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.

 

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Tatum’s Homecoming: Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tatum, stop it. It’s me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” Lucas replied, still smiling pleasantly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tatum glared at them. “Really?”

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Danny, I didn’t say that–”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Danny–”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay,” Tatum nodded.

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

“Tatum Nicole Anderson,” Tatum replied.

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

She nodded. “Okay, Doctor.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Danny perked up a bit. “Really?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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If She Had Been With Me: Excerpts from Finny’s Journal

Hey guys, earlier this summer you might recall a two-part mini series I published called Tatum the Vampire Slayer. It was originally written for my English class, as part of our Bold Actions unit. People liked it more than I thought they would, and so I decided to start publishing stories on here too, instead of just your traditional blog post. The following story was also written for an English project known as an Independent Reading Project. Everyone in the class picks a book, and they pick a project (either from a given list or one they came up with themselves) and at the end of the marking period, we all present them. For my first IRP, I read the book If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin. The story is about two teenagers, Finny and Autumn, who’ve been best friends since before they were born. Their mothers had been best friends, as well. Finny and Autumn start off pretty inseparable, but as the story progresses and they get older, they start to drift apart. In their later years of high school, they begin to find their way back to each other, but is it already too late? (If you haven’t read this before, read it. And if you’re interested, check out Laura Nowlin’s blog too. It’s one of the blogs I follow). It’s a really sad but beautiful novel and I reread it three times before even deciding on a project. The ending is left ambiguous in a way that there are several options open for Autumn’s future, and it gives the reader lots of space to speculate about what happened. (I have a very specific view on what happened to her, but that’s a story for another post.) Eventually, I decided on writing several journal entries of major (in my opinion) events in the story from Finny’s point of view, since the story is told from Autumn’s point of view. Lucky for you, there’s no spoilers, and the events are sort of spaced out so it’s like reading the book but from a different perspective.  The dates and such are approximated, and the first entry takes place in eighth grade, while the rest focus on their junior and senior years of high school.  Without further ado, I present to you If She Had Been With Me: Excerpts from Finny’s Journal. 

January 1, 2011

Even though I felt like we were drifting apart during the first semester, we finally seemed like we were becoming friends again over winter break. And then I had to go and ruin it like the idiot I am.

I kissed Autumn. I kissed her and it wasn’t what she wanted and now she’s not talking to me. I don’t think she’ll ever talk to me again. Worse than that, I gripped her arm so hard that I left a bruise. Even though I didn’t mean to, I hurt one of the people I care about most in the world, and now she won’t talk to me.

This morning she sat as far away from me as possible on the couch. Mom had put on some sitcom, but neither of us were paying any attention.

Did I just screw up my friendship with the best friend I’ll ever have?

September 16, 2014

Today was the first game of the season. I was so excited, and I was sure that nothing would go wrong. Or at least, that’s what I thought when the game started. At one point, I looked up at the bleachers and what I saw shocked me. Autumn was sitting there with Aunt Claire, reading a brochure. I knew Aunt Claire was coming, but I thought Autumn wouldn’t be interested. Sports have never been her thing, for as long as I’ve known her, and that’s our entire lives. The shock of seeing Autumn sitting up there–combined with the fact that Ed bumped into–caused me to trip and fall. When I stood to my feet, I looked for Autumn and Aunt Claire in the bleachers again. Aunt Claire seemed pretty relieved that I was okay, but when I looked at Autumn, she looked shaken and small, like she’d just lost the person who meant the most to her. She looked exactly the same as she did when we were in elementary school and her father tried to put her in private school. She even looked four years younger. It wasn’t until later that I realized she had looked like that until I fell. She was concerned…for me. When was the last time that had ever happened? Even though I’ve been in love with her for as long as I can remember, for the last year or so, I thought that she hated me, but maybe she doesn’t. Maybe, just maybe, she feels the same way about me.

September 19, 2014

My father wants my mother and I to begin having dinners with him on a daily basis, but I honestly don’t see the point. He hasn’t been involved in my life since before I was born. Why start now?

In other news, I saw Autumn again today. I was supposed to be doing my homework, but out of the window, I saw Autumn leap into the pile of leaves I’d raked earlier, just like she would always do when we were younger.

I went outside to go talk to her, and while I was upset about the leaves, it was hard to stay mad at Autumn. I should’ve just bagged the leaves after I saw her, but whatever. It gave me a chance to talk to her, which is rare nowadays.

January 15, 2015

Autumn had an appointment with her mom’s psychiatrist today. I’m not supposed to know, but I heard Aunt Claire talking to Mom in the kitchen a few days ago. Even though we’re not close anymore, I still wish Autumn had told me. I still care about her, even after all this time. Autumn left English class early today, and when Mrs. Stevens asked her who she’d get the notes from, she said me. Even though Sasha and Jamie both have English with us. Does it mean anything? Was she saying it because it’s more convenient to get the notes from me? Or does it mean more than that? Or am I just overanalysing everything? God, I wish I knew, but I don’t think that’ll ever happen.

