“Who are you?! What do you want?!” I shrieked and kicked as much as I could, but his gaze didn’t even waver. He just stared down at me with his bone-chilling gaze.
“You think you can harm me, measly little human?” he muttered with venomous daggers darting from his voice. He lifted a foot and stepped on my stomach, pinning me down to the ground.
I groaned in pain. No matter what I did, I had no strength to push him off; I felt utterly helpless.
“You don’t need to know my name.” His face was so handsome it was mesmerizing, but his threatening tone pierced right through me as he sunk his foot deeper into my stomach. His pale blue eyes swirled black with a red hue around the pupil as he smirked down at me.
“You’ll be far from your old life from now on.”
The alarm resonated noisily throughout the room, penetrating my eardrums. My eyes snapped open. It was barely light outside. I twisted into my covers and rubbed my arms. Cold sweat covered my back.
I gradually soothed my rapid, shallow breaths and clicked my alarm clock. It read 7:00 AM. The first time I got some sleep in three days ended up with a nightmare.
I dabbed some sweat off of my forehead. For a few minutes, everything I looked at seemed to heave. The dream almost felt too real.
I groggily flipped out of my bed and onto the carpet, not even bothering to attempt to comb down my sandy blonde disastrous bedhead.
What a great way to start the morning of my eighteenth birthday.
As I got dressed, I stared into the full-body mirror at my hazel eyes that I was named after. It brought along annoying nicknames like Hazy and Hazelnut, but it was one of the only things my parents left me.
Another thing was a white vase that was beginning to fade yellow from time; I had had it standing on my bedside table for the past eight years.
I poured some water for the ruby red roses inside that I’d been maintaining for a while. Red roses were my mother’s favorite thing in the world, and I intended to keep this faint memory of her until the day my heart stopped beating.
Just then, I heard the front door open. My hearing and other senses had heightened within these past two years. I was starting to be able to adjust my eyesight much faster during the night as well, which was neat since I got insomnia on average about thrice a week.
I made sure the roses were adequately tended to before heading down the stairs and greeting him. “Good morning, Arthur.”
He beamed when he saw me, showing the crow’s feet on the edges of his eyes. “There’s the birthday girl! I got you a present!”
I smiled at his enthusiasm. Arthur Carrington, my guardian who raised me after my parents passed away. He was best friends with my father since high school, but I liked to think of him as my uncle.
I bit down on a loaf of bread when I was too lazy to toast it and replied with feigned excitement, “Thanks. Where is it? I do hope it’d be as exciting as the princess doll I got last year.”
He completely ignored my sarcastic tone and gestured out the front door. “Even better!”
I flung my school bag over one shoulder and followed him out. The piece of bread dropped onto the pavement when I saw what was in my driveway.
“I officially love you!” I screamed as I ran over to my brand new beautiful red convertible.
Arthur laughed at my anticipated reaction, then tossed me the keys. “Go for a drive and get a donut, then go straight to school. Also, remember to be back in time for your party!”
He had to yell the last sentence as I was already backing out of my driveway, eager to try this new baby out. The engine roared to life down the secluded morning streets of the neighborhood.
Comfortable wind combed through my hair and vigorously thrashed strands against the sides of my head. I gripped onto the steering wheel a little tighter and sincerely appreciated the cool leather against my hands.
The radio switched on and began playing a popular new song. Even though it was in the middle of March, I stuffed on a pair of sunglasses, then imagined myself as the rich girl in summer movies.
My short moment ended as the last note of the song trailed off, and the news came on.
“...I thought I led a normal life, but it turns out...” I switched off the radio of whatever station was playing with irritation present on my features.
People these days needed to stop going on about the supernatural. The other day, I saw a headline titled Vampire Sighting in a local newspaper. Just like how people fabricated UFO and ghost sightings, it was annoying how often vampire sightings were reported.
My best friend, Kaydence, was obsessed with the idea that vampires lived among us. She regularly reminded me to bring garlic spray and lighters with me at all times, which I always laughed at and one time almost spat out my juice. Unlike her, I despised the mentioning of these supernatural creatures.
Seriously, they’re not real. Get over it.
