and part of the normal schedule. It surprised me when I realized that something as simple as that could make this whole place feel more like home, especially when only days before I would have done anything to avoid coming here. Oh, White Rose Academy was still far from someplace I could comfortably call my home, I was not yet a part of it, not it me, but it was becoming more and more familiar with each passing hour. I couldn’t yet fathom thinking of that place as a haven; it was still too new, to strange.
As soon as I was close enough I saw that Annalee and the others had had to pull over a second table to accommodate for all of us. I felt all warm and glowing at the sight of my seat, right in the middle of them all. I sat in the midst of idle chatter, but each person paused in what they were doing to look up and meet my eyes. I smiled- it was so easy to get along with them.
“Nightwing is insane if she thinks anyone is actually going to finish this!” Jason sighed in exasperation; I noticed that he had just put his pencil against the paper with an air of finality, marking the final period on what looked to be quite the long essay. The others laughed.
“What does Natalie teach?” I asked quietly. They all stared for a moment before recovering themselves.
“Natalie?” Liana’s voice was ripe with question.
“Yeah, she gave me a tour of the place yesterday, but I only learned her last name from the letter she wrote along with my schedule. They looked at each other silently. Finally,
“Did Nightwing introduce herself as Natalie to you?” inquired Annalee. Aaron took another sip of his orange juice before answering.
“No- she wasn’t the one who gave me the tour either though.” He said after a long pause. Liana and Kristine looked grim.
“I wonder what they’re expecting.”
“Maybe she’s gonna start a really powerful bloodline on top of being a prophetess.”
“Maybe she’s just really unlucky.” Aaron said staring daggers at the two of them.
“We all know you don’t like Nightwing, but until you enlighten us as to why there’s no reason to be all hateful!” Kristine looked mildly offended, and Liana glowered.
“Come on guys, not this again.” Annalee sighed and looked at Jason.
“So what is the essay about?”
“Vampire society as it’s evolved and the modern connotations and influences on every day life.” He said nonchalantly, I stared. “It really isn’t as hard as it sounds.” He said after a moment, almost comfortingly. “But honestly, no one is going to finish a decently long essay in only one night, not with everything else there is to do.”
“Everything else?” I asked, sure that I sounded as imbecilic as I felt.
“You’ll see.” Jason promised, “But seriously, no one is going to do well on this.”
“Oh?” Annalee reached over and snatched the pile of papers on his lap. “Me thinks someone might have just been a tad untruthful. There must be five pages here!” Jason smiled impishly.
“Did I ever mention that I had a new nickname I didn’t tell anyone about?” He said- his smile bled into his voice.
“Let me guess… no one.” Annalee looked exasperated.
“How’d you know?” He laughed. I smiled; this was exactly the sort of thing I was used to, easy going, simple, and requiring only minimal brain function. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to laugh or cry, there was simply too much happening all at once and I wasn’t ready for it.
As it turned out there I had someone I knew in almost every class; the only one that I was alone in the Self-Defense, and I hadn’t really been worried about that one in the first place. Liana and I left just before the others- she claimed that the history classroom was relatively far away, but judging by the looks on the other’s faces, only half concealed, that was not really the case. Sure enough, as soon as we had left the dinning hall she turned toward me, her mouth set.
“Nightwing gave you the tour, and your dorm is in the Tower.” She stated calmly.
“Yeah, what of it?”
“You wouldn’t understand yet, you need to spend a few months here, studying the way things work in this world before you would. But- I think that there is a really good reason for them to be giving you all this special treatment. Aaron is supposed to be a prophet, same as you, and he was rumored to be the most promising potential prophet in nearly a century. But they didn’t give him the best room in the Tower, and Nightwing didn’t fawn over him as if he were an equal. They’ve done both for you. Either you’re destined to be one of the most powerful vamps ever or they’ve got plans for you.”
“Wait, this is getting to be a bit too much like a grand conspiracy theory to me.” I said, laughing off everything she’d said.
“Rose- I’m serious, this is really frightening. No on is going to like it, and no one is going to know what to do about you. We were told that you were a potential prophetess before you came, but we didn’t expect this. At the very least if the fact the Nightwing was the one who greeted you get out the other Promised will be confused. Some will be afraid.” I grinned, I was sure that she was simply kidding. Although it wasn’t all that funny.
