The Best of 2017

I think that we can all agree that 2017 has been quite the year. It wasn’t the worst year ever, but at the same time, it wasn’t flawless either. Despite the various low points of the year, I still managed to find happiness in certain things, and I hope you all did too. In order to say goodbye to 2017, I’d like to share with you my favorite books, movies, songs, and television shows of 2017.

Books: 

  1. Without a doubt, my favorite book of 2017 was Angie Thomas’ debut novel The Hate U Give. The novel’s protagonist, Starr Carter, is caught between two worlds: the predominately white prep school she attends and the impoverished neighborhood she lives in. She manages to keep these two parts of herself (she refers to these personas as “Williamson Starr” and “Garden Heights Starr”) separate, but when she witnesses her oldest friend, Khalil, get murdered by the police, everything changes. I honestly can’t find the words to describe how amazing this book was. Thomas is a masterful writer, and the characters she created are dynamic and utterly real, especially Starr. The story offers many different perspectives on police brutality and racism, and I personally think that everyone should read it. The book was sensational and I’ve reread it so many times this year.
  2. Follow Me by Sara Shepard. The second book in The Amateurs series, Follow Me picks up a few months after the first book ends. Helena Ingram’s alleged killer has supposedly been arrested, but Seneca and the Amateurs suspect that the true killer is still on the loose. When a social media star (and Helena lookalike) goes missing, Seneca and the Amateurs must race to find the killer before someone else gets hurt. This book is just as engaging as the first book (read my review of the first book here), and if you’re a fan of murder mysteries, I would recommend both books in The Amateurs series. Be warned: this book ends on a huge cliffhanger, and the next book isn’t due out until late 2018.
  3. The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas. This novel technically didn’t come out in 2017, but it landed in my hands in June of 2017. When she was nine years old, Tessa and her best friend Callie were key witnesses in a trial in their hometown of Fayette, Pennsylvania. Their testimony helped put a man in jail for the murder of Callie’s cousin. Tessa left her hometown shortly after the trial, but the gravity of it never quite left her, and she spent ten years asking questions y.and not getting any answers. At nineteen, she returns to her hometown and finds herself presented with another mystery, and this time, she won’t rest until she has all the answers. This book is very captivating, but it does have sort of a slow start. However, once the questions start to pile up, the story becomes more and more interesting. The story ends with a great twist, and overall, it’s a great psychological thriller.

Movies: 

  1. Get Out, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, follows a black photographer, Chris Washington, as he goes to visit his (white) girlfriend Rose Armitage’s family for the first time. From the beginning, he is worried about what her parents will think of their relationship, but when he arrives at the Armitages’ house, a series of strange run-ins with both Rose’s parents and the hired help (who are all black) leads him to believe otherwise. This movie was great. It was well-written, well-acted, and expertly paced. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that this was nominated in the comedy category for the Golden Globes. There’s nothing funny about racism, and at its core, this movie is about racism in a supposedly post-racial country.
  2. Wonder. I reviewed this movie a few weeks ago, and even though it’s the most recently released movie I saw, it’s still my favorite. Wonder is about a fifth-grader named Auggie Pullman, who has Treacher-Collins syndrome. When he’s getting ready to enter fifth grade, his parents decide it’s time for him to enter school for the first time, and the movie chronicles Auggie’s first year in a real school. The book is really true to the source novel, and it’s incredibly moving. I cried so many times while watching, and I loved this movie so much.
  3. Spider-Man: Homecoming. Until I saw this movie, I strongly believed that Tobey Maguire was the best Spider-Man. (I still think he’s pretty great!) However, Tom Holland as Spider-Man is a force to be reckoned with. This movie was comedic and action-packed, and the entire cast is incredible. The movie skips over the traditional origin story as well: from Holland’s first appearance as Peter Parker in Captain America: Civil War, he’s already had his powers. No origin story necessary. Also, the chemistry between the lead actors (particularly Holland and Robert Downey Jr.) is incredible to watch.