August 8, 2015

I think I might be going crazy. This morning, I woke up at three am. I was going to go back to bed when lightning lit up my room. For a split second, I swear that I saw my car wrapped around a tree. A girl’s silhouette was lying on the asphalt a few feet in front of it. But when I blinked, it disappeared. The rain stopped, there was no more lightning, no more thunder, and my car was parked in the driveway like always. I don’t know if I was dreaming, or if I just imagined it. Either way, I guess Aunt Claire’s right–I should really be aware of what my late-night snacks consist of.

May 28, 2016

Mom came into my room early this morning and told me that Jamie cheated on Autumn with Sasha and that she’s been pretty broken up about it.

It made me pretty angry. I’ve never been all that fond of Jamie, but he treated Autumn pretty well–or so I thought–and Autumn always seemed pretty crazy about him, so I tolerated him. And Sasha–Sasha’s been friends with Autumn since middle school. How could they do that to her?

Now I’m wishing I’d punched that little jerk in the face like I did to Donnie Banks in the fifth grade. Or done something to stop their relationship. But I can’t do that to Autumn; she really would hate me then. My mom and I both think that she just needs a friend right now, and so I’m going to go see her later today. Hopefully, she’ll want to see me.

June 3, 2016

I feel like a bad friend. Autumn and I have been hanging out for the last week or so, but I had to leave her alone yesterday. She said she was fine. Jamie texted her this morning, asking if she wanted a ride to the hospital so she could see Angie and the baby, but she seemed pretty okay about it. She was angry at first but she got over it pretty quickly.

She seemed to forget about it entirely when we met the baby. I’ll never forget the look on her face as she looked down at Guinevere. It was a mix of adoration, awe, and happiness. She seemed so excited when she handed Guinevere to me. I haven’t seen her that happy since when we were younger. I didn’t know that she could be so happy. It’s been a while, but I’m glad that Autumn is back. I’ve missed her.

August 8, 2016

Autumn let me read her novel, and it was pretty obvious that the two main characters were based on the two of us and our lives. It was beautifully and brilliantly written, of course, but reading it dredged up terrible memories I’ve been trying for years to suppress, and so I had no choice. I confronted Autumn about it, asking her why she’d cut me out of her life so abruptly. It was a stupid question. I kind of already knew why: I wasn’t good enough for her anymore. Or was it the fact that I had kissed her and she didn’t feel the same way? Most likely a combination of both. . I just didn’t know why she’d been so cold about it. She apologized profusely, she told me that it wasn’t her intention but she hadn’t known what to do after I kissed her that night, and I think that some part of me always knew that. I told her I was sorry for kissing her like that, but she told me that I didn’t have anything sorry for. I laughed and joked about how I never knew how to make her happy, which was kind of true.

She said, “You make me happier than any other person ever has.” I asked her if this was true, but I knew that it was. After all, the same could be said for me. She makes me happier than anyone else.

When she said that, I felt emboldened, and I asked her if I could kiss her. I could hardly believed it when she said yes: I’d dreamed about this moment for what felt like years, and now it was happening, and it feels so right. It feels more natural than anything I’ve ever felt before. And I’m so happy that I can say, ‘Autumn Davis is my girlfriend.’ without having to pinch myself to make sure that I know that this is nothing more than a dream.

Even now, a day later, I still can’t believe it. I’ve loved her from afar for years, and now Autumn and I are finally together. It makes me feel bad that I have to leave her, even though I’m just picking up Sylvie. But I’ll be back for her soon. Now that we’re together, I don’t ever want to leave her.

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Tatum the Vampire Slayer: Part Two

Hi,guys! I hope you enjoyed the first installment of Tatum the Vampire Slayer. Hopefully, you enjoy the second just as much!

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Part Two: 

Later that night, long after their families were asleep, Tatum and Danny were still talking on the phone, both of them in their respective bedrooms. After Kendall died, Tatum told Danny everything–about being a Slayer, killing vampires, all of it–and he was still having trouble processing it. His reaction reminded Tatum of how she had felt in the weeks after finding out she was a Slayer. “You’re telling me that that guy was a vampire?” Danny asked. “And that’s what killed Kendall?”

“Yes,” said Tatum. “But he wasn’t just any vampire. If he was, she would’ve been turned into one of them. He was much stronger, and much more venomous. The venom of the bite must’ve killed her.”

“But the M.E. said that she died from blood loss,” Danny protested. “He said that the puncture wounds were deeper than they looked.”

“That’s because he’s human. If he knew anything about the supernatural world, he’d recognise this as a vampire attack,” said Tatum.

Danny didn’t ask her to elaborate on her knowledge of the supernatural world; he just changed the subject. “Tay, was that your first time fighting a vampire?”

“Yes,” Tatum whispered, so quietly that Danny barely heard her.

“That must’ve been terrifying,” said Danny. “Were you scared?”

“Of course,” Tatum told him. “For the last month, I’ve been dreading the day when I’d finally have to face a vampire. And now Kendall’s dead. I’m even more terrified now than I was two days ago.”

“Don’t be scared, Tay. You saved my life today,” Danny replied.

