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by Donaya Haymond
Category: Romance/Dark Fantasy
Description: Your secrets aren't as bad as you think. Selene believes Ferdinand would abandon her if he knew she was a werewolf, something that isn't supposed to exist. Ferdinand hides his vampirism from her for the same reasons, and must also hide from a world that thinks he's evil. He's just a melancholy English major who had a serious misadventure last summer. She's just a college student with a bizarre family history. A comedy of secrets and a romance of accepting what makes us different.
eBook Publisher: Eternal Press/Damnation Books LLC, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: July 2009
7 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [190 KB]
Reading time: 113-159 min.
Chapter One Nice Costume
The Halloween party, hosted by the friend of a friend, was growing more irksome with every passing moment.
Selene's friends had already left to finish their homework, and she didn't know any of the other guests. She was on the point of calling it a night when she saw a young man alone in a shadowed corner of the room. He looked vaguely familiar, so she had probably seen him somewhere around the campus. Maybe he didn't know anyone else either. Punch in hand, Selene went over to introduce herself.
He was no stranger. She had seen his pale skin, pitch-black hair, and wasted frame before. He was handsome in a dark-Gothic sort of way, and his costume tonight was curiously appropriate. He was dressed in black, and his long cape had a red lining. He had managed to make his irises seem blood red, which was a nice touch. His eyes widened at her approach, and he seemed about to shy away.
"Hi," she said in a tone appropriate for calming a woodland creature. "You looked just as lonely as I felt, so I thought I'd try talking to you."
"I've seen you around," he said. He had a rich, full tenor voice, filled with gold and ebony inlay. It went oddly with his emaciated figure. "Your name is Selene, right?"
"That's right. Selene Davidson. How do you know me? I remember seeing you before, but I can't quite place you."
He gave her an open-mouthed smile, and revealed highly authentic-looking fangs. "You see me every other day in your Mythology 402 class."
Selene laughed, half-embarrassed. "Of course! I remember now. You're the one who sits in the back. You only answer when the professor has called on you several times." She considered his face. "You always wear shades, right? That's why I didn't recognize you without them."
He gave her another smile. "I don't always wear them. Only during the day."
Most people wore shades only during the day, reflected Selene, but not in class.
Maybe he read her expression, because he added, "I have a condition that makes me, um, sensitive to strong light. My name is Ferdinand, by the way."
"Ferdinand?" She had visions of German counts and friendly bulls.
He shrugged. "My roommates call me Ferdin and my mother says Ferdy, when she's in a good mood."
Selene couldn't repress a giggle. "Ferdy doesn't suit you at all, especially in that vampire get-up. What color are your eyes, really?"
He stared off into space for a moment, then said, "Blue."
"You don't sound very certain," said Selene.
"Sorry. I have a lot on my mind right now."
Haven't we all? She wondered if this was a brush-off, but he had sounded apologetic rather than angry. "So, you're Ferdinand--what?" she asked.
"Anghel. My father emigrated from Romania long before he met my mother."
Presumably that explained his exotic appearance.
"What is your major?" he asked.
"Psychology, with a minor in anthropology. I'm a senior. How about you?"
"I am majoring in English and minoring in Eurasian history. Same year." He cocked his head, considering her. "Your costume. What creature are you supposed to be?"
Selene grinned. "Nobody gets it on first try. I forgot all about the party until this morning, and didn't have time to put a costume together, so I just came as a werewolf on the other twenty-nine nights of the month."
"Clever!" he said, amused. "I've never seen such a good-looking werewolf in all my life."
"Are you flirting with me?"
"Aren't vampires supposed to be oversexed?" It had turned into a game.
"Shall we sit down?"
"Will you stop asking questions?"
"Um--" Selene couldn't think of a question.
Fangs notwithstanding, he had a nice smile, which he flashed at her now. "I win," he stated, and they sat down together on an empty sofa.
Ferdinand took a sip from his glass, and Selene noticed the liquid inside was dark and nearly opaque.
"That's not what everyone else is drinking," she commented.
He started. "Well, no. I don't drink alcohol, so I brought my own."
"But this is nonalcoholic punch. The host is Muslim."
