Title: Carmen the Vampire Slayer – The Junior Prom
Pairing: Brooke / Carmen
Rating: PG 13
Disclaimers: Everything good belongs to someone else. Popular characters belong to Ryan Murray etc and the Buffyverse belongs to Joss Whedon etc. The song ‘Supermodels’ belongs to Kendall Payne and her record company. I own nothing and I make no profit from playing with the characters and ideas.
Author’s notes: This story takes place immediately after my previous story ‘Carmen the Vampire Slayer – How It All Began.’
Think it over once or twice
What lasts the longest in this life
Character or rock hard thighs
And in the end do you believe that beauty lies in what you see
Because if you do then baby
You've been deceived
Well me and B, we ain't supermodels
It's just that I'm tired of being compared
“I am going to wear something blue. And sparkly. With lights. That won’t be too much, will it Nic?”
“Mary Cherry, can you just shut up about your damn dress!”
“But Nic, I want to look my best. Maybe Joe will even ask me!”
“Why on earth would Harrison ‘I’m a loser - ask me how’ John ask you to the prom? He probably wants to go with Spam.”
“Don’t say that Nic.” Mary Cherry pouted “I am much prettier than her. She has that thing, anyway. Besides, I have it all figured out. I’ll just kill him, then he’ll have to go with me.”
“Come on, Ferrera! You can do better than that. If I can dodge you what hope do you have?”
Bang, I hit the mat with a thud.
“Good thing you have all that padding” came the mocking voice.
I respond by jumping to my feet and redoubling my attack, how dare she comment on my weight. It wasn’t like she was that light on her feet either. I force myself to relax and try to enter into that place, my slayer Zen state, the one where I don’t have to think about every move, the one where it all just flows. Then pow, bang, crash, just like bad Batman sound-effects and this time Bio is down and I‘m resting the stake over her heart. It’s not like I would actually stake her but I feel like it after her comment. I just straddle her for a moment, glaring, until she looks away.
“Good one, Carm.”
It’s Brooke, who often acts like she is my own personal cheer squad at our little training sessions. Not that I mind, except that it makes me blush to think that Brooke thinks I’m doing well. I get up, acting all modest, like it’s nothing. And part of me knows it is nothing, I mean it isn’t like Bio Glass is who I meet on patrol every night.
“About the mocking” begins my watcher, as we get up “Its all part of it, the witty banter between slayer and slayee.”
Yeah, right. What’s her excuse in class? I realise what I just thought and am mildly shocked. Since this slayer thing happen to me I have become more aggressive, in my head at least. Sooner or later some of these thoughts are going to come flying out of my mouth. I decide that the blush has worn off enough to face Brooke and I turn to her and she passes me a towel.
“Thanks, Brooke” I smile my thanks.
Then she smiles and we just smile at each other for a while. Bio Glass clearing her throat makes me remember that I shouldn’t stare at Brooke.
“So, any progress on Esposito?”
Ever since Josh’s funeral nearly two weeks ago Glass has been on at us, or rather me, to find out what Lily thinks happened that night in the alley. So far all I have gotten out of her is that she remembers being attacked by muggers and Brooke and I being there. I tried subtly probing and hinting but short of asking her outright ‘Hey Lil, do you remember Mary Cherry trying to drink your blood?’ I don’t know what else to do.
“She seems pretty stuck on her mugging story” I say.
“Maybe we should let it go” Brooke suggests “I mean Bi umm Ms Glass do you really want her telling someone that two dead students tried to kill her? Won’t it just draw attention to us?”
Us, I love that, Brooke being totally accepting of the whole slayer thing. But it also scares me. I worry about Brooke and what might happen to her. Then I comfort myself with the fact at least she knows what to do if Nicole suddenly pops up one night. Then I remember that none of my other friends do, so I worry about Sam and Lily and Harrison and think maybe we should warn them. But then more people would know and they would be in danger, more danger I mean then they already are now and I notice that Brooke is staring at me again and I realise that they are waiting for me to comment.
“Huh?” I manage.
So much for the witty banter part of slaying, at this point I can’t even follow a conversation. Brooke smiles at me, in a puzzled way and I realise that I am doing it again.
“Anyway important events to discuss” Bio Glass paces around us as we rest on the mats, carrying one of her books “Coming up is the festival of the demon Quetzecotral. Now Quetzecotral is a chaos demon and on his festival people who want to stir things up a bit can call on him yadda yadda yadda. So we need to do some research, extra training to get ready, the usual.”
Bio Glass slammed the book shut.
“Um, sir, can you elaborate a little more than yadda, yadda, yadda?” I ask, hoping for a little more.
Bio looks nervous and clears her throat before continuing:
“Well, like I said research is needed, and I believe that this is the part where my trusty assistant offers to help.”
She looks at Brooke who glances at me, sensing my apprehension.
“Surely you know something already?”
Bio is looking shifty and I begin to actually feel a bit sick.
“You know how demons are, it’s all blank verse and exaggeration. But it’s safe to say that the festival is in the next two weeks, we just need to narrow it down a bit. Make some calculations. And stopping this demon from rising would be a good thing.”
“So book time, then.”
Brooke leans back onto me and I try to shut my brain off.
“Can we maybe get extra credit for this, I mean finals start soon.” I glance at Glass.
“What were you thinking about?”
It is later and we are walking home, back to Brooke’s to study for finals. My whole lie about failing biology has now been told to everyone to account for my staying late everyday after school and Brooke has chimed in with the fact that Bio is making her help me. Everyone seems to believe this, amazingly, even Sam who has had to abandon her stalking of the Glamazons in order to study. I know exactly when Brooke means but I play dumb to gain time to decide what to tell her.
“Which time exactly?”
“Well, the time you were worrying about everyone and wondering if it would be safer and easier to tell them about it.” Brooke smirks smugly.
Am I really that transparent? I hope she can’t tell what I am thinking all the time.
“Oh, that time.”
There is a longish pause as we walk on.
Brooke really doesn’t want to let this go.
“You pretty much covered it.” I try for a light tone, not wanting to elaborate.
“Do you …”
“No, Brooke, I don’t want to talk about it” I interrupt, what’s the point of going over it all again?
I glance at her after a second and she is looking a little pissed but doesn’t say anything else. I feel a flash of guilt but I push it down. I tell myself like a mantra what Bio Glass said to me the other day when Brooke wasn’t there ‘the slayer is ultimately alone’. I’m not sure I want to buy into it but it makes sense, the more people who know about slaying the more in danger they are especially if they are civilians. And the closer they are the more in danger they are. The last slayer died saving her sister. Bad guys use people as bait and blackmail. I don’t want Brooke to be hurt and I’m so scared that my being the slayer will mean that she does get hurt or worse. I’m coming to terms with the idea that this will eventually kill me, ok not so much coming to terms as in totally denying but I can’t think about it in terms of other people. Bio Glass warned me not to start keeping track of my activities, counting up who dies and who doesn’t, playing the ‘what if’ game and I am trying not to but even so I don’t want to get all cold and uncaring about it all. I guess I have to find the balance.
“What is your problem?” Brooke suddenly bursts out when we are half a block from her house.
I am caught totally off guard and can only stare at her dumbly. Guess I need to work on that slayer awareness thing. I want to defend myself but am not sure what Brooke is upset about.
“One minute you’re all sharing and the next you’re pushing me away. This has been going on since...” she stops for a second, gathering herself “…since Josh. Friends don’t do that, Carmen. I want to be there for you but I can’t if you don’t let me. It hurts when…”
“You feel hurt?” I am amazes at how angry I sound “This isn’t about you Brooke. I’m the slayer, I’m the one who has to go out there, night after night, risking my neck. It’s all about me, Brooke. You don’t have to get up in the morning wondering if this is your last day on earth. You don’t have to look at Lily and feel responsible for Josh dying. I went into that room, Brooke and put a stake through one of my friends. Every day I wonder who I’m going to have to kill next. You, or Sam, or my mom. You want me to share? I feel angry Brooke, and afraid and one day I’m going to go out on patrol and not come back. I’m 17 years old Brooke, how do you think I feel?”
We just stare at each other for a second and then I can’t stand there anymore. I don’t know where all that just came from but I shouldn’t have vented at Brooke.
“I’m sorry” I mumble and just run.
Part of me wanted Brooke to come after me. Part of me wanted to turn back round to Brooke and just break down in her arms. But I didn’t and neither did she so I just ran. I didn’t go home because well, home was Mom and she had been drinking more and I didn’t want to have to deal with that either. So I go to the one place where I seem to be most at home these days. I go to the cemetery over on Eisenhower Road and just sit under a tree waiting for the night to fall. And when it does I don’t go and meet Bio Glass like I am supposed to but instead decide to roam around town looking for trouble. I am heading around towards the rich part of town, moodily walking down the streets. A car comes slowly cruising down the street behind me and I put my head down. As it passes me I see it is a large pink limo. It slows and as I cautiously draw level with it I hear the hiss of a window sliding down.
“Well, hi, Hun.” Mary Cherry sticks her head out and waves at me “What is little old you doing in a place like this?”
“You need a better pick up line, Mary Cherry.”
I glance at her and she looks just the same, there was no trace of her holy water burns. This is the worse part of this vampire thing, the fact that they look the same afterwards. Realising that I’m a little too close to the car I back up a few paces.
“Where’s Nicole?” I ask, trying to peer into the depths of the limo.
“Oh, she’s away somewhere torturing some innocent” Mary Cherry smiles manically.
“Same old Nicole” I quip.
Mary Cherry starts laughing hysterically and I wonder if now she is actually legally insane.
“While Nic is amusing herself” Mary Cherry drawls “I have been attending to important business. I have been looking for the perfect prom dress. You see, I was sleeping the other day and I had a vision.”
Mary Cherry drops her voice and assumes what I can only suppose she thinks is a ‘mystic’ tone.
“It was a vision in blue. And it shone like the sun and glittered like the water in the Gulf. I knew that it was destined to be mine.”
Mary Cherry has gotten a crazy look, well a crazier look, in her eye so I back up further.
“So tonight I knew what my mission was, my purpose was clear. I was to find that dress.”
“Mary Cherry, you’re kinda freaking me out.”
She looks at me in surprise and blinks slowly then grins
“Why, Carmen” she says, in a more normal voice “Are you flirting with me?”
I back off some more and realise that I am having a conversation with one of the vampires I am supposed to be hunting. I try to surreptitiously pull a stake out of my waistband but Mary Cherry catches the movement.
“Well, as much as I am enjoying myself I can’t stay here chatting with you all night. Places to go, people to kill.”
The widow of the car stars to slide back up and I here her yell
“Bye, Hun” as the car peels away.
I try to give chase but by the time I reach the corner there is no sign of it. By the time it was getting light I have dusted only one vamp and am feeling hungry and tired and also pretty stupid. About half way through the night I realised that Brooke hadn’t actually been privy to the conversation I was having with myself just before she had gotten mad at me and that I was being all ‘come here go away’ with her and that it didn’t just have to do with the slaying. There was the whole being in love with her thing too. And today was the first day of finals. And there was supposed to be training with Bio before school too.
I was thankful for the set of keys that Bio Glass had given me as I made my down into the basement training room. I would sleep for a couple of hours, show up to practice, go to my other classes, go to training, go home and sleep. A good plan although Brooke featured nowhere in it. Maybe after my nap I could revise my plan. I settle down on a couple of mats.
Someone is trying to get my attention. It sounds like Brooke. I look over to see Brooke smiling at me as she comes towards me across the training room. She is wearing her Glamazon uniform which makes her look hot, well hotter than usual. She doesn’t seem mad, which is good, so I go over to her.
“You missed a great practice, Carm” she says, smiling her fantastic smile. “Nicole and Mary Cherry were there and they had some amazing moves.”
I suddenly notice that Mary Cherry is waving at me from the other side of the room, bizarrely dressed in a sparkly blue formal gown, the same maniacal grin as last night plastered all over her face. Only it’s not her human face. Nicole chooses that moment to pop up beside Brooke and drapes herself all over my Brooke in a way too friendly way. Brooke doesn’t seem offended by this.
“Back off, Nicole!” I say, squaring up to deck her.
She just grins at me and says:
“You know, Carm, you should have tried harder with Brookie. Pity that it’s too late for that now.”
Then she bears her fangs and Brooke notices and instead of freaking she goes into vamp face too. Suddenly Mary Cherry moves to Brooke’s other side and they are holding her and I hear Bio Glass saying:
“Come on, Ferrera, I told you this would happen.”
“Carmen, what’s wrong?” Brooke asks.
I realise that I’m holding a stake and I know what I have to do.
“Carmen, what’s up?”
I sit up so quickly that I knock Brooke onto her butt from where she was evidently crouching beside me.
“Brooke! Are you ok?” I ask, wondering how to check if she has been turned.
I grab her wrist and feel for a pulse.
“I’m fine” she looks down at her wrist “What are you doing?”
I feel a pulse and immediately feel better. Then I remember the fight and I feel bad again.
“Did you sleep here?” Brooke asks, looking at my clothes.
“Um, a little. What time is it?”
“Just after 7. What do you mean ‘a little’?”
Great I’ve been asleep for like an hour.
“Just after patrol” I say, trying not to yawn.
Brooke looks like she wants to ask about that but doesn’t. Instead she helps me to my feet.
