Have you ever had one of those secrets you were just dying to tell someone? It was so awesome or amazing you just wanted to grab somebody and scream excitably in their face, “Hey, guess what?!!” It’s for that reason when Angela called me on my cell I let it go straight to voicemail. I didn’t trust myself to keep it quiet. Angela could pry nearly anything out of me, so instead I just listened to her message.
“Hey slut, what’s up? You got to give me the dirt. What happened? He is so freaking fine. OMG, you lucky bitch!” Click.
But I didn’t feel lucky. I felt under pressure. I was entrusted with a secret so great it was almost a burden. I was also scared. What did all this mean for me and Haru? We were no longer new neighbors just saying hello. Now every time I said Hi, it would be like saying, ‘I know your secret.’ I mean, I thought he was a vampire from the moment I saw him, but to have him actually admit it was frightening. In the movies, that’s when the vampire usually destroys the victim. Is that what I was? His little victim? He hadn’t bitten me or anything, but in a sense I felt like I was his, at least in some small secretive fashion. It was like we were each other’s protector now. Me protecting his secret; He protecting me from whatever was inside Mrs. Winston’s house, I suppose. When I was telling myself I had to kill him, I felt pretty sure what I had to do, but now I was confused. I didn’t know exactly what we were. I mean, I knew we weren’t lovers, or going together, or anything like that, but I think I felt like my teenage cousin Shelly did when she fell for a guy in his thirties. She didn’t know what the hell it meant, or how to act, or even what to say to the guy. I was at that same kind of loss.
Mom came home about eight. Angela had called two more times by then and I was feeling anxious all over. I felt like I was going to have a breakdown at any minute. It made it worse that mom wanted us to eat dinner together, which almost never happened.
“Are you all right, dear,“ she asked, as we sat at the table after the blessing.
This sounded strange coming from her, especially the ‘dear’ part. That was pretty well out of character and made me feel even more guarded. “Yes, Mom. I’m fine.”
“I just thought we could eat together tonight. We don’t get to do that much anymore since your father…” She let that hang in the air for a moment, and I could tell she was searching her addled mind for words. “And I thought maybe we could talk.”
“About what?” I asked, cutting a small piece of meatloaf and putting it in my mouth.
“You know. Girl type stuff. We haven’t had that talk, I don’t think.”
“Mom, we don’t have to have that talk. I’m good.”
“Oh I know you’re a good girl, sweetie. But even good girls can make mistakes that affect them their whole lifetime.”
It didn’t take a psychoanalyst to figure out she was referring to herself. I guess it was only natural that she would want to protect me from doing the same things, but hell, to hear her tell it, when she was fifteen she’d been around the block several times over, and most of those times without clothes.
“Mom, I can’t make mistakes if I’m not doing anything. I barely go out of the house.”
“Right now, yes. But as you’ll be sixteen in July and your body is going to be developing desires that are difficult to control. Already, you may be feeling something ….um, different. Or perhaps sensations…”
“Mom, please don’t. This is embarrassing. I had my first period just before my fourteenth birthday. Why didn’t you chat me up then? I had to go to Aunt Charlotte.”
She frowned. “I’m sure she told you everything and steered your curiosity away from your natural inclinations.”
“Natural inclinations? What the hell, mom?” I set my fork down. “Why don’t you tell me what’s really on your mind? Why do you have to play these dumb ass guessing games with me? I know you used to play ignorant with dad, but…”
“I saw the Facebook pictures,” she blurted quite matter as factly.
“I knew it. I knew this was what it was about. Let’s sit down to dinner dear so I can find out the name of your dyke girlfriend.”
“Don’t be so rude, Nora. Is it Angela?”
“Mom,“ I yelled loudly. “It’s not anyone. It’s a vicious ugly rumor that got started by some jealous evil bitch at school. They set me up and then plastered pictures all over the net. That girl may have been gay, but I’m not.” I reinforced this statement by shoving my chair away from the table and getting up.
She looked up at me with a stern look and said, “Sit down.”
I fidgeted for a moment and then did as she said.
“Look Nora, I had to ask. I have people I barely know coming up to me in Walmart and whipping out their cells to show me you and that girl kissing.”
“Well, if you had looked close enough, you would have seen it was her doing the kissing, not me.”
“Even so. I need to be able to count on you to be a normal fifteen year old.”
