Meet Me at Midnight

 Arabella Mallard

I awake from my dream with a start, my hand falling to my chest. I feel my heart flutter, and my eyes drift over to my bedside table, where a single red rose stands in a vase. It’s the rose he gave me. I smile, melting at the sight of it—but still, my haunting dream lingers in my mind. I feel the sudden, overwhelming urge to text him.

I get out of bed and stumble with my trademark cutesy-clumsiness over to where I left my phone, giggling at what a klutz I am. Sometimes I’m embarrassed about it, but he always reassures me that it’s endearing, that every part of me is amazing and special and pretty. And of course I believe him—after all, he is my boyfriend, and as such, the authority on these things.

I send him a text: Had a bad dream. :c Scared!! Wish you were here..

He writes back a second later: U + me = <3

I swoon. He’s just so articulate and romantic.

Another text buzzes before I even have time to recover from the flawlessness of the last one. Meet me @ midnight, it says. My heart beats faster.

Just name the place, I text back, barely able to contain my excitement. I live to see his face; he’s my everything, my all-consuming love, my obsession—and I’m his. Have you ever had a romance like that? A boyfriend like that? If you haven’t, well, I feel sorry for you. Fact of the matter is, if your boyfriend doesn’t break into your house to bring you flowers, or come into your room at night to watch you sleep, you haven’t lived.

Another text comes in: I’ll B at our place, w8ting for u. xo

It’s 11:50. I have to hurry. So I run to my closet and throw on a dress, a sweater, and boots. Then I’m dashing from my room, shuffling quietly through my house so I don’t wake my father, and creeping out the front door. I smile as I picture my boyfriend, his flowing locks glistening in the moonlight, his pale skin ethereal and beautiful, his eyes wandering over me . . . he’s gorgeous and glorious, perfect in every way.

. . . . well, not every way.

Because, you see, my boyfriend’s a vampire. I know—it’s shocking. I was scared at first—who wouldn’t be?—and I wasn’t sure if I could be with someone who, you know, drinks blood. (For context, I’m a vegan.) But then he explained to me that he doesn’t hurt people—well, not anymore, anyway—and that he only drinks the blood of animals that have died of natural causes, and only to survive. And I mean, he’s so perfect in every other way that I feel like he makes up for it, you know? He’s truly a great person. You’ll see.

I hurry down the steps, the cool night air crisp against my face, and begin to run—as gracefully and prettily as I can—toward the forest beside my house. We have a spot there, just a few minutes away from where I live. We marked our initials into a tree and he read me his poetry in that brooding, angsty voice of his, and we stared deeply into each other’s eyes underneath a full moon (until the werewolves showed up and ruined everything, that is—we learned after that to only go there when the moon isn’t full).

Thinking back on these memories, my heart feels like it’s going to burst out of my chest as I swell with love for him. He’s on my mind all the time, even when I sleep: I almost always dream of him. And us. And our future together.

It’s going to be hard work, of course. Making it work as a hybrid couple: him vampire, me mortal. We’ll have to work hard to keep his secret from the judgmental mortals, and his vampire kin will discriminate against me—but you know what? It’s worth it. True love is worth it.

I know it is.

Edison Crawley

“Damn, this bitch is easy,” I say, as my vampire buddies and I sit around a deserted Walmart parking lot, throwing back beers and having a good old raucous laugh at Arabella’s expense.

“She sure is! You just gotta text her ‘meet me at midnight’ and boom, she’s up and running.” My man Wilson grins. “Hoo boy, you’re one lucky son of a bitch, you know that?”

“I prefer the term ‘undead motherfucker.’” They all crack up—though whether it’s because of my joke or the fact that they’re drunk off their asses is anyone’s guess. “Honestly though, I think Arabella and I have run our course. She’s driving me crazy lately. She’s so clingy!”

“The easy bitches always are,” Gerald tells me.

“So you gonna break up with her, bro?” Victor asks.

“Ehhh, we’ll see. I might have some fun with her first.” I glance at my phone to check the time—11:55—then stumble up to my feet. “I gotta go. She’s gonna be waiting and shit.”

