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  • Writer's pictureBrook Bond

Teabox Tales - She Wasn't Playing Around

Updated: Dec 20, 2021


So here is a story for vampire lovers!

I've always been fascinated with the whole

'weird kid' phase, and I must admit I've always held an admiration for those who go against the grain at such a stressful and peer-pressured age. There isn't really an English phrase for what I tried to capture in this story, but in Japan they call it Chūnibyō, or "second-year disease."

We all went through one of those pretend play phases, though most people won't admit to it. Mine was with a tree in my primary school called the "ice cream tree", where all the kids would make 'ice cream' out of mud and mashed leaves and pretend to eat it.

Anyway, without further ado, here is "She Wasn't Playing Around."



 

She Wasn’t Playing Around


Ok. Right. I’m not really sure how to start this. I’m well aware that this story is gonna be a huge self-own, but I guess I just need to get it all out. You probably don’t believe me. I mean, I’m not really sure I believe myself.


Now, some backstory. I’m from that awkward generation that grew up just as the middle schools were closing in many parts of the UK. In fact, I was part of the first year to go straight from primary school to high school. These days, I think that the system works just fine, and students get used to the transition pretty quickly. But I think that the whole thing had a few… teething problems when I went through it.


It was strange, making such a momentous jump. One term we had sunshine time and board games and little milk cartons with our lunch, and the next term we had classes and timetables and the threat of GCSEs looming like a spectre on the not too distant horizon. Part of me thinks that the teachers were just as confused as us, and none of us knew quite how to handle this huge change that had been dropped into our laps.


Middle schools were important as kinda… a transitional space, y'know. Little kids go through the ‘weird phase’ at about that time, and I think that they need a place to do that safely. Oh, and don’t you pretend that you didn’t have a weird phase. We all bloody did. Except I had to go through my weird phase under the judgemental gaze of all of the older children. Let me tell you, there is nobody alive as cruel as an older child.


So... Get ready for this. At the tender age of eleven years old, I believed with all my heart that I was a creature of the night. A vampire. That was my weird phase. Yes, you may laugh. Goodness knows everybody else in my life laughs about it. I can’t even go to a family gathering without a cousin or two hissing at me and then roaring with laughter. But it is pretty funny, I guess.


The thing is, I don’t know quite how I came to that conclusion. I was never particularly gothic. I was small and mousy and honestly rather nerdy-looking. Though to be honest, I couldn’t have gone through a goth phase even if I wanted to, given my school uniform. Nobody looks good in a school uniform, me included; the stiff, boxy blazer and little grey skirt with a pleat that never quite sat right.


At the time I would probably have justified my vampiric hobby by saying some guff like “on all levels except physical, I am the night.” I think I used that exact line on my parents, and I honestly don’t know how they resisted the temptation to throw me into a care home on the spot.


But I wasn’t alone with my childish delusion. Oh no. I had a best friend who was even deeper in the vampire rabbithole than I. Her name was Sarah. Well, that was the name the teachers called her. I called her Moonfang. Yes, Moonfang. I had to use that name and nothing else, and if I slipped and called her Sarah she would pout and stamp her foot.


It’s kinda hard to describe her physically. She was a dishwater blonde, her hair kinda stringy and greasy as if she wasn’t great at caring for it yet. She was at least half a head taller than me, kinda gangly looking, but she had a sort of stoop that made her look far more vulnerable than her size would imply. And she had a strange, musty smell; like old books and charity shops. It clung to her and her clothes like an aura, and I think it started to rub off onto me over time. It wasn’t a very nice smell. But in hindsight, she wasn’t a very nice girl.


She always had to be right, and she always had to be in charge. She’d look over my shoulder in maths class and tell me that my sums were wrong, crossing out my correct answers and scribbling in incorrect ones. This aspect of her character was at its strongest when we played our vampire games. I was content to be a mere bloodsucker, while she was a so-called “canipire.” She’d always say it in such a grandiose tone, and sometimes it took all my strength to suppress my giggles.


According to her, a canipire was the secret forbidden child of a vampire and a werewolf, giving her double the power of regular peasant vampires like me. She would angst and whine about the horror of her hybrid existence, waxing lyrical about the vast amount of responsibilities that she would inherit when she left school. Oh yeah, she wasn’t even a regular canipire, she was the bloody princess of them! Her destiny was to unite the two monster factions into a glorious monster army and conquer the inferior human cattle.


