THEY WERE going to be friends forever, she and Allison. Vivienne never had many friends in Ignias. She had shown up late to a group of kids who had known each other their entire lives. Allison was the popular girl in middle school. An entourage of boys always surrounded her. But Allison didn’t want any of them; she only wanted Daniel. Vivienne had never been popular before, but while she was friends with Allison, she was a part of something special. When Allison disappeared so did the phone calls, Vivienne once got asking her to go out to the movies or to watch the boys playing ball.
But on that night, Vivienne was popular again. It was a different kind of popularity. For the first time in her life, she was interesting to men. At first, Vivienne hung onto Calbert’s hand, but as the night wore on, she got tired of nodding while Calbert greeted his equally burly and meat headed friends. Vivienne excused herself from them to take a closer look at the ice sculpture of a mermaid at the bar holding up a flaming torch. As soon as she left Calbert’s side, a tall, lanky boy with spiked hair and a diamond pinky ring approached her. Before she could duck away, he offered her one of the two bubbly pink beverages he was holding.
“Don’t worry, I’m not a demon,” he assured her. “I’m a writer for Glitteratti, one of the many useless gossip blogs in Coral City.” Vivienne smiled at that. She had never heard of his blog, but she liked his self-deprecating attitude. He gulped down his drink and in one swallow. Vivienne noticed that many of the other guests were holding drinks too. It smelled like perfume, but when Vivienne took a sip, it tastes sweet, like cranberries.
“My name is Jaix Beneton. You’ve Vivienne Salome aren’t you? I don’t know if you’ll be gracious enough to tell me how you met Prince Mars.”
Vivienne chuckled in disbelief that he actually expected her to answer that. She took another sip of her drink and contemplated if she should throw the rest of it in his face to deter other members of the paparazzi. Finally, she chickened out. Vivienne waved goodbye to him and turned to walk away.
“They’re saying you are a fortune-hunter, that you ended up in Ignias because you were thrown out of the academy for skinny-dipping and being indecent in front of the male students. Is that true, Vivienne? DId you meet Prince Mars at the academy?”
Vivienne glanced back at the writer. Maybe the drink was getting to her head, but she openly laughed at him. He knew absolutely nothing about Blake. Blake Thorne attend the academy? After his father had been publicly disgraced and executed by King Wynn himself? The son of a traitor could hardly hope for such a lovely childhood.
She decided she needed to find Blake and speak to him. They had to get their story straight before these curious bloggers discovered the truth. But as soon as Vivienne walked into the crowd, she suddenly wished she had stayed by Calbert’s side. Everyone was staring. It was just like her first day of middle school; she was the new girl who had no right to be there. In middle school, she had sat by herself at lunch for weeks. She always brought a book to read because no one would talk to her. She was the strange girl who had been mostly homeschooled her entire life. As for what she had seen in River Way, she didn’t bother trying to tell the rest of them about it. They thought she was batty enough already with her love of climbing trees and debilitating fear of the dark. Talking about River Way lead to talking about vampires and no one wanted to sit with the witchy girl with the pale skin and strange stories.
But one day, Allison had strolled across the cafeteria and sat down across from her.
“What are you reading?” Allison had asked. “Is that for a class?”
Vivienne could hardly believe that the most popular girl at school was talking to her. She nearly wished that she wasn’t reading a gloomy book like Goethe’s Faust. All she managed to do was point at the dusty cover and shake her head.
“Is there a love story?” Allison asked with a flip of her shiny red locks. She looked like a fairy tale princess even though she was wearing gym shorts and a plain white t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up. In another else, it would have looked ridiculous, but it made her narrow shoulders looked swan-like.
“Sort of,” Vivienne replied. “But it’s not a happy one.”
“What happens?” Allison had asked as she carefully placed a sprig of broccoli into her mouth. She ate her food so delicately it made Vivienne feel barbaric eating a plate of half-burnt macaroni and cheese.
“They don’t end up together if that’s what you are looking for. She goes to heaven, him not so much...”
“That’s the best kind of ending,” Allison had said and laughed. Vivienne was shocked to hear her say that. Allison had about a dozen boyfriends. For some reason, she had always assumed the pretty girl would be a hopeless romantic. “Don’t you agree Vivi?”
Vivienne nodded. “You’re preaching to the choir; I hate boys.”
One of the boys, a good-looking one, named Daniel tried to catch Allison’s eye as he came off the lunch line. Allison immediately reached out and grabbed Vivienne’s hand and squeezed it. “What’s up, Vivi?”
“Nothing,” Vivienne replied. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that there were so many boys staring at the two of them and then shyly sulking away.
“Chicken-butt,” Allison replied and giggled. The dimple on her right cheek showing prominently. “Wrong answer, darling. The correct answer is always chicken-butt.”
