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Fantasy Fiction Holiday

My mom has zero taste in men. First, she fell for my dad. Now, it’s a dead guy. 

At least she upgraded.

In my mother’s defense, James isn’t a corpse rotting away in some graveyard like a moldy grapefruit. That would be disgusting. No, my new stepdad is a vampire. It took me forever to understand the logistics behind James’ existence. He’s what they call a “birth vampire,” meaning that his parents were both vampires who had a vampire child (don’t ask how, I don’t know). He’s around my mom’s age, but he is immortal, so I don’t know how that’s going to work out for him. He never died, technically speaking, and according to him, corpses don’t come to life. You’re either born a vampire or you get bitten while you’re alive. He lacks a pulse though, and in my book, that counts as dead. I used to tell Mom this back when I was naive enough to think that if I was convincing enough, Mom would call off the marriage. Heck, I had a whole 5-foot-long list of reasons why I thought James wasn’t worthy of my mother, with the gravity of the statements varying from “He won’t show up on Christmas cards” to “He’ll become crispier that KFC chicken if he goes to the beach.” But alas, despite my valiant efforts, my mom now has a ring on her finger and I now have a vitamin-D-deficient stepdad. Hooray. 

It’s been a month since Mom and I gave up our sunny city life to live with James and his ten-year-old daughter Agatha. It turns out that vampires no longer turn into human-sized fried nuggets in the sun thanks to the brilliance of today’s science. Now, there’s a sunscreen made specifically for vampires so that they can go enjoy the sun safely. Still, the intensity of L.A sunshine is a little too much for James and Agatha, so now we live in  their shadowy house in the middle of nowhere. It’s not that bad, I guess. It’s a simple two-story house, just like the kind that regular people live in. The only difference is that the temperature inside is a few degrees lower than the average house. Again, not that bad, but still. Mom and I still visit the city sometimes, to get some mortals-only quality bonding time that used to be a regular thing between us. Today, we’ve incorporated grocery shopping into our trip. 

“There are so many people here,” I comment, staring at the hordes of people frantically preparing for their Thanksgiving feast last minute. After all, Thanksgiving is today, and clearly quite a few people aren’t ready. That includes my family too. “I guess we don’t have to worry about a turkey shortage though, right Mom?”

Mom glances at me with a mix of sympathy and exasperation. “Adele, I know you’re disappointed that we won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving like we normally do, but-”

“But what? Do you even know what we’re doing on Thanksgiving?” Vampires don’t exactly celebrate Thanksgiving. They have their own little holiday called… actually, I don’t know what it’s called. It’s in some ancient vampire language that I can’t understand, but it’s on the same day as Thanksgiving. The thing is, vampires don’t actually eat food since they only get their required nutrients from blood. Almost any kind of blood will do, and most modern vampires don’t like the taste of human blood, partially because most of them are married to mortals. So instead of pigging out on a variety of Thanksgiving foods like the rest of us, vampires just sit around experimenting with blood “flavors.” Their idea of a feast would be like a very elaborate, family-friendly cocktail, which gets really boring after a while. So, after the blood drinking session, they do other festivities that James won’t tell us about because he “doesn’t want to spoil the surprise.” The reason that we can’t have a hybrid holiday where Mom and I stuff our faces with food while James and Agatha do whatever it is they need to do is because James’ family is coming over, and they already aren’t big fans of Mom since she’s a mortal. If my mother and James can prove that they can still maintain family traditions even though they aren’t a conventional vampire couple, James’ parents might stop giving Mom the cold shoulder (Technically speaking that would be impossible because vampires are naturally always cold to the touch, but you get the picture). Unfortunately, winning over James’ folks means sacrificing our Thanksgiving celebration. 

Mom sighs. “Not exactly, but James knows what he’s doing. Besides, it’s not like our Thanksgivings were conventional in the past.” 

Mom and I spent last Thanksgiving eating mashed potatoes and pumpkin spice ice cream while binge watching Christmas movies. It may not have been traditional, but it’s definitely a thousand times better than watching my mom try to prove her worth to a bunch of boomer vampires. 

