It was like a final nail in a coffin.
Becky and I were camped out in my darkened bedroom, engrossed in the eighties cult horror classic Kissing Coffins. The femme fatale, Jenny, a teenage, malnourished blond wearing a size negative-two white cotton dress, was desperately running up a serpentine rock footpath toward an isolated haunted mansion. Bright veins of lightning shot overhead in the pouring rain.
Only the night before had Jenny unearthed the true identity of her fiancé when she stumbled upon his hidden dungeon and found him climbing out of a coffin. The dashing Vladimir Livingston, a renowned English professor, was not a mere mortal after all, but an immortal blood-sucking vampire. Upon hearing Jenny's blood-curdling screams, Professor Livingston immediately covered his fangs with his black cape. His red eyes remained unconcealed, gazing back at her longingly.
"You cannot bear witness to me in this state," I said along with the vampire.
Jenny didn't flee. Instead, she reached out toward her fiancé. Her vampire love growled, reluctantly stepped back into the shadows, and disappeared.
The fang flick had gathered a goth cult following that continued today. Audience members flocked to retro cine-mas in full costume, shouted the lines of the movie in unison, and acted out the various roles in front of the screen. Although I'd seen the movie a dozen times at home on DVD and knew all the words, I'd never been blessed with participating in a theatrical showing. This was Becky's first time watching it. We sat in my room, glued to the screen, as Jenny decided to return to the professor's mansion to confront her immortal lover. Becky dug her gnawed-on blood-red-painted fingernails into my arm as Jenny slowly opened the creaky wooden arch-shaped dungeon door. The ingénue softly crept down the massive winding staircase into Vladimir's darkened basement, torches and cobwebs hanging on the cement brick walls. A simple black coffin sat in the center of the room, earth sprinkled beneath it. She approached it cautiously. With all her might, Jenny lifted the heavy coffin lid.
Violins screeched to a climax. Jenny peered inside. The coffin was empty.
Becky gasped. "He's gone!"
Tears began to well in my eyes. It was like watching myself on-screen. My own love, Alexander Sterling, had vanished into the night two evenings ago, shortly after I had discovered he, too, was a vampire.
Jenny leaned over the empty casket and melodramatically wept as only a B-movie actress could.
A tear threatened to fall from my eye. I wiped it off with the back of my hand before Becky could see. I pressed the "Stop" button on the remote and the screen went black.
"Why did you turn it off?" Becky asked. Her disgruntled face was barely illuminated by the few votives I had scattered around my room. A tear rolling down her cheek caught the reflection of one of the candles. "It was just getting to the good part."
"I've seen this a hundred times," I said, rising, and ejected the DVD.
"But I haven't," she whined. "What happens next?"
"We can finish it next time," I reassured her as I put the DVD away in my closet.
"If Matt were a vampire," Becky pondered, referring to her khaki-clad new boyfriend, "I'd let him take a bite out of me anytime."
I felt challenged by her innocent remark, but I bit my tongue. I couldn't share my most secretest of secrets even with my best friend.
"Really, you don't know what you'd do" was all I could say.
"I'd let him bite me," she replied matter-of-factly.
"It's getting late," I said, turning on the light.
I hadn't slept the last two nights since Alexander left. My eyes were blacker than the eye shadow I put on them.
"Yeah, I have to call Matt before nine," she said, glancing at my Nightmare Before Christmas alarm clock. "Would you and Alexander meet us for a movie tomorrow?" she asked, grabbing her jean jacket from the back of my computer chair.
"Uh . . . we can't," I stalled, blowing out the votives. "Maybe next week."
"Next week? But I haven't even seen him since the party."
"I told you, Alexander's studying for exams."
"Well, I'm sure he'll ace them," she said. "He's been cracking the books all day and night."
Of course, I couldn't tell anyone, even Becky, why Alexander had disappeared. I wasn't even sure of the reason myself.
But mostly, I couldn't admit to myself that he had gone. I was in denial. Gone -- the word turned my stomach and choked my throat. Just the thought of explaining to my parents that Alexander had left Dullsville brought tears to my eyes. I couldn't bear accepting the truth, much less telling it.
And I didn't want another rumor mill circulating throughout Dullsville. If word got out that Alexander had moved without warning, who knows what conclusions the gossipmongers would jump to.
At this point, I wanted to maintain the status quo: keep up appearances until the RBI -- Raven Bureau of Investigation -- had a few more days to figure out a plan.
"We'll double-date soon," I promised as I walked Becky outside to her truck.
"I'm dying to know. . . ," she said, climbing into her pickup truck. "What happens to Jenny?"
"Uh . . . She tries to find Vladimir."
Becky closed her door, rolled down the window. "If I discovered Matt was a vampire and then he disappeared, I'd search for him," she said confidently. "I know you'd do the same for Alexander."
She started the engine and backed out of the driveway.
My best friend's remark was like a package of Pop Rocks blasting off in my brain. Why hadn't I thought of it sooner? I'd spent the last several days worrying how long I'd have to keep making excuses for Alexander's absence. Now I wouldn't be forced to wait an eternity in Dullsville wondering if he'd ever return. I didn't have to jump every time the telephone rang to find out it was for my mother.
Excerpted from Vampire Kisses 2: Kissing Coffins by Ellen Schreiber Copyright © 2008 by Ellen Schreiber. Excerpted by permission.
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