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by Donaya Haymond
Category: Dark Fantasy
Description: People say bad things about Dianne's parents that just aren't true; they're a vampire and werewolf...so? It's hard enough for Dianne to be fifteen and obviously to love her parents, even worse when there's something weird about them no one quite understands. Her father being a vampire and her mother being a werewolf is a simple fact of life. More worrisome are Mom and Dad getting sick for unknown reasons, the effect an accidental display of power is having on her social life, and the possibility that the boy next door thinks she's a freak. Matthew seems to like her, yet there's something off about him. Dr. Nat Silver, a vampire with several medical degrees, may provide some answers. For the most part Dianne feels it's her wit and devotion versus a world more cruel than any supernatural being could ever be.
eBook Publisher: Eternal Press/Damnation Books LLC, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: October 2009
18 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [191 KB]
Reading time: 109-153 min.
Chapter One Slap Me
The principal's office is a dark and forbidding place to the average student-but I'm not exactly average. It's a place of tiresome familiarity to the misbehaving student-but I'm not exactly a behaviour problem either. And to an academic goody-goody it's a place where he or she receives a medal, a hug, and a pat on the back-but I didn't think that was why I was here.
Ms. Trevalt clasped her hands together and projected the classic more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger-I'm-here-to-help-you persona. "Dianne Anghel, is there something wrong at home that's bothering you? Your grades are still good, but your behaviour has slipped so abruptly. I'm worried."
Hah. I could just see myself sitting down and solemnly saying this to the principal, "Yeah, in fact, there is. You see, my mom's a werewolf and my dad's a vampire. Which wouldn't be so much of an issue, except everyone thinks they're weird for other reasons and won't stop ragging me about it. Worst of all, my social status has managed to plunge to a negative rating, and I might have some no-longer-latent shape-shifting abilities. Other than that, no, there's nothing wrong at all, ma'am, and I'm sorry I slapped Tammy. I wish I'd bitten her."
Instead, I replied, meekly as a nun, "There's a couple of things, but I think you should hear them directly from a parent. I'm not sure if I'm authorized to give the information."
Ms. Trevalt sighed. "All right. At least could you tell me why you had to start a fight? There's no record of you ever being aggressive to your classmates before."
"It's a long story, Ms. Trevalt. The short version is that she insulted my family." My reason sounded puny even to myself. I could never tell the whole story.
You see, Tammy was one of those creatures who take it upon themselves to either generate or spread as much dirt on every high school kid as possible. The rumor about my dad, floating around the malicious among us, was that he was an unemployed alcoholic, possibly a druggie. Seriously! I suppose it's better for us that people don't realize the reason he stays home is that he is nocturnal by necessity, though he did manage a normal schedule in his senior year of college. He never quite recovered from that. It's also best if they don't know that he's been seen sneaking out into alleys at night to make dubious purchases and taking a lot of swigs out of his own bottle because he lives off blood. I still wish they wouldn't bad-mouth him. He does have a job; he's a writer. Occasionally he teaches night school classes when he can get them or any other work from the limited career options available to a bloodsucking English major. A lot of my classmates didn't believe me, though, since he uses pseudonyms. Mom and Dad live here and won't let me tell anyone the name of school where they met because their secret was revealed there, and it's still a campus legend. Even a smidgen of fame is out of the question.
I'd been having a bad day, and I just had it up to here with the BBQs (Blonde Bimbo or a less polite alternative Queens) as my friends and I called them. I had some scratches on my hands from last night, which was full moon. Dad does most of the chaining-up, but he was weak from hunger that time and I helped out. There's no slaughterhouse nearby and sometimes he runs low on food. This time we didn't close Mom-wolf's cage fast enough and she managed to scratch me, though not bite, thank God. When she found out that morning she decided it was too close and she didn't want me within fifty feet of her in that form ever again.
But I digress. The incident happened when I was at my locker just after eating lunch. I had the massive misfortune of being assigned the locker right next to Tammy's, just because her last name starts with 'A' as well. She stopped polishing her nails, looked down at me, saw the scratches, and said with incredibly fake sympathy, "Oh, you poor child, did your parents abuse you again?"
