I tried to smile, despite the fact that I realized this was a fit of jealousy. “Sarah, you’re our star, you have enough solos, don’t you think? Also, I need you in that mob, grabbing a hold of Selene’s wrist, remember?”

“Right.” She stepped back to Amy and the two of them whispered.

I raised a hand. “Let’s try it once more from the top and see how it goes!”

I thought that this time would go better than the last few times, and it seemed to, until all of a sudden, I heard Amy’s startled gasp from the crowd. Knowing her voice above all others, I rushed forward, pushing the others out of the way, my heart pounding. It wasn’t quite sunset, so her blood wasn’t appetizing at all, even when fully transformed, but she was in a group of vampires. What had I been thinking?

Getting to the middle of the crowd, I found it wasn’t Amy in distress, but Nina. Her small, birdlike body was crumpled into Amy’s arms. My girlfriend had sunk to the floor, looking panicked and frightened. Amy had been taught that the show must go on, no matter what, but this was something that was hard to ignore.

“Nina!” I folded down to my knees as well, reaching out to take her into my arms. It took me a moment to come to terms with the fact that she wasn’t dead, she was immortal. Still, pale and cold, she seemed as if the life had left her. “Nina!”

Connor was beside me in an instant and I looked to his experience.

He shook his head. “She’s desecrating. You knew she wasn’t eating, Liam, and this is what happens to vampires who starve themselves. If she goes long enough like this, she won’t be able to wake up from it. Her body will be stuck in a coma-like state. Alive but dead, here, but not.”

Connor met my eyes. “She needs human blood.” He shifted to the side, where Amy was standing.

I felt my face darken. “No!” I growled, wrapping my arms around Nina’s face, as if she would sit up and bite Amy. ‘First of all, Amy, I will not allow you to go through any sort of pain. Second of all, your blood will make her sicker than she is now. And third of all, if Nina’s wishes are to not drink human blood, then we will abide by that! Sven.” I turned to the oldest human of the bunch, turned at 25 into a vampire and barely fitting in the classes. “Go to the cafeteria, tell them Liam sent you, and grab a pound of defrosted raw hamburger meat.”

“Chicks,” he said, shaking his head, but headed off nonetheless.

I looked up at the others, who were barely giving me room to breathe, and shooed them away, until it was just Amy and me left cradling Nina on the stage. I brushed a hair out of the face of the limp body.

Amy, however, had her mind on the bigger picture. “She can’t do this on stage, Liam. She’s got to shape up or she’ll ruin everything.”

I nodded. “I know. But she so wants to help, Amy. I feel like vampirism hit her the worst of all.”

But Amy was shaking her head. “The show must go on.”

I smiled at her, reaching out to take her hand. “So you did learn something.”

“Let’s just get her better.”

“Aye.” I didn’t let go of Amy’s hand, dividing my life-force between the two of them.

As much as Nina probably wanted to help, Amy was right, the show had to go on. And if it had to be without this tiny vampire body, then so be it. As much as it pained me to do so, we would have to tell Nina she wouldn’t have a place in our plan. Because in the vampire world, only the strongest survive.

“Do you know that in Phantom of the Opera 2: Love Never Dies, Meg Giry becomes a total slut, whored out by the Phantom, who I’m pretty sure is her real father by the way, and then grabs Christine and shoots her?”

It had been 3 weeks since Nina fainted on stage, and things had gotten more chaotic since then. The show, which was a disaster, was the least of my worries. Although vampires were generally stronger, faster and more flexible than humans, it didn’t replace the years of acting training the others had. And we weren’t just trying to put on a good show, we were trying to commit murder on stage and make it look like it was part of the show. We had probably rehearsed the scene at least one hundred times by now, and it was still as much of a mess as the first day. On top of that, classes were in full swing, which meant our workload as students was getting heavy. It would soon be pilot season in the city, which meant there would be hundreds of castings, both open and phoned into the school.

Even though Liam and I parted by sunset, I still felt exhausted, as if I pulled all-nighters. Usually, I finished my homework by ten and was asleep by eleven, but it never felt like enough. When the other seniors complained they were tired, I wanted to shake them. If only they knew what Sarah and I were keeping hidden in our world.

