The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 31

“What happened to your face?” I exclaimed to Damon, who now bore wrinkles and other blemishes that aged him by at least fifty years! “You look terrible!”

            “Hey! I think I look great considering I’m over a hundred years old!” Damon pouted. He glanced over to me and observed, “You don’t seem surprised to learn this!”

            I couldn’t help but smile a bit when I perceived how much me witnessing this truth bothered him! I wished that the others could have been there right then because they would have gotten a kick out of this… Also, I would have had more people on my side to fight against these vampires! I knew at some point, our combat would resume, but for the time being, I deemed it best to have him continue talking until I could figure out a better way to battle them than merely running around the room! I responded to the topic he raised, “I’m not. We kinda assumed that you had to be from another century, but what does surprise me is that you went through so much trouble just to get some sort of vengeance against Ms. Bronagh! What did she do? Shut down your speakeasy and foil your illegal alcohol trade?”

            If I had simply requested for him to explain his history with Ms. Bronagh, he probably would have taken that entity’s cue and zipped his lips about the affair, but I purposely made an incorrect guess to bait him into correcting me, and it worked! He angrily spat, “I didn’t know her during Prohibition! That would have been nice! Then she would have really gotten to know me and probably wouldn’t have dumped me!”

            “Wait, you and Ms. Bronagh were an item?” I reacted in astonishment. I made a lot of predictions in my mind as to the reason he had a grudge against her, but that one never came up!

            “What? You think she’s not good enough for me?” Damon snapped. “Well, I was! We were in love! I thought we could tell each other anything, so I told her the truth about when I was born. She laughed like I was kidding, so I showed her my fangs… She didn’t laugh anymore! She freaked out and didn’t want anything more to do with me, and when I begged her to reconsider, she refused! She said she couldn’t trust me anymore and that I broke her heart for lying to her. She kept clutching her chest as she was saying it; I believed she only did that to be dramatic, but apparently, she was having a heart attack! If I knew that, I may have called an ambulance…”

            I questioned him, “So, she broke up with you, and you decided to come in here to get that demon to do a spell to make you appear younger in order to take out your hurt feelings on her students?”

            Damon rebuked that, “He’s not a demon, he’s a guardian of the Netherworld! And I didn’t know the portal to his world was here! I heard rumors that evil spirits lived in this house, and I was convinced that if Martha heard that I died in such an unthinkably horrible way like that, she would be haunted by her decision for an eternity!”         

            “You were gonna give up your whole life just ‘cause a girl ended your relationship? Why would you…?” I realized midsentence that I had a very similar course of action when Lilith announced her intention of divorcing me! I didn’t have any desire to end my life like he did, but I did give up my entire lifestyle after she left me, so it was sort of the same premise, which made me feel wrong for mocking him for what he did! Instead, I brought up, “Sounds like you gave up hope of her ever taking you back! I mean, she was in the hospital for a while, you could have gone there and worked things out! It’s not like she could have run away from you!”

            “No, I couldn’t have done that!” Damon bitterly disagreed. “Once he saw that she almost died, her husband decided to work it out with her!”

            I had this perception of Ms. Bronagh as a sweet, old lady, so it never occurred to me that she may have done something as improper as having a relationship outside of her marriage! It made me wonder if she wasn’t the kindly grandmother that I pictured her as but rather a forecast of Lilith in the future! I had hoped that I could have convinced him to make an attempt to reconcile with his ex in lieu of hurting more innocent children, but obviously that was out the window now! I raced my mind to shell out a way to occupy him further, but I couldn’t manifest anything else to distract him from his desire to murder me and retrieve that key I swallowed, so I knew I couldn’t delay out fight any further! I mentally prepared myself to go head to head with him as I quipped, “Well, the bad news is that your plan at the high school didn’t pan out ,but the good news is that Roxy will probably leave you alone forever after seeing your real face!”

            Damon seethed, “Shut up! I may not be allowed back on campus, but I will get those kids one way or another! As soon as I get the key out of you, I’ll have all of the assistance I need to carry out my plot! Speaking of which, dismember him and get it for me, won’t you?” He stared at the kids expectantly.

            “You told us if we don’t help you, the Netherworld guardian would have us killed! But he can’t touch us right now! So, why should we listen to you anymore?” Corvina challenged him. ‘We’re not gonna kill our teachers and classmates just ‘cause your girlfriend broke up with you for another dude!” Her peers nodded in agreement.

            “Okay, I lied!” Damon admitted. “But so what! You’re all stuck as vampires! It doesn’t benefit you to show humans any kindness! Trust me, no one will accept you for what you are!”

            I cheekily mentioned, “Roxy was willing to date you even though you’re a monster…”

            Damon glared at me, and when he gazed back at the teens, he beheld his allies preparing to flee and hollered, “Fine! If you little assholes won’t assist me, I’ll do the job myself!”

            He lunged at me, but I shifted to the right, so he missed and tumbled face first into the floor! I smirked and went to pin him down, but he kicked his leg out, and if I didn’t move quickly enough, he would have gotten my groin! He missed me, thank goodness, but while swerving away, I lost my grip on the stake and it flew out of my hand! “Oh crap!” I groaned.

            After he tackled me, Damon sneered, “Nice try!” His fangs elongated, and the image of him sucking my blood made my stomach turn! I projectile-vomited into his face, and while he cringed, I threw him off of me and dove for my weapon. He slammed himself onto me and went for my neck, so I rolled over and knocked him off. I went for the spike again, and he grabbed my arm to hold me back. We tugged back and forth for a minute, and then…

            The six teenagers picked him, up, and Corvina commented, “Ugh! You’re both so bad at this!” They positioned him in a way that made his chest exposed, and Corvina let me know, “He’s all yours, Mister Fenmore!”

            For a second, I worried that this was some kind of trap. I mean, it just seemed too easy! But as Damon struggled and shouted obscenities at them, Corvina gazed at me with pleading eyes, and I knew she desperately wanted out of this situation! I grabbed my stake, and Damon bellowed, “You think death will stop me? I’ll find a way to return, and then I’ll make you all pay for this!” I considered his ally from the Netherworld, and I pondered if this threat had any merit. He never fully went into detail about what the Netherworld was or how it worked, and I highly doubted that he would educate me on the subject in his current state! Damon spitefully promised me, “I’m coming for you first! No, your cat! That little piece of shit stole from me and continually defiled my property with her droppings! You want that to happen, huh? I mean me killing you, not the droppings. You know what, I mean both! Both are pretty terrible!”

            “I’ll take my chances!” I didn’t know if he had the ability to follow through with any of that, but I was definitely ready for him to finish talking! I held up my arm, ready to strike, but I hesitated slightly. I was partly trying to recall how I slayed that other vampire, but I started to grow nervous. What if I messed up? I probably would have emboldened him with a victory like that…

            “He can’t do it! He’s too weak!” Damon spoke to the children that held him captive, but he meant to taunt me. “Once he fails, you’ll all be sorry that you-!”

            Phoebe’s voice called out, “Connor? Are you okay?”

            Her mere presence roused all of the courage I needed to do this! I called back to her, “I am now!” I faced my adversary and leered at him. “Goodbye, you undead jagoff!”

            His eyes grew wide as I plunged the spike straight into his chest! He tried to deliver a snappy comeback, but he disintegrated before he could utter another word! For a moment, it didn’t quite feel real, and we stared at the pile of dust where he once stood in disbelief. After a bout of stunned silence, one boy inquired, “Are you gonna barf again?”

            “No, I-.” As I gave my reply, I noticed that all of heir skin had color again! “Hey, you’re cured!”

            “We are?” one girl studied herself in amazement. They attempted to transform into bats and sprout large teeth again, but they couldn’t! “O-M-G! We really are!”

            Corvina gratefully addressed me, “Thank you so much! I’m so sorry we tried to kill you!”

            That’s not something I ever thought I would forgive a person for, but in this circumstance, I made an exception. “It wasn’t your fault! Besides, I couldn’t have stopped him without you guys! I’m glad you were here!”

            ‘I’m glad you’re my teacher!” Corvina complimented me. “No other teacher would have done this for us!”

            “I know a few teachers that would, but you saying that… I…” Tears nearly formed from how warm that gesture made me feel! They seemed to understand why I couldn’t articulate this emotion right then, so they all joyfully gave me a hug. As I hugged them back, I knew without a doubt that I had made the right decision in staying in Terra Belle!
            I heard Phoebe speak again, “Connor! Are you sure you’re okay?”

            It sounded as though she were approaching the building, which would have been harmless but completely pointless. I advised my students, “Let’s get out of here!” They heartily concurred with me, and we rapidly exited that place!

            The kids ran out first, and the police officers who had gathered around the vicinity’s jaws dropped to see the missing children’s arrival at that juncture! When I emerged, I saw Phoebe on the driveway, and as I headed to her, she hurriedly filled me in, “You butt dialed me! I could tell you were confronting Damon, but when I went to your house, your neighbor said you went into the abandoned house, so I-!”

            I cut her off by pulling her up to me and giving her a passionate kiss! She seemed too stunned to kiss me back, so when I unlocked my lips from hers, I apologized, “Sorry! I just wanted to do that before anything else freaky interrupted us again!”

            She grinned broadly at me and retorted, “Okay, but I hope a couple of freaky things still happen!” She winked at me as she conveyed this.

            That wink she did, ooh! I can’t tell you how excited that made me! Prior to me expressing how much I appreciated this, Fletcher complained, “Ugh! It’s great you two finally got together, but could you not put any pictures like that into our heads!”

            “Sorry!” Phoebe giggled.

            “Would you be cool if I said ‘I love you’ to her?” I beseeched my colleagues.

            Ellie asserted, “Yeah, but how ‘bout you get away from the haunted house first!”

            I obliged, “Okay!” I held Phoebe’s soft, warm hand, and we scurried off of that property. I then told Phoebe, “I love you!”

            “I love you too!” She wrapped her arms around me, and we ardently embraced each other! The feel of her lips against mine sent electricity through my veins! Seriously, it felt like heaven! I never experienced a sensation like that, not even with my ex (who I definitely did not want to envision in this instance), and I felt like the luckiest guy in the world in that moment! Can you blame me? I beat the bad guy and got the woman of my dreams, I was incredibly fortunate! I would have liked to get even luckier if there weren’t so many people around…

            “Ah-hem!” Arnold cleared his throat, so I unwillingly halted my romantic efforts and paid attention to the law enforcement in the area. “So… what happened in there?”

            “Our captor’s dead!” Corvina notified him. “His body’s inside that house. You wanna see it?”

            Bill and Arnold eyed the structure apprehensively, and Bill simply decided, “We’ll take you word on it!”

            Once we gave the authorities our story (minus the vampiric parts), a bunch of reporters came to interview us too. I never expected to make national headlines, but with all those vanishing kids reappearing like that, I supposed that it made sense. When the sun came up, the teens all hissed at it out of habit, but thankfully, the bystanders around us didn’t judge them too harshly for it! On the contrary, they reckoned that the poor things had been through a lot, and their amount of exhaustion merited them some immediate sleep! Ginger, Aleck, Fletcher, Ellie, Phoebe, and I all intended to celebrate our win with each other, but we were up all night, so we high fived each other and rain-checked the festivities until we got some rest. Ginger, Aleck, Fletcher, and Ellie all headed back to their abodes to lie down, and Phoebe and I went to my home to lie down in an entirely different way…

            We had a glorious Sunday, but we hardly made it to work on Monday! She gave me a quick peck before darting into her classroom as the bell rang, and I practically floated into my room after that! I sank back down to Earth again pretty fast though! I nearly had a cardiac arrest when I someone else sitting at the teacher’s desk! “Ms. Bronagh?” I queried.

            “You must be my substitute!” she merrily chimed. She had the exact grandmotherly appearance that I imagined she would, so it sort of flabbergasted me that she had such a salacious history in the love department! She suspended that train of thought with, “Didn’t you get the message? My doctors approved me for desk work!”

            “Congratulations!” I hoped I had relayed that with at least some enthusiasm. The truth was that it crushed me to learn this! I had grown such an affection for this school that it pained me to have to leave!

            When I turned to go, she remarked, “Huh? You had a student named Damon Karro?” I paused- for many reasons, this was so awkward, and I didn’t know how to respond! “I used to know a man with that name!”

            I nervously chuckled, “No kidding!” I couldn’t help but stare at her. She had no clue the impact she had by one bad decision in her dating life! When she gave me a quizzical look, I excused myself, “I better go talk to Manuel!”

            Manuel gazed at me with pity. “What’s wrong? You seem so sad!”

            ‘I don’t wanna leave!” I honestly stated. “I like it here!”

            “Wow, really? Even after one of my students tried to kill you, you still feel this way?” he posed to me. I nodded, which delighted him. “Excellent! Oh, I was so worried you would say no to my offer…” My curiosity peaked, and then he announced, “Some of the staff here has recommended you to be a permanent teacher here for a new program we’re starting in the business realm. How does that sound to you?”

            My spirits soared to hear this! “Yes! Thank you so much!” I hugged him tightly, but when it occurred to me that I may have acted improperly, I let go and mumbled, “Sorry!”

            Manuel didn’t seem upset by that uncouth behavior! He tittered, “Now worries! Once we get you certified, we’ll have your classroom ready for you! Welcome to the team!” He smiled at me, and we hugged again.

            As I left his office, I almost literally ran into Roxy! “Oh, hi there!” I uncomfortably greeted her.

            “Oh, Mister Fenmore! Is Damon really gone forever?” she wailed.

            “Well, he did vow to haunt us, so maybe you’ll see him again as a ghost!” I know that might have come across as mean to anyone who heard me say that, but I figured that she was strange enough to get comforted by a concept like that. She did, and she went into the principal’s office all happy again! As I walked away, I prayed that scenario would never come to pass!

            That Saturday, I threw a barbecue at my house to properly celebrate all of our recent victories. I invited my parents since I hadn’t seen them in a while, and when I introduced them to Phoebe, they clearly adored her. Well, they could hardly accuse her of being a gold digger with my meager salary! I got to meet Rowan’s wife at last, and she could have passed as his twin! No wonder I never noticed her before! They were both very nice though, so I didn’t mention that observance to either of them. Ellie, Ginger, Fletcher, and Aleck brought their families too, and combining pleasant conversations we had with my favorite classic rock tunes blasting in the background just made for too much fun! I found it hard to talk to the vampire league in private though. I wanted to thank them for their services in that endeavor, and I made it happen one by one. They thanked me too, and I knew we would be close with each other on a permanent basis! It finally felt as though I was where I was meant to be!

