The broken hearted girl

I felt the slight pressure of fingertips on my arm. The fingers crept upwards, towards my shoulder and up to the neckline of my shirt. I breathed heavily as the fingers reached my face, my lips, and his lips reached down to mine. Our breath mingled as his mouth crushed mine. The moment was perfect. But perfection can go wrong in an instant. “I love you, Cady,” he breathed as his mouth left mine. I was too out of breath to say much. His fingers left my arm and began tugging on the neck of my shirt, trying to lift it off. When I realised what he was doing I began to pinch at his fingers, trying to make them release my shirt and after a few moments he gave up. “What the hell’s the matter with you?” he asked, appalled. I sat in silent horror, thinking of what would happen if he had succeeded in taking off my shirt. Because Jackson Scott, my boyfriend of seven months, did not know my biggest secret. And he never would. I would never tell anyone. I had promised myself that almost nine years ago and I was not breaking now. I settled on the easiest possible explanation for my behaviour. “I’m not ready yet.” Disappointment and understanding washed over his features. His mouth turned down at the corners and he ran a hand through his hair, messing it up but not noticeably. “Do you know what Cady? I’m fine with that,” he said after a few moments pensive silence. My heart lifted and my hand shot out to his chin and pulled his face, and more importantly his lips, towards me. And he truly seemed okay with it. We left his parents’ bedroom and walked down the hall to his. His room was bright and surprisingly adult for a boy his age. There was not a football poster, a nude calendar or any other trademark of an eighteen year old boy’s room. In fact it was tidier than my room, and my room was tidy. After all, it should be; I was hardly ever in it. I sat on his bed and smoothed the silk sheets absentmindedly as I watched Jackson move about his room. He moved with an easy fluidity

that seemed unnatural and yet compelling at the same time. He moved with the grace a ballet dancer could only hope to achieve. Jackson was fiddling with the photo frames scattered around the room – they were the only sign that anyone lived in this room. I knew every photo in the room well, mostly because I was in them. Jackson and I were both in the highest rank of teenage popularity at the local school. Everyone looked up to us and we pretty much ruled the school. He was fiddling with the photo of the Halloween party three years ago, the day when we had met. That picture had always embarrassed me, partly because I was wearing a bumble bee outfit that emphasised all the wrong things and partly because of the way I was hanging off Jackson’s arm with a sickly-sweet smile on my face. I had been fourteen and overjoyed that a fifteen year-old had kissed me. He turned to another photo, one taken a few weeks ago when we were at a party. I was sat on Jackson’s lap smiling and holding his hand, looking a completely different person to the sweet thirteen year old in the neighbouring picture. He turned away from the picture frames with a sly smile on his face. I jerked from my thoughts and realised I had been staring, and he had noticed. The smile stayed in place as he came to sit beside me on the bed and put his arm around my shoulders. “You okay?” he asked me quietly, a look of concern tainting his eyes. “Yeah, I’m fine. Better than fine. Great.” I couldn’t even see my smile but I knew it was so obviously false that someone less receptive than Jackson could have picked it up. He pushed me backwards onto the bed and crushed his mouth once more to mine with the same passion as before. I wondered idly if he bottled up all his passion for the rare occasions like these; we barely ever kissed in public and when we did it was on a par with kissing your grandmother. But these were the kisses I treasured, the kisses when we just let go and acted on instinct. But I hadn’t even noticed while thinking all this that Jackson’s hands were scrabbling at the neckline of my shirt again and my hands were pinned behind my back, the full force of both out weights pushing them down. “No, Jackson, no,” I murmured around his mouth. He paid no attention. And my shirt was over my head before I could get my hands free and stop him. And the look of disgust as he surveyed my body was just as I had pictured in my mind. “What . . . how . . . Cady?” he stammered. I knew his mind was working away, though, piecing together pieces of evidence it had locked away for this moment. And realisation dawned in his eyes. He pointed an accusatory finger at my face, scrambling off the bed and towards the door while still keeping his eyes on me. “Jackson, its okay, just calm down.” I had risen off the bed and began taking slow steps towards him, arms raised as if I were giving myself to the Police.

“Get away from me. GET AWAY FROM ME!” I grabbed my shirt and bolted for the door, tears stinging my eyes. I ran downstairs and opened the door before pulling the shirt back over my head and running blindly down his street. I heard Jackson screaming as I ran. That was the day I decided to leave home. That was the day Cady Cooper died. And that was the day that Arcadia Cooper was born.

Chapter one Driving through the night, my vision blurred with unrelenting tears, had given me a chance to think and decide on the perfect place to run to and the perfect story to tell. It had been only four hours since the Jackson-fiasco; I spent one hour packing my entire life into seven boxes and a bag and three hours to drive halfway down the country to the only place I could go. So that left me here, facing the frosted window panes of a door I hadn’t seen in almost twelve years. I raised my fist, my fingernails digging into my palm, rapped three times on the wood and waited. And waited. And waited . . . As I turned away from the door, tears threatening in my eyes, I heard the distant rumble of footsteps and a low, throaty voice. The door opened and it was like a memory coming to life. The man in the doorway was a little older than I remembered, a little balder, a little more haggard with a pot belly I definitely had never seen before. But he was fundamentally the same man of my childhood. In this doorway stood my father. My parents had split up when I was five and I had lived with my mother ever since. When they had been together I had liked my mother a lot more than my father because mum was always interested in watching

children’s TV and always got takeaways when she had to cook and, of course, being five, I thought she was the best parent ever. Of course, being seventeen, I now realised she was just lazy. She had watched children’s TV because she didn’t want to clean and she got takeaways because she couldn’t be bothered cooking. “Hello?” he asked in a voice that struck my memories again. His voice hadn’t changed one bit. “Hello. I’m really sorry to impose like this but could I just ask a favour?” I said this nervously, reading the obvious confusion on his features. “I really need a place to sleep tonight. Well, I actually need a place to live. If you don’t have a spare couch I don’t mind sleeping in the car . . .” “I’m sorry but, um, who are you?” His light blue eyes, so similar to my own, roved over my body, trying to put a name to the face. “Oh, sorry. I’m Arcadia.” I felt a strange compulsion to hold out my hand to shake, like you would do for a stranger. Instead, I tucked a lock of long, black hair behind my ear, an action I only ever did when I was nervous. His eyes became far away, searching his memory for my identity. “Arcadia, is that you?” he finally said, his hands twitching towards me, his eyes becoming wide. “Yeah it’s me. So can I stay?” “Um, well, we have a pretty full house . . .” I turned back to the car, tears blurring my vision, as he spoke. “Arcadia, do you really think I’d turn my own daughter away on the doorstep?” I turned on my heel and stared disbelievingly at the familiar stranger on the doorstep. When he smiled I ran forwards and enveloped him in a vice-tight embrace. My pen seemed to doodle my thoughts into my notebook; scribbles of half formed thoughts and odd sketches littered the page. My eyes roved the room, sliding over the almost-familiar faces of my classmates as they took notes from the lecture. It had only been six days since I had run away from my home and my dad had already enrolled me in the local college where his step-daughter Jessica went. Of course, I hadn’t expected my dad to have sat pining for my mother for twelve years, but how much he had moved on surprised me. Denise, my dad’s new wife, was beautiful, with her deep brown eyes and coffee coloured flawless skin, and she was really nice too. She was everything I could have wished for in a mother and more. Jessica was Denise’s daughter, not by my dad, and she was a year older than me. Unfortunately, she had not inherited any of her mother’s personality. She was every inch the spoilt brat American style cheerleader stereotype with her long blonde hair and tan skin. My dad had fathered two children with Denise – Carrie and Oliver. Carrie was twelve and, thankfully, nothing like her bigger sister, and Oliver was a quiet, shy three year old. I glanced up as I heard Jessica’s shrill laughter from across the room. She was perched on her seat in-between the two evil minions she called

her best-friends – Pamela and Ellie. They were whispering to each other, laughing and pointing in my direction. I turned my head back down to my paper. Jessica had decided to hate me and be generally spiteful – making my whole transition into a new college even more difficult – as I had ‘ruined her life’. When I had arrived dad suggested that I share with Carrie and Jessica as the spare room was being decorated. After much false protest about privacy and needing my own space they had agreed to let me stay in the spare room on my own. I really needed my own room though – I wasn’t just being spoilt and picky. I couldn’t sneak out of a shared room at night as often as I needed to, and I couldn’t explain why I needed to anyway. At the time I hadn’t known that Jessica was planning to move into the room, so that was strike one against me. Strike two had been becoming the centre of attention at college, a spot usually reserved for Jess. I had ignored the attention, shooed all ‘welcoming committee’ members and generally been quiet but that wasn’t enough to fade into the background. I had decided when I enrolled at the college to become the social opposite of myself at my old school. Then I had been the popular, confident, sexy Cady. Now I was the reserved, shy Arcadia. As another Jess-laugh reached my ears I turned my attention back to the lecture. Ms Turner was a slightly frumpy forty-year-old lecturer at my new college, teaching A-level history and geography, neither of which really interested me. I followed Ms Turner’s eyes to a frightened looking girl directly opposite me. I stared at her – along with half of the class – and found a familiar face looking back at me. I searched my memory and found a slightly fuzzy face that was almost identical to the girls. The face belonged to Rosie Walsh, my best friend from childhood. With a pang I remembered all of the friends I would never see again. I felt a hollow pit where my stomach should be when I thought about them. I missed them already, after six days without them, and my mind wondered how long it would take them to forget me. I made a mental note to call them soon and let them know I was still alive. Of course, the emptiness I was feeling for my friends was overshadowed by the cavernous hole where my heart and lungs should be. It felt hard to breathe just thinking about him. Jackson had been everything to me – my best friend, my sister, my boyfriend and mother all in one. He looked after me and we talked about everything together. I missed him so much I thought I would burst. Maybe I should call him too . . . my mental voice suggested. I will admit it was a very appealing idea. My pen had already started tracing his mobile number on my notebook. I hastily crossed it out and mentally shouted at myself for ever even thinking of calling him. I could never speak to him again, even if he called me, because I needed to start afresh and cut all ties with my old life. Even as I thought all of this, a mental picture of Jackson swam in my vision making my heart squeeze painfully tight.