“Look, lets just get to class ok?” She looked at me, and nodded, slowly.
“Alright, but don’t say I didn’t warm you.”
The walk was longer than I had thought after all; the class was in one of the side buildings, one that was rather close to the forest that crouched up against the edge of school bounds. There was a very ethereal quality to the air there. We all filed in at roughly the same time, and the rest of the class took their seats- I stood at the front, trying to be unobtrusive, and feeling entirely too obvious. Finally a distant bell pealed the sound reverberating inside the silent room. There was still no teacher in sight. No one moved, and I couldn’t be sure if they were all looking at the whiteboard beside me, or staring at me. Either way I was more than a little frightened by it. Finally the door opened with a creak and in stepped a woman whose appearance was at once frightening and funny. She was obviously a vampire, her pale skin and dark luminous eyes attested to that. But her black hair was tied back into a bun, though it did little to contain the frizz. Stray hairs were everywhere, framing her face and creating almost a halo about her head. She wore glasses- and she was carrying about four times as many books and papers as she was able to comfortably. Her dress was typical of teachers, but dark and a bit outdated. I immediately rushed forward to catch the leaning tower of books in her arms. We shuffled over to the desk, which was already littered with loose papers and innumerable books. Once we had them all settled to the point of not collapsing. She smiled at me- her whole face split by the grandmotherly grin.
“You must be Rose! Welcome!” I nodded- her enthusiasm was infectious. The light from a window glinted off her teeth, highlighting the two delicate points. I tried not to wince. Obviously something must have shown on my face for she laughed, not at all concerned. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.” She said consolingly. The classroom was more relaxed with her in it- despite her clearly being a vampire I found myself taking to her- the sort of blind affection one gets when one finds someone whim whom they will get along absolutely. “Here, why don’t you sit in the back next to Kai over there?” She said, pointing toward a boy whose long black hair was tied back in a loose ponytail. He didn’t look up- he didn’t move as I took the seat next to him. I chose not to let it bother me. The stares that followed me from the front of the class all the way to the back row got to me a little I have to admit. Liana winked reassuringly at me and turned toward the teacher.
“Well as you all know today is the day we start our unit on the middle ages…”
I was smiling as I left the class, Professor Shanara was good at what she did- even though the whole period had been devoted to lecture not a single person’s eyes strayed from her and no one seemed at all bored. The way she spoke, with only the slightest of Irish accents, was so invigorating and capturing that it seemed you were right there as the events she spoke of unfolded. Her curriculum was unlike any I’d ever seen before. She said we were going to cover all of the knights of Camelot as well as Arthur himself, and Morgan le Fey- as well as Henry the 8th- and others, all of whom became more interesting as she spoke their names. I paused by the door, soaking in the sunlight and the sweet scent of the roses. Kai pushed passed me, his shoulder roughly knocking me aside. He didn’t even turn to apologize as he walked by. I was about to shout after him when Liana laid a gentle hand on my shoulder.
“Don’t bother, Kai doesn’t care, and you don’t want to make him mad.”
“Why? Isn’t he a Promise just like us?” Liana looked a little surprised.
“No, he’s one of the youngest sons of the Blackmore bloodline, a pureblood vampire. His parent sent him here as a sort of boarding school- they didn’t want to have a young pureblood like him wandering around unsupervised and sending him to one of the Academies was their best option.”
“Oh.” I said feeling sorry for him. “Does that happen often?”
“No not really, it’s only rare in really big influential bloodlines like the Blackmores- Kai is unique mostly because he’s a pureblood. They’re rare enough, to send him here rather than keep him under the yoke of Blackmore influence; some people certainly think they’re mad.” I nodded, pretending that I understood. Liana smiled, seeming to understand that I really had no clue what the big deal was. “Don’t worry; you’ll understand before long, it’s not really all that hard to pick up. After a month or two this all will seem normal.” I was doubtful of that, but nodded anyway.
My classes all seemed to pass with that same flow, all the students were attentive and respectful, but the teachers themselves seemed rather easy going and captivating. So, to my general surprise, I was relaxed and enjoying myself despite the awkwardness of being the new kid and knowing next to nothing about what was going on. It was only in Vampire society that everyone else seemed to be equally unsure. It was clear that they were starting a new unit, or that the class was a new one.
