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Surprise Visit Chapter 1 Her father insisted they talk, down on the dock, privately. For days, she’d been telling her parents to go away; although it wasn’t so much that she wanted her father to leave, but it was her mother she didn’t want to deal with. Despite her telling him to go to hell, he bent over and picked her up from the bed. He carried her down the stairs, through the kitchen, and down the wood slatted path, where he put her down, gently, on the sun warmed bench. “Ho-o-ow,” she spoke slowly, “did you find me?” “I got my cell phone bill, and there were charges on Meghan’s account. We activated the GPS tracking on the phone, and here we are,” said her mother.
After having lost her phone in a plane that went down, above the Transcarpathian Mountains, she’d been using her sister’s old phone. The GPS, they thought, would lead them to Meghan, but it brought them to Starr. Gently, slowly, she reached her hand up to her neck and was surprised, for a moment, to feel that the stitches, that had been holding her head to her neck the last week or so, had been removed. She must have been asleep when someone took them out! Since being beheaded, she was doing better, but her motor functions, including her speech, were still slow. Credenza never mentioned that severing of spinal cords was not easy healing, like normal wounds. Her brain worked fine, but not even her larynx could follow her brain’s synapses quickly enough for her to deliver even the shortest monologue in less than five minutes.
Trying not to let her hand fall like a dead weight, as is what happens when there is no muscle control, she used all the strength she could muster to slowly lower her hand down onto her lap. “Where’s Meghan? Why do you have her cell phone?” asked her mother. As usual, thought Starr, no hello or how are you, and her father, as usual, just stared off into space. She’d been gone a year, without a word, but they didn’t seem to care very much about that. Briefly, an image of Meghan, lying in a blood drenched bed, flashed in her mind. A couple questions whizzed around in her mind. How much should she tell them? Would they believe her? Or would they blame her for everything, as they did when Meghan was abducted?
She looked into her mother’s eyes, and slowly opened her mouth to reply. She said, “I,” she paused, “don’t know.” “What happened to you?” “I, uh,” she moaned in pain, “prefer not to answer your question.” “Why not?” she asked angrily. “Because it’s… none… of… your business.” “Starr, you’ve had stitches all around your neck! You look like Frankenstein’s monster! I want answers, and I want them now!” Being spoken to, like that, reminded her that she was still, technically, a minor. Still, she thought to herself, things had changed; there was no way she could go home, now.
Starr didn’t have the strength to reply. Since the accident, prolonged
activity tended to wear her out, quickly. She simply stared, willfully, into her eyes. “Fine,” said her mother angrily. “I’ll go pack your things. Your father will put you in the car, and…” but Starr cut her off. “I’m… not…. co- co-,“ she stuttered. Words with hard c sounds were especially difficult for her to say. It had something to do with the way her throat had to form to get the sound out. Slowly, she rose and, skipping the word come, continued with, “hooome with you.” “Oh, yes, you are,” she said authoritatively, standing up to grab her. Her mother put her hand on her arm, but a loud animal growl issued, uncontrollably, from Starr’s throat, scaring her. She yanked back her hand.
Both her mother and her father stared disbelievingly at her; slowly, they backed away. Judging by the looks on their faces, she must have accidentally called forth her inner demon. Pain and tiredness was winning her over, once more. She looked up the dock to see Misaki running to help her back up to the house. She put Starr’s arm around her neck. “This conversation is over,” she said, and Misaki, carefully, guided her back up the steps of the dock, up the wooden path to the kitchen porch, and back inside the house. Inside, chaos reigned as usual. Mot, Danny and Kay fought over video games while Misty, Becky and Lucas chattered in the corner of the living room. Ever since her accident, a lot of noise seemed to overwhelm her,
making her feel dizzy and disoriented. She often wished they would spend more time outside, but, since being surprise-attacked by a dozen vampires, they were afraid to go outside, and especially now that their strongest protector was hardly able to move her own limbs. Carefully, Misaki helped her up the stairs, and into her bedroom. Once down on the bed, she said, “Mica?” Mica was one of her closest friends, and fellow vampire, whose hearing was more extraordinary, than most other vampires. “Hi,” she appeared at the door. “Did you hear all that?” she struggled to say. “You can just whisper to me; I’ll hear you plainly. Yes, I heard the conversation.”
