Writing my second YA novel has, in some ways, been more difficult than the first. Yet, I feel I have learned a ton and am only growing more and more. I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks. I want to thank all who have helped me along the way, and I look forward to continuing our friendships and support of each other on this indie journey. I hope you all enjoy this first chapter, and I can't wait to publish!
As much as I have been dreaming about this day I have been dreading it just as much. I know my mom will say I am over reacting, but I don’t want to spend any part of my birthday getting poked and prodded. “Why can’t turning eighteen be just about celebrating?” I asked my fat orange cat, Louie, as he bathed himself on my bed.
I gave Louie a good scratch before I hopped out of bed and headed to my closet. I wanted to make sure I looked great in my picture; otherwise I would never hear the end of it from my best friend Liz.
She spent a record four hours and countless wardrobe changes before we were able to nail down the perfect outfit, hair and make-up combination. As annoying as that day was, I had to admit she did look great in her picture.
So, here I stand in front of my closet with no clue on what I should wear. I pulled out the fanciest clothes I owned and quickly sent them flying to the bed behind me, which in turn sent Louie running away with a meow.
I glanced over to my desk and stared at the pile of clothes draped over the back of the chair. Liz had brought over a number of items, which I would describe as risqué but she would say they were simply her everyday clothes. I thought they were a bit flashy, but Liz had an eye for fashion and was known in our group of friends to be an “H to T” girl. No matter what the circumstance she was always perfectly put together from head to toe. She said she hated the term, but I could tell she relished the fact that people thought of her that way and was only pretending to be modest.
We were an odd couple, her and I, but we had known each other our whole lives. With moms that were too busy to notice much of anything we did and dads that were out of the picture, we quickly bonded as if we were sisters.
I quickly decided to save the fashion options Liz had given me for later that night, and slipped on my favorite pair of jeans with a simple black tank top. Less was more right?
“Hurry it up Claire! I want to get there before it gets too busy.” My mom’s muffled voice echoed from down the hallway to my bedroom. I was starting to think that she was more excited that I was getting a Donor ID than the fact that I was turning eighteen.
I knew how important it was to have that identification, because everyone who is anyone got one when they turned eighteen. It was a vital part of our society. So, naturally I didn’t feel it was a very big deal.
Everyone with a Donor ID would have their blood tested for the specific type, the quality, any diseases they may have, and the mineral content among other things. Once they have all this information a Donor ID was issued specifying all of the information.
Having this identification did mean that I would be required to donate blood on a regular basis to the blood bank, who would in turn prepare the blood for the reigning vampire royal family in our region. Since the royals lived in my city, all the blood banks were stricter about everyone getting their identification as soon as they turned eighteen. There were those who refused and those individuals were charged a hefty tax for their lack of fealty.
It was probably much more complicated than that, but I didn’t pay as much attention in school as I should have. Taking a class on the rules, regulations and structure of the vampire monarchy was a required course and even with my limited knowledge I managed to pass.
Society saw so little of the vampires that were in the royal families. They had grown into more of a reclusive celebrity type, but they were still our rulers. They controlled our government, managed our laws and protected us. All they asked was a blood donation in return. I thought our forefathers made a pretty good deal with the vampires and it had worked quite well for the last few hundred years.
So, in a nutshell, that was my plan for my eighteenth birthday. I would make my first donation to the vampire family, get my Donor ID and then it was time to party.
I rushed down the stairs taking two steps at a time and stopped at a mirror in the living room to look at my reflection. I smiled at myself for having remembered the tips Liz gave me for styling my hair and appreciated my new less-frizzy hairdo.
My mom was perched at the kitchen counter, leaning on her massive brown purse and watching the news on a tiny television. The news anchor reported on a group of picketers that were protesting outside of a blood bank. Not everyone liked the idea of having to donate their blood to feed vampires, calling them monsters and other foul names.
“How can you watch that junk?” I asked her as I flipped the television off.
“Can you believe those people? I can’t imagine what anyone has to complain about. They’re lucky we aren’t still living in the dark ages when vampires used to hunt people down and murder them like cattle.”
I didn’t say anything because I knew if I replied I would send her off on some endless tangent about how we should be so thankful to the vampires for civilizing our region, for showing mercy and blah, blah, blah. My mom was well known for her support of the blood donation system, which was probably why she was so eager to have me get my ID so quickly. Every city in our region had set up a committee to encourage support of the vampires, to enlist new donors and spread the word of our valiant and brave leader, King Nicolae Noire, who pulled our region from the ashes of the dark ages. My mom is the head of the committee in our city.