I can’t remember the depth at which I believed her. I think I did to an extent though, I was eleven years old after all, and I did also think that I was a vampire.


Our vampire games were incredibly fun, and memories I still cherish despite it all. We would run around and chase the boys, or sword fight with twigs in mock-battles; training for the great vampire war that Sarah promised was just on the horizon. We’d even gather up beetles and worms into our pencil cases, with Sarah giving them grand sermons as if they were her future vampire subjects.


One of my strangest memories was the time we made a ‘vampire potion’ by leaving a bottle of orange juice in the hollow of a tree in the corner of the playground. We left it for a fortnight over the Easter holidays, and Sarah forced me to drink it on the first day of term. When my whole body felt numb and woozy, I swore it was working, and I was developing my true vampire powers. But when I threw up in my afternoon geography class, the teachers quickly realised I was drunk. Sarah may have mastered the arcane vampire arts, but the strange process of fermentation was entirely foreign to her.


As cringy as it was, I do think that this pretend play did me the world of good. It’s an awkward age, isn’t it? But it could’ve been even more awkward. While the other kids were experimenting with fashion and relationships and being a quote-unquote ‘grown up’, I was given a few more months of the innocence of childhood. I was allowed to grow up when I was ready, and I didn’t allow the popular kids to push me around and tell me what to like and dislike.


And I did grow up eventually. The whole vampire thing lost its lustre after just under a year, and I moved on to the typical fashion and makeup of a girl that age. But Sarah didn’t grow up, and she was determined to make that my problem. I made a couple of attempts to distance myself from her, but it never really stuck. She had no other friends, you see, and I’d always come crawling back to her with a sense of guilty loyalty.

We continued our vampire games, but it was now halfhearted on my part. Sarah would practically drag me across the playing fields to carve magical runes into the dirt or make vampire brews in muddy puddles. I think she could sense that I’d outgrown her, and I think it made her incredibly upset.


She was always crabby and childish, but these traits got worse and worse as our schism widened. Sometimes she’d yell and scream into thin air, claiming to be engaged in psychic combat with ghosts that were sucking away my vampiric essence. Sometimes she’d stamp on my foot or pull my hair, reasoning that if she could make me bleed she could see if my vampire blood was true. I ignored a lot of her acting out, simply rolling my eyes and looking down at my phone to send text after text to whatever boy I had decided was my true love that week. A part of me regrets that, as perhaps if I’d cared about how she was acting I would’ve been able to cut her out for good.


It all came to a head one sunny day in late June or early July. I was having a sort of pseudo-picnic on the playing field with all of my cool new friends, and I had let Sarah tag along so she didn’t feel left out. We had all taken off our blazers and spread them out like picnic blankets, and we were sharing and trading the goodies from our packed lunches. My Mum always packed me a bag of Monster Munch, which could be traded for the high high price of a Freddo and a half, so I was considered quite the high roller on the playground snack trading circuit.


But then Sarah opened her lunchbox. Oh my god the stench. It was a Pandora’s box of horrors, if Pandora’s box had been Twilight themed with Robert Pattinson’s gurning pallid mug on the front of it. Contained inside was an entire raw steak in less-than-fresh condition. She looked at us like our heads were on backwards as she picked it up and took a wet squelch of a bite.


“What?” She said, sucking up sinewy strings from the smelly cut of meat. “Raw steak has all the nutrients that a growing canipire needs.”


Nobody knew whether to laugh or scream. There were a few awkward titters of laughter from some of the girls, and all the boys could do was point and stare.


“Canipire?” somebody asked, though who it was I can’t remember. “Awww widdle Sarah still playing pretend games like a primary schooler? Are you still a vampire princess?”


Sarah was not pleased with that remark. She spat out her half-chewed steak onto the offending student’s blazer and pouted. She always used to do this strange thing where she’d hunch forward and furrow her brow like a dog raising its hackles, and she’d turned the dial up to eleven. The memory is hazy, but I swear she was growling; the low, wobbling growl of a person taking pretend play just a little too seriously.