            I wrote this book partly to pay tribute for my crew’s valiant work in stopping a great evil, but I also learned a lesson. My feelings mattered, and I would never put myself in conundrum like my marriage to Lilith again! I deserved to be surrounded by people who valued me no matter what! This whole thing also taught me that constantly trying to be fine all the time was toxic! I defeated Damon because I acknowledged how awful I felt, and that prompted me to do something about it! That action made everything better in the end! But honestly, the main reason I wrote this account was… well… I dealt with f’ing vampires! It was a weird experience, and I can hardly ever talk about it out loud. It was too strange to keep it to myself, so I had to tell my story in this way!

            I’ll end with this epilogue: Recently, Phoebe spent the night at my place, and when I got up to go use the toilet, I could hear that she wasn’t lying about the snoring! I thought it was cute! Just as I was counting my blessings, I happened to glance out the window located right outside the master bathroom. I realized I hadn’t closed the curtains for our time together… oops! As I shut the drapes, I got filled with dread when I saw a group of bats flying into that abandoned house! I reassured myself that I had defeated Damon without a doubt, I had witnesses who could verify that too, so those creatures hadn’t come there for the same reason! It was just a coincidence… right?

The End

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 30

I voiced my thoughts out loud, “How did this get here?” That spoon I found buried in the dirt when I first moved in had somehow found its way back into the ground! As I studied it, I was fairly certain that it was the same spoon, but I supposed that it could have been a twin from the same set. Jett followed me outside, so I queried her, “Are you stealing from someone’s kitchen?” I recalled the excessive amount of dirt on her fur earlier, so I figured that she must have done it. It seemed like the sort of thing that the old man across the street might have in his home, but I couldn’t speculate on that too long. Jett was staring at me with large, worried eyes, and I piteously regarded her, “What’s wrong? Oh! Hey, you’re not in trouble! I just-.”

            Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed someone watching me from that abandoned house! When I glanced up, I saw Damon peering over some rubble! When he could see that he was no longer undetected, he ducked back inside. My outrage over the evening instantly returned! He had managed to elude punishment for his offenses, and it was only a matter of time before he attempted another stunt to hurt the students at the school! I highly doubted that his expulsion would stop his crusade, actually, it would probably make things harder for us! My colleagues and I could no longer glean clues from his behavior at our workplace, so catching him executing his sinister plots would only get more difficult for us! I groaned in frustration! I seriously did not want to go through another week of this hell, but I didn’t know what else to do to stop it from happening again! Nothing we did so far was effective in thwarting his desire to wreak havoc at Rosemary King, and it made no sense to keep doing the same actions over and over and expect a different result, but I couldn’t come up with any other step we could take that would vary from what we already tried! We carried out every measure possible… except for one…

            We never did complete our idea on going inside of the abandoned house! A part of me knew it would be reckless to do such a venture, especially on my own, but I was so full of vinegar from all of the nettlesome events that took place that night that I didn’t want to wait any longer! I had to do something that night! If this drew out any lengthier, I would only succumb to the emotional torture that Damon’s diabolical nature perpetually inflicted on us, and I had enough of that! I still had my stake in my pocket, and every instinct inside myself prompted me to believe I had everything I needed to go forward! I didn’t bother to put the spoon in my home- I marched towards the abandoned house immediately! I didn’t care what it took, it had to end that evening!

            I had trekked up the driveway previously, so that didn’t daunt me too much. It did intimidate me a little when I got closer to the actual structure, but I kept Phoebe and all of the other elements that comprised my future in the forefront of my mind, and that propelled me to go closer and closer. When I neared a spot that appeared as though an entryway once stood, I took a deep breath and set foot inside of the ruins! I sort of expected to encounter a boobytrap after entering the premises, but when nothing precarious occurred, I continued to go in further. A flashlight wasn’t needed since I could espy a faint glow at the other side of the building. When I reached the location where Aleck’s drone malfunctioned, I pondered if I would freeze or experience any other kind of spell-work. When I saw that I could carry on with my mission without a fuss, I observed that the body of this abode became more and more house-like. I could see peeling wallpaper and picture frames that once contained fine portraits, and I was reminded that a family had dwelt here before. It used to be a regular house, and viewing this edifice as though it was just like any other property we visited fueled me to keep traveling through it until I reached the finish line!

            Although no one made any noise, I felt a cold chill that notified me of their presence! Plus, it was the most illuminated section of the house, so obviously Damon and his colony of vampires were in there! I’m not sure why they were trying to hide, it was so evident where they were! I hid next to an opening that I assumed originally held a door, and based on its proximity, it seemed like the area that they occupied used to be a garage. I had no inkling what I would find after crossing the threshold, but I hadn’t come this far to back out right then, so I had to go in there! I took another deep inhale and burst into the room!

            I didn’t behold anything unusual except for Damon cowering behind six teenagers! When he caught my judgmental expression, he strove to play it cool as he greeted me, “Oh hello, Mister Fenmore! I didn’t hear you come in! You know, it’s not really polite to go into someone’s home without knocking!”

            “Aren’t you squatting on someone else’s property?” I retorted. “Also, if you wanna talk about rude behavior, I’d like to highlight the fact that you tried to kill me earlier!”

            “I would leave you alone if you left me alone!” Damon argued. “You don’t have to keep intruding on me!”

            I disagreed, “Oh, I absolutely have to intrude on you! What am I supposed to do, let you feast on the entire student body at Rosemary King?” I paused and added, “You clearly can attack victims outside of the high school, so why are you so focused on getting the kids that go there?”

            He stepped towards me, but his lackeys all lingered by some door on the side of the structure. It surprised me a bit that they all didn’t ambush me at the same time since they outnumbered me seven to one! I mean, I wasn’t going to complain about an easier fight, but it struck me as odd that only Damon stepped up to the plate! I couldn’t linger on that long because Damon responded to me, “That’s personal!”

            “How?” I cried out. “You showed up last month, and no one there recognized you! If you had some history with the people who go there, I’m positive somebody would have mentioned it by now! Well, I guess Ms. Bronagh couldn’t be there to give any kind of…” I trailed off when I observed Damon twitch at the reference to Ms. Bronagh, and my eyebrows furrowed in bewilderment. “Seriously? What could an old lady like her have possibly done to offend you?” He looked too frightened to explain it, so I pressed him more, “What in the world went on between you two?”

            “Don’t’ answer that!” a gnarly, booming voice commanded Damon. It sounded as though it came from the door that the teens were all standing in front of, and while my logical side insisted that a man must have been lurking on the other side of it, I could have sworn that this entity came from some other realm! I couldn’t delve into that with them since that voice probed, “What are you waiting for? You can still attack him without hurting the key!”

            I puzzled, “What key?”

            Damon barked, “Don’t’ get smart with me! If you just hand it over, I may spare your life!”

            I rolled my eyes. “Ooh, a maybe! How tempting!” I couldn’t fathom why Damon and the spooky voice believed I had the key unless both truly bought into the fib I dealt out earlier claiming that I had it in my possession and hid it somewhere super secret! Damon stretched out his hand as if he really anticipated that I would give something to him, and as he did so, I spotted a couple of scratch marks near his wrist. I was about to comment on how an undead creature shouldn’t be able to get scars like that, but then I discerned that I had similar marks on my arm! I got mine from Jett playing too rough, but he couldn’t’ have obtained his from the same source… unless… Perhaps my cat had not stolen from an elderly person’s kitchen after all!

            Damon began to grow impatient and started to lunge towards me, so I pulled out the spoon from my pocket and held it in a manner that implied that I would break it. “Not so fast!” I warned him. “Tell me what happened with Ms. Bronagh or the key gets it!”

            “Alright, alright!” Damon reluctantly relented. “She-.”

            “Don’t’ give him any information!” the voice ordered. “You outnumber him, just get him!”

            The door flew open, and I hoped that a menacing silhouette would get revealed on the other side, but no! It was a giant, swirling purple vortex that floated in an empty space full of a foggy electricity! I gasped in horror, and the seven vampires used my distraction to try and retrieve the spoon. I yanked my hand out of the way prior to anyone obtaining it, but doing so made it get knocked out of my grasp! We all dove for it, but luckily, I was able to pounce on it first! They all piled on top of me and tried to loosen my grip, but my clutch over the spoon was too strong! I knew I couldn’t sustain this protection forever though, so I wracked my brain to find a method to get out of this…

            The voice questioned them, “Why are you all trying to snatch it? One of you bite him! Then you-!”

            While their attention laid elsewhere, I rolled out of their reach! They chased me, and I dodged all of their efforts to seize me! Once that entity witnessed enough of this, he cried out, “Oh, move aside! I’ll take care of him myself!” A ball of lightning flew out in my direction, and I hurried out of the line of fire just in time! The entity went for an encore, but I avoided all of his wrath in this instance too! We repeated this process for a multiple quantity of turns, and while my weariness from all of this exercise did not shock me, seeing that entity show signs of tiredness did! He had to pause and catch his breath, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out where his lungs were! With a slight wheeze to his voice, he directed the vampires, “Okay, you go again!”

            They pursued me around the room again until I crashed into that open door. I fell to the floor, and the monsters all avidly gathered on me! As some of their fangs hungrily elongated and others clawed towards my object of safekeeping, I could distinguish a car light through one of the cracks on the wall. Right as my foes’ teeth were about to sink into me, I uttered out a blatant lie, “Oh look! It’s sunrise!”

            As they all gazed at the light in terror, I squeezed out of their circle unscathed! The voice roared, “It’s not dawn! Finish the job!”

            I noted that the impact of my collision had reclosed the door, so as I darted out of the vampires’ reach again, I dashed to that door. The entity cried out, “No!” as I put the spoon’s handle into the keyhole, and once I latched it shut, a wind blew out and sent us flying across the room! Hitting the wall wasn’t very pleasant, but I felt certain that I had successfully disabled the creepy entity!

            At least, I had kept it at bay temporarily! Damon, whose speech had a much grittier timbre to it, hollered to his underlings, “We can open it again if we get the key back!”

            “I don’t think so!” I stood up and intended on bending the spoon to the point where it would snap, but it wouldn’t budge!

            “He can’t destroy it! You mean this whole time we could have just maimed him without worrying about the key’s safety?” Corvina exclaimed.

            The six teenagers had picked themselves up to heed Damon’s word, but Damon himself hadn’t gotten up yet! He laid on the ground in a heap, and my curiosity peaked. Undoubtedly, the results of me locking that door had unleashed some sort of unfavorable consequence for him, and I ached to unearth what secret he meant to hide from me! I couldn’t investigate it though since I had to flee from some monstrous kids again! I knew I could find a way to obliterate it if I could get it out of the house, but every bid I made for the exit got blocked! One teen grumped, “How can this old guy outrun us?”

            One boy advocated to Corvina, “You should flash him! That’ll slow him down!”

            To convey my disinterest in that image, I shot back,” Ugh! Gag me with a spoon!” I know I head my mother use that expression when I was a youngster, but I hadn’t heard it in ages, so I don’t know why that came out of my mouth! I wanted to use a snappy comeback on them, but instead, I gave them more evidence as to why they should continue to call me old! Regardless of the reason I said it, it did deliver a stroke of inspiration to me…

            I dramatically halted my footfall, and I unhinged my jaws as wide as I could. I cast out all of my feelings of disgust, and I swallowed the key whole! The children all gaped their jaws, and Damon concluded, “Well, now you have to kill him!”             Apparently, he peeked his head up to monitor his crew’s progress. Since my attackers were occupied, I wanted to take this opportunity to say something clever to that jerk, but when I saw his face, my eyes widened in pure astonishment…

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 29

“Is there a problem? There’s a lot of problems with this!” I exclaimed to the police officer. “But there’s not one you can solve unless you’re also a shrink!”

            “Have a good night, sir!” He grinned and waved.

            I muttered, “It’s too late for that!” He laughed and took off. I wished that he could have stayed longer because I was not prepared to face the reality of this appearance! After all of the violence and drama I already endured that day, I did not want to deal with this right then!

            Lilith meekly stepped onto the porch, and I could hardly look at her! It felt as though I was staring at a ghost! A part of me wondered if I actually was, like maybe Damon had successfully killed me after all! It didn’t feel real! A month ago, this reunion was all I ever pined for, but recently, I had finally acknowledged that she would never return, so her showing up at this moment was hard to accept! “Is this a good time to talk?” she timidly asked me.

            “Not really!” I answered honestly. This had been dreadful, but I felt somewhat comforted by the fact that it was finally over! She just took that away from me! I may have been stressed over our never-ending saga with Damon, but I had at least figured out what I wanted to do about my love life! Now that was ruined! It vexed me to no end that she resurfaced just as I decided to move on, and now my relationship dilemma that I thought I had closed up was threatening to open up again indefinitely! Why? Why now? Up until today, she wanted nothing to do with me! The only contact I got from her was when she sent the divorce papers, and when I finally got excited to sign them, she had to materialize and throw a wrench into everything! Or did she? A small beacon of hope shined through her visit, which prompted me to roughly regard her, “I’ll sign the documents tonight and bring it to a divorce lawyer on Monday!”

            “Actually, I wanted to discuss that with you!” she informed me as I pushed past her and tried to go inside the house. My spirits deflated as my expectations to rid myself of this grief instantly evaporated! I shuddered as I anticipated the continuation of this issue that I thought I finally put to rest, and my aggravation over this whole ordeal only heightened when she requested, “Can I come inside?”

            “Fine!” I unwillingly relented. I didn’t dare to believe that this would be a quick conversation, which only incensed me further! As soon as she closed the door behind her, I confronted her, “What do you want?”

            She seemed taken aback by my hostile attitude. “I thought you’d be happy to see me! Isn’t that what you wanted?” 

            I retorted, “I wanted it. WANTED. Words that end in ‘ed’ are past tense. I’m English teacher now, I would know!”

            “So, in the present tense, if I said I want you back, you wouldn’t take me?” she posed to me.

            “What are you talking about?” My brain wouldn’t soak in the words that came out of her mouth! Mom, Dad, the vampire league, everybody agreed that she never loved me in the first place, and it was tough to hear that in the beginning, but once I reviewed the evidence, their conclusion made much more sense to me than my theory of her biding her time to put our marriage back together again. Since she presently contradicted this logic, I had a difficult time comprehending it, a sentiment that only deepened as I recalled the manner in which she walked out on me! “You were adamant about leaving me for that Lucas guy before, now all of a sudden, you changed your mind?”

