A vampire who leaves his clan was a fool and in my case, one who leaves because he’s fallen in love with a human was a fool with a death wish. That was the kind of fool I was, and that’s what I intended to do that summer night.
I sat on a blanket in my favorite spot of my favorite park. My favorite spot because it gave me an excellent view of the Brooklyn Bridge against the Manhattan skyline. My favorite park because the humans who came here relaxed me. This was the root of my “problem”. The only way humans should relax vampires was with their blood. But watching them interact with one another, hearing the gleeful laughter of their children, how could I hate this species? They reminded me of my own.
Her eyes brightened when she saw me and I must admit, the urge to run to her almost overtook me. But tonight’s escape was sponsored by the word inconspicuous. No one, from my parents to closest friends, knew where I was.
As she bent towards my lips, the gentle wind brushed her hair against my cheek. Blood rushed to a good place. She sat next to me and took my hand. “You know in my people’s culture it’s customary to look happy when you see your girlfriend.”
I turned to her and forced a smile.
She caressed my cheek. “We’ve got each other. Isn’t that what you told me?”
“Well, it’s a different story when you reach the actual day.”
“It doesn’t have to be forever. Maybe after some time your family—”
“It’s forever.” It came out direct. Maybe a little too strong. “Sorry. I don’t want to sound like I’m regretting this.”
“Room for one more?”
I froze at the sound of Franco’s voice. Any other time I wouldn’t be scared of my childhood friend.
“Ryan, what the hell are you doing? I originally planned to watch you a bit longer, but I couldn’t wait. It sounds to me like you’re planning to run away,” he looked at our clasped hands, “with a human.” I recognized no part of my friend in his face or tone. He was thoroughly disgusted with me.
“Her name is Angela.” All concentration went to staying calm. If I tried to run, Franco would see my body language before the thought reached my brain. For now, we were trapped. He knew this and leaned back, steadying himself with his hands.
“That’s nice, you named her. But you still haven’t answered my question.”
“How did you find us?”
He rolled his eyes. “Please. I’ve known about your little rendezvous for quite some time. And before you ask, no, I’ve told know one else. My stealthy skills are the opposite of yours.”
“So glad you asked, my friend! A word, please. In private.”
“Wait here,” I said to Angela, never breaking eye contact with Franco.
After we’d gone a few feet he stopped me. “This is good. Wouldn’t want to leave your human unattended. It might run off if you’re not watching.” I had to try. He looked around as if under attack. “Plus this appears to be the most human free area.”
He placed his hands on my shoulders causing me to tense until I saw a more familiar face. He was concerned. “I’m really trying to understand. You’ve been coming here for months, spending time with that human.” The word “human” seemed to leave a bad taste in his mouth. “I’ve watched you laugh with her. Hold hands with her. Embrace and kiss her. I guess I always knew what I was seeing, but I kept telling myself you must be doing some kind of bizarre research on the enemy. Is running away from your kin part of that too?”
No sense sugarcoating it. Not for Franco. “I love her.”
He stepped back, grimacing, like I’d released poison in the air. I let him process and hoped.
“No. You. Don’t,” he finally said.
“I’m not asking you to understand.”
“So just like that. Poof and Ryan is gone. I guess I don’t deserve an explanation.”
“Oh I tried and you made your position on the matter perfectly clear.” His perplexed expression showed me all my clues were missed. “What did you say about the humans when I dared to suggest they might not be as bad as we’ve been told?”
A spark of recognition, but he wouldn’t answer me.
“You called them vermin. No better than the dirt beneath our feet. And anyone who thought otherwise was a fool.”
“Yeah,” and then with more confidence, “I did and was right. But I missed your cry for help and that’s my fault. I should’ve stopped this sooner.” His eyes left mine for half a second. “Better late than never.”
By the time I turned, he’d grabbed Angela off the blanket and stood behind her with an arm around her shoulders. His face, inches from her neck. I was scared, but a new, stronger emotion brewed inside. “You really need to let go of my girl.”
“Because you’ll do what exactly? I’ve had the same training as you and you wouldn’t have passed without me. I’m not surprised I have to bail you out again.”
“Stop thinking whatever you’re thinking right now.”
“I’m going to kill your human. A quick twist of the neck and it’ll be over. Then you’ll come home with me and forget this nonsense. I won’t hold any of it over your head. You’re just . . . confused.”
I didn’t hear much beyond “kill” and the racing thumps of Angela’s heartbeat. My speed equaled Franco’s, but it still wouldn’t be fast enough to save her. I had to talk him into letting her go.