“I can’t help being scared,” Tatum said. “Every time that I actually think about what I’m doing, I get scared.”

“Don’t be scared,” Danny said. “I mean, you are kind of saving the world. What about that is scary to you?”

“I’m scared that being the Slayer will force me to face my worst nightmare,” Tatum said. “I’m scared that everything is going to change, and not in a good way.”

“Everything has changed, Tay. Kendall is dead. And before you were the Slayer, you were just this meek little girl, and now you actually have a spine,” Danny said.

“That doesn’t mean that I can’t be scared,” said Tatum. “Everyone’s afraid of something, even if they don’t want to admit it.”

“I guess that you’re right,” Danny said. “But you, my friend, don’t need to be scared. You’re one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and you need to own that.”

“Thanks, Danny,” Tatum said. “It means a lot that you’d say that.”

“I’m not just saying it, Tatum, I mean it. Don’t be scared. You don’t need to be. You might have to encounter some freaky crap every once in a while, but I highly doubt that your worst nightmare will be in that category. Besides, isn’t your worst nightmare being trapped in a vat of gummy worms that slowly kill you?” Danny asked her.

“You promised to never bring that up again,” said Tatum. “But yes, that is the worst nightmare I ever had.”

“What kind of person dreams about being murdered by candy?” Danny inquired. “It’s a tad weird, don’t you think?”

“Aren’t you the one always saying that I’m a tad weird?” Tatum shot back.

“Oh, right,” Danny said. “That makes sense, now that I think about it. But that wasn’t my point, Tay. My point is, you’re amazing. You don’t need to worry about a thing. I think that you can handle anything that comes your way. Remember that, Tatum.”

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It had been three months since Kendall had died. Every day, Tatum heard Danny’s voice in her head, telling her that she could do anything if she set her mind to it. Most days, Danny’s voice was what got her through training. Danny’s voice was what gave her confidence.

One afternoon, after school and training, Tatum was sifting through a pile of old books in her family’s basement when she came across a heavy book that seemed oddly out of place among the Stephen King and Agatha Christie novels. The book’s title was obscured by a thick layer of dust, but Tatum opened it up anyway.

The book’s layout was reminiscent of a Disney movie, but the content resembled a Grimm story. After flipping through the book, Tatum spotted an illustration of a girl who looked exactly like her. Tatum wanted to think that it was mere coincidence, but then she noticed the girl’s eyes. They were exactly the same as her own: one iris was brown, and the other iris was brown, with the exception of the patch of green next to the pupil.

Intrigued, Tatum read the text next to the picture. It was in an unfamiliar language, but the English translation was clear to her. The text read, At fifteen years old, the Slayer will come face to face with her worst nightmare, although she will not be aware of the threat that this nightmare poses. After realizing the danger that she faces, the Slayer will fight this nightmare. The consequences will be dire for…

Tatum shut the book quickly as Damian walked into the room. “Whatcha reading, Tatum?” he asked, sitting down next to her. “Anything good?”

“Just flipping through Carrie. What about you, Damian? What’s up?” Tatum spoke way too quickly than she normally did. She hoped that her face was indifferent, because her mind was racing a thousand miles a minute. Why did her family have that eerily prophetic book? Did her fathers know that she would eventually become a Slayer? And if they did know, had they always known the truth about her? Or did they only recently find out?

Damian’s face was just as neutral as Tatum’s, which was strange. Damian smiled constantly, and Tatum couldn’t remember a time where he wasn’t smiling. Then again, she had only known him for a few years. “I was actually looking for you, Tatum,” he said. “Dinner’s ready.”

“Okay,” Tatum said, standing up. She hid her hands behind her back to cover up the fact that they were shaking. Stop it, Tatum, she thought as she and Damian made their way back into the house. You don’t need to be so nervous. This is your father. He loves you. No matter what he and Daddy may be hiding, it’s because they love you. It’s not like they’re the ones who decided your destiny. Unless…oh crap. What if they are the ones who decided this? Okay, Tatum, now you’re just being ridiculous. Why is it that you insist on coming up with the most ridiculous scenarios? Ms. Green is probably the true owner of this book, especially if she’s my Watcher.

The urgency of Damian’s voice broke Tatum from her thoughts. “Tatum, watch out,” said loudly, grabbing her by the arm and making her halt in her tracks. She had almost walked into a wall. “Where were you?”

“Standing right next to you,” said Tatum lightly. She rolled her eyes at herself. Of course, my voice does little to convey my emotions now. “I’ve been standing here for a full three minutes, Damian,” she joked.

He rolled his eyes, too. “Not funny, Tatum. You nearly face-planted into that wall. I’ve always been dreading the day you started dating, or even started talking about boys other than Danny, but I never expected your first kiss could be with a wall,” he said, steering her away from the wall and into the kitchen.

“Now look who’s joking,” Tatum replied. “And implying that I have low standards. I mean, Damian, a wall? Really?”

“Am I missing something?” Adam asked when Damian and Tatum entered the kitchen. He had just sat down, after placing their plates on the table.

“Nothing major,” said Damian as he slipped into the seat next to Adam. “You almost missed your daughter’s first kiss, which was almost with a wall.”