            Lilith explained, “It wasn’t so sudden! Things were great with Lucas at first, but I didn’t realize that he was spending all of his savings to win me over! He ran out of extra money, and all of my freedom vanished into thin air! We couldn’t afford to go anywhere or do anything! Our evenings together consisted of a bunch of TV and maybe fast food if we were lucky! He considered going grocery shopping our date night! He told me we would have to save up for a vacation, and that wouldn’t happen ‘til sometime next year! And by we, I mean me! I didn’t know I’d end up being the breadwinner! This wasn’t what I signed up for! He misled me!”

            I inquired, “So, you didn’t love him?”

            “Huh?” she replied quizzically.

            “If you really love someone, you find a way to make it work,” I imparted my dad’s wisdom to her. “If you’re truly in love, it doesn’t matter what circumstance you go through, you’re happy just to be together! Easy or hard, fun or boring, rich or poor… For richer or poorer, it’s in all the wedding vows!”

            Lilith mulled it over for a minute. “Hmm… I guess I didn’t love him! But that’s why I took the pittance in our savings account to come here! I missed you! I missed us! I missed our lifestyle! I was wrong to question how much time you spent at work! It provided well for us, and I didn’t fully appreciate that!”

            I would have loved to have heard that before, but it didn’t mean as much to me anymore! She sounded as though she craved the luxurious goods I provided more than the emotions I brought her! I may have been tempted to tear up those divorce papers if I heard her grieve for my absence, but not if she didn’t display any remorse for losing me as a person! I had to get to the bottom of this! “I don’t have that job anymore.”

            “I know, but you can go back to it though, right?” she queried.

            “I could… I think… But what if I don’t want to?” I challenged her.

            Lilith gazed at me in confusion. “What? Why wouldn’t you want to? You can’t afford to do anything fun with your income!”

            I disagreed, “That’s not true! I can afford to listen to good music and hang out with people who also enjoy it! I can afford to throw a barbecue for my neighbors, and I always have enough gas in my car to go anywhere I want! There’s a spot by the mountains that’s just beautiful…” If Damon hadn’t had a presence in that area, that neighborhood by the mountains would have made for a lovely excursion! Naturally, I didn’t mention that to her!

            “So, you’re happy earning a teacher’s salary?” She stared at me in doubt. “Teachers don’t make that much…”

            “Nope! Neither do substitute teachers! That’s what I am!” I reminded her. “I don’t make much money, does that change things for you? Is money all that’s important to you?”

            She shot back, “Of course not! Money isn’t the only thing that matters, but it does matter! A marriage can’t survive on love alone! If you can’t agree on how to spend it, your relationship won’t last! You’re a great guy, but you’re capable of doing more than what you are! Why would you choose to limit your potential?”

            I let her know, “Listen, I used to think I made a difference by selling medicine, but truthfully, I never even bothered to find out if any of it worked! Sure, I had a lot of fun earning a high commission, but there’s no greater thrill than seeing the impact you made on someone’s future! These kids look up to me, and even though this job involves a lot of tediousness, a few bratty children, and some…” I almost mentioned the vampire hunts! “… Some hard work, it makes me feel amazing inside to be able to make a true difference! And I thought my coworkers at Novak Neander were like a second family, but I met some teachers here who were there for me when I needed them the most! I don’t wanna leave them! I don’t wanna leave my students either! I wanna stay where I’m at!”

            “Is this a test?” Lilith wanted to know. “You’re mad ‘cause I slept with someone else, which I totally get! You have every reason to be pissed about that! But you don’t need to test me, I’ll love you no matter what! Now, is it too late to go back to the penthouse?” She espied the irate expression on my face, so she surmised, “Oh gosh, you were serious! You want us to live in this hovel on a meager salary?”

            “This house isn’t so bad! It needs a little work, but once it’s done, it’ll be a really nice place! Maybe the view isn’t so great, but…” I indicated to the abandoned house across the street. She grimaced, but I don’t think that had anything to do with the eyesore on the other side of the road! “Lilith, are you coming back to me or my money?”

            She rolled her eyes at that. “You sound like your mom on our wedding day! I can earn my own money, I just don’t like being the only one making the big bucks!”

            I pressed her, “So, you’ll love me no matter what?”

            Lilith clicked her tongue in annoyance. “Yes! I already said I would!”

            “Say it!” I prodded her.

            “Seriously? Again?” she complained.

            I directed her, “Tell me you love me even though I’m broke!”

            She dodged that, “Connor, don’t be ridiculous! You’ve known me for over twelve years, you should know how I feel!”

            “I need you to say it like you mean it!” I insisted.

            “Fine!” she begrudgingly complied. “I love you! I love you even though… you’re… not well off right now! Are we good now?”

            I told her, “Not yet. I need you to promise me that if Lucas ever came into a fortune that you won’t care, you’ll stick by me forever!”

            She hesitated before assuring me, “I doubt that’ll happen! It turns out people in the software industry don’t make a lot of money! Who know, right?” I shook my head in disappointment, and she exasperatedly sighed, “Okay, I promise! Jeez, I didn’t think you’d fight so hard to stay in Terrible!”

            “It’s Terra Belle!” I corrected her. Truthfully, I never envisioned myself staying in this town either, but it was starting to grow on me! Plus, I couldn’t leave until the whole vampiric crisis got settled. The reminder of that made me cringe; whatever resulted from this spat with Lilith, I still had that daunting task looming over my head!

            “Sorry! I didn’t know it was Terra-Belle to you now! Sheesh! So, now will you…” She heard some scratching at the front door, so she asked, “What’s that noise?”

            I let Jett inside, and I answered Lilith, “It’s my cat!”

            She gazed at my pet with a not-so-subtle disgust. “Ew! It came from outside! It’s probably super dirty!”

            “She’s not that dirty!” I defended her seconds before Jett shook some dirt off of herself.

            “Gross!” Lilith lifted her foot as if she were going to kick her!

            I scooped my kitty up and hollered at Lilith, “Don’t you dare hurt a helpless little animal!”

            Lilith refuted that notion, “I wasn’t gonna clobber it, for heaven’s sake! Are you implying that I should have let that thing gunk up my clothes? These are dry clean only!”

            That was the last straw for me! I never used to like animals, but I definitely would never have harmed them! Since I had such a strong relationship with Jett, it tore me apart to imagine her getting injured, especially over something so trite! I set Jett down in a spot away from Lilith and marched over to the table where I had the divorce papers. Lilith must have sensed what I was about to do because she enquired, “What are you doing?”

            “Building a rocket!” I responded sarcastically as I grabbed a pen.

            “No! I don’t want that anymore!” Lilith shrieked as I put pen to paper.

            I firmly stated. “I do!” With horror, she watched as I inked my signature on the first page. I didn’t see what she did while I signed the rest of it, but I didn’t care what she did to be frank! I was too inflamed by her callous behavior! That and the vampire thing, which wasn’t her fault, but she deserved all the wrath I gave her! Once I finished, I stared at it incredulously. I had been afraid to do this for so long, and now I regretted not doing it sooner! I was so relieved that I had found a way out of at least one mess! I hated these documents for a long time, but now they became like a small key to unlocking a bit of freedom!

            After a bout of silence, Lilith remarked, “You changed!”

            “Yes, I did! And you never will! So, we can’t be together anymore! Goodbye, Lilith!” I opened the front door and beckoned her to use it.

            “Fine! I’m going!” As she stomped her way out of my house, she observed something on the opposite side of the cul-de-sac. “I hope those bats give you a disease, you penniless asshole!”

            As she trudged over to her car, I observed that the half dozen bats that I tangled with at the school had made their way back to their derelict headquarters. I considered joking to my soon-to-be ex that I hoped that they bit her and turned her into a vampire, but I refrained from doing so. As much as I disliked Lilith right then for her cruelty to small creatures and her greed, I didn’t’ want her to meet that kind of fate! If I had been forced to drive a stake through her heart, I would have made our separation process super easy, but I decided to take the higher road… Sort of. I sardonically called out to her, “Oh no, come back! Come on, love me for my money! Come on, come on, listen to the money talk!” She stopped and stared at me particularly, and so I pouted, “It’s AC/DC! You never appreciated my music!” She shook her head and hurried into her vehicle.

            I supposed I should have felt devastated by the sight of her peeling off, a person I knew for over a decade, a person I used to love, but it actually felt great to have gotten closure on one conflict that I feared would be ceaseless! I didn’t dwell on that sensation though; I got rid of huge problem, but I had another big one almost literally staring me dead in the eyes! In the exact moment I was wishing I could resolve the ordeal with Damon that night also, I spotted something strange in the dirt…

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 28

“Oh man, I wish I wore more comfortable shoes for this!” Phoebe bemoaned as she winced while we sped over to the bleachers. “We all knew this was coming, so why oh why did I wear heels for this?”

            “My dress shoes don’t have much of a heel, but my feet are already aching from earlier!” Aleck shared her pain both literally and figuratively.

            Ellie and Fletcher didn’t voice their opinions, but the looks on their faces clearly indicated that they were just as sore as Phoebe and Aleck. Ginger walked backwards in front of them in very tall stilettos and commented, “I feel fine! I got used to it after a while, didn’t you?” The hurting four glared at her in response.

            I was used to doing a lot of walking in nice shoes from my days of working in sales, but I didn’t divulge this perspective with them. I couldn’t when we had more urgent matters at hand! “Guys, don’t forget we’re about to face some monsters here…”

            “Hold it!” Ellie commanded.

            “You’re not just saying that to give your feet a break, are you?” I probed.

            Ellie asserted, “No, that’s just a benefit of it! I was gonna say let’s not just barge in here! I really doubt Damon went all the way to the bleachers solely to feast on that girl! He could have done that outside the gym or even in one of the bathrooms! We need to be careful about what we’re walking into!”

            We all knew she was right, so we approached our destination a little more cautiously. When we got closer, we didn’t see any signs of vampires or bats or anything, so Fletcher suggested, “We should spread out to cover more ground.”

            “We shouldn’t go in there alone though!” Ginger objected. “We’ll just make ourselves easy targets!”

            “No, we won’t!” Phoebe disagreed. “Damon wouldn’t be satisfied by only getting one of us, he’s after all of us! He’s waiting for us to all come to a certain spot in here, so if only one of us hits their mark, he’ll wait for the rest of us to come to the rescue! Fletcher’s plan is foolproof! Well, except for the fact that some of us will have to do more running in these damn shoes…” The hurting four all groaned at that prospect, but despite any ill feelings, we all spread out and began our search.

            We used the flashlights on our phones to scan every inch and crevice of the bleachers, but so far, we didn’t see any sign of an evil plot threatening to get unleashed! I noticed another set of bleachers on the other side of the field, but I wasn’t about to mention that right then! I’m sure most of us didn’t want to do anymore traveling, and the last thing we needed in this instance was to get distracted! We already let our guards down at the dance, and we couldn’t let that happen again! Besides, I wanted to keep it quiet so we could detect the slightest sound of our foes’ activity! Once we had done quite a lot of investigating, I thought that if Roxy hadn’t been so genuinely upset about this occurrence, I would have sworn that she lied to us on behalf of that sociopath! After studying every inch of this area thoroughly, we had to conclude that neither Damon nor any of his crew were there. Aleck concluded, “Guys, I hate to say it, but I think we need to look on the other side.” I heard some moaning, but we all agreed to do it.

            We headed towards the exit when, all of a sudden, a set of bars slid down from the top of the structure and closed us all in! We tried to shift the barriers so they no longer obstructed our path out, but they wouldn’t budge! We heard a cacophony of laughter from above us, and then a group of bats flew from the top of the announcer’s box down to our enclosure! Their bat forms could squeeze through the bars, and when they morphed into their vampiric forms, we only saw our former students in the cage with us! They glanced around in confusion, not even paying attention to Damon popping out of the snack stand with a dagger to a girl’s throat! It stunned me when I recognized his victim, “Lisa?”

            Lisa didn’t say anything, but I couldn’t blame her! If I were in her place, I would stay quiet too! Of course, I wasn’t in such a great place either, or at least I thought so at first! Damon looked at us all in puzzlement, and then Corvina hollered, “You said that they would be easy to corner ‘cause they always stick together!”

            “Wow, my idea was better than I thought!” Fletcher remarked.

            “What do we do now?” one student asked.

            Aleck answered, “Pack up and go home!”

            They almost did as he requested, but then Damon barked, “No! No one is going anywhere!”

            ‘Damn!” Aleck lamented as the minions went back into a ready position.

            “Each of you pick a teacher and destroy them!” Damon ordered.

            One of his underlings inquired, “Who gets who though?”

            Corvina replied, “You get that skinny girl at the end, she looks easy to fight!”

            “Wanna bet?” Ginger retorted.

            “I can handle a tough one!” that particular vampire insisted. “Just ‘cause I’m the newest doesn’t mean I’m the weakest!”

            Corvina shrugged. “Fine, then take the skinny one at the end! And you take that big guy right here.”

            One of the males argued, “Who says you get to decide?”

            “Well, which one did you want?” Corvina shot back. “The old lady?”

            “Uh, you know our names!” Ellie pointed out. “Did your transformation wipe out your memories or just make you meaner?”

            Another male spoke up, “I’ll take the honor of taking down their little ringleader!” He indicated to me.

            Corvina refused, “No way! If anyone gets to bring him down, it’s gonna be me!”

            The six students all bickered with each other, and despite the peril we were all in, I couldn’t help but note that even though they had taken on a monstrous new nature, they were all still children at their cores! Damon put a halt to this feud by shrieking, “Enough!’ They all hushed at once, and then Damon addressed us, “Here’s the deal: you have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide! If you don’t submit quietly, we’ll take you by force! If anyone tries to go near me, the girl gets it! Any questions?”

            “So, who gets the ringleader?” one of the students queried.

            “I DON’T CARE!” Damon roared. “Pick someone now or I’ll slay you myself!”

            His lackeys immediately spread out amongst us, and Corvina ended up facing me after all. She circled me like a predatory bird preparing to nab its prey, and she seethed, “So, we meet again!” I didn’t reply, I was too preoccupied with the dreadful concept of having to fight and possibly kill a student! I didn’t know if she could ever switch back to her normal self again, but if I drove a stake through her heart, there wouldn’t have been any chance to revive her! I wasn’t intending to sacrifice my life for hers, but I didn’t see any way to get out of that predicament alive without killing her! As my mind raced to unearth some last-minute alternatives, she taunted me, “I’m starving! Think you could help me out?”