“You all set?” She grabbed the keys and headed for the door.
“Yeah, I think so. How long do you think this is going to take?” I asked.
“As long as it takes. Why, do you have something you need to do?”
“Well, yeah Mom. It’s my birthday. I wanted to hang out with Liz and my friends.”
“You’ll have plenty of time to do that tonight. Okay?”
I again chose not to respond and simply followed alongside my mom as we walked briskly to the train station a few blocks from the house. As always she would comment on how convenient the train was, and how much the vampires had improved our way of life with such changes. If I didn’t know better I would think she was brainwashed, but I suppose being the head vampire committee representative would make a person a little wrapped up in every detail of what vampires had done.
My mom used to make me go with her on weekends, walking door-to-door handing out pamphlets trying to get unregistered humans to get their Donor IDs. More often than not, we would simply get a door slammed in our faces, but she never gave up trying.
The trains where we lived in midtown were much nicer than the ones we used to take when we went, what I liked to call “preaching”.
We walked through the toll booths and stood on the platform with the rest of the morning rush of people. There were people carrying briefcases, others holding onto fussy children, people soliciting this or that, vendors hawking coffee or vampire memorabilia, and teenagers obviously heading home after a night of partying which made me want to get this whole ID business quickly done with, so I could do some partying of my own.
The train arrived after a short wait and we clamored in with the rest of the crowd making our way uptown. My mom clicked away on her phone, checking emails and the news or planning something to counter the protestors outside the blood bank, I was sure.
Our stop let out right outside the blood bank in uptown. My mom insisted we go to this one and I quickly noticed why. Everything in uptown was prettier and just plain better, because the rich people really did know a thing or two about architecture.
A tall cylinder shaped structure with small windows evenly circling it towered over me. Right next to it, was a pyramid shaped building made out of glass. As we made our way up the hedged walkway I surveyed the landscape. All of the bushes were trimmed perfectly and beautiful fragrant flowers lined unique looking stone statues that I noticed were vampire royal family members of the past.
They looked very regal gazing down at people who made their way into the blood bank. Each statue had a plaque providing a brief history of that specific vampire. There were a few people who stopped to read the passages and some who even took time to have their photo taken with one of the statues.
I quickly realized that reading about the vampires in school and seeing this place in person were two quite different things. The awe of it and the beauty really did put things into perspective. Everyone looked so happy and I felt a little ashamed for being so put out about having to spend a small portion of my birthday here.
A cute guy held the door open for us as we made our way through the entry doors and I couldn’t help but return his smile. My mom grabbed a pamphlet out of his hand and handed it to me. Once inside the huge glass building, I was again struck with awe at the beauty of the large tinted windows that soften the bright sunlight from outside allowing a ton of tropical plants to grow inside.
A large fountain bubbled in the center of the room, covered in an intricate mosaic of tiles. Each appeared meticulously placed to achieve the full beauty of its design. I peered in as we walked around it and the bottom of the fountain was speckled with coins.
“Some people believe that if you toss in a coin, King Nicolae Noire will make your wish come true,” my mom said as she pointed to a beautifully painted portrait of the eldest and leader of the vampire family, with a smile in her voice.
I nodded at her and saw a young couple toss in a coin. I made a mental note to toss one in for myself before we left, and give myself one birthday wish.
We were checked in by a friendly receptionist who wore a simple white dress with a square cut collar. I soon realized that was the uniform for all the ladies who worked at the blood bank. The men, however, wore white pants with a white shirt that looked similar to a tunic. Although it was an odd choice of clothing I’m sure Liz could give me an earful on everything that was wrong with their attire, it looked good. The minimalist style of the employee’s uniform really made the beauty of the décor stand out.
“I told you it wasn’t going to be that bad.” my mom pinched my arm as we made our way to a waiting area.
“It’s not what I expected at all. I was thinking it was going to be some sterile smelling, hospital type building, but this…this is like a hotel.”
“They really do have an eye for beauty don’t they?” she beamed.
As I looked around the room, my jaw hanging open, I admired more of the style and noted other teenagers looking anxious to get their IDs. There were other people I guessed that were probably making their donations and several with clean, white bandages on their arms. They didn’t look the least put out after making their donation and were comfortably standing around looking at the portraits and artwork that lined the walls enjoying the beauty of it.
