My first YA tale about a 16-year-old female vampire and male witch is practically writing itself. Here’s a lil sample, warning, this is unedited, so it may have a few boo-boos that the final version will be without…
“Mother, enough. Peada has a jittery stomach. She can’t eat a lot of fancy things.”
“Oh! How horrid, darling. I know all about that. Have you tried leaven bread? You get it in the Jewish food aisle of the grocery store. It’s plain, but filling. I have some somewhere,” she muttered.
They watched her trim backside moving back and forth; it was the only part of her they could see behind the pantry door.
“Ah! Here! Try this. If you like it, take the box. I’m going shopping tomorrow I’ll get some more so you’ll have it the next time you visit.” She beamed at them.
Peada set down her empty ice cream cup and took the box, obediently breaking off a piece of the bread – it was more like a cracker – and eating it. Again her stomach accepted it.
“Thank you, Mrs. Suirre,” she said sincerely.
“My pleasure, dear. Well! I’m off. Mrs. Redding and I are going to play cards at the Newports. Delia Newport is such a dreadful cheat. She actually thinks no one can see her lips moving as she counts cards! Is that the time? Good grief! Ciao!” And she was gone.
They stared after her for a moment, then Bastien cleared his throat. “She’s like a small, red tinted world wind.”
Peada burst out laughing. “That’s a perfect description, but she’s so sweet.”
He watched her staring after his mother, still slowly eating the bread. “Bring that with you. You haven’t said much about your mother and father,” he said, leading them back to the entertainment room.
She watched as he fiddled with the system. After a moment the movie started, but he paused it and she realized he intended to have an answer.
“You said something about your mother going walkabout. Is she Australian?”
Peada smiled. “Yes, actually, though she moved here when she was about 10. She married my father when she was 19. Had me a year later, and when I was five she took her first trip without us. She went home to bury some old relative in the Outback, and after that she was gone more than she was here. She says she caught the wanderlust. She calls often though, sends us these random, crazy gifts.” Peada laughed, and Bastien smiled too. “Mostly it’s me and my Pop. He owns a shop called Beauty ‘n Things. He does facials and image consulting, personal shopping, and he sells his line of beauty potions. Face creams, toner, serums, body splash, soap, eye stuff. They’re very popular.”
“Is the wrapping pink? I think my mother uses that face cream. She swears by it.”
Peada grinned. “Yep. It’s all horrendously expensive, but people love it. My dad’s a wiz with natural ingredients for the skin. The last package we got from my mother had this stinky little bunch of leaves in it from some remote area near Borneo, and a note saying it was a local favorite to cure internal and external skin ailments and inflammation.
‘Pop brewed some for tea – my mother sent a recipe – and mixed some up that night with a few other ingredients. We wore it to bed, and woke up looking fabulous. A zit I had was almost completely healed and a little shaving cut he had vanished. After a few more nights and tweaks, he packaged it and sold it for like $200 a jar, and that was the introductory price. We couldn’t keep any in stock. He called my mother and told her to pick every leaf she could find and send them. He sent a check for her to pay the locals to work, and a huge box arrived full of dried leaves wrapped in plastic to contain the smell.” Peada grinned and shook her head. “It’s full price now, $325, and we still run out periodically because Pop warns people every now and then that at any moment his supply may run out, and they hoard it.”
She nodded. “Men buy his stuff too, now. Women aren’t only ones concerned with looking good, or younger.”
Bastien chuckled. “Sounds like a very astute business man, your father.”
Peada nodded. “He is.”
A companionable silence fell, then Bastien sighed. “I suppose I should start the movie. You did say you had to be home by 10.”
She nodded reluctantly. “’Fraid so, but this should be fun, if Mrs. Chart’s any judge.”
Bastien chuckled again. “Chart,” he whispered.
Peada laughed too. “Hey, don’t make fun of her. She’s just really passionate about film.”
He snorted. “I sometimes wonder which is she, frustrated actor or director?”