"Oh. But my friend said--"
"It doesn't taste that great anyway," said Selene. "I suppose you're drinking blood?"
It seemed impossible for Ferdinand's deathly pallor to whiten any further, but in that moment it did.
"I'm joking!" Selene said hastily. "Tomato juice, right?"
He laughed, but it sounded off-key. "Just staying in character. Oh, hello, Mark." He turned with apparent relief as another young man joined them on the sofa.
"Hey, Ferdin, got yourself a girl?"
The newcomer was dressed as a zombie. Underneath the costume with its excessive face paint, Selene saw a sturdy blond and blue-eyed boy with football-player muscles.
When Ferdinand failed to introduce him, he said, "I'm Mark Polinski, one of Ferdinand's roommates, and the best."
"Don't embarrass her. We were just talking," said Ferdinand. Despite his pallor and slighter build, he seemed quite prepared to put Mark in his place. "This is Selene Davidson," he added. "She's in my Mythology class."
"And I'm supposed to be a werewolf, in human form," she added. "Nice to meet you, Mark."
Mark smiled, then glanced at Ferdinand. "It's nearly midnight, Ferdin."
"So?" Selene asked.
Ferdinand got up hurriedly, draining his glass. "I'm sorry, Selene, but I've got to finish some homework."
"Aw, not you too?" she moaned. "My friends have all ditched me already. Was it something I said?"
"No, no. I really have to go. See you in class tomorrow." The two rushed off in a swirl of cloaks and blood-stained tatters.
Selene stared after them, then shrugged. She might as well take leave of her host--if she could remember which one he was--and go back to her dorm. * * * *
The clock was striking midnight when she left the building to walk over to her own. The moonlight was almost as bright as day as she made her way across the campus.
Above her, she heard a swish of wings, and looked up to see a small black bat fluttering through the air. It looked like a blown scrap of burned paper.
"Hi there!" she greeted it. "Haven't seen you about before, but I guess it is Halloween, right?"
The bat flew on past her and towards the woods, and Selene forgot about it as she headed on towards her apartment.
The door was unlocked, so Selene locked it behind her once she was in. She could see the faint glow of lights coming from under Becky's and Jee Won's closed door. They shared a room. Cynthia, their third suite mate, and Selene's best friend, was working at the kitchen table.
"What's the assignment?" Selene asked her.
Cynthia looked up, her kinky black hair even more tangled than usual, and lifted a chocolate-colored hand to massage her temples. "An original piece using the atonal scale. Yes, I procrastinated. Nearly done, though. And--yes! That's the final note." She yawned. "So, how did you manage with we three gone?"
"I found someone to talk to. Actually, I've seen him before, but we never really met." Selene opened her drawers and started taking out her pajamas.
Her friend said, "Cute or no?"
"Please, Cynthia, it was just a chat. And you know what happened with my ex. I don't want to think about guys again for a while."
"More like what happened to your ex. But was this one cute?"
"In a way," Selene admitted. "He was dressed as a vampire, and looked the part. If you like that kind of thing." She let down her black hair. "The important thing was that he was intelligent, and had a sense of humor."
"What was his name?"
"Ferdinand." Selene went to her bathroom, took a quick shower, changed, and came back out. She returned to the kitchen-dining-living room to wish Cynthia goodnight.
Cynthia said meditatively, "I wonder if he likes you."
"Hate to break this to you, Cyn, but there is no love at first sight. Friendship from first conversation, maybe, but not love at one look. Though he was an interesting person. My, I'm tired. Good night."
"Oh, you won't be able to go to the poetry jam tomorrow night, remember. I just thought of it."
"You think I forgot? I have all the dates marked on my calendar. Go there for me, and tell them I'm sick. I'll get the other two girls to keep me here." Selene withdrew into her room, but left the door open.
"Right. I know the drill. Good night, Selene."
"See you tomorrow." Selene closed the door and flicked off the lights. She gazed at the glowing moon, sighed, and drew the curtain. It would be a full moon the next night. * * * *
It was three o'clock. Ferdinand paced the room back and forth, back and forth. "Hey man," said Mark, "just go to sleep already. Jose and Ricky are already asleep, and I would like to be able to turn the main light off."
