“O’Malley Shields are corrupted trash,” Selene spit out, and Sarah hit her so hard that she drew blood. She was still surrounded by the crowd of supposedly partying vampires, who were now moving closer to the wing where Liam was waiting.

“And vampires like you are the reason Shields exist,” Sarah replied, not at all alarmed by the fact that she had probably broken Selene’s nose. In Sarah, I saw power and fury like I never had seen before. Everything seemed to come to a point then, the months of fear and change, the pain of losing her child, of what she had gone through, of the street life she had tried to live and the mask she had worn every day to keep people away from her. She was angry, and I wasn’t going to stop her from taking it out on Selene.

“An unexpected guest has invited to your party!” Liam’s voice boomed from up above, and I knew he was about to descend into the crowd.

My mistake was looking up, in taking my eyes off Selene and Sarah, off the struggle. Suddenly, I was thrown backwards, slamming into the wall of the wings. I felt pain like I never have before, pain so badly that I couldn’t scream, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything but watch what happened next.

Selene now had her arms around Sarah, whose veins were bulging with the focus on keeping her human. Liam dropped down and skidded to me, completely changing the scene, not that I cared. I felt like I was moving underwater, my brain wasn’t processing what was happening in front of me. Liam reached up to rip off his mask and I heard a crash.

Turning my head as if it weighed a hundred pounds, I saw my father standing there, a tray he had been carrying dropped from his hands at the sight of Liam’s vampiric face, at the sight of me, at the scene. He stood open mouth, staring.

“Dad! NO!” I had no idea if I actually got those words out, or if I just thought them. Darkness was flooding my vision.

Selene broke free of Sarah, and I could see the fangs begin to grow again.

And then it was my worst nightmare. In the exact same place where we had watched Porsche’s life fade away, by the exact same monster, I saw it happen again. Selene moved too fast for any of us, and without so much as a second thought, grabbed my father and sunk her teeth into his neck.

“NO!” I knew that word came out, because I saw Sarah’s head twist towards me, and her eyes widen in shock before she threw herself forward, managing to grab Selene again. Liam hit her in the back of the head, and she dropped like a stone into his arms. My father’s body headed straight for the ground. But my mother caught him.

I had dreamed about this moment all my life, seeing my parents together. She looked absolutely beautiful, almost glowing, and I wondered if she was a ghost or an angel. Whatever she was, she was being kept solid by Sarah’s presence. She held my father’s head in her lap, stroking his cheek until his eyes fluttered open. It was the most beautiful, peaceful thing I had ever seen, their eyes meeting and a thousand unsaid words passing between them. It would have been perfect, had my eyes not dropped and seen the blood pouring from his neck, his jugular torn open.

My father was going to die, and I knew it. I tried to move, and found that I couldn’t. Something felt very odd.

Slowly, I looked down, not wanting to see. And found out why I couldn’t move.

Protruding through my white ballerina costume was a spike that was normally used to tie a rope and rig open the curtains. It was sticking straight through my stomach. Blood spilled all over and onto the floor. It was almost like I was watching myself, in a dream. Nothing felt real. This couldn’t be real. That couldn’t be my blood on the floor.

And that couldn’t be my mother, holding my father and looking at me with tears spilling down her face.

“Mommy,” I whispered, my voice choked up. It didn’t hurt, exactly. It just felt like I was leaving this world. “Soon. Soon, we will all be together.”

She shook her head fiercely. “Your father and I need you to live, Amy. We need you to live, for us.”

“I can’t,” I mouthed, my throat so dry I could hardly speak. “I can’t.”

“You will,” she said, meeting my eyes. “And we will be watching over you. You will live on, Amy.”

“Through love,” she whispered, giving me a soft smile and glancing at the ring on my finger. “Through his love for you.”

I couldn’t keep my neck upwards anymore and my head lolled to the side, bringing Liam and Selene into my field of vision.

His body was rippled with the strength of a vampire, and he had her in a headlock. This was it. Liam was going to snap her neck and everyone would be free, including him. Everyone would be free from this dreaded curse.

“Liam!” Sarah stopped him, Connor suddenly at her side. “No!”

