|The Girl from Paris
Author: amphorean PM
Vampires are real. That's what Dee discovers when he finds an old, handwritten book in his basement and runs away from home to protect its secrets and hide from his overbearing mom, whose recent divorce is taking its toll. But these vampires are different. This is not Twilight. And the dangerous, mysterious Parisienne is coming... soon.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Supernatural - Chapters: 4 - Words: 10,903 - Favs: 1 - Updated: 03-22-13 - Published: 03-15-13 - id: 3108850
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Dee went down the stairs to the basement, which still smelled like paint. The house was brand new, or at very least the yard was; Mom had had it torn up and replaced with new grass shortly after they'd moved in.
"I told them I wanted a very specific kind of grass in the yard when we moved in. Just goes to show, Dee, if you want anything done right, you absolutely must do it yourself." And then her phone had rung and Dee had snuck upstairs to read, just like pretty much every other day.
Recently, the newly-divorced Ms. Winters, formerly Mrs. Rosenthal, had been more ridiculously entrenched in her work than usual, and the case she'd been working for the past couple months had really been getting on her nerves as of late. The smallest things had been setting her off for the past three days or so: Dee telling her that the water filter in the fridge, which he wasn't tall enough to reach, needed changed; Dee reminding her to pick up the dry cleaning; Dee himself, mostly. He sort of understood, in a weird way, her need for solitude in times like this. Sometimes there was just nothing better than sitting by yourself and working out what the plot of the next chapter is going to be. Or in Mom's case, the next move by the prosecutor, or something like that. Dee didn't really know what she did at work, to be honest. It had never interested him in the way his favorite genre of novel or his favorite pens did. But on the other hand, she had held kind of a superhero status in Dee's mind for so long that her inability to handle more than one thing at a time baffled him.
Dee had read most of the books in his room, which, due to the fairly recent move, were only a couple dozen; the rest of them, old or new, were still boxed up in the basement, which always made Dee shudder to think about. Since summer break had started two weeks prior, he had been transporting them all up the steep stairs and into his room, where they could be proudly displayed on a bookshelf, or at least modestly displayed in piles on his floor. Either way, they wouldn't mold, and that was the important thing.
Dee had recently discovered a book about vampires, of all things, on his last trip into the basement to carry the books into the bibliophile's haven that was his bedroom. The book, bound in red leather, was different form most of the books Dee had ever seen in that its pages were yellowed with time and ragged on the edges from sheer age, not just because the author and publisher thought it looked cool and fit the story's theme. He opened the book still crouching over the box on the basement floor and read it by the dim glow of a flashlight. It was written in crabbed cursive; he had a hard time separating the words from one another because of how small and close together they were. He felt a slight embarrassment and solidarity at the sorry state of his own handwriting. He hadn't handwritten a word all summer and it was, he was certain, killing him slowly and painfully.
As much as he would have liked to anguish over the increasing hopelessness of his future career as a writer, the vampire book was far too interesting to allow him to waste time thinking about anything else. He carried it upstairs as though he were cradling an infant, neglecting to even look inside any of the other boxes. They could wait. As he reached the top of the basement stairs, he almost asked his mom where the book had come from, but thought better of it at the last moment as he caught sight of her hustling around the kitchen table with her cell phone pinched between her cheek and shoulder like she was an irritable crab.
Dee tucked the book under his arm and scuttled up the stairs to his room, where examining it under a book light would give him more information than the pathetic flashlight had. He picked his way carefully through the pattern of towers and bare floor in his room, taking exceptional care not to topple anything and thereby crush his feet or damage any books. He nearlymade it to the large leather reading chair by the nook he'd created out of bookshelves by the window, but only after a brief scuffle with a few encyclopedias. He carefully placed the book on the table by the chair and turned on the heavy brass lamp. Properly illuminated, the leather of the cover was more brownish than red. Dee wondered with brief horror whether or not the book was covered in blood, but then dismissed it as he realized that, as old as the book seemed to be, oxidation would have turned blood almost black by now. He chuckled, admiring the bookbinder's sense of humor. But something about the book didn't allow for much laughter in its presence, and Dee soon sobered up and set to deciphering the author's handwriting.
The book, which apparently was called something like "Tome of Hunting 1867" (Dee wasn't sure; the spelling was atrocious throughout), outlined the basic definition of vampire and the differences between vampires of different regions. Dee chuckled at a few of the author's heavy-handed attempts at jokes— they obviously hadn't been much of a comedian in life. But the rest of the book was full of information that, if it were true at all, would certainly have saved someone's life if they ever came face-to-face with the monsters the book defined as vampires.
Dee finished the book, but couldn't seem to put it down; he stared blankly at the last page. His mother's voice calling up the stairs snapped him out of it.
"Dee? Come down here a minute, please."
Dee froze in horror for a moment. Had she found out about the last thing he'd gotten in trouble for at school? His junior hear hadn't been his best, and he'd had more than one "incident" involving getting revenge for childishly-named "bullying". Straight-up sexual harassment, more like. But she couldn't possibly have known about that.
He never really liked it when his mom made him stop reading for whatever reason, but something about the Tome of Hunting made him especially angry to part with it, even for a short amount of time. He placed it gingerly on the table and glanced at it nervously as he shut the door behind him.
