“The world is dyed red with blood.”
~ Kaydence Samuels
“Dawson, let’s get lunch!”
Sophi bounced back to her usual self during lunch. She liked to call people by their last names, which was weird, but all just part of her personality.
We sat outside on one of the many picnic tables. Kaydence had a French oral examination and then a filming project. I didn’t know when she could fit lunch into that tight schedule.
Sophi brought out her large lunch bag. She ate a lot for a petite girl. I stole some of her dumplings since I was too shaken to think about lunch this morning.
Who would’ve thought a random vampire’s face was the first thing I saw this morning?
I nearly choked when I came to the realization. Alecx told me he’d be arriving home early this morning, and I completely forgot! I left the house at a quarter past six. I probably missed him.
Sophi stared at me while I patted my pockets, then her eyes narrowed in understanding. “Left your phone at home, didn’t ya?”
“Crap,” I muttered the only word that was going through my head.
“Oh, yes,” Sophi said with a hand in front of her full mouth, “I left a present for you. Sorry, I couldn’t hand-deliver it. I didn’t get to see you yesterday. It’s in your coffee table drawer.”
“Thank you,” I replied briskly. I didn’t like receiving presents from friends. I wasn’t being courteous when I told her that, but it seemed like she thought I was. “Did you understand anything in math today? I kept spacing out and heard like, half the actual lesson.”
“Same, I barely paid attention. Honestly, I don’t even do the homework.”
“Shut up! You got a ninety-five on the last test!” I picked up a grape from her snack box and tossed it to her. She caught it with her mouth.
“What can I say? Math is in my Asian genes.” She wiggled her sharp eyebrows, making me laugh.
I patted myself on the back for acting so natural the whole day. The mere thought of the word “vampire” still sent goosebumps down my arms, but I didn’t show it.
The clock struck three thirty. I could just go home, and I’d call Arthur.
It took me a while to remember my uncle, who was an adult and could probably do something about all this craziness. Also, Jaxson and Alecx always had my back. All I wanted was to get home without running into any bitches.
“What’s up, Hailee?” I closed my locker and tried my best not to appear annoyed.
“Give me a ride. I have something to inform you about,” she stated bluntly with her arms crossed. She was attracting attention from other students, and I didn’t like it.
“What makes you think I’d do that?” Eyeing her with a small frown, I then proceeded to zip up my bag.
“Ahm, do I look like I’m asking?” She tilted her head with a nasty mocking face and leaned into the lockers beside mine.
I sighed. “We’re not friends. Heck, we’re not even acquaintances. You don’t like me; I don’t like you. Besides, I’m going with Kaydence, and my car only fits two people.”
She showed no signs of backing down. “Kaydence has band practice after school. I’m sure you know that.”
“Just tell me whatever you gotta tell me here.” With nothing left, I flung my backpack over my shoulder and flipped my hair out of the way.
“I really don’t think you would prefer that.” She lowered her voice until even I could barely hear her. “It’s about the cute little vamp you encountered this morning.”
I stared, bewildered, into her eyes while amusement glinted in them at my expected reaction. I couldn’t muster a response.
“Come on, Hazel, give me a ride, please? I’m exhausted from fitness class.” She pulled back and asked again, this time in a whiny tone that hid her malicious intentions.
“Sure! Let’s go.” I forced a smile and slammed my locker door closed a little too loudly, then led the way down to the parking lot.
My mind was a mess while I marched across the pavement and unlocked my convertible. All thoughts ranging from how the heck Hailee knew to what the heck she was going to do about it spun in my head.
“Put up the roof. Sun’s too bright,” Hailee ordered as soon as she got in the shotgun seat. She pushed her sunglasses up above her hair as I did so.
I took a long way around to get to my house. I waited for her to speak.
“First things first, don’t you dare tell anybody about what you saw,” she finally said, already pissing me off. “He or I will come pick you up on Friday night, so make sure you’re at least presentable.”
“Stop,” I interrupted hastily. “Can you start from the beginning? I don’t have any idea what you’re saying.”
I braked in front of a set of red lights, and she crossed her legs, stating loud and clear, “Don’t tell anyone about the vampire you saw. I know where you live. I know your uncle. I know Kaydence and Sophi.”
I narrowed my eyes at her. Either she was leading me around on purpose, or she honestly sucked at explanations. But if I got one thing out of all the gibberish she spoke, it was that she was threatening me.
I kept going again when the light blinked green.
All of a sudden, she laughed. “Alright, alright. I’ll stop messing with you. Here’s the deal, you witnessed a vampire feeding, which makes you a threat. We’re picking you up from your house on Friday night to make sure you understand exactly what’ll happen if you spill the beans on us.”
