Myth: Vampires don’t exist.
Truth: Dead wrong.
My parents are trying to ruin my life. Oh yeah, I know that every teenager says that, but I really mean it. They want me dead. Or, actually, undead.
My parents are vampires. Some people might think that sounds cool, but I’m not talking about those romanticized bloodsuckers, like in novels where everybody walks around in ruffled white shirts and can quote poetry. I don’t know where people get that stuff. Nothing could be further from the truth. My dad couldn’t quote a nursery rhyme if somebody paid him. He likes to watch football and CNN. He wouldn’t know (or care) who Stephenie Meyer was if she came up and bit him.
As far as I can tell being a vampire is pretty boring. Both my parents have regular jobs and have to pay bills and things like that. They don’t kill people or kidnap frail young maidens to be their slaves. (At least I’m pretty sure they don’t. I think I’d have noticed if there were a bunch of corpses piled up in the basement.)
Sure, they get to live for pretty much forever, but there are a lot of bad things that go along with being a vampire. Like never going to the beach again without gobs of SPF-a-million and some seriously dark sunglasses because your skin’ll burn like there’s no tomorrow and your super-duper eyes can’t take the glare. And there’s always the pressure of trying not to let the neighbors in on our little family secret.
I’m so used to it, though. I guess I’d never thought about becoming a vampire much personally. That is, until this morning. As if I didn’t have enough to worry about with that huge Chemistry test today.
“Mina,” Mom says, “We need to talk.”
If you’re wondering, yeah, they named me after that girl in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. How cheesy can you get? I mean, hello? Obvious, anyone?
“Can it wait until after school?” I mumble around my toast. Every time she starts off that way I know it’s going to be a long conversation.
“No,” says Dad and actually puts the paper down.
Uh-oh. Another sign of serious trouble. I’m going over in my head everything I might have possibly done wrong, but I can’t think of anything I’ve done lately, other than leaving my midnight snack dishes in the sink overnight.
“We need to talk to you about your future,” says Mom, at the exact same time that Dad says, “You have a big decision to make.”
I have absolutely no response for that, so I just stare at them. I mean, what do you say to that? Oh, goodie?
Mom smiles nervously at me and pats me on the hand like she used to do when I was a little girl. “We’ve been putting this off for a long time—maybe too long—but the time has come for you to choose.”
Dad takes over. “Whether you want to be a vampire or not.”
Wuzzah? I almost choke on my toast. “I have to decide if I want to be a vampire? Why?” I’m giving them my best stare down, which usually makes Mom cave, but not today. She looks kind of sad, but just nods.
“We probably should have said something sooner, but we thought we could get them to extend the deadline until after college at least.”
“Them? Who them?” My grammar is horrible, but I don’t care. This is no time to worry about stuff like that.
“The Council,” explains Dad. “The Northwest Regional Vampire Council.”
I must have looked really blank because Mom starts apologizing again. “I’m really sorry, honey. We really should have been telling you about this stuff all along. We just wanted you to have as normal a childhood as possible.”
Excuse me? I can’t even begin to go over all of the things that weren’t normal about my childhood, but I don’t want to get into that now. That’s the kind of stuff you go to years of therapy for—which I would never do. Any therapist would probably lock you up as soon as you started explaining that your parents are vampires.
“The Council has decreed that you must make a decision.”
“What’s The Council got to do with it?”
“Well,” he says uncomfortably, “you’re in kind of a unique situation. Non-vampires aren’t really supposed to know about us.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know, the whole stake-through-the-heart thing. But I’ve known for years. Why does it make any difference now?”
Mom and Dad look at each other and then back at me. I know that look. They don’t know what to say. I’ve got them on this one. Ha! I swoop in for the kill.
“If I was going to tell someone, I’d have done it years ago. Besides, who would believe me? The Council can’t deny that.” Council-shmouncil. I smile in triumph and take another bite of toast.
