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.”
“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.