The shiny blood red nail polish reflected the overhead lights perfectly. Cat could make out everything in the bright lacquer. At the front of the classroom a man droned on and on about what he expected from his history students. However, Cat's mind focused everywhere but the attendance policy. Gazing at her nails she couldn't stop thinking about Esme.
A year passed, but thoughts of Esme refused to leave her mind. The nail polish was hers, the color her favorite. It was very unlike Cat. Esme was the pretty one, the fashionable one, the one everyone always wanted to be around and with. The cheerleader who dated the older varsity football quarterback, and elected both homecoming and prom queen Freshman year. Though they were identical twins Esme and Cat were two very different people.
Cat hated being the center of attention, but Esme thrived on it. For the last year she'd spent most of her time wondering what it would have been like if she had died instead of Esme. The memorial board for the perky, peppy, popular Esme was still there dominating the hall outside of the Cafeteria, it popped into her mind without so much as half of a though.
The bell rang, and Cat was thankful for the distraction. Everyone grabbed their things and filtered out of the class room. Still she ended up staring under that black paper covered corkboard filled with pictures of Esme and all the activities she did.
When Esme was alive Cat never really thought about how much they looked alike. Staring at those pictures she couldn't unsee it. For years she always thought there was something special about the way Esme looked that drew people in despite the fact they were identical twins. But she couldn't play that game anymore, they looked exactly the same—only Cat didn't curl her long blue black hair every day before school, nor did she wake up early to put on makeup that would have put most instagrammers to shame. Cat also didn't carefully follow trends, and teeter around on high heels. No, Cat was a hoodie and jeans kind of girl who on occasion was known to throw in a skirt once in a blue moon to mix it up.
The warning bell for seventh period rang, and Cat sighed, making her way to her last class of the day. She made it to English with time to spare. At the front of the room stood a woman with the palest blonde hair and bright green eyes. Written on the chalk board behind her were the words MRS. KATHY FIELDS.
The bell rang again as everyone took their seats and a tall boy with surreally near colorless eyes and blood red hair entered clutching a white sheet of paper. The world slowed to a crawl as Cat took him in. She'd been dreaming of him for the last month and they weren't necessarily good dreams.
The boy's cold eyes settled on her and they stared at each other as everyone else appeared to move with an inhuman slowness. Seconds passed for the rest of those in the class room but for Cat it was minutes, maybe even hours. As she gazed at him all her dreams stretched out between him. They were all the same, she ran from him through Sutter's wood, the huge forest that surrounded the town of Whisper Creek. As the teacher introduced him, she felt the branches scraping her cheeks and her heart beat at the back of her tongue as she fled from him in that ephemeral dreamscape.
"Class, this is Dorian Midwinter," Mrs. Fields introduced the boy with the translucent eyes as Cat held her breath, whispering a prayer in her mind for him to not sit in the empty seat beside her. "He just moved here from Boston. You can take the seat in middle row, Dorian."
Luckily for Cat, the vacant spot in the middle row was nowhere near her. She heaved a sigh of relief and broke eye contact with the breath takingly beautiful boy, pressing her forehead to her desk. The period moved at a snail's pace, but eventually the teacher passed out copies of Jane Eyre along with the syllabus and the bell rang.
Though everyone bolted out of the room, Cat managed to push her way out of the class room and down the hall in record time.
With her head in her locker she gave in to the push of the white noise of the crowd around her. After seeing the boy from her nightmares step into AP English she felt inexplicably tense. Slowly exhaling she felt as though she were reaching out with a thousand unseen hands with fingertips touching along every surface they encountered. It felt like a mental stretch and when she finished she felt so much better for it.
Then she closed her locked and jumped as she discovered the boy from English on the other side. Needless to say all that tension came flooding back as her heart thudded like a trapped rabbit staring down a ravenous wolf. The boy—Dorian, recalled through that haze of dread—was messing with the lock and grumbling under his breath.
"Need help?" She forced herself to offer. He glanced up at her, again those ethereally pale eyes sucked her in. Under the light of the hall their hue hovered between blue and green perfectly.
