Tatum’s Homecoming: Part Two

It had been two weeks since Tatum’s attack, and ever since then, she’d been sitting at home going stir crazy. She had been forced to stop training and she’d been forbidden from watching Netflix and texting (since the doctors weren’t sure how much stimulation her brain could take at the moment), so she wasn’t really doing anything except sleep, talk, and eat.

On the day of the homecoming dance, she was eating a bowl of cereal when her father and Lucas entered the room. “Tatum, we have some good news for you,” Adam told her as they sat down at the table.

“I can get my phone back?” she asked, her face lighting up.

Adam and Lucas laughed. “Yes, you can get your phone back,” Lucas told her. “You can use it for up to an hour a day, but if you get dizzy or you have trouble concentrating on anything before the hour’s up, put it away and lay down for a while, okay?”

Tatum nodded eagerly. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” She hugged them both while they chuckled at her. “Thank you so much.”

“There’s something else, Tat–” Before he could finish his sentence, Adam elbowed Lucas in the ribs. “Ow!”

“Dad, what was that about? What are you guys up to?” Tatum asked suspiciously.

“You’ll see tonight,” said Adam. “We felt bad that you couldn’t go to homecoming, so we set something up for you.” After much debate and discussion, her doctors had decided to not let her attend the homecoming dance, as they figured the lights, loud music, and dancing wouldn’t be good for her just yet.

“You didn’t have to do that, you guys,” Tatum responded. “I’m fine skipping homecoming.”

Lucas smiled. “It was actually Danny’s idea.”

Tatum frowned. “What does Danny have to do with this?” They’d spoken a few times since her accident, but they hadn’t had any very long or deep conversations. She figured that although he was relieved she was okay, he still needed some space.

“He planned all of this,” explained Lucas.

“Planned what?” Tatum asked, rolling her eyes.

“You’ll find out tonight. Until then, just relax.” Adam told his daughter.

“Do you guys even know what he’s planning?” Tatum narrowed her eyes and stared at Adam and Lucas.

The two men laughed. “No, not at all,” Lucas revealed. “I have kind of an idea, since he did have to ask me what he could and couldn’t do, given your concussion, but he didn’t tell me what he decided on. You’ll have to let us know what he had planned. Your father and I are going out for dinner tonight.”

Tatum raised an eyebrow suspiciously, looking at her father. “I’ve known Danny since I was a toddler, and you’ve never let me be alone with him in the house.”

“Well, over the past few weeks, he’s been such a gentleman. Besides, I always had a feeling he had a crush on you. I just figured he wouldn’t act on it–for the longest time, it wasn’t Tatum and Danny, it was Tatum, Danny, and Kendall. I figured he wouldn’t want to mess that up. And I know that he values your friendship more than anything else,” Adam explained to his daughter.

“It took you fourteen years to realize this?” Tatum said, laughing. “Dad, come on.”

“Hey, up until a few weeks ago, I had every reason to believe you had feelings for him, too. Honestly, Jocelyn and I always thought that once you guys were older, you would end up together,” Adam told her, referring to Danny’s mother, Jocelyn Peters.

“That’s because we live in a society where people assume that people of different genders can’t be friends without wanting to sleep together,” Tatum retorted.

Lucas cracked up laughing. “She got you there, Adam,” he said, laughing. “But in all seriousness, Tatum, I do kind of see where he’s coming from. You should see the way that Danny looks at you.”

“Okay, can we not talk about this anymore?” Tatum replied, rising from the table, her bowl in hand. “I’m going to lie down.”

“Are you feeling alright, Tate?” Adam asked, his voice laced with concern.

Tatum nodded as she placed her bowl in the sink. “I’m fine, I just don’t feel like doing anything right now.”

Adam and Lucas didn’t seem all that convinced. “Are you sure?” Lucas asked.

“Yes, Dr. Morgenstern,” she sighed. “I’m fine. I just want to lie down.”

“Okay. I’ll check on you before I leave for work, okay, Tate?” Adam called after her as she left the room.

“Okay!” she yelled back before closing her bedroom door. True to his word, he did, in fact, check on her before he left for work that morning. And before it was time for Lucas’s shift at the hospital, he came to check on her as well, despite her insistence that she was fine.

Even though Adam and Lucas weren’t home with her during the day, they still made sure to call and check up on her periodically throughout the day. On one hand, Tatum appreciated their concern, but on the other hand, it was irritating. Normally they’d only check with her three or four times a day, and that was between the two of them. On that day, they’d each called her at least five times, and she was starting to get fed up with them.

In fact, that afternoon when she heard the front door open, she assumed that it was either Adam or Lucas coming to check up on her before their–they’d told her that they’d be back from the restaurant around ten–and so she yelled, “For the millionth time, I’m fine! Just go on your date!”

Her bedroom door opened and Danny poked his head inside. “Ooh, someone’s grumpy,” he remarked, smiling at her. “Should I come back later?”

She scrambled off the bed, throwing her arms around Danny. “No, don’t leave!”

Danny laughed as he extricated himself from Tatum’s grip. “Well, aren’t you happy to see me?”

“Yes! I missed you, and I hate being stuck in this apartment,” Tatum explained, taking a step back. “Adam and Lucas said you had some sort of surprise planned?”

“Well, I just wanted to do something nice for you, since you’re missing homecoming,” Danny explained to her. “You’ve been stuck here alone for so long, I figured you needed a change of pace. And some company.”

“That’s sweet of you,” Tatum replied, smiling up at him. She started to exit the room. “So, what’s the plan?”

He grabbed her gently by the shoulders and pushed her back into the bedroom. “Not so fast. I need a few minutes to set everything up.”

Tatum rolled her eyes, but she obliged, sighing loudly. “Fine. I’ll just stay in here. Doing nothing.”

“Don’t be so dramatic. I won’t be that long,” Danny promised her as he closed the door to her room. About fifteen minutes later, he knocked on the door once more. “Tay? Come on out.”

Eagerly she leaped off the bed and rushed to yank open her bedroom door. She’d been able to hear some of what he was doing from her room, but she still had no idea what he had planned. “Finally! I feel like I’ve been waiting forever!”

Danny chuckled and pulled something out of his pocket. “Wait! Don’t go yet, I need you to put this on!” He presented her with a dark blindfold, and she rolled her eyes as she put it on.

“Danny, you don’t have to do all this,” Tatum informed him as he led her into the living room. “This is all incredibly extra, even for you.”

“Yes, I know. But you’re my best friend, and I want to do something nice for you,” Danny replied. He stood behind her and untied the blindfold. “Voila!”

Tatum gasped as she saw what was in the living room. “Danny…I can’t believe you did all this!”

Danny grinned at her reaction. “Just like old times, huh?” He’d created a giant pillow fort in the middle of the living room, something Tatum, Danny, and later Kendall had been doing since they were little kids. They hadn’t done this since they were in eighth grade, a few months before Kendall’s death. “I figured that there’s no problem a pillow fort can’t solve.”

She laughed and hugged him once more. “Danny, this is great.”

“Isn’t it?” he replied, still smiling. “You get inside. I need to grab a few things.”

Tatum settled on the air mattress Danny had used as the base for the fort, and Danny crawled in shortly after her, a tote bag wedged under his arm. He settled next to her on the mattress and began to pull things out from the bag. “Okay, I’ve got your favorite blanket, two Cokes, a bag of Sour Patch Kids, a bag of gummy bears, and a big bag of kettle chips.” He’d even gotten the same snacks they’d gotten as kids: none of them were huge fans of popcorn. After he’d unloaded all the junk, he pulled out his laptop. “And I’ve also got My Babysitter’s A Vampire. The movie and both seasons of the show. You’re still a fan, right? I figured that it’s cheesy enough to not hit too close to home.”

Tatum smiled from ear to ear as she covered herself in her blanket. “I love you,” she said as she opened the bag of chips.

“I know, I love me too,” Danny responded, grabbing some of the chips and laughing as Tatum socked him in the shoulder. “I’m kidding. I love you, too, Tay.”

“Just turn on the movie,” Tatum said, laughing. He did so, and they were halfway through the first season (and the chips and candy) when a loud thump startled them. Danny pressed pause and looked at Tatum. “Did you hear that?”

Tatum nodded fearfully, a knot forming in her stomach. “Yeah. Stay here. I’m going to check it out.” Danny grabbed her wrist, stopping her from leaving.

“Are you insane?” he hissed. “Let me go.”

“Once again, I slay vampires. I can defend myself perfectly well,” Tatum pointed out. Before Danny had a chance to protest again, she yanked her wrist from his grasp and crawled out of the fort.

She then arranged the blankets so that you couldn’t see inside of the fort. She hurried to her bedroom and grabbed a stake and the necklace Ms. Green had given her: the one with the vial of holy water on it. She tucked the stake into her sweatshirt pocket and hid the necklace under the sweatshirt. Tatum slipped out of her bedroom, one hand ready to pull out the stake. She crept around the apartment, listening for another sound. For a moment, she thought she’d heard footsteps, but they subsided after a moment.

She was just about ready to rejoin Danny in the fort when the door swung open, slamming against the wall. Tatum could just barely make out two figures at the door, and she screamed and pulled out the stake. “Stop right there!”

“Sorry, kiddo, I should’ve said something.”

Tatum breathed a sigh of relief as Lucas turned on the light, and she tucked the stake back into her pocket before he noticed it. A woozy looking Adam was propped up on his shoulder. “Lucas, you scared the crap out of me. We weren’t expecting you for another hour or so.”

“Sorry, Tate, but your father had a little too much to drink at dinner,” Lucas explained.

Adam rolled his eyes. “I’m fine,” he insisted, slurring his words slightly. “Lucas is overreacting.”

“I’m not taking any chances. Let’s get you to bed,” said Lucas.

“If you insist, Dr. Morgenstern,” Adam replied mockingly.

Lucas chuckled. “I’ve got this under control, Tate. I’ll just let myself out once he’s asleep. Have fun with Danny.”

“But not too much fun!” Adam called loudly.

Tatum laughed as she headed back to the fort. “Alright, Dad, get some sleep. We’ll talk in the morning.” She re-entered the fort and found Danny waiting patiently for her, a smirk on his face.

“Shut up,” she said, pressing play on the episode before he had a chance to say anything. She hadn’t been back for too long when Lucas poked his head into the fort.

“Hey, guys. I’m heading out. Are you two going to be okay?”

Danny nodded. “We’ll be fine. Thanks for asking, though, Lucas.”

“Okay. I’ll see you guys later,” Lucas said as he left the fort. “I’ll lock the door.”

“Thanks, Lucas!” Tatum called after him.

Danny pressed play on the laptop, and the two of them continued to binge watch My Babysitter’s a Vampire. The teens both ended up falling asleep just before Erica and Sarah saved the day in Tatum’s favorite episode of the season.

They slept peacefully for hours until they were startled awake by loud music. “What was that?” Danny murmured.

“It was the show,” Tatum replied. “It’s Ethan, Benny, and Rory’s awful band.”

“Oh, yeah, I remember that,” Danny said, yawning. He pulled out his phone to check the time. “Crap. I was supposed to be home an hour ago. My mom’s going to kill me.”

“Danny! You should’ve told me that you had a curfew!” Tatum said, smacking him with a pillow. “I would’ve made sure you left on time.”

“Tatum, I’ll be fine. I texted my mom, and I let her know that I’m with you. She’ll still be mad, I’m sure, but at least now she knows where I am,” Danny responded. “Come on. You need sleep.” He started to leave the fort, and Tatum followed.

“I’ll take it down in the morning, you just get home safe, okay?” Tatum told him. She gave him a hug but pulled away almost instantly. “Crap! I almost forgot. I meant to give you back your sweatshirt.”

Danny frowned. “I never lent you one of my sweatshirts.”

She smiled nervously. “Yeah…I kind of….borrowed it without permission when you drove me home from the hospital the other day.” He’d driven her home from a follow-up appointment the previous week, and she’d grabbed it when he wasn’t looking.