“Costume designer, think. She’s devoted quite a bit of time to Edith Head, Orry-Kelly and let’s not forget the elements of style by Givenchy a la Breakfast at Tiffanys.”
“Hey, I liked that one.”
They’d seen it in class a week back.
“Me too,” she assured him, grinning. “I got My Fair Lady and Roman Holiday from the library.”
“I watched them too. They’re in mum’s collection,” he confessed.
They stared at each other for moment, smiling at their similarness. Peada was the first to look away when his gaze seemed to drop and study her lips. Her heart began to thump quickly, and for a moment, her hunger returned. She felt an urgency rise up in her. To do something; for a moment it made her ravenous, the need to touch him, to stroke him. She fidgeted a bit, breathing shallowly because deep breaths brought his scent into her nose and that seemed to make it worse.
What on earth was wrong with her? First she’d had to restrain herself from attacking his food earlier. Now, watching him, it took everything in her not to tackle him to the coach and bite him like he was the steak. The vein in his neck seemed abnormally prominent, pulsing rhythmically with the blood that pumped from his heart. It was almost like she could see the liquid moving through his veins.
Then, thankfully, the strange need faded as the movie’s opening scenes began to roll. The gaiety of the music and colors and the disquiet at her reaction caused the hunger to recede, and she was able to concentrate and enjoy the movie. Her stomach rumbled periodically, and she sighed as the hunger built again, making her wish she’d accepted his offer of another steak.
Her recent bouts with hunger had made Peada terribly sympathetic to those who were actually hungry in other parts of the world. She had no idea how they stood it, the constant nagging feeling of dissatisfaction. A nameless need to fill a space that seemed almost cavernously empty. It was enough to drive a person crazy.
Still, she laughed almost continuously as they watched Rosalind Russell strut and fast talk her way from one sketch to the next. The timing and the dialogue were perfect, and Bastien said he was looking forward to writing his critique.
“That squinty eyed little kid that plays the young Patrick Dennis is first on my list to get skewered,” he promised, sounding happy that he planned to assassinate the boy’s character.
“I could trip you,” she mimicked. “You’d only break a leg.”
Bastien chuckled softly at her near perfect imitation and rose to stretch.
And just like that, wham! The need returned full force as she watched his tall lean body stretch gracefully toward the ceiling. The need to touch was so strong she had to turn away from him. She rose abruptly and looked around for her shoes. All of a sudden she’d never wanted to be with someone or away from them so badly in all her life.
“Is something wrong?”
“I should get going. I have some other homework to do.” She said, rolling high speed from the room.
“Wait,” he said, frowning in confusion as she shoved her feet into her shoes. “I’ll drive you home.”
“No, no. I feel like walking. No, I think I’ll run. I need some fresh air,” she said, desperate now to get away as he drew close in concern, his brow wrinkling in confusion. “I’ll call you when I get home,” she said over her shoulder, and then she was gone, racing along the drive, and out of sight around the bend toward the road.
He lived almost a mile away from her, but Peada seemed to land on her own porch in just a few steps. Her heart was thumping like she’d been chased or fleeing the scene of a crime, and that’s how it had felt. For one horrible, lucid moment, she’d seen him on his back, herself crouched over his pale, lifeless body, for once, full.
“Hey, peanut,” her father said cheerfully. “You’re home early.”
She burst into tears. Unable to hold back under the onslaught of images so foreign and horrible she didn’t know how to process them. It was as though the weeks of uncertainty and confusion, the horrible hunger she couldn’t escape converged on her at once. Her tautly stretch nerves seemed to twang like plucked guitar strings and tears flowed copiously as she let her father cradle her close.
“What’s wrong? Did something happen? Are you hurt? Did that boy hurt you?”
She shook her head against his broad chest, wetting his immaculately pressed gold shirt with its brown wood buttons.
“Tell me what’s wrong,” he urged, pulling her away to search her face before she reburrowed her head.