            I recalled her mother calling the school subsequent to Corvina’s disappearance, and I knew how devasted she had become from what she hoped was a temporary loss, so it pained me to picture how she would react to her daughter becoming a mere pile of dust! I really wished that I could have gotten that image out of my head, but it turned out to be more of a good thing since it gave me a snappy comeback to use against her quip, “Absolutely! I can give you a ride to your mother’s house, she’d love to have dinner with you!”

            “Don’t even joke about that!” Corvina hissed. ‘I can’t go back home! I’d only end up getting my relatives involved in this, and that’s the last thing I want!”

            “You can go back to visit without sucking their blood! They’d still welcome you back, it’s not like they would lock you out… unless… Hey, did that key you were hunting for unlock your folks’ place?” I guessed. She froze upon receiving that reminder, and, for a moment, I assumed that my hunch had merit because it seemed like I had hit a soft spot with the topic of her family, but when I mentioned the key, I could see that I had gotten Damon’s attention, so I started to doubt that theory. Damon’s expression had grown nettled, which could only have meant that I reached a sore subject with him! Realizing this led me to a possible way out of this conundrum without hurting any kids! I jeered, “Gee, it’s too bad that I have to die tonight! Now you’ll never get to find out where that key is!”

            Damon spat, “You’re lying! You have no clue on its appearance, you couldn’t possibly have figure it out!”

            I lied, “Oh, but I have! And I’ve hidden it in a location where you will never be able to detect it! The only way you’ll get your hands on it again is with my assistance!”

            “He’s bluffing!” Damon proclaimed to his underlings, who had ceased their efforts against my colleagues in wake of this dilemma I devised. “He’s only saying that drivel so he can trick us into sparing their lives! He was just asking Corvina if the key went to her house!”

            “Only to mock her!” I fibbed. “I knew that key could never open up her home, I only wanted to play with her heartstrings!”

            Corvina brought up, “What if he’s telling the truth? Then we may never be able to get back in-!”

            Damon cut her off, “Quiet! We don’t need to reveal all of our secrets right before we murder them! We-!”

            “You’re going to do what to them?” Manuel bellowed from behind him. Damon turned towards him in horror, and with this momentary distraction, Lisa swiftly did a martial arts maneuver to knock the dagger out of his hands, elbow him in the face, and escape his hold! She ran into her date’s arms crying, and Manuel demanded to know, “What is going on here?”

            “We’ve found the lost children!” Phoebe relayed to him. “They were forced to do Damon’s bidding! He wanted them to kill us!”

            Damon refuted that, “She’s lying!”

            Ginger redressed that mistruth, “Yeah, right! Like we got ourselves trapped on purpose!”

            Manuel let out an audible sigh and then sadly told Damon, “I’m sorry, young man! I have no choice but to have you expelled! And I should probably call the cops too.” He pulled out his cellphone and dialed for emergency services, “Yes, this is Principal Pallilo of Rosemary King High School. I have a homicidal student here who tried to take out several members of my staff as well as some of his peers.” Another teacher came out of the gymnasium, and Manuel quickly let him know, “We’re gonna be a while! Go take care of Homecoming!”

            During his brief dialogue with one of his faculty members, Damon and his followers turned into bats and flew away! I could hardly absorb this development! We nearly had this entire ordeal wrapped up, and instead, he managed to elude consequences again! I was incensed, this nightmare absolutely refused to leave us alone! Manuel swiveled back around, and his eyes grew wide when he beheld the man disappearances. “What the-?” he exclaimed. “Where did they all go?”

            “They all changed into bats and flew off!” Lisa reported. She and her date lost all of the color in their faces as they tried to soak in what they had witnessed.

            “Oh, you poor thing! It has been such a long night for you!” Manuel pat her sympathetically before quizzing us, “How did they really vanish?”

            We all played dumb, which addled Manuel completely. He returned to his phone call, and the police soon came to investigate. They were baffled by the methodology that Damon and his crew used to go on the lam without any detection, and Lisa plus her beau took our cue and zipped their lips about the true nature of our adversaries. I yearned to educate them as to why we didn’t disclose this knowledge with anyone, but we didn’t get a second to be ourselves with them. The campus got flooded with investigators who attempted to solve the mystery of what occurred there, but all they could do was attribute their vanishment with some type of aerial stunt and that any equipment involved in that feat had left with them. Firefighters had to use special tools to free us from our entrapment, and law enforcement insisted on following us home to make sure we didn’t get ambushed again. My irritation with this outcome only increased since I didn’t get the opportunity to speak to Phoebe regarding our near embrace! Yes, I felt glad that we had all survived, but I was more than ready to have this vampiric drama finished that day, so I couldn’t resist the stinging feeling this defeat offered me!

            The officer who had escorted me to my place watched me go up to my porch, and while I thanked him for his services, I was inwardly cursing this whole situation! I dreaded having to encounter that fiend once more, and I began to lose hope of ever getting any closure! Right before I set foot on my front stoop, a shadowy figure stepped out of my mud room! It flabbergasted me to see this individual, which prompted the police officer to interrogate me, “Is there a problem, sir?” I didn’t know what to tell him…

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 27

“Just let it go!” Ellie advised me as we taped neon-colored balloons to an archway by the entrance of the gymnasium.

            “I can’t!” I refused. “The theme of the dance is ‘Eighties Days,’ and the deejay has yet to play a single song from that decade!”

            She argued, “It’s what the kids listen to these days!”

            I countered with, “They’re not even here yet! Why can’t he play some music for the adults in the room?” I had been dreading this night for the last few days since I knew Damon had some kind of dastardly stunt planned for tonight, and the one aspect of the evening that consoled me was that the throwback concept promised to be wonderfully nostalgic, and now that was out the window! Between the music and the gaudy decorations, the children who devised the details of this event clearly didn’t get the essence of this amazing period of time! I didn’t understand why it didn’t bother Ellie; she was young in this era, how could it not drive her crazy? Ellie had evidently grown tired of discussing the issue because stopped engaging with me, so I glanced around the room for Phoebe- she was a fan of classic rock, so she would probably have shared my sentiments! “Phoebe isn’t here yet? I’m starting to get worried!”

            “Didn’t you get her text?” Aleck queried as he pasted construction paper onto a large box in order to create a multi-colored cube. “The guy finished putting on the replacement tire and she’s on her way now.”

            “Ugh! These damn things are impossible to do!” Fletcher loudly complained as he struggled to redo his bow tie.

            Ginger set down her streamers and rushed over to help him. “I told you that you shouldn’t have taken if off!”

            Fletcher differed with her, “I had to use a ladder to put up those f’ing stars! I wasn’t about to ruin my only tux for that!”

            “Whew! I made it before the students were invited in!” I heard Phoebe’s voice say.

            “Yeah, we still have a little while before we…” My sentence trailed off when I laid my eyes on her appearance for the occasion- she took my breath away! She wore a gown that perfectly highlighted her curves while simultaneously conveying an aura of elegance, and her makeup and hair got done in such a luxurious way, so I couldn’t help but stare! However, when I realized I was gawking like an idiot, I quickly shook myself out of my reverie and kidded with her, “Did you really have car trouble? If you gotta rob an A-lister of her red-carpet dress, you shouldn’t wait ‘til the last minute to do it!”

            She grinned and retorted, “Don’t tell me how to commit my crimes!” I can’t articulate how attractive I found her quip! I didn’t have a chance to say that to her though; right after those words came out of her mouth, Manuel walked by and gave her a peculiar gaze for that remark! She clarified for him, “It was a joke!”

            Manuel seemed relieved to hear that. “Oh good! Okay everyone, spread out! We’re opening the doors for our students!”

            All six of us spanned out to different parts of the section that got designated as the dance floor. I disliked the idea of not being able to speak with my colleagues, but we had to be present in all parts of the forum to make sure Damon had eyes on him at all times! I would have loved to chat with Phoebe and gauge her feelings about possibly starting up a relationship with me, but that would be impossible to do that night, which may not have been such a terrible thing- that definitely would have distracted me from our mission! I hadn’t seen Damon or any of his remaining cronies near the vicinity, so I didn’t think he had any boobytraps in store for us, but I knew he had something drastic in mind for us! I don’t think he would have agreed to put up with Roxy for a few hours if it didn’t work out to his advantage in some way! Whatever it was, I hoped that we could foil it early so that we might be able to enjoy the rest of the weekend!

            I stationed myself close to the entrance, so I ended up greeting the attendees with some other teacher I hadn’t acquainted myself with yet as they came in. Everyone ogled at the décor and was very complimentary of how fitting they were to the date it covered, and I had to bite my tongue to refrain from debating that with them! Right when I was guessing that this shift was going to be a very long one, I saw that shy boy with that Lisa girl! When he spotted me, he gratefully regarded me, “Thanks for the advice!” He headed to the dance floor in an elated mood, and it made me feel all warm inside to see the impact I had on him!

            “Hey, Mister Fenmore!” Colin hailed me. It sort of shocked me that someone who acted like a total punk would have any interest in going to something like this, and it astonished me more when I beheld how good he looked in a suit! My thoughts must have been apparent on my face because he addressed me, “Yeah, I never pictured myself like this either, but ever since you lectured me on thinking about the future, I decided to start straightening up more! You know, it’s been kind of fun! I’m glad you convinced me to do this!”

            “Happy to be of service!” I swelled with pride as I watched him escort his girlfriend over to the punch bowl! It felt nice to know that I played a part in Lisa and her beau getting together, but knowing that I had a truly profound influence on a child’s life was glorious on a whole other level! It felt better than even the highest sale I ever got, and at that moment, I understood what Ellie had meant when she described the reason she always got pulled back into teaching even after all the stress she endured from the misbehaved ones! I wondered if this had been a sign for what I ought to do with those divorce papers…

            This brief instance of gratification got unceremoniously interrupted when I heard Damon leer, “Hello, Mister Fenmore!” He sneered at me as if he was silently indicating that he intended to unleash some venom on me at some point during this venture, and I steeled my nerves up to guarantee that I showed him no fear! For a few seconds, we both simply glared at each other…

            Roxy, who was over the moon about being there and totally oblivious to the tension that rose up around her, waved at me enthusiastically. “Hi, Mister Fenmore! Ooh, I love this song! Come on, Damon!” She almost literally dragged Damon out to the dance floor, and it would have been quite humorous to watch if I didn’t have the mindset of thwarting his sinister plot as soon as possible!

            Whatever Damon had planned for his scheme, I assumed that he wouldn’t waste time in enacting it, but after over an hour, nothing significant happened yet! He did frequently break away from Roxy to talk to other people, but we didn’t catch any hints of a plan unfolding imminently. All he seemed to want to do is break away from Roxy, but she followed him around like a little puppy dog, so I’m not sure why he kept utilizing that failed tactic to lose her! If he had any other motive to do this other than shaking off Roxy, we would have caught it right away because we always made our way to him when he did this, so none of us really had too much suspicion about this behavior. Once the dance was half over without any major incidents occurring, I grew very puzzled. Clearly, he wasn’t enjoying himself, so why had he come here? He was up to something, I wouldn’t believe any evidence to the contrary!

            I began to lose patience with this whole ordeal… and this music! It still drove me bonkers that they had an eighties-themed homecoming without a single old-school hit got played! When I saw Aleck hovering over another one of Damon’s conversation breaks, so I figured I had a minute or two to reprieve myself from the monster vigilance. I took the opportunity to approach the deejay, and I griped, “Come on, dude! It’s Eighties Days, and you’re only playing modern tunes! Don’t you have any Journey, REO Speedwagon, Bon Jovie, something along those lines?”

            The deejay scrolled through his tablet and arrived at a conclusion, “You got it, my man!”

            It caught me off guard that I didn’t have to put up more of a fight, but I was pleased about the outcome and returned to my station. After the song that currently played came to a finish, the deejay announced, “Alright, ladies and gentlemen, we got a request for some classic tunes, so feast your ears on this hit from the legendary Journey!”

            “Journey? Who’s that? Some old dinosaur?” a kid loudly probed.

            “Listen, you little-!” I almost went off that child. In my head, I knew it wasn’t a good idea, but I had built up so much stress that it was ready to burst at the most trivial detail!

            Thankfully, Phoebe halted my heated effort! She grabbed my arm and strongly recommended, “Hey Connor, let’s dance!” I was still fuming, but I couldn’t say no to her, so I acquiesced.

            I hadn’t realized that the deejay had chosen a love ballad until Phoebe put her arms around me! Suddenly, I felt as awkward as I did at my first school dance! I nearly forgot how to do it, and when we did start to sway together, her close proximity made me incredibly nervous! A part of me nagged my senses to not let this distract me from our main goal, so I peered over her shoulders and espied Damon in a tremendous amount of emotional pain as Roxy forced him to slow dance with her! Poor Roxy seemed to be unaware to his ulterior motives and bore the biggest grin as she had a ball from this experience. I couldn’t fathom why she so zealously chased a man who so obviously had no interest in her, so I brought it up to Phoebe, “Why do nice girls go after such huge jerks? Why not pursue a nice boy who is much better suited for you?”

            Phoebe arched her neck to gaze in the direction I was staring, and after she beheld that sight, she commented, “You can’t help who you fall in love with! Sometimes, your heart chooses a jerk, and no matter how much logic you apply to the situation, it stays locked on Mister Wrong! I’ve been there before…” For a second, I thought she may have been referring to me! I worried that she had some romantic inclination towards me previously, but after she learned more about who I truly am, she changed her mind rapidly! She must have sensed what was running through my head because she followed that with, “Thank goodness I finally picked out a nice guy!”

            Her eyes sparkled as she looked into mine, and all of a sudden, the ambiguity of her amorous intentions vanished! She didn’t voice it out loud, but she gave me a pretty clear signal of how she felt! My pulse raced wildly! I couldn’t comprehend it! I had, at long last, found the answer I had been searching for! Our feelings were mutual, which dumbfounded me completely! She could do so much better than a cad like me, and yet, here she was in my arms totally voluntarily! I didn’t understand why she chose me, but I urged myself to quit questioning it! I got everything I ever dreamed of right then, and while it may not have made total sense, I couldn’t pass it up! I resolved to sign those divorce papers as soon as I returned home, but before that occurred, her lips become so inviting! I leaned in, and…

            “Mister Fenmore?” Roxy urgently tugged at my jacket.