"Nah, I've got it," he murmured softly.
"Okay, well… Welcome to Whisper Creek."
"Thanks. You going to Jen's party?"
Cat blinked a few times. "No, I didn't get invited. Standard high school rules apply here and I'm not popular enough to go to one of her Majesty Jen Bennett's parties."
"You could always come with me." He smirked, one corner of his mouth rising higher than the other.
"Are you being serious? Or is this going to be one of those things when you invite me, and I end the night modeling a couple quarts of pigs' blood?"
"Yes, I'm being serious, and no this isn't a prank."
"How did you get invited to her party anyway?"
"She stopped me in the hall a second ago and said 'you're coming to my party, right? You have to come.'" He rolled his eyes.
"That's because you've got a good look, with the low sitting skinny jeans, and leather jacket. It's very, focus group approved bad boy. Jen's all about people who dress the right way and you have Jen Bennett's seal of approval practically stamped across your forehead."
"I sense a touch of bitterness."
"Some. Jen told me that until I get my wardrobe together I won't be invited to anymore of her parties."
"Wow. That's…certainly something."
"Anyway, I've got to go. Pete will kill me if I'm late."
"My guardian. It's a long tragic story, but he'll murder me and stick my head on a pike in the front yard to warn other disobedient teens if I'm not home on time. He's decided to take this parenting thing very seriously." Supposedly. Though the threat was made, Cat severely doubted Pete would live up to it—or do anything at all if she was late. Pete was one of those people who if not for the death of Cat's parents would never had children in his life—let alone teens.
"Can I give you a ride home?" Dorian offered righting the black messenger bag over his shoulder.
"Thanks, but I'm good."
"And the party?"
Cat bit her bottom lip and glanced over the sea of people around them. Should she go? The question lingered. Jen used to be her friend before she was Esme's but everything changed Freshman year.
"We can go home at any time. Just say the word and we'll go do something else."
"Are you sure you want to do that? You're new." Cat snickered ruefully. "Being seen with me in public is sort of like social suicide."
He shrugged, his gaze sweeping over her from head to toe eliciting her cheeks to burn bright red with blush. "I guess I should go casket shopping then?" he winked and all of the tension and fear bled right from Cat as they shared a laugh.
"It's on Friday right?"
"Can I have a few days to think about it?"
"I'll let you know Friday after English."
"Isn't that cutting it close?" He quirked a brow.
"Nope." Beaming at him she turned on her heels and left—after glancing back at him and giggling to herself as she pushed through the double doors that led out to the parking lot.
Ten minutes later Cat opened the front door of the home she'd lived in her entire life to find Pete sitting on the couch playing Call of Duty. He'd been her mother's best friend since childhood. Even before the accident it wasn't strange to see Pete on the couch in the living room. Cat never thought he was much of an adult, he pretty much let her and Esme do whatever they wanted. When Esme died he told her he blamed himself for her death, which was what prompted the new found attempt at surrogate fatherly-ness.
"How was the first day of Junior year?" He asked the instant the game ended.
"Somehow both the same and worse than Sophomore year."
"Do I need to kick anyone's ass?"
"No. It's just…" Cat glanced at her nails.
"You miss Esme."
"Yeah. I just feel like even though she's gone I'm still in her shadow." She scrunched her nose and shook her head.
"Maybe it's time you tried to do some of the things you liked before. You know teenager things."
"Esme did the teenager things, remember? Not me. I'm the dependable one. Was the dependable one." Cat frowned, and Pete sighed.
"Well maybe you should try to not be dependable."
"Aren't you supposed to be telling me to be mature and all that stuff?"
"No, you've been more mature than me since you were all of five. You're almost seventeen, that means you only have a few years left to be immature. Trust me, Kitty Cat, it's hard to pull off immature in your late thirties as well as I do. Speaking of which…" He jumped over the back of the couch and started for the stairs.
"Yup. I have a dinner meeting with some prospective clients tonight. The work of a freelance programmer is never done." Stretching he glanced Cat over. "Do your homework, and there's money on the pizza card if you need it."
"Is there hummus left?"