“You need to wake up. Bio Glass will be here soon. She wants us to research that demon thing.”
“She called me last night and I covered. I said you were asleep from studying so hard. She was kind of grumpy. She doesn’t like it when you blow off patrol.”
“Brooke, I …”
“Why didn’t you call me? I was worried when I called your place and you didn’t answer. Then you weren’t there this morning” Brooke is starting to pace around “You know, it isn’t just all about you. Every night I sit at home waiting, praying that nothing will happen to you.”
Brooke looks like she is about to cry and I feel terrible.
“Sorry for caring, for wanting to be a part of your life, all of your life. I can’t turn that off Carmen, I can’t stop loving you.”
She stops suddenly realising what she has said. I am dumb founded feeling both like I am flying and crashing in to the ground at the same time.
The door opens and Bio Glass strides towards us.
“It better have been my class you were studying for, Ferrera.”
“I have to go” Brooke mutters, brushing past her on the way to the door.
“Trouble in paradise?” Glass smirks as we watch her leave “I hope you’re feeling motivated after your night off this morning, Ferrera.”
I follow Glass distractedly back to her office.
Brooke manages to avoid me all morning and Sam guilts me into looking after Lily at lunch. Sam thinks I have been avoiding my ‘duty as a friend’. She sounds so self-righteous that I want to tell her that actually every night I am out doing my ‘duty as a friend’ by trying to hunt down and slay Josh’s killers. Except, of course, when I am talking prom dresses with them. I’m such a good slayer, not. I do care that Lily is hurting and Brooke is right, it isn’t just all about me. So I make lame jokes about the mystery meat and try to stay awake. At the popular table Popita and Sugar Daddy are sitting alone together, so Brooke isn’t with them either. Poppy catches me glancing at them and does this fake smile that she has taken to giving me lately. I’m not sure what I have done to annoy her but with school nearly over I don’t need to worry about her. By the time cheerleading rolls around next year she will be over it. I am trying to think of something to say to Lily when
“Carmen Ferrera” a voice booms across the cafeteria.
I look around, as does everyone else to see April Tuna, making her way through the tables towards me.
“What have you done to Brooke McQueen?” she says loudly when she is still about 10 feet away.
“I, um, what are you talking about, April?”
Everyone strains to hear me, even Lily perks up.
“She didn’t come to practice this morning.”
Why is April still yelling, I wonder? Wait, was there cheerleading this morning? Is that why Poppy is annoyed at me? Have I been missing practice and not even noticing? Why didn’t Brooke say anything? Wait, Brooke, what is April yelling about?
“And now she’s locked herself in the Novak and none of us can use it.”
“Use one of the other bath rooms.” Lily suggests, but April ignores her.
“You have to come, Carmen Ferrera.”
Why does April address us by our full names I wonder for the umpteenth time?
I follow April to the Novak, realising that Lily is trailing along behind us. I need to talk to Brooke alone to get this stupid fight we seem to be in straightened out. As we approach the Novak a small crowd is gathered and I wonder why Brooke locked herself in there and why April is all concerned. April bears her teeth and actually growls at the girls there causing them to scatter. I put my ear to the door and listen. Nothing. April does the same and suddenly she is hissing in my ear:
“I know what you do at night, Carmen Ferrera!”
I stare hard at her but she isn’t the least bit intimidated. I ignore her and knock on the door
“Brooke, it’s me, um, Carmen. Are you in there?”
I feel kinda dumb considering that I have quite an audience.
“Carmen, what’s going on?”
Sam and Harrison appear behind Lily. I turn to them and explain about what April said.
“But I saw Brooke just going into Bio’s lab.” Harrison says in surprise.
I turn back to April but she is gone. What is she playing at? I mutter some excuse and head off to Glass’s.
I practically run to the lab and enter the back office. Brooke and Bio are sitting at a table strewn with books. They both look up and I try to be cool.
“Sorry I’m late. I was with Lily.”
I sit beside Brooke who has turned back to staring at the book in front of her. I want to say something to her but Bio Glass is full of news.
“While you were baby sitting Esposito some of us have been working. And by some of us I mean me” she glares at both of us “we need to locate a crypt which is where the demon will likely rise. It will have a sign like this on it.”
She points to a complicated symbol drawn on the blackboard.
“It was built by the Hernandez family, who worshipped Quetzecotral.”
I must have looked blank because Glass gets all grumpy and scowls at me.
“The demon who’s summoning we are trying to prevent. Try and keep up, Ferrera.”
I try and pay attention but my mind is wandering. I suddenly feel Brooke’s hand on my knee. That brings me back to reality. I can feel myself starting to blush. Brooke is squeezing my knee! Calm down, Carmen, calm down. I glance at her and she grabs her hand away. I immediately wish she would put it back.
“So, either of you any good at that computer crap?” Bio is asking.
“Um, I can try.” Brooke offers.
After training I head back to Bio’s office hoping that Brooke is still there. Sure enough she is there staring in frustration at the screen.
“How goes the hacking?” I ask leaning over her to see what she is looking at.
We are looking at a cheery screen announcing ‘Welcome to our City’.
“I’ve gotten as far as the city website but I don’t know where to look for who is buried where.”
At least we seem to be talking again.
“I wish Sam was here she is good at this stuff. Plus I bet she has all kinds of sources that could help us.”
“Brooke, about earlier…”
“Forget it. I didn’t mean to say it.”
But I am not going to be put off. I just don’t know what to do first, apologise or kiss her. I am awfully close to her cheek.
“I was a bitch yesterday, dumping all my insecurities on you like that” I say quickly before we can be distracted “You were right, I’m not the only one involved in this. I guess I’m pushing people away because I’m scared that they will get hurt because of me. Look at Josh, that’s all my fault. I’m not a very good slayer. I…”
“But look at me” Brooke interrupts “You saved me.”
“I guess so. But for how long? How long can I keep the people I care about, the people I love, safe? I was dreaming that I had to kill you this morning. That you had been turned by Nicole.”
Now that I have started everything seems to be pouring out of me.
“Brooke, I’m so scared that knowing about me will just lead to being dead. I don’t want to be the reason that people die. I wish that this had never happened to me. I hardly sleep any more and every night I have to go out and kill things. And things are difficult with mom and I’m too scared to tell you that I’m in love with you and I think I’m going to fail all my finals.”
“Well, my little research slaves, what have you found?”
I pull back from Brooke where I was practically sobbing onto her neck. I wipe my eyes and step around her and grab a book off the table, still keeping my back to Bio. Brooke manages to gesture at the screen and shrug.
“Well, I guess we, and by we I mean you, need to do this the old fashioned way. It’s still a couple of hours to dark.”
I find a piece of paper being shoved at me with the symbol on it.
“Come on” Brooke grabs my arm and practically drags me out of the office.
We run through the lab and out into the empty corridor.
“Are you alright?” Brooke asks softly “You should have told me. Carmen, you don’t have to do this alone.”
She is standing very close to me and I lean my head on her shoulder. I feel Brooke’s arms slide around my waist and she holds me close. I think that maybe I have died and gone to heaven.
“I think there’s stuff we need to talk about, but not now. Let’s do this thing for Bio and then before patrol we’ll go back to my place and talk then, ok?”
I pull back enough so that I am looking at her and nod. Just then Sam walks around the corner and we quickly step apart.
“Everything alright, Carm?” she asks, ignoring Brooke.
“I’m ok. Just school stuff” I say waving vaguely at the corridor around us.
Sam obviously interprets this as a reference to biology seeing as we are standing outside that classroom.
“Are you still having trouble with Bio Glass? Cause if she’s going to fail you then we should do something, I could write something…”
“It’s not that.” I am still in a Brooke haze and my brain isn’t working enough to think of something to say.
“Carmen isn’t sleeping well” Brooke chimes in “And its making things harder, you know. We’re taking her to the doctor. Now, actually.” Brooke glances at her watch “Carm, we really need to get going if we are going to make that appointment.”
Sam glares at Brooke again and asks me to call her later before heading away again.
We decide to start with Sunset Grove working on the premise that it is old and therefore a) has crypts and b) that creepy old cemetery vibe so maybe demon worshippers will want to hang out there. It is actually not unpleasant, the sun is shining and the trees make it nice and shady. I am with Brooke so that is nice too. Very nice. I remember the bizarre thing with April Tuna at lunch and tell Brooke.
“So, you think that she knows?”
“Well clearly she has that whole stalking thing down pat seeing as she knew we were um fighting” I feel uncomfortable bringing up our ‘misunderstanding’ “And she knew I would rush off to check on you. And what else could she mean – that she’s discovered my unhealthy addiction to ‘Survivor’?”
“Oh my God!” Brooke squeals in mock-horror “You watch ‘Survivor’? That’s it! You know I’m going to have to break up with you now.”
“And I didn’t even know we were dating” I try to match her light tone but the thought of dating Brooke sends my mind off on all sorts of tangents.
“I mean how could I date someone who watches clichéd reality TV and takes me out to cemeteries for romantic strolls?”
“Look who’s talking, the girl with every ‘Sweet Valley High’ book ever published.”
“Every one reads ‘Sweet Valley High’” Brookes retorts.
“Not when they’re 17, Brooke. It’s usually a junior high thing.” I say right back “Maybe I don’t want to date someone with such dubious literally taste.”
We’re both laughing now and I grab Brooke’s hand.
“I’ll make you a deal” I say “You can read them when ever I watch ‘Survivor’.”
“You know why I read them, right?” she gestures with her free hand at the cemetery around us “To get away from all this.”
“Why do you think I fantasise about going to live on an island were all they eat is rice and bugs?”
We walk on a little further, in silence, and I’m excited that Brooke hasn’t let go of my hand yet.
“We need to get going soon” Brooke suggests “I’m supposed to be home by 6:30 for dinner.”
We start to head back in the general direction of the car, along a line of tombs we haven’t surveyed yet. We have gone about 2 steps when there is a muffled crashing in the bushes around a nearby crypt.
“What was that?” Brooke nervously grips my hand harder.
I detach my hand and feeling a little stupid grab a stake out of my waist band.
“Go back to the car” I instruct.
“But it’s still light” Brooke says, looking at the stake.
“It’s all I have” I shrug “My axe ruins the line of this shirt.”
I congratulate myself on my slayer punning power and head towards the noise. There is more branch-cracking and I can hear someone or something breathing. So no vamp then, not even one using SPF 1000. Moving silently I pause at a thick tree trunk. The breathing is coming from between it and a crypt. Steeling myself I reach forward, grab a handful of arm and yank sideways.
“What the hell!”
Brooke chooses that moment to come blundering towards us armed with a piece of broken off masonry. She stops when she sees us and drops the masonry.
Sam jumps out of the way in order to avoid the hunk of stone that rolls exactly where her foot was. I let go of Sam and shove my stake into my back pocket. We all stare at each other.
“Why are you spying on us?” Brooke angrily asks.
“Which doctor are you visiting, Doctor Frankenstein?” Sam glares at me.
“Sam, Brooke and I were just…”
“Just what? Come on, Carmen, think up another lie to tell me.”
“Leave her alone!”
“Shut up, Brooke. I’m asking my friend, Carmen, to tell me why she lied to me and is strolling around a creepy old cemetery occasionally attacking people with a stick.”
“Why did you follow us?” I ask, wondering how I can avoid telling a lie to Sam.
Sam looks slightly ashamed but rallies
“I was worried about you. And seeing as you never talk to me anymore I thought it was the only way to see if you were ok.”
O.k. again with the guilt. I just wish that I could tell her about the whole slayer thing as it would make life so much easier but then I remember all my fears about making everyone around me a target. I glance at Brooke who seems preoccupied with the side of the crypt. Sam is still looking me but with less hostility.
“Ok, Sam you want to know what’s really going on with me? Here it is. I recently discovered that I have supernatural powers and that it is my destiny to fight evil. Brooke and I are looking for a crypt in which we think someone is going to raise a chaos demon soon.”
Sam’s mouth gapes open. Brooke rolls her eyes and mutters
“It took a vamp attack for you to tell me!”
I just keep looking at Sam. Finally she shuts her mouth and looks pissed, well more pissed than she was before.
“Whatever, Carm! I guess you really don’t want to tell me.”
She spins on her heals and storms off, presumedly towards her car.
“Well, that went well, don’t you think?” I ask Brooke.
Brooke looks at me in surprise and laughs
“What did you think, Carm, that she would just believe you?”
“Well, I guess not. I’m just sick of all the lying”
I start to feel dumb, what was I thinking just spilling to Sam like that. I sigh and kick at the lump of stone Brooke dropped. I manage to propel it with a crash into the side of the crypt.
“Well, at least this wasn’t a total loss” Brooke comments, gesturing towards the crypt.
I glance at it and see that the symbol we have been searching for is staring right back at me.
Sam ignores us all through dinner and I realise that telling her what I did has probably made things worse. Now she will think that I am making up stupid stories to mock her concern with. Sam leaves before she has barely swallowed her last mouthful. Jane McPherson gives me that concerned parent look which she must have taken a patent out on and I get a sinking feeling that she will try to help me and Sam make up. Sure enough she corners me alone in the kitchen as I carry a stack of dirty plates in.
“Carmen, is everything alright between you and Sam?”
Cut to the chase, why don’t you. I stare at the counter in silence and she ploughs on
“How are things at home?”
