So, it's officially October tomorrow 😊🍂. I spent most of the weekend either reading or writing (when I wasn't on Twitter 😏), and I also found time to make a cover for one of my Hallowe'en stories. It's nowhere near as professional as my 'real' covers (probably because I'm not a cover designer!), but I had fun all the same. I hope your weekend was a good one, however you spent it, and thanks for visiting my blog!
Mika doesn't understand what happened between him and Travis. They'd been best friends forever, until Travis cut him off at the start of senior year. No warning. No explanation. By the time Hallowe'en comes around, Mika's had enough. He doesn't realize Travis is hiding a very big secret. One that might change both of them forever.
“Nothing scares me, least of all you,” said Mika. He narrowed his eyes. “So don’t even try that stupid Hallowe’en stuff. It’s all fake. Just like you are.”
Travis lifted his chin. “I’m quaking here.” He clutched at his chest. “Oh, wait. My mistake. It must be the laughter I can barely contain at the sight of you trying to intimidate me.”
Mika took a step forward. He was close enough to smell the spearmint gum on Travis’s breath. Close enough to land a punch, if he chose to throw one. “You’re not intimidated?” he said, lowering his voice. “You sure about that, Trav?”
Travis clenched his hands into fists. They were pushed deep inside the pockets of his jeans, and the material scraped against his knuckles. “Look,” he said, “it wasn’t me who put the blood in your locker. If I’d wanted to scare you I’d have done the job properly.”
“Dream on,” said Mika. “Anyway, I know it was you. No one else knows my locker combination, and the door hadn’t been forced. You’re so pathetic.” He leaned even closer, scowling. “So desperate.”
Travis lost it. His hands were out of his pockets and around Mika’s neck before the other boy had time to take another breath. Two seconds later they were fighting on the floor, rolling over and over, ignoring the shouts of encouragement that quickly rose up from the other students.
Rather than try to separate them, Miss Harper went behind the counter into the kitchen and fetched a bucket of water. She returned and unceremoniously threw it over the two boys. Travis, who’d borne the brunt of the soaking, immediately released his grip on Mika. For a few seconds they glared at each other. Mika’s nose was bleeding and a droplet of blood fell on Travis’s face. Travis flinched and immediately pushed Mika away, scrambling to his feet.
Ten minutes later they were in Principal Grange’s office, gazes fixed on the floor and shoulders rigid with a mixture of embarrassment and anger. “This is not the example I expect you to be setting,” said Principal Grange, rubbing his chin to hide his irritation. “You’re seniors now. And I have enough Hallowe’en pranks to deal with already today without you adding to it by brawling in the cafeteria.”
Mika and Travis remained silent while they were given detention. At the end of the school day they returned to the principal’s office and were told to mop the corridors. Because of the pranks the principal had mentioned earlier, there were dried splatters of fake blood decorating the dark-green floor tiles all over the school.
“All the corridors?” asked Mika, sensing that his Hallowe’en plans were about to be ruined.
“I don’t know, Mr. Sanson,” said Principal Grange, raising his eyebrows. “It depends how long it takes for me to be satisfied that you’ve worked off your anger. Both of you,” he added, glancing at Travis.
“But, Sir, I really have to be somewhere,” said Travis.
“Then I suggest you get mopping and do your best to convince me.”
As they walked away, Mika spoke under his breath. “Sir, please, Sir, I have to be somewhere.”
“Shut up,” Travis whispered fiercely.
“Oh, and gentlemen?” said Principal Grange, calling after them. “The only words I want to hear coming out of your mouths are apologies. To each other, then to me.”
When they were far enough away not to be overheard, Mika turned to Travis. “You’re not the only one with plans.”
“Yeah, well, mine are kind of essential.” He lowered his gaze.
“What do you mean?” asked Mika, his curiosity getting the better of him.
Travis shrugged, but Mika could see that his jaw was clenched shut as if to prevent himself from answering. He waited, but Travis said nothing. “Suit yourself,” said Mika, picking up his mop and slopping it onto the floor.
Late afternoon became early evening, and the sky outside gradually darkened. Mika thought of the party he was supposed to be at and sighed. He’d been so relieved to get an invitation. He didn’t want to be alone on Hallowe’en. Everything with Travis had gotten so weird lately. One minute they’d been best friends, and the next minute Travis had pushed him away. Mika still didn’t understand exactly what had happened. With Travis either cutting him dead or insulting him in front of everyone, Mika’s confusion had turned to humiliation, then to anger. He was still angry. He wore his anger like an armored coat. It was reassuringly solid.