“We will be studying the dynamics of Vampire interaction both in the modern world and in ancient times. This is important as you all know because many of the most important figures in our society are old enough that they remember and hold to some of the more outdated customs of civilized society.” It made sense in my head, but there was someone in the back who obviously had an objection. A silken male voice slithered through the room, demanding my instant attention as my breath paused and quickened. I turned to see if I could find the person the voice belonged to, and my eyes focused on Kai, as had every other person’s in the room.
“Those that hold to custom anyway.” He had said, softly and obviously not expecting to be heard.
“Oh? Is there something you would like to say, Blackmore?” Asked Natalie in a cool voice- he may be a vampire but she obviously was not in awe of him like the student body seemed to be.
“Well obviously not all of us hold to the old ways, and there is at least one custom no one holds to anymore, too conspicuous.”
“Meaning?” Kai smiled.
“I thought it would be obvious. I mean all the rogues… the vampires who aren’t content with willing donors, or even the old tradition of killing our prey, the ones who turn humans into the very same creature. As for the tradition no one follows, well that too is painfully clear, we don’t kill every human we bite.” Nightwing glared.
“We will of course be covering the rogues as well, and it is still important that they understand the full range of our society, past and present, that they might take a hand in our future.” She flashed a brilliant smile, and was it just me, or was she looking right at me? Was it just me, or was the whole class following her example? Oh please, please say that it was just me… that I’m going crazy, or something, I didn’t even want to think about all those eyes. I resisted temptation to look back, to see if Kai had joined in staring.
“Do you intend to make it seem that the rogues are actually a part of our society then?” He asked after a moment. His voice was very calm, but it had a rough edge to it, like he was the slightest bit uncomfortable.
“Well, yes, they are as much a part of our society as a criminal is a part of human society. Even a murderer is still human, and so even a rogue is still a vampire. It is inevitable that they too should be considered a part of our social chain.” Kai was glaring, and I began to wonder how Natalie was keeping so calm, it was almost like she was immune.
He remained silent for the rest of the class, sulking in the corner. Natalie continued in a pleasant voice, outlining the curriculum and taking questions. No one seemed to have very many, most people didn’t say a word. I took my time leaving the class, part of me wanted Natalie to stop me, to explain what was going on, the other part hoped that she wouldn’t. Equally conflicted was the vain hope that Kai would say something to me, anything. I didn’t care if it was biting sarcasm or even vague interest- I just wanted him to say something, to acknowledge that what had just passed was strange, and that he had noticed.
Lunch was something of a relief, nothing really had been too strenuous, not even the self defense class, the teacher had just taken be to one side, given me a quick explanation of the rules in the class, and started me on some basic kicks. That was it. And no teacher did anything like Natalie had- which was a blessing. But still, I was thankful that I had a break from the pressures of new classes and unfamiliar faces. I grabbed a salad- darting in and out of line as quickly as I could. Annalee was the only person already at our table, but she smiled when I sat down.
“Where are the others, I didn’t see them in the line.”
“They’ll show up eventually, they’re probably just waiting for the line to die down a bit.”
“It doesn’t seem that bad.” I commented, taking a bite of crisp lettuce. She laughed.
“That’s because everyone waits for the line to die down, getting here on time is actually faster.” I chuckled a little. Sure enough, one by one the others trooped in, and came to sit with us without food while they waited for the line, which was now larger than ever. Anna winked at me and I smiled back. Jason was the first to come in, and he sat down right next to me, putting his arm around my shoulders. I tensed, and he laughed, but he did move his arm.
“Oh, yeah, sorry.”
“Don’t apologize- trust me, everyone does that for a while.” He smiled. Have I mentioned that Jason was cute, really really cute? Why is it that all the decent guys are gay, or too like a brother to have boyfriend potential? I smiled at him.
“Hey guys.” Liana looked tired, but otherwise content.
“Hi.” We chorused, and then laughed.
Days passed with ever increasing speed and more and more I began to think of White Rose Academy as home. At the same time I longed for my old home more and more with each day- I missed the people I had known, my family, I missed knowing that the next day was going to be the same as the day before, and that nothing unexpected would happen. Once I got used to it I did well in my classes, better than I had done in any of the ones back home. Anna told me that was normal. Before I knew it a whole month had gone by.
