Mor High’s nerdiest teen and possessor of exceptional academic records and numerous competition awards: me, Ambrosia, or, as my non-existent friends call me, Rose.
Currently, I’m standing in front of the newest resident of the most humdrum, dilapidated suburb of Dehlmore: Tobias.
Well, correction: he actually attempts to pull a chameleon to blend in, but his presence is more prominent than the full moon against the night sky. And just as entrancing. Literally. He’s drop-dead gorgeous.
I clear my throat and adjust my dangly earrings with my left hand as my right knuckles make contact with his door.
Ah, that must be her, Tobias thinks as he finishes arranging his shoe rack.
The door opens almost immediately.
As if he’s been waiting for me.
I clear my throat, swallowing the zest. I still can’t register that fact that I – me, not anyone else –was invited.
“Hey – ” Starting out with a canine-displaying grin, he freezes.
Some red flushes my cheeks, and I can almost hear myself giggling giddily. He thinks I’m beautiful.
Yeesh, that make-up looks… extra.
“May I come in?”
“Y-yeah, of course, sure.”
An average house, with a welcome mat behind the door and portraits in the hallway. I follow him to the small and cozy living room which only has a couch facing a TV and a circular dining table with three seats. Not empty enough to be suspicious or cramped enough to appear extravagant.
“Thanks for coming over, Ambrosia.” His voice is soothing, almost honey-like.
Wow, I could listen to a recording of him sounding syllables all day long.
“No worries.” I pull my hair to the side and intentionally extend my neck to the left. Temptation is just about to check-in.
He becomes aware of my look and says, “Um, did you sprain your neck? I have some spray if you want..."
“N-no,” my voice cracks, so I clear my throat. “Forget it, show me the math homework.”
He beams and pats the table where his books were already laid out.
All prepared, are you now? Disappointed, I plop down on my seat. Issok, issok. Later…
“You sure you can return the favor, right?” Just in case.
“Yeah, of course. What do you want?” He’s bringing over a glass of orange juice for me from the kitchen counter.
“I’ll tell you once we’re done.”
That way, he won’t be able to reject it. I snicker internally.
Three hours later, we slam the books shut, and I snap my head in his direction so fast, it startles him.
I pucker my lips. “So, for my favor…” I lean over and outline his bicep. “Turn me.”
He distances himself nervously. “Huh?”
“Oh, you adorable, adorable creature,” I smirk, grasping his shoulder.
“Please stop, you’re frightening me.”
My face falls. My confidence falls harder.
“I mean… Uh…”
His bottom lip hides behind his teeth. He begins to speak, pauses, and resumes. Then, stops and frowns at me, trying to make sense of something.
“For clarification, what is your favor?”
“I want you to turn me.”
Index finger pointed up, he draws a circle. “Turn you, like turn you around?”
“What – no, you – turn me into your kind! A vampire!”
He blinks, lips parted.
“I mean, you’re temptation’s satisfied, and I’ll become immortal, become a scientist, and find all sorts of cures.”
“Gosh, why are you so uneasy?”
“You…” I gasp, and my self-confidence comes crashing down further like a pillow fort. “You like me… Don’t you…?”
He enunciates, “No…?”
We stare at each other’s vacant faces for a few moments before I slap the table and get to my feet. “What about all that goggling at me? And how you frequently knock into me and how you’re like literally always around me?”
He raises his arms defensively. “Okay, but that was – WAIT!” He loses his seating and collapses to the floor, knocking his chair over in the process. “You know I’m a vampire?”
I cross my arms. “Slow one, aren’t you?”
He inhales a few times to let everything sink in and faces me. “Um… So, I am interested in you, and my original plan was to sort of like… getting to be friends with you?”
“Ah, the ‘slow seduction,’ eh?”
I rub my temples with my knuckles.
“Ah, ah! I don’t want you. I just want your blood.”
“Are you shameless or brutally honest? Or a fool? I can’t figure out which.”
He ignores my comment. “See, I was going to befriend you, confess, and request some blood.”
“Take it.” There’s not a pint of hesitation in my tone.
“Really?” His face lightens up so childishly, it feels pedophilic to imagine him sinking his fangs into me.
I nod. He grabs my hand and leads me to his room, where he gets me to sit down at the foot of his bed.
He shuffles to his bedside drawer, and I know what’s coming. I’m massaging my lips shyly, and when he pivots on his heels, he’s carrying a –
“How else do you want me to take your blood?”
I curse and lie on my back, hands extended to the sides. “Shouldn’t you want to like bite my neck or something? I mean, aren’t vampires horny for blood?”
He tosses the plastic package onto the bed. “Well, that’s disrespectful. And even if I wasn’t asexual, I wouldn’t want to bite someone and inflict pain. That’s just rude.”
I sit up. “You’re asexual?”
