It took a lot of convincing to get Dad to let us go on a road trip to Midnight Hollow. Blake ended up staying a couple of nights (after a few phone calls to make sure his family didn’t mind; they actually sounded pretty relieved). He did agree so on a bright and sunny day Reeny, Sam, Blake, and I piled into one of the family cars and headed out. We’d be staying one night in Midnight Hollow, Dad had made reservations at a hotel for two rooms. I felt kinda guilty at the money being shelled out since if Sam and Blake weren’t coming I could just stay in a room with Reeny. Blake offered some money for the room. Dad thanked him but rejected the offer.
The road trip went nicely despite the uncomfortable circumstances. Blake didn’t really like being cramped in a car and his wings kept smacking against me and Sam. We took several stops so he could stretch (and complain). Finally after nearly six hours we arrived at Midnight Hollow. It seemed to have a dismal greyness to it. It had been like that the other time I visited, maybe ten years ago.
First we went to the hotel. Sam and Blake stayed there while Reeny and I went to the graveyard. I’d only ever been to my father’s grave the once, as a child. Where there had been a tombstone now stood a life-sized statue. I touched his name etched in the stone and wondered how he felt going in that battle. How he felt when he realized he would die. He’d never be scared. He’d probably be disappointed in how much of a coward I’d become. Pissing my pants in the face of danger. Taking months to confess a crucial piece of information that there had been a spy.
I want to make you proud, I thought as I rose up. But I’ll never be as strong as you were.
As I stood up it felt like eyes were on me. I glanced around but couldn’t see anyone around besides Reeny. Someone’s watching us though, I knew. I was glad when we got back in the car.
After a quick dinner at five, Sam, Blake, and I set off to talk to Eli. Blake thankfully knew where he lived so we just needed to find the right street. It took quite a bit of walking but finally we ended up in front of an average-looking house. Blake led the way up the stairs and knocked confidently on the door. An older woman with curly grey hair and a pinched face appeared.
“Can I help you?” she demanded.
“Does Eli Rose live here?” Blake asked. “We’re friends of his, from school.”
She gave us each a searching look. “Just a moment.” She shut the door and we could hear her shouting for Eli. Silence and then, “Yes I’m sure!” was shouted. “That’s what they said! Three of them!”
We heard some thumping sounds and the door cracked open. I gave an audible gasp at the site of a very pale Eli. His eyes looked hollow. “Wh–what the hell are you doing here?!” He looked behind him then stepped out so he could shut the door behind him. His clothes lay loose on him.
“We were worried,” Blake said a bit weakly. “Eli. You look–you look–“
“I look what?” he growled.
“Sick,” Blake managed to get out.
“No, I feel–“
“You’re sick,” Blake snapped. “Stop lying to us. I can see it, we all can!”
Eli’s gaze darted around and he sighed, letting his arms drop. “Why are you here? To convince me to go back to Hunter’s?”
“What’s wrong?” Sam asked, stepping forward. “What have you got?”
“Got? Nothing. I’m not sick.”
“Stop lying to us!” Blake snarled. “Just tell us the freaking truth!”
Slowly Eli licked his lips; they seemed dry and cracked yet the licking did nothing to moisten them. “F–fine. You’re right. I… I have… Veneficium.” The word meant nothing to us except that it sounded awful. “Can we go somewhere else? I don’t want to talk about this here. There’s a park nearby.”
So we went and found the park to be pretty much empty. A few kids played on the playground but we stood on the other side, where Eli let his head drop in his hands. He remained silent until I asked what he had meant by vene-whatever.
“Veneficium,” he croaked. “It’s Latin, it literally means poisoning. It also means magic. My magic is being poisoned.”
“What!?” Blake yelped. “Shit, Eli…”
He shook his head. “It causes a lot of exhaustion and pain, inward pain. The magic coursing through me hurts. It makes me sick. I–I should survive, but there’s no cure, and eventually I–I won’t be able to use my magic. I’ll become a normal human.”
None of us spoke for several seconds until Blake gave a cry and hugged Eli. “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?!”
“I don’t like talking about it!”
“There’s nothing that can be done?” Sam inquired.
“Nothing,” Eli said firmly. “My family’s looked well into it. I just… I’ve accepted it, and I want you three to do too. I’m–I feel like there’s no point in returning to Hunter’s when I won’t be able to use my magic down the road. I can just go to a regular school. My parents have enrolled me to the local high school.”