The world seemed to be hooked on the idea of vampires and vampire hunters. I couldn’t wait to finish my senior year in high school and leave for some peace and quiet in another city.
Kaydence and I’d be friends no matter where we went. Still, it was a shame what we applied to separate schools since our fields of interest were so different. Arthur had no trouble moving anywhere in the country with whatever job it was that he had. Those two were the only ones I treasured enough to miss.
Arthur never spoke to me about his occupation, nor was I ever curious enough to ask. Every time I did, the answer seemed immensely complicated, so I gave up many years ago.
All of a sudden, a person appeared in my vision. I gasped and immediately slammed on the brakes, making the car jolt to a stop just an inch before it could’ve touched him. My heart pounded rapidly in fright, but he just stood there, unfazed that he could’ve gotten run over and glanced at me with unreadable dark brown eyes. He looked around my age.
“I’m so sorry!” I called out. Dammit, I must’ve zoned out so much while thinking I didn’t even notice him in the middle of the street.
“Don’t worry about it,” he replied in a quiet voice before I could ask if he was alright, then proceeded to cross the street without glancing at me twice. I watched in bewilderment as he disappeared down the corner.
I clutched onto the steering wheel and took a short breath, then stepped on the gas pedal again. I glanced in the direction he walked to just a few seconds ago, but he vanished.
“What a weird guy,” I mumbled to myself. Deciding to skip breakfast, I drove further and arrived at my school’s parking lot.
I flung on a light blue and white cardigan over my black tank top before I locked my car. My dark blue skinny jeans stretched as I went up two steps at a time toward the front door in my brown boots.
Incoming trouble. I tried to ignore the person who was walking toward me down the hallway. The eye candy of the school every guy would clean the toilets for a week if they got even five minutes alone with; Hailee Greene. Typical super hot popular girl with strawberry blonde hair and hazel eyes that had ten times more game than mine. She was also mostly friendly and got top-notch grades, meaning that most people considered her perfect.
I didn’t. One thing about Hailee was that she never liked me for lord knew what reason. Although, I had to admit that that girl was drop-dead gorgeous without ever needing makeup.
As she strolled past me, she murmured, “At least clean up your sloppy mess of an appearance.”
I rolled my eyes in response, but as soon as I was out of her sight, I turned a corner to the female washroom. She was right. Parts of my hair stuck up like a bird’s nest since I didn’t take the time to comb it this morning. I quickly fixed it up.
As soon as I walked out, an unyielding force crashed into my shoulder, almost knocking me over. I knew this feeling way too well.
“Hazel, there you are! Happy birthday!” Kaydence exclaimed, wrapping her arms around my shoulders and swinging me left and right.
“Have you seen the news yesterday? Dracul struck again!”
“Can you not?” I said with a deadpanned face. She switched the topic from my birthday to the news yesterday night in a heartbeat.
For the past year, two out of every ten sentences she spoke were regarding vampires. She wasn’t always like this, and I had no idea what perked her interest that much. She brushed it off whenever I asked.
“Nope, I cannot!” Kaydence dragged me down the halls toward our lockers while she kept talking. “It’s rumored that he has some ability to control the mind, isn’t that fascinating?”
“You’re the only person I know who finds this fascinating instead of horrifying,” I remarked.
“You see, there are reports of people who had this dream,” she continued with interest glittering in her gray eyes as she grabbed a textbook. “They said they vaguely remember a man with completely jet-black hair and pale blue eyes that turn dark. This would’ve been cuckoo if it were just you or me but think about it, at least six people had this exact dream before they were reported missing and later on discovered with bite marks on their necks or wrists. And think about how many people would’ve just dismissed it as a dream and never told anyone?”
I furrowed my eyebrows. Where had I heard about this dream before?
We took our seats behind Hailee and the empty chair beside her. Kaydence continued with her fallacy, cutting off my inner thought.
“Don’t you think? That vampire could have a mind control ability, or even creating dreams!” She finished in a voice that was louder than necessary. In front of us, Hailee tilted her head slightly.
“What did you say the dream was about?” I asked.
“I knew you’d be interested!” Kaydence turned her body toward me, making her curly ginger hair bounce around her shoulders. She cleared her throat. “A vampire with pale blue eyes and hair as dark as night stared down at them in the middle of nowhere. He says something to them before his eyes turn black with a red ring, and as they try to cower away, they jolt awake. Every single time.”