Gerald makes a whipping sound, to my dismay. “Hey man, no mortal bitch has me whipped,” I tell him—though the drunken slurriness of my words takes some of the punch out of them. “I’m the one with the upper hand here! She ain’t the one watching me sleep, after all. I’m the one watching her.”

“Yeah, you really gotta stop doing that,” Wilson says, wincing. “It’s creepy as fuck and not even a thing. No boyfriend does that.”

“Like you know what boyfriends do,” I say, and then Gerald and Victor and I have a big old laugh at poor Wilson, who couldn’t catch a bitch if he won the lottery. “Anyways, she likes it. She thinks it’s romantic and shit.” I start to stumble away from them, toward the forest, and they call after me a chorus of goodbyes. I’m feeling light as a feather, drunk as a fox. Goddamn golden. I got a bitch waiting for me, and a bunch of buddies behind me. What more could an undead motherfucker ask for?

Still, though. I really gotta break up with the girl. She’s holding me back, and while Arabella may rock the whole girl-next-door thing pretty damn well, there’s really nothing special about her. It’s weird—she seems special, but the more you get to know her, the more you realize her cutesy-clumsy shtick and clinginess is pretty much all there is to her. She’s a blank slate, with no discernible personality or any good qualities besides being modestly pretty. And at this point in my life, I really just want someone fun to bang. Like, really fun. And less crazy.

Is that too much to ask?

 

Arabella

 The thing is, my boyfriend loves me. Not just loves me—he’s obsessed with me. He’s smitten with me. He’s head-over-heels for me.

Not every girl could handle that. Some would pull away, or think he was weird, or not have the maturity to handle such a serious relationship at such a young age (believe it or not, I’m only sixteen). But for me? He’s perfect. Our relationship is perfect, and there’s nothing about him, or it, that I would change. Even his vampirism is just another part of him that makes him the perfect, special, gorgeous person that he is.

He’s also not the kind who’s ever, ever late, so as midnight arrives and I don’t see him at our place, I begin to get worried. Is he hurt? Has a werewolf found him? I put a hand to my chest and peer around the pine trees, my concern worsening. “Edison?” I call—softly, so only he will hear. Vampires have unusually good hearing, you know. Like dogs, but not. Edison taught me that. He’s taught me so much. That’s one of the cool things about dating somebody whose, like, a gazillion years old: they know everything. Only it’s not weird, because Edison doesn’t look a gazillion years old. He looks my age. Edison’s, like, the cutest thing. He could totally be in One Direction if they were hadn’t broken up (RIP). Not that I like One Direction or anything, because I’m too mature for that. But if I did.

“Edison?” I call again. I’m really getting worried now. My Edison would never stand me up. He’s a gentleman. A perfect, pretty, sparkly vampire gentleman. Did you know vampires sparkle? They actually don’t (Edison taught me that), but I like sparkly stuff, so the other day, I dumped a bunch of glitter on him and now he’s sparkly. He’s a sparkly vampire! Isn’t that amazing? We laughed so hard! Well, I laughed. Edison just kind of stared at me with this angry look on his face. I know he was joking, though. Edison could never be mad at me. And he likes sparkly stuff, too. I think. I mean, I’m sure he does. We have so much in common: everything I like, he’ll immediately say, “Oh, yeah, I like that too!” It’s such a coincidence. Only it’s not, because we’re, well, soulmates. Meant to be. Destiny. Written in the stars. Fate. Faith. Fantastically sparkly vampire skin. All of it’s just right.

“Edison?” I call. I take a step, and then bam! I trip over a stupid tree root (because I’m clumsy in an adorable way), and then I’m falling, falling, falling, the whole forest going sideways, and then—

He grabs me! I know it’s him in an instant. I’d recognize his wonderfully cold, undead hands anytime. “Edison!” I cry as he pulls me back upright, only a second before I would’ve landed face-first on the forest ground.

“Arabella,” he says—only he kind of, like, grunts the word? He sounds irritated but I know that isn’t really how he feels, because he Loves me with a capital L. Sometimes he sounds differently than he really feels. He’s complicated that way. And, you know, sometimes he can be brooding, but only because it’s so hard being a vampire and everything. He can’t help it.

“Edison,” I say again, and I’m staring up at him now. We stand close together, my hand on his chest, his hands on my lower back. His eyes are dark. His ghostly pale skin still glistens from my hot-pink glitter. I smile at him. “You came.”