As Jess was climbing into my car she made no effort to hide her constant looks of anger. Strike three came when she had missed the bus she usually went home on and had to ride with me in my car. Not only was she pissed that I could drive while she couldn’t but I also had a car. Admittedly, it was not a very nice car, but it was practical and pretty. The outside was a deep purple paint and the seats were made of plain black material but the car held special memories for me. This was the car that I had passed my test in. This was the car I had kissed Jackson in after our first proper date. Jackson’s smell still clung to the upholstery and I inhaled deeply and closed my eyes, pretending that he was beside me. “Hello? Are we going to get home anytime soon?” Jess’s shrill voice issued from beside me, completely dispelling any illusion that Jackson was beside me. I started the car and pulled out of the parking lot. Jess made a point of waving to all her friends and looking sad as I drove her away. I would only have to put up with Jess for about ten minutes if I took a shortcut. “Didn’t you want to say goodbye to your friends?” she asked in her I’m-so-innocent-and-sweet voice. When I didn’t answer she continued, her voice becoming more mocking. “Oh, that’s right. You don’t have any.” My eyes burned as I remembered all the friends I had left behind. If Jess could have seen all my old friends she wouldn’t be laughing. I was the most popular girl in school and dating the most popular boy in school. Practically everyone was my friend or wanted to be. Now I had no one. I only had to hold on for five more minutes and I could break down in peace. Jess had been speaking while I thought. “If you haven’t even got any friends here it’s no wonder that you left wherever you were,” she hissed. “You know, they’re suspicious. They really want to know why you left. I think I know.” I didn’t even have to look at her to know her favourite malevolent smile was stretched over her face. “Who’s Jackson?” I stamped my foot on the break as I swerved into the driveway. “How do you know Jackson?” My voice had risen embarrassingly and I sounded like I was about to cry; I probably would if I didn’t get away from her soon. She ignored me. “I think that you tried to get with this Jackson guy and he rejected you. I think you’re embarrassed. I think he doesn’t like you.” I had reached across her seat and positioned myself in front of her face. “I said where did you see his name!” Her eyes betrayed the fear she was feeling and she took a big gulp of air. “You will never talk about him again!” I screamed. I was really losing control, scarily so, but it felt so good to unload some anger. She nodded weakly and I climbed off her, out of the car and through the front door, locking the car as I went and not really caring if she had gotten out or not. Chapter Two Jackson, I’m so sorry Jackson, talk to me Jacky? It’s me

Please, just talk to me After a few futile attempts at writing Jackson an e-mail I gave up. There was so much I needed to say – too much to put in an e-mail, or even a letter. And I knew the chances of him actually reading said e-mail were slim. I slid my chair back from the computer and kneaded my head with the heels of my hands. It had now been thirteen days since I had last seen Jackson, or any of my friends. This was the longest we had ever not spoken to each other. Even our most serious fights only lasted a week at most. I glanced at my calendar and noted it was Gemma’s birthday. Gemma had been my best friend, after Jackson of course, and today was her seventeenth birthday. She had been planning a big night out for months, taking all out best friends out to clubs and all crashing at hers afterwards. I had been looking forwards to it since she had begun arranging it. My eyes darted to my bedside table and the mobile phone that lay dormant there. I made a snap decision to call her, wish her a happy birthday and check that everyone was okay. I perched on my bed and tapped in the number. She answered on the fifth ring. “Hello?” she asked in a sleepy voice. “Hey Gemma! Happy Birthday!” I called into the phone, smiling at the familiarity of her voice. She paused. “Who is this?” Rising off the bed and into the path of the mirror I saw the shock cross my face. “It’s Cady. Remember me?” “Cady? I don’t know a . . . oh, Cady! Hey!” Tears leaked out of the corner of my eyes and rolled down my face. She had forgotten me completely in less than two weeks. More tears escaped my eyes as I mumbled an excuse and put the phone down. I didn’t even bother calling anyone else; if Gemma, my best friend, had already forgotten me, I didn’t hold much hope for anyone else remembering I existed. I sat back on the bed and watched the small glittering beads of sadness race down my face. And I must have fallen asleep somewhere during my silent sobbing, as I opened my eyes and where the sunlight had been struggling its way through the curtains before there was now the eerie glow of moonlight. My phone told me it was ten-fifteen. Jackson would be home from work by now. Without even stopping to think about it I clicked Jackson’s name from my phonebook and listened to the call tone. “Hello?” he said in his bright phone-answering voice. I felt a stiff lump in my throat at the sound of his voice. He repeated himself. “Hello, Jackson.” My voice sounded hoarse from crying.

I heard a rustling from the other end and the long bleep of the dial tone. I pulled myself off the bed, wiped the tears threatening my eyes, brushed my hair from my face and tied it to the back of my head. As I put my hand on the door handle I realised that I was painfully hungry and knew instantly that this hunger wouldn’t be satisfied with food. With a sigh, I headed away from the door and out of the window, into the night. “So, going anywhere today? It is Saturday,” dad said, his concern not entirely hidden from his voice. He was obviously hoping that if I left the house then I would perk up and the terrible depression that had settled on me would lift. “No, I think I’ll just stay in and do some more work,” I sighed, pulling my eyes up from the table and giving him a weak imitation of a smile. “Are you sure? I think Jessica is going to one of your friends houses.” Jess walked into the room and snorted. “Yeah, our friends,” she said sarcastically. “No she’ll stay in and mope about Jack –” She cut herself short as I shot her a look that clearly told her to shut up. Dad ignored the slip up. “Well, I’m sure that you’ve made some of your own friends here.” Seeing the twinkle in his eyes and the obvious longing for me to be happy and decided to spare him my company. “Actually I could call . . . Gemma and go out. She said something about a film she wanted to watch,” I lied quickly, ignoring the twinge in my heart as I used my ex-best friend’s name. Jess shot me a quizzical look and left the room. My dad was positively grinning as he reached for his wallet and handed me a small wad of notes, insisting I take them and have fun. So the plan was already set in my head. Get dressed and drive my car out to some field and mope there all day. But when I got into the car and threw my purse, keys and phone onto the passenger seat I changed my plans. I would call Jackson again, and this time if he put the phone down on me I would just drive to his house and confront him. “Hello?” Jackson said down the handset. “Hey Jackson. It’s me, Cady.” My heart was beating so fast that it was hard to speak. “Cady? Just leave me alone.” His voice was blunt and hard, nothing like the Jackson I was used to. “Wait, just hear me out.” He paused and then finally said, “Fine.” I took a deep steadying breath, reciting the speech I has been mentally writing, when he spoke over me. He now sounded hurt. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I wanted to blame it all on him, to say he wouldn’t have believed me and then he would have turned his back on me but it wasn’t the truth.

“Because I didn’t want to lose you. I’m selfish and I didn’t want what I am to get in the way of us. And I’m sorry for all of this.” And now I wanted him to say that I hadn’t lost him and that he was going to drive and find me and take me home, but he didn’t. I could almost hear the phone shaking as he trembled with anger. “You’re right. You have lost me.” Each word was like a dagger, cutting his words across my heart and carving his hatred into my memory. “I hate you. If you ever speak to me again I will call the police and if they don’t help me then I will hunt you down and kill you like the monster you are!” He slammed the phone down, cutting that sound into my memory along with the others, and I stood there for twenty more minutes, still holding the phone to my ear, as my mind dealt with his words. Jackson hated me. And I don’t mean silly teenage ‘hate’, I mean proper, killing fury hate. He would happily kill me. And I would happily accept it. I could picture his beautiful face contorted with anger and bloodlust as he repeatedly jabbed a knife into my chest. I would happily stab myself at the moment. I shut myself back in the car and curled up on the back seat, feeling the tears run tracks down my face and I shook with sobs so strong that they rattled my ribcage. I noticed a small wad of black material underneath the driver seat and pulled at it. A long black sleeve emerged, followed by a large piece of the material and another sleeve; Jackson’s jacket. He must have left it in here the other night, when I was around at his – the last night I had seen him. I cradled the jacket to my chest, inhaling his scent deeply and pretending it was him wrapped in my arms and not just a piece of clothing. I sat like this, picturing every perfect piece of Jackson’s body, until my tears ran dry. And even after they stopped I still sat clutching his jacket like a mad woman. My stomach rumbled and I glanced at the clock. It was almost eight p.m. and I should probably be getting home soon; I hadn’t thought to ask about curfew before. Driving around in the premature darkness was eerie. The car was too silent and I felt like somehow the darkness was clawing at the windows, trying to get inside. I heard a whisper of my name and shivered. I flipped the radio on and turned it up loud, trying to banish the sudden bad feeling I was having. It didn’t work. I was tense, nervously jumping at any sudden movement or noise, all the way home.