I glanced up; Hailee had her head half-turned to listen in on Kaydence.
“What did the vampire say to the people?” I ask again. She grinned widely as this was my first time showing this much interest in the topic.
“Unfortunately, nobody remembered what he said to them, but it couldn’t have been anything nice, judging by the cold look he gave.”
“You think you can harm me, measly little human?”
“You don’t need to know my name.”
“You’ll be far from your old life from now on.”
I had the same dream; the same person she described was in it. He held the same look, but I recollected everything he said to me.
“You’ll be far from your old life from now on.”
An icy shiver shot down my spine when I recalled his piercing eyes and twisted smirk.
Coincidence! That’s what it is!
When I turned my head back, my eyes briefly met Hailee’s before she fixed her gaze on the whiteboard up front. She seemed like she was expecting a reaction from me.
“Are you convinced that vampires are real now?” Kaydence’s bubbly voice made me return to my senses.
I scoffed and replied firmly, “No.”
She pouted when I crossed my arms and continued, “I’m a realist. Stop feeding me this false information that’s a product of unchecked fantastical imagination.”
She opened her mouth to protest, but the teacher walked into the classroom, and she had no choice but to keep quiet.
“Someday, Hazel, I’ll prove you wrong,” she muttered in determination, then added out of concern, “Still, stop going outside during the night, okay? It’s not the safest idea whether or not supernatural beings exist.”
She knew I had the habit of taking a stroll outside at midnight when I couldn’t sleep. It was very much compelling that the night views of the most familiar places were so different than those of daytime.
“Sure, don’t worry. I can take care of myself,” I dismissed as I wanted to pay full attention in English class. It was my best and favorite subject, after all.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kaydence shake her head before opening her notebook. Sometimes I wondered why she was so persistent on the topic of vampires.
By the end of the day, I drove Kaydence to my house instead of our usual routine that consisted of waiting for the bus for twenty minutes and then walking for another ten.
As I backed out of the school parking lot, though, I caught Hailee’s eyes again. This time, she didn’t look away. Her eyes followed me until I was out of sight.
Either she was envious of my transportation, which I highly doubted, or that challenging glint in her eyes meant something.
That bothered me for a while, but I kept up the everyday conversation I always had with Kaydence that did not include the supernatural. She sang along beautifully to the car radio that had excellent speakers.
As always, I ran up the stairs to check on my roses before coming back down.
“Lots of people from school will be coming,” Kaydence said while she made herself comfortable on the couch. “You may not be the most popular, but you do have friends, don’t you?”
“More like I have a big house and lots of guest bedrooms.” We both laughed at what I implied. There were plenty of people our age who were willing to do anything to be deemed “cool.”
“And then there’s me, damn my October birthday! You get to be eighteen...” she counted her fingers, “...seven months before me!”
“You’re such a drama queen.” I laughed at her childish whining. “If it makes you feel better, there will be cake and ice cream, probably piñatas, too.”
“Your uncle’s the best.”
“I’m pretty sure I’m still six years old in his eyes.” A smile tugged at my lips at the memory of him taking me to amusement parks every weekend to cheer me up.
The smile faded when I recalled that I was depressed by my parent’s sudden death. It wasn’t easy for a six-year-old to handle something like that. It took a long time and many therapy sessions before I became who I was now.
She giggled a little. “You and I met thanks to him.”
“That Daycare did do wonders.” I chimed in.
“Speaking of childhood friends,” she said in a teasing tone, getting up, “How’s ‘It’s Complicated’ been doing?”
“Haven’t seen him in six months,” I replied dryly.
Alecx Harris, my childhood friend slash neighbor since I moved here with Arthur, left for college last August. We kept in touch for the most part, but he was always too busy to chat for long. I had a little crush on him since I was thirteen years old.
Who wouldn’t? He was cute, funny, a little smartass at times, but dreamy. We were much too good of friends for me even to attempt to confess, though.
I asked to move out a year ago, and since then I was no longer next-door neighbors with Alecx. I sometimes missed the good old times when we had slumber parties back when we were in fourth grade.