“I’m so hungry, daddy. Sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy. I want to eat, but nothing satisfies me. I didn’t want to tell you, but tonight I – I almost bit Bastien! That’s how starved I felt. He actually smelled good to me! I need to go to the doctor. You know I hate doctors, but if there’s a chance that I might feel that way about another person, I, I suppose I’ve got to go. I just hope it’s nothing bad. I have a feeling it is though,” she confessed, fearfully, her feelings burbling out like water from the release valve in a dam.
“Hush, girl. There’s nothing wrong with you. Everything will be alright.”
She calmed feeling her father’s big hand stroked over her hair, the familiar powder scent of his homemade cologne in her nose.
“I had a feeling something was wrong,” he said quietly. “Damn your mother for not being here! Of all the times for her passport to go missing! She said it will be at least two weeks before she can make it home to explain things to you.”
Peada lifted her head and stared at him in confusion. “What? Explain what? Mom’s coming home?”
Her father nodded. “She called earlier tonight. Said she had a feeling that you needed her, so she was coming home, but then she called back and said that her passport was missing. There’s been a spate of stealing in the village where she’s been staying apparently, but she promised to get home in a week or two.”
Peada shook her head. “I don’t understand. What’s going on?”
She scowled as her father stepped away from her and began to pace their living room, stopping to stack a pile of magazines that was already perfectly neat.
“Talk to me, pop. If you know something,” she faltered. “You don’t seem surprised at what I just said,” she said slowly, realizing he hadn’t acted at all surprised to learn that his formerly well fed daughter had apparently been starving in a house filled with food.
“Why? Did you know I wasn’t feeling well?” she asked. “How could you?”
He shook his head helplessly, and her scowl deepened until it felt she would never smile again. “What exactly did mom say? How did she?” Peada broke off, some tiny piece of her suddenly too scared to press further.
That little core inside of her that guarded her against embarrassment at school, the warning device that kept her from making a fool of herself saying the wrong thing in a crowd, was suddenly bleating at her full force. She felt like running again, only this time back toward Bastien, with his crisp accent and no nonsense, unquestioning demeanor. He could make some sense of the turmoil roiling insider her, but why she suddenly felt that way made even less sense than what her father was trying to tell her. Sure he was cure, but they’d practically just met.
“Baby, sit down.”
Peada stared at her father, confused and scared and half turned toward the door in case the instinct to run became too much to resist.
“Please,” he urged, and she sank reluctantly onto their blue velvet couch.
“There’s a reason why you’ve been so hungry, baby,” he said slowly.
Peada couldn’t meet his eyes. Now that this was coming out she wanted very badly to deny the whole thing and have them go back to the way things were. The instinct to bury all this, a premonition that there was something horrible afoot was riding her hard now, and she shook her head in instinctive refusal of whatever was coming.
Still, she couldn’t help but ask. “What is it?”
He paused, started to talk then stopped two, three times.
Her dad was never nervous. He was always perfectly certain of everything. Even when he was launching a new lotion or soap and wasn’t sure how things would turn out, he would grin and say, “It’s gonna be fabulous, baby girl. I know it!”
To see him waffling was even more alarming than wondering what he planned to tell her.
“I know, I knew something was – that is, your mother,” he paused, then pounded his fist into his hand in frustration and rose. “It’s too strange to say straight out,” he said finally, looking down at her. “Stay here, okay? Don’t move, and when I tell you too, hold your breath.”
Peada’s brows rose in surprise. “What?”
“Just do it, hear?”
Hearing the southern accent he’d worked so hard to get rid of come out convinced her more than anything to play along. She nodded.
“Don’t forget,” he urged, leaving for the kitchen. “Hold your breath when I say!”
I’ve fallen into some sort of alternate universe. There was no other explanation. Either that or her father
had discovered some new beauty treatment involving oxygen deprivation. But he usually told her when he was planning to use her for a guinea pig! And surely this wasn’t the time – was that the microwave she heard? – for a beauty lesson.
