I parked my car in front of the old brown-bricked building and took my keys out of the ignition. I shoved the visor out of my face and glanced up at the library. A lock of my hair fell in front of my eyes, and I brushed it out of my face. Even in the fading afternoon light, the red of it seemed to glow. I grabbed my backpack from the passenger seat and got out of the car.
The library was nearly deserted when I walked in. I felt the tension ease from my shoulders as I looked around, taking in the shelves crammed full of books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines.
“Lila! Over here!” I turned and grinned as I saw a tiny person, a book in her lap, curled up on the window seat to the left of the doors. I hurried over.
“Are you trying to get us kicked out?” I asked her as I slid onto the opposite side of the seat, my feet bumping hers as I settled in.
She rolled her eyes. “No, but you weren’t paying attention, and I wanted you to get over here.”
I laughed. This was Claire, aka, my best friend for the past twelve years of my life. We met in first grade, when a boy had pushed me over because he wanted the swing I was heading for. I had stared at him, shocked, unable to understand why he would act like that, when a little Chinese girl had come over and pushed him over, glaring. Then she looked at me and grinned. We had been nearly inseparable ever since.
Claire nudged my foot. “Why are you so late?” She asked. I glanced at my phone screen. It was nearly 5:30, over an hour later than we normally got here.
It was my turn to roll my eyes. “Ms. Teese. She wanted to know why I was doing so poorly in her class.” I unzipped my bag and pulled a 3-ring binder out of it. “I wish I could have told her that anyone who wasn’t gaga for government would be doing poorly, since she’s the worst teacher I’ve had in all of my four years of high school.”
Claire groaned. “She is horrid. I had her last year. She just left me more confused.”
I nodded. “Yeah, so I have to study. She said if I fail another test, she’s telling Mom.” I pulled my government book out of my backpack and flipped it open.
“I already finished my homework.” Claire grinned smugly and held up the book she was reading: Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi. “So I’m rewarding myself.”
“That’s a good book.” I clicked my pen and wrote the chapter title at the top of my notepaper. “The ending was kind of anti-climactic, though.”
She shrugged. “Anything can beat the last book I read.” She shuddered dramatically.
I laughed again, and put in my headphone, turning on my instrumental station on Pandora before beginning my homework. Question: why do we have to do so much government? And I totally get that understanding the Constitution and the way our government works is important, but let me be petty. I don’t enjoy it, and I always hated doing the work. It made no sense whatsoever! Okay, mini rant over. I always just told myself that the more we knew and understood the government, the more we should be able to keep those politicians in line by knowing the rules they wanted to brush past. Which didn’t help. At all.
I was so caught up in my work, curled up in the windowseat, my textbook balanced on my knees, and my pen scribbling notes hurriedly across the page as I tried to figure out what had happened in the legal case we were studying, page after page of messy notes filling notebook, none of which made the least bit of sense to me, I lost track of time. I, for once, didn’t pause to watch the golden-orange sun sink down behind the horizon. Well, behind the houses. There were a lot of houses. I also didn’t look up to watch the people coming and going around me.
Suddenly, my earbuds were ripped from my ears. I squawked and looked up to see Claire leaning across the window seat, glaring at me. “What?” I asked, grabbing my earbuds back from her and pausing the song on my phone. She’d obviously been trying to get my attention for a while.
“I’m starving. Let’s go get the foods.”
I glanced at my phone screen. Oh. It had been almost three hours. I packed up my stuff, and followed Claire towards the door. As I walked, I happened to glance over at the “new” shelf. A large book, with a picture of a dark-haired young man with his arms around a blindfolded girl with the same color hair, her hands clasped around his arm caught my attention. The title Vampireology: The True History of the Fallen, made my lips quirk up in a smirk. Really? Another book that claimed to have the true story behind vampires? I grabbed the book and half skipped over towards the self-checkout station.
Claire was waiting outside for me, bouncing up and down, her hands curled up in the sleeves of her sweater. “Another vampire history book?” She asked, rolling her eyes at Vampireology.
I shrugged. “It looked interesting.” I told her simply. Then i nodded to our cars, sitting side by side. “Your car or mine?” I shivered in the cool evening air.
“Yours. My heater broke again.”
I tossed my backpack in the back seat and started the car. Claire instantly pressed the seat heater buttons for both of us. “Where to?” I asked.
“I’m kind of craving Sonic.” She shrugged.
“Gross, but okay.” There was a Sonic just down the road, so it only took a few minutes to get there. We ordered and sat in a comfortable silence. We always sat like this after an afternoon at the library study or just reading. We both liked to process what we’d read before chatting.
When the carhop appeared, I took the food and handed it out. “Two mini shakes, my fries, and your chicken sandwich and mozzarella sticks.” I passed the food over and rolled up my window.
“Why can’t Sonic sell warm drinks?” Claire whined, taking a sip of her shake. “Like even hot chocolate would be better than nothing.”
“They sell coffee.” I pointed out.
“It takes like crap.” She held out her cherry towards me. “Cherry?”
I bit the cherry off the stem and offered her mine. We’d been doing this for years. The first few times, we made jokes about “popping the cherry” and laughed our butts off, now it was just a thing that reminded us of how long we’d been friends, and how we knew just about everything about each other. It was comfortable; we never felt like we had to talk, we just enjoyed being together.
