“Ur, well, we do still grow hair, so…sorry, if you become a vampire, you still have to shave your legs. As for sleeping in a cave…upside down—” He merely raised a brow to answer.

He hesitated. “Like I said…we can manipulate the elements. Some of us have mastered the ability to become completely weightless and move through the atmosphere—suspended above the earth. But not all can, and it’s only for short distances. It takes decades of practice.”

“That is so cool.” It was the only cool thing—everything else was disgusting and infuriating, but flying was cool. “So? What else can you do?”

“Well, at this point, I can officially inform you that we are a secret society—so, much of the information about our laws and abilities, I cannot divulge.” He smiled, his eyes becoming small. “Even though I already have.”

“But you can reveal yourself? People can know what you are?”

“Only on one condition.” He paused and took my hand. “That is why I told you I must leave, Ara—in the hope that it might come to this—to you finding out once and for all about me, about what I am. Otherwise, I would’ve just left you.”

“Like you did to all the others?”

“You move on every two years; you must’ve made friends. Am I the only one you—?”

“You’re the first human I’ve ever told, yes.”

And for some stupid reason, that made me feel special, close to him. But I didn’t want to feel like that anymore; I hated what he was, and I wasn’t sure if I actually might’ve hated him, too. But I knew that some part of me didn’t want him to go away. Not for forever. My lip quivered. “So, you can tell me that you’re a vampire, but you have to leave if you do?”

“No—” He pulled my face against his chest. “Silly girl. No. I can tell you only if I’m sure that you’re—”

My head whipped up to see his face when he went quiet. “I’m what?”

“I guess the right words are…my significant other.” David almost read over his own words in the air, then, seeming happy with the terminology, looked at me. He smiled, pressing his finger under my chin until my teeth fit back together.

Significant other? “But…you’re a vampire. I can’t be your significant other, David. We can’t even be together.”

He swallowed hard. “We can, if you loved me enough.”

“David, you know I love you. But you kill people in order to live,” a hint of hysteria touched my tone. “I don’t know if I can be a part of that. Not as your friend, not as your lover, and certainly not as a vampire.”

David froze in place, like a stone carving. The expression of confusion seemed eternally placed within his eyes, and his chest stopped moving as if he’d given up breathing. “Believe it or not, Ara, it’s kinder to kill them.”

“Er!” My lip twisted up in disgust. “I don’t want to hear anymore, David. Kinder? I—I just can’t even conceive of the idea.”

“Perhaps you have heard enough, then.” A slight nod moved his head, but his face stayed frozen; the smile I loved completely blanketed by pain. “I shall leave you now.”

He stopped, but didn’t look at me.

“I just—I just need some time to think. Do you think you can give me that?”

“All I have is eternity.” He snapped out of his intensely deep stare, shrugging, then leaned down and kissed the top of my head.

“I won’t need that long. But, David?”

“Yes, my love.” He stopped by my door.

“Are you in any danger? Because you told me?” I hugged both legs to my chest. “Like, will they be mad with you?”

The door swung open and he stood between here and gone. “No. But if you ever say anything and they were to find out…”

“I won’t say anything.” I rested my cheek on my knee.

“Good.” He gave a nod and disappeared, leaving my door swinging in the breeze he left behind.

I sat there, in the middle of my room, hugging my knees to my chest, until the afternoon turned to evening. When Vicki flicked the hall light on and came up the stairs, I ducked in the darkness, waiting until she passed. And I noticed then, crumpled at the foot of my bed, the damaged remains of the blue rose David stole—the representation of the moment that changed everything.

I jumped up quickly, butt numb, legs stiff, and grabbed the flower, pressing it to my nose. Despite all the damage done, despite the petals falling away, weeping, it still smelled just as sweet as before. Which was comforting to me, because, for all the things that seemed irredeemable, some things were still okay.

I grabbed my diary and pressed the flower between the last pages, then snapped the book shut and sat on my bed in the dull light shining in from the world outside my room.

“Ara, come down and have some dinner, please,” Vicki called from the bottom of the stairs. Again.

“Argh!” I slammed my diary on the bed and stomped into the hall. It just didn’t seem right to go downstairs and eat dinner with the family—like a normal person. Nothing was normal anymore. I mean, I should probably be telling my dad that I may have gone crazy, because I’m pretty sure my boyfriend just told me he’s a vampire. I smiled, stopping halfway down the stairs. That would be pretty funny—to see the look on their faces if I said that.

“Oh, sorry.” I started down the stairs again.

“Well, that’s to be expected.” She walked into the dining room and sat beside Dad.

“Emily called while you were resting,” Vicki said. “She wants to come see—”

“What did you tell her—about why I fainted?” Everything around me seemed to rock, then grow larger and wider, before rapidly shrinking back in.

“Ara, it’s okay,” Dad assured. “We told Emily you have low blood-sugar—that you hadn’t eaten. No one knows anything about your mom.”

My shoulders dropped; I let out a breath of tension and drew back relief. “So, David caught me, huh?”

“Did you see him catch me?”

“No. That’s the weird thing. I wasn’t really paying attention.” Dad set the bowl of peas on the table and looked at me. “All I saw was David by the er—well, David was a few feet away. I heard everyone gasp, so I looked over at you, then he was there, lifting you off the ground.”