“Tatum…is there anything you’d like to tell us?” Adam asked, a twinkle in his eye, which was almost as rare as Damian not smiling. Adam and Damian were polar opposites: Adam was sincere and serious, and Damian was goofy and fun. They didn’t even run in the same social circles. Tatum was still confused about how they’d met, never mind the fact that they’d ended up married.

Only that I’m a vampire slayer, and in the past three months, I’ve killed nineteen vampires. Including the one who killed Kendall. And, oh yeah, I lied to the police about her death, like a lot, and then I forced Danny to do the same. Also, I think I found a book that predicts my future, only I didn’t have time to read it, since Damian rudely interrupted me, Tatum thought. “Nah,” she said instead. “Nothing to tell here. Unless you’d like to talk about my changing body.” After fifteen years of living with her fathers, Tatum had learned that the best way to get out of talking to them was to bring up puberty.

“Well, Tatum, since you asked, I guess that we can,” said Damian lightly.

“I was kidding, Damian. Gross,” Tatum said, wrinkling her nose. “Thanks for ruining my appetite.”

“It was my pleasure,” Damian said, smiling sweetly at her. Then he turned to Adam, saying, “You won’t believe what happened at work today.”

After that, Tatum allowed herself to depart from the conversation, or at least mentally. She found herself thinking about the book she’d found in the garage, and little else. She felt attracted to it, almost like it was a magnet. She couldn’t explain how or why. It’s literally just a musty old book, Tatum thought to herself.

It’s more than that and you know that, Tatum answered herself. That book was predicting your future, and you know that it’s right. How many other fifteen year olds with heterochromia are vampire slayers? Oh, that’s right. None, Tatum. None. Literally no other fifteen year olds are vampire slayers with heterochromia!  This isn’t crazy, Tatum. You know that.

The book might not be crazy, but you definitely are, Tatum retorted internally. News flash, Tay–you’re literally talking to yourself right now.

“I am, aren’t I?” Tatum said out loud. Damian and Adam turned to her.

“Are you okay, sweetie?” asked Adam.

“I’m fine,” Tatum replied. “Um, may I be excused?”

“Tate, you’ve barely eaten any of your dinner,” Damian pointed out. It was true. She’d mostly moved her food around on her plate. Her fork had made exactly one trip to her mouth. “Are you sure that you’re okay?”

“I’m fine,” Tatum said quickly. Craptastic, she thought to herself. “I just got to the good part of my book and I want to see what happens next.”

“What book?” Damian asked.

“Um, The Perfectionists,” Tatum said. Hopefully her dads didn’t pay as much attention to her reading material as they did to the contents of her phone. She had read–and finished–The Perfectionists a year ago.  “I think that they’re about to find out who the killer is. Personally, I think that it’s Caitlin. How convenient is it that she’s the only one with a prescription for the drug that killed Nolan? Or that Nolan practically killed her little brother?” You idiot, Tatum thought. Why would you start babbling like that? Do you want to get caught?

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this excited to read a book,” remarked Adam. “It’s kind of funny. Go ahead and read your book, Tate. I expect full disclosure, though.”

“Of course,” Tatum said, but her mind was on autopilot. She could barely see straight as she placed her plate in the sink and walked to the garage. She actually did walk into a wall this time, but the blow to her head made her focus.

Once she was seated and had pulled out the book, Tatum had no trouble finding the page where she had left off.

…for both the Slayer and her nemesis. The Slayer will manage to defeat her nemesis, and at first, she shall feel victorious. This victory will be short-lived, and after the joy of winning wears off, she will feel the pain.

“Feel the pain of what?” Tatum wondered aloud. “After defeating my nemesis, will I feel, like, remorseful about it?”

“You just might, Slayer,” someone said from behind her. “I mean, I’m quite amazing. You’ll probably feel a strong pang of regret if you defeat me. Plus, that would mean such a sad ending for Daddy Dearest over here.”

Tatum whipped around, ready to fight her mysterious nemesis. Now that he had threatened her father, this guy was going down. Tatum would strangle him with her bare hands if necessary.

As Tatum took in her nemesis, she realised that his identity wasn’t so mysterious at all.

Her nemesis was Damian.

As if that wasn’t terrifying enough, he had come into the room covered in blood. Please, please, let Daddy be okay, Tatum thought. She hadn’t heard any screaming or painful moaning, so maybe Adam was doing fine. Well…maybe he was injured, but that was beside the point. All Tatum wanted was for him to be alive. She didn’t care what condition.

“Damian,” said Tatum slowly. “Holy freaking crap.” Now that Damian had revealed his true self to Tatum, his face looked pale, blank, and emotionless. It almost reminded Tatum of the Michael Myers mask, but Michael Myers had never scared her this much.

Damian looked disgusted. “Really? That’s all you’ve got?” he scoffed.

Despite the fact that she was freaking out, Tatum never let her eyes stray from Damian. “You’re a monster,” she hissed. “How could you do this?”

“It was quite easy, actually,” Damian said. “ I mean, I am a vampire. I don’t actually have feelings, but I am one brilliant actor.”