Misaki left the room. Mica moved in and sat in the chair next to her bed. “I don’t want them here,” she whispered. “You must insist that they leave. Tell them I don’t know where Meghan is.” “But, Starr, you do know what happened to Meghan. Don’t you think they have a right to know?” “Know that their daughter turned into a whore? Know that she let a man beat her, give her drugs, and then kill her?” When Mica said nothing, she continued with, “No, it would just be one more thing they’d blame me for, and they already blame me for letting her get away.” “What if you went home for a few days? Spent some time with them?” “Mica, you seem to be under the impression that we were the Brady Bunch, and maybe, once upon a time, we were, but when Meghan left, that all changed. Besides, if vampires are
going crazy and killing people, en masse, the safest place, for me, is here with fellow vampires, like you, Marla and Shane.” Misaki entered the room with a mug of chicken blood and a straw. She stepped in front of Mica, sat on the bed and held the cup of warm liquid up to her mouth. “Freshly killed chicken’s blood?” she asked, as Misaki positioned the straw between her lips. “I found an abandoned coop, a few miles down. Chanler helped me bring them back. Misty freaked when she saw me wring one of their necks, haha.” “You?” “Yeah, I had to do it all the time, back home.” Starr often forgot that Misaki was from a place that was not only of technological advancement, but also still had its roots in farming and
superstition. It was for that reason she loved Misaki, only second to Lily; in her, she found wisdom, healing, super intellect, and a basic street sense that put her above all the other kids. “Thank you, Misaki.” As she put the straw back up to her lips, someone came and stood in the doorway. “Chanler? Why are you back so soon?” “Not now, Starr,” he said. “I don’t want to worry you. I just wanted to say hello, and let you know that I’m back.” “No, now, Chanler. I need to know what’s going on,” she said, getting agitated and accidentally choking on a bit of the blood. “Ahuh, ahuh,” she coughed and cried, for the pain was terrible. Misaki lent her forward, and then told her to swallow again.
Chanler entered the room and sat behind Misaki, on the bed. He looked at her a moment. “It’s okay,” she returned to whispering. “You can speak in front of Misaki and Mica.” He eyed them a moment, and then said, “Well, after you left, we spoke to a few members of the Order of Negru. They claimed to know nothing and, to be honest, I believed them. Besides, they were still in good standing and, despite our differences, I doubt Madam Balaji would have anything to do with this new vampire species; the Negru are bourgeois elitists. So then we spoke to a few members who were either banned from the Order, or quit. To be honest, we weren’t getting anywhere; no one knew anything, so when I heard about Lucenzo giving Lily treatments for her infection, I had to come immediately. Now, of course, it all makes sense. As I made my way here, to check on you all, Michelle and the others
ransacked Lucenzo’s house, in Boston. Apparently, they found a picture of Lucenzo and Amir, the Ukranian we met in Fedir. It looks like Amir was a member of the Order back when it first started, in the nineteenth century, which is probably why no one remembered him. Most Order members, now, are less than a century old, including its new headmistress, Madam Balaji.” “What about the rest of the Ukranians?” “We don’t know where they could possibly be. We simply don’t have the resources for what Lucenzo and Amir have accomplished, together, so we’ve gone an unconventional route we never thought we’d ever do.” “What?” “We’re working with the Centers for Disease Control.” Mica gasped.
“What? What about exposure?” she asked incredulously; even Misaki, who wasn’t a vampire, lowered her mug and looked at him. “Look, we need a mass plan to exterminate all the vampires, and we need to decontaminate those places where the virus was leaked. We don’t have the resources, so we have no choice but to go to the CDC. ” Starr sat in silence a moment, thinking about what working with the CDC could mean, for them. “I was hoping you’d help us. We need you.” “You need me? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I can’t even feed myself.” “Yeah, but that won’t be for long. You’ll be fine, soon enough.” “How long do you think?” she asked hopefully.