A large television was anchored to a far wall, and it scrolled names and numbers. As a new name appeared on the screen, someone would get up and head through a set of double doors labeled Donations.
“You nervous?” my mom asked, patting my knee.
“Not really.” I lied. I’m a little nervous - not a big fan of needles.
“Good. You’ll do just fine. So, what do you girls have planned for tonight?”
“We’re going to eat at the Sushi House and then I think we are going to Club Crimson.”
“Is that the place I’ve been hearing about on the radio?”
“Yeah, don’t worry Mom, it’s a minor’s only club and it’s close to uptown, so it should be really nice.” I enunciated the really as best I could.
“Fine. Just don’t come home too late. Oh, look there’s your name, you’re next. I’ll be here when you are done.”
I got up and headed for the double doors, clinging to my small clutch with a deathgrip, even though the lady who was waiting to greet me was probably the friendliest looking person I had ever seen.
“Claire Miller?” she asked with a warm smile on her face.
“Yep,” I said futily, trying to return the smile.
“Alright sweetie, come with me. You’re here for your first Donor ID, right?”
“Mhm.” I was sure my one word answers might be making me look a bit dumb, but I was still a little nervous.
The long white hallway was lit with simple sconces on the walls and even more pricey artwork hung from the walls, filling the narrow corridor with vibrant splashes of color.
“Well, congratulations on making such a responsible decision to contribute to society and show your support for the vampire royal family. King Nicolae Noire and the rest of the family appreciate each and every donation made.”
She led us to a door marked with the number seven and opened it for me. The room was lit with natural light from a large window, which offered a view of an expansive courtyard. Rooms that lined the courtyard were visible and I squinted trying to see if I could peer into anyone else’s room. An exam chair stood idly in the middle of the room with a small counter that held a perfectly organized assortment of gauze, cotton balls, swabs and some other items that I wasn’t quite sure what they were.
“Alright Claire, if you would just take a seat we’ll get started.”
The nurse closed the door behind us and took a seat on a small stool. She flipped through a folder in her hands and then began to open drawers, pulling out needles and other items I didn’t like. I turned my attention and stared out the window to distract myself.
“First I want to ask you if you have watched the introduction video to blood donation?”
“Yeah, my Mom had me sign up online. I watched it a couple weeks ago I think.”
“Okay, good. Did you have any questions or would you like to watch it again?”
I vaguely remembered watching the video and then asked the first question that popped into my head. “Yeah, how often will I have to donate? Not that I don’t want to or anything, I’m just a little scared of needles.”
“That’s perfectly normal. Now, that can range on your results of course, but typically it’s only once or twice a month.” She walked behind a small desk and typed information into her computer. She walked over to my chair and adjusted the arm rest for me to lay my arm out straight. When instructed I pressed my finger down on a small pad, so that she could scan my print and enter it into their database.
I started to bite my lip when she tied my arm off and started patting the vein on my arm to get it to show up better. After a few tries she was satisfied and gently sterilized the area. “Don’t tense up now sweetie. I’ll be gentle on ya, I’m a professional. I do this every day.”
She smiled at me and pulled a tray close to her before opening up a new syringe. I held my breath as she pushed the needle into the delicate flesh. I was relieved to find that she hadn’t lied to me. It really wasn’t as horribly painful as I had thought it would be.
Four quick vials later, “All done.” she said as she wrapped my arm.
“Wow, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” I cradled my arm while she filled out some more information in the folder and reached into a cabinet pulling out a slip of paper.
“All we need to do is take your photo. If you’ll just stand against the wall over there.” She pointed to a bare part of the wall.
I hopped down and silently wished I would have given myself one more look-over before we left. She snapped my picture before I had a chance to smile and I wanted to ask if she could retake it, but bit my tongue. I was starting to scarily sound like Liz.
She then asked me the basic identifying questions, hair color, eye color, height, weight and then she printed off a small slip of paper from a printer tucked inside a cabinet.
“This is your temporary ID card. Once your blood has been fully tested we will issue you an official card. Okay? We will give you a call and you can come pick it up.”
“Great, thanks.” I took the card from her and resisted the urge to look at the picture - I would wait to torture myself in private for that. “So, I’m all set then?”
I tried to not look too eager and I headed out of the room then back down the hallway. I made my way back through the double doors and saw my mom clicking away on her cell phone as usual. She was worse than the average teenager.