Tatum cocked her head to the side. She had to keep him talking, or at least keep talking herself. That was the only way that she could formulate a plan. One part of her really wanted her to just let him get away with everything, now that she knew who he was.  “You definitely had me fooled. But why? Why did you do this? I mean, if you had this book, then you’d know that I defeat you.”

“And if you had completed a full year of training, like most Slayers do, you would know that unless a prophecy is literally set in stone, it may or may not come true,” said Damian. “The whole point of this was to preserve my life, Tatum. I don’t know about you, but I happen to enjoy being a sociopathic immortal.”

“That’s funny,” Tatum snapped. “I happen to enjoy snapping the necks of sociopathic immortals.” As she said that, she remembered that she was wearing a cross necklace. It wasn’t much, but she knew that it was a start.

“Well, gosh dang it, Tatum, I’m not sure that I can let you keep doing that,” Damian said. As he spoke, Tatum unclasped her necklace and looked around the garage for anything else she could use as a weapon. The only other thing she could think of was her house key, but she wasn’t sure if she could actually hurt Damian with that.  “You see, I enjoy my psycho tendencies very much. There’s something about bloodshed, torture, and plain old manipulation that really excites a guy.”

“What?!” exclaimed Tatum.

“Nothing,” Damian replied quickly. “It’s beside the point, which is, I can’t let you go on slaying vampires.  Most importantly, I can’t let you slay me.”

“Damian, you have literally been around for like, ever. Letting me kill you would be a favor.”

“Who said anything about you killing me?” Damian scoffed. “That’s so not in the book.”

“Um, hate to break it to you, sweetie, but you’re the one who told me that if it’s not set in stone, it can change. I can kill you.” Her voice grew stronger as she spoke, once she realized that her words were true. Damian had crossed an unforgivable line when he hurt her father.

“No, you can’t,” Damian said.

“Wanna bet?” said Tatum as she stuck him across the eye with her necklace. He let out an agonized moan. She knew that the cross would blind him, even if it was temporarily, and she was counting on that to get her to the kitchen, or even to her purse, so that she could grab a butcher knife or a stake.

Then she could kill him.

As Tatum ran through the house, she hoped that she had made the right choice. If Damian had chosen to hurt Adam instead of fight Tatum, she’d never be able to live with herself.

“You…can’t…hide…forever, Tatum!” Damian grunted. It was an effort for him to keep up with her, since he could only see out of one eye. Tatum made an effort to speed up, not even bothering to calmly sift through the contents of her purse. She just threw everything in every direction, aiming for Damian whenever she picked up a bottle of holy water.
“Hurry up, Tatum,” she mumbled to herself. Finally, she found what she was looking for–a wooden stake. She was just in time, too–Damian had just caught up with her. “Don’t you dare take one step!” she said, wielding the dagger. “Or I swear that I will kill you, right here, right now. No regrets, and no hesitation.”

“I doubt that,” Damian replied. Tatum narrowed her eyes at him. He was blind because of her. This was no time for him to doubt her.

“You’ll regret that,” Tatum said.

WIth only a moment’s hesitation, she plunged the stake into Damian’s chest. He was right. No matter what he did, Tatum would always be attached to him. One stab was more than enough for her. At the same time, she couldn’t compel herself to put the stake down.  She stood up and went into the kitchen to call the police. Before they showed up, though, she would need to look like a girl who hadn’t just stabbed her stepfather to death.

She went into the bathroom and locked the door behind her. “I won,” she said to her reflection. “He thought I couldn’t. He thought that he’d beat me, but he didn’t. I won.”

She was so caught up in the moment that she didn’t hear Damian get up and walk towards the bathroom. She didn’t hear his voice say, “Don’t get too cocky, Tatum.” She didn’t even hear the bathroom door open.

When she did, she didn’t have time to scream. Neither did Damian. As soon as he stepped foot in the bathroom, she lunged at him, aiming the stake directly at his heart. This time, she wasn’t going to let him get by with one stab. Also, she planned on doing a better job of making sure that he was dead.

“Damian, you said that you enjoy torture, so I thought you’d enjoy this,” Tatum said. She had lugged his body out onto the street. “I hope that you rot in hell, Damian,” she said, lighting a match, and dropping it on his body.

She didn’t hesitate for a second.  

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It had been three days since Tatum killed Damian, and nothing even remotely supernatural had happened. Or if it had, no one had told her. She wouldn’t have cared, anyway. She had been sitting vigilantly at her father’s bedside for thirty-six hours.Even after he’d gotten discharged from the hospital, three weeks later, she kept a close eye on him, staying out of school to take care of him.

Now that she’d almost lost her father, she wasn’t ready to leave him, even to go to school. She couldn’t let anyone get between them. She wouldn’t let anyone get between them. Tatum promised herself that. Losing him would kill her, and so she would do anything to make sure that wouldn’t happen.

For a while, she was able to make good on that promise to herself. That is, until her junior year: the year that changed everything for them. 

