The man sitting across the table from me looked just like me, except he was older and his hair was cut short and professional. We usually had dinner together every evening. It was his way of trying to keep us close after my mom left.
“I got a call from Mr. Johnston at work today.”
But he wasn’t like me. Otherwise he would have known to leave this subject alone.
I let my fork scoop my rice into a pile I now felt too nauseated to eat. A grain had fallen off onto the pseudo-wood of the table. It reminded me that we once covered it with a table cloth before eating.
“He told me there was another incident with Jay. You wanna tell me about it?”
“There’s nothing to say.”
I looked from my plate to the dust bunnies on top of the book-case in the living room. Then back down. My dad chewed his food in quick, powerful meetings of his mandible and maxilla.
“Well, I’ve told you before the best way to handle a bully,” he said, food not fully chewed.
“Yeah, walk up to him in front of all his friends and bust him right in the face. Right, Dad?”
“That’s the best way there is.”
“That’s the suicidal way. Jay’s like twice my size. He’d demolish me.”
His fork dinged against the plate. “Son, bullying is about dominance. You stop being his easy prey and show him you’re going to fight back, and he’ll think twice.”
“Is that before he smashes me for challenging him in front of everyone, or after? God forbid he gets his friends to join in.”
“He’d be shocked. And it might lead to a fight. Just try your best to hold your own before the teachers break it up. You don’t have to win the fight; you just have to send a message.”
“I’ll pass. Besides, I stood up to him last year and that didn’t go well.”
“That was before your growth spurt. And those mixed martial arts lessons I paid for. You need to do something to defend yourself. This running away won’t cut it,” he said.
I looked up at him. I didn’t know where this new resolve came from, but it only irritated me further. Maybe he didn’t like being silent when his work buddies shared family stories around the water cooler.
“Are you finally tired of having a weak son?”
“If I said I was, would you finally stop being a little bitch?”
I pushed my food away and got up. I wanted to hit something again.
As my feet stomped the floor, I thought about Jay’s punches. One had knocked my head straight back into a combination lock. It happened almost six months ago but the pain was still palpable. I wasn’t sure if those hits or my dad’s words hurt more.
I needed to be alone. It was the only time the world made sense.
I lost myself in a tale about monsters and magic on the synthetic pages of my e-reader.
If only I could go on a quest to obtain a magic spell that would incinerate Jadarius. Or, even better, one that would make my mom come back. But that kind of stuff didn’t exist in the real world. Only the magic the other guy must have used when he got my mom to cheat on my dad.
My stomach growled and I realized two hours had passed since my first attempt at dinner. I could warm up the remains, but the food would bring back memories of the conversation.
I put on my hoodie— the leather jacket from last year had been ruined— and left. My dad didn’t say anything when I passed by the couch on the way out.
There weren’t any noticeable hills in Concord Hills. Nature was sparse, only coming along in residential neighborhoods and in isolated plots of land along the roads. Long, tiresome stretches of road. Route 8 ran northeast to southwest through half of the town. Running northwest to southeast was Route 343, which eventually led to Crain Highway, which could lead to Washington, D.C.
Concord Hills usually wasn’t in the conversation with other metropolitan towns, but it had a fair number of commuters, my dad being one of them.
I parked away from the building, my car facing a small wooded area that separated this parking lot from another. I hadn’t decided yet whether I would eat inside McDonald’s or come back to my car. I was still starved for isolation.
Before exiting, I noticed a dumpster in the corner of the lot. I collected my trash on the floorboards: loose leaf sheets of paper, napkins, and a few empty coffee cups. I stuffed everything into a bag and tossed it into the large, asymmetrical jade cube. I turned toward the building but stopped. I did a double-take and then walked behind the dumpster to confirm what I couldn’t believe.
A body. The battered body of a white female. Splotches of her white skin were interrupted by blood and bruises. I couldn’t tell if the putrid smell came from her or the dumpster.
An already lousy day had become the opening sequence in a Law and Order episode. But there would be no transition to the police scene unless I made the call. I took out my phone to dial 9-1-1, stealing another glimpse at her face. My finger never made it to the “1” digit. Instead, breathless, I shifted to get a better look.
“Oh my God… Guinevere.”
The recognition forced a mixture of emotions. Guilt. Even though I was merely the one to find the body, I indirectly felt as if I had done the crime myself. Sadness. The world would be less bright without her. And regret. I would never get another chance to make a move.
Taking a closer look, I noticed the blood was caked on her and there wasn’t any running off on the pavement beneath her. While I wasn’t a detective, I had a suspicion her body had been moved.
“I’m sorry, Gwynn,” I said.
I leaned closer to the body, one last time. She was now just a mass of pale white flesh, purple bruises, and a layer of red grime. Before I could take another breath, her eyes shot open and she closed the distance between us in a flash.
I caught a glimpse of the sparkle created by the street light reflecting off her elongated teeth, right before I felt her arms lock me in a vice grip and a sharp pain in my neck.
A sound somewhere between a cough and a shout caught in my throat. My head tilted back and I not only saw the black of night beyond the Golden Arches, but crimson and purple shimmering and swirling lazily in a stream.
Black consumed the other colors until it became the only thing I saw.
Find out what happens when Lester awakens in Communion, available Oct. 1st.
I’ll be attending Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity in Baltimore, MD in September.
No, this isn’t to promote my debut novel Communion. Maybe one day I’ll have that kind of following, but right now I’m simply going as an unpublished author and a fan, looking to network.
There are a bunch of panes I’m looking forward to. Some are easy choices, such as
What makes a hero
Building a great series
Magic in “real life” and fiction
But, like all conferences, there’s always that hour that has TWO panels you want to attend at the same time. I’m torn between ‘What to Expect from Publishers and Editors’ (has a lot of business implications) and ‘Handling Sex in Crime/Fantasy Fiction’ (let’s just say things get steamy in the Communion sequel).
I’ll also be looking for booths ran by any authors who have self-published their books as ebooks only. I’m interested in doing this at some point in the future, but it would be nice to get some ideas on how it’s done first.
I won’t purchase a table for myself, but I will be giving out Communion bookmarks to anyone I happen to talk to.
But, it’s the first conference I’ll be attending… EVER. Any tips?
There’s a lot of diversity within the vampire genre. Every author who writes about the creatures of the night is expected to do something unique to make theirs stand out. There’s no one RIGHT way to use vampires.
However, no matter how many vampire fans I talk to, there seems to be one constant WRONG way, and that is to have your vampires sparkle in the daylight.
I admit, as a guy, sparkly vampires wouldn’t be my first choice for distinctive traits. But whenever I run into something that is constantly ridiculed it gets me thinking. And when I get to thinking, I get to writing, and then…
I bet you I can take something as LAME as sparkly vampires and make them totally badass. Check out my free Wattpad story Sparkle to see if I lived up to the challenge.