“All done,” I announced as I stuffed my temporary paper ID into my wallet.
She snapped her phone shut and looked up at me relieved. “Well that was quick.”
“Yep, looks like we made it before the rush,” I said as I looked around the newly filled room. Dozens of people had shown up during the short amount of time I had spent in the room.
“Well, that gives us some extra time. Do you want to get some coffee before I head into work?”
“No, it’s cool. Liz will probably be over soon.” I could tell she wanted to protest on my hanging out with Liz so much, but she didn’t say anything. The desire to get to work was too much for her to resist, and I knew it.
The ride home was quick and I said goodbye to my mom while her attention was plastered to her cellphone. I walked the short trip home realizing my mom hadn’t even told me happy birthday yet. It didn’t bother me as much as it used to, but it still sucked big time.
The irritation slowly built up as I walked home and stormed into the house causing the pictures on the walls to rattle when I slammed the front door.
“Geez, just relax. You knew she wasn’t going to say anything.” I only talked to myself when I was truly annoyed and luckily, I immediately seeked somewhere private to have such a conversation. I’m certain most people would tell me I was a friggin’ nutcase.
After grabbing a leftover slice of pizza from the fridge I retreated to my room and fell into my bed. Louie joined me when he smelled the scent of pepperoni wafting through the room.
“You’ll at least tell me happy birthday, won’t you?” I asked Louie as he tentively sniffed at the slice of pizza in my hand. He meowed at me in response and I tore him off a small nibble of pepperoni.
“As much as I love you Louie, I sure hope you’re not the only man in my life.”
“Talking to that fat cat again I see,” Liz said sarcastically as she strolled into the room. “So, how’d it go?”
“Well, I survived, at least for now. Ask me again after I see what you have in store for us tonight.”
“Oh don’t be so dramatic.” She flipped her long blond ponytail over her shoulder as she set a giant make-up case on top of my desk. “Where’s your card at?”
“In my wallet, I haven’t looked at it yet.” I began to open my purse and Liz snatched it from me with impeccable speed. “Hey!”
“I’ll let you know if you should look at it or not.” She smiled at me and pulled out the small square of piece paper that the nurse printed my temporary ID on. “Not bad Claire Bear. I’ll turn you into an “H to T” girl yet.”
I rolled my eyes at her and snatched the paper back from her. “I thought you didn’t like that term?” She waved me off and flipped through stations on my radio until she found something she liked.
Liz danced to the music as she started sorting through the pile of clothes she had dropped off the day before. I looked at my picture and it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Both my eyes were open - unlike my usual habit of always getting my picture taken when they were closed - so that was an improvement. I suppose I wouldn’t really know for sure when I got the official color copy from the blood bank.
“So what really is the plan for tonight and who all is coming?” I asked Liz as she analyzed her obviously perfect make-up in the mirror.
“Oh, the usual crowd; you, me, Amy and some new boy toys she’s been stringing along. Can you believe she broke up with Blake?”
“They didn’t really have much in common, so I wasn’t very surprised. Who are these new boy toys?” I wasn’t the least bit interested, but I knew Liz would talk about it whether I wanted to know or not, so I pretended that I cared. Amy and I didn’t always get along anymore. We used to be close, but about a year ago she got totally jealous when she thought Blake had a crush on me. He was not even close to being my type, but she never seemed to believe me.
“Nothing in common? Who cares, the guy is hot! I haven’t met these news guys yet, but she says they are cool. So, did you see those people protesting outside the blood bank when you were there?”
“No, my mom took me to the one in uptown.”
“Good, ‘cause those people are friggin’ crazy. Why anyone wouldn’t want to be a donor is beyond me. Vampires are immortals, they’re practically gods. Whatever, anyway, that’s why they live in downtown and we are by up-town, right?”
“Yeah.” I knew Liz’s perspective was probably a little bit snobby, but she did have a point. I couldn’t really think of a reason why someone wouldn’t want to be a donor. There were so many benefits of doing it. For starters, social standing, you get to support the royal vampire family in a big way and make some really decent money, which as selfish as it sounds was something I was most excited about. Liz and I had plans after high school. We wanted to famous, well she wanted to be famous and important, but me, I just wanted to be important. I wanted to do something; I just wasn’t quite sure what yet.
“I’m going to get something to drink, you want anything?” When I saw the look in her eyes that the onslaught of party preparations were about to start.