Tatum the Vampire Slayer: Part One

Hi, guys! A few months ago, in English class, our assignment was to write a short story about a character who does a bold action. Since I’m currently working on a sequel to that story, I’ve decided to share the story with all of you. I hope you all enjoy!
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Part One: 

Tatum Anderson had never been more confused in her entire life. She had no idea where she was, or how she’d gotten there, or why she was alone. The air was foggy, and around her, it was eerily silent. The smell of death was thick in the air, overwhelming Tatum. The creepy surroundings were so strong that she didn’t notice the mysterious figure creeping slowly towards her. She didn’t feel the rope wrap around her neck until it was too late. She didn’t even have time to scream.

Tatum could feel her life seeping out of her, slowly. She could feel her knees give, and she could see her vision tunneling. This can’t be happening to me, she thought. Not now.  She could feel her senses blurring, merging into one. After a minute, all she was aware of was the presence behind her.

The last thing she heard before everything went black, was “Surprise!”

Tatum shot up in bed, breathing heavily. She’d never had a dream that weird  before, or a dream that creepy before.She sat in bed for a minute, reflecting on the dream. Eventually, she decided that the bizarre dream was only because of that yogurt she’d had last night. I guess that Kendall was right, Tatum thought. Dairy and sugar and all of that other crap really do cause bad dreams. Kendall Stevens, her best friend, was constantly telling Tatum things like this. Tatum never believed her, because it sounded like something a neurotic mom would say. Besides, Tatum had never really believed in anything influencing dreams. She had heard some pretty crazy things before. After this dream, Tatum thought that she would have to believe Kendall now.  

After she’d sat in bed longer than necessary, Tatum got up, preparing for the school day. After she was dressed, she went downstairs, hoping that one of her fathers was still home, but no luck. One of them–probably Adam–had left her a note on the table. The note read, Hi Tatum! I’m sorry that Daddy and I had to leave so early. Tomorrow, I promise I’ll drive you to the bus stop. Have a good day at school, Tate. I’ll be here when you get home and you can tell me everything that happened. Love, Damian.

Tatum smiled. That’s so nice of him, she thought. Damian (who was technically her stepfather, but she didn’t care; he was like a father to her) didn’t usually leave her notes, Adam did. Whatever. It was nice of Damian to be parental for once.

Putting her thoughts of Damian aside, Tatum grabbed a granola bar and headed out. It was 6:55, and if she left the house any later, she’d miss the bus. As she walked down the street, she began to think about the eerie dream that she’d had. For some reason, she felt like it had happened on this street. Almost like it had happened near her house, or even in her house. As she pondered the dream the bus came, flashing its bright lights and effectively bringing Tatum out of her thoughts. She climbed on the bus and sat down across from Kendall, who was slumped down in her seat. “Hi, Kendall,” said Tatum. “What’s up?”

Kendall straightened up. “I’m fine, Tay. Just tired. What about you?”

Tatum told her about the dream she’d had. “What do you think it means?”

“I don’t know,” Kendall said. “Ask Danny, he’d offer you some sort of explanation. Although, knowing Danny, it’ll probably be 90% crap.” Daniel “Danny” Peters was one of Tatum and Kendall’s best friends. Kendall and Tatum loved Danny, but sometimes the most ridiculous things came out of his mouth. He was like a meme waiting to happen.

“He’s not that bad,” Tatum said automatically. Danny was like a brother to her. He might’ve been an idiot 90% of the time, but he was cool.

“Sweetie, just because you’ve got the hots for him does not mean that you have to defend him all the time. We all know he’s an idiot,” said Kendall.

“I do not have the hots for Danny,” Tatum said. “I can’t believe that you would say that.” That was a complete lie. Tatum had been crushing on Danny since they were in the fourth grade. Danny was the one who brought out Tatum’s dorky side.  

“I can’t believe that you didn’t think I’d bring that up,” Kendall retorted. “Let’s face it, Tatum. You act like this sweet, innocent little girl, but all you really want to get in Danny’s pants.”

“For the last time, I am not introverted. I am an ambivert. Also, I do not have feelings for Danny!” Tatum exclaimed, trying to hide her blush. “Just…shut up about it, okay, Kendall?”

“Whatever,” Kendall said. “Deny it all you want, but you know that you’ve got it bad for him.”

“I don’t! Kendall, being with Danny would be like being with my brother,” said Tatum, wrinkling her nose. “Kissing him would make me want to barf.”

“Tatum, you don’t even have a brother,” Kendall said. “Don’t dwell on that analogy.”

“You never know,” Tatum replied. “I could have a brother.” Tatum had been adopted when she was two years old. Her genetic history was pretty much unknown to her and her fathers. She didn’t know where she had inherited her chestnut brown hair, or her heterochromia.

“You could, but it’s unlikely,” said Kendall as the bus neared their high school. “If you did, wouldn’t you know who he is?”

“Kendall, when Adam adopted me, he didn’t know anything about my family. Actually, he knew that my birth mom was a flake. But that’s pretty much it. Everything else he knew was about me, so I don’t know if I have any other family out there.” Adam didn’t have any family left; that was why he had adopted Tatum. Damian still had family, but he didn’t speak to them. For as long as Tatum could remember, it had just been the three of them, but she wouldn’t change it for the world. She loved Adam and Damian more than anything.

