In high school, I was used to guys being nice to me when they were trying to get closer to Lyanna. But I couldn’t get used to the boss being nice to me just so I’d ask my cousin for her number.
It never went well when I tried, and I tried multiple times just so the boss would stop asking and because the dead human storage house was right across the street from my apartment. But every time, something went wrong.
Last time I tried to talk to her, she got a really weird look in her eyes and asked if I’d “ever been taken on an embalming table or inside a coffin.”
I asked her “taken where,” and then she tried to explain and my ears stopped working and I backed away slowly until I could reach the doors.
So the boss would keep being all weird around me until I got that taken care of, probably. But at least Daisy had sent me out to some “farmers’ market,” which is a place where humans throw all their colorful leaves and roots and other crap on tables under the sun and try to convince other humans to pay for them.
I didn’t really get it, but I was a vampire.
And then someone called my name. Dru.
I didn’t even have to turn around to know who it was.
“You shouldn’t be following me,” I said, crossing my arms even though I wasn’t really mad. Maybe the boss was teaching me to be more dramatic. “I’m working, and that’s stalking.”
“Is stalking bad?”
“It’s a crime. Unless the person you’re stalking stalks your little sister first and leaves his window open at night.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to follow you.” Sunflower sounded all upset, even though anyone could come to a farmers’ market, probably, even shirtless underwear models.
“I don’t care if you do. But if you ever stalk my sister, who’s way prettier and weaker than me…”
“But I don’t know your sister. And I can’t imagine anyone prettier than you…”
“Gross.” He was just trying to butter me up, like the boss, or all those guys who really wanted to talk to my sister instead.
He fell down at the sheer manliness of my glare. When he didn’t get up, I grudgingly held out my arm. “…Lemme help, I guess.”
His hand closed over my forearm–but so lightly that it was like I couldn’t even feel it over my sleeve.
“You’re very kind, Dru.”
I shrugged and started walking away. “I’m supposed to pick up some organic crap for my boss’s personal chef, but I guess you can walk in the same direction if you want. It’s a free market or whatever.”
My mouth felt kind of weird as I sensed him following me. Maybe I’d slept on my fangs wrong.
The flowers at the market were kind of pretty, I guess, but I still didn’t know why anyone would pay money for them.
And then Sunflower started walking ahead of me. “I want to show you something,” he said.
Uh oh. Now it was gonna get creepy. Guys texted the same thing to Lyanna right before sending her gross pics that I deleted before she could see.
“…What?” I wasn’t sure if I was ready for him to slap his organic, locally sourced produce down on the table in front of me. “Are you thinking about doing gross stuff to me?”
“I would never want to do anything you didn’t like.” That was a relief, not a disappointment, because gross stuff was…gross.
I wasn’t sure why I kept following him. I could still punch him in the balls if I had to.
He showed me an empty pot. “I want you to have that,” he said. “If you’ll accept it.”
“There’s nothing there.”
“Are you sure?”
I looked again, and then…
Huh. That was a weird, shiny flower.
I knelt to get a better look. The light around it was kind of weird too, or maybe the sun was just beating down on me really hard.
But when I looked up to ask him what kind of flower it was, he was gone.
I stood up and sighed. Maybe he didn’t like goodbyes, because he was always disappearing without saying anything. And now I’d have to do all this shopping by myself. I was hoping to ask him for help–he seemed like the kind of guy who knew about leaves and roots and all that crap.
…But I took the flower too, when nobody was looking. He said it was for me, so maybe he paid for it, and nobody else said anything when I did.
When I got back to the boss’s place, I could tell Daisy wasn’t too happy, even if she was nice about it. “I don’t know if I can use these… Some are too ripe, and those are all bruised or moldy, and Rhys Straud needs the freshest and the best and presentation matters…”
“Allow me to fetch appropriate replacements, Lady Dru.” Leo sounded kind of tired, but that’d be weird, seeing as how he was a vampire.
“Thanks, Leo.” I was glad to get to go home early–the boss was probably hoping I’d go talk to Ophelia again–since Mom was getting ready to leave for Lucky Palms with Dad soon. She was bending over her suitcases when I got home.
“Hey, Mom,” I said. “Need another souvenir before you go? I could probably swipe one of my boss’s award statues.” He’d let me, if I got Ophelia’s number. I was surprised he didn’t want Lyanna’s instead, but I wasn’t going to draw extra attention to her, especially since we got to see each other at work sometimes.
She sighed. “I have something for you, actually. I wasn’t sure if I should unpack it or not–your grandma meant to give this to you for your birthday years ago and I’ve been lugging it around on every trip to visit you since, but…”
Nana Cor always liked to give her grandkids presents.
Weird that Mom would’ve forgotten to pass it on though, since she remembered everything else. “Here,” she said, grabbing a basket and carrying it over to the only counter space I had in the apartment. A few things fell out.
“…What is that and why is it so big.”
“Is it big?” Mom said with a shrug. “Your grandma called it the ‘Blackwell woman starter size.’”
“…Are those for hanging on a tree or something?”
“How about you ask your sister if you have any more questions? Lyanna’s had her gift basket since she headed off for art school.”
“I don’t think I’m ready to be a woman,” I said. “Unless the guy’s thing is like this big.”
How big had Sunflower’s been, when it was swinging around in the pool water that night we first met? Gross. Why was I even trying to remember after I bleached it from my brain?
“You’ll be okay,” Mom said. “The whole vampire thing probably makes it easier in the beginning. More natural stretch.”
I made gagging noises and hid all the stuff Nana Cor gave me in a drawer. Why’d Mom decide to give that crap to me now? But I didn’t hide the flower Sunflower gave me (or I accidentally stole).
It was weird, and probably stupid since I didn’t love flowers like Lyanna did, but just looking at it made me feel kind of happy. It was my first present from a guy who wasn’t my dad or my grandpa, one that was meant for me and not for me to give to my sister instead…