            “WHAT?” I responded a little more forcefully than I ought to have. I knew my purpose in being at that homecoming was for the students, but it really incensed me to have gotten interrupted at such a crucial juncture! Seriously, she couldn’t wait one freaking minute? A bit milder than my last tone, I snapped, “What is it?”

            With tears forming rapidly, Roxy cried out, “Damon’s gone!”

            Phoebe and I instantly shifted our mood as we gave Roxy our full and utmost attention! Yes, I did consider the possibility that Damon achieved his minor goal of losing her, but somehow, I got the insight that this was about something more than mere teenage drama! Phoebe inquired, “Where did he go?”

            Sniffling a lot, she replied, “One minute, we were talking to some of his friends, and the next thing I knew, he snatched this bitch up and ran out the door with her! They were heading to the bleachers! How could he do this to me?”

            She started sobbing, but we couldn’t comfort her, not now! This was it! Whatever he had concocted for us to endure, it was happening at that very moment! I didn’t have a clue on how he managed to elude our watch, but we would have to figure that out later! We signaled to the others and dashed out the gymnasium!

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 26

As I walked up to my porch, I thought that even though I felt totally exhausted, I was at least done for the day. When I heard a voice coming from the abandoned house across the road, I instantly got a tension headache! “No! Not tonight! I can’t take much more of this!” I moaned. When I turned around and faced the other side of the street, I saw a shadowy figure frantically searching the front yard. With my entire body protesting, I marched towards the movement to investigate it. I consoled myself with the idea that perhaps I was about to embark on another venture that could end this whole nightmare once and for all, but as I grew closer, I could hear that the perpetrator had been female, not our arch nemesis! Despite that disappointment, I still had to uncover this person’s identity, after all, they couldn’t be at that house for any good reasons! I took my cellphone out of my pocket, and when I literally shined a light on the situation, I saw…

            “Where is that damn key?” Corvina muttered to herself as she searched through all of the leaves and debris on the grounds of that spooky old place. When she finally noticed my presence, she abashedly grinned, got up in a flash, and attempted to convey an air of nonchalance. “Oh hey, Mister Fenmore! Nice to see you still alive!”

            “That sounded sincere! And what a normal way to greet someone too!” I responded sarcastically. Before she could utter another word on the subject, I questioned her, “So, what do you need a key for? This dump barely has any walls, I’m pretty sure you need a key to get in there!”

            She gave me a cagey reply back, “Who said I needed a key to get in there?”          

            I shot back, “You did! Unless you need a key for something else… Did Damon actually come up with a backup plan in the likely event that his stupid scheme didn’t work?”

            “The key isn’t a big deal! It was just a piece to a game we played!” Corvina lied in a very obvious way, but despite my disbelief, she stuck with it. “Louis always flips the board when he’s about to lose, so I figured I’d go find it while he’s gone so we can keep playing when he gets back.”

            “Which one was Louis?” I asked her.

            She answered, “The guy who drools a lot. Why?”

            I informed her, “Well, let’s just say he’ll never be able to play a game with you ever again!”

            “Oh, how unfortunate,” she expressed without an ounce of sincerity. “Well, I better go put the game away then…”

            “Hey, wait!” I stopped her from scurrying inside- I had to discover what key she needed so badly! If Damon had another devious project up his sleeves, I wanted to unearth it right then and there! The sooner we solved this vampire problem, the sooner we could get back to our regular lives again! Of course, I still needed to identify what that looked like for me. That was kind of hard to think about what I wanted in my career and personal life when I constantly had to fight monsters! Yes, I wanted Phoebe, but did she want me back? How could I ascertain this knowledge? If she rejected me, what would my next step be? I couldn’t consider any of that at the moment because Damon was obviously up to something and would constantly interrupt whatever we chose to do if we didn’t put a stop to his evil regime right away, so if I wanted to achieve any sort of productivity, I had to shut down whatever operation he enacted involving that key! I had no clue what door that key would open, but I knew if I could possess it, I could inhibit whatever plot he hatched up! Even if I got a small glimpse of it, I believed I could get a hint about his intentions, so I pressed her, “What does the key look like? Maybe I can help you search for it…”

            She declined my offer, “No, that’s okay! Just forget about it!”

            Corvina tried to go inside again, so I shouted to her, “Won’t Damon get mad when he learns you haven’t found it?”

            She froze in her tracks, and I could tell I struck a nerve! However, despite the notion that her failure to locate it would incur Damon’s wrath, she brushed me off, “Nope!”

            Corvina zipped into the house, and I cursed my luck in not wrangling the truth out of her. I felt tempted to forage for it myself, but logically, I knew that action wouldn’t likely work out in my favor. That yard wasn’t the biggest in the neighborhood, but for someone hunting for a small object, it would seem pretty huge! The darkness wouldn’t make it any easier either! Furthermore, I didn’t want to get caught off guard in a vulnerable position as Damon and the surviving members of his crew came back here! My wrist was starting to heal, but I definitely didn’t want to risk it! So, I knew I had no choice but to go back to my home and try to get some sleep. I really doubted that I’d get any slumber with everything that I needed to mull over, but I had to try, right?

            As soon as I swiveled around, I saw that I wasn’t alone! I had no inkling that anyone was standing behind me until I faced in that direction, and it scared the heck out of me until I recognized who the individual was- my next-door neighbor! I always considered him fairly odd but not at all threatening, although it did rouse my suspicion that he snuck up on me like that! Before I could delve into why he had done it, he apologized, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you! I caught a glimpse of you talking to somebody over here, so I got a little worried! It’s not really something a person should do alone…”

            He had a point; Damon could have easily ambushed me by hiding in the trees above me, so I probably shouldn’t have confronted a mysterious character by myself! By all means, this guy, whatever his name was, didn’t know any of that. He simply saw a neighbor chatting with an entity that came from a supposedly haunted building and grew concerned for my safety. It was a very kind gesture, so I decided not to allow my weariness to cause me to act harshly towards him. Instead, I airily assured him, “Don’t worry, it wasn’t a ghost or anything! Some hobo was sleeping here and ran off.”

            “Wow, that’s a relief!” He sighed in alleviation. “Oh, I got some veggie burgers for your barbecue! When is that happening?”

            “Uh…” I had forgotten that I mentioned doing that when speaking to him previously. I didn’t truly intend to do that, but I now felt as though I was obligated to have one. Just like when I couldn’t give drake a definitive date to install a security system, I still hadn’t freed up my calendar enough to schedule anything! I reported this tidbit to him, “Things have been hectic lately, so I don’t know! But I’ll keep you updated!”

            He smiled genially at me. “I appreciate that… Uh, I don’t think I ever got your name!”

            I was so glad he said that! I felt less guilty about not learning his! “Connor. Connor Fenmore.”

            He stated, “Rowan Blackthorn. Well, my wife is waiting for me, so I better go! Have a good night!”

            After I bade him goodnight, I walked back to my place and contemplated how strange I deemed his marital status! I mean, I could see that he had children, but somehow his general vibe gave me the impression that he belonged to some type of hippie commune! It sort of astonished me that he had anything as ordinary as a spouse, and as I finally entered my home and curiously wondered what his other half looked like, my stomach started growling. I recalled that our mission at the estates went on well past dinnertime, so I advised myself to eat something before I turned in for the night. I heated up some soup in the microwave, and when I went to retrieve a spoon, I was not pleased to see that the only clean spoon was the one I spotted in the dirt shortly after moving into this address. I didn’t use that one if I could help it since it was buried in the soil and made me paranoid about its safe use, but I was in no mood to do any dishes, so I reluctantly decided to utilize it in this instance. I scrolled through my phone as I supped on my repast, and I observed some post from the school informing its followers about Homecoming. I grimaced- I totally forgot that I got forced to volunteer in chaperoning that event! So if I couldn’t unravel the mystery of Damon’s key and foil his conspiracy before then, I fretted that he would use our obligation to the dance to unleash his malevolent agenda unhindered! I sighed and resigned myself to the notion that all I could do was hope for a miracle!

            The next day, I felt so wiped out that I refused to have discussion on the course material! Instead, I had them all write an essay on the book based on topics I gathered from other educators on the internet. No one was thrilled by the assignment, but their disapproval didn’t phase me much! I was a little anxious that Ms. Bronagh might not be pleased that I rearranged her lesson plan a bit, but by the time she would see what I did, I knew I would have moved on to a new gig anyways, so oh well! I still had a while before this stint finished, but it did make me somewhat downcast to envision leaving this school! Obviously, if Phoebe ended up breaking my heart, leaving here may not have been such a terrible thing! I still really wanted to get to the bottom of my romantic dilemma, and it made me all that more determined to decipher Damon’s enigma! As I stared at him doing his schoolwork, he gave away no evidence of his intentions. I pondered if he would use his lunch period to do homework again or if he would use the opportunity to engage in his diabolical business, and figuring that my colleagues would be tired and cranky from yesterday also, I opted to skip eating with them and covertly tail Damon once more.

            From a distance, I beheld that he had gone to the same spot as before, and it appeared as though he meant to do some math during his break again. While I tiptoed to a closer vantage point to him, I got startled by a tap on the shoulder! Hoping that a student hadn’t just witnessed me acting like a chicken, I mentally prepared myself to play it cool and go over the novel even though, as I indicated to you earlier, I had no interest in doing so that day. To my surprise, it turned out to be Phoebe! In a low voice, she asked me, “You’re following him too, huh?”

            “Yeah,” I answered in confirmation. “You never know when he may give us a lead on that key!” I texted the vampire league prior to going to bed last night. I didn’t believe that an occurrence like that should go unreported… eventually! Admittedly, I had gotten so wrapped up in my own head that I nearly forgot to tell them!

            “Maybe he has to turn a set of keys for one of the jobs he got kicked out from,” Phoebe theorized.

            I vaguely acknowledged that statement, “Yeah, maybe!” My mind wasn’t on our vampiric situation. Oh sure, the one juncture that I should have focused on Damon and his demonic actions, I didn’t do it! But I couldn’t ignore the chance right in front of me! Our foe showed signs of spending this entire session studying, so it seemed reasonable to use this occasion to talk to Phoebe about her amorous inclinations! I took into account that she might turn me down during a period where I couldn’t leave the school or desist my role in saving innocent kids from monsters, but with the way things were going, I may not have had another lucky break like this, so I had to go for it! “So, what celebrity did you have a crush on growing up?” Trust me, I was going somewhere with this!

            She seemed to find the question pretty random, but she didn’t comment on the oddity of it. “I kept switching between different boyband members. Man, I had such awful taste back then! What about you?”

            “Marilyn Monroe,” I revealed. She gave me a peculiar look when she heard that, so I explained, “Yeah, I know she died before I was born, but my grandparents were big fans, and they had a bunch of her stuff all over their house. I loved her for her curves, her boldness, and the air of sweetness she gave off.” Phoebe’s face indicated a mild interest, but she wasn’t so certain what to do with that information. I was about to say to her that she reminded me of her, a subtle way of admitting I liked her, but then…

            “Roxy!” Damon espied her walking into the girls’ restroom, and it caught everyone, including Roxy, off guard when he called for her like that! He hurried over to her and somewhat breathily requested, “Will you go to Homecoming with me?”

            After letting out a piercing shriek that hurt all of our ears, Roxy accepted his invitation, “Yes, I will!”

            Damon got relieved to hear this, but he didn’t seem very happy about it! “Great! I’ll meet you there!” As she joyfully skipped over to her friends to relay the good news to them, Phoebe and I gazed at each other incredulously. While it gave us some reassurance that we had a few evenings free from vampire hunting, neither of us imagined that he had any honest motivation for attending that dance…

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 25

When Damon limped into the classroom, Roxy gasped, “Oh no! Damon, what happened?”

            Pretending to have no clue how he sustained that injury, I repeated her question, “Yeah, Damon! What happened?”

            As he glared at me, it was hard not to give him a cheeky grin in return. He eventually supplied a lame response, “I fell.”

            In my head, I pointed out that he didn’t fall but did make a dog plummet to the ground as he fled his unsuccessful attempt to prey on a student, but out loud, I instructed the class, “Alright… Let’s discuss what you read over the weekend. Do you think the doctor can cure Lucy of her so-called health condition?” A couple of students raised their hands, but Roxy gestured so wildly that I had no choice but to call on her, “Yes, Roxy?”

            “In my opinion, everyone should stop trying to cure her and let her go be with her vampire lover!” She gazed at Damon adoringly as she went on, “I worry about the vampire’s health and hope he can still go to the dance with Lucy…”

            “Uh… It sounds like you’re writing your own story there! Did anyone see the symbolism in giving blood to her?” Normally, I would have enjoyed seeing Damon get annoyed by her pursuit of him, but I couldn’t let her alter the other kids’ understanding of the material! I didn’t want Ms. Branagh to come back and suffer another heart attack from how badly I messed up her lesson plan! I noted how officially teacher-like I had acted right then, which felt strange since a couple weeks ago, I had every intention of quitting this position to run back into the arms of my ex in Philadelphia, and now, not only was I learning towards staying put and staying away from her, but I actually started to really assume command of a role I never envisioned myself keeping! It really struck me how much I committed myself to getting this job done right, especially with a chancy arrangement looming over me once this shift was done! I sort of found it funny that, in that moment, I hoped we were successful in our goal so that tomorrow Damon wouldn’t show up and disrupt my next lesson!

            I almost walked towards my car out of habit, but when I remembered the agenda for that evening, I recalled that my vehicle wasn’t waiting for me in the parking lot as usual. We planned on going straight to the estates after school, and I wasn’t comfortable leaving something so expensive on the street so late, so I rode in with Fletcher that day. The others were perfectly fine leaving their cars outside that territory as we worked in it, actually, it seemed like Aleck wanted someone to steal his clunker! With all of the luxurious rides so close to the neighborhood we would be leaving our wheels in, I doubted that a thief would choose to risk jailtime for that old thing, but I didn’t bring that up to him- I let him hold on to that faint hope of his insurance paying for a new one! Fletcher and I changed in the gym’s bathroom before we left, and based on our appearances, I began to have doubts about this idea of mine…

            Evidently, the security guard in the booth guarding the property shared my impression of our outfits because he lowered his sunglasses to give us a second look. Fletcher and I strived to maintain a natural demeanor, but the super’s uniform that he wore was comfortably tight on him and extremely lose on me! I hid some of the slack against the seat behind me, but I doubted that I had any success in convincing the guard that my clothes were formfitting! The security guard certainly must have been suspicious, but he played it cool as he asked us, “How can I help you gentlemen?”