“Couple of weeks, maybe, before you will feel like you can manage another mission with the Fleet; although you may not feel completely back to normal for months, and even then, you may still feel strange. These types of injuries are devastating, even for us, but you will recover. I’ve read about these injuries, and they just take time.” Starr didn’t know whether to be relieved or depressed. She couldn’t stand the thought of being in bed while the others were taking action, and she, certainly, hated the idea that she wouldn’t be as physically fit as she was before. “What about the breakouts in Europe?” Mica finally spoke up. “Well, we have to worry about it later. For now, we’re gonna send intelligence reports to the other governments, and several of the last Fleet members have gone to meet with the Ukraines and the Romanians,
where the outbreaks first happened. After, they’re coming back here.” “How is the cleanup effort gonna work?” Mica asked. “Well, let’s just say that your idea,” he motioned to Starr, “to get out of the city was a good one. Like Akron, they were planning to quarantine areas where the most people were infected, and then torch the places. I don’t think the plan is going to change much, either. The only difference is, with us, they will know exactly where to target, and now they don’t need to burn entire cities to the ground, and that’s where you come in, Starr.” She looked at him, questioningly. Reading her facial expression, he answered, “Well, not many people have your kind of extra sensory perception; the kind that allows them to see in different places. Myself, and the others, are simply telepaths: we hear the voices, but can’t always tell
where they come from. We can sense them, track their scents, and the virus, but with your ability, we can pinpoint, exactly, where the vampires or virus are, and then we can determine whether we go in and kill them by hand, or bring the Big Fire if there’s too many of them, if you know what I mean.” Big Fire was the Fleet’s code word for a modern day napalm job. “Why are you here though? Surely, the Fleet needs you?” asked Mica. Looking Starr in the eyes, he said, “I came back to protect you all.” The chicken blood, finished, Misaki stood up and left the room. “I’d better go inform the others,” said Mica, and she followed her out. “Michelle’s in Romania,” he said, as he moved closer up the bed, filling the spot where Misaki sat, a moment ago.
He leaned over, closing in on her face. When he pressed his warm lips to hers, she felt blood rush in her brain. The rush was too much for her, and she passed out.
The next thing she knew was someone turned on the light. It had been like this, off and on, for a while: one moment, she was awake, aware, having a conversation, and, the next, she was out, then she’d suddenly wake and there would be someone in her room. She stared at the long, muscular torso of a man that sat, next to her, on the bed. He grabbed her hand and squeezed it. “Michael?” “Hi, Starr.” Michael was the one who turned Starr, after she’d been stabbed in the back, by her sister’s killer.
“How did you know we’re here?” “My dad told me.” “Does he know where Lucenzo is?” “If he does, he’s not saying. Why are you talking like that? What happened to your neck?” Chanler entered the room with a cup and straw. “It hurts her to speak. Lucenzo cut off her head, and then sewed it back on, a week and a half ago.” “Will she be alright?” he asked sounding scared for her. Starr heard a slight loathing in Chanler’s voice, as he said, “She’ll be fine, eventually. She’s just slow to do things, for the moment,” and he sat on the opposite side of the bed, moved Starr upward, and adjusted the straw to her lips. “I don’t understand; I thought beheading killed vampires.”
Immediately, a sour scented pheromone, almost reminiscent of spoiled milk, filled her nostrils. Was Chanler jealous? Starr wondered. “If you reattach the head, immediately, death can be prevented. Lucenzo didn’t want to kill her, but only to stop her from telling us, too soon, that he was the one responsible for the attempt at a vampire apocalypse.” He leant over and put the straw to Starr’s lips. “Can you do that later? I want to talk to her, privately,” asked Michael. “No, she needs her strength,” he said, as he looked at him through slit eyes. “This will keep her awake longer, and speed her healing.” “It’s alright, Michael. You may speak in front of Chanler.” “Well, I just wanted to say that you were right, Starr.”
“About what?” asked Starr, letting the straw drop from her lips. Chanler pulled back the cup, sighed loudly, and looked at Michael. Michael turned his head toward Chanler and asked, “Do you mind?” “Yes, I do mind.” He stood up and said, “Dude, what is your problem? You wanna have a go?” Misaki entered the room. “What is going on here?” she asked, sounding far beyond her years. “Chanler, please wait outside. Michael and I need to talk… please,” she returned to whispering, as the pain was mounting in her neck and head. “I’ll be back; don’t let her pass out, she hasn’t eaten in a few days because we’ve been unable to wake her.”
