Vampires and Haunted Houses
Ever since I was a little girl I've always believed in vampires.
I was five years old when I met my best friend, Hanna Sawyer. It was the first day of kindergarten, a day I remember more than more recent days of my life. I remember it had been cold outside, cold enough that my mother had wanted me to wear a jacket on top of two sweaters.
I remember crying for a half an hour earlier that morning because I didn't want to ride on the bus by myself, so my mother had driven me. Throughout the whole car ride I had blown on the window so that it fogged up, and with my finger I drew pictures of fangs protruding from a pair of misshapen lips and drips of blood in the fog.
I remember feeling terrified as my mother led me into Hawkesbury Elementary, in Ontario, Canada. It was a moderately tall building, made entirely out of brown and beige bricks that were all different sizes, like a stack of building blocks that children had glued together with their eyes shut. Back then, though, it had been enormous and intimidating. My mother and I had walked up the wet stone steps. She clutched an umbrella that was slightly too small for the two of us, so by the time we'd gotten into the building the right side of my body was soaked. The receptionist in the office pointed my mother and I down a long hallway in the direction of the class.
I remember the door to the room being dark blue, and somebody had carved their initials just above the door handle. My new teacher, Miss Crockett, was a young and gentle lady with shoulder-length blonde hair.
I remember staring at it while she and my mother shook hands and spoke, trying to come up with names for the colour of her hair. By the time I'd come up with 'dandelion' 'sunshine' and 'honey' my attention wavered to the group of children inside the room. There were twelve children in a circle playing duck-duck-goose, and in the corner sat a tiny girl with chocolate-brown locks at a plastic, yellow table. She was alone and doodling seriously on a piece of beige construction paper with a scarlet crayon.
I remember leaving my mother's side and wandering idly into the room, debating whether or not to join the group playing duck-duck-goose before I waddled over to the girl in the corner. I peered over her shoulder curiously to see that she had drawn a stick figure crouched on a giant wall, with glowing red eyes and enormous fangs that were dripping blood.
I remember being absolutely thrilled about her picture, and I sat down next to her. She'd turned to me, and I'd watched her eyes — which were the exact same colour of her hair — grow wide with amazement.
"Are you a vampire?" she exclaimed excitedly.
"Yep," I said proudly.
In reality, I wasn't a vampire at all— I was albino. Skin as white as snow, cotton and clouds. Hair as pale as silver, what my mother called 'white-blond'. And eyes as dark as rust, always mistaken at first glance for scarlet-red, like the colour of blood. It didn't help that my first name, chosen specially by my mother, was Nix, the Latin word for 'snow'. I also had the unfortunate coincidence of my last name being 'Blanchard', which my mother had told me contains the French word 'blanche' which meant 'white'.
Snow White. How ironic.
Usually I was absolutely self-conscious of my appearance, knowing perfectly well from the rude, blatant stares of passers-by that I was unique. But when this girl had asked if I was a vampire, I'd felt a twinge of flattery for what I deemed a compliment, and thankfulness for my albino looks.
I remember she'd looked at me in awe, a smile breaking over her face. She happily yanked up her picture, the red crayon rolling off the table and laying forgotten on the floor, and handed it to me.
"I drew you," she said, her voice shaking from excitement. "Did I get you right?"
I remember looking over it with feigned thought, as if debating her question.
"You got me perfect," I said finally, to which she squealed with delight and accidentally kicked the red crayon into the circle of children behind us with the heel of her sneaker.
"My name's Hanna Sawyer," she introduced. "What's yours?"
"Nix Blanchard," I said.
"Nix? That's a weird name. Is it a vampire name?"
"My mommy says it means 'snow' in Latin."
"What's a Latin?"
"I don't know; that's just what mommy said."
Hanna's lips moved to silently mouth an extended 'O' and her eyes drifted away from me to the window.
"Do you burn in sunlight?" she asked me suddenly.
"Sometimes," I answered. "That's why mommy makes me wear sunscreen."
"Oh," Hanna said. "Then I must be a vampire too, 'cause I get sunburned also, and my mommy makes me wear sunscreen."
"Yes, you must be," I said simply.
Hanna became my best friend after that.
From kindergarten on, all Hanna and I ever talked about was vampires.
In first grade we pretended, during recess, that we were long lost vampire sisters separated at birth and that we were reunited by fate to save the world from a pack of evil werewolves. But when I went to her house to sleepover for the first time, I stopped believing that we were sisters when I saw how much she looked like her mother. I never mentioned that to her, though.
In third grade, Hanna pulled me into the girl's bathroom to announce something that was "very secret, and very important": she wasn't a vampire. I told her that I wasn't either.
"But we're still sisters right?" she whispered, her brown eyes looking from left to right as if checking for eavesdroppers. "And we're still going to save the world, right?"
