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Vampires...Literally!

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charismasantora @ 09:35 pm: The World You Love-Chapter One part two
Love, love, love, love, love, love.
The alarm from the iPod on Charisma’s nightstand went off, a Plain White T’s song emitting from the speakers and signifying that it was seven thirty. Charisma heard a groan just to her right, and then Alex’s tired voice: “Hate is a strong word, but I really, really don’t like school.”
Charisma turned over onto her back and looked at the ceiling. Dozens of faces stared back at her from the many Polaroids taped there, including her own face and the face of the boy lying next to her.
“Fuck school,” she said defiantly, “Let’s stay in bed all day.”
Alex smiled, but answered, “We probably shouldn’t do that.” Charisma knew he was right, but she genuinely did not feel like leaving the comfort of her warm bed – especially not for school.
“Whatever,” she said grumpily, “I almost died last night, I could be traumatized!”
At this, Alex raised his eyebrows at her, concern etched on his face.
“Not really,” Charisma explained, “but I did find a vampire.”
“And...?” Alex’s eyebrows were still raised.
“Shoved something pointy and wooden in its chest,” Charisma replied, smiling.
“Good girl,” Alex said, patting her on the head playfully.
“And what happened to you last night?” Charisma asked; now it was her turn to raise an eyebrow.
Alex just shrugged. “Not much.”
“No fights?” Charisma questioned, her brow now furrowing in doubt.
“Nope,” Alex said simply.
“Then how come you came over here?” Charisma asked, confused.
Alex shrugged again. “Just felt like this was where I should be, to make sure you came home all right.” Charisma smiled at him, then sat up finally. Alex followed suit.
“So whose life did you save last night?” he asked half-jokingly, stretching.
“You know that sophomore who’s dating Assface?” Charisma asked, grimacing at the thought.
Alex made a face. “Ew, Charisma, what were you thinking?”
Charisma half laughed at this as she lowered herself to the floor from the foot of the bed, amused that Alex’s reaction had been just the same as hers; but all she said was, “I think James likes her.”
“Oh really?” Alex was looking at her from the top bunk, arching his eyebrows once again.
“Yeah, and it’s about time he got rid of Kendra, they’ve been together for what, almost two whole weeks?” Charisma ended cynically.
“Damn. She must be a really good kisser,” Alex said logically, climbing down from the bed rather clumsily and bumping into the shiny black grand piano that occupied most of the room’s space. “But you’re right, her heart is due to be broken any day now.”
Charisma sighed, positioning herself in front of the walk-in closet that took up an entire wall of her bedroom. She sifted through the jumbled mess of clothes within, pulling a black and grey striped sweater from a hanger and considering it.
“Ugh, I’m too lazy to go home and get clothes,” Alex complained, moving toward Charisma and standing next to her.
“Right, because your house is so far away,” Charisma mocked. “I mean it’s not like you live next door, or anything.”
Alex ignored her sarcastic comments and said, “Oh well, I’ll just borrow your clothes.”
Charisma was slightly concerned by this behavior, and once again she questioned her friend, “Are you sure nothing happened last night?”
“Yeah, Chris, everything’s fine,” Alex answered immediately, and he seemed surprised by the question. “I’m just lazy.”
Charisma considered the boy for a few moments, then shrugged a shoulder, saying, “I buy it.”
Alex picked up a pair of grey corduroy pants from the floor and changed into them, while Charisma pulled on the sweater in her hands, having finally deemed it suitable. Five minutes later the two of them emerged from Charisma’s room fully clothed, to find Charisma’s siblings sitting at the breakfast bar in the kitchen.
“I need you to pick Delia up from school today,” Damien said the moment Charisma sat down on a tall stool.
“Fuck that, I have practice today,” she answered automatically.
“Charisma Delaney Santora, would you mind not swearing in front of your ten-year-old sister?” Damien scolded, gesturing at Delia, who just kept happily spinning on her stool. “And you will be picking her up, because I’m working until six today. You can just take her to practice if you have to.”
Charisma sighed. “I don’t have a car,” she said; it was her last excuse, but she had a feeling it wouldn’t work.
“You have two legs,” Damien answered simply.
