All Vampires Have Black Hair
After tending to my fingers—two on each hand had been sliced open—Briar and I went down to breakfast. Dad and Trevor were nowhere to be seen. Briar tried calling Dad, but, as usual, his phone was off. And my cell phone, as I had discovered before coming down, was missing yet again. I didn't really feel like eating with my family anyway; I had questions for Briar.
“How come you never told me about all this?” I asked. “And when I did figure some things out, you pretended I was crazy. I thought we were friends.”
“Ouch,” Briar said, stuffing a forkful of scrambled egg into her mouth. “We are friends, Meg. Vincent's your friend too. He just wanted you to have a normal life. You’re kind of overreacting, don’t you think?”
I said nothing. Was I overreacting? Lately, I’d adopted the habit of closely examining statements like “You’re overreacting, Meg” and “You’re being hysterical, Meg.” If I were someone else--a guy, let’s say--and someone told me, “We’ve been fooling you for the past six years. Sorry!” and I reacted to that revelation irritably, I don’t think anyone would say that I was “overreacting.” I think they would say that I’m acting in a way that someone with any measure of pride would act.
Plus, my freaking island was gone.
I watched Briar.
“I lied to you as little as possible, if that's any consolation,” Briar said. “I never told you my age. And it's totally true that I'm from Georgia. It's just, I'm from Georgia the country, not Georgia the state. And it wasn't exactly called Georgia when I was born.”
“How old are you?”
“Three thousandish, give or take some centuries. Things happened and I lost track. I'm older than Vincent by a ton. It's cute he thinks he can boss me around.”
“Why do you talk so, so...”
“Colloquially? And without an accent? While Vincent still hasn't figured out contractions? I'm a dhampir. I don't need to sleep. I don't really need to eat. I have twenty-four distraction-free hours a day to study humans and assimilate. Vincent's a vampire. He sleeps twelve hours most days; the other twelve he spends hunting and drinking blood. What little time he has, he spends with his brother and being leader of Drazylvonia.”
She took another bite of scrambled egg.
“Sorry I'm being such a chatterbox. I don't get to talk this candidly about my life to many people. I mean, there's Vincent. But he only ever talks to me when he wants something. 'Hello, Briar. How are you doing? Could you perhaps spend the next century following this human around?' 'Hi, Briar. How's it going? Can I have a vial of your blood? It's for an experiment.' 'Hey, Briar. What's happening? I'm going to need you to pretend to be a magazine publisher and offer this guy a writing assignment so he can take his daughter to Drazylvonia, where I expect she will die a very amusing death. Thaaaanks.'”
“Vincent isn't Bill Lumbergh,” I said.
I took a small bite of the quesadilla I'd ordered, then pushed it away. “What am I going to do about Moose Island?”
“What can you do?” Briar asked. “They're all vampires now.”
“But couldn't they become human again somehow? Vincent changed Brooke from a vampire into a human once.”
“Brooke never drank human blood,” Briar pointed out, “and that's essential to undoing vampirism. It's been years since the Moose Islanders were converted. They're all starving from lack of blood, but it's pretty unlikely they've never sampled human blood.”
I stared gloomily at my almost untouched plate of food. I thought about Jack, the first islander who'd befriended me. We'd spent almost every summer on Moose Island together. We'd built forts together. We'd learned to swim together. We'd written crappy poems for a poetry enrichment class together. Jack had been the one to identify Vincent as a vampire. He had formulated the plan to hunt down Vincent. When I wanted to passively nail Vincent inside of his coffin, Jack had wanted to stake him. Jack hated vampires.
It made me sick to think of Jack roaming the island, fanged and desperate for blood. He would rather have died than become a vampire.
But maybe he wasn't a vampire. Maybe Jack had escaped. He had once escaped Vincent, after all.
“Thanks for breakfast,” I said to Briar, who'd said she was paying. “I need to make a phone call.”
* * * * *
In my dad's hotel room, I searched for our family address book. It didn't take long; the small, black, rubber banded book was near the top of the second suitcase I opened. I flipped to C for Cornell. But, to my annoyance, the page that should have contained Jack's number was missing. Someone had torn it out.
What even the hell.
Determined to contact Jack, I began searching for numbers of people who'd known him. They were all Moose Islanders, but I had to try. One by one, I called them. One by one, I was greeted with, “We're sorry, but the number you are trying to reach has been disconnected.”
After hearing that message for the thirtieth time, I dropped the phone into its receiver.
I curled up on the bed and cried.
How had this happened? How had I gone so long without checking in with my friends on Moose Island? I tried to remember the last time I'd hung out with Jack. We'd actually started drifting apart my final summer on Moose Island. He'd taken up sailing lessons and was hanging out with new friends. But that was no excuse to completely lose touch with him.
I don't know how long I lay there. Hours, it seemed.
After a while, I began to feel numb.
I looked at the phone.
There was one person I hadn't called. I doubted she had Jack's number; Jack never would have given it to her. But there was a slim possibility she did have it. And, like me, she wasn't a year-round island resident. Chances were, she was alive to answer her phone.
I flipped the phone book to P and began dialing.
* * * * *
“Hi! I'm super sorry I can't come to the phone right now. I'm probably busy chilling under the Hollywood sign or partying with Ariana Grande. But if you'll, like, leave your name and a brief message—none of your phone novels, Tanya! No one cares about your stupid dog—I'll totally get back to you maybe.”
“Hi, Kelly,” I said. “It's Meg Swain. You know, from Moose Island? It's been a while since we talked. Years, actually. And I thought we could catch up. Also, do you have Jack Cornell's contact information?” I left Kelly the number to my hotel room, an explanation that my cell phone was missing, and a request to call back.