Chapter three After I had checked my reflection in the car wing-mirror – I couldn’t really walk in with twigs in my hair and blood on my face with no explanation – and started towards the door. I heard the quiet rumble of my father’s laughter from inside and remembered that told him I was seeing a film and not moping in a field all day. I plastered a plastic smile on my face as I walked through the door, put my keys noisily in the bowl and called out, “I’m home dad.” His laughter stopped and he entered the hall while I had hanging my coat up. “Arcadia, do you know what time it is?” I turned expecting anger but he merely looked confused. “Um, eight thirty?” “Yes, why are you in so early?” And he summed up my life in that one moment – everything was the wrong way around. The teenage daughter who lies and says she is going out with her friends and goes to be on her own is shouted at for being in too early. I almost laughed with the impossibility of the situation. “The film finished quickly, so I came home. I’ve got a load of homework to do,” I lied quickly. He studied my face for a few moments before letting me pass through into the living room. When Denise offered my dinner I had to refuse – the day’s events had taken their toll on me and I felt sick. I made a poor excuse about feeling sick and having homework to escape to my room. When I was on the stairs I turned around to grab a glass of water when I heard hushed voices. “. . . asked Jess and she has no clue. I think it’s boyfriend trouble,” Denise’s knowing voice hissed. “Really? I hadn’t even known there was a boyfriend,” my dad whispered back. “Neither had I but I heard her ask Jackson to forgive her in her sleep.” I spoke in my sleep? I hadn’t known that! What else had I told her? My mind swam with grim possibilities of who knew what thanks to my sleepconfessions. I heard the front door bang closed and ducked into the shadows as Jessica streamed past the stairway, her long, blonde hair like a flyaway cloak behind her. “Hey, I’m gonna grab a drink and go upstairs. See you later,” she called to them, oblivious to their discussion.

After a few moments I heard Denise speak. “Jessica, do you know why Arcadia left home?” My heart thudded erratically in my chest as Denise spoke. Jessica was the only person who knew about Jackson here, and I had planned to keep it that way, and knowing his name would take my dad and Denise one step further towards discovering the truth about me. “No. She never tells me anything,” Jess said breezily. “’Night.” They said their goodnights and as I heard Jess on the bottom step I ducked into my room. I needed to think about what to do. Dad and Denise were getting closer to discovering all about me every day, and I couldn’t – I wouldn’t – let anyone else turn away from me because of what I was. I needed to think clearly and I knew the only way I could ever think clearly. I ducked out of my window silently and out into the night. When I clambered back into my window, there was a piece of paper on my bed. I opened it. In Jess’s elaborate, curled writing it read: Arcadia, They know you left. And this isn’t like a sisterly warning; this is just to rub it in your face. You will be in soooo much trouble. From, your perfect step-sister. “Damn it!” I whispered under my breath. “It’s Friday,” my dad said conversationally over dinner. I glanced up lazily from my food to him and was surprised to see the glee on his face. He’s a bit over-enthusiastic for Friday isn’t he? I mentally questioned. “Going anywhere nice?” he continued. His smile widened and his eyes seemed to gleam the same happiness he was exuding. “No, why?” I asked, genuinely bewildered. It wasn’t like he hadn’t expressed much interest in my non-existent social life for the past month, but this was different. I knew he was up to something. “Jessica mentioned going for a film night with some of your school friends. I thought that you would be going too.” I almost smiled as the prospect of getting Jessica in trouble popped into my head. I knew for a fact that one of her evil minions was throwing a party tonight – a full blown house party with drink, drugs, smoking and sex among other things. “Oh. No I don’t really fancy it,” I lied. “No, go ahead. I thought it would be fun.” Dad looked disappointed at the thought of me deliberately missing social events. I couldn’t stand the disappointment in his eyes. I trudged upstairs, deciding to actually go to the party and not just hide out in a cafe until it was a suitable time to go home. But this plan involved getting invited.

Jess was reluctant of letting me go to the party, but the threat of telling to Denise on her was too powerful so she threw a selection of clothes at me – “I don’t want to be embarrassed by you!” – and agreed to let me take her and bring her back. Once in my room, I sifted through the gaudy clothes, all revealing and in neon colours, and abandoned them to wear some of my secret stash of clothes. No one knew about my secret stash. All my favourite clothes I wore at my old school’s parties and out to clubs lay in a box under my bed. They were all the clothes that represented everything to do with Cady Cooper. And now I wasn’t her anymore it seemed fitting not to dress like her. My favourite top – black with cream lace straps and encrusted with diamantes that enunciated my breasts – and favourite jeans – faded grey skinny fit jeans – were lifted from the box and placed over my favourite bra and knickers set – the ones that flattered my bum and pushed up my breasts. I even styled my hair in the way the old Cady did – lying long on my back with a slight raise at the roots. I looked, felt and was dressed like myself a month ago and felt a brief flash of pleasure. I was the old Cady: smart, confident, loved. If I could keep this up for the night I might even make some friends. I slipped into a pair of Jessica’s dominatrix heels and stuffed my phone and money in a clutch bag. Jess’s jaw dropped when she saw me. “Where’s all the stuff from?” she asked, bewildered and probably a little jealous. “Oh, it’s just some stuff I had hanging around,” I breathed lazily as I swished past her, grabbing my keys and a coat. The ride there she was silent, staring at my clothes with obvious lust in her eyes. I’m hiding these clothes under the floorboards when I get home I mentally promised, stifling the little girlish giggle that came tacked to the thought. The party had evidentially started when we arrived. Drunken men were staggering across the lawn and the bass of the music was already making my head hurt. I grabbed a drink from someone’s hand – the way the old Cady did – on the way in and wandered off to find something to do. I promised myself one thing. By the end of the night, I would be over Jackson. The bass was pounding in my chest – my unusually prominent chest I might add – and although my head felt fuzzy, I felt the best I had in over a month. In the two hours I had been at the party I had been asked my name thirty-seven times. No one knew me. This was when I realised I could be the old Cady again. Jackson couldn’t ruin my life by making me change myself. But even as I tried to settle to the ways of the old Cady – flirting with everyone, even taken guys – and pretty much ending up in a bedroom with someone, I felt strange. Whenever anyone got too close to me,

whenever I felt a kiss coming on, I felt sick to my stomach. I literally felt like I would be sick. It was later, when the alcohol buzz had faded from my thoughts that I realised that I couldn’t just become the old Cady again. I had changed when I left my life behind, and the part of me I missed – the fun loving, care-free Cady – had died with that change. Jackson doesn’t even have to be near me to ruin my life, I thought to myself, feeling the sting of tears in my eyes. I blinked them back. Another three beers and five vodka-and-something’s and the fun buzz was back, numbing all the pain of my mind. The guy I was talking to reeked of stale alcohol – as did everyone – and sweat. I excused myself, grabbing another drink from an unsuspecting hand and staggered towards the stairs. And this is where I made the mistake. I knew how drunk I was – make no mistake, I was not inexperienced in alcohol consumption – and I knew my limits but somehow I found myself wandering up the stairs, tripping as I went, and flinging myself on top of the coats in a bedroom, spilling half of my drink over myself as I did so. I needed a chance to think, to clear my head, and that would have been nearly impossible to do if I had stayed downstairs, with the party. My plan had not quite worked. I had not gotten over Jackson that night, as I had promised. In fact, I had realised and probably strengthened the hold he had over me. I felt so stupid – I was letting my ex-boyfriend control my life. I sounded like a crappy teenage film. The door creaked open and I heard soft footsteps on the carpet. Then a soft, almost whispering voice drifted from the doorway towards me. “. . . I know Anna, but we could still make this work,” said the voice, sadness and regret threaded into each word. A quick buzz of reply. “I don’t care; I just want things to be normal again.” The voice was deep, obviously a man’s. Another buzz, this time longer than the last. “Okay. Fine. Bye,” he said. He sat lightly on the foot of the bed and exhaled loudly. I wanted to reach out and hug him, but my mind had different ideas. I rose from my sprawled out position, like a corpse in a zombie film, and asked if he was alright in a whispered voice. “Jesus Christ!” he screamed, jumping from the bed in shock. He looked around the room, from the pile of coats he had dislodged to me, still entangled in the bed sheets. “What are you doing in here?” I didn’t know what to say so I said nothing. He came and sat far away from me on the bed, leaning away from me as if I was a leper, and asked me again what I was doing here. “Thinkin’” I slurred, giggling afterwards. “Alright. I was being broken up with.” I looked into his face, noted the way the moonlight accented parts of his face, and saw the sadness buried deeply beneath the calm facade. I leaned into him and, on impulse, touched my lips briefly to his and an explosion took place in my lips.

