I woke to the sound of a bell ringing in the distance. I lay still feeling as if I had been run over by a big-rig truck. My muscles screamed their displeasure with me as I tried to pull myself up into a sitting position. I sat still waiting for the little black spots to stop dancing across my vision. I glanced around and took in my surroundings. I was in a room that was painted in a forest scene. A dim yellow light glowed above the soft bed I was laying on. There were two doors to my right and directly in front of me. I slowly forced myself to stand up and walk to the first door. My memory was a fuzzy haze but I figured I would sort that out after I found a bathroom. I opened the door in front of me and luckily found the bathroom. I left the door open just in case I did something embarrassing like falling or passing out. My stomach was lurching violently by the time I made it to the toilet and sweat beads streaked down my face. I washed my hands and steeled myself for the trip back to the bed. I made it about halfway to the bed when one of the doors on the far wall opened and a teenage boy walked in.
He stared at me with amusement in his eyes. He looked me over from head to foot as if I were piece of meat. I cocked my eyebrow at him when he finally met my eyes, "See something you like?"
He broke out in a deep laugh that filled the room, "Standing there half-naked and you still have spunk. I'm going to like working with you. Let me help you back to bed."
My cheeks turned pink as I realized he was right I had no pants on. I was wearing my bathing suit top with no bottoms. 'What in the hell happened to me?' I thought to myself.
My memory came flooding back to me all at once. I remembered the fight with my Aunt, being locked in my room, escaping with Stephen, going to the river, the bet, and my intended rape. Rage began to trickle through me.
"I don't need help to bed. I need pants and a ride. I'm going to kill that spoiled son of a..."
"Now lass, calm yerself. Yer turnin' a shade red that does not suit ye well. Ye'd better at least sit on the bed before ye fall. Daemon run and fetch her a pair of gym pants," a new voice said in a calm commanding tone.
Since I was shaking I conceded to the advice the new comer had given me. I also wanted to cover myself before anyone else came in and saw me standing in only a tankini bathing suit top. Once I plopped onto the bed and covered up the new comer came and sat in a rocking chair near my side.
"Well lassie, I guess by the way ye are talkin' ye remember what happened. Aye?"
I took a moment to really look at the man beside me. It was evident by his tan wrinkly skin he was outside a lot. His green eyes were warm but held a hint of seriousness in there depths. His black hair fell down to his shoulders but was tied back with a leather cord. I would guess he was close to six foot two or so from his approach to the chair.
"The last thing I remember I passed out under a ring of holly bushes," I said fighting not to let my voice waiver. A million thoughts flew through my mind. 'Did Stephen find me after I passed out? Who were these people? Where am I? How did I come to be here?'
At that moment, Daemon walked in. He grinned impishly at me as he deposited an armful of clothes next to me, "Got you a whole outfit. Had to guess on sizes but I bet I'm close. Nurse'll be down in a minute."
He moved to stand next to the older man who was getting out of the rocker. "Best we give the lass a minute to get dressed Daemon. Come outside until she calls for us."
As soon as the door shut, I got to my feet and slowly pulled my legs up to the side of the bed. I pulled on the new pair of underwear that was delivered to me followed by the grey sweatpants. The door cracked opened and a woman old enough to be my mother stepped inside.
She was smiling warmly as she approached me. "Here dear let me help. I can see you're in pain. You gave me a fright when Daemon came running in here with you unconscious in his arms," she said warmly. She talked to me with a smile on her face the entire time she helped me. She gently pulled my tankini top over my head and slipped on a white sports bra. "All the clothes are new. So don't you worry about that. We keep a steady supply here in the infirmary. I deal with plenty of injuries that require fresh clothes when we are done fixing them. I don't have real shoes though I sent Daemon with a pair of the black flip flops. We normally use them when we help patients shower. They should do until your stuff arrives. Oh silly me I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Elisheba. You can call me Nurse Eli."
