Authors: S. B. Alexander
“It’s gone,” I whispered.
Sam jumped out and ran into the store. A few minutes later he walked out with a bag of donuts and two sodas.
“Do you think someone followed us last night?” I asked softly, grabbing a donut.
“I don’t know,” Sam murmured as he opened a bottle of soda.
The rest of the cab ride, Sam’s radar was on high alert. He constantly scanned the area as the cab driver dodged through neighborhoods and side streets.
Before long, the scenery outside the window went from homes to wooded landscape. Snow-covered trees lined the road as it narrowed and curved back and forth.
We were traveling through the State Forest. It certainly looked different in the daytime. The yellow pairs of eyes I had seen last night were no longer peering out between the trees. Today, the edge of the roadside was dotted with small paw-like footprints, which disappeared into the forest.
When we exited, the cab rolled to a stop at the corner of Caran and Hamlet Street. We were just on the outskirts of the Highlands, not far from Ben’s house. He lived in a small community known as Riverside within the Highland area of Fall River. The neighborhood overlooked Mt. Hope Bay, which was home to the Riverside Black Sox, a major league baseball team that had won the World Series for the past two years. Half of the Black Sox players lived in the Highlands. In fact, Ben and his dad, Travis Jackson, lived next door to the starting catcher for the Black Sox, Buster Greene.
During baseball season Sam practically lived at Ben’s afterschool, hoping he would get a chance to meet the infamous Buster Greene. He always beamed from ear to ear when talking about Buster. I think I had been to Ben’s three times during the past year. The first time was for Ben’s birthday party. The second time was to pay my respects when his mother died, and the last time was at Thanksgiving.
Sam and Ben were best friends, which always surprised me. They had met under tense circumstances at school one day when I sort of introduced them to each other.
I had met Ben in Space Science class on my first day of high school. I was late to class that day and by the time I walked into the Planetarium there was only one seat left. With no other choice I sat down next to a redheaded kid with pimples and freckles.
“Hi, I’m Ben.” He’d smiled wide and extended his hand.
Shocked, I didn’t know what to say. I’d never made friends with boys in school. My experience with them was non-existent. Boys bullied me. So I ignored him as I slinked into the chair.
When the lights went out, the teacher instructed the class to lean back and gaze up at the fake sky. As the rest of us sat looking up at the stars, his stare bored into me. When class had ended, Ben had followed me out. I remembered how angry he was that I had ignored his friendly gesture.
“Hey,” he said. “You never told me your name.”
As Ben kept talking, I kept walking—still ignoring him. He grabbed me by the arm and whirled me around in the middle of the hallway. I looked around to see all the kids staring at us. At that moment, I thought,
Not again— another new school, another bully
. Why couldn’t I catch a break? I didn’t get a chance to say anything to him. Sam showed up the moment Ben had touched my arm.
“You have a problem, buddy?” Sam blurted out.
“Who the hell are you?” Ben countered.
At the time, Ben stood a head taller than Sam, but that didn’t matter. Sam fought off men bigger than Ben.
“Don’t lay a hand on her again!” Sam had shouted.
“And what if I do? You going to stop me?” Ben’s pale face had glowed bright red.
“Sam, don’t do this,” I had pleaded.
“Is this your boyfriend?” Ben had asked as he looked between Sam and me.
When Ben blurted out the word
, Sam threw the first punch. Ever since that first day of high school in the ninth grade, Sam and Ben have been best friends.
The cab driver turned onto Ash Street. The road wasn’t plowed yet and the tall ash trees covered the road, creating a tunnel. As I stared out the window, I remembered Ben bragging that the white ash trees were the reason the players of the Black Sox chose this neighborhood. They felt connected by the energy the trees released. The players thought it was a superstitious sign because baseball bats were made from the timber of the ash tree. They felt the trees were their four-leaf clover.
The cab parked in front of twenty-two Ash Street.
“Twenty-five dollars,” the cabby demanded.
Sam handed the cabby forty dollars. “Just give me a ten back.”
The cab driver handed Sam two five-dollar bills. “Thanks, man.”
“No problem,” Sam replied.
We both slid out.
As the cab sped off down the street, Sam stood on the sidewalk and scanned the neighborhood. I walked up the snow-covered walkway, wanting to get inside and out of the cold. As I reached for the doorbell Sam’s footsteps clobbered on the wood panels beneath him. I had my finger inches from the button when the door opened.