"Some." He chuckled and started up the stairs. "About half as much as was there when you left for school," Pete called from the top of the steps chuckling. "You should go to the party though. It'll be good for you."
"Maybe." Cat walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge staring at the next to empty shelves before closing it.
"Do you need money for clothes or something?" Pete's voice boomed from the second floor. Pete was a yeller, but then again, her mother was too. Neither had much of an inside voice and often carried on conversations across the house and between floors rather than joining the person in the same room they were in. "I know you didn't go school shopping other than supplies."
"How do you know?"
"Because I know what mobile banking is and I saw which stores you went to on my recent transaction list and how much you spent. Don't make me kidnap you and take you to Kohls after school tomorrow. You know I'll do it too."
Cat sighed and walked upstairs to her room, tossing her bag on the bed. "I'll just annex all of Esme's clothes."
"That's morbid, even for an angsty teen."
Cat took out her homework she stared at her copy of Jane Eyre and thought about Dorian.
"Have you seen my purple tie?"
"The one you got me for my birthday."
"Damn. Why couldn't I be a responsible adult and actually hang the thing up in my closet."
"Because you're not a responsible adult, Pete." Cat snorted.
Dorian slammed the car door and stalked through the cemetery. He hated the cliché of the optics of it, let alone the reality. Fear not faithful denizens of Whisper Creek, just your average angsty teen with dark hair in all black walking through a graveyard at dusk, he thought with a lopsided smirk. Humming along he wove his way through the gap tooth horizon of old tombstones with engraved dates as far back as the late sixteen hundreds. At the back rose a massive old tomb with MIDWINTER carved deep into the old weather-beaten marble.
What seemed like an eternity had passed since the last time he stood before the imposing monument to the myth of his family. The wrought iron gate squealed as he opened it. Inside, spiders skittered along in the dark, and cobwebs swooped down draping over the carefully carved stone coffins. There were maybe two dozen laid out with names carved on their sides. There was one Dorian Jonathan Midwinter born 1804 who died in 1822, two months shy of his eighteenth birthday.
Dorian stroked long pale fingers over the date. With a sigh he lifted the lid and peered inside. Every now and again he liked to make sure it was actually empty, filled with nothing but dried roses. Even after all the years and decades that passed he kept expecting to lift the lid one time and find his desiccated corpse laying against the rotted satin.
He wasn't the last Midwinter of course, there was his some-odd times over great grandnephew, the man masquerading as his estranged father for the purpose of his latest foray into the mortal world—and his fraternal twin brother Dominic. If evil twins were such a thing, that's what Dominic would be.
Dorian walked over to his brother's casket. He lifted the lid, discovering it just as empty as his own. Only in his sweetest dreams did he open his brother's casket to find a body there. Dominic's death preceded his own by a whole month.
"Death is only the beginning," Dorian murmured the words Dominic told him right before he drained him dry as he dropped the lid back in place with a loud bang that kicked up a dust into the air.
"It was, wasn't it?" That voice, that near exact same voice as his made Dorian bristle and turn to meet his mirror. At first glance they looked utterly identical, it took a moment or two for the little differences to sink in. Dorian's hair was deep dark blood red, so dark it was almost black. Dominic's was a slightly washed out version that was a deep dark auburn. The eyes were slightly different too, though both were almond shaped and pale like ice, Dominic's had a greenish tint and a fleck of gold in his left eye that glinted when the light caught it.
"Why are you here? I thought you were in Los Angeles."
"I was," he responded in his usual snarky sing-song-y way.
"Yes, well why are you here?"
"Why are you here?"
"Because I wanted to visit Scott."
"You can visit dear little Scottie without enrolling in Whisper Creek High." Dominic smirked and leaned against the entrance turning pale, mint-toothpaste colored eyes on the angel in the middle of the tomb.
"Keeping tabs on me again?" Dorian rolled his eyes.
"Someone has to. When I heard you came back here I thought for sure you were going to crawl in that coffin for a few hundred years."
"Try again. You knew I enrolled in school which means you had to know I didn't come out here to press pause. You keep forgetting, Dom, I'm not the stupid one. That's you." Dorian flashed his brother a brilliant smile complete with pearly white fangs.
