Chapter 17: Road Trips & Girl Killers
When I awoke on Saturday morning, I was alone. Haru was not there. I knew he had been when I had drifted off to sleep, and I could only assume he watched me for a while as I slept. I guess he had gotten tired and went on home. I stretched and woke up my cellphone. No messages, no calls. Typical life for me. I often wondered what it would be like to be real popular, but in a way I was glad I wasn’t. At least this way there wasn’t someone always demanding my attention. I could take my time getting dressed , go downstairs and fix a light breakfast, all without someone calling to say, “Let’s hang.”
I thought I had heard mom in the kitchen, but when I got down there she was gone. I assumed she was avoiding me, because she didn’t want to feel guilty. The truth was, she should feel guilty, and not over me either. She should feel guilty for dad, for not wanting to visit him when she has the chance. Before I had much time to dwell on it, or even wonder where mom was, Haru arrived. He let himself in the back door, but I didn’t mind. He could make himself at home here in any shape or form, as far I was concerned.
“Ready for our road trip?” he asked.
I smiled. “You betcha.”
He leaned close and kissed my cheek. “I’ll wait for you outside then.”
“Let’s go,“ I replied and followed him out the door. I didn’t yell for Mom to say goodbye or anything. Let her live with her own guilty ass.
I didn’t know what Haru would be driving, but the Hyundai was a little unexpected. After all, in all the vampire movies, videos, and books I had read, the vamps always had hot cars. Something flashy, sleek, fast, like one of those cars out of The Fast & the Furious. Not a gray tone Hyundai four door with dings and dents in the side. Seeing the slight damage, I began to wonder if it was safe to be going riding with him. But the fact he held the door open for me, and even strapped my seat belt, made all that worry pointless. He had to be the only guy I knew who could make putting your seat belt on feel sensuous. With his gentle hands pulling the belt and strapping it across my chest, his fingers making sure there were no twists in the fabric, even down to the slow click as he slid the buckle into place, I almost felt this was something like being undressed with the eyes. It was uncomfortable, but in a very nice and blushing kind of way.
Sliding into the driver’s seat, he took the same care in fastening himself in and it kind of disappointed me. He started the car and looked over at me. “I hope you know the way,“ he said.
I pulled out my cellphone. “GPS,“ I replied with a grin, and pulled up the bookmarked destination. “Just tell me when you are ready to start.”
He put his hand on my leg. “Ready,“ he said in a low voice. I felt the nerve in my leg jump, as if it were responding to his touch. Leaning over, he kissed a bare spot on my neck. “Set.” I felt the butterflies returning. His lips grazed my ear lobe and I closed my eyes. “Go,“ he whispered.
I pressed the start button on the GPS and heard it direct us to go down the street. I leaned forward in my seat as his mouth found the back of my neck, and it sent chills all over me. His lips did not leave my skin, but I felt the car moving, slowly rolling out the driveway and onto the pavement. The car did a slight lurch as we went down the road, and I wondered how he could drive with his playful mouth sucking at the nape of my neck. I made a low noise in my throat and the GPS said to turn right, so I did, my lips so desperate for Haru that I turned in my seat and nearly forced his mouth on mine. I braced myself for the crash, as I was sure we were going to hit something, but we never did. We rolled down the road, and then realizing he hadn’t followed the GPS’ directions, he pulled his face away and checked out the street before making the next right to get back on track. We both settled in our seats, feeling a little lighter, and smiling somewhat bigger than when we’d first got in the car.
“How far away is it?” he asked.
“Um, we should be there in about an hour. Maybe ninety minutes.”
“Cool. You want some tunes?”
“Yeah, that would be awesome. What you got?”
“CD’s are in the visor. Pick something out.”
I pulled the visor down and saw there were about a dozen CD’s in a binder strapped to it. I didn’t spend too much time looking through them, because Angela once told me guys want you to be more interested in them than their music collection. So I just grabbed one and slid it out of the binder. Before I put it in the deck, I glanced to see what it was. Across the surface of it were emblazoned the words “Keeper of the Flame.”Just under it, in bolder letters, was what I assumed was the name of the band, “The Hiatus.” I had never heard of them to be honest, but I slid it in the deck anyway. I really wanted to know all I could about Haru. Not just the romantic side of him, but all his likes and dislikes, his preferences in music, food, movies, books, everything. I never thought I’d meet someone I wanted to just drown myself in; to know all there was to know about them until they felt like my second skin. But here I was, with Haru driving down the road, listening to The Hiatus and trying to figure out where to catalogue this memory.
The CD itself sounded pretty good, and I cranked it up. It reminded me of early emo, but with a J-rock edge. “That one is called Thirst, “ Haru explained. “But my absolute favorite is the next track.”