“Oh, so I finally watched the City of Bones movie.” Claire took a bite of her mozzarella stick and yelped as a bit of stringy cheese smacked her chin.
“And?” I asked when she didn’t continue.
She took a sip of her shake and shrugged. “Alec, Izzy, and Magnus were ruined, Clary was okay, and Jace was beautiful.” She took a bite of her sandwich. “But I was really disappointed in the vampires. They were so ugly!”
I nodded. “Yeah, they really screwed up the story and most of the characters, but do you see why I love Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace now?”
“Yes!” She put her hand over her heart and looked up theatrically. “Jace Wayland will be my fictional husband.”
I rolled my eyes. “Fine. I still get Will Herondale.”
She opened her mouth to reply, but my phone went off, the shrill ringtone making me flinch. Mom’s ringtone. I’d made it super obnoxious and loud so I wouldn’t miss it easily. I grabbed the phone and hit answer. “Hey Mom.” Claire made faces at me, trying to make me laugh. I stuck my tongue out at her.
“Hey Lila.” Mom sounded tired. “I know you’re out with Claire, but can you come home?”
“Yeah, of course. What’s up?” I glared at Claire as she made a fish face at me.
Mom’s sigh sounded like it came from the tips of her toes. “Nothing major, I’ve just been called into work. I need to be there soon, and I didn’t want to leave Jarod unsupervised.”
I nodded before remembering that she couldn’t see me. “Okay, I’ll be home soon.”
“Thanks, baby. Love you.”
“Love you too.” I hung up and turned to Claire. “Mom got called into work again. I gotta go.”
She sighed. “And here I thought I’d get you all to myself for an entire evening.”
“Sorry.” I started the car and shoved three fries in my mouth. “She doesn’t want to leave Jarod home alone.”
“Completely understandable.” Claire put her feet up on the dash, leaning her seat back. “Crazy pothead.”
That just about summed my brother up. Two years younger than me, Jarod was the problem child. He was constantly getting into trouble; once or twice, with the police themselves. Mom rarely left him home alone, because he’d sneak out and get wasted. I sometimes wondered if we should cuff him to his bed so he wouldn’t leave the house at night. But I’m fairly certain that’s considered child abuse. What if I did it? I think that would just be considered a sibling prank?
I pulled up at the library again, and parked next to Claire’s car. I smiled at my best friend. “I’ll see you tomorrow in class.”
She leaned across the center console and hugged me quickly. “Bye, bestie. Love ya.”
“Bye.” She got out and jerked at her car’s door handle. She swore and fumbled in her purse for her keys, eventually finding them and unlocking her car. She hopped in, waved, and pulled out, bouncing up and down in the seat trying to get warm. My cold-blooded friend.
I grinned and got out of the car, moving to the back to grab my backpack and move it to the front seat. It was too heavy to just lean over the seat to grab.
As I closed the back door to the car, I glanced up at the sky. The sun had set a while ago, and I could see glimpses of the stars between the clouds. It was pretty, but too cold for me to stay out there. I climbed into the car, my leg hanging down as I heaved the backpack across the car and into the passenger seat.
Just as I reached for the car door to pull it shut, a hand grabbed me, and jerked me out of the car. I shrieked, but another hand covered my mouth. I bit the hand hard, and the coppery taste of blood filled my mouth. I thrashed as I was pulled away from my still-running car, and held against a hard body.
I tried to jerk free, but whoever was holding me was too strong. I thrashed and fought. “Stop it.” A voice hissed in my ear. Definitely male. “You’ll just make this harder on yourself.” I frantically to remember everything I’d learned in that mandatory self-defense class at my summer job last year. What was I supposed to do? Oh! Right! I slammed my heel down on his instep.
He hissed, then laughed. He freaking laughed! My heart was hammering so hard I’m surprised it didn’t burst out of my chest. What kind of psycho was I being attacked by?
He pulled my head back so it was resting against his shoulder, his hand still over my mouth. I continued to thrash, my nails scraping against the leather jacket he was wearing. He lowered his mouth to my neck. I screamed again. Oh my God. He was going to--
He bit me.
I gasped in pain against his hand, and tried to reach back to claw his eyes out. He didn’t budge. I began to feel weaker, and the pain in my neck grew.
Oh. My. God. He was drinking my blood?! What?! My brain couldn’t process that, and I feebly tried to push him away, grabbing his hair and jerking hard, clumps of hair coming away in my hands.
My body grew cold, and I couldn’t support myself anymore. I collapsed in his arms, but he easily held me up. My arms lost their grip on his hair, and I dimly realized that my heart rate was slowing too. My mind was full of questions, going around and around in my heart, slower, then slower, and more and more jumbled. What was going on? Why is this happening? Mom! What would happen when I didn’t come home?
Suddenly, over the roaring in my ears, I heard another voice. It spoke sharply, and the person holding me raised his head. I felt his breath against my hair, and shuddered involuntarily. My attacker replied softly to the intruder, and I noted idly that he seemed to be speaking a strange language I didn’t know.
Then my attacker jerked to the side, pulling me with him as if he were dodging something. I flopped weakly against his grip, and a moment later, he dropped me carelessly.
I hadn’t even realized I was falling when my head struck the ground, and I fell into unconsciousness.