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It’s officially the first day of summer, two glorious months ahead of me with nothing but the beach and a few copies of Cosmopolitan at my fingertips.
I sit crammed into the window seat of our four-door Sedan, as we roll down the highway, finally crossing the state border to California. My caramel eyes focus on each dotted line painted onto the asphalt as we speed over them. I change the song on my ipod to â€˜Riot’ by Three Days Grace, mirroring my mood of severe claustrophobia to the stench of dog slobber and nachos.
“Sawyer!” A piercing shriek rips through my ear buds; an elbow jabs me in the ribs.
“What now Penny?” I ask through gritted teeth.
Her brown eyes glare at me, a smile on her lips. “Can you be a doll and turn it down a little? Thanks so much.” Penny says before I can respond, she flips her platinum colored hair over her shoulder and turns her back to me.
“It’s not even that loud Paris Hilton.” I retort at a half whisper.
She re-adjusts her pink sundress. “What?”
I put my headphones back on. “Nothing.”
She shrugs and turns back to her in-depth conversation with my brother, Wayne; telling him how much she loves him, while making kissey faces.
Wayneâ€”22-year-old all around American boyâ€”McBane, is eating up every bit. He doesn’t see the fake person she really is. The barely 20, perky boobed, collagen lipped extraordinaire that sits in front of him.
Why does she even get to come?! This is a McBane family trip, and there is no oversized diamond ring on her bony finger, to prove she’s one of us.
Then again she will never be one of us.
I scowl in their direction, then turn to look back out the window. The trees are a lush green as we drive through the hills leading to Taluca Lake, where my vacation will truly begin, away from the busy streets of New York City and my secret life.
I come from a long line of hunters. Not like the average Joe you see on television that chugs beer, eats Pork groins, and shoots Elk religiously.
It’s not everyday a teenage girl gets to call herself a Vampire Slayer.
The green car pulls into the last driveway of the upper-class neighborhood, to a house with a round-about parking circle. We screech to a halt, leaving everything in a thin layer of dust.
Finally we have arrived.
I yank my car door open, sliding out onto legs of complete jelly. My black lab, Magic, darts out behind me; almost knocking me over with his tail. He starts rolling on the grass, snooping out a place to make his business on the perfectly manicured lawn. I turn away discreetly.
“Gross!” Penny squeals shoving me forward as she exits the car.
“Hah! You do it too, Barbie.” I retort confidently, smirking to myself. It’s very rare that I can think of a remark on the spot, rather than coming up with one minutes after the fact.
She immediately dismisses me and starts to walk around the back of the car calling, “Muffin bear!” Wayne’s dreadful nickname.
The front door opens and I see a whoosh of yellow burst threw it, heading towards me.
“Danielle!” I scream running towards her, my sun-kissedâ€”naturalâ€”blonde hair billows behind me.
“I’m so glad you’re here!” She says, her blue eyes bright, pulling me into a heart stopping hug.
“Me too.” I gasp, waiting for her to let go so I can breathe again.
“How was the trip?” Dani asks me, as we walk side by side to unload my stuff.
“It was long, boring, and annoying.” I tell her jerking my thumb in Penny’s direction.
Dani has immediate recollection, her mouth forms an O. “What the hell is Blondie Boop doing here?!” She exclaims tugging out my suitcase.
“Ask Wayne.” I say, plucking my duffel out from under Penny’s sequined, mermaid make-up bag.
Dani and I trudge towards the front door, with Magic on our heels. We pass through the main foyer into the sitting room where the stairs twist up to the right leading to Dani’s room.
We veer to the left and she open’s her door, revealing a replica of The Glass House. Two large windows overlook the whole back of the lake where people are floating on inner tubes, socializing.
“We just finished the remodeling,” Dani begins, “Do you like it?”
“It looks a lot different.” I say, plopping my bag onto the floor by the door.
“That one’s yours.” She points to the twin bed on the right side of the room. “We had the butler move this in from the guest room so you wouldn’t have to sleep downstairs with the lovebirds.” She cringes, referring to Penny and Wayne.
“My stomach thanks you.” I say laughing, she does too.
“So you want to un-pack, grab your suit and I’ll introduce you to everybody?” She asks me, her yellow sun-dress swishing as she moves to her closet.
“Uh, sure.” I say, wondering exactly how comfortable my pale butt is going to be in a bikini.
