"Oh my God, you guys. I am sooooo wasted. Did you see me? I was totally chugging, and now I'm, like . . . totally wasted!"
Astrid Hoffman was one of my classmates at my new school, Port Lincoln High. So far, what I'd learned about her was that she was wealthy and confident and lovelier than any girl in the sophomore class. In fact, she was the most poised and best-looking girl in the entire school, from what I could tell, wasted or not. Even heavily intoxicated, even kind of slurring and drooling with her thick, glossy brown curls falling over her glassy green eyes, she was a looker. She made me sick.
Astrid turned her half-lidded gaze to me. "Jane! Jaaaaa-aaaane. It's your turn. Have a little drinky drink, new girl!" Everyone around the bonfire cheered and someone shoved me in Astrid's direction.
I nervously shook my head. Actually, if I'm being honest, I probably spastically shook my head. "Uh, no. No, thanks. I don't really . . ."
"Aw, Jane, what's the matter? Your mommy won't let you?" Astrid teased. Then the playful look slipped from her face, replaced by an expression of menacing threat. "I'm not asking, Jane, I'm telling you. Drink!"
Astrid bared her teeth at me as everyone around us started chanting, "Drink! Drink! Drink! Drink!" So this, I recalled bitterly, is what peer pressure feels like. In the past, I'd learned to avoid peer pressure by avoiding as much contact as possible with my so-called peers, but on this night, I found myself understanding how things get out of hand. All of a sudden, it was like Lord of the Flies up in there and I found myself in not so great a position to resist.
I inched toward Astrid, my mind racing. Funny how a moment is enough time for your whole life to pass before your eyes but not long enough to think of a decent plan for escaping a crappy situation. Knowing there was no way to get out of it, I knelt beside her and said, "Okay, I'll drink."
"Good girl," she cooed, winking as she hefted the pale, bare leg of Ian Holcomb into my lap. There were two small holes in the soft, white pit of his knee, ringed with what looked almost like a lipstick kiss at the bottom of a love letter, but in the shade of his own blood.
The rest of Ian was facedown in the dirt, dozing happily, I presume. He was also wasted, but in the more traditional human sense. Probably on his dad's vodka and his mom's sugar-free Red Bull. Whatever he'd been drinking that night, Astrid had made it a point to corner Ian and thank him personally for inviting her to such an awesome rager. Then she made it a further point to lean in really close to his chest and say right into his ear, "I'm having an awesome time." Then, when Ian suggested that they go out for some air, she responded by saying, "That would be awesome." I have to admit, what Astrid lacked in vocabulary skills, she made up for in cunning. Now she was hosting her own little party by the side of the state road behind the Holcombs' property, and the bar was fully stocked with Ian's elevated blood-alcohol level.
As I bent over poor, dumb Ian's popliteal artery, I asked myself two questions: What the hell am I even doing here? and How am I gonna make this look good?
I pushed my glasses up my nose, then shoved my face right up against Ian's leg and clamped my mouth on a spot that looked clean. I closed my eyes and did my best to imitate the rapture I was supposed to be feeling as I sank my fangs into the flesh of the JV football captain. Only, I wasn't sinking my fangs into anything. I was completely faking it and I might have gotten away with it, too, if I hadn't gone in for that one last convincing slurp. That was when Ian, in his stupor, sort of snorted and jerked the way you do when you dream that you're falling. The sudden motion must have spiked his blood pressure for just a second, but one second was all it took for arterial blood spray to hit me full in the face. Horrified, I dropped Ian's leg as my hands flew up, too late to block the gruesome mist. My cheeks were slick. The lenses of my glasses were covered with sticky, warm drops. I tore them off and rubbed furiously at my eyes with the sleeve of my favorite flannel shirt.
"Jane!" Astrid howled. "What an idiot. You should see your face! You look totally hilarious." Oh, I'm sure I did look totally hilarious. We've all seen Carrie, right? Everybody knows that there's nothing more hysterically funny than a teenager suddenly and unexpectedly drenched in blood. Unfortunately, in my case, I didn't have the telekinesis necessary to make a tree fall on Astrid to shut her up. Unfortunately, I was having a difficult time even standing up.
As all the vampire kids circled around to get a better look at me, I realized something very bad had just happened. Whether it had dripped into my mouth as I sat there slack-jawed or whether it had aerosolized and gone up my nose, somehow I had ingested at least a tiny amount of Ian's blood. While I may have looked bad, I was about to look a whole lot worse. See, like it doesn't suck enough to be a teenager who's a vampire who's a complete dork, I also have this other problem. I'm blood-intolerant.