Great, two issues I don’t want to get into
“It’s just that you have been spending a lot of time here, you and Brooke, and I wondered if everything is ok?”
What, does she suspect about me and Brooke? Maybe I should tell her something. I mean it would be nice to tell someone something. Jane is still waiting for me to say something.
“Mom’s been…, well things are difficult at home at the moment.” I say “I just don’t want to be around there and Brooke has been really great, giving me a place to hang out and helping me with school and stuff. I think maybe Sam is angry that I haven’t told her what’s going on with me, and that I shared with Brooke instead of her.”
I didn’t quite mean to say all that but now it is out there and I feel a bit better. And also like maybe I am going to start crying again. What is wrong with me today?
“Oh, Carmen” Jane says, putting her hand on my shoulder and I just loose it and the tears start pouring down my cheeks.
Somewhere in the back ground I hear voices and realise that both Sam and Brooke are there to witness my breakdown.
It is later and I am still at the McPherson/McQueen house. I have been talking to Jane and Sam and Brooke have been banished somewhere. I ended up telling Jane everything about Mom and her drinking. Jane has decided that something needs to be done and promises to talk to Mike about it and make a plan. I’m a little worried about this but it feels nice to have an adult take control of a problem. I know that I am so very very late for patrol but there is nothing I can do, I doubt that I am leaving here tonight unless I sneak out later. And quite frankly I am just so tired that all I want to do is sleep.
“So you can stay here tonight” Jane says and lets me go off upstairs.
Brooke’s door is shut and I hesitate outside it. I need to sort things out with Sam, well as much as I can without telling her the truth. I knock on her door.
“Hey, Sam.” I stop in the door way, realising that while Sam is sitting at her desk Brooke is sprawled over her bed too.
Brooke jumps up and pulls me into the room and I sit on the bed beside her feeling comforted by the fact she keeps a hold of my hand.
“Sam, I sorry I didn’t tell you” I begin, looking at Brooke and hoping that she realises this apology is for her too, after all I hadn’t exactly come clean to her about Mom either. “It seemed like at first if I ignored Mom’s drinking then it would go away and if lots of people knew than it would somehow be more real.”
Sam has turned her chair to look at us.
“It just hurts me, Carmen. That you didn’t tell me. We used to be so close and now…”
And now you talk to Brooke is the unspoken thought hanging in the room. Sam seems to notice our hands and suddenly asks
“Is there something going on between you guys?”
Whoa, that came out of nowhere. I’m frozen and Brooke clutches my hand tighter. Oh, maybe the hand holding gave us away.
“I, um we..” Brooke starts to say and stops, glancing at me.
“Um, maybe.” I suggest “We haven’t really talked about it.”
Brooke and I stare at each other. It is like Sam isn’t even in the room. Brooke loosens her grip a little and my spare hand starts pleating the bedspread beside me nervously. Eventually Sam clears her throat after what seems like an hour and says
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to …”
“It’s ok” Brooke and I say at the same time.
Sam, focus on Sam, I think.
“Sam, I didn’t mean to exclude you but there has been so much going on that I guess I have. All I can do is let you know how really sorry I am and try not to do it again.”
It’s kinda lame and such a lie, well a half truth, sin of omission, that I wonder why I am even bothering.
We all sit there in silence for a minute and then there is a knock on the door. It is Jane with sheets and stuff.
“Have you guys figured out where Carmen gets to sleep?”
I really don’t want to have to choose but Brooke and Sam manage to have some kind of silent conversation behind my back because Sam suggests that I sleep in Brooke’s room and doesn’t even sound cross or bitter about it. By the time Mike has assembled the camp stretcher and Brooke and I have had the ‘you, no you’ discussion about who gets the bed in front of him and we are finally alone I am so tired that my eyes are drooping shut.
“I know we need to talk…” I begin but interrupt myself by yawning.
“It’s ok” Brooke smiles at me “A lot has gone on tonight. You know I’m not sleeping on that, don’t you.”
“I’m so tired I could sleep on the floor” I say, and I’m not joking as the stretcher looks about as comfortable as the floor.
“I meant…” Brooke gestures at the bed “You usually sleep with me.”
She is blushing so red right now and it is really cute.
“Of course I’ll sleep with you.” I say as I crawl into bed beside her and immediately fall asleep.
I am skimming through yet another book in the office behind the biology lab. Glass has insisted that we have an intensive research session to try and discover more about the Quetzecotral demon. This involves looking through her books.
“Haven’t you people heard of the computer age?” Brooke asks as she tosses a book back on to the table “I mean all this could go on a database or something. Half these books don’t even have an index. How on earth do you manage to stop anything?”
I smother a laugh at this because Glass glares at me.
“God, how did you even know this was going to happen in the first place?” Brooke continues “Do you, like, sit at home every evening and just read these on the off chance that some thing will pop out at you?”
I glance at Glass who is looking both angry and embarrassed. Brooke must be right. I imagine Miss Glass sitting at her table eating a TV dinner pouring over a thick old book. It is a pretty pathetic picture.
“Some of us, McQueen, place some importance on trying to keep humanity safe.” Bio says acidly and drops possibly the biggest book I have ever seen in front of Brooke “Happy researching.”
Brooke rolls her eyes but doesn’t say anything. I turn a page and check out a picture of a gross, knobbly, creature with big horns. Great, so this is a chaos demon.
“Hey, I think I found it.”
“So, lets review” Bio says in that way that only a trained educator can “A Quetzecotral demon can only be summoned if the ritual is performed eight days after the new moon, using a piece of terrible poetry in Spanish and a potion containing the blood of the summoner. Once raised the demon can be controlled by the summoner for eight days and unless banished by the end of this time will then break free and cause havoc. It seems to be able to exert some kind of telepathic control over people, making them do whatever it wants.”
“So how do we stop this?” Brooke asks.
“I want to nip this in the bud before it happens.” Bio glances at me.
“I can deal with this” I say, annoyed that she clearly thinks I can’t. “Just point me and my axe in the right direction.”
“It’s hard to chop the head off a demon when it’s controlling your arms, Carmen. Besides, this is your first demon and …”
“Who’s the slayer here?” I demand.
“Wait, are you saying you want this thing to rise just so you can prove how tough you are?” Brooke asks indignantly.
“Well, not really” I admit.
“So, we need to find out whose planning on doing this” Brooke suggests “And persuade them not to.”
“Any thoughts on who?”
I am staying at the McQueen/McPherson residence again. Brooke and I decided it would be easier for me to sneak out for a late patrol rather than explain to Jane and Mike why I needed to be out until midnight. Glass pulled me aside just as we were heading back to Brookes.
“You know, Carmen, if you are having trouble or anything…?”
I’m a little freaked out by her concern, it isn’t right to have Bio Glass being nice.
“It’s ok, Ms Glass, I um, I’m trying to deal.”
“Well, don’t let it get in the way of slaying. Not all of us have the slayer metabolism and need our beauty sleep.”
“You could let me patrol alone.” I suggest.
Bio snorts in disgust at the suggestion and tells me not to be late.
So now Brooke and I are waiting for 11 to roll around.
“I get now the whole ladder thing on ‘Dawson’s Creek’.” I am saying “So much easier for night-time naughtiness.”
“The scariest thing to hit Capeside was Dawson’s hair. Now there was something that needed slaying.”
It’s fun to sit here with Brooke, talking about stupid TV programmes. It’s almost as if we are having a girly slumber party, but with weapons. We still haven’t talked about this mysterious ‘thing’ between us but oddly since Sam brought it up we both seem happy to just let it be without talking about it. At least this is what I am thinking when Brooke says:
“So, do you think you’re going to go to the prom?”
“Maybe, if Bio lets me off patrolling. What about you?”
Suddenly I am feeling all nervous.
“Maybe. Do you remember that girl?” Brooke asks coyly.
Huh, which girl? What skank has been throwing herself at my Brooke?
“What girl?” I ask nervously.
“You know. The girl that I want to get.”
I truly have no clue what she is talking about. This must show as she looks at me like I have Mary Cherry’s iq.
“You don’t remember, do you? I’m trying to be all ‘connect with a significant moment in order to be romantic’ and you’re totally clueless.”
Slowly my brain catches up to the conversation, abandoning fantasies of beating up Nicole –huh?- anyway, and I remember the conversation we had when we came out to each other. Brooke said she liked a girl and now, wait, romantic, what?
“Carmen, will you go to the prom with me?” she just asks, clearly sick of waiting for me to catch up.
“The prom? Like on a date? Where all our friends are also?”
“Um, yeah, that prom. But if you don’t want to, or it’s too much or whatever…” Brooke trails off.
I’m feeling a little shocked and I think my brain stopped working at the word ‘date’.
“You want to go on a date with me?” I ask just to check that I’m not having an auditory hallucination “But, but I’m Carmen and you’re Brooke.”
“Yeah, I know that. And your point is?”
I thought that would be obvious, I mean she is Brooke McQueen; beautiful, popular, kind, caring, funny, smart, and sexy and I’m Carmen…
“Can we start this conversation over?” Brooke interrupts my train of thought “It isn’t going like I hoped it would.”
“Ok, so, do you think you’re going to go to the prom?” Brooke asks again.
“Um, maybe, if Bio lets me off patrolling.”
This is weird. Maybe I’m dreaming.
“Right, now we skip over the misunderstanding part and I go directly to ‘Carmen, will you go to the prom with me?’ and we skip over the part where you don’t believe me and you say ‘Yes Brooke, I’d love to go to the prom with you’ unless of course you wouldn’t, in which case you don’t.”
Brooke is staring at me with her beautiful blue eyes and I am starting to get lost in them. She really is so gorgeous. Wait, she’s waiting for me to say something. I decide to just kiss her instead. After a long minute we pull apart and Brooke says:
“I’m going to take that as a yes.”
“What’s with you, Ferrera? Are you on drugs?”
I ignore Grumpy the Watcher and continue to bounce along the between the aisles of grave stones. Brooke and I are going on a date, Brooke and I are going on a date, I sing in my head. I really hope that we run into some vampires tonight, I feel in the mood for a good slay. I hear the sounds of fighting behind me and realise that Ms Glass is in trouble. I head back and quickly dispatch the vampire. Glass picks herself up swiping at the dust on her jacket, moaning about me not paying attention. I am too happy tonight let her get me down.
“So, what are we going to do about this demon guy?” I ask, mostly to shut up her constant stream of bitching.
“Well, tomorrow I want you and McQueen to check out the local magic shop to see if anyone has been buying ingredients for the summoning spell.”
“Magic shop?” I interrupt her “What magic shop?”
“You probably know it as the new age crystal place. The one with all that Mother Goddess crap in the window.”
“Should you really be mocking the Mother Goddess?”
“Oh, come on Ferrera, you don’t think I believe in that airy fairy nature worship rubbish, do you?”
I am shocked by this admission.
“But, but you’re telling me to check for spell ingredients! You said a spell would raise the demon and now you’re all ‘I don’t believe’. I don’t get it.”
“I’m a scientist. I believe in elements and scientific rules. Real magic is just that elements and rules. It’s a branch of science that most people scorn. And it isn’t that Wicca rubbish peddled by people with names like Raven Silver Stream.” Bio laughed “I’d like to see them if they ever accidentally levitated something, let alone raised something.”
I am intrigued by this. Bio actually seems to be on to something.
“So, what about demons?” I ask “Where do they come from?”
“Aren’t you supposed to be studying up on this?” Glass asks suspiciously “I’m sure there was a book on that reading list I gave you with this stuff in it. Carmen, have you been slacking off?”
I think guiltily of the stack of books locked in a suitcase under my bed. Who’d have thought that slaying wasn’t just, well, slaying things but involved homework?
“Well, with everything and finals and stuff I’ve been kinda busy” I admit.
“I’m not your cliff notes, Ferrera. Now your technique with that last vampire was sloppy. You need to concentrate more.”
The next day was Saturday and since Brooke and I still have finals to study for we decided to use our trip to the magic shop as a study break. Unfortunately Sam was studying with us and thought a break sounded like a plan. So here we were Brooke, Sam and I making our way towards the local new age shop.
“So, do you have a plan?” Brooke asks, checking that Sam was still lingering in front of a book shop window display.
“What, to ditch Sam?”
“Well, no but that would work too. She’s going to think it’s weird.”
“Look, I’ll think of something to tell Sam, but once we get into the shop you distract her and I’ll see what I can find out.”
“Good plan. How are you planning to get the info?”
“Um, I thought I’d just ask.”
Brooke raises her eyebrows at me and smirks:
“Good plan. Stealthy.”
“That’s why you’re the sidekick” I say “I’m the one with the good plans.”
“The sidekick, huh?”
“The beautiful, smart sidekick.”
I can’t believe that I said that. Brooke, however, doesn’t seem to mind.
“So you think I’m beautiful? And smart? So you won’t mind your smart sidekick commenting on your plan then.”
“I know, it sucks.” I admit “But it’s all I could come up with. Any thoughts?”
“I’m just the sidekick.” Brooke grins.
“We’re going in here?” Sam asks in disbelief.
Sure enough there is enough Earth Mother related goods in the window to make several covens happy. And crystals. And candles. And ugly dragon statues made of every conceivable material. And even a pottery skull.
“I guess they’re into stealth too” Brooke mutters.
“And why are we here?” Sam asks.
“I saw an article in a magazine about studying techniques. They suggested um crystals and stuff and I thought, well it could hardly hurt.”
