Vampire crush, p.16

Vampire Crush, page 16

 

Vampire Crush
 


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  —Machiavelli

  I frown, wondering exactly what “particularly clever thinking” and that quote are supposed to mean—it can’t be anything good. Maybe I should show it to him in yet another attempt to lure him over to my side, or at least give him a heads-up—I shake my head, realizing this is just another example of Distraction via James. No. Girl. Danae. Moving on.

  We’ve reached Vlad’s first day at Thomas Jeff.

  August 30, 2010

  Town of Michigan

  Infiltration of Thomas Jefferson school successful. The child is here. I can taste her. . . .

  Why is this woman still talking? If she thinks that I am going to stop wearing my pointed boots, she is sadly mistaken.

  I let out a loud snort and then turn the page quickly, feeling guilty at being amused by Vlad’s ramblings. Thankfully, the following entries putter out into endless rants about how the other vampires aren’t helping and he doesn’t even know where James is. I move past a number of blank pages to the next section, which is a listing of girls he’s rejected. Caroline sits proudly at the top, followed by approximately thirty other girls that I’ll cross-reference with my own list later. When I turn the next page, I swear that my eyes start to tingle. This. This is what I’ve been looking for.

  Vlad has made a rough sketch of Neville’s tattoo, large enough that the star’s four main points touch the edges of the page. By each tip he’s written a name—last names from the look of it, unless there’s some poor soul wandering around with the name “Vandervelde.” I squint and look closer. Instead of a “D” in the center, Vlad’s written “Mervaux,” the big, bad, human-baby-having vamp family itself, and I would guess that these others are vampire families as well.

  Excited, I move on to what appears to be a timeline. Some dates are far apart and others are crammed together, and they’re all in different colors of ink, like this is something that he’s been adding to for a long time.

  1798: Human child born to the Mervaux and named Mercedes (star mark on right shoulder). Vampire families are split between those who think it is a miracle and those who think that she is an abomination, including the ruling family of the time (Desmarais—now extinct)

  1799: In fear, Mervaux call for help. Nine families answer—Vandervelde, Doyle, Greco, Rose, Wolf, Magnusson, Kaya, Quinn, Pavlov. Danae treaty signed.

  1806: Desmarais falls. Nine families take power under new name of Danae.

  1820 (?): Mercedes gives birth to child (vampire father?), also human, also female. Named Melisande (star mark, lower abdomen).

  1845: Under pressure, Danae abdicates in favor of elected leaders and is forced to disband as a condition. Do so publicly, but not in private. Tattoo is designed so that members will know one another.

  1847: Melisande gives birth to daughter (definite vampire father), child still human. Named Michelle (star lines on palm).

  1869: Michelle disappears. Reason unknown.

  1902: I am born.

  1965: Victor Petrov circulates influential work, The Lost Daughter, underground, in which he argues that the human line of Mervaux vampires continues. Later recants and says, “It was just a novel,” but then disappears.

  I turn back to the beginning of the journal—Vlad’s first entry is dated in 1966. Victor’s “novel” obviously converted Vlad enough that he’s spent the last half a century searching for her. I read over the timeline again, doing my best to make sense of the rush of dates and bite-sized history. The Danae isn’t just looking for the girl because of her supposed powers; they’re looking for her because she and her line are their crown jewel. Or at least she was until she vanished.

  When I flip to the next page, I find more cramped writing and the header “Collected Myths and Legends.” Before I can start to read, however, the door creaks behind me. I whirl around to find Neal standing in the entranceway, staring at me with surprise. Guess what? His neon swim trunks glow in the dark.

  “Found you!” he says before his face wrinkles in confusion. “Why are you standing in the middle of the room? You’re worse than Violet.” His eyes fall to the book in my hand. “What’s that?”

