CHAPTER 1: CHRIS
Today is just like any other day in the Averin Mansion. Maids scurry around to clean and do housework, mumbling 'good morning' as I walk by. My dad is locked up in his office doing god knows what. My mom's been marching around the house for the past twenty minutes, yelling Lucy's name.
My slightly-older sister, Annalise, is locked away in her room, probably having yet another fashion crisis. When she isn't out on the town with friends from the drama cult, she's in her walk-in closet carefully constructing her next three outfits. Nobody comes between Anna and her clothes. "You don't understand, Chris. Shopping. That's what I do. That's what I live for," she'd insisted told me when I asked her what she liked so much about getting a ton of new clothes ever other week. I'm not getting in the way of that ego ever again, that's for sure.
Chandra hasn't dropped by in a while. The last time I saw her was at her extravagant wedding in May, four months ago. She's been whisked away from us by some snooty German ambassador of the Alliance, the vampire hierarchy of this world, who looked almost twice her age and now we hardly see her at all. She'll be arriving tonight and staying a few weeks for the ceremony though.
My mom's head appears at my bedroom door. Her face looks tired and her auburn hair is coming out of its twist on top of her head. "Chris, have you seen Lucy?"
I pull out my headphones and sit up straight. Shaking my head, I motion to the window behind me with my thumb. Mom walks into my room and peers out of it. She lets out an exasperated sigh. "Goodness, how many times have I told her not to do that anymore." Then she storms out of my room, probably to ruin Lucy's fun.
I look out of the window. Lucy's still there in the driveway, skipping and singing merrily around a shape she drew on the road under the watchful eye of Smith, my dad's most trusted guard. Only when I look closely do I see that the shape is a pentagram and her singing is really just demonic incantations. Smith's ever-serious face and wiry muscular figure sometimes make me think that he could make minced meat out of anyone. But right now watching Lucy try to summon the devil he just looks ill.
A knock on the door makes me tear my eyes away from the scene. The maid who's in charge of the first floor pops her head around the door, just like my mom had. "Chris, the tailor's here for your final fitting." I look at her a while, who is standing in my doorway. Her ginger hair is pulled up in a neat bun and her face is pinched. Her skin is porcelain and smattered with freckles. She's pretty, like most of the maids are. But unlike the others, she doesn't put up with my crap, which is probably why I like her.
"Oh right. The fitting. Where is he?" It startles me that I forgot all about the ceremony tomorrow. God, and I've been waiting for this my whole life. Naturally, mom made me get a new suit for the occasion, even though my closet's full to the brim with one-time-worn tuxes.
"In the living room," she replies.
I slide off my bed. "Thanks, Karen." She turns away and shuts the door behind her. The whole house seems to be buzzing with noise today, probably because of last-minute preparations for my Turning ceremony tomorrow.
The Turning ceremony is the event that changes the offspring of vampires, like me, into fully-fledged vampires. Well, that's the formal way to produce vampires anyway. If a human and a vampire exchange blood, that can turn an ordinary human into one of us. When vampire kids are born, we're pretty much like normal people. We don't need blood and have no special abilities. But when the we Turn at seventeen years old, a permanent change is made in the body of the child. They develop accelerated healing and enhanced senses, strength and overall deadliness. Not to mention that blood becomes an essential energy source, like in fairytales. But unlike the myths and legends, it's only needed once in a while. Usually Chandra, Anna and my parents eat normal food. During the ceremony, the 'candidate' must recite vows in English, Russian and Romanian and drink from a goblet of blood. The vows are made to bind the young vampire to the Alliance and prevent them from breaking the most important rule of my kind: to keep the secret. For safety reasons, of course. Just imagine what would happen if humans found out they aren't the top of the food chain? All hell would break lose, and we can't have people breaking down the gate with torches and pitchforks. So the vows were introduced to be said by all the teenage vampires-to-be at their Turning ceremony.
And for me, that's today. I can't say if I'm excited or not. Of course, I'm looking forward to the outcome, but then there's the social event: the big party.
I hate big parties. Always have, always will.
Karen appears at my door again. "Fitting," she mouths at me, looking irritated and I realize I've just been staring at the door blankly for the past ten minutes. I make my way hurriedly down the stairs to meet the aggravating man who's in charge of my suit for tomorrow night. He stands waiting for me in the foyer with a pair of shears in his hand, a measuring tape around his neck and the snootiest expression I ever did see. His too-pointy nose doesn't help things, either. I sigh. This is going to be a long fitting.