I gritted my teeth and steadfastly avoided looking up. "They don't abuse me."
"So what, did your daddy introduce you to heroin? I wouldn't be surprised. A friend said she saw him buying something in secret at night from this Mexican guy."
"That's a filthy lie."
Tammy paused. "What did you just say?"
"I said that was a filthy lie." I zipped my bag up as ferociously as I could, and stood up. "Just because your parents must've been sluts-at least, to judge how you turned out-doesn't mean you can go around dissing mine." Strong words, I know, but I had endured this type of thing umpteen jillion times already.
Sensing an argument, a group began to coalesce around us, made up of many of the teens who were part of the BBQ posse.
"Ah!" Tammy gasped in that short, squeaky, and tooth-pullingly annoying valley-girl way. "You take that back, freak."
This was getting nasty, and I didn't want to get in trouble. "I don't have time for this," I said, turning to go. Unfortunately Tammy's latest boyfriend (who had occupied that lauded position for about two weeks now, longer than many) blocked the way. He was on the football team and worked out. I didn't stand a chance of breaking through.
"Apologize to Tammy," he ordered.
I turned back. "So you can't talk to me without a crowd of your friends around, huh?"
"At least I have friends." She was staring at me. I stared back.
"Raow! Catfight! Catfight!" called out a class clown from the rear.
"Enough, Rodney," I said. "Tammy, I don't want to hurt you."
"So are you going to run to your mommy? She must have to protect you a lot, since everyone here is mean and your dad is even worse and hasn't even got a job..."
That tore it. Before I had time to think, I swung back my right arm and slammed it across Tammy's perfect face. She screamed and staggered back, clutching her cheek. The girls in the group ran over to comfort and protect her while the guys stepped back. I wondered why they were so shocked-this sort of thing happened every other day in the halls. Then I looked at my hand and realized why.
The hand that I had slapped/scratched her with wasn't my hand any more. Neither were my nails exactly nails. In its place, I had a blue-gray wolf's paw. The claws were bloody.
"Dianne? Dianne?" The principal's voice broke me out of my reverie.
"What? I'm sorry. I was thinking."
"So I see. Why are you staring at your hands?"
They both looked perfectly normal, except for a little red crust under the right fingernails. "No reason."
Poor Ms. Trevalt, to whom I bore no ill will, sighed again. "You made the Honor Roll last quarter, Dianne, and you won an award for the most creative Science Fair presentation. I really don't know what's gotten into you. You will have to get detention. From the stitches Tamara will need, you may deserve suspension and counseling, but since you had a clean record before now, we'll be lenient."
I sat up. "Counseling? Don't worry about that being too harsh. I think I need help, Ms. Trevalt. Maybe I could tell the counselor what I can't tell you..."
"But the underclassmen counselor is your mother." She was puzzled. Mom wasn't known for being easy when it came to student violence.
"Yes, I know. Please, I need to talk to her. I have Mind Extension now, so I'm just missing an elective."
"All right. I hope if I see you again it will be for something different."
I nodded and headed for Mom's office, which was just a few doors down the empty corridor. I knocked our special knock, which went to the rhythm of, "don't-like-it-then" slowly, and then two quick taps for our family motto: "Bite me."
The door opened. I've compared pictures of Mom from her college days with how she looks today, and she hasn't changed much, except for a few wrinkles and a couple of extra pounds she never managed to lose after I made my debut. Overall, still reasonably nice-looking. I resembled Dad more though, or at least how he appeared pre-undead.
"Honey, are you in trouble?" she asked me, putting her computer on standby.
I sank into a chair and watched the goldfish on her desk swim around.
"Yes, a bit..."
"Someone was talking about your father, weren't they?" My mother looked tired, understandable in a counselor working in a high school riddled with issues. She joked to me once that she felt a special empathy for teens who felt like freaks, since she was one already. The only evidence of that was a large poster on the wall that declared, "You'll Never Hear the Wolves Cry if You Don't Save Them."
