Can't spell 'Paint' without P-A-I-N
The Tree of the Thunder Gods
Caring for Your Pens and Nibs
Countessby J.R. Blackwell
Zimin was a mean boy, and he was always hitting Countess in the face with a rubber ball. One day at recess, Countess got so mad at Zimin that she bit him right on the neck. When the teachers found Zimin crying on the playground, Countess's mom and dad got called in for a parent-teacher conference. Everybody smiled and tried to pretend they weren't upset, but Countess could tell they were mad. She wasn't supposed to bite people 'till she was sixteen. Zimin's blood wasn't even any good, it was all crunchy and weird. Her mom said that was because he had little robots inside him that made him smarter.
After she bit Zimin, they made her wear caps on her teeth. Her mom had let her pick out what color caps she wanted, trying to make it fun, but the caps were uncomfortable and they reminded her of how mad everyone was. At lunchtime, the robot nurse would wheel into the cafeteria and take the caps off in front of the whole class. Countess was pale, but her face was always red when the nurse showed up.
The other kids stayed away from Countess now. They made a game of running away at recess, screeching if she got close. Even Lisa, who had been her best friend for a whole week now decided that Mary-Anne, the icky fish girl, was her new best friend. Better a fish girl than a vampire.
Mamma said that different families chose to be different things, and when she got older, she might decide to become something else, to have extra arms or eyes. Right now though, Mamma said, she was Countess, their baby made just as they designed her. Mamma said that she had been designed by her Mom and Dad, made to grow up with dark hair and green eyes, pale skin and fangs. It may have been old fashioned, but it was who they were, and until Countess was eighteen, it was who she had to be too.
Countess decided that didn't want to be a vampire anymore. On the playground, she went into the trees and played at being a lonely dragon, sitting on top of her book bag, pretending it was gold. Countess stopped drinking her plastic packets of blood. She got hungry, but she didn't care; maybe if she stopped for long enough the robot nurse would stop coming to take her caps off in front of everyone. Maybe if she stopped drinking blood, she might turn into something else, whether her parents liked it or not.
That's when her dad brought home the Squib. The Squib was small and black, with pointy ears, a sharp tail and a chubby stomach. He giggled when she tickled him, and snuggled next to her at night. He smelled like hot chocolate and he could whistle songs and blow black bubbles. The Squib floated along next to her on a little umbrella while she was at school. She was the only girl with a Squib. Mary-Anne had her tank for her fins, but that really wasn't like a Squib. The Squib held out her blood bag and would make sad faces if she didn't bite into it. When she did drink, he would do a little tottering dance with his umbrella that made the other kids laugh and clap.
Mary-Anne asked if she could tickle the Squib, and even though she was icky, Countess let her, because even smelly fish girls were better than nothing. The Squib would dance and sing for the other children but he always came back to Countess. She knew he liked her best. Kids would sit next to her just to see the Squib, and by the end of the week, Countess had three best friends.
Two weeks later Countess went out to the Transit stop and realized that her Squib wasn't with her. Her Squib hadn't been with her all morning! She ran back to the house, not even caring if she missed the Transit. She ran though the portal and started looking for the Squib. He wasn't under her bed or in the closet. Her lithe mother caught her looking under the table.
"Sweetie, what's wrong?"
"I can't find Squibbers!" Her mother knelt and wrapped her pale arms around Countess.
"Oh, my little icicle, your Squib had to go take care of other vampire girls. Maybe he'll come back and visit sometimes, but I don't think you need him anymore. He hasn't been around much recently, did you notice?" She brushed back Countesses blue-black hair.
Countess sucked on her lip. Her Squib had been gone a lot recently but she had been so busy, she never noticed. She felt something strange kick in her tummy and she thought about other vampire girls. Her mother handed her a sweet blood ball and told her they could ride to school together this morning. They lifted their purple parasols over their heads and walked out into the morning.
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