It was dark when I got back. Mr. Crepsley was awake. I told him we should leave town right away, but didn't tell him why. He took one look at my face, nodded, and started gathering our stuff.

"We didn't say much that night. I was thinking how much it stunk to be a half-vampire. Mr. Crepsley could tell there was something wrong with me, but didn't bother me with questions. It wasn't the first time I'd been grouchy. He was getting used to my mood swings.


We found an abandoned church to sleep in. Mr. Crepsley lay out on a long pew, while I made a bed for myself on a pile of moss and weeds on the floor.

I woke early and spent the day exploring the church and the small cemetery outside. The headstones were old and a lot of them were cracked or covered with weeds. I spent a few hours cleaning some, pulling weeds away and washing the stones with water I got from a nearby stream. It kept my mind off the hockey game.

A family of rabbits lived in a nearby burrow. As the day went by, they crept closer to see what I was up to. They were curious little guys, especially the young ones. At one point, I pretended to be asleep and a couple edged closer and closer, until they were only a few feet away.

When they were as close as they would probably come, I leaped up and shouted, "Boo!"and they went running away like wildfire. One fell head over heels and rolled away down the mouth of the burrow.

-- Advertisement --

That totally cheered me up.

I found a grocery store in the afternoon and bought some meat and vegetables. I made a fire when I got back to the church, then grabbed the pots and pans bag from underneath Mr. Crepsley's pew. I looked through the contents until I found what I was looking for. It was a small pot. I carefully laid it upside down on the floor, then pressed the metal bulge on the top.

The pot mushroomed out in size, as folded-in panels opened up. Within five seconds it had become a full-sized pot, which I filled with water and stuck on the fire.

All the pots and pans in the bag were like this. Mr.

Crepsley got them from a woman called Evanna a long time ago. They weighed the same as ordinary cook-ware, but because they could fold up small, they were easier to carry around.

I made a stew like Mr. Crepsley had taught me. He thought everybody should know how to cook.

I took leftover pieces of the carrots and cabbage outside and dropped them by the rabbit burrow.

Mr. Crepsley was surprised to find dinner - which was breakfast from his point of view - waiting for him when he awoke. He sniffed the fumes from the bubbling pot and licked his lips.

"I could get used to this."He smiled, then yawned, stretched, and ran a hand through the short crop of orange hair on his head. Then he scratched the long scar running down the left side of his face. It was a familiar routine of his.

I'd always wanted to ask how he got his scar, but I never had. One night, when I was feeling brave, I would.

There were no tables, so we ate off our laps. I got two of the folded-up plates out of the bag, popped them open, and grabbed knives and forks. I served the food and we ate.

Toward the end, Mr. Crepsley wiped around his mouth with a white napkin and coughed awkwardly.

"The stew is very nice,"he complimented me.

"Thank you,"I replied.

"I... um... that is..."He sighed. "I never was very good at being subtle,"he said, "so I will come right out and say it: What went wrong yesterday? Why were you so upset?"

I stared at my almost empty plate, not sure if I wanted to answer or not. Then, all of a sudden, I blurted out the whole story. I hardly took a breath between the start and the finish.

Mr. Crepsley listened carefully. When I was done, he thought about it for a minute or two before speaking.

"It is something you must get used to,"he said. "It is a fact of life that we are stronger than humans, faster and tougher. If you play with them, they will be hurt."

"I didn't mean to hurt him,"I said. "It was an accident."

Mr. Crepsley shrugged. "Listen, Darren, there is no way you can stop this from happening again, not if you interact with humans. No matter how hard you try to be normal, you are not. There will always be accidents waiting to happen."

"What you're saying is, I can't have friends anymore, right?"I nodded sadly. "I'd figured that out by myself. That's why I was so sad. I was getting used to the idea of never being able to go back home to see my old friends, but it was just yesterday that I realized I'd never be able to make new ones, either. I'm stuck with you. I can't have any other friends, can I?"

He rubbed his scar and pursed his lips. "That is not true,"he said. "You can have friends. You just have to be careful. You -"

"That's not good enough!"I cried. "You said it yourself; there will always be an accident waiting to happen. Even shaking hands is dangerous. I could cut their wrists open with my nails!"

I shook my head slowly. "No,"I said firmly. "I won't put people's lives in danger. I'm too dangerous to have friends anymore. Besides, it's not like I can make a true friend."

"Why not?"he asked.

"True friends don't keep secrets from one another. I could never tell a human that I was a vampire. I'd always have to lie and pretend to be someone I'm not. I'd always be afraid he'd find out what I was and hate me."

"It is a problem every vampire shares,"Mr. Crepsley said.

"But every vampire isn't a child!"I shouted. "What age were you when you were changed? Were you a man?"He nodded. "Friends aren't that important to adults. My dad told me that grown-ups get used to not having a lot of friends. They have work and hobbies and other stuff to keep them busy. But my friends were the most important thing in my life, besides my family. Well, you took my family away when you pumped your stinking blood into me. Now you've ruined the chances of my ever having a real friend again.

"Thanks a lot,"I said angrily. "Thanks for making a monster out of me and wrecking my life."

I was close to tears, but didn't want to cry, not in front of him. So I stabbed the last piece of meat on my plate with my fork and rammed it into my mouth, then I chewed on it fiercely.

Mr. Crepsley was quiet after my outburst. I couldn't tell if he was angry or sorry. For a while I thought I'd said too much. What if he turned around and said, "If that's the way you feel, I will leave you"? What would I do then?

I was thinking of apologizing when he spoke in a soft voice and surprised me.

"I am sorry,"he said. "I should not have blooded you. It was a poor call. You were too young. It has been so long since I was a boy, I had forgotten what it was like. I never thought of your friends and how much you would miss them. It was wrong of me to blood you. Terribly wrong. I..."

He trailed off into silence. He looked so miserable, I almost felt sorry for him. Then I remembered what he'd done to me and I hated him again. Then I saw wet drops at the corners of his eyes that might have been tears, and I felt sorry for him again.

I was really confused.

"Well, there's no use crying about it,"I finally said. "We can't go back. What's done is done, right?"

"Yes."He sighed. "If I could, I would take back my terrible gift. But that is not possible. Vampirism is forever. Once somebody has been changed, there is no changing back.

"Still,"he said, mulling it over, "it is not as bad as you think. Perhaps..."His eyes narrowed thoughtfully.

"Perhaps what?"I asked.

"We can find friends for you,"he said. "You do not have to be stuck with me all the time."

"I don't understand."I frowned. "Didn't we just agree it wasn't safe for me to be around humans?"

"I am not talking about humans,"he said, starting to smile. "I am talking about people with special powers. People like us. People you can tell your secrets to..."

He leaned across and took my hands in his.

"Darren,"he said, "what do you think about going back and becoming a member of the Cirque Du Freak?"

-- Advertisement --