The new vampire boy wasn’t as beautiful as Haru, but a girl wouldn’t throw rocks at him either. He was tall and toned, dressed in a white lace ruffled shirt and black leather pants. I could tell how toned he was by how tightly his shirt fit, his chest and abs straining against the fabric, as if trying to pop buttons off the front. He had long black hair with a purple streak flowing through his bangs. His eyes were so dark I could barely see them, and when he smiled, his lips seemed to curl back instead of parting naturally. “Hello,“ he said.
I stepped back a little. “Um…hi.”
“Beautiful night, isn’t it?”
I looked back over my shoulder to see if Haru was still in the deck chair. He wasn’t. Whoever this guy was, I was on my own.
“Uh yeah, but it’s a school night and my parents are expecting me to come through the door any minute.”
He smiled, but it wasn’t a very warm one. it was the kind of gesture that said, I know you’re lying. In fact, his whole demeanor made me think he already knew everything about me and my family. “Of course they are,“ he replied. “If I had such a beautiful daughter I’d be keeping tabs, too.”
“Well, I have to go. Nice meeting you..um…”
I froze. Haru’s cousin. The one with the tattoo. The one who had been in my room.
A look of genuine concern seemed to flash across his face. “What’s the matter? You look like you just saw a snake.”
“I think I have.” For once, I wished I had something to defend myself with, but my vampire kit was in my closet. I had nothing to ward off evil, not even a crucifix. But I couldn’t show my weakness. “You were in my room,“ I said. “Took a picture of your chest with my cell. Who knows what else you were doing?”
“Sorry about that,“ he answered, putting his hands up in feigned surrender. “I’ve been told I have too much of a dramatic flair.”
“Dramatic flair? You broke into my house. My room. You probably watched me in the shower, too.”
I could tell my temper was flaring because he backed up. I’m not saying he was scared of me; he was just surprised I wasn’t some juvenile wallflower he could toy with.
“No, I didn’t watch you there. I do have some manners. But yes, I came into your room uninvited. I couldn’t help it.”
“I saw you from across the street.”
He nodded. “I’d seen you earlier that day and I was….captivated.”
He laughed, and it was one of those chuckles that meant, can you believe this chick? “Come on, you’ve got to know it,“ he said.
He looked at me with his dark eyes. Some people, when they look at you in conversation, their eyes don’t stay on you constantly. They dart here or there, momentarily breaking the connection. Ryo wasn’t like that at all. He never took his eyes away from mine, and it took everything within me to keep my eyes on his, for his gaze was intense, the kind that either makes a girl melt or uncomfortable. I wasn’t about to let him see me melt, though with his rugged frame and good looks it was hard to concentrate on resistance. If allowed, I think Ryo could make any girl’s thoughts descend into sexual places that I really shouldn’t discuss.
“You know you are very beautiful,” he replied, and the way the words flowed off his tongue it sounded real. Angela at this point would have probably screamed, ‘Take me!’ but I still had enough willpower to be angry rather than seduced.
“Is that why you came into my room?” I demanded. “To spy on me and my beauty?” I said the last word a little sarcastic.
“No. I came to your room to know you.” He stepped a little closer and never taking his eyes off me. “I walked around, looking at things, taking in details, so I could learn a litte more about you. “
“You could have just asked and I would have told you.”
“Yes, I know. But there’s something unique and mysterious about a girl’s room. a touch of the forbidden. A glimpse at a young girl’s longing for affection.”
That was it for me. This vampire dude was a creeper. “Right now I’m longing for you to leave me alone.”
He ignored me with a condescending smile. “I’ve lived long enough to recognize loneliness and feelings of being..loveless.”
“You might be loveless, but I’m not.”
Again, his stare, but this time his eyes left me to trail down my body. For a moment, his stare locked on my legs, and despite wearing jeans I suddenly felt naked. “Is that why you cut yourself?” he asked.
I gave him a hard stare. He knew more about me than I wanted him to. Either that, or he had been spying on me more than I thought, which made me feel angry and violated. “Look…” I began, but he held up his hands again.
“I didn’t come here to fight,“ he confessed.
“Then why did you come here?”
“To tell you the truth about my cousin Haru.”
I didn’t say anything. I’d seen this kind of behavior in boys since fifth grade. Girls might like a little competition in the romance department, but guys seemed to get their thrill by trying to undercut the other guy. It usually came down to name calling, and that’s why Ryo’s opening statement threw me off.
“He likes you,“ he said. “A lot.”
“How do you…”
“But the last girl he loved, he took her life. Without thinking, without batting an eyelash.” He snapped his fingers and it made a loud pop. “Snuffed her out just like that.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“You don’t have to. The truth doesn’t change based on your belief.” For a moment I thought tears were going to come from his fathomless eyes, but he bit his lip so hard it drew blood. In a quick expression of what he was, he sucked the blood from his lip back into his mouth. “Someone once said to me, guard your heart wisely, for sometimes it is easily deceived and doomed to destruction.”