I’m getting better at the lying. That one almost sounded like something that someone would actually do. Maybe not me, but someone. We enter the shop which has mystic music playing and they are burning some kind of incense, essence of toad maybe. Before we can put our plan into effect Sam practically yells:
Lily spins round from the bookcase, dropping everything she is carrying. She looks horrified to see us. Sam powers over to her. Brooke nudges me in the ribs and jerks her head at the counter before following Sam. Ok, I tell myself, you’re the slayer, how scary can a shop assistant be?
“I was wondering if you could help me with something?”
This is going so well. Suddenly I’m thinking that just asking isn’t going to work.
“I need to um pick up some ingredients” I lean forward on the counter and pass the list of ingredients Bio gave me last night to the assistant.
She glances at them then looks at me and frowns. She reads slowly down the list and finally seems interested in me. And maybe not in a good way.
“This is an interesting list” she says quietly “Are you sure you need everything?”
“Yes, I’m going to need them all” I say firmly “Can you help me?”
“Well” she thoughtfully chews on her lip for a second “we don’t have any powered asphodel root. It’s not a common ingredient, and we sold our last packet this week. We won’t have any in stock until Tuesday. Is that soon enough?”
“Yeah, it should be” I need more info “Um, who brought it?”
The shop assistant looks at me thoughtfully.
“I mean, maybe I know them and they might let me borrow some.”
“But I thought you didn’t need it before Tuesday?” she asks.
Busted! I think fast.
“Actually I was thinking that we could compare notes on the spell.”
“I’m not really supposed to give you that information, customer confidentiality, you understand. What did you say your name was? For the order form?”
“Um, Ferrera, Carmen Ferrera.”
“Is that Spanish?”
“Um, originally, I think.”
“My other customer had a Spanish name too. Is that two r’s in the middle?”
I spell my name for her and then tell her that I will pick up everything on Tuesday.
“It’s up to you.”
The others are spread around the shop. Lily and Brooke are still by the books and Brooke shoots me a look. Sam is studying various artefacts spread over the shelves. I head over to Brooke and Lily.
“Lily, fancy meeting you here.”
Brooke rolls her eyes at me and says:
“You should see the fascinating book that Lily was reading. All about supernatural monsters, you know like vampires.”
Lily scowls at me and mutters
“I was just interested.”
I don’t know what to say. How much does she know? Should I come clean or try to put her off. Hey, Esposito is Spanish.
“That stuff can be really dangerous” I say ambiguously “You need to be careful.”
“Careful of what?” Sam has wandered over to us “Hey, were they out of crystals?”
“For the studying. Bio must really have you worried.” Sam continues “I mean both you and Lily in here for help studying.”
“I’m getting them later” I say.
The shop assistant is staring pointedly at us.
“Maybe we should go” Brooke suggests, noticing her.
“Are you going to get anything” I ask Lily.
She clutches at her bag and shakes her head and we leave the shop.
“Well, I need to get home” Lily immediately says.
“Are you sure? You could come back and study with us.” Sam suggests.
“Yes, you should come” I say quickly, deciding it’s now or never “We could talk.”
“And study” Brooke adds.
“Come on Lil, its more fun as a group?” Sam begs.
We got back to the McQueen/McPherson residence in time for lunch. While Brooke takes the others into the kitchen to begin making sandwiches I go to report to Bio. She had finally narrowed down the date of the ceremony and predictably it was on the night of the Junior Prom. So my first date with Brooke was beginning to look less like a romantic first date and more a slay fest. Great. I go into the kitchen to find everyone sitting at the counter eating.
“Here, Carmen.” Brooke pushes a plate towards me “I made your favourite.”
Sam gives Brooke a look and then manages to convey a whole word of questions to me in a single glance. Questions that can be answered later. Now there are other things to discuss.
“So, Lily” I begin “Did you find anything helpful in that book on vampires you were reading? I could fill in any blanks for you, if you like. Or, you know, any interesting spells or anything?”
That gets an amusing range of responses. Lily looks like she is about to choke, Sam stares at me like I’ve turned into a vampire myself and Brooke just keeps eating.
“What is with you, Carmen?” Sam asks eventually.
“She told you the other day, Sam.” Brooke says, almost laughing “She’s a super hero with powers and she fights evil.”
Lily hasn’t said anything yet.
“Lily, I’m sorry about Josh.” I say “I tried to save him, but I’m not a very good slayer yet.”
“Is that why his body was missing?” Lily asks.
“Yeah, Nicole turned him and …”
“And now he’s out there somewhere?”
“No, I took care of him.”
“You killed Josh!”
“No, Lily I killed the demon that took over his body, Nicole killed him.”
“And why, how are you involved?”
“I’m the slayer.”
“You’re the slayer?”
“Yeah, for nearly a month now.”
Sam has been watching us like we’re a tennis match, head switching from one to the other.
“What’s a slayer?” she asks.
I explain the whole thing to them. Sam looks entirely sceptical and it is clear she thinks the rest of us are having some weird joke at her expense. Lily appears to believe but is surprised to discover Bio Glass’s involvement.
“Carmen, I just don’t believe this “Sam is shaking her head “You claim to have super strength and that you spend the evenings out hunting vampires, two of whom are Nicole and Mary Cherry. This is rubbish.”
“But I’ve seen Carmen dust a vampire, and Mary Cherry came to see me after she had been dead for weeks.” Brooke adds, trying to help. “Tell her about the mugging Lily.”
“They’re right Sam. It was Nicole and Mary Cherry who attacked us. Mary Cherry would have killed me if they hadn’t been there.”
Sam starts to laugh.
“Come on, you guys, give it up.”
“It isn’t a joke Sam, it’s serious.” Brooke scolds her.
“Ok then prove it.”
“Its daylight” I say “And I’m not going to take you out on patrol, Sam, its too dangerous.”
Sam merely folds her arms and shakes her head:
“How convenient for you.”
I can’t believe this. After all her wanting me to be honest with her when I finally get up the courage to do it she doesn’t believe me. I am getting a little annoyed.
“Alright then, come outside.” I say heading out to their back yard.
“What are you going to do?” Brooke asks as she catches up to me.
“I haven’t decided yet. Maybe beat her up.”
“I’m kidding, Brooke.”
We all reach the back yard and I look around.
“Well, any vampires for you to kill?” Sam asks.
“Slay, kill. What’s the difference?”
I ignore her and decide that about all I can do out here is break something. Then I have an idea.
“Watch this” I say, and vault the fence.
Now the fence around the back yard is 8 or 9 feet tall and I’m not really sure that I can do it, but I do. Luckily no one is in the garden next door and having no choice I vault back over. Sam is standing there doing that open-mouth gaping thing I had been hoping for. Lily looks suitable impressed and Brooke rushes over to me.
“Wow, baby, that was fantastic” she gushes before kissing me.
“Something else you want to share?” Lily asks.
“So, are you going to tell her?’
We were headed to a Sunday afternoon research session with Bio Glass. Now that we only have until Friday to figure our how to deal with the whole Quetzecotral thing Bio has decided that we have to step it up.
“Maybe I shouldn’t. I mean with this week’s crisis I don’t think she needs the stress.”
“Are you sure that you aren’t talking about yourself?”
“When did you get so smart?”
“I’ve always been this smart.” Brooke grins at me “But seriously Carm, maybe you should tell her. It seems to me that we need all the help we can get at the moment. I mean how mad can she get?”
“It isn’t like Sam and Lily have exactly volunteered to join our little club. And the shop assistant did say that someone with a Spanish name got the spell ingredients. You know, Spanish like Esposito.”
“Carmen, you don’t really think it could be Lily, do you? I mean why?”
“I don’t know. Crazy grief stuff? Why does anyone raise a demon?”
“Do you know what Sam said to me this morning when you were in the shower?” Brooke asked “She was all ‘I had the strangest dream’ and then she looks at me and goes ‘It was a dream, right?’ And she looked so serious. I hated to disillusion her but I told her if it involved you jumping over a 9 foot fence then no, it wasn’t a dream. I think she wants to stay in denial land.”
“She’s not the only one.”
We had nearly arrived at school and I was hunting for the keys in my pack when a voice hailed us
“Hey, guys, wait up.”
“I thought I said 1. Don’t you people understand the meaning of promptness. A demon isn’t going to…”
Ms Glass trails off into silence on looking up and seeing the three off us standing around the table.
“Ms Esposito. How nice of you to join our little tutorial session” Bio glares at me, clearly asking with her eyes ‘what the hell?’.
“Ms Glass, we um…” I trail off.
“Look, I know what’s going on.” Lily cuts in “I remembered stuff about that night and I want to help. To honour Josh’s memory. I asked Carmen.”
Bio looks really pissed and I can see that she is going to shoot Lily down. I glance at Brooke who shrugs. Lily is glaring at Bio who glares right back.
“This isn’t a game, Esposito. Carmen shouldn’t have told you anything, even if you asked “Bio Glass turns her death ray glower on to me for a second “It would be best if you just forgot about it and went home.”
“I know that this is serious” Lily says sharply, her voice taking on that familiar rant-like tone “This is maybe the most important thing I could be involved in.”
I’m not sure that this is the time for a speech.
“Lily…” I begin but am interrupted by Bio:
“More important than fur is murder? Or the welfare of frogs? We aren’t running the society for the protection of vampires here.”
“I get that. I’m going to help because it’s the right thing to do. Why are you involved in this?”
Bio seems momentarily silenced. Brooke glances at me clearly impressed that Lily’s gotten Bio speechless, however briefly.
“Because, because I have to be. It’s my duty.”
“Alright. You can help. But same rules as McQueen. No patrolling until I say so, which is probably going to be never in your case, my little pacifist. And basic training in self defence. And try to keep your mouth shut, or am I to expect Ms McPherson and Mr John to come in tomorrow?”
We all look uncomfortable and Bio glares some more before sighing dramatically.
“Maybe we should just ask McReporter to print up a tasteful announcement for the paper.”
“It’s only Sam” Brooke mutters defensively.
“I know it’s terribly difficult for you all to keep your mouths shut but could you at least try.”
“So, why were you in the magic shop yesterday Lily” Brooke asks.
Bio looks up from the book she is studying and glances sharply at me. I give Brooke a look, which she ignores and carries on:
“Because Carmen has this crazy idea that you might be going to raise a demon on prom night.”
“What Brooke means is…” I begin but am cut off by Bio
“You told a suspect about yourself? My God, Ferrera…”
“You think I’m going to raise a demon?” Lily shrieks.
This is going so well.
“So why were you in the magic shop, Esposito?” Bio asks, glaring at Lily, who wilts a little under the death ray.
“I um wanted to, well, I saw an article on studying techniques, relaxing incense and candles so I went to see if I could buy some. Plus, also, it was the only place I could think of to look for stuff on vampires. And raise a demon? Are you people crazy?”
“Yes, we’re the crazy vampire slaying, magic believing, demon hunters.”
“You mean you really did read an article on that studying stuff?” Brooke asks me.
“Well, no, but Lily did so it wasn’t as farfetched as it sounded. Did it work, by the way?” I ask.
“I tried it this morning. All the smoke in my room wasn’t really that conducive to relaxing, plus it kept setting off the fire alarm so I’m thinking no, not so helpful.” Lily responds “But gazing into a crystal…”
“Can we stay on topic” Bio narrows her eyes at Lily “Not feeling a little angry at the world for letting your boyfriend die?”
“Ms Glass!” Brooke exclaims “I don’t think…”
“Look, yes I am angry but like I told you I want to channel my anger into more useful things, like helping you guys” Lily says quietly “It isn’t me.”
It is three hours later and so far the only new information we have discovered is that the incantation needs to finish at the stroke of midnight.
“So all we need to do” Brooke is saying “is to hang round the cemetery and jump whoever is doing the ceremony before they get started.”
To tell the truth I am getting kind of bored with all this. I know it is important but we must have read all of Bio’s books by now and this is all we have managed to come up with; a spell and when and where it needs to be done. Brooke and I have hardly had any quality time alone at all this weekend and I want to get her alone. So we can talk about normal things like what to wear to the prom and how she gets her hair to be so shiny and what flavour of lip gloss she is wearing. I stare at Brooke’s lips, so soft-looking, so kissable…
“Now, that you are back with us do you have anything to add?”
Brooke is blushing as am I and Lily is clearly trying not to laugh.
“Maybe I should check out the crypt again. There could be clues or something.”
Nice save, brain.
“Yeah, what was the name of that family again?” Brooke asks.
“ Hernandez “ Bio replies “Honestly, can’t you remember anything?”
“My head is crammed with biology knowledge for tomorrows final.” Brooke calmly answers.
Go Brooke, I think.
“I wonder if that is Pete’s family’s crypt?”
“Pete Hernandez” Lily looks at us in surprise “Don’t you know him? He’s in my English class and works on the yearbook staff. He interviewed me for the yearbook.”
“What about?” I ask curiously.
“Do you really think it could be a student?” Brooke asks at the same time.
“Well, him or a member of his family.” Lily answers Brooke “I mean if a 17 year old student can be the slayer then why not him? I can’t believe you guys didn’t think to check student records.”
We all look suitably shamed at being out-good-ideaed by our newest helper.
“Maybe you won’t be a total waste of space after all, Esp…Lily.” Bio grudgingly mutters.
