“How have you been, Ethan?” Doctor Howards asked me with a polite smile. I could hear the edge of concern in her voice as she gazed at me with her almond brown eyes. “You’ve been very quiet today. Tell me what’s on your mind, Ethan.”
She continued to stare at me while I shifted in my seat. I had taken the cushioned chair opposite her desk while Doctor Howards sat behind her desk. She reminded me of my mother whenever she was trying to get my brother or myself to talk about our feelings. The image comforted me slightly, and I found myself spilling my guts to the doctor. I told her all about how Justin had made me feel and how much I always thought about him.
“That’s completely normal, Ethan.” Doctor Howards reassured me. “Does Justin feel the same way about you?”
“I’m not sure,” I said with a slight shrug. “The way he looks at me, I think he does, but it’s not something I’ve ever been able to notice. Jenna says that he really likes me, and Justin does text me a lot…”
Doctor Howards smiled at me and I felt my cheeks flush red in embarrassment. I immediately clammed up and my therapist chuckled quietly.
“It’s really okay, Ethan.” Doctor Howards told me with a gentle smile. “I understand how you feel. Believe it or not, I was young once too.”
I giggled along with Juliette before she continued.
“How long has it been since you’ve texted each other?”
“My phone vibrated in my pocket about ten minutes ago,” I giggled. “I’m pretty sure that it’s Justin, though.”
Doctor Howards smiled.
“How often do you guys talk to each other?”
“As much as possible,” I said as I blushed. “I mean, we text each other throughout the day, and he always calls me just before bed.”
“I’d say that he likes you a lot, Ethan.” Juliette told me with a smile.
“You really think so?” I asked in disbelief.
“You are a beautiful boy, Ethan.” Doctor Howards told me sincerely. “Anybody would be lucky to have you as their boyfriend.”
“Thanks,” I said with a blush.
We spent the remainder of the hour discussing how I felt about my mother’s attempt to quit drinking, and we also discussed the hours that my father spent away from home on CIA business.
“I’m just glad my mother is getting better,” I told the therapist with a brief smile. It was true. She had backed off on the amount of drinking that she had been doing, and my mother had tried connecting with me again. “We’re slowly getting over the death of Evan. I’ve sort of taken over his bedroom, though.”
“What do you mean, Ethan?” Juliette asked me curiously.
“I…” I felt weird telling my therapist that I had been sleeping in Evan’s room ever since his accident, but I knew that it needed to be done. “I’ve been sleeping in Evan’s room since the accident…”
I waited nervously for Doctor Howards to say something, but she just smiled and urged me to continue.
“I think about him a lot, but I’m not obsessive about it.” I quickly added. “I just miss him, is all. It helps me keep a hold of something. I know he’s gone. I know that. I just wish that I had been able to say goodbye to him…”
And then, I cried for the remainder of the session while Doctor Howards comforted me. Before my therapist would let me leave for the day, she gave me another assignment.
“Okay, Ethan. Here’s what I want you to do this week,” she slid a piece of paper over to me. “I want you to write in your journal every day without fail. It doesn’t have to be some long novel, either.” Doctor Howards smiled at me. “Also, I want you to go on a hike.”
“A hike?” I asked in confusion.
“Yes,” she nodded. “A hike, Ethan. While you are on this hike, I want you to take pictures.”
“Whatever you want, Ethan.” She said with a small chuckle. “It’s your hike. Just, make sure that you bring your journal and the pictures with you next week.”
“Yes, ma’am.” I acknowledged as I took a glance at the piece of paper where she had written my assignments. Then, I folded it up and stuck it in my wallet.
