I knew she had been acting out of character in class, dressing a little more provocative, wearing dark glasses, popping pills, but nothing prepared me for seeing Mrs. Lazenby in Ryo’s doorway. My jaw must have dropped so far flies were buzzing in..
“Mrs. Lazenby?” I stammered.
“Nora child, you look absolutely adorable.”
“You do, too, Mrs. Lazenby.”
“Oh please, call me Aggie.”
I nearly laughed. “Aggie?”
“It’s short for Agatha. But I don’t like that. Sounds too old and stuffy.”
She smiled and I noticed her teeth were pearly white. Almost too white to be natural. But that wasn’t the only thing off about her. The way she was dressed was not quite screaming chaste single school teacher. She was wearing a crimson cocktail dress, low cut in the front, and high up the sides of the leg. To say it was sexy would be an understatement. She was revealing so much cleavage her breasts were barely contained by the fabric. And all this coming from a woman who I thought of as so prim and proper she would one day die a virgin. Now however, she was looking like one of those half clad girls you’d see in an old 80’s rock video. Any minute now, I expected the music would change from Miyavi to “She’s my cherry pie.”
“Want to come in?” she asked, stepping aside in the doorway.
“Um, yes. Is Ryo here?”
“I think he’s a little busy at the moment, but I’m sure he’d take the time to see the likes of you.”
She looked me up and down, and her gaze was so lingering it was uncomfortable. Despite this, I accepted her invitation and stepped over the threshold. “Is Haru still here, too?” I asked.
She hesitated, and I got the impression she was weighing in her head whether to say anything or not. “I’m not sure,” she replied after a moment. “I just got up.”
Got up? Did she live here, too? It was then I noticed what topped off her sultry ensemble; a silk scarf loosely tied around her neck. No wonder she’d been acting strange in class lately. Ryo had turned her and it hadn’t quite taken hold yet. I guess the strange boy I’d seen in the driveway when they first moved in was a turn of his also. If that was the case, then Mrs. Winston, transformed from old and feeble to working out in the yard, was yet another of Ryo’s growing conquests. But why? That’s three people he had turned already. The diverse group was no way to start an army. My mind returned to why I’d come over. For whatever reason, Angela seemed to be next.
The music was overbearing in the background. It was almost too loud to speak over, as if it were designed to hypnotize the listener, or otherwise make them forget why they were here. Just as I was about to say something about the volume, the song stopped.
“Well, well, what have we here? Nora Williams?”
I turned to the voice. Coming down the staircase was Ryo. His movements were sleek and calculated, like a jungle cat sizing up its prey. He looked me over, his eyes trailing up and down the height of my body, and I felt like I was wearing clear cellophane instead of clothes.
“What do I owe the…pleasure?” He asked in a teasing tone.
“I..I wanted to talk to you.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Talk? Whatever would you want to talk to me about?”
His ignorance was an act. His eyes told me he knew why I was here. “Angela,” I replied.
He smiled, and it reminded me of an animated character from Disney’s Jungle Book movie: Kaa, the snake. “Ah, Angela. Yes,“ he said. “I think I may have been mistaken about her. First impressions aren’t always best, but perhaps I was too much in thrall of you at the time to notice. But, she is…delightful.”
“I’ve come to ask you to leave her alone.”
“Leave her alone? What is it you think I’m going to do to her?”
“You know very well what you plan to do.”
He grinned. “Yes, but a gentleman doesn’t discuss those kind of things with a girl who is not his partner.”
“Please, Ryo. Don’t. Just do me this one favor.”
Again, he looked me over, his eyes lingering long on my tank top, though I do not believe he was admiring the two vampires on the front. “Favor? You already owe me a favor. A pretty big one at that.”
“I saved your boyfriend’s life. I’d say that counts as a favor owed.”
“What do you want?”
“Ah, now we come to the crux of the matter. After all the times I’ve tried to get your attention, now you come over here dressed to distract. That itself is going to cost you.” He paced back and forth in front of me, glancing every now and then at the quiet Mrs. Lazenby. “I was prepared to, let us say, indulge myself this evening with the graceful shape of history, but I suppose I could put that off for a night, if perhaps you would like to spend the evening with me instead.”