She pulled the white t-shirt over my head and picked up a brush. Gently she brushed out my hair and began to work it into a ponytail. I looked over my new outfit and was surprised to find it fit me comfortably. The pants were a little baggy and had the words St. Mary’s Academy written in sparkling pink glitter. The white t-shirt I wore also had the same logo on the right hand side. ‘Well, I guess I know where I am now. And what did she mean by when my stuff gets here.'
“Okay Master Douglas you can enter. She’s dressed. No fever, blood pressure normal, more steady on your feet. I’d say you are going to be just fine dear. Might let her try some food on her stomach. She has been out for about twelve hours. I’m sure she’s hungry. Go ahead you take her over to get some food. If she relapses bring her back immediately,” Nurse Elisheba ordered in a stern voice that brooked no non-sense.
“Aye, of course Elisa. Thank ye fer yer help,” the older man said ushering us out of the room.
We walked down a long hallway before coming to a “T”. We went left walking about half a football field before a large wooden door loomed before us. Daemon pushed the door open with ease and we spilled out into the late night air. I stopped a short distance from the building we had just departed and looked around. We were standing in a large open courtyard. On each side of me loomed large buildings. We walked down a wide open walkway that went under a covered bridge that linked two buildings together.
“That’s how the youngest children get to their classes,” Daemon said pointing from the smaller building to the bridge that linked it to a much larger building. “Most of their classes will be taught in classrooms that are closest to the airway. In their dorm building they have their own dining facility. Their dining area is in the bottom. Sibling groups can go there and eat together. Of course the younger kids get passes to come out but the Keepers are very particular about monitoring their whereabouts. This set-up minimizes them having to go out in the snow or how far they can wander before someone is looking for them.”
We continued on down the path which whirled through a small park area. I noted there was a massive church off to my left and another large building that was easily three stories tall beside it.
Again Daemon inclined his head to the direction I was looking and informed me, “The big one with the cross is obviously the church. It will hold all of campus though it would be extremely crowded if need be. The big building next to it is the library on the top three stories. The basement contains a large computer lab and a records room.”
The trek continued and I began to wonder if we had taken the long way around campus. It seemed like a very far walk for food and I was ready to burst with my questions. I noticed several more interesting buildings but before I could ask about them we arrived at a large one and a half story building. We walked into the building and were immediately greeted by the smell of food drifting through the air. My stomach gurgled loudly making me realize just how hungry I was. I was fairly surprised by the amount of people who were sitting in the cafeteria eating. I shook my head as I was lead through a maze of tables. “If this is a cafeteria it makes my school’s cafeteria look a fast food place.’ A few people called out to Daemon and Douglas but they just nodded their hello and continued. We went through a small door at the back of the cafeteria and the atmosphere improved dramatically. The vinyl booths and tables with chairs gave way to more elegant tables draped with linen table clothes. The lighting was dim in the room and the tables were set into sections. Douglas walked over to a corner booth and motioned for me to slide in. I complied hurriedly nearly bursting forth with all my questions.
A woman appeared at our table eyeing me curiously, “Hello, Master Douglas, Daemon, Ma’am. Your guest should be along shortly. What can I get for you in the meantime?”
“Coffee for me,” Douglas said firmly. “I am on school business still.”
“I’ll take a coke and a plate of bacon cheese fries to share with my friend here. Do you like pizza? They have good sausage pizza here,” Daemon asked looking at me inquisitively. I nodded my head and the woman wrote down the order.
“What do you want to drink,” she asked me still writing on her pad.
“A coke please,” I said. She snapped her pad shut and walked off without any further prompting.
I waited just long enough for her to be out of earshot before I turned to Douglas, “Ok enough with the dramatic pause. What in the world has happened to me? Last thing I know I was almost raped, swam a distance I didn’t even know I was capable of, hid under some holly bushes and then woke up here. The nurse was very nice but a bit chatty and said my stuff is on my way here. Who does she think I am and where is here? And how did I end up here?”
