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7 Seven

    And thinking about what-ifs always made me think about the big one. On the bus home from the café, I thought of little else: what if I'd never awakened naked on top of a black, t-top Trans Am in a west Denver neighborhood?

    I caught my reflection in the dark window. I'd be nowhere near as sexy, that's for sure. I'd be getting older, not wrinkles- and arthritis-old, but old enough that I'd start to worry about that

    fading sex appeal.

    I might be married, though. I might have kids. I was, in fact, headed that way when everything changed. I had two super-serious boyfriends, one of which had told me he would do anything to be with me forever, a statement that even all these years later made me belt out a laugh.

    A young woman and her daughter boarded the bus, the daughter staring shyly into every face she could see, the mother hurrying her along, gripping her hand in one hand and three shopping bags and a purse in the other.

    A husband, children. No, those weren't laughable things.

    But they were the only things I was missing.

    I just wished I knew why. The "how" of it didn't obsess me nearly as much as it interested Dr. Parrish and Will. I figured there was some technique: being bitten Bram Stoker-style, being drained and drinking Anne Rice-style, being excommunicated from the holy catholic church seventeenth century-style. It didn't particularly matter to me. I wanted to remember, of course. But I didn't stay up nights thinking about it.

    The bus lurched to another stop. Bodies of little interest entered and exited in flocks.

    I stayed up nights wondering if I had been "chosen." I guess that's a weakness even vampires are prey to: wanting to be special, wanting to be one of the elect, not wanting to believe that we are just a handful among masses, and that whether we live ninety years or nine hundred, eventually we will pass out of the world, and the world will forget us.

    Anyway, I was probably just a passing fancy for a traveling clan. They probably had a good laugh about it, leaving me there in a maze of identical houses to wake up confused. And thirsty.

    Except. Except whoever vampirized me had to know how to do it. And there were not very many who knew how.

    And it was then, on a grimy, smelly bus, twenty-something years and two thousand miles from my awakening as a new creature, that I decided I really did want answers, not in the desperate way Will wanted them, but I wanted them all the same.

    Not so I could undo what had been done. Hell, no. But just to know a little more about my existence, like an adopted kid searching out her biological parents. I wanted to know where I came from. And I kind of wanted to know why I'd been abandoned by the adult vampires who'd created me.

    And that thought led me back to Will again, my first vampire friend.

    It wasn't like I didn't know what I was when I woke up on the Trans Am. I mean, you can only come to so many conclusions when sunlight is bothersome, you develop a sudden allergy to steel, you can't eat real food without becoming so ill you think you're about to die, and people smell like dinner.

    You don't believe it at first, of course. You still think vampire existence is restricted to comic books and gory movies and the world's most absurd romance novels. But a part of you recognizes the symptoms. And if your choices are between thinking you've gone crazy or believing you're a vampire, well, you'd be surprised how easy it is to accept the existence of something so obviously imaginary.

    And the first time, ah, the first time the blood slogs down your throat in thick drops...it's like making love for the first time, without all the awkwardness and pain. It's so exciting you just about pass out with disbelief.

    If there's any doubt in your mind up to that point, it disappears with that first drink. It doesn't matter that you just about had to die with thirst before you took the drink. It doesn't matter that you can't get your mind to accept what you're doing. It doesn't matter that when you're finally full and you sleep, nightmares of screaming bodies torment you.

    Because once you drink, you never want to stop drinking. And there are enough bad people in the world that you can drink from them alone, if your conscience bothers you. For most people, that concession is enough. For most people.

    But I was thinking about Will, about how, when he found me, I already knew that I was a vampire. Though having someone else confirm it provided an odd kind of relief. I'm not crazy, not demon-possessed, not evil. Just a vampire.

    Will had found me in an alleyway, of course, where I was sucking dry the last guy who grabbed my ass as I walked past. He watched me finish, nodded, gave me that smile of his, and we were friends.

    Later that night, we were walking across an empty baseball field and heading toward the swings.

    "Do you know how great this is?" I asked him.

    "You really like it that much, being a vampire?" he asked, trying to eye me without being obvious about it.

    "No. I mean, yes, but what I meant when I said it was great was, well, you. I knew there had to be others, but I've never met one. I have to know-are there lots? Or just a few? Do you all live close together? Like in a...a coven?"

    He laughed. "Yeah, I guess you could say there are lots, and no, we're not the commune type. There are some who like to live close enough to other vampires to visit. Others like living alone."

    "What kind are you?" I was fascinated by him. He seemed so in control, sure of everything, content. I wanted to know everything: how often he ate, what kind of meal he preferred, what other hidden benefits to my new life I hadn't yet discovered. And Will, so brilliant, such a wonderful researcher and teacher, answered everything.

    He was more than willing, too, to instruct me in all the specifics of vampire love, but it took Keats's laugh, and his bowl of oatmeal, of course, to convince me it was time to explore that benefit of my new life.

    And poor Will was stuck with the hard parts, introducing me to the intricacies of the vampire life and introducing all the vampires he knew to me. There wasn't anything I asked that he didn't answer. Sometimes his answers were "You're probably better off not knowing that, Annie," and sometimes, "Why don't I show you?" But somehow between the teacher-student relationship and the blatant innuendos, I found Will.

    He'd been a vampire longer than I'd been alive. He'd been a medical researcher in his other life, and he'd stayed at his job as long as he could, until people started to wonder how the handsome young researcher could've stayed young and handsome for so many years, without even an extra gray hair to show the passage of time.

    He'd only ever talked about it once-about the day he'd had to leave work, leave everything. I'd never seen him talk with more enthusiasm than when he was talking about the body's proteins and the genetic whatever-he-said. Then he told me about designing and building his own lab, and that enthusiasm didn't compare to anything, not even his parties, not even his latest lady-love.

    He did give up on me pretty fast, even before his geeky friend Keats came along and stole me away forever. Will never did care for the hunt unless he was sure he would win.

    There was a what-if there, too. What if it had been Will instead of Keats? But it never would have been, not in any version of the universe that I can think of.
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