  “Nothing,” I say, annoyed at the interruption until I realize that I’m lucky it’s just Neal. Vlad might be hunting for this, which means that I should save a more thorough read for later. I attempt to shove it in my pocket, but girl pants are not as accommodating as boy pants. Left with little other option, I lift my T-shirt and wiggle it into the space between my back and the waistband of my jeans; at least if Vlad tries to take it back it will be covered in girl cooties. Holding up my hands, I say, “You got me!” just as Violet’s blond head appears behind his shoulder. She tickles his sides, and he jumps.

  “Too long again,” she says, but she is smiling. “Let’s go downstairs. I am tired of the cupboard.”

  I let them walk in front of me, head still pounding with new information until the way Violet loops her arm through Neal’s and he bends down to whisper something in her ear makes me think this might not be a problem that can be moved to the back burner. This is not good, I think as her giggle bounces up the stairway. This is not good at all.

  When we get to the bottom of the stairs I grab Violet’s free arm. “I need to talk to Violet for a second,” I tell Neal. “Go have another ranchy cheese puff. I hear they’re magically delicious.”

  “But—”

  “We’ll find you,” I say and pull Violet into the next room: the kitchen.

  A thick layer of dust coats the new appliances. The sink’s faucet is a dull green, and the only light still working is the one hanging over the oven. Cobwebs cling to every corner, including the slatted pantry door. The most neglected room in the house, it’s been left mostly empty by the other partygoers.

  Mostly. A girl I recognize from the soccer team and her friend stumble in, gossiping about how so-and-so just threw herself at Vlad for the third time, energetically enough that her top slipped down and exposed her man entrancers to the world. “And he just studied them for a few seconds,” she says, “then pulled up her top and said, ‘Thank you, that was an immense help.’ Sometimes he’s so weird.”

  Her friend nods enthusiastically and then points to her throat. “I’m thirsty,” she mouths and goes to the fridge, which I assume is filled with items that are more frightening than mystery mold.

  “There’s punch in the living room,” I tell her, blocking the handle. “It’s rude to poke around in people’s refrigerators.” As I jerk my head to point out the right direction, I do a quick skin sweep. She has a small birthmark on her hip, although it would be the most circular star ever made. I ask for her name anyway. I’ll admit that it comes out a little boot-camp.

  “Uh, Grace,” she says, eyeing me like I might order her to drop and give me twenty at any second. “And we’ll leave the fridge alone, okay? You don’t have to freak out,” she says and drags her friend toward the living room. “Who’s that?” I hear her ask before they disappear into the hallway. “Oh you know, that girl.”

  Fantastic.

  “There’s nothing in there, you know,” Violet says from behind me. I twirl around to find that she’s hopped onto the counter, dust be damned. She swings her crossed ankles back and forth, not minding when they bang against the lower cabinet. “You really should give us some credit,” she continues. “We may be a little behind the times, but we are not naive enough to leave blood lying around for just anyone to find.”

  “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say, trying to look fluffy-bunny innocent despite her doubtful look.

  “Marisabel told me about your conversation in the ladies’ room. I never had the courage to tell her myself, but I agree that they should call it off. Seventeen would deem it a verbally abusive relationship.”

  “Who else knows?”

  “Just us!” Violet says, but I still feel a little sick to my stomach. Violet must see my unease, because she adds, “I would not worry about it if I were you. Well, unless you’re in front
of Vlad. Then I might worry about it.”

  That’s quite the disclaimer. “Why?”

  “He has been snapping at all of us lately. Neville came home yesterday with the announcement that he won the lead in the school play, and Vlad nearly staked him on the spot. I really wish he would find the girl he wants so we can all forget this nonsense and start to concentrate on what really matters. Like Neal!” She claps excitedly. “Oh, Sophie, he is fantastic! I hardly even think of James anymore.”

  “You mean you want to stay here?” I ask with obvious disbelief. “Even if Vlad finds the girl?”

  She either misses my tone or chooses to ignore it. “Of course. This is much more fun than that dusty old farmhouse! Why? You don’t want James to stay?”