“Normal? What is that supposed to mean? If I were gay, would that be not normal? If I go hang out at a drug dealer’s house, would that be not normal? Or how about smoking a blunt with my pimp? Or how about doing like you did and doing a strip tease on the school bus after football practice…”
Whap! The slap nearly echoed in the room and my head reeled to one side so hard I thought it would give me whiplash.
“Don’t talk to your mother like that,“ she screamed.
I rubbed my reddened cheek with the back of my hand. It stung badly, but I refused to let her see tears. “Fine, I’ll just be normal and not talk to you at all.”
Before she could say anything, I stormed out the room and upstairs to the safety of my bedroom. I made sure to slam the door so hard it shook the house. I knew she’d be up before too long so I locked the door and silently dared her to knock.
I sat down on the edge of the bed and waited. When I didn’t hear her footsteps right away, I got even madder than I already was. I got up and grabbed the remote to my TV. I turned it on and pulled up Netflix. Scrolling through my list I couldn’t find anything good enough to irritate her with, so I went to the smart TV menu and pulled up YouTube. I had a playlist of Visual kei videos I loved to watch. She hated loud rock music. Pop was fine. Country was ideal, but angry guitars she couldn’t stand. Even worse, she loathed music she couldn’t understand the words to. So I hit play and the first one came on. Incubus by Acid Black Cherry. Ah, it was perfect. I turned the volume as loud as I could. Take that, I thought, not even sure exactly why I was mad at her anymore, just that I was.
It didn’t take long. The song was only about half way through, and I was dancing and jumping around the room screaming at the top of my lungs, “Incubus, break me! break everything, even this world!” It wasn’t a direct translation. I’d gotten it off the net somewhere, and it served good enough for now, because a knock came at my door, quiet and reserved. I turned the music up louder and ignored it. I even kicked over my desk chair and wastebasket so she’d think I was really breaking stuff.
The knock came louder next time, and when I saw the handle trying to turn, I really got furious. I wanted so bad to slap her now. I bounded across the room, unlocked the door and threw it open. “Leave me alone!” I screamed, my open hand already arcing towards her exposed face. Except it wasn’t her.
The figure caught my wrist before it made contact. “If you wish me to leave you alone I will, though I’m hoping that isn’t the case.”
“Oh my god, Haru. I’m sorry. I thought you were…”
“It’s okay.” He let go of my wrist. “You do have a pretty nasty swing.”
I blushed a little, embarrassed.
He raised one eyebrow. “I’m talking about your slapping hand, of course.”
I blushed even more. To think he may have noticed any other swing I might possess was enough for my whole face to turn cherry red.
“You invited me over, remember? I realize you may not have meant so soon but I wanted to apologize.”
“Do you open every greeting with an apology?”
He smiled. “It seems like it, doesn’t it?”
We stood there awkwardly for a minute, me in the doorway, and he still out there in the hall.
“You can wait in the living room downstairs,“ I finally said. “I’ll be down in a minute. Just let me…”
“I can’t come in your room?”
“Um, well…I’ve never had…I mean I’m not sure…”
“Thanks,“ he replied and before I knew it he had glided past me and into my bedroom. “Oh wow, this is so cool.” He looked around the room at all the J-Rock posters and manga pictures I had plastered on the walls. He picked up the remote and turned the TV volume down, at least enough so we could be heard. “Yasu is great,“ he said pointing to the Acid Black Cherry video. “Wish I had his clothes.”
For a fleeting moment I had a vision of myself dressing him in those clothes, but I forced it away, not sure if the image was from my own head or his.
“Did you draw all these?” He was standing at my desk and leaning towards the mirror where I had taped some hand drawn manga to its surface.
“Yes, I did,“ I replied a little warily. The picture I had drawn of him in class was among them. He noticed it. Though it wasn’t accurate, it did capture some of his features, mostly his cheeks and the shape of his nose. I had drawn it from the memory of seeing him look up at the stars so that’s about all I could make out of his face at the time. Still, he seemed to know it was him. I thought he was going to ask me about it, put me on the spot or something, but he just smiled and turned towards me.
“Well, as I said, I came over to say I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what?”
“Breaking down on you like that today. I’m afraid my first impression is that of a cry baby.”
Before I knew what was coming out of my mouth I said, “I like boys who cry.”