“No?” He looked absolutely baffled and clearly hadn’t noticed the chaos that was around him.

“Look!” She pointed to me, trembling. “Save her, Liam, Save her!”

The rest of the cast was now backstage, although I couldn’t figure out why. I seemed to be seeing double, and Liam was blurred along the edges as he cracked Selene’s head on the wall and then dropped her in Connor’s direction. She wasn’t dead, I knew that, you couldn’t kill a vampire that easily. And then he was at my side, taking my hand, his face blurred up close.

“It’s ok,” I managed to whisper, trying to meet his eyes.

Everything was becoming increasingly hazy and now it looked like my father was sitting up. But that wasn’t right, because I could still see him lying down. But he was sitting up too, as if there was two of him, and glowing the same unearthly glow as my mother.

I wondered if being close to death made you hallucinate.

“It’s ok,” I said, trying to get a grip on reality. “It’s ok. This is everything you wanted, everything you hoped for.”

“Not at this price,” he managed, and I had never seen him so choked up. “Not at this price! Not like this!”

“You have to kill her, Liam. You have to finish this. For me. For them!”

I could feel his arms around me, trying to pull me forward. It was the worst pain I had ever felt and I knew the audience heard. The show must go on.

“I’m not letting you go, Amy. No. This life isn’t worth living without you!”

“Liam,” a voice spoke that I had never heard before, and I glanced up to see a man from another time. Clad in what seemed like priest robes, with long hair and chiseled features. I tried to place him in the show, but couldn’t. Still, he stood there, towering over the rest. To my confusion, the vampires backed up, sinking to their knees. Liam turned, not letting go of me.

“Elias,” he said, his voice muddled. “Please. Please save her. Please.”

The one he called Elias shook his head. “This is not my choice to make, Liam. It belongs to you!”

“How!” Liam said. “How can I do this? Selene’s death will make me human! I cannot save her!”

“Selene doesn’t have to die!” Connor spoke up, and the others turned to him, slowly.

I felt sleep take me and a warmth spread over me. This was it, this was what death felt like. I had spent my whole life wondering what it would be like when the time came. But I hadn’t imagined it like this. I had imagined my withered body, hospital tubing and my sobbing father. I hadn’t seen it backstage with my father’s spirit waiting for me and my fiancé crying.

Elias smiled at Connor. “We mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” He looked upon the coven of vampires, as if he were a proud father. “If you here tonight understand that lesson, then you give me hope that vampires can continue to coincide with humans for all eternity. This has been a bloody fight, and I applaud your effort in it. And with Selene’s death comes your freedom, but at the price of more than one innocent. We made you vampires long ago, but we did not make you monsters. That is for you to decide.”

I fought with all my strength to raise my head, and look at him.

“Who are you?” I asked, my breath coming fast. I could feel my heart struggling to beat and I knew my time was drawing to a close. He bent down, a soft smile on his face.

“I’m the very first vampire, child. And I do not wish for us to end here. What you share with Liam, and the love I see here in this coven is exactly what I and others like me have been working to create for centuries. That vampires can co-exist with humans.”

“Yes.” He didn’t hide that fact from me. “But this supernatural world exists so that nobody is ever truly gone. For when one is lost, amends cannot be made, love cannot be created, grudges cannot be forgiven. Nothing can ever truly be mended if the chance to do it is not there.” He reached out to take Liam’s hand and brought it to my neck, where my pulse barely beat. The world seemed to slow down again, and I felt my heart stop, just for a fraction of a second. Liam trembled, but held strong.

“Selene will live,” Connor said, and it felt like he was a hundred miles away. “For I have known love, and lost it, and have been lucky enough to find it again, in a creature nature swore me against from the beginning. I will not let Liam and Amy lose a second chance. Even if it means being a creature of the night forever.” His voice got stronger as he spoke. “Those who wish for Selene’s death must go through me.”

I didn’t know what they did, or what happened, but I did know that Selene remained a vampire. Liam’s face came into my field of vision.

“I’m so sorry, Amy,” he whispered.

I used the last of my strength to bring my hand to his face and draw it close to his mouth, where his fangs protruded. My hand slipped, brushing his lip and revealing them more.