The morning sun peeks through the window curtains, greeting my eyes. As I inhale, the aroma of bacon and pancakes gives me a mouthwatering feeling.
As soon as I realize my surroundings, my eyes land on the couch across from me. The sleeping dark-haired guy brings back last night’s memories. He appears more visible to me; his left cheek has a faded scar, and his sleeves rolled up, exposing his forearms and biceps. Then I blink three times to make sure it’s not a dream.
While I adjust myself to an upright position on the couch. I glance towards the kitchen, where a dark brunette woman is preparing breakfast. I recognized her. Time hasn’t changed her.
“Dahlia, what happened?”
Turning around, she stands at the counter without saying a word, pondering whether to share what happened.
“What a bloodthirsty kitten you are,” a voice from the couch says.
I turn and see the man soaking in every inch of me. I blush as his gaze intensifies.
A cough escapes my throat. “What! I only drink animal blood. Even though I feel awful afterwards, I won’t touch a human.”
Dahlia walks over to where we’re sitting and sighs.
“Rena, you were almost certain to die last night if you didn’t drink mundane blood. I wish I could have taught you about our Dhampir side. We Dhampirs are not supposed to drink animal blood.. They cannot satisfy your thirst; they only make you crave more.”
As I lift my knees to my chest, tears form. “Are you saying I drank human blood? I can’t... that defeats why I am trying to live as human as possible.”
The guy on the couch interrupts us again: “You? Human? Suck it up, kitten, you can’t escape who you are. Why can’t you just accept that?” I forgot he was still listening.
His judgmental tone infuriates me. “Unlike you, I can’t accept it, because I didn’t want this.”
“Rena, this is Carter. You may recall seeing him the other night. I let him stay because he helped you.” Dahlia attempts to ease the tension.
“Yeah, I remember him feeding on a girl at my school. But why is he still here?” I ask, with a hint of anger.
“Relax kitten. It’s what we do. You don’t have any experience with it.” Carter smirks at me in amazement.
“Me, relax? Why should I? I don’t want to experience being a dhampir.”
Dahlia says, “Come on, let’s eat. Rena, rest up, and Carter, we can talk later.” She turns on the TV to ease the tension. She walks back into the kitchen to set up the table for us three.
Even though I am trying to keep my attention on the television instead of staring at the hot, well-toned, but cold-hearted, and terrifying guy on the opposite couch. He still captivates me somehow.
Despite my desire to escape my overwhelming reality, I couldn’t control myself. Why can’t I stop thinking about humans? Did I drink from one? I don’t remember, but now I crave them. My heart longs for their warm, sweet crimson. Wait - stop - no - don’t stop. There’s a conflicting battle within me.
From the corner of my eye, I notice Carter lying on his back, staring at the ceiling. Hmm... I wonder what he’s thinking about.
TV in the background: News Station X - Breaking News
News Anchor (Woman): “The authorities have found a junior from Nadia State University who was missing for several weeks.”
News Anchor (Man): “The authorities pronounced her dead at the scene this morning.”
News Anchor (Women): “Police are investigating this matter, and according to them, the perpetrator scrawled words on her body, which is like what they did to previous victims.”
News Anchor (Man): “We advise viewers to use discretion as we are about to release crime scene evidence.”
(Releasing photographs). The victim’s blood-soaked back has scrawled words cut deep into it: Find me, Rena.
News Anchor (Women): “We released the photos taken, hoping to get additional leads. Please call...”
I leap off the couch and gasp after seeing those crime scene photos. I glance back at Dahlia and Carter, and they too wear expressions of disbelief.
Dahlia stops what she was doing and whispers, “Wait, what did they just say? Who wants you to find them?”
“I don’t know. I’m sorry to ask, but Dahlia, by any chance, do you have a cig?” My voice cracks as I ask, aware what I am saying might be false. However, I can’t make sense of what we heard.
Maybe... A cig will wake me up.
Dahlia grabs a pack of cigarettes and a red lighter from her purse on the counter, walks over, and hands them to me.
“I’m here if you want to talk. Also, I’m friends with the DA at the police station. Do you want me to ask her about the case and get some details?” She clasps my hands in hers.
“Thanks, but it’s okay.” I smile and ask, “Where can I smoke?”
“There’s a private office around the corner by the stairs.” She says as she let go of my hand.