"Go ahead," said Ferdinand, still stalking across the floor. "I don't like the light anyway. Or just go to your room. I prefer it out here. More room to pace."
Mark sighed. "Come on, Ferdin. I can't leave you alone when you're acting like this. You're making me dizzy just watching you. Aren't you tired enough already? Just put the Dracula get-up back into the closet and relax. One more night and you can sleep all day on the weekend. Unless you ask her out, in which case you'd have to force yourself to be diurnal the rest of the week."
"Mark, you just don't get it. I can't get into a relationship! All this hiding, secrets--it's bad enough with classmates, but if I started dating someone, I couldn't live the lie."
"You could always tell her--"
"No, I could not," Ferdinand whispered intensely. "Never ever. You and the other two guys are the only ones I ever will tell, and that's only because it's impossible to hide my secret from you. Plus if you tell anyone, it's a lot easier for me to kill you than anyone else." He sounded serious.
"You're freaking me out. Have you got another craving tonight?"
Ferdinand sank down onto a chair, his head in his pale, thin hands, a picture of melancholy. "Yes, I have. Since I tried it, the rush it gave me haunts me forever. I can't stop thinking about it, especially late at night. You know that. That's why I'm so irritable today, since I've been running low on the replacement." He raised his head and took a long drain at a thermos that had been hidden behind the couch. He set it down quickly. "Ugh. This tastes awful after having the real thing, you know: the real thing I can't get at any cost. But I'll die without even the imitation. Maybe death is the best thing for me."
"Hey, you already look like a Goth, please don't go around talking like one. I think you seriously need a self-esteem boost. And you've had a crush on that girl since August! Just ask her on a date, and then go from there. Give it a try," Mark insisted. "Or else I'll hide this week's supply and make you go without your precious liquid."
"Okay, okay," Ferdinand gave in. "Just because it's you." He gave an evil-looking grin, accented by the long, sharp canines still attached to his gums. "Though if you actually did try to keep my drink away from me, you know what would happen."
"Now you're really scaring me."
"I intended to." * * * *
Chapter Two Offers and Excuses
When she walked into Mythology class, Selene spotted Ferdinand looking semi-comatose and huddled in the darkest part of the room. As always, the seat beside him remained empty. She slid in, inquiring, "Tired from last night?"
Ferdinand put on his sunglasses and raised his head. "Oh, it's you. Yes, I am rather tired. Mornings aren't my strong point."
Though his posture and speech slumped, his clothing was immaculate. He wore a red and black checked long-sleeved shirt, black corduroy pants, and black loafers. However, his hair was a terrible mess.
"Interesting amalgam of dishevelment and neatness," commented Selene. "Me, I'm just plain messy." The final straggling students trickled into class as she spoke.
Before he could think anything, Ferdinand blurted out, "I don't think you're messy at all." If he hadn't recovered his usual reserve he would have added how beautiful her hair was when let down. To his relief, the professor came in at that moment and ended all the small talk. Selene seemed immersed in the subject and eagerly gave answers, so Ferdinand felt it was safe to sneak quick looks at her.
By the time the class drew to a close, Selene wondered how to approach the subject she wished to discuss with him. She hoped he would bring it up first, since that was more traditional, but she could sense his hesitance. When the homework was assigned and people began gathering their books, he still hadn't said anything. However, as they walked out, he took a deep breath and asked, "Would you be interested in going to see a show with me?"
Selene smiled. "Have you been practicing that since yesterday?
Ferdinand blushed, but for him this just meant briefly looking like a normal person instead of a corpse. "Well, yes."
"I've been practicing the reply." She grinned. "What show and when?"
"I was thinking that movies are terribly unoriginal, so how about a play? The local theater is showing The Phantom of the Opera."
"I'd like that. When were you thinking?"
"Tonight," he said.
"That's fine ... I mean, no, I can't." Now it was Selene's turn to be embarrassed. She thought rapidly for an excuse, settling for one closest to the truth. "Friday nights, I go to a poetry club, and a friend of mine is performing."
He was glad enough that she liked the idea of a date with him that he didn't mind having to wait. "I understand. You shouldn't let her down. There's a showing tomorrow as well."
"That would be great! What time?"
