The principal sat behind his desk trying his best to look stern and in control when in fact he was scared out of his wits. Gustav sat cross-legged in front on me and totally composed. He regarded the principal with bored eyes, making it overly obvious that his time was being wasted on nonsense like Melanie’s innocence and my emotional breakdown which lead to destruction of school property. The principal was planning on suspending me for a week.
“Ms. Lacriox’s actions have been monitored by the faculty and there were earlier instances that she demonstrated inappropriate behavior within the campus—”
“Is my child that dangerous that you order your subordinates to spy on her rather than do their real job as teachers?” Gustav interrupted. “Mr. Daniels you’ve wasted my time with your insignificant speeches. I suggest we cut to the chase so everybody can go home.”
The principal stared at my maker like he was really seeing him for the first time. I could count the beads of sweat that trickled down the side of his face and he looked like he was on the verge of fainting.
Gustav continued his onslaught. “My daughter would never attack anyone if she wasn’t provoked to in the first place. That Melanie girl pushed her to the edge and I think she got a lot less than she really deserves.” He gently touched my ruined hair. “Just look at what she did. Being a parent, I know that girls value their hair as much as they do their lives. If I were in Sanguine’s place, my reaction wouldn’t be any less than she had demonstrated. And furthermore, if you’re so keen on making a big fuss about the plastic tray, I would gladly replace it with a hundred more.” Gustav sat back looking very smug.
Snip. Snip. Snip. The monotonous sound of the scissors cutting through my hair bounced off the walls of our empty house. Gustav was no coiffeur but he knew what he was doing and I entrusted my hair to him without a second thought.
“It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.” I rotated my head side to side, examining my new hairdo. The bubblegum had done so much damage that a haircut was inevitable. “Though I look like a emo now.”
“I’m sorry cherie but I did try my best to save your hair.”
“It’s just so unfair that Melanie got away with all of this. The principal is totally on her side.” I complained.
“The principal won’t do anything to punish her but her father will.” Gustav smiled.
My head snapped up and I flashed my maker a confused look. “What do you mean?”
“There are still some things I haven’t told you, cherie. Melanie’s father doesn’t own the Hunky Dory toy factory. He was only appointed as the president.”
“Your point being?”
“I am one of the major stockholders of that company and anything he does to upset me – which he already did through his daughter – will greatly affect his job.” Gustav twirled the scissors on his finger. “I’m sure Melanie is getting her just rewards right now.”
I reclined on the sofa and rested my feet on Gustav’s lap. “That somehow made me real happy.”
“Cherie, there is one thing I’ve been meaning to ask you. Who was that boy I saw you with?”
I stiffened briefly but forced myself to relax. “Oh. That was Jesse. He’s a junior.”
“You two looked very friendly with each other.”
“Gustav it’s nothing. We eat lunch together sometimes and he just happened to be there when this…” I gestured to my hair. “…happened. He stopped me from attacking Melanie.”
Gustav looked skeptical. “He was able to hold you back?”
I stopped to think. “Yeah…he did.”
Come to think of it he was very strong for a human.
“Have you noticed anything different in him aside from his strength?”
Gustav nodded his head. “Well the important thing is that he stopped you. Things could be a lot worse if you killed Melanie.”
“I admit, the world would be a lot better with one less bitch but then we’d be on the run again.”
“Exactly, no matter how much they hurt us we must remember always that they’re just humans and we can’t kill them. We need them as cover.” He concluded.
As I drove my bike through town the next day, I saw a press conference being held in front of the town hall. The mayor was being bombarded with questions related with his son’s death.
“Mayor Matthews, did your son have disputes of any kind which could have led to his murder?” one reporter asked.
“Not that I know of, my son was a kind and upright young man who cared for his studies and he never got in a fight.”
The mayor sure had thick skin. Any sympathy I might have felt for him was replaced with disgust. The town knew of Toby’s exploits and yet he chose to praise him with words like “kind” and “upright”.
“The mayor’s completely out of his mind.”
I rotated my torso to the sound of the unfamiliar voice. Leaning against a tall birch tree was the Shade. Her long hair fluttered in the cool morning wind. The sight of her long tresses sent a pang of jealousy through my veins. She looked fragile and weak in the light. Her skin was translucent and had a powdery appearance. Her ashen eyes looked past me and straight at the mayor.
“His son was a monster.”
She seemed different from our last meeting in the locker room where I had almost made a meal out of her. I wondered if she retained any memory from that day.
“I remember our first encounter very clearly.”
I froze and met her steely eyes. “You can read minds?”
She shook her head. “No, but I can feel your emotions through your shadow.”
She pointed to the ground and I saw that my shadow was lightly touching her small feet.
“If you can sense emotions through other people’s shadows, why didn’t you run when we first met?”
“I knew what you wanted but I wasn’t awakened yet at the time.”
“What do you mean?”
The Shade turned and began retreating into the forest.
“Wait, who are you?” I asked.
“My name’s Ester. You know what I am and I know what you are…vampire.”