It was our free hour, and for once everyone actually had homework, except me- I almost never did, the answers to everything came so naturally to me. Instead of wandering around in one of the gardens, or reading in the library I found myself in the room leading to the tower stairs. The air was cool and pleasantly scented- light filtered in from the colored glass windows, making the white walls and floor dance with color. I closed my eyes and let the simple scents of the school, of the hall, fill me to the brim. I sighed. When I considered it I knew that this was now more my home than any other place had been, but I still longed for the ignorant bliss that had come along with being a part of that other world. It had only been a few weeks, yet I felt that I belonged here. Everything was so alive, and yet the whole place was bathed with age and mystery. There was not a single place in the whole of the Academy that did not seem to me like it could tell a hundred stories of years past. This room especially felt like it had more than enough secrets, wondrous tales to tell, stories of all things. I had just to unlock the secret.
Finally, when it seemed that those whispers had begun to fade, that I had failed to find the key I needed, I opened my eyes. There were still the books if I could not pry what I wanted from these walls. Letting intuition guide me I strode to one of the towering bookcases and ran my fingers along the spines of the many books it house. Everything from supple leather to soft velvet provided protection to the aged pages. The titles were faded in many cases, but I could still tell that there wasn’t a single volume on this shelf that I could read. Still, I selected a volume covered in deep green velvet. The pages were yellowed, and crackled with age. Sitting I leafed through them, staring at the unfamiliar script trying to make sense of each sentence in turn. I knew by now that this was among the plainer volumes there, the pages weren’t illuminated- and the ink was fading badly, so that some passages were nothing more than a smudge of almost script. But it wasn’t without decoration; every few pages there were beautifully crafted pictures- and it was these that held my attention. All of them were akin to the first such work I had seen in this room, they were filled with a vibrancy that surpassed the years and the ink with which they had been crafted, and, to me, it seemed that they told the stories far more accurately than could the mere words that went along with them. It was troubling though, some of those pictures, often they depicted people who were far more modern than the book itself could possibly be, people who were dressed as though they were part of current society. I knew I was looking at a book of prophecy, or at least I was almost certain of it- but it was still unsettling to look at. The worst part was that all the faces were blurred, so I never knew if one of those unsettling pictures might be someone I knew, or someone I would know.
I was looking at one such when the door behind me opened with a pronounced creak. I jumped, startled, and dropped the volume. It landed open, still on the same page. Aaron was smirking.
“You surprised me!” I couldn’t help it if my voice was a little tiny bit weak still, really I couldn’t.
“I noticed. I didn’t mean to, I assure you.” By the way he said it he hadn’t, but it was a pleasant side-effect. “Nightwing said you’d be here, I didn’t think the door would creak like that, sorry.” That was one thing I didn’t think I was ever going to get used to, vampires seemed to have this sense about them, some of them almost seemed to be able to tell what you were thinking. Natalie in particular was not shy about knowing things that she should have no way of knowing. “She wanted me to give you this; it’s a letter from your friends.” I noticed for the first time that he was holding an envelope in one hand.
Aaron and I had yet to figure out exactly how everything was going to work between us. We were still dancing around one another, testing boundaries and seeing if friendship was an option. Or at least he was, I was too confused whenever I was around him to do anything of the sort. He was very like his brother- and yet, they were impossibly different.
“Thanks.” I said, taking the envelope with a single quick motion. I knew it was rude, but I couldn’t bring myself to apologize, that last picture… He didn’t seem to mind.
“What’s this?” He asked, picking up the book. “Been reading this whole time?”
“Not really I thought you said there was no way anyone could anyway..” Aaron smiled.