“I drive you home, and you repay me by stealing my sweatshirts?” Danny questioned, mock-angrily, as he followed her to her room. “I don’t know why I didn’t expect that. You and Kendall used to steal my stuff all the time.”

“It’s not stealing, it’s borrowing without permission,” Tatum corrected him as she looked through her closet for the sweatshirt. “Ah. Here it is.” She plucked it off the hanger and handed it to him.

“Thanks, Tay,” Danny said as he took the sweatshirt from her.

“No problem. Sorry for borrowing without permission,” she replied, carefully avoiding the usage of the word steal.

Danny smiled at her. “It’s cool. You’re forgiven.”

“Good.” She hugged him again, this time a little bit longer. “See you Monday?” Monday was set to be her first day back at school since her attack.

“Absolutely,” said Danny just before letting her go. He opened his mouth to say something but they were interrupted by a loud crash. They both tensed up. “What the f–”

“Danny! Language!” Tatum scolded. “Anyway, I’m pretty sure that was just my dad. I’ll go check.”

Once again, he grabbed her wrist before she could leave. “But what if it’s not? I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“I’ll be fine.” She shrugged off his concern and continued to walk towards the door. Still, he had a point. What if it wasn’t her father? Before she left the room, Tatum looked at him once more. “Listen, if it’s not Adam, just stay hidden, and stay quiet. Lock the door, and don’t open it for anyone except for me.”

“Tay…” The fear Danny was feeling was clearly reflected on his face. “It could just be nothing, but if it’s not…I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Danny, I need you to listen to me. I love you, and if something happened to you because of me, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. I’ve already lost Kendall, and I almost lost my dad. I can’t lose you, too.” Tatum said quietly. “Please, just listen to me.”

Danny’s response was lost to her as Tatum left the room and closed her door behind her. After a moment, she heard the click of the lock and breathed a sigh of relief. She sidled along the hallway, taking note of the light on in the kitchen. She heard someone moving around, and sucked in a breath, trying to calm her thoughts. Tatum, you and Danny are making a big deal out of nothing. It’s probably just your father. Chill out. It’s not like this is My Babysitter’s a Vampire or something like that. 

“Uh, yeah, it kind of is,” Tatum murmured in response, not realizing she was speaking aloud.

“Hello?” a voice sounded from the kitchen. Tatum let out a breath. It was just her father. “Tate, is that you?”

See, you had nothing to worry about, she thought to herself as she entered the kitchen. “Yeah, Dad, it’s me. Did you drop something?”

“Yeah, I needed a glass of water, but I accidentally knocked the glass off of the counter. Did I wake you up?” Adam asked apologetically as he dumped the contents of the dust pan into the trash.

“No, I haven’t gone to bed yet. Danny was just leaving,” Tatum explained.

Adam raised an eyebrow. “It’s one in the morning,” he pointed out. “He was supposed to be out of here at midnight.”

“We fell asleep watching something on Netflix. And he’s leaving, Dad, okay? I just needed to give him his sweatshirt back,” she told her father, who choked on his water upon hearing her last statement.

“You two are wearing each other’s clothes now?” he inquired, still coughing a bit. “Tatum, this is exactly why I didn’t want him here.”

“Dad, chill out, okay? It’s not like that. I took it when he brought me home from the hospital the other day: I was cold and I left mine here, but then I forgot about it. Tonight I remembered to give it back, so he’s grabbing it, and then he’s leaving.”

“If you say so,” Adam replied, still looking a bit suspicious. “I’m going back to bed. Don’t forget about your follow-up appointment with Lucas and Dr. Edwards.” Dr. Edwards was the neurosurgeon at Stevens Memorial, and she and Dr. Morgenstern were meeting with Tatum and her father to make sure that she was truly ready to go to school on Monday.

“I won’t. Good night, Dad.” She headed back to her room and wiggled the doorknob, forgetting it was still locked. “Danny, open up. It’s me.”

There was no response, and she rattled the doorknob harder, figuring he hadn’t heard her the first time. “Danny!”

When he failed to respond once again, she slipped a bobby pin from her hair and used it to open her bedroom door. Tatum closed the door behind her as she stepped into the room. “Danny, come on. This isn’t funny. Come out, you need to get home.”

Still, there was no answer, and Tatum felt her heart beating faster and faster. Her eyes filled with tears as a million different scenarios ran through her head. She shook her head violently, as if to clear those thoughts, and looked under the bed, behind the desk, and in the closet, but he was nowhere to be found. But where could he have gone? Tatum’s bedroom wasn’t that big, and if he’d gone out the window or something, she would’ve heard him.

She slumped down in her desk chair, trying to control her breathing and think logically about where Danny could’ve gone. Canvassing her room once more, she noticed that the sweatshirt she’d stolen from him was on the floor of her room, and she snatched it from the floor, cradling it to her chest. As she did, she noticed a piece of paper fall to the ground.

Tatum dropped the sweatshirt and picked up the scrap of paper, which read, If you want to see your lover boy again, meet me at your old house at two. Come alone or he dies. 

“Oh, my God,” she gasped, letting the paper fall to the floor. She got up from the chair and yanked on her boots. As an extra precaution, she grabbed the bow and quiver of arrows Ms. Green had given her for her sixteenth birthday, knowing she couldn’t fight as aggressively with her fists and feet due to her head injury. Making sure that her holy water necklace was still around her throat, she stood to her feet and silently snuck out of the apartment, jogging to her old house, stopping if she felt dizzy, but at the same time, wasting as little time as possible. She had to make it to Danny. She had to.

Finally, her old house came into view. Swallowing her nerves, Tatum stepped up to the front door and placed her hand on the knob. Just like she’d done two months ago, she hesitated when it came to turning the knob and opening the door.

I have to do this, she thought to herself. Danny is in there, and I can’t let him get hurt because of me. With that in mind, she pulled open the door. “Listen, I don’t know who you are or what you want, but leave Danny out of it!” she yelled, flipping the light switch up only to realize the utilities had been turned off for months. Tatum swore under her breath, not wanting to have to depend on the crappy flashlight on her phone, but it was her only choice. She hadn’t thought to grab another one. “Clearly it’s me you want to hurt, so hurt me! Don’t hurt Danny. He has nothing to do with any of this,” she said, making her way through the house, guided by the tiny beam of light her phone gave off.

“I disagree.” At the sound of the voice, Tatum whirled around to see a masked figure clad in all black holding a knife to the neck of an unconscious Danny in the center of the living room.

“What did you do to him?” she screamed, clenching her hands into tight fists and trying her hardest not to cry.

“Relax, Tatum. He’s not dead. But he will be if you don’t do what I say,” the figure said in a familiar voice.

“Who are you? What do you want from me?” Tatum whispered hoarsely, looking up at the figure.

The mysterious figure removed the knife from its position at Danny’s throat and let the unconscious teen fall to the ground.

“Danny!” Tatum cried, rushing to his side. She grabbed his wrist to find his pulse, breathing a sigh of relief when she confirmed that his heart was still beating. As best as she could, she pulled him up to a sitting position and propped him up against the wall. “Danny, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she murmured over and over again. The last thing she wanted was for him to get dragged into all of this, and now he’d been kidnapped and nearly killed thanks to her.

“Get up,” the stranger commanded, watching Tatum whisper into Danny’s ear. “Now, Tatum. Get up or you’ll both die.”

“I’ll get up when you tell me who you are,” Tatum said bravely, moving to shield Danny’s unconscious body with her own.

The figure groaned. “Do you have to be so stubborn all the time?”

“Do it,” Tatum growled through clenched teeth. “Tell me who you are!”

“Fine.” The figure yanked off their mask, revealing the face of a young girl, not much older than Tatum. At first glance, Tatum was sure she’d never seen the girl before, but as she looked closer, she noticed that something about the girl seemed eerily familiar. “I’m Diana. Diana Thorn. You don’t know me, but I believe that you know my father. Or rather, you did know him. And you killed him. And while the cops might’ve bought the little story that you told them, I didn’t.”

Tatum gasped. “No…it can’t be…Damian didn’t have any kids…”

The girl–Diana–laughed. “I was eighteen when my father met your father. Remember? You were ten, maybe eleven then. We met once, but I left home after I turned eighteen, and my parents stopped speaking to me shortly after. I would’ve reached out to Damian, but he left our home state once he met your father.”

“I still don’t understand what this has to do with me. I didn’t do anything. What do you want from me?” Tatum repeated, staring up at Diana. “And what does Danny have to do with any of this?”

“I want to make you pay for everything you did to me,” Diana told her. “You killed my father, and I loved him more than anything.”

“If this is about making me pay for what I did to you, then why not just go after my father? That’d certainly be an easy way to get back at me.” Tatum said, trying to hide the tremor in her voice. “I only did what I did because your father was a sociopath who tried to kill me and my father!”

“So you admit that you killed him?” Diana demanded.

Tatum winced imperceptively at Diana’s words. Diana was this close into tricking Tatum into admitting that she had killed Damian. “For the last time, Diana, your father died in a car crash! All I did was protect myself and my father.”

“Oh, really? Did you have to light him on fire and tell him to rot in hell in order to protect you and your father?”

Tatum froze, her response lost. “What did you just say?” she asked incredulously. Danny and Ms. Green were the only ones who knew the truth about what happened to Damian, and she hadn’t exactly gone into detail about his death with them. She hadn’t told them how she’d killed him or what she’d said to him, and Tatum had no idea how Diana would’ve found that out. “That’s ridiculous.”

“Oh, sweetie, give it up. I think we’ve already established that I know the truth about what happened to my father,” Diana said with a smirk. “You killed him. I saw you, for crying out loud.”

“You saw what happened?” Tatum squeaked.

Diana nodded. “Yes. I hadn’t spoken to my father in four years, but that night, I finally managed to track him down. It took me a while to find your house, but once I did, I heard screaming and yelling coming from inside the house. I hid behind that tree, in the front yard, and I saw what you did to him.”

“I didn’t have a choice about what I did! He tried to kill me!” Tatum exclaimed. “And you’ve yet to explain to me about how Danny fits into all of this. Because as far as I’m concerned, Danny doesn’t have anything to do with any of this. If you really want to hurt someone, hurt me. You want to make me miserable, don’t you? Then go after me, and leave Danny alone.”

Diana smirked once more. “I was going to go after you. I did go after you: I’m the one who gave you your concussion. The plan was always to go after you, and I would’ve succeeded if it weren’t for your little boyfriend over here. I was this close to getting rid of you, but he intervened. So I had to adjust my plans a bit. The only way to get rid of you was to get rid of him and keep him out of my way.”

“Danny’s not my boyfriend,” Tatum said automatically.

“So what? He’s in love with you, and you love him platonically, at least,” Diana shrugged. “The point is, he got in the way and so I did something about it. I hadn’t planned on killing him, but maybe I should. I’d be satisfied seeing you hurt the same way I did.”

No.” Tatum spoke loudly and emphatically.  She stepped away from Danny and up to Diana. “You want to hurt me? Fine. Bring it,” she said nastily, stepping closer and closer and closer to Diana with every word.

She wasn’t expecting it when Diana merely grabbed her by the collar and flung her across the room. Tatum landed flat on her back, blacking out for a few seconds. Once she came to, she scrambled back to her feet, only feeling a little bit dizzy as she did. She lunged across the room and threw herself at an unsuspecting Diana, who’d turned her back away from Tatum seeing that she was unconscious.

Using the element of surprise gave Tatum the upper hand, and she was able to knock Diana to the ground, pinning Diana as best as she could. “Leave…us…alone!” Tatum grunted out as Diana struggled under her.

“Not a chance,” Diana spat out. She stopped struggling for a second, and, without thinking, Tatum loosened her grip on Diana, giving Diana the leverage she needed to kick Tatum off of her.