“Yeah. He should join the track team,” Dad said.

“Yeah. He is really fast.”

“Honey, you can fool some of the people all of the time—but you can never fool your dad.” He grinned.

“David? What’s he done?” The warm blue of Dad’s eyes turned to ice.

“Dad—nothing. He just. He has to go away soon. I’m going to miss him, that’s all.”

“Go away? Where?” His tall posture seemed to shrink back down a little.

“Okay,” he said slowly, then looked at Vicki.

With a sigh, I stood up and issued a pleasant smile. “I’m going to bed. I’m tired.”

“Okay, that’s fine, Ara.” Vicki held a plate out to me. “But at least take some food up with you. You look skinny.”

Stifling the urge to scowl at her and tell her to mind her own business, I looked up from my bony hips and nodded, taking the plate. “Thanks.”

“Night, honey,” Dad muttered, way too casually. He knew there was something up, but he wasn’t going to ask. Dads are smart sometimes, but even smarter to stay out of it.

There was no comfort for me in the dark tonight. I couldn’t dream that I’d wake up and meet David across the road tomorrow; couldn’t fantasise about the day we’d get married or how we’d sit on a porch swing, rocking back and forth while we watched our grandchildren play in the yard, because those dreams were the darkness, now—a haunting kind of darkness. They were what kept me going when I didn’t want to breathe; they were what made me think that perhaps I wasn’t cursed. But it was ever clearer that I was being punished—haunted by those dreams forever—because David and I couldn’t possibly be together.

A dancing flame flickered against the wick of the vanilla candle by my bed; I sat in its gentle glow and blew out the match, breathing the cindering smell of wood as the flame withdrew. Across my room, the girl in my dresser mirror appeared; I touched my fingers over my face, over the scars, watching her do the same. Once, David had made it all okay; he made the scars seem faded, he made the days feel sunny, but now, despite the gentle glow of the candle taking some of the darkness from my room, he’d also made the nightmares that used to hide in the shadows when I was a little girl peek out from the past. All the things my parents said weren’t real—all the monsters and demons—actually were. I mean, there could be a bogeyman under my bed, for all I knew. And David was one of those monsters; he was the epitome of nightmares—the very thing that made me draw my foot from the edge of the bed and hide it under my covers. But a small part of me wanted to accept him. A small part of me—a very small, irrational and rose-coloured-glasses part—didn’t care. I just loved that damn vampire so much.

But at the same time, I couldn’t separate myself from the idea of a life lost.

Then again, I wasn’t sure I could live with myself if I let him go.

For such a short time, I thought I was going to be okay. David rescued me, showed me what real love felt like, gave me my first kiss. No one had ever kissed me like that before, and no one had ever told me they loved me—and meant it. And now that was gone—the hope of being with him always—I just felt empty and more confused.

Disregarding my resurfaced fear of The Bogeyman, I flipped my legs over the side of the bed and wandered to my desk, opening my diary in front of me.

It’s funny how love goes; you think you have morals and strong beliefs, but when you strip it all down, the truth is that I want to love him. I want to forget about what he is and just love him. But, by accepting him, I’d be condoning murder.

On the other hand, I can go on forever not loving him, when there’s nothing I can do to save those people, anyway. Will I punish myself for what David is?

I looked up from the pages to the phone by my elbow. I wished it would ring and, in my moment of weakness, I could tell my best friend everything. He’d know what to do. But he’d tell me to run. In fact, he’d be on the first plane over here, stick me in a duffel bag, and carry me off to a faraway land, pack me into a crate, and stand guard for the rest of my life.

Okay, perhaps the phone ringing was a bad idea.

I dropped my head into my hands.

Outside, dotted twinkles of silver sparkled in the night sky; once, they were glimmers of hope for me, but tonight, stared back down into my insignificant little life, offering no solace or resolution at all. But matters of the heart; they were never solved rationally. Love is irrational. Love is unfair.

There would be no going back. No lazy afternoons by the lake, warm and safe in David’s arms. We’d never get married or have babies, never grow old together and get arthritis, and if I became a vampire—never die.

Before I lost my family, death was always something that, for me, seemed years away—hundreds of years. But in the face of immortality, all I could think of was how restless it must be to know you’d never find peace, never reunite with those who’ve passed, never find out what was on the other side. And sure, you get to live forever, but I bet the novelty would wear off pretty soon—and then what? Then it’s too late. And what if I became a vampire and, after a few thousand years, he got bored with me?

“That—” a voice broke through the silence, “—could never happen.”

“David?” I shot up out of my seat and pinned my back to the wall beside my dresser. “How long have you been there?”

He sat comfortably in the nook of my window, his back against the frame on one side, his foot propped up on the other. “Long enough.”

“To know that you’re battle of conscience is not winning against your heart.”

I pressed my hands flat to the wall behind my hips. “One will have to win eventually.”

He jumped off the ledge, landing silently in my room. “I know.”

“David, please—” I put my hand out; he stopped advancing. “Just stay back, okay?”

“I know.” I tried to take a breath, but couldn’t.