“I almost forgot how new you were. Some of us can the ones who live in the Tower anyway, the ones that are destined to be prophets. I just thought maybe you had figured it out- It’s something that seems to be hardwired into the brains of people like us, the ones that draw vampires like flies to honey. Some of the teachers think that all the Promised must be descendants from the caretakers of old. That the Promised Prophets almost certainly are.” He said matter-of-factly. I knew of them, vaguely. I hadn’t been taught about the caretakers exactly, but I had read about them in one of my textbooks. They were humans- but unlike most others. Vampires can smell the taste of our blood, sort of, it’s like a sixth sense, and some humans are just more desirable than others. During a timeframe of relative peace and great prosperity some of the more noble houses of the vampires began to adopt these humans. They were similar to servants, but more highly respected. It was the caretakers that saw to daily life around some of the larger gathering places of vampires, it was the caretakers who saw to the young and old, and it was the caretakers who often sacrificed themselves to protect their noble masters. One and all the caretakers had blood that was more desirable than normal; they served a double purpose, servants and perfume. Even now, when that order is extinct, the older vampires, especially the ones who can remember the caretakers speak of them respectfully, almost with awe.
Eventually though, as was bound to happen, they were killed off, one vampire would have uncontrollable bloodlust and would strike down the humans around it, almost all of them died. I had never heard that the Promised might be their descendants though.
“Yeah- that’s part of how they can tell we’re Promised. We’ll hit a point in our lives where we’re damn near irresistible to a few vampires- that’s when we’ll be changed most likely.” He looked down at the page, and froze.
“What is it?” I asked, worried.
“Nothing, it’s nothing. Do you have any idea who this might be?” His voice was unusually soft.
“Not a clue, I can’t read it remember? Can you?”
“Almost, but it keeps slipping away, it’s just- she looks an awful lot like you.” He was almost whispering now- but the words still seemed to echo in the hall.
“No way, I look nothing like that, she looks graceful, and powerful, and frightening- besides, she’s a vampire. “
“And you’re going to be a vampire someday, she looks like I think you would, once you’ve been changed. Come on, I know someone who can read this,” he pointed to the line of script at the bottom of the painting. “if he agrees to anyway. Quick, go put that letter in your room; I think you should hear what this says.” I did as he said, not least because I was beginning to be afraid he might be right. The subject of that picture had been like many of the others I had seen, frighteningly familiar.
Kai was sitting by himself in one of the many gardens. His back was turned toward us, and the fountain to his right hid the sound of our footsteps. It was a beautiful place really, all white stone, green leaves, bright flowers, and blue water, and there he was, soberly dressed in all black, his matching hair loosely trailing down his back. He was more relaxed that I had ever seen him; more relaxed than I had thought was possible.
“Kai.” Aaron said. To my surprise Kai didn’t shift at all, he didn’t even seem surprised.
“What do you want?” again the smooth velvet that was his voice swept over me. For a moment I had to remind myself to breathe, I wondered if it was true that vampires could hypnotize humans just by speaking.
“Just a quick translation. I figured it wouldn’t be any problem for you, you being a pure-blood.” Aaron sounded like he was on edge, oh his voice was perfectly polite, and stiffly calm, but something about the way he formed the words told me that he didn’t like Kai at all, and hated asking for a favor from him.
“A translation? You mean the two prophets to be cannot even figure out a simple sentence in the shadow tongue? I thought you two were supposed to be prodigies of some kind, not imbeciles who don’t even understand the tongue of their people.” I was taken aback by how sharp his voice had become, how angry, and yet- laced with something else, something I couldn’t quiet identify.
“There isn’t any reason to be nasty.” Aaron said, almost soothingly. “We just needed some help.” Kai finally turned toward us, and in his eyes there was something akin to hatred.
“Fine. I don’t understand why you would ask me, but ok. Bring it here.” Even the way he sat was elegant, filled with poise and grace. His legs were crossed at the ankles, and he tilted just the tiniest bit forward, his face turned toward us. Aaron handed him the book. He looked down, and his expression changed, but not the way Aaron’s had. Rather than looking surprised, or worried, but his face seemed more blank than before, more like a mask than an expression.
“Why did you want me to translate this?” he asked, and the velvet was back, unaltered by emotion of any kind.
“Mindless curiosity, I thought it might be interesting, that all.” Aaron supplied nonchalantly.
“Not you, her. Why does Rose want this translated?”
“She doesn’t, she was content looking at the picture.”
“Rose?” Kai didn’t look at me, and I was tempted to say that it was true, that Aaron had dragged me here out of his curiosity alone.
“What he says is true, I was happy enough to stare at the painting. But I came because there’s a part of me that thinks that there’s something important about it, and, whoever that is, she seems incredibly familiar. I want to know what it says. Please?” I said, hoping that nothing of my sudden uncertainty had leaked into my voice.