"Right," I agreed.
On the first day of fifth grade, Hanna had forgotten our game entirely. I didn't remind her of it. Despite that, we still did all of our school projects on vampires, watched all the vampires movies we could get our hands on (I'd seen Dracula at least a hundred times) and checked out the latest vampire books from the library.
I remember when Hanna and I had checked out two copies of Twilight. I'd gotten irritated that the author had made Edward Cullen sparkle in sunlight instead of burn. Hanna had thought it was sweet, but I didn't think vampires were supposed to be sweet. They were supposed to be dark and conflicted.
We started high school, and Hanna got a boyfriend. He was one of the people from the popular crowd. His name was Sean, and he was very tall and had curly blond hair and a skinny neck. I hated him, because he'd always be horrible to Hanna when he was with his friends. She came crying to me about it more than once. Then one day, when I'd shown her the newest vampire book I'd bought, she'd turned to me with a serious look on her face. That day she'd gotten up an hour early to put on makeup specially for Sean — eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss, the whole nine yards — and she'd tied up her chocolate-brown hair in a blue ribbon.
I remember that I'd hated it, because I found that it made her look like everyone other girl in the school. She was no longer unique.
"You're still obsessing over vampires?" Hanna had said, eyebrows knitted together in confusion. "We're in high school now, Nix. Aren't we a little too old for that now?"
I didn't think so.
At the beginning of my third year of high school, my neighbour died.
The house next to me was large and grand. It was made entirely of black bricks and was three stories high, and was wide, taking up almost all of the property. Vines had grown up over the walls, sneaking up like some creepy, spindly spider web. On the back of the house was a gallery, with a black oak railing.
The lady who'd lived there had been rich and very old, and kept to herself a lot.
I remember her tottering around her garden in her backyard, tending to her vegetables. I'd been scared of her, because every time I watched her prune or water her garden, she'd give me dirty looks and mutter, "What're yeh lookin' at?"
When we had been young children, Hanna and I had thought that the old woman had been a witch or a sorceress, and that whenever she locked herself in her house (which had been quite often) she was making potions and casting spells. Hanna had suggested that her vegetable were really poisoned, and that's what the lady used for her potions. I had even added that her house was haunted, and that she kept the ghosts prisoners and used their souls for her spells.
The day after she died, the For Sale sign went up. The next day, the word 'Sold' was plastered onto the front of the sign, but I never once saw anybody come up to the house to look at it.
About a week and a half after the house had been bought, Hanna came over to my house to work on a Science assignment. While I was buried in one of our school textbooks at the dining table, Hanna had peered out of my kitchen window and commented, "Did anybody go to that lady's funeral?"
"I don't think she even had a funeral," I said, setting down the textbook.
We both glanced at each other, and I knew we were thinking the same thing even before Hanna said, "Uh, Nix? Do you feel guilty about all that witch stuff?"
"Yes," I mumbled.
And then, a week later still, I was woken early in the morning by construction sounds. Exhausted and somewhat irritated, I shoved off the covers, grabbed a sweater, stormed down the stairs and stepped onto the front porch.
It was the house next door, which had belonged to the deceased old lady. Construction machines and workers surrounded the old house. Half of the wall had been ripped out, and it seemed like they were digging a hole in the far corner of the house. Curious, I walked up to the nearest worker, a beefy man nearly twice my height with skin paler as my own. His eyes were a strange violet colour, and they intrigued me.
"What are they doing to the old house?" I asked him.
"They're just adding a basement," he said simply.
Except that, throughout the next two days of construction, I never once saw them dig anywhere else.
I remember it was a rainy Monday morning when I'd realized just how different I was from Hanna. The two of us had walked to school together as usual, both of us clutching umbrellas. Hers was blue and of Winnie the Pooh (her newest obsession) and mine was black and red and had a picture of Emily the Strange. We'd walked into the building together while I'd told her about the mysterious construction workers with the mauve-coloured eyes, when I'd realized that I was being watched.
I remember that there were two new girls, Brittany and Melody. They were both blond-haired and blue-eyed, the kind of girls you saw in cheerleader uniforms holding pom-poms on the sidelines of football games. The enormous group of 'popular' people did what they always did with a new student: swoop down on them like some kind of sparkly, pink vultures all too happy to eat their brains if they didn't meet the criteria.
I remember that's exactly what had happened with Brittany and Melody— one minute they'd been keeping to themselves, the next they were surrounded by a posse of Prada handbags and Nike sneakers. And then Hanna and I had entered the building, and all of a sudden all eyes were on me.
I remember watching through the corner of my eye as one of them pointed me out to Brittany and Melody, whispering to them about me. Hanna had looked over to them to, but not because of the apparent looks, because she was searching for Sean.
It was then that I realized just how different Hanna and I were becoming.