TV Shows:

  1. The Bold Type (Freeform) follows three employees for the fictional Scarlet magazine: Sutton, Jane, and Kat. The women juggle personal issues and work problems all while continuing to support each other. Their friendship is really amazing to watch: it’s never toxic and they always build each other up, rather than tearing each other down. On the surface, the show looks like it lacks substance, but once you get to watching, you see that it’s actually quite the opposite. The writing is smart and the characters are three-dimensional. It touches on relevant political and social issues, and it’s been renewed for two more seasons. I can’t wait to see how much it grows when it comes back.
  2. Dear White People (Netflix) is about a supposedly post-racial (and predominately white) Ivy League college that is forced to reevaluate their ideals after a blackface party is thrown on campus. The blackface party and the events following it are the focus of the first five episodes, and each five follows the events from a different characters perspective. There’s a dramatic narrative shift at the end of the fifth episode: each episode is still being told by a different character, but it becomes about more than just the blackface party. The show is comedic and dramatic, and it’s intelligent, too.
  3. Andi Mack (Disney Channel) is about a thirteen-year-old girl (the titular character) who finds out on her birthday that her older sister, Bex, is actually her mother. After this reveal, the Mack family is forced to completely reexamine the dynamics of their family. On top of the news about her mother, Andi is also still dealing with normal middle school problems. It doesn’t sound like a conventional Disney show, but it’s really great. It’s not cheesy or melodramatic, it’s real and relatable. The characters on the show look and act like real teenagers, and they face real problems. A few months ago, the show was in the headlines for featuring the network’s first gay series regular (Cyrus Goodman, portrayed by Joshua Rush). In my opinion, it’s one of the best shows Disney has released in years.

Let me know your favorite books, movies, and shows in the comments! Happy New Year!

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‘Wonder’ Review

Mild spoilers ahead. 

Three years ago, I read R.J. Palacio’s novel Wonder, and earlier today, I watched the film adaptation with my family. Not to sound cliché, but it truly was a wonder.Wonder is about Auggie Pullman (portrayed by Jacob Tremblay), a fifth grader with Treacher Collins syndrome (essentially a severe facial deformity). Due to his face, Auggie has never attended a real school, and his mother homeschooled him. The summer before he started fifth grade, his mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts), and father, Nate (Owen Wilson), decided that it’s time for him to start going to a real school. Partly because the longer they waited, the harder it’d be to integrate him into a school, and partly because of Auggie’s mother’s math skills.

Auggie agrees, and it’s off to Beecher Prep he goes. Not all of the students are instantly welcoming, but he finds true friends in his classmates Summer Dawson (Millie Davis) and Jack Will (Noah Jupe).

The school year has ups and downs for the other characters in the story as well: at first glance, Wonder seems to revolve around Auggie, but it doesn’t. By the time the novel ends, you get a look into the heads of several of the other characters. Aside from Auggie, sections of the novel are narrated by Via (Auggie’s older sister; portrayed by Izabela Vidovic), Jack, Justin (Via’s boyfriend; portrayed by Nadji Jeter), and Miranda (Via’s former best friend; portrayed by Danielle Rose Russel). Each of the characters has their own connection to Auggie, and they all have their own distinctive narrative voices.

All of that transferred beautifully into the screenplay, which was written by Stephen Chbosky (who wrote the The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the screenplay for this year’s reboot of Beauty and the Beast). Both the film and the novel were heartwarming, emotional, and humorous, and it was wondrous seeing the novel come to life.

Auggie’s story is a story that anyone can relate to, no matter how old or how young. Everyone has some experience with dealing with bullying, whether they were the target or a bystander (or even, God forbid, the instigator). Each of the supporting characters has a storyline that is relatable as well.

I found myself relating to Via’s storyline: at the beginning of the school year, she discovers that one of her closest friends, Miranda, has changed entirely. Miranda stops talking to Via entirely after a series of awkward interactions, and Via is hurt by the collapse of their friendship. I had a similar experience with a former friend, and seeing it play out on screen was incredible to watch. Vidovic’s performance was outstanding, and she was truly the perfect actress for Via.

Overall, reading the book and seeing the movie was a wonderful experience. The movie packed plenty of emotional punches (I normally don’t cry at movies, but I shed tears three times during this movie) but it was also funny and real when it needed to be. The novel is great to read when you need a pick-me-up, and the movie is sure to be fun for the whole family.

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, I recommend you do so immediately!

Policy and Change

Columbine. Las Vegas. Sandy Hook. Orlando. Virginia Tech. And now, Parkland.

In 2018 alone, there have been 18 school shootings. Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook, almost 500 people have died in school shootings.

How many more students and teachers will have to die before we start to do something about gun control? Are we desensitized to these tragedies already?