I glanced at her from the corner of my eye several times. Her posture was relaxed, and she didn’t show the nervousness of a liar. She made plenty of eye contact and didn’t hesitate to repeat explanations.
“So, I’m getting kidnapped because I walked through a park at night and happened to spot a vampire feeding?”
“No wonder you’re getting the highest marks in English! Excellent summarization skills,” she remarked rather sarcastically. “Except that we were gonna recruit you even if you didn’t see him.”
Hailee waved her index finger. “Too many questions. They’ll all get answered soon enough. Just be in your room at around midnight on Friday.”
“What makes you think I’ll just listen to you?” I spared a turn of my head away from the road to toss a glare at her.
She returned an unfazed smile. The Hailee sitting beside me right now was drastically and frighteningly different from the one I’d known since freshman year. I always knew she was bold, but not insane.
“As I said, you wouldn’t be the only one suffering tragic consequences if you decide to rebel,” Hailee stated in a cheery tone that completely contrasted with her words. “To put it simply, we’re threatening you, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now.”
I’d been wondering about one detail for a while. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to learn the truth since Hailee was a girl so close to humanity, but I had to ask.
“I didn’t want to ask this,” I started after I stopped again for a red light signal. “You’ve been using the pronoun ‘we,’ does that mean you’re...?”
She answered me with electric blue pupils and two sharp fangs.
To think that a girl who was in three of my classes turned out to be a Pureblood vampire. She made me drive an extra three blocks around my neighborhood to clarify some basics.
I didn’t ask any questions throughout her explanation. One thing that Hailee never told me was why they were planning on “recruiting” me in the first place. As livestock? As a slave? She said I’d find out. I really didn’t think I wanted to.
“Other basics like our strengths and weaknesses can be found online. Whether or not to do research is your choice, girl! Goodbye.” She got off at a stop sign, leaving as suddenly as she came.
“Crazy chick,” I mumbled while turning a corner, my driveway finally coming into view.
“Oh, by the way,” A familiar voice popped into my head. I yelped and slammed on the brakes, but I couldn’t see anyone around.
“I forgot to tell you. As a Pureblood, my ability is telecommunication. This is how I’ll speak to you in public from now on.”
“Jesus Christ, you’re gonna kill me one day, I swear,” I grumbled out loud.
“You can respond to me by clearly thinking a sentence. You can only respond when I telecommunicate with you first. It’ll take a bit to get used to, but I’m sure you’ll be fine. And I startled you, didn’t I? Wish I could’ve seen that.”
“Heck yes, you did,” I said to myself and exhaled deeply before pulling up the driveway.
Most of myself still doubted what Hailee just told me in the past twenty minutes to half an hour, but a small part somehow believed her. It didn’t seem that unbelievable to that part of me. It was probably thanks to that vampire last night. He messed up my sense of logic and may or may not have flipped my entire world upside down along the way.
Right after I unlocked my front door, someone yelled, “Surprise!”
I stared at the three men’s faces for a good five seconds. I was so fixated on the newfound information Hailee provided, the fact that Alecx and Jaxson should be here went to the back of my mind.
“What?” Alecx grinned at me. “Have I been forgotten?”
Both Alecx and Jaxson had party hats on their heads, and Arthur had a party horn in his mouth. He blew it, and it made a squeaky noise. A grin cracked on my lips at their efforts to give me a belated birthday surprise.
“You’re back. I missed you!” Without thinking, I ran into Alecx’s open arms. I pulled Jaxson down in a group hug. Arthur chuckled at our behaviors, then slipped into the kitchen.
“Stop being babies, you two. You’re adults, you know.” I patted them on the back before pulling away.
“Hey, I’m only twenty-four, no need to make me sound like an old man.” Jaxson ruffled my hair like he always would. I then noticed the pile of wrapped boxes behind them on the coffee table.
It was okay for Alecx and Jaxson to get me presents because I considered them more like family than great friends or neighbors. Besides, they traveled a lot, so they might as well bring back souvenirs.
“Happy belated birthday.” Alecx smiled and gestured to a piece of cake that Arthur brought out, which he probably tried to bake himself. I grinned at the squiggly icing writing. Alecx’s personality would always be sweeter than any cake.
We celebrated my eighteenth birthday again, just the four of us.
“What did you say? You spotted a vampire?” Arthur repeated with disbelief written all over his face. I shakily took a deep breath and nodded firmly.
“Oh my goodness...,” he whispered. “What should we do? How am I supposed to deal with this?”