“Fuck you,” Charisma said crossly.
Charisma!” Damien gestured again at his youngest sister, exasperated.
“Sorry,” Charisma said; she reached over and clamped her hands over Delia’s ears, then repeated herself: “Fuck you!”
Damien just rolled his eyes as Delia giggled. Alex smirked and passed the cereal to Charisma, who took the box moodily, still glaring at her oldest brother.

"See you in Chem," Alex said as he stopped in front of his locker and began to work the combination. Charisma waved and continued walking, slowly as she was still rather tired. She turned left down a different hallway, and looking up she let out a sigh.
A tall boy with dirty blonde hair was standing halfway down the hall, waiting for Charisma in front of her locker.
"Hi, Mark," she said, smiling as she approached the boy. He put his arm around her, and together they continued down the hall.
"Hey, Charisma," he greeted her. "Everything okay?"
"Yes, everything's fine," she said, and it took effort to keep a tone of slight exasperation out of her voice.
"James told me what happened..." There was concern in Mark's honey-colored eyes as he looked down at Charisma.
"I'm fine, Mark," she replied, but Mark didn't seem convinced.
"I was worried-" he began but Charisma cut him off.
"That's why I sent you the text message!" she said, letting on a bit of her exasperation.
"I know but-"
"Mark, you worry too much." They had now reached Charisma's class, and Mark moved so that he was standing directly in front of her, taking both her hands in his.
"Can you blame me, though?" he said, pouting slightly. Charisma smiled.
"I guess not," she answered. "But next time, trust in the text message!"
Mark grinned. "'Kay," he said, leaning down and pecking Charisma on the lips. "See you later."
"Bye." Charisma watched him walk away for a few moments, then she turned and went into the classroom. She walked straight to the back of the room and sat down next to a girl with long dark hair and equally dark eyes.
"Hey Cec," she said, and Cecily looked up from the notebook she was doodling on, giving Charisma a small smile. Charisma opened her bag, realizing that she had completely forgotten to go to her locker, and thus did not have her History textbook. Oh well, she thought, it's not like I'd use it anyway. She took out her notebook, which was slightly tattered from living in her disorganized backpack, and flipped to a blank page.
"Oh!" she said, looking back up at Cecily, having suddenly remembered something. "I'm stopping by Delia's school today before practice, you wanna come with me?" Cecily nodded, this time without glancing up from the design she was giving the cover of her notebook.
Charisma reached down and dug inside her bag for a pencil, just as Ms. Harvern began to take role. Finally closing her fingers around a thin piece of wood, she pulled it out and was glad to see that it was her green pencil, her favorite for drawing. She blocked out the teacher's voice as she put the pencil to paper.
About halfway through the period, Charisma looked up from her drawing of a smiling Mark and glanced at the clock. There was a little less than half an hour left in class, but she did not feel like sitting in that uncomfortable chair and listening to her teacher lecture about the Civil War for even one more minute. She dropped her pencil on her desk and raised her hand.
Ms. Harvern looked slightly surprised to see Charisma's hand in the air. "Yes?" she said expectantly.
"Can I go to the bathroom?" Ms. Harvern looked a bit disappointed that this was all Charisma wanted, but Charisma didn't know what she had been expecting; Charisma never paid attention to lectures, much less ask questions about them. Nonetheless, Ms. Harvern gave her permission to leave, so Charisma got up and hurriedly exited the classroom.
It felt good to be walking around again, and Charisma took her time getting to the bathroom. When she finally reached it, she opened the door and found herself facing a rather unpleasant scene. Three girls were standing there, and one of them was crying hard into a clump of tissue while the other two comforted her. All three looked up when Charisma entered, and the looks they gave her were much less than friendly.
She recognized the crying girl as Kendra Cross, James' girlfriend – though by the looks of things she may not be his girlfriend anymore. Charisma sidled into a stall, avoiding their displeased gazes, but as she locked the door behind her she realized she didn't even need to go to the bathroom. Oh, this is great, she thought, sighing and leaning against the stall, thoroughly irritated.
"I j-just don't g-get it," Kendra was stammering to her friends, and the two other girls made consoling noises as she continued sobbing.