I made an attempt to defend myself. "Yes, they were. And shouldn't I do something about it? They have no right."
"No, they don't, but we still have to keep a low profile. I know it's hard."
"Keep a low profile?" I laughed grimly. "Then I blew it." I told the whole story with decent calm.
Concern steadily increased on Mom's face. "Oh no. I was afraid this might happen."
"What might happen? Have you been keeping something from me? I feel like a teen out of the X-Men movies."
She didn't seem offended. "I didn't think it would show up, Di. It never happened to the Davidsons or to the Wolfmans either, except for one case." These were her and her paternal grandmother's maiden names. "It's very difficult for werewolves to find an understanding spouse, as you know."
"No surprise there."
"In fact, I'm the first lycan mother in the family records for nearly a century. The last time there was one-her name was Phoebe Wolfman--the children could turn into wolves. They weren't werewolves in the strict sense, since nothing happened to them at full moon. They had much more control than werewolves do. When they transformed, they could change just the parts of their bodies that they wished. So today, when you wanted to make a devastating hit, your nails turned into claws, and your muscles into a kind of human-wolf hybrid. We didn't want to tell you about something that might never happen anyway and could only scare you." She paused. "I don't think Tammy's going to insult you anytime soon, if that's a comfort."
There was a long silence. I was struck dumb for about two minutes, and then I whispered, "But how?"
I heard genuine apology in her voice. "There's no proof of this, but the theory is that when an expectant mother changes into her other form, the child inside her changes as well, since a baby is still part of a pregnant woman's body. If that's true, you shape-shifted nine times before you were born. Your mind doesn't remember how you did it, but your body must."
At this point it seemed best to view the world from between my fingers. I kept my face covered with my hands as I talked. "No, no, no. Not another secret. This family has way too many. I don't want to have something to hide about myself as well. Why is this happening to me?"
Of course I would have to say that, when everyone knows the Fates can't resist adding more and more on when you've got enough problems already. * * * *
Chapter Two Worry Me
It was four-thirty in the evening when I boarded the late bus. Everything around me still had a faint sheen of unreality over it, three hours after my fight. The hour of detention hadn't bothered me too much, since it gave me time to do homework without distractions. Unfortunately, my mind seemed to come up with plenty of distractions without any help.
Could this thing be controlled? I wondered. What on earth would I do if I automatically changed into a wolf whenever my feelings or desires got out of hand? Bizarre images flashed through my head: my ears shifting and growing fur when I was trying to hear something, going down on all fours when we had to do the mile run in PE. Despite my anxiety, I couldn't help but snort at the sillier ideas.
"What's so funny?" someone mumbled.
There always is a voice to pull me out of daydreaming. This time it was Taylor's. She gestured to the seat next to her, sounding three-quarters asleep. "Care to keep an old lady company?"
I rolled my eyes. "Oh yeah. Sixteen-and-a-half is so much older than fifteen-and-a-half. But I will sit, thanks."
Taylor Calvin is my next-door neighbor and one of my best friends, though at the time she was a junior and frighteningly busy. As usual she seemed exhausted, slumped over her backpack which was on her lap. She had circles under her eyes that any raccoon would envy.
"Were you up all night?" I asked.
To get her to be coherent I had to prod her a bit. "Ty? Ty?"
She jerked up. "I'm sorry! I know I need to be strong! But everything has fallen, and they are watching..."
"Whoa, Taylor. I definitely don't want to take all advanced classes next year if this is what it does to you. Do yourself and me a favor and sleep eight hours tonight."
"Sorry, Dianne." Taylor slapped both her cheeks in an effort to stay alert. "Strange things have been happening on top of everything else, and I find myself doing such unbelievable--oh, shouldn't have said that. Never mind."
"Chum, I know just how you feel." To keep Taylor from dropping off again and leaving me alone with my thoughts, I added, "Got a secret of a dark and fantastical nature, I suspect."
"You too, huh?" Taylor smiled. That was exactly what I liked about her. She could be offhandedly weird in such a normal kind of way, though her approach was more dreamy and poetic than my remarks of questionable sanity.