“Of course I did. Anything for you.” He smiles back. And it’s just so perfect, I can’t even tell you.

“Edison,” I mutter again. (I just love saying his name.)

“Ara,” he mutters back. (That’s his nickname for me. He’s really creative.)

“Edison,” I mutter.

“Ara,” he mutters.

This goes on for a while.

Finally, I look up at him again, into those big, bright red eyes, the color of marichino cherries and everything else that is good and pure in this world, like fire and stuff. “Edison,” I mutter, softer this time and just a little bit sultry (but not in a slutty way—I’m a virgin). “Edison, I want you to make me yours.”

He grins. It’s the biggest grin I’ve ever seen on him. “Ara, I thought you’d never ask.” Then he leans in and kisses me, and I kiss back. I feel his hands moving up and down my back . . . and then to my butt, which is a little weird because Edison doesn’t touch there (he knows I’m classy, and he’s classy too), but okay. Then his hands move up, and I’m glad for a minute, but disappointed again when he starts trying to take off my dress.

I pull away. “What are you doing?”

“Well, you said you wanted me to ‘make you mine.’ I thought you meant, like . . .” He gyrates his hips. I wrinkle my nose. The movement is crude and crass and not at all like the gentlemanly, classy, sometimes-brooding vampire he normally is.

“You thought I meant sex?” I whisper-hiss the word at him. It’s too vulgar to say at a regular volume, and anyway, his super-duper vampire ears will hear it just fine. “No! Never! I’m a virgin.

“I know.”

“And a good girl.”

“I know.”

“And a Christian.

He tilts his head to the side, eyes squinted. “Wait. What? Since when?”

“Since two years ago! Duh. I told you about it and everything! We had a conversation, last month. Don’t you remember?”

“Uh . . . oh, yeah. Right. I definitely remember that.” He smiles at me, all charming-like, and I can’t possibly stay mad at him. I just melt. “I remember all of our conversations, Ara.” Aww!

“Well, you see, I can’t have sex until we’re married. That’s the Christian rule.”

“Yeahhh, but isn’t that like one of those rules that no one really follows? Except for, like, the Duggars?”

I glare at him. “No, Edison. I take my faith seriously.”

“But you’re dating a vampire. Aren’t vampires the enemies of Christians or something? Like, really, really hated by them?”

“Well . . . it’s complicated. Unlike my virginity, which is not meant to be taken by anyone except my husband.” I smile and step closer to him, resting my hands on his chest once again. “You see, Edison, that’s what I meant by ‘make me yours.’ I want to marry you. I want to be yours. In fact, I’d even . . .” I glance away, blushing, smirking slightly, looking all demure and adorable. “I’d even let you turn me,” I finish. Then I add: “Into a vampire.” Just to be clear.

“Uh, yeah. I got that.” Edison rubs the back of his neck and makes a face like he’s in pain. “Well, um . . .”

I stare up at him. “Don’t you want to marry me?”

He’s quiet. Too quiet.

“Edison? Edison?

 

Edison

Oh shit.

I fucked this one up for good. Only not literally. See, if I’d literally fucked her up for good, I’d be long gone by now. I’d be cruising down the highway of life, searching for my next skirt. I’m a bit of a drifter: restless, a real ladies’ man, skipping from town to town in search of new poonanny and, I dunno, maybe the meaning of life too or something. Lots of people think that if you’ve been alive for a long-ass time, you’re wise. Fuck no! See, old people are like any other group of people. Some got it all figured out, and some are like me: just young at heart. I guess I could’ve discovered a cure for some fucked up disease or learned the mysteries of the universe in all the centuries I’ve been around, but I’ll be honest with you, chasing tail is more fun than that other bullshit. And I was doing good, too. I’d hit it and quit, I’d split, I’d travel the world and rack up conquests along the way. It was all going great, until fucking Arabella Mallard. What kind of name is that, anyway? It sounds like something a half-witted YA author would come up with.

See, Arabella’s one of those chicks that’s a toughie to crack, all goody-two-shoes and whatnot. But virgins like her are fun because of the challenge they pose, and it didn’t hurt that she had a killer bod and an okay face. So I thought I’d give it a shot, and now here I am, receiving the lousiest proposal ever in some shitty forest, at 12:15 at night.