They left the room; Misaki closed the door behind them. Michael sat back down on the bed and held her hand once more. “I’m so glad you’re alright.” “Michael, what is it you were going to say?” “Just that you were right about my father; there are things he’s not telling me.” He paused; she merely waited for him to pick up again. “To answer one of your questions, from last time we spoke, I turned you; I know I did. We’ve been friends forever, and I would have never let you die, but…” he cut off. He stood up and paced the room, as he ran his hand through his hair, agitatedly, “My father has been acting peculiar. When the virus first broke out, he came to see me and make sure I was alright. But there were
times when he’d disappear, both physically and mentally. I knew he was communicating with someone, telepathically, but he wouldn’t tell me who, or what, was going on. Anytime I’d try to probe his thoughts, I’d see a dark tunnel. He’s definitely hiding something, but I don’t know what. One thing he told me, before he last took off, was to follow you, and to make sure that you were safe. I should have caught up with you weeks ago, but I had to look after my mom. Besides, let’s face it, you can take care of yourself. But, then he returned and was so angry with me. He told me to get here or he would beat me, so here I am. Really, I hadn’t a clue that you’d been injured. If I had, I would have been here sooner.” Starr merely looked at him, trying to deduce what everything he’d just said could possibly mean. Unfortunately, processing thoughts was difficult, as she was prone to severe fatigue after thinking too hard. Since she’d just had a visit with her parents,
her energy was nearly spent, and a fog was clouding her brain, once again. “It’s just strange,” he said. “I think you should leave,” said Starr. “If he asks, tell him I kicked you out. Whatever he’s up to, I don’t need you leading him here. He could be working with Lucenzo, for all we know.” “What’s Lucenzo go to do with this.” But Starr’s head was starting to lull, and the fog was getting thicker. She felt herself slipping into sleep. Next thing she knew, Chanler was in the room again, trying to feed her. She told herself to drink, but it got harder and harder to draw the liquid through the straw, and the room got darker and darker, and darker… Suddenly, she was awoken by Misaki. “Come on,” she said, pulling her up into sitting position.
She set a plate of little pink, oval shaped chicken brains on her lap. The scent awakened her senses, and she realized she was very hungry. Her fangs protruded forward as she felt the pink slip and slide, slightly, between her thumb and finger. Amazingly enough, her hands worked much better than when she was awake, last. “How long have I been asleep, this time?” “Three days,” she said. “I feel like some of my energy has returned,” she said as she picked up a soft, cold pink brain, and relished its tongue-like feel in her mouth. “Today, I’m gonna take you for a walk. You have to keep moving, so that your body will heal right.” All of a sudden, a walk sounded great. She wanted to see and feel the sunlight.
She was still fairly slow, she noticed as she carefully walked back downstairs, both her hands heavily gripping the bannister, but she was happy to know that she wouldn’t be a cripple. Her progress wasn’t quick enough, for her, but it was happening and, for the first time in two weeks, she felt like smiling, until she walked into the kitchen, where she saw her mother cleaning the morning’s dishes. “What the hell are you still doing here?” she asked viciously. “I’m not leaving until you’re well enough to come with us.” “Mom, even when I’m fully recovered, I’m not leaving with you, and you can’t make me. Things have changed, and you need to accept that and move on.” “You’re still my daughter.” “Yes, but not that you ever cared. I’d been gone a year, and never once did you come to find me.”
“I didn’t know about GPS; that I could track you down, until I called the phone company…” “Yeah, you didn’t learn about GPS until you called about Meghan, right?” She said nothing. “Here’s what happened to Meghan: she was murdered by her scum, pimping boyfriend. He also stabbed me in the back, and I would be dead, too, if it weren’t for Michael. Remember Michael?” She said nothing. “I always knew she was your favorite, but I never knew how little you cared for me until she was abducted. Now you want me to come home and be your daughter, but only to replace her, so, no, I will not be going home with you; not ever. You can’t make me, either. I may be crippled, but only for the moment. Like snapping twigs, I could still break your limbs, if you tried to force me.”
Her mother’s eyes widened, and her jaw dropped. She looked indignant and shocked. Starr ignored the look, and continued past her, through the backdoor, onto the porch. Outside, the air was nice; she heavily breathed in the moist pollen rich air, not that her kind actually breathed anymore, but the taste of air was, sometimes, as refreshing as a cup of blood. “Oh, wow,” she said. “Spring is coming, and it’s gonna be a lovely one, here on Lake George.” “Do you feel that you can walk down the steps on your own?” asked Misaki sounding concerned. “Yes,” she said, and, although it took her nearly thirty minutes to step down the six steps, and walk the long wood slatted path, she managed to make it all the way to the end of the dock.