I hate to say it, but it feels like we are getting desensitized, which should not be the case. Gun violence has taken the lives of 1,876 Americans in 2018 alone. Every time an incident like this happens, two things happen: people offer their thoughts and prayers to the victims’ families and people debate gun control.

But thoughts and prayers will not bring the dead back. Thoughts and prayers will not turn back time, and prevent these tragedies from happening. Neither will debates about gun control

We need to do something about gun control. Compared to other countries, United States has the highest rates of gun violence. Maybe if we spent more time keeping guns out of the hands of people who can’t be trusted with them instead of debating the merits of gun control, those numbers would be a lot lower.

That’s because gun control actually works. Say, did you hear about that mass shooting last year in Australia? No? That’s because they enacted gun control laws in 1996 following a tragic mass shooting, and they haven’t had once since. Other countries with strict gun control laws have seen similar results.

So why can’t we learn from them? Why do we continue to let our citizens die?

I don’t want to continue to see this happening. Mass shootings have been a part of my life for as long as I remember, something no child should ever have to say. I remember having to do lockdown drills more frequently after the Sandy Hook shooting, when I was in fourth grade. Shortly before the Parkland shooting (and just after the Kentucky shooting), my high school implemented a policy where teachers have to wear ID badges at all times and all classroom doors shall remain locked. On Friday afternoon, the dean of our school sent out an email saying that we’ll no longer have lockdown drills, because we’re now expected to run, hide, or fight the shooter.

I don’t want to live like this. School shootings shouldn’t be treated as if they’re just as likely as a fire. They shouldn’t be this likely to begin with. No one should have to live in fear that someone is going to kill them in one of the few places that they’re supposed to be safe. People should be able to enjoy going to clubs and festivals without having to fear for their lives.

Gun control is not a bad thing. Gun control isn’t going to ruin this country. Sitting back and letting our citizens die is going to ruin this country.

So call your representatives, tweet at Congress, tweet at the president, do whatever it is you need to do to bring awareness to this. Just don’t sit back and do nothing.

That hasn’t worked too well for us yet.

Spirit Week and Homecoming

My school celebrated Spirit Week from October 2 to October 5 of this year. I’d gotten the chance to dress up for Spirit Week at my previous school, but let me tell you something: Spirit Week at an arts school is truly amazing to witness. The students either go all out, or they do the bare minimum. (Most kids go all out.)

Monday was Maui Monday, and most of the students dressed in leis, flower crowns, and grass skirts. Each grade was judged on participation. On Monday, our class actually beat the sophomores! We got third place, which was a complete shock: we all thought we were going to be in last place. Tuesday was Twin Tuesday, and I twinned with one of my new friends: we wore black leggings, black tops, bright green tutus, and pink and white flower crowns. On Tuesday, the sophomores beat us.

Wednesday was Walt Disney Wednesday, and I dressed as Mary Poppins. My friends dressed as Belle, Elsa, Esmeralda, Lumiére (one of my favorite Disney characters!), Bill Cypher, and more. All the costumes were really creative, and they all ranged from Disney Channel costumes to Disney XD costumes to Marvel and Star Wars costumes. On Wednesday, we beat the sophomores again!

Wednesday was also the day of hallway decorating. Our class had chosen a red carpet theme, the sophomores had chosen a Broadway theme, the juniors had chosen a Wizard of Oz theme, and the seniors had chosen a Star Wars theme. As part of the decorating, we rolled out the red carpet, painted and labeled the stars for the celebrities, made the velvet ropes, and covered up the bulletin boards in the hallway with black paper.

Thursday was Color Wars Thursday, and also the day day of hallway judging, the pep rally, and the homecoming dance. Hallway judging was first thing in the morning, and before the judging occured, we put the final touches on our hallway. Since we’d selected a red carpet theme, fifteen of my classmates dressed up as celebrities from both the past and the present, ranging from Audrey Hepburn to Kodak Black. I signed up to be a paparazzo, and I interviewed both the celebrities and passing students and teachers. Our hallway turned out much better than I anticpated. We had the shortest length of hallway space (since we’re freshman) but we made the most of it. On the right side of the hallway, the celebrites were lined up, and on the right side, the paparazzi were lined up. Some of our other classmates stood on the paparazzi side, too, and acted as cheering fans. It was so much fun to do (even though it got really hot, sweaty, and loud) and it felt like it was over too soon, and I had to go to class. The officers were the only students allowed to stay and clean up.