"Why Highschool? University I'd understand, but Highschool? I know we didn't go but from everything I've seen…" A sharp noise of disgust escaped Dominic's throat. "But oh the things we do for our family."
"The hell are you talking about?" Dorian narrowed his eyes at the literal green eyed monster that was his brother. "Tell me you didn't enroll."
Dominic laughed, the sound as bitter as Dorian remembered—the same as his own but a million times worse. He didn't respond other than that sound, but it was enough for Dorian. The familiarity of it made his skin crawl, bringing to mind all of those times before when Dom did horrible things to him or those around him. Dominic had the cocky laugh of a boy who loved to pull the wings off flies, which was fitting because that happened to be exactly what he was.
"Unless of course you want to tell me why you're here."
"Careful, Dom. Your suspicion is showing." Dorian canted his head to the side and took in the sight of his brother. He had a cigarette pressed between his lips and seemed the very picture of the stereotypical problem child. Though he didn't look much better Dominic always had a look in his eyes that read nothing short of monster.
"Ever think maybe I'm here for the same reason you are?" Dominic cackled. "I wonder if they taste the same… the sister was just like Anna Maria right down to the taint of jealousy. Rosabel was so pure, and that haunted expression in those pitch-black eyes. You know if I close my eyes I can still taste her power on my lips, that biting tingling numbness." He put the cigarette out on the wall and flicked to butt at his empty coffin as Dorian clenched his jaw recalling the sight of his beloved Rosabel's limp, bloody, nude body in his brother's arms. "Kudos on having our nephew look out for her."
"Did you kill Esmeralda?" Dorian almost didn't want to ask, he believed firmly in age old adage of don't ask questions you don't want to know the answer to.
"Just because I killed her last time… and the time before… and the—well you get the picture. History repeats itself of course, but not this time."
"Someone beat you to it is what you're saying."
Dominic wet his lips and turned his eyes to the dusty candelabra. "More or less. Anna Maria and I are like Romeo and Juliet, except where Romeo lives forever and always ends up ripping out Juliet's lovely throat." Dom sighed and closed his eyes for a brief moment. Had Dorian not known better than to think his brother capable of anything other than thirst, lust, and rage he might have sworn a faint trace of sadness passed behind his colorless eyes. "With the way she died it's only a matter of time before they come for the mirror, which means your pretty, sweet as candy, little Rosabel isn't safe."
"She's not Rosabel."
"Yet here you are back where everything started, chasing witch blood. Need I remind you, the love of a witch and vampire is cursed. It ended so well for you last time."
"Love…" Dorian started walking for the door as bits and pieces of the almost two-hundred-year-old memory of finding his fiancé naked and dead in his brother's arms came back to him. "Did she love me?" Dorian furrowed his brows. "It was your bed I found her in. Maybe I'm just a curiosity and you're the one who's doubly damned."
"Regardless, aren't you the good twin, Dorian? Could you really live with yourself if something happens to this pure, innocent, trusting high school girl when you know you could have done something about it?" The glee in Dom's voice was tangible and turned Dorian's stomach.
"That's the thing, Dom. We're vampires, there is no good twin." Even as the words left his lips and his eyes locked with his brothers he knew it was a lie.
"See you at home, Brother." He cackled. "Don't wait up."
Dorian rolled his eyes at his hyenic hijinks of his brother as he walked back through the cemetery. He paused for just a moment beside two gravestones whose names were worn to the point of being unrecognizable. However, he could read them, mostly because he remembered when the tombstones were placed. He promised himself he wasn't going to visit her. A raindrop hit the top of the tombstone and he turned his gaze skyward to the black clouds that rolled in swiftly overhead.
"A bad omen… isn't that what you used to say?" He caressed the curve of the stone in front of him. Smearing the rain as he closed his eyes and let the rain pelt his face.
Thunder overhead snapped loud and sudden, ripping a gasp from Cat's lips. Sleep ruined, she stared at the ceiling as macabre thoughts sunk in. Fear, unexpected and unexplained gripped her heart squeezing and squeezing until she couldn't do anything other than slip out of bed.