Tatum screamed as she flew across the room and hit the ground once more, but this time, she ignored the dizziness she was feeling as best as she could, and managed to yank the stake from her boot, hurling it at Diana as best as she could. Given what Tatum knew now, she figured the stake would incapacitate Diana the same way it had with her father.

Normally, Tatum’s aim was on point, but she’d been out of practice for two weeks, and so the stake only managed to wedge itself into Diana’s shoulder. One eyebrow raised incredulously, Diana merely yanked the stake out of her shoulder and lunged at Tatum, tackling her and knocking her to the ground once more. Tatum tried to fight back, but she was too dizzy. She blinked back tears as she thought of Danny and her father.

“It’s time for you to say goodbye,” Diana growled, wrapping her hands around Tatum’s neck and squeezing.

Tatum could feel her life seeping out of her, slowly. She could feel her arms weaken as she stopped struggling against Diana, and she could see her vision tunneling. This can’t be happening to me, she thought. Not now. She could vaguely recall this moment’s eerie similarity to a dream she’d had in her freshman year. She could feel her senses blurring, merging into one. After a minute, all she was aware of was Diana’s face, which was slowly morphing into a shapeless blob.

Suddenly, she felt the pressure around her neck subside, and as the weight on top of her was removed, she inhaled deeply before pushing herself up to a seating position and coughing wildly. When her eyes finally refocused, she saw a wide-eyed Danny standing over Diana’s body, blood covering the front of his shirt.

“You saved me,” Tatum said weakly, still coughing a bit as he knelt down by her side. ”

“Well, I can’t let you have all the glory, now, can I?” Danny replied, smiling wryly. She threw her arms around him as she burst into tears, letting herself cry for the first time that night. Danny returned her embrace, murmuring soothing things to her as she cried, and the two of them stayed that way until the paramedics and the police showed up.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

EIGHTEEN MONTHS LATER 

“All in all, I’d just like to say that leaving Emerson High–again–is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I’m leaving behind a network of teachers and faculty who all care so much for their students. I’m leaving behind some of my underclassmen friends, and I’m even leaving some of my senior friends who are headed off in different directions than I am. These past few years have been absolutely incredible, and I’m so sad to leave this behind, but I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have been here in the first place. Thank you,” Tatum said, concluding her graduation speech. Typically, only the students ranked first, second and third in the class spoke (Tatum was ranked at number four due to all the time she’d had to take off), but the school made an exception this year given her academic excellence and all that she’d been through in high school.

She managed to catch Danny’s eye as she sat in her seat and smiled at him. He waved back and pantomimed a thumbs-up. Returning the gesture, she turned around and faced forward for the rest of the ceremony.

After their graduation ended, Tatum immediately went to find Danny, who enveloped her in a giant hug as soon as he saw her. “You did great up there,” he murmured.

“So did you,” she replied, looking into his eyes. “I have to be honest, I didn’t think I’d make it to the end of junior year, let alone our senior year. But I did, thanks to you.”

“Hey, you’ve saved me more than once. I figured it was time to return the favor. Besides, I love you, Tay. I’d gladly do it all over again.”

“Don’t say that,” Tatum said, shuddering, and breaking the eye contact. “I never want to have to face Diana or Damian again.”

“I don’t either! I don’t want to lose you, Tay. I mean, we already lost Kendall,” he said gently.

Tatum looked up at him once more. “You know, if she was here, she’d be yelling at us to get a room,” she said, a smile on her face.

Danny grinned. “And why’s that?”

“You haven’t let me go since I’ve gotten over here,” Tatum pointed out. It was true. They hadn’t let go of each other, they’d just stepped back from each other. Her arms were still looped around his neck, and his arms were still around her waist.

“But he’s most definitely going to let go of you unless he wants to face my fatherly wrath,” Adam chuckled from behind them. He and Lucas had wandered over to them, accompanied by Danny’s mother Jocelyn.

“Dad!” Tatum exclaimed, hugging him tightly. She hugged Jocelyn and Lucas before turning back to her father and saying, “I’ve told you a million times that Danny and I are still just friends.”

“You’re just friends now. Just you wait. When he starts seeing someone else, you’ll get jealous,” Adam joked.

Tatum gave Danny the stink eye. “I really wish you hadn’t told him he should joke more. His favorite thing is to tease me about you.

Jocelyn chuckled. “Well, Tatum, Daniel here has always had a little crush on you. When you guys were in middle school, he would–”

“Mom!” Danny exclaimed, flushing bright red and causing everyone else to laugh at him. “It’s not the time or the place!”

“Fine, I won’t tell the story.” Jocelyn raised her hand in surrender as Danny glared at her. “But I will say this, Tatum. You and Danny have something special; you’ve been friends since you were toddlers. Even if you hadn’t, you’ve saved his life before, and I’ll always owe you for that. He’s lucky to have you.”

“Oh, I know,” Tatum said, smiling. “I mean, I kind of remember this one time he saved my life, but you know, I could’ve handled it myself.”

Danny shoved her lightly and playfully, and she pushed him back hard enough that he nearly tipped over. “Really, Anderson?” he questioned, his eyes smiling but his face neutral.

Tatum looked at him in mock-innocence. “Did I do something?”

“I can’t stand you sometimes,” he replied, laughing.

“I love you too,” Tatum said, looking up at him. She hugged him once more, and he hugged her back.

Both her statement and Jocelyn’s statement were equally true: she loved him, and he was lucky to have her. Tatum had to admit that even though she fought off vampires and other creatures of the night on a daily basis and he was just a regular high school student, she was lucky to have him, too.

Aside from the fact that he’d saved her life nearly two years earlier, he was funny, sweet, and caring. Danny was always there for her when she needed him, and he was willing to drop everything for her. Their friendship was one of the most important things in her life, and she wouldn’t dare to mess that up (again).

So far, their friendship had only gotten stronger as they went through high school, and they both guessed that it would continue to grow throughout college. Diana may have been the first villain they faced together, but she wasn’t the last. Tatum knew that she had no control over what the next few years would send her way or Danny’s way, but she did know that whatever happened, she and Danny would make it through.

Together.

 

Tatum’s Homecoming: Part One

Hey, guys, you might remember the two-part Tatum the Vampire Slayer story I published last summer. (If not, you can read part one here and part two here.) 

I recently decided to finish the sequel to Tatum the Vampire Slayer, effectively wrapping up Tatum’s story. For reference, this takes place during the fall of Tatum’s junior year, and we last saw Tatum in the winter of her freshman year. Like the first, this will be split into two parts, and the second will be up tomorrow night.

Now that we’ve got all of the details out of the way, I hope you enjoy!

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Anderson hesitated as she stood on her front porch, her fingers grazing the front doorknob. This was the house she’d grown up in, the house where she’d lived with her fathers up until the middle of her freshman year. This was the house where she’d taken her first steps. This was the house where she’d had her first slumber party. This was the house where she’d turned 13.

This was the house where she’d killed her stepfather, Damian. This was the house where Damian had nearly killed his husband, her adoptive father, Adam.

This was the first time since then that she’d returned to that house, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to go in. So she stood there with a hand on the doorknob until she felt a strong hand on her shoulder. Instinctively, she tensed up and reached for the vial of holy water she kept on a necklace.

“Tatum, stop it. It’s me.”

Tatum turned around to see her oldest friend, Daniel “Danny” Peters, grinning at her. She smiled back, filled with relief. She hadn’t seen him since their freshman year: after Adam’s attack, he and Tatum had left their hometown of Emerson, Pennsylvania, so that they could avoid all the attention surrounding Damian’s death and his attack on Adam. “Danny!” she exclaimed, wrapping her arms around him. “It’s so good to see you!”

He laughed as he pulled her closer to him. “You too. I really missed you, Tay.”

“I really missed you too,” she said as she disentangled herself from him. “But how did you know I’d be here? You were supposed to meet us at the apartment.” After the ordeal with Damian, Adam had put their house up for sale. However, in the months since Damian’s death, the Andersons’ house had been dubbed Emerson’s murder house, and they didn’t have that many people interested in buying it. Tatum had stopped there to pick up some things she’d left behind when she and her father had left Emerson.

Danny opened his mouth to answer when Tatum stiffened and turned around, canvassing the surrounding area.

“Tay? What’s wrong?” he asked, protectively placing a hand on her shoulder.

“You didn’t hear that?” she asked incredulously. “It sounded like there was someone skulking around in the trees. Listen.” They both stood still for a few moments, but they didn’t hear anything.

“Tatum, I didn’t hear anything. It was probably just an animal or something. Anyway, I did go to the apartment,” Danny explained. “Adam told me that you left, and all that you told him was that you’d be back soon. And he mentioned that you haven’t been answering your phone. I figured that you’d be here.”

“Yeah, I didn’t want to tell him that I was coming here. It makes him upset to think about Damian,” Tatum told him.

Danny wrapped an arm around her, gentlg steering her away from the door. “Doesn’t it upset you to think about Damian?” he inquired as he led her to his car.

“Of course it does, Danny. What I did…what I did hurts. I know that he was a sociopathic demon, but he was my stepdad, and he’d known me for years. On one hand, it was satisfying, knowing that he couldn’t hurt anyone else, but on the other hand, it hurt to kill him,” said Tatum.

“Hey, you didn’t have a choice,” Danny said gently. “He was going to kill you, and he nearly did kill Adam. Now, come on. I’ll drive you to the apartment.”

“Danny, I’m fine. I don’t need you to drive me. I can walk,” Tatum told him. “Really. Don’t worry about me.”

He opened the passenger door. “Tay, I’m your best friend. It’s my job to worry about you. Just get in the car.”

“Okay, fine. But just so we’re clear, I kill vampires and demons for a living. I’m perfectly capable of walking home,” Tatum informed him as she climbed into the car.

Danny laughed. “Just shut up and get in the car, Anderson. Besides, Adam would kill me if I didn’t make sure you got home safely.”

“Once again, I am a vampire slayer, meaning that I can take care of myself,” Tatum reminded him as he got in the car and started the engine.

I know that, but he doesn’t know that. To him, you’re still his little girl, and he loves you, Tay,” Danny pointed out.

“I’m not the same girl, though, Danny. Not anymore. That all changed when…well, you know.” She got quiet and peered out the window.

Danny took a hand off the wheel and placed it on top of hers. “Hey. You are still that same girl. Nothing’s changed, Tatum. He still loves you the same and so do I.”

“Thanks, Danny,” she replied, turning to look at him. “But seriously. In the past year and a half, I’ve done nothing but constantly lie to him. I have changed. You and I both know that.”

Silently Danny took his hand off of hers and placed it back on the wheel. He was quiet for a long moment before saying, “Tatum, you lied about what happened to Damian so that you could protect him. He would be destroyed if he knew the truth, you know that.” After Damian had snapped and tried to kill Adam and Tatum, she had told everyone that she’d fought off Damian and he staggered out of the house, battered and bloody. She’d told them she had no idea why he did what he did, and that she doubted he’d actually make a successful escape. In reality, after burning his body, she’d planted his remains in his car and set that on fire. The police discovered it a few days later and believed Tatum’s story. “And do you remember what happened after Damian died? You dedicated all your time to making sure that Adam was okay. You basically nursed him back to health. You refused to go back to school until he’d received a clean bill of health. You were a force to be reckoned with, Tay. And you still are. Nothing has changed, okay?”

“Danny, why are you saying all this to me?” Tatum asked as they turned onto her new street.

“Because you’re my best friend,” Danny said simply. “Besides, it’s all true.”

Tatum was at a loss for words as he pulled into a parking space in front of her apartment. “Danny, it means a lot that you would say that to me.”

“Tatum, quit making a big deal about it. All I said was the truth. Now, come on. Adam’s waiting,” he said, taking his keys out of the ignition.

The two teens made their way up to the Andersons’ new apartment. “Dad, I’m home! And I brought Danny!” Tatum called as she unlocked the front door. There was no response. “Dad!” she called again. “Dad!” she cried, terror seeping into her voice.