It felt like being electrocuted and burned at once, a stinging, warm sensation that wasn’t as unpleasant as it sounded. I pressed my lips harder to his and the sensation intensified. Before I could register what I was doing I was straddling his chest, pulling at the buttons on his shirt, and kissing him all at once. The alcohol fuzz in my mind was weaker, and I knew that this outburst was not due to my drunken state. “What are you doing?” he asked around my lips. I didn’t bother answering. I frantically popped the last remaining button and, forgetting myself, I pulled at the base of my flimsy top, yanking it up over my head, and I didn’t pause until I heard his intake of breath. I was showing my stomach, the scars I had hidden for so long. “What? How?” he asked, reaching out his fingers to stroke my skin and the ugly blemishes staining it. I pulled myself away from him before he could touch them. “What are they?” he asked again, reaching to touch the scars peppering the skin just below my breasts. I jerked away again. “Leave me alone!” I screamed, tears blinding my eyes and I flung myself around the room, grabbing all my possessions and running out of the room. I knew that tears were running down my face. I knew that I was half naked. I knew that I had left my coat and phone behind but I didn’t care. All I cared about was getting out of there. I heard jeering and shouts as I ran down the stairs, clutching my top to my front, and out the door into the night. I hid behind the garden wall as I pulled my top back on and ignored the callings of the boy who had seen my scars.

Chapter Four I stayed in the rest of the weekend, my paranoia overtaking my need to appear normal to my dad. I didn’t even dare hunting, scared that I would bump into the guy on the way, so it was a bit of an understatement that I was grouchy. I had been living off the emergency supplies I keep for, well, emergencies. I had only ventured out of my room since Friday to go to the toilet and grab some food while everyone was asleep. When my dad had asked about the party I made some generic lies, that is was fun and I met a load of new people, before going up to my room and not resurfacing for two days. And, besides being so starving hungry that I would happily have eaten my dad, I was so sleep deprived it was insane. Every time I shut my eyes, I say the guy’s face, the look of horror, and if I continued to see it distorted into a grotesque imitation of Jackson’s look of disgust.

But all too soon it was Monday and I would have to go to college. All I could do was hope and pray, futilely, that the guy didn’t go to my college and at the least that he had forgotten me. But, as usual, my life didn’t go as I wanted it to. It had been alright for most of the day, the odd person recognising me and then dismissing their suspicions, until my free period. I did as I usually did during this blessed hour a week – I submersed myself in a novel. The ‘welcoming committee’ who I, personally, thought were nothing but humans with lapdog minds, had stopped coming and bothering me, preferring to sit and do whatever they did – probably plot world domination by assaulting people with pin badges. I was sat in my usual spot, my face buried deep in my current book, when I heard the door slam and I looked up reflexively, regretting my instincts immediately. There he was. Standing there, silhouetted against the window, he looked like an angel. His dark brown hair was styled untidily and he was wearing a smile that showed his perfect white teeth. I watched him talk to his friends, giving hi-fives and laughing, and I suddenly had an unexpected and unwelcome thought. I so wish that was me. I shook my head slightly, tearing my gaze from the girl he was embracing, and fought the sting in my eyes as I realised it was true. I tried to hide my face behind my book, but I wasn’t quick enough. We locked eyes for all of a second, but that was all it took. I felt a twinge in my eyes, a faint echo of the buzz I got while kissing him and it took all my willpower to look away and hide my face, hoping that he would dismiss me. I thought he had decided to ignore me and felt a strange mixture of relief and disappointment grip my chest. I felt a tapping on my knee and dropped my book slowly. I saw the hand, and followed it up the arm to the face where he was staring down at me. “Can I talk to you for a minute? In private?” he asked. His voice was smooth as silk and twice as pleasurable. Once again, I felt the faint twinge of pleasure. I nodded mechanically and rose from my chair to follow him out of the door. I felt eyes follow us on the way out and their confusion was almost tangible. He led me to an empty English classroom and closed the door behind him. I perched on the teacher’s desk and he sat beside me. I could feel the tension and suspicion radiating out of him as he turned to face me. “Hi again,” I mumbled, trying to erase some tension by breaking the silence. “Hi.” He was blunt, showing me that he had no time for false answers and evasions. I decided that I did have time for false answers and evasions, and I was telling him nothing. “So, I met you on Friday . . .” he continued. “You were getting broken up with; I was drunk and hiding in coats.” I smiled warily.

“Look, I’ve got a question to ask you.” I braced myself for the lies I would have to tell. Attacked by a dog? Too sad. A gunshot wound? Too unbelievable. “What were those . . . scars? The ones all over your stomach. They looked painful.” I inhaled deeply but he cut me off. “I mean, I don’t want to pry, but I really need to know.” “They’re bite marks. I was attacked when I was a kid,” I said. Really, it wasn’t a lie. I had been attacked as a child and they were bite marks. But I knew my vague description would immediately make him think of dog bites. “Really? I thought they looked too thick to be bite marks. I thought they were stab wounds.” He still sounded cool, calm. He had a hint of disbelief in his voice that was almost undetectable. Damn, I should have gone for stab wounds. I got up and went for the door but he grabbed my arm, spun me around to face him, and glared deep into my eyes. “Tell me the truth now! I am sick of being lied to by girls!” he snapped, his eyes going wild. As I wrenched my arm from his I was nearly shaking with anger. “You want the truth; let’s see how you deal with it!” “My mother was a crappy mum, always letting my wander off on my own, even when I was little. I was eight and we were in town. She was shopping and she sent me off to play by myself for a few hours and I wandered around for ages, like an eight year old would. “I was wandering the way I thought led to my friend’s house but I took a wrong turn or something and ended up in a real shady area of town. It was a nasty, the place with the most drug dealers and alcoholics in the country. And there were these boys in an alleyway. I thought one looked about my age, so I was going to go and play with him . . .” I barely registered speaking the words out loud and flew back into my memory. Everything was as clear as the day it happened. I had walked over to the boy and asked him to play and he had laughed in my face, calling me stupid kid. He told me to leave him alone or I’d be sorry. “Why?” I had whined. His friends has laughed and urged him to tell the truth. “Because were vampires you stupid kid,” he laughed. Indignation had surged through my veins. If there was one thing I had hated, and still hated, it was being laughed at. “Vampires don’t exist you idiot!” Their faces had stiffened. “What? You think I’m lying?” I nodded and an overwhelming sensation of dread took over me. I instantly wished I had left when they told me to. “Should we teach her a lesson?” the boy asked another, older looking boy. They jeered in approval. One boy, a slight, dark haired boy near the back of the group faintly argued that I was just a child, that should I really be made like them.

Another told him to shut up and smiled maliciously at me. “Were going to teach you a lesson little girl. And by the end of today, you’ll know how real vampires are.” He lunged forwards and pinned me to the ground. I felt my legs flop onto the ground with a jolt. The first boy was rolling up my dress, his cold hands roughly handling my body. I stopped fighting and watched in horror as he lowered his face to my stomach and screamed when I felt the double stab of pain. And it happened again, and again, and again, each time more painful than the last. I felt my warm blood run over my stomach and drip onto the ground. I saw him lap up some of the blood from my punctured skin with quick strokes of the tongue. They left, laughing and talking loudly about being hungry now, and I knew I was going to die of blood loss. By the time they found me, I would be dead. I closed my eyes in acceptance of my fate and tried to drift off to sleep. I awoke in a warm room, splayed out on a sofa. I lifted my dress to reveal my stomach and saw a thick white bandage wrapped around my midriff, obscuring the wounds I still felt on my skin. There was a young man watching me from a worn armchair across the room with eyes too told and wise for his face; his were the eyes that had seen too much to stay young. He smiled when I looked up at him and called his wife. His wife was just as young as he was, with a kind, loving face. “How’re you feeling love?” she asked gently, patting my hand with her own. I had jerked back and almost screamed when asking her who she was and where I was. She told me what had happened. Her and her husband had been walking past the estate and seen the boys leaving, blood on their clothes. Within a few minutes they had found me and carried me back to their house to nurse me. They told me that they were like me. “What are you talking about? How on earth are you like me?” I had asked, terrified of the answer as I already knew it. “Were vampires. But were not like those boys who attacked you. Were nice,” she said, giving me a warm smile. At first I hadn’t believed it, but after a while they had worn me down and I began to believe them. I came back to the present and looked at the boy. His face was kind, shocked and there was a build up of moisture in his eyes. He stood up and wiped a tear I hadn’t known was there off my cheek before me pulled me into a tight embrace. My favourite song from childhood was blaring in my car as he drove me to his house. He was driving my car as I was in no fit state to drive – unless being on the verge or a nervous meltdown was a fit state – and he was making sure I couldn’t escape. I began to absent-mindedly tap my foot to the beat and hum the tune under my breath. We had now gotten on to better terms. He was Jared Fox. He lived with his dad, too, and had a little brother and sister. He knew I was Arcadia Cooper, sister to three and vampire.