I told him about how Hailee threatened me.
“Why is this all happening? Why did you have to go outside in the middle of the night!” He ran his hands through his hair repeatedly. “It’s all your fault that we got involved!”
His image in front of me blurred and twisted. It wasn’t the kind uncle I knew.
“No!” I yelled out loud as I jolted awake.
Everybody in the class, including the teacher, stared at me with wide eyes and tried to stifle their laughter. Kaydence elbowed me on the side of my arm and averted her eyes in second-hand embarrassment. In front of me, Hailee giggled on with no signs of concealing her amusement.
Unsurprisingly, I got no sleep last night. I processed everything that occurred after my birthday after-party ended and the brothers went home. I must’ve fallen asleep during class, which had never happened before.
“Okay, I get that you don’t want to read the next passage for us, no need to yell.” Ms. Ashworth grinned and played it off as a joke. “Would you like to read it, Hailee?”
Hailee cleared her throat, then started reading.
“What the heck was that?” Kaydence whispered through her teeth.
“I guess five days of no sleep and two nightmares finally got to me,” I whispered back.
I hoped Arthur’s reaction wouldn’t be like that if I ever decided to tell him. I didn’t dare last night because who knew what would happen to him if he got tangled in this mess. I was about to inform the boys about it, but after Hailee’s threat, I wasn’t so sure.
Speaking of that diva. I glared at the back of her head. She was so composed, so natural. If I ever suspected anyone in my school to be a vampire, she would most definitely be near the bottom of the list.
“I think you should consider prescription medicine,” Kaydence said while we exited the classroom to get to our next one.
“If this continues, yeah.”
We walked by a classroom door down the hall, and instantaneously, someone came speeding out of it, knocking me over completely. My books and bag went flying towards the opposite wall, and the entire side of my body hit the floor. Out of reflex, my lower arm came down to try to break my fall, and the impact shattered my metal watch strap.
“Oh my gosh! I’m... I’m so sorry! Are you alright?” A sweet and concerned voice made me turn my head. Bright blue eyes darted around to check for any injuries I might have sustained. She offered two hands to pull me up, and I accepted.
Once I stood up, I saw that I was about half a head taller than her. How did she knock me over so bad? I knew I wasn’t the most athletic person, but that was borderline embarrassing!
“I’m really, really sorry! Are you hurt?” she asked while picking up my school supplies from the ground. She apologized about ten more times after that.
She told me she had to fix my watch for me, so that was that. Refusing her when she was so insistent was problematic. Kaydence snickered at my misfortune like the wonderful best friend that she was.
“Last thing you need is to run into a niner in the hallways, hm?” She chuckled as we settled into our second-period class.
“Don’t remind me.” I remembered how desperate people were to fit in when they first entered high school.
“You got knocked over by a person walking out of a classroom,” she emphasized. “A gust of wind would blow you away if you don’t start building on those noodle arms.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Look at these.” I curved my arm and pushed the middle up with my other hand to make it look like there was something there.
“All I see are flabs. Wait, not even.”
We chit-chatted a bit more before the bell silenced us.
I wasn’t sure if I should feel surprised or not when Hailee sat down beside me during fifth period. Her lips never moved while she organized her stuff, but she was speaking to me via her telepathy.
“Remember that girl who bumped into you this morning?”
I gave a silent thumbs-up under the table, and she continued, “She’s a newly-turned vamp, so she can’t control her strength well. Don’t worry; you didn’t get knocked over because you’re as flimsy as a stick, even though you are.”
I nearly lost all the oxygen in my lungs, if that was possible.
“Why are there so many so close to me?” I mumbled in a hushed voice. The sentence alone made no sense, but Hailee understood.
“She’s one of us. Kassandra Chaplain is her name. You’ll probably run into her again.”
I immediately felt empathy for the girl. Probably just a few months ago she was an average teenage girl just like I was. All we worried about was school, friends, crushes, and family. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what she was going through.
“If you’re feeling sorry for her, don’t. She wanted to become a vampire.”
Yeah, right. Name one reason why someone would abandon humanity to become one of you bloodsuckers.
Hailee tossed a stealthy side glare at me, showing that she heard my inner response.
“I know what you’re thinking, but you’ll see for yourself soon enough.”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. I held up my head with the heel of my hand and looked up at the board. Aside from the fact that Kassandra was rather clumsy, she’d also be at the bottom of my suspect list.
In a world where vampires existed among humans but most didn’t believe they did, I couldn’t understand anything, and I genuinely hoped that I wouldn’t need to someday.
That hope was shattering as the seconds ticked by.