“Just because you won’t be able to use magic doesn’t mean you have to leave!” Blake whined. “Apollo’s not able to use magic and he’s there. Don’t go, please!”
Eli shrank back. “I don’t wa–I don’t think it’s good to return. It’s not… the best for me. Everyone will just worry and I’ll look sick and–I just, it’s better if I don’t go back.”
“Do you honestly want to leave?” Blake asked, looking right into Eli’s eyes.
“It’s for the best–“
“No, stop, just tell me this is what you truly want!”
Eli moved a little aways and wrapped his arms around himself. “Stop it! It’s for the best. I’m sick.”
Blake followed him. “So you’ll either be sick at the high school or sick at Hunter’s. If nothing can be done, why not stay with your friends?”
He doesn’t want to, I thought. He doesn’t want to come back and it’s not because he’s sick. In fact I couldn’t even be sure he was sick. Something about the tone of his voice, the way he spoke… I doubted him. I suspected if I looked up his disease it would say there’s no evidence to prove it. Maybe–maybe–he spoke the truth. But I got the feeling he was lying. He’s lying about being sick.
Then suddenly I figured it out.
“Eli, can we talk privately?” I asked. “Please? Just for a moment,” I added to our friends.
Eli reluctantly agreed and we went off to the side, far enough that they couldn’t hear us. Why didn’t I see it sooner? I wondered as we walked. I’m so stupid. Now I needed to bring the subject up without scaring him.
Well, right to the point I suppose. “You know who it is.”
I brushed my bangs back, scared to continue, scared to stop. “I know there was a spy at the school, a spy for Justificus.” Eli turned his head but I could see the flash of fear in his eyes before he turned completely away. “You know who the spy is.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. What spy?”
“I had a vision,” I lied. “You and I were talking near the end of school. I can’t remember all of what was said–” thank the Watcher that my friends all knew my trouble in remembering the visions, “–but the gist of it was that you knew who the spy was.”
Eli stiffened then slumped down. “Don’t make me tell,” he squeaked out, covering his face. “I can’t, don’t, please don’t!” The weakness that had been in his voice earlier, the ‘sick’ voice, had disappeared.
“They betrayed us, they sent us to be killed!” I whispered.
He shoved my hand away as I reached out. “No! I know I just–I’m not telling anyone. He’ll kill me. He’ll kill me.”
He. “He knows you know who it is?” I asked.
His eyes got even bigger. “Yes. Yes. And I don’t… I can’t! I thought I could, I tried, I did try! I don’t want to be involved with Hunter’s anymore.”
“If you don’t tell, he won’t kill you, correct?”
“And you actually trust Casimir?” I tested.
Eli’s head cocked to the side. “No, but he’s not the spy. Nice try though. I’m not going back. I’m not going to be near him. I don’t even want to be here, I want–I want to go far away.”
“Then tell me who it is and I’ll tell Mr. Hunter.”
“No! I’m not telling anyone! Just forget it, okay? He’s not–he can’t–just don’t.”
“If you’re not going to tell then why not come back? If you’re not going to tell, you won’t be in danger.” I didn’t quite believe that and I knew he didn’t either, I just had to try to get him to admit something else about the spy besides the ‘he’ thing.
To my surprise he went still and stared at the sky. “You saw a vision of us in the future? We’re seventeen, eighteen?”
“Yeah,” I said, hoping he didn’t guess I had lied.
“I… I don’t know…” He bowed his head. “I don’t know.” Now he looked at Blake who watched us from a distance. “He’s my best friend, I don’t want to lose him. Or you or Sam or Varuna–you know, all my friends,” he added quickly. “Perhaps I will be safe. If I leave maybe he’ll think I told someone and come after me. I–I don’t think I’d be safe anywhere.”
Neither of us spoke for some time. He rubbed his eyes, the dark circles under his eyes.
“Eli, are you really sick?”
He gave me a distant smile. “I need some time to think.” He began walking towards Sam and Blake so I had to follow. He repeated his sentence once we got back to them and Blake cheered up considerably. We took Eli back to his house and the entire way back to the hotel Blake demanded to know what we had talked about.
“I just told him I had had a vision of him back in Moonlight Falls, about to finish up Hunter’s,” I said with a fake smile.