            “We’re here to secure the statues in the area,” Fletcher answered him. “Apparently, they’re not on solid foundations, and one of the gargoyles was used to hurt somebody!”

            “I don’t see any repairs scheduled for today…” He flipped through some papers on his clipboard, and I planted a fake smile on my face as I was inwardly panicking! The thorniest part of this ordeal was getting past the gatekeepers, and when I plotted all this out, I assumed that Fletcher’s truck and Ellie’s husband’s uniforms would give off enough of a professional impression that security would just wave us through. If we faltered here, it would have been nearly impossible for us to find another way inside, and another innocent student would succumb to Damon’s sinister scheme! Fortunately, the guard concluded, “You must be telling the truth though ‘cause I don’t know how you’d know about the gargoyle incident otherwise! Okay, well, welcome to Carpathian Manor!” We thanked him and waited until we were on the other side of the boom barrier to breath a sigh of relief!

            We parked at the pool house, and once we could guarantee that the coast was clear, we lifted the tarp so that the other four could get out. I envied how close Ellie got to Phoebe, and obviously she had grown jealous of my position too since she muttered, “I should’ve just put on one of Victor’s uniforms! Tight clothes would have been so much better than tight spaces!”

            Ginger remarked, “I can’t believe we’re really gonna fix these statues!”

            “We have to have a good reason for hanging around here all day so no one reports us,” Phoebe reminded her. “Plus, security wouldn’t have let them in if they claimed they were gonna do repairs after dark!”

            “Where did this crap go?” Fletcher queried while he grabbed a pool net to retrieve the statue at the bottom of the pool.

            Aleck showed him where he got it from, and we took our sweet time putting on industrial glue at the bottom of the gargoyle. We inched our way around the vicinity and slowly fixed the gargoyles as we saw them. I found myself tugging at my jumper as it exposed my shoulders, and I could tell that Fletcher had tough time trying to breathe in his! Sunset didn’t seem so far away from our arrival until we had to endure such ill-fitting garments! I sincerely hoped that Damon wouldn’t wait too long after twilight to get here! We reasoned that it was a school night, so he wouldn’t want to go out too late. As the hours crept by though, I wondered about that! Damon did get good grades, but did he actually go to bed at a typical time that other children would? Did he even require sleep to function? I didn’t feel so confident about his sleep schedule considering that vampires were typically nocturnal…

            When the sun began to go down, we started to run out of statues to fix. We wound up back by the pool again, and Aleck suggested, “We could go back to just hiding from the guards again.”

            “We should forget the statues!” Ginger seconded that notion. “We need to focus on doing what we came here for and protect our student from the monsters who are after him! I think we should try hanging around his house. I doubt if he’ll wanna go swimming after what he went through last night!”

            “Oh, hey Ms. Ziven!” a teenage boy pulled up to us in a golf cart and a fluffy white robe. “Are you guys out here tutoring again?”

            Ginger echoed, “Again?”

            The boy shrugged. “Yeah, I figured that’s why you came here.”

            We all silently admonished ourselves for not coming up with that line before we went through all this trouble! That just seemed so much simpler than all of the effort we put into this escapade, and we all could have worn more desirable outfits too! We didn’t dwell on that too much though- now that Damon’s target arrived, we had a job to do! The boy headed towards the pool, and Aleck inquired, “Peter, you’re seriously going in there after what happened yesterday?”

            “Well, yeah! It’s not like those thugs would strike in the same place twice!” Peter rationalized. We didn’t say it out loud, but we were sure he would love to have another go at an attack in this spot! He probably went over the incident with Corvina and deciphered a better strategy to capture his prey! He saw the worrisome expressions on our faces, and he interpreted it in a very different way than we would have expected, “Wait, is it my turn to get tutored?”

            “Uh… Yeah… We were just heading your way…” Phoebe fibbed.

            Peter circled back to his golf cart and invited us, “Come on over! Oh, are you all walking? Does anyone wanna hop on board with me?”

            He only had one extra seat, and we all were so weary from the back and forth we did with the statues that we all scrambled for it! Ginger beat us to it, so the rest of us resigned ourselves to following his vehicle to his house. I was glad that he was impervious to Fletcher and me wearing mis-sized uniforms, and I was tempted to query if his father possibly had clothing in my size that I could borrow. All of a sudden, I knew I would not get the chance to find out- we all saw bats heading in the direction of his house! Ginger proposed, “You know, it’s such a nice day, we could tutor you out by the pool…”

            “I don’t have any of my papers with me though,” Peter countered. “And neither do you, so don’t we kinda have to go to my house?”

            “Nah, we have everything we need memorized!” I lied. I had my doubts about this ploy working, but it was worth a shot! If we could keep Peter away from danger, our jobs would become so much easier!

            Peter considered my argument, but then he declined, “We’re almost at my house anyways. Maybe next time.”

            We all covertly gave each other grim looks as we headed towards his abode. We secretly held on to our stakes in case Damon decided to ambush us on the way there, and each step we took made us more and more on edge of that being a real possibility! I prayed that we could hurry and shoo Peter inside prior to Damon’s siege, but considering this was his last chance to nab a student until he concocted a new scheme, I believed that this ambush would be more brazen than the rest. We peered at each tree, hoping to thwart him as soon as possible, and it frightened us when we got to his address and didn’t see him anywhere! I was highly skeptical that a pack of bats would show up in a ritzy area like this under regular circumstances, so I was fairly certain he was around, but where was the question! Was he hiding inside of his home already? Was there a way to precede Peter into his home without it being too weird?

            To our shock, Damon and his cronies (minus Corvina) were waiting for him by the front door! We stood ready for battle, but Peter didn’t seem at all worried by this visit! “Oh, hi! Are you guys here for the tutoring session too?”

            “Uh… Definitely! Let’s go inside and learn!” Damon urged.

            “Nope! We’re gonna teach outside today!” I redirected Peter to sit on his front lawn. I thought that Peter was the only kid I knew who would buy the concept of a group of educators showing up to his home at nightfall to tutor kids outside, but, for now, I was grateful of his trusting naivete!

             I expected Damon to argue, but instead, he asserted, “Yes, this is perfect! We can reenact the sleepwalking scene from Dracula! Peter, you can play Lucy!”

            Peter obliged, “Okay!”

            “No, I’ll be Lucy!” Phoebe planted Peter back on the ground and strolled over to where the vampire pack stood. Phoebe held out her arms, closed her eyes, and chanted, “I’m Lucy! Look at me, walking in my sleep…” As an English teacher, I knew she knew the actual text, and it made me admire her even more for daring to tempt our formidable foes to reveal their true motives!

            “Which one of you is gonna attack her?” Peter amusedly probed.

            All of the vampires held back, clearly not buying into the ease of which a potential victim present herself as, so I volunteered, “I’ll be the vampire!”

            Damon threatened, “Oh, we can arrange that!”

            “Oh, this is gonna be a great show! I can feel it!” Peter clapped in delight. Damon and I squared off with each other like two melodramatic actors in a western, and for a minute, we simply glared at each other… The tension between us got abruptly broken when Peter exclaimed, “Wait, I don’t remember any vampire fight happening in the book!”

            “You’re right! Allow me to mend it!” The drooling vampire lunged towards Phoebe, and my heart almost froze in sheer terror! I would have died if I lost Phoebe like that! Luckily, Phoebe had fast reflexes and impaled him before he could touch her!

            Usually, that sight would have made me nauseous, but seeing how bold she acted was just too hot to make me sick! Damon used my momentary distraction to push past me and dive after Peter! Ginger, Aleck, Fletcher, and Ellie were close to Peter, so they tried to pull Damon off of him, but they struggled to keep him at bay! Meanwhile, Peter puzzled, “Guys, calm down! It’s only pretend!”

            During the course of the tousle, Peter’s robe loosened up, and all of a sudden, Damon jumped away from him as if he touched a scalding surface! He then shrieked, “He has a crucifix!”

            We all turned towards Peter, who gazed at his necklace and stated, “My cross, you mean? Do you like it? My dad got if for me in Romania! I wear it all the time!”

            Damon’s face soured, and after taking a second to soak in his defeat, he ordered to his surviving members, “Let’s go!” He faced me and seethed, “This isn’t over!”

            Peter agreed, “Yeah, we barely got started! Can we act out the empty ship scene? That one’s my favorite!”

            My fellow teachers and I gave each other a shrug, and as Phoebe and I assigned parts, our adversaries left and I wondered what hairbrained maneuver Damon would dream up next! After our evening was through, I wished that I had been able to slay him that night because, for sure, we all could have used a break from impeding his demonic whims!

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 24

As we raced towards the shadowy figures, I muttered, “They better not be dogs or something stupidly harmless!” My adrenaline flew up at the call to action, and it would have really burned me if I built all that up for nothing!

            When we approached those silhouettes, I got relieved when the masses that got my vigor pumped up turned out to be vampires, but then I quickly got filled with dread because we now had to battle vampires! Damon, who had been trying to creep up to the house with some of his cronies, reluctantly stopped and griped, “Ugh! Not these guys again! Do I bother you when you’re trying to eat?”

            “Isn’t there some kind of non-cannibalistic food source for you?” Phoebe wondered. “I bet there’s vampires out there who go vegan!”

            “Don’t respond to that!” Damon barked at one of his lackeys, whose opened mouth became shut upon his orders. “No talking! This time, just get them!”

            Damon’s three friends came running towards us, and once again, his side outnumbered ours! I had become so preoccupied with my disheveled love life that I hadn’t properly thought out a plan for this eventuality, and I had to cook up a strategy really fast in that moment! I kicked at one of them, but another one used his leg to sweep out the foot I had on the ground, which caused me to tumble! Luckily, Phoebe managed to knock down the female she was fighting at the same second, and I ended up falling on top of her! I landed in a way that pinned her down, and while she lifted her neck and attempted to bite me, she couldn’t do more than chomp at the air! I maintained my position while I contemplated a better tactic for this situation. I couldn’t let Phoebe contend with two brutes by herself, at least not for too long- she seemed to have a surprising upper-hand against them! I visually scanned the area, and I spotted a lighter laying on the trail. I crossed my fingers that it still had fluid in it as I grabbed it along with a large twig, and doing so allowed the female vampire to wriggle out of my hold. As she lunged at me, I flicked the igniter and…

            Success! The dry Autumn leaves made for good kindling, and it soon turned into a small torch! I knew that no creature liked to get burnt, but I didn’t think vampires would get scared of the flames! When she espied the fire I conjured up, she backed away in a hurry! When her male counterparts noticed her action, they investigated the source and then mimicked her movements. Phoebe picked up a larger stick than mine and set it ablaze, and Damon snapped at his underlings, “Just put the flames out, you ninnies!”

            “What’s a ninny?” the female wanted to know. This prompted me observe her face more closely, and I recognized her as one of the missing students! I felt bad for trying to hurt her earlier, and I couldn’t help but ponder what we would do if she attempted to kill us again! We never really did discuss how to handle that, I don’t think any of us wanted to even consider doing that…

            “Don’t explain it! If you’re not gonna go after them, I’ll…” Damon cut himself off as a clap of thunder sounded, and he bore a devilish grin as it began to rain. Phoebe and I, who had started to advance towards them, froze as our weapons extinguished, and as four monsters barreled towards us, I couldn’t work out any way to escape from this, so I braced myself to fight my way out of the worst-case scenario…

            All of a sudden, a couple of large dogs ran out of the house! They made a beeline for the vampiric pack, and Damon’s subordinates all turned into bats and rushed out of sight! Damon glared at us and seethed, “You may have bested me this round, but I’ll-!” He let out a high-pitched scream as one of the dogs clamped down on his leg! He morphed into a bat, but the dog clung onto him, severely slowing down his flight!

            Damon managed to take the dog into the sky, and Phoebe cried out, “That dog is gonna get hurt!” She ran under the aloft pair right as Damon shook the dog off, and a man emerged from that home…

            Phoebe caught the dog prior to it hitting the ground, but she almost fell backwards from the impact, so I caught her and prevented that from happening! Man, did it feel nice to hold her in my arms! I couldn’t’ linger on that fulfilling treat though because the homeowner exclaimed, “Did that f’ing bat just try to carry my dog off?”

            “Uh, yeah! Basically! But your pet wasn’t the prime target! We prevented someone from trying to… sneak into your place.” I nearly informed him of the potential kidnapping that could have occurred here, but how would we explain the way we fended the criminals off? If we told the police that we frightened them off with fire, they’d probably throw us into the sanatorium in a heartbeat! I already had a bad track record with them due to my behavior from Corvina’s assault, so getting the authorities involved wouldn’t have benefited us much! I decided it was best to let the man assume our mere presence thwarted the culprit off!

            “So, this trespasser had a trained bat to do his dirty work for him?” the man probed. Phoebe and I nodded; even though that explanation seemed totally insane, neither of seemed to be able to come up with a better story about what he witnessed, and it had enough plausibility to convince this guy that we were telling the truth. He widened his eyes and remarked, “What a freak! I knew we should beef up our security around here!” He anxiously pulled a cigarette out of his pocket, and afterwards, he pat down his clothes to search for another object. “Where did my damn lighter go?”

            I let him know, “I saw one on the trail down there!” I didn’t mention how I saw it, I just voluntarily went down to get it for him.

            When I handed it to him, he gratefully conveyed to me, “Thanks!” Once he lit up his smoke, he commented, “I told Elizabeth we needed to secure this place more! That invisible fence only keeps our dogs in our yard, it doesn’t keep people out! We really need to replace our fencing system!”

            “Same here!” I related to him without disclosing that we both needed it to keep Damon at bay!

            “Well, thank you for stopping that freak and rescuing my dog!” he graciously regarded us. Phoebe and I gazed at the dogs, both of whom acted perfectly pleasant around us! “Don’t let me ruin your date night!” I almost corrected him, but that rationale was more reasonable-sounding than two of his kid’s teachers showing up to his property to ward off blood-sucking fiends, so I clammed up. “Have a good night!”

