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My name is Jade Alder.

I’m an art student at SVSA (Sunset Valley School of Art).

I’m a little younger than most of the other students at my school, which is a sort of college. I was accepted a little early because I have my HSEC (High School Equivelency Certificate), though some of my classmates tease me and call me a drop-out, among other, more unpleasant things.

I didn’t drop out of high school, though, I was just bored with it (not to brag, but I’m actually really smart, and I decided to take the HSEC test myself)

It’s a little hard living away from my parents, but SVSA is too far away to commute. I see them on long weekends and holidays, though. I know they worry about me, like most parents do, but their worries run a little deeper. You see, my parents are vampires, and so am I. Or, I will be, when I reach adulthood.
For now, I’m just an unchanged, as-of-yet immature vampire. I can still eat human foods, but I like plasma fruits. Love them, really. Plasma fruit soup, plasma fruit pie, plasma fruit cake, plasma fruit…anything. I guess it’s one of those genetic quirks from having vampire parents, though I never eat them while around other students, who really wouldn’t understand.
There’s sort of a lot of prejudice about vampires, though there really shouldn’t be according to the laws in place to protect us. But it’s still there. The worst thing I could be called, of course, is an Occult. That’s a really rude word people call vampires. Sticks and stones, really.
But, surprisingly, though I resemble quite clearly a vampire, no one knows what I am yet. I’m relieved. I want just a little more time to be ‘human’ (though I’m not).
And so my parents allowed me to attend SVSA. I think maybe my mom is a little disappointed I didn’t want to become a doctor like herself, but I’m more artistically inclined, like my dad.
Besides, what else could I do with myself once I hit adulthood? I couldn’t make use of many regular college and university courses. Childhood education, for example. Children are clumsy. One skinned knee and I’d probably be hankering for some Type O with a straw.
Ditto for medical school. Sorry, mom. You never know, no matter what area of expertise you choose, there’s always going to be the possibility of blood. And I know I’m not as strong as my parents. I don’t think I could resist the temptation.

I share my dorm room with my best friend, Mandy Bleu.

She alone, of all the students at this school, knows my secret. The staff do, of course, but no one else. I trust Mandy completely. Our mothers have been best friends for years, so we grew up together, and we even took the HSEC test together.
I’m taking a range of classes, from painting to sketching to sculpting. I think I like painting the best. Maybe it’s the scenery, tee hee.

My easel is always next to the cutest boy in our year, Rory Ashcroft. I guess you could say, I have a crush on him.

He’s tall, handsome, and very smart. He makes my heart thump, and I feel like a butterfly colony has taken up residence in my stomach whenever I see him. He also lives in the room next to Mandy and me. He always says ‘good morning’ if we leave at the same time, or ‘good night’ if we happen to come back to the dorms together at night.

And he always, always makes time to talk to me during classes.

I plan to enjoy this as long as I can.

____

It was one of my weekends home. I was in my room, painting. I had a still life due in my painting class on Tuesday, when I would be back at school, and I was trying to finish it.

I was trying to paint a bowl of fruit, but it wasn’t coming out right. I always have trouble with bananas. They just never came out right when I tried to paint them. I could leave them out, I supposed, but I’d loose marks for not having them in when the bowl of fruit we’d done our preliminary sketches from had at least four bananas in it.

I was trying to concentrate, really I was, but I was worried about mom.

She wasn’t feeling well. She was pregnant again, I knew. She seemed to get pregnant every year or two, but as of now, I still don’t have any siblings. It was almost as if she couldn’t carry to term after I was born, and this made me feel terribly guilty, as though, somehow, I’d done her serious damage during my birth.

Each pregnancy was always harder on mom than the last. She seemed to get sicker and weaker every time, never quite recovering completely. It was putting a huge strain on dad, I could see.

Dad was acting weird. Mournful, always fretting. His smile never reached his eyes.

And he was always, always with mom.

“This is the absolute last time!” he’d yelled at her last night. I couldn’t help but overhear. My bedroom was next to theirs, and the walls are thin. I couldn’t hear her soft reply, but I heard his answer.

“It might already be too late, Layla.”

I didn’t quite know what he’d meant. Did he think she would have a miscarriage this time? I hoped not.

I had heard aunt Sophie and aunt Camryn’s views on the matter too. They sided with dad entirely, though they weren’t as rough with mom as he was when it came to the subject of her pregnancies.

Why don’t they use protection, I had wondered, until dad had explained that it didn’t really work well with vampires. Really, the only way to prevent it was abstinence, and, well, they liked it too much to give it up.

“Gross, daaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaad!” I’d yelled in disgust, leaving the room in a hurry, his laughter ringing out behind me. I know he’s not really a hypocrite, he was just teasing me. After all, what kid ever wants to think of their parents..you know… *shudders*

He later told me that most vampires bit and transformed someone to reproduce, it was far easier that way. But female vampires were no different, really, than humans when it came to conceiving and carrying children. Whatever was wrong with mom was most likely with her even when she was human. They were lucky to have me, and grateful I was healthy and whole.

