Authors: Flynn Meaney
Vampires don’t care about what shirt they wear. Vampires don’t care about making impressions on the first day of school. Vampires don’t care about all the stupid little stuff that the Finbar Frames of the world care about, like being the first one out in gym class dodgeball, facing rejection by girls, and being mocked for carrying SAT flash cards in their pockets. Vampires don’t care that they can’t flaunt their tans at the beach, that they get stared at, that they’re different. Vampires don’t care what other people think. And
is vampire attitude.
At St. Luke’s, I always got to class before the second bell, which showed I cared about my grades. My name was always on the honor roll and the bylines of the school newspaper, which showed I cared about our school. I didn’t go to keg parties, which might seem uncaring, but which actually meant that I cared so much what other people thought of my dancing and my lack of beer tolerance that I didn’t dare show my face. I’d spent two years’ allowance buying snails for Celine and then chased her down the street because I cared too much. That’s why I’d ruined our date. And that’s why I’d never dated, kissed, or even danced with a girl. I cared too much about what they thought of me.
Well, the caring stopped now.
I threw Luke’s shirt and my dad’s shirt in the hamper. I got rid of Luke’s creepy tooth. I pulled my black pajama t-shirt back over my skinny white chest. For the rest of the day and that night, I wore that plain t-shirt. I wore it the next morning as I grabbed a piece of toast and ignored my mother’s plea that I should drink green tea (she’d been watching Dr. Oz). As I climbed into my Volvo and headed for my new high school, that same black shirt I’d been wearing for three days conveyed it all—coolness, apathy, and a little bit of BO.
What had I been thinking? I was a complete idiot.
It was easy to brave at home. At home I was bolstered by my little bookshelves and my mother’s blind love for her freakish offspring. It was easy to be brave and make plans when all I had to do was read a few books, survive an attack of solar urticaria, or absorb radiation from five hours of television. It was easy to make plans to seduce and impress everyone I knew when I knew no one in New York besides the three people obligated by law to love me: my mother, who gave birth to me; Luke, who shared my DNA; and my father, who didn’t know any better.
Now, driving to Pelham Public High School in my Volvo, I felt completely intimidated. Even my little silver car was cowed by the other bigger, beefier cars—the SUVs and Jeeps with their iffy safety regulations and that one yellow Hummer that didn’t give a shit about the environment. I tried to turn into the parking lot, but I got cut off by a red car whose driver was blasting gunshot sounds from a rap song. Ten minutes into public school and I’d already been in a drive-by!
Apparently I have an “I’m a pussy—cut me off” bumper sticker that I don’t know about, because after that first car cut me off, all these kids on bikes crossed the street in front of my car without looking. As I let them pass, for so long that I shifted into park, I reflected that it might be the diversity that was making me nervous about this whole new-school thing. After all, I am from the Midwest. According to Wikipedia, my hometown of Alexandria, Indiana, has a population made up of “0.46% Black or African-American” people. Our neighbors were so excited when a black family moved in that they got them a welcome basket with the first three seasons of
The Cosby Show
on DVD. Back in Indiana, I went to school with a bunch of other white dudes in red vests and khakis. Most of them looked like me. And one of them was my twin brother.
But no one looked alike at Pelham Public High School. And you can bet your ass no one wore a tie. I parked my car in the farthest parking space from the school and got ready to hike the rest of the way. I didn’t want to take a closer spot, in case it was reserved for seniors or other students or something. And looking around, there were a lot of other students I wouldn’t want to mess with.
There were guys—guys with earrings, guys in tight jeans, guys with jeans around their thighs, guys who could fit my skull in their hands, guys who were bigger, tougher, tanner, and cooler than me. And there were girls—girls in spaghetti straps, girls in tight jeans, girls making statements, girls clinging to groups, girls rummaging in enormous bags, girls whose ponytails moved independently of their bodies (they must be witches to make them do that!), girls with sunburns, girls smiling so brightly I couldn’t look directly at them.
Trying to avoid eye contact with 150 kids at once, I slipped into the wave of movement toward the front door of the school.