I decide to check out the crypt and Brooke offers to help. Lily takes a pass and we all get ready to go.
“See you all at 7 tomorrow.” Bio cheerfully comments “You too, Esposito. If you want to be part of this then you have to suffer like the rest of us. Carmen, could I talk to you for a minute?”
Brooke pauses by the door and seeing her Bio adds:
“What did Bio want?” Brooke asks.
We are back at Sunset Grove and making our way towards the Hernandez crypt. Brooke and I are holding hands.
“It was weird. Remember how Ms McPherson said she would think of someway to help me with family stuff? Well, she talked to Glass about it.”
“What?” Brooke seems as surprised as I feel.
“I know. So it seems that Ms McPherson and Bio have cooked up a scheme for me to go and live with her.”
“It’s not as odd as it first seems. I mean it makes the whole slayer thing much easier. No more sneaking out. And not having to deal with Mom.”
“But why can’t you just stay with us? I’ll talk to Dad and Jane. They’ll come round.” Brooke stops walking and turns to me “Don’t you want to stay with us, with me?”
I had hoped that Brooke wouldn’t go down that road.
“Brooke, I love staying with you, but don’t you think it’s a little soon in the relationship for me to be moving in? Plus when we tell them about us it might make it easier if we aren’t sharing a bedroom.”
Brooke looks down at her feet and pulls a face.
“It’s just, well, I love spending all my time with you” she blurts out quickly “I want to make the most of the time we have in case…in case something happens to you. To us, I mean.”
Brooke seems to be more upset then this conversation calls for. I gently pull her towards a nearby convenient head stone and we sit on it.
“Brooke, tell me what’s wrong.”
She pulls me close and leans her head on my shoulder but doesn’t say anything for a minute. I stroke her hair, trying to soothe her.
“Brooke, you know you can tell me anything” I say softly.
Inside I am turning into a wreck. What if she wants to break up with me? What if the slayer thing is too much? What if she realises that it was all a mistake and she doesn’t really like me after all? I try to keep calm.
“Carmen, it’s just so hard sometimes” she finally says “I try not to think about it, but I can’t help it. Every night you go out to face goodness knows what and I can’t help being afraid that you won’t come back.”
“I have so far.”
“Carm, I’ve read Glass’s books too. Do you know how long the average slayer lasts?”
I really don’t want to have this discussion. I am still in denial land about that and quite happy to stay there. Brooke however presses on.
“Nine months. Nine months, Carmen.”
“Brooke, if this is too much for you…”I start to say
“What? This isn’t about that!” she looks up at me “God, Carmen, do you think if something happens and we’re ‘just friends’ it will be any less painful? I can’t turn off my feelings. I’ll still love you.”
I pull her closer to me and we hug for a long minute.
“You know, I think that we’ve had this conversation before” I comment “Brooke, I can’t promise that nothing will happen to me. And I’m scared too, terrified about so many things. It’s ok to be scared but one thing this slaying thing has taught me that you can’t let being scared control you. I love you and I’m scared and you’re right that it won’t go away. But Brooke, it doesn’t matter. You’re here now and I’m here now and that is all that we need today.”
We sit there for a few more minutes holding each other.
“When did you get so wise?” Brooke eventually breaks our silence.
“It’s a slayer thing, you know with the strength and the speed.”
I can feel Brooke’s breathe in my ear and it is distracting me.
“Brooke” I try to focus on the matter at hand “We can talk about this whenever we need to. You know tell each other what’s going on for us.”
Brooke’s hand is stroking the back of my neck now and my ability to concentrate is quickly disappearing. It vanishes all together when Brooke starts to kiss along my jaw.
“I love you “she whispers before finding my lips.
The only thing that we found of interest at the crypt that we did eventually get around to checking out was the symbol of Quetzecotral on the floor of the crypt.
“It was under a layer of dirt, done in a paler shade of concrete” I report to Bio at training the next morning.
I decide not to tell her that we only found it by accident.
“And the crypt was chained so we’re probably alerted whoever is planning to do this. We had to break in.” Brooke adds.
She has spent the session showing Lily the basic moves and is feeling pretty pleased with herself, I can tell. She has the happy glow she gets after a successful cheerleading practice.
“Any luck with checking out the potential demon raiser” I ask Bio.
She looks at me with a patent Bio-scowl and I guess that I have asked the wrong question.
“It’s not like anyone can just waltz into the administration office and ask to see your permanent records” she mutters “Stupid privacy laws.”
“Really” Lily comments “But you were here all yesterday, all alone. Couldn’t you have just broken in?”
“Security system in the office. It’s only disabled during school hours. Only Krupps has the combination.”
“Is that the same security system that you insisted was installed last year to keep us ‘hooligans and vandals’ in line?”
Oh my god, did I say that out loud? I guess so because Brooke and Lily are staring at me in a mixture of awe and trepidation.
“Can it, Ferrera.” Bio barks “Unless you have anything useful to contribute.”
“Well, I do have one idea.”
Our biology final starts in 45 minutes. Brooke and I are loitering outside the administrative area. Behind the desk of Ms Simmons, whose name plate proclaims her as the ‘Administrative Assistant’, is the door to Vice Principal Krupps’ office. She gave us a glare when we arrived but now is ignoring us in that way that only school office staff can. Brooke glances at her watch again.
“Where are they?”
“Calm down Brooke.”
I can’t believe that we are doing this. Luckily the hall way is as deserted as we hoped for. Brooke is radiating guilt like a beacon.
“Calm down” I whisper again in her ear.
She leans slightly against me and I can’t help myself and lightly nibble her ear lobe. She jumps and I giggle.
“Not really helping with the calming, Carm.”
Just then Sam comes around the corner as I hear footsteps from the other direction. Not now Sam, I think.
“Hey, have you guys seen Harrison today?” she asks as she draws level with us “He was supposed to meet me to do last-minute panicking before the final but he’s late.”
Just then loud voices begin shouting at each other.
“You can’t fail me if I refuse to cut up a mouse!”
“Just you watch me.”
“But I’m a vegetarian!”
“I’m asking you to dissect it, Esposito, not fricassee it!”
Lily and Bio Glass stop in front of Ms Simmons’ desk.
“I demand to see Vice Principal Krupps” Lily declaims loudly.
“He can’t help you” Bio sneers “Administration doesn’t influence my curriculum.”
“Yeah, let’s talk about your so-called curriculum” Lily counters and begins to list all the dubious things that Bio has had us do.
Ms Simmons is looking extremely nervous at the shouting match and decides to step in
“Ms Glass I really think…” she begins.
Brooke and I begin to edge towards the office door leaving Sam watching the show.
“And I guess that’s why you have such an important job…” Bio is yelling at Simmons.
“And as for that play about VD…” Lily is ranting at the top of her lungs.
“What on earth is going on out here?”
Krupps erupts from his office and wades into the fray. I grab Brooke’s hand and drag her into the office. Brooke hovers at the door keeping a look out and I head straight for the file cabinet. I pull out draws and find the student records. Leafing quickly through them I find ‘Hernandez, Peter J’.
“Hurry up” Brooke hisses.
I balance it on top of the files and begin to read.
“What am I looking for again?”
“Anything useful about his family.”
I skim quickly down the pages. Grades, extra curricular activities, personal information. Nothing. I turn to the last page and see a memo. Finally something.
“Carmen, we need to go!” Brooke says urgently.
I stuff the file back in and we exit the office. Krupps and Simmons have their backs to us but the others can see us. Sam’s eyes widen as she realises where we have exited from and she opens her mouth. Krupps must have seen her and he starts to turn round. Suddenly I find myself pushed against the office door and Brooke is kissing me. Okay this isn’t so bad but why now?
“Girls!” Simmons shrieks.
I guess she turned round too. I can hear sniggering and I push Brooke away gently. Krupps is staring at us but quickly recovers.
“Ms McQueen, Ms Ferrera, my office, now.”
“Keep them as long as you like” Bio contributes “I won’t be giving them extra time.”
We get back to the bio lab just in time for the exam. Lily gives us the thumbs up and Bio scowls. I see Sam pass a note to Brooke as she sits down which Brooke quickly reads and crumples up. I glance around the room and realised that Harrison still hasn’t arrived. I don’t know about the others but it feet to me like the exam took 4 hours instead of 2. As we pass our papers forward Bio speaks:
“McQueen, Esposito, Ferrera, stay behind. The rest of you get out! Finally this year of hell is over.”
I slowly pack my stuff up and notice that Sam is moving with glacial speed. April is also taking her time. Bio glares at them. Finally April leaves. Lily and Brooke wait until everyone else had gone then head for the office. Bio follows them and I guess that they are thinking that seeing as Sam knows there is no point in hiding from her. Sam finally says:
”What was all that about this morning?”
“If you really want to know Sam, then I guess you had better come to the meeting” I say, heading for the door.
“Is it slayer stuff?”
Leaving her there I push the door to the office open and see the others already seated. Sam follows me into the room. Bio is unsurprised when Sam joins them at the table.
“Just know McPherson that I have access to powers you wouldn’t believe and if I read a whisper of this in that rag you edit I will use them.”
“Wow, Sam. And you didn’t even have to yell at her like I did” Lily comments.
“Well?” Bio demands “Should I be worried?”
“No, Brooke shut him up” I smile proudly at her “She did this whole blushing, eyelash fluttering thing and told him how stressed I was and that she was only trying to calm me down.”
“He didn’t even realise that we had been in his office” Brooke adds “That fight you guys staged was excellent.”
“And your finale really helped” Lily comments “I thought that Ms Simmons was having a heart attack.”
“She wasn’t the only one” Sam mutters.
“As fascinating as this little self congratulation orgy is to watch I was actually wondering if you found anything useful.” Bio prompts “There was a reason some of us risked our careers this morning.”
“Well there wasn’t much” I pull out the paper.
“Why am I not surprised?”
I pass Bio the piece of paper. She reads it and snorts:
“This is it? A memo about a donation from Hernandez Corp.”
“Let me see that” Sam reaches for the paper “I haven’t seen this one.”
We all stare at her. Sam looks up and noticing this blushes.
“I have a file on the Hernandez family” she clarifies.
“Why do you…no let me guess” Brooke sighs “For the newspaper, right?”
Sam looks a little ashamed:
“Well, you know his family is really rich and I just wanted to keep check of how much they did for the school and, you know, how Peter was going.”
“Not everyone is corrupt, Sam” Brooke begins when her phone starts to ring.
“Sorry” she apologises to us as she checks it.
We all gasp in surprise.
“Why is she calling you?”
Lily and Sam speak at the same time. Brooke waves her hand at them to shush them and listens.
“Yes, Carmen is here. What? Can I do that? Ok wait a minute. If this doesn’t work call back, ok”
We watch as Brooke pushes a couple of buttons and then props the phone against a book on the table.
Mary Cherry’s voice sounds oddly tinny as her head appears in the screen.
“This is too weird” Sam mutters.
“Oh, Spam! Brookie didn’t say you were there. Who else is at your little soirée?”
No-one said anything.
“Hey, are ya’ll still receiving me? Breaker one this is Cherry Pie are you receiving me Cheer Queen?”
Lily cracks up at this and I glance at Brooke.
“Cheer Queen?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.
“It was her stupid idea” she mumbles.
“And you love it” Sam comments.
“Cheer Queen, Cheer Queen?”
“We’re here, Mary Cherry” I realise that I am going to have to answer as she seems to want talk to me “Me I mean Carmen, Brooke, Sam, Lily and Ms Glass. What do you want?”
“Little Lily!” Mary Cherry gushes way too over excitedly “I miss you! Wearing my coats just isn’t the same without you there to tell how those poor little minks were anally electrocuted. I may come and visit you one of these nights.”
“Mary Cherry you tried to kill me!” Lily accuses her “And you killed Josh!”
“Now now Hun, that was Nicole” Mary Cherry soothes her.
“Speaking of Satan how is she enjoying actually being evil. Or hasn’t she noticed the difference?” Sam asks her.
“Well, she is a little more cranky than she used to be. It’s like she has PMS all the time. But I have something important to say to ya’ll. I am hurt, Brookie, that you tried to brand me with that unholy symbol last time we met. You know how important good skin treatment is and now that I am going to live forever I…”
“You called us up to ask us not to try and kill you any more?” I ask incredulously.
Mary Cherry seems completely unfazed.
“No, of course not. I have other stuff to tell ya’ll too!” Mary Cherry laughs manically “Carmen, I so enjoyed our last little chat that I wanted to let you know that I found the perfect dress for our upcoming social engagement. It was just like in my vision…”
“You talked to Cherry about what she should wear when you slay her?” Bio turns to stare at me in disbelief.
“No” I say exasperatedly “I talked to her about a prom dress.”
“You went shopping with Mary Cherry? After she was dead?”
“No, Sam, I…look this is stupid.” I ignore everyone else and talk to the phone “Mary Cherry, you better not come to the prom. If you do I’ll make sure you never leave.”
“But I just want to spend time with my friends” Mary Cherry wails “I miss ya’ll. Besides I have the perfect dress and the perfect date. Everyone, say hi to Joe.”
And Mary Cherry disappears from the screen to be replaced by Harrison, who seems to be asleep, who I hope is asleep.
“Harrison!” Sam gasps and the colour drains out of her face.