“Cool, we’ll chat while you get ready.” She grabs a Billabong, brown and yellow string bikini. “So how’s Brad?”
Bradâ€” my ex-boyfriend, soccer star and world class ass. “He’s you know, alright.” I lie.
“Care to elaborate.” She smirks, stripping down to tug on her two-piece.
I look away. “Well, he actually dumped me.” I state, my shoulders slightly sagging. “Last week.”
After the graduation ceremony from Piedmont Academy.
“Don’t worry about that,” Dani waves it off. “I’ve got a line of prime meat waiting to meet you.”
“Dani,” I say calmly. “Please tell me you’re not trying to be matchmaker again.” I un-zip my suitcase and pull out my one and only pink swim suit, ruffles included.
“No,” She winks. “Just trying to make you feel better.”
I secretly know she’s got something up her sleeve.
“Sure.” I mock.
“What? It’s your summer vacation; you’re aloud to have a little fun. Besides you haven’t been to the beach in a long time, and I think your pale skin will thank me.” Dani finishes tying her top and glances at herself in the mirror.
Dani and I can pass as twins if we really want to, minus the fact that I’m pale and have brown eyes. I have slightly broader shoulders, and am about an inch shorter, but our features resemble the McBane family perfectly. Oh and she’s a brunette. You know what they say, blondes do have more fun. Unfortunately, I think our roles were switched at birth.
Dani meets my eyes in the mirror, hers turning from bright and bubbly to pools of desperation. “I just need you to be yourself.” She begins. “We may need Wayne in on this.”
My brows furrow in confusion, wondering why we need Wayne. Then I smile, comprehending. “Okay Dani, if your trying to get me to say I missed you,” I tug off my jeans and pull the bathing suit bottoms up faster than lightening. “I missed you.”
She pauses for a moment, then smiles, turning from the mirror. “It’s good to have you here.” Dani walks over in her barely-there swim-suit and hugs me again. “You are seriously not only my cousin, but my best friend.”
“You too.” I say, “I haven’t been able to get a word in edge wise to Wayne. He’s so wrapped up in Penny that our relationship has gone to complete crap.”
“I’m sorry.” She says, turning back to grab her halter-dress.
“You’re the only person I can talk to about anything and not feel weird. I mean, keeping our family secret is unbearably hard. Dad won’t even let me begin my training until I start college next fall.” I finish, shimmying into my suit top and flinging on a white halter with denim shorts to match.
“I know how you feel. Not telling anyone has been my greatest challenge, but I actually have started training. So,” Dani smirks, patting my arm, “I promise I’ll listen to every single detail of your year when we get back tonight for our annual junk fest. Right now, we really have to go, everyone’s already down at the water. You ready?” She finishes, inhaling one long breath.
I pause. “As ready as ever, I guess.” I nab my sunglasses out of my purse.
“Stop worrying, you look great.” She says, taking my hand. “Now let’s go have some fun.” She sends me a devilish grin.
We fly through the door, down the stairs and dash around the kitchen counter, barely clearing Dani’s cat, Isis, who is napping in the center of all of the commotion. As I grip Dani’s hand, I try to hold onto my morals, as well as my shorts; which are creeping further and further down my backside.
Grabbing a blue and white striped towel from the dock railing, Dani tugs me towards a neon green inner tube.
Great, my paleness will be accentuated.
“Hold on a second.” I tell her. “Let me put the towel down.”
“Screw the towel.” She squeals. “We’re late! They’re already floating away.” Dani finishes, pointing over the water towards an intertwined group. “Hurry up!”
“Okay, okay. Give me the sun screen.” I say blandly, slipping off my clothes.
“Screw that too! Just get in the tube. You need a tan anyway.” She says, letting go of me and sliding into her own. Dani pushes off the dock with red, sparkly toes, spinning her perfectly tanned body around to flag down the â€˜group’.
I spin around, bending into a squat; my hands grip the sides, thighs brushing the edge. Toes clenching on the wooden boards of the pier, I fall backwards, hoping to glide into the water gracefully.
Being me, that never happens.
I throw my weight into the center and flip over the back, into freezing, murky lake water. Surfacingâ€”my hair in my faceâ€”I spew out salty liquid, flailing my arms in the air. Then, I realize I can stand.
“You okay over there Yankee?” A male voice from the huddle calls.