Danny placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Tay, I’m sure he’s fine.”

“We can’t be sure of that,” Tatum replied frantically, ripping her jacket off and tossing it to the ground. “Dad, come on! Answer me!” She ran to his bedroom and yanked open the door. “Dad, are you in–oh.” Tatum was taken aback by the sight of the strange man reading on her father’s bed. “I’m sorry, I was just looking for my dad. Do I know you?”

“Ah, you must be Tatum,” the man said, putting his book down and extending a hand to her. “I’ve heard so much about you. I’m Lucas.”

Tatum remained glued to her spot in the doorway, crossing her arms defiantly. “Lucas, huh? Funny how I’ve yet to hear anything about you.”

Lucas smiled affably. “Yeah, your father was supposed to introduce us tonight.”

“Well, then, where is he?” Tatum asked.

“What?” Lucas replied, still smiling pleasantly.

Tatum was not amused. “Where is my father?” She repeated through clenched teeth. Before Lucas has a chance to respond, Danny appeared, placing his hand on Tatum’s shoulder. “Everything all right here?” he asked, canvassing the room.

“It will be as long as this creep tells me where my father is,” Tatum growled.

“I was getting to that. Your father ran out to get something. I can’t quite remember where he went, but he should be back soon,” Lucas explained, wringing his hands nervously.

“Really? Well, isn’t that just awfully convenient,” Tatum muttered, barely concealing rage within her voice.

Danny tightened his grip on Tatum’s shoulder. “Tay, calm down,” he said in her ear. “Sir, Tatum and I will just wait in the living room until Adam comes back. It was nice to meet you.”

“You too,” Lucas called as they exited the room, closing the door behind them. Tatum glared at Danny.

“What was that?” she hissed, smacking him in the shoulder.

“Um, I could ask you the same thing,” Danny retorted, leading her to the couch. “Tatum, you’ve got to control yourself.”

“I’m sorry, Danny, but am I supposed to just trust the random guy who walks into my house, pretending to know my father?” Tatum exclaimed as Danny took the seat next to her on the couch.

Sighing, Danny gently grabbed her by the shoulders. “Tay. Listen to me. Lucas is not Damian. Okay?”

“I never said that he was,” she muttered, glancing away from him.

Danny lightly squeezed her shoulder. “C’mon, Tay, I know you. It’s obvious that you don’t trust Lucas because of all that happened with Damian. But Lucas isn’t Damian. Just give him a chance. It would mean so much to your dad if you did. And don’t you want your dad to be happy?”

“You should listen to Daniel, Tatum,” a voice said from behind them. Tatum turned around to see her father standing at the front door, a few bags of groceries in his arms.

“Dad,” Tatum exclaimed, rushing up to him, Danny close behind her. “How long have you been standing there?”

“Long enough to know that you meeting Lucas didn’t go as well as I’d hoped,” Adam said quietly. “Tate, you’ve got to stop doing this.” Needless to say, Lucas wasn’t the first man Adam had introduced to Tatum since the ordeal with Damian.

“Dad, I just don’t want you to get hurt,” she told him as she and Danny helped him carry the bags to the kitchen.

Adam stopped what he was doing to put his arms around his daughter. “Tatum, I love you, but I’m a grown man. I wouldn’t have brought Lucas here if I didn’t think he wasn’t a good guy. He’s not Damian.” He stepped away from her and started to unload the grocery bags.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell her, Adam,” Danny replied good-naturedly, slinging an arm around her shoulder. “She’s not listening to me.”

“It’s just that you always told me to trust my gut. I don’t have a good feeling about this,” Tatum said seriously, moving away from Danny.

“Tatum, give him a chance, will you?” Adam pleaded with his daughter. “One dinner. That’s all I ask. If you’re still on the fence, I won’t take it any further.”

“Dad…I don’t want you to give up something that’ll make you happy just because of me,” Tatum told him. She still didn’t trust this Lucas character, but she did want her father to be happy.

Adam hugged her and kissed her on the forehead. “Tate, you’re my daughter. You make me happier than anything else, you know that.”

“I know. I love you, Dad,” she told him.

“I love you too. Now, both of you, scram. I need to finish cooking. Danny, you’re welcome to stay for dinner; just check with your mom first.” Adam said to the teens. “Now, go!”

“Alright, Dad, we’re going,” Tatum laughed. “We’re going!” She grabbed Danny’s hand and led him out of the kitchen and to her room.

“And keep the door to your room open, Tatum!” Adam called after them. “I mean it!”

“Dad! We’re just friends!” Tatum yelled as Danny took a seat on her desk chair. “Right, Danny?” she said, looking at him.

“What? Oh, um, yeah. Friends.” Danny agreed, nodding. “Yeah, we’re just friends.”

Danny and Tatum sat in her room talking until Adam called everyone to dinner. The two of them stood, but before they left the room, Danny grasped Tatum’s hand in his. “Remember, be nice.”

“Alright, alright,” Tatum laughed exasperatedly. “I’ll be nice. I promise.”

“Good. Now, c’mon.” He pulled her into the dining room, and they seated themselves across from Adam and Lucas.

Danny glanced at Lucas. “Sir, I don’t think we were properly introduced. I’m Daniel Peters, Tatum’s best friend.”

“Nice to meet you, Daniel. I’m Lucas Morgenstern,” Lucas said to him.

The four of them engaged in small talk for a few minutes, getting to know each other a bit better. Never a fan of unnecessary conversation, Tatum tired of the small talk quickly, and decided to change the subject.

She cleared her throat. “So, um, Lucas. How did you and my dad meet?”

“I’ve just been named the head of the pediatric surgery department at Stevens Memorial Hospital, and I spoke at ECS a few weeks ago about my job,” Lucas explained. Emerson Charter School (or ECS for short) was one of the local high schools. Adam taught AP Psychology there.

“His talk was so interesting that I just had to learn more about pediatric surgery,” Adam told Tatum and Danny. “He took me on a tour of the ward, and we just…we hit it off.” 

“Gross,” Tatum and Danny said in unison. They looked at each other and laughed. After a minute, the adults joined in.

“Tatum, I thought I raised you to be more mature than that,” Adam replied, his eyes sparkling. There was a hint of a smile on his face, the closest Adam usually got to laughter. “And Danny. Surely your mother taught you to be more serious than this.”

“With all due respect, sir, have you met me? I’m so not serious. Tay used to say I’m a meme waiting to happen,” Danny said, chuckling. Lucas and Tatum began to laugh as well.

“I would have to disagree, Daniel,” said Adam solemnly. The tone of his voice shocked everyone out of laughing. “I don’t mean to put a damper on dinner, but Danny, you really stepped up after Damian died. You were a goofy child–and you still can be–but after all that happened, you matured really quickly. You were there for Tate then, and you still are. She’s so lucky to have a friend like you, Daniel. I don’t think I ever told you this, but I’m so thankful for all that you did for her.”

“Tay’s my best friend,” Danny said quietly. “She means the world to me. I’d do anything for her.” Touched by his words, Tatum leaned over an gave him a hug.

“Well, isn’t that just the sweetest thing!” Lucas exclaimed, beaming at Danny and Tatum. “You two are just incredible! I’m so glad I had the pleasure of meeting you.”

“Thanks, Lucas,” Tatum replied. “Look, I wasn’t sure about you at first, but I’m kinda glad that I gave you a chance.”

“I am too,” the men at the table said in unison.

Tatum glared at them. “Really?”

The three of them exchanged glances and just laughed while Tatum continued to give them death stares. Eventually, Tatum had no choice but to join them.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Two months passed by since Tatum and Adam’s initial return to their hometown, and as the weeks went by, Lucas became a fixture in the Anderson apartment. Whenever he wasn’t in surgery, he enjoyed spending time with Adam and Tatum. Tatum discovered that Lucas was easygoing and fun, and he rarely overstepped or pushed any boundaries. For the most part, she didn’t mind having him around. Lucas honestly reminded her of Damian, except she didn’t think he’d try to kill her and her father.

Still, even though she had taken a liking to Lucas, she rarely hung out at the apartment, telling Adam and Lucas that she was hanging out with Danny at his house. In reality, she was continuing her course of study as a Slayer, under the guidance of Ms. Natasha Green, her father’s good friend. Typically, Tatum avoided lying to Adam about her whereabouts (after what happened with Damian, he worried about her if he didn’t know where she was) but she justified the lie by telling herself that she did hang out with Danny at his house most afternoons, she just did so after her training sessions.

Tatum’s training started out pretty well, considering she’d been pretty out of practice ever since Damian had died and she and her father had skipped town. She’d had to fight the occasional vampire here and there, but she was no longer in regular training, which set her back. Luckily, it didn’t seem like the eighteen months she’d spent away from her hometown had set her back much.

As the homecoming festivities approached, however, Ms. Green noticed a change in the young girl. Her reflexes weren’t as quick, and her wit wasn’t as sharp. Normally, Tatum was bubbly and bright, but lately, she had been distant and quiet.

“Tatum, honey, are you alright?” Ms. Green asked gently as they were finishing up a session.

“I’m fine,” Tatum told her, shoving books into her backpack. “Really, Ms. Green.”

“Tatum…are you sure?” Ms. Green pressed, not really believing her. She’d known Tatum since she was a young girl, and it was easy to tell that there was something on her mind.

“Yeah, I’m sure. I’m fine. Just tired. I’m just going to go home now,” said Tatum.

“Oh, I’ll drive you,” Ms. Green offered, hoping for a chance to get to talk to her.

“Oh, thanks, but Danny’s driving me home,” Tatum informed her. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Ms. Green.”

She left before Ms. Green could say anything else. When she left the school, she spotted Danny parked near the tennis courts, the same place he met her every day.

He greeted her with a smile as she climbed into the car. “Hey, Tatum. How’d training go today?”

“It was fine,” Tatum said simply, turning up the radio and staring out the window.

Danny turned the radio back down. “Are you okay, Tay?”

“I’m fine.” Tatum brushed off his concerns, but he knew her better than that. She’d been acting like this for days, and nothing seemed to cheer her up. He hated seeing her so down.

So, instead of taking a left and exiting the school parking lot, he took a right and pulled into an empty space. “Tatum, look at me.” When she ignored him, he gently took her face in his hands and turned her head so that they were looking at each other. “Tay, talk to me. I’m right here. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine,” she insisted.

“Tay, please,” Danny’s voice was soft. “I want to help you, but I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s going on.”

“Even if I did tell you, you wouldn’t able to do anything about it,” she mumbled, not making eye contact.

“Tay, please just look at me,” he begged quietly. Slowly she raised her eyes to his face. “Just tell me what’s wrong.”

“It’s Kendall,” she told him, tears glistening in her (mostly) brown eyes. “The closer we get to homecoming, the more I think about her. I can’t stop replaying the night she died. It’s my fault she’s gone, Danny.”

Danny felt his heart breaking for her as she told him the truth. His own eyes started to fill with tears as he remembered their deceased best friend. He and Tatum had been friends with Kendall since they were four years old, and her death had been really hard on both of them. “Tatum, don’t say that. Don’t. It wasn’t your fault.”

“Yes, it was!” she cried, tears now freely streaming down her face. “Danny, I saw that vampire and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t warn her. I should’ve just–”

Danny held a finger up to her lips in an attempt to silence her. “Tatum, you did try to warn us, in your own way, but we didn’t listen to you. And when we did finally see the vampire, you fought like crazy to save us. You put all of your fears and insecurities aside to fight for us.”

“But I couldn’t save her,” Tatum whispered. “She was my best friend, and I couldn’t save her.”

Danny gently brushed the tears from her face away. “Tay, it’s okay. It’s okay. You saved me. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be here right now. You saved my life that night, Tatum.”

She laughed mirthlessly. “I saved your life? I saved your life? I killed our best friend, Danny. She’s gone, and she’s not coming back, and it’s my fault.”