“Where are you?” I ask, knowing that Mary Cherry is hardly going to tell me “Tell me where you are and…”
“And you’ll what? What can you possibly do…”
“Who are you talking to?” a new voice can be heard over the phone.
“Why Nic, I was just um…ordering some takeout.”
Nicole appears in the screen of the phone.
“My God, Mary Cherry! You don’t call the slayer and her little groupies to catch up on old times. That’s it, I’m locking up all your Gwyneth DVDs and I’m going to eat your stylist.”
“Let Harrison go, Nic” demands Brooke “You’ve already caused enough pain.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Brookie” Nicole smiles at her “I haven’t even begun yet.”
Brooke’s phone clicks off and Sam reaches across the table and grabs the front of my shirt pulling me towards her:
“Get him back!”
“What should I do?” I ask Bio as we make our way through another cemetery.
I have dusted one vamp and now we are doing a final sweep before I am allowed to go back to bed.
“As much as I wish there was another solution to your housing situation, Carmen, I think that once you are settled in the bas…um spare room then patrolling will be much easier. Less of this sneaking out.”
“I wasn’t talking about that. I meant about Harrison. Sam has locked herself in her room and who knows what she will do? You know what, I shouldn’t even be here. I should…”
“You should what?” Glass asks wearily “March right up to the Cherry Mansion and demand to be let in? Good plan. That way you can either spend the night in jail or, I don’t know, go straight to hell. Think Carmen, how many servants do you think Cherry had? If she turned them all then you could be facing a dozen or more vampires. And anyway, he’s been missing for nearly a day now…”
“God, if you say that one more time” I begin “Harrison is not…” but I am interrupted by my cell phone ringing.
“Carm, quick, you have to come home!” Brooke’s voice comes tumbling out of the phone “Carmen, he’s coming here. He called Sam, hurry please hurry.”
“Brooke, Brooke, calm down” I say but she has already hung up.
“Well, now that you have alerted everyone…” Bio starts to complain but I am already running back towards Brooke’s house.
“Catch me up” I command, over my shoulder “He’s at Brooke’s.”
“We need a plan.”
“I have a plan. It involves a dust buster if he has done anything to Brooke. Or Sam. I’ll go up stairs and check on Brooke and Sam. You start downstairs. Jane and Mike are away, so don’t worry about them. We’ll get the survivors out and you’ll be in charge of that. I’ll deal with anything else inside the house.”
“Carmen, are you sure you can…” Bio looks at me nervously across the steering wheel of her car.
“I don’t really have a choice, do I?”
I stare out the window as we turn into Brooke’s street. It looks like tonight I may have to slay at least one of my friends. If it turns out to Brooke then assuming I survive my next stop was the Cherry mansion. Then the Julian Mansion if that was empty. The car stops and I check my weapons once more.
“Let’s do this.”
The front door was shut, but unlocked. We enter and I wave Bio towards the kitchen as I make my way to the stairs. It seems quiet, maybe too quiet. I slowly make my way to Sam’s room and push the door open. The room is empty. I go to the connecting door to the bathroom and try it. Locked. Locked because Brooke and/or Sam were barricaded in there or locked because Harrison wanted a quiet place to turn them? I suddenly realise that ever since Brooke’s call I have been assuming that Harrison is now a vampire. How did I go from wanting to rescue him to wanting to kill him so fast? Sometimes I hate being the slayer. I remind myself that maybe he has escaped. Escaped and rushed round to warn his friends about the fact that two of his fellow Kennedy students seem to still be alive. Or maybe Mary Cherry and Nicole are here too. Maybe it is all a trick to kill us all. Now I am outside Brooke’s door. It’s open and I quickly glance in and see the room is empty.
I cautiously advance towards Brooke’s connecting bathroom door. Just then there is a yell from downstairs, Bio’s, and the sound of breaking furniture. There is no answer from the bathroom. Whoever is in there is either unconscious or…well I could deal with them later. I didn’t really want to go without investigating but it seems like Bio needs me downstairs. I race back down the stairs in time to see Bio hit the breakfast bar and rollover it into the kitchen.
“Hey, leave her alone!”
Standing in front of me, grinning at me is Harrison. He isn’t vamped out, but assuming that Bio didn’t throw herself over the counter I believe the worse. God, why does this keep happening? I don’t want to have to slay him but I don’t really have a choice.
“Harrison, what are you doing here?”
I wonder what Mary Cherry and Nicole told him. If he doesn’t know then this should at least be over quickly.
“I guess this is where I tell you how I escaped from Mary Cherry. You wouldn’t believe it, Carm, Mary Cherry who we all thought was dead kidnapped me. She wants to go to the prom with me. So I was all, no thanks, but she kind of insisted. I came to tell Sam about it. But Brooke was all rude and stuff, didn’t even want to invite me in. What’s up with that?”
Harrison stops grinning and vamps out.
“But Sam let me in” he continues “Now Carmen, we’ve all been friends since first grade, right? You would think that after that long at least one of you would give me some kind warning or something.”
He starts to come towards me
“You didn’t have to let me find out the hard way.”
“Harrison, where are Brooke and Sam?”
“Oh, they’re around. Mary Cherry told me some story that you and Brooke are a couple. How could you, Carmen? You know that I’m in love with Brooke. Carmen, she belongs to me. And Nicole said that I could have her, as long as I went to the prom with Mary Cherry.”
By now we are facing each other across the sofa. I need to keep him off guard, so I can take him by surprise. Suddenly I have an idea.
“You believed Nicole?” I ask him in disbelief “Harrison, the only reason that Nicole let Mary Cherry turn you was so she could use you to get to Brooke. Sam wouldn’t even invite them in when they were alive. And, FYI, if I were Brooke I know which one of you or Nicole I would go after. I’m sorry Harrison but Nic is really hot and you’re just, well, not.”
Harrison freaks right out and launches himself at me. It takes me about two seconds to stake him. Harrison stares in horror at the stake protruding from his chest and looks at me in disbelief.
“Sorry Harrison.” I murmur sadly, watching him implode into a cloud of dust.
“So, you think Nic’s hot?” Brooke suddenly pops up from behind the counter.
“Hotter than Harrison” I respond, happy to see her but cautious “But not as hot as you.”
I want to just rush over to her but I need to be sure.
“Not even in her Glamazon uniform?” Brooke teases.
“She doesn’t have the legs for it.”
I toss a cross towards her which she catches. I stare at her hand and thank God when there is no reaction. Brooke holds up her own cross in her other hand.
I feel like I am going to cry with relief. Just then there is a groan from behind the counter and Brooke turns round.
“Are you alright?” she asks, kneeling down to check on presumedly Bio, who I had last seen flying over the counter.
I go over to them and see that Bio seems ok but is demanding ice. As Brooke gets her some from the freezer I ask:
“I think she’s still upstairs. Harrison rang…”
“Tell me later” I say, heading in the direction of the stairs “Your bathroom was locked. I think she’s in there. Maybe you should…”
“I’m coming with you!” Brooke glares at me “Sam’s like my sister.”
We stop outside the main door to the bathroom and listen. There is still no noise.
“It only locks from the inside, right?”
“No, the main door can be locked from the outside too.”
Brooke points to the bolt, which sure enough is slid in place. I feel stupid for not noticing this. It’s not like I’ve been living here or anything. I wish Brooke had stayed downstairs. I really didn’t want to have to slay another of my friends tonight.
“Wait until I give you the all clear. “ I tell Brooke as I open the door.
Inside it is dark and Sam is slumped against the tub. She seems to be unconscious. I warily crouch beside her and see that there are bite marks on her neck and a little blood which is starting to dry. I touch the cross I took back from Brooke to Sam’s hand and am relieved when there is no reaction. I feel for a pulse and thankfully there is one.
“Call 911” I tell Brooke.
It is about 4am and Brooke and I are finally in bed. Jane stayed at the hospital with Sam who will be ok after some blood and a good sleep. This is the longest day I have ever had. Luckily our final final is in the afternoon . Brooke seems to have dropped right off to sleep, at least she is lying silently in her bed. I try not to move too much and wake her. My mind is racing. Every time I close my eyes I see Harrison turning to dust, so I am just staring at the ceiling. I remember him laughing at Sam’s jokes, going to protests with Lily, encouraging me to tryout for the Glamazons. Years of memories and I barely even noticed that he wasn’t in class today. Ever since I started slaying I have been spending less time with him and now there is no more time to spend with him. I can feel tears pricking at my eyes and this time don’t stop them. I should have told him. I told Brooke and Lily and Sam, why didn’t I tell him? And his mom, who’s going to tell his mom? She doesn’t even know he is dead. He’s just ‘missing’ and she’ll always hope he will come home because I can’t tell her the truth ‘Sorry, Mrs John, but Harrison was killed by Mary Cherry, she turned him into a vampire and then when he came to kill Sam and Brooke I dusted him’. I am crying properly now and roll onto my stomach to bury my head in my pillow.
“It’s ok, baby”
Brooke slides her arm around me and is crying too.
“You did what you had to do.”
We lie there together, crying.
“We need a plan.”
We are a pretty subdued group meeting in the training room. Lily and Brooke are sitting on the mat, watching me take my feelings out on a punching bag while Bio paces around.
“Prom is in 3 days time on Friday, we don’t know who is trying to raise the demon and possibly some vampires are going to attend the prom.” she pauses “How’s McPherson? Is she going to be able to help us?”
“I doubt it” I punch extra hard at the bag “She isn’t talking to me. She blames me for what happened to Harrison, at least I think so but seeing as she isn’t talking to me I wouldn’t know.”
“She’ll come round” Lily comments “It just takes a while to process.”
“Sam’s just angry, Carm, we all are.” Brooke tries to smile “She doesn’t really blame you.”
“I’m just a convenient target” I say bitterly “He was my friend too!”
I punch the bag a few more times while Bio does another lap.
“So it seems like it is just the four of us” Lily says after a while.
“Great, a pacifist, a cheerleader, a watcher who keeps getting knocked out and me, a slayer who specialises in finishing off her friends.”
“Well, at least that means you can probably handle Julian and Cherry.” Bio remarks “Unless the conversation turns to prom dresses, of course.”
I glare at her.
“I happen to have a plan” I say “And I’m going to take care of it now, before it gets dark.”
“Not if it involves door-to-door slaying.” Bio steps up to me “Ferrera, you don’t even know if they are there.”
“What are you talking about, Carm?” Brooke asks.
“Ferrera wants to pay a house call.” Bio growls.
“Seems like a plan to me” Lily adds “Were you thinking of slaying them by hand? Or did you have something a little more incendiary in mind?”
Bio turns slowly to look at Lily.
“Did you just suggest burning down Cherry’s mansion?” she asks incredulously.
“She killed Harrison. Who cares about her house?”
“I’m impressed, Esposito. But still, no. We need the slayer active more than we need to hurt Cherry. Quetzecotral is still scheduled to make an appearance and he, it, whatever, is our priority.”
“Why don’t just call her and threaten her a little?” Brooke suggests.
“With what?” Lily says scornfully “We don’t really have much if you aren’t prepared to sic Carmen on her. I’m still for the marsh-mellow roast, vegetarian of course.”
“I know what can hurt her the most” Brooke looks at me “It might sound better coming from you, Carm.”
“What are you talking about McQueen?”
Bio looks as confused as I feel. Brooke explains and I realise that she might be on to something. Brooke makes a couple of calls and soon we are ready to go.
“I don’t know about this” Bio comments sceptically.
“It’s worth a try” I defend Brooke’s idea “It can’t hurt, anyway. Ok, Brooke, lets do it.”
“Hi, ya’ll. This is the phone of the divine Mary Cherry. How may I help ya’ll?”
“Carmen, is that you, Hun?”
Mary Cherry’s voice rises about an octave when she realises it’s me. I hold the phone away from my ear.
“I am very upset with ya’ll.” Mary Cherry continues “How could you, a sister Glamazon, betray me by taking my man away from me? I may just have to come and impress upon you the extent of my rage. How can I go to the prom without a date, Carmen? I have my exquisite dress which was vouchsafed to me in a vision and now…”
“Speaking of prom” I interrupt her “I was just calling to remind you how not invited you are to it.”
“Carmen you know I don’t need an invitation” Mary Cherry laughs “And I want ya’ll to see how wonderful my dress is. I will be the belle of the ball.”
Brooke is pulling faces at me, which I assume mean for me to get on with it. Bio is muttering something about how wrong it is calling the undead and Mary Cherry is still ranting about the prom.
“Mary Cherry, I need you to understand me.” I cut across her tirade “You are not coming to the prom. And if I see as much as a sparkle of your dress you will be dust faster than you can say ‘ya’ll’. And just so you understand that we mean business, I think that you should check your credit. The bank just foreclosed.”
There is a moment of silence.
“Just what exactly do you mean ‘the bank is closed’? What bank?”
Mary Cherry sounds totally confused.
“Listen, a little bird just tipped off Mama Cherry that her dear departed daughter’s credit cards are still in use. She also mentioned that she is thinking of liquefying her assets in California and reconsolidating back in more familiar territory.”
Sometimes I wonder if Mary Cherry is actually all there.
“Mary Cherry your mother’s cancelling your credit cards and moving back to Texas and taking all her money with her.”
I move the phone even further away from my ear. After a few more moments of listening to Mary Cherry wailing and moaning I hang up. Lily is chuckling and Brooke is grinning broadly. I grin back and start to feel a little better.