However, when I got to Digital Media, my teacher announced that we wouldn’t start class until eight o’clock (it was seven forty at the time) so I took the opportunity to head to the bathroom and change into my class shirt for Color Wars. I was really excited for the pep rally, so it was kind of hard to sit still through Digital Media and math (my fifth period/second class that day). Luckily, due to the pep rally, we ate middle school lunch at 10:30 and our seventh period classes were cut down to forty-five minutes. I have English for seventh period, and since we’re reading Romeo and Juliet, we just continued to watch the movie, since we started that last week. Since our English teacher is also our class advisor, we briefly went over the plans for the rest of the pep rally.

We left straight from English to go to the pep rally, and I sat with my friends from class. We were all separated by class in the bleachers, and it was really cool to see all of the blocks of color. Our class color is blue, the sophomore color is green, the junior color is pink, and the senior color is orange. Almost everyone was wearing multiple accessories of their class color, and there was also a lot of face paint. I sported a dark blue “2021” across my face.

The pep rally was so much fun, but by the end of it, I thought I’d go hoarse. The first activity was Hungry Hippos, and unfortunately, our team was eliminated after the first round. But we’re not poor sports (unlike the sophomores, who were kind of obnoxious after our wins on Monday and Wednesday) so we started cheering for the juniors! (This continued for the rest of the pep rally) They cheered back in the end, and it was so cool to be a part of that. We also did Family Feud, dodgeball, an eating contest, a mini-scavenger hunt (a randomly selected student had to seek out and select students from their class without talking), and a Glee competiton. The school’s dance company performed at the very end, but they got cut off with two minutes left of their performance because we were almost out of time and they still needed to announe the results of the various competitions.

As it turned out, we tied with the sophomores for third place for hallways, which was really cool. Our red carpet (which wasn’t a literal red carpet) was totally shredded by the end of the judging, but I still thought everything looked really good. The juniors came in first place, and I totally agreed. Their hallway was really well-crafted, and they even had a dog to play Toto!

As for Glee, we came in fourth place (the sophomores beat us), but most of us thought that decision was unfair. The sophomores were really good, but their songs didn’t tie into their theme at all, and literally everyone else’s did. There are so many great Broadway songs they could’ve chosen, and they mainly just did pop songs. Our songs included “Billionaire”, “Imma Be”, “Applause”, “Papparazzi”, and “Hall of Fame”, the juniors included “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in their performance (and most of their songs had a recurring theme of going home), and the seniors kicked off their performace with David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. The seniors won overall, and I definitely agree. Their performance was great.

After the pep rally, I went back to my English classroom to get my things, told my friends goodbye, and went home to get ready for the homecoming dance. When I got to the dance, a few of my friends were waiting for me already. We waited a few minutes for two of our other friends to arrive, but the line started to get long and we decided to go inside. Eventually everyone else showed up, and we all went inside together. Everyone looked really great, and it was so fun getting to hang out with everyone. Time really flew by, too: before I knew it, it was almost eight o’clock.

Around nine-thirty, the dance started winding down, and two of my friends left. About fifteen minutes later, a friend announced that her mom was on the way, and I went outside to wait with her, and I left a few minutes later. It was the first time I hadn’t stayed at a dance until the very end, but it felt right. The night was amazing, but all good things must come to an end. All in all, I’d say that my first homecoming and Spirit Week was a success.

 

‘Ten: Murder Island’ Review

Mild spoilers ahead for the novel Ten and the movie Ten: Murder Island. 

On September 16, Lifetime aired Ten: Murder Island, a movie based on Gretchen McNeil’s 2012 novel Ten that starred China Anne McClain and Rome Flynn as the leads, Meg and T.J. Last year, when I first found out that an adaptation of Ten was being made, I was really excited. Gretchen McNeil’s work is absolutely amazing, and she is without a doubt, one of my favorite authors. Her writing is smart, funny, thrilling, and suspenseful, and her all of her characters (even the ones you can’t help but hate) feel so three-dimensional and real. (And while we’re on the subject of Gretchen McNeil, I strongly recommend her books Get Even, Get Dirty, and 3:59, as well as Ten) Finding out Ten was being made into a movie was amazing. Finding out that the lead character (whom I related to so much) was being played by China Anne McClain just made it so much better.

Today I sat down and watched the movie, and I honestly don’t know how to feel about it.