Travis had tried to apologize the previous week, hinting there was some big secret he couldn’t talk about. Mika, pushing his hurt underneath the armored coat where it couldn’t distract him, had laughed in Travis’s face. Travis immediately backed away and returned to behaving as if they were sworn enemies. When the bottle of red liquid had turned up in Mika’s locker that morning, with a fancy “Drink me” label in gothic script, Mika’s anger had spiked high enough to seek out Travis in the cafeteria and challenge him about it.
Suddenly, he realized how quiet it was. He’d reached one of the far corridors and there was no sign of Travis anywhere. Mika let his mop fall to the floor and wondered if he should just get over himself and apologize. Surely Principal Grange couldn’t make them stay much longer. He was starting to feel hungry, too. What time was it anyway?
He looked to his right and noticed he was close to his own locker. Knowing there was a half-eaten chocolate bar inside, he was just reaching for the dial to enter the combination, when someone grabbed his hand and slammed it into the locker door. The noise echoed in the empty space. Mika let out a rather undignified yelp as pain exploded in the centre of his hand. “What the…?” He turned to look over his shoulder. “Trav?”
Travis said nothing. His face was set in a grimace, as if he were in more pain than Mika. “Don’t… open… the locker,” he managed.
Mika gaped at him. He tried and failed to move his hand.
“Promise me,” said Travis. “Don’t open it.”
“I… OK. Are you going to let me go? And tell me why?”
Travis took a step backward, and Mika pulled his hand away. As he turned it over to check the damage he saw a cut in the centre of his palm. Blood began to well up and was soon running toward his wrist in a line of dark red. Travis backed further away, making a low, desperate sound.
Mika froze. There was something about that noise that simultaneously terrified him and made him want to draw closer. He moved forward, his heart pounding so loudly he couldn’t hear anything above the rushing sound in his ears. Travis was shaking, holding up his hands as if to push Mika away.
“Hey, Tra-a-vis,” came a sing-song voice from the end of the corridor.
Travis and Mika both turned their heads. The stranger approached slowly with a smile on his face, his boots making a rhythmic thudding noise as they hit the floor tiles one after the other. His posture radiated a lazy confidence.
“So this is where you’ve been hiding. Did you find my gift? Have you quenched your thirst yet? Did it feel… good?”
Mika looked at Travis. Travis swallowed and held one hand up to his throat. The stranger extended his hand and curled his fingers in a beckoning gesture. Travis didn’t move.
“Hmmm. You haven’t drunk it. I’m disappointed.” His gaze flicked in Mika’s direction and suddenly sharpened with interest. “Oh, what do we have here?” said the stranger. “I smell the blood of a pretty young thing. No wonder you’re not interested in mine.”
Travis grabbed hold of Mika’s arm and pushed him away, moving to stand between Mika and the stranger. The stranger laughed. The sound was warm and sweet, and Mika found himself swaying toward it. He took a step and then another.
“No,” said Travis, shoving him backward.
“You can’t stop me, Travis,” said the stranger. “Night has fallen on Hallowe’en. Your first since maturity. We discussed this, remember? You have no strength until you drink. Right now, you’re as weak as this boy here. And if you don’t drink soon, the thirst will overpower you.”
“I’m not going to drink your blood,” said Travis through gritted teeth. “If I do choose to create a bond with anyone, it sure as hell won’t be you.”
“His blood?” asked Mika. “Are you kidding me? That’s what was in my locker?”
“Your locker?” said the stranger. “But… the energy signature… I was so sure…” The stranger’s head tilted to one side.He gave Travis a speculative look. “Does he know how you feel about him?”
Travis pressed his lips together in a thin line. Mika glanced between the two of them, trying to figure out what was going on. His legs were trembling as he fought the desire to move. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to run away from the stranger or toward him.
The stranger took a few steps closer. “Time’s up, Travis. Either you drink from him now, or I will kill him, and you will drink from me. You have one minute to decide.” He folded his arms.
“Run,” said Travis urgently. He gave Mika a push. “Run, and don’t stop until you’re somewhere safe.”
“There’s nowhere safe for him,” said the stranger. “I think he smells good, even if you don’t. I’ll be able to find him again. Twenty seconds gone, by the way.”
“That’s not fair,” said Travis.
“As I said: you drink from him, or I will kill him. Thirty seconds.”
Travis gave Mika a frantic look.
“If you do it, will it hurt? Will I die?” asked Mika. Travis shook his head. “No. You… you will probably… um… like it. But we will be bonded. I can’t help that. Because you’ll be…” He held his throat again. “You’ll be my first.”
“Forty-five seconds,” said the stranger.
“Do it,” said Mika. “I want to survive this. I want us to survive this. Our friendship, our… our whatever. We can figure the rest out after.”
“Are you sure?” Travis reached out to hold Mika round the neck, much more gently than he had done earlier that same day. Mika nodded, and Travis lowered his head.