Picking through only my favorite clothes I wrap my laptop with a sweater before placing it in the bag. The duffel is already nearly full.
I dig through the drawers trying to pack as quickly as possible. I spot something orange and black that distracts me from the essentials.
Out of sentiment I reach for the stuffed tiger my father had given me when I was small. I give his matted but cozy fur a stroke then pat his head. I was my Dad's ferocious, little tiger baby. There is no challenge too tough for me to handle he'd say.
I wish I had faith in myself like he has for me. Lately, it seemed all I did was fail, lose. I don't feel like the victor he always makes me out to be.
I clear the rising lump in my throat, this is no time to get emotional. Taking the tiger, I placed him with care inside the pack.
I cross the room to open the front door. I had shunned Sam for long enough.
I'm met with an icy stare through Sam's thick, black hair. His arms folded as he leans against the stucco wall.
"That wasn't very nice, you know."
I put palms out giving him a shrug, then continue looking around the room for anything else worth taking.
"So, will I get locked out of open doors too?" I ask, leaving a few clothes hanging out of drawers, making it look like I was ransacked.
"It's doubtful, I don't think we're from the same bloodline."
"What is that, a bloodline? Explain."
"Well..." Sam is thoughtful while running his fingers through his mess of hair, "I'm no expert, but I was told it's based on who turns you. When you are turned you often inherit the strengths and weaknesses of the person who brought you back to life and your maker would have inherited their maker's traits and so on. Like a genetic infection, I guess."
"So... similar to a family tree?" this is fascinating but it also makes me uneasy.
"Yeah, something along those lines," He shifts his weight, "There's a myth that the one who is at the head of the bloodline, think like a supernatural Adam and Eve, had to give up something for their immortality and any extra power they desired. Hence the strengths and weaknesses you inherit when turned."
I sit on my bed, engrossed in this extraordinary story, "So these 'Supernatural Adams and Eves' are Immortal? Meaning they are still alive and kicking?" I make quotations with my finger at the Adam and Eve part, "Wait! Are we immortal?"
He makes a short laughs at my sudden enthusiasm, "In a sense, you and I don't age anymore but that doesn't mean we're invincible, we can still die," he glances at the floor and the corners of his mouth turn down for a brief period before continuing, "And it's possible, there are some vampires that have been around a really long time... like The Thorn." he mutters the last part, he must not like whatever the Thorn is.
"Who or what is The Thorn?"
"Eehh, I can fill you in on those over glorified pricks later," he crinkles his nose waving a hand dismissively, "How long are you planning to keep me waiting out here? Are you almost done?"
I open my mouth to tell him no one is forcing him to stay and he can go if he doesn't like it, but he's actually being quite helpful. I don't want to chance him leaving just yet.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm almost done. Let me grab some stuff from my bathroom."
I push open the door to the dinky bathroom of the cramped studio apartment, noticing I had no need for the light even though it's a windowless bathroom. I flick the lights on anyway out of habit.
I grab my toothbrush off the sink and reach up to open the mirrored cabinet. A gasp escapes me upon seeing my reflection. I drop the toothbrush, almost thinking someone was hiding in my bathroom, I have changed.
I'm still recognizable but it everything is sharper, tighter and more defined. The color of my hazel eyes stands out, brighter and more saturated behind dark lashes. I've always been lucky to have clear skin before but now it's flawless, the milky color flows as if painted without any unsightly dark or reddened spots. Did that run for my life do me wonders, cause I seem to be in the best shape possible.
Even my hair looks amazing, shouldn't it be a rats nest from the running, and falling and dying? Juniper must have cleaned me up a bit too because I'm not wearing makeup anymore, though I almost thought I might have been. I feel a little egotistical thinking so but I'm looking very good.
I stare flabbergasted and mesmerized.
"Ashlen?" Sam calls out from the front door.
"Give me a minute," I shout back feeling silly and vain, trying to pull myself away from my reflection.
Just then the reflection grins at me. I suck in air again. 'What the hell!' I try to pull away but the eyes reflecting back seems to draw me in. The smile widens and the eyes become wild. Am I losing my mind?
I forget about the room I'm in as the volume ramps up to 100. I hear the AC blowing like a raging wind storm, the water swirling around in the clinking pipes behind the drywall, a cricket blaring in my ears like a fire alarm.
And the smells, they all assault me all at once. I'm able to detect what each smell is and where it's coming from. The rotting food in my fridge, the mildewing parts of the bathroom wall from years of humidity and even Sam, I can smell him and where he's been like a fingerprint trail for my nose.
The room appears twisted and warped, everything is pulsating with energy, especially Sam. He has a bizarre green aura that I can somehow see, even though my back is turned. But he's not the energy I'm seeking. I ache for that particular pulsating power and I know exactly what that is.
I ache for blood.
I'm horrified but I don't see my horrified face in the mirror, I see a monstrous face. Shining yellow irises and jagged fangs furrowed into a murderous expression, mocking me with harsh cackles.