The movie follows the same premise of the book: ten teens, Meg (McClain), Minnie (Cassidy Gifford), T.J. (Flynn), Gunner (Zak Steiner), Ben (Callan McAuliffe), Lori (Raquel Castro), Kenny (Matt Mercurio), Vivian (Meg Cashel), and Nathan (Dylan Arnold) are invited to a weekend house party by a popular girl in their grade, Jessica Lawrence. When the teens arrive at the Lawrence’s house, a death on the first night clues them in that someone is out to get them, and they realize that Jessica isn’t the one who invited them. Naturally, their first instinct is to get off the island, but the absence of ferries (their only escape) and the lack of cell service makes that impossible. As more deaths and sinister accidents occur, Meg, T.J., and the others frantically search for clues, but as they do, they get closer and closer to a killer.

The book was excellently plotted, amazingly funny, and brilliantly paced. The movie was really good, but in some ways, it didn’t really live up to the greatness of the book.

There were lots of elements that were just as great as the book. Nathan was truly a terrible person (spoiler alert: he’s not the killer, he’s just a womanizing jerk) but Arnold’s performance was spot-on. Castro’s performance as Lori was also a standout, even if Castro didn’t have as much screen time. All of the actors (especially Castro, Arnold, Flynn, Gifford, and McClain) were absolutely perfect for their respective parts, and that I wouldn’t change. The dialogue was great (although at times it was a bit stilted), and the story line, for the most part, stayed true to the book. The effects and the music were perfectly timed, and visually, the film was great.

The elements that didn’t stay true to the book were the ones that stand out the most. A major plot point in the novel is the discovery of a journal, one that the teens assume belongs to the killer. The author of this journal was just a sweet, sad, misunderstood girl, but the writers of the film made her seem vindictive and delusional. I loved the way that her journal entries were shot as flashbacks, but the narration that went with it didn’t match. In the book, you found yourself relating to the girl, as much as you wanted to suspect her as a killer, and in the movie, they made it easy to hate her.

Also, the leads were given more time to develop and the books, and I think it would’ve made each death more emotional (well, for the deaths of the characters that were actually likable) if they’d been given that development time. Meg and Minnie’s friendship, which is the force behind most of Meg’s decisions in the book/movie, was sort of underplayed. Understanding Meg and her motivations is a key part of the book, and I think the movie fell short in that respect.

Additionally, the ending of the movie definitely wasn’t as great as the ending. It packed an emotional punch, sure, but it lacked the intensity of the book’s climax. In the book, the killer goes up in flames (literally) after a vicious fight between Meg and the last remaining teen breaks out. After Meg and the other teen escape, they talk about what happened on the island means for them, and they are rescued by a Coast Guard boat. In the movie, the killer is tackled by one of the remaining teens and then beat to death with a gasoline can. Meg and the last remaining teen have an emotional conversation that fails to include any of the humor from the book. Interesting, yes, but it didn’t last very long. The final fight scene was less than ten minutes long, and I was just like, “All of that time spent over analysing who the killer was and what their motives was, and the killer’s taken down in five minutes? Please.”

Overall, I liked the movie. It was funny and thrilling, much like the book was. At the same time, the elements they excluded/changed from the book made it a lot more cliche. One of the things I enjoy most about McNeil’s writing is that it never feels cliche or unoriginal, and this adaptation feels like a little bit of both at times. Also, the novel is fast-paced but it never feels rushed, and the movie definitely felt a bit rushed at times.

This movie was good, but it could’ve been a lot better. In my opinion, I think it would’ve been better suited as a limited series, or perhaps a longer movie: character development definitely wouldn’t have had to take a back seat, and they could’ve kept the pacing of the original novel.

As much as I anticipated this movie, I’m kind of disappointed about how it turned out. But McNeil has other works that deserve to be made into movies/TV shows. Maybe if those get adapted as well, they’ll live up to the mastery of the originals.

1st Day of High School!

Today, I started ninth grade at our local performing arts school. I was more than a bit nervous, seeing as I don’t know anyone and I figured I’d have a hard time getting to know people because the school starts in sixth grade, and so most people already know each other. But that turned out not to be an issue, as a third of this year’s freshman class is brand new to the building.

I woke up bright and early to catch the bus, but it didn’t come. Three buses passed by me: one was for another local high school, one was for a local middle school, and another was for my old school (the IB school). One of my friends was actually on that bus, and she waved at me.