"Is the lack of sleep in any way caused by noises coming from my house?" I asked, trying to sound casual.
"Oh no, not at all. It's probably a combination of overwork and nightmares."
Vaguely I wondered if she was hiding something, but I couldn't ask. She didn't ask me what made my day so unusual.
We rode in silence for a while, the marks of the city thinning as we headed towards suburbia. Usually the sight bored me, but this time the ugly Pleasant View Apartments complex was on fire. Firemen, medics, police, and shaky survivors ran around, screaming.
"Hey, is that my music teacher?" Taylor asked groggily.
There were a few car accidents too. No one was hurt, but several drivers stood beside the wreckage and shouted at each other. I sighed. Everything was askew today. I decided to emulate my friend and dozed, leaning against her shoulder.
When I sat up again we were drawing towards our neighborhood. Common Lane-it used to be common land, open to anyone, until a few decades ago-is a series of townhouses, each one fronted by a scrap of lawn and domesticated trees, now turning into little towers of color in honor of September. The backyards are so small that Mom swears she would go insane if it weren't for a very large park just a short drive away. Here she finds plenty of woodland for a she-wolf to work off stress.
Taylor needed to be poked a bit more once we reached our stop. She thanked me quietly and stumbled home. Her house is number 7762, we Anghels are in 7761, and 7760 was currently empty. The previous occupants were an old couple with a severe phobia about bats, so a few sightings of my father flying home was a bit too much for them to handle.
"See you later, Dianne," Taylor said. "Sorry for being so out of it."
"Nah, it's fine. Get some rest," I advised. She headed off, and I went inside. I had been turning my mind to other things, and then I suddenly remembered Tammy. That must've been why I closed the door with unnecessary violence.
"No need to slam the door, Dianne, I can hear you in any case," called a voice from upstairs.
A voice again, I thought, dropping my bag to the ground. Will I never be allowed a reverie?
He came down the stairs slowly, also looking drowsy. Mom sometimes jokingly complains that by the time she's fifty, Andy--that's what she calls my father--is going to look like her kid brother. It is true that he's been perpetually twenty-five for the past eighteen years. Dad was really twenty-two when he made his fateful solo trip to Romania and camped out at Dracula's famous castle, but he claims that bleeding almost to death ages a guy a little. A century-old ghost of a twenty-five-year-old may be a more accurate description of his features. High school photos show a completely different Ferdinand Anghel from the one I know.
But I love the one I know. Call me a daddy's girl; I don't care. I have a similarly close relationship, not unusual for an only child, with my mother. I'm more like her in personality, but she isn't as lonely. As a vampire, Dad has more trouble hiding what he is from people, and needs my company. He's always around when I'm home, too. Mom often has meetings and extra work after school, but Dad works while the rest of us are asleep. Because of this, I tend to feel the way my mother would, but every day I express myself more and more the way my father does.
He came over and gave me a hug. I could feel the ridges of bone in his chest and the unnatural cool of his skin. "How was your day?"
"As usual, it's do or Di," I replied, squeezing tight. It was a little ritual we had, the hug and the silly pun with my name. "You should eat more, Dad."
He let go and raised an eyebrow. As a small child, I spent months trying to do that, and never succeeded. "I seem to recall that as the father of a teenage girl in this modern age, I should be the one saying that. I did go for groceries last night, though. Found a new little butcher shop on the far side of town. In fact--no, you should go first."
I went over to the kitchen for a snack. If we have non-family people over at our house we always have to empty the fridge. Typically, our stocks include milk, juice, fruits and vegetables, bottles of blood in neat rows, raw hamburger meat (Mom gets cravings sometimes), various dinners cooked up on the weekends and reheated over the week, a little junk food, and these weird red Plasma Pops. Dad was getting tired of slurping his meals all the time, so I came up with the idea of freezing the pig/cow blood into popsicles. They're especially good on hot days, he says.
First I took some beef jerky, then felt horrified at the thought of my inner wolf springing up, and exchanged it for a cup of chocolate pudding. I pulled up a stool and sat at the square island in the middle of the room. "Do you want something to drink?"
