Clara and I got back around five that evening. Few people were out on the streets, as most of them had retreated to their homes for dinner and to settle down for the night. At this point, I felt such a wave of exhaustion I could barely keep my footing, as Clara and I walked past the small houses, in the direction of the council building.
"I really hope our conversation earlier hasn't affected you in too much...in a negative way..." Clara said, as we stopped by the council building, "You'll understand everything soon enough. Now, you need to get home and get some rest; you look ready to collapse where you stand!"
I nodded, too tired to form the words to reply. Clara turned and headed inside, as I continued down the narrow path, toward my cottage. It wasn't even late, but I felt as if I'd been up all night with no sleep. I got to my door and pushed it open, welcoming the peaceful silence, as I slowly walked to my bedroom, carrying my bag of things I had bought while out for the day.
When I reached my bed, I fell on top of the blankets, fully dressed. I was completely asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow. The dreams came back to me again that night, only they were different, this time. My dreams consisted of vampires attacking everyone I loved, of having to go after them myself and, like always, of losing Adam.
I woke up with tears streaming down my face, a sob of pure heartache escaping my chest. It took me a minute to register that, first, it had all been another nightmare and, two, that someone was holding me, stroking my hair and speaking to me, trying to comfort me. As soon as I realized this, I stifled one last hiccup and sat up, looking at whoever was in my room. When I saw his face, I realized I should have suspected- it was Max.
"I'm right here,"
"W-why are you h-here? It's the middle of the night..."
"It's only eight o'clock. I talked to Clara and she said you might need someone to talk to about today, so I stopped by. I knocked, because I know you don't like people just walking in, but you didn't answer, so I let myself in. I heard you crying, so I walked up to see what was wrong. That's when I realized you were asleep, I figured you shouldn't be alone like that whether you were awake or not, so I stayed."
I rested my head on his shoulder, realizing his arm was still around my shoulders in a comforting manner. I sighed and wiped away the last of the tears, "The nightmares are getting worse."
"I'm here if you need to talk about anything."
As Max sat by my side, I felt myself calming down, the fear from this most recent nightmare was dissipating a bit, "You know... Adam was my best friend..."
"Yeah, I can tell. What was he like?"
I closed my eyes in order to think of Adam how he used to be, instead of just the memories of the nightmares I'd had since his death, "He was... hard to describe. You would have liked him, I think. You actually kind of remind me of him sometimes..."
"Was he anything like you?"
"Well, yeah. We were twins. We were so much alike. He was my other half. Don't think of that in a bad way either."
Max chuckled at my attempted joke, "I think I can understand that."
"You don't have siblings, do you?"
"No, but to lose someone you see as your other half... That's the part I can understand... Haley was mine..."
Realizing he was about to tell me about the girl who broke his heart, I sat up in my bed, trying to untangle myself from my sheets. I looked cautiously into his eyes, hoping my sudden movement hadn't swayed him away from telling me.
He sighed and adjusted his arm, leaving it around my shoulder but switching from a protective, comforting position to one that was more relaxed, as if he were getting ready to tell a long story, "I met Haley, when I was seven-years-old. We were in the first grade together. By that time, I was pretty much fending for myself at home... She became my best friend. After school, I would go over to her house for a while and we would hang out; that was where I learned what it was like to be with people who cared about me... What a real family should be like.
"Haley and I grew closer, told each other everything and spent every waking moment with each other, when we could. Her house became my haven... The one place I felt safe and welcome. Her mother became family to me, her father even liked me, when he was around, because I would help him do work around the house.
"In the seventh grade, I got the nerve to ask Haley out. To my surprise, she said yes... She told me she'd liked me for years. I'd felt the same but had never wanted to jeopardize our friendship to take the next step. From that point on, we fell in love. She became so much more than my best friend. She was everything to me... a best friend, someone I could trust with everything, someone I could talk to, someone who trusted me, and now she was my girl. I couldn't have asked for more.
"When we got into high school, Haley became one of the popular girls. She was a cheerleader for the football team, class president, one of the top students in our class. I felt a little shadowed by her, but she never wavered with her love, so I didn't question her. I went out for the football team, just so I could see her during practices. I didn't actually think I'd make it, but I did.
"Haley wasn't as thrilled I'd gone out for the team as I'd hoped. This was our Junior year; she had been spending a lot of time with her cheering and prom committee and hadn't had a lot of time for the two of us. I thought she might like it if we could see each other during practices, but she got really upset."
I listened intently, as Max talked about this girl. It was clear he was in love with her. He was being so honest with me, I felt as if I could have felt his love for her through his voice. I kept my mouth shut, with no desire to interrupt.
