Travis Becker smiled back at the blond girl in the seat opposite him. In his hand, he triumphantly clutched her telephone number, something he'd spent weeks upon agonizing weeks yearning for. This was the day she'd finally agreed to go on a date with him, tomorrow at the movie theater.
Christine Lafey had golden hair, waving gently past her shoulders, and hazel, almond-shaped eyes that seemed drenched in beauty. Her body curved in sensual places, though that hadn't been what had drawn Travis to her. No, that had been her free, lovely laugh. It wasn't a giggle, or, God forbid, a snort. He had heard it first in October, when he'd worked up the courage to actually say something to her, rather than staring like an imbecile.
"I'll call you tomorrow." He promised.
"Two o' clock." She told him sweetly.
He gathered his backpack as the bus slowed down for his stop.
"Don't get killed by a ghost." She snickered, referring to the older-than-time graveyard that he had to be dropped off and picked up at.
He wished the driver a good weekend, and stepped off the school bus, vowing to buy a car the day he turned sixteen, which, incidentally, wasn't that far off. Since elementary school, he'd been forced to walk the half mile to the Cortez Family Cemetery earlier than most people got out of bed, and walk home in all kinds of wonderful weather. Today's was a frigid and snowy February afternoon, clouds blocking out the sun and offering little warmth. He pulled up his hood, and stood a moment, trying to decide whether or not to pull out his gloves.
Travis glanced at the cemetery, and halted. It was a February afternoon…the ninth. The day his father had died. How could he have forgotten? Had he really dismissed his mother's red-rimmed eyes and sisters' moodiness for time to scheme? It had only been two years since Phil Becker had died when a drunk driver ran a red light and straight into that familiar Subaru.
It was getting dark, but this was important. He'd only be on the grounds for a half hour at most. There was no gate blocking his path, only the remnants of a rotten fence that hadn't reached higher than his knees when, as a ten year-old, he had gone past it for his grandmother's burial.
An appropriate feeling of solemnity gripped him, and once Travis reached the grave marked Becker, his entire body crumpled. He sagged downward onto his knees, and lay his head in his white hands. His breathing grew more ragged, but no tears welled up in his eyes.
"Okay." He said. "Okay."
"Okay what?" A coldly arrogant voice demanded of him.
Travis's head snapped up. A short boy with black hair stood atop a tomb, glaring down at him. He recoiled, stung.
"Okay what?" The boy repeated, as though there would be a severe punishment for remaining silent much longer.
"Okay, I can do this. I can get through this." He frowned. "Who are you?"
The boy slithered down.
"Don't worry your pretty little head about who I am." His clear voice rung like a bell.
"I was just here to see my dad. I'll go now." He said in a detached voice, infuriated that this stranger should be able to drive him away.
"How old are you?" The boy asked.
"Fif…teen." Travis's brows pulled together, "Why?"
The hint of a smile played on the boy's lips. As far as he could judge, this mysterious boy was about the same age, maybe even a little older.
"Come with me." He ordered.
"I…don't think so."
The boy's head dropped and rested on his chin. Travis bent sideways to look more closely at him. He didn't seem to be breathing at all and-
He looked back up, and Travis had to leap backward. The boy's eyes were black-lined, and heavy, dark shadows had appeared. His entire expression darkened, and Travis realized that his irises too were night-dark. And then his mind went blank, and he could do nothing but stare into the black pupils.
"You will come with me, now."
Travis obeyed without a thought. His legs moved of their own accord, for he was too vexed by those eyes. Those eyes were all he knew, were all that he saw. When they were not upon him, he feared. They were his whole world. They were everything.
He was led past the newer headstones, and into the far end of the graveyard, beyond sight of the entrance. He didn't worry. He didn't know how to.
His knees bent forcibly and he felt damp grass beneath him.
"Lazarus?" The boy's spell was broken by that sound. If Travis had thought Christine's voice pretty, it was nothing, nothing compared to this! Like a sweet river flowing down a slope, like honey pouring over walls and all over him…
The speaker was a petite girl. Petite, yet somehow mature in a way he couldn't comprehend. She was old. Older than this cemetery. Older than this town. Maybe even older than the state. Straight black hair that matched the shade of Lazarus's curly mess hung at her waist, with flat bangs curving over her eyebrows. Cherry-red lips formed a straight line. She was displeased. Travis thought hurriedly of ways he could change this.