“Are you sure your dad won’t mind?” I asked quietly, almost inaudibly. He glared at me for a second, telling me clearly that I was no way getting out of telling him the whole story. He had already asked if he could come to my dad’s house until I had made an excuse about a full house. The truth was that if I brought Jared home my dad would probably have a fit of happiness and explode. We pulled into the drive of a huge white house with three other cars parked in the drive. I couldn’t help but let my mouth hang open when I saw it. He grinned and towed me in by the arm. The electric jolt was muffled by the think jumper I was wearing, but I knew we could both feel it. He breezily excused himself from his dad, telling him that I was a friend from school and I needed help with my homework. We went up to his bedroom and it was almost identical to Jackson’s. I fought the urge to double over at the pain in my chest, the aching hole where my heart used to be. His room was brightly decorated, the walls coloured in different blues, ranging from sky to almost black. The bed was swathed in thick blue coverings and light from the overhanging window spilled onto the spread. There were even less indications that someone lived in the room than in Jacksons; there were a few sparse picture frames, an alarm clock and a sign on the back of the door reading ‘Jared’s room, Keep out’ in childish scrawl. I walked over to the picture frame beside his bed and recognised his father, although he was much younger. Jared, also younger, was stood next to him, his arm around his neck. He was stood with a young boy and girl who looked uncannily like him being held by a beautiful woman. She looked like a very feminine Jared, with long blonde hair and flawless make-up. His eyes were the exact same shade of vivid green and the same shape. “That’s me and my family, pre breakup,” he murmured over my shoulder. My heart ached for him, in the same way that it ached when I thought of my old family, only worse. It wasn’t just self pity; it was true sorrow for his suffering. I had an inexplicable urge to reach out and embrace him, to chest to mine and let him bury his face into my hair. That was too intimate a position – too dangerous. “You’re room is . . . nice,” I said conversationally, struggling to find a positive word for the bare room. “Stop trying to evade the subject. We have some serious talking to do,” he scolded at the same moment I realised I wasn't even trying to evade his questions. Far from it; I actually wanted to answer them, to get everything off my chest. He pulled me down to his bed and sat on the opposite edge, staring at me with determined eyes. “So what more do you want to know?” I asked. He paused for a moment and thought. “How can you go out in daylight?”

I almost laughed. “Myth. Most vampire superstitions are myths. Like turning into a bat; what kind of idiot thought that up?” “What about garlic?” “Myth.” “Crucifixes?” “Myth. And I don’t sleep in a coffin, I don’t prey on young girls and I don’t live forever. Any more?” “If you don’t eat little girls, then what do you eat?” He suddenly looked nervous. I couldn’t help laughing then. “I eat animals, like most other people. I eat food, real food, and drink animal blood. Occasionally I get bags from a blood bank.” He kept on questioning me relentlessly for three hours, asking everything from my old schools to my family life. I conveniently left Jackson out of this conversation, but every time I talked about my old life his memory popped into the front of my mind, threatening to spill out.

Chapter Five After he had finished his seemingly endless questioning he offered to drive me home. This was a bit confusing as he wanted to drive my car home, then walk back the three miles to his house. It seemed to make much more sense for him to just stay at his house but he persisted and wore me down. The journey was silent but not awkward. It was a comfortable silence, the silence only achieved when two people had nothing to say because they had already said it. You were never this comfortable with Jackson a mind voice hissed. I reasoned with the voice that Jackson and I had always had a wall caused my secrets and lies. But with Jared all the cards were on the table, and they spelt out ‘VAMPIRE.’ When I pulled up outside my house he made no move to get out. I turned to ask him what he was doing, tell him that he was not coming in, but my words were lost in my throat. He was staring at me, his deep green eyes like windows to his mind. We both seemed to be thinking the same thing. We each leaned forwards until out lips were almost touching when his hand twitched towards me and I looked away. The spell was broken. We each leaned away from each other and got out of the car. I hastily directed him to the nearest bus stop and nodded him goodbye. In the house it appeared that Jared’s presence had not gone unnoticed. Jess took me to one side in the hall and hissed at me so quietly I almost couldn’t understand, “Why were you with Jared?” “I went to his house,” I said, startled at her hostile reaction. “You . . . stay away from him. He’s mine and you’d better not forget it!” she whispered and stomped up the stairs.

My dad and Denise had noticed too and I was bombarded with “Oh, who was that boy?”s and “Has Arcadia got a boyfriend?”s. I brushed their comments off and went to bed to sleep uneasily. Every few seconds it seemed I woke up from falling headfirst into deep green eyes. Two weeks had passed and Jared and I were practically inseparable. My dad couldn’t have been any happier and neither could I. I felt like everything had fallen into its rightful place. Jared’s family loved me, especially his little sister Melanie who loved me styling her hair for her. Jared hadn’t been over to my house to meet the family yet because of Jessica. Her frosty glances and hostile actions had taken their toll but not warned me off Jared as she had wished. I was currently sat in front of my mirror, wearing some of my favourite clothes from Cady-days and styling my hair. It was funny, now I hardly ever thought of my old life; it seemed like a different lifetime. I had found a way to look not to Cady but not too given-up-on-life and came out with the new improved Arcadia. I whistled as I grabbed a cereal bar and rushed out of the door, calling goodbyes over my shoulder. Jared was waiting at the bottom of my drive, his face pointed own while he read the book I had recommended to him, and as I got into the car his face snapped up and he smiled. I had to admit, Jared’s car was a lot nicer than mine. It was the same blue as the sky on a blindingly sunny day and it always smelled of leather and, for some strange reason, apricot Frubes. We drove and prattled about unimportant things like homework, people, the films we wanted to see and had already seen; life in general. We talked all the way to the cinema, as we were going to go see a film, and as we walked to the building. We paid for out tickets and popcorn and sat to wait the twenty minutes until we were allowed into the screening. As we sat his hand twitched towards mine and he almost held my hand. My heart seemed to jump into my throat and lodge there. I realised with a shock that I wanted him to hold my hand and I wanted him to hug me tightly and never let go. In the screening I tried to sit as far away from him as the seat would let me but and the lights went down his arm snaked around my waist and pulled me towards him, and I let him. I tried to concentrate on the film but my mind kept going off on its own wanderings. The lead woman had eyes a little like Jared’s . . . the lead man has lips just like Jared’s . . . that guy’s voice sounds a bit like Jared’s . . . I turned towards him, just to get a sneaky look at him in the dark and saw him staring at me too, the same longing expression on his face as I could feel on my own. Suddenly our bodies lost control and our faces were leaning towards the other, lips slightly parted and we kissed. It felt like an explosion, a violent petrol bomb exploding on my lips and reverberating down the rest of my body. Every inch of my skin felt like it was alive with electricity and burning. My lips felt white hot against his and I was worried that the intense heat would burn him. I pulled back

slightly but the arm around my waist flew up to grip the back of my head, keeping my face to his. Our breathing was coming in ragged rasps as it mingled. I felt a part of him and he felt a part of me, like our souls had merged. I could almost sense his pleasure in my mind and body. We broke apart suddenly, both breathing so fast it was almost hyperventilation, and stared at each other, searching the others eyes and looking directly into their soul. His soul screamed for me, wanting more delicious kisses, and he grabbed my hand and we practically fled from the cinema and into his car. We sat in silence, both taking in the electric sparks bouncing between our bodies. We both stared forward, out the windshield, at the passers-by. Finally he said, “What just happened?” “I don’t know,” I breathed, after a slight hesitation. “I’ve never felt anything like that before.” And it was true. Kisses with Jackson had been fierce and passionate but never as good as that; compared to kissing Jared, kissing Jackson had been like kissing a lion cub. “Did you feel what I felt?” he asked suddenly. “I think so. It was like being plugged into an electric supply, but better.” I saw him nod from the corner of my eye. “Is it strange that I want to do it again?” he asked. I shook my head and before I knew it I was pressed against him, my body curving around his and his lips sending intense waves of pleasure down my spine. We broke apart breathing heavily again and he started up the car. “Where are we going?” I asked dazedly, my skin still zinging from the electric pleasure. “Home,” he said with a tone that made it know that we were going to his home, not mine. His home where no one was there. My breathing suddenly got more ragged as I struggled to breathe. Hundreds of images flew through my head, most including me minus my shirt, and I suddenly felt sick. As we tumbled thought the door he called out, asking if anyone else was home, and, satisfied with the silence, took my hand and led me to his room. Once in his room he sat me on the bed, closed the door and sat beside me. He leaned close to my face, lips puckered irresistibly, and I leaned back, away from him. “What’s wrong?” he asked gently, as soon as he noticed her withdrawal. “Nothing,” I said with feigned brightness. “Can’t we just watch TV or something?” He didn’t believe me; that boy was too perceptive and persistent for his own good. He kept asking me what was wrong until I told him. “It’s just . . . we can’t be together,” I admitted sadly, staring at my interlaced hands. “If this is about Jess forget it. I’m not interested in her, I’m interested in you,” he consoled plucking my chin between his fingers so I faced him.

