Fall, Ithaca, NY
Art was my last class of the day. It had been an okay first day—the classes weren’t any worse than the ones at my old school, at least—but I was so ready for it to end that I wanted to poke my eyes out with a pencil. Spending seven hours ignoring everyone was harder than people realized. I wasn’t antisocial by nature but by necessity, and thanks to my recently cracked skull, being a bitch gave me a headache.
Having my dead grandmother tagging along on my first day at a new school wasn’t helping things. She’d been up my butt all day about ignoring everyone, and I couldn’t talk back without looking like a loon.
“This is why you drive your mother crazy, Tallulah. You don’t even try to fit in.”
I took a deep breath. That made six times she’d said the same thing. And used my real name instead of my nickname, Tizzy. I swear she was doing it because she knew I wouldn’t come back at her.
I glanced down at my “Zombies Are People, Too” shirt and shrugged. It was one of my favorites, and one of the advantages of not making friends was that I didn’t have to care what anyone thought of my fashion choices.
“This is your chance to start over. I wish you’d at least try.”
I rubbed my forehead, willing the railroad spike in my temple away. I could start over. As if. The same reasons I’d avoided people in the city existed here. I still saw supernaturals when no one else did. My run-in with the vampires hadn’t cured me of that.
“Be yourself. Have fun. Just… don’t mention the other stuff.”
I scowled at her. How could I make friends when I might flip out over something no one else could see? True, I hadn’t seen any monsters since we’d moved in, but that didn’t mean there weren’t any. And it didn’t go over well when I freaked out in front of people over a talking gargoyle.
I knew from experience. Long story.
I weaved my way toward an empty easel in lieu of a reply. I had my blog. It was enough. I talked about anything and everything monstrous there, did movie reviews of classic horror flicks, too. People loved it. I had friends, or at least fans, online. And all the weird crap about goblins that liked to spit on people in Union Square, and the vamps in the alley? It’d earned me a Webby for creative content. A shit-ton of new followers, too. Ironic, but whatever. The cyber world was the only place I could be myself and people didn’t want to medicate me.
My grandmother drifted in front of me, stopping my forward momentum. She was wearing the dress she’d been in when she’d died, and in the sun-dappled light of the art room she looked like a painting. “Please, Tallulah. Give this place a chance. I think you might be surprised at how much you like it.”
I snorted and walked through her. Supernatural-free or not, I hated this place. I hated all the humidity. I hated the new house. I especially hated that my mom had overreacted to my “mugging” and made us move, plopping us down in my absentee father’s stomping grounds. Now, instead of visits every three months I’d have to see him every week. As if he were the least bit parental. As if I wanted him to be.
And this town? It was a nightmare. It was always raining—thus the humidity—and everything smelled like dirt. There was water everywhere, from a giant lake to waterfalls to streams in steep gorges. I was weird about fresh water, had a phobia about it since birth. Basically showers were okay, but anything out in nature? It gave me the creeps.
She thought I’d like the place? Apparently you could get dementia after death, too.
I pushed deeper into the art room, desperate to get to the easel and get a break from more gems like that. Most kids were gossiping or setting up their supplies. Avoiding eye contact was easy. At least until I found myself stuck in a group of girls. I knew for sure they hadn’t been blocking the way when I started, but now they were an impenetrable, snooty, spray-tanned wall.
I sighed, rubbing my temple again. This town might be free of supernaturals, but apparently mean girls were in good supply. The question was whether they’d be garden-variety bullies, or the type who flamed people over Twitter until they jumped off a roof. Judging from the pickle puss on the one who was making eye contact? I was betting the second.
And I’d thought dealing with vampires sucked.