“It’s not that easy,” says Mom. “It’s not the fact that you know about us that’s forcing this. It’s because The Council didn’t know about you.”
“So, how did they find out? I know I didn’t tell them.” Seeing as how no one around here ever clues me into anything.
They exchange another guilty look and Dad picks up the ball. “Do you remember that guy that showed up about a month ago with some papers for me?”
I did remember. I’d answered the door. He was a total freak—bald head, red-rimmed eyes, and bell-bottom pants. I hadn’t pegged him for a vampire, though. I just thought he was some retro weirdo that Dad worked with. I mean, accountants are a pretty strange bunch anyway. I think it’s all that staring at numbers all day.
“Well, he was from the Vampire Tax Authority. And he reported us for having a non-vampire in the household and now . . . well, now I’m afraid you’re going to have to decide whether or not you want to become a vampire.”
I can’t believe they’re letting some stupid vampire paper-pushers dictate my life. But I’ve still got one last dig before I give it up. I go for guilt.
“Why are you guys laying this on me right before I have to go to school? Why couldn’t this have waited until later?”
Mom directs a sharp look Dad’s way, and Dad ducks back behind his newspaper. She pulls it back down. Can you tell who has the fangs in my family?
“Um, well, someone might be here, um, visiting when you get back from school today. And you might not want to mention how long you’ve known we’re vampires . . . ” He hides behind the paper again.
Lucky for him, Serena picks that minute to honk her car horn outside. I grab my stuff and leave without giving them the satisfaction of a look back.
“Wassup!” Serena yells at me as I climb into her beat-up Volkswagen Beetle. She’s my best friend, even if she does use ancient catchphrases all the time.
She pulls out into the road, nearly running over Mrs. Finch’s stupid cat, and makes a big frowny face at me. That usually will crack me up. See, Serena got into the whole Goth thing about two years ago and let me tell you, there’s nothing funnier than when someone all done up in black lipstick and that thick white makeup starts making clown faces. I don’t know how she can take all that stuff seriously, but I’ve already lived through everything from her ballerina phase to her pop-rock phase, so I figure I can get through this one. The Christina Aguilera phase (thankfully it was the pre-slut look) was the worst one so far.
“Hmmmm, methinks we have a dour one today. You want to talk about it?”
I try and smile at her, but it doesn’t come out very well. “Maybe later, okay?”
I’m a miserable liar, especially with Serena. Better not to talk about things than to say something I’ll regret later. We’ve been friends since kindergarten, but there are a few things I just can’t talk to her about. Like my parents being vampires, for one. Or the fact that I have to decide whether to become one myself.
The thing is I know the answer. I don’t want to be one. Sure, back when I was ten or so I had a brief cape fascination. That was right after the first time Mom showed me that she could walk on the ceiling, so I had an excuse. I mean, how cool is that? But if I thought about turning at all, it was at some point way in the future. I’ve got my whole life ahead of me right now. Shoot, I’ve still got my senior year of high school ahead of me.
Serena takes the hint and starts singing some really old Britney song at the top of her lungs. It’s no wonder the other Goth chicks at school won’t hang out with her.
I thought I was doing pretty well putting the whole life-changing-vampire decision out of my mind, until I got to sixth period English.
Ms. Tweeter—and no, I am not kidding you, that is her actual name—is dressed all in black and has a long red cape on. That’s not as unusual as it sounds. She likes to dress up to go along with her lesson plans to “get us more involved.” I don’t know that it actually works at getting us more involved, but it certainly is entertaining. When we did Hamlet, she left a skull sitting on her desk the whole time and kept talking to it and calling it Yorick. She’s kind of weird, but I usually like her. Until today.
“Class,” she says in deep, sepulchral tones, “today we start a new unit on . . . Dracula!!!” She swirls the cape and darts around the room like a mad woman while all the jocks in the back crack up like crazy. They just love Ms. Tweeter.
Man, out of all the books we could be studying, she has to pick this one. Probably the main source of vampire misinformation out there. Not that I’ve read it. But I’ve seen some of the movies and they suck. Pun intended.
