“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”― George Orwell
For days Chase had been dying a thousand deaths on the inside while practicing at home how to tell Hailey his biggest secret.
After getting his parents’ – and his grandfather Caleb’s – approval to do so, he had hoped to also get some sort of how-to manual from them, but none of the adults was very helpful. Caleb actually was less than enthused about the idea, found entrusting such a dangerous secret in a 16 year old girl way too risky, so Blaine and Scarlett went out on a limb for their youngest son by vouching for Hailey, after which Caleb reluctantly agreed.
And now here Chase was, in Newcrest, had picked Hailey up, they were walking through Avalon Park. Not ideal, he would have preferred to do this somewhere more private. Just how to start …? How DO you tell someone something like this?
“Hey … just talk to me, okay? You know you can talk to me. And I can tell something’s weighing on you, something big. Is this about what happened at the Starlight Accolades? Is you being all weird my fault?” Hailey had pulled Chase back to keep him from absent-mindedly wandering straight into the pond at the park for the second time now.
He sighed. Showtime. Ready or not.
“No. Yes. Well, kinda. Look Hailey, I know we trust each other and talk about almost everything. We have shared secrets before, I think in the months since we met we have told each other nearly everything about each other, but there is one more I have kept from you because I had to, it’s been bothering me a lot, so I am trying to find the words to let you in, but really don’t know how. It’s one of those make or break kinda moments. Few people know this about me, and I need it to stay that way. My closest relatives of course know and they are all comfortable with it but … man, this is hard.”
Hailey placed a hand on his lips, her expression gentle.
“Say no more. I know. I kinda suspected this for a while, just … little hints here and there. You don’t have to say the words, if it’s this hard. It’s okay, Chase. I already know.”
“Really?” Chase was more than surprised.
“Really.” she confirmed.
“You knew?” his brain nearly imploded. Whaaaaaaaaaaat?!
“Oh, I didn’t until now, had my suspicions, there were so many signs, mostly subtle, but some really obvious if I think about it. And really, it’s totally fine. No problem. We’re all good.”
“Wow. Really? That was much easier than I thought. I thought you would hate me now, or be afraid of me. Now, you cannot tell ANYONE about this, not even your parents, your brother, your friends … nobody can know, okay? Most people are not so accepting and they fear us.”
“No problem, my lips are sealed. And I am not afraid. Of course not. That would be stupid. I am better than that. I still adore you and I hope we will be friends forever.”
Chase felt great about it, leaned forward and kissed her, but his good mood stopped when she pulled away, looking at him discombobulated.
“What are you doing?!”
“I … thought .. I … I … but … you … I ….” Chase stuttered, scared and shocked.
“And I thought … oh, my god, I get it now. You are bi. I thought you were telling me you were gay. So you like both?! I am sorry, but I am not sure that’s something I can roll with. I am a small town girl, raised by pretty conservative parents, not one of those super-progressive Del Sol Valley chicks, where literally everything goes. I mean, someone of your caliber is already a lot to deal with for someone like me, we live so far apart, I don’t need to get my heart invested in someone where literally everyone could be competition.”
“Your secret … so you are into boys, right? Or bi-sexual? I mean, not to sound super-judgy and all, but … you and your family are already larger than life. I cannot stand here kissing a boy with celebrity parents with all those other girls wanting you, but boys too and you all of them, potentially! That’s just way too much to handle.”
“HUH!? No .. what? That’s not my secret. Wait, you thought I was coming out to you?! OH MY GOD! I am not gay – or bi. I couldn’t be any straighter.” Chase was horrified at the realization of the misunderstanding.
“What? I am so confused. If that’s not what this was about, what is your secret then?”
“Uh … I … I think I better get home. I can’t do this. This is worse a disaster than I dreaded!”
Hailey leaped forward and held on to his sleeve, pulling him back, while walking around him to face him again.
“NO. No Chase. I need to know now. Talk.”
“I can’t. I thought I could but now I really can’t.”
“Well, you are going to have to! I am MAKING you.” she said, determined, and the irony of this girl thinking she could really stop a vampire wasn’t lost on Chase. If only she knew … but she didn’t. Still. UGH!