I remember that I'd been reading a vampire story on my computer when she'd called me at ten o'clock at night crying and asking if I could meet her at the park. She didn't tell me why, but I already knew: Sean had broken up with Hanna.
Hanna's house was only three blocks from mine, a considerable walking distance. Before Hanna had forgotten our game, and before admitting to me that she wasn't a vampire, the two of us would meet halfway in an old park. There was only one piece of play equipment there: a little tower made of dry wood, the rusty nails sticking out of the sides and floor. We called the tower 'Vampire Headquarters', and at one point Hanna made a sign out of construction paper that read 'Vampire Headquarters: No Boys or Werewolves allowed' and tacked it to the wood.
I remember she got very upset when we returned the next afternoon and the sign had blown away in the wind.
Hanna and I used to sit in the old tower together and draw pictures of vampires and discuss how we could eliminate the werewolves that plagued the earth.
It was the end of our third year, just before exam time, that Hanna had called me and asked me to meet her at Vampire Headquarters. When I hurried over there I found her curled up in the tower, already in her pyjamas.
"He c-c-called me tonight," she sniffled to me, before I could say anything. "Sean b-broke up with m-me."
I climbed up the rotting wood ladder and crawled into the tower.
I remember noting to myself how it was a lot harder to fit comfortably in the tower with Hanna than it had been a few years ago.
"Why did he break up with you?" I said, trying to sound sympathetic, when in truth I wanted to sigh with relief and tell her she was better off without him.
That guy was an ass anyway.
"Well, I… I didn't want to tell you that part," she said quietly, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.
I remember my heart sinking into my chest as I put two and two together. I leaned against the wall and avoided her gaze.
"He broke up with you because of me," I mumbled, feeling awful.
"Well, yeah," she admitted, hugging her knees. "He said you were weird and creepy, and that you looked like a vampire."
I could feel her eyes on me, but I refused to look at her. I'd been afraid that, if I looked at her, I'd start crying. I'd already been on the verge of tears anyway.
"He told me that if I didn't stop hanging out with you, he'd break up with me," she continued. "And well…"
Hanna let her sentence trail, but I knew perfectly well what she meant.
That night the two of us cried on each other's shoulders for two different reasons: Hanna, for losing her first boyfriend, and me, because my obsession with vampires and my albino appearance had lost my best friend her first boyfriend.
That was the night I lost interest vampires.
Except for that legend I found on the Internet about a village that gotten attacked by a mysterious creature.
At the beginning of my fourth year, after I'd given up my interest in vampires, I was at home on the Internet. That day in History class we'd been assigned to look up Ontario and Quebec history and make a brief timeline with the information.
I remember skimming through the information and finding the definition of the word 'Cree'. Hundreds of years ago, natives were scattered across all of Quebec and the borders of Ontario, all of them with their own group name. Cree was just one of many group names. I was amused to see that Hawkesbury was once a settlement for a group of English people, who'd broken away from the nearby British colonies and spoken in Latin only, because they'd been trying to build a community of Latin-speaking men. I wondered vaguely whether or not that was the reason my mother had named me Nix.
I remember frowning at my unfortunate name. Then I found the link to the legend.
Long, long ago, after the Seven-Years-War for control of New France in Canada, there was a large settlement of British people who'd dedicated their lives to building a Latin-speaking community. The village was constantly under attack by the Red Coats, the British army, who were trying to capture them for treason. So, around their large village, the villagers constructed a wall… a wall so high and thick no Red Coat could ever hope to climb or destroy. The villagers were certain that the wall, named 'Kissing Roses' because of the wild roses that seemed to kiss the base, would keep anybody from raiding their village again.
Until a year later, on the night of the blood red moon, when a human with glowing crimson eyes and enormous fangs leapt over the wall with ease and elegance. The creature slaughtered every single man and woman in the village and sucked the blood from their broken bodies, leaving only the children. Then the creature disappeared without a trace. The children dug their way underneath the wall using their bare hands and ran to a nearby village, telling tales of the 'fanged man' that had slain their elders.
The creature was never seen again.
The legend screamed 'vampire'.
Still, I printed out the legend and even wrote down the website name on a yellow Post-it note, just in case I accidentally lost the page. I felt guilty for doing it, because the whole reason I'd given up my interest in vampires was because it had negatively affected Hanna's life.
Hanna doesn't have to know it's a vampire, I'd assured myself. Nobody has to know.
Basically, I remember a lot of things. But there are a few particular things I will never, ever forget.
And those were the roses.
A/N: Hi, okay I know I have Idol up already but I wanted to see what you guys thought of this :P it's my vampire novel that I'm planning to publish someday, and (yes i admit it) i've already written it. I'm just posting the prologue to see what you think, and if i get lotsa reviews ima post a couple other chapters :3 it's just to see if this story's good or not :O