"No thank you, I'm not hungry. Were there any catastrophes? Victories? Revelations?"
Not many people, when they imagine vampires, visualize them in green checked flannel shirts and blue jeans, perched on chairs in kitchens and asking their children about school.
I made an effort to stall. "Did I wake you up? You look sleepy and like you haven't shaved." Dad's clothes are always immaculate, something that's almost a religion to him, but his hair tends to be awful and he usually has some cuts on his cheeks and chin from a razor.
"No, I was up for a while. I just didn't feel like it today. Mirrors are my least favorite piece of furniture."
I shook my head sadly. "Very rude things, I think. Ignore you completely."
"All right, all right, my day at school. Well, it seems now that I am likely a supernatural on my own account, and not just by association." I continued from there, swirling my spoon around in the pudding as I talked. My gaze stayed down on the counter, tracing the fake marble design. When I got to the wolf-claw part, I heard a sharp hissing noise and sat up.
My dad was folded and bent over, his elbows on his knees and his head just barely above the countertop. Though all the blinds were drawn to keep the lighting down, his eyelids were squeezed shut. After a moment, without moving, he whispered, "Go on."
"There's nothing else to tell. I was in detention today, and will have it for the rest of the week. Tammy might need stitches or something, and you can ground me if you want."
He shook his head and looked at me. "I think you've gone through enough. I--I'm very sorry."
"It's not like it's your fault. You didn't know for sure, right? Besides, I'd rather exist as some kind of wolf-girl than not at all."
"It's not just that. It's you feeling like you have to defend yourself, and me, every day. I can't be the best father for you. If there were any way I could end it--"
"Hey, it's okay. You and Mom are the best parents a girl could wish for. Besides, if you were like other dads, I might not see you as much." Dad still looked despondent, so I hurried on. "And Mom can control when she changes most of the time, so I should be able to as well with a little practice. I wish I could ask someone about what's going on. Wouldn't it be great if there were werewolf doctors?"
A sudden light shone in Dad's dark red eyes, and he banged a hand on the counter. "Of course!"
"Careful there, you might wreck it again." Usually he made a sizable dent every time he made that gesture. Today, though, there wasn't even an imprint.
"I was ready to tell you about an unusual thing that happened last night, but I didn't know how much we would need it," said Dad. "I found the location of a new butcher shop last Thursday, and decided to stop by. The manager had plenty of blood, and he asked me if I was here for Nat."
"That's what I asked him, but then a man beside me spoke up and said he was called Nat. Apparently he usually came around during the other employee's shift. Now I know why people continue to comment on my, um, complexion. He was very pale as well, and almost as thin. We helped each other load up our cars, and got to talking." He paused for emphasis. "It turns out that I have found likely the only other vampire in this town, though it seems more than probable there are more in the world. His full name is Nathan Silver, and his office is only a short drive away. He's a practicing physician."
I blinked. "Wow. That is just too coincidental to be real. Did he say where he turned?"
It took Dad a moment to process the euphemism. "Dr. Silver was traveling in Los Angeles. He didn't say when."
"Hmm. Vampires are never close to home, are they?"
"I suppose the man-eating ones prefer tourists."
"Did you get his number?"
"He gave me his card."
I jumped up. "I'm done with what's due tomorrow, Dad. Call now, please. I really want to find out all I can. Even if he's never heard of what I have, at least I can get a check-up from someone who's not going to scream and run away. We can be back by six to have dinner with Mom after her meeting."
"I'd rather wait for her, Dianne. Oh. Ouch. Ahh..." He grabbed his temples.
"I suddenly have a headache. No, a migraine. Should I be able to have a migraine?"
Vampire health is not, and never will be, my strong point. "Maybe you should see the doctor too," I replied, tossing away my snack and going to get my remaining homework. Dad mournfully swallowed an aspirin and washed it down with a sip of blood. As I worked, he crouched next to me at the kitchen table, staring into space. He stayed there until Mom came home.