I looked at my history teacher. Her face was immobile, as if he hadn’t just said, ‘hey, your teacher is hot, but I’d take you over her any day.’
“Spend the evening?” I asked.
He shrugged. “You know, stay the night.”
I looked at him like he was out of his mind. But maybe it was me who was out of mind. After all, I had gotten all dressed up and come over here thinking the sight of me alone would make him change his mind. I was getting to be just like Amanda Trump, walking around thinking I was God’s gift to everybody.
“Stay the night?” I asked.
He sighed in exasperation. “Do you always have to answer me with a question? You know what I mean.”
“No,” I replied.
“No, you won’t stay the night, or no, you don’t know what I mean?”
“No, I wont stay the night with you.”
“Well then. I guess Angela and I will have a great time together after all.”
I didn’t know what to say. I loved my friend, and I told myself I would do anything for her, but to allow Ryo to have me however he wanted pushed my loyalty a little too far. Maybe some girls would sleep with a guy for their best friend, but not me. Angela herself would have been like, ‘ oh I could endure that kind of punishment easy.’ For me however, there was only one boy I wanted touching me.
He laughed. “Yes, Haru. I knew your friend wasn’t the real reason you’d come. Everything is all about Haru, now isn’t it?” For a moment, I thought he was going to spit at my feet, as if his cousin’s name was a poison he wanted out of his mouth. “Haru is not here.”
“Where is he?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Luhan came and got him.”
I didn’t know if he was telling the truth or just trying to mess with me. “Okay. Where’s Luhan live?”
He spread his arms in a mock gesture. “Luhan lives wherever he pleases. And he tells no one his place of rest. So, I guess you’re stuck, Nora Williams.” Again, a lecherous smile. “Unless, you wish to change your mind..save your friends…be with me.”
“You don’t really want me, Ryo. You just want me because Haru does.”
Something crossed his face. A sudden change that was like a match to gasoline. “Haru doesn’t want you!” He screamed. “If he wanted you so bad, why hasn’t he come to you already? He drank from me hours ago, got up and left with Luhan, and you still haven’t seen him? You must be really important to him.” Then his face changed again, from anger to calm. “But I’m right here. I’ve always been here waiting for you. I have even come to you. You always have to go to Haru. He’s never there when you need him. When you really, really need him. Like right now.” He stepped closer to me, and I thought for a moment that Mrs. Lazenby was retreating to the shadows, as if she was wishing herself away from the scene. “When are you going to wake up, little girl? Haru is not your hero, your savior, or any of that crap. You are one among hundreds. Do you really think he’s been all alone for centuries? For people like him and me, you are nothing more than a warm body…”
I slapped him. I still can’t believe I did it. It was just a natural reaction, one which I would have taken with any boy who talked to me like that. My fury lashed out, and my open palm came back for another swing, but he caught me by the wrist. His cheek was a slight pink where I’d made contact the first time, but I know I didn’t hurt him. Not in a physical sense anyway.
“Nora, I could take you anytime I wanted to. I’ve done it many, many times before. I could have you any way I want, but I’ve tried to be nice about it. I’ve tried to make you feel like you have a choice when a vampire wants you. The truth is you don’t have a choice. I will eventually get what I want, whether it’s you, Haru, or your flirty little friend, Angela. “
He let me go. “But not today. I’ll just let you reflect on what’s coming.” He turned away from me and took a step up the staircase, before turning back to me. “Think about this. Where is your vampire protection now. I don’t see Haru running to your aid. He didn’t even think enough of you to let you know he’s okay. And where is Chinatsu? Luhan? They don’t care about you, Nora. I could bite you right now, and they wouldn’t even bat a lash.”
If I thought Haru was going to suddenly appear, come around the corner, and save me from Ryo, I was wrong. I was on my own. No one was coming to help. I was in the vampire’s lair, and I had two choices. Let him have me, or run crying like the little child I now saw I was.
