Over the next few days I kept my eyes and ears out for more about the death of the vampire girl, but there was nothing except a small notice in the newspaper about the accidental death of a vampire named Shelby. Not even a line about looking for more information. It was disgusting.
But life couldn’t stop for something like that. The group wanted to go on dates (no knowledge of the vampire girl, let alone my slight connection to her) and then there were basketball tryouts which I kinda failed at. I only got one basket and the ball was out of my hands more often than it was in. So it was a huge shocker that I got on as a reserve player.
>Probably just cause of your height,< Lumie informed me when we got home after I found out I had made the team.
It was true that I was one of the tallest boys in school already. I was pleased by this as I had been a bit on the short side most my life and I was worried I had taken after my Pa. So when I hit puberty and started shooting up and taking after Dad… it was a great relief. >I guess I can learn to play through the coach then,< I responded, messing with my jacket. Soon it’d be a real, proper sporty jacket.
>You’re as much a butterfingers as Pa is, I doubt you’ll make it.<
>You’re miss nice-and-sweet today, you have a pleasant time at school?<
Lumie gave me a mental glare then pulled up the barriers. I just rolled my eyes, knowing her day hadn’t been too great since she and Saul were fighting again. I was pretty sure it was due to the fact she had to lie about their relationship to our dads, but then again it didn’t see like Saul was the type to care… I tried to get info but Lumie’s barriers were shut tight, she wasn’t even telling me to go away as I knocked at her mental door.
“Congratulations little bro!” I jumped as Gladdy jumped onto my back, wrapping her arms around me, placing a kiss on the cheek. “I didn’t think you’d make the team.”
“Wow, thanks sis, love you too,” I said but laughed.
She came around to my front, grinning. “No, really, I’m proud of you. It’s nice not being the only athlete in the family.” She squeezed my hands and I couldn’t help but smile as much as she was.
“R-really? Wow, thanks. That means a lot…”
She hugged me tight and I hugged back, feeling super happy about this. “I’ll come to all your games,” she promised.
“I’m just backup, I probably won’t be playing at all.”
“Don’t care,” she said, ruffling my hair. “I’ll still be there cheering you on. Go purple and grey!” She pumped her other hand in the air.
“Go purple and grey!” I echoed, pumping my own fist up and then we high fived. She gave my head another pat before bouncing off. I just stood there, feeling good about myself. I got along with my siblings for the most part but… it had been a long time since I ever really felt connected, except for Lumie. But Villy and I had been doing more together and now this with Gladdy. Maybe turning towards the sporty life was a choice I should have made ages ago.
I wonder what I can do to reach out to Presea, I wondered as I climbed the steps to put my stuff up. Besides volunteering. Which I wasn’t going to do.
The coach was pretty hard on me and seemed a bit exasperated that the ball refused to stay in my hands during practice. I did practice hard but I just couldn’t seem to get the hang of how to do it. The rest of the team mostly made fun of me but there were a couple willing to help me, or attempt to help me. I made a couple new friends that I started hanging out with a lot. They were the partying type though, so on Friday nights I more often than not found myself at parties. The kind of parties my twin was going to with her idiotic boyfriend. I kept my eye on them, glad to see my sister at least refused alcohol even if her boyfriend didn’t.
When the games started, I was nervous but the coach never called me in. I stayed on the bench and cheered my teammates on. Every game was spent fearful we’d lose, but we didn’t lose. The Moonlight Fall Owls were good–nearly unbeatable! Well until later in the season when we’d go up against Midnight Hollow, our big rivals. Then… well, it would be a tossup as the Ravens were in an unbeatable season as well. The whole thing made me really nervous, actually. But that game wasn’t for ages.
In December we celebrated Vilkas’s nineteenth birthday, and then the holiday season was upon us. My siblings mostly gave me gift cards to clothing stores since they said I’d probably need them eventually when I changed phases. I was not amused by that at all. Besides, I liked how I was now.