“But it’s not your fault, Tatum. It’s not. And okay, fine, maybe you couldn’t save Kendall. But you did your best. You did everything in your power to try to protect her, and you didn’t quit for one second. And you saved me, Tay. You saved me,” Danny said gently.

“Why do you even want to be around me? I’m clearly bad news to the people around me–especially the ones who care about me,” Tatum snapped.

“Tatum, why would you even say that?” Danny asked, his voice rising a bit.

“Why wouldn’t I, Daniel? I mean, come on. My best friend died because of me. My dad was attacked and nearly killed. You were almost killed. Aren’t you worried that the next time, you won’t get so lucky? Aren’t you worried you’ll end up like Kendall?”

“Tatum, no. I’ve never thought that. You are not bad news. You’ve been my best friend for over ten years, Tay. I can’t think of any reason not to be around you,” Danny told her.

“Danny, you don’t have to do this,” she said quietly, turning away from him. “You don’t have to say all of this. You don’t have to stick with me.”

“But I want to,” he insisted. “Tay, you’re my best friend. I’d never leave you.”

“Seriously, Danny, you could get hurt. Or worse. You know that. Why in the world would you still stay?” she asked, still not looking at him.

“Isn’t it obvious? Tatum, I love you,” he said quietly.

She turned around to look at him. “Danny, I love you too. You’re my best friend, and I-”

“No, I’m in love with you,” Danny amended, cutting her off.

Tatum gaped at him, unable to form words. She had no idea what to say to him. “Danny, I…” she trailed off, staring at him helplessly.

Danny turned away from her, starting the car. Staring straight ahead, at the road, he filled in the words for her. “You don’t feel the same way.”

“Danny, I didn’t say that–”

“You didn’t have to,” Danny told her, avoiding her gaze. “It’s obvious, Tatum.”

“I’m really sorry, Danny,” she said timidly.

Danny didn’t respond to her, and the rest of the car ride to the Andersons’ apartment was quiet. Before she got out of the car, Tatum paused. “Danny? I really don’t want this to come between us.”

He looked at her for the first time since leaving the school. “Tatum, I don’t either, but come on. You can’t just act like my feelings for you are something you can just hide under the bed because you don’t want to have it out in the open. I’m going to need some space before we can be friends again, Tatum. I can’t just act like nothing happened today,” Danny told her. “I would love to still be friends, but I can’t. Not yet.”

“Danny, I’m so sorry. I really am. I never wanted any of this to happen,” she told him.

“You did try to push me away.” She had nothing to say in response to that, as she realized he was right, she did lash out at him. “Congratulations. You did a pretty good job.”

“Danny–”

“Please, Tatum, just get out of my car,” he said to her, his voice low.

Tatum wordlessly grabbed her stuff and got out of the car. Rather than watching as he turned away from her for perhaps the last time, she hurried up to her apartment, where she found her dad and Lucas watching Family Guy in the living room. “Hey, kiddo, you’re home early. What’s up?” Adam asked. “And where’s Danny?” Most days, Danny walked her up to the apartment, despite Tatum’s insistence that she could walk from Danny’s car up to the apartment by herself.

“I don’t really want to talk about it,” she told her father. “Listen, I have homework, so I’ll just see you guys at dinner.” She turned to leave the room, but Adam got up to stop her, standing between her and the hall to her bedroom.

“Tate, are you alright? Nat called, and she said you haven’t been yourself lately. She’s worried about you,” Adam told her, speaking in a low voice. Ms. Green had called him shortly after Tatum had left their session. “And I am too. I know that we’re getting close to the anniversary of Kendall’s death, and I–”

“Dad, I’m fine,” Tatum attempted to reassure him, but he wasn’t having it.

“Tatum, talk to me. I’m your father, you can tell me anything,” Adam reminded her, wrapping an arm around her.

She opened her mouth to say something, but Lucas spoke before she had the chance, sensing that the two of them would need to work this out themselves. “Adam, Tate, I’m just going to see myself out. I’ll see you guys tomorrow.” Adam and Tatum both told him their goodbyes as he let himself out. Once the door closed behind him, Adam sat his daughter down on the couch. “What’s the matter, Tate?”

Fifteen minutes later, Tatum had told her father all about her guilt about Kendall’s death (omitting any details related to her being a Slayer) and her fight with Danny. “I messed things up so badly, Dad,” she told him sadly.

“I had a feeling that Danny has feelings for you, but I didn’t think he’d ever tell you,” Adam admitted. “I’m sorry all this happened, Tate.”

“I shouldn’t have lashed out at him,” Tatum replied. “Danny and I have been friends for over ten years, and I ruined it in one day.”

“Tatum, I’m so sorry. But don’t you think you should try to talk to Danny?” Adam asked. “And don’t just say you’re sorry. Show him that you’re sorry and that you want to make your friendship work.”

“I don’t know, Dad, he made it pretty clear that he doesn’t want to be around me for a while,” said Tatum. “He said that he couldn’t be my friend, not quite yet.”

“Oh, honey, I’m sorry. Give him his space, if that’s what he wants. In a few weeks, once you two have both had time to cool off, then try to talk to him. Just don’t push him too much,” Adam advised her.

“I guess, Dad,” Tatum said. “I’ll try.”

“Tatum, you two have been friends since you were two years old,” Adam pointed out. “Your friendship is a wonderful thing, and I would hate to see the two of you let it go. You may not return his feelings romantically, but you still do love him, Tate.”

“I guess you’ve got a point there,” Tatum said. She pecked him on the cheek and stood up. “Thanks, Dad. I’ll see you at dinner.”

“Love you, Tate,” Adam called after her as she headed to her room.

“Love you too!” she called back as she closed her door. She leaned her back against the door after she closed it, standing there for a moment to gather her thoughts. I couldn’t save Kendall, and I’ll always regret that. I’ll always be sad that I lost her. But Danny isn’t Kendall, I can at least try to save my friendship with Danny, she thought. It’s going to be hard. But I have to try.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Following her talk with Adam, Tatum approached her training with a renewed sense of urgency, beginning to act more like herself. She still hadn’t talked to Danny since he’d told her he was in love with her (he’d been avoiding her at every turn) but she wanted to. One night, about two weeks before the homecoming dance, Tatum was walking home from a training session when she heard an extra set of footsteps walking behind her. She whipped around instantly but didn’t spot another person. “Hello?” she called. “Is anyone there?”

When there was no response, she continued on her way, but with one hand ready to yank a dagger from the hilt at her belt. This wasn’t the first time she’d been followed home, and she preferred to be prepared in situations like this.

She’d only been walking for two more minutes when she heard the other set of footsteps behind her. She turned around again, becoming aggravated when she spotted a figure slipping into the shadows. “I know that someone’s there,” she yelled. “Show yourself, coward!”

She waited a few minutes, taunting the mysterious figure, before scoffing and turning around. “This is pathetic,” she spat out. “I’m going home.” Before she had the chance to continue her walk, someone came out of nowhere and grabbed her from behind.

She screamed and elbowed the attacker in the face, and the assailant let out a groan as her elbow connected with their face. Tatum started to run as fast as she could, and after a moment, the attacker caught up with her. Tatum heard the footsteps behind her and pulled her dagger from its hilt, whirling around to face her attacker, who was masked and clad in all-black clothing.

The stranger stopped in their tracks as Tatum pointed the tip of the dagger at the unknown assailant. “Don’t you dare come any closer. I don’t know who you are, but I will not hesitate to take you down, right here, right now.”

“What, you’re going to kill me like you killed your father?” the attacker demanded of her.

Tatum froze, gripping the handle of the dagger tightly. Her loss of composure was temporary, however, and she straightened her spine, staring her foe in the eyes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said confidently. “My father’s alive, and my stepfather died in a car accident.”

“Are you sure about that, Tate?” the figure said, tilting their head to the side.

Tatum swore under her breath, trying not to let the attacker’s use of her nickname rattle her any more than it already had. “Listen, I don’t know who you are or where you get off, accusing me of something I had zero involvement in, but it needs to stop now, alright?” Tatum growled, stepping closer and closer to the assailant with every word. “Am I clear?”

“Crystal,” the unknown opponent said in a voice just as venomous as Tatum’s.

For a girl trained to keep a keen eye out for details, Tatum seemed oblivious to the hostility in the voice of the masked figure, and she smiled frostily. “Glad to see we’re in agreement.” She turned around to continue her walk home.

“Agreement?” the figure scoffed. “Over my dead body.”

“Wha–” Tatum turned around just as the figure lunged at her, knocking her flat on her back and pinning her to the ground.

Too stunned to scream, she fumbled for the dagger, but the assailant pinned her wrists above her head. “Nice try,” they whispered to Tatum, taking the dagger and lightly tracing the base of her neck with the tip. “You and I both know what you did, Tatum, and you’re out of your mind if you think I’ll let you get away with it.”

Tatum struggled against her attacker, managing to knock the dagger out of the person’s hand. “Get off me!” Tatum yelled, continuing to fight. She groped around for the stake she kept tucked into her boot and smacked her attacker across the face, causing the assailant to scream and loosen her grip on Tatum.

Tatum used the opportunity to push the attacker off her and get away. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only one with a few tricks up her sleeve, and she hadn’t gotten very far when something struck her hard on the back, causing her to fall on to the ground.

She cried out as her head hit the ground with a bang. As she started to lose consciousness, she heard a car pull up with a screeching halt and a voice yelling, “Hey! Get away from her!” The last thing she was aware of before everything went black, was being scooped up and placed in the back of a car.

When Tatum came to, she was instantly blinded by what seemed like a ton of fluorescent lights. She winced, covering her eyes with her hands, and as she did, she heard a voice saying, “Lucas, she’s awake.”

Tatum then felt a hand on her arm. “Tatum? Open your eyes.”

Tentatively, she did, blinking slowly to let her eyes adjust to the fluorescent lighting. When she did, she saw the last person she expected to see standing at her bedside.

“Danny?” she asked, not completely believing her eyes.

He smiled at her, brushing the hair out of her face. “Hey, Tay. You gave us quite a scare.”

“Danny, what are you doing here?” she inquired.

“I’m the one who found you,” he explained. “The newspaper meeting ran long, and I heard you screaming when I left the school. When I drove up, I saw you fall and hit your head, and I saw someone running away. So I brought you here. What happened, Tay?”

“Someone attacked me,” she said. Lowering her voice, she told him, “Whoever it was, they knew the truth about what happened to Damian.”

“What? How?” Danny exclaimed, instinctively tightening his grip on her arm.

Before she had the chance to respond, Adam entered the room in a hurry, Lucas following behind him, clad in scrubs.  “Tatum!” Adam exclaimed, rushing to her side. “Tate, honey, how are you feeling?”

“Dad, I’m fine,” she told him, sitting up straighter.

“Actually, Tatum, we believe you’ve suffered a concussion, so I just want to ask you a few questions, okay?” Lucas replied.

“Okay,” Tatum nodded.

“Can you tell me your full name, Tatum?” Lucas asked.

“Tatum Nicole Anderson,” Tatum replied.

“Okay,” Lucas nodded as he wrote something on her chart. He then asked her for the date, the president, her age, her birthday, her school, and her father’s full name. She mixed up the numbers in her birthday, and she couldn’t recall her father’s middle name, but other than that, Lucas was pretty much satisfied with her answers. “Tatum, we’re going to keep you here overnight, and then we’ll go from there, okay?”

She nodded. “Okay, Doctor.”

Lucas chuckled. “Tatum, it’s been two months. You’ve never called me that. You don’t need to start now.”

“But why would I call you anything else?” she asked. “You’re my doctor, aren’t you?”

Lucas, Adam, and Danny exchanged glances. After a moment, Lucas cleared his throat. “Yes. I’m Dr. Morgenstern.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Tatum replied, yawning loudly. “I’m really tired.”

“You should get some rest, Tatum. We’ll be back to check on you later, okay?” Adam told her, kissing her on the forehead. “I love you, Tate.”