Shit, shit, shit.

“Edison!” Oh, fuck. She’s shouting now? Will the shittiness of this night never end? “I asked you a question!”

So I say to her what I always say in situations like these: “I love you.”

The anger on her face dissipates. “Really?”

No, not really. “Of course!”

“More than you’ve ever loved anyone in the history of this earth?”

“Uh . . . sure.”

“So then why don’t you want to marry me?”

Ha! Let’s see, there’s her nonstop clinginess, the fact that she’s dumb as a post, the whole matter of her not having any personality beyond being clumsy and naïve (which, let me tell you, gets old fast), and also, I ain’t the marrying type. I’m a lone wolf (just not one of those dumbass werewolves—don’t get me started), a free agent. I do what I want and no one can stop me. Especially not Arabella. For fuck’s sake, I haven’t even slept with her yet. You can’t buy the cow without tasting the milk. Or something.

Of course, I can’t say any of this to her. It’d crush the bitch. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t love her or anything (how can I? she has, like, two personality traits), but I also don’t want her to go fling herself off a building or anything. I mean, that shit could get traced back to me, and no way am I letting her expose my vampiric secret. No fucking way. So I say to her, “It’s complicated.” She’ll accept that. The stupid ones always do.

“I don’t accept that.” I guess she’s not as stupid as I thought. “You need to tell me, Edison. Tell me why. You can trust me! I’ll keep all your secrets, you know that.”

“Uh . . . well, you see, you can’t, um . . .” And then, it hits me. The perfect out. The one thing she won’t be able to disprove. “You can’t marry, in the vampire world. It’s forbidden.”

Her eyebrows draw together. Shit—she looks scary when that happens. All incredulous. “Says who?”

“The, uh, vampire counsel. They make the rules, Ara. Sorry.”

“They could make an exception.”

Jesus Christ! Some people just cannot take a hint.

“Think about it,” she tells me, grabbing my hand. “We could go to the vampire counsel and beg them to let us marry. Once they see how in love we are, they’ll—”

“No. No, that won’t work. They don’t make exceptions, it’s one of the rules.”

“Well, every rule has an exception.” MOTHERFUCKER. “We could at least try, Edison!”

“Uh, well . . . hmm.” I glance around the forest, looking for an out. I could make a run for it. If I hurry, I could pack my things and be gone by daylight. Get a new phone. She’d never find me. Of course, it would mean throwing away all the time I spent getting to know Arabella, pretending to take an interest in her dumb fucking poetry or weird One Direction obsession, without having ever gotten in her pants. And that’d be a damn shame. “Are you sure you don’t want to have sex?” I ask her, because a man’s gotta try. “Like, even a little bit of sex?”

She crosses her arms over her chest. “No.

“You just want to get married,” I mutter—half a question, half a statement.

“Yep,” she mutters.

“So I guess we’re at a standstill,” I mutter.

“We most definitely are,” she mutters back.

This goes on for a while.

Finally, I look at her. I take her hand. I gaze longingly into her eyes, like I actually give a shit. And then I say, “Arabella . . . I just don’t think it’s gonna work between us. We’re from two different worlds. You’re mortal, I’m an undead motherfuc—uh, I mean, I’m a vampire. We can’t get married. It’d never work.”

“No, but see, I can change! Literally! You can change me!” She’s gripping my shirt so forcefully that it’s as if she knows I’m two seconds away from running like hell, and is determined to try to physically stop me. Fuck. I’ll give her one thing, the bitch is intuitive. And persistent. “Why won’t you change me, Edison? Why won’t you make me a vampire?”

Well, the truth is that undead girls are cold all the way through, if you get my drift. It’s like fucking an iceberg. Hence why I go after the still-living ones. It would defeat the whole goddamn purpose if I turned Arabella. But, since I can’t say that to her, I say instead, “I don’t think you’re vampire material.”

Big mistake. I know it as soon as the words leave my mouth.

Her eyes go wide. Her mouth falls open. For a second, she can’t seem to even muster the strength to yell at me. But then, it comes. Oh boy, does it come, like a freight train rushing from her throat. “I’m not vampire material?! I am your girlfriend! I am the love of your life! You said it! You said so yourself!”