January went by, with lots of snow and a few canceled school days. I gave up trying to find information about the dead vampire, and Pa continued his search for Uncle Kay. I was rather worried too, it had been such a long time since we heard anything from him… but surely even if something happened to him, even though his sister wasn’t very nice she would have informed us… right? I tried telling that to Pa and he just grew super upset, and Lumie gave me a pat on the back suggesting I never go into counseling.
During all this January weather, Presea had her eighteenth birthday. One of the big’uns. She sparkled and aged up, looking very proud of herself once the strange ritual was done. I wondered out loud why this happened, why every now and then on certain birthdays we went through this. It was the same on the first, fifth, thirteenth, and eighteenth birthdays but then I knew sometimes after that they altered.
“You know,” I said as everyone stared at me with confused looks. “Typically the next two are at forty and sixty but sometimes it’s thirty-nine, or forty-one, or sixty-three…”
“Maybe because one, five, thirteen, and eighteen are the most important changes in ones life,” Glados said philosophically.
“I think health problems might just edge a person’s adult and elder birthdays around,” Presea said, sitting up all prim and proper, constantly glancing at any reflective surface.
>She’s being more vain than you,< I told Lumie who glowered. I smiled sweetly at her and she stuck her tongue out. “Health problems aren’t really the reason though, I mean there have been sick people who unfortunately die young…”
“I guess only the Watcher and those who’ve passed know why,” Glados said with a shrug.
>I’m surprised you thought something so….< Lumie’s brain searched for the right word and as she did she skipped over words like stupid and annoying. >Smart,< she finally settled on with a raised-eyebrow look.
>Well thank you, sister dearest. I’m not such a dunderhead.<
>Nah, you’re not. Course I’d never admit that out loud.<
>Like I’d never admit you’re a cool chick? Yeah, I know.<
We exchanged grins to the curiousness of our siblings and then continued on with the vocal conversation. Eventually it got around to me being on the basketball team and I just basked in the happy comments about how proud everyone was of me even if I was just on the bench. They all insisted (except my twin) that next year I’d be properly in the game. I nodded, figuring they were right. I loved being on the team. It was great. And I made some awesome friends… or…. so I thought…
Lumes and I were planning our birthday party for the end of January, hoping it wasn’t snowing that day. Our dads had rented the rec center and we were allowed to invite six people each. I wanted to invite more than that but I knew it was money restrictions. So I decided to cut Steve and Trysh out, to invite three of my teammates. I didn’t want to cut Trysh out but… if I had her and not Steve then things would just just be annoying. I was worried about having Kim and Trin and not Trysh though. It was all headache-inducing, but I’d worry about them after I invited, or tried to invite, my three so-called friends from the team. It didn’t go so well.
“A rec center?” “Dude nooooo!” “What about beer?” were the responses I got.
“There won’t be alcohol,” I said nervously and the three of them laughed at me. I curled my hands into fists, feeling angry. “You don’t need beer to have a good time.”
“Duuude, you do,” Barrie said, slinging an arm around me. “Tell you what, we’ll bring some drinks and make it a major party. Invite some girls.”
“Errrr, my dads said–“
“Dad?” Patrick cut me off. “Your dad is throwing you a birthday party?”
“I don’t exactly have the money to throw my own.” I was feeling bitter now. Very, very angry. I had the feeling it was about to get very hard not to punch one of them soon.
“Allowaaannnce!” Barrie drew out.
“I don’t get much of one,” I said, lifting my chin. “Besides, I bought my sister a present–“
“Ohhh yeah Illuma,” Patrick said. “The girl Saul is bonking.”
WHAM! My fist hit Patrick hard. He stumbled back in shock, covering his now bleeding nose. Barrie and Joe backed up, mouths dropping open. “Oh sorry I misheard you,” I hissed, ignoring the pain in my hand since I didn’t want to show them it hurt me. “I thought you said you wanted my fist to bonk your nose.”
“Watcher, DG, what the hell is wrong with you?” Patrick groaned.
“He lives with a werewolf, you can’t blame his bad man–” Joe said and WHAM my fist connected with his nose. Patrick grabbed me from behind, arms up around mine, holding me tight. I began struggling and realized the folly of losing my temper as Joe punched me. And then it all went downhill from there.