Kelly's summer home had been on Moose Island. Her home home had been in South Carolina. By the sounds of it, though, she'd moved to Los Angeles, which isn't far from San Diego.
I returned to my own hotel room and waited. I took a shower and got dressed, leaving the bathroom door open so I could hear the phone in case Kelly called.
I sat on my bed and stared at the silent phone. An hour passed. And then another.
The clock on my bedside table read 12:30 p.m.
The Masquerade would start at 8:00 p.m. I could go anywhere I wanted until then.
I could go to Los Angeles.
* * * * *
Briar, who had agreed to chauffeur me to Kelly's house in Los Angeles, waited in her camper while I approached Kelly's door. Here in Los Angeles, the sun was blazing hot. It was hard to believe this sunny city was only an hour's drive from San Diego, which seemed to have its own personal hurricane hovering over it.
Kelly lived in a mansion. Well, her parents did. I'd found Kelly's residence under her mom and dad's names. No other Pittses lived in the area.
Nervously I rang the ornately framed doorbell. What was Kelly like now? Would she be glad to see me? I hadn't contacted her in years; would she be upset about that?
“I've got it, Mom!” came Kelly's voice. She opened the door and squinted into the bright California sunlight. Kelly hadn't changed much. She looked less tan, but then tans aren't as popular as they used to be. Her long blonde hair, which she'd straightened, looked professionally highlighted. Her makeup, as always, was flawlessly applied. Her clothes and jewelry were in fashion, except for the wide choker she wore around her neck.
“Oh, it's you,” Kelly said coolly. “Hi, Meg. Or are you too famous for me to call you that anymore? What's your full first name anyway? Megan?”
“But, no, I don't mean call me Margaret. I'm still just Meg. Look, I was in the area and thought I'd drop by and say hello.”
“Hi.” Kelly looked ready to slam the door in my face, but she seemed torn.
“I'm sorry I never called you,” I said. “I should have. I fell out of contact with a lot of people, too many people. I just had so much to do. Not that that’s any excuse. And, I mean, you could have called me.”
“I did,” Kelly said.
“Yeah. I didn't have your Delaware number, so I called your agency or whatever, but they wouldn't put me through.”
“Oh,” I said. “That's awful. I'm so sorry, Kelly.”
Grudgingly, she asked, “Do you want to come in? I have this boyfriend I need to tell someone about, and Tanya's being a real shit right now. Also, Moose Island is vampire city, did you hear? Do you want some vodka? I don't have any, but if you want to go buy some, that would be awesome. I can't because I'm twenty.”
“I'm eighteen, and—”
“And famous! You can buy whatever you want.”
“Kelly, you know about Moose Island?” I asked. I followed Kelly into her house.
“Everyone knows about Moose Island.”
“Everyone? I didn't know about it until last night.”
“Wait, wait,” Kelly said. “Are you telling me that Little Miss I Fought Vincent All On My Own According To My Stupid Movie, With No Help At All From My Best Friend Kelly didn't know until last night that Moose Island is exclusively for vampires now?”
“Go back to what you said before. What do you mean 'Everyone knows about Moose Island'?”
“I guess what I mean by everyone is I,” Kelly said.
“So you know about Moose Island, is what you mean by everyone knows about Moose Island.”
“Yeah, I know about Moose Island. Jesus, Meg. You and words.”
“How do you know about Moose Island?”
“I went back there, duh. Mom and Daddy took us there to vacation a few years ago, but Eastport wouldn't let us onto the island. The mayor said it was condemned or something. Daddy complained. The mayor gave us a bunch of money to compensate for our Moose Island home and our pain and suffering. He made us sign a contract saying we wouldn't discuss Moose Island with anyone ever again. So, yeah, Moose Island is a bunch of vampires now. I mean, the mayor acted like the island was just rotting away or something, but I could totally see vampires on it with my binoculars. They looked really screwed up, too, like all skeletal and gross. They weren't even vampires, really. They were more like, like...”
“...like zombies.” I closed my eyes.
What can you do? I heard Briar ask.
“Kelly,” I said, “do you happen to have Jack Cornell's phone number? I want to see if, by some chance, he's okay.”
“Gosh, Meg,” Kelly said, sounding insincerely apologetic, “I don't have Jack's number. I mean, I tried to get his number from you lots of times, but you were never able to remember it or find it.”
Why had I never given Kelly Jack's number? I would have won Dodge Pittsy hands down.
“Oh. My. Gawd. Meg. I have to tell you about my new boyfriend. His name is Valentino. He's blond and pale—which is so} in right now. He works nights as a bouncer. And he has the hottest teeth. They're all long and sharp. He gave me this wicked hickey last night.”
Kelly tugged her choker down to reveal two puncture marks. “He's coming back tonight. We're in love. And best of all? He's not a skeezy vampire like Vincent was.”
“No. I told you, Meg—he has blond hair.”
“So,” Kelly said slowly as though she were explaining something complicated to a moron, “vampires don't have blond hair. They have black hair.”
"Chapter 10: The Masquerade"
1. GothiCon is a continuation of an original series, My Babysitter Is a Vampire by Ann Hodgman, published in the early 1990s. Meg, Meg's parents, Voldar, Brooke, Caryl, Kilmer, Gabrielle, Mortimer, Vincent, Reid, Trevor, and Jack are Ann Hodgman's original characters. GothiCon was written and posted with permission from the original author.
The moderator, questioners, and bouncers are my original creations.
2. Part I: GothiCon is a complete section (with a semi-satisfying conclusion) of an incomplete novel.
Parts II and III will be posted by summer.
3. A million thank yous for reading, and I hope you've enjoyed this chapter. Any input is greatly appreciated and will be reciprocated.