Here’s another snippet from my latest book The Best Bite. In this scene Peada’s father Oscar just told her she’s a vampire, and he gives her a letter from her mother explaining some of what she can expect from the change…
“What do I do now?” she asked, looking so lost Oscar grabbed her and held her close.
“Nothing, baby. Nothing has to change except your diet.” He pulled a letter from his back pocket. “Here. Your mother told me to give you this in the event this happened and she wasn’t here. Go to your room and read it. Then, if you want, come back out and share it with me, and we’ll go from there, okay? Are you still hungry?”
Peada shuddered. She actually was still a bit hungry, but she couldn’t face that ‘soup’ again. Not knowing what it was, despite how delicious it had been. Why had it tasted like cherries and peppers? Shouldn’t it have tasted metallic? That’s how blood smelled. She didn’t know – she didn’t know much of anything – and she was too discomfited to ask. If she had anything to say about this, she’d be getting up close and personal with hunger for the foreseeable future. No complaints.
It felt good to go into her room and shut the door. She did that very thing every day, sometimes several times a day, but despite the familiar motion she felt completely adrift, like she didn’t know herself. Like she didn’t know anything.
If there were actually vampires in the world, what else was out there? Five minutes ago she’d been a rather sickly teenager, but she wasn’t poor or stupid, and though she didn’t quite believe it, she’d been told her looks were above average. She hadn’t thought about it often, but she’d been secure in the knowledge that at least, despite any other little ticks and quirks she might have, she was at the top of the evolutionary food chain. Now she didn’t even know where she fit in. A stranger looked out at her from the mirror. The reflection was familiar, but now that the real her had been revealed, was she also a monster?
The blood had already worked its magic on her. The bags and shadows beneath her eyes were completely gone. The flaky dryness on her peanut colored skin was also history. Nothing ached anymore. Her hair was no longer frizzy. Her curls hung lower. They’d always been shiny and tight – that shine and her straight teeth, ironically, had been her only vain points – but now her hair gleamed with good health. She felt strong, too. Like her body knew physical ailments were the least of her worries.
Suddenly she tore at the fastening of her jeans, yanking them down and off. She looked in the mirror again, and sure enough, the two faint bruises that had marred the lower half of her calves were gone, as was a scratch she’d picked up from a neighbor’s over friendly cat.
She shook her head, amazed. Then her eyes narrowed in on her hip. She turned sharply from the waist to look at her side and back view – was her vision sharper too? – where was the scar she’d had since she was seven from a bad spill off her bike? The mark had been extremely faded, but now it was completely gone. Everywhere she looked her skin was unmarred. She appeared perfect. Even her moles had disappeared.
“Okay, that’s not so bad,” she whispered.
She straightened and grimaced, rubbing her tongue over her incisors. They’d always been a bit pointy, but it had never bothered her. Now she wondered what would happen when her fangs came in. Her father said they would soon. Would they be constantly out and sharp, or retract when –
She shied away from that thought and reached for her mother’s letter. A wave of sadness washed over Peada so hard she had to blink back tears. She wanted her mother desperately in that moment. But there was no way to get in touch with her. Lucindae couldn’t keep a passport let alone a cell phone. She was always dropping it down the side of a mountain or leaving it on a counter in a general store in the middle of nowhere. It was so bad she no longer had a contract. Most times she’d use friends’ phones or call from wherever and reverse the charges or she emailed and sent postcards crammed full of tiny writing.
This letter was different. It was in a plain white envelope with her name neatly printed on its front. It hadn’t been mailed, which meant her mother had written it the last time she was home and left it with her father. She turned it over in her hands a few times, then slowly, carefully picked apart the seal and pulled out two sheets of thick white paper.
Dear Peanut –
I miss you!! I wish I was there with you right now, but in all likelihood something has delayed me. It’s maddening how things always seem to go wrong right when I’m ready to come home to you and your father. You’d think with all the technological advances in the world they’d have figured out a way to expedite travel, but never mind that. I know you must be terribly confused right now – that was an understatement – but don’t worry. When I get there, I’ll explain everything to you. You’re not a monster. I know that’s what you’re probably thinking, and you’re wrong! You’re still my beautiful little peanut. It’s just that your shell is a little bit different than everyone else’s. During your summer vacation – Peada realized this letter was nearly a year old; their summer plans had been postponed indefinitely following the last incident that prevented her mother from coming home – you’ll travel with me, and I’ll introduce you to some people who will make you feel unwaveringly ordinary again. I’ve never understood why normalcy appeals to you so much, but I know it does.
This change must be nightmarish for you. The uncertainty, wondering what else is out there, maybe? Don’t worry, pet. You are a hereditary vampire. You were not made. That means you have great stores of strength and fortitude. You have control over your urges, no matter how strong they may seem. You’re coming into your true self now, and though I know it’s scary, I want you to embrace your vampirism. The Claiming, the process you’re going through now, is – hmmm. I don’t know quite how to explain it. I suppose it’s like puberty in a way, only times 50. You’ll be hungry more, though that will fade with time. You’ve likely figured out that your diet will change.
You’ll be stronger, faster, your scent will change. Your senses will be more acute, your vision will get stronger, your sense of smell too. That will not fade. These are your weapons. Use them. People will be drawn to you in a way you may not be used to. Men will notice you more. Women will want to be close to you too. They may get angry though, become jealous. You will become even more beautiful. Your hair will change, your skin. Your body may change a bit too.
Until I see you, peanut, do something for me. Let your father take care of you. If you don’t you’ll get weak, and I don’t want you to bite anyone! I’m kidding. Biting is necessary for us. It’s best you accustom yourself to that fact. Knowing you, you haven’t been eating, so I know you must be hungry. When I was home last, your father said you’dstarted occasionally requesting steak – she had. That’s what prompted the bad diet/meat discussion – but no matter how rare, regular meat that will only satisfy you for so long. Until I can show you how to survive, you must let your father feed you. Don’t let yourself get too hungry. It’s dangerous. You don’t want to get out of control. If you do bite someone, stop, count to three and stop! And before you even consider biting someone, make sure that you love them enough not to kill them. I love you, my peanut, and I’ll be home soon. Wait for me.