“I curse ye!” She hissed, striking the bully weakly with her hand flexed in a pale imitation of a cat’s paw. She followed the threat with a short vampiric hiss, and I knew it was time for me to intervene.


I grabbed the collar of Sarah’s shirt and dragged her away from the picnic. Both of our faces were beet red, and I was wondering if I’d ever be able to show my face around the cool kids ever again. I dragged her behind a patch of bushes, my anger fizzing to breaking point. Then, I slapped her. It was a light slap, but I still regret doing it.


“Sarah! What the hell?!?” I shouted.


She hissed bitterly in reply. “How dare you! I am the canipire princess, you can’t treat me like this!”


I balled my fist in frustration and stamped my foot down. “Sarah! No you’re not! We’re too old for this. We’re nearly twelve years old, for goodness sake!”


Sarah grabbed my shirt roughly and shoved her face just inches from mine. Her breath reeked like a miasma of rotten steak and rising damp, and her gaze had a strange otherworldly intensity about it. She looked through me as if I were made of glass, her dull brown eyes almost penetrating my soul.


“You’re not a real vampire…” She spat, half disgusted and half disbelieving. “You were my only friend, and you lied to me.”


“What? Sarah, there is no such thing as vampires! Snap out of it!”


Sarah threw me to the ground, turning to pace back and forth in the shade of the bushes. She was holding her head in her hands, and she seemed… genuinely distressed.


“Sarah?” I asked. “I’m sorry. We can… We can get over this.”


“How many times do I have to tell you? My name is Moonfang! Vampires are real, and this is very important to me!”


I rolled my eyes, getting up and brushing the dirt from my uniform.


“Whatever. Look, I’m gonna go to the library. I have homework.”


She growled again, growing even more furious,


“Right. I’m gonna make you see. I’m gonna turn you.”


Before I could even react to that bizarre statement, she lunged at me, planting her teeth firmly into my forearm. I shrieked in pain and surprise, pulling away from her, but her teeth were stuck fast in my flesh. I’d never been bitten by another person before, and I hope to high heaven that it never happens again. I had to knee her in the stomach to get her to let go, and she collapsed to the ground in an angry vampiric heap.


“It’s done. Now you’ll see.” She laughed maniacally.


I think she intended the words to be chilling or imposing, but she looked anything but. I looked down to the deep pink gouge on my arm, small beads of blood just starting to drip and trail. Then, I looked down at Sarah, dry-heaving in the grass and making a noise somewhere between crying and laughing. I guess I’d done her some damage when I’d kneed her. Finally, a hundred puzzle pieces fell into place in my head. Sarah was seriously bad news, and I did not want to be her friend anymore.


I ran to the sickbay and told the school nurse the entirety of what I thought must have seemed like a very tall tale. But she sighed and rolled her eyes at me. This clearly wasn’t her first rodeo.

She bandaged my arm and then called my parents, who drove me to the nearest hospital for a precautionary tetanus vaccine, and then took me home for a lecture about choosing my friends wisely. And I never did turn into a vampire, so I guess they snuck a vampirism vaccine in there somewhere. Still, I got the afternoon off school, I had to at least thank Sarah for that. three hours of video games and social media was a far better use of my time than high school maths classes could be.


The next day, Sarah wasn’t in school, thank goodness. My form teacher told me that she’d been excluded for a week, and it was a week I spent desperately trying to mend my relationship with the popular kids. Let me tell you, it took an awful lot of Monster Munch for them to forgive me for the picnic incident.

She shuffled teary-eyed into class the next Monday, having very clearly been crying the tears of a vampire in anguish. She sat down in her regular spot right next to me, slyly passing me a note before shuffling her chair as far away from mine as possible.


I am very sorry for my actions and I will not do it again. My parents are also sorry for my bad actions. They want to invite you round to our home for an apology dinner. Don’t bring your parents.


I am very sorry for biting you. My crazy canipire instincts overpowered me like a big wind in a dark night. Sorry.


From Moonfang (Who is sorry for her actions)


Even to this day, I remember the contents of that note word for word. I still sometimes say “like a big wind in a dark night” as a joke, because it’s honestly a far better line than anything I could come up with.