I sink a little lower in my seat. Serena, sitting next to me, is clapping her hands like a good little Goth girl.
Ms. Tweeter settles down a little and returns to the front of the classroom. “Dracula was published in 1897 by Bram Stoker. While not a best seller in its time, it became popular in the 1920s and 30s when various portrayals of the evil Count hit the silver screen. Maybe you’ve heard of Bela Lugosi?”
She looks around the room as a few of us nod our heads. My crazy uncle Mortie dresses up like Lugosi every year at Halloween. You’d think The Council would be all over that, but no-o-o-o.
“Many believe that the character Dracula is based on Vlad the Impaler–” Tim Mathis, in the second row, starts thrashing around in his chair and making dying noises, but Ms. Tweeter just continues on like nothing is happening—“but there’s little evidence that Mr. Stoker researched Vlad or knew much about him. In fact, the original name of the character was to be Count Wampyr.” Ms. Tweeter hands Tim a stack of papers and makes motions for him to pass them out to the class as she keeps talking. Payback for acting like an idiot. “Now, I’m sure all of you have heard of vampires and have pre-conceived notions of what vampires are like. Anyone have any examples?”
I sink even lower into the chair. I am definitely not taking the bait on this one. Serena raises her hand and so do a couple of other kids.
“They can’t go out in sunlight,” says Serena.
“You can get rid of them with garlic or holy water,” says Bethany Madison, the total suck up.
“Or stakes!” This from Tim, still passing out the handouts.
“Good, good,” says Ms. Tweeter. “All common conceptions, but somewhat wrong. You’ll be surprised to find that Count Dracula can go out in sunlight and that his ultimate demise is not the result of a stake through the heart.” I sit up a little, but not enough to tempt Ms. Tweeter to call on me. I know darn well vampires can go out in the sunlight, but I didn’t realize that the book got that right.
“The handout you’re getting has your reading schedule for the next four weeks and some assignment choices. Tonight’s homework assignment is for everyone. Before reading the book, write down all the vampire myths you know of. We’ll be doing a comparison at the end to see how what you think you know stacks up against the book. And, you’ll need to pick one main project to work on by the end of the week to turn in at the end of the unit. I’ve included some reading prompts and a character listing to help you out.”
She looks right at me then. Oh man, I silently plead with her, don’t do it, but, of course, she does. “And we’ve got the perfect Mina right here with us for our class readings!” Everyone turns to look at me. Thanks a lot, Ms. Tweeter. I really needed that pointed out.
After class, I take my time getting out of there. I’m not in any rush to get home to find out who our mystery visitor might be. Serena is so excited she’s chatting my ear off about the whole Dracula thing. I love her like a sister, but sometimes, she’s a total geekoid.
“Hey, Mina,” yells Tim, “You vant to suck my blood?”
My heart totally stops—How does he know? Then I realize he’s just being Tim. Now, normally, I’d totally blow him off because he’s a flaming idiot, but today it just so happens that Nathan is right on his heels.
Nathan Able. As in Nathan I’m-Able-to-Rock-Your-World. Nathan Very-Kiss-Able. Nathan, the cutest guy in the entire school—no, the entire town and maybe even the entire state of California. Nathan, the guy I’ve been crushing on since like the sixth grade. So instead of putting Tim in his place like I generally would (and he deserves), I stand there like a total loser with my mouth hanging open until Serena comes to the rescue.
“Mina doesn’t even become a vampire in the book,” she says loftily. “Maybe you should do some actual reading this year, Tim.” She pulls me down the hall and out the door. I do my best to not look back in Nathan’s direction, especially since I think my mouth is still hanging open.
“Thanks,” I say.
“No problem. I know how you are about Nathan. I wouldn’t mind munching on his neck myself.” She bares her teeth at me in a pretty decent movie-vampire imitation and I can’t help but laugh. Boy, what she doesn’t know . . .