Oh man. I hate it when girls like Arabella scream. They get all screechy, you know. Shrill. Like really mean parrots or something.

It’s times like these where I wish I could dig the old fangs into the fleshy side of her neck and suck till she goes limp. But mortal blood ain’t shit. I mean, it used to be okay, but now with pollution and chemicals and junk food, it’s like drinking noxious gas. No thanks. You can be a vampire and heath conscious. Anyway, the other problem is that, when you drink a bitch, you’ll either kill her or turn her. Either option’s bad. So that rules out the fang-dipping. Which leaves either A.) running like a bitch, or B.) listening to the end of Arabella’s screech-fit lecture and then trying to reason with her. Bet you can figure out which option I go with.

 

Arabella

He just . . . took off. My boyfriend. My boyfriend. Do you know what that feels like? When your boyfriend, your boyfriend, the man you’ve done so much for and who you love with all your heart and soul and life, runs out on you? Literally? It’s devastating. Like I’d had my body sliced clean open by a machete and my still-beating heart removed, kicked around like a soccer ball, then re-instated in my chest cavity. The pain is real.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say. So I collapse there, in dramatic fashion, like the regal star of my own movie. With my back pressing against a pine tree, I drop my hand in my hands and cry. Oh, how I cry—the river of tears that I shed! And it’s cathartic and nice, actually. But sad. Terribly, terribly sad. Because he was my boyfriend. My boyfriend! I loved him. I thought he was my soulmate. He should’ve been my soulmate. But guys are weird and frustrating and commitment-phobic. I should know this—I mean, it’s what every romantic comedy has taught me.

But he was my boyfriend!

As I cry, my makeup gets messed up. Not that I wear much makeup—I mean, I’m a natural beauty, and I’m not a whore, so I don’t need it. But the makeup that I do wear (and, again, it’s not much) gets all messed up, and I don’t even care. That’s how sad I am. After all, he was my boyfriend.

“I’m really sorry.”

Edison? I jerk my head up, out of my hands, and blink my bleary, tear-filled eyes. There’s a figure standing before me—a man. It takes me a minute to realize who—what—he is.

A werewolf.

I can tell. Edison taught me how. And this man, this olive-skinned, muscled, shirtless babe of a man, is definitely a werewolf. Of course, it’s not so hard to tell, considering he just transformed back into his human form and there’s still some fur along his arms and chest. I watch as it thins out and then altogether disappears, right before my eyes, leaving a perfectly hairless set of beefy arms and chiseled abs in its wake.

And he’s shirtless. Did I mention he’s shirtless?

He’s very, very shirtless.

He has a six-pack. A six-pack. Even Edison didn’t have that. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Edison had muscles, but not like this. No wonder Edison had such a thing against werewolves: they’re hotter! And muscle-lier! And hairless! And shirtless!

“I’m really sorry,” he says again. I barely hear him: I’m mesmerized by his hairless, golden-skinned chest, those abs sizzling in the moonlight like . . . well, like . . . something that sizzles. (Give me a break, my boyfriend just left me.)

“I heard what happened, with your boyfriend. Edison Crawley, right? I know him.” A dark look crosses his face. “We’ve been in a few bar brawls. He’s one of those jackasses who won’t stop talking even when the game’s on.”

Again, I barely hear. That chest . . . it’s hypnotic. My mouth hangs open as I stare at it. I don’t even care.

“I’m Jaden,” he says, and he extends his hand to me. “Jaden Blue.”

I don’t know if he means for me to shake his hand or use it to pull myself up . . . so I do both. And then I stare up at his face—his strong jaw, his pretty eyes, his full lips—and have to stop myself from swooning. “Jaden,” I mutter. “It’s so very nice to meet you.”

And soon, we’re talking. And laughing. And then kissing. And Edison, well . . . who needs Edison? I’ve got Jaden. I’ve got a werewolf boyfriend. (Too early to call him my boyfriend? Well, we’ll just see about that!) And I know that soon, very soon . . . he will sparkle. He will sparkle with the best of them, right here, in this nondescript Oregon forest, under the moonlight.

We shall all sparkle.