I can remember reading the note, slipping it into my pencil case, and gazing thoughtfully at Sarah. She blinked at me slowly, before looking down at the ground and pouting. She looked rather like a guilty dog approaching its master after throwing up on their slippers, and even I knew she was putting it on at least a little.


She didn’t speak to me for the rest of our form time, and we didn’t have our morning lesson together, so I didn’t see her again until break. I remember her waiting behind the playground bins to apprehend me as soon as I left the building, pouncing on me like a particularly non-athletic leopard.


“Well?” She asked expectantly. “Do you accept my apology?”


I slung my bag over my shoulder and fumbled in my blazer pocket for my coin purse, trying to look cool and ignore her. Mondays were flatbread pizza days in the school tuck shop, and I intended to get there before they were all sold out.


“Hey!” She whined, grabbing my arm and shaking it firmly. “I wrote that apology note with my favourite glitter pen! That’s serious business! I demand that you forgive me!”

I sighed, pulling two pound coins from my purse. She had literally bitten me, of course, but glitter pens were serious business. What was the harm in forgiving her, I thought, but only if I kept her at arm’s length so as to avoid a repeat of the picnic incident.


I rolled my eyes. “Fine.”


“Great!” She said, jumping up and down and clapping her hands. Then, all of a sudden, she stopped; staring at me with a smile that was just a little too broad.


“You’ll love the apology dinner.” She giggled, beaming.


“Yeah. About that.”


I had never heard of an ‘apology dinner’ and I certainly wasn’t very warm to the whole concept. It was exactly on-brand with Sarah’s particular brand of strangeness, though.


“No no no! You’ve gotta go. My parents have got everything ready. It’s on Friday and my Dad will pick us up from school.”


“What?”


Sarah was a very forward person, but this was an odd choice. But after the earful I’d gotten from my parents after the bite incident I reckon Sarah knew that the only way she’d get me alone and off of school grounds was if parental consent was removed from the equation.


“Well…” I paused.


She scented my hesitation like blood in the water and pounced instantly.


“Great! Mum and Dad will be so pleased! It’s a very special apology dinner.”


“Right…”


Then, I slipped one of the pound coins into her hand and tapped the side of my nose conspiratorially. I had been working on a plan to end this whole vampire game once and for all, and I was quite confident that I could get it to work.


“And about the vampire thing…” I said, leaning in close to her and putting on my sincerest tone. I knew full well the words I was about to say were akin to something that might come out of a bull’s rear end, but they would play Sarah’s delusions like a fiddle. “I’m sorry. The importance of our divine vampiric responsibilities was weighing heavy on my heart. I thought… I thought that if I could convince the muggles that we were mere human cattle then we could maintain the sanctity of the vampiric veil. I’ve been working hard to maintain our secret in your absence, and you cannot let the human muggles know again. If I give you money for pizza, will you please never again tell the popular kids about our secret?”


She raised an eyebrow, her expression quizzical as if she didn’t quite believe me.


“Ok?” She said. “But I thought you were lying about being a vampire? That you were a traitor to fangkind?”


“Oh no. I’m still a vampire, I’ve just… realised the importance of our bond. We shouldn’t even talk about vampires at school at all, ok? Pretend we’re normal people.”


She nodded dramatically, playing along just as I expected. “Ah. yes. I’m glad you’ve recognised the importance of our dark covenant. Now let us away and get some pizza before it’s all gone.”


The following week at school was probably the most normal one I’d had in months. We ate and played and spoke with the popular kids with total ease, the only hint of Sarah’s vampirism being in little asides between us. I’d gotten her to stop, at long last. Not with confrontation, but with a hint of gentle manipulation. But there was still the matter of the so-called ‘apology dinner’ to contend with.


Eventually, Friday came. We finished our final lesson of the week, a rather strenuous PE lesson, and left school still clad in our polo shirts and trainers. I remember Sarah dragging me out of the school gates and to a black car with dark, tinted windows parked opposite the school. It was a rather intimidating sight, or at least it was for a moment until I realised that this chariot of vampiric royalty was in fact a Ford Focus.


The driver side window rolled down a few inches, and the top half of a pale white face appeared. The man had the same dark eyes as Sarah, and he appeared to be appraising me like a joint of meat.


“Moonfang…” He said slowly, his voice deep and bassy. “This is the girl?”


“Yes, Dad. It’s her.”


“Get in.” He instructed firmly, rolling the window up once more. There was a brief click as he unlocked the doors from within, followed by Sarah ushering me into the back of the car, then taking her own seat in the front.


The interior of the car was totally pristine in appearance but bore that same antique-y scent that Sarah herself had, only far more intense. It was so heavy that it was pretty much all I could think about; so intoxicating that I wasn’t really questioning why Sarah’s own father had referred to her by her embarrassing playground nickname.


Sarah’s father started the car before I could even get my seatbelt on, and the man drove so fast that it’s a miracle I survived the (actually rather long) journey. We sat in near-silence through most of the drive, my silent staring out of the window punctuated by occasional conspiratorial whispering between Sarah and her father. I couldn’t make heads or tails of what they were saying. It may not have even been English as far as I know.


I stared at Sarah’s father, or rather, the back of him. It’s rather hard to make heads or tails of a person when you’ve only seen their eyes and back.

He was wearing some kind of black, velvety sort of garment that I couldn’t quite make sense of. His hair was also black; sleek and heavily gelled. More like a helmet than a hairdo.


I could just about see a pair of paper-white hands on the steering wheel. They were clenching the wheel tightly, though there was a distinctive flush of rather worrying grey where pink should’ve been.


“Sarah?” I asked worriedly.


“Yeah?”


“How far away is your house?”


The strange man cleared his throat deliberately. “Not far now.” He snapped.


“And what time will I be going home?”


He seemed to laugh a little at that. A strange little spit of a laugh that couldn’t have been more worrying even if it tried.


“Do not worry yourself about that.” He said knowingly.


Then, after an agonisingly long drive, we finally arrived at our mysterious destination. The car came to a stop in the waiting open door of a dark garage. Sarah was first to get out of the car, closing the garage door and flicking on a lone lightbulb hanging bare on a wire.


She opened the car door and looked down at me with an expression I couldn’t quite read. I think it may have been sadness? Apprehension? I’d grown so used to her exaggerated tantrums that genuine feelings looked rather foreign on her face. It was quite disquieting, all truth be told.


“Hey.. Uh… We’re here. C’mon.”


I got out of the car and brushed my lap down, instinctively trying to clear myself of that strange scent that had just started to cling to me. But I froze as I caught a glimpse of Sarah’s father in all his… well... Glory? Perhaps that’s not quite the right word.


Sarah’s father looked like what I could only describe as a walking vampire stereotype. The man was literally wearing a flowing velvet cape, trimmed with red piping and drawn closed across his shoulders by a small gold toggle.


The audacity. The theatricality. The sheer surreal strangeness of the whole situation. I didn’t quite know whether to laugh or cry.


He looked at me intensely, the start of a vague smirk in one corner of his mouth. He seemed to be basking in my bafflement; taking sick satisfaction as a penny glided smoothly across my suspension of disbelief and dropped with a thud into a pile of dread. But was he playing along with Sarah’s game, or was this something else?


“What?” He asked, almost jovially. “Is there something on my cape?”


As he spoke, I swear I caught the smallest glimpse of sharp vampiric fangs.


Sarah grabbed my hand tightly and dragged me into the hallway before I really had any chance of processing what I’d seen.


“So. Yeah. That’s my Dad.”


“Is he a? A real one...” I asked, not quite able to finish my question.


Sarah nodded awkwardly. “Yeah, but I thought you knew that. We’re all vampires here.”


“Oh. Right.” I muttered.


Sarah dragged me by the hand into a living room almost split down the middle with different styles of decor. On one side of the room sat an ornate bookcase loaded with weighty leather-bound tomes, accompanied by a mahogany and velvet fainting couch. If it wasn’t for the other side of the room, it’d all look rather fancy.


The defining feature of the other side of the room was a great grey dog bed, topped with a well-gnawed rawhide dog toy. It was a strange sight, as Sarah had never mentioned owning a dog. She had mentioned being a dog plenty of times (or a werewolf-canipire thing. Same difference). But never owning one.


“That’s Mum’s stuff.” Sarah whispered. “Don’t touch it, or she’ll bite you.”


It was really quite hard to figure out a reply. What are you even meant to say upon finding out your best friend’s mother sleeps on a dog bed? My condolences? That’s unfortunate? Now filter that through an immature tween’s level of tactfulness, and that’ll give you a small iota of the mire of pure awkwardness I’d tumbled face-first into.


“Your Mum is weird. Do you… Do you really live like this?” I said. “I mean… This isn’t all an elaborate prank because I said I didn’t believe in vampires?”


Sarah flushed a shade of gammon pink, biting her bottom lip as if she were holding back tears. Was this shame? It was peculiar, she’d never been even remotely ashamed of any part of our vampire games before, even the things she probably should’ve been ashamed of.


“Please don’t tell anyone at school.” She squeaked.


I patted her tentatively on the back, already internally debating how many cans of fizzy pop this little tidbit of information would be worth on the playground. “I won’t.” I said.


She sighed and looked at me, before calming down upon realising something I was yet to understand.


“Oh, no. It’s ok.” She sniffled, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. “You won’t be able to tell anyone at school. It’s fine.”


But before I could consider the ramifications of those words, a burly figure ran up to us and grabbed Sarah from behind. It was all six foot three of Sarah’s mother; a total beast of a woman in a red flannel shirt. She was astoundingly big and strong, picking up Sarah as if she were a ragdoll. Sarah was practically a spitting image of her mother; both of them tall, ashy blondes. Except while Sarah was a weak and willowy thing commonly rendered breathless by our PE lessons, her mother could probably fistfight God if she wanted to.


“Hey! My little Moonfang is home!” She cheered, twirling with Sarah in her arms as if this were some great celebration. “I want to hear all about your day! Tell me! Tell me!”


“Mum! You’re embarrassing me!” Sarah chided as her mother placed a sloppy kiss on her cheek.


But as the imposing figure focussed her attention on me, her mood seemed to instantly sour. She quickly put Sarah back down and assumed a strange defensive stance, wild eyes almost daring me to do or say anything.


“Is this the… Uh?” She paused briefly to sniff at the air. “The young vampire?”


“Yes. This is her.”


“And we’re still going through with it?”


Sarah’s eyes seemed to water a little as she bit down on her bottom lip. “Uh… Yeah. I guess we’re going through with it.” She said, words steeped in reluctance.


The tall woman turned to me with her bushy blonde brows deeply furrowed. She wagged an authoritative finger, her nails distinctly pointed and curved as if they were claws.


“Now, listen here. My husband and I are making preparations for the feast. You will go in the garden and play with Moonfang for one whole hour, and when that hour is up you will come in straight away. You got that?”


Damn, I had known friends with strict parents, but never parents who micromanage to this extent. What next, I imagined sneakily; timed bathroom breaks during our playdate?


“Yeah. Uh, sure. One hour.”


Then, Sarah grabbed me tightly by the hand and dragged me to what had to be, to my surprise, the best garden I had ever seen.


Much like the house’s interior, there was a contrast in theming, but it worked far better outside. One half was an ornate flower garden; with lilacs and roses and lavender and a hundred other plants I didn’t know the name of. There was a small white tea table and chair in the corner, sitting strangely under the dark shade of a big, thick parasol.

The other half of the garden was any kid’s dream; a fully-stocked adventure playground with a swing, slide, and climbing frame. And, towering over the garden in a sprawling ancient oak, was a large tree house! It was such an amazing sight that a part of me was rapidly considering dropping this whole ‘growing up’ thing and being Sarah’s best friend again just to hang out there.


“Wanna play?” Sarah asked. “Or are you still too cool to play with me?”


“Oh yeah, I’d never be too cool for this.”


So Sarah and I played our vampire games, just as we had many months ago. Somehow, I was able to let go of all the coolness and repression that had been forced onto me by the popular kids, and it was innocently unironic again.

We had a vampire duel with twigs from the oak tree, cast vampire spells by throwing leaves into a puddle, and administered a stern vampiric sermon to the frogs and fish in Sarah’s father’s koi pond. It was only an hour, but somehow it felt like days and days of playing. I was rather tired when Sarah’s mother poked her head out of the window and called us inside for dinner.


“Come inside! It’s time!” She shouted.


Sarah took me by the hand once more, her palms sweaty and her fingers shaking nervously. She took a moment to look at me deeply in the eyes, before turning to glance at the garden gate and the street beyond it. Then, she turned her gaze to the house, and to her mother standing sternly at the window.


“Look…” She muttered. “I’m sorry for all this.”


I was confused. “What?”


“I’m sorry for all the vampire stuff, and embarrassing you in front of your friends. I… I never meant to hurt you. Oh, and also the bite. Yeah.”


“Well…” I paused for a moment. “Apology accepted. And I’m sorry too. Sorry for putting the popular kids ahead of our friendship and making fun of your beliefs.”


I stopped to catch my breath for a moment before stepping back into the house, Sarah watching me guiltily as I panted in the afternoon heat.


“M’sorry.” She murmured, much quieter this time.


The second I entered the house Sarah’s father swept in behind me and swiftly locked the door. It was the old fashioned sort, the kind with a chain, and he fastened it with almost disturbing meticulousness. Then, he pushed at my shoulder with one of his hands, ushering me into the dining room and shoving me into the waiting arms of Sarah’s mother.

The strong woman grabbed me by the scruff of my polo shirt, causing me to squeak out loud in surprise.


“What the heck!?!” I shouted.


She scrabbled on the dining table for an ornate silver knife, before brandishing it mere inches from my throat.


“Say the word, Moonfang.” She spat. “Just say the word and I’ll do it.”


I screamed out loud. “I thought this was an apology dinner!”


Sarah’s father laughed cruelly. “An apology for whom, imposter? You, the liar, or my poor daughter that you deceived for so long? And you are such a delicious little morsel.”


“You’re going to kill me because I fell out with your daughter at school?!?” I retaliated, my voice growing hoarse from screaming. “Who the heck does that?!?”


Cackling, Sarah’s mother practiced slashing motions in the air with the blade, creating a steely breeze that brushed against my cheek.


“That’s about the score, yeah.” She laughed.


“Sarah!” I shouted. “You’re letting them do this?”


By now Sarah was beet red and her eyes were wet with tears. She scrunched her eyes shut and turned away from me with a wince. I couldn’t believe it. She was letting them kill me!


“Sarah!” I screamed again.


Sarah balled her fists, shaking. She seemed to glow momentarily, possessed by a strange supernatural force. She rushed to the door, ripping the chain lock away with her bare hands and forcing it open with bizarre herculean strength.


“Run! Go!” She shouted.


I needed no more instruction. I broke from her mother’s tight grip, the knife barely grazing my left cheek, and took off running. I tore through the flowerbeds. I sprinted past the swings. Finally, I hurdled over the gate and onto the street. I was free, and there was no point in chasing me. I turned back only once during my escape, seeing them leering at me through the kitchen window.


I was so scared that I just couldn’t stop running. I was already tired from the long day at school, but my body just wouldn’t let me stop. Sarah’s home was miles from my own, and it was getting dark by the time I collapsed in a sobbing, shaking heap at my mother’s doorstep.


I didn’t dare tell her the real truth. How could I? She’d never believe it. I told my mum the best excuse my racing mind could conjure; that I’d gone to Sarah’s house to play, but we’d had a falling out, and I’d fallen and grazed my face on the way home. She took it, albeit with some suspicion, and I carted myself up to bed to sleep. I had no appetite after what had happened.


I never saw Sarah again. Never.


I didn’t go to school the next week; I faked a fever and spent my time hiding in my bedroom. But the week after, I returned to school to the news that Sarah was no longer attending.


I did drop by her house, just one more time. It was a few weeks after the incident, during the summer holidays, and my fear had given way to a strange desire to verify what I’d seen. I’d made some lame excuse about leaving some belongings at Sarah’s, and took my strong big brother along for much needed protection, but her family didn’t live there anymore. A young couple with twin toddler boys answered the door, quick to regale me with stories of the strange gothic family who had moved out and sold the house in rather a hurry.


Sarah had disappeared from my life completely, and I was more than content with the arrangement.


Is there a moral to be had here? Yeah, I think there is. Look out for the weird ones. What may seem like an angsting prepubescent goth going through a phase may very well prove to be the genuine article. Watch your back and keep an open mind, as you never know who may be lurking on the playground of your local school.


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