  If that isn’t the million-dollar question. It’s not something I want to contemplate, so I try to change the subject. “Violet, about Neal—”

  “I am aware that he is a little strange,” she interrupts, “but I firmly believe I can get him to stop carrying that rodent around in his pocket.”

  “It’s not that,” I say, choosing my words carefully. “In the past, you may have been a little hasty with your . . . gentlemen friends.”

  “What do you mean?” she asks, starting to frown as her swinging feet go still. Ominously still.

  “I mean, well . . . you like Neal a lot, right?” I ask, plunging ahead despite my better judgment.

  “Oodles.”

  “Then perhaps you should try something different this time,” I say.

  “And what do you mean by that?”

  I check to make sure that the coast is clear before I delve into the Monster Mash portion of this conversation. When I’ve confirmed that it’s just us here in this kitchen—a kitchen that is feeling more and more claustrophobic by the second, I might add—I say, “I know that in the past you have turned your boyfriends into vampires, and I am wondering if maybe you should try not to do that with Neal.”

  She gives a dainty sniff. “You don’t have to say it like it’s a dirty word.”

  “What? Neal?”

  “No,” she corrects. “Vampire! There are quite a few people who might like to be one of us. I think they are called Erica,” she adds, naming our school’s resident Goth. “And besides, I cannot make him unless he agrees.”

  “Really?”

  “Well, that is the common practice. But sometimes I do cheat a little and ask vague questions. Like ‘If you were accidentally stabbed in the stomach several times, would you want to live?’ And if they say yes, then I can reasonably assume that they would like to be a vampire, because we are the only beings who would survive that. See?”

  Her logic leaves me speechless. She takes the silence as my assent.

  “Lovely, it is settled. I am going to find Neal now.” She hops off the counter, but her tone still makes it sound like a threat. Before I can tell her to wait, she knocks into my shoulder as she brushes by me, hard enough to knock me into the refrigerator door. This is swiftly spiraling out of control.

  “What would Seventeen say?” I call out, desperate to regain some leverage.

  She stops. “What do you mean?”

  “I read an article once about how you shouldn’t try to, er, change your boyfriends?” I try. At this point I am just treading water, but Violet seems to be considering it.

  “I may have read this article,” she says finally. “There was a story about a girl named Amy whose boyfriend was some sort of athletics person but she wanted him to like jazz.”

  “And?”

  “And ultimately it tore them apart. It was very tragic.”

  “See?”

  “Perhaps,” Violet says, trying to be arch and coy, but I can tell that for now, at least, I’ve managed to save Holland with my thumb.

  “Promise me that you won’t turn Neal,” I say.

  “But what if—”

  “If you don’t,” I say, “I’m going to have to warn him. And I really don’t want to have that conversation. I’m getting enough of a name for myself as it is.”

  Her face falls as she bites her lip. “I like him, Sophie.”

  “Then promise,” I insist.

  There is a brief pause, and I fear that I have pressed my luck too far. But then Violet flounces over to stand by my side, pulling up her toga when it threatens to slide off her shoulders.

  “Very well!” she says, perky once again. “What do I have to sign?”

  “No contract necessary. Just your word,” I say. I would do a blood pact if I didn’t think it would be an invitation to snack.

  “You have my word,” she parrots gravely, and then leaps toward me for a hug. “Oh, I am so glad we are friends now!” she exclaims and then pushes me back to stare into my eyes. “Please endeavor not to steal Neal.”

  “No worries there, I promise you.”

  “This is going to be so fun! Do you want to come over for tea tomorrow? I mean, I cannot have any, but I’ll make some for you!”

  “Let’s take it one day at a ti—,” I begin, but stop when Violet’s fingers dig into my shoulders.

  “Go to the pantry,” she says, urgent all of a sudden.

  “Huh? Why?”

  “Vlad is on his way over here,” she hisses, “and he suspects that you know more than you should.” Her eyes widen as she takes in my outfit. “You are also improperly attired for his party.”