"What did I d-do wrong?"
"You didn't do anything wrong, sweetie," said one of Kendra's friends, and Charisma recognized the annoyingly high voice. It was Angela Pernelli, whom Charisma knew to be stuck-up and quite bitchy.
She suddenly decided that she did not want to remain in this bathroom stall listening to the conversation of three girls who thoroughly annoyed her. In fact, she would rather be in class; so she slid the lock and opened the door. The three other girls looked up instantly, and there was no mistaking the hostility in their expressions.
Charisma walked over to the sink that was farthest from the three girls and looked intently down at her hands as she lathered them in soap. Kendra seemed to forget her presence, and continued crying onto her other friend's shoulder, but Angela just kept glaring at Charisma.
When Charisma had finished washing her hands, she looked up to find that Angela was staring at her so blatantly that it would be quite impossible to just ignore her.
"What's up?" Charisma asked grudgingly, feeling that she had to say something.
"Kendra here just got brutally dumped by that jerkhole you call a friend!" Kendra replied acidly, but quietly so that Kendra wouldn't hear. Charisma just raised an eyebrow, unsure what to say to that. Maybe she could just not say anything, just walk out of the bathroom now...
"You know, I used to think you were all right," Angela continued, and Charisma found herself wanting strongly to be anywhere but there. "But now that I know the kind of dirtbags you hang out with, I don't know what to think about you anymore!"
There were quite a few things that Charisma could say to this, a number of which were very cold – and very tempting – but all she said was, "Well, I'm glad we had this little chat, I'll see you around," in the friendliest voice possible, then she walked right out, Angela still staring daggers at her.

"Okay, was it just me, or was the clock in that class moving about three times slower than actual time?" Alex and Charisma were walking out of Chemistry, headed for lunch at last. "I mean, there's no way we spent less than an hour in there," Alex continued, and Charisma nodded.
"I'm so not used to being back at school yet," she said as they entered the cafeteria. "What's for lunch?"
"Quesadillas, I believe," Alex answered, looking at the menu posted by the lunch line.
"Mmm, rubbery cheese in a greasy tortilla, my favorite," Charisma said as they joined the line.
Five minutes later they were exiting the cafeteria, each with a greasy quesadilla in hand, their destination being the table in the corner of the patio, where James and Cecily were already sitting. Charisma noticed that Cecily looked mightily uncomfortable, and she caught the girl's eye as she sat down, giving her an apologetic look. Cecily smiled minutely, immediately more at ease.
"Hey, let's go to Elemeno tonight! I heard some band from San Francisco is playing, and they're supposed to be pretty good," James said excitedly to the other three.
"Don't you have a date with Kendra?" Alex asked.
"Nah, he cut her loose," Charisma said before James could reply.
"How'd you know that?" James asked her, confused.
"Saw her in the bathroom during first period," Charisma explained.
"Oh. What did she say?" James asked, and he seemed to be preparing to cringe.
"Not much, she was too busy crying," Charisma said, and sure enough, James' face formed a pained expression. "Her friend Angela, though, had plenty to say."
James raised his eyebrows. "Such as...?"
Charisma searched her memory. "You're a jerkhole and a dirtbag...oh, and apparently, I'm an ass too, just for hanging out with you."
"Sorry about that," James apologized, grimacing.
"That's all right, it's not as though I care what Angela bitchface Pernelli thinks about me," Charisma said, thinking how incredibly inappropriate it was for a girl like that to be named ‘Angela’.
Alex seemed to be thinking the same, and he said jokingly, "Psh, Angela? More like...Devilla." Charisma laughed, and she noticed that Cecily was smiling, too.
James, however, did not seem to be paying much attention to their comments. "It's too bad she hates me, though,” he said. “I was thinking of asking her out next." Charisma just had to roll her eyes. This was so very like James. "I have Spanish with her, too, last period, I was gonna do it then."
"Right, because being single for longer than half a day, that would really blow," Charisma teased.
"What would you know, you haven't been single since freshman year," James retorted.
"Yeah, well, at least I haven't been jumping from boyfriend to boyfriend," Charisma said, staring at James accusingly. "There's a difference, you know, between dating the same person for a year and a half, and dating a different person every week for a year and a half."