I didn’t hesitate, but pressed the skip button on the deck so his song would come on. He started nodding his head, and rocking back and forth to the music. “This one is called Something Ever After,” he said.
I smiled. Just the title alone revealed Haru’s hopes and dreams to me. He was sensual, charismatic, an insatiable romantic who wanted a love just as forever as his vampirism. Or at least that’s what I hoped.
We’d driven maybe thirty minutes and made small talk about school and stuff when he unloaded the question I’d been dreading today. “So, if you don’t mind me asking, why is your dad in a psych ward?”
I hesitated. How in the world was I supposed to tell him? Did I say, ‘Hey, he tried to kill someone different than him’ or perhaps ‘he has trouble getting along with certain types of people?’ That would make it seem racially motivated, to say the least. I decided to just go on and tell him the truth.
“He tried to kill a vampire.”
He turned his head to look at me, both eyebrows raised in a look that said, ‘No shit?’ And though it was just his look that said it, and not his lips, I answered it anyway.
“No shit. He attacked this guy he believed was a vampire.”
For a moment he didn’t say anything, but just turned his eyes back to the road. “Well, that makes things interesting,“ he replied. “Asking for your hand in marriage is really going to be awkward now.”
I punched him in the arm. “Stupid. You weren’t going to ask him that.”
“Well no, not yet at least. Maybe one day, hmm.”
I looked at him, trying to gauge if he meant this or not. “Are you being serious?”
“Do you want me to be?”
“I want you to be honest.”
He nodded and smiled. “The honest truth is I was trying to lighten the mood, but if we were together for a time, I imagine I would want to make our togetherness more permanent.”
“You don’t need marriage for that,” I teased. “Just bite me on the neck and turn me into one of you.”
His smile went away in an instant and he hung his head. “It doesn’t quite work that way,“ he half mumbled. I thought I saw his eyes turning glassy. “It would only kill you.”
A lightbulb went off in my head; a piece of conversation with Ryo in which he stated Haru had killed a girl. But whether it was callous as he suggested or without remorse didn’t matter. All that mattered is someone died at his hands. Ryo hated him for it and he wanted me to do the same, but I didn’t think of Haru as evil. Even if a murder had happened, I couldn’t bring my heart to think of this gorgeous vampire boy as malicious. I decided to take charge of this conversation and approach the subject that he would not.
“Did you love her?” I asked in a weak voice.
He didn’t look at me or say anything. He just nodded.
“She died,“ he answered in a solemn voice. “Out of my own selfishness, pride, and greed, I killed her.”
“Ryo told me you…”
“Ryo loved her too,“ he interrupted. “If I’d just let him have her, she’d still be around. But I guess the heart wants what it wants. And I wanted her to be mine for always.”
“I don’t understand. What happened?”
His sigh was heavy and he took a deep breath, as if what he were about to say was some kind of game changer or something.
“There are two kinds of vampires, Nora. We’ll call them Alphas and Betas. Ryo is an Alpha. The Alphas can make other vampires. They are your typical creatures of legend. You know, bite you on the neck, suck your blood, get you to drink theirs, and pow! You’re on your way to being a vampire yourself. But, Betas can’t do this. From their bite comes only death. They do not have the ability to turn others into vampires. And the great cosmic joke in all this is you don’t know which vampire you are until you make the attempt to turn someone. Maybe this is how nature balances herself. In the evolution of vampirism, something was needed to keep it all in check. If every vampire could create more vampires, the world would probably be overrun with them by now. So, there’s this check and balance to ensure that doesn’t happen.”
“So you tried to turn someone, not realizing it would kill her?”
He pulled the car over and parked it under the shade of the tree. “Are you sure you want do this?” he asked.
“I..I want to know you. And to really know you I have to know the truth. I can’t live by Ryo’s version. I want yours.”
He looked away for a moment as if he were considering what to do. After a few seconds, he turned back to me and put this finger to my eye. He traced a line from my bottom lash to my upper lip, and then put the finger to his own lips as if he somehow could taste the very oils from my skin.
“Everyone has their own scent,“ he explained. “Yours is sweet. Like cherry blossoms that have been overrun by honeysuckle. Have you ever tasted honeysuckle?”
“No,“ I confessed.
He smiled. “To me it’s very sweet. That first taste from the flower is like rich butter from the earth. It’s savory, but one drop is not enough. You have to have more. The taste lingers, and before you know it you are drinking the nectar again and again. Chiyo was like that too. Once I laid eyes on her, I couldn’t tear myself away. Do you know what the name means? Chiyo? In the best English translation, it means A Thousand Sparkles. You know, like something that shines forever. The irony in that is she was like a thousand sparkles, but I put every one of them out through my own pitiful romantic scheming. See, she was betrothed, or promised, to Ryo, who was the son of a samurai, part of the ruling class of the territory. I was the son of an artisan, the lowest class among our society. Even peasant farmers were above my station. In those days, poets, artists, even musicians, were deemed the lowest, because in the mindset of the day they were not necessary to life and human survival. They were entertainment, and yes, that could make one happy and productive, but they were not essential to living in the way growing food or protecting the villages was.’