“I told you that would work.” says Brooke.
‘Yes, well done” Bio comments “You’ve probably totally severed her fragile grip on reality. Who knows what a poor crazy Texan vampire will do?”
“I know” I say “Hopefully something stupid.”
“She’s right, you know.”
I am lying on Brooke’s bed with my head in her lap. Brooke is stroking my hair and I am feeling relaxed and happy, well as relaxed and happy as I can be what with having to stop a demon being summoned later this week. Apparently Brooke is worried about it too.
“What about?” I decide to play dumb.
“We need a real plan to deal with this Quetzecotral thing.”
“Well it seems like ambush in the dark is in the lead at the moment. We can’t figure out who is behind it all and I don’t know any way to work it out.”
“We could patrol around the crypt more, see if anyone is hanging about acting suspiciously. We could go now, you know.” Brooke sounds excited, I think she would jump up if I wasn’t half lying on her.
“Or” I suggest, running my hand down Brooke’s leg “Seeing as Bio gave me the night off we could just enjoy having some time to ourselves.”
“Hmm, that could be nice too” she purrs sliding her hand down my neck.
After a minute she speaks again:
“Carmen, are you scared?”
I don’t know if I want to tell her the truth, well the whole truth.
“Yeah, some of the time.”
Try all of the time, but I don’t want to tell Brooke that.
“I think, if this all works out, I want to tell Dad and Jane about me, about us, I mean. They don’t seem as scary after vampires.”
“So you’re ready to take the leap out of the closet?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure. What about you?”
I try not to think about how my mother would react to the news that her daughter likes girls.
“I don’t think so. I mean we aren’t exactly even talking at the moment.”
“Carm, what happened between you and your mom, if you want to talk about it, you know that I am here for you.” Brooke says tentatively.
“I know, Brooke. Thanks.”
“You know I love you, right?”
“I love you too, Brooke.”
All too quickly Friday approaches. The seniors graduate on Thursday and have their prom on that night and I decide to patrol at school seeing as a bunch of partying seniors would probably attract some attention. Plus I wouldn’t be surprised if Mary Cherry gets the nights of the junior and senior prom mixed up. Brooke patrols with me and Bio, naturally, is pissed off at us.
“It’s too dangerous” Bio says, apparently not caring that Brooke is right there “You don’t need to have to worry about protecting others.”
“Why do you trail around after me, then?” I ask angrily.
“At least I have proper training” Bio snaps back.
“What, you mean have to practise being knocked unconscious?”
“Listen to me, Ferrera” Bio snarls “This isn’t a game. People get hurt, people die. One day you are going to be one of them…”
“Do you think this is news to me?” I yell back “I know the speech one slayer dies another is called blah blah blah. I’m the one who keeps having to stake her friends. Do you think I want to put my girlfriend in more danger than I need too?”
“Um, Carm? Ms Glass?” Brooke cuts in “I think…”
“Keep out of this McQueen. This is between me and my slayer…”
“I’m not ‘your slayer’…” I angrily retort.
I whirl around in time to see several vampires regarding us. We are in the football field behind the gym, and the music from the prom going on in there can be heard.
“Hi Brooke, Hun!”
“Great, exactly what I need” Bio glares at me “Look, Ferrera, it’s some of your friends that you haven’t managed to slay yet.”
Mary Cherry is waving manically at us. And she has on the long promised sparkly prom dress. It is truly hideous and for it alone she deserves to be blowing in the wind.
“I was really hoping to run into ya’ll tonight.”
“Cherry, what the hell do you want?” Bio growls “Can’t Julian keep you under control?”
“Nic is not the boss of me. I am a woman in charg…a vampire in charge of her own destiny, I am going to take life by the throat and…”
“Mary Cherry, you do realise that prom is tomorrow, don’t you?” Brooke asks her.
This stops Mary Cherry’s little diatribe. It is actually pretty funny to see the look of perplexity cross her face.
“You” she yells, grabbing one of the vampires standing around her “You told me that the prom was tonight!”
She vamps out and lifts him off his feet.
“I, well, it is.”
Still holding him up Mary Cherry says:
“I hear music, I smell cheap perfume, I see bad off the rack clothes. Is this not the ingredients of a high school social occasion?”
“Tonight’s the senior prom” I tell her “What, too poor to buy a calendar?”
“Or maybe you had to fire your personal assistant?” Brooke adds.
Mary Cherry drops the vampire and begins muttering while fumbling in her purse:
“And I did my whole getting ready montage to ‘Tonight Tonight’. And I was so looking forward to the fight scene.”
I exchange looks with Brooke. Maybe we did push her over the edge. Finally she draws out a stake and plunges it into the vampire who gave her the wrong information.
“I feel so much better” she says, trying to brush the dust out of her hair “Is my hair still ok? Well, I guess we can still enjoy ourselves as a warm up to the …”
Brooke, clearly bored with Mary Cherry’s ranting lets off a shot from her crossbow. She hits one of the lackeys but not in the vital place.
“Well at least one of you actually wants to slay Cherry” Bio comments “Nice shot, McQueen. At least it would have been if you had managed to…”
I leave Bio’s running commentary behind and advance on the small group. Mary Cherry still has three other vampires with her, all looking like they want a fight.
“You shot one of my people! No one slays my people except me…or maybe Nic when she is…” Mary Cherry starts ranting.
I am so over this. So sick of Bio hassling me about every little thing I do, so angry about not knowing what to do about the demon coming tomorrow, so pissed at my mom for not being there for me. The vampires around Mary Cherry start to move forward, the one with the arrow sticking out of his chest in the lead. I recognise them from school.
“This is the slayer?” Arrow-guy says to his friends “That fat wanna..
I step forward much faster than he is clearly expecting me to and grab the arrow and pull it out and plunge it into the chest of one of his friends who had been laughing along.
The arrow turns into dust along with the rest of his buddy. They seem to be in shock as if they didn’t expect me to do this so I follow up with a couple of punches to Arrow-guy who crashes on his butt. Flunky Number Two starts to run away which gives me clear aim at his back with a stake. Two down. Arrow-guy tries to crawl backwards on his elbows so I kick him to let him know this is not a good idea. He groans and collapses flat on his back. I look around for Mary Cherry and see her high tailing it across the football field as fast as she can. It is really too far to throw a stake but I do any way. Arrow-guy tries to do some kind of backwards flip thing to get to his feet but I meet him halfway with my foot and follow up by straddling him to stop him trying to crawling away again.
“I am not a wannabe cheerleader” I tell him, punctuating my words with blows to his face before I stake him “I am a damn fine cheerleader.”
I get up and start off after Mary Cherry.
Friday morning finds Brooke, Lily and I in Bio’s office. Surprisingly, Bio compliments my performance last night.
“You really took out three vampires?” Lily asks, sounding a bit awed.
“Yeah, and they were football players too” Brooke enthuses “Carmen was all wham bam thank you ma'am. They didn’t know what hit them.”
“But Mary Cherry still got away.”
“Three vampires is quite good.” Bio comments.
I almost ask where she and Brooke got to but remember that we were fighting about who I patrol with and I think that Bio’s unmade point was about me being only able to depend on myself. I feel pretty pleased about last night’s efforts despite losing Mary Cherry. It was like I didn’t even have to think about what I was going to do next. I suppose that I felt like the slayer, rather than like Carmen trying to be the slayer. Go me! Now all I have to do today is enjoy the junior prom with my girlfriend while preventing any vampiric gatecrashers and then stop someone summoning a chaos demon. Piece of cake.
“So any advance on the stake out the crypt plan?” Lily asks.
“Our only flimsy lead is that a student has the same name as the crypt where the raising is due to happen.”
“Supported by the shop assistant at the magic shop, remember she said a Spanish name.” I add.
“Yeah but like half our town probably has a Hispanic name” Brooke comments “We do live in California.”
“Well on the bright side maybe we scared Mary Cherry enough so that she won’t put in an appearance.”
“But there’s still Nicole. She’s been far too quiet.”
“Maybe it’s her. Chaos seems the sort of thing Nicole would be into” Lily comments.
“So this is what we will do” I say “At about 10 we’ll leave the prom, regroup here, weapon up and head out to the cemetery. Catch the summoner and stop him or her doing the deed.”
“What about a backup plan?” Bio asks “And I’m not too happy with McQueen and Esposito being there.”
“We need all the help we can get” I retort “I mean, if you guys want to help, that is. You don’t…”
Brooke and Lily exchange a look.
“We’re there” Brooke confirms “As long as we get to dance together at the prom, I’m all for a slay-fest instead of an after party.”
“Plan B?” Glass prompts.
“Well, I’m taking my axe” I say.
“I can’t believe that you guys are going to the prom” Sam accuses us “After everything that’s happened.”
“That’s why we’re going” Brooke replies to her.
We are sitting in Brooke’s room watching her finish getting ready. I am nervous, she looks so good and I look, well, I don’t have much confidence in the whole formal wear look. Brooke helped me pick my dress so at least I know this colour looks good on me. Sam still isn’t really talking to me and clearly isn’t going tonight.
“And besides” I say “In case you’ve forgotten there’s the whole demon raising…”
“I don’t want to hear it!” Sam almost shouts.
“Sam, all this isn’t going to go away just because you ignore it.” Brooke comes back out of the bathroom.
Brooke looks, well incredible is not really an adequate description. My mental drool session is interrupted by Sam
“Some slayer! You couldn’t save Harrison…”
“Back off Sam!” I say, feeling my eyes begin to water “I did the best I could.”
“Just get out, Sam!” Brooke orders her.
Sam looks angry but leaves. I bite my lip and blink back the tears.
“Great, now I need to redo my eyes” I say, trying to distract myself from the sadness I feel “Maybe she’s right.”
“And maybe I’m right too” Brooke kneels in front of me and grabs my hands “Carm, I want to take you to the prom tonight and maybe for an hour or so we can forget about all this horror and we can just be two girls enjoying their first dance together and the scariest thing in our lives is how people will react when we slow dance together.”
Brooke stretches up and kisses me.
“Well, I can always beat them up if they hassle us” I say when we finally part.
“Why else do you think I’m dating the slayer?” Brooke asks before kissing me again.
After a little while we go downstairs and then are subjected to the inevitable photo session by Mike and Jane. Brooke and I pose together and separately, smiling and joking with each other. What I would like to do is kiss her and have a picture of that but we decided that tonight probably wasn’t the best time to come out to them. Not while I am still living here. Eventually we make it out the door and to Brooke’s car.
“Wow, you guys look great!” Lily greets us as we meet up with her at the gym.
Lily looks pretty good herself and I wish that Josh was here with her. And Harrison. And Sam.
“Right back at you!” Brooke smiles at her.
I am pleased that Brooke and Lily are becoming friends. I guess having to face vampires and demons does that to people.
“Is Bio here?” I ask, suddenly wondering what sartorial horror Bio would consider appropriate formal wear.
“I think she’s giving this a miss” Lily comments “Her exact words to me when I asked if she was chaperoning were ‘Esposito, any high school social function is my idea of hell. Why would I voluntarily participate in that?’”
We grab a table and I look around at everyone. Poppy and Sugar Daddy seem to have come together and are sitting at a nearby table. April and the rest of the chess club are all seated together. I never managed to work out exactly what it is that April thinks she knows about me. Maybe when all this is over I can tackle her.
“So, are you ready to do this?” Brooke asks, her voice nervous underneath her causal tone.
“No problem” I too try for casual, noticing that suddenly my palms feel all sweaty.
Brooke stands up and holds out her hand to me. I take it and we walk over to the dance floor. It is the longest walk of my life. Right on cue the music switches to a slow dance number. Brooke lets go of my hand and pauses for a second. I feel conflicted. I want to dance with Brooke but I also want to run back to my room and hide under the duvet. I’ve slain vampires and later tonight may have to face off with a chaos demon. Why does dancing with my girlfriend seem a thousand times scarier? I close my eyes and swallow. When I open them Brooke is looking at me and I know that she is waiting for me to do something. I slide my hands around her waist and pull her gently towards me. I hear her let out a breath of relief as she puts her arms around my neck. I close my eyes again and feel her warm breath on my cheek. I can hear a murmur from everywhere but try to dial down the slayer hearing and concentrate on swaying in time to the music. We dance for a long time because, at least to me, it feels like no one can touch us on the dance floor.
We finally remember that Lily is sitting
alone at the table and head back to her. She looks kinda misty-eyed and I
figure she is missing Josh. Brooke has gone to get us punch. I want to check
on Lily and lean close to her:
”Are you ok?”
“Yeah, just, you know” Lily puts on her brave-little-toaster face.
I squeeze her hand comfortingly. Just then Poppy walks up to our table
“Hi, Carmen” she smiles at me, ignoring Lily “You and Brooke, how long has that been going on?”
“Um, a little while” I reply, trying to guess what Poppy is thinking.
“Well, at least now the squad knows.”
“Knows what?” I ask perplexedly.
“Why Brooke made you co-captain. Have a nice evening” and she gives her fake smile and swans off.
“What a bitch” Lily comments watching her leave.
I sit there fuming. How dare she?
“Hey” Brooke returns with the drinks “What did Popita want?”
“I’m going to kick her…” I push back my chair.
“Carm, calm down” Brooke interrupts me, putting her hand on mine “We knew that some people might react this way. Remember, just ignore it.”