"Who says I even want a long relationship?" James said defensively, sensing the accusatory note in Charisma's voice.
Charisma rested her chin on her fist, looking straight into James' dark brown eyes, and said pensively, "You know, I think Angela just might be right about you."
This had clearly offended James, and Charisma held back a smile at how much her words had bothered him. She didn't really mean it, of course; she knew James well, and she was convinced that he was a very good person...now matter how meanly he treated the girls he dated.

Are we growing up, or just going down, it’s just a matter of time until we’re all found out, take our tears, put ‘em on ice, ‘cause I swear, I’d burn the city down to show you the light.” Charisma put her arms into motion, hitting the drum set in front her, creating the beat as James kept singing into the microphone. She paid close attention, just barely able to hear his voice over the sound of the drums and the three guitars.
Delivering-“ James began a line, and Charisma leaned toward the microphone next to the high-hat to her left. “Just what you need,” she sang in unison with James, then sat back, putting her focus back to the drum set, though there was hardly any need; she had played this song enough so that her hands knew what they were doing without any help from her brain.
She concentrated more on the words of the song, leaning forward every so often to provide backing vocals. Every once in a while she looked up at the huge mirror covering an entire wall of Alex’s basement, which served as their practice space. James’ eyes were closed as he pressed his mouth to the microphone, showing concentration that paid off in his singing; his were hands playing guitar as automatically as Charisma’s played percussion. Alex was standing a few feet to James’ left, looking into the mirror at the reflection of his own hands strumming the electric guitar. On James’ left was Cecily, facing away from the rest of them, hanging her head and letting her long hair fall down in front of her, almost touching the bass guitar she was playing.
Two thirds of the way through the song, James and Cecily stopped playing, and Alex continued to strum while Charisma kept the beat by hitting the drumsticks together. She moved her lips toward the microphone and sang softly, “The best part of believe is the lie. I hope you sing along and you steal a line. I need to keep you like this in my mind.”
She began hitting the drums again while everyone else started playing as well, and James sang, “So give in or just give up.” Charisma repeated her lines again, not as softly this time, and they continued into the last chorus, ending with just James’ voice and the remnants of the last guitar chords.
When the sounds emitting from the amplifiers died away completely, the four friends turned to each other, quite pleased with themselves, and James was the first to speak.
“All right, that sounded great!” he said, grinning.
Charisma nodded in agreement and added, “I think we did Fall Out Boy justice. What did you think, Deels?” she called over to the corner, where Delia was doing homework with Alex’s Dachshund, Hoochie, curled up next to her.
“What?” Delia asked loudly, taking ear plugs out of her ears.
“How’d we sound?” Charisma asked again, and Delia grinned and gave her a thumbs-up.
“Great, we’ve got the fifth grader approval,” Alex said, smiling as well.
“Okay, are we done, or should we do one more song?” James asked, looking hopefully up at the clock. Charisma knew he was anxious to go out; James was quite the partier, and now that he was single she knew he would be even more eager to get to Elemeno, the local concert hall.
“Let’s get out of here,” she answered, getting off her seat and dropping the drumsticks on the floor. She checked her watch. It was almost six, so Damien would be home soon. “Come on Delia, let’s go back home real fast.”
The moment Charisma stepped outside Alex’s front door, a dark blue Mazda pulled into the driveway of her own house.
“Perfect timing!” she said as Damien got out of the car. Delia followed her over to meet him. “I’m going out,” Charisma told her brother. “I’ll be home by midnight, and if I’m not then I’ll be at Alex’s.”
“Okay,” Damien answered, walking toward the house with Delia. “But call me if you decide to sleep over there.”
“But you’ll be asleep!” Charisma protested.
“Then wake me up!” Damien said, and before Charisma could argue more, he had entered the house and shut the front door behind him.
Charisma’s friends were already getting into James’ car, and she followed Cecily into the back seat. It took them about fifteen minutes to get across town (it was a very small town), and when they arrived at the club there was a large crowd queuing up outside, slowly making its way in through the small doorway. James parked the car and the four of them joined the throng of people, pushing their way toward the door.