The rest of August went by quickly. Arty left for college and Dad became rather emotional about her going off and living in a dorm. Then he had to say goodbye to me for another semester too. I hoped with Angel he wouldn’t get too upset over us not being around.
At Moonlight Falls by the time Sam and I arrived everyone else was there except for Eli. Blake said he hadn’t heard from him yet and we waited with worry. When Eli did show up we all gave him a hug. He didn’t look much better than he did a few weeks ago, he still looked pallid but when he spoke he didn’t sound sick. When we had a moment to ourselves I asked if he felt okay being here and he just shrugged, admitting he wasn’t sure how he felt. I watched him closely over the first week. He seemed very on edge and jumped a lot whenever anyone raised their voice. He seemed scared of pretty much everyone so I had no way of guessing who the spy could be. As the weeks wore on, though, he seemed to relax a bit more and more.
He still looked sick though.
When October came around everyone involved with the school became nervous (and Eli returned to jumping quite a lot). We looked over our shoulders, stayed grouped together, and only left our houses if we actually had to. Halloween passed us by without incident except that I called my dad every single night that particular week to promise nothing happened, that I remained safe.
In November I went on a date. With Eidan. I hadn’t really planned on it. But he approached me with the courage to ask me out and added that he knew the answer would be no he just needed to ask. I turned him down initially (“I’m not really interested in guys, sorry”) but then I thought about it. I never really thought about guys in that way and I knew my father didn’t realize his bisexuality until after college. Maybe I just never gave it enough thought. Maybe going on a date with a guy would reveal I did have interest in guys.
I talked to Sam about it. He shrugged. “Dude, only you can say what you’re attracted to. If you think you might be, go on a date? Who would you go out with?”
“I dunno…” I rested my chin on my arms, looking out the window. “I don’t want to hurt Eidan and I think if I try this with him it would hurt him. I don’t know who else would want to go out with me.”
“Booker?!” I snorted.
Sam raised his eyebrows. “Haven’t you noticed the way he looks at you? I think he’s got a crush. He looks at you like he really desires you.”
I shifted uncomfortably. I hadn’t told anyone about what transpired between us, not even Sam. I figured some of the other vampires could guess Booker had, er, dined on a human but nobody ever said anything in my hearing. And I had noticed Booker sometimes looked at me like he wanted to nom on my wrist again. I couldn’t tell Sam that Booker’s attraction to me lay under my skin, pulsing through my body.
“Blake knows everything about everyone, he could set you up,” Sam continued.
“Oh Watcher no!” I said quickly. “I’d rather not go out at all. Not that I don’t trust Blake it’s just… er, well, I don’t trust him,” I finished with a laugh. Sam grinned back. “I guess it’s a stupid idea anyway. I’m not even really interested in dating right now.”
“I have an idea…”
Sam wouldn’t tell me his idea and for a couple days it seemed like nothing would come of it, until Eidan approached me again. He looked ready to bolt as he spoke. “Hey. Sam–Sam talked to me.”
Eidan squirmed a bit and looked away. “I know you’re not really interested in guys but he said you were thinking about… seeing if you were? On a date? With someone?”
“Oh, yeah, uh, I don’t know. I mean, my dad didn’t find out about himself until after college so I thought I might as well give it a try.” I felt as uncomfortable as he looked. “I’m pretty sure I’m straight though so I just don’t want to hurt anyone. It doesn’t seem fair to ask someone to go on a date with me when most likely it’ll turn out I’m not interested.”
“I’ll go out with you.”
“I don’t want–“
He held up a hand. “I know you don’t want to hurt me. I–I appreciate that. And I also know and understand it will end with nothing changed, that you’re not… But I’m willing to try. If you treat it like… like a date and not… a joke.”
“I’d never treat it like a joke,” I promised. “This is something I’d take seriously.”
So we went on a date. We went to dinner and had a pretty good time, talking about various childhood stories. Mine weren’t as interesting as his but he still listened with rapt attention. When he talked I listened to him, and he did actually talk. He opened up a lot more than I expected. After dinner we went to the movies. He took off his gloves and we held hands. His skin felt so soft… like how I imagined clouds would feel if you could hold them. His palms got a bit sweaty and when we initially made contact a slight breeze went through the theater.
