Haru sat in the deck chair. He had slid it over next to mine and we both had our heads tilted back, looking up at the stars. The night was clear and the whole sky seemed to be filled with those tiny points of light.
“You know what I like about the stars?” he asked.
I turned my head to look at him. “No. What?”
“They seem fixed. In place. Unchanging. But the truth is, they are moving. Never standing still. Sometimes they die out. Sometimes they collide with other stars.” He looked at me and smiled. “Sometimes they fall. And other times, they shine so bright they illuminate everything around them.” He returned his gaze heavenward. “In essence, I suppose they are a lot like us. Sometimes when I look at them, I think of other people in the world looking at them too. People who are filled with happiness, or suffering without hope; people falling in love, or falling out of it. I sometimes want to put myself in their place just to experience what they do.“ He paused, as if thinking that over. “And yet, all I really want is to know that somewhere, someday, we’ll all be together like this huge cluster of stars in the sky, shining for someone else’s amusement and joy.”
“That’s pretty deep stuff, “ I said, not really knowing how to respond.
His face had a wistful smile. “Yeah, I guess it is.”
“You must have been watching the stars a long time.”
“About thirty minutes before you came out, “ he replied.
“No, I mean, being a vampire, you must have watched the stars for years.” I couldn’t believe I called him a vampire to his face. It sounded weird coming out my mouth.
“Is that your way of trying to get my age out of me?” he asked.
He sighed. “Every year for me has been the same as the last. I have seen countless summers come and go. I forget the time.”
“You don’t want to tell me?”
He looked at me and the smile he was able to muster was sad. “You will find it difficult to be my friend. I am too old.”
I put my hand lightly on his arm. “Look, when I realized what you were, I was bothered by the fact you were probably a lot older than me. It is kind of creepy when you think about it, but when I see you with my eyes, I see what’s on the outside, and your outside says you’re forever seventeen. So it doesn’t bother me.”
“After a while it will.”
“Perhaps. But right now it doesn’t.” To bravely prove my point, I leaned towards him and rested my head on his shoulder. “I don’t care how old you are. All I know is I feel special when I’m with you.”
“You are special.”
“How do you know?”
“How do you know I’m special?”
This has always been my trick question, the one that would trip all the boys up. It usually stopped them in their tracks, and in their hesitation to answer they would lose heart. It really wasn’t a trick; it was more of a challenge. I had always hated when boys used the “you’re special” card, thinking that’s all girls wanted to hear. Their answers always fell short. Haru’s was a little unexpected.
“I know you’re special because you’re changing me.”
“Yes. It has been a long time since I’ve had a real friend.”
“But we just met last night.”
“And I’ve changed a lot since then.”
“Well…I…You…do you treat every guy this way?”
I was taken aback. “Excuse me?”
“When a guy tries to be nice to you, or pays you a compliment, or just tries to tell you that you’re a beautiful person…do you always question it?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Why? Don’t you trust them, or is it true that you just don’t like boys?”
I was stunned. It wasn’t the fact he said what he did; it was the fact he’d been here maybe a day or two and already the rumor had reached him. “You don’t have to be my friend,” I said and got up to walk away. He got up, too.
“I do want to be your friend. That’s the whole point. But you don’t trust me enough for that. You question everything there is about me.”
I looked at him. “You’re a vampire.”
“So? You’re a fifteen year old white girl from the suburbs. What’s that got to do with it?”
“I don’t kill people for their blood or turn them into other vampires.”
“Ouch, that stings. But it’s also ignorant, because I don’t do either of those.”
I looked at him, surprised. “You don’t drink blood?”
“You didn’t say that. You said I kill people for their blood. I don’t take human life. And I don’t turn anyone into vampires either.”
I didn’t know what to say. How could I respond to that? All I could do was make light of what he was. “You don’t sound much like vampires I’ve heard of.”
“Good. I don’t want to be.”
A silence hung between us for a moment. I was at a loss for words. Finally he spoke. “Until today, I had nothing to look forward to. Even moving to a new town didn’t bring me any kind of hope or anticipation. Then the other night I saw you in your window watching me. And last night, I found myself hoping you would watch me again. But you didn’t. Instead you came over. It may not have went that well, but this morning I found myself desiring to see you again. So I came to your school because I didn’t want to wait for tonight. And after tonight, I know I will find myself looking forward to seeing you the next time. That’s how you are special. You have a spell over me and it took you only two days.”
I was nearly breathless. “Wow. Well, I don’t know what to say.”
“Say what you feel.”
“I don’t know how I feel. I mean, maybe vampires get attached this quickly, but humans don’t.” It was a lie, but I was hoping he couldn’t tell that. “I mean, I like you and all, and I did look forward to seeing you tonight, but…”
He cocked his head. “But…?”
“Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you’re trying to say, but this is moving too fast for me.”
He nodded his head. He didn’t seem disappointed. In fact, he looked like a guy who had heard that excuse many times over. “I’m sorry. Like I said, each day is like the one before it for me. Time just isn’t the same for us. You say it’s been a day or two, but for me I feel like I’ve known you for…for a very long time.” He bowed his head in much the same way in the Asian movies when the character is either bestowing honor or asking forgiveness. “Forgive me if I act too familiar or overstep my bounds. I don’t mean to make you uneasy or uncomfortable.”