“Get me get a soda, but hurry up because we’ve got a lot to do. I’m going to need to straighten that hair of yours.” She continued our to-do list and I walked out of the room to get our drinks, and returned, sure that she hadn’t even noticed I left the room.
Even with as much time as we had, we still barely finished. Liz’s mastery of hair had managed to tame my wild auburn tresses into a sleek side ponytail, while she pinned her hair into a high up-do then plastered it in place with a gallon of hairspray.
Living a bit on the wild side, I let Liz talk me into wearing an outfit I normally wouldn’t be caught dead in, but I thought it might be fun to throw caution to the wind and live a little. The look of satisfaction on Liz’s face was also so priceless I couldn’t help but feel like a million bucks. Her expression was so exuberant it appeared she had just found the cure for cancer.
We each did our make-up with dramatic smokey eyes. The tight dress Liz squeezed me into made me wish I hadn’t had that slice of pizza, but it was nothing compared to how bad my feet were going to hurt in the heels she had me wearing. They were nowhere near as high as hers, but my typically clad flip-flop feet did not like it.
We arrived at the sushi restaurant at what Liz insisted - to all that were waiting - was fashionably late. Liz talked the sushi chef into comping our table with a few special rolls in celebration of my birthday. Though I was typically against her habit of using her looks to get what she wanted, when she did it to get us free sushi I didn’t mind at all. Being one of my favorite foods and also a bit pricey, I wasn’t always able to indulge in it how I would like.
The night progressed all too quickly, but it ended up to be one of the most fun nights I had ever had. Amy, Liz and I got along as if we had never had any fights and the guys that Amy brought along ended up being pretty entertaining. When we made it to the club the loud electronic beat of the music and the way the kaleidoscope of lights danced across the thrumming bodies across the room made us almost run to the dance floor.
Clad in my new risqué outfit, I got more attention from guys than I had ever had in my life. Even though I refused to dance with about ninety percent of them it was great just to have been asked, especially by the really hot guys. Because the club was so close to uptown it attracted a much hotter group of people compared to what I had seen clubbing with my friends in midtown.
“Oh my gosh, tonight was so awesome!” Liz giggled as we rode the train back home. “That one guy really liked you. What was his name? In the black shirt.”
“Um…Jason, I think.” I guessed because I really didn’t remember. He was more Liz’s type then mine and I was almost certain I saw him checking himself out in mirrors more often than me. “We stayed out super late; I thought that club closed at midnight.”
“Who cares? Like your mom would notice anyway. Besides it’s only like two, and we were in up-town.”
“Whatever. I’m tired. I’ll probably sleep all day tomorrow. What are you going to do?”
“Get my beauty sleep of course. Want to grab a smoothie in the afternoon though, and hit the mall? We need to grab you some new clothes. You were such a hit tonight!”
I looked down at the dress I was wearing and wished I had brought a jacket. Even though it was warm out, now that I wasn’t out celebrating, it just felt really uncomfortable to be wearing it. I had already removed the torture devices, which were my shoes, and decided I would rather risk walking through the streets barefoot then take another step in them.
“Ew, and we should probably get pedicures too. I can’t believe you are walking around like that.”
“Oh shut up Liz, we use to go everywhere barefoot when we were little. Besides the cool concrete feels kind of good actually. I know your feet have to hurt in those heels, why don’t you take them off?”
She just laughed at me like I was crazy and as we finished the walk home we gushed about the nights events. I couldn’t help but continue to comment on how amazing the sushi was.
Liz and I parted ways at the front of my house. I stared up at the windows and when I was certain I didn’t see any light in any of them, I preceded toward the front door. I knew Liz was right that my mom wouldn’t notice I was out late, and on the minute chance that she did, she wouldn’t say anything about it. When I was younger Liz convinced me to test my mom on how far I could push the rules and see what I could get away with. As alien as it may sound for an eighteen year-old girl to say, I got away with way too much.
I successfully crept back into the house and into my bedroom without making too much noise other than rattling my keys and the creek in the fifth step in our staircase – I should have remembered that one was the creaky one.
My body felt so relieved as I yanked off the dress and I took a big deep breath throwing the it across the room into my hamper. I slid into my most comfortable oversized t-shirt and after vigorously scrubbing off the pounds of make-up Liz put on me, I literally dragged myself to bed.
Louie crawled onto the bed and curled into a large fluffy ball at my feet. My last thought of the night was how excited I was that I was finally eighteen and from here on out, everything would finally start going my way.