The fangs in Master Harry's smile didn't disturb me at all -- shocking I know, but it was like totally cool. But still I was wondering why he was even in my dream. He, and the now-gone Rory, claimed that I wasn't even dreaming and that I was actually awake on the sandy beach somewhere on the West Coast. The Pacific Ocean crashed and slammed into the shoreline while the pre-dawn fog covered everything I could see. Rory had been banished, thankfully, and Harry was still watching me with an odd look on his face.
"What?" This time it was a question.
The 'vampire' kept answering all of my smart-ass comments -- I hadn't even thought I was asking questions until old Harry here started answering my snotty bits and pieces. I waited while he continued to answer. I didn't think just telling me about my folks' death was all that he had to impart about me being 'special'. Right now all I felt was disoriented and more than a bit confused. God, I'd buried the only people I knew as parents just a few hours ago and I was still bruised and hurt from the accident that'd killed them.
"Look at me, Esmeralda Meredith." He used some booming voice that seemed to vibrate through my entire body. I looked at him since he was totally staring like six inches from my face and waited. I felt that weird feeling in my stomach and pushed it down again.
"Damn, child, you are strong."
I arched an eyebrow; it had taken weeks in front of my bathroom to perfect the move but I thought it was good and from the slight grin on the vampire's face he did too.
"You still aren't convinced, are you?" That was a question I was pretty sure of so I ventured an answer.
"Not in the least. But hey, you've totally distracted me from my so totally absolutely crappy day. I mean I have tons of local news teams camped on my front lawn -- damn, I hope just the locals and not the major networks come to think of it -- and add in that I just buried my folks to top the day. I mean how sucky is that? And don't forget that the rich guy who slammed into us all is probably going to pay his way out of the mess with some mental thing he probably made up with his overpaid lawyer. So yeah, this has not been the best of nights for me. So this little detour my nightmare just took over to the 'Twilight Zone' is greatly appreciated," I honestly admitted.
Master Harry, the supposed vampire, shook his head then sighed.
"This was not how it was supposed to go." He offered.
Again I waited.
"You turned sixteen and that is the recognized age of maturity for us supernatural creatures." Here he just smirked, which I found oddly amusing and I still waited. "And your parents weren't supposed to be dead. Someone overstepped and orchestrated their deaths and nearly yours." He confessed with a sad look.
I didn't have any words. I bit my tongue and let him continue.
"Tonight was to be your initiation into your new life and the world of supernatural creatures. Instead you buried your parents, have news teams camped on your front lawn and Rory screwed up the initial contact. Totally unacceptable, but it is what happened. For that I apologize." He seemed sincere. Yet I wasn't ready to venture a word.
He looked at me -- again trying for that piercing stare, I noticed -- then said, "Esmeralda Meredith, you are part of my clan. You aren't a vampire but I swear to protect you to true death."
Something in how he spoke resonated deep inside me and instead of being freaked out I simply smiled and said, "Well, of course."
My dream began to shift inside my thoughts and I started to wonder if I was totally wrong and I was really on some strange beach along the Pacific Coast in the pre-dawn hours. But I didn't care. I felt comforted by his assurances.
The fog was thickening as morning neared and Master Harry said, "Dawn approaches. I can walk in sunlight, but it isn't pleasant. Do you trust me?"
I thought for a second and said, "Actually I do."
"Thank you, my child. You need to focus on your bed and go back. We will meet again. You are safe for now. Trust me, I will protect you." He was again mere inches from my face but it didn't scare me in the least, but instead I felt relief. And oddly comforted, a thought I shoved deep inside my mind while trying to understand what he'd told me to do. I was supposed to focus on my bed and 'go back?' What the hell did that mean?
Looking at the handsome vampire I decided to give into his suggestion. But not before I asked a simple question, "Will I see you again?"
I know it seemed silly but I asked.
He smiled widely and said, "Of course, Emmy, you are now part of my world."
I liked the nickname and said, "Okay then. I'll go. But don't let Rory near me ever again."
He laughed and said, "I doubt he will make it to the next nightfall. He's made too many mistakes."
Smiling I decided to turn away from the vampire and headed down the beach away from him. While I walked I felt dawn cresting along the eastern horizon. Instead of over-analyzing, I simply gave in and obeyed Master Harry's order. It was like I snapped back in time and with a start I jerked in my bed. It was that feeling I had when I started to fall asleep and was still half awake not quite asleep and suddenly I would jerk unconsciously with my legs and arms flexing with no thought. In no more than a blink of time I found myself in my very familiar bedroom. The blackout shades on my windows didn't allow me to know immediately what time it was, so I turned to see the alarm clock on my nightstand. The light blue illuminated numbers had six twenty-five. Groaning, I figured it was in the morning not evening because I doubted I had slept through the entire day. I glanced closer and saw that the little light for PM wasn't lit so I knew it was in the morning. Sighing, I got up slowly.
