I had to admit--I loved being a vampire. Luna not only believed I was part of the Underworld but wanted me as a friend. I felt like I was flying as I raced my bike through downtown and toward my house. I wondered where I would live. Perhaps my understanding parents could remodel our finished basement--board up the windows, remove the white carpeting, and dirty the cement floors with a few bugs and cobwebs. I could sleep in a black coffin with purple seams and silver studs. Or better yet, Alexander and I could live together in the factory with a super-deluxe two-person gothedelic coffin. Plenty of pillows and comfy blankets, with a built-in flat-screen TV in the lid and stereo speakers on the sides.
I pulled into my driveway and found Alexander waiting for me on the front steps, looking as dreamy as ever in black vinyl pants and a ripped black long-sleeve shirt.
"Where were you?" he asked, concerned. "I got your note about meeting you at the cemetery, but you never showed."
"I got a note, too," I said, showing him the red envelope. "To meet you at the park."
"But I didn't write a note." "I know. Neither did I."
"Then who did?" he asked.
"Your spurned lover."
"Luna? She was never my lover."
"I know. I was just teasing."
"How did you know it was her?"
"She told me. When I showed up at the park."
"Did she hurt you?" he asked.
"She wanted to. It was all a plan to confront me about Trevor. She wants me to stay away from him."
"This is getting out of hand," he said. "I'll talk to her."
"No, she thinks I'm a vampire," I said proudly, placing my hand on his. "Can you believe it? We chatted forever. Like we were best friends."
"Jagger and Luna don't have best friends. We really have to be careful. There's no predicting what they'll do."
"But she really liked me," I insisted.
"I'm sure she did," he said with a smile. "We still can't trust them."
"Well, she trusts me."
"Because you are trustworthy. I know their family, Raven. They're not like you. They are vampires, remember. Real ones."
"She accepts me as a vampire. And Jagger is convinced I am one, too." I paused and looked up at my vampire boyfriend. "And I like it. Why can't you accept me as one?" Alexander's smile turned into a frown. "I accept you as you are. I always have."
He turned away from me.
"I didn't mean to upset you," I said, reaching out to him. I gave him a squeeze with all my might. "I'm getting so caught up in this, I can't even think straight. You must think I'm so immature."
Alexander softened and caressed my hair.
"You know how I think of you," he said, his chocolate eyes staring into my own. He lifted my chin and kissed me tenderly.
"I don't know how much longer I can go on like this. When will we be together--just us? And not have to worry about Jagger, Luna, and Trevor?"
"How about now?" he said, suddenly bright. "I wanted you to have this." He handed me a wooden heart-shaped box that had been sitting on the window ledge.
My eyes lit up. "You are so sweet! And here I am being selfish."
I opened the box. Hanging from a silver chain was a pendant-- black lips with a small vampire fang.
"It's a vampire's kiss," he said proudly.
"Alexander, it's beautiful. I'll wear it forever."
Alexander unclasped my onyx necklace and replaced it with the priceless one he had made just for me.
He gave me a long, lingering good-night kiss.
"Tell me. Would it be easier if I were a vampire?"
Just then my dad pulled into the driveway.
Alexander quickly stepped back into the shadows. I waited for my dad to come up the front stairs. "Where did Alexander go? He was just here. I wanted to say hi."
"He had to get home before he turns into a pumpkin."
Exhausted, I walked into my darkened bedroom and switched on my Edward Scissorhands lamp.
I almost jumped out of my skin. Sitting on my bed, appearing more sinister than ever, was Jagger.
I let out a scream.
That only made the creepy teen smile.
"Raven? What's wrong?" my mom yelled up from downstairs.
"Nothing," I yelled down to her. "Just stubbed my toe." Then I whispered to Jagger, "What are you doing here?"
"Bats can sneak in anywhere. You should know that by now."
"I want you out of here!" I demanded.
"I won't be long. Luna had a lovely chat with you. She's very excited. She thinks she's found a new best friend."
"Well, maybe she has."
"She said you girls talked about all sorts of girly things. Boys. Hair. Vampire bites."
I caught myself in my dresser mirror's reflection and stepped back.
Jagger played with the nightstand light switch. On. Off. On. Off. "Stop that!" I warned. Something was missing. "Where's Nightmare?"
I heard scratching coming from my computer desk file drawer.
I raced over and opened it up. "Nightmare!" I said, picking up my black kitten. "You poor girl."
"Odd," he said, leering at me. "She doesn't hiss at you."
"She doesn't hiss at Alexander either," I said, gently stroking her fur. "She has taste."
Jagger lay back on my bed, placing his red Doc Martens on my bedspread. "This is a cozy bed."
"Get your feet off of there!" I scolded, pushing his shoes off.
Jagger leaned across the bed and pulled up the comforter from the floor.
"Where is your coffin?" he asked. "Not under here."
He rose and slithered over to my closet. He slowly opened my closet door. "Not in here," he remarked. "Maybe you're hiding it under your dress," he said with a wicked grin.
"It's in the basement."
"Funny. I didn't see it down there."
My blood boiled. I felt enraged. Jagger had been slinking around my house with my family inside.
"It's hidden. Now get out--"
"Sure, but can you show me something?"
"The door? Or the window?" I opened the curtain and lifted the window. Jagger remained still.
"Some of Trevor's friends said you showed up at school. Curious, really. A vampire risking the sunlight."
"You'd believe a bunch of soccer snobs? They spread more rumors than the National Enquirer."
"Well, then," he said, sizing me up with his mismatched eyes, "I have noticed their penchant for gossip."
I felt a sense of relief, but only for a moment.
"At the drive-in I distinctly remember Alexander bit you on the neck. Blood dripping down your neck like a wild river, the sweet smell permeating the air. But Luna said she didn't see a wound. Maybe I could take a peek."
"You can leave. Now."
He stepped closer, his ice blue and green eyes piercing my soul.
"Show me your fangs and I'll show you mine."
"I only show Alexander," I said, inching back.
"What a waste, really." He took another step, pinning me against my computer desk. "So how do you like living this lie?"
"Yes, it is a lie," he said, staring straight into my eyes. As if he were going to read my soul. "Pretending to be something you're not."
I gasped and looked away. My heart stopped. I bit my black lip.
I reached behind me, stretching my fingers across my computer desk in hopes of grabbing something to use as a weapon. At any moment Jagger was going to look into my eyes and hypnotize me and drag me back to Dullsville's cemetery. I fingered Billy Boy's two-ton encyclopedia. "I think you enjoy being deceitful," he said, gently touching the vampire's kiss necklace. "Making believe to your family that you are still mortal."
I breathed again and released the book.
There was a knock at the door.
"I need my encyclopedia."
"You borrowed it two months ago!"
"Billy. Billy--go away," I said sternly.
Jagger stepped back and I raced around him.
Billy Boy opened the door.
I turned around. The curtains were gently blowing. Jagger was gone.
"Is something wrong? You never call me Billy."
I closed the window, rushed over to my brother, and gave him a quick hug. "I never thought I needed to."