Mom warned me that being a teenager would suck, but I didn’t find out just how much it sucked until high school.
Well, sucked for me. Lyanna had lots of friends, because she was Lyanna.
She always told me I could come sit with her and her friends, but I always felt like a bat taking a dump in a flowerbed. Everybody was pretty and stylish and they all liked to talk about things that didn’t involve punching. They all liked Lyanna too, but they could never like her as much as I did.
So I didn’t even try.
Some people called me her “anemic guard dog” or even just her “creepy stalker.” It was better if I kept my distance, especially if it made Lyanna happy. A vampire belonged in the shadows, and I was still fast and strong enough to protect her from her natural enemies: mean girls, kidnappers, and guys who wanted to get in her pants.
Dad wanted me to join the baseball team at school, but I kept breaking bats and accidentally hurting the players on the other team. I still liked baseball, though. Just not enough to ever try playing professionally, like Lyanna wanted to do with her art.
Unlike Lyanna, I didn’t know what I wanted to do at all.
“You’ll figure it out someday, Dru,” my twin said. “I know you will.”
“I don’t need to figure anything out,” I argued. “I just wanna be near you.”
“But we can’t be together forever, you know. We have to find our own paths.” She sounded like Mom almost, the way she was acting like she knew best. “And I’m going away to art school soon, if I get accepted.”
She had a point about art school, but only because I accidentally punched through canvases when I was trying to paint and snapped pencils when I was trying to draw. Also, I didn’t have any artistic talent.
“Why can’t I follow your path?” I demanded. “I can go to art school too, as an ‘art helper’ or whatever. I can clean paintbrushes and haul clay around–and maybe life models, as long as they’re not naked.”
“Dru.” She smiled at me, but it was kind of sad. “Would you marry the same man as me, too?”
“…Isn’t that illegal? Because if it’s not, I will. You still have that gross crush on Mr. Landon?” Mr. Landon wasn’t so bad, even if he was pissed off all the time. I’d seen him save Lyanna multiple times over the years, and I could always use some backup.
“He hates me.”
“Want me to punch him until he likes you?” I was only half-kidding. How could anyone hate Lyanna? At least he wasn’t a total player like that blond jerk at school who was always hitting on her.
She sniffled but tried to cover it up. “You can’t force someone to like you. And I don’t want to hurt him.” She smiled, just a little. “He has a pretty face, doesn’t he?”
“It sure is a face, all right.”
One day I went to Mom to get her to agree with me that Lyanna was being silly, but for once, she didn’t. “She’s right, Dru,” Mom said. “I know you two are close, but you’re still your own people. I’d go crazy if I didn’t get a break from your dad sometimes.”
“But Lyanna’s Lyanna and Dad’s Dad,” I argued, scowling at the ceiling. “It’s different.”
“I’d really love for both my daughters to follow their own dreams.” What was with both of them and the whole following thing? Was I really Lyanna’s “creepy stalker”?
“At least we don’t have those bad dreams anymore,” I said with a sigh. “Those butterfly men were the real creepy stalkers.”
Mom gave me a sharp look. “Butterfly men?”
“Yeah, me and Lyanna used to dream about this butterfly palace all the time, and these blue men with wings would watch us. Creepily. One of them would just smile all the time without saying anything.” I made a face. “But one time I did talk to him, and then he screamed and disappeared. Good riddance.”
“Darius,” my mom whispered. She’d gone all pale, even if it wasn’t vampire-pale. “You met Darius?”
“…The butterfly men are real?” I stared at her. “I dunno why, but as a kid, I was so sure one of them was going to take Lyanna away.”
She took a deep breath. “Dru, I think I need to tell you something. But you can’t tell your sister–or your dad. I think…I think you’re the only one who can handle the truth.”
She told me the story–a story that sounded even more made-up than my little kid dreams. She was “accidentally” kidnapped by a pair of fairies, a brother and a sister.
She grew up with them without knowing who she was, not until she was reunited with Uncle Lysander and Grandpa Thad years and years later. And then Grandpa Thad decided he never wanted to live without his daughter and started turning her right in front of Dad, who totally freaked out like a big baby. (Typical Dad.)
And then in a dream, she made a deal with the blue butterfly man for a vampirism cure before she could completely turn, but that didn’t sound like Mom, because who’s dumb enough to make a deal if you don’t know the terms (except for Dad)?
But she got the cure anyway…
“You traded Lyanna for a fruit?” I yelled. “What kind of terrible mom are you?!”
“I wasn’t a mom then,” she said quietly. “I thought I didn’t have anything worth trading. But Darius told me I would someday… I didn’t know, Dru. I didn’t know. But I should’ve.”
Was being a vampire really that bad? Dad was a vampire, and I was a vampire, but Mom hated the idea so much that she was willing to give away her most precious possession to some blue creep who stole kids. But maybe I couldn’t blame her. Being a vampire sucked (and Dad would totally intend the pun).
“Now I’m really glad he’s dead,” I mumbled. “The trade doesn’t count anymore.”
And then she gave me a hug, because at least she hadn’t traded me away to some blue creep. Not that anybody would want me.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. But I got this weird feeling that she wasn’t apologizing just to me, or even to Lyanna.
I never repeated to the story to Lyanna, not even when she headed off for art school. Maybe there really were some things we couldn’t share. But even if that blue creep was gone and the dreams stopped, I still had this feeling…like my sister was in danger.
So while she was away at college, I kept training.
Mom said that “higher education isn’t for everyone,” and Dad said he was homeschooled until his second century and still won us this big house with his “manly comedy skills.” And I didn’t really feel like going to college anyway, so I decided I could be a personal trainer or something instead. I could teach other people how to punch people, or whatever personal trainers did.
I had only one passion, and that passion was punching.
But once Lyanna was done with art school, I could finally be with her again–or at least near her. I found a decent apartment in Starlight Shores (“home to the stars”) that just happened to be right next to where she parked the RV Grandpa Bart and Nana Cor got her as a graduation present.
Celebrities had to stay in shape, so maybe I could find one to train or something. The only bad thing about Starlight Shores was the heat and all the direct sunlight, which was made even worse by the drought that wasn’t showing any signs of ending. Only the rich people had green grass on their lawns, and I missed Fangs Island with all its shade and foliage.
I had to wear a hat and sunglasses whenever I went outside during the day.
But nobody was ever gonna mistake me for a movie star.
I just had to find my first client, and then Lyanna would be so proud of me.
She was looking for work as a makeup artist or a hair stylist or whatever–I tried not to act too interested when she talked about it or she’d try to teach me things she expected me to remember. But during my job search, I grew my hair out to be as shaggy as I could because I knew she really wanted to cut it or style it or whatever a former art student did to hair.
I once asked her why she wanted to do stuff involving hair and makeup and dressing people up instead of real art, but she knew exactly why. “I like people,” she told me, and I could believe it, because she was Lyanna. “Art can be so lonely.”
I couldn’t blame her for not wanting to be lonely. After all those years alone, I was glad to be close to her again.