As my feet headed for the floor I was stunned to see grains of sand fly off my bedding and I had no words. With huge eyes I stared at my toes and saw that sand and bits of dried seaweed coated my toenails. Automatically I rubbed my left foot across the top of my right foot and felt the rough edges of shells and various remains of marine debris fall down. My mouth gaped as the reality of what happened sunk into my mind.
There was no denying that I'd traveled in my dreams to somewhere real on the West Coast and met apparently very real fanged sort of vampires. It hadn't been dawn yet when I'd 'returned' home but the Pacific Coast was three hours behind me and the sun was beaming on my room. Even with the black out curtains the sun still found its way inside. I pushed aside the worries about daylight and instead focused on what I had thought was a dream and now was apparently reality. So now most of my thoughts were not only behind me but crawling up and down my spine with spiky heels. I shivered and hugged my knees to my chest. I could smell burnt marshmallows and wood scenting my hair.
I hadn't had much sleep but didn't want to spend the day huddled in a ball on my bed. I turned on the television to catch the latest midmorning newsbreak. To my disgust and utter dismay, after the weather was a teasing bit with my home in the background. The smirking anchor shook her head and pretended to be 'announcing' the news not merely reading it from the teleprompter next to the light camera. The next commercial was for some pill that sounded deadlier than the symptoms it was designed to treat. I chewed on my thumbnail and waited to see the story. I wanted to see if it was new footage or something they shot earlier in the day. There was no way I was going to look outside just yet. I had enough to deal with at the moment.
The next three commercials started to tick me off. I was impatient to see what had happened while I'd slept. I mentally smacked my head knowing that I really hadn't 'slept' much. Three or four minutes passed before the news began.
The first story was a quick repeat of the weather forecast followed by a teaser about the local sports team game. Nothing I cared about but I suffered through their smarmy banter and fake smiles. Then the lead anchor looked into the camera and began with, "Thank you, Carl, for that tidbit. I know we can't wait to see how they do tonight. Now, for a local home grown horror story. Let's go live to Cherry at the scene."
With that the station cut away from the studio shot to a well-dressed woman pulling a strand of hair from her mouth as they went 'live' on the street. Naturally I easily identified the home framed ever-so-nicely in the background. Yup, it was my house.
"Thank you, Martin." She smiled slightly then a very thin line creased her absolutely pristine forehead. I think it took a lot of effort given how much Botox had been pierced and shoved beneath her aging face. She used to be an anchor but once she'd crested the golden age of TV -- that seemed to be about thirty now -- I noticed she ended up doing important pieces that involved her standing in nature while grinning stupidly into the camera.
"We are here at the home of the horrifically orphaned local high school student Esmeralda Meredith." I bit back a gasp -- I didn't think they were allowed to say my name but it didn't seem to worry the lady in the least.
"She was snugly tucked in the back seat of the family car when disaster struck." Here she paused and footage from the wreck was shown. I'd missed the news since I'd been taken to the emergency room after pulled out of the car. My heart plummeted seeing the metal smashed and mashed into unrecognizable parts. Then the footage went to the macabre and I watched the bodies of my parents wheeled to a nearby ambulance. That film must have happened long after I'd been taken away because they were covered and obviously dead. I bit back a sob.
"Last night we discovered that Mr. Fletcher was released on minimal bail. His attorney claimed that the suspect had a medical condition that caused him to devastate a young woman." Again she stopped and they showed the film of Mr. Fletcher waving a hand in front of a camera while doing the reverse perp-walk. He had been freed and caused a feeding frenzy with the local news teams last night. I hoped it was only local but then the cameraman swung a bit wide and I saw that there was an army of newscasters poised around the front of my house. I groaned.
"Sadly, this poor young girl may never see justice. Mr. Fletcher's lawyer has garnered support from the family and friends of the suspect saying the man had to be ill and that he is a good man." Cherry shook her head trying to express sadness but her face didn't move much. Obviously the single line across her forehead was the most mobility she had available.
The anchor in the studio broke in with a question, "Cherry, has there been any sign of the poor child?"
Growling I waited to hear what was going to be said while getting off my bed and pacing back and forth.
"No, she hasn't answered the door. But we will stay here until we get a chance to talk with the poor girl." Her beaming smile struck me as rather ugly. There was no way I was going to walk outside any time soon. I reconsidered my thought of dumping all the food brought in during the wake. Sighing I shut off the TV and burrowed back underneath my covers. This wasn't good.