"When I told her that I had made the team, she gave me the cold shoulder for a whole day. I wasn't sure what I'd done to deserve her treatment, but I didn't go after the subject- I figured she just needed her space, so I backed off. The next day, she came up to me after school, hugged me and gave me a kiss that told me everything was just fine between us.
"Later that afternoon, I was at her house, like usual... she decided it was time. She wanted to have sex for the first time. It was totally unexpected for me, so I automatically pushed her away. I told her we should get protection first, you know? She wouldn't have it. She got pissed, throwing the worst tantrum I'd ever seen her in. I didn't know what was wrong with her. I'd been with her for over four years, known her most of my life, and I had never seen her acting that way.
"I tried to figure it out, why she had flipped so bad, but she wouldn't tell me. A week went by and she asserted that it was PMS. She apparently hadn't realized it at the time- obviously, I didn't believe a word of that. One day I was walking down the hallway, to meet her between classes; I had bought her a small bouquet of roses and planned to give them to her, hoping she would go back to normal.
"That's when I saw them, leaning up against her locker. Haley was standing there with Drew, the quarterback of the football team. He kissed her just before they realized I was standing there. I think to this day he knew I was there. That's why he chose that moment to act. She freaked, saying it was an accident, that there was nothing between her and Drew...."
Thinking I wasn't going to get any more of the story out of him, I quietly said, "I'm so sorry, Max, I had no idea..."
He shook his head slightly, "No, That hurt me, but it didn't crush me as bad as you might think. I had bought her a ring; I planned to propose to her at the Junior Prom. I wasn't going to dump her over something like that. I felt that, because we had been through so much together, we could work it out. It turned out, she had been cheating on me with Drew since our Sophomore year. She swore she'd never veer away from us again, as long as I didn't leave her. So deeply in love, I forgave her on the spot.
"The night of Prom, Haley looked... There are no words to explain how beautiful she was to me. We went out in the limo I had rented, ate an expensive dinner, and then went to the dance. When we got there, Drew was drunk, he was all over her, telling her he wanted her there and then. She pushed him away and walked with me to our table. I felt satisfied she had pushed him away and chosen to be with me in front of him. We talked with friends, danced, and had a great time.
"Later that night, we decided to go early. We got back to the limo and who was there? None other than the douche bag Drew. He was holding a water bottle filled with clear liquid, quite obviously not water. He reeked of alcohol and stumbled over to us. There were a few people around, but I was ready for a fight. He just wouldn't get the hint. I opened the limo door and told Haley to stay there. I led Drew out back of the building, where there was very little light and nobody else seemed to be around. He started laughing and said 'I didn't know you was gay, man. No wonder Haley ditched you for me. Shoulda know'd it though. You ain't man enough for her. I would know.'
"It pushed me over the edge. I attacked him. He slammed his water bottle into the side of my head, making me see stars for a second. I hadn't thought of the fact that a glass bottle wielded by a foe can be very harmful... That's when I lost it though. I pulled my knife out of my pocket and jabbed at him with it, the blade dug into his skin, but it didn't do any major damage. He kept coming forward, looking completely crazed.
"That's when it came out of the shadows at us. It took Drew first, seeing him as the weaker target in his drunken state. I stood there, frozen to the spot, for a good three minutes. The creature grabbed him, slammed him to the ground, then knelt over him, lowering its face toward his throat, as if to kiss him. I didn't know what to do, didn't know what was really happening. Then it bit into his neck. I can still hear his bloodcurdling scream of agony, as the thing drank his blood.
"Finally, I got the sense to run away from that place. I ran back to the limo, where Haley was supposed to be waiting for me, only she didn't respond, when I called her name. I reached the door and opened it, to see if she might be hiding in there. What I saw shattered my heart and soul for life. I'll never get rid of the image of Haley, lying there in the back of that limo, blood drained and spattered across her Prom dress. Her life was gone..."
Without realizing it, my hand had found its way to Max's face. He had looked away from me while telling his story, so I turned it, so he was facing me once again, "That's why you're so into this society... To avenge Haley..."
He nodded, "I can't bring her back, but I can kill those bastards who took her out of my life."
Suddenly, a realization hit me, "Max... I have to ask you something."
"What is it?"
"The men who killed Adam and my parents... were they vampires?"
"The vampires are their minions. These men are worse... "
I struggled to find speech for a moment, but gave up, realizing there was nothing that could possibly say what I was feeling.
Max turned me, so I was facing him, "Now, you know about Haley... You know why I'm here. It seems to me as if our goals are matched. We want the same thing."
I nodded and found myself suddenly crying my eyes out. Sobs wracked my body and I couldn't control it. Max held me again, as I cried myself to sleep. I felt as if I had lost Adam all over again, upon learning how he had been killed and not knowing why. The only thing I was aware of, before I finally drifted into unconsciousness, was that I was going to get revenge for my family.