“Just great.” I mumble, lugging myself onto the tube, brushing off dribbles of water that crawl down my skin.
“Get over here Sawyer!” Dani yells over her shoulder. A howling laugh bursts through the trees.
“I’m coming.” I flip my hair out of my face, splashing my feet over the side.
I reach the group of five, me making six.
“Hey!” Dani’s smile brightens. “Everyone,” She begins. “This is Sawyer, Sawyer meet everyone.” She finishes as if they were Brangelina Jolie-Pitt and their gaggle of children.
“Hi.” I say meekly, shifting in my seat, making a squishing noise.
Dani hooks her foot into the loop on my inner tube, connecting me to the conversation. “She’s the cousin I was telling you aboutâ€”the one from New York.” She tilts her head, indicating for me to jump into the discussion.
I fumble. “Umm yeah. There’s no place like the big apple.”
Joking, much like talking to new people is not my strong suit; but for Dani, I try.
“Danielle, that’s not an introduction.” His voice comes out like silk, a low hum in my ears. “I’m Ivan.” He smiles across from me, eyes hidden by dark glasses.
“Sorry.” Dani says immediately, suddenly stiff. “It’s out of habit.”
“That’s alright,” Ivan begins, dipping his slender fingers into the water. “Come on guys, make her feel welcome.” He glances over to the guy on his right, giving him a nod.
“Names Thor,” Blonde god says. He dismisses me, winking over at a gaggle of giggling girls.
Say that three times fast.
“This,” He continues. “Is Kambryn.” Thor points to the girl closest to Dani, her raven hair spilling down her front, a huge contrast to her pale skin.
Oddly they all have pale skin, sickly pale. For teenagers that live in sunny California, the beach at their finger tips, all four of them lack color.
“Valerie,” I hear Thor say, splashing water at the fair-haired blonde floating directly across from me. “Is the baby in my family.”
Her red lips curve up, eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses. She looks to Kambryn, sharing something only the two of them can understand. “There isn’t a need to introduce her.”
Dani glances at me, puzzled, and then her eyes look past my head, behind me. I twist my shoulders slightly, pretending I’m popping my back. Penny and Wayne are behind us, floating at a safe distance, but not enough to be invasive. Wayne takes off his sunglasses, his yellowy eyes penetrate mine. He shifts to Dani, giving a slight nod, as he begins to paddle closer.
With my glasses covering my eyes, no one notices that the wheels of my brain begin to turn. Dani rubs her foot against mine, brushing her big toe up and down my ankle, in what feels and looks like a letter. V?
“Have fun.” I hear Kambryn purr, blowing a kiss to Thor before pushing away from us. Valerie does the same, only to Ivan.
Thor detaches himself from Ivan’s tube and clings onto Dani’s, pulling her away from me.
“Where are you going?” I ask as they begin to float away.
Dani doesn’t hear me; her eyes lock on Thor, watching, waiting.
“Don’t worry.” He grins. “She’s in good hands.” His dark glasses forbid me from seeing his eyes.
An eerie feeling creeps up my spine as they move further and further into the distance.
“So,” Ivan begins. “What brought you to Taluca?”
My hands clamp onto my tube. “Visiting family.” I tell him shortly, completely uncomfortable.
Where is Wayne?!
He nods. “Are you and Dani close?” He turns his body towards me.
“Best of friends.” I say, wondering why we’re moving out of the main current and into a marsh area surrounded by trees. It’s darker here, more secluded. My heart begins to race and I know deep down that something isn’t right. Dani would never leave meâ€”willinglyâ€” with someone I don’t even know. Something is going on behind the scenes.
I jump off my tube, not caring if I appear rude. I see a flash of brown, curly hair. Wayne.
“Are you afraid of me?” Ivan asks, suddenly in front of me, blocking the opening. His glasses are gone, revealing bloody, hungry eyes.
I stop breathing, realizing now what he is. What they are.
I plow my fist into his chest, hearing my bones shatter. Screaming out in pain, I stagger back.
Ivan stares at me, grinning. “It’s too late.” He hisses, his face contorting, fangs leaping out from his lips as he steps closer.
My father never trained me, but I know that I will not die here.
Not at the hands of a demon.
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"All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous, unpremeditated act without benefit of experience."
-- Henry Miller
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There's nothing to be afraid of if you face it first.
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