“OK! Hold your breath and get the card table out.”
She did, quickly setting the little wood stand they sometimes used to hold popcorn or spa treatments on the weekends. He walked out carrying a bowl of tomato soup, which he set before her with no utensils or napkin.
She sucked in a grateful gulp of air, caught the scent of the soup and lunged for it. She drained the bowl in seconds, licked it absolutely clean. So clean, it didn’t need washing. She hadn’t missed a drop.
Shocked, Peada set the bowl down gently and looked at him a bit sheepishly. “Guess I didn’t need a spoon or napkin.”
He smiled a little. “That’s ok, baby.”
“What kind of soup was that? It was wonderful. I tasted cherries and peppers and,” her voice trailed off at the look on his face. “What’s wrong dad? Why do you look so sad?”
Ordinarily that look would have dampened her spirits. She was usually quite attuned with her father, but the loveliest sense of euphoria was spreading through her entire body. She felt gloriously full, like every cell had been fed and was tingling like seltzer bubbles in appreciation. If her tongue could have detached itself and danced around the room in glee, it would have. As it was, she had to hold herself in her seat to keep from prancing around the room like an excited five-year-old with a new toy.
“Did you make the soup?”
He shook his head. “It wasn’t soup, baby.”
She stared, waiting for him to elaborate, and when he didn’t she began to fidget. She felt too energized too sit completely still. She hadn’t felt this good in weeks. She stretched her neck from side to side and reached her arms above her head and stretched until her bones popped. Unable to sit any longer she rose and leaned over to press her palms to the floor and swing her body from side to side.
“Sorry,” she grinned, plopping back down on the couch. Her grin faded at the sadness in his eyes. “What is it, pop? Are you okay?”
“Aren’t you curious about what you ate?”
“Well, yeah. I’m still waiting for you to tell me what it was. Some kind of compote? One of your impromptu blender creations soon to be made into a masque for the shop?” she teased.
He sighed and rose, pacing to the window and pulling the curtains aside to look out.
There was a full moon tonight. She remembered it vaguely from her run home earlier. It had lit the way as clearly as a street lamp. She frowned thinking of that mad dash from Bastien. He probably thought she was crazy! And she’d forgotten to call and let him know she’d made it home safe.
She reached for her phone to send him a text. ‘Made it. C U tomorrow! Thanks for dinner.’ As she put her phone down she wondered again why she’d felt compelled to run. Now, she really felt like running. That soup or whatever her dad had made had given her enough energy to do laps until morning. She smiled again, reveling in the feeling of well being she hadn’t had in so long.
Her eyes fell on her father’s rigid back. He was staring out the window like he was looking for something. They’d been talking, she recalled suddenly.
“Dad, what is it? You’re acting very weird. Talk to me.” She rose and touched his back gently and was surprised when he jumped.
She frowned and backed away. “What is going on?” she said sharply, not realizing her voice had grown angry and deep.
Oscar turned and pulled her into a hug. At first she was stiff in his arms, but Peada loved her father, and after a moment she relaxed and put her arms around his waist, inhaling his powder scent and feeling another wave of peacefulness settle over her.
“Sit down,” he said, leading her back to the couch.
He took her empty soup bowl back into the kitchen, then moved the card table.
He opened and closed his mouth a few more times. Then he looked her in the eye and said. “That was blood you just drank, not soup. It was blood your mother had delivered that I took out of the fridge and warmed in the microwave.”
Peada stared at him aghast. Then she started to laugh. “Blood! Of all things,” she said. “You’re a trip, pop. What am I? A vampire now?”
She chuckled even harder, actually clutched her sated little belly she was laughing so hard. Then she looked up and saw he wasn’t laughing, that he was just staring at her with those great sad eyes, and she stopped.
Peada stared at her father, searching for an out, a joke, a punch line, but there was nothing but the flat ring of truth to be found in his solemn face, and all at once she knew.
She was a vampire.