“But is that what everyone thinks? Did you know this?” I ask Brooke.
Suddenly I wonder if Poppy could be right.
“You didn’t do it just because you had a thing for me, did you?”
“Carm, we aren’t talking about homophobia, are we?” Brooke asks.
Lily suddenly excuses her self and takes off. Brooke lets go of my hand and waits.
“Poppy thinks that you made me co-captain because we were to dating. You didn’t, did you? I mean we weren’t even together then. Or was it the slayer stuff? That I suddenly improved because of my slayer skills. Is that why?”
I am babbling and I know it. Suddenly a horrible thought occurs to me.
“You aren’t just with me because I’m the slayer are you?”
“Carmen, no!” Brooke looks at me in astonishment “How could you even think that?”
I want to believe her, really I do but my insecurities keep telling me otherwise. I can hear my mother’s voice in my head criticising my appearance, my haircut, my weight, my lack of talent at anything. It is too much and I have to get away from it. I jump up and head for the door. From behind me I hear Brooke say my name but I keep going. I make it to the door of the gym and head out along an empty corridor. We aren’t supposed to roam around the school but I just want to be away. I realise that I am crying and feel like I am going to be sick. It is the slayer that Brooke loves, not me. It could never be just plain old Carmen Ferrera. I turn the corner and lean against the lockers trying not to sob too loudly. After a little while I hear someone walking towards me. Familiar feeling arms wrap around my waist and I can smell the flora scent of Brooke’s perfume.
“It’s always been you, Carmen Ferrera” she whispers in my ear “I gave in to Josh at the beginning of the year to see if I could, well not be gay. But it didn’t work because there was one girl that I couldn’t stop thinking about. A sexy, beautiful cheerleader who took my breath away. Who still takes it away every time I see her. I love you. I dreamed about you for months before I even got the courage to try and be friends with you properly. You have been there for me whenever I needed you, even when I didn’t deserve it. You’re wonderful, incredible and eventually I would have told you how I felt, slayer or not. I love you. I loved you before you were the slayer, and if we wake up tomorrow and you aren’t the slayer I’ll still love you.”
I can feel Brooke’s body pressed tightly against mine. My tears have stopped flowing but my breathing is still doing that hiccuping sobbing thing. I feel Brooke start to press tiny kisses down my neck.
“You ‘re so beautiful Carmen” she murmurs between kisses.
“Really?” I manage to say.
“Yes, really. You shouldn’t listen to the voices in your head.”
“How did you…”
“Girlfriend’s intuition” she replies, pulling me round to face her “The only voice I want you to listen to is mine telling you how sexy and amazing and caring and incredible you are.”
“Still think I’m beautiful?” I ask, aware that my make is totally ruined and probably running down my face in a fright mask.
“Yes.” Brooke says before kissing me gently on the lips.
We break the kiss eventually and I tell her:
“You’re pretty amazing yourself, Brooke McQueen.”
Brooke pulls away and grabs my hand
“Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”
As she leads us towards the Novak she says
“And by the way, Carm, I made you co-captain because you deserve it.”
We make it back to the gym before Lily sends out a search party for us. She is sitting with Sugar at our table who gets up as we approach.
“Hey, Sugar” Brooke greets him seconds before he engulfs her in a hug.
Lily is looking happier and gives me the is-everything-cool? look. I nod and hear Brooke mumble:
“Air becoming an issue.”
“Hey Sug that my girl friend your trying to crush” I say to him.
Sugar lets Brooke go and then grabs me.
“I’m so happy for you guys” he announces when he lets me go “If you have any trouble just let me know. Ok?”
“Thanks Sugar” Brooke tells him and kisses him on the cheek.
He blushes and then heads back to his own table.
We spend the rest of the time dancing and chatting but I can feel the tension rising. After checking my watch for what seems like the hundredth time we decide that it is time to get ready.
We decide to take separate cars to Sunset Grove. After a little back and forth about who goes with whom Ms Glass pulls the watcher card and insists I ride with her, leaving Brooke to drive Lily. Brooke looks put out by this which pleases me but I guess Bio needs to talk to me. We drive in silence for a little while until Bio abruptly asks:
“How are you feeling?”
“Good. You know, all slay-ready” I say cheerfully.
“Nice try, Carmen” Bio smirks “How are you really feeling?”
“Terrified. Wishing that Brooke and Lily were safe at home. Thinking that we have the dumbest plan ever. Terrified”
“You said that already.”
“Well, just making sure you understand.”
We drive on for another block.
“Is it always like this?” I ask “The mind numbing terror and fear of death.”
“Are you still scared when you go on patrol?”
“Well, yes. Not in the same way, at first I mean that was fear of the unknown. Now it’s like fear of the known.” I glance at Bio “So I’m guessing that’s a yes, then.”
“It’s actually good that you’re scared. It’s when you start to feel invulnerable that you have to worry. That’s when, well, risks get taken and mistakes get made.”
“And slayers die” I translate “You know your council needs a better sales pitch: Be a slayer! Experience months of terror then die!”
Bio actually laughs at this.
“You’re doing better than I thought you would” she says “When they told me it was probably you I thought…”
Bio trails off probably suddenly realising what she was about to insult me.
“You thought ‘Oh my god, Carmen Fererra! That can’t be right.’ It’s ok that you thought that” I continue “It’s pretty much what I thought when you told me. But there must be something in the slayer mojo, I mean I’ve managed so far.”
“Yes, you have, and you’ll manage tonight as well” Bio glances at me “I think that you should concentrate on the main threat. I’ll try to keep McQueen and Esposito in the background. If we can’t stop the demon being raised going for it will be your job. We’ll try to distract the summoner which should lessen the control he or she has on the demon, which may confuse the demon. If it all turns to crap the best plan will be to retreat and regroup at the school. Once the summoner knows we are on to him we’ll probably be in the line of fire.”
“Sounds like we have a plan B” I comment.
We park close to the cemetery and stock up on weapons. Lily has a crossbow in addition to the usual cross, stake and holy water. Brooke has a machete. I have my axe and Bio a sword.
“Armed and dangerous” Lily comments “I hope that no one see me like this.”
“I only hope that you don’t shoot any of us” Bio notes.
“Hey” Lily swings round to face her “I’m getting better.”
We all jump out of her way as the crossbow weaves in our general direction. Brooke approaches from the side and gingerly angles the bow down to the ground.
“Don’t be sorry, be careful” Bio groans “What was I thinking allowing you two to come?”
We begin to cautiously make our way towards the crypt. In the dark it is kinda spooky and all the trees everywhere don’t help. I try not to think of Lily walking directly behind me with her crossbow. Suddenly I hear a noise off to the right. I duck back into the shadow of a crypt and listen. Someone, or something, is walking up the grassy aisle to our right. The others gather around me and Bio gives me a questioning look. I put my finger to my lips and point in the direction of the noise. I gesture at them to stay here and creep towards the noise. Once I get close enough I see that it is a guy carrying a backpack. He is not trying to be very quiet but almost humming under his breathe, every now and then the sound escaping his lips. I don’t think he is a vampire. As he draws a bit closer I see that it is Pete Hernandez. I can’t believe that our flimsy lead turned out to be correct. Pete saunters on past and I go back to the others.
“It’s him” I whisper.
We all start to walk in the same direction as Pete. I have a great feeling of relief flood through me. This will be easy. How hard can he be to stop? Ahead of us Pete crosses our aisle and we shrink back into the shadows.
“He’s going the wrong way!” Brooke hisses quietly “Maybe…”
Bio hushes her with a gesture and indicates that we should follow him. We trail Pete until he reaches a crypt which is most definitely not the Hernandez family one. Pausing at the door he looks around then unlocks a padlock before heading in. I point to Bio and point to myself and the door of the burial chamber. Then I point at Lily and Brooke and indicate that they should stay here. Bio and I walk silently to the door of the crypt which is ajar. We peer round. Pete has taken several large candles and is placing them around the room which already seems to have plenty in it. Then he gets out a blanket which he spread in the centre of the room and starts to light the candles. This takes a while especially because he keeps checking his watch. Great, an accomplice. Then he reaches into his pack and pulls out a bottle and two glasses. Bio gives a loud snort of disgust beside me which causes Pete to drop one of the glasses.
“Hil, is that you?” he says turning to the door.
I grab Bio and drag her back to the shelter of the shadows where we left Lily and Brooke. Pete comes to the door of the crypt and looks around. We all hold our breath until seemingly satisfied he goes back in.
Bio looks mad and jerks her head back in the direction we came from. We follow her and after a minute Brooke stops and grabs my hand:
Lily stops too.
“The only magic happening for Pete tonight is the sort that involves a bottle of cheap wine, candles and a blanket.” I say quietly.
“Oh my God, is it a black mass?” Lily asked, her eyes widening.
“I think he’s just hoping to get lucky.” I say glaring at Brooke who was struggling to suppress a grin.
“Humph” says Lily and continues after Bio.
“How long before you have to slay Pete, do you think?” Brooke murmurs.
“I’m giving it a couple of weeks. It’s not like a cemetery is even romantic.”
“I’ll remember that” Brooke smiles at me and I start to blush at the thought of Brooke and I and a cheap bottle of wine, candles and a blanket.
“Come on” Brooke pulls me in the direction the others went.
All seems to be quiet around the Hernandez crypt. I check inside but it is as deserted as ever.
“Maybe the summoner isn’t going to show” Brooke says hopefully.
“It’s only 11:30” Lily points out “There’s still time.”
Bio positions us so that we are covering all approaches to the crypt. After a couple of minutes I am bored and hope that this will come to an end sooner rather then later. I am supposed to be moving out of Brooke’s this weekend and I’ve been totally suppressing the fact that I have to move in with Bio. I mean I don’t have to move in with her but it seems like the best option at the moment. I’ve been living at Brooke’s for like a week and my mom hasn’t even called there once to see if I am there. Or to Lily’s either. I wonder if she has even noticed that I’m not around as much. I’m going to have to go home to get the rest of my stuff. Jane was talking about helping me find a job which I guess I have to, at least over the summer. Once school starts again I’m sure Bio won’t want me distracted from the slaying. I’m guessing that cheerleading won’t be on her list of things for me to do either. Well if she thinks…Crack. The sound of a branch breaking nearby and startles me back to awareness.
“Crap” I hear someone say “Stupid headstone.”
It doesn’t sound like one of the others.&
nbsp; I get ready to rush out and jump whoever is approaching.
A small figure advances out of a clump of bushes where Lily is stationed. Whoever it is seems familiar. Oh, no it isn’t … She pauses, glances around, then confidently strides to the door of the crypt.
“I don’t think you want to go any closer” I say, stepping out from the shadows beside the crypt where I was waiting.
She jumps and gives a squeal.
“Popita?” Brooke steps out of her hiding place “What are you doing here?”
“Carmen? Brooke?” Poppy tries to collect herself “I could ask you the same thing, but I suppose I don’t have to. I mean why else…”
Just then a crossbow bolt erupts out of the bushes and buries itself in Poppy’s shoulder. She staggers backwards, dropping her bag.
“Oh my God. I’m so sorry it just sort of slipped” Lily runs out of the bushes “I hope I didn’t hit anything.”
Brooke drops to her knees beside Poppy who has slid to the ground.
“You shot me” Poppy says redundantly “You didn’t have to shoot me!”
“We have to take her to the hospital” Brooke says to me.
“Let me have a look” Bio knees down as well “Carmen, check in that bag.”
“But we…” I start to say but am cut off.
“Lets not forget why we’re here” Bio snaps at me “Anyway, it isn’t bleeding much. Calm down, Fresh, it’s only a flesh wound.”
Lily is still staring at the little tableaux in horror. I grab the bag and dump the contents on the ground, ignoring Poppy’s protests. A number of familiar spell ingredients, a paper with what looks like Spanish written on it, candles and a small knife.
“The stuff’s all here” I say “Poppy, what were you thinking? A chaos demon. Why?”
“I didn’t think it would really work” Poppy mumbles.
“You didn’t think…well that’s pretty obvious” Bio observes.
“Did you even know what it would do?” Brooke asks her.
“I well, hey, how do you know…”
“Never you mind” Bio growls “The sooner you talk the sooner you get to the hospital.”
“I just wanted to get back at Carmen”
“What? Why?” I ask in surprise
“It’s because I made Carm co-captain, isn’t it?” Brooke asks Poppy suddenly.
“Well, it should have been me!” Poppy says shakily “I deserve it. I worked way harder than her. And I’ve been on the squad longer.”
“You were going to raise a demon because of a cheerleading thing?” Bio asks clearly disgusted by this “I can’t believe this. Because of cheerleading. Cheerleading.”
“Can you take me to the hospital now?” Poppy whines.
“Let’s just leave her here” I say angrily.
“You can’t leave me here” Poppy protests.
“Listen Fresh here’s the thing” Bio tells her “Go back to you little magic books and find out what a slayer is. Carmen is the current one. Then think long and hard before doing anything like this again or telling anyone about any of it. You will keep your mouth shut. I would hate for anything to happen to you. Help me, Carmen.”
We lift Poppy up and I carry her towards the car.
“You’re not just going to let her get away with this, are you?” Lily asks.
“Of course not” Bio laughs “I haven’t handed in your final grades yet. How does summer school sound, Fresh?”
We all laugh and Lily adds:
“I’m glad I shot her.”
“That’s the spirit, Esposito.”