My mother ruffles my hair. “Tell you what. If this thing ends up a total success, you and I will celebrate with pumpkin cheesecake and Netflix.” 

“And if it’s a complete failure?”

“The cheesecake would taste like my tears, I guess.”

When we go home, we are greeted by Agatha, who is swathing the whole front porch in spiderwebs as if the house is a present and she’s covering it with sticky giftwrap. 

As far as stepsisters go, especially vampire ones, Agatha isn’t the worst. Sure, she tried to stuff me in a coffin the first time we met (modern vampires sleep in beds like normal people, but Agatha is one of the few who prefer coffins, mostly because Agatha is convinced that she was “born into the wrong generation”), but she’s the one who really taught me about the vampire world. Agatha is a birth vampire just like her father, so she isn’t familiar with mortal customs. I may or may not have been the one to introduce her to fidget spinners and slime, both of which she claimed were “more useless than Dad with a cell phone.” 

“What are you doing?” I ask Agatha now.

“I’m setting up the webs for the spiders,” she replies. “It’s part of our tradition. Because we are so grateful for having the basic necessities of life, we have to give back to less fortunate creatures. So, we hang webs for spiders so that they can spend more time catching prey instead of weaving webs. We also give fruits and vegetables to local animals as thanks for providing us with their blood. You did buy food today, right? I’m sure we can use some of that.”

“Yeah, I think we have carrots or something. Go back to the spiders. You willingly let spiders into your house every year?”

Agatha gives me a funny look. “Yeah, they keep the mosquitoes away. Don’t want those bloodsuckers competing with us, right?”

I guess when she puts  it that way it makes sense. I head inside, where I see James feverishly dusting a bunch of old books. He smiles at me, showing off his fangs (Vampire fangs aren’t actually that long. They’re basically just extra pointy teeth). 

“Hello Adele! Tell me, do these books look like they’ve been read recently?” He hands a a couple of books that look like they’ve been around before the dinosaurs. 

I inspect them carefully. “They look like you just cleaned them off after ignoring them all year.” 

James groans. “Technically those books are supposed to be read daily, but I didn’t really get around to doing that. They are really boring. I’d almost rather eat garlic than read them, but they are very important to my parents, so I’m trying to make an effort.” 

I decide not to tell James that cleaning the books doesn’t count as reading them. Instead, I help Mom put away the groceries. Afterwards, all four of us spend the afternoon deep cleaning the house, which isn’t too hard because James and Agatha can both levitate and run with superspeed. By the time the sun has set, the house is all prepped and ready for a night of vampire celebration. James and Agatha have converted the living room into a space to perform rituals (I still don’t know what kind), and the table is set with a variety of blood (except for human blood) in fancy goblets. James has this blood dispenser too, which is built like a liquor dispenser, so the kitchen is now an at-home vampire bar. James dropped off some fruits and vegetables to a vampire-run food drive that apparently will somehow feed local animals. 

We are all dressed up too. The formal attire for a vampire is a dress and cloak for girls and a suit and cloak for boys. The goal is to leave as little skin showing as possible, possibly to avoid accidental sunburns (Vampires party hard too; festivities can last until morning). Agatha keeps squirming in her outfit. 

“This is so stupid,” she complains. “Why does everything have to be so bland?” Agatha gestures over her dress. “It’s the color of a garbage bag. Can’t I at least add pink barrettes to my hair?” 

“That’s not traditional, love,” James says gently. “It’s only for one day. Just wait a little longer.”

So we wait. And wait. We wait so long that James has to put the blood goblets in his special fridge to keep them from getting gross. When the clock strikes ten, his shoulders slump.

“They aren’t coming,” he announces dejectedly. 

“How do you know that? Maybe there’s just some, uh, bat traffic or something,” Mom says, in a last ditch attempt to be optimistic.

“We should be doing the rituals at this time. My parents would never delay those,” James says gloomily. “That means that they probably already started somewhere else. I can’t believe they would do something like this to us.”