Ben’s full lips parted and a radiant white smile greeted us. Unlike the ninth grade, his hair was no longer red. It had changed to a cinnamon color with red streaks through the top, as if he had it professionally highlighted. His sideburns were neatly trimmed, and like Sam he had dimpled cheeks that made the girls at school giddy when he walked by.
“Hey there.” Ben sidled to the left. As I stepped over the threshold, he bent over and gave me a bear hug.
“Ow. My ribs, please?”
“Sorry,” Ben whispered.
Sam had one foot inside the door when the crunch of tires rolling over the snow-covered street broke the quiet of the morning air. I caught a glimpse of the nose of an SUV.
Then the SUV came into full view, complete with blue and red lights on top. My heart dropped to my knees. While it wasn’t a black SUV, it still conjured up a picture of a jail cell.
How’d they know we were here?
Sam pushed me deeper into the house. We both jumped into the living room, which was located to the right of the front door. The bay window had no curtains. We were on display like mannequins in a high-end clothes store.
Sam moved to one side of the window, out of view. I stood against the wall on the other side while Ben’s dog Lucy trotted in and started barking. She was a small dog and looked like either a Shih Tzu or Maltese. She had big brown eyes and reminded me of an Ewok from
. I bent down to pet her in the hope she would stop barking.
Sam gasped. His expression was frozen as if he had seen a ghost.
He shook his head as if he didn’t want to tell me.
“Sam, tell me!”
He put his finger to his lips and the doorbell rang.
My heartbeat shifted into gear and went from zero to a hundred in a matter of seconds.
Oh no, we’re so screwed.
I held my breath, silently reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
I just hope that jail is better than foster care.
“No, Officer, my dad isn’t home. Is there something I can do for you?” Ben’s voice was soft.
“No, son. Your dad had a problem at school the other day. I was in the neighborhood and wanted to see what the outcome was. I’ll catch up with him next week,” the officer said.
“Okay, I’ll let him know you came by, Officer Wilkins.”
“Have a nice Sunday, son.”
“You too,” replied Ben.
The front door closed. I slid down the wall and sat in a crouched position with my face in my hands. Sam grunted and collapsed to the floor next to me.
“You okay?” I asked.
Sam combed his fingers through his hair and popped his head back against the wall.
Ben sauntered into the room and sat down on the brown fabric sofa opposite the bay window. His dog Lucy followed and jumped on his lap.
“Josie, you look horrible.”
“Don’t call me that. And thanks for the words of endearment.”
“Hey, man, is there some place we can shower?” Sam asked.
.” Ben rose from the couch and led us downstairs.
As I padded down the stairs, an orange scent filtered up the staircase. When I approached the bottom, a light came on. In front of me, a sea of sports trinkets, paintings, signed jerseys, footballs and baseballs blanketed the room. The place was a shrine to all things sports.
The pictures of the Black Sox when they won their first world series hung on one wall. On another hung signed photos from Cal Wilson, the quarterback for the Cowboys. The only area of the room without pictures or trinkets was the wall with the TV. Not surprisingly, the TV was a fifty-five inch flat screen and in front of it was a black leather sectional sofa—screaming man cave.
I trailed my hand over the back of it as I walked around to the front, thankful that it wasn’t floral or dusty. The soft, buttery leather reminded me of Neil’s truck and sucked me in as soon as I sat down. While Sam and Ben talked at the bar behind the couch, I placed my head on the pillow, curled my legs under me, and closed my eyes.
I woke up a couple of hours later to Sam and Ben shouting at the television. The Boston Bruins were playing against the New York Rangers. The game was tied two all. As I glanced at the TV, the hockey puck slid into the net and the Bruins scored, sending Ben and Sam flying in the air body bumping each other.
“So this is what you do when girls aren’t around?” I asked.
“Sorry, Josie…I mean Jo. We didn’t mean to wake you,” Ben said.
“Shower?” I asked.
“Why don’t you use my bathroom upstairs?” Ben replied. “It’s quiet. Plus, you can have some privacy.”
That would be nice.
I rose from the couch and yawned. My mouth stretched too far. I grabbed the left side of my face and pressed my fingers against the bandage.
“What’s wrong, Jo?” Sam asked as he raked his gaze over my face.
