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 version 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 green, and the other iris was green, with the exception of the patch of blue 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.

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 will update this story every Thursday. 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 three 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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