“Are you saying we just got ghosted by vampires?” I ask. “There’s probably some irony in that.”

Mom and James are too distraught to hear me.

“I for one, am glad no one’s showing up,” Agatha declares suddenly. “Everyone is always so boring. Like, they all come in here and talk about the moon cycles or what kind of blood concoction they like best or dumb stuff like that. Oh, and there’s a lot of gossiping. When you’re immortal, you have a lot of time to start drama or get dirt on people. Then we have to do all these rituals and everyone always gets so snobby when I mess something up. The only actual fun part is when another kid comes along, but that’s kind of rare.” Agatha looks at me. “You guys aren’t missing out on much, if we’re being honest.”

“She’s right,” James says, grinning at his daughter. “Vampire get-togethers can be pretty dull.”

“What do you guys do on- what’s it called- Thanksgiving?” Agatha asks. “I’m sure you have a ton of fun.”

Mom and I look at each other and laugh.

We spend the night together, just the four of us. James and Agatha have a contest to see who can drink the most blood in a minute. Agatha is a little too good at  that game, downing 10 goblets in the given time. Mom and I eat mashed potatoes and dino-shaped chicken nuggets, ignoring Agatha’s suggestion of adding “blood gravy” on top. After dinner, we all play games together. James is lousy at poker (Too bad vampires can’t actually read minds) but he does beat everyone at Candy Land. By midnight, Mom and James start cleaning up. I start to pitch in but Agatha tugs on my arm. 

“I want to show you something,” she whispers. “It’s a part of our tradition.”

She forces me through the spider-infested porch into the front lawn. We stand there awkwardly for a moment. 

“So what do you want to show- AAAAHHHH!”

Agatha has scooped me into her arms bridal-style and is now flying at top speed around the house. I am not comfortable with how strong this ten-year-old is, even if she’s a vampire.

“PUT ME DOWN!” I shriek as Agatha zips through the air, laughing.

My stepsister doesn’t set me down until she almost drops me while attempting a dive. Even then, she none too gently plops me on the roof instead of the ground.

“Wasn’t that fun?” Agatha giggles as she floats down beside me.

“FUN?!” I sputter. “I almost died!

Agatha shrugs. “Yeah, but you didn’t. Don’t be such a baby.”

We sit there on the roof, me trying to catch my breath while Agatha patiently waits for me to stop being so pathetic.

“You know, that’s what we do every holiday,” she says. “We fly around, enjoying the night sky together, though we do it in bat form.”

“Is that really it? Is that really all you do for your special holiday? Just a lot of blood drinking and rituals and nighttime flights”

“Don’t forget the part where we summon demons and possess innocent mortals in our basement.”

“WHAT?”

“Kidding, I’m kidding! You can put that shoe down, Adele.”

Agatha and I lay there, drinking in the starlit night. 

“You know, our Thanksgiving traditions were never exciting either. I mean, Mom and I didn’t have a conventional holiday after the divorce three years ago, but when we did, all the day consisted of was critical relatives and awkward conversations. The food wasn’t even that good.”

My stepsister ponders this. “I suppose we both never really had very happy holidays, did we? Do you think that’s a sign?”

I grin at her. “Perhaps.”

“We should make this our tradition,” Agatha proposes. “I do something to scare the bejeezus out of you, and we finish the night off on the roof. That way you can’t get revenge on me no matter what I do, because there’s no way you’re getting off this roof without me. Doesn’t that sound fun?”

“I suppose that would make the holidays a little more interesting.” 

Agatha stands up and offers me her hand. “Let’s get back inside then. The roof will be here for us next year, but I’m pretty sure our parents will kill us now if we don’t go back 

and help them soon.”

I accept her hand. “Okay. How are we going to get off this roof- OH NOT AGAIN!”

I may have mixed feelings about my mother’s marriage, and I sure as heck don’t understand any of this vampire business at all, but at least I can rely on Agatha to be consistently confounding. 

Maybe having a bloodsucking stepfamily won’t be so bad after all.

November 27, 2020 04:45

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