Shane got up from her spot on the bench, allowing Starr to sit next to Becky and Kay. Seeing the way the sun’s rays bounced across the water entranced Starr. For the first time, since being at the cabin, she truly looked at the surroundings: the trees, tall and abundant, blanketed the bank. Occasionally, ripples of water moved across the surface when birds plunged into the water, catching fish and devouring them. Suddenly, she felt like someone, familiar, was near to her. Gently, she turned her head toward the house and, for a moment, she could have sworn she saw a white and red amongst the trees behind the garden. Probably just one of the kids, she thought to herself. Exhausted from her walk down to the dock, she didn’t think much of it, and turned her head back, in time, to
catch Misty leap a cannon ball into the water.
Almost Healed Chapter 2 Over the next few days, Misaki came around and took Starr on walks along the bank. She’d even begun to practice Tai Chi with her. “I didn’t know you know Tai Chi. Why did you never tell me? You know I was always miserable, not having anyone to practice martial arts with.” “Because I didn’t want to practice with you, haha,” she laughed. “You’d kill me, but I think it’ll be good for your recovery. I was teaching Lily, before she ran off with Lucenzo, but she just got bored. She has this crazy idea that she wants to be a warrior, of some sort, but she doesn’t have the patience to properly learn.” What she said, about Lily, was true: she was all romantic notion, but not an ounce of discipline or perseverance.
With each stretch, she felt tugs and pulls at the tendons, and on certain muscles. Sometimes, the stretches made her cry out, but with each one, she felt stronger and, the more she stretched, the less it hurt. By the end of the week, she was able to stay awake for hours, as opposed to minutes, without passing out. Both Michael and Chanler kept a watchful eye on her, and helped wherever they could. But they had become unbearable to be around, and when Michael tried to take over feeding her, Chanler punched him in the face, sending him through the wall; after which, Misaki ordered them to stay out of Starr’s room, permanently. Her mother and father were still sleeping in the den, and refused to leave. Occasionally, she’d catch her father staring at her, and her mother was perfectly skilled at acting like there was nothing wrong in the world. She could be found, going about mothering
all the kids until they were rolling their eyes and cursing under their breath. Despite the situation with her parents, and everything wrong in the world, Starr couldn’t help but be extremely chipper when, one morning, she woke up on her own. Up until that point, she’d slept continuously, only to be woken by Misaki or Chanler, or other visitors. To wake up on her own was a sign that she was getting better. Happily, she decided to take a shower on her own, too, but Misaki checked in on her, periodically. Down in the kitchen, she was greeted by all the kids who clapped and cheered for her obvious healing advancement. “Are you gonna have breakfast with us?” asked Lucas, a handsome black boy she’d rescued from an abusive family in Harlem. She smiled and said, “Yeah, I think so. The sausages smell really good.”
Like a gentlemen, he stood up and pulled the closest chair, to her, out. She leaned on his shoulder as she settled down into the seat, and he gently pushed the chair inward. “Coffee?” he asked. “Yes, thank you.” “I’ll get it,” said her mother. Lucas sat back down and tried to serve her. “No, I’ll do it,” she said, and leaned forward, slowly, and pulled the plate of sausages toward her. “Your speech is much better,” said her mother, as she set a white, hot mug in front of her. “I didn’t know you drink coffee.” Starr opened her mouth to say something spiteful, but Chanler put his hand on her lap and squeezed, gently. “Wanna go for a walk after breakfast?” he asked.
“Sure,” she said, eyeing Michael as she said this. He smiled and shook his head. As they finished breakfast, a loud rumbling rattled the windows of the kitchen and vibrated up through the floors, shaking the table. Then, through the window over the sink, they watched a black helicopter lower down, onto the bald patch that Lucenzo and the others cleared, of trees, weeks ago. One by one, they followed each other, outside. The door slid open and out came a couple members of the Fleet: Alin, Saul, and Michelle. Starr felt like the coffee in her stomach had turned to acid, and was burning through her stomach lining. “Hey, Starr,” said Alin. “I hope you’re doing better. I’m so sorry to hear about what happened.” “Hi, Starr,” said Saul.
