“Jacob! You just had to invite Michael, didn’t you?” Avery groaned.
Her best friend, Cami, said, “Why are you complaining? Michael’s hot.”
Avery snorted. “Only if you like tall, dark, and indifferent.”
I poked my head out of the kitchen, a tightly sealed jar of salsa in my hands. My hands were sore from trying to wrench it open. Avery and Cami were kneeling backwards on the couch, staring out the front window.
My little sister had disliked my best friend since the scene he had caused at her fifteenth birthday party. The girls at the sleepover had never been the same since that night.
“He won’t do anything tonight,” I assured her as the doorbell rang. Under my breath I added, “I hope.”
I opened the door and was met with Michael’s pale face, partially covered by his stringy blonde hair. He wore all black, as usual.
“Hey, man,” I said, moving aside so he could step in.
“Salsa jar,” he murmured.
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Here, could you—”
Michael took the jar and popped off the lid like it was easy as anything, sighing contentedly. He started walking past me, but I grabbed his arm.
“Michael,” I said, “Avery is worried that you’ll, well, do your thing tonight. You remember last time.”
He stared at me with his black eyes.
“You know I can’t control the urges,” he said in his soft, grating voice.
I fought my own urge to roll my eyes. I said,
“Okay, well, could you at least avoid doing it in the main party rooms? I don’t want to freak anyone else out.”
Michael walked toward the kitchen and called over his shoulder, “Sure. Sure, man.”
I followed behind him, only half convinced.
That was the trouble of having one of the Dark Ones for your best friend: never knowing when your parties were going to turn into a horror story.
* * *
It happened a few minutes before midnight, while we were all watching Twilight—not for the plot, mind you, but for the joy of making fun of the acting. In this way, Twilight is one of my favorite movies.
The party had gone well—five of my friends had come, plus four of Avery’s. Mom and Dad had gone to bed at eleven, having reached their limit for babysitting.
I was seconds away from putting my arm around Joyce, the girl I’d had a crush on since we’d met at a concert last summer. We’d been sitting next to each other on the couch for the last twenty minutes, which had been torturous for me. My original plan had been to hold her hand, but my hands had grown so sweaty I decided it would do more harm than good. Thus I had settled on putting my arm around her, though only after multiple armpit-smelling tests.
This was the moment. I shifted my arm slightly, and Joyce stood up and walked toward the bathroom, stepping around people lounging on love sacks and pillows on the carpeted floor.
I sighed in frustration and had turned my gaze back to the movie just as I heard her call,
“Jacob, the lights aren’t working in the bathroom!”
My stomach dropped into my ankles.
“Coming!” I called. I passed by Avery cuddling with her current boy-toy on a love sack. I grabbed her arm and whispered, “Find Michael!”
She groaned and slipped away from the cuddle fest. I watched her run to the basement and then went to meet Joyce in the bathroom.
“Bulbs must be out or something,” I said, knowing I was wrong. I reached up and tightened the lightbulbs in their sockets. Light suddenly blinded me, creating brown spots in my vision.
“Hey! Nice detective work!” she laughed. I shrugged and gave a false laugh as she closed the door, leaving me in the hallway with the terror of having a loose Lampire in my house.
“Michael?” I called, flicking on all the bedroom light switches as I glanced in. I had to find him before something bad happened—something bad like Avery’s sleepover.
With sudden inspiration, I ran outside and was rewarded: I found him on our darkened back porch—dark until I screwed the lightbulb in. The porch was flooded with golden light, causing Michael to flinch.
“Sorry, Jake,” was all he said. He sounded low.
I sighed. It was hard to stay mad at Michael for too long. At least I’d found him before he’d done any real damage.
I sat down with him on the porch, staring into the shadows in the corners of the yard.
“Look, Michael, I know you didn’t ask for this life,” I said.
“It’s not all bad,” he said quietly. “Superhuman strength. Twenty-ten vision. Devilishly good looks. But…”
“I know,” I said. “The urges are sometimes problematic.”
“I just have to unscrew lightbulbs,” he moaned. “It’s fine until I’m at the dentist and his hand slips during what he thinks is a blackout, jamming a screw into my tongue. Or until I’m playing videogames with you during your sister’s sleepover and suddenly all the girls and screaming and running around in the dark.” He pressed his fists into his eyes.
“It’s okay,” I said. “That one girl eventually found the tooth she broke off on the banister. It’s back in and no one remembers it ever happened.”
“Avery remembers. You remember.”
I shook my head. “I don’t know why you care what she thinks,” I said.
He looked at me, his black eyes burning. “Once I get her forgiveness,” he said, “I’ll be convinced I’m not as monstrous as I feel.”
I stood up. “Well, don’t hold your breath, dude.”
He stood up, too, stretching his arms.
I paused at the doorway. “By the way, did you put out any more lights than the bathroom and porch?”
He groaned and buried his face in his hands.
I blew out one long sigh. It was going to be a long night if my friends tried to turn on the lights before I could go around and screw them in. The lightbulbs, that is.
“I’ll take care of it,” I said.
“Think I’ll head home,” Michael said. “Or maybe I’ll go to a nice RC Willey and work on the lighting there.”
“Sounds cool, man. See you at school.”
I closed the door and watched Michael disappear into the shadows of the backyard. He may have been one of the literal Dark Ones, but was still the best friend I’d ever had.
Avery walked up behind me and stared out the window, too.
“Michael left?” she asked.
“Yes, you can now party in peace,” I said. “I’ve got to go scour the house for loose bulbs. Want to help?”
She shrugged. “Sure. It’s not like I was having any fun watching Twilight. Who wants to hear about bloodsucking vampires nowadays? I much prefer the ones that mess with the status quo.”
Avery smiled at me before disappearing into the living room.
I stood with my eyes wide. Michael would definitely be hearing about this development on Monday.
I’d like to give credit to my little sister. She encouraged me to write this story, which was based on a misunderstanding.