"Get out of my sight," he sneers, viperously.
My mom's Husband No. 3 has never liked me, and after a lot of 'getting to know each other' and 'quality time', while Mom was still alive I doubted he ever would. I remember asking myself why she couldn't just stay with Phil, Husband No. 2. He had seemed nice for the fifteen years of my life that he'd been in. That was before my mom just came home one day and I'd never seen peace between them ever since. She got a divorce soon after. What's even weirder is that one day he turned up completely beaten to a pulp in an alley and later died in hospital with his throat ripped out. To this day, nobody's sure what happened to him. When the police were trying to express their deepest apologies because they couldn't crack the case, Mom hadn't looked bothered in the least. She would never talk about Phil after that.
Anyway, as soon as she introduced me to Jack, I knew things were definitely going to take a turn for the worst. She met him at a bar soon after she lost her job at the hospital (she was caught with a water bottle full of vodka on duty) following the news of Phil's violent death. Jack didn't have a stable job, like Phil had. He just worked nights behind the bar a few days a week and did some odd jobs around the neighbourhood like fixing tables and stuff. Also unlike Phil, he didn't give a damn about me. Even after he moved in with us he treated me like I wasn't there. When we did talk, it always ended up in shouting on both parts. I couldn't believe that my mom had chosen this man to replace Phil. Did she think he was really going to do a good job of raising me? I wanted to ask her that, but at that time she'd already gotten into that accident. The bad kind, as if there is any 'good' kind of accident that lands you in the hospital. Jack wouldn't even visit her when she was in ICU. Most days I would just bring a spare change of clothes to the hospital and some homework to school so I could stay with her through the night. Besides, it wasn't like I had anything to come home to. When the hospital called my school that day and I'd rushed there, I almost burst into tears when I saw her. She was bruised all over. Angry slash marks decorated her neck so she couldn't even speak. The doctors said she'd broken most ribs, snapped both her arms, collarbone, had a bashed in skull and had been brought in with a severe case of blood loss. They didn't know even what exactly happened to her. A stranger had been the one to call an ambulance, saying they'd found her at a playground near the apartment. Most likely she was assaulted by a gang, they'd said, and asked me if my dad was abusive. I'd burst into hysterical laughter at that.
I stayed with my mom every single day until she died. The fact that Jack wouldn't even come see her was the last straw to her battered heart. The fight in her eyes faded quickly, along with the remainder of her life. I wasn't there when she died, but she'd left a letter with the nurse tending to her to give to me. In it she expressed all her regrets and hopes that I would do better than she did in this life. And just like that, my mom was gone too.
So it's just Jack and me now. It's horrible at home. All we do is fight and I've had to take on two part-time jobs in town just to cover my school fees. My college fund is nonexistent. Jack is completely useless, to make matters worse. On really bad days he'll threaten me with a broken bottle of Jack Daniels if I don't hand over my pay check. He uses it to buy more alcohol and cigarettes. I'm not sure if he does drugs but I wouldn't be surprised.
I am so sick of my life. I'm so sick of coming home to a dirty flat that reeks of tar and alcohol. I am so sick of pretending that I'm okay at school so I don't weird out my classmates. I am so sick of working my ass off at school and at work when it all feels so hopeless. I don't know where my life is going. I don't know what I want to do when I grow up. I don't know what I want to do when I wake up tomorrow. I don't know anything.
And I've had just about enough.
I stomp out of the house angrily, grabbing my messenger bag on my way out. My shift at Starbucks starts at five, so I've got one hour to kill. But I just can't stay in this ratty apartment any longer. He calls after me, asking where I'm going in a slurred voice, but I don't care. I slam the door behind me. It'll be a miracle if I never have to see his face again.
After contemplating for a while on the swings in our neighbourhood playground, I decide to hit the library. The walking will give me some time to think and cool down. I pick up the pace, my feet eating up the sidewalk. Mothers with small children in pushchairs pass me by, going in the opposite direction. Groups of college students excited for another wild Friday night fill the streets. Children chase each other on scooters and bicycles. Rows of antique shops line the pavement to my left and it's all busy road on my right. The sounds of LA traffic fill my ears and the sun is beating down on me, hot and unforgiving. Soon I'm a sweaty mess and I have to slow down, dragging the back of my hand across my forehead. Why is it this hot? Summer's over for goodness' sake, I think bitterly. I've never liked summer much. It just means taking on more jobs and spending all my free time at the library to avoid being at home with Jack. I see other girls walking arm in arm, giggling in crop tops and short shorts while I'm on my way to my part-time job and then to another one at McDonalds. Life is so cruel.