“It’s not her. It’s that were different. You’re lovely and caring and kind, and I’m a monster. We don’t go together.” I began to cry and he clutched me to his chest, rocking me gently like a child and making occasional pacifying noises. A while later I had gone into better detail. I was a creature of the night, a damned soul, a vampire. And he was the closest thing I had ever found to an angel in my life. Light and dark didn’t go together. He tried to convince me otherwise, saying that I was not damned, I was not a monster. I was just a victim and should be treated like anyone else. And that he wasn’t perfect either – that he had dark places in his mind too. “Jared, listen to me,” I pleaded exasperatedly. “I am a dark creature, a killer and I always will be. I bare the marks of my kind and the marks can’t be erased no matter how much you try to make up for them.” “What marks? Your scars? They don’t look too awful. They make you look brave, just like you are.” I lifted the base of my shirt up, exposing a pair of angry red scars, each about the width of a pencil that made me what I was. He flinched backwards at the sight of them. “They aren’t that bad,” he said despite the look of appellation on his face. I jerked the rest of my shirt up, exposing more scars, and pulled my jeans down the reveal the marks on my upper legs. Each scar hit his face like a whip, making the frown lines deeper and his eyes narrow. “You see,” I said through tears, “Even you can’t stand to look at them!” He pulled me towards him and I felt an electric zing on my stomach, and another. I peered down at Jared and saw him kissing each scar, touching them with care. “What are you doing?” I sobbed. “I don’t hate your scars. I don’t even hate you for having them. I hate the people who did this to you for forcing this life on you and making you think about yourself like this. You’re talking as if you aren’t good enough for me, like you’re evil and shouldn’t be let out in public. But really it’s you who’s too good for me. I could never go through what you did when I was eight and still be alive.” I cried a while longer and he drove me home, giving me a quick kiss at the driveway. As soon as I got in my phone buzzed, announcing a text message. It was from Jared. Be alone in your room at 10.30 tonight. I’ll call you. I have something to say to you x At 10.31 he phoned. I answered on the first ring. “So what do you need to say?” I asked in a hushed voice. There was a muffled “I” and nothing more. I repeated the question, explaining about bad signal. “I said, I love you Arcadia. I really honestly love you.”

The words formed and fell from my lips with no effort at all. “You know what Jared? I think I love you too.”

Chapter Six It was at night, when I was fast asleep, a voice intruded on my dreams, gradually getting closer and closer until it woke me up. “Arcadia,” a voice whispered in the stale air of my room. A cold shiver reverberated down my spine and I felt suddenly as if I was being watched by unseen eyes.

I rubbed my eyes dazedly and stared around the room. I needed Jared. I glanced at the clock and vaulted over the foot of my bed and out of the window. I felt a pair of warm lips caress my throat and my eyes opened slowly to glance around the room; I knew immediately where I was. I twisted my body so I was facing the kissing lips and pressed my own cold lips into his warm ones. I had snuck into his house at about four a.m. after the terrifying ghostvoice and hadn’t left since, feeling safer while being held in his arms than sat in my bed alone with the darkness. I pushed all dark thoughts into a deep corner of my mind and another warm kiss wiped them from my memory almost completely. This night-time meeting had not been a surprise; I had been sneaking into his room regularly for the past three weeks. His parents and my parents knew nothing about this arrangement. Practically every day I woke up in Jared’s room, cradled in his arms like a treasured child, and feeling warm and special. It made me feel lucky that I had found Jared; there were few people who found someone who is perfect for them in every way who thinks that they’re perfect too. His kisses had stopped and I opened my eyes to see why. He was staring blankly at my face, his features twisted into an expression of deep thought. “What’s the matter?” I asked him gently. He didn’t often waste a second of the snatched time we had together on thought. We were too busy doing other things. “I was just thinking. Did it hurt when you were . . . you know . . . bitten?” he asked slowly, his eyes not refocusing. “Why?” I breathed suspiciously. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. He propped himself up on his elbow and stared at me. I selfconsciously smiled at him. “Arcadia, I was just wondering whether you would do something for me.” My automatic response was to say ‘of course, anything for you,’ but instead I narrowed my eyes at him and said “What?” in the same suspicious tone as before. “Okay, don’t get mad, but I was thinking about how you said I was too good for you. And I said you were too good for me.” “I remember.” “Well, I want to even the tables out. I want us to be the same,” he said shortly as he thrust his wrist underneath my face. I could see a great pulsating vein beneath all the skin and had to turn away quickly. He thrust the arm back under my nose and I turned again. Then he took my cheeks between his thumb and forefinger and out his wrist up to by mouth. I kissed the wrist gently and peppered kisses on his palm and on each finger tip. “I won’t change you. I will never change you because you are perfect and I don’t want to flaw you,” I whispered, trying to lean my face inconspicuously away from the arm and the pulsating vain.

Before he could reply I spoke again. “Breakfast? I want some of your Dad’s waffles.” I dragged myself off the bed and threw myself out of the window, leaving Jared in his pyjamas with ruffled hair looking as bewildered as the first time I jumped out of his window. By the time I had gotten home, left a note explaining where I was, changed and drove back to Jared’s he was fully dressed and presentable and already halfway through his first portion of his dad’s signature breakfast waffles. After making idle chat with his dad for fifteen minutes we took our leftover waffles and sat in the living room to watch TV. The channel was set to the news and just as Jared was about to turn over a headline caught my eyes and forced my stomach into my throat. “. . . a youth, Jackson Scott, has been brutally attacked and killed by what looks like a pack of wild animals, possibly dogs trained by a gang to attack . . .” I ran from the room, covering my mouth with my hand and violently threw up my breakfast in the toilet. Jackson was dead. He had been killed. He wasn’t alive anymore, and somehow this made me feel ill. Why should you care? a small, rational part of my mind asked. He left you because of what you are, and now you have Jared who’s ten times better than Jackson was. But the strange thing was that I didn’t know why I cared. Sure, I had been close to him but for the past few weeks I had all but forgotten about him. I truly hadn’t cared about him, so why now, when he’s dead. I found out when I re-entered the living room and saw pictures of Jackson’s wounds. Jackson’s perfectly muscled chest was punctured by hundreds of blood red marks, with some flesh tearing, but each mark as circular and about the width of a pencil. I suddenly understood everything. Jackson had been killed, but not by a gang with violent dogs. No, Jackson had been killed by an angry gang, the true predators of this world, and his corpse now bore the same scars as mine did. Jackson had been killed by vampires. And as soon as my mind recognised the words as truth the world went dimmer, as if the lights had gone out, and suddenly I was falling downwards into the inescapable darkness below me. I woke a few minutes later and stared dizzily around the room. Where am I? I automatically thought before everything came into focus and I realised where I was. I was in Jared’s living room with a cold towel absorbing the sweat on my brow and Jared holding my hand, his face close to mine but not touching it. Before I could wonder what had happened memories rushed at me, slamming into my mind with the force of a large truck. Oh, God. Jackson was dead. He was dead. I felt the dizzy sickness settle on me again and fought it back; I didn’t need to pass out again.

As soon as Jared had noticed my eyes were focued he exhaled loudly in relief and whispered gently into my ear, as if I had suddenly gone deaf, not fainted. “Are you okay?” “I’m fine,” I slurred, my mind still foggy. “Yeah, I just need to call someone.” The words came as a shock to me and my first instinct was to call Gemma or some other friend from my old town to ask about how Jackson’s family was. But as soon as I thought of Gemma I knew I was wrong and knew who I had to call. I practically ran to his room and snathed my phone from the bed. I dialled quickly, knowing the nuber by heart having asked for advice from them so many times before. It rang and rang until I thought they wouldn’t answer, and then the connection click sounded from the phone. “Cady, is that you?” breathed the whispery soft voice of my best friend in the world, excluding Jared of course. There had been thrilled screams and tight embraces all around when Mary-Angela and Dominic emerged from their car, slightly ruffled by the two hour car journey, to be greeted by Jared and me. I had wanted to see them for so long and I had been bordering on calling them for advice several times in the past few months but I had always resisted for one reason or another. Mary-Angela and Dominic were the vampire couple who had saved my life. Mary-Angela and Dominic looked exactly the same as when I had first met them nine years ago, the day when my life changed forever. MaryAngela’s hair still shone like a fluffy blonde halo around her face and Dominic’s child-like face still looks mischievous when he smiled. There was not a grey hair or wrinkle between the couple, despite the fact that between them they were almost one hundred and fifty years old. MaryAngela and Dominic were not only some of the world’s most compassionate vampires but they were some of the only vampires in the country who had chosen eternal youth at such a young age. There is a spell that exists amongst the witches of the world to halt the aging process of a vampire but it is very complex and painful, not something a person undergoes on a whim and especially as young as Dominic and Mary-Angela. “Cady! Oh my God, I’ve missed you!” Mary-Angela called as she got out of the car, after pulling up her jeans and pulling her jacket down over her impossibly smooth stomach. “Why didn’t you call sooner?” she breathed as she ran and enveloped me in a rib-crushing embrace. Dominic was standing awkwardly by their car, staring at Jared with alarm and curiosity mingled in his eyes. “As soon as you left you should have called us and let us know. We’ve been going out of our minds about you. We even asked that Jackson boy and he didn’t know. Did you two have a fight?” she asked in a long ramble. “Yes and no. You see what happened was-” Mary-Angela cut me off with a gasp. “You two didn’t break up did you? You were such a cute couple.”