Elemeno was a small, dimly lit place with a stage on the far left wall and a bar around the right wall. Large speakers on either of the stage were blasting music from a local radio station, not quite loud enough to drown out the voices of the many teenagers and young adults in the club.
“Come on.” James pointed over to an area to the left of the stage that wasn’t entirely packed with people, and Charisma began to follow him, with Alex and Cecily close behind. Then they caught sight of a large, muscular boy with a crew cut, standing right where they were headed, his arm around the girl whom Charisma had saved from a vampire the night before. Charisma stopped in her tracks.
“What’s up?” James asked, turning around.
Alex, who had noticed the couple as well, said derisively, “Ugh, what’s Assface doing here?”
“Let’s just avoid him,” Charisma said, looking around for another good spot. “Unless you wanna hit on his girlfriend, James?” she added teasingly, looking at James out of the corner of her eye.
“Nah, I don’t go for that sort of thing,” James replied. “Besides, I’m not here to pick up girls. I’ve been thinking I should just take it easy for a while.” He turned his back on Charisma’s raised eyebrows and led the way to another space in the crowd, all the way on the other side of the room.
They had been there for almost an hour, waiting for the band to come onstage, when someone came up from behind Charisma and poked her in the side. She turned around, and her face split into a grin at the sight of Mark. They greeted each other, and his hand found hers, lacing their fingers together.
“When’s the band coming on?” Mark asked.
“I don’t know, but James-“ Charisma turned around to look at James, who had been the one with the information for tonight, only to find that he was gone. She scanned the crowd, but she couldn’t see him. He had been right next to her when Mark had arrived; he must have gone off without saying anything, and now he was nowhere to be found.
Before Charisma could think any more of it, the lights dimmed even further and the crowd cheered as the long-awaited band finally came onstage. Charisma pulled Mark closer to the stage as they started to play. She always loved to be as close to a live band as she could, taking in the music as fully as possible – and she could already tell that this would be a band worth watching. Their music sounded good, and they moved around the stage a lot, keeping it interesting.
An hour later, the band, which was called Spiritus Mundi, was still going strong, and it was starting to get very hot in the middle of the crowd where Charisma was, what with all the bodies pressed up against each other, dancing to the music. She turned around to face Mark, who had been standing behind her with his arms around her. As she turned, her eye caught James, who was standing just a few yards away, and through all of the people in between, Charisma could see that he was dancing with a girl.
She rolled her eyes. “I wonder what happened to taking it easy...” she muttered.
“What?” Mark yelled over the loud music.
“Nothing,” she called back. “I’m gonna go to the bathroom.” She pointed over to the bathrooms so that he would understand. He nodded and extracted his arms from around her waist.
Charisma made her way through the crowd with difficulty, finally arriving at the bathroom and pushing the heavy door open.
“What do you want?”
Charisma stopped short and looked over, bewildered, at the girl who had spoken. It was Maddie. She was in the bathroom, leaning against the counter with a girl Charisma didn’t know.
They were both was looking at Charisma very contemptuously, and for a moment Charisma was taken aback by Maddie’s rudeness, but then she retorted, “I’m sorry, I was just looking for the bathroom. I thought it might be the one with all toilets.”
Maddie just kept sneering at her, and Charisma moved past the two girls to get to the far sink. Apparently Maddie didn’t realize that it was Charisma who had saved her life less than twenty four hours ago...or maybe she did, and she was just that bratty.
As Charisma looked at her sweaty face in the cracked mirror and turned on some cold water, Maddie and her friend resumed their conversation, apparently having forgotten Charisma’s presence entirely.
“I seriously don’t get what his problem is,” Maddie was saying. “I mean, he seems to think that just because I talk to another guy, it means I’m cheating on him!”
“Guys are lame,” Maddie’s friend answered, and Charisma could just hear the ditziness in her voice. “They just get so jealous.”
Charisma leaned down to splash her face with the cold water, but it was at that moment that the sink decided to malfunction – which wasn’t entirely uncommon in the Elemeno bathrooms, but rather inconvenient at this particular juncture. The faucet sputtered out water in a rather unpredictable manner, and Charisma leaned back, waiting for it to go back to normal.
