Impatient, I arrived at the Mansion before sunset. Jameson's Mercedes was once again parked in the driveway.
I sat on the uneven front steps, picking at the dandelions and weeds growing between the cracking cement. The door slowly creaked open.
Jameson greeted me.
"I'm so glad you're back," I said, squeezing his bony frame.
"I am, too, Miss Raven. I missed the Mansion and our favorite guest."
"I missed you, too. And I know one fabulous lady who was bummed that you were gone..."
"Miss Ruby?" he asked, his eyes coming alive.
"Are you going to call her?" I asked.
"After what I've done? I couldn't."
"You have to! Besides, it wasn't your fault. Just tell her you were unexpectedly called out of town."
"She'd never forgive me. And she shouldn't."
"Ruby loved the flowers. Besides, there's a carnival this weekend. She'll need a date. And you'll need one, too."
I could see Jameson pondering the decision, excited about seeing Ruby again, but unsure if he could muster the courage to call her.
Alexander bounced down the grand staircase, wearing black jeans and a black HIM T-shirt. He gave me a long hello kiss. "That was sweet of you to come by last night," I said, in his arms.
"I didn't come by," he said, confused.
"You didn't? I saw a guy in my backyard."
Alexander looked worried.
"I bet it was Trevor," I guessed. "I saw him after school. I think he still blames me for his plummeting popularity."
"If you need me to talk to him, I will."
I'd always defended myself from Trevor. It was refreshing to finally have someone who would stand up for me. "You are my superhero!" I exclaimed, and gave him a hug.
"I found this really cool place."
"Cool place? In Dullsville?"
He grabbed my hand and led me out of the Mansion and down the street.
"It's so ironic that the rumors Trevor started turned out to be true," I said to my vampire boyfriend.
"About me, or you?" he teased.
"I mean, I thought you were...then I didn't. But then I did. And then when I totally didn't again, I found out you were."
"Now I'm confused. Am I? Or am I not?"
"That is the question." I squeezed his hand.
"I just don't want to lose you or put you in danger."
"I love danger." When we passed Dullsville's cemetery, I wondered where we were going.
"Just a little bit farther," he assured me.
I would walk to China if Alexander were by my side. I had so many questions burning inside me, I didn't know which to ask first.
"Did you grow up with Jagger?"
"Our families were close when we were born. I think he was jealous of Luna. With her living as a human, he knew what he was missing--school, sports, friends. He is scrawny, but I think he really dreamed of being a jock like Trevor. I kind of feel sorry for him. He wasn't able to find something he enjoyed, besides revenge. But then my family traveled. My parents were bohemians, and we really never fit in with our kind. We were what was known as vampire vegetarians."
"Cool. So how do you survive? Connections with the butcher?" I joked, referring to my conversation with Trevor.
"How did you know?" he asked, surprised. "We also have family who have ties to blood banks."
"Uh...I just guessed," I replied. "My parents were hippies, too. They wouldn't eat anything with eyeballs. But they traded their hippie threads and beaded satchels for Armani suits and briefcases, and they drive their BMWs past PETA protesters on their way to work."
"Sounds like our parents would make great friends."
"Just like us."
Alexander squeezed my hand.
"I sometimes wonder what it would be like if you changed me. We could stay up all night long, fly into the night, and be bonded for eternity." "I've imagined what it would be like if I were born like you. We could go to the same school, lie out in the sun, have picnics in the park. I'd be able to see us reflected together in a mirror. I'd fill my walls with pictures of us at the beach."
"We share similar dreams."
"You're a human who wants to be a vampire, and I'm a vampire who wants to be human."
I gazed up at Alexander with empathy. I hadn't realized he felt as alone in his own world as I did in mine.
"It's just over there," he said, pointing to an abandoned barn across the train tracks.
The red barn had seen better days. Boards from the gray roof and side were missing, like teeth on a smiling kindergartner.
We stepped through the door frame. The door was missing, but the wooden beams that held the barn together still remained intact. Vacant stalls stood on one side, an empty hayloft on the other. Alexander grabbed a gas lantern that hung from a hook on the wall and turned it on. He took my hand and led me toward a darkened corner.
"Are we going up into the hayloft?" I asked coyly.
"Follow me," he said. "Don't be afraid. They won't bite," he said with a laugh.
"Who's they?" I wondered. I imagined a family of vampires, hiding out in the stable. Maybe long-lost relatives of his.
I held his hand hard as he pulled me into the corner of the abandoned barn. I could see two slanted eyes staring back at me from the corner. I stepped into the moonlight to discover a powder white mama cat with a litter of snowball white baby kittens--and there in the mix by herself was one teeny black cat. "She's just like me!" I exclaimed.
"I thought you'd like her."
"She's the cutest thing I've ever seen! I want her to come home with me," I said wishfully, kneeling down and staring at the kitten.
"I found them last night."
"You want me to keep her?"
"She's finished nursing. And the mother can't care for them all."
Alexander and I sat off to the side and watched as the kittens purred and the mama fell asleep.
"I'm surprised she isn't hissing at us," I said.
"She understands we're not here to hurt her, but to help her."
"So, you're like Dr. Dolittle with a bite."
He grimaced at my joke. "Do you want the cat or not?"
I nodded my head eagerly.
Alexander picked up the tiny black kitten, who looked like a small ball of yarn in his handsome hands.
"It's okay," he said, handing her to me.
I held the tiniest black baby kitten I'd ever seen. She licked her mouth and looked up at me as if she were smiling.
"I can keep her?"
"I wanted you to have something to remember me by."
"To keep you company during the day." "That is the sweetest thing!" I stared down at my Gothic Gift gazing up at me with teeny lime green eyes. "I'll call her Nightmare."