My eyes widened in alarm as I stared at Mary-Angela. I tried to warn her away from the subject of Jackson with my expression and it seemed to work, but not before I caught Jared looking confused and concerned. I could almost see the wheels turning in his mind as he pieced together my reaction to Jackson’s death with what Mary-Angela had said; I hadn’t yet told him about Jackson. A few hours later we were sat in a café talking animatedly and reminicing. Mary-Angela had practically fainted with pleasure upon hearing that Jared and me were a couple. She had had the sense to keep quiet about Jackson here. “What I don’t get is why you called us up here today. You sounded urgent on the phone. What’s the matter?” Dominic said, this voice smooth as silk. “Well, doubtless you heard about Jackson Scott, the boy who was murdured,” I beagn to explain, carefully avoiding Jared’s eyes and pretending not to notice the suspicion rolling from his body in thick waves. “And did you notice, when you looked at the . . . body, that the marks on him looked familiar?” Dominic, being much quicker on the uptake than Mary-Angela, instantly knew what I was talking about but Mary-Angela took a few moments, glanced at her own scars on her hip bone, and then clamped a hand over her mouth. “Exactly,” I said. “So I wanted you out of the area in case there are dangerous vampires there. I also wanted you to be here, to see you again. It feels like a lifetime since I last saw you.” And we continued in idle chatter, everyone deliberately avoiding the subject of who could possibly have killed Jackson, fearing an answer we didn’t want. My dad was surprisingly kind to Dominic and Mary-Angela. I explained that they were friends of mine and they had come to see me for a few days. He was letting them stay in the guest room, next to mine. Jessica had scoffed at the mention of the word ‘friends’ and taken me to the side while Dominic and Mary-Angela went to their car to get their bags. “What kind of scam are you pulling?” she hissed bluntly, grabbing me by the neck of my shirt and pulling me into her face. I flashed her my dangerous eyes, the eyes that glowed faintly red and generally warned people off before speaking. “There is no scam. These are my friends who are coming to stay for a while.” As I walked away I heard her say “I saw that Jackson kid was killed.” I flew at her, outraged that she would talk about Jackson for some unknown reason, and almost hit her across the face. “Just. Leave. Me. Alone,” I hissed through clenched teeth before turning my back on her and stomping up the stairs. Late that night I woke again to the sound of the whispery voice calling my name in the darkness. The name chilled me to the bone and I huddled up in the duvet like a small child in the throes of a bad dream. “Arcadia . . . Watch out!”

And with those words the air was still in the room and the voice was gone, leaving no trace of its presence except a chill in my bones and the sudden feeling that I was never alone.

Chapter Seven I woke up in the morning at two thirty as I usually did and vaulted from my windowsill onto the mossy ground below. Dominic and Mary-Angela were meeting me at the front of the house so that we could drive to a larger hunting region; the place where I usually hunted wasn’t big enough for three vampires to hunt in. Mary-Angela was stood looking positively angelic and way too much like a supermodel to be going hunting and Dominic was waiting in the car. We piled in the car and drove north-west until we were in the perfect hunting space. It was vast and teeming with life, from small snack animals to the large main-courses. We had been hunting for ten minutes when I heard the voice again. “Arcadia . . . You’d better watch out. We’re coming . . .” The voice sounded eerily close, so much so that I dropped my kill and whirled on the spot. I called to the others, hoping that the sudden icy cold in the air was just my imagination but fearing that it wasn’t. I forced them to leave halffed and promised twice as long a hunt the next morning. It was Saturday morning when I climbed back into my room via the window and changed. Normally I spent Saturdays at Jared’s house or out with Jared, but now I had guests to entertain. “What do you want to do today then? Shop? See a film?” I suggested to them over breakfast. “I’m hungry,” Mary-Angela complained, her face twisting into that of a sulky child. “I need to hunt,” she added under her breath. “Alright, you can hunt, just not where we were before. It felt . . . dangerous there.” I knew that it felt more than dangerous there, but there was no point in worrying anyone about my hunches and bad vibes.

We collected Jared at about eleven and headed down towards the beach and the pine woods that lay next to it, brimming with animals. My mouth watered at the possibilities of food – rabbit and mice and even wolves if we were lucky. And the best part of the plan was that I felt no bad karma around the place. In fact, I felt quite optimistic about the trip. My optimism was soon dashed and destroyed. The wind swirled around my face, lapping at my hair and blowing sand into my eyes. It felt like the caressing touch of a lover, gentle and familiar. I felt like a huntress, stalking my prey though the woods, dropping into trenches every few minutes to avoid detection. I had the wolf in my sight and was slowly tracking it through the underbrush. Every time he turned his grey muzzle towards me to smell me out I ducked out of sight. I was about to pounce from the trench I was in and feed when the gentle breeze turned fierce. The wind began to whip my face, trying to cut my face with its sheer force. It no longer felt like the caress of a lover. No, now it was the touch of a killer about to take his victims life, and enjoying it. I felt a chill deep in my bones and convulsed in the shallow trench. “Arcadia . . .” The wind carried the message along with another bone chilling gust of wind. “Arcadia . . . Were coming!” I stopped convulsing and stared towards the sky, trying to seek out the danger. For some reason I had envisioned black wraiths descending from the clouds to take my life, but instead I saw nothing but blue sky. I still felt like danger was coming. “Arcadia . . . Were here!” I heard the voice in my mind this time, not just whispered on the wind. It was an actual voice, cold and deep. I stumbled from the trench and ran towards the beach, all my thought directed towards finding Mary-Angela, Dominic and Jared and running away. I knew that Mary-Angela and Dominic were near the beach and Jared was on the beach its self waiting in the car for me to come back. I was running wildly, the voice following me and whispering my name at me over and over. I was nearing the beach when I fell. “Too bad princess, you’re quite a runner,” a voice whispered in my ear. I felt the cold breath on my cheek and almost fainted. I was roughly flipped over to face the sky. A face leaned into my vision. It was not an ugly face. Actually, it was the opposite of ugly. The face was clean shaven with perfect full lips and wide turquoise eyes the colour of the sea in summertime. But at that moment those perfect features were twisted into an ugly menacing expression, like the bully child who just gotten what they had wanted for a long time. I had a strange compulsion to spit in his face like I did when I was a child. Another man leaned in next to him, and another. They all looked the same – like the bully who won. There was something other about them though, something not quite right. They seemed to smell different to other people; they smelled old and dusty, like clothes that haven’t been worn for a long time. I sniffed discreetly and recognised the scent. Vampire.

That was how he had been whispering into my mind. Vampire’s can develop telepathy that was not affected by distance. That was how he tracked my down as well. Vampires could also learn to track with scent or mind essence. He had obviously followed mine. The first man tut-tutted at me and shook his head in mock sadness. “Somebody’s been a bad little girl haven’t they?” I wanted to ask him what the hell he meant but I kept my mouth shut. “Don’t you know what you’ve done?” he asked with false surprise in his voice. I didn’t move once again. He went on. “Well, we were on out travels and we bumped into a boy in a bar. He said he knew you. He said a lot of things.” He breathed stale breath onto my cheek so cold that almost sent a shiver rocking through my body. “He was called Jackson.” I sucked in an involuntary breath and instantly regretted it. “Well, we got him nice and drunk – isn’t it useful how affected humans get by alcohol? – and he told things about his ex-girlfriend Arcadia. He told us a secret that we weren’t to tell anyone else.” His eyes were shining with glee as he said this. He was really enjoying this. “He told us that his little girlfriend was a monster, that she was a freak. And he told us that she let him find out about her and then ran out of town. Now that wasn’t smart was it now?” I felt my eyes try to widen and held them still. I would not give him the satisfaction of being afraid. “And now, what we can’t get out heads around is why you ran away.” He said it as a statement, inviting an answer but not demanding one. “Not talkative is she-” “What else could I do?” I whispered, felling warm wetness on my eyes and blinking back. “I had to leave. I would be run out of town if he told anyway.” “But why not kill him? He’s only a human.” I realised then what he was. He was not only a vampire but a vampire supremacist – a vampire who thought that he was better than humans. “Because he was not only a human. He was my boyfriend. I loved him!” He looked revolted and surprise, as if I had just slapped him in the face with a wet fish. “You’re disgusting! How could you love one of them?” “Because humans are just people like you and me. No wait, they’re people like me, people with a heart. Not revolting monsters like you!” I leaned my face forwards and said the last words against his skin. He jerked backwards as if I was the revolting monster and stared at my face, his eyes wide with confusion. “Get up! Up!” he shouted suddenly, pulling at my shoulder with stubby pink fingers. His fingers were pulling at my jacket and the strength behind them pulled my upwards. Within a few moments I was stood upright facing him, dazed and sore. He ran towards me and punched me in the face, his bunched fist cutting underneath my jaw and snapping my teeth together. One of his