Vivienne found her way back to Calbert with resignation after doing a cursory search for Blake. She pretended to look interested while the boys discussed their favorite breed of hunting dog. Around ten o’clock a hush came over the ballroom. The double doors opened, and an entourage of well-dressed noblemen made their entrance. At their center was Lady Maglania in a silver dress this time with the same luscious fur stole. Her red hair was around her shoulders now, straight and shiny as stretched strawberry taffy. For once that night the attention left Vivienne and became fixated on Lady Maglania who was true royalty. She was the daughter of the king, or so they were pretending.
It was Allison. Vivienne didn’t care what they told her. She knew that girl. She knew that coy smile, those soft eyes with just a touch of unexpected malice. Vivienne knew it was rude, but she was staring. And as if she could feel those familiar eyes on her, Lady Maglania looked up and met her eyes.
Although Lady Maglania and her entourage disappeared into a private lounge, Vivienne couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being watched. It was around midnight that one of the royal guards came and asked Vivienne to join the princess up on the terrace. Vivienne found herself walking up a spiral stone staircase that felt vaguely like it belonged to a dungeon. She was hoping to sneak up onto the Lady Maglania and perhaps observe her from afar for a while, but unfortunately her flaming red dress was as unmistakable as a drop of blood on the winter snow.
“Vivienne,” Lady Maglania said and approached her with both of her hands out. She clasped Vivienne’s hands and gave them a warm squeeze. Lady Maglania’s hands were warm. Vivienne deduced at least that meant she wasn’t a vampire. “Don’t you recognize me?”
Vivienne swallowed hard and shook her head.
Lady Maglania smiled, her dimple showing on her right cheek. “Are you sure?”
“Allison?” Vivienne whispered.
“How dare you doubt for a second that I’m me!” Allison demanded and pulled Vivienne onto the beautiful ivy-laced terrace.
“They’re calling you Lady Maglania,” Vivienne whispered. “Why would they do that?”
Allison smiled deeply. “I’ll trade you a secret for a secret, Vivi.”
“You wrote me letters, telling me you were in danger!” Vivienne demanded angrily as it suddenly started to dawn on her that the woman in front of her was really Allison. “I was worried sick.”
“Vivi, I’m fine. I was over-dramatic, that’s all. See, I’m better than fine!” Allison stroked her mink stole and struck a glamorous pose. It made Vivienne laugh like old times. It was impossible to believe that the poised, refined woman she had seen in the courtyard of the Pearl Tower was the same girl that stood before her.
“What secret of mine do you want?”
“Have you ever been in love, Vivi?”
“Once,” Vivienne answered and waved it away. “We talked about this before. Remember? Before the freshman dance?”
Allison smiled, dreamily, almost a touch sadly. “Yeah, I remember. And that hasn’t changed?”
Vivienne shook her head.
“The boy who died,” Allison mused. “You never did tell me his name.”
“And I never will,” Vivienne replied, suddenly taking a step back. “You have my secret now tell me yours.”
“You sound scared,” Allison noted with a sudden chill in her voice. “You don’t need to be scared, darling. I will protect you.”
“Allison?” Vivienne asked. “Are you even hearing yourself? You sound crazy.”
“He’s using you, you know,” Allison suddenly whined and twirled a tuft of her hair. Finally, she crossed her arms over her chest. “Vampires, they’re all garbage. Don’t trust him no matter how intelligent or kind he seems. He’s a monster. I’m just trying to help you. Can’t you see that?”
“You don’t need to worry about it,” Vivienne replied. “He offered to let me stay with him, and I refused. I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t want any part of it.”
“Oh, Vivienne!” Allison suddenly snapped and stamped her foot in anger. “You say that, but I know you still love him. You can’t stop. After all these years, I see it in your eyes when you talk about him. You don’t know him like I do.” Allison leaned in and whispered in Vivienne’s ear. “He hurt me, drank from me. No matter what he says, don’t believe it or he’ll do the same to you.”
“I don’t love him. I would never trust a vampire,” Vivienne said as she grabbed Allison’s arm. Allison’s cheeks were almost as red as her hair from fury. She clearly hated the idea of Vivienne being in love with a vampire. Vivienne wanted to assure her that it could never happen, not even if the vampire was Blake Thorne. Especially, if the vampire was Blake Thorne. How could anyone love bratty Blake Thorne who had misled her into believing he was dead all these years? Blake Thorne had bound her with a cameo necklace without her permission.“Remember, we promised never to let a boy come between us?”
“I remember,” Allison said with a dreamy smile. “I remember everything we did together.
“Allison!” Vivienne yelled as the red-headed lady walked through the doorway. “What’s wrong with you? Are you Lady Maglania?”
“Ask your cold-blooded friend, chicken-butt,” Allison replied with a wave. “I have a feeling he’ll tell you anyway.”