“Uh, what?” I said, baffled. I had never seen her, or any of the people here, before in my life. This was the first time I had ever come to this place. How could she know anything about me?
Despite my voice being quiet, she seemed to have heard me. Or maybe it was the blank look on my confused face that gave her the hint.
“Oh - yeah, you’d be surprised how many people know about you and the Tenebrus thing,” she said with a roll of her heavily-made-up eyes. “Most people don’t believe he’s even still alive, or that he ever existed, y’know, but they think you have some kind of magic power that he wants, and that he wants it so bad he’ll kill you to stop you from using it against him.”
“Uh - I don’t - who said - that’s all been blown out of proportion, I mean, that’s not even true,” I stuttered. She tilted her head closer then shook it.
“No good. Come on, let’s go somewhere more quiet.”
She pulled me after her back the way I had come and through the maze of tables. I felt self-conscious, but nobody even looked up from their conversations as we passed. We reached the other side, closer to the skateboard ramp, and I had no idea how she thought this place was any quieter with the noise the skaters were making. A group of tall gothic-looking people waved to Charlotte from a few tables away and she returned it, still not letting go of my arm until she sat us down. The people had varying shades of hair from bubblegum-pink to electric blue and raven black, and several had piercings scattered across their faces. I tore my eyes away from them and back to Charlotte.
“So, tell me about yourself, Ruby,” she said, completely at ease. “I know your name of course. I just knew the gang had to meet you.”
“The gang?” My eyes flicked back to the group of odd-looking adolescents.
Charlotte nodded, flicking her bright blunt fringe out of her eyes.
“Anyways, come on. I’m waiting. Who did you come here with? Do you have a mentor yet? Have you met your Eternal?”
“Um… you’ve got completely the wrong idea,” I said, my face burning a little. “I don’t have any powers at all. I’m not even an Immortal. I’m a human.”
For her part, Charlotte didn’t look disappointed.
“Aw, really? I should have known not to trust the gossip, but you know me.”
She flicked her hand in a friendly gesture and I simply stared, because no, I did not know this bouncy red-haired girl at all.
“It doesn’t change anything, you know, Ruby, you can still hang around with us. The gang doesn’t discriminate, mortals are welcome.”
“Oh…kaay…” I said slowly, drawing the word out. “Sure. But I have some friends who I came in with… Willow and Meena -”
“Oh, Meena Azura? Yeah, I know her. She’s hung out with us a couple of times. That Willow, too, though she doesn’t hang around with anyone much. She’d be welcome, y’know, but if she wants to keep to herself…”
She had been studying my face and hair thoughtfully.
“You know, if my name was Ruby, I’d have dyed my hair red a long time ago,” she said brightly. “But I’m the redhead in this circle, so I guess purple would suit you more. Wanna try it sometime?”
“Um…well…” I stuttered again, completely overwhelmed. I realised the noise had dropped several decibels, and realised the skateboarders were all jumping off the ramp and gathering next to it.
“Hey, awesome, it’s time!” Charlotte grinned, pulling me to my feet so we could go over. Her smile revealed unnaturally sharp canines, although they weren’t quite fangs. That and her chalky pallor told me she was a vampire, as well as her cold and iron-like grip. Before I could ask what exactly it was time for, she answered the question.
“Every Friday, someone always has to do the Spin,” she explained. She saw the look return to my face and said, “Just watch.”
I followed the direction of everyone else’s gazes, to the right top of the ramp. There was a guy up there, wearing a black leather trench coat even though it was warm in the warehouse, and a black helmet with a tinted visor, sat astride a snarling silver and black Harley motorbike.