Welcome cold air blasts me in the face as I walk through the State Library's front entrance. I pull out a chair at my favourite table in the secluded part on the second floor and rest my head against my arm, splayed across the table. I close my eyes briefly, vowing that I'll get to work as soon as the tiredness wears off.
A familiar male voice grabs my attention. "Why, if it isn't Spencer McDonald," Sam O'Connor says, looking down at me. Then he calls out, "Hey bae! Look who's here." I groan inwardly. Sam is one of the dumbest jocks in my year at school. His talents and achievements include stuffing a whole hamburger into his mouth in one go and having slept with the whole cheer team twice. His hair has lightened while his skin had darkened considerably over the summer and he is looking at me with twisted intent in his brown eyes. He is the last person I want to see right now.
"Oh, look who it is," sniggers a bitchy female voice.
I stand corrected.
"Uh, hey guys." I try for decency. Maybe they'll leave me alone if I act not-bothered.
"You here alone, McDonald? Hahahahaha, well I wouldn't expect else of the biggest loser in our year," says Shelby Beckman, life-sized Barbie, captain of the cheer team and apparently without a gag reflex. Sam wraps his arm around Shelby's shoulder who tucks her hand into his butt pocket. Ugh. Can't they just go away? I ignore her and pretend to focus on chapter three of Wuthering Heights, the book we're supposed to read for English Lit. I continue reading despite feeling Shelby's intense glare on my back the whole time.
"Ugh, let's go babe," Shelby coos at Sam, grabbing him by the arm and starting to lead him out.
"Just a minute, babe, I'll be out in two seconds. Promise," Sam says in an equally stupid voice.
"Don't take too long!" Shelby calls, already halfway to the stairs and saunters her way down them.
After making sure Shelby was out of ear-shot, Sam turns to me again. "You didn't reply my text, Spence," he says in a low, sexy voice. At least, it would have been sexy if I was into mindless sex with a muscular airhead.
"Yeah, I meant not to," I reply flatly, gathering up my books. It's only four twenty-three, but I don't want to be bothered by anyone else from school. Guess I'm turning up for work a tad early. I had better get that employee of the month award.
I walk out of the library the way I came in, just hearing Sam mutter "bitch" on my way downwards. I bump into Shelby waiting at the front entrance, who almost succeeds in tripping me. I head out of the front door and turn the corner without looking back.
I walk through the door of Starbucks Coffee in record time, sweating buckets. It seems like the weather had gotten even hotter while I was in the library. I report for work and slide on my ugly bottle green apron and hat. Mr. Brown, the owner, informed me that Fiona, the girl who usually mans the cash register was sick so I'm standing in for her today.
I'm half an hour early and my next break is in three and a half hours. I sigh dejectedly. I wonder if things will always be this way.
"Chris, what are you doing? Everyone's waiting downstairs!" In the round mirror I can see Mom's head peeking in the door. I ran back up immediately after the Turning ceremony and stayed up here ever since. The event had gone smoothly. I stated my vows in English, Romanian and Russian and drank blood for the first time from the ancient goblet. This was followed by a procession and people shaking my hand and telling me how big I've gotten and such -people I don't remember ever meeting in my life. Yes, everything is perfect. Well, besides the fact that now I have to go back downstairs and mingle with people.
"Coming," I groan, following her out of the door. From the balcony I can see that the ballroom is already filled with women in cocktail dresses and complicated headdresses and men in expensive-looking suits. I can't even see one familiar face or person that looks the same age as me. I can identify all the waiters and waitresses weaving between the guests carrying silver platters of glasses of champagne by their black uniform. The room is filled with chatter and controlled laughter. My dad is standing in the centre of the room, shaking people's hands firmly and accepting congratulations on his son becoming 'one of us'.
It's weird being a mature vampire. Every one of the faces of the guests seems too clear and their coloured ensembles too vibrant. I can hear everything from the music blaring out from Lucy's playing tea party with her dolls in her room to the wriggling of worms in the soil under the house. Everything is causing a din in my ears. It's drives Anna crazy as well. She told me so right after my ceremony.