“Fighting?! What the HELL were you thinking Zaid?!” Dad brandished a piece of paper, waving it at me. “You know what this means? You’re suspended from the team.”
“Let me guess, the other three aren’t?” I snorted.
“They said you jumped them,” Dad said, not as shout-y but still in an angry voice. “And they said you sent someone after them.”
“What?! I never sent anyone!” I snarled. “And I don’t care about the team, I quit.” I stood up and yanked the ugly jacket off my body, throwing it across the room. “Patrick said crap about Lumie so I punched him, and then Joe said crap about Vilkas.”
“So you punched him?” Pa asked quietly.
“Yes. Then Patrick grabbed me and Joe began beating me up. Barrie did nothing, I never touched him!”
“He had bruises all over him,” Dad said, marching over and grabbing my chin, forcing me to look at him past my bruised eye. “Said you and your friend did it.”
“Friend…?” I blinked. “I never sent anyone after them and I never–ow!–I never touched Barrie. Who beat them up later? I never did.”
“I don’t know, they just said some guy showed up, accused them of hurting you, and beat them up…” Dad let go of my face and I retreated to sit with Pa, going under his protective arm as Dad glared. “That’s all I know. Who was it?”
I shrugged. “No clue. I didn’t tell anyone about this. Only person who knew before this was those three, and Lumie because she read my mind.” And she was proud of me. She practically cried as she hugged me, kissing my cheeks and thanking me for defending her honor. She then bought me a pizza. Soooo it was worth it. “But you know, they’re fairly popular and y’know, full members of the basketball team so what they say goes, right?” I looked between the two of them. “
“We believe you,” Pa said with a gentle smile. I smiled back, relieved. “But you shouldn’t have sent anyone after them.”
My smile faded. “I didn’t send anyone. I don’t–I never–uuugh! But I am quitting the team…” I frowned, suddenly fearful. “You won’t be mad about that, right?”
“Mad?” Dad narrowed his eyes. “I’m mad about this!” He smacked the paper in his hand. “Suspension and fighting. We raised you better than that!”
“How many times did you get into brawls in your life?” I asked.
I swear his beard bristled. “That–is–not–the–point!
“Zaid,” Pa said, taking my wrist, “we’re just worried about, that’s all. Did Clay, or–or–uhh–um–the, uh, other one maybe attack him? Or Villy? If Vilkas–“
“Vilkas doesn’t know about what happened,” I said swiftly. “The only one is Lumie, now she would never do that. My guess is Pat or Joe punched Barrie and they made up this other person thing. Look.” I got up, spreading my hands out, trying to figure out a way to explain any clearer when it hit me. What if someone else did attack them? My stalker?
I dropped my hands, blinking. What if for some reason this person stalking me attacked them? I wasn’t sure why that would have happened, but it was a possibility. We had been outside, so we could have been seen. Watcher, was my stalker a psycho? Did he hurt the three of them because–
“Look at what?” Pa asked.
“You said look, then went silent…?” He tipped his head one direction, still smiling.
“Errr, nothing. Nothing. I’ll be in my room. Look, sorry about the fighting, I am, but really they deserved it, they said stuff I won’t repeat about Lumie and Vilkas. And I quit the team.” I took off up the stairs, tripping at the top and slamming onto the floor. Lumie laughed at me from her room and then pointed out that I didn’t have a stalker.
I didn’t even bother arguing her, I just shut myself into my room and began going back and forth to each window, trying to see if there was anyone out there. Paranoia crept back into my mind, seizing my heart >Say that wouldn’t make a bad poem would it?< I suggested to my sister as I opened one of the windows and leaned way out.
>Don’t become a poet.<
>You’re not being stalked, nimrod. Who’d be stalking you?<
>Some people find me very desirable.<
>And some people punch your guts out.<
>HEY yesterday you were fawning all over me because I defended your honor! If this is the thanks I’m gonna get–< I stopped my thoughts since I spotted someone in the trees… or… did I? No. It was just shadows. Ugh.