“It’s true. You should watch it. The entire thing is on YouTube. Here’s what I think happened,” Sarah said, as we took our trays to a free table. “Andrew Webber got lazy and decided to go off what the fans wrote in all their fan-fiction.”

“You know. Fan-fiction. Those stories by fans about the musical. Anyway, so he read all the fan-fiction and asked the fans: what do you want to happen to the characters? You want Christine to die? You want Meg to become a whore? You want Raoul to be an asshole, and Erik the Phantom to be even more angsty? Ok, I can do that, even though it’s totally out of character for everyone and makes no sense. Screw you, Gaston Leroux.”

I chuckled as I finished my muffin and took a bite of my cereal bar. She opened her mouth, about to say something else, when a funny look crossed her face and her eyes unfocused.

“What?” I asked, turning around immediately to make sure there was no menacing vampire standing over my shoulder.

When I turned back, Sarah had gone an awful shade of green. She swallowed hard and grabbed for a cup of water. A sip seemed to do nothing and suddenly she bolted for the nearest garbage can, barely making it before spewing the contents of her stomach into it.

“Ew,” I said, jumping up and going over to help her. There was a commotion in the cafeteria, as everyone turned to look, but I ignored them, pulling Sarah’s hair back as she wretched. “Hey, you ok? What’s the matter?”

Sarah straightened up eventually and I grabbed a bottle of water from the nearby stand and cracked it open and handed it to her. She took a few gulps, wiping her mouth and trying to get control of her breathing.

“You ok?” I asked again, and eventually she nodded, wiping her forehead.

Sarah shrugged. “Who knows? I eat everything. Although I had the spinach lasagna for dinner last night and it seemed a bit weird.”

“You didn’t go on a drinking binge with Liam or Connor or something and not tell me, did you?”

“When?” she asked, amused. “After singing rehearsal that went till midnight, or before dance rehearsal that started at 6?”

“Yeah, I’m glad I’m not the lead,” I replied, taking her arm. “Maybe it’s just a bug. Come on, I’ll take you to the nurse.”

“Nah,” she said, although she let me lead her out of the cafeteria. “I think I’m just going to skip class and lie down for a bit. I feel weird.”

“You sure?” I asked. I was worried and didn’t want to leave her alone.

She nodded. “Yeah. It’s probably just a passing bug or something. How do I skip class? Do I just not show up?”

“Hmm,” I said, as we headed back to our dorms. “I think so. I was given a few days off last year, but the teachers knew. I just emailed them. I think you could do the same, and I could tell them when I get there.”

“It’s only two classes this morning,” she pointed out, as we reached her dorm room. “We’re supposed to work on our thesis this afternoon, remember?”

“Right.” I nodded, as she unlocked her door. “So I’ll just tell them. No big deal.”

“Cool. Thanks, Amy,” she said, and gave me a quick hug. “I’m sure I’ll be fine after a nap.”

“Yeah. Just text me if you need anything,” I said, and she nodded, closing her door.

I went back to the cafeteria to retrieve my bag, ignoring the stares of the other students. Between my scholarship, dating Liam, and filming Sites, I figured they had too many reasons to stare, and I wasn’t going to give them another one. I put our trays in the garbage and then headed to the west wing. Sarah wasn’t missing much in first period. Theater history was one of the few classes that I did not look forward to. It was interesting to learn how we got to the performance point that we did, but the professor who taught it, Professor Dolan, couldn’t have been on a stage in his life. He was a nice man, very kind and knowledgeable, but his voice was monotone and he spoke so slow that often I could come into class, put my bag down, say hi to Sarah, go to the bathroom and come back, and he’d still be on the same topic, probably the same sentence. On the upside, I always had time to write down everything that he said.

How you feeling? I texted Sarah under the desk, near the end of the class.

Fine. It’s weird, I feel perfect now. I’ll be coming to rehearsal she texted back. I smiled and texted a happy face.

When the bell rang, I stood up and gathered my notes.

“Amy?” It was Connor, who approached me right as I got out of class.

He was alone, which was different than usual. Normally, if I saw Connor anywhere but sneaking around with Sarah, he had Isabelle surgically attached to him. But today, he stood alone in the hallway, the masses of people separating around him like water over rocks.