A giant dog ran towards me with huge fangs that dripped with saliva as it snarled and snapped. I tried to run from it but there was nothing I could do. I wasn’t fast enough. I fell on my back and glanced up in time to see Evan step in between me and the strange dog. Evan easily snatched the creature out of the air and snapped its neck before it could reach me. Four more of the strange creatures jumped out from a hidden alleyway but Jenna and Tatum suddenly appeared at Evan’s side. Tatum took one glance at me and I gasped when I saw that his eyes were blood red. Jenna and Evan only had eyes for the approaching hounds. Evan took one last look at me before the three of them attacked the snarling wolves without any sign of fear. I was amazed at how well Jenna and Tatum were fighting that I didn’t even notice that one of the dogs attacking my brother had broken free and was headed straight towards me.
I screamed and froze with fear until I heard a yelp full of sudden pain and the terrible sound of bones breaking. Then, the wolf that was attacking me stopped only inches from my face with his teeth bared. It’s expression turned from one of anger and hatred to one of fear right before my eyes before the creature was suddenly yanked away from me. I caught a momentary glimpse of Tatum swinging the mutt by its leg before he slammed it into the ground hard enough to make the street crack. It stumbled to its feet for a moment before it fell to the side and died. I fought the urge to vomit and turned to run away from the gory scene. My feet tripped up beneath me and I fell forward onto my hands and knees. I felt the sting as the concrete cut into the skin of my palms and small drops of blood formed. That was when I realized that everything had gone quiet behind me.
I turned around slowly to see that Evan, Jenna, and Tatum were all glaring at me hungrily. Their blood red eyes were focused solely on me and my heart began to beat frantically within my chest. They wanted to kill me. My brother, my cousin, and my best friend all wanted to kill me. Tatum smiled and I gasped at the sight of his tiny fangs sticking down where his canine teeth were. Then, they charged towards me and I screamed in terror.
I thrashed around on the bed and jumped up as the nightmare lost its icy grip on me. MY heart was beating rapidly, and I had broken out into a sweat.
“It was just a dream, Ethan.” I told myself repeatedly. “There’s no such things as vampires…”
I slipped from beneath the covers of Evan’s bed and went to the bathroom to get a quick drink of water. I tried to figure out what the dream meant as I stared at my own reflection in the bathroom mirror. There were dark shadows beneath my blue eyes and my black hair was sticking up all over the place. My chest and stomach muscles were slightly toned, but my skin was pale. I didn’t tan. I burned. I learned this at a very young age and tried to refrain from making the mistake ever again. I tried to imagine what I would look like with red eyes like Evan had in my dream, but the image frightened me enough that I decided to go back to bed.
School went by slowly for me the next day as I struggled to stay awake during the duration. I considered skipping Mr. Hunter’s class for one week, but my reoccurring nightmare made me curious about the legends that the teacher had been telling me. Something deep in the back of my mind told me that Mr. Hunter was teaching us more than just mere legends. He knew too much about each one of the creatures of the Underworld for it to just be legends. Justin and Jenna had both made it a point to remind me throughout the day that I still had Mr. Hunter’s class. There was no escaping it even if I wanted to…
Mr. Hunter appeared to be more edgy than usual as he waited for everyone to finally get to the class. There were only ten of us, but there was always someone who meandered in at the last minute. Mr. Hunter held his silence until everyone was seated. Then, he stood from behind his desk and wrote a single word on the blackboard.
“Good afternoon, everyone.” He greeted us with a fake smile. I could tell that he had other stuff on his mind, but I was certain that nobody else noticed the change in his demeanor. “Today, we’re going to be discussing witches…”
Mr. Hunter spent the majority of the hour discussing the history of witches and their different classes. He told us how witches spent their time throughout the ages fighting for survival as they were more hunted than any other creature of the Underworld. There were good witches and there were bad witches as well -; each one following their own code of existence. Most witches were able to keep their activities secret from the general public, but there were a few who had to be culled throughout the years because of their desire to be the center of attention.
“It’s a curse for witches to want to be known and loved or even feared.” Mr. Hunter explained dutifully. “That was their major downfall in the early eighteen-hundreds that led to the Salem Witch Trials. It didn’t help their cause when a Dark witch would make her presence known to the world by killing off half of a town with a single wave of her hand.”