“I just don’t know how to get him to trust me,” Maddie continued. “I mean it gets so annoying, the way he – haven’t you washed your hands for long enough?” It took Charisma a few moments to realize that Maddie’s harsh tone was directed at her. She looked up at the blonde girl, her face dripping (the sink had finally started working right again), and saw, once again, the scornful expression on a face that would be pretty if it wasn’t always twisted into a displeased expression.
“Yeah, you can stop eavesdropping now,” the other girl said, matching Maddie’s sneer.
“All right, you caught me,” Charisma said sourly. “I have so little going on in my own life that I actually care about the lame boy drama in yours.” She rolled her eyes and walked around the two girls in order to get paper towels.
“Whatever, you think you’re so cool because you’re older than us, but when it comes to actual experience, we’re way more mature than you!” Maddie’s friend said defiantly.
Charisma just stared at her disbelievingly. “I don’t even know you!” she said finally.
“Yeah, well-“
“You’re James’ friend, aren’t you?” Maddie cut her friend off, addressing Charisma.
“What?” Charisma said, taken off guard.
“James Whitenam. You’re friends with him, right?” Charisma couldn’t read the expression on Maddie’s face now.
“Yeah, why?” she asked, confused.
“Nothing.” Maddie seemed to catch herself, and she resumed an annoyed air. Her friend was looking at her curiously.
Charisma rolled her eyes again, muttered, “Whatever,” then turned on her heel, leaving the bathroom.
Charisma tried to make her way back to where she had left Mark, bumping into people along the way, which was inevitable in a place as crowded as Elemeno was that night. She had just caught sight of the back of her boyfriend’s head among the crowd when she felt and arm brush up against her own, an arm that was freezing cold, unlike the flushed skin of all the other people dancing and moving around to the music.
Charisma turned quickly and saw two people, a boy and a girl, walking toward the back entrance of the club. She remembered the feel of the ice-cold flesh against her arm, watched how the boy led the girl away from the multitude of people to the alley behind Elemeno, and after a moments’ thought she followed them through the mass and out the door.
As soon as she was in the alley, Charisma reached into her purse and pulled out the object that was always there – the moment she looked to her left down the alleyway knew she was going to need it. The couple that she had followed was there alone, and through the darkness Charisma could see that the girl was holding the boy against the wall. The boy was whimpering, on the verge of screaming, as the girl leaned in, two sharp, gleaming canine teeth bared and about to sink their points into his neck.
Charisma rushed at them and thrust the wooden stake in her hand forward. Just as the stake was about to plunge into the female vampire’s back, she turned and grabbed Charisma’s wrist, stopping the attack. Charisma glimpsed the pale face of the vampiress for only a moment before a fist rammed into her face, so hard that it knocked her backward. Pain exploded in her nose and the area around it; she was seeing stars, trying desperately to stay on her feet.
When she finally got her balance, Charisma did the only thing she could think of: she swung out her left leg in the direction of the vampire in front of her. Her attack was once again caught in midair, and the grip that the other woman had on her leg was so tight it was painful.
A foot made contact with Charisma’s chest, and she was thrown backwards, slamming into the wall and crumpling to the ground, her weapon falling out of her hand and rolling out of reach. The vampiress’ kick had knocked the wind out of her, and her entire body hurt from hitting the wall, but Charisma tried to maintain a calm mind, fighting the panic that was threatening to take her over. She heard running footsteps, and then a cold female voice.
“You little bitch, you lost me my dinner.” The woman was coming closer. Get up, Charisma, get up, fight! Charisma tried to make herself rise despite the excruciating pain and shortness of breath she was experiencing; but just as she was about to fight her way to her feet, a cold hand closed around her throat and pulled her up. Now her eyes were watering from the pressure being placed on her windpipe, and she could hardly see, but she could still hear her attacker speak. “Oh well. I guess you’ll just have to do…”
The vampiress’ grip tightened even further; Charisma couldn’t breathe. Do something! Your hands are free.