“Hailey, I REALLY need to get out of here. This was worse than imagined. I have not been able to think straight ever since you kissed me, I have spent every hour of every day wondering what the next step should be and how and when to take it, here I stand pouring out my deepest darkest secret, so we can maybe be together, somehow – and you think I am gay! Seriously … I can’t with this. If you thought I liked men, why did you kiss me in the first place?”
“Calm down! I didn’t. I wasn’t sure, and you are very hard to read and after your stuttering here tonight, that was what made the most sense. I kissed you because I have been crushing so hard, almost since we met, and I thought you liked me that way too, I was so hoping you would make the first move, being this big celebrity rich kid .. I mean, how does it look if I come onto you? Like the type of gold digger I told you I wasn’t. But you just wouldn’t make a move, so many missed opportunities, but you would look at me a certain type of way again and again, I just … at the awards show, you looked so handsome, I felt like a princess and I just … But then, if you are not gay or bi and actually DO like me that way, and I obviously like you that way, what the heck is the problem here exactly? What other secret could you have? You’re a VIP kid, I know that secret, dealing with it, you’re a computer geek, also not a secret, you are not into boys, or bi, which I would understand why with you guys’ notoriety you wouldn’t want to media to waltz all over that … what could be such a big secret? Do you have a kid with someone? Or did you – like – kill someone? Like drunk driving or something?”
“WHAT?! No! I never slept with any girls, we talked about that, so how could I have a kid?! And I am not a murderer, thank you very much! This just keeps getting worse and worse! But I really cannot do this here. Or now. I just can’t. This was a bad idea. I’ll walk you home. We’ll try this again some other time. Maybe in like five million years from now.”
“Chase Cameron! Grow a damn spine! Fine, if here is no good, then my home is right across the street. If that won’t do, name the place and we’ll go. I am all yours all night. Wait .. that came out weird. You know what I mean. We’ve talked through entire nights before, online and when I come to see you in Del Sol Valley.”
“I know, but this is something that needs privacy. I can’t risk people overhearing or watching or walking in.”
“Do you have a tail or a third nipple or something?” Hailey couldn’t help but giggle a little.
“You have seen me at the pool several times, so obviously not.” Chase frowned.
“True. Well okay, I tell you what. I can sneak you into my room. You’d have to climb through the window though, cos my parents trust us, a lot, but probably not THAT much. I’ll go home, talk to the parents for a second, go to my room, lock the door, turn on music and then help you climb in. If we keep it down, we should have all the privacy you need.”
“Okay, fine. Let’s try that …” Chase agreed.
So they did. In a stealthy operation they managed to sneak him into her room.
Chase began nervously rubbing his hands together, till Hailey put hers over his to stop him, then gave him an encouraging smile and a nod.
“Okay. Man, I hope this is not a mistake. I’ll never forgive myself if I lose you now. You have become such a big part of my life …”
“CHASE! Just. Say. It. And if you literally say the word ‘it’ now I will kick you in the tender spot!” Hailey threatened.
Chase chuckled briefly, then looked up at her, opening his mouth wide allowing her full view on the fangs he had worked so hard to hide from her.
Her reaction to it was slow, she went through various emotions until she shook her head, a question to him, unspoken. Chase continued talking, since Hailey had obviously been rendered speechless.
“So, yeah … vampires are real, not a myth and I am one of them. I am sorry to be so blunt, I had this great speech leading up to all, but now can’t recall a single word. Figured might as well rip off the Band-Aid. I can’t help it. I am what I am.”
“How? I mean .. what? No … right? Huh? You are serious? If this is you pranking me, I don’t get the joke.”
“Nope. Just the bleak reality. This is real, Hailz. No jokes, no tricks. But if you think about it, there were signs. Have you ever seen me eat? I also never sleep, we do something that’s more like hibernation, rarely.”
“We? There are … more?”
“Lots more. For one, my parents, and Cait. You met Colton. He’s like me. His girlfriend isn’t. Oh fuck! I could have asked him how he told Nadia about this. Duh! Idiot me.”
“So Vivien, Liam, Blake, Celeste …”
“No. None of them. All mortal, like you.”
