I heard a rustling, and that must’ve been what awoke me from my sleep. The clock on the nightstand said it was only two in the afternoon, so I couldn’t imagine that anyone would be awake. I hadn’t gone to bed until seven in the morning, and Jack had still been awake playing Xbox.
I rolled back over, burying myself in the thick blankets of Jack’s bed.
When I heard the rustling again, I barely stirred, and decided that it must be the dog. I had overtaken Jack’s room, and it led to some confusion with Matilda. She usually slept at the end of his bed, but he was sleeping on the couch. She couldn’t decide if her loyalties lied more with him or the bed.
“Go to sleep, Matilda,” I muttered.
I was awake enough where I felt the movement. It wasn’t actually a rustling that had woken me, because the motion was nearly soundless. But there was something – almost like an electric breeze – moving about the room.
Someone was in the room with me. There was silence and a shadowy presence that I couldn’t explain.
“Matilda?” I whispered.
By now, I knew it wasn’t her, but I wanted to play along. My heart raced, but I wasn’t sure if Jack would notice that if he were asleep.
I sat up, my eyes searching the darkness. I hoped to see her massive white shape lurking somewhere, but the night light from the bathroom cast little light. Then I saw a glimpse of a shadow rush in front of it.
Before I could yell, the bed moved, and whoever it was had gotten on the bed with me. I could scream, but by the time anyone heard, it would be too late for them to do anything. So I sat in the darkness and waited for whatever came next.
- 6 -
“Jeez, Alice, settle down,” a voice chuckled in the dark, only a few inches from my face. “You’re gonna give yourself a heart attack.”
“What? Who’s there?” I asked, my words shaking. The voice sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it.
“Shame on you,” he said with a mock disapproval. “You don’t even recognize your own brother?”
“Milo?” I scrambled to turn on the bedside lamp.
I gasped as soon as I saw him. He looked like my brother but not. The baby fat had been chiseled away to cheek bones and a strong jaw. His skin had never been scarred by acne, but it appeared even smoother and more flawless.
The change aged him, but in a good way. He no longer looked like a boy teetering on puberty but rather a young man in his late teens. His brown eyes had gotten more amazing, but his crooked, unsure grin remained the same.
“Milo?” I repeated, struggling to grasp that my little brother had become this rather stunning creature before me.
“The one and only.” His voice still sounded much like his own, but it was deeper and more velvet. It lacked the squeaky insecure quality that had once been so distinctly him.
Without thinking, I reached out and touched his face. His skin felt soft and temperate, but before I could register anything more, something flicked across his face. He jumped back from my touch.
“What? Did I do something?” I asked, pulling my hand back.
“I’m just not strong enough yet.” Milo backed closer to the wall but stayed in my room, bathed in the soft lamp glow.
“For what?” I asked.
“You’re the first… human I’ve been around.” His face contorted, looking confused and torn. “I could smell you when I was in my room, and I thought I had a handle on it. But I wasn’t prepared for how your pulse would feel on my skin…” Guilt flashed across his face at finding me appetizing.
“I’m sorry. I should’ve known better. I’m always doing the same things to Jack, and you think I would’ve learned by now.” I forced a smile at him, but his expression only got more sour. “What?”
“So… you know?” Milo asked quietly.
“You mean… that they’re vampires?”
“I knew that you had to.” He stared past me into the darkness. “As soon as I could understand what was happening, and Mae explained it to me… She told me that you knew, and I knew you had to. But, I guess I didn’t really believe it until I heard you say it.”
“Why wouldn’t you believe it?” I furrowed my brow. If he could believe that he was becoming a vampire, how would it be a stretch to believe that I had known about them?
“How could you not tell me about this?” Milo sounded so angry and hurt, and I flinched.
I remembered what Jack had said. When vampires first turn, all their emotions are right at the surface. Everything is so much more intense, making it harder to control. Self-control had always been Milo’s strong suit, but that’s how he could be in the same room with me so soon.
“I-I didn’t know how to tell you,” I stuttered. “I even tried to once. But you would’ve just thought I was crazy.”
“You should’ve tried harder!” Milo snapped.
I stared at my brother, at the new exquisite contours of his face. I felt an immense sense of relief and love, but I had this feeling that I didn’t really recognize the boy glowering at me from the shadows of the room.
I imagined this was how the dad felt when that creepy little boy came back from the Pet Semetary. That thought was followed by the thick Maine drawl saying, “Sometimes, dead is better.” I stifled the chill running over me.
“I’m sorry, Milo. You’re right. And it was so hard keeping this from you. I just…” I sighed and shook my head. “It was a hard decision. Just like this one.”
“What one?” His eyes flashed with confusion, and I wondered how much Mae had told him.
“The one… to turn you” I swallowed hard and studied his face for his reaction. His eyes dropped from mine, and he softened. “Did they tell you what happened?”
“Jack did,” Milo nodded. “He said it was his fault, and I was dying. So you asked him to turn me. To save me.”
“I didn’t know what else to do.”
“I’m not angry with you,” Milo absolved me. “I’m sure I would’ve done the same thing in your situation.”
He shifted against the wall, and I noticed for the first time the way his clothes fit against his body. In that simple movement, I saw the way the muscles moved subtly underneath his shirt. Soft would be a good way to describe him before, but now he looked like a jungle cat recoiled before an attack.
To know something is entirely different from seeing it so blatantly in front of me. Everything about him had changed, and only time would tell how much of him was still my brother.