I must have paled a bit because I could see a hint of concern in Douglas’ eye but as quick as it came it vanished. “We’ll answer part of yer questions now. But some our guest’ll answer when he arrives. Now as to the how ye ended here simple. Daemon and I brought ye here. We arrived too late to help ye with the arse ye were at the river with. Ye see ye had already gotten into the water and was swimmin’ into the current. So after we had a small chat with yer friend we tracked ye downstream. Ye had passed out under the holly bush when we found ye. It made sense at the time to just bring ye here.”
I tried to digest this information but just ended up with more questions. “And where is here exactly? Does my Aunt know where I am? I hate when she shows up over dramatic or has the cops haul me back to her mansion.”
Daemon laughed but he fielded my next set of questions, “You’re at St. Mary’s School for the gifted. We are located outside the city limits of Clarksville, TN. Located almost on the Kentucky/Tennessee border. Yes, your Aunt knows you’re here too. She is pissed like no other but she can’t do a thing about it.”
Our drinks arrived at the table and the waitress set down an extra drink across from me. The drink was served in a black martini glass which meant our guest was a vampire. That’s right a vampire back in the 1990’s the vampires came out of the closet so to speak. The Federal Government gave them legal citizenship in the 28th amendment. Generally, in most establishments to save us mere mortals from our fragile mind boggling hang-ups vampires generally drink synthetic blood out of black glasses. Some restaurants for the sake of anonymity served all patrons out of black glasses. “Your guest has just arrived. He will be with you in just a moment,” she said before she quietly disappeared.
A man approached our table dressed in a black suit, white shirt and hot pink tie. I recognized Mr. Perrish immediately. I stood up with Daemon and Douglas to shake his hand and make the necessary pleasantries.
“Good to see you Master Douglas! Hello Daemon you look well much better than the last time I saw you. Ah, Miss VanderStoel, I trust I am finding you well. May I say you look quite lovely even with the unfortunate incident that occurred earlier this morning. Now shall we get down to business,” Mr. Perrish said greeting me last.
“Now Ms. VanderStoel, as your parents lawyer I am required to follow the instructions they left for me in case they could not be with us at certain mile stones in your life. I know you adapt well to these instructions. As a dhampir, at the age of 16 your mother and father instructed that you would be removed from your Aunts care and placed into Saint Mary’s School for the Gifted. Here you will receive training that you will require to become a productive member of dhampir society. You are to receive a private room here, a stipend will be provided monthly for your expense. Should you exceed your monthly stipend Master Douglas will need to inform me so we can make the necessary arrangements. Your stipend will be this much each month,” he said matter-of-factly passing me a white square of paper. I opened the paper and gasped. “If that is too low we may adjust it within reason of course.”
“Too low hell! What am I going to do with three thousand dollars a month,” I exclaimed in an excited tone.
He arched an eyebrow at me and asked precariously, “what have you done with that money every other month since your parents passed? Your Aunt seemed to insist you had very lavish tastes. I was very surprised when she said you had only packed two bags for this move. I thought you wanted to start over with new things.”
I scoffed, “To have new things you have to have old things first. I probably only had two bags that she packed because it is all I own.”
“I see. I will be going back to your Aunt’s then to collect restitutions she surely owes you then. In not allowing you access to your accounts she has violated her contract. How very disappointing. Your parents would not be pleased. Now, if you notice anything is missing from your belongings that I had delivered to your room you will notify Master Douglas at once. I do not care if it is as petty as a hairbrush. I want all your belongings accounted for. Any questions for me,” he asked pausing to take another sip of his glass.
I thought for just a second and nodded my head, “Uhuh, just one little question. You mentioned a word I have not heard before… umm.. d.d.dham.”
“Dhampir,” he said the word for me.
“Yes that’s it. What is a dhampir? And why must I join Dhampir society?”
“Oh my. I see I thought surely living in a dhampir household you would know such things. A dhampir, my dear is the product of a vampire and a human or dhampir having a baby,” he began.
I couldn’t help myself, “You mean vampires and humans can have babies?”