henchmen came and did the same. They were all laughing when the ringing in my ears ceased. The man came back again and punched my in the gut while the henchmen grabbed my legs and dragged me to the floor. They began to kick and punch me in the stomach and legs; I curled up into a foetal ball on instinct. They grabbed my shoulders and flipped me face down. I was too sore to move so I stared at the sand beneath my face. “Go get some firewood,” I heard the man order a henchman and I felt a pair of kicking legs cease the assault on my body. There was still a two pairs of punching hands and kicking feet though and I began to realise that I would in fact die here. My mind was shouting at me, asking why I didn’t fight back, why I didn’t call for help. The truth was that I didn’t think I deserved life. I had grown up thinking I was scum of the earth and a few months of love would never change that. I didn’t deserve help, and this slow and tortuous death was God’s way of saying that I deserved death. The acrid scent of burning wood reached my nostrils and I breathed in relief. At least they would throw me in the fire soon and I would die. I assumed with the combination of fire and the lack of pain signified the end of torture I was to be killed imminently. But then I heard the best and worst sound in the world. Jared’s voice. “Arcadia? What’s going on?” he called. He sounded distant, far enough away that if he ran to the car, drove away and never looked back he might live. But Jared was too caring to do that, too selfless. “Arcadia what’s-” His question was cut short. “Lance, check if he’s human,” the man’s voice barked in command. I heard the shuffling of feet and could almost see Lance grabbing at Jared’s shoulders, tugging his face towards his and inhaling. I could almost feel Jared shiver as the cold hands touched him and my heart swelled painfully. Look what you’ve done. You’ve sentenced an innocent person to death because of the monster that you are, a growling, angry part of my brain shouted. I knew that this was true and my heart swelled again. “Human,” barked a rough voice. “What do we do with him boss?” He seemed to deliberate for a moment. “Let’s hunt him after we’re finished with the girl.” The other men snickered and I felt Jared’s warm body be dumped next to mine. I heard the wind blown out of him as they kicked him in the gut and I whimpered. I could deal with my own pain, but not with other peoples. I chanced a look at Jared and he was facing me, his clear green eyes like windows to his soul that only I could see through. He was showing me how sorry he was for this, how he wished we had more time. I tried to convey the same with my eyes before the moment was snatched away from us. Ice cold hands gripped my wrists and ankles and I felt the floor disappear. Jared’s warm body no longer lay next to mine. I was being carried towards a new kind of heat, a burning, painful heat.

“Arcadia?” I heard a woman’s voice call out behind me. “ARCADIA!” she screeched, obviously after seeing me. Run Mary-Angela. Find Dominic and run! I urged with my mind, knowing full well that I wasn’t telepathic in the least. I hear a mumbled command to quieten her down and the hands on my ankles disappeared, only to be replaced a few seconds later by another equally uncomfortable pair. “Any last words sweetheart?” the voice breathed down my ear and I held back a shiver. I shook my head, fearing speech was impossible, and felt the heat intensify on the left hand side of my body. “Leave her alone!” I opened my eyes, for I had closed them for death, and saw Jared standing tall and proud, his eyes blazing like green fire. The man at my wrists violently dropped me and went to Jared. He punched him in the face and Jared’s head snapped backwards. His lip was bleeding. That small trickle of blood, slowly tracing its red path down his chin gave me strength. I kicked and thrashed the man at my legs until he let go and swiped his legs from underneath him. I then kicked him in the head at the exact point to make him pass out. His body went limp on the ground. Mary-Angela was grappling with a long lean man with greasy brown hair while her mouth formed silent screams. Jared took most of my focus though. He was being held by the first man, the boss, in a headlock. The boss glanced at me with malicious shining eyes and leaned his head down, into Jared’s hair. Jared screamed. And I saw red. I sprinted over to the ban and kicked him in the face, snapping his head back and knocking him over in one. He looked up at me with imploring eyes, asking me without words to spare him. I refused. I kicked him in the same place as his friend, making him pass out on the sand. Mary-Angela had dislodged herself from the brown haired man and now stood beside me, hand in hand with Dominic. I was about to breathe a sigh of relief when Mary-Angela screamed. “Cady! Look at him!” I followed her finger to where Jared lay sprawled on the floor, blood pouring out of the two pencil size marks on his neck. Chapter Eight My world screeches to a halt in that second. All I can see is the red of Jared’s blood, slowly dripping his life onto the sand, and his pale, distant eyes. Those eyes, usually piercing green, were pale and lifeless. The usual bright spark in his face was gone, leaving the way for a deathly pallor and ghostly expression. His hair looked too dark in contrast and all of these minute changes combined to make him look dead.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to run away. I wanted to break down and cry over my lost love. But the heavy hand on my shoulder, anchoring me to my place, kept me from moving. Dominic whispered in my ear “Arcadia, we’d better move him soon. If we’re going to change him we’d better do it fast.” The words rolled around my mind, not taking on any meaning until Dominic’s hand left my shoulder and he flew to Jared’s side, holding his boneless neck up and putting his face next to the bite wounds. Did I really want Jared to change? I knew that I had said no, but now was a different circumstance. Now it was not vampire or human – now it was vampire or death. Can I force him to become like me? Can I make him live as a dark creature when he is so full of light? Can I condemn him for eternity? If you love someone you have to make these decisions, thinking of them and not yourself. I had to decide whether Jared would be better off dead. And I think I found an answer. I knew that Jared would put on a brave face, pretend that he didn’t care that he hated his life. I knew that although he was truly unhappy with me, he would never leave me. He would live his life, day after day, pretending to be something he isn’t – happy. But I am too weak to make the right decision. Too weak to make the decision that is best for both of us. I just have to decide and live with the consequences. He looks more like the aftermath of a bad gore film than a real person. His arms are covered in blood and his neck has four gently bleeding holes on show. His face is deathly pale and his eyelids, the colour of lavender blossom is his pale face, are closed over the green eyes I know are fixed and staring. I am sat on the floor beside his bed, holding onto a blood soaked hand, and staring at what I have done. I was crying before, but I cried myself out. I have no more tears left with which to grieve. A light hand falls onto my shoulder and I look up into the pale and drawn face of Mary-Angela. She is saying something but I can’t hear the words. I strain my ears in the hope that something struggles through, but after a while she notices my lack of response and shakes me gently. She repeats her words and this time I can hear. “I said, I think we you start to clean him up before . . . you know.” She shifted her feet uncomfortably and waited for response. I nodded stiffly and she walked from the room, returning seconds later with a bowel of water, paper tissues and two cleaning cloths. She dipped a cleaning cloth in the water and went to dab at Jared’s arm when I grabbed her wrist. “I want to do this. Alone,” I croaked my voice hoarse from disuse. When she left I began to dab softly at Jared’s arms, his neck, his face, wiping away the remnants of his terrible ordeal. By the time I had finished the water in the bowl was bright red. I noticed with a pang that I was not hungry, not even slightly, even though I had been around fresh blood for so many hours. I laughed, and again, until I was in full hysterics. It was

funny how I search all my life for a way to stave off blood, and the answer is to kill your boyfriend and then you never get hungry. I laughed until my eyes found more tears to cry and sat sprawled on the floor as the teardrops splashed onto his floor. “We’d better get you cleaned up now,” Mary-Angela said when I had once again cried myself out. “It won’t be long now, and you don’t want to look a state when he wakes up.” I let her drag me from the room, my hand going cold once it released Jared’s, and she mopped my face, rubbed cream on my sores and cleaned the blood off me before making me change clothes and letting me back into the room. Dominic was leaned over Jared’s face, his expression puzzled, and I looked at him questioningly. “He should be awake by now,” he told me quietly, keeping his eyes fixed on Jared’s still lifeless face. That’s it, the nasty voice in my head said. And for once I didn’t try to stop it. You clutch at a last hope that would make everyone unhappy and you FAIL anyway. You’re pathetic; you knew that this would happen anyway. Either he would die in the process or kill himself afterwards, once he knew what he was. Why get so upset? It was inevitable – who would want to be like you? A sot splutter reached my ears and my head jerked up. I saw Dominic’s surprised expression, Mary-Angela’s delight and finally I saw Jared. Jared’s face was raised off the pillow, his neck supporting its self, and his skin was a little less pale, his eyes bright and his face was bright with his usual life. I ran to his side, grasped a hand in mine and felt him squeeze gently back. A tear slipped from my eye, but it was a tear of happiness. I leaned down to his face and kissed his perfect mouth gently and felt it respond beneath my own. We were sprawled on the sofa in his house – his parents had gone out for the night on his instruction – feeling the warm blood gush though our veins and revelling in the feeling. I couldn’t help but feel the scene was tainted by what I knew. I knew that Jared could never be happy living like this, living in the darkness, and would eventually leave me. “What’s up love?” he asked lazily, his eyes full of vital curiosity and concern. He tilted my chin towards him and held it between his thumb and forefinger. I decided to confess everything, thinking that he might leave me now and lessen the blow, as I would be expecting it. “I was just thinking out the future. About how bad everything is going to be.” His face tilted to the side in concern and I carry on. “Well, I know that sooner or later you’re going to leave me for making you live like this and be a monster. And I know that you won’t be happy like this. I’m just too selfish to let you go.”

He reeled backwards as if I had slapped him. His eyes widened in shock and he gasped as the words sank in. “Is that what you really think?” I nodded slightly and his eyes got even wider, which I didn’t even think was possible. “Arcadia, I’ll never leave you. I’ll never leave because you have given me exactly what I wanted. You’ve made us the same, so now we can be together properly, no slight differences separating us!” His eyes were alight with joy and the feeling almost caught on to me, but not quite. “You’ll never forgive me for doing this to you – ” “There’s nothing to forgive,” he whispers quietly as he pulls my face towards his. I can feel the sincerity in his words as we kiss and I begin to think that everything will be alright after all. Jackson had left me broken and bruised, ready to die rather than face the world, and Jared has picked up the pieces and put me back together. And this is why I love him.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful