Home > Karma Bites

Karma Bites
Author: Nyrae Dawn

Chapter One

I wonder how teachers make the school clocks run so slowly? As soon as you step through the doors you’re in a parallel universe where time runs slower than Mr. Henry’s drawn-out algebra lectures. Like any of us will need this outside the classroom. If we did, there would be an adult other than a math teacher who could help with homework.

There’s not.

I sigh, letting my eyes travel to Stacy, queen of The Lipstick Posse. Her eyes, dark brown, but they almost look black, narrow at me and she gives me one of those wicked smiles that only someone who excels in mean-girlism can give. She mouths vamp freak at me. So original. The least she could do is muster up some creativity. Okay, so my mom believes in vampires. That’s golden as far as reasons to make someone’s life miserable. If I were Stacy, you can bet I’d have a better game than that.

In case you didn’t catch it, my life sucks. Ha! A pun. It wasn’t even on purpose either.

At the first shrill ring of the bell, I pull my familiar swoop-and-roll maneuver, jerking my backpack over my shoulder, rolling out of the chair and making a break for the door. It’s not that I’m scared of The LP. Okay, that’s a lie; maybe I’m just a little afraid. Who can blame me? It’s not only three on one, but I have no doubt if Mom’s crazy vampires-are-real fantasy were true, Stacy Cavanaugh and her death stare would be the poster child for the undead. She sucks the life out of me every day. Not that I have much of a life to suck. Wow, I rock at puns.

I squeeze my way through the students herding toward the door. Don’t these people understand I’m tortured here? They should totally let me out first. I’m trying not to become a bullied teen statistic.

“Excuse me. Excuse me.”

I try to wiggle my way through, but it doesn’t work. Everyone else might not stoop to calling me “Vamp Freak of Karma, California”, but they do enjoy the show, no matter how many reruns The LP play.

I’m halfway down the hall before I exhale a deep breath. I might have made it.

“Hey, Vamp Freak. How’s your crazy mom?” They surround me like a bad Mafia movie. I keep walking. “It must be hard, living with a nutcase. Do you guys have padded walls in your house?”

It doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t bother me, I chant to myself. But it does. No matter what, she’s still my mom and besides the one tiny—okay, maybe not so tiny--but besides the one peculiarity about her, she’s completely normal.

“My mom’s not crazy.” I glance at her. “Oh, I think you missed a spot. Your top lip is looking a little less hooker-red than the bottom.”

Tiffany stumbles. Stacy’s hooker lips form an “O”. Even I’m a little surprised by my comment, but a vamp freak can only take so much.

“You little bitch.”

Uh-oh. She pulled out the big guns. Bitch means she’s really pissed and I don’t feel like being shoved into the lockers today. Three on one, remember?

I break into a run. Sad, I know, but unfortunately I don’t have any super-vampire abilities where I’m able to take on The LP by myself.

I shove through the charred-brown doors leading to the back of campus. Ahead of me is a field of green. If this were a movie, I’d be frolicking through it rather than running for my life. Just beyond the field is the line of trees separating high school hell from my reprieve. I find solace in the woods. My problems feel a whole lot smaller when surrounded by towering trees.

Maybe it’s because I know The LP won’t follow me out here. They might get dirty or something.

“Run, freak, run!” Stacy yells as I dash through the field. How cliché. If kids are still quoting movies that came out when most of us weren’t even alive, what chance do I have they’ll ever lose interest in crazy Abby and her psycho mom? If I were old enough to bet, my money would go on never.

My run dies as soon as I hit the trees, settling into a nice, slow walk. A few more months. Only a few more months and I’ll be out of Karma for good. I kick a branch. What kind of name is that anyway? Karma, California. Did I wrong someone in a past life? Oh! Maybe I was a vampire hunter in a past life and this is their payback. But that would take me believing in things like that.

Which I don’t.

Seriously.

Maybe I especially don’t want to believe because, at seventeen, I’d just been allowed out after dark. Kind of hard to fear the night monsters if you’re the only teenager in the world who has to be in by the time the streetlights come on. The only reason I can swing it now is because I threatened to sneak out of the house—gasp! After nightfall. Unfortunately Mom only okays it very rarely and on prearranged, extra-special circumstances.

All thoughts of crazy moms, vampires and psycho, tormenting teens, flitter out of my head on the wind as the tiny cabin comes into view. There’s only one person who has a cabin way out here and my little path leads right past it. Lucky, right?

Caleb Evans.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I remember every detail about the few conversations we’ve had. Every. Last. One. Pathetic, right?

The slow, lazy walk I was enjoying is over and I start speeding up. Not into a run, because I don’t want to look like the freak everyone thinks I am. A girl has to save face whatever way she can.

Before I reach the dirt road in front of the tiny shack of a cabin Caleb shares with his dad, the blinds part slightly. When eyes I know are the most unique shade of green peer out, I trip. Yes, a stupid rock jumps in front of me when Caleb Evans looks out his window. Nice. My cheeks are hot.

I start walking again.

Just like those few conversations, I know every look too. And surprisingly, Caleb Evans looks at me a lot. But then, who doesn’t like to stare at the vamp freak?

His gaze is scalding on me, burning me up from the outside in. Soon, I can’t take it, my eyes darting to the woodsy earth beneath my feet. It doesn’t last long. My eyes are drawn to him, and I can’t help but seek out his green again.

He’s still there. My thoughts start rapid firing at me. How did he get home so fast? Why does he stare at me? Did he ditch? Why do I like it? Where are his friends? Why can’t I be one of them?

Okay, maybe not that last question, because as addictive as Caleb Evan’s gorgeous green eyes and messy black hair are, his friends are a little scary. I’m pretty sure most of them will end up in prison one day. Well, except for Caleb, because he’s beautiful and makes me burn inside.

God, I really am a freak!

Before losing eyesight with him, I shoot one more glance his way. And he smiles. Not a real smile, because I’m not sure his mouth really works that way, but a half one. He has me in some kind of Caleb-induced trance. Pfft, trance. It’s called good looks, Abbs. But this is the first smile, so it has to mean something. I can’t help but return it. As soon as I do, the curtains close and he disappears behind them.

The trance is broken. Hell, I’d probably even imagined the smile, because that is my biggest fear. Imagining things, seeing things, believing things. As normal as Mom is in so many ways, I’m scared of becoming that hidden part of her most people don’t see. I’m scared of being like the crazy, vampire-obsessed woman I call Mom.

***

Out of the woods, I make it onto the street where we live. A couple minutes later, I’m closing the front door to our small, two-story house quietly, hoping to get a few minutes to myself before Mom walks in. Setting my backpack by the front door, I head straight for the kitchen. Math may be completely useless, but it works up my appetite. Or maybe it’s the whole running like a dog with my tail between my legs thing. I’m sure that can make a girl pretty hungry too.

I throw some peanut butter and jelly on two pieces of bread, slap them together and sit at our round little secondhand table. Mom loves going to thrift stores and yard sales. We do it a lot on the weekends. You never know what treasures you can find. I’m not so sure about this table, but I do have a really cool trunk in my room that I love. I’d love it a lot more without the vampire-killing paraphernalia inside, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers, right?

I make it about halfway through my sandwich when Mom rounds the corner into our kitchen. She gives me a smile, brushing her straight auburn hair, so different from my blond curls, from her eyes.

“Hey, kiddo. How was your day?” She doesn’t wait for me to respond before dropping the load from her left arm, on the table. “I found the best book at the library on my lunch.”

Mom is a billing specialist in the hospital. She hunts for vampire information on her lunch hour. Nice.

“Mom, I’ve had a long day. I’m not really in the mood.”

She rolls her eyes like I’m being a silly teenager who doesn’t want to look at some completely normal book with her mom.

“It’ll only take a second. It has this really interesting chapter in it about how some people believe vampires now have the ability to walk in daylight. Of course, no one knows for sure what information is true, or what’s manufactured by some crazy person, but daylight!”

I push up from the table. “No! No, no, no. I don’t think so. Don’t start thinking the undead stalk the daytime, too. I--” Can’t lose what little life I have. Don’t want you scared for us to leave the house. Do not feel like becoming more of a freak than I already am. “I think it’s one of the crazy people and not the…” Sane ones? No, that won’t work. “We’ve seen enough vampire movies to know that.” I wave my hand. “Pfft, vampires out during the day. Yeah, right.”

Mom shakes her head at me. “I’m not an idiot, Abbs. I know it’s unbelievable, and I know you don’t think they’re real, but I know, so I’m asking you to humor me.”

She sits across the table, so I fall back into my chair. My heart is doing this frustrated skip-a-beat thing that happens whenever I get upset. “I can’t do this today.”

Mom reaches over the table and grabs my hand. I hold it for a minute, because it feels good, normal, and that’s all I want. Just to be normal. “I’m sorry. You’re right. How was your day?”

This time, she waits for my answer. I run a few options through my head. I haven’t gone with the group-project-with-friends thing in a while. “It was good. I’m working with Brandy on a project for history. We get to choose one of our favorite historical duos and write a report on them.” I’m not a liar by nature, and it squeezes something inside me every time I lie to her.

Mom’s blue eyes go bright. It’s another difference between us. The only trait we share is the dusting of freckles across our noses. For the millionth time I wonder if I get my blond hair from my dad. He’s like a ghost to me. One that I sometimes think I can feel, but have never seen. Which I hope doesn’t make me a little loony myself. “I wish you would have her over. I’d really like to meet your friends.”

Invisible friends are a little hard to meet, Mom. “I know. I’ll ask her again. Her parents are pretty tough on her.” Another lie, but what else can I say? That one day Mom spoke too loud in the library and ruined any chances of making friends?

 

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