“I think it’s bleeding again.”
“Move your hand,” Sam said.
I did as he said, then closed my eyes, squeezing them together, afraid that I’d torn a stitch.
“Stop squinting.” Sam pulled away one of the ends of the gauze from my skin. “Ben, do you have any antiseptic?”
“Sure.” He left the room and padded up the stairs.
“I can’t get blood in my mouth. I would rather not be tempted to crave—”
“Crave what?” Ben asked as he handed Sam a bottle of peroxide. “Here’s the cotton.”
Shit! I didn’t hear him walk back into the room. Sam stepped on my toe.
“I’m starving. And I’ve had a craving for pizza for days now.” I stared back at Sam.
“I’ll order pizza then,” Ben said.
Sam wiped the dried blood from my stitches with cotton saturated in peroxide. It stung for a second but then the fresh air swept over it and it tingled. He didn’t find any fresh blood leaking out, and as I climbed the stairs to the third floor, I prayed it would stay that way.
he two story colonial house,
which sat atop one of the highest hills in the neighborhood, had a beautiful view of the city below. The surrounding homes, which were similar in style, boasted large yards with pristine, manicured lawns.
For the past year, Ben and his dad had been living like bachelors since the death of Mrs. Jackson, but Ben’s bedroom was spotless. The tops of the dressers and the nightstand were dust free as if a housekeeper had just cleaned. The blankets on the bed were tucked in and the pillows were fluffed standing at attention against the headboard. Like the man cave, the walls sported Ben’s favorite players of the Riverside Black Sox, and on the wall in-between the two windows a picture depicted a naval fighter jet flying in the distance against an orange sky.
The view from the window of Mt. Hope Bay took my breath away. Over the course of the day, the graying sky gave way for the sun to make its appearance. As the sun slowly disappeared behind the western horizon, I combed my fingers through my wet hair then twisted my neck a few times, the cracking sound pounding in my ears. The pressure from the hot shower had pummeled my muscles, which helped to relax the crick I had in my neck. With a decent night’s sleep, I was hoping I would feel even better tomorrow.
Since Mr. Jackson would be home on Monday afternoon, Sam and I needed to be prepared to explain what happened at Cliff’s the other night. I wasn’t sure what we were going to say or how he was going to react. I hoped the end result wouldn’t lead to another foster home.
The clock on Ben’s nightstand blinked six p.m. and my stomach growled. I was brushing my hair when the doorbell rang.
“Thank you.” Ben’s voice echoed up the stairs.
It must be the pizza.
I grabbed my shoes and peeked into the mirror one last time. The dried blood, which glued my hair together earlier was gone and the zombie look was history. I flipped off the bathroom light when the smell of pizza filtered into the room. I was about to walk out when Ben’s laptop caught my attention.
Maybe I can find information about blood cravings and blood types on the Internet.
I opened the laptop, wiggled my finger on the mouse pad and the screen brightened. A website flashed on the screen—United States Navy SEAL program. Was Ben interested in joining the Navy? I glanced up at the fighter jets on the wall. He’d always bragged about playing professional baseball for the Black Sox one day. I made a mental note to ask Ben about it later.
Instead of clicking out of the website, I clicked on the file button at the top of the screen. I didn’t want to lose Ben’s place. A drop down menu popped up and I clicked on the
, which brought up a blank screen. Then I typed in the search bar,
People who crave blood.
I grabbed the laptop off the dresser and sat down on the bed. The bar at the bottom of the screen indicated it was thinking. A few seconds later a list of websites scrolled down the screen.
The first website on the list was
The Myth About Vampires
. Every website listed had the word
in it. I didn’t see anything about humans craving blood. I decided to change my keywords in the search bar to
Blood Types AF negative.
While I waited, I caught a glimpse of an envelope sitting on Ben’s nightstand. I leaned over to get a better visual—the return address was the United States Navy. Interesting. Ben was only a sophomore in high school. Why would the Navy be interested in recruiting Ben at sixteen years old?
The screen flashed and several websites appeared with the names of local blood banks in different cities around the country. I raised an eyebrow when I read
Rare Blood Types.
I clicked on the web address and a PDF document opened. The report listed many blood types such as Pk, Ko and Hy negative. Dr. Case had been right. There were several rare blood types, but none in the report that matched my ‘AF’ negative.