He gave me a curious look. “Oh, are you a masochist?”
“No,“ I giggled. “I just like boys who aren’t afraid to show their feelings.”
“Hm. Well, I have lots of feelings to show.” He looked at me, making direct eye contact. His dark eyes were so beautiful. I had never seen anything so deep and expressive. There was an intensity that screamed loneliness and in that moment I wanted nothing more than to take that from him. I backed away from him, a little frightened of my own feelings, which up until that moment I thought I had a handle on.
“If you want me to,“ he added quietly.
I must have been in a dreamy daze because I heard myself say, “If I want you to what?”
“To show my feelings more.”
“Oh.” I shook my head as if cobwebs had taken up residence inside it. “I’m sorry I was … um…daydreaming, I guess.”
“I wish I could have my own dreams. Maybe you could share me yours.”
“I..I don’t know what you mean, but…”
He laughed. “Forget it. I don’t know what I mean either. I’m just trying to..um..be your friend.”
I looked down at the floor so he wouldn’t see my smile. “I’d like that, “ I said.
He nodded. “Cool.” Then he smiled, and I froze. For just a moment I saw them. His fangs. He didn’t have this big kind of smile that made his whole mouth open, and when he laughed his lips barely parted, so I hadn’t noticed them before. But for just a moment I thought I saw them at either side of his jaw, sharp to the point and glistening white. Self-consciously, he closed his mouth.
“Sorry, “ I said. “I didn’t mean to stare or anything. I’ve just never seen…”
“It’s okay.” He nervously smiled, his cheeks almost trembling, as he showed me again. “Please don’t be afraid.”
“I’m trying,“ I admitted. “This is all so weird. Like I’m dreaming.”
“You can touch them if you want.” He opened his mouth wide so that I could touch the tips with my fingers, but that idea freaked me out just a little too much.
“No, that’s okay. I know they’re real.”
He closed his mouth. He looked hurt at first, as if I didn’t trust him. I don’t if that was the case. All I know is one doesn’t just put their hand inside a vampire’s mouth. No matter how flipping hot they are. And he was that. In fact, he wasn’t just hot; he was like a living drug. Just standing close to him was intoxicating. I don’t think he realized just how beautifully intense he was. He wasn’t trying to hit on me, I don’t think, or using some kind of supernatural power to influence my emotions. No, this was me, completely enamored by this boy whom I barely knew but wanted to know much more. My thoughts flashed to what my mom had said about good girls making mistakes and that seemed to break the spell he was unconsciously weaving.
“I better check on mom,“ I suddenly said. “We had a fight.”
“I know,“ he said. “I heard her talking to my uncle in the backyard. That’s how I knew you were alone, so I came over.”
“You wanted to be alone with me?” I asked.
I thought I was going to cry. No boy had ever said that to me before. “Why?“ I asked.
“What do you mean, why?”
“Why do you want to be alone with me?”
“Be-cause I like you. Your’e bright, and fun, sweet…beautiful.”
Again, another first. A couple boys had said I was pretty before, but I’d never been beautiful. “You mean that?” I asked, dreading the possibility this was another of his just kidding moments.
He smiled. “Yes, I do.”
I wanted to tell him how beautiful I thought he was, but something inside was warning me no. This was going too fast. Way too fast. The first time we spoke was last night and here it was not even twenty four hours later and we were having a personal conversation in my bedroom that danced around flirty. This couldn’t be real. This had to be something else. If something felt too good to be true, that meant it usually was.
He seemed to detect my uneasiness; to know I was having a war within myself and so he did what I’d never seen a boy do…ever. He retreated to his corner with no questions asked. “Well, hey look,” he said. “I know your mom will be back soon and you’ll want to try and see what can be worked out. I hope everything goes all right. I’ll be around later if you want to talk about it. I’ll count the stars until you get there.” He gave me a little wink that was so endearing I wanted to implore him to stop being so damn cute. But I didn’t. Instead I just winked back and watched him leave. It was easy to remember this wasn’t going to be the usual kind of friendship when his way of leaving was right out the window. Literally. I guess he just didn’t want to run into mom, because moments later she was at my bedroom door with tears in her eyes. She didn’t say a word, and neither of us said we were sorry. Instead we just stood there looking at each other until she reached out to hug me. I let her because I knew it would make her feel better. It made me feel better, too.
“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.