            We bade the same sentiment back to him, and we didn’t utter a word to each other as we headed out. I should have been mulling over where Damon’s circle might venture to next, but I couldn’t get over the fact that this stranger presumed that Phoebe and I were a couple! I obsessed over it until Phoebe suggested, “We should go check on the others!”

            I shook myself out of my reverie, “Huh? Oh, yeah! We only saw a part of his gang, the rest of them might be out hunting too!” We drove away reviewing the actions of our foes, but I preoccupied myself with the observation that Phoebe didn’t object when that man implied that she was my girlfriend…

            We all reconvened at my house. Ellie and Fletcher had apparently sent a pizza full of garlic up to the apartment they were guarding early on in their shift, and when a flock of bats flew towards that family’s apartment window, they left almost immediately! Ginger and Aleck didn’t have as easy of an experience though- they spent most of their visit to the estate evading the security guards’ detection, all of whom seemed to notice everything except for Corvina and a few other vampires ambushing a resident at the swimming pool! I guess they didn’t consider that anyone in that community would do so in the rain, but the facility was covered, so the student didn’t see any harm in taking a dip. Well, not until the vampires showed up! Ginger and Aleck were soaking wet, but they glowed with the thrill of victory because they successfully slayed a couple of Damon’s henchmen! Aleck described the episode, “I pushed the dude into the pool, and while he was struggling to resurface, I grabbed one of the stone gargoyles that decorated the joint and hurled it at his head! I don’t know why they didn’t tie those down or something, seems kinda dangerous…”

            “Anyways, Corvina and the other girl (You know, the one you sold the Ango Auxilium to) went after that child, who was hiding under one of the patio tables, so I rushed in front of them and impaled the pain med girl! Thank goodness Corvina decided to turn into a bat and fly off! I don’t think I would have had the heart to stab a student’s heart!”

            “We almost had to do that too!” Phoebe darkly admitted. “That would have been awful!”

            Ellie advised us, “We all gotta pray that it’ll never come down to that!”

            Fletcher brought up, “But… Are our children gonna turn back into children when this is all over? Or will they stay monsters forever?”

            No one had an answer to that, and I broke our silence by inquiring, “So, what’s the plan for tomorrow?”

            “I hate to use a line from, like, every horror movie right before they face a disaster, but I think we should split up,” Phoebe proposed. “Since Connor’s wrist still hurts, he can go with you two,” she indicated to Fletcher and Ellie. “And I’ll tag along with Ginger and Aleck.”

            “Make sure you don’t wear a skirt tomorrow!” Ginger recommended. “When we were climbing down that tree, a group of middle school boys could see my panties clear as day!”

            Phoebe sympathized with her, “Oh no! Were you at least wearing nice underwear?”

            Ginger made a waving motion with one of her hands. ”Eh…”

            “Why can’t I have a turn at the spot with a bus stop bench?” Aleck whined.

            “I think we’ve all seen how well I can climb trees…” Fletcher argued.

            Ellie put in, “We can’t send a pizza again tomorrow, so we may have to climb a set of stairs if he shows up tomorrow! I’d have a difficult… Well, there might be an elevator, but I think I should stay put ‘cause… um…”

            Aleck suggested, “Let’s do Rock, Paper, Scissors!”

            They faced each other and chanted, “Rock, paper, scissors!” Aleck laid his hand flat, and at the same instance that Ellie put out two fingers, the abandoned house groaned and shot out a pair of antique scissors, which landed right between the two of them! “Oh, the ghouls are on my sides! Is that a good thing?” She mulled it over for a minute, and then she addressed me, “Well, good luck in sleeping tonight!”

            I unenthusiastically replied, “Thanks!” as everyone headed to their cars. I would have fretted about that creepy house spouting out more stuff in my direction, but then Phoebe smiled at me as she said goodbye, and all my stress from that day vanished from my mind! Well, at least for a bit! I couldn’t sleep at all; the vampire thing bugged me a little, but I kept fixating on those divorce papers. It was so tempting to sign them and then go for it with Phoebe, but I held myself back since I didn’t know for certain that our feelings were mutual. If she rejected me, I didn’t think I’d want to continue as a substitute teacher or even stay in Terra Belle- the possibility of running into her after that would have been too painful! However, if she did have amorous feelings for me, then I would have endured any horrible circumstance just to be with her! I think I proved that with our never-ending brushes with our undead nemesis! As I laid on my bed petting Jett, I fixated on it over and over again until, finally, it clicked for me! The discovery made me bolt up in excitement, and that move made the poor cat slide to the floor! I chased Jett around the house to apologize, but she was in no mood to hear it! I made two conclusions that night: One, I needed to do something extra nice to make up for all the guff my kitty had to put up with lately, and two, I would make my decision about signing those documents based on knowing for certain how Phoebe felt about me!

            It wasn’t so straightforward to obtain that information on Sunday since we were separated for this excursion. I considered bringing it up to Ellie and Fletcher, but it was hard to get a word in edgewise! They were too busy swapping classroom stories to pay attention to the topic I wanted to raise! Fletcher shared with us, “Then, after I broke the two apart, I smelled alcohol on their breath! I took a look in their water bottles, and it turned out to be vodka! As the hall monitors brought them to Manuel’s office, they flipped the bird to me! Can you believe that?”

            “I sure can!” Ellie narrated, “One time, these two girls came in high as a kite, and after I told them to go see the principal, they dropped their pants and mooned me! They thought they were so hilarious, freaking brats!”

            “And after all this, you guys actually still had motivation to keep on teaching?” I asked them.

            Fletcher answered me, “Listen, as much as they drive us crazy, they bring us just as much joy too!”

            I grew skeptical of this, so Ellie iterated, “No, it’s true! Up until a few years ago, I thought about quitting every damn time one of those jerks raised my blood pressure! Now I keep thinking I could retire if I wanted to, but then I see a student who I made a real impact on, and they’re so grateful and sweet that I clock in another day! Sometimes-.”

            “Surprise!” Corvina and a couple of male vampires suddenly appeared in front of us! Without even having to get off of their bench, Fletcher and Ellie pulled out their stakes and nailed the two males in the chest! I would have probably vomited, but instead I looked to Corvina, who I only had to eyeball to send her running! As I tailed her, I had no clue what I would have done if caught her! She morphed into a bat and flew into an open window. Seconds later, an alarm blasted throughout the building, compelling Corvina to zip out of there in a flash!

            “Okay then…” I commented as we finished an astonishingly effortless shift. The others had a relatively simple time too since neither Damon nor any other vampire showed up. We all were convinced that wee needed to patrol the estates the next day, but we didn’t know how we could pull it off because of Fletcher and me not being able to climb that tree (for very different reasons! If I wasn’t injured, I would have done just fine!). After going over a lot of possibilities, I remembered something that gave me the inspiration to develop a plan for us to pull off this feat! It seemed a tad reckless, but I felt sure we could carry it out without encountering too many hurdles…

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 23

“Take a wild guess!” Phoebe challenged me.

            “Uh…” I wouldn’t dare to say why I hoped she had come to my house! She may not have appeared as though she had visited me to have a good time, but that wouldn’t stop my daydreams from wanting that to be the case! It certainly would have been nice to put an end to my romantic dilemma once and for all!

            She let me know, “Damon struck again!”

            I laughed, “Oh! Of course! Why else would you be here?” I crossed my fingers that I had successfully covered my disappointment when I uttered that phrase. Not only would my love life remain a chaotic mystery, but now I probably had to fight a vampire with one good hand and pray that no one broke into my yard in the process!

            “I got a call from Hazel a little while ago,” Phoebe informed me. “Apparently, Damon broke into the school earlier today.”

            “Why would he do that?” I puzzled. “No one has class on the weekend! Unless he was going after the custodian…”

            Phoebe explained, “He broke into her office. At least, we think it was him. All the camera picked up was a man wearing all black, including a cape! He didn’t go in there to attack a person though, at least, not yet anyways! He made off with some zone variance forms on her desk, so we gotta patrol the neighborhoods of the kids whose information got stolen.”

            Fletcher approached us and remarked, “You’re trying to repair your fence with a messed-up hand?” I looked at my building materials sheepishly, and he gathered the truth from that inference. “Give all that to me!”

            “You’re gonna fix my fence?” I reacted incredulously. It flabbergasted me that someone would do something so kind without anyone having to make a request for assistance!

            “No, I’m just gonna knock some sense into you!” Fletcher joked as he waved the hammer at me. “Why didn’t you ask us for help?”

            I shrugged. “It wasn’t vampire related, so I didn’t think about bringing it up to you guys.”

            Ginger, who had just arrived, opined, “Of course it’s vampire related! You live across the street from their demonic lair, we can’t give them easy access to your house!” When she got closer to us, she grimaced at the lumber. “Oh, no, no, no! The angle for these is all wrong!”

            “Did you think I was lying about only getting a C in geometry? Angles aren’t my forté!” I retorted. “Besides, I only got these slats as a temporary measure. This whole fence needs to get replaced eventually.”

            “Why’d you paint them then?” Aleck probed as he walked up to my yard.

            I answered him, “Well, I didn’t want them to stick out like a sore thumb!” Ginger bit her lips as she stared at the wood, so I relayed to her, “If I had any tools to do the job, you could change it, but I only bought the very basics.”

            Fletcher notified her, “I have a circular saw in my truck you can use.”

            “You carry power tools in your truck?” Phoebe queried.

            “For emergencies,” Fletcher confirmed. He was doing something nice for me, so I didn’t question what kind of emergencies he envisioned that would demand an immediate need for heavy power tools. Fletcher instructed Ginger, “There’s an extension cord under that tarp too.”

            Ellie parked behind Fletcher’s vehicle, and when she got out of her car, she mentioned, “If you needed repairs done, you should have said something! My husband’s a retired super!”

            I bashfully regarded her, “If I had thought to ask for help, I probably still wouldn’t have bothered you on what was supposed to be an actual weekend off for us!”

            “Hey, friends are supposed to bother each other! How else are we supposed to know what’s wrong if you don’t tell us?” Ellie posed to me.

            “We’re friends?” I uttered without planning to do so. I had referred to Phoebe as “just a friend,” but what she spoke of was on a whole other level! I didn’t realize this group had grown so close to me! I feared that I may have offended them by not acknowledging that amity myself, so I attempted to cover up my error with, “I mean, I always got along with you all during our vampire hunts, but I didn’t realize that you guys thought about… I mean, when it comes to me, you… I…”

            As Aleck plugged Fletcher’s extension cord into an outlet on my porch, which I had no idea even existed until right then, he stated, “Listen, you don’t’ go through everything we’ve went through without bonding a little!”

            I’m pretty certain I was blushing in this moment! I always considered my coworkers at Novak Neander a second family, but I doubt I could have come to them with a problem that wasn’t work related! They hadn’t really even contacted me once I quit; I assumed that they were simply mad at me for leaving at first, but after over a month of me not being there, nobody from there really reached out to me. One of my old buddies sent out an invitation to some dumb game, but that was it! Those people at Rosemary King High seemed to have grown to care about me outside of the professional boundaries, and it was very touching! Perhaps too touching because it prompted Fletcher to chide us, “So, do we wanna hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya,’ or do we wanna fix this fence before the vampires go out for their hunt?”

            I kidded, “Can’t we do both?” Ginger set my new boards on top of the remains of my old fence, and when she turned on the circular saw, it made me jump! Aleck aided her by holding the wood in place, and once she had finished with each one, Aleck passed it to Ellie. Ellie held the lumber in place as Phoebe handed Fletcher a nail when needed. In a short stretch, the hole in my fence had vanished! I praised them, “Wow, that was fast!”

            “That’s not the first time I’ve heard that!” Aleck proudly responded. The others glanced at him with mischievous grins, so he corrected himself, “Because I work fast! Not because I do anything else fast!” He cleared his throat and changed the subject, “So, where are we going on this vampire patrol?”

            “There’s three different addresses that she gave me,” Phoebe reported. “One child lives across the street from a bus stop, so I figured Ellie and Fletcher could sit there and watch his house from there.”

            Aleck objected, “Why them? I want a shift of just sitting there!”

            Ellie taunted him, “Seniority rules!”

            “Well, one of the other houses is in a gated community, and the only way we could get in there without applying for a visitor’s pass is to climb this tree. You and Ginger seemed to be the best climbers, so it just made sense for you two to do this one,” Phoebe rationalized. Aleck appeared quelled by this reasoning, so she went on, “The last home is pretty big, so we’ll have to walk around it the whole time. You up for that, Connor?”

            “He’s not taking my bench!” Fletcher piped in.

            As casually as I could, I stated, “Well, I probably shouldn’t climb a tree, so I’ll walk with you.” Inwardly, I was freaking out! I hadn’t concerned myself with the concept of facing blood-sucking fiends (Although that should have daunted me!), I got worked up by the fact that she and I would be alone together right when I needed a way to determine the best course of action to take on my romantic dilemma that only continued to haunt me more and more! As we prepared ourselves to take off, I swore I would get to the bottom of this issue before the night was over!

            I didn’t realize until that evening that a town like Terra Belle would have mansions! Near the mountains, the city had a whole neighborhood of custom-built homes, which surprised the heck out of me! If a person had that kind of money, I couldn’t understand why they’d choose to live in this small suburb! I never envisioned myself staying here if I could help it, and I got another shock when I realized that I was sincerely considering if I wanted to stay put! As Phoebe and I circled the trail around this student’s home, I mulled over the pros and cons of choosing to reside in this area as well as maintaining my position as a substitute teacher. I hadn’t liked the job originally, but I got a great satisfaction out of winning children over with the course material! It didn’t pay much, but I had everything I needed, so did I really need a higher salary? It was kind of fun to have the freedom that wealth brought though, and if Lilith did want me back, I could get a position that paid a lot but required less hours than Novak Neander did. If I did that, I imagined that we could spend more time together building our relationship back up as we went on adventures in all kinds of places! I wouldn’t really get to do anything like that if I stayed here! That certainly sounded like more fun than the lifestyle a career in education promised to bring me! Especially since I had to deal with vampires on the side! However, despite all that, there was one major pro of opting to remain in this Podunk…

            I glanced over at Phoebe, and as I soaked in the way the moonlight made her glow like an angel, I ached with desire! Her beauty wasn’t the only thing that hypnotized me though! I loved her willingness to take on hard work when she could have taken the easier route and did nothing, and no matter how difficult of a task we had to tackle, she always did it without complaint! She had a goofy side too that felt absolutely liberating to participate in, and she was an amazing listener too! She would make living in this hole worth it, everything about her turned me on! I couldn’t say the same about Lilith, but to be fair, I had twelve years to get to know Lilith, so naturally, I unearthed all her most irksome flaws! I hadn’t known Phoebe long enough to detect any qualities that annoyed me like I had with my ex, and that’s when it clicked for me- I had the opportunity right then to learn more about her! I had to see if she had anything in her that would deter me from making Terra Belle my permanent abode…

            “Do you drink a lot?” I quizzed her.