I ran crying. I went out the door, bounded down the steps and into the yard. I didn’t look back, for fear I’d see him laughing. How could he be like this? It was one thing to have him showing up in my room to flirt without ceasing, but this was just plain mean. And where were the others? Last time there was a problem with Ryo, Luhan showed up to stare him down so bad Ryo had nearly fled from his sight. And what of my Haru? How could he just take off and not let me know he was alright? Are the vampire boys that unfeeling?
I sprinted across the street to my house. Up on the front porch, I dared to look back. The front door of Mrs. Winston’s was closed. All the lights were off, except the front porch, and soon I imagined I would see, if I stayed outside long enough, Angela arriving. I looked over at Haru’s house. It was just as dark, with no sign of activity. I unlocked my front door and went inside, to where it was just mom and me, and a big empty life. And that life was falling apart fast. It seemed the closer it edged to summer break, the more things came to pieces.
Up in my room I plopped myself down on my bed, going over all the things wrong about me. For the first time I was flunking school so bad I would be taking summer school to avoid being held back. My dad was in a psychiatric hospital and it looked like my parents would be divorcing soon. The school bully was gunning for me, and even though right now she was suffering a broken nose, she would be back with a vengeance. My best friend ever was mad at me and would soon be vampire food. But the worst of all these was the possibility that I had lost Haru somehow.
What had I done so wrong that I was now left in the dark? Hadn’t I rushed to save his life? Even offered up my own blood so that he would live? Wasn’t my love enough? And yet, he couldn’t come to me and tell me he was okay. After all his sweet words about living inside my breath, and he couldn’t even be considerate enough to regard my feelings. Instead of walking across the street to say, ‘hey I’m ok,’ he’d went with Luhan somewhere and nobody knew where that was. I couldn’t even ask Chi. She’d taken off, too.
I guess I could go over to Haru’s, maybe see if he and Luhan were there, but no, I thought, I’m not going to beg anyone for their affection. Either they want me or they don’t. I will never let anyone see how desperate I long for their touch. Haru had been a hard lesson for me. Very hard.
I cried. I couldn’t help it. What if Ryo was right? Why wasn’t Haru with me right now? He had to know how scared and worried I was about him. Perhaps vampire boys are no different than human ones. Give you sweet words, gentle kisses, and a bunch of bullshit.
“Nora,” I heard a voice call from outside my door. I stopped my sobs the best I could with my pillow. It was mom, of course.
“I left you dinner in the oven,“ she said. “It won’t stay warm long, so don’t forget to eat it, ok?”
“I got called into work. Somebody didn’t show, I’m sorry. Maybe…maybe we can go to church tomorrow, take in a movie after.”
“That’s fine, mom. Don’t work too hard.”
I heard her retreat down the hall. Church tomorrow. Right. Like something there is going to help me. I was finding my belief in God, or my ‘God Thing’, as Angela called it, slipping. I mean, come on, nothing was going right, and no one had time for me. Even my mom. She was always running out to work or whatever. For once, I wish she’d just tell them no whenever they called her to cover someone’s shift. It’s like I’m dying here, and no one really cares.
I heard the front door close, and in a few minutes, the sound of her car pulling out the driveway. Now, I was truly alone. ‘And truly alone is what you’ll always be,’ the tiny voice in my head said.
I got up from the bed and went over to my desk. I pulled out the drawer and dug under my drawings and stuff to seek the only solace I knew. The only thing in my life that was guaranteed to never let me down. It always did what I expected it to do. I pulled the razor from the drawer and it gleamed in the dim light of the room. It was like a friend that never disappointed me. I carried it over to the bed and sat down. Hiking my skirt up my thigh, I set the razor to my leg, and in a slow motion drew it across the skin. The cut wasn’t deep, but it drew blood, and I brought the razor back for a second slice. In these moments, it was strange. Tears rarely came forth in my act of cutting, but the blood always did. No wonder the vampire boys loved it so much; sometimes it was the only way to feel anything.
I closed my eyes, and took a third draw against my leg.
“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.