Chapter FIVE


Debbie's last name was Hemlock, and she hated it.

"Imagine being named after a poisonous plant!" she fumed.

"It's not that bad," I said. "I kind of like it."

"Shows what kind of taste you have," she scoffed.

Debbie had only recently moved here with her parents. She had no brothers or sisters. Her dad was a computer whiz who regularly flew around the world on business. They'd moved five times since she was born.

She was interested to learn that I was also used to moving around. I didn't tell her about the Cirque Du Freak, but said I was on the road a lot with my dad, who was a traveling salesman.

Debbie wanted to know why she hadn't seen my father in the square. "I've seen you and your brother lots of times, but never your dad."

"He's an early riser," I lied. "He gets up before dawn and doesn't come back until after dark most days."

"He leaves the two of you alone in the hotel?" She pursed her lips as she thought about it. "What about school?" she asked.

"Are these like the gloves you want?" I avoided the question, picking a pair of red gloves off a rack.

"Almost," she said, studying them. "Mine were a shade darker."

We went on to another store and looked at a bunch of CD players. I didn't have much money on me, so I didn't buy anything.

"Of course, after Christmas they'll be on sale," Debbie sighed, "but what can you do? If you wait, you'll look mean."

"I'm not worried about the money," I said. I could always get some from Mr. Crepsley.

After failing to find the right kind of gloves in another couple of stores, we walked around for a while, watching the lights come on above the streets and in the windows.

"I love this time of evening," Debbie said. "It's like one city goes to sleep and a new one wakes up."

"A city of nightwalkers," I said, thinking of Mr. Crepsley.

"Hmmm," she said, looking at me suspiciously. "Where are you from? I can't place your accent."

"Here and there," I answered vaguely. "Around and about."

"You're not going to tell me, are you?" she asked directly.

"My dad doesn't like me telling people," I said.

"Why not?" she challenged me.

"Can't tell you." I grinned weakly.

"Hmmm," she grunted, but let the matter drop. "What's your hotel like?" she asked. "It looks kind of stuffy. Is it?"

"No," I said. "It's better than most places I've been. The staff don't hassle you if you play in the corridors. And some of the customers..." I told her about the guy who walked around nude.

"No!" she squealed. "You're kidding!"

"Honest," I swore.

"They don't kick him out?"

"He's paying. As far as they're concerned, he has the right to walk around however he pleases."

"I'll have to come over sometime." She grinned.

"Whenever you like," I said, smiling. "Except during the day," I added quickly, remembering the slumbering Mr. Crepsley. The last thing I wanted was for Debbie to walk in on a vampire while he was sleeping.

We headed back for the square, taking our time. I liked being with Debbie. I knew I shouldn't be making friends with humans - it was too dangerous - but it was hard to reject her. I hadn't been around anyone my own age, except Evra, since becoming a half-vampire.

"What will you tell your parents about the gloves?" I asked as we stood on the front step of her house.

She shrugged. "The truth. I'll start coughing when I tell them. Hopefully they'll feel sorry for me and won't get too mad."

"You're bad." I laughed.

"With a name like Hemlock, are you surprised?" She smiled, then asked, "Do you want to come in for a while?"

I checked my watch. Mr. Crepsley would be up by now and had probably already left the hotel. I didn't like the idea of leaving Evra alone too long: he might get annoyed if he thought I was neglecting him and decide to return to the Cirque Du Freak. "Better not," I said. "It's late. I'm expected back."

"Suit yourself," Debbie said. "Feel free to come over tomorrow if you want. Anytime. I'll be in."

"Won't you be at school?" I asked.

She shook her head. "With the holidays so close, Mom said I don't have to go back until the New Year."

"But she let you out to look for gloves?"

Debbie bit her lip with embarrassment. "She doesn't know I've been out walking," she admitted. "I left in a taxi, telling her I was going to see a friend. I was supposed to come back in a taxi, too."

"Aha!" I smiled. "Now I can blackmail you."

"Just try it!" She snorted. "I'll cook up a witch's brew and turn you into a frog." She fished a key out of her purse and paused. "You will come over, won't you? It gets pretty dull by myself. I haven't made many friends here yet."

"I don't mind coming," I said, "but how will you explain me to your mother? You can't exactly tell her we met in a taxi."

"You're right." Her eyes narrowed. "I didn't think of that."

"I'm not just a pretty face," I said jokingly.

"Not even a pretty face!" She laughed. "How about I come over to the hotel?" she suggested. "We can go on to the movies from there, and I can tell Mom that's where we met."

"Okay," I said, and told her my room number. "But not too early," I warned. "Wait until five or six, when it's pretty dark."

"Okay." She tapped her foot on the doorstep. " Well?" she said.

"Well what?" I replied.

"Aren't you going to ask?"

"Ask what?"

"Ask me to go to a movie," she said.

"But you just -?

"Darren," she sighed. "Girls never ask boys out."

"They don't?" I was confused.

"You're clueless, aren't you?" She chuckled. "Just ask me if I want to go to the movies, okay?"

"Okay," I groaned. "Debbie - will you come to the movies with me?"

"I'll think about it," she said, then unlocked the door and disappeared inside.



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