I didn’t know how to respond to that, but I guess it wasn’t necessary, because he turned to go. He took a couple steps and then stopped. He didn’t turn around, but I heard him say, “The girl who said that is dead to me now. A product of her own fate at the hands of Haru.” He hung his head, and then looked over his shoulder at me. “Be careful, little diamond. Do not shine so brightly that you attract death. He wears a pretty face.”
I watched him walk away. His gait was still haughty and confident, but his posture was wounded, as if somehow my mere presence had broken through his defenses and revealed how vulnerable he really was. If I hadn’t been bothered over how he had been the intruder in my room I probably would have cried for him. Instead, I turned to my house and went home. I cast a last look back to see him disappear in the shadows surrounding Mrs. Winston’s house. I looked over to Haru’s house. All the lights were off and there was no one to be seen.
Lying in bed, I tried to turn over all the events of the day in my head, but it was too much. Sensory overload. So much had been said from both Haru and Ryo that their voices in my memory began to sound like the other, until I was having trouble remembering who said what. When sleep came, it arrived heavy, but not heavy enough to stop the dreams of the Jigsaw man.
The jigsaw man was working another puzzle, its images constantly moving across the face of the pieces. This time it was not a scene completely alien to me, but was set in a familiar place. The school Auditorium. Like it was during school events, it depicted a crowded room populated by students and faculty alike. But instead of kids lounging around waiting for an assembly, they were lined up in rows heading to the front of the stage. It reminded me of a manufacturing line where parts were sent down a conveyor belt to be assembled further or completely taken apart. Or perhaps bleating lambs awaiting their own slaughter. The slaughter was taking place on the stage where vampires awaited to suck the blood out of everyone. A special line was set aside for the female students, and at the head of it stood two boys I recognized, Haru and Ryo. They appeared to be fighting over who got which girl coming up the line. At the head of the line was Amanda Trump smiling triumphantly, her neck bared for my vampire boys.
The jigsaw man looked at me and tried to speak. The garbled sound wasn’t anything I could recognize. In frustration, he made gestures to try to convey to me the message within the dream, but it was no use. Without a voice, his other methods fell flat. He pointed at something within the puzzle, a man suspended on a cross, bleeding to death right there on the stage. No one paid him any mind, nor did a vampire drink from the blood that poured from this man’s wounds. It was like he was tainted, and that to drink from him would dishonor them all. The man was my father.
When I jolted awake and called out, it wasn’t my dad’s name I called for, but my mom’s. Even my subconscious knew he wasn’t here. Mom may as well have not been there either, because she didn’t come. I lay in bed, bathed in sweat, my oversized Black Butler t-shirt clinging to me as if I’d been left out in the rain. My cell went off and I nearly screamed. Looking at the clock beside my bed, I saw it was two AM. Who would be calling at this hour? I got out of bed and retrieved my cell from its charger. I woke it up and the first message on my screen said I had missed a call. I opened up the call log and saw an unknown number with a voicemail waiting. I listened to the message. It was nothing but silence with a little bit of crackling static. Then a faraway voice asked, “Hello? Nora?” I recognized the caller instantly. It was Haru. I deleted the message.
“You vampire boys need to leave me alone,“ I muttered and returned to bed. Dreams of the jigsaw man left me alone for the rest of the night.
The next morning on my way to school, the dream of the night before returned to my thoughts. What did it all mean? Was I, or indeed the whole school, in danger from the vampire boys? And what did my dad have to do with anything? Before I left the house, I left a note for my mom on the refrigerator. “I’m going to go see dad this weekend,”it read. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. You couldn’t ask mom for things because then she’d argue with you or try to talk you out of it. However, if you just came out and said what you were going to do, then she’d do it. Didn’t make much sense sometimes, but that was mom for you.
Another thing that didn’t make sense about the dream was that within the macabre puzzle I didn’t see myself nor Angela. Other students I had recognized. Amanda Trump had been at the head of the line. But where were we? And what did the Trumps have to do with anything?
And then, there was Haru and Ryo. In the puzzle images they appeared to be fighting over something as they stood at the head of the line of female students. Was this something they did in every place they lived? Fight over girls and try to collect the best ones? If so, they shouldn’t fight over me, that’s for sure. I mean, I didn’t consider myself a member of ‘hit by the ugly stick’ club, but I wasn’t the kind of girl that guys fought over either. That’s just great, I had been wishing for a boyfriend all school year long, and suddenly I got two smoking hot Asian guys who may or may not be trying to hit on me.
When I got to school Angela seemed surprised. Not because she didn’t expect to see me, but because it was the first time I’d ridden my school bus in like four months. “You sick?” she asked, nearly sprinting up to me.
“Nah, I’m okay. Just thought I’d ride this morning. I was up late last night.”
She grinned. “Oh my, what, or should I say who, kept you up?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” I teased.
“Yes, I would.”
“Haru,” I said. “I was talking to Haru.”
She gave me a mock shameful look. “You dirty girl. If it was me I would have been doing more than talking.”
“Who’s the dirty one then?” I laughed.
“Sooooo…what did you talk about?”
“Um, mostly about stars and stuff.”
“Stars? He didn’t look like a science geek.”