Michelle, who paid no attention to Starr, walked up to Chanler and kissed him on lips. The acid in her stomach burned up into her esophagus. “What are you guys doing?” asked Starr annoyed. “We don’t have room for you,” she said, hoping they’d leave, and take Michelle with them. “We told Chanler that we’d meet him back here,” Alin replied sounding shocked at Starr’s disdain. “We can’t stay, anyway,” said Michelle. “We need to go to Georgia, immediately,” she said, looking into Chanler’s eyes.
“Why now? What’s the rush?” he asked. “Vampires stormed the Parliament’s Chamber.” “What chamber?” asked Starr.
“Romania’s Parliamentary Chamber,” said Michelle, not looking at Starr. “Amir has, somehow, organized these new vampires to march together.” “What do you mean, organize?” he asked her. “We’re not sure,” Amir answered. “We were having a meeting when we were attacked by at least a thousand vampires.” Mica gasped, Marla’s jaw dropped, and Shane’s face went several shades paler. “How many survived?” asked Starr. “Everyone is dead.” “These vampires are maniacal and unruly. How did he organize them, as you say?” “I’m not sure. That is what we need to find out, which is why we need to get to the CDC headquarters. We
simply don’t have the resources to figure this out, but they do.” “We need to warn the CDC that the same may happen here, too,” added Saul. “Well, I can’t go. You guys will have to go without me.” “What?” Michelle shouted. “What do you mean?” “I can’t leave everyone, here, unprotected.” She grabbed him by the wrist and dragged him back over to the helicopter where they argued, ferociously. “Okay,” said Alin, rolling his eyes. “We need to go, and we need you to come with us, Starr.” “Absolutely not!” said Starr’s mother. “Mother, shut up!”
“Starr, don’t talk to your mother that way!” “Dad, shut up!” Chanler stormed back up to the group. “Alin, there is no way that Starr can go anywhere. She’s still recovering.” “We can’t leave her behind; Credenza’s orders.” “Credenza’s orders were to protect Starr, and so I’m staying; besides, where’s Credenza? When’s the last time we heard from her? Not since before the virus broke out. We don’t even know if she’s alive.” “Well then I’m staying too.” “Michelle, you can’t stay,” said Saul. “Michelle,” said Alin forcefully. “Get your ass on the helicopter.” She turned around.
“I swear she is driving me cr-r-razy,” Alin rolled his r harshly. “I don’t know how you put up with it,” he shot at Chanler. “Okay, listen. We’ll be back in a week. I expect you to check in with me every three days.” “I expect Starr should be capable of a mission in a week or so.” “Okay, well I expect you all to be ready to leave, when we come back for you.” They walked up to the helicopter, but then it wouldn’t start. Everyone stood, watching them in silence. Finally, the door slid back open, and Saul leapt out, followed by the others. They huddled around the engine; Chanler walked down to them. After a few moments, he returned.
“They’ll have to stay here until it’s working, again.” “They’ll have to sleep in the attic,” said Shane. So Michelle and Chanler spent the day cleaning out the attic, and Alin and Saul worked on the helicopter. Every so often, Alin would run off down the road to other people’s cabins and look for parts. Starr managed to stay awake for most of the day; though she knew it had something to do with the feeling of acid in her stomach. Since the arrival of the Fleet, the kids seemed to want to go outside more. She sat on the dock, watching them fish and jump off the dock, as they did before they were attacked by the vampire mob. Misaki walked past the helicopter, down the dock and sat next to her.
“Michelle and Chanler are fighting, up in the attic,” she said with a slight smirk. “Why doesn’t he just break up with her? She’s a major youknow-what.” “I don’t know,” said Starr, pretending not to care, but using her mind to probe the house and see what they were arguing about. “Because,” interrupted Shane. “When people make promises to each other, they should keep them.” “What’s up, Shane? What’s your problem, now?” “Well, for one, it just seems that trouble follows you wherever you go. Now, instead of these so called Fleet members going off and taking care of business, they’re here, and it’s because of you.” “How can you blame Starr for a helicopter breaking down? For all you know, if they hadn’t stopped, the helicopter would have broken down,
and they’d have died in a crash,” said Misaki angrily. To her surprise, Misty joined in, too, with “If it wasn’t for Starr, none of us would be here right now. We’d still be stuck in the city, risking being blown to pieces for decontamination.” “What about everything I’ve done for you, and for this group, but all you ever do is criticize me and guilt trip me. Now I don’t know what your problem is, but, whatever it is, you need to deal with it and stop putting your issues on me. And, if you don’t like the situation, then you need to leave. You don’t run this show, and you never will.” She looked at them all, rolled her eyes and walked off. “Don’t worry, Starr. She’s just scared. She wants this nightmare to be over with, and for everything to go back to the way it was before,” said Misaki.