"Lazarus, what is this?" She had a soprano voice that pierced his mind like the cold once had.
"I haven't forgotten what you said about taking them, but this one…he just smelled so…delectable."
Travis was too intoxicated by the girl to notice their disturbing conversation. He wanted to get closer to her, touch her delicate skin.
"I can tell that for myself," She sniffed, moving closer to him. "Well, we will have to take care of him now, won't we? But not yet. We shall have…fun, first."
They shared a secretive smile.
"I'm forgiven, then?" Lazarus inquired, licking his lips.
"Mmm…Monique." He swept to her, and spun her around, planting a deep kiss on her lips. Travis met Monique's eyes, and recognized that disgusted expression he knew all too well.
When they broke apart, she continued to size him up, her smile growing more pronounced.
"I'll take him below." Lazarus said, noting her countenance with unease.
"He has two legs with which to walk. And land upon." Monique objected. "You can do that, can't you?" She asked Travis.
"Yes, ma'am." He responded quickly, feeling stupid as the words tumbled out, wrapping around his tongue. He stretched his legs, showing them off.
She reached for his hand, and he nearly blanched. It was stone-cold and firm, nothing that her delicate façade had allowed him to believe. They walked hand in hand to a marble white crypt, that Lazarus promptly opened.
"I…go in there?" Travis blustered.
Monique nodded encouragingly.
"How far is there to fall?" He peered inside, but saw nothing in the total darkness.
Lazarus sighed and pushed him in. He let out a yell, cut short by his face landing on the stone floor of the tomb. Two whooshes of air beside him let him know that the two had also entered, for he could not even make out their forms.
Lazarus's light steps echoed as he went to light a lantern. Travis blinked as light dimly illuminated their faces.
"What is your name?" Monique asked, sitting beside his sprawled body.
"I see, Travis." Lazarus stood beside her, both grinning wickedly.
And then they were upon him, biting at his wrists. He howled in agony as their needle-sharp teeth pierced his skin. He tried wriggling free, but they were easily much stronger than he. He gasped as he realized what they were doing- drinking his blood.
"Nooo!" He cried, jerking forward, knocking an unsuspecting Lazarus off of him.
He curled up into a ball, nursing his freely bleeding wrists.
"Sleep now, Travis." He heard Monique say angrily, and a huge blow to his head sent him flying into a wall, but he was already unconscious when he hit it.
When he woke up, Travis was alone. The crypt was empty, the terrible twosome nowhere to be seen. Blind panic struck him, and he leapt for the exit. He fell back down instantly. How did they get up, then? The answer to his question lay on the wall. A rusty ladder, precisely the same shade as the wall, was attached to it, and very nearly inconspicuous.
Outside, it was late at night, the moon high in the sky, turning his hair to a lustrous silver. He shivered, realizing that he now only wore a tee shirt, and the leg of one pant had been torn away.
He began to run, but got only a few feet before crashing to the ground. Monique sat comfortably beside him, her ballerina foot outstretched.
"I don't let my toys get away so quickly, Travis." She said to him, getting up, and offering him a hand.
He took it, shaking. She came closer, pressing her face against his shoulder.
"Lazarus is out convincing the police of your death. It's all taken care of." She soothed him. Strangely, his fear was quelled by her touch, and believed her. "He won't be back for a while."
The implications of her words struck him.
"Don't be afraid of me." Monique pulled away. "I won't hurt you. Lazarus is an animal, who lives only for blood. If you stay with me, we'll destroy him."
"Stay with you?" He repeated.
"I'll make you like me, and you and I can live together. Just the two of us, Travis."
Slowly, he reached out to her face. She allowed him to gently pull her upper lip back. Behind it lay two razor-sharp fangs, still stained with his blood.
"You did hurt me." Travis reminded her.
"But never again." She put her hand on top of his, and brought it back down. "Stay with me, Travis."
Her hypnotic eyes gleamed with hope.
He bent down to press his lips to hers.