“Oh, he’s not,“ I replied. “But he has some deep thoughts about them.”
“I suppose so. He didn’t….”
“Well, well, well…” a taunting voice said, sidling up alongside of us as we entered the school. “If it isn’t miss ‘I think I’m hot shit’ herself?”
We both turned, but there was no need. We knew it was Amanda Trump. She had that particular tone to her voice that always cried out bitch. Chrissie and Kari were both at her side as if they were attached by an umbilical cord. They all wore short skirts which were half an inch away from breaking school dress code. They also wore matching tops that were at least one size too small, guaranteeing that the entire male population would notice their assets.
Amanda flung back her hair as if it were her weapon. I always thought she had beautiful hair, but for me all the beauty stopped there. Though there were a lot of girls who worshipped the ground she walked on and longed to be part of her circle, I wasn’t one of them, and never would be. She always made that clear. Today would be no different.
“I saw you walking home with Haru like you were the queen of the school,” Amanda said. “Bet you think you’re better than everyone else now.”
“No, I don’t think that,“ I replied.
“Good, cause you’re not. We didn’t even see you at his party the other night. We were invited; Guess your invitation got lost.”
“I don’t do parties.” I could feel my voice was getting smaller, preparing myself for the old Trump verbal beat down.
“Oh, that’s right. Ever since you got caught kissing a girl and doing the Katy Perry you’ve been hiding your head in the sand.”
These were fighting words. Or at least that’s how I felt she was baiting me. I could see the look in her eye. She wanted to shame me beyond measure. She knew she had me if I threw the first punch. She was more athletic, more experienced, and deadlier if she could get the attention of a crowd. And that’s what she was getting. I could see them out of the corner of my eye almost forming a circle around us. I had to get out of there before the gap could be closed. I tried going around Amanda, but she stepped in front of me, a daring look in her eye.
“You’ll never have Haru, bitch,“ she spat. “You can walk home with him all you want, but his hands will be all over me long before he even wonders about yours.”
Her friends laughed and half the crowd followed suit. I looked away from her, because if I made eye contact I knew I would want to lash out and blacken one. I noticed everyone was having a laugh at my expense. Some hollered, some clapped and tried to egg her on. A boy with curly blond hair dressed in a woman’s blouse rolled his eyes, as if to say aren’t you going to do anything, girlfriend? I didn’t know who he was.
“I don’t want to fight you, Amanda,” I said, attempting to get around her again.
“It’s the only way you’ll get out of this circle,“ she gloated. “I’m going to kick your ass and then go get me some Haru to decorate my bedroom with. When I’ve had him once, he won’t look at you twice.” She drew her hand back so fast I didn’t see it coming. Her open palm came across in an arc towards my face. I was going to get bitch slapped just because I was Nora Williams. But her hand never met my face. Instead it met another. Someone, at first I thought it was Angela, had stepped between us.
This other girl took the fury of the slap. Her head reeled to one side, her long black hair whipping through the air and brushing my face. She recovered quickly, snapping back around to face Amanda. She didn’t slap her back, but instead leaned up close to her. “One more move and no one’s going to look at you all,“ she said in a hushed tone, so low only Amanda and I could hear it. Amanda stepped back a step, but recovered her attitude quickly.
“Who the hell do you think you are, slut?” she reared her hand back again. “Don’t you know who…”
The girl punched her in the face. Amanda’s head snapped back and she hit the ground, out cold.
The other Trumps looked at each other like they couldn’t believe it. A hush came over the hallway. The girl, tall and apparently a lot more athletic than Amanda, looked around the room as if daring someone to say something. No one did, though I thought the curly headed girly boy opened his mouth to speak but thought better of it. Chrissie and Kari bent down and tried to revive Amanda. She finally came to, but you could tell she was dazed and couldn’t see straight. It also looked like she might have had a broken nose. This made me smile a little inside.
The girl who saved my butt turned to me and said, “Hi, I’m Chinatsu, but you can call me Chi.”
“Um, hi…and thanks.”
“No problem. The new girl in school always needs to assert herself, so I look for the baddest ass I can find and then stomp her. It makes things easier.”
Angela finally came out of her silence to remind the girl there was only a week of school left.
“Well damn,” the girl said, as if she had never considered that. “Okay, well, maybe she’ll remember the ass kicking when she comes back next year. Or better yet, maybe I can kick it again this summer.”
I almost had to laugh at this, because by appearance alone the girl didn’t look like a brawler; she looked like a fashion model for the Japanese version of Glamour magazine. But I held the laughter in just in case she didn’t have the same sense of humor.
“Can any of you show me where the guidance counselor’s office is at?” Chi asked. “Might as well turn myself in and take the punishment.”
“I have to go there myself,“ I said. “ I got handed summer school. But you don’t have to turn yourself in. After what you did to Trump no one would snitch on you.”
She shrugged. “I know, but to be honest I like people to know these loud mouth bitches just didn’t slip and fall into my fist.” With a devilish grin, she added, “But it sure is a great way to meet new friends.” She put one arm around my shoulder and the other around Angela’s. “Man, I should have got here earlier in the year…”
“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.