“Hey!” a punk guy called from the hood of a rusted Chevy. One other guy was sitting there with him; another was sitting on the roof. They were sharing a cigarette, and all three were marking up their white sneakers with Sharpie pens.
I looked around me, then called back, “Hey.”
“Nice choice of parking spot,” the kid said.
All three laughed and looked down at my super-safe Volvo, which was chillin’ with its airbags, with a space the size of an Olympic pool between it and the next car.
“Fag,” he called out to me.
As I cut from the student parking lot to the front of school, I saw my vampire plan through the eyes of all the different kids around me. And, through their eyes, my plan seemed really, really dumb.
This guy was going to pretend to be a vampire to be popular!
I imagined these kids whispering this to each other, posting it on Pelham Public’s version of a Gossip Girl website. Despite their diversity, all of them would join together to laugh at me.
My head fell down to my chest, Eeyore-style. Same sad, slumping Finbar. And, apparently, same uncoordinated, doofus Finbar—because when I wasn’t looking where I was going, I tripped over something. Actually, someone.
Perched like a gargoyle on the third-highest step, this girl pulled herself indignantly away from a large paperback book.
“You kicked me!” she squeaked, squinting up at me.
“Sorry,” I said. “I’m so dumb. I’m sorry. It’s my first day here, and I really have no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing, so…”
“Are you a freshman?” the girl asked. “I’m Jenny.”
“No, I’m not a—”
“You’re really tall for a freshman,” Jenny said. “What are you, like six-two? You might be a whole foot taller than me. Let’s do back-to-back.”
When Jenny stood up to compare our heights, her book dropped to the steps. There were people rushing by us, so I stooped quickly to pick it up and prevent its being stepped on. The cover had a woman in a white dress that was somehow familiar—a white, lacy, cleavage-baring dress. And those large, drippy, overdramatic letters called to me.
Jenny liked vampires! I straightened all the way up and handed her the book. Suddenly all these different people around me represented nothing more than different brands of inferiority. By God, I was the Chauncey Castle of Pelham Public High School! Guys wielding Sharpie markers from crappy cars and girls with scary-heeled shoes had nothing on me.
“I should get inside,” I told Jenny, adding offhand but clearly, “I don’t do well in the sun.”
When I said that, Jenny looked super intrigued. Without even trying, I’d met the perfect target. Jenny followed me inside, almost tripping over herself to follow me. She followed me to the office, where I got my locker number, and to my locker, where I had to kick in the door to get it open. The whole time she followed me, Jenny asked me questions.
What grade was I? Junior. She was, too. Where had I moved from? Far away. But… where exactly?
“You know, the middle of the country,” I said.
I wanted Vampire Finbar to emulate Chauncey Castle in his vague and philosophical answers to questions. Unfortunately, I ended up sounding like Justin Bobby from
Jenny continued her interrogation: What classes was I taking? (I handed her my schedule. We compared classes.) Did I have a driver’s license? Yes. Did I have a car? Yes. Did I like to read? Yes, very much. Did I ever read fantasy books? No. Why didn’t I?
“I just don’t think…” I snatched
out of her hand. I glanced briefly at the lurker on the cover.
“I just don’t think they’re very realistic.” I capped that off with a meaningful look.
I hoped Jenny would get the hint—that fantasy books weren’t as real as my own life as a vampire. But she was too busy leading me to our first class in common, AP U.S. history. I was pumped to learn that, unlike St. Luke’s, Pelham Public didn’t give us assigned seats (no Johnny Frackas for me here!). Jenny chose a seat in the back and slid easily into it, and I squeezed myself into the seat next to hers. Since my summer growth spurt, I found my knees banging against tables and now my school desk. I was making legroom for myself when a kid sat down on the other side of Jenny. Apparently Pelham kids didn’t care about who sat with whom, because he didn’t even look before dropping his bag there.
“Hey, Jen,” he said mildly. Promptly he went to sleep.
I slid forward to stare at this kid. I was fascinated. I’d never seen a real person fall asleep in class. I thought only seventies sitcom characters and John Hughes antiheroes did that. But there was an AP student, his curly Jewfro rising and falling in peaceful rhythm. He was, legitimately, asleep. I even saw a little bit of drool! As our teacher came into class, young and eager to fumble with the whiteboard and his laptop for twenty minutes to show us a two-minute Jon Stewart clip, I observed that guy’s desktop nap and took it as an omen. A good sign that Pelham Public would be, at least compared with St. Luke’s, a relaxed place.