“If you do have a brother out there, and he’s like, really hot, can I get dibs?” Kendall inquired with a serious look on her face. “I mean, you said that kissing your brother would make you barf, plus you’re madly in love with Danny, so I kind of just need to to tell me that your possibly real brother is mine if he’s available.”

“Um, no,” Tatum said as she and Kendall got off of the bus. “Kendall, this is my hypothetical brother that we’re talking about. It would be so weird if you dated him. Besides, he probably doesn’t exist.”
“Duh, that’s why I said hypothetical,” said Kendall.

“No, you didn’t,” Tatum replied as they walked through the school’s double doors. “I said hypothetical. You just said possibly.”

“Whatever,” Kendall said. “I still think that I should get dibs. He may be hypothetical, but he’s hot.”

“Who’s hot?” Danny said from behind Kendall. He’d been walking behind Tatum and Kendall for five minutes, but neither of them had noticed. “John Karna?”

“No,” Kendall scoffed at the same time Tatum said, “Obviously.”

“I’m confused. Fill me in,” said Danny, falling into step with Kendall and Tatum. “I need to know. Kendall, why don’t you think John Karna’s not hot? Also, if we aren’t talking about John Karna, what hottie  are we talking about?”

“John Karna has such a baby face,” Kendall said. “He looks like he’s eight years old.”

“We’re talking about my hypothetical brother,” Tatum said, coming to a stop at her locker. She continued to speak as she spun the locker dial. “Kendall has decided that if I were to have a brother out there, she wants dibs. But I say that’s kind of weird.”

“It’s not weird, I guess, but it’s not normal. I don’t think that you can call dibs on someone who may or may not exist,” Danny said. “But I think that since this brother is most likely made up, Kendall can get dibs.”

“Thank you, Danny,” said Kendall, slinging her arm around him. “Clearly you’re not as stupid as I previously thought.”

Tatum closed her locker, pulling her books closer to her chest. “Whatever, guys,” she said. “I’ll see you guys at lunch.” The Dynamic Trio (a nickname awarded to them by Danny) only had two classes together, both of them after lunch.

“Bye, Tatum,” Danny said as Tatum walked to her homeroom. “See ya later!”

Tatum didn’t reply as she walked into her homeroom. Her teacher, Ms. Green, smiled warmly at her. “Hi, Tatum,” Ms. Green said as Tatum slipped into her seat. “Did you have a nice weekend?”

“Yes, I did,” said Tatum, smiling up at her teacher. “What about you?” Ms. Green was one of Tatum’s favorite teachers, and not just because she was so friendly. Ms. Green was a close friend of Adam’s, and she had been like a mother to Tatum.

“I had a lovely weekend, thanks for asking,” Ms. Green said. The smile on her face disappeared slowly as she fiddled with one of the bracelets on her wrist. “Listen, Tatum, would you mind staying after school? I have something I need to tell you.”

“Um, sure,” Tatum said quietly. She spent the rest of the day thinking about Ms. Green’s request. She had probably heard three words all of her teachers had said. Her mind was racing too fast to process anything. When she told her friends about it, they just rolled their eyes. Kendall had said, “Tatum, I don’t see why you get so nervous about these things. I mean, Ms. Green is like, besties, with your dad. She probably just wants to talk to you about something he mentioned to her. Something good.”

Kendall’s words hadn’t done much to ease Tatum’s fears. After the bell rang, Tatum trudged back to Ms. Green’s classroom. “What do you have to tell me?” she asked.

“I honestly don’t know how to tell you this,” Ms. Green said. “It’s highly likely you won’t believe me, but it doesn’t matter. Tatum, you are the Chosen One.”

“What?” Tatum asked, full of disbelief. There was no way she could be the ‘chosen’ anything. She was just an average high school freshman. “The Chosen One? Me? Are you sure about that, Ms. Green?”

“Yes, you,” Ms. Green said. “You, Tatum, are destined to be a Slayer.” Slayers were teens (usually girls, but now being a Slayer was kind of a coed thing). Slayers lived among regular humans, but they existed to drive out the dark forces in the earth. In other words, a Slayer’s job was to kill the darkness of the earth. As important as they were, Tatum had always thought that Slayers weren’t real. Monsters weren’t real, so there was no need for Slayers.

“Yeah, right,” Tatum scoffed. She wasn’t even cut out for gym class. There was no way she was cut out to kill things–or even people.  Besides, Slayers were just a legend. Right? “I am so not a Slayer.”

Ms. Green sighed. “Tatum, as of yesterday, you are a Slayer. It might be shocking to you, but it’s a real thing. Monsters and ghosts and vampires and demons are all real. Someone has to help get rid of them, and that someone is you, Tatum.”

“Well, how would you know that?” Tatum retorted. Her defensiveness was really just a front. In truth, she was actually a bit terrified of being a Slayer. “And what do you mean by ‘as of yesterday’? What happened yesterday?”