“Boy problems?” Kaydence asked with a small smile. She knew I thought about him sometimes.
“And confidence issues.” I sighed. When it came to romantically thinking about Alecx, I could barely look him in the eyes. “The last time I texted him was over a month ago. I think we’re drifting apart.”
“Then don’t let that happen!”
“Easy for you to say. You’ve never even liked anyone before.”
The front door opened before she could reply.
I set down the mug on the counter before rushing over to help Arthur carry all the shopping bags. He must’ve gone all-out for this year’s birthday celebration.
“Still can’t believe you’re eighteen, Hazie,” Arthur reiterated again and again.
“Heh. Believe it or not, it’s happening.”
A couple of hours later, the party was just at full-swing, and I was pretty sure I heard a glass crash somewhere. This was going to be a bitch to clean up, especially with all the food crumbs and icing on the ground.
I didn’t even know who half the people here were since Kaydence invited guests in my stead.
I closed the door behind me when I entered my room, blocking some of the commotion going on downstairs. I let out a small sigh. I couldn’t even find my school friends in this crowd of people. I ended up just having loads of sweets.
I plopped down on my bed and stared at the red roses that all stood proudly in the white glazed porcelain vase. Its spikes had gotten sharper lately.
Just as I was beginning to think about the mother that I didn’t remember, my phone rang in a video call. I quickly sat up and patted down my hair when I saw whose name was on the screen.
“Happy birthday, Hazy!” he yelled as soon as the video call connected, bringing a massive smile to my face.
“Alecx! Thanks.” Just by hearing his voice and seeing his face over a screen made this night brighten up.
“Knowing Mr. Carrington, he must’ve bought you a crapload of stuff, right?” he asked, and I giggled a little as I nodded in agreement. “Well, that’s alright! I also got you a crapload of stuff!”
I gasped when he pulled the camera further from his face, showing that he was at an airport and had three large luggage bags around him. He probably only stuffed clothes and necessities in one suitcase and used the other two for items for me.
A sweet feeling tingled in my chest when I saw his grinning face, obviously waiting for me to be impressed and praise him.
“You’re the best.” I satisfied him and said it.
“Yo!” a deeper voice called out before Alecx could say more. His older brother’s face appeared on the side of the screen, looking even more muscular and tanned than I remember. “Happy birthday, so you’re finally legal, huh?”
He took pure entertainment in teasing me, and sometimes it was mortifying, but I knew he just loved me like the little sister he never had.
“Thanks, Jaxson, I think,” I replied, sounding a little giddy. “Are you guys at the airport?”
“Yup! I was planning on coming home today to surprise you, but the flight got delayed because of the weather that wanted you to hate me, so I had to make do with this.” He rolled his eyes dramatically. “Miss ya, I’ll be the first face you see tomorrow morning.”
“I’ll be waiting.” I mirrored his grin before we bid our goodbyes and ended the call. I pressed my phone against my chest and felt deliriously happy. Short and sweet; that was just like Alecx.
Feeling refreshed, I exited my room and went downstairs.
“There she is!” The people all cheered when one of them saw me and pointed out.
“Is everybody having fun?” I yelled over the music just to be a typical host. It was honestly a rhetorical question, and I was glad people got that.
“Yeah!” they hollered.
“Now who wants to beat piñatas in my backyard with the worst teachers in school’s faces printed on them?”
My excitement was contagious, and nearly half of the whole house followed me outside to the backyard while picking up any stick that they could use to hit.
The rest of the night went on, and by the time only Kaydence and I remained in the house, it was well past midnight. I glanced at the first floor and found taco droppings on the ground. There was no way I was cleaning up this mess. That was tomorrow’s problem.
Kaydence crashed onto the sofa and didn’t show any signs of getting up soon, so I left her there after draping a blanket over her. I stretched my arms while I climbed up the stairs and washed up before snuggling into bed.
Almost like a cue, as soon as I pulled the covers over my body, my eyes snapped open, losing all signs of sleep. I would’ve screamed out in frustration had I not been worried about waking Kaydence.
My case of insomnia was getting worse over the past month. I’d need to consider medication if this continued. I forcefully shut my eyelids and waited. Sleep should take over eventually.