She's been a vampire for just three quarters of a year now. It wasn't easy for her to adjust to at all. Even now the sound of her screaming to release her coming from the basement is still imprinted in my mind. During that time she seemed mad; her eyes were red and she snarled at everyone who came to see her. The temptation of human blood had driven her half-mad to the point where we couldn't let her out of the house for a couple of weeks. I skipped school too and my parents told our teachers that we had chicken pox. And if that's not bad enough, the dirty little secret we're forced to keep for making the mistake of letting her out too early is something I'll never forget.
I take a few deep breaths and my mom takes my arm. She links her other arm into Anna's. I look down at her. Anna and I have almost identical features; the same round eyes, sharp angles and strong nose. She's tall as well, which she hates. Her favourite thing to moan about is how the fact that she's taller than so many guys limits her dating range. I got moved up a year in kindergarten so a lot of people think we're twins. Anna has her charcoal hair pinned up on top of her hair and her dress is a turquoise. Mom is smiling at me now with small tears forming in her eyes, trying not to gush. She's always felt an immense sense of pride in whatever her children accomplish -from Lucy's first words to my perfect report card- so I can't blame her for seeming a little overexcited. Anna mirrors her expression perfectly. I return their smiles and we begin to walk down the middle of the grand staircase into the centre of the ballroom. I eye the pompous, business-like faces of the guests while smoothing out my face into a congenial expression as my mom had taught me to. The emcee announces our arrival and everyone turns their head to look at us and applaud.
Next comes the traditional dance between mother and son (or daughter and father). It's like a faster version of the waltz, accompanied by a solo violin and harp. Mom and I glide elegantly across the dance floor. It doesn't feel like we're moving very fast; the faces of the guests are slightly blurring into one another is the only proof that we are. I'm careful not to trod on her flowing, wine-coloured dress. I've memorized all the steps (thanks to my on-and-off girlfriend) and we get another applaud. Only now do I notice Alexa standing in the crowd all decked out in the short black number she'd bought when she dragged me shopping with her last week. Doesn't she look radiant, chatting up a guy on the lacrosse team. I chuckle wryly, enjoying the show. She's holding a glass of champagne in one hand and her other is splayed out on his chest, tracing the side of his face, yanking him closer by his tie. She whispers something in Josh's ear. Ah, the let's-fuck eyes. She must be really going for it tonight. I stare at her long enough that she locks eyes with mine after scanning the room. She looks stapled to the ground, unmoving. Josh backs away from her slowly, looking in my direction as well, holding his hands up in the air. Only when he's dissolved into the rest of the suits do I approach Alexa.
That didn't take long, I think as I head back to my corner. Alexa meets my eyes for a heartbeat, big, crocodile tears streaming down her face and pushes her way through the crowd.
After that come the toasts, mostly to my happiness and my family's prosperity.
By ten o'clock, I need to sit down. All the flashing colours moving around the dance floor and changing lights had left a pounding pain behind my eyes and I'm sweating buckets despite the air-conditioning. I stumble to our table through the dizziness, almost making Lady Pushkin drop the glass of wine in her hand. I don't apologize. I'm just trying to get through the crowd before any other event starts. What's going on? Vampires don't get sick. As soon as I get to my seat I rest my elbows on the table and rub my temples. I've been feeling more and more ill as the party progresses. Pain is ringing in my head so sharp and clear that nothing can distract me from it. My stomach feels like it's burning me from the inside out.
And my throat is dry as the Sahara desert, waiting for me to quench my thirst.
Blood. As soon as the word comes to my head, it's all I can think about. Blood -that rich, warm, fragrant stuff running through people's veins. Pulsing with every beat of a heart. I can hear it. Who is it? I look around. It's no one here, obviously. Dad told me that vampire blood smelled and tasted like water. I hadn't believed him, but now I understand. Lunging in and sinking my new fangs into some poor waitress' neck seemed unappealing as Mom's baking. My eyes search harder. They fall on Anna, who is laughing and talking with a group of people from my school I hadn't noticed during the ceremony. Her drama club, no doubt.
Getting closer. I tear my eyes away from them as I sense the source of the blood moving around. Before I know what's happening, I'm lunging through the crowd, knocking several people over in my wake. All I know is that I want to -need to- get to that source of blood. I need to feel it sliding smoothly down my throat like silk. Feel the life draining out of my victim. Taste their blood sweet on my tongue. My surroundings start to blur as I speed up, racing up the stairs. At the top of the staircase I am frantically bursting open every door, looking for it. I try every single one in the west wing; still nothing. It isn't moving anymore. Where is it?! I feel as though I will die if I don't find it fast. Like the life will drain out of me. Like I will perish of the dry, brittle feeling in my throat and the flames in my chest. I hear a slight movement behind me. I spin too fast and almost knock over one of my mom's antique vases. What are you doing?! My mind is screaming. Whoever is behind me is not what I'm looking for. I'm wasting my time.