"Eight. If you met me at the fountain at seven-thirty, I could drive you there." Then came the harder-to-explain bit. "Is it okay if we don't have dinner? I have to go visit someone earlier in the evening."
She didn't ask for particulars. "That's fine. We can save that for later. But since this is lunchtime, you can come have it with me, if you like. My treat."
Uh oh, thought Ferdinand, feeling slightly panicked. "No, thank you."
"I ... I have to study. I have a test after this."
"You'll do badly on an empty stomach, you know." Selene spent a few seconds wondering if he was anorexic, something which did happen to men on occasion, then dismissed the idea. No need to jump to conclusions.
Ferdinand was grateful for his sunglasses, which prevented her seeing his eyes widen. "I'm really, really sorry, but I have to leave. See you tomorrow, then!" He departed at a pace that just barely escaped a run, rushing back to his apartment. The only roommate present was Jose, eating absentmindedly while doing homework. "Hey, Ferdin. What drink would you like? The usual?"
Ferdinand drew the curtains and took off his sunglasses. His red eyes were watering. "Very, very funny. I'm thirsty." Opening the refrigerator, he took out an opaque thermos, poured the red liquid into a glass, and gulped it down.
He drank glass after glassful of blood, finally pausing for air and licking his lips. "Actually, there's some truth in that joke of yours. It's a very boring diet. Will you go to the slaughterhouse with me tonight?"
Jose nodded. "It's in my best interests to supply you with blood other than my own."
The vampire leaned back and closed his eyes. "Yes, it is in your best interest. Isn't it weird how I've changed since last year? I seem to remember that I used to not freak you out. By the way, I just escaped an offer to have lunch."
"Who with? A girl?"
"Aww, poor you." His friend munched his burger with a relish. "Just out of curiosity, what would happen if you ate anything solid?"
"I tried it once. It didn't stay down."
"Yuck. But the smell of food is okay, right?"
"Everything except garlic. You should know, since that's how you guys found out about me in the first place." Ferdinand made a face. "Ricky ordered an extra-large pizza with two orders of garlic bread, to celebrate our reunion. Remember?"
Jose chuckled. "I just like to tease you about it, bro. It was pretty unforgettable." * * * *
At the cafeteria, Selene found Cynthia and Becky eating together.
"So, did he ask you out?" Cythia asked.
"Yes, but I had to make up an excuse for why it couldn't be tonight. Which of you will be chaining me up this evening?" She sounded almost bored.
Becky wound a finger around her red hair, as she often did while making decisions. "Jee Won wants to give Cynthia a break, so she's staying. I guess I'll stay as well."
Selene sat down with her food and began to eat. "Thanks. You know I couldn't manage without you here. It must be scary, with me trying to break loose all night."
Dryly, Becky replied, "Someday I'm going to tape the transformation, and make you watch when you're back to normal. Trust me, you'll scream."
"Ferdinand seems to be hiding something too," said Selene, more to herself than to her friends. "He got very nervous when I invited him to have lunch with me." She sighed and shrugged. "As long as he doesn't ask why I can't see him after dark once a month, I won't probe into his secrets either." * * * *
"Maybe you should quit with the Goth wardrobe, Ferdin. It's a bit too obvious and--well--stereotypical. You wore normal clothes last year!"
Ferdinand continued to watch the road as he drove, but his voice was tense. "I wore green on Tuesday." It was sufficiently dark for him to go without sunglasses, and his eyes had an eerie glow.
Jose rolled his eyes. "That must be the only time you wore anything besides black, white, or red in the past month or so."
"I don't want to talk about it. Would you enjoy finding out what it's like to be stuck like this? If so, we'll just pull over and forget about the slaughterhouse."
His friend swallowed, and when he responded, his voice had shrunk into apologetic fright. "I'm sorry. I forget how different you are now. I mean, I remember the obvious differences, but you're a lot touchier than you used to be."
A rush of guilt struck Ferdinand. "I should apologize too, Jose. I'm not really angry because of you. There are other things."
"What?" Jose's muscles uncoiled.