“I know that you are the next Slayer because it is my job to guide and train you. I’m kind of like your guardian angel. I trained the previous Slayer as well, but she was killed yesterday. Once she died, you took her place as a Slayer,” explained Ms. Green. Tatum knew little about Slayers, but she did know that there were multiple lines of Slayers across the world. Once one died, another was initiated.  “Does that make any sense?”

“Well, yeah, but I still don’t get why I’m the Slayer. I don’t want to kill things, and I highly doubt that I would be good at it,” Tatum said. Now she was even more terrified about being a Slayer. If the other Slayer got killed, doesn’t that mean I could reach the same fate? I don’t want to die!

“You’re not killing ‘things’, Tatum. You’re going to be killing demons, and vampires. And I’ll start training you as soon as possible. But you might not need much training,” Ms. Green said.

“Ms. Green, I’ve never even killed a bug,” said Tatum. “How can I kill people?”
“They’re not people; they’re demons that have to die. Anyway, Tatum, as a Slayer you can do more than you could if you were a mere mortal. You can jump higher, run faster, and run faster. Unfortunately, immortality is not part of being a Slayer,” Ms. Green told Tatum.

“You don’t say,” said Tatum sarcastically. Thank you, Ms. Green, for bringing up the main source of my apprehension. That’s so helpful.

“This is no time for sarcasm! The fate of the world is literally resting in your hands, and you’re telling me that you don’t know how to kill people. That’s not acceptable. This is your destiny, Tatum, and you have to accept it if you want the world to thrive.”

“I’m not saying that I don’t want to accept it, Ms. Green, I just don’t know how,” Tatum said. “I don’t know how to fight, and I don’t know how to kill.”

“Tatum, you don’t have to,” Ms. Green said. “That’s what I’m here for. Just forget about what you know or don’t know right now. All you need to know right now is that you are the Slayer. That’s it.”

“Okay,” Tatum said. “What do I need to do, then?”

“Just be here tomorrow after school. I’ll drive you home afterwards,” said Ms. Green. She turned to her computer, indicating that the conversation was over. “Have a nice night, Tatum.”
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Tatum and Ms. Green spent the next month training. As they trained, Kendall and Danny noticed a change in their introverted friend, but neither Kendall or Danny knew how or why Tatum was acting so differently. They both wanted to know why, but at the same time, they didn’t want to just ask. For a three and a half weeks, they didn’t. Tatum didn’t mention anything to them, either. Kendall and Danny were totally clueless about Tatum’s fate as a Slayer until Homecoming night.

After the dance that night, Kendall, Danny, and Tatum planned on walking to Danny’s house and staying there, instead of going to the afterparty thrown by Reyna Lewis, the most popular girl in their grade. They were almost at Danny’s house when Tatum noticed the vampiric presence on the sidewalk, mirroring her movements. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up, and she stopped briefly to look back at Kendall and Danny, who were lagging behind. “Come on, guys, let’s go,” Tatum said to her friends, trying to keep the fear out of her voice.

Kendall laughed. “Tatum, chill out,” she said. “We’re fine.”

How do I tell them that there is a vampire tailing us without telling them that I’m a Slayer? Tatum thought. It’s times like this I wish there was a How to be a Slayer manual or something. It’s not like I can just tell them that the vaguely pedophilic guy across the street is a vampire, and that it’s my job to kill him.

Discreetly, Tatum picked up her pace. But the vampire across the street noticed, and disappeared from view just as Tatum was canvassing the area for more vampires. Crap, she thought. I lost him. How is it possible to be this bad at slaying?

She returned to her normal pace, falling back into step with Kendall and Danny. “I just was getting a really weird vibe back there. It was kind of reminding me of this really creepy dream I had once. It’s not a big deal.”

Danny smiled, looking at her with his beautiful eyes. “That’s cute, Tay,” he said. “But we’ll be fine. I promise.”

For a moment, Tatum believed him. For a moment, they were fine, walking down the dark street in their evening wear. For a moment, it seemed like they were the only people on the street. It seemed like they were the only people in the entire world.

Then Kendall let out a bloodcurdling scream, and everything changed.

Tatum didn’t waste any time thinking. She turned around, and jumped on the back of the vampire that had bitten Kendall. However, the vampire was much stronger than Tatum, and he managed to send her flying through the air like a rag doll.

Tatum didn’t let being knocked to the ground stop her, and kicked him in the chest. Ms. Green had insisted that she wear heels, since it was unrealistic to carry around a wooden stake all night. The only useful weapon Tatum had was a vial of holy water, which she wore on a necklace. The high heels were somewhat useful, though. When the vampire tripped and fell backwards, Tatum quickly unclasped her necklace, and poured the contents over the spot where his heart would be. Standing back, she watched as the vampire’s remains disappeared. Now that she was sure that the vampire was dead, Tatum turned to Danny, who was holding Kendall’s limp body in his arms. His face was tear-streaked.

“Danny, is she…?” Tatum trailed off, not wanting to hear his response.

“I think so,” said Danny. His voice was hoarse, and he paused before speaking again. “Tatum, what just happened?”

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