“I was really hoping you weren’t going to say that.” He took a deep breath, and closed his eyes for a second. “When the Blood Moon rises, and the Society is revealed, as promised by sacred vow and woven bond, she of the shadow, of the darkness entwined, she of light entombed, will wake. In the time of Blood Moon’s reign.” He sighed, I quivered, I didn’t think I understood what the prophecy itself meant, but I couldn’t stop, it was like something in my head had gone click, and I was afraid. I was very afraid.
“I think I’ve heard that one before.” Aaron said softly.
“I would be surprised if you hadn’t. It’s common enough, no one really knows what it’s supposed to mean, or at least if they do they don’t say. But it’s referenced in at least half of the prophecies written after it, which marks it as something to pay attention to. The fact that the two of you took interest in it does not bode well.” I was still shaking a little bit, and the adrenaline pumping through my veins was less than helpful. I was on edge, and I didn’t even know why- there wasn’t any reason for it, it was just the words that accompanied the picture I loved, just a few sentences from a book that always seemed about to whisper me it’s secrets. There wasn’t a single logical reason for my reaction, not a single one. I wouldn’t have tried to deny that I was having it though, or that I was still scared.
Kai looked at me at last, and I could see that he already knew something was wrong even before his eyes met mine. I more than half wished that he hadn’t been the one to notice, I wished that Aaron had been the one to turn, to realize that something was wrong. Part of me wanted to yell at myself for being an imbecile for wanting it, but I did, and I was not fool enough to deny it.
“Are you alright?” he asked quietly, his nostrils flared. I opened my mouth, and closed it, and opened it again, still I seemed incapable of speech.
“Aaron, you do smell the difference?”
“Smell what difference? All I smell is the flowers!” Aaron said, and for the first time his annoyance was plain to hear. Something flashed across my sight, making everything disappear for a moment. It was like someone had covered my eyes with a black cloth, only it wasn’t blackness that obscured my sight, rather a flash of color- there and gone in an instant. I swayed on my feet. I must have blinked, because one second Kai was on the bench several feel away from me, and the next he was right there, his hand at my elbow, steadying me. Unconsciously I leaned toward him.
“She needs to see Nightwing, come on, help me get her into the school.” Everything blurred.
I woke up only a few minutes later, with Natalie’s cold fingers against my forehead and her whispers in my ear. Something felt terribly wrong. I jerked away from her touch, my eyes flying open as I did so. There was concern on her fair face, and I could almost relax, almost. Once again something in the pit of my stomach told me that all was not right.
“Are you feeling alright, Rose?” She asked, and I smiled hugely.
“I’m fine Ms. Nightwing. Thanks!”
“Not a problem dear. Why don’t you take the afternoon off though, just to be sure.”
“Alright.” I said, standing up and turning toward the door. It didn’t even occur to me that I shouldn’t have known where the door was. I had never been in this room before; I should have had no clue where I was. Something stopped me momentarily… and I looked over my shoulder at Natalie.
“You don’t mind if I go to optional class after dinner do you?”
“No, as a matter of fact I think that that is a wonderful idea Rose.”
“Ok, thanks.” I closed the door.
I wasn’t anywhere near my familiar haunt in the school, but I thought I could find my way anyway- it actually wasn’t as big a place as it seemed. I breathed a sigh of relief, it would have been only too embarrassing to have to go back in to Natalie’s office and ask for directions back to my dorm room.
“Are you alright?” I jumped. Kai was sitting on a bench not two feet away from the door.
“Yeah I’m fine. Where’s Aaron?” I blushed, I hadn’t meant to say that last bit- but it was more than a little disconcerting to be alone with Kai. I wondered if that was just a side effect of his being a vampire.
“Damage control.” He said with a small amused smile. “It turns out we weren’t as alone as we thought, some of the other Promised saw you- specifically saw you collapse. Selena heard.” I groaned. Selena had left me alone for the most part after that first encounter- but she had taken every opportunity she’d gotten to make snide comments about the new girl. I wasn’t looking forward to another encounter with her, not after this.
“Why does she have to target me?” I asked quietly, directing the question more to myself than Kai, but he answered anyway.