My mom ended up driving me to school, and when I walked into the school, something occurred to me: I had absolutely no idea where I was supposed to go for homeroom.

I asked our dean for instructions, and luckily, it wasn’t that far from the school’s entrance. I was the last person to arrive at our homeroom, and I made friends with the girls sitting in the row with me.

During homeroom, our teacher went over our modified schedule for the day. First, we spent about half an hour in homeroom, then we got our pictures taken (one was just our regular school picture, but the other was taken in a cap and gown, which was so incredibly extra), then we went back to homerooom. (Most of the friends I made were in my homeroom since I spent the longest amount of time today with them.) After that, we went to each of our classes.

My first period is honors Civics/Econ, and my teacher for that period is really nice. I made a few new friends in that block: two were girls who were totally new to the school, like me, and a girl who’d attended for middle school (she actually ended up showing me to a few of my classes). I also found out that I’d gone to elementary school with one of my classmates, and she recognized me right away! (Not by name, of course, but she knew my face.) We didn’t do much in Civics, but we did go to our fire drill meeting spot, out on the football field, and our teacher observed that if a real fire drill had taken place, half of us would either be dead or severely burned.

My second period is physical science and my teacher for that period is quiet but focused. I recognized most of the faces in that class from sightings in the hallway or my previous classes. Once again, we didn’t really do a lot, we just went out to our fire drill spot and switched up our seats a bit.

My third period is art history, and I’m one of three people in the class who isn’t majoring in visual arts. See, I had originally planned on taking creative writing (since I’m a communication arts major on the creative writing pathway) but there wasn’t space in my schedule because I take French 2, which is only offered at one time during the day. I picked art history because I figured we wouldn’t have to draw as much, but since our teacher is the visual arts instructor, we will occasionally have to do some hands on and/or drawing related things. Still, I think I’ll live.

After that we had lunch, and the cafeteria took me by surprise. It’d been renovated over the summer, and it looks so cool! It’s really sleek and modern, and it’s amazing! There are even booths in the cafeteria, and some of the tables have charging stations. I sat with a few girls from my civics class, and lunch was pretty fun. It was a lot shorter than I expected, though.

After lunch, I had French, so (after getting turned around a bit) I headed up to my classroom. I was one of two brand new students, and there was about eight freshman. (The rest of our class is sophomores.) Our teacher was so cool, and I actually found out that she’d just met with both of my previous French teachers, and she told me that they actually gave her some ideas about games to use in class.

For my fifth period, I have algebra 1 (again), and our teacher is great. He immigrated from Nigeria when he was 27, and he’s really funny. We actually spent about fifteen minutes waiting to get into class because he teaches a middle school class before he teaches freshman. He primarily teaches sixth and seventh graders, and we’re his only freshman class. Interestingly enough, most of us have taken algebra in seventh or eighth grades (I took it last year, along with geometry) but hadn’t received credit for it.

My sixth period is health (PE in the second semester), and it’s a really small class: there’s only eleven of us, and one of those students is actually our aide (however, the aide is an upperclassman, and I have yet to meet them). Our teacher is really nice and laid-back, and he actually reminded me a bit of my previous gym teacher. He instantly knew that I was brand new to our school (he said I looked like a deer in headlights, which was less than reassuring) but he was nice about it. He said that I’d love the school, and he said that he believes it to be the best public school in the state.

After that, I have English, and our teacher is actually our freshman class advisor as well. She’s incredible, and she told us that the reason she asked to be our advisor is because she plans on retiring in 2021, and we’ll be the last class that she advises. We also briefly discussed our summer reading. We had to read two books from a list of five, and most people picked Everything, Everything and Night, which was a weird coincidence. I actually did read Everything, Everything, but my second book was Jane Austen’s Emma. 

My last period of the day is digital media and imaging one, which is the class I take for my major. There are only a few freshmen in the class (and we only had twenty-five minutes) so we just talked about what we did over the summer, and what we’ll do over the year. Then the day was over, and it was time to go home.

The day itself went by really quickly, and it was much better than I thought. The only thing that took a while to get used to was going back and forth from floor to floor: at my previous school, all of my classes were in two hallways, both on the same floor. Other than that, everything was great.

Fellow members of the Class of ’21, tell me about your first day of high school! Was it better than you expected? Worse? (I do hope it wasn’t terrible. If you didn’t enjoy your first day, hang in there: it’ll get better.)

 

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.