I pulled back into the room and shut the window. I needed to figure this stalker thing out. And there was only one way to catch a stalker…
My new look was greeted with a lot of laughter. Everyone in my family found it funny, my friends found it funny, even Kim giggled about it but I didn’t think it was funny at all. To catch a stalker, I’d have to be a stalker. Or at least attempt to be one… and who better to do stalking than a detective?
I had to wait till after my birthday to afford my new clothes (the birthday party went decent and I only invited my five friends including ucky Steve who seemed uncomfortable about Vilkas all day). I didn’t want to admit to my family those clothes store gift cards really came in handy. I also spent my allowance on some books about spies. Old dime novels type of thing, with those funny narrations. I rented spy movies and detective movies. I even checked out kid detective books from the library. I pushed myself into this new character. Zaid Danevbie-Greyson, private eye. Yeah. I liked that. Better than the Grim Reapering sports. Who cared about that. That was stupid, and pointless. Running up and down a square, trying to get a ball in a hoop.
No. This was where the real action lay. And Kim stopped giggling at me and started giggling because of me when I used some lines on her. “You’re the kind of dame a man could lose his mind over,” I said to her one day as we walked through the snow. “You’re no chippy, you’re real class.”
She giggled loudly and clung to my arm. “Tell me more, Zaid!”
I smirked and leaned in. “Her gams were great. Gams to go on for days. I could lose a week just looking at those legs.”
She jerked me around by the collar to kiss me, nearly knocking my hat off. “”Oh Zaid, you’re so romantic,” she breathed out. “What’s a gam?”
“Errr, legs,” I said, hoping I got that right.
“You’re amazing,” she said as we began walking again.
I grinned from ear-to-ear. “Even though I’m not on the team anymore?”
“Nah, that’s fine. I don’t want a dumb jock anyway. I think you’re adorable like this. Talk about my legs some more?”
I happily obliged and I received three more kisses before we had to part ways. I turned up my collar, stuck my hands in my pockets and continued on, trying to keep an eye out for someone following me… but I didn’t see anyone for the rest of my walk home.
Just before Valentine’s day, a ton of tension cropped up in the house. Presea made the decision to drop part of the surname. We all knew this was an option, and our dads told us that for ages. But none of us ever expected any of the others to do it… at least, I never expected any of them to do this. So it was a bomb when Presea announced she was dropping the Danevbie.
“I want to be Presea Greyson,” she explained to our shocked faces. “Presea Danevbie-Greyson just seems like such a mouth full, and Presea Greyson sounds better than Presea Danevbie…” She avoided looking at Pa who was very obviously trying not to look heartbroken. “I was thinking about this a lot over the past few months, and–and I think it’s the right decision for me. It’s not something I’m taking lightly.”
Pa assured her it was fine, but that night he cried in his room. I only found out when I woke up feeling thirsty and found Vilkas sitting by the door. He only did that when something was going down. “Pa’s crying,” he said, though I couldn’t hear anything. “Dad’s reassuring him but Pa’s pretty sad.”
“I can’t believe Presea did this,” I muttered, going for the pitcher of water that we kept in the room. I poured myself a glass and was about to take a drink when I realized there was a face right outside my window.
I screamed and dropped the glass. Vilkas jumped up as I fell back onto my bed, gasping for air. “SOMEONE!” I shrieked, pointing at the empty window. “THERE WAS SOMEONE THERE!” I jerked forward, pressing my face against the glass. “Did you hear them?”
“I didn’t hear anything but Pa and Dad,” Vilkas said, sliding next to me to peek out. “Nobody was out there and I would have heard someone climbing up the house, Watcher Zaid you think someone climbed up the–“
The door was flung open and our dads came in, worried looks on their faces. “We heard a scream?” Pa asked, clutching Dad’s arm.
“I saw someone outside the window.”
“Zaid thinks he saw someone,” Vilkas said, straightening up.