“Because she’s human, and shallow, and you’re like Aaron- who she’s doted on ever since he came.” I looked at him.
“Never mind, it’s none of either of our business.” I glared. He held my gaze unflinchingly; I was the one who looked away first.
“Come on, you should go back to your dorm. I think there has been more than enough excitement for one day.” He stood and looked at me expectantly; I hesitated- struck once more by how different he was. It wasn’t just that he seemed so much older at times, the way he moved and held himself- it was so different. Everything he did made it more and more clear that he wasn’t human. Even meeting his eyes for the briefest of times made it clear that there too there was something that marked him as different even from us, those who were destined to join him and his kind. I wondered if the difference that existed between him and the teachers was because he was younger, or if it was because he was a pureblood, and, as far as I knew, they were not.
My eyes strayed to the floor as I stepped forward, coming even with him in three short movements. He was taller than me, by a lot, he practically towered head and shoulders above my small frame, and I was uncomfortable knowing that he was looking at me. I didn’t see him move, I suppose my eyes must have been closed, for he, ever so gently, placed two fingers underneath my chin, forcing me to look up. Or compelled me to, I didn’t put up much of a fight. He was looking straight down at me, his eyes meeting mine with their full intensity. I noticed for the first time that they were a pure steely grey, with only the barest hints of icy blue. I couldn’t read anything in them, it was as if everything, every emotion and thought he had ever had was safely hidden beneath the deep pools of color. I must have imagined that he was searching for something, looking for something in my eyes even as I searched his.
“No- it’s gone now.” I must have imagined the only half heard whisper as well. Without explanation or any reaction at all his hand dropped, and my eyes traveled back down to the floor in silent and fervent embarrassment.
My room was only dimly lit, I had closed the window when I left, and there wasn’t any need for additional light during the day. Kai had only walked me about halfway before departing, for which I was grateful. Things had been all too confusing since the fateful letter had changed everything about my life. I hadn’t seen anyone else the whole way there though. Classes must have resumed while I was in Nightwing’s office. Practically collapsing onto my bed I shut my eyes and focused on my breathing. That at least was constant, predicable.
It wasn’t the first time since I had come here that I was overcome with longing for my old life, my old friends, my family. I had had only a little contact with any of them since arriving. Liam and Lilly had been completely silent. I’d received a few phone calls from my family, and twice they’d been in for brief visits. Very brief. They hadn’t stayed for more than half an hour either time, and honestly I could blame them, everything about this place put them on edge. I had discovered early on that the strange ethereal quality to all of it was restful to me, pleasant, for them though it was merely unsettling. Besides, I was about to become a vampire, a monster who, as far as they knew, would be as interested in killing them as in continuing to be a part of their family. For living in a town so close to such a large population of both vampires and Promised they were very ignorant as to what either group was really like. I had been like that too- and regretted it all the more now that I actually knew. But there was still nothing I wanted more than a phone call from home, or one of my friends. A familiar voice was all I needed to remind me that the world was real- that I was still a part of it and not floating in the middle of someone’s sick nightmare.
I rolled onto my side, thinking about trying to catch some sleep before dinner, when something made a distinct crackling sound under me. I sat up and stared down at the letter I had forgotten. Fear was a familiar sensation by now, but I had had no idea that it could be sparked by something as simple as a plain white envelope. I supposed it must have been because of the fateful, and horrible, nature of the letters I had most recently received. Still. With a hand that was only trembling a little, I picked up the envelope. Inside I discovered a single sheet of white printer paper, and a pressed lily.
The flower fell to the ground with the gentle grace of falling leaves, and it’s scent lingered on the paper I held in my hand. Carefully I retrieved the flower and put it on the table by my bed, marveling at the silkiness of its petals, despite their fragile state. Unfolding the letter I read, in Liam’s smooth script.
We miss you, and we’re sorry. We should have come to see you, or called, or something. It wasn’t fair of us to be like that. Will you meet us? We both really want to see you again. If you can, come to Rosie’s Corner Café this Sunday around noon. We know that you guys have that day off, but if you can’t make it call, ok?
-With our love
I could feel the tears running down my cheeks, but I didn’t bother to wipe them away.
They still liked me.
They weren’t afraid of me.
I didn’t even notice that the paper was slowly being crumpled in my hands.