“I love you too, Dad,” she said before yawning again. Reluctantly, Danny, Adam, and Lucas left her room, standing in the hallway.

“Lucas, what’s going on with her?” Danny and Adam asked in unison.

“She suffered a concussion,” Lucas told them. “The memory loss and the loss of consciousness is all normal. I’ll talk to her again in the morning and see if anything’s improved. This is nothing to worry about, given her condition.”

“But she was fine earlier,” protested Danny. “She woke up and she knew what happened to her. She told me someone attacked her. I saw someone running away, so I think I might’ve scared them off.”

Lucas nodded. “Right. That would explain the defensive wounds.”

“Defensive wounds?” Adam asked, looking at the two of them. “I thought she was fine, aside from the concussion.”

Lucas took Adam’s hand in his. “She just had a few cuts and bruises. Your daughter is pretty good at defending herself.”

Adam smiled grimly, thinking of how she’d saved them both from certain death almost two years earlier. “I know. It’s just…someone attacked her? Who would do that?”

“I have no idea,” Danny told them. “Everyone loves Tay, she’s incredible.”

Adam cast a knowing glance at Danny. “Lucas, thank you for looking after Tate. But can I talk to Danny alone?”

Lucas smiled and kissed Adam quickly. “Of course. I actually have another patient to check on. I’ll see you later. Bye.” He waved at them before departing, and the moment he rounded the corner, Adam placed a hand on Danny’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s sit in the waiting area.”

“Okay,” Danny nodded, following him to the waiting area on that floor.

When they were seated, Danny asked, “Adam, sir, what is this about?”

“Daniel, I just wanted to thank you for saving Tate. If you hadn’t been there, if you hadn’t run whoever attacked her off…I might’ve lost her,” Adam replied, his voice breaking a bit. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without her.”

Danny felt his eyes tear up a bit. “Sir, she’s my best friend. I know that we were fighting earlier, but we’ve been friends for years, and I love her.”

“I know you do,” Adam told him. “She told me about what happened with you two.”

“Oh,” Danny said, avoiding eye contact. “I wish everything had gone differently that day, Adam.”

“So does she. Danny, she may not return your feelings romantically, but she still loves you very much. She’s missed you,” Adam explained to Danny.

Danny perked up a bit. “Really?”

Adam smiled at Danny, surprising the teen. Adam rarely ever smiled, and when he did, it was usually when he was just with Tatum. “Yes. She does. I’m sorry that you two fought, but I’m glad to know that she still has you in her corner.”

“I’m just glad that she’s okay,” Danny replied. “I know that I told her that I couldn’t be around her, but that was before today. When I got to her, she was unconscious, and I was so scared that she wouldn’t wake up. I’m glad she did because I never would forgive myself if she died and we weren’t talking.”

“I know, she would’ve felt guilty if something happened to you, too. You guys have been friends for so long. It’d be a shame if you stopped speaking. You’re one of the only people I trust with my daughter, and if something happened to you, it’d be a shame to have to keep her locked in her bedroom for the rest of her life,” Adam said dryly.

Danny frowned. “Was that…was that a joke?”

Adam rolled his eyes lightly. “Yes, Danny. Some laughter would be very much appreciated.”

Chuckling, Danny said, “You know, Adam, you should really joke more often. It suits you.” He stood up and grabbed his backpack. “I should get going. Mom’s probably worried. I’ll be back, though, Adam.”

“I’ll call you when she wakes up,” Adam told him. “Tell your mother I said hello, okay, Danny? And be careful on the way home.”

Danny nodded. “I will.” But as he left the hospital and headed over to his car, he failed to take notice of the person watching him from across the lot.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Trump to reinstate US military ban on transgender people

I honestly can’t with Trump anymore. There is absolutely no reason for him to ban trans people from serving in the military. Trans people have EVERY RIGHT to serve in the military if that’s what they want. I am disgusted, disappointed, and utterly appalled right now.

#transrightsarehumanrights

¡Pura Vida!

Before I get started, I’d like to say that this is going to be one of the longest posts I’ve ever done, but bear with me (especially if you were on the trip: stay tuned for your shout-out at the end!).

From June 20 to June 28, 2017, I took an Education First tour with my school (along with a school group from California and a church group from Connecticut) to Costa Rica. The nine-day tour took us to three different places: San Jose (the capital city), the island of Palo Seco, and finally, Fortuna, a small town in the Arenal region.

The tour was nothing like I’d expected, and it was so surreal. Our tour guide, Andrés, packed so much into single days that there’d be days where we’d do things one morning, and by the end of the afternoon, it would feel as if it happened days ago. (Our Spanish teacher, Sra. Bryk had actually done the EF Costa Rica tour two years earlier, and she said we got so much more out of it than the other group.) Before I start talking about the trip, I’d like to say that this post is based on what I wrote down at the end of every night, and it’s as objective as possible. Still, memories are subjective, so if you were on that trip, and you remember something differently (or if you remember something I didn’t), let me know! That’s what the comment button is for.

The group from my school consisted of four ninth graders (Taylor C, Zeke, Abbie, and myself), three eighth graders, (Elizabeth, Mikala, and Kevin), two seventh graders (Trish and Marissa, who is one of my science teacher’s daughters), and one third grader (Autumn, our science teacher’s younger daughter). Also, just to be clear, I’ve arranged everyone by the grade they are going into, not the one they just came out of.

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Getting ready to leave the Philly airport! (Back Row: Sra. Bryk, Mr. Campion; Middle Row: Taylor C, Abbie, Dr. J, Elizabeth, me, Marissa, and Mikala; Bottom Row: Kevin, Zeke)

We were traveling with ten other kids: Caleigh, Evan, Nick, Leidi, and McKenzie (the Connecticut group) and Mattie, Zack, Cory, Sarah, and Stephanie (the California group). The adults traveling with us included Sra. Bryk, Dr. Johnson (two of our teachers), Mr. Campion, Mr. and Mrs. Maloney, Mr. Johnson (two parents from our school plus Dr. Johnson’s husband) Sam, Kim, (the chaperones from California), and Steve and Jess (the Connecticut chaperones).

Day One: June 20, 2017

Our day started bright and early: I got up at 4:20 so I would have enough time to get ready before we met at the airport at six. (I was the second-to-last person to arrive.)

Our first flight, from Philadelphia to Charlotte, was supposed to be on time, but it ended up being late leaving the runway, which made us worry that we’d miss our flight from Charlotte to San Jose (since that flight started boarding the moment we were due to step off the first plane).

Luckily, we didn’t miss our flight and we made it to San Jose! (Admittedly, we were very late, but we made it, okay?).

After going through customs at the San Jose airport, we met our tour guide, Andrés, and we got on a bus to our hotel.

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Our arrival in San Jose! Trish, Elizabeth, and I are the ones actually looking at the camera.

I was really nervous at first about meeting the other kids: we all were. Even though we were all sitting in the lobby together while we were waiting to get our room assignments, we weren’t really socializing with the kids from the other groups. To be fair, they didn’t socialize much with us either. I think it was a combination of nerves and fatigue since we all had to get up pretty early.

In the lobby on that first day, a few of us were talking about our ideal room assignments. (On EF Tours, there’s always three to four people per room.) I was hoping to be with Trish and Elizabeth. I was nervous that I’d have to end up rooming with strangers, but that didn’t happen. In the end, I ended up with Abbie, Taylor C, and Mikala. Trish, Marissa, and Autumn were together, and Elizabeth did actually end up with the girls from California, Mattie, Sarah, and Stephanie. Zeke, Kevin, and Nick were together, and Zack, Evan, and Cory were together. The three girls from Connecticut (Leidi, Caleigh, and McKenzie) were all together.

Still, since I was with the girls from my school, I didn’t have to socialize with the other kids until much later. Andrés, our tour director, had us meet forty-five minutes before dinner for an icebreaker. We had to introduce ourselves to someone we hadn’t yet met before (I introduced myself to McKenzie) and ask them about their grade, their school, where they were from, their interests, their favorite things, their fears going into the trip, and their commitment level towards the trip. Basically, we had to glean as much information as we could in five minutes. McKenzie and I couldn’t remember all the questions, so we made up our own to ask each other. Then we mingled with some of the other kids (aside from Elizabeth, I didn’t know them, and I’d later learn their names and where they were from). We had to share what we learned about our partners with the group, and then it was time for dinner.

 

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Telling the group what I learned about McKenzie. To the left of me is Mikala, and to the right of me is Trish. Taylor C is the one who is partially cut off.

We ate a buffet-style dinner in the restaurant across the street. The kids from the Delaware and Connecticut groups sat together at one table, and the California kids sat at the other table with the adults, with the exception of Dr. J’s husband, who sat with us. I remember sitting in between Elizabeth and Trish, and across from Evan and Kevin. That is until Abbie and Taylor C stole my seat and Trish’s seat the two of us got up for dessert. We then relocated to the other end of the table, where Marissa, Autumn, and a few of the others were sitting.

 

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Dinner on the first night! This picture, of course, was taken after we’d finished eating. It was also taken after Taylor C and Abbie stole our seats. (Clockwise from far end: Trish, Mikala, Kevin, Evan, Nick, Leidi, Caleigh, McKenzie, Zeke, Elizabeth, Taylor C, and Marissa.)

We went back to the hotel after dinner, and most of us just went back up to our rooms and hung with our roommates. It’d been a long day for everyone (particularly the California group, since they’d risen at 3 am to get their flights), and we were all tired.

Besides, we’d have to get up early the next morning so we could travel to the island of Palo Seco, and no one wanted to be out too late. (There was also, of course, the fact that we had to be in our rooms at 9:30 with an absolute lights-out by 10, but that rule wasn’t always in effect, as you’ll see later.) I myself was getting up at 5 to shower, and so I went to bed at eight-thirty, the first in my room to go to bed.

That’s pretty much all we did on Day One. My school stopped at the mini-market, but it’s really no different from an American one, except for the Spanish.

Day Two: June 21, 2017

Day Two started off early so that we could travel to Palo Seco. We ended up with plenty of time to spare before we were due to arrive at the hotel, so we stopped at two shops on the way. The first store was a souvenir shop, and the second was a souvenir shop/food place. At the second shop, they opened up coconuts in front of you so that you could drink directly from the coconuts. Now, I have never been a fan of coconuts, but I split one with Elizabeth, and it was amazing! I didn’t think I’d like it all that much (hence my splitting it with Elizabeth) but it was actually really good.

 

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The coconut Elizabeth and I shared, featuring Mikala’s feet and Andres’ hands!

After that, we continued our journey to Palo Seco. We stayed in the Hotel La Isla. Once we got there, we got our room keys and assignments, so that we could get settled before we took our boat tour of the mangroves we were working in. It shouldn’t have been a big deal, but as we were getting settled, we were informed that the boys didn’t have two beds and a glorified powder room masquerading as a bathroom like the rest of us. (I would like to make it known that I liked La Isla, but the rooms were way too small for four people to live comfortably in. When I sat on the toilet, my feet could touch the shower floor–without stretching!). The boys’ rooms had two bedrooms, one with two bunk beds, and one with two double beds. They even had a kitchen! A kitchen! And there were only three of them to a room.

Normally, we could’ve lived with that, but the boys were kind of immature about the whole thing. Within ten minutes of arriving at La Isla, one of the groups of boys (I won’t say which group, but they know who they are) had broken one of the locks on the doors and one of the beds.

That, in a nutshell, is why teenage boys don’t deserve nice things. (No offense to you guys if you’re reading this, but we all know that you’re idiots.)

But enough about that.

After the whole room debacle, it was time for our boat tour of the mangroves, where we’d be working. In case you’re curious, the mangroves are trees that grow in brackish water. The mangrove trees (there are over 80 different mangrove species) usually are in marsh-like areas, and they are a big part of the Costa Rican ecosystem. The mangroves are home to lots of different forms of wildlife as well.

