Stargazer Page 12

At first she simply followed me without comment or, apparently, will of her own. We pushed our way through a huge crowd of students that had congregated outside a pizza place. It must have been the most popular place to grab a slice, because more than a hundred kids jostled around outside, holding cardboard pizza boxes and plastic cups of beer. A couple of guys stared at us—at the fair-haired vampire more than me. Despite her youth and disheveled appearance, she had an ethereal, innocent kind of beauty, and her brown eyes searched the crowds as if longing for someone, anyone, to take care of her. I could see how some guys might find that appealing.

Only after we emerged from that crowd did she say, “Where are you going?”

“To the train station.”

“That’s only a few blocks away.” The vampire cast a worried glance over her shoulder. How she could make out anything in that throng of people, I didn’t know, but she tensed up. “I think he’s still back there. Let me walk with you to the train station. Won’t you, please? It’s darker around there, and I can slip away, I just know it.”

Selfishly, I wanted to refuse; Lucas would be coming any second, and I didn’t want any company around for our reunion. Lucas wouldn’t exactly be thrilled to see another vampire, because I was the only one he trusted. There was a chance he wouldn’t recognize her as a vampire, but given his Black Cross training, I doubted it. Yet she looked so timid that I didn’t have the heart to refuse. “Okay, sure. Let’s go.”

We continued through the square, arm in arm. Music blared from each bar so loudly that the various drumbeats seemed to crash into one another.

“Let me guess.” She cast a shy glance in my direction. “Evernight, right?”

“Yeah. Did you go there?”

“I tried once. But the headmistress—oh, she didn’t like me. Mrs. Bethany was her name. Is she still there?”

“Like she would ever leave her kingdom,” I muttered.

“So true. Well, she didn’t care for me a bit. It made things very unpleasant.”

“Mrs. Bethany doesn’t care for me either. I think she hates most people who aren’t—well, her.”

“Have you run away from school, too? That’s what I did.”

I smiled. “Only for the weekend.”

“I could never go back, I don’t think. Not unless—” Her gaze became distant, but then she shook her head. “It doesn’t matter.”

As we walked away from the main square toward the train station, a breeze gusted past us and I could smell a definite whiff of body odor. That alone didn’t gross me out—I guessed everybody got sweaty sometimes—but along with everything else, it made me feel sorry for her. She hardly seemed able to take care of herself. How terrible it would have to be, living forever alone like this, getting more and more out of sync with civilization.

For the first time, I understood—really understood—why vampires needed an Evernight Academy. I’d always known that we had a tendency to lose track of the ever-changing now, and my parents had cautioned me about how easy it was to look up and realize your clothes were a couple decades out of date, or that you not only didn’t know what was happening in the world but also didn’t care. But I’d never really comprehended how that would look—how it would feel, being so alienated. Looking at this girl, I finally got it.

The train station lay only a few blocks away from the main square, but the walk seemed longer. It had something to do with the contrast between the noise and bustle of the student-filled square and the dead silence of the nearby neighborhood. With fewer streetlights around, it was darker, too. My new companion had nothing else to say. She apparently was content just to hang on to me.

I checked my watch. 11:55.

The fair-haired vampire pulled open the train station’s door with trepidation, like it might be booby-trapped. Hardly likely for a one-room train station that was basically a hut beside the tracks. “Nobody’s home. Your young man hasn’t arrived yet.”

“I don’t guess so.” I peered at the station in dismay. I’d hoped it would be pretty or at least cozy; I knew a train station couldn’t possibly be romantic enough for our reunion, but it could’ve been better than this. Scuffed linoleum floor, dim fluorescent lights hanging from above, and a few hard wooden benches bolted to the walls: not exactly my dream setting.

Then again, what did that matter? What would any of it matter? I knew that I would be with Lucas again soon—within minutes—and once we saw each other, I knew I wouldn’t be able to pay attention to anything else.

What if it’s not the same for him? His letter was so amazing, but, still, we haven’t seen each other in months. What if things have changed between us? What if it’s awkward? What if he doesn’t feel the way he used to?

“You must be so very happy.” The vampire was curled up on a bench, her knees hugged to her chest. She drummed her jagged fingernails against the pale flesh of her calves. The sole was peeling away from the bottom of one of her shoes. “So very happy not to be alone anymore. Sometimes I think I’d die if I had to be alone all the time.”

Now I felt awkward saying this, but I had to: “If you don’t mind, I’d sort of like some privacy. We haven’t seen each other in a while.”

“Private time.” Her smile was shy and a little bit sad. I wanted to apologize for leaving her so alone, but what else could I do? The only alternative I could offer was her coming with me back to Evernight, and she’d made her feelings about that plain. Who could blame her for loathing Mrs. Bethany? As if she sensed my guilt, she said, “I understand, I do. I’d meant to wait awhile, see if he wouldn’t move on, but—okay.”

I heard footsteps on the gravel outside and whirled toward the door as Lucas walked in.

He wore a denim jacket, black T-shirt, and jeans. His dark-gold hair had grown slightly longer, but other than that he was the same. Looking at him felt like diving into a sun-warmed pool, filled with light.

“Lucas?” I took one step forward. I wanted to throw myself into his arms, and yet it felt like I could hardly move. “You made it. We both made it.”

But he wasn’t looking at me. He was looking past me—at the vampire.

“Get the hell away from Bianca,” he growled.

“Oh, no.” The vampire began scrambling backward, trying to wedge herself into a corner. “No, no, no—”

Prev Next