Before I spoke, Angela stomped Franco’s foot with everything she had. He laughed, looking down. “Did you really—”
My fist sent him airborne. He sailed twenty feet and did another ten across the park grounds. He’d have taken Angela with him if I hadn’t held onto her.
People screamed. Parents grabbed their kids and ran. Someone was dialing 911, no doubt.
I pressed my lips into Angela’s and savored the moment as it might be my last with her. She resisted when I pulled away because of what I was about to say.
“No. Just come with me.”
Franco was up, brushing dirt and grass off himself. “If I don’t finish this, he’ll find us again. I’ll be there, I promise. Go.”
She looked at the exit, then back at me and clutched my arm.
I ripped it away. “If you stay, I’ll be killed and it’ll be your fault because I was worrying about you. Is that what you want?”
That one cut a little deep. There were tears, but her safety trumped hurt feelings. As long as I lived, I’d spend the rest of our lives making up for it.
“I’ll kill you if you die.” A quick kiss and she joined the rest of the fleeing people.
Franco had disappeared. The imprint and drag marks in the grass were the only signs he’d been there. To assume he fled was wishful thinking. He also wouldn’t go after Angela. She was nothing to him, but me? I just chose her over my best friend. His pride needed to be repaired.
“I’m sorry I hit you.” I figured he was within earshot. “I don’t blame you if you never want to speak to me again. Like I said, I don’t expect you to understand. Just let me go and you’ll never see me again.”
“Not good enough.”
Mist suddenly appeared and materialized into Franco inches in front of me. He was halfway through a punch headed for my gut. I instinctively dropped my arms to block, but was too slow and only got part of my palm there in time. It absorbed some of the blow, but I still went down gasping for air. If I’d gotten it full force I wondered if I’d have been gasping at all.
“You think this is just about me?” Franco paced around me. “Have you thought about anyone but yourself? Obviously not.” He kicked me in the same spot he hit, flipping me on my back.
“Do you know what will happen to your parents when word gets out you’ve run off with a human? Your instructors? Your failure is their failure. And what about me? What will people say about your closet confidant? You’ve forced me to kill you, but not even that will quell what you’ve started.” Then he crouched and spoke soothingly like a doctor at his patient’s death bed. “The human. She will have to be sacrificed. I’m truly sorry it’s come to this my friend.”
And then I saw the Franco Grin. The equivalent of crossing one’s fingers. It was his tell, so slight, no one knew it existed but me. He planned to torture Angela. “If I ever got a human alone . . .” was the beginning of many conversations. Some nights I’d tell him it was too much. I guess I always chalked it up to tough guy talk, but now I knew differently.
Was this how little he thought of his “closet confidant”? The moment I went against him, he’d destroy me and everything I loved? Was I just his lackey and friend by default? The thought of this betrayal would hurt, but right now, I was enraged.
I lunged, fangs bared, surprising Franco with my speed. He shielded his throat in time, but that simply meant I bit into his forearm instead. Lucky for him.
The momentum flipped us, putting me on top of him and I held on to his arm. Blood was everywhere. On my face, his chest and running down his arm. He fought back, throwing wild punches I deflected, but each one was harder to do. Instead of blocking his next punch, I caught his fist and pressed until I felt bones breaking. The approaching police sirens broke through my rage and I released Franco.
He scrambled away from me trying to become mist and failing like a beginner. He wouldn’t take his terrified eyes off me. It was strange to see my friend scared of me. I didn’t know anything about me could be scary.
“I’m not going to kill you Franco. I wanted to, but the moment’s passed.”
With the threat of death gone, his swagger returned. “You’ll be sorry,” He held up his injured hand and arm. “These will heal and I’ll be back with the entire clan.”
“I expect nothing less.”
Franco wasn’t prepared for that response and it showed.
“Maybe as little as a minute ago, the thought of the clan after me would be terrifying. Thanks to you, it’s not. We may share genetic similarities, but I now know I’m not like you. Never was.”
“Of course you’re like me and your human would agree if she saw what you did.”
I charged, watching the fear overtake Franco once again and stopped a few steps in front of him. He froze, unsure of what I’d do next.
“Remember the face you just saw because you’ll see it again if the clan comes after me. Yes, I’m sure to be killed, but I promise you’ll be dead before me. I’d rather die being who I am than live long as a fake. Decide what you’re ready for while you heal.”
Franco said something, but I’d already turned my back on him and my old life.
***You can find more about Andrew Mocete here.