Mom was waiting at the bottom of the stairs with her arms crossed. Dee sat down on a step so that he was at her eye level. He wanted to turn tail and hide in his room until she was done with whatever tirade she was preparing to launch herself headfirst into, but there was no time to escape. She had already begun to speak.
"You've been spending far too much time reading recently, young man—"
Oh no, not this again. "Mom—" Dee began, in what was usually termed That Tone of Voice, but she cut him off with a sharp click of her tongue, as though she were punishing a dog for jumping on the couch.
"I'm just concerned," she continued, "about your social life. You don't have any friends," she pointed out, matter-of-factly.
Dee had always hated it when she pretended as though she were the final authority on everything, and especially so when 'everything' included his social life, or prominent lack thereof. He sighed. "I don't need friends, Mom."
"Yes, you do. I refuse to let you become a hermit at seventeen."
"Like you ever do anything outside of work," Dee muttered, wrapping his hand around one of the spindles on the stairs. He picked idly at his black jeans with the other hand.
"What did you say?"
"What happened to us going to the movies this weekend?" Dee snapped, suddenly much angrier than he had been just seconds ago. "You promised on Tuesday and now it's Sunday and you're just working like you always do."
Ms. Winters' eyes narrowed. "Work is different," she offered.
"It's not like it's the death penalty."
"You'll understand when you're older," she tried again. "This is a serious case, even if it's 'not the death penalty'."
Dee wanted to say something else, but Mom's phone rang again, and that was the final straw. As she answered it, Dee exploded, "You always have time to talk to them, but whenever I want to talk to you about something then it's always 'not now' or 'just a minute'! It's not fair!"
And with that, he stomped up the stairs, disturbing several spiders on the way, and slammed his heavy bedroom door behind him. A picture frame fell off the wall.
One of the book towers near the wall slumped over slightly, but did not fall; it was a marvel of engineering. Dee wanted, almost, to scatter them all across the floor— he might have done so when he was younger, but now he knew that letting his temper get the best of him would only result in more of a mess for him to clean up later. It wasn't worth the effort to take out his anger directly; it would just end with self-punishment.
Instead of throwing a tantrum, Dee began to plan. It might not have been the healthiest coping method, but it was better than more destructive alternatives.
Dee decided that if his mother didn't want to see things from his point of view, then he would simply make it so that she was unable to do that. For a while, anyway. Then he would come back and she'd be grateful and maybe treat him a little better for once. He would run away— not to his dad's, because that would just get them in trouble with the judge. But he would run off and camp somewhere for a while. A couple days, maybe a week. Maybe in that old empty house a few blocks over. That would be close enough to home that he could come back if he needed something, but far enough away that no one would think to look for him there.
Dee spent the next few hours gathering things and shoving them into his backpack, which he had turned upside down and emptied for the express purpose of filling it with things he would need for his little journey. He made a mental note not to add any books until he had filled the bag with things he would absolutely need. Toothbrush, comb, deodorant, flashlight, spare batteries, snacks… The snacks would have to wait until his mother had gone to bed, because her office was in the kitchen. He made sure to put all the paper money he had saved up into his wallet so he could buy a burrito at the 7/11 if he needed to eat something more substantial. Yes, this would be an excellent camping trip.
Dee's bag ended up containing no fewer than three different books. As a last thought, he tucked the Tome of Hunting into the front pocket of the bag. He could reread it if the mood struck him. Or maybe he would call some friends to live-action role play a vampire game with him… yeah, right. The very few friends he had were nerds, but not the LARPing kind.
To pass the time until he could reasonably sneak out of the house, Dee flipped through the Tome again. The handwriting was easier to decipher this time, now that he was actually concentrating on it. It took him longer to read than it had the first time, but then he had only been skimming it to begin with, and now he was actually reading it and hanging on to every word. He didn't think vampires really existed, but hey, if he happened to encounter one on his journey, then he'd be prepared.
It had gotten dark outside, but Dee could hear, if he listened, his mother bustling around downstairs. He could almost see the papers fluttering around on the kitchen table. Sometimes they moved so fast as Dee's mom was sorting through them that it was like she wasn't touching them at all.
When he was younger and his parents still lived together, Dee would often sit up on the kitchen counter and watch his father attempting to organize his mother's legal papers. She would follow after him and subtly disorganize them, or, as she called it "rearrange" them into her own indecipherable method of keeping them as she wanted them. Trying to understand how this paper related to that one had always interested Dee. It might have explained how he had devised his own system for organizing his bookshelves. Every time he'd tried to explain it to his parents, they had just shook their heads and let him be. He liked it better that way. It made it easy to tell whether or not someone had been rifling through his shelves.
Even thought it was dark out, Dee took a short nap to prepare for his 'camping trip'. When he woke up it was shortly after midnight. His mother had probably gone to bed at ten, as was customary, so it was safe for him to go down to the kitchen with his nearly-full backpack. But first, he made a pit stop in the bathroom and combed his short, dark hair. He wanted to look presentable just in case he got picked up by the cops— that way he could say he was working on a school project in the neighborhood. After Dee had combed his hair and brushed his teeth, he went down to the kitchen. The stairs didn't squeak, thank god.
Dee was glad he'd remembered to oil the hinges on the door the other day; it no longer complained at being opened like it used to, which would definitely have let his mom know what he was doing. A thrill shot up his spine and back down; was he really, honestly doing this? Yeah, he was, he decided, his shoes digging into the soft dirt in the yard, on which the grass hadn't yet grown.