‘In any case, she was his, and in that era it meant she was like property. If one were to steal her away, that person would be treated the same as a thief, and depending on the value the owner placed on the theft, thieves were often met with death. I didn’t think of these things when I fell in love with her, but she was very aware of her place in society. For this reason, though she loved me back, she would not challenge the betrothal her parents had arranged. But I thought if I turned her into one of us, the rules would change. The intimacy of the turning would make it near impossible for Ryo to lay claim to her anymore. It would override any human promise, for nothing is more powerful and binding than the exchanging of one’s lifeblood. But I didn’t know I was a Beta. You can still exchange blood as a Beta, but you can’t create new life, and if you drink for too long you can kill the person. Which is what happened with Chiyo. In my vampiric ecstasy, I was so excited to be spending eternity with her that I didn’t notice it was killing her until it was too late. She couldn’t be saved.”
I wanted to hang my head and not look at Haru. I was afraid if I saw those eyes in that moment of confession, I too would be helpless and lost. Something within me would have wanted to prove his curse false. I was afraid I would offer myself up to him in any fashion he wanted; to drink from me until I too was passing from this world. After all, until he had come along, I felt like I hadn’t much to live for anyway. I couldn’t explain the effect his honesty had on me. Any other time, I would have been jealous of his love for Chiyo, but instead I was enchanted by it. To want someone so bad you would do anything to make them yours. Perhaps this is the true lure of the vampire for us girls. Knowing that they would risk everything to be with you for eternity. I found myself in a daze thinking these thoughts, and the spell was only broken when Haru spoke again.
“Ryo was beyond grieved after the loss of Chiyo. Not only had she lost her heart to me, she had lost her life to the same kind of darkness that had changed us years earlier. Except it didn’t embrace her as it had us. It didn’t spit her back out as a sister of the blood. No, it kept her for all eternity.”
Haru wiped a tear from his cheek, and I noticed it was pink, as if the tear was mixed with his blood. I wanted to wipe it away, but didn’t dare.
“We had never been real cousins, Ryo and I, but we are of the same vampire family, turned by the same father. For this reason, he couldn’t kill me without enduring our master’s wrath. He pledged to make me spend the rest of our existence in the same kind of misery as he. In the beginning, that meant he would end every relationship I tried to have. If I got close to a girl, he would reveal my nature to them, and if that didn’t break us up, he would attempt to steal her heart away. Again, if that failed, he would arrange for her to disappear. For good.”
“You mean, since Chiyo, he has killed every girlfriend you’ve had?” I asked in alarm.
“No, he has only killed two girls I took a liking to. Most are run off when he reveals what I did to Chiyo. And if they didn’t leave then, if it didn’t bother them I was a bloodsucking vampire, they left when they found out I couldn’t make them one, too.”
He pulled the car back out into the road. “I guess we should be heading to see your dad, rather than just sitting here and listening to my pathetic life.”
“No, Haru. Your life isn’t pathetic. You were only doing what you thought was the best for both of you. You aren’t a cold blooded killer or anything. You loved her. I could only hope someone loved me as much.”
He turned his head to me. “Are you serious? You would die for love. You would die for just one moment of ecstasy?”
“People have died for less, Haru. In Chiyo’s defense, she didn’t know she would have just one moment, but she risked it. She gave herself to you, and maybe I’m wrong in saying this, but because of that she will always be yours. Even if it’s just in memory.”
For a moment I thought he was either going to wreck the car into a tree, or turn it around and go back home. A look crossed his face, born of anguish and his tortured soul. He shook his head as if that would shake the past from his very frame.
“Well, anyway, I guess after today you will want to forget about me and move on.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“I’m a disappointment. Poor excuse for a vampire. I can’t make you into one of us. All the nights we spend are limited. Every moment is just the same as everyone else. I’m not special. I’m just like any other boy.”
“You are special, Haru. Don’t sell yourself short. In some ways, maybe you are like any other boy. But any other boy wouldn’t have looked at me twice.”
“Now look who’s selling themselves short.” He took one hand off the steering wheel and touched my cheek. “For the record, I can’t stop looking at you. But if you see me differently now, I understand.”
“The only way I’ll see you any different is if you don’t keep this car on the road.”
He returned his attention to driving and realized he was about to run us into a ditch. He swerved the car and gave me a bashful “Sorry.” I thought it was the cutest thing ever.
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