            “What? Why?” She stared at me in confusion, and for a minute, I fretted that I had insulted her. Fortunately, she followed that with, “Am I walking like I’m drunk?”

            I laughed, “No! I just… I just remembered that it’s Saturday night, so my old coworkers are probably out drinking like fishes in some over-priced bar in Philly right now!” I was glad I produced that line, it made my inquiry seem more normal!

            Phoebe assured me, “I don’t really drink a lot of alcohol. Just socially.”

            “They socialize a lot!” I half kidded. I hadn’t intended to judge my past self in this instance, but it occurred to me that I did partake in a lot of boozy beverages when I was at Novak Neander! I hadn’t indulged in any since I got here, and it sort of stunned me that I didn’t miss it! I caught myself getting sidetracked, so I refocused myself on trying to subtly find a way to draw out some of Phoebe’s blemishes. “What would you consider your worst features?” Darn it, that wasn’t so subtle! She gave me another peculiar gaze, so I amended my statement with, “Sorry! Just no one in the sales industry ever talked about that. We all made ourselves out to be so perfect, like we were at the cool table in the cafeteria. It’s kind of nice to be able to be a little more honest!” I shocked myself by dreaming that up on the fly! It was pretty convenient to have my old workplace to keep throwing under the bus too! I saw her glance downwards, and I guessed what she wanted to say first, “Don’t’ say anything about your body!”

            “Why not?” she asked me.

            Another chance to use my new scapegoat! “All the women I used to work with complained about their bodies! I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t have a dozen things to criticize their bodies on!” That wasn’t a lie, but I could see most of Phoebe’s form and didn’t have a problem with it! I wasn’t about to fuss about any imperfection that existed underneath her clothes- if I got the chance to see them, I wouldn’t give a rat’s behind about anything but my luck in getting lucky!

            Phoebe deliberated on the topic I raised, and then she revealed, “Well, sometimes I’m nice to people I really shouldn’t be kind to.”

            “That’s supposed to be a bad thing?” I shot back.

            “It can be!” Phoebe insisted. “Sometimes it doesn’t take a lot of effort to take of me!”

            My mind interpreted her phrasing in a way she hadn’t meant it to! “Moving on!”

            She divulged, “I’ve been told I snore a bit when I sleep.”

            All that made me do was picture her sleeping beside me after a very eventful escapade! “A bit? That doesn’t sound so terrible!”

            Phoebe then disclosed, “I take really long showers…”

            I thoroughly enjoyed that picture for exactly half a second! If I went too far with that, I wouldn’t be able to function for a while! I needed to keep myself in an optimal condition in case we had to face Damon or any of his minions, so I shook that notion out of my head and sighed, “You’re too perfect!”

            “No, I’m not! And if was, why does that make you so sad?” she pressed.

            “Uh…” I didn’t have any inkling to tell her that her perfection made my plight so much more complicated! But then I started to think that maybe this had been a sign that I should sign those divorce papers after all…

            Before I could entertain that concept any further, both of our footsteps suddenly came to a halt when we saw shadows moving in the path ahead of us…

The Terra-Belle Vampire, Chapter 22

“Hold on, Stefan, I gotta take this!” my dad, who had already accepted my video call, told his golf buddy. Stefan kept trying to putt his ball into the hole as my father chatted with me from their golf cart. “Hey there, kiddo! If I knew you were gonna ring, I would’ve played my game a little later!”

            “Well, Mom said if I didn’t talk to you guys more often, she’d share my yearbook picture all over social media, and I couldn’t let that happen!” I relayed that in a tone like I was kidding, but I really meant that! I held my style in such high regard back then, but it makes me cringe now! “I’m surprised she didn’t answer the phone!”

            My theorized, “She probably assumed it was me. You know, my whole working life, she kept saying she couldn’t wait ‘til I retired so she can spend more time with me, but now that she has, apparently I need to get out of the house more! I could understand that though, I drove her crazy!”

            I reassured my father, “Aw, I’m sure you weren’t that bad!”

            “No, I did it on purpose,” my dad differed. “At first, being at home was great, but I got bored after a while.”

            “I get that,” I related to him, “I stayed home this weekend ‘cause I hurt my wrist, but I got bored pretty quick!”

            My father inquired, “So, it sounds like you’ve been keeping busy! That’s good! I was worried you were just laying around the house pining away for Lilith.” Hearing her name made my eyes go wide! Lately, most of my thoughts involved mulling over what Damon’s next move might be and fantasies about Phoebe, and up until he mentioned my ex, she hadn’t come to my mind at all! That hadn’t happened in over a decade- even when I was preoccupied with my old job, I still recalled my wife often! To not do so just felt strange! Obviously, my dad could see what I was thinking on my face because he noted, “You forgot about her! That could only mean one thing…”

            I asserted, “I’ve been too busy to mope about her, I know!”

            “What’s her name?” my father probed.

            “Phoebe,” I replied without thinking. I saw a twinkle in my dad’s eye, so I amended my sentence, “Oh, and there’s a woman named Ginger in the group too, and her girlfriend shows up sometimes. There’s a few dudes there also. Some of the other teachers and I are… a part of the neighborhood watch.” That wasn’t a total lie; we did watch the area, but we mainly focused on guarding it from one type of criminal…

            I had hoped my father would focus on the new friends I made rather than my little too hasty response about Phoebe, but, of course, he fixated on that. “So, this Phoebe person is a teacher, huh?”

            “We’re just friends, Dad!” I informed him to ebb this speculation. That was the truth, but it kind of stung me when those words echoed back to me! I believed that we developed a bond deeper than a mere friendship, but I had proof that we were anything more than just good pals! Moreover, I still hadn’t signed those divorce papers, so technically, I wasn’t free to become anything romantically significant to Phoebe. I wondered if I ought to have taken care of that right then so that I could try to start a relationship with Phoebe, but if she rejected me, I would lose her and Lilith by signing those documents! My insides twisted in guilt of not knowing what to do…

            “Okay, you don’t wanna discuss it right now. I can take a hint!” my dad relented. “But, you know, if you ever do need to have a heart to heart, your old man is here! I have experience in these things, you know!”

            It’s always nice when someone makes that sort of offer, but I wasn’t ready to have a dialogue about this yet! I hadn’t unearthed how I felt thus far, so how could I describe it to him? Instead, I took a swig from my water bottle before teasing him, “Yeah, you married your high school sweetheart, so clearly you have a background in tangled up love lives!”

            My father retorted, “Well, yeah, we knew each other for forever, but I had to win her over from her husband first…”

            I made the mistake of taking another drink as he revealed that, and I did a spit take, which I only ever saw in movies up until that moment! Jett got offended and ran off, but I decided to deal with her later! Ever know someone for years only to discover a shocking secret like that? It’s completely dumbfounding! “She was married to someone before you?” I cried out to him.

            “Yeah, we’re from the era where stuff like that is kept taboo, so we never brought it up, but we’re living in the twenty-first century now, so I guess it’s not a forbidden topic anymore! Yes, your mother married some rich jerk after graduation, and I stole her from him.” my dad confessed. “They weren’t in love- he wanted a trophy wife and she wanted to keep her job. He was her boss, so if she left him, she would have been out of work and out of a home. I eventually convinced her to come live with me, and we’ve been together ever since!”

            “So, that’s why Mom was a homemaker?” I questioned. “I thought she did it to support you and your career!”

            My father clarified for me, “No! I mean, it helped, but she could have gotten work somewhere else if she wanted to. After you were born, your grandma offered to watch you if she wanted to do that. She wanted to stay home and take care of her family, but if she didn’t choose that path, we would have found a way to make it work! When you love each other, you always find a way!”

            I felt so stupid hearing him say that! I grew up with a naïve belief that life partners had to be willing to sacrifice something important in order to support what one of them wants to do, and it didn’t occur to me until he spelled it out that I had gotten it so wrong! I was hurt when Lilith wouldn’t put up with some of the sacrifices necessary to support my sales career, and it hurt worse when she didn’t appreciate the sacrifices I made for her by leaving a workplace I loved and starting completely over in a totally new city! Then I learn that I didn’t need to throw away my whole life to please her- if she truly loved me, she would have found a way to find happiness despite our setbacks! Okay, it may seem obvious to you, but it’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way! My dad didn’t realize it, but he gave me a lot to consider about my next step…

            Stefan finally got his ball in the hole, and he celebrated, “Yes! Alright, that’s four for me. You’re up, Billy!”

            “Four strokes? Son, was he cheating?” my dad asked.

            “Totally!” I answered with a grin. I hadn’t been paying full attention to what Stefan was doing in the background, but I was pretty certain he had attempted to get it in more than four tries!

            Stefan prepared himself to argue, and my father ended our conversation, “I gotta go! Love ya, son!”

            I returned his sentiment, “Love ya, Dad!” before hanging up.

            Right after I got off the phone with my father, in the interest of fairness, I called my mother. She didn’t pick up, so I sent a text requesting that she call me. Once I took care of that, I put my cellphone in my pocket and drummed my fingers anxiously. I desperately wanted a productive activity to keep my mind off of the subject that had come up in my exchange with my dad, but I already did everything I could with one hand. I could see the divorce papers out of the corner of my eye. I hadn’t moved them since I dropped them on the carpet several days ago, although it appeared as though Jett had occasionally used them as a bed! I tried to focus on other spaces in the house, but it felt as if those documents were burning a hole in the back of head! If they were a person, they’d be glaring at me, avidly trying to get me to listen to their nagging! I didn’t feel prepared to make a decision about my marriage yet, but those papers continued to badger me! Not literally, I wasn’t completely insane! I just could not rid myself of the guilt of not figuring this out while I had no valid excuse not to do so! I had nothing else going on, it was the optimum time to do an important action like that! So, I forced myself to venture over to that corner…

            My nerves almost shook me more in this instance than when I encountered those vampires! Trembling, I picked up the packet of documents and set them on a tall but narrow table I had near the front door. Logically, Lilith’s behavior made more sense knowing she had fell out of love with me, but a part of me feared I could have been incorrect. If I signed this thing, that was it! If she decided to forgive me, I would have to break her heart by turning her away due to my signing this! I knew how much it hurt when she did it to me, so I didn’t have it in me to do it back to her! On the flip side, if she had returned, would I have even wanted her back? Phoebe had me spellbound, and in a way, I thought we made a much better match than Lilith and I ever did. I picked up the pen for the notepad I kept up there in case I had to take notes on a phone call or whatever, and I almost let myself get excited about signing the papers and becoming free to go for it with Phoebe! Before I put pen to paper, I hesitated again. What if I was wrong about Phoebe’s feelings for me? If she didn’t like me like that, I would have to just accept my new role as a substitute teacher in Terra Belle! I wasn’t convinced that I enjoyed this position yet, granted fighting off monsters wasn’t a great incentive for the profession! Signing it seemed so final, and I never really stopped to think about what I ideally wanted for myself, so I pondered if I was being to rash by this abrupt push to enter in this new phase of my life…

            All of a sudden, a section of my fence toppled down! I beheld a squirrel zooming off of the structure before it collapsed, and afterwards, I could see an ample entryway into my backyard! I couldn’t have that, not with Damon’s minions marking me as their enemy! Well, that and I supposed that a burglar or some other regular human could have broken into my property too! I set down the pen and headed outside, and I reckoned that once I dealt with my security issue, I could tackle the best course to take to resolve my relationship problem!

            I temporarily forgot about my injury, and while the pain wasn’t completely agonizing, it did feel a little tender when I attempted to pick up the wood I stored in my garage. I scooped up an armful of lumber and dropped it off by the newly created hole, and then I went back to get a hammer and nails. I recognized that I was down an extremity, but I determined that I could totally handle this project with one hand! I used my good hand to lift up the board, and then I leaned the right side of my body against it as picked up the hammer with my left hand. I used my right fingers to hold the nail in place, reasoning that I wouldn’t have to use that wrist if my digits grasped it strong enough, and at the exact second I was about to strike…

            My phone rang! It surprised me enough that I lost control of and almost fell through the opening! I dropped the nail, and as I went to retrieve it, the board I was holding fell! I opted to ignore the call, Mom could wait a while! I repeated the same process and I tuned out the myriad of text messages that poured in. I reasoned that my dad may have conveyed his conjecture about Phoebe to her, and she was probably dying to get more details. Personally, I felt more comfortable trying to put up a new fence with a bruised wrist than going over that messy situation with her or anyone else right then! After I got everything back up, I swung my hammer and…

            “Ow!” The impact of the hammer vibrated to my wrist! Luckily, the suffering didn’t last long, but as I gazed at my building materials, which were all on the grass again, I couldn’t comprehend how I would have been able to finish that project that day! I couldn’t’ leave it as it was, but I grew leery at the prospect of hiring a handyman. I sincerely didn’t’ want to touch my savings because of the whole fiasco with Lilith. If I took her back, we may have needed the money to get a new place. If that scenario didn’t play out, I was sure whatever divorce lawyer I would have to hire would require a huge sum for his or her services. Or if neither Lilith nor Phoebe wanted me, would I have wanted to stay in this shack? Once again, I felt pressured to work this conundrum out! I couldn’t believe the fate of fixing my house rested on figuring out what to do about my romantic life! I aired my ruminations out loud, “What am I gonna do?”

            “You could try checking your phone,” Phoebe’s voice emanated from behind me.

            I got such a jolt of shock that I could have doubled over from a cardiac arrest right then and there! Okay, so I’m exaggerating a bit, but it was eerie to have her suddenly appear at the same minute I was sorting through a crisis that involved her! Had she sensed that her assistance was needed at that critical juncture? Had she arrived to do something that would make my dilemma a little easier? She dressed in a very flattering manner, and I got tempted to disregard my fence and invite her inside my house! I refrained from that when I saw the serious expression she bore, and now that I was thoroughly confused about everything that was going on around me, I couldn’t resist querying, “What are you doing here?”