I sighed, and gave up on my painting for the night. I was tired, and couldn’t concentrate. There was always tomorrow.

___

I actually did manage to finish my painting by lunch time. It would be dry by the time I was ready to leave that night. Mom and dad admired it thoroughly while we ate lunch together. Mom was feeling well enough to get out of bed and eat in the kitchen today.

“Are you sure you’re feeling okay, mom?” I asked.”You’re awfully pale…paler than usual, I mean.”

“I’m fine,” mom laughed, but she looked tired and drained.

She sipped soup. I wrinkled my nose at the smell. Dad, evidently, had been out to find her something ‘filling’. Not to say he’d gotten it straight from a human, more likely he’d purchased it from an abattoir or went hunting for deer. Of course, It could have been human (aunt Sophie or aunt Camryn could have purchased it) but I couldn’t tell by smell, as there was too much plasma fruit scent in the air from dad’s. Somehow, thought, I don’t think I wanted to find out.

Mom had gotten over her aversion to ingesting blood years ago, I think because of dad. He had saved my mom and destroyed the vampire who’d killed her sister, so maybe that had helped. Of course, there were days when she couldn’t be persuaded, but this didn’t appear to be one.

I don’t think I could ever drink real plasma, not even from an animal. Plasma fruits would be enough for me.

She seemed awfully nauseated, though, and struggled to swallow. I exchanged looks with dad.

“Are you sure?”

“Sure I’m sure, honeybee,” she smiled at me.”Now, don’t go making a fuss about me. Just do your best at school, and leave the worrying to your dad. He’s doing enough of it for at least ten of you.”

Dad didn’t smile at this. He just looked a little more grim.

“You know,” I said as I ate my soup.”I have the feeling there’s something you and dad aren’t telling me. Something maybe I should know?”

“Perhaps,” dad said thoughtfully.”But it’s something you’ll find out when you’re ready.”

I glared. They always told me that.

“And when do you think that will be?” I asked, an edge to my voice. Dad glanced at mom for a moment.

“Soon enough, I suppose,” he sighed, toying with his food.

___

I arrived back at my school pretty late that night. It was a good thing I didn’t have any classes first thing in the morning, and I’d have time for breakfast. Mandy was sound sleep when I crept in, tucked snugly into her bunk.

She was still asleep when I woke up, too. Mandy could sleep anywhere, any amount of time. She said it was because she had so many interesting dreams, she didn’t want them to end. I’ll admit, I was a little jealous. I don’t really dream that much, and if I do, it’s never anything particularly memorable.

I had to drag Mandy to breakfast. Normally, we ate something in our room, but after the long weekend, there wasn’t really anything worth eating left.

We sat down at our usual table, just the two of us. Across the cafeteria, I could see Dana and her group of friends.

Dana and I are something close to rivals, but on a slightly more vicious level. Trust me, it’s none of my doing.

Ever since I first came to SVSA, she’s taken a serious dislike to me. I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but she seems to have made it her personal mission in life to make my time at the school as miserable as possible. Anything of mine she wants, she takes. It doesn’t matter what it is. And if she can’t take it from me, she’ll ruin it.

I suppose that’s why I’m glad all the different years of students are separated into different dorms, and she’s not allowed in mine, especially after the last time. It took ages to get the green paint out of my hair. I’d had to throw away a perfectly good dress because it was ruined. Even so, ban or not, I’m also glad she has no way to get into the room I share with Mandy. I have too many things I couldn’t bear to have ruined.

I suppose I should also mention, Dana is the reason I don’t have many close friends, and a big reason I don’t date. Too many people believe the things she says about me. I shouldn’t care, really. But sometimes I do.

And I guess it’s worth mentioning that she’s the reason I don’t let on that I like Rory. It keeps her from making a move on him, but it also prevents me from telling him how I feel. It’s a lose-lose situation. At least he’s friendly enough to me.

I still don’t know what I did to make her treat me this way. She always looks at me, gloating, like she knows something that I don’t. Like there’s a secret, maybe, she can use to hurt me. I hope not.

I could swear, though, there’s something about her that is awfully strange. My sense of smell isn’t as developed as dad’s, or even mom’s, but…there’s something about Dana. Under her perfume, there’s a familiar sort of…smell. I can never place it.
I wasn’t so sure she was…normal, I guess is what I’m saying. Something about her sets off warning bells in me, but I didn’t know why. All I did know was, Dana was dangerous.

Mandy poked me in the ribs.

“You haven’t eaten your cereal,” she complained.”It’s soggy and class is about to start!”

I looked at my bowl and the unappetizing mess inside.

“Never mind,” I sighed, gathering my books.”I’m not that hungry. Dad fed me plenty last night.”

“What did you have?” Mandy asked. She was always interested in my strange diet.

“Steak,” I shrugged.”With plasma fruit pie,” I added in a low whisper.

Mandy grinned at me as she followed me out of the cafeteria.

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