“I know that, but I’m sick of her always blaming me. I don’t understand why she doesn’t pick on someone else.” “Because you’re the one always taking on the responsibility. You’re the leader of this group. We all look to you, which makes you an easy target for blame and anger.” “Yeah, well, tell her to get some therapy,” said Kay. “She’s driving us all crazy.”
The Fleet members were there for several more days. Alin and Saul went to town to search the general store for more parts. Chanler stopped coming to visit Starr. Michael, noticing the change in him, took his place, and looked after Starr when Misaki couldn’t. “I don’t know what you see in that backstabber,” he said to her. “He needs to make a choice and stop
stringing you along. Oh, come on, let me kick his ass for you.” “Haha, no don’t. It’s not worth it.” Michelle rarely stayed in the same room with Starr, and was hardly seen at meal times. “That’s because she knows she’s in the enemies house,” Marla said smartly. Chanler didn’t talk to Starr again, until one evening when she sat on the dock, alone, watching yellow and gold rays expand, further, across the sky and turn to violent shades of orange, as birds flew to their resting places in the trees. “Hey, Starr,” he said. She started, and grabbed her head as the blood rush made it pulsate, painfully.
“Oh my, I’m sorry,” he said apologetically. “I didn’t mean to cause you pain.” She leant her elbows on her knees, propped her head in her hands and closed her eyes: it was all she could do when her head pained her. “I’m sorry about Michelle and how she’s been behaving.” She said nothing, but continued to rub her scalp. “She senses that there is something between us.”
She re opened her eyes and sat up. “Did you tell her that there isn’t?” “Yes, but,” he moved closer to her. “I think she can tell that I wish there was.”
He reached out for her hand, but she pulled back quickly. “Wow, you’re reflexes are certainly bouncing back.” “Look, Chanler, just go back to your girlfriend and stay away from me.” He reached out for her hand again, and said, “Starr…” but she yanked back her hand, stood and walked to the end of the dock. “Starr, I like you but I’m seventy years older than you. Michelle, well, she’s been there for me, for a very long time. It’s just not that simple.” “I know it’s not, which is why I’m making it simple for you. When the helicopter is fixed, go to Georgia, and don’t come back.”
He walked up behind her, but she didn’t want to talk anymore. She
turned, and said, “Eventually, even the closest of friends need to part ways.” And then she walked back up to the house. From her left, she heard a rustling in the trees. She turned and went to inspect, but found nothing. Her head started to pound, she wobbled on the spot, and decided to go back to the house. Alin and Saul didn’t return, from town, until the next morning. Chanler cornered her in the kitchen. “So I’m leaving. I feel bad about it.” “We’ll be fine.” “Okay, well, call me if you need anything at all.” Michelle appeared at the door, smelling foul; her jealousy stinking up the kitchen.
They walked out the back door, Starr watched as they climbed inside the helicopter and it lifted. In the center of Starr’s chest, she felt a pulse, and it thumped harder and harder as she followed the helicopter, with her eyes, beyond the mountains. “I’ve been watching you and Misaki practice Tai Chi,” came her mother’s voice from behind. Starr closed her eyes tightly, cursing under her breath. “I’m still not clear on who those people were.” “They’re members of an organization that protects the world from things, like what’s happening in the world, right now.” “Well, they haven’t been doing a good job, have they?” “Actually, they have,” she said angrily.
“So when did you become one of these things?” “You mean, a vampire,” her voice quavered. She was angered by just her nerve to talk to her, but she tried to remain calm and replied, “The night I found Meghan.” “Is it true? Those things you said, about her, the other day?” “Yes.” “Meghan would never do those things. I just don’t believe it.” “Then why did you ask?” “Because I wanted to know.” Starr rolled her eyes and made to leave the kitchen. “Wait, I’m not done yet.” “What? What do you want, Mom?” “Your dad and I plan to leave tomorrow.”
“So?” “I just thought you should know, in case you’d like to come with us.” “Great! Goodbye,” she said angrily, and walked outside faster than she meant to, and stumbled flat onto her face. Shane, who was digging in the flowerbed, helped Starr to her feet.
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