He shook his head at me and tsked me, “tsk… tsk… of course they can. Not all humans get pregnant with vampires of course. However, several hundred years ago it was frowned on to continue this practice so now it is more common for vampires and dhampirs to mate and have babies. Are you understanding me so far?” I nodded my head. “As to why you are joining dhampir society that is far easier. Your family has had dhampir blood ties for generations though I will admit not in the last sixty years with the exception of your mother. Your grandmother never told your grandfather she was dhampir. Your mother fell in love with your father and he was a vampire. They conceived you about six years after being married. Again I find I am surprised your Aunt Claudia never mentioned this to you. She is after all a dhampir too. You at least should have seen signs that you were not like the humans. I bet when you get hurt you may have been told before that you are a fast healer or that you hardly ever get sick. You may have noticed some of your senses are better than an average human’s senses. Most dhampirs excel at physical activities such as sports. Many dhampirs bodies are built slightly different than humans as well. However it is such a subtle difference humans cannot see it. Your parents picked the age of sixteen to attend St. Mary’s because generally that is the age at which many dhampirs feel their children have been exposed to the human world and look old enough to start the training needed to be successful. It is also near the age at which most dhampirs have dormant abilities that begin to show themselves. It would be careless to leave them among humans before we teach them how to use their powers responsibly.”
I just shook my head and shrugged. This was a lot to absorb. I just went from being a regular average girl to a sixteen year old dhampir in just a few minutes. I thought I might be ill. Someone pressed a glass into my hand and coaxed me to drink the contents. I up ended the glass without thinking twice. I sputtered as the alcohol burned my throat on the way down. I drank my coke fast trying to drown out the taste of the Jack Daniels.
“For the record I hate Jack Daniels,” I croaked as I took another drink of coke.
The food arrived and Mr. Perrish bid us farewell. “If you need anything at all Ms. VanderStoel just have Master Douglas get in touch with me. For the first month I will double your allowance so you may outfit your room and go shopping for some appropriate clothing. Good night Miss VanderStoel, Master Douglas, and you Daemon. Until we meet next time may you be eternally blessed.”
We sat down and without saying a word I dug into the food with a hearty appetite. I tried to drown out everyone and everything around me as I grappled with the information that had been just tossed at me. ‘So I am not just a human. Hmmm… that’s odd. I don’t feel any different. Half-vampire, half-human well I guess I am not really half and half. More like three-quarters vampire and one-quarter human. Well, at least something good happened for my birthday. I won’t have to see Aunt Claudia again for a while and I am getting an allowance. Oh yes, an allowance. Now how many ways can I spend this allowance…’
My thoughts were interrupted by Master Douglas, “Well the color is returnin’ to ye. Judgin’ by yer appetite I’d say yer recovered from yer shock. Aye?” I nodded my head as I shoveled in more pizza.
I swiftly nodded my head, “I think so. What kind of training was Mr. Perrish speaking of?”
“Dhampirs fill many jobs to keep the preternatural world running smoothly. You will begin training in several general courses like you do in human schools. However, here you will specialize in a particular path and will train extensively for that job,” Master Douglas said watching me closely.
I finished chewing my cheese stick before I asked, “Do we each pick our own path or are they chosen for us?”
“Both actually. Some dhampirs may choose their own. Others are called to certain specializations,” he replied. “Curfew is well past already. Come let me walk ye two back to the infirmary for the night. Daemon can show ye around in the morning and we will meet tomorrow again.”
We walked at a brisk pace through the starless night. A slight chill bit the air promising rain in the near future. I had to stretch my legs out to keep pace with Master Douglas and Daemon so I could not observe much. This time our walk seemed much shorter. I returned to my room to find all just as I had left it.
“I must be off now my shift will start soon. I will see ye two in the morning. Daemon’ll be sleeping in the room that shares a bathroom with ye for the night. Tomorrow we’ll see ye settled in properly,” Master Douglas said pushing Daemon through the bathroom door towards his own room. Once the door was shut he smiled at me and left.
I was tired and lay back in my soft bed. I lay my head on my pillow thinking about all the changes that had happened to me and trying to make sense of it. I felt like I had been thinking for hours when I drifted off to sleep.