“It’s okay. I know I have a problem with trusting people and believing what they say. It’s just that I’ve been lied to so many times.”
“I understand. I won’t lie to you.”
“That could be a lie itself.”
He sighed, almost in exasperation. “Interesting point of view.” Looking skyward, he seemed to be seeking the next line in our conversation within the stars themselves. I looked up with him just in time to see a star streak across the horizon and fall behind the mountains.
“Hey, there you go. You can always wish on that star that people won’t lie to you anymore. “
“No, I wouldn’t wish that,“ I replied.
He turned his head to look at me. “Oh. What would you wish then?”
“If I tell you I won’t get it.”
He sighed and returned his gaze to the stars.
“I don’t know why I can’t trust people.”
“Scars. Sometimes hurt can heal, but there is always a scar left over.”
I thought of my legs. All the scars from the cutting I had done. They weren’t super horrible, but if I wore a skirt too far up the leg I’m sure people would stare. Personally I thought I looked ugly in dresses, and the cutting scars didn’t help.
For a moment, I thought Haru had read my exact thoughts because he continued on with, “until someone comes along and takes them away.”
“Takes what away?” I asked, already knowing what he meant.
I looked down. “Some scars can’t be removed. Either they have been there too long or the wound keeps scabbing over.”
He nodded and pursed his lips. “Pretty smart for someone who has had only fifteen summers to think about it.” He paused for a moment and flipped a blond lock off his forehead. I didn’t say anything but just admired the gracefulness of the action. Then he turned to me and repeated it by brushing one of the dark locks away from my eye. “Here is where you’re special,“ he said. “I trust you.”
I didn’t know what he was getting at. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. When he opened them he was looking right at me as if he wanted to climb inside my soul. “I’ve had every summer since 1281 to think about the scars we leave.”
My mouth must have dropped so low it scraped ground. “1281?” I nearly screamed. “Holy shit! You’re kidding, right? This is another one of your just kidding moments.”
He shook his head and I knew he was telling the truth. No wonder his eyes looked like he understood everything around him. He was nearly a thousand years old. “Oh my god, this can’t be happening,” I cried. “No, no, no.”
I ran my fingers nervously through my hair and turned in circles, just looking for a place I could run to. He was a lot older than I had been thinking. And I mean a lot. This was beyond creepy; it was downright disturbing. Hot Asian boy moves in next door. Not only is he gorgeous, but he’s also a vampire. And to top it all off he’s old enough to be my great great great something or another.
“I can’t deal with this,“ I said, panic written all over my face. Hell, he’d probably been married two dozen times at the very least. I don’t know why, but it was at this moment I decided to cry. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it was just something that happened. Overwhelmed with everything, my world crumbled around me. If he had broken down in front of me earlier, then I had come apart at the seams. And unknown to me, he was the only one who could hold me together.
The moment the tears hit my cheek his arms were around me. Despite him being the reason for all this, I collapsed into his embrace and sobbed against his chest. He didn’t attempt to do anything more than hold me. His arms were gentle and comforting and I thought I heard him sniffing my hair, but to be honest, it was probably the sound of my own sobs.
We stood there like that for a long time; me caught in the safety of his affectionate grasp, He standing stark still, a sentinel to guard me and my fragile heart. “I’m sorry,“ he finally whispered. In that moment, I think he knew that no matter what, I was lost to him, and he a forbidden thing for me to want and desire. As my tears started afresh, my thought was that Romeo and Juliet had it easy.
Walking across the yard and heading home, I thought to myself sometimes I didn’t get Haru. Part of me had wanted to, but what he had told me tonight was a definite game changer. Sure, he was the best piece of eye candy that Chelsea Valley had ever seen, and there were things about him that were endearing; things that most girls wish their boyfriends were. But was that enough to overcome the obstacles that lay before our friendship? There were some strange, mysterious things at work with Haru, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about them.
As I moved among the trees away from his house, I knew he was still on the porch, standing by the deck chairs, watching me walk away. He had let me go easy enough when my body language told him my cry-fest was over. When I said I had to go because it was a school night, he didn’t protest; he just backed off and said that he hoped to see me tomorrow. I didn’t commit to that, but something within me said I’d like to see him too. Still, I tried to tell myself it wasn’t like I wanted to see him every waking moment. He wasn’t my boyfriend, and I hadn’t fallen so crazy for him I would do anything to be by his side. That was stupid. Oh, is that why you went jumping through the trees to get to him tonight, my little inner voice teased.
Maybe Haru knew something I didn’t. Certainly he had to know he was irresistible to a girl. Would he use that to his advantage? No, I don’t think so. When he was holding me, comforting me, there was nothing like it. It was pure, real, and honest. It wasn’t using or lying. I could feel it in the shudders that went through me. At first, I thought it was a reaction to my sobs, but it wasn’t. It was me wanting him to hold me forever.
Suddenly, something came out from behind a tree and blocked my path. I stopped short. I would have jumped clear out of my skin and screamed, but it wasn’t a scary figure at all. It was another beautiful vampire boy…
“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.