 

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A picture I took of the mangroves during the boat tour. Beautiful, right?

However, they are falling into disarray as a result of human mistreatment and natural causes like erosion, which is where we came in. Our job was to replant and restore the mangroves on our service day (which was day three). But we’re not quite there yet.

After the tour of the mangroves, we had lunch, enjoyed some free time, and then went over the basics of our service activities. We assigned groups and group roles. The main group roles were the group leaders, photographers, and journalists since everyone was allowed to try all of the jobs that we had. There were three photographers–Caleigh, Trish, and Zack–and two journalists, Mattie and myself. Our jobs were to document everything that took place on our service day: with pictures and with words.

Once we finished going through what we had to do for our service activities, we had one last thing to do: a cultural scavenger hunt. Andrés gave us a list of over 20 questions that we had to ask five locals. Some of the questions were serious (like Who is the Costa Rican president and what do you think of him?), some of the questions were funny (like How do you conquer the heart of a girl or guy?), and others were to get us to see the cultural norms of Costa Rica. (For example, we learned that breakfast is called gallo pinto, lunch is called cosado, and the most common religion is Catholicism from some of the questions.)

After the cultural scavenger hunt, we had some free time. Most of us went down to the pool, which was a lot of fun. The guys and the girls got along for a total of five minutes while we were playing Marco Polo. Then the game slowly started to end as more and more people dropped out, and we were back to fighting each other. (I will say that when I say the guys and the girls, I’m really saying the girls versus Kevin and Zeke.) Unfortunately, we had to get out because there was lightning, so we all went back to our rooms to chill before dinner.

After dinner, we had a group-wide meeting where we went over our results from the scavenger hunt. Once that meeting was over, Andrés dismissed us, but Sra. Bryk had the MYP group meet so that we could go over our reflections of the first and second days of the trip. Then we were dismissed for real so we could enjoy free time before it was time for curfew.

Day Three: June 22, 2017

On Day 3, we didn’t need to be in the mangroves until eight-thirty that morning, so breakfast was at eight. It was nice to not have to wake up incredibly early (I got up at seven-thirty). After breakfast, it was time to get to work!

However, one thing I hadn’t anticipated was that my volunteering to be a journalist might affect what I could and couldn’t do on the trip and I was a little upset.

Luckily, my fears turned out to be for naught as I still got to work. (I will admit that I spent the first half-hour walking around and just writing stuff down, and it was terrible. I’d like the record to show that I hate getting dirty, but I jumped at the chance to not have to just sit and write.)

 

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Preparing the mangroves for replanting. 

I tried almost everything once: I helped get seedlings out of the pit so we could plant them, I planted the propagules (we all had to do at least two apiece), I raked leaves, I planted seedlings, and I helped pick up debris. Our main job was to prep the mangroves for the replanting, and then to do the replanting.

Our main job was to prep the mangroves for the replanting, and then to do the replanting. I didn’t actually take part in any of the replanting that took place that afternoon because the photographers and journalists had to make up the presentation about what we did in the mangroves. Our presentation consisted of a short overview of our work, lots of pictures, and a trivia game (shout-out to team number 2 for winning!). It took us way longer than we thought it would, and so some of us missed out on getting to pick fruit for dinner. Caleigh had gone back to pick fruit since she was done with her part, and Trish and I went to get her again because we needed her help. Because of that, she and I got to pick a few starfruits, which was really fun! Then, of course, we needed to go back because we were running out of time.

Our presentation ended up going smoothly, and the only thing I regret is not taking the time to edit it afterward. (There were a few spelling/grammar errors I didn’t notice until we were already up in front of everyone else.)

After that, we had some more free time, and so we went to the pool once more. We went straight from the pool to dinner, and after dinner, we enjoyed some more free time. That night, most of us were feeling fine, but that would all fall apart tomorrow morning. (And for some of us, that very night.)

Day Four: June 23, 2017

Day Four marked an optional early-morning hike through the mangroves. We’d all been willing to go the night before (when we were asked about it at dinner), but from what I understand, only half of us went.

Unbeknownst to us, there was a stomach virus going around that viciously attacked the majority of us. There were only a few of us who didn’t get sick, and I envy them greatly. (I’ll be kind and spare you the gory details.) I woke up at 4:30 that morning feeling like absolute crap (no pun intended) and I wasn’t able to go back to sleep. I opted out of the hike and spent the morning sleeping. I got dressed for breakfast, but I was only able to eat a little bit.

Day Four was also the day we went to Manuel Antonio National Park. Luckily, by the time we were ready to go, I was feeling well enough to go on the trip. (From time to time throughout the trip, I’d feel sick for a few minutes, but it would pass.)

I’m glad I was feeling a lot better because the park ended up being a ton of fun. We started off by going on a walk through the park, then we stopped for lunch, and then we went to the beach! (The featured image from this post is an image of the beach in Manuel Antonio). It was so much fun getting to hang out with everyone there!We also saw so many awesome things: like a monkey eating lunch in the trees, and the flora was absolutely spectacular. Even the trees seemed a lot prettier.

 

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A shot of the trees in Manuel Antonio.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty chill, since most of us were sick, and no one wanted to overdo it. It was also our last night in Palo Seco, as we were leaving the next morning.

Day Five: June 24, 2017

On Day Five, we traveled from Palo Seco to the Arenal region. It was a long, long day, and since the bus ride was so long, Andrés had a bunch of activities planned for us that day. First, we went on a crocodile tour, which was really amazing, aside from the fact that I almost dropped my phone in the water. Oh, and the fact that we literally saw a crocodile attempting to eat a turtle! It was honestly kind of traumatizing…the turtle got away, but as one of the boys (I don’t remember who but I have a feeling it was Zeke) so eloquently pointed out, it likely didn’t get very far before it died.

After the crocodile tour, we stopped at a souvenir shop. There, we got to see the factory where they do the woodworking, and it was really cool. We also got to see some of the final products get painted.

 

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The level of detail and precision that goes into these is incredible. It’s so awesome to watch.

After that tour was over, it was back on the bus, to our final two destinations: the cultural exchange and the hot springs.

The cultural exchange consisted of a few local teens teaching us how to dance the salsa, bachata, and merengue. Some of us were better at it than others. Please, enjoy this clip of Evan dancing with one of the locals. (Sorry, buddy, but you just so happened to be the first in this video, and so you were the one turned into a GIF.)

 

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I am honestly just so glad that there’s not a video of me doing this. (And if there is, I’m glad it has yet to make an appearance.)

Most of us were terrified because the majority of us could not dance to save our lives (similarly to how the kids on our track team couldn’t plank to save their lives, myself included), but it was really fun! After I danced with one of the locals (who, bless her heat, was so patient with me despite the fact that I had two left feet), she partnered me with Mikala, who is an excellent partner. (Neither of us had any idea what the heck we were supposed to be doing, but I think we pulled it off pretty well.)

After the cultural exchange, we went to the hot springs at Baldi. The hot springs were really pretty, and it was so relaxing. It was the perfect way to unwind after such a long day. The decor was beautiful, and it wasn’t as crazy as I thought it would be. It was one of the best experiences from that whole day. The two hours or so we had there flew by so quickly! After we finished at the hot springs, we checked into our new hotel, in the town of Fortuna.

Day Six: June 25, 2017

Day Six was also a chill day. We started our day off with a canopy tour through the rainforest. Some of us (cough, Autumn, cough) were absolutely fearless. Others were terrified, but nonetheless, we all powered through and we all did it! We all survived! We went on another cultural scavenger hunt, albeit one that was a lot shorter. It was still really fun, and we got to visit the town of Fortuna. Everything was really pretty, especially the church. There was also a really great view of the volcano from our hotel.

 

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The fountain outside of the church.

After the mini-excursion through town, we had to find our own way back to the hotel so that we could eat lunch and go on the chocolate tour.

We ended up having to get a bunch of taxis to get there, as our bus broke down earlier, but other than that, the ride was uneventful. The chocolate tour was really fun: our tour guide for that was hilarious, and the chocolate was amazing. (I bought four chocolate bars, and they were all incredible!) I was sad to see the tour end: it was so much fun, and so delicious!

Day Seven: June 26, 2017

On Day Seven, we visited La Fortuna waterfall, which was so amazing I can’t think of a better adjective than “amazing” to do it justice. The sights were just breathtaking!

 

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Standing in front of La Fortuna! 

We had to go up and down about 600 steps to get there. The way down was pretty easy, but the way up was torture. The way down felt as if it were five minutes, and the way up felt like five years. It was also super steep, and the next day I was pretty sore.

Still, swimming in the waterfall itself was pretty fun, even though the water was so cold that I lost all feeling in the lower half of my body after a while. It was so clear, though, and the air felt so clean. That was one of my favorite moments from the entire trip.

Day Eight: June 27, 2017

Day Eight was our last full day. We got up early to make the journey back to San Jose. One of my favorite moments from this day was actually pretty early in the day, when our (other) bus broke down. We would be stopped for a while, so we hooked up Caleigh’s phone to Evan’s speaker and had a mini-dance party on the stopped bus. I can’t speak for everyone else, but as happy as that moment was, it also made me pretty sad, knowing that this was our last full day to spend with each other.

The party bus lasted until we got a new bus. Then we settled into the old bus routine of doing one of these things: sleeping, eating, listening to music, reading, or listening to Andrés talk about the historical or cultural aspects of a certain landmark or town.

Around lunchtime, we made our way to the coffee plantation. We had lunch before going on our tour of the plantation. It was so great to see, and I also learned a lot: for example, for light roast coffee, the beans are roasted for fifteen minutes. For dark roast coffee, it’s twenty minutes, and medium roast coffee is roasted for seventeen minutes. Also, I learned that bad things will ensue if you mix an already exuberant eight-year-old and free coffee samples.

After the coffee tour, we headed to the hotel in San Jose. We had a few hours of free time before we had to get ready for the final dinner. The dinner itself was really nice, and after we finished eating, we went outside as we had time to kill before the folkloric dancing. So, we stood around talking, goofing off, and taking pictures. After a while of this, it was time for the dancing! So we all found seats to watch them. Towards the end of their routine, the dancers grabbed some people from the audience to come up and dance with them. From our group, they grabbed Evan, Elizabeth, and Nick.

 

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Elizabeth, Nick, and Evan with some of the dancers.

Once they finished, there was a dance floor downstairs and they were playing some American dance songs, so we all went down and danced until it was time for us all to go. It was so much fun just getting to let loose with everyone for one last time. Normally, I’d be nostalgic on a night like that, but on the last night, I just felt really happy for all the memories that I’d made with everyone.

We went to bed almost as soon as we got back, as our next day started pretty early.

Day Nine: June 28, 2017

We rose at 4:30 am since we had to be at the airport three hours before our flights. We ate breakfast at the hotel’s Denny’s, and then we left San Jose. Once we got to the airport, we said goodbye to Andrés and went through security.

All three groups were on the same flight to Miami. The California kids’ flight left first, then the Connecticut kids’ flight, and then our flight was the last to leave, around nine o’clock that night. We spent most of the day in the airport, playing cards, taking pictures, charging our phones, and buying snacks to get rid of our colones (or just because we missed American food).  Saying goodbye to everyone was way harder than I thought: I’m going to miss them all so much! It was also hard to say goodbye to the other freshman in our group, knowing that we’re all going to different schools once the school year starts.