Charisma reached swiftly into her back pocket and closed her fingers around a small wooden cross. She pulled it out and thrust it at the woman choking her. The vampire hissed and released Charisma instantly, putting a hand over the burnt skin on her chest. Charisma staggered a bit, but stood her ground, still holding up the cross, keeping the vampiress at bay.
The vampiress glared at her, but her glare turned slowly into an evil smile. Charisma, gasping for air and aching from head to foot, couldn’t understand why this woman was smiling at her. Her confusion only intensified when the vampiress said in an amused voice, “This should be interesting… I guess I’ll see you around.” And with that she turned and disappeared down the alleyway.
Charisma fell to her hands and knees, still panting, blood dripping from her face onto the asphalt. She couldn’t believe that she was alive, that she had met a vampire that strong, been beaten that severely, and had survived.
But she wasn’t all right. She needed Alex, or Mark, or anyone. She reached into her purse, which had fallen when the vampiress had kicked her, and searched for her cell phone.
She found it and took it out, blindly opening it and dialing the number two on her speed dial. Please pick up, please… With every ring of the phone on the other end, Charisma felt more and more helpless. She was about ready to give up, thinking he must not be able to hear his phone inside the noisy concert, when she heard a door open and the familiar Fall Out Boy ring tone emitting from a cell phone nearby.
Hey Chris, you were our only friend, and I know this is- Alex snapped his phone shut.
“Charisma!” He rushed forward, followed closely by Cecily and Mark, and Charisma hung up her phone as well, almost crying from relief and pain. She felt familiar hands grab her and pull her to her feet, with a strength that most wouldn’t expect from Alex’s small frame. “What happened?” he asked urgently. “A vampire? Did he get away?” Alex and Mark let Charisma lean on them as she searched for her voice.
She,” she replied, finally finding it. “And yeah, she got away.”
“Are you okay?” Mark inquired anxiously, putting a hand on the side of Charisma’s blood-soaked face and forcing her to look straight at him. He was wide-eyed, more frightened than she had ever seen him. She nodded, which made her head throb, but it was true: she was okay now, injured as she might be, because at least now she wasn’t alone.
“Oh my god, Chris, what happened?” James was now in the alleyway, too, and he approached them, looking just as worried as Mark did.
“Fight,” Charisma managed weakly, and then Mark took over.
“I think she’s all right, but we need to get her home right now.”
“What, we’re leaving already?” James sounded disappointed, and there was something else in his voice that Charisma couldn’t quite identify.
“Yes, we leaving, can’t you see she’s hurt?” Mark said testily.
“Yeah, but – the band’s not even done playing yet –“ James sounded oddly desperate, and there was still that strange tone that Charisma couldn’t quite discern.
“I don’t care about the band, you prick, I only care that my girlfriend just got beaten up and needs medical attention. But if you really don’t give a shit then you can go back to dancing with some whore!” Mark said in an angry tone that made Charisma wary of the reaction it might provoke in James.
Sure enough, James retorted, yelling, “Don’t you dare tell me I don’t care about her!”
Charisma really wished that she could do something besides stand and listen to Mark and James argue about her as though she weren’t even there, but before she could muster up a protest, Mark was yelling at James again.
“Well you obviously care more about hooking up with some girl in there so –“
“Fuck you!” James practically screamed, then he turned and stormed away, not back into Elemeno, but to the street, where his car was parked.
Charisma looked up into Mark’s pained expression. “Go,” she ordered him, and he gave her a grateful look before gently removing her arm from his shoulders so that he could follow James. As he was walking away, he tossed his car keys to Alex, who caught them deftly; then he hurried off down the alley after James. Cecily stepped forward to help support Charisma, but Charisma muttered, “I’m fine,” and took her weight off of Alex, gingerly attempting to stand on her own.
Alex and Cecily helped Charisma get to Mark’s station wagon, which was parked in the lot behind Elemeno. When they reached it, Alex held the keys out to Cecily.
“Drive?” he asked her, and she nodded, taking the keys and going to the driver’s seat, so that Alex could get into the back with Charisma.
“Shit, Charisma, you look like hell,” Alex said lightly as Cecily started the car and drove them out of the parking lot. Charisma managed a small smile. She didn’t even want to know how terrible she must look, her face bruised and coated in blood. At least her nose wasn’t broken – or at least it didn’t feel like it was.