“So what exactly does that mean? You turn into a bat and fly home? You drink human blood? Like you kill people to …. drink from them? Do you sleep in a coffin?! Oh man …”
“You have been in my room, obviously I have a bed. And no, we don’t turn into bats. That makes zero sense and is just in movies for effect, like we need help being any weirder. I do drink blood, but from a special blood bank. The exact details is censored stuff, sorry. There are also other options, like synthetic blood, and the fruit of a certain type of tree. I don’t kill people. It wouldn’t even kill you if I were to drink from you. Which I won’t. Just saying, if I were to, you would be fine. Well, you would probably get dizzy from the blood loss, but … ahem …”
“A vampire? Can you prove it? Like something other than those teeth?”
“Fangs. They are called fangs. But how could I prove it? Ahem … Oh! I know. The mirror. Come.”
They walked to the mirror, Chase stood in front of it with her and watched Hailey’s mouth gape open. The reflection showed only her.
“No way! How? WHAT?!” Hailey stuttered confused, shocked and amazed alike.
“I don’t know. Nobody really does. I also have no heartbeat. Feel.”
Encouraged by her being considerably calmer than he would have dared hope for, he took her hand and placed it on his chest, eventually their eyes met.
“Can I … kiss you?” he breathed.
He leaned in, they kissed. This time he didn’t even try to hide his fangs.
A small kiss which turned into a real kiss, both of them eager for it, her wrapping her arms around his neck, the gesture of affection made a world of difference to him. She didn’t hate him! Or fear him! She still wanted to kiss him! Phew! They parted and he could tell Hailey was affected by everything, fighting tears.
“Do you want me to go?”
She shook her head.
“No, please stay. I am just a little overwhelmed with emotions here. This is a lot all at once. This was our second kiss, not counting that train wreck at the park. That’s big to me. And then your secret, man. I don’t know what to think here. Everything has changed, and then again, nothing has. I mean, you are still Chase-y. Gump. Rainman. But I still have questions …”
“I’ll try to answer best I can, but know that there are some things even we don’t fully understand and others that I can’t talk about.”
“How many like you are out there?”
“I don’t have an exact headcount, that would be a question for my grandfather, he is the leader.”
“Oh, way more.”
“Not even scratching the surface.”
“That many?! You are kidding!”
“Nope. Goes to show you how well-kept my secret really is. We walk among you, hiding in plain sight, always have, always will. You may have met some and just not known it, before we met, I mean. Other than Colton, my parents, little sister and me, there were several more at my birthday party, some you hadn’t met before. I saw you talking to Riordan a lot, Colton’s dad. He’s one of us. Like me he was born like this and is actually kinda old now, 115 years I think, even though he stopped aging at like 30 or so.”
“Ri? Wow. So they – you – just live among us?”
“Most of us do. Some live among the mortals, like right next door to them in the city or even sometimes the suburbs, usually those who were once mortal and were turned a little later in life or those with mixed families, part vamp, part mortal. For those like me, born that way, it usually depends how they were raised. I was raised among mortals, my dad didn’t get turned until long after I was already born, I grew up in Del Sol Valley, I like it there and I really don’t want to move away. To me a lot of the vampire stuff, rituals and rules, are just as weird, but I know better than to question them. And the ancient vampires are usually kinda quirky, they usually don’t care for mortals all that much and like to keep to their own kind.”
“But you and I have been out in the daylight. What about vampires falling to dust in the light? Or is that also not true?”
“Ah .. that. It’s part true, part myth. Whatever that is that makes us this way, and keeps us alive, gets stronger with time and as you work on certain skills. Before you ask, all classified. Freshly turned or unskilled vamps, or some that have been impaired somehow really can die in the sunlight. I mean, we can’t exactly lay out and tan, we’d burn badly, but ya know. I can’t eat though, which has become a bit of a problem with coming here. You and your parents always trying to feed me.”
“Right. Well, you are pretty skinny … Anyway, is that why you are always so cold? I often wondered about that. Thought you had low blood pressure or something. Would explain why you are from Del Sol Valley but so pale, when all others are so tan.”
“Yup. You are taking this surprisingly well, Hailz.”