When I turn around there is nothing. The blood source is on the move again. I can hear its footsteps on the ceiling. Upstairs, I think madly and whip around again. Anna has suddenly appeared in my path, standing perfectly still with her hands on her hips. Her hair is slightly lopsided now, probably due to the running it must have taken to overtake me. "What are you doing?" she asks, suspiciously.
I cannot bear to be standing here talking to her right now. The burning in my throat worsens. Without thinking I lunge for her, shoving her out of the way. She flies against the west wall and lands with a loud thump on the floor. I panic for a few heartbeats until I see she's fine. I want to tell her sorry, but my feet are moving out of my control again and I'm gone. She calls out after me but I can't hear her over the pulse of blood I'm approaching, pounding in my brain like a drumbeat.
I fly up the staircase, knocking over several maids who are passing with laundry in their hands as I go. More doors. There are so many in this house, all identical, white wood. But this one is slightly different. I stop in front of one covered in stickers of inverted crosses and pictures of demons drawn in crayon. It seems very familiar, but I don't try to remember why. All I care about is the loud heartbeat in my ears that has been mocking me this whole damn dinner, on the opposite side of this door. Footsteps. Someone is coming fast. I don't have much time to waste. I kick the door down without checking to see if it's locked.
Sitting in the middle of the pink, polka-dot sheeted bed is the prize I'd been looking for. She wears a startled expression; her eyes wide with surprise but not fear, her mouth hanging open slightly, her hands clutching a small doll. "Chris," she says in a high-pitched voice. "What are you doing?"
Suddenly I am on the floor and everything goes black.
"Omigod," sobs a familiar female voice. "I don't know Dad he just ran off like a crazy person. I was worried so I followed him and when I caught up he was just throwing open every door in the house. I tried to stop him-stood in his way- and then he just shoved me against this wall! That's when I knew he'd gone nuts so I started chasing him again. He was going straight for Lucy's room. I had to stop him. So then there was one of your vases and he kicked the door down so I-" More sobs.
"It's okay, sweetie," Mom says in a soothing voice. "You had to do something."
"No, Mom that's not...why I'm upset. Now aren't you going to lock him up like you did for me? I mean look at him! He's handcuffed to a table!" Anna's voice takes a hysterical turn. "Please, mom, don't stick him in the basement. Don't make the guards-"
"It won't come to that, okay?" My dad bellows. Anna shuts up immediately. I still can't open my eyes but I can hear him pacing somewhere close behind my head. "I saw his eyes fluttering. He's conscious. Look -Lucy is standing right there and he's fine. It'll pass. Alright? So in the meantime, take Lucy up to her room. She's seen enough today." He dismisses Anna in a serious tone.
"He's bleeding," observes my little sister. "Can I have a vial of his blood for my collection?" Anna tells her no and tows her out of the room.
Finally I open my eyes. Everything is blurred for a few moments, but clears up after I blink a few times. "What's happening to me?" I croak at my dad.
He's still pacing and rubbing his chin thoughtfully. Mom is looking down at me with a sad expression. I wonder what I look like to her, I thought in disgust at myself. The boy who almost killed her youngest daughter. She comes closer cautiously and extends her hand to run it through my hair, like she did when I was a child after getting shouted at by my dad. I used to lay with my head in her lap, my expression sour and she'd just stay with me and rub my head until I felt better, or got hungry. Whichever came first. Today is different though. I can't believe I almost attacked my own sister. As if she can read my thoughts, "It wasn't your fault", she tells me. Her kindness only makes me feel worse about myself. I scowl at the ceiling.
"How are you feeling, Chris?" My dad inquires in a gruff voice.
"Like an awful brother," I reply monotonously.
"You know what I mean."
I push away the self-hatred and think. "Better. I didn't feel like I wanted to attack her just now. Lucy."
