Evernight Page 44

“Oh, no,” I whispered. I pressed my hands against the window so hard that I thought it would shatter—or I would—but Lucas never hesitated. He went straight toward a long black sedan with tinted windows. The sedan’s door opened, and I tried to get a look at who was inside, but I couldn’t see anyone. His stripped-down half of the room made sense to me now. I knew immediately that Lucas had left Evernight for Christmas break without saying good-bye and that he probably would never return.

“Whoa, the rooms are going coed? That’s made of awesome.” Vic came in behind me. I gave him a wan smile before turning back to watch Lucas’s car driving away. The car was speeding off as if they were in a hurry. “Good job sneaking in. You guys just said good-bye, huh?”

“Uh-huh.” What else could I say?

“Don’t get too depressed, all right?” Vic gave me a little punch on the shoulder. “Some guys know what to say to girls when they’re upset, but man, I’m not one of them.”

“I’m okay. Honestly.” I studied Vic carefully. He was the only person at school that Lucas might have shared his suspicions with. “Has Lucas seemed…okay to you?”

“He turned down my invitation to Jamaica.” Vic shrugged. “Something about getting together with family friends, but it didn’t sound like they were doing anything special. Wouldn’t you rather spend Christmas lying on the beach instead of hanging out with some old farts who know your mom?”

That wasn’t at all what I meant. Still, if that was the strangest behavior Vic could mention, probably Lucas had kept his thoughts about vampires to himself. Vic wasn’t the kind of guy who could bluff his way through something like that. With a sting, I realized that Vic was more honest than I was.

“Cheetos?” Vic offered me a half-empty, orange-powdery bag. I shook my head and tried very hard to pretend that I didn’t feel a whole lot like being sick. “He’s gonna regret it. Wait and see. Me and my family—we’re going to be having the time of our lives. And what’s he going to be doing? Minding his table manners somewhere.” Through a mouthful of Cheetos, Vic predicted, “It’s gonna be a long month.”

“Yeah,” I muttered. “It really is.”

I suppose most people would assume that vampires don’t really get into Christmas. Most people would be wrong.

The religious part was uncomfortable. Crosses didn’t set us on fire or turn us to smoke, like in horror movies, but being in a chapel or church felt all wrong—sort of a strange creepy-crawly sensation as if someone unseen were watching. So no midnight mass, no crèche, nothing like that. However, vampires like getting presents as much as anybody. Add some time off from school, and you’ve got a holiday even the undead can enjoy.

Most of the undead, anyway. I was more miserable that Christmas than I’d ever been before in my life.

The stifling atmosphere eased up when the other kids left, so that only the vampires remained behind. People stopped putting on so much attitude; nobody remained for them to pick on or impress. A few departed, including Patrice, who insisted that the skiing in Switzerland this time of year was not to be missed. The rest of us, teachers and students alike, remained at Evernight because it was our home, or as close to a home as some people had.

“We’re the exception, Bianca.” My mother hung holly garlands over our doorway as I stood beneath her, steadying the ladder. She and Dad had picked up on my black mood and were trying extra hard to get me into the holiday spirit. “We’re the only family at Evernight, do you realize that? None of the others here now have had a family since—well, since they were alive, I guess.”

“It’s just weird to me that they don’t have homes to go to.” I handed up a thumbtack for her to secure the garland in place. “We had a house. How do people get by without houses?”

“We had a house for sixteen years,” Dad corrected me from his place on the couch, where he was busily going through his old records, trying to find Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas. “That’s your whole life, but to your mother and me, it seems like—”

“The blink of an eye.” Mom sighed.

Dad smiled at her, and something about his smile reminded me that he was about six hundred years older than her—that even the centuries they’d spent together might be, to him, the blink of an eye. “There’s no such thing as permanence. People drift from place to place, getting lost in pleasure or luxury or anything else with the power to divert you from the occasional boredom of immortality. Life moves on, and those of us who aren’t alive have trouble catching up.”

“Which is why there’s an Evernight,” I said, thinking of Modern Technology and how confused people got when Mr. Yee introduced the concept of e-mail. Many of them had heard of it, and several even knew how to use it—but I was the only one who understood how it actually worked before Mr. Yee explained. It was one thing to bluff your way through twenty-first-century life, another to really comprehend what was going on. “What about the ones who look too old to be in school?”

“Well, this isn’t the only place we’ve got, you know.” Mom reached down for another garland. “There are spas and hotels, places like that where people are expected to be somewhat isolated from the rest of the world, and where you can control who gets in. Back in the day, we used to have a lot of monasteries and convents, but it’s difficult to establish new ones now. The Protestant Reformation took out quite a few—Huguenot mobs, fires, stuff like that. The residents couldn’t exactly explain they weren’t Catholics without making things a whole lot worse. These days we mostly stick to schools and clubs.”

Dad added, “They’re opening up a fake rehab center in Arizona next year.”

I imagined all of us, scattered throughout the world, brought together only here and there, and only once every century or so. Was that the way I would lead my entire existence?

It sounded unbearably lonely. What was the point of having unending life if that life was without love? Mom and Dad had been lucky enough to find each other and be together for hundreds of years. I’d found Lucas and lost him within just a few months. I tried to tell myself that someday it would seem like nothing—that the time I’d spent with Lucas would be “the blink of an eye”—but I couldn’t believe that.

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