I glared. “I did see someone! Let’s go outside, there will be marks in the snow.” I grabbed my clothes, yanking my pants on. “Come on, Dad! You’ll see!” I scrambled for my shoes and then got up, glaring at Vilkas and mentally at Lumie since she had woken up and agreed with Villy about it being my imagination.
“Do you really think it’s a good idea if you go out in the night after–” Pa started but Dad put a hand on his shoulder.
“We’ll be fine,” he said and Pa just looked more anxious. He began biting his fingernail, brow getting all wrinkled as Dad and I left my room. Pa and Villy followed me and the girls all left their room too, wanting to know what was going on. There was a lot of arguing about me seeing something outside, with nobody in my corner. Nobody. None of them believed me. None of them would ever believe me, unless I caught this fink.
“I saw him at Hidden Springs, I’ve seen him around here–I’m being followed. We should report this to the police!” I said as Dad and I went outside, after he got a robe and boots on. “This guy is dangerous! I think he’s the one that beat up the three jerks last month. They’ve seen him, they–” I stopped, for the first time realizing if this was true then I could get a description from those three. UGH! WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS LAST MONTH?! “See?!” I shrieked, pointing at the snow under the bedroom window.
Dad shined his flashlight at the churned up snow. “This is from you kids,” he said, sweeping the light. “See? This is where you kids ran into the house this morning from sledding.”
Oh. “W-well, there’s gotta be marks on the house or–or something…?” I asked, shivering in the freezing night air.
Dad aimed the light up. “Nothing really. Look, the only things I see here are marks from you kids, and some animal.” He indicated a set of paw prints leading off around the house. “Nobody climbed up the house to look in your window. Nobody could do that.”
“Maybe it’s a faerie stalking me,” I said, deflated. Dad just rolled his eyes and headed inside. I followed him, my stomach churning like last week’s butter. “It’s gotta be someone who can fly then, n-not touch the ground. A witch! Or wizard! On a broom!” I said, voice rising. “Pa told you about what Rhoen said last summer right? It c-could be someone for that! It could be–“
“Zaid.” Dad spun around and put both hands on my shoulders. “Nobody is stalking you. You just think there is. Nobody has seen this person but you.”
“My friends saw him!” I said, voice squeaking now as my throat and eyes burned. “Clay and Kim and them, last October when we went to the haunted house they–they saw him! They did! And–there is… someone…” I was trying not to let emotions get the better of me as we went back inside. Everyone was standing there, giving me the same look. “There is someone,” I said and tears finally formed in my eyes against my will. “You guys just think I’m crazy…”
“Not crazy,” Pa said. “Just… maybe… imagin…imagaging… Imagine…”
“Imaginative,” Dad put in for him.
“Imaginative?!” I shrieked, voice breaking. “That’s what they always tell those kids the movies you know, the ones that break their leg and are stuck inside all summer and–and see a killer next… door…” I slowed and finally stopped as I figured that maybe wasn’t the best sort of example and sure enough Dad pointed out we weren’t in a movie. “Look, I–I know what I saw.”
“You think you’ve seen,” Presea corrected me.
“I HAVE SEEN!” I shouted back, and everyone winced. There was several heartbeats of silence and then I couldn’t take it anymore. “Forget it, j-just forget it!” I hissed, going towards the stairs.
Pa tried to grab my arm but I shoved him away. Villy did grab my arm, and as he was much stronger than me I couldn’t shove him away so I had to stand there and glare. “We’re worried about you,” he said.
“Oh, yes, very worried. I can tell you all are just soooo damn worried–“
“–about some guy stalking me, and beating people up and you know what? Possibly killing that vampire chick back in the fall!” I pulled my arm several times until finally Villy let go.
“Fine, I’m crazy, I’m seeing things, I’m imagining it. Well let’s just hope this imaginative stalker doesn’t freaking have to KILL ME BEFORE YOU BELIEVE ME!”
I ran up the stairs, tripping on ever other one. Lumie begged me to come to my senses, to come back down, but I just scrambled to my room, slamming the door shut and then throwing myself onto my bed. I cried in anger, punching my pillow, feeling so frustrated, scared, and extremely alone.