"It's about a girl I met yesterday." The vampire sounded wistful, and a little tired. "Well, actually I've known her since the beginning of the year, but she didn't know my name before. I don't know what it is, but she stands out. She came and talked to me when I was alone, and came to sit with me in the class we had together, without me asking her. She might not look especially gorgeous to you, but to me, she's beautiful. And what frustrates me is that, though she's willing to date me, I'm going to have to spend even more time covering up. Then, if the relationship worked out, I'd have to break it off at a certain point-before she found out what I am."
He sighed. "Why did I have to go to that stupid country?" He pounded his hand onto the dashboard, crushing a fist-sized hole in it. The shock of the damage he caused calmed him instantly. "Whoops," he said, with a wry smile, "Well, now we have a cup holder." They stopped at a red light, and he stared at his hands. "As you can see, I'm still not fully used to this."
Jose looked nervous about the effect of his friend's punch, but was still sympathetic. "I feel for you, Ferdin. But don't be too depressed. Who knows? Something might happen to make it work out. What's her name?"
The car sped off once more. "Selene."
"Celine? Like the singer?"
"Far from it. It's S--E--L--E--N--E. It means 'moon'. It was the name of the Greek demigoddess who rode her chariot of white horses across the sky every night. Sister of Helios, who was the sun, and--"
"Spare me the lecture," protested his friend.
"Speaking of which," Ferdinand added, looking through the window as the buildings thinned out, "it's a full moon tonight."
Suddenly a mournful, wailing howl pierced the night. Jose started. "Um, what was that?"
"Well, there's not supposed to be any wolves in the area, and there aren't any zoos. Maybe it's a werewolf." * * * *
Back at campus, at about five minutes to sunset, Selene, Becky, and Jee Won prepared for the night.
"Good thing I don't have much homework today," said Selene. She wore her ordinary clothes, while her friends had changed into pajamas. Each month's drama took place in the basement of their building, where the laundry machines sat.
Selene unlocked the two combination locks and one key lock of the heavy metal door that declared, "HIGH VOLTAGE--DO NOT ENTER," and the three girls walked in.
Jee Won said, "It's also a good thing that this room was here, and that your father could smuggle in your cage. There was some faculty help involved, right?"
Selene's 'cage' would have looked at home in a dungeon or a dog pound. The large steel cage had come, second-hand, from the wolf display at a zoo that had relocated its canines to another state. It now occupied the corner of the former laundry room. Five manacles, chained to the wall, protruded into the cage. Becky opened the padlock, and the door to the cage swung open.
Selene crawled in. "Funny enough, it was Professor Hatchet who helped. I guess he studied mythology so long it convinced him that werewolves were possible. The only sign he shows of remembering is winking at me occasionally when I look more tired than usual after one of these nights."
The chaining-up didn't require keys. Instead there were small bolts that held the manacles closed. Selene put the chains around her ankles easily, but needed help putting them on her wrists. Another went around her neck like a collar. They were too big for her at the moment, but that would soon change.
"Thanks, girls," she said. "Now will you tie the ... uh oh."
"What?" asked Becky.
She began to hyperventilate. "Close the door!" she gasped. "Close it and lock it. Now!"
Frightened, Jee Won slammed it shut, not a moment too soon. Selene had begun to change. Her nails turned into claws, clothes melted into the skin and became fur, and her face elongated into a snout and jaws. Her ears shifted to a triangular shape, and her teeth became white fangs. Now the manacles fitted her perfectly.
The she-wolf lunged at the two girls, only to be jerked back. She snarled, and then let out a fierce, drawn-out bay. The only resemblance this creature had to their friend was the color of her gray eyes.
Her roommates drew back to the other corner, as far away from the werewolf as possible. Two armchairs, a sleeping bag, and a table with homework, flashlights, various caffeine-laden drinks, and their toothbrushes sat there.
Becky turned to Jee Won. "Well," she said, pleasantly, "let's settle in for the night."
The Asian girl was nervous. "I hope she doesn't howl again. We didn't have time to gag her."
Becky patted her on the back. "Don't worry. She only howls after the first time she tries to get out, remember? Soon she'll settle down and just growl occasionally."
"It would certainly have been a scene if she'd gone out tonight," Jee Won mused. "Her new friend doesn't have a clue what he's missing."
"Not a clue," agreed Becky. "He's probably doing something absolutely normal."