"Ashlen? Ash! Hey, answer me, are you ok?" a deep voice hollers.
'Where am I? Is that me?! I need to get out of here!' I can't move, can't speak, I'm paralyzed as the evil twin in the glass pulls me closer with her hypnotic eyes.
"Ahhhhh!" I scream smashing my fist into the mirror. It shatters with a loud crash as the smaller pieces scatter, jingling on the floor and sink.
"Ash! What the hell is going on? Invite me in, damn it!"
I fully exhale while backing up to the wall, pressing into it and sliding down to the tiled floor. 'What was that?'
"Ash? Please say something." Poor guy, he sounds stressed out.
"Don't worry, I'm OK, just give me a second," I respond out of breath, closing my eyes.
"What happened? Will you let me in?"
"Oh nice try! I'm not letting a stranger in my house," I tease, but quickly remember that it's no joke. Sam *is* a stranger, a potentially dangerous person I shouldn't warm up to like I had been.
The tension in his voice eases as he jokes back, "Did you get in a fight with the shower head and lose? Seriously, what the hell could possibly get the jump on you in that tiny bathroom of yours?"
"Just hold on, let me catch my breath."
"Catch your breath? You don't need to breathe anymore."
"Yeah, it'll limit your senses and it feels all wrong, but you don't require oxygen now."
'Seriously?' I thought, picking myself off the ground as I hold my breath. He appears to be right!
"Woah! You're right, that's really weird!" it's more than weird and I don't like it at all. It feels flat out unnatural.
I quickly pluck the items I need from the bathroom so I can get the hell out of here. Shielding my face with my hair to avoid the temptation of glancing at a large broken piece of mirror still hanging in the cabinet. Averting my eyes by looking down at the sink I notice finger sized dents in the wood part beneath the ceramic sink. 'I did that while flipping out?'
I step out into the open, relieved to be out of that room. I see Sam's rigid form darkening the doorway. His shoulder relax upon seeing me. He drops his fighter stance, straightening while taking a long exhale through his nose.
He not only appeared concerned, he looked as if he was about to beat someone senseless. Was he actually worried about me?
He doesn't bombard me with questions, instead just stands with his brows knitted scanning me as if checking for something.
"Why are you staring at me like that?" I crouch down to throw the rest of the supplies in the duffel.
I catch him biting the inside of his cheek he seems to be staring through me now.
"Hello? Earth to Sam?"
He responds promptly, not distracted like I originally assumed, "So you're going to pretend like nothing happened in there?" his eyes narrow a fraction, "Alright, then."
'Yep, I am. What, he expects me to tell him I had a terrifying moment of schizophrenia?' I thought to myself while zipping up the main pocket, kneeing the bloated bag to make sure nothing snags. 'I think not. Best this little incident be forgotten.'
With that I turn my head to Sam, who continues staring blankly.
"That shirt doesn't belong to you, does it?" he informs me at random.
My eyebrows raise as I glance down at the top.
"What?" The one I'm wearing? He's right, this isn't my shirt. Juniper must have put this one since the other was torn to ribbons. I feel incredibly unobservant.
I meet his gaze as he bobs his head, nodding to himself. That mix of emotions I wish I could decipher is rolling off of his stoic features. I can't deny how handsome Sam is, he appears to be my age but his eyes tell me they had experienced more than your average young adult.
"You need blood," his face remains unchanged.
I bite my lip, looking away.
He tosses his head to the side gesturing me to follow outside as he gets ready to head up the stairs, "Just leave your stuff here for now, let's find something to quench your thirst."
I grab the collar of my shirt twisting it in between my fingers, "Something as in a person, right?" I ask fidgeting a little but my feet stay planted.
I'm scared, I don't want to lose control again. If I screw up someone could die, I don't want to do this.
He turns back pursing his lips as he looks me over, "It'll get worse the longer you wait," he glances away, "I know first hand."
I dig my foot into the carpet, still too unsure to move.
He blinks once, ridding himself of that somber expression then turns to me, "I'm going to help you," he gives me a soft smile, I stiffen from almost melting at the sight of his dazzling smile, "It'll be OK, I promise."
He holds out one hand to me, elevating his chin.
I simper back, it's actually comforting. I stroll forward and close the door behind as I step out. He's charming, but I'm not going to be suckered by it. I don't take his hand, instead touching his arm as my eyes crinkle in thanks. His soft eyes seem to recognize my gratitude and he follows me with his gaze as I make my way around him, heading up the stairs.
He climbs the steps after me, falling into lockstep when reaching the top. I steal glances at him occasionally as we walk together. I never imagined speaking to this man or, dare I say, even getting along with him after what happened, but here we were. Paradoxically enough, I feel... safe with him.
I clasp my hand in the other, thinking about the sensation when touching his arm before I went up the stairs.
I sneak one more glance while he's preoccupied shaking that mop of thick hair from his eyes. 'I hope you're not a bad guy, Sam, because I find myself unable to hate you, not even a little.'
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