 Highlights and Favorite Moments: 

  • Running into the Connecticut group literally five minutes after we’d say goodbye to them. It was crazy. We finally thought the last time we’d see them was when they left to board their flight. Then, we got transferred to their gate and discovered their flight had been pushed back.
  • Somehow managing to go through at least three buses in nine days. I literally cannot keep up at this point.
  • Making jokes about dying constantly while on the zipline, only to regret it later when we were on the bus and we started smelling gas (it was just an issue with the radiator, but can you blame us for being kind of freaked out?)
  • Staying up until 11 with Abbie, Taylor, and Mikala, and being so loud that we woke up Elizabeth, who was in the next room
  • Having a Hamilton jam session with Abbie and Mikala, driving Taylor insane
  • Spending three days trying to wash sand out of my hair (thanks, Abbie)
  • Taking a walk on the beach in Palo Seco
  • Nick becoming Mother Teresa
  • Zeke, Taylor, and Elizabeth flossing (not flossing their teeth, I’m referring to the dance move)
  • Naming all of the new buses we got

 

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The moment where Nick became Mother Teresa…

There are so many more memories I can think of, but I don’t want to keep you here all day. I’ve already kept you here long enough.

Finally, I do have something to say to my fellow travelers, if any of them are reading this: Hi guys. Those nine days were nothing but fun, and that’s partly because of Andrés and all the fun stuff he had for us to do, but that’s also because of you guys, too. All of you were so amazing to be around, and I’m glad that I got the chance to meet you all. I’ll seriously miss you all so much!

Taylor, Abbie, and Mikala: you guys were great roommates! Thanks for all the times we spent staying up laughing. I’m glad I got to room with you guys: I feel like we really bonded over the course of the trip! Mikala, thanks for putting up with my downright dangerous sleeping: I’m sorry I kept hitting you!

Caleigh, Leidi, and McKenzie: You guys were all so sweet to me! Thanks for being so easy to talk to, and so much fun to be around! I’ll miss you three so much!

Elizabeth: My favorite child. I’ll miss you so much next year. Always stay true to yourself no matter what everyone says. 

Mattie, Sarah, and Stephanie: Thank you for being great roommates to Elizabeth, and for being so sweet to the rest of us! And Mattie, I love your creativity and your meticulous note-taking. You three were awesome!

Nick and Evan: You guys were fabulous! Nick, thanks for being a great friend to Elizabeth (and to me!), and for being such an easy guy to be around–you have a great sense of humor. Evan, thank you so much for your kind words and advice about entering high school. It really did mean a lot to me.

Trish: I had so much fun with you on this trip! I’ll miss sitting with you at breakfast every morning. Thanks for being a great friend. 

Marissa: Try not to break down any more buses, okay? I’ll see you next year: try not to destroy anything! 

Autumn: No matter what, always keep asking questions and being the first volunteer. You’ll do great things if you do. 

Zeke and Kevin: I still think that you two are idiots, but I mean it in the most affectionate way. (And no, Zeke, not that kind of affectionate.) I hate to say it…but…I might even miss you guys next year. Don’t quote me on that.

Zack and Cory, the work you guys did on the slideshow was phenomenal! Thank you for all you did, and for being so much fun to work with. 

I wish each and every one of you the best, and I hope you enjoy not just the rest of your summer, but your upcoming school year as well. Please, keep in touch. I’d love to hear from you guys. 

 

The Declaration of Independence: Loyalists vs. Patriots

We all know the Declaration of Independence, and we all probably view it as a great document: after all, it’s how Americans declared their freedom from the British. We have an idea of how the Patriots might have viewed it, but have we ever really thought about how the Loyalists might have viewed it? (Aside from, you know, being generally upset about it). Let’s take a brief look at both perspectives.)

For an additional look at how differently the Patriots and Loyalists thought (and outside of a Declaration of Independence standpoint), I would recommend listening to “Farmer Refuted” from Hamilton.

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The Loyalist Perspective:

A loyalist is defined as a colonist of the American revolutionary period who supported the British cause. Most of the colonists of that time period kind of had an iffy relationship with the British. This was due to things such as the murder/mistreatment of colonists by British soldiers and taxation without representation. The colonists had 27 total complaints, all of which were documented in the Declaration of Independence.

Initially, the Loyalists would’ve viewed the Declaration of Independence as blasphemous. They would’ve been offended as well, due to the lengthy list of complaints the colonists had. Even if they didn’t agree with every single thing the British did, they wouldn’t have openly complained about it. They respected the British rule, and they didn’t really have any reason not to respect them. They also might’ve agreed with the statement that all men are created equal…they just would’ve thought that they’re already equal under the British rule.

After the Declaration of Independence, the Loyalists might’ve anticipated an uproar for sure. Some of them might’ve anticipated protests, and some might’ve anticipated war.

However, I don’t think anyone anticipated their precious Britain losing control over the colonies.

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The Patriot Perspective: 

Patriots are defined as colonists who rebelled against the British rule. The Patriots are the colonists I described above, the ones that had an iffy relationship with the British. They didn’t like all the ridiculous taxes and acts the British imposed on them. They didn’t like the ways that the British soldiers had treated the colonists. They are the ones responsible for the Declaration of Independence.

A Patriot would’ve viewed the Declaration of Independence as empowering. It probably would’ve felt great to tell King George off, and  in a classy way. (Think about it: they could’ve just said “Hey, we hate you and we don’t want to be a part of your country” and they could’ve been really childish about it. Instead, they went the classy route and laid out all their complaints and principles. But I’m going on a bit of a tangent here.)  They probably would’ve thought it was great that King George finally knew how they’d felt under his rule, and they would’ve felt liberated because of it.

After the Declaration of Independence, the Patriots had to have known that this wasn’t going to pass quietly. They had to have known that there would’ve been a lot of protests, especially from the Loyalist side. They might’ve even anticipated a war.

And, since I’m assuming they were bound to be more than just a little cocky after the Declaration of Independence, they probably thought that if there was a war, they would win.

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Grace’s Got Talent

Grace VanderWaal. Surely you’ve heard of her, and if you haven’t, excuse me? What rock are you living under?

When I watched her audition for America’s Got Talent, I cried a little bit. Her performance was amazing, and she has this really amazing energy that was awe-inspiring to watch.  Listening to Perfectly Imperfect, I felt like crying again. It’s just so me! It’s everyone, really. We can all find a bit of ourselves in Grace’s music, and I think that’s what’s going to make her a force to be reckoned with in the music scene. Howie called her the next Taylor Swift, but I think she’s going to take Taylor’s throne.

I love her music and lyrics, and I think she’s just so talented. I think that we can all find a little bit of ourselves in Grace’s music. I know that for me, I find “Gossip Girl” and “Clay” to be the most relatable for me. And I think everyone can relate to “I Don’t Know My Name.”

For a little girl, I can say with confidence that she has a huge future in front of her.

Except, Grace isn’t so little anymore because she’s turning thirteen today! Yay!

She has a bright future in front of her, and I can’t wait to see what she does next. Grace, you have a happy birthday and you rock being thirteen!

14 On the 14th!

First of all, before I start anything, let me just say that it is so cool to be turning fourteen on January 14.

Second of all, I had one of the greatest birthdays I’ve ever had today! (Which is why I’m publishing this so late.) So before we get into the checklist, let me tell you how my amazing day went.

I woke up a little earlier to get ready for my assessment for the performing arts school and to continue watching A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix. (As of the time I’m writing this episode, I’m on episode 6: “The Wide Window: Part Two” and it is so good. I love it!) .  We left for the assessment (which was at 11) around 10:20. I was really nervous, but in the end, I think I did great. I was one of three assessors (and we were all one the creative writing track) and out of the three of us, I finished last, with less than four minutes to spare. I’m feeling pretty confident about the assessment. We’ll see what happens at the end of February!

After that, I only had an hour to spare before my birthday twin (remember Magnus from my Ujamaa post? That’s him) had his birthday party. My mom and I looked at tile and flooring for the basement (and I saw this wonderful purple bathroom that I’m absolutely in love with) and then we stopped by CVS.

Before I knew it, it was time for the party, which was loads of fun! We watched (part of) a movie, played games (including a very weird round of Paranoia), and danced to little kid music and Ed Sheeran. I also realized, at one point during the party, that one of my friends had nabbed my phone and taken over two hundred pictures with it!

After the party, my mom and I went to see Hidden Figures (not Hidden Fences!!), which was so good I can’t even begin to describe it. If you haven’t seen it, you need to! It’s equal parts funny and educational, and the cast is amazing. (And I’m not just saying it because one of the actresses was on Twisted.) Also, it was really inspiring and it was so engaging! If it were a book, I wouldn’t have been able to put it down!

After the movie, we popped by Barnes and Noble to get some books. I finally got my own copies of the entirety of The Infernal Devices trilogy. After Barnes and Noble, my mom and I went to Olive Garden for dinner, and we had a lot of fun. (And pasta. I’m still full!).

Then we got back home, and I finally was able to charge my phone and respond to all the birthday messages I’d gotten throughout the day (my phone had died earlier in the day). Now I’m sitting here writing about my day, and thinking up 14 things I want to do this year. To refresh your memory, here’s the list I made last year, and I’ve checked off all the things I’ve done.

1. Finish the novel I’m writing with a friend. ✓ (Did this, I’m just not really friends with the person I’d started it with. 

2. Try to stay on the honor roll. (Fingers crossed for distinguished honors!) 

3. Try finishing every single anime in my list. That’s going to be a very fun challenge. (I tried. But failed. Maybe this year).

4. Find yet another book series, this time without a cliché protagonist. ✓ (The Amateurs: check it out!” 

5. Instead of trying to make my way through an entire play, maybe just read more of Shakespeare’s sonnets. I actually like the ones we’ve read in school. ✓ (I’ve read a few since then.)  

6. Say, “Sorry, I’m Jewish,” the next time someone says Merry Christmas to me. Just to see how they would react. (Sadly, no. Thought about it though.)

7. I’m going to go small scale again and say finish two stories. 

8. Tell my English teacher that a short story is no less than 20,000 words, and mine was only about 6, 350 words. Who cares if it was over twenty pages? Double spacing it did not help. 

9. Or I could just write an actual four page short story. Challenge accepted!!! 

10. Read more Stephen King and Nicholas Sparks. ✓ (Kind of. Stephen King? Yes. Nicholas Sparks. Not so much). 

11. Become a better artist. By that, I mean make my Impossible Task a little less impossible. 

12. Learn to play an instrument! ✓ (I’m playing the clarinet in the school band this year, although I didn’t actually ask to do that. But even though it was a mistake, I’m kind of glad about it.) 

13. Actually do all of the things on this list! (All except two!)

14 Things I Wish To Do While I’m 14

  1. Finish editing the book I wrote last year!
  2. Finish writing the second book in that series.
  3. Instead of just playing concert music, I want to learn a song from a movie score and play that. (We’re playing the Captain America theme song for the spring concert, but that doesn’t count).
  4. Maybe this year I’ll start reading an already published book series so that I don’t have to wait for the next book to come out!
  5. If I get into the performing arts school, I want to make the volleyball team for the charter school that shares the building with them. If I don’t and I stay in IB (or end up at the science school) I’d like to make the volleyball teams for those respective schools.
  6. Reread all of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books. I didn’t get a chance to do so before the show came out (since I don’t own all of them) but rereading them would be a nice flashback to my childhood.
  7. Try writing something new: not a short story, but a poem or screenplay, some form of writing I’m not as familiar with.
  8. Try to get comfortable with writing limits, although this seems pretty impossible. We have a four-paragraph essay due on Monday, and we asked our teacher if we could go over just a little…and she said no. So maybe I’ll just have to get used to those limits.
  9. Rock my first day of the ninth grade!
  10. Start working more puns into casual conversation (and into my writing).
  11. Join the Girls Who Code club at my school next semester, and learning the basics of HTML and CSS.
  12. Finish the board game I’m helping Stephen with. (And get our teachers to play it)
  13. Win the mock trial we’re doing in Social Studies! It’s about Captain Preston’s role in the Boston Massacre, and I’m the prosecutor. The defense lawyer is really intense, but I still have faith in us! I’m going to spend the next few days studying all of Barba’s best trials for inspiration.
  14. Last but not least, I’d like to keep my old friends (forever and ever!), but since high school seems to be separating us, I’d also like to make sure that I make new ones as well. I want to enjoy high school as best as I can, even if I don’t end up where my friends are.