After the movie we walked back to our house. We chatted merrily about the movie the entire way until we got about a block away from the house. We stopped by a streetlamp at a park and stood awkwardly facing one another though I looked up at the sky while he looked down at the ground.
“I already know the answer,” he mumbled.
“Yeah. Uh. S–sorry. I had a good time, I did, it just…”
Eidan looked down and I looked up. “I had a good time too,” he said. “Thank you for that. I admit I was worried even when we left that it would turn out to be a joke.”
“I can understand that,” I said, trying to hide my hurt. “I doubt many guys would do something like this. But I just, you know, wanted to see if it might work out.”
“There’s always one more test.”
I tried not to laugh. “Are you suggesting we share a goodnight kiss?”
Eidan turned brilliantly pink. “Ah–not exactly–“
“Would you like one?”
I put my hand on his cheek and waited to see if he’d draw back. After he didn’t I moved forward and gave him a kiss. Why n–
Everything shifted. Like a channel being changed. There even seemed to be a split second of static or–or something. I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that now I stood in a living room. Several kids were running around. Eidan (an older Eidan) stood holding a baby and laughing as a strange man chased after the kids. I just barely had enough time to take in the pictures on the wall before everything shifted again. Back to Moonlight Falls.
“Apollo?” Eidan asked when we parted.
“Your eyes have gone all green…”
“Did I fall asleep?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
Eidan shook his head. “No. Was it that boring?”
“No! No, I just…” I sucked in some air. “I had a vision.”
“Oh. Oh, your eyes, that’s right. I’ve not seen them like that before. I didn’t know.” The wind seemed to be tickling against my skin. “You didn’t have to kiss me. I know you didn’t like it.”
I don’t even remember it. I couldn’t tell him that I hadn’t even really experienced the kiss. “It wasn’t bad,” I said, trying to judge on the very minute amount of time I could recall our lips touching. “It just didn’t anything for me.” Except give me a vision, why the hell did it give me a vision? I didn’t fall asleep. I had a vision while awake. And kissing Eidan… “I hope I didn’t upset you.”
“No. I… I’m not upset. I mean, I guess I am a little. I didn’t have my hopes up but it’s still a bit disappointing since I–I liked you so much.”
Liked, past tense, that’s good, I thought and nodded. “Yeah. Uh. Well, I guess–well.” How did I say this? “My vision, I had a vision, and it involved you.” Eidan just gave me a wide-eyed look. “You… you’ll be happy. You’ll find someone.”
“My vision, it was of you and–and your special someone,” I said softly, remembering one of the pictures on the wall had been a wedding picture. Eidan looked startled. “You two make a good couple.”
“Do I know him?” he asked rather quickly.
“I don’t know. I didn’t recognize him.”
The wind began whipping around us. “Any hints?”
I tried to think of one without revealing too much. I didn’t want to just give him the exact appearance of this guy. “I can’t tell you much. Just… just that blue and purple go well together.” There, that would work. Without telling him he would be with a rainbow. And a lot of kids.
Eidan returned to the house first while I took a walk around the block. Stupid, probably, considering the time and the fact I had a revenge-seeking maniac after me. I just needed–wanted–to clear my head. The vision hadn’t lasted long. Just as long as we had kissed. I hadn’t fallen asleep. The transition into my vision seemed a bit different too.
Finally I went back to the house and up to my room where my three friends were waiting, eager to find out about my date.
“It went fine and I’m straight,” I said as I shut the door. “As far as I can tell, I mean who knows maybe someday some guy will show up and steal my heart.” I got changed out of my nice clothes and into my pajamas. The others were talking but their words didn’t make any sense to me. My mind was too distracted by the vision.
Would it work if I kissed anyone? The last time I kissed anyone had been well over a year ago with Tal. Was it just guys? Or did something change? I’d need to find out. I’d need to kiss people. At least two people of different genders. I knew of a way to maybe kiss a girl but I didn’t want to injure my face just so Lilah would kiss me and that’d be too sneaky. No, honesty would be best. Lilah would probably be open for a kiss anyway, so I’d just need a guy. Who, though? Booker? Maybe Blake, he’d find it fun probably. And if none of it worked? If it had been a one time thing… or only worked with Eidan? What would that mean? After all it had been about him.
I went to bed that night feeling extraordinarily confused.