  She pushes me toward the slatted doors and opens them with a free hand. The odor emanating from the pantry is foul.

  “But—”

  “In,” she insists. “I will come retrieve you when it is safe. You may thank me later,” she whispers, and then, with one swift shove, closes me in the pantry. The inside is just as rank as you’d imagine a small, unused, and unwashed room to be. The empty shelves stack all the way up to the ceiling, and in the weak light that squeezes through the slats, they look vaguely skeletal. A mildewed mop stands forlornly in the corner behind me like a vengeful ghost from a Japanese thriller. This better save me from certain death; otherwise I’m stuffing Violet in the oven as payback.

  I peer through the gaps just in time to see James enter the kitchen from the other door and tap Violet on the shoulder. She yelps. It takes two seconds for her flustered expression to turn flirtatious as she looks down at the floral tent she’s wearing and asks him if he likes it.

  “It’s lovely,” he says. “Have you seen Sophie?”

  “Yes!”

  “Good. Where?”

  “Have you met my boyfriend?” Violet asks, apropos of nothing. “I am speaking of my new boyfriend, of course. He should be by the refreshment table. Eating cheese doilies.”

  “I’d love to meet him—later. Right now I’m looking for Sophie,” he says, stretching out my name until it sounds like two distinct words. “Where is she?”

  Holding a finger to her lips, she points to the pantry.

  “Why is she in the pantry?” James asks before his expression melts into horror. “Violet, what did you do?”

  “Nothing! I am trying to help her. Quick! Vlad is coming.”

  James’s eyes widen, and he jogs toward the door. Before I can fashion a NO BOYS ALLOWED sign, he’s opened it, closed it, and is standing in front of me. His body blocks most of the light, so I can’t see the expression on his face, but I can feel him looking at me, even though he doesn’t say anything. I try to think of a joke to cut the tension, but the only things that come are of the knock-knock variety. (“Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “A steadily shrinking pantry!” “A steadily shrinking pantry who?” “Get out, please.”)

  The silence ticks on; all I can hear are the sounds of my own breathing and the thrum of tropical music leaking through the walls. The thin bars of light squeezing through the slats make him look like a trendy tiger. Finally, I can’t take it anymore.

  “This is an abnormally small pantry. I’m going to write a letter,” I say, leaving off the part about his shoulders seeming abnormally large. I’m thinking that I’m going to wr
ite a letter about that too when James suddenly blurts that he wants to apologize.

  “Really?” I ask, surprised.

  “Yeah. I think it’s brave what you’re doing. And I’ve tried to stop hoping that there’s some way to change this, I have. Because I hate the way that it makes you look at me, like I’m some kind of criminal.”

  “That’s not what I think,” I say, and it’s true. I open my mouth to tell him this, but the particles of dust stirred up by his entrance tickle my nose. I cover my mouth and sneeze as quietly as possible. It still sounds like a chipmunk that’s recently had a sex change operation.

  “That’s not exactly the pledge of understanding that I was hoping for,” James says, “but I’ll take it.”

  The dark is making his voice lower, warmer, and more rumbly. His shoulder is level with my ears. I don’t know if it’s a trick of the light or what, but at the moment it looks very comfortable. Distraction, I try to remind myself, but my brain doesn’t care. It would be so easy to just sort of rest my head on it for a few to see if it’s as comfortable as it looks. . . .

  “You can if you want,” James says.

  I will be so glad when James is finally done with vampire puberty. “You have to stop doing that.”

  “I can’t help it. Your thoughts are very strong,” he says. “It’s another reason I would like to not be . . . this . . . anymore. Mind reading is fun until you find out that your chemistry teacher dreamed he was a transvestite the night before.”

  “Mr. George?” I ask, suddenly beset by an image that is both hilarious and terrifying.

  “Mr. George,” James confirms. “The thoughts of yours I catch are at least amusing.”

 
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