I wince, sigh, puff my cheeks, and sigh again. Then, I pout. He waits patiently for me to settle on an expression.
“Tobias, may I borrow a tee and sweatpants? And where’s your washroom?”
“So, you actually came here trying to attract me?” He secures the small band-aid over the minuscule hole he made on my inner elbow.
“Don’t even... Also, I’m calling you Tubs.”
“You owe me some embarrassment.”
After changing out of my unbearably useless and alluring outfit and aggressively removing my make-up, I find myself seated atop his bed. He’s in front of me, but I have to squint to make out his features; the curtains are drawn. Well, I guess he can’t help it since, you know, vampires and sunlight get along as much seduction and I.
He licks his lips at the vial of my blood. “Did you know you have golden blood?”
“No, I’m pretty sure it’s red. Unless vampires are color blind.”
“Rh-null blood. Also known as golden blood. Extremely rare. And very special for me since it can keep me going for days.”
“Are you implying a second request?”
He bats his eyes.
“What have you been drinking all this time?”
“I have a friend who works at the hospital. He steals some for me, and it becomes my daily dinner.”
By now, I’m no longer furious at having my century-long plans of unimaginable discoveries foiled. Rather, I’m beginning to get curious.
“Is that why you picked me? Because of my blood?”
“And you seemed kind of lonely. I thought we could use that as a similar ground to bond.”
“Should I be offended that I’m as lonely as an immortal being?” I mutter under my breath.
“How did you find out that I was a vampire?”
“Everyone suspect as much. Pretty obvious.”
His chin dips briefly as he looks over himself. “What is?”
“Hello? You avoid sunlight, and you’re literally always sleepy at school. Isn’t it because you’re like nocturnal? Oh, oh, and Dave told me you avoid the mirror in the boys’ washroom.”
He’s shock-laughing. “Wha-ha-hat?”
Bottom in place, he falls back and reaches out to the drawer to pull out a handheld mirror.
“Look,” he moves next to me.
And to my utter astonishment, “There’s a freaking reflection!”
“Of course there is. I don’t like mirrors because I don’t like the way I look.” He touches his cheeks. “I’m super pale. I prefer darker, almond-colored skin.”
“It makes me look even paler.” He glances up. “Ah, I forgot, sorry.” He gets up to open the curtains, and true to his word, his skin glowed even more.
“Okay, what about your sleep habits?”
“I’m an insomniac, so I get real sleepy during school. Especially since I’ve been a student for decades… Which I have to continue since it draws attention. Once, I was investigated by child protection authorities.”
I facepalm. “This isn’t even funny anymore.”
“I enjoy this. I didn’t know you guys could misinterpret my actions so much and still come to the right conclusion about my identity.”
He chuckles, and I notice his canines.
“Do you file down your fangs?”
“With tools, yes.”
“But, didn’t you ever use them to suck blood or something?”
“Nope, never. And sucking isn’t necessary because there’s enough pressure in the carotid artery.”
“But but,” I hold up a finger, “but, what about your hypnosis?”
“You hypnotize people with eye contact and get them to do what you want.”
He sucks in his breath. “Um, no. I do hypnotize but with no will of my own. Don’t some of you just automatically get mesmerized because you find me so ‘drop-dead gorgeous’?” He makes air quotes.
I snort guiltily. “Please, you give yourself too much credit.”
“I have exceptional hearing, but hey, I don’t really see such beauty within myself,” he shrugs. “And if you must know, isn’t Steven gay? He’s been like that too.”
Knuckles to my temples, I exhale audibly. “Are there any more common misconceptions I should be informed of?”
“Um,” he drags the syllable a good few seconds before tapping his fingers. “Ah! Garlic. It doesn’t harm me, I just absolutely hate how it makes my mouth smell. I don’t need another reason to be self-conscious.”
“Oh my gosh. Don’t… And the reason vampires need to be invited to houses… Is it because you’re socially inept?”
“When you’re immortal and see loved ones die every few decades, you start to limit your interactions.”
I guess everlasting life comes at a price, eh?
Tobias continues. “Why do you keep using the plural form to refer to me?”
“What do you mean?”
He gawks at me as if expecting me to read the answer so obviously written on his forehead.
“There are no other vampires,” he finally says. “I’m the only one. All those historical and social media depictions are all my silly mistakes.”
“But… Like can’t you bite and convert?”
“Um… No, it doesn’t work that way. The only converting I do is myself into bats, wolv-.”
“What about your parents? You had to have been given birth to.”
“I was born from a pumpkin?”
“Why the hell’s that a question?” I’m offended. It felt like being called a pig. By a pig.
“Because it’s common sense?”
“Like hell, it is!”
I watch him with exasperation, and he stares back. Then, we break into noisy cackles, and I have a feeling this is the beginning of a long friendship.
And if I can find a way to convert myself, a very very long friendship.