Rain hissed against the roof and windows as she crossed the hall and went in to what used to be her twin's room. Everything was exactly the same as that night almost a year ago. Now and again lightning flashed, whiting out her vision as she walked to Esme's dresser. Around the mirror were pictures of her twin and all of her friends. It's like she never left, Cat thought, gazing at her reflection surrounded by all of the photos—she wasn't in a single one.
She slid the top drawer open. Inside she found all the frilly, grown up, lacy underthings Esme had been so fond of. Just before Esme's mysterious death, she let her borrow an outfit right down to the bra and panties when she went on a date with Zach Adler. The memory was a happy one, and Esme even apologized for being so mean to her for the last few years—it was almost like she knew two weeks later she'd be dead.
Cat grabbed her sister's diary from the bottom.
After the accident she promised herself she wouldn't read it. However, something about the storm drew her to the room and the rose-pink journal. Flipping open the cover revealed an envelope with TO CAT written on it in Esme's familiar, neat, feminine script. Furrowing her brows, she opened the sealed letter. The first sentence floored her.
If you're reading this, I'm dead.
The journal and the letter fell from her fingers as she reeled in shock. Questions Cat didn't have answers for flit through her mind as she snatched everything up from the floor. How did Esme know she'd need to write a letter like that? She never struck Cat as exceptionally intuitive. In fact, out of the two of them, back when their parents were alive, it was Cat who their mom used to call "my little clairvoyant." She almost didn't want to read the mysterious letter, but she couldn't let all those questions to unanswered.
If you're reading this, I'm dead. I don't know when or how it will happen just that it will be soon and I deserve it. After mom and dad's funeral I went through a box of Mom's things and found an old family book. You'll find it under the floorboard where I keep my pot and vodka. The book is a grimoire, you know like from fantasy books and movies. It's filled with spells and incantations. In case you're wondering, we're witches—or rather we were. I took your powers. However, according to everything I've read, with my death what I took from you will return on the anniversary of my passing. Your old friends, the boys that somehow chose you over me, all of it will come back.
You're probably pretty pissed right now, and I can't really blame you. Unfortunately, I don't have many nuggets of wisdom to pass on. There are three things you'll probably find of use. One, because of mystical mumbo-jumbo you'll be getting my powers too, which means you'll be crazy powerful because identical twins are special to begin with. Two, everything has a price, using too much power at once can kill you and if a spell backfires there are always repercussions. The last and most important thing that I cannot stress enough is, trust no one—especially not Pete.
The letter ended there without so much as a goodbye.
Thunder cracked again, making Cat gasp and look up. Standing in the doorway was Pete, rubbing his eyes.
"You okay, Kitty Cat?" he groggily croaked.
Before that moment Pete had always been her second Dad, even when her father was still alive. The thought of him being some sort of malevolent force in her life never entered her mind—before the letter. With the light hitting him just right, the imposingly tall man with his broad shoulders and sharp features, who Cat always thought was handsome seemed sinister. That moment of doubt changed everything, making her hesitate before answering.
"The storm woke me up, and I couldn't go back to sleep." She closed the drawer.
"Well, get to bed. You have school in the morning, young lady." Pete chuckled, and as per usual the tone he took when he said "young lady" made it seem like a joke.
"How did the meeting go?"
"Got the job with a bonus even. How's Christmas in Jamaica sound?"
"Sounds like you're delusional from sleep deprivation."
"C'mon, I'm sure you could find some hot surfer guy, pool boy, or vacationing billionaire with a thing for jailbait." He snickered.
"Har har, but you know that was Esme's thing."
"Well, you're going to be seventeen soon. Time to start doing that dating thing. It's part of being a well-rounded, well-adjusted teenager… or so your principal keeps telling me." He rolled his eyes as he sauntered down the hall. "Go to bed!"
"I'm going." As Cat went back into her room the memory of the day before and the boy who invited her to the party returned as she laid back in bed.
"Dorian," she whispered his name staring at the ceiling as thoughts of the light in his eyes as he looked at her popped into her head.