"That's good. Your cut is healing up well." Silence falls over the room again. He's lost in his thoughts again, probably. I take in my surroundings to pass the time. We're in Lucy's drawing room and I am stretched across her table. My hands and feet are cuffed to each leg. Pictures of our house and our family cover the walls, some painted, some drawn in coloured pencil and some in crayon. Some are especially detailed and lifelike; pictures of flowers and portraits of Lucy that I drew for her on boring Sunday afternoons. (She looked like she hated them, but still said she was grateful.) A single black grand piano stands on a platform just off the centre of the room that I play for her sometimes. Large arched windows cover two walls of the room and the heavy pink curtains are drawn so I can see the starless sky outside.
"What I think is," my dad begins, "that maybe you just reacted badly to the change. Sometimes it takes a while for the body of the newly-Turned to adapt to the thirst for blood. Anna was like that."
"So I'm not crazy."
"No-" Dad is interrupted by three quick raps on the door. Dr. Morgan, our family doctor, enters and strides into the middle of the room where I'm lying. He's a short man with greying hair and blotchy skin. He and my dad exchange short greetings. I've never liked him, so I don't say hello.
"Well now, Christian, you've gotten yourself into a right pickle haven't you?" His old-man British accent is still laced in his voice although he's been here in LA for well over twenty years. He moved here from Manchester with my dad back in college. They'd stayed good friends ever since.
Dr. Morgan looks at some notes sprawled in illegible doctor's handwriting and pushes his glasses up on his face. I've always wondered if he considered them a fashion statement of some sort. With perfect vampire vision, he certainly doesn't need them. "Well, I suspect it's just as your father and I have discussed: you're body just hasn't adapted yet. But if you feel better now then the craze for blood probably won't return. You should be fine now." And to my dad he says, "I suggest you keep him away from your youngest though, just in case. We can't have him taking a snap at her, can we?" He laughs in my face.
Anger boils up inside me. "I would never hurt my sister," I thunder, glaring at him. How dare he joke about this? I'm feeling awful enough for what I almost did to Lucy. I don't need his commentary on the matter.
He just chuckles to himself. "'Course you wouldn't, lad." The fucking nerve. "Well, I'm off now, Ben. Send me an update tomorrow afternoon to see how he's doing. If he starts terrorizing the neighbourhood, give me a call. You've got my number." He shakes hands with my dad and exits the room, my dad trailing behind him to see him to the door.
Mom, who had been perched on the piano during the conversation approaches me again with a small set of keys in her hand. She frees me from the table one handcuff at a time. I swing my legs to the edge of the table and hop off. She pulls me into a hug. "Isn't that great, honey? You're okay," she squeezes me gently. I pat her back with one hand and smooth down her wild hair that had come out of its pins with my other.
Her head is buried in the crook of my neck so I don't try to hide the remorse doubtlessly plastered on my face. When I look at her ringlets and heart-shaped face, all I can think of is Lucy's face twisted in shock. I could've killed her, I think angrily at myself. They would have found me hunched over her body, limp and lifeless with murder written all over my face. What's wrong with Anna and me? Chandra wasn't like this. She made being a vampire look effortless from the first day.
I ponder this in my bed at night instead of sleeping. The thought won't leave me alone. I am restless, twisting from side to side until I'm tangled up in my sheets and gasping into my pillows. 11.00 flashed in red on my bedside clock. I decide all I need is some fresh air and go through the French doors to my wide balcony. The warm breeze feels good but it isn't enough. I can't keep still. I pace the balcony for what felt like long time before making a snap decision to go for a walk. My parents don't let us go out this late, but it's not as if they're going to find out. I'll be back within an hour, definitely. I tug on a pair of sweatpants and throw a hoodie over my t-shirt. I lace up my sneakers and look down from the balcony. It's a two-storey drop, but I'm a vampire, right? This'll be a synch.
I hoist myself over the railing and take a deep breath before plummeting into the darkness.
Landing in a heap in some bushes.
Maybe stealth takes more than just instincts.
I recover quickly and get behind a larger bush just in the nick of time. Smith must have heard something and come to investigate. He shines a flashlight over the area where I had landed and moves on. Once he is out of sight, I scurry as quietly as I can under the ditch Anna and I made as our secret escape route early this year. (We needed it for different reasons. Sometimes I catch her wriggling into the hole to go on some shopping adventure when she's grounded. I just use it to go to McDonald's at three am.) As soon as I'm out of the tunnel and have brushed myself off, I pull my hood over my head and break into a jog. I pick up the pace until I am past the range of the CCTV camera at the front gates.
I don't know where I'm going exactly, but I head towards the city lights. Hopefully there I'll find some place to rid me of these thoughts.