Carter surprises me by suddenly appearing in front of me as I head to the office.
“Mind if I join?” he asks in a deep, soothing voice that sends shivers down my spine.
“... okay,” I say in a faint whisper as we walk into the bright office and close the door behind us.
As I take two cigarettes from the crumpled box. I put one in my mouth while passing the other to Carter. I light up and take a deep drag, savoring the flavor and the nicotine hit.
Carter takes the cigarette, puts it in his mouth, and I light it up for him. We stand there in silence, taking in the moment and enjoying our cigarettes.
After taking a drag, I feel more at ease. Knowing this wasn’t a dream is a relief.
Carter is standing there, silent and staring at me.
Why else would he follow me? Does he desperately need a cigarette? No, that’s not it. The point he is trying to make is clear. I get it. I’m a Dhampir who lacks knowledge of my kind. Wanting a normal human life, is it abnormal?
I feel like I’m stuck between two worlds, and I don’t belong in either. I want to be seen for who I am, not my vampire part. Vampires are proud of their superior race and don’t want to be human.
Is something wrong with me? I’m happy with my humanity yet, why am I envious of them?
As we pace around the room, we finish smoking the rest of the cigarettes. We throw them into the only ashtray that sits on a black wooden desk with golden frames enclosing pictures of Dahlia’s family.
We stand there in silence, looking at each photo. My chest burns once I realize I didn’t have a single-family photo. Who needs those when I have memories? It would be nice to have tangible pictures of my mom, Rachel, and all of us together.
Silence isn’t the only struggle for containment. My tongue soon follows suit. The thick atmosphere suffocates me; speaking out is my only relief. I take a deep breath and the words flow out of me like a broken dam.
“Hey... what’s the deal? I don’t know you and you surely don’t know me. So why are you still here?” I sigh faintly, crossing my arms over my chest.
The first thing he answers is, “Woah, cutting straight to the chase. Why not get to know each other?” He tries to hold back a laugh.
“I can tell you’re a monster without knowing you.”
Laughing, he says, “Kitten... not all of us are bad guys, and you talk about being a monster.”
Despite my best efforts, I can’t do anything about it. I knew he was not wrong. I did not want to argue against his viewpoint, which is valid. It’s perhaps better if I say nothing.
A couple minutes pass, then Carter breaks the silence. “I’m sorry,” he whispers in a low voice as he continues on.
“Hey... Listen, have you heard of the twins’ legend? Several years ago, a rumor spread that a Moroi and a human had twins. Twins, especially hybrids, are extraordinarily rare. The twins are often called Vera and Vena. Vera’s destined for dominance, whereas Vena’s destined for destruction. These twins were born with white hair and gray tinted eyes, a first in vampire history. It is said that if you see them, you have crossed their path. You have met the ones who could dominate or destroy the vampire world.”
“And why are you telling me this?”
“... I’ve seen you before and it makes little sense.” His gaze unwavering. “Do you remember what you did? And why did you attack me?” He spoke in a dangerous, hushed tone, making my heart race.
I look at him, confused. He stares back at me with a look of disbelief and adds, “I don’t understand.”
“Are you kidding me? Do I look like I can fight? It’s my first time seeing you. As for the legend?” I hesitate before speaking. “I doubt it’s even real... but are you saying you met my sister?” I walk to the large couch by the window and sat at one end of it.
He follows me over to the couch, sitting at the opposite end. “That’s what’s bothering me. It’s obvious you’re still a newbie. You look absolutely like someone I have seen before...”
“That can’t be right... I thought she was dead.” I cross my arms tight over myself.
“Did you see her body?”
“No, I haven’t seen her in... 10 years.” I pause as my words became clearer.
“If they were deceased, how did I encounter someone who looked like you? I can’t get rid of the memory of meeting you; it was real. I can still remember the conversation we had. Are you her?” he asked.
I looked at him in shock, my mouth agape. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He must have seen the confusion on my face, because he hastily added, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
I shook my head and forced a smile. “It’s okay. I just wasn’t expecting this.”
I guess he has a point, and I’ve got to admit, I don’t have a way to argue with him.
What are the other messages? Is Rachel still alive? Is the legend true, or is he just playing a joke on me?
We stared at each other in silence, looking for answers neither of us had.