“Do Hunters have different skills when it comes to defending themselves against the different types of creatures of the Underworld?” I asked without even realizing that I had interrupted the man. I blushed profusely when his gaze settled on me, but Mr. Hunter smiled in a more relaxed manner.
“That is an excellent question, Ethan.” Mr. Hunter told me in a pleasant tone. “I was beginning to wonder if I was just wasting my breath today or not.”
I relaxed at his statement and allowed myself the moment to smile. I took a quick glance at Justin to see that he was smiling at me as well.
Mr. Hunter went on to explain the different ways that Hunters would have to protect themselves from witches and their powers while I sat there enthralled with every detail. I was a little saddened when Mr. Hunter called an end to the lesson for the week.
“Do you want to go to a party next Friday, Ethan?” Jenna asked me as I gathered up my belongings. “All of the students are invited, actually. We lock down a portion of the school for the night and have a huge slumber party.
I was surprised by her question, and also slightly humiliated because I knew my mother would never let me go to a party. She wouldn’t have even let me do that if Evan was still alive. The tone of Jenna’s voice made it seem like she needed an answer and it had to be a definite answer. She wasn’t going to let me get away with a half-assed response. I glanced towards Mr. Hunter and Justin and it appeared as though they were waiting on me to answer Jenna as well. I swallowed nervously before I answered.
“I’ll go,” I said with a nod. “I have to ask my mom and dad, though.”
I saw Mr. Hunter briefly frown out of the corner of my eye as Jenna hugged me.
“Come on,” Jenna motioned for me to follow her. “I’ll take you home.”
I said my goodbyes to Justin and Mr. Hunter before I followed Jenna from the room. We were halfway down the hallway when I heard Justin call out my name.
“Ethan! Wait up!”
I glanced back and stopped as Justin caught up with us.
“Hey,” I greeted him as I blushed. “What’s up?”
“There’s something I wanted to give you,” he answered nervously as he glanced between Jenna and me. I gasped slightly when he suddenly pressed his lips against mine. The surprise passed quickly, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of pleasure as I melted into Justin’s embrace. He pulled back away from me and I stared at him dreamily. His green eyes almost sparkled in the fluorescent lights of the hallway. “You have no idea how beautiful you are to me, Ethan.”
“Is that so?” I asked with a giggle.
“Yes,” he replied with a smug grin. “That’s so.”
Justin hugged me tightly and kissed the side of my neck.
“Keep your head up, Ethan.” He whispered into my ear. “No matter what happens, I will always be here for you.”
I kissed Justin deeply before I pulled away from him. My mother would freak if I was too late getting home – even if I did want to spend a few more hours there in that hallway with Justin.
“I’ll call you tonight, Justin.” I called out over my shoulder.
“I hope so,” he replied longingly.
Jenna told me all about the party that the school was going to be hosting the following weekend. She spent the time describing the different games and movies that the committee had selected for the event. There was also going to be a room just for gaming and one set up like a night club. I was actually pretty excited for the entire thing when we pulled up in front of my house and my entire world seemed to collapse around me.
An ambulance was parked in front of my house along with two police cars and a black van with the word ‘CORONER’ in big white letters on the side. I was out of the car before Jenna had it in park.
“Ethan, stop!” Jenna called out from behind me, but I couldn’t stop myself.
I was almost to the front porch when my father stepped out and looked at me with tears in his eyes. I ran towards him as he held his arms out to me. My father lifted me into his arms and held me tightly. I glanced over his shoulder and saw my mother’s body lying on a stretcher and being covered with a white sheet. I couldn’t stop myself from crying.
“I’m so sorry, buddy.” My father whispered in my ear as he held on to me. “I love you so much, Ethan. I promise you that I will never leave you like this. I swear to it, baby boy.”
I couldn’t answer him. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything but cry. I was slowly losing all of the people that mattered to me the most. I heard Jenna gasp slightly from behind me before she threw her arms around me.
‘I need you, Evan…’ I thought sadly. ‘More than ever…’