“Not like I have much of a choice. I am not really sure what all this means, for me, for us. All I do know is that you are so damn important to me, way too important to let this take you from me. And hey, which girl would just give up this cute rich guy who can get her in the door with all the celebrities, right?” she grinned up at him, ruffling her nose and he knew she was teasing him.
“I am so glad this is out. It’s been driving me insane. Just like that kiss. The one at the awards show. And please don’t fear me, okay? I swear I would never hurt you.”
“I believe you. If you wanted to, you had many opportunities. And you coming here to come clean with me, you didn’t have to, but you did. That’s pretty big. Crazy stuff, but … I appreciate that. A lot.”
“Right. So … ready for another stupid question from the cute rich guy weirdo dork with fangs?”
“Lay it on me.”
“Are we like .. together now?”
“You mean together together?”
“Yeah, like … dating.”
“I have no idea, Chase. You were my first kiss, not counting my family. And our old family dog. He died two years ago.”
“Hopefully not from your kiss.”
“Hardee har har!” Hailey said, trying to hide her smile.
“You were my first kiss too. And my second. I have never kissed any dogs though.”
“You’re missing out.”
“I think I’ll be fine passing on this whole dog kissing trend! Especially when there is someone I’d so much rather kiss. Hailz … can we be official? Like … be a couple and hold hands in public and all?”
“What about your famous family and stuff? Like if a reporter were to see? Those headlines wouldn’t be anything good. Lower middle class girl and Blaine Cameron’s son … yeah, that’d be fun at school for me too.”
“Fuck them! I am tired of missing out just because of who and what I am. Not like I chose any of it. And you didn’t choose me. Well, I guess you kinda did in a way, just not on purpose.” Chase shrugged, smirking.
“All right. I’d like that. We’re official then …. boyfriend. Man, I must be dreaming this whole evening. The guy I’ve been crushing on for months turns out to be a rich celebrity vampire and is now my boyfriend. Just another Tuesday in Newcrest, right? Ha. Hey, can I see those fangs again?”
“I guess …” Chase nodded, then opened his mouth. This felt weird, strange, wrong, but also good. At least no more trying to hide them.
She touched them, carefully, amazement reflected in her eyes, until he acted as if he was trying to bite her hand, both giggled and started play-wrestling, ending up on her bed where the mood shifted, they began making out.
Chase was in seventh heaven with Hailey. This was better than he could have ever hoped for. Lost in the moment, both nearly jumped out of their skins, spraying apart when someone suddenly banged on the door.
“Hailey, whom are you talking to in there?” came Hailey’s father’s voice through the door.
“Ahem … Chase, dad. On the … computer. Phone, I meant. We’re face-timing, dad.” Hailey scrambled out some semi-believable lie.
“Already? You just saw him less than half an hour ago. Jeeze Louise kids. You need to wrap it up. Today’s a school night. Send him some of those Emo-Johns and tell him good night. Tomorrow is another day.”
“Emoticons dad and will do. Night dad!” Hailey called back, exhaling relieved.
“Night, sweetheart. Lights better be off in 5. And unlock that door. I know your little brother can be a pest, but I don’t like locked doors. Your mother and I never bother you when you are talking to your Chasey-pooh, Grady’s 13 now and understands rules – eventually at least – so no need to barricade us out now. Okay?”
After some moments of silence, they were certain he had left, Chase whispered.
“Man, that was close. I think if I were mortal, I would be laying on your floor, dead.”
“I’d be laying dead right next to you. I swear I had five heart attacks and a stroke just now. Man, he scared me. Speaking of, are you like … dead?”
“Do I look dead?”
“Not really, but you don’t have a heartbeat, so …. I don’t think I get this whole vamp thing, but I think you need to go. Sorry. I wish you could stay, but I do need to unlock that door.”
“Yeah, I need to get back too or I’ll be in trouble as well. Oh … Hailz? One more thing I need to tell you … “
“I … ahem .. I … I …. I …..ahem … I …” he cleared his throat, hoping to get the words out, when she giggled, then kissed him, before whispering near his ear.
“I love you too, Chase-y.”
He blushed deeply, and was still bright red minutes later when walking to the meeting spot where his father would port to to pick him up …