“Here, put your head back,” Alex said, holding up some tissues from the box he had found on the floor. Charisma let her head fall back onto Alex’s arm – which she hadn’t even noticed was around her shoulders – and accepted the tissues, pressing them to her still bleeding nose.
The ride back from Elemeno seemed shorter than the drive there had been, though Charisma knew there was no way in hell that Cecily had driven even a mile over the speed limit.
They entered Alex’s house extremely cautiously, not wanting to wake his parents, and quietly went upstairs to Alex’s bedroom. Hoochie greeted them, wagging her tail and whining, but they ignored her. Charisma went straight into the adjoining bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror. Alex was right: she really did look awful. The bleeding had finally stopped, but not before it had spread all over the bottom half of her face, as well as the front of her sweater. The area all around her nose was tinged purple, and the nose itself was swollen, though not misshapen.
“Oh good, she didn’t hit you hard enough to break it,” said Alex, who had entered the bathroom behind Charisma and started wiping blood off her nose with a wet towel. Cecily was standing in the doorway, watching silently.
“Oh, she hit me plenty hard,” Charisma said bitterly, wincing as Alex hit a sore spot. “And I bet she could have broken my nose in a second if she had wanted to…” Alex looked confused, and Charisma shrugged. “I don’t get it either,” she sighed. She was remembering the things that the vampiress had said, how she had made it all sound like some sort of game… She would tell her friends all about it and discuss it with them later; but for now she was tired, desperate to rest her aching body.
Her face now clean, Charisma took off her bloodstained sweater, painfully pulling it over her throbbing head.
“Cec, can you put this in the wash?” Alex asked, taking the sweatshirt and handing it to Cecily, who wordlessly accepted it and left the room.
“Where else did she hit you?” Alex asked Charisma softly. She gazed at her best friend’s light blue eyes in the mirror, and she saw an unmistakable fear there. She knew it must be scaring him, to see her broken like this, when she was usually the strong one; she wanted to reassure him, but she couldn’t lie. Instead, she tried to lighten the mood.
“Where didn’t she hit me?” she said, smiling slightly, trying to not make a big deal out of the fact that every part of her body was in pain. She had hit both the wall and the ground hard when the woman had kicked her, but none of that had caused any serious injury. Her breathing was still short, however, from the blow to her chest. Alex, as though sensing the source of her pain, lifted up her shirt to examine her ribs.
As Alex ran his fingers around her chest, Charisma didn’t feel at all self-conscious or awkward, as many girls would be if a guy was practically feeling them up in such a way. It was different with Alex, and Charisma let him check for any broken ribs, the only discomfort being due to the large bruise that was forming on her chest. The bones were still intact, though, and Alex let Charisma’s shirt fall back down just as Cecily returned.
Charisma borrowed pajamas from Alex, but Cecily chose to sleep in her clothes, and the three of them crawled into Alex’s queen-sized bed, with Charisma in the middle and the dog lying on top of her.
“Let’s not go to school tomorrow,” Charisma stated as soon as they were settled under the covers.
“Fine by me,” Alex answered, but Cecily didn’t say anything.
“Cec?” Charisma inquired, turning the face her.
“I have a Math test tomorrow,” Cecily said quietly.
“Oh, fine then,” Charisma sighed.
“I’ll stay if you want me to…”
“No, no, you go, take that test…be a good student, unlike me and Alex here.” Charisma smiled as Alex turned off the light, glad that she didn’t have to think about school tomorrow. She and Alex could just hang out all day, and then she would have the entire weekend to recover… Catherine would let her take a few days off, and she knew she could get out of work, too.
“Good night,” she said, and her friends murmured replies.
Charisma had a moment’s thought about Mark and James, hoping that they had been able to work things out, and then she fell asleep, a smile still on her face, despite the upsetting events of the evening.
It didn’t matter that she had been beaten, that there was a dangerous vampire out there who had it in for her; all that mattered now were the two warm bodies pressed up against her, comforting her, protecting her. As long as she still had her friends, everything would be all right.

Current Location: My room.
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Wait, Wait, Wait - The Format
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