“Did you kill Toby?”
She paused momentarily. “I may have.”
And with that she vanished into the darkness.
Ester wasn’t in school that day. Not that I was looking for her, it’s just that I could always somehow feel her presence on the campus even if I couldn’t see her. But today was different. I wanted to tell someone about Ester but I could think of no one. Gustav was out of the question. If he found out that I’ve been to that party I’m as good as dead. Well I am dead but…you know what I mean.
The cafeteria lady looked at me suspiciously like I would lose myself any minute. I flashed the brightest smile I could muster and she cringed away from me. I grabbed a slice of pizza and left her. Jesse beat me to the table again. This time he was eating.
“Can I make a comment without you ripping my head off?”
I arched a brow then nodded to his request.
“You look better now.”
“Really?” I asked nonchalantly.
“Yeah, your face looks perkier.”
“I look like an emo.”
“You’re a perky emo.”
“Whatever.” I bit into my pizza.
“Did you see the press conference?” Jesse asked, changing the subject.
“Sure did. The mayor’s making Toby look like a boy scout.”
Jesse snorted. “If he’s a boy scout, then I’m an angel.”
Unwillingly, I chuckled out loud, startling the people sitting close to us. I glanced at them and they simultaneously began eating.
“You’re beginning to grow on me, you know that?”
Jesse grinned. “I was hoping I would.”
To my utter surprise, Gustav met me at the front steps of the school. He had tied his hair back in a harsh ponytail. Everyone was just as shocked as me. The girls were starting to flock around him, giggling and batting their eyelashes.
“Is this going to be the trend since I now have a record in school?”
Gustav shook his head. “I just want to spend some time with my daughter. You’re always too busy with school while I on the other hand have plenty of time to spare.” He rested an arm around my shoulders. “I’m taking you out for dinner.”
I shot him a questioning look but he just smiled. Gustav got into his car while I followed behind him on my bike. We drove to the outskirts of town and arrived at a fancy restaurant. It was a quaint little place with dimmed lighting to set the mood right. After ordering, the waiter set a basket of breadsticks on our table. Out of habit, Gustav took one and started nibbling on it.
As if on cue, the waiter returned carrying our food. The wine was poured and we started eating. The smell of well cooked meat was mouth-watering but my curiosity got the best of me. I finished my meal without really tasting it. We lingered at the table for another minute. Gustav played with his wine glass while I fidgeted in my seat. Finally he stood up and I followed suit almost automatically. A cold gust of wind hit us as we exited the door.
“Come let’s go for a walk, cherie.” Gustav invited.
We trekked at human pace for the first meter then leaped into the trees. I followed Gustav for a good ten minutes before we came to a stop at a high ledge. My maker sat on the ground not caring if he soiled his immaculately tailored pants. I lowered myself right next to him.
“Tell me, cherie have you ever heard of the fountain of youth?” he blurted out randomly.
I nodded. “A fabled spring that can grant immortality to whoever drinks its waters.”
“True. Anyone can gain life eternal through it. But did you know that we built it?”
My head snapped up violently. “We?”
“Our race.” Gustav lifted his head to the heavens. “The fountain is most sacred to vampires. It’s not just a spring, cherie. It’s the resting place of the father of us all, Nosferatu.”
I frowned. “Resting place? You mean like a grave?”
Gustav bobbed his head. “Exactly a grave. But he isn’t really dead. He is merely sleeping, waiting for the perfect moment to return to the world again.”
“And you’re telling me this, why?”
“No one knew but our coven once held the map which leads to the fountain and in case of an attack – which has happened – our leader chose someone who is well-known and trusted by all to keep it safe.”
I studied Gustav carefully. “It was you.”
“Such a burden they have placed on my shoulders.”
“So you have the map with you now?” I asked.
My maker turned his head slowly to face me and took one of my hands and pressed it to his lips. “Yes, I have it with me. I always have.”
“But those who attacked the coven, what do they want with it? They’re all immortal anyway.”
“Immortality is only one of the many things that the fountain can offer. The vampire who killed Lionel is their leader, Nathaniel. He’s an ambitious bastard. He always made it known that he wanted the fountain the vampire council had him imprisoned but to our disbelief he escaped and when he found out that we were the key he didn’t think twice before striking us down.”
“But how did he know that we had the map? I thought that information was hidden from everyone?”
Gustav stretched out his legs in front of him. “That’s the sad part, cherie. Someone from the inside told him.”
“Nothing is anymore, cherie. There once was a time when our coven was known to be indestructible but then look what happened. We can’t deny the truth any longer. We are the living proof of it all. We’re the only survivors.”
Gustav’s words struck me painfully. He was right but I would never accept it.
“Then what’re we gonna do?”
“We have to protect the map.”
“Somehow sitting here helplessly doesn’t strike me as a good plan.”
“We have no choice. Austinford is the only place in the world that they would never dare set foot upon.”
“Then why did we?”
Gustav pulled me closer and embraced me. “Let’s just say I have a lot of friends here.”