Although Jenny was helpful, and I sat with her in my first two classes, I wasn’t sure I wanted everyone to think we were best friends. She was a little strange, with her enormous collection of fantasy books stored in her L.L.Bean backpack and strapped to her back at all times. With orange hair and freckles, Jenny should have looked like a little kid in a graham cracker commercial. But she wore all black—black choker necklace and a black shirt with skulls and knives on it. And she had dyed her hair black too, although the orange hair had grown back in, so it was half-orange and half-black. As vampire companions go, she had the creepy goth look down but was kind of missing that sexy, cool edge I needed.
So in physics, our third class, I separated from Jenny to sit alone at a lab table and brood. Because the same group of kids had been in all three of my classes so far, and it was clear that all of us AP students would be spending a lot of time together, it was important to make a vampiric impression on them. So while our teacher built a model roller coaster out of Legos, I did my best Edward-Cullen-in-biology-class impression. When a pretty brunette girl sat down next to me, I only glanced at her briefly before looking away. I was sure this dark and sinister look would have the same effect on this girl as Edward’s had on Bella in
. My smoldering, angry eyes and bitter expression told her that I was an animal who could barely control my urge to lunge at her bare neck.
Obviously sucked in by my allure, the girl turned to me and spoke.
“Do you need some Pepto?” she asked me.
In my confusion, my mouth dropped open and I kinda lost my smoldering look.
“What?” I asked.
She pulled a bottle of Pepto-Bismol out of her bag, then told me, “You look like you’re going to vom.”
“What?” I asked.
“Vomit,” she clarified.
After this incident, I decided not to venture out on my own as much. I trusted Jenny to give me the necessary information about everyone.
The brunette? “That’s Ashley Milano. She participates too much. And talks too much. And she abbrevs.”
“She talks in abbreviations,” Jenny told me. “Okay, next up, that’s Jason Burke. He looks like a jock, but he’s actually pretty smart.
“Matt Katz.” Jenny pointed to the kid who’d fallen asleep in U.S. history. “Stoner kid. He’s pretty cool. He knows more about the rap wars than Ms. Karl knows about centrifugal force.”
Matt Katz didn’t look like someone who would know about rap battles. He looked like someone who would camp out at a Dave Matthews concert and share a joint to “Satellite.” Then again, I didn’t look like a rap fan myself. Of course, I wasn’t as intense as Matt, who apparently had a five-point thesis to prove that Tupac was still alive.
“Nate Kirkland,” Jenny continued, pointing to a kid with surfer hair. Her description was brief: “Nosepicker.”
“Really?” I asked. Picking your nose in class seemed a very bold move to me. Even bolder than sleeping in class.
“Well, he picked his nose once in third grade,” Jenny said.
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“We’ve all gone to school together forever,” she told me. “We haven’t had a new kid in three years. We all find you… very
Automatically, I smiled in delight. My plan was working! Then I remembered that mysterious guys—and vampires—didn’t smile. So I generated a very manly frown.
“That’s Kayla Bateman.” Jenny continued her introductions, rolling her eyes at this one.
I looked over. Oh, I’d already noticed Kayla Bateman.
“She’s always drawing attention to her boobs,” Jenny said bitterly.
Now, Kayla was talking to some spellbound guys about the necklaces she was wearing. She fished one, then the other, out of her fathomless cleavage.
“My dad gave me the Star of David, and my mom gave me the cross,” Kayla was saying. “But it’s, like, why can’t I have
of them on my chest?”
“Uh-huh.” The two boys she was talking to nodded, mesmerized by her two… necklaces.
Gym was a pleasant surprise. And I’ve never said that in all my years of secondary education. When I arrived, there was a coach sitting at a table and about sixty-five kids lined up in front of him with their backpacks